January 05, 2008

Senator Kennedy Ready to Make Another Push for ENDA

The Washington Blade is reporting that Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) is ready to take another shot at passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act during the 2008 session of Congress.

“Although Sen. Kennedy strongly supports protections against job discrimination for transgender workers, inaction won’t advance justice for anyone, and will just make it harder to pass any version of ENDA in 2009,” said Kennedy spokesperson Melissa Wagoner.

“We will most likely work to move the House-passed bill, rather than introducing a separate Senate bill,” Wagoner told the Blade by e-mail. “Because the same legislation must pass both the House and Senate, now that the House has acted, the only realistic way to get a bill to the president’s desk this Congress is to have the Senate pass the House bill.”

Asked if Kennedy thought ENDA could pass the Senate in an election year, Wagoner said, “Yes, if enough Republicans support the bill to give us a realistic chance of breaking a filibuster.”

Unfortunately, this came at a time when it appears the HRC tripped over itself again.

The statement this week by Kennedy’s office that Kennedy plans to back a gay-only version of ENDA comes after news surfaced last month that a high-level official at the Human Rights Campaign suggested a vote on ENDA would not take place until 2009.

News of the HRC official’s comment came in a memo that was leaked to transgender blogger Marti Abernathey, who published it on her Transadvocate blog on Dec. 4.

The five-page internal memo, written by HRC national field director Marty Rouse, proposed that HRC adopt a series of actions and policy initiatives to “win back” the confidence of the transgender community. Rouse acknowledged in his memo that HRC lost the confidence of transgender leaders and that community’s rank-and-file members when HRC changed its position of unequivocally opposing a gay-only version of ENDA to one of “not opposing” such a measure.

Rouse’s memo calls for HRC to redouble its efforts to build support for a trans-inclusive version of ENDA by providing logistical and financial support for transgender groups in states where opposition to transgender rights is strong.

“HRC has the political and financial clout to do all this,” Rouse said in the memo. “We have two years to prepare for the next volley in Congress. I think this would be a good start.”

By saying HRC has two years to accomplish his proposals before Congress next considers ENDA, Rouse created a stir within some gay activist circles because it raised questions about whether HRC had inside knowledge from congressional leaders that ENDA would be put on the shelf until at least 2009.

Brad Luna, HRC’s director of communications, confirmed the authenticity of the Rouse memo but said it was a draft proposal that did not tie HRC to a specific timetable for when ENDA should come up for a vote.

“The memo referenced is not a plan but rather a collection of thoughts and ideas in a very embryonic, draft form,” Luna said.

Thoughts that would likely have been better left behind closed doors.

January 04, 2008

"Little Girl, Big Voice"

For those of you who don't think they can make a difference in advocating for GLBT equality, you need to know about Rebecca "Becca" Lazarus. By the way, she is only 13 years old.

From the Manchester, CT Journal Inquirer:

Don't let her small voice fool you. Rebecca Lazarus - or "Becca" as she
likes to be called - is a fighter, and she's already had more experience with
activism at age 13 than most 50-somethings managed to accrue during the Vietnam
War era.

An eighth-grader at Sage Park Middle School, she was presented with an
award during a Board of Education meeting last month in recognition of her
community service and focus on civil rights.

In her battle for the
legalization of same-sex marriage, Rebecca has been interviewed on National
Public Radio, has spoken in front of several support groups, created a
Connecticut chapter of COLAGE, which stands for Children of Lesbians and Gays
Everywhere, and spoke in February at a news conference at the Legislative Office
Building in Hartford.

She told reporters at the news conference that she lives with two fathers,
Eric Lazarus and Jason Charette, who are in a committed relationship, but
otherwise she's "like any other kid."

Read more in the Journal Inquirer article.

