What’s Brewing: Ill. governor signs civil unions bill; the DMN straight-washes a bullying story

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn used 97 pens to sign a civil unions bill on Monday, in front of hundreds of people who packed a ballroom in downtown Chicago for the ceremony. The law, which takes effect June 1, will make Illinois the sixth state with civil unions that provide state-level protections equivalent to marriage. If you’ve got nothing better to do on this snow/ice day, you can count the pens in the video above.

2. The Dallas Morning News has a piece today about anti-bullying bills in the Texas Legislature. And it’s great that the DMN has finally decided to devote some space — even if it is on Page 5B — to efforts to curb an epidemic that’s claiming young people’s lives. But there’s one small problem, and it actually happens to be a huge problem. Incredibly, the DMN story manages to avoid any mention of the word “gay” or “homosexual” or “sexual orientation.” In fact, the newspaper clearly goes out of its way to avoid these words. Case in point: Equality Texas, the statewide gay-rights group, is referred in the story as “a group that works to prevent school violence.” WTF? It’s arguably the biggest straight-washing since this one.

3. This item is canceled due to the weather.

—  John Wright

AFA: Repeal of DADT will cause an epidemic of ‘butt-sex’

crossposted on Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters

Sometimes, it doesn't take much to demonstrate just how nasty and hateful some members of the religious right choose to be.

All you have to do is just give them free reign to talk.

Take for example the recent overturning of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The American Family Association's phony news service, One News Now published the following piece:

Fighting back against sodomized military

A national defense analyst and Pentagon advisor says the new Congress can take a number of actions to blunt the impact of the new law that allows homosexuals to openly display their lifestyle in the U.S. military.

Many pro-military pundits said they were sickened and angered last week when President Barack Obama ended 235 years of wholesome tradition by signing the bill that will effectively sodomize the U.S. military. One of those specialists is Lt. Col. Bob Maginnis (USA-Ret.), who was part of the military working group that helped craft the 1993 homosexual service ban that the lame-duck Congress and President Obama have now overturned.

“You have a very corrupt regime running the country,” he laments. But he expects there to be a backlash when the 112th Congress replaces the lame-duck body that was repudiated by the American people last month.

Where does one start with this one?

Sodomized military? So according to the AFA, the overturning of Don't Ask, Don't Tell means that automatically the American Armed Forces is facing an “epidemic” of butt-sex?
 
Also, while the article claims that many “pro-military pundits” (which is a bizarre description. Just who are these “pro-military pundits” and does that mean there are “anti-military pundits”) who oppose the overturning of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, it only quotes one person, Maginnis. And while Maginnis may be a former military person, he isn't exactly a legitimate source of information.

He just happens to be with the Family Research Council (another religious right group) as the “Senior Fellow for National Security.”  Before being quoted by this article, he said in another article that “America is no better than Sodom and Gomorrah” for allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.

It's important to remember that the Southern Poverty Law Center has declared both the AFA and FRC as anti-gay hate groups due to their need to demonize and dehumanize the lgbt community. Granted both organizations claim they are being unfairly victimized for “upholding” Christian values.

And they may have a point . . . only if causing a panic about anal sex is a “Christian value.”

 

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  admin

A new take on an old holiday classic: Anita Mann’s version of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’

It’s the holiday season, and so today I thought I’d share this video that I found on Mark S. King’s blog, “My Fabulous Disease.”

King is a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, not to mention an AIDS activist since the early days of the epidemic, and this video features his alter ego, Anita Mann, reading “Twas the Night Before Christmas” as part of a fundraiser for LGBT people recovering from addiction. As read by Anita, it’s the same old Christmas story we’ve all heard a million times, but her, uh, interpretation can make you see it in a whole new light.

And when you’re done watching the video, go on over to King’s blog and explore. Be sure to read his biographical information, and then read some of his posts, which are all about keeping a stubbornly positive attitude and always looking for the lighter side of life. It might give you a new outlook on life in general, not to mention the holiday season.

—  admin

NoH8 takes on bullying, with the help of Cindy McCain

Way back in January, I posted this piece about Cindy McCain, wife of anti-gay Arizona senator and failed presidential candidate John McCain, participating in the NoH8 campaign in support of same-sex marriage. The McCains’ daughter Meghan also posed for a photo in the NoH8 campaign and has been outspoken in her support of same-sex marriage and LGBT rights in general.

Now comes this video about bullying from NoH8, and once again Cindy McCain is speaking out.

The video includes appearances by a long list of celebrities (including another of my favorite blondes, Bridget Marquadt of Girls Next Door fame) who are all talking about how serious bullying is and how everyone needs to step up and do their part to end the epidemic. I was especially impressed by what Cindy McCain said about how anti-gay laws — things like “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act — are also a form of bullying and must end, along with religious persecution of LGBT people.

Makes me wonder how tense the situation must be right now in the McCain household, since John McCain supports both DADT and DOMA.

Anyway, let’s hear a cheer, once again, for Cindy McCain and all the others who took the time to participate in this video and make a stand for our rights — and our lives. And check out this “It Gets Better” PSA No H8 did, that includes Meghan McCain, Tori Spelling, Pauly Perrett and many others.

—  admin

Resource Center calls on DISD to add LGBT protections to proposed new anti-bullying policy

IMPORTANT UPDATE: RCD’s Rafael McDonnell reports that those wishing to speak at Thursday’s DISD meeting must sign up by 5 p.m. Wednesday by calling board services at 972-925-3720.

Resource Center Dallas is calling on the Dallas Independent School District to add protections for LGBT students to a proposed new anti-bullying policy. As we reported yesterday, the new anti-bullying policy is slated to be discussed Thursday by DISD’s board of trustees. A final vote is expected at the end of the month, but as currently written, the policy doesn’t include specific prohibitions against bullying based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, or gender identity and expression. Which seems odd given the fact that we are in the midst of an epidemic of teen suicides related to anti-gay bullying and harassment, including at least one in Texas. Resource Center is encouraging people to contact the nine members of DISD’s Board of Trustees and demand that they amend the policy to include LGBT students. RCD has also sent its own letter to each of the nine trustees, which we’ve posted below. From RCD’s press release:

“We are pleased that DISD is revisiting its approach to bullying. Unfortunately, the proposed policy does not define which students are to be protected by it. As a result, it does not provide specific protections for LGBT students. It is vital for this board to specifically articulate who this policy is designed to protect, rather than simply stating a broad definition of bullying. Absent any specific protections, it could be inferred that it would be okay to bully students based on their real or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Given the rash of LGBT bullying-related suicides in recent weeks—including one in the greater Houston area—specifically articulated protections are not formalities; they are essential.

“Resource Center Dallas encourages the North Texas LGBT community to contact the nine members of the DISD board. Encourage them to modify the proposed anti-bullying policy to specifically include LGBT students. Board members still have time to improve the protections for the youngest members of our community. Contact information, including phone numbers and e-mail, can be found at http://www.dallasisd.org/about/boardcontact.htm. Additionally, if you are able to attend the DISD board meeting Thursday, October 14 at 11:30 a.m. at 3700 Ross Avenue in Dallas, please do so. A representative of the Center will address the board on these issues.”

—  John Wright

The epidemic continues: Parents say bullies drove their son to take his life

From the Houston Chronicle:

Asher Brown’s worn-out tennis shoes still sit in the living room of his Cypress-area home while his student progress report – filled with straight A’s – rests on the coffee table.

The eighth-grader killed himself last week. He shot himself in the head after enduring what his mother and stepfather say was constant harassment from four other students at Hamilton Middle School in the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District.

Brown, his family said, was “bullied to death” – picked on for his small size, his religion and because he did not wear designer clothes and shoes. Kids also accused him of being gay, some of them performing mock gay acts on him in his physical education class, his mother and stepfather said.

The 13-year-old’s parents said they had complained about the bullying to Hamilton Middle School officials during the past 18 months, but claimed their concerns fell on deaf ears.

You would think that a wave of violence against LGBT (and perceived LGBT) school kids — and an alarming body count — might prompt some sort of comment (let alone action) from the White House… even calls for immediate passage of the Federal Safe Schools act.


On a personal note, I went to school in this particular district — a very long time ago. And it appears that despite the passage of time, not much has changed… I was bullied in middle school and much of high school — being short, slight build, into the arts, etc. — to the point that when I did finally fight back, I wound up breaking the other kids arm. The school administrators, teachers and adults acted as if the bullying occuring under their noses didn’t exist — they were blissfully unaware.

