Saturday, March 15, 2014

Another Red Herring in the Christian Persecution Meme

Almost anywhere one turns it is possible to hear the myth of Christian persecution being disseminated.  The real issue as mentioned before on this blog is not that Christians in America are undergoing any actual persecution but rather that their ability to persecute others is being seriously eroded.  And in the minds of the "godly folk," a decreased ability to harm and oppress others equated to persecution.  A post on Andrew Sullivan's blog falls into the trap of Christians not being to trample over others or not forcing others to subsidize their discrimination as being a threat to Christofascists' religious liberty.  Here is an excerpt from the post:
A reader writes:

You are right that much of the Christian self-pity on the issue of homosexuality is pathetic. However, events on university campuses (which can herald broader cultural shifts) suggest that things are moving faster than perhaps you realize.

The debate right now surrounds Registered Student Organizations (RSOs) that have access to campus facilities and even funding. Christian RSOs are facing de-recognition (or have been de-recognized) because of their discriminatory policy on homosexuality. Here’s the problem: most of these Christian RSOs allow any student to join and become members, but they require that the student leaders agree with the organization’s statement of faith. I don’t have to belabor the point. You recognize how insane it is to require a religious organization to not discriminate based on religion in its selection of leaders. In 2012, Vanderbilt went ahead and de-recognized 13 Christian RSOs for requiring that the student leaders agree with their basic beliefs. Other schools have followed suit.

The critical language that Andrew's reader ignores are these: "Registered Student Organizations (RSOs) that have access to campus facilities and even funding. Christian RSOs are facing de-recognition . . . . "  No one is interfering with the "religious liberty of these Christian RSO's.  They are free to do whatever they  - so long as they are not asking other students, including those they discriminate against, to directly or indirectly underwrite their activities and, by extension, their discrimination.   Sadly, it is yet another example of the Christofascists wanting special rights that are not available to others.  The bottom line is that if you want to discriminate and engage in bigotry, do not expect others to subsidize it.

Rand Paul: GOP Needs to Get Out of Social Issues

Of all the former Republicans that I know, what drove them away was the take over of the GOP by the Christofascists, including those religious extremists who have re-branded themselves as the so-called Tea Party.  Social issues are proving equally radioactive for the GOP with younger voters.  The solution?  Kick the crazies out of the party or neutralize their ability to continue to force the GOP to embrace social issues that are increasingly rejected by a majority of Americans and play well only with the angry white Christian demographic which is literally dying off.  Now, would be GOP presidential candidate Rand Paul has more or less taken up this position even though he tries to have it both ways on same sex marriage.  I do not trust Paul, but at least he is pushing the issue.  Expect exploding heads and sheets of flying spittle from the professional Christian crowd!   Here are some highlights from Paul's reponse to a recent interview:

Q. There was a consensus among young people at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference that the GOP needs to get out of social issues. Do you agree?

A.I think it’s partly that. But I also think young people are very concerned with privacy. I think most young people’s lives revolve around their cellphones. They communicate with their parents by cellphone even when they’re in the house. And I think they are horrified by the idea of the government searching their records and being in possession of their records when they’ve not been suspected of a crime. 

Q.Right. But it seems what they’re saying is that the Republican Party should stay out of issues like gay marriage.

A. I think that the Republican Party, in order to get bigger, will have to agree to disagree on social issues. The Republican Party is not going to give up on having quite a few people who do believe in traditional marriage. But the Republican Party also has to find a place for young people and others who don’t want to be festooned by those issues.

Q.As a libertarian, you believe in the sovereignty of the individual. But when it comes to the right for gays to marry, you said it should be left up to the states. Isn’t that a contradiction?

On issues that are very contentious, that involve social mores—I think that allowing different parts of the country to make their decision based on the local mores and culture is a good idea. But when it comes to taxes and benefits, the [federal] government out to take a neutral position—a way where marriage wouldn’t have an effect, positive or negative, on those things.

Q. Your recent op-ed for Breitbart about the future of the Republican Party got a lot of attention. Specifically, you said, “Splintering the party is not the route to victory.” Was that directed at Ted Cruz?

A.I have sort of a Jeffersonian belief in unity, peace and commerce with all. That means we don’t devour our own. We try to find an area where we can stand for principle. But it also includes people you don’t agree with on every issue.

Key West Vacation - Day 2

Day two of our Key West get away was most enjoyable even though I spent several hours in the morning dealing with law office e-mails and document review for clients.  After a few hours by the pool at the Equator we went on a historic homes tour run by the Old Island Restoration Foundation.  Every time we are in Key West we take the homes tour if it is taking place during our visit.  One of the backyard pools on the tour is below.  The homes on the tour were the following:

1. 320 Peacon Lane. Among the City’s early families were the Peacons. They first settled in a Bahamian cottage constructed shortly after the 1846 hurricane and stayed through 4 generations.  Their tiny home is still at the core of this delightful spread of additions and gardens.  Two “Ceramic Stars” speak to the care put into its preservation.

2. 712 Eaton Street. By 1897, Richard Peacon, Jr., born and raised on Peacon Lane, had become a prosperous merchant and built his house up the hill.  Known by its distinctive “octagon” front, the house was renovated in the 1975 for interior designer, Angelo Donghia, and later owned by Calvin Klein.

Download a printable version of the tour map and house descriptions
3. 1112 Elgin Lane. On the east end of town around the turn of the 20th Century, a family of spongers built cottages near the water’s edge.  Descendants kept the old family home until 1993.  Extensive renovations completed by the second (and current) owners gave respectful nods to those nautical predecessors and earned a Ceramic Star in 1996.

4. 1212 Georgia Street As the City expanded, a grocer set up shop next to his “country” home near bustling cigar factories and other businesses.  A prominent lawyer added his home-office some seven decades later.  Paint has just dried on a total renovation; the latest in a series of transformations since 1905.

5. 703 Elizabeth Street. Real estate investing is nothing new.  This conch cottage near the top of Solares Hill is one of many houses constructed for tenant occupancy.  White finishes and uncluttered contemporary decor refresh spaces where a family of cigar makers lived and worked a century ago.

After the homes tour, it was back to the pool and then cocktail hour at The Equator where we met more interesting guys, a couple of whom were likewise from Virginia.  Then we did a quick wardrobe  change and headed down to the roof top of the La Concha hotel (the tallest building in Key West) for yet another cocktail.  The sunset is below:

We finished the evening with dinner at La Te Da (we will be back on Sunday for Tea Dance) and then a visit to Bourbon Street where a plethora of dancers were entertaining the crowd, both gay and straight.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Virginia GOP Loons Threaten "Operation Chaos"

Few spectator "sport" are more enjoyable than watching the lunatics of the GOP base go all crazy and spittle flecked as they struggle to drag the Republican Party back to Neanderthal times and ultimate political extinction.  They laud uncontrolled mob rule and the more insane one is, the more one is to be supported.  Some in the Virginia GOP - admittedly far too few - do realize that the swamp fever must be stopped.  One is Senator Frank Wagner who I have know for over 20 years - we began our political activism and involvement at about the same time initially over education issues in Virginia Beach.  The upshot is that efforts are being made to rein in the insanity afflicting the Virginia GOP and block efforts to put the Christofascists/Tea Party in complete charge.  Having been to a state GOP convention myself once upon a time (when the GOP was much less insane), conventions are NOT representative of most Republicans.  Now, with the rise of the Christofascists and Tea Party in the party base, they pack conventions and the result is the trio of crazies that got nominated in 2013 for statewide office.  All of them lost. The Mason Conservative has a piece that evidences the reaction of the crazies.  Here are highlights:

It looks like Frank Wagner's despicable slating tactic to nullify any and all participation in the state and local politics by actual conservatives is spreading.  I am hearing this could happen in the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th districts as well.  So instead of trying to work together and broaden the party, the Establishment all over Virginia has made it pretty clear that they only want either paid lackeys or bootlickers running the local committees.  So if they continue to do this, there isn't much we can do.
Or is there.

What I propose is if the Establishment here in Virginia continues to use this tactic in order to disenfranchise any person who doesn't toe the line, we vote Democrat this year.  Just this once.  Consider this Operation Chaos 2.0. If they don't want us, lets see how they will feel if vote against them?  This a free country and in my opinion, it is the duty of the party to serve its members, not the reverse.  Unfortunately, when you get into power and surround yourself with paid yes-men, you lose sight of that.

Is this a radical step?  Yes.  Will this idea catch on?  I hope so.  Primaries are pointless if the system is gamed.  The reason why people like Frank Wagner and his ilk hate conventions is because it is a system that he cannot game, cannot control, cannot dictate the outcome just because he's a state senator.  For all the bullshit they spew about growing the party through primaries, let's see them eat those words when they have effectively thrown out the activist base that does all the hard work and actually believes in what fake conservatives like Wagner et al say they believe in.

They think we are patsies.  They think we can be bullied and put down and beaten into line.  But parties are overrated, they are simply vehicles for getting elected to enact your principles.  What is in your heart is more important then the letter after your name on the ballot.  If they want to play dirty, let's play dirtier.

Let's see 2nd District Chairman Wagner explain why Scott Rigell lost reelection.  Now THAT would be fun to watch ...
Personally, I support Frank Wagner's efforts.  Something must be done to end the swamp fever.  And if the lunatics do go forward with "Operation Chaos," it would be a good thing for Virginia and perhaps permanently discredit these nutcases.

Homophobia Costs India An Estimated $31 Billion Annually

I regularly state that homophobia carries an economic cost, especially when the homophobia is government sponsored.  It is a reality that the Republican Party of Virginia refuses to want to hear and it does cost jobs and lost business relocations and/or expansions.  Just ask Arizona Governor Jan Brewer about the economic shit storm that SB1062 brought down on her state.  But the costs apply to entire nations as well.  Some of these anti-gay countries seem to reveal in their ignorance and backwardness - Uganda and Nigeria are two such examples.  But India is another matter as it seeks to become a world economic power.  Yet, a new World Bank study has found that India's homophobia which is back in the forefront is costing the nation $31 billion - yes, billion with a "B."  BuzzFeed has details.  Here are some excerpts:

Homophobia has an annual cost to India of $31 billion or more, according to a draft report presented Wednesday at a forum at the World Bank’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.

