Saturday, July 21, 2012
One friend from my former days in the GOP - we disagree politically greatly nowadays - often accuses me of being a "single issue voter." That single issue in her mind is gay rights. I respond by telling her that there are many issues involved (e.g., marriage rights, employment protections, tax law issues, the list goes on and on and involves over 1000 state and federal rights), so I'm anything but a single issue voter. One of the most troubling issues remains the fact that LGBT individuals can be fired at will for no reason other than their sexual orientation in a majority of the states in this country. It's a travesty and a perfect example of the special rights and privileges given to conservative Christian belief under this nation's laws. Until this situation ends, there is no true religious freedom in the USA.
OMG! U. S. military troops are going to be allowed to march in uniform in thee San Diego Pride parade. I'm sure that when she hears this news Elaine Donnelly will have to be rushed to the emergency room in a seizure like state with spittle running down her cheeks. For newer readers, Elaine Donnelly is basically a one person show that parades around under the self-created title of President of the Center For Military Readiness claiming that openly gay service members will destroy the U. S. military. As is the norm for conservative faux experts, Donnelly has absolute ZERO military service background herself yet pontificates as if she was a retired four star general. In reality, she - like Maggie Gallagher and Tony Perkins - is a professional gay hater who will disseminate any and all kinds of lies to denigrate and marginalize LGBT Americans. God forbid that the large public see gays and lesbians as loyal, patriotic Americans who look just like everyone else. Oh, the horror!!! Sadly, the Pentagon is saying that allowing uniformed troops in the Pride Parade will be a one time event. Here are highlights from the Los Angeles Times:
Gay military personnel can wear their uniforms in San Diego's LGBT Pride Festival and parade, the Pentagon announced Thursday.
An announcement from the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense said that wearing their uniforms is permitted "provided service members participate in their personal capacity and ensure the adherence to miltary service standards of appearance and wear of the military uniform."
The decision marks the first time that gay personnel will be permitted to wear their uniforms in a gay parade.
Saturday's parade through the Hillcrest neighborhood is San Diego's first gay pride parade since the repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" rule that prohibited gay military personnel from serving openly.
Dwayne Crenshaw, executive director of San Diego Pride, said the Pentagon's decision "is a giant leap in the right direction'' toward full equality for gays and lesbians in the military.
Military rules bar personnel from wearing their uniforms in any way that will "bring discredit" to the armed services or appears to take sides in a political issue. The announcement ensures that all military personnel are covered by the same policy. Before the announcement, the decision was being made by individual commands.
As more service members serve openly in the Hampton Roads area I believe that it will do much to change minds and hearts among many local residents. Yes, the Bible thumpers will have a cow as gays are more openly accepted in all walks of life, but hopefully their influence and numbers will dwindle.
Right Wing Watch looks at the batshitery and statements dripping with hate coming from the self-congratulatory modern day Pharisee crowd. Here are highlights:
Fred Jackson, the American Family Association’s news director, while discussing the Colorado movie theater shooting today said that liberal Christian churches and liberal media helped contribute to violent incidents by supposedly deemphasizing the fear of God and the Bible. During AFA Today, Jackson had on as his guest Jerry Newcombe of Truth in Action Ministries to discuss his column on the AFA’s OneNewsNow blaming the shooting on a waning fear of God and Hell, and blamed the American Civil Liberties Union for destroying the public school system by supposedly forbidding students from reading the Bible.
Later in the program, Jackson and co-host Teddy James of AFA Journal said the shooting is a sign of God’s judgment for the failings of the public education system and liberal, mainline Protestant churches that affirm gays and lesbians.
Jackson: I think the sources of this is [sic] multifaceted but you can put it all I think under the heading of rebellion to God, a rejection of the God of the Bible. I think along with an education system that has produced our lawyers, our politicians, more teachers, more professors, all of that sort of thing, is our churches, mainline churches. We’ve been dealing Teddy and I know the AFA Journal has been dealing with denominations that no longer believe in the God of the Bible, they no longer believe that Jesus is the only way of salvation, they teach that God is OK with homosexuality, this is just increasing more and more. It is mankind shaking its fist at the authority of God.
James: And God will not be silent when he’s mocked, and we need to remember that.
Jackson: We are seeing his judgment. You know, some people talk about ‘God’s judgment must be just around the corner,’ we are seeing it.
A new effort to educate Americans about Mitt Romney's extreme anti-gay, pro-bigotry agenda has been launched. “Mitt Gets Worse” is a super PAC partnership between the American Bridge 21st Century and the Courage Campaign. Besides clearly demonstrating that Romney is a nightmare for LGBT rights, the campaign underscores Romney's willingness to lie over the years to pander to whatever interest group and/or demographic group he thinks will bring him votes. The man doesn't have a genuine bone in his body - or at least not one associated with greed and vulture capitalism. The New Civil Rights Movement looks at this new endeavor to wake people up to the real Mitt Romney. Here are highlights:
Four leaders within the LGBT community are helping to launch Mitt Gets Worse with their personal testimonials in what they’re calling an “oral history project and rapid response campaign.”
Adam Bink, Director of Online Programs at Courage Campaign joins Kathleen Henry, who was the chair of the Governor Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth — until he rescinded the executive order that created the commission. Also premiering on the Mitt Gets Worse website are Julie Goodridge, a lead plaintiff in Goodridge v. Dept of Public Health — the lawsuit that brought same-sex marriage to Massachusetts, and Jennifer Chrisler, Executive Director of the Family Equality Council.
[T]hey will be publishing more first “person accounts of LGBT activists and organizers who have played key roles in this fight,” the Mitt Gets Worse campaign states:
Year after year, Mitt has moved further and further toward the extreme right. The Mitt Gets Worse campaign is an oral history of Mitt Romney’s efforts to diminish the rights and the freedoms of LGBT Americans, told by supporters, activists, and LGBT advocates that have personally been impacted by Mitt’s anti-equality agenda.
Many believe Romney secretly supports LGBT civil rights — just as many believed George W. Bush did before, and during, his campaign and subsequent eight years in the White House. Regardless of what we think our elected leaders believe, it’s clear that the Republican party has become ruled by far right wing radicals and religious zealots.
Romney’s recent failure to stand up to them when he had his first chance — during the six days Richard Grenell was the national security spokesperson for Mitt Romney’s campaign, until the infamous Bryan Fischer forced Romney to fire him, or let him resign (whichever you want to believe.)
Romney has proven time and time again that he will not stand up to special interests, and will say and do anything to get elected. Why would he be any different on LGBT civil rights — when he’s repeatedly sold us down the river?
For far too long the conventional wisdom has been that being openly gay kills one's chances for success. Yes, there has been some truth to the view - I was forced from a large law firm after coming out since "a gay partner might offend the sensibilities of conservative clients." But on the other hand my client base of Hindu, Muslim and even some far right christian organizations has continued to grow with no apparent damage from my refusal to hide in the closet. Google my name and seriously, it's hard not to know I'm gay. Yet time and time again many new clients say they found me on the Internet. Others are referred by existing clients who I strongly suspect know I'm gay. They simply don't care as long as I'm good at representing their interests.
Now, in the entertainment realm, a new first has occurred: an out artist has debuted at the top of the Billboard charts. This follows the success of actors and actresses who are "out" with no apparent damage to their careers. The knuckle dragging Neanderthals may avoid them, but most of society, like my clients, simply don't care. I hope other entertainers and those in other industries take note and refuse to remain closeted. Here are some highlights from Billboard:
Frank Ocean, the singer among rappers in the alternative rap collective Odd Future, plants his debut studio album, "channel ORANGE," at No. 1 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart with 131,000 sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan. With an initial projected opening sales week of 40,000, overflowing support came in after Ocean's tumblr announcement regarding his sexuality. Ocean also debuted at #2 on the Top 200 Pop Albums chart.
In what I candidly view as a positive development given the toxicity of conservative Christianity in this country and the willingness of its adherents to trample on the rights of all other citizens, a new Pew Center survey has found that 19% of Americans check "None" for their religious affiliation. As this percentage hopefully continues to grow we will hit a tipping point where Christianist views lose their special status and preferential treatment under the nation's laws. Meanwhile, I'm sure the "godly Christian" crowd will continue their campaign of hate, hypocrisy, ignorance and intolerance that seems to be convincing younger Americans to walk away from organized religion entirely. It's interesting that "Nones" are disproportionately well educated - a fact not lost on Christianists who seek to dumb down public education and/or rewrite it to bolster their false myth that America was founded as a "Christian nation." Here are excerpts from a USA Today article that looks at the survey findings:
Unbelief is on the uptick. People who check "None" for their religious affiliation are now nearly one in five Americans (19%), the highest ever documented, according to the Pew Center for the People and the Press.
The rapid rise of Nones — including atheists, agnostics and those who say they believe "nothing in particular" — defies the usually glacial rate of change in spiritual identity.Barry Kosmin, co-author of three American Religious Identification Surveys, theorizes why None has become the "default category." He says, "Young people are resistant to the authority of institutional religion, older people are turned off by the politicization of religion, and people are simply less into theology than ever before."
Meanwhile, the Roman Catholic Church, the nation's largest religious denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, Methodists and Lutherans, all show membership flat or inching downward, according to the 2012 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches.
Two forces could hold Nones' numbers down. First, they are disproportionately young, often single, and highly educated — all groups with a low birth rate. Second, the number of believers who immigrate to the USA from particularly religious nations, such as Catholics from Mexico, fluctuates with government policies and economic issues, Chaves says.But the chief way the category grows is by "switchers." A 2009 Pew Forum look at "switching" found more than 10% of American adults became Nones after growing up within a religious group.
"Americans famously say they believe in some variation of God. Over 90% do," Chaves says. "But it used to be 99% decades ago. The change is slow, but we can see it coming."
Conservative Christians remain the best argument against being a Christian.And thankfully, more and more individuals are rejecting their hate and fear based religious dogma.
Here in Virginia, the GOP controlled General Assembly seems to want nothing less than a return to the old west where almost everyone is packing. Worse yet, the guns are often concealed thanks to easily secured concealed carry permits. And obviously, the more legal guns there are, the greater the supply available to fall into the hands of criminals and obviously mentally ill "law abiding citizens" like the shooter in Colorado. The extremists who can always be relied upon to whine and carry on about 2nd Amendment rights - which in their warped world the right to have virtually any deadly weapon - bear a direct guilt for the lives lost yesterday. As do the gutless politicians who roll over like cheap whores to the elements of the far right and the gun lobby. The frightening truth is that what happened in Colorado could easily occur in Virginia because almost anyone can secure a gun if they really want one. And to me, it's no coincidence that typically the gun advocates are the same folks who seethe with anti-gay, anti-Muslim, and anti-minority venom. That's why it is telling to look at Colorado's pathetic gun laws that allowed James Holmes to purchase 4 guns in a two month time period - particular an automatic weapon. Here are highlights from a New York Times article:
As a mountain state, Colorado has a history of broad support for Second Amendment rights. But in the years since the Columbine tragedy, the state’s lawmakers and voters passed some gun restrictions, including requirements governing the sale of firearms at gun shows, a law regulating people’s ability to carry concealed weapons and legislation banning “straw purchases” of weapons for people who would not qualify to buy them legitimately.Still, James Holmes, 24, the former neuroscience student believed to be the lone gunman in Friday’s shootings in Aurora, armed himself with an assault rifle, a shotgun and a handgun to allegedly kill 12 and wound 59 others, many critically. All were weapons that would probably be legal for him to possess. “The guy basically had normal guns,” said Eugene Volokh, an expert in constitutional law at the University of California, Los Angeles. Unless some new evidence of documented psychiatric disturbance emerges, Mr. Volokh added, “there’s no indication that, from his record, he is someone whom more restrictive screening procedures would have caught.”Despite the changes over the past 13 years, Colorado law still prohibits local governments from restricting gun rights in several significant ways. Moreover, gun rights organizations have successfully fought other efforts to restrict access to guns, including blocking a University of Colorado rule prohibiting concealed weapons on campus.Carrying a concealed weapon requires a permit, but Colorado is among those states whose rules on permits are relatively lax, said Heather Morton of the National Conference of State Legislatures. Colorado is one of 38 “shall issue” states. She explained that this meant “if a person complies with all of the requirements, then the state must issue a concealed weapons permit.”In the never-ending argument, tragedy can become a talking point. Luke O’Dell, a spokesman for the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a Colorado-based group that fights gun control measures, said private gun restrictions may well have had “tragic consequences” in the shootings.He noted that the theater chain that owns the Aurora movie house bans firearms on the premises, and said that if other patrons had been legally able to carry weapons, the death toll might have been less. Mr. O’Dell also said that Mayor Bloomberg’s call for a discussion of gun issues was “exploiting the blood of these innocent victims to advance his political agenda.”
I'd argue that it is O'Dell who is exploiting the blood of the victims, not Michael Bloomberg. Can you imagine how many more lives might have been lost if, as Mr. O'Dell argues, a panicked shooting free for all had broken out between Holmes and gun packing movie goers? The only real solution is to get automatic weapons out of the hands of civilians and to have strict limits on hand gun purchases.
Friday, July 20, 2012
As even casual readers of this blog will quickly figure out after a few visits, I am vehemently against those organizations that disseminate the deliberate lie that gays can "change" their sexual orientation by "accepting Jesus" or other forms of pretend therapy that aren't much better than something an African witchdoctor might offer up. And sadly, these organizations seem to always find down and out gays and lesbians who blame all their problems on their sexual orientation rather than their alcoholism, drug addict, or other unrelated problems. The "ex-gay" ministries prey on these individuals and quickly give the outward respectability and transform them into what I refer to as "ex-gays for pay." Generally, they have no other livelihood and become trapped in the lie and the "change" myth. And they often marry spouses of the opposite gender and in some cases have children - all in a desperate effort to prove to themselves and their employers that they have become "ex-gay."
Sooner or later, the pretense and self-delusion falls apart and these individuals have to face the reality that they are and always will be gay and that they need to stop lying. I've been in this place where the lies simply cannot be sustained any longer. It's a nightmare for all involved. It looks like this reality is catching up with the "ex-gay" couple who appeared on the cover of Newsweek and proclaimed that gays can indeed change. Truth Wins Out looks at the apparently disintegrating marriage of John and Ann Paulk. Here are highlights:
Ex-gay” poster couple John and Anne Paulk may be Splitsville. Sources tell Truth Wins Out today that John has moved out of the couple’s Portland, Oregon home. Other sources in Portland have informed Truth Wins Out that Paulk was dating a man, although the current status of that relationship remains murky, and that Paulk has frequented homosexual establishments in the city.
Speculation on the status of their relationship was heightened today after TWO spotted a cryptic status message posted by John Paulk on his business’s Facebook page:
“After a lifetime of heartache, July 19, 1992 [the date he married Anne] was the happiest day of my life. I will never forget it… It is emblazoned in my memory. And although a lot has occurred since that day long ago and I am on a hard journey right now, i want this woman to know how much she has always meant to me and that no matter where things pan out… I always will love you.”John Paulk is the former chairman of Exodus International, who was photographed by me in Mr. P’s, a Washington, DC gay bar on September, 19, 2000. Anne was part of the 1998 Truth in Love campaign and was featured on the cover of Newsweek with John, and in a full page New York Times ad under the headline, “I’m Living Proof That Truth Can Set You Free.” Additionally, John was the founder of Focus on the Family’s “ex-gay” roadshow, Love Won Out, and the couple has a book by that name. The Paulk’s have three sons and John runs a catering business.
John, a former drag queen, found Jesus one drunken night on a gay bar dance floor while high on poppers. . . . . There was speculation that John was creeping back out of the closet when he dyed his hair and lost weight. In his book, Not Afraid to Change, Paulk attributed weight gain to becoming “ex-gay.”
Paulk as "ex-gay"
The question is, will Focus on the Family admit failure and apologize if their former poster boy comes out of the closet? It is doubtful. As I have stated numerous times, these groups love to show you the “ex-gay” wedding photos, but they never show you the divorce papers.
|The new Paulk|
I do indeed have sympathy for John Paulk and others like him who were cynically used by Christianist organizations who continue to support the lie that gays can change for purely political - i.e., if one can "change," then no legal protections are needed - and monetary reasons. Yes, these victims allowed themselves to be used, but in someways pretending to be what everyone tells you that you should be seems the easier course of action. But over time, it is a corrosive, soul killing experience that in my case made death look far preferable to living. Even if one does love their spouse, as I did my former wife. She was as much a victim of the "change" myth as I was. The worse thing is that all this hurt and needless suffering goes on simply because some people - i.e., the "Godly Christians" - only feel good about themselves when they are denigrating and looking down on others. And then, there are the self-loathing closet cases in the Catholic Church hierarchy that only are happy when they make everyone else as miserable as they are. It's sick. Very sick.
As long time readers may recall, I am an advocate for tough gun control laws. I guess my views were colored years ago by the utter disregard that hunters and gun rights advocates demonstrated toward private property rights years ago when I was growing up. For newer readers, my folks had 50 acres of land and horses in Upstate New York when I was growing up. And literally every year we diligently put up "posted" and "No trespass" signs on all of the boundaries to our property and every year hunters totally disregarded the signs, came on out property and made it dangerous for to go riding and made it dangerous for our horses. The mind set seemingly hasn't changed and my brother in Keswick,Virginia has the same problem all these years later on his property and "hunters" even shoot onto his property from their vehicles - something that is very illegal.
Despite this evidence that gun owners see themselves above the rules and the laws, we hear the time and time again mantra from the NRA and its puppets that "law abiding" citizens aren't the problem behind guns and massacres like that which occurred in Colorado in the early morning hours today. But the truth is that they ARE the problem. The shooter in the Virginia Tech shootings, the shooter in the Gabby Giffords shootings, and the shooter today, James Eagan Holmes (pictured above), ALL were law abiding citizens up until the time that went on shooting rampages. And all of them legally purchased the weapons that the used to wreak death and terror on those they did not even know.
The simple truth is that NO ONE who is a peaceful, decent citizen needs to own an assault rife. NO ONE. Yet because of the efforts of the NRA and other far right elements, laws that might have prevented the needless, senseless deaths we've seen either have been killed or repealed. Every politician who supports these insanely unrestricted gun purchase rights bears a portion of the responsibility for those who died today. As Think Progress reports, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 which was allowed to expire would have banned one of the weapons used by Holmes today. Sadly, that law was allowed to expire due to the efforts of the NRA and its political prostitutes in Congress. Guns ARE the problem. True, control laws will not take guns away from all the criminals. But they would stop the "lawful" purchases that seem to always be part and parcel with the mass shootings and murder that we continue to see across the country. Here are highlights from Think Progress:
One of the principal weapons used by James Eagan Holmes in the horrific Dark Knight Rises shooting would have been subject to a series of sharp restrictions under the now-expired federal Assault Weapons ban. The AR-15 rife carried by Holmes, a civilian semi-automatic version of the military M-16, would have been defined as a “semiautomatic assault weapon” under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. If the law was still in force, semiautomatic assault weapons would have been outright banned:
Holmes’ guns, including his AR-15, were all legally purchased since May from two national chains, Bass Pro Shops and Gander Mountain Guns.
Such weapons were “unlawful for a person to manufacture, transfer, or possess” under section (a)(v)(i). Though there were several loopholes in the Violent Crime Control Act that allowed gun manufacturers to legally produce slightly modified AR-15s, a new version of the bill proposed in 2008 closed them. The 1994 Act contained a sunset provision that caused it to automatically expire 10 years after passage, and it was not renewed in 2004, meaning that there are no federal restrictions on the ownership of AR-15s and similar weapons. Both Congressman Ed Perlmutter (who represents Aurora, the site of the shooting) and President Obama proposed a new assault weapons ban during their campaigns.
Purportedly, the AR-15 used by Holmes had a high-capacity clip, which were banned as “large capacity ammunition feeding devices” in the 1994 legislation.
The irony isn't lost on me either that it is always the "conservatives," "godly Christians" and their political flunkies who wrap themselves in religiosity who always oppose meaningful gun control and set the stage for these mass slaughters of innocents. The rights of innocent victims surely trumps antiquated 2nd Amendment rights that are part of the GOP's mantra of God, gays and guns. It's yet another reason I cannot in good conscience be a Republican.
A new report from the Black AIDS Institute - a national HIV-AIDS think tank that focuses on African Americans - contains grim findings. Having served on the local Ryan White Committee, I am not shocked by the magnitude of the findings which reflect what has been witnessed in the Hampton Roads area: AIDS in America is becoming a black disease. And the statistics are horrifying. HIV-AIDS is affecting black gay men in the United States on a scale unseen among any other group in the developed world. In some US cities, 50% of black men who have sex with other men are HIV positive. HIV prevalence among such men is twice as high than among their white counterparts. They are also far less likely to be alive three years after being diagnosed with AIDS than white or Latino gays and bisexuals. The report in PDF format can be found here. Many of the reasons for the grim picture are not surprising: poverty, lack of access to health care, the attitude in many state governments - certainly in Virginia's - that those with HIV-AIDS are garbage to be disposed of so it doesn't matter if they die. Indeed, one of the three worst cities for blacks with HIV-AIDS is Richmond, Virginia pictured above:
Richmond shares many characteristics of Gary and Memphis—below-average access to federal HIV grants, below-average Medicaid spending for HIV, and exclusion of single, childless adults from Medicaid. HIV-positive Black MSM in Richmond are further disadvantaged by the state’s ADAP. As of June 21, 2012, nearly 600 people living with HIV in Virginia had been placed on a waiting list for ADAP services. Indeed, Virginia alone accounted for 28% of all people nationwide on ADAP waiting lists in June 2012.
Some of the other grim findings:
Whereas more than two-thirds of new infections among white MSM occur in men in their 30s and 40s, a majority of newly infected Black MSM are ages 13-29. Due to exceptionally high rates of new infections among young Black MSM, many Black MSM enter adulthood already infected with HIV. Among 13-24-year-olds, Black men are nearly 14 times more likely to be diagnosed with HIV than white men, with MSM accounting for more than 90% of new diagnoses among young males. Although Black people account for a mere 9% of all MSM in the U.S., Blacks comprise more than 62% of new diagnoses among young MSM in 2008. Due to a surge in new infections among Black MSM, the disparity in HIV diagnosis rates among Black and white males increased by 257% from 2005 to 2008.
The report does a lot of assigning of blame. Sadly, one leading problem goes largely unmentioned: the rampant homophobia in the black community and the role that black pastors play in keeping homophobia alive. In one area of Norfolk several churches located in close proximity to some of the hardest hit areas continue to rant against gays and depict HIV-AIDS as Gods punishment to gays. Indeed, some of these pastors can be relied upon to act like trained chimpanzees (yes, this is a harsh statement, but sadly accurate) at the direction of the lily white racist leaning leaders of The Family Foundation in Richmond. The Family Foundation is the number one anti-gay hate organization in Virginia and an examination of its leadership demonstrates that most are the descendants of segregationist.
It drives me to distraction to see these black pastors doing the bidding of those who would happily see blacks disappear from society or at least remain greatly subjugated. The situation underscores why knowing accurate history and not being duped by the cynical use of religious belief to work against one's community's best interests is so critical. These black pastors literally are doing the bidding of those who hate blacks almost as much as gays and they are too foolish to realize it.