President Obama issues memorandum on protecting LGBTs abroad

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Four days in advance of  Human Rights Day on Saturday, Dec. 10,  President Barack Obama today issued a presidential memorandum “to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons,” according to a statement just released by the White House press office.

The statement sent out by the White House includes these comments by the president:

“The struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States commitment to promoting human rights.  I am deeply concerned by the violence and discrimination targeting LGBT persons around the world — whether it is passing laws that criminalize LGBT status, beating citizens simply for joining peaceful LGBT pride celebrations, or killing men, women, and children for their perceived sexual orientation.  That is why I declared before heads of state gathered at the United Nations, “no country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere.”  Under my Administration, agencies engaged abroad have already begun taking action to promote the fundamental human rights of LGBT persons everywhere.  Our deep commitment to advancing the human rights of all people is strengthened when we as the United States bring our tools to bear to vigorously advance this goal.”

The memorandum from Obama directs agencies to combat the criminalization of LGBT status or conduct abroad; protect vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers; leverage foreign assistance to protect human rights and advance nondiscrimination; ensure swift and meaningful U.S. responses to human rights abuses of LGBT persons abroad; engage international organizations in the fight against LGBT discrimination, and report on progress.

I give the president credit for issuing the memorandum at the same time he’s gearing up for what will likely be a tough re-election campaign during which opponents will no doubt use his stance and actions on LGBT issues against him. But I still have to point out that we as LGBT people still face discrimination and inequality right here in the good old U.S.-of-A:

• Our marriages are legally recognized at the federal level and they aren’t recognized in the VAST majority of state and local jurisdictions. We want the Defense of Marriage Act repealed and local and state ordinances and constitutional amendments prohibiting recognition of our relationships need to be overturned.

• There is still no federal protection against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and/gender expression and gender identity. Congress needs to pass — the president needs to sign — the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

• Even though there is now a federal hate crimes law that includes LGBT people, as well as similar laws at many state and local levels, those laws are not well enforced.

Anti-LGBT bullying remains a deadly problem in our schools and our workplaces and on the Internet. We’ve made progress in combating such bullying, but not nearly enough. Dedicate the resources necessary to address the issue effectively.

So let’s applaud our president for the steps he has — and is — taking. There’s no doubt Obama has been more open than any other president about addressing LGBT issues and we have seen great strides forward toward equality during his administration. But there’s a long way to go yet, and we need to make sure that the president — and all our elected officials — know they can’t just rest on their laurels.

—  admin

Local activists continue effort to remove Rodriguez

Rodriguez Protest

Protesors, led by Mike Pomeroy, outside of the November 10 HISD Board meeting

The controversy over an anti-LGBT flier distributed by HISD Trustee Manuel Rodriguez continues to snowball. Activists organizing on the website hisdbully.org and led by Mike Pomeroy and Cristan Williams are planning to protest at the HISD Board Meeting December 8. The protest, which begins at 4:30  pm outside the Hattie May White Center (4400 West 18th Street) where the School Board meets, is part of a two pronged approach that includes speakers directly confronting Rodriguez during the period allowed for public comments at the meeting.

As previously reported by Houstini, At some point towards the end of early voting during the fall municipal elections Rodriquez began distributing a flier that encouraged Houstonians to vote against his opponent, Ramiro Fonseca, because Fonseca had a history of activism for LGBT issues, was endorsed by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, had no children and had a “male partner.” The flier came within a hair’s breadth of saying “don’t vote for gay people” without actually saying it.

The Houston LGBT Political Caucus discovered the flier and began bringing it to the public’s attention on Friday, November 4, the last day of early voting. By election day, November 8, the flier had become national news. Rodriguez received 916 votes in early voting, Fonseca 814. On election day, after the flier became public knowledge, Rodriguez garnered 1,485 votes to Fonseca’s 1,563. Rodriquez’s pre-election day lead was sufficient to put him into office by 24 votes.

On November 10, at the Houston Independent School Board’s monthly meeting, Rodriguez heard from students, parents and teachers in the district furious at him for perpetuating anti-LGBT sentiment. Noel Freeman, president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus revealed to the board that, in addition to distributing the flier, Rodriguez made additional homophobic remarks to local Spanish-language media.

What you all might not know is that [Rodriguez] also went on television and said that he ‘just couldn’t understand why an unmarried 54-year-old man would want access to children.’ That statement in and of itself and the implication contained within is representable and discusting.”

In response to the public outcry the HISD Board President Paula Harris pledged that the board would reconsider their code of ethics for trustees to address such behavior. The board is scheduled to consider the revised code of ethics next week at the November 8 meeting.

The organizers of the protest ask that people planning to attend RSVP on the Facebook event they created. Anyone wishing to speak at the Board Meeting must sign up online by 4:30 pm on Wednesday, December 7. The Board receives public comments at the end of each meeting, which can be quite late in the evening.

—  admin

Website shines spotlight on Rodriquez

Rodriquez

Manuel Rodriquez

Houston Independent School Board Member Manuel Rodriguez has the dubious distinction of being the sole topic of a new website: hisdbully.org. The site seeks to remove Rodriquez from office for anti-gay comments and literature made during his recent re-election campaign. As previously reported by Houstini, Rodriguez’s campaign distributed a flier that encouraged voters to vote against his opponent, Ramiro Fonseca, because of Fonseca’s history of LGBT activism and because he is gay. Rodriquez also made comments during an interview with a Spanish language station asking why a 50-something year old man with no children was seeking access to children.

“We were encountering so many different people who were outraged by the behavior of Manny Rodriguez, who wanted to do something but weren’t sure what they should do,” said Mike Pomeroy, one of the organizers of the site.  “We needed an easy way to disseminate the information as far and wide as possible, to compile all of the relevant media attention that the issue has received, and to focus the energies of all the disparate individuals who wanted to address the issue, so that we could all work together with the same goal in mind.”

The site includes a petition calling for Rodriguez’s resignation.

—  admin

Bullying apparently claims another victim

Ashlynn Conner

Funeral services were scheduled for today in Ridge Farm, Illinois, for 10-year-old Ashlynn Conner, who committed suicide Friday, Nov. 11, after enduring taunts and teasing from her classmates and children in her neighborhood for several years, according to this report in the Chicago Tribune.

Ashlynn’s mother, Stacy Conner, told the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette this week that as recently as the day before her death, Ashlynn had complained about being taunted and harassed by classmates, and had asked if she could be home-schooled so she wouldn’t have to be around those who had bullied her.

The child’s grandmother, Lory Hackney, said that the taunts began when Ashlynn was about 7 years old, after she started cheerleading for a youth football league and got her hair cut in a short bob. Hackney said the other children would laugh at Ashlynn and call her a boy, and as she got older, her tormentors progressed to calling her fat, ugly and a slut.

Family members said although Ashlynn had been upset most of Thursday night, by Friday — when school was out for Veterans Day — she seemed in a much better mood. However, later that evening when the family realized they had not seen Ashlynn for some time, her older sister, 14-year-old Michaila Baldwin, went looking for her. She found Ashlynn in a bedroom closet where she had hung herself.

Sheriff Pat Hartshorn told the Tribune that while investigators are not ruling out the possibility of bullying as a contributing factor, they have found no evidence of the bullying so far.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 200 children between the ages of 10 and 14 committed suicide between 1999 and 2005, the most recent numbers available. But those numbers do not include the scores of children and teens who have killed themselves in the last 18 months in a spate of highly-publicized suicides — including the suicide of Asher Brown in Houston — that have focused the country’s attention on the problem of bullying.

—  admin

WATCH: HISD Board gets earful on anti-gay flier

Manuel Rodriguez

Trustee Manuel Rodriguez in the hot seat as public condemns his homophobia

A standing-room-only crowd greeted the Houston Independent School Board last night. While the board’s monthly meetings often attract an assortment of parents, community members and gadflies many in the crowd were there with a decidedly non-educational issue on their minds: the anti-gay flier distributed by Trustee Manuel Rodriguez during his recent reelection campaign. As previously reported by Houstini, the flier encouraged Houstonians to vote against Rodriquez’s opponent, Ramiro Fonseca. because of his sexual orientation.

The first to address the issue were Rodriquez’s fellow trustees, Anna Eastman and Juliet Stipeche. Eastman spoke passionately of the importance of HISD’s anti-bullying policy which “protects people from harassment and bullying based on attributes we all have,” and said that she felt Rodriguez’s actions violated the spirit of that policy. Stipeche, near tears, read the names of teens who had committed suicide after enduring anti-LGBT bullying.

The board had planned to vote on a new ethics policy at the meeting that covered behavior by trustees. At the encouragement of two speakers, and the motion of Eastman, the board decided to delay that vote until December so that a policy stating that encouraging discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression could be added.

After three and a half hours the crowd in the board’s chambers had dwindled, with most of those who had come to confront Rodriquez still waiting. When Board President Paula Harris finally opened the floor for public comment the first person to step up was Houston GLBT Political Caucus President Noel Freeman. Freeman told the board that the extant of Rodriquez’s homophobic campaigning was far greater than the flier which had drawn so much media attention. “What you all might not know is that he also went on television and said that he just couldn’t understand why a 54 year old unmarried man would want, quote ‘access to children,’” said Freeman. “That statement in and of itself, and the implications made therein is reprehensible and simply disgusting.”

Freeman asked that the Board remove Rodriquez as their representative on the Texas Council of School Boards, and as the board’s vice president. He went on to criticize the apology issued by Rodriquez after the election, saying that it did not address the concerns of the GLBT community, nor was it delivered to the community but rather to the press. “You cannot simply say ‘oops, I’m sorry’ and this all goes away,” said Freeman. “We will never forget what you did!”

Board President Harris had made frequent reference throughout the meeting to a group of students from HISD’s Milby High School, letting them know that their time to speak would come. As the students’ designated speaker stepped to the podium his hands visibly shook in nervousness. “When I first heard about [Rodriquez's flier] I did not agree with it because I believe that the message was that a gay person could not be as successful as a straight person and that really hurt me,” said the student. “My question to you is are you going to help us stop the bullying, or are you going to be a bully yourself?”

Perhaps the strongest response from the board was garnered by Paul Gonzales, who choked back tears as he described the challenges he faces as a gay man and parent of an HISD student. “I have a kid, and I have a kid that I have enrolled in HISD, and I love her. Me and my partner every single day are trying to show her that there’s nothing wrong, there’s nothing wrong with our family. So for a board member to say that my family is reprehensible to him… I have to explain [to her] that there are still people who consider us not the kind of family that deserve respect,” said Paul to the board, who were fighting back tears of their own. “GLBT parents like myself trust HISD to give us that haven for our children, that they’re not going to be looked at any differently. But the words that we saw on this flier just made me cringe to think that this isn’t the place that I thought that it was.”

After the jump, watch some of the eighteen people who spoke to the board.

—  admin

A message for Bo & Jim: Bullying and beating up trans children is no joking matter

Bo, left, and Jim, morning show DJs on Lone Star 92.5 FM

I drive about 60 miles round trip in my daily commute to and from work, and I almost always have the radio on. The past couple of mornings, while flipping from station to station to find something I wanted to listen to, I have ended up on Lone Star 92.5 FM, the classic rock station, which features Bo and Jim as its morning show DJs.

On Wednesday morning, Bo and Jim started talking about Chaz Bono getting the boot from Dancing With the Stars. When they started talking, my immediate reaction was to begin bristling with indignation, because I expected to hear so-called “jokes” and crass comments about Chaz’s gender identity. But I was surprised. Instead, Bo and Jim referred to Chaz throughout as a male, using proper — male — pronouns the whole time.

The DJs did make fun of Chaz’s dancing. But considering that he was on a dancing show, his talent as a dancer — or lack thereof — was fair game.

But this morning was a different thing altogether.

This morning, Bo and Jim started talking about a 7-year-old girl, Bobby Montoya of Colorado, who was born biologically male but who identifies and, with the support of her mother, lives as a female. Bobby wanted to join Girl Scouts but was rejected because, as the Girl Scouts worker said, “he has boy parts.” Girl Scout officials higher up in the hierarchy quickly stepped in, said the first person misunderstood the policies, and that Bobby is more than welcome to join Girl Scouts. You can read the story here on Huffington Post.

Bo and Jim, in talking about the story, chose to refer to Bobby throughout as a boy and with male pronouns, which was bad enough. But what really set me off was when they said, basically, “You know this kid is going to get beat up all the time. Even the girls are going to beat him up.” They said it as a joke, an attempt to get laughs. And that is unacceptable.

—  admin

Today is National Spirit Day

Last year, GLAAD established National Spirit Day to draw attention to the problem of bullying. To reinforce the anti-bullying message, students wore purple to school today.

Craig Cassey

This evening, the local chapter of GLAAD is sponsoring Get Amped, a 5K walk/run on the Katy Trail to benefit the national organization. The event begins at 7 p.m. Registration begins at 5:30 p.m. in Reverchon Park.

Craig Cassey, a college student from Philadelphia who participates in track and was elected high school prom king last year, will be on hand for the event. He appeared on WFAA Channel 8 Daybreak this morning with Ron Corning. The video is below.

After the walk/run, the celebration at Reverchon Park moves to the Round-Up Saloon.

 

—  David Taffet

On 1-year anniversary of Asher Brown’s death, his parents call for a moment of silence tonight

Asher Brown
Asher Brown

Today marks the one-year anniversary of Asher Brown’s death.

Asher, a gay 13-year-old from the Houston area, took his own life in response to bullying at school.

Asher’s parents, Amy and David Truong, have recorded a video calling for a moment of silence at 8 p.m. today in honor of Asher and other victims of bullying, as well as their families.

Watch the Truongs’ video and read a statement from Equality Texas below.

—  John Wright

Rawlins Gilliland debuts new KERA radio column

When he’s not auctioning at Art Con, Gililand speaks his mind on new KERA segment. (from Facebook)

We may not enjoy those lengthy membership drives KERA has like every other week (OK, every other month?), but thankfully Rawlins Gilliland brings a certain Southern panache to the drive. With sassy wit and comic timing, Gilliland also makes them bearable. We caught up with him last October when he and artist Cathey Miller repped the LGBT contingent at the Pecha Kucha event.

Today, he returned to KERA, not for a drive, but for the first of his on-air columns. And for his debut, “A Verbal Mongoose Guide To Bullies And Bores,” he talks about coping with bullying as he grew up.

He posted this Monday on Facebook announcing the new show:

I return to the KERA Commentary airwaves Tuesday Sept. 20th, both on Morning Edition & later on All Things Considered with an oral essay, “A Verbal Mongoose Guide to Bullies & Bores” about my personal journey to self-protection & creative retaliation regarding being pushed to the brink of teenage suicide.

The issue of bullying in general is very prominent today & relative to gay issues, endemic. So my hope is that my seemingly light spin on this critical issue will make people laugh, yes, but think. Think.

Typically these pieces air shortly after 6:30 am & repeat shortly after 8:30 & then air on All Things Considered shortly after 4:30ish all on 90.1 fm KERA. Hope you can hear it on-air but if not the link to listen will be posted on my FB page after it airs.
Love you, Rawlins

You can either listen to it or read the transcript here.

—  Rich Lopez

Good Christian belle

Gay ally Kristin Chenoweth talks about her new country music CD (she adores Dolly!), queers … and the right way to be a Christian

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO KRISTIN | The performer has conquered stage, recording, TV … and uniting gay rights with her faith.

Kristin Chenoweth doesn’t get miffed very easily. But when she does, watch out. Last year, after Newsweek published a commentary on the inability of gay actors to play straight roles, she wrote an extensive letter to the magazine, calling the article “horrendously homophobic.”

But Chenoweth’s allegiance to the gay community goes back to growing up in Oklahoma — a place she returned to for her latest album, Some Lessons Learned, the first of four where the opera-trainer singer fully embraces her country roots.

We had lots to talk about when we caught up with Chenoweth, on a dinner break from shooting her upcoming series, Good Christian Belles. She discussed her history of dating gay men, her opinion on Michele Bachmann’s support of gay conversion clinics … and being a little bit wicked.

— Chris Azzopardi

………………………..

Dallas Voice: Your character’s name on Good Christian Belles is Cockburn — Carlene Cockburn. Chenoweth: I can’t wait for my family to hear that one. Are you kidding? I was like, “Wait a minute…!” But I just think the most important thing for me as an actress, because of the lines that come out of my mouth, is to just have to speak them and keep going, because they’re so funny and her name is so funny and the whole thing is just so great. I love it.

Does your character have anything in common with April Rhodes, who you play on Glee? Probably not on paper, but they’re both pretty outlandish people. Carlene, though, is the antithesis of April.

You grew up in Oklahoma, so country music is your roots. How is your new album a reflection of that? It’s so funny, because I get asked, “Why a country album now?” But that’s how it all began for me. Of course, why would anyone know that? It’s not something I’ve been talking about a lot, but it’s the music I grew up listening to. One of my biggest influences is Dolly Parton, and when you look at the history of songs in musical theater and in country, they’re both usually great storytellers.

I know just how lucky I am to do this kind of music. Getting to go to Nashville and sing this music that feels like home to me was a real gift, and one that I don’t take lightly.

The song “What Would Dolly Do?” reminds me a lot of Dolly herself. I co-wrote that. [Producer] Bob Ezrin asked, “Who’s had the biggest influence on you country music-wise?” I said, “Dolly, without question.” And he said, “How would she approach it? Let’s think: What would Dolly do?” I said, “Bob, why aren’t we writing that song?”

There’s something about her that I feel very attuned to. There’s only one Dolly. I’m not comparing myself, but I’m just saying her spirit and the way she looks at life is pretty similar to me. And the cover I did of hers [“Change”] is actually a very emotional thing and it reminded me — of course, how could I ever forget? — what an amazing songwriter she is. You know, I didn’t do a lot of covers. I did two covers, one of Carrie [Underwood] and one of Dolly’s, and I just love both of them. I love their music, I love their spirit — everything they stand for.

It makes total sense, because, to me, both you and Dolly epitomize happiness. Oh my god, thank you. That’s the biggest compliment you could give me.

So, being so happy… what pisses you off? Oh, gosh! I don’t really get mad that often. But I’m not going to lie: When I do, there’s a quiet that comes over me that is a little like whoa, and that happens when I don’t feel other people are prepared or doing their job or pulling their weight. I come from a family where my dad came from nothing and worked hard to get where he is, and he said, “Work hard, play hard, Kris,” and I guess that’s kind of been my motto in life. So when I see people squandering opportunities or having a sense of entitlement, that really makes me crazy. Because I don’t understand it. It’s not a world I get.

One thing that does make you upset is homophobic people. I don’t like that, you’re right.

Your letter in response to that Newsweek column said it all. Why was it important to address your feelings on that issue? To be honest, I wasn’t prepared for what was going to happen. I was on Broadway doing Promises, Promises, and I read the article and I actually thought it was pretty irresponsible. I’m not even talking about whether a person agrees with being gay or not, I’m talking about artistry and gay

actors trying to play straight. It just made me mad, because I thought, “Well, I’ve played a prostitute, does that mean I am one? No.” I just thought it was a little bit of a bullying thing, and I honestly prayed about it — no kidding, I prayed about it.

And by the way, I’m a big fan of the magazine, which is why I was so bummed. But I think that they felt bad and hopefully there’s been some discussion about it and some learning, because that’s what we’re here to do on this Earth, to learn our purpose. Well, one of my purposes in this life — since I’m a believer and a Christian — is to help people realize that not every Christian thinks that being gay is a sin.

To reinforce your point, you made out with your Promises, Promises co-star Sean Hayes at the Tonys last year. It might’ve been a little jibe. It might’ve been a little one! Ha!

What was it like to make out with a gay man? Was that your first time? Well, let’s face it, my high school boyfriend is gay, so I don’t think it’s my first time making out with gay men! I bet a lot of women don’t even know they’ve done it! And Sean Hayes is just a darn good kisser, what can I say?

Wait, so you dated a gay man in high school? Yeah, and I’m like, “Well, that’s why we were such a great couple!” He didn’t pleasure me in any way but he helped me pick out my prom dress!

Was he one of the first gay people you knew in Oklahoma? Yeah. I want to tell you something I know about myself: When I was in the second or third grade, I first heard the word “dyke,” and it was in reference to a girl in our school who was very, very tomboyish. I didn’t really understand what the word was, but I knew I didn’t like the way it was said. And for some reason I’ve always been drawn to the person that was alone, and I don’t mean to make me sound like I’m Mother Teresa, because I’m not. But I’ve always been drawn to people who felt left out or different, and maybe it’s because, I too, felt different and unique. People would not think this of me, because there’s this perception of me that, “Oh, life’s been perfect and things have come so easily.”

But let’s face it: My speaking voice is very interesting. Yes, I was a cheerleader but I also wanted to do all the plays, I was in renaissance choir, and, I too, felt a little bit like an outsider. I was always drawn to people who felt that way, too. And sure, some of them were gay and I never did understand — I guess the word is fear.

God made us all equal. He made me short, he made someone gay, he made someone tall — whatever it is, it’s not a sin; it’s how we’re made. And that’s the way I feel about it. It flies in the face of a lot of what Christians believe, but as I’m finding out there’s a lot of Christian people who think the same as me. So that’s my deal, and I think we should not be careful of the unknown but rather accepting and loving of it.

As someone who’s Christian and supports the gay community, how do you feel about the pray-away-the-gay program that Michele Bachmann supports? [Long pause] You know what, you can have your opinion. One of the great things about being in this country is we get to freely say what we believe. I just don’t happen to agree with that. Though I like the “pray” part!

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens