Thursday, May 29, 2008

LA Daily News: Dissenting Gay Marriage
Jurist is a Lesbian

Until my friend Peter Cashman in Southern California tipped me off to this opinion column in yesterday's LA Daily News, I had no inkling that one of the state Supreme Court justices who dissented in the ruling two weeks allowing gay marriages to begin, Carol Corrigan, is a lesbian.

From the column written by Ann Bradley:
Certainly the first line of Associate Justice Carol Corrigan's obituary will be that, as a lesbian, she wrote one of the two dissenting opinions in the landmark California Supreme Court case to ensure her own community's right to marry. Or to be clear, to use the word "marry." Make no mistake, this case is about that word: "marriage."

In her dissent in re Marriage Cases, self-proclaimed centrist Corrigan writes, "Californians should allow our gay and lesbian neighbors to call their unions marriages. But I, and this court, must acknowledge that a majority of Californians hold a different view, and have explicitly said so by their vote. This court can overrule a vote of the people only if the Constitution compels us to do so. Here, the Constitution does not. Therefore, I must dissent."
Hmmm, "as a lesbian" in relation to Justice Corrigan got my Googling juices flowing and, lo and behold, there's plenty out there on the web about her sexual orientation, or, at least plenty of speculation on the matter.

Let's start with an article from the January 5, 2006, edition of the Gay & Lesbian Times of San Diego:
The California Supreme Court will rule this year that the California constitutional guarantee of equal protection requires that the state allow gay and lesbian marriages. Here are my reasons:

Just before the holidays, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed Carole Corrigan to the California Supreme Court. While completely ignored by the GLBT media, Corrigan is (perhaps) the first lesbian appointed to the California Supreme Court. As the Los Angeles Times reported, she lives in Oakland with her live-in girlfriend. (You do the math.)
That LA Times story was also referenced in December 2005 by a Sacramento Bee political blogger, because of Corrigan's claim she's moderate in judicial temperament, but note what he says about locating the story that got the lesbian allegation going:
UPDATE: An emailer sends along an LA Times story from Oct. 21, which I can't find a link to online, where Corrigan describes herself as a "centrist" in the mold of Sandra Day O'Connor.
Sure enough, the LA Times profile on Corrigan does not turn up either on the paper's web site or through Googling. However, the American Chronicle blog gave more details about the profile and what it actually said about her house-mate:
Carol Corrigan, as the Los Angeles Times, so coyly informs us in a sentence fragment at the end of a biographical sidebar about the soon-to-be Justice of the California Supreme Court, "[i]s unmarried and shares a house in Oakland with a female friend."
Over at the hard-right's Free Republic site, more text from the profile is posted, along with a link to the LA Times piece, but clicking on the link leads to a dead-end.

And the people behind the site, described as "an intelligence aggregator that tracks the activities of people we have determined to be noteworthy, both living and dead," state in sexual orientation line of Corrigan's profile that she's a lesbian. The source? An October 2006 American Family Association newsletter.

Gay activist Peter Cashman in an email to me touches upon how conservatives were all over Corrigan's lesbian orientation, while mainstream gay leaders remained silent on the subject:
She was first outed (that I am aware of) when Arnie nominated for the Supreme Court.

In particular the anti-gay marriage folks and other right-wingers mentioned it widely in opposing her nomination.

In our own community there seems to have been some weird silence in the glowing endorsements from all the usual suspects like EQCA. Was this a conspiracy of silence that we had so often seen before? In so far as prominent queer folks seeking or nominated to public office 'get a pass' to stay in the closet on the basis they will 'do the right thing'.

Jackie Goldberg is an outstanding example of this. In 1994 she ran for LA City Council in the closet until she was 'outed' by the LA Times prior to election day. A group of us had already decided that the days of supporting closet cases was over. We already had a closeted gay man on Council - Joel Wachs. The voters had a right to know.

Gay media and community silence on Corrigan had a notable exception when the Gay & Lesbian Times ran its 2006 article.
Thanks, Peter, for sharing the LA Daily News column with me. It will go a long way toward raising a public discussion on the sexual orientation of Associate Justice Corrigan.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Gay & HIV Citations in 2007
Amnesty International Report

The human rights organization Amnesty International, which adopted gay political prisoners and LGBT issues only after gay activists mobilized a global campaign forcing the group to expand its vision to include sexual minorities, today issued its 2007 annual report of human rights practices around the world.

While not nearly as wide-ranging or comprehensive as the 2007 annual human rights survey from the US State Department, which contained hundreds of gay and HIV references, it is still necessary for gay advocates to applaud Amnesty for such inclusions in their yearly summaries. To be fair, one really can't compare the State Department and Amnesty reports because obviously the former, with far superior budgeting, simply has vastly more resources to monitor and report abuses. I mention the State Department report to provide some context to different annual reports and how they deal with gay and HIV matters.

At the same time, let me point out Amnesty does something crucial that the US government doesn't face up to, and, that is acknowledging and condemning America's perpetration of human rights abuses in the recent past. Oh, I long for the day when my country is a leader in global human rights affairs. Bravo to Amnesty leaders for raising their voices, again and again, demanding better protection of human rights treaties from US leaders.

From today's AP wire story:
Amnesty International's annual report on the state of the world's human rights accused the U.S. of failing to provide a moral compass for its international peers, a long-standing complaint the London-based group has against the North American superpower.

This year it also criticized the U.S. for supporting Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf last November when he imposed a state of emergency, clamped down on the media and sacked judges . . .

As in the past, the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay came in for criticism. Irene Khan, Amnesty's secretary-general, appealed for the American president elected in November to announce the jail's closure on Dec. 10, 2008, the 60th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights.

The State Department had no immediate comment on the report, but said the U.S. was justified in detaining enemy combatants at Guantanamo to prevent them from returning to the battlefield. The State Department has previously said Amnesty uses the U.S. as "a convenient ideological punching bag."
Well, unfortunately, the past eight horrendous years under the Bush/Cheney administration have provided too many human rights violations and legal reasons allowing Amnesty to see our nation, in some aspects, as that punching bag. Close Guantanamo, as a start, and maybe Amnesty's view of us would change.

