Monday, November 30, 2009

Anyone Seen Jacobs/Courage's 2010 Research?

More hot air masquerading as political leadership was emitted today by Rick Jacobs, the chief of everything at his supposed 700,000 membership org, telling the community what many already knew - Jacobs was divorcing his org from the 2010 effort to repeal Prop 8 with another prop. Predictable as a sunrise, the blogosphere and the AP reprinted Jacobs' release, and no attention was paid to the missing "extensive and groundbreaking research."

I do so hate to be the skunk at the Gay Inc garden party hosted by Courage and Lambda Legal, but can someone show me, and the rest of the affected community, this amazing research? If Gay Inc gave a damn about transparency, we would see these two orgs sharing the research leading to their decision, on our behalf. Ain't happening.

From the release:

The Courage Campaign, in partnership with Lambda Legal, has recently concluded the first phase of extensive and groundbreaking research about public beliefs and concerns about marriage and homosexuality. It confirmed that attitudes are shifting steadily toward equal treatment of same-sex couples, and that conversations among family members and other close relationships inevitably speed the process. The statement released today is concurrent with a Lambda Legal statement.

I have not omitted the link from Courage to their alleged research. Courage has not made it public. We just have to take Jacobs' word. And don't bother looking to Lambda for the data. Their site hasn't even posted the joint release, never mind the data.

The AP's story was a good instance of stenography:

Rick Jacobs, founder of the Los Angeles-based Courage Campaign, said Monday that polling and other research his organization commissioned shows that gay marriage supporters do not have the financial backing, leadership or edge in public opinion to try to overturn Proposition 8 in 2010.

Nothing about the actual research and what it allegedly shows. Would it trouble the AP too much to ask Jacobs to produce his research for public inspection? Probably, and Jacobs knows it.

He has escaped any real scrutiny about his self-proclaimed 700,000 members, how all of the important decisions for his supposed grassroots org are always made by him, and why the org's failed deliver anything substantive in the year since Prop 8 passed.

Jacobs and his Courage toy were supposed to be the anti-Geoff Kors and anti-EQCA, and he's failed to deliver on his many promises. If Jacobs had any sense, he would fold his operation into EQCA, end his big-dick contest with Kors, and merge their orgs and egos, for the damn good of the movement. I know, it's a pipe dream to think Jacobs and Kors would unify forces, and finally begin coordinating together, for the greater good of California gays.

All I want is for Jacobs to show us his research, and the press and bloggers to stop serving as stenographers for Courage or any Gay Inc org.
Jamaican Foreign Ministry:
Two Gay Violence Files Located

At the end of October, Marion Edwards, the Access to Information officer with this ministry sent me an email responding to my request for any files on violence against gay Jamaicans. Part of her reply said:

Having researched the relevant files, we regret to inform you that such records do not reside within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade. However, I will refer your request to the Ministry of National Security which has primary responsibility for matters of this nature.

Sounded very clear to me that no records responsive to my request were found last month. But now, such records have been located. Edwards sent another letter today, in which she informs me of some good news:

Further to your application dated 30th October 2009 and received on even date, for copies of any and all records from January 2004 to 30th October 2009, related to human rights violation of “gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons, or other persons perceived to be such”, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade is pleased to grant you access to the following documents:

1. Report on the Panel Discussion “Homophobic Violence in Jamaica: Culture, Dialogue and Resistance” Thursday 17th February, New Theatre (E171), East Building, London School of Economics and Politics. 9 pages.

2. An e-mail sent from Mr. Karl Angell to Wilton Dwyer, re the murder of Steve Harvey, a worker with Jamaica Aids Support. 1 page.

You may also wish to visit the United States – Department of State’s website, where country reports on Human Rights Practices in Jamaica are posted.

Grateful you indicate the format in which you require the information.

Edwards mentioned nothing about the switch from October to November and the retrieval of the files that weren't located a few weeks back, so I wrote back to her asking how the ministry failed to find the records, and how can I be certain there aren't more files in the archive. I also asked that the two files be emailed to me as a PDF.

In terms of what located, interesting that the bulk of the few pages is devoted to a meeting in London, and a single page of an email about the brutal murder of a gay rights advocate in Jamaica. Regardless of the skimpy files, I look forward to reading the contents of all the pages.

I'm also surprised the letter instructs me to read the American government's annual human rights reports on Jamaica, which offer ample evidence of the violence gay Jamaicans suffer, and the outrageous lack of government prosecution in many crimes against gay people.

Once Edwards sends me the files, I'll share them.
SF Chron Fails to Cite Blog for
Folsom Fellatio Item

Two political gossip writers for the San Francisco Chronicle, Phil Matier and Andy Ross, have a habit of picking up stories from other sources and not crediting them.

The Matier and Ross gossip column today prints an item regarding a recent meeting about the Folsom Street Fair, at which a restricted tent for public fellatio was proposed by me, but in true slimey fashion, my report on the meeting, was omitted by the writers.

As far as I can tell, my report is the only one out there. Demetri Moshoyannis, director of the annual leather fair, sent this note, in response to me asking if his group had issued any minutes:

There is no summary report yet from our meeting [posted on the fair's web site]. And, I certainly haven't spoken to any reporters. That said, Bevan Dufty did say that he received a media inquiry. Maybe you can ask him.

I have asked Bevan about this, but haven't heard back from him yet. I also left a message for Trapper Byrne, the editor for Matier and Ross' columns, and hope to get an answer from him today.

Astute readers of the Bay Area Reporter certainly noticed in recent years when Matier and Ross filched news from the gay paper, without properly crediting the weekly for breaking the original story. Today's Chronicle item does give credit to the BAR for the news about what led to complaints against the 2008 fair, which must be a welcome development for the BAR folks.

One political reporter, the BAR's Matthew Bajko, Tweeted last Wednesday about the upcoming Chronicle piece, and where the tent proposal originated:

# Look for a gay sex item from the Chron's Matier & Ross this weekend. The duo are asking about having a sex tent at Folsom St Fair next year. 1:35 PM Nov 25th from TwitBin

# Local blogger Michael Petrelis suggested just such a tent at a meeting Monday about the leather fairs: 1:37 PM Nov 25th from TwitBin

Nice of Matthew to share some basic credit with readers, a concept Matier and Ross might learn about and begin to always practice, when cribbing from local bloggers.
NGOs Must Unite to Save 9 Iranians
Facing Death for Sodomy

On October 31 the Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees issued a plea for help on behalf of Nemat Safavi, convicted of homosexual acts and facing execution in Iran. The plea was directed at non-governmental orgs, with vaster resources to conduct research, gather facts and mobilize public actions:

We ask that people write, fax, call, or email to Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and any LGBT and/or international organizations to support Nemat Safavi and vigorously oppose his execution and the laws against homosexuals.

A day later, Peter Tatchell expressed personal sentiments about the current state of global gay activism over gay Iranians:

Everyone is now too intimidated by past denunciations and smears when we tried, in good faith, to defend Iranian queers.

Any person in Britain who takes a stand against homophobia in Iran is vilified as a neo con, agent of imperialism, Zionist, war-monger etc., including by other LGBTs, left-wingers, Islamists and some human rights organisations.

Those of us who stuck our necks out on previous occasions got precious little support. I weep at this terrible state of affairs.

