Saturday, March 31, 2007

New Republic's Blog: Gay for Pay -- U.S. State Dept, IGLHRC & Paula Ettelbrick
The executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Paula Ettelbrick, is facing well-deserved scrutiny and criticism over her stewardship of the group from James Kirchick on The Plank, the blog for the New Republic.
Before I share excerpts from Kirchick's post, I want to cast some light on how Ettelbrick was able in 2006 to not only serve as the head of IGLHRC, which, given the horrors gays and lesbians face daily around the planet should take up all if not most of her waking hours, but she also found lots of time to teach not at just one top-ranked college, but two.
For the spring 2007 semester, Ettelbrick will be teaching a sexuality and the law course at NYU.
I mention her part-time professorial work because at a time when USA gays and others beyond our borders hunger for leadership from IGLHRC for calls to action to combat the abuses gays suffer worldwide, we may be asking too much of Ettelbrick, considering her teaching gigs on top of also running the world's largest gay-operated human rights organization.
Now let's get to The Plank's post:

Case in point, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (whose knee-jerk anti-Americanism has been discussed before at TNR ) has refused to publicize the State Department's annual report on human rights, specifically its pertinence to gay rights abroad. Every year, State issues such a report and makes an effort to include countries' treatment of gays as part of a broader analysis in human rights trends. The latest controversy over IGHLRC is detailed in The Bay Area Reporter, a gay newspaper in San Francisco.

One really should read the BAR story to see how convoluted Ettelbrick's ways are. She tells the paper her group works throughout the year with State to improve the annual human rights report, but when it's released, she can't be bothered directing her communications director to issue a statement about it and educate everybody about how to use the report to raise awareness of antigay abuses globally.

More from The Plank:

Ettlebrick, who seems unable to open her mouth about the horrendous treatment of gays overseas without throwing in a line about how awful her own country is, said, "Who is the U.S. to issue a report on every other government in the world on its human rights activities, especially in light of Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib?" Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo (the former a disgrace and the latter hardly so) should not rise to the level of epic disasters responsible for utterly destroying America's moral authority. But they have, largely because of individuals like Ettlebrick, who suffer from a serious case of moral obtuseness.

I disagree with Kirchick's contention that Gitmo is not a blot of shame for the USA, but nonetheless, his points about IGLHRC's leader are most valid. These are his final thoughts on all this:

As a supposed gay rights activist whose job it is to monitor how her brothers and sisters are being treated around the world (especially the third world), Ettlebrick ought to stick to her job. Last month, I wrote that that IGLHRC "does not really do much." Here is further confirmation of that assertion.

Even left-wing gays are taking IGLHRC to task. Michael Petrelis, a Green Party activist in San Francisco, said, "I grieve for my community and how it doesn't demand consistent, quality gay advocacy on crucial global gay rights abuses from our paid advocates." Indeed, the job of highlighting the State Department's report, in relation to gay issues, has been left to the decidedly unpaid D.C. activist Rick Rosendall, who does a fine job here.

Two years ago, Ettelbrick lauded the State Department report and its many gay citations. She told the Washington Blade: “Anytime a government acknowledges the human rights situation of LGBT people that’s a good thing."

Yes, Paula, you are so right with that thinking and for the life of me, I can't understand why your organization prefers silence to surround the latest State report over raising your voices about the annual human rights survey, and using it to advance international respect for gays and lesbians.

We need an international gay and lesbian human rights group that is not held hostage to the twisted political machinations and ideology of a leader who is more suited to the confines of a classroom, rather than the world stage where she should be putting gay rights first, America-bashing second, on her agenda.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Dozens "Die-In" at San Francisco ACT UP/Gay Shame Action in the Castro

Under a glorious California sun, more than 75 people gathered today at the crossroads of America's gayest neighborhood to commemorate the 20th anniversary of ACT UP's founding and first action.
After two months of non-stop volunteer organizing by a small handful of members of the newly-formed ACT UP/Bay Area and Gay Shame - A Virus in the System, a crowd of people with AIDS, affordable housing advocates, seniors on fixed incomes, universal health care proponents, including gays/lesbians/bisexuals/transgenders and our allies assembled at Castro and 18th Streets in San Francisco at noon to revive queer/AIDS street activism.
We stayed in front of the BofA building until 12:20 pm, when the crowd was estimated at 50 people. Our police negotiators were not able to secure permission from the five police officers assigned to monitor our action, so we marched up the sidewalk on Castro Street.
Led by gay youth holding a banner that read "Silence = Death, Action = Life. Welcome to the AIDS Eviction Capital. Health Care & Housing for All. ACT UP/Bay Area," we proceed up the street chanting "ACT UP, Fight Back, Fight AIDS!"
At Market Street we turned the corner and continued on to the front of the Coldwell Banker real estate office. Once there, we had more than 75 participants standing around.

We held a brief rally and a few people spoke about our local concerns; people w/AIDS and seniors forced from their homes in the Castro, real estate speculation, the need to get back in the streets, and national issues were also addressed; universal health care, affordable housing for all, money for AIDS and domestic needs, not Bush's wars.
Then everyone was asked to lie down "dead" on the sidewalk, which they did and our marshals drew colorful chalk outlines around their limp bodies.
The die-in lasted ten minutes and as people got up from the pavement, a chant went up: "People with AIDS under attack, what do we do? ACT UP! Fight back! Fight AIDS!"
From start to finish, the short march, speeches and die-in lasted an hour, and there were no arrests made by the cops.
All in all, I'd say the action was a success and heralds a renewed spirit of queer AIDS activism in the streets of San Francisco.
A big thank you to all who helped organize the die-in and much gratitude to everyone who showed up. We couldn't have done it without you!

And be sure to read Andres Duque's report from the NYC ACT UP action today. Click here for his coverage and great pix.

(Gay Shame members at Castro and 18th Streets, with our banner.)

(The cutest cub, and there were a few, at today's action. Should have taken a few more, crisper photos of him and his "ACTION = VIE" tee shirt.)

(Veteran activist of many causes, Tommi Avicolli Mecca, on the left, and Mary Ralowe of Gay Shame in her fabulous pink jacket and hat.)

(People lying "dead" on the sidewalk in front of the Coldwell Bank office on Market Street.)

(More "dead" people who died without health care or housing. Notice the Coldwell Banker sandwich board sign, and the chalk outlines around the bodies.)

(Former US Sailor, member of ACT UP/DC and Queer Nation/DC, all-round good guy and friend, Greg Scott. Super cute!)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Gay Family Victory in Arkansas Legislature With HRC Assistance

Gays scored a victory in Arkansas on March 27 when a bill was killed that would have outlawed gay adoptions and the gay blogosphere is starting to buzz about it.

First, some background from the ACLU of Arkansas.

Click here for the text of the actual bill.

This is how the Arkansas GOP supported the bill:

This bill merely affirms what social science has revealed again and again - the best environment to raise children is when a mother and a father are joined in marriage. Even the infamous Massachusetts Supreme Court, in a dissenting opinion to their notorious same-sex "marriage" case, argued that a mother and a father represent the best chance to raise healthy and successful children. [...]

Some facts to consider:
· A study of convicted child molesters, published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, found that "86 percent of offenders against males described themselves as homosexual or bisexual" (
W. D. Erickson, M.D., et al., in Archives of Sexual Behavior 17:1, 1988).
· The rate of homosexual versus heterosexual child sexual abuse is staggering," said Reisman, who was the principal investigator for an $800,000 Justice Department grant studying child pornography and violence. "Abel's data of 150.2 boys abused per male homosexual offender finds no equal (yet) in heterosexual violations of 19.8 girls." See more staggering statistics at this link that could be used in emails or letters to committee members.

Now let's move on to the good news, starting with this from one gay blogger in Arkanas:

I've received word from several people that SB959 failed to pass the House Judiciary Committee today. SB959 would have banned 'homosexuals' and cohabitating couples from adopting or foster children.

The bill was sponsored by Senator Womack and backed by the Arkansas Family Council. Jerry Cox, Executive Director of the Family Council, was a co-author of the SB959. This is the same organization responsible for the Arkansas Marriage Amendment, which banned same-sex marriage and anything that resembles it in Arkansas. In fact Pam Adcock, staff attorney for the Family Council, defended the constitutionality putting the Arkansas Marriage Amendment on the ballot in the Arkansas Supreme Court and won that case.

Many thanks go out to queers statewide for bringing this adoption bill to a halt. But don't expect the Family Council to let this issue disappear.

And this is the most comprehensive blog report, from a lesbian named Randi in Little Rock who shocks me because she mentions that an HRC field representative was part of the coalition that defeated the antigay bill. Her report is so good I'm reposting much of it:

Today SB959, a bill that would have banned lesbians, gays and cohabitating couples in a sexual relationship from adopting or being foster parents was stopped in the Arkansas House Judiciary Committee. Senator Womack was forced to present the bill without a House sponsor. At the end of the testimony and Senator Womack's closing remarks the bill failed to move forward due to a failure to obtain a do-pass motion.
The efforts of Representative Kathy Webb could be seen throughout the session and were a cornerstone of the defeat. We also had assistance from others on the Committee, again directly attributable to Representative Webb. Also supporting Representative Webb was an amazing coalition of Arkansas groups and individuals who opposed this bill. The hard work of all of the collaborating groups was clearly evident as we presented our opposition to this heinous legislation.
The groups included CAR, the ACLU, Stonewall Democrats, Arkansas Citizens First Congress, and the Arkansas Equality Yahoo group out of NW Arkansas. Sarah Scanlon a Regional Field Director for the Human Rights Campaign was also on hand for the past two weeks providing the support of HRC. [...]
The audience was clearly a majority in their opposition to the bill. Many of them CAR members and supporters. The organized opposition to the bill included testimony from a pediatrician representing the Arkansas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Juvenile Court Judge Joyce Warren, two teenagers, one with two lesbian moms who have been together for 17 years, the other teen lives with her grandmother who is a lesbian (this is CAR's own Director and her granddaughter), a staff attorney for the ACLU, the non-biological mother of one of the teens, CAR's Director, an out public school teacher with children, and a community activist.
There was a last minute attempt to amend the bill to allow homosexual blood relatives to adopt or provide foster care. This amendment, an attempt by the opposition to make the bill alittle more palatable was soundly defeated. [...]
We just received word that when the Judiciary Committee reconvened this afternoon there was a last ditch effort to revive the bill. Representative Woods said that he forgot to make a do-pass motion in the earlier session. There were only three votes and once again the bill was unable to move forward.
***NOTE: I am so proud of all who stepped up to defeat this bill. I will always be grateful for those who have made it possible for CAR to exist and for me to serve as CAR's director and to do this work in Arkansas. And for that special someone, without whom none of this would have been possible; you know who you are! Mil Gracias! Con todo mi corazon!

Congratulations to our gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender family down in Arkansas on defeating this anti-gay family bill. Gay America salutes you and our political allies for standing up and endorsing equality for all of us.


Homes for Sale in Arkansas

Interested in Arkansas homes for sale? You can get information on the real estate environment from the government. Its a great time to buy homes for sale by owner in Arkansas.
Baltimore Ex: 98 HIV+ People Lose Food Service, Executive Director & HRC Leader Not Cutting Pay

On the surface, this Baltimore Examiner story has absolutely nothing to do with the Human Rights Campaign. It's just another story about an HIV/AIDS service organization facing money troubles, and an executive director screaming the sky is falling for his clients, yet, the leader of Moveable Feast is not offering to cut his salary to make sure people with AIDS continue to receive hot food.

According to the latest IRS 990 for Moveable Feast, the executive director, one Mr. Vic Basile, received a total of $103,269 for his services in 2005. Hmmm, if he was making that sum two years ago, what is his current compensation package?

Here's where HRC comes in. Basile served as the organization's chief in the 1980s, he headed up the 2005 search committee that eventually found Joe Solmonese was the best person in America to run the nation's largest gay political force, and Basile presently sits on the HRC Foundation board of directors.

Hey Vic, instead of reducing the number of clients receiving meals, consider a reduction in your salary. What's more important: Keeping you in Guccis, or feeding people with AIDS?

From today's Baltimore Ex:

It could be the unkindest cut of all for those caught in the vicious cycle of sickness-induced poor appetite, physical weakness, isolation and meager means.

Reeling from a reallocation of federal Ryan White Treatment Modernization Act funds allotted the Baltimore area, Moveable Feast, a Baltimore nonprofit that prepares and delivers meals and groceries to area homeless and some 650 homebound sick, has cut delivery to 98 HIV/AIDS Baltimore City patients due to a diversion of $145,000 to other organizations.

“They took away half of our Ryan White funding for people in Baltimore City,” Moveable Feast Executive Director Vic Basile said of the March 1 development, which he said was imposed by the volunteer Greater Baltimore HIV Planning Council. “So we’re scrambling to try to find the money to [reinstate the recipients].”

Only about 50 of the organization’s total recipients — mostly women with breast cancer — are non-HIV/AIDS patients, Basile said. [...]

Basile noted that the $2.2 million per year nonprofit supports its non-HIV/AIDS clients with non-Ryan White funds, obtained from donations and events such as its fifth-annual “Ride for the Feast” charity bike ride, May 19 and 20. [...]

“The council only determines how much a service category gets, not what individual providers get,” countered Greater Baltimore HIV Planning Council Chairman Lennie Green, who said that other organizations actually determine provider allocations and assured him that no HIV/AIDS patients would be affected by a cut.

“The cut came about as a result of law.” [...]

Saturday, March 24, 2007

What Exactly Are the Top Salaries at HRC?
I'm feeling at times like the name of this blog should change to "HRC Watch," what with so much posted here lately about the group, but that name is already taken by transgender activist Ethan St. Pierre.

Here's some new information to consider as we evaluate the accountability and effectiveness of HRC -- total compensation amounts of the top leaders.

Surely these totals are in line with what people in similar positions make at other nonprofit advocacy organizations with budgets of $38 million, so my point here is not that the salaries and contributions to benefits packages at HRC are necessarily outrageously high, but rather I want to simply sunshine the information because I see my role as the queer town crier.

Here's the list of names, positions and total compensation amounts:

Joe Solmonese, Executive Director

Cathy Nelson, Development Director

Cynthia Stachelberg, Legislative Director

David M. Smith, Policy Director

Cheryl Jacques, Former Executive Director

Susanne Salkind, Management Director

Andrea Green, Treasurer

Kevin Layton, General Counsel

Elizabeth Seaton, Legal Director

Mary Breslauer, Board Member

Timothy Bahr, Major Gifts

Mark Shields, Coming Out Project

Daryl Herrschaft, Workplace Project

Matthew Bayer, Major Gifts

This information was culled from the HRC and HRC Foundation IRS 990 reports, which are posted on the HRC site for all to read and I wish to applaud the group for providing this small degree of transparency to their constituency.

Friday, March 23, 2007

(President Bill Clinton signing the Lobbying Disclosure Act into law; December 19, 1995.)

Secretary of the United States Senate: HRC's Lobbying Disclosure Reports

This may come as a surprise to the folks at the Human Rights Campaign and their supporters, but I think, based on an examination of their lobbying disclosure reports filed with the Secretary of the Senate, that the group spends a decent amount on lobbying Congress, the White House and our federal agencies. Sure, they probably could allocate more for lobbying purposes, and let's they are doing exactly that this session of Congress.
Here's a financial summary of their annual amounts spent on lobbying:
1998 / $557,550
1999 / $1,187,648
2000 / $1,060,678
2001 / $1,160,000
2002 / $1,245,380
2003 / $1,303,980
2004 / $3,502,460
2005 / $1,300,000
2006 / $1,180,969
Click here to read the reports where these numbers come from.
And bear in mind that HRC also contracts with lobbying firms and individual lobbyists, figures that are not included in their mid-year and year-end lobbying reports filed with the Secretary of the Senate. Click here to see a semi-full list of lobbying reports for HRC and the firms and lobbyists it has hired since 1998.
Then there are also these separate lobbying reports filed by Potomac Counsel, for its client HRC, which don't turn up at the other links above.
In the interests of generating more transparency and accountability with HRC, it's my hope that more gays, including bloggers and journalists, look at the lobbying disclosure forms for the group.
I'll leave to others to decide if the gay lobbying dollars spent by HRC are bringing enough tangible benefits to the gay community nationwide.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

No Time for SF Gay Town Hall; HRC Solmonese Holds Meeting at Chevron

Will wonders never cease? Even though HRC's Joe Solmonese couldn't be bothered to hold a town hall forum in San Francisco to inform the gay community about his group's work on our behalf and hear our concerns about the direction of HRC, he did hold two invitation-only meetings while in the Bay Area.

The first was last night when Solmonese appeared before members of HRC's SF Federal Club members, people who give $1,200 annually. And his second meeting was today, before executives and workers at Chevron.

Look, I can understand there may be reasons for HRC to deliver something extra only to folks who can cough up big bucks annually, and invitation-only forums are one way to make big donors feel special, and, I fully support Solmonese speaking before Corporate America to advance gay equality, but, these things should NOT prevent him and HRC from organizing free town hall meetings.

After all, Solmonese and his group claim they represent all of America's gays, so they should be much more accessible to average gays, especially those of us who don't/won't/can't donate to HRC.

Here are excerpts of a report on Solmonese's meeting at Chevron today:
Joe Solmonese (President of Human Rights Campaign was the keynote speaker at Chevron today. Chevron, Clorox, and the company that I work for (which cannot be named) hosted HRC to discuss LGBT equality in America. [...]

Joe’s message was clear. Here is what I took away: [...]

The corporate scorecard is being applied to the healthcare industry. Legislation is being addressed to be more inclusive of ‘any person’, as opposed to the terminology ‘spouse’. Hate crimes legislation is being addressed on a federal level. Bad politicians such as former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum are being ousted with HRC efforts. They fought Ann Coulter’s column when she used derogatory verbiage, which lead to her column being removed from nine papers. And the list goes on.

Joe spoke for about 45 minutes to a group of about 100 people. Afterwards, I took a moment to thank and meet Joe with the other people from my company. He is a short guy who appears to be in shape. He has a good handshake and a good smile. He’s been with HRC for a few years now; I’ve been with them longer and happy to see someone as charismatic as him on the front lines, fighting for us all.
Glad he's fighting for us all. Now, if only he would be amenable to meeting with us all through town halls, web-casting those forums, starting an interactive blog on HRC's site and answering the mounting questions from bloggers and gay journalists, he might have more of us feeling just like this blogger who was at the Chevron meeting today.
Bay Times, Rostow: If HRC Can't Handle Petrelis, Can They Handle 'Real Enemies'?

The always fabulous news commentator Ann Rostow see many sides and factors to the debate over criticism of the Human Rights Campaign in her column this week for SF Bay Times. She also poses a damn good question about the group's inability to deal with me and what it may mean about HRC's efforts to deal with real enemies of gays.

From Rostow's report in the current Bay Times:

[...] That's it for the defense, because I could also join in a lot of the condemnation. HRC should put much more pressure on Democratic candidates and avoid sucking up to Hillary Clinton at this early stage of the campaign. Their namby pamby press releases are worse than no response at all. They should take a lesson from Matt Foreman over at the Task Force. And why are they holding a closed door "invitation only" forum with Executive Director Joe Solmonese in San Francisco this week?

When HRC critic, activist Michael Petrelis, emailed HRC Vice President of Policy and Strategy, David Smith, to ask if he could bring a camera to the event, he got a surly note in response.

"Dear HRC," wrote Petrelis. "A friend of mine will be joining me for Joe Solmonese's meeting this Wednesday night at 7 pm here in SF, and he wants to tape the meeting with his camcorder. Will cameras and tape recorders be allowed at your meeting at the Olivia offices? Please advise. Best, Michael."

"Michael," Smith replied. "This event is invitation only and not open to the public. You will not be admitted."

Listen, if Joe Solmonese and HRC can't handle Michael Petrelis, how the hell are they going to handle the real enemies facing our community? And why wouldn't Solmonese want one of the most provocative activists on the blogosphere to participate in this meeting? Is this a pep rally or a serious attempt to hear what San Francisco has to say? Finally, assuming there's some good reason for the closed-door policy, would it hurt to be civil? Or grown up? [...]

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

2008 Races: Fox News Blogger, Ex-NYT'er, Media Folk Giving to Pols, PACs

It's never too early to start following the corporate media money in the next election cycle.
PoliticalMoneyLine recently launched a search engine for 2007-2008 races and I used it to search for any donations by media people of all sorts. No marquee name reporters or top corporate media owners turned up, this early in the next election cycle. And of the donations here, none went to a presidential hopeful.
The records here are a definite yawner, but I think show the necessity of keeping tabs on people in the news room deciding what get covered in print or on air, and also watching the giving of executives on the corporate side of news outlets.
What do we have here?
The biggest fish from the expedition was the contribution from Martin Frost, a Fox News blogger and it was to a congressional candidate. A former foreign correspondent for the NY Times made gave to the DNC. A local TV weatherman, who has an extensive record of giving, wrote a check to the Democrats, as did a food/life styles reporter for Chicago Magazine, and two corporate executives made small donations.

Expect to see many more such contributions as the next election cycle drags on and on and on ...

Frost, Martin Rep
12/6/2006 $1,000.00
Fort Worth, TX 76140
Fowle, Farnsworth
1/19/2007 $230.00
Bronx, NY 10463
Norcross, Bryan S Mr.
1/23/2007 $5,000.00
Miami Beach, FL 33139
1/23/2007 $300.00
Major, Brenda
1/27/2007 $250.00
New York, NY 10024
[earmarked intermediary treasury out] ACTBLUE

Manze, Vincent
1/19/2007 $216.00
Burbank, CA 91523

I Tried Recruiting This Straight Mormon into the Gay Lifestyle

This young straight Mormon man from Utah, was at the bus stop at Mission and 16th last night as I waited for the bus to arrive and take me to the Castro Theatre for a showing of Antonioni's "La Notte." His name is Elder Adams; says so on his name plate on his crisp white shirt. Kind of wet behind the ears to be an elder, I'd say.

Click on the pix to enlarge them, and you'll see Elder Adams is holding a bible in his left hand.

He was out recruiting anyone at the corner for the Mormon Church and lifestyle, and as is my fun habit at times when running into the male Mormon recruiters in San Francisco, I turn the tables, introduce myself with this line, "Hi, I'm Michael, and I'm recruiting for the gay lifestyle. Can I sign you up, young man?"

Every time I've done this, the boys have been as friendly as can be and always willing to share a few words with me. They are trained in missionary school to strike up pleasant conversations with a range of people, so why shouldn't I engage them in friendly banter about diverse lifestyles?
If you're into this sort of eye candy and want to know more about Elder Adams, who said he wrestled in high school, you'll find him probably talking up his beliefs on Mission Street. He's quite fluent in Spanish and was happy to be sent here, so he can use his language skills.

At the end of our little conversation, I hadn't succeeded in recruiting this guy for the gay lifestyle, and neither had he signed me up in his missionary zeal for his religion, but if I don't recruit for my community, who will?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Flashback: HRC Solmonese's Other Thin-Skinned Letter to Gay Press

From the superb and balanced Ethan Jacobs story in Bay Windows last week on blogger criticism of HRC:

Solmonese admitted that his letter to the Bay Times struck a sour note and said, “I think that that is a really good example of where it was the one and only time I let what I felt was a personal attack get under my skin.” He said he would never again “lose sight of who our real enemies are” in responding to criticism.
I guess Solmonese forgot about this letter of his, which, like his Bay Times letter, reveals he felt a Blade article was a personal attack on one of his staffers, and, he again attacks the gay press:

Nov 4, 2005
Washington Blade

I was disappointed, but not entirely surprised, by the Washington Blade’s story last week about a member of my staff. The Blade hit a new low in choosing to write about Brad Luna, our director of media relations, who formerly served as a spokesperson for Congressman Brad Carson, a U.S. Senate candidate who supported the Federal Marriage Amendment.

I’m not entirely clear on the point of the story. It was clear to me, though, that it had been a couple of weeks since the Blade had criticized the Human Rights Campaign. And so, with seemingly nothing better to report on, the Blade chose to go after a member of HRC’s staff.

But there was something better to report on. Last week, Brad Luna was in Maine doing press outreach and talking to national reporters about the importance of defeating a Nov. 8 anti-gay ballot measure. The Blade ignored that imminent vote and instead ran a story that seemed less like journalism and more like tabloid news.

Hey Joe, how about initiating town hall meetings and allowing HRC staffers to engage the community, and bloggers critical of your organization, with an HRC blog? And while I think it's great you occasionally blog on Huffington Post, it seems odd you don't also blog on HRC's site.

Blogging, a fabulous new way of communicating and something HRC should embrace.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

White House: Bush "Appreciates the Sacrifices" of Gay Soldiers in Iraq?

Am I reading this right? At the March 13 White House press briefing with Bush advisor Dan Bartlett, the administration acknowledged the honorable gay and lesbian members of our forces in Iraq and also stated the president appreciates their sacrifices?
This seems like a small symbolic step forward in the struggle to bring US military policies over homosexuals on par with those of other NATO countries, without America suffering in her security one bit. I'll make the good people at the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, who are doing the heavy lifting required for equality in the armed forces, aware of Barlett's statement, just in case they missed it. My mind wonders if there have been other Bush advisors who've made similar supportive remarks about our brothers and sisters in Iraq.
Well, if gay and lesbian bodies, and blood, are good enough for Bush to appreciate in his war on Iraq, why the hell can't the ban on gays in the military be lifted?
Actually, that's a weird sentence, since I really don't want to do a thing to help Bush get more meat for his grinding wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but you get my point about gay equality and the military.
From the White House:

Press Briefing by Dan Bartlett, Counselor to the President
Filing Center
Holiday Inaugural
Meacuterida, Mexico

2:00 P.M. (Local)

MR. BARTLETT: Good afternoon, everyone. I'll start with a few brief comments, before I take your questions. [...]

Q Does the President condone the remarks about homosexuality by General Pace? And has he asked for him to apologize?

MR. BARTLETT: Well, President Bush has been informed about those remarks. He's also been informed about the comments that he has made as far as clarifying, that he made it very clear that his personal views on this matter has no influence on the policy of the United States government. The "don't ask, don't tell" policy has been longstanding, one the President supports, for reasons why the Department of Defense has often described for operational considerations. So he thought it was appropriate for the Chairman to make that clear distinction today in the statement that went out just shortly ago. [...]

Q Can I ask a question -- switching gears -- on General Pace? What message do thousands of gays in the military right now serving in Iraq -- what should they take from General Pace's message regarding mortality, when their lives are on the line --

MR. BARTLETT: I have no way to identify whether your premise is right about how many people are serving in Iraq, but all I can say is the President appreciates the sacrifice and service of every service member, and what they're doing on a daily basis to improve the situation on the ground and we can accomplish our goals there.

HRC = HRC: Attack First, Answer Questions Never

This is so good I wish I had written it first:

Not that it matters to the HRC, who seem to be following the model of their patron saints, the Clintons: attack first, answer questions never.
Check out Christian Boone's gay contrarian blog from Atlanta for more of his political insight.
And to see how Slippery Hillary is thus far ignoring gay issues on her official exploratory committee's web site, click here to view the omission of any gay speeches, oh, like the one she recently made to the HRC leaders in Washington. Maybe both HRCs can't afford to get her speech transcribed and posted on their respective sites. And then go here to find gay matters missing from her press release archive.
You think our friends at HRC are asking HRC to include her speeches and positions on gays where lots of American voters will look -- her own site?

Friday, March 16, 2007

Gay Shame Joins Act Up's March 29 SF Die-In At Castro Realtors

With queer activist pride, I'm happy to announce the members of Gay Shame - A Virus in the System, on their web site this week, made available their poster for their part of the March 29 action to mark the 20th anniversary of Act Up.

Gay Shame will lead an important mission later this month -- a walking caravan of people with HIV/AIDS, senior citizens, disabled people, low- and moderate-income workers, gays and lesbians and trangenders -- to Castro neighborhood realtors. The messages? Stop evictions, maintain and build affordable housing stock, and health care for all.

The caravan will end at a realtors' offices with a die-in, people laying the streets and on the sidewalks, pretending to be dead, taking place to dramatize that the AIDS crisis is not over!

Join us for the next planning meeting for the March 29 ACT UP and Gay Shame street action.
The meeting is on Thursday, March 22 starting at 6 pm, at the Three Dollar Bill Cafe, at the gay community center, 1800 Market Street.
Kudos to the Gay Shame crew for their immense contributions to the upcoming action, and big thanks to political artist Clinton Fein for the ACT UP chalk outline poster. Click here for downloadable versions of Fein's graphics. If I do say so myself, both flyers look wonderful on public spaces in the Castro, Mission and other areas of the city.

Visit Gay Shame - A Virus in the System at their home on the web.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Human Rights Watch Won't Web-Post Gay State Dept Citations

To their credit, the Human Rights Watch has devoted valuable staff time and resources to reading and extracting gay and HIV mentions in the latest US State Dept annual human rights report, and HRW has shared the extractions on various listservs and through email.

But it has not seen fit to web-post the extractions to their superbly informative and richly documented LGTB page, and a release about gay/HIV references in the State report is not forthcoming. Click here to read GLAA's extractions.

Nonetheless, I am pleased HRW's gay director occasionally can professionally engage in respectful communication with this activist blogger and via email, inform the larger gay community of his important work, the gay related work of HRW helping so many gays today, and sharing knowledge about other sources of global reports of gay interest. I welcome his offer to make other suggestions to improve HRW's gay page.

I wonder: What would Eleanor Roosvelt do if asked to use all her communication skills and modern resources to publicize the gay State Dept report citations? Maybe I should ask myself that question more often of myself when engaging in global gay activism. What would Mrs. Roosevelt do in my shoes?

For the handful of people who give a damn about global gay issues and assuring that human rights groups do all they can to cite ANY government's documents showing the need to respect the human rights of gays and people with HIV, and efforts to use the US State Dept's own annual human rights survey to better the lives of gays across our planet, you should find this exchange of emails of interest.



Thanks. We are not going to web-post the compilation we have done without being in a position to perform a critique of its comprehensiveness and accuracy; and with the Human Rights Council underway and a major launch planned there, we have no time to do that. Moreover, as I’ve made clear elsewhere, I think it is more appropriate for local activists in the countries concerned to decide whether to publicize and use the US government’s analyses than for my program to make that decision for them.

We have circulated the compilation we did (and to repeat, I do not vouch for its own comprehensiveness) to our constituencies and on almost every relevant listserve, so that activists have the opportunity to determine how to use it. It has been posted and reposted, and activists outside the US who for some reason have not seen it are not likely to do so as a result of a further press release.

I might note that we take the same position with regard to the references to sexual orientation and gender identity in the UN independent experts’ reports—which have been very helpfully compiled by ARC International, and which are arguably even more useful to many activists than the State Department’s reports. We’re helping to circulate that; but we haven’t the resources to do a full analysis at the moment, and we rely on our partners at ARC for that. The International Commission of Jurists also publishes a thorough collection of UN language on sexual orientation and gender identity, which I recommend to everyone on all occasions.

That said, our website contains a library of international jurisprudence on sexual orientation and gender identity (not fully up-to-date, but look for major expansions in the coming months)---materials which have the force of law, unlike the US report--and other resources which many activists around the world do use. I’m happy to direct you to that (, and if you have suggestions for improvement there we are of course happy to hear them.


Scott Long
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program
Human Rights Watch

-----Original Message-----
From: []
Sent: Fri 3/16/2007 1:04 AM
To: HRW Toronto; Human Rights Watch; Iain Levine; HRW BE; Steve Crawshaw; Urmi Shah;; Peggy Hicks; HRW Berlin; Human Rights Watch EU; HRW UK; Steve Crawshaw; HRW DC; Ken Roth; HRW GVA; Urmi Shah; HRW SF; Camille Hawit

Subject: HRW Asked to Web-Post Gay Citations in US State Dept Human Rights Report

Dear Friends and Allies at HRW,
I wish to applaud HRW's ongoing examination of the latest annual human rights report from the US State Dept for gay and HIV citations, and for also culling those citations and sharing them through emails and listservs. With HRW using its resources and staffers in this effort is much appreciated by gay human rights activists globally.
The importance of comprehensive inclusion of gay and HIV references in State's report was well underscored in a Washington Blade article in 2005 about that year's report:
> Paula Ettelbrick, the executive director of the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission, agreed that it was "a very positive development."
>"Anytime a government acknowledges the human rights situation of LGBT people that's a good thing," she said. (Source: )
I therefore am asking HRW to build on the positive steps it has already done, through the valued leadership of Scott Long, in calling attention to State's latest report and request that HRW post its gay/HIV extractions from it on this page: .
Frankly, I think many global gays read the HRW gay page for info such as contained in the State report and they may not otherwise know about it, except if HRW informs them.
Actually, what would be most appreciated is if HRW would not only post the gay/HIV extractions on its site, but also issue a news release to the gay and mainstream media. Doing both the posting and issuing a release, on top of the ongoing sharing through email and listservs by Scott Long, will build a more informed press, human rights community and increase awareness of the horrible abuses gays and people with HIV/AIDS suffer.
As we work together to improve respect of the human rights of gays and people with HIV/AIDS worldwide, I again salute HRW hard-working gay researchers and their reading and excerpting of the State report.
I hope to soon blog about HRW going the extra two steps of making the excerpting visible on the HRW page, and sending out an alert that the citations are posted on your site.

Best regards,
Michael Petrelis
San Francisco, CA

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Thu, 15 Mar 2007 2:42 PM
Subject: FW: Updated State Dept

The previous version included a couple of mistakes an omissions. Apologies-it was late in the evening when I sent it out, and I accidentally attached an earlier draft. I haven't been in the office since Friday to send out the updated one. Also, note that this compiles HIV references that occur in the context of LGBT issues. We'll try to get a fuller compilation of HIV references out soon. Apologies again,

Scott Long
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program
Human Rights Watch

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Webcast: European Parliament Debate on Anti-Gay Nigeria Law, Mar 15, 11am NY/8am SF Time

This news alert was sent to me this evening and is well-worth sharing:

Dear Mr. Petrelis,
You might be interested to know that the European Parliament is having an emergency debate on Thursday March 15 on the anti-gay law in Nigeria. It should start at around 4pm Strasborg France time, which is 11 am New York time.
There are three items to be discussed in the hour allocated for emergency debates - Nigeria being the last one.
If you are interested in a parliament that is actually debating the situation - with or without the permission of HRW! - you can see it live by going to this link. You will get the English language soundtrack (there are some 20 languages used in the European Parliament, but like the UN, there is an English feed of everything.
Blog Debate: Global Gay Issues, State Dept, HRW, IGLHRC, OutRage! & Me

This post should be read only by those who are intensely curious about renewed efforts to deal with the large gatekeeping ways of Human Rights Watch's Scott Long, his active organizing to undermine efforts of other global gay organizers in the USA and UK, the ever-sleepy IGLHRC, the inability of HRW and IGLHRC to say anything on their sites or an official news release about the latest State Dept annual human rights report's wide inclusion of gay and HIV references.

In a message dated 3/9/2007 1:12:38 P.M. Pacific Standard Time, M Petrelis writes:

A writer for the New Republic speaks much criticism and truth about Ettelbrick and IGLHRC, which is supposedly devoted to working on advancing gay human rights protections everywhere on the planet.

----- Original Message ----
From: Scott Long

As Michael continues his various vendettas, I have to note that the author of this particular piece on the New Republic’s blog distinguished himself some months ago by a vicious attack in the Advocate on Rauda Morcos and the heroic Palestinian women’s group ASWAT. In that hatchet job, he accused Morcos of being insufficiently a single-issue activist, of allowing her concern for Palestinian freedom as well as gay rights to inhibit her from voicing what should be her gratitude to Israel—occupation, checkpoints, wall, and all. He actually illustrated this piece on human rights abuses in Palestine with a photograph which many of us recognized as that of an Iranian torture victim. That’s a pretty gross error which the Advocate never corrected, but it obviously stemmed from the author’s belief that all those countries—Arab, Persian, whatever—are just the same old hellhole, and who cares which is which? People whose grasp of both justice and geography is so tenuous can be disregarded in their commentary on other issues.



In a message dated 3/10/2007 8:49:27 A.M. Pacific Standard Time, writes:

I doubt that this on going cat fight will be of much interest to many of the recipients or that the Observer and Guardian will be holding
their front pages with bated breath as it develops. Nonetheless I feel contrained to say something about this and respond to both Scott and Michael. Apologies to those who can bear to read no more.
So far as the issue of pursuing vendettas is concerned given that some workers in HRW and IGLHRC saw fit to lend credence and support to recent personal attacks on Peter Tatchell (who has a 25 year history of smear campaigns against him), then I would gently suggest that
those in glass houses should stop throwing stones.
Re the New Republic article and Michael's endorsement of that, actually I don't agree that Kirchick makes fair criticisms of the ILGHRC. In fact they do a great deal of extremely good work. I pay particular tribute to Dusty Aráujo's work on asylum. By making sweeping statements that good work is being trashed.
Whatever differences we may have had with him, Scott himself does excellent work on asylum. He efforts are truly tireless. He earns every cent of his salary and some. Peter of course does a great deal of work on individual asylum cases himself - unpaid in his case.
So far as Paula is concerned I feel she is more sinned against than sinning. She had nothing to do with the recent attacks on Peter from what I can gather.
Michael, try to look at the positive and the negative. We should try to give constructive feedback to people like HRW and the IGLHRC. Ways in which they can improve on good work. We may have genuine differences, but let's not just trash, trash, trash.
Yes the IGLHRC should make critical comments (and make them publicly) about country study reports like that of the US State Department. They are used by the immigration authorities in asylum claims and often play down or deny the level of repression of LGBT people in countries like Iran.
Such reports are then used as a basis for refusing claims based on sexual orientation. In Britain, that's routine. Dealing with such reports should be a priority. You make a valid point there.
However, so far as the IGLHRC not going to Israel is concerned and Kirchick's comments on that issue, I am not prepared to take the position that criticises Iran for killing kids and then refuse to criticise Israel for doing the same thing in the Lebanon plus a whole load of other innocent civilians in their indiscriminate bombings of Lebanon last year.
Too right that the ILGHRC did not go to Jerusalem last year. Speaking for myself, I had not the slightest intention of going there or to the 'rival' event in Tel Aviv.
So far The Advocate misusing Amir's picture (a clear violation of IRQO copyright - no picture credit for a start) to make a pro-Israeli regime propaganda point, I have to agree with Scott. That's sick.
Furthermore, I am fed up with people like myself being called 'anti-Semites' simply because we criticise disproportionate and indiscrimate acts of retaliation against helpless civilians within Palestine and neighbouring countries, and the repeated invasions of their neighbours (the Lebanon alone - 1978, 1982, 2006) just as I am tired of listening to those who denounce people like myself as 'Zionists' simply because we think Israel has a right to exist, we condemn terrorist atrocities against Jews, we refuse to endorse anti-semitic conspiracy theories about 9-11 etc and we refuse to accept that Jews in Israel should be pushed into the sea.
Cuba hardly compares to the situation in Israel. Yes it is still a dictatorship, yes people can be locked up for dissident activity. Israel is a democracy - if not for all the inhabitants of the territory it occupies. However, when was the last time Cuba bombed or invaded its neighbours? How many massacres of civilians have there been on its territory?
The lionisation of Israel and the demonisation of Cuba has everything to do with US foreign policy and nothing to do with real comparisons between the two countries. The Castro brothers can hardly be compared with Pinochet and an assortment of other post War pro US caudillos, who some were pleased to claim were part of the 'Free World.'
So far as the situation for LGBTs is concerned that has improved dramatically in Cuba in the past 15 years or so. The days are long gone (the 1960s) when gays were rounded up and put into camps. How 'kind' were the US authorities to gays in the 1960s, even in the Castro district?
It is true that there is a military base in Cuba where people have been detained indefinitely without trial. Where there has been persistent abuse of inmates and where conditions are abominable. However, the Castro regime have no control over what goes on there. The US government does. I speak of course of Guantanamo Bay.
Simon Forbes

In a message dated 3/10/2007 9:32:25 A.M. Pacific Standard Time, writes:

What a way to spin our wheels and spend precious time--- throwing stones at each other. Wow. that is really advancing sexual freedom!


How about identifying real targets, instead of people in the movement you don't agree with?

I look to those whose task it is to watch the international sphere regarding LGBT rights and abuses, to give me insight and guidance-- instead I get boring, self agrandizing, destructive and other wise time wasting diatribes from with activists accusing one and other of failures--- or worse --

Please let me know when there is something to say that reaches beyond these angels dancing on the head of a pin.

I'd like to be supportive to your "worK" but this list serve rarely helps me to discern know just what that work is beyond attacking one and other.

I am sincere in my sentiments.

Roberta Sklar
Director of Communications
National Gay and LesbianTask Force

In a message dated 3/12/2007 10:24:41 A.M. Pacific Standard Time, writes:

As far as I have seen, Michael's "vendettas" against IGLHRC have consisted
mainly of pressing Paula to issue a statement drawing attention to the
State Department's Country Reports for 2006. If Michael's jabs come across
to her as constant attacks, that only confirms reports of the insular
regnant at IGLHRC.

The New Republic is one of the most venerable and highly respected journals
opinion in this country. Once again, Paula refuses to recognize the
between news stories on the one hand and news analysis and opinion on the
Last year, she and her staff denounced my criticism in Bay Windows of their
response to the boycott of Jerusalem World Pride 2006, falsely accused me of
inaccuracy despite my having accurately quoted her own statement, falsely
characterized my commentary as a news article, and faulted me for not having
called her to get her spin before writing it. She wouldn't even admit what
were doing, saying essentially, we're not boycotting it, we're just not
The fact is that Israel is the only country in the region where a Gay Pride
celebration is even conceivable, and if (as Jamie and I pointed out last
IGLHRC can see fit to send representatives to conferences to totalitarian
capitals like Havana and Beijing, it's laughable for them to cite human
concerns for staying away from Jerusalem.

Unlike the leftists who object to my editors for having published my
who mischaracterize my writing, and who quickly change the subject rather
seriously address my criticisms, I have stressed my respect for the work of
IGLHRC and HRW. So does Michael, who wouldn't be pressing them to do things
he didn't. But Paula appears to be more thin-skinned than she is prepared
admit, so instead of responding to Michael's specific criticisms she just
whines that he is attacking her. That tactic is past tiresome.

I am not surprised to see Simon Forbes' comments. It is in the nature of
coalition work that one does not see eye to eye on everything with one's
coalition partners. As for Israel's "repeated invasions of their
I have to question Simon's claimed even-handedness given his failure to
mention that Israel was responding to attacks. Granted, Israel's prime
minister and defense minister demonstrated last summer that they are
probably the most inept in that nation's history, but people who live next
door to Hezbollah should not be surprised when missiles rain down on their
heads -- and Palestinians who vote for Hamas should not be treated as
helpless victims. I am glad, however, that Simon breaks with many of
similar sentiments in defending Israel's right to exist. One of the things
I most respect about his colleague Peter Tatchell, who like Simon is a good
distance to my left (I consider myself a centrist), is Peter's intellectual
honesty and willingness to criticize his own side. Scott Long, on the other
hand, has done far more personal sniping than Michael or Peter have done
(for all their outspoken agitation). Yet I continue to point out the
enormous amount of highly valuable work that Scott does. By contrast, all
Scott seems interested in doing with regard to independent activists like
Peter is to tell them to shut up and go away and accuse them of acting
only for personal catharsis. The single most annoying thing about the
behavior of IGLHRC and HRW is their arrogant gatekeeping efforts, as
displayed last summer when many of us overcame our differences to join
in an international day of solidarity with our brothers and sisters in
Iran, who expressed appreciation for our efforts.

One point of Simon's that I would like to quibble over: He writes that
the U.S. State Department reports (the gay- and HIV-related portions of
which I have extracted and loaded on a single webpage at
"often play down or deny the level of repression of LGBT people in
like Iran. Such reports are then used as a basis for refusing claims
based on sexual orientation." Michael's own point is nearly the opposite
of what Simon claims. The State Department reports depend on a variety
of sources, including NGOs like HRW (which is one of the most frequently
cited NGOs in the country reports); but this year's reports appear to
have more information, which suggests they are getting more cooperation.
The reports are used by lawyers to support asylum claims. We are a very
long way from the goal in all of this, of course, which is a reason to
publicize the reports and encourage more people around the world to feed
information to the State Department -- rather than making a sniping
anti-American comment as Scott did in an email that was forwarded to me
last week. He should be emphasizing why people SHOULD value the State
Department reports, and explaining that they are not a personal
projection of George W. Bush. There is a tendency on the part of the
media to trivialize these things, as when NBC gleefully reported that
the Borat movie was included in the reports as a target of censorship,
and NBC then suggested that even Condi Rice could not resist Sasha
Baron Cohen. The print length of the 2000 reports must be close to
6000 pages, but all NBC cares to say about this massive documentation
of human rights violations is to make a joke. That is why we all need
to make some effort to get over ourselves and work with one another
as best we can. But we ARE going to have serious ideological
disagreements. We can do that because we, unlike many of those for
whom we advocate, live in freedom.

Rick Rosendall
Washington, DC

In a message dated 3/12/2007 6:36:37 A.M. Pacific Standard Time, writes:


Please take me off of your mailing list. Your constant attacks, with absolutely no information about what any of us do, are demoralizing and wasteful. You, as well as the New Republic apparently, keep beating the drum on a single issue that has been answered and explained many times. You don't like the answer, what am I to do? You are not part of the constituency of LGBT people to whom IGLHRC's work is primarily directed. Nor to do you ever bother to pay attention to the range of work that we do and have succeeded in, sometimes on our own, often with the alliance of a small but incredibly talented and committed group of colleagues determined to build a better world for sexual minorities, using a variety of strategies. For most of us, our disagreements are handled directly and respectfully. Your reliance on articles from rags like the New Republic (defined by me as a "rag" to distinguish it from journalism where the author of the article actually contacts the organization before bashing them or, god, forbid, discovering that the group had a valid strategic reason for following a certain course) only to cause trouble and dissension. Frankly, I believe in the work that IGLHRC is doing and the impact we have had in hundreds of crisis and movement-building contexts throughout our history. Do I wish we could do more? Naturally. But there is a little thing called limited resources that somehow keeps us from taking on the entire world at once. I am always - and have always been in my 28+ years of political activism - willing to respond to critics and those with other perspectives. But, at this point in time, the world is much to chaotic to respond to a single blogger who seems to have no other agenda than to spread dissension and chaos among the small group of us who are engaged in simply trying our best to build a commitment to justice and rights for LGBT people and all sexual minorities. It is simply a better use of my time to engage in those discussions with those who share a positive commitment, not those who just want to criticize.

