Friday, July 31, 2009

Will Iraqi LGBT Ever Be Accountable?

For five years, the Iraqi LGBT advocacy organization operating from London under the direction of Ali Hili, has performed much good work in bringing attention to the plight of gays in Baghdad and the refugees escaping Iraq. The organization has also been soliciting and raising funds for numerous projects, and has yet to issue any sort of acceptable fiscal accounting.

Almost a month ago, after I prodded Ali and his supporters in the UK, Peter Tatchell and Paul Canning, accountant Josh Botham, and Doug Ireland in USA, to produce financial report, a release was issued and this promise was made:
Botham said that as part of the application [UK charity status] the group would publish full accounts on its website shortly.
In a July 14 email, Peter offered his views on this money matter:
Of course there should be proper accountability by Ali and everyone at Iraqi LGBT. I have been pressing for this longer than anyone else - for years, not months.

I regret that this openness has been so slow in coming and is still only partial and incomplete. I will keep pressing for full transparency and accountability.
It didn't sit well with me that Peter, who closely works with and advises Ali, had been trying for years for an accounting, and hadn't received one.

On July 15, Doug shared this email with a listserv I created:
Ali assured me this afternoon that the full financial report will be made public around the end of next week at the latest (sooner if his volunteer accountant is available for a final review after Ali sees it this week), and even though the Internet connection in the new little flat he just moved into this past weekend (a move that was a major disruption to Iraqi LGBT's work) won't be established until July 25 (he's having to pop into Internet cafes when he can until then). I have no reason to believe we won't see this report soon.
The report Doug was promised, didn't materialize. At the same time, Ali was really pissed with me, as reflected in a few emails he shared sent to me and the listserv:


Naturally, I disagree with his assessment, worse things have been said about me and my thick skin is not troubled by Ali's nastiness. He can throw all the scorn he wants toward me, and none of it will detract from this central point: Iraqi LGBT and its supporters still have not allowed their long-promised report to see the light of day.

So my question to Ali, Josh the accountant, Peter, Paul and Doug is this: Will this organization ever get around to keeping its word on the report?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cleve Globalizes DC March;
Mixner Trying to Attend; Ault Opines

Here are two interesting nuggets of news about the LGBT march on Washington this October, regarding two of the key organizers. The blog reports on Cleve's visit to Copenhagen this week:
Cleve Jones gave a 10 minute plus moving speech before the audience. He started off on a rather somber note. Remarking that he had thought Europe lagged behind United States in terms of gay rights. However this was in his youth. Today though things are different in America where Proposition 8 has been passed, banning same sex marriage even in liberal California. He urged Europeans to march in front of U.S Embassy´s on National Coming Out day.
I'm all in favor of more USA gays participating in global solidarity actions, but I wonder if urging Europeans is enough to actually make a vigil materialize at an American embassy. We'll see if the attempt to globalize the march on Washington is successful in October.

After I heard word related to David Mixner and the march, I sent him an email:
a little canary just sang to me. chirped about you supposedly saying on the radio back east this week that you're not going to be in DC for the october march. is any of this true? you are going to be there, i assume. lemme know. thanks.
David sent this reply:
Each October I do work in Africa...attempting to change that long held commitment to be there.....don't know yet.....originally had hoped the March would be in November when I wrote about but they wisely changed it October.
I had no idea David performed work over in Africa and am sure it's a fascinating project that draws him there. Really hope he adapts his travel plans for the fall and is at the DC event.

Over at Gay City News, Steve Ault, longtime gay progressive organizer and writer shares his thoughts about this year's march on the capital. Here's an excerpt, and be sure to read the full article:
I checked out David Mixner’s website where the “National Equality March” was announced, ostensibly for and by the LGBT community, although the name of the event was devoid of any such reference. The date was set, as was an overarching statement of purpose, but unlike the earlier actions, there would be no specific demands.

Despite rhetoric invoking the “grassroots,” it appears the leadership already had been decided: Mixner, and a few self-selected others. The whole package was signed, sealed, very neatly wrapped, and then delivered to the LGBT community as a fait accompli ...

