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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Scientists breed mice with two fathers

A refined method could help gay men
have children, researchers said
Scientists have created mice with two fathers, suggesting that technology could one day be used to allow gay male couples the chance to have children with genes from both parents.
Researchers at the MD Anderson Cancer Centre in Texas used a series of steps to create the mice.
They manipulated stem cells from a male mouse (father A) to create ‘”male eggs” without the male Y chromosome. These were then put into embryos and transplanted into surrogate mother mice.
The resulting mice, which were all female, had genetic material from both father A and the donated eggs and sperm from the embryos. Some of the eggs they produced had only genetic material from father A.
They were then mated with another male (father B) and their offspring, both male and female, contained genetic material which came from only father A and father B.
The researchers admitted that the process was complicated but said that if it was refined, “someday two men could produce their own genetic sons and daughters”.
It could also be used for lesbians to have children.
“It may also be possible to generate sperm from a female donor and produce viable male and female progeny with two mothers,” researchers said.
Another use could be to preserve endangered species where no females remain.
The study was published this week in the journal Biology of Reproduction.
In 2008, researchers at the University of Newcastle created primitive sperm cells with female embryonic stem cells.


Anti-Gay Protesters at Edwards Funeral

Five anti-homosexual protesters from
the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka
face counter-protesters across the street,
near Edenton St Methodist Church in Raleigh,
where Elizabeth Edwards' funeral is being held,
(CBS)  Protesters from a Kansas church group that regularly demonstrates at military funerals were seen near the church where Elizabeth Edwards' funeral will be held this afternoon.

Five protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka held signs about two blocks from the Edenton Street Methodist Church, where the public memorial will be held.

The church, which condemns what it calls America's permissive attitude towards homosexuality, stages demonstrations to bring attention to its anti-gay stance.

Across the street, a larger contingent of counter-protesters waved pink signs reading "Hero."

Elizabeth Edwards became a model of strength and inspiration to millions of Americans and around the world as she bravely battled breast cancer for six years. She died this week at the age of 61, and will be laid to rest today.

Supporters of Edwards sponsored a Walking Book of Condolences to honor her memory and counter the Westboro congregants' plans to picket at her funeral.

The Edwards family expects as many as 1,700 people to turn out for the funeral. Among the dignitaries expected to attend, Mass. Sen. John Kerry, who ran for president with John Edwards on his ticket, and Vicky Kennedy, widow of Sen. Ted Kennedy.

The memorial service will be open to the public, but the burial will be private.


Brazil gay couples entitled to pension benefits

The Brazilian government says gay couples in a stable relationship are entitled to the same social security pension benefits enjoyed by heterosexual couples.

The Social Security Ministry says in a Friday statement that the gay spouse of a retiree who dies will now be able to receive the pension payments once received by his or her companion. The policy covers formally registered workers who pay monthly social security fees.
Same-sex marriages are not recognized in Brazil, but 10 years ago a court in the state of Rio Grande do Sul granted same-sex couples inheritance rights and allowed them to add their partners to health insurance and retirement plans. Since then, gay couples have been fighting for pension rights.


Kate Kendell - on continuing the fight

As the 9th Circuit Court begins hearing appeals on the constitutionality of Prop 8, Kate Kendell, Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, shares her thoughts on marriage equality and the ongoing fight for LGBT social justice.


U.S. Vows to Change U.N. Resolution

By Julie Bolcer -

SUSAN RICE X390 (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COMOn Human Rights Day, Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, announced that the U.S. would “fight to restore” the LGBT protections stricken from a draft General Assembly resolution on summary, extrajudicial, or arbitrary executions last month.
Rice spoke Friday afternoon at a High-level Panel on “Ending Violence and Criminal Sanctions on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” which also included opening remarks by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and speeches from activists on the frontlines of the battle for LGBT human rights.
“Here at the United Nations, like many of you, I was incensed by the recent vote in the General Assembly’s Third Committee, which eliminated any mention of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals from a resolution condemning extrajudicial killing of vulnerable people around the world,” said Rice.
Last month, the Third Committee on social, humanitarian and cultural issues voted 79-70, with 17 abstentions and 26 absences, for an amendment to remove the reference to “sexual orientation” from the draft resolution on discriminatory executions. Although the resolution has mentioned sexual orientation for the past 10 years, this year Benin, on behalf of the African Group in the General Assembly, introduced an amendment arguing that the inclusion lacked legal justification. The amended resolution passed by a vote of 165-0, with 10 abstentions including the United States.
On Friday, Ambassador Rice vowed to work to restore the language regarding sexual orientation when the full General Assembly votes on the resolution December 20.
“We’re going to fight to restore the reference to sexual orientation,” she said. “We’re going to stand firm on this basic principle, and we intend to win.”
Human rights activists and organizations including the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, one of few LGBT NGOs to hold consultative status at the United Nations Economic and Social Council, decried the draft resolution when it passed last month. IGLHRC said it could provide a legal loophole for countries such as Uganda, where a bill that would impose the death penalty for homosexuality is pending in parliament.
Glenda Muzenda, a South African human rights advocate studying at Columbia University, told The Advocate that resolution would exacerbate the homophobic climate in her country, where lesbians face the well documented threats of “corrective rapes” and murder. Just days ago, the burnt remains of a 21-year-old woman believed to be Ncumisa Mzamelo were found in an unused toilet in Kwazulu Natal province.
“As someone from South Africa, and as a lesbian, this resolution is a green light to kill lesbians,” she said.
In a telephone interview following the Friday address, a spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations said the American effort to restore the protections for sexual orientation would take the form of a new amendment to the resolution.
“We’re going to introduce an amendment that will put the language back in,” said Mark Kornblau. “We are going to be mounting a vigorous effort here over the next week or ten days to persuade other countries to join us. It is going to be a difficult effort, but we are hopeful that we can get this passed.”
During her speech Friday, Ambassador Rice listed progress toward LGBT equality in the United States under the Obama administration including passage of the Matthew Shepard Act on hate crimes and the presidential memorandum to extend federal benefits to the extent possible to same-sex domestic partners of U.S. government employees. She also mentioned unfinished business including repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, securing adoption rights and ending employment discrimination.
“And then, of course, there’s “don’t ask, don’t tell,” said the ambassador to the audience in the ECOSOC chamber. “That law violates fundamental American principles of fairness, integrity, and equality—and President Obama remains fully committed to working with Congress to repeal it.”
Ambassador Rice spoke one day after the latest attempt to advance repeal of the military ban stalled in the Senate.
”Yesterday’s disappointing vote is by no means the end of our efforts, and our Administration is urging the Senate to revisit this important issue during the ongoing lame-duck session. President Obama strongly believes that it’s time for this discriminatory policy to finally end,” she said.


IT GETS BETTER: Atlanta Bucks Rugby Football Club

A message of Hope filmed on location at the Bucks vs Grizzlies match on November 20, 2010 in Nashville, TN.


