February 16, 2008

"True Life: I Live Another Life on the Web"

I received an e-mail notice about this opportunity that I thought might be of interest to some of my readers, so here it is:
We are currently producing a documentary for MTV about people who live "other lives" online.

Do you sometimes feel as if you're living a double life? Are you pretending to be someone you're
not? Do you have one identity in your everyday life, but a different one when you're alone and
on-line? Does your virtual avatar make you feel confident behind your computer screen? Are
you famous online but feel like you're invisible in real life?

Do you have trouble approaching someone for a date in person, but when you're behind the
comfort of your computer, do the words just flow? Would you be afraid to be yourself if you
were ever to come face-to-face with your online friends or companions? Do you get so caught
up in the person you pretend to be on the web that you maintain that persona in person?

If you appear to be between the ages of 16 and 28, and live another life on the web, email
your story to: brosen@leftright.tv

Please be sure to include your name, location, phone number and a photo, if possible.

February 15, 2008

Maryland Attorney General Says Lack of Same-Sex Marriage is "Discriminatory"

At the temperature begins to rise around the debate about same-sex marriage in the Maryland State Assembly, the state's Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler left no doubt where he stands on the issue.

From the Baltimore Sun:

Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler has become the most prominent official in Maryland to endorse gay marriage, telling state legislators Thursday that he believes the current ban on same-sex unions amounts to discrimination.

"It would be hard for me to have this job knowing there is something so wrong in our society," Gansler told the Senate panel considering a bill to legalize gay marriage. "I just think it's wrong to discriminate against any people because they think differently or because of their sexual orientation."

But Gansler also said that law makers in Annapolis might not have the "political courage" to legalize gay marriage this year and that the General Assembly will probably "settle" for civil unions, which would confer many of the rights afforded to married heterosexual couples.

Gansler also pointed out the folly of putting people's rights up to a popular vote:

When asked about putting the legalization of same-sex marriage to voters, Gansler said such a referendum would probably lose. But, he added, "it is the job of elected officials to do what they think is right." He referred to the 1967 Supreme Court decision declaring Virginia's law against interracial marriage unconstitutional. If that law had been put to voters in that state then, he said, they likely would have supported it.

Mr. Gansler gets it. While I think getting same-sex marriage passed this session is a stretch, I suspect civil unions has a real chance. If you can't get a touchdown, at least kick a field goal--it puts points on the board and gets you closer to a victory.

Click here to read the rest of the Sun's story.

February 14, 2008

Testimony From a Sponsor of the Maryland Marriage Equality Bill

Our exceptional state senator, Richard Madaleno, is a sponsor of a bill that is being consider by the Maryland State Assembly that would make same-sex marriage legal in the state. Testimony was heard by the Judicial Proceedings Committee regarding that bill today, and the senator was kind enough to forward a transcript of his testimony. I'm pleased to share it with you here.

I come before you today to ask that you give SB290 a favorable report, and in doing so, grant my family, and the families of thousands of our constituents, the rights and responsibilities of marriage. Until this bill is passed, Maryland will remain a state where some families are at risk of being torn apart not because they lack the strength of commitment, but because they are invisible in the eyes of the law.

This bill is simple. It reiterates that no religious denomination will ever be required to recognize, perform, or bless any marriage that is against its beliefs. At the same time, it provides full equality under the law for thousands of same-gender couples in our state- couples like Mark and me.

With marriage, we can live our lives secure in the knowledge that we have the same legal rights, responsibilities, obligations, and protections that you enjoy.

Without marriage, I am at the mercy of doctors, nurses, and security guards for my partner to gain access to me in a hospital.

Without marriage, all of our financial planning and savings could be wiped out by inheritance taxes if one of us suffers an untimely death.

Without marriage, we live in a state of legal limbo that exacts a significant emotional and financial toll on our family, our children, and ourselves.

Without marriage, instead of security, we have fear. A fear that is always there. The fear that at the moments we are most vulnerable, afraid, and alone, our state could step in and take everything away from us – just because we cannot have a civil marriage.

That even one family lives with this fear is bad enough. But it is not just one family – not just my family. Thousands and thousands of Maryland families live with this fear.

And when that fear is created by the laws of the state itself, that is untenable. And just as untenable would be for this General Assembly to turn its back and do nothing.

At the same time, as important as the legal rights and responsibilities associated with civil marriage are, they are only part of the story.

Many of you know Mark, my partner. “Partner.” We had a church wedding seven years ago, and in the eyes of our religion, our families, our friends, and in my heart, he is my spouse. But under Maryland ’s civil law, he is a legal stranger to me. He is just “my partner.” Even that term cheapens our relationship. It makes it sound like we are in a business. It is a badge of dishonor I must wear every day, whenever I introduce Mark to anyone or even talk about him to someone who does not know us, because my state refuses to grant us civil marriage. I would never ask any of you to relegate your wives or husbands to being only your partners.

Without full and equal civil marriage, Maryland makes sure that thousands of its families never forget that they are outsiders. That they are not quite equal.

Our state and our nation were founded on principles of fairness and equality. These principles are timeless; unfortunately, their application has not been. Yet every generation of Americans has held out their hand to some who had been left out of the promise of equality – held out their hand and brought them fully into our civil society, saying, “You are not the other. You are us.”

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the first state court decision to overturn the laws banning interracial marriage. In its decision, the California Supreme Court wrote “human beings are bereft of worth and dignity by a doctrine that would make them as interchangeable as trains.” As a friend observed, when you are denied the freedom to marry the person precious and irreplaceable to you, it is not like you can just catch the next one.

Our country also has a long tradition of recognizing the difference between civil law and religious law. In that respect, I seek common cause with each member of the Committee. We all agree that each of our religions must remain free to define marriage as it so chooses. That has always been the case in Maryland , and this bill ensures that that will remain the case. None of us wants to live in a nation where the civil law dictates the tenets of our faith.

Just as importantly, we should not allow the teachings of a religion to dictate the civil law under which all of us must live. Some religions do not recognize divorce and subsequent remarriage. Some religions do not recognize a marriage unless it is performed in the name of Jesus. Others don’t recognize a marriage that is performed in the name of Jesus. Some clergy will not perform or recognize marriages between people of different faiths.

But our civil marriage law is rightly blind to our rich diversity of often-conflicting religious doctrines. Civil laws, unlike religious ones, apply to everyone, regardless of faith. That is why we do not allow the many different religious definitions of marriage to determine the definition of civil marriage.

With the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Act, Maryland can end an injustice against thousands of its citizens while respecting the critical independence of our religious institutions.

This bill represents the best ideals of Maryland , and that drive to live up to our ideals is the story of America .

New Baptist Covenant Moving Toward Acceptance of Gays

A group of Baptists (including some Southern Baptists), led by former president Jimmy Carter, has formed an organization call the New Baptist Covenant with the goal of moderating the harsh, right wing message so often associated with Baptists. While not openly embracing GLBT people at their first meeting, the topic of acceptance was discussed without a major fight breaking out.

Here is an excerpt from a letter published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution co-written by the director and council chair of the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists. I have learned that the most effective way to move toward unity and acceptance is to establish commonality, and these folks feel that progress was made toward that with the New Covenant.

Some Baptists have spent their energy attacking gays and keeping them outside of the church. In so doing, they have demonstrated that unity among Baptists is not their main goal. We, however, feel differently. Rather than focusing on exclusion, we are spending our energy on graceful engagement from within. And we are seeing very good results. At the New Baptist Covenant gathering, we witnessed abundant signs of hope.

During the three-day event, former President Carter noted that Baptists hold diverse opinions about gay people. Best-selling novelist John Grisham called for the church's inclusion of gay people. Rev. Tony Campolo wore a rainbow-colored stole. Hundreds of participants sported rainbow stickers to proudly reveal their support for gay people.

Carter announced that Baptists hold diverse opinions about gay people; yet the celebration proved that Baptists are not as divided as some may believe. Each and every Sunday, countless numbers of our gay and straight brothers and sisters stand side by side in celebration of our faith. Regardless of who we love, we are all seeking the same things: Christ's love, salvation, justice, peace and hospitality.

Click here to read the rest of the letter.

February 13, 2008

Minn. High School Supports Student Standing Up Against Prejudice

This is a wonderful example of someone not only standing up against hate but being supported by plenty of her peers and her school's administration. I believe this is an example that should be followed everywhere some bigot acts out their hatred in a public place.

From Edge Boston:

A freshman at a Minnesota high school had endured shoving, spitting, and name calling. When a hate message was scrawled across her locker, she decided enough was enough.

Leah Matz, a 15-year-old student at St. Peter High, got together with some of her peers and organized a lunchtime demonstration to say that hate speech, and hateful acts of anti-gay violence, would not be accepted.

The school’s administration backed Matz up, allowing the public to attend the demonstration, which took place Fri., Feb. 8.

Matz had come out as a lesbian in junior high. Since then, she had suffered anti-gay harassment, including verbal and physical abuse.

Finally, the Minn. newspaper Mankato Free Press reported, Matz saw that someone had written "Dykes Suck" across her locker, and that tipped the balance for the 15-year-old high school freshman.

Hearing that fellow students had suffered similar treatment, Matz and her peers organized the demonstration, which included theatre and testimonials, as well as massive support from students wearing slogan-bearing T-shirts that read, "Stop Hate. Just Love."

The Mankato Free Press article quoted St. Peter senior Annika Lammert as saying, "I think it’s important to step up and show support."

Added Lammert, "Discrimination shouldn’t happen to anyone."

Matz addressed a crowd of hundreds, including students, alumni, parents, and other members of the local community who gathered in the school’s auditorium, the Mankoto Free Press story reported.

Click here to read the rest of the story.

February 12, 2008

A former Christian Right-Winger comes to her senses!

Over the years, I have been involved in many political campaigns. I was raised in a Baptist home with a minister father, so I have been a conservative Republican for most of my life. While I have changed in some things, like same-sex marriage and other GLBT issues, I have stayed conservative on other issues. One of the views I’ve not changed on is smaller government.

This year’s election cycle is historic for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that we are engaged in a battle where one party is completely falling apart at the seams while the other party is so excited to have not one, but two really good viable candidates that they can’t see straight!

I am fascinated by this turn of events. I have to admit that I was really freaked out by something that happened within my own family yesterday and it put me on a course of self-examination when it comes to my political involvement. My mother called me last night and told me that she and my dad had driven down to Richmond, Virginia to see Mike Huckabee preach at a church there. I listened as she told me what the sermon was about and assured me that he wasn’t campaigning…he was just preaching. The conversation made me think about the state of politics and religion in our country.

I used to believe in what Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority stood for. I used to think that separation of church and state was something that liberals made up to try and stamp out religion from the public square. I now realize how foolish that way of thinking is.

There is a fine line between not allowing evil to take over government, like Germany did with Hitler, and becoming another Hitler! Some may think that statement too strong, but I don’t think so. Mike Huckabee scares the you-know-what out of me. This is a man who unashamedly called for the segregation of AIDS patients from society at large. He has also been linked to a religious group who advocated stoning homosexuals!

Not only has Huckabee made statements against homosexuals, but he said, "[Some of my opponents] do not want to change the Constitution, but I believe it's a lot easier to change the constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God, and that's what we need to do is to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards," , referring to the need for a constitutional human life amendment and an amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Huckabee often refers to the need to amend the constitution on these grounds, but he has never so specifically called for the Constitution to be brought within "God's standards". I’m obviously all for God’s standards being modeled for those who are lost and in need of Jesus, but to say that we should change the Constitution of the United States so that it reflects so-called "God’s standards" is to discount what Jesus himself did and said.

Jesus never wanted political power. In fact, He criticized the rulers of His day for being so concerned about religious practices being observed by the masses that they would rather someone go without being healed than be healed on a holy day. Jesus was a teacher, healer, prophet, and friend. He was, and is, God. However, nowhere in the Bible does it talk about how Jesus was elected to an office. Nowhere does it say He tried to overthrow the Roman government. In contrast, He told His disciples to render to Caeser what was Caeser’s and to God what was God’s. In that particular incident, He seemed to be talking specifically about money, but I think there was a larger principle at work. I think that Jesus taught us by example that we should know what is going on in our country and should fight injustice and tyranny at every turn. However, I also think that He taught us that the Kingdom of God is not of this world. God is not going to take over this country’s government and He doesn’t expect us to do that either.

The other thing that seems to escape Huckabee and those who want him to be our president is that our country is made up of just about every religion, race, creed, sexuality, culture and nuance you can imagine. How in the world do they expect to run a country on Christian principles when a lot of the country is anything but Christian? If you try to do that, then we become a dictatorship, not a democratic society.

