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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Sex and Civilization: The Body as Battleground

By Jay Michaelson -

“Militant homosexuality is fundamentally opposed to religion, family, and anything that presupposes a natural moral order, a transcendent God, or something else higher than ourselves.”—Steven A. Schwalm, Family Research Council

Today, we often are told that the hysterical ravings of the New Christian Right (NCR) are a pathological homophobia, or perhaps a displaced and sublimated yearning for homoeroticism. Doubtless both play a role, but I want to suggest that homosexuality does threaten civilization, when viewed from a certain perspective, and that it has been seen this way since bicblical times. Let’s take a look.
Power and oppression begin on our bodies. Ever since the Hebrew Bible, the human body has been the site of boundary-drawing, nation-defining, and, most importantly, the control of desire. Abraham’s mutilation of his and his son’s penises physically mark his family as distinct from all others; an act which not coincidentally curtails pleasure and marks the subservience of man to divine (or human) authority. We today are Abraham’s heirs, and re-enactors, of countless acts of circumscription. Today, as 2500 years ago, our own bodies are the instruments of authority, power, and control. Religious and political institutions of authority, usually backed up by violence, inscribe themselves on our genitals, our hairstyles, the ways in which we express our sexuality. We learn how to obey by learning how to curb our appetites in the name of an abstract good, defined and policed by authority. This is why gender and sexuality remain such contentious sites of religious and political debate today. Sexuality is where law is engendered, and where patriarchy begins.
Consider the endless regulations in Leviticus governing skin diseases, menstrual and seminal emissions, and sexual activity. Like Abraham’s knife, these rules set apart the Israelite from the Canaanite—both of which, as biblical scholar Ken Stone has pointed out, are identities constructed by literary discourse, not ethnicity, history, or even religion. Although they were geographically, familially, and culturally intermingled with “Canaanites,” the “Israelites” distinguished themselves by the very act of distinguishing. The Israelites were the boundary-drawers, distinguishing pure from impure, male from female, Israelite from foreign. In some cultures, the liminal was regarded as the sacred; in the incipient Israelite religion, it became terrifying. Boundary-crossing shifted from shamanic transcendence to idolatrous transgression.
In the Hebrew Bible, men inverted nature by positing that women came out of men rather than the biological truth of the reverse. They set up boundaries around blood and semen which rendered women tameh (usually translated as “impure”) during their menstrual cycles, regulated sexual activity even between heterosexually married couples, and encoded in ethical monotheism the likely much older taboos around blood and ritual cleanliness. And in the New Testament, Paul posits a new ‘nature’ in which women are subservient to men, the body is subservient to the “spirit,” and what is physin (natural) is that which curbs what we today might call “nature” in the name of spiritual discipline. Yes, Paul replaces physical circumcision with spiritual, but in doing so he creates a far more insidious apparatus of control. This is a nature of anti-nature.
Ironic, then, that many of today’s anti-gay voices call homosexuality “unnatural” in a pseudo-scientific sense. They are wrong; Paul is right. Homosexuality is entirely too natural, found in over 600 animal species. Sexuality in general, we have learned, is not merely a means of reproduction for advanced mammals but a way to establish emotional bonds and experience pleasure (which theists believe God created, after all). Patriarchy, power, and domination are natural in the Pauline sense, but unnatural in the scientific one. Thus the everpresent anxiety that these “natural” forms are about to disintegrate. As Timothy Kandler Beal put it (Religion and its Monsters, pp. 89-90):
[B]iblical tradition is fraught with tensions that go to the very core of its conceptions of the world and its ruler God. On the one hand, it is confident in the stable, reasonable order of the cosmos, confident in our ability to articulate that order and confident in God as founder and guarantor of that order; on the other hand, it is haunted by monstrous forms of profound disjunction and disorder, shadowy revelations on the edge between creation and uncreation, cosmos and chaos, and haunted by the lurking anxiety that God, like the world God created, is fraught with the same tensions.
This is as much true today as 2,500 years ago. Now, NCR voices fret that “untrammeled homosexuality can destroy a social system,” and have railed even against anti-bullying campaigns. And so they should! For them, the erasure of traditional male/female boundaries (forgetting, for a moment, women in political power like Sarah Palin and stay-at-home dads) does indeed threaten the boundaries upon which their archaic civilization is built. Sissy boys and butch women are more than merely offensive to Ann Coulter’s desire for well-endowed macho men like George W. Bush; “San Francisco Values” threaten the front lines of the regulation of human desire, and the subservience to authority that conservatism demands. No wonder one Orthodox rabbi recently said that it would be a mitzvah for gay kids to kill themselves.
But if liberated sexuality is world-destroying from the mythic, fundamentalist point of view, it is world-creating from a pluralistic one. Liberated sexuality is the first step toward liberated consciousness, for if we remove the yoke of oppression from our genitals, literally and figuratively, and we lighten it from our backs. Remove the church’s and the state’s sexual fascism, and its other means of control become susceptible to questioning as well. The chaos they predicted simply does not arise; we gain freedom, not terror—love, not venality. The relaxation from dichotomization to inclusion, boundary-patrol to pluralism, is thus an enactment of the messianic impulse itself.
Ken Wilber wrote that “every boundary line… is a battle line.” As soon as we begin to divide, we begin to conquer. Dichotomies (in-group/out-group, male/female, saved/doomed, us/them, white/black) inevitably lead to oppression. There is no ‘separate but equal.’ If we are to liberate ourselves from ideologies of hate, marginalization, and oppression, we must begin on our very bodies.


Bishop Among Those “Outed” by Ugandan Tabloid

By Jocelyn Edwards -

Under the headline “Hang Them,” on the front cover of the Ugandan tabloid notorious for outing gays and lesbians, sat a picture of heterosexual Anglican Bishop Christopher Senyonjo. His inclusion was only the latest example of the persecution that the bishop has faced for speaking out on behalf of the country’s embattled homosexual community.
The Ugandan Rolling Stone (no affiliation to the US publication), which has outed almost 30 gays and lesbians over two of its issues, epitomizes the heightened discrimination that gays and lesbians and their allies have faced following the introduction of legislation that would, among other things, implement the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality.” After an outcry from Western donors, the Ugandan president backed away from the bill and it stalled in committee. In the year since the bill was introduced, however, gays and lesbians have still faced violence, eviction, and job loss.
Though he is heterosexual and married with children, the 78-year-old wasn’t surprised by his inclusion in the tabloid. Senyonjo, who has a kind, grandfatherly manner, has experienced similar treatment since he first started counseling gays and lesbians; he is one of the few members of the clergy in Uganda who does so. “I’m somehow used to this kind of talk and harassment,” he said, referring to looks and comments when he’s out in public, prayers for him to change his mind, and once, a slap from a stranger in the street. “These are the sort of things I expect,” he said.
In 2001 when the Church of Uganda discovered that Bishop Senyonjo was working with gays and lesbians, he was expelled and stripped of his pension. Local papers accused him of being motivated by money from American gay groups, being gay himself, and “recruiting” children into homosexuality and threats of mob justice got so bad that the bishop was forced to stay in the U.S. for six months.
Despite the persecution, he has continued to support Ugandan gays and lesbians, counseling those who come to him from a tiny office in a Kampala suburb. “I feel I have to do my work whatever is said by people against me,” he said. “My conviction is that I have to bring good news to people who are marginalized.”
In a nation where as many as 95% of citizens oppose the legalization of homosexuality, many see his efforts differently. The paper’s publisher, Giles Muhame, explains the bishop’s inclusion by calling him a “gay sympathizer,” adding that, “by protecting people who practice an activity which is outlawed, he is condoning evil.”
A Kampala court has granted an injunction temporarily banning the tabloid from outing gays and lesbians until November 23 when a final decision will be made. Muhame said his newspaper will continue to print articles denouncing homosexuality and he is hopeful that the judge’s final ruling will allow the paper to continue outing gays because, he says, “we have about 70 [more] pictures that we want to publish.
But Muhame contends that his newspaper is not responsible for the attacks on those gays and lesbians outed in his pages. “Whatever happens is as a result of their own misdeeds. It is their own behaviour that is causing the attacks.”
Stosh M. is one such victim. Just days after her name and picture were published, Stosh was out buying cigarettes when a crowd of 10 or 12 neighbors, including some former friends, stood outside the shop and jeered. After the first stone was thrown Stosh ran for home. “I did not look back. Stones were going by me and they were saying, ‘This one is a faggot.’” Stosh stayed hidden in her house after that, though she has since gone into hiding in another part of the city. “I couldn’t stay in that place. I wasn’t feeling safe at all anymore.”
Sitting at a table in a dark corner of a local bar, Stosh asks for a cigarette. She’s smoking more these days, she says, and her longtime partner tells her she’s been talking in her sleep “about the stones.”
Frank Mugisha, of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), notes that the gays and lesbians targeted by Rolling Stone aren’t the only homosexuals to be harassed in the past year. SMUG has documented 20 cases of gays attacked and 17 arrested in the year since the anti-gay legislation was proposed, though Mugisha suspects that the actual numbers may be much higher.
Sitting in his office in an unmarked house in a Kampala suburb, Mugisha explains that the debate over the proposed law has increased the profile of gays and lesbians and polarized opinion on homosexuality even further. “Everybody is thinking, ‘What can I do for or against homosexuality in Uganda?’ Some people are saying, ‘What can I do to support this minority group?’ and some people are saying ‘What can I do to stop these monsters?’”
In many instances the persecutors were directly motivated by the impending bill. Mugisha says that despite the fact that it is not law, people still cite it as a justification for discrimination:
In two rural areas [where gays were arrested] I asked the people, ‘Why did you choose to give these people to the authorities after living with them for a very long time?’ They told me it was because Uganda has come up with a law that you are supposed to arrest homosexuals. These are people who have grown up in the same place and lived in the same place for over 15 years and been known as homosexuals and have never been harassed; but when the bill was introduced, they were harassed.
Since the initial outing there’s been renewed talk about passing bill, making it the law of the land. While it has yet to  reach first reading in the Ugandan parliament, the bill’s author, David Bahati, has indicated that he’s continuing to push for its passage.

Seeing his face on the cover of the tabloid has, for Bishop Senyonjo, revived fears that he could be made a criminal before the law. “What [they] were publishing was quite scary,” said Senyonjo. “They were saying that they have a lot of money behind them; they were saying... that the bill could resurface. If the bill is passed, I would definitely be in trouble.”


Promise Keepers Founder Apologizes for Anti-Gay Comments Made Two Decades Ago

By Kilian Melloy -

Bill McCartney
The founder of Christian men’s group The Promise Keepers has apologized for anti-gay comments from the early 1990s, Boulder newspaper the Daily Camera reported on Dec. 1.

Bill McCartney, 70, the former football coach for the University of Colorado, made the apology after his comments came back to haunt him in his quest to return to his former post at the University of Colorado. In 1992--two years before he left his position as coach at CU-- McCartney delivered a speech at the university in which he declared that gays were "an abomination against almighty God." The remarks were made in support of an amendment to the state constitution that banned local ordnances from being enacted that would extend anti-discrimination protections to sexual minorities. That amendment--Amendment 2--was passed by Colorado voters, but later struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

McCartney established The Promise Keepers in 1990. The group purports to guide heterosexual Christian men who wish to improve their family and community ties. The group’s slogan is "Men of Integrity," and its "mission is to ignite and unite men to become warriors who will change their world through living out the Seven Promises," according to text at the group’s website.

The organization’s adherents hew to a core group of guiding principles referred to as the "Seven Promises," which include "honoring Jesus Christ through worship, prayer and obedience to God’s Word in the power of the Holy Spirit," "practicing spiritual, moral, ethical, and sexual purity," "building strong marriages and families through love, protection and biblical values," and "reaching beyond any racial and denominational barriers to demonstrate the power of biblical unity," among others.

The Promise Keepers are up-front about their belief that gays are "sinners." The group’s website states in the FAQ section that, "Promise Keepers shares the same historic stance taken by Evangelicals and Catholics: that sex is a good gift from God to be enjoyed in the context of heterosexual marriage. We believe that the Bible clearly teaches that homosexuality violates God’s creative design for a husband and a wife and that it is a sin." Gay men are, however, welcome to be "included and welcomed in all our events," the text adds.

Talks between McCartney and the university about his possible return met with excitement, but also with controversy. McCartney’s words about gays being "abominations" worried some who feared that his views would not make for the best match.

"The Bible says the whole gospel is found in the first two commandments, and those commandments are love God and love your neighbor as yourself," McCartney said. "What I regret is that I did not communicate that. I don’t judge the gay community, and anybody who gets the impression that I do, that’s just not the truth. I didn’t communicate that well that day, and I regret that. I ask the forgiveness of anyone who thinks I judged them or look down on them. I don’t."

McCartney is no longer being considered for the position, the Daily Camera reported, though his long-ago comments were not specifically cited as the reason. The article added that the chancellor of the university had gotten many letters in support of McCartney, along with 15-20 letters expressing misgivings about taking him on as coach. Those letters came from university employees who said they recalled McCartney’s tenure at CU. The letters accused McCartney of having "used his position to push anti-gay and sexist agendas," the Daily Camera reported in a separate article on Nov. 29.

"I regret that I gave the impression that I would in any way judge somebody else; I don’t," McCartney told the Daily Camera. "I don’t judge anybody. But I can see how that was interpreted, and I’m sorry for that."

Added the former coach, "Looking back on it, I regret that I said what I did from a university podium wearing a university shirt," McCartney said. "I wish I hadn’t done that. It was inappropriate to say that at that time."

A Dec. 2 Daily Camera article said that the university was considering Jon Embree for the job. If hired, Embree, who played on the university’s football team from 1983-1986 would be CU’s first black coach.
Kilian Melloy reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes commentary for EDGEBoston, where he also serves as Assistant Arts Editor.

Tell Minnesota Catholic Bishops: Fight Poverty, Not Gay Marriage

Targeting: Dennis McGrath (Spokesman for the Diocese), Bishop John F. Kinney (Diocese of St. Cloud, MN), Bishop Michael J. Hoeppner (Diocese of Crookston, MN), Bishop John Quinn (Diocese of Winona, MN), Bishop John M. LeVoir (Diocese of New Ulm, MN), Archbishop John C. Nienstedt (Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis), and Bishop Paul D. Sirba (Diocese of Duluth, MN)

Here's some information about Minnesota. Each night, about 9,000 individuals in the state are homeless. Close to 500,000 experience poverty in the state, according to 2008 Census figures. Twenty-five percent of women over the age of 16 experience poverty. And poverty rates among African Americans are the third highest in the country in Minnesota.
Yet a coalition of Minnesota Catholic bishops are urging voters to care more about gay marriage, and are planning to engage in the upcoming November elections under the mantra that same-sex marriage is the number one issue facing Minnesotans.
The stepped up campaign includes a coordinated effort by bishops throughout Minnesota to send DVDs to every Catholic family in the state, demonizing same-sex marriage. Letters will also go out to each household, encouraging Minnesotans to vote against the rights of same-sex couples.
Is this really what the Minnesota Catholic Church wants to prioritize? Don't Minnesotans deserve better?
Send a message to the Catholic leadership in Minnesota that the Church should be fighting poverty, fighting homelessness, and fighting hunger ... and not fighting love.

petition text -

The Catholic leadership in Minnesota has announced that there will be a coordinated effort this year and next to target gay and lesbian families, and to spend significant resources on fighting same-sex marriage in Minnesota. This is a troublesome development that concerns me deeply; indeed, spending so much money criticizing loving, committed couples seems anti-Catholic, if not deeply hurtful.

Each night, about 9,000 individuals in the state are homeless. Close to 500,000 experience poverty in the state, according to 2008 Census figures. Twenty-five percent of women over the age of 16 experience poverty. And poverty rates among African Americans are the third highest in the country in Minnesota.

Yet despite these statistics, the Catholic leadership in Minnesota is spending money on a DVD that will be send to every Catholic household in Minnesota criticizing gay marriage. Reports also indicate that the Catholic Church will get involved in the election process this November, with a specific focus on gay marriage.

But same-sex marriage is not a threat to Minnesotans. These are resources that your Church could be spending to fight real problems in your state. But instead, your sending the message that gay couples are second class citizens, and that keeping them from marriage is a tantamount issue. That couldn't be further from the truth.

I urge you to reconsider efforts to coordinate as a Church to fight love. Yes, people can disagree on the issue of same-sex marriage. But for the Catholic leadership in Minnesota to devote a staggering amount of resources toward demonizing same-sex couples is unjust. And it does not look kindly on a Church that at its core is supposed to be about celebrating love, not championing hate.

Thank you for your time.


Belmont University: Employees Shouldn't Be Forced to Resign for Being Gay

Targeting: Andrew Johnston (Dean of Students), Todd Lake (Vice President), Bob Fisher (President), and Greg Pillon (Office of Communications)
It's been quite the month for Belmont University, at least in terms of LGBT rights. In mid-November, school administrators refused to approve a campus group for gay students, going so far as to say that allowing groups of gay students to meet on campus would violate the school's moral code. Dean of Students Andrew Johnston even went on record to say that gay Christians could be disruptive.
Now Belmont University has stepped in it again, with students on the university's women's soccer team saying that their coach, Lisa Howe, was forced to resign because she was about to have a baby with her same-sex partner. Howe had been a coach there for more than five years, and was well regarded by her players. She even coached the team to the Atlantic Sun Conference regular-season championship in 2009.
But Belmont University apparently doesn't care about the talent of their coaching staff. They're more concerned about policing the bedrooms of their employees.
Send the University a message that denying LGBT students the chance to meet, or firing employees because of who they want to start a family with, is not only offensive, it runs counter to the "Christian" values that the school is supposed to espouse. Values like loving your neighbor, showing respect for all, and welcoming all to the table in the spirit of love and forgiveness.

petition text -

I am deeply dismayed at the events going on at Belmont University over the past month, and the message of intolerance your University continues to send. First came word that the university was denying a request from a group of gay students to form an organization on campus. Dean Johnston, you even went so far as to suggest that gay Christians could be disruptive.

Now comes word that a successful soccer coach, Lisa Howe, has been questionably removed from your school. While statements from you, Mr. Pillon, suggest that Howe resigned, students across the women's soccer team are saying that Howe was put in the position of choosing to resign, or be fired, solely because she wanted to start a family with her same-sex partner.

Both of these actions are offensive, intolerant, and completely contrary to the Christian values of loving your neighbor, showing respect for all, and welcoming all to the table. Being a religiously-affiliated school does not mean having to be a place where intolerance toward gays and lesbians thrives.

But your actions this past month are proving otherwise. The reputation of Belmont University has decreased in my eyes, and I'm saddened that while students at your school seem willing to love everyone and work with everyone without judgment, university officials are all too eager to create a climate of intolerance and discrimination.

I urge you to allow gay students to meet on campus, and to find a way to keep Coach Howe with your program. These aren't radical requests. They come from the heart of someone who does not want to see "Christian" values become synonymous with bigotry.

Thank you for your time.


Fla. Couple’s Lawsuit for HIV Discrimination: Part of Larger Pattern?

By Kilian Melloy -

Forrest Chaplin and Timothy Robertson
Forrest Chaplin and Timothy Robertson

Two HIV-positive men in Naples, Florida, are pursuing a claim that they were fired from a restaurant due to their health status. The men’s legal counsel is seeking to fast track the case because both men are in declining health.

The case may represent a larger pattern. Another Florida restaurant, this one located in the town of Manalapan, settled a suit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for allegedly forcing an employee out of her job because the woman had a relative with HIV.

Naples residents John Timothy Robertson, 29, and his 36-year-old same-sex life partner, Steven Ray "Forrest" Chaplin, 36, say that they were fired from Ridgway Bar & Grill because of their HIV+ status, local newspaper the Naples Daily News reported on Nov. 26. The eatery says that Robertson was fired because of poor work performance, with Chaplin quitting his job shortly afterwards.

The men’s attorney, Matthew Sarelson, is seeking to fast track the suit because the men’s health has worsened in the last few months, with Chaplin suffering AIDS-related cancer and Robertson suffering from Kaposi’s sarcoma, the news article said.

The suit claims that the men had been noted as "exceptional employees" but also says that when Robertson, who worked as an assistant manager, notified the restaurant’s vice president, Suzanne Honeycutt, about their HIV status, Honeycutt expressed concern that they would need time off from work and that their medications would affect their ability on the job. About a month later, the suit alleges, the men began to receive notifications about their work performance. Less than a month after that, the suit says, both men were fired, with the restaurant instructing the staff not to talk about the firings in order to protect the establishment’s "reputation."

The Ridgway Bar & Grill website asserts that the establishment’s dining experience is "flawless from start to finish."

The restaurant’s defense states that the business’ "actions toward John Timothy Robertson were based on legitimate non-retaliatory and non-discriminatory reasons completely unrelated to plaintiffs’ HIV status," the article reported.

The men complained to the EEOC and filed their suit, which claims that their firing is a violation of the state’s Civil Rights Act. Sexual minorities are not protected in Florida, but discrimination due to disability is illegal under both state and federal law. Persons living with HIV are covered under those laws, the article noted.

The Catholic Grandmother With a Powerful Message for Her Church on Gay Rights

By Michael A. Jones -

You've got to love the people in the pews of the Catholic Church, who aren't letting institutionalized homophobia within the ranks of U.S. bishops stand unchallenged. We've seen artists in Minnesota take their Church to task for spending scads of money trying to take away rights for gays and lesbians, rather than feed the hungry or house the homeless. We've seen nuns in Illinois strike back against the institutional Church's lobbying against civil unions legislation.
And now we've got a Tennessee Catholic mother and grandmother, taking the Church to task for denying supporters of gay rights Communion. And it's some heartfelt testimony from a woman who sees the anti-gay work of her Church leaders to be nothing short of blasphemous.
"I'm a Catholic mom and a grandmother, and I wear a rainbow pin every day. I wear it to remind folks to stop the rhetoric that causes gay bullying. I wear it so that I can remind folks to treat our children with dignity," says Deb Word in the video. "I don't think being a gay activist is a bad thing."
Word created a postcard that she mailed to every Catholic bishop in the United States, urging them to stop denying gay people Communion, stop fighting efforts to pass marriage equality, stop encouraging communities to discriminate against gays and lesbians, and to open their hearts and minds and build a truly inclusive church.
Funny how people in the pews like Word are living out the principles of Catholic Social Teaching, while the hierarchy within the Church tries to shuck their obligations to build a society rooted in dignity. If only we could flip the switch and let the parishioners guide the Church for a change.
Word's postcard that she mailed contained a very simple, yet powerful message for Catholic leaders.
"The postcard reads, 'Dear bishop: I house discarded LGBT youth -- eight so far this year. I have bandaged a child who has been beaten. I've prayed over the near lifeless body of a child who attempted suicide. I house, feed, counsel and love these children ... and I remind our clergy not to tell these children they are hellbound because of their orientation," Word says, "Bishop, you might call me a gay activist, and I am. And I would ask you to join me. Do you have in your diocese a homeless shelter that reaches out to LGBT youth? Do you have non-discrimination clauses in your hiring and in your schools?"
Because if these bishops were truly practicing the breadth and depth of Catholicism, they would, because nothing is more important in the faith than loving everyone -- even those who might be your enemies -- beyond all measure.
Check out Deb Wood's video below. And recognize that when the Catholic Church hierarchy attacks LGBT people, and attacks the promise of equality for all Americans, this is the face of the people they're attacking.


National Portrait Gallery bows to censors, withdraws Wojnarowicz video on gay love

By Blake Gopnik -

Against all odds, the stodgy old National Portrait Gallery has recently become one of the most interesting, daring institutions in Washington. Its 2009 show on Marcel Duchamp's self-portrayal was important, strange and brave. "Hide/Seek," the show about gay love that it opened in October, was crucial - a first of its kind - and courageous, as well as being full of wonderful art. My review of it was a rave.

Now the NPG, and the Smithsonian Institution it is part of, look set to come off as cowards. Today, after a few hours of pressure from the Catholic League and various conservatives, it decided to remove a video by David Wojnarowicz, a gay artist who died from AIDS-related illness in 1992. As part of "Hide/Seek," the gallery was showing a four-minute excerpt from a 1987 piece titled "A Fire in My Belly," made in honor of Peter Hujar, an artist-colleague and lover of Wojnarowicz who had died of AIDS complications in 1987. And for 11 seconds of that meandering, stream-of-consciousness work (the full version is 30 minutes long) a crucifix appears onscreen with ants crawling on it. It seems such an inconsequential part of the total video that neither I nor anyone I've spoken to who saw the work remembered it at all.
But that is the portion of the video that the Catholic League has decried as "designed to insult and inflict injury and assault the sensibilities of Christians," and described as "hate speech" - despite the artist's own hopes that the passage would speak to the suffering of his dead friend. The irony is that Wojnarowicz's reading of his piece puts it smack in the middle of the great tradition of using images of Christ to speak about the suffering of all mankind. There is a long, respectable history of showing hideously grisly images of Jesus - 17th-century sculptures in the National Gallery's recent show of Spanish sacred art could not have been more gory or distressing - and Wojnarowicz's video is nothing more than a relatively tepid reworking of that imagery, in modern terms.
Until Tuesday afternoon, museum staff, under Director Martin E. Sullivan, believed that "Fire" was interesting art that made important points. And now it looks as though they're somehow saying that they were wrong about that, and that it really was unfit to be seen or shown, after all.
If every piece of art that offended some person or some group was removed from a museum, our museums might start looking empty - or would contain nothing more than pabulum. Goya's great nudes? Gone. The Inquisition called them porn.
Norman Rockwell would get the boot, too, if I believed in pulling everything that I'm offended by: I can't stand the view of America that he presents, which I feel insults a huge number of us non-mainstream folks. But I didn't call for the Smithsonian American Art Museum to pull the Rockwell show that runs through Jan. 2, just down the hall from "Hide/Seek." Rockwell and his admirers got to have their say, and his detractors, including me, got to rant about how much they hated his art. Censorship would have prevented that discussion, and that's why we don't allow it.
Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has said that taxpayer-funded museums should uphold "common standards of decency." But such "standards" don't exist, and shouldn't, in a pluralist society. My decency is your disgust, and one point of museums, and of contemporary art in general, is to test where lines get drawn and how we might want to rethink them. A great museum is a laboratory where ideas get tested, not a mausoleum full of dead thoughts and bromides.
In America no one group - and certainly no single religion - gets to declare what the rest of us should see and hear and think about. Aren't those kinds of declarations just what extremist imams get up to, in countries with less freedom?
Of course, it's pretty clear that this has almost nothing to do with religion. Eleven seconds of an ant-covered crucifix? Come on.
This fuss is about the larger topic of the show: Gay love, and images of it. The headline that ran over coverage of the matter on the right-wing Web site mentioned the crucifix - but as only one item in a list of the exhibition's "shockers" that included "naked brothers kissing, genitalia and Ellen DeGeneres grabbing her breasts." (Through a bra, one might note, in an image that's less shocking than many moves by Lady Gaga.) The same site decries "a painting the Smithsonian itself describes in the show's catalog as 'homoerotic'. "
The attack is on gayness, and images of it, more than on sacrilege - even though, last I checked, many states are sanctioning gay love in marriage, and none continue to ban homosexuality.
And the Portrait Gallery has given into this attack.
Twenty-one years ago in Washington, the Corcoran Gallery of Art took a huge hit to its prestige and credibility - a hit it has yet to fully recover from - when it canceled a show of images by the gay photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, under similar puritanical pressures. The Washington Project for the Arts, which this year celebrates its 35th anniversary, had its finest moment when it embraced the show instead.
So here's a gauntlet thrown down to test the courage of Washington's art institutions: Will the Hirshhorn Museum, the Katzen Arts Center, tiny Transformer, Flashpoint, or even the Phillips or National Gallery - or maybe the Corcoran, in a rare redemptive moment - have the guts to mount the video the Portrait Gallery has taken down?
Artists have the right to express themselves. Curators have the right to choose the expression they think matters most. And the rest of us have the right to see that expression, and judge those choices for ourselves.
If anyone's offended by any work in any museum, they have the easiest redress: They can vote with their feet, and avoid the art they don't like.


Glee : 'Baby It's Cold Outside" Chris Colfer and Darren Criss duet.


Gay groups’ anger at ‘homophobic’ World Cup hosts Russia and Qatar

By Jessica Geen  -

Gay groups have said they are “deeply concerned” by FIFA’s decision to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.
Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar and can be punished with lashes and jail, while the Russian capital of Moscow has banned gay Pride marches for years.
England got just two votes in yesterday’s contest to host the World Cup in 2018, despite submitting a strong bid.
There have been calls for a probe into possible corruption at the international football governing body and some media outlets pointed to two countries’ riches in oil and gold.
Russia’s win came on the same day it was denounced by leaked diplomatic cables for being a “corrupt autocracy”.
Gay rights campaigners also questioned the countries’ human rights records, saying that
Peter Tatchell, who was savagely beaten by neo-Nazi thugs on a Pride march in Moscow in 2007, said: “Both countries have very poor human rights records. Not just on gay rights, but also on the rights of women, the freedom to protest and freedom of the press.
“Sport should never be allowed to trump human rights. FIFA have put their corporate interests before the wellbeing of the people of Russia and Qatar.”
Gay football group The Justin Campaign added that it was “deeply concerned” and said: “Despite their apparent commitment to humanitarian values and the promotion of global solidarity through football, FIFA is sending out a message loud and clear that the rights of the global LGBT community do not even register on their agenda.
“It is a stark and sad reminder of just how much work we still need to do.”
Meanwhile, Matthew Sephton of Conservative-affiliated group LGBTory said FIFA should ask Qatar to decriminalise homosexuality by 2022.
He said: “Now that this decision has been taken, I would like to set the challenge to FIFA and the FA to be a force for good and also to get its own house in order. I hope that between now and 2022 Qatar will take steps to decriminalise homosexuality and that FIFA can help bring this about.
“The Rugby Football League has set the pace by recently launching their ‘tackle it’ campaign to challenge homophobia in their sport. Football should follow this important lead by their rugby counterparts and prove that they too believe there is no place for homophobia in any sport.” 


Portland (OR) Rescue Mission Wants Your Winter Coats and Sweaters ... Unless You're Gay

By Michael A. Jones -

It's the holiday season, which means the spirit of gift giving is in the air. What better way to spread some good cheer than giving back to an organization fighting homelessness?
That's exactly what some folks in Portland, Oregon wanted to do. A local performer, Jeffrey Darling, was getting ready to organize the city's fourth annual Queer Christmas Holiday Bash, and reached out to the Portland Rescue Mission to see if they might be interested in sponsoring a coat-and-sweater drive at the event. The response Darling got from Portland Rescue Mission staffer Brian Merrell?
Sorry, we don't work with queers to fight poverty or homelessness.
Darling told the Portland Mercury that the folks at the Portland Rescue Mission were worried that their donors, many of whom are religious, would stop giving to the Mission if they found out that LGBT people were involved.
"[The Mission is a] faith-based organization and there was some concern with how it might come across to some of our donors," Merrell told Darling via a voicemail.
So to keep track. The Portland Rescue Mission, which has a mission statement including "a tireless commitment to breaking the cycle of homelessness," does not want to work in partnership with LGBT festivals or organizations to break the cycle of homelessness. So fighting poverty and homelessness has now become a battle only straight people can wage?
To their credit, the Portland Rescue Mission has accepted an offer put forward by a local activist, Rev. Chuck Currie, to have a sit down meeting with Basic Rights Oregon, to discuss why their decision "might be hurtful to the gay and lesbian community." That's a start to rectifying this situation, which from all sides is pretty tragic.
The holiday season is about giving. That's exactly what the Queer Christmas Holiday Bash was hoping to do by reaching out to the Portland Rescue Mission. It's a shame they were refused the opportunity to help. Homelessness and poverty are something we should all be interested in alleviating. If we can't find common ground and work together in this space, what does that say about how committed organizations like the Portland Rescue Mission are to really living out their mission to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty?

 petition text -
Please work with LGBT organizations to fight homelessness

Dear Portland Rescue Mission,

I recently became aware that your organization decided to not work with a gay-themed holiday festival to hold a sweater-and-coat drive to fight homelessness and poverty. What a sad message this sends, not only to those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, but also to those who are homeless or struggling with poverty.

We all, gay and straight alike, should be in the fight to combat poverty and homelessness. I understand that you are an organization with religious values, but those values should not prohibit you from working with others of different faiths, creeds, sexual orientations, gender identities or races.

Please reconsider this decision. During this holiday season, we should all be in the spirit of giving, and working to stave off homelessness.

Thank you for your time.

[Your name here]


After DADT Hearings, White House Meets With Repeal Groups

By Chris Geidner -

Following today's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing discussing, in part, the lame-duck consideration of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal legislation, the White House held an off-the-record meeting with organizations pushing for DADT repeal regarding repeal and the National Defense Authorization Act to which it is attached.
White House spokesman Shin Inouye confirmed the meeting with Metro Weekly, writing, "Today, the White House met with various stakeholders to discuss the passage of the NDAA, including DADT, during the lame duck."
Two people who attended the meeting but asked to remain anonymous because of the off-the-record nature of the meeting told Metro Weekly that those organizations that were represented included Center for American Progress, Human Rights Campaign, Log Cabin Republicans, National Black Justice Coalition, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, OutServe, People for the American Way, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Servicemembers United, Stonewall Democrats and Third Way. [Politico's Josh Gerstein, who first reported the news, also reported that representatives from OutServe and the Palm Center attended the meeting, a fact confimed to Metro Weekly by a third attendee.] As such, it would make it the largest of several such White House meetings held about DADT repeal this year.
The two attendees of the meeting said that the White House was represented at the meeting by Christopher Kang, White House legislative affairs; Christina Tchen, director of the public engagement office; Brian Bond, deputy director of public engagement; and representatives from the Domestic Policy Council and White House Counsel's Office.
Echoing and expanding on President Barack Obama's comments made after the report was released on Tuesday, Inouye wrote, "The meeting follows the release of the Defense Department Working Group report and the congressional testimony of 10 top military leaders this week. The testimony from those witnesses makes clear that now, more than ever, Congress can and must take action during the lame duck session to give the military the flexibility it needs to end DADT in a way that does not jeopardize military readiness."
One of the attendees said that the attendees were told that "this was in fact a priority for the president and that [the New] START [treaty] and DADT [repeal] can both be passed in the lame-duck.
"Early next week, they are going to engage the progressive community in calls for the senators," the attendee said they were told, referencing the Organizing for America and Democratic National Committee outreach described on Wednesday to Metro Weekly.
A second attendee looked at the Senate action this week, saying, "We had a very, very good series of Senate Armed Services Committee hearings, dominated by a really strong message from the Pentagon that we can repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and we can implement in a timeframe that makes sense.
"While today's hearing pointed to the fact that the are different opinions [of this issue], at the end of the day, the message was, 'We can do this.'"
Of the White House's view after those hearings, that second attendee said, "With all the competing legislative issues and a shrinking calendar, they were very positive about NDAA and DADT repeal, and they are committed to getting it done."
Regarding the timing, however, the first attendee said that the pending impeachment proceedings for U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Porteous of Louisiana and resolution of the tax-cut issues raised in a letter sent to Reid from and signed by all 42 Republican senators earlier this week "need to be done" before the Senate will proceed. "So we're looking at the next week," the first attendee said.
As for that timing, which differs from the timing discussed by SLDN executive director Aubrey Sarvis after the hearing, the second attendee said that discussion about running out of time was slightly overstated at this point.
"Eventually, yes, we'll run out of time. But we're not there yet, and we won't be there if the vote isn't held next Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday," the second attendee said. "The important thing is that we win the vote when it's held because there's no second chance.
"We want to hold the vote when will be able to win the vote."
The first attendee said that Tchen stressed the White House's commitment to passage of repeal language by stating that "if they weren't serious about this they wouldn't have put [Defense Secretary] Gates and [Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Adm. Mike] Mullen out there."
The second attendee, asked if this appeared to be a meeting to mollify organizations as a prelude to bad news about the repeal legislation, said, "I know it wasn't. I've been mollified before, and this wasn't mollification."
The first attendee, however, did say, of the path forward, "All roads keep leading back to [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid [(D-Nev.)]. If he chooses to lay out a fair path, the votes should be there. If he chooses to be a jerk about it, the game's over."


Poland gets first out gay elected official

Krystian Legiersk
Krystian Legierski has become Poland’s first openly gay elected official.
The nightclub owner, entrepreneur and LGBT rights activist won a seat on Warsaw city council last month.
The Green party member ran on a Social Democrat ticket.
Mr Legierski, who is black, has suffered racism and homophobic but told Gazeta Wyborcza that although his election was a breakthrough for national politics, the residents of Warsaw are more open-minded.
He said: “I can’t compare myself to Harvey Milk, but I’m glad that I am the first openly gay candidate to be elected for a public office in Poland.”
Warsaw hosted Europride earlier in July but Poland has had an uneasy relationship with gay rights over the years.
The country is deeply Catholic and conservative and human rights groups say it has a poor record on gay equality.
Late president Lech Kaczynski, who died in a plane crash in April, had been accused of homophobia on a number of occasions.
Homosexuality is legal in Poland but couples cannot adopt children and there is no legal recognition of their relationships.


Irish gay Traveller group honoured by president

An Irish support group for gay Travellers has been honoured for its work.
President Mary McAleese presented the Traveller Pride Awards in Dublin yesterday and paid tribute to the work of the Gay Traveller Support Group.
According to the Irish Times, she said that although Travellers often face rejection and prejudice, those who are also lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans suffer more.

“For many kids who grew up . . . as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, we know that very often the first words of exclusion that they will hear . . . will likely be in their own home,” she said.

“You can imagine the loneliness and the misery of that existence and the pressure it puts on.”

Ms MacAleese added that LGBT Travellers were far more likely than others in the community to suffer mental health problems and attempt suicide.

The Gay Traveller Support Group won one of the ten honours, the Community Award.

Founder Rosaleen McDonagh, who also won the Overall Traveller Pride 2010 Award, said: “There are a hundred ways to be a Traveller and being gay is just one of them.”


Gay Armenians March to Raise HIV Awareness

By Kilian Melloy -

As HIV rates skyrocket in Armenia, GLBT advocates and activists staged a march there to raise awareness on Dec. 1, World AIDS Day.

The groups in attendance at the march included Public Information and Need of Knowledge (PINK), Women’s Resource Center, and Real World Real People, reported IanyanMag on Dec. 2.

The article noted that the march took place against a backdrop in which HIV cases had soared by 25% over the last ten years, while in more than 50 other nations worldwide transmission rates had flattened or even decreased.

HIV/AIDS activists have long argued for decriminalization of homosexuality in countries where gays are still legally persecuted, saying that social and legal proscriptions drive gays underground--and the epidemic along with it. Gays, bisexuals, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) tend to avoid testing in anti-gay societies, with the result being that they do not get treatment or counseling. The lack of resources and education, combined with the furtive nature of same-sex contacts in such cultures, drives increases in HIV rates, health authorities and GLBT advocates say.

But the cycle also operates the other way; when HIV rates climb, anti-gay fear and persecution can also intensify. Armenian group We For Civil Society NGO asserted that this was the case in Armenia, posting on its website text reading, "With the increase of HIV infected people, there is an increase in the violation of their rights and freedoms and a tendency of isolation from the [larger] society."

Armenia has had a law on the books, an amended version of the Law on Preventing the Disease Caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, since April of last year designed to "strengthen... protection against stigma and discrimination, and provide... for measures aimed at health education and HIV awareness," the article said, quoting from a Canadian publication that referenced the legislation. But the social and political climate in Armenia remains difficult for GLBTs; a Wikipedia article notes that although legal punishments against gays were removed from the country’s penal code in 2003, the social stigma has not as yet diminished, and many GLBT Armenians remain in the closet out of fear of violence at the hands of others, including their own families.

The country was, until two decades ago, part of the Soviet Union, and while some former Soviet nations have adopted friendlier laws and attitudes toward gays, many--including Russia, Slovakia, and Poland--have remained largely homophobic.

IanyanMag reported that the marchers in Armenia distributed "printed booklets with stories about people living with HIV that were infected due to lack of knowledge as well those who experienced discrimination that prevented them from received adequate medical care, according to Mamikon Hovsepyan, head of PINK."

"We Armenians don’t talk about HIV, human rights violations and discrimination, we don’t see what is going on," Hovsepyan told the press. "We think if we keep silent, time will go on and everything will be ok. But in fact, we need to speak, inform and be informed because silence is not a solution." To underscore this, Hovsepyan said, the event also featured mirrors that invited passersby to look at them in order to "see who can be affected by AIDS."

"Usually people say: ’Oh AIDS is not our problem, let drug users, bad women or gays think of it,’" Hovsepyan explained. "We wanted to show that there are no risky people, but there is risky behavior that any of us can have."

The article said that the deputy director of policy at HIV/AIDS organization amFar, Jirair Ratevosian, posted a letter on Facebook to communicate about HIV/AIDS to Armenians globally. "In our motherland, the epidemic is concentrated primarily among people who inject drugs, sex workers, gay men and other men who have sex with men," Ratevosian noted. "It is no coincidence the epidemic is spreading in populations that are socially marginalized and politically irrelevant. Stigma, discrimination and violence against LGBT Armenian and other vulnerable groups fuel the spread of HIV and AIDS."

Ratevosian encouraged Armenians the world over to "raise awareness in our homes and in our communities--in schools, with lawmakers, community leaders, the media and the church. Above all, we must support our courageous brothers and sisters working in our homeland each and every day for equality and social justice."
Kilian Melloy reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes commentary for EDGEBoston, where he also serves as Assistant Arts Editor.

Top generals buck White House on military gay ban

(Washington) Bucking the Pentagon’s top leaders, the chiefs of the Army and Marines urged Congress on Friday not to allow openly gay people to serve in the military, at least not while troops are at war in Afghanistan.
The generals publicly rebutted their own bosses and the White House, arguing that it is too risky to change the policy now. That gave political ammunition to congressional Republicans trying to retain the ban known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
“It’s important that we’re clear about the military risks,” said Gen. George Casey, the Army’s top officer. “Repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ would be a major cultural and policy change in the middle of a war.”
President Barack Obama has promised to jettison a policy he says is discriminatory, and asked Congress to repeal the 17-year-old law this year. Chances of that were slim to begin with, and they sank lower after Friday’s blunt assessment that lifting the ban would tear the close bonds of the foxhole. Democrats have promised a vote this month.
Both Casey and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos undercut Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ claim that the change is not too dangerous. Their views are the most closely watched because the Army and Marines are doing most of the fighting in Afghanistan, and did the same in Iraq.
The generals acknowledged that openly gay service was probably inevitable and they played down suggestions that recruiting would drop off or large numbers of soldiers would resign when it happens.
But they warned of social upheaval among the tight units that live and fight side by side for months at a time on the front lines. Lifting the ban will not be as easy or safe as a Pentagon study released this week suggests, the generals said.
“My suspicions are that the law will be repealed” eventually, Amos told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “All I’m asking is the opportunity to do that at a time and choosing when my Marines are not singularly tightly focused on what they’re doing in a very deadly environment.”
The top Air Force officer also opposed repeal now, recommending delay at least until 2012. Only the Navy’s top officer signed up to Gates’ assessment that the ban can be lifted without undue risk.
A day earlier, Gates had urged the same panel to act now. A law passed by Congress to supplant “don’t ask” could pre-empt a new round of court challenges Gates is sure is coming. Pentagon leaders fear a repeat of the wrenching experience of October, when a series of federal court orders lifted and then reinstated the ban.
Adm. Mike Mullen, who as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the individual service chiefs’ boss, testified Thursday that wartime is actually a good time to repeal the ban, because troops are too focused on the mission to get distracted by the change.
Casey called that assertion “a stretch.”
The Marines are the most uncomfortable with the idea of lifting the ban, according to the Pentagon study that polled each service. Nearly 60 percent of Marines in combat jobs said the change would dent fighting mettle.
Amos has pointed to the unique battle fraternity of the Marine Corps, with an all-male front line force.
“Assimilating openly homosexual Marines into the tightly woven fabric of our combat units has strong potential for disruption,” among individual units fighting or readying to deploy, Amos said Friday. “It will no doubt divert leadership attention away from an almost singular focus of preparing units for combat.”
Arizona Sen. John McCain and other Senate Republicans argued that now is not the time to repeal the 1993 law that prohibits gay people from serving openly in the military. McCain said his constituents and service members he talked to during his latest election campaign care more about the economy than overturning a law he said is working.
“I will not agree to have this bill move forward, and neither will 41 of my colleagues because the economy is in the tank,” he said, referring to the number of senators needed to block debate on a bill.
Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown announced Friday he supports repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell.” GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and John Ensign of Nevada also have backed repeal, likely giving Democrats the 60 votes needed to pass the bill during the lame-duck session.
But even with Brown’s support, repeal was considered unlikely because Republicans have united in an agreement to block debate on any legislation this month until Congress approves tax cuts and addresses government spending. And, they remain at odds with Democrats on how much debate should be allowed on the defense policy bill containing the repeal provision.


Gay Rights Political Donations Plummet Amid Contentious Congressional Session


Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Discrimination in the workplace and schools. Unequal benefits for same-sex partners. Marriage equality. 

The years leading up to the 2010 midterm election have been an important stretch for gay rights advocates, but you wouldn't necessarily know it by gauging the amount of money invested this cycle by gay and lesbian rights groups and their donors.

milk money.jpgThe 2010 election cycle was the least prolific cycle for gay rights interests since 1990, with about $850,000 contributed from January 2009 through September, according to research by the Center for Responsive Politics. It's a trend that some gay rights advocates attribute to decreases in two key areas: funding and visibility for their top causes.

But others say the sharp decline is a function of the Obama administration and Democratic-controlled Congress failing to deliver on campaign promises to gay rights supporters. 

Overall contributions from people and political action committees associated with gay rights interests dropped more than 58 percent from the $2 million invested in the 2006 elections, based on a preliminary analysis of campaign finance records by the Center for Responsive Politics. Consistent with past elections, 95 percent of gay rights-oriented campaign contributions during this election cycle went to Democratic candidates.

While donations from PACs -- such as the Human Rights Campaign and Log Cabin Republicans -- dropped noticeably during the 2010 election cycle, donations from individuals associated with these interests took a nose-dive as well, falling from more than $1.1 million during the 2006 election cycle to just $151,000 so far this go around.

"There are two trains of thought," Andy Szekeres, a Denver-based political consultant and fundraiser who specializes in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues, explained to OpenSecrets Blog. "For the major donors, the economy is the main factor. But the smaller grassroots donors are holding back more for emotional reasons."

Szekeres, who recently helmed the finances for Maine's unsuccessful marriage equality campaign, added that some LGBT donors may no longer be feeling the pressure to donate, since the 2010 midterm elections largely focused on the economy, not social issues.

"Fund-raising is so emotional," Szekeres told OpenSecrets Blog. "And if there is no boogie man threatening referendums or repeals, it's much more difficult to reach those emotional donors."

Even some top advocates for gay rights -- such as Tim Gill, founder of the Gill Foundation, and Jon Stryker, founder of the Arcus Foundation -- have given less this midterm election cycle compared to four years ago.

They've continued to open their deep pockets. Based on the Center's analysis of reports processed so far this election cycle, Gill has given $43,100 and Stryker, $82,700. Of those sums, 91 percent of Gill's contributions this cycle have aided Democrats while all of Stryker's contributions went to Democrats.

But during the 2006 election cycle, Gill gave $98,300, all benefiting Democrats, and Stryker gave $115,000, with 92 percent benefiting Democrats, according to the Center's research.

Both the Gill Foundation and Arcus Foundation declined to comment for this story.

KISS/Paul Stanley Speaks out through NOH8 Campaign

Paul Stanley, lead singer of KISS, stopped by the NOH8 Campaign studios to use his voice to show his support for Equality for ALL!


Friday, December 3, 2010

Waters's Holiday Film About Meat Thieves

JOHN WATERS CHRISTMAS MUG SHOT X390 (STOLEN) | ADVOCATE.COMJohn Waters discusses Fruitcake, his long-gestating holiday movie, and describes the as-yet-unmade film as "the story of a little boy and his family of meat thieves"in an interview with the Chicago Tribune.
"They come knock on your door and say, 'Meat man!' and you say, 'I'll take three porterhouse steaks and a ham. They shoplift it and bring it back, and you pay half the price that's on the label," Waters says.
The director of such popular films as Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, and Hairspray says he still hopes to make the film eventually, but financing has been a problem. "Independent films that cost $5 million are very hard to get made," Waters says. "I sold the idea, got a development deal, got paid a great salary to write it — and now the company is no longer around, which is the case with many independent film companies these days."


Bottoms Up: Italians Sell Wine for AIDS

Bottoms Up: Italians Sell Wine for AIDS  | NewsSome of Italy's finest vintage wines are up for grabs to raise money to fight AIDS in Africa.

Tuscany's Petrolo winery produces a mere 70,000 bottles annually, but it is joining a coalition of winemakers across Italy who are donating a portion of their proceeds to the Wine for Life program. The project began seven years ago with a Rome-based religious group, the Sant' Egidio Community.

"It's all about love, taking the love that we receive from nature, in the form of wine, and giving it back to the earth, in the form of helping our needy brothers and sisters in Africa," Petrolo owner Luca Sanjust told Reuters.

His is one of 120 wineries whose bottles bear a label reading, "Wine for Life; this bottle helps fight AIDS in Africa. In eight years, 2 million bottles have been produced for the program.

Fifty euro cents goes to Sant' Egidio's Drug Resource Enhancement Against AIDS and Malnutrition (DREAM) program, which offers antiretroviral treatments to those in need. DREAM helps people in several countries, including Malawi, Guinea, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Wine for Life project generals about 250,000 euros, or $379,000, annually.

Bottoms Up: Italians Sell Wine for AIDS

Slow but sure progress on gay rights in the U.S.

By Jonathan Mann -

demonstrator from "Code Pink for Peace".
"Our Mann in America" is a weekly column discussing the big talking points in the U.S. for an international audience. Jonathan Mann is an anchor for CNN International and the host of Political Mann.
(CNN) -- The people who used to be called "queer" are looking more conventional in the United States these days, and some of the most tradition-bound institutions in the country are cautiously coming to accept them.
This week, the Pentagon released an extensive study which concluded that there would be no lasting harm in letting gay and lesbian personnel be open about their sexuality.
"We have a gay guy," one respondent told Pentagon pollsters. "He's big, he's mean, and he kills lots of bad guys. No-one cared that he was gay."
The U.S. is hardly a world leader on gay rights. Laws banning same-sex intimacy were still on the books in several states until the Supreme Court overturned them just seven years ago. Today, only a handful of states license same-sex marriage or civil unions; dozens explicitly prohibit it.
America was founded by the Puritans, after all. Some modern historians argue that they weren't really the prudes their dour place in popular memory suggests. But Puritans only looked favorably on pleasures of the flesh in the context of marriage, which they couldn't imagine between people of the same gender. Much of the United States is still heir to that opinion.
What may be easy to overlook is that the politics are changing. Mainstream Republicans no longer campaign on a traditionalist "family values" agenda. The Tea Party movement has chosen to stay clear of the subject entirely.
Several prominent figures close to former president George Bush, including his wife Laura Bush, his former vice president Dick Cheney and his former campaign manager Ken Mehlman, have expressed support for gay marriage.
Popular culture is slowly making more room for gay and lesbian couples, in films such as "The Kids are All Right" and television programs like "Modern Family."
Business culture is changing too. Many large companies, including the one that owns CNN, offer heterosexual and same-sex couples the same employee benefits. News culture has changed as well. When a prominent politician or personality "comes out" about their sexuality, it's no longer a scandal and usually, it's hardly even a "story."
But the military is different. With almost 2.3 million men and women on active duty or reserve, it's one of the largest employers in the country. It's the very embodiment the nation's patriotic ideals and its most conservative instincts. The U.S. military has opposed both racial integration in its ranks and fuller gender equality. (American women already serve in some very dangerous roles but are officially excluded from combat units.)
Maybe most important is that even in peacetime, the military makes unique demands on its personnel. At a time like this, with the United States fighting two wars, the demands are incalculably greater. So the debate about gay and lesbians in the military has been profound and passionate.
"I think this is such a contentious issue in our society, that you can't use the military, especially during a wartime or given some of the ongoing war effort in Afghanistan, to try to change something without thinking through," said retired navy commander Kirk Lippold.
The military did think it through. The Pentagon has spent the last 17 years enforcing a policy dubbed "don't ask, don't tell" that stipulates that gay and lesbian personnel can only serve if they keep their sexuality secret. Last year, a little more than one person a day was discharged because they were discovered.
For Republican Senator John McCain, a decorated veteran influential on military issues, the policy is working.
"There were no problems in the military with 'don't ask, don't tell," McCain said. "The military is at its highest point in recruitment, in retention, in professionalism and capability so to somehow allege that this policy has been damaging to the military is simply false."
In its new study, the Pentagon heard from 115,000 men and women in uniform. The results were dramatic. Seventy percent said ending the official secrecy would have a positive impact, mixed impact or no impact at all.
"America has moved on and, if you look closely at this study, I think you'll find that America's military is, by and large, ready to move on as well," said Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "Should repeal occur, some soldiers and marines may want separate shower facilities, some may ask for different berthing, some may even quit the service. We'll deal with that. But I believe, and history tells us, that most of them will put aside personal proclivities for something larger than themselves and for each other."
The White House and Congress had been waiting to hear from the Pentagon but even now that the military has spoken, the policy is still written in law. President Barack Obama refuses to abandon it unilaterally. The administration says it wants Congress to repeal "don't ask, don't tell to demonstrate that there's a political consensus in the country.
Congress, especially now, is a complicated place. It will shift to the right in a few weeks, when a new Republican majority elected last month to the House of Representatives officially takes over. The Senate will get more Republican members as well.
So it's unlikely that Washington will repeal "don't ask, don't tell" in the near future. Things are moving slowly for gays and lesbians in the United States, but remarkably, they seem to be broadly moving in only one direction.


