Kinder, gentler Republicans?

Primary candidates who are the most anti-LGBT didn’t fare well in New Hampshire. Could the GOP voters be moving toward tolerance?

David-Webb

David Webb
The Rare Reporter

The results of the New Hampshire primary must seem like political nirvana for LGBT Republicans who have held their noses while pulling voting machine levers during past presidential elections.

The presidential candidates who in recent weeks and during the televised weekend debates expressed the most tolerant views toward LGBT issues came out on top in the primary, and the ones who didn’t wound up in last places.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whose vitriolic anti-gay messages border on the absurd, finished dead last with less than 1 percent of the vote — just where many gay and straight Republicans and Democrats think he belongs in an enlightened society.

It’s doubtful that many voters chose former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as the frontrunner because he said in the debates he would champion LGBT rights — with the exception of marriage equality. But it is possible New Hampshire voters sent a message that they are tired of candidates pandering to conservative extremists who can’t think beyond antiquated religious teachings while the country’s economy collapses around them.

Incredibly, while Romney vowed he would never discriminate against LGBT people or “suggest they don’t have full rights in this country,” and that they should have the right to form long-term committed relationships in some form, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Perry couldn’t resist the opportunity to throw scraps to their conservative religious bases. The three outspoken anti-gay candidates finished fourth, fifth and sixth respectively, if not as a result of their bigotry then perhaps as just desserts for it.

In a similar vein as Romney, Congressman Ron Paul and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman made statements indicating tolerance and support.

Paul said he objected to the use of the term “gay rights” by candidates on the stage, saying it leads to divisiveness and punishment of LGBT people who are entitled to individual liberty along with everyone else.
Huntsman said he supported civil unions, and he also accused most of the other candidates of all “having something nasty to say” about LGBT people.

Romney.Mitt

Gov. Mitt Romney

In his response to the moderator’s question about what gay people who want to form long-term relations should do, Gingrich said he advocated allowing contact that is “intimately human between friends,” such as hospital visits. Then he accused LGBT people who want to get married of trying to make straight people “miserable.”

Similarly, Santorum condemned same-sex marriage and adoptions by gay parents while making some conciliatory statements about “respect and dignity” for all people. When asked what he would do if one of his sons told him he was gay, Santorum said he would tell him that he still loved him.

But that statement left some LGBT viewers wondering if in such a case the son would soon find himself shipped off to a homosexual rehabilitation treatment center.

Gingrich, who has a lesbian sister who won’t support him politically, later asked for the floor during the debate to accuse the media moderators of asking the questions about marriage equality because they are biased in favor of LGBT rights and against Christian religious institutions.

But as usual it was Perry out of the six candidates who made the biggest ass of himself by claiming President Barrack Obama’s decision not to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act in court is part of a “war against religion” that would stop if he is elected president.

Perry, who has long fought rumors that he has engaged in secret homosexual activity and has seemingly gone out of his way to offend LGBT Texans during his tenure as governor, had no other comment on the subject.

Of course, not everyone in the LGBT community reacted favorably to Romney’s comments about LGBT rights because they did seem contradictory. Although Romney said he would stand up for LGBT rights, it’s hardly full rights if one of the most valuable — the right to marriage and its legal protections — is being withheld.

None of the Republican candidates support LGBT issues as fervently as gay and lesbian activists would like to see, but last weekend’s debates marked yet another milestone in the American gay rights movement. During both days of the presidential debate, LGBT rights were discussed for a total of 13 minutes in more favorable terms than anyone might have been expected. With the exception of Perry, all of the candidates apparently tried to sound at the very least humane.

Perry.Rick

Gov. Rick Perry

In the Republican candidates’ defense, it must be noted that even President Obama, who has done more in the area of LGBT rights advancement than any other American president, still does not support marriage equality. That could come, but it hasn’t yet.

In fact, to win the 2012 election with the full support of the nation’s LGBT voters, it may be necessary for President Obama to take an affirmative stand on marriage equality, given Republican frontrunner Romney’s remarks in New Hampshire.

