Monday, August 31, 2009

Wash Times: Obama, Lambda,
DADT & the DC March

The conservative Washington Times' White House correspondent, Matthew Mosk, has a gays-and-Obama piece in today's paper, and while the anti-gay activist Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness is quoted, so are a few gay advocates.

I especially like that the head of the LGBT community's premier legal group is the leader expressing our collective frustration, and I'm really pleased to know that the White House press office, which didn't get back to Mosk, was asked yet again about the gay promises made by Obama before the election.

It may be the dog days of summer in Washington, and the White House staff is trying to take a vacation from politics, but I'm glad I played a small part in generating this story and letting the Obama administration know one sure thing: LGBT advocacy is not on hiatus.

From the Washington Times:

"There's a lot of frustration with the pace of change," said Kevin Cathcart, executive director of Lambda Legal, a gay advocacy group that has been urging the president to at least halt enforcement of the policy. "We disappeared from the radar screen after the election." [...]

In recent days, the White House has been involved in discussions about a possible presidential role in a gay-rights march on Washington scheduled for October. Those gestures, though, have not quieted a demand for action.

"I don't want four years to pass and find that cocktail parties in the White House is all we have to show for it," said Michael Petrelis, a longtime activist from California. [...]

The White House didn't return a message requesting comment about its stance on "don't ask, don't tell," but Steve Elmendorf, a lobbyist for the gay-advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign, said the White House thinks it would require congressional action to revoke the policy, a stance that is the subject of dispute.

Mr. Elmendorf said he suspects the president has calculated that a legislative battle is not worth waging at this point, especially if it cannot be won.

"Obama clearly wants to repeal it," Mr. Elmendorf said. "But there is a sense there aren't the votes in the Congress to do it right now."

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Talk to A Gay Iraqi:
Haider Hamza Abdulrazaq

A young, well-educated and very politically-connected Iraqi refugee, Haider Hamza Abdulrazaq, has a finely-honed ability to grab attention from American citizens and the media. He has shared some of his life experiences on the web and merit a look by the gay community.

Let's look bits of Haider's online life. Here's a basic intro to him from a film production web site:

Being the son of a diplomat, Haider was born in Germany and grew up in East Africa and Europe. When he turned twelve, he moved back with his family to their hometown, Baghdad. Haider finished high school in Iraq and graduated from Baghdad University in 2006. One year later, he won a Fulbright scholarship and moved to the United States to obtain a master's degree in global security and conflict resolution.

When he was a teenager, Haider worked with the Iraqi Ministry of Information, talking to visiting dignitaries and foreign reporters. A few days after the end of major combat operations in 2003, he decided to join the mainstream media covering the world's focus on news of his country. At the age of nineteen he worked as a TV producer and photo editor for some of the world largest news agencies and networks including Reuters, ABC News and others. [...]

New to America and wanting to understand what the American people felt about their country's involvement in Iraq, Haider decided to travel across the US to talk to people about the war. He drove through 35 states setting up a mobile booth with a sign that says “Talk to an Iraqi.”

Over at his YouTube channel, Haider shares excerpts from the Showtime cable documentary on him and his talking tour:

Click here to read about Haider's Fulbright scholarship, click here for his Facebook page, click here to see the many regular Google hits for him, click here for GoogleBlogSearch hits, and click here to read his ManJam profile, in which he claims he's started a small group to help LGBT Iraqis.

And on July 24 at the Human Rights Campaign Equality Center in Washington, at an event co-sponsored by Human Rights Watch and the LGBT Bay Association, under the pseudonym "Hussam," Haider made his now infamous presentation of photos allegedly showing a gay Iraqi after he was supposedly beheaded by US armed forces.

Leading up to then, Haider/Hussam actively sought wide publicity, and he received some from the Washington Blade, which sent a veteran reporter to the public talk at HRC on July 24.

The gay Iraqi refugee's claims of atrocities perpetrated by American soldiers prompted an investigation by the US Army Criminal Investigative Command, which found no proof to back up his claims. From the Washington Blade:

[A US Army spokesman] noted that the refugee, who went by the alias “Hussam” during the public presentation in which he made the allegations, said in the statement that “his words were taken out of context, he was misunderstood due to language barriers and he was misquoted.”

Sorry, but I refuse to believe the controversy unleashed by this very educated and intelligent gay Iraqi was due to a language barrier and find his excuses as bogus as his claims that American forces chopped off the head of a gay Iraqi.

Husam/Haider is one cool and slick political and academic operative, whose smartness has taken him from the Iraqi Ministry of Information, to a Fulbright scholarship, work with ABC News, extensive USA media attention, and lots of speaking engagements.

Look at this quote he gave two years ago to a South Carolina newspaper, headlined "Iraqi looks for conversation":

"Some of my best friends are in the (U.S.) military, and they encouraged me to come to America," Hamza said.

After his lies presented at HRC in July, I wonder what those best friends of his in the US forces think of him now.

For more than a month, Hussam/Haider, who usually welcomes lots of attention from the media and American citizens, has refused to sit down with Washington Blade reporters to clear up the incredible lies and mess he created, while also resisting efforts by me and other bloggers to make sense of his words and actions. It seems as though he craves press coverage, as long as he doesn't have to face critical and skeptical questions.

As Hussam/Haider continues living in the USA, he is still making presentations to various college and community forums. Until he both clears up the many unanswered questions raised by his July talk at the Human Rights Campaign, and issues a full apology to the US armed forced he smeared, I hope all groups interested in having him speak, or any reporters seeking him out for stories, question him about the lies he spread and his adamant refusal to account for his outrageous behavior.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Empty Bleachers:
Cleve's NYC Rally for His DC March

Like many critics of the October 11 march on DC being organized by Cleve Jones and a small crew of activists, I've learned not to depend on the march's site for current info on matters and actions related to.

Here's a perfect example of the problem with the march site. Yesterday, a rally was held at the Public Theater's Delacourt stage in central park, and Cleve was the keynote speaker. You won't find a report on the rally or any pics from it on the site.

Instead, a short report and photos can be found on the Vital Communications site:

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I was invited by a friend to see Broadway Impact’s rally yesterday in Central Park, but I came away very impressed by the group’s ability to appeal to a broad audience and mobilize. Broadway Impact is a coalition of Broadway professionals and their friends that support marriage equality and seek “full equality for all people in all matters governed by civil law,” according to their Facebook invitation. They’re leading a march on Washington on Sunday, October 11.

The rally itself was spirited, informative and, all in all, as audience friendly as possible, given the on-and-off rain. With witty speeches, a substantive Q&A session and a closing performance of Hair’s “Let the Sun Shine In,” I can see how Time Out New York has characterized Impact’s previous efforts as “The nicest protest in town”.

Nothing in that brief report on numbers of folks in attendance, but judging from the two photos posted from yesterday, there were lots of empty bleachers. To be fair, the weather was not cooperating with Cleve, still, I think this off-Broadway tryout doesn't bode well for a successful show on October 11.

SF Police Chief:
Blogger's Press ID Under Review

The city of San Francisco has a new top cop, George Gascon, on the job a few short weeks, and I have something nice to say about him. But first, the background.

On July 2, after a case management hearing in the federal Prop 8 lawsuit filed by Ted Olson and David Boies, a press conference was held inside the federal building, but I was kept out by security guards because I lacked an SFPD-issued press ID badge.

I applied for an ID card, spent $11 on two small photos needed by the police public info office (PIO) and was eventually denied a press pass. The denial form highlighted this section:

Only persons employed by newsgathering media who are required to cover breaking news and to pass through police and fire lines qualify for a press pass.

Clearly the SFPD is not aware, nor concerned with, other reasons why reporters and bloggers need the pass, such as being allowed into restricted parts of the federal courthouse. Nothing in the two-page rejection letter sent via snail mail cited any info about appealing the decision, and the PIO site similarly omits such info. Several calls to the PIO, seeking info on filing an appeal, were never returned.

Then yesterday, Brent Begin at the SF Examiner reported on Gascon's effort to modernize the PIO, and this terrific development was noted:

Public information officers will also reach out more to new media, such as blogs and Web sites, and will hand out credentials to more than just traditional media, newspapers, television and radio.

Just the radical kind of change I want to see, so I called the chief and left him a message about the PIO's rejection. I also sent him emails, copied to the PIO, summing my situation, and then made several calls to the PIO.

Yes, several calls were necessary, due to the very unfriendly officers staffing the PIO phones, who go out of their way to give callers the bum's rush and as little info as possible. Not the best way to run public affairs office. Finally, a PIO staffer called back to confirm they received my emails.

I created a listserv of SF sunshine advocates, old media types and politicians, sharing my emails, and quickly learned that two publications, the Bay Times and the Bay Guardian, also had major hassles acquiring press passes and getting a run-around from the PIO. Did I mention the PIO ain't user-friendly?

There are many other problems and hurdles a blogger or a reporter or a member of the general public must deal with in trying to get even basic info out of the PIO, and I will bring them to the attention of the police commission in the next few weeks.

Last night, after I had been assured by an officer answering the chief's phone yesterday that he wouldn't be calling or emailing me, the chief did exactly that. From the chief:

Mike, I'm having my staff review your request. We will get back to you by early next week.

Take care.
George Gascon.

A small note, but it promises great and large improvements in not just how the PIO of the SF Police Department will henceforth deal with the press, bloggers and the public, and, how the department learns to better cooperate with the citizens who are the force's bosses. Let me also express gratitude to the Sunshine Posse and reporters who've supported me in this matter, and for also working on their own to bring the PIO into the modern tech age.

Hey, Chief Gascon, thanks much for looking into my denial of a press ID and I look forward to meeting you at the police commission meeting.

Friday, August 28, 2009

AIDS Czarina Dr. Gayle Gave
Obama $6K
, $5K to Dems

The White House announced this week that the former head of CDC's HIV prevention division, the very respected and credentialed Dr. Helene Gayle, would take over as chair of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. The release explained what the council does:

[It] provides advice, information, and recommendations to the Secretary of Health and Human Service and the President regarding programs and policies intended to promote effective prevention of HIV disease, to advance research on HIV and AIDS, and to promote quality services to persons living with HIV and AIDS. The role of the Council is solely advisory. The Secretary provides the President with copies of all written reports provided to the Secretary by the Council.

Though I've been a critic of her when she was at the CDC, I've always had the utmost respect for Gayle's intelligence and the passion she brings to stopping HIV and providing services for the HIV poz community. I'm actually pleased she'll head up this council and expect Gayle will provide expert national leadership, as President Obama creates new AIDS policies for the nation.

That being said, I want to sunshine Gayle's donations to Obama and Democratic Party committees and candidates. I don't want this sunshining interpreted to in any way suggest her donations led to her appointment, or that there has been any sort of payback by the Democrats to her. It's just I think we need this sort Federal Election Commission info transparent and known, as Gayle begins serving Obama and America.

According to FEC files available at, Gayle has contributed $6,000 since 2004, when she gave Obama $1,000 for his Senate campaign. And since 1992, she has donated $5,050 to Democrats other than Obama.

Gayle's total of $11,050 in donations, spread out over almost two decades, is probably considered quite small in the world of Big Party politics, and simply must be noted in the public blogosphere.

Finally, I look forward to giving Gayle some advice, in writing and in person, once she commences public meetings in her new role. Welcome back to government service, Dr. Gayle!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

SF DPH: 2008 HIV Stats
Fell 45% From 2004

The latest annual HIV epidemiology report for the USA's AIDS Model City came out last week, and the central marker of the current state of HIV infections in the city, new HIV infections, fell to 434 in 2008. However, there are many caveats to that stat, as the report makes clear, on page 17:

The number of HIV/AIDS cases diagnosed was relatively stable between 2006 and 2007 and declined in 2008 (Figure 1.2). In general, there is a delay between the time a person is diagnosed with HIV disease and the time that person is reported to the health department. For this reason, numbers of cases diagnosed in recent years were often lower because of persons diagnosed in these years who have not yet been reported.

There is a statistical method developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to take reporting delay into account when examining the trends in HIV disease diagnosis. If we apply this statistical method to our data to adjust for reporting delay, the number of persons diagnosed with HIV between 2006 and 2008 would be steadily increasing. Therefore, careful attention should be paid to the actual numbers of new diagnoses over time.

My interpretation of the two paragraphs, as a longtime observer of SF's HIV numbers, is that the health department has a few ways of not coming right out and stating that the numbers continue to be flat or declining. For the past 3-4 years, even the SF Chronicle has duly reported on the steady drops in new infections, but the DPH will go to great lengths to find the worst and gloomiest HIV data. DPH is incapable of actively recognizing the good news about falling infections here.

In addition, trends in HIV diagnosis using case reporting data should be interpreted with caution. These data include HIV infected persons who have been tested or who are in care and do not include persons who are not aware of their infection. These data also do not necessarily reflect trends in new HIV infections.

When the stats in 1999/2000 were supposedly increasing at sub-Saharan levels, DPH did not caution that the numbers then should be looked at with caution or that the stats were not a true indications of new infections.

Our estimate of HIV incidence in San Francisco (see Executive Summary) indicates that the number of new HIV infections remain relatively stable between 2006 and 2007. Therefore, if the upward trends in HIV diagnosis between 2006 and 2008 estimated after accounting for reporting delay is true (which can only be validated in a few years by examining the data retrospectively), it may reflect increases in HIV testing and diagnosis among those who were previously unaware of their infection.

Could the DPH be more careful to tread lightly around the fact that for years most of the increases in new infections are due to increased testing and surveillance?

So what are the actual numbers for new infections? Here they are, on page 18:

Table 1.3 shows the characteristics of persons diagnosed with HIV between 2004 and 2008. The majority were male, white, aged 25-49 years, and MSM. There was a slight increase in the proportion of persons of color.

