Friday, August 31, 2007

Morning Sweep

The big news today comes out of Des Moines, Iowa, where a trial judge last night ruled that the state's DOMA is unconstitutional and that same-sex couples are entitled to marry. Gay City News has a fantastic breakdown of the arguments presented before the court and the key points upon which Judge Robert Hanson based his decision. The case will no doubt be appealed to a higher state court, but the decision is still monumental.

You can read Judge Hanson's full decision here.

The New York Times gives its opinion on the Larry Craig issue, which pointedly calls out the Republicans' blatant homophobia: "Underlying the hurry to disown the senator, of course, is the party’s brutal agenda of trumpeting the gay-marriage issue. To the extent Senator Craig, a stalwart in the family values caucus, might morph into a blatant hypocrite before the voters’ eyes, he reflects on the party’s record in demonizing homosexuality. The rush to cast him out betrays the party’s intolerance, which is on display for the public in all of its ugliness. But it also betrays their political uneasiness as the next election approaches."

The Middletown Times Herald-Record points out the double standard in the Republican rush to get rid of Larry Craig. What ever happened to Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, who also had some not-so-nice skeletons break free from his closet? One must assume that because his interest is in prostitutes of the opposite sex, the Grand Ol' Party is more willing to forgive.

Gay City News' Doug Ireland provides a racy analysis of Larry Craig's bathroom adventures, but also brings up the fact that gay men are disproportionately affected by police entrapment in public lewdness cases.

A lesbian couple in Denver became Colorado's first same-sex couple to legally adopt, thanks to legislation signed into law by Gov. Bill Ritter earlier in the summer.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A labor of love

The current issue of The Advocate features an article called "A Labor of Love," which discusses the contribution that organized labor is making to the movement for LGBT equality. The Pride Agenda's "Pride in Our Union" program was referenced as a model for national organizations looking to organize support within politically powerful unions.

In the article, the Task Force's Thalia Zepatos said that Pride in Our Union is an "out front model" and adds that "what ESPA has done is really comprehensive, and other states are looking to them as a template." Not to toot our own horn, but the initiative is quite fabulous. There are currently just under 1 million working New Yorkers who are represented by unions that support marriage equality. Additionally, 300,000 New Yorkers are represented by unions who support transgender non-discrimination legislation--and that number gets bigger and bigger every month.

Pride in Our Union was launched last November, and to cap off an amazingly successful year, the Pride Agenda will be honoring one of New York's most influential labor leaders with the Douglas W. Jones Community Service Award at this year's Fall Dinner. Randi Weingarten, President of United Federation of Teachers, has been instrumental in helping to get some of the other major unions on board with LGBT issues. Union support was one of the key factors in getting the Assembly to vote on and pass the marriage bill on June 19.

You can read the complete article here.
You can find out more about Pride in Our Union here.

Morning Sweep

Here are some perspectives on the Larry Craig situation from newspapers in New York:

From the Staten Island Advance, the paper's Deputy Editorial Page Editor writes, "The Idaho senator is not just any old conservative Republican. Nope, he is one of the most vocal ones when it comes to family values and is one of the generals in the political party's war against the so-called gay agenda."

The New York Post writes in an editorial, "Craig's sexual orientation doesn't really matter. But his guilty plea and subsequent conviction take his irresponsible and distasteful actions to a whole new level."

In Newsday, James Pinkerton (a Republican and former George H. W. Bush advisor) suggests that, "the gay left and libertarians should not over-interpret the results of what happened here. The country, in its basic conservative wisdom, still wants to see order maintained - on the streets, on the border and in men's rooms."

Former New York City Parks Commissioner Henry Stern writes in the New York Sun: "If the facts are as has been stated by the press, there is nothing that should compel Mr. Craig's resignation from the Senate. He has a right to be judged by the electors, not be hounded from office by self-appointed judges who may be bigger hypocrites than Mr. Craig is."

In other news...

David Mixner has a nice item about Szetey Gabor, an openly gay member of parliament in Hungary, who is fighting for equality and justice for LGBT people in Central and Eastern Europe.

The New York Post is being offensive to gay people. Again.

MSNBC's Tucker Carlson essentially admitted to taking part in gay-bashing in response to being cruised by a man years ago. (Note to whomever cruised Tucker: Eww!)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A note on toe-tapping

I’ve taken an unscientific survey among gay men I know about toe-tapping in restroom stalls and there was near universal agreement that this was something we knew very little about. And believe me if gay men in New York City are unfamiliar with this, that says a lot right there.

I have to say I learned more about this system of clandestine communication by watching clips of ostensibly straight newscasters and commentators either demonstrate it or talk about their own past experiences.

A lesbian or two also quizzed me about toe-tapping and I had to admit to them that I was also learning about it. They were disappointed and confused at the same time. They were sure after listening to the news the past day or two that this was an experience fundamental to all gay men.

They would be wrong.

What’s my point in even talking about this?

Well it’s this. Toe-tapping in restrooms is about the closet and the behavior of those who live in the closet.

And a CNN piece from yesterday essentially confirmed this suspicion of mine when a police officer stated to a reporter that it wasn’t usually gay men being arrested in restrooms for lewd behavior. It was married men who have families, or, in other words (my words) men living straight lives that are deeply closeted.

If our opponents had their way we would all be living in the closet, living in shame and living in unhappy marriages that are unfair and dishonest to the ones we’ve married. I guess that’s “family values.”

Perhaps then my friends and I would be familiar with the art of toe-tapping in restrooms.

What a wonderful world that would be huh?

LGBT perspectives on immigration

Last night I attended Immigration Equality/HRC's LGBT Immigration Forum, which featured headliner Rep. Jerry Nadler and included speakers from HRC, GMHC, the Asian American Justice Center and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF).

The most notable item about last night's forum was the incredible turnout. The event, which was hosted by the LGBT Center in the West Village, packed in more than 200 people. Panels like this sometimes have difficulty attracting a crowd, but it's good to see that so many people in the LGBT community are engaged (or at least interested) in an important issue--and one that doesn't get as much media play as other important gay bills (like ENDA or Hate Crimes).

The Uniting American Family Act seeks to amend the current immigration laws to allow US citizens or permanent residents to sponsor their same-sex partners for immigration to the US. Under current laws, only "married" couples can sponsor their partner for immigration, which automatically excludes gay and lesbian couples. UAFA would amend the current language to add "permanent partners who cannot otherwise marry," which would obviously implicate same-sex couples. It is estimated that at least 35,000 bi-national same-sex couples in the US are affected by the discrimination in the current immigration laws.