The biggest obstacle to coordinated and effective global gay Iranian activism, after years of character assassinations against dozens of people who don't toe the Human Rights Watch party-line, is Scott Long. His campaign against other activists culminated in a 18-page grudge report, and he has done much to undermine previous claims of Iran executing homosexuals.

HRW on November 4 put out a statement calling on Iran to stop the planned execution of three men for homosexual conduct:

Mehdi P., from Tabriz; Moshen G., from Shiraz; and Nemat Safavi, from Ardebil, were accused in separate cases of committing homosexual acts when they were under age 18. No date has been set for their execution yet, but the lawyer representing two of the men fears that it could happen any day.

"Killing people for what they did as children is wrong and repellent, and killing them for alleged homosexual conduct is just as wrong and repellent," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

Notice that it's not Long, head of the HRW gay division, who is quoted, but another HRW director. He really has a problem addressing the country's executions of men for homosexual relations, doesn't he?

The statement is also very telling about HRW's non-engagement style in any serious way with gays. No request to send emails or take any action that might save the condemned men. Furthermore, HRW says nothing about working with other NGOs on behalf of the death row homosexuals. HRW simply is engaging in their typical "go it alone" fashion, which may be enough to sway Iranian politicians.

Setting a better example of productive cooperation is the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. IGLHRC on November 25 issued a call to action, in conjunction with the Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees and COC Netherlands, on behalf of nine men facing execution because of homosexual conduct. Here's part of the sample letter the NGOs provide for anyone who wants to send emails to European officials, whose countries have business and diplomatic relations with Iran:

I am writing to request an immediate intervention to save the lives of a number of Iranian men, including minors and people who were minors at the time the alleged crimes occurred, who are currently in detention after having been convicted of sodomy and sentenced to death. These men include Ghaseem Bashkool, Mahdi Pooran, Hamid Taghi, Ebrahim Hamidi, Mehdi Rezaii, Hamze Chavoshi, Loghman Hamzepour, Mohsen Ghabraii, and Nemat Safavi (see appendix for more information about their cases). [...]

The defendants are denied fair and open trials; due to the taboo nature of sexual crimes, lawyers, human rights activists and reporters find it next to impossible to advocate on behalf of the defendants. Furthermore, the Iranian judicial system does not allow independent observers to examine the outcome of the courts and those who dare to advocate for the defendants are often harassed by the government and vigilantes. [...]

I strongly urge you and your government to use your diplomatic influence on Iran to stop the pending executions of the minor and adult men already convicted of sodomy.

IGLHRC, IRQR and COC Netherlands also provide the email addresses of key European leaders, along with email addresses for Iranian leaders and a letter in Farsi to send to them.

With Iran so impervious to practically all Western influence and lobbying, any human rights effort targeting Iran's mullahs and politicians, particularly one of a homosexual nature, should have much collaboration among the NGOs. In the interests of the condemned men, let's see a more united campaign from the NGOs regarding a letter-writing campaign, and if need be, a weekday protest at Iran's mission to the United Nations in Manhattan.

The cooperation of several NGOs two weeks ago at Uganda's mission to the UN, over a proposed deadly anti-homosexual bill and other problems facing that African nation's gay community, was laudable. It was also effective at sending a strong message of peaceful pressure to a government recalcitrant to protect the human rights of its gay citizens. Such a unified action should be organized by NGOs for gay Iranians facing the death penalty.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Rebranding: Gay = Equality,
Rainbow = Blue

(Are Equality orgs and their imagery as bland as artificial sweetener?)

When exactly were the Protocols of the Elders of Sodom revised to mandate that the word gay had to be replaced with equality, and that the rainbow emblem celebrating our communal diversity was to be reduced to just dark blue, for political groups and ballot props?

Gay, the word we fought so hard and long to be adopted as our chosen group designation, has been made obsolete by Gay Inc and the expanding network of state orgs. Why did we picket the NY Times for years over their refusal to describe us as gay, only to run away from the word in our political battles of the new century?

Witness the creation in the past 10-12 years of statewide groups omitting gay from their names, and instead pretty much uniformly substituting equality, sometimes fairness, or in New York, pride, for gay.

One reason why I feel so little connection to Equality California, and the like, starts with the name. As a veteran gay community organizer, I still see the need and value to always putting gay visibility as the central value to our battles, and the equality mentality simply doesn't engage my gay sensibility. What equality for Gay Inc really equals is blandness, a muting of our eccentric and colorful nature as queers.

Then there's the ugly predominance of dark blue in the imagery of the equality orgs. Though the pink triangle and the rainbow flag have been overused and overmarketed, on occasion, they are easily recognizable brands of ID that we have worn with pride for decades. However, they're too problematic for equality orgs, who studiously avoid using the well established symbols.

The hope in the bright array of colors of the rainbow and pink triangle have been consiged to the dustbin of homosexual history. A rebranding of the gay community, the LGBT movement, and our shared symbols occurred I don't recall receiving an invitation to vote on that.

I'm not saying if the state orgs evolved to say gay in their namea and incorporated at least the rainbow flag in signage, that we'd have more tangible political achievements in hand. But if we did, it would represent a first step in a re-engagement with the large portion of the LGBT community that doesn't bond to empty equality and fairness arguments.

Putting gay and rainbow imagery back into our community's branding could also go far in better engaging the wider straight American public, that is comfortable discussing gay issues without first being re-educated with de-gayed equality lingo or somber blue designs.

Here are prime examples of logos and and signage that don't speak to my gay identity:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

NYT Showcases BDSM
Leatherwoman in Pics & Words

The Old Grey Lady reveals some of her black-and-blue interests with this profile and fabulous b/w pics of NYC leatherwoman.

Brava to both the Grey Lady and the Leather Lady for showing the readers a non-vanilla person, proud of her alt sexuality and flaunting it, fabulously. We've come a very long way from the dark days when the paper wouldn't use the term gay when writing about homosexuals of all sorts, if they deigned to cover us at all.

Check out the pics of and words from Lolita Wolf, described as "The Kinky Lover," who "[f]or 22 years [...] has been active in New York's B.D.S.M. scene - bondage, domination, sadism and masoschism."

Lolita would be most welcome at the Folsom and Dore Fairs, and I wager she's been to one or two of them, and was quite popular.
Standing Up for Public
Fellatio at Folsom Fair

(Several attendees at last night's meeting.)

Exactly 15 people, myself included, attended last night's 90-minute meeting at City Hall to discuss the 2009 editions of the Dore Alley and Folsom Street Fairs, and I have a report to share with all interested parties.

The meeting was a productive discussion ably guided by Demetri Moshoyannis and Andy Copper of Folsom Street Events, FSE, the non-profit org that puts on both fairs. Supervisor Bevan Dufty opened the talk explaining his role in helping FSE deal with city agencies and that he wanted to hear from the community about making the fairs even more great.

Among the folks sitting around the big table were reps from the Entertainment Commission, Real Bad party producers, the Janus Society, New Leaf, the mayor's office and two members unaffiliated with any org. Missing were reps from the police, fire, traffic and public works departments, agencies that are necessary to the permit process, and whose participation will be sought for future forums.

Demetri and Andy gave a recap of how 2-3 complaints filed against individual cops with the Office of Civilian Complaints, created controversy two months before the Dore Alley Fair, leading to a crackdown on public sex this year. When Demetri asked if there was a different vibe because of the crackdown, I spoke up and set there was, and that we lost public sex space - the alley next to the Powerhouse - and that I want to reclaim the right to engage in public fellatio, or watch it unimpeded by sex monitors.

