Tag Archives: Prop 8

Social Workers Helping the Mormon Church to Embrace the LGBT Community

15 Sep
Friend or Foe ?

Friend or Foe ?

My dear friend and LGBTQ ally, Jennifer Carey inspired me to write this blog article and gave me permission to share a part of her narrative.  Jennifer grew up in the Mormon church and she has witnessed first hand:

I have witnessed myself the public and familial shaming and ostracizing of gay children, siblings, friends.

I have been friends with Jennifer for four years now and she is an amazing and humble ally for the LGBTQ community. As Jennifer pointed out to me, “One of the great internal debates of the church right now is its attitude towards homosexuals.”

Helping the Mormon Church look at and reflect upon its attitude toward the LGBTQ community is Dr. Caitlin Ryan, a medical social worker and self-identified lesbian. Ryan recalls her disappointment and despair with the passage of Prop 8 as she witnessed how the Mormon Church revealed itself as the wealthy, homophobic political and machine it is.  The Mormon Church wielded so much political power and economic power that it had a huge impact on the passing of Prop 8.

Dr. Ryan connected with Dr. Robert Rees, a Mormon and a religion professor, to address the homophobia within the church. I would say this is a lot to unpack, because it means also unpacking hundreds of years of established misogyny. Now in 2014, six years after Prop 8, Rees is working with Mormon families at ways to embrace LGBTQ family members.  Rees is working with Ryan’s Family Acceptance Project. Sadly, too many Mormons found themselves in the untenable position of feeling that they have to either reject their family members or reject their faith.

While I am not a person of “faith,” I do realize that the LGBTQ community needs the support of religious communities, especially of those religions that have done great harm to the LGBTQ community.  The Public Religions Research Institute found that the Mormon Church was second only to the Catholic Church in its hostility towards the LGBTQ community.

We clearly have a long way to go regarding addressing homophobia, which is enixtricably tied to misogyny.  I am hopeful that the work of Dr. Ryan and Dr. Rees will help move conversations that create more space for different people.  If you know of any LGBTQ person that is expressing suicidal thoughts or feelings please contact the Trevor Project.

Bigot of the Week Award: March 29, Paul Clement and Charles Cooper

29 Mar
Bigots of the Week

Bigots of the Week

As the country focused its attention on the Supreme Court and its two hearings on marriage equality this week, two men stood before the Court and easily walked away with Bigot of the Week Award. Attorneys Paul Clement and Charles Cooper go down in legal history for trying to argue that justice is served through discrimination, bigotry, and denying basic rights to a whole group of citizens–what a legacy to leave.

On a constitutional level, the cases are simple and clear. The Proposition 8 case, argued by Cooper, is an attempt to defend California’s notorious measure banning marriage equality for LGBT citizens. The DOMA case, argued by Clement on behalf of the Republicans in the U.S. House, tries to defend blocking over 1100 rights and privileges to already married citizens just because they are same-sex couples. Both cases are based on bigotry and nothing more. How tragic that these two straight white men could stand up and defend this blatant discrimination without shame.  Of course, I always wonder about people how are so focused on gay folk and consume so much energy on LGBT issues–what a very large closet to accommodate these people.

We won’t know for a couple of months exactly how the justices will rule on these cases. What we do know is that the arguments used by Clement and Cooper were old, tired, and transparently vile. Even the justices who seemed reluctant to move toward full national equality were skeptical of the shallow canards put forth by these hypocritical bigots. They used procreation, history, and (believe it or not) a level playing field as arguments to prop up their sad hate. What they could not do, when pressed, is say why any of their arguments served a state interest or showed why discrimination was merited.

One way or another, with or without the Court, the tide is turning. Public opinion is solidly on the side of equality, shifting over 20 points in just a decade. Over 80% of people under 30 support equality. These tired old white guys can trot out their hate all they like. All they’ll win in the long run is this week’s BWA, which they richly deserve.

Finally, I’m also exceedingly tired of hearing the phrase, “Gay Marriage!”  Might I please encourage folks to use Marriage Equality.  I don’t have a “Gay Marriage,” just as I don’t leave my job and get in my Gay car and go to my Gay house and then fix my Gay dinner.  I just have a marriage–you know, when two people love each other and decide to grow old with each other.

Dishonorable mention comes thanks to my friend Jennifer Carey. Rep. Don Young (R – AK) was waxing nostalgic about agriculture when he uttered the following gem:

My father used to own a ranch. We used to hire 50 to 60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes, you know. It takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It’s all done by machine.

All I can say to this horrible bigot is that he’s lucky Clement and Cooper were around to steal his award…

Hero of the Week Award: March 1, Phi Alpha Tau Fraternity at Emerson College

1 Mar
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

Thanks to my friend Jennifer Carey for pointing me to this week’s heartwarming HWA. The brothers of the Phi Alpha Tau fraternity at Emerson College have demonstrated compassion, inclusion, and activism in a true call for social justice.

Donnie Collins is a new pledge to the fraternity. He is transgender, born biologically female. (Before attending Emerson, he went to an all-girls boarding school…) Unable to use his family’s insurance to cover hormone therapy, he has covered all the costs out-of-pocket. Sadly, Emerson’s student insurance is also trans-unfriendly, as most insurers are. Collins is also interested in beginning transition surgery, which is cost-prohibitive.

Enter his fraternity. It’s impressive enough that they were smart and open-minded enough to embrace Donnie, given the gross discrimination that the trans community faces. On top of this, they started an online campaign to raise money for Collins’ surgery. They want to use this opportunity to educate the public on the health care dilemmas faced by men like Donnie Collins. Three cheers for Phi Alpha Tau!

Honorable mention goes to all the groups and individuals who have filed amicus briefs in the two marriage equality cases rising before the Supreme Court. The deadline was yesterday, and dozens of these friend-of-the-court documents have been filed in favor of overturning DOMA and California’s Prop 8. The White House has filed briefs in both cases; dozens of companies have filed a shared brief — ironically taking advantage of Citizens United language — to demonstrate the toll on business morale and effectiveness that discrimination causes. Many politicians and public figures from both major parties have also joined the chorus. Amicus briefs seldom turn the tide, but they do contribute to the Court’s decision making. Let’s hope all this effort helps ensure justice for all.

Black History Month 2013: Wanda Sykes

8 Feb

Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to comedian and social justice activist Wanda Sykes.  TSM readers might remember Wanda being celebrated for her standing up to the homophobic bigot Tracy Morgan. Always outspoken, with a sharp mind and a sharp tongue, Sykes has been voted one of the funniest people in America.

She was born to a banker and an Army colonel in the Washington, DC area. She graduated from Hampton University with a degree in marketing and worked for five years at the National Security Agency. Not fully satisfied with the work, she began doing standup comedy on the side in 1987. She left the NSA and began acting and performing full time in 1992.

Sykes’ family history was researched by the PBS genealogy program Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr. Her ancestry was traced back to a 1683 court case involving her paternal ninth great-grandmother Elizabeth Banks, a free white woman and indentured servant, who gave birth to a biracial child fathered by a slave, who inherited her mother’s free status. According to historian Ira Berlin, a specialist in the history of American slavery, the Sykes family history is “… the only such case that I know of in which it is possible to trace a black family rooted in freedom from the late 17th century to the present.”

Besides her wonderful standup performances, Sykes has been on many TV shows and in several movies. I particularly like her performance as Jane Fonda’s personal assistant in Monster-In-Law–Sykes steals the movie, “Y’all better get that little girl out of there.” After an unsuccessful marriage to record producer Dave Hall in the 90s, Sykes quietly acknowledged that she was a lesbian. She came out publicly in 2008 during the battle against Proposition 8. She and her wife, Alex, were married one month before that odious measure passed.

She’s an outspoken advocate for gay rights and marriage equality and calls out injustice wherever she sees it. As an outspoken African American woman and out lesbian, she is a powerful personal symbol of the intersections of oppression and embraces that role. We love our Wanda, who proves that social justice can be funny and smart at the same time.

From Gay Bashing to Child Pornography: Hypocrisy, Thy Name is Lisa Biron

16 Jan

Lisa-BironLisa Biron, a far-right, hyper-christian, anti-gay lawyer, was just convicted on eight charges related to child pornography. You read that correctly.

With Larry Craig’s wide stance, Mark Foley’s sexting with underage pages, and Family Research Council founder George Reker’s hiring a gay rentboy to “lift his luggage,” (hehehe) finding hypocrisy in the professional anti-gay crowd isn’t that surprising. The story of Lisa Biron, however, is one of the most vile  and just about made me spit up!

Biron is an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom. (Don’t you just love these vaguely patriotic names that mean nothing?) Formerly known as the Alliance Defense Fund, the ADF was created in 1994 by the likes of Donald Wildmon and the charm free, full of hate James Dobson to

Defend the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training, funding, and litigation.

The “truth” they want to defend is the narrow version they see in their bibles. The ADF is rabidly anti-gay and has pursued cases against gay rights around the country, including defending Prop 8 in California. They also represent KKKristians who feel that any positive representation of the LGBT community abridges their right to have state support for their religious hatred. (So much for the “Freedom” part…) Biron has been one of their premiere attorneys, litigating many cases and fighting for “family values” all over the nation.

Apparently her family values involve driving a 14-year-old girl to Canada to make a child porn film with a Canadian youth, sexually exploiting the girl in making videos of her with another man, and making a cellphone video of herself engaged in sexual activity with the girl. Some details have not been released, but the AP has reported that the girl was Biron’s own daughter. How’s THAT for family values?

The jury in Manchester, NH deliberated for less than an hour before handing down charges on eight federal indictments including child sexual exploitation, transporting a child across state lines to produce child pornography and possession of child pornography. The ADF has scrubbed every reference to their former star from their Facebook page and their website.

It hardly matters. Lisa Biron is the kind of dirty that never washes clean. And she’s the face of “family values” law. We can only hope that her daughter will triumph over the abuse of her mother and that exposing this type of hate and hypocrisy will further the cause of social justice and equality for the LGBT community.

Birth Certificates and Tax Returns…

24 Jul

Starring Mitt Romney as the Mad Hatter.

I am rather bemused at the Mitt (I’m a liar, Romney) and his attack on Democrats asking for an explanation of his tax returns.  The hypocrisy is palpable.  There are still Tea Baggers that are wanting a full investigation of President Obama’s birth certificate.

The whole birth certificate debacle, rooted in racism, is such a horrible mar on our country’s history and leaves me embarrassed for those bigoted Tea Baggers that started this bitter brew of tea.  Romney, who seems to currently be playing The Mad Hatter hosting the Tea Party, is hiding his tax returns and thus creating quite the mystery as to the reason for refusing disclosure and transparency, leaving Americans to wonder why.

Could it be that Americans will discover even more incriminating information about Romney’s Bain Capital? Might we discover that Romney has made significant donations to overturn Roe v. Wade?  Might it be something as nefarious as we will learn that Romney donated millions of dollars to Prop Hate  in California, thus discriminating against the LGBTQ community?

Ultimately, I’m exceedingly sad that many Americans are not able to see through the very shallow, vapid, and narcissistic Romney, who has made it clear he wants to be President just to satisfy his enormous ego and is willing to whore himself out at all cost to reach his goal–not the qualities of a world leader.  Unlike President Obama who has already established himself as a world leader who leads with integrity and a sense of compassion for the marginalized and underserved. President Obama’s endorsement of marriage equality demonstrates the strength of his character and his dedication to civil rights! The Romneybot’s shallow pandering, on the other hand, should leave voters wondering when they’ll wind up being the next thing strapped to the top of his car…

Trouble in Paradise

7 Jul

By TSM Contributor James Queale

Now that summer is in full swing, it is time for a vacation. Since my partner and I are not wealthy, it is more of a local getaway, but it will still be a good time. Of course for any vacation involving a gay couple, you want to find an LGBT friendly zone (at least that is what I would prefer). Since Pennsylvania does not have statewide LGBT protections – and it will stay that way as long as Gov. Tom Corbett is in office — we had to research safe areas. The initial place that my partner wanted to go because he used to do regional manager work there was Wilkes-Barre, but it is one of the three (out of 15) major Pennsylvania cities without protections. So, we moved a bit further across the map to Scranton. Check!

Next we looked up hotel chains that are LGBT friendly and to our surprise majority of them are LGBT friendly. Check!

We barely make it to the movies because the small town we live in only has a single theater facility which rarely has a movie we really want to see and seems to have an unhealthy number of loud teenagers. One of the local theaters we found on Google maps was Cinemark, which had my gay-senses tingling. I did a little research and the CEO of Cinemark gave thousands of dollars to Yes on 8 campaign, California’s anti-marriage-equality measure. Thankfully we found another theater a little further away that does not have an anti-gay history. Check!

Overall I think this will be a fun couple of days to enjoy with my lovely partner Tom. It is sad that we have to be vigilant about where we go, but thankfully more and more companies and States are siding with equality.

P.S. – For the links in this story I just did a bit of online searching. There are also a handful of useful tools you can use:

  • The Human Rights Campaign has a shopping guide that rate companies by LGBT friendliness
  • Purple Roofs operates a website that certifies LGBT-owned and –friendly hotels and inns
  • Going out of state? Find out what protections (if any) are offered by the laws of your destination.

Enjoy the rest of your summer and travel safely!