Organizers of the current march may claim we’re at a critical moment and just don’t have time to do it any other way. This response won’t wash. In 1987, the Supreme Court had recently decided that our sexuality could define us all as criminals; our very existence was challenged. Meanwhile, we were in the depths of a devastating epidemic with a president who wouldn’t even utter the word AIDS. Yet, we took no convenient or facile shortcuts. Building a community-wide mandate was too important.

Coming up with an idea, promoting it, and then testing it is all well and good. Self-selecting leadership for an event that purports to represent and speak for an entire community is not. A leadership style or process that makes raising community issues akin to petitioning Caesar is simply not acceptable. Earlier generations of LGBT activists would not have tolerated this power grab. We must make our voices heard now.

Prop 8 Federal Hearing Transcript Released

(Judge Vaughn Walker.
Credit: Rick Gerharter Photography.)

Even though I was among the lucky few to secure a seat in Judge Vaughn Walker's court room on July 2 for the case management hearing, in the Boies/Olson federal challenge to Prop 8, and I heard all that was said, I still wanted to read a transcript of it.

Unfortunately, there is no requirement forcing the court to make available a free copy of the transcript to the public. I made inquiries with Judge Walker's clerk and the court reporter for that day, and found out it would cost me $75 to obtain the transcript, a figure beyond my means.

I also contacted Chad Griffin and Yusuf Robb of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the backers of the suit challenging Prop 8, and they quickly agreed to provide me with a copy of the transcript, with the understanding I would in turn share it with the larger gay community and any Americans interested in the case. We also discussed repeating the process of them sharing transcripts of future hearings before Judge Walker with me, and then I make them available on the web.

My gay sunshine/open government heart believes we need to insure this lawsuit's proceedings are fully transparent, and I'm going to see if anyone has requested to tape and air video of the hearings, or if audio recordings are available.

This case is incredibly important to gay Americans, and the country, and I'm grateful the folks at the American Foundation for Equal Rights are working with me to bring expanded transparency and engagement to the whole process. Thanks, Chad and Yusuf.

You can find the PDF version of the transcript here, and the text version is here. Both should be accessible without registration.

Here is a snippet from the opening of the July 2 hearing:

THE CLERK: Calling our next case, Civil Docket No.
09-2292, Kristin Perry, et al., versus Arnold Schwarzenegger,
et al.

Counsel, please state your appearances for the

MR. OLSON: Theodore B. Olson, Your Honor, Chief
Judge Walker, for the plaintiffs.

THE COURT: Good morning, Mr. Olson.

MR. OLSON: Good morning, Your Honor.

And thank you for the opportunity so early in the
case, to appear before you and to move it along.
I would like to say --

THE COURT: Are we going to have other appearances?
Let's have all appearances ...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Can the NYT Prove Courage Campaign
Has 700,000 Members?

The New York Times ran a story yesterday by Jesse McKinley, one that garnered much attention and debate in the gay community, about what the situation is in California for going back to the ballot in the next few years to win back gay marriage rights. Here is what the paper said about how many people supposedly belong to the Courage Campaign:
Sarah Callahan, chief operating officer of the Courage Campaign, a 700,000-member advocacy group in Los Angeles, told the gathering [of gay activists in San Bernardino] on Saturday that the two critical elements to persuade donors were organization and a winning plan.
You may recall that CC's membership stats were questioned in June, and the group chose to ignore a gay reporter's request for answers. From Queerty's post on this last month:
It's this non-transparency among Gay Inc. that led Bob Roehr, a D.C. correspondent for the Bay Area Reporter, to quiz the Courage Campaign's Rick Jacobs on how he counts membership. Guess what? He's still waiting for a response.

The Courage Campaign claims 700,000 members (though Wikipedia says it's just 400,000, a number that hasn't changed since at least February). Indeed, that's just 50,000 fewer than HRC, even though HRC started in the 1980s, and the Courage Campaign has been around for just a handful of years.

And Roehr, among others, wants to know how Jacobs counts members. (To be sure, CC's website says it is "an online organizing network that empowers more than 700,000 grassroots and netroots activists"; so if that's not 700,000 "members," we'd still like to know how they came up with that figure.)

It's a fair question, given the Courage Campaign actively solicits donations from the community in its email blasts every few days, and asks us to rely on it for gay activism in California. And why is knowing the true figure so important? Because it will give us one more piece of information to know just how effective CC is in the struggle for our rights.

So far, Jacobs remains silent, according to Roehr, who notes, "I asked these questions a week ago and still haven't received any answers. They are pretty basic ones and important to how one views an organization, the people behind it, their motivations, and the ability to put an organization within a context of other organizations."
I've been emailing McKinley since yesterday about what proof he received from CC regarding their membership numbers, and this is his reply:
The short answer is that I took the CC at their word on membership. In conversations since, they say that the 700,000 is conservative, and that it represents all online contacts, including petitions, requests for information, phone contacts, etc. I’ll follow to see if that holds water, and if it proves to be unsustainable, we’ll run a correction.
Good for McKinley to shed some light on all this, but I fear CC is just like the Human Rights Campaign when it comes to membership figures, and real power. It's damn difficult to prove they have all the members they claim, and that the numbers represent power.

I fear that CC may be counting me as a member, even though I don't consider myself such, because I've posted critical messages to their blog. Sorry, just because someone signs CC petition or asks for info does not equal full-fledged membership in a group.

In his piece, McKinley also reported that 700,000 signatures are necessary to qualify a ballot proposition to go before the voters. Well, if CC actually has 700,000 members, all the group need do to get on the ballot, in either 2010 or 2012 or 2014, is simply get all their members to sign the petitions.

Just think: We won't need to pay for signature gatherers or mount a complicated signature-drive whenever we decided to go back to the voters!

Let's see what McKinley and the Times turn up in terms of verifiable standards proving CC has 700,000 people in their ranks.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Robert Hilferty, ACT UP Member, Filmmaker
and Critic, Has Died
(From the left: Robert Hilferty, Fabio Toblini, Aleba Gartner, and Phil Kline.)

[Updates are below, and remembrances from Ira Sachs and Maria Maggenti are in the comments.]

Very sad report from longtime gay and HIV activist veteran Jay Blotcher this afternoon. We've lost another brother - Robert Hilferty.
My cherished comrades:

An ACT UP comrade has fallen.

On July 24, 2009, our friend and colleague Robert Hilferty, died suddenly. I just learned of this a few hours ago.

Robert was a filmmaker (the documentary Stop the Church about the ACT UP 1989 demo at St. Patrick's) and longtime film critic; he was erudite, delightful, pugnacious and wistful. Farewell!

Comrades... This is the original info I received this afternoon and, sadly, I know nothing more:

From: Aleba Gartner []
Sent: Monday, July 27, 2009 2:09 PM
To: Aleba Gartner
Subject: Robert Hilferty 1959-2009

On July 24, 2009, our friend and colleague Robert Hilferty, died suddenly. Our shock and sadness are almost beyond words. He was a remarkably buoyant and brilliant man—and for many of us, a wonderful loving friend. It’s hard to accept this loss, but we are comforted by the many memories of his wit, boundless supply of opinions, and beautiful smile.

Condolences may be sent to
Fabio Toblini
411 East 6th St., Apt 2C,
New York, NY 10009

Love to all of you...

Jay Blotcher
Of course, I knew Robert and appear in his movie about ACT UP's infamous action inside St. Patrick's cathedral in 1989, and I'm sorry to read of his passing. He fought the good fight. May he rest in peace.


From Jay Blotcher:

My cherished comrades:

Sometimes in lifeyou seek the truth and are even more saddened by what you learn.

Robert's lover and widower Fabio Toblini sent me the following message this evening:

> From: "F.T." <>
> Date: July 27, 2009 11:11:43 PM EDT
> To:
> Subject: Hi Jay
> Aleba forwarded me your e-mail.
> Robert was hit on the head by the door of the trunk of a cab in > Savannah GA earlier this year. The injury caused a variety of post > concussion symptoms that worsened in the following months. He > hastily decided to end his suffering in a moment of extreme anxiety.
> I was with him until the last seconds of his life.
> I am in disbelief myself.
> Fabio
And Jay also sent this along:

> From: Conyers Thompson <>
> Date: July 28, 2009 12:12:55 AM EDT
> To: Fay Blotcher <>
> Subject: FW: Robert
> Jim Wagner sent this link, which maybe you've by now seen:
> > From:
> > To:
> > Subject: Robert
> > Date: Mon, 27 Jul 2009 23:55:12 -0400
> >
> > lovely to see him so happy:
> >
> >

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Dore Alley: Cops Eject Haters,
No Sex, Pics Galore

Not even five minutes after I threw some bucks into the donation bucket at one of the entrances to today's Dore Alley Fair, a handful of (real) cops marched directly at me, with lots of consternation on their faces. All I had done at that point was get my camera ready, but I quickly saw why the cops were upset.

A crew of well-built men, black and white, pushing Jesus on huge banners, wearing Christian t-shirts and waving bibles in the air, were attempting to parade through the fair and the cops were trying to force them into an officially-designated "free speech zone."

As someone who has been corralled into such zones, I didn't like the SFPD and fair organizers attempting to restrict the assembly and speech rights on the streets. A compromise was soon reached, allowing the haters to parade down Folsom Street, as long as they left the fair.

That flare up attracted little attention and everyone got one with the business of the day - showing and appreciating lots of male flesh. Here are a few pics from the day.


The silver bearded men told the cops their mission was to "save" the gays.



Russell, my acupuncturist

Reminded me of my pal Gregg Scott

Arnell "Rice Patty" Rodis and Ken Hodnett

Fred Menard

Allen Jones




In years past, the sidewalk next to the Powerhouse's exit on Dore Alley, right off Folsom Street, was the spot for consensual public sex and watersports play among adult males. No more. The fair's security booth, along with at least one SF police department officer, occupied a good chuck of the sidewalk and street by the exit. And plenty of "no oral sex" and "no pissing" sign were plastered on the bar's exterior wall.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

HRC's Basketball Tournament
Launches in Oregon?

Last week's issue of Portland's Just Out newspaper urged female readers to sign up for the latest bit of diversionary nonsense from HRC, the group that will one day deliver federal equality to LGBT persons.

From rubber chicken dinners to housewares and apparel at their retail outlets, to gay military educational tours instead of daily vigils and pickets at the White House, HRC can think of more ways to insure our eyes are rarely focused on prize -- Washington.

This basketball event is just the latest in a continuing series of bullshit actions that will go for decades, if gay Democrats don't once and for all demand this group stop playing games, no pun intended, and get down to serious and relentless advocacy in DC that actually delivers change.

From Just Out:
The Human Rights Campaign’s Inaugural Women’s 3x3 Basketball Tournament, scheduled for July 25 at Irving Park (3535 NE Seventh), is still asking for teams to register so that the tournament may reach its full potential.

Organizer Shaley Howard hopes for 32 teams in the tournament, but so far has only had about 12 teams sign up.

Howard commented that with such a low number of teams, the tournament now has plenty of prizes. Players need not be of professional faculty, and Howard has continued to encourage that any player, from any walk of life and skill level is invited.

Friday, July 24, 2009

CA Gay Leadership Summit to be
from San Bernardino

Earlier today I created a listserv of people involved in putting on tomorrow's LGBT leadership summit down in San Bernardino, and sent out an email asking if it could be web streamed.

I received a phone call from lesbian community organizer Robin McGehee of Fresno, saying she was looking into the matter and agreed with me that the summit should be streamed to everyone who couldn't be there. She soon followed up with this email:
The person that is interested and willing to cover the summit is Phillip Minton with

I explained to him that I had gotten Michael's email and that it was not up to me whether or not he could live stream. I helped him check in with Eden from the IE to see if the desire was even a possibility, and it is possible.
Because of this technology, and the desire to see how this summit concludes from of those who can not make it to the IE because of multiple circumstances, hopefully this can happen.
A few reporters were on the list, including Lisa Leff of the Associated Press and also was keen to follow the summit on the web. Lisa said:
Thank you, Robin, for looking into this, and to you, Michael, for bringing it up. FYI, I spoke with Marc Solomon from Equality California about this earlier in the week, and at that time he wasn't sure the event could/would be streamed. If it could be, that would be super, because I can't make it to San Bernardino this weekend either. Thanks again.
We then heard from the person responsible for making the streaming happen:
This is Phillip Minton with Unite the Fight. We will do our best to provide the best streaming possible. Given that this is a last minute development, some technical difficulties may arise. We do have a good camera and I've been assured that I will have a hard line to the internet which will definitely cut back on any issues wireless would bring.