Table 1.3 Characteristics of persons newly diagnosed with HIV between 2004 and 2008
San Francisco: 2004 / 2005 / 2006 / 2007 / 2008
Total Number: 798 / 642 / 523 / 518 / 434

A drop of 45%. Even accounting for reporting delays and such, I see a dramatic drop over this five-year period. Just don't expert the AIDS authorities to say so.

I have previously stated my belief that new HIV infections for San Francisco have long been on the decline, primarily due to reduced infectiousness among positive persons on the anti-retroviral therapies, ART. With so many pozzies on cocktails, and adhering to their regime of proper dosing and regular viral load and STD monitoring, there's little question about the integral role cocktails play in preventing new infections.

The 2008 epi report shares this stat, on page 40, reinforcing the notion cocktails equal fewer infections:

Overall, 88%-92% of persons living with AIDS received ART.

That's a lot of poz people on drug cocktails and, in my opinion, a key reason why the HIV rate in SF is low, and keeps declining. Click here to read the full 2008 report.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

AIDS Vigil Deleted from Cleve's March

(Kip Williams, sitting on his ass in the Red Room of the White House last week. Too bad he wasn't doing actual organizing for the march he is leading.)

Knock me over with a feather. There won't be an AIDS action at Cleve Jones' march on DC in October. What alarming message does that omission send? Oh, AIDS is so over the creator of the AIDS quilt can't organize an HIV specific vigil over the October weekend.

That's okay, speaking as a person with AIDS in California whose drug cocktail was jeopardized recently by the state. I doubt the thousands of low-income CA PWAs worrying about our local health care cuts would have felt any benefit from such a vigil in DC.

Cleve's mess on Washington. It can't even pull off an AIDS event.

From the latest Bay Area Reporter:

It appears that a vigil for people living with HIV/AIDS will not be part of October's National March for Equality, as one of the lead organizers told the Bay Area Reporter that no agency could be found to spearhead the event.

When he first called for a march on Washington, D.C. this spring, longtime gay and AIDS activist Cleve Jones told the B.A.R. that march organizers were trying to get use of the Lincoln Memorial site for an HIV/AIDS action on Saturday, October 10, the day before the march. Jones, who is HIV-positive and founded the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, has long been outspoken on HIV/AIDS issues.

But those plans have apparently fallen through.

Kip Williams, who has been helping Jones with organizing the equality march, said this week that the AIDS vigil had to be canceled.

"There were a number of organizations considering taking the lead," Williams wrote in an e-mail. "In the end, no one had the resources or capacity to step up." [...]

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Castro Gay Bar Owner Dies of Swine Flu

I extend my condolences to the friends and family of Doug Murphy, at this sad news that was reported today on

Let's hope his death is not used by the media to write alarming stories about sex-crazed, disease-ridden and disease-spreading sick homos of the Castro and gay communities.

You remember the scary coverage in January 2008 about flesh-eating bacteria infecting the neighborhood and the demonizing of gay men? It can always happen again and when it does we all better be ready to tamp those stories and alarm down.


In a truly sad note this morning, Doug Murphy, co-owner of Moby Dick and, most recently, Blackbird, died Friday due to complications from the H1N1 virus, better known as swine flu. He was 41 years old, and was in Palm Springs at the time of his infection, and he had not been traveling abroad, according to business partner Shawn Vergara.

Kameny and Medal of Freedom Follow Up;
Obama Honors Gay Hero When?

Last month I had a crazy idea: Propose that the president honor legendary gay American community organizer Dr. Franklin E. Kameny with the Medal of Freedom. I sent off a letter to Brian Bond, de facto White House gay liaison, of hundreds of words extolling Kameny and asking when, not if, the president would so honor our community's incredible pioneer.

More than a week later, on the day the White House announced this year's awardees, and Kameny's name was omitted, I received this terse reply from Bond:

Michael – sorry I couldn’t get back to you but wanted to assure you that the community is well represented. I am making sure to keep your recommendation of my very dear friend Frank for future awards.

A total of 26 words in reply to this gay community organizer's long letter about working together to get this honor for Kameny. And Bond can't be bothered to give me full details on exactly what it is he doing about my recommendation, or say he'll give me regular updates, or even for me to keep in touch with him. Not a very engaging fellow, is he?

To be fair, it's not Bond who decided which LGBT gay persons would receive this year's honors, but I would like more transparency from him about the process.

Today I heard from Kameny and in my reply, apologized for not contacting him regarding my effort on his behalf. I had been hoping to contact him when I knew something of substance from Bond, and that never came, but it's also no excuse for me not reaching out to Kameny.

All that aside, Kameny's note to me moved me to tears, reading that he would have liked to have made the cut this year, and that he ain't no spring chicken.

If you ask me, there should be an ad hoc committee to work on the medal and to have back pay given to him. And why not? We should not just leave it to chance that justice and honor are extended to our gay forefather. I willing to do more to honor Frank Kameny. How about you?

Here's his moving note:


While doing internet browsing, yesterday, I came upon your letter of July 22 to Brian Bond at the White House, recommending that I receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. I was unaware of it; thank you very much for sending it.

I was deeply touched and complimented by your letter. Be assured that your respect for me, as manifested in the letter, is very much mutual and reciprocal.

I am writing to ask whether you received a response from Brian Bond, and, if so, what it was. Obviously, for whatever reasons, much as I would have liked to, I didn't "make the cut" this time, but perhaps next time, whenever that is.

I was in touch with Brian before my June 17 meeting with the President, and talked with him (Brian) in the West Wing lobby and in the Roosevelt Room, across the hall from the Oval Office before we all trooped in there to meet the President. I deduce that you know him from times past.

Somewhat to my astonishment, I find myself on first-name terms with both the President and with VP Biden. At least they both recognize me on sight, and address me as "Frank"; I tend to be more formal with them. Both have cited me in public speeches, as you probably know.

As you probably also know, I was fired from federal government employment in 1957, because I was gay. That was in the period of the massive gay purge from government employment of that day, in parallel to the military DADT of today. I appealed it all the way to the US Supreme Court, and to the Director of the then-US Civil Service Commission. That got me into gay activism.

The Civil Service Commission has been renamed as the Office of Personnel
Management (OPM). Its recently-appointed Director (John Berry) is an openly gay man with whom I am on cordial terms; he personally invited me to be present at his swearing-in. They recently had an elaborate affair in my honor, at which Berry presented me with a beautiful letter in which the government apologized for its "shameful" (their word) action in firing me 52 years before. The bureaucracy sometimes moves slowly, so apparently they've been mulling over my appeal for 52 years before granting it. What goes around does come around if you wait long enough.

I accepted their apology and humorously told Berry that I considered myself re-hired, and was awaiting instructions as to when and where to report for work, or to file my retirement papers. And I looked forward to my check for 52 years of back pay (which I can certainly use).

Who would ever have expected, when I was nastily fired in 1957, that in 2009, the very government itself would apologize to me for what they had done. We really have moved ahead.

