Saturday, June 13, 2009

A Tipping Point for Marriage Equality? A Good Reminder.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm awful at math, let alone applying statistical analysis to any sort of collected data.

Luckily for me, Andrew Gelman of Columbia University has done the work for me when applying data collected over a period of fifteen years on marriage equality and LGBT rights.

In his article, "Gay Marriage: a tipping point?" he clearly reports on Jeff Lax and Justin Phillips use of "multilevel regression and poststratification to estimate attitudes toward gay rights in the states...using national opinion polls from 1994 through 2009 and analyzed several different opinion questions on gay rights."

Don't ask me. But here's the cool part. Graphs! Since I'm the visual type (and I'm assuming many of you are, too), these are much easier to read.

Lax & Phillips Marraige Equality Civil Unions Graph

Gelman reports, "In the past fifteen years, gay marriage has increased in popularity in all fifty states. No news there, but what was a surprise to me is where the largest changes have occurred. The popularity of gay marriage has increased fastest in the states where gay rights were already relatively popular in the 1990s."

Why is this surprising? Because Gelman expected to see a "uniform swing" or "the lowest values increasing the most and the highest values declining, relative to the average. But that's not what's happening at all."

So why is this happening? Gelman says it's the "tipping point." As LGBT rights become more accepted and more people come out of the closet in a particular state, then "straight people realize how many of their friends and relatives are gay, they're more likely to be supportive of gay rights."

On the other end of the spectrum, if rights are restricted in a particular state, the LGBT population stays in the closet, "and thus the knowing-and-accepting process will go slower."

Unfortunately, it's a chicken or the egg paradox. LGBT don't want to come out of the closet where they're not accepted, but then if they don't, winning their rights takes longer, thus feeding the discrimination. So what comes first? Rights or acceptance?

Though this information is fascinating in its presentation, this conundrum is nothing new to the LGBT population. Harvey Milk's message during the Briggs Initiative touched on it.
I ask my gay sisters and brothers to make the commitment to fight. For themselves, for their freedom, for their country ... We will not win our rights by staying quietly in our closets ... We are coming out to fight the lies, the myths, the distortions. We are coming out to tell the truths about gays, for I am tired of the conspiracy of silence, so I'm going to talk about it. And I want you to talk about it. You must come out. Come out to your parents, your relatives.
What this study does do is remind us that being ourselves is the key to winning our rights and actively changing hearts and minds. But it's also a good reminder for us to support our fellow LGBT to find the courage to take that necessary step out of the closet to make that difference.

California Lawmakers Call on Obama to Stop Torture and Murder of Iraqi LGBT

This is great news. Following the example of the Los Angeles City Council . . .

"Forty-five members of the California Legislature, led by Senator Mark Leno and the LGBT Legislative Caucus, have called on the Obama Administration to prevent the persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Iraq. The lawmakers sent a letter to the Administration late last week encouraging the United States to take immediate action to stop the violence against LGBT Iraqis.

"Disturbing reports of the torture, beating and killing of LGBT Iraqis have surfaced in recent months as part of an effort led by police officers to “clean up” Iraq by getting both beggars and gays and lesbians off the streets. This year alone, 63 people, most of them men and boys suspected of being gay, have been tortured or killed as a result of religious decrees against LGBT people in Iraq."

Read the rest of the press release on Sen. Mark Leno's site.

Letter to Obama:

CA Legislature Letter to Obama on Iraqi LGBT Persecution

Hopefully with more and more U.S. governmental officials speaking out against these human rights violations, Obama and his administration will be moved to act. Just recently, the State Department issued a statement against it, but I found it to be rather passive and nowhere near meeting the responsibilities that we, as the occupying country of Iraq, should be fulfilling.

CA Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown Supports Federal Case Against Prop 8

California Attorney General Jerry Brown, who had gone against his job duties to dispute Proposition 8 when it went to the CA Supreme Court, has filed a brief in support of the federal case against it that is being argued by Ted Olson and David Boies on behalf of two unmarried couples in California. (Separate from other federal case rejected by DOJ.)

Despite the fact that he opposes the suit's preliminary injunction against Prop 8, which would immediately reinstate marriage rights to same-sex couples, Brown agrees with the federal case that the initiative violates the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Equal Protection Clause and Due Process Clause.

“Taking from same-sex couples the right to civil marriage that they had previously possessed under California’s Constitution cannot be squared with guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment,” the Attorney General’s filing states.

“Today's filing by Attorney General Jerry Brown underscores that Proposition 8 is a clear violation of the United States Constitution because it denies all people equal rights,” said Chad Griffin, Board President of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the organization that hired Olson and Boies to challenge Prop 8. “We are confident that our state's chief legal officer's strong opinion will help this case move quickly through the courts so that every Californian will soon be treated equally under the law.”

Brown Answer in Perry

Friday, June 12, 2009

Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Did Not "Willingly Block LGBT Internet Sites"

I just finished a very cordial conference call with Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and discussed what has now become the hot topic of their complimentary wi-fi service blocking some LGBT news blogs, such as Towleroad and Pam's House Blend.

In a statement to Unite the Fight, Coffee Bean said:

First and foremost I want to thank you for bringing the issue of the two blocked LGBT websites to our attention. Let me be 100% clear from the onset. It is not, and has never been, the policy of Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf to willingly block or prevent access to LGBT Internet sites.

