Saturday, July 31, 2010

Bloggers Named to GetEQUAL Board;
Also Fundraising for a Dem

This fascinates me, top-echelon gay bloggers who have served as critics and pundits of the movement, criticized and praised some of our paid leaders and Gay Inc orgs, are now lending their names and talents to a board of advisers and a fundraising event for a Democrat.

First up, this note came my way last night from an activist who has observed GetEQUAL and its executive co-directors. He's sharing info I think will be of
interest to other gays:

Kip's in Europe, being phased out cause he wasn’t even trying to organize. Got a salary for doing very little. Autumn Sandeen, Jillian Weiss, Natasha Dillion are part of the new board. Heather Cronk will be taking over Kip’s position.

And what was his position, anyway? I never understood what role Kip was supposed to play, being based in San Francisco, and aiding the local community in organizing a do-able field plan lobbying Pelosi, Boxer and Feinstein on ENDA and DADT.

The advisers have extensive track-records writing and organizing records. Among other talents, Sandeen is a contributing blogger at Pam Spaulding's House Blend site, while Weiss posts motivational essays at, and Dillon is affiliated with New York City activist orgs. No word yet on who other GetEQUAL adviser will be.

Over at Joe Jervis' JoeMyGod blog, he's announced his support for New York's junior Democratic Senator, along with two other A-List bloggers, and all three are backers of a money-making event for the incumbent:

If you are in NYC on Thursday, August 5th, please consider joining me, Jeremy Hooper of [Good As You], and Pam Spaulding at Therapy in Hell's Kitchen as we co-host a special netroots fundraiser for U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. The event runs 6pm-9pm with a $20 donation. [...]

With bloggers being added to the GetEQUAL board and other gay bloggers promoting donations to a Democratic politician, I think we're seeing A-List gay bloggers enter a
new realm of community influence. Not that there is anything wrong with that, and I applaud Joe's disclosure. Indeed, I wish GetEQUAL leaders would emulate Joe on transparency issues.

Things can only get more interesting for the gay online community, not to mention offline organizing, and the coffers of select Democrats, with key gay opinion-making bloggers taking these steps.

Reps Honda, Lofgren to Hold

Gay Forums in San Jose

There are two names to add to the list of Northern California Congressmembers who hold town hall meetings with constituents about gay marriage and other gay issues, Zoe Lofgren (above left), and Mike Honda (above right).

Representative Jackie Speier of San Mateo, has held two public forums on gay concerns, the most recent over Pride weekend. After Lofgren and Honda hold their gay town halls in the coming weeks, we will have three Congressmembers to point to who care enough to hold such forums for us.

Compare the gay forums' records of Speier, Lofgren and Honda with that of Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who represents the gayest district in the nation. From the Bay Area Reporter article about Speier's first gay town hall:

It has been more than a decade, if not longer, since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has taken the time to meet with local LGBT constituents in a setting open to the press and the public.

Pelosi, who represents the majority of San Francisco, including the gay Castro district, first won election to the House in 1987, and in 2007, was elected speaker. Apart from private meetings with local LGBT leaders, and carefully stage-managed events where the local press is given limited access to her, Pelosi has not held an open town hall with her LGBT constituents in some time. [...]

Pelosi who has plenty of time on her hands to attend the funerals of Sen. Robert Byrd, San Francisco real estate tycoon and donor Walter Shorenstein, and Congressman John Murtha, and can also fly into Las Vegas for a chat at the recent Netroots Nation confab, seems to have no time to emulate the civic engagement with gays practiced by her colleagues.

Heck, even Pelosi's district office staff, headed by Dan Bernal, an openly gay man, don't put on town halls for the gays. Are Pelosi and her staff so afraid of local gays that they fear our anger if they were to hold public forums?

From the Marriage Equality Silicon Valley web site:

The first two Saturdays in August will see town-hall meetings held at the Billy DeFrank LGBT Community Center by two members of the U.S. House of Representatives. On August 7, 2010, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, representing the 16th District, will appear in the upstairs conference room to answer your questions. The following week will be 15th District Congressman Mike Honda's turn.

Both meetings will take place in the morning, from 10:00 to 11:00. Don't miss this exciting chance to interact directly with your elected representatives in Congress, and to make sure they hear the concerns of the LGBT community. The meetings are free and open to all; donations to the DeFrank Center are appreciated. The DeFrank Center is located at 938 The Alameda, San José.

For more info, contact longtime Latina lesbian activist Gloria Nieto: glorianieto (at) comcast (dot) com.

Friday, July 30, 2010

: 'We Don't Care About Consequences

as Long as They Are Nonviolent'

Here's a roundup of recent criticism targeting GetEQUAL and media attention for them. An executive co-director of the org has some revealing thoughts to share on her org's agenda, in an interview with

The group has been developing a network of activists in every state that can be tapped to stage civil disobedience acts at a moment's notice. Many times that entails risking arrest.

"We don't care about the consequences as long as they are nonviolent," [Robin McGehee] said.

She blames D.C.-based groups like the Human Rights Campaign for giving Democrats too much leeway and not making enough demands.

"If I was [HRC President] Joe Solmonese, not one politician would speak at our event until we had action," she said. "All we're doing is letting them fundraise off of our base with no real change happening."

HRC sees itself differently. The group builds relationships with politicians and focuses on national-level advocacy work while relying on partner groups to work at the state and local level.

"You can never have too many friends and there are not enough ways to pursue the ultimate goal of equality," Fred Sainz, a vice president with the organization, said. "Our model is to work in deep collaboration with all those equality organizations." [...]

Also worth a read is a long column in Tikkun about the power of gay politics, and the goals of GetEQUAL protesters:

But whereas the ACT UP activists were fighting for their lives in the face of homophobic societal inaction on AIDS, [Dan] Choi and his [GetEQUAL] compatriots are fighting for a nearly opposite goal: the right to participate in an institution that is killing people in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan in wars that most progressive activists consider unjust. [...]

From the City of Brotherly Love, the publisher of Philadelphia Gay News, Mark Segal, in an editorial titled "GetEQUAL, get real. Learn!," points out the obvious:

Let’s face it: GetEQUAL, which has gotten much LGBT media attention of late, needs to mature somewhat. It shows promise, but unfortunately the inexperience is beginning to show. They don’t see where the enemy lies, and the enemy is in plain view.

If you thought the political process of Washington, D.C., would change overnight with an Obama presidency, then it’s easy to blame the president for what some feel is a slow process on changes in federal policies, programs and laws regarding the LGBT community.

That is too simplistic and shows a lack of any political knowledge or understanding of U.S. governance or history.

Let’s point out the pitfalls of D.C. and, surprisingly enough, it’s the number-one complaint by GetEQUAL and others, who feel the administration and the Democratic National Committee wasted a majority in the Senate and Congress by not moving fast enough on LGBT issues. [...]

Time will tell if any of the mounting complaints against this Astroturf org have any influence into making it a true grassroots entity, with an honest application of transparency, and coherent agenda that garners gay community support.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Goals & Board of GetEQUAL:

Announcement When?

Veteran community reporter, and longtime government sunshine advocate, Karen Ocamb ran a guest post at her blog yesterday from Derek Washington, a gay black man who was at GetEQUAL's founding invitation-only retreat in February, and who had much advice to give his colleagues. Among his complaints:

1: Don’t just decide and land anymore. Asking someone for help locally after you have decided there is no turning back is like driving someone’s car and asking for the favor of borrowing it when you bring it back with a dent.

2: A little more of a roadmap to what it is that you want to accomplish would help. I don’t mean a generic catch phrase either. Who? What? Where? Why?

3: Transparency as to how decisions are made and why. [...]

One of GetEQUAL's leaders, Heather ($70,000) Cronk, with hesitation, replied:

I don’t want to get into a fight over this on Karen’s very civilized blog, but I do really need to point out a fundamental error in Derek’s post.

Who's asking for a fight? She immediately acts as though Derek wants one. This defensiveness is what Heather also showed when pressed for communication from Bil Browning in June. I hardly get the feeling she wants to have a back-and-forth chat. She says:

We called Derek ahead of time, talked him through everything, asked his advice, and made sure that he felt comfortable with the action plans. If there was miscommunication or if Derek misunderstood what we were intending to do, we should talk about that offline so that we can ensure that our communication with local activists is better in the future — but we made every effort to include Derek and other Stonewall [Democratic Club of Nevada] folks in the conversation ahead of time, and asked any/all local Stonewall activists to come out and participate.

Notice the quickness to move the chat offline about what may have gone wrong. A commitment to transparency and willingness to engage with critics, in full public view, something the Human Rights Campaign also does provide the community, in is the DNA of GetEQUAL.

It's not just a matter of better communication with locals, but an ongoing problem of elitism with anyone who isn't a 100 percent GetEQUAL supporter. Heather should welcome an online respectful dialog, in full public view.

My comment asking Heather when her org would keep some promises they made to the community in June, brought this answer:

I appreciate your questions, and we will be releasing the names of provisional board members next week. We have been in an intentional process of creating a board of activists who are committed to fighting for full equality, and that process is nearly finished. Please be patient as we let all of those folks talk together and get to know one another, so that they’re comfortable with their shared commitment to our work.

This is such sloppy organizing, where the org gets big bucks from an elusive gay millionaire, Jonathan Lewis, and his DC consultant Paul Yandura, Clintonista Richard Socarides gives his royal blessing, the org holds an exclusive, private retreat to get officially formed, and almost seven long months of existence the org still has no board in place.

In case no one noticed, Heather promised GetEQUAL would hold its June retreat and get back to the community. Did it happen? No report has been issued from them, and it's the end of July, and only because AndrewW and I have been asking follow up questions, has Heather said a word to the larger community about the promised board members.

It's just like when Bil Browning and I pressed GetEQUAL on the amounts donated from Lewis and Yandura, and the salaries of the executive co-directors, it was only after the public pressure was made did the org get around to being transparent.

It's no skin off my nose how long Heather and crew take to find a handful of people to serve as financially responsible for them, as they build their 501(c)3 non-profit entity. Responsible and coherent organizers might have taken care of the basic necessity for a board before launching a national org and various political campaigns.

We have refined GetEQUAL’s mission statement on our website, and have both added a vision statement and outlined our theory of change there. Please feel free to read that.

Those documents, so hard to read on my 51-year-old eyes because they're posted in white letters on a harsh black background, are full of politically correct blather and offer no specifics explaining the org's strategy.

We are finalizing the benchmarks and goals that we set a few weeks ago, and will be adding those to the site as they’re finalized.

Take your time, Heather. No rush needed to give the community those basic components, and maybe even a roadmap of how you're going to achieve those goals, and engage gays beyond the tight, small circle of GetEQUAL executive co-directors and friends.

HRC, FightBackNY
Endorse Anti-Abortion Candidate

Movement veteran fighter and organizer Andy Humm sent me his thoughts about some crappy Gay Inc jockeying back East, all in the name of gay marriage. As a California resident with enough gay and AIDS issues on my plate, I must disclose deep ignorance about New York politics, and I totally appreciate Andy giving me the low down on these developments.

Andy writes:

By focusing solely on the marriage equality issue, HRC and FightBackNY, [a project of gay mogul Tim Gill and others], are supporting some candidates who are conservative in every other way.

In Buffalo (see article below from City Hall news), Sen. Stachowski, a rightwing Democrat who had Conservative Party backing, is being challenged by Tim Kennedy, a rightwing Democrat who has the support of the Conservative Party (because he is against a woman's right to choose) and the Independence Party, which is now owned by the landlord/real estate lobby to end tenant protections in New York State.

In other words, HRC and FightBackNY seem to have no coherent politics. Whether consciously or not, they could be contributing to a much less progressive and possibly Republican legislature, which would certainly please Mayor Bloomberg who is backed by people like Brian Ellner who is leading the HRC effort in New York.

HRC for some reason announced an endorsement of Sen. Duane who certainly deserves LGBT support but doesn't have a serious race. Why not announce support for ALL the Democrats who vote favorably on LGBT issues?

The two groups are also backing Ruben Diaz's opponent. He certainly deserves a harassment primary, but no one seriously believes he can be beaten. FightBackNY also just sent out an e-mail about STARTING an oppo research campaign on Diaz now.

All this raises serious questions about what the strategy is, whose money is behind it, what their ulterior motives are, and why they invite absolutely no community input while asking for our money.

And as Gay City News has written, these same groups are not endorsing Shirley Huntley's pro-gay opponent, Lynn Nunes, in Queens for fear of antagonizing Senate Democratic leader John Sampson.

There are no consistent standards here--and a lot of untold stories.

Given the fact that HRC executive director Joe Solmonese was a longtime fundraising strategist for the very pro-abortion EMILY's List, and other top HRC staff and key board members have worked for EMILY's List or NARAL, it's difficult to understand how HRC could endorse New York State candidates based solely on gay marriage, and not face blowback from abortion rights orgs.

Even if those orgs remain silent about their liberal coalition buddy endorsing the anti-choice candidate, activists should publicly debate HRC and FightBackNY's endorsements.

From City Hall News:

Tim Kennedy, a Democratic Erie County legislator, is betting that the support from gay marriage groups angry at Bill Stachowski for his “no” vote on marriage equality will put him over the top in his primary race against the incumbent senator.

He has the backing of the Human Rights Campaign New York PAC, and is rumored to be in line to receive the endorsement of the Empire State Pride Agenda, the gold standard for marriage equality supporters. Fight Back New York, a political action committee created to oust anti-gay marriage senators, also has Stachowski in their crosshairs, but does not plan on supporting any particular candidates running against him. [...]

Ralph Lorigo, chair of the Erie Conservative Party who is running a primary challenge against Rick Lazio for the conservative line in this year’s governor’s race, says his group endorsed Kennedy based on the legislator’s stance on abortion (he is pro-life) and the state budget (he is fiscally conservative).

As for gay marriage, well, Lorigo said to wait and see. [...]

Lorigo said that if Kennedy wins, he expects him to argue for cutting state spending and against funding for abortion services. But when it comes to gay marriage, Lorigo said he hopes Kennedy will be open to changing his position. [...]

Have HRC and FightBackNY made a mistake with their Kennedy endorsements? Let's hear more voices from New York and elsewhere raised about what these Gay Inc orgs are doing in the Empire State, and demand full accountability from them as to how and why they made their endorsements.

LezGetReal: Dan Choi Inc?

(Former Lt. Choi serving as a soldier in Iraq in July 2007, fighting the Bush/Cheney war for oil. Notice the oil containers in the background and the gun in Choi hands. What do oil, guns and illegal wars have to do with gay liberation? Photo credit: Courtesy of Choi.)

Over at the LezGetReal site, which I only recently started reading because the lesbians who run it have smart and snarky attitudes, writer Melanie Nathan has two articles up raising questions about the motivations, and speaking fees, of former soldier Dan Choi.

The first piece ran a week ago, and Melanie expressed her concerns over Dan not knowing for weeks that he had been discharged by the military. Gay City News broke that story, even to Dan, that he had been discharged. Melanie told readers something I didn't know:

Later I found out that Dan Choi has an agent. (Gotham Artists).

This led me to question why an agent? Activists put the cause first – they struggle financially, are able to fund their own activism or are openly paid via non-profits with Board responsibility at their helm; they don’t need agents. And they do not make deals for their activism that involve making money. [...]

Those are provocative views, and a week later, Melanie has a follow up piece, and she shares an email from an anonymous source about Dan's fees and demands at a speaking engagement in Texas back in April:

He required Texas A & M to pay him $7500 and then tacked on an additional $2300 for travel expenses. He also required that they fly him first class. His agent is also a miserable human being. Since this was done through a school I’m sure there are records of it. [...]

Melanie uses that alleged college speaking fee as a jumping off point to expound on related matters:

Dan has had ample opportunity to answer questions over some time now posed by Lezgetreal and to come on the record – an interview – whatever! Yet he has failed to come forward. Instead he continues to forage for publicity, like the Ring deal mentioned above. Publicity is okay if it is purely about DADT.

But my question is does he take his risks and jump on stages, hunger strike for a few days and tie himself to the White House to up his price? Or does he do it all purely for the repeal of DADT. [...]

I contacted an editor at Texas A & M's student newspaper, the Battalion, Ian McPhail, to see what he knew about speaking fees at the university, and if he would check into whether Dan was compensated. Ian replied:

I am looking into your question on Dan Choi, however none of my sources have been able to contact me back (it is the summer). I will let you know as soon as I hear something, but it might be a day or so.

Once I hear from Ian, I'll share his info. Until then, cruise on over to the LezGetReal site and check out all of the essays and comments.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Questions GetEQUAL Should Answer

(It took getting 420 medicated to realize the remarkable similarity with solid bars in both the HRC and the GetEQUAL logos.)

One of the most prolific critics of GetEQUAL is a man who posts to lots of blogs as AndrewW, and he has plenty of questions for other orgs and activists in the gay movement. He's never revealed his identity, no one I've asked has met him, he claims to have big bucks, I can't locate anyone who has received a grant from or contract with him, says he possesses lots of research polling, and his anonymity frustrates many folks.

We part company on numerous issues, including who among the Democrats are actual friends of ours, but where I find most common ground with AndrewW is his campaign for accountability from the Jonathan Lewis/Paul Yandura/Richard Socarides puppets operating as GetEQUAL.

Back in June, AndrewW on several blogs posted a few simple questions for the leaders of this new Gay Inc org:

1. Who started GetEQUAL?

2. Who decided how much to pay everyone? And, why?

3. With only two major funding sources, who sets GetEqual's goals and priorities?

4. Who's accountable for GetEqual's actions? Who is in charge?

5. Will the GetEQUAL soon-to-be-formed Board be packed with cronies and allies or will it consist of a respectable and diverse mix of seasoned and new activists?

6. What is GetEQUAL's strategy and what are the results you must achieve to be successful?

7. How do the "crazy shenanigans" (GetEQUAL leader Heather Cronk's words) benefit the LGBT Community?

8. How do efforts to embarrass our political friends (Democrats) help the LGBT Community?

9. How does "demanding" lead to changed minds or additional support for the LGBT Community? What "threat" is attached to these so-called "demands?"

10. When will GetEQUAL organize formally and comply with legal and disclosure requirements for Non-profit organizations?

Almost two months after those questions were raised, the org has still not responded. In response to concerns raised by Bil Browning at, Heather Cronk, who earns $70,000, defended her org:

We will be gathering the staff together in June for a staff retreat, and will be setting benchmarks then -- all three of us, and our other two staff members, will all be responsible for hitting those benchmarks over the course of the next year. [...]

While we have not yet asked for a dime from our supporters or from new funders, we will do so after our staff retreat when we can show work plans and benchmarks -- and not a second before. [...]

It is the end of July, and there is nothing posted at the org's lame site about what happened at the retreat. On top of that, the org refuses to share the details about who works for them, how much they are paid, who provides the funds, where and when they hold public meetings, and have nothing posted about whatever their sunshine policies may be.

Let's not overlook the significant matter of the org's board of advisers, or however it is they will eventually structure themselves. More from Cronk:

Given that Bil has no knowledge of who has been invited to join the board or who we are planning to invite to join the board, everything that follows this paragraph is irresponsible speculation. And I can't wait to see Bil's post on GetEQUAL's accountability to donors, the (not-yet-formed) board, or the community from which we have not raised a dime.

We're not holding back the names of board members -- they're simply just not confirmed yet. We're happy to make those names public once they're finalized.
It is true that GetEQUAL is in the process of applying for tax-exempt status -- and with that status comes a demand for accountability. Even if we weren't applying for that status, I think all of the staff would agree that we owe that to the LGBT community and to our allies who support our work.

The org has been around since late winter, lots of public promises have been made to inform the community of basic info, that could only come after another invitation-only retreat, and Cronk has not provided any follow up to what she promised on Bilerico.

What would be really great is if GetEQUAL finally answer AndrewW questions, and tell us the details of their retreat last month. Who is on the board of advisers and what is the legal status of this org?

Gay Peace Advocates v. Gay Warmongers

When did the gay movement take a vote that our advocacy orgs and pride parades are only to promote gay soldiers, with no questions about advocating for that beautiful five-letter word P-E-A-C-E?

Yesterday I read on Pam Spaulding's site about the formation of yet another org, Outserve, to fight for gays in the military. She posted most of Outserve's release, including this scary quote from one of the new org's leaders, who is based in Iraq and cannot reveal his identity:

"We are here to fight and win wars, serve with integrity and honesty and protect the people fighting next to us. We are proud to sacrifice for the nation we love, but we have a lot of educational work to do."

Questioning unjust and illegal wars? Advocating for peace, justice and diplomacy over bombs and bloodshed? Calling for cutting America's war budget and diverting Pentagon dollars to AIDS drug cocktails and new, affordable housing for gay seniors?

Sorry, those issues are not on Outserve's agenda.

Frankly, I'm long over being asked to battle for repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and seeing Gay Inc and too many gay bloggers not raising any serious questions about the Bush/Cheney-initiated wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Let me say that I really don't care if the likes of Dan Choi ever get a chance to spill the blood of Iraqi and Afghan civilians, all in the name of gay equality. Choi, in another failed publicity stunt, over the weekend gave his military ring to Sen. Harry Reid at the Netroots Nation confab, and one gay peace activist in San Francisco, longtime independent thinker Marc Salomon, is pleased Choi no longer serves in the U.S. military:

One less gay man committing war crimes in my name, with my tax dollars is a good start in my book.

(My friend Marc is not to be confused with gay marriage advocate Marc Solomon at Equality California.)

Can you recall the last time a gay peace advocate was honored as grand marshal at either the New York City or San Francisco pride parades? This year's Big Apple parade included warmonger Choi as a grand marshal, a role he served out here in 2009, and one of 2010's honorees by the SF Pride committee was lesbian military advocate Zoe Dunning.

There are some gay voices piping up for a wider discussion about gays and the military. In a listserv exchange, pre-Stonewall Riots activist Billy Glover pondered what justice means for contemporary advocates:

I wonder if even the people active in the effort to get rid of Don't Ask Don't Tell know the long history of our community/movement attempt to get justice in the Armed Forces.

In response, NYC gay peace activist Bill Dobbs had this to say:

Like so many of those involved in the DADT repeal effort you only look at the workplace conditions for those in the military – hoping for what you describe as “justice in the Armed Forces.”

Did it ever occur to you to ask some questions about US foreign policy, about what the military is doing? There’s the slight matter of war – US led wars of aggression on Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. But for an accident of birth and geography you might be in the cross hairs of a predator drone operated remotely by a GI. If you’re really lucky, a gay GI might blow your life to smithereens.

The historical insights you offer are interesting but often your perspective suffers from the same tunnel vision that limits the vision of gays much younger than you. That’s the big difference between those who aspire to ‘equality’ and those who want social justice even ‘liberation.’

I'm old enough to remember when thousands of gays were happy to stay out of the military and our leaders openly, and consistently, questioned the need for warfare and enormous Pentagon budgets. Actually, we still have a significant number of gays wanting to bring U.S. troops, gay and straight, home from Iraq and Afghanistan, and who endorse cutting military spending so tax dollars can fund domestic social needs.

It's just that gays with these views don't get nearly the attention deserve to present the world with diversity of opinion. Not every sissy wants to be a soldier.

Monday, July 26, 2010

GetEQUAL Skips Chats With Sen. Reid;

Org Ignorant of ENDA Whip Count

Derrick Washington, a gay black community organizer in Las Vegas, where the Netroots Nation confab took place last week, was written up in an excellent report by Karen Ocamb on some of the GetEQUAL fallout at the confab and he made a disturbing allegation.

He says longtime Clintonista gay Democratic Party advocate Paul Yandura, who advises gay millionaire Jonthan Lewis on where to spend his political dollars, royally screwed up a few chances to chat with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:

Washington’s disappointment with GetEqual not following “the process,” especially backer Paul Yandura who apparently asked for a meeting with Reid’s office, which Washington arranged “not less than three times” – but Yandura failed to show. [...]

Washington asks why GetEQUAL is taking on Reid – “we know him. He’s on our side….There seems to be a disconnect between what [GetEQUAL wants] to hear and what [they] listen to.” [...]

Ocamb doesn't mention any response from Yandura, so I hope he reads her piece and offers an explanation about Washington's serious allegation of dropping the ball with pressuring Reid through meetings with his staff, especially since GetEQUAL asked for the sit-downs.

Without holding a single public meeting of their own, GetEQUAL has decided the community should push for votes, because it's a way to figure out who to pressure:

McGehee notes that Reid is the forth most powerful person in the US and they need Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi to bring LGBT bills such as ENDA to the floor for a “litmus test” vote “so we know who are targets are.” [...]

Funny, I don't recall a vote of any sort among average community members, asking how we felt about such litmus strategy. Here again we see GetEQUAL employing the "no public town halls/we speak for all gays" thinking of the Human Rights Campaign.

In the days leading up to the confab, GetEQUAL zapped vehicular traffic on the Strip, with signs urging action by Reid on the Employment Non Discrimination Act. The Advocate caught up with Yandura in Las Vegas, and he, like McGehee, showed ignorance about the whip count for ENDA in the Senate:

And some people are saying, why not target Senators who are against it? But we don’t even know who those Senators are until they bring the bill to a vote. Some lawmakers are telling us they don’t even know if they’re for or against it because they haven’t seen the final language. [...]

