Tuesday, December 29, 2009

NYT: 10% of Military Sexual Abuse
Cases Are Male-on-Male Attacks


The New York Times ran a lengthy front-page article yesterday about some of the sexual harassment and rapes suffered by woman in the U.S. armed services. After too many years of the Department of Defense ignoring or underplaying the sexual hazards faced by female soldiers, military leaders are creating programs to document and deal with the abuse.

Left unstated was the matter of the male attackers' sexual orientation, presumably heterosexual. To my gay mind, it was incumbent upon the paper to delve into this because many conservative defenders of the anti-gay Don't Ask/Don't Tell policy erroneously claim the mere presence of open homosexuals could destroy unit cohesion. Seems plain to me, thanks to such Times pieces, that unit cohesion and morale suffer when heterosexual males sexually abuse female soldiers.

One thing that stood out was this paragraph, because it shows how the ban on gays in the military prevents males sexually attacked by other males from coming forward to report abuses:

At least 10 percent of the victims in the last year were men, a reality that the Pentagon’s task force said the armed services had done practically nothing to address in terms of counseling, treatment and prosecution. Men are considered even less likely to report attacks, officials said, because of the stigma, and fears that their own sexual orientation would be questioned. In the majority of the reported cases, the attacker was male.

The Times went on to report how the sexual assaults affect personnel:

“For the military the potential costs are even higher as it can also negatively impact mission readiness,” the Pentagon’s annual report on sexual abuse said, referring to sexual violence. “Service members risk their lives for one another and bear the responsibility of keeping fellow service members out of harm’s way. Sexual assault in the military breaks this bond.”

That sober assessment is a powerful reminder that no U.S. soldier should face sexual intimidation or rape or assault from colleagues and superiors.

Monday, December 28, 2009

HRC Gave $15K to Rep Gutierrez,
Who Omitted Gays from Immigration Bill

Here's a perfect example of gayja vu all over again, in which a Democratic friend, who likes accepting gay money, wasn't brave enough to make our issues part of his legislation.

Last week a comprehensive immigration bill in the House was presented for consideration and gay concerns were missing. The legislation was introduced by an Illinois Democrat, one who has been happy to take gay dollars, but when push came to shove, he totally forgot about gay people. From last week's Windy City Times article on the latest Democratic Party screwing of our community:

Immigrant rights and LGBT activists have expressed dismay as a major immigration-reform bill introduced into the U.S. Congress by Rep. Luis Gutierrez failed to include key provisions they had sought.

Chief among these was an allowance for LGBT people to sponsor their same-sex partners for immigration—which would, at least in this regard, put gay couples legally on par with heterosexual married couples.

I must digress for a moment, to point out that Gay Inc advocates were only asking for changes related to gay couples and gay immigrants who aresingle were left out in the cold. Another depressing instance of our leaders elevating the concerns of couples above everyone else. Why can't we put forward laws that meet the immigration needs of gays in partnerships and gay individuals?

Back to Gutierrez and his bill that does nothing for gays. Roll Call spoke with him last week and he explained the rationale behind his moves in the House:

Gutierrez denied that he wanted to keep gay and lesbian language out of his bill. “That’s just not true,” he said, pointing to his long-standing record of supporting the gay community. [...]

“There has never been a serious, in-depth discussion between the gay and lesbian community and the immigrant community. It’s never existed,” Gutierrez said. “It’s a new conversation, but not one that I’m fearful of. I welcome it. But you can’t expect after nearly two decades of struggle for a new component” to be quickly embraced.

What a liar he is. There have been many discussions for at least a solid decade between gay and immigration advocates, with a lot of common ground between them. On the subject of adding a "new" justice component to any bill, even with 20 years of struggle behind it, the time should be now when to include other minorities in need of better immigration laws.

So where is the Human Rights Campaign on these developments, which took place during Christmas week? HRC executives are probably enjoying extended holiday time off and can't be expected to respond to such developments. As of this morning, HRC's site lacks any statement about the proposed legislation and Gutierrez's abandoning of the gays.

According the FEC records analyzed and posted at OpenSecrets.org, since 1998 HRC has donated $15,075 to Gutierrez. Nice of HRC to give the Democratic Congressman money for his reelection campaigns. In return for those donations, gays were excluded from Gutierrez's bill. Check out the HRC contributions here, here, here, here, here and also here.

In a related matter, the executive director of the Immigration Equality, a gay org that dare not include the "g" word in its name, has made donations to Democratic Party orgs and candidates.

Rachel Tiven's FEC files show she gave $250 in June 2009 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and an additional $4,457 to Democrats since 2004. She should ask theDCCC for a refund, and in the process generate some mainstream news and attention from gay bloggers and newspapers, for showing some spine against the Democrats who are failing to advance gay rights.

As of this writing, the Immigration Equality site does not include a press release reacting to Gutierrez's bill, but the org's spokesman has been quoted on all this by several blogs.

A strong message of "Democrats can continue to take gay dollars and then forget about us" is sent to politicians like Gutierrez when HRC is silent about gays omitted from his immigration bill, and when gay leaders such as Tiven's don't ask for a refund from party PACs.

HRC and Tiven are good with using carrots in attempting to influence Democrats, but they're the biggest scaredy cats afraid to use a few sticks to advance the gay agenda. I don't expect this way of doing business to change in the new year.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Olson/Boies Judge's Sunshine
Gift to Gays: 'Tweeting' Allowed


(Gay and lesbian plaintiffs, left to right: Jeff Zarrillo, Paul Katami, Kris Perry and Sandy Stier. Photo credit: Bill Wilson Photography.)

From the start, the federal lawsuit against Prop 8 filed by superstar lawyers Ted Olson and David Boies, has gone against conventional wisdom, Gay Inc pleas to not bring suits, and brought much fresh thinking about legally challenging gay marriage prohibitions.

The ground-breaking aspects of the case expanded even more on Christmas Eve, with a procedural decision issued from Judge Vaughn Walker. Back in August, after a pre-trial hearing, in which only paper and pens were allowed, I said the hearing was a throwback to the stone age. That assessment has been radically altered.

In his guidelines regarding rules for journalists covering the trial that begins on January 11, 2010, Walker advanced the cause of judicial transparency and brought the soon-to-start legal proceedings into the modern electronic age, at least as it pertains to laptops, texting and using Twitter. From the PDF booklet:

In the case of Perry v. Schwarzenegger, Chief Judge Walker has granted express permission for the following in Courtroom 7 and the overflow courtroom, unless otherwise ordered:

1. Use of a laptop.

2. Although generally prohibited, use of a Blackberry or other similar personal device for transmission of e-mail, including filing of reporter's stories, is permitted in Courtroom 7 and the overflow courtroom, unless otherwise ordered.

3. Wireless internet access is not otherwise available in the federal court, but silent use of a wireless card to transmit from the courtroom is permitted.


