Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"Same Gender Loving People - No. 91"

"Happiness Is Being Together..."

Positive images of people like me... The truth of the matter is that we all need to see people like ourselves. So everyday, I'll post a photo, drawing or some other artwork that depicts Same Gender Loving People as what we are... Only Human.

"In The News Today..."

Obama Assures He's Committed to Gay Rights
He meets with gay and lesbian leaders, asking them for patience. The activists, though appreciative of the president's support, want to see bold action

By Peter Nicholas
June 30, 2009

Reporting from Washington — Facing a political backlash from an important voting bloc, President Obama met with leaders of the gay and lesbian community Monday, asking for patience and assuring them that in time he will usher in policy changes that protect them from discriminatory treatment.

"We've been in office six months now," the president said. "I suspect that by the time this administration is over, I think you guys will have pretty good feelings about the Obama administration."

Obama is under mounting pressure to fulfill campaign promises to repeal laws barring gays from serving openly in the military and proclaiming marriage to be a union between a man and a woman.

Gay leaders also are unhappy about a legal brief submitted by Obama's Justice Department that gave a vigorous defense of the federal marriage law passed in 1996. The act holds that states need not recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.

Obama, joined by his wife, Michelle, told the 250-some elected officials and activists that he was required to uphold federal laws even if he personally disagreed with them. By the end of his tenure, he said, he will have taken steps that gays and lesbians long have hoped to see.

The reception was warm. People gathered in the East Room of the White House shouted, "Thank you, Mr. President" and "Love you."

But afterward, some guests echoed a point made by Obama: What matters is not supportive rhetoric but concrete steps toward fuller equality.

"While we appreciate that this president has given voice to so many important issues the gay and lesbian community faces, we also want him to take bold action," said Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of the Boston-based Family Equality Council, an advocacy group.

The occasion for the meeting Monday was the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York, considered the opening of the modern gay rights movement. Patrons at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village clashed with police during a raid in June 1969.

Invited to the White House event were major figures in the gay rights movement, including Frank Kameny, who lost his job as a government astronomer because of his sexual orientation. Kameny led a protest outside the White House in 1965, a risky thing to do in that era, Obama said.

Some in attendance applauded Obama for assembling such a large group of gay and lesbian leaders in the White House.

"The very fact that he would invite 200 LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] leaders from across the nation on the 40th anniversary of the beginning of the gay liberation movement is just an astounding thing," said Bishop V. Gene Robinson, who is gay. "Most people were standing around not believing they were actually guests in the White House. He expressed his opposition to the same things that we're all opposed to, and his support for things we hope to see happen: the end of 'don't ask, don't tell,' employment nondiscrimination and the overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act."

Recognizing a breach with gay supporters, the White House has taken conspicuous steps to demonstrate the president is committed to gay rights. On June 17, Obama extended certain benefits to gay and lesbian federal employees. He also proclaimed this month "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month."

But disappointment persists. Some in the gay community are upset by the legal brief filed by the Obama administration in support of the Defense of Marriage Act. Two California men have sued to overturn the act, and the Justice Department defended the law's recognition of "a centuries-old form of marriage."

"I've called on Congress to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act to help end discrimination against same-sex couples in this country," Obama said. "Now, I want to add we have a duty to uphold existing law, but I believe we must do so in a way that does not exacerbate old divides. And fulfilling this duty in upholding the law in no way lessens my commitment to reversing this law."

But that's not likely to happen right away. Obama and Congress are devoting most of their energy to passing a healthcare overhaul and a sweeping new energy policy. With such a busy agenda, White House and congressional leaders have been reluctant to overload the political machinery in Washington by pushing through more controversial legislation.

Obama is hoping his gay supporters will wait. But patience is starting to ebb.

"People feel they've been patient for a long time," said Leslie Calman, executive director of the National Lesbian Health Organization's Mautner Project. "They feel President Obama is on our side and want to see something concrete as soon as possible."

Monday, June 29, 2009

"The Artist's Corner"

Douglas Simonson
"In or Out"
Acrylic on Canvas

"Same Gender Loving People - No. 90"

"It's No Secret, We Love Each Other..."

Positive images of people like me... The truth of the matter is that we all need to see people like ourselves. So everyday, I'll post a photo, drawing or some other artwork that depicts Same Gender Loving People as what we are... Only Human.

"A Story to Share..."

It's very strange and quite telling, an omen if you will... that their story is our story. I reflect upon it every day.

I remember all the times he told me he wanted "couscous," I put the pan on each time.

Although their roles were interchangable between us, more often than not, I was Emmi and Stephen was Ali.

Ali was right...
"Fear Eats the Soul"

For Stephen Christopher Harris

"The Poet's Corner"

"Das ist die wahre Liebe, die immer und immer sich gleich bleibt; wenn man ihr alles gewährt, wenn man ihr alles versagt."

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

For Stephen Christopher Harris

"Fear Eats the Soul"

Sunday, June 28, 2009

"Same Gender Loving People - No. 89"

"To Love Openly is to Live Fearlessly..."

Positive images of people like me... The truth of the matter is that we all need to see people like ourselves. So everyday, I'll post a photo, drawing or some other artwork that depicts Same Gender Loving People as what we are... Only Human.

"The Truth Today..."

Viist H4PJ Today...

A Generation of Pride

'WatchForty years ago, at 1:20 in the morning on Saturday, June 28, 1969, eight police officers burst through the double doors of the Stonewall Inn in New York City’s Greenwich Village and announced “Police! We’re taking the place!” However, the raid did not go as planned. As one eyewitness later recalled, after years of harassment by police, “The gays had had enough.” A series of spontaneous, sometimes violent, demonstrations erupted and continued over several nights. The Stonewall Riots, as they have come to be known, marked the beginning of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights movement in this country.

Rev. Michael Piazza, President of Hope for Peace & Justice, and a leader in the LGBT civil rights movement for more than 20 years, recently shared his reflections on how far we have come since this watershed moment, and what we still have yet to do. We invite you to watch and listen as Rev. Piazza shares “A Generation of Pride” for the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.

For more information about Hope for Peace & Justice, or to sign up for “Liberating Word,”

a daily look at scripture to strengthen progressive people of faith,

please visit our website, http://www.h4pj.org/

Saturday, June 27, 2009

"The Poet's Corner"

Love is a strange emotion.

When one thinks of it, a conflicting multitude of thoughts arise.

Love is pitiful and marvelous, empowering and parasitic.

It is hideous; it is beautiful.

It is weak and strong at the same time.

Love has started wars, ended wars, caused the depression and death of millions, as well as caused uncountable others to be thrown to the heights of ecstasy.

So is love truly such a pure, lovely thing?

I think it is a mixture of both.

Just as nothing is purely good or evil, so is love.

- Anonymous

"Same Gender Loving People - No. 88"

"Happiness Is Being With the One You Love..."

Positive images of people like me... The truth of the matter is that we all need to see people like ourselves. So everyday, I'll post a photo, drawing or some other artwork that depicts Same Gender Loving People as what we are... Only Human.

