Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Has Saudi Arabia Beheaded Two Homosexuals?

An article from the French gay magazine Tetu was posted earlier today on the Gays Without Borders group Yahoo listserv, claiming that two homosexuals were executed in recent days by the Saudi Arabian government.

I've searched the web sites of numerous Saudi Arabian newspapers and for the Interior Ministry, and found nothing related to the alleged beheadings. With word now spreading about the French story, I'm hopeful more details and reports will soon emerge on this matter.

At the end of this entry you'll find an excerpt from the latest U.S. State Departmentn human rights report on Saudi Arabia's violations of human rights protections for homosexuals.

Here is a rough translation of the Tetu story into English, followed by the original French piece:

December 26, in Riyadh, the Ministry of Interior announced the beheading by saber of two Saudi men.

Sentenced to death for the rape of a man, these two homosexuals had their names published in the press of the Wahhabi kingdom.

They were accused of "having enter" into the room of a man while he was sleeping, of having hit him, tied him and then violated him.

An information that could not be verified: a campaign of repression into the homosexual community, similar to the one initiated by Iran in 2007, is "drying up" the sources of information in Saudi Arabia.

Since March 2008, in fact, hundreds of suspected homosexuals were arrested during parties.

Last summer, 55 young men were arrested by the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, a kind of morality police, at a gay dance party (read article Aug. 5).

No information had "filtered" on their fate since this time.

On 11 August, two Filipino illegal prostitutes were arrested, according to their embassy, they were subject to charges of sodomy.

In the end of 2007, two men were sentenced to 7,000 lashes (read article October 8).

The crime of sodomy is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia.

But, after protests from a part of the "international community", the kingdom declared that from 2002 they "only" apply the highest penalty (death penalty) in cases of pedophilia, rape, sexual assault or murder.

But we know that in the neighbor Iran, death sentences for "rape" mask a bloody repression of homosexuality.

This is the French article:

À Ryad, le ministère de l'Intérieur a rendu publique la décapitation au sabre de deux Saoudiens, le 26 décembre. Condamnés à mort pour le viol d'un homme, ces deux homosexuels ont vu leurs noms publiés dans la presse du Royaume wahhabite. Ils ont été accusés d'être entrés dans la chambre d'un homme alors qu'il dormait, de l'avoir battu, attaché puis violé. Des informations qui n'ont pas pu être vérifiées: une campagne de répression dans la communauté homosexuelle, semblable à celle engagée par l'Iran en 2007, tarit les sources d'information en Arabie saoudite.

Depuis mars 2008, en effet, des centaines de présumés homosexuels ont été arrêtés lors de soirées. Cet été, 55 jeunes hommes ont été interpellés par le Comité pour la propagation de la vertu et la prévention du vice, sorte de police des moeurs, lors d'une «soirée dansante homosexuelle» (lire article du 5 août). Aucune information ne filtre depuis sur leur sort. Le 11 août, deux prostitués philippins illégaux étaient interpellés; selon leur ambassade, ils faisaient l'objet d'accusations de sodomie. Fin 2007, deux hommes ont été condamnés à 7.000 coups de fouet (lire article du 8 octobre).

Le crime de sodomie est passible de peine de mort en Arabie saoudite. Mais, face aux protestations d'une partie de la communauté internationale, le royaume a déclaré n'appliquer la sentence suprême, à partir de 2002, qu'en cas de condamnation pour pédophilie, viol, agression sexuelle ou meurtre. Or on sait qu'en Iran voisin, les condamnations à mort pour viol masquent de fait une répression sanglante de l'homosexualité.

According to the 2007 human rights report from the State Department, homosexuals face the death penalty in Saudi Arabia for same-sex attractions and activities. From the report:

During the year there were reports that some Shi'a activist writers and other public figures were banned from traveling and the government had confiscated their passports.

Under Shari'a as interpreted in the country, sexual activity between two persons of the same gender is punishable by death or flogging. It is illegal for men "to behave like women" or wear women's clothes and for women to wear men's clothes. There were reports of societal discrimination based on sexual orientation.

There were reports of discrimination, physical violence, and harassment toward homosexuals. In October a court in al-Baha Province sentenced two men to 7,000 lashes each for engaging in sexual intercourse with other men.According to AI, the two men have reportedly received part of their sentence.

According to press reports, on March 19, police arrested 17 men in Dammam at a party in which men dressed as women. The men, locally known to be homosexuals, were arrested in a private apartment after a neighbor contacted officials due to loud noise.

At year's end there was no further information on men arrested in August and November 2006. In August 2006 the media reported that 250 young men were detained and subsequently 20 were arrested at a suspected "gay wedding" in Jizan. In November 2006 the media reported that police arrested five men for preparing to stage a beauty contest for homosexual men. The five men had previously been arrested in May for the same offense. The media also reported that several months before this incident, 92 men had been arrested at a gay party in Al-Qatif for wearing women's clothes, make-up, and wigs. At year's end none of these men had been sentenced.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Equality Federation Explains
No on 8 Committee

Toni Broaddus, the executive director of the Equality Federation of state gay rights orgs, sent me this great explanation about the structure and legal entities involved for the No on 8/Equality for All committee and other advocacy groups. I am most appreciative of her assistance in helping me understand how the No on 8 campaign was established and will speak with her shorty for more info.

The bottom line is this: I want to see all public documents that were filed, either with the CA Secretary of State or the Attorney General's office or the Fair Political Practices Commission, that legal set up the No on 8 committee.

Of course, it would be so simple for Geoff Kors and the committee to start being transparent and provide the community on the EQCA web site with all the legal papers, and names of officers, for the No on 8 campaign. Think we can convince Kors and company to do this?

I have to agree with Broaddus' assertion that this info will make my head spin. But head spinning is the least of our worries as we continue to demand accountability and answers from Kors and the No on 8 leaders.

Here's Broaddus' email:

Hi Michael,

I just read your post about the legal entities sharing addresses and leadership, and I’d be happy to explain all those organizational connections to you if you want to call me. There’s nothing sinister or questionable about these legal entities – there are just many many laws & rules that we all must comply with when we do political work, and so the whole system works to obscure who is in charge of what. This is not the fault of our gay leaders or organizations. Here’s a brief overview to make your head spin:

Most state organizations operate multiple legal entities. a 501(c)(3) and a 501(c)(4) organization, as well as a political action committee (PAC) that can endorse political candidates. These days, many state groups also operate ballot measure PACs. Together, these separate legal entities are an organizational family. Governance varies by state – most organizations have board members that serve on more than one board as well as board members who serve on only one board. Nearly always, the different legal entities share staff (so I am, for example, the ED of both Equality Federation, a 501c4, and Equality Federation Institute, a 501c3).

Equality California has all of these legal entities, including a ballot measure PAC formed to raise money for the No On Prop 8 campaign. In fact, most gay organizations had their own ballot measure PACs (including HRC, NCLR, and the Task Force) so that each group could track how much money it raised for the campaign. In fact, this is how we know that EQCA raised one-third of all the money for the campaign, which was five times the amount raised by the second largest donor (HRC). But money raised by the organizations was then given to a separate ballot measure PAC (Equality For All) that had been formed specifically to house and run the campaign organization.

Equality for All was essentially a coalition of organizations who came together to fight Prop 8. Geoff was on the Executive Committee, but so was Lorri Jean, Kate Kendell, Michael Fleming, and others. Since most committee leaders run organizations, not campaigns, a professional campaign consultant – Steve Smith – was hired to run the campaign. Later, the committee asked Patrick Guerriero was to direct the final weeks of the campaign.