4. Unless a specific area is officially designated by U.S. Marshal's for photography inside the building (such as the Federal Bar Association Media Center on the first floor), cameras may not be used in the San Francisco federal building. Photography and interviews are permitted outside the building. No cabling is permitted in the federal building.


5. Cell phones, pagers and other devices may NOT be used except for text functions and must be turned off or set to vibrate mode in the courtroom. "Tweeting" is a permitted form of texting. [...]
(Emphasis added.)

Allowing all those forms of communication is indeed highly laudable, however, Walker stopped far short of bringing full transparency to the historic case unfolding in his courtroom, explained in rule No. 6:

Broadcasting of proceedings is prohibited by policy of the Judicial Conference of the United States. This includes tape recording devices of any kind. As an exception, the court has specifically permitted short circuit broadcasting to an adjoining courtroom to accommodate additional observers.

If an exception to the Judicial Conference can be made for the overflow of reporters and other court observers, it behooves corporate media giants with First Amendment lawyers on retainer to appeal to the court to simply share the short-circuit feed beyond the courtroom next to Walker's.

I'm feeling quite optimistic for the gay community regarding the legal outcome of the trial, and also for increased sunshine principles, which is why I'm climbing out on a limb today and predicting that before the Olson/Boies lawsuit is over in Walker's courtroom, we're going to see some of the proceedings air on TV and the web.

(Hat tip: Eve Batey, of SFAppeal.com.)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

No Charges Filed in Murder of
Gay UK Consul in Jamaica


John Terry, a longtime honorary consul of the United Kingdom government to Jamaica, was found dead from strangulation at his home in Montego Bay in early September. Across the pond, down in Kingston, and around the United States, Terry's brutal murder attracted widespread media and blogosphere interest.

In mid October, the Jamaican police announced some arrests in the case, but there have been no follow up announcements or stories since then. If charges were filed against any suspects, I'm not aware of it. Were the suspects questioned and let go? What is the status of the investigation at this point?

I'm disappointed the extremely competitive UK newspapers haven't seen fit to write follow up pieces, asking the Jamaicans to explain why no one has been charged with Terry's slaying.

The PinkPasty blog, published by Malcolm Lidbury from Cornwall, UK, today carries an article about five violent attacks on gay men this year, including the death of Terry, but it mentions nothing about charges of anyone in the matter.

Yesterday, I submitted a FOIA request to the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office, seeking copies of their files on Terry's murder, and I hope to have FCO files within a month. I don't expect to learn anything new about the status of the investigation, if the Jamaican police are still conducting one, but I believe FCO notes will show how this ministry handled the death with their Jamaican counterparts.

The reason why I write this post is to remind the gay community of Terry's unsolved and unprosecuted murder. I hope Terry's death doesn't become one more act of violence against a gay person in Jamaica, in which justice is not served.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

FBI Posts Some of
Michael Jackson's Files


(FBI letter from August regarding my FOIA request.)

After singer Michael Jackson died in the summer, I filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Federal Bureau of Investigation for copies of any records they had on him. In August, I received a reply from the FBI about the nearly 600-pages the agency found in the archive. That reply generated much traffic to my blog and enormous interest from Jackson fans the world over.

Late last week, an agent for the FBI phoned me and explained that they were going to make hundreds of pages from the Jackson files available to the public on the web early this week. I believe my FOIA request played a significant role in this quick release.

Today, the feds have posted 333 pages from the archive and I believe this is the fastest turnaround of any FOIA I have filed with the FBI over the years. Sure, it pleases my sunshine activist bones to have the FBI move so quickly on releasing any files, but the agency doesn't move so quickly on retrieving, reviewing and sharing files on other public figures.

As reported in October over at the Raw Story news site, it's been more than a year since the FBI told me they located 1,000-pages related to the late homo-hating Sen. Jesse Helms. I've yet to be provided with a single page from the Helms file and the feds have given no timetable about when they will release any of the voluminous amount of info they have on the former North Carolina senator.

This is the introduction at the FBI "Hot Topics" page where 333-pages on Jackson are available for reading:

Michael Joseph Jackson, a celebrity pop star, was born on August 29, 1958. He died unexpectedly on June 25, 2009 at the age of 50.

Between 1993 and 1994 and separately between 2004 and 2005, Mr. Jackson was investigated by California law enforcement agencies for possible child molestation. He was acquitted of all such charges. The FBI provided technical and investigative assistance to these agencies during the cases. The Bureau also investigated threats made against Mr. Jackson and others by an individual who was later imprisoned for these crimes.

If the FBI can move this fast to get out some of its records on an entertainer, it should be able to do the same for FOIAs related to deceased political figures.

Monday, December 21, 2009

FOIAing BBC's Files on
'Execute Gays?' Debacle

(A BBC web page last week, before the broadcaster removed it from public view.)

A couple of idiots at the British Broadcasting Corporation last week, in the interest of stirring up debate and attracting eyeballs to their web site, asked the following provocative question: Should homosexuals face execution?

The BBC posed this query in relation to Uganda's debate over the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, that could mandate executions for gay people in the African nation. After receiving widespread condemnation at home and abroad, executives at the BBC removed the question, made a lame explanation about wishing to create a spirited debate, and offered an apology.

But the controversy piqued my curiosity about internal BBC communications leading to the question being asked in the first place, so I filed a Freedom of Information Act request for all records related to the debacle. Believe it or not, the UK's FOIA applies to the BBC, something I only recently became aware of.

While there are exemptions allowing the BBC to withhold certain files, I don't believe any exemption applies in this case, because we're not talking about a news story or something that jeopardizes British national security. Still, I would not have been surprised if the BBC replied and rejected my FOIA, so I'm very pleased to say the initial response states my request is being process.

Of course, that doesn't mean they'll attempt to dismiss the FOIA in the future, but it's worth a shot, filing the request to learn what sort of behind-the-scenes thinking went into the BBC's decision to ask the nasty question in the first place. I just want to know everything I can find out about this respected and influential global media outlet thinking in 2009 that it's legitimate to ask about executing homosexuals.

Here's the text of the reply from the BBC today:

Thank you for your request for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, as detailed in your email below. Your request was received on 19th December, 2009. We will deal with your request as promptly as possible, and at the latest within 20 working days. If you have any queries about your request, please contact us at the address below.

The reference number for your request is RFI20091723.

Kind regards
The Information Policy & Compliance Team

I hope to have some files from the BBC to share in early 2010, and bring a little more transparency to this terrible controversy.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

NYT: 3-Person Straight Marriage?;
Gaymarry = Buzzword

(In front, Jessie Fuller and Buck Rodgers. Rear, Will Ferrell. Photo credit: Macall Polay/NY Times.)

Full admission, up front. I was a bit medicated when reading the weddings and celebrations pages of the NY Times today, so when I first saw a photo of three people, instead of the usual couple, I momentarily thought some folks had pulled off a three-person marriage.