This number is just a rough estimate, since economists lack the data to make a firm calculation. But the fact that the question is being asked by an institution like the World Bank is more significant than the number itself. If development institutions decide to make LGBT rights a priority — and could shape the billions of dollars that flow through them every year — LGBT rights advocates could have far more powerful allies than those they’ve won in institutions devoted to human rights.

The World Bank isn’t the first such institution at the table: The United States Agency for International Development (US AID), the United Nations Development Program, and the development agencies of several European governments already have been working on LGBT rights. But the World Bank’s size and reach mean it has the power to shift the global development agenda — it lends more than $35 billion annually, and serves as an important research hub for the development community.

Having a discussion about LGBT inclusion at the World Bank “may have a huge impact … for mainstreaming the issue,” said Luiz Loures, assistant secretary general of the United Nations and deputy executive director of UNAIDS, who traveled from India to participate in the panel discussion, which was moderated by BuzzFeed. Organizations like his only get so far by making the human rights and public health case; people like Loures believe framing the issue in terms of dollars could tip the balance. 

[T]he Indian economy lost the equivalent of anywhere between 0.1 and 1.7 percent of its GDP. This is likely a “conservative” figure, Badgett said, and it is significant even in this range. “You reduce GDP by that much and you call it a recession,” she remarked.

Badgett factored in several ways that homophobia costs a society. The most visible may be increased health costs: If stigma keeps LGBT people from accessing health services, there may have higher rates of HIV and AIDS. But stigma also can contribute to a greater burden of depression and other mental illness, which can make LGBT workers even less productive. And if discrimination keeps LGBT people from working or forces them into lower-paying jobs, the economy loses the full value of their labor.
[I]t is still an open question of how far the Bank is ready to go in embracing this agenda. On February 27, the Bank suspended a $90 million health care loan to Uganda just after it enacted a bill imposing up to a life sentence for homosexuality and criminalizing LGBT advocacy. The Bank’s president, Jim Yong Kim, also published an op-ed in The Washington Post declaring that discrimination against LGBT people — like other forms of discrimination — are “bad for people and societies” and “bad for economies.”  

 “Whether you want it or not, the World Bank … has an impact on the lives of sexual minorities” in the countries in which it invests. “Working with the World Bank does not mean adopting everything that the World Bank is doing. But it means taking basically the share [that] belongs to you within the World Bank[’s work].”

GOP Challenger Calls Lindsey Graham "Ambiguously Gay"

Are Republicans in South Carolina finally catching on the U.S. Senator Lindsay Graham, a/k/a the Palmetto Queen from time to time on this blog?  It seems that one of Graham's primary challengers is calling Graham "ambiguously gay."  Frankly, I'd say there is much ambiguity about Graham's queenly disposition.  About the only thing positive about him is at least he never married a beard to further his political career like too many other closeted Republicans.   The Raw Story looks at the cat fight in South Carolina.  Here are some highlights:

At a press conference held Thursday to announce their solidarity in opposing Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the four Republican candidates running against the incumbent senator referred to Graham as “ambiguously gay,” according to The State.

The news conference, held to announce a pledge between the challengers to support whomever ended up in a runoff with Graham, took an awkward turn when candidate Dave Feliciano stepped to the podium and addressed the issue of Graham’s sexuality.

“It’s about time that South Carolina (says), ‘Hey, we’re tired of the ambiguously gay senator from South Carolina, ” Feliciano said. “We’re ready for a new leader to merge the Republican Party. We’re done with this. This is what it’s about, all of us coming together and saying, one way or the other, one of us is going to be on that ballot in November’.”

Questions about Graham’s sexuality have  arisen previously but the senator has dismissed them.

Before speaking, Feliciano, a former police officer from Spartanburg with no previous political experience, signed a pledge with state Sen. Lee Bright, businessman Richard Cash, and attorney Bill Connor promising to endorse whichever candidate advanced to face Graham.
After the event, attorney Connor disavowed Feliciano’s comments as a personal attack and said that each candidate’s comments were their own.

Stating that he believes in free speech,  Cash added, “but I also believe in being civil and respectful. Mr. Feliciano’s comments were inappropriate and I disavow any association with them.”

However, both Cash and Connor said they still would honor the agreement, which they signed.

There are six GOP candidates who have announced primary challenges to Graham.  The other two, Columbia pastor Det Bowers and PR executive Nancy Mace, did not attend the news conference.

Connor may have disavowed the remark, but I suspect he secretly enjoyed it. :)

Friday, March 14, 2014

Key West Vacation - Day 1

View from our room
We finally arrived in Key West around 1:30 yesterday after having to change originating airports and then suffering a delayed departure out of Charlotte.  USAirways doesn't rate too well in my book.  That said, we have enjoyed our stay at the Equator so far and spent the afternoon by the pool and enjoyed the warm temperatures and sun.  The guest house is fully booked with folks - mostly gay couples - from around the USA and even some guests from France and Luxembourg.  With a happy hour on the house and even a listing of the guests and where they are from, the format strives to get people to meet and socialize.  For us, the format is far preferable to staying in a large hotel where one doesn't get to meet people. The photos above and below are of the gorgeous pool areas - there are 2 pools and 2 hot tubs and the vegetation is amazing!

Friday Morning Male Beauty

click image to enlarge

Mississippi, Louisiana and Georgia Watch the Most Gay Porn in America

Click image to enlarge
Once again we see more proof that hypocrisy is the norm in the Bible Belt.  Not only do we see higher divorce rates and higher teen pregnancy rates in the Bible Belt - despite supposed religiosity and adherence to the Bible as the "inerrant word of God" - but some of the Bible Belt states have the highest levels of gay porn watching in America.  The liberal northwest states of Oregon and Washington and the liberal states of the Northeast have considerably lower usage rates.  I guess it must be all the closeted married men - and, of course conservative pastors - in the Bible Belt that push the levels so high.  As the story notes, a similar phenomenon has been found in countries with the most anti-gay laws.  Here are details from Gay Star News:

A new study by PornHub and Buzzfeed has found that, on average, people in the US South watch more gay porn than people in states that have legalized same-sex marriage.
PornHub found that out of all 50 US states, Mississippi, Louisiana and Georgia had the biggest number of people searching for gay porn on the internet.
5.58% of porn searches by Mississippians was for gay porn, compared to 5.44% in Louisiana and 5.38% in Georgia.
Florida, Alabama and New Mexico also made the top ten gay porn watching states.
- See more at:

A new study by PornHub and Buzzfeed has found that, on average, people in the US South watch more gay porn than people in states that have legalized same-sex marriage.

PornHub found that out of all 50 US states, Mississippi, Louisiana and Georgia had the biggest number of people searching for gay porn on the internet.

5.58% of porn searches by Mississippians was for gay porn, compared to 5.44% in Louisiana and 5.38% in Georgia.

Florida, Alabama and New Mexico also made the top ten gay porn watching states.  But some states that had legalized same-sex marriage also had high rates of internet searches for gay porn.

New York state had the fourth largest number of people searching for gay porn and California the sixth – not surprisingly considering those states’ large LGBTI communities.

Alaska, Montana, North Dakota and Idaho had the lowest percentage of gay porn users, all below the 3% mark.

Previous research by Google found that the highest levels of internet searches for gay porn were often from those countries that are most intolerant to gay people such as Uganda, Ghana, Kenya and Zimbabwe.

Senate Reaches Possible Deal To Restore The Jobless Benefits - Will the GOP House Kill it?

This blog looks at hypocrisy on many fronts.  Outside of religious institutions and misnamed "family values" groups, few organizations provides more examples of hypocrisy than the Republican Party which claims to embrace Christian values even as it presses policies that are the antithesis of the Gospel message.  Nowhere is this hypocrisy more egregious than  the GOP's treatment of the poor and the unemployed who are viewed as disposable garbage even as the GOP and its"godly folk" supporters congratulate themselves on their feigned piety.  Now, the U.S. Senate has structured a compromise that would restore unemployment benefits to millions of the long term uninsured who were kicked off of benefit back around the Christnas holiday.  The question will now be whether or not the GOP controlled House of Representatives kills the effort.  Here are highlights from Think Progress:

After yanking the safety net out from underneath two million Americans in December, Congress may finally be ready to restore jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed. At least, for a few months, if the Republican-controlled House will agree to take up a long-awaited Senate compromise.

A group of senators reportedly agreed to a compromise that would reinstate the federal emergency unemployment compensation (EUC) program on Thursday afternoon. The deal would apply retroactively, meaning that the two million job-seekers who have gone without EUC checks since Congress let the program expire on December 28 would see back payments from the program. But, going forward, the agreement only extends the program by five months, meaning that it would lapse all over again in late May without a more permanent fix.

The EUC program, which serves those who have exhausted state-level jobless benefits but are still looking for work, was a casualty of Congress’ determination to reduce deficit. Even though conservatives in Congress have a long history of supporting the EUC program, they blocked an extension of it this time around by insisting that it be paid for through spending cuts elsewhere.

Lawmakers couldn’t agree on a method to pay for the program — which, like other safety net programs, actually saves the economy money on the whole by boosting the consumer spending that fuels job creation — and the program was left to expire.

At the time, 1.3 million people relied on those benefits. As the weeks passed and more job-seekers exhausted state aid, that number has climbed up over 2 million. A cumulative 2.3 million children live with unemployed parents who saw their federal benefits cut off.

Thursday’s deal shows that Congress’s obsession with deficit reduction hasn’t changed. The Senate deal pays for its brief EUC extension by allowing companies to continue under-paying into their pension funds, as well as extending some customs fees that were set to expire, according to a National Journal report on the compromise.

As Senators left the jobless without benefits over the last 10 weeks, the Congressional Budget Office reported that Washington had already slayed its deficit dragons; the nonpartisan agency now projects a budget deficit of just 3 percent of GDP this year and 2.6 percent of GDP next year.

In the meantime, the loss of federal benefits sucked billions of dollars out of state economies, which made the road back to gainful employment even longer for the long-term jobless.

Did the DNC Chair Discouraged Support for ENDA Execurive Order?

If new allegations are true,, it looks like it's not only the powers that be in the Democratic Party of Virginia who are trying to alienate the LGBT vote in the lead up to the 2014 mid-term elections.  How else to explain claims that Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz discouraged U.S. House members from pressuring Barack Obama to sign an executive order to ban discrimination against LGBT employees.  Currently, in 29 states LGBT workers can be fired at will based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.  Having been fired for being gay myself, I know first hand just how devastating this experience can be both emotionally and financially.  As to why more LGBT activist haven't spoken out, one need only look at how Equality Virginia handled the controversy over anti-gay marriage DPVA chair Dwight Jones: hand wringing and little else out of fear of losing :access" and "burning bridges" even as LGBT Virginians were thrown under the bus. The Washington Blade looks at the controversy.  Here are excerpts:

A gay Democratic activist claims that Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) has discouraged House members from asking President Obama to take administrative action to protect LGBT workers, an assertion her office calls a “bald-faced lie.”

Paul Yandura, political director for gay philanthropist Jonathan Lewis, made the allegation when speaking with the Washington Blade from his home in West Virginia on Thursday regarding a 2013 missive that was circulated among House members by Reps. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Lois Capps (D-Calif.).

“I was told personally by two members that she was tamping down on public calls for the president to make good on his promise — this was last year when the issue was really getting hot,” Yandura said. “She is most likely doing the same still.”

Yandura’s allegation comes as lawmakers — led by the LGBT Equality Caucus and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) — are circulating a new missive among members of Congress calling on Obama to sign an executive order barring federal contractors from engaging in anti-LGBT workplace discrimination.

Two sources familiar with the 2013 letter told the Washington Blade that Wasserman Schultz discouraged members of Congress from signing it, but Yandura was the only source willing to go on the record. The other source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Wasserman Schultz, who represents Florida’s 23rd congressional district in the U.S. House, dissuaded Democrats from signing the letter in private conversations on the House floor.

“I’m sure she’ll come with something that sounds like a good excuse, but it’s about time,” Yandura said. “It’s time that she not only signs it, but tells people that they should publicly, and that it’s OK and that there’s no pressure not to sign it.”

Mara Sloan, a Wasserman Schultz spokesperson, disputed the allegations made by Yandura, saying any assertion that she discouraged members from signing the letter “is a bald-faced lie.”

“The congresswoman believes the most effective way to ensure equal rights for LGBT Americans in the workplace is through passing comprehensive non-discrimination legislation,” Sloan said. “The congresswoman regularly speaks to the administration about issues important to the LGBT community, and will continue to be a fierce advocate for full equality.”

Despite her record of support for the LGBT community, Wasserman Schultz has never explicitly called on Obama to sign an executive order barring LGBT discrimination among federal contractors. Asked about the issue in January by The Huffington Post, Wasserman Schultz said she supports the idea of Obama using his executive authority in “as broad a way as he can to ensure that we can move this country forward.”

Yandura said he thinks Wasserman Schultz refuses to express support for the executive order and has discouraged House members from speaking out in favor of it for political reasons.

“I think she doesn’t want to embarrass the president, and still doesn’t want to embarrass the president, because it is an embarrassment that he still hasn’t done it,” Yandura said. “We’re now coming down to the end of the second term, and if they don’t get moving on it, it’ll never even get implemented.”

Sadly, the take away for LGBT citizens is that we cannot take Democratic Party support for granted.  In the final analysis, all they want is our votes and our money and we need to constantly remind them that we attach conditions to both our monetary support and our votes.  The Dems cannot take our votes for granted.  Of course, if the GOP had any sense, it would kick the Christofascists to the curb and embrace the gays.  In close elections, the gay vote does make the difference.  Just ask Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring - although he seems to be quickly forgetting that reality notwithstanding his refusal to support Virginia's ban on gay marriage.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

GOP Civil War: Wealthy GOP Donors Join Push for ENDA

I suspect that hysteria is quietly overtaking some in the Christofascist circles.  Between polls indicating that a majority of young Republicans support same sex marriage and recent federal court rulings in Utah, Texas, Virginia, Oklahoma and Virginia striking down anti-gay animus motivated bans on gay marriage, these hate and fear consumed folks must be feeling that their sick world is ending indeed.   Now compounding this Christofascist distress are reports of wealthy GOP donors joining forces with Democrats to push for passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act ("ENDA").  A piece in USA Today looks at this new GOP donor effort which must be triggering large amounts of spittle flecked rants behind closed doors.  Here are excerpts: 

A deep-pocketed group of Republican donors and former GOP lawmakers is joining a gay rights coalition to push the U.S. House to vote on a bill banning workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

"America is a place where the freedom to be who you are shouldn't be a barrier to your ability to get a job and provide for your family," said Paul Singer, a billionaire hedge fund founder and big Republican donor. Singer is putting $375,000 toward the push for passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. "In the workplace, employees should be judged on their merit and hard work and not on aspects that are irrelevant to their performance."

Fellow billionaire and GOP donor Seth Klarman also donated $375,000 to the campaign spearheaded by the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay rights lobby. HRC is putting up an additional $1.3 million in the effort to get 218 House lawmakers — a majority of the chamber — on record in support of ENDA.

Already 199 House lawmakers are ENDA co-sponsors, all but six of them Democrats. The campaign will target 48 House Republicans who the coalition believes are most likely to support the bill either because they hail from more moderate or suburban districts or have more moderate voting records.

The campaign, working under an 11-member umbrella group called Americans for Workplace Opportunity, will dispatch two local organizers per congressional district to build on-the-ground support through district meetings, town halls and local editorials, among other efforts.

If the group can get 218 lawmakers on public record in support of the legislation, they say House GOP leaders, including Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, may have to rethink their decision not to vote this year.

Paul Ryan Blames Poverty On Lazy ‘Inner City’ Men

Proving once again that he is a complete asshole, Paul Ryan - a man born to wealth who never had to worry about money or finding a job given his family's business - is once again sending a coded racist message that poverty is the fault of the victims.  I'm sure his effort to blame poverty on "lazy inner city men" pays well with the GOP's increasingly elderly white Christofascist base. As for the Catholic religious beliefs that Ryan claims to live by, his bias and efforts to slash social safety net programs show the utter hypocrisy of Ryan's feigned religiosity.  Ryan also conveniently ignores that the Congressional GOP has consistently blocked programs that might have improved the economy  and generated more jobs in the GOP quest to trash the economy to hurt Barack Obama's reelection chances.  Think Progress looks at this latest attack by Ryan on the poor.  Here are excerpts:

House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) previewed his upcoming legislative proposals for reforming America’s poverty programs during an appearance on Bill Bennett’s Morning in America Wednesday, hinting that he would focus on creating work requirements for men “in our inner cities” and dealing with the “real culture problem” in these communities. “We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with,” he said.

Ryan also cited Charles Murray, a conservative social scientist who believes African-Americans are, as a population, less intelligent than whites due to genetic differences and that poverty remains a national problem because “a lot of poor people are born lazy.”

Ryan’s comments come a week after he released a 204-page report analyzing the effectiveness of the nation’s anti-poverty programs 50 years after President Lyndon Johnson declared a national War on Poverty. The former GOP vice presidential candidate, who argues that federal anti-poverty programs have contributed to the nation’s high poverty rate and “created what’s known as the poverty trap,” is expected to offer reforms to the programs in his upcoming FY 2015 budget.

Numerous anti-poverty initiatives already include work requirements, particularly long-term unemployment insurance and the Earned Income Tax Credit. Other programs, such as Head Start, allow parents to go to work while their children attend education programs. 

Work requirements have yet to significantly reduce poverty, particularly during a downturn economy. While Ryan touts the success of lowering the number of people on welfare after 1996, poverty has actually increased since the recession and the number of families whose incomes are below half the poverty line (less than $12,000 a year for a family of four) is actually higher now than it was when Congress and President Bill Clinton enacted welfare reform. Welfare’s rigid work requirements improved employment among single mothers initially, but those rates started to decline by 2001, once the economy went into recession. The work provisions also pressure some women to abandon the higher education that could lead to upward mobility in favor of lower-paying jobs that meet the law’s standards.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Marriage Equality Overshadows Virginia. General Assembly Session

Vigil at the Norfolk Federal Courthouse - two good friends are picture to center left of the photo
While the Republican Party of Virginia continues to be largely a puppet of the Christofascists at The Family Foundation - a hate group in all but formal designation - media coverage of the marriage equality cases pending in federal court over shadowed the 2014 session of the Virginia General Assembly and while blocking pro-gay legislation the Christofascist/Virginia GOP suffered significant defeats,  not the least of which was the ruling in Bostic v. Rainey which declared the anti-gay Marshall-Newman Amendment to be unconstitutional and took great lengths to draw parallels to the  landmark decision in Loving v. Virginia.  The Washington Blade provides an overview of the General Assembly session and the overarching coverage of marriage equality which has been endorsed by all of the largest newspapers in Virginia.  Note the sour grapes of failed gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli - who is, in my view, a self-loathing closeted gay man who cannot let go of his religious brainwashing- over the ruling in Bostic. It is no coincidence in my view that Cuccinelli holds no love for Judge Arenda Wright Allen since today;s Virginia GOP is very racist and longs for the days of the Jim Crow laws.  Here are article excerpts:

Marriage rights for same-sex couples overshadowed the Virginia General Assembly’s 2014 regular session that ended on March 8.