After you brought this to our attention yesterday we took immediate steps to resolve the issue and investigate exactly what happened. We found the OpenDNS Web content filtering system had miscategorized these two web sites as having sexual content, and thus prevented customers from accessing those sites. With the help of OpenDNS, we were able to override the filter immediately when it was brought to our attention.

No web content filter is perfect, but we are able to change misclassifications when they are brought to our attention. To be clear, the words “gay” or “lesbian” are not flagged in the OpenDNS Filter. We believe that censorship of any site that offers news and opinions is wrong and goes against everything we stand for as a company and a member of the communities in which we operate.
To those who came to Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf's defense - you were spot on. And I want to thank the coffee and tea chain for their fast action on correcting the situation.

I personally want to state that my frustration wasn't with Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, but with OpenDNS' flagging method, the content filter provider for Coffee Bean's wi-fi. As I've stated already, these faulty but many times purposeful flagging methods usually lead to "technical discrimination," which we LGBT face at work, libraries and other public places offering internet services. And in the case of OpenDNS, it took just a view homophobic viewers to flag these LGBT sites and effectively block them for all.

When OpenDNS responded to my first email claiming it was Coffee Bean who was responsible, it immediately stirred a lot of people up against Coffee Bean, but inaccurately. I then wrote Coffee Bean. They responded immediately to me.

In the interim, the Founder of OpenDNS' clarified his company's original statement, stating that all of this was a "technical mistake" on their end.

In this case, it was a mistake. But in other cases, it isn't. Under Towleroad's story on this issue, many commentators have mentioned all the other places where they found the site to have been blocked. Other's have mentioned the same for Pam's House Blend, a site purely news and editorial.

What this boils down to is our continued need to change hearts and minds about the LGBT population. What needs to change is the automatic correlation between who we are and what is deemed offensive, hence the need for many to block any site that deals with our issues and, unfortunately, our labels.

And it was this frustration that I experienced which launched all of this in the first place. Hopefully, the good that will come out of this isn't just a stronger relationship between Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and the LGBT population. What can come out of it is a message, first to us, that if we speak up, things can change. But secondly, a message to the public that we simply will not, cannot take, not only "technical discrimination," but all discrimination.

UPDATE: Obama's Defense of DOMA Invokes Incest and Child Marriages - HRC Demands Action

UPDATE: The White House sent this statement to numerous media sites in response to the uproar:

"As it generally does with existing statutes, the Justice Department is defending the law on the books in court. The President has said he wants to see a legislative repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act because it prevents LGBT couples from being granted equal rights and benefits. However, until Congress passes legislation repealing the law, the administration will continue to defend the statute when it is challenged in the justice system."

This is the same argument used to keep Don't Ask Don't Tell in place, even though Obama has the power to use stop-loss in the interim of its repeal. Also, the statement ignores the fact that other Presidents have disputed federal law in order to change it, instead of defend it.

American Blog's response.


A federal case arguing against DOMA was recently challenged by the Department of Justice, the voice of Obama's Administration when defending current law, using discriminatory language and diminishting the only two cases won for LGBT civil rights in the US Supreme Court.

The department moved to dismiss the first gay marriage case filed in federal court, saying it is not the right venue to tackle legal questions raised by a couple already married in California. (This is separate from the federal case challenging California's Proposition 8 which has been filed by unmarried couples.)

America Blog does an amazing job of breaking down Obama's court brief defending DOMA.
Obama didn't just argue a technicality about the case, he argued that DOMA is reasonable. That DOMA is constitutional. That DOMA wasn't motivated by any anti-gay animus.
He actually argued that the courts shouldn't consider Loving v. Virginia, the miscegenation case in which the Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to ban interracial marriages, when looking at gay civil rights cases. He told the court, in essence, that blacks deserve more civil rights than gays, that our civil rights are not on the same level.

And before Obama claims he didn't have a choice, he had a choice. Bush, Reagan and Clinton all filed briefs in court opposing current federal law as being unconstitutional . . . Obama could have done the same. But instead he chose to defend DOMA, denigrate our civil rights, go back on his promises, and contradict his own statements that DOMA was "abhorrent." Folks, Obama's lawyers are even trying to diminish the impact of Roemer and Lawrence, our only two big Supreme Court victories. Obama is quite literally destroying our civil rights gains with this brief. He's taking us down for his own benefit.
Check out the rest of their post as they break down Obama's brief, bit by bit, a brief that contains:
  • Obama invoking incest and adults marrying children
  • Child rape cases make DOMA constitutional
  • It saves the federal government money
  • DOMA doesn't discriminate against gays - all they have to do to get the benefits is get married... to someone of the opposite sex.
  • "DOMA Is Consistent with Equal Protection and Due Process Principles."
  • don't confuse the gays with the blacks, and other "real" marriages
  • And more.

Obama's Motion to Dismiss Marriage case Obama's Motion to Dismiss Marriage case JoeSudbay Obama administration's brief in case to dismiss same-sex marriage case.