How are you? I'm surviving, although very much feeling my years, and more and more conscious that I'm 84 and not 24 -- or 34, 44, or even 74 -- any more. While my general health is OK, I've become extremely inefficient, I don't get things done as I once did, and my energy, stamina, and endurance are much reduced.

I keep hearing about you from time to time. Apparently you're still active and effective out there. Keep up the good work.

Let me hear from you promptly about any response from Brian Bond to your July 22 letter, and let's keep in closer touch henceforth.

Frank Kameny

Hey Grandpa Frank - Thanks so much for making America greater and providing honorable leadership over the decades. It's a pleasure to know you and receive your kind words about my activism. May I live so long to do half the good you have done.

Arnold Inducts Harvey Milk into
CA Museum Hall of Fame

There may not yet be a Harvey Milk Day for the state of California, but today the gay martyr was inducted by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver into the Hall of Fame at the state's museum.

From the press release:

Sacramento, CA — Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver today released the names of the 2009 inductees to The California Museum’s California Hall of Fame. Pat Splinter, Chair of The California Museum’s California Hall of Fame committee and Museum trustee, announced the names in a video posted on the Museum’s web site In its fourth year, the California Hall of Fame has continued the tradition of honoring legendary people who embody California’s innovative spirit and have made their mark on history.

The 2009 California Hall of Fame inductees are: entertainer *Carol Burnett*, former Intel CEO *Andrew Grove*, governor and U.S. senator *Hiram Johnson*, decathlete and philanthropist *Rafer Johnson*, industrialist *Henry J. Kaiser*, philanthropist and peace activist *Joan Kroc*, film-maker *George Lucas*, football commentator *John Madden*, gay rights advocate *Harvey Milk*, artist *Fritz Scholder*, author *Danielle Steel*, fitness and bodybuilding pioneer *Joe Weider*, and Air Force* *test pilot General *Chuck Yeager.* [...]

This is a terrific honor for Milk and his legacy. Here are excerpts from the museum site's profile on Milk:

Milk encouraged lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) citizens to live their lives openly, believing that was the only way they could achieve social equality. A 2009 White House press release recognized his contributions, stating, “Milk is revered nationally and globally as a pioneer of the LGBT civil rights movement for his exceptional leadership and dedication to equal rights.” [...]

Milk’s promising career ended abruptly on November 27, 1978 when he and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated in City Hall. Since his death, Milk has become perhaps the most iconic figure of the LGBT rights movement, the subject of books, plays, operas and films, and the namesake of schools and buildings nationwide. In 2009, his nephew accepted the Presidential Medal of Freedom on his behalf from President Barack Obama, who commented that Milk’s “message of hope – hope unashamed, hope unafraid” would continue to inspire.

Let's applaud the Governor and First Lady for including Milk in the state's Hall of Fame, and also recommit ourselves to making sure a day of significance is declared every year for Harvey Milk Day. Such a day would go a very long way toward educating Californians of all ages and backgrounds and political parties about his fight for justice and liberation.

[Hat tip: Bill Wilson, longtime SF gay community photographer.]

Monday, August 24, 2009

Straight Rev Behind Lutheran
Gay Policy Change Speaks

My little place of worship, St. Francis Lutheran Church, which is affectionately known as Out Lady of Safeway due to our stone's throw distance from the supermarket in the Castro district, created some big changes, and it only took two decades to do it.

Back in the spring of 1989, the minister at St. Francis, the heterosexual but gay-accepting Rev. Jim DeLange, was central to a plan to ordain open gays and lesbians. You can read the very short version of what led to those ordinations that led to the congregation's expulsion from the national Lutheran church here. One of the reasons I joined this church was because of its abundant pride at being such trouble-making Lutherans and for being expelled. My kind of activist people. ;-)

As the many news stories from last week have reported, what was so radical for one church in San Francisco, ordaining LGBT ministers, is now this Lutheran denomination's national policy.

At yesterday's service, with people packing the pews, Rev. DeLange offered a few words about the two-decade struggle. Just his approaching the lectern brought a hearty round of applause, while his talk was punctuated with occasional clapping and murmurs of "yes, yes."

With all the love from him flowing out to the congregation, and the love returned many times over, I got directly in front of him, snapped a picture of him, then returned to my seat. If you look very closely at the photo, you can see Rev. DeLange's mouth and face are bursting with happiness.

But I digress. Let me finish my introduction with a warm "thank you" to him and all the trailblazers who labored to make the change happen in the Lutheran church. Here's what Rev. DeLange had to say:

This isn’t a sermon, but I can’t help but begin my response to the decisions of the ELCA churchwide assembly with a Biblical text.

Acts 11:1-12a

To a devout Jew and even to a non-practicing Jew, even touching these animals, let alone eating them was an abomination. The same held true for having anything to do with Gentiles. But Peter did it and endeavored to move the whole church of his time in the direction of including Gentiles in the fellowship of believers. A sea change in the consciousness for the Jewish people of that time.

This past week the Spirit of God told the 1,045 voting members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the vast majority of whom were heterosexual, “to go with LGBT people and not make a distinction between them and us.”

The following resolution was adopted by a vote of 559-451 and now becomes church policy: “Resolved, that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America commit itself to finding a way for people in such publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same gender relationships to serve as rostered leaders of this church.”

It was a day this congregation and tens of thousands of Lutherans all over our nation have been waiting for for 30 years, in some cases longer than that. It changes everything for St. Francis and our relationship with the ELCA. I anticipate that the local ELCA bishop, Mark Holmerud, will want to enter into discussions with us and with First United Lutheran church to explore the possibility of our rejoining the ELCA. Given the new ELCA policy that reverses the reason for our expulsion from the ELCA, the burden of that decision will now be on the people of St. Francis and First United. So be prepared for some serious dialogue and important decision-making.

Not many members of this congregation today were here in 1989 when we took the vote to call Ruth Frost and Phyllis Zillhart as our associate pastors and join with 1,000 others in their ordination. We knew the risk we were taking in defying church policy, but we did it anyway. Much discussion preceded that decision, just as much discussion today precedes important decisions made by the people of St. Francis. And we knew we weren’t just doing this for ourselves. We were doing it as a witness to the whole church.

As we said at the time, “if any congregation in the Lutheran church is going to challenge this policy, it is going to have to be a church in San Francisco and it should probably be a church in the Castro.” But even if you weren’t here in 1989, you have been here to celebrate the Feast of the Expulsion every year on the last Sunday in December, when we revisit the events leading up to the ordinations on January 20, 1990, and the trial and expulsion that followed. Yes, next January 20 will be the 20th anniversary.

At the same time we are congratulating ourselves on our prophetic witness, steadfastness, and patience, we also need to recognize that the sea change in the attitudes in the Lutheran Church toward LGBT people is owed to more people than the advocates within the church – although there is a long list of individuals, lay and clergy, and organizations like Lutherans Concerned, the Network for Inclusive Vision, and Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries and Good Soil – who gave their money and time to the cause. And here we have to recognize the outstanding work of Emily Eastwood, the Executive Director of Lutherans Concerned. Emily’s fund raising and organizing skills across every synod and churchwide assembly and relentless advocacy is what finally got this done for the Lutheran Church.