January 03, 2008

Civil Unions In N.H. Not a Big Deal, And That's a Good Thing

Wednesday was the first day same-sex couples could obtain state-recognized civil unions in New Hampshire. The day passed somewhat uneventfully, and that's a good thing. More about that in this editorial from the Boston Globe:
WHEN VERMONT legislators legalized civil unions for gay couples in 2000,
there was a bitter backlash against the reform. But on New Year's Day, New
Hampshire joined Vermont, Connecticut, and New Jersey in extending civil union
rights to gay and lesbian couples, and the event was met with a collective yawn.
There are several reasons for this change, but the most important is that
residents of New Hampshire have had a chance to observe Vermont and
Connecticut's civil unions and Massachusetts' same-sex marriage, and realized
that extending rights to a minority is no threat to the majority - or to the
institution of marriage.
more stories like this

But the strongest factor making civil unions such a non-issue in New
Hampshire has to be the opportunity the state has had to look elsewhere in New
England, where experience shows that legal recognition of same sex couples has
stabilized and strengthened those relationships without doing anything to weaken
heterosexual marriage. Like other civil union laws, New Hampshire's grants gays
property rights, shared wills, and hospital visitation privileges. Several other
states have created varying levels of rights in domestic partnership laws.

As beneficial as these protections are, they still confer a separate
status, as the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court made clear in 2003 when it
ruled that the state's constitution prohibited the Commonwealth from denying
full marriage rights to gays. So far, no other state has joined Massachusetts,
but it is still gratifying to see that in New England, the region with the most
experience in granting rights to same-sex couples, another state has recognized
the profound unfairness in withholding those rights.

There have been plenty of negative things said about civil unions from advocates of full marriage rights for same-sex couples, but there is a very positive trend developing.....as civil unions become more normalized in states across the nation, the leap to fully legalized marriage becomes shorter and, theoretically, more attainable.

January 02, 2008

One At a Time

Lori Henne writes a piece for Whosoever Magazine where she takes readers through her path away from anger and unforgiveness toward hope and faith.

Over the decade I’ve been out as a lesbian, I have learned a great deal
about evangelical Christians. Most of what I’ve learned that’s proven to be
worthwhile, that’s proven to be trustworthy, I’ve learned from my own, personal
experience. Stereotypes and groupthink have proven no good to me at all.

I was told, time and again, that I could trust nobody on “the
Religious Right.” They “all” hated us, I was warned, and therefore I had to be
wary of them all. When it came time to begin coming out to the friends I’d made
over the years, most of whom were religious conservatives, I was afraid. Surely
to a one, they would dump me.

Finally I came out to one of my best friends, Shawnee, a lifelong Southern
Baptist. I hemmed and hawed while telling her, ‘til she became quite frightened
herself. When I finally got the words out, I got a huge surprise. She was
actually relieved!

“Is that all?” she asked me. “The way you built up to it, I expected you to
tell me you were dying of cancer or something.”

I should have taken a lesson from that, but I didn’t. Big media – including
the big GLBT media – kept right on telling me that “those people” were all
alike. Much the same way the big hetero media keeps telling straights that “all”
GLBT folks are alike. I knew very well that the latter was wrong, but for some
reason, it was oh-so-easy to go on believing the former. Most of my friends in
the community – even those who were Christian – accepted it as gospel, so why
should I have been any different?

Read her answer at Whosoever.

January 01, 2008

A Different Path Towards New Year's Resolutions

How many people have ever made New Year's resolutions, hopefully sometime around New Year's Day? Okay, I see plenty of hands out there. How many of you have kept most, or even any of them? Just like I figured, there aren't too many hands still up for that question.

Mine isn't either. Why not?

There are a lot of reasons people can have for coming up short on their resolutions, some of them compelling, some of them just a load of crap. However, I think I finally figured out the key to developing successful resolutions.

Instead of trying to establish what you want to accomplish in the new year, take a different
approach. Ask God what HE wants to you do.

You can't send Him an e-mail or a registered letter, you have to pray. Not just a perfunctory
prayer either, one where you are in a spirit of submission, preferably on your knees, not just asking but truly seeking God's plan for your life.

That's what Pastor Brenda and I spent most of last weekend doing, and he is gradually revealing answers to us. God is leading us toward a major initiative where we reach out to unchurched GLBT people in the Washington, DC metro area. I also believe he is leading me toward some type of leadership role in bring GLBT and straight Christians together in service, side-by-side, to help the community and bear witness that we CAN work together to serve God, and He will bless that effort.

We've got a lot of balls up in the air, and it is the peace of knowing God's plan for us is better than one we can come up with on our own that is keeping us focused, grounded, and somewhat sane. Along with a major ministry push, Pastor Brenda is trying to lock down her job situation (which seems very promising at this point) and we are looking for another home. Given the state of the real estate market, I'm sure it comes as no surprise that this has been somewhat of an adventure.

There's a lot going on in our household, including the recent change of having two dear friends as housemates, but we are seeking and finding God's will throughout all the busyness.

I hope, if you haven't already, that you take some time and seek God's plan for your life. It may not be what you expected--I can directly testify to that--but it will be good.

Have a happy and blessed 2008 everyone!

December 31, 2007

Who Says TV Is a Waste of Time

Okay, often that is the case, but as this story from PageOneQ points out, not totally.

It truly is the season for giving, and to honor that tradition, a fan of
the popular show The L Word has donated $1 million to the Dr. Susan Love
Research Foundation in the name of some the show's most prolific stars. Actress
Erin Daniels who portrays a gay breast cancer victim on the series inspired the
anonymous donation.

The L Word, which is set mostly in the trendy world of Los Angeles, centers
around the lives of a group of lesbian friends and was developed after the
overwhelming success of the Showtime drama Queer as Folk. Slated for its fifth
season to begin in 2008, the show stars Jennifer Beals, Katherine Moennig, Pam
Grier and Leisha Hailey.

Daniels played Dana Fairbanks, Hailey's lover on the show, who discovered
she had breast cancer in season three and eventually died of heart failure. The
generous donor recognized the realism and truth the actress brought to the
breast cancer story line and made the largest private donation to the Foundation

The $1 million gift will be used to establish The Erin Daniels and Leisha
Hailey Fund for Breast Cancer and all donations will be given to the Love
Research Foundation.

"There are very few times in a woman's life where she feels she's been
lucky enough to be part of something that will change lives," Daniels said in a
press release. "This is one of those times. I am overwhelmed that my portrayal
of Dana's story has inspired such an act of kindness and generosity, and elated
to be part of it. I am thankful that so many women will be given hope due to Dr.
Love's program."

In addition to that generosity, the anonymous donor intends to match dollar
for dollar every donation made to the fund, which supports research aimed to end
breast cancer in our lifetime.

"It is an honor that our breast cancer story line touched someone in such a tremendous way that she so generously gave to such a tragic illness, Hailey told the Advocate.

For more information about the Foundation, or to make a donation visit: www.dslrf.org.

December 30, 2007

A Family Worth Knowing

Lavender Magazine in Minnesota brings us the story of the Reitans, one of the families featured in the documentary "For the Bible Tells Me So."

In times of crisis and in times of joy, a family comes together and rises
like a phoenix, overcoming its struggles as a united force. The Reitan
family—father, Philip; mother, Randi; children, Britta, Josh, Ben, and
Jacob—have faced personal, public, and political battles that have made them
stronger than ever. The obstacles and the triumphs have brought them to a point
where they can take on any challenge.

What makes the Reitans’s profile so compelling is how a quiet Lutheran
family from the Midwest had their lives transformed in the blink of an eye.
While the world at large can follow their story from the comfort of a theater
seat in less than two hours, the real story started 10 years ago, and continues
to unfold to this day. As a 15-year-old sophomore, Jacob, the youngest of four
children, first came out to his sister, Britta.

Jacob recalls, “My sister was home from her first year at college. It
was tremendously difficult for me to actually say I was gay. I think it is for
anybody the first time they come out. The act of doing so can feel like such a
Pandora’s box event. But despite my struggle to actually say the words, I felt
safe, because I knew my sister would be supportive of me. Time and again, before
my coming out, she made statements to me and others in support of gay rights. In
retrospect, those statements were so important in making me feel safe in my own

Click here to read the rest of the story in Lavender Magazine.