Here are all of the gay and HIV/AIDS citations I found in the new Amnesty report:

Region: Africa

Southern Africa continued to have the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in the world.

The space for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists was particularly restricted. In Cameroon, Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda, LGBT activists came under attack from various groups within society in reaction to efforts to defend and promote their human rights.

Region: Americas

Gender discrimination was often compounded by other forms of discrimination. If a woman is black, Indigenous, lesbian or poor, she will often face even greater barriers in getting justice.

Discriminatory laws criminalizing same-sex relationships remained in force in the Caribbean and Central America. However, in Nicaragua a new Penal Code removed provisions criminalizing gay and lesbian relationships.

HIV/AIDS continued to affect women more than men, with the highest incidence among women in the Caribbean (especially in Haiti and the Dominican Republic); Cuba remained the exception with low reported infection rates. Disproportionate rates of both HIV infection and maternal mortality among Indigenous Peoples across the region also reflected the impact of discrimination in access to health services.

Region: Asia Pacific

In Papua New Guinea, violence against women was seen as a key reason for the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which, in turn, fuelled further abuses against women.

Also in March, the Taiwanese legislature passed several amendments to the Domestic Violence Prevention Law to include cohabiting same-sex and unmarried couples.

Region: Europe and Central Asia

Authorities in Lithuania, Moldova, Poland and Russia continued to foster a climate of intolerance against lesbian, gay, bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) communities. Some highly placed politicians used openly homophobic language, for example, and public events were obstructed. In Latvia, however, unlike in two previous years, an LGBT march was permitted and adequately protected by the police against counter-demonstrators.

Region: Middle East and North Africa

No gay or HIV/AIDS citations.
Drug Overdoses Cancel SF Gay Dance Party
This item, which appeared in today's Leah Garchik gossip column in the SF Chronicle, seems to me to be more of a local hard-news story than an entertaining tidbit for the Datebook section of the paper. If ambulances were called three times because party-goers were OD'ing on drugs, then this dance club scare should be covered from a health angle.

I'll be very curious to see what harm-reduction steps the party hosts, along with gay health advocates, take for the gay pride dance party next month to prevent drug overdoses. It won't be much of a pride party if ambulances need to be on stand-by and their medical services needed because gays don't know how to safely use mood-altering drugs.

From the Chronicle:
The monthly gay dance party FreshSF, at Ruby Skye on Sunday night, was closed down by its organizers shortly after 10 p.m. after ambulances had to be summoned three times "to attend to people who had overdosed," says an online message from organizers Mike and Janine. The decision to shut the party down was reached with the Ruby Skye management, because "we thought the risk of another drop was too great, and we didn't want to take that chance." Organizers plan to go ahead with future parties, including their official T-Dance for San Francisco Pride.

"What we ask from you in return," they wrote to participants, "is to act responsibly, to be respectful of yourself and of course, to respect Ruby Skye's club and staff and to very simply be safe."

According to, the drug in question was GHB. And according to, that's a clear liquid that results in "disinhibition, sedation ... giddiness, silliness." The number of overdoses, says the site, is larger than the number of overdoses from the drug ecstasy.

Monday, May 26, 2008

SF Talk on 'Corrective Rape' Against
Lesbians from S. African Pastor

A few weeks ago my church had the privilege of hearing from a gay pastor in South Africa whose ministry receives generous financial support and many prayers from our congregation.
During the service, Rev. Pieter Oberholzer expressed heartfelt gratitude to the members of St. Francis Lutheran Church, and he spoke about his ministry's work assisting gay people who are ostracized in their local communities, rejected by their families, many of whom also suffer violence and sexual assaults. Click here to learn more about this important ministry.
When he told us of the epidemic of "corrective rape" against lesbians, it was the first time I'd heard that awful term, and I recoiled in horror as he defined what it meant. Oberholzer said such sexual violence was carried out by ignorant and hateful male attackers who believe raping lesbians will "cure" them into becoming heterosexuals. Sometimes the lesbian victims are raped and then murdered.
In his closing comments, he reminded us that South Africa has pro-gay laws on the books, but a lot of work still needs to be carried out to change the hearts and minds of his fellow citizens to make them accept gay people on a daily basis.
After the Sunday service, I told Oberholzer if he needs an activist response from the streets of San Francisco, such as a solidarity action in the Castro, or letters to the South African embassy in Washington, that I would volunteer to help. I wasn't able to speak with him very long because he had a reporter and photographer from the Bay Area Reporter waiting to interview and photograph him.

Kudos to the BAR for bringing attention to Oberholzer and his ministry, and for educating readers about the plight of gays in South Africa today. Here are selections from the excellent BAR article:

In recognition of the work that gays and lesbians did to end apartheid in South Africa, the new national constitution included an amendment specifically prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in 1993, Oberholzer explained. Oberholzer was a member of the Organisation of Lesbians and Gays against Apartheid, which worked with the African National Congress to develop the amendment . . .

No South African church would recognize Oberholzer as a pastor because he is an openly gay man. So he came to San Francisco for help in the mid-1990s, with no contacts, and began cold-calling organizations, looking for funding . . .

Oberholzer was welcomed at the church, first by the Reverend James DeLange, and then by the congregation as a whole . . .

St. Francis and LLGM continue to support his work financially as well, and are key donors to Oberholzer's organization, Inclusive and Affirming Ministries in South Africa . . .

When he began IAM, Oberholzer said, "Ten ministers were on a list of open and affirming clergy."

"Now there are 1,000 ministers on that list," he noted.

IAM also created the first and only gay and lesbian shelter in South Africa outside of Cape Town . . .

