Arthur Evans, activist who once started a VW repair business called the Buggery, dies at 68

Arthur Evans

Despite having now worked in the gay press for nearly five years, I’m ashamed to say I’d never heard of pioneering activist Arthur Evans, who died Sunday at 68. Evans was involved in the Gay Liberation Front, the group that formed following the Stonewall Rebellion, and he later co-founded another group, the Gay Activists Alliance, because he didn’t feel the Gay Liberation Front was aggressive enough. Wow, has this story not repeated itself over and over throughout the LGBT equality movement? Anyway, what I found most interesting about Evans is the story of his life before becoming a gay activist. After attending Brown and Columbia, he dropped out of school and moved to Washington state, where he and a companion started a group called the Weird Sisters Partnership, homesteading a small piece of land and living in a tent. Then Evans moved to San Francisco and opened a Volkswagen repair business called the Buggery before finally heading back to New York. Evans didn’t come out to his parents until 1970 at age 28, and you’ll never guess how. From The New York Times:

Growing up, Mr. Evans had hid his sexual orientation, though he himself was aware of it at 10, he said. By November 1970, when he was scheduled to appear on “The Dick Cavett Show” with other gay leaders, he had still not told his parents that he was gay. But, by his account, he did tell them he was going to be on national television. Thrilled, they told friends and neighbors to tune in.

Mr. Evans later said he regretted his handling of the matter.

 

—  John Wright

We are ‘greater than AIDS’

A LOOK BACK | Elton John, right, is joined by Ryan White, left, and Jason Robertson, both suffering from AIDS, as he performs at “For the Love of Children” benefit for children with AIDS and other serious illnesses in 1988. (Alan Greth/Associated Press)

As LGBT community grows more complacent, HIV infections in gay, bisexual men continues to rise

DAVID FURNISH  |  Special Contributor

This year marks 30 years since the discovery of the first case of what was later identified as AIDS. With that news, our lives and relationships as gay men were forever altered.

We witnessed an unthinkable tragedy that has taken the lives of more than a quarter million of our gay and bisexual friends and lovers.

In the face of this devastation, leaders emerged. The crisis helped to shape our community’s political agenda, and it provided a platform around which gay leaders could advocate for rights and equality. We realized that if we informed ourselves and acted on what we learned, we could be greater than the disease.

Thanks to the efforts of gay men and our allies, our community saw a dramatic decline in new infections by the late 1980s. Many of us can look back with immense pride at the collective response in those early years.

The availability of effective combination drug therapies in 1996 fundamentally changed how we thought about HIV. No longer was HIV the death sentence it had once been. We had new hope. For many, HIV was a manageable chronic disease.

Many of us turned our attention to marriage equality, adoption rights, the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and other pressing issues facing our community. While we broadened our focus, AIDS did not.

When we become complacent, HIV thrives. New HIV infections among gay and bisexual men in the United States are on the rise. Yes, on the rise.

We are the only risk group for whom this is the case. According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control, one in five of us — that is, gay and bisexual men — in some of the largest U.S. cities today are living with HIV. And half of those who are positive do not know it.

Unless we act now, we will see these numbers rise even higher, and quickly.

My partner, Sir Elton John, often talks of his friend Ryan White, a boy whose tremendous courage in the face of AIDS forced our leaders to take action and inspired many of us. Today, Ryan’s story continues to remind us that just as HIV began one person at a time, it will end one person a time.

Elton and I recently had a baby boy. Becoming fathers has given us new perspective on what it means to take care of one another — as parents, as partners and as members of a community.

And, it reminds us that we cannot be complacent in helping to create the kind of society in which we want our son to grow up. In short, we must take responsibility and each do our part to create a future free of HIV, by being informed, using protection, getting tested and treated — and by getting involved.

And so, as we mark 30 years of this disease, Elton and I have recommitted ourselves to being greater than AIDS. As chairman of the Elton John AIDS Foundation, I’m proud of the community organizations with which we are working to fight stigma and prevent the spread of the disease. And I’m proud that leading LGBT companies — like HERE Media, LOGO TV and Dallas Voice — are refocusing attention on this epidemic. And I hope more will join us.

As a community, we once showed that we could be greater than AIDS. Now is our time to do it again. Visit GreaterThan.org/pride to get started.

David Furnish is Chairman of the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF.org). The Elton John AIDS Foundation is a supporting partner of Greater Than AIDS (GreaterThan.org/pride), a national movement organized in response to AIDS in America with a focus on the most affected communities. Columnist photo courtesy Richard Leslie.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 4, 2011.

—  John Wright

In defense of Fort Worth’s response to the Rainbow Lounge raid

Jon Nelson

By Jon Nelson  |  Fairness Fort Worth

I read with interest the Rev. Stephen Sprinkle’s commentary contrasting the Atlanta outcome with Fort Worth’s after raids at gay bars in each city. He concludes that “Factors contributing to the non-resolution of the Fort Worth police raid may include a less-than-robust defense of bar patrons by the Rainbow Lounge ownership at the time of the bust, and the less aggressive approach Fort Worth gay leaders employed to bring the city and the police department to account.”

The headline contrasts the $1 million settlement with none in Fort Worth. Although the Rev. Sprinkle doesn’t mention this as a contrast, I’ll deal with it anyway. The Atlanta suit was filed by a private attorney on behalf of 19 patrons of the club and no such lawsuit has yet been filed in Fort Worth .The LGBT community formed Fairness Fort Worth at the outset and stepped forward to represent the community. The injustice experienced was against the patrons and not the bar owner nor any employees of the bar. This contrasts sharply with the facts in Atlanta where the police targeted both the bar and its patrons.

The Rev. Sprinkle’s one striking contrast is his belief that the Fort Worth Police Department has never issued an apology and Atlanta has. I have attended at least three meeting where Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead has publicly apologized; the last one was in front of the Rainbow Lounge at a news conference held on Nov. 5, 2009.

The Rev. Sprinkle writes that there has been a “non-resolution” of the raid on the Rainbow lounge. Let me share with you what has happened since the raid and, in the words of the Rev. Sprinkle, “You be the judge”:

—  admin

Texas AG Greg Abbott: Judge in Prop 8 case ‘failed to do what a judge is supposed to do’

A few weeks back we wrote about how anti-gay leaders in Texas were deafeningly silent about U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker’s landmark decision declaring Proposition 8 unconstitutional. As we said at the time, this case has the potential to void gay marriage bans in all states including Texas that have passed them, so one might expect the folks who pushed through the 2005 state constitutional amendment to chime in. Our post was later picked up by Rachel Maddow. Anyhow, looks like Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who’s been fighting gay divorce tooth and nail, has finally said something about Walker’s ruling, in an interview last week with the Texas Tribune (which has seemingly become the only mainstream media outlet in the state that even pretends to care about LGBT issues). Below is a transcript of the full exchange between Abbott and the Tribune’s Evan Smith, taken directly from the first three minutes of the video. Smith asks legitimate questions but fails to follow them up and seems to let Abbott off the hook pretty darn easily. For example, Smith allows Abbott’s assertion that Baker v. Nelson is binding precedent — which is pretty far-fetched at this point — to go unchallenged. Likewise, Abbott fails to respond substantively about Ken Mehlman’s coming out or the issue of transgender marriage. Again, kudos to the Tribune for bringing up these topics, but ultimately that’s not enough — they need to do their homework and be prepared to hold people’s feet to the fire.

Smith: I want to start with a bit of news that broke yesterday afternoon, and that is about Ken Mehlman. Ken Mehlman is the former chair of the Republican National Committee. He was George W. Bush’s campaign manager in ’04, a close aide to George W. Bush over the years politically, who I think as you know announced yesterday that he’s gay, and that he intended to use that public position to campaign for gay marriage? What do you think about that?
Abbott: What do I think about Ken Mehlman?

Smith: What do you think about the Mehlman announcement and what do you think the larger significance of the Mehlman announcement is if there is any for the discourse about gay marriage in this county?
Abbott: Well it adds further discourse into the whole issue, but it doesn’t change the legal dynamics. What one person feels doesn’t change the law, doesn’t change the constitution, doesn’t change pre-existing Supreme Court precedent on the issue.

Smith: So there’s a legal issue that you addressed. Mehlman’s announcement doesn’t change that. But there’s also a political dynamic, surely you would agree, at work here?
Abbott: Well, there is a political dynamic. There’s a political dynamic that’s been in play for decades. But once again, the political dynamic is not going to rewrite the constitution. The constitution says what it says, and just because one person comes out and says, “Listen, I’m gay, I believe in same-sex marriage, doesn’t change the constitution.

Smith: And nor does necessarily the actions of a judge in California, as one did recently, holding the door open to the overturning of the proposition in California That as well is one judge’s decision and does not overall affect the issue?
Abbott: It doesn’t impact the issue. If you want to delve into the details, the reality is that that judge failed to do what a judge is supposed to do. Lower court judges are supposed to follow higher-court precedents. There is a precedent from the United States Supreme Court on this issue, in Baker v. Nelson, that is binding precedent on the lower courts unless and until the Supreme Court changes that opinion, and that binding opinion is one that doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages.

Smith: You had the opportunity recently in a case here in Texas involving a transgender individual to offer an attorney general’s opinion. This is a case where people say it may be kind of a small crack in the door, where gay marriage is actually in certain instances legal in Texas. Your office was asked to offer an opinion, and you declined to. Can you talk about that?
Abbott: First of all, we had three opportunities to weigh in legally in courts about whether or not gay marriage is legal in the state of Texas. The issue you’re talking about is the transgender issue, and that involved an issue where we got an opinion request from the county attorney in El Paso, and we rejected opining on that opinion because of current pending litigation. Now if I tell the county attorney from El Paso that I will not give them an opinion, Evan, I’m not going to give you an opinion either.

—  John Wright

Conservatives warn of backlash if Target gives in to gay pressure

MARTIGA LOHN  |  Associated Press

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Conservative activists said Friday, Aug. 13 that Target Corp. won’t quell the controversy over its corporate donations if the retailer gives in to demands from the left to renounce involvement in political campaigns or to help gay-friendly candidates.

Charlie Weaver, a leader of a political organization supporting a conservative Republican gubernatorial candidate in Minnesota, said the pressure from gays and liberal organizations on Target amounts to “thuggery.”

“This is simply an attempt to intimidate companies from doing what the Supreme Court said they’re entitled to do, exercise their free speech,” said Weaver, treasurer of MN Forward, a campaign group that got $150,000 from Target last month.

A GOP state lawmaker said the controversy, including protests and calls for a boycott by gay leaders, has put Target in a bind.

“They’re darned if they do something and they’re darned if they don’t,” said Rep. Marty Seifert, a Republican from Marshall.

Contributors to a conservative Facebook page on the controversy also warned the company of a backlash from the right.

“I will not boycott Target unless they crater to the demand of the gay activists,” said one writer. The page grew exponentially on Friday from fewer than 500 fans to more than 9,000 as the controversy moved into its third week.

The conservatives’ admonitions come as liberal groups demand that Target balance the earlier donation that helped GOP gubernatorial nominee Tom Emmer, an outspoken critic of gay marriage. Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel’s issued a statement of apology last week, and gay and liberal organizations have been negotiating with corporate officials for an equal donation or another concession.

Protesters have kept the pressure on by rallying almost daily outside Target’s Minneapolis headquarters or its stores since the donation became known.

The flap has revealed new implications of a recent Supreme Court ruling that appeared to benefit corporations by clearing the way for them to spend company funds directly on political campaigns. Target’s donation to a business-oriented group supporting Emmer was one of the first big corporate contributions to come to light after the decision.

The retail chain has gone from defending the donation as a business decision to apologizing and saying it would carefully review its future giving.

“Target is receiving criticism and frustration from their customers because they are doing something wrong, and that should serve absolutely as an example for other companies,” said Ilyse Hogue, director of political advocacy for the liberal group MoveOn.org, which is pressing Target to formally renounce involvement in elections.

Criticism has also come from local government officials in San Francisco, one of the urban markets where Target plans to open new stores.

The company is in talks with the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay rights organization. The group is also demanding donations from electronics retailer Best Buy Co., which gave $100,000 to the same group backing Emmer.

Fred Sainz, the group’s vice president for communications, said he is optimistic both companies will respond. Target has long cultivated a good relationship with the gay community in Minneapolis, and its gay employees have protested the political donation.

“The repair has to be consistent with the harm that was done,” Sainz said.

MN Forward is staffed by former insiders from Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s administration and has also backed a few Democratic legislators. The group has continued to collect corporate money after the backlash against Target, bringing in $110,000 through Tuesday from businesses including Holiday Cos. gas stations and Graco Inc., a maker of pumps and fluid handling equipment. Weaver said the group’s sole focus is job creation, not social issues.

A Target spokeswoman said the company had nothing to add to Steinhafel’s statement of apology. Emmer has said he views the Target giving as an exercise in free speech and wants to keep his campaign focused on economic issues.

Conservatives are watching to see whether Target bends to the pressure, said Kelly O’Keefe, a brand expert at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va.

“They’re likely to raise the ire of a different constituency of customers and get themselves in a never-ending cycle of alienating people,” he said. “A better thing is for them to swear off any future investment in elections.”

—  John Wright