We also have to thank the larger culture for changing attitudes. People like Harvey Milk, Ellen DeGeneres, the writers and producers of television shows like Will and Grace and the soap operas and Gus VanZant who gave us the award winning film, “Milk.” We have to thank Oprah. We have to thank the editors of the New York Times and the Washington Post for changing their editorial policies and making LGBT causes issues of justice. And how can we not mention the Supreme Court of Iowa, in the heartland of Lutheranism, for their approval of same gender marriage. The votes in Mpls. this past week are owed to all of these people as well.

Finally, I would like to add a personal note.

I didn’t think it would happen. Not this year. Lutherans are notorious for sitting on their hands and waiting for someone else to lead the cause to justice. A group of us gathered at Jeff Johnson’s house on Monday night to watch the live proceedings of the opening day of the CWA. There was a procedural vote on the Standing Rules that would give a good indication of how the vote on our issues was going to go. The vote came out overwhelmingly in our favor and I began to hope – just maybe this time – maybe this time – it was going to happen.

On Wednesday the vote on the social statement on human sexuality that was supportive of LGBT relationships came to the floor. It required a two-thirds vote as do all social statements in the ELCA. That’s tough to do. I didn’t think it would reach the two-thirds threshold and therefore doom the resolutions on rostering openly LGBT pastors which only required a majority. But the social statement passed. By one vote out of over 1,000 cast. Don’t ever think your vote doesn’t count.

So now I am hopeful. I am hopeful that our young seminarians will feel free to come out in seminary and other LGBT pastors will feel free to come out to their congregations. It will not happen over night. But it will happen. And St. Francis and Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries must stand ready, as we have these past 20 years, to support them.

Rev. James DeLange in an address to the congregation of
St. Francis Lutheran Church, San Francisco
August 23, 2009

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Cleve's March Produces the Budget

The spokesperson for the October 11 march on Washington, Loch Powell, has shared with me the budget at this point for the event. I hope they also post it on their site. Very interesting to see a gay vets event is planned, but still nothing related to HIV/AIDS and the needs of people living with the disease that I am aware of is on the official list of events. Let's see if that omission is addressed very soon.

Here's the budget. Sorry for the awful layout, but Loch sent only a PDF version of it and I had to convert it to text in order to post to my blog:

National Equality March 2009
Forecasted Budget Detail - March Event
As of August 21, 2009

Line Item Forecast

Organizing Functions & Thank You Receptions (in alphabetical order)

Pre-Night Organizing Volunteers/Coordinators Receptions - October 9th and 10th $3,000.00

Volunteers/Coordinators Post March Event Thank You & Follow Up Reception $2,500.00

Volunteer Organizing Headquarters @ Host Madison Hotel In-Kind Donation

Volunteer Organizing Headquarters Snacks/Beverages over 3 days @ Host Madison Hotel $ 2,500.00

Sub Total $ 8,000.00

Memorial Service For Tech SGT Leonard Matlovitch w/ Lt. Dan Choi & Gay Veterans @ Congressional Cemetery and Wreath Laying @ The Tomb of The Unknown Soldier, Arlington National Cemetery on October 10th

Soundsystem delivery/drop off/pick up @ Congressional Cemetery $750.00

Wreath for Ceremony at Gravesite in Congressional Cemetery $250.00

Wreath for Ceremony at The Tomb of The Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery $250.00

Sub Total $ 1,250.00

March to Capitol Related Event on October 11th (in alphabetical order)

Banners and Signs $ 3,500.00
Credentials/Passes/Lanyards $ 250.00
Food and Beverages For Volunteers/Speakers/Coordinators $ 1,500.00
Insurance $ 2,500.00
Local Event Coordinator/Producer $ 2,500.00
Local Event Assistant Coordinator/Producer $ 1,250.00
Permits No Cost
Police/DOT and Medical & EMS/Department City Support - Suggested Donation $ 2,500.00
Printed Materials (Flyers/Program/Other Information) $ 10,000.00
Toilets/Porta Johns (100 Standard, delivery & pickup) $ 5,500.00
Toliets/Porta Johns (25 Wheelchair Accessible, delivery & pickup) $ 2,500.00
Trash Bins/Receptacles along the march route In-Kind Donation
Volunter Staff (50 as of August 20, 2009) In-Kind Donation
Water Stations (5 @ $250 each) $ 1,250.00

Sub Total $ 33,250.00

Capitol Related Event on October 11th (in alphabetical order)

Banners and Signs $ 3,500.00
Bike Barricades and Delineators $ 1,500.00
Bullhorns (includes insurance fees) $ 250.00
Clean-Up Crew (Volunteer) In-Kind Donation
Communication "Walkie Talkies" For Organizers/Volunteers (100) $ 1,300.00
Credentials/Passes/Lanyards $ 500.00
Food and Beverages For Volunteers/Speakers/Coordinators at Main Stage $2,500.00
General Supplies $ 1,000.00
Generators (back up and emergency) $ 2,000.00
Gospel Choir Ensemble Additional Delivery/Set Up & Pick Up of Riser and Audio $5,000.00
Insurance $ 7,500.00
Live Stream Equipment/Crew/Production/Delivery $ 7,500.00
Local Event Coordinator/Producer $ 7,500.00
Local Event Assistant Coordinator/Producer $ 2,500.00
Main Stage/Risers/Camera Platforms & Staging Area Delivery & Set Up $4,000.00
Main Stage Delivery/Set up & Pick Up Sound System/Delayed Audio System/LED Screen, Platform &
Video Equipment $ 30,000.00
Main Stage Trucking & Labor Costs Associated with Complete Delivery/Set Up/Pick Up $ 30,000.00
Police & Medical and EMS/Department City Support -Suggested Donation $ 7,500.00
Permits No Cost
Printed Materials (Flyers/Program/Other Information) $ 12,500.00
Security - Personnel $ 5,000.00
Sign Language Interpreters In-Kind Donation
Tables/Tents/Chairs (package deal) - no tents allowed at Capitol Lawn $ 1,500.00
Toilets /Porta Johns (300 Standard, delivery & pickup) $ 15,500.00
Toliets/Porta Johns (60 Wheelchair Accessible, delivery & pickup) $ 6,000.00
Trash Bins/Receptacles on the Capitol Lawn and Mall In-Kind Donation
Volunter Staff (250 as of August 20, 2009) In-Kind Donation
Water Stations (10 @ $250 each) $ 2,500.00

Sub Total $ 157,050.00

TOTAL (2)(3)(4) $ 199,550.00


1. "Forecast" reflects projected, estimated, identified costs for each line item as of August 21, 2009.
2. Costs are allocated for the period July 1 - October 31, 2009.
3. Best efforts will be made to achieve the lowest possible costs associated with each line item.
4. New line items may added as they are identified.

