WATCH: Gov. Perry thanks the leader of the anti-gay hate group that funded his day of prayer

The Human Rights Campaign has launched a petition calling on Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who’s a close second in the latest GOP presidential poll, to denounce the anti-gay extremists who funded his day of prayer last weekend — and whom he thanked during his remarks at the end of the event. Watch video above of Perry thanking Don Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, among others.

Below is the text of the petition, which you can sign by going here.

Governor Perry –

I was disturbed by your organization of last week’s anti-gay, Christian-only day of prayer in Texas, and I was alarmed to see you openly embrace notorious anti-gay leaders.

The organizers of The Response represent the worst of the worst – they preach intolerance toward others under the guise of love and spread hateful rhetoric that has dangerous consequences. Your alignment with and support of these people demonstrates your inability to serve as a national leader for all Americans.

I urge you to show true leadership by publically denouncing these extremists. It is the right thing to do, and it will send a strong message that you are capable of leading all Americans – not just the small, radical fringe you currently represent.

—  John Wright

Interfaith service hosted by Unitarian church offered another alternative to ‘The Response’

Saturday, less than 4 miles from Reliant Stadium and Gov. Rick Perry’s day of prayer and fasting, “The Response,” a prayer service of a very different nature took place. First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston hosted an “Inclusive Interfaith Prayer Service” that featured an Imam, a Rabbi, a Buddhist Monk and even a Baptist Minister.  A moment of silence was set aside to recognize those in attendance who didn’t believe in a higher power, and respect their beliefs.

The Rev. Dr. Daniel O’Connell, senior pastor of First UUC, opened the service by contrasting it with “The Response,” but said that the inclusive interfaith service was not about being critical of people of other faiths: “We come today not to tear down, but to lift up.”

“I come from a particular religious tradition that I cherish, but other hearts are here with hopes and dreams as true and pure as mine,” O’Connell continued, referencing the hymn “A Song of Peace.”

The service continued with a performance by the Bayou City Performing Arts Quartet (made up of members of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Houston and Bayou City Women’s Chorus) and an opening prayer by the Rev. Dr. Jeremy Rutledge, a Baptist minister.

“The Language of Peace,” an instrumental trio that includes cello, keyboard and an Indian instrument known as a “tanpura,” then performed an improvisational piece accompanied by chanting in Hindi.

Chanting was a common element in many of the rituals and prayers performed by the diverse collection of religious leaders. From Rabbi Samantha Kahn’s recitation of a Shabbat morning prayer, to Imam Kemal Civelek’s chanting of the names of God, the service centered on quiet moments of contemplation and meditation. During the “Bathing of the Baby Buddha” ritual performed by the Rev. Seido of the St. Nichiren Buddhist Temple, his rhythmic, breathy chanting filled the air as those assembled ladled water over a statue of a standing infant Buddha.

The Rev. Ellen Cooper Davis of Northwoods Unitarian Universalist Church spoke about her previous life as a circus performer and her current life as a minister.  “Actually, the circus was good preparation for working for a church,” said Davis.

“There’s a circus in town right now, but it’s not the kind i want. … It’s the kind that they use to lure the poor people in with bread, the kind the Roman satirists wrote about ages ago,” Cooper Davis said. “They said it’s just there to distract the people so that they would be content with their bread and their circus and would not realize that the Roman empire was oppressing them. So that they would be content with just a few hours of entertainment and not realize that they were living in an empire. The kind of empire that took people who asked hard questions about how we ought to live and nailed them up onto a cross.”

The Rev. Adam Robinson, who organized the service, closed by saying: “This service is about a place at the table for everyone, those [people at “The Response”] are my people. You’re looking an an Evangelical boy here who, after many years, was ordained — then outed — and my place at the table was taken away.

“We’ve got the people out there who are united with hate groups and we don’t want to be united with them,” Robinson said. “We have to watch that — we have to watch our desire to separate ourselves from people we disagree with. It’s a fine line, but if we don’t watch that line carefully pretty soon it’s not OK to be a Unitarian, and then it’s not OK to be a Muslim or a Jew, then it’s not OK to be a progressive Christian, and then there’s only one kind of Christian people are allowed to be.”

—  admin

What’s Brewing: Uplifted by ‘The Response,’ Gov. Perry may announce presidential bid this week

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. More than 30,000 people are said to have attended “The Response,” Gov. Rick Perry’s day of prayer and fasting at Reliant Stadium in Houston on Saturday. Check out our coverage of the LGBT (and non-LGBT) responses to The Response here, here, here and here. For those who actually care what went on inside the stadium, we’ve posted some video below. The first segment is Perry’s speech in its entirety, which turned out to be rather political despite his assurances that it wouldn’t be. The second is a report from the Texas Tribune which indicates that not all attendees — including Perry — actually fasted on Saturday. And the third is a compilation from Right Wing Watch featuring some of the speakers at the event.

2. Now that The Response is over, Perry is likely to announce that he’s running for president as early as this week.

3. But not all Republicans are thrilled about Perry’s all-but-certain candidacy. During NBC’s Meet The Press on Sunday, GOP consultant Alex Castellanos called Perry “Sarah Palin in a skirt” and a “lighter” version of George W. Bush.

—  John Wright

WATCH: GetEQUAL stages funeral procession outside Reliant Stadium during ‘The Response’

A block from the merry-go-round of the American Atheists, Freedom from Religion Foundation, Lyndon LaRouche supporters and Westboro Baptist Church, a more somber, if no less energetic, response to “The Response” was taking place. Organized by GetEQUAL, the event sought to give voice to people killed by the violent rhetoric of transphobia and homophobia.

The training camp for the Houston Texans sits opposite Kirby Drive from Reliant Arena, its driveway intersecting with Kirby directly in front of the main entrance. Saturdays during the summer the camp plays host to a children’s football camp.  At 8 a.m. Saturday, when parents dropped their kids off at camp, a small group of a few dozen GetEQUAL activists graced the main entrance. By the time parents returned to pick their kids up in the early afternoon there were hundreds of protestors.

GetEQUAL staged several mock funerals throughout the day to represent the more than 13,000 people killed in America because of anti-LGBT bias since 1980. The funerals were complete with coffins and a New Orleans-style street band. Daniel Cates, North Texas regional coordinator for GetEQUAL, says that the band was not originally planned to be part of the protest. “They were a local group who had come to Reliant to protest ‘The Response,’” said Cates. “When they saw what we were doing, they wanted to help.”

Between funerals the GetEQUAL protestors chanted and sang. Their rousing rendition of the civil rights era classic “We Shall Overcome” drew attendees of “The Response” out of the stadium to look down from the third floor mezzanine. Chants of “This is what democracy looks like” and “Pray away the hate” rang out all day, crescendo-ing as more and more protestors arrived.  At one point the chant spontaneously morphed into “Show me what hypocrisy looks like” and the assembled protestors turned to point at Reliant Stadium and chant, “This is what hypocrisy looks like.”

Protesters braved temperatures that approached but never quite breached the triple-digit mark.  GetEQUAL’s prime spot at the Reliant Stadium entrance also placed them in the shadow of the leviathan structure. As the afternoon wore on, many protestors who had stationed themselves at the stadium’s parking lot entrances relocated to the relative cool provided by Reliant’s shade, swelling the crowd at the entrance to what Cates called “comfortably thousands of protesters.”

Photos and video from the protest are below.

—  admin

The non-LGBT Response to ‘The Response’

A billboard truck paid for by the Freedom from Religion Foundation sits outside Reliant Stadium on Saturday during ‘The Response.’
Han Will and Katherine Godby from First Congregational Church of Fort Worth.

Houston’s Kirby Drive winds past the front entry to Reliant Stadium. At one point, just past the stadium, the road makes a slight curve. The main gate to the stadium’s parking lot is here, and the combination of Kirby Drive’s curve and the thoroughfare-like entrance gate creates a three-way intersection centered around a small concrete traffic island. On Saturday, this intersection became a carousel of non-LGBT groups protesting Gov. Rick Perry’s day of prayer and fasting, dubbed “The Response.”

Each corner was claimed by a different group that feels “The Response” violated values it holds dear. On one corner, the American Atheists — who objected to the response as state promotion of religion. On the next corner, the Freedom From Religion Foundation which, due to its strategic location, was positioned to yell at idling cars waiting for entrance to the stadium. On the last corner, a group of Lyndon LaRouche supporters, who toted a 6-foot poster of President Barack Obama portrayed as Hitler. Finally, cordoned on the concrete island by crowd-control fencing: Westboro Baptist Church. Positioned at the axis of discontent, WBC managed to draw the ire of all the other groups, and every attendee to “The Response” who drove by.

The most fervent shouting matches were between the Atheists and Westboro Baptist Church. Small cadres of Athiests would hurl taunts like “Your imaginary friend doesn’t scare me.”  Which would cause the protesters from WBC to launch into another round of what seemed to be their favorite song: “God Hates America,” set to the tune of “God Bless America.”

—  admin

WHAT’S BREWING: Day of prayer suit dismissed; post-DADT guide for gay troops; NY marriage split

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit that sought to block Texas Gov. Rick Perry from participating in or promoting his Aug. 6 day of prayer on the grounds that his involvement violates the separation of church and state. The group of atheists and agnostics that filed the lawsuit, the Freedom from Religion Foundation, says it may appeal Thursday’s decision. Meanwhile, a DV poll over on our main page (lower right) shows that 70 percent of respondents believe Perry’s involvement with the event is in fact a violation of the first amendment’s establishment clause.

2. In anticipation of the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell” in September, a leading advocacy group has published a legal guide for gay servicemembers who’ll be serving openly post-DADT. Servicemembers Legal Defense Network also launched a redesigned website reflecting a shift in the group’s focus. “The work of advancing military equality marches forward after repeal,” SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis said in a press release. “At SLDN, we will fight alongside those who may face harassment or discrimination as we oversee implementation; when necessary and timely, litigate in the courts to bring about full LGBT equality in America’s military; advocate for legally married service members to receive the same benefits as their straight counterparts; and assist veterans to correct or upgrade their discharge paperwork.”

3. The nation is split 50 percent to 46 percent over whether marriage equality in New York is a good thing, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Check out the breakdown of the poll results below.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Hearing today in suit over Perry’s day of prayer; parole fought for gay man’s killer

Several elected officials have joined the fight to keep Jon Buice behind bars for the 1991 hate crime murder of gay banker Paul Broussard, pictured.

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. A federal judge will hear arguments today in a lawsuit that seeks to bar Texas Gov. Rick Perry from promoting or participating in his anti-gay day of prayer on Aug. 6 in Houston. The lawsuit was filed earlier this month by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based group of atheists and agnostics that contends the governor’s involvement in the event violates the separation of church and state. Meanwhile, it’s still unclear what Perry’s role will be in the day of prayer or whether he’ll speak at the gathering.

2. In any case, Gov. Perry appears to be sticking to his position that issues like marriage equality and abortion should be left up to the states under the 10th amendment. Perry said Wednesday that if Roe. v. Wade were overturned, he’d support allowing states to legalize abortion. Last week Perry said he’s “fine” with New York’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage. Both stances have landed him in hot water with social conservatives. “You either have to believe in the 10th amendment or you don’t,” Perry said. “You can’t believe in the 10th Amendment for a few issues and then something that doesn’t suit you, you say, ‘Well we really rather not have that state decide that.’”

3. Several elected officials from the Houston area have joined the fight to keep Jon Buice behind bars for the 1991 hate crime murder of gay banker Paul Broussard, The Houston Chronicle reports. Buice, who’s served 20 years of his 45-year sentence, was granted parole earlier this month and is set to be released sometime in October. But elected officials have joined Broussard’s mother, LGBT advocates and others in calling on parole commissioners to revisit their decision to release Buice. Those who’ve written letters to the the state parole board include Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos, state Sens. John Whitmire and Rodney Ellis, and state Reps. Jessica Farrar and Garnet Coleman. To submit your own letter opposing Buice’s release, go here.

—  John Wright

WATCH: Rick Perry’s day of prayer web site no longer includes link to whacko ‘Endorsers’

The website for Rick Perry’s day of prayer originally had a link to endorsers at the top, as shown above. The link has since been removed, as shown below. (via Right Wing Watch)

The other day Right Wing Watch noted that the link to a list of endorsers — from the guy who believes the Statue of Liberty is a demonic idol, to the guy who thinks Oprah is the Antichrist — had been removed from the top of the main page of the website for Rick Perry’s Aug. 6 day of prayer, The Response. You can still get to the list of endorsers, but only by going directly to the URL or by clicking on FAQ, then scrolling down past information about parking, lodging, handicap accessibility, etc. In other words, the endorsers have been buried, and on Wednesday night, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow wondered why. Maddow asked Wayne Slater, a senior political reporter for The Dallas Morning News, whether he thinks the removal of the link has “political implications.”

“Yes, it has political implications,” Slater said. “Clearly the exotic ideas and news and reports on your show and elsewhere about how exotic and unorthodox some of these religious views are, has caused heartburn inside the Perry camp, and has really threatened to distract from what they wanted to do, which is say, ‘Look we’re just having a prayer rally, people are going to show up, they’re going to pray, they’re going to sing.’ And then when you have the guy who has sex with the sun goddess as part of the story, it’s not helpful.”

Watch the full segment below:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Gov. Perry may not speak at day of prayer; trans widow Nikki Araguz files appeal

Nikki Araguz

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. CNN reports that Texas Gov. Rick Perry may not even speak at his own day of prayer on Aug. 6 in Houston. Eric Bearse, a spokesman for the American Family Association, the anti-gay hate group that is funding Perry’s day of prayer, told CNN: “There will be a handful of speakers, in addition to a number of folks leading prayer, plus some time for praise and worship music. … Whether the governor will speak has not yet been decided at this point.” Seems like this could be another example of Perry trying to tone down the religious rhetoric and distance himself from the whackos who’ve endorsed the event.

2. Texas transgender widow Nikki Araguz has appealed a district judge’s ruling denying her death benefits to the 13th Circuit Court of Appeals in Corpus Christi. Araguz also announced that if she wins the case, she’ll deposit the death benefits into a trust fund for her deceased husband’s two children. “I am pursuing this appeal to defend my marriage, not to obtain any financial benefit,” said Araguz. Read the full press release here.

3. A group led by anti-gay El Paso pastor Tom Brown this week filed notice of its intent to recall the mayor and two council members after they voted to reinstate domestic partner benefits for city employees. The group now has 60 days to collect enough signatures — 6,100 for the mayor and 650 each for the two council members — to trigger a recall election. If they are succesful, the recall election would cost the city $150,000, in addition to the cost of holding another election to replace the three if they are recalled.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Gov. Rick Perry tries to distance himself from wingnut day of prayer partners

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Texas Gov. Rick Perry — perhaps fearing they could hurt him in the presidential election — appears to be trying to distance himself from the extreme views of groups and individuals with whom he’s partnering with for The Response, his day of prayer and fasting on Aug. 6 in Houston. “I’m sure that through my elections in the past that there have been some groups that have endorsed me publicly, that I appreciate their endorsements, but their endorsements of me doesn’t mean I endorse what they believe in or what they say,” Perry said Monday, according to The Dallas Morning News. “I appreciate anyone that’s going to endorse me, whether it’s on The Response or whether it’s on a potential run for the presidency of the United States. Just because you endorse me doesn’t mean I endorse everything that you say or do.” Sorry, governor, but nice try. Being endorsed by someone in a political race is a little different from partnering with them and selecting them to foot the bill for an event like this.

2. The U.S. Senate for the first time ever on Monday confirmed an openly gay man to serve as a federal district judge, The Washington Blade reports. J. Paul Oetken, nominated by President Barack Obama in January, was confirmed to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York by a vote of 80-13 (Texas Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison was among those who voted against Oetken’s confirmation). Oetken is not the first openly LGBT person to be confirmed as a federal district judge, as this distinction belongs to U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts, an out lesbian appointed by President Bill Clinton. And of course he’s not the first non-openly gay man, as we’ve had Judge Vaughn Walker and undoubtedly others. But Oetken’s confirmation is still a pretty big deal: “It wasn’t even two decades ago that openly LGBT people had a hard time even being considered for a presidential appointment, and some who got nominated faced fierce opposition in the Senate,” said Denis Dison, a spokesman for the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund. “Today, more than 200 LGBT Americans have been appointed by President Obama, and more than 25 of those were nominated for Senate-confirmable positions.”

3. Towleroad has posted bios of those scheduled to testify during the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing Wednesay on repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. The lack of diversity among witnesses has drawn criticism from the likes of Lt. Dan Choi and prompted an online petition calling for the Human Rights Campaign to “Wake up from white privilege and diversify!” But The Washington Blade reports that witnesses were actually selected by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., in consultation with outside groups, and Immigration Equality, a group focused on DOMA-related immigration issues, isn’t concerned about the absence of binational same-sex couples from the witness list.

—  John Wright