Hero of the Month: Leonard Matlovich

Bigotry is often accomodated as a civil rights cause advances. Redundant parallel institutions like civil unions emerge and misguided policies like DADT are enacted. Sometimes the accomodations are temporary measures that can incubate further change. Sometimes they wind up perpetuating the status quo. Half-measures like these are taken because people are slow or unable to come to grips with the simple truth that equality means equality for everyone.

DADT, instituted in 1993, will go down as an accomodation that did little or nothing to advance the cause of equality. Prior to DADT, gays were formally banned from serving in the U.S. military regardless of whether they were open or closeted. DADT may have been intended to end witch hunts, provided that LGB soldiers remained closeted. But the military failed to hold up its end of the bargain, and DADT looks like a feeble attempt by a beleagured Clinton administration to save face, not a potentially useful half-measure to further civil rights.

Leonard Matlovich, the first person to challenge the ban on LGBs serving in the military, had the foresight to reject a DADT-type compromise eighteen years prior to the enactment of DADT. Matlovich was an Air Force technical sergeant who had been the recipient of a purple heart and a bronze star and taught classes on race relations. In 1973, he got in touch with gay activist Frank Kameny, who was looking for a soldier with an exemplary record to help bring a test case against the ban. Matlovich agreed to be that soldier, and in March, 1975, he came out to his commanding officer in a letter. He was promptly discharged.

Matlovich fought the discharge. In the process, he was offered an accomodation that would have allowed him to remain in the Air Force provided that he promise never to practice homosexuality again. In effect, he could remain in the service if agreed to live a lie.

Matlovich rejected the lie and became a national LGBT rights activist instead. He helped combat and the Briggs initiative in California and Anita Bryant’s attempt to overturn an anti-discrimination clause in Miami. In his day, Matlovich was as well-known as Harvey Milk, if not more so, and appeared on the cover of Time magazine. He later campaigned for adequate HIV and AIDS education and treatment, and was arrested at a protest at the White House. He himself died of complications from HIV / AIDS in 1987.

Matlovich possessed a foresight and clarity of purpose that served him and the movement well, as he demonstrated in this interview broadcast on Good Morning America in 1987. The famous inscription he created for his gravestone eloquently expresses the injustice of the military ban:

When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.

People are often slow to recognize injustice. Some always refuse to see it, while others need time and half-measures. It has taken a long time for the country to allow open service — much too long for Matlovich, unfortunately. But by sharing his clarity of vision, he helped bring it about.




AMERICAblog Gay

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Your daily dose of Joel Burns

Ever since his “It Gets Better” speech, it seems not a day (or even an hour) goes by that we don’t hear something new about openly gay Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns. Today’s news comes from GayPolitics.com, which reports that Burns is the Victory Fund’s first endorsed candidate for 2011.

His powerful October speech about the suicides of young gay people, delivered in the chambers of the Fort Worth City Council, has been viewed nearly 2.5 million times on YouTube, prompting media outlets from across the country (and the world) to seek interviews to discuss the issue of anti-LGBT bullying.

Councilman Joel Burns has become a hero to LGBT youth who so desperately need role models — people who are successful and respected, but who are also open and honest about being gay.

Now Burns is also the first 2011 candidate to earn the Victory Fund’s endorsement. He’s running for re-election to represent District 9 on the Fort Worth City Council, and the Victory Fund is out to make sure he wins.

“Joel represents what the Victory Fund is all about — making sure LGBT voices are represented in government, and making sure we are heard,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Fund.

—  John Wright

Hero of the Month: Queen Calafia

The name California comes from a sixteenth century conquistador fantasy of a formidable island inhabited by free-loving black Amazons. They were led by a brave queen:

Know th[ere] . . . exists an island called California . . . populated by black women. . . [L]ike the Amazons was their style of living. The[y] were of vigorous bodies and strong and ardent hearts and of great strength; the island itself the strongest in steep rocks and great boulders that is found in the world; their arms were all of gold . . . [W]hen they had peace with their adversaries, they intermixed . . .