If Yandura and McGehee want to learn which Senators oppose ENDA he can check the ActOnPrinciples site, whose primary focus is to track where legislators stand on the act. Click here to read where Senators stand, including the 36 leaning toward no. I must have missed the GetEQUAL release heralding a zap against any of those 36 Senators.

This site is actively maintained by Yandura's longtime partner Donald Hitchcock, and both men were key to the May 2009 invitation-only weekend in Texas that produced a document full of hollow rhetoric labeled the Dallas Principles. I mention the Texas meeting, it's lack of transparency and failure to generate true grassroots activism, because it's the model that launched the failure known as GetEQUAL.

As GetEQUAL continues to suck all of the activist oxygen out of the gay community, and DC and Democratic Party insider Yandura exhibits strange lack of knowledge on a whip count and faces the accusation of rejecting communication with Reid's office, I see no hard evidence that movement is afoot in Congress on ENDA.

So what's the point of GetEQUAL and Yandura, and will they ever present the gays with a roadmap?

Shooter IDed in Newark Cruising Spot Death
Mayor Still Silent

The online news site Montclair Patch today identified the sheriff's deputy who was working an undercover sex sting operation in Branch Brook Park back in Newark, NJ:

An unidentified law enforcement official as well as a Web site have identified the man who shot and killed DeFarra "Dean" Gaymon [...] as Essex County Sheriff's Officer Edward Esposito.

The law enforcement official's name cannot be used because he is not authorized to speak on the record about the case. Esposito's name is also cited on the Newark Anti-Violence Coalition's Facebook page as the officer who shot and killed Gaymon on Friday, July 16, shortly after 6 p.m. [...]

Esposito is believed to have tussled with and killed Gaymon in Branch Brook Park in Newark after coming upon Gaymon as he was engaged in a public sex act and after Gaymon allegedly tried to solicit sex from the officer. The officer said that Gaymon made threats against the officer's life.

The shooting has sparked outrage from Gaymon's family members in Suwanee, Georgia, about 30 miles outside Atlanta, who have vehemently denied the allegations that Gaymon was involved in illicit sex in the park. [...]

Esposito, who is 29 and an eight-year veteran of the sheriff's department, was honored at the end of National Police Week in May by the Essex County Sheriff's Department along with other officers and civilians for going above and beyond the call of duty last year. [...]

Let us send much praise and thanks to Montclair Patch editor Shelley Emling for really working to nail this story. Her work has generated additional coverage naming the shooter in the corporate media across northern New Jersey. Click here for the Newark Anti Violence Coalition Facebook page.

From New York City, veteran gay community advocate Bill Dobb offers up key analysis about this story and where the investigation should come from:

This is an important development. It is outrageous that the Essex County Sheriff and Prosecutor still refuse to identify the officer who shot DeFarra ‘Dean’ Gaymon and caused his death.

The public’s right to know has been seriously compromised which is a reason the investigation into Gaymon’s killing should be done by the New Jersey Attorney General rather than locals.

Kudos to Montclair Patch for this story which will help in understanding what happened in Branch Brook Park on July 16th, how an unarmed man ended up dead.

And still, no tweets and no news releases from Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

Click here to read the article from South Carolina's The State newspaper, about Gaymon's death, his parents who live there, and the arrangements they were making for their son's tragic demise.

If you're emotionally up to it, click here to read the family's obituary on Gaymon, and the 60 messages left on the site his many friends and acquaintances, and his loving family members.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Chilly Dore Leather Fair;
Warm Men; Hot Pix

Today was the Dore Alley Fair, the sleazy little brother to the enormous Folsom Street Fair, and I didn't get there till the final 90-minutes, but I had a blast in that time. Ran into lots of old friends, saw many happy homosexuals and snapped photos with my new camera.

Allow me to apologize for the date/time stamp on the photos. Forget about the incorrect date, the type is distracting and I intend to disable that stamp function.

Let's go to the photos:

Queen with an umbrella hat and pal Princess Bronxey.

This is the pose I got, after telling him to act natural.

Contestant in a Twister game ignoring calls to get nude.

Mr. Furry Shoulders follows my command to smile.

This guy and I shared a mutual hat admiration moment.

Sister Bug-Eye Glasses Jason on patrol.

The red suspenders did justice to his fine freckled skin.

In his own world, and good at striking poses.

Simply the best cut, dye and gel head I saw.

"Yeah, I'm proud to be wearing a Keith Haring t-shirt."

Best gay and gray look of the afternoon.

Cute cub, sporting an adorable, trimmed beard.

Furry faced fella with the classic Smokey look.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Newark Mayor Silent on Park Slaying;

Wrote 'Disgusted by Gays' OpEd

(Mayor Cory Booker, fourth from the right, installs the LGBTQ Advisory Commission of Newark, NJ, in October 2009. Photo credit: Kimberly Williams, Diesel Life.)

The obvious wasn't clear to me until a reader pointed it out. Newark's Mayor Cory Booker, rumored in some circles to be gay, has said nothing about the slaying of a DeFarra Gaymon on July 16 in a cruising spot in Branch Brook Park. Silence is not acceptable, Mr. Mayor.

Booker is not shy about using his Twitter feed to engage his city when a tragic death occurs, as he did this week:

We had a hit & run tonight on Columbia Ave & S.O. Ave. a 4yr old child was killed. Vehicle involved: blue or black late model Mercedes Benz 8:46 PM Jul 22nd

Suspect from last night's tragic hit & run turned himself in. Thanks 2 the community 4 creating the pressure that produced that result. about 9 hours ago Jul 23rd

He has not Tweeted a thing about Gaymon's death, the circumstances of the victim as a potential gay black man on the down low, the status of a city park's policies regarding gathering spots for adult men, and his agenda for Newark's gay community and gay visitors.

Booker has not issued an official statement or press release on the park slaying and the unfolding aftermath of the Essex County sheriff's office undercover sting targeting gay and down low men.

In a November 2008 Out in New Jersey story about Booker appearing on a local radio program to discuss gay concerns, an important question was raised:

[A listener asked] What, if anything, has changed since the 2003 murder of Sakia Gunn—an LGBT 15-year-old stabbed by an assailant whose advances she rebuffed?

“There’s a consciousness in city officials that we’ve never had before,” Cory Booker began. “There are more people in our city hall now that are aware, are enlightened... They want to see us put an end to intolerance and create a community that’s open to embracing all of its diversities.”[...]

Mayor Booker went on to say, “The reality is we have a city that has a deep intolerance. I know there are many young people out there who are afraid to simply be who they are, who face untold discrimination and abuse. And when you have that clear of a problem going on, there’s absolutely a need to organize and organize better.”

Such comments are in keeping with his generally friendly engagement with gays and supportive of our issues. Toward that end, in October 2009 he established the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) Advisory Commission, and Diesel Net wrote about the members and their activist/life histories.

There is a troubling anti-gay stain on his resume, which was reported on by the Star Ledger in October 2000, before he became mayor:

In a way, Booker has been crafting his image his whole life. [...] There have been times, he concedes now, when the crafting went too far.

As a columnist at his college newspaper, Booker wrote about how much he once hated gay people. “I was disgusted by gays,” he wrote in the Stanford Daily in 1990. “The thought of two men kissing each other was about as appealing as a frontal lobotomy.”

Booker says now that he was “exaggerating a bit” to make a point about tolerance. [...]

That college paper's online archive doesn't go back that far, and I hesitate to read too much into the very small excerpt from Booker's 1990 essay, especially given this week's shameful Shirley Sherrod incident, but let's keep this at the back of the mind as we push him to address the Gaymon slaying.

The final word tonight goes to longtime civil rights advocate Bill Dobbs, who shares his views on the case and the mayor at this point, one week after the slaying:

It was an Essex County sheriff’s officer in plain clothes who shot and killed Dean Gaymon. I’m told the Essex County Sheriff, for years now, has been responsible for law enforcement in Branch Brook Park; it is no longer the job of Newark Police. I’d love to know the amount of resources used on the park sting operation over the last 18 months, how many officers were involved.

Booker and the Newark cops have a convenient excuse if questions are raised about the Gaymon case, they can point to the Sheriff. But If Booker has a heart he’s got to condemn the killing and join the push for a thorough investigation by an outside agency such as the state attorney general.

Although there are important sex and sexual orientation aspects to this case, it must not be forgotten that Gaymon’s death was at the hands of law enforcement. So far the Essex County Sheriff refuses to identify the officer who took Gaymon’s life.

GetEQUAL's Kip Williams
Heads to Europe?

(From Kip 'GetEQUAL Williams's FB page. Imagine what genuine gay grassroots activists could have done with a quarter million dollars!)

Thanks to the big bucks from gay millionaire Jonathan Lewis, per the suggestion of gay Clintonista and disgruntled Democratic Party activist Paul Yandura, an Astroturf org was formed and forced upon the gay community: GetEQUAL.

Without a single public meeting, much murkiness, and lots of money in the bank, along with very robust five-figure salaries for the GetEQUAL leaders, the group has generated much ink, and precious little advancement for the gay community.

When last heard from on his Twitter page, GetEQUAL co-director Kip Williams, who's received a $72,000 check for his leadership skills this years, he was expressing concern for prisoners and students in California:

190K attend CA's universities. 170K are housed in CA's 33 prisons. That's a heartbreaking indictment on our values as a society.

Two months after he heckled President Obama at a San Francisco fundraiser for Sen. Barbara Boxer, Kip apparently is skipping out on the movement. Over at the Facebook page for a friend, Kip announced travel plans for today:

Kip Williams
Lovely, Rafi. I'll be traveling starting Friday afternoon, but I'll be there with you in spirit [at a memorial service for activist Bob Polzoni]. Tuesday July 20 at 3:56pm

I was curious why he fell off the community's radar and wasn't present at GetEQUAL's zap of Las Vegas traffic earlier this week. I heard a rumor that Kip was headed off to Europe for a little vacation, so I emailed GetEQUAL's $89,000 co-director Robin McGehee for an explanation. Her rapid reply:

Kip is taking a much needed and well deserved vacation and is still very much involved with GetEQUAL and will be when he returns. Thank you for asking.

GetEQUAL? How about GetAClue or GetAPlan. Jonathan Lewis can waste his money however he chooses, and Paul Yandura can promote his Astroturf org all he wants. The sad fact is unescapable. GetEQUAL and its leaders are not up for the serious task of community organizing.

I hope Kip has a lovely and relaxing vacation. For the rest of us true activists, our fight for liberation continues.

(ENDA, schmENDA. He's gone fishin'. Photo credit: Rex Wockner/Towleroad.)

Andy Humm: Democracy in LGBT America;

GetEQUAL = HRC's Agenda

New York City-based Andy Humm (above), is a gay man of quite a few talents. He's a longtime community organizer, pundit and observer, and a tireless advocate for the human rights of gays and people with HIV/AIDS.

I've known Andy for decades, have staged actions with him, fought like brothers with burning passions for righteousness, cried together over the deaths of our community and family members, and also shared lots of lusty laughs and well-earned joy. In many of my hours of needs in my activism, when standing with me was as popular as hugging a porcupine, he didn't abandoned me.

On the phone recently, we chatted about how disenfranchised we are as a movement and I asked him to write an essay about how we could redirect the community and our orgs back to something approaching genuine democracy and respectful engagement.

Here are his thoughts and I want to thank him for proposing easy and basic potential solutions to address serious gaps in gay organizing:

The LGBT movement is one of the most anti-democratic social movements in the country. It is almost completely controlled by big donors and closed, self-perpetuating boards who claim anyone who sends them five bucks as a "member." No decision by any of these groups is EVER subjected to an open community vote nor, in most cases, even an open community meeting where the big decisions of the "leaders" can be questioned.

The current disgraceful situation is in stark contrast to the first ten to fifteen years of the post-Stonewall LGBT movement when it was almost entirely grassroots, almost no one got a salary, and every big decision was decided in forums where anyone could attend and everyone could vote.

It was not easy being part of those contentious meetings, but that is how true democracy works and how grassroots movements are built--from the ground up. It wasn't totally chaotic. The Gay Activists Alliance used Roberts Rules of Order. ACT UP used a consensus model. They were highly democratic and got a lot more done in a year than any of our current groups have been able to accomplish in decades.

Everything is now top down now and people give up on community organizing when their voices are drowned out by the rich organizations with full-time staff and easier access to the media and elected officials who would rather not deal with the rabble anyway. Sometimes it seems as if the true agenda of these groups is NOT to get things done so that they can justify their continued existences and fat salaries.

Today, we even have the spectacle of a "group" like GetEQUAL where a wealthy donor is essentially funding a handful of rabble rousers NOT to do community organizing that would engage masses of people, but just to take time off as individuals and disrupt appearances by President Obama--who could indeed use a push--and pro-gay Democrats they don't feel are moving fast enough.

And even the agenda of GetEQUAL is not subject to an open democratic process. These self-styled radicals have essentially adopted the HRC agenda hook, line and sinker but are just demanding it more obstreperously. They criticize HRC but are really just playing bad cop in contrast to their own good cop role in the service of a narrow agenda--repeal of DADT and ENDA--that there hasn't been a serious, community-wide debate about for almost 20 years.

Wasn't ENDA supposed to be a gettable, compromise bill in the mid-1990s? What happened to amending the Civil Rights Act of 1965 covering jobs, housing, and public accommodations?

What to do?

Ideally, the grassroots would rise up and replace the top-down movement with one that was run from the bottom up. Efforts to in recent decades have failed. Remember Gay & Lesbian Americans?

If some big donors were enlightened and committed to democratic empowerment as a more effective means of achieving our goals, they could make democratization and openness a condition of funding any group.

In the absence of groups like HRC, NGLTF, etc. realizing that it is in their self-interest to organize from the ground up and submit themselves to openness and democratic decision-making processes, the LGBT press and bloggers could if it chose to hold their feet to the fire until they do open up. We have to start questioning HOW decisions are being made, especially by a movement whose federal agenda has essentially gone nowhere.

We put a lot of our energy into getting "a seat at the table" by electing out LGBT legislators and think our work is done when they win. Some of these officials come right out of the LGBT movement themselves, but are beholden to a broader constituency and don't always make LGBT rights and organizing for them a priority.

Again, it is up to the grassroots and the press to push them to use their offices as centers for organizing to win our rights. They are in a position to bring diverse elements of the community to work together in coalition to get things done, but we have to insist that they do this.

The LGBT press is also in a position to sponsor open community forums where diverse groups working on our issues are hauled before the public for questioning and, ideally, for strategizing on what the agenda should be and how to get it done.

I know that these sound like relatively feeble steps in opening up our movement and making it more accountable. Ideally, those of us who believe in these things need to get off our asses and be the change that we desire.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

I'm Living With 'Poz Face'

A high number of people with AIDS (PWAs) take drug cocktails to keep the HIV viral load down and boost the immune system, and extended use of the medicines can lead to a side effect known as lipodystrophy, which is the body fat rearranging itself in several areas of the body.

When lipodystrophy affects the face, deep creases and crevices in the cheeks appear, and this was once known as protease face, but has since evolved into poz face.

Other ways lipodystrophy changes the body is when the back of the neck enlarges to the point of a buffalo hump shape, while the stomach expands into a protease paunch, which derives from one key ingredient to the drug cocktail. For some reason, this last term has not devolved to poz paunch.

I'm living with poz face, buffalo hump and protease paunch, and I'm lucky enough to have public insurance and access to top-notch doctors and researchers. The reason why I'm mentioning all this is to, you'll pardon the expression, put a face to what it is like to be a PWA in 2010, after more than a decade of being on ever-evolving cocktails.

I consider my poz face to be one of character, and won't be getting the facial filler treatment to puff up my cheeks. The looks of sadness, obnoxious emails from adversaries and occasional instant rejection when people on the street realize I'm a pozzie, are things I can live with.

Sure, it ain't pleasant to have these and other side effects to contend with, but I know how blessed I am to be alive and able to take the medicines, while too many PWAs perished before the development of these powerful, and expensive, drugs. Oh, what the dead would give to be here facing the weird body changes.

And when I get the temporary blues about my poz face, I think of Mick Jagger. He does not have AIDS, nor is he taking a cocktail, but these days he has the classic poz face and he doesn't seem to want facial filler or other surgery to deal with his facial creases.

I reserve the right to change my mind about the options available to me, but for the time being, my poz face remains the same. The important thing to remember is my inner strength and the love of my friends and family, no matter what changes my body goes through because of AIDS and the drugs.

(The Rolling Stone legend, Mick Jagger.)

Gay Orgs Must Protest NJ

Killing of Man in Cruising Spot

(DeFarra Gaymon)

Last Friday, in a cruising area in Branch Brook Park in Newark, NJ, an unarmed black man who may have been engaged in sexual activity was killed by an undercover cop who has not been publicly identified. The dead man, DeFarra Gaymon, an Atlanta-based credit union executive married to a woman and the father of four children, was in New Jersey for his 30th high school reunion.

It wasn't until a few days ago that many in the gay community learned about this tragic killing, and questions are being raised by a few gay activists and the Gaymon family, challenging the official police version of what led to the fatal shooting.

The Newark Star-Ledger reports on why law enforcement agents were in the park on July 16:

The two detectives were conducting an undercover investigation after complaints from residents about people engaging in sexual acts in public, authorities said. Sheriff’s officers have made more than 200 such arrests in the park over the last 18 months.

Hundreds of arrests in less than two years, for consensual adult sexual activity in a public park? Questions must be asked why valuable police resources were spent on this undercover sting operation. I doubt that Newark's violent crime rate and major drug problems have been reduced to the point where law officials had to target men gathering for sexual liaisons.

One important component missing from this still-unfolding story is the condemnation of national gay political orgs. The Human Rights Campaign, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, and Lambda Legal have said nothing about the sex sting operation of a well-known gay cruising area and the arrest of hundreds of men.

Are these orgs afraid to condemn the Gaymon killing because they don't want to address the location and circumstances of where the death took place? Is defending the right of gay men, and men who have sex with men but don't identify as homosexual, to gather in a park and not contend with police officers with loaded guns?

I am aware of three advocacy orgs that have issued statements about all this - Garden State Equality, Gender Rights Advocacy Association of New Jersey and the Anti-Violence Project of New York City.

The NJ orgs requested the following, among several demands, from the prosecutor and sheriff:

First, we ask you immediately to inform us and our colleagues in Newark – including the LGBTQ Advisory Committee, City of Newark, and the Newark Pride Alliance – whether the killing was part of a sting operation in the park targeting gay men specifically or LGBT people specifically. If so, we ask you to cease and desist such operations in Branch Brook Park, and any others like it in Essex County.

Steven Goldstein, the head of Garden State Equality, shared this note today:

Yesterday, as you know, [we] sent a letter to the Essex County Sheriff, Armando Fontoura, asking to meet about the case, among several other requests we made in the letter. Sheriff Fontoura just called me and has agreed to meet with several of us "within the next week or so." We will keep you posted.