The announcement on dead tree proclaiming the marriage between two straight people, Jessie Fuller and Buck Rodgers, included a photo of them with a third person, standing behind them, not quite clear and identifiable to my eyes. I read the notice and learned who the extra person was, and why he's in the picture:

The bridegroom, 28, is known as Buck. He is a production assistant on the film “The Other Guys,” with Will Ferrell (who made a cameo appearance in the couple’s photo) and Mark Wahlberg, which is shooting in New York.

So the straights are redefining a component to getting married - the official photo for the society pages of newspaper - and they seem to be having fun doing it. The same cannot be said for leaders of marriage equality, who go out of their way to deny that gay marriage is in any way redefining marriage.

In case you weren't aware of it, the Times is quite strict about standards for such photos:

Couples posing for pictures should arrange themselves with their eyebrows on exactly the same level and with their heads fairly close together. Couple pictures should be printed in a horizontal format.

Well, the couple in this case got some of it right. They're positioned properly, but Will Ferrell's eyebrows are not anywhere near the same level as theirs. Nice to see the Gray Lady allowing an occasional redefiinition of proper wedding photo etiquette for her pages.

Also in the Times today, in the opinion section, were the best buzzwords of 2009, including one that might displease the marriage equality leaders who are loathe to use the word gay when discussing gay marriage:

gaymarry, gay-marry

To marry someone of the same sex. Also used hyperbolically to mean to form an unconventional relationship, as in, “I love my new cellphone so much I want to gay-marry it.”


Wouldn't it be just too fab for the Freedom to Marry org to change its name to include this buzzword, and in the process be more honest, about what it is fighting for? I think Freedom to Gaymarry has a nice ring to it, don't you agree?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

State Dept's Uganda Briefing
With Gay Inc/AIDS Inc

(Johnnie Carson, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. Photo credit: Center for American Progress.)

The Voice of America posted a story earlier today about a briefing yesterday held by the State Department over the situation in Uganda, and reported that 25 groups were present. I searched the sites of likely orgs to have been there - IGLHRC, HRW's gay section, Global Equality - looking for reports on the meeting. Surely if such a high-level meeting were to take place, our orgs would keep the at-large community informed of what happened, right?

The AFP and Reuters news wires have put out stories on the meeting, but not a single gay or AIDS leader is quoted, and no orgs are named in either wire story.

I don't want to read too much into the fact that the meeting was held on Friday, and less likely to attract widespread media attention or wire story pickup, and I'm certainly pleased the briefing took place, but it does strike me as odd that it was on a Friday, just like the White House last Friday finally issued a condemnation against Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Can the Obama administration find a way to take more action on the plight of gay Ugandans earlier in the week, please?

And what about the silence so far from the orgs at the meeting? Who is served by such silence? Sure would be great to learn from the attendees what they have to say about the sit-down.

Frankly, if dozens of our leaders can attend the briefing, no matter the day, time or weather outside, a communique should be forthcoming within hours. It's called engagement, and all of us who are concerned about gay Ugandans, and the Ugandan gays, should have a public report on what transpired from more than just the State Department's envoy.

Frankly, I fear the administration requested a blackout from the attendees, and that they agreed to it. What plausible reason could there be for absolutely no word from the NGOs?

Indulge me if I stake out the radical position here, and say as a gay American, I want the Obama administration to continue public diplomacy on behalf of gay people beyond our borders, and timely engagement and communication from Gay Inc and AIDS Inc when they are invited to the State Department for high-level discussions.

BTW, Johnnie Carson, the department's Ambassador for African Affairs, has led a long and distinguished diplomatic career. Notable tidbit on his political leanings: there is only one donation listed from him with the FEC. In 2004, Carson donated $250 to Diplomats and Military Commanders for Change, which was opposed to Dubya's reelection and favored John Kerry.

I found this report on the LifeAfterJerusalem blog, which is maintained by an anonymous gay foreign service officer, and gives terrific info on some aspects of the briefing:

Approximately 40 people representing NGOs such as Council of Global Equality, IGLHRC, Africa Faith and Justice network, Human Rights First, Global Forum, AMFAR, and the Anti-Defamation League attended a briefing yesterday by Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson on the anti-homosexuality law being considered by the Ugandan legislature.

A/S Carson called the legislation in Uganda “draconian” and described his discussions on at least two separate occasions with Ugandan President Museveni and high ranking officials including the Foreign Minister and Defense Minister about this legislation. A/S Carson said, “The U.S. condemns in the strongest terms any violations of human rights and we see the criminalization of homosexuality as a violation of these basic human rights.”

He said this legislation was not mentioned as a “sidebar issue” in his meetings but as an issue of concern on the level of Sudan and other major AF issues. In at least one instance, he sought out the Museveni solely to discuss this legislation with him. Museveni gave him assurances he would oppose the legislation.

Kerry Johnson from the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Council expressed concern about similar legislation in other African countries as a fallout from the Ugandan legislation, including legislation passed quickly in Burundi and legislation being discussed in Rwanda and Kenya. A/S Carson said he had already discussed this with a high ranking person in Rwanda and asked that he convey his and Secretary Clinton’s concerns to Rwandan President Kagame.

He said the Department is not yet considering consequences if the law is passed, preferring to focus on keeping it from being passed. He did say that a cable or email will be sent to all Ambassadors determining if such laws exist or are being considered in their countries, and that we would address those countries where these laws exist. [...]

“We will not have a double standard of being opposed to this legislation in Uganda and silent about it somewhere else, ” A/S Carson said.

Many thanks from me to the publisher of the LifeAfterJerusalem for the very informative memo. That is exactly the sort of memo I hope the NGOs soon publish on their web sites. There simply cannot be too much info on the web about U.S. efforts to protect the human rights of gay Ugandans.

Friday, December 18, 2009

HRC: $10K to Dem Congressional
Cmte in 2009 - Why?

The executive director of the Human Rights Campaign, Joe Solmonese, in recent days issued a year-end letter to his board that has not been posted to HRC's site, in which he assesses the progress for gay Americans in 2009. The letter is available over at Pam Spaulding's blog, and I wish she and others would ask why HRC can't post the letter on their own site, but is instead dependent on bloggers to disseminate it, but I digress.

One group that isn't mentioned in HRC's assessment is the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. I thought that was very odd, considering the DCCC is the largest recipient of HRC PAC money so far this year, and if our biggest gay org is giving our dollars to such a group, we should have substantive things to show for it. Right?

According to HRC PAC records at OpenSecrets.org for the 2010 election cycle, they made two donations of $5,000 to the DCCC in June and September this year. And what did the gays get in exchange for that $10,000? The answer is not provided in HRC's year-end letter.

The progressive OpenLeft.com site in early November explained some of the problems with the DCCC, who gets a lot of money from it, and how a few of the recipients vote on liberal matters:

Last night, 23 Democrats voted against providing 36 million Americans with health insurance while reducing the deficit, but in favor of the Stupak amendment to restrict reproductive rights for low-income women. [...]

In 2008, more than $1 out of every $12 the DCCC spent on electing Democratic House members went to electing one of these Democrats. [...]

These Democratic members of Congress are a net drag on progressive efforts. Not only do they vote to pass regressive legislation, and not only to they vote against any meaningful progressive legislation, but they vacuum up Democratic money in the process. [...]

If you donate to the DCCC, then your money is being spent to restrict reproductive rights for low-income women, and against health care reform.

Also angry at the DCCC, and refraining from giving the org any money, is AmericaBlog contributing writer Timothy Beauchamp:

Well, it finally happened. The DCCC called asking for money and were shocked...SHOCKED I wouldn't give.

The founders of AmericaBlog, John Aravosis and Joe Sudbay, launched a boycott against the Democratic National Committee over the party's refusal to move pro-gay legislation forward this year, but they excluded the DCCC, however, they're not troubled at all by their colleague's action:

We didn't specifically include the DSCC and the DCCC, but we're certainly not going to stop anyone from sending a loud and clear message to those party organizations as well.

I'd love to know exactly what it was the DCCC promised to do for HRC this year that warranted contributions totaling $10,000. Further, if HRC plans any future giving to the DCCC, how about demanding Solmonese get a few items of substance first from Congressional Democrats, such as expedited movement on passing ENDA and repealing DOMA and DADT?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Assassinated Gay Honduran Leader
Trochez Buried With Rainbow Flag

(The rainbow flag, an international symbol of gay diversity and solidarity, drapes the coffin of Walter Trochez, who was buried with the flag on December 15. Photo credit: AP/Estaban Felix.)

Earlier this week veteran gay journalist Doug Ireland broke the tragic story of the death of a young gay democracy fighter in Central America:

Walter Trochez, 25 years old, a well-known LGBT activist in Honduras who was an active member of the National Resistance Front against the coup d'etat there, was assassinated on the evening of December 13, shot dead by drive-by killers. Trochez, who had already been arrested and beaten for his sexual orientation after participating in a march against the coup, had been very active recently in documenting and publicizing homophobic killings and crimes committed by the forces behind the coup, which is believed to have been the motive for his murder. He had been trailed for weeks before his murder by thugs believed to be members of the state security forces. [...]

The assassination of Trochez has garnered much attention around the globe from gays and human rights advocates. So far, no reports have surfaced of any arrests made by the local police for his death. Several non-governmental organizations are calling for a full and impartial investigation into Trochez's murder.

(Walter Trochez)

Amnesty International quickly issued a statement about Trochez's assassination and the org's talk with him before he was murdered:

According to sources, Walter Trochez was shot in the chest by a drive-by gunman and taken to hospital where he later died. Amnesty International said it fears that he may have been targeted because of his human rights work.

Walter Trochez told Amnesty International on Friday that he had escaped a kidnapping attempt on 4 December after suffering several hours of beatings and threats by masked men. They had interrogated Walter Trochez about individuals opposed to the de facto authorities who seized power following the 28 June coup d'├ętat.

May Walter Trochez rest in peace and his killer be brought to justice, and democracy restored to his country of Honduras.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

ME's Gay Marriage Prop:
Follow the Money


James Oaksun is a gay Mainer libertarian with an MBA, and earlier this month he published a piece on what he thought went wrong with the gay marriage proposition that lost in November. He laid out, from a local gay's perspective, what he saw on the ground, and it wasn't a pretty picture.

James has now written a follow up article, examining how the money was spent during the campaign. Click here for source data behind this analysis.

He's allowing me to share his thoughts, which are very provocative, and should give us all pause about how we keep racking up the ballot prop losses for gay marriage, and in this sad case, with much more moolah than our opponents.

Generally, I agree with a tremendous amount of his criticism, and I appreciate very much how he looked at the filings of both sides to come up with comparable expenditures and allocations. However, I disagree with him about creating an "Equality Inc" corps that travels around the country fighting these props.

We already have a cumbersome loose alliance of the same orgs - NGLTF, Freedom to Marry, Haas Jr Fund, HRC, Gill Foundation - sending some of the same staffers, such as Marty Rouse, Dan Hawes, Sarah Reece, Thalia Zepatos, to carry the same tasks. I'm not sure institutionalizing this network is the answer to turning the tide, but it's an idea we could debate with Gay Inc, if they ever held public community meetings.

Here's James' piece:


Maine Question 1: Where Did the Money Go?

The 2009 ballot question on gay marriage in Maine was the most expensive initiative campaign in Maine history, and the third most expensive statewide political campaign in the state’s history. More than $7 million was spent on both sides. Only the U.S. Senate races of 2002 and 2008 were more costly.

This report will examine where the money got spent, on both the “Yes” (anti-equality) and “No” (pro-equality) sides. There were some significant differences in how the funds were allocated among different sources. Brief synopses will be provided on the major vendors on both sides. Finally, some suggestions for future equality campaigns will be offered.

Step One: Get the Issue On the Ballot

Before there could even be a campaign, the “People’s Veto” needed to get the requisite number of signatures to qualify it for the state ballot. In Maine, that requires collecting roughly 55,000 signatures. Stand for Marriage Maine (the Yes on 1 campaign) spent more than $300,000 to gather the signatures. A Michigan-based firm, National Petition Management, was contracted to perform this task. They succeeded. Still, this meant that Yes on 1 needed to raise $300,000 before there could even be a campaign. In my analysis I consider this to be pre-campaign expenditures and do not include it in my ratio calculations.

Step Two: Make a Budget

When planning a major project, you need a budget. Decisions get made, dollars allocated, vendors selected. Here we know exactly who got what. We also know that one side won, and one side lost. Were there differences in how the allocations were made? It turns out there were some very significant differences that might suggest a different approach for equality forces in future campaigns.

No on 1 (the pro equality side) spent nearly $5 million on the campaign. Yes on 1 (the anti-gay marriage side) had substantially fewer resources – about $2.5 million. The two sides allocated their funds as follows:

Yes No
TV/Radio 1,637 2,551
Signs/Literature/Mailing 307 810
People -- Employees and Consultants 270 343
Internet 113 343
Polling 176 160
Phones 1 267
All Other 64 130

(all amounts $000)

In Percent of Total:

Yes No

TV/Radio 64% 55%
Signs/Literature/Mailing 12% 18%
People -- Employees and Consultants 11% 7%
Internet 4% 7%
Polling 7% 3%
Phones 0% 6%
All Other 2% 3%

A series of observations are apparent:

1. Yes on 1 overweighted traditional media, and as a result was relatively competitive with the equality forces on the airwaves.

2. Yes on 1 spent absolutely more dollars in opinion polling than No on 1, and more than twice as much on a relative basis.

3. No on 1 spent a huge amount on direct mail.

4. No on 1 also spent a large amount on phone banking. Yes on 1 shows
practically no expenses for this.

5. No on 1 spent nearly $350,000 on Internet activity – web site design and management, and advertising. More on this later.

6. Though much was made of hiring Frank Schubert to manage the Yes on 1 effort, No on 1 still spent $63,000 more on staff and consultants than did the anti-equality forces (including Schubert’s fee). (Incidentally, Schubert’s fee was $110,000. In addition, he billed the campaign roughly $26,000 in travel and additional expenses. The recent New York Times article citing Schubert’s costs at well over $300,000 was incorrect.)

Now to consider who exactly got the money. First, the pro-equality No on 1 expenses:

1. McMahon Squier -- $2.6 Million


Long active in Democratic politics, this Alexandria, Virginia-based organization has a decent track record. The vast majority of this amount was for purchased TV and radio time. Typically commissions on ad buys range from 10 to 15 percent. I assume they also did the creative work on the ads – the scripts and such. Presumably, therefore, some of their commission is analogous to Frank Schubert’s base payment from Yes on 1, as Schubert claims to do substantially all the creative for the anti-equality campaigns. (Incidentally, McMahon Squier is the chief media consultant for Maine’s Democratic Governor, John Baldacci.)

2. Mission Control -- $779,000

This is a Connecticut-based direct mail operation. According to their website, they produce “the only junk mail you’ll ever read twice.” They work exclusively with Democratic candidates and progressive causes.

3. Mundy Katowitz -- $319,000

This firm, based in Washington, DC, is something of a mystery. Their website is “under construction.” Five principal members are named. The firm apparently does new media/Internet work for Democrats.

4. Winding Creek -- $200,000

This is a telemarketing firm, based in Washington, DC, that does phone work for Democrats.

5. Greenberg Quinlan Rosner -- $160,000

This is a longtime Washington, DC-based polling firm. While they do corporate work as well, their principal focus is work with Democrats and progressive causes. Stan Greenberg came onto the national scene in the 1992 campaign for his work with Bill Clinton.


The anti-equality/Yes on 1 vendors have their own degree of mystery.

1. Mar/Com Associates -- $1.6 million

This was the Yes on 1 media shop. Analogous to McMahon Squier, they produce advertisements and book the air time, holding back a 10-15 percent commission. Mar/Com appears to be a shell company under the aegis of a man named Bill Criswell, of Criswell Associates in San Francisco. Very little information is available about this firm; their website is “under construction.”

2. National Petition Management -- $308,000

This Michigan based firm has a long track record in successfully gathering signatures for conservative causes.

3. Aaron, Thomas and Associates -- $189,000

This is a direct mail operation, based in California, and hired by Frank Schubert. Very little information is available about them.

4. Public Policy Strategies -- $147,000

This was Yes on 1’s pollster. According to Frank Schubert, this is actually an East Coast polling firm that is operating under an alias (and with a Nevada mail drop). Schubert claims vendors do this because LGBT activists harass and target firms that work on anti-equality campaigns. As it is currently unclear who this polling firm is, we cannot say anything further about them.

In addition to Public Policy Strategies, Yes on 1 utilized Lawrence Research of Santa Ana, California, to do some polling.

5. Schubert Flint -- $136,000

This is the Sacramento, California-based firm that provided general campaign management and strategy for Yes on 1, as it had done (successfully) for California Proposition 8 in 2008.


A Strategy Going Forward

In my previous report on the California, Maine and Washington campaigns, I suggested some strategic changes. Here I go further. If they are to start prevailing, the marriage equality forces also need a strategic redesign of their campaign organizational and operational structure. They should take a page from the winners. Success is success. They may disagree with their opponents’ motives and actions, but their opponents are winning at the ballot box and there may be something to learn from them.

Here is how the anti-equality forces set up their campaigns:

a. National Organization for Marriage, the Catholic Church and various conservative/Christian denominations (such as the Mormons) are the funders. They raise the money through a variety of mechanisms.

b. A professional campaign manager, with a record of success, is hired and is then rehired in subsequent campaigns. The wheel is not reinvented with each spin of the electoral process.

c. Scientific polling is overweighted in the budget. Push polling may or may not be used.

d. A small number of senior local operatives are hired as consultants.

In contrast, here is how the equality efforts are run:

a. A new campaign manager, with unclear experience and record especially against nationally renowned opposition, is hired for each campaign.

b. Not only does this inexperienced management team have to run a campaign, they also have to run a fundraising operation, with phone banking and the like.

c. Scientific polling is underweighted.

d. Overweighting is done to vendors with longstanding ties to the Democratic Party, utilizing mechanisms of questionable or obsolete effectiveness.

What I am suggesting here is a totally functional organizational model. Call it “Equality Inc” or something. It is a matrixed organization; there is no overall head per se. There are well defined functions that do their appointed tasks and do them with rigorous effectiveness.

The $5 million spent by No on 1 amounts to about $20 per vote. On a per capita basis, this was three times as much as was spent by the California No on 8 campaign (which also lost). Throwing more money at this issue, without serious reconsideration of strategy and organization, will be money wasted.
Prop 8 Hearing: Defendants' Lawyer
Refuses Media Interviews


Today's three-hour hearing on the federal lawsuit challenging Prop 8 dealt with procedural matters, lacking any excitement except for legal eagles, that not many ordinary observers showed up.

Unlike previously packed hearings, this one had plenty of empty seats for the public. The legal stuff got so tedious for me, at certain points, I felt I was bearing witness on behalf of many activists, wise to stay away from such a dull hearing. Why did I take notes and listen to the entire proceeding? Because it's homo-history in the making in my backyard and I wouldn't miss this extraordinary opportunity.

For an excellent and comprehensive look at the details of the matters before Judge Vaughn Walker today, check out Karen Ocamb's report at her blog. Tune in to Doug Sovern's good recap of today's actions at KCBS NewsRadio here. Be sure to check out Chris Geidner's terrific LawDork.net blog for more info on other pre-trial moves.

A few random observations:

- Of the two same-sex plaintiff couples, only the lesbians, Kristin Perry and Sandra Steir, were present. The gay male couple, Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo, couldn't attend today.

- No sign of Gay Inc orgs or anyone from their staffs. Same goes for the missing anti-gay forces.

- Not only was Imperial County, which voted heavily for Prop 8, late to petition the court to join the defendants side, doing so yesterday, but the lawyer for the Southern California county was late for court this morning.

- On several occasions, Walker, who I think could be a fab host at a piano in a swank cafe, would make a funny comment or joke from the bench, bringing forth many laughs and alleviating my boredom.

- Even though no one in the court said it, this lawsuit is our Plan B, the alternative plan leaders of Maine's recent losing gay marriage proposition and Freedom to Marry's executive director lack. Nice to see Plan B moving ahead so swiftly.

- Charles Cooper, the lead attorney for the supporters of Prop 8, refused to enter the media room and make himself available for questioning by the press and a blogger. When spotted outside the courthouse, local TV and radio reporters tried to get him to go on the record for a few comments, but he refused the interview requests.

Here are a few pics from the news conference and outside the federal building on Turk Street:


Ted Olson and David Boies, attorneys for the plaintiffs, stand with Chad Griffin, head of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the backer of the lawsuit, talk to the media.

Boies and Griffin break into smiles.

Member of the media, and a few lawyers in ties, listen to Olson and Boies state they're ready for the start of trial on January 11, 2010.

Charles Cooper telling a local TV crew he won't speak with them on the record.

Cooper heading to the street to hail a taxi.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Milk Club: 100 Pot Heads at SF
Meeting Plan Legalization

(The crowd at a meeting last week in SF for pot legalization.)

The cannabis caucus of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club a combination networking session and awards ceremony on December 10 at the Women's Building and a solid 100 people, and a few canines, were there over the 90-minutes I spent at the meeting.

I went to listen to plans for eventual legalization of marijuana in California, along with the anticipated partial alleviation of the state's budget shortfalls when pot is legal, and I was not disappointed.

Awards were presented to several folks, including gay Latino Supervisor David Campos, who spoke about his City Hall push to create a 13-member panel to map out better city policies regarding pot clubs and patients' needs.

Representing gay Italiano Assemblyman Tom Ammiano's office was Quentin Mecke, and he addressed the current need for uniformity among local law enforcement agencies and officials about cultivation, distribution and use of medical marijuana.

There were information tables from assorted pot advocacy orgs, the crowd skewed toward older folks, with a healthy sprinkling of under-30s, gays and straights and in-betweens, and it was racially mixed.

Free marijuana was not distributed. This crowd was there to continue the work started in the 1970s by Harvey Milk and others, that led to passage of Prop 215 in 1996, and has given us affordable, good quality medical pot, and to finish the job with full and unapologetic legalization.

Fast forward to yesterday, and the good news about we're getting closer to the ballot in 2010 with the legalization attempt by voter-approval. From the Bay Guardian:

Californians may vote next year on whether to legalize marijuana. Proponents for the initiative that is primarily being bankrolled by Oaksterdam University founder Richard Lee today reportedly confirmed that they have more than enough signatures to qualify for the November 2010 ballot.

If approved by voters and not blocked by the courts or federal government, the measure would allow California cities and counties to adopt their own laws for regulating and taxing marijuana, even for purely recreational use. Polls have consistently shown that a majority of Californians support legalizing weed.

"It was so easy to get them," Lee told the Los Angeles Times, referring to the 680,000 signatures that he says they have collected, clearing the 434,000 threshold needed to qualify. "People were so eager to sign." [...]

Keep your fingers crossed enough valid signatures were turned in and that we go back to the voters in 2010 and win our dream -- legalization of marijuana. Check out more of my pics:

He received an award for Medi-Cann, an org that provides low-cost consultations to poor patients.

A few mature hippies at one of the info tables.

This woman was honored for her work with Compassion Behind Bars. I was shocked to learned her org miraculously provides ten non-violent offenders incarcerated in state prison, who are are all persons with HIV/AIDS, with medical cannabis. I cried when she cried, thanking the crowd.


David Campos talks to a local TV news crew.

Yeah, dude. What would, um, a pot meeting be, without the munchies' table?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Bilerico's Tranny Victim
Offends
People With AIDS

[Correction: Blaze is not a tranny. I made a mistake identifying him as such. My apologies.]

On top of staying well and alive as long as possible, people with AIDS have also had to challenge the medical establishment and society's view of people with HIV infection as victims. Two of the brave PWAs who risked much to create the empowerment movement were Michael Callen and Dan Turner, both deceased, and you can read their words about fighting the victim label and mentality here.

Someone who clearly is ignorant about preferred language to describe people with AIDS is tranny victim Alex Blaze over the Bilerico.com site. He writes today about free speech issues and cites some of the obnoxious behavior of the Phelps' clan:

But, ever since they started protesting soldiers' funerals instead of AIDS victims', states have been cracking down on their actions.

Blaze is totally within his constitutionally-protected rights to defame the memory and fight of PWAs like Callen and Turner, just as I am protected in labeling Blaze a tranny victim. Care to wager that Blaze would not take kindly, along with a lot of other transgender people, to be called tranny victims, so maybe using that phrase will drive home a necessary point to the editors at Bilerico.com.

And the point is, people with AIDS are fighting every day for our lives and we don't need the added stigma of gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender bloggers saying we're victims.

Today's use of the AIDS victim label is not the first time Blaze has chosen to use it. Here he used it in January 2008:

And where was Dan Abrams's disgust when the WBC was protesting the funerals' of AIDS victims back in the early 90's? Back when they were only going after us gays, they couldn't get all that much attention.

Another time was in May 2009:

Before that, there was limited coverage of his protests of AIDS victims' funerals in the queer and alternative press.

Bear in mind, Blaze is not the only one at his site to use this offensive term. Commentators do too, as did one back in June 2006:

I wouldnt want you to hit me with your purse so I will make like an AIDS victim and GO.

Check out another commentator's cavalier use of the term in April 2008:

Unless it was about Aids fund raising and "Gift For Life" which was a wonderful program the industry I worked in for so many years began for AIDS victim benefit my public life [...]

It's ironic that Bilerico.com is expending great energy to correct the storm of anger because of a controversial transphobic essay it ran, and removed, last week. Editors of the site are implementing even stronger than-existing language controls related to transgender people and topics, but I doubt they would even consider asking contributors to use the preferred language of people with AIDS over AIDS victim.

By the way, noted longtime openly gay HIV positive Hispanic civil right leader Dennie DeLeon passed away today in New York City, and I wish to mark his passing. I also wish to point out that the NY Times's obit doesn't use the word victim once. Neither did the AP obit. Same goes for NBC4 in New York City and their obit for DeLeon.

Let's the record show that in 2009 a supposedly progressive LGBT web site with political correct credentials to spare, is using a phrase offensive to PWAs, while at least three corporate media outlets display much more sensitivity and education than the Bilerico.com editors.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

GLAAD Doesn't Work Weekends?

At about 9:30 pm on Saturday night, the Miami Herald broke the news that homo-hating Jamaican singer Buju Banton was in federal custody on drug conspiracy charges. I estimate that was the time the paper posted its story to the web, based on the first comment about the story, which was at 9:32 pm.

It didn't take long for me and lots of other bloggers and mainstream media to cover the arrest, and offer up comment on the new legal troubles for the singer.

The detaining of Buju by the Drug Enforcement Administration, coming so quickly after he was nominated for Grammy award, I would think might be something of keen interest to a gay media watchdog org. A chance to use the org's influence at the start of a major crime story related to gays and the entertainment industry, to make a few points on behalf of the community it purports to represent.

But the $7 million org known as GLAAD apparently doesn't pay its staff enough money to work on the weekend. GLAAD hasn't said a peep in the nearly 24-hours, a week in terms of web-time, not only about the Buju arrest but has also been silent on the election of an openly lesbian candidate to be mayor of Houston.

Didn't GLAAD just make some baby activist steps and start a useless online petition about Buju and the Grammys? Does this political org really have absolutely nothing to say about Annise Parker's historic achievement in Texas and how the media has covered her triumph?

In an ideal world, I would expect our bloated gay media watchdog org to have one or two persons, out of a staff of 45 persons, ready on weekends to issue statements or advisories, especially on a slow news weekend when a serious lesbian political contender could get elected in a runoff in a conservative state.

But the world is far from fair and equal, and I must learn to accept that a $7 million budget and 45 staffers is not enough to deliver honest and full-time advocacy from GLAAD. For GLAAD, the movement stops at 5 pm on Fridays and doesn't' start again until Monday at 9 am.

If GLAAD manages to get out a statement on Monday about the Buju and Parker stories from over the weekend, I sure as heck hope gay press and bloggers ask what took them so long.
Did Gay Obama Appointee Buy His
Job With Political Donations?

Much has been written from the left and right about Kevin Jennings, a controversial Democrat who happens to be gay and is director of the Office of Safe & Drug Free Schools for the Department of Education.

He was appointed to that job in early May, and while the right has used him as punching bag for homo-hatred, the left, including Gay Inc orgs, has come to his defense but his supporters have failed to disseminate facts about what he's accomplished in six months on the job.

What measurable goals has he met that are helping students, both gay and straight? Do we know if he's done anything on the matter of drugs and students, regardless of sexual orientation?

Before taking a job with the Barack Obama administration, Jennings was the longtime executive director of GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, and worked hard to make the org what it is today: an org with a $12.7 million budget in 2008. It maintains an office in New York and DC, and has a staff of forty persons.

As with GLAAD, GLSEN reports significant six-figure grants from some of the same gay foundations, according to their annual statement for 2008 on page 18. The list includes Arcus Foundation, Estate of Ric Weiland, the Haas Jr Fund, and the Gill Foundation. Smaller grants came from the David Bohnett Foundation and the Terry K. Watanabe Charitable Trust.

In his last year at GLSEN, Jennings earned a whopping $273,574 salary. During 2007, his pay was $255,448, and for 2006 he was compensated $175,000. Over those years, his total compensation came to $704,022.

That kind of salary allowed him to donate $26,300 to Democratic Party candidates and committees since 1998, according to FEC records. Included in that amount is the $6,500 he's given to Obama.

At the state level, in California he's donated $1,425 to Democrats, and $2,050 to No on Prop 8, for a total of $3,475 given in the Golden State. Back in Massachusetts, Jennings in 2002 gave $50 to GLAAD's new ED, Jarrett Barrios, in his bid for a state Senate seat. Add up the federal donations with the known state giving, and Jennings' contributions equal $29,825.

The Department of Education's bio page for Jennings says he has partner, who apparently lacks a last name, just like the couple's canines:

He and his partner, Jeff, are the proud "parents" of a golden retriever, Amber, and a Bernese mountain dog, Ben, and also have a "granddog" in Ben's son, Jackson, born in March 2009.

Why can't the department list the partner's full name? Jeffrey Davis, like his companion, gave money to Obama's presidential campaign. Davis donated $2,300 to the candidate. The Democrats must truly appreciate a gay male couple where both partners are raking in good bucks, and writing big checks to Democratic politicians.

Back to my main concern: What the hell has Jennings achieved in his federal job?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Buju Arrested by DEA Agents
on Drug Charges in Miami


The news a short while ago from the Miami Herald is not good for homo-hating Jamaica singer Buju Banton. I wonder if when us gay activists in San Francisco met with him and his management team in early October, if we were under the surveillance of the feds.

Nice to know that after we met with him, countless stories and blog posts appeared in the Jamaican press and on music web sites, saying the gays wouldn't forgive him and his hatred. Many of his concerts were canceled or clubs had to pay extra for security due to gay demonstrations. He and his management team still refuse to be interviewed about the SF gay meeting he had.

And now, he sits in a federal prison, awaiting arraignment. From the Miami Herald:

Buju Banton, the Jamaican reggae star whose anti-gay lyrics have drawn international criticism, is in a federal lockup in Miami, facing drug conspiracy charges.

Drug Enforcement Administration agents say Banton, real name Mark Anthony Myrie, has been in custody since Thursday and will soon be transferred to Tampa, where the U.S. Attorney is charging him with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilos of cocaine.

Banton has homes both in Jamaica and Tamarac.

While legions of dancehall reggae enthusiasts view Banton as one of the most prolific voices of Jamaica's poor masses, critics say he's a gay basher whose lyrics incite violence by calling for attacking and torturing homosexuals. His song Boom Bye Bye, a dance-hall hit released in the 1990s, advocates shooting gays in the head and setting them on fire. [...]
Who Owns GLAAD?;
20% of Budget for Moneymaking


Can anyone be shocked that the largest donors to GLAAD are the usual names of Gay Inc foundations? It doesn't take much sniffing around to find out who really owns gay community advocacy orgs, and it's not ordinary gays. The folks with the big bucks at charitable foundations, and one deceased multi-millionaire, are the actual bosses at the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

Check out this list from GLAAD's 2008 annual report, page 20:

The Visionary Circle recognizes individuals [sic] whole [sic] generous support and cumulative giving to GLAAD exceeds $1 million.

The Arcus Foundation
The David Bohnett Foundation
The Gill Foundation
The Michael Palm Foundation
Terry K. Watanabe Charitable Trust
Ric Weiland

At minimum, those funding sources are responsible for endowing GLAAD with $6 million in recent years, quite a tidy sum. If GLAAD practiced full transparency, it would provide specific numbers for each foundation and their donation, instead of a terse statement about contributions exceeding $1 million. But there are ways of getting more numbers, even if they're not readily accessible in a yearly GLAAD report to the community.

GLAAD did issue a release last year when the charitable Pride Foundation, established by the late Ric Weiland, an early employee at Microsoft, heralding receiving a $7.9 million grant spread out over eight years.

And a search of the Gill Foundation's grants for 2008 shows that it gave GLAAD $650,000 during that year.

Honestly, what the hell does GLAAD do that warrants such big donations? The foundations that own GLAAD must be easily satisfied with minimal and mediocre results, because the org sure as hell doesn't have much to tout as full-fledged accomplishments in many years.

Speaking of problems with this org, be sure to check out a September 2001 analysis by longtime gay thinker Michael Bronksi, that appeared in the Boston Phoenix. It was titled "Hollywood Squares: GLAAD Has Lost Its Way," and much of what Bronski pointed out was wrong is still valid, starting with this observation:

[A] growing number of critics have taken the group to task, questioning many of its decisions and wondering whether its judgment might be clouded by its hand-in-glove relationship with Hollywood [...]

That cozy relationship was deplored eight years ago, and hasn't changed much, while still clouding the media lapdog's agenda.

GLAAD has a $7 million annual budget, and it seems an awful high amount for a jobs program for professional Gay Inc types. My mind takes flight, thinking of how such an amount could be better used by investigative bloggers and street activists to advance a gay rights agenda.

Over at Charity Navigator, GLAAD gets an overall rating of 49.19, out of a possible 100, and an efficiency ranking of 24.75. Not very high in that department for sure. Oh, and GLAAD spends a bit more than 20% of its budget for moneymaking.

Make no mistake: The primary purpose of GLAAD and other Gay Inc orgs is to keep themselves in business and top executives receiving lavish six-figure salaries.

With GLAAD's major accomplishments, few as they are, pieces of the past, why does it continue to receive millions of dollars in foundation grants?
20th Anniversary: ACT UP
Invaded St Patrick's Cathedral

(NYC cops carrying a demonstrator out of St Pat's. Photo credit: Rex Wockner.)

For many Catholics, and a good number of gays too, December 10, 1989, is a date that will live in infamy. That is when members of ACT UP, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, and WHAM, Women's Health Action Mobilization, invaded the heart of a political organization with non-profit, tax-exempt status -- St. Patrick's Cathedral.

More than 5,000 members and supporters of ACT UP and WHAM were kept behind police barricades that day, unable to get into the church, while inside, according to published reports, 43 protesters were arrested and hauled out on stretchers, many refusing to comply with NYPD efforts to restore peace inside the cathedral. Overall number arrested inside and outside the cathedral was 111.

Twenty years ago, when velvet revolutions were spreading across Eastern Europe and massive numbers of people were standing up to tyranny and tearing down dictatorships, a rainbow revolution was happening in the American gay community, and it was led by ACT UP.

I was a member of the group at the time, and remember the heated arguments that took place before it was decided to protest at the church. We were upset at the many ways in which the New York archdiocese was abusing its tax-exempt status and a religious bully pulpit to intrude upon good public health policies. There also existed deep anger over Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger 's disgusting Vatican decree from 1986, adding to centuries of Catholics wrecking homosexuals' lives, declaring gayness an "intrinsic moral evil."

The money and power of the Catholic church were directly hindering unfettered access, and in some cases, the very existence of life-saving programs in public schools and municipal health clinics, for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders, women, low-income people, and people of color.

(ACT UP poster featuring Cardinal O'Connor and a condom.)

The key culprit behind hateful attacks on wise public health matters at the local and state level was Archbishop John J. O'Connor. His long hand of homophobia reached into too many politicians' offices and how they voted on public services for gays and women. Cardinal O'Connor made no bones about imposing his religious doctrine on people of all faiths or atheists in public education and health care institutions, almost inviting a massive protest at his political base of operations.

It is no understatement to say the protest generated worldwide controversy, and condemnation, from many quarters, and also a good deal of positive reactions from individuals and organizations fighting the church's political agenda.

As an ACT UP member who was arrested inside St. Patrick's Cathedral twenty-years ago today, I remain unapologetic about the demonstration and being a participant.

With the US Conference of Catholic Bishops agitating against women's health and choice in health care matters now before Congress, many Catholic churches working against gay rights laws, the Vatican's renewed vigor of stigmatizing gay people everywhere, and more sexual abuse scandals involving priests unfolding in several countries, there are valid reasons why we must continue to just say no to the Catholic heirarchy's dangerous influence over public health and demand more accountability from church leaders.

You can rent the late Robert Hilferty's documentary "Stop the Church" from the Frameline gay film festival org in San Francisco. Click here for more info.

(A crowd of thousands across Fifth Avenue, in front of St Pat's, protesting Cardinal O'Connor's crossing the line separating church and state. Photo credit: Rex Wockner.)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Gay Ugandan Protests in Beirut & Chicago

(Helem protests at the Ugandan consulate in Beirut, November 9. Photo credit: Farfahinne.)


(Gay Liberation Network vigil in Chicago, December 10. Photo credit: GLN.)

In November, demonstrations over Uganda's proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill took place in NYC at the country's mission to the United Nations, at the embassy in DC, the consulate in Johannesburg and the embassy in London. And as I reported yesterday, there was an action at San Francisco's United Nations Plaza pillar for Uganda, and a follow-up protest at the London embassy, organized by OutRage! More pics from that action posted here.


I'm proud to say those weren't the only recent actions for gay Ugandans. Members of the Gay Liberation Network took to the freezing streets in Chicago yesterday and staged a picket line and vigil:

The cold was absolutely miserable tonight and the action was initiated just a few days ago despite the nasty weather forecast, but about 20 people still came out on International Human Rights Day to express their solidarity with Ugandan Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Trans (LGBT) people facing that country's proposed "Anti-Homosexuality Bill." [...]

At 8 degrees Fahrenheit (-13 C) and -20 F wind chill (-29 C), people gathered despite the cancellation of many other public activities in the city this evening. Lacking an official Ugandan consulate in the city, protesters instead held their action outside of Chicago's LGBT community center. [...]

One of the central themes of speakers at the protest was the importation of Western anti-gay ideas into Africa. When African anti-gay leaders claim that homosexuality is a "Western" import into the continent, they turn reality on its head. Not only have many of the anti-gay actions on the continent been directly inspired by a U.S.-based group known as "The Family" -- which includes several high-ranking U.S. politicians from both major parties -- most of Africa's anti-gay laws are direct descendants of laws imposed by white colonial regimes during the early 20th Century.

These were not the only recent actions. I learned this morning that Lebanon's brave gay and HIV advocacy organization, Helem, organized a protest last month. Here's a report from the queer Arab news site Bekhsoos.com about the action in the Middle East:

In response to a call to action made by Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), Helem organized a sit-in at the Ugandan consulate in Beirut on November 9th 2009. [...]

Helem’s media unit wrote a letter to the Ugandan consulate in Lebanon calling the bill an anti-rights bill, stressing the fact that it will target everyone from teachers to parents to political leaders. The letter also accuses the bill of acting as “a major stumbling block facing the development of a vibrant human rights movement in Uganda,” calling for its abolition.

At the consulate, located in front of the Iranian embassy, a few people chanting “Kill the Bill” got to say their word and deliver the letter to the honorary consul, showing that even in a small Arab country like Lebanon, people care about human rights in general and LGBT rights in particular.

Many thanks to everyone who organized and participated in the seven cities to stage protests so far: Beirut, Chicago, Johannesburg, London, San Francisco, New York, and Washington. For the gay Ugandans, please know that lots of people the world over care for you and will not rest until you all are able to live in peace and security.

Check out this vid on the Beirut action from the Helem leaders:



(Hat tip: Paul Canning in the UK.)