Disclaimer As It Relates To National Equality March 2009 Budget:

This is a "working forecasted budget" as of August 21, 2009 and the Executive Committee of the National Equality March may add new costs, as necessary, and works everyday to secure any and all goods and services at the lowest possible cost.
White House Specialty Media Czar Meets
Gay Leaders; Obama Endorsing March?

[UPDATE: See the very bottom of this post for the denial from the White House. -michael]

[This was sent today via email.]

Dear Mr. Shin Inouye,

I see from photos posted by the editor of the site on Flickr that you recently met with the director of National Equality March, Mr. Kip Williams, at the White House and also gave him a tour of the building.

In your capacity as White House director for specialty media, and as an openly gay man, I'm sure you had much to discuss with Williams, and his two colleagues, Bil Browning and Jerame Davis, editor and publisher respectively of My curiosity was piqued by the photos and I now request answers to the following concerns:

1) What items were on the agenda when you met with the gay leaders and will you share the agenda with me?

2) Did you offer Williams, as head of the October 11 LGBT march on Washington, an endorsement from President Barack Obama for the goals of the march?

3) Will the president speak at the October 11 gay event or tape a pre-recorded message to be played at the rally that day?

4) Is the White House offering any substantive or symbolic support to the march in October, and the hundreds of people who are expected to be there?

5) The many photos of you with Williams, Browning and Davis at the White House, or of them without you, show you all in different part of the building. Where exactly did the meeting with them take place?

As you may know, Browning at the site wrote this about his time back east last week:

Jerame, Kip and I ran off to New York City for less than 24 hours and then dashed down to Washington DC for a couple of days. It was a great working trip full of meetings.

I believe one of the meetings Browning writes about is the one he had with you at the White House.

Last week, the Dallas Voice printed an interview with the Oscar-winning gay screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, who wrote "Milk," and he spoke about the potential for the president to be involved in the march:

Q: How important is it that Obama acknowledge or appear at the march?

A: I think it’s incredibly important that Obama is invited to speak. Cleve [Jones, march leader] is in contact with the White House, and if Obama does show up and speak I think that says a lot. And if he doesn’t, that also speaks volumes. I’m all for him being given the only VIP invite to speak.

I'm interested in learning if the leader of the October 11 march, Cleve Jones, is in contact with you about having the president address the assembled crowd that day. Let me know if you and Jones are in discussion regarding this matter, or if he's not in touch with you, the name of the person who is coordinating contact between Jones and the president's staff.

The Obama White House is committed to providing unprecedented transparency to the American public and the gay community, and I laud the president for this vital democratic commitment to sunshine. In my world, transparency means not just making the political process abundantly clear, but doing so in a timely fashion.

As a blogger covering national LGBT issues and politics, I hope to receive a rapid reply from you concerning my questions.

Michael Petrelis
San Francisco, CA

P.S. - More photos of the gay leaders' meeting at the White House:

Kip Williams, Bil Browning, Jerame Davis in the First Lady's Reception Room

Browning and Davis, holding hands, in front of Jackie Kennedy's portrait

Williams, in the Red Room, behind the velvet rope, and two unidentified White House employees

Davis and Browning, in the Dining Room

Davis, Browning and Williams, sitting down in
the Blue Room


I received this reply today from Shin Inouye and stand corrected about the meeting I thought that took place. I made a mistake, based on erroneous info I read at the Bilerico site. Mr. Inouye corrects me:

Mr. Williams was simply at the White House to take a tour. There was no meeting or discussion about any issues.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

March Leaders Meet at White House;
Cleve on Broadway; Oregon Says No

What has the director of Cleve's march on DC, Kip Williams of San Francisco, been doing lately to build a mass turnout for the event and create the structure and people-power for the promised network of LGBT captains in every Congressional district? He attended last week's Netroots Nation convention for progressives and Democrats in Pittsburgh.

After that, according to Bil Browning, editor and publisher of the Bilerico Project site, Willams hit the road:

Jerame [Davis], Kip and I ran off to New York City for less than 24 hours and then dashed down to Washington DC for a couple of days. It was a great working trip full of meetings.

Let's look at the boys' photos and get a sense of how those many meetings went.

That's Jerame, Bil and Kip having a "meeting" in the Blue Room, on their tour of the White House. This little sit-down counts as a meeting, right?

And here they are in Central Park, holding another meeting. I guess all the other LGBT people these organizers met with, 6 weeks before their DC march, on their trip that was just "full of meetings," didn't want to be photographed with them.

That might explain why none of the photos from the grand tour show these guys at a damn meeting. Or anything close. They did sightseeing, and there ain't nothing wrong with that, if every detail necessary to mobilize thousands of LGBT people in a very short time were taken care of.

Speaking of the Big Apple and its fabulous attractions, have you heard that Cleve Jones is making his Broadway debut? Actually, it's off-Broadway since he'll be appearing on the Delacourt stage in Central Park next Friday afternoon to energize the troops.


The 2:30 PM public rally on Aug. 28 will take place at the Delacorte Theater, home of the Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park. Participating in the rally will be gay rights activist Cleve Jones, Public Theater artistic director Oskar Eustis, Wicked and Next to Normal producer David Stone, as well as Hair Tony nominee and Broadway Impact founder Gavin Creel.

I hope the folks putting on the mid-afternoon show, on a weekday, at the end of summer, lure a better and bigger crowd than the numbers that turned out for the meetings put on Kip, Bil and Jerame this week.

So how are things going in the Western states, in terms of building support for the march, and persuading folks to be there?

The Just Out newspaper of Portland, Oregon, provides some answers:

A march on Washington D.C. has long been a rallying cry for American civil-rights organizations, but Oregon’s gay, lesbian, bi and trans community has so far shown lukewarm support.

For example, grassroots local advocacy is of primary concern for Dawn Holt, president of Portland’s PFLAG chapter. “A national march strikes me as a bit of a distraction,” Holt said.

PFLAG’s response is typical of Oregon’s gay, lesbian, bi and trans advocacy organizations.

“With the economy the way it is and this march being so far away, I don’t know a single person who’s planning to make the trip out there,” said Laura Calvo, treasurer of the state Democratic Party and interim president of the Democratic Party of Oregon GLBT Caucus. [...]

Can you believe that Oregonian LGBT community members are not opening their shrinking wallets to book flights and hotels to be in DC in October, to see the cast of "Hair" sing a few songs?

I wish I could end this post sharing the news that Loch Powell, spokesperson for the march, kept his word to share with me, and any visitors to the march's web site, the budget at this point. He promised the budget yesterday, but the budget was not released, nor do I have any clue when it might finally see the light of day.

Powell's email from late last night gave an explanation for the delay:

I know you have been waiting patiently for the budget, and I still dont have it. We have an amazing treasurer on board who is doing his absolute best to make sure that every i is dotted and t is crossed. Chip Arndt, who has an amazing track record in the LGBT movement has taken this on, and is wanting to make sure that everything is covered in our forecast.

You obviously are not the only one asking for it, but as I promised you, you will be the first to receive it and then we will post to the site. Just as I cc'd you on the request by BAR in their request for it as well. I am doing my best to do right by you, and your voice to the community, in all of your patience!

