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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Ellen - The Puppy Episode

Synopsis

Richard, an old friend comes to visit Ellen. He also brings his assistant, Susan. Ellen and Susan hit it off very well. After Richard tells Ellen he thinks they'd be great as something more, Ellen leaves, and goes to talk with Susan. Susan tells Ellen that she is gay, and that she thought Ellen was too. Ellen becomes very offended and caught very off guard, so she leaves and goes back to Richard's room, to prove that she is not gay.
Full Recap

Richard, an old friend comes to visit Ellen. He also brings his assistant, Susan. Ellen and Susan hit it off very well. After Richard tells Ellen he thinks they'd be great as something more, Ellen leaves, and goes to talk with Susan. Susan tells Ellen that she is gay, and that she thought Ellen was too. Ellen becomes very offended and caught very off guard, so she leaves and goes back to Richard's room, to prove that she is not gay. She gets all over him, but later does not do anything and apologizes to him. The next day, at the bookstore, she tells her friends all about the night before and the great "man-woman sex" she and Richard had. The gang is very surprised and happy for her, that she has found someone. Then Ellen goes to the airport to say goodbye to Susan. Ellen can't say the word, but finally manages to tell Susan that she was right, and that she is in fact gay, but she says this over a microphone to the whole airport. To make matters worse, she learns that just Richard is heading back, and that Susan is not leaving for a few more days.

Ellen invites her friends over so that she can tell them that she is gay. But she decides she can’t do it, and Peter, whom Ellen told the news to before everyone arrived, opens his big mouth and blurts out, "Oh for goodness sakes Ellen, tell them you’re gay!" So Ellen has no choice, and tells them. She tells them that she made up the whole thing with Richard, that nothing at all happened with Richard, and that Susan is who she really likes. Everyone seems fine with it, except Paige. The next day at the bookstore, Susan comes in. Ellen finds out that Susan is in a committed 8 year relationship, and Ellen becomes sad and confused. But she hugs her goodbye, and Susan tells her that she is amazing. Later, everyone goes to Little Frieda’s, a local lesbian coffee house.

Homosexuality in Animals

Sexplorations TV show segment



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Can You Out Dance Kylie?

Think you can Out Dance Kylie? See Kylie Minogue meet her match when an imposter tries to steal her crown as the ultimate dancing queen in a new video created by sponsors of the Aphrodite 'Les Folies' European Tour 2011!



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Share Your Story - Lambda Legal's National Health Care Fairness Campaign

Lambda Legal banner.
Help Lambda Legal commemorate the Ninth Annual LGBT Health Awareness Week (March 28-April 1) by sharing your health care stories.
The theme of this year's event, "Come Out for Health," represents a call to action for community members, advocates, service providers, and governmental officials to recognize health and wellness as an essential part of the social justice movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals.
One of our goals for the week is to collect 100 stories about the challenges and positive experiences of LGBT people and people living with HIV while trying to receive health care services.
These stories will be delivered to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, and other public officials. As the Affordable Care Act is being implemented, your stories are needed more than ever. The law provides funding for training a diverse health care workforce. In Lambda Legal's 2009 health care fairness survey, more than half of all respondents reported that they have experienced at least one type of discrimination in care.Our stories can help show why health care providers should receive training about the specific health care needs of LGBT people and those living with HIV.
Please take a few minutes and share your story today. Help us spread the word by sharing this link with all your Facebook friends.
You can get more information about LGBT Health Awareness Week and order posters, flyers and postcards from the National Coalition for LGBT Health.

Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida, refused Janice Langbehn and her children visitation after Janice’s Partner, Lisa Pond, suddenly collapsed before a family cruise. The hospital told Janice that she was in an antigay city and state, and could expect no information or acknowledgment as family. Learn about the Langbehns below, then share your story.



Please note that Lambda Legal is collecting these stories for educational purposes, so your story may be distributed publicly on the website, in publications or other printed materials. If you need assistance or advice on legal matters, you should immediately contact the Lambda Legal Help Desk.

Please read before sending your submission

We cannot accept submissions from children under 13 years of age.
While Lambda Legal appreciates all submissions, we may not be able to use all of them for our public education campaigns. We reserve the right to edit submissions for legal and editorial reasons, and will send you the version we intend to use for your final approval before it is printed or published online.
Lambda Legal also requires a signed release form from all participants (legal guardians must sign for children under 18 years of age). Please identify yourself or your child with your first and last name on the submission form. After you submit your story, we will email you a release form that you can return via fax or mail (or you can download a release form now and fax it to 212-809-0055). We strongly prefer stories with first and last names. However, if you do not wish to include your last name, you may submit a story using your first name only and no release form will be required. Please include as much detailed information as you are comfortable sharing, such as the name of the health care facility, the city and state where the incident occurred and the year in which it happened.
We especially need your complete contact information. No email addresses, postal addresses or phone numbers will be published. We request this information only in the event that we may later need to contact you for more information or to request your permission to reprint your story elsewhere.
Thank you for taking to time to Share Your Story!

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'Glee's' Naya Rivera Honored To Play Lesbian

If there were any doubts that Naya Rivera's character on the Fox musical-comedy Glee is a lesbian, the show's writers have put them to rest.
In the recent episode titled Sexy, Santana confessed to Brittany, played by Heather Morris, that she loves her. Brittany declared her love in return but added that she was taken.
“Santana is now out, internally,” Falchuk said. “Whether she's dating somebody or not, we don't know. But we think we've made a big step in giving the world that character. Whether she and Brittany will work out we don't know.” 
Rivera said she was “more than honored” to play gay.
Rivera's character joins the show's leading gay men, Kurt, played by Chris Colfer, and Blaine, played by Darren Criss, who this week sealed their romance with a kiss. A third male character, bully Dave Karofsky, played by Max Adler, remains closeted.

"Glee" co-creator Brad Falchuk confirmed that Santana (Naya Rivera) is a lesbian and that her story line will continue to evolve during the last six episodes of season two. On Wednesday, while attending PaleyFest in Beverly Hills, Falchuk finally brought clarity to the arc involving Brittany and Santana, stating without hesitation, "Santana is a lesbian."
Lesbian visibility “was our intention,” Falchuk explained. “We wanted to make sure everybody is included. Santana is a lesbian. She might not be ready to come out yet, but she is.”
This is the fourth gay character to emerge on "Glee" in the past two seasons. In addition to Kurt and Blaine, newcomer Karofsky has been struggling internally with his own homosexuality. How do fans feel about seeing Santana as a lesbian on the show? See below for a range of interesting responses from Twitter:
Leyla Ramos: "It's good..... Not all gay people r guys.... Lesbian teens need someone to tell their story too."
Rachel: "Better for her to be bi. They already had a gay character, bi touches a whole new group & the issues & confusion they face."
Hayley B.: "Maybe that's why she always felt comfortable sleeping around with guys... She didn't feel emotionally connected?"
Lauren Keyes: "Love the idea that Santana's a b***h because she feels she can't act on her feelings. Hope she and Karofsky have a connection. That being said, I think the more GLBT representation the better. Can't wait to see Santana come to terms with her sexuality."
Carlos Perez: "I like Santana as a lesbian, I think her coming out is one of the things that make Kurt and Blaine transfer to McKinley."


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Doctor Who star Matt Smith goes gay in Christopher And His Kind

Matt Smith in Christopher and His Kind
By James Park  -


Matt Smith, the 11th Doctor Who stars as Christopher Isherwood, in BBC Two’s Christopher and His Kind, on Saturday. The one-off drama charts the life of the gay author of A Single Man.
The drama opens in the hedonistic cabaret scene of Berlin in the Thirties is in full swing where the young Anglo-American writer Christopher Isherwood arrives in the city, unable to speak a word of German.
To Isherwood’s reserved English sensibility, the city’s thriving gay subculture is thrilling and intoxicating, but he soon finds himself heartbroken after the failure of a hopeless love affair, and so sets out on a process of self-discovery.
Imogen Poots stars as Jean Ross, an aspiring actress and singer who provided Christopher with the inspiration for the Sally Bowles character of Cabaret fame; Toby Jones plays Gerald Hamilton, a peculiar man who provided the inspiration for the title character in the celebrated Isherwood novel Mr. Norris Changes Trains; Pip Carter plays Wystan Auden, the famous poet with a droll sense of humour who persuaded Christopher to join him in Berlin, and Douglas Booth plays Heinz, a street cleaner whom Christopher meets and falls in love with during his time in Berlin.
Christopher And His Kind tells the story of how Isherwood escapes repressive English society and his suffocating relationship with his mother Kathleen (Lindsay Duncan) for the decadent and politically unstable world of pre-war Berlin.
Isherwood, who died in 1986, wrote a number of critically acclaimed novels including A Single Man, based around one day in the life of George, a middle-aged, gay, English professor at an American university. The film adaptation of the novel, starring Colin Firth won the star a Golden Globe and a BAFTA award for best actor.

Christopher and His Kind is on BBC Two at 9:30pm on 19th March 2011

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US House committee approves measure for aid cut to anti-gay countries

Barney Frank and his partner

By Jessica Geen -


A US House committee has approved a measure which would discourage aid to homophobic countries like Uganda.
The amendment to the House Financial Services Committee bill was tabled by Democrat representative Barney Frank, who is gay.
It reads: “The Committee urges Treasury to advocate that governments receiving assistance from the multilateral development institutions do not engage in gross violations of human rights, for example, the denial of freedom of religion, including the right to choose one’s own religion, and physical persecution based on sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Mr Frank cited Uganda as an example of a country which receives US aid but persecutes gay people. His amendment was approved with almost unanimous support, The Advocate reports.
Last month, a British Conservative politician said that EU financial aid to African countries should depend on their commitment to gay and human rights.
Dr Charles Tannock, the foreign affairs and human rights spokesman for the Tories in Europe, said: “Financial aid to African countries must be reciprocated with progress on fundamental human rights on that continent.”
Many African countries criminalise homosexuality. Ugandan politicians are expected to begin debate next month on a bill which would punish “aggravated” cases with the death penalty.

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NY State Sen. Mark Grisanti Compares Same-Sex Marriage to House Pets

By Brandon Miller ·

Lady GaGa launched a campaign earlier this month to have her followers help convince New York State Senator Mark Grisanti to support same-sex marriage. Though the Senator once claimed his views were unalterable, some rumblings indicated that he may have had a change of heart.
Well, no such luck. At least not yet.
On March 9, Sen. Grisanti did a radio interview in which he compared marriage equality with house pets. If that sounds like a ridiculous comment, it's because it was. The Senator also said that he would support civil unions, but not formal marriage for gays and lesbians.
"Civil unions and all the proponents that go along with that, I have no problem with," Grisanti said. "I have a problem with the term marriage itself. To me, marriage is between a man and a woman. It's been a term, a term of ours for years that has been around for thousands of years. It's like calling a cat, a dog. I don't think that that needs to be changed."
Openly gay state Senator Tom Duane responded to Grisanti's comments, and pretty much sums it all up. Duane says:
It is truly sad and unfortunate that Senator Grisanti would publicly compare marriage equality and my right to marry the person I love, with cats and dogs.
Lady Gaga appropriately and powerfully used her platform to draw attention to Senator Grisanti’s position on marriage equality. I sincerely hope that Senator Grisanti will apologize for his misstatement, and that when he meets with and has an open discussion with those Western New Yorkers who are being denied equal recognition of their families, he will listen with an open heart and mind.
I believe that when he hears the stories of the denial of family recognition imposed on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender New Yorkers, he will join Lady Gaga and so many other New Yorkers – in fact, a majority of New Yorkers – who support marriage equality.
I also hope that the majority of New York State Senators will recognize my right to marry the person I love, now.
It is indeed a sad development to hear these comments, but it is by no means the end. What sort of monsters would we be if we didn't heed GaGa's call to keep e-mailing the Senator? Forget that, what sort of human beings would we be if we didn't support equal rights for all? E-mail Senator Mark Grisanti and urge him to support same-sex marriage by signing our petition here. Everyone deserves the right to a bad (legal) romance.

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Catholic Principal Bans a GSA and Hands Out Homophobic Pamphlets in Mississauga, Ontario

By Brandon Miller ·

Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs) have been a hot topic in Ontario ever since news came out that the Halton District Catholic School Board bans the groups in their schools. It was later discovered that the same was true of all Catholic boards in Ontario, and since then, numerous news outlets have picked up both the Halton story, as well as the larger issue. Because Catholic schools receive funding from taxpayers in Ontario, the idea that these boards have policies that go against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms -- as well as the Ontario Human Rights Code -- is especially appalling.
Rather than back down in the face of intolerance, some brave students have rallied in support of the cause. In particular, Xtra.ca reports that 32 students are trying to start a GSA at St. Joseph's Catholic Secondary School in Mississauga, Ontario (which, coincidentally, neighbors the Halton Region). When 16-year-old Leanne Iskander asked her principal, Frances Jacques, to recognize the GSA as an official group, her request was firmly denied. And just like that, the fight was on.
“We’re not going to give up,” Iskander said to Xtra. “We’re going to keep trying to get a GSA. This is very important. Gay kids feel alienated and need a place with a sense of community.”
Adding even more salt to the wound, the principal told Iskander that a GSA was premature for her age. She was also told that guidance counselors are there to provide support for gay students. Never mind that the school -- and, I assume, the guidance counselors -- practice teachings that maintain that homosexuality is a sin.
The students have mobilized, starting a Facebook group and writing a letter to the principal reminding her of their right to equality. They have also managed to score the support of seven teachers. However, no teacher seems to be willing to stand up to the principal on the issue.
And here's where things start to go from your standard religious intolerance to extra offensive homophobia: Frances Jacques, the high school principal, responded to calls for a GSA by handing teachers pamphlets to Courage International, an organization to counsel gay people on living chastely and abstaining from queer sexual desires.
“That’s her idea of offering support,” an anonymous teacher said in Xtra. “It’s unbelievable. This pamphlet is also in the guidance offices for students. I can’t believe this is a publicly funded system and they are getting away with this.”
If the Catholic schools in Ontario are not going to create equality for all students, they should not be receiving tax dollars, plain and simple. If you believe that all of Ontario's kids - even the Catholic, LGBT ones -- deserve a safe space, please sign our petition, which you can find here.


Brandon Miller is a freelance writer and editor from Toronto, Ontario. 

Petitions by Change.org|Start a Petition »


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In & Out of the Closet: A Sailor Recounts DADT’s Waning Days

Shaun Knittel, in civilian garb
Shaun Knittel, in civilian garb
By Shaun Knittel -

 
Serving my country as a U.S. sailor was an honor. I gave the Navy eight years of my life; in return I learned courage, honor, and how to "get the job done."
When the nation sent us to war, I went. When we were called upon for humanitarian aid, I rolled up my sleeves and got to work. I wore my uniform with pride even though the Pentagon told me I had to serve in silence.
Throughout my entire military career, which began just weeks before the terrorist attacks on 9/11, the discriminatory policy banning open gay service known as "don’t ask, don’t tell" loomed close. Now that DADT is a thing of the past (or will be once President Obama and Defense Secretary Gates hammer the final nail into its coffin) I can’t help but feel like this is a step in the right direction for our nation and the gay movement.
"Don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t join" never applied to me. When I signed my life over to Uncle Sam in 2001, I did so as a 21-year-old out gay twink. I was what some would describe as "butch" so I didn’t pay DADT much attention.
"How bad could it be?" I thought. "Just don’t look at any guys in the shower and do your job and you will be fine," I told myself.
For the most part I was right. But what I didn’t count on was how much I grew to despise the closet. During the dark days of DADT that is what service uniforms became for us gay boys: a closet. You can train in them. You can die in them. But don’t you dare have sex in them.
The deal was, you weren’t allowed to tell anyone that you were gay. Likewise, you command was prohibited to ask you if you were gay. However, throughout my entire Navy career, I was asked on more than one occasion and I suspect many others were too. When I enlisted I signed paperwork that spelled out just how non-gay the military required me to be.
The Pentagon went as far as to define what a homosexual is and what conduct was considered to be gay. On paper I was a flag-waving patriot who chased women. In reality, I was a rainbow-flag waving queer who chased after men. The "other" life was the hardest part. Two sets of clothes, two sets of friends.
Surprise! Plenty of Gay Men & Lesbians -- & Everyone Knows!
The ironic thing is that I served with a very large number of gays and lesbians and an untold amount of bisexual guys and gals. There is an estimated 65,000 LGBT service members currently on active duty;
I think that is a low estimate. Thanks to all the gays before us, there was an underground network for us to find each other. Social networking sites like Facebook or online dating and hookup sites like adam4adam made it easy to develop a gay family at your command.
The joke was, after you were checked-in to your new command, your orientation and real introduction would come from the gays at that command -- your new family for however many years you would be stationed together.