So, as I asked, and as I see my colleague Roberta Sklar has asked, please take me off of your listserve, Michael.



Paula L. Ettelbrick

Executive Director

International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission

In a message dated 3/14/2007 10:11:08 A.M. Pacific Standard Time, writes:

Regarding Scott's scandalous misrepresentation of the OutRage! letter to President Kufuor of Ghana:

This is part of Scott's on-going political vendetta against me and OutRage! He is working worldwide against us and this attack is just another example of his sectarianism and untruths. Instead of battling homophobia, Scott devotes an inordinate amount of time to rubbishing, smearing and belittling other campaigners (remember his recent slight against the Russian gay activist, Nikolai Alekseev, on the Euro-Queer e-list?). My message of Scott is this: stop bashing other activists and spend the time fighting homophobia.

Below is a letter I have emailed to Prince Kweku MacDonald in response the email Scott quoted.

It shows that we acted in response to Prince Kewku's requests. He asked us to protest.

Contrary to Scott's insinuations, we did not "expose" Prince Kweku. He has long been known as a gay campaigner in Ghana and has been widely reported in the Ghana and world media over many years.

Our letter to the President, and Ghana and world media, did NOT mention Prince Kweku's name (they already know it anyway). We only mentioned his name, as he himself has done many times, when we circulated a copy of our letter to selected gay activists and gay journalists.

I hope this explains the facts, as opposed to Scott's poisonous, malicious spin.

BTW: Scott: I have archived EVERY email you have ever sent anywhere attacking and smearing me (already there are HUNDREDS!!!). Copies are being deposited in gay archives in the US, Australia and Britain, so there will be a permanent historical record of all your smears and slurs (and those you have orchestrated others to make. Some of the people you think are on your side are secretly sending me copies of your vile character assassinations and plots to discredit me and OutRage!.

Best wishes, Peter

In a message dated 3/12/2007 8:10:33 P.M. Pacific Standard Time, writes:

I have no particular desire to get into this; experience suggests it can go on for months. But I will respond to the notion Rick falsely disseminates that I have engaged in some frivolous "anti-american sniping." HRW did a culling of references to sexual orientation, gender identity, and HIV status in the State Department reports last week. We sent it to thousands of activists around the world. In the accompaying e-mail I noted that "the usefulness of this will very much depend on how much or little credibility the US’s own human rights record leaves its reporting in your own country or community."

That isn’t sniping. It is the truth. When I was advocacy director for IGLHRC in the 1990s, I did a lot of lobbying to push the State Department to report on sexual orientation- and gender identity-based abuses. I was at a historic meeting with Harold Koh, then Assistant Secretary for DRL (accompanied by Amnesty, Global Rights, and Human Rights Watch) at which he finally agreed to include a standard reference to sexual orientation in State’s cable to post setting out the terms of reporting. A little checking of the record, then, would refute the idea that I belittle the reports. In fact, there are still countries where the US’s reporting has considerable influence. In Jamaica, for instance, we cooperated closely with activists last year in submitting information, because the US’ word counts. But any sensible person would have to admit that, in country after country, the US’s credibility on human rights issues has been severely damaged by Guantanamo, by Abu Ghraib, by secret renditions, by the erosion of civil liberties at home. Denying this seems to me a wilful and peculiar blindness. To name a few nations where there have been abuses against LGBT people in recent years: in Uzbekistan, the US aggressively supports a brutal regime which tortures and murders Islamists and dissenters. In Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and probably Saudi Arabia, the US renders suspects to the torture regimes to extract information—and therefore is in a paradoxical position condemning their activities In Poland and Romania the US has run secret prisons and torturre centers. And, even beyond that, in much of Latin America, people’s memories—sometimes the marks on their bodies—still recall the US Army School of the Americas, which trained the torturers who served the dictators for a generation or more. When I was working in Egypt during the second Gulf War, the government rammed through, with three hours’ debate, a renewal of the Emergency Law, which allows indefinite detention and torture of tens of thousands of Islamists and thousands of leftist dissidents (and under which the Queen Boat suspects were tried in 2001). I was at a meeting where the speaker of the Shura was asked about it; he said, "Now that the US has an emergency law, how can they say we do not need one too?" There were good people working at the US embassy in Cairo who cared deeply about human rights; some of them even monitored the cases of people arrested (and tortured) for demonstrating outside the US embassy. But there is a higher level; and there, the US lost the last shred of moral credibility in Egypt it was trying to scrape from the bottom of the barrel when Condoleeza Rice abjectly, cravenly abandoned Ayman Nour to imprisonment, to curry favor with Mubarak against the Muslim Brotherhood. No respectable Egyptian human rights activist is going to "use" the State Department report in advocacy. And no one working on LGBT rights there is going to touch it with a ten foot pole.

HRW sent the information from the report to our constituencies, and left it to them to decide how to employ it. That’s appropriate. Rick writes that I "should be emphasizing why people SHOULD value the State Department reports." No, Rick, I shouldn’t. It is patronizing to suppose that I should be teaching activists in their own countries about the utility of the US’s reporting. They don’t need me to tell them whether the State Department will help or hinder them. In almost twenty years of working with LGBT activists on the international stage, I have found them to be profoundly politically savvy people from whom Americans could learn much, though we are generally reluctant to do so. They know international human rights better than most US advocates; they know more about the US’s human rights record, at home and abroad, than most US citizens. To suppose that they need to be taught how the US can serve or save them is the kind of arrogance that leads other advocates to organize campaigns around a country, without ever asking anyone in the country itself.

Simon has a great deal to say about Africa and Iran Concerning the former, I’ll only note that Outrage appears now to be responding—having presided over a couple of weeks of impugning African activists’ credibility on the listserves-- by encouraging African activists to attack one another. That suggests to me, clearly, a concern less with the realities of Africa than with reputations in the UK. On Iran: HRW shared the facts it had documented on Mashhad, and on the unsupported claims of a "pogrom," and we did so in a straightforward and responsible way. What ensued was three months of vitriol and nonsense, all of it coming from about four people—one of whom, of distinctly doubtful mental stability, was directly egged on by Peter and Michael themselves, as the back e-mails show. The spectacle may have been embarrassing, but I’m not the one embarrassed. We’ve stated and documented our case and will document the situation further, and to the best of our ability accurately, in a forthcoming report. We continue to work closely with the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization (now the Iranian Queer Organization): unlike some others, I can at least say we never misrepresented them or manipulated them in press releases. In fact, we’re in contact with them almost every day. I’m sure we differ on some subjects, and I’m equally sure they’re grateful for any responsible help they receive from any quarter. But, to be honest—and to belittle no one’s very considerable dedication and work-- the fact that the IRQO appears to respect us, and vice-versa, matters much more to me than whether people in London or San Francisco approve of us.

I am now getting back to real work.

In a message dated 3/14/2007 8:26:22 A.M. Pacific Standard Time, writes:


This discussion has degenerated into exactly the kind of pointlessness I’ve seen before. HRW sent around information about the State Department report to thousands of people around the globe. You and Michael aren’t even willing to acknowledge that. Instead, you want to dictate the language we use to do it.

It’s not "Western guilt" to maintain that domestic activists in the global South should determine their own lives and lead their own movements. It’s not "patronizing Westerners" to insist that we acknowledge who and where we are, recognize the structures of power in which we are implicated, and question our governments’ claims to a moral purity that putatively transcends history and political reality. On Monday the National Association of Evangelicals—pro-Bush, pro-War-on-Terror, and not notably a friend of human rights movements in the past—issued a statement condemning US policy on torture, observing that "The United States historically has been a leader in supporting international human rights efforts, but our moral vision has blurred since 9/11. We need to regain our moral clarity." That needs to be said again and again in addressing the people who are affected by our policies. If that’s "Western guilt," tell it to Ted Haggard.

Resources in the international human rights movement are still overwhelmingly concentrated in the US and Europe. Vision, courage, and real leadership are not. The movement needs to change, and all of us who are activists in the North—myself included--need to abandon the UNICEF-card model in which we are representing, and rescuing, people who cannot speak for or act for themselves. I make no apologies for seeing the PGLO as a constituency to which I am morally obligated to respond, while Mike Petrelis isn’t. And I will continue to speak out when I see movements wilfully divided, the credibility of courageous activists questioned, or people in situations of danger treated with disrespect.

I opened my inbox this morning to find an email from one of the leaders of the Ghanaian gay movement. He asked for action when his President visited London. He didn’t ask Outrage to use his name in a widely circulated press release; nor, it seems, did they ever talk to him or ask his permission to do so.

In a message dated 3/14/2007 9:50:35 A.M. Pacific Standard Time, writes:

Sigh. Thus, presumably, African activists are unable to speak or act or think for themselves, and are simply to be manipulated for our overarching ends. This has become the standard line. Not a nice one.

I believe the question is not how many news references there are to Mac-Darling or his group out there, but whether he gave permission for his name to be used in THIS context in THIS press release, and whether anybody asked him. I was as surprised as anyone by his email this morning, and I assure you I had nothing to do with the business. (I could raise some questions about why Outrage is publishing attacks, by African allies among others, on Victor Mukasa in Uganda, who's already undergone police harassment for her heroic work, but let it pass.) Jessica is on the phone with Mac-Darling and trying to determine if anything can be done about his safety, and surely that ought to be others' priority now?

In a message dated 3/14/2007 10:57:35 A.M. Pacific Standard Time, writes:

Dear Peter,

I do recommend being in direct contact with Mac-Darling on the matter. It's more productive than arguing with me.

As far as the vile conspiracies go--I have repeatedly expressed my admiration for aspects of your work in the past, even as you and those around you attacked those who disagreed with you as apologists for fundamentalism, cowards beholden to dictators, etc. I am relieved now to hear there is an archive. I have my doubts that history will find either one of us of much interest; but if so, I surrender final judgment to the Ph.D. students of the future.

Best wishes,

In a message dated 3/12/2007 5:52:18 P.M. Pacific Standard Time, writes:

Thanks for that Rick
In response to Paula, my reading of Roberta Sklar's comments are that they were directed against all of us, not just against Michael. People are increasingly weary of these spats, fatwas and counter fatwas and flame emails re international issues. Publicly that's all people do see. They don't see the good constructive work that does go on behind the scenes.
COC, who are also totally exasperated with all this, told me last Summer that they had moved on from these types of quarrels about tactics etc since the 1980s. I think that is a major reason to account for their success on the asylum issue last year. In the Netherlands people work together instead of concentrating on fighting each other. COC themselves combine professionalism with political courage.
No sooner do these disputes start to simmer down then something starts it all up again. I have in mind for instance the recent, vicious personal attacks against Peter Tatchell re Africa. The claim that the Nigerian bill in question was dormant and unlikely to be revived looks a bit silly now. Is Peter going to blamed for that? Because of a press release that was promptly withdrawn from his web site? (not that this withdrawal stopped a further and more vicious public attack being disseminated a few days later).
The whole hoo ha about Iran last year that Rick refers to could easily have been avoided. The whole dispute had long simmered down by then. People had worked together over the Netherlands crisis, focusing on the real opponents and not each other. Concerns could have have been communicated to myself and others about the Mashhad case and others should be dealt with - about not being over categorical about such cases given the nature of the indirect evidence on the Mashhad case and so on. Such concerns could have been taken on board, the wording of releases could have been changed before they went out and so on.
No, without any warning HRW went straight for confrontation. With days to go before the demonstrations this statement went out, widely circulated inside and outside the US with the unsurprising consequence that it was swiftly published on the web resulting in public statements in response, including Peter's open letter. A counter event was organised in NYC which seemed to do little except to snipe at what people were doing in a number of countries in the world. It achieved nothing except divide the community, open old wounds and give ammunition to our enemies.
Why did I contact Michael about this matter in the first place for which I have been criticised (repeatedly)? Because he was the ONLY person in the US to organise a demonstration against the Mashhad executions in 2005. Michael may be criticised for many things - but he should not be criticised for organising demonstrations against these executions in his own town in 2005 and motivating others in other cities and other countries to do likewise in 2006.
That first SF demonstration of August 2005 like others that took place at the same time, including London, was NOT premised on "arrogant certainty" about the circumstances of the case but in contrast on scepticism about the official lines about the case including the claims that the boys were above 18 - and the position that the executions should be condemned in any case.
At that time that scepticism was not shared by HRW and the IGLHRC who made categorical statements about the case endorsing official lines of the Iranian government. This was a major source of argument. The Iranian government have a long history of pinning bogus charges on people. The whole dispute could have been settled quite quickly but for that issue - and the NCRI conspiracy theory red herring.
Initial statements may have been categorical and contained errors such as the non-translation of 'Onf (an Arabic word that is obscure to most Iranians). However, campaigners swiftly moved from that early categorical position. Even Jama's initial revelations did not alter that. The London protest of October 2005 was again not premised on a categorical position about the Mashhad case.
I might add that the first person to publicly pour cold water on the suggestion that the Arak case of August 2005 involved consensual homosexuality was Michael if you look at his blog for August. He quoted a source inside Iran who said he knew 'Ali, the reported victim in this case.
In fact it probably wasn't until towards the end of the year about November 2005 that Peter, Michael et al became more categorical about such cases again. An HRW release about the 'gay' Gorgan case (ironically it was HRW who were the first to use the dreaded 'g' word with regard to this case) may well have had something to do with that shift in their position. By July 2006 of course HRW had shifted its position on that case - it is only in July we became aware of this with their public denunciation of the campaign. Not a shining example of good communication and how to win friends and influence people.
We would all dearly wish to move on from all these disputes believe me. I have seen the positive side of the work that HRW and IGLHRC do and I think on the whole it is positive. I believe there is far more common ground than these constant spats suggest. Does it all boil down to egos? How are we going to move on from all this?
I might note that Amnesty have never taken part in any of these disputes, which is to their credit. They remain unsure about what were the real circumstances of the Mashhad case, though they have no doubt that both Mahmoud and Ayaz were minors when arrested and never suggested otherwise. Their position has been pretty consistent from the start.

In a message dated 3/14/2007 12:38:45 P.M. Pacific Standard Time, M Petrelis writes:

In a message dated 3/14/2007 8:26:22 A.M. Pacific Standard Time, writes:

This discussion has degenerated into exactly the kind of pointlessness I’ve seen before. HRW sent around information about the State Department report to thousands of people around the globe. You and Michael aren’t even willing to acknowledge that. Instead, you want to dictate the language we use to do it.

I wish to publicly thank you and the two HRW researchers for your valuable work thus far in examining the new State Dept report's gay HIV mentions, and the fact that you've also shared what was culled from it by the HRW researchers with listservs is laudable.
Seems to me you recognize the merit of the gay citations, otherwise you wouldn't have used HRW staffers and resources, and taken the time to share it with others via email.
So how about going two steps further? I suggest HRW post its extractions from the report on this page: . Of course, since its your group's site, you can also bash the USA records on gay human rights respects.
And how about HRW's press office issuing a release about the posting, assuming it happens, of the State citations on HRW's gay page?
Doing those two things would allow more attention in on the report, which may help our brothers and sisters globally.