Now, all of the Republican candidates are headed for South Carolina for that state’s primary on Jan. 21, and it will be interesting to hear what gets said about LGBT rights in the conservative state.

Perry is already there, blathering away, but barring a miracle happening for him he will be headed home to Texas for good the day after the primary at the very latest.
Romney on the other hand, having won in both Iowa and New Hampshire, appears destined to a run for president on the Republican ticket this year if he continues his winning streak in South Carolina.

So far, the race for the Republican presidential nomination has made for some of the most interesting political theater in modern times and in no small part because of the recent focus on LGBT issues. The prospect of the ensuing debates between the Republican nominee and President Obama promises to make this one of the most exciting political years ever for the LGBT community and its many straight friends.

It’s a good bet the LGBT voter turnout could be the biggest ever seen.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. Contact him at davidwaynewebb@hotmail.com or facebook.com/TheRareReporter.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 13, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Forgotten heroes?

A look at the history of Lawrence v. Texas shows why the two men who fought the sodomy law, both now deceased, deserve our respect

Lawrence198

HERO | John Lawrence was an unlikely activist, prompted to action after being arrested.

Former Houston residents John Lawrence and Tyron Garner, both now deceased, couldn’t possibly have realized 13 years ago that one of the most mortifying events of their lives would wind up changing the course of history for an entire society of people.

The two gay men, who arguably were the unlikeliest pair of gay advocates to ever play high-profile roles in the U.S. LGBT rights movement, turned out to be the catalysts for striking down centuries of oppressive American law and establishing same-sex relations as a basic civil right. Prior to the filing of a landmark LGBT rights lawsuit on their behalf, the men had no involvement with gay rights organizations.

In June 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled the 1973 Texas Homosexual Conduct Law in its review of Lawrence v. Texas, effectively striking down the 14 remaining state sodomy laws that prohibited sexual relations between consenting adults of the same sex. In doing so the high court reversed its 1986 decision in Bowers v. Hardwick, which had upheld Georgia’s sodomy law.

In rendering the decision the justices wrote that gay men and lesbians were entitled to privacy, and that states had no right to restrict their personal sexual lives, a startling contrast from the ruling in the Georgia lawsuit that maintained there was no fundamental right to homosexual relations.

Even Justice Antonin Scalia, a dissenting voice in the court’s 6-3 vote, acknowledged that the Lawrence decision by the high court supported a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

It was a remarkable turn of events sparked by unremarkable men who apparently had never entertained any ideas of gay activism prior to their arrest in Lawrence’s Houston-area apartment in 1998 when a sheriff’s deputy entered the apartment to investigate a false crime report.

The deputy claimed he saw the pair engaged in a sex act rather than the disturbance that was reported, and he arrested them on deviant sex charges.

Despite the horror of being humiliated, arrested, taken out of the apartment virtually undressed and then jailed, the case had a relatively quick initial disposition. Lawrence and Garner paid fines of $125 and court costs of $141.25 for the Class C misdemeanors while pleading no contest.

Robert R. Eubanks — the also now-deceased boyfriend of Lawrence who had, in a fit of jealously, called 911 with the false crime report — spent two weeks in jail as punishment for his part in the fiasco.

It was there the story could have taken a much different turn than it did. But Lawrence and Garner ultimately decided on a course of action that the law enforcement authorities who arrested them probably never dreamed might occur.

The two gay men resisted oppression by following the advice of Lambda Legal attorneys who wanted to wage a legal battle against the antiquated, discriminatory law, which was rarely enforced.

David-Webb

David Webb The Rare Reporter

At that point Lawrence and Garner became to the LGBT community what Rosa Parks represented to the nation’s African-American community in 1955 in Montgomery, Ala., when she refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger. Her civil disobedience against the city regulation sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and it became a major symbolic force in propelling the civil rights movement forward.

The success of the Lawrence case had a similar impact on the nation’s LGBT community, and the gains have been monumental during the past eight years.

Although Parks was active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People as secretary at the time, she was just a seamstress in a local department store. She lost her job over the incident and eventually moved to Detroit to find similar work.

It would be years later before Parks was honored for her bravery and became known as the “first lady of the civil rights movement” and the “mother of the freedom movement.” Parks lived another 50 years and received many honors during that time.

The parallel between Lawrence, a white man, and Garner, a black man, and Parks is their socio-economic status and ordinariness at the times they made decisions that would have such far-reaching effects upon their communities.

Lawrence, who was 68 when he died on Nov. 20, 2011, was a medical technologist until his retirement in 2009. His death from a heart condition apparently went unnoticed for at least a month by the media, legal advocates and the LGBT community — until his Houston lawyer, Mitchell Katine, reportedly tried to invite him to a commemorative event for the court ruling.

Garner was 39 when he died Sept. 11, 2006 of meningitis. He had been unemployed at the time of his historic arrest in 1998. But he had worked at a number of different types of jobs, and he had a criminal record that included two convictions for assault in 1995 and 2000.

Both Lawrence and Garner were “quiet, passive” men who preferred to avoid public scrutiny, according to Katine. Lawrence reportedly was intimidated because he was still closeted to so many, but his outrage over being taken to jail in his underwear motivated him to push forward as one of the faces of the legal challenge.

The pair, who had been occasional sex partners but never lovers, lived out their lives separately. Lawrence lived with a partner at the time of his death, and Garner was being cared for by his brother when he died.

Eubanks, who introduced Lawrence and Garner to each other and put everything in motion by making the false 911 call, was beaten to death in 2000. The case was never solved.

It probably was more by design on the part of Lawrence and Garner that their contributions to the LGBT rights movement have largely gone uncelebrated during the past eight years, but it might be a good time to pay them more respect.

After all, they could have easily just paid the fines and walked back into the obscurity of their lives rather than stepping into the glare of public scrutiny and the pages of history. If that had happened, we might still be where we were when they were first arrested.
David Webb is a veteran journalist who has reported on LGBT issues for three decades. Contact him at davidwaynewebb@hotmail.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 6, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

The 10 most viewed posts of 2011

Burke-Burnett

Hate crime victim Burke Burnett

In this coming Friday’s Year in Review issue of Dallas Voice, we’ll recap all of the top news and entertainment stories from 2011. But for now, below are the 10 posts from this year that generated the most page views on DallasVoice.com:

1. Gay man stabbed with broken beer bottle, thrown onto fire in apparent hate crime in Reno, TX

2. Larry and KC Jansson found love in the midst of anti-gay ‘reparative’ therapy

3. LISTEN: Southwest Airlines pilot’s anti-gay, mysoginistic rant over stuck cockpit microphone

4. PIC OF THE DAY: Gov. Rick Perry deep-throats corn dog at the Iowa State Fair

5. Anthony, your wiener isn’t that big a deal

6. WATCH: Rick Perry’s anti-gay Iowa ad

7. An open letter to the Texas A&M Student Senate, signed ‘An Aggie No More’

8. New rumor: Is Rick Perry ex-gay?

9. Southwest Airlines pilot James Taylor of Argyle apologizes for anti-gay, misogynistic rant

10. VIDEO AND TRANSCRIPT: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s speech today on LGBT rights

—  John Wright

Still no single clear leader in Republican presidential contest

Romney often under fire from conservatives for changing positions on issues including LGBT rights

Romney.Mitt.2

Mitt Romney

STEVEN R. HURST  |  Associated Press
editor@dallasvoice.com

WASHINGTON — Republicans are growing significantly less satisfied with the field of candidates to challenge President Barack Obama next year, and they are about evenly split in their support for Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, a new Associated Press-GfK poll finds.

Despite Obama’s low approval ratings and deep vulnerability over his handling of the U.S. economy, the poll of all people surveyed, including Democrats and independents, found Romney and the president statistically even. Obama leads Gingrich 51 percent to 42 percent.

With three weeks remaining before the Iowa caucus, the first contest where voters actually declare their choice of a candidate, Romney’s argument that his Washington outsider status sets him apart has not blocked Gingrich’s stunning climb to the top of the field.

A similar AP-GfK poll of Republicans in October found Gingrich well behind the leading candidates, with 7 percent. Romney had 30 percent.

The new poll conducted earlier this month finds Gingrich preferred by 33 percent of Republicans and Romney by 27 percent. However, that finding falls just within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 6 percentage points.

Gingrich,Newt

Newt Gingrich

All other candidates are in single digits.

The poll also found a considerable drop in satisfaction with the overall Republican field. In October, 66 percent of Republican adults were satisfied, and 29 percent unsatisfied. Now, 56 percent are satisfied and 40 percent unsatisfied.

Voter preferences in early voting states such as Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina do not necessarily match those in national polls. The Iowa caucus is Jan. 3. The New Hampshire primary is one week later.

At a time when polls show plummeting public approval of government, the 68-year-old Gingrich has a long history in the capital as a member of Congress, speaker of the House of Representatives and, since 1998, a lucrative, Washington-based consultant, speaker and author.

Except for four years as Massachusetts governor, Romney, 64, has spent his career in business and management. He ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in 1994 and for president in 2008.

Both men have earned millions of dollars over the years.  Romney has built his campaign largely on the argument that his business background makes him better suited for the presidency than anyone else, especially on creating jobs in an economy where unemployment remains at 8.6 percent. But in a recent debate in Iowa, Romney at first struggled to name issues on which he and Gingrich disagree.

After citing Gingrich’s support for a mining colony on the moon and changes to child labor laws, Romney said: “The real difference, I believe, is our backgrounds. I spent my life in the private sector. I understand how the economy works.”

Among Republicans who say they prefer a non-Washington candidate, Romney has a modest edge over Gingrich. Gingrich has a larger advantage among those who say they prefer Washington experience in a nominee.

Romney’s better showing in a head-to-head matchup with Obama may give him some ammunition with Republicans whose top priority is ousting the president. Otherwise, Republicans appear to see Romney and Gingrich as similar in many important ways. The two men polled about evenly on the questions of who would be a strong leader, has the right experience, understands ordinary people’s problems and can bring needed change. Romney holds a clear edge on who is most likable. Gingrich leads on the question of who “has firm policy positions.” Romney is often asked about his changed positions on abortion, gay rights, gun control and immigration. Gingrich, however, also has shifted views on key issues.

AP Deputy Polling Director Jennifer Agiesta and News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 16, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Congrats to Pauley Perrette — and thanks, too, for the support

Pauley Perrette

I have long been a fan of CBS’ hit show NCIS, although I have been disappointed, to say the very least, by some of the anti-transgender plotlines/comments that I have seen on the show — specifically in the 19th episode of the first season, titled “Dead Man Talking.”

But one of the main reasons I like NCIS so much is the character of Abby Sciuto, played by Pauley Perrette. Abby is the NCIS team’s goth girl forensic scientist, who is addicted to a soft drink called Caf-Pow, loves heavy metal music, is heavily inked, sleeps in a coffin, is amazingly loyal to her friends and is a VERY outspoken liberal. Pauley Perrette is pretty goth herself. And she is a VERY outspoken liberal.

This week Perrette confirmed to her fans via Twitter that yes, she is definitely engaged to her boyfriend, former British marine Thomas Arklie. But she also confirmed that she and Arklie will not be getting married until Proposition 8 — the state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in California — is permanently rescinded.

“Me & #MyMarine [Fiancé] are totally engaged now but will NOT GET MARRIED UNTIL #Prop8 is OVER,” Perrette declared in one Tweet. She later followed up with this clarification: “We’re Not getting married because Prop 8 is unjust. But having blast being engaged. He re-asks me everyday & I say Yes.”