The accountant may be the most amazing guy ever, but I'm not impressed by the inability of the march organizers to provide any fiscal transparency at this point. They must all be busy organizing and holding important meetings in DC and NYC.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Obama at Cleve's March?;
Budget Out Today;Video of SF Fundraiser

Lots of news to share today about Cleve Jones' October 11 LGBT march on DC, so let's get started.

Dustin Lance Black, who won the Oscar for his screenplay for the movie "Milk," gave an interview with the Dallas Voice this week, and he spilled a few beans about efforts to get the president to address the march:

Q: How important is it that Obama acknowledge or appear at the march?

A: I think it’s incredibly important that Obama is invited to speak. Cleve is in contact with the White House, and if Obama does show up and speak I think that says a lot. And if he doesn’t, that also speaks volumes. I’m all for him being given the only VIP invite to speak.

Even this staunch critic of this march would be greatly impressed if Barack Obama were to show up on October 11 on the Mall in Washington and speak to the assembled crowd. Do I think it will happen? Nope, not very likely, but good to know the organizers would extend a Very Important Person invitation to the President of these United States of America, if he chooses to speak at the rally.

The second news nugget comes from Loch Powell, spokesperson for the march. In an email yesterday, he provided a time-line for the release of the budget:

I am promised to have a budget posted (which I will send to you first) on the website by tomorrow at the very latest. I would like to say 3pm tomorrow, but don't hold me to that, it might be closer to 4ish.

Again, I have reiterated to the entire executive committee, and everyone agrees this budget will be posted on the website and will be updated with full and complete transparency. No other March in history has ever done this, so we want to do it right.

Third, and final, bit of news comes from Cathy Brooks, a lesbian activist previously not involved in gay community politics before Prop 8 lost at the ballot in November, and is making up for being on the sidelines for so long.

Cathy attended the hush-hush fundraiser on Monday in San Francisco for the Courage Campaign and Cleve's march. She's made three videos from the event and posted them on her blog.

Clip number one is a short chat with Rick Jacobs:

Cathy's second video is five-minutes of Cleve talking about his life this year:

And the final clip is of Cleve and soldier Dan Choi sharing their thoughts about the march, and is about 17 minutes long:

Many thanks to Cathy for bringing the sunshine in to the fundraiser, and I look forward to receiving the march's budget and seeing it on the march's web site later today.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Silence in Prop 8 Courtroom;
Boies Wears Hush Puppies?

(Left-to-right: Chad Griffin, Ted Olson, David Boies.)

Here are some of my impressions from the hearing today before Judge Vaughn Walker in the matter of the lawsuit challenging Prop 8 being brought by Ted Olson and David Boies, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, and the news conferences afterward. Many thanks to Chris Geidner over at for his editorial assistance.

* * * * *

As I tried to get through the security checkpoint at the Golden Gate Avenue entrance to the federal building, my camera was confiscated by the guards for security reasons. I protested this, arguing that TV cameras were allowed in for the press conference following the hearing, and I should be granted the same privilege.

The woman behind me interrupted my spat with security, while grabbing her bag from the conveyor belt. "I read your blog everyday. You're a unique thinker with strong views, not that I always agree with them. I'm Calla Devlin from the National Center for Lesbian Rights. I'll see you upstairs in court." What an introduction. She gave me her card, then the guard gave me a ticket to reclaim my camera later on.

* * * * *

Fifteen minutes before the hearing is set to start at 10 a.m., and there are seats aplenty in the courtroom -- unlike the hearing on July 2. I see the friendly faces of John Lewis and Stuart Gaffney, a gay couple long involved in this battle, often in the media eye, and grab a seat in the row ahead of them.

In the front right row are the two gay and lesbian couples who are the plaintiffs: Kristin Perry, Sandra Stier, Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo. Seated to their right is Chad Griffin, head of the American Foundation for Equal Rights board, and he's being cordial with Jenny Pizer of Lambda Legal, who is shaking hands and greeting the plaintiffs.

* * * * *

Randy Thomasson, head of the anti-gay Campaign for California Families, is in the next to last row, with a lost look on his face. In the row behind me, to my left, is Frank Schubert, campaign manager for and the Yes on 8 forces last year. He exhibits the intensity of a coach waiting for his team to win the game.

* * * * *

Five minutes before Judge Walker enters, the day's court reporter instructs all attorneys to speak directly into the mic at the lectern, then goes around both sides' tables, writing down everyone's name. This small bit of court action brings a hush to the spectators in the courtroom.

The proceeding soon starts, and like the last hearing, Judge Walker is cheerful, but serious about the business at hand, and wonderfully direct.

As the hearing goes on, I feel and hear an extreme silence everywhere, except at the bench or the lawyers' mic. No one in the audience is whispering or making any discernible noises, as we all hang on to every word from the lawyers and judge.

* * * * *

We've stepped back into the stone age of communication. Anyone who is taking notes, maybe half of all in attendance, is doing so on dead tree and using pens. No clicking of keyboards or whirring of tape recorders. All electronic devices are turned off.

Media trivia: Lisa Leff of the Associated Press is left-handed, and she used a legal note pad for her reporter's notes today.

* * * * *

Judge Walker asks the ACLU attorney, James Esseks, who is arguing for the gay groups that want to be parties to the lawsuit, if part of what they're after is to make sure "the factual record would be richer." The lawyer says yes, and a murmur from the left side of the audience is heard. Disapproving looks are shot at the people murmuring -- and they immediately go quiet.

The lawyer for the Campaign for California Families talks so fast the court reporter twice asks her to slow down. It was hard for me to hear all of her words.

When Ted Olson rebuts arguments made by the gay groups trying to join the case, his delivery was even, his voice easily picked up by my ears.

* * * * *

The reporter next to me is hiding his iPhone in his left hand, under his paper pad. He frequently takes it out, texts only with his left hand, then hides the device.

Right after Judge Walker rules against the pro-gay and anti-gay groups looking to intervene, the reporter rapidly fires off a text message. So does Schubert, who makes no effort whatsoever to conceal his action. The guard doesn't notice.

Across the aisle, Thomasson is upset with the rulings and leaves as soon as the court addresses the case management issues.

* * * * *

Every time I glance at the male plaintiff couple, seated on the aisle, one partner has his arm resting on the back of the wooden pew. At times, his left hand embraces his partner's upper arm. The body language of both says, "We're not afraid to show affection. We are partners."

* * * * *

There are three press conferences after the hearing in the media center of the federal building. First up are Dennis Herrera, San Francisco City Attorney, and his top lawyer Terry Stewart. Only Herrera speaks to the press, and is pleased the city will be allowed to join the suit and show the city's unique "governmental interest" to the court regarding the outcome's impact on local agencies.

Next come Griffin, Olson and Boies, and the lawyers answer a few questions. I notice that Boies is not wearing proper business attire.

He's wearing what appear to be velvet slip-on walking shoes from Hush Puppies (above, right), not the standard issue black leather lawyer shoes Olson has on (above, left). I don't know why I found this sartorial observation of interest, but upon reflection, I think it was because this small detail humanized this superlawyer to me.