Attorney General Mark Herring in January announced he would not defend Virginia’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. State Dels. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County) and Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah County) subsequently introduced a bill that would have allowed any state lawmaker to defend a law if the governor and attorney general decline to do so.

The Republican-controlled Virginia House of Delegates last month overwhelmingly approved the measure, but the state Senate Rules Committee on Feb. 24 struck it down by a 12-4 margin. Gov. Terry McAuliffe also denied a request from Marshall, Gilbert and 28 other legislators to appoint a special counsel to defend the marriage amendment.

State Del. Mark Cole (R-Fredericksburg), chair of the House Privileges and Elections Committee, announced at the start of the 2014 General Assembly it would not consider proposed resolutions that sought to repeal the marriage amendment until next year. State Del. Joseph Yost (R-Giles County) a few weeks later became the first Republican state lawmaker to back marriage rights for same-sex couples.

“As far as same-sex marriage goes, it does not bother me,” Yost told the Washington Blade during an exclusive interview at an Equality Virginia reception in downtown Richmond on Jan. 29 that coincided with the group’s annual Lobby Day. “I don’t think the government should be involved in marriage period — straight or gay. I feel like we have bigger things to worry about.”

U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen on Feb. 13 struck down the gay nuptials ban in a case that two same-sex couples from Norfolk and Chesterfield brought against it. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond earlier this week granted a motion from Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union – which filed a separate lawsuit against the marriage amendment last August on behalf of two lesbian couples from the Shenandoah Valley – to join the case for which oral arguments are tentatively scheduled to begin on May 12.

“She clearly had a view coming in,” former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli told Bruce DePuyt of News Channel 8 during an interview after Allen issued her decision, referring to the quote from Mildred Loving on the 40th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down the commonwealth’s interracial marriage ban she used to open it. “We expect judges to look at these things more objectively.”

The 2014 General Assembly otherwise proved a mixed bag for Virginia LGBT rights advocates on a range of issues that include adding sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to existing anti-discrimination laws.

McAuliffe is expected to sign into law a bill the House approved last week by a 100-vote margin that seeks to repeal Virginia’s sodomy law. An identical measure passed unanimously last month in the state Senate.

The Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee in January struck down a measure introduced by state Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax Country) that would have extended second-parent adoption rights to gays and lesbians.

State Dels. Marcus Simon (D-Falls Church) and Ron Villanueva (R-Virginia Beach) introduced bills that sought to ban anti-LGBT employment discrimination in the commonwealth. Both measures died last month in committee.

“I know how the system works up here and I know it was a tough argument, but I think because I’m a Republican carrying it made a statement,” Villanueva told the Blade during a Jan. 28 interview in his Richmond office. “[I hope to] help persuade that God loves all of us and in the Constitution its written life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and all of us should be enjoying the same liberties.”

A bill state Del. Patrick Hope introduced that sought to ban so-called “ex-gay” conversion therapy to minors in Virginia died last month in a House subcommittee.

“While we fell short of achieving all of our goals, this session has shown that a growing number of legislators are willing to stand on the right side of history in support of equality and fairness,” said Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish. “We will take the momentum we have gained this session to continue our work towards making Virginia a place that is fair and welcoming for all.”

Again, kudos to Ron Villanueva. 

Key West Bound - A Much Needed Break

The boyfriend (soon to be husband) and I are flying out this morning for a long weekend in Key West.  Preparing to leave has been a bitch what with coordinating the dog/house sitter, me trying to get client matters under control and working until 9:00PM on Monday and Tuesday and not quite as lat last night. Thankfully, we had a nice time at the Hampton Yacht Club with three of the boyfriend's country club women clients who we love to death last evening - although I arrived over an hour late due to putting  out out client brush fires late this afternoon.  Upon getting home we had a mini-crisis when we we notified that out flight out of Newport News was delayed and that our whole day tomorrow would be spent traveling as a result.  Thankfully, we manage to reschedule to leave out of Norfolk and now will get to Key West at 12:30PM as originally planned.

In past years we have stayed at The Oasis on Fleming Street a few blocks from Duval Street.  This trip, however, we are staying at The Equator since The Oasis was bought by a Swedish investor and it is now "all welcoming" instead of all gay.  A good friend headed down yesterday ahead of us and is already there.  Another friend joins us on Friday and there are some other Hampton Roads folks visiting, so it should be a wonderful time as always.   We also will be catching up with with former neighbors who moved to Key West within the last six months - they used to live a block down the street from us.  As is the norm, I will be blogging while in Key West albeit not as regularly, :)

Here's a view of the scenery flying in via our friend who arrived yesterday:

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Judge Rules for LGBT Youths Living in Jamaican Sewers

Sewer in Jamaica
By most accounts, some 40% of homeless youths in America are LGBT and are homeless in many cases because their "godly" parents threw them out for being gay.   The problem of homeless LGBT youth is hardly unique to America - especially because of the efforts of American Christofascists to export anti-gay hatred and discrimination overseas.  Uganda and Nigeria are but two examples.  But closer to home Jamaica has a similar track record and homeless LGBT youth in that country are often living in desperate situations.  Even living in sewers.  But even that was too good for them in the eyes of Jamaican police who sought to evict homeless youth from the sewers.  Thankfully, a judge ruled that the youths could remain.  Here are highlights from Erasing 76 Crimes:

A New Kingston court ruling is the latest news for LGBT youths in Jamaica, who have been thrown out of their homes by their families, chased out of abandoned houses by police, and arrested when they found shelter in sewers and gullies. This account is from activist  Yvonne McCalla-Sobers, who is chair of Dwayne’s House, the initiative seeking to provide a home for the LGBT youths.

Jamaican police tried again last week to evict homeless LGBT youth from the sewers in New Kingston where they have been forced to take refuge.

The police have previously tried to burn the youth out of the gullies on the pretext that they attract criminals.

The latest incident took the form of a day-time raid on March 5, Ash Wednesday (ironically, a religious holiday marking the beginning of the Christian sacrificial season of Lent). Officers from the New Kingston police post swooped down on the gutters running beneath the commercial district and demanded that the several youth who lived there had to leave immediately. The youngsters were understandably upset and some put up quite a struggle as they literally have nowhere else to go.
Police had already chased them from every abandoned building they previously occupied and the buildings were then torn down.

The kids are afraid of going to the few government shelters because of the abuse they experience there.

Some of the youth were arrested for resisting their forcible eviction. They were also charged with using swear words (which is still an offense under Jamaican law).

When the youngsters were brought before the court on Friday, March 7, the judge fined them for their so-called “calumnious language” but also advised the police that the sewers are a public space. Hence the youngsters have every right to be there. With no other options, the kids have simply returned to living in the sewers.

Dwayne’s House, a Jamaican organization established to feed and clothe the youngsters living in the sewers, paid the small fines for some of the arrested youth. See the Web page of Dwayne’s House for more information or to contribute (in the United States or in Canada).

Please consider making a contribution.  The fruits of Christianity are foul indeed.   A contribution would aid those persecuted in the name of God.

All Virginia Democrat Leaders Must Back Marriage Equality

The controversy surrounding Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones' apparent soon to be completed coronation as chairman of the Democratic Party of Virginia continues and even as Equality Virginia seems poised to drop opposition to Jones, many are not happy - and may show their displeasure by withholding campaign donations to Democrats.  I urge those who feel that LGBT Virginians have been thrown under the bus yet again to say "No" to asks for money and cite Jones as the reason.  Believe me, that is what folks will be hearing from me. As for Jones' hypocrisy, his stance on same sex marriage has the same lack of credibility as someone who would argue 50 years ago that they supported non-discrimination against blacks, but based on Bible passages supported Virginia's anti-miscegenation law which was struck down in Loving v. Virginia.  You do not get to have it both ways either then or now.  An op-ed in the Washington Blade makes the case why Jones' position is unacceptable:

On Saturday, March 15, 32 members of the Virginia Democratic Central Committee will come together in Richmond to elect the chair of their party. As Virginia governor, Democrat Terry McAuliffe is the titular head of the party. His nomination as the Democratic Party Chairman along with the ratification by the party central committee is normally a foregone conclusion. However, Gov. McAuliffe’s selection of Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones as the new chair of the Virginia State Party has raised concerns among LGBT Democrats throughout the commonwealth.

The major concern is that Mayor Jones, who is also the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of South Richmond, does not support marriage equality for LGBT Virginians. It would appear that Mayor Jones is out of step with the recent changes in attitudes and what the courts are saying about laws banning same-sex marriage.

The bottom line is that the American people are steadily coming around to this equality issue for the LGBT community. The president supports marriage equality, the national Democratic Party leadership supports marriage equality, and Virginia’s governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general all support marriage equality. So it’s not unreasonable for LGBT Democrats in Virginia to expect their state party chairman to support marriage equality.  Opposing same-sex marriage is on the wrong side of social justice and history in Virginia and in America.

Mayor Jones, referencing his church, was quoted in the Washington Post as saying, “We preach a gospel of love.” I would dare say that LGBT Virginians couldn’t care less about what he is preaching in his church, but would care about how he will be conducting Democratic Party business and using his leadership role to end discrimination for all Virginians.

If Mayor Jones is not for LGBT marriage equality then we must assume that he is against it and therefore should not be the chair of the Virginia Democratic Party. LGBT Virginians have waited long enough for their party leadership to evolve on this issue. I should add that as an African-American gay man, I cringe when I hear black clergy talk about preaching the gospel of love but not always practicing the tenets of Christian love, which is rooted in fairness and justice, and often code for everyone but LGBT folks.

I would ask that Gov. McAuliffe name a party chair who believes in protecting the rights of all Virginians, including LGBT Virginians.