Friday, June 26, 2009

"A Truth Shared..."

"Some people do get it - We're just like everybody else..."

"Same Gender Loving People - No. 87"

"Gay or Straight, It's About Love, We Support Equality..."

Positive images of people like me... The truth of the matter is that we all need to see people like ourselves. So everyday, I'll post a photo, drawing or some other artwork that depicts Same Gender Loving People as what we are... Only Human.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

"The Truth Tonight..."

Last night was the International Freedom Fireworks display on the Detroit River…

Detroit’s annual fireworks display is one of the largest in the country. It’s held in late June rather than July for several reasons, but one of which is that it’s intended to celebrate both Independence Day (4th of July) and Canada Day (July 1st), for our neighbors in Windsor (across the river), hence the “International” in the title. Interestingly, although I’ve lived in Detroit all my life, and last night was the 51st year of the celebration, I’ve never been to the fireworks. My little sister and I were the youngest of our parents’ children and I guess because they were getting older when we were coming up, our parents didn’t take us to things like the zoo or the circus, or to parades or the fireworks as they had done with our older siblings. I remember that I’d always ask my parents if we could go to the fireworks, but we never did.

Later, as a teenager and then as a young man, although I wanted to go to the parades and the fireworks, I still didn’t… It just didn’t seem like the kind of thing I’d have enjoyed doing by myself. Sometimes I’d watch those events on television and I’d imagine myself there with someone I loved, but I just didn’t want to go by myself. When I was in the Navy Reserve, I drilled with a Navy Unit at Coast Guard Station Detroit, which is right on the Detroit Riverfront. Every year, during the fireworks, all the personnel including the Navy detachment would bring their families down to go out on the river on a Coast Guard barge to watch the fireworks. Every year I’d make up some excuse for why I had been the only member of my unit not there… I learned to hate July drill weekends, because every year, my shipmates would talk all weekend about how much fun they’d had with their families or their dates during the fireworks, asking me why I never came.

The Dime Building

Later when I was running a Detroit district for HRB, my offices were on an upper floor of the historic Dime Building. And as is the tradition among downtown employers with great vantage points for the fireworks, I’d host a viewing party (that I never attended) for any of my 300+ staff who wanted to come down and see the show from the comfort of the district offices. Afterwards, many of my employees would question me about why I hadn’t attended my own party. I have to admit that I’m sure it did seem strange, but I just didn’t want to be there alone, surrounded by folks who seemed to have the only thing I really wanted… Someone they cared enough about to bring. And so it wasn’t until Stephen Christopher Harris came into my life that I began think, “Maybe someday, I’ll get to see the fireworks…”

General Motors Headquarters on the Detroit Riverfront

In June of 2007, Stephen was working for GMAC at GM World Headquarters, which is right on the river, directly in front of the fireworks display. I remember being very excited that this year; I’d be going with him to see the show from his office. I knew that just like at the Dime Building and the other buildings downtown, all the offices at GM would be hosting viewing parties for their staff and families. As it got closer to the date, I was anxiously waiting for Stephen to mention to me that we’d be going. He never did… (I’d long since told him about having missed out on seeing such things when I was younger.) I know he was aware that something was bothering me (beyond the usual mistreatment) as the week of the fireworks show arrived, but he never asked me what it was. I’m sure he knew… Finally, on the morning of the fireworks, while he was eating the breakfast I’d prepared for him, as I did every day, I asked him what he wanted me to prepare for his dinner. It was only then that he told me he wouldn’t be home for dinner that night and he’d get something while he was out. He said he’d be working late… So I asked him about the fireworks party.

In looking at him that morning, waiting for him to reply, I could almost see into his head and see the lies he was about to tell form in his mind. At first, he denied that there was a party, and then after he admitted that there would be, he said he’d be working from another site that day and wouldn’t even be downtown. After a few more questions, he finally admitted that was a lie too, but then said he had replied to the HR email about how many tickets he wanted for friends and family, that he wanted none. We had words about it all the way to the front door, where he finally said, he’d given his tickets to Mike Fisher and another nameless friend and that he wasn’t going and that’s why he hadn’t asked me to go. So with that said, I asked again what he wanted for dinner since he’d be home after all. He said he didn’t care as he kissed me and walked out the door.

As I watched him drive away that morning, in my heart of hearts, I knew he’d lied to me… I knew he wouldn’t be home for dinner… I knew he was going to the party… and I knew he was going without me, but that he wasn’t going alone. Nevertheless, after work, I came home, I cooked, I set the table, and I waited. When he wasn’t home by seven, I called him. It went to voicemail; I sat alone at the dining room table for hours watching the ice in the water goblets melt. At ten, when the fireworks were about to begin, I went to bed. As I lay next to where he’d risen that morning, listening to the distant boom of the fireworks on the river, I cried myself to sleep as I had done for many years as a child… disappointed that yet again; another year’s chance to see something spectacular had come and gone without me. He didn’t come home that night, and that was the beginning of our first breakup.

Last night, I went to bed just as I was able to again make out the muffled distant boom of the fireworks exploding over the river. In my mind’s eye, I imagined what it must have looked like to Stephen and whomever he took that year. I imagined the brilliant blaze of a thousand points of multicolored light right before his eyes, almost close enough to reach out and touch… and the scene below on the street, a crowd numbered in the hundreds of thousands all looking upwards to see that same spectacle. And then, as a silent tear escaped my heavy eyelids as if to say, “Why?” I wondered to myself, “Why is there no truth in Stephen Christopher Harris?” Finally wiping away my pitiful tears, I turned to where he once had been, to the pillow that he no longer rests his head upon and I bid him good night as I had every night from even the first night that we slept together, “Good Night Stephen, I Love You…”


“Fear Eats the Soul”

"A Truth Shared..."

Daily Effects of Straight Privilege

This article is based on Peggy McIntosh’s article on white privilege and was written by a number of straight-identified students at Earlham College who got together to look at some examples of straight privilege. These dynamics are but a few examples of the privilege which straight people have. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer-identified folk have a range of different experiences, but cannot count on most of these conditions in their lives.

On a daily basis as a straight person…

I can be pretty sure that my roomate, hallmates and classmates will be comfortable with my sexual orientation.

If I pick up a magazine, watch TV, or play music, I can be certain my sexual orientation will be represented.

When I talk about my heterosexuality (such as in a joke or talking about my relationships), I will not be accused of pushing my sexual orientation onto others.

I do not have to fear that if my family or friends find out about my sexual orientation there will be economic, emotional, physical or psychological consequences.

I did not grow up with games that attack my sexual orientation (IE fag tag or smear the queer).

I am not accused of being abused, warped or psychologically confused because of my sexual orientation.

I can go home from most meetings, classes, and conversations without feeling excluded, fearful, attacked, isolated, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance, stereotyped or feared because of my sexual orientation.

I am never asked to speak for everyone who is heterosexual.

I can be sure that my classes will require curricular materials that testify to the existence of people with my sexual orientation.

People don't ask why I made my choice of sexual orientation.

