Monday, August 31, 2009

Morning Sweep

Vermont's same-sex marriage law goes into effect tomorrow, five months after it was originally passed.

Gay rights groups are working to raise funds in Iowa to counter those being spent there by the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage.

A Huffington Post blogger draws hope for progress on LGBT issues from Obama's statements on Ted Kennedy's legacy.

The L.A. Times editorial board writes that even if the federal case against Prop. 8 gets hateful and ugly-- which it likely will -- it will still help expose stereotypes of gay and lesbian families and hopefully, will in the end do more good than harm.

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has fired two agents and a supervisor, disciplined two other supervisors and changed several policies in the wake of the much-publicized raid at a Fort Worth gay bar.

Top Chef's Tom Colicchio writes eloquently and concisely on his support for marriage for same-sex couples and his reflections on controversy surrounding the show's latest wedding-themed challenge.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Morning Sweep

Gay City News writes on Ted Kennedy's advocacy for LGBT issues. CNN does the same.

The Governor of Utah - where there is no LGBT anti-discrimination law - says such a law isn't necessary. ''We don't have to have a rule for everybody to do the right thing. We ought to just do the right thing because it's the right thing to do and we don't have to have a law that punishes us if we don't,'' Gov. Gary Herbert said.

Rep. Barney Frank, one of the driving forces behind an LGBT-inclusive federal ENDA, says he expects hearings to be held on it this fall.

The Washington Post has an interesting profile of Brian Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage. They portray him as being successful due to his calm nature and sane arguments - which doesn't change the fact that describes same-sex marriage as "irrational."

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Morning Sweep

The Syracuse Post-Standard's editorial board praises the Evangelical Lutheran Church and Episcopal Church's recent moves toward more acceptance of LGBT clergy.

In a New York Times City Room blog that has several of NYC's leaders' reflections on their experiences with Ted Kennedy, Christine Quinn speaks of his advocacy for the LGBT community at the Pride Agenda's Fall Dinner in 1996.

Two trans women were stabbed in Washington, D.C. yesterday, just two blocks away from the North Capitol Street offices of Transgender Health Empowerment, a private social services group that provides drop-in services to transgender people. One woman was killed and the other is in stable condition as police search for their attacker.

Anti-gay groups like the National Organization for Marriage are now focusing their energy on Iowa.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Remembering Senator Kennedy

On October 3, 1996 Senator Ted Kennedy gave the keynote address at the Pride Agenda’s Fall Dinner in New York City. He was a surprise stand-in for Senior Adviser to the President George Stephanopoulos, who at the last minute was unable to fly up from Washington, D.C.

Senator Kennedy got a standing ovation that night from the 1100 people in the Grand Hyatt Ballroom when he walked on stage, and he received thunderous applause many times throughout his speech.

The Senator’s appearance in 1996 came at a terribly disappointing time for the LGBT community. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) had shockingly gone down in the U.S. Senate by just one vote on September 10. That same day, in a second slam to LGBT Americans, the Senate passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). A few days later on September 21, President Clinton announced his decision to sign DOMA into law. Senator Kennedy led the unsuccessful fight on the floor to pass ENDA and he condemned the passage of DOMA.

Senator Kennedy gave us hope that night in the ballroom, just as he had so many times before.

When few politicians from either political party would say the word “AIDS” in the 1980s, Senator Kennedy did. He was not embarrassed to stand with us in fighting AIDS when just about every other politician was at best afraid to say anything and at worst just plain happy we were dying. And he was more than just words – he was action. From his post on the Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee he made sure government started providing funding for research, treatment and prevention.

Senator Kennedy told us that night he’d never stop fighting for us and he never did. And he told us to never give up and we never will. While support for our issues is broader today than it was in the 80’s and the 90’s, we’ve obviously still got a lot of work to do.

Thank you Senator Kennedy for making our lives better in so many measurable ways. Thank you for playing such a critical role in putting America on a path that will, with continued hard work, win us our equality.

There is hope and it now resides in us.

Morning Sweep

Gay orgs and bloggers are reacting with much sadness to Senator Ted Kennedy's death. David Mixner reflects here.

The fight over Florida's gay adoption ban is headed to appeals court. The state is appealing a Miami-Dade County judge's November 2008 ruling that the state's ban on adoption by gay parents is unconstitutional.

It doesn't seem likely that the Anchorage Assembly will override of Mayor Dan Sullivan's veto of a city ordinance banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Some South Africans are taking offense to the gender testing of their "golden girl," 18-year-old runner Caster Semenya.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Religious support for marriage in Western New York

The Buffalo News has an excellent story today on an increase in clergy support for marriage for same-sex couples in Western New York. The reporter ties Buffalo's LGBT-supportive religious community in to an update on some of the larger national trends toward religious acceptance of the LGBT community.

More same-sex couples find support for 'blessed unions'
By Jay Tokasz

When the Rev. Joel Miller looks at two men or two women who love one other and want to be together in marriage, he sees something many clergy don't.

"To me, that's where God is," said Miller, senior minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Buffalo.

Religious groups for years have led the charge against same-sex marriage, often citing scripture and their understandings of natural law in rallying voters and legislators to oppose the measure.
But across the state and in Western New York, some clergy and faith communities have become key allies in efforts to pass same-sex marriage legislation.

A variety of religious groups argue on both religious and secular grounds that gay people have a right to wed.

"For Unitarian Universalists, the presence of the holy us within our relationships, it's in our connections. That's the source of life, of meaning, the sacred. And families are the primary relationship in human existence," said Miller, who has blessed many same-sex unions. "So when two people want to marry who have the love, the commitment, the balance of personal skills and the balance of shared strengths, for us, of course we would want to create a family from that. The sex of the two people involved is relevant only to the family."

As a denomination, the Unitarian Universalist Church has long championed the rights of gay people, and its national body approved formal support of same-sex marriage in a 1996 resolution.

The United Church of Christ's governing body, the General Synod, voted in 2005 both to support same-sex marriage and advocate in favor of it.

The Reform and Reconstructionist movements in Judaism also support the right of gays and lesbians to wed.

"It's pretty clear that this is a justice issue," said Rabbi Alex Lazarus-Klein of Temple Sinai, a Reconstructionist synagogue in Amherst. "The justice element is more important than a few verses in Leviticus."

Empire State Pride Agenda, the largest advocacy group for gay rights in the state, began an effort to organize support from religious communities in 2005, with the launch of its "Pride in the Pulpit" initiative.

"We believed that a small number of conservative individuals and congregations had been owning the pulpit and framing the dialogue for far too long," said Alan Van Capelle, executive director of Empire State Pride Agenda.

Van Capelle said his organization simply asked various clergy to make their support for gay rights more known to the general public.

"Not all people of faith denounce homosexuality," he said.

Enlisting support

Nationwide, mainline Protestant clergy were split in their support for same-sex marriage, according to one recent poll.

The 2008 Clergy Voices Survey conducted by Public Religion Research found that 46 percent of clergy supported gay marriage, as long as its legalization came with assurances that no church would be required to perform same-sex marriage services against its beliefs.

About two-thirds of United Church of Christ clergy surveyed said they supported gay marriage. At 20 percent, American Baptist clergy were the least likely mainline Protestant ministers to support gay marriage.

Pride in the Pulpit enlisted more than 1,000 clergy and congregational leaders from all 62 New York counties to rebut arguments from opponents of same-sex marriage.

The effort helps give a "face and a voice" to the flip side in the religious debate on the issue, said Van Capelle.

"It debunks the myth that gay and lesbian people are not people of faith, because we are," he said.

Matter of rights

For Jeffrey Schneider, who grew up Catholic in Cheektowaga, the importance of getting married in a formal ceremony in front of family and friends was "ingrained" in him from early on.
Miller officiated at the 2008 wedding of Schneider and his partner, Robert Ladislaw, in the Japanese Gardens at Delaware Park.

The two later tied the knot legally in Canada. And the couple, who live in New York City, will marry again if the state makes it legal, said Schneider.

"[Marriage] affords us over 1,000 rights that we don't have now," he said.

Empire State Pride Agenda won't wade into disputes within denominations over whether religious blessings should be provided for unions of gay couples, said Van Capelle.

In some cases, though, individual clergy and parishioners have started pressing against the official stances of their religious denominations.

The United Methodist Church, for example, officially considers marriage an act between a man and a woman and forbids same-sex ceremonies.

But as a United Methodist minister, the Rev. Vivian R. Waltz doesn't see the fairness in the prohibition.

"Gay people," she said, also "are God's children."

Nor would she dismiss the possibility of presiding over a gay wedding.

"I would have to pray on that," said Waltz, minister of discipleship at Hamburg United Methodist Church. "I'm fully cognizant that such an act could jeopardize my credentials in the church. At the same time, I serve a God of justice, and the church's position is unjust."

The state's Roman Catholic bishops, including Bishop Edward U. Kmiec of the Diocese of Buffalo, have staunchly opposed the same-sex marriage legislation. And while the majority of Catholics also were opposed, a significant number of Catholics in New York — 39 percent — expressed support for legal gay marriage, according to a Quinnipiac College poll in May.

Bill Marx, who runs a Catholic peace organization in Buffalo, said denying gay people the legal benefits of marriage is unjust and must be corrected.

"It can't exist that people are suffering because of it. God would never have it that way," said Marx.

Marx said he wasn't so much disagreeing with the bishops as "using the teachings of the church on the primacy of conscience."

"We're a church of social justice," he said. "We as a church have an obligation to come up with an alternative that doesn't ignore our interpretation of marriage, but we can't hold to that and deny efforts to equal justice. I cannot stand by silent when there's an injustice to be corrected."
Other denominations continue to grapple with whether to support gay marriage.

'Don't ask, don't tell'

At the 2009 General Convention in July, the Episcopal Church moved to allow its bishops to provide "general pastoral response" in meeting the needs of same-sex couples and blessing their unions.

Individual Episcopal priests had been conducting such blessings and services on a kind of "don't ask, don't tell" basis.

The new stance, along with a move that allows openly gay men and lesbians to serve as bishops in the church, has put the Episcopal Church at odds with the Worldwide Anglican Communion.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America recently reconsidered the issue of same-sex marriage at its Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis, but came to no definitive stance in favor or against it.

Instead, a social statement on human sexuality approved by a two-thirds majority acknowledged "disagreements" about whether marriage is "the appropriate term" to use to describe the benefits and protections for same-gender couples entering into lifelong, monogamous relationships.

The Presbyterian Church USA decided last summer at its General Assembly against changing its definition of marriage to include same-sex couples.

Morning Sweep

The DOMA lawsuit leading to the controversial Department of Justice brief that put the Obama administration in hot water has been dismissed on a technicality. The lawsuit needs to be refiled in federal court.

An Albany Times-Union columnist writes in favor of repealing DOMA.

California's Senate has approved a resolution calling for the end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The resolution now goes to the Assembly for a vote.

California advocates haven't given up on trying to establish a Harvey Milk Day in local schools.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Morning Sweep

Celibacy will no longer be required for gay clergy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, after a vote of the Church's leaders on Friday did away with a discriminatory rule that forbid gay ministers in committed relationships from being ordained.

Iowa's top civil rights panel--a bipartisan six-member group--unanimously supports the state's same-sex marriage law and the State Supreme Court decision that enacted it. This comes as efforts by some GOP gubernatorial candidates have announced support for putting a constitutional amendment banning marriage for same-sex couples in front of voters.

Wisconsin's attorney general is refusing to defend the state's domestic partnership law, claiming that it goes against the state's constitutional amendment banning marriages or any "substantially similar" legal recognition for same-sex couples.

The Advocate's White House reporter, Kerry Eleveld, has been getting a lot of (deserved) attention lately. Her smart reporting holds the Obama Administration accountable to promises made to the LGBT community on several key issues.

The legislative battle for same-sex marriage in New Jersey will be heating up in the next few months.

Ithaca College's LGBT Center starting next week (8/31) will screen a series of films throughout the fall about being openly LGBT in the developing world.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Morning Sweep

Several gay and lesbian residents of Queens' Kew Gardens neighborhood are accusing their co-op board of refusing to make repairs on their apartments and calling them anti-gay slurs. The legal battle of one resident, who filed a discrimination suit in 2006, heads to court next month.

As part of Obama's reframing of his administration's stance on DOMA, the Department of Justice has appointed a LGBT liaison.

As South African runner Caster Semenya's gender continues to be questioned, the validity of "gender testing" is also being called into question.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Morning Sweep

The NYCLU has filed a federal lawsuit against New York State's Mohawk Central School District, alleging that the district failed to protect a student from continued harassment based on his sexual orientation.

A San Francisco judge has set a Jan. 2010 court date for the federal challenge to Prop. 8.

Hundreds of activists gathered in downtown Anchorage, Alaska, earlier this week to protest Mayor Dan Sullivan's veto of a measure that would have added sexual orientation and gender identity to the city's non-discrimination laws.

The gender testing of record-breaking running star Caster Semenya to verify that she is biologically female sheds light on the issue of gender identity in professional sports.

This column written by a member of the Chicago Tribune's editorial board reflects on how despite their doomsaying about the catastrophic affects marriage for same-sex couples will have on society, anti-marriage forces are unwilling to make any specific predictions on how exactly this end of civilization as we know it will occur.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America continues to move closer to endorsing the ordination of openly gay clergy.

The ad below has begun running in Maine, where a referendum on the state's recently passed marriage equality law is expected to take place.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Join the Pride Agenda in the Pines this Weekend!

If you plan on being out in the Fire Island Pines this weekend, be sure to stop by Low Tea at the Blue Whale from 5-8 PM this Saturday, Aug. 22. The Pride Agenda's OffSprung program for the next generation of LGBT leaders and allies will be sponsoring Low Tea, and the Pride Agenda's blue flags will be flying high in the harbor! We'll be celebrating the Pride Agenda's work so far on issues like marriage equality, transgender civil rights and safe schools for LGBT youth, and accepting donations from the crowd to help continue this work!

We hope to see you in the Pines this weekend - and let us know if you'll be out there!

Morning Sweep

The New York Times profiles attorney Ted Olson, a noted conservative legal expert, and the path that has led him to partner with David Boies to file a federal challenge of Calif.'s Prop. 8 on behalf of two gay couples. A hearing in the case is scheduled for today in San Francisco.

But is Olson's timing right? The Times' Room for Debate blog has four experts weigh in on a Supreme Court challenge.

TIME questions Obama's handling of DOMA.

NYC's Ali Forney Center for homeless LGBT youths plans to celebrate Bea Arthur's gay advocacy efforts by naming a residence center in her honor.

As a result of a much-publicized, ill-timed and poorly executed raid on a Forth Worth, TX bar, local police are completely revising their rules on inspections of night clubs.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Morning Sweep

Dwight DeLee, the killer of transgender Syracuse woman Lateisha Green, has been sentenced to the maximum 25 years in prison for the murder as a hate crime.

The White House has released a statement that despite the Department of Justice's obligatory position in defense of DOMA, President Obama is opposed to the law and will work to repeal it.

Dan Sullivan, the Republican mayor of Anchorage, vetoed a ban against discrimination based on sexual orientation yesterday, saying it was unclear to him that such discrimination exists.

Delegates at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's meeting in Minneapolis rejected a measure yesterday that would have made it harder to approve allowing people in same-sex relationships to serve as clergy. The final vote on this issue is expected on Friday.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Morning Sweep

Sentencing for Dwight DeLee, the killer of transgender Syracuse woman Lateisha Green, will occur tomorrow. DeLee could be sentenced to up to 25 years in prison. This month's Essence magazine has Lateisha's mother's touching reflections on this tragedy, and her courage to share her grief with the world ensures that millions of readers will learn about the violence that transgender people continue to face.

The Justice Department has modified its formerly abrasive stance on DOMA to be more in line with Obama's formal statements - but still technically in support of the measure.

David Mixner is not impressed with President Clinton's response to a suprise question about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

The L.A. Times editorial board backs Equality California's goal to return marriage for same-sex couples to the ballot in 2012.

Human Rights Watch is urging the Iraqi government to address the continued killing and torturing of gay men as part of a "social cleansing campaign."

The horrifying assault last month of a transgender woman who had traveled to Trinidad, Colorado to transition at the town's famed clinic has shocked residents in a town known for its acceptance of the transgender community.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Morning Sweep

This horrible story about discrimination against a trans employee in Philadelphia is just further proof of why anti-discrimination laws are necessary.

When confronted with a question about "Don't Act, Don't Tell" at a conference he was speaking at, former President Bill Clinton gave a response about changing times and his regret over signing the policy into law.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Morning Sweep

After months of debate, Equality California has recommended waiting until 2012 to return to the ballot and challenge Prop. 8. The Courage Campaign, however, plans to move forward on a 2010 ballot initiative.

Pride Agenda Board Co-Chair Frank Selvaggi has been named to the Board of Directors of New York based Signature Bank. Frank is a co-founder of accounting firm Altman, Greenfield & Selvaggi LLP. When the hours get long here at the Pride Agenda, which happens a lot, Frank is always a big support. Congratulations Frank and thanks for being a leader in the LGBT community.

A new requirement for airline passangers to state their gender and birthdate at check-in could create challenges for those whose gender expression may not traditionally line up with their ID documents.

The NYC Anti-Violence Project will soon honor the bloggers behind some of the best (and our favorite) LGBT blogs, including Pam's House Blend, Towleroad, and Joe.My.God. Congrats!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Morning Sweep

Focus on the Family has fallen on hard times, and will no longer be running its Love Won Out "pray away the gay" conferences. Haven't they tried praying away the bad economy?

Obama will award the Presidential Medal of Freedom today to 16 honorees, including Billie Jean King and a posthumous award to Harvey Milk.

Two Oklahoma lesbian couples have filed a new complaint to challenge federal and state laws banning same-sex marriage.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Morning Sweep

A Huffington Post columnist challenges Obama's refusal to use his executive powers to end "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Delegates at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's biennial meeting in Minneapolis this month will debate church policy on the ordination of openly gay clergy in committed relationships.

International health experts are calling for the repeal of sodomy laws worldwide that contribute to the social bias that often prevents people from seeking or receiving medical treatment for HIV/AIDS.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Morning Sweep

Gay City News calls for public support against the disturbing anonymous letters attacking openly gay Daniel Dromm, a candidate in the 25th District City Council race in Jackson Heights.

In the fight against Prop. 8, CA activists intend to announce their recommendations this week for whether to challenge the same-sex marriage ban in 2010 or 2012.

Researchers at the American Psychological Association annual meeting report that studying the LGBT youth population is becoming more difficult as societal norms and expectations of gay teens shift.

Tens of thousands of Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv over the weekend to express solidarity with the LGBT community a week after a gunman killed two people at a gay youth center.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Morning Sweep

A conservative Daily News columnist writes that LGBT Americans need to "get your priorities straight" and quiet down about LGBT issues until "bigger" problems, like the economy and health care, are taken care of. Author S.E. Cupp goes so far as to say that LGBT issues "should be at the bottom of the pile."

A report released yesterday accuses the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission of violating multiple policies in their participation in the controversial June police raid on a Fort Worth, TX gay bar. No decision has been made yet on penalties for the agents involved.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to the site of the deadly shooting at a Tel Aviv gay youth center is being lauded by some as historic but drawing criticism from others because of his decision to block media from covering the event.

As a queer woman married to a trans woman, this writer has a fascinating perspective on gender identity and sexism.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Pride Agenda endorses Christine Quinn for New York City Council

Today, the Pride Agenda annouced its endorsement of Christine Quinn for re-election to the New York City Council. In making its endorsement, the Pride Agenda highlighted some of the Speaker’s recent work in New York City on LGBT issues and gave special tribute to her commitment to furthering the community’s work with the NYS Legislature on issues like marriage equality. You can read our release on the endorsement here.

Morning Sweep

The inclusive ENDA bill has been introduced in the U.S. Senate.

The American Psychological Association is officially urging therapists to end so-called "ex-gay" therapy, which tries to change clients' sexual orientation through therapy or treatment. takes an interesting look at the lives of some LGBT youths in New York.

Washington's new domestic partnership law may be challenged by a referendum, but first the state is counting to see if enough signatures were collected. The names examined on the petition so far have been shown to contain a very high number of errors.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Morning Sweep

A vigil will be held in NYC tonight in remembrance of those killed over the weekend at the LGBT Center in in Tel Aviv. The vigil will take place at Congregation Beth Simchat Torah at 57 Bethune Street.

The three-decades-old NYC Gay Men's Chorus is in financial trouble and may have to shut down if more funds can't be raised.

The Advocate has a comprehensive criticism of Obama's lack of action on LGBT issues.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Morning Sweep

The Census Bureau has officially decided it will release information from the 2010 population survey on same-sex couples who report themselves as married.

The Williams Institute reports that 20% of self-identified same-sex couples in the U.S. are raising children under the age of 18. ABC sees it as a "gayby boom"-- we see thousands of families who desperately need the protections of a marriage license.

Does Obama "secretly" support marriage for same-sex couples? This Washington Post op-ed is fairly certain that he does not.

The American Bar Association has approved a resolution to overturn DOMA.

Wisconsin began registering couples under its new domestic partnership law yesterday.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Morning Sweep

...And we're back!

The New York Times has a Q&A with the new head of the NAACP and includes questions on the organization's stance on marriage equality.

The logic in this column against marriage equality in the Wall Street Journal is simply maddening.

The Boston Globe editorializes eloquently in favor of MA’s equivalent of our GENDA bill to ban discrimination based on gender identity and expression.

Leaders of an anti-gay group in Maine say they have submitted enough signatures to force a referendum on the state’s same-sex marriage law, which passed in May.

The United Methodists have defeated amendments that would have made church membership open to all Christians regardless of sexual orientation.

The L.A. Times praises the Episcopal Church, however, for its recent progress toward more inclusion of the LGBT community.

LGBT advocates rallied yesterday in Tel Aviv, Israel, to protest the killing of two people and the wounding of 11 others after a masked gunman opened fire at a center for gay youth on Saturday night.

Activists also protested in Australia over the weekend as the party in charged voted against changing its current ban on marriage for same-sex couples.