Sex was everywhere. In my experience, I found that whenever gays were on deployment, the sex-drive went into overdrive. I often joke that the aircraft carrier I was stationed on became a floating bathhouse. The rumors are true; straight guys wanting head, gays hooking up in the bathrooms, etc.
I even got a blowjob from my "boat boyfriend" in the bomb farm (where the ordinance men assemble and store the bombs). In many ways, being young and gay in the Navy was like being in a real life porn movie.
There were many problems with DADT, mainly because it was a subjective policy. The military does nothing without consulting a manual. All military law and conduct is dictated by a set of rules called the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
If a servicemember gets a DUI, the commanders know how to punish the offender. This applies to any number of infractions that a soldier, sailor, airman, or marine might incur.
With DADT however, the punishment or discharge was left completely up to the discretion of the commanding officer. In other words, if you had a progressive, left wing Skipper, chances are you would receive an administrative discharge and get to keep your benefits. However -- and this was true with most cases -- the commanding officer could kick you out with an other than honorable discharge and strip you of all VA benefits. A career ruined. A future blemished.
Homophobia? Never Experienced It
In the 10 years I wore the uniform-turned-closet, I never once felt like my fellow shipmates were homophobic. I was out to many of them. We would openly talk about it. I answered their questions about butt sex, how they should reunite with the gay cousin they disowned when they were bigoted, among other things. The straight boys would even go with me to gay bars, just to see what all the fuss was about.
I honestly can say I never had anyone tell me that they thought gays shouldn’t serve openly. Some of my shipmates even nicknamed me their Leading Gay Petty Officer. We were a crew and a family. To this day many of these brave young men are still in my life.
The country has changed. I witnessed the transformation while I was still serving. The talk within the military was "when" (formerly "if’) would DADT be repealed. Sure, not everyone had the positive experience I did. I wasn’t delusional; I knew that I couldn’t be out to everyone (especially my commanders),
But in all honesty, my fellow men in uniform didn’t care about my sexual orientation. At your command, regardless of what rank or level of experience, you are judged on your ability to do your job. As long as I did what was my charge, I excelled.
I am proud of all of the gay and lesbian troops that are serving now, and that have served. It is estimated that there are over 1 million LGBT veterans. I salute them. We really understand the words "community" and "family" because we were forced to form them.
Some of the best and brightest people I know are gay service members. I served to protect the freedoms of all Americans - hetero and gay alike. I left military service on my own terms. I was one of the lucky ones. I didn’t die, I didn’t get injured and I wasn’t kicked out for violating DADT. I served under the discriminatory policy and have no love loss seeing it go.

Shaun Knittel is an openly gay journalist and public affairs specialist living in Seattle. His work as a photographer, columnist, and reporter has appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout the Pacific Northwest. In addition to writing for EDGE, Knittel is the current Associate Editor for Seattle Gay News. 
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Murders of Transgender Women of Color Fuel Concern, Advocacy

Tyra Trent
Tyra Trent
By Joseph Erbentraut -

 
While some 500 miles separate Baltimore and Forrest City, Ark., the two cities are slightly closer today as transgender activists in both places continue to cope with the tragic loss of someone who called their community home.

The fact that both victims were trans women of color in their mid-20s paints a vivid, chilling picture of the struggles many encounter and the resilience they conjure in their efforts to live their lives openly as their true selves, inside and out.

Baltimore police currently have no suspects in Tyra Trent’s death, but authorities have interviewed possible witnesses in their ongoing investigation. Trent, 25, was found asphyxiated to death in a vacant, city-owned building in northwest Baltimore on Feb. 19. She had been reported missing several days earlier.

Some 50 people attended a vigil organized by the trans advocacy organization Trans-United on Feb. 15. And according to the Baltimore Sun, Trent’s mother was even in attendance. The newspaper reported she briefly addressed the crowd and thanked them for their support.

In Forrest City, the body of a second trans woman of color, Marcal Camero Tye, also 25, was found along a stretch of highway on March 8. Initial autopsy reports indicate Tye was shot in the head and likely dragged by a vehicle, either intentionally using ropes or chains or perhaps inadvertently.

Federal authorities continue to investigate Tye’s murder because Arkansas does not have a trans-specific hate crimes law. No witnesses have yet to come forward, and there are no suspects.

Randi Romo, co-founder and executive director of the Little Rock-based Center for Artistic Revolution, said LGBT Arkansans are "terribly upset" over Tye’s death. Francis County Sheriff Bobby May’s assertion that her murder was the result of a routine homicide-and not a hate crime-further infuriated local activists.

May told a local public radio station that early reports of Tye being dragged by the car were "misleading". He referred to her with exclusively male pronouns, and suggested that Tye was likely involved in sex work at the time of her death. May said any claims of persecution against trans Arkansans was an inaccurate description.

Despite local authorities’ apparent hesitancy to explore bias-related motivations behind the crime, Romo is confident the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s efforts will bring more accurate details surrounding Tye’s death to light. Romo hopes the murder will provide a much-needed opportunity to educate media, law enforcement and the general public about hate crimes.

"I think for this young woman to have lived openly the way she did in Forrest City is remarkable," said Romo, adding the example Tye set will inspire other LGBT Arkansans to come out of the closet and stand up against discrimination. "The [LGBT] community [here] has to stop being afraid and hiding and the community at large has to begin to understand the horrific damage being inflicted from the pulpits and government offices."

Moving beyond anti-trans murders is something with which Loree Cook-Daniels of the Milwaukee-based FORGE is all too familiar.

Police said Andrew Olaciregui murdered Chanel Larkin last May after he offered to pay her to perform a sexual act in his car. He reportedly shot her three times in the head after he found out she was trans. Olaciregui pleaded guilty in December to a reduced charge of second-degree homicide, and a judge sentenced him to 11 years in prison.

In response to Larkin’s murder; FORGE launched a public awareness campaign, held a vigil, organized community meetings and helped her friends and family file victim impact statements with the court. FORGE has also begun work on a program designed to help trans people further their education and network with potential employers who can help them avoid the often dangerous underground work in which Larkin and others turn toward to survive.

"I’m hoping if we can pull it off, we can develop a template that other communities can use," said Cook-Daniels. "But it’s going to be tough to get these women off the streets because the options they have, even in a decent economy, aren’t too many."

Research heavily corroborates Cook-Daniels’ assertion.

The National Transgender Discrimination Survey, which the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force released last month, found rampant employment discrimination and disproportionate rates of homelessness, poverty and suicide attempts among trans people. Eleven percent of respondents and 44 percent of those who identified themselves as African American said they had engaged in sex work.

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs’ most recent report on anti-LGBT hate violence also indicated disproportionately high levels of anti-trans violence. Trans women-many of whom were of color-comprised half of the 22 reported anti-LGBT murders in 2009.

As a result of seemingly heightened awareness around these issues, Cook-Daniels hoped LGBT activists as a whole will actively "claim their victims" after Larkin’s death and other moments of crisis.

"I think these really horrible crimes remind us what’s at stake," she said. "A lot of these women are basically orphaned and nobody is saying this is my sister, literally or figuratively, and what’s what we did as a community. We showed we care about Chanel, who she was and what her loss means; that this was a person who had a lot of value and we made a big deal of it."

Joseph covers news, arts and entertainment and lives in Chicago. Log on to www.joe-erbentraut.com to read more.
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Awaiting Endorsement

President Obama addresses attendees of the White House Bullying Prevention Conference on March 10 (Photo by Ward Morrison)
President Obama addresses attendees 
of the White House Bullying Prevention 
Conference on March 10
By Chris Geidner -


On March 10, the White House held a conference dedicated to discussing bullying prevention and sharing ideas and strategies for combating the crisis. Despite the setting, the two pieces of federal legislation specifically crafted with that aim were not mentioned by the multiple senior administration officials, including President Barack Obama, who spoke at the event.

The unprecedented March 10 conference brought together many leaders in the field - from activists to academics, government officials to business executives - but the focus was remarkably local. Breakout sessions focused on in-school, campus-based and community-based programs and policies, as well as cyberbullying. No similar sessions, however, focused on federal legislative or even administrative efforts - although participants raised them in the other sessions.

Obama’s introduction echoed this focus, telling the crowd assembled, ’’As parents and students, as teachers and members of the community, we can take steps - all of us - to help prevent bullying and create a climate in our schools in which all of our children can feel safe; a climate in which they all can feel like they belong.’’

What was not present in that initial description of the aims of the day was any mention of the federal government that he leads, although he later referenced that the government was ’’launching a new resource called stopbullying.gov,’’ a Web-based resource for teachers and parents, as well as the fact that the secretaries of Education and Health and Human Services were ’’going to be working on’’ the administration’s efforts to combat bullying.

What was completely absent from the president’s remarks was any mention - however fleeting - of either legislative effort aimed at combating bullying or discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The two main pieces of legislation that advocates such as the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) have been pushing are the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA) and the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA). The SSIA would amend the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act to include bullying- and harassment-prevention programs, including ones based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The SNDA, modeled after Title IX, would add sexual orientation and gender identity to federal education nondiscrimination law.

The SSIA was reintroduced by Sens. Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) earlier in the week of the conference and has 19 co-sponsors. At the end of the 111th Congress, the bill had 132 sponsors and co-sponsors in the House and 18 sponsors and co-sponsors in the Senate.

The SNDA, meanwhile, was reintroduced by Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) on the same day as the conference. The House bill has 99 co-sponsors, and the Senate version has 29 co-sponsors. At the end of the 111th Congress, the bill had 127 sponsors and co-sponsors in the House and 32 sponsors and co-sponsors in the Senate.

Neither bill was mentioned by Obama in his remarks, nor were they mentioned by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius or Education Secretary Arne Duncan later in they day when they addressed the attendees.

Over the course of the past nine months, in fact, White House and other administration officials have declined numerous opportunities to endorse either bill and have rarely even mentioned the bills except in response to specific questions about them.

For this story, White House spokesman Shin Inouye repeated a point he’s told Metro Weekly several times previously, writing, ’’We support the goals of both of these bills. This year, when the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is being considered, we look forward to working with Congress to ensure that all students are safe and healthy and can learn in environments free from discrimination, bullying and harassment.’’

In June 2010, at the White House LGBT Pride Month Reception, Obama spent a significant part of his 13-minute speech addressing LGBT youth issues - without endorsing either piece of legislation.

In July 2010, White House domestic policy adviser Melody Barnes, the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, declined to endorse either piece of legislation, telling a group of LGBT reporters and bloggers, ’’It may be that we haven’t been specifically asked to - I don’t know. There are any number of situations where legislation is out there and it hasn’t gone through our review process.’’

In August 2010, Kevin Jennings, the founder of GLSEN who now serves as the assistant deputy secretary for safe and drug-free schools in the Education Department, was asked about whether his office had taken any action in support of either bill. He pushed the question back to Barnes. ’’The [Domestic Policy Council] sets the policy; we implement it. That’s how it works,’’ he said. ’’So, if you want movement on this issue, you call the White House.’’

When the issue of youth bullying and teen suicide moved front and center in the news in the weeks after the suicides of 18-year-old Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi and others who were or were perceived to be LGBT, Inouye wrote to Metro Weekly in October 2010 that ’’the President supports the goals of both of these bills - we all need to work towards an America where our schools and our communities are safe for every person, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.’’

He added, ’’Next year when the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is being considered, we look forward to working with Congress to ensure that all students are safe and healthy and can learn in environments free from discrimination, harassment, and intimidation ....’’

But when Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett spoke about stopping bullying and LGBT youth suicide at the Human Rights Campaign National Dinner earlier that same month, she didn’t mention either piece of legislation or the ESEA reauthorization.

Efforts to draw attention to the issue of anti-LGBT bullying - most notably, the ’’It Gets Better’’ campaign started by Dan Savage - struck a chord with the country, even leading Obama to record a message that was uploaded to YouTube on Oct. 21, 2010. He did not mention either bill as a way that the government could help make it better in his three-minute message.

Later that month, the Education Department sent a letter to educators clarifying that, under Title IX, educators have a legal obligation to protect LGBT students from sexual harassment and gender-based harassment resulting from sex stereotypes. At the same time, however, SNDA would provide direct protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, which is not covered under Title IX. Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali said the Education Department ’’certainly support the goals of both [the SNDA and SSIA]’’ and added that, during the ESEA reauthorization process, the department would ’’use all of the policy tools within our disposal to try and prevent this type of harassment from occurring.’’

In February of this year, however, when Obama met with senators of both parties from the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to discuss the ESEA reauthorization, there was no discussion of either bill.

The same was true, according to a White House official, when Obama met with both House and Senate leaders from the relevant committees on March 10 - just hours after meeting with families of those students for whom bullying led them to end their own lives.

Sirdeaner Walker, the mother of the late Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, was one of those family members. She previously testified before Congress in support of the SSIA, urging Congress to take action to help end the bullying that led her son to hang himself in March 2009. Of her meeting with Obama, GLSEN public policy director Shawn Gaylord told Metro Weekly, ’’She made the case directly to the president that she wants to see this become law.’’

But there was no mention of that bill or the SNDA in either the speech Obama gave later that morning at the bullying prevention conference or in his March 14 education speech that laid out his plan for Congress to, as he said, ’’send me an education-reform bill I can sign into law before the next school year begins.’’

Despite the White House’s failure to endorse either bill specifically, its support for the aims of the bills leaves GLSEN with hope.

GLSEN’s Gaylord said on March 15, ’’For both bills, I think the goal is still the reauthorization process. Both bills could be standalone bills, if that ended up being what happened, but the goal is still to have the measures incorporated in the ESEA.’’

Either bill, as a standalone measure, would face an uphill battle in the House - where the new chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee is Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), who received a zero score from HRC in the 109th, 110th and 111th Congress.

Despite that, Gaylord said, ’’Both bills have a lot of support in Congress. Both bills have a lot of support in the [relevant] committees. I think we’re making a really good case for both bills at the moment.’’

Of the lack of an endorsement of the bills from the White House, Gaylord said, ’’It would be great if they had done it already, but I don’t think the moment has passed.

’’I think that a statement of support around either or both bills is clearly what we’re looking for.’’

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Federal Prosecutor Faces Critical Court in DADT Protest Cases

DADTprotestDs.jpg
Front row, from left: Thomas, McGehee, Sandeen, Wooledge, Wilcox.
Back row, Fotou, Elzie, Boyd, Bedwell, Goldstone, Farrow, Ben-Shalom.
By Chris Geidner -
 
Assistant U.S. Attorney Angela George today faced significant questions about the federal prosecution of 13 people who protested at the White House in 2010 in opposition to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The protesters -- who sought more action from President Obama to end the ban on gay, lesbian and bisexual service -- had been charged by the U.S. Attorney's Office with a federal regulation prohibiting "interfering with agency functions," specifically violating a lawful order of the National Park Service.
After two different hearing times today in the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse in the District, the possibility of any trial on the charges was put off until September.
U.S. Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola, a former assistant district attorney in Manhattan who was appointed to the bench by President Clinton in 1997, raised concerns about the charges in court this morning, asking the attorneys -- Assistant U.S. Attorney Angela George, the prosecutor, and defense attorneys Mark Goldstone and Ann Wilcox -- to confer about whether the rarely invoked charges needed to be pursued.
Of the judge's morning statement, which invoked civil rights-era prosecutions of protesters in questioning the charges brought against former Lt. Dan Choi and 12 others, Goldstone said, "The judge was telegraphing very clearly that he sees the case similiar to how we see this case: as a civil rights exercise, as a First Amendment exercise, as people who non-violently expressed their opposition to a policy which has now been repealed. So, what's the harm to the government if the case is dismissed, or if the case is handled in such a way that it doesn't result in a criminal conviction?"
Explaining the ways of doing that to Metro Weekly after the hearing, Goldstone said, "Lots of times demonstrators enter pleas of 'post and forfeit,' which is not a criminal conviction even though the charge itself might have been a crime." He also noted that there is the possibility of "deferred sentencing, in which case, if they are good, the charge will be dismissed."
After the judge brought the attorneys and defendants back to court a little before 3:30 this afternoon, George told Facciola that, after quick consultation with colleagues and her superiors, the "government is not prepared to accept or reject the court's" recommendation to find a way to avoid the trial on the federal regulation violation charge.
Of possible hearing dates when the judge would be out of the country, Facciola told the attorneys, "You better get a date for me because I'm going to keep this case."
After Goldstone presented possibilities for avoiding a conviction, the judge told the prosecutor, "I would urge you to give these proposals serious consideration."
The parties agreed to hold a status conference with the court and the attorneys at 10 a.m. May 17 to discuss those proposals. A date of Sept. 19 was set for the defendants to enter a plea or begin trial.
Because the 13 had not been processed in the federal system because their initial arrests were handled by local authorities, the 12 defendants in attendance -- Choi; Petty Officer Autumn Sandeen (Ret.); Cpl. Evelyn Thomas; Cadet Mara Boyd; Robin McGehee, co-founder and director of Get Equal; Dan Fotou, eastern regional field director for Get Equal; former U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Miriam Ben-Shalom; former U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Justin Elzie; U.S. Army veteran Rob Smith; Father Geoff Farrow; Scott Wooledge; and Michael Bedwell -- were processed by the U.S. Marshals Office following the hearing.
The final defendant, former U.S. Army Arabic Linguist Ian Finkenbinder, was not present at today's hearing.
Goldstone, after the hearing, explained how he saw what was happening, telling Metro Weekly, "We're trying to figure out an acceptable resolution to the case that will satisfy our clients, who do not want a conviction for locking themselves up to the White House fence. That would be a successful resolution."
Of the prosecution's action to charge under the federal regulation, Wilcox told reporters, "We think it's pretty clear that they're just kind of digging in their heels, and they just don't want to allow people to get a break on this particular go-round -- on this conviction."


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Friday, March 18, 2011

Dreaming a Better Me

--by Robyn


Scarlet Letter
Since I turn 63 in 16 days, I have found myself reflecting on my past history. This essay has grown out of that.

As a young lad I was very unhappy. I didn't know totally why that was so, but there were conditions that I knew contributed to it. My parents never seemed happy with their lives. Even times where celebration was the expected, like Christmas, turned into times of strife. In later years I have wondered if my father didn't suffer from some sort of PTSD, having been a B-17 bombadier during WW II.

Whatever. I guess I turned to my dream life to escape the unhappiness. I mean, it wasn't an intentional choice, but I discovered that I really never wanted to wake up in the morning...to cease being who I was in my dreams and resume being the me who was so dismal.

Settlement Proposed in Rainbow Lounge Raid

By FRANK HEINZ

Fort Worth city administrators have proposed a nearly half-million-dollar settlement with Chad Gibson.

Gibson, who was hospitalized with a head injury following the June 28, 2009 raid at the Rainbow Lounge, has agreed to settle with the city for $400,000 in his claim for damages. Gibson said his injury was a result of excessive forced used against him during the raid.

“Both parties have agreed to a settlement, which will be presented to the City Council on Tuesday. In light of the circumstances, city staff believes proceeding with this settlement is the right thing to do, not only to bring closure to those involved, but also to prevent lengthy and even more costly litigation," said James Lamers, Manager, Office of Media and Public Affairs for the city of Fort Worth.

Despite the Fort Worth Police Department suspending three officers and the TABC firing two officers following the raid, the investigations by both agencies determined there was no excessive forced used during the raid.

More than a year after the raid, the city dropped all charges against Gibson and three other men who had been accused of public intoxication. Gibson was also accused of assault for a scuffle with TABC agents.

The city said the settlement is not an admission of liability in Gibson's case and is only being proposed to "avoid time-consuming and costly litigation."

The settlement must be approved by the City Council.

Like many cities, Fort Worth is currently facing a massive budget deficit. The city said the the Financial Management Services Director certifies that funds to pay the settlement are available in the current operating budget of the Risk Management Fund.



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Man, 70, Stoned to Death for Homosexuality: Police

By TERESA MASTERSON -

Suspect said the Old Testament told him that homosexuals must be stoned, police say

A 28-year-old Upper Darby man has been charged with murder after telling police that he stoned a 70-year-old man to death when the man made homosexual advances toward him, authorities say.
John Joe Thomas, 28, of Sunshine Road in Upper Darby, spent almost every day with 70-year-old Murray Seidman at Seidman’s Lansdowne home, police say. Days before Seidman’s body was found on Jan. 12, Thomas allegedly beat Seidman to death with a sock full of rocks.
Thomas told authorities that he read in the Old Testament that homosexuals should be stoned to death. When Seidman allegedly made homosexual advances toward him over a period of time, Thomas said he received a message in his prayers that he must end Seidman’s life, according to court documents.
Police say that Thomas struck Seidman in the head about 10 times with the sock of rocks. Thomas left Seidman dead in his apartment, and then threw his bloody clothing and the bloody sock in a dumpster, according to authorities.
Though the relationship is still unknown, Thomas was the sole executor of Seidman's will and knew how much money was in Seidman's bank accounts, police say.
Thomas told police that he returned to Seidman’s apartment several days later on Jan. 12 to make it appear like he just discovered the body.
When police arrived, they found Thomas crying in the hallway of the apartment building saying, “I’m not going down there again. There is too much blood.”
Police found dried blood spatter on the living room floor, walls, and furniture. Seidman’s body was laying face down on the living room floor, police said.
According to Delaware County Medical Examiner Fredric Hellman, Seidman died of multiple blunt force trauma. He said Seidman had been dead between five and 10 days before police found the body.
Thomas is being held on first-degree murder charges.

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Slim majority back gay marriage, Post-ABC poll says

By Sandhya Somashekhar and Peyton Craighill -

A slim majority of Americans now support gay marriage, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
The results underscore the nation’s increasingly tolerant views about homosexuals, and parallel a string of recent legal and legislative victories for gay rights advocates.
Poll showing support for gay marriage.
Graphic: Poll showing support for gay marriage.
Five years ago, at 36 percent, support for gay marriage barely topped a third of all Americans. Now, 53 percent say gay marriage should be legal, marking the first time in Post-ABC polling that a majority has said so.
“This is very consistent with a lot of other polling data we’ve seen and the general momentum we’ve seen over the past year and a half,” said Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, a leading pro-gay-marriage group. “As people have come to understand this is about loving, committed families dealing, like everyone, with tough times, they understand how unfair it is to treat them differently.”
Opponents of same-sex marriage took issue with the poll, which asks respondents: “Do you think it should be legal or illegal for gay and lesbian couples to get married?” Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, argued that the term “illegal” could be inferred to mean that violators could be imprisoned, which most Americans would consider harsh.
Brown, whose group is a prominent anti-gay-marriage group, noted that all 31 states that have put same-sex marriage on the ballot voted to ban it.
“The only poll that counts is a free and fair vote on the part of the people,” he said. “We’ve seen these biased polls time and time again -- right before votes in which same-sex marriage is rejected. It’s absurd. The people of this country have not changed their opinion about marriage.”
Post-ABC News polls have used the same “legal or illegal” wording in every poll about same-sex marriage since 2003. Other surveys by the Pew Research Center, the Associated Press and CNN show similar trends.
In the new Post-ABC poll, the shift has been driven by several political and demographic groups whose support for such unions jumped sharply. Men, who previously were less supportive of same-sex marriage than women, now back it at the same rate. Support among college-educated whites, political independents and people who do not consider themselves religious also rose substantially.
Republicans, conservatives and white evangelical Christians remain the groups most opposed to legalizing gay marriage.
The survey also shows a shift in how intensely people feel on this issue. In the past, the number of Americans who felt strongly that gay marriage should be banned far outnumbered those who were passionate in their belief that it should be legal. That has balanced out, with 35 percent strongly against legal gay marriage and 36 percent strongly in favor.
Passionate opposition to gay marriage last year in part led voters in Iowa to oust three state Supreme Court justices who had joined in the unanimous decision to legalize same-sex unions in the state. Minnesota, Indiana, Pennsylvania and North Carolina are considering steps that would ban same-sex marriage in their states.
But those victories for opponents of same-sex marriage have lately been overshadowed by several defeats.
In March of last year, the District joined five states in allowing same-sex couples to marry. Later in California, a federal judge struck down that state’s voter-approved ban on same-sex unions. The issue is now before an appeals court and is likely to end up at the Supreme Court.
In the summer, a federal judge in Massachusetts struck down the federal government’s ban on recognition of same-sex marriages under the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. This issue too will likely end up before the nation’s high court. In a major victory for supporters of gay marriage, the Obama Administration announced earlier this month that it would no longer defend the statute in court.
Congressional Republicans have vowed to defend the law themselves and criticized Obama for elevating such a divisive social issue at a time when the focus ought to be on the economy and jobs. This week, Democrats introduced bills to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and noted how the tables have turned.
“What do I say to the idea that this is a wedge issue? I say ‘Hallelujah,’” Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who is gay, told reporters, according to the liberal Web site Talking Points Memo. “The fact that we’ve now evolved to the point where the Republicans are complaining about the fact that we introduced this bill because it causes them political problems is a great sign of progress. It used to be the other way around.”
The telephone poll was conducted March 10 to 13, among a random national sample of 1,005 adults. Results from the full poll have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. 

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Arkansas court skeptical of reasons for banning unmarried couples from adopting or fostering children

By Guest Blogger Nancy Polikoff -

It's always risky to predict the outcome of a case based on oral argument. Nonetheless, I'll predict that the Arkansas Supreme Court will affirm the decision of a trial judge that the state's ban on adoption and fostering by anyone living with a nonmarital partner violates the state's constitution. The ban was enacted by voters in 2008. You can watch the argument on the court's website here. Although a lawyer for the state did argue briefly, the lawyer who primarily argued for upholding the ban represented the intervenors, the Family Council Action Committee, the Arkansas group behind placing the matter on the ballot in 2008.
The plaintiffs are represented by the ACLU, which has once again done a top notch job. Before the US Supreme Court's decision in Lawrence v. Texas, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that its criminal prohibition on private consensual sex in the home violated the state's constitution. The importance of that case, Jegley v. Picado, played a large role in today's hearing.
The trial court found the ban a violation of the plaintiffs' constitutional rights as articulated in Jegley. The appellants disagree, arguing that the ban is nothing like the intrusion of criminalizing behavior in the home. The justices did not appear to buy it. They repeatedly returned to the fundamental right articulated in Jegley and expressed skepticism that the ban was anything but a direct and substantial burden on the exercise of that right. If the ban violates the fundamental right of the plaintiffs then it cannot stand unless it is narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling state interest. But if there is no fundamental right at stake, then the ban survives as long as it has a "rational basis."
The intervenors and the state argued that the rational basis test allows the generalization that, as a group, the homes of "cohabiting" couples are less stable and more volatile than other homes, and that therefore an individual review of each applicant in such a situation is not required, even though some of those homes would be suitable. When one of the justices asked the lawyer for the intervenors if he conceded he would lose if the court applied "heightened scrutiny," he said no. He said the "life" of the child was at stake (that's how he characterized the state's interest on several occasions) and that the state couldn't be required to place children in the "riskiest" and "poorest performing" home environments.
In what was perhaps the most astonishing part of the argument by the appellants, both lawyers asserted that the state's screening process is not good enough to weed out unsuitable applicants. They called the process "imperfect" and "not foolproof" and said that mistakes are made. When one of the justices responded that the lawyer for the agency was acknowledging his system to be a failure, the lawyer said the Department of Human Services was doing the best it could but that people lie and "slip through" their process. He later backpedaled and said he had misspoken, but in the process he asserted the problem was everywhere and that caseworkers are overworked and the agency does not have sufficient funding.
So this is what it's come to. There is no response to the assertion of the plaintiffs, echoed by judges on the court, that no one is allowed to foster or adopt a child without first going through an agency or judicial approval process. So apparently to justify excluding an entire category of applicants from the opportunity to show that a placement in their home is in the best interest of a child, the government lawyer must argue that his agency is not capable of doing its job properly.
I find it impossible to imagine that the Arkansas Supreme Court will base its decision on such reasoning. The lawyers for the plaintiffs reiterated the individual process each applicant goes through. He said that any studies about groups of children are irrelevant because of that, but he did further argue that whatever correlation there may be between "cohabitation" and child outcome does not demonstrate that the cohabitation causes the problems. He also told that court that it could not rule against the gay and lesbian plaintiffs without overruling the court's decision in Howard. In that case a unanimous court struck down an administrative regulation preventing a gay person or anyone living with a gay person from being licensed as a foster parent.
The authors of both the majority and concurring opinions in Howard remain on the bench. One of the court's newest justices, Courtney Hudson Henry, asked the lawyer for the intervenors the last question of the argument. She noted that a gay person living alone with multiple sexual partners is eligible to adopt, as long as that person doesn't live with a partner. (I wish she has left the qualifier "gay" off her statement, as it is true for a heterosexual with multiple partners as well). The response she received was that the ban is concerned with the dynamics and volatility of cohabiting relationships and break ups and there are a variety of reasons an individual might be denied the ability to adopt or be a foster parent.
And so it has come to this. The same state that cannot be trusted be weed out cohabiting couples whose homes are not good for children can be trusted to weed out single applicants who sleep around (without having police go snooping in their homes, which everyone agrees Jegley does not allow). Of course, that's not the point. In fact, the point of the ban has nothing to do with children and everything to do with stigmatizing both same-sex and unmarried different-sex relationships. I don't think the Arkansas Supreme Court is buying it.

crossposted from Beyond Straight and Gay Marriage

for more from Nan visit Hunter for Justice.

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Bullying of Gay Student at FPC Leads to Teacher’s Public Apology and Policy Change

By FlaglerLive -

Luke Herbert, formerly a 9th grader
at Flagler Palm Coast High School.
The third quarter at Flagler Palm Coast High School began in mid-January. For a third quarter elective, Luke Herbert, then a ninth grader at the school, took Floyd Binkley’s shop class. By then Luke, who’s gay, wasn’t doing well at FPC. He was being bullied, harassed for being gay, threatened by fellow students at school and on Facebook, and was physically attacked at school by another students who’d been taunting him with anti-gay slurs. That incident was grave enough to lead to the 10-day suspension of the offending student. Luke was missing day after day, failing three classes, and feeling unwelcome.
“My breaking point came when one of my teachers started telling anti-gay jokes and mocking me in front of the entire class,” Luke said.
In Binkley’s class, he said the discrimination was not limited to a single incident. “For example,” he wrote in an email he circulated to media in February, “the teacher sells soda and chips in his class and said out loud to the class that you can not put mountain dew and pepsi in the same fridge or they will turn gay. When he made this remark which he made several times he looked straight at me so I knew he was trying to affend [sic.] me and people in the class laughed like it was a joke.” (The “joke” is said to have some currency in NASCAR circles, where Pepsi products, including Mountain Dew, are car sponsors.)
The incident, which the teacher did not deny, as well as the students’ jokey response, is indicative of a school culture that has yet to take gay bashing as seriously as other forms of bigoted, demeaning or bullying behavior—from students as well as faculty or employees. Schools have a no-tolerance policy of students bullying students or using bigoted language.
After attempting unsuccessfully to change classes, Luke quit going to school two months ago. In the meantime, Luke’s mother hired Phil Chanfrau, an attorney, the American Civil Liberties Union got involved, the school investigated, and earlier today, the ACLU and School Board Attorney Kristy Gavin said a settlement was reached: Binkley will publicly apologize, though Luke is not returning to FPC this year. He’ll continue his work through Florida Virtual School, and will have the option of either returning to FPC next fall, transferring to Matanzas or continuing with virtual school.
School officials, according to the ACLU, acknowledged that Luke’s harassment had not been handled as swiftly as it should have been and several missteps had occurred: a conference between him and a guidance counselor was also misinterpreted as a confidential conversation, rather than a call to action, which caused a delay in the school’s response.
The district officially reprimanded the teacher who harassed Luke in class, in writing—but no suspension—and agreed to a series of actions to make amends for the impact the bullying had on Luke and prevent any further bullying and harassment of Flagler County School District students. The district agreed to recommend that the school board add protections for “sexual orientation” and “gender identity or expression” to the Student Code of Conduct and the school district’s bullying and harassment policy.
Binkley, a 21-year veteran, has apologized privately to Luke. But the student asked that the apology, like the offense, be made publicly. That will take place by way of a video public service announcement featuring Binkley, and that will be added to the school’s website. Luke was asked if his name needed be made part of the announcement. Luke said that was not necessary: only the acknowledgment, from the teacher, that an offense had taken place, and that it was directed at a student. “We have not drafted it yet but it will be stating that a student was hurt through a comment that was not intended to be harmful or hurtful to anyone,” Gavin said. Gavin acknowledged that not intending to harm is not in itself an excuse for being offensive.
Before the incident took place in Binkley’s class, the Gay Straight Alliance at FPC, a student club sponsored by Kevin McCarthy, one of the school’s five assistant principals, had been discussing making video public service announcements that dovetailed with the kind of message that will now be crafted as a result of the Binkley incident. The messages will be focused on the inadmissibility of demeaning language toward those who are not prototypically heterosexual. Binkley’s message will be “the kick-off,” in Gavin’s description, and is presumed to carry particular weight, coming from the teacher at the heart of one such controversy.
“We are pleased that the Flagler County School District is taking this issue seriously. While it should not take the ACLU intervening to get a school district’s attention, we hope that other districts will look at Flagler’s response as a good example of what schools should be doing to prevent and address bullying and harassment,” said Shelbi Day, ACLU of Florida LGBT Advocacy Project Attorney (LGBT refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender). “Bullying is a serious problem with tremendous ramifications for students. We should all be working to ensure that no student has to endure what Luke has suffered.”
“It’s the end of a long road,” Luke said Thursday evening. “I’m happy that something came out of it, hopefully will help other people if anybody else is going through similar issues. It’s something that should be heard, you know.”
For Palm Coast High School, the Binkley incident takes place on the heels of a different, and differently resolved, controversy over another slur: the use of nigger in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the Harper Lee play eventually staged by the FPC Drama Club late last month. Following the first show, several students in the play spoke of the offending word’s common usage in the halls, whether affectionately, jokingly, or ignorantly. Racial jokes by faculty or employees in students’ presence, however, let alone the use of the word, is virtually unheard of, and would likely be cause for grave consequences if documented.
Jokes about sexual orientation, like bullying over sexual orientation—which has led to a spate of killings in recent months (see the Ellen DeGeneres video below)—have yet to have the same level of inadmissibility as racial discrimination, even in law and regulations: it’s only late last year that the federal government abandoned its discriminatory don’t-ask-don’t-tell rule in the military, and many states, Florida among them, only recently enacted constitutional prohibitions on gay marriage. The state-sanctioned double standards have consequences: Luke’s case is not isolated.
“It’s a big problem, really throughout Florida and across the United States,” Day said Thursday evening. “Kids who are bullied and harassed are done so at the highest rate based on sexual orientation, gender identity or physical characteristics.” Media attention over the last eight months or so, resulting from a string of gay teen suicides, has gotten more people’s attention. But, Day said, “it’s tragic that something like a child’s death has to occur before people start paying attention.” Luke’s actions set out other options “so that kids don’t feel so desperate so they turn to something like ending their own life.” Missteps aside, Day said, the school district finally “stepped up in a very meaningful way, we certainly applaud them for the comprehensive action that they’re committed to taking.”

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Outlaws Still

By Doug Ireland -

In the mid-1980s, a study by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force found that 23 percent of gay men and 11 percent of lesbians reported they’d been harassed, threatened with violence, or physically attacked by police because of their sexual orientation.

Things have changed for the better since then, haven’t they?

Wrong!

According to the most recent reports by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects (NCAVP), law enforcement officers were the third largest category of perpetrators of anti-LGBT violence. Indeed, between 2007 and 2008, police violence against queers shot up 150%, while the number of law enforcement officers reported to have engaged in abusive treatment of LGBTers went up 12 percent. Even in supposedly “progressive” San Francisco, 50 percent of violence against transgender women was perpetrated by police and private security guards.

Minnesota is also thought of as one of the most “progressive” and queer-friendly states. It was one of the first states to have an out-of-the-closet elected official —State Senator Allen Spear, who was subsequently re-elected for nearly 30 years and served ten years as president of the State Senate; and today the North Star State has a healthy contingent of openly gay elected officials. Yet a recent ten-year study of anti-LGBT violence in Minnesota found a startlingly large number of instances of 911 operators failing to send assistance to queer victims of violence, police mocking and laughing at victims, and officers blaming them for the violence they experienced. During the period studied, police engaged in verbal harassment of victims of homophobic and transphobic violence 12 percent of the time in this “civilized” state.

The Minnesota researchers found that “there continues to be a significant percentage of incidents where officers refuse to file a report indicating that a crime has occurred... Officers refused in 31 percent of the cases to file a general incident report” on anti-queer violence.

And the NCVAP found that, in Minnesota, in 27 percent of such cases, police refused to classify violence against LGBT people as motivated by sexual orientation or gender identity.

If this is the way police treat queers in “liberal” Minnesota, you can imagine that police attitudes are much, much worse in the Bible Belt and the Deep South, where no such studies have as yet been undertaken. Where researchers have issued similar reports, there is undoubtedly an undercount of anti-queer police behavior, which the victims — most often the powerless, the poor and people of color — are frequently reluctant or too frightened to raise.

Yet, note the authors of “Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States,” “As LGBT movements have institutionalized, visions of queer liberation have been tamed into a narrow rhetoric of equality within existing systems rather than challenges to the systemic violence and repression they produce.”

It was police harassment and violence targeting queers that sparked the Stonewall Rebellion, and were critically important targets on the agenda of the early gay liberation movement. But as genuine gay liberationist thinking died out as it was replaced by what gay theoretician Jeffrey Escoffier has called the “gay citizenship movement,” things changed.

“Queer (In)Justice” correctly reports that, “with the exception of sodomy law enforcement, since the mid-1970s resistance to abusive policing of LGBT people has largely been absent from the agendas of national mainstream LGBT organizations, particularly as police have increasingly narrowed their focus to segments of LGBT communities with little power or voice inside and outside such groups.”

“Queer (In)Justice” has just been published by Beacon Press as part of its “Queer Action/ Queer Ideas” series of books assembled under the excellent editorship of Michael Bronski, an important liberationist writer for four decades with a pile of books to his credit. Bronski’s “The Pleasure Principle” remains a seminal liberationist text to this day.

The authors of “Queer (In)Justice” are three veterans of the fight against the criminal legal system’s degradations. Joey Mogul is a Chicago civil rights attorney, specializing in police misconduct, and a well-known Windy City queer activist who has successfully sued the city’s police department, winning a $1 million settlement for a man wrongfully convicted of a “gay murder” on the basis of police-fabricated evidence, even though the man was in jail on an unrelated offense at the time of the killing. He was later pardoned based on his innocence.

Andrea J. Ritchie is also a civil rights attorney and the director of the Sex Workers Project at New York City’s Urban Justice Center. She is the author of a book forthcoming later this year from South End Press, “Every Day: Police, Law Enforcement Violence Against Women and Trans People of Color.”

Kay Whitlock recently retired as national representative for LGBT issues of the American Friends Service Committee, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Quaker social justice organization that has long been a solid LGBT ally. Whitlock authored a first-rate series of AFSC pamphlets on LGBT and criminal justice issues, including “Corrupting Justice: A Primer for LGBT Communities on Racism, Violence, Human Degradation & the Prison Industrial Complex” and “In a Time of Broken Bones,” which challenges penalty enhancement hate crimes laws as a progressive response to hate violence.

In his introduction to “Queer (In)Justice,” Bronski proclaims it “a wake-up call.” Indeed — and it makes for harrowing reading.

Mogul, Ritchie, and Whitlock have collected — with meticulous, footnoted scholarship — a compendium of utterly revolting but perfectly legal persecutions of queer Americans. These stomach-turning horror stories won’t be familiar to the people who frequent those pricey, black-tie fundraisers given by the Human Rights Campaign and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, because they mostly concern people of color, or the poor, or gender-benders, and thus often receive little publicity. (The attention paid to such benighted victims of injustice by this newspaper, however, is credited in frequent citations by the trio of authors.)

The book is part theoretical framework, part documented polemic. The authors assert that “queer engagement with the law enforcement system cannot be accurately described, much less analyzed, as a stand-alone generic 'gay’ experience because race, class, and gender are crucial factors in determining how and which queers will bear the brunt of violence at the hands of the criminal legal system.”

Hampering a real understanding of the policing of queerness, they argue, is the inarguable fact that “the growing constellation of national nonprofit LGBT advocacy organizations, as well as many of their state and local counterparts, have been dominated by white, middle-class leadership and membership, and have also relied heavily on the financial support of affluent, white gays. As a result, their agendas tend to favor assimilation into the racial and economic status quo over challenges to the systemic violence and oppressions it produces. The contemporary mainstream gay discourse only sporadically addresses systemic abuses within the criminal legal system... Messages are crafted to emphasize reassuring images of LGBT normalcy and friendliness, not to embrace and highlight the struggles of segments of the LGBT population that continue to be criminalized.”

But those comfortable, assimilated gays, suffused with a warm glow of supposed accomplishment when they get a non-disdainful kind word from an elected official, are deluding themselves, for, as “Queer (In)Justice” argues: “The specter of criminality moves ceaselessly through the lives of LGBT people in the United States. It is the enduring product of persistent melding of homosexuality and gender nonconformity with concepts of danger, degeneracy, disorder, deception, disease, contagion, sexual predation, depravity, subversion, encroachment, treachery, and violence [Italics in the original]. It is so deeply rooted in U.S. society that the term stereotype does not begin to convey its social and political force. The narratives it produces are so vivid, compelling, and entrenched that they are more properly characterized as archetypes — recurring, culturally ingrained representations that evoke strong, often subterranean emotional associations or responses. In the realm of criminal archetypes, anxiety, fear, and dread prevail — potent emotions that can easily overpower reason.”

After reciting a catalogue of hideous cases that prove their point and the effects of all this on police, juries, judges, and prisons, the authors write that “the reality is that queer criminalizing archetypes stick to all of us like unwanted burrs, no matter how much distance we try to put between 'them’ and 'us.’”

This can be seen in the reluctance of LGBT advocates “to tackle issues of police misconduct... in the issue of public sex, which has become today’s LGBT movement’s 'dirty little secret,’ shunned by those focused on proving entitlement to acceptance by mainstream society.”

The authors also argue that hate crimes legislation, the “untouchable ‚'third rail’ of mainstream LGBT politics,” is “compromised by placing primary responsibility for preventing violence in the hands of a criminal legal system that is itself responsible for much of the LGBT violence,” and quotes the NCAVP on how its data underscores that “law enforcement officers remain one of the prime categories of offenders documented by NCAVP each year.”

Despite the 2003 Supreme Court decision overturning the so-called sodomy laws and thus “legalizing” same-sex sexual relations, this book shows how queer lives continue to be criminalized, policed, and punished, including through the use of statutes in all 50 states against “lewd” behavior, which allow police to determine what queer conduct is criminal and which is not.

“Queer (In)Justice” ought to be force-fed to the staffs and boards of directors of every national and state gay organization in the hope that it might open their eyes to a reality they too often deliberately ignore. And if the Gill Foundation wants to do something useful, it should buy copies of this book in bulk, distribute them to those closed-door “Outgiving” conferences of fat-cats whose big checks have such inordinate sway in determining the “gay agenda,” and invite the trio of its activist-authors to address them.

Needless to say, dear reader, you too should make sure “Queer (In)Justice” has a place on your bookshelf. It’s that important.

To read excerpts from “Queer (In)Justice” or blogs by all three of its authors, visit the book’s web site at queerinjustice.com/.

Complete Information:

QUEER (IN)JUSTICE:

The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States

By Joey L. Mogul, Andrea J. Ritchie, and Kay Whitlock

Beacon Press

$27.95; 218 pages

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Study Undercuts View of College as a Place of Same-Sex Experimentation

By TAMAR LEWIN -

The popular stereotype of college campuses as a hive of same-sex experimentation for young women may be all wrong.
To the surprise of many researchers and sex experts, the National Survey on Family Growth found that women with bachelor’s degrees were actually less likely to have had a same-sex experience than those who did not finish high school. “It’s definitely a ‘huh’ situation, because it goes counter to popular perceptions,” said Kaaren Williamsen, director of Carleton College’s gender and sexuality center.
For years, sex researchers, campus women’s centers and the media have viewed college as a place where young women explore their sexuality, test boundaries, and, often, have their first — in some cases, only — lesbian relationship.
That phenomenon gave rise to the term LUG (lesbian until graduation). In 2003, a New York magazine article, “Bi for Now,” suggested that women’s involvement in their college’s gay scene exposed them to a different culture, like junior year abroad in Gay World.
But according to the new study, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, based on 13,500 responses, almost 10 percent of women ages 22 to 44 with a bachelor’s degree said they had had a same-sex experience, compared with 15 percent of those with no high school diploma. Women with a high school diploma or some college, but no degree, fell in between.
Six percent of college-educated women reported oral sex with a same-sex partner, compared with 13 percent who did not complete high school.
Anjani Chandra was the lead author of the report, based on data from 2006 through 2008.
Although 13 percent of women over all reported same-sex sexual behavior only one percent identified themselves as gay, and another 4 percent as bisexual. To get accurate answers to intimate questions, the researchers asked those surveyed to enter their responses directly into a computer.
“It’s like a Rubik’s cube of sexuality, where you turn it a different way, and the factors don’t fit together,” said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “It may be that the commonly held wisdom was wrong, that people just liked to imagine women in college having sex together, or it may be that society has changed, and as more people come out publicly, in politics or on television, we are getting a clearer view of the breadth of sexuality.”
The findings are especially striking — and puzzling — since the previous round of the survey, in 2002, found no pattern of educational differences in women’s sexual behavior. Most of the change came from higher levels of same-sex behavior reported by the women without diplomas.
“I always thought the LUG phenomenon was overblown, in the context of it being erotically titillating for young men,” said Barbara Risman, an officer of the Council on Contemporary Families and a University of Illinois at Chicago sociology professor. She added that the new findings may reflect class dynamics, with high school dropouts living in surroundings with few desirable and available male partners.
Amber Hollibaugh, interim executive director of Queers for Economic Justice, a New York-based advocacy group, said the results of the federal survey underscored how poor, minority and working-class lesbians had been overshadowed by the mainstream cultural image of lesbians as white professionals.
“Working with a gay-rights group is now something you’d put on your résumé,” said Ms. Hollibaugh, who did not attend college. “Lesbians who aren’t college-educated professionals are pretty much invisible.”
Dan Savage, a gay sex columnist in Seattle, said the LUG phenomenon may be overrepresented in the national imagination because so many students sought attention for their sexual exploration: “A lot of them are out to prove something and want their effort to smash the patriarchy to be very visible,” he said.
Lisa Diamond, a professor of psychology and gender studies at the University of Utah, said that with gay relationships so much more common throughout society, college campuses may have lost their status as the “privileged site” for women’s exposure to different kinds of sexuality. “Maybe our stereotypes are just behind the times,” Ms. Diamond said, adding that while lesbian and gay couples raising children were still assumed to be sophisticated white professionals, as in the movie, “The Kids Are All Right,” the latest parenting data showed that “holy-moly, it’s less likely to be upper-middle-class same-sex couples than ethnic minorities and working-class couples.”
Most headlines about the report, released earlier this month, focused on a finding that young people were waiting longer to have sex. Almost 29 percent of the females and 27 percent of the males, age 15 to 24, had had no sexual contact, an increase from 22 percent for both sexes in the 2002 survey.
The gender gap on homosexuality remains substantial: Twice as many women as men reported same-sex behavior. Three percent of the women — and 5 percent of the least-educated women — said they were attracted equally to men and women, compared with one percent of the men.
“A lot of data shows that women’s sexuality is more hetero-flexible, more influenced by what they see around them,” Professor Diamond said.
In the past, she said, a women with a single homosexual relationship would have been labeled gay, and urged to accept that identity. But now there is a growing sense that a lesbian relationship need not define a woman.
“It’s becoming more acceptable, at least in some parts of society, to see your gender identity as fluid,” said Joan Westreich, a Manhattan therapist. “I see women whose first loves were women, who then meet and fall in love with a guy, and for whom it seems to be relatively conflict-free.”

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