There ruled on that island of California, a queen great of body, very beautiful . . ., desirous in her thoughts of achieving great things, valiant in strength, . . . Queen Calafia. (from Dora Beale Polk, The Island of California, U. of Neb. Press, 1991)

California’s founding myth derives from a siege on sexual and racial diversity. Despite the state’s reputation as a stronghold for live-and-let-live tolerance, its tolerant spirit has been contested and has suffered as many shameful defeats as victories. Whereas the state attracts people who are drawn by the promise of social freedom and possibility, it also draws those who mainly seek riches and wind up trying to domesticate and dominate the spirit that others cherish.

I like to think of Calafia as the avenging defender of sexual minorities, feminists, native peoples, blacks and sexual, ethnic and racial diversity in general. I imagine her with the suffragists when California women won the right to vote in 1911. I picture her guiding the California Supreme Court when the state was among the first to repeal its anti-miscegenation law in 1948. I see her taking over Alcatraz with Native American students and marching with Cesar Chavez. She would have been by Harvey Milk’s side when he led the defeat of the Briggs initiative, and with Gavin Newsom when he recognized same-sex unions in 2004.

Calafia has suffered a number of defeats over the years, too, of which Prop 8 is the most recent. The laws robbing Chinese of their constitutional rights and the internment of Japanese-Americans are just two examples.

This election suggests that Calafia has regrouped and might once again be on the ascendancy. November was a good month for California LGBTs, anyway. Gavin Newsom won his race for Lieutenant Governor. Barbara Boxer, one of only fourteen senators who voted against DOMA in 1996, won her senate race. Jerry Brown, the attorney general who refused to defend prop 8, won the governorship, and our new attorney general, Kamala Harris, has vowed not to defend it. Victoria Kolakowski became the first openly transgender judge in the country. Perhaps most satisfying of all, the author of prop 8, Andrew Pugno, lost his race for state assembly. These victories demonstrate that it is possible for politicians to fight for principle and win. With the Prop 8 hearings scheduled on December 6, 2010, I’m hoping that Calafia is at peak strength.




AMERICAblog Gay

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Cary Toland: Unsung Hero

Note from Lurleen: There are so many unsung heros like Cary in our LGBT community, and unfortunately they do go largely unrecognized until they've passed.  Tell us about the unsung heroes present in your community.

On Monday, the LGBT and Progressive communities lost a dear friend, Cary Toland. His dedication to the our community was an inspiration to me, and to those who knew and loved him. He was the kind of guy that made you smile just to be around him. I loved talking politics with Cary because he was so engaged. But what I admired most about him was his willingness to walk the walk. Whether it was raining, or cold, or dreary, Cary was out there talking to people. He won hearts and minds not just for the gay community, but for progressives throughout our country.
Cary Toland in 2009 during the Approve 71 Campaign
His close friend Andrew Caldwell told me, “Cary was an inspiring example of a citizen activist who didn't just click and complain, but always showed up to demonstrate, register voters, canvass and phone-bank for initiatives and candidates–all with a pragmatism paired with his progressive idealism–with tangible results. People like Cary are why we kept our pro-LGBT Senator Patty Murray in office this year.”

Senator Patty Murray certainly does have Cary to thank for her recent narrow victory because Toland was out there every weekend this year talking to people.

The volunteer work I had the pleasure of seeing first hand often goes unthanked, but it is the kind of work that brings us closer to equality every single day. State Senator Ed Murray said it best, “We have lost one of those unsung Heroes, whose hard work, while seldom seen, made equality a reality for so many,” he said, “I will miss talking with Carey at events, he was always so warm, relaxed and interested in those around him. Our thoughts are with his friends and family.”

I don't think I ever saw Cary without Josh Castle near by. Josh is the only person I know who could actually get me to knock on a stranger's door. He and Cary were a dynamic force. I know that like so many of Cary's close friends, this loss is deeply felt. I asked Josh if he could share some thoughts with me.

He wrote:

Cary Toland was many things. A good friend, always reliable and ready to lend a hand, give advice, and make you feel warm and welcome. A political sparring partner, ready for a spirited discussion or debate, leaving everyone in the dust with his knowledge of history, his witty humor, his compassion for the human condition, and his expansive take on life. And as a hero, organizer, and activist for LGBT equality and the election of progressive candidates for office. His passion for life, way with words, never ending wit, and generosity of spirit defines his soul.

Cary left us too soon but his spirit lives on with the thousands of lives he touched personally and the millions of lives made better through his organizing and activism. Once we're past the tears, knowing Cary, he would tell all of us to quit moping around and to get back to work fighting for equality, justice, and fairness. We love you Cary and will miss you sorely.

 

There are hundreds of people who could add to the story that was Cary's life. Some of those can be seen on his Facebook page which quickly became a memorial as word of his sudden heart attack spread.

We will continue to be inspired by Cary throughout our lives.  One way we can honor his life will be to learn from his courage. He taught us not to be afraid to knock on a stranger's door to say, “Hi. I'm here to talk to you today about something important. Do you have a few minutes?”

But perhaps most importantly Cary reminds us to have hope. He wrote the day after the last election, “The crystal clear image of Mt. Rainier this morning, against the backdrop of a golden sunrise was truly inspiring and fills me with hope, in spite of yesterday's disappointments. There's so much in life that is worth living and fighting for.”

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

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Instant Subway Hero

This subway flasher totally picked the wrong woman to mess with. From one account, it appears that the flasher had a condom on and was flashing his junk from behind his messenger bag. This guy is so busted, he doesn’t even defend himself.

Joe. My. God.

—  admin

Colfer: Hero to Young Gays

AMERICA GOES GLEEK CHRIS COLFER X390 (FOX) | ADVOCATE.COMGlee actor Chris Colfer tells Entertainment Weekly that he’s receiving stacks of thankful mail from young fans of his gay character, Kurt.
Advocate.com: Daily News

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Log Cabin seeks vacation (*and not like the way they helped vacate DADT hero Patrick Murphy by endorsing his opponent)

Screen Shot 2010-11-05 At 4.56.43 PmThe Log Cabin Republicans have filed with SCOTUS, seeking to vacate the Ninth Circuit Court order staying Judge Phillips’s injunction pending appeal. Translation: The gay GOP group thinks the stay stinks, so they want it go the way midwestern Democrats did on Tuesday night:

If the Court vacates the stay order, DADT is dead pending the appeal, and we have for all intents and purposes won. If it doesn’t, we will next move in the Ninth Circuit to expedite the Judge Phillips’s decision.

Log Cabin Republicans File U.S. Supreme Court Appeal Of DADT Overturn Stay [J.M.G]

We’ll have to wait and see if this goes anywhere. You DADT watchers are used to that by now, yes?




Good As You

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The Passing of a Hero – Mrs. Stella Byrd

The following comes from HRC’s Associate Director of Diversity, Donna Payne:

The struggle for LGBT equality is a lengthy journey, and we still have a long way to go. There comes a time during this journey when one person’s bravery stands out among all of us. One such person is Mrs. Stella Byrd.  Mrs. Byrd died at 85 yrs old on October 7, 2010, after a long period of  illness.

Stella Byrd is the mother of James Byrd Jr.  In 1998, James was dragged behind a pickup truck by his ankles and then dumped in a cemetery in Jasper, Texas by three men in a vicious act of hatred. The details of his heinous killing brought about national attention and activated many civil rights organizations to begin addressing race and hate crimes in Texas.

Mrs. Byrd faced an overwhelming amount of attention on her son’s death, but she handled it with courage and love.  She led the Byrd family immediately into working with lawmakers to pass hate crimes legislation in Texas.  Her heart was in making sure that no one had to go through what her family was facing.  Within four months, another heinous crime was committed; this time against a 21 year old student at the University of Wyoming named Matthew Shepard. Again there was a national outcry for something to be done about hate crimes.  It was at this time that we saw our hero stand up.  Mrs. Stella Byrd talked to several civil rights organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign.  Her family agreed to attend the HRC dinner in solidarity with the LGBT community.  She was 73 years old at the time.  Her courage in demanding that the Federal Hate Crimes legislation be broadened to include the LGBT community was an act of bravery.  Many attempts were made to separate the Black community from supporting LGBT rights, but Mrs. Byrd was steadfast in her support.

In 2009, President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law.  Mrs. Stella Byrd asked her daughters to represent the family while she watched it on television; she was ill then and couldn’t travel.  I called her after the signing to ask her if she was pleased to see it signed into law; she said,  “This is a good day and will help prevent other families from going through what we experienced.  Even though we’re different colors and different sexual orientations or gender identities, God made us all and he loves us all.”

Of course, we have plenty of more work to do to reach LGBT equality. The work continues, but we won’t forget Stella Byrd, who understood that justice wasn’t about just her family; it is about all of us.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

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Stephen Colbert: American Hero, Or A Disgraceful Joke?

Colbertcongress

Stephen Colbert appeared before Congress today to discuss illegal immigrants in the farming community, and he did so the politicized character made famous on his Comedy Central Show, The Colbert Report.

"It is an honor and a privilege, Congresswoman [Zoe Lofgren] asked me to share vast experience spending one day as a migrant farm worker. I am happy to use my celebrity to draw attention to this important, complicated issue," said Colbert before the House Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on immigration.

He went on: "[Farm work] was really, really hard… It turns out — and I did not know this — most soil is at ground level." Colbert's comments were humorous, yes, and has some people criticizing Colbert for turning the Capitol into a media circus. But isn't that the point?

“America’s farms are presently far too dependent on immigrant labor to pick our fruits and vegetables. Now the obvious answer is for all of us to stop eating fruits and vegetables and if you look at the recent obesity statistics, you’ll see that many Americans have already started," said the comedian, who once appeared as the closeted gay teacher Chuck Noblet on Strangers with Candy and has joined the United Farm Workers of America's "Take Our Jobs" campaign, which sheds like on the plight of migrant farmers in America.

Of course, as Colbert pointed out, we need fruits and vegetables: "Unfortunately, my doctor has informed me that they are a necessary source of roughage. As evidence, I would like to submit a video of my colonoscopy into the congressional record."

"Who will take that job?" remains Colbert's underlying, rib-tickling question. Not everyone thought he was funny.

"Maybe amnesty supporters should spend less time watching Comedy Central and more time considering all the real jobs that are out there that require hard labor and don't involve sitting behind a desk," snipped Iowa Rep. Steve King at the hearings, and fellow GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz tweeted this week, "The Dems have called him [Colbert] as an expert witness. What a joke."

Rep. John Conyers Jr., meanwhile, compared all the attention to that surrounding Bill Clinton's impeachment proceedings. "That's a haunting remembrance," said the Michigan Democrat. That sounds like a ringing endorsement of Colbert's appearance!

Despite being a "hot-button" issue in Washington, many Americans, particularly Colbert's young audience, aren't paying enough attention to the nooks and crannies of immigration reform. It's an idea, one without specifics or human faces.

Colbert, for all his sly smiles and dry wit, wants to raise awareness of illegal existence in the United States, and perhaps change some minds on the process of legalizing undocumented workers.

No matter which way someone leans on the topic, Colbert's appearance will definitely — and has already — sparked civil discourse, a cornerstone of any democratic nation. While the "media circus" aspect of Colbert's entertainment credentials deserves examination, the real focus should be on the funny man's message, one that addresses not only immigration, but also the essential importance of public debate.

Here's video of Colbert's opening statements today:


Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright

Rachel Maddow’s One-Time Radio Hero Was … Glenn Beck

When I got hired by Air America they asked who I like in radio and I said I like Ira Glass, This American Life, and I really like this guy Glenn Beck. And I shit you not, the guy who was sort of leading the interview, he didn’t last long at the company, said, 'We’re going to be a liberal channel.' I’m like, 'Yeah, I’m pretty confident in my politics.

—Rachel Maddow, sharing her former radio host idolizing, a relationship which in the years since has turned into this:

CONTINUED »


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—  John Wright