Faith in America invites Christian university to join public dialogue about religion-based bigotry toward gay Americans

Today, Faith in America spokesperson Chely Wright, a country music singer and Nashville resident, invited Belmont University officials to participate in a public dialogue about the impact of the messages sent by Christian schools when they exclude lesbian and gay students and staff.
Earlier this week, Belmont University, a private Christian College in Tennessee, gained national attention due to reports that Belmont had forced the resignation of the university’s soccer coach Lisa Howe, after Howe disclosed to her players that she and her female partner are having a child. In the wake of those reports, Howe has received an outpouring of support from her team, from other Belmont students and faculty, and from a growing number of supporters across the country. This story has continued to gain national traction, with stories appearing in Sports Illustrated and other outlets.
Wright said, “In my twenty years in Nashville – because of the close relationship that Country Music’s Music Row shares with Belmont University – I have come to know many gay and lesbian members of the Belmont community. In the past few days, I’ve heard from many LGBT students and faculty members of Belmont. They came to Belmont thinking that it was the right place for them as gay and lesbian Christians and now they are scared and confused.
“I am hopeful that President Fisher and other university officials will agree to discuss this matter in a public forum in the near future.” The forum will be sponsored by Faith in America and the Interfaith Alliance.
Belmont’s mission statement provides: “Belmont University welcomes men and women from diverse backgrounds. The university upholds the dignity of all and fosters an atmosphere of respect for the civil expression of divergent perspectives that enables students to learn, live, work and socialize together.”
Mitchell Gold, founder of Faith in America and owner of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams home furnishings, said he hopes the university will examine the message it is sending as an institution of higher learning and an influential voice within the Nashville community.
“We have reached a moment in America when a majority of the public no longer believes that using religious beliefs to justify discrimination is acceptable,” Gold said. “This moment has arrived because people within all faith communities are coming to understand that they simply can no longer be complicit in the immense harm caused to gay Americans by religious teachings that portray gay people as inherently sinful and immoral. We hope the university will accept our invitation to have a respectful public dialogue on these issues with the goal of increasing public understanding and civil discourse on one of the most important issues of our time.”

Faith in America educates Americans about the harm caused to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, especially youth, by religion-based bigotry and works to challenge those who attempt to use religious teaching to promote or justify such stigma and hostility. Visit and for more information.
Interfaith Alliance celebrates religious freedom by championing individual rights, promoting policies that protect both religion and democracy, and uniting diverse voices to challenge extremism.


How One NYU Student Is Helping LGBT Homeless Youth

By Brandon Miller -

One New York University student is doing something extra special this holiday season. Instead of planning a vacation or shopping for scores of presents, sophomore Jesse Rueckert is tackling the issue of LGBT homeless youth. And he's doing it at a critical time, just weeks after the New York Department of Housing announced that it would be slashing funding for youth homeless shelters in the city.
Rueckert put together Project Safe and Warm, a program that distributes holiday gift bags for youth involved in the Ali Forney Center's housing programs. The Ali Forney Center is the largest organization dedicated to providing housing and support for homeless LGBT youth in the United States. Rueckert is working with the NYU Civic Team to make a couple of dreams come true.
"We were just discussing how we could quickly and directly meet the needs of the LGBT youth homeless community. We have our campus community and a lot of resources at our disposal, so we decided to try and center [them] around the holiday season, which is a really tough time for a lot of the youth that the center serves," Rueckert says. "The amount of support we've received in just this short time has been enormous. This is definitely an issue our campus is really attuned to and that really touches the heart of the NYU community."
Rueckert and a team of workers will collect items in residence halls on campus. Things like gift certificates are being sought, but also basic items like toiletries -- little things people with homes can take for granted.
"This is a very difficult time of year for our clients. It means a lot for us to see members of the community like Jesse working to support our young people in this time of need," says Will Fisher, the Ali Forney Center's director of communications and special events. "Many of these young people don't receive gifts for the holidays because they've been rejected by their families, so they don't have many people in their lives who have the capacity for giving."
According to statistics at the Ali Forney Center, 40 percent of homeless youth in New York City belong to the LGBT community. And with the recent cuts to homeless youth programming, services to those 40 percent (as well as all homeless youth in New York City) will suffer.
For many of these young people, there's not much to look forward to during the holiday season. Which is why Project Safe and Warm is so awesome. It's not only going to help people in need, but it's a prime example of how youth can help other youth in need. Talk about the concept of paying it forward.


Physiques, by George!

By John Karr -

"Shore Leave" by George Quaintance. Photo: Courtesy Taschen
"Shore Leave" by George Quaintance. 
Photo: Courtesy Taschen
He was "The Master Painter of the Male Physique," and the long-awaited book that pays tribute is tremendous, in size and importance. For many, it will be fondly embraced nostalgia. For some, it will be an eye-opening first look at what came before the gay sexplosion. The erotic paintings of George Quaintance are campy, kitschy, culturally significant and quite beautiful. And they’re all here.

The whoppingly big (11 ½" x 16") art book is called, simply, Quaintance (Taschen, hardbound, $99.99). The sumptuously reproduced paintings look glorious in such large dimensions; in size and scope, Quaintance is handsome and appropriate. Its 170 pages deliver a brief but solid resume of the artist’s curious life written by Reed Massengill, well-known photographer and author/editor of a number of books of gay photography. Following a long section that enlarges detailed sections of the paintings, The Complete Works are offered in chronological order, with succinct commentary by university professor and porn blogger extraordinaire Ken Furtado. It’s sad that, at two to a page, the artist’s entire output fills only 28 pages. If only George Quaintance had started earlier and lived longer.

He was born in 1902, to a southern family of farmers who surprisingly and wholeheartedly supported their son’s artistic nature. As for GQ, he badly wanted the broader world. After high school he embarked for New York, ostensibly to study art, but where his restless nature detained his ultimate calling. He became a dancer, and toured in vaudeville. Then he was a dance instructor, and after that, improbably, a hairdresser to the stars: Lily Pons, Jeanette MacDonald. This led to providing articles and artwork to women’s beauty magazines. With physique culture in its nascent days, he segued naturally to men’s magazines. From smaller self-help publications, he leaped to Joe Weider’s bodybuilder magazines, and quickly became art editor of Young Physique. The portraits of the stars of the day that he painted for the magazine’s covers cemented his fame as the master painter of the male physique.

He moved to Los Angeles in 1947, and found an artistic home in Bob Mizer’s Physique Pictorial. Its audience welcomed his increasingly homoerotic work with passion. Remember, in those days, a penis could not be shown, and nudes could not be sent through the mail. So GQ’s work capitalized not just on masculine apparel (how he fetishized Levi’s!), but on his subjects’ longing and hunger for something obviously greater than mere male companionship. The events their glances reference promise that a once-covert sexuality will not be hidden long.

Success allowed GQ to purchase Rancho Siesta. Actually a home on two adjacent lots in a suburb of Phoenix, the pretend ranch was a place where GQ could live his cowboy western fantasy. Carefully posed photos taken at Rancho Siesta depict Quaintance’s idealized version of himself, in western garb and covering his baldness with an obviously fake blond wig. They’re also obviously so over-painted as to almost be paintings themselves. In the fantasy of Rancho Siesta, GQ painted his rugged cowboys and burnished Native Americans, and his work attained its artistic maturity in the mid-1950s. He died of a heart attack in 1957.

Much of GQ’s work is flawed in the proportions and frequent stiffness of his subjects. But despite the flamboyance and faults of technique, Quaintance’s men were Men. In being simultaneously both masculine and homosexual, the depictions were not only ahead of their time, but are among the cornerstones of modern gay art. They were certainly an inspiration for all who followed, including Tom of Finland, Rip Colt (aka Jim French), Harry Bush, and others.

Classical themes and mythology allowed GQ to display the male body. "Spartan Soldiers at the Baths," from his artistic maturity of 1956, revels in the camaraderie of a pair of well-built men; GQ dares to show a puff of pubic hair on a blond who is a stand-in for the artist. "Hercules," the last canvas GQ would complete, finds the many-headed Hydra not only standing in for the hero’s penis, but fantastically elongating it.

GQ sure didn’t hide his preferences in his contemporary and western themes. Cowboys in several paintings are decidedly post-coital; others lie about with their buddies in naked languor. My favorite of them all is "Shore Leave." Two sailors share a late-night drink in a cheap hotel. There’s no doubt what they’re up to. One pours a glass of whiskey for his buddy, who lies naked on the bed. This blond is, the commentator claims, "arguably the most voluptuous male nude Quaintance ever painted." Oh, yeah. George was such a butt man.