Celebrating LGBTQ History Month: June 14, Helen Zia

14 Jun

Today we honor and celebrate Chinese American journalist, author, activist, and feminist Helen Zia. She was born in 1952 in New Jersey to first generation immigrants from Shanghai. She was a member of Princeton’s first graduating class of women in the 70s. As a student, Zia was among the founders of the Asian American Students Association. She was also a vocal anti-war activist and developed a firm belief in and strong voice for feminism.

After a brief flirtation with medical school, Zia moved to Detroit, where she worked as a construction laborer and autoworker. She began volunteering as a community organizer, during which time she discovered her life’s work as a journalist and writer. She is former Executive Editor of Ms. Magazine. Her articles, essays and reviews have appeared in numerous publications, books and anthologies. Her writing has received numerous journalism awards; her investigation of date rape at the University of Michigan led to campus demonstrations and an overhaul of its policies, while her research on women who join neo-Nazi and white supremacist organizations provoked new thinking on the relationship between race and gender violence in hate crimes.

Zia remained closeted during much of her early career. She came out during a live C-SPAN broadcast in the early 90s. She currently resides in the Bay Area with her wife, Lia Shigemura, whom she married in 2004 and again in 2008. Zia testified for the plaintiffs at the trial on the constitutionality of California Proposition 8. The defense moved to exclude her testimony on grounds that her individual experience was irrelevant, but Judge Vaughn Walker denied the motion. Zia spoke at the trial of discovering she was a lesbian at age six, of being confronted by coworkers about her sexuality in the 1970s, and of feeling great joy upon getting married in 2004. She also discussed how Proposition 8 had degraded her, and had led to her being the subject of gross insults.

For more on this accomplished woman’s life and sharp insights, listen to this wonderful interview with Democracy Now.

The State of PropH8 Shows Some Love

16 Jul

Howard Zinn Approach to History

Yes, California, the state where Prop 8 passed, thanks to lots of hate money from the Catholics and the Mormons, will be the first state to to require that public school textbooks include the accomplishments of gay, lesbian, and transgender Americans.  While I’m sure there will be homophobic bigots who will say this is just part of the “Gay Agenda,” I am elated to know that California will soon be presenting a far more accurate picture of American history. The late Howard Zinn, a strong LGBT ally, would be quite happy.

Speaking of LGBT allies, can I say how happy I was to see that TSM regular, and fierce LGBT ally, Jen Lockett posted this on her blog. When we finally do have full equality, it will be in part due to the courageous support of our heterosexual allies like Jennifer.  Her blog is mostly an academic/historical blog, and I am grateful that she gave this story due coverage.  I think you will enjoy her blog if you have not already checked it out.

More on courageous LGBT allies: Gov. Jerry Brown, who signed the mandate into law, said:

History should be honest…This bill revises existing laws that prohibit discrimination in education and ensures that the important contributions of Americans from all backgrounds and walks of life are included in our history books. It represents an important step forward for our state.

I would argue that it does more than just make a move forward for civil rights in the state of California, it sets a precedent for teaching accurate history, regardless of how one feels about the topic. Click here to see the full article and video.

And Why Aren’t They Losing Their Tax Exempt Status?

7 May

All Gussied Up to Prevent Marriage Equality

Oh you Malicious Madcap Mormons.  Some of you may have heard that the homophobic bigot Peter Vidmar has resigned Friday from the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC).  Vidmar is reported to have resigned because of the media attention he was getting around his anti-gay involvement.  Vidmar, a Mormon, made a $2,000 donation for the successful 2008 Prop 8 (Prop Hate) ballot initiative in California defining marriage as between a man and a woman.  Vidmar also participated in several demonstrations supporting Prop Hate, saying:

It’s good for our society to have a traditional definition of marriage.

And where did this enlightened Vidmar receive instruction on how to become a bigot?  Yes, that fun-loving Mormon Church.  Vidmar reports:

The Church wanted to take a stand on the issue, and they invited their members to take a stand, I chose to be involved.

Apparently the USOC had no problem with Vidmar holding his own personal beliefs but he did cross a line when he became an activist against marriage equality.

The question I have is when do churches, such as the Mormon Church that spent over $200,000 dollars on Prop 8 lose their tax exempt status and just finally become the political activist group they are?  The Catholic Church also needs to lose their tax exempt status, as they too were big financial backers of Prop 8 and lest we forget the Knights of Columbus, in their beautiful frocks, and their $1 million dollar donation to prevent marriage equality. With all of that money going to prevent marriage equality, I can only assume that a marriage between a man and a woman must be exceedingly fragile. Click here to read the full story on the bigot Vidmar.

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