‘The Normal Heart’ at Stages Repertory Theatre

The Normal HeartLarry Kramer is so well-known for his tireless AIDS activism (and for being a general son-of-a-b*tch) that people forget that he is, in fact, a writer. Kramer’s magnum opus, The Normal Heart, is more than just the semi-autobiographical tale of a firebrand activist struggling during the early days of what what would become the AIDS crisis. It’s a masterpiece of language – an exploration of what pulls people out of their everyday lives and into advocacy.

Stages Repertory Theatre presents a staged reading of The Normal Heart Monday, November 28, from 7:30-9:30 pm. Tickets are $25 with proceeds benefiting the University of Houston LGBT Resource Center.

The Normal Heart centers on the relationship between Ned Weeks, a thinly-veiled stand-in for Kramer, and his brother Ben. It’s the early eighties and a mysterious illness, spoken of only in hushed tones as the “gay plague,” is ravaging the gay men of New York. Ned is desperate to fund an organization to care for the sick and fight for support from the city, but when he turns to his brother for financial help the unspoken homophobia that has long strained their relationship springs to the surface.

Meanwhile Ned’s organization has ousted him as a leader in favor of a less controversial (but closeted) candidate after Ned’s confrontational style alienates members of the mayor’s staff. Ned’s friend, a wheel-chair-bound doctor who knows more about the illness than anyone else, also finds herself thrust into the role of activist when the scope of the impending pandemic becomes clear.

Brimming with questions of how to balance confronting power with gaining power, the role of friendship and love in creating change, and the ever tenuous relationships between LGBT people and their families, The Normal Heart is just as relevant today as when it premiered in 1985.

For reservations to the staged reading call 713-522-2204.

—  admin

NY marriage a success; RI civil unions not so much

Speaker of Rhode Island House of Representatives Gordon D. Fox

In Dallas and cities across Texas, marriage equality marches and demonstrations will be held this weekend. The Dallas march takes place at 4:30 p.m. at Founder’s Square outside the County Records Building in Downtown Dallas.

This year one state — New York — has legalized same-sex marriage and two — Rhode Island and Illinois — have legalized civil unions.

Marriage in New York has been a success. Since the law began effective in July, one in five marriages — 20 percent — have been gay or lesbian couples.

The civil union laws? Not so much. In Illinois, 1,600 couples have taken advantage of civil unions since it went into effect on June 1. In Rhode Island, just 14 couples.

A number of reasons for the lack of enthusiasm for civil unions in Rhode Island include the proximity to states with full marriage and disappointment that the openly gay Speaker of the state House of Representatives, Gordon Fox, couldn’t deliver marriage equality.

Nowhere in the state is anyone more than 20 miles from either Connecticut or Massachusetts, both marriage equality states. And Vermont, New Hampshire and New York are short drives. So why settle for second class?

Even given Rhode Island’s small population, the rate is 10 times lower than other states that began offering civil unions. And the Illinois law does not have the number of exemptions where the civil unions can be disregarded as the Rhode Island law.

The Rhode Island law puts those who married elsewhere into the same position as Texans who marry elsewhere. The civil union law prohibits divorce. So while the state won’t recognize their marriages, it insists that couples who split remain married.

—  David Taffet

M Crowd’s Ray Washburne supports a Republican (but NOT Rick Perry) for president

Ray Washburne, who runs M Crowd Restaurant Group — the Dallas-based company that owns Mi Cocina, Taco Diner and other eateries — was interviewed on NPR’s Morning Edition today, talking about his fundraising for GOP candidates. Seems Washburne was an early supporter of Tim Pawlenty for president, and was disappointed when he dropped out. That meant Washburne had to refocus his fundraising efforts on another candidate, and naturally he chose … Mitt Romney. Yep, not Rick Perry, for whom he has been an ardent monetary supporter as Texas governor. Seems that even a Texas Republican who would benefit having another Texan in the White House, and one he has endorsed in the past, thinks Perry isn’t qualified for the job. You can listen to the audio here.

Now to me, that’s the story — it’s what I intended to blog about as soon as the audio came available. But waiting in my inbox when I arrived at work was an email from a gay Dallasite, encouraging gays not to patronize any of the M Crowd restos.”Before you spend another dime at Mi Concina, Taco Diner or the Mercury you may want to reconsider where you[r] money is going and it’s going to candidates that support anti-gay causes.”

I can’t say I fully agree with my friend on this point. I don’t think giving money to any Republican candidate is, by nature, supporting anti-gay causes. Does Mitt Romney favor same-sex marriage? He most certainly does not — he’s said as much. You know who else has said he does not support same-sex marriage? Barack Obama, who has also made that bias perfectly clear. So, as far as same-sex marriage goes, Romney and Obama seem identical. That does not, of course, mean that Obama is more hostile to gay causes in general, or that Romney is a good candidate for gay voters; it just means that if donating money to a Republican means that your business is “anti-gay” …. well, I think there are a lot of restaurants in town gays might have to boycott.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

More on marriage in New York

Same-sex couples in New York were allowed to start applying for marriage licenses on Wednesday, July 6.

But those who applied for a license on the first day in New York City had to decide who was going to be the bride and who was going to be the groom. Mayor Michael Bloomberg had the forms corrected overnight, according to ABC News.

The forms now read: “Bride/Groom/Spouse A” and “Bride/Groom/Spouse B.”

On July 24, Bloomberg will preside over the wedding of two of his aides — John Feinblatt, his chief policy adviser, and Jonathan Mintz, the commissioner for consumer affairs. Feinblatt and Mintz have been together 14 years and have two young daughters. The wedding will be at Gracie Mansion, the official mayor’s residence, according to the New York Times.

Elsewhere in the city, the Bishop Nicholas DiMarzioof of Brooklyn banned lawmakers who voted for marriage equality from Catholic churches and schools. He called the law that allows more people to get married, “another nail in the coffin of marriage.”

The bishop said no gifts from those lawmakers would be accepted and reportedly returned a $50 check sent by one legislator in honor of a student.

New York City tourism officials, on the other hand, are rolling out a new I Love NY campaign dubbed NYC I DO with hotel and wedding packages. They expect to add $142 million to the city economy and another $40 million to the rest of the state.

Tax officials say that couples with a joint income of $65,000 or less will pay less in state income tax. Couples with higher incomes may pay more.

Those who marry and work in New York will be able to get health insurance through their employers, if their employers don’t already provide coverage.

According to the Empire State Pride Agenda, New York has 1,324 state-offered rights and responsibilities that go with marriage — including the right to divorce and receive alimony.

The first day for marriage equality in New York is a Sunday and many state judges will be on hand to perform ceremonies and waive the state’s 24-hour waiting period between when a license is issued and when a wedding can be performed.

If any of our readers are planning to go to New York to get married this summer, let us know. We’d love to hear about your plans.

—  David Taffet

What’s Brewing: Gates may certify DADT repeal this month; GOP debate touches on LGBT issues

Defense Secretary Robert Gates

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the Associated Press he may certify the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” before stepping down at the end of this month, which could allow the ban on open service to end sometime in September. Gates said he will certify DADT repeal this month only if all of the service chiefs recommend it. If not, it will be left to his successor, Leon Panetta.

2. Republican presidential candidates responded to questions about both same-sex marriage and DADT repeal during their debate Monday night in New Hampshire. Watch their responses below, but here’s our takeaway: If Texas Gov. Rick Perry decides to seek the GOP nomination, he’ll have a hard time setting himself apart from other major candidates based on his anti-gay views.

3. What’s with the straight men posing as lesbians in the blogosphere?

—  John Wright