As for the confusion over addresses: when I first became ED of Equality Federation, we had no staff and no need for an office so I worked from my home for the first year. I rented a mailbox in the UPS store that is in the same suite of offices as Equality California (the addresses are actually not the same). Since EQCA is a Federation member organization, I often used their copy machine or fax machine and the mailbox was in a convenient location. Although we now have offices and staff, the state of California has apparently not updated its records.

But if you did check out our new address, you would actually note that it is one of the official addresses used by Equality For All (the campaign organization) because we rent out office space to the financial services team who handled the campaign donations for the official campaign as well as the reporting for many of the movement organizations contributing resources to the campaign.

As for Marriage Equality California (once called MECA), that group actually merged with Equality California in 2004 or 2005 – it’s no secret. So that’s why the address is the same.

And Cary Davidson & John Duran have participated in various political campaigns over the years – related to gay rights and other issues as well. I met Cary when I worked for the No On Prop 22 campaign in 2000, for which he was the treasurer. I met John when I worked at Equality California. I believe both also have sat on the boards of different legal entities working on gay rights over the years, including EQCA. So it’s not surprising to see their names on other campaigns or organizations (including the org that became EQCA). They are both willing to step up when asked.

Anyway, I hope this is helpful. You are welcome to call me on either number below if I can clarify any of this web of connections. I just thought you were getting sidetracked on the legal entities in your post, and I lost your point. I would certainly agree that transparency is hard to come by in legal filings – and the IRS laws & campaign finance laws magnify the problem.

Best, Toni Broaddus

Monday, December 29, 2008

No on 8 Was Not Incorporated
by CA Secretary of State?

The key architect of the dismal No on 8 campaign, Geoff Kors, who's also the executive director of Equality California, recently wrote to my pal political artist Clinton Fein about who was responsible for campaign, because Kors would sure as hell like to divert attention away from his leadership role that led to Prop 8 passage. Kors said:

No on 8, Equality for All is the organization that ran the campaign. EQCA is not ...
I don’t have the authority to speak for that organization as it is a legal entity that I was never paid by, or a titled officer of, as the corporate records will indicate.

Anyone got copies of those corporate records so we can all inspect them?

Kors' legalese piqued my interest in finding the papers that incorporated No on 8, Equality for All, the organization he claims actually ran the campaign, so I began to hunt for that group's corporate or limited partnership papers on file with the CA Secretary of State.

Click here to use the SoS's business search engine.

After searching many variations on No on Proposition 8, I couldn't find a thing related to this year's Prop 8. I did locate this listing:

COMMITTEE Number: C1027584
Date Filed: 10/15/1980
Status: dissolved
Jurisdiction: California
Address 612 S FLOWER ST RM 309LOS ANGELES, CA 90017
Agent for Service of Process CARY DAVIDSON 612 S FLOWER ST #309 LOS ANGELES, CA 90017

That old committee is the closest I got to finding the 2008 No on 8 committee's filing. What's interesting is the agent for the 1980 committee is now the president of the board of directors of ... EQCA!

I did locate this listing, for half of the organizational name of the committee behind No on 8 that Kors mentioned, and, what do you know. It's the same agent listed, one Cary Davidson! Maybe this is the group Kors believe ran the No on 8 effort, which, is not EQCA but sure has a direct link to it.

Number: C2795298
Date Filed: 8/1/2005
Status: active
Jurisdiction: California
Address 520 S GRAND AVE STE 700LOS ANGELES, CA 90071
Agent for Service of Process CARY DAVIDSON 520 S GRAND AVE STE 700 LOS ANGELES, CA 90071

What else turned up in my search? This listing for an organization that I believe transformed into EQCA. The agent for this group, John Duran, is a longtime and current member of the EQCA board:

Number: C2108136
Date Filed: 5/7/1998
Status: suspended
Jurisdiction: California Address 9000 SUNSET BLVD., SUITE 808WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA 90069-5808
Agent for Service of Process JOHN J. DURAN, ESQ. 9000 SUNSET BLVD., SUITE 808 WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA 90069

And here are the two listings that were returned when looking for the incorporation papers of Kors' EQCA. The agent named on both listings is the deputy director of EQCA:

Number: C2093660
Date Filed: 9/18/1998
Status: active Jurisdiction: California
Agent for Service of Process JAMES CARROLL 216 HARTFORD SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94114

Number: C2172279
Date Filed: 7/28/1999
Status: active Jurisdiction: California
Address 2370 MARKET STSAN FRANCISCO, CA 94114 Agent for Service of Process JIM CARROLL 2370 MARKET ST SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94114

The address for EQCA is also the same one used by a national coalition of similarly closeted-in-name state organizations, the Equality Federation and its affiliated institute:

Number: C2792840
Date Filed: 9/29/2006
Status: active
Jurisdiction: DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA Address 2370 MARKET ST # 386SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94114
Agent for Service of Process TONI BROADDUS 2370 MARKET ST # 386 SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94114

Number: C2792839
Date Filed: 9/29/2006
Status: active
Jurisdiction: DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA Address 2370 MARKET ST # 386SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94114
Agent for Service of Process TONI BROADDUS 2370 MARKET ST # 386 SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94114

But wait, we're not quite through looking at who else used the EQCA address for another gay corporation:

Number: C2303368
Date Filed: 1/19/2001
Status: dissolved
Jurisdiction: California
Agent for Service of Process STEVEN MELE 8581 SANTA MONICA BLVD #504 WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA 90069

What is this "No on 8/Equality for All" corporation that Kors said was the responsible party for the Prop 8 campaign and why are there no incorporation papers on file with the state for it?

If Kors were a responsible gay leader and holding his own town halls with the CA gay community he is head of, I would ask him about all the groups that have used or still use his EQCA address as their business address or headquarters. I would also try and pin him down as to which corporation actually ran the No on 8.

But he is not organizing any public meetings and the basic question of pinning him down about the corporation behind our failed effort to stop Prop 8 should be addressed in public by Kors and his board of directors.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Melissa Etheridge = $0 to No on 8,
$7,000 to Democrats

Oscar-winning rock star and open lesbian Melissa Etheridge has raised her mighty voice in defense of gay marriage equality since Prop 8 passed by the CA voters on November.

She's pledged to avoid taxes until such marriage equality is legal and protected, and she's been saying nice things about the straight and homophobic Rev. Rick Warren, as has Etheridge's partner Tammy Lynn Michaels. Lots of pots have been stirred up by her actions recently. Controversy may become her new middle name.

Whatever one thinks of her politics, you have to give Etheridge credit, as I do, for speaking her mind, even if it gets in her hot water with gay activists and bloggers not pleased president-elect Barack Obama has conferred great honor on Warren in appointing him to deliver the invocation at his inauguration.

But what about Etheridge's political pocketbook? Did she open it to fight either this year's anti-gay-marriage initiative in CA, Prop 8, or the earlier version in 2000, Prop 22?

According to search engines at the SF Chronicle and CA Secretary of State's web sites, the answer is no. Not a single listing for any donations from Etheridge or her partner.

However, at the federal level, from 2002 through 2006, Etheridge donated a total of $7,000 spread out among the Democratic National Committee, EMILY's List and Walter Mondale's bid to win Sen. Paul Wellstone's seat. I guess she sees no reason to contribute funds to Rep. Tammy Baldwin or any gay PACs, which is her right.

There's no law that says a politically active entertainer who happens to be a lesbian is required to donate to lesbian candidates or gay-specific ballot propositions, but it would be nice if she did. Of course, if she donated, she'd face criticism from activists who feel any money given to the the No on 8 effort was flushed down the toilet. ;-)

But I bet lots of her fans would like to find a money trail from her that leads not only to the Democratic Party, but also to gay pols and campaigns to retain gay marriage equality.

Ginsberg & Kissinger on TV Naked
to End Vietnam War?

The New York Times this week wrote about the declassification of hundreds of hours of transcripts of telephone conversations taped by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, which are available for public inspection at the National Security Archive maintained by the George Washington University.

The Times mentioned a conversation between Kissinger and the gay beat poet and counter-culture icon Allen Ginsberg, which in and of itself was trippy, but the content, about the two politically polar opposites appearing on TV in the buff to bring peace to Vietnam, was so far-out I had simply had to read the actual transcript of the call.

The brief transcript piques my curiosity about how Ginsberg was able to get Kissinger on the phone, why Kissinger didn't hang up the phone when it was suggested they debate the Vietnamese/USA conflict in the flesh, did the two ever meet in person and was the meeting taped, why did the transcribers put a "(?)" after the words "gay liberation"?

Here are my favorite lines from the call, from Ginsberg, of course:

"I gather you don't know how to get out of the war."

"You may have to subject yourself to prayer."

They don't make gay heroes they way they used to before the movement and community underwent professionalization. I'm sorry we no longer have queer visionaries like Ginsberg communicating with power-brokers at the top level of American society, and challenging them like this.

In a NY Times book review about a new collection of poetry from Ginsberg contemporary Jack Spicer, we learn of other, um, attempted acts of peace by the "Howl" creator:

He had other contacts with Ginsberg. The editors write, in an unintentionally hilarious biographical entry for 1959: “At a drunken party in Berkeley, Allen Ginsberg attempts to fellate Spicer in public in the name of love, peace, and understanding; gets rejected.”

This is the transcript of the Kissinger call, as posted at the GWU archive:

7:50 pm, April 23, 1971

G: I am calling at the request partly of Senator McCarthy. Senator McCarthy told me to, call you. My idea is to arrange a conversation between yourself, [CIA Director Richard] Helms, McCarthy and maybe even Nixon with Rennie Davis, Dillinger and Abernathy. It can be done at any time. They were willing to show their peaceableness and perhaps you don't know how to get out of the war and who by private meeting --

K: I have been meeting with many members representing peace groups but what I find is that they have always then rushed right out and given the contents of the meeting to the press. But I like to do this, not just for the enlightment of the people I talk to but to at least give me a feel of what concerned people think. I would be prepared to meet in principle on a private basis.

G: That's true but it is a question of personal delicacy. In dealing with human conscienceness, it is difficult to set limits.

K: You can't set limits to human conscienceness but --

G: We can try to come to some kind of understanding.

K: You can set limits to what you say publicly.

G: It would be even more funny to do it on television.

K: What?

G: It would be even more useful if we could do it naked on television.

K: (Laughter )

G: It might be too ______ but under some kind of circumstances. What shall I tell them that would be encouraging?

K: That I would think about it very seriously.

G: Good deal.

K: I will call Senator McCarthy. I am leaving town for a conference that I have had scheduled for some time but I will be back on Monday. When did you intend to do this?

G: During the May Day Meetings in Washington. They will be lobbying and they could meet with you. May 2 or 3.

K: May 2nd or 3rd. Damn it! I would like to do it in principle but --

G: It is a good principle.

K: Now wait a minute. I don't know about those dates, I may not be in town. If not, we can do it at some other reasonable date.

G: I gather you don't know how to get out of the war.

K: I thought we did but we are always interested in hearing other views.

G: If you see [CIA Director Richard] Helms, ask him if he has begun meditating yet.

K: [About what. ]

G: . . . . . . . . . . on the opium market . . . . . . Long Chin (spelled phonetically). He promised to meditate one hour a day. I still have to teach him how to hold his back straight.

K: How do I reach you?

G: City Lights, San Francisco.

K: Where are you calling from?

G: Sacramento, California -- I just gave a talk on gay liberation (?) to the students here, and I am going to San Francisco to join the march there. I will be at the following number --

K: I won't be able to call you, I am leaving town. How can I reach you after Monday ?

G: I will be there until June 15th.

K: You are not coming here?

G: If I were needed, I could arrange --

K: No, no - - I will call McCarthy.

G: Talk to him, I will try to arrange a private meeting. It would be good to talk to the Army too, you know the war people and the anti-war people.

K: It i s barely conceivable that there are people who like war.

G: They might have some ideas, they have been to Hanoi.

K: I will call McCarthy. If we can set it up on a basis of --

G: You may have to subject yourself to prayer.

K: That is a private matter that is permis sable.

G: Of course.

K: Okay, I will call McCarthy.

Friday, December 26, 2008

FEC, CA Law:
Foreigners Can Give to Prop Campaigns

In the wake of my recent post asking gay blogger Andrew Sullivan if he had donated to the No on 8 campaign, and lots of folks informing that foreign nationals couldn't make a contribution to the anti-gay-marriage initiative, a friend in Los Angeles, who was born in Australia, Peter Cashman from the old ACT UP/LA chapter, has helped me better understand what US federal and CA state laws say about foreign nationals making donations to candidates and ballot initiatives.

Let's walk through a few aspects regarding foreigners donating to campaigns, and start with what CA regulations say. This is part of what is on the books:

California Government Code Sections 85300-85321
Article 3. Contribution Limitations

(d) This section shall not prohibit a contribution, expenditure,
or independent expenditure made by a lawfully admitted permanent

Cashman writes:

California law does not disallow foreign nationals who live in the US from contributing to CA ballot measures, as distinct from those who live "outside" the US who are prohibited.

Despite what the NO ON 8 campaign said on their site it was in fact legal under federal law and California law for foreign nationals living in the US to contribute to this and most other CA ballot measures. From the FEC:

In Advisory Opinion 1989-32, the Commission concluded that although foreign nationals could make disbursements solely to influence ballot issues, a foreign national could not contribute to a ballot committee that had coordinated its efforts with a nonfederal candidate's re-election campaign.

But this is what the No on 8 donations' page said:

Please note that foreign nationals are prohibited from making contributions to this campaign.

More from Cashman:

I saw on the FEC site prior to the election something more user friendly that made it clear that it was OK for resident foreign nationals to contribute to a ballot measure which has been my understanding ever since I have lived in California.

Yes Andrew can donate to a CA ballot measure.

Furthermore in regard to elections as distinct from referenda (ballot measures et al) if he has a green card he can make political contributions to parties or candidates anywhere in the US.

This I did not know - I had come to believe that you had to be a citizen - not so says the FEC - just a lawfully admitted permanent US resident.

I have never seen a ballot campaign in this state that forbade non-citizens from donating as NO ON 8 did.

There is one thing I think Cashman is incorrect about and that is whether Sullivan can donate to CA props. Yes, CA law says a permanent resident can give to campaigns, but Sullivan is not a permanent resident because of our anti-HIV immigration and travel laws.

Sullivan explained his resident status in a column for the Washington Post back in May on the topic of America's immigration regs against HIV positive people:

With great lawyers, a rare O visa (granted to individuals in the arts and sciences), a government-granted HIV waiver and thousands of dollars in legal fees, I have managed to stay in the United States. Nonetheless, because I am HIV-positive, I am not eligible to become a permanent resident.

