Thursday, June 28, 2007

CDC Admits Error: AIDS Over-Estimated for 2001 - 2005

Some very interesting HIV/AIDS revisions out of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta this morning.

The federal agency is acknowledging over-estimating infections/full-blown cases in recent years, while also claiming the higher numbers did not affect federally-funded assistance programs for persons with HIV/AIDS.

Not sure how this was possible, since local health departments of public health and AIDS agencies surely used the original numbers to apply for and potentially receive more federal dollars. Knowing that the San Francisco DPH, how shall I put this, can be very creative when counting HIV infections and AIDS cases, it would not surprise me to learn other local DPHs have been as creative in tallying up such things, given how many millions of dollars are at stake.

I simply don't accept the CDC's claim that the over-estimates didn't mean more federal money for the DPHs, but I'll leave it to other government watchdogs to ask tough questions about the original AIDS stats and the downward revisions.

From the current CDC Weekly Morbidity and Mortality Report:

Each year the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention at CDC publishes an HIV/AIDS surveillance report. On June 28, 2007, CDC published online a revised 2005 report to correct an error in the calculation of the number of estimated AIDS cases for the period 2001--2005; this error resulted in an overestimate of 2% for the period 2001--2005 and 8.3% for the year 2005 . . .
CDC identified the error when reviewing computer programs in preparation for analyzing data for the 2006 report. An error in the computer code used to adjust for reporting delays in AIDS cases led to overestimation of AIDS cases for the period 2001--2005. Because 20% of AIDS cases typically are reported >1 year after diagnosis with AIDS, estimates are used to adjust for reporting delays and to allow for evaluation of data from recent years. The error has been corrected, and a complete external review of procedures for data estimation and validity checks has been conducted to ensure that this type of error does not occur again.
The error affected only estimated AIDS cases for the period 2001--2005, including those AIDS cases for which HIV and AIDS were diagnosed concurrently . . .
The error did not affect data used to allocate funding for major HIV/AIDS assistance and treatment programs administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration and the Department of Housing and Urban Development; only reported cases are used for allocation of resources administered via the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Modernization Act and Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS.
The overestimate of AIDS cases was 2% for the period 2001--2005 and 8.3% for 2005. Because some AIDS cases are diagnosed concurrently with HIV infection, a small overestimate of HIV/AIDS cases also occurred (0.4% for 2001--2005; 2% in 2005).
The corrected estimates for 2005 are 40,608 estimated AIDS cases for the 50 states and the District of Columbia and 37,331 estimated HIV/AIDS cases for the 33 states with longstanding HIV reporting.

Click here for the full announcement from CDC. This is also a good time to remind people about the recent estimated 33% fall in new HIV infections in San Francisco by the San Francisco health department:

While there was a ten percent decrease in total estimated new [HIV] cases, this seemingly modest decrease is actually a much greater prevention success than it appears.

From 2001 to 2006, the estimated number of gay men living in San Francisco increased from 46,800 to 58,343.

The increase was likely due to real growth in the gay community and, potentially, in part the result of an underestimation of the population size in 2001.

When the effect of the increase in the population size of MSM is taken into account, new infections have decreased by an estimated 33 percent. [Emphasis added]

Monday, June 25, 2007

Aug 4 = Global Gay Solidarity Day in Six Cities, Organizers Needed

After discussions with several activists in many countries and cities about organizing an international same-day coordinated action this summer, activists in five other cities have stepped forward to join with gay Swedes on August 4 in solidarity marches.
August 4 is when Stockholm stages its annual gay Pride parade and celebration, and on that Saturday members of Tupilak, a gay and lesbian cultural workers collective, will march on foreign embassies in solidarity with LGBT people everywhere.
Here is the list of cities and contacts for August 4:
1. Mexico City, Mexico; Lars Ivar Owesen-Lein Borge, ; [+52] (155) 5547 2276

2. New York, NY; USA; Brendan Fay, ; 1-718-721-2780
3. San Diego, CA; USA; Michael Mussman,
4. San Francisco, CA; USA; Michael Petrelis, ; 1-415-621-6267
5. Stockholm, Sweden; Bill Schiller, ; 46-8-784 7240
6. Washington, DC; USA; Lane Hudson, ; Rick Rosendall,
Each city will decide how it will stand in solidarity on August 4 with LGBT people across the planet, what sort of action will be organized and where it will be held, along with a theme related to protecting the human rights of all gays.
Depending on a given country's gay human rights record, some vigils will demand respect for gays and other actions will offer public thanks for advancements.
Some cities like New York, San Francisco and Stockholm will march on a few embassies and consulates; while in Washington activists will hold a speak out at the South African embassy to praise that country's great leaps forward for LGBT equality.
Activists in other cities and towns are asked to volunteer to participate in the August 4 international day of LGBT solidarity.
If you live in a location with foreign embassies or consulates, please consider organizing an event there on August 4.
And if you reside in a city lacking foreign government offices, you can still participate in the international August 4 solidarity actions by organizing a vigil or speak out in your local gay neighborhood or community center.
These are messages of support from Lars in Mexico and Bill in Sweden that I hope will motivate you and your friends to mobilize for August 4, which is about six weeks from today, leaving plenty of time to organize, organize, organize for global gay solidarity.
From our friend and lead organizer in Mexico City:
As we have expressed before, in Mexico City, we are very much in favour of 4 August as the International Day of Solidarity. What we want to do here, is to organise a large outdoor community event on Saturday in the heart of our pink neighbourhood during the day with many different activities, artistic events and information stands by different groups and organisations.

During the month of July the participating organisations, will collect signatures via their webpages, and on 4 August, we will collect signatures all day long in the actual event.
Then, on Monday after the event, the committee (which now has representatives from 10 different organisations in Mexico City) will go to the Embassy and deliver our letter.
Here in Mexico City we now have a web site for our 4 August event as well as a new banner in the front page of Enkidu Magazine which takes you to the new page, which still is under development. More information will be added in the next days.

We had an emotional, but very productive and interesting debate here about how to call the event, and we have ended up with this title in Spanish for the event in Mexico City: Dia de Solidaridad Global de las Diversidades.

Mexico has an overwhelming cultural diversity, and many ethnic and cultural communities in Mexico have various traditional gender and sexual identities, which cannot be easily fit into the label LGBTTTQ. The most well-known example are the Muxe in Oaxaca in the south of Mexico, where local Muxe activists often have felt intimidated and threatened by westernised urban middle class activists who have attempted to integrate them into one of the trans-categories.
Many Mexican regions also have several categories of homosexual men with traditional identities in their communities that reject being labelled as "gay" because this is an imported and alienating term that for them refers to the shining westernised gay subcultures of the big cities and not to anything related to their realities.

I think that we all share the hope that the Global Solidarity Day will develop into something really global, which hopefully in the future also will be celebrated in places like India, the Middle East or Africa with multitudes of traditional sexual and gender identities that may not fit into any of the Western LGBTTTQ categories, but should definitely feel included here.
Therefore, we wanted to share this reflection with you, and tell you why we will promote this day in Mexico as "Global Diversities Solidarity Day" rather than Gay Solidarity Day or LGBT Solidarity Day this year.

If anyone has any thoughts about these issues, please let us know. Our discussion here will certainly continue since we also consider it important that this day, being a Global initiative, also has a global identity and more or less the same name in all languages, so we definitely appreciate global input on this.

Best wishes
And this message is from our good buddy and chief organizer in Sweden:
Dear Mikael and colleagues!

Thanks for the flood of e-mails concerning August 4 as a day of international rainbow solidarity! Great to see new cities and new ideas jumping onto to the list!

I think the planned salute to South Africa is a smashing idea -- a healthy balance of praise and outrage -- showing what has to be done and what is being accomplished!

Would only like to comment that from our Nordic/Baltic perspective, the reluctant decisions to finally give green lights to pride parades in Poland and Latvia are very new -- with enormous homophobic forces trying to turn back the clocks -- so a "well done" message to Polish and Latvia consulates and embassies could be good "pats on the back" for those progressive elements facing much resistance at home.

If you're making placards or signs naming countries, of course Russia should be high on the list after this year's renewed anti-pride violence. And Belarus (White Russia) -- the last dicatorship of Eastern Europe -- where rainbows are in chains and where prides and international rainbow gatherings unthinkable.

We also urge you to put Lithuania on your list if you can. Their request last month to unfurl a big, rainbow flag in a downtown square in Vilnius during their first "Rainbow Days" in Vilnius was rejected by the city authorities for "security and moral reasons." Lithuania also then became the first European Union member to ban a travelling EU information bus handing out leaflets against discrimination because it included rainbow rights. "No Pride" religious fanatics and other homophobes were allowed to demonstrate in Vilnius against a pride event that never took place! Our colleagues in Vilnius could really use an international boost and a cheer from somewhere like Mexico City or San Francisco!

The list of "candidates" is long. But every nation mentioned on August 4 of course also stands for those next door or on the other side of the globe.

Proud to be with such an international crowd who cares.

Bill Schiller, for the International Lesbian & Gay Cultural Network Information Secretariat in Stockholm

Friday, June 15, 2007

Where Are Ed Jew's Mug Shots?

Today's Ed Jew question: Where are his mug shots from Tuesday night when he turned himself in to the Burlingame Police Department?

I haven't seen his booking photos anywhere in the San Francisco media or on the web, three days after surrounding to the authorities. I know there are mug shots because the Burlingame Police Department press release says for copies of them, one should contact the SF District Attorney's Office.

A few minutes ago, I emailed Deb Mesloh, public information officer for the SF DA, requesting Jew's mug shots, in electronic format.

Let's see how quickly she gets me copies of those pictures. By the way, the SF DA has not posted any the photos on her site, nor is any mention made of them in DA Kamala Harris' news release.

From the Burlingame Police Department release:

Mr. Jew’s arrest, booking, and subsequent release on bail took place without incident. For further information about Mr. Jew’s arrest, booking photos, criminal charges, and bail amount, contact the San Francisco District Attorney’s office.

The Burlingame Police Department will not be releasing further information.

Commander Bradley D. Floyd
Services, Investigations Division
Burlingame Police Department
1111 Trousdale Dr.
Burlingame CA. 94010
So where are the mug shots already? From NBC 11 News:

Burlingame police Sgt. Jeff Downs said Jew posted 10 percent, or $13,500 bail. The remaining 90 percent was posted through a bail bonds agency, Downs said. Jew's mug shot would be released later, he said.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Ed Jew: Time to Resign!

I went to City Hall this afternoon to deliver a message to beleagured Supervisor Ed Jew: it's time for you to resign from the Board of Supes. As a member of the City Operations and Neighborhood Services committee, Jew was supposed to be present at the meeting today, scheduled to start at 1:00 pm.

When I arrived at his office, a good dozen-plus reporters and cameramen were staked outside, waiting for him to emerge. Longtime queer housing transgender activist Robert Haaland came along and he kindly consented to snap these two shots of me mingling with the media. Thanks Robert!

As Jew came out of his office, with a sheriff's deputy clearing a path for him through the press thicket, I shouted, "Do San Francisco a favor and resign!"

Well after the official start time of the committee meeting, it was gaveled to order. Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier quickly moved the agenda to an item that I can't recall right now, but one that required her to allow for public comment.

Holding my sign chest-level, I took a few moments of public comment time to again ask Jew to do San Francisco a favor and resign from the Board. Alioto-Pier immediately reminded me my remarks were out of order, so I stopped talking and stepped away from the microphone.

Why did I do all this? Because Jew, by remaining on the Board and unable to prove District 4 residency, makes an outrageous mockery of the electoral process and simple basic democratic values.

Sure, he is innocent of all pending civil and criminal charges until proved guilty or the charges dismissed, but his unwillingness and inability to prove not only District 4 residency but San Francisco residency is a charade that must end.

Ed Jew: Resign!
State Senator Carole Migden's East Bay Deed

For many years I've heard the rumor about San Francisco State Senator Carole Migden not being a full-time resident of the city. People have said she really lives and spends most of her time in the East Bay, with her longtime companion Cristina Arguedas, a criminal defense attorney with an office in downtown Berkeley.
What with all the recent news and controversy over Ed Jew, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors who can't prove he lives in the Sunset district he was elected to represent and seems have stronger residential ties to the city of Burlingame, I decided to search through Alameda County public records for any real estate files on Migden.
The most interesting document to turn up relates to a deed with Migden's name. Now just because her name is on a deed in Alameda County does not necessarily mean she lives there. Migden could simply own property over there and this shouldn't imply she doesn't meet legal requirements as a San Francisco resident and elected official.
Unlike Jew, who gives every indication of being politically clueless and woefully ignorant of many laws, Migden is an intelligent legislator and savvy operative. It's impossible for me to think she, and her attorney girlfriend, would be as dumb as Jew and not be able to produce voluminous proof she resides in the State Senate district she represents in Sacramento.
However, now is a good time to ask all of San Francisco's elected officials, at every level, to prove they are legally domiciled in the residence they claim is theirs and in the district they represent.

Number 1

Document Detail
Instrument Number: 84245414
Date Received: 12/12/1984 12:00:00 AM
Document Type: DEED
Book: 0
Associated Names

Number 2

Document Detail
Instrument Number: 2006280105
Date Received: 07/19/2006 2:11:18 PM
Associated Names

Number 3

Document Detail
Instrument Number: 2006280105
Sequence #: 1
Date Received: 07/19/2006 2:11:18 PM

Associated Names

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Freedom to Marry: 40th Anniversay of "Loving" Decision

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court's groundbreaking decision Loving v. Virginia, a case that overturned laws prohibiting interracial marriages because of their unconstitutionality.
Freedom to Marry, a nonprofit partnership of gay and straight advocates for full marriage equality led by veteran gay civil rights attorney Evan Wolfson, has launched a campaign to remind America of not only the importance of Loving v. Virginia and how the decision made us a better country, but also how it connects to today's battle for gay marriage.
I recently publicized a wedding notice in the New York Times from two lesbians, Thea Spyer and Edith Windsor, who've loved each other for decades.
Their announcement about how they met, forged a life together and had to travel to Canada to exchange vows, despite substantial financial burden and debilitating medical conditions, touched many of us. The love, commitment and bravery of Thea and Edith makes them true heroines and pioneers.
But it angers me greatly that at their advanced age and in need of much medical assistance, they couldn't get hitched in their hometown of Manhattan, all because New York State, like every American state except Massachusetts, prohibits gays and lesbians from enjoying full marriage equality. That is wrong and will one day change, hopefully in my lifetime.
Please take the time and visit the Freedom to Marry site. Read the Supreme Court's Loving v. Virginia ruling. Learn about the celebration surrounding it and how a coalition of individuals and groups are working to broaden its impact. And view the ads Freedom to Marry has placed in newspapers, featuring straight interracial couples whose marriages would have been against the law in the 1960s.
Do it for Thea and Edith. Do it for all interracial couples. Do it for gay and lesbian couples, struggling to get married. Visit Freedom to Marry today.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

HRC Board Member Makes Anti-Gay Argument in Lesbian Custody Case

My jaw hit the floor so loudly and hard this morning my boyfriend thought that I needed medical attention. What happened was I came across a story from the Gay People's Chronicle of Ohio that ran on May 4, all about a gay lawyer raising eyebrows over his homophobic arguments in a lesbian child custody lawsuit. But this story is not about just any average gay attorney. Nope, we're talking about one who is a member of the board of directors of America's largest homosexual political organization, the Human Rights Campaign.

From the Gay People's Chronicle article, written by Eric Resnick:

Cleveland--A gay lawyer and community leader is coming under fire for advancing an argument in a Juvenile Court case that would typically be made by anti-gay attorneys trying to deny LGBT rights.

Tim Downing, an openly gay partner at the Cleveland law firm of Ulmer and Berne, is also on the board of directors of the Human Rights Campaign and a statewide LGBT community leader and organizer.

He is representing a biological mother whose case has raised the ire of attorneys trying to advance the rights of LGBT families.

The case itself is unremarkable. Filed in Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court in March, it involves the breakup of a lesbian couple with a three-year-old child. ...

The couple broke up in November. The child is living with the biological mother. She is denying visitation to the non-biological one, who is suing her for visitation rights.

Since the 2002 Ohio Supreme Court decision In re: Bonfield cleared the way for co-parenting agreements between same-sex couples, a network of family law attorneys, many of them lesbians, has grown up. They have advanced cases like this one throughout the state “to educate all of Ohio’s courts on our family issues” as one put it, and to ensure that good case law is created in order to protect LGBT families in the future.

These cases generally rest on the biological parent giving up exclusive custody in favor of a shared arrangement that honors the relationship between the child and the non-biological parent.

In this case, Downing and his associate, Joseph Simms, argue that the non-biological mother has no right to that claim, and that the suit should be dismissed because she is not related by blood or marriage. ...

They argue that, “because [the non-biological mother] cannot allege that she is related to [the child] either by affinity or consanguinity,” Ohio law gives her no standing to bring the suit.

Joan Burda, a lesbian attorney who represents the non-biological mother, said, “The arguments raised [by Downing and Simms] are expected. That’s what needs to be argued for their client to win, but this is the argument you usually see made by the David Langdons of the world.”

Langdon represents the anti-gay group Citizens for Community Values. He filed a brief opposing the Bonfield couple’s co-parenting agreement that raised an issue similar to Downing’s. ...

Downing said he did not become involved in the case until after the firm had already taken it.

He noted that that as a partner, he did not have to take the case.

“I’m doing my job as a lawyer,” said Downing. “Had I been the one originally contacted, I don’t know that I would have taken it.” ...

“I want to see that no arguments get made that are anti-gay or involve sexual orientation,” said Downing. “I got involved to protect our community.”

Asked if he believed that could be an issue, Downing said, “It could be.”

Downing called the parenting arguments advanced by the non-biological mother “a red herring.”

“This is a very simple matter,” said Downing. “It is purely statutory. The state legislature has not given the plaintiff in this case any rights.” ...

“If it takes a wild turn and it looks like it could be harmful to our community, then I will recommend we withdraw from the case,” said Downing. ...

Kudos to the journalists at the Gay People's Chronicle for covering this case. This story is a prime example of why, even though the mainstream media has greatly improved how it reports on LGBT issues and people, we still very much need gay newspapers.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

YouTube: SF Gays v. Russians, Stoli Dump & Solidarity Video

A video of the San Francisco protest at the Russian consulate, featuring a discussion between activists and a consular official and a dumping of Stoli into the gutter, is posted on YouTube.
There's a big debt of gratitude owed Ken Hodnett and Paul Barwick, two activists with video cameras who participated in the action this week, who've now collaborated to produce this video. Give the video a look and listen to Mihail from the consulate, while San Francisco activists stage an act of full public solidarity with LGBT Russians.
Thanks Ken, Paul and everyone who made the protests happen in Manhattan and here.

Science Mag: Study Shows Marijuana Heals Skin Ailments

As a person with AIDS who constantly suffers a variety skin ailments year-round, and gets weary taking baths with two or three Aveeno oatmeal packets, using steroidal creams and anti-itch drugs with unpleasant side-effects, I'm so happy researchers may have found a way to alleviate assorted skin problems - medical marijuana!

The abstract of a new study published in the current issue of Science explains some of the developments in highly scientific terms:

Allergic contact dermatitis affects about 5% of men and 11% of women in industrialized countries and is one of the leading causes for occupational diseases. In an animal model for cutaneous contact hypersensitivity, we show that mice lacking both known cannabinoid receptors display exacerbated allergic inflammation. In contrast, fatty acid amide hydrolase–deficient mice, which have increased levels of the endocannabinoid anandamide, displayed reduced allergic responses in the skin. Cannabinoid receptor antagonists exacerbated allergic inflammation, whereas receptor agonists attenuated inflammation. These results demonstrate a protective role of the endocannabinoid system in contact allergy in the skin and suggest a target for therapeutic intervention.

If that's too full of scientific jargon for you, here's an easier to understand explanation excerpted from today's SF Chronicle story on the study:

Skin allergies may be the next reason to use marijuana -- a topical form, at least.

Scientists have long suspected that marijuana, used for recreational purposes and to help fight chronic pain, nausea and even some mental disorders like anxiety and depression, also had anti-inflammatory effects in the body.

Now they think they know why.

In a study published in the current issue of the journal Science, researchers show exactly how they think that works, elucidating how the body's own cannabinoids, compounds that are similar to the ones found in marijuana, reduce inflammation.

Mice had a harder time healing from wounds caused by ear tags used to identify them when researchers blocked their internal cannabinoids, said Dr. Meliha Karsak, lead author and scientist in molecular neurobiology at the University of Bonn in Germany. Cannabinoids are involved in many of the body's daily functions, scientists believe, but they're still trying to figure out how.

Mice also healed faster from skin allergies with topical THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana and other plants, she said.

I expect at least two things will come from this study. First, the Bush administration's drug war czar will cast doubt on the findings and again dismiss the medicinal properties of marijuana. And second, there will be a rash of patients in states that allow the sale and dispensing of medical marijuana asking their doctors to prescribe some wonder weed.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

BAR: American Queers to Russian Gays: Drop Dead

I wrote this column before the June 5 actions at the NY and SF Russian consulates and launch of the Stoli boycott. It appears in the June7 Bay Area Reporter, San Francisco's venerable and most widely-read weekly. The BAR also provides some coverage and a photo of the SF action.

Our other gay weekly, the Bay Times, this week offers up the usual trenchant analysis by Ann Rostow on the Stoli boycott. And lastly, the SF Chronicle's Blogwatch notices our Stoli dump and consulate visit.

My BAR column:

For the second year running, bloody violence, police indifference, and official government violations of basic universal human rights treaties were the order of the day on May 27 in Moscow, as gays tried to petition Russian authorities for equality.

And like last year, when Russian gays attempted to stage their first Pride March and met a similar fate – both were well-covered by the mainstream and gay press and bloggers – average American queers collectively yawned loudly, after maybe a moment of bemoaning the violence, then kept silent and enjoyed the long Memorial Day holiday weekend.

Not only that, but our well-paid professional lobbyists remained silent. They issued no statements of solidarity prior to May 27, nor were they ready to quickly issue condemnations the day the gay blood spilled on the streets of Moscow, never mind organizing vigils at Russian government buildings on American soil.

Particularly galling was the four-day lag on the part of the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission to distribute a perfunctory statement deploring what happened in Moscow. What possible excuse can IGLHRC have for not being ready either with a statement, or miraculously, an action, over the aborted Russian gay Pride March? Waiting four days in the Internet age is like waiting four months for this sort of thing.

More than eight weeks before the second attempted Moscow gay Pride event, I e-mailed and spoke to people in San Francisco, where we have a large Russian Consulate, asking them to participate in a protest I wanted to stage at the consulate in the week leading up to May 27. My thinking was that enough gays were aware of last year's troubles and a consulate action prior to this year's attempted Pride would send a message to Kremlin leaders: protect the human rights of gays at the Moscow march.

The negative feedback, so common when I try to organize such things, was swift and pronounced. People generally let me know how they disapprove of my activism and political stridency. A few said they were heading out of town early to get a jump on the holiday weekend, but I wasn't convinced that was the real reason for their declining to join a protest for gay Russians. With the deep lack of even minimal community support, along with my own needs, finding part time work to pay my bills and combating a nasty opportunistic stomach infection, I abandoned my plans.

Foolishly, I spent April and May anxiously awaiting word that IGLHRC, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, or the Human Rights Campaign were mobilizing vigils at Russian government outposts, or at least simple e-mail and phone campaigns, before or after May 27, and as we all know, they never did.

Not one of the generously-compensated professional advocates at those well-funded nonprofits made a peep asking American gays to stand in solidarity with our Russian brothers and sisters.

As annoying is that the gay political community didn't, and hasn't for too long a time, demanded street actions and pressure campaigns from those advocacy groups over global gay matters.

Am I the only American queer who thinks international gay issues require more than the quiet insider approach as the only way to improve respect for the human rights protections of our family, regardless of borders? Why is it our professionals see no value in mobilizing actions of any sort, beyond their staffs? Or worse, as is the case with the needlessly arrogant and pompous gatekeeper head of Human Rights Watch's gay unit, deceitfully work to undermine the efforts of unpaid activists who do organize for gays around the planet?

I fully accept that many gays won't heed a call from me to hit the pavement in front of foreign consulates, or attend a candlelight vigil in the Castro, or make a call to an embassy in Washington.

So I'm not the candidate to lead these things.

And we're sadly not about to see the dainty dames and gents at IGLHRC, HRW, Amnesty, NGLTF and HRC get their polished loafers or nails dirty walking picket lines or corralling us to form e-mail-writing teams to bombard consular officials demanding respect of the human rights of gay people in their countries.

But what I refuse to accept is that nonprofits should not be doing such advocacy, as part of a multi-pronged approach. Please don't tell me we need to start another organization to engage in street activism or stage speak outs, when we already have enough groups with lots of staffers who could do such work.

I'm upset with American queers who by and large are woefully apathetic about international gay issues and our brothers and sisters beyond our borders, while also refusing to demand from nonprofits more methods and a variety of pressures on foreign governments.

Our community-wide ignorance and lethargy on global gay issues send a deafening message: "We don't care. Drop dead."

We must do more for the brave gays of Moscow and our family members all across the globe.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

SF Supervisor Introduces LGBT Russian Resolution Condeming Pride March Violence

At today's San Francisco Board of Supervisors' meeting Supervisor Tom Ammiano introduced the following resolution, which will be voted on next week and it is expected to easily pass.

Like the anti-gay violence in Moscow two years in a row as LGBT Russians attempt to stage public Gay Pride events, this is also the second year the Supervisors have taken a stand of solidarity with our brothers and sisters across Russia and called on the country's leaders to respect their human rights protections.

For this, I express bottomless gratitude to the Supervisors, many of whom I'm usually critical of or battling with over local politics, for putting time and city government resources into commenting on foreign affairs and especially on human rights abuses and treaties, not just for queers, but for many communities and individuals.

Would that there were other city councils sometimes following the lead of San Francisco's Board of Supervisors, offering hope and attention to people in many parts of the worlds who struggle for peace and justice.

A message from me to LGBT Russians and gays around the world: Though we are few when we protest at consulates, and offer resolutions with no legal weight, we have not forgotten or abandoned you. You honor us by allowing us to be your partners in building international gay solidarity.

By the way, have I missed the condemnations and calls to arms from IGLHRC, Human Rights Watch, NGLTF, Amnesty International and the Human Rights Campaigns about all this trouble in Russia?

Here's the text of the Board of Supervisors' resolution:

Resolution condemning the government sanctioned violence at the Russian LGBT community’s May 27th demonstration in Moscow, and urging the Kremlin and Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzkhov to work toward fostering a culture of tolerance toward the LGBT community in Russian society.

WHEREAS, It is the duty of all governments, democratically elected or otherwise, to ensure that human and civil rights, such as the freedom of assembly and expression, of all citizens are protected; and

WHEREAS, When a government employs discriminatory or homophobic rhetoric, it is taken as implicit permission by hate groups to perpetrate violence; and

WHEREAS, This fact was evidenced by Moscow Mayor Luzkhov’s portrayal of homosexuals as “sexual deviants”, and the Russian authorities’ refusal to intervene to stop vicious attacks on peaceful gay pride celebrants by neo-fascist youth in May, 2006, and their involvement in the vicious beatings and arrests of peaceful demonstrators last week; and

WHEREAS, This Board of Supervisors passed a Resolution last year nearly identical to this, on file with the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors in File No. 060813, which is hereby declared to be a part of this resolution as if set forth fully herein; and,

WHEREAS, The Russian government’s contempt for the local and international LGBT community, and the rule of law, was made clear when the Moscow police stood by as a gay member of the German Parliament was assaulted in 2006, and a member of the Italian Parliament jailed on May 27 of this year, along with less prominent members of the Russian LGBT community; and

WHERAS, The Russian authorities chose to add insult to injury by arresting the LGBT demonstrators for assembling unlawfully after permitting neo-fascist groups to beat and kick them for an extended length of time; and

WHEREAS, The Kremlin would do well to remember that over 27 million Russians died defending Eurasia against fascism, and it is a fallacy to imagine that an alliance, informal or otherwise, between the Russian state and reconstituted fascist groups is a partnership beneficial to the Russian people; now, therefore, be it

RESOLved, That the Board of Supervisors condemns the government sanctioned violence and chaos which took place during Moscow’s first Gay Pride march in 2006, as well as at the Russian LGBT community’s May 27th demonstration in Moscow, and urges the Kremlin and Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzkhov to work toward fostering a culture of tolerance in relation to the LGBT community in Russian society.

Stoli Dumped in NY, SF to Protest Anti-Gay Russian Violence

We have our first report and photos from the NYC action today, thanks to the efforts of Joe at his fabulous web site, Joe.My.God. A report from San Francisco's action will appear later today.

With Russian news cameras rolling, rainbow flag creator Gilbert Baker and gay activist Brendan Fay poured Stolichnaya vodka into the street in front of New York City's Russian embassy in protest of the treatment of Russian gays by their government. Under the wary eye of the NYPD (who did NOT want to be photographed) and U.S. State Department operatives (the earpieces are a dead giveaway), a small group of protesters marched on the sidewalk with placards. Brendan Fay attempted to deliver a letter of complaint to the embassy staff, but they did not come to the door. ...
And now for the photos and report from the San Francisco solidarity action today:

(Veteran SF gay/AIDS activist Hank Wilson, on the left, talks to Mikhail of the Russian consulate.)

(Russian consulate employee Mikhail reaches for a boycott Stoli flyer.)

(Russian consulate employee Mikhail, in gray suit, confronts activists and the media.)

(Gay and human rights advocate pour Stoli into the street in front of the Russian consulate.)

An employee of the Russian consulate in San Francisco who would only give his first name, Mikhaill, today told a handful of gay and human rights advocates protesting the violence against gay Russians and allies on May 27 in Moscow that he was unaware of anti-gay mayhem.
About eight of us gathered at the consulate to tell the Russians to respect the human rights of its LGBT people, and to pour a bottle of Stolichnaya vodka out into the gutter as part of a boycott effort to send a message to Moscow.
We stood in front of the consulate for ten minutes before Mikhail and ordered us off the side walk. Since we weren't blocking the pavement, we didn't comply with his order and instead peppered him with questions about gay rights in Russia. He professed to know nothing about May 27 violence or the continuing problems faces by Russian LGBT people.
Members of the gay press, including the Bay Area Reporter, and independent video bloggers snapped photos and shot videos of the conversation with Mikhail.
After he went back into the consulate, we stepped into the street and poured out the Stoli, an act of solidarity with the brave LGBT citizens of Russia.
All in all, our action in San Francisco, and the one in New York, were good steps forward in rekindling gay America's interest and commitment to global gay issues.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Gays Launch Stoli Boycott over Russian Homophobic Violence

(New York, NY and San Francisco, CA) - Gay equality advocates in two American cities upset over the denial of full respect for the human rights of LGBT people in Russia, and the bloody confrontation on May 27 in Moscow as gays attempted to peacefully march, today announced they are launching a boycott of Stolichnaya vodka.
Vigils will be held at two Russian consulates, where gays will pour Stolichnaya vodka in the gutter.
The date for launching the Stoli boycott and vigils is Tuesday, June 5.
Details & Information:

New York Vigil
Contact: Brendan Fay
Phone: 718-721-2780

What: Begin Stoli boycott and dump vodka down the sewer
Where: Russian Consulate, 9 E. 91st Street
Time: Noon to 1:00 pm

San Francisco Vigil
Contacts: Pastor Robert Goldstein
Phone: 415-516-5878

Michael Petrelis
Phone: 415-621-6267

What: Begin Stoli boycott and dump vodka down the sewer
Where: Russian Consulate, 2790 Green Street
Time: 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm
For two years lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Russia have been violently thwarted in their efforts to hold Gay Pride events and petition their government for full recognition of their human rights. This year, LGBT people from Russia and Europe tried to hold a peaceful march, but were instead violently attacked by thugs, as policy stood idly by. Several gays were punched and bashed in the face, causing blood to spill and such bodily harm they were rushed to hospitals. Other LGBT people were arrested while peaceably assembling.
Follow Up Action:
All American gay bars will be asked to not serve Stoli vodka until the Russian government acknowledges the human rights of its LGBT citizens, and Russian gays are guaranteed the right organize, assemble in the streets and live free of government harassment.
From Nikolai Aleseyeev, Moscow Pride March organizer.
"We are thankful for the support of gay Americans mobilizing on our behalf to do what we can't - stage vigils at Russian government offices. Please don't forget about your brothers and sisters beyond the United States, and our difficult struggle for equality."
From Brendan Fay, New York organizer.
"We denounce the brutal and bloody assault on the peaceful gay participants and human rights activists at Moscow Pride. Solidarity across international borders is top priority for the global gay community. We will not rest until the human rights of gay Russians are respected including the right to assemble free of hate and violence."
From Gilbert Baker, Rainbow Flag creator:
"I totally endorse the Stoli boycott and it is my great honor to design the boycott, using our Rainbow Flag to send a message of hope and tolerance to Russian gays."
From Pastor Robert Goldstein, San Francisco organizer.
"We would welcome the Russian government's affirmation of its LGBT citizens and a genuine commitment to respect their human rights. I am proud to stand in solidarity with LGBT Russians as they being their journey to equality and fairness."
From Michael Petrelis, San Francisco organizer.
"I beg my fellow gay and lesbian Americans to refrain from buying Stoli vodka, as just one way to express solidarity with gays in Moscow. This Pride season, please avoid ordering Stoli."
Recommended reading:
The 2006 U.S. State Department Human Rights Report's section on Russia. This is a pertinent excerpt related to gays in Russia.

While homosexuality is not illegal, the gay community continued to suffer societal stigma and discrimination. Medical practitioners reportedly continued to limit or refuse their access to health services due to intolerance and prejudice. According to recent studies, male homosexuals were often refused work due to their sexuality. Openly gay men were targets for skinhead aggression, which was often met with law enforcement indifference.
In May gay rights activists hosted a small international conference in Moscow on combating homophobia; however, the mayor of Moscow and the courts denied their applications to hold a gay pride parade. According to Human Rights Watch, on May 27, several dozen Russian lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender protestors, accompanied by Russian and foreign supporters, including members of the European and German parliaments, sought to hold two successive protest rallies, one to lay flowers on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier near the Kremlin wall, and the second a vigil at city hall in support of the freedoms of assembly and expression.

Organizers decided to hold these events after a court upheld Mayor Yuriy Luzkhov's ban on a march they planned for that day. At both events hundreds of antigay protesters, including skinheads and nationalists attacked the participants, beating and kicking many, while throwing projectiles and chanting homophobic slogans.
Police intervened only belatedly, failing to protect demonstrators from violence; observers noted that police inaction aggravated the violence.
In protest of a large lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender "open party" held in Moscow on April 30, several hundred protestors gathered outside a night club, shouting threats and throwing bottles, rocks, and eggs at the attendees. The following night at least 100 protestors gathered outside another gay club, conducting themselves in a similar manner. While human rights groups protested the organized nature of what appeared to be a campaign against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, public officials were notably reluctant to condemn the violence, with one Duma deputy accusing gays of provoking Orthodox believers.
Gay rights organizations were few and often operated "under the radar."
Projects working with homosexuals and educating them about HIV and sexual health continued to be scarce. In April, the Moscow city Duma urged President Putin to restrict the activities of foreign NGOs that fight HIV/AIDS, saying they encouraged pedophilia, prostitution, and drug use among teenagers. The Moscow Duma also accused the Ministry of Education of aiding NGO activities. The State Duma, however, responded at the federal level with a clear statement supporting the urgent need to prevent HIV/AIDS.

Friday, June 01, 2007

SF & New York Staging June 5 Gay Human Rights Solidarity Vigils at Russian Consulates

(Peter Tatchell, UK human rights leader, on right in blue shirt, about to be punched by homophobic thug in Moscow.)