Too often gay men live entirely closeted lives in the townships, marrying for fear of being expelled from their communities, Oberholzer said. Lesbians face similar social pressures and an even greater threat of violence.

"South Africa has the highest rape statistics in the world. One in three women are raped in South Africa," Oberholzer said. Lesbians are also subjected to what Oberholzer said was termed "corrective rape." He puts the number of lesbians raped at 85 percent, and said that family members commit most assaults . . .

Asked for the biggest need of IAM Oberholzer replied succinctly: "money."

Because the organization doesn't fit neatly within existing social justice groups it often has trouble securing adequate funding for its programs.

"We are too religious for the gay rights groups and too gay for the religious groups," Oberholzer explained.

IAM welcomes donation to support its work. Donations can be made by contacting Oberholzer through IAM's Web site.

Friday, May 23, 2008

SF Chronicle:
Golden Showers for Straight Jocks

Last weekend was the annual Bay to Breakers race across the city, and, per the usual custom, a few kinky things happened along the way, as evidenced by the photo. The Chronicle on Wednesday reported the dearth of porta-potties for the runners and how lots of men, and women too, were taking a leak wherever they could along the route. This was the only photo accompanying the story. So how do I know these boys are straight jocks? Just an educated guess really, but, I'm convinced if they were gay and engaging in wet and golden activity on the street, the Chronicle would make sure readers knew their sexual orientation.
Harvey Milk Bust Unveiled at SF City Hall
Yesterday, May 22, was Harvey Milk's 78th birthday and the slain gay rights leader and politician was honored at City Hall with the unveiling of his bust in the rotunda on the second floor, right outside the Board of Supervisors' chambers. One man was behind the creation of the bust and its placement in the seat of local government: Danny Nicoletta, gay hero. A close friend of Harvey's, Danny received many well-deserved accolades last night.

Over all, I have to say the ceremony and party for the unveiling couldn't have been finer. Lots of people in attendance, all in a jovial mood, rainbow flags and balloons hanging from the balconies, the proceedings displayed on two large screens so everyone could see what was happening, short speeches by politicians, warm love from the audience directed at Harvey's friends and colleagues, and a genuine spirit of family embracing City Hall.

With so much love and happiness throughout the evening, I'm hard-pressed to pick one incident that really made me smile and optimistic for American gays, but I'll settle on a single action. It was when about ten gay youths marched up the grand staircase, encircled the covered bust, and with a horde of photographers and people wielding digital cams recording their movements, slowly pulled the blue drape off the bust of Harvey.

Ah, the pivotal moment we'd all been waiting for, and instead of the politicians or movement veterans doing the honors, the task was given to gay youths, and the future.

Let's have a look at my photos from last night.

Stuart Milk, Harvey's openly gay nephew, waiting for the show to start.

The crowd to the left of the grand staircase.

Directly in front of the staircase, the crowd listening to speeches.

Supervisor Bevan Dufty, Mayor Gavin Newsom, Assemblyman Mark Leno (soon to be state senator), Supervisor Tom Ammiano, after making their remarks.

Friends and colleagues of Harvey basking in the crowd's adoration.

Hank Wilson, a friend of Harvey's, smiles for the camera.

Lesbian writer Jewelle Gomez, left, and tranny HIV advocate Cecilia, right, keeping the show running smoothly as mistresses of the ceremony.

Joey Cain, in polka dots, community organizer, and Danny Nicoletta, wearing a gardenia, sharing a laugh.

View from the top of the stairs, packed full with community members and the gay chorus.

The bust, moments before the drape was removed.

After unveiling the statue, gay youths gather around it.

Monday, May 19, 2008

US Lifts Ban on Straight Sex in Afghanistan;
Homo-sex Still Prohibited
This story, exclusively reported by the Stars & Stripes last week, contains news involving so many sensational aspects that sell newspapers and drive up TV ratings, I'm very perplexed why other media outlets haven't picked up on the change in sexual behavior policies for our troops in the war-ravaged country.

We're talking s-e-x, combat zones, pregnancies, the US military, oh, and a passing reference to good ol' fear-inducing homosexuals, for whom the changes mean nothing. All basic elements for a hard news story from the mainstream corporate media, in my opinion.

Heck, the gay press might pick up on these developments in Afghanistan, if only to show how straight soldiers and their intimacy needs are being addressed and accommodated by the Department of Defense in time of war, while the homosexual ban is left intact.

From the Stars & Stripes:
JALALABAD, Afghanistan — Single soldiers and civilians working for the U.S. military in Afghanistan can now have sex legally. Sort of.

A new order signed by Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser, commander of Combined Joint Task Force-101, has lifted a ban on sexual relations between unmarried men and women in the combat zone.

General Order No. 1 outlines a number of prohibited activities and standards of conduct for U.S. troops and civilians working for the military in Afghanistan. Previously, under the regulation, sexual relations and "intimate behavior" between men and women not married to each other were a strict no-no. The regulation also barred members of the opposite sex from going into each other’s living quarters unless they were married to each other . . .

But sexual relations and physical intimacy between men and women not married to each other are no longer banned outright. They’re only "highly discouraged," and that’s as long as they’re "not otherwise prohibited" by the Uniform Code of Military Justice, according to the new order.

Single men and women can now also visit each other’s living quarters, as long as everyone else who lives there agrees, and as long as visitors of the opposite sex remain in the open "and not behind closed doors, partitions or other isolated or segregated areas," according to the new regulation . . .

A cursory reading of the order would seem to suggest that unmarried men and women could have sex in their living quarters, as long as all other persons who live there agree, or if they left the door open, if they were otherwise alone. But that’s not the case, said Lt. Col. Rumi Nielson-Green, a spokeswoman for Regional Command East and Combined Joint Task Force-101 . . .

The UCMJ contains several provisions under which sexual relations are prohibited between men and women. For instance, married persons cannot engage legally in sex with anyone other than their spouse, or they can be prosecuted for adultery. Sexual relations between subordinates and higher-ranking personnel are prohibited within the same chain of command. Sexual relations between officers and enlisted personnel are generally prohibited as well. Homosexual relations are completely prohibited under the code . . .
Of course, the policy shift is being widely debated by soldiers, as evidenced by comments left on the chat board about the Stars & Stripes article. Here are a few of the comments, reflecting a range of opinions:
Of course I hope they realize they open a can with this one. That being not only gays in the military, but gays and lesbians to have the same rights as others and have sex in battle zones as well. Some things are better just being left out of site, out of mind and unspoken.

I'm in Kuwait and not Afghanistan, so this doesn't apply to me (yet) but so long as they do as they always have and ensure we have condoms and other such protection readily available why not let us have sex?

Keep all of the provisions that apply anywhere: No same sex relations, no Officer and Enlisted, no senior to junior in the same chain of command, etc. but allow people to be people.

Good Lord - people are having sex over there anyway! Its funny though that you have to leave the door open - or the tent flap, or whatever! ha! ha!

We always had a rule in the tent in Bosnia - if you are having sex and we can hear it, we can watch. Smile It never worked because there was never enough privacy to begin with. BUT - if you put men and women together in a stress zone, its gonna happen.

I dont see what the problem is. Troops are having sex all the time in Afghanistan. The no sex ban did nothing to stop anybody from having sex. They are not going to have any more sex than they already are having.

Keep you zipper up and do your job if you can not control yourself for a few months then maybe you should look at the life you lead.

The Navy will probably follow suit on this on ships. In the old days we just jerked off. Could always tell when the guy above or below you was having at it, shook the entire rack.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Which 2008 Presidential Hopeful
Got $$$ from CA Chief Justice?

Ronald George, the chief justice of the California Supreme Court who wrote the majority decision this week favoring equal marriage rights for gays, and was appointed to the bench by arch-conservative ex-governor Pete Wilson, is a supporter of Hillary Clinton's bid for the White House. Earlier this year, George donated $500 to Clinton's presidential campaign, which is now a sputtering failure.

I don't find his contribution to Clinton all that surprising because she appeals to many conservative voters, and George is viewed as a conservative jurist. What forces me to raise an eyebrow and mutter "huh?," is that he made any donation in such a furnace-hot political environment.

Federal Election Commission records reveal that George is the only member of the California Supreme Court to have written a check to a presidential candidate in the 2008 race. Other justices have given to past senatorial and presidential candidates, and a GOP county committee, FEC records show.

Taking into account the list of donations from the California justices, I imagine right-wingers who bemoan "activist judges," like Sen. John McCain did this week, have used these contributions as proof to back up their claims of judicial activism, especially when decisions are rendered that they don't approve of or an individual judge's personal money is directed to a candidate of the opposing party.

Regardless of how liberals, moderates or conservatives characterize the California justices or judges on any bench, I'm happy we have laws, and web sites, that provide transparency to campaign financing, so we can follow the money.

These donations come from's FEC records:
George, Ronald
San Francisco , CA 94107
State of California/Chief Justice
primary 02/21/08

George, Ronald

San Francisco , CA 94107
State of California/Chief Justice
primary 02/07/08


ROSS, CA 94957
primary 05/31/02

ROSS, CA 94957
primary 12/30/96

ROSS, CA 94957
primary 06/16/95

ROSS, CA 94957
primary 08/22/85

primary 09/10/91

FRESNO, CA 93727
general 09/28/94

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Larry Kramer: Gay Marriage, DNC, Obama, Hillary & HRC
In response to my entry earlier today about the lame remarks from Democratic leaders on the CA gay marriage equality decision, my friend Larry in NYC sent along a message:
this is all shocking, michael, all the responses from hillary, obama, dean. it shows that we have much much work to do and that HRC is, as ever, out to lunch.
note that hillary and obama go out of their way to insert the words "civil unions" when the california opinion distinctly rules that these are no longer the desirable goal.
read the stuff from on this. that guy really got it! (rex wockner posted it.)
larry kramer

Castro Street Closed for Gay Marriage Party

And the long, brutally hot historic day draws to a close in America's gayest enclave . . .

(Gay love expressed and manifested, many times over, on Castro Street tonight.)

(They had just smooched moments before posing for me.)

(Two straight couples, from France, assuring me,
"We like zee gays!")

(Friends from the Radical Faeries, bringing their pixie spirit to the party.)

("We love each other," they proclaimed to me and anyone who would listen.)

(Under the Castro Theatre marquee, looking toward 18th Street.)

(Dancing under the theatre marquee.)

(Man in a red shirt taking in the party scene.)

(Red-bearded man passes through the party.)

(More straight French tourists, dancing in the street with their boy.)

(Standing at Castro and Market Streets, before I head home, the party starting to really revv up.)

Democrats, Dean Omit 'Gay' From
CA Marriage Release; HRC Silent

I have no idea how a Green Party voter like me got on the Democratic Party's email list, and I will make sure to get off it, I'm pleased to receive this email, but damn pissed the Donkey Party failed to say the word gay once.

And who is this Damien LaVera creature, who is so ill-mannered he can't waste his precious time offering any hearty congratulations to gay and lesbian voters? All LaVera is really concerned with is using the gay marriage ruling to bash McCain. Then LaVera, in his remarks for chairman Dean, says this issue should be used for political or partisan purposes.

Fine, bash the GOP candidate, but don't forget the ruling is quite an emotional issue for us. And what is this b.s. off saying in writing, "off the record"? Who says that in a mass email?

So what's the reason why the DNC says the law overturned today was "anti-marriage"? Can't the DNC put the words "anti gay marriage" law in a statement?

It says much about what is wrong with the Democrats that this troubling statement was sent out today, without really acknowledging gay joy with the ruling.

My final concern is this: Why does the Human Rights Campaign, the gay wing of the Democratic Party, allow Democratic leaders to treat us so shabbily?

The DNC email:
In a message dated 5/15/2008 3:19:58 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, writes:

Good evening.