So Sullivan was prohibited from giving money to the No on 8 campaign because of his HIV and resident status.

And what about getting a gay legal scholar's opinion of what Cashman said regarding foreign nationals, donations, and the links to the actual CA statute and an FEC brochure page? This is the view of one gay legal eagle on all of this:

This is interesting. I had not researched the question, but relied on the statement by No on 8 declaring that such contributions were prohibited. It was on the donation page of No on 8 at the bottom. See it here.

It now appears to me that No on 8 was either flat wrong or acting on an excess of caution, legally and politically, about donations.

Having said that, I think Andrew was also relying in good faith on what No on 8 was telling the public. If there is blame here, it is with the No on 8 campaign.

Not surprised in the least that there is one more thing to add to the long list of problems with the No on 8 leaders.

I hope I've learned a few lessons from my initial entry on Sullivan and the criticism thrown my way, including learning that some foreign nationals can indeed give money to fight CA's initiatives.

Since Sullivan was the topic of my original post, I emailed him the new info, and asked if he cared to comment. He replied:

merry christmas. if i have not done my share of fighting for marriage equality for the past twenty years, then i guess your standards are pretty high.

Yes, he's done his share of championing the gay marriage cause, but this update is about the new understanding I have of the FEC and CA regs that allow select foreign nationals in the USA to give money to state ballot propositions. Many thanks to Cashman and my gay scholar acquaintance, for enlightening me to what the law actually says and how to interpret its application during the Prop 8 fight.

The matter of whether the $40 million-plus spent by the No on 8 campaign was wisely used is a whole other ball of wax.

Dec 27 Vigil for CA Lesbian Rape Survivor

The tragic gang rape of a lesbian in Richmond, CA, earlier this month has generated vigil on her behalf, organized by two regional ant-violence organizations. Here is the info on the vigil, taken from a press release put out by the Community United Against Violence organization of San Francisco:

Community Vigil for Peace and Healing
Where: 1500 Visalia Avenue, Richmond, CA
(near Richmond BART Station)
When: Saturday, December 27, 2008
Time: 9:30 pm - 10:00 pm
What: Peaceful vigil in response to hate-motivated gang-rape

Alert: Members of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, and Intersexed communities will hold a peaceful vigil with support from Hand to Hand Martial Arts Center, at the location where a lesbian woman was raped by four men on Saturday December 13th 2008. LGBTQQI community members and all allies are welcome to come join in peace, healing, and support for the survivor and her courage in speaking out about the violence that was perpetrated against her.

It pains to see that a blogger I respect deeply, Pam Spaulding of Pam's House Blend, earlier this week wrote about this Richmond woman's brutal experience, without expressing any concern for the victim and using the crimes committed against her for national political purposes. This is what she wrote:

CA: Investigation into brutal gang rape of lesbian
by: Pam Spaulding
Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 17:46:29 PM EST

I assume that the president-elect will speak out regarding federal hate crimes legislation. When you read about a crime like this, it's beyond reason to accept the bogus argument of the fundies that the prosecuting something like this as a hate crime endangers their right to spew bigotry from the pulpit. [Large excerpt from the AP story on the case.]

What deeply troubles me is that Spaulding expresses no concern for the victim, either her medical, psychological, financial and legal needs at that point. Not even a cursory "Let's unite to support the victim, work with police to find her alleged assailants, and the DA to bring appropriate charges with existing laws."

Sadly, Spaulding uses the gang rape of this lesbian victim to call on a politician, in this case Barack Obama, to use the victim as political pawn to pass more law and order legislation. I hate to be rude, but I must point out that there are plenty of laws on the books to charge the perpetrators with numerous sexual and battery assault charges.

Let me state for the record I do not favor hate crime laws, for the reason stated above, but also because hate crimes laws do nothing to prevent crimes against gays and penalize people for their thoughts.

Consideration should also be given to the victim's wishes for privacy. She may not want her case to be used by the president-elect to push for new crime laws. Bear in mind also that her family and attorney may wish to minimize the political and media impact of the case, to better help the victim recover.

I can only hope that the two groups sponsoring the vigil tomorrow night are doing so after consulting with the victim and her lawyer.

By the way, if you're able to donate to a fund to help the victim, the Bay Area's CBS affiliate provided the information on how to help:

People wanting to contribute can send a check made out to Community Violence Solutions to 2101 Van Ness St., San Pablo, Calif., 94806. Donors should write "Richmond Jane Doe" on the check in the memo space.

I'm happy to see that Spaulding today has posted a follow-up on this woman's case and made mention of the outpouring of support for the victim. Spaulding's update is here.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

No IRS Return Required

From Warren's Saddleback Church

Where's that old Church Lady from Saturday Night Live, when I need her so desperately? She could sum up what I'm about to tell you.

Controversial Christian minister Rick Warren, who helped wake up the gay community to its deplorable and morally bankrupt professional Democratic Party leadership by throwing his considerable religious and political weight into the passage of Prop 8, has had a tax exemption for his Saddleback Church since 1980.

The IRS most likely granted him a 501(c)3 exemption because of his church's charitable work, just as the federal government grants lots of similar tax breaks to other religious institutions, including gay houses of worship.

I don't have a problem with the U.S. Treasury giving this exemption to the churches, per se, as long as they're providing the public charity that confers upon them the nonprofit status, and without them or any nonprofit illegally or improperly injecting their anti-gay views into how the government provides equal rights and protections to gays.

But what I have trouble with, ever since I battled with Rev. Cecil Williams of San Francisco's Glide Memorial United Methodist Church over obtaining his IRS 990s, is that churches don't have to reveal their tax filings to the public.

I was shocked in 1998 when I learned this and was determined to find out what Williams was making, so I persuaded a reporter to pester Wililams until he disclosed his salary. If Williams and his wife were hauling home half a million in 1998, what are they compensated today?

From the September 15, 1998, SF Chronicle:

Together, Williams and his wife, Janice Mirikitani, who runs the social programs at Glide, now earn a combined $245,272, according to financial information provided by the church and the Glide Foundation. That figure -- $131,486 for the pastor and $113,786 for his wife -- includes benefits and a housing allowance ...

Michael Petrelis, who tracks salaries at non-profit groups for the AIDS Accountability Project in San Francisco, said these "follow the leader'' pay scales are inflating the salaries of charity executives across the country. "Maybe they're not excessive when compared to each other, but I'm troubled with all these six-figure salaries,'' he said. "That's less money going to needy people in the Tenderloin."

Even though Cecil Williams and Warren hold vastly different views on gays, poverty and politics, they probably agree on one thing. They hate revealing their financial papers.

Rick Warren's large church, which rakes in lots of dough, receives a special right from the U.S. government, a right no non-religious nonprofit organization can get: The 501(c)3 exempt status. And that exemption entitles Warren the right to keep his church's finances out of public view. That ain't kosher.

Here are some of the most terrible words to appear on the site, the best repository of IRS 990 forms on the web. These words appear on the page for the Saddleback Church:

This organization is not required to file an annual return with the IRS because it is a church.

As the SNL Church Lady would put it, "Isn't that special?"

Saddleback and Warren get the tax exemption, then don't have to act like every other nonprofit and file an annual report, that is then made available for public inspection.

Now would be a good time for gay leaders to put Warren's finances under a magnifying glass and a concerted effort made to encourage mainstream media outlets to put some resources into revealing as much as possible about Warren's money trail.

Media Transparency at Prop 8 Summit?

Since the November election, I've been in touch with Patrick Range McDonald, a gay reporter with the LA Weekly, regarding a subject of mutual concern: Transparency and the No on Prop 8 leaders. More like lack of transparency. We both were very frustrated with the dark, clandestine operations of the No campaign, particularly the Executive Committee that made most of the important decisions during the race.

Unable to locate the names of the committee members, I joked with Patrick that it was easier to locate the names of everyone on the Chinese politburo than a full list of the No committee. Click here to read the politburo's membership roster. Go here to see that the comparable EQCA info is not public.

After complaining that the names of the EQCA committee organizing the January 24 summit in Los Angeles weren't publicly available, showing few if any lessons learned by the EQCA folks, Patrick shared his thoughts with me:

Anne Marks from EQCA got back to me earlier today and said the media would be allowed to go to the "summit" on Jan. 24 in LA, but only for the first part. The "strategy" part of the summit would be closed to the media. I wrote back saying I didn't think that was acceptable.

Yeah, the lack of transparency by the A-gay crowd is startling, especially when you consider they're spending other people's money and their fighting battles that involve the lives of millions of gays and lesbians ... and for generations to come.

The lack of transparency has also gotten us into the trouble we're in right now--no one could critique what "No on 8" leaders were doing because no one knew what they're doing. I think before anyone contributes any more money to non-profits like Equality California, he or she should demand complete transparency, which would also foster more activism within the gay community. I mean, why would anyone want to get involved in the gay rights movement if he doesn't know what's really happening?

Right now, by not providing specifics and by keeping things secret and people in the dark, gay leaders look as if they're only interested in maintaining control and power and nothing else.

The summit is clearly not getting off on the right transparent footing it should be fully embracing. That is, if EQCA and the A-gays had truly learned some hard lessons about the grievous backroom dealing and mistakes they made leading to the passage of Prop 8.

But it's surely not too late at all for EQCA to make public the names of the summit's organizing committee, share the minutes and agendas of their conference calls, explain why the people on the committee were chosen to make decisions, and fully commit to unfettered access for reporters and bloggers to all parts of the summit next month.

Hey EQCA leaders - Let the sunshine in!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Who's in Charge of the Prop 8 Summit in LA?

Last week I wrote to Geoff Kors and others at EQCA, the group that may be the leader in organizing a post-election Prop 8 summit on January 24 down in Los Angeles, to ask if they'd received my RSVP to the event and was my name added to the list of attendees.

Because EQCA's web site is the only place to locate info on the summit, and two EQCA staffers' names were listed as contacts, I assumed EQCA was spearheading the summit. Apparently, I was wrong.

Kors wrote back to further explain how organizing for the summit is proceeding. Here is the full text of his email:

There are over twenty leaders from different organizations who are planning the summit and I believe more than 100 participating. I am not on the planning committing but I understand that they are in the process of working on the agenda and are actively reaching out to both lgbt and non-lgbt organizations to bring the broadest and most diverse group of organizations and leaders together. After further outreach is done and an agenda including various break-out groups is determined, they will be responding. They are also working on how to best integrate and accommodate media and others who have expressed an interest in attending. EQCA has provided initial funding to coordinate the summit and foundation funding is helping with the venue, but the summit is being planned by a number of organizations and leaders with the goal of having a diverse group of organizations and leaders who are committed to working proactively to achieve marriage equality in attendance and being part of the planning process for the summit.

I think I've seen this lousy movie before. Kors says that just like with the disastrous executive committee of No on 8, another large committee is running the show. That's not so bad, after all, someone has to hire the facilitators, rent a meeting space, set the agenda, decide who can attend, etc.

But Kors, like the EQCA site, keeps the summit committee members in the closet. No on 8 made no effort to ID who was on the 18 member executive committee, and now, we're not being told who's on the summit committee.

And Kors says he's is not the boss of the summit, even though like the No on 8 effort, he's the public face of it.

At the same time, just as with No on 8, EQCA is not the head of the summit effort, just one of many groups putting it on. This way of doing things insures that no one is ever really held accountable.

Questions that likely won't be answered by Kors or EQCA, because it would mean they were becoming a transparent outfit, but I will ask anyway:

1. What are the names of the summit committee memmbers?

2. Who appointed them?

3. Who empowered them to make decisions?

4. Who decided the committee need 20 members, not 10 or 15?

5. When and where does the committee?

6. How can I obtain the minutes and agendas of the committee?

7. Are there any members on it not affiliated with EQCA and No on 8?

8. Is anyone under 30 on the committee?

9. What is the estimated cost of the summit?

10. How much did EQCA donate?

11. Are committee seats, like the No on 8 executive committee, open only to those who donate a certain amount of money?

12. Is the committee formally committing to allow media to observe and report on the summit's proceedings?

If Kors and EQCA are indeed not the leaders of the January 24 summit, then I feel Kors has a duty, if he's truly learned some lessons from No on Prop 8, to uncloset the committee members and allow some sunlight in to the organizing process.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sully = Zero No on Prop 8 Donations?

[Oops.Correction appears below.]

Hey Andrew,

I was checking the SF Chronicle's search engine for donations to either side in the battle over Prop 8 and your name didn't turn up. Your husband, Aaron Tone, also appears to have not donated to the campaign to defeat Prop 8. Did you really not contribute to No on 8? You sure beat the bushes for No on 8 contributions, with an almost daily link to the campaign's donation page. I wonder why you'd ask and ask and ask readers to donate, but not write out a check yourself. What gives?


Click here to search for "Andrew Sullivan" donations to No on 8. This is the only donation I could find.

CORRECTION: I've been informed by several people that foreign nationals, such as Andrew, are prohibited by California law from donating to state elections and propositions. So if he wanted to make a donation to the No on 8 campaign, he would have been prohibited from doing so. I made a mistake and stand corrected. Apologies to Andrew.

Contributor nameAndrew Sullivan
OccupationProduct Manager
CitySan Francisco
State or countryCA
Payment typeMonetary
Transaction date10/8/2008
Committee nameNo On 8, Equality For All

Obama's Favor to Gays:
Inviting Warren to the Inauguration

A golden opportunity presented on a silver platter to the gay community is how I look at President-Elect Obama's invitation to the homophobic Rev. Rick Warren of the Saddleback Church of California to deliver the invocation at his inauguration next month.

Since we lost on Prop 8, Equality California and its parent organization the Human Rights Campaign have urged doing what was abysmally missing from the campaign to retain gay marriage rights - making ourselves visible and telling our lives' stories. Great advice EQCA and HRC threw overboard leading up to the election, and advice that ought to be part of the official gay leadership's response to Obama choosing Warren.

Just as I saw during the campaign when California gay leaders Lorri Jean and Geoff Kors refused an invitation the YES side to a televised, and went out of their way to not debate anti-gay opponents, instead, you'll pardon the expression, only preaching to the choir, I now see Democratic Party gay leaders loudly objecting and going on the defensive. Yawn.

I've seen this maneuver too many times to be anything but cynical about it. HRC expresses outrage in a press release, Kors refuses to attend the inauguration and show gay visibility, maybe even tell a story or two about fags and dykes, Kors doesn't consult with the CA gays to see if we want our leader to be there for us or reject the invitation, or maybe donate the precious ticket to a gay youth leader with Join the Impact, gay bloggers make excellent comparisons to inviting anti-Semites and racists to the inauguration.

And the loving and defiant lives of America's gay citizens are again not promoted by our groups during this controversy. Here we are presented with a solid media platform, and we play the wounded victim role again.

We are not ready with an ad campaign showing the gay couples in California, my friends and neighbors, whose marriages are in danger of being outlawed by the state, and never mind ads showing the kids of married gays who would suffer their parents divorcing by government regulation.

No lessons have been learned since the Prop 8 failure. The same mistakes from the campaign continue to plague the gays.

We are shocked, shocked, that a politician and a religious figure aren't standing up for us, as if this has never happened before, and we have no visibility strategy in place, nor one in the works, to show our genuine selves to the nation.

I'm happy Obama invited Warren to deliver the invocation. Numb to the usual gay Democratic victim card being played.

Which of my leaders will initiate a discussion with Warren, who will play a significant role in future battles over gay marriage and our other struggles? Who among the brave gay leaders, either cowardly returning inauguration invitations or attending the event, will pick up the phone on January 21 and begin a conversation with Warren?

Gays talking to our enemies in the religious community. That's the kind of politically independent gay leadership I'd like to see.

If we're not willing to speak with our enemies, then with whom will the gays make peace?

Kors: I Don't Have Authority
to Speak for No on 8

Political artist, and my friend, Clinton Fein sent the following note to Geoff Kors after he read my report on zapping Kors and an angry email Kors sent to me regarding the zap and some of my barbs thrown his way. Clinton's letter was published this week in the SF Bay Times. Click here to read all four of the letters in that paper calling for change from Kors and EQCA.

Kors replied to Clinton, and snippets of the reply, with snark from yours truly, appear below.

Dear Geoff,

You most likely don’t know me, but I am responding to the email you sent last week to Michael Petrelis, after he zapped you at City Hall, in which you tout your appreciation of the First Amendment and your willingness to speak to any activist, reporter or individual willing to engage in an open and constructive discussion.

As an ardent First Amendment supporter (with a Supreme Court victory under my belt), a political artist and photographer and more-than-occasional activist, I do have a few questions that may help shed some light on the misgivings I know I share with many others in addition to Michael.

While Michael and I conduct our activism very differently, and don’t always agree with one another’s methodologies, I am most certainly willing to defend his commitment to free speech.

As President of the Board of First Amendment Project, I would attest that Michael’s creative use of FOIA requests, among other things, demonstrates a healthy understanding and utilization of the First Amendment and his commitment to the gay community tireless.

In the spirit of open and constructive dialog, perhaps you can explain why your organization has been unwilling to hold any kind of public forum to address concerns and anger over the failure to prevent Proposition 8 from passing in California.

I have many friends and colleagues who donated significant chunks of cash to your organization, and who, like me, are astounded at the lack of any meaningful response from your organization following a disappointing but not all that surprising defeat.

Questions like why you chose the campaign strategy you did, why there was so little attention paid to social media, what research was conducted that suggested a closeted television campaign made sense in 2008, what kind of testing yielded a campaign slogan like Unfair and Wrong and a slew of other unanswered missteps that have left many wondering if close to $50 million might have been better spent on something more enduring and beneficial to the community.

Regardless of what your legal obligations are regarding disclosure and transparency, I believe people have a legitimate expectation regarding accountability or at the very least, an acknowledgement that some of the mistakes were strategic enough and damaging enough to warrant some kind of explanation if not an apology.

If Prop 8 was defeated, I’m sure you would have no qualms about commenting on the strategies behind the success. While hindsight is 20/20, and finger pointing is all too easy, an unwillingness to hold a public forum addressing the concerns of members of a community who donated hard earned money and were relying on the expertise of your organization to use it to defend their constitutional rights, suggests arrogance, political tone-deafness or cowardice.

Please help me understand why I may, perhaps, be misinformed or offer me something that alters my perception (and that of many others) that neither you nor your organization recognizes you have an obligation, neither ethical nor moral, to engage in a dialog with the people who supported you – particularly since it may provide a new target to which one’s anger might be better, and more strategically, directed.

Thanks in advance,

Clinton Fein
San Francisco, CA

Click here to read Clinton's thoughtful and provocative blog.

Because Kors' reply to Fein was full of unnecessary cheerleading for EQCA, and was extraneous to the matter at hand - lack of accountability and transparency - I've excerpted only comments of keen interest to me.

If Kors doesn't like this, he can always publish his full email to Fein on the EQCA site, along with my report on zapping him and Fein's letter generated by the zap.

And if he were truly committed to constructive dialogue about the campaign, he'd allow discussion on the EQCA blog about all these issues. Right now, Kors censors any critical public comments anyone may try to post at his site, hardly the best way to communicate with people he disagrees with.

On to excerpts from Kors' email, with remarks from me:

Hi Clinton. Thanks for your work.

There have been town halls and meetings and panels throughout the state and EQCA board and staff, including me, have been to almost all of them and many organizations, including EQCA, asked to partner with MEUSA but they decided to hold them on their own. I confirmed for the original SF town hall which was cancelled (although I read that it happened anyway). I was at an event on Prop 8 that Liberty Hill hosted in LA on the night it was rescheduled ...

Caution: Gay Clintonism at work here.

Yes, there have been groups other than EQCA that have taken the initiative and organized town halls, but all of them have been tightly controlled events not allowing for direct gay public questioning of Kors and staff. I'll give him credit though for meeting the Sarah Palin standard for unfiltered access with regular gay voters and donors.

Notice how instead of simply organizing their own meeting EQCA wants to partner with another agency, an agency that was very disrespected by Kors and the No on 8 leadership during the campaign.

Then that agency, Marriage Equality USA, is seen negatively by Kors for not wanting to partner with those who for months had disrespected them. He also says the reason why he's not appeared at any public meeting in San Francisco is because of the confusion surrounding MEUSA's November 20 town hall, which was scheduled, then canceled but took place anyway. What's stopping him from organizing his own town hall?

Glad he appeared at the Liberty Hall event, which I don't recalled being well-publicized, well-attended or much reported on.

Kors still takes no responsibility for holding his own EQCA town halls, and not just in San Francisco, where he runs his fiefdom from EQCA headquarters at Market and Church Streets, but also in central and southern California.

No on 8, Equality for All is the organization that ran the campaign. EQCA is not. I was one of 18 members, and had one vote, on an executive committee that hired campaign professional (much of the same team that defeated parental notification three times in California) and raised money to defeat the campaign. EQCA did not run the campaign.

I don’t have the authority to speak for that organization as it is a legal entity that I was never paid by, or a titled officer of, as the corporate records will indicate. The Executive Committee did not make key decisions regarding strategy, slogans, ads, field campaign, etc. ...

Bolded emphasis added to an excellent lawyerly defense absolving him of any honest responsibility.

This is a well-written paragraph passing the buck to the No on 8 org and the 18 member executive committee, of which we still don't have the names of all the members who coughed up $100,000 in order to have a seat on the committee. The face of No on 8, probably more so than any other figure, Kors', now doesn't have the authority to speak on the campaign. Who can Kors pass the responsibility to?

That was done by Steve Smith as the lead political consultant from August 2007 and, beginning Oct 1, Patrick Guerrero [sic] became the campaign director. Campaign experts ran the campaign and had decision making authority.

So Kors was just an innocent bystander to all of the decision-making and allocation of $45 million. Gosh, he must be pissed the true culprits of the debacle are not in the hotseat or facing near as much withering criticism as he is, and criticism that just won't let up.

Whether the decision making process was appropriate is a fair question that an analysis will help answer that question ... And I have committed to providing my views to the firm that does the analysis and support sharing that information publicly so we all learn from this ...

