What’s Shakin’ – People Empowering People happy hour, Chaz Bono takes on the National Enquirer

1. People Empowering People is a collaboration between The Men’s Group, a social group for African-American gay, bisexual, and same gender loving men, and TMG One Voice, The Men’s Group’s co-ed counterpart.  PEP’s monthly happy hour tonight at F Bar (202 Tuam) provides a casual social setting open to all regardless of ethnic background, sexual orientation or gender identity and expression and an opportunity to mix and mingle with the fabulous men and women of both organizations.  The festivities kick off at 6 pm.

2. Joe My God has a copy of the Cease and Desist letter sent by lawyers for Chaz Bono to the National Enquirer. Seems the tabloid ran a story in this week’s issue claiming that Bono’s gender transition has shortened his life expectancy to 4 years.  The Enquirer article quotes the opinion of Dr. Patrick Wanis, identified as a medical doctor specializing in transgender health issues.  The problem?  According to Bono’s lawyers not only is Wanis not an expert on trans health issues, he’s not a medical doctor.

3. Today is the last day to early vote in the Houston Municipal election, but if you miss this opportunity you can still cast your ballot at your precinct voting location on Nov 8. A list of all early voting locations and sample ballots  are available at harrisvotes.org.

—  admin

Chronicle blogger blames ‘It Gets Better” project for LGBT teen suicides

Kathleen McKinley

Kathleen McKinley

Kathy McKinley is a self-described “conservative activist” who blogs for the Houston Chronicle under the monicker “TexasSparkle.” In a recent post McKinley took the “It Gets Better” project to task for what she believes is their culpability in the suicides of LGBT teens:

“These kids were sold a bill of goods by people who thought they were being kind. The “It will get better” campaign just didn’t think it through. They didn’t think about the fact that kids are different from adults. They handle things differently. They react differently. Why? BECAUSE THEY ARE KIDS. You can grumble all day long how unfair it is that straight teens can be straight in high school, and gay kids can’t, but life is unfair. Isn’t the price they are paying too high?? Is it so much to ask them to stand at the door of adulthood before they “come out” publically? Because it may save their life.”

McKinnley’s primary confusion about the “It Gets Better” campaign (other than its name) is the assumption that the goal is to encourage teens to come out of the closet, or encourage them to become sexually active:

“Why in the world would you give teenagers a REASON to tease you? Oh, yes, because the adults tell you to embrace who you are, the only problem? Kids that age are just discovering who they are. They really have no idea yet. The adults tell you to “come out,” when what we should be telling them is that sex is for adults, and there is plenty of time for figuring out that later.”

I would like to encourage Ms. McKinley to watch the “It Gets Better” project’s founder Dan Savages’ video. Please, Ms. McKinley, listen, and tell me if you hear Savage or his partner Terry say anything about teens coming out or having sex. I think what you’ll hear them say is that all of the things that most kids, gay and straight, dream of (falling in love, starting a family, having the support of their parents, co-workers and friends) are possible for LGBT teens. I think you’ll hear them talk about how difficult their teen years were, and about the fears they had that their parents would reject them, that they’d never find success and that they’d always be alone.

Choosing to have sex is one of the most personal decision a person will ever make. For LGBT people, choosing to come out is another. I have not watched all of the thousands of videos from people who have participated in the “It Gets Better” project. It’s possible that there are a few that tell kids to come out right away, or to become sexually active, but I doubt it.

Every video in the project that I have seen has had the same simple message: that the person making it understands how tortuously awful the experience of being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender in Junior and High School can be, but there is a wonderful world of loving, vibrant, successful, engaged LGBT adults out there and if queer teens can just hang on, just for a few years, they can join it. I doubt that any of the contributors to the project think that hanging on for a few years will be easy. I suspect that most of them remember, with excruciating clarity, contemplating ending those temporary years of terror with a permanent solution and that is why they choose to reach out.

I grew up without role models, where people like Barbara Gittings, Bayard Rustin and Harvey Milk didn’t exist . I grew up in a small town where the two men with the pink house were talked about in hushed tones that immediately fell silent when I walked into the room, because it wasn’t appropriate for children’s ears. I grew up in a world where my mother wouldn’t tell me what “gay” meant, where the evening news was turned off if it reported on the AIDS crisis, where I wasn’t given words to describe who I was, and so the only word I could find was “alone.”

I was lucky. My suicide attempt failed.

I was lucky, I survived, and went to college, and found a church that embraced and loved LGBT people. That’s where I met doctors and lawyers and business owners and teachers who were like me. That’s where I met two wonderful women who had built a life together for over 50 years. That’s where I discovered I wasn’t alone and that being gay didn’t mean that i couldn’t have all of those things I’d dreamed of.

That is what McKinley missed in her blog post. In her haste to lay blame on anything other than the overwhelming prejudice perpetuated by schools, churches and governments against LGBT people McKinley missed the fact that kids need role models. In her rush to shove queer teens back into the closet she forgot that human beings need the hope of a better world, lest they give up in despair.

McKinley got one thing right in her post. She titled it “Are Adults Also To Blame For Gay Teen Suicides? Yes.” Adults are to blame for LGBT teen suicides. When adults hide the stunning diversity of God’s creation from their children they create a vision of reality that some of those children can’t see themselves in. When adults tell LGBT teens that they should be invisible then it is all too clear who is to blame when those teens believe them, and take steps to make themselves invisible permanently.

To all the LGBT kids out there: it does get better. There are adults who care about you and want all the wonderful things you dream of to come true, but you have to hang on. If you need to keep who are secret to remain safe then do so. If you need someone to talk to please call the Trevor Project at 866-4-U-Trevor (866-488-7386).

—  admin

Jury deliberates fate of homophobic reggae artist Buju Banton, who faces life in prison

The Associated Press is reporting that closing arguments have been given in the case of reggae singer Buju Banton’s drug case.

The 37-year-old Banton is accused of conspiring with two other men in setting up a drug deal in December of 2009. His album “Before the Dawn” won a Grammy for best reggae album this week, and he remains wildly popular in his native Jamaica.

A jury deadlocked in his first trial last year. If convicted of all the charges, he faces up to life in prison.

Every seat in the federal courtroom in Tampa was filled as the lawyers gave their closing arguments. Many of the seats were taken by Banton’s friends and fans, including well-known reggae artists Gramps Morgan and Wayne Wonder. During the lunch break, about a dozen supporters held hands and prayed for Banton in the court hallway.

“I’m fighting for my freedom,” said Banton, whose given name is Mark Myrie. “I’m fighting for my life.”

Banton is notorious for his strongly homophobic songs calling for the torture and murder of gay men — or “batty boys” as they are known in his native Jamaica. He came to Dallas in 2009 on tour to face a protest at his concert at the Deep Ellum reggae venue The Palm Beach Club.

—  Rich Lopez

Arizona’s Lawyers Sue To Stop Domestic Benefits During Court Decision

BrewerJan Not content to battle just the health care law and illegal immigration policy, lawyers for the state of Arizona are now expanding their efforts to eliminate that state's domestic partner benefits.

A judge ruled last year that the state must continue paying the benefits while courts decide the legality of a Republican and Gov. Jan Brewer-led effort to end the policy, enacted while Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was governor.

According to the Copper State's attorneys, though, the benefits need to be stopped during the proceedings to help the state save money:

Assistant Attorney General Charles Grube contends that U.S. District Judge John Sedwick was wrong in issuing an injunction last year barring the state from altering its benefits package.

That ruling requires Arizona to keep funding the coverage until there is a final ruling, something that could take years.

State lawmakers voted to end the benefits as a method of saving money.

Grube said that, in deciding whether to issue an injunction, Sedwick was required to consider not only the claims of harm to the people losing the benefits but also the harm to the state of being required to maintain them. But Grube said Sedwick was "explicitly dismissive" of evidence presented by the state about the cost burden on taxpayers of continuing to provide coverage.

Here's an idea: Arizona's lawyers could stop filing politically motivated lawsuits that cost untold amounts of time, money and, frankly, make the rest of the state look bad. It's just common sense.


Towleroad News #gay

—  David Taffet

Prop 8 oral arguments are today, but if you’re not a lawyer it ‘might be like watching paint dry’

Ken Upton
Ken Upton

With DADT repeal all but dead, we turn our attention to California, where oral arguments are set today in the federal challenge to Proposition 8.

We’ve got a full preview and viewer’s guide over on the main page, and the two-hour proceedings will be broadcast live on the CSPAN website beginning at noon Dallas time.

But we also inquired of Ken Upton, a senior staff attorney at Lambda Legal in Dallas, as to what he’ll be looking for this afternoon. Here’s what Upton said:

I’ll be particularly interested in the panel’s questions surrounding standing (the constitutional principle that says only people actually affected or injured by the dispute have a right to litigate it, not people who merely have an opinion about it in a general sense). Courts can be willing to turn to this doctrine when appropriate to dispose of cases they aren’t ready to decide on the merits.

As for the second session, I’m interested in how the panel reacts to the evidence at trial and what weight they choose to give it. The marriage cases that were lost (e.g., NY, WA, IN, AZ) all resulted from a court willing to allow the government to speculate about the justifications for excluding same-sex couples from marriage. The victories happened when courts required the government to give real justifications that are grounded in fact, not theories made up after the fact based on rank speculation or outdated stereotypes. That will be the key here. How will the panel treat the evidence (which was overwhelmingly supportive of striking down Prop 8)?

It will be fun to watch (for lawyers, at least — might be like watching paint dry for many non-lawyers).

—  John Wright

Lawyers For Students Who Broadcast Tyler Clementi’s Intimate Encounter Claim No Sexual Contact On Webcam Video

6a00d8341c730253ef0134888e5dea970c-800wi
Lawyers and friends of Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei, the two former Rutgers students (they both withdrew from the school late last week) who filmed Tyler Clementi's intimate encounter with another man intimate before the freshman student took his own life, have announced that there was no sex or nudity involved in the webcam broadcast. They also claim that the video was only viewed from one computer: Wei's.

The Star-Ledger reports:

"I’m unaware of any evidence of sexual contact," said Rubin Sinins, Wei’s attorney. "The statute defining sexual contact refers to nudity and private parts, and, to my knowledge, nothing like that was seen. I’m also unaware of any evidence that any video was recorded, reproduced or disseminated in any way." Law enforcement officials declined to discuss the case because it is still under investigation. Prosecutors are considering whether to upgrade the charges against Ravi and Wei to bias crimes because Clementi was gay.

The article also includes accounts from friends of the duo: "She said, 'Dharun came in to my room and turned on my computer to web chatting. We watched for two minutes," said Sean Yan, 18, a longtime friend. Wei told friends she saw Clementi and a male visitor kissing. She described the visitor as 'kind of sketchy,' with ragged clothes and a scruffy beard, Yan said. Later on the night of Sept. 19, Ravi used his Twitter account to tell friends that he and Wei had seen his roommate 'making out with a dude.' The feed went out to Ravi’s nearly 150 Twitter followers."


Towleroad News #gay

—  admin

WATCH: N. Dallas High School doesn’t want you to know if trans student won homecoming vote

North Dallas High School isn’t releasing the results of the vote for homecoming queen, saying the information is confidential. So we have no way of knowing for sure whether transgender student Andy Moreno had enough votes to be a finalist for homecoming queen. But Andy’s running mate on the ballot, her MTF transgender friend, is one of three finalists for homecoming king. So it’s likely that Andy was also one of the top three vote-getters, but Principal Dinnah Escanilla is stubbornly sticking to her terrible decision not to allow Andy to run for queen. What’s worse, the Dallas Independent School District continues to allow Escanilla’s blatant discrimination, making us wonder what would happen if the principal required the homecoming queen to be of a certain race.

Fox 4 has been following this story closely, and it’s been the No. 1 most read article on their site both last week and today. But why does Fox 4 reporter Sophia Reza suddenly begin referring to Andy as a “he” and “him” halfway through her report, almost as though she’s mimicking students who do the same thing? And why does anchor Heather Hays seem to have such a hard time understanding the simple fact that Andy identifies as a girl, not a boy?

Andy, who has a new hair-do and looks stunningly beautiful in the interview, says she plans to talk to the principal about the homecoming vote, but as of now, she has no plans to sue despite being approached by some lawyers. She’ll be attending the homecoming dance in a dress and heels this weekend, which Hays also seems worried about. Hays asks whether the school has a dress code — such as one prohibiting low-cut dresses — that would also bar Andy from wearing a dress at all.

“Well then they should have less of a problem with me coming in a low-cut dress, because I’m sorry, but what’s going to pop out of my top?” Moreno responds.

You’ve gotta absolutely love this girl.

—  John Wright

Alliance-defying Fun: LaBarbera, Barber accuse Prop 8 lawyers of ‘legal malpractice’

6A00D8341C503453Ef012875Bc7B6D970C-1American For Truth’s Peter LaBarbera says the Alliance Defense Fund and fellow Proposition 8 proponents were “namby-pamby” in a defense that constituted “legal malpractice,” setting up a situation that he’s calling calling Prop8Gate.

6A00D8341C503453Ef0133F240C031970BLiberty Counsel’s Matt Barber wanted to see “ex-gays” and officials from the scientifically-discredited NARTH on the stand:

(click to play audio clip)

*AUDIO SOURCE: 8/27/10 [Liberty Counsel]

Meanwhile Good As You’s Jeremy Hooper is sitting in NYC whispering the words “fight, fight, fight!” under his breath, reveling in the unwitting insight that these “pro-family” players are fleshing out through their public rifts.

***

*EARLIER TAKE ON THIS ADF/LIBERTY COUNSEL RIFT: 8′s Parts: Courts should look to sum, not some [G-A-Y]




Good As You

—  John Wright

Pro-gay marriage attorneys may move to recover Prop. 8 court costs

Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — The lawyers who successfully sued to overturn California’s gay marriage ban are indicating they plan to recover attorney’s fees if the verdict is upheld on appeal.

In papers filed Tuesday, Aug. 17, attorneys for two same-sex couples and the city of San Francisco asked the court to extend a deadline for seeking reimbursement from the losing side. In this case, that would be the groups that put the ban on the 2008 ballot.

Sponsors of Proposition 8 defended the ban in court after California’s governor and attorney general refused to.

Lawyers familiar with scope of the case suggest the dollar amount would be in the millions.

Plaintiffs lawyer Theodore Boutrous Jr. says it makes sense to wait until the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decides on the Aug. 4 ruling that overturned the ban.

—  John Wright

Lambda Legal’s Ken Upton says today’s Prop 8 ruling will have little immediate practical impact

Ken Upton

We spoke Wednesday morning with Ken Upton, a senior staff attorney with Lambda Legal who’s based in Dallas, about the potential legal implications of this afternoon’s expected ruling in the Prop 8 case. Specifically, we asked Upton what the ruling could mean to folks in Texas, and why we should care.

Upton noted that even if U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker strikes down Prop 8, it’s likely that the decision will be put on hold pending appeal, meaning no same-sex marriages will be performed in California.

“In the short run, it’s not going to do anything as a practical matter because it will be stayed,” Upton said of today’s decision. “Nobody’s going to get married in California, and the decision won’t be the final decision, because it’s going to get appealed at least once. As a practical matter, it won’t really do anything, but it will start the ball rolling on a path that could eventually do something.”

Upton said he is optimistic Walker will strike down Prop 8.

“I read the transcripts, and I heard the arguments, and I read the briefs,” Upton said. “The law is strong in our favor and the evidence was I thought very persuasive in our favor, so it won’t surprise me if he rules for us.”

But Upton added that the key to today’s ruling is not whether Judge Walker upholds or strikes down Prop 8, but the manner in which he does so.

“The result won’t be the final one anyway,” he said. “At this point, he’s just firing the first salvo if you will. What will really be interesting is how far he goes. What will he say about the constitution and how it protects gay people? What level of scrutiny will he give it? Will he talk about marriage itself or will he talk about discrimination against gay people? The immediate effect of it will be more one for lawyers to dissect than it will have any practical effect. It’s going to be years before we know the ultimate result.”

Despite minimal practical impacts, Upton acknowledged that a victory today will give the LGBT community a psychological boost.

“It feels good to see courts do what they’re constitutionally required to do, and that is be a check on government and the political arms of government,” he said. “One colleague suggested that everybody have a bottle of tequila in their office, and once we win, every time the other side calls him [Walker] an activist judge, take a shot, and see how long it takes to get drunk.”

—  John Wright