Monday, December 28, 2009

Senate OK's Gay Female as United States Marshal


Mark it down as one small step for women, one great step for America, and yet another proud leap for gay and lesbian rights under the Obama Administration.

Minneapolis assistant police Chief Sharon Lubinski has become the first openly gay U.S. marshal.

The U.S. Senate confirmed the Green Bay, Wis. native to be the U.S. marshal for the Minnesota district. Last week's confirmation also makes her the first female marshal in the state.

Lubinski has served a number of roles with the Minneapolis Police. She was also a sheriff's deputy in Wisconsin.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar recommended Lubinski to President Barack Obama, who formally nominated her to the marshal post in October.

The Democratic senator said Monday that Lubinski's breadth of experience makes her a highly qualified candidate.U.S. marshals oversee federal courthouse security, witness protection and the apprehension of federal fugitives.

Friday, December 25, 2009

SFGN: South Florida Gay News Will Debut in January


Marketwire Issued the Following Press Release for me this week. So I may be blogging less and newswriting a little more real soon.
Norm Kent Announces Debut of New GLBT Weekly, ‘South Florida Gay News.com’

Gay News, Straight Facts

Fort Lauderdale attorney Norm Kent announced today the inauguration of a new GLBT newsweekly, published under the banner of “South Florida Gay News.com”

Nicknamed ‘SFGN,’ Kent said he purposely chose a hard copy newspaper name with a “dot com” in the masthead “in order to accommodate and acknowledge; promote and link the diverse media platforms a 21st century newspaper has to deliver. Our website will be up and running before the paper is actually published and distributed.”

A South Florida attorney for 30 years, in 1999 Kent founded and published the very first credible GLBT weekly newspaper in Broward County, The Express Gay News. Mr. Kent sold The Express to Unite Media in December of 2003, which then published the paper under the banner of first The Express and then the South Florida Blade, until last month, when the corporation filed for bankruptcy protection in federal district court in Atlanta. Kent explained the name of his former paper, The Express, is tied up in the bankruptcy courts, and may be unavailable for months, as trustees sort out creditor issues.

Kent indicated that SFGN will be published and distributed on Mondays, tabloid size, commencing in January of 2010, and over 12,000 copies will be distributed to 300 plus locations in Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties. The paper will be published on high quality, heavy weight stock by Miami Offset. “We are going to deliver a handsome, local, hometown product, and our service providers will benefit our neighborhood businesses,” Kent stated, faulting the publishers of Unite Media for “losing touch with the community I intended the paper to serve.”

Kent stated that he had signed a long term lease for the primary newspaper office in the heart of Wilton Manors, at 2520 North Dixie Highway, adjacent to the CVS pharmacy at Five Points. The Manors is one of the fastest growing gay communities in the United States. Kent also indicated that “later in the year” there would be a satellite office in Dade County as well. “We have contracted for digital phones, modern computers, upgraded printers, and independent distributors. It’s a project, but we are getting there.”

Kent said the first issue of The Express was published January 24, 2000, and that he expects the first issue of SFGN is expected to be on the streets January 25, 2010, if not sooner. “It’s a kharma thing.”

Kent indicated that he will bring back some of his best feature columnists, who formerly wrote with the Express, along with the popular cartoonists and writers. Correspondents, such as Jesse Monteagudo, formerly with The Weekly News, are already working on features for the debut issue. The paper will include local writers such as Pier Guidugli, established columnists such as Jennifer Vanasco, and nationally known authors such as Wayne Besen. “We are a work still in progress. There are openings for creative talent.”

The web design for www.southfloridagaynews.com will be handled by Tom Forcella and the newspaper graphics by George Dauphin. News on the website will be updated daily with videos and interactive commentary.

Kent promised that “The bottom line is that we are going to publish a fiercely independent publication, a credible and legitimate weekly newspaper, which will feature topical news, cutting-edge issues, outspoken columnists, and articles capturing the breadth and diversity of gay life.” Kent added that “as The Express once was a hard-hitting meaningful paper people sought to read, so too will the SFGN soon be.”

Although an editor has not been hired yet, Kent said he is conducting exhaustive interviews after receiving over 150 replies from a Craigslist advertisement he posted last Friday. “Interested writers and salespersons, full time or part time, should send their resumes and credentials to my email, Publishernormkent@gmail.com for now. I do not have six figure salaries to pay out, but like The Express was once before, this is an opportunity for young people to come forward and create career opportunities for themselves.”

Kent noted that former staffers at his old paper have reached significant stature: “Ian Drew is an editor at US Weekly, Andy Zeffer has published a book, Kevin Hopper went on to become a publisher, and Jeff Palmer and Drew Middleton have started their own design and IT companies. Mike James, though he sadly passed away just a few weeks ago, became a film producer. Mary Damiano is an established critic. In fact, one of our very first issues at SFGN will feature the achievements of those past contributors.”

A constitutional rights and criminal defense attorney in Broward County, Kent has been a legal advocate of gay rights in South Florida for three decades. Recently, his law firm, Kent & Cormican, P.A., won a $45,000 judgment against the State of Florida for domestic partners who were falsely arrested in a state park. In 2007, he won an acquittal for numerous gay men who were unlawfully entrapped by law enforcement agencies by illegal undercover activities. In 1991, when 200 gay men were improperly detained by the Broward Sheriff’s Office in a bar raid at the Copa, he successfully brought a class action on behalf of those patrons, securing a consent judgment which led to BSO donating money to an AIDS agency.

The law offices of Norm Kent and Russell Cormican (Kent & Cormican, P.A.) are located in the 110 Tower in Fort Lauderdale, directly opposite the courthouse at 110 S.E. 6th Street, Suite 1970. Their telephone number is 954 763 1900, and they provide legal services in the field of criminal defense and constitutional rights.

Kent stated that “The Express was the culmination of my life as a gay rights advocate. I let it go in order to preserve it for posterity, and the big-shot corporation with its fancy budgets blew it and went broke. I learned a life lesson again- that if you love something, keep it close to your heart, invest in it with sweat and tears, and don’t let it go.”

Acknowledging the downturn of the economy and the decreasing market for newspapers, Kent added that the newspaper, which will be free, needs the support of the GLBT business community. “The gay community is more than bars and bathhouses. We are businesspersons and professionals. If I deliver a quality product, the community will make it work.”

Kent is also well known for his long time experience as the highly rated morning drive talk show host for WFTL-850 AM. He later hosted a weekly radio show titled 'Weekend Legal' on WWNN-1470 AM. Today, he publishes his comments about South Florida justice on The Broward Law Blog at www.browardlawblog.com and writes weekly commentaries for the popular online liberal newsletter, Counterpunch, at www.counterpunch.org

Headquartered in Wilton Manors, at 2520 North Dixie Highway, the phone number for SFGN is 954-530-4970.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Houston Elects Gay Comptroller to City Mayor


Annise Parker's comfortable rise to mayor is drawing attention from national news outlets who are noting the significance of the nation's fourth largest city making history by electing an openly gay leader.

The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor and MSNBC, for instance, emphasized that Parker won the race in a state that outlawed gay marriage and in a city that defeated a referendum granting benefits to same-sex partners of city workers.

With Parker winning nearly 53 percent of the vote late Saturday, Houston became the largest city to elect an openly gay mayor. Others include Cambridge, Mass., Portland, Ore., and Providence R.I.

From The Christian Science Monitor: “The distinction neatly sums up the American mood. As gays and lesbians become broadly accepted in society and politics, that acceptance is marked by a firm boundary beyond which voters do not yet appear willing to cross: same-sex marriage.”

Parker's sexual orientation became an issue in the final stretch of the race, after anti-gay activists and conservative religious groups endorsed Parker's opponent, 61-year-old Gene Locke, and sent out mailers condemning Parker's sexual orientation.

The New York Times, which started following how Parker's sexuality was playing out politically in October, described her win a “milestone for gay men and lesbians around the country.”
In a post-election piece, the Times presented Parker as a charming victor who throughout the campaign tried unsuccessfully to stay away from discussing her sexuality, instead focusing on her accomplishments.

Bloomberg.com pointed out that Parker highlighted her sexual orientation in her victory speech and opened the door to her personal life, quoting Parker: “This election has changed the world for the lesbian, gay and transgendered community, just as it is about transforming the lives of all Houstonians for the better,” Parker told supporters last night before introducing “the person who has shared my life for more than 19 years.”

Earlier this year, the second most populous county in Florida, Broward, where Fort Lauderdale is based, selected as its Mayor, Kenneth Keechl.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Rock Hudson's Lover Dies: A Quarter Century Later

The Rock:



Rock Hudson has been dead for years but the man who made his death more famous was alive until yesterday. Hudson, for our younger readers, was a classic Hollywood film star. Male, stunning, well-built. Always playing the role of happily married straight man, on film and in real life. But those who knew him knew better. Rock Hudson was gay. And he died of AIDS in the height of the epidemic, 1985.

Marc Christian MacGinnis was Rock Hudson’s secret lover. McGinnis made legal history by suing Hudson’s estate in 1991, winning a multimillion-dollar settlement, after convincing a jury Hudson had knowingly exposed him to AIDS. He too, has now died, at the age of 56. Christian, who went by his mother's maiden name, made headlines in 1985 when he sued Hudson's estate for $10 million, alleging that he had suffered severe emotional distress after learning about his condition the way the rest of the world did- on a news broadcast that the former matinee idol and television star had AIDS, which was claiming lives throughout the gay community.

Hudson was diagnosed in 1984 but did not publicly acknowledge his illness until July 1985; he died three months later at age 59. Christian tested negative for acquired immune deficiency syndrome several times after learning of Hudson's diagnosis but legally he contended that the star put him at risk of contracting the disease by concealing his illness and continuing to have sexual relations with him.

In 1989, a Los Angeles County Superior Court jury said Hudson had displayed "outrageous conduct" and awarded Christian $21.75 million in damages, later reduced to $5.5 million. The $5.5-million award was upheld by a state Court of Appeal, which called it just compensation for the "ultimate in personal horror, the fear of slow, agonizing death." A private settlement was then reached. That is the way America thought of HIV a quarter century ago.

McGinnis never came across as a hero or whistle blower. Instead, twenty-seven years younger than Hudson, he was portrayed by many as a gold digger. It was a time though, when few had a full grasp of understanding of the need for sexual responsibility. There were no laws on the books making failing to disclose your HIV status a crime. That would come later. But this case opened the door to groundbreaking laws and higher standards.

Several years after the sensational case ended, Christian told People magazine that his purpose was "not to sleaze Rock;" that he even wanted to privately settle. Christian argued that his suit "was to say that if you have AIDS, you ought to tell your partner, whether you're a movie star or a postman." Duh! The significant thing, years later, a few days after World AIDS Day, is that we are still fighting the disease. And no one should be 'sleazed' by getting sick.
Larry King interview in 2001 with McGinnis
http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0103/29/lkl.00.html

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Meredith Ties Her Family to Another Woman


"Family Ties" actress Meredith Baxter made the media rounds Wednesday confirming the rumors that she is a lesbian. For me, the real news story will arrive the day that the 'coming out' of a TV star is inconsequential and barely newsworthy.

Baxter, who had been married three times to different men, went on the Today show and explained to Matt Lauer homosexuality 'was a later in life recognition.'

The National Enquirer recently ran a story about Baxter being spotted on a lesbian cruise through the Caribbean with a "female friend," which was then picked up by celebrity blogs. As a result, the 62-year-old decided to tell her fans herself.

"I didn't want some tabloid to take the story and make it up," Baxter said in the interview. "I wanted it to be in my own words." Good for her. Almost. She complained that "to come out and disclose stuff is very antithetical" to who she is. Well, sometimes, for the greater good, you stand naked before the cannon. Or in her case, semi naked in a bathing suit on a cruise ship in the Caribbean with her partner.

"We live a very open life at home," Baxter said of her life with Nancy Locke. "Anyone who's a friend of mine, anyone who knows and cares about me knows. It's no secret that I'm gay, but it has been to the greater world." Now we know, and the Earth will still turn on its axis, and Ms. Baxter will find the rotation more stable, her life more honest, the secrecy less necessary.

Her 25-year-old son Peter summed it up best for everyone.
He told the National Enquirer that he "just couldn't stop smiling, because she finally figured it out." Meaning, of course, how nice it is that Mom caught on, sailing on a ship called Honesty. It was probably the best cruise she ever had.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Did Transgender Torture Lead to Sportswriter's Suicide?


Not Just Dorothy Anymore:
Transgendered Persons Deserve Equal Rights Too
By Norm Kent

The suicide this past weekend of LA Times sportswriter Mike Kenner, who for the last few years wrote under the byline of Christine Daniels, leaves me today with a desire to rant and rave over an insane anomaly in American human rights protections.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects all individuals against employment discrimination on the basis of sex as well as age, race, color, national origin, and religion. Many states go further and offer protection against discrimination because of physical or emotional disabilities, marital status, and even pregnancy discrimination.

More and more communities we know have added sexual orientation to the fold, but it seems the new Scarlett letter tearing apart American communities is a debate over whether to protect “gender identity” under civil rights statutes.

Why would anyone fight this? Discrimination is morally wrong and ought to be demonstratively illegal in any form. The very purpose of passing laws against discrimination is to prevent wrongful acts which deny equal opportunities to individuals similarly situated. If we are all presumptively equal under the law, it is correspondingly presumptively illegal if we are treated differently for no rhyme or reason.

Last year, for example, in the city of Largo, a small West Coast community in Florida, its City Manager, Steve Stanton, announced he was going for a sex change operation. The City Commission promptly held a standing room only meeting and fired him. Why? For 15 years, when he did his job as Steven he was fine. But when he chose to come into work as Susan his job was gone; her career in shambles.

What sense does this make? The role Mr. Stanton filled was managing numbers for a city budget. That task requires accounting skills, not a jockstrap or bra. His brain was not operated upon, but the community’s conscience was shocked, and it sent a ripple of disbelief through our national psyche.

Last month, President Obama selected Jenny Durkan, a Lesbian, to be the U.S. Attorney for Seattle, Washington. She was appointed because of the talents she brought to the table as a prosecutor, not her skill set in bed with her partner. What business is it of ours whether the City Manager of Largo performs the duties of the job as Steven or Susan as long as the tasks are filled with impeccable integrity?

If you were a sports fan in Los Angeles, you would have known Mike Penner as a first-rate journalist who had covered a variety of assignments including the Olympics, the Angels, tennis, and the sports media. But he made stunning news in 2007 when he announced he was a transsexual and would be writing his new columns under the name of Christine Daniels. And this affects us how?

If it is wrong to discriminate against an individual, that discrimination is inappropriate whether the person you are interacting with is male or female, straight or gay, black or white. Or Transsexual, metrosexual, bisexual, homosexual, or asexual. As long as they are not telling you to drop your pants, get over it.

Even the gay and lesbian community has moved too slowly in accepting the rights of transgendered persons. Within the gay rights movement, there was for too long silent resistance that we were pushing the envelope too far. Timid activists suggested we were ‘rocking the boat.’ Hell, why not? It needed new pilots.

Thus, as activists so too did we ultimately push the envelope on gay marriage, domestic partnerships, civil unions, equal rights in employment, and spousal benefits. If you are an activist anywhere, you have to learn to push the envelope somewhere. If you do not, someone will lick the seal and glue you in it. A civil right, like a sealed envelope, sometimes only comes about when you rip and tear that envelope. And it is not always a pretty and smooth cut.

Ultimately, then, transgender protections should not even be seen as a gay rights issue. We are simply supporting fundamental human rights protections. And while it is encouraging that such ordinances are being adopted in various communities, from Salt Lake City to Kalamazoo, we should no more have votes on inalienable human rights than we should have had majority opinions to determine whether southern states in the 1960’s should have had separate water fountains which read ‘Whites Only.’ It was simply a wrong which Time and decades needed to right. So too is it with those transsexuals who must endure wrongful ostracism today.

Legislators, not voters, need to codify equal rights protections, and they do not need popular approval to do so. What is popular is not always right, and what is right is not always popular. The same way a legislator would vote to strike down a law stating only Caucasians can sit on the front of a bus so too must they strike down a policy that allows a government agency to fire an employee because they do not approve of a transsexual. That person’s status is beyond the scope of their approval.

I do not know what killed Mike Penner this past weekend. If we learn it was a tortured conscience because of confusion over his identity, then our society lost a life uselessly.

I do know when he ‘came out’ three years ago, as a married man with a wife and child, he called writing the story about his sexuality the “most frightening of all the towering mountains of fear” he ever had to conquer. He wrote: “I am a transsexual sportswriter…and it has taken more than 40 years, a million tears and hundreds of hours of soul-wrenching therapy for me to work up the courage to type those words."

If we can begin normalizing our laws today so as to promote social acceptance tomorrow, we can make a difference for those so impacted. We may even be saving a life.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Friend Dies of AIDS



by Norm Kent

The President's AIDS Day address is online, and in city after city, communities will gather this Tuesday to pay tribute.

Having a President that cares matters, because AIDS is still with us and is very real.

More often than not, like last week in Fort Lauderdale, when the Office of National AIDS Policy solicited public opinion, we hear stories of survival. More and more people are living longer and longer with HIV. It is so encouraging. Too encouraging.

As a result of better treatments, higher standards of care, and more attention to the disease, we have become too complacent. Apathy has set in. People are still dying. Too many of us are looking at living with the disease comfortably instead of ending the pandemic urgently.

On this day, where we celebrate the lives of so many who died too young, one particular person jumps out at me. His name is Jerry Michael James, and he died of HIV last Friday, at the age of 38. He was a friend too be sure, and his loss hurts very much. As I go about the process of starting a new South Florida gay newspaper, he was the first one I considered as an editor and writer. However, I knew he was in hospice, working on a horror film, a project he loved.

Mike was a 50's character, like Jack Kerouac, one of those geniuses who lived on the edge, and often ran it to excess He was a filmmaker, an artist, a writer, an editor, a colleague. We spent too little time together these past few years. We went in different directions, but the bond remains, and I will remember his recklessness and his passion; his willingness to buck the tide and assert his independence; to be the master of his fate, the captain of his soul. I salute him as a champion.

But then, I ran an AIDS clinic for two years. I met many champions. I saw many young men living with HIV. They refused to let it hinder their goals or drive. But I also saw single moms, and teenage children born into HIV who have known no other life. I saw doctors working daily on infections, colds, swellings, diarheea cutting through people's bodies like knives. Behind the shadow of the clinics who hold car washes and art sales to raise money, there is a silent pain you cannot imagine. The fear of an unknown that tomorrow might bring.

There are clients who need acupuncture and transportation. Case managers who need to find housing. Patients who need medicine. Recovering soldiers who need employment and hope. Warriors who need counselng. Scientists and scholars who need funding for new protocols. Pharmacists frustrated their medications were so expensive they could not reach all in need. There is a hidden world of HIV the public never sees.

I remember Mike James more for his infectious smile than his infection. But that is for those of us who knew him. Most of all, to remember him properly, and all those living still with HIV, as well as those lost too soon, we must remember our battle is not won, the fight goes on, the disease must still be conquered. It is the only way to honor so many so long gone who gave so much and were denied by Fate, destiny and T cells the opportunity to give so much more...

For those of us who remember stories of Patient Zero, the day AIDS was called GRID, we have all had a Michael James in our life.

Remember those friends, past and present, this Tuesday nite.

Friday, November 27, 2009

'Coming Out' on the Ice: A Jock's Thanksgiving Story


John Buccigross of ESPN.com has written a compelling piece on a young man named Brendan Burke, coming out to his dad Brian Burke, a National Hockey League GM with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

It’s a story of a kid dealing with the jock mentality; that often narrow and homophobic mindset. In truth, his coming out to his family is no more difficult than most experiences similarly dealt with by gay men and women everywhere. But this story is really done too well for me to ruin it with a long blog. So here it is for your reading enjoyment- I command you to go to it at once:

http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/columns/story?columnist=buccigross_john&id=4685761

I guess the most important part of the piece is when he Brendan tells his Dad, and the ho hum response is "Of course, we still love you. This won't change a thing."

We know, though, do we not, that there are still homes where similar pronouncements are unfortunately met with emotional and material ramifications that destroy families. That's the reality of life.

Here is one gay blogger’s analysis, pointedly talking about various issues we all face in our lives, regardless of sexuality:
A very good piece...

The bottom line is that at any time, any where, we are all, if you will, naked before a cannon. There are moments in our lives where we are called upon to stand our ground, and make moral decisions which influence what and who we become. For Brendan Burke, it was homosexuality. For an addict, it might be drugs. For an abused child, it may have been a violent parent.

Once you confront the ‘bully’ within yourself, the one secretly and quietly beating you up daily, you will find a new found freedom. You will relieve the torture your existence has cornered you into. After 60 years on this Earth, that is my experience. Free yourself from the psychological repression you impose upon yourself, and your spirit will soar, your life will grow, and you will achieve the very things you long and yearn for.

Kudos to John Buccigross of ESPN for framing a ‘coming out’ column as astutely as he has done so for the Burke family. We have all been so tested.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Fly, Fly Away with Gay Aviation Scholarships



Ever wanted to be part of that mile high club?

Here is just a short feel good piece for Thanksgiving.

As a news blogger, I try to celebrate the gay community for its charitable endeavors and professional achievements, recognizing how much we achieve with our clothes on.

In founding the Express, a gay newspaper in South Florida a decade ago, I made a point of doing features on the wealth of professional and community alliances the gay community had fostered, from bowling leagues to choruses. This weekend, for example in South Florida, they celebrate their 15th Annual Hurricane Showdown Softball Tournament, with hundreds of gay and lesbian softball players coming to our sunny state to compete for a grand prize in four different division.

It is amazing how large, diverse, and strong our groups have become. And we should give thanks for that today. We should give more thanks that they are not all political, too, but instead capture the breadth and diversity of our community. I give thanks today that the Washington Blade has reemerged as a newsweekly under the name of the DC Agenda, and pray for their success in difficult economic times. So too are former staffers of the Southern Voice promising Atlanta a new GLBT paper. And I continue my promise to South Florida that the South Florida Gay News is on its way to an early 2010 debut.

So here is a brief note that the National Gay Pilots Association Education Fund will award $15,000 in scholarships in 2010 to aviators pursuing careers as professional pilots. Applications must be received by March 1, 2010. Awards will range from $3,000 to $4,000.