Ah, yes, the analysis of the campaign. Let's see if I've got this right. Kors, who was the money man for No on 8, and was integral to the failure to stop the measure, is in charge of hiring the analysts to evaluate the campaign, and the analysts will be paid by Kors and EQCA, and no one know the names of the analysts or the firm that will do the evaluating, while there's nothing in writing guaranteeing the community will be able to read the findings.

Who could object to Kors running the post-election analysis just like the he ran the executive committee and the campaign - with him in control, and withholding names of key players and only "supporting" release of the findings?

I'm glad Kors is communicating with Clinton Fein, but there is no escaping the fact that EQCA holds no public meetings to engage the community, and has not provided anywhere near the level of real accountability we need over the Prop 8 defeat.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Prop 8 Leader 'Forced'
to Vacation During the Campaign

The AstroTurf roots of the Equality California group came out in full force this week to defend their fellow A-gay friend Geoff Kors, who gave had a soft-hitting interview with Japhy Grant at the site.

I'll give Kors a modicum of credit for weakly acknowledging he and his pals didn't care about their base, the diverse and beautiful people who comprise California's gay community. From their talk:

Yeah, I will say it's clear the campaign did not engage the community and our allies. I think that it's something that was necessary.

Actually, there's quite a bit of such acknowledgements from Kors in this online interview, and I still believe he has a duty to say all this, and much more, in real unfiltered town halls across the state.

These words are a good start, but they are not nearly enough to help us figure out how the A-gay leadership managed to use modern election tools, to the tune of nearly $45 million, not engage the gay Goodwill set, badly lose, and continue to make the same mistakes today of failing to engage the very community Kors represents.

EQCA has not held a single public meeting that it itself has organized since the November 4 election. Sure, Kors and his board and staff, taking cues from Sarah Palin, have appeared in tightly controlled talks, many of them virtual, and the failure to hold such public forums is a moral blot of shame.

Okay, that sounds a bit harsh, but consider this. EQCA is marking its 10th year of operations right now, and the group has never held one community forum in the Castro, never invited the gay public to attend and speak at the EQCA board meetings, never released even summaries of the board meetings, and never says a thing about starting quarterly public meetings in San Francisco, to better engage the community.

However, EQCA is absolutely committed to hosting gala award dinners in five cities annually, so if you just happen to have a few hundred bucks laying around to buy some formal attire and tickets, you can be engaged by the group.

What makes the EQCA galas so special?:

EQCA’s Equality Awards aren’t just about glamour and glitz. It’s a time to honor our selfless leaders. Celebrate community achievements. And renew our engagement in the fight for equality. The black ties, sequins and champagne? That’s just icing on the cake.

I was intrigued by the many comments at singing the praises of Kors, starting with messages from EQCA board member Shannon Minter, who didn't ID himself as such, and Michael Kaiser-Nyman, Kors' personal assistant, who follows Minter's non-disclosing way, and a long comment from the pretentious Honorable John J. Duran, royal member of the LA A-gay set.

Duran, who disclosed his links to Kors and EQCA, veered off into a subject not addressed in the interview: Kors' infamous vacation during the height of the Prop 8 campaign.

From Duran's remarks. Emphasis mine:

So, while I am no longer Geoff Kors' boss - I will say this. He is a hero. The only reason he took that 2 week vacation is because I forced him! He was working all day and night for 7 days a week for about 2 years before election day. I became concerned about his physical well being and told him he HAD to take a vacation because I needed him for the fight ahead.

On the surface, that sounds so touching. Being told in mid December about the circumstances that led one A-gay to "force" another A-gay to take a break and travel to Spain in the weeks leading up to the vote. But is that what really led to Kors engaging in complacent behavior on the beaches of Spain?

The answer comes from the June 19 issue of the Bay Area Reporter, in a story about local gay leaders potentially supporting a tranny-led boycott of HRC's July annual gala. From the BAR article:

Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, said he would not be in attendance at the dinner because he'll be on vacation in Spain for a two-week trip that's been planned for a year.

Nice of Duran to take a bullet over Kors' vacation, but I'm not convinced he's telling the truth. If Kors could tell the BAR in mid June that he would be keeping his commitment to long-planned travel during the campaign, I don't think he needed much "forcing" by Duran to take off at a crucial time.

And speaking of vacations, did Duran also "force" Lorri Jean to take her one-month vacation to Alaska in the middle of the campaign? Unfortunately, Duran doesn't mention if he had to strong-arm Jean to enjoy the wilds of Alaska bush, instead of pounding the pavement in LA against Prop 8.

If Kors ever gets around to holding both a town hall just on what went wrong with Prop 8, and ongoing quarterly meetings in the Castro, I'll ask him about his vacation to Spain. But I'm not holding my breath Kors will all of a sudden become accountable and transparent to the California gay community.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Advocate:

Accountability From Kors/No on 8 Needed

The calls for openness and real accountability from the crew that ran the losing No on 8 campaign grew louder today. Writer Lane Hudson today on the site strongly echoed similar demands in the past six weeks for leaders of the Prop 8 debacle to begin a conversation with the community.

We should all feel some concern, if not damn outright anger, that the folks who gambled nearly $45 million gay community dollars and lost have, six weeks after the election, started an honest talk with activists and donors.

At the rate things are going with Kors and the No on 8 executive committee, and their refusal to leave their ivory towers, I remain skeptical that they will ever be accepting of the criticism over their ineptness.

Many thanks to the Advocate and Hudson for doing their part to bring much-needed attention to the continuing lack of transparency from the No on 8 leaders.

From the column:

Geoff Kors, the leader of Equality California, has vowed to put a repeal of Prop. 8 on the ballot in 2010. Presumably, our community will once again be called on to fund such an effort. With the ever-increasing cost of running such campaigns, we could be collectively tasked to give and raise $35 million or more for the next campaign.

Accordingly, Mr. Kors, the executive committee, and others with a seat at the table owe us full disclosure of the decision-making process that was employed throughout the 2008 campaign as well as the perspectives and lessons they have gleaned as a result. It’s not about playing a blame game. It’s about taking stock of what was learned and understanding how 2010 will be different ...

The executive committee of Equality for All should take a cue from our president-elect, for both their own good and that of the movement. Openness is a good thing. Feedback and discussion breed better and stronger ideas and strategy. When we remember to listen, we often surprise ourselves at what we learn ...

Instead, there has been mostly silence from the executive committee. What little discussion has taken place has been limited in scope and has offered very little insight. Wanting to know what mistakes were made and what lessons were learned isn’t about assigning blame and pointing fingers. It’s about collectively finding a path to winning the war.

It’s also in Equality for All's own best interest -- as well as the movement's -- to do a full accounting of winning and losing strategies for the sake of our donor base ...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

3 Corrupt Gays Appointed to CA Waste Board

Let's talk about what electing gays to state office in California means. Three corrupt politicians who happen to be gay, and haven't done a thing to hold town halls across the state for gay upset with the passage of Prop 8, are sticking around state government until they can find another office to run for.

Termed out gay political animals Sheila Kuehl and John Laird were appointed to the sewage board by cronies in the state senate and assembly recently. And nasty Carole Migden pulled strings with the Gov to get her parking spot until a better office opens up somewhere.

The waste board, you'll pardon the redundancy, is a waste. Good government advocates in Sacramento for years have wanted to do away with this board, but lazy career politicians refuse to kill it, because they may one day need a seat on the panel.

Ain't it grand the state can afford to pay the three wasteful gay leaders plum six-figure salaries and provide a few perks? Not because they're especially knowledgeable about sewage and recycling issues, but they're between elected offices right now, and need time to rest and plot their next electoral moves.

Sure doesn't pass the smell test. Heh.

There's also a Prop 8 angle here. None of the new appointees exactly knocked themselves out rallying the troops on the Prop 8 campaign trail, lame as it was. Okay, to be fair, the No on 8 leadership wasn't asking any real gays to be visible so it's I can't fault Migden, Laird and Kuehl for following campaign orders.

But now that it's been six weeks since we lost, the three gay experts in waste have done nothing to organize town halls about the Prop 8 failure, the terrible leadership of the campaign or how to learn lessons when leaders refuse to hold town halls in the Castro.

On Sunday, as if everyone didn't already know the deal that went down for Migden in acquiring her seat, the SF Chronicle laid it out for its readers. Pay close attention to lack of reporting on her,um, qualifications:

A lot of politicos up Sacramento are asking what was behind Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's decision to name recently defeated San Francisco state Sen. Carole Migden - a Democrat, of all things - to a plum, $132,000-a-year seat on the state's Integrated Waste Management Board.

The story is this: Initially, Migden was going to be appointed to the job by outgoing state Senate Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland.

The problem was that Migden's friend state Sen. Sheila Kuehl of Santa Monica, also a Democrat, was leaving office as well and looking for an appointment to the board.

And Perata had only one seat to hand out.

The other vacant seat on the garbage board was controlled by Schwarzenegger - and there was precious little chance he would give it to Kuehl, who helped torch the governor's big health care reform a couple of years back.

So Migden told Perata to appoint Kuehl and decided to take her chances with the governor.

To be honest, however, Migden didn't have much to worry about. She is very tight with Arnold's chief of staff, Susan Kennedy (also a Democrat) - as well as with Kennedy's partner, Vicki Marti, who runs a nonprofit women's center back in Migden's old Senate district.

In the end, it all came down to not Migden's expertise in poop, pee and paper, but her relationship with the Gov's lesbian chief of staff. Do I sense a hint of some sleeping around among all the lesbians in the last graph? ;-)

Electing gays to state jobs has produced career politicians who just happen to be gay. That's no advance for gay equality.

Not when Migden, Kuehl, Laird, do nothing to organize Prop 8 gay community forums across the state on top of nothing from Bevan Dufty, Goof Kors, David Campos, Mark Leno, Jose Cisneros, and Tom Ammiano for town halls.

I'm over gay politicians.

6 Weeks After Prop 8 Passes,
No Castro Town Hall

Has it really been six weeks since election night and the California voters approved Proposition 8, largely due to the sheer closetry and ineptness of the A-gays who ran the No side, and gay marriage rights were rescinded?

Here I am in one of the world's most recognizably gay neighborhoods, where thousands of married gay couples and singles live, with the local theatre showing "Milk," all about the fierce Mayor of Castro Street who did his community organizing and accountability-delivering in public view, where the headquarters for the No on 8 campaign was based, and the lead organization of the campaign, Equality California, maintains its primary office, and there hasn't been a single town hall in this uber-homo district.

Might as well be 1968 for homosexuals.

Not only that, but no announcement or effort to hold town hall is being talked about by the gay elected officials who represent the Castro, and I have to ask this question: What would Harvey do in this situation?

Can any sane person make a plausible argument that Harvey would allow all this time to pass, without bringing the wounded community together for some venting, criticism, and eventual healing, through public gatherings of our tribe?

I've not heard a damn valid reason why Supervisors Bevan Dufty and David Campos, SF Treasurer Jose Cisneros, Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, Senator Mark Leno - all political and spiritual descendents of Harvey - can't individually or collectively organize a bunch of town halls to simply hear what community members have to say about our loss and ways to move forward.

It is appalling to not only have Goof Kors and his Equality California fiefdom not taking responsbilty to host publc forums, but to also see no community-organizing action being taken by the gay politicians on top of the non-accountability from EQCA is shameful.

At least in LA LA Land, they've had one town hall, organized by Robin Tyler, with an open mic where everyone got to speak. The gays of San Francisco can't make the same claim.

But EQCA held its invitation only board meeting a week ago, with no public comment allowed, Leno and Ammiano, at the behest of Kors and EQCA, have introduced a worthless resolution to the legislature that will have no impact on the state Supreme Court, Dufty tells me over and over he's speaking with Kors in the closet about potential community meetings, Cisneros is an active member of the EQCA board, and all the gay pols need the A-gay network of EQCA for their next election.

So who can honestly expect these men to deliver what Harvey would have done - hold some open forums?

Frankly, I can't see much good in terms of Prop 8 accountability from all the A-gays at EQCA, the elected queers, all the political clubs and professional advocacy organizations in this town.

If gay power in the Castro in 2008 equals no town halls or even discussion of them post-election, then it's time to finally acknowledge what has only been whispered for years - the lessons of Harvey and genuine accountable gay leadership, that is also visionary, have been lost.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Larry Kramer:
Spend Money - Count America's Gay People

If you're not on Larry's long email lists, you may have missed this message he sent out tonight:

In reading rex wockner's international news column just now i was particularly struck by the following item:

"Britain to count gay population"
Britain's Office for National Statistics is going to count the gay
population. Starting in January, a sexual-orientation question will be included in several of the office's routine surveys, leading to an eventual estimate of the size of the nation's gay community.

Respondents will choose from heterosexual/straight, gay/lesbian, bisexual or "other" -- or can opt not to answer. Officials say the results will be useful for gauging levels of discrimination and unequal treatment and addressing those problems."

When are gays in america going to fight to find out how many of us there are. I am tired of not knowing. i am tired of hearing numbers quoted all over the map from practically zero to only a few million, all of them certainly far less than i believe we are.

i think it is, psychologically, now the time to try and do something about this. we need to know as we go forward into our never-ending fights with THEM how many of us there are. we just do.

i have long implored our "major" gay organizations, particularly HRC, to commence a project that would reap these figures. we are never going to get our government to do what england is now doing. therefore we have to do it ourselves. i am always arguing with that gary guy at ucla's william institute that is always putting out his numbers, based, so far as i can tell, by his viewing into his own crystal ball. i want better. i want something that will hold up in court, in the halls of government, etc.

joe solmonese, could you and hrc spearhead something like this? could urvashi or tim sweeney or the gill foundation or all the people with some money still left on this list, could people just get together and brainstorm this. could the williams institute?

correct me if i am wrong, but aren't we better, stronger being able to go forth knowing how many of us there are, no matter how many of us there are? otherwise we continue as the sort of only half-visible population. i know rodger at gill did a survey a few years ago of a couple of thousand gay people who, when asked if they identified as straight, bi, or gay, over fifty percent weaseled out and said bi. this is sickening and we must find a way to find firmer truths.

perhaps a new small organization can be funded just to gather our numbers?

don't you all want to know????
or do you want to continue to live in this darkness visible forever?

love etc

Yes, I'd like to see America undertake something comparable to what is about to get underway in the UK.

However, I'd like to state my initial queasiness over anything to do with measuring the number of gay people in the USA.

Not because I fear what national researchers may find, it's more that after suffering through two decades of shameless manipulation by the SF Department of Public Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the various HIV programs at UCSF, I'll read any findings, if the USA gets such a survey going, with deep skepticism.

Do you think anyone with money or clout will pick up on Larry's idea and run with it?