As for sound, it may be iffy at times. Panelists and facilitators will have a mic, but attendees won't. However, there is a chat room next to the streaming window, so I will do my best to type up what is being asked or said by attendees. As for an agenda, there may be breakout groups, so naturally, I won't be able to cover those.

Here is the link to the post where you'll find the streaming and chat room: Leadership Summit Live Streaming .

Keep your fingers crossed that all goes well for the techies!
Kudos to Robin, Philip and the summit organizers for committing to making the event transparent. This web streaming will go a long, and very valuable, way to engage the California and national LGBT community in our continuing struggle for liberation and equality.

Don't forget: Click here on Saturday to catch the streaming. Oh, and spread the word about it and the summit.

Cleve Heads to Copenhagen for DC March?;
Steering Committee Names Released

All of the details necessary to organize a successful march on Washington must be taken care of for the LGBT October 11 march on the nation's capital, because the chief convener of the fall mobilization, gay legend Cleve Jones, is on his way to Denmark.

He'll be speaking on Monday at the political conference in Copenhagen that runs concurrently with the World Out Gaymes. It's amazing what he's doing to make his march truly fab and he doesn't even have to be in DC or America to actually carry out the organizing.

Critics of the march, myself included, may have to eat crow if the march turns out to be a rousing hit. There is evidence LGBT people in the heartland are mobilizing for being there. From the Memphis Flyer:
On [July 14], about ten people gathered at the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center (MLGCC) for the first planning meeting of the Mid-South delegation for the National Equality March. Of those ten, most expressed an interest in attending the national march in Washington DC on Sunday, October 11th ...

Previous gay right marches in 1979, 1987, and 1992 [sic - it was 1993] drew anywhere from 100,000 to 250,000 people, and this march is expected to meet or even exceed attendance from past years. All the previous marches boasted delegations from Memphis.
Not only is there interest in Tennessee, but we also learn that the October march will attract the same numbers as previous marches. Interesting that the writer omits mention of HRC's disastrous 2000 Millennium March, but we'll overlook that because we're assured large numbers of LGBT people will be in Washington this fall.

At this point, with just over two months left before the historic march descends on Washington, there probably isn't much more for Jones to take care of and whatever else must be organized can be addressed by the steering committee.

Sometime last week, the event, now branded as Equality Across America, revised its web site and include the names of who was on the steering committee, but that list disappeared. I know this only because the original page was cached by Google.

Click here to see the cache page, and click here to view the EAA page.

Steering Committee

We are currently assembling a diverse national steering committee. Please check back as this list grows.
All organizations are listed for identification purposes only. The views of steering committee members do not necessarily represent the views of their organizations.
Irene Andrews: LGBT Activist, community organizer, and Special Ed teacher; Nolanville, TX
Stuart Appelbaum:
Chip Arndt:
Danielle Askini: Immigration rights and transgender activist, National Program Manager for the Gay Straight Alliance Network; San Francisco, CA
Gilbert Baker:
Gary Belis:
Kellan Baker:
Dustin Lance Black:
Sandy Bostian:
Sara Beth Brooks:
Max Buschman:
Douglas Carlson: LGBT Activist, community organizer with Equality Network; Los Angeles, CA
Staceyann Chin:
Dan Choi:
David Comfort:
Tanner Efinger:
Paul Everton:
Seth Fowler:
Rayyan Ghuma:
Flik Huang:
Ryan Hutcherson:
Boo Jarchow:
David John Fleck:
Rick Jacobs: Founder and Chair of the Courage Campaign; Los Angeles, CA
Corey Johnson: LGBT Activist and Political Director for; New York, NY
Cleve Jones: LGBT Activist, co-founder of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, founder of the NAMES Project Foundation/AIDS Memorial Quilt, LGBT Program Director for Unite Here International Union; Palm Springs, CA
Ilona Kadar:
Kyle Klatt:
Robin McGehee: LGBT Activist, lead organizer of Meet in the Middle 4 Equality; Fresno, CA
Chris Miller:
David Mixner:
Ann Northrop: LGBT Activist, co-host of Gay USA; New York, NY
Torie Osborn:
Billy Pollina:
Loch Powell: LGBT Activist, co-founder Unite The Fight, Chair OUT West Coalition; Los Angeles, CA
Mark Reed:
James Rucker: Executive Director and co-founder,; San Francisco, CA
Chelsea Salem: LGBT Activist, community organizer with Organge County Equality Coalition; San Clemente, CA
Andrea Shorter: LGBT Activist, co-founder of And Marriage for All, Coalition Builder for Equality California; San Francisco, CA
Stacey Simmons:
Thomas Simmons: LGBT Activist, community organizer; Cordova, TN
RJ Taylor:
Wayne Ting:
Anasa Troutman: Formerly of the Highlander Center, currently with the Movement Strategy Center; Atlanta, GA
Chris Verdugo:
Frank Voci:
Nathan Walker:
Derek Washington:
Kip Williams:
Sherry Wolf: LGBT Activist, Author; Chicago, IL
Anne-Marie Williams: LGBT Activist, formerly of the Jordan / Rustin Coalition; Los Angeles, CA
Willow Witte: LGBT Activist, Executive Director and co-founder of Join the Impact; Washington, DC
Stephen Zollman: LGBT Activist, San Francisco Public Defenders Office; San Francisco, CA

