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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Dolly Parton Apologizes for Gay T-Shirt Incident at Dollywood Splash Country

A same-sex couple from Knoxville, TN recently took issue with the enforcement of the dress code at Dollywood Splash Country Pigeon Forge, TN and received a reply from Dolly Parton herself.
According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, Olivier Odom and her partner Jennifer Tipton were entering the park with their family on July 9 when a park worker asked Odom to turn her shirt inside out. The words "Marriage is so gay" were printed on the shirt, in support of gay marriage. When she asked why she needed to turn the shirt inside out, the park worker told Odom that Dollywood is a "family park."
Odom complied with the request, but wrote a letter to Dollywood later asking the park to "implement policies that are "inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people" and "inclusive of all families." She also stated that she felt Dollywood's policy about not allowing clothing or tattoos with offensive messages should be more clearly spelled out.
Representatives for Dollywood issued statement in response to the news, assuring the gay and lesbian community that everyone was welcome at Dollywood properties.  Now, Dolly Parton has released a statement to ABC News apologizing for the incident.  The statement reads:
"I am truly sorry for the hurt or embarrassment regarding the gay and lesbian t-shirt incident at Dollywood's Splash Country recently. Everyone knows of my personal support of the gay and lesbian community. Dollywood is a family park and all families are welcome." Dolly adds that the policies on clothing or signs with profanity or controversial messages are in place to protect the person wearing the shirt and keep disturbances at the park to a minimum. Dolly concludes saying, "I am looking further into the incident and hope and believe it was more policy than insensitivity. I am very sorry it happened at all."

STEVE HAYES: Tired Old Queen at the Movies

GYPSY (1962)
Rosalind Russell, Natalie Wood and Karl Malden combine their considerable talents for the 1962 screen adaptation of Jules Stein's and Stephen Sondheim's smash musical GYPSY. Based on the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee, with a book by Arthur Laurents and directed by veteran Mervyn Leroy, GYPSY is a musical standout where every song is a bonifide hit. Roz brings all her brilliant comic technique to the role of Rose, the overbearing show biz mother of all time and is matched by Natalie Wood at her most beautiful and beguiling as Gypsy. It's a loving tribute to vaudeville, burlesque and mother love that will leave you laughing, humming and wanting more.

Thursday, July 28, 2011 and the Orioles team up

The Orioles and team up to encourage LGBT youth, and all children who are bullied, to not give up, stay true to themselves

Apple Strikes iTunes Participation in ’Christian Values Network’

No anti-gay apps here...
No anti-gay apps here... 
By Kilian Melloy -

It seemed like a good cause: Participating companies like Microsoft and Apple could give consumers a chance to support religious charities when they purchased goods and services by participating in the Christian Values Network, a link referral service.
Other corporations also participated: Macy’s, Netflix, REI, even cable channel BBC America.
But when it came out that virulently anti-gay groups like Focus on the Family, Liberty Counsel, Abiding Truth Ministries, and others were exploiting the service to rake in funding, big-name corporations started dropping out of the service -- fast.
In part, the exodus was fueled by the fact that the groups mentioned above, plus others drawing funds from the service, such as the Family Research Council and Summit Ministries, have reportedly been identified as "hate groups" by watchdog group the Southern Poverty Law Center, reported on July 15.
An online petition started through by Stuart Wilber convinced Microsoft to pull its support of CVN, stopping its contribution to the revenue streams that were flowing into the coffers of groups that had engaged in "blatant and repeated homophobic lies about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people."
Ben Crowther -- who, like Wilber, lives in Seattle -- started a petition of his own through the site, encouraging Apple to drop its support of CVN. A July 27 press release from reported that Apple followed suit, pulling its iTunes store out of CVN and following the example set by numerous other companies, including Wells Fargo, Macy’s, and BBC America.
"The previous petition to get Microsoft to drop its association with CVN directly inspired me to petition Apple," Crowther told EDGE. "My good friend and fellow activist Stuart Wilber was behind the Microsoft petition. When I read his petition and saw Apple was part of the CVN, especially after Microsoft dropped out, I knew that another petition needed to be started. So with the inspiration from Stuart and the help from my friend Joe Mirabella at, the petition was born." reported on the earlier dissolution of corporate support for CVN in a July 18 article.
"Macy’s serves a diverse society," a spokesperson for the retail outlet told the online petition site. "As such, we are deeply committed to a philosophy of inclusion in the way we operate our business and support our communities. We welcome all customers into our stores."

Wells Fargo told they had pulled out of CVN because "it was not compliant with Wells Fargo’s brand and marketing [standards]."
"BBC America Shop was not aware of’s current donation policies," VP of Publicity April Mulcair old a British GLBT news outlet. "We have ended our relationship with this affiliate effective immediately."
"The Focus on the Family website contains anti-gay and anti-transgender content. They describe being gay as ’a particularly evil lie of Satan,’ " reported "They also attack transgender people."
While Wilber’s petition picked up 500 signatures in a single day, Crowther’s petition seeking Apple’s exit from the arrangement with CVN commanded 13,000 signatures in one day, noted
"I wonder if Apple is even aware they are being used to raise money for these homophobic groups," Crowther, a student at Western Washington University, said at the time. "It is so out of character for Apple to be associated with groups like Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council. I hope Apple acts quickly to remove their store from the Christian Values Network."
On July 27, reported that Apple had indeed dropped CVN, with over 22,000 people having signed on to Crowther’s petition.
"From the beginning, I knew that once this issue was brought to Apple’s attention, they would not want to be a part of CVN because it funds anti-gay hate groups like Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council," Crowther told "Apple is a fair-minded business. I’m glad this petition helped make Apple aware of this issue, and I am thrilled that they removed iTunes from CVN."
Crowther had a personal stake in his effort to ensure that GLNT-friendly companies like Apple and unwary iTunes shoppers did not inadvertently lend their financial support to anti-gay groups. reported that Crowther and his boyfriend came out in high school, and were promptly targeted for homophobic bullying.
"The harassment got so bad I had to go to the principal," Crowther, who will begin his junior year in the fall, recounted.
The bullying continued into college, with homophobic epithets being scrawled on Crowther’s door. He finally had to move out of the dorms "because the bullying was so bad," he told
Controversial Apps

Crowther told EDGE that there are definite parallels between what he has suffered in school at the hands of homophobic bullies and the way that GLBTs in society at large are treated by anti-gay groups like Focus on the Family.

"These hate groups are creating the same oppressive and unwelcoming environment that bullies do in school," the young man said.

This is not the first time that pro-equality advocates have turned to Earlier this year, petitions launched via the site convinced Apple to pull an iPhone app from Exodus International, a group that claims gays and lesbians can be "choose" heterosexuality.

The Exodus app was popularly perceived as "gay cure" via smart phone, said a March 22 article from Denver news channel KWGH.

However, Exodus International characterized the app as a resource for users who wished to find relief from "unwanted same sex attractions," in the words of spokesperson Jeff Buchanan.

Among other things, the app listed dates and locations for Love Won Out, a workshop sponsored by anti-gay group Focus on the Family. Its seminars claim that with prayer and therapy, gays can "convert" to heterosexuality. Love Won Out has made the controversial assertion that "same-sex attraction is a preventable and treatable condition."

Truth Wins Out, an organization headed by Wayne Besen that counters Love Won Out, started a petition for the app’s removal from iTunes and quickly gathered more than 150,000 signatures, Less than a week elapsed between the petition’s launch at and the app being taken down.