* * * * *

Finally, Charles Cooper (above), the lawyer for the Yes on Prop 8 team, along with two associates whose names I didn't catch, took questions. As Cooper explained the rationale for what he thinks is a winning legal strategy, the lightweight Yes on 8 sign, which hadn't been securely taped to the lectern, came loose and fell to the floor. Some laughs broke out, and I cracked wise, from the front row.

"It doesn't seem like you've got a solid foundation there," I said to Cooper, who chuckled at his bare lectern and got back to serious business.

Throughout the three pressers, a Daniel Sullivan (above), a retired attorney and consultant to several local media outlets, badgered the lawyers. He impressed me with his forceful questioning and deep knowledge of U.S. Supreme Court rulings. I asked him afterward why he was so aggressive. He replied: "To make them better lawyers prepared to appear before judges other than Walker."

May the legal barriers that stop gay people from marrying, fall as easily and unequivocally as Cooper's flimsy sign.

NYT: Robert Hilferty,
Writer and AIDS Activist, Is Dead

Never doubt that a handful of queens can change the world, and get something into the New York Times when they put their minds to it.

Last week, a small circle of Robert's friends traded emails about the Times not writing an obituary for him. Even though it had been weeks since he passed away, and we feared too late for the Gray Lady to run something, we nevertheless made phone calls and sent emails to the obits desk and other contacts at the paper.

Today, the Times web-published a short obit on Robert, and hope this means it will appear in tomorrow's print edition. Sure, the passing of our friend and brother was noted on may blogs and cultural web sites, it was still necessary, if not old-fashioned, to get an obit for him in the paper of record, and in print too.

Working with this fabulous circle of Robert's loved ones reminded me of a valuable ACT UP and queer justice dictum: It is never too late to request that the right thing be done.

From the Times:

Robert Hilferty, a writer and an AIDS activist who made a documentary film in 1989 that roiled the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York and the Public Broadcasting Service, died on July 24 at his home in Manhattan. He was 49.

Mr. Hilferty committed suicide while suffering from complications of a head injury he received in March, said Fabio Toblini, his companion.

In the late 1980s, while he was active in the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (Act Up), Mr. Hilferty produced and directed a 24-minute film, “Stop the Church,” documenting a demonstration at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan by gay rights and abortion rights advocates. More than 4,500 people gathered outside while 134 went inside and collapsed in the aisles to symbolize death.

PBS initially planned to broadcast the film in August 1991 as part of its “P.O.V.” series of independently made documentaries. It then canceled the broadcast, citing the film’s numerous denunciations of the Roman Catholic Church and calling it “inappropriate for distribution because of its pervasive tone of ridicule.” [...]

Mr. Hilferty was a freelance writer for many publications, including New York magazine, Playbill, The Village Voice, Opera News, Artforum, Bloomberg News and The New York Times. He wrote about classical music, architecture, acting, fashion and gardening. [...]

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

FBI's Michael Jackson File = 591 Pages

When I submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for any records they may have in their archive on Michael Jackson, I expected the agency would reply saying they didn't locate any such records, or that there were only a handful on pages on the late entertainer. I was wrong. And there were no merchant service fee's attached to making my request!

A letter from the FBI yesterday informs me they've located close to 600 pages on him. As I've learned from years of filing these sort of FOIAs, it's going to be a while before anything is released, and, when pages are eventually provided to me, they could be quite mundane.

Here's the FBI letter on my Michael Jackson FOIA:

Brad Pitt Inspires $5K Gift to Cleve's March;
Who's the Fiscal Sponsor?

Two comments were waiting for my approval this morning, responding to an earlier post related to Cleve Jones' March on Washington. The messages were from Charles Merrill, a wealthy gay artist and tax protester and reveal potential support for the march from a truly admirable, and handsome, straight doper celebrity:

Blogger Charles Merrill said...

I just donated $5000.00 to the march and happy to do it at the request of my friend Brad Pitt.

Anonymous Charles Merrill said...

Receipt for March on Washington at Equality Across America.

Hi Charles-

Thank you so much for your donation to Equality Across America! We are fiscally sponsored by White Knot for Equality, and your contribution will be handled by them in its transfer to us. On your credit card statement, this contribution will be designated as DEMOCRACYINACTION.ORG.

White Knot for Equality is a 501(c)(3) organization, and your donation is tax-deductible. This message can be used as a receipt.

Name: Charles Merrill
Amount: $5000
Date: August 17, 2009

Equality Across America

(Hey, Charles, if you feel like donating to my blog and advocacy efforts, you can contribute by clicking on the PayPal button above.)

Putting aside who persuaded Charles to contribute, I was confused by the note from Cleve's Equality Across America group acknowledging the gift, because it said the White Knot for Equality was their fiscal sponsor. This contradicts what march spokesperson Loch Powell said last week:

The National Equality March / Equality Across America is a project of The Tides Foundation.

So which tax-exempt group is the fiscal sponsor of the march? Also, march organizers claim all donations are tax deductible and that has raised the concern of Rick Rosendall of the Gay and Lesbian Activists' Alliance of Washington, DC. At the GLAA Forum blog, Rick laid out his thoughts:

When I posted an item on this, my GLAA colleague Craig Howell asked, "How can contributions for a political March be fully tax-deductible?"

The answer is that legally they can't. Education efforts can be tax-deductible, but not advocacy for legislation, which this march is all about. Advocacy groups have to deal with this issue all the time, which is why it is common to set up two groups: an IRS 501(c)(3) group for research and education, and a separate 501(c)(4) group for advocacy and lobbying. Contributions to the former are tax-deductible, while contributions to the latter are not. Here in D.C., for example, we have a Foundation for All D.C. Families and a separate Campaign for All D.C. Families. That Cleve Jones and his associates appear not to have thought of this is another indication that they leaped before looking.

Petrelis forwarded Howell's question to Loch Powell, who replied by email from Netroots Nation 2009: "He does pose a good question, however this is not a march to advocate for specific legislation. This is a march for full equality for the LGBT community. Because we are not marching for any one particular piece of legislation all of our actions are completely legitimate to 501 (c) 3 and therefore deductible to the fullest extent allowable." [...]

Whichever 501(c)(3) fiscal agent the march organizers are using, they are on thin ice. The claim that "this is not a march to advocate for specific legislation" is preposterous on its face. The march website proclaims "Our One Single Demand: Equal protection in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states," and goes on to say [the march endorses repeal of DOMA, DA/DT, passage of ENDA, etc.]

To follow up on the promise from Loch Powell that the march organizers would release a fiscal report this week, I contact him about when the report might come out. He replied:

I had a call with the Exec Committee today, and they promised me that they would have it to me asap. Although it is still speculated expenses based on bids at this point. Nothing has been spent on the march, thus far. But I will work on getting that out.

Let's hope the organizers in the next couple of days provide the fiscal transparency we'd all like to see, regardless of whether money has been paid yet for expenses.