All this craziness just seems to be a way to distract people from what’s really important…electing a president who will be sensible about spending and taxes. A president who will keep us as safe as possible without spending billions of dollars on a war that isn’t really ours to fight. A president who will work to provide affordable healthcare for every American. A president who will treat all committed relationships as equal in the eyes of the law. A president who will do whatever you, personally, think is important for our country to help us be a stable, strong, great country again.

I am hopeful that we will end up electing someone who will do at least half of these things! If we do, it will be a great day in America. A great day for ALL Americans.

February 11, 2008

Freedom to Marry Week Is Here

The organization Freedom to Marry is celebrating the 11th annual Freedom to Marry Week from February 10-16.

Gay and non-gay organizations have scheduled over 100 events in 21 states across the nation in honor of the 11th Annual Freedom to Marry Week (Feb. 10-16), seizing an opportunity to highlight how the denial of marriage harms families, while helping no one. The renewed conversations come as major court decisions, legislative progress, and ballot-measures all will be claiming space on the country's calendar this election-year.

“Freedom to Marry Week 2008 is one more chance to ask those around us to put themselves in same-sex couples’ shoes and ask, 'How would I feel if I couldn't marry the person I love?',” said Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry and author of Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality and Gay People's Right to Marry. “With state high court decisions in marriage cases pending in Connecticut, California, and Iowa; legislatures from New Jersey to Washington, Maryland to Illinois, New York to California, dealing with the reality that civil unions don't work and the freedom to marry matters; and conversations among the reachable middle moving hearts every day, Freedom to Marry Week offers an opportunity to give people the information they need to rise to fairness.”

Freedom to Marry Week occurs every year, right around President Lincoln's Birthday and Valentine's Day, to give gay and non-gay people around the country an opportunity to gather to talk about our lives, our loves and our families, celebrate the victories from the year before and continue the fight for the freedom to marry.

For event listings and to learn more about Freedom to Marry Week, visit: http://www.freedomtomarry.org/get_involved/freedom_to_marry_week_2008.php

Beyond Ex-Gay Mid South Regional Gathering Coming Soon

Since the organization's inception, I've done what I can in my tiny corner of the blogosphere to support the work of Beyond Ex-Gay, a group co-founded by Peterson Toscano and Christine Bakke to help people put the pieces of their lives back together after the trauma of failed "ex-gay" experiences.

They held their first conference last summer (here's a short video of highlights), and the next one is coming up in Memphis, TN from February 22-24. It is titled "Deconstructing the Ex-Gay Myth, a weekend of action and art." In conjunction with the Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center, the weekend will combine interesting workshops and speakers with art and film displays.

Much more detail can be found here.

If you are not familiar with the organization, this video will give you a taste of what they are about.

If this is an issue that has impacted your life, I strongly encourage you to be part of this event.

February 10, 2008

The National Black Justice Coalition Commemorates Black History Month

Since February has been designated Black History Month nationwide, the National Black Justice Coalition is running a series featuring a different leader in the black GLBT community every day.

You can check it out here.

The Latest Edition of the International Carnival of Pozitivities is Online

Dear Friends of the International Carnival of Pozitivities (ICP):

It is a tremendous pleasure to announce the publication of edition 2.8 of the ICP at Not Perfect at All. Dragonette is our first European-based host, working from The Netherlands I encourage you to bookmark this edition and visit it over time so that you can enjoy each of the contributions from the world of HIV/AIDS. I hope that you will also join me in thanking Dragonette for her work this month.

This 20th consecutive edition of the ICP features personal accounts, video, music, self-help information and the latest in news from the HIV/AIDS community. Among these posts, you will find news about HIV/AIDS from around the world, posts from long-term survivors, an Annie Lennox-supported HIV-prevention campaign, news and personal accounts from Africa, Australia, Asia, Europe, and North and South America. I hope that you will spend some time reading and that you will leave comments for the contributors.

Next Edition

Please visit the ICP homepage to learn more about this project and how you can contribute. We are now accepting submissions for edition 2.9 to be hosted at Creampuff Revolution. This will be Roro’s second stint as host of the ICP, as she hosted our March edition of last year. Her writing style is beautiful, funny, clever and guaranteed to make your ICP experience a good one. Please consider contributing your original artwork, poetry, news, personal accounts, short stories, videos or music files for Roro to knit together into edition 2.9.