Now this isn’t the first time Perrette has spoken out in support of LGBT rights. She has participated in Adam Bouska’s NoH8 photo campaign against Prop 8. And last January, she attended the People’s Choice Awards wearing a dress emblazoned with the NoH8 logo.

And while I don’t expect Pauley Perrette will ever read this blog post, I wanted to take a moment to say congratulations on your engagement; here’s wishing you many happy years ahead. And I want to say thanks for your support for our community and our rights. We won’t win this war without the support of non-LGBT allies like you.

And while I’m at it, Pauley, I’m going to go ahead and ask if maybe you could have a word with the writers or the producers or whomever over at NCIS about the trans-bashing on the show.  The trans people are often the most victimized and marginalized segment of our community. They don’t need NCIS adding to the bashing.

—  admin

Clinton makes history with speech to the U.N.

Secretary of State calls on all nations to make sure LGBTs are treated with respect, dignity; president directs agencies to protect LGBT rights

GREETING THE CROWD  |  U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, left, shakes hands after her speech on human rights issues at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva on Tuesday, Dec 6. (Anja Niedringhaus/Associated Press)

GREETING THE CROWD | U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, left, shakes hands after her speech on human rights issues at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva on Tuesday, Dec 6. (Anja Niedringhaus/Associated Press)

Lisa Keen  |  Keen News Service
lisakeen@me.com

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in an historic speech on Tuesday, Dec. 6 at the U.S. Mission to the U.N. in Geneva, called on the governments of all nations to ensure that their LGBT citizens are treated with respect and dignity.

Her speech came shortly after the White House Press Office released a statement announcing that President Barack Obama had issued a memorandum directing the State Department to lead an interagency group to provide a “swift and meaningful response” by the U.S. government to “serious incidents that threaten the human rights of LGBT persons abroad.”

The memorandum and speech represent a dramatic escalation in the Obama administration’s support for the human rights and respectful treatment of LGBT people worldwide.

President Obama’s memorandum directs federal agencies involved with dispensing aid and assistance to foreign countries to “enhance their ongoing efforts to ensure regular federal government engagement with governments, citizens, civil society and the private sector in order to build respect for the human rights of LGBT persons.”

It also directs federal agencies to ensure that LGBT people seeking asylum or status as refugees have “equal access” to protections. And it calls on agencies engaged in activities in other countries to “strengthen existing efforts to effectively combat the criminalization by foreign governments of LGBT status or conduct and to expand efforts to combat discrimination, homophobia and intolerance on the basis of LGBT status or conduct.”

A senior State Department official, who on the condition that he or she not be identified, told a group of reporters en route to Geneva Tuesday that the administration had “instructed ambassadors to challenge laws that criminalize LGBT status or conduct.”

“We’re putting some money into it,” said the official, of the memorandum’s aim. “We’re setting up a global equality fund, $3 million, to support [non-governmental organizational] activists working on this subject.”

The State Department released a transcript of the press briefing, including a question from a reporter who asked, “How does the administration reconcile the fact that the president won’t explicitly endorse marriage for gay couples at home, but here you are touting human rights, of which marriage is one?”

The official responded that Clinton’s speech in Geneva and the administration’s global policy on civil rights for LGBT people are “dealing with the first iteration of questions.”

“You don’t attack, you don’t commit a violent act, against somebody because of their sexual orientation. You don’t criminalize conduct,” said the official. “And so, we’re here, trying to, again, broadly speaking, identify a human right, a global human right, which starts with those fundamental principles and which is consistent with everything we’re doing across the board.”

The State Department official characterized the president’s memorandum and Clinton’s speech as “the most expansive articulation of what has … been a policy of the administration from the get-go.”

Clinton’s speech was delivered at the Palais at United Nations headquarters in Geneva to an audience of invited members. She spoke in recognition of the 63rd anniversary of Human Rights Day, coming up on Dec. 10, the date when the United Nations adopted a “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” in 1948. The speech, webstreamed live, took place before an audience of about 500 people that gave Clinton and her speech a prolonged and warm reception. But Clinton made clear she knew she was speaking to a tougher audience.

“Raising this issue, I know, is sensitive for many people,” said Clinton, “and that the obstacles standing in the way of protecting the human rights of LGBT people rest on deeply held person, political, cultural and religious beliefs. So, I come here before you with respect, understanding and humility.”

Clinton acknowledged that “my own country’s record on human rights for gay people is far from perfect,” noting that, “until 2003, it was still a crime in parts of our country.”

She even seemed to make an elliptical reference to President Obama’s famous statement that his opinion about same-sex marriages is “evolving.”But she said she is hopeful that “opinion will converge once again with the inevitable truth — all persons are created equal.”

She said that the “perhaps most challenging” argument against treating LGBT people with respect “arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate, or not to protect, the human rights of LGBT citizens.”

She likened such justifications to ones used against women and other minorities, adding that slavery, once justified as “sanctioned by God, is now properly reviled as an unconscionable violation of human rights.”

She closed her speech by telling LGBT people, “You are not alone. People around the globe are working hard to support you and to bring an end to the injustices and dangers that you face. … You have an ally in the United States of America.”

© 2011 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 9, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Perry says Obama’s push for LGBT rights abroad part of ‘war on traditional American values’

Gov. Rick Perry

Still polling in the single digits in Iowa and faced with the prospect that the Republican presidential primary is becoming a two-man race between Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is desperately resorting to extreme anti-gay tactics. In response to President Barack Obama’s memorandum today saying the U.S. will use foreign aid to promote LGBT rights abroad, Perry issued this statement:

“Just when you thought Barack Obama couldn’t get any more out of touch with America’s values, AP reports his administration wants to make foreign aid decisions based on gay rights.

“This administration’s war on traditional American values must stop.

“I have proposed a foreign aid budget that starts at zero. From that zero baseline, we will consider aid requests based solely on America’s national security interests. Promoting special rights for gays in foreign countries is not in America’s interests and not worth a dime of taxpayers’ money.

“But there is a troubling trend here beyond the national security nonsense inherent in this silly idea. This is just the most recent example of an administration at war with people of faith in this country. Investing tax dollars promoting a lifestyle many Americas of faith find so deeply objectionable is wrong.

“President Obama has again mistaken America’s tolerance for different lifestyles with an endorsement of those lifestyles. I will not make that mistake.”

Also condemning Obama’s memorandum was GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum, according to CNN:

“I would suggest that we give out humanitarian aid based on humanitarian need, not based on whether people are promoting their particular agenda,” Santorum said. “Obviously the administration is promoting their particular agenda in this country, and now they feel its their obligation to promote those values not just in the military, not just in our society, but now around the world with taxpayer dollars.”

Santorum, who has long been an outspoken opponent of gay marriage, said Obama needed to clarify his stance on marriage rights. Obama has said he is “evolving” on the issue, but does not currently support the rights of gays to marry.

“He said he’s for traditional marriage, and now he’s promoting gay lifestyles and gay rights, and he’s fighting against traditional marriage within the courts, and I think he needs to be honest,” Santorum said.

UPDATE: According to the Washington Blade, Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese issued a statement in response to Perry’s remarks.

“Rick Perry has made no secret of his dislike for LGBT Americans – but his most recent remarks are outrageous even by his own standards,” Solmonese said. “It is bewildering that someone who wants to be President of the United States wouldn’t want to see our nation be a global leader in universal human rights. This is further proof that Rick Perry doesn’t want to represent the best interests of all Americans — he wants to advance an extremist, anti-gay agenda that represents the fringe views of a very small few.”