Jon Stewart destroys John McCain on DADT

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NY Marriage Equality On Hold for Now

By Kilian Melloy -

David Paterson
Governor David Paterson 
Outgoing New York Gov. David Paterson has decided not to press for marriage equality legislation from state lawmakers before he leaves office.

Paterson had gauged whether state lawmakers might consider granting New York’s gay and lesbian families marriage parity during a lame duck session, but upon hearing that such legislation wouldn’t stand a chance, he decided to leave the issue alone.

The New York Assembly had approved marriage equality legislation four times before the State Senate took up the issue a year ago and voted it down. State Sen. Thomas K. Duane had indicated that there was adequate support to get the measure passed, but in the end, the state’s senators rebuffed the measure, voting 38-24 to reject the bill on Dec. 2, 2009.

The outcome capped a drawn-out and dramatic series of maneuvers and political shakeups. Marriage supporters slammed the final vote, with Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer--himself heterosexual--noting at the time, "Only the State Senate could snatch defeat from the jaws of pride and progress."

Added Stringer, "We will keep fighting, and in the end, equal justice will prevail."

But not quite yet. A Dec. 1 New York Times article said that Paterson had left marriage off the table when the state’s lawmakers re-convened on Nov. 30 for a final session before the start of the new year. The state Senate, which never took up the issue when GOP lawmakers were in charge, will most likely revert to Republican control, the article said.

Paterson blamed "lobbyists" for the bill’s failure to pass last year, remarking during a Dec. 1 appearance at Manhattan’s Yale Club that the timing had not been right, and that proponents had pushed too soon for marriage parity.

Even so, the outgoing governor said that he had taken measure of the political climate to see whether it would be constructive to "take one more shot at marriage equality," the article reported, before going on to say that at least one senior policymaker told the Times that he had not heard about Paterson polling lawmakers to judge the level of support a bill might receive a year after the senate rejected it.

Even the bill’s champions saw little point in revisiting the issue right now. "What’s not clear is why today is different than any other day," Democratic Assemblyman Daniel J. O’Donnell, who had spearheaded last year’s repeated passage in the Assembly, told the publication.

Paterson had a simply remedy for the problem. "Get rid of the lobbyists," he told his audience at the Yale Club, going in to say that pro-marriage activists "get enthralled by being involved in the whole legislative process" to the detriment of their own cause. "The lobbyists literally forced the vote," Paterson opined.

"It was a frustrating, difficult and emotional time for lots of people," the executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, Ross D. Levi, told the media. "We know it was for Governor Paterson, as well, because of his deep personal commitment to this issue."

That commitment is still strong; said Paterson, "It’s probably the one issue that I will keep replaying in my mind because I really wanted it to happen on my watch as governor. But I will come back--free of charge, by the way--to lobby the next time it comes up."

Christian group campaigns to have anti-gay app reinstated

By Jessica Geen  -

A anti-gay Christian group is campaigning to have an iPhone app against gay marriage reinstated.
Apple removed the Manhattan Declaration app from its iTunes store last week after media attention but the Christian group is calling for supporters to sign a petition to have it returned to the site.
The Manhattan Declaration is a manifesto released in 2009 by Christian and Catholic leaders which rails against the “erosion” of marriage.
According to the group’s website, 15,500 people have signed the online petition – more than twice the number who signed a petition to have the app removed.
The declaration says that gay relationships are “immoral” and that same-sex marriages are equivalent to sanctioning incest.
However, the group behind it says that it is “civil, reasoned, and respectful” and does not “promote hate or homophobia [and] is not anti-gay”.
The app asked users whether they agreed with four statements on abortion and same-sex marriage and those who answered that they are pro-choice and pro-gay marriage were told that they were incorrect. It also had links to read and sign up to the full declaration
Apple initially rated the app 4+ , meaning that it contains “no objectionable content” but removed it over the Thanksgiving weekend.
Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris told CNET: “We removed the Manhattan Declaration app from the App Store because it violates our developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people.”


Judge Refuses to Disqualify Himself in Prop. 8 Case

Stephen Reinhardt
Judge Stephen Reinha
Sponsors of California’s same-sex marriage ban on Wednesday asked one of the judges from the appeals court panel that will hear arguments on the measure’s constitutionality next week to remove himself from the case.

In papers filed with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, lawyers for Proposition 8’s supporters said Judge Stephen Reinhardt’s "impartiality might reasonably be questioned" because his wife heads the Southern California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

In that role, the judge’s wife, Ramona Ripston, has been an outspoken opponent of Proposition 8 and taken part in legal proceedings to overturn the voter-approved law, the lawyers said. They cited the friend of the court brief the ACLU filed on behalf of the plaintiff’s in the case pending before her husband as an example.

"So long as a judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned, recusal is required," they wrote in a motion asking Reinhardt to disqualify himself. "The facts of this case would plainly lead a reasonable person to conclude that Judge Reinhardt’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned."

Reinhardt, 79, an appointee of President Jimmy Carter, is one three judges on a panel scheduled to hear arguments Monday in the appeal by Proposition 8’s sponsors of a trial judge’s ruling that struck down the ban. He has a reputation as one of the 9th Circuit’s most liberal jurists.

Along with the constitutionality of the 2008 measure, the appeals court panel plans to consider whether the coalition of religious and conservative groups that sponsored Proposition 8 had authority to bring the appeal once Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown decided not to challenge the lower court decision.

The lawyers for Proposition 8’s sponsors said Reinhardt has recused himself from past cases involving the Southern California ACLU.


In a document filed in response to the request that he recuse himself, Judge Reinhardt stated flatly that he refused to step aside.

"I have before me defendants-intervenors-appellants’ motion to disqualify myself from this appeal," noted Reinhardt in the document. "I have not hesitated to recuse from cases in the past when doing so was warranted by the circumstances." Reinhardt went on to specify seven cases.

"Here, for reasons that I shall provide in a memorandum to be filed in due course, I am certain that ’a reasonable person with knowledge of all the facts would [not] conclude that [my] impartiality might reasonably be questioned,’ " Reinhardt continued. "I will be able to rule impartially on this appeal, and I will do so. The motion is therefore DENIED."


Hours later, Andrew Pugno, a lawyer for the organization that’s pursuing the appeal, said it accepted Reinhardt’s decision and will drop the recusal attempt.

"Our legal team is focused on the merits of our constitutional defense of Proposition 8," Pugno said. "With binding Supreme Court precedent and the will of a strong majority of Americans on our side, we are confident that Proposition 8 and the institution of marriage will ultimately prevail."

Reinhardt, who most famously voted with the majority in ruling the Pledge of Allegiance’s "under god" clause violated the Constitution, and Judges N. Randy Smith and Michael Daly Hawkins are scheduled to hear two hours of oral arguments in San Francisco on Monday.

A ruling is expected later in the case that most observers and participants believe is destined for the U.S. Supreme Court.