I said a tent, that would be clearly marked for oral sex and alcohol-free, should be considered, as a safe space for consenting adults to engage in fellatio on a public street. Of course, some poor suckers, er, lucky volunteers would have to head up a committee to maintain security at the tent, or other structure, if this idea is to become reality, and I'd be the first to kneel down and pray that this happens. Demetri and Bevan will consider the tent idea and it will be revisited at future meetings.

Other attendees spoke up about the queer sexual culture of the SoMa district, which has certainly evolved over the decades, as has the erotic vibe for the fairs. Ways of engaging the fetish community and the city agencies include asking fair-goers to attend SF Police Commission and South Station meetings, in the spring, when the permit process is just getting underway. We need to have our voices heard at the police station responsible for SoMa, and the commission that oversees the SFPD.

Andy told of how the highest number of complaints are not about sex or nudity, but about kids and dogs. The reasons for the complaints are varied, and FSE, at the entry gates, strongly encourages people with children and pets to think twice about entering. Still, given that the fairs are on public streets, there will never be a way to keep pets and kids out.

A big concern for FSE is that they feel not enough of the fetish and gay communities, and the larger public, understand and appreciate the tremendous amounts of money given to non-profits. FSE would like for everyone to be knowledgeable about all the benefits that come back to the communities, after we've all had fabulous times, especially the millions of dollars donated to local groups.

Bevan mentioned he is arranging a meeting with Chief of Police George Gascon and leather leaders, to get him educated on the history of the fairs, and what the community wants from the cops on fair days.

Finally, Demetri and Andy explained that there is one big inter-agency meeting with assorted city government stakeholders, which takes place at the end of February or beginning of March. There was much agreement around the table that we would all work to be there, and to enlist the participation of our friends and fellow fair-goers.

All in all, the meeting was a fabulous public re-commitment to genuine and full engagement by the wonderful FSE folks and those of us who get so much pleasure, friendship, eye-candy and community-building from Folsom and Dore. Last night was the giant first step toward making the 2010 fair the best ever. Be ready to do your part to make that happen in the new year.
Gay Inc Again Blames Community for
Miscommunication Failures

I am of the opinion that our failure 32 times on gay marriage props, along with other problems holding back basic advancement of our civil rights, is not just because our opponents have more money or better arguments and leaders. Our non-advancement is also a product of weak, sometimes misguided, Gay Inc leadership.

After we lost gay marriage in Maine, our leaders trotted out the same old glass-is-full and we're making incremental progress despite losses. They reaffirmed their marriage to the hollow equality arguments and rendering the word gay invisible for future ballot props, which is also the context in which Gay Inc fights for us, day in and day out.

And when Gay Inc leaders are publicly asked to account for the state of our progress, all too often they absolve themselves and their orgs of any genuine responsibility for the stagnancy pervading the movement.

Joe Solmonese of the Human Rights Campaign engaged in such absolution in an August interview with US News & World Report. Using the framework of Obama's campaign promises, versus his actions in the White House and HRC's relationship with his administration, Solmonese said:

But where the LGBT community is feeling frustration is that the road map and timetable have not been made as clear to them.

And who might make the road map to victory visible to the community? Maybe HRC's well-funded and state-of-the-art public relations division? Joe, er, never makes it clear who hasn't shown us the road map. The basic problem for Joe is what the community can't see, not who is obscuring the plan for advancement.

The thing is, another member of the Gay Inc leadership circle, Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, marches in lock-step with Joe on this. Adam Bink spoke with Rea last week, about the state of the movement, for the group blog, and she eerily echoed Joe's "blame the community" thinking:

One of the things about marriage and the dominance in the media and the public sphere is that we've actually made all this other progress. Unfortunately, not a lot of people know about it, unless you're playing insider baseball.

Gayja vu, all over again. So, there's been lots of progress made, but the problem isn't that NGLTF, HRC and other professional advocacy and educational gay orgs are failing to achieve significant, significant and wide-reaching goals, then using their well-staffed communications departments to explain the progress. For Rea, the failure is that the millions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans who don't work in Gay Inc are ignorant of the progress, if they're not policy wonks.

If there's been an actual and true achieving of all this other progress, why the hell don't I feel and know it? Sorry, Joe and Rea, the big problem is not that the larger gay community can't see your road map or that the progress made is only understandable to baseball fanatics. Stop blaming the community for you and your orgs' weak advocacy.

A comment at from "TanyaM" raised important questions, that should be posed constantly to NGLTF:

I am sorry but how is NGLTF relevant any more? What do they do to earn their budget? I am not a huge fan of HRC, but it is HRC that is the lobby shop for the community in Washington, and that is involved in grassroots political work. When is the last thing that NGLTF did anything notable, on its own initiative, instead of taking "me too" credit primarily earned by HRC or a statewide organization?

If gays don't ask Gay Inc to justify themselves and their relevancy, who will?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Whipping Up Support: Folsom Fair Forum
Tonight at City Hall

(Just one golden reason why Folsom was so freaky and fine this year.)

There were a handful of complaints from prudes and anti-fun forces regarding nudity and public kink at the 2008 Dore and Folsom fairs, creating hassles for fair organizers and putting the fetish communities on the defensive. Organizers of the fairs, at the behest of many fair attendees, promised to hold a town hall to give us all a chance to, um, come together and discuss community engagement to make the fairs even more fabulous than they already are.

Last week, both Demetri Moshoyannis, head of Folsom Street Events, and Supervisor Bevan Dufty, send out announcements about the forum, which is at 6 pm this evening at City Hall in Room 305.

Not only is it fabulous to live in a city that hosts these two public fetish fairs that bring much consensual pleasure to hundreds of thousands of people, but it's also great that an open forum to foster dialogue between the community and city agencies responsible for the permits necessary to put on the fairs, is held at our beautiful City Hall.

From Demetri:

Hi, Michael! Here is the information about the event. We sent out a 5,000+ eblast about it and it's listed on our homepage too.

Community Feedback Meeting
Hosted by Supervisor Bevan Dufty

Folsom Street Events would like to hear from you about what makes our events so great and what would make them even better! There's no need to RSVP. Just stop by and listen or give us a piece of your mind. We hope to see you there!

From Bevan:

This Monday, November 23rd, I am co-hosting a public meeting with the organizers of Folsom Street to talk about the Street Fair. The meeting will take place at City Hall in Room 305 and begins at 6:00 pm.

I wanted to support the great work of Folsom Executive Director Demetri Moshoyannis and his hard-working volunteer Board while ensuring openness. So please come join us with your questions and concerns and we hope to have some social time after the meeting.

I can't wait to hear from the city representatives about how they'll work with fair organizers to make the 2010 events the best yet, and to also listen to the concerns of the kinksters. If you've got the time, show up to the meeting tonight and speak up for public kink on San Francisco streets.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Transgender Woman Burned to Death
in Italian Political Scandal

(Brenda, murdered transgender woman.
Photo credit:

Yesterday was the 11th annual International Transgender Remembrance Day, a day to recall all the murdered and bashed trans-persons in the previous year. It was also the day the body of a Brazilian-born transgender woman, so far IDed as Brenda, was found in the Lazio region of Italy. Brenda was burned to death, and according to news reports, no suspect has been arrested in her death.

From Reuters:

A Brazilian transsexual caught up in a scandal which prompted the resignation of a senior Italian politician -- the center-left governor of Lazio region, which includes Rome -- was found burned to death in his home Friday. Police found a body following a fire in a basement flat in a neighborhood frequented by transsexual prostitutes and court sources said magistrates were treating the death as murder.

Forensic tests were expected to identify the remains as those of a transsexual known only as Brenda, police said.

Brenda and another Brazilian transsexual were at the center of a case involving the blackmail of former Lazio Governor Piero Marrazzo by four police officers who secretly filmed him having sex and taking drugs with one of the transsexuals. [...]

Marrazzo's lawyer Luca Petrucci told reporters Brenda's death was "really worrying news" and demanded police protection for the other transsexual in the case, who is known as Natalie.

Let us remember Brenda, and all of our other dead transgender brothers and sisters, this weekend, while we also fight for policies lessening discrimination against transgender people everywhere and stand in solidarity with them.

Wolfson's FTM: No IRS 990;
Astraea's Fiscal Sponsorship

If you want to follow the money at Evan Wolfson's Freedom to Marry, you have to hopscotch around to locate basic financial information.

I tried to locate FTM's IRS 990 reports at the GuideStar site, because I assumed, incorrectly, that the org had its own 501(c)3 tax exempt status from the feds. FTM, despite a budget approaching one million dollars annually, is fiscally sponsored by the Astraea Foundation, which describes itself as a "dynamic global foundation providing critically needed financial support to lesbian-led, trans, LGBTI and progressive organizations."

Evan's group is not lesbian-led. And because FTM is not a free-standing non-profit, it isn't required by the IRS to file a 990, which is why GuideStar has no filings on them. Hop on over to the FTM donation page to get a clue about its link to Astraea:

Donations made online will appear as "Astraea Foundation" on your credit card statement. Freedom to Marry is a project of the Astraea Lesbian Foundation.

Want to know how much Evan is paid as executive director of FTM? You better know Astraea is his fiscal sponsor and have to read that org's IRS 990 filings to get his salary info.

The 2008 IRS filing for Astraea, click here to read it, twice lists two EDs and their salaries. Evan's pay was $156,700 last year, while the real ED of Astraea, Katherine Acey, earned $127,000. Nowhere in the filing does it say that Evan is ED of a separate org.

Then, to confuse things more, GuideStar posts two 990 reports from Astraea for 2007. The January 2007 version lists Evan as co-ED making $151,589, while Kathy is listed as the other ED, earning $109,413.

In the May 2007 version, Astraea's 990 reports the same salaries for both, but Evan is identified as ED of "FTM" and Kathy is identified as ED of "NBJC". Neither org's name is fully spelled out, but we know what FTM stands for, and NBJC is the National Black Justice Coalition, a gay civil rights org. Why does a 990 for Astraea list its ED as the ED of another org?

(It's another matter entirely why Astraea is providing all this sponsorship of a non-lesbian-led org, why there is such a long-term fiscal sponsorship between FTM and Astraea, and why can't Evan just get his own IRS tax exemption. I've asked Kathy to address these and other concerns about all this, and will publish her response early next week.)

The Astraea IRS 990 gives no information about FTM's revenue and expenses, so I asked Evan how to locate it. He said to read his annual reports, and I jumped over to his site's "About Us" page where a link is shared to the three most recent annual reports. What do they reveal?

In 2006 FTM reported revenue of $1.5 million, total expenses of $1.6 million, and $445,000 in regrants and support to partner orgs.

The 2007 version showed $1.4 million for revenue, $1.3 million for expenses, and $283,439 for regrants and support. In 2008, FTM's revenue was $1.1 million, expenses of $1.2 million, and $316,974 in regrants and support.

All that info, along with other fiscal data, need to be presented by FTM in its own IRS 990. And FTM makes this claim regarding his alleged exempt status:

Founded in January 2003, Freedom to Marry is a non-partisan, not-for-profit 501c(3) organization.

No,it's not, and Evan said as much in an email to me, in which I wondered why FTM lacks its own 501(c)3 status and is it in the process of obtaining it from the IRS:

Because Freedom to Marry was created to get a job done in the most efficient way possible, and for the first several years, that was by avoiding building new infrastructure beyond what was needed. [...] We will obtain independent 501c3 status when that seems the best thing to do in order to get the job done.

Huh? So an org that sets up its own physical office on Manhattan's West 23rd Street, is avoiding infrastructure in not obtaining a tax exemption? Sounds to me like FTM does need infrastructure, after all, its agenda of gay marriage across America, is an extended project. An org with an annual million-dollar-plus in revenue and an office should have its own tax exemption.

Confusion and peculiarities abound, and I hope much-needed clarification comes from Evan and Kathy. I believe Evan should have long ago established his own independent 501(c)3 for his seven-year old org that doesn't involved fiscal sponsorship with another org. There should be real transparency over his FTM, and right now, murkiness is the key word in terms of following the money at FTM.

Friday, November 20, 2009

J'burg, NYC, DC: Gay Uganda
Protests Show Solidarity

(Activists picketing in Washington yesterday at the Ugandan Embassy. Photo credit: Michael T. Luongo, Gay City News.)

(Demonstrators outside the Ugandan mission to the UN yesterday. Photo credit: Gay City News.)

As someone who criticized the non-governmental orgs for not taking to the streets because of the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill under consideration in Uganda, I have a few things to say about actions this week in solidarity with the troubled gay Ugandan community: Bravo, fabulous, a job very well done, and thanks.

Yes, it really pumped my global activist blood seeing many NGO staffers and regular gay and AIDS activists picketing. The beauty and power that come when we get off our computers, come together as a group in public, target a government office during business hours, is something we need a lot more of. It doesn't always take hundreds of protesters to send a message that we demand justice and respect.

The dozens of men and women in Johannesburg, New York City and Washington, DC, deserve kudos and more attention for their activism. And thanks go out to the staff at Gay City News for their coverage.

Let's hope the coordinated same-day actions happen again, and on a monthly basis would be fine, with NGOs spearheading the organizing, at other UN missions and embassies. We all know there are many countries mistreating their gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and HIV positive citizens, so there are plenty of targets for monthly pickets. If our brothers and sisters in DC and NYC are considering more global gay street action, I ask that they look next at staging a picket at the Jamaican embassy.

Now, onto the reports about the actions. This info is from Juliana Cano Nieto at Human Rights Watch:

Hope everyone can join us [at the NYC action], 80 people showed up in the Johannesburg demo!

I apologize for lack of a photo thus far from the South African action, but once I get an image of that protest, I'll share it. And this reporting comes from Paul Schindler at Gay City News:

Roughly four dozen LGBT activists and allies turned out on November 19 to protest at Uganda House –– that nation’s permanent mission to the United Nations on Manhattan’s East 45th Street –– voicing their outrage about a draconian proposal to criminalize the promotion of same-sex conduct and impose the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality.”

Amanda Lugg, the British-born lesbian advocacy director at the African Services Committee whose father is from Uganda, told the protesters that she was there “standing in solidarity” with gay, lesbian, and HIV-positive Ugandans.

The proposed anti-homosexuality law would supplement existing legal prohibitions on “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature” –– a measure already used to persecute openly gay men and lesbians there.

The new measure specifically criminalizes same-sex conduct –– ranging from sexual stimulation to “touching another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality” –– with a potential sentence of life imprisonment. [...]

Approximately 30 activists gathered outside the Ugandan Embassy in Washington, also on November 19. According to Bob Witeck, a DC public relations professional who did pro bono publicity for the Washington protest, three activists were invited inside to meet with Embassy staff.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

BAR: Gay Inc Needs
A New Marriage Strategy

Leland Traiman, head of the Gay Sperm Bank and a longtime gay advocate in the East Bay, has an a terrific column in today's Bay Area Reporter, summing up a desperate plea to Gay Marriage Inc leaders coming from many gay people: Give us a new strategy.

It's a story older than Adam and Steve in the Garden of Eden, the gulf between our self-anointed professional leaders and the large segment of average LGBT people, just struggling to get by and who want more tangible accomplishments from our orgs. Even when faced with setback after setback with a closeted strategy, and real push for change from the grassroots, our paternalistic leaders won't evolve in their stewardship of our orgs and the gay agenda.

But I remain optimistic fundamental evolution at the top echeleons of Gay Inc will one day get a Plan B, and I know it will be because of people like Leland and his public demand for new thinking. Be sure and check out Leland's blog, NationalMarriageEquality.

Here are excerpts from his BAR column:

Same-sex marriage has never won an election. Maine was our 33rd loss. On the other hand, domestic partnership has never, on its own, lost an election. [...]

The question I have for our community's leaders (you know to whom I refer, the alphabet soup of NCLR, HRC, NGLTF, GLAD, EQCA, Lambda, etc.): "Are we so used to losing that we now want to add domestic partnerships and civil unions to the list, or, are we going to wake up and realize we need a new strategy?"

The clarion call of "marriage, marriage, only marriage" has not worked and seems unlikely to in the near future. We need a new strategy (possibly, our old one) which, will, first, defend the rights we already have won and, second, create a strategy that expands our rights. A new strategy might also spare us from our new annual ritual of having a gut-wrenching cry when we have lost another election. [...]

Our losses will not stop if we keep repeating our failures without changing our strategy. Sadly, I see many in our community clinging to the marriage-only strategy with the same irrational religious zeal of a born-again Christian. I understand such zeal for our goal, which is equality. But I do not understand why so many in our community are wedded to a strategy that has repeatedly failed us.

We need a new strategy.

Freedom to Marry: No Plan B

The gay community has lost 32 gay marriage ballot propositions, and one of the key architects of the strategies to fight them is Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry, FTM. Over the past week, with typical standoff-ish reluctance, Evan's engaged in an exchange of emails and he's addressed some of my concerns with the losses. One thing I've learned from years of personal interactions with him is that he argues by dismissing the questions or who's asking it, rejecting how questions are framed and exaggeration.

For example, I asked about changing tactics and if FTM had a Plan B that might lead to one or two wins. Evan's reply:

I don't agree with your framing. Conflating the "32 gay marriage prop losses" is misleading and unhelpful.

The work now (you can call it "Plan B," but I consider it what we've always needed to do) is to improve the capacity to win ballot-measures, building on an expansion of the overall winning strategy of combining public education, mobilization, outreach, organizing, litigation, and legislative work to secure and advance in more states while continuing to move public opinion.

In short, no Plan B, and he believes he already has a winning strategy. Paging Mr. Orwell! If 32 ballot losses are a victory, I'd hate to learn what Evan considers a setback.

Calling for building up the state equality groups, with more of hollow equality and fairness rhetoric that voters keep rejecting and running away from being gay identified, shows how committed Evan is to his losing strategy. We must look at his influence over the campaign leaders, including governors, and what they say on TV.

The week before Mainers voted, Gov. Baldacci went on Rachel Maddow's show, and like Evan, dismissed the question of a Plan B. Wanna guess who gave the gov his talking points? Just like in California last year with Prop 8, a campaign Evan advised, the Maine leaders ignored the realistic chance of losing and having a backup plan of any sort in place. This is political suicide and unacceptable.

How does Evan like dealing with me and what does he think of my advocacy? In his own words:

Beyond that, I am fine answering questions or addressing your concerns/thoughts from time to time, as I do with anyone. But, at the risk of inflaming you, I don't buy into a dynamic where someone presents as a self-anointed ombudsmen [sic] whose contribution to our movement is critiquing everyone else. That would pose the issues regarding accountability, transparency, objectivity, judgment, and productivity you sometimes raise regarding others.

Hmm, just like he didn't approve of how I framed my Plan B query, Evan says he's not buying into communicating with me for a number of reasons. He then buys into the dynamic of dealing with me in, yes, my self-anointed role as an ombudsman. I appreciate his Freudian slip as he uses the plural of ombudsman in describing one of my roles in the movement. I wish we had more self-anointed watchdogs.

But the larger context to the reply is how Evan shifts the focus away from FTM and the 32 losses at the ballot box for gay marriage. He can't have a debate about his vanity charity's long-held beliefs in waging the campaigns, and their failures, because it's been determined by Evan and colleagues that campaigns will be framed in equality and fairness arguments.

In response to my question about whether a recent meeting of his steering committee was open to public, Evan said:

Finally, even if it were true that "sunshine" were really your agenda and the perspective from which you write your posts, unlike you, I don't believe that every meeting, every bit of research, every strategy, every accusation, every grievance, or every doubt is best made public. Perhaps we will have to agree to disagree on that.

Again, when a simple no would have been appreciated, before launching into dismissing sunshine concerns, Evan diverts attention from lack of transparency with FTM. He fails to state how his organization practices sunshine, then exaggerates my transparency philosophy.

So, he's got no Plan B, he thinks we're winning, he's says we're close to mission accomplished on gay marriage and he lost a November 9 Nightline Twittercast debate with Maggie Gallagher. If you haven't watched that exchange, you really should, just to get a visual and aural sense of Evan's debating and engagement skills, which are not achieving wins at the ballot box.

When the next state gay marriage measure goes before the voters, rest assured Evan will be there to execute the basic CA and ME strategies, with some marginal changes, on our way to racking up our next electoral loss.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Decline to Sign CA's 5, or 1,
Gay Marriage Prop(s)

(A paid signature gatherer at the Market Street Safeway, working on insurance, marijuana and Congressional restricting petitions, this afternoon.)

Let's talk about the confusion over how many potential ballot initiatives are now supposedly out there for voters to consider signing. The political blog for the SF Chronicle last night reported on the number of petitions approved for circulating, thus launching some of the confusion:

Want to repeal California's ban on gay marriage? You now have five chances to get an initiative on the ballot.

Pay attention, 'cause this could get confusing. No less than five initiatives have been cleared for takeoff by the Secretary of State's office. All five would repeal the current provision in California's Constitution that limits marriages to between a man and a woman [...]

That's a lot of initiatives to consider signing, but one of the organizers behind the signature gathering, Jeffrey Taylor of San Francisco, in a message posted to Towleroad, which also said there were five initiatives, said that figure is wrong:

The press isn't looking hard enough at the ballot language. All 5 versions were filed by the same proponents in order to have more time to choose which version was best, and the proponents have chosen to move forward on only ONE version. The other versions will NOT have signatures collected on them. You should expect the other versions to be withdrawn, but there is lag time between the California Secretary of State's office issuing of Title and Summary (the official go ahead for signatures) and acknowledging the withdrawal of other language.