This is in fact very disheartening. People may say that the president is only doing his job of protecting the law, but as already stated - Clinton, Bush and Reagan all had filed briefs opposing federal law. Obama could've done the same, but he didn't. Is this this an action of a man who said he believed that DOMA was "abhorrent"?

There has been many mixed reactions to Obama's job so far as President, especially within the LGBT population. Some have called for patience since he's only been in office for less than six months and is busy tackling numerous crises. Others have demanded action on his campaign promises, or in the very least, a sign of support, something that has been lacking.

I have attended demonstrations, calling on Obama to act immediately on Don't Ask Don't Tell, since our nation needs as many of our men and women in the armed forces right now. For me, it wasn't a protest against the president, just a call to action.

But now I don't know how I feel. This brief states clearly that his administration intends to defend DOMA, instead of filing a presidential challenge, an action that has precedent.

Even Jenny Pizer, director of Lamda Legal's marriage project has stated, "We are surprised and profoundly disappointed that the administration has chosen to defend DOMA - using many of the same arguments the Bush Administration used - plus some new arguments that make no sense and are discriminatory."

I'm not one to think the worst of people, but instead I try to understand where they're coming from and why they do what they do. But I don't understand this. This is NOT the actions of a "fierce advocate," no matter how you interpret it.

And isn't this the month that Obama declared to be officially LGBT Pride Month as a hallmark to us and his commitment to our civil rights? What a way to celebrate.

I feel like a fool for believing the promises that he made.

Right now I'm in shock. The anger will come later.

I'm not the only one in shock. Both the HRC and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund had demanded that Obama repeal DOMA immediately.

HRC: "The Administration apparently determined that it had a duty to defend DOMA in the courts. The President has just as strong a duty to put his principles into action, and end discrimination against LGBT people and our families,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “We call on the President to send legislation repealing DOMA to Congress,” he added.

Task Force:"DOMA is and has always been an immoral attack on same-sex couples, our families and our fundamental humanity. This law has only served to discriminate against Americans and belittle our nation's heralded values embracing freedom, fairness and justice. The Task Force Action Fund demands President Obama and Congress immediately repeal this hateful law, which has left a moral scar on our nation and its worthy pursuit of equal justice for all.

"Unfortunately, the malicious and outrageous arguments and language used in the Department of Justice's marriage brief is only serving to inflame and malign the humanity of same-sex couples and our families. This is unacceptable.

"This ugly chapter in our nation's history must come to an end now with the repeal of DOMA."

Pam Spaulding from Pam's House Blend states the potential impact of this brief: "A brief with language like this could have been written by Liberty Counsel it's so homophobic; that it's written in legalese doesn't blunt the arguments being made here. It will be used to cause lasting damage to future civil rights gains."

Am I wrong for feeling like a fool? Have we all been fooled? What do you think? What do we do now? What actions do we take?

ACTION: Demand that President Obama stop defending DOMA and fulfill his campaign promises by getting it repealed! You can contact the White House by filling out their contact form, or call them and let them know what you think.

Phone Numbers

Comments: 202-456-1111

Comments: 202-456-6213

Maryland's Bishop Jackson Complains DC's Marriage Equality 'Loons' Violate His Privacy

As posted earlier today, Washington DC's Board of Elections & Ethics will decide either today or next week whether or not to have a referendum on the city council's decision to recognize same-sex marriage performed in the states where it's legal.

One of the major opponents to marriage equality, from Maryland and not DC, is Bishop Jackson. He complains about marriage equality supporters, claiming they hacked into his private information.

Unfortunately for Jackson, he's not well-versed enough to realize that all the information that he claims was "hacked" is public information. All you have to do is go to the county recorder or city clerk's office and ask for it.

As for Californians Against Hate listing Yes on 8 donors - again, public information provided by the Secretary of State. Naturally, Yes on 8 campaign fought to keep this information private, but the law is the law.

Unite the Fight Is to Talk with Coffee Bean - Statement Issued From Content Filter Co. Founder

I just talked to Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf's PR firm and I will be having a conversation with Coffee Bean later this afternoon.

I want to say right now though, that the PR firm has stated that they too are aghast at how the coffee shop's wi-fi system works and reiterated that these sites should not be blocked. They mentioned Coffee Bean feels the same. I'll know more about what they have to say this afternoon.

Furthermore, Pam's House Blend, a blocked site, is also aware of the issue. David Ulevitch, the founder of OpenDNS, the company that filters content for Coffee Bean's wi-fi, issued this statement in Pam's comments section (which someone was also kind enough to post under our comments here as well):
I don't want to jump in front of my staff who are going to respond to this better than I can, but this was just a mistake on OpenDNS's part in two ways: 1) blocking your site and 2) having a support response that was a bit more biased than it should have been.

I love our support department because our team is not outsourced to some far off country and is made up of real human beings in San Francisco with real opinions and who really care about giving our customers and users high-quality support. 99.99% of the time, that's awesome. Every once in a while (this might be the first time) I look at an answer and scratch my head wondering what they were thinking. I think you'll find this all gets cleared up in a couple of hours as folks roll into work and we'll send responses to UniteTheFight and the other sites.

Also, in case anyone wonders... no "heads are going to roll" as a result of this, it was just a technical mistake and a slightly blunt support response from a well-meaning person on my team. I'm confident neither will happen again. :-)

David Ulevitch
Founder, OpenDNS

ps, the irony is that I can say with a very high degree of confidence that nobody at OpenDNS, least of all our support department, has any issue with LGBT sites. If you ever see our blocked page again in error just flag it for review.
This is developing very well. My issue, from the beginning, was "technical discrimination." Unless someone, an actual person, other than users who are homophobic, are causing these sites to be flagged, then it's a technical issue. (Which is why I wrote my email to OpenDNS.) But behind this issue is the association of "gay", "lesbian" and "homosexual" to smut, thus causing their systems to block essential, clean and legitimate LGBT sites.

The beautiful result of all of us speaking up about this is that Coffee Bean and OpenDNS are wanting to work with us on solving this issue. They think it's wrong, too. But if we don't ever speak up, what offends us will never be fixed.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

DC Board to Rule on Same-Sex Marriage Referendum Soon

On Wednesday, DC's Board of Elections & Ethics held a public hearing in which opinions from both sides of the city council's decision to recognize same-sex marriage performed elsewhere got to spar on whether or not DC residents should decide the issue in a referendum.

The board is expected to rule either today or early next week. The decision to have a referendum must have a majority, so if the board is split, it fails.

The Washington Times reports:
The board members appeared skeptical at the hearing of arguments made by referendum supporters that placing the issue on the ballot would not violate the District's Human Rights Act (HRA), which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. A referendum's subject cannot violate that act.
D.C. Attorney General Peter J. Nickles also submitted an opinion to the board Thursday saying the referendum should be rejected.

"As expressed in the HRA, the established public policy of the District of Columbia is to treat individuals as equals, whatever their gender, sexual orientation or marital status may be," Mr. Nickles wrote.
Bishop Harry Jackson Jr., pastor of the Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., whose held protests against marriage equality, spoke at the hearing.

"They claim you can separate civil marriage and spiritual marriage, but clearly you cannot. It should be said that the citizens of the District should be heard on this."

Two things here. One, sorry you can't separate it, but it seems pretty simple to me. You can either get married in a religious building or not. You can either be married by a leader of faith or not.

Second, aren't you from Maryland?

Here's the Rev. Jackson below from an earlier protest.

Stay tuned for the board's ruling.

Image: Towleroad.

UPDATE: Internet Problems and "Technical" Discrimination

UPDATE: Received a response from OpenDNS regarding the Coffee Bean wi-fi:
We only provide network admins with the tools to block content on their networks, we as a company do not block anyone for any reason. If this user ( chooses to block a particular type of content on their network, we cannot interfere.

You however, as a consumer, have every right to boycott their business for the way they choose to block content on their networks.

If you have any other questions or need further assistance, please don't hesitate to ask - we are more than happy to help!

Interesting. And I want to be clear. I never mentioned a boycott. That was them. Waiting to hear from Coffee Bean themselves.

This post generated a bigger response than expected, from Facebook, Twitter, comments here and email. I'm glad to see I'm not alone when experiencing "technical discrimination." (Naturally, I never thought I was, hence my ranting.)

I will keep you posted on development. As Jeffrey posted under comments here, hopefully with a friendly request, we can rectify the situation and have one less place that blocks genuine LGBT content.
Hi UTF Readers,

Unfortunately, I'm experiencing internet problems and am unable to post as usual. But here's a quick story.

As a result of AT&T failing me on my internet connection, I went to a Coffee Bean where free wi-fi is advertised as a reason to come and sit around and drink their coffee.


Kind of. As I am going through my news feed and clicking on different blogs, I get this message:

If you can't read it, it says that Pam's House Blend is blocked due to "sexuality." (Same thing for Towleroad among others.) Click on it to enlarge.

Sure, this shouldn't be anything new to us - we experience "technical" discrimination all the time when we try to visit newsworthy sites issuing stories on LGBT issues, while at work or at the library, simply because the word "gay", "lesbian", the dreaded "homosexual" and other similar key words are detected. As a result, we're immediately blocked for the reason, as described above by OpenDNS, the wi-fi source for Coffee Bean, of "sexuality."

Naturally, I wrote a rather angry email telling them they need to do a better job determining what is porn or "adult" and from what is a news or editorial blog. If I typed in "heterosexual", would the sites pulled up be blocked?

I doubt it.

I've heard the excuses before from techies about how hard it is to filter porn out while still trying not to block non-adult LGBT sites.

But then we reach a deeper issue. Is the LGBT population feeding the popularity of LGBT porn, thus making the "homosexual" key word more equivalent to porn than a description of who we are (though many of us hate that word), thus justifying the wingnuts arguments against us about being simply a sexually driven population? Or is it simply so many people are in the closet and make these LGBT porn sites and their corresponding key words so much more popular than we possibly could on our own? (Again, another issue there.) Or is it just downright discrimination?

Or is it all these things?

I don't know. What I do know is that I'm trying to continue to blog on LGBT issues - just bear with me as I weed through "technical" discrimination.

VIDEO: Kathy Griffin Talks to Letterman About Her Mother's Opposition to Prop 8

New York's Marriage Equality Bill Could Get Vote Next Week

According to Newsday, the recent New York senate coup could be an unexpected and rather ironic boon for the state's marriage equality bill.