UPDATE NO. 2: Log Cabin Republicans also issued a statement:

“With all due respect, Governor Perry is wrong. Speaking out for the basic human rights of LGBT people to life and liberty is anything but ‘at war with American values,’” said R. Clarke Cooper, Log Cabin Republicans executive director. “Throughout his administration, President George W. Bush was strongly committed to supporting and protecting dissident and minority voices abroad. Our nation can be proud of its long, bipartisan legacy of promoting freedom for all. Around the globe today, gay and lesbian people are often subject to ‘corrective’ rape, state-sponsored torture, imprisonment and execution. Combatting these injustices is not advocating for any kind of ‘special rights,’ and it is shameful for Governor Perry to suggest that American people of faith do not support protecting vulnerable populations from brutality.”

—  John Wright

VIDEO AND TRANSCRIPT: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s speech today on LGBT rights

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton today delivered what LGBT advocates are calling a historic speech, in which Clinton declared unequivocally that LGBT rights are the same as racial equality and rights for women.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Speaking at the United Nations human rights programs headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, in honor of International Human Rights Day — which is Saturday, Dec. 10 — Clinton also announced that the U.S., under the Obama administration, will from now on consider a country’s treatment of its LGBT citizens when deciding on foreign aid for that country.

Here is the full transcript of Clinton’s address:

“Good evening, and let me express my deep honor and pleasure at being here. I want to thank Director General Tokayev and Ms. Wyden along with other ministers, ambassadors, excellencies, and UN partners. This weekend, we will celebrate Human Rights Day, the anniversary of one of the great accomplishments of the last century.

“Beginning in 1947, delegates from six continents devoted themselves to drafting a declaration that would enshrine the fundamental rights and freedoms of people everywhere.  In the aftermath of World War II, many nations pressed for a statement of this kind to help ensure that we would prevent future atrocities and protect the inherent humanity and dignity of all people. And so the delegates went to work. They discussed, they wrote, they revisited, revised, rewrote, for thousands of hours. And they incorporated suggestions and revisions from governments, organizations and individuals around the world.

“At three o’clock in the morning on Dec. 10, 1948, after nearly two years of drafting and one last long night of debate, the president of the U.N. General Assembly called for a vote on the final text.

“Forty-eight nations voted in favor; eight abstained; none dissented. And the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted. It proclaims a simple, powerful idea: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. And with the declaration, it was made clear that rights are not conferred by government; they are the birthright of all people.

“It does not matter what country we live in, who our leaders are or even who we are. Because we are human, we therefore have rights. And because we have rights, governments are bound to protect them.

—  admin

Secretary of State Clinton delivers historic speech on LGBT rights at U.N. in Geneva

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

In what LGBT equality advocates are heralding as a remarkable and historic speech, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today told diplomats from around the world that LGBT rights are universal human rights, equal to women’s rights and racial equality, and that the United States, under the administration of President Barack Obama, will from now on take a country’s treatment of its LGBT citizens into consideration when making decisions on awarding foreign aid to that country.

Clinton delivered the speech before a gathering at the United Nations in Geneva, home of the U.N.’s human rights body.

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said that with today’s speech Clinton “distinguished herself as a legendary champion of rights for all people.”  With her “remarkable speech,” Solmonese added, Clinton “showed the power of American leadership that calls on the world to live up to the idea that all people are entitled to basic human rights and dignity. There is no question that the administration’s record of advancing equality for LGBT people has been enhanced by the leadership of Secretary Clinton.”

In a statement released shortly after the speech, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey thanked Clinton for “taking to the world stage to send the unequivocal message that LGBT people everywhere should be able to live freely and with dignity.”

Clinton’s speech, Carey added, “made it clear that the fair and equal treatment of LGBT people worldwide is a moral imperative and a priority and legitimate concern in U.S. foreign policy.”

Clinton delivered her address shortly after the White House Press Office released a statement announcing that President Obama had sent out a presidential memorandum instructing U.S. diplomatic officers and agencies to “promote and protect” the rights of LGBT persons abroad.

We will publish the full transcript of Secretary Clinton’s speech as soon as it becomes available to us.

—  admin

Barney Frank’s lasting legacy

Congressman made history when he came out in 1987, opening the door for other LGBT politicians

BarneyFrank_PL4

U.S. Congressman Barney Frank

Openly gay U.S. Congressman Barney Frank’s monumental contribution to the LGBT rights movement will one day be honored in the collection of unique individuals and events that makes up every American history book.

Frank, 71 now, may not be alive to see that day arrive, but as sure as God made little apples, it’s coming.

That’s because the LGBT rights movement has become an unstoppable force under the guidance of the testy congressman from Massachusetts and that of the scores of other openly gay and lesbian politicians who have joined him over the years in public office at every level of local, state and national government.

Now that Frank, a Democrat, has announced he will retire in 2012 and not seek re-election to the congressional office he has held since 1981, it is time to start putting his contributions to the American human rights movement in perspective.

Most LGBT rights activists agree the single most important measure in achieving success requires securing a place at the table where law is being made, and Frank accomplished that at the highest level a quarter-century ago when he publicly came out.

At the time Frank came out he had already served in Congress for six years, and it surely was no surprise to his colleagues, friends and families to learn about his sexual orientation. But the same could not be said for the majority of the American public, which still viewed homosexuality as quirky at best.

Even many LGBT people were unsure in 1987 about what to make of a congressman coming out as gay and thought it would likely be the end of his political career, which he began in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1973.

Probably to the shock of some, Frank continued to gain respect in Congress, and he now is viewed as one of the smartest, wittiest and most eloquent politicians in Washington, D.C.

Frank achieved success and gained admiration from his peers, the media, his constituents and others — even after being enveloped in a scandal in 1989 that nearly wrecked his career. The public learned that year that Frank had an affair with a male prostitute, whom the congressman had allowed to move into his home.

David-Webb

David Webb The Rare Reporter

Frank was investigated by the House Ethics Commission at his own request, and it ruled after a 10-month inquiry that the congressman had not been aware the live-in prostitute had continued to practice his trade from the household. The commission did recommend Frank be reprimanded for using his position as a congressman to get favors for his prostitute boyfriend.

In the height of irony, Frank survived an attempt by former Republican Idaho Congressman Larry Craig to remove him from office. Craig, who was elected in 1991 to the Senate for Idaho, made news in 2007 for attempting to solicit sex from an undercover male vice squad officer in a Minneapolis-St.Paul International Airport restroom.

Craig, who pleaded guilty to the charge but made laughable excuses about his predicament in an attempt to claim his innocence, did not run for re-election the following year. On the other hand, Frank went on after his scandal to win every following election by a wide margin.

At the time Frank came out as gay there was not much more than a handful of openly gay politicians in the nation, if that many. As Frank’s fortunes rose, so did those of other politicians in the LGBT community, and today there are openly gay and lesbian people serving in a wide variety of major elective offices.

In the last election in November, the Victory Fund saw 53 of the 75 openly gay and lesbian candidates it had endorsed elected to office, including Mayor Annise Parker of Houston, State Sen. Adam Ebbin of Virginia and State Assemblyman Tim Eustace of New Jersey.

As Frank retires from public office, he leaves behind in Congress his openly gay and lesbian colleagues Rep. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado and Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, who also are Democrats.

No openly gay or lesbian member of Congress has ever been elected on the Republican Party ticket, although there have been a number of gay Republicans who have served from the closet. And more than one has been exposed for their hypocrisy as a result of a scandal, something Frank wisely avoided.

Frank’s legacy will be that he broke ground in American politics, inspiring other openly gay and lesbian people to seek and win elected office at every level.

That has resulted in the type of political gains that many people who have been around since the start of the gay rights movement in 1969 never thought they would see, regardless of how Frank might be viewed on some other issues.

Considering what has happened in the past four decades, it is conceivable that one day an openly gay or lesbian politician could be elected to any office, including the U.S. Senate — or even higher.  That’s a thought that probably never even occurred to Frank back in 1987.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 2, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas