December 08, 2007

How Dangerous is it to be Gay in Iran?

According to this story, very. The government was so eager to do this poor man in that they ignored the few laws they had on the books that would have offered him any protection at all. I'm posting an excerpt here, and there's more detail in the Gay City News story I've linked.

The Islamic Republic of Iran murdered Makwan Moloudzadeh, a lad of 21, on
the cold morning of December 5. Makwan was dragged at dawn from his jail cell in
the Kermanshah Central Prison and hanged in secret within the prison, without
the required presence of his lawyer and family, for the so-called "crime" of
having had anal sexual relations, which the authorities claimed was rape, with
boys of his own age eight years ago, when he was 13.

Given witness recantings during his trial, it is impossible to know what,
if in fact anything, actually transpired.

Amnesty International released a statement denouncing the execution as a
"mockery of justice." The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights
Commission's executive director, Paula Ettelbrick, said in a statement, "This is
a shameful and outrageous travesty of justice and international human rights
law. How many more young Iranians have to die before the international community
takes action?"

December 07, 2007

Rhode Island Clergy Supporting Same-Sex Marriage

From the Providence Journal:

Religious leaders from several denominations reaffirmed their support for
same-gender marriage today and announced an advertising campaign intended to get
that word out and to dispel any impression that religion doesn’t support the
policy change.

"We wanted to make the point that there are religious folks who are in
favor of same-gender marriage," said the Rev. Eugene T. Dyszlewski, pastor of
the Riverside Congregational United Church of Christ and chairman of the Rhode
Island Religious Coalition for Same-Gender Marriage.

"It’s a different kind of pulpit," Dyszlewski said of the advertising
campaign. "We want to put a public face on it."

A dozen religious leaders and supporters showed off their signs on buses at
the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority headquarters on Elmwood Avenue this
afternoon. The advertisements will run on 10 RIPTA buses for a month, the agency
said. The advertisements depict two dozen religious leaders and carry the
message, "Rhode Island Religious Leaders Supporting Same-Gender

He and other religious leaders said that they wanted to dispel any
impression that religion opposes same-sex marriage and is "anti-gay."

"That’s not true," he said.

More than 100 Rhode Island religious leaders from several denominations
have signed a declaration in favor of permitting same-gender marriage, he

What is troubling are some of the comments at the end of the story. If they are anywhere near an accurate cross-section of opinions in the state, that could be one ugly battle.

December 06, 2007

Congress Lets GLBT Community Down.....Again

Posted on Street Prophets

The hate crimes bill is dead for this congressional session, being dropped by the Democratic "leadership" of the House. There will likely be no attempt to provide legal protection for the GLBT community from hate crimes until the 2009 legislative session since Congress surely does not have the courage to take up such a sensitive matter in an election year.

Here is the CNN report.

I backed the Democrats after they bailed on transgender people when they were dropped from ENDA (the Employer Non-Discrimination Act), supporting their strategy of at least passing something for GLB people, but they completely screwed the hate crimes bill up and helped no one in the process.

I didn't have expectations nearly as high as some folks when the Democrats regained control of Congress in the 2006 elections, but I didn't think they would show such imcompetence and cowardness either. The "leadership" has made a lot of noise but delivered little of consequence in nearly a year of power, and I see no reason to believe anything will change before the 2008 election, if at all.

The pervasive attitude in both houses of Congress seems to be a desire to obtain power, then do whatever it takes to keep it. There is a diminishing emphasis on doing what is right, replaced by obeying the results of polls and focus groups, positioning for the best sound bites and controlling news cycles. Protecting the rights and needs of minorities like the GLBT community from the tyrany of the majority does not even show up on the radar of far too many senators and representatives.

As I have studied the politicial landscape in regards to the GLBT community and their struggle for equality over the last 2 1/2 years, it has becoming clear to me that issues like same-sex marriage, employment non-discrimination, and hate crimes protection, must be gained at the local, grass-roots levels. There are still people in local and state legislatures that actually care about people and work to make their city/county/state a better place to live. A politician has less to lose at that level, making it easier for them to deal with issues of right and wrong vs. political expediency. There are people in these legislative bodies, such as where I live in Montgomery County, Maryland, that will work toward truly equal rights for all and protect minorities that can not protect themselves.

I believe advocates need to spend their time and resources in this fertle political field. Regional groups like Equality Maryland, with support from national organizations like the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, can get things done in some regions, which is clearly not a realistic possibility in the halls of Congress.