What was at first seen as the death knell for the bill may turn out to be its salvation. The new disputed leaders of the senate, a bipartisan coalition, Republican Sen. Dean Skelos and Democrat Sen. Pedro Espada, Jr., say a vote on the bill could come as early as next week.

Sen. Espada, who supports marriage equality, stated he didn't know what the outcome would be, but Sen. Duane, sponsor of the bill, claimed last week that he had the 32 votes needed to pass the bill.

But all of this could be a moot point as former (or legal?) Senate Majority Leader, Malcolm Smith, is arguing that the new senate leadership has wrested control illegally. If he's proven correct, he would be back in power and more than likely keep the bill from being voted on since he claims it won't pass.

Only time will tell the fate of marriage equality in New York.

Image: Democrat Sen. Pedro Espada, Jr., and Republican Sen. Dean Skelos

State Department Issues Weak "Official" Condemnation of LGBT Torture in Iraq (Disturbing Image)

Today, the Department of State held a press conference in which they issued a statement on the torture and murder of LGBT in Iraq.
US condemns acts of violence and human rights violations against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Training for Iraqis security forces includes instruction on proper observance of human rights.

The US Embassy will continue to raise the issue with senior Iraqi officials / Urged them to respond appropriately to all credible reports of violence against gay and lesbian Iraqis.
During the press conference, Assistant Secretary of Public Affairs Ian Kelly was asked the following.

Iraq if I can. The other week, Muqtada al-Sadr said that the depravity of homosexuality must be eradicated. And while he went on to say that he was not advocating violence, there obviously has been a lot of rather gruesome violence directed at gays and lesbians in Iraq. So I was wondering if State has any reaction to that.

And then off the back of that, is there any extra responsibility that the U.S. feels towards these groups who were, by their accounts, safer and more free to live their lives under Saddam?

MR. KELLY: Well, let me say that, in general, we absolutely condemn acts of violence and human rights violations committed against individuals in Iraq because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This is an issue that we’ve been following very closely since we have been made aware of these allegations, and we are aware of the allegations.

Our training for Iraqi security forces includes instruction on the proper observance of human rights. Human rights training is also a very important part of our and other international donors’ civilian capacity-building efforts in Iraq. And the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad has raised and will continue to raise the issue with senior officials from the Government of Iraq, and has urged them to respond appropriately to all credible reports of violence against gay and lesbian Iraqis.

"In general"? "Our training"? In general, the training isn't working. And the passive action of "raising the issue" is absurdly not enough.

Recently, a press release issued from Iraqi LGBT stated that they have been calling attention to the persecution for over four years, claiming that Iraqi police officials were also a part of it. (It's been reported that at least 30 have been killed just in the last three months.)The US Embassy responded, "We have no evidence that [the Iraq government's] security forces are in any way involved with these militias." (Unlike other Muslim countries, such as Iran, Saudia Arabia and Pakistan where homosexuality carries the death penalty, Iraq has no such laws.)

The release went on to state, "[Iraqi LGBT] Group members speaking from Iraq said that they are 'fed up with such 'political' words' and that the Americans are doing nothing to stop the terror campaign against them. They believe that the priority for Hillary Clinton's State Department and Obama's administration is to not upset the Iraqi government as they have no other allies within the country."

So why the outrageous laziness from our own country, the leader in human rights enforcement (a title we obviously can't claim now after the Bush debacle)? Could it be that the embassy is too busy celebrating Pride to help their fellow LGBT? Or is it because, as Vice President Biden told a friend of Unite the Fight, that the US and Iraqi governments are afraid of pissing off the religious militias even more than they already are, confirming the Iraqi LGBT press release?

Why should this matter? We're already at war, aren't we? Are we going to appease these homophobic torturers just because we're losing and are afraid of their reaction? I wonder if America would react differently if it were straight victims being tortured and murdered.

The amazing point is that it appears the State Department thought their statement today would somehow address these issues, but all they did was point out their incapacity to do anything right when it comes to the human rights violations of LGBT. And though it was under Bush's administration, America wouldn't even sign the UN Statement condemning criminalization of LGBT relationships. Thankfully the Obama administration immediately signed the document, but do they think that it tidied the whole mess up and they can now ignore what's happening under their very noses in Iraq?

Until our country, which has caused these problems by illegally invading Iraq without any forethought of consequences, takes responsibility for what happens in the country we're occupying, then we're just as guilty as the Iraqi government.

We're accountable. We have blood on our hands.

ACTION: PLEASE sign this petition demanding that Obama and Congress be more active in ending these human rights violations. So far only 681 have signed, and the goal is for 2,500.

IMAGE: Bodies of 6 gay men found in Baghdad.

Click on "Iraq" under this post to read related posts on this issue.

VIDEO: National Organization for Marriage = EPIC FAIL of an Organization

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Help Washington State Keep Referndum 71 from Taking Away Domestic Partnership Rights

In April, Washington state passed domestic partnership legislation, giving partners all the rights and benefits of married couples but without calling it marriage.

However, opponents, such as the Family Policy Institute of Washing, don't care about the name - they say it's just a backdoor tactic to legalizing marriage equality in their state, and they won't have it. (Don't get me started about how contradictory marriage equality opponents are with their arguments - "Why can't they just settle for DPs or civil unions?" And then they go and do this.)

Opponents are actively collecting signatures to place Referendum 71, which would reverse the domestic partnership legislation, on the ballot right now. They claim they printed 60,000 signature sheets, far more than they would need to collect the necessary signatures.

Washington Families Standing Together needs your help now more than ever. Go to their site and find opportunities to volunteer, contribute financial support, find news and information about Referendum 71, and printable handouts.

Imagine if everyone living in Washington took 5 minutes to print 100 fliers to distribute this week -- we would reach over 600,000 people! You can get the handouts here.

You can also get periodic updates by joining them on Facebook.

VIDEO: Colbert Disses Don't Ask Don't Tell in Front of Troops in Iraq

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Formidable Opponent - Don't Ask, Don't Tell
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorStephen Colbert in Iraq

It appears most of America is ready to diss DADT as well. MSNBC reports that 69% of Americans are ready to repeal it. Here's the Gallup Poll they refer to.

Here's the story about the Supreme Court being convinced by Obama not to hear the DADT case.

This is a 6 point jump from four years ago, but here's what's most striking - amongst conservatives, it's a 12 point jump!

We're fighting two wars! Let's just get this STUPID policy repealed already. I'm so sick about Washington DC talking about getting it done and then not doing anything about it. Flapping your jaws isn't action. Maybe this poll will give them a kick in the seat of their pants.

If you want to hear what I just said more eloquently, check out the New York Times piece issued today, "The Ban on Gays in the Military".

TMZ Is Reporting That Miss USA California Is Fired

UPDATE: CNN Reports: "I told Carrie she needed to get back to work and honor her contract with the Miss California USA organization, and I gave her the opportunity to do so," Trump said. "Unfortunately, it just doesn't look like it is going to happen, and I offered [Executive Director Keith Lewis] my full support in making this decision."

TMZ reports that Miss California USA Carrie Prejean is fired. Even Donald Trump has had enough of the diva because she has been a no-show for appearances the pageant organization has contracted her to appear at and that "she doesn't play well with others."

The firing, it's being reported, is based on Carrie breaching her contract and not on her extracurricular activities.

Maybe she'll believe in karma now. But unfortunately for us, this will probably free her up more to be NOM's puppet.

Carrie is getting her walking papers this afternoon and the new Miss California USA will be Miss Malibu Tami Farrell.

UPDATE: Your New York Marriage Equality Update: Good Polls, Crazy Senate, Protests and New Allies

UPDATE: Thanks to NG Blog, I was made aware that Sen. Monserrate, who was one of the senators who caused the coup, may flip back to the original side. WABC calls this drama, the "theatre of the absurd." Couldn't have said it better.

OK, there's so much happening in New York, I can't keep up. It's giving me carpal tunnel. Just shut up and vote already!

But I digress . . .

I'll start with some good news. From the makers of the NY1 senate poll that made us a bit depressed (it wasn't looking good for marriage equality), a new poll was released today showing that a majority of New Yorkers support marriage equality, siding with Gov. Paterson despite the fact that his approval rating keeps sliding.

Question: Which comes closest to your view: gay couples should be allowed to legally marry, or gay couples should be allowed to form civil unions but not legally marry, or there should be no legal recognition of a gay couple's relationship?

In other words, New Yorkers are telling their senate to just DO IT (the bill already passed the Assembly). But with the recent coup that took place, everything is in major upheaval, causing all legislation to be in question, not just the marriage equality bill.

However, reports are coming in that openly gay Sen. Duane, sponsor of the bill, may soon be siding with the new leadership.

The New York Times reports:
One of the senators who is believed to be considering breaking ranks with the Senate Democratic conference, Thomas K. Duane of Manhattan, would not say where he planned to cast his political allegiance.

“I am not considering anything but trying to get passed all the legislation I’ve spent my whole life fighting for,” he said. Mr. Duane, who did not attend meetings with his Democratic colleagues on Tuesday, said he had spent all day in discussions with senators from both parties.
The chances that the [same-sex marriage] legislation could be acted on soon appeared to grow on Tuesday after Mr. Espada, who would share power with Dean G. Skelos, a Republican from Long Island, said he would like to see the bill come to a vote.

“I am for same-sex marriage,” Mr. Espada said, adding that he had not yet discussed the matter with Mr. Skelos, who opposes allowing gay couples to marry, but has said that he would let Republican lawmakers vote as they chose. “I think there will be a vote of conscience of the senators.”

Like all other legislation currently before the Senate, the same-sex marriage bill is on hold until the leadership confusion is resolved.
Oh, don't go away, there's more.

Former GOP NY Senate Majority Leader, Joe Bruno, who once referred to homosexuality as an "abnormal lifestyle," has reconsidered his position saying, "It's time. Now. For the government to back off, let people make their own life decisions, and about how they care about and who they don't care about...."

Take a deep breath. There's more.

Yesterday, anti-equality protesters rallied at the New York capital of Albany. It's been estimated that about a 1,000 people showed up but were probably bused in by their churches. I gather it must've been tough to find people to protest marriage equality given that a majority of New Yorkers support it.

Good As You shares some pictures from the rally depicting the protesters' signs expressing religious frustration. Good As You does a good job of expressing our own frustration over these people's refusal (or ignorance) to recognize the separation of religious and civil marriage.

Having grown up in a Christian missionary household, I know how annoying a debate this can be. You simply cannot engage them since they cannot comprehend the separation of church and state.

So there you have it. That's it in a big nutshell. When will the senate decide whether or not to vote on the marriage equality bill and when? Your guess is as good as mine (and everyone else's).

Project Pushback: Marriage Equality PSA Competition

Project Pushback is a contest, sponsored by the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, to promote the development of innovative videos that have the potential to change hearts and minds about the freedom to marry for same-sex couples.

Find out more about Project Pushback and how to enter on their FAQ page.

In the meantime, here are a few of the amazing videos being submitted.

What is Love? from Project Pushback on Vimeo.

Every Heart Counts from Project Pushback on Vimeo.

I Am #1 from Project Pushback on Vimeo.

So go vote on some of your favorite videos.

But don't forget, all are equal.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Pat Robertson Says Homosexuality Is the Result of Child Abuse

So, for all of you LGBT readers, raise your hand if you became who you are due to being abused as a child? And the second part of the question - raise your hand if you enjoyed the abuse so much that you wanted to keep repeating it as an adult member of the LGBT population?

Sick. Makes no sense. If this were the case, then all children abused grow up to be LGBT and all LGBT were victims of abuse. There's no correlation!

Sure, abuse victims can end up as disturbed adults, but not all repeat the crimes of the abuser nor do they all become screwed up! But I just don't get how loving someone of the same sex is equivalent.

Wingnuts like Pat Robertson will say anything to justify their words and behavior.

Like someone commented on the Media Matters website, "Were those gay penguins abused?"

VIDEO: Marriage Equality Is "Fundamental" Says New Jersey Gov Corzine

If I lived in New Jersey, who I would vote for governor would be a no-brainer. Incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine spoke at Pride in Asbury Park, NJ, aligning himself with marriage equality not tentatively, but clearly as a good reason to re-elect him.

His opponent, Chris Christie, is adamantly against marriage equality, stating, "While, I have no issue with same sex couples sharing contractual rights, I believe that marriage should remain the exclusive domain of one man and one woman. If a bill legalizing same sex marriage came to my desk as Governor, I would veto it."

New York Senate's New President Wants Vote on Marriage Equality

With yesterday's drama in the New York Senate, the fate of the Gov. David Paterson's marriage equality bill came into question, some calling it all but dead. However, a glimmer of hope came from the new senate president, Sen. Espada Jr. this morning.

The New York Times reports:
Pedro Espada Jr., the new State Senate president, said in a radio interview on Tuesday morning that he personally wanted to bring same-sex marriage to a vote, news that will give some encouragement to gay activists who read defeat into Monday’s Republican Senate coup.
“I am for same-sex marriage,” Mr. Espada said. “There will be no guarantees and no quid pro quos, I think there will be a vote of conscience of the senators. And with my partner in government, Senator Skelos, we have not discussed bringing it out to the floor. I’m expressing my own personal desire to see a full debate and decision on this matter.”

The Senate majority leader, Dean G. Skelos, a Long Island Republican who is sharing power with Mr. Espada under the new leadership arrangement, said he and Mr. Espada would discuss the issue of same-sex marriage and other matters later on Tuesday.

The Empire State Pride Agenda, a gay rights organization, called for a Senate vote on the same-sex marriage bill — which the Assembly has already passed — before the end of the legislative session, notwithstanding the change in party control.
Stranger things have happened. Though the last survey of the New York senators didn't leave much hope for the bill's passage, Sen. Duane, sponsor of the bill, proudly declared he had the 32 votes needed.

If yesterday's upheaval, spurred by frustration of little legislative work being done in the senate, actually helps get the bill to the floor for a vote, then time will only tell. If it passes, wouldn't it be ironic if what we first thought was the death of the bill became its life?

As Queers United said, "If republicans are the ones to bring this bill to a vote and pass marriage equality this will signal an entirely new shift in politics.

"Urge [New York Senate] President Skelos to bring the bill for a vote before the session ends and to vote in favor of marriage equality!"

E-contact form for President Dean Skelos

Albany Office
Room 907 LOB
Albany, NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-3171

Obama Convinces US Supreme Court Not to Hear DADT Case

Yesterday, the US Supreme Court refused to hear a case challenging Don't Ask Don't Tell, which stemmed from a lawsuit by 12 former service members who were discharged because of their sexual orientation. The denial came through certiorari, which comes down to at least four justices were not willing to accept the case.

Here's the fun part.

Bloomberg reports, "The rebuff spares President Barack Obama’s administration from the awkward task of mounting a legal defense for a policy the president says should be repealed. In urging the Supreme Court not to hear the appeal, administration lawyers said a lower court was correct to uphold the policy."

That's right folks, Obama urged the Supreme Court to uphold the policy, stating "don't ask, don't tell" is "rationally related to the government's legitimate interest in military discipline and cohesion." Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman referred requests for comment to the Justice Department, but said the military policy "implements the law."

Naturally, our friend Rachel Maddow had a few choice words for President Obama:

AC360 also asked Lt. Dan Choi for his perspective:

Here's the Gallup Poll referenced by Anderson Cooper.

I just don't get it. Sure, we've heard Obama's reasons before - (paraphrasing here) "This needs to go through Congress for a real fundamental change, my issuing a stop-loss won't change anything, blah blah blah."


Here was a real chance to let the court, potentially, issue a real "fundamental change." It doesn't necessarily have to go through Congress. However, if it went to court, then Obama would have to argue FOR DADT, going against his campaign promises of repealing it. Right?

I might buy that he didn't want to argue for it if he didn't issue a statement that DADT is "rationally related to the government's legitimate interest in military discipline and cohesion." That to me doesn't sound like he's against it. Troop cohesion?! Don't tell that to Lt. Dan Choi.

I'm growing impatient - and not with lack of progress, but lack of support. (I'm not the only one - there's a planned protest of Obama's visit to Moscow by Russian activists showing solidarity with us here in the USA. Wow!)

If he's sticking to his guns of going through Congress, then it sounds like if DADT is repealed, he's hoping to get all the credit for it.

Where's the change Obama promised? So far, I haven't seen any. All I've seen is a president that bought into his own hype.

PLEASE Obama. Prove me wrong. We can't create change without you.

VIDEO: UTF Meet in the Middle Interviews - Christine Chavez

Unite the Fight interviews Christine Chavez, granddaughter of activist Cesar Chavez, and we ask her about the effects of Prop 8 being upheld.

We have plenty more interviews. Check them out at out YouTube Channel.

Monday, June 8, 2009

VIDEO UPDATE: New Leaders Sworn In/Democrats Lose Control of NY Senate in Coup - End of New York's Marriage Equality Bill?

UPDATE: New Senate Majority Leaders, Senator Pedro Espada and Senator Dean Skelos are sworn in as new leaders of the Senate.

So it's becoming more apparent that this coup has nothing to do with the marriage equality bill. Espada has stated he's pro-marriage equality and Monserrate, at least according to the recent NY1 survey, is undecided.

But with all the chaos, will marriage equality become a priority, especially now that the senate session has so little time left to vote?

See more video at Towleroad.

The New York Times is reporting:
Republicans seized control of the New York State Senate on Monday, in a stunning and sudden reversal of fortunes for the Democratic Party, which controlled the chamber for barely five months.

A raucous leadership fight erupted on the floor of the Senate around 3 p.m., with two Democrats, Pedro Espada Jr. of the Bronx and Hiram Monserrate of Queens, joining the 30 Senate Republicans in a motion that would displace Democrats as the party in control.
Senate Republicans quickly claimed that they were on the verge of controlling the chamber. “A new bipartisan, coalition is being established that is bringing real reform to the Senate right now,” Republicans said in a statement emailed to reporters at 3:20 p.m.

As the events were unfolding on the floor, Senator Malcolm A. Smith of Queens, leader of the Senate Democrats, huddled in the hall just off the Senate chamber and consulted with his staff. When asked what was occurring, he responded, “I’m trying to find out right now.”

At 4:44 p.m., Mr. Smith’s office released a statement insisting that control of the Senate had not changed hands.

“This was an illegal and unlawful attempt to gain control of the Senate and reverse the will of the people who voted for a Democratic majority,” Austin Shafran, a spokesman for Mr. Smith, said. “Nothing has changed. Senator Malcolm A. Smith remains the duly elected temporary president and majority leader. The real Senate majority is anxious to get back to governing, and will take immediate steps to get us back to work.”
Many are wondering if this defection is related at all to the contentious marriage equality bill that Sen. Smith has backed, but that Democrat Sen. Ruben Diaz, who staunchly opposes anything LGBT, is against.

Elizabeth Benjamin at the New York Daily News reports:
Another rumor du jour is that Diaz, who is furious that the gay marriage bill he opposes appears to be gaining some traction in the Senate, would be angry enough with Smith if the measure comes up for a vote on the floor to join the Senate GOP.

I asked Diaz about that, and he said:

"Today? No. Tomorrow? Who knows? Tomorrow is another day. It's always another day. You ask me do I plan to do that. I say, no. In the future, who knows what the future brings."

"The only thing I can tell you, and you can interpret this any which way you want: When I give my word, I keep my word. In order for me to break my word, you have to break yours first."

Here's how I interpret that:

It's a (typically) cryptic way of Diaz Sr. confirming the worst fears of marriage advocates - that there was indeed a deal between himself and Smith that the gay marriage bill would not come to the floor in exchange for Diaz Sr.'s support of Smith for majority leader.

And now, in Diaz Sr.'s mind, if Smith brings the bill to the floor, all bets are off.
And they say the gays are dramatic. I wouldn't say that this coup is directly related to the marriage equality bill - that in my opinion is a big jump, especially considering that Sen. Diaz didn't defect to the Republican side.

However, it wouldn't surprise me either, especially with all the "he said she said" going on in the senate over the bill lately.

In the end, this just makes me sad that the democratic process in New York has been ignored and violated, and that there's barely any chance for marriage equality legislation to have its chance by being voted upon. If there's a miracle, marriage equality may have its day in the sun in the New York Senate, otherwise it will die. Again.

ACTION: Contact your New York senator and demand that they not let this happen!