People don't ask why I made my choice to be public about my sexual orientation.

I do not have to fear revealing my sexual orientation to friends or family. It's assumed.

My sexual orientation was never associated with a closet.

People of my gender do not try to convince me to change my sexual orientation.

I don't have to defend my heterosexuality.

I can easily find a religious community that will not exclude me for being heterosexual.

I can count on finding a therapist or doctor willing and able to talk about my sexuality.

I am guaranteed to find sex education literature for couples with my sexual orientation.

Because of my sexual orientation, I do not need to worry that people will harass me.

I have no need to qualify my straight identity.

My masculinity/femininity is not challenged because of my sexual orientation.

I am not identified by my sexual orientation.

I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help my sexual orientation will not work against me.

If my day, week, or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it has sexual orientation overtones.

Whether I rent a movie or I go to a theater, I can be sure I will not have trouble finding my sexual orientation represented.

I am guaranteed to find people of my sexual orientation represented in the Earlham curriculum, faculty, and administration.

I can walk in public with my significant other and not have people double-take or stare.

I can choose to not think politically about my sexual orientation.

I do not have to worry about telling my roommate about my sexuality. It is assumed I am a heterosexual.

I can remain oblivious of the language and culture of LGBTQ folk without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.

I can go for months without being called straight.

I'm not grouped because of my sexual orientation.

My individual behavior does not reflect on people who identity as heterosexual.

In everyday conversation, the language my friends and I use generally assumes my sexual orientation. For example, sex inappropriately referring to only heterosexual sex or family meaning heterosexual relationships with kids.

People do not assume I am experienced in sex (or that I even have it!) merely because of my sexual orientation.

I can kiss a person of the opposite gender on the heart or in the cafeteria without being watched and stared at.

Nobody calls me straight with maliciousness.

People can use terms that describe my sexual orientation and mean positive things (IE "straight as an arrow", "standing up straight" or "straightened out") instead of demeaning terms (IE "ewww, that's gay" or being "queer").

I am not asked to think about why I am straight.

I can be open about my sexual orientation without worrying about my job.

"Same Gender Loving People - No. 86"

"It's Just Love..."

Positive images of people like me... The truth of the matter is that we all need to see people like ourselves. So everyday, I'll post a photo, drawing or some other artwork that depicts Same Gender Loving People as what we are... Only Human.

"The Artist's Corner"

William Cash
Oil on Canvas

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

"Same Gender Loving People - No. 85"

"We Bring Each Other the Promise of Happiness..."

Positive images of people like me... The truth of the matter is that we all need to see people like ourselves. So everyday, I'll post a photo, drawing or some other artwork that depicts Same Gender Loving People as what we are... Only Human.

"The Truth Today..."

"We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person..."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"Same Gender Loving People - No. 84"

"Seeing the World Together Through The Eyes of Love..."

Positive images of people like me... The truth of the matter is that we all need to see people like ourselves. So everyday, I'll post a photo, drawing or some other artwork that depicts Same Gender Loving People as what we are... Only Human.

"In The News Today..."

Black Victims of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’

Anthony Woods and Tommie Hawkins

By Herndon Davis
June 20, 2009

Over 60 years ago, President Harry S. Truman took a monumental step towards social progress by integrating the US armed forces and civil service. This action allowed African American soldiers to serve in integrated combat units alongside white soldiers. Today, another military battle rages over the issue of allowing openly gay and lesbian soldiers to serve alongside their straight counterparts. For years, gay and lesbian activists have been calling for the repeal of the military policy “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (DADT), which removes openly gay personnel from the armed forces.

Most of their efforts have largely been viewed as a gay white movement until now. Asian American First Lieutenant Dan Choi, an Arabic-speaking linguist has recently become a vocal critic of the policy. Choi, a West Point graduate and a combat veteran of the Iraq War is currently being discharged from the Army for admitting to being gay. He will soon join the 13,000+ men and women who have been discharged from the military under the policy costing tax payers nearly $400 million dollars in investigation, recruitment, retraining and separation costs.

To date many of the faces, voices and stories of African Americans who have been impacted by the Clinton-era policy have largely remained invisible and silent until now. Two black and openly gay men are speaking up and making a difference in the struggle to end DADT.

Anthony Woods graduated on the Dean’s List from West Point and later received his Master’s from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. In between his education, he served two long deployments in Iraq and was awarded the Bronze Star by the US Army.

But Woods lived with the secret that he was gay and finally determined that he could no longer serve in silence under DADT. He was honorably discharged in 2008. Today at the age 28, he is running for US Congress in California ’s vastly white 10th Congressional District. The seat is expected to become vacant when Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) resigns to accept President Obama’s appointment as Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.

Tommie Watkins was once the admired and twice elected class president at Annapolis Naval Academy but he was abruptly kicked out of the Navy in 1997 when it was discovered that he was gay. Watkins was then ordered to pay back over $86K in tuition and interest to the United States government. But Watkins summoned the fortitude to sue the Navy and won. Today he is a vocal advocate for the repeal of DADT.

“I believe in being honest and I believe in integrity”

Although he did not fully become aware of his sexuality until his college years, Anthony Woods explains that if he had known earlier, he still would have joined the Army. “I wanted to serve my country and I wanted an opportunity to get a quality education and I wanted to serve in the military.” But his childhood dreams would soon come crashing to an end after he struggled for six months before coming to the conclusion that he could no longer serve in silence under DADT.

” I believe in being honest and I believe in integrity in every aspect of my life. And so Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was forcing me and I believe others to lie about who they are.” However the word “lie” is really subjective in the case of DADT which gives a very clear option for gays and lesbians to remain in the armed forces. In fact it is estimated that “Nearly 65,000 men and women in uniform are likely gay or lesbian” and that “An estimated 1 million veterans in the United States are gay men or lesbians” according to the Urban Institute, nonpartisan economic and social policy think tank.

So it would appear on the surface that there is some relative success with the DADT polices of the past 16 years. But according to Woods this couldn’t be further from the truth. “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell affects everyone differently and perhaps those 65,000 people are feeling differently about the policy. Those 13,500, myself included felt very differently about the policy.”

He adds that “In modern America I think there is something fundamentally wrong when the law says some segment of the population has to lie about who they are in order to not get fired.” To date, President Obama has yet to fulfill his campaign promise of repealing DADT much to the shock and ire of gay and lesbian activists. During a recent White House briefing press secretary, Robert Gibbs stated the president was seeking a “durable solution” in repealing DADT inferring that he preferred a legislative act versus issuing a presidential executive order.

However it has been over sixty years since President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order 9981 to integrate the armed forces thus creating an excellent example of a “durable solution” to a similar situation. But Woods still has faith in the president. During a recent interview with CNN’s Campbell Brown he stated “It’s a matter of all of us standing up and letting the president know that we have his back and that the time is now to get rid of the policy.”

But until that time comes Woods will be campaigning in Northern California in a crowded field of possibly ten candidates using all avenues possible to get the word out about his campaign. From his 4,000+ member Facebook presence to fundraisers being held across the country, he is steadily building up a financial war chest from men and women from all walks of life who believe in his principles. Furthermore. Woods insists that he is not a one-issue candidate. “That would be a waste of a lot of effort and a lot of time and squandered opportunity.”

He pledges to join the fight for universal health care with a public option. “I understand what its like to be one of 47 million Americans without health insurance. I want to bring a different voice to that fight” adding he knows what it is like to “Have to rely on luck to stay healthy.”

He also plans to focus on the nation’s economic recovery and on issues of national security, explaining “It’s really hard to lose perspective when you’ve done these things yourself.” And for his critics who point out that he has zero political experience, Woods believes he actually has the most life experience of all of his contenders.

“Voters are pretty frustrated with sending experienced politicians to Washington , DC or to Sacramento and then realizing that they’re not happy with the results. I think this is an opportunity to send a person who’s not going to cave into special interests because I’ve lived the same battle that they’re fighting on a daily basis.”

‘I volunteered to serve my country because I love my country’

“I knew I was different at the age of eight, but did not know what to call it until I was twelve” explains Tommie Watkins Jr. But that did not stop Watkin’s burning desire to join the armed forces. “I joined the military believing that as long as I did not tell they could not ask and I would not be unfairly discriminated because of my sexual orientation.”

Soon that dream would be horribly dashed when Watkins met and dated a fellow midshipman in the US Naval Academy. Most people knew about their relationship and often joked about it, but the teasing would soon prove be too much for his partner, who reported Watkins to their superiors.

“He said I would hang around him and would spend too much time around him” and that “I was trying to make him gay.” But this is where the story begins to get a little tricky. Under the homophobic and sometimes witchhunt climate of DADT, Watkins would soon be railroaded out of the Navy although technically he did not violate DADT policies.

“In my case they didn’t ask and I didn’t tell, but they harassed me and pursued me and threw me out of the Navy and then said, by the way, here’s a crippling debt to add.” Watkins vividly recalls that he was forced to resign because the Navy JAG threatened to prosecute him for sexual harassment based on the claim of wanting to spend too much time with another midshipman. This midshipman Watkins feels was actually struggling to come to terms with his own sexuality and in a desperate attempt to throw off suspicion, reported Watkins as gay instead.

“The government came up with the word harassment” which is a far cry from the initial complaint of Watkin’s accuser. To add insult to injury the accuser, who is white, was allowed to remain in the Naval Academy, while Watkins, who is black, was forced to resign and repay initial tuition costs of $66,000.

The inequity of treatment was the basis of Watkin’s complaint against the Navy. His case was eventually turned over to the Navy Inspector General and after three years the Pentagon ruled in a surprising 3-0 decision that he was a “victim of error and injustice” and waived the recoupment of tuition. Watkins had won and was exonerated of the Navy’s false allegations, but the story didn’t stop there. The Secretary of the Navy refused to comply with the Pentagon’s ruling and continued to pursue repayment of tuition.

Watkins was then forced to file a petition in the federal district court of Maryland in order to “Make the Navy obey itself.” Meanwhile US Senators and Congressman wrote letters of support to President Clinton urging his administration to put a stop the seeming witch hunt.

Finally, in offline negotiations with the US Attorney General’s Office, Watkins agreed to drop his lawsuit and the US government agreed to stop pursuing him for the repayment of tuition which had grown with interest to over $86,000.

“I volunteered to serve my country because I love my country. Our job is to serve and everything else is secondary” Watkins reflects. He also clarifies that if DADT is lifted there will not be a “floodgate” of gays and lesbians rushing to join the military because they are already there. Instead “People will no longer have to lie in order to serve their country.” But probably the most appalling thing about DADT other than forcing servicmembers to lie is the way that it is often inconsistently applied.

“It is 100% arbitrary and capricious” explaining that “If your commanding officers suspect it then it only lies within the realm of your commanding officers. But some commanding officers believe that sexual orientation is not the most important qualifier for their servicemembers within their command.” However, for over 13,000 American servicemembers they have become the unlucky victims of the whimsical and unpredictable bias of their commanding officers.

Watkins has written a book about his experience in the Navy titled Living Out Loud.

Today, he works as an HIV prevention specialist in his hometown of Birmingham , Alabama . He recently earned a Masters of Social Work from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and will soon enroll at the University of Alabama at Birmingham to earn a doctorate in Public Health. His focus will be to conduct research on black men who have sex with men (MSM) and their disproportionate HIV/AIDS infection rate.


Herndon Davis is a media consultant/journalist focusing on issues of diversity among people-of-color, women and LGBT. He can be reached at http://www.herndondavis.com/

Monday, June 22, 2009

"It's Not So Funny..."

"Gay is the New Black"


"Fear Eats the Soul"

"Change Is A Good Thing..."

Census Study of Gay Married Couples Finds Similarities to Husband-and-Wife Couples

By Mike Swift
Posted: 06/17/2009 07:11:14 PM PDT
Updated: 06/18/2009 07:09:23 AM PDT

Bay Area LGBT on Obama extending same sex benefits to fed employees: Good, but not far enough... Marriage — whether you are gay or straight — may be the great common denominator among American households, according to a new government study that offers a first-ever look at the nation's same-sex couples who say they are spouses.

Married men and women average about 50 years old, and about four in 10 have kids living at home. The average couple pulls down a little over $90,000 a year and four in five own their home.

That demographic portrait doesn't just fit the nation's 56 million husband-and-wife couples. It also closely fits the roughly 340,000 households where two men call themselves husbands, or two women consider themselves wives.

In the midst of the nation's widening debate over whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, the U.S. Census Bureau has quietly completed a statistical portrait of U.S. lesbian and gay couples who describe themselves as married. With same-sex marriage likely to be legal in as many as six states by Jan. 1, the study could add another layer to the debate.

Many of those gay and lesbian couples live in states where they cannot legally marry, and may be checking the spouse box on their census form to reflect a domestic partnership, a civil union or partnership where two lives have been merged into one household. About 36,000 of those couples — 11 percent of the nation's total — live in California, the only state where some same-sex couples hold a valid marriage license, but where a constitutional ban also prohibits new marriages.

On Wednesday, thousands of gay and lesbian couples celebrated the anniversary Wednesday of the first same-sex marriages across California, but no one knows even now exactly how many same-sex couples wed before the Proposition 8 ban went into effect.

One reason for that lack of data is that the Census Bureau edits the responses of same-sex couples who say they are living with a "husband" or "wife." The bureau reports their data with couples who check the "unmarried partner" box. Gay rights groups want the federal agency to change that policy for the 2010 Census.

"Certainly, our relationships should be treated the same as everyone else's," said Cary Davidson, president of gay rights group Equality California. "For those of us who are married, we would like to be counted as married."

The most common estimate is that 18,000 same-sex couples married in California last year, although the Census Bureau's top family demographer said that estimate could be too high. The California demographer who produced the number says, however, that the estimate is conservative.

Whatever the number, California's legally married same-sex couples remain statistically invisible, rolled into the state's 105,000 same-sex "unmarried partner" households.

Members of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force have been meeting with the Obama administration over the issue. On Wednesday, the administration extended limited job benefits to gay partners of federal workers, and President Barack Obama said he would work to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

"I think the signs are good from Commerce (Department) that this policy is going to be reversed," said Jamie Grant, director of the Policy Institute at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

One argument they may be able to use for the policy change is that same-sex couples who check "husband" or "wife" on a census form appear to be a very different demographic group than couples who check "unmarried partner," according to the new census study.

Those "married" couples tended to be older and have lower incomes, but were more likely to have children and own their home, than same-sex couples who checked "unmarried partner." In terms of education, homeownership, children and income, the same-sex "married" couples more closely resembled heterosexual husbands and wives.

Martin O'Connell, chief of the Census Bureau's Fertility and Family Statistics Branch, said the agency decided to dig into its unpublished internal files after the California Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in May 2008.

"We saw it was going to be a pretty important issue," O'Connell said.

O'Connell defended editing the census responses of same-sex couples where gay marriage isn't legal.

"What if you fill out the form to say you are my sister?" O'Connell said in a conversation with a male reporter. "Does that make you my sister? No, you're not my sister. "... People have to ask what is the responsibility of the Census Bureau to provide data that people have confidence in."

The bureau says it is also bound by federal law. And changing the definition of marriage would have statistical ramifications throughout the federal government.

Gary Gates, a demographer with the Williams Institute at the UCLA law school and an expert on gay and lesbian demographics, compared the number of California marriages on the same dates in 2007 with the number in 2008 to produce the estimate that there were 18,000 same-sex marriages last year.

But O'Connell checked that methodology against records in Massachusetts, which does count same-sex married couples. He said that methodology could have inflated the number of married couples by a third.

Gates said his estimate is conservative, because the worsening economy potentially would have caused fewer Californians to marry in 2008, strongly suggesting the spike in marriages starting June 17 was due to same-sex couples.

Both demographers agree that with state marriage laws changing so rapidly, better data is needed. "Not all of these can be legally married same-sex couples — there are too many of them," Gates said of the census study. "They are capturing, in essence, a socially constructed term, more than a legally constructed term."

"Same Gender Loving People - No. 83"

"Love is Togetherness..."

Positive images of people like me... The truth of the matter is that we all need to see people like ourselves. So everyday, I'll post a photo, drawing or some other artwork that depicts Same Gender Loving People as what we are... Only Human.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

"The Story of My Father..."

I've spent the day with my father, who although suffering the effects of advanced Alzheimer's disease, as I expected, he thought to ask me of Stephen. When we three would be together, he'd always talk to Stephen about working, and that is what we talked about today.

His most vivid memories are of his storied working career at Ford Motor Co. He remains the highest seniority employee in the company's 100+ year history. After 65 years of service for the company, he served an additional 4 years at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn where he was a guide on the Ford Factory Tour. As we talked about this, and about Stephen Christopher Harris, I remembered writing about it...

Originally posted to Yahoo 360, February 12, 2007

My Father (right), My Brother and Sister-in-law - Darrell and Deborah

Retirement Celebration – Sixty-Five Years of Service

Ford Motor Company World Headquarters
Executive Dining Room
Dearborn, Michigan October 13th 2004

Because my online friend Alex asked, here is the story of my father, William Burnette Flournoy, Sr. In the relatively few months since I came out to my father, although we’re still quite distant, he and I have grown closer than we’ve been since I was a very young boy. He’s even met the love of my life, Stephen and we all went out to dinner and had a very pleasant time; it was an evening that I could never have imagined just a year ago. In addition to my father learning many things about me including that I’m gay, I’ve learned a great deal about him that I never knew before… And since Alex asked, I’ll share it here.

The Ford Motor Company Rouge Complex
For most of the twentieth century, the largest industrial complex in the world…

As I thought about how to tell the story of my father, or at least that part of his story that I know, I realized that I should start with the “great achievement” he talks of the most. My father is very proud that he attained an enviable record of service in his working career. My father retired from Ford Motor Company on the anniversary of his sixty-fifth year of service. He left the company as the all-time record holder for service longevity. He spent more time in active employment with Ford (all 65 years at the sprawling Rouge Complex in Dearborn than any other employee including all the Ford offspring who’ve run the company over the years. Only the company’s founder, Henry Ford spent more time with the company that still bears his name.
Picture Time – The Family
Executive Dining Room, Ford World Headquarters
Front row – Deborah, Holiday, Father, Lisa
Back row – Darrell, William Jr., Christopher

My brothers and sisters and I were invited to attend his retirement celebration at Ford World Headquarters (known to Detroiters as the “Glass House”). It was the first time I’d seen my Father since my mother’s funeral five months earlier. It was quite a surreal experience to walk the halls of one of the world’s largest manufacturing concerns and listen to everyone applaud my father’s achievement. When we arrived at the executive dining room overlooking the corporate campus, my father was surrounded by a line of more than a hundred company executives waiting to shake his hand and offer their congratulations. The look in my father’s eyes said it all… he was both happy and sad. He was celebrating an achievement that is unlikely to ever be surpassed and he was mourning the end of perhaps the most significant phase of his life – his working career.

When my sister and I were finally able to get to my father, he hugged and kissed us both, it was the first time I’d been kissed by my father since I was a young boy. Then to my surprise, my father took my arm and walked me around the room introducing me to his many work colleagues. It was not until then that I realized for the first time in my adult life, that my father was proud of me and the accomplishments of my life that he knew of. As I walked with him and heard incredible stories of his tenacity and relentless pursuit of excellence in his work from his managers and subordinates as well, I knew I was proud of him too.

The Henry Ford II World Center
Global Headquarters of Ford Motor Company
Number One American Road, Dearborn, Michigan

When Ford was celebrating its 100th year in business in the summer of 2003, my father got to share in the limelight. He was featured in corporate advertisements and regularly spent time with then CEO, Bill Ford. I was very surprised when I was called early that spring by a reporter from the Detroit News who had read a piece about my father in a company magazine and wanted to know my memories of my father’s working career up to that time. The reason I was surprised was that I’d had very little contact with my father over the 25+ years up to that time.

You see my father and I really only had a relationship until I was thirteen years old. Then, after my parents divorced, although he maintained a relationship with my other brothers and sisters, I felt I was more or less rejected by him. The last time I spent any time with him as a boy was on my birthday the summer I was sixteen; my father and I went to the movies together… I still remember the film we saw, it was called “The Final Countdown.” When it became available on videocassette, I bought it and I would watch it whenever I felt down about not having my father as a part of my life. Although we lived in the same city, including that movie on my birthday, I saw him on only three occasions between 16 and 40 years old, and the last of those three occasions was my mother’s funeral in May of 2004.

So although I was surprised to be asked about my father by the newspaper reporter, as it turned out, he was asking the right person. I’ve always been the “collector” in my family… I’m the one who over the years had saved the photographs and other mementoes of our family’s life. As it turned out, I had saved many of my father’s things that he left behind when my parents separated. I didn’t know why until several years later, but in 2001, my father called me for the first time as an adult and asked me if I knew where any of the things he’d left behind were. He told me that the reason he wanted them was for a story to be featured in Ford World (the company’s internal employee magazine). He said his long service came to light almost by accident; a human resources manager stumbled across the fact that his anniversary date was more than sixty years ago and not believing it was correct, contacted him to verify it. That led to the magazine story which later led to the newspaper article.

I told my father that I had kept his things all those years and I could give them to him whenever he wanted. We arranged for him to meet with me at my office to get them. But on the appointed day, I was let down when he didn’t show up and when he later call to say he’d send a friend to come instead to pick them up. Since I then knew I probably wouldn’t be seeing my father, I wrote him a letter about what having his things had meant to me and I placed it in the box of carefully preserved items that were picked up from my office late that night by his friend Walt.

This is the letter I included in the gift wrapped box I gave Walt for my father:
February 18, 2001

Dear Dad,

Here are the things that you asked for. I have kept and cherished them for the last 20 years, and I hope that you’ll again let me keep them. They have been a tangible link to you my father.

I am not sure that I’ve ever told you, but I am very proud of your many significant accomplishments. Your longevity with Ford is a wonderful example that I know I’ll never be able to copy. Nevertheless, I am thankful for the wonderful work ethic that you and Mom have taught me by your examples.

I have tried to preserve these things to the best of my ability. I have kept them in a tightly closed cedar trunk. I would suggest keeping them put away in the envelopes that I have them in. The photos should definitely be kept out of the light. Because most of the items are now very fragile, I carefully copied them for you so that you needn’t have to handle them extensively. If someone is going to prepare a biography for you based on these, I’d suggest that you give them the copies and not the originals.

Again, I hope you’ll consider letting me keep these things again… I love them since they have represented you for me over many, many years. Let me know if you need anything else.

Love, your son,


A Slide Rule just like my fathers… before calculators and computers
(What’s a slide rule?)

The box included among other things, my father’s high school yearbook, his slide rule, letters and papers from his career at Ford, and even his 25th Anniversary Watch given to him the year I was born in 1964. There were also pictures from his service in WWII (another part of his story I’ll tell later…), and newspaper clippings as well as a book Ford Motor Company printed and gave to all its employees and dealers in 1953 called “Ford at Fifty” when the company celebrated 50 years in business.

Antique Fords on display at the 100th Anniversary Celebration
Summer 2003 – Ford World Headquarters

I remember feeling very strange two years later as I was answering the newspaper reporter’s questions during the interview. He had dredged up memories and feelings that I had suppressed for many years. As I noted the reporter’s impressed responses to my recollections, I realized that I had never really told anyone of my father’s career accomplishments or my pride in them. It was then that I hoped someday I might have a relationship with him again and be able to talk with him about his work, WWII, and our family. When the story was published in the newspaper, I was very proud of my father although we had not talked since he called two years before asking about his things. Here is the story that ran on the front page of the Sunday edition of The Detroit News and Free Press on Labor Day weekend 2003:

The Detroit News
Dedication, pride mark 83-year-old's love of the job

Ford worker reflects America's work ethic
By Mark Truby / The Detroit News

DEARBORN -- On Oct. 13, 1939, William Flournoy stood at the roiling cradle of the American auto industry, clutching a letter of recommendation from Cass Technical High School.

Thousands of men were lined up to apply for jobs at Ford Motor Co.'s massive River Rouge industrial complex near the end of the Great Depression. Flournoy looked like a longshot -- a 19-year-old black man with aspirations of becoming a master tool and die maker.

Upon reaching the employment office, two burly men grabbed the young man by an arm and whisked him over to a supervisor. Blacks, he was told, work in the production foundry, a hellishly hot and dirty factory where workers stirred molten steel with 20-foot rods.

"So do you want a job or don't you?" the supervisor asked.

Flournoy screwed up his courage and showed up at the foundry the next day determined to work his way to a better job and a better life. He did both. And he has never stopped. For 64 years, Flournoy has worked continuously at the Rouge complex, save for a two-year naval tour during World War II.

Today, at a wizened and slightly stooped 83 years old, he supervises a maintenance and cleanup crew at the Rouge complex. Flournoy achieved many of his dreams; a few slipped away. But in his sheer persistence, he quietly personifies the stubborn work ethic this region celebrates each year on Labor Day.

"When I came here I promised to work," Flournoy said. "So that's what I did. And whatever I did, I did to the very best of my ability. That's it. That's the end of the story."

Flournoy's story is more colorful than he would have others believe. In a career that spanned more than six decades, he not only overcame discrimination, as did many other factory workers of his time, but eventually crashed through the glass ceiling into management. While his co-workers retired one by one, he continued to work -- day after day, year after year.

For perspective, consider that Flournoy started his career while Henry Ford was still overseeing the company he founded in 1903. Today, Henry Ford's great-grandson, Bill Ford Jr., is the company's chairman and CEO.

Under Ford policies, Flournoy could have retired with full pension benefits 34 years ago. His son, William Flournoy Jr., recently reached his 30-year anniversary with Ford and is eligible for retirement.

Until recently, few of Flournoy's co-workers at the Rouge's Dearborn Diversified Manufacturing Plant knew the breadth of his history with Ford. That began to change two years ago, when he was recognized in an employee newsletter. And earlier this year, Bill Ford called him to the stage and led a standing ovation. Flournoy, though, downplays his incredible longevity and newfound celebrity status at work with a cranky tone that says, "Of course I am still working. Why shouldn't I be?"

But as he recounted his odyssey recently, digging through a box filled with letters of commendation from Henry Ford II and his old slide rule, Flournoy's eyes lit up and the excitement returned to his voice.

'Why should I retire?'

"I didn't come here to set a record for working the longest," he said. "I just enjoyed what I did. I have never stopped enjoying what I do, so why should I retire?"

It began in the production foundry. With thick dust and hot blasts of air, it felt like working in a sandstorm. Outside the plant, another kind of storm was brewing. The United Auto Workers' effort to organize the Rouge plant led to bloody wars with Ford enforcers.

Many black workers were used as strikebreakers. Flournoy wasn't interested in taking sides. After being trapped inside the factory during one intense period of the conflict in 1941, he scaled a fence to get home to his family.

During World War II, Flournoy spent two years in Guam as a Navy machinist. Afterward, he returned to the Rouge determined to escape the foundry and become a tool and die maker. He worked during the day and attended machinist school in the evenings. One day, the plant manager called him and delivered the news: He had been promoted to tool and die maker.

Determined not to blow his opportunity, Flournoy studied tool and die making with near religious zeal. He bought every book on the trade he could find, read them aloud into a tape recorder and played the tapes back to himself over and over. He soon was certified to perform seven types of jobs and was named leader of a group of die makers.

"My attitude was to try to improve everything we did," he said. "And once I improved it, I would try to perfect it. That's how I thought I could be the best."

Asking for promotion

For a few months, Flournoy worked 10-hour shifts at the Rouge, jumped in his car and rushed to Piquette Avenue to work another eight-hour shift at General Motors. The extra money allowed him to purchase a house in the upscale Jewish enclave of Russell Park. In the 1960s, Flournoy began writing letters to Henry Ford II, asking for a promotion into management. With each letter, he detailed his accomplishments and qualifications. To his surprise, Ford wrote back and told him he would be promoted. But a problem flared up: The manager of the tool and die plant threatened to quit if a black man was made a white-collar supervisor. Ford compromised by making Flournoy a manager at the Rouge's frame plant, a move that meant saying goodbye to the tool and die factory.

"We all had a great deal of pride when he became a manager," said Flournoy's son Christopher, a district manager at H&R Block. "We would watch him get ready. He put on a freshly pressed white shirt. He wanted to look the part. Heaven forbid there was any stray wrinkles."

A few years later, Flournoy was promoted again at the frame plant, now called Dearborn Diversified Manufacturing Plant. During the 1980s, he was in line to become a plant superintendent, but severe cutbacks at Ford killed his chances for advancement. His final assignment, as supervisor of a cleanup crew, held none of the allure of the tool and die trade, but Flournoy poured himself into the job.

"Even as a cleanup person I tried to be the best I could be," Flournoy said. "I could have retired, sure, but I still liked what I was doing. Some of the jobs you do are almost impossible, but the impossible just takes a little bit more time."

Each day, clipboard in hand, he walks the factory, directing his crew with the same serious-minded focus he has brought into the Rouge for nearly 64 years. "He's a relic around here, but he's still pretty nimble," said Salvatore Fenech, a 39-year Ford veteran who has known Flournoy for years.

For Flournoy, the end may be finally in sight. Though he's divorced from his second wife, he says he would like to spend more time with his five children and grandchildren. So this year, he says, may be his last. His family will have to see it to believe it.

"He had to fight so hard for his job, and that just made him love it even more," Christopher Flournoy said. "He has always said, 'I want to leave work for the last time being carried out.' If that's what he wants, he should have it."

As you now know, my father retired from Ford Motor Company, sort of… He stayed home for about a month and then he went back to work as a tour guide on the Ford Factory Tour, operated by Henry Ford Museum. Today at 87 years old, he leads groups through Ford’s F-150 assembly plant at the Rouge Complex every week on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. He likes to joke as he points to a plaque commemorating his sixty-five years of service at “The Rouge,” -- “The tour starts with me… that plaque is about me!"

"Same Gender Loving People - No. 82"

"Some of Us Are Fathers, All of Us Are Sons..."

Positive images of people like me... The truth of the matter is that we all need to see people like ourselves. So everyday, I'll post a photo, drawing or some other artwork that depicts Same Gender Loving People as what we are... Only Human.

"Remembering Love's Journey..."

"My Dad's Birthday - 1972"

It's "Father's Day" and it was on this "special day" two years ago that Stephen Christopher Harris revealed to me the true depth of the cruelty that lives in his wounded heart... I would not have stayed if he hadn't asked me to.

Today, I will visit my father, and he will in a moment of lucid thought, again ask me about Stephen. Stephen knows my father, I introduced him to my dad in January 2007, as "the man I love." We spent time together, the three of us. We shared some meals, we talked about the meaning of life and love, Dad shared the wisdom of his years with us. Stephen said when we were married, my father would live with us... I often wonder if Stephen remembers those days, those promises, those dreams.

I don't know Stephen's father, I barely know his name. Yet, I pray for him everyday, because I love his son.

"This poem is for our fathers; and for me to commemorate the day in 2007 when I should have gone, but stayed because Stephen said so..."

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
by Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


A reminder for Stephen Christopher Harris...

"Fear Eats the Soul"

Saturday, June 20, 2009

"Supporters of Same Gender Loving People"

Federal Gay Marriage Challenge Has Hollywood Style
By Peter Henderson Peter Henderson
Thu Jun 18, 1:16 pm ET

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – The story of two famous U.S. lawyers from opposite ends of the political spectrum banding together to launch a bold and unexpected fight for gay marriage sounds like it could have been written in Hollywood.

In many ways, it is.

A handful of political filmmakers led by a Democratic consultant have crafted a gay rights challenge they hope will reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case which has its first hearing in a federal San Francisco court on July 2 could quickly make gay marriage a national right, or, some veteran gay rights advocates fear, cripple the movement.

The team has political experience, winning referenda in California in particular, and has brought together real-world firepower in the form of Ted Olson and David Boies, the lawyers who faced off in the 2000 election vote recount that led to George W. Bush's presidency.

What sets them apart is the willingness to take on a court case that advocates steeped in the cause have avoided.

"Patience is a virtue I've quite frankly never possessed -- if patience is a virtue," said Chad Griffin, 35, who began his career in the political big leagues more than a decade ago as the youngest person to work on a president's West Wing staff.

"History is on our side, law is on our side," added Griffin, who is gay.

Rob Reiner, the "When Harry Met Sally" director and advocate for children's health, and Bruce Cohen, the producer of "Milk," a film about the first openly gay elected politician in California, are two of the six-member board of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, founded for the court challenge.


Despite losses in California courts and at the ballot box, gay rights advocates have made major strides in recent months with marriage and domestic partner rights in a number of states, especially in the Northeast.

President Barack Obama's Justice Department this week argued in a federal case against recognizing same-sex marriage, but Obama on Wednesday extended some federal rights to gay partners of federal workers in what he called a first step to end discrimination against gays and lesbians.

The federal judiciary is widely seen as conservative, and gay rights movement leaders have argued that a gradual approach to change public opinion and win in states would be crucial preparation for a challenge in the Supreme Court, which gauges public opinion in such morality-linked cases.

But with a swing vote in the nine-member Supreme Court, Justice Anthony Kennedy, already ruling in favor of gays in two important cases -- and no signs of court conservatives retiring soon -- the Los Angeles-based filmmaker group decided to act.

"You get into the habit, which I think is a good one, of going for it," said Cohen. "From the political world we bring the knowledge that there is no such thing as a sure thing. From the Hollywood world, everything is a one in a million chance."

Gays and their allies were astounded when California, considered trendsetter for social change, ended a summer of legal same-sex marriage last November by passing Proposition 8, a state constitutional amendment that limited marriage to man-and-woman couples. The state's top court, which opened the way to gay marriage last year backed the ban in late May.

Griffin, expecting the state court's rebuff, had been talking to friends who led him to one of the most conservative lawyers in the land -- Olson, who won Bush his presidency. But Olson passionately believed gays should be able to marry and believed the lawsuit, arguing Prop 8 was unconstitutional on equal rights and due process bases, could win.

"Half way through that conversation I realized that I was perhaps sitting across from someone who, if we decided to proceed, could become one of the most eloquent, important spokespeople in this movement for equality," Griffin said.

Olson suggested to Griffin that he work with David Boies, who represented former Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore in the landmark Supreme Court case that led to Bush's presidency.

Jarrett Barrios, incoming president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, said the pair could help his cause. "It's transcending politics and where we can transcend the politics of blue and red we will achieve full equality," he said.

But long-time national gay marriage advocates are wary of the lawsuit.

"The lawsuit has been filed. We all have an interest in it going as well as possible," said Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry. "The best way is to win more states and to continue moving more hearts and minds," he said.

A loss could mean years before the Supreme Court revisited same-sex marriage, even if societal attitudes change. Moreover, an opinion backing marriage for only heterosexual couples could cause a backlash against gays in other legal fights.

It could take a couple of years for the case to wind its way up to the Supreme Court, which also could refuse to hear it. In the mean time, the public debate led by the super-lawyers may help the gay marriage cause.

(Reporting by Peter Henderson; Editing by Jackie Frank)

"Same Gender Loving People - No. 81"

"Seeking Knowledge, We Found Love..."

Positive images of people like me... The truth of the matter is that we all need to see people like ourselves. So everyday, I'll post a photo, drawing or some other artwork that depicts Same Gender Loving People as what we are... Only Human.

"In The News Today..."

Thursday, Jun. 18, 2009
On Agenda, Gays Ask, but Obama's Not Telling

By Michael Scherer / WASHINGTON

On Jan. 9, the President-elect's spokesman, Robert Gibbs, gave a rare one-word answer. Asked if Barack Obama would "get rid" of the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy, which prohibits gays from serving openly, Gibbs replied firmly, "Yes."

Ever since, the relationship between the President and his gay and lesbian supporters has gotten more complicated. Soldiers continue to be discharged from the military for being openly gay, and activists have voiced increasing concern over the Administration's lack of action on other key issues. "The particular and generalized concern is, What's the plan?" says Robert Raben, a Democratic lobbyist for several gay and lesbian groups.
(See pictures of the history of the gay-rights movement.)

Last week, concern burst into outrage. When the Justice Department filed a legal brief arguing against gay marriage, the head of Human Rights Campaign — the largest gay-rights group in the U.S. — accused the Administration of failing to recognize the "humanity" of homosexuals. Barney Frank called the White House to protest, and several other gay Democrats announced plans to boycott an upcoming fundraiser, forcing the treasurer of the Democratic National Committee, Andrew Tobias, who is also gay, to write donors saying that he understood "all the hurt and anger."

Gays have no real political alternative — it's not like anger will send them running to the warm embrace of the GOP. But the Administration realizes it has angered a crucial constituency and is intent on signaling that it will make good. On June 17, Obama held a signing ceremony in the Oval Office to announce new policies that made a number of minor changes to the benefits offered to the same-sex partners of federal employees and foreign-service officers, including sick leave and long-term-care insurance rights. But the core of the President's message was that work on gay and lesbian equality is just beginning. "We've got more work to do to ensure that government treats all its citizens equally; to fight injustice and intolerance in all its forms; and to bring about that more perfect union," the President announced with a group of gay-rights activists standing at his side. "I'm committed to these efforts."
(Watch a video about gay marriage in the heartland.)

The President's one-day message may briefly calm the storm, but after the Administration's inattentive first six months in office, the gay and lesbian community has made it clear they're unwilling to take a passive role as other legislative items trump their concerns. "In the first several months of the Administration, there has been a belief that we are not really in the mix," says Steven Elmendorf, a gay Democratic lobbyist. "Obama himself needs to sort of lay out at some point, 'Yes, I want to do these things ... I am going to use some political capital to try to do it."

To date, Obama has mostly avoided confrontations with Congress on major agenda items, including repeals of "Don't ask, don't tell" and the Defense of Marriage Act, which restricts federal recognition to heterosexual marriages. The Administration did push a hate-crime bill (a gay-rights priority), which has already passed the House, and it is working on a rule-making process that is likely to lead to a lifting of immigration and visitation restrictions for HIV-positive foreigners, another priority for the gay and lesbian community. In his office on June 17, Obama announced his support of a Senate bill that would give domestic-partner rights for health insurance and other benefits to all federal employees. He also promised again to "work with Congress" to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act.

But Obama remains noncommittal about when exactly the Administration will make these issues a priority. Even more infuriating to gays is that the White House has thus far refused to publicly criticize the Justice Department's filing last week that defended the Defense of Marriage Act and compared the prohibition of same-sex marriage to the prohibition of incest. While the Justice Department is obligated by tradition to defend current law in court, several gay-rights activists said they found the arguments in the brief insulting. "As an American, a civil-rights advocate and a human being, I hold this Administration to a higher standard than this brief," wrote Joe Solmonese, head of Human Rights Campaign, in a letter to Obama on June 15.

Justice Department briefs are due on June 29 for another legal challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act — this one filed by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders — and several legal groups will be watching to see if Justice rehashes the offensive arguments in its previous brief. Whatever happens, the gay and lesbian community has no intent to let off the pressure on Obama. "It's like any other intimate relationship," says Rabin, the lobbyist who works with Human Rights Campaign and other gay-rights groups. "It's close and warm and complicated, and you have really good days and really bad days."

Friday, June 19, 2009

"A Devotional for Same Gender Loving People"

Week Twenty-Three, Day Two

In Luke, Jesus processes into Jerusalem, weeps over the city, and then goes almost immediately to the temple. Perhaps because he is a gentile, or perhaps because he is writing after the destruction of the temple, Luke tells a much shorter version of that episode than Matthew and Mark. For Luke the cleansing of the temple is not so much the event that set up Jesus’ arrest as it is a prelude to the last set of teachings that Jesus offered.

In Luke Jesus cleansed the temple and then spent the rest of his life there “teaching the people and telling the good news.” (20:1) Jesus claimed the temple, and, of course, his claim is challenged immediately by the religious establishment who don’t challenge what he is teaching, but question his credentials. “Tell us by what authority you are doing these things? Who gave you this authority?” (20:2)

In 1968, eight months before the Stonewall Riots launched the “gay rights movement,” a former Pentecostal preacher named Troy Perry held a worship service in Los Angeles for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. That service gave birth to a denomination that was the first to welcome openly gay people back into the family of God.

Rev. Perry gave birth to a historic movement that changed, and is changing, the church of Jesus Christ. Four years later the United Church of Christ ordained the first openly gay man. This painfully slow, but inexorable, movement toward inclusion was possible because the spark was a Pentecostal minister, not a priest or pastor whose authority came from the religious establishment.

Troy Perry’s authority came from the Holy Spirit. It never crossed his mind that he needed someone’s permission to do what he did. Had he been a product of most mainline churches it never would have happened. Radical good news most often seems to come despite religious authority, not through it.

As a part of the religious establishment, that is something I need to remember. Perhaps what you need to remember is that you actually don’t need anyone’s permission to be a bearer of good news. The Holy Spirit in you is all that you need to speak courageously of the radically inclusive love of God. When the Bishop laid his hands on my head to ordain me in the Methodist Church he said, “Take thou authority … ” What he didn’t know was that I already had … and so should you.


Michael Piazza

President, Hope for Peace & Justice

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