Can these national organizations, especially the HRC, eat a bit of humble pie and work more at the grass roots levels? Instead of trying to reel in the big fish, can they be content going after some smaller ones, focusing on smaller but very attainable rewards? I hope so. If something consistently doesn't work, good leadership changes tactics and seeks a more effective approach.

While I'm not a politician or professional advocate, I do have a passionate belief in the rights of the GLBT community. That passion leads me to believe that our national and regional advocacy organizations need to table their own agendas and recent hurt feelings to work together for the good of those who they are advocating for. I think the approach I suggest is worth their consideration.

While they are working on changing laws, members of the GLBT community and their allies need to work on changing hearts. Whether it be by writing a blog, sharing your story to educate potential allies, or just living a life that can be consiered worth emulating, everyone can play a role in moving toward GLBT equality.

AIDS Numbers Under Review

Amid suspicion by advocates and concerns about the issue being politicized, it is expected that the statistics for people newly infected with the AIDS virus will be significantly revised--upward.

Advocacy groups say new government estimates will show at least 35 percent
more Americans are infected with the AIDS virus each year than the government
has been reporting.

Government officials acknowledge they are revising the estimate, which they
say is not yet complete.

But advocates are pushing for the government to release the number now.
They say the delay may be partly political, and that it's hurting prevention

"Across the AIDS community, there is an incredible amount of suspicion,"
said Julie Davids, executive director of the advocacy group Community HIV/AIDS
Mobilization Project (CHAMP).

U.S. health officials have been estimating about 40,000 new HIV cases occur
in the nation each year. However, at a national HIV prevention conference in
Atlanta this week, advocates claimed the new estimate is 55,000 or

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the numbers are
being reviewed for accuracy and won't be released until early next year.

December 05, 2007

Measuring Up

I'm delighted to tell you that I will be a regular (roughly once a week) contributor to the new Family Equality Council Blog. Former known as Family Pride, the organization has rebranded itself and now has some heavy hitters contributing to its new blog. Here's my first one:

I had an experience a few years ago while seeking a new job that readers here can probably relate to. I went to one of these executive placement agencies, fancying myself in that type of position, and discussed wanting to be in better position to take care of my family.

The interviewer said, “Family?” I said “Yes, my wife and mother-in-law.” I’ll never forget the total disdain I saw in his expression as he just looked at me for a moment, then moved along with pitching what he could do for me. I didn’t need someone to validate me or my family, but I sure wasn’t going to work with anyone who viewed me as somewhat beneath his standards of success, I suppose because we didn’t have kids. I just didn’t measure up to whatever this man was looking for, so as Jesus told His disciples when they weren’t well received in a town, I shook the dust off my sandals and moved to the next stop on my journey.

This was nothing compared to what many GLBT families have to face on a regular basis. I merely had to sit across the desk from someone who looked down at me. GLBT families have to deal with that kind of attitude from our society as a whole.

Click here to read the rest of the essay.

Are Gays Taking Over Kentucky?

Not quite yet, but the growth of the openly gay population in Kentucky and other states is making its presence felt at a political force, especially in some conservative areas. This article from the Louisville Courier-Journal believes Governor Ernie Fletcher lost his recent re-election bid in part due to a nasty anti-gay element of his campaign.

New analyses of Census Bureau data suggest that this failed "gay card" strategy may in part be a result of a dramatically more visible lesbian and gay population in some of the most conservative parts of the country -- including Kentucky's largest city, Louisville.

Since 1990, the Census Bureau has tracked the presence of same-sex "unmarried partners," commonly understood to be lesbian and gay couples. From an initial count of about 145,000 same-sex couples in 1990, the 2006 data show that this population has increased fivefold to nearly 780,000 couples. The number of same-sex couples grew more than 21 times faster than did the U.S. population.

Louisville, now home to nearly 2,000 same-sex couples, serves as the bellwether for these changes in Kentucky. Since 2000, the city experienced the biggest percentage increases (151 percent) among the nation's 50 largest cities. As a result, its ranking among those cities for the percent of same-sex couples in the population has moved from 41st in 1990 to 28th in 2006.

While Louisville's increases in same-sex couples are consistent with those seen in other parts of the South, the reasons for the increase are a bit different. States in the upper South have experienced relatively modest population growth, suggesting that most of the increases in same-sex couples are likely a product of more gay visibility among natives, rather than a large-scale migration to the area. In contrast, Louisville has experienced above-average population increases that no doubt include an influx of gay people. Such changes are moving the social and political climate barometer (drawing on those ubiquitous red and blue maps) in a decidedly purple direction.

December 04, 2007

Is The Midwest Coming Around?

I found this article on a site recently at

You can read the entire article there, but here's a snip...

"The House of Representatives for the State of Illinois has a bill before them for consideration. The bill has a name. It is called “The Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act.” Why is it important and why should you care?"

You saw that correctly. The State of Illinois may become the 3rd state in the United States to allow Civil Unions for gay and lesbian people! Once more, what intrigued me about the name of the law is that they are including a clause in it that specifically states that religious institutions would not be required to recognize said Civil Unions or perform them against their religious traditions. Frankly, I think that is a given, but so many churches and religious right folks seem to use an argument when faced with civil unions that they don't want their church forced to hire us or perform ceremonies for us, etc. This way, the wording is in black and white. Why didn't we think of that before?

The final decision has been set for January 10, 2008. I'll be watching this one carefully. Having Massachusetts and Vermont in our corner was wonderful, but many folks in the "Heartland" see those states as being liberal. I think having a Midwest state rule that Civil Unions will be a legal way to recognize our relationships in the same way that marriage recognizes straight relationships will go a long way towards changing some attitudes. It seems like a promising turn of events.


Edition 2.6 of the International Carnival of Pozitivities is Online

The latest edition of the International Carnival of Pozitivities has been posted on and it includes a link to one of the posts from this blog.

As always, I encourage you to check it out and read the variety of posts included.

December 03, 2007

Another Church Struggling With the Place of Gays in Their Congregation

Ethics Daily reports on a controversy that threatens to tear apart a baptist church (considered moderate doctrinely) in Fort Worth, TX.

Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, planned to include a new pictorial directory as part of its 125th anniversary celebration. A wrinkle developed when gay couples asked to have their portraits included, setting off an internal church debate that went public in a Fort Worth Star-Telegram story published Nov. 16.

The church scheduled a called business meeting after yesterday's worship service to decide whether to picture gay couples together, separately or--in a compromise
supported by members including Pastor Brent Younger--not to have individual and family pictures at all.

In his Sunday sermon at Broadway Baptist, Younger lamented the difficulty of finding consensus on an issue that is dividing many mainline churches.

"Some of the most committed conservative Christians in our congregation are baffled by this whole episode," Younger said. "They're seeking the best they know how to be faithful to Scripture and follow Jesus. They've been taught all of their lives what the Bible says on this issue, and those who read the Scriptures in a different way don't seem to be taking the Bible seriously. The verses in Leviticus seem straightforward on homosexuality. How can the majority opinion throughout 2,000 years of church history suddenly be wrong? It's hard for these gracious Christians to understand how anyone could disagree."

"But there are other thoughtful Christians who feel differently," he continued. "They are seeking the best they know how to be faithful to Scripture and follow Jesus. They know the Bible has been used to defend polygamy, slavery and the oppression of women. They look at the compassion of Jesus and the way he included everybody, and it seems clear that we should do the same. How can anyone who knows Jesus believe that God condemns people to the way they were born? It's hard for these gracious Christians to understand how anyone could disagree."

"Both sides feel so certain that any real compromise can feel like being asked to give up something close to the center of their faith," Younger said. "Many feel so strongly about this issue that a church directory in which gay couples are pictured together seems dishonest. And others feel just as strongly that a church directory in which gay couples are pictured separately seems dishonest."

"This predicament has left many feeling despair," he said. "When churches have a vote that may be divisive, it's hard not to feel like we'll all lose."

That last thought is one of the truest statements I've heard in a long time. At least is appears that some of the members of the church are honestly seeking God's will instead of pushing their individual agenda. We can only hope they will find it and reach a solution based on love that brings unity instead of divisiveness.

Two Different Views on the Fight Against AIDS

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu issued a statement during World AIDS Day on Saturday warning leaders not to be complacent about the AIDS crisis despite recent gains made.

“[T]oday still 70 percent of infected people don’t have access to life saving therapies,” noted Tutu.

“It is the time for compassionate leadership that recognizes that the voiceless are often those who suffer most,” he added. “[W]ho can they turn to if their leaders do not listen and heed their cries?”

Charles King, considered one of the leading AIDS activists, gave a speech on Saturday with a much different emphasis--Why has so much of the gay community walked away from this battle? From the Bilerico Project: There is much more than I am excerpting here that is worth checking out.

The sad and damning truth, my friends, is that while many of us merrily pop our pills every morning and go on with our lives as if the crisis had ended, we are still loosing that battle against the AIDS epidemic in the United States and the pandemic around the globe.

.....standing here as I am in San Francisco, pulsing with the heartbeat of Gay America, I’m moved to ask why so much of the gay community, my community, has given up on the fight against AIDS. I really don’t mean to give offense. And while I have been accused at times of being provocative, it’s a sincere question: Why has so much of the gay community walked away from the battle against AIDS?

For the vast majority of white gay men of even moderate income in the United States, AIDS ended as a crisis once the drugs came on line. We no longer had to watch our friends die or live ourselves in fear of the plague. In fact, whether because we headed prevention advice, or because we were just lucky, the statistics suggest that more than 75% of us are HIV negative. And because we often travel in packs that look like ourselves, AIDS for many of us is no longer even personal.

The reality is that AIDS is no longer so much a gay disease in the United States as it is a disease of race and poverty. And that brings to light a dirty secret about the organized and politically engaged gay community. We are overwhelmingly white and reasonably well-off, and our movement is almost exclusively about rights for ourselves and people like us.

I don’t believe it is just a coincidence that the larger gay and lesbian community walked of the battlefield when AIDS clearly became a Black disease. It was no longer us who was perceived to be dying. It was “other”, and other is always dispensable. Our use of the term “men who have sex with men” and the “down low” serve only to increase the distance. “They” don’t claim us, so we don’t have to claim them. But imagine how different the world would be if people like Harvey Milk hadn’t stood up for people like me when I was a young person growing up in south Texas, still lacking the courage to call myself gay.

It’s not just Black gay and bisexual men and trans people that we walk away from when we walk away from AIDS. We’ve also walked away from many gay white men too marginalized to make it into the life boat, and we have walked away from women and girls, mainly Black women and girls, and folk generally marginalized by the larger society in which we live. The truth is, that when our community turns its back on AIDS, we turn our back on the very idea of civil rights and social and economic justice being our cause.

The reality of AIDS is that it is caused by a virus; but that virus would not have created the pandemic that now exists if it were not fueled by homophobia, racism, and sexism. AIDS is a disease that persists as a consequence of economic and social marginalization and discrimination. Whether it was gay men and then Haitians in the 80’s, or sex workers and people addicted to injection drugs today, AIDS has been able to wreck its havoc because it has in the main taken the lives of people deemed expendable. And that is why AIDS continues to be the preeminent civil rights issue of our day, whether we want to own it or not.

December 02, 2007

A Reporter Gives Part of Himself In Coverage of AIDS Prevention

A southern African radio reporter went the extra mile last week when presenting a story about AIDS prevention. Apparently circumcision significantly reduces men's chances of contracting the AIDS virus, so reporter Kennedy Gondwe went through the circumcision process himself on live radio. This is an example I personally have no intent of following.

From the Washington Blade:

A southern African radio correspondent has been receiving a flood of text
messages and cell phone calls — some from offended listeners and readers.All
because Kennedy Gondwe chose to get circumcised to protect himself from AIDS,
and took the British Broadcasting Corp.'s radio and Web audience through the
procedure with him Friday.

A study published in the Lancet medical journal in February concluded that
the findings of three major trials — in Kenya, South Africa and Uganda — show
that circumcision can significantly reduce men's chances of contracting the
virus that causes AIDS. U.N. health agencies followed up with an endorsement,
but stressed that the procedure offers only partial protection and that
abstinence, condom use, having few partners and delaying the first sexual
experience are all among the steps that need to be encouraged.

Frank talk about AIDS and prevention methods, is still rare in Gondwe's
Zambia, where HIV prevalence is 16 percent. That's what made Gondwe's public
testimony Friday, the eve of World AIDS Day, even more striking.

A prominent Zambian journalist, Mildred Mpundu, died in November after
going public with her HIV-positive status earlier this year and urging her
fellow journalists to get tested.

Gondwe, who says he undergoes an AIDS test several times a year, said in an
interview Friday he finds it "sad" that more people don't talk about
circumcision as a prevention method.

"We as journalists also have a role to play in the fight against the
disease," he said.

Gondwe, on the radio piece and in an online diary Friday, recounts his Nov.
22 procedure. Listeners can hear him gasp as a doctor injects him with a local
anesthetic, but he assures them the procedure is otherwise painless. He was up,
walking to his car and driving himself home soon afterward.

Dr. Jan van den Ende, a microbiologist at Toga Laboratory, which provides
AIDS testing and counseling in neighboring South Africa, the country hardest hit
by AIDS, said it was not entirely clear why circumcision provides the protection
it does. He described it as a relatively simple and painless procedure,
something Gondwe's story demonstrated.

While one admiring Web reader from Zambia told Gondwe he would soon follow
his example, the reporter said others told him they were offended. Gondwe's
Tumbuka people of Zambia's Northern Province do not embrace circumcision, he

David Alnwick, a senior AIDS adviser to UNICEF based in Nairobi, said
UNICEF supports educating people that "circumcised men are relatively well
protected against HIV." But he said there was a danger of creating demand that
the world's poorest continent is not now prepared to meet.

Alnwick said Zambia has a long waiting list of men who want to be
circumcised and only a few centers providing the service. But he says he expects
governments to come aboard across the continent and international donors to
provide funding.

Data on Why the GLBT Community Needs More Hate Crime Protection

David Shelton, who writes the blog Skipping to the Piccolo, gave me a heads up on this post about the recently released Hate Crimes statistics released by the FBI. His post has a link to the actual report so check it out if you like, but here's an excellent excerpt.

For the first time in a major report, we've been given data that clearly
lists crimes that were committed based on a motivation of the victims' sexual
orientation. Unfortunately, gender identity isn't included in the data, but
rather is combined with the others. There were nearly 1500 incidents across the
country last year, including at least two right here in Clarksville. Unlike our
Hispanic/Latino neighbors, those of us that are gay or lesbian have absolutely
no protection whatsoever when it comes to hate crimes.

Some have said "show me how people are attacked because they're gay." Well,
we have that now. All of this goes on while the Matthew Shepard bill languishes
in a Senate committee, and is in jeopardy of being killed outright. For the
record, the Matthew Shepard bill is a bill that would provide federal resources
to investigate and prosecute hate crimes, and would include sexual orientation
and gender identity in the list of hate crimes.

Now that we know there are real numbers, this should be a clear
indicator that it's time to add sexual orientation and gender identity to
non-discrimination clauses everywhere (including in Clarksville's new charter).
I've always been an advocate for complete equality, so this is just the right
thing to do. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 has been updated a few times since its
passing, and has since added age and disability to its protections. Several
states have added sexual orientation to their civil rights laws, and it's time
for Tennessee to do the same.

Many conservatives are afraid that such an addition would force churches to
hire gay people or would force a Christian landlord to allow two men to rent a
one-bedroom apartment they own. A person's religion has little to do with their
sexual orientation or their perceived sexual orientation. Some people won't hire
someone just because they might look a little effeminate. At the moment, that's
perfectly legal. It doesn't mean it's right.

Can someone please tell me what's "Christian" about denying a qualified
person a job, or kicking a couple out on the street because they might be gay?
"Well, it's behavior," some say. I tell you what. If you see someone having sex
on the job, then that's a different story. But seriously... how many of us
actually engage in sexual activity in the work place? That's just a rhetorical
question, by the way; I really don't want to know.

Let me be perfectly clear: By sexual orientation, I'm referring to whether
a person is sexually attracted to members of their own sex, and might engage in
healthy consenting relationships among adults. Gender identity disorder (GID) is
a legitimate diagnosis for persons who have the firm belief that they are the
wrong physical sex. Neither of these impacts on a person's ability to do their
job or to form healthy relationships. Interestingly, GID is the only
psychological disorder that has a proven cure: gender reassignment surgery and
hormone therapy.

No matter how we slice it or how we sugarcoat it with Bible verses or
doctrines, discrimination is wrong. Hate crimes are clearly committed against
people for their sexual orientation, and as of right now, there is zero federal
protection for them. Hate crimes aren't listed by how much someone hates another
group, but rather by their motivation in a crime they've committed. No one is
talking about "thought police." We simply need to have protections in place that
will allow local law enforcement agencies to prosecute and investigate properly
these incidents which are all-too-often swept under the rug.