I’ve carried the scars through my life — and it has spurred me to be an activist for change

We all need to let our kids know: IT GETS BETTER.


Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright

ASOs pleased with Obama’s AIDS strategy

Service providers are optimistic about holistic approach, but want to see the money to back up plan

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Raeline Nobles

The White House’s new National AIDS Strategy, released July 13, is getting good reviews from AIDS service organizations in North Texas.

The policy includes plans on how to reduce new infections, how to increase access to health care and how to improve the outcome for people living with HIV. It takes a holistic approach to AIDS, bringing resources from around the community together and recognizing the need for transportation, food and housing as well as medical treatment.

Its goals also include eliminating the stigma still attached to HIV/AIDS.

“This White House is more systemic,” said Raeline Nobles, executive director of AIDS Arms. “[They know that] when one part of the system is weak, the entire system breaks down. You have to reach out into the greater community.”

Nobles noted the focus on reducing the infection rate by 25 percent.

“I think the strategy is very aggressive,” she said. “A 25 percent drop is a huge drop.”

Still, she wondered how the plan would be funded.

“Healthcare reform will provide some answers, but not until 2014 and that’s a long time in the middle of an epidemic,” she said.

Steven Pace, executive director of AIDS Interfaith Network, said “What I hope emerges is renewed outreach and prevention because those were so destroyed under the Bush administration.”

And Don Maison, president and CEO of AIDS services of Dallas commended the plan’s “recognition of the importance of housing for overall health. … Housing has the attention of policymakers and is included for the first time.”

Maison attended a White House meeting in December with Jeffrey S. Crowley, director of the Office of National AIDS Policy. Four assistants to the president, officials from HUD and the Health Resources and Services Administration also attended.

When Maison read how their concerns were addressed in the strategy, he said he was delighted they were listening.

Nobles also was impressed with the process by which the administration put the strategy together.

She said that at least once every other week she received an e-mail asking her opinion.

Steve Dutton, executive director of Samaritan House in Fort Worth, pointed out three things he especially liked about the strategy.

“It’s important that housing is integrated into the plan,” he said. “I like the call to educating all Americans about the disease. And prevention is more than just condoms.”

He said this was the first administration that gathered information from experts and used that to formulate a strategy. He said he was impressed by the call for federal agencies to work closely with local agencies.

Like other agency directors, Dutton worried about funding.

He said the president made it clear in his executive summary of the document that this is not a budget document.

“But it clearly establishes national priorities,” Dutton said. “That’s very impressive. It’s been a long time since leadership asked people on the street, ‘What do you think?’”

Bret Camp from Nelson Tebedo Clinic was cautiously optimistic.

“It’s good that we finally have a plan,” he said. “I would like to see money behind it.”

Camp liked the idea of collaboration among faith-based groups, government agencies, the medical community and service organizations.

“That makes the continuum of prevention services seamless,” he said.

Camp pointed to the Stomp Out Syphilis program at Resource Center Dallas that works well with faith-based organizations throughout the community.
“The state holds that program up as a model,” he said.

Allan Gould, executive director of AIDS Outreach Center in Fort Worth, said the plan had the right goals for halting the spread of HIV. He said that over the last five to 10 years, most people acted as though the AIDS epidemic was over, but, “AIDS is still a huge problem.”

Gould said that the two things to watch are how the plan is implemented and where the money is coming from. The federal government funds Tarrant County and other areas with fewer than 2,000 cases of AIDS differently than cities like Dallas with more people infected with HIV.

“Small agencies will close,” Gould said.

But his reading of the strategy is that it is a fresh approach.

“It’s a health issue, not a moral issue,” he said. “The plan takes a holistic approach.”

He said the president sounded pragmatic when he announced the strategy, admitting he didn’t have all the answers.

Gould said that for the first time, ASOs wouldn’t have to wait for a change in administration to get rid of a policy or an approach that isn’t working.
But Gould laughed at one of the main goals — to reduce the stigma of AIDS.

He said you can’t tell people how to think, but he thought it was better to have that as policy than not.

Getting the prevention message out there once again, Gould said, was among the most important pieces of the new plan.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 23, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens