Tag Archives: Gay Rights

Victories for the LGBT Community and for Humanity

8 Nov

ENDA copyThe past week has seen a number of big events in LGBT news and the majority have been very positive. It’s nice to have a chance to celebrate!

A major milestone happened yesterday when the U.S. Senate finally passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). Some version of the law — which prohibits workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity — has been in the works for nearly 40 years. The current ENDA has been floated in almost every Congress since 1994; the inclusion of gender identity has been a point of contention and has been in and out of the bill. The current version is the most comprehensive, requiring most employers with more than 15 employees to comply and with a very narrow religious exemption. ENDA was a lifetime goal of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D – MA). Just before he died, he passed the torch to Sen. Jeff Merkley (D – OR), who was instrumental in similar legislation in this state. I’m very proud of our Senator for pushing so hard to make this a reality.

I feel that such discrimination is wrong and our vision of equality in the Constitution, our vision of the pursuit of happiness in the Constitution and kind of a fundamental sense of fair play—all of those things mean that it is just wrong for people not to have a fair shake at getting or retaining a job.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid built on the post-shutdown debacle momentum and rounded up enough Republican support to break a filibuster. In fact, when opposition voices were invited to speak, no one stepped forward, not even rabid opponents like Ted Cruz. After a bit of amendment posturing, the bill got a full vote and passed by an impressive  64 – 32 vote. Now it’s up to House Speaker John Boehner to move it forward. He has expressed skepticism, saying that ENDA would lead to “frivolous lawsuits.” Points to Sen. Reid for this sharp rebuke:

Speaker Boehner opposes ENDA for fear of frivolous lawsuits? He led a frivolous lawsuit defending DOMA that cost taxpayers over $2 million!

Well said, Sen. Reid. Let’s hope the House can help move equality forward. President Obama has expressed his full support and encouraged Boehner to do the right thing.

On the marriage front, Illinois is on the verge of becoming the 15th state to have full equality for same-sex couples. The Illinois House finally passed a Senate bill from May. Gov. Quinn has indicated that he will sign the bill soon. When he does, another 13 million Americans will live in a place with marriage equality, moving the nation up to 37%. In Hawaii, a similar bill is moving forward and seems likely to pass by the end of the year. True equality is never piecemeal, but this is certainly movement in the right, inevitable direction.

Also in workplace protection news, Virginia Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe has said that his first act after being sworn in will be to reinstate an Executive Order banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity for state workers. How nice to see him living up to his promises already!

Also on the gubernatorial front, things heated up in Maine this week. Toxic Governor Paul “Tea, please” LePage tried to start a smear campaign against his chief competitor, Rep. Mike Michaud. Showing his rabid disregard for many of his constituents, he hinted that Michaud was gay and that this was sufficient grounds to vote against him. Merging the kindergarten playground with McCarthyism — how lovely! Michaud’s response was flawless:

Yes, I am. But why should it matter? […] I write this now merely to let my opponents and the outside interests who fund them know that I am not ashamed of who I am. And if seeing someone from my background, in my position, openly acknowledge the fact that he’s gay makes it a little bit easier for future generations to live their lives openly and without fear, all the better.

Well said, Rep. Michaud, and best of luck in next year’s election.  I guess current Gov. LePage is only interested in serving selected residents of his state.

50th Anniversary Civil Rights March: A Reflection

28 Aug

50thToday is a most auspicious day, for it marks the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights March (organized by Bayard Rustin) in Washington, DC.  This is a reflection of how far the United States has come regarding civil rights and how far we have yet to go.

Something quite remarkable happened during this 50th Anniversary celebration.  One of my heroes, Julian Bond, the chairman emeritus of the NAACP, stated quite clearly that:

We are returning amidst a newly reinvigorated fight for civil rights that has grown rapidly to include lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans.

After all, LGBT rights are civil rights.

No parallel between movements is exact. But like race, our sexuality and gender identity aren’t preferences. They are immutable, unchangeable – and the constitution protects us all against discrimination based on immutable differences.

Upon reading this quote, I must confess that Bond’s words made me weep.  I wish we had more voices like his and like that of Rep. John Lewis.  While Bond’s words and actions are representative of a great move forward, we still have so far to go around issues of racial equity and full equality for the LGBT community, not to mention the horrible inequities faced by those that share several identities, such as LGBT folks of color.

Sadly, even as we have such strong expressions of solidarity, we have too many examples of the prevalence of discrimination and racism. The story of 25 African Americans being denied service in a South Carolina restaurant just because their peaceful gathering made one person feel threatened is a tragic reminder that racism is still blantant, aggressive,  capricious, and very much alive in 2013.

