Monthly Archives: April 2011

John Boehner, Adam & Steve, and Me

House Speaker John Boehner was in Dayton, Ohio (where I live) on Tuesday to speak at the Dayton area Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting.

Outside the banquet center, I joined the good folks at GetEqual Ohio in protesting Speaker Boehner’s decision to defend the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which Attorney General Eric Holder agrees is unconstitutional.

The newspaper went and posted a picture of me with GetEqual Ohio leader Tom Morgan and Service Employees International Union’s Grant Williams dressed as the Grim Reaper.

Dayton (OH) Daily News Staff photo by Lisa Powell
Look! There’s me!

As the well-heeled attendees walked past us from the parking lot to the banquet center, not many made eye contact. In fact, most did their level best to pretend we weren’t there. And that’s fine. I completely understand that reaction.

But then there was this one guy who yelled, and I quote, “GOD MADE ADAM AND EVE, NOT ADAM AND STEVE!”

I just stood there dumbfounded that this was the best he could do. I mean, of course there’s the offensive slur. But I just hate that his chosen slur was so bereft of any creativity. If I were going to yell at protesters on a sidewalk, I’d at least try to come up with something new.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been thunderstruck by Adam and Steve. Watch the anti-gay forums, blog comments, and facebook pages and I guarantee that you’ll see Adam and Steve at least a couple times a week. Before NOM’s facebook page was reformed, Adam and Steve was a daily sight.

Just come up with something new, that’s all I’m saying. Come up with something new and then shout it at me. If you can’t do that, then modify something old before you put it out there. At least then you’d be demonstrating some pride in your work.

As it is, I’m just disappointed in you.

WATCH: Judith Light on LGBT and HIV/AIDS Activism

Big Think has a great interview with longtime straight ally Judith Light in which she talks extensively about how she got involved in LGBT advocacy and HIV/AIDS advocacy, as well as how she advised former Who’s The Boss castmate Danny Pintauro (see picture below) make the decision to come out publicly when the National Enquirer threatened to out him in 1997.

Some good insight, especially relating to the beginning of the HIV/AIDS crisis and the political climate surrounding it.

Who's The Boss cast photo
Who's The Boss cast photo

Will The Presbyterian Church Finally Recognize The Calling of Gays?

presbyterian-crossTwo years ago, the Presbyterian Church (USA) (PCUSA) voted on a constitutional amendment that would have allowed LGB persons to be pastors, reversing language added in 1996 that specifically removed LGBs from consideration.

Amendment 08-B ultimately failed to garner enough votes among the presbyteries, though with a far slimmer margin than when the issue was up for a vote in 2002.

Now it’s time to give it another shot. The presbyteries are again voting on an amendment for the same purpose, this time with Amendment 10-A. (More Light Presbyterians, which has been leading the fight for years now, has the verbiage and more specific information. Also, I’ll be using the term LGB because trans ministers seem to be permitted already.)

For our purposes here, it’s most important to understand that under the current rules in place since 1996, a local PCUSA congregation is not permitted to appoint an openly LGB pastor. Amendment 10-A would not force any local congregation to accept an LGB minister if they didn’t want to, but would permit a congregation to elect an LGB minister if they wanted.

In short, this amendment restores choice to the local congregation, which is much more in keeping with the way the PCUSA church generally operates.

Presbyteries have been voting for several months now, and the outlook is better than it was in 2009. Rev. John Shuck has been tracking the vote, and as he said last week:

…we need only seven more YESes to make a significant step in healing the church.

  • We have had 16 positive flips.
  • We have had 2 negative switches.
  • So that means 14 net flips.
  • 35 presbyteries are yet to vote. [ed: One has since voted NO]
  • 12 of those had voted YES last time.
  • We are in good shape.
  • But there is a lot of work to do.

Very good news, indeed. As Rev. Shuck says, passage isn’t a sure thing and it won’t be until voting ends in late May, but they are cautiously optimistic. For more specific and regularly updated voting data, see More Light’s chart here.

I’ll be keeping an eye out for developments on Amendment 10-A for the next few weeks, but until we get the final counts, here’s Presbyterian minister Mark Sandlin explaining just one of the more salient reasons for a YES vote in a brief excerpt from his blog The God Article:

At some point, those who stand against ordaining people whose sexual orientation happens to be homosexual are going to have to admit that they believe two things that most of the rest of the Christian community do not see as core values in the teachings of Jesus: 1) that God’s love comes in degrees; that God loves some people more than others; that if you are gay you are less worthy of that love and hence less capable of being called into ministry and 2) they personally know better than the individual who feels called into ministry whether or not God is actually calling them into ministry.

Thanks to reader and ally Greg for pointing me to the new amendment!

Behind The Pink Thundersticks: Allies Are Essential

At the National Equality March in 2009, there was a woman standing alone on the sidewalk along the march route. Her sign read “THIS STRAIGHT WOMAN SUPPORTS YOU.”

Cheers erupted in waves as people got close enough to read the sign, and quite a few stepped out of the march to get their pictures taken with her. I remember thinking how unfortunate it was that so many of us were so hungry for the support of one straight ally willing to stand with us.

Yet we are. So far, the Brazil volleyball story that I posted on Thursday has been shared over 17,000 times on facebook, over 1,000 times on twitter, and at least 1,500 times on tumblr. All of that in less than four days, and it ain’t because of my skillful prose. It’s because of this picture and what this picture means.

A stadium full of allies. WOW.
A stadium full of allies. WOW.

This isn’t just a stadium full of people standing up for a player. It’s a stadium full of mostly straight people standing up for a gay player. That’s an important distinction.

We are hungry for straight folks to stand with us. Even if they have nothing to gain, even though they have something to lose, we want them to fight by our side. Raymond Miller, a video by whom I’ve posted before, talked about this last November:

We love and appreciate our supportive straight friends. We know that some of them have taken great strides to reform their old opinions. We are grateful for their changes of heart.

But if I’ve learned anything these last couple years, it’s that we need our straight friends and family members who are passively supportive to take the next step to active advocacy.

That’s what happened when that ally took the time to show her support at the National Equality March, and that’s what happened when a stadium full of straight people stood up and with one voice proclaimed, “Your prejudice is not welcome here. Leave our LGBT sisters and brothers alone.”

Celebrate the Day Of Silence: Stop Calling it Bullying!

It’s the 15th annual Day of Silence, a GLSEN-sponsored international event to raise awareness of and stop anti-LGBT violence in our schools. I hope people will take this post in that context.

I’ve recently begun following actor/comedian/commentator John Fugelsang on the twitter. He’s a damn funny guy and knows how to say a lot in 140 characters or less.

A few weeks ago, he hit us with this message: “Calling peer abuse ‘bullying’ is about as effective as calling homeless people ‘hoboes,'” and linked to a video commentary he made last October for GRITtv, after a spate of LGBT youth suicides hit the news.

John is absolutely right. The time has come to put away this term that has come to minimize what’s being done to so many of our children and youth.

My saying that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who’s been reading this blog for a while; I said the same thing two years ago after Carl Walker Hoover completed suicide a week before his 12th birthday.

I just wonder what would happen if people stopped calling it “bullying” and started calling it what it really is: ABUSE. Would that change the way people react to it? Would that loosen the hold of the “boys will be boys” mentality?

So from now on, you’ll only see me call it peer abuse. It’s our jobs as parents, educators, administrators, clergy, mentors, and friends to stand up for the abused. Not only that, it’s our job to stand up against the bullies abusers and help them to stop being abusers.

Because really, as much anger and frustration as I have with peer abusers, it’s the adults who are the real problem.

Day of Silence 2011

Brazil Stadium Turns Pink After ‘FAGGOT’ Chants Shock Community

Yesterday, American basketball fans couldn’t seem to understand the problem with Kobe Bryant shouting “fucking fag” at a referee. Maybe we should look to a recent situation from professional volleyball in Brazil to see how they handled it.

Volleywood has the the story, in an article published April 7, 2011. (Note: Volleyball is HUGE in Brazil. I’m not sure how it compares to basketball in the US, but it’s got to be similar, if not bigger.)

A few days ago during the Superliga semifinal match between Sada Cruzeiro & Vôlei Futuro, Sada Cruzeiro fans chanted homophobic slurs towards Michael [Santos], a middle blocker from Team Vôlei Futuro. The fans kept screaming “Bicha! Bicha! Bicha!” which means “faggot” in English.

We deeply appreciate that these athletes are taking a stand to defend Michael who has confessed that the incident has been very traumatic and has admitted that he fears for the same thing to happen again. Michael shared that he could not believe what was happening and that he tried to pretend he wasn’t hearing any of the chants.

He said that he could’ve fought back by swearing at them after the match, but instead he took the highest route and left the court without saying a word. Inside the locker room, his teammates came up to him to make sure he was okay.

The incident has prompted Michael to admit to the media that he’s gay. “I’m gay. Everyone knows who I am. My team fully respects my sexuality. I have been playing for 10 years and everyone has treated me well and fair. I do not feel the need to let everyone know about my sexuality,” says Michael.

A week has passed after the incident that forced Michael to out himself publicly, and Volleywood reports that the outpouring of support for Michael has been tremendous. The brazenness of the crowd’s bigotry seems to have surprised a lot of people and called them to action.

At the second semi-final match on last Saturday, the team wore pink warmup shirts to show support, and the team’s libero wore a rainbow jersey during the match.

Support from the team
Support from the team

The crowd unfurled a gigantic banner reading Vôlei Futuro Against Prejudice

Vôlei Futuro Against Prejudice
Vôlei Futuro Against Prejudice

Then the crowd used thundersticks emblazoned with Michael’s name to turn the stadium pink!

A pink stadium. Wow.
A pink stadium. Wow.

Can you imagine being there for that, feeling that support reverberate through the stadium? I’m in tears just seeing the pictures.

Americans, this is how it’s done. Don’t make excuses for the perpetrator like many are for Kobe Bryant (see comments). Instead, stand against prejudice and homophobia wherever they’re found. That’s how society becomes better for all of us.

Michael Santos during the game
Michael Santos during the game

Oh, and Team Vôlei Futuro won in five. BONUS.

Again, major thanks to Volleywood for their coverage of this issue. Click on the article links for much more including youtube video of each complete match. I wish volleyball were bigger here in the States.

(Somebody get on that, okay?)

UPDATE: Sports Illustrated reports that Team Sada Cruzeiro has been fined about US$30,000 over the original incident.

Louis Marinelli’s Surprise Conversion Reaffirms Harvey Milk’s Message: COME OUT

By now you’ve probably heard about (former) NOM Strategist Louis Marinelli‘s conversion to the side of equality. Here are two links in case you haven’t.

First, Jeremy Hooper of Good As You broke the story with a detailed post and interview:

While still not in full support of homosexuality on some levels (where he needs our help to correct misinformation), Louis is now [a] repudiating virtually all of the vitriol that he put on the public record; [b] is owning up to the major role that he’s played with NOM, including admitting that he was the impetus behind the whole summer tour; and [c] is coming out in full support of the civil marriage rights that gay people are seeking.

From there we go to Marinelli’s own blog:

Ironically, one of the last tour stops added to the itinerary was Atlanta and I bring this site up because it was in Atlanta that I can remember that I questioned what I was doing for the first time. The NOM showing in the heart of the Bible-belt was dismal and the hundreds of counter-protesters who showed up were nothing short of inspiring.

Even though I had been confronted by the counter-protesters throughout the marriage tour, the lesbian and gay people whom I made a profession out of opposing became real people for me almost instantly. For the first time I had empathy for them and remember asking myself what I was doing.

It seems to me that what we have here is tangible proof of what LGBT leaders have been saying at least as far back as Harvey Milk.

We must destroy the myths once and for all. Shatter them. We must continue to speak out, and most importantly every gay person must come out. As difficult as it is, you must tell your immediate family, you must tell your relatives, you must tell your friends if indeed they are your friends, you must tell your neighbors, you must tell the people you work with, you must tell the people in the stores you shop in, and once they realize that we are indeed their children and that we are indeed everywhere, every myth, every lie, every innuendo will be destroyed once and for all. And once you do you will feel so much better.

Arisha Hatch, who led the Prop 8 Trial Tracker team that documented last summer’s bus tour, got to the heart of it in her post about Marinelli.

Out of all the people on the NOM Tour, I could never quite understand why Louis cared so much about the freedom to marry. I got why Brian Brown was there, even “understood” Maggie Gallagher’s motivations, but Louis’ attachment to the issue always seemed puzzling to me. In part because he’s agnostic, in part because he’s so young, figuring Louis out became sort of a daily obsession for me – a daily dialogue between the two of us – many times off-camera.

I can remember saying to him at one point, “I just don’t get it. I just don’t get you.”

Once he got to know LGBT people Louis didn’t get it either, and that’s what made him question the lies.

Never let yourself forget: Living our lives with integrity is the best tool we have in the struggle for civil rights.

Martin Luther King’s Death Helps Birth Diversity Education Techniques

Forty-three years ago yesterday, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. I’ve written about Dr. King several times before, like when audio of a speech long thought lost was discovered and restored in 2010. I often go back to his Letter From Birmingham Jail and his sermon The Drum Major Instinct. They are rich sources of inspiration, and I encourage you to click both those links and read or listen without leaving this page.

January 15, 1929 - April 4, 1968
January 15, 1929 - April 4, 1968

Since I’ve covered a lot of ground on Dr. King, I’d like to offer something that began as a result of his assassination. Frustrated by the flatly bigoted way that television news reported on Dr. King’s death, third grade teacher Jane Elliott began teaching her all-white students in Riceville, Iowa about racism and bigotry by segregating them into brown-eyed and blue-eyed groups for a few days.

That groundbreaking exercise was explored two years later in the ABC special The Eye of the Storm, and later in 1985 with the PBS Frontline documentary A Class Divided, which pulled pieces of the earlier special and looked at what those students had to say 16 years later and followed Ms. Elliott in her role as the foremother of corporate diversity training, a role that she continues today.

The entire video of A Class Divided is embedded below, courtesy of PBS. Please find an hour to watch it today, 43 years after it began. It’s a fascinating idea with surprising and sometimes unintended results.

LaBarbera’s Truth* Academy Fails Spectacularly. AGAIN.


Well, Truth* Academy 2011 is over.

I was outside protesting for part of both days in Dublin, Ohio (a suburb of Columbus), and I can tell you that based on the number of cars in the parking lot, attendance inside was abysmal.

Before we get to that, let’s start out with how much people were paying to get into Peter LaBarbera‘s Anti-Gay Circus. Originally, the general public cost was $75 by March 26/$99 thereafter. That discount rate was later extended to 12 hours before the start of the event.

Of course, all of that went out the window if you were a pastor or a student, in which case you paid only $25. It also went out the window if you were one of the host church’s members. Some blessed soul pointed this out after she saw it in the Discover Christian Church‘s March 16 newsletter:

Important Conference at DCC:

“The ‘Hate’ Labeling of Christians— Why it’s Happening and What We Can Do,” co-sponsored by Mission America (headed by Linda Harvey, DCC member and talk show host on WRFD AM). […] Cost is only $25 per person if you reserve by March 26!

So let’s try to figure how many people were willing to pay $25 for a two day conference with the Religious Right’s Finest. There weren’t any moles that we know of this year (there were at least six in 2010), so we’re going to have to work off of rough estimates and a bit of informed speculation instead of a direct head count.

There were 17 vehicles in the parking lot when I arrived on Friday as registration was set to open, and only a few more came in before we left at 3:00. On Saturday, I counted 25 vehicles before the Truth* Academy lunch break, so let’s fix the number of vehicles at 25 on both days.

At least two of those were the vehicles of police officers. At least three cars (I’m assuming they carpooled to and from the airport) were used to get the seven instructors around. Figure another three for non-attending church employees preparing for Sunday morning or there in case of an emergency at the event.

That leaves us with 17 vehicles for paying attendees. Assuming half of them arrived with two paying attendees, that would put paid attendance at an extremely generous estimation of 25, even with 75% discounts for local attendees and the prime audience, and a 25% discount for everybody else.

I’m not even sure it was that high, to be honest. When they took a break for “eat on your own” lunch on Saturday, most of the vehicles didn’t leave the parking lot, leaving me to wonder if they were unrelated to the event. Of the few that did leave, only one had more than one person in it. I suppose most people could have brown-bagged it, but I really doubt it.

Also, one who purported to know told me that the ratio of police officers to attendees was near 1:1. Even though there were three police cars, a K-9 unit, one van, and a paddy wagon, that still equals not many people. (The Dublin police were fantastic, by the way.)