When male nudity was legalized in 1968 - oh, it took so long, so long - the flood of hard cocks and increasingly graphic sex made GQ’s artwork seem quaint. The originals slowly disappeared, into private collections and who knows where. Of GQ’s 55 completed canvases, 18 are lost. Taschen has restored 24 canvases for the book, which reproduces all 55, using perforce some period reproductions. These homoerotic love letters are unique male iconography.


Friday, December 10, 2010

WikiLeaks: Sex abuse scandal left rift in Vatican-Ireland relations

By Tim Lister -

(CNN) -- Relations between the Vatican and Ireland deteriorated sharply as the Holy See appeared to ignore a commission looking into complaints of physical and sexual abuse of children by Irish priests, according to U.S. diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks.
One cable from earlier this year says the Vatican was angered by the way the Murphy Commission -- which was looking into the how complaints of abuse had been handled by the Church and Irish government -- sidestepped normal diplomatic channels.
The commission had written directly to the Vatican to seek information and requested a meeting with the Vatican's representative in Ireland. The Vatican envoy did not respond, according to the cable.
The cable was one of several published Friday by the Guardian newspaper in London.
The Murphy Commission was appointed after another inquiry issued a report in May 2009 detailing horrific abuses, including 325 alleged cases of abuse by priests, and concluding that the problem was endemic.
"The Vatican believes the Irish government failed to respect and protect Vatican sovereignty during the investigations," the charge d'affaires at the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See, wrote in February 2010.
"Adding insult to injury, Vatican officials also believed some Irish opposition politicians were making political hay with the situation by calling publicly on the government to demand that the Vatican reply."
But the cable added: "Much of the Irish public views the Vatican protests as pettily procedural and failing to confront the real issue of horrific abuse and cover-up by Church officials."
"Resentment toward the Church in Rome remains very high, particularly because of the institutionalized cover-up of abuse by the Catholic Church hierarchy."
But U.S. diplomats credit the Vatican with responding to the unfolding crisis in Ireland "with uncharacteristic speed."
"The Vatican's relatively swift response to this crisis showed it learned key lessons from the U.S. sex abuse scandals in 2002 but still left some Catholics -- in Ireland and beyond -- feeling disaffected," the U.S. charge d'affaires wrote.
Victims' associations were complaining at the time that Pope Benedict XVI had not issued an apology for the abuses and had not ordered the removal of the remaining bishop accused of the cover-up, even though he said he shared the "outrage, betrayal, and shame" of Irish Catholics.
The following month the pope did offer an apology to the victims. "You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry. I know that nothing can undo the wrong you have endured," he said.
Looking to the longer term, the U.S. diplomat wrote that the prestige and power of the Irish Catholic Church had been falling ever since its peak with the 1979 visit of Pope John Paul II. The abuse scandals had come amid increasing secularization of society and might further reduce the influence of the Catholic Church, she wrote.
"Our contacts at the Vatican and in Ireland expect the crisis in the Irish Catholic Church to be protracted over several years, as only allegations from the Dublin Archdiocese have been investigated to date," the cable says.


Catholics Tell Minnesota Archbishop: Jesus Wouldn't Fight Civil Rights for Gay Couples

By Michael A. Jones -

A few months ago, the Catholic Church in Minnesota spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to mail out more than 400,000 DVDs to families across the state. On those DVDs was a simple, concise, yet very anti-gay message: Catholics are not allowed to support gay marriage, and they should never vote for a political candidate who does.
Catholics in the pews were outraged at the Church for spending so much money and so many resources, especially during tough economic times, on fighting something that more and more Catholics see a basic civil right. One local artist decided to collect copies of the DVD, and turn their homophobic message into a piece of artwork that stood for equality. And then there are the folks at, who not only organized a campaign to get pro-equality Catholics to send DVDs back to the Archdiocese, but waged a campaign to raise money to fight homelessness and poverty -- things the Catholic Church should be committed to fighting, rather than the civil rights of gays and lesbians.
Today, is announcing that they're sending back 3,000 DVDs to the Minnesota Catholic Conference, and that they've raised more than $10,000 which they will give to organizations working to alleviate poverty.
"We deliver these DVDs in love and with the hope that all those affected by the message in them will see that there are many Catholics who feel very strongly that the Church's hierarchy is wrong on this issue," say organizers. "We ask for prayers of acceptance, tolerance and inclusiveness for all. That is exactly what Jesus was all about!"
Yes, that may have been all that Jesus was about. But it's certainly not what the Minnesota Catholic Conference has been about of late.
Coupled with the DVDs, these activists will also send an official letter to the Archdiocese of Minneapolis-St. Paul, expressing their dismay that a Church with such a rich history of social justice is seemingly abandoning efforts to fight for health care, a strong educations system, an end to poverty, and for a world free from war and violence.
"Imagine the positive effect the money spent on these DVDs could have had on homelessness and poverty in our communities, especially in this economy," the letter reads. "We pray that you will take to heart the concerns of the thousands of Catholics who believe the Church hierarchy’s current actions, as reflected in the DVD, are inconsistent with what Jesus teaches us about how we should treat others."
Now that's a powerful message to send.
The institutional Church might have the resources to send out 400,000 anti-gay DVDs. But they don't have the numbers to support their campaign, nor do they have history on their side. More to the point, for all of the Minnesota Catholic Church's efforts to urge voters to support politicians who oppose same-sex marriage, Minnesota just elected a Governor who proudly championed his support for marriage equality on the campaign trail.
Seems like the people have spoken. And they'd much rather see the Catholic Church tackle homelessness and poverty, than targeting same-sex couples and LGBT families.

Michael Jones is a Editor. He has worked in the field of human rights communications for a decade, most recently for Harvard Law School.


Gay Marriages All the Rage in the Philippines

By Kilian Melloy -

Marriage equality is not legal in the predominantly Catholic Philippines, but that has not stopped a growing number of gay and lesbian families from celebrating their long-term commitment.

The celebrations are referred to as "holy unions," according to a Dec. 10 New York Times article. The ceremonies are also called "blessings," the article said. Such blessings, like sexual contact between consenting adults, are not illegal in the Philippines, though they do not carry any benefits under the law.

The New York Times noted that though gay couples could live together--and gay singles seek prospective partners--without threat of legal consequences, the influence of the Catholic church had helped prevent anti-discrimination legislation from passing in the Philippines. Moreover, the article said, there has been a push to pre-emptively ban marriage equality for gay and lesbian families, as well as for families in which one partner has transitioned from one gender to the other.

One anti-gay religious leader told the media that a same-sex couple declaring a commitment to one another was "an exercise in futility," the article said. "Marriage has always been between a man and a woman," declared the Rev. Melvin Castro, who serves as the head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines organization the Commission on Family and Life.

Other religious leaders, including GLBT people of faith, questioned that assertion. "This is important to us. Why would anybody want us, who believe in the same God, deprived of this simple joy?" Metropolitan Community Church pastor Regen Luna queried. Luna, who is based in Manila, officiates at the same-sex blessings. "Unions like this are also held in other M.C.C. chapters in other parts of the Philippines," noted Luna.

Another Metropolitan Community Church man of the cloth, an 82-year-old gay American pastor named Richard Mickley, told the New York Times, "What I do is a religious ceremony." The civil law of the Philippines being what it is, "We don’t use the word ’marriage,’ " added Mickley, who reckoned that he had performed "hundreds" of blessings. "We use ’holy union’ instead." Mickley--who has founded an order named for St. Aelred, a monk who lived eight centuries ago. The article noted that St. Aelred has been adopted as a patron saint by some among the GLBT faith community.

A Wikipedia article notes that the Philippines does not exclude gays from military service, but there are no legal alternatives, such as domestic partnerships or civil unions, to fill the gap in legal protections for gay families.
Kilian Melloy reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes commentary for EDGEBoston, where he also serves as Assistant Arts Editor.

Pam Spaulding Calls For HRC's Joe Solmonese To Resign Now

Solmonese, fashion model solo shotBy David Mixner -

    Well, as they say, "The cat is out of the bag now".

   Pam Spaulding, one of the nation's most respected and most powerful bloggers, has become the first national figure to call for the resignation of Human Right's Campaign CEO Joe Solomonese

   HRC has spent over two years near $80 million and has failed to deliver hardly any major achievements over that time. Spaulding says it must replace it's CEO in order to make the changes necessary to regain the trust of the community.

   On in a column called, " A New Year's Wish For The Community: Joe Solmonese's Resignation", Pam pulls no punches and demands his immediate resignation. 

   Here are excerpts from her news-making column but you must read her entire column by clicking here:

"It's time for the Human Rights Campaign's Joe Solmonese to tender his resignation.
By any sane performance metrics, he has failed to successfully lead. Promises like those made in the "This year we are going to bring down DADT" video at the HRC Carolinas dinner on Feb. 27 were used to extract money from low-info, fat wallet attendees. It's rinse and repeat at events like that around the country and there is precious little to show for it in terms of the major promises made by Solmonese -- and this President.
I thankfully captured Joe's bold promises to the HRC Carolinas dinner attendees. You realize that was before we had to deal with the failed, weak DADT compromise language, the sad shell of pre-repeal we're dealing with now. He makes it abundantly clear that true, full repeal would be achieved in 2010.
Joe Solmonese should do the honorable thing and step down. It is shameful to cash all those checks without the follow through on the job. The White House was never put under serious pressure; the late calls now in the e-blasts for the President to do something ring hollow after the toadying that has gone on for two years." 

   Pam Spaulding continues:

"His position at the top requires that he set tone for the organization, provides the baseline for staff morale (god knows how many hair-raising off the record tales I have heard about failure on that level), and effectively uses the incredible war chest developed by formidable fundraising and branding machine.
FAIL. Tone deaf to community concerns and political momentum at the grassroots level.
FAIL. An inability to admit mistakes in strategy and correct course.
FAIL. A refusal until the back is against the wall to publicly criticize the very people in power who needed to be shamed for the slow-walking.
FAIL. The institutionalization of paranoia and defensiveness toward the activists, LGBT media and independent voices of criticism rather than looking inward to see whether the organization is bloated, and has failed to evolve and become nimble and focused in its leadership.
It is not airing dirty laundry to hold Mr. Solmonese accountable in his position that he is happy to promote as the voice of the community when called upon by the mainstream media. With that position comes responsibility -- and accountability. We, as "the community" cannot vote him out of office, we can only 1) point out how and why he isn't the voice of the LGBT community and 2) form alternate means of sharing that dissent through commentary, and/or action -- e.g. GetEQUAL.
It is not divisive to ask what have we gotten for the $80 million that flowed into the coffers of the Human Rights Campaign when it comes to leadership. Those funds -- were they effectively used to ensure promised action on by this President on his major promises?
For those who simmer with anger and immediately call any criticism the "circular firing squad", that's disingenuous. There have been plenty of kudos for what has been accomplished (including those Cinderella Crumbs); but we're talking about a long list of major issues (DADT, ENDA, etc.) that were not seriously pushed after the promises were made." 

   She deals with likely critics of her call for his resignation:

"For those who simmer with anger and immediately call any criticism the "circular firing squad", that's disingenuous. There have been plenty of kudos for what has been accomplished (including those Cinderella Crumbs); but we're talking about a long list of major issues (DADT, ENDA, etc.) that were not seriously pushed after the promises were made.
In any case, critics haven't any power to change the strategic vision (such as it is), within HRC, and if those in charge simply blow off any criticism, is the community expected to sit silent with hands politely folded? There certainly hasn't been a private summit to discuss the myriad problems that have arisen, nor does there appear to be any feedback mechanism desired. I don't expect that it would occur, anyway, given the bunker mentality in place.
That can only change if there is a thorough shake-up, even if only a symbolic one such as Solmonese's departure, that can signal an understanding of the magnitude of disconnect, discord and failure to lead that needs to be addressed. How that occurs is up to the board of HRC - so my little call for a change at the top is of little significance other than it's just me sharing my two cents and you all reacting to it in the comments."

 for more visit Live from Hell's Kitchen.


Premiering on IN THE LIFE in January - Hidden Histories

This month on IN THE LIFE, we feature the Smithsonian's Hide/Seek show which boldly acknowledges, for the first time ever, signs of sexual difference and LGBT desire expressed in American Art. Also we take aa look at the chronicled life of Samuel Steward.


Good News Out of Canada

C-389, the bill to protect Canadian transpeople from discrimination, proceded through another step Wednesday. The committee report passed the House of Commons with a standing vote of 143-131. The timetable is to have third reading in March, two hours of debate, and then a final vote.

Holding a report stage vote is "not normal," but this extra step proved not to be an insurmountable barrier.

The bill adds "gender identity" and "gender expression" to the Canadian Human Rights Act's list of prohibited grounds for discrimination.

Gay slang 'Polari' on list of endangered languages

By Jessica Geen  -

Polari has been included on a list of endangered languages.
The slang, used as a code among some gay people when homosexuality was illegal, is on an online database created by University of Cambridge researchers.
The free website has been developed by researchers at the World Oral Literature Project and includes records for 3,524 world languages, from those deemed “vulnerable”, to those that remain well understood but are effectively extinct, like Latin.
Researchers hope to use it to crowd-source information from all over the world about both the languages and the stories, songs, myths and folklore associated with them.
Polari was originally used by market traders and sailors and some believe can be traced back as far as the 16th century.
It has its roots in English, Italian, Yiddish, canal, theatre and Gypsy languages
Until the 1970s, it was used by a small number of gay people as a private communication method to avoid hostile attention and develop an identity.
Some words, such as ‘naff’ and ‘camp’, are now in general usage.
Of the 3,524 languages listed, about 150 are said to be in an extremely critical condition with the number of speakers in single figures or even just one.
Examples include the Southern Pomo language, spoken by Native Americans in parts of California; Gamilaraay, the language of the Kamilaroi of New South Wales; and the language of the Sami communities based in northwestern Russia.


The Senate Stands for Injustice - Editorial

On one of the most shameful days in the modern history of the Senate, the Republican minority on Thursday prevented a vote to allow gay and lesbian soldiers to serve openly in the military of the United States. They chose to filibuster a vital defense bill because it also banned discrimination in the military ranks. And in an unrelated but no less callous move, they blocked consideration of help for tens of thousands of emergency workers and volunteers who became ill from the ground zero cleanup after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The senators who stood in the way of these measures must answer to the thousands of gay and lesbian soldiers who must live a lie in order to serve, or drop out. They must answer to the civilians who will not serve their country when some Americans are banned from doing so for an absurd reason, and to the military leaders who all but pleaded with them to end this unjust policy. They must answer to the workers who thought they were aiding their country by cleaning up ground zero.
The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, said that he would allow another vote on repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in a free-standing bill later this month. That long shot is likely to be the final test of whether the Republicans are interested in allowing military equality.
Republicans wanted extra days of debate, demanding the right to amend the defense bill that contained the repeal provision, and essentially killing the bill without quite admitting to it by suffocating it of time. Mr. Reid said he had concluded that they had no intention of repealing the repressive measure, so he called for a vote.
The outcome was three votes short of the 60 needed to break the filibuster. Only one Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, voted to end the filibuster. Two Republicans who said they would vote for repeal, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Scott Brown of Massachusetts, voted the other way, as did one Democrat, Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Ms. Murkowski and Mr. Brown stuck with a Republican pledge to support no other measures until the tax-cut deal had been dealt with.
Mr. Reid will undoubtedly be second-guessed on his decision to call for a vote, but given the other-worldly logic of a lame-duck session, it is hard to fault his hard-bitten calculation of the Republicans’ intentions. Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said that if debate on the 850-page defense bill did not begin this week, there would be no time to finish it in the remaining few days of the session.
The defense bill would also have raised pay for soldiers, improved their medical care and provided troops in Iraq and Afghanistan with additional equipment and support. It would be the first time in 48 years that Congress did not approve such a bill — all because of an irrational prejudice against gay men and lesbians.
The filibuster on $7.4 billion in medical care and compensation for the workers at ground zero will be harrowing for the tens of thousands who labored tirelessly for weeks and eventually had to seek care under a patchwork of temporary medical and research programs in the city. These police, firefighters and waves of citizen volunteers need ongoing care for illnesses being traced to the toxic fumes, dust and smoke at ground zero.
In the House, Democrats also took a wrongheaded vote to ban transfers of prisoners from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to detention facilities in the United States. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. has urged the Senate to strip the provision from the final bill.
Another measure of overdue justice — the Dream Act, which would empower the innocent children of illegal immigrants with education and public service opportunity — barely survived a Republican filibuster in the Senate after being tabled by proponents hoping to drum up support in coming days. There is little sign of encouragement, however, for that good cause or others as the 111th Congress expires in the grip of Senate Republicans demeaning public service as an exercise of naysaying.


Dan Savage's Reaction To President Obama's "It Gets Better" Video

Columnist, Dan Savage and creator of the "It Gets Better" project spoke to CNN. "Here you have the President of the United States saying that you didn't choose it -- to be gay -- and you will get through this...that said, the President of the United States has the power to do more than assure LGBT kids that it will get better; the President of the United States has the power to make it better for LGBT adults and children."


Surrogate’s real “Glee” comes from helping others

By Mary Ellen McLaughlin, partner at Alternative Reproductive Resources -

Fox’s wildly popular “Glee” tackles many controversial topics, most recently, surrogacy. One of the main characters, Rachel Berry, is an aspiring Broadway star and the daughter of two gay men. Her birth was made possible via a surrogate named Shelby Corcoran. The storyline is that Shelby was not just the surrogate but also the egg donor for Rachel’s gay parents, making Rachel her biological daughter. Sixteen years after giving birth to Rachel, Shelby regrets the contractual agreement that prevents her from meeting or speaking to her daughter. Meanwhile, Rachel has been longing to find and meet her biological mother as well.
While this complicated tale makes for great TV, it is far from the reality of a typical gestational surrogacy journey. Gestational surrogates are not biologically related to the child they carry.
Shelby’s surrogacy would be considered a traditional surrogacy, where the surrogate uses her own egg and artificial insemination to become pregnant. However, with as in vitro fertilization has become a standard in fertility treatment, so has gestational surrogacy.
Gestational surrogacy ensures that the surrogate is not related to the child through the use of unrelated egg and sperm, either from the intended parents or other donors. If a traditional surrogacy is used and the surrogate is biologically related to the child, she has legal parental rights if she changes her mind about surrogacy.
Stephanie Eckard was a traditional surrogate in Florida, where her verbal surrogacy agreement with the Lamitina family was viewed as an adoption, where Stephanie could decide to keep the baby until 48 hours after the birth. She changed her mind about the surrogacy a few months into her pregnancy, and the Lamitinas had no claim to the child they’d asked Stephanie to carry for them.
ASRM guidelines for surrogacy also state that surrogates should have already given birth to a child. Shelby doesn’t seem to have any other children on the show, making her a highly unlikely candidate for surrogacy in real life.
Another discrepancy between the “Glee” take on surrogacy and real surrogacies is Shelby’s motivation for becoming a surrogate. A desperate young Shelby, who needed money to fund her dream of becoming a Broadway star, decided the pay for nine months of pregnancy was too good to pass up. In reality, most women who become surrogates don’t do it for the money. They are already mothers of their own children, have stable family support systems, and often know someone who had problems with infertility. They are typically motivated by the idea of helping someone realize their dream of becoming a parent, or simply enjoy pregnancy and don’t mind carrying an unrelated child for another parent.
The moral of the story is, of course, that you can’t always believe what you see on TV. Surrogates are far more often mothers who want to help others create a family than aspiring Broadway singers looking for cash.


DADT: The Ultimate American Tragedy

By David Mixner -

Hate-Easy-Love-Takes-Courage_small My policy generally is not to write or speak while angry. Anger has a tendency to blur my ability to think rationally. But quite honestly at this moment I have no desire to be rational. The failure of the United States Senate to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" yet again is an American tragedy. Yesterday, our elected officials continued their path of shame on this issue by failing to join the rest of the civilized world in allowing members of the LGBT community to serve their country honorably. What a disgrace.
Despite efforts to make this vote about procedures and politics, every one of us know this vote was about freedom and justice. Most importantly it was about the right of every American citizen to serve their country with honor and dignity.
Absolutely pay no attention to those who talk about procedures and the need for more debate. That is just total nonsense and doesn't hold up no matter how you examine it. These senators have had nearly 18 years and over 14,000 discharges to figure out this policy. They have had their impact study. The Pentagon has signed off in favor of changing this policy. There have been numerous hearings and more information disseminated on this issue than any sane person can consume in a lifetime. Those who hold up the smoke screen of procedures are hiding behind a cloud of politics are simply cowards or homophobia - or both.
Make no mistake about it. Those are the only two options at this stage.
First the White House with support of our national organizations have made a horrible strategic mistake in not voting on this issue in the first year of the Presidency. They should be held accountable in some form. We would have not had Senator Kirk (R-Ill), Senator Manchin (D-WVa) or Senator Brown (R-Mass) voting "no" because all those votes would have been "yes" from the previous senators who held those seats. Those votes would have been Bryd (D-WVa), Burris (D-Illinois) and either Kennedy/Kirk (Democrats from Massachusetts). That would have given us sixty and maybe even an extra vote or so.
Second, thank you for Senator Susan Collins for being the sole vote from the Republican Party. You gave us a lot of grief in leading up to the vote but in the end you did the right thing. And despite my differences with Senator Lieberman, he deserves enormous thanks for fighting hard for the passage of DADT. He has not given up yet and there is still an outside shot we might succeed.
Third, there should be a special place in hell for Senator Brown of Massachusetts and Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine. Both represent states that are overwhelmingly for repeal of DADT. The LGBT community and our allies should throw everything we have to defeat them in the next election. Fight Back USA? Like Fight Back New York we should hand them their walking papers. No one should contribute any funds to any group that will contribute to Democratic Senator Manchin of West Virginia. We should never forget his betrayal. Finally Senator Lincoln was at the dentist. I guess every reason we challenged her in the primary proved to be true.
Fourth, the vote was a cloture vote and not one on DADT. Why don't we add it as an amendment to the President's compromise keeping the Bush Tax Cuts and let us filibuster until it is added and passed! Let the Republicans explain to the CEO's why their hatred of the LGBT community is holding up their tax breaks. Let's give them hell. Let's fight back and not roll over one more time and take another blow to our dignity and honor.
America had another dark moment in its history yesterday. However, the LGBT community will never give up no matter what the odds, how dark and how many obstacles placed in our way. We will fight in the courts. We will fight in the streets. We will fight at the ballot box. We will fight in our neighborhoods, schools and religious institutions. This much is certain - we will fight and we will win. Nothing you can do will stop our inevitable march to freedom.

for more visit Live from Hell's Kitchen.


Dutch Panel Found 2,000 Church Abuse Claims


BRUSSELS — The Roman Catholic Church, battered by sexual abuse scandals from the United States to Belgium, is facing a new set of damaging allegations in the Netherlands. Figures released Thursday by an investigative commission showed that almost 2,000 people had made complaints of sexual or physical abuse against the church, in a country with only four million Catholics.
“The Roman Catholic Church has not faced a crisis like this since the French Revolution,” Peter Nissen, a professor of the history of religion at Radboud University in the Netherlands, said of the growing abuse scandal.
With one legal case starting this week, and accusations against two former bishops, the reaction of the church appears to have fueled the crisis. Nearly all of the cases are decades old, with probably no more than 10 from the past 20 years.
Asked in March on television about the hundreds of complaints already surfacing, one of the church’s most senior figures, Cardinal Adrianus Simonis, shocked the nation by replying not in Dutch but in German. “Wir haben es nicht gewusst” — We knew nothing — he said, using a phrase associated with Nazi excuses after World War II.
“A lot of people perceived it as an affirmation of the culture of covering up cases,” said Professor Nissen, adding that it meant to many, “ ‘We should have known’ or ‘We knew but we didn’t want to know.’ ”
The Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said that he had no comment and that the matter was in the hands of Dutch bishops.
Next month Cardinal Simonis, the retired bishop of Utrecht, will testify in Middelburg as a witness in a court hearing already under way involving sexual abuse.
In an interim report, issued Thursday, a commission headed by Wim Deetman, a Protestant and former education minister, said it had received roughly 1,975 reports of sexual or physical abuse, some directly but others through a body set up for victims, called Hulp en Recht, or Help and Justice.
One central accusation in the Netherlands is that, as in other countries, known abusers were simply transferred to new parishes.
In recent weeks it has emerged that a Roman Catholic order, the Salesians of Don Bosco, paid about $22,000 to settle an abuse claim against one bishop, Jan ter Schure, who died in 2003. The abuse is said to have taken place in Ugchelen between 1948 and 1953. The order declined to comment.
Meanwhile, Hulp en Recht is examining claims against a former bishop, Jo Gijsen, now 78, who has been accused of having an abusive relationship with a student at the Rolduc seminary between 1959 and 1961. He has denied accusations against him.
Central to the growing public debate over the church’s culpability is the extent to which sexual abuse was tolerated and covered up.
The hearing at which Cardinal Simonis will testify next month involves a priest convicted of abusing three youngsters in Terneuzen. The priest had been arrested, though not prosecuted, on similar grounds in the late 1970s as director of a Catholic youth center near The Hague, part of the diocese where Cardinal Simonis was then bishop.
The accuser’s lawyer, Martin De Witte, who represents about 120 other people claiming abuse, said his client wanted an apology and damages. “We say the Catholic Church didn’t take the measures to protect children from this man,” he said. “They gave him another chance, and another, and another.”
Pieter Kohnen, spokesman for the church in the Netherlands, said that, under its rules, the diocesan bishop did not have responsibility for institutions run by Catholic orders.
Mr. Kohnen argued that cases now coming to light took place mostly before 1970 and among the religious orders that controlled many boarding schools and boys’ clubs.
He said: “Of the 1,799 cases notified to Hulp en Recht since March of this year, less than 10 took place between 1990-2010. Of the 1,799 cases, 265 relate to clergy in one of the seven dioceses and around 1,500 are related to members of religious orders and congregations.”
Mr. Kohnen rejected the accusation that perpetrators were simply moved around the country. “The general allegation is extremely general and not in conformity with the facts,” he said. “People were replaced, but not without therapy or proper help — what was felt necessary in the circumstances.”
According to Professor Nissen, the church’s argument that it has little authority over religious orders is correct, but he thinks this is a narrow position to take. “They take a legal, canonical, approach, but you could take a pastoral approach and say that bishops are leaders of the Catholic community, and that religious orders, while having autonomy, are part of this community,” he said.


Gay Jewish group celebrates Chanukah festival

Saturday night saw the celebration of the Jewish festival of Chanukah by London’s largest gay men’s Jewish group, Gay Jews in London.
The group held an ironic toga party accompanied by the more traditional lighting of candles by a gay Rabbi.
The festival celebrates the Jewish defeat of the Syrians in the 2nd century BC in order to recapture the temple in Jerusalem and the miracle of a candelabra there burning for eight nights despite there being only enough oil to last for one.
The Gay Jews in London group, now with more than 250 members, was founded as a simple Facebook page for Gay Jews in London by Ben Kaye because he wanted to meet other gay Jews. It now provides regular social and cultural events for primarily gay male Jews although it has a small but growing numbers of lesbian members.
Dave Shaw was elected as the next chairman of Gay Jews in London. He told “We hope to engage those individuals who struggle to reconcile their sexuality and their Jewish identity and therefore feel detached from both communities. I want our group to become a welcoming place for young LGBT Jews to meet others like themselves and gain strength from one another.”


Gay rights ally Elizabeth Edwards’ funeral to be picketed by anti-gay church

Elizabeth Edwards was a supporter of gay marriage
The funeral of Elizabeth Edwards, former wife of presidential candidate John Edwards, will be picketed by the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church.
Mrs Edwards, a lawyer and author, died yesterday at the age of 61 after a six-year battle with cancer.
She was a supporter of gay rights and in 2008, while her husband was running for the presidency, declared that she believed in legalising gay marriage.
While Mr Edwards reserved his support for civil unions, she told reporters: “I don’t know why somebody else’s marriage has anything to do with me. I’m completely comfortable with gay marriage.”
The Westboro Baptist Church, which usually targets the funerals of killed soldiers with the slogan ‘God Hates Fags’, said it would be outside the Edenton Street United Methodist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Saturday.
The church, which claims that soldier deaths abroad are God’s vengeance for gay rights, released a statement condemning her for having fertility treatment and for questioning her faith after her 16-year-old son Wade was killed in an accident.
In a final message posted on her Facebook page, Mrs Edwards avoided any mention of God and instead cited her “faith in the power of resilience and hope”.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

NOM’s Gallagher mocks pro-marriage equality Catholics

By Michael K. Lavers -

Gay blogger Andrew Sullivan and National Organization for Marriage Board Chair Maggie Gallagher sparred over nuptials for same-sex couples at Georgetown University on Wednesday, Dec. 8.

Gallagher asked the predominantly Roman Catholic audience their position on nuptials for gays and lesbians-roughly two-thirds indicated they support marriage equality, while one-fourth said they opposed it and another 25 percent indicated they had no position. She then highlighted a pin on her lapel that read "marriage equality = one man plus one woman."

"I really do support marriage equality, but I don’t support gay unions," stressed Gallagher.

Sullivan, who married his partner in Massachusetts in 2007, acknowledged Gallagher’s assertion a marriage between a man and a woman is a "beautiful event." He said he would defend the idea of traditional marriage as passionately as Gallagher does. Sullivan added, however, gays and lesbians should also have the ability to tie the knot if they choose.

"I don’t think my parents’ marriage or my sister’s marriage is invalidated by my own," said Sullivan.

The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) reported 60 percent of Catholics under 30 support marriage for same-sex couples, compared with only 25 percent of Catholics 65 or older. The PRRI also reported in July that 51 percent of Catholics in California and 57 percent of Catholics of Latino descent would back pro-marriage equality legislation.

Washington Post columnist EJ Dionne, who moderated the panel, acknowledged his own evolution towards marriage equality. Gallagher mocked those Catholics who support nuptials for gays and lesbians.

"Don’t pat yourselves on the back for how brave you are," she said. "It takes courage to go into the public square and defend the church’s teachings on marriage."

Sullivan used the church’s own teachings and traditions to frame his pro-marriage equality arguments. He said God was the first person to whom he came out. Sullivan added his own Catholicism has allowed him to live openly as a gay man, but Sullivan used a question about LGBT teenager suicides as an opportunity to single out the church’s hierarchy for its anti-gay rhetoric and doctrine.

"It singles out homosexuals for a special kind of suffering," said Sullivan.

Gallagher quickly accused Sullivan of asserting the Pope "intends hatred." She also dismissed suggestions she and the church is anti-gay.

"I don’t think gay Catholics should be excluded from the church because you commit sexual sins," she said. "I think of gay people as my friends, my neighbors and my fellow citizens."

Gallagher further stressed the church’s opposition to marriage for gays and lesbians.

"You want me to be divorced forcefully," countered Sullivan, suggesting Gallagher’s anti-marriage equality rhetoric does more harm than she may realize. "You can’t make me feel bad about my marriage, but you are trying to abolish it."

Gallagher and Sullivan also sparred over whether procreation is the only consideration for a couple who seeks to get married. "People are allowed to have non-procreational sex all the time, as long as they’re not homosexuals," said Sullivan, questioning the basis of Gallagher’s position on what she dismissed as the so-called great fertility argument.

In a post-panel interview, Gallagher asserted a same-sex couple’s marriage would have no impact on her and her husband’s marriage. She reaffirmed, however, nuptials for gays and lesbians would have unintended consequences on society-at-large.

"I don’t believe it is about me; it’s about my children," Gallagher told EDGE.
Michael K. Lavers manages the Fire Island News. His work has also appeared in the Village Voice, WNYC, the BBC, the Advocate and other media outlets. And he blogs at Boy in Bushwick [] 

Gay marriages, civil unions and the space between them

, Professor of Law, Widener University -
What justifies restricting marriage to same-sex couples, and are civil unions an acceptable compromise?
Those questions were at the core of Monday’s oral argument in the Prop 8 case. They also direct Maggie Gallagher’s response to my post on civil unions last week, where I pointed out that her position on this marriage-in-all-but name compromise has been inconsistent (a conclusion she denied, but the evidence seems to me compelling).
The back-and-forth had a great result, as Maggie spelled out, more clearly than I’d see before, her position on civil unions and their connection to marriage.  You should read the whole thing (it’s not long), but I’ll summarize here.
What she cares about is marriage, and, for her, supporting marriage means restricting it to those couples that can provide a mother and a father for kids.
Unlike some, she doesn’t think that same-sex couples and our families should be ignored; in principle, she would favor some kind of civil union status that would identify and protect our interests, but she’s clear that we don’t have the right to civil unions – they are “a gesture of civic respect, crafted in ways that would minimize the impact on a marriage culture.”
And she’s wary that civil unions lead to marriage.
Now I’m quite clear about our areas of disagreement – and, perhaps surprisingly, of agreement.
First, she’s right that civil unions and domestic partnerships are leading to marriage.
Here’s some evidence: In Vermont, the first state to create the civil union, the legislature moved to full marriage equality in less than 10 years. Why? I’m sure each law-maker had his or her own reasons, but among them was surely a recognition – informed by a decade of experience and the report of a civil union commission – that this creative half-step was inadequate, confusing, and – most centrally – discriminatory.
They could see no reason in jealously withholding the word “marriage” from same-sex couples any longer, and plenty of reasons to move to full equality.
Maggie’s fear of civil unions leading to marriage was also dramatized during the Prop 8 argument.
Two of the justices – looking for a way to limit their decision to the unique facts surrounding California’s battle over marriage equality – homed in on several related facts. I’ve ordered them syllogistically here to present what I think is the likely reasoning of the court’s eventual decision:
(1) Before Prop 8, the California Supreme Court had held that marriage was a fundamental right;
(2) Prop 8 took that right away, leaving same-sex couples with the “virtual equality” (domestic partnerships, in California, but with full rights) they’d had before; and
(3) since the only reason to grant full equality without the name is anti-gay animus,  Prop 8 violates the Supreme Court’s directive, in Romer v. Evans (1996), that the Constitution must “neither know nor tolerate classes among citizens.”
Yes, there’s something paradoxical about this argument (or “perverse,” as Prop 8 defender Charles Cooper put it during the argument.) The closer a state moves towards full equality for its LGBT citizens – allowing adoption, enacting anti-discrimination laws, and (most importantly) granting relationship recognition short of marriage – the likelier it is that the denial of full marriage equality will be seen as discriminatory.
Judges Reinhardt and Hawkins, in particular, were looking for just this sort of narrower ground for what might be their holding (if the defenders’ appeal isn’t tossed for lack of standing, which is by no means certain).  Had the case arisen in, say, Florida – which, legally speaking, hates LGBT people – the judges would have a heavier lift, because that state has held on its arguments (however misguided) for treating us differently. There’s no civil union (or anything else) to build the bridge from intolerance to acceptance that then unmasks the denial of full equality as discrimination simpliciter.
This is what Maggie Gallagher fears – and, from her perspective, rightly so.
Second, I also agree with her that there’s no right to any such thing as a “civil union,” at least as that term is currently understood. (There’s a good argument for legally renaming all marriages  “civil unions,” but that’s a different point.)
There is a right to equality, and it’s by now clear that civil unions don’t and never can confer it.
If I might be so presumptuous, I’d bet that Maggie would even agree with me so far: She doesn’t oppose what she considers to be equality (I mean, who would oppose equality?), and she also knows that civil unions aren’t the same thing as marriages.
Where we dramatically part company, of course, is in our conclusion about the meaning and purpose of marriage. Under her (to me) narrow and unbending definition, same-sex couples aren’t “similarly situated” to opposite-sex couples with respect to marriage, so denying us the right to marry isn’t denying us equality.
We can’t be a mother and a father, obviously. So if marriage is really just about providing (and encouraging) only that form of parented family, it’s easy to see why she and others oppose our marrying.
The trouble, of course, is that there’s no evidence to support her conclusions. That kids do better, on average, in two-parent homes where the parents are married than in other situations isn’t relevant to this issue, because the studies so demonstrating didn’t compare same-sex couples to opposite-sex ones.
Indeed, the studies that have assayed such a comparison show that kids do just fine in our families – even while we’re denied the social glue of marriage.
And even if there were evidence that kids do better when raised by opposite-sex couples, the fact is that same-sex couples are raising kids, and doing so with state approval (compare: polygamous families).
In that context, walling us off from the protections and social approbation that comes along with marriage works a real harm, and one that the civil union can’t entirely cure. So denying us the right to marry would have to be based, legally speaking, on some concrete – not speculative – showing of harm to the institution of marriage were we permitted entry.
And this, neither Maggie nor any of the anti-equality forces can show.
John Culhane is Professor of Law and Director of the Health Law Institute at Widener University School of Law in Wilmington, Del. He blogs about the role of law in everyday life, and about a bunch of other things at: He is the editor of and contributor to a just-released book, Reconsidering Law and Policy Debates: A Public Health Perspective, now available on Amazon .  His chapter is on marriage equality.

ACLU statement on DADT


Get Equal on DADT Repeal-

I have to be honest -- I just vomited a little in my mouth.
The Senate just voted on whether to bring the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) up for conversation. Not for passage -- just for conversation. It failed.
We all laid everything we could on the line for this bill -- a piece of legislation that would have repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." We all know that gay and lesbian Americans are just as patriotic and capable as straight Americans -- but dysfunctional Senate processes, a homophobic Republican Party, and a spineless Democratic Party got in the way of equality once again.
Let us be clear -- this wasn't the bill we wanted. This compromised piece of legislation was far from the ideal -- it would have left our transgender sisters and brothers behind, it kicked actual repeal to some undefined date later down the road, and it said nothing about how to deal with lesbian or gay enlistees who have partners who must remain second-class citizens because their lives are still ruled by the Defense of Marriage Act.
And even this compromised piece of legislation didn't pass.
If we're ever going to fight back against these kinds of compromises, we've got to build a ground game that disallows anything less than full equality.
We're working on developing that ground game, and we'll have more to say about it in coming weeks.
For now, we mourn for the LGBT servicemembers serving each day in silence -- some of whom will lose their lives without ever tasting equality. We mourn for the lack of courage shown by our elected leaders to put an end to needless discrimination.
But we should remain inspired by the fight left in us. Go on Facebook. Go on Twitter. Get out into the streets. Call up your friends. Get angry, and then get organized.
We'll help -- and we promise that we're going to continue building a movement from the ground up that no longer settles for this kind of political homophobia and transphobia.
-Heather Cronk
Managing Director, GetEQUAL
GetEQUAL icon

Facebook to Reimburse Gay Workers for Benefit Tax


The movement to equalize health benefits among gay employees with domestic partners continues to pick up speed.
As it stands now, gay workers who are fortunate enough to work for employers that extend health insurance to domestic partners are still at a disadvantage because they are taxed on the value of that coverage — a tax that is not paid by the heterosexual married person in the next cubicle.
But a growing number of companies, now including Facebook, Bain & Company and possibly Boston Consulting Group, are trying to level the playing field for same-sex couples by covering those extra costs, since their unions are not recognized by the federal government. The new policy at Facebook and Bain will take effect on Jan. 1. Boston Consulting said it expected to adopt the policy shortly, and it would also probably take effect on Jan. 1.
“This is a simple matter of fairness,” said Russ Hagey, a Bain senior partner and the firm’s chief talent officer.
The new policies follow similar announcements by Barclays, and also this year, Google. A handful of other large organizations, including Cisco, Kimpton Hotels and the Gates Foundation also cover these costs.
Under federal law, employer-provided health benefits for domestic partners are counted as taxable income, if the partner is not considered a dependent. The tax owed is based on the value of the partner’s coverage paid by the employer.
As a result, employees with domestic partners will pay about $1,069 more a year in taxes, on average, than a married employee with the same coverage, according to a 2007 report by M.V. Lee Badgett, research director of the Williams Institute, which studies sexual orientation policy issues. (Given the escalating cost of health care, those numbers may be even higher now).
Similar to the other companies that have adopted the policy, Bain (including Bain’s nonprofit subsidiary, Bridgespan) said its employees would receive a lump sum reimbursement at the end of each year, essentially a separate line item to cover the taxes.  A spokesman for Facebook said that employees’ W-2 forms would be adjusted so that they wouldn’t have to pay for the extra tax. In other words, their income will be increased just enough to cover the extra costs.
The companies said they are not extending this benefit to heterosexual domestic partners because they have the option to marry and avoid the extra tax. (Same-sex couples can get married in some states, but their unions are not federally recognized.)
Members of Congress tried to address the issue last year. In fact, the health care overhaul legislation passed by the House included language that would have eliminated the tax on employer-provided coverage. But the provision did not make it into the final legislation signed by President Obama in March.


HIV prevention efforts go mobile

By Matt Baume -

AIDS advocacy organizations are increasingly building high-tech online tools to keep safer sex at the top of San Franciscans’ minds.

Among those new tools are a sex-education app for the iPhone and iPad, condom-locators, a conference on youth media and sexual health, and a revamped website for the San Francisco AIDS foundation.

The digital emphasis coincides with two new studies in the journal AIDS and Behavior that indicate a need for more online outreach.

One study found that men who pursue "online partnerships" are more likely to engage in unsafe sex. Although Internet hookups themselves do not necessarily cause riskier behavior, the authors concluded, online usage may be a "marker" of a tendency towards heightened risk-taking.

Another study found that 85 percent of men who use the Internet to find partners check their partners’ online profiles to determine their HIV status. A close percentage ask verbally prior to sex, but nearly half ask after sex and nearly a third of Internet-using gay men simply guess.

Reaching and educating that third, the study concluded, is critical to stemming the tide of HIV transmissions.

San Francisco’s Department of Public Health hopes to do just that. Local health officials recently unveiled STD411, a new app for the iPhone and iPad that provides users with quick access to information about sexual practices and diseases. The app cost about $4,000 to develop and was paid for with a federal grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Users are presented with a chart that indicates the risk of transmitting various STDs based on different sex acts. An array of multicolored flashing condoms indicates risk levels.

For example, users who tap "oral sex" along with "syphilis" receive the message, "if there is no sore, there may still be an infection. Having routine STD screening every 3 to 6 months is the best way to know."

STD411 can be downloaded from the iTunes store or at

On a recent evening in the Castro, prospective users checked out the new app and mostly gave it high marks.

"It’s a great idea," said San Francisco resident Benni Rodriguez. As he scrolled through the list of STDs, he added, "There’s some stuff I didn’t know about."

"I like that it’s an app," said Brittney Caraway, visiting the Castro from Las Vegas. Caraway pointed out that the interface isn’t intuitive, since the explanation of the color-coded condoms is difficult to find and there’s no indication that lists are scrollable and tappable. As she spent a few minutes browsing the STDs and sex acts, she added, "I don’t even know what half of these things are."

Phillip and Liam, two young men who asked to be identified only by first name, were surprised to learn that even masturbation can carry a risk of transmitting syphilis if sex toys are shared.

They spent a few minutes engrossed by STD411 before closing it with a shrug, saying that they probably wouldn’t use it.

"I learned pretty much everything I need to know in 7th and 8th grade," said Phillip.

The key to connecting with users is approaching them in the proper context, said Deb Levine, executive director of the Oakland nonprofit Internet Sexuality Information Services. For the last decade ISIS has specialized in providing sex education through emerging media channels.

"One of the things we’ve learned at ISIS over the last 10 years is that interventions don’t work in isolation," Levine said. "Technology works best when there’s some physical location component."

One recent ISIS success involved recruitment for a sero-sorting study. Participants were initially approached in person with a survey, rather than online, which doubled the rate of follow-up response.

Levine expressed concern that STD411 would have difficulty gaining widespread adoption, comparing it to outreach that ISIS performed in Toronto for an app called M2Men.

"Here we go back to ’what’s the context,’" she said. "I might take an STD quiz online if there’s a context, but to download to my phone and keep it on my phone, I don’t really understand the benefit of that process. In Toronto, they went out to the community, and said, ’Here you go, download our app.’"

Dr. Susan Philip, deputy health officer and director of STD prevention and control services at San Francisco’s health department, said that her section would engage with users via LGBT media such as the Frameline film festival, and the Bay Area Reporter, as well as with banner ads on adult sites such as Hot House Studios.

Philip said she is also open to sharing STD411 with other organizations.

"We try as much as possible to reach out to partners in our previous work with other websites," she said.

Another online strategy that could see a revamp soon is the long-running "Ask Dr. K" feature on the website of the San Francisco health department’s STD section. The department’s longtime STD chief Dr. Jeffrey Klausner had been the "Dr. K" answering people’s sexual health questions.

Klausner resigned from the job earlier this year to work on AIDS issues in Africa. But he has continued to post responses to people’s queries as an unpaid volunteer.

Philip, who permanently replaced Klausner in July, was asked in a recent interview with the B.A.R. if the online Q&A feature would be renamed "Ask Dr. P." She said she is currently reviewing her section’s web presence and the social media platforms it is using.

"We are looking at all of those things," said Philip. "We know there is a lot of interest in ’Ask Dr. K’ and there are still questions that need to be answered."