I am pushing Goldstein and his org to plan a public action, be it a press conference or picket line, in Newark about the Gaymon killing, the investigation thus far and the year-and-a-half sting operation, because such visible actions will do much to educate the general public about this tragic case. I hope to soon blog about Garden State Equality organizing a demonstration over Gaymon's death.

At the same time, we need the national gay orgs to speak out about this case, if only to counter some of the outrageous homophobia and sex-hysteria out there on the web over Gaymon, his life and men on the down low.

Click here to read some of the hateful remarks being made in a thread titled "NJ Cop shoots gay Atlanta CEO after bending over and getting a surprise in his ass."

We cannot accept silence from our advocacy orgs in this matter.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

AIDS Die-In Outside Pelosi's Office;
Patients Need Drugs

(The picket line on July 20 in front of Speaker Pelosi's district office. All photos courtesey of AHF.)

The press release from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) about its picket and die-in at Rep. Nancy Pelosi's district office yesterday came too late for me to attend, but I still want to applaud the foundation for this important street action. AHF was protesting the lack of enough federal funding to supply the 1,800 people with HIV/AIDS, languishing and in at least one case dying while on a waiting list for uninterrupted treatment.

Some details on what happened from AHF's site:

Carrying banners and handmade signs with the message: “Speaker Pelosi, solve the AIDS drug crisis NOW!” and “Pelosi, please act as if lives depend on it - they do!” protestors wore skeleton masks, dressed in all-black, and carried a 4 ft. X 2 ½ ft. coffin in memory of those who have died of AIDS while on ADAP waitlists. In May, a person on an ADAP waitlist in South Carolina died.

Immediately following the protest, advocates visited Speaker Pelosi’s office to ask for a meeting with staff members about the issue. Additionally, the group delivered 428 letters from individuals across the nation which call for Speaker Pelosi to act now to end the AIDS drug crisis. [...]

There is no indication that any San Francisco-based AIDS org endorsed or participated in the action. While the AHF has healthcare facilities and thrift stores operating here, it is headquartered in Los Angeles and has a global reach with several programs.

If only in the dire interest of PWAs in the states with the waiting lists, AIDS Inc org here had a responsibility to put aside any differences or problems they may have with AHF, and should have turned out in droves for the action. The largest local org, the SF AIDS Foundation, is barely two blocks away from Pelosi's office, and yet their site has no info or support about the protest.

I suspect that partisan politics are at play here. It is well-known in activist circles that SF AIDS orgs are simply too tied to the Democratic Party and Pelosi to ever fully work with GOP Senators and Representatives. Look at this info from AHF to see how they are collaborating with three Republicans to address the AIDS drug problems in America:

In an effort to address the current crisis, Republican Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) introduced S. 3401, the Access ADAP Act, a bill which provides $126 million in unobligated stimulus funds to eliminate waiting lists through Fiscal Year 2010. The $126 million was a number provided by state AIDS director as the amount of federal funding required to meet current program needs given the number of people on waiting lists, expected number of new patients and budget cuts per state. Unfortunately, the bill failed to gain the support of the administration or Congress. [...]

I'm not suggesting that AIDS Inc endorse other parts of the GOP Senator's conservative agendas, or that they mute their criticism of them. However, I am recommending again that the SF AIDS Foundation and other orgs in this town put the lives of PWAs and drug access above partisanship.

Year 29 of the AIDS crisis in America is a good time for this to happen.

(Demonstrators carry a casket to make a dramatic point.)

(Chalk outlines dead people with AIDS were drawn on the sidewalk outside Pelosi's office at the new federal building.)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Newark, NJ, Cop

Kills Man at Gay Cruising Spot

(Image from a memorial posting about DeFarra Gaymon's killing on July 16.)

Being from Essex County, New Jersey, I am familiar with the cruising area in Newark's Branch Brook Park where the local cops recently fatally shot a man and I cannot comprehend why the police are devoting precious and dwindling public resources, and sending armed officers into spots where consensual sex may be occurring. The most one should have to worry about when having sex in a public park is mosquitoes, poison ivy and not spreading or contracting an STD.

The death of DeFarra Gaymon, who was married to a woman and had four children, was raised in Montclair and was back in the area to attend his 30th high school reunion, is receiving much mainstream press attention, but no attention that I can find from gay bloggers or Gay Inc.

It is to our detriment that we don't insist on addressing sexual liberation issues, and instead accept the Gay Inc rationale that there is only room on the gay agenda for acceptable demands like military service and marriage rights. Look at what is happening over the past few months in gay-friendly Palm Springs, where gays have been arrested in sex stings, for one example of police targeting us.

The killing of a cruiser at a gay gathering spot in Newark, New Jersey, by a police officer must become a concern for more of us.

Some details from the Wall Street Journal:

An unarmed Georgia man, who was shot and killed by a undercover officer in Newark last week, allegedly assaulted and threatened to kill the detective after he was found engaging in a sex act in a public, authorities said Tuesday.

The allegation was made as acting Essex County Prosecutor Robert D. Laurino detailed the statement given by the detective who shot DeFarra Gaymon, who was a credit-union chief executive officer visiting Newark for a high-school reunion.

The Essex County sheriff's detective, who spoke with investigators for the first time Monday evening, had just made an arrest at Branch Brook Park in Newark at about 6 p.m. on July 16 in response to complaints of public sex there. He went back to a wooded area to search for a pair of lost handcuffs when, he says, Mr. Gaymon approached him while masturbating, according to prosecutors. [...]

Additional details from the New York Times:

Mr. Gaymon’s family released a statement that said, in part, “We know that the police killed an innocent man, with no history of or disposition towards violence.” [...]

The officer, whose name was not released because of his undercover work, had been on what is not usually a particularly dangerous assignment, scouring the park, in northern Newark, for men seeking sex. [...]

The shooting took place near where Bloomfield Avenue crosses Branch Brook Park, an area known for years as a place for sexual encounters among men, some of them prostitutes. Mr. Laurino said the sexual activity had prompted many complaints and many arrests, though he declined to say how many.

Willie Velez, 66, a volunteer at a visitor center in the park, said that he often saw men going into the bushes or into cars in pairs, and that on Saturday and Sunday mornings he often found several used condoms in the parking lot. [...]

We really don't need armed law enforcement agents going undercover in cruising areas, as this tragic case sadly shows. Let's insist civic and government bodies work to create safe cruising spots in parks, recognizing gay men and men such as DeFarra Gaymon, who don't identify as homosexual, are going to congregate in open areas and engage in consensual sexual activity.

Given the last name of the victim, and the other details, I wonder why this case has yet to register on the community's radar.