"Dr. Gary Remafedi -- a Univ. of Minnesota professor who claims that findings from his research were distorted by Exodus International -- also requested that Apple remove the app from the App Store," reported in a March 23 article.

Supporters noted that the app had a rating of 4+, meaning that it did "not contain objectionable content," but critics noted that this only means that supporters of the application had voted en masse for that rating to be assigned.

"The real issue: Apple has no coherent policy about what kind of content gets approved and remains in iTunes," said Cult of Mac in a March 22 article.

Cult of Mac was among the first sites to report that the app had disappeared. "Our obsessive checking for it just showed that poof! The Exodus International app was no more," the article stated.

Exodus International signaled defeat with a tweet from Alan Chambers, president of the group, who sent a message reading "It’s official, the @ExodusInl App is no longer in the @AppStore. Incredibly disappointing. Watch out, it could happen to you. #freedom"

Chambers also issued a statement to the effect that Christians suffer persecution, but that it is part of their role as defenders of God’s word and exemplars of compassion and patience.

"If we [gathered] 150,000 signature to pull [a gay] app, it would be seen as intolerant and homophobic," said Chambers, according to a March 23 Christianity Today article. "We wouldn’t do that because we believe of freedom of speech and freedom of expression in the public sphere. As Christians, we bear the brunt of it because the other side sees it as an antiquated expression."

Anti-gay religious organizations have long claimed that legal and social equality for gays could only come at the cost of freedom of religious expression. But opponents of the app said that it promoted "hatred and bigotry."


Besen had spoken out earlier about another app, Confession: A Roman Catholic App, which asked users to reflect upon their sins by asking questions such as, "Have I been guilty of any homosexual activity?" Besen said that the app promoted not virtue, but rather "neurosis."

"This is cyber spiritual abuse that promotes backward ideas in a modern package," Besen charged. "Gay Catholics don’t need to confess, they need to come out of the closet and challenge anti-gay dogma."

Saying that the application was "helping to create neurotic individuals who are ashamed of who they are," Besen slammed the very notion of homosexuality as being inherently sinful. "The false idea that being gay is something to be ashamed of has destroyed too many lives," Besen asserted. "This iPhone app is facilitating and furthering the harm."

LGBTQNation reported on Feb. 10 that the app was the product of three designers in Indiana who had worked with two socially conservative priests. Lawmakers in Indiana recently advanced a resolution to amend the state’s constitution in a way that would ban both marriage equality and civil unions.

The flap over Confession was, in turn, reminiscent of an even earlier controversy surrounding an app for the Manhattan Manifesto, an anti-gay document that contained anti-gay language.

The Manhattan Manifesto claims that the push for equal marriage rights for gay and lesbian families is nothing more than an attempt to "redefine" marriage to suit "fashionable ideologies," and "affirm[s]... marriage as a conjugal union of man and woman, ordained by God from the creation, and historically understood by believers and non-believers alike, to be the most basic institution in society." An online petition decrying the app was organized through and gathered thousands of signatures within a week; Apple responded by removing the app.

GLBT equality group the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) noted that the app went beyond an implicit assumption that same-sex families were somehow undeserving of the "dignity" that the Manhattan Declaration indicated should be reserved solely for mixed-gender couples.

"The app features an electronic version of a declaration, through which users can pledge to make ’whatever sacrifices are required’ to oppose marriage equality, even, presumably, if that means breaking the law" in asking users not to "bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth," a Dec. 15, 2010, GLAAD release said.

"The ’Manhattan Declaration’ calls gay and lesbian couples ’immoral,’ it calls the recognition of their relationships ’false and destructive,’ and claims that allowing them to be married will lead to ’genuine social harms,’ " the GLAAD release noted. "The original application also contained a quiz in which the ’right’ answers were those that oppose equality for gay and lesbian people.

"This application fuels a climate in which gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are put in harm’s way," the GLAAD release went on. "Apple did the right thing in recognizing that this application violates the company’s guidelines."

For his part, Crowther regards himself as part of the solution to the problem of anti-gay bullying, whether at school or in the wider world.

"I consider myself an activist for GLBT equality, yes," he told EDGE. "And I’m very proud of my involvement." But while Crowther notes the power of the Internet and other social media for spurring change, he doesn’t think that the struggle for civil and social equality will move entirely to the online world.

"We need online petitions as much as we need marches and rallies," Crowther said. "One doesn’t substitute the other, and they were never supposed to. Social networking is another tool on our belt to create positive social change."

Speaking about the petition he launched and the success it garnered, Crowther said, "The queer community stood up for itself. We told Apple that they were supporting bullies, and that we couldn’t continue supporting Apple until they changed.

"Well, Apple listened. No one likes a bully."
Kilian Melloy is EDGE Media Network’s Web Producer and Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes aggregate news stories and commentary for EDGE.

Trevor's David McFarland On Teen Suicides In Anoka-Hennepin School District

Civil rights organizations are pushing district to address suicide epidemic. Anti-gay groups accused of fueling & ignoring crisis. Thomas Roberts talks with David McFarland from The Trevor Project.

Joel Burns On Teen Suicides In Bachmann's District

Lawrence O'Donnell talks with Joel Burns (Councilman, Fort Worth, TX) about the "No Promo Homo" rule in the Anoka-Hennepin school district.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

EQUALITY MATTERS: Ending Taxpayer-Funded Employment Discrimination

By Kerry Eleveld -

Over the past decade, a "Christian humanitarian organization" called World Vision has received hundreds of millions of dollars in government funding for projects ranging from disaster relief in Africa to "at-risk youth" programs in the United States.

The organization also openly discriminates against religious minorities, stating on its website that "Christian faith is a prerequisite for employment." It is just one example of a faith-based organization that receives U.S. government grants regardless of its discriminatory hiring practices - a policy legal ized during the Bush Administration and continued by President Obama despite his campaign promise to end it.

When candidate Barack Obama laid out his plan on the campaign trail to revise the White House faith-based initiative established under President George W. Bush, he drew a line in the sand.

“If you get a federal grant, you can't use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help and you can't discriminate against them - or against the people you hire - on the basis of their religion,” Obama told a Zanesville, Ohio, crowd over three years ago on July 1, 2008.

It appeared to mark a departure from a series of Bush executive orders in 2001 and 2002 that established faith-based offices in the White House and major federal agencies and forged the way for sectarian organizations to practice religious discrimination in their hiring practices even if they were receiving taxpayer dollars from the federal government. And according to Bush White House officials, the administration poured about $10.6 billion into faith-based organizations including groups like World Vision, a “Christian humanitarian organization” that has received hundreds of millions of dollars in support from the U.S. government but also openly discriminates against religious minorities in its hiring.

But when President Obama was asked about his Zanesville commitment during a Maryland Town Hall last Friday, he could not affirmatively tell the questioner that he had ended the practice of allowing religious organizations that receive government money to discriminate in hiring. That’s because when Obama issued an executive order in 2009 creating his version of White House faith-based office, the order did nothing to reverse the policy codified by Bush.

In answering the question, Obama acknowledged that there are certain situations where the government does per mit religious organizations to discriminate in their hiring -- even for positions financed by taxpayer dollars. He also said that some religious groups believe the administration has been too restrictive in this area while others believe it isn’t restrictive enough.

“I think we've struck the right balance so far,” Obama offered, “but this is something we continue to be in dialogue with faith-based organizations about to try to make sure that their hiring practices are as open and inclusive as possible.”