Honest to God, I wonder if they even got into double digits.

Truth Academy 2011 Protest
Truth Academy 2011 Protest

Meanwhile, the LGBT community was working the sidewalk outside. GetEqual Ohio hadn’t planned on any action on Friday, but when local activist Gwen Andrix decided to go with her spouse, I agreed to join them, and GetEqual Ohio lead organizer Thomas Morgan made four.

We had quite a few more than four on Saturday. Some of the activists at Equality Ohio‘s CAUSE Conference took a break to come join us, bringing my count for the day to over 50 (plus five dogs).

We had lots of passing gawkers (yay!) and honkers (BIGGER YAY!), and five or six people stopped to ask what was going on (ZOMG YAY WITH BOLD FOR EFFECT!!!). One person came back to tell us how heartbroken (her word) she was over what the church was doing.

LaBarbera and crew never came out to greet us, but his cameraman made multiple trips outside to take our picture. He even recorded some video from across the street with a weird grin on his face the whole time.

Can’t wait to see what LaBarbera makes out of the footage. I wonder if he’ll have O Fortuna playing while I’m on screen. That’d be pretty cool.

If you look real close at the first picture up there, you can just barely see me on the left behind the man with two dogs. I was having a “spirited exchange” with the one person (khaki jacket) who came outside to hassle us. I can’t quite place him, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen him before, and he said he knows Matt Barber.

This guy…Ugh. One of those “I’ll just keep asking questions and hope you mess up” guys that ends every sentence with “…don’t you agree?” I think he was surprised to find someone who can debate scripture and knows that indulging in it for very long is pointless. He reminded me of an online troll.

The best part was when I tried to extricate myself from the situation and he refused to stop. At one point I was literally counting to him the number of times I’d asked him to stop while he just kept talking over me. And when he finally stopped (eight requests, by the way) following me around, he cornered another group for a good 30-45 minutes.

Note to young activists: As I’ve said before, dealing with his type is futile. It’s a waste of your time and always ends the same way. This type of person has done considerable damage to our community, and you deserve better than to be disrespected in this way.

Other than that, we had a good two days on the sidewalk. The number of young activists on the scene was so encouraging, as was the response of the local community.

My favorite moment? This one, hands down:

Lauren Ramsey Running The Colors
Lauren Ramsey Running The Colors

(Photos courtesy Gwendolyn Andrix)

Peter LaBarbera: “Sexual Behavior” Includes Kissing

If I were a vain man, I’d think that Peter LaBarbera had read my last blog post.

A couple days ago I wrote about this offensive statement by Matt Barber:

Kids who are engaging in homosexual behavior often look inward and know that what they are doing is unnatural, is wrong, is immoral, and so they become depressed and the instances of suicide can rise there as well.

I pointed out that Barber’s statement was offensive hogwash for several reasons, not the least of which is that many of the suicide victims who identified as (or were perceived as) LGBT weren’t sexually active, which is invariably what an anti-gay person means when they use the term “homosexual behavior.”

Fast forward to tonight, when I was surprised to find LaBarbera taking a break from his Truth* Academy duties to write this tweet [screencap]:

Good evening, its 4/1/11, & sexual behavior b/t men (including kissing) is still immoral & perverse – no matter what “Glee” advocates #tcot

Oh Pete. Pete, Pete, Pete. That dog just won’t hunt. The Bible doesn’t use the term “sexual behavior,” and even under your warped reading, it doesn’t say anything about not smooching. How silly of you.

And about The Kiss on Glee. I agree with LaBarbera that it’s a watershed moment, though it’s far from “tragic.”

For more on that, I’ll defer again to the always fabulous Tom and Lorenzo:

We thought THE KISS was also an adorable scene. We wondered if they were going to be able to make a romance seem believable (because it’s been totally one-sided up until now), but these two actors have a ton of chemistry. Totally, absolutely charming and just as with “Teenage Dream,” we hope a hundred thousand gay boys saw that last night and slept with a smile on their face, hoping for the best.

(I’ll post more about the Truth* Academy on Sunday. For now, let’s just say that turnout on day one was abysmal even though they tried to quietly pack the auditorium with cheap ticket locals.)