Tag Archives: humanity

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.

Celebrating Harry Belafonte

2 Aug

BelafonteGiven the recent events involving one of my personal heroes, Harry Belafonte, and Jay Z (a staunch supporter of marriage equality), I thought this would be an appropriate time to celebrate a social justice hero.  Belafonte is known world wide for his entertainment career, but I have always had a much greater appreciation for his social activism.  Belafonte has used his celebrity to help and support Dr. Martin Luther King.  In fact, it was Belafonte who bailed King out of the now famous Birmingham Jail.  He also financed the Freedom Rides, and helped our Bayard Rustin organize the March on Washington.

Belafonte’s dedication to human rights is not restricted to the borders of the United States, although it is worth noting that Belafonte was one of a handful of people who vocally opposed the policies of the George W. Bush administration. This was during the Great Silence when practically NO ONE dared to question the administration for fear of being called unpatriotic.  One of Belafonte’s most famous admonitions addressed Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice and their implication in the violation of human rights under Bush II:

There is an old saying, in the days of slavery. There were those slaves who lived on the plantation, and there were those slaves who lived in the house. You got the privilege of living in the house if you served the master, do exactly the way the master intended to have you serve him. That gave you privilege. Colin Powell is committed to come into the house of the master, as long as he would serve the master, according to the master’s purpose. And when Colin Powell dares to suggest something other than what the master wants to hear, he will be turned back out to pasture. And you don’t hear much from those who live in the pasture.

Belafonte has fought against the neo-colonization of countries in Africa.  He has helped the fight against HIV and AIDS in South Africa.  Belafonte has dedicated his life to human rights and continues to interrupt oppression around the world.  He also expects all people to take action and stand in solidarity with all targeted populations. He was proud to serve as one of the Grand Marshalls of the New York City Pride Parade this year in recognition of his support of LGBT rights and marriage equality.

While I do not wish to get into the particulars around what Belafonte said and how Jay Z responded, I would like and hope that these two men can come together and have a conversation away from the public, as Belafonte has suggested. They both make good points — progress requires direct action and public figures with whom marginalized youth can identify.

Belafonte is not only a treasure for social justice but he holds institutional and systemic memory.  Jay Z is young and has enormous power and influence.  Imagine how powerful these two voices could be if united and how many of us would support them both to help celebrate counter narratives that challenge the dominant culture. If we want the world to change for the better, we need to look towards the solidarity of targeted populations coming together in numbers too big to be ignored.

Superman and Nostalgia

10 Jul
Message of Hope or Greed?

Message of Hope or Greed?

Last night, my husband and I went to the movies, something very rare indeed, but the cinema not far from us has a deal of $6 tickets on Tuesdays — great deal.  We decided to see Man of Steel, primarily because we both loved the Christopher Reeve movie Superman (1978) and we both liked Henry Cavill in Stardust.

Sadly, I was exceedingly disappointed. Cavill does a good job, as does Amy Adams as Lois Lane, but the whole movie lacked a sense of humanity. It missed the opportunity to demonstrate how we are all called upon to work for the greater good — a conversation that seems to be in desperate need of life support in the 21st Century.

Man of Steel made me quite nostalgic for the Superman movie with Christopher Reeve. The 1978 version presents a picture of humanity and develops characters that I feel invested in and want to watch. The movie also had a richness of pathos and wit.  Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor was nothing less than brilliant, and Ned Beatty just adds to that brilliance. I would also argue that the 1978 version is very family friendly — there is not a lot of gratuitous violence. Finally, I’m just not convinced that anyone but our Terrence Stamp (Bernadette from Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) can play General Zod.

Henry Cavill does a good job of playing Superman and he is certainly easy on the eyes, but his character lacks the humanity that Superman had with Christopher Reeve. Amy Adams starts off as a wonderfully strong and independent woman, but the character loses all credibility as a strong independent woman with the awful awful line: “What if I have to tinkle?”  Russell Crowe’s portrayal of Jor-El is a bit over the top and certainly lacks all of the humanity that Marlon Brando delivered. Alas, I think the worst crime of this movie was the 35 minutes of non-stop gratuitous violence that does nothing to move the story along, nor does it make us feel more invested in any of the characters.  Rather than watching a movie about the plight and hope for humanity, I felt as though I was watching a Jerry Bruckheimer movie.

When I watch the 1978 version of Superman, I leave the movie inspired and hopeful that humans are capable of a transformative experience and that we are dedicated to the greater good for the greater cause.  I left Man of Steel feeling grateful I only paid $10 for my husband and me to see an enormous amount of violence and a rather nasty nationalistic, almost jingoistic message of patriotism.

A Big Boy Night: Downton Abbey

7 Jan

DowntonAbbeyAs most TSM followers know, my husband and I are somewhat nerdy and don’t watch the television much, save for the Modern Family and Chopped.  Honestly, we are usually in bed by no later than 9:00 pm, but are up by 4:00 am.  I usually like to roll my hair in my tomato cans by 8:00 and be ready for bed by 9:00 after my dental hygiene routine, which is part of the Gay Agenda. With that being said, we have become addicted to the PBS soap opera that is Downton Abbey.  So you can imagine what a “Big Boy” night it was when we had to stay up past 9:00 to watch the premiere of Downton Abbey Season III.

We actually used the machine on the tv to tape Downton Abbey, but we already watched the special feature with our Angela Lansbury, who looks absolutely stunning at 87!  While it is our Dame Maggie Smith, the Dowager Countess, who is a primary reason we are avid fans of the show, albeit I actually know a real life Dowager Countess, we are addicted to the story line.

Our biggest disappointment in Downton Abbey is the unacceptable homophobia of writer Julian Fellowes!  In his screenplay for Gosford Park, Fellowes depicts the gay characters played by Bob Balaban and Ryan Phillippe as hedonistic self-serving loathsome people.  Sadly, he has now done his worst in portraying the only gay character in Downton Abbey, Thomas, as a sociopath.  What is that about?  Has our Fellowes not ever met any good gay folk?  Is our Fellowes struggling with some demons of his own?  I’m afraid at this point, there are no redeemable traits in our Thomas, so we are left to further vilify gay folk and bear witness to the inexcusable homophobia of Fellowes.

Both Fellowes and Rob James-Collier (who plays Thomas) have promised a more complex and sympathetic portrait of the valet in Season III. We shall see. In the meantime, the season began on a high note, with the welcome addition of Shirley MacLaine.  The multiple storylines and rich characters continue to weave a tapestry of intrigue that showcases class and privilege in rapidly changing times. It’s also — as good television ought to be — great fun wrapped in touching humanity. We can’t wait to see what the rest of the season has in store!

Number 4 Hero of the Year 2012: President Barack Obama

28 Dec
Number 4 Hero of 2012

Number 4 Hero of 2012

It’s been a challenging year for President Obama. The hijinks of the obstructionist Republican leadership made even his best efforts challenging. Facing reelection with a still fragile economy, he also had to deal with steady criticism from the left. While there may be more he could have done, he still accomplished a great deal in spite of large obstacles. He also continued to rebuild the human face of the Presidency — mugging with Olympic athlete McKayla Maroney, hugging victims of hurricane Sandy and surviving family members in Newtown, and letting a small boy rub his head in the Oval Office.

What stands out most clearly, however, is his support of marriage equality. President Obama has worked hard for equality — dismantling Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, refusing to defend DOMA, extending same-sex benefits to federal employees — but nothing resonated like his interview in May. Never before had a President stated clearly that all loving couples deserve to marry. His words helped shift public opinion, with numerous polls showing a new, consistent majority for equality. His encouragement had a huge impact on the African-American community, arguably making the difference in marriage equality passing in Maryland. His courage and clarity, in a year where silence might have seemed a safer option until after the election, is notable and speaks to his character and leadership.

Now that he has a second clear mandate to lead real change in his second term, let’s hope for more of this. Not just for the LGBT community, either, but pushing back against the war on women and taking a strong stand against poverty and inequity. It’s been a good, if challenging, four years. Can the next four be even better? Yes, they can.

Because TSM was very fortunate to receive so many lovely nominations for Hero of the Year Award, I had to list many splendid honorable mentions. Honorable mention goes to all the grass-roots activists in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington who helped those states achieve historic victories for LGBT equality. Learning from mistakes of the past, they crafted clear, effective messages, raised funds $5 at a time, and pushed back the forces of bigotry to great effect.

Honorable mention also goes to two brave women. Colonel Grethe Cammermeyer was discharged from the military for being honest about her sexual orientation in 1992. She stood up for LGBT equality and fought discrimination and DADT for years. In the space of a year she saw that equality become a reality and was one of the first to marry her same-sex partner in Washington state when marriage equality became a reality there. Brigadier General Tammy Smith included her wife in the ceremony where she accepted her new rank, making her the first openly serving LGBT general in U.S. history.

Finally a sad farewell and honorable mention to AIDS activist Spencer Cox. He was instrumental in moving forward clinical trials of HIV fighting medicines in the 1990s, proposing protocols and helping shred bureaucracy to accelerate the availability of life-saving drugs. He died this month at the young age of 44.  Let us hope we get to Zero soon–zero new infections and zero AIDS related deaths.

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