The highlight of the evening was hearing Rep. Nadler speak very candidly about the bill's chance of passage in the current Congress. When asked by an audience member what would happen if a vote were called today, he responded that he believed that he would have "close to the amount, if not enough votes to pass the bill." But he also reminded listeners that congressional politics are much more complicated than that. Questions still remain as to where this bill stands in the Senate, and although not directly stated, other pieces of pro-LGBT legislation may be taking some of the necessary political capital needed to pass UAFA.

For activists looking to make some calls and write some letters, Rep. Nadler noted that the key players in moving this bill are: Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who chairs the House subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law; Rep. John Conyers, who as chair of the House Judiciary Committee, must give his OK before a hearing on any bill; and finally House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who ultimately wields the power to call a bill onto the floor for a vote. Lofgren and Conyers support the bill, but moving it is another story...

Another interesting dimension to the forum was the discussion on where LGBT issues fall in the broader spectrum of immigration reform in the US. The issue of immigration generally has been incendiary for the current Congress, and even pitted Senate Republicans against President Bush earlier this year. Staff attorneys from the Asian American Justice Center and MALDEF gave their views on immigration as they affected the Asian and Latino communities. Their message essentially was that it's important for all parties interested in immigration reform to be working together so that 1) the reform will be comprehensive, addressing issues important to all affected minority groups and 2) legislators are facing pressure from the largest possible bloc of voters.

UAFA is one of the many pieces of legislation that same-sex couples rely on in order to get some of the protections and benefits that marriage would otherwise automatically provide. But because the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) will likely happen anytime in the immediate future, this bill is a worth-while cause. The consensus of the panelists was that passage of bills like UAFA will not likely come until Democrats pick up a few more seats in both the House and the Senate and a new (and Democratic) President is elected. According to HRC's scorecard, all Democratic Presidential candidates have vocally supported the Uniting American Families Act.

In the meantime, Rep. Nadler advises us to keep our US Representatives' "feet to the fire" so that once the planets align in Washington, we as a community can take full advantage.

Morning Sweep

A spectrum of responses to Republican Sen. Larry Craig's press conference yesterday:

The Idaho Statesman: "During a brief—and largely defiant—public appearance Tuesday afternoon, Sen. Larry Craig apologized for bringing "a cloud over Idaho." We're sorry, senator. This cloud does not belong to the people who have elected you for the past 27 years. It's all yours."

Hilary Rosen: "Larry Craig isn't gay. Thank god cuz we don't really want him to be. Ick. Now that he has told the country that he isn't gay in a press conference, I am so relieved."

Pam Spaulding: "Oh lord, he's denying it all, blaming the Idaho Statesman, and said categorically that he is not gay ('I've never been gay.") He has not yet decided on whether he's running for re-election. He took no questions. OK, boys, if you've done Sen. Craig in a washroom, this is a Gary Hart moment. He's seeking counsel now. How on earth can you plead guilty by mistake!"

Mitt Romney: "Once again, we've found people in Washington have not lived up to the level of respect and dignity that we would expect for somebody that gets elected to a position of high influence." (for the Romney-Craig connection, click here)

Lady Bunny: "Of course, the very republicans who espouse rewriting the Constitution to redefine marriage as between a man and a woman so that gays can never marry keep on getting busted for homo-sex in tearooms."

Tom Toles (political cartoonist)

MediaMatters calls out The New York Times and various networks for failing to include Sen. Craig's record on gay issues in their reporting of the scandal.

In non-Craig news:

The Episcopal Diocese of Chicago may be electing a lesbian as their new bishop, which would make her the second openly LGBT Episcopal bishop in the US.

The ACLU and Human Rights Watch are looking into the death of a transgender inmate at a San Pedro, CA immigration detention center. These groups believe that Victor Arellano may have been denied vital AIDS medication and thus died while in custody.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Morning Sweep

This morning is all about Idaho Senator Larry Craig, the latest anti-gay Republican to be caught in a scandal involving lewd behavior of a (you guessed it) gay nature. BlogActive originally speculated on Sen. Craig's gay tendencies last year. But it wasn't until Roll Call posted a story yesterday on the Senator's June (mis)adventures that the story really started to gain traction. More here, here, here, here and here. We'll be saying more on this later...

In other news:

Deb Price is calling on Congress to get moving on pro-LGBT legislation (she specifically points to ENDA) before all attention is directed to the 2008 election.

If you have a subscription to the Wall Street Journal, you can read how Middle Eastern countries are now starting to market to gay and lesbian travelers. "You have to be creative and sometimes discreet," says a Middle Eastern gay services travel adviser. Sounds fun, huh?

A highly regarded principal of a school in Port Ewan, NY will be undergoing male-to-female transition surgery in the coming months. The school will be holding meetings to discuss transgender issues with students and parents.

GenderPAC released its 2007 Gender Equality National Index for Universities and Schools, which (among other things) evaluates how well schools across the country are handling issues of gender identity and expression.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Morning Sweep

Unsurprisingly, estate planning can be a nightmare for same-sex couples. Navigating through the complex system of arrangements is the topic of an upcoming "PridePlanners" conference in Washington, DC.

A mother strikes back: In a scathing and brilliant letter, one Vermont gay man's mother writes in her local paper to those in across the state who have been attacking gay people based on religious principles.

Elsewhere in Vermont, the University of Vermont in Burlington has added gender-neutral restrooms to their student center in order to accommodate transgender students.

Jane Spahr, a former Rochester-based Presbyterian minister, has been found guilty by a regional judicial committee of violating church law when she married two lesbian couples, one in 2004 and one in 2005.

The Boston Globe features an editorial on how the Defense of Marriage Act affects bi-national same-sex couples. If you are interested in finding out more about this subject, Immigration Equality and HRC are hosting a forum tomorrow in NYC called "The Immigration Debate: LGBT Perspectives." Rep. Jerrold Nadler will be speaking. (LGBT Community Center, 6:30-8:30 pm)

Friday, August 24, 2007

Morning Sweep

Queerty points out that gay marriage-like arrangements have existed throughout history, which contradicts the tired "radical shifts in attitudes" theory that the anti-marriage camp tries so often to throw in our faces.

A story in a newsletter put out by the United Methodist Church deals with religious parents accepting their gay children. In many instances these parents have become activists: said one mother, "we'd been in this church for 30 years, and my son could be married in the sanctuary, but my daughter can't? It made me furious."

The Washington Blade notes that, according to multiple polls, Hillary, Obama and Edwards would all beat any Republican candidate if the election were held today. All three support a myriad of LGBT rights, including civil unions--but not full marriage equality.

Gov. Spitzer signed a bill into law yesterday that would allow for forced HIV tests for indicted sex offenders.

A Vermont commission begins its hearings on gay marriage, which will help to determine how aggressively the state legislature will act on replacing their current civil unions law with full marriage equality.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Morning Sweep

Sam Hoyt--always a voice for LGBT people in Western New York--has demanded that his ad be removed from a Buffalo-area political website that has been spewing anti-gay comments in recent weeks. According to Outcome Buffalo, Hoyt is only one of two legislators currently severing ties with the website's proprietor, a man named Joseph Illuzzi.

The creator of Nip/Tuck and Brad Pitt are teaming up to put together a new series on FX called "4 oz." The series will deal (over four seasons) with a man who comes out as a transgender woman and then undergoes surgery to complete the transition.

AfterElton's Michael Jensen reviews Christiane Amanpour's "God's Christian Warriors" documentary. The CNN-produced piece provides plenty for LGBT people to be worried about, particularly as it relates to how determined Christian fundamentalists are to regain their political clout and put an end to the advancement of gay rights.

Newsday reports that a local radio station has pulled its sponsorship of a reggae festival on Randall's Island because of some of the performers' anti-gay lyrics. GLAAD got the ball rolling by informing Clear Channel, the station's owner, of the festival's inclusion of gay-bashing artists.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Full transcript of the Assembly debate on marriage

Yesterday we received the full transcript of the June 19 marriage debate in the Assembly that took place for about three hours before the chamber historically voted to pass the bill by a vote of 85-61. Re-reading the debate is fascinating; some of the words spoken by our representatives are quite inspiring and can serve to remind us that we have some very strong and passionate allies in this movement. Below are some of the highlights from the debate.

Most of the speeches made were in support of the bill, but there are a few that were against. Reading these views can also help as we try to move more people to understand this issue, even though the arguments are sometimes nonsensical and frustrating.

I did not include a portion of Assemblymember Danny O'Donnell's speech because it's best read in its entirety. It is a passionate, well-reasoned and at times funny argument on why marriage equality is necessary. You can find it starting on page 65 of the PDF.

Here are some memorable clips:

Assemblymember Mark Schroeder (voted for):

Let's just review, simply said, summarize the historical quotes that I made. What was the reason for civil law marriages in New York State? It was to protect people. What is the reason for marriage equality, the bill that we are talking about tonight? It is to protect people...We, in the Assembly, were not elected within the confines of the Holy City of Jerusalem, the Nation of Islam or the Vatican City of Rome, we were elected to the New York State Legislature and a primary duty is to protect the people from injustice.

Assemblymember Brian Kolb (voted against):

But, I am also trying to articulate to you and the sponsors of this particular bill that I do feel threatened. I do feel harmed in terms of what you are trying to do with this particular bill because it is a direct challenge to me and how I was brought up and the belief that I have in God and what I believe that the Lord has given me in my heart.

Assemblymember Deborah Glick (voted for):

This is about access to civic institutions that provide protection. And, if we want to be clear about the sanctity of marriage, I can get married. I can go out and find somebody tomorrow, and I guess wait the applicable few days, and marry someone. It would have to be a man. That would be a sham. It would be an insult. It would not be upholding the sanctity of the tradition of people loving, caring and committed to one another through life, through the trials and tribulations that will befall many of us. I love my partner, and I want to be certain that if anything happens to me that she is fully protected. And we have done everything that we could legally, going to lawyers and tying up property to the extent that we have any, but there are things that we don't have access to because we are not able to marry. And, I am not young
enough to wait for this Body and the other Chamber to vote on 1,300 separate rights and responsibilities.

Assemblymember Barbara Lifton (voted for):

I will be casting my vote for this bill in memory of my wonderful brother, Steven Smith, who happened to be a gay man. When he died in 1994, his partner of 13 years, Greg, who happily thrives to this day, had no legal right to Steven's remains or to many of the benefits of Steven's adult working life, over 17 years. And that is but a small piece of the many ways in which gay couples are treated as second-class citizens.

Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi (voted for):

So what I am asking you, my colleagues, to do is light that board up green because we all took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the State of New York. I would ask you to light that board up green because the fairness and equality of our country is paramount. Don't tell me that I live in a country where Andy Hevesi, after being in a relationship for two years and has picked a person that he wants to marry can do it, but Danny O'Donnell who has been in a relationship for 26 years and has picked a person he wants to marry can't do it. Ladies and gentlemen, that is fundamentally unfair, and we are better than that. As a country, as New Yorkers, we are better than that. And, let me finally say, please light that board up green, vote in the affirmative for my kids. If one of my children happens to be gay, I want to make sure that they have the same rights and responsibilities that every other citizen of the country has.

Assemblymember David Townsend (voted against):

I believe that the individuals who are caught in this conundrum of a lifestyle that maybe to some seems foreign, to many of us we understand and appreciate it and can understand their love for each other, have a way to address it. It may be civil unions. There may be another issue that I am not aware of, but that can work.

Assemblymember Joe Lentol (voted for):

And Mr. Gottfried and, certainly, Ms. Glick can tell you that I have come a long way over the years that I have been here with respect to gay rights, with respect to how I feel about certain issues, and it's not because I flip-flop or change any position at all, it's because I have listened and I have learned.

Assemblymember Richard Gottfried (voted for):

In the months and weeks and hours leading up to today's debate, many people have asked, "Why are we doing this now? This bill isn't going anywhere in the Senate. Why are we doing it now?" Or, at least not tonight. Certainly, why are we doing this now? And the answer is very simple: That I believe, as I said at the outset, I believe this is the most important human rights issue facing this Legislature, and it is always the right time to take a stand for human rights.

Assemblymember Dede Scozzafava (voted for):

The easiest thing for me to do tonight, the politically easiest thing for me to do tonight, would be to vote no and go back to those individuals and tell them, "Hey, listen, but I'll support civil union for you." But a good friend of mine, on Friday, sat down and he explained to me why that did not provide him equal protection under the law. And what might be the easiest thing for me to do tonight isn't the right thing. These men and women in my community and throughout the State, my friends, deserve equal protection under the law, regardless of my religious belief, and that's why I am going to be voting in favor of this legislation this evening.

Assemblymember Teresa Sayward (voted for):

My God loves my son and as sure as I'm standing here tonight, this issue is certainly not one for me, or should be for any of us here, anything other than a civil rights issue, and I ask tonight that you give great consideration to the fact that I don't believe either Mr. O'Donnell or Ms. Glick had a choice in this life that they would be homosexual; for if they had, I'm sure they would have chosen the easier path. So, let's search our hearts tonight and do the right thing and vote for the civil rights and the human rights of all of the people that we represent and give them the right to marry the people that they love, just like I had the right 43 years ago to marry my husband.

Assemblymember John McEneny (voted for):

We are voting tonight, and I have never been more proud to vote, for true equality in our great American democracy, and it is good to see New York as a leader and not a follower.

Assemblymember Sandra Galef (voted against):

So today, you know, I really have a heavy heart. This is a very difficult issue. I actually wish that the issue of civil unions was before us; it is not. I think a lot of people have talked about steps. And sometimes we do need steps to make things better. It doesn't happen all at once, even though I know many people in this room, probably the majority of the people in this room, want it to happen very quickly. But I think, you know, given the fact that my district has a very strong belief opposing this legislation, that, as I said, I made a commitment to follow their advice on this particular issue that I polled last fall.

Assemblymember Jose Rivera (voted for):

Madam Speaker, Martin Luther King once said, "We are not free until everyone is free." Very interesting. What's taken place in this Chamber is that regardless of what happens to the other side or whatever happens, if nothing happens, at least we are standing up tonight in what, in my view, is what is right to do.

Assemblymember Jonathan Bing (voted for):

And I stand here to support this legislation today because I want to do something to make sure that whomever my daughter eventually decides to love, that she can have that relationship respected to the fullest extent of the law, regardless of whether it's a man or a woman that she decides to love. She deserves that respect. The law deserves to respect her in that way and it's my hope and expectation that 18 years from now when she can vote for the first time, that she will say to me, "What was the big deal about, why was there so much controversy about this legislation?" Because, at that point, we will have a law on the books that allows for same-sex marriage and that will be the norm in this country, not the exception.

Assemblymember William Scarborough (voted for):

I have been today listening very deeply, and I am strongly moved by a number of things that have been said, and I am strongly moved by the issue of equal protection under the law, and I
believe that those things have to be dealt with. I believe in the next year we are going to have to have a deeper discussion of exactly what we are doing. We are going to have to have a better explanation for the people of this State as to what we are doing and why, and I think that that is a task for all of us. I will cast my vote in the affirmative today, but I think we have much more to do.

Assemblymember Micah Kellner (voted for):

I'm the most junior member of this Body, and I have been here only about two weeks and I can say this is --no matter how long my tenure is here, this is probably the most important
vote I'll ever make.

Assemblymember Matt Titone (voted for):

The irony that the debate over the so-called sanctity of marriage is not lost on me when we consider that the debate lasted almost as long as Britney Spears' first marriage. I have my partner here on the phone, and he just asked me to marry him and my answer, Madam Speaker, is yes.

Read the full transcript here.

Morning Sweep

James Kirchick writes a column in USA Today about the significance of The Advocate's decision to allow subscribers to choose whether or not to receive the magazine in a privacy wrapper, in which it had been delivered since the magazine's inception in 1967.

This column called "An Obsession Over Rights," written by a former member of the Denver Post's editorial page staff, is kind of trite. At best it's an attempt to divert attention away from truly acknowledging why there is a struggle for gay rights in this country and to focus more on semantics and definitions--a strategy that works perfectly for slowing any civil rights movement. "What does 'gay rights' mean?" he asks. "Still, it is worth reflecting that unqualified support for 'gay rights' means implicit endorsement of a laundry list of rights." Exactly! See, he does get it, he just doesn't want to. We want equal treatment in every area of the law, whether it pertains to military service, employment, taxation or immigration. Call us crazy, but it's not so hard to understand. Unless you're trying very hard not to.

Seems like radical Christian groups can't find a candidate that is quite hateful enough. Even Fred Thompson's "position" on a federal marriage amendment is not quite strong enough for this group. It's kind of funny/scary to see how panicked these people are over the possibility of DOMA being overturned.

A letter to the editor in the Elmira Star-Gazette reminds people that there are many gay Christians, too...and that many Christian congregations support their gay members.

An Oregon group is threatening to aggressively publicize the names of every person who signs a petition that would put two major gay rights bills that have already been passed by the state legislature up for a referendum. The group's name: Know Thy Neighbor. Fierce. (via Queerty)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Morning Sweep

"Bronx is the gayest place on earth" says one Bronx gay youth. Unfortunately, many LGBT students are either harassed or forced to stay "on the down low" because there is no support system in place for victims of bias-based abuse in public schools.

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann called out Fox News' Bill O'Reilly for incorrectly referencing poll data and stating that most Americans wouldn't vote for a candidate who was endorsed by a gay rights group. The truth is that polling was done in only three states--Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio--and more than 60 percent said that an endorsement by a gay rights group made no difference to them while only less than one-third said they would not vote for that candidate.

The NYTimes Science section features a story on a controversial theory on gender identity that has created intense backlash for a Northwestern University psychology professor.

Check out this page from a children's book written by an "ex-gay." Pretty scary. (via Good As You)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Morning Sweep

A Buffalo police office is shot in the spinal cord with little chance of full recovery. Her same-sex partner, who is now her full-time care giver, talks about the hardship of Buffalo not providing domestic partner benefits to city employees. Read here about this tragic situation and how Assemblymember Sam Hoyt is advocating for them with the City of Buffalo.

More stories on Rudy Giuliani and his step back from his previous positions on gay issues. The Washington Post interviews NYC activists and visits NYC resident Ryan Davis in his Hell's Kitchen apartment to talk about his satirical YouTube piece called “Gays for Giuliani” that's been getting so much attention.

Outcome Buffalo has uncovered the fact that a website focusing on politics in western New York is being run by a homophobe who doesn’t mind letting his bigotry influence the way he expresses his views on local issues and talks about local elected officials. No big deal normally since anyone does have the right to say what they think. Only problem here is that a huge number of local elected officials advertise on the website and many of these ads are the very first thing you see when you go to the website’s homepage, a not so subtle message to readers that the views expressed on the website must be okay with these politicians. Go here to follow how the many WNY elected officials advertising on his site are – or are not – reacting when Outcome Buffalo presents them with the facts. Go here to see the website in question and all the politicians who buy ads.

Another prominent Republican in Westchester County jumps parties to become a Democrat, leading The Journal News in the Lower Hudson Valley to editorialize about what this might mean. The paper cites a number of issues, including gay marriage, as issues where Republicans have failed to grasp that Americans want our political system to reflect more concern and less animosity for each other.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Off-Sprung: Beer & BBQ at Cattyshack on Sun, Aug. 26

Off-Sprung!, the Pride Agenda's series of events for the next generation of LGBT leadership, is packing up and heading to Brooklyn for Beer & BBQ at Cattyshack on Sunday, Aug. 26!