Shall we also look at immigration and how the United States treats Latino/a Americans?  In 2010, Arizona passed SB1070, which demands that all brown colored people be able to supply legal documentation of their citizenship, something white folk do not have to do.  In its always progressive mode (note the irony here) Alabama adopted the same law in 2011 — yes, Alabama where 48% of all African American men are not able to cast a vote. Coincidence? I think not.

Let us now move to LGBT rights and Virginia GOP gubernatorial candidate, Ken (I can only think about gay sex) Cuccinelli.  Cuccinelli has proposed to overturn Lawrence v. Texas. Yes that’s right, he wants to make homosexuality illegal.  I do wonder if Cuccinelli and Putin have been exchanging love letters.

Call to action: my hope is that each of takes a moment to engage fellow human being in a discussion around race, gender, power, privilege, and civil rights, including civil rights for the LGBT community.  Let all of the targeted populations in the United States stand in solidarity with one another.  We who believe in Freedom cannot rest.

Archie Comics’ Big Gay Kiss

14 Aug

KellerKissArchie Comics’ first gay character continues to blaze trails for equality. Since his introduction three years ago, Kevin Keller has become one of the publisher’s most popular characters. He received his own title only months after his introduction and his appearances have been instrumental in the updating of life in idyllic Riverdale. Kevin Keller #10 continues this trend with a story that mixes Archie-style hijinks with solid social commentary.

Kevin recently began dating Devon, a young man who ran away from home when his father reacted badly to discovering he was gay. Devon is staying with Kevin’s pal (and frequent Archie love interest) Veronica Lodge. After events of the past couple of issues, Devon decides to return home to reconcile. After a chat at Pop’s diner, he and Kevin exchange a quick kiss.

A woman in the diner responds badly, accusing the couple of trying to corrupt her young daughter. Veronica rushes to their defense, and Pop himself bans the woman from the diner for her bigotry and disruption. Things get wacky (this is a comic book, after all) when Veronica accidentally posts the kiss to YouTube. The story goes viral, threatening to disrupt Devon’s plans and creating a media frenzy.

The blend of social justice and comic energy is perfect. Kevin just wants to be a normal teenager, a theme that helps make his book so charming and successful. Accepting the responsibility thrust on him by circumstance, he agrees to appear on Ellen to discuss the hyperbolic response to a simple kiss.

The issue also takes a poke at the infamous group One Million Moms, the hyperbolically named group that has mounted failed boycotts and protests of many representations of LGBT people. The group went after Archie Comics last year when the series Life With Archie, set in the future, featured Kevin’s wedding to his partner Clay. Using Ellen as the group’s clever foil, the story dismantles their homophobia and hypocrisy nicely while staying true to the characters and overall story.

The pacing is excellent and the characters are strong and believable. Writer and artist Dan Parent manages to convey important messages without being overly preachy. Besides Pop’s stand for equality, Riverdale High Mr. Wetherbee makes a bold statement about treating everyone fairly. Archie and his current African-American girlfriend reflect that their kiss at Pop’s would have created a similar stir not too long ago.

It’s an Archie Comic, so everything works out pretty well in the end. The story rings very true and the characters are strong. Devon’s interaction with his father is realistic but hopeful. Kevin and Devon continue to grow as characters and as a couple. Deftly handled and cleverly written, Kevin Keller #10 gets a full five stars for telling an important story and remaining true to the spirit of fun that readers expect from Archie.

Hero of the Week: January 25, Brendon Ayanbadejo

25 Jan
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

When a celebrity stands up for an issue, its nice to see them stick with it and not just enjoy a flash of press. Brendon Ayanbadejo, linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens, clearly has the courage of his convictions. A long-time proponent of marriage equality and LGBT civil rights, he weathered a storm last year when a local politician demanded that his team’s owners put him in check.

Ayanbadejo stood firm on the side of equality, and with the help of Minneapolis punter Chris Kluwe brought even more attention to the issue. His strong voice contributed to the success of marriage equality in Maryland at the ballot box.

Hometown success is not enough for Ayanbadejo, however. He continues to raise his voice for equality and stands in solidarity with the LGBT community; now he suddenly has a much larger platform. The Ravens are headed to the Super Bowl, and he wants to use that exposure to make the case for marriage equality nationally. Wanting to make the most of this opportunity, Ayanbadejo reached out to two other equality supporters — hip hop mogul Russell Simmons and activist Brian Ellner.

Is there anything I can do for marriage equality or anti-bullying over the next couple of weeks to harness this Super Bowl media?

What a great goal! While millions are turning their attention to this sporting event, he can convey a message of social justice. As a straight, biracial athlete, his power and voice are enormous, and he won’t squander them. Thank you, Brendon Ayanbadejo.

Hero of the Week Award: August 24, Bob Kerrey

24 Aug

Hero of the Week

In light of some of the awful excuses for humanity who are running for the Senate this year, it’s a pleasure to celebrate a quiet, determined hero who hopes to recapture his Senate seat. Bob Kerrey was Senator from Nebraska from 1989 to 2001. A centrist on many issues from a bright red state, he’s an unlikely champion for gay rights. Nonetheless, he has been a staunch supporter of LGBT equality throughout his career. He was one of only 14 Senators to vote against DOMA in 1996 and one of the few who truly risked his re-election by doing so.

Kerrey retired from politics in 2001. When Sen. Ben Nelson (who won Kerrey’s old seat) announced his retirement this year, Kerrey decided to use his statewide reputation and clout to return to the Senate and hold the seat for the Democrats. With his success far from certain, it might make sense for him to at least keep his pro-gay opinions to himself while campaigning. But he doesn’t. Not only that, he usually brings up the issue himself. Kerrey was recently profiled in the New York Times for his steadfast support.

He brings up gay marriage anyway. Not every day, but on many of them. Not in response to voters’ questions, but at the prodding of his own conscience. I got the feeling that his advisers would like him to stop — and that he knows he’d probably be wise to. But here’s the thing: he’s 68. This race to reclaim [his] Senate seat … could be his last. And if he’s going to go down, he told me, he wants to go down fighting for what’s right and for what he truly believes. That means making a pitch for gay marriage.

“What I usually say is, ‘Let me talk to you about the issue of homosexuality,’ ” Kerrey said over a drink here Saturday night. And then he indeed talks to voters about it, telling them that people are born the way they are and deserve a full complement of civil rights, including the right to marry. It’s that simple. “People who are opposed to it are going to have to be explaining to their grandkids: why, why, why was that the rationale?” he said. “We’re going to be embarrassed in 25 years.”

What delightful insight, courage, and integrity. Let’s hope this unassuming champion is rewarded with a return to the Senate and a chance to help keep moving gay rights forward. With the party platform finally conforming to his vision, this could be his year.

Will the Real Mitt Romney Please Stand Up?

1 Jul

As most of us know, this is not Romney’s first bid for the Presidency.  In fact, Romney comes from the established comfort of a wealthy political family–and his own history as a vulture capitalists–one of the benefits of being from the 1%.  His father ran American Motors and was Governor of Michigan. What I would like to establish here today is Mitt Romney’s credibility, or lack thereof.

This footage of the debate between the late Senator Kennedy and Mitt Romney in 1994 speaks volumes about Romney’s character. I don’t know if he is just a liar, a hypocrite, or both.  Sadly, Romney has no integrity and demonstrates a complete lack of character as we see him flip-flopping on issues of abortion, which he said in 1994 should be kept safe and legal, apparently he now takes a right wing extremist view and would prefer that he make decisions for women.  On Gay Rights, he then said he’d be better than Kennedy. What a total hypocrite and LIAR–he has signed a pledge against the LGBTQ community.

What  is crystal clear is that Romney will do or say anything to get the Presidency, regardless of integrity or leadership skills.  His monstrous monumental maniacal ego rules over all, as one can see in this video.

Hero of the Week Award: February 24, Karen Golinski

24 Feb

Hero of the Week

In case after case, the forces of inequality are losing ground as courts make fair decisions. This week we are pleased to present the HWA to a woman who stood up for her rights and made progress for all of us. Karen Golinski  has worked for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for two decades. When California law allowed her and her partner, Amy Cunninghis, to marry, they joyfully did so. Since she had a legal spouse under California law, Golinski sought spousal insurance coverage from her employer. Because of the nefarious “Defense of Marriage” Act (DOMA), the federal court denied her claim (talk about lack of civil rights).

Karen Golinski did not give up. She followed each step in the tortuous path to receive the legitimate benefits, culminating with a lawsuit. This week, U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White ruled that by creating an unequal class of married persons, DOMA violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. Fighting this kind of legal battle is demanding, even when you know you are right. The LGBT community and everyone interested in equal rights for all owe Ms. Golinski and Ms. Cunninghis a debt of gratitude for standing up for their rights.

Honorable mention in this case goes to the couple’s superior legal team and to Judge White. The Judge presented a strong decision based on numerous cases in recent years that declares clearly that centuries of oppression are not legal grounds for discrimination. While the forces of bigotry will certainly appeal this decision, the reasoning is sound and in the long term equality will prevail. For a detailed legal analysis, visit the legal scholar at Towelroad.

%d bloggers like this: