January 2, 2009 – PinkNews
Portland becomes largest US city to have gay mayor
by Rachel Charman
The US city of Portland, Oregon, swore in its openly gay mayor Sam Adams on New Year’s Day. Adams, 45, won the vote with a 58% majority in spring 2008. During the election campaign, Adams’ sexuality was not brought up by either himself or the opposition. He said:
"This is a testament to how fair-minded Portlanders are that it wasn’t an issue. I spend my time on the basic issues of life. A part of that includes equal rights, but that’s not even close to a majority of the time. My passions for public service includes promoting social justice equality for all, but it obviously also includes finding good jobs for people, which is also part of my family’s background of not being able to always have economic security. Being gay is part of me, so is being Irish-American, so is being from a small Oregon town."
Adams had previously been chief of staff to Mayor Vera Katz for 11 years, and had been a city councilor since 2004. When Adams won the election in 2008, Chuck Wolfe, president of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund , said: "In Oregon, fairness has won the day."
The fund works to increase the number of openly LGBT elected officials at all levels of government in the United States. It has helped to increase the number of openly gay elected officials from 49 in 1991 at its foundation to more than 400 today. 60 of those were elected in 2008.
January 6, 2009 – PinkNews
111th United States Congress convenes with new gay member
by Tony Grew
The first openly gay man to be elected to the United States House of Representatives as a non-incumbent will be sworn in today in Washington DC. Jared Polis, who represents Colorado’s second district, will become the sixth openly gay person to serve in the House. Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat elected from Wisconsin in 1998, was the first out gay person to be elected to the House as a non-incumbent. Fellow Democrat Barney Frank of Massachusetts announced he was gay in 1987 after having served several terms in the House.
Various Representatives came out while serving, such as the late Gerry Studds, a Democrat of Massachusetts, former Congressman Steve Gunderson, a Republican from Wisconsin, and former Congressman Jim Kolbe, a Republican from Arizona. No openly gay or lesbian person has yet been elected to the US Senate. The 111th Congress convenes today and later this week it will formally count the electoral college votes in the Presidential election. Barack Obama will take the Presidential oath of office in a lavish inauguration ceremony in DC on January 20th.
The House and Senate have increased Democratic majorities, and major gay rights legislation such as a new federal hate crimes act encompassing sexual orientation and gender identity-related crimes may be passed in the coming session. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act is also before Congress. Both chambers have much work to do to convince the voters they are effective.
A Gallup poll based on interviewing in December, the final month of the previous Congress, found just 20% of Americans approved of the way Congress is handling its job. For all of 2008, Congressional approval averaged 19%. There are 435 Representatives in the House and five non-voting members from US possessions such as Puerto Rico.
January 6, 2009 – seattlepi.nwsource.com
2 charged in Seattle with gay immigration fraud
by Gene Johnson, AP Legal Affairs Writer
Seattle – A federal grand jury has charged two people in an alleged immigration fraud conspiracy, saying they advised straight immigrants to claim homosexuality – and potential persecution in their home countries – when they applied for political asylum. Steven Mahoney, 41, and his estranged wife, Helen, 38, both naturalized U.S. citizens from Russia, were arrested Tuesday and pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court. Prosecutors say Steve Mahoney ran Mahoney and Associates in Kent, and held himself out as an expert in immigration affairs. They say he made money by advising immigrants on how to stay in the U.S.
According to an indictment unsealed Tuesday, from 2003 to 2005 Steven Mahoney advised two immigrants to falsely claim that they were gay and feared persecution if they returned to their home country. In two other cases dating to 1998, he is accused of urging clients to claim they feared being maimed or tortured, though the indictment does not say if they too falsely said they were gay. His wife’s only alleged involvement was to provide a client – identified in charging papers as AK – with documents about homosexuality in preparing for an asylum interview in 2005, when she knew AK wasn’t gay.
"Steven Mahoney advised and directed AK to state, on AK’s asylum application, that the militia in AK’s home country attempted to rape AK’s wife because AK was gay, when in truth and fact, as known by Steven Mahoney, such act was not committed against AK’s wife," the indictment said. Both defendants were charged with conspiracy to commit immigration fraud, which carries up to five years in prison. Steven Mahoney was charged additionally with three counts of immigration fraud, which carries a maximum 10-year penalty.
The immigrants seeking asylum were identified only by their initials in the indictment, and their home countries were not identified at all. It isn’t clear whether any remain in the U.S. Barry Flegenheimer, a lawyer appointed Tuesday to represent Helen Mahoney, said he had not had time to fully review the case. He said his client lives in suburban Auburn, cares for her invalid mother, and works out of her home as a seamstress. Steven Mahoney’s court-appointed attorney did not take questions following Tuesday’s arraignment.
January 12, 2009 – PinkNews
Obama press secretary pledges end to ban on gays in the military
by Tony Grew
The current bar on openly gay people serving in the United States Armed Forces will be abolished by the Obama administration. The President-elect’s press secretary Robert Gibbs chose to answer a question about the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy as part of a question and answer initiative on the Obama tranistion team website. 103,512 people submitted 76,031 questions. The fact Mr Gibbs chose to answer a question on a gay issue has been seen as an effort to mend fences with the LGBT community, still angered that a homophobic preacher has been asked to lead prayers at the inauguration ceremony next week.
Thaddeus from Lansing, Michigan, asked: "Is the new administration going to get rid of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy?"
Mr Gibbs responded: "Thaddeus, you don’t hear a politician give a one-word answer much, but it’s ‘Yes.’"
The current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mike Mullen, has indicated that Don’t Ask,Don’t Tell, a 1993 law, is likely to be repealed. At present if army personnel are discovered to be lesbian, gay or bisexual then they are sacked, but commanding officers are not allowed to ask about their sexual orientation. In the past 15 years more than 12,500 personnel have been dischared under DADT.
"The President-elect’s been pretty clear that he wants to address this issue," Admiral Mullen said an interview after his December meeting with President-elect Barack Obama in Chicago. "I am certainly mindful that at some point in time it could come."
In May Admiral Mullen said that Congress is responsible for the ban on openly lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans from military service. Speaking to graduating cadets at West Point military academy, Admiral Mike Mullen said that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is a law that the Armed Forces follow. "Should the law change, the military will carry that out too," he said.
January 12, 2009 – OnTopMag.com
Gay Bishop Invited To Prayer At Obama Inauguration Event
by On Top Magazine Staff
Openly gay bishop Rev. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire has been invited to give a prayer during the inauguration events of President-elect Barack Obama. The announcement comes after weeks of criticism by gay rights activists over the choice of Rev. Rick Warren to give the invocation prayer at the inaugural ceremony. Gay activists say Warren is homophobic. He likened gay marriage to an incestuous relationship and polygamy, and supported passage of a controversial California gay marriage ban.
Robinson, an early Obama supporter, has often praised him for this acceptance of gay unions. “It was like a slap in the face,” Bishop Robinson said of the Warren choice last month. “I’m all for Rick Warren being at the table,” he said, “but we’re not talking about a discussion, we’re talking about putting someone up front and center at what will be the most watched inauguration in history, and asking his blessing on the nation. And the God that he’s praying to is not the God that I know.”
Speaking by phone to the Concord Monitor, Robinson said he did not believe the invitation was a response to the Warren flap. “It’s important for any minority to see themselves represented in some way,” Robinson said. “Whether it be a racial minority, an ethic minority or, in our case, as sexual minority. Just seeing someone like you up front matters.” Robinson is to give his prayer Sunday at an event attended by Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during an inaugural kick-off event. Obama will also speak at the event.
Warren is the best-selling author of The Purpose Driven Life and heads the prominent evangelical Saddleback church in Southern California. A rising leader in the evangelical movement, Warren supports the outlawing of abortion in all cases and is a staunch gay rights opponent. But his moderate tone on AIDS, poverty and climate change have made him controversial among social conservatives. Warren will give his prayer during the January 20 inauguration ceremony, a prologue to Obama’s historical inaugural address.
An inaugural committee spokesman, Clark Stevens, declined to answer if Robinson was invited to appease the gay and lesbian community. “[Robinson is] an important figure in the religious community,” Stevens said. “We are excited that he will be involved.” Robinson, 61, who lives in Weare, New Hampshire with his longtime partner, said he has yet to write his prayer, but won’t use a Bible.
“While that is a holy and sacred text to me, it is not for many Americans,” Robinson said. “I will be careful not to be especially Christian in my prayer. This is a prayer for the whole nation.” The acceptance of openly gay clergy remains a divisive issue in the Episcopal Church, and the 2003 consecration of an openly gay bishop has splintered the worldwide church into several factions. In the United States, four dioceses and dozens of parishes have broken away from the church over the controversy.
January 20, 2009 – PinkNews
Gay rights agenda now on White House website
by Tony Grew
The new administration in the United States has already posted a lengthy statement on gay rights on the White House website. The redesigned site is intended to "serve as a place for the President and his administration to connect with the rest of the nation and the world," said Macon Phillips, the Director of New Media for the White House. "Millions of Americans have powered President Obama’s journey to the White House, many taking advantage of the internet to play a role in shaping our country’s future. WhiteHouse.gov is just the beginning of the new administration’s efforts to expand and deepen this online engagement."
Under the heading ‘Civil Rghts’ the new administration sets out its agenda for the LGBT community.
"While we have come a long way since the Stonewall riots in 1969, we still have a lot of work to do. Too often, the issue of LGBT rights is exploited by those seeking to divide us. But at its core, this issue is about who we are as Americans. It’s about whether this nation is going to live up to its founding promise of equality by treating all its citizens with dignity and respect."
– Barack Obama, June 1, 2007
* Expand Hate Crimes Statutes: In 2004, crimes against LGBT Americans constituted the third-highest category of hate crime reported and made up more than 15 percent of such crimes. President Obama cosponsored legislation that would expand federal jurisdiction to include violent hate crimes perpetrated because of race, colour, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or physical disability. As a state senator, President Obama passed tough legislation that made hate crimes and conspiracy to commit them against the law.
* Fight Workplace Discrimination: President Obama supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and believes that our anti-discrimination employment laws should be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity. While an increasing number of employers have extended benefits to their employees’ domestic partners, discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace occurs with no federal legal remedy. The President also sponsored legislation in the Illinois State Senate that would ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
* Support Full Civil Unions and Federal Rights for LGBT Couples: President Obama supports full civil unions that give same-sex couples legal rights and privileges equal to those of married couples. Obama also believes we need to repeal the Defence of Marriage Act and enact legislation that would ensure that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally-recognised unions. These rights and benefits include the right to assist a loved one in times of emergency, the right to equal health insurance and other employment benefits, and property rights.
* Oppose a Constitutional Ban on Same-Sex Marriage: President Obama voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2006 which would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman and prevented judicial extension of marriage-like rights to same-sex or other unmarried couples.
* Repeal Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell: President Obama agrees with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili and other military experts that we need to repeal the "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy. The key test for military service should be patriotism, a sense of duty, and a willingness to serve. Discrimination should be prohibited. The U.S. government has spent millions of dollars replacing troops kicked out of the military because of their sexual orientation. Additionally, more than 300 language experts have been fired under this policy, including more than 50 who are fluent in Arabic. The President will work with military leaders to repeal the current policy and ensure it helps accomplish our national defense goals.
* Expand Adoption Rights: President Obama believes that we must ensure adoption rights for all couples and individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation. He thinks that a child will benefit from a healthy and loving home, whether the parents are gay or not.
* Promote AIDS Prevention: In the first year of his presidency, President Obama will develop and begin to implement a comprehensive national HIV/AIDS strategy that includes all federal agencies. The strategy will be designed to reduce HIV infections, increase access to care and reduce HIV-related health disparities. The President will support common sense approaches including age-appropriate sex education that includes information about contraception, combating infection within our prison population through education and contraception, and distributing contraceptives through our public health system. The President also supports lifting the federal ban on needle exchange, which could dramatically reduce rates of infection among drug users. President Obama has also been willing to confront the stigma — too often tied to homophobia — that continues to surround HIV/AIDS.
* Empower Women to Prevent HIV/AIDS: In the United States, the percentage of women diagnosed with AIDS has quadrupled over the last 20 years. Today, women account for more than one quarter of all new HIV/AIDS diagnoses. President Obama introduced the Microbicide Development Act, which will accelerate the development of products that empower women in the battle against AIDS. Microbicides are a class of products currently under development that women apply topically to prevent transmission of HIV and other infections.
Click here to visit the new White House website.
January 21, 2009 – PinkNews
Gay rights group hails Obama’s "paradigm shift" towards equality
by Tony Grew
America’s largest LGBT rights group has hailed the new Obama administration as a "new day of welcome and great promise." The Human Rights Campaign described yesterday’s inauguration of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden as "a paradigm shift." Watching by more than two million people who packed into the National Mall in Washington DC, Barack Obama became the first African-American President when he took the oath of office just after noon (5pm GMT) yesterday. The 44th President has expressed support for a range of gay rights measures, and the White House website now has a lengthy section on LGBT civil rights.
"The pendulum has swung away from the anti-gay forces and toward a new President and Vice President who acknowledge our equality,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “For the past eight years, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was out of reach and out of touch. Our community and do many others are looking at a new day of welcome and great promise. We salute President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden on this historic day in our nation’s capital and look forward to working with them in the months and years ahead."
The HRC made no mention of the part played by Rev Rick Warren at yesterday’s inauguration ceremony. The California preacher, who led the fight against gay marriage in the state last year and has compared homosexuality to incest, was a highly controversial choice to lead the invocation, in front of an audience of hundreds of millions watcing on television. Rev Warren struck a decidedly Christian tone, reciting the Protestant version of The Lord’s Prayer and claiming that Jesus "taught us to pray."
"Help us, oh God, to remember that we are Americans, united not by race or religion or blood, but to our commitment to freedom and justice for all," he said. "When we focus on ourselves, when we fight each other, when we forget you, forgive us. When we presume that our greatness and our prosperity is ours alone, forgive us. When we fail to treat our fellow human beings and all the Earth with the respect that they deserve, forgive us. And as we face these difficult days ahead, may we have a new birth of clarity in our aims, responsibility in our actions, humility in our approaches, and civility in our attitudes, even when we differ. Help us to share, to serve and to seek the common good of all."
Neil Giuliano, president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, told the LA Times: "We want to have that conversation about the future with regard to gay and lesbian Americans in communities of faith. Other views and other opinions are now welcome at the table, and therein lies our hope that we can move to full equality."
January 27, 2009 – PinkNews
Hawaii politicians back civil unions legislation
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
A new law that would allow gay and lesbian couples in Hawaii to form a civil union has the backing of a majority of state House members. Same-sex partners will have to apply for a licence under legislation proposed by House Majority Leader Blake Oshiro, a Democrat. Members of the clergy and judges, including retired judges, will be eligible to perform civil unions. 32 of the 51 House members who have signed the new bill. An attempt to legalise civil unions failed last year. Gay and straight couples in Hawaii can already register a reciprocal beneficiary relationship with limited benefits.
"I think for the advocates that support civil unions, clearly, for a lot of them, it’s a compromise," state Representative Jon Riki Karamatsu, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, told the Honolulu Advertiser. "In the past, it was all or nothing. And this year, it has changed a lot, and I think that has helped them. I think they are a little bit more aware of the political process now."
At present gay marriage is legal in Massachusetts and Connecticut, while civil unions that carry all the state rights of marriage are legal in New Jersey, Vermont and New Hampshire. In 1998 Hawaii voters amended the state constitution to give the legislature the power to reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples, which prevented the courts imposing gay marriage.
February 9, 2009 – PinkNews
Iraq veteran dismissed from National Guard for being a lesbian
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
A woman who served for nine years in the Kansas Army National Guard has been discharged after a co-worker told authorities she is a lesbian. Amy Brian is an Iraq veteran. She is the first service member to be dismissed from the Kansas Army National Guard, made up of reservists, under a 1993 law that bans openly gay people from serving in the US Armed Forces. After a co-worker told Guard officials via email she had seen Ms Brian kissing another woman in a checkout line at Wal-Mart, an investigation began. Despite her service since 1994, including a tour of duty in Iraq, she was dismissed last month.
"Everyone … knew I was gay, and no one had a problem with it," Ms Brian said. "It didn’t make a difference when I went to Iraq. It didn’t make a difference when I drove that truck. It didn’t make a difference in my ability to serve my country. I was not separated because of any type of misconduct but plain and simply because someone else had a problem with my sexuality."
US President Barack Obama has said the ban will come to an end and 75% of Americans agree that the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law should be repealed. DADT is the only federal law that requires employers to fire employees for being openly gay or lesbian. Since 1993, 12,500 men and women have been discharged under the law, which stipulates that if army personnel are discovered to be LGB then they are sacked, but commanding officers are not allowed to ask about their sexual orientation. An estimated 65,000 lesbian and gay service members serve on active duty and in the reserves of the United States military, according to the Servicemembers Legal Defence Network, an organisation dedicated to ending discrimination against and harassment of military personnel.
February 23, 2009 – PinkNews
Elton John raises millions for AIDS foundation at Oscars party
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
Singer Sir Elton John and has partner David Furnish hosted their annual fundraiser for the Elton John AIDS Foundation in Los Angeles last night. The Academy Awards viewing party was one of the night’s best attended parties and raised nearly $4 million (£2.75m). The annual gala is the leading fundraising event in Hollywood on Oscar night. This year there was a live performance by Sir Elton John and special guest Raphael Saadiq, as well as a emotional first-hand account by Kerrel McKay who spoke about her experiences as an HIV/AIDS activist in her home country of Jamaica.
This year’s guests included the event’s co-chairs Victoria Beckham and John Walters in addition to Hollywood luminaries such as Sir Ben Kingsley, Quincy Jones, Keifer Sutherland, Whoopi Goldberg, Sharon Stone, Chace Crawford, Gordon Ramsey, Eric McCormack, Tim Allen, Taye Diggs and Ricki Lake. Items auctioned included the opportunity to dance with Ellen DeGeneres on her Emmy Award winning talk show, which sold for $20,000; two jewel encrusted 10th Anniversary Elton John AIDS Foundation collection watches designed by Chopard went for $250,000 each; a one-hour tennis lesson by tennis champion Andy Roddick sold at auction for $31, 000. The Elton John AIDS Foundation was established in the United States in 1992 and in the United Kingdom in 1993 and has raised more than $150 million to support HIV/AIDS prevention and service programmes in 55 countries around the globe
February 23, 2009 – PinkNews
Video: Gay kids – you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
The winner of the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay spoke directly to gay kids when he accepted his award in Los Angeles last night. Dustin Lance Black, who is known as a gay rights activist, won the award for Milk, a biopic of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in the US. He was assassinated in 1978, less than a year after being elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
"Oh my God," Mr Black said. "This was, um, this was not an easy film to make. First off, I have to thank Cleve Jones and Anne Kronenberg and all the real-life people who shared their stories with me. And, um, Gus Van Sant, Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin, James Franco and our entire cast, my producers Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen, everyone at Groundswell and Focus for taking on the challenge of telling this life-saving story. When I was 13 years old, my beautiful mother and my father moved me from a conservative Mormon home in San Antonio, Texas to California, and I heard the story of Harvey Milk. And it gave me hope. It gave me the hope to live my life. It gave me the hope one day I could live my life openly as who I am and then maybe even I could even fall in love and one day get married.
"I wanna thank my mom, who has always loved me for who I am even when there was pressure not to. But most of all, if Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he’d want me to say to all of the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told that they are less than by their churches, by the government or by their families, that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value and that no matter what anyone tells you, God does love you and that very soon, I promise you, you will have equal rights federally, across this great nation of ours. Thank you. Thank you. And thank you, God, for giving us Harvey Milk."
February 2009 – USA TODAY
For some, shadow of regret cast over gender switch
by Steve Friess, special for USA TODAY
The day Mike Penner left the Los Angeles Times made the news. The longtime sportswriter wrote the article himself, a personal essay explaining that he was taking some time off and, upon his return, he would be known from then on as Christine Daniels. Penner’s public acknowledgment in April 2007 that he was transgender and would soon live as a woman shocked the world of sports journalism and turned his new identity, Daniels, into an instant celebrity. Daniels gave speeches, was profiled in Sports Illustrated, collected honors for courage from transgender groups and wrote a blog for the Times titled "Woman In Progress."
Except that the transition didn’t last. In mid-October 2008, after a lengthy leave of absence, Penner, 51, returned to the sports pages and the Times newsroom as a man. And just as suddenly, Penner’s story, heralded in its early days as a triumphant example of transgender progress, has instead become a cautionary tale of the lesser-known phenomenon: transgender regret.
"It’s unfortunate and it’s relatively uncommon but certainly not unheard of," says Denise Leclair, executive director of the International Foundation for Gender Education, a Waltham, Mass.-based transgender advocacy group. "The simplest way to think about it is being trans is something that never goes away. … There’s just a fairly constant social pressure to just go back. You don’t have to be a genius to understand that society doesn’t really accept this."
Penner, a 24-year veteran of the newspaper, did not respond to calls and e-mails for comment and has not written about his decision to resume life as a man. The blog and bylines as Christine Daniels have been removed from the newspaper’s website. Though there’s no data available on how many transgender people abandon their new gender, psychologist Ron Lawrence of the Community Counseling Center in Las Vegas says about 5% of his transgender patients revert. Leclair echoes that estimate.
Adhering to a code
Transgender advocates say the case of Penner, who never had sex-change surgery, reflects the success of a system in which American sex-change surgeons, adhering to their own code of conduct, won’t operate until the patient has had a year of intense psychotherapy while living publicly in the new gender.
"We’re required (by doctors) to go through all this stuff for a reason, even though there are a lot of trans people who bristle at being told what they can and can’t do," says Donna Rose, a male-to-female postoperative transsexual in Rochester, N.Y. "The thing that people have to understand is that even though Mike decided to retransition, that doesn’t mean he’s not trans. It’s not like you go all of a sudden, ‘Uh, I’m better.’ Going back doesn’t automatically clear the conundrum that causes you to get there in the first place."
Rose reversed course on her own transition at first because her then-wife became so distraught and co-workers were insensitive. Six months later, she went through with it and ended the marriage. Transitioning carries with it the prospect of losing jobs, friends and family, as well as mockery from strangers who find the gender change visibly jarring, Rose and others attest. "You become a very visible minority," Leclair says. "The average male-to-female transsexual is taller, has bigger hands and feet, has more facial hair than most women. There are a lot of physical attributes that are hard to hide in a society that doesn’t like you."
Religion sometimes comes into play. Joseph Cluse of Newport News, Va., lived his life as Joanna for 30 years after having the surgery in the 1970s. Yet Cluse, who was married twice and raised one husband’s children, became religious in recent years and decided that God wanted him to resume his life as a man. Cluse, 54, stopped taking hormones and had breast implants removed. Cases such as Penner and Cluse raise questions about the causes of transgenderism. Paul McHugh, director of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, is a leading proponent of the notion that the cause is not biological, that transgender people have chosen this path.
He halted the university hospital’s practice of performing gender reassignment surgeries in the late 1970s because, he says, a study indicated that postoperative transsexuals were no happier than they were before the operation. "You can live any way you want, but don’t come to us and ask us to give medical resources to this proposal of yours, because we think it’s a social construct and not a condition of nature," McHugh says. "No one has demonstrated any physical mechanism or physical problem that causes this. The burden of proof is on them to prove that."
Debating the cause
Such comments are anathema to the transgender advocates, who insist the decades-old study McHugh cites was debunked. Like most transsexuals, Daniels told Sports Illustrated in 2007 that her urges to be female began as a child, and she wrote in the Times that same year: "We are born with this. We fight it as long as we can, and in the end it wins." Claire Winter, a transsexual from Seattle who mentored Penner and spoke to him late last year, doubts the sportswriter’s reversal will further confuse the general public about transsexualism.
"I think people are so bloody confused, I don’t know if this has a significant effect," Winter says. "But maybe this will help people to understand that this is a very complex, highly difficult situation. This indicates the fundamental problem of trying to shove people into either end of the gender pole. It serves to point out the fact that it isn’t as simple as flipping a coin. "I would say give (Penner) some time," Winter says. "We have to wait for him to let us know when he figures it out."
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February 26, 2009 – Examiner.com
Sean Penn calls anti-gay protesters ‘archaic, childish cowards’
Oscar-winner Sean Penn is fed up with anti-gay protesters, including the angry mob that met him at the Kodak Theater when he arrived for the Oscar ceremony Sunday night. WENN reports that the married actor, who won the Academy Award for his portrayal of slain San Francisco gay rights activist Harvey Milk, said: "It’s becoming such an archaic, childish and cowardice (sic) position that they really start to look like clowns without the make-up on. … It’s something that’s really easy to get angry at, but you start to feel sad for them, and it’s time to quiet them for the damage they do to others. It’s kind of mind-boggling, the sophomoric level of thinking."
We’re guessing they’re not going to shut up any time soon.
March 6, 2009 – PinkNews
Hilary Clinton shows support for gay rights
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
Hilary Clinton has stressed the need to end discrimination against lesbians and gay men. Speaking at a question-and-answer session with young Europeans in Brussels, the US secretary of state told her audience that homophobic attacks were occurring on a worrying scale and were even being "condoned and protected".
In an answer to a Moldovan gay rights activist who was wearing an ‘I Love Hilary’ tshirt, she said: “Human rights is and always will be one of the pillars of our foreign policy. In particular, persecution and discrimination against gays and lesbians is something we take very seriously. I can only hope that we all live long enough to see the end to this kind of discriminatory treatment and recognition that human rights are the inalienable rights of every person no matter who that person loves."
Ms Clinton also discussed two-party democracy, climate change and healthcare, receiving a standing ovation at the end of her visit.
March 13, 2009 – PinkNews
Study to be released on poverty among gay Americans
by Jessica Geen
An analysis of poverty among lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans is to be presented to Congress next Friday. Produced by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, the survey has been described as the first of its kind. Its authors have said it undermines myth of gay affluence and demonstrates that lesbian, gay and bisexual citizens are as likely, or more likely, to be poor than heterosexuals.
They added: "Because the U.S. Census Bureau does not explicitly ask questions about sexual orientation, LGB families have been invisible in poverty statistics. This first analysis of the poor and low-income lesbian, gay and bisexual population reveals that LGB adults and families are as likely – and, in the case of some subgroups, more likely – to be poor than their heterosexual counterparts, contrary to the popular myth of gay and lesbian affluence."
The review will include a discussion of the social and political factors that may lead to higher rates of LGB poverty, including vulnerability to employee discrimination, inability to marry and higher numbers of those who are uninsured. This week, it was reported that the next US census, to be carried out next year, will not ask about sexual orientation or recognise gay marriages, civil unions and domestic partnerships. The federal Defence of Marriage Act, signed in 1996 by President Bill Clinton, does not recognise gay unions sanctioned by states.
March 18, 2009 – OnTopMag.com
U.S. To Back Pro-Gay Resolution
by On Top Magazine Staff
The Associated Press is reporting that the Obama administration will endorse a United Nations resolution that calls for the universal decriminalization of being gay; reversing the position of the Bush administration. The news agency quotes an unnamed source as saying the U.S. has notified French officials – the resolution was sponsored by France and the Netherlands at the request of gay activist Louis-Georges Tin, the founder of the International Day against Homophobia (IDAHO) – that the administration has agreed to support the resolution.
The United States was the only western government refusing to sign on. The news agency says the official spoke on condition of anonymity because Congress has yet to be briefed on the matter. He said the United States was concerned about “violence and human rights abuses against gay, lesbian, transsexual and bisexual individuals” and was also “troubled by the criminalization of sexual orientation in many countries.”
“In the words of the United States Supreme Court, the right to be free from criminalization on the basis of sexual orientation ‘has been accepted as an integral part of human freedom’,” the official said. The resolution was read in December and supported by 66 countries, including all European countries, Canada, Japan and Mexico. Gay rights leaders in the United States were appalled to learn of the Vatican’s opposition to the resolution because it might promote gay marriage.
“As faith leaders we were shocked by Vatican opposition to this proposed initiative,” a coalition of gay rights leaders said in a statement. “Most Catholics, and indeed most Catholic teachings, tell us that all people are entitled to live with basic human dignity without the threat of violence.” The statement signed on by the Human Rights Campaign, along with faith program directors from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and National Black Justice Coalition also urged “U.S. leaders to stand against discrimination.”
The U.N. resolution carries no power of law, but it does send a powerful signal to the world. It condemns violence, harassment, discrimination, exclusion, stigmatization and prejudice based on sexual orientation and gender identity. And declares that targeting gays for executions or killings, torture, arbitrary arrest or deprivation of economic, social and cultural rights is wrong. The pro-gay resolution was met with an equally forceful, Arab-backed statement opposing it. The anti-gay statement was read out by a Syrian delegate and gathered more than 60 signatures. It condemned homosexuality: “[Decriminalizing] homosexuality could lead] to the social normalization, and possibly the legitimization, of many deplorable acts including pedophilia.”
March 19, 2009 – PinkNews.com
Dictionary redefines marriage to include gays
by Jessica Geen
US dictionary-maker Merriam-Webster has redefined the word ‘marriage’ to include gays and lesbians. The definition of the word now says: "The state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognised by law," but adds the term also applies to "the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage".
The company said it had introduced the change in 2003, before gay marriage was allowed in any state, but said no one had noticed the change until conservative website World Net Daily reported it this week.
In response to a reader’s query on the political motivations for the change, associate editor Kory Stamper said: "We often hear from people who believe that we are promoting – or perhaps failing to promote – a particular social or political agenda when we make choices about what words to include in the dictionary and how those words should be defined. "In recent years, this new sense of ‘marriage’ has appeared frequently and consistently throughout a broad spectrum of carefully edited publications … Its inclusion was a simple matter of providing our readers with accurate information about all of the word’s current uses."
March 19, 2009 – The New York Times New York, NY
The Policy That Dares Not Speak
by Janet Maslin
The core message of Nathaniel Frank’s book about the American military’s ban on being openly gay can be summed up in a single slogan: “ ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Don’t Work.” Mr. Frank has also been offering succinct five-minute synopses of his argument as he makes the rounds of the talk show circuit. So why does his book, “Unfriendly Fire,” need nearly 300 pages of text to make the same relatively simple points? Because he makes them so discerningly, so substantively and so well.
This book’s length would seem even more surprising given Mr. Frank’s scant reliance on anecdotes or filler; by his not having personalized or dramatized his nonfiction material; by the small number of major points on which he concentrates; and by his use of the “as we shall see” construction, which would seem to brand him as a dry professorial writer. But to categorize him that way would be using the type of specious reasoning on which, according to his book, American military policy about gay personnel is based.
This is the same logic that allowed a Marine Corps corporal’s buying of Anne Rice novels to be used as admissible evidence of homosexuality at the man’s discharge investigation. And that example is real, not hypothetical. Mr. Frank didn’t have to make it up. Many Americans may not understand what the military’s 15-year-old “Don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue” policy about gay personnel actually means. If sounds laissez-faire, it is anything but: this expedient-sounding political compromise, sanctioned by President Bill Clinton in 1993 and then voted into law by Congress, has created legal means of terminating the careers of longtime and, Mr. Frank would argue, valuable members of our military. No explicitly sexual act is necessary to bring on accusations. The soldier who receives a warmly affectionate letter from a same-sex correspondent is in jeopardy of being booted out of the service.
“Unfriendly Fire” offers a sharp, vigorously framed analysis of this state of affairs. Mr. Frank begins by assailing the assumption that a gay person in the military is someone who has chosen to break the military’s rules; that person, he says, violates the current code simply by existing. “Is a restaurant that bans creatures that bark not a restaurant that bans dogs?” he asks, demonstrating a debating talent that would serve him well in a courtroom. The main attraction in “Unfriendly Fire” is the agility and tough-mindedness with which Mr. Frank presents his arguments.
An early chapter on the history of homosexuals and military discipline points out that there was a time — 1919, when Franklin D. Roosevelt was assistant secretary of the Navy — when gay sailors were entrapped by the sexual solicitations of other sailors, then arrested, court-martialed and imprisoned. “It was not lost on many observers, including the U.S. Senate, which censured the Navy for its ‘shocking’ and ‘indefensible’ investigative tactics, that the military had no trouble rounding up its own men to sleep with other men as part of a sting operation to rout out gays,” Mr. Frank writes.
What this wound up meaning was that overt sexual activity would no longer be needed as proof. “It was the beginning of the rationale for banning gay people, since the task of banning gay conduct had proven to be perilous, and had inadvertently thrown light on how easily ‘normal’ men could end up in the jaws of a homosexual rapport,” he says. An argument central to this book is that the assumption that heterosexuals are fragile, modest and easily threatened by homosexuals in their midst does a disservice to the military’s most fundamental faith in its troops as strong and disciplined fighters.
Having established his subject’s historical underpinnings, Mr. Frank moves on to a political analysis of the forces that made the subject of homosexuals in the military so important at the start of Mr. Clinton’s first term. The gist is that the president, as a candidate, had glibly made promises he would not be able to keep, while at the same time overconfident gay lobbyists underestimated the combined (and, says Mr. Frank, often overlapping) strength of top military brass and the religious right. In the course of its intensive scrutiny of Senate hearings on the subject, the book finds similarities between that era’s rhetoric about homosexuality as a threat to unit cohesion and the same arguments, used four decades previously, to resist racial integration.
The book shows how those hearings made up in hot air for what they lacked in hard evidence. So Mr. Frank brings hard evidence to bear. Fears about sexuality, he says (drawing extensively on data from countries that have less restrictive policies than ours does), do not necessarily predict behavior.
And in passages recounting change that he acknowledges to be “stunningly anticlimactic,” he discusses what happened when gay soldiers could openly serve in Israel, Canada and Australia: nothing special. When strict codes of military behavior ban all public displays of affection, they dispel much of the imagined problem.
“Unfriendly Fire” goes on to measure the gay ban’s cost and consequences. Mr. Frank does not do this casually; he is armed with budget, recruitment and expulsion statistics. Disturbing as they are to begin with, these figures become even more so when linked to the influx of ex-convicts and other problem recruits to replace those who have been dismissed. The single most alarming statement, in a book that bristles with them, is this one about the military’s moral waivers program to admit convicted felons: “Allowable offenses under the program include murder, kidnapping and ‘making terrorist threats.’ ”
Finally “Unfriendly Fire” makes a claim for what “don’t ask, don’t tell” has now become: a punch line. Gay service personnel, Mr. Frank says, have by and large been assimilated. Homosexual attachment and unit cohesion are understood to be different things. “I have never loved any man more deeply than some of the men I served with in Somalia, and I never had any sexual feelings for them,” one gay combat veteran says.
And if popular culture provides signs of the times, as Mr. Frank suggests, then the subject may be even further defused. “I Love You, Man,” a Hollywood film in the newly mainstream “bromance” genre, about men who love their attractive male friends in no-big-deal fashion, opens Friday. It’s coming to a theater near you.
March 23, 2009 – OnTopMagazine
Swislow Holds Back Rating Obama On Gay Issues
by On Top Magazine Staff
Lee Swislow and her “marry” band of gay lawyers are at it again. After turning around mounting gay marriage loses – there was Hawaii and DOMA – with a stunning Massachusetts win in 2003, duplicating that success last year in Connecticut and offering a pledge to win over the four remaining New England states by 2012, you’d think GLAD was done. You’d be wrong. In fact, the Swislow-led group is looking to collar portions of the federal DOMA.
Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) announced their new challenge about three weeks ago. GLAD filed the suit on behalf of eight gay married couples and three surviving spouses from Massachusetts that have been denied benefits under DOMA. Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), passed by Congress in 1996, defines marriage as a heterosexual union for the purposes of federal benefits.
“What we are targeting is the exclusion of legally married [gay and lesbian] couples of all federal rights, benefits and responsibilities – of which there are over 1100,” Swislow said recently while talking exclusively to OUTTAKEOnline.com CEO Charlotte Robinson. Swislow said she believes it might take up to a year before the group gets its day in court, and added that the case was very winnable – even if it treks to the Supreme Court.
“[The section 3 DOMA challenge is] an equal protection case that we feel is right in the mainstream of sorts of legal theory and is a very winnable case,” Swislow said. “We don’t know if we’ll end up in the Supreme Court or not, it depends on what happens at the lower court level. But we think we have a case that could win with this Supreme Court and we think with any other Supreme Court.” As for President Obama’s silence on gay issues since inauguration, Swislow noted she was giving the president a year to show his true rainbow colors.
On the Net: More of this interview can be found at voices.OUTTAKEOnline.com.
March 24, 2009 – The Boston Globe – Boston, MA
Gene Robinson on the faith of a gay bishop
by Michael Paulson
New Hampshire Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson, famous (or infamous, depending on your perspective) as the first openly gay bishop, visited Boston on Sunday to preach and lecture at Trinity Church in Copley Square. The afternoon lecture was provocatively titled "The faith of a gay bishop,” and Robinson said a last-minute look at the title caused him to throw away his prepared text and speak relatively extemporaneously about his Christian faith.
A few passages that caught my attention:
Reflecting on praying secretly with gay Christians in Hong Kong who said they find hope in the Episcopal Church’s decision to approve of a gay bishop: "We hear so often of the pain that the Episcopal Church has caused the rest of the world. Why is it that we don’t hear about the hope we have given to so much of the rest of the world?"
Describing his one conversation with the Archbishop of Canterbury:
"In the only meeting that I’ve ever had with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the only communication that he has ever given to me, he was lecturing me on how we should have done all this in the American church, and how, before electing me, the amount we should have studied, and written, and theologized, and made canons, and rules, and so on and so forth, before we ever took this action, which was so disruptive to the Communion. And I said to him, ‘Your Grace, with all due respect, do you really think that’s the way we have ever moved forward? It seems to me that somehow, by God’s grace, we fall into doing the right thing, and then, and only then, do we think our way to it.’ And I said, ‘You know, in 1974 the 11 women who were irregularly ordained in Philadelphia, they weren’t following the rules, they were breaking the rules. But it turned out to be the right thing, and two years later we began regularly ordaining women in this church.’ And I said, ‘Had they not done that, how long do you think it would have taken this church to get around to it? Would we still have an all-male priesthood?’ It seems to me that, by God’s grace, we sometimes do the right thing and then think our way to it."
On the importance of following Jesus:
"It seems to me that the greatest danger that you and I face as a church, as individuals and corporately, is that we will be admirers of Jesus only, and not followers. We love to admire Jesus, don’t we? We love to gather, and slap each other on the back, and say, ‘How great it is to see you again this Sunday.’ And we love to listen to those great stories about Jesus. Wasn’t he a great guy? Didn’t he do some awesome things? But following him is not only much harder, but the point. If the church is in danger of anything, it is in danger of being a club of admirers of Jesus, rather than followers.”
On finding gay stories in the Bible:
"The only story that makes any difference in the world is whether or not you can say how the living God is active in your life and what you are inspired to do because of it. So we have to find ourselves in Scripture. We have to make stories like this our own in order to make those Scriptures come alive. Now, I don’t know where you find yourself in Scripture, and what stories there help you tell your story. But I’ll tell you how this gay man reads Scripture. There are a couple of great stories about gay people in the Bible. Maybe you didn’t know that. One of them is the Exodus story, which is the greatest coming out story in the history of the world. It is, don’t laugh. Because we know what it’s like to be in slavery. We know what it’s like to be in bondage. We know what it’s like not to be free. Because we’ve had the experience of someone coming and talking about a promised land, not just of milk and honey, but of freedom, and God’s love and acceptance, and some of us actually believed it, and left. We left Egypt to come out."
"How do we keep this up? How do I keep this up, day after day? Because we know how it’s going to end, don’t we? Our struggle is going to end with the full inclusion of gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people, in the life and ministry and leadership of the church. I have no doubt whatsoever. The fight that’s going on now is not about if it’s going to happen. It’s only about when. I think even the conservatives would tell you that. They’re just trying to forestall the day it is fulfilled. Not if, but when. We know how it’s going to end. And whether we live to see it or not is irrelevant. The question is, are we going to play our part?"
Trinity has posted audio of Robinson’s remarks here.