Stop by and meet other fabulous twenty and thirty-somethings who are helping to make New York a better place for LGBT people...and looking good while doing it.

Cattyshack may be known as a popular place for the ladies, but this event is truly for both guys and gals. So whether you’re looking to get involved, network or even just make some new friends, join us in Park Slope on Sunday, Aug. 26.

For more info or to RSVP (not required) and invite others, go to the Off-Sprung Beer & BBQ event page on Facebook.

Morning Sweep

An openly gay NYC assistant corrections commissioner was arrested for punching a bartender at The View. He has been suspended indefinitely from his job.

Gay City News writes about the Pride Agenda's support for Spitzer throughout "Troopergate."

David Mixner interviews Freedom to Marry E.D. Evan Wolfson and asks about--what else?--the 2008 presidential election.

The Marriott chain of hotels announced that it has jointed the LGBT Chamber of Commerce, no doubt angling for gay tourism dollars.

Ft. Lauderdale residents are building their opposition against Mayor Jim Naugle because of his recent series of anti-gay statements and proclamations.

Gay City News also provides perspective on the rapidly back-peddling Rudy Giuliani, pointing out that gay rights groups are choosing to speak about the former mayor in notably different ways.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Two gay icons celebrate birthdays today

1. Madonna. It may be unbelievable, but Madge is 49 today. Cut off a leg and count the rings. To think that she was a zaftig 24-year old when her first single, Everybody, was released... She's come a long way since then--and has had a big gay following ever since. As they say in the old country: cheers, love!

Here's a video of her first-ever live performance in 1982 at Danceteria in NYC.

2. David Mixner, writer, longtime activist and the keynote speaker at our Fall Dinner this year, is 61 today.

Happy Birthday, David! Thanks for everything you've done and continue to do for LGBT people everywhere.

You, too, can wish David a happy birthday by writing him at

Morning Sweep

According to a poll released today, the majority of voters in New Jersey support upgrading the current civil unions law to full marriage equality.

Even Gawker is putting in its two cents on the craziness that is currently going on in Albany.

A writer for the New Republic argues that gay rights advocates are doing the Democrats no favors by constantly pushing the issue of gay marriage.

If you have a spare bit of time today, check out the Daily Show's review of last week's gay presidential forum on PageOneQ. Hilarious.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Morning Sweep

Forbes has an article on coming out at work.

A recent study done by Community Marketing shows that gays and lesbians are very aware of the brands that do and do not support the LGBT community.

Turns out that the gays vote. (and give lots of money, too)

Eighth and tenth-graders in Montgomery Co., MD will be learning about homosexuality in sex ed classes--in a way that emphasizes tolerance and diversity.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Morning Sweep

Democratic presidential candidate (and CT Senator) Chris Dodd, who wasn't present at the HRC/Logo debate last week, posts answers on his website to all of the questions asked during the debate/forum.

Methodists who own a popular, traditionally communal beachfront pavilion in Ocean Grove, New Jersey have called upon the anti-gay Christian law firm Alliance Defense Fund to help end an investigation into claims by a lesbian couple that they were discriminated against by being denied use of the pavilion for their civil union ceremony.

Groups who are seeking to overturn two major pieces of pro-LGBT legislation in Oregon seem to be losing the battle.

A political columnist for the Providence Journal smartly advocates for legalizing gay marriage in Rhode Island.

GLAAD announced that it will now accept submissions from LGBT media for their media awards

Monday, August 13, 2007


Openly gay State Senator Tom Duane just posted his summer/LGBT podcast today, which features the dry-humored Senator interviewing various people during the June Pride March.

An interesting tidbit comes from Duane's conversation with NYS Democratic Party Co-Chair David Pollak, where the two talk about the possibility of flipping the State Senate from a Republican to a Democratic majority. Sen. Duane notes that passing pro-LGBT legislation (like marriage equality) would be a lot easier in a Democrat-led Senate.

(Allow for a couple of minutes for the podcast to download)

Morning Sweep

In examining last week's HRC/Logo gay debate, columnist Jim David wishes that no one cared about the gays (via Huffington Post).

The Union for Reform Judaism has added blessings for transgender people into the second edition of its LGBT-inclusive prayerbook.

Jonathan Capehart from the Washington Post nails Bill Richardson for his "it's a choice" comment, but feels that gay people should be pretty happy with where the Democratic frontrunners are on the marriage issue.

Using the sad example of 18-year old David Ritcheson, Chicago Tribune nicely pulls together exactly why it is that we need a federal hate crimes law.

Just a few miles north, but so much more enlightened: openly gay Canadian lawmakers are getting married. Legally.

The Pride Agenda's Joe Tarver calls Rudy Giuliani's murky support for domestic partnerships "pretty un-Giuliani-like" in a story today in the Boston Globe.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has voted to accept gay pastors with the caveat that they remain celibate. Might as well just become a Catholic priest and get the free housing.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Our thoughts about last night's Presidential Forum

Logo asked us for our thoughts about the candidate's responses last night and posted this from Alan Van Capelle this morning on its election 2008 website called TheVisibleVote08. You can read it below or go here. We also provided our thoughts to the New York Post and you can read those here.

Last night was a historic moment in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) movement. For the first time in our history Democratic candidates asking to be our next President spent 90 minutes discussing our issues on national television.

The fact that this event took place at all is an achievement for our community. It illustrates how far we are from the days when discussing gay issues was viewed as a liability for a candidate and our community was in the political wilderness.

On the stage, the candidates showed amazing agreement on many of our important issues. They agreed that we need a comprehensive hate crimes law, that it’s wrong to fire people from their job because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression, and that it’s time to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law.

But in today’s climate, it hardly takes an enormous amount of political courage to advocate positions that are held by 70-80 percent of Americans.

It has been suggested to me that I should be pleased at how far our civil rights struggle has advanced. I should take comfort that time is on our side and that the question of whether marriage equality will be the law of the land is no longer one of if but rather one of when. While I agree, I remain unsatisfied with some of what I heard last night.

Even though all of the candidates spoke passionately about equality, and despite some very tough questions from the panelists, none of the frontrunners stepped forward in favor of marriage equality. No matter how much they try to convince themselves that civil unions provide equality, the problems gay and lesbian couples are having in New Jersey prove civil unions are not equal.

There is no such thing as partial equality. You either have equality or you don’t. Period.

Despite my disappointment, nobody can deny that passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the Hate Crimes Bill and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would make us a stronger nation and would improve the lives of LGBT people. These advances would be important milestones on our path to equality.

That said, the prospect of spending the next year and a half having the same few issues raised and listening to the same answers would be a missed opportunity for our community. That’s why it was refreshing to hear other important issues raised last night.

I was glad to hear an acknowledgment of the problem of homeless LGBT youth on our streets. I was glad to hear transgender issues raised and the desperate plight of gay people in countries like Iraq mentioned.

Moving forward, I hope the candidates tell us how they will address the needs of our aging LGBT population when they are reforming our health and human services delivery system. I hope they commit to inviting gay and lesbian people to be at the table when we finally pass an immigration reform bill. I also want to hear about how they will address the crystal meth epidemic in the LGBT population when they write their drug policy.

The reality is that LGBT people have specific concerns that need to be addressed in many of the most important national issues of our day.

The 2008 election cycle represents the best opportunity in a generation for LGBT people to make real progress on a broader range of issues. Last night was the beginning of what I hope will be and should be a much longer and detailed conversation.

Alan Van Capelle
Executive Director
Empire State Pride Agenda

Morning Sweep

It’s pretty much all about last night’s Logo/HRC Presidential Forum in today’s news so let’s get going.

Watch the forum on Logo’s website and read a number of special guest responses from leading LGBT bloggers, activists and members of our community. (There's one from us here, but more on that later.) Logo’s been great to provide a number of options on how to watch the forum – in full – by issue – by candidate. It’s all here.

Read what a number of the major news services say here, here, here, and here. The New York Post brings together several LGBT residents of NYC to watch the debate and provide their thoughts about which candidate impressed them most. Read here.

Ben Smith of The Politico and Pam Spaulding of Pam’s House Blend both live blog from the Presidential forum. Read Ben’s ongoing account here and his overall thoughts about the candidate performances. Ditto here for Pam’s minute-by-minute and here for today’s Winner’s and Loser’s piece.

And for news on other things unrelated -- Gay City News gives us an update on Hepatitis C and a growing body of evidence that it can be sexually transmitted -- and we learn that the Reform movement of Judaism has a new prayer book that includes a blessing for those who are transitioning.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Logo/HRC Presidential Forum is Tonight at 9PM

We’ve been providing you an overview all week long of what’s being said about tonight’s Logo/HRC Presidential Forum so we know you’re probably aware its happening from 9PM-11PM EST.

The candidates will be appearing in alphabetical order: Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, Barack Obama and Bill Richardson.

We're very curious about how tough the questions will be and whether they'll focus on the same few issues or explore some of the community's concerns that are frequently overlooked.

If you don’t get Logo on your television, remember Logo will be streaming it live online and will have it available afterwards as well. Go to Logo’s Presidential Forum website called VisibleVote08 for details and also to made comments about the forum. Prep yourself in advance on the candidate’s positions on LGBT issues by reviewing HRC’s scorecard.

Finally, we wanted you to know the Pride Agenda has been asked to provide its thoughts about the forum in a few places tomorrow. We’ll let you know more about that in our Morning Sweep.

Tonight’s forum is a first-ever for the LGBT community and America so don’t forget to watch!

Morning Sweep

Andy Humm writes in Gotham Gazette about this past session of the NYS Legislature and three civil rights issues – marriage for same-sex couples, transgender rights and HIV testing of rape suspects.

More here on the generational shift that has occurred around “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Quinnipiac put out a poll yesterday that looked at how support from various interest groups – including gay groups -- affects general voter support for a candidate in three swing states. Here’s the Quinnipiac statement that focuses heavily on the impact of gay groups on voter support. And here’s the poll itself.

Newsday takes a look at Rudy Giuliani’s record on gay issues versus the other candidates running for President.

The Wall Street Journal talks about tonight’s forum and gives an overview of LGBT issues and LGBT giving as they relate to the 2008 Presidential campaign.

Evan Wolfson gives the candidates pointers on how to support marriage for our families.

Joan Garry writes about the Presidential candidates and whether or not they consider LGBT people to be just issues or human beings.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Morning Sweep

Congressman Gary Ackerman, representing the North Shore in Queens and Nassau County, writes in Newsday about Washington’s hypocrisy around “Don't Ask, Don't Tell.” A strong supporter of lifting the ban, Ackerman urges Congress to act in September.

The Journal News profiles a volunteer organization that provides meals to people with HIV/AIDS and provides an overview of where things stand in Westchester County with the epidemic.

When does a position shift become a flip-flop? The New York Sun writes on Romney and Giuliani and gay issues figure prominently.

Pam’s House Blend talks about Hillary and her DOMA position and lets us know she’ll be blogging from L.A. tomorrow night at the Logo/HRC forum.

Celebrity watching has now officially started for tomorrow night’s LGBT forum. Well it’s in L.A. and its being shown on Logo. So – yea -- I guess so.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Morning Sweep

Governor Spitzer talks to the netroots community on The Albany Project. He raises a number of issues, including his continuing desire to sign a bill providing marriage equality for all New Yorkers.

The Staten Island Advance has a feature article on the hostile environment many youth face when they come out of the closet.

David Mixner provides a list of tough questions he wants Presidential candidates to answer on Thursday at the HRC/Logo Presidential Forum.

And on a sadder note, songwriter Lee Hazlewood passed away over the weekend. Hazlewood is best known for his hit tune “These Boots are Made for Walkin’,” that he wrote for Nancy Sinatra in the early 1960s. For those of you who were around in the 1980s for the video bar phenomena, “Boots” was always very big with the crowd. For those of you who are somewhat younger and think you’re being clever when you say to folks like me “I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about,” have a look at two equally fabulous versions of the video here and here and know that these are the boot steps you’re walkin’ in. Thanks Lee!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Morning Sweep

Highlighting the UPS incident as part of an ongoing problem with civil unions, the NYT calls for the NJ legislature to step up and provide marriage equality for same-sex couples.

With the Logo/HRC Forum set for this Thursday in L.A. the preview articles have begun. Newsweek posted its article on Saturday with a focus on Hillary Clinton complete with a picture of her from NYC’s 2006 Pride March. Read here about Chris Dodd dropping out of the Forum.

Thankfully, though, LGBT issues don’t have to wait for this Thursday to be discussed by the Presidential candidates. Almost every gathering this year has seen at least one important LGBT issue raised. At the Yearly Kos Convention this weekend a blogger asked Hillary about her position on the federal DOMA law. Read here.

And for those of you who are following Florida state representative Bob Allen’s problems down in Florida, Queerty provides us with his explanation on what happened when he was arrested for solicitation last month. (Yes this story can get better and it just did.)

Friday, August 3, 2007

Morning Sweep

A principal at a New Jersey high school has cancelled performances of Matthew Shepard-inspired "The Laramie Project" out of "homophobia and fear," according to the school's drama teacher.

Openly gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson announced yesterday that he is endorsing Barack Obama for president. He did, however, note that Obama (along with the other Democrat frontrunners) still wasn't where he needed to be on the issue of marriage equality.

Ithaca's rally against the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church was hugely successful: more than 270 people showed up in solidarity with LGBT people while only 4 were present from Westboro Baptist.

A sad story of a St. Louis man who has been convicted of fraud for arranging a sham marriage so that his partner--who is not a US citizen--could stay in the country. It is an additional piece of evidence that stresses the need to pass Congressman Nadler's Uniting American Families Act.

According to a Brooklyn judge, the three men who are to stand trial for the murder of 29-year old Michael Sandy will be tried for an anti-gay hate crime, which--if convicted--carries a minimum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Gay City News writes about the black gay community uniting to fight increasing HIV/AIDS infections.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Morning Sweep

As a response to an Ithaca demonstration by anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church, a group of Cornell students is organizing a counter-demonstration tomorrow morning in Ho Plaza.

Hillary is throwing a fundraiser at (in)famous West Hollywood nightspot The Abbey on the night of the HRC/Logo debate. Obama and Edwards are also having events, but have chosen venues on L.A.'s restaurant row (LaCienega Blvd.). Good As You has info on how you can host your own viewing party, depending on which candidate you support.

NGLTF Executive Director (and former Pride Agenda E.D) Matt Forman calls out Democratic presidential candidates in a statement released yesterday: "But, what of the Democrats? Sadly, mostly silence. You can find our issues explicitly referenced on only three candidates’ sites (Kucinich, Richardson and Gravel). Frontrunners Clinton, Obama and Edwards carefully parse their support of our people into specific reforms. We find no evidence that the Democratic frontrunners counter Republicans’ anti-LGBT speech with routine and positive inclusion of LGBT people in their visions for a whole and healthy society." Full text here.

Conversely, Ben Smith writes that 2008 is shaping up to be much different than 2004, when LGBT issues were used as a wedge by GOP candidates. Instead, writes Smith, "the leading Democratic candidates have spent the early presidential campaign in a newly public competition to show off their pro-gay bona fides."

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Snapshot: John Monaghan

Eighteen-year old John Monaghan started coming out six years ago in his native town of New Hartford, NY. He has quickly become a key figure in organizing support in his area for the Dignity for All Students Act, which would give schools the necessary tools to stop biased-based bullying and harassment (including based on sexual orientation and gender expression). John first became involved with the Pride Agenda when he attended Equality & Justice Day in 2006. John, who just graduated from New Hartford High School, will begin his freshman year at Hobart College in Geneva, New York this fall, where he plans on majoring in political science and history.

When I came out as bisexual at the end of sixth grade I didn’t realize that there would be long-lasting ramifications. I never thought that my friends would stop talking to me, that I would be outcast or that other kids would refer to me as “the gay kid.” Though I was coming out and growing up quickly, I was still a naive twelve-year old.

The summer quickly came and it seemed that even though the kids in my neighborhood knew that I said I was bisexual, no one really knew what it meant. Somehow that made it still acceptable to build forts, go swimming and ride bikes with them. At least until it was time to go back to school and begin seventh grade, the first year of junior high.

I had decided not to tell my parents that I was attracted to boys and that I thought I was bisexual, because I didn’t want them to react like many of my so-called friends had. I also decided that since all three elementary schools would be coming together at the junior high, I could make plenty of new friends who didn’t know that I was different.

Yet word travels fast when you’re twelve going on thirteen and soon everyone knew that I was “that gay kid.” I was outcast. I was trying to fit into various groups and cliques, unable to find my place because no one wanted to be friends with “that gay kid.” I also came to accept that I wasn’t bisexual, I was gay. Eventually I was able to find my place with a group of friends that would be inseparable throughout junior high, including the girl who is still my best friend almost six years later.

But nothing seemed to be getting easier as I grew up. Everyday followed the same pattern: I would take the bus to school where other kids would harass me, calling me faggot, fudgepacker and queer. Then I would go to my locker where people would shout more gay slurs at me, followed by classes where some of my peers would tease and taunt me when the teacher wasn’t paying attention (or in some classes they would get away with doing it right in front of the teacher). Then there was lunch where I would be with my small group of friends and people would throw food or spit on me, then more classes and lastly the bus ride home where various items were thrown at me, like unopened cans of tuna fish, pens, empty soda cans, spitballs, trash and occasionally a few punches mixed with death threats.

That was my daily routine at school. Then there were the days where I was “blessed” to have gym class. I hated gym because the gym class heroes and other assorted jocks were usually the ones who harassed me the most. Junior high physical education turned into “pummel the fag.”

It only took a few months of this daily harassment before I became very depressed and withdrawn. I vividly remember a day late that fall when the harassment was worse than what I had become accustomed to. It was on the bus ride home that I had been surrounded and the onslaught began. First it was the usual insults, then they threw things at me, but it went further that day when one of them said “just wait till we get off the bus you faggot.” When we did they surrounded me and followed me home yelling and throwing rocks and sticks. Eventually they split up to go home except for two of them. One of them tried to throw a punch at me; I grabbed him by the shirt pulled him in and said I would beat him up if he didn’t leave me alone. He backed down because he was never tough when he wasn’t with his friends.

When I finally got home I knew that I was exhausted from trying to make it through each day only to come home and pretend everything was ok. My older sister was supposed to be staying after school that day for a club meeting. I decided that it was time to end the abuse I faced. Knowing that she wouldn’t be home for at least an hour I headed to the medicine cabinet. I took some sleep aids to make sure that I would go to sleep quickly, and then I opened up a few of the pill bottles. I decided I was going to start with the ibuprofen and work my way through the prescription and over-the-counter pills until the drowsiness hit. I hoped I would have combined enough pills that I could go upstairs and sleep and never wake up. It was the first of five suicide attempts within two terrible years of depression.

Luckily my sister’s meeting had been canceled. I heard her come home when I was in the bathroom and I was afraid that she might hear me emptying the bottles, so I flushed the pills and put everything back. I would just have to wait until a better time and method came along. And they did: I later tried hanging myself, poisoning myself, and the last two times I took a pocketknife to my wrists. But each method was painful, and I always asked myself “why is it that it even hurts when I try to escape the pain I feel every day?” I never finished what I started, but I was always looking for a quicker painless way. I’m thankful everyday that I never found one.

I still had not told my parents that I was gay, let alone that I was suicidal, and so my only support came from my friends. While there were not many of them at the time, they helped me make it through the first year-and-a-half of junior high. It was my friends who I called after every attempt and it was my friends who convinced me to get help and to try to sort out the mess that was my life.

About halfway through eighth grade, I continued the painful process of coming out by talking to my school social worker who was an invaluable help. She convinced me to come out to my family, to report the harassment I was facing and to see a therapist for my depression. She told me that she was sure my parents would rather have a gay son than a dead son and she was right. I was so depressed that I couldn’t fathom acceptance from my family if I couldn’t be accepted at school. But my depression blinded me from seeing how supportive my family had been all along. When I did come out to my parents they told me that it didn’t matter if I was gay, what mattered was that I was happy.

In time things improved for me: I no longer had to hide who I was to my family, the school cracked down on the students who were harassing me, and for once I didn’t feel so alone. Yet, even at the end of my eighth grade year, I was still the only out student in my school.

In ninth grade, I decided that no student should have to go through the experiences that I went through. It was then that I founded the Perry Junior High Peer Mentoring Program as my Eagle Scout Project. Despite the fact that the Boy Scouts have a very anti-gay policy, I remained a member (though a closeted one). I was determined to become an Eagle Scout to prove that no one could prevent me from doing something because I am gay.

The Mentoring Program had goals that were in some ways similar to the current goals of the Dignity for All Students Act. It aimed to work toward providing an environment where students of all different backgrounds could learn in an environment where they were accepted and valued. It worked to bring together other outcast students, like I had been, with older volunteer mentors. Ironically, my Eagle Scout Project also served to let other students know that it’s ok to be gay and that they weren’t alone.

Even though I was not harassed anywhere near the level I had been before, the harassment was still present every day. But I was lucky enough to have the Mentoring Program and Utica’s LGBT youth group to take my mind off of the intolerance that I faced--for the first time, I didn’t feel so alone.

I thought that if I could conquer depression and suicide and triumph over constant homophobia and harassment, that I had already beaten life’s toughest challenge. That notion didn’t last long as I realized that the root of the problem was still there. While things improved for me, there was still rampant homophobia in my school and I knew something had to be done about it.

After my first year in New Hartford High (my sophomore year) I fell right back into depression. It felt to me like I worked so hard to end the homophobia in my own life but it never really went away. I was discouraged that no matter how old I got, I would still face bullying and harassment in my school because of my sexual orientation.

It was in my junior year that I truly conquered my depression. It was also that year that I realized I couldn’t count only on the help of others ending the homophobia in my life. It was true that reporting harassment to the Dean did help to an extent in the junior high. But waiting for everyone else to give me a hand just wasn’t working anymore. I knew that I needed to work to end homophobia in my school with a more hands-on approach, something like the Mentoring Program had done.

I was lucky to have befriended many more people in high school and two of my especially liberal friends were trying to form a new social justice club called Students for Justice and Equality (SJE). I was particularly interested in the club because New Hartford’s other gay (as we sometimes jokingly called each other) was one of SJE’s co-founders. He was determined to include gay rights as an SJE campaign.

After a hard battle to incorporate such a progressive club into a conservative school district we tackled issues such as hunger, poverty, women’s rights, domestic violence, environmentalism, and of course gay rights. None of which could have been possible without the support of our advisor, especially our school’s first-ever Day of Silence.

I suppose that I had developed a sense of cynicism by that point, because it was easier to have low expectations than to be constantly let down. I was excited to participate in the Day of Silence but my expectations were definitely not high. I was sure that it wouldn’t have many participants, but at least it was a start.

I thought I knew what I was talking about; in fact I turned out to be dead wrong. Who would have thought that being wrong could make you feel so good? We had over two hundred people participating in the Day of Silence (slightly less than a third of the school). When a few students came and shouted gay slurs at me, about ten students came to my defense that day (granted they were silent so it was an amusing mimed defense). But for the first time we were making real progress and I was addicted to activism.

I went to my first LGBT Equality and Justice Day in 2006 with the head facilitator of Utica’s LGBT youth group. It was there that I spread my activism into the realm of politics and it was there that I first learned of the Dignity for All Students Act. I knew that I had to bring the fight in Albany back home with me and that’s exactly what I did.

Since E&J Day ’06, I had become co-president of Students for Justice and Equality; participated in making SJE’s video on our first-ever Day of Silence; helped organize our school’s second Day of Silence; brought eight SJErs with me to E&J Day ’07; organized our school’s first Local Climate Survey to measure homophobia, racism and sexism in our school; launched an email campaign to our state representatives for Dignity; organized in-district meetings to lobby for Dignity; won a Teen All-Star award for fighting against homophobia; met with the Pride Agenda in New York City and was recognized by GLSEN at its Respect Awards Gala along with two other members of SJE for our Day of Silence Video.

After listing some of these accomplishments at an in-district lobbying visit, I was asked by one of my state representative’s aides: “why, are you so motivated to see Dignity for All Students pass? The law won’t directly affect you because you’ll be graduating.” I said: “it’s simple; I don’t believe that any student should have to go through what I went through. No one should be treated like I was, just because they’re different.”

Morning Sweep

Fox News writes about the popularity and potential danger of niche debates in the presidential primaries, specifically citing the Aug. 9 HRC/Logo debate on LGBT issues. Seven of the eight Democratic candidates have confirmed participation (only Joe Biden isn't attending).

Republican George Amadore defeated Democrat Edward Kosiur in yesterday's special election in the 105th Assembly District. The seat was formerly held (for 24 years) by Democrat Paul Tonko, who supported marriage equality and the Dignity for All Students Act.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi answers a question (sort of) on strengthening gay families.

The Equality Forum (via Bilerico) has released a study showing evidence of an LGBT voting bloc. The study, which uses the Philadelphia mayoral primary as its testing grounds, suggests that "even in a field of gay-friendly candidates, a candidate who can provide the right cues can be the beneficiary of a GLBT block vote. Block voting increases a group’s political importance and power." I'd imagine that any serious candidate would have assumed this already, for example: the aforementioned Aug. 9 gay debate.

And finally, as a midweek treat, this from Daily News' Rush & Molloy on the closing of the much-hyped mini-revival of Gypsy this past weekend: "It was "gay pandemonium" at Patti Lupone's final performance in "Gypsy" at City Center Sunday night, our audience spy reports. The audience was so full of men that at intermission "the bathroom line for the men's rest room was five times longer than the women's." Lupone provoked a thunderous 15-minute standing ovation before pulling co-creators Arthur Laurents and Stephen Sondheim onstage. "When people realized it was Sondheim, it was like the apocalypse," says our spy. "I bolted for the door before anybody got hurt."

Happy Wednesday.