Below, please find Gov. Dean's Statement on the California marriage ruling. Off the record, I'd also point out that while both our candidates have said positive things about the ruling, John McCain has been silent. This, however, speaks for itself:

>>> "DNC Press" 5/15/2008 5:57 PM >>>

For Immediate Release
May 15, 2008

Contact: Damien LaVera - 202-863-8148

Dean: California Court Decision
A Step Toward Equal Rights Under The Law

Washington, DC - Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean today issued the following statement on the California Supreme Court decision to overturn the state's anti-marriage ban:

"The Supreme Court of California today took a step forward in the long march toward protecting equal rights under the law for every American. This should not be a matter of politics or partisanship; it is a matter of protecting the rights and dignity of all American families."


Paid for and authorized by the Democratic National Committee, This communication is not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.
Have a look now at what the guys at report this afternoon about statements issued from the Obama and Clinton campaigns on CA gay marriage decision:

The Democratic presidential candidates have both released responses to today’s gay marriage ruling in California. And they live a lot to be desired.

In an effort to sidestep any electoral complications, neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama - both of whom oppose gay marriage - issued direct statements, but had spokespeople do the dirty work. Here’s what the Clinton campaign dispensed:

Hillary Clinton believes that gay and lesbian couples in committed relationships should have the same rights and responsibilities as all Americans and believes that civil unions are the best way to achieve this goal.

As President, Hillary Clinton will work to ensure that same sex couples have access to these rights and responsibilities at the federal level. She has said and continues to believe that the issue of marriage should be left to the states.

Barack Obama issued an equally anticlimactic remarks:

Barack Obama has always believed that same-sex couples should enjoy equal rights under the law, and he will continue to fight for civil unions as President. He respects the decision of the California Supreme Court, and continues to believe that states should make their own decisions when it comes to the issue of marriage.

On the issue of constitutional amendments, Senator Obama has been on record for some time: He opposes all divisive and discriminatory constitutional amendments, state or federal. That includes the proposed amendments in California and Florida.

Not even a small congratulations?! Rude.

(Photo credits, from top to bottom: Getty Images, SF Chronicle, and the NY Times.)

Global Gay Solidarity Via CA Marriage Ruling

As the gay community in San Francisco celebrates today CA Supreme Court ruling favoring full gay marriage equality, I'd like to inject a plea for us to remember our family members beyond the USA's borders, who are expressing good wishes and solidarity to us on this important day.

(Needless to say, I'm happy my global gay solidarity sign and message is getting out in the visual media regarding the court's decision today!)

This coming Saturday, May 17, is IDAHO, International Day Against Homophobia, and in plenty of countries, actions commemorating this day will happen, and in many of those countries, the gay activists will be at risk of violence just for coming out of the closet and publicly declaring their homosexuality.

Three USA cities will mark IDAHO and call on the Russian government to grant march permits to gay pride organizers in Moscow. From Nikolai Alexeyev we learn that the gay Russians will join in IDAHO events themselves:
Dear friends,

We managed to arrange for the press conference on Friday 16 May. it will be dedicated to the third Moscow Pride, International Day Against Homophobia and 15th Anniversary since decriminalisation of homosexuality in Russia. So everything is going well with that. Thanks for your efforts and solidarity with Moscow Pride.

So, my fellow gay San Franciscans, I ask you to attend tomorrow's speak out at the Russian consulate over in Pacific Heights and add your voice to the handful of activists who will be at the consulate on Friday. And if you reside in Chicago or New York, or any of the other cities staging IDAHO actions, turn out for events in your area and engage in global gay solidarity.

Info on the three IDAHO events in the USA:
City: Chicago, IL
Date: Saturday, May 17
Time: 3:00 pm
Location: Women and Children First Bookstore
Action: Rally in front of store, then a march
Address: 5233 N. Clark Street, cross street is Farragaut
Contact: Andy Thayer;
Web site:

City: New York, NY
Date: Friday, May 16
Time: 12 noon
Location: Russian Consulate
Action: Speak out
Address: 9 E. 91st Street, cross street is Fifth Avenue
Contact: Brendan Fey;

City: San Francisco, CA
Date: Friday, May 16
Time: 12 noon
Location: Russian Consulate
Action: Speak out
Address: 2790 Green Street, cross street is Baker
Contact: Michael Petrelis;
CA Gay Marriage Ruling:
Courthouse Steps Photos

I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to witness and participate in homosexual history in the making today. The California Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling granting full marriage rights to gays and lesbians, and I was on the courthouse steps before and after the decision was handed down. As you can see from two of the photos, I was present with a huge sign promoting global gay solidarity.

Click here to see mainstream press photos of the big solidarity sign.

With much of the USA and world's eyes, and hordes of media outlets, focused on the gay marriage ruling issued in San Francisco, I wanted to use the opportunity to send a message of international gay and lesbian solidarity to my brothers and sisters around the globe.

An important quote from the decision
"[R]etaining the designation of marriage exclusively for opposite-sex couples and providing only a separate and distinct designation for same-sex couples may well have the effect of perpetuating a more general premise -- now emphatically rejected by this state -- that gay individuals and same-sex couples are in some respects 'second-class citizens' who may, under the law, be treated differently from, and less favorably than, heterosexual individuals or opposite-sex couples. Under these circumstances, we cannot find that retention of the traditional definition of marriage constitutes a compelling state interest. Accordingly, we conclude that to the extent the current California statutory provisions limit marriage to opposite-sex couples, these statutes are unconstitutional."
Here are the photos I took a short while ago.

(Ten minutes before the decision was rendered.)

(Two gay plaintiffs holding hands, nine minutes before the ruling
was made public.)

(Two of the lesbian plaintiffs anticipating the decision.)

(Promoting an international queer solidarity message, five minutes before the decision was issued.)

(Those two gay male plaintiffs, again declaring their love for cameras, four minutes before the ruling.)

(Gay and lesbian plaintiffs addressing reporters.)

(A swarm of reporters and photographers surround the plaintiffs, one minute before the ruling was announced.)

(A gay community member, not a plaintiff, is the first person to read from the decision on the steps of the courthouse.)

(Lesbian attorney Kate Kendall talks about the
decision to reporters.)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

LA HIV Expert Ken Howard on Gay Meth Ads

My friend Ken Howard, LCSW, of Los Angeles, someone who's long proposed effective ways of improving HIV social marketing campaigns, this morning shared with me his reactions to the latest anti-meth ads targeting gay men in the Golden State.

California last year allocated $11M for the media campaign to blanket gay neighborhoods and web-site, but additional monies were not provided to expand access to meth addiction treatment services. Am I only one who thinks the lobbyists at the SF AIDS Foundation, who were behind getting the state dollars for the ads, should have instead worked to get those millions for treatment programs to help speed users get off the drug?

Ken has extensive history helping the LA gay community grapple with mental health issues, and when he speaks, I listen.

And Ken's not the only gay man unhappy with the meth ads. According to claimed recently that the ads blanketing the Castro Street Muni station were being re-decorated with comments and graffiti. Click here to see some of the messages placed on the ads.

What Ken has to say about the latest meth ads:
I'm irritated, once again, by yet another large, expensive, "social marketing" campaign that essentially says nothing, does nothing. "I Lost Me to Meth" promotes the idea that meth can be harmful. Is there anyone that does NOT respond to this campaign with, "Duh!".

Once again, the "social marketing" campaign calls attention to a problem (Good!) without giving the public or its target population (gay men) any information on what to actually DO about it (Bad!). Depicting sick-looking, drawn, gay men (many of whom are of color) in the ads just further promotes the idea of gay men as sick, addicted, pathetic, helpless, weak, defeated, and value-less.

As a gay male psychotherapist who spends much of his day helping gay men who are addicted to crystal meth overcome it (through their counseling in my office and through the 12-Step program nearby), I want to see resources in our community spent on promoting positive steps and positive images/resources, not scare-tactics with vague, melodramatic, alliterative slogans that do nothing to educate, but plenty to stigmatize.

OK, yes, it does refer readers to the website, which does contain resources which are useful if one A) Goes to the website, and B) Clicks on the Resources tab and reads the names/phone numbers of local resources and some very good social service agencies. But how many people who see the billboards do this, as opposed to just seeing another drug-addict gay man of color?

First (a couple of years ago), AIDS Healthcare Foundation depicted gay Black men in diapers in the "HIV: Not Fabulous" campaign, now we have gay Black men depicted as dope fiends. You think maybe there is a connection between this and racism in West Hollywood (and other gay neighborhoods) nationwide?

It sends a message to White, Straight America that not only are the dope fiends in our midst all gay men, it more specifically is the Black gay men who are the vectors of scourge and plague in our "innocent" community (it couldn't POSSIBLY be that any White Straight Women use meth, could it?).

Once again, the image of the sad, down-and-out innocent who got caught up in the scourges of our community (HIV, meth) is supposed to be a "warning" to those tempted to try meth to stop before they start. Not a bad sentiment, but what images REALLY motivate someone to not try meth if they don't already do it, and to stop using it if they already do? Is it sad, dark, pathetic pictures?

Or is it perhaps -- just maybe -- POSITIVE images of healthy gay men who utilized certain resources to overcome meth addiction, are now physically and mentally healthy, and with a certain "If I did it, you can, too, and here's how" slogan, so that down-and-out meth addicts who see the billboards actually have a sense of hope and are motivated to action to save themselves?

Recently, in West Hollywood, a 29 year old gay man (White) named Hunter committed suicide, reportedly over despondency and hopelessness that he would never get over his addiction to meth. This event also happened to coincide with the first appearance of the billboard at La Cienega and Santa Monica in West Hollywood. Connection? Maaaaaaybe. Do we need billboards that exacerbate hopelessness, shame, stigma, and helplessness, or do we need ones that inform, educate, and inspire? If Hunter had seen a hopeful billboard, would he have killed himself, or would he have gotten a spark of hope that might have motivated him to seek further treatment? Maaaaaaybe.

I don't know the answer -- but after seeing MORE images of gay men -- particularly gay men of color -- being denigrated on HUGE billboards in gay neighborhoods for all the straight people to see -- I'm sure as hell going to ask the question.

When the denial of equal gay rights is the law of the land -- such as the withholding the right of gay and lesbian Californians to marry -- could it possibly be that such public, negative images of our community are partially to blame? Maybe. I don't know. But I'm sure as hell going to ask the question.
NY HIV Expert Dr. Bellman on MoJo & PEP
Dr. Paul Bellman is a leading and veteran HIV specialist in New York City with a history of innovative ideas for preventing new infections and treating people with HIV. He sent along his thoughts on the Mother Jones article I blogged about yesterday, with reactions to the haphazard approach to publicizing and administering PEP. From Dr. Bellman:
Hi Michael, if you'd like you can post this as a comment on your blog. I look forward to reading the MOTHER JONES article on Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) that you highlighted on your blog.

I agree that that an aggressive, comprehensive public health campaign that included educating the public and medical profession about PEP would likely prevent new HIV infections.
I found Dr. Anthony Uribe's comment that "it needs to be treated like a gunshot wound or stabbing" provocative and worthy of comment. No doubt Dr. Urbina is highlighting the need for both easy and immediate access to PEP and in particular universal recognition among health care professionals and the public for immediate treatment to be sought and granted.

Currently, access to PEP is haphazard and even when it is sought it often times is delayed well past the point when it is most likely to work. There are many obstacles to PEP including often long ER waits for patients who either don't have a physician or whose physician is uncomfortable with prescribing PEP. Delays in seeking or accessing treatment are often caused by weekend or evening exposures. Even patients who have doctors may not be able to make timely appointments based on their doctors schedule or lack of recognition by the doctor's staff of the urgency of the matter.

Patients themselves, already frightened and stressed may not feel comfortable in seeking help, making timely appointments and may worry that they will be judged negatively in some way for needing PEP after a sexual encounter. Patients also may not know whether a particular encounter has put them at risk for HIV exposure.

Patients may also may be worried or in fact be unable to pay for PEP evaluation and if indicated medical treatment.
I am concerned, however that equating a sexual encounter that could lead to possible HIV exposure requiring medical evaluation and possibly treatment with PEP with a stabbing or gunshot wound may inadvertently but powerfully equate that sexual encounter with an act of violence.

The equating of an act of love with an act of violence could be highly stigmatizing particularly to men who have sex with men or minority women who are sexually active, two already stigmatized groups in our society that have high incidences of new HIV infections.

It also incorrectly suggests that HIV exposure is a potentially fatal occurrence like a gunshot wound or stabbing. A gunshot wound or stabbing is often immediately fatal even despite the best of medical care. Thankfully, HIV is highly and effectively treatable when medically indicated and acute HIV infection is never a fatal occurrence.

Promoting avoidance of HIV infection is best done by educating the public about the actuality of what HIV infection means in terms of its health impact in 2008. Terrifying, the public which is already unrealistically terrified of HIV positive persons will cause not prevent new infections

There are so many current misconceptions about HIV and HIV positive persons that are highly prejudicial and serve to stigmatize HIV positive persons, gay men , and women living with HIV. Too many to chronicle here but one example is particularly instructive.

A recent survey showed that only 14% of Americans believe that HIV positive women should have children a lower percentage than Americans believe women with Down's syndrome or schizophrenia should have children. In fact, HIV positive women are fully capable with appropriate medical treatment of having healthy babies, meeting the challenges of motherhood, and living to enjoy having grandchildren.

The shocking ignorance of the general public about HIV positive women is just one of many signs of a failed public health campaign to prevent HIV infection and to effectually treat HIV positive persons in a compassionate and intelligent way.

The "don't ask, don't tell" ethos that was described by the enlightened North Carolina public health official Peter Leone who would like to ,better access to PEP in this area is on target.

On the other hand, Dr. Robert Janssen, the powerful head of the CDC Division of HIV/AIDS states that "Biomedical interventions raise concerns that people would feel "Oh I have these pills. they will keep me from getting it." If those "biomedical interventions" worked and were found to be safe and effective what's the problem with that.

I believe that the best chance we have to prevent new HIV infections as well as effectively treating HIV positive persons depends upon comprehensive public health education about HIV that in which the medical community partners with not preaches at the public.

In my opinion, it's time for new leadership particularly at senior levels of public health agencies at the NIH and CDC who consistently have placed the discriminatory and unenlightened ideas of the Bush administration above meeting the challenges of HIV prevention. A new public health campaign is urgently needed that de-stigmatizes HIV positive persons once and for all and a public health leadership that focuses clinical and research resources in meeting the current prevention and treatment challenges of HIV today.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

MoJo: HIV Morning-After Pill
You've Never Heard of

Here's some news for the folks at Mother Jones: The gay press and AIDS magazines have extensively covered PEP, post exposure prophylaxis, and its ramifications, including how it is not actively promoted by the HIV prevention mafia. While it's great to see a progressive magazine report on PEP, and I really like the tone of the article, I wish this sub-head gave the gay and AIDS communities some credit for working to develop and publicize PEP:
Introducing the best FDA-approved, commercially available lifesaver you've never heard of
Um, quite a few queers have heard it actually.

That being said, it's maddening to me that years after the evidence came in showing the benefits of PEP, far too-many HIV at-risk sexually active people don't know about it. Basically, because HIV prevention mafiosi are executing 1980s-style finger-wagging campaigns out of step with 2008, HIV cases that could have been averted are allowed to develop in people, who, if they knew about PEP, might take advantage of it.

Before delving into the MoJo piece, let me call your attention to a Bay Area Reporter story last month on a town hall meeting in San Francisco with the city's HIV prevention godfather, Dr. Grant Colfax. Despite his bizarre claim that evidence is lacking, DPH has long recommended and provided PEP for occupational exposure to HIV, and in recent years making it available to sexual exposure cases. From the BAR:
As for PEP, Colfax agreed many men do not know about the four-week drug regiment or where to go to get it. But he added data is lacking to show it truly works, and with limited resources, questioned if it made sense to launch a PEP-focused campaign.
There may not be a social marketing effort or even grassroots stab at educating gay men in SF about PEP, but the DPH STD clinic does provide info about their PEP program on its site:
PEP is a 28-day cycle of drug treatment believed to be effective in preventing an HIV negative person from becoming positive after exposure to HIV. At City Clinic, we offer testing, counseling and prescription for PEP medication within 72 hours of a possible exposure to HIV. You can call (415) 487-5538 to discuss your situation with a clinician before coming to the clinic for services. Once you arrive at the clinic, you will meet with a clinician to discuss available medications, be provided counseling with a trained Health Worker, have blood drawn for HIV and STD tests, and receive a schedule for follow-up appointments at 1 month, 3 months and 6 months.
Now, let's get to the MoJo story:
. . . The side effects of debilitating nausea and fatigue were a small price to pay for its potential benefits: A study of health care workers published in the New England Journal of Medicine linked the rapid administration of the drug to an 81 percent decrease in the risk of contracting the
virus . . .

As preventative medicine, the drugs work with a one-two punch: The first intercepts the virus' initial attachment to DNA, and the second stops infected cells from spreading the virus.

Danny was lucky that California is one of the few states (along with New York, Massachusetts, New Mexico, and Rhode Island) where policies ensure that the general public—not just hospital workers who have been exposed on the job—can access the drugs. Elsewhere, the decision is up to individual hospitals, clinics, and doctors. Surveying all 50 state health departments and more than 50 ERs nationwide, I encountered STD clinicians and workers at AIDS hotlines and Planned Parenthoods who did not know PEP could be prescribed to the public . . .

"It needs to be treated like a gunshot wound or a stabbing," says Antonio Urbina, a medical director at St. Vincent Catholic Medical Center's HIV clinic in New York City . . . In a 2005-06 CDC survey taken at gay pride parades around the country, less than 20 percent of HIV-negative respondents knew about PEP. "When I tell people that I used it, they say they've never heard of it," says Danny. "You see signs about crystal meth or syphilis, but even in the gay publications, you never see ads for pep."

PEP is FDA approved, commercially available, and even often covered by insurance (though for the uninsured the drugs run upward of $1,000) . . .

But for reasons that are more political than scientific, there is no federal funding for the treatment. Some public health officials claim that public availability of pep will encourage risky behavior—the same argument used against RU-486, abortions, and condom distribution. Robert Janssen, director of the Division of hiv/aids Prevention at the cdc, explains, "Biomedical interventions raise concerns that people would feel, 'Oh, I have these pills, they will keep me from getting it.'" . . .

Peter Leone, medical director of North Carolina's hiv department, who hasn't received the necessary support to institute a public PEP program in his state, believes the benefits of pep outweigh the risks. "Nationally, there is a 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy," he says. "We're okay to say it's a good idea, as long as we don't know about it and don't do anything to support it. We don't deny care to smokers or people who didn't buckle their seat belts. It says a lot about the political climate around sexuality and homophobia." For the 40,000 people infected with HIV in the United States each year, the knowledge of a lost opportunity for prevention is devastating. In Britain, an HIV-positive couple has filed suit against the government for withholding lifesaving information . . .
In consideration of the fact that national HIV infections have allegedly remained steady at 40,000 for so long, and some CDC and state officials claim that number is climbing, now would be a good time to radically rethink prevention modalities that integrate the powerful HIV drugs in new preventative ways. If only the HIV dons and prima donnas could think outside the box, we would likely see new infections come under control.

Monday, May 12, 2008

(Media moguls Craig Newmark and Arthur Sulzberger Jr.)

Craigslist Lies About Gay Syphilis in SF;
Newmark Bullied by SF DPH?

No matter what your gender or sexual orientation is, if you want to use Craigslist's vast personals section to find a platonic or romantic companion, or sexual playmates, you first have to get past this warning:
"Choosing safer sex for you and your partner greatly reduces the risk of contracting STDs including HIV -- you can get answers to your safer sex questions, courtesy of staff members at the SF city clinic."
My initial thought about the warning questioned why only an STD message was necessary, and not something that also mentions pregnancy, abortion or adoption, potential outcomes of heterosexual sex hook ups initiated through Craigslist. Or maybe warnings related to drinking and eating, two highly desirable activities much sought after in platonic personals. Bad things can result not just from sexual liaisons arranged through Craigslist, but they don't warrant messaging on the popular site.

That warning, by the way, appears on the opening page of every Craigslist personals section. Looking for a platonic dining date in Philadelphia? Curious about a woman seeking a woman for sexual interludes in Dallas? Are you a man looking for cock to suck in Chicago? You'll first have to get past that warning from the SF Department of Public Health's message, before cruising Craigslist.

Some will argue that there have been cases of STD transmission from meeting a sexual partner on Craigslist, and a reminder about safer sex is a good thing for prevention efforts. First, is there proof the warnings are having an impact on epidemiology? Second, why does Craigslist link only San Francisco's health department? I think if the site is going to carry such messaging, then it ought to be geographically localized.

If someone is concerned about STDs and has questions, it would be better to link them to their nearest STD bureau in their local area, not the bureau in San Francisco. Who at Craigslist elected San Francisco's health department to be the only go-to agency through the site for STD concerns?

Very odd, that instead of linking to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention page for STD info, Craigslist is tied to a one local health agency.

The other thing is, from the San Francisco of this city resident, why is our local health department's funding, which is being cut for San Francisco citizens, being used by the STD control bureau to deliver online services to people from around the nation?

No matter what city you're in, if you click on the link to Craigslist's safer sex forum in the warning, you'll find the right side of the page is devoted to messages from only the SF DPH. Again, this raises the matter of why and how Craigslist has given exclusive rights to this one agency to deal with STD matters, and receive dedicated space on the site.

What is some of what the Craigslist/SF DPH safe sex forum tells you. Is it true? They say:
"Did you know: There is currently a syphilis epidemic in San Francisco among men who have unprotected sex with men."
Why should this stigmatizing statistic be of concern to cruisers in any other city? Is SF DPH yet again invoking the demonizing image of the STD-ridden homosexual to instill fear about all sexual activities? Is the Pope Benedict a bigot?

Those matters aside, the Craigslist/SF DPH claim is not verifiable. Here is what SF DPH reported in a preliminary year-end report from February:
"In 2007, declines were noted for all reportable STDs in San Francisco. Reported gonorrhea declined 19% from 2006 to 2007 from 2469 cases to 2008. Rectal gonorrhea among men also declined from 557 cases to 489 -- a 12% decline.

"Declines in syphilis were also found. Primary and secondary syphilis declined 17% in 2007 from 243 to 202; all early syphilis also declined by 16% in 2007."
Sounds to me like STDs, including syphilis, are on the decline in San Francisco, especially gay rectal gonorrhea, but don't expect to learn this from Craigslist. It's too busy giving up its valuable web site space to stigmatizing lies by SF DPH, an agency all too-dedicated to never saying anything positive about gay male health.

Hey, Craig Newmark, have you been bullied by SF DPH and the STD control workers in their quest to be the (unelected) safe sex nannies of the web? You might want to consider SF DPH's monopoly on a big part of Craigslist, ending the monopoly and letting users decide if safe sex messaging is necessary and effective.

If Craigslist users decide such messaging is what they want, then maybe the site should allow addition local health departments or the CDC to deliver the messages on the site.