NGPA has granted more than $100,000 in scholarships since 1998. Applicants must be enrolled in an accredited flight school or in a university course of study with a flight program. Payments are made directly to the school and must be applied toward an advanced rating or tuition. Academic ability, financial need and active participation in matters of social justice toward the betterment of the LGBT community will be considered. The application is on the NGPA Web site at ngpa.org.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Adam Lambert's Gutsy AMA Performance Wins Acclaim and Critics


by Norm Kent

I come to praise Adam Lambert, not to bury him.

This is an artist I really want to meet.

Just two days ago, I did a piece asking us to allow Adam Lambert to be accepted as a performer, and not to worry about his role as a political activist. The gay community has somehow demanded of him to be something he is not.

http://nationalgaynews.blogspot.com/2009/11/adam-lambert-defends-his-craft-and.html

Sunday, America got a taste of this emerging male Madonna. Sending shockwaves throughout the audiences at the American Music Awards, he performed a number while allowing a male to simulate fellatio upon him, only moments after sharing a deep erotic kiss with his male drummer. For good measure, shades of Elvis Presley, he grabbed his crotch.

His cutting edge and groundbreaking performance should probably be commended by Gay America for its brash and open display of male upon male sexuality. Not at ABC. They promptly canceled Lambert’s scheduled performance on Good Morning America set for Tuesday morning. Too bad for them.

Here is the deal, America. Gay men kiss. Gay men grab crotches. That is what we do, preferably in private, but if it is on stage, during a performance, at nite, under the lights, designed to elicit sensuality and excitement, don’t be shocked, don’t be surprised. It is us. It is real.

Throughout the American Idol series, Adam Lambert demonstrated his ability to remain within the rules and comply with prime time TV guidelines and standards. But here he was at the American Music Awards, a show for stars and theatrics, and he brashly displays his sexuality in a way no gay male performer ever had before. That is gutsy. That is courage. No apologies from me, and good for him.

Complaints poured in to ABC , which aired the AMAs and GMA, about the sexually charged performance. Supposedly, more than 1,500 people complained. Not surprising. Might even lead to a fine with the FCC. Not surprising either. As an entertainer, it may be a small price for the international exposure stars yearn for. Now who did he lose American Idol to? Can't even remember the dude's name. I mean it is not like he declared lives expendable to put an unsafe car on the road. Or if you saw this evening's news, he did not become a crib retailer knowingly marketing unsafe dropside baby cribs. Corporate America did that for decades. All Lambert did was show who Lambert was.

Lambert summed it up best: "You know honestly, if I offended some people... it's apples and oranges. I'm not an artist that does things for every single person," he told Access Hollywood, "I believe in artistic freedom and expression, I believe in honoring the lyrics of a song, and those lyrics aren't really for everybody either."

Without trying to be an exponent for free speech, artistic expression, or gay rights, in one small way Lambert is becoming one anyway. I think it is great that he kissed a male drummer on stage, and was the first performer in America to openly do so. That it took until December of 2009 to get there, to openly do what other artists have routinely done with members of the opposite sex, and their audiences, that's the sad thing.

If he needs a lawyer to defend him, he has got one in this publisher.

Lambda Legal Sues Atlanta Police After Bar Raid


BREAKING NEWS OUT OF ATLANTA

Lambda Legal has filed a lawsuit against the Atlanta Police Department on behalf of 19 people who say they were forcibly searched and detained during a raid on an Atlanta gay bar. The suit says the raid was flat out illegal, and as a constitutional rights lawyer who publishes a gay rights blog, I flat out agree.

I have been in touch with attorney Dan Grossman, and agree with his assertion that Police Chief Richard Pennington and the 48 officers named are not above the law. There are three co-counsel who have filed the case jointly, so technically it is The Southern Center for Human Rights (http://www.schr.org/), Daniel Grossman, Esq, and Lambda Legal (http://www.lambdalegal.org/) which filed the lawsuit jointly.

The suit notes that the police unlawfully searched and detained people who are were suspected of a crime. Police said at the time they had received several complaints about criminal conduct at the club before the raid, but as I note in my column below, there were other ways to go to deal with it, short of an illegal police action.

Having just read the suit, it is formidable, credibly proving that patrons were battered, brutalized, and beaten, humiliated and detained without rhyme or reason, cause or justification. No gay community can let this stand.

Here is my blog about it from last month and here is a link to their site--
http://nationalgaynews.blogspot.com/2009/09/atlanta-gay-bar-raids-were.html

http://atlantaeagleraid.com/

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Uganda Proposes Death Penalty for Homosexuals


I am going to make this blog real simple, okay?

For the full news story, I give you a link to Gay City News at the end of this rant.

The leadership of the country of Uganda, home once of the infamous Idi Amin, has proposed the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality." It's just life for touching someone with " the intention of committing the act of homosexuality”.

In prohibiting the “promotion of homosexuality,” the bill would not only bar political activity on behalf of gay rights, but would also require anyone learning the identity of a sexually active gay person to report that information within 24 hours, or face a stiff fine or jail time. Sounds like the Briggs Amendment from 1978 in California. It is what gave life to Harvey Milk.

What are we supposed to say? 48 protestors gathered outside their mission in Manhattan, not far from the U.N. 30 in D.C. Maybe these myopic Neanderthals do us a favor. Maybe it forces the U.N. to engage in the unprecedented act of censuring a country for it practices and policies as it relates to sexual orientation. Maybe this goes from a terribly unjust law in an inconsequential African country to give life to a global gay rights protest.

Take the bad and make it better. But there are no maybes for the gay men of Uganda. There is only the prospect of brutal punishment. As long as those sanctions exist, as long as our brothers suffer, we are all Ugandans.

Washington Blade Staff Publishes New GLBT Weekly



The former staff of the Washington Blade has managed to knock out a new gay paper in less than a week, and everyone is holding their breath.

The DC Agenda appeared on newstands Friday, less than a week after gay publisher Window Media shuttered the most established GLBT publication in America, after four decades of life.

Window's Chapter 7 bankruptcy also sealed the fate of six LGBT newspapers, including the Atlanta-based gay weekly Southern Voice, as well as the Houston Voice, David Atlanta, South Florida Blade and 411 Magazine. The company closed down three additional properties over the summer: HX Magazine, the New York Blade and monthly glossy Genre.

No word yet on the others, but South Florida is promising a new life with a biweekly Blade. 411, a gay bar guide, will republish as Mark's List Magazine. The staff from one mag joined a new corporate entity and is back to work.

Kevin Naff, as DC Agenda's new editor, says he is buoyed by an outporing of community support. He will need it. Publishing a paper costs a small fortune. I know, because like Kevin, I am trying to do the impossible and bring South Florida's 'Express Gay News' back to life. I am not encouraged by a prospect of a small non-news based biweekly for Florida's large and diverse gay community. I think our community deserves better.

Window Media's troubles began soon after they received a $39 million Small Business Administration loan which was squandered on a series of misguided acquisitions. But why did the company choose to liquidate the DC and South Florida Blade when several suitors had put money on the table and placed it in escrow? Were taxpayers not screwed? Did the SBA fall down on their job.

Nicholas F. Benton, owner the Virginia-based weekly the Falls Church News-Press, told New York-based Gay City News that he had won a September bid to buy the Blade. So too did a new corporate entity win that right in Florida. The SBA said the decision to liquidate did not come from them. Maybe so, but they dropped the ball. Had they executed more expeditiously on the sales, maybe all these papers find continuity. Now it's a roll of the dice with startups.

“SBA has not been a part of any decision not to sell these newspapers. SBA supported the sale of the newspaper assets owned by Window. It was SBA, acting as receiver, that solicited offers to purchase the newspapers, and passed the offers it received to Window/Unite Media,” Michael Stamler, an SBA spokesman, said in an email to Gay City News. They have a great piece on the foreclosure here:
And some complaints with what went down:

The first edition of the DC Agenda is modest. Publisher Lynne Brown, and its 18-person staff, presumably working for free at the moment, have their work cut out for them. It is a struggle not for news, which there is a wealth of, but for revenues, which newspapers are finding there is a dirth of. So good luck to all the staffers, who wrote this week "their mission continues." May it indeed do so.
Meanwhile, it sure looks like the SBA dropped the ball.

Adam Lambert Defends His Craft and Conscience


Gotta hand it to Wayne Parry in the Associated Press.
His piece on American Idol star Adam Lambert sums the kid up best this way:


'This vocal chameleon can be all things to all listeners, and he kills at whatever he sings. Lambert is equally adept at hard rock, pop, disco, and power ballads, often blending ingredients of several in a single track to produce unforgettable results.'

Hey, you know, I do not expect him to be anything else to anyone. His range and command of music and voice, as exhibited on the Idol show, was nothing short of spectacular.

But I have to do a real shout out to Lambert as well. Accosted for his opinion on everything from politics to world peace since he became a household name, he continues to just, well, sing. He even told an interviewer at Out Magazine that he does not want to comment on global issues, he just wants to make good songs: 'That is what I do,' he said. 'I am not a politician. I am an entertainer. Why do people expect me to talk about civil rights? Not every gay man is the same gay man.'

Amazingly, activists are chiding him for not parading a flag at the march on Washington. Please. Cut the kid a break. An entertainer who does what he is good at, and is not the least bit embarrassed that he does not have to save the world by his 21st birthday. Why is he being chastized and criticized for his candor and honesty in stating his goal is simply to make good music? The people who voted for him on American Idol did not do so because of his ability to change the world. It was because of his ability to sing, so how about letting him follow his own path and just do what he does best?

Florida's Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Speaks Out in Support of Gay Adoption Law


Alex Sink, Herald photo by Charles Trainor

Normally, American candidates for public office do not have to support a law which endorses the rights of gay men and women to adopt children. That is because all American communities and commonwealths allow gay men and women to adopt children. With one exception. Orange Juice Land. Home of Anita Bryant. Home of a handsome governor who apparently once partnered with some younger gay men before marrying an older women.

This brings us to Alex Sink, Florida's chief financial officer and the leading Democratic candidate for governor. Last week at Fort Lauderdale’s Museum of Art, she told a crowd of over 300 equal rights activists that homosexuals should be allowed to adopt if it's in the children's ``best interest.''

Alex Sink is a charming woman, who overpowered me with her energy when she first appeared on my radio talk show one morning at the Floridian. She has a commanding presence, and I think her warmth and personality will sweep her to the governorship over a rather staid Bill McCollum, the state’s Attorney General.

The thing is Alex will need all the charm she can muster to change the law if she wins. Our legislature is still regressive and right wing, dominated by Neanderthal Republicans who have steadfastly refused to amend the law in the face of all common sense evidence to the contrary.

Gays and Lesbians can be buoyed by some judicial decisions striking the statute, such as the one authored by Judge Cindy Lederman in Miami. Those rulings are working their way through appellate courts. So time will give us an ultimate outcome.

Nevertheless, no legitimate GLBT forum can ignore the courage and conscience of Alex Sink today in speaking out. Even though gays are allowed to serve in an interim capacity as foster parents, Florida is the only state with an outright ban on adoption by lesbians and gay men.

As the Attorney General charged with the responsibility of defending state statutes, Bill McCollum, Ms. Sink’s opponent for Governor, is charged with defending the law. It would be ironic if Mr. McCollum supported overturning it as well, but he does not, though to his credit, both as a candidate and AG, he has been supportive of hate crimes legislation.

Still, how can anyone reasonably say that the same gay couples who foster children for years should not be allowed to adopt them for life? No one with a modicum of intelligence can argue such a ludicrous position. No one in 49 other states in our union attempts to.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Gay Mayoral Candidate in Houston Slandered By Morons


The homophobic attacks against Houston mayoral candidate Annise Parker have begun, and the one below is alarming.

It's a postcard mailing to 35,000 people from your average local hateful moron, featuring a picture of Parker and her longtime partner, which asks, "Is this the image Houston wants to portray?" and reads:

“I have nothing but compassion, respect and sensitivity towards those trapped in homosexual behavior. I have family members and friends who have been ensnared in this behavior, and I know something of the incredible pain and sorrow it has brought to them and their families. With God’s grace, I carefully balance this love and respect for these individuals with warnings about the promotion and demand for legal and political approval for homosexual behavior that will stifle religious freedom and trap millions of more people in its deadly grip. Therefore, I would ask you to vote against Annise Parker for Mayor.”

So Fort Lauderdale's ex Mayor, Jim Naugle, should be pleased to know he has some Neanderthal company in Texas. In Lauderdale, gay mayoral candidate Dean Trantalis was defeated in an election last March. But in the same county, Ken Keechl, a gay county commissioner, was appointed this week by his colleagues, as the Broward County mayor. This is the second most populous county in the state, with over a million residents.

Whether it is US Attorneys in Seattle, or US Marshals in Wisconsin, or gay mayors in South Florida, our community is establishing itself as professionals across the country. This normalizes us and popularizes us for what we achieve with our clothes on. We have reason to be proud, and the hateful feudal populations who opt for denigrating our identity instead of applauding our achievements are destined to become relics of history. But women such as Annise Parker are destined to become America's leaders of tomorrow.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Gay Teenager Murdered in Puerto Rico; Arrests Made


Jorge Lopez Mercado, left
Another gay teenager has been butchered in the streets, this time in Puerto Rico. Another bloody and unnecessary death. And probably a hate crime.

Murder charges were filed Wednesday in the slaying of a gay teenager whose decapitated, partially burned body was found last week, while U.S. authorities said they were still considering whether to make it a hate crime case.
Understand this, murder is a hate crime. The effect of a hate crime charge is to raise the level of the penalties and make the criminal face more severe sanctions. But murder carries the ultimate penalty. Can’t do much more then sentence a guy to life in jail or death.

What is clear about the killing of Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado is that it was shockingly violent and brutal, with his body dismembered. All the preliminary evidence suggests he may have been targeted because of his sexuality.

Lopez was widely known as a volunteer for organizations advocating HIV prevention and gay rights, and activists are planning remembrance vigils for him in cities including San Juan, New York and Chicago. We should be. Violence targeting gays is still occurring across the country.

The Lopez situation is not unlike Simmie Williams in Fort Lauderdale, a male victim dressed as a woman in an area known for prostitution. We are hearing about a ‘gay panic’ defense that the assailant went into a murderous rage after discovering his trick was a man, not a woman. That is no excuse for murder. It is an excuse to excuse yourself from the proposed liaison, not a justification for taking the life of another.

Puerto Rico is a US territory and the new hate crime laws apply, but very few prosecutions have emerged out of San Juan over the past few years. Activists say though these laws should be used more vigorously. The FBI is investigating and federal prosecutors will have the final say on how to proceed.

We should turn our attention southward so that an end comes to this inexcusable violence. And we should make this our test case. This was a hate crime to be sure.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Newsworthy Gay Media Dies in America


I have known this is coming for days, but due to my dual role as a lawyer have had to shut my mouth as a journalist.

As published on the Steve Rothaus Gay News Blog of the Miami Herald, http://miamiherald.typepad.com/gaysouthflorida/ and as featured in Qweerty, a favorite online gay news site of mine, today spells perhaps, the death knell of credible gay media in America.

The very people that bought up my newspaper, Express Gay News, and acquired other national gay publications with government backed funds, has gone broke.

The publisher of Window Media — which publishes the Southern Voice, Washington Blade, South Florida Blade, 411 Magazine, Houston Voice, David Magazine, and the already deceased Genre Magazine, unsurprisingly closed up shop over the weekend. Their lawyers apparently are filing for bankruptcy protection this week, and may have already. They were already in receivership for defaulting on SBA loans.

I do not know whether it will be reorganization, or the fatal ‘stick a fork in us, we are done’ filing. I am told the latter.

I do know that both in South Florida and Atlanta its employees found out by reading a pictured sign stating that Window Media has shut down. And though while the websites of its publications remain online, there will be no South Florida Blade this week. 411 is at press and will publish, but beginning today, staffers cannot access their office. They can only retrieve personal possessions later in the week.

While Window Media may not survive federal receivership, a group of very motivated businessmen had tendered a very fair offer to purchase 411 and the Blade. They are lucky they did not have to pay for something they now essentially get for free. They are meeting at this moment with 411 and Blade staffers in an attempt to move them to a new publication, Mark’s List Magazine, and keep the bar guide running under a new name with new stewardship as a new startup with no debt. I wish them luck. They will not be burdened by an unnecesary payoff to the federal government and can start their own business under their own name with a clean blank slate. Good for them, but it is a tough market.

For me, I will not sit by and let the credible gay news media collapse in South Florida. I hope other businessmen feel the same way in Atlanta. There is a need for a Washington Blade, Southern Voice, or Express Gay News. There is a place for Hot Spots and 411. There is a need for the Blades. That is the way I feel. That is the way I will act.

This is not a good time for publications anywhere. The Internet rules. Still, the gay community deserves better and can afford newsworthy publications that have stature and credibility. I am going to use my influence any way I can to make it happen.
Conspicuously absent from the press release at http://frontpage.jumponmarkslist.com/MSFL/2009/111609.htm
is any mention of the Blade, the news entity I care most about.

Here is what http://www.qweerty.com/
wrote today, very accurately: “So many LGBT Americans turned to Window's publications — often before they were absorbed into the publisher's umbrella — for the latest digest on local gay news, events, and attacks on the community. These papers were, unarguably, invaluable and this website and its readers have benefited directly from them. When it comes to hyper-local reporting, the various Blade titles were the biggest game in town.”
'While the executives running the company may not be, the titles will surely be missed'.


The burden to keep gay media alive now falls upon someone somewhere.

I will simply not allow South Florida to go without a credible and newsworthy GLBT publication and I am actively soliciting and recruiting partners with me to insure that it happens.

I am privileged that some have already called me and asked me to step into a huge void. I am responsive to the inquiries but business realities have to be explored, evaluated and analyzed before precipitously undertaking such an enormous venture. I will give it my immediate consideration.

Our community cannot allow itself to be measured by bar guides picturing shirtless men holding up drinks in niteclubs. We are too much more to do less.

Ten years ago, starting the Express with a little money and then selling it to Window Media for a lot more, I proved that a credible gay newspaper can prosper in a local community. The road is tougher, and the Net makes it more difficult, but if there is a way to go down that road again, I am prepared to start.

There is no doubt in my mind that a strong and vibrant South Florida community is capable of starting a new Express. In the interim, there is no better place to get your daily fix of gay life than to read Steve Rothaus online. He is our CNN.

News at 11. No, maybe right away. We are on the board nationally, and not in a good way:http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,575310,00.html

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Don't Ask: A Discharged Vet Tells CNN His Story


(CNN) -- Darren Manzella saw two tours of duty in Iraq, first as a combat medic and later as a liaison officer. He earned three promotions in his six years as a U.S. Army sergeant.

Despite his professional success, Manzella says he began to question his personal life.

"After returning from my first deployment in Iraq, after seeing death and violence, losing friends and comrades, it really made me look over my life," he said. "I looked at some issues I had always had trouble with. I had debated, 'Am I gay?' "

As he struggled with his sexual identity, Manzella began a relationship with a man. Soon after, while in Texas between tours, Manzella said he began receiving anonymous, harassing e-mails and telephone calls.

"They told me, 'You are stupid, the Army is going to kick you out, but before they do, they are going to take your rank away and all your money away.' "
Manzella describes this time as one of fear and deep insecurity.
"I didn't know if the military police would be coming through the door to take me away because someone had reported me," he said. "This was some of the paranoia I was living with every day."

Manzella says that the e-mails and calls went on for months and that after many sleepless nights, he decided to ask his supervisor for help.

"He listened and was somewhat sympathetic," Manzella said. "He told me not to worry, to try and get some rest, to go home early and see him in the morning."

By the next morning, Manzella's supervisor had reported him as having broken the law under "don't ask, don't tell," the 1993 policy that prohibits anyone who "demonstrate(s) a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts" from serving in the U.S. military.

Manzella said he was read his rights and told that he would be investigated, but that he could continue working. As the investigation proceeded, word spread that Manzella was gay.

"Ironically, it pulled the unit together. A lot of them started to invite me out," Manzella said. "My co-worker was getting married; she told me that my boyfriend and I were invited to the wedding. It made me feel like I was more a part of the family."

After a month, Manzella said he was told that no proof of homosexuality had been found and that the investigation was being closed, even though he told his supervisor about his lifestyle. Manzella was hopeful.

"I thought it was a big step when they told me that they were going to retain me," he said.
In 2006, Manzella's unit was sent back to Iraq, and he served his 15-month deployment with his unit knowing he was gay.

"I could have pictures of my boyfriend out, I could talk freely on the phone without having to worry about someone overhearing me and reporting me," he said.

During his tour, Manzella was contacted by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a national nonprofit offering legal assistance to those affected by don't ask, don't tell. SLDN told him that a television network was looking for a gay serviceman in a combat zone to tell his story.
After weighing the risk of being discharged for speaking out publicly, Manzella agreed to the interview. He said he was motivated by the knowledge that he could give a voice to the gays, lesbians and bisexuals serving in the military -- a number estimated at 65,000 by the Palm Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara, which researches sexual minorities in the military.

The network television segment aired a few days before Manzella returned from Iraq, and it seemed at first that his interview would not have consequences. He returned to the States, spent time with his family and even went to Capitol Hill to lobby against don't ask, don't tell.
Manzella returned to duty at Fort Hood, Texas, in December 2007 and continued to serve for almost seven months. In the first week of March 2008, he was given orders to report to Fort Drum, New York, to work at the military hospital there.

A week later, he said, his company commander called him in.
"I was told I was going to be discharged under don't ask, don't tell," he said. "Up until that point, I hadn't heard anything. I had lived openly for nearly two years. I thought that was a huge step forward, that finally people were being recognized on their performance and how well they served their country and their comrades and peers."

In June 2008, Manzella received an honorable discharge. His discharge papers read "homosexual conduct admission."

CNN contacted the Army for more details on the nature of Manzella's discharge. Army spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Garver of the Office of the Chief of Public Affairs said that under law, the military could not comment on or release details about Manzella's discharge.

Since don't ask, don't tell was introduced, the military has discharged more than 13,000 lesbians, gays and bisexuals, according to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. A 2005 government report found that about 800 of them had skills deemed "critical," such as engineering and linguistics, and that it cost the military about $200 million to recruit and train their replacements.

Garver said the continued enforcement of don't ask, don't tell is simply a case of the Army enforcing the law.

"The Army enforces the homosexual conduct policy because it is the law," he said. "The policy is not a military policy, and the Army has a policy because it is bound by current statute. If the law were potentially to change, the Army would change to enforce whatever the law may be."

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Open Lesbian Now a Partner in Chicago Cubs Ownership Team


Pete Ricketts, Todd Ricketts, Laura Ricketts, Tom Ricketts

Everyone wondered who the Chicago Cubs would be sold to. Now we know. Someone with a league of her own.

A milestone of professional sports has been reached with the new owners, though it's not one our homophobic sports world will play up too willingly. So let's do it for them.

Among the members of the Ricketts family who acquired the team is Laura Ricketts, an out lesbian -- making the Cubs the first professional sports team to have a gay owner, at least one that is known to the public. I would suspect Marge Schott, but I think her thing was dogs. How open is Laura? She even attended a White House GLBT luncheon in June for Gay Pride month, and has apparently been an active political contributor to Dems in Chi-town.

Ricketts says she came out of the closet to her family in her early 30's, shortly after she came to terms with her sexuality herself. She's quoted as saying her family was "immediately supportive."

Not only has there never been an openly gay sports team owner before, but there have been no openly gay players -- at least none who were willing to admit it before their retirement. A lot have come out after they finished playing, like Billy Beane and Glenn Burke. And we just blogged about a closeted gay professional athlete whose blog has purportedly described his life in the bigs. http://clubhousecloset.blogspot.com/

There has been an openly gay umpire, Dave Pallone. But that didn't work out well for him. After he came out to the National League president at the time, he was fired on rumors of an alleged sex ring. A subsequent investigationb proved the allegations were groundless. Pallone claimed he was fired for being gay. Then there was Paul Priore, a clubhouse assistant for the Yankees who said he was taunted and ultimately fired because he was HIV positive.

Let's put it this way. Gayness in MLB is infrequently discussed. No manager or player wants a distraction. I have always felt that outside of the locker room jokes, most people could care less what the guy does in bed if the guy can play the game. Some day we will find out. Baseball survived the wife swapping of Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich in the midst of a New York Yankees pennant run in the 1970's. It will survive a gay player if he has a good curve or can hit in the clutch.

While Laura Ricketts' ownership in the Cubs is unique, she is not the partner expected to run the team.Tom Ricketts, chief executive officer of Incapital LLC, a Chicago investment bank will handle that chore. Should be an interesting family. From Omaha, Nebraska, one of the brothers is very conservative, opposes gay marriage and involved with Republican politics as much as Laura is with the Dems. Great Thanksgiving dinners, don't you think?

One of the first teams to ever hold a 'Gay Days' at the ballpark was the Cubs at Wrigley Field, usually in the summer during the Market Days Festival on Halstead Street. Now they really have someone to throw out the first pitch.

Gay America Wins a Place at the Table


A Place at the Table:

7 Reasons 2009 Has Been a Good Year for Gay Americans

By Norm Kent

Gay Americans have much to be proud of these past few weeks. We helped elect the right man President of the United States. So yes, Mabel, there has been a difference.

First of all, at the Human Rights Campaign Dinner in Washington, D.C. last month, President Obama announced that he will ask Congress to overturn the ban on gays in the military, effectively disarming the misguided policies of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ era. Though not posturing a date, the President was very specific in stating that he would honor his campaign pledge; that “we should not be punishing patriotic Americans who have stepped forward to serve the country."

Yes, activists like myself and Cleve Jones I see too, are perturbed this has not happened more quickly. But I know I can find a little bad in the best of things. The bottom line is that the President has raised the issue and not run from it. The days of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ are coming to a halt.

Second, that same man, Barack Obama, influenced a Democratic congress to end its stalemate and stalling on the Hate Crimes Act. The bill, honoring the lives of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., both victims of hate, each murdered, was passed and signed into law this year. This bill expands the 1969 United States federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. It is thus the first federal law to extend legal protection to transgendered persons.

Like the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the law empowers federal authorities with a greater ability to engage in hate crimes investigations that local authorities choose not to pursue. It was a bill that Republicans and President Bush had killed for years.

Third, as prior Presidents before him have done, President Obama also signed into law that bill releasing funds for HIV prevention and treatment, including a reauthorization of the Ryan White Act. Every year, this legislation guarantees access to lifesaving medical services, primary care, and medications for more than 500,000 patients, nearly half of all those living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S.

Under Team Obama, the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act does at least authorize a 5 percent annual increase in federal support over the next four years. Not all is gravy, though. The Bush Administration had imposed some regressive administrative measures that hampered direct assistance to many communities, and those negative changes were not corrected in the recent reauthorization.

Fourth, ENDA is a renewed federal bill in the United States Congress that would prohibit discrimination against employees on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and disability, for civilian nonreligious employers with over 15 employees. Religious organizations and non profit membership only clubs are provided exemptions, similar to the principles of the Civil Rights Act. This year, for the first time, with Democratic leadership in the House and Senate, this bill has a realistic chance of becoming law.

Fifth, President Obama has called upon Congress to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which limits how state, local and federal bodies can recognize partnerships and determine benefits. He also called for a law to extend benefits to domestic partners. These were not causes supported by the prior administration. As a matter of fact, President Bush was a leader for DOMA from the outset of his administration. Here too, then, the White House has turned a corner.

Sixth, on Friday President Obama announced that he will lift a 22-year-old ban on entry into the United States for people infected with HIV/AIDS. The administration intends to publish a new federal rule next week eliminating the ban by the start of 2010, carrying through on a proposal President Bush had finally endorsed in 2008. It was long past due.

"We talk about reducing the stigma of this disease, yet we've treated a visitor living with it as a threat," President Obama said. "If we want to be the global leader in combating HIV/AIDS, we need to act like it."

The HIV Travel Ban made the United States a pariah in human rights circles. In fact, some of the most significant international conventions studying the AIDS pandemic were not held in the United States because we ostracized ourselves with a Neanderthal policy that so clearly violated both public health needs and human rights.

Seventh, the last and most fundamental change in the Obama Administration is its willingness to select openly gay men and women to positions of influence and trust in the government. The litmus test for a Presidential appointment has become your competence in the daytime, not who you sleep with at night. In Washington, a successful prosecutor who is an out lesbian has just been named a chief US Attorney. In Minnesota, another lesbian has been appointed a US Marshall. In fact, the Gay and Lesbian Leadership Institute lists over two dozen Presidential GLBT appointments, from Special Counsel to the President to the Deputy Director for Safe Schools.

The gay community has become an operative political force to be reckoned with locally and nationally. There are still heated emotional debates surrounding ‘same-sex marriage’. Politicians are still reticent to join that bandwagon. No matter. Regardless of popular opinion, eventually it is our courts which will decide the legal rights and protections of same-sex couples. As marriage is fundamentally a civil contract which can be voided at will, it is inevitable that same sex marriages will be upheld by the courts.

Some of us in the gay community were initially disturbed with President Obama's first forays into equal justice, but we were foolish. I just don't think that six months into their first term John McCain and Sarah Palin would have been hosting an LGBT Gay Pride Month luncheon in the White House.

In 1993, Bruce Bawer wrote a landmark book entitled “A Place at the Table: The Gay Individual in American Society.” Bruce’s vision has come true. We no longer have to window shop our lives from the outside. We are welcome in. We have earned it, and now if we want it, there is a place at the table for us too.

.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

'Just Beautiful Men' an Aesthetically Pleasing Site


Sometimes you get so caught up in politics that you forget a blog can be individually expressive as well as politically explosive. And occasionally you come across sites which are deserving of recognition because they make a statement on their own.

‘Just Beautiful Men’ is one such vehicle. A collage of aesthetic portraits of well built men, who have taken the time to take care of themselves, and nurture what they got, the website is compelling.

It contains nudity, warnings, and disclosures, as well as a cross section of blogmates who similarly trespass openly and brazenly on the male physique. Not bad at all. If we are going to be open about our sexuality, why not own up to our sensuality? It is not always about politics and law. Sometimes, as my partner reminds me, it is about our own needs, the kinds politicians cover up.

So ‘Just Beautiful Men’ is to be applauded, linking also to agency and modeling sites, photographic studios, forums and discussion groups. Jump into their links and you can spend hours cruising the net into homoerotic sexuality, nothing to be ashamed of for sure, and something to appreciate even more. Gratuitous shirtless hunks everywhere. Politics no where. So what?

In fact, I am going to create a link which opens to adult homoerotic sites, which like this one, or Hunk du Jour, show professional men in personal ways, accentuating their talents with and without their clothes on. You know we have spent so much time trying to assimilate into society it is good to remember we are different and not the same. We are all unique. And that is what we have in common.

Elton AIDS Event in NYC Features Prez Clinton



Former President Bill Clinton will be among the honorees at the annual Elton John [ tickets ] AIDS Foundation benefit event, entitled "An Enduring Vision," .

The Nov. 16 benefit--which will be held at New York City's Cipriani Wall Street--will feature special musical guest Donna Summer [ tickets ].

In a statement, John said, "Donna Summer's energy, voice and spirit are going to electrify our guests and I can't wait to share the stage with her. Donna has been a tremendous supporter of the Elton John AIDS Foundation for many years, and I am so excited that she has agreed to perform for our 'An Enduring Vision' event."

As part of the eighth annual EJAF event, the foundation will present Enduring Vision awards to four honorees that have supported its mission to fund innovative HIV prevention programs, its efforts to eliminate stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS, and the direct care and support services it provides to individuals living with HIV/AIDS.

Sometimes, in the midst of so many other things, AIDS is still real for so many. We should particularly not forget during the week the Ryan White Bill was extended by President Obama, and here are is remarks as reported in Steve Rothaus' preeminent Miami Herald blog:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Open Gay US Attorney Takes Helm in Washington



Great AP story by Gene Johnson might not get as much coverage as one would like on the day President Obama signed the Hate Crimes Bill into law, but the new top federal prosecutor in Seattle is the nation's first openly gay U.S. attorney. Here you go-

'But as a daughter of privilege — her dad was a powerful Democratic state senator, and she had all the benefits of a comfortable upbringing and a good education — Jenny Durkan also recalls what someone once told her: "You're the most non-diverse diverse person I know." '

"I don't think I can fully appreciate how important it is to many people to have someone in a role like this who is gay," Durkan said this week in an interview with The Associated Press. "The more people are able to see people in situations where pretty soon that's an invisible characteristic, the better it is for the entire community."

Gay rights activists say her appointment reflects a growing acceptance in the U.S. as well as the attitude of President Barack Obama's administration. Earlier this month, Obama nominated an openly gay police sergeant to be the U.S. marshal in Minneaopolis; she would be the first openly gay U.S. marshal. We cannot underestimate the significance of Obama embracing diversity at every level. Fox News calls it radical. It is not. It is America.

Durkan, 51, has been named to the Attorney General's Advisory Committee, where she will head a subcommittee on cybercrimes and intellectual property. The FBI is building a new cybercrime center in the old federal courthouse in Seattle, and the U.S. attorney's office here has done novel work in prosecuting such cases.

Before being confirmed by the Senate a month ago, Durkan performed a wide variety of civil litigation and criminal defense work, and was active in bar associations. In 2002 she traveled to Morocco to train female candidates for parliament. She has been Gov. Chris Gregoire's personal attorney and confidante, and represented the Democratic Party when Gregoire's 133-vote re-election win was confirmed in court.

Durkan has said she did some of her most satisfying work using lawsuits to force institutional reform — such as changes in how the King County Jail handles mentally ill prisoners after one who had been recently released stabbed a firefighter to death.

To that end, she's spoken with local prosecutors, state and federal agencies and the governor's office about bringing those groups together to coordinate better responses to environmental crimes, for example.

Ultimately, she said, she hopes to be judged on how the U.S. attorney's office handles those threats — not on her sexual orientation.

"In this region I don't think it's very remarkable that you have someone who is gay in a position of authority, because it's woven throughout our culture and has been," Durkan said. "In other parts of the country it might be, but I think a generation from now it will be a footnote."

Monday, October 26, 2009

President Obama Will Sign Hate Crimes Bill into Law on Wednesday


Eleven years after Matthew Shepard’s death, President Obama will sign the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes bill into law during a White House signing ceremony Wednesday afternoon, White House officials confirm.

The long-sought hate crimes provision is part of the fiscal year 2010 defense authorization bill and will extend federal hate crimes law to include crimes motivated by a victim's gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

The passage of hate crimes legislation would allow the U.S. Justice Department to assist in the prosecution of hate crimes committed against LGBT people that result in death or serious injury. The federal government could lend its assistance to local authorities or take the lead if local officials are unwilling or unable to prosecute cases. Further, the legislation would make grants available to state and local communities to train law enforcement officials, combat hate crimes committed by juveniles and investigate bias-motivated violence.

Matthew Shepard, a gay twenty-one year old college student was brutally killed in 1998. Some of the Shepard family will be in attendance at the White House signing on Wednesday. Afterward there will be a reception with gay rights groups as well as civil rights leaders to commemorate the occasion. I guess they forgot to invite me.

The main thrust of the bill is defense policy, including authorizing $130 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The DOD Authorization bill also strips money from the Pentagon budget for the controversial F-22 Raptor. This is a classic example of how one issue gets thrown upon another upon another. It should have been a stand alone bill, honoring James Byrd, Jr. a slain African American killed by hate, and Matthew Shepard, murdered because he was gay.

But it is a law now, and just like you do not know if your doctor was first or last in his class when he graduated Med School, 20 years after we are all gone no one will know this bill to tame hate was an appendage to a military appropriations bill for the Pentagon. Ironic in a way, because gays still can't join the military, and African Americans too, were once excluded from fighting with Caucasians. Just relics of the past. Like hate may one day be.

Thank you Judy Shepard for never forgetting your son.

Thank you Mr. Obama for pushing this issue to passage.

Thank you Congress for doing something Progress-ive.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Has 'Gay Athlete's Blog' Taken its Last at Bat?


Remember that commercial about a sound system which went 'is it real or is it memorex?'

I want to direct you to a blogger's site:
http://www.clubhousecloset.blogspot.com

The guy has been posting infrequently for four years, and he has claimed to be a professional baseball player living life in the closet. He has developed a small cult of followers appreciating his occasional posts, relating his life on the road and in the dark. Some think it's a scam. Authenticity has a price. Verification. This blog yearns for it, but it just isn't there.

Is it authentic? Is it Memorex? There is no reason not to believe the candor expressed on these pages but we live in the world of 'The Balloon Boy.' We are exposed to hoaxes and frauds in every financial market. We can't believe anything we see because it may be compromised by digitalizing, morphing, spindling, and mutilating.

When I do television interviews, the makeup covers up the sun spots on my forehead, the wrinkles below my eyes. My body pleads for Botox, the reality is I am aging. No, check that. I have aged.

So these candid admissions from the anonymous athlete are open and revealing, but his identity remains secret. Larry King has had Billy Beane on and there are others who played 20 years ago still in the closet. One ex-pitcher, who plays in our local gay softball league, and has had his retired major league uniform framed in a local gay bar, still lives a quiet and secret gay life he would rather his teammates not know about. But an ex jock like me picked up on his World Series ring the very first day I saw him play.

Can't presuppose what to tell the 'gay athlete' on this blog site to do. Would love to meet him though. Would love to share with all the stories I have heard for the past ten years, first as the Publisher of the Express, then as an open radio host, then out as a lawyer, of life in the sunshine.


Maybe his time has come. Or maybe its time to just go back to the shadows. There is only one way he will ever know.