Category Archives: Immigration

Why Values Voter Summit 2011 Should End Presidential Campaign 2012

Last weekend, every Republican Presidential candidate with a chance of winning (plus Rick Santorum) appeared on stage at the Values Voter Summit, a meeting sponsored by two certified hate groups on par with (and one with ties to) the Ku Klux Klan and the Council of Conservative Citizens.

Family Research Council and American Family Association have both been considered hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center for some time now, and with good reason; both groups push their shared agenda with dangerous propaganda and outright lies about LGBT people.

To repeat: Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum all accepted the invitation of these hate groups (as they have for years), hoping to get their endorsements and the votes of like-minded individuals.

Do you really need more information before you cast your vote in the 2012 presidential election? What stance on which issue could possibly make it okay to vote for a candidate who has actively courted bigotry?

choice-highway-sign

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The Real Reason LGBT Rights Matter.

Note: I’m a terrible judge of my own stuff, but something I wrote on a message board as a reaction to another “Obama has a lot on his plate so just be patient” argument got a pretty good reaction, so I’m bringing to the blog. I’ve modified it for clarity and sourcing, and to clean up some mixed metaphors.


The most frustrating part of the fight for LGBT rights is that many people, both inside and outside the community, view it as a grab bag of issues. It isn’t. It’s One Issue with many moving parts, and it really doesn’t matter to me where we succeed first. The work will continue until the One Issue is completed, because in truth the One Issue is more than the sum of its parts.

There’s a reason LGBT people suffer depression and anxiety so much more often than straight people do. There’s a reason we’re twice as likely to suffer PTSD. There’s a reason our youth are three to seven times (depending on environment) more likely to die by suicide.

It’s no coincidence that our statistical 5-10% of the nation’s youth make up 20-40% of all homeless youth, that LGBT homeless youth are 56% more likely to abuse alcohol than straight homeless youth and 76% more likely to have been sexually assaulted.

Solving the One Issue has the side effect of bringing people back from the edge. That’s the real reason the fight is so important. It’s not about me getting married (I won’t) or joining the Marines (it is to laugh). It isn’t about me not getting a job because I’m a fag or being politely turned down for a loan or being turned away from a restaurant or being told my blood is tainted.

It’s about people knowing that they exist, that their lives are real and important, that their government won’t assault them, and that it actually considers them in the same way it considers their parents and siblings and friends. That One Issue is the keystone to all the others.

The U.S. government is, right now, today, harming us with its codified discrimination because people in the majority approve of it. I want that harm to cease, quite selfishly, because I’m one of those people being harmed and I know a lot of other people who are being harmed. And though it irks me to no end, I suppose I shouldn’t think too poorly of people, even those who think they’re our allies, for not wanting it to change badly enough because of their own selfishness.

That doesn’t mean, however, that I’m going to shut up and bow my head until that far off, imaginary, never-to-come day when people in the majority have everything they want and decide it’s okay to finally make the government stop harming people.

No sir.

Enough is Enough: Matt Joins DNC Boycott

Don't Ask Don't GiveAlmost nine months ago, John Aravosis and Joe Sudbay of AMERICAblog initiated their “Don’t Ask Don’t Give” campaign, asking LGBT people to stop funding Democratic party campaigns until they actually make a concerted effort to keep their promises. I finally found a chance to join the cause last week when I received a fundraising email signed by Brad Woodhouse, Communications Director of the DNC. Below is my response to his donation request.

Mr. Woodhouse,

In response to your request for a small donation, I must unfortunately reiterate what so many others have said in the last few months. The Democratic party will not see one penny from my pocket until and unless substantial gains are made in the field of LGBT rights.

In 2008, the LGBT community helped give you the White House, the House of Representatives, and a super-majority in the Senate. What we’ve discovered is that there is little difference between a Democratic-led government and the Republican-led government of five years ago. Instead of taking a clear and decisive pro-civil rights stance, you thanked us by running the other way and choosing ***anything*** but LGBT civil rights.

  • You punted repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, with a compromise that doesn’t actually repeal anything, has yet to be voted on in the Senate or signed by the President, and reportedly is being considered for veto by President Obama.
  • You’ve put off the Employment Non-Discrimination Act until it’s logistically unlikely this year, with Speaker Pelosi characterizing the bill as “controversial” rather than rallying Democrats around this clear issue of civil rights.
  • Repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act isn’t even being considered, no matter how many times President Obama says he’s “urged” Congress to do so.
  • Ending the discriminatory anti-gay blood donation ban has been discussed and rejected with no real push from the DNC to follow the science and penalize risky sex rather than responsible gay men in monogamous relationships for thirty years.
  • Bids to institute state-wide marriage equality have failed in part because of the lack of leadership and funding from the DNC, most notably in Maine last year.
  • Even a bill to offer safety to all school children has failed to find congressional footing because members of Congress get squeamish at the bill’s specific mention of LGBT kids who are many times more likely to be bullied, depressed, isolated, and suicidal than their straight peers.

So no. You will not get my money, you will not get my time, you will not get my voice, and you will not get my vote until you show me that you consider my rights as important as yours.

Candidates who have shown leadership for these completely reasonable LGBT demands retain my support and vote, but until I see substantial leadership and not excuses from the national party, my response remains the same:

NOT. ONE. CENT.

Cordially,

Matthew D. Algren

For far too long, Democrats have viewed LGBT people as nothing more than a committed source of funding and a reliable voting bloc. It’s time to teach them that we’re more than that.

Take the pledge.

Here’s why.

Shameful US HIV/AIDS Travel Ban Ends

Yesterday, people with HIV/AIDS were barred from entering the United States. Yesterday, people with HIV/AIDS had to apply for waivers to visit friends and family members before coming home. Yesterday, people with HIV/AIDS were subjected to prejudicial treatment based on outdated views and disproven fears.

Today, the world changed.

From Immigration Equality Communications Director Steve Ralls:

Later today, a plane from The Netherlands will arrive at JFK Airport in New York and two passengers onboard will, for the first time in more than two decades, be able to step safely onto U.S. soil. The arrival of Clemens Ruland and Hugo Bausch will also signal the end of a shameful and discriminatory policy that has exacted a heavy price on our country’s reputation in the scientific community and kept countless individuals – both straight and gay – separated from their loved ones.

Beginning today, the United States’ decades-old HIV Travel and Immigration Ban will be a relic of the past, and the stigma and discrimination it has engendered around the world will, with any luck, begin to fade, too.

The ban, which was put into place due, in large part, to the efforts of former Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, whose action resulted in an unconscionable policy of separation for families, spouses and children who were literally torn apart because of the law. It was, as President Obama remarked when announcing its demise, “a decision rooted in fear, rather than fact.”

Good riddance to a horrible reminder of America’s bigotry.

President Obama Announces End of HIV/AIDS Travel and Immigration Ban, HIV/AIDS Prevention Funding Increase

Two years after Congress approved the policy change, President Obama announced this afternoon that in January 2010 the United States will end the policy of forbidding international travel and immigration based on HIV status. The statement came at the signing of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act, which authorizes a 5% annual increase in the program’s funding for the next four years.

At the signing ceremony today, President Obama had this to say (excerpted) about the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act:

Over the past 19 years this legislation has evolved from an emergency response into a comprehensive national program for the care and support of Americans living with HIV/AIDS. It helps communities that are most severely affected by this epidemic and often least served by our health care system, including minority communities, the LGBT community, rural communities, and the homeless. It’s often the only option for the uninsured and the underinsured. And it provides life-saving medical services to more than half a million Americans every year, in every corner of the country.

It’s helped us to open a critical front on the ongoing battle against HIV/AIDS. But let me be clear: This is a battle that’s far from over, and it’s a battle that all of us need to do our part to join. AIDS may no longer be the leading killer of Americans ages 25 to 44, as it once was. But there are still 1.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States, and more than 56,000 new infections occur every single year.

Some communities still experience unacceptably high rates of infection. Gay men make up 2 or 3 percent of the population, but more than half of all new cases. African Americans make up roughly half of all new cases. Nearly half of all new cases now occur in the South. And a staggering 7 percent of Washington, D.C.’s residents between the ages of 40 and 49 live with HIV/AIDS — and the epidemic here isn’t as severe as it is in several other U.S. cities.

So tackling this epidemic will take far more aggressive approaches than we’ve seen in the past — not only from our federal government, but also state and local governments, from local community organizations, and from places of worship.

But it will also take an effort to end the stigma that has stopped people from getting tested; that has stopped people from facing their own illness; and that has sped the spread of this disease for far too long. A couple of years ago Michelle and I were in Africa and we tried to combat the stigma when we were in Kenya by taking a public HIV/AIDS test. And I’m proud to announce today we’re about to take another step towards ending that stigma.

The President then moved on to the Travel and Immigration ban:

Twenty-two years ago, in a decision rooted in fear rather than fact, the United States instituted a travel ban on entry into the country for people living with HIV/AIDS. Now, we talk about reducing the stigma of this disease — yet we’ve treated a visitor living with it as a threat. We lead the world when it comes to helping stem the AIDS pandemic — yet we are one of only a dozen countries that still bar people from HIV from entering our own country.

If we want to be the global leader in combating HIV/AIDS, we need to act like it. And that’s why, on Monday my administration will publish a final rule that eliminates the travel ban effective just after the New Year. Congress and President Bush began this process last year, and they ought to be commended for it. We are finishing the job. It’s a step that will encourage people to get tested and get treatment, it’s a step that will keep families together, and it’s a step that will save lives.

Between the two measures today and signing the Matthew Shepard/James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Law on Wednesday, this has been an historic week for the LGBT community. I am so grateful to Congress and President Obama for their action.

Because of this week’s actions, people living with HIV/AIDS virus can enter the United States without lying about their status, and without smuggling their life-preserving medications. People who have not had access to HIV testing and treatment will have resources to better care for the disease and to get information to slow its spread. People who are victims of of the twin human viruses of hate and fear will have access to tools previously withheld because of the victim’s orientation or gender preference.

So thank you President Obama, and thank you members of Congress.

The next battle awaits. We’re hoping we don’t have to bring 200,000 people back to Washington, DC before you take action on these other threats to human liberty.

So What Did You Do Last Weekend?

What an amazing few days at the National Equality March. At the March proper I met up with some Soulforce friends and unfortunately missed meeting up with several others.

My time before the March seemed to split between Christianity and DADT. Here is some of what I did last weekend. (I know some of these events were filmed; I’ll be linking later if I find the video online.)

First, regarding religion:

And concerning DADT:

  • Shook the hand of Cpt. Alex Nicholson, who was fired from the US Army six months after 9/11 and later founded Servicemembers United.
  • Stood a few feet from Frank Kameny (fought to overturn the gay hiring ban after being fired from the Civil Service Commission in 1957), David Mixner (the man behind the March), Lt. Tracy Thorne-Begland (came out on Nightline in 1992 and was subsequently fired from the Navy under both the original ban and under DADT), and many other LGBT heroes at a memorial service for Air Force Sgt. Leonard Matlovich.
  • Met Lt. Dan Choi, who recognized me from the facebook when I shook his hand, which is simultaneously insane and intoxicating. Oh, it made me all gooey inside. (His better half is fantastic, too.)

Whew. What a weekend. I’m a little overwhelmed.

Enjoy the silence for the next day or so…

…because I’m heading to Washington, D.C. and plan on posting the heck out of the National Equality March. Tomorrow is travel with mostly sight-seeing (read:probably sleeping in and watching TV) on Friday. (I haven’t had a vacation in five years, so I’m hoping I remember how to do this.) Saturday is busy with official events, though I’m trying to space it out to give myself breathing room.

Here’s what I’m planning so far:

  1. Faith and the LGBT Community
    Can You Be a Person of Faith and Still Be Who You Are?
    Friday: 7:00pm-8:30pm
  2. DADT Protest & Memorial Service Honoring Leonard Matlovich
    Speakers Span Four Decades of Fighting the Ban on Gays in the Military
    Saturday: 2:00pm
  3. Old Divisions, New Coalitions: Race and the LGBT Movement
    With Irene Munroe and Derek Washington
    Saturday: 3:00pm-4:30pm
  4. United Methodists Welcome National Equality Marchers
    Prayer and Thanksgiving!
    Saturday: 7:00pm-9:00pm
  5. National Equality March
    March for Equality!
    Sunday: 12:00pm
  6. National Equality March Rally
    The March culminates in a rally at the Capitol Building
    Sunday: 2:00pm-5:00pm

I may have to cut number three for time. Hope not, but unless the two events are really close to each other, I don’t know how I’ll make both.

What you’ll see here during the weekend will be shorter posts with pictures and video through flickr and possibly audio through trottr. I’ve never used the latter, and I’m not sure I can get it to auto-post. I’m going to be traveling with no computer but my mobile, so I’ll be limited to what I can transmit through MMS. In addition, I might decide to write a longer post when I get back to the hotel, depending on whether they have a communal computer I can use.

All of this will be seen here on Asterisk, and on iQreport, a new aggregation site. As always, you can follow me on Twitter to catch a few non-post-worthy observations.

I hope to see you there! I’ll be the fat guy breathing heavy from all the walking.

HIV-Affected Green Cards Held in Preparation for Final Rule

An encouraging report from the Immigration Equality Blog this morning:

[U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)] has just issued a memo directing its officers who decide “green card” applications to hold applications in abeyance pending the final HHS rule. In other words, if someone has submitted a green card application and USCIS would deny it based solely on the fact that the applicant is HIV-positive, it will hold off on a decision.

For individuals who are eligible for waivers, USCIS will continue to adjudicate waivers and approve them where the standard is met. If USCIS finds that the applicant does not qualify for the waiver, it will hold the denial in abeyance — that is neither grant nor deny the application, pending the publication of the regulations.

Immigration Equality worked with the American Immigration Lawyers Association to press USCIS to release a memo on this issue and we’re very happy to see another step forward towards fairness under the immigration law for people with HIV.

This is great news for anyone who has filed for a green card hoping that the ban will be fully lifted before USCIS makes a decision on his or her application.

Here’s a pdf of the three page USCIS memo.

In 1987, a law was passed requiring the denial of immigration and even travel visas based on an applicant’s positive HIV status. President Bush signed a bill in 2008 reversing that law, but the Department of Health and Human Services has not yet removed HIV from its list of banned communicable diseases. HHS officials have indicated that removal may happen in the very near future.

How Not to Show the President You Mean Business

Very nice words from President Obama this afternoon at the White House reception. Very nice words. There’s just one problem: Words alone don’t get the job done.

And so on.

I could go on about the president’s speech, but instead I’d like to talk for a little bit about the crowd in the White House today. They were mind-blowingly non-critical. I think the technical term is “star-fucker”. Over and over they literally whooped and hollered like they were at a basketball game.

The president gave a light applause speech at best. But because they got invited to the Big House, these supposed LGBT activists were more than supportive, they were in President Obama’s hip pocket before he even got started, and no matter what he said. He could have introduced new pink triangles and they would have thanked him for the breathable cotton.

I was embarrassed by the display. Embarrassed. After five minutes or so I crossed over into being flat out ashamed of them. This is not what the LGBT community counts on these people for. Real people’s lives are affected by President Obama’s empty rhetoric and non-timeline for change. To judge by the audience’s reaction, you’d think everything was sunshine and roses for the community. You’d never guess that people are getting deported, fired, abused by police, and having their rights stripped away.

My only hope, our only hope is that President Obama and his administration look past today’s crowd in the White House and see the discontent in the community at large. Otherwise, next time he hears we’re upset about something he’ll just roll his eyes, tell the chef to order some lamb chops, and go back to ignoring us.

(One other thing: That audience was painfully white and male. Come on, The Gays. We’re more diverse than that.)

Gay DNC Donors to Obama: We Don’t Care About Civil Rights Either

After several weeks of calls for boycott following the Obama administration’s failure to attend to any of his campaign promises, the 10th annual LGBT Leadership Council fundraiser for the DNC went on as planned last night. The event, with Vice President Joe Biden as the main attraction, was boycotted by at least 13 prominent members of the community, as well as the Stonewall Democrats and former DNC chair Howard Dean.

And yet, the DNC reportedly raised nearly a million dollars, at least 30% more than last year’s pre-election event. From Advocate.com:

Despite the controversy, about 180 people showed up to hear Vice President Joe Biden speak for a price tag of $1,000 to $30,400 per plate. The event brought in nearly $1 million, up from about $750,000 last year, according to a Democratic Party source.

When Vice President Joe Biden took the stage, he told the crowd that he had specifically asked to speak at the event and that his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, had also requested to address a Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network event earlier this month.

“I am not unaware of the controversies swirling around this dinner,” Biden said, “swirling around the speed — or lack thereof — that we’re moving on issues that are of great importance to you and, quite frankly, to me and to the President and to millions of Americans.”

The Vice President’s words are nice, but as we’ve learned over the last six months, they signify no real change in policy.

By donating a record amount, even amidst the outcry from the LGBT community, even while protesters from SLDN drew attention to President Obama’s refusal to halt the firing of servicemembers such as Maj. Margaret Witt, Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, and 1Lt. Dan Choi, even after White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said yesterday morning that President Obama would continue to ruin the lives, careers, and futures of these honorable, dedicated servicemembers, even as it becomes clear that the Matthew Shepard Act will be DOA if it even makes it to the president’s desk, these donors have made a statement.

Their statement is this: They don’t care. Their access to and hobnobbing with well-heeled Washington insiders is more important to them than pesky rank-and-file members of the community who just want to stop being abused.

Understand the damage done last night. Every advance we’ve made over the last few weeks since the Obama Justice Department released its shameful DOMA brief, is now gone. The Democratic party knows, and President Obama knows, that we don’t control the community’s purse strings. Our supposed social betters do that for us, and they’ll keep the money flowing no matter what President Obama and Congress do.

So. Where do we go from here?

It’s been a month since David Mixner proposed a March on Washington for October 10-11, 2009 and this does nothing but solidify my support of the idea. Our job now is to show both our national leaders and the A-list LGBTs that our voices are louder than their money. Our goal is nothing short of full and total equality. Our duty is to secure a better future for our children.

Our time is now.