Thursday, July 23, 2009

SF City Attorney Petitions to Join

Boies/Olson Prop 8 Lawsuit

If you read the July 21 story in The Recorder legal paper, all about the latest skirmishing between the Ted Olson/David Boies legal team and three gay groups, Lambda Legal, ACLU and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, wanting to be parties to the case, you learned a bit more about why the legal superstars who brought the suit don't want the gay groups involved as parties:
Theodore Boutrous Jr., a member of the Olson/Boies team, said Friday that gay rights lawyers "misinterpreted our position."

"Our point at the hearing," he added, "was we thought it made sense to see if there are issues on which the parties agree. Ted Olson said whatever and whenever the chief judge would like us to present evidence on any issues, we are ready, willing and able to do so." ...

Boutrous, a partner in Gibson's L.A. office, said having multiple parties involved could cause complications. Prop 8 proponents have already intervened, he noted, and both the city of San Francisco, which favors gay marriage, and Liberty Counsel, a group that opposes it, have also made noises about joining the suit.

"If you start having broader organizations come in," Boutrous said, "that just takes the focus away from the fact we have real constitutional violations of real people."
The article also looked at the potential for San Francisco's City Attorney's office to also petition the judge to be allowed to be party to the lawsuit:
Chief Deputy City Attorney Therese Stewart confirmed Friday that San Francisco is contemplating intervention and likewise wants to ensure a complete factual record.
According to this order from Judge Vaughn R. Walker, tomorrow is the deadline for everyone wishing to be a party to the case to file their petitions.

Today, the SF City Attorney filed his motion to be a party, according to a release from his office:
City Attorney Dennis Herrera today petitioned a U.S. District Court Judge to allow the City and County of San Francisco to intervene as a party plaintiff in a federal constitutional challenge to Proposition 8, the state constitutional amendment that eliminated the fundamental right of marriage for gay and lesbian citizens in California. The American Foundation for Equal Rights seized national attention when it filed the original federal lawsuit in May on behalf of two California couples, in part for its impressive-if-improbable legal team of one-time political foes Theodore B. Olson and David Boies, who faced off in the Bush vs. Gore U.S. Supreme Court case that decided the outcome of the 2000 presidential election.
And why does Herrara want in on this matter? For some very legitimate reasons:
"San Francisco is a singularly well-prepared co-plaintiff in this case, both in terms of the wealth of evidence it has already developed, and its unique public sector perspective in having to enforce a discriminatory law," said Herrera. "Under Judge Walker's stewardship, this federal action has taken the exact turn that the City alone advocated in our previous litigation. We are long overdue to put anti-gay discrimination on trial based on the facts. The San Francisco City Attorney's Office has the experience and expertise to aggressively assist in doing precisely that."
If I'm reading Walker's order correctly, the matter of additional parties being added to either side will be decided on August 19. Let's see how the Boies/Olson team reacts to the move by SF's City Attorney, as we wait for Walker to decide the matter next month.

Click here to read the city's motion.

SF AIDS Walk Down $900K Over 2008;

Only 476 Views of Cleve's DC March Folly

Because I'm still covering from rectal surgery and managing the pain with powerful meds, I haven't been paying my usual close attention to HIV/AIDS matters, so I only learned today that the recent San Francisco AIDS Walk's donations were down significantly. The Mercury News reports a $900,000 drop in contributions compared to 2008.

That is a staggering drop, especially for the Bay Area, which has seen a generally smaller dip in AIDS donations compared to other regions in recent years, and it comes on the heels of deep cuts in state funding for HIV/AIDS treatment programs.

In San Jose, the Billy DeFrank Gay Community Center needs to raise $50,000 in less than two months, otherwise it will close its doors.

The reality of the recession across California on struggling LGBT individuals and advocacy groups, along with the problems of people with AIDS and our jeopardized direct healthcare services, is clear. Money is scarce. Everyone is tightening the purse strings and there are fewer dollars to go around for essential things like food, rental payments and medical costs.

But why worry about those trifles? Let's all mobilize to be in Washington in little more than two months from today, as we are being urged by California gay leaders Cleve Jones, Dustin Lance Black and Torie Osborn.

The YouTube video from last week the three key organizers of the October 11 gay march on Washington has been viewed less than 500 times. That doesn't bode well for a large turnout in October, but the organizers have finally created a decent web site and gay political powerhouse David Mixner is blogging this week on why the march is important.

Since the DC march was first announced in May, I've waited for a groundswell of support to gather in the community, and I've yet to see hard evidence that the necessary components to mobilize a half-assed successful march on DC are in place.

Did I miss the press release announcing formation of local committees to assist with travel, housing and fundraising issues? Hell, I'm still waiting for the list of national committee organizers to be made public! From what I've gathered speaking to friends in DC, the organizers have not done anything as old-fashioned as open an office there, nor is anyone in the capital serving as coordinator.

At this point, even if Gay Inc groups stepped in at this point to help, how many LGBT Americans will all of a sudden say, "Gee, I ought to know put aside money to be there in October because after months of opposing the march, HRC/NGLTF/GLAAD/PFLAG/Stonewall Democrats/Equality Federation members now endorse it, and I can't wait to listen to the cast of 'Hair' sing to me about sunshine on the Mall."

Given the ever-weakening California economy, the basic unmet daily needs of LGBT people, or threatened gay and HIV services, I wonder who exactly from here is going to DC in October. Maybe the Eastern and Central states are conducting mass organizing and I've simply missed all the coverage about it.

There are lots of things I don't know about inner workings of the march organizers and their infrastructure, but of one thing I am certain. They will not be launching a network of LGBT activists in every Congressional district after their disaster flops on the National Mall.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Where is Frank Kameny's

Presidential Medal of Freedom?

(From this famous October 1967 picket outside the White House, with Kameny, second from the right, demanding justice ... )

( ... to June 2009, and Frank is inside the White House, shaking the president's hand, Kameny is living proof of the power of activism.)

I think the time has come to mount a unity campaign on behalf of honoring longtime gay advocate Frank Kameny with the country's highest civilian award, so I sent this note off to Brian Bond, a gay man who works in the public liaison office at the White House.

If anyone should know, or be keen to learn, how to persuade the president to bestow the Medal of Freedom on Frank, it is Bond.
Hi Brian,

The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community will be perpetually indebted to the pioneering advocacy of Dr. Franklin E. Kameny, considered by many Americans to a founding father of the modern gay movement, an assessment I hope you share with me.

As you know, Frank has been active and fighting for the full liberation of gay people since the 1950s when he was denied employment by the federal government because of he was openly gay and proud, and he's still alive and thriving.

I met Frank in early 1990 when I moved to DC to help co-found an ACT UP chapter, and we quickly got into an argument. It was over AIDS protests my belief that there weren't enough of them. We soon became allies, even though he didn't always approve of my tactics, and he never refused my requests for his advice.

He took a grandfatherly approach in his dealings with me, and his sage guidance on pushing levers within the Pentagon when I was demanding attention for murdered gay sailor Allen Schindler, greatly assisted delivering justice from the US Navy.

I'm just one of millions of LGBT Americans whose life and liberation has been directly aided and abetted by Frank's life and ceaseless political work, and I'd like to see him properly honored by our president.

Every time I've seen images of Frank with President Barack Obama in the White House these past few months, I've thanked the gay gods for America's progress on accepting and celebrating her LGBT citizens, but the photos also raise a question I want you to address.

Where is Frank Kameny's Presidential Medal of Freedom?

This medal, our nation's highest civilian honor, has been awarded to many worthy Americans according to US Senate records, but I can't find the same of a single openly LGBT person on the list of recent honorees.

Why not feed two birds with one seed? Let's get the president to bestow the medal on Frank for his unparallelled contributions upholding American civic values and cherishing diversity, and make him the first openly gay American given this award.

I can't think of one honest reason why Frank should be denied the Medal of Freedom and look forward to working with the White House to making sure he receives this honor in the near future.

Get back to me soon, please, and let's make this happen for Frank, and his generation of LGBT pioneering American patriots.

Best regards,

Monday, July 20, 2009

Dead Newsracks Clutter SF Streets;

No Papers, Empty Boxes

For the past seven weeks, I've snapped pics of the many newsracks cluttering up the streets of San Francisco. The racks belong to the JC Decaux corporation and were subjected to a few First Amendment and public nuisance lawsuits, before being placed all around town, when ad dollars were flowing to newspapers, and the publications were healthy and plentiful. That's not the case anymore.

Whether we're talking mainstream dailies or weekly and monthly community newspapers, there are fewer dead tree papers, and some of the remaining ones have drastically scaled back their wide street-based distribution.

It's damn near-impossible to find a JC Decaux newsrack that is fully stocked with a variety of papers. They must exist. I didn't get to the financial district or other high foot-traffic areas where the racks are located, so maybe there are racks flush with newspapers and it's a matter of finding them.

On most weekdays, lots of racks have the Chronicle and the Examiner, a few have the Mercury News or an East Bay publication. Wednesdays are when the Bay Guardian and the SF Weekly put their rags out, adding to the small number of racks with something in the boxes. A large number of racks are always stocked with apartment or educational guides, but for the amount of space they take up, they sure don't justify their existence for a paltry number of papers or guides at anytime.

Why do these essentially bare containers take up so much of our urban landscape? Because JC Decaux has a long-term lease with the city to provide this news distribution system, and because on the backs of the newsracks are big ad spaces. The municipal coffers receive ad revenue from the ads on the backs of all the racks.

Can't something more constructive be done with the newsracks? I don't see the desperate need for the racks to stay on the streets, just to generate ad revenue for the city. Reducing the number of newsracks would be a good start at minimizing urban blight, but until that happens, maybe the boxes could be transformed into homes for flowers and plant. Or perhaps the city could commission artists to decorate the racks, and make them more pleasing to the eye.

UN Plaza, near the BART elevator. One box had a real estate guide.

Mission Street, near 4th. Bottom left is the Bay Area Reporter, on the right is the Bay Guardian.

North Beach, Green and Columbus Streets. Six boxes devoid of any dead tree publications.

Market Street, Near Sanchez. Top row had copies of Los Fronteras! and an alt-lifestyles resource guide. One bottom box had a rental apartment booklet.

Harvey Milk Plaza. A flyer for a writing class occupied the top right spot.

Castro, Near Market Street. The three occupied boxes displayed real estate guides.

Castro, near the Market Street crosswalk. Two boxes contained adult school guides.

Church Street, Between 14th and Market Streets. The SF Chronicle has the top left box, while a lonely real estate guide resides on the bottom row.

In front of Cafe Flore, on Market Street. An adult school booklet and some SF Chronicles take up two up of the top boxes.

Market Street, at Van Ness Avenue. That's the Mercury News on the top, and a auto sales guide on the bottom.

BofA building at Market Street and Van Ness Avenue. Basically blank save for an adult education booklet.

Market Street, near Fell Street. All hollow boxes.

Market Street, at the corner of 10th Street. Not a single paper in any of the containers.

McAllister Street, where Leavenworth Street begins. Another empty JC Decaux newsrack cluttering the streets.