In fact, a coalition comprised largely of conservative religious groups is quite pleased with the administration’s approach and sent a laudatory letter to President Obama this month stating, “We commend you and your Administration for maintaining current federal law and policy…” Meanwhile, progressive organizations delivered their own letter to the president just last month urging him to “restore key civil rights protections” that were rolled back by President Bush.

Religious organizations have traditionally been allowed to use religious beliefs as a criteria in their hiring when using their own money – a prerogative provided to them under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited all other entities from discriminating based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. But when receiving federal funds, religious institutions were subject to federal contractor guidelines laid out via executive order by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965 that barred consideration of religious beliefs in hiring.

Bush’s mandate amended that order and radically changed the landscape, tearing down the barriers that had kept highly religious organizations from receiving funding and cutting to the quick of what most Americans think of as a fundamental Constitutional principle – the separation of ch urch and state.

Although groups that have loose religious affiliations like the Salvation Army and Goodwill had long partnered with the federal government to administer basic social services to people in need, fundamentalist institutions and local Houses of Worship that made little-to-no distinction between government programming and their ministry were now eligible for federal funding.

LGBT advocates found the change especially problematic because it legitimized and reinforced the behavior of certain religious institutions that were already predisposed to creating an inhospitable atmosphere for gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals who might seek employment or services.

No more, Obama said in his Zanesville speech.

“I don’t think there was any equivocation or confusion in his statement,” recalls Representative Robert “Bobby” Scott (D-VA).  “There will be no disc rimination or proselytization – the structure of the sentences did not allow for any fuzzy interpretation.”

Congressman Scott, who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, has been on a quest to figure out what happened to that campaign pledge, questioning a number of administration officials under oath about the status of the policy. Their answers have varied from deftly worded dodges on the subject to ignorance about the fact that religious institutions receiving federal funding can discriminate on Obama’s watch.

When Scott asked Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius in May whether federally funded religious organizations could discriminate in hiring, she suggested they could not.

“To my knowledge, that would violate the civil rights umbrella that we operate under, Congressman,” Sebelius responded. Her office later sent a clarification to Scott’s office acknowledging tha t religious organizations can, in fact, “consider the religious orientation of persons that apply for employment provided that no other law applies.”

Members of the Justice Department, which is purportedly conducting a review of the policy, were better prepared for Scott’s line of questioning.

After Scott asked Attorney General Eric Holder also in May whether the government’s grantees can “actively discriminate based on religion,” Holder responded, “We don't want to do that. We try not to do that.”

Scott interrupted, “But, wait, wait a minute. Either you do or you don't. Do you not give grants to organizations that actively discriminate based on religion or not?”

Holder responded, “The attempt we make is not to do that. The -- as I've indicated, our hope is that we do -- the grants that we give are consistent with the law. But beyond that, are consistent with our values.”
But moments later, Holder acknowledged that the Justice Department was still adhering to a Bush-era Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memo stating that World Vision, the conservative Christian relief organization that has a stated policy of only hiring “Christian staff,” was still eligible for federal funding.

“The memo is still in effect as I understand it,” Holder said, adding, “with regard to that specific OLC opinion, we are not in the process of reconsidering it.”
Holder’s juxtaposition between the law – which presently allows for such discrimination – and their values – which presumably do not condone discrimination of this kind – was a concept also advanced by Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez last month. Scott recalls Perez, who heads up the Civil Rights Division, reciting his answer from a piece of paper when he was queried on the topic of whether the administration’s p olicy on faith-based funding was being reviewed.

“The review remains ongoing and again, we're committed to ensuring that we can partner with faith-based organizations in a way that is both consistent with our laws and with our values and that we continue to address these legal questions that you have raised,” Perez said on June 1 in response to a question from Congressman Jerry Nadler (D-NY).
Scott, whose subsequent exchange with Perez in the same hearing on the policy turned a bit testy, calls the answer the type of “gibberish” one uses when they’re hoping to simply put the question to rest and move on.

“I get the sense that they wish it would go away,” Scott says. “You can’t make a decision like this without making somebody mad and to the extent that nobody brings it up, they don’t have to deal with it. And to the extent that no one in America knows that it’s even going on, it doesn’t become an issue.”

On The Trail
President Obama’s announcement of his intention to expand the faith-based office within the White House – widely viewed as an effort to court Evangelical Christians – sent shudders through many queer rights activists.Although gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals are still not protected classes under federal law, allowing religious organizations to discriminate based on faith provides a readymade rationale for not hiring an LGBT person if the applicant’s sexual orientation is viewed as a violation of certain faith beliefs. Additionally by federally funding religious groups that discriminate in their hiring, the government actively promotes programming that is much less likely to generate a welcoming atmosphere for LGBT people in need.

Programs that reject people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity is not a theoretical problem. In January, for instance, a Columbus, Georgia, homeless shelter called House of Mer cy received nationwide attention when its director said practicing gays were not welcome there regardless of how desperate their situation and turned away two women allegedly because they were lesbians.

"That act is not tolerated here at all,” Elder Bobby Harris told the local CBS affiliate, WRBL. “Let me tell you one reason why: because of the Bible, of course.”

While House of Mercy has not been tied to federal funding, the organization is, for instance, named in a city of Columbus application for federal grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – an indication that such an entity is viewed as a legitimate partner by the local government.

Current federal law prohibits religious institutions that receive federal funding for a program from turning away potential beneficiaries of services on the basis of their religious practices – a violation that would appear to exist if the shelter were to receive government money since the bias was inspired by religious doctrine rather than simply being based on the recipient’s sexual orientation.

But hiring discrimination that is explicitly leveled at gays on religious grounds is a different matter entirely and is often deemed legally permissible even in states that have stricter prohibitions around employment practices than the federal government.

“When it comes to the LGBT community, people who don’t like LGBT people because of their religious objections have gotten a pass from the courts in a lot of cases,” says Greg Nevins, senior staff attorney at Lambda Legal who specializes in employment law.

Nevins, however, successfully represented Aimee Bellmore and Alan Yorker in a 2003 case against the state-funded United Methodist Children’s Home after both highly qualified counselors were denied employment. Bellmore was fired wh en the organization learned she was a lesbian and Yorker’s interview was halted as soon as the group learned he was Jewish.

The case was eventually settled on behalf of the plaintiffs for an undisclosed amount and hailed as a victory against discriminatory employment practices on the basis of religion. But it was the state law – not federal statute – that sealed the deal.

“We had a very strong arrow in our quiver because the Georgia constitution has a very rigid provision for spending public money,” explains Nevins. Lambda attorneys led with the state argument but they also reasoned that the organization’s actions violated the U.S. Constitution. That contention, however, would be particularly challenging to prove in court since both federal regulations and the Bush and Obama administrations’ policy allow for it.

When Obama originally announced his intention to expand the faith-based initiative in ‘08, campaign staffers switched into damage control mode with the Democratic base, sending out talking points that sharpened the future president’s commitment to ending government funded infringements on people’s religious liberties.

“Whatever uncertainty there is about employment rights here reflects Bush administration executive orders, which Senator Obama would promptly reverse,” read one talking point. “Let's be clear:  Obama's position on religious hiring rights is a return to the state of the law before the Bush Administration took office and muddied the waters with various executive orders.”

The talking points also noted that while sexual orientation and gender identity were not federally protected classes, Obama supported passage of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, legislation that prohibits employment discrimination against LGBT people. (The legislation ultimately st alled in the 111th Congress and likely has no chance of passing in the 112th now that Republicans control the House of Representatives.)

But many progressives remained unconvinced, including Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

“This initiative has been a failure on all counts, and it ought to be shut down, not expanded,” Rev. Lynn told the Associated Press at the time of Obama’s speech.

Progressive groups, however, were not the only ones paying attention to Obama’s pronouncement.

“We obviously listened to the Zanesville, Ohio speech [with] some concern,” Richard Stearns, president of World Vision – the Christian relief group that had been the subject of the OLC memo ­– later told National Public Radio. “After that speech, a number of us began to engage the Obama campaign, and we found a very r eceptive audience.”

Lynn and Stearns both spoke to NPR for that story, which was posted on February 4, 2009 – shortly after President Obama’s inauguration and the day before he signed an executive order creating what is now called the White House Office of

Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. In the story, Lynn and Stearns faced off about whether Obama would reverse the Bush directive and start prohibiting religious groups that receive government money from discriminating in their hiring practices. Lynn was “optimistic” that Obama would hold to his commitment to discontinue federally funded discrimination, while Stearns was confident that Obama had changed his mind.

“World Vision would be forced to walk away from those grants and that would really be tragic because of the thousands and thousands of people we serve,” Stearns told NPR.

When Obama introduced the executive order the next day, it fell far short of the prompt policy reversal promised by the campaign.

Though the White House press release stated that the faith-based program would be “consistent with American laws and values” and reaffirmed the separation of church and state as “a principle President Obama supports firmly,” it advised only that “a new mechanism” would be added by which the executive director of the faith-based office could  “seek the advice of the Attorney General on difficult legal and constitutional issues.

The president also created a 25-person advisory council that was tasked with generating recommendations for making the faith-based office a more effective partner of community groups that were implementing the initiative on the ground.

The council assembled a diverse group of representatives: some notoriously anti-LGBT people such as Dr. Frank Page, for mer president of the Southern Baptist Convention, which is a chief sponsor of the “ex-gay” movement to turn gay people straight; and LGBT advocates like Rev. Harry Knox, who was director of the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion and Faith Program at the time, and Fred Davie, an openly LGBT man who had advised the Obama campaign in ‘08 and later worked for the pro-LGBT advocacy organization the Arcus Foundation.

Stearns – whose organization World Vision has received about $650 million in federal funding over the past decade for its anti-poverty work – was also appointed to the council. Beyond the 2007 OLC memo, World Vision also prevailed last year in an employment lawsuit filed by three former employees over religious discrimination. The organization fired the employees when it discovered that they “denied the deity of Jesus Christ and disavowed the doctrine of the Trinity,” according to the decision. After the N inth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that World Vision was perfectly within its legal bounds, the company issued a statement reading, “Our hiring policy is vital to the integrity of our mission to serve the poor as followers of Jesus Christ.”

For his part, Rev. Lynn ended up sitting on a separate task force created to help the advisory council review the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and suggest reforms.

But from the very outset, the issue of religious discrimination in hiring practices was taken off the table and the group was explicitly advised not to engage the topic.

Rabbi David Saperstein, who also sat on the advisory council, talked about the exclusion of the employment discrimination matter at a June press conference arranged by Congressman Scott.

“The president did make the decision not to put the employment discrimination issue before the 25 diver se members of the council – he felt it was too controversial and he wanted to have it dealt with inside the administration,” Saperstein explained. “We argued … that we could really be of help to them because, if this group could reach agreement on this very controversial issue and how to deal with it, it would be of great assistance to them.”

The explanation for Obama’s decision was “a moving target” according to Lynn.

“It was just that it would raise additional complexities,” Lynn says, recalling the rationale that was generally offered, “there’ so much we might be able to agree about, we don’t want to burden you with this contentious issue.”

But Congressman Scott has a more explicit theory for the origins of that directive.

“The fact is, half the committee would have walked out the door if they had decided the discri mination issue,” says Scott, referencing organizations like World Vision. “You can’t keep the coalition together and decide the discrimination issue.”

Joshua Dubois, director the White House faith-based office, did not respond to an interview request for this story.

But Scott has a point. Other religious organizations that sat on the advisory board and would be unlikely to support a policy change included the U.S. Conference on Catholic Bishops, Sojourners, the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, all of which signed on to a letter last year urging Congress to preserve their right to discriminatory hiring practices. World Vision was the first signatory of the letter.

Lynn takes Scott’s theory a step further, building on the insight that World Vision president Richard Stearns offered NPR about having to “walk away” from federal grants if the policy were to change.

“I think that this administration is being harangued by the biggest recipients of federal money,” Lynn says.

Justice Delayed
The closest administration officials have come to articulating a policy on what would transgress their values is to say that they will address issues that arise on a “case-by-case basis.”

This was the explanation Joshua Dubois provided to reporters when Obama launched the faith-based office in February of 2009 as well as the one a White House spokesperson offered last month.

“The Department of Justice continues to review this issue on a case-by-case basis,” White House spokespersonShin Inouye said in response to an inquiry from Equality Matters.

The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment. Though Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez said under oath that a review of the policy was “ongoing,” he also acknowledged that the Civil Rights Division was not heading up that review.

But Rev. Harry Knox, one of two LGBT people who sat on the 25-member advisor y council, is deeply unsatisfied with the progress on this front. He views the continuation of federally funded discrimination as an unfulfilled campaign promise.

“In my thinking, I feel betrayed because the president said they wouldn’t do it,” Knox says. “He promised in Zanesville that he wouldn’t do it, and he’s doing it.”

Of course, the inherent problem with gauging anything “case by case” is that there’s no articulated standard on which to base a judgment.

“Ask a civil rights lawyer what ‘case-by-case basis’ would mean and I’m sure they would suggest that it’s insulting language,” says Congressman Scott. “To me, the discrimination is illegal or it isn’t.”

As Scott sees it, this policy undermines the moral force of the civil rights legislation of the 1960’s – that certain types of discrimination in hiring were so egregious, so inherently reprehensible, that the federal government would restrict it – not only in federally funded programs but even in private enterprise. But as it stands now, religious organizations that receive taxpayer dollars can practice discrimination while private businesses cannot.

“You cannot possibly make the case that discrimination is inherently reprehensible when it’s going on in government programs,” Scott says. “If you can discriminate in a government-funded program, how can we tell a devoutly religious man down the street what he can’t do with his own money? In essence, you lose your moral authority to enforce any civil rights laws.”

Rabbi Saperstein paints a picture from a taxpayer’s point of view.

“No one should pay their tax dollars only to have the government turn that money over to a for-profit or nonprofit entity that would bar that very taxpayer from employment in that government funded program because of that taxpayer's race, religion, national origin, gender, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation,” Saperstein said at the press conference last month. “That is morally wrong.”
Rev. Lynn agrees.

“This is a staggeringly important civil rights issue to be ignored now for two full years,” he says, adding that it affects people who are nonbelievers, minority religious groups, and the entire LGBT community.

But he says the administration has shown no urgency in addressing the topic, despite the fact that administration officials have repeatedly been engaged on the matter by a broad section of labor leaders, civil rights groups, and progressive religious groups since as far back as Obama’s transition into office.

“This is like a turtle stuck on tar,” Lynn says. “This is not rocket science, this is not getting out of Afghanistan, this is not reforming health care in America. This is a very simple thing: You should not give people money – even religious people money – if they will not hire people based on the quality of their work. If they’re going to apply a religious litmus test, they shouldn’t get a dime.”

Mom And Dad, I'm Gay And Also Stronger Than Both Of You, So Don't Try Any Shit (Satire from The Onion.)

By Adam Cuneo -

Mom, Dad, there's something we have to talk about. I've been wanting to tell you this for some time, and I want you to know that while I'm fully aware this might be difficult for you to hear, remember, I am still your son, and I love you very much: Mom, Dad, I'm gay, and so help me God, I am stronger than the both of you, and I won't hesitate to beat you back to the Stone Age if you give me any shit about this.
I know this must be tough for you. I understand this isn't how you expected your son to turn out, and I know you might be disappointed, but just remember that I go to the gym seven days a week and can bench-press 275 pounds easy. I take excellent care of my body, so while you can be upset, you better be careful and watch how you handle yourselves here, because if you so much as make a sarcastic remark or do anything to take advantage of how vulnerable I am right now, this will end ugly for the both of you.
Bottom line: I was born this way. It wasn't a choice. It was, however, a choice to develop huge biceps like this, so take a good long look at them before you think of uttering a hurtful or bigoted remark.
Look, I'm not naïve. I know how you feel about homosexuality, because you've been very clear on that subject in the past. That's why it took me so long to tell you. Dad, you've said some very hateful things, not considering for a second that I might be gay, and it hurt. Not nearly as much as it will hurt when I throw you across the room if you ever say any of those shitty things again, but it still stung.
I'm a gay man, and I'm proud of it. I'm also super fast and can lift you both over my head and slam you into the ground, no problem. I've recently incorporated kettlebells into my workout routine, and while I don't expect you to understand the physical impact they've had on my body, I can tell you I've put on at least 15 pounds of sheer muscle since the last time you saw me—certainly enough to take out two homophobic parents in their 60s. Mom, what do you weigh? One hundred fifteen pounds soaking wet? Well, it's going to take a lot more than that to bring me down, I'll tell you that much. I'm 2 percent body fat, have washboard abs, and can do 50 pull-ups in a row easy. Just remember that as we continue this conversation.
You want me to be happy, right? Because I can assure you, you don't want to see me unhappy.
Look, I think both of you have known in your heart of hearts that I was gay. You can deny it all you want, but if you try to do something stupid like convince me that I'm not a homosexual and that this is all somehow in my head, I'll put you in a Jujitsu hold where I can dislocate your shoulder with one little tug. I've been taking mixed martial arts classes at this place in the city, and I'm getting pretty good. I'm actually thinking about competing in a tournament in a few months. The point is, if I can make my opponents submit in less than a minute, imagine what I could do to two arthritic senior citizens. Dad, I love you. I've always craved your approval, but you don't move as fast as you used to. You know it and I know it.
You're probably wondering when this all started. Well, I think I've always known I was different, but in college, when I began to get pretty heavy into weight training and sculpting my hulking physique, I also began experimenting with my sexuality. Does this make you uncomfortable? Well, so will your ribs cracking in half and making it impossible to breathe right for three months, so just sit there and listen, because there's more.
I have been in a relationship with another man for the past two years. You've met him. His name is Tony, and he's not my roommate, he's my boyfriend. We're in love, and if I so much as see a pained expression cross your faces because you're imagining Tony and I together, or because you thought I would marry Jennifer—which was always a completely ridiculous notion—Mom, Dad, I'll literally take you down and start kneeing you in the stomach. I seriously will. Over and over again. Also, Tony is a little stronger than me so I definitely wouldn't mess with him, either.
Tony and I are probably going to get married. Dad? What was that? Were you about to say something? Were you about to open your stupid mouth and say something that could absolutely destroy me emotionally? I didn't think so. That's why I'm going to put you back on the ground now instead of throwing you into the china cabinet. And Mom, stop crying. It's just making me angrier.
Tony and I are going to adopt children. We're going to raise a family. You are going to have grandchildren, and you're going to love them. Dad, you're going to teach them all the things you taught me, and Mom, they're going to call you Grandma, and you are going to be so thrilled to be a major part of their lives that my being gay will be the last thing on your mind.
So come here right now and give me a hug or I'll knock your fucking heads off.

International Gay and Lesbian Association finally wins UN accreditation

ILGA has won UN accreditation
ILGA has won UN accreditation
By Jessica Geen -

The International Gay and Lesbian Association (ILGA) has finally won United Nations accreditation.
The group, which is one of the oldest international organisations fighting for gay rights, has been trying to gain recognition at the UN for years.
Yesterday, countries voted 30-16 to grant the group consultative status to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
ILGA gained consultative status in 1993 but lost it a year later.
Co-secretary general Renato Sabbadini said: “This is a historic day for our organisation, which heals a 17-year-old wound and we want to thank all, really all UN Members who voted in our favour.”
Countries which voted in favour: India, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Malta, Mexico, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Norway, Peru, Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary.
Countries which voted against: Iraq, Morocco, Namibia, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Bangladesh, Cameroon, China, Egypt, Ghana.
Abstentions: Guatemala, Mauritius, Philipines, Rwanda, Bahamas, Ivory Coast

Maryland Governor Says Marriage Equality Bill Will Be an "Administration Priority" in 2012

omalley1.jpgBy Yusef Najafi -
Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley (D) met with Marylanders for Marriage Equality, members of the LGBT legislative caucus, Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown and others to announce his support for marriage equality legislation in the state in 2012.
"Marylanders of all walks of life want their children to live in a loving, stable, committed home, protected under the law," he said. "[T]he legislation we plan to introduce in the 2012 legislative session will protected religious freedom and equality of martial rights under the law."
What's changed since the bill stalled in this year's legislative session, O'Malley added, was the urgency of this type of legislation, saying that in 2012 it will be a priority and that he would make it an "administration priority."
Brown echoed that sentiment, adding that he's enthusiastic about working with O'Malley and lawmakers to ensure equality for all Marylanders.
"Every member of our community should enjoy the same freedoms and share the same responsibilities," Brown said.
Joining the governor at the podium in the Governor's Reception Room at the Maryland State House in Annapolis was, at one point, Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery), who is the only out LGBT state senator and was the lead sponsor of marriage equality legislation during the 2011 session. Madaleno said the governor's announcement created "the second exciting moment" he will experience in the Governor's Reception Room.
"It will only be surpassed by the moment in the next nine months that we will stand here, with your pen in hand, signing into law the marriage equality bill," he said, receiving loud applause.
O'Malley pointed to New York, saying that the state's lawmakers showed that it is possible to protect religious freedoms and provide marriage equality to all of its citizens.
"That's what we are going to do with this bill in the upcoming session."
Although a 2011 marriage equality bill was shelved in the state's House of Delegates, when it was recommitted back to committee, O'Malley says he's optimistic that there is enough time to secure votes for passage of similiar legislation in 2012.
"I'm very optimistic that if all of us work hard and if all of us stay focused on the important principles at stake here -- which are freedom of religion and also equal protection under the law and the dignity of every individual -- that we can pull together the necessary votes for passage."
Asked about his thoughts on a referendum effort for a 2012 marriage equality bill by opponents of it, if it does pass the House and Senate successfully, O'Malley said: "That's their right under our laws."
"That's not my primary focus," he added. "I'm focused on working with this broad coalition to pass marriage equality laws that respect and protect rights equally under the law. What others do in terms of referendum and those sorts of appeals, it's their right, each citizen needs to do their duty under the law as they see it and I'm doing mine as governor as I see it."
Out lesbian Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County) said the governor's support of marriage equality legislation will make a great impact during the next legislative session.

"There's no bigger megaphone in the statehouse than the governor," Mizeur said, talking to Metro Weekly after the press conference.

"For him to be the captain of our team is going to be an incredible boost in momentum for the next session and we're going to get this done."

Monday, July 25, 2011

New York Celebrates the Freedom to Marry

On July 24, 2011, hundreds of couples descended on the New York City Clerk's Office to get their marriage licenses and marry one another. This audio slideshow captures the sights and sounds of this historic day.

Marriage Manners: Navigating Gay and Lesbian Etiquette

Thomas Roberts, News Anchor and Host of MSNBC, sits down with author Steven Petrow to discuss the first-ever comprehensive etiquette guide for LGBT people in the United States.

New York says 'I do' to gay marriage - in pictures

Hundreds of gay and lesbian couples wed on the day New York state legalises same-sex marriage.

Gay Marriage: New York City Clerks Offices Open Sunday For First Day Of Gay Marriages
Another couple embrace on their wedding day in Brooklyn. Gay rights activists are now pushing for neighbouring New Jersey to recognise gay marriage too
same-sex marriage: Maria Garcia and Maria Vargas
Brooklyn couple Maira Vargas (left) and Maira Garcia wait in line to wed on the day same-sex marriage is made legal across New York state
Gay Marriage: New York City Clerks Offices Open Sunday For First Day Of Gay Marriages
Hundreds of gay and lesbian New Yorkers said 'I do', including long time partners, Carol Anastasio and Mimi Brown (far right)
Gay Marriage: 118513884
Phyllis Siegel, 76, kisses her wife Connie Kopelov, 84, after exchanging vows in front of New York City Council speaker Christine C. Quinn. The couple have been together for 23 years
Gay Marriage: To match Reuters-Life! USA-GAYMARRIAGE/
Myron Levine (second from left) and Philip Zinderman emerge into Manhattan, finally married after 51 years together
Gay Marriage: New York City Clerks Offices Open Sunday For First Day Of Gay Marriages
Wendy Torrington (left) jumps for joy, wedding licence in hand and new wife Kimberley Moreno on her arm

Gay Marriage: First day for same sex marriages in New York State
Michael Johnson, 55 (left), and Michael Roberts, 81, embrace after exchanging marriage vows and wedding rings
Gay Marriage: First day for same sex marriages in New York State
Douglas Robinson (right) and Michael Elsasser celebrate after their marriage at the Manhattan City Clerk's Office

Anoka-Hennepin School District - Don't Teach, Don't Tell?

15-yr-old Justin Aaberg & 13-yr-old Samantha Johnson are among the seven suicides in the last two years due to bullying. The Anoka-Hennepin school district said it will keep its policy which says the topic of sexual orientation is not part of the regular curriculum and instructs teachers to remain neutral if the issue comes up in their classrooms.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Mayor Bloomberg Presides Over Ceremony Of His Staffers John Feinblatt & Jonathan Mintz

Also married today Jo-Ann Shain & Mary Jo Kennedy (together 29 yrs.) And Michael Elsasser & Doug Robinson (together 25 yrs.).

Sen. Dianne Feinstein On Respect For Marriage Act

Sen. Dianne Feinstein on her bill that repeals the Defense of Marriage Act.

Same-Sex Couples Tie The Knot In New York

CNN's Susan Candiotti follows one of the many gay couples who became officially married under the state's new law.

The End of Awe

By Maureen Dowd -

WEDNESDAY found both the British prime minister and the Irish taoiseach passionately addressing their parliaments about the demystified lords of their universes.
Frantically distancing himself from the pope of Fleet Street, David Cameron sardonically assured riled-up lawmakers that he had never seen Rebekah Brooks in her PJs because he had not attended Gordon Brown’s wife’s slumber party at Chequers with Wendi Deng and Elisabeth Murdoch in 2008.
He conceded that he should not have ignored warnings from the palace and elsewhere against bringing a capo from the sulfurous Murdoch gang into his inner circle.
Across the Irish Sea in Dublin, Enda Kenny took on the actual pope, making a blazing speech about the Vatican’s unconscionable behavior in the pedophilia scandal.
After 17 years of revolting revelations, Kenny said the latest report on the Cloyne diocese in County Cork exposed “an attempt by the Holy See to frustrate an inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago, not three decades ago.”
The report, he said, “excavates the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism, the narcissism that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day. The rape and torture of children were downplayed or ‘managed’ to uphold, instead, the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and ‘reputation.’
“Far from listening to evidence of humiliation and betrayal with St. Benedict’s ‘ear of the heart,’ the Vatican’s reaction was to parse and analyze it with the gimlet eye of a canon lawyer. This calculated, withering position being the polar opposite of the radicalism, humility and compassion upon which the Roman church was founded.”
Pulling back the curtain to expose the profane amid the sacred would have been remarkable coming from any leader in one of the many countries scarred by pedophile priests, but from the devoutly Catholic prime minister of a nation whose constitution once enshrined the special position of the church, it was breathtaking.
The Irish were taken aback by the ire of the ordinarily amiable, soft-spoken Kenny, the longest-serving parliamentarian in the land. In his first few months as Taoiseach, the 60-year-old had not given any sign that he could throw such Zeus-style thunderbolts.
But bankrupt and battered Eire, which needed a shot of muscular national pride, was thrilled with his emphatic articulation of their revulsion at the tragedy, and his assertion of Ireland as a sovereign republic not under the thumb of Rome.
“If you look at some of his predecessors, going right back 50 years, they would have been very much of the view that they were Catholics first and politicians second,” said Diarmaid Ferriter, a professor of modern Irish history at University College Dublin.
Sounding like he could have been talking about Rupert Murdoch’s fief as well, Ferriter observed: “There has been this very obvious and planned and hugely arrogant policy of obfuscation and deliberate delaying tactics and complete avoidance of responsibility on the part of the Vatican. They were actually treating the sovereign government of Ireland with complete contempt.”
He added: “We’re fed up with hearing about canon law. This is a Republic, it’s about civil law.”
Garry O’Sullivan, the editor of The Irish Catholic, compared the resonance of the speech to the French revolution, without the violence. “The French Republic didn’t kick out the Catholic Church, but they set up a French Catholic Church and kicked out Rome,” he said. “Kenny has tapped into a vein in the Irish psyche, people saying, ‘Well done for standing up to those bloody bishops and the pope.’ It was lancing a boil.”
Like other elites in shaken Ireland, like the multimillionaire bankers and real estate developers, the church elite is rapidly losing clout. “The mighty have fallen from their thrones,” O’Sullivan said.
Diarmuid Martin, the archbishop of Dublin, who has been frozen out by the Vatican and his fellow Irish bishops for his tender solicitude toward abuse victims, teared up on Irish TV talking about Kenny’s cri de coeur.
What church “cabal” is this in the Vatican or Ireland, he asked, “who try to undermine what is being done, or simply refuse to understand what is being done?”
In Britain and in Ireland, two dictatorial institutions that once dominated with fearsome power are crumbling, brought low by highhanded cultures inured even to crimes against children.
A large part of the strategy of the Vatican and Rupert Murdoch in acquiring power was to create an aura of invincibility, a hallowed mystique. But those mythologies are cracking, and people are no longer afraid to confront these empires’ corrupt practices and vast cover-ups.
It is stirring to watch people who have long been cowed finally speaking up, shedding their fear of the authoritarian men at the top who owed their power to the awe of the people.

NY marriage equality is good for business

By Bob Witeck -

Bob Witeck advises companies on business trends, demographics and issues of significance to LGBT stakeholders. He is co-founder and CEO of Witeck-Combs Communications, as well as author of "Business Inside Out: Capturing Millions of Brand Loyal Gay Consumers." 
(CNN) -- Many New Yorkers and thousands of visitors this weekend may make last month's Gay Pride celebrations seem tepid. Beginning Sunday, New York's same-sex couples will become eligible for marriage licenses. Tens of thousands of those couples are expected to marry over the next few years, and their vows will resonate across America.
New York is the sixth state (plus Washington) to offer marriage equality for same-sex couples. To me, after two decades of consulting with business leaders, this moment truly feels personal. It not only arrives packed with emotion, it is a real game-changer for the American work force.
New York's mayor, Michael Bloomberg, and city leaders must be cheering the economic shot in the arm as hotels, restaurants, caterers, florists and legions of vendors welcome the wedding and honeymoon brigades. Some estimate nearly $400 million in revenues for the state over the next three years.
These rewards are also the result of changing tides among American corporations and employers over recent decades. Gov. Andrew Cuomo's same-sex marriage legislation was endorsed not only by major corporations like Xerox and Google but by scores of smaller business owners across the state.
Why should business leaders care? What's in it for them?
Senate debates Defense of Marriage Act
First, many employers already "get it." Beginning in 1982 with New York's Village Voice, thousands of employers have added spousal-equivalent work benefits including health coverage for their workers with same-sex partners. Today, nearly 60% of Fortune 500 companies do so.
Treating same-sex partners and their families equally with other married couples is today as natural for corporate leaders as ending discrimination on race or ethnicity.
If employers give equal benefits to same-sex couples, why worry about marital status? Ask employers in New Jersey, where same-sex civil unions are the law instead. Civil unions, domestic partnerships and other makeshift legal arrangements offer some measure of legal protection. But real-world experience shows that they do not measure up in crucial ways.
"Marriage lite" not only creates a social apartheid among families, it opens significant gaps, confusion and conflicts that businesses confront in areas such as survivor benefits, pensions and bankruptcies, along with disparate tax treatment at the state and federal level.
Keeping it simple and consistent are important to businesses. The power of New York's business allies suggests that states with civil unions, such as New Jersey, Illinois and Rhode Island, will find the marriage-equality trend appealing and inevitable.
Furthermore, administering payrolls and maintaining accurate, timely benefits and tax withholding procedures can strain any employer. When you add the complexity that accompanies different marital and tax status for many couples, from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and workplace to workplace, it is another unacceptable and costly burden on business.
Sooner rather than later, chambers of commerce will recognize that their best interests are served by the simplicity, uniformity and cost savings that come with marriage equality across the nation.
As more states follow New York, and as independent federal litigation progresses, the likelihood will grow that either federal courts or Congress ultimately will dismantle the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. That law prevents federal recognition of states' same-sex marriage laws and codifies the right of other states to not recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. Simply put, a Kansas employer need not recognize a couple's New York marriage license.
Even in a sluggish economy like ours, successful business performance has an unquenchable appetite for strong human performance and top talent. It is not surprising that some of America's leading companies are actively recruiting and rewarding their openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers and assigning them to more leading and executive roles.
The competition for superior talent goes hand in hand with appealing communities and welcoming cultures. Very few LGBT executives and managers will eagerly await employment transfer, with spouses and children too, to states and cities that insist on denying equal legal protections and stability.
Increasingly, same-sex couples will align their ambitions with their best interests in choosing to live and work in states that offer them the full respect and equal treatment under the law they need and wish for their families.
In fact, in a Harris Poll released this week, 78% of all LGBT adults said that, other factors being equal, they would prefer jobs in states that recognize marriage equality. Nearly half went farther by saying they would even consider declining job promotions if it required a transfer for themselves or their family to a hostile state or jurisdiction.
It's clear that New York and its 19 million residents is the pivot now. With marriage equality ingrained in America's capital of commerce, the trend toward business engagement will also accelerate -- and give us the best example yet of the economic benefits and progress awaiting us.

The Morning After Marriage

Should the gay community really be saying “I do”?

Celebrations in the West Village (New York City, June 24, 2011) / Zach Roberts / Flickr(cc)
On the night of June 24, 2011, just before Governor Cuomo signed New York’s marriage equality bill into law, some friends and I made our way over to the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. There, we danced in the street.
We weren’t alone. There were hundreds of us, and more by the minute. It was a riot, but an amiable riot. Television crews were there in force. The cops came, too, and half-heartedly corralled the crowd with portable gates until we became too massive, too jubilant. Tourists came by, straight couples with baby strollers, men in outrageous drag, lesbians from the outer boroughs, and each new wave begot more joy, more dancing.
The night of June 28, 1969, wasn’t far from anyone’s mind—that night when adrenaline-jacked transexuals and hustlers confronted a corrupt police force’s routine harassment of the Stonewall’s LGBT patrons. That night, an earlier generation took our struggle to the streets. They swung their purses, swore like sailors, started fires, overturned cars, resisted arrest, and met the beatings and billy clubs with kick lines and high camp. Our modern gay rights moment started there just 40 years ago, and now, somehow, the cops and the governor are on our side.
A neat bookend to history? Maybe. If equality in marriage is the final liberation promised by that outrageous rebellion, then we’ve done well. National gay organizations wielded our economic and political capital, and brought same-sex marriage into reality with sloganeering, organizing, browbeating, and financing as adept as any other interest groups’.
But a few days ago, in the lulls between cheers, as the cameras panned away from the crowd, thoughtful conversations broke out here and there among strangers, as they are wont to do around midnight in the streets of New York. Under the jubilant wave there was a subtle undertow, a force pulling against this rush to the altar. Had marriage been the right goal after all, we wondered entre nous? One Brooklynite who had badgered the senators for weeks put it succinctly: “I did it for all of you queens. Marriage ain’t for me.”

• • •

Happy supporters of same-sex marriage are all alike, but each of us that is unhappy is unhappy in his or her own way. Many eloquent perspectives have surfaced from our ranks. In The New York Times, Katherine Franke worries that the option of marriage may morph into a practical mandate and wonders whether the intrusion of the state and the church into our uniquely wrought relationships is something we ought to cheer about. Hilton Als in the New Yorker suggests that aping straight marriage signals the increasing blandness of being queer and of New York in general. Other essays from recent years outline further objections. Lisa Dettmer demonstrates how the marriage movement has drained the coffers of the biggest nonprofit players in the gay world at the expense of many other worthy causes and that marriage will have an outsized benefit for wealthy, white gays and lesbians.
Perhaps the most touching essay on the subject is by Mark Greif, writing a few months before the last marriage bill failed in the New York Senate in 2009. He passionately extols the utopian moment that the gay movement once seemed to promise, during the flamboyantly life-affirming standoff at Stonewall. He can’t bring himself to see why, 40 years down the road, gays would settle for chasing down an institution that even heterosexuals seem to value less and less with each passing year. “Here is marriage,” he says.
The division of humanity into closed couples, when modernity has given us a chance at something much better—affiliation by manifold currents of love, interest, and likeness . . . . Marriage is lye poured upon the petri dish of the new relations of erotic sociality.
Ah, that utopian moment. While the reality it gave rise to was far from perfect, the queer era has indeed seen a vigorous, breathtakingly inventive exploration—a Cambrian explosion—of emotional and sexual combinations. Even among my apparently conventional circle of friends—comprised by day of bankers, editors, teachers, psychologists, and other average Joes—one finds a robust gamut: friends who are sometimes lovers, former lovers who are now best friends, PLPs (platonic life partners), the odd “thruple” (polyamorists that come in handy packs of three), inventively non-monogamous couples. And, of course, those rare birds forever fated to be together for whom marriage fits just fine.
What about the many other blessed varieties of human love to which we gays and lesbians gave birth?
The field in which this mishmash of romantic ties grows is worth noting: a robust found family of enduring friendships. These powerful networks are unspeakably important to us. They come into play sometimes to replace traditional nuclear families, and they in turn nurture our romantic experiments and absorb our failures. In Dancing in the Streets, a raucous history of collective joy, author Barbara Ehrenreich laments, “We have a rich language for describing the emotions drawing one person to another . . . . [but] what we lack is any way of describing the ‘love’ that may exist among dozens of people at a time.” Queer families like mine have been inventing those words for decades.
The question is this: will these extended queer families exist in the future, to continue their pioneering tightrope walks over those universally prickly fields of jealousy, intimacy, adventure, and security? Once the rosy crown of marriage is on the table, won’t there be a powerful incentive to leave our relationship experiments behind? And if marriage equality launches a widespread flight to the culturally sanctioned form of partnership, have we lost a history and a field of experience that the rest of the world might well have benefited from?

• • •

Another twist on objection—a seemingly perverse twist, in light of similar objections from the religious right—but I question whether embracing marriage is the spiritually and morally right thing for gays to do. I have intermittently made my living writing about religion and therefore witnessed a great deal of religious activity. In churches, synagogues, and mosques, something fundamentally restorative happens—mostly, I think, because the communities that meet there are so like queer families. Congregants make a simple commitment to be there for one another. By this act, if nothing else, they offer absolution for the many failings of the individual. Perhaps this is why the religious, according to research reported by political scientists Robert Putnam and David Campbell in American Grace (2010), test as happier and more involved and invested citizens. Religion has gotten a bad rap for being exclusionary, but some of us still celebrate it as an unmatched social tonic.

                            Jason Anthony discusses his project “The Ten Year Game.”

That said, gay marriage may cause the greatest quake in the history of Judeo-Christian religion since the Protestant Reformation. A straightforward reading of Leviticus and Romans shows that a government siding with same-sex partnerships is a gauntlet thrown down to the Judeo-Christian tradition. A line in the sand has been crossed.
To be fair, society crosses these lines often. Women have spoken in church, despite Paul’s strictures. Slavery eventually passed away, though slaves in the New Testament are advised to be obedient. But the homosexuality debate is, to my mind, of an entirely different degree. On other social issues of our day, early Christians were a liberal vanguard. They promoted the radical message that, in spiritual life, “there is neither . . . slave nor free, male nor female.” Not so with homosexuality. Same-sex carnality falls unequivocally afoul of early Christian morality, just as it does with that of nearly every venerated holy text worldwide.
In The Varieties of Religious Experience, William James points out that, time and again, societies take drastic steps when the will of the people conflicts with religious values. Deities get discarded when they fall out of step with popular morality.
So soon as [the fruits of the deity] conflicted with indispensible human ideals, or thwarted too extensively other values; so soon as they appeared childish, contemptible, or immoral when reflected on, the deity grew discredited, and was erelong neglected and forgotten.
From the decadence and blood sacrifice of the pagan god-emperors that inspired the founding of Christianity to the excesses of the sixteenth-century church that led to the Reformation, new morals mean trouble for the spiritual status quo.
Fine, for those who can do without faith. But others, like myself, who value our shared architectures of morality and meaning may wonder what lies ahead. Will the LGBT world assimilate with our marriages and our normalized families to the Christian moral tradition—or might we represent some kind of Jamesian next chapter?
Our acceptance, let’s remember, was contingent on society deciding that consenting adults may choose their own kind of love. Is this the nature of the gift that we are meant to bring the future? If so, is fighting for marriage, and only marriage, in some sense a moral failure? What about the many other blessed varieties of human love to which, during our forty years in the wilderness, we gays and lesbians gave birth?
Is having a boyfriend suddenly not good enough? Is sharing an apartment, a dog, and utilities suddenly second-class?
Some argue that marriage is simply a matter of paperwork between consenting adults. If LGBT couples want to receive the considerations in taxation, hospital visitation, etc. enjoyed by their heterosexual counterparts, they should be able to. And no supporter of same-sex marriage disagrees there. But in your experience, how many marriages, even among die-hard secularists, are nothing more than a signature in city hall during a lunch break?
Marriages are high moments of meaning, where we come together to measure ourselves against the best of our love and loyalty. They happen in places that we set apart. In them, we define how we think, relate, and value as a society.
And perhaps by making our rallying call a traditional, one-size-fits all model for love, we have failed to bring back from our exile the moral lessons that the world was meant to learn.

• • •

These and more thoughts ran through my head after I biked home from our friendly riot. I couldn’t help but feel a little blue. On a less abstract level, what did this end-of-an-era mean for me?
For one, here was yet another way to disappoint my mother. The day before, I was a happy gay man, between relationships. Now, unmarried at the age of 40, was I a spinster? Another friend had raised a similar point when we asked if he intended to propose to his boyfriend of several years. Was having a boyfriend suddenly not good enough? Was sharing an apartment, a dog, and utilities suddenly second-class? Were none of us valid without a trip to City Hall and a nod from Albany?
Crowd gathers in front of the Stonewall Inn (New York City, June 24, 2011) / Zach Roberts / Flickr(cc)
I also couldn't help but worry about younger gays. Well, worry and feel incredibly jealous. In the unabashed strut of each new gay generation, I see something gained and something lost. Sure, they’re so comfortable in their skin, taking same-sex dates to prom, seeing queers on every cable station, and, now, dreaming about white weddings.
Who could wish any exclusion on them? But isn’t it exclusion that has made me the man I am? My friends and I fought for a voice during Reagan’s silence about AIDS. We supported our military brothers and sisters through the humiliations of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Do the young ones even belong to the same species as we who Acted Up; who walked, outnumbered by protestors, in small-town marches; and who built our own queer homes and networks when we went years or decades or a lifetime without acceptance from our biological families?
And what will these younger gays miss out on? Being gay defined my choices. It was why I took a trek across America, living out of my car, determined to meet my country in a brand new skin. It was why I worked in an abortion clinic. It was why, today, I volunteer in a homeless shelter. Exclusion radicalized my politics, taught me humility, helped me to question authority and stand up for others. Without those lessons, what happens to us? Will the ghettos turn into shopping malls? Will the twinks go young Republican?

• • •

What’s done is done. No one—on this side, anyway—is actually angry about same-sex marriage. It’s complicated, but it’s the future. I’ll happily try to catch the bouquet at my pals’ weddings. Maybe someday I’ll even tie the knot myself and regain some of that ransom of flatware I’ve been bullied into parceling out to my straight friends through the years.
I recently decided to set my thoughts about marriage in line with those of a well-qualified source: Georges Feydeau, the great Belle Epoque writer of French farce. His plays followed a simple logic: tragedy ends in death; comedy ends in marriage; and farce is the tragedy that begins with marriage.
This equation is less brutal than it sounds. Marriage is never a happy ending in and of itself. It’s the beginning of a new road, with fresh strains of heartbreak, a little absurdity, and its own surprising beauty. On the morning after this legislative victory, it probably pays to be neither too pessimistic nor too misty about what a handful of rice can do. Marriage itself is an experiment, no matter who takes it on. And the LGBT wedding dance is far from over.