December 15, 2007

Homelessness A Major Problem for GLBT Youth in New York City

Youth who are struggling to understand their sexuality face a great challenge in our society, which becomes much more daunting if they don't have a roof over their heads and a bed to call their own.

In this report posted by PageOneQ, over 1/3 of homeless youth in New York City are GLBT--a grossly disproportionate number to their representation in the overall population. Especially as the holidays approach, if you are considering giving some of your time and/or money to a good cause, considering a group that assists these kids could be a good direction to go.

An estimated 3,800 people under age 24 go homeless each night in New York
City, but they blend in so well they are hard for social workers to find,
according to the city's first-ever census of homeless youth.

Three-fourths come from minority groups, with black youths accounting for
nearly half the total and Latino youths representing a quarter, said the survey,
released Friday.

Gay, lesbian and bisexual youths were especially vulnerable,
accounting for nearly a third of homeless cases.

"Young people who are homeless take great care to look like everyone
else. They're unbelievably creative in their ability to find ways to make it
look like they're not homeless at all," said Margo Hirsch, executive director of
the Empire State Coalition of Youth and Family Services, which conducted the
survey for the city.

While many homeless youth found temporary shelter with a friend or a
relative, some 1,600 reported spending nights on the street, in an abandoned
building or in a bus or train.

Selling sex, another 150 spent nights with a clients.

The count was conducted in July and surveyed just under 1,000 youth who
were either homeless or at risk for homelessness.

Earlier this year, the New York City Department of Homeless Services
reported that 3,755 New Yorkers of all ages, out of a total population of 8.2
million people, were living without shelter on any given night, down from 4,395
in 2005.

December 14, 2007

Rick Warren: Church "Here to Stay" On AIDS Ministry

Rick Warren, the pastor of Saddleback Church in California, is best known for writing "The Purpose Driven Life" (worth reading if you're one of the handful people that haven't done so), but if he's not careful, he could eventually be at least as well known for mobilizing evangelicals into AIDS activism.

Here's a report from Ethics Daily:

California megachurch pastor Rick Warren, speaking Wednesday at a White
House discussion on HIV/AIDS, said the church has been a latecomer to addressing
the pandemic but is now "here to stay."

"The church was late to the table on this issue and we have repented of
that, but we are here to stay," he said. "This is not flavor of the week for me.
This is a long-term battle, the eradication of HIV/AIDS."

Warren and his wife, Kay, recently co-hosted an AIDS summit at their Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif. They traveled to Washington to join more than 130
ambassadors, federal officials and ministry leaders for a roundtable discussion
hosted by the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives.

Speakers cited examples of international and national partnerships
between faith-based groups, businesses and governments to work on prevention and treatment of AIDS and urged continued efforts to reduce the stigma some attach
to the disease.

"This is a problem that demands our attention, and the local church is among the actors making a big difference," said Jay Hein, director of the White House faith-based office.

Marty McGeein, the executive director of the Presidential Advisory Council on AIDS, said groups like the Salvation Army and Esperanza, a Hispanic faith-based organization, are working with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on HIV prevention.

"We need faith leaders to address the stigma that continues to allow HIV to spread," said McGeein, a deputy assistant secretary at HHS.

Dr. Adnan Hammad, director of the ACCESS Community Health & Research Center in Dearborn, Mich., said leaders have to go through a "journey" with religious officials to help them come to a point where they can address the AIDS crisis. Once, he said, mosques burned fliers about AIDS that were left in their buildings.

"Now we screen for HIV in our local mosques," he said.

December 13, 2007

European Leaders Sign on For Gay Rights

Surprisingly, Great Britian was one of the nations that did not sign this European Union treaty. Here is the story from

The European Union has become the first international body to have a treaty
containing explicit language prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual

The Charter of Fundamental Rights of signed Wednesday at a ceremony in
Strasbourg, seat of the European Parliament.

Parliamentary President Hans-Gert Poettering, European Commission President
Jose Manuel Barroso, and the current head of the Council of EU member
states, Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates put their signatures to the
document amid cheers from some member states and jeers from others.

Britain and Poland had wanted the charter put to a referendum and have
refused to sign onto the document.

The Charter brings together into a single document all of the separate EU
laws and regulations on human-rights but despite the fanfare it has no legal
force. That will only happen when the parliaments of all 27 member states
ratify a concord called the Lisbon Treaty that reforms the way the EU

The International Lesbian and Gay Association - Europe hailed the Charter
on Wednesday and urged member states to ratify the Lisbon Treaty saying that the
document will advance the rights of LGBT people throughout Europe.

“While welcoming the first ever international treaty containing an explicit
ban on sexual orientation discrimination, we are disappointed by the decision of
the UK and Polish governments to opt out of their duty to provide their citizens
with the same rights as the rest of EU citizens," said Patricia Prendiville,
Executive Director of ILGA-Europe.

"While the reasons for not ratifying the Charter are different in both
countries, we believe the lack of unanimity among the EU member states weakens
the strength and authority of this significant document.“

The dissident government could still hold national referendums on the
Charter. Even so, they have negotiated an opt out clause that could be
used to negate some of the Charter's rights.

December 12, 2007

Help for GLBT Victims of Domestic Abuse

According to Galop, about one in ever four LGBT people will experience domestic abuse of a sexual, emotional, financial or physical nature.

One in four? Wow, that's disturbing! I hope I'm not being naive expressing my surprise at that statistic, according to this report from the London organization, included in this story at PinkNews.

Victims of sexual abuse can now find help at Galop, a safety charity for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

A new caseworker at the London-based charity is available to help LGBT victims of sexual violence make anonymous reports to the police and provide them with advice.

According to the caseworker, Jamey Fisher, the aim of the service is to "help LGBT people who have experienced sexual abuse at any point in their lives."

Ms Fisher can also provide information about other services which offer support to those suffering from sexual abuse.

These include the Metropolitan Police LGBT Liaison Officers, Sapphire Units - teams of police officers that investigate sexual crimes and look after victims - and Sexual Assault Referral Centres.

All of these centres employ fully trained staff to work with LGBT people and reports of sexual abuse are always taken seriously, even if the abuse happened in the past.

Galop can also offer help to individuals experiencing violence from partners or members of their family.

According to Galop, about one in ever four LGBT people will experience domestic abuse of a sexual, emotional, financial or physical nature.

Galop's caseworkers are able to help victims of violence make a safety plan, speak to police and determine way to keep themselves safe.

The charity is also able to take reports of homophobic or transphobic hate crimes and sexual abuse and pass them onto the police through a third party reporting scheme.

In this way, victims are not obliged to speak to the police or give out any personal details in order for incidents to be recorded and investigated.

"What is most important right now is to get the word out so that we can help as many people as possible," said Ms Fisher.

To contact Galop for help you can called the Shoutline on 020 7704 2040 or fill in an anonymous reporting form on their site.

For more information about Galop please visit

Attitudes Changing in Scotland

Good progress is being made in changing attitudes in Scotland, as views are moving steadily toward acceptance of GLBT people.

From PinkNews:

Results from the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey which show the country is becoming more accepting of the LGBT community were announced this morning.

The survey, conducted for the Scottish Government, found that the number of people who think same-sex relationships are always or mostly wrong has dropped 11% since 2002 to 30%.

65% of people who took part think Scotland should do everything it can to tackle all kinds of prejudice.

There has been an 8% drop in the number of people who think people of the same sex should not have the right to marry, to 21%, and a 7% drop in the number who think gay and lesbian people are not suitable to be primary school teachers, to 21%.

However, considerable prejudice remains, especially against transsexual people.

There's still work to be done, but progress is being made.

December 11, 2007

Acting Locally

Last week, in my rant about the failure of the hate crimes bill to make it through Congress, I shared my thought that effective change would have to come from grass roots efforts at the local level. This story in a press release from Equality Maryland is a good example of that:

Just one month before the Maryland General Assembly convenes in Annapolis to debate the issue of civil marriage for same-sex couples, another Maryland jurisdiction has passed a resolution calling on legislators to enact The Religious Freedom & Civil Marriage Protection Act. The town of Kensington joins the city of Takoma Park in formally supporting the expansion of civil marriage to include same-sex couples. The Council unanimously passed the resolution at its Monday meeting.

"The Town Council and I support this resolution because it is time to end the hardships faced by same-sex couples in Kensington and in Maryland who are legal strangers to one another," said Mayor Peter Fosselman. "We are proud to join other communities around the state and country who have expressed support for the freedom to marry, and hope Annapolis lawmakers will act swiftly in 2008 to pass marriage equality legislation."

"I think it's enormously significant for an entire community of individuals to come together and stand up for the freedom to marry," said Executive Director Dan Furmansky. "More and more Marylanders understand that the time to expand the freedom to marry is now, so loving same-sex couples may inherit one another's social security, make medical decisions for one another, inherit properly without crippling tax penalties, and provide for their children two parents with a legalized relationship."

Obviously this action is not legally binding in any way, but I'm sure the state legislators from that jurisdiction noticed.

An Unlikely Ally

There are a lot of things one might expect a Christian man who is married, a father of seven, and a lifelong Republican to do, but filing suit to get his state's ban against same-sex marriage declared unconstitutional is not one of them. However, that is exactly Bill McKoskey, a political science instructor at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh (by gosh), it doing these days.

From Box Turtle Bulletin:

Q: You’ve described yourself as a Christian, straight, married, father of
seven. You’re kind of an unlikely figure to be leading the charge on gay

A: I’ve also been a Republican all my life, and people have said,
that’s certainly a conflict but I don’t think so. The reason I don’t is because
it’s consistent with my view of human dignity and human rights as opposed to
government and the power of government. This is really an overreaching

Q: What was your motivation to file suit?

A: I thought it was horrible when it first came out, because of the
implication of the precedent that it sets. If you don’t like gay people, who’s
next? Short people? Or maybe we can go back to black people or to Jews or
something. As a student of history and as an educated person, I know the history
and the implications of that mind-set. It began with that. I also have a gay
daughter. People have asked me, would you have filed this suit if it wasn’t for
your daughter? To be real honest, maybe not. Maybe I would have just ranted and
raved in my classrooms and written letters to the editor and fumed off to the
side. But because of her, it also became a personal issue and I feel like I’m
fighting for my kid. I’m a family man above all.

December 10, 2007

First U. S. Episcopal Diocese Breaks With the Church

It appeared this was only a matter of time. Now the legal hassles and speculation about other dioceses to follow will begin in earnest, leaving a lot less time for worshiping God.

From the Washington Blade:

The conservative Diocese of San Joaquin voted Saturday to split from the
liberal-leaning Episcopal Church, becoming the first full diocese to secede from
the denomination in the debate over the Bible and homosexuality.

Clergy and lay members of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin voted 173-22
at their annual convention to remove all references to the national church from
the diocese's constitution, said the Rev. Van McCalister, a diocesan spokesman.

The diocese, based in Fresno, plans to align with the like-minded Anglican
Province of the Southern Cone, based in South America.

The decision is almost certain to spark a court fight over control of the
diocese's multimillion-dollar real estate holdings and other assets.

The Episcopal Church is the U.S. member of the global Anglican Communion, a
77 million-member fellowship that traces its roots to the Church of England.

Anglicans have been moving toward a worldwide schism since 2003, when the
Episcopal Church consecrated the first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of
New Hampshire. San Joaquin is also one of the three Episcopal dioceses that will
not ordain women.

The Episcopal rift over theology began decades ago and is now focused on
whether the Bible condemns gay relationships.

"We have leadership in the Episcopal Church that has drastically and
radically changed directions," McCalister said. "They have pulled the rug out
from under us. They've started teaching something very different, something very
new and novel, and it's impossible for us to follow a leadership that has so
drastically reinvented itself."

Episcopal and Anglican advocates for accepting gay relationships say they
are guided by biblical teachings on social justice and tolerance.
Traditionalists believe that gay relationships violate Scripture.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, elected last year as the first
woman to lead the church, had warned San Joaquin Bishop John-David Schofield
against secession but did not outline specific consequences. Jefferts Schori
supports ordaining partnered gays and lesbians.

"We deeply regret their unwillingness or inability to live within the
historical Anglican
understanding of comprehensiveness," she said in a statement after the
vote. "We wish them to know of our prayers for them and their journey."

Clergy delegates at the convention voted 70-12 to break away and lay
delegates voted 103-10 in support of the move. The outcome leaves in question
the status of the five or so parishes in the San Joaquin diocese that wish to
remain aligned with the Episcopal Church. Local clergy who agree to leave could
lose their ministerial credentials and their pensions.

Jefferts Schori indicated in her statement that the national denomination
will not give up the diocese. "The Episcopal Church will continue in the Diocese
of San Joaquin, albeit with new leadership," she said.

The diocese serves about 8,500 parishioners in 47 congregations in central
Nancy Key, a member of Holy Family Episcopal Church in Fresno
and co-founder of Remain Episcopal, which fought the secession, said she was
"very disappointed."

"This has been threatening to split our diocese apart for a long time," she
said. "We feel like what we want to do is follow Christ, who included all, and
used all of us for his ministry. And that didn't happen today."

The Episcopal Church was divided along North-South lines during the Civil
War, as several other Protestant groups were, but the denomination was not
considered formally split over theological differences, making San Joaquin the
first full Episcopal diocese to break away.

Nationally, about 55 conservative Episcopal parishes, out of more than
7,000 around the country, have split off from the church in the last few years,
and some have affiliated directly with Anglican provinces overseas, according to
national church statistics. Courts have mostly ruled against allowing the
breakaway congregations to take their property when they go.

Three other dioceses have taken initial steps toward splitting from the
U.S. church. They are Fort Worth, Texas; Quincy, Ill.; and Pittsburgh.

In his address to the convention, Schofield said the vote was "all about

"It is about freedom to remain who we are in Christ. It is freedom to honor
the authority of Scripture," he said. "It is freedom to worship with the Prayer
Book we know and freedom from innovations and services that are contrary to the
Word of God."

Do You Want Someone Like This to be President?

How would you like it if the President of the United States had said this:

"I agree with the leadership of our military, who believe it is not in the best interest of the armed forces to have homosexuals serving on active duty," he said at the time. "I believe to try to legitimize that which is inherently illegitimate would be a disgraceful act of government. I feel homosexuality is an aberrant, unnatural and sinful lifestyle, and we now know it can pose a dangerous public health risk."

Don't care much for that? Then you'll just hate this quote about HIV from the same person:

"It is the first time in the history of civilization in which the carriers of a genuine plague have not been isolated from the general population," Huckabee said during the same interview. "This deadly disease, for which there is no cure, is being treated as a civil rights issue instead of the true health crisis it represents. If the federal government is truly serious about doing something with the AIDS virus, we need to take steps that would isolate the carriers of this plague."

Both of these quotes are attributed to Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee by the organization People for the American Way and reported by PageOneQ. To be fair, both of these quotes go back to 1992, but as naive as I was to GLBT issues back then, I still new better than that, and I hardly consider myself qualified to be president, then or now.

Neither is Mike Huckabee, yet he is moving up in most polls among Republican candiates, which says a lot (none of it good) about the right wing of the party, which is apparently still breathing.

A judgemental, pious homophobe can't get elected president, can he? At least not again?

Here is more on Huckabee from the PFAW. It doesn't get any prettier.

December 09, 2007

Politically, It's Not All About Equality

That's what this new survey of GBLT voters came up with. Rather than be single issue voters focused strictly on equality (more important to lesbian respondents than gay male ones), GLBT voters, surprise, surprise, are just like everyone else and share deep concerns about the economy, the war in Iraq, and the other important issues that affect day-to-day life in the United States.

Perhaps some of the right-wing voters who fail to look beyond a candidates stances on gay marriage and abortion, could learn something from that approach.

A new poll is offering an unprecedented look at the political leanings and
priorities of gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans.

The poll, funded by Human Rights Campaign and controlled by City
University of New York’s Hunter College, found the 768 gays, lesbians and
bisexuals who responded care strongly about securing new civil rights and

But the poll, conducted Nov. 15-26 and released last week, shows
respondents care just as much politically about the economy, health care and

Ken Sherrill, a Hunter College political science professor who is gay and
helping to analyze the poll’s results, said the politically diverse interests
are understandable.

“They’re citizens of the United States,” he said. “The country’s at war,
the economy is in the toilet, the health care system is in crisis. It’s not as
if we’re dealing with a single issue.”

About 25 percent of respondents said “the economy and jobs” is the issue
“most important” to their 2008 presidential vote. Another 24 percent chose
“health care” and 18 percent put Iraq as their top concern. Others chose “taxes
and government spending” or “the environment and global warming.”

When later allowed to choose gay, lesbian and bisexual rights, about 21
percent of respondents made that their top issue.

Such concerns, while generally shared by gays, lesbians and bisexuals,
varied by each group.

Click on the link above to read more details.