That clarification irons some of the conflicting info, but it also raises questions about why any organization would file so many different versions of an initiative, and then expect the press and the public to pay careful attention to nuances in the petition process. Not the best way to launch a controversial measure.

In any event, the news release from the Secretary of State has this headline: Five Marriage Equality Initiatives Enter Circulation.

If the SoS has it wrong, then the backers of the initiative(s) should do everything in their power to get a corrective release from the SoS, or put out their own factual statement tidying up this numerical confusion.

So far, the primary group behind this misguided effort, Love Honor Cherish down in Los Angeles, has not seen the need to correct the misinformation of the SoS, Chronicle, Towleroad and any other blog or news source reporting the five number. If LHC can't be bothered to issue a release admitting the confusion exists and working to undo it, I don't think they'll be very useful waging an actual statewide campaign.

Whether it's one or five potential initiatives, I encourage everyone to decline to sign the petitions. The California gay community is so splintered and disorganized, we wouldn't win even in 2014. We don't need another wasteful gay marriage measure put before the voters, especially when it is launched so haphazardly and based on the same tired old losing equality rhetoric.

The site to visit for the petition is named, and the imagery is a replica of the dark blue signage from the No on 8 committee, and we all know what a failure the signage was for that group. I guess the SignForEquality and LHC people aren't interested in learning from the mistakes of last year, and avoiding them.

It may turn out to be quite easy to get a serious decline to sign going. I went out today to look at two key spots where signature gatherers always set up shop, and couldn't find anyone pushing petitions for the repeal effort. Someone should tell the 2010 repealers to either get serious, or go away and come back another day.

(Paid promoters at Castro and 18th Streets, pushing car-sharing today.)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

ME Gay Loss: No Plan B,
Straight Man's Burden

With only days to go before the election, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow invited Maine's Democratic governor on her show to discuss Question 1, the measure on gay marriage. As with practically every other gay ballot proposition, the Maine politicians and gay and allied leaders, had no Plan B in case we lost. Look at the transcript and see lame political spinning in action:

MADDOW: Governor, how confident are you about how this ballot measure is going to go on Tuesday? And if the law is overturned, if the Yes on One forces win, is there a Plan B for same-sex marriage rights in Maine?

BALDACCI: I think, Rachel, it‘s a very good question. But when I visited the campaign office, there were over 8,000 volunteers, Rachel. And almost all of them are from the state of Maine. They‘re from families in the state of Maine. There are college students. There are older people, retired people, working people that are working on this.

And they‘re working day and night in the campaign offices throughout the state. I was talking with Jesse Connolly(ph) and he was telling me about how driven and motivated they are and about the early voting that‘s already taken place. [...]

What a bucket of warmed-over spit. The governor lies about it being a good question, then doesn't answer it, while boasting how terrific the people are working on the pro-gay side. I, for one gay man, am sick to death of such spin and lack of planning like this, then trying to divert attention from the core issue, Plan B. Rachel wasn't going along with the spinning:

MADDOW: And a backup plan?

BALDACCI: I think the way I approach this, Rachel, is that we conduct a campaign well. We‘ve been able to get a lot of information and education out to people about a very difficult issue for some people, an emotional issue for some people to grapple with. So I think we‘ve made a lot of inroads.

So I think whatever the results are, I‘m very pleased of the efforts and abilities of a lot of people to be able to look inside themselves and realize that it‘s only an issue of fairness. It‘s an issue of equal protection. [...]

Not only does the governor spin like a dervish, he mouths a bunch of platitudes about the campaign for fairness and equality, the vague talking points that didn't help defeat Prop 8 last year.

It is this sort of nonsense and evasion that should frustrate the gay community, to the point where we examine and end the spin. After triple-digits losses, we need to put spokespeople on TV who will easily not only present a Plan B, but will also admit unequivocally that the ballot measures are indeed about gay people. We need to stop allowing campaign leaders to de-gay the initiatives.

Speaking of campaign leaders, Jesse Connolly, the heterosexual head of Protect Maine Equality, the group that dare not speak it's gay marriage equality name, penned a column for the Huffington Post over the weekend, offering some thoughts about the loss. His column reeks of "straight man's burden" attitude and an irritating naivete.

From the get-go, Jesse talks how difficult it is for him to start to address the loss, ten long days after the election and the burdens he bears because lots of people beyond his state's borders haven't waited for him to opine:

While it's difficult and, one might suggest, even slightly irresponsible to weigh in on our marriage equality loss so soon, it's also tough to sit on the sidelines while others make sweeping proclamations or conclusions, usually hundreds or thousands of miles away from Maine.

What does it matter where critics live at this point? We've all seen the election efforts and results, and for those of use old-timer gays who've witness and volunteered for gay ballot props over three decades, it's never too early to begin analyzing our latest loss.

First and foremost, marriage equality is a complex issue. Many people are conflicted and we know from national and state specific polling that it is very difficult to move people on this issue, particularly in the confines of short campaigns.

Secondly, our opponents capitalized on that conflict by constant distortion and misrepresentation.

He wants to talk how marriage is a complex issue? He can start by simply stating the ballot measure was about gays and marriage. I'm not sure what is gained by Jesse admitting known facts about gay marriage and those who are against it. His two points are the same one made time and again by those who run these campaigns. Given that the points are always in play with the props, what did Jesse do differently this time than all the other times we lost?

Remember, this was a campaign where we got up on the air first and where we put genuine Maine values as the context for supporting marriage equality. We used real Maine families: gay and lesbian Mainers and their kids, and parents who wanted all of their children treated equally under the law. In sharp contrast to other campaigns, gay and lesbian families were woven into our advertising and images as they are in society - organically and realistically.

It isn't until the fifth paragraph that Jesse uses the word gay, illustrating again how the campaign leaders go out of their way to avoid saying gay too soon or too loudly. Sorry, but it ain't enough in my book to give the Mainers brownie points in 2009 for including gay people in TV ads. And guess what? That cosmetic addition to the media strategy wasn't enough to overcome the basic closetry of the campaign.

Here's what I do believe after some sleep and a break from the caffeine: we moved the equality ball further up the hill, not just in Maine, but everywhere else. Voters do need these conversations which we had by the tens of thousands; they do need to see real gay and lesbian couples and their children up close and personal; and they do need to be reminded that these are neighbors and soccer coaches we're talking about, not "homosexual activists" which is the well worn handle our opponents trot out.

Sorry, but after triple-digit losses, all waged by de-gayed campaigns, and with milions of gay dollars spent, it's not nearly good enough anymore for these campaigns to simply move the "equality ball." At minimum, we must start insisting that the campaigns be gay-specific educational efforts and stop wasting precious money and time on failed and empty vague equality arguments.

Would also be good if Jesse can one day see that even "homosexual activists" should be discussed by Mainers, and that there is nothing wrong with being one. I don't know about you, but I feel the way the phrase is used, is as a slam against activists.

I'm not skirting anything here when I suggest that we need to remember that it was not long ago when we were losing in double digits, when they threw an anti-marriage equality question on a ballot in a presidential year to drive conservatives to the polls.

It may turn out to be simply this: that by moving this basic premise of equality from the sink hole of catastrophic defeat state after state, year after year, to within striking distance of a win, that we are almost to the finish line.

More blather about vague equality and omitting references to gays, all the while put a Pollyanna gloss on the loss in Maine. Frankly, with 32 gay marriage initiative losses, we ain't even close to the finish line, but these campiagn managers have to drag out their shop-worn cliches in order make themselves feel good.

There are probably huge demands to make on the Gay Inc leaders and allies preparing for the next ballot props, but they must be made: Develop a Plan B, admit the props are about gays, and be ready to start objectively analyzing losses within 24 hours of polling places closing.
Vid of London Action for Gay Ugandans

Dennis Hambridge, who helped organize the November 7 protest at a Ugandan government office in London, has created a vid of one of the speakers, Davis Mac-Iyalla, a gay exile from Nigeria, explaining the importance of getting into the streets for gay Ugandans:

Notice all the pedestrians passing by, paying only fleeting attention, if that, to the demonstration taking place for gay people in Uganda. If any of us needed a reminder of how too many people ignore the plight of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons around our small planet, the disinterested Londoners walking by as Mac-Iyalla talks are the reminder.

Here is the info for the American actions on Thursday, November 19:

1) WHERE: Ugandan Embassy
5911 16th Street, NW
Washington, DC

TIME: 2:00 PM – 3 PM ET

2) WHERE: Uganda Mission to the United Nations
336 E. 45th St. (Btwn 1st & 2nd Aves)
New York, NY

TIME: 12:30 pm

I appeal to everyone in those cities to make an appearance at the protests. Raise your voice to stop the potentially deadly anti-homosexual bill under consideration by Ugandan leaders.

Radical Ideas for Future
Gay Ballot Props

If you count the devastating California Prop 22 loss in 2000, which does not show up on list of gay marriages propositions we've lost, our list of such setbacks is 32, not 31 times we failed to persuade voters to uphold gay marriage principles. The 32 number is part of the more than 100 gay-specific measures we've lost. With so many failures hanging around our necks, we need to debate other ways of approaching the measures, and I wish to offer a few radical ideas for consideration. But first, a short history lesson.

On election night in November 1988, I was in Portland, Oregon, at the headquarters of the group fighting ballot Measure 8, a prop that rescinded job protections for gay executive branch employees. The non-gay visible campaign was waged by Oregonians for Fairness, OFF, and they ran away from admitting the measure was about gays. Instead, OFF framed the debate as one of human rights, and the prop passed with 53% of the vote. I complained about the invisibility of gay people from the media strategy and OFF leaders told me to go away.

Twenty long, losing years later, on election night in November 2008, I was in a ballroom at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, rented by the No on Prop 8 executive committee, as results from national and state races came in. It was clear Prop 8 would pass and the California gay marriage experiment was coming to a end.

Just as in 1988, the official non-gay group fighting Prop 8 did everything in its power to deny the issue was about gay people and gay marriage, and the measure passed with 52% of voter approval. Using the same vague closeted campaign strategies, we had moved the needle one percentage point in two decades. But on election night 2008, I didn't wait around to hear the speeches of Gay Inc leaders. I've heard enough of their empty rhetoric.

Our messaging, and it starts with the branding of the names of the groups battling the measures, is premised on the toxic notion that there is something wrong with being a gay group. By omitting gay from the name, we not only send a self-stigmatizing signal to heterosexuals, we also don't connect to the large segment of the out gay community that doesn't emotionally connect to Equality-This or Fairness-That.

We saw in Maine a continuation of this problem with Protect Maine Equality. While PME made cosmetic changes to the media messaging by including actual gay people in TV ads, the underlying foundation of the campaign was one of equality and fairness, and those concepts don't resonate with moderate or older voters. Our bar has been set so low for so long, that in 2009 (!) it is a big deal for one of these efforts to show and talk about real gays.

Of course, simply having the gay word in the group's name isn't enough for effective and bold advocacy. Witness GLAAD and NGLTF. And it won't necessarily be enough to win the next state ballot measure if the lead organization is called Gay Marriage Equality Now. However, with so many ballot failures staring us in the collective face, I would like to see us experiment with how we engage the electorate, if only to restore some dignity and proud liberation to our movement, two components sorely missing from the equality and fairness methods.

Given our triple-digit losses, intransigent commitment to doing the same old campaign and not enough new thinking from Gay Inc, there is the real probability of setbacks in the next batch of state initiatives. I think we will at best, if we're lucky, move the needle slightly in our favor. As we know, in Maine, our opponents moved the needle fractionally in their direction since the Prop 8 vote, an alarming development that should force us to radically reconsider these campaigns.

A few radical ideas:

1) Our chief organization fighting the prop puts gay in the name and embraces the fact it is gay-specific.

2) Vague equality and fairness arguments, which aren't moving enough voters, are kept to a minimum.

3) Early on, admit we want the existence of gay people and our diverse families included in school curricula.

4) Have multiple TV ad campaigns, one soft and fuzzy like Hallmark greeting cards, another feisty and humorous, and a third gritty and hard-hitting about the toll discrimination has on gays.

5) Brighten up the signage with lighter, more welcoming colors. Incorporate the rainbow flag. Add words like gay marriage, and toss in a few human faces or stick figures.

6) Hire consultants who will show up to the gunfight at the OK corral with more than a dainty set of tweezers and nail clippers.

7) Set up many debates with opponents and learn from how Harvey Milk used debates to defeat the Briggs Initiative.

8) Be prepared for the other side to use lies and distortions in TV spots, and attempt pre-emptive moves.

9) Keep patronizing know-it-all gay lawyers who speak in legalese off TV.

10) Avoid labeling opponents skeevy or bigots or hateful. They may indeed be all of those things, but calling them that isn't bringing voters to our side.

11) On election night, when it's clear our side has lost, don't do like Prop 8 and No on 1 leaders and refuse to concede. Denial is not healthy or pretty.

12) With enthusiasm, fully embrace the wide diversity of the gay community and really put our creative fabulous nature to work.

13) Have a Plan B for when we lose. Leaders of the CA and Maine initiatives were absolutely clueless on this front. Two things happen on election night. You either win or lose. We never seem prepared to lose.

14) Make sure post-election rallies and community forums are scheduled for after the election loss. Enough with the "chicken without a head" post-election style of leadership.

15) Talk to pot heads. While gays have suffered too many ballot failures, people who smoke and promote medical marijuana win with voters. The Maine pot prop won with 59% of the vote. What are they doing right and how can we learn from them?

These ideas may not be enough to produce an honest-to-Goddess win, but they'll go far to instill out and proud gay visibility to multi-million dollar campaigns, and when we lose, we'll at least lose as rightfully assertive gay people standing up for ourselves.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Gay Uganda Says Thanks;
Nov 19 DC Vigil Details Announced

Today I received a note of thanks from a leader with Gay Uganda, who must remain anonymous for his or her safety, in response to my recent blogging on the situation in his country for our brothers and sisters, and I was quite moved by his gesture.

And I wish to expand and share his word of thanks beyond me to all the folks in London who protested at a Ugandan government office on November 7, and the growing number of people organizing demonstrations to take place next week.

I'm pleased to play a small role in any global solidarity actions for gay Ugandans and hope everyone reading this who lives near NYC or DC, is at the November 19 actions. Mark Bromley of Global Equality shared the following information on the action at the embassy:

Save Lives, Oppose Cruelty and Speak Up For LGBTQ Human Rights in Uganda And Against Bill No. 18: The Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda

WHAT: Demonstration in solidarity with LGBTQ Ugandans

WHEN: Thursday, November 19, 2009

TIME: 2:00 PM – 3 PM ET

WHERE: Ugandan Embassy
5911 16th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20011

CONTACT: Mark Bromley,

Directions: 2 miles north of Columbia Heights Metro Stop on 16TH street; or 1 mile northwest of the Georgia Ave/Petworth Metro Stop on Quincy Street; also accessible via 16th Street buses.

The DC organizers explained the reasons for their action: "If passed, Bill Number 18 introduced in the Ugandan Parliament, will make homosexuality an offense punishable by death in Uganda. The vote on the bill may take place as early as January 2010. The Ugandan LGBTQ community has urged demonstrations of solidarity around the world in protest and to let Ugandan leaders know the whole world is watching. In America, we will let our leaders know that this bill, if adopted, would undermine Congressional funding for PEPFAR and other U.S. tax dollars that help Uganda fight AIDS. "

Carey Alan Johnson from IGLHRC sent along this info on another action for next week:

IGLHRC is also collaborating with the Coalition of African Lesbians and other groups for a demonstration at the Ugandan Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa on Tuesday next week. We are very much in favor of direct, public action as a strategic tool for LGBT liberation.

Hey, Mark and Carey, good work on this street activism at embassies and UN missions. We need more of it from you guys, and others in the gay community joining in your actions.

If anyone knows of a web site listing all the cities, times, locations, contact persons, etc., for the action, lemme know the URL. And if one doesn't exist, I'll create such a page here.
Evan Wolfson and ABC's Twittercast
on Gay Marriage

A gay political insider from DC told me a few days back that I simply had to watch Evan Wolfson lose a debate with Maggie Gallagher on ABC News Nightline Twittercast. He's the leader of Freedom to Marry, while she's head of the National Organization for Marriage. Actually, debate is the wrong word, because the reporter did a lousy job of keeping the discussion civil and respectful. As too often happens on TV, the debate was really an interruption-fest, especially by Maggie, who was not adequately reined in by the reporter.

That being said, I wasn't impressed with Evan's performance and told him so in an email, asking him to reply to my concerns. Unfortunately, he declined to engage with me on the record. His response was off the record and I'll respect this. Evan's excuse for not wanting to be quoted? He'd rather not be quoted evaluating his own performance. Sounds like extreme "control queenism" to me.

A few things that bothered me were Evan's insistence that we came very close to winning in Maine last week, we're not fighting for gay marriage per se, but for marriage freedom, and that gays aren't out to redefine marriage. I believe the vote was far from close, that saying this battle is not gay-specific is not a view the voters agree with, and that gays, like straight people, are indeed reinventing the institution of marriage.

The part where Evan really tried my patience with his lawyerly and stiff debating style, was when he didn't directly answer the reporter's question about why gays can't just accept the benefits of civil unions and giving gay marriages another name. See vid number 2, at the 4:40 mark.

For once, Maggie didn't immediately interrupt Evan, but he totally avoided addressing the question at hand. Instead, Evan went off on a tangent about groups that oppose civil unions giving money to Maggie's organization, and that NOM is under investigation in three states. He tried desperately to be heard over her sniping, and the cross-talk was beyond irritating.

About 4 minutes after the civil unions question was posed, some calmed reigned, and Evan offered a response about vocabulary nuances associated with marriage as one reason why civil unions aren't enough for the gay community, which I don't think would satisfy average voters who aren't English majors. I would have preferred to hear a cogent answers why civil unions just don't cut it, and to hear the answers before a tirade about bad donors or state investigations.

Overall, I found Maggie came across on the computer monitor as a very sore winner, but one with a demeanor that lots of voters in Maine apparently like because they voted as she and her allies asked them to. And again, the ABC News reporter must be spanked for her lame control of the segment and failure to keep the talk respectful, following basic rules of decorum for a political debate, yet still entertaining to viewers.

But my biggest frustration from the program was with Evan's performance. This is unfair, but I have to say watching and listening to Evan brought back painful memories of all the infuriating appearances on TV by No on Prop 8 leaders Geoff Kors and Kate Kendell, leading up to the election last year. Just like Evan this week, when Geoff and Kate went on TV to discuss gay marriage and ballot measures, they didn't win my empathy, all because they projected cerebral lawyerly parsing of language and spent too much time denying the issue before voters was indeed gay-specific.

If we want to radically change how the gay community fights these gay marriage ballot initiatives, and potentially winning the hearts and minds of average Americans and voters, we're going to have to engage in public criticism and constructive suggestions to improve the performances of our leaders who get on national TV.

We gays are not helping the situation when we only examine how Maggie comes across in such TV interruption-fests. Over at GoodAsYou, Jeremy Hooper analyzes just Maggie and what he doesn't like about her performance. Sure, we don't like her, her arguments or her style, but she's racking up more wins than us. No one on our side is helped when we ignore or fail to evaluate how our leaders behave in such appearances.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Nov 19 Gay Uganda Actions in NYC & DC

(Gay Ugandan exiles and their allies demonstrated on November 7th in London.)

Earlier this week I called attention to a demonstration over last weekend at the Uganda House governmental office in London, because of a horrific and potentially deadly bill being considered by Uganda politicians and religious leaders. It cheered my activist heart to see a street protest took place in London, organized by unpaid volunteers, after a call to action was issued by gay Ugandans, who, for myriad security and safety reasons can't demonstrate in their own country.

However, I also took the well-funded human rights non-governmental organizations in New York and DC, where many are based, to task for not getting out of their suites and into the streets on behalf our brothers and sisters in the African nation.

But today I received this information about street protests on November 19 in those two cities, and other global locations, and I am pleased to see the NGOs I criticized are taking action. I offer sincere thanks and high praise for this development by the NGO staffers on behalf of the beleaguered gay Ugandans. Let this upcoming action become a regular occurrence by NGO staffers at embassies in Washington and UN missions in Manhattan.

From an email circulating today on the web:


When: Thursday, November 19, 12:30 pm
Where: Uganda House, 336 E. 45th St. (Btwn 1st & 2nd Aves)

This demonstration is being organized in response to the global call for action from November 9th to December 10th, Human Rights Day, by SMUG (Sexual Minorities Uganda) a network of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people's organizations based Uganda.

Join with African Services Committee, IGLHRC (International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission), Human Rights Watch, Health GAP and many other local HIV/AIDS and social justice organizations in the area on Thursday, November 19th at 12:30pm outside the Ugandan Consulate [sic, it's the Ugandan mission to the UN] in New York to protest this assault on the basic human rights for the Ugandan LGBT community as proposed in Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Similar actions are happening around the world including in Copenhagan, Ottowa, Pretoria and on the same day in Washington D.C.

The Issue:

The Ugandan Parliament is now considering a homophobic law that would reaffirm penalties for homosexuality and criminalize the "promotion of homosexuality." The Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 targets lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Ugandans, their defenders and anyone else who fails to report them to the authorities whether they are inside or outside of Uganda.


Uganda's Penal Code Article 145a already criminalizes "carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature" – a charge used to prosecute, persecute and blackmail LGBT people with the threat of life imprisonment. The new bill would specifically penalize homosexuality, using life imprisonment to punish anything from sexual stimulation to simply "touch[ing] another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality." It also punishes "aggravated homosexuality" – including activity by "serial offenders" or those who are HIV positive – with the death penalty.

A tip of the hat to Bill Dobbs, for sharing this important info.