Gay human rights activists on Tuesday, June 5, in two US cities will take to the streets in front of Russian government facilities and say to Vladimir Putin, "Human rights for gays and all Russian peoples!"
These actions are in response to the violence and human rights violations perpetrated against gay and lesbian Russians, and their allies, on the streets of Moscow on May 27.
If you've not yet checked out the web site for the brave gays and lesbians of GayRussia, please do so. You'll also find much background information and further links through Rex Wockner and Doug Ireland's blogs.
On June 5 in San Francisco this veteran activist, along with the head of my church, Pastor Robert Goldstein of St. Francis Lutheran Church, will stand in front of the Russian Consulate, located at 2790 Green Street, between Baker and Broderick Streets. This will be a short vigil and speak out, from 4:00 to 5:00 pm.
Also on June 5 in New York City longtime advocates Brendan Fay and George Plagionos will gather at the Russian Consulate, located at 9 E. 91st Street, right off Fifth Avenue. Brendan and George will hold their action from 12 noon to 1:00 pm. You can reach Brendan via email: , or phone: 1-718-721-2780.
All people concerned with human rights anywhere, and of course, those who worry a little more for gay and lesbian people in Russian and all the world's countries, are asked to join us and stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters of Moscow and all of Russia.

(UK Performer and activist Right Said Fred, with a bloody eye after he was slugged.)

Thea & Edith Update: Subject of a Movie, More Coverage, Nudging NY for Gay Marriage

My Irish-American gay brother Brendan Fay sends lots of good words from NYC on our dear lesbian mothers Thea Spyer and Edith Windsor, and a short report on a number of his activities.
Always nice to hear from this kindred spirit. Brendan has also alerted me to a terrific write up in the Toronto Globe and Mail this week about the girls. Not only that, but the paper also the picture above to illustrate the story, and I think the women are true wonders of human love to behold.
Needless to say, I feel all goose-pimply knowing I've made Thea and Edith smile over my original posting on them, and helped bring some extra attention.
Oh, and Thea and Edith, some best wishes to you both and a personal thanks for sharing a small part of your lives with the world, and for making those phone calls. From one nudge to two others: Keep nudging 'em!

Brendan's comments come first, then my favorite parts of the Globe story.
Michael -
Sweet man!
Greetings from Astoria! Good to hear from you. Every now and then I check in with your blog. Thank you for being the community nudge and challenge you always were/are.
I read your comments to Edie ... you brought tears of joy to her! Yes they are lesbians of means - but they continue to be generous and supportive of many community groups committed to liberation and equality, from Lesbian Herstory Archives to SAGE, etc.
They have been fighters for decades. Yesterday - both were working the phones calling politicians in the NY Assembly & Senate whose votes are necessary to ensure passage of a bill to finally end marriage discrimination in NY State.
Nobody in the gay media/blogosphere has picked up on their story yet - other than your good self!
From the Globe and Mail story I got a couple of calls from couples around the US want help with getting married in Canada. Our focus is Toronto - that's the whole idea. Whether rich or poor - immigrant or native - I work voluntarily to help couple get to Canada by bus or plane ... for those without means, I have friends who host in Toronto, a officiating Judge who does the perfect marriage (without fees - saving couples from those on both sides of the borders cashing in ...) and a Canadian filmmaker who generously films ( freely ) each wedding as a gift!
Tell people to call us: Brendan Fay / Jesus Lebron, Civil Marriage Trail Project : 718-721-2780.
On the film end of things, "The Saint of 9/11" has done well. I get emails every week . I am now finishing a collection of stories about Mychal Judge.
I am also working now ... on a short film on Edie and Thea.
Jesus sends his best - he is busy working at the HIV clinic at Mount Sinai ... Kindred soul and spirit Andy Humm is being honored this Sunday as one of the grand marshals of the Queens parade!
Cheers and hugs-
Brendan Fay
May they never tame you ...
Thanks so much, Brendan, for your wrods of praise, and all your years of advocacy and assistance for our extended gay family, both here and in your homeland of Ireland.

From the Globe and Mail article:
Forty years ago, Thea Spyer bent down on one knee in a Manhattan street, pulled out a diamond pin and asked Edie Windsor to marry her.
Tuesday of last week, a friend gently lifted her arm so that the 75-year-old, now confined to a wheelchair by multiple sclerosis, could finally wed the love of her life in a ceremony at a Toronto hotel ...
"On one occasion recently it looked like it was going to be very close to the end," Ms. Windsor, 76, said from their Fifth Avenue home this week. "We just said, 'We're running out of time.' " ...
Ms. Windsor and Dr. Spyer's wedding was organized by Brendan Fay, founder of the New York-based Civil Marriage Trail project, which has helped same-sex couples get married since its inception in 2003.
"We've had a number of elderly couples who have decided to go to Canada in their final years," he said ...
Their very private romance progressed even as the two women made great strides in their professional lives. Ms. Windsor was senior systems programmer at IBM, while Dr. Spyer, who is a psychologist, worked at a number of Manhattan hospitals and later as the director of a psychiatric clinic.
She was diagnosed with MS in her 40s, and over recent years the couple have adjusted their lives to deal with the illness that has now rendered her quadriplegic.
When Dr. Spyer lost movement in her arms two years ago, leaving her unable to read a book or lift a newspaper, Ms. Windsor - who has herself undergone open-heart surgery - rigged a TV to her laptop and began downloading eBooks ...
The couple flew to Toronto with a group of six friends, including Dr. Spyer's physician, each of whom had a task from assembling her wheelchair to helping with the exchange of rings.
In a hotel conference room decorated as a chapel, Ms. Windsor perched on the arm of Dr. Spyer's wheelchair, modifying her vows by saying: "From this day forward, as in all our days past." ...
"We've both been trying to describe it, because what could be different if you've lived together as if married for 40 years?" she said. "There's something about the word marriage. There's a certain dignity." ...