WATCH: Barney Frank announces retirement, slams Newt Gingrich over ‘sanctity of marriage’

Congressman Barney Frank, D-Mass., the longest-serving openly gay member of Congress, confirmed at a press conference this afternoon that he won’t seek re-election in 2012.

Frank said he decided to retire in part because he would have faced a tough campaign next year after his district was redrawn to include more conservative areas. Frank said the district would be almost half new.

“If I were to run again, I would be engaged full-fledged in a campaign, which is entirely appropriate — nobody ought to expect to get re-elected without a contest — but the fact that it is so new makes it harder, in terms of learning about new areas, introducing myself to new people.”

Frank also took a jab at former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has climbed to the top of GOP presidential polls.

“I did not think I had lived a good enough life to be rewarded by Newt Gingrich being the Republican nominee. It still is unlikely, but I have hopes,” Frank said.

“I look forward to debating, to take one important example, the Defense of Marriage Act with Mr. Gingrich,” Frank said. “I think he is an ideal opponent for us when we talk about who it is that is threatening the sanctity of marriage. … He would be the best thing to happen to the Democratic Party since Barry Goldwater.”

Watch a clip of Frank’s comments about Gingrich above.

Below are reactions to Frank’s retirement from President Barack Obama and others.

—  John Wright

Holiday Gift Guide 2011 • Body & Soul


>> Body & Soul


Stemming from the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York, Melissa Krueger had the epiphany of Gay Coffee. With a passion for roasting the best java, she created this fun and quirky line of, well, gay coffees. The name says it all, as do the blends such as sensual and dark Red Hanky Roast and medium roasted Stone Butch Breakfast Blend. All roasts are fairly traded and one percent of all profits are donated to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. The coffee is priced at $13 for 10 ounces.

Available through



Today people are tied to their phones, but this ZOMM wireless leash makes sure a phone is never lost. The poker-chip sized gadget will alarm when the phone gets far enough away from its owner thanks to a Bluetooth connection. ZOMM also acts as a speakerphone to answer if the phone is out of quick reach and the panic button calls for emergency assistance. This little thing packs quite the big punch. The ZOMM is priced at $99.99.

Available at Fry’s Electronics locations and


Bookbinder Darlene Dominguez has taken recycled book leather, flea market finds and vintage buttons and turned them into these beautiful unique cuffs. With an elastic band that pulls it gently around the wrist, these one-of-a-kind pieces are both fabulous accessories and works of art. The cuffs start at $20.




These essential oil smart boxes also get quite the message across, thanks to Michelle Bardwell. Find ginger and peppermint scents in the Eat Me box, rose and magnolia in the Love Me box and rosewood and tea tree in the Try Me box. All boxes contain either four 10ml bottles of essential oils or five 2ml vials of essential and therapeutic oils. Each is priced at $36.

Flower Road Natural Therapies



Some occasions and palates just call for both white and red wine. This dual wine tote makes it easy to bring both, or champagne even. Made with high density, stain- and-pill-resistant German merino wool felt, vegetable tanned leather handles and polished nickel finish for hardware, the tote is not just handy, it’s stylish as well. The tote is priced at $145.

Dallas Museum of Art Museum Store,
1717 N. Harwood Road.


Taking tea to the next level, Numi’s Enchanted Blossoms Flowering Tea appeals to all the senses. Filled with hand-sewn tea leaves and flowers, the box included a glass teapot and comes in a handmade dark mahogany bamboo case. The flowers begin to blossom when they are steeped. The tea box is as magical as it is elegant. The tea set is priced from $30–$35.

Available through

halsa-wellness-acupressure-matBED OF NAILS

The idea of lying down on more than 8,000 spikes may not sound too appealing, but with the Swedish Halsa wellness mat, the body only reaps benefits. Based on the spiked mats of ancient Indian tradition, this mat stimulates acupressure points which increases circulation, lowers blood pressure and releases physical, mental and emotional blocks. The Halsa wellness mat comes in black, green or purple and is priced at $39.95.

Available through



Classy and cool, this HEX Vision metal watch band is made for the iPod Nano Gen 6 to be clipped in as the watch face. The band comes in gun metal or silver and takes the predictability out of giving just any ol’ watch. The watchband is priced at $69.95.

Apple Store Northpark Center,
8587 N. Central Expressway.



Pride goes way posh with this bracelet. It features over 15 carats of fine round sapphires in rainbow colors surrounded in yellow gold.  There can only be one word for this — fabulous! The bracelet is priced at $11,700.

Skibell Fine Jewelry, 8411 Preston Road, Ste. 110.



Don’t forget the stocking stuffers. These new iFrogz headphones change the way sound travels in tiny spaces. The chrome-plated Legion model bumps up the high notes and bass lines. The TimbrePro offers deeper bass sounds through a wooden sound chamber. The Transport uses turbine engine design for purer sound on all levels. The TimbrePro and Transport come with a single button remote/microphone for mobile devices and is compatible with Apple, Blackberry and Android. Headphones start
at $24.99.

Available at Walmart stores and


rafii-scarvesBUNDLE UP

A quality scarf is a must for any strong wardrobe and Astor + Black’s cashmere collection makes for a stylish accessory. The scarves not only protect in cold weather, but make clear fashion statements in a variety of colors and patterns. Get one for yourself even. The scarves are priced at $150.

Astor and Black
Custom Clothiers.




s fun as this looks, the POP phone  by Native Union also has a distinct purpose. For the chatty Cathies out there, this handset attaches to your smartphone and protects from up to 99 percent of harmful effects of cell phone radiation. In seven bold colors and soft-touch finish, the POP phone is totally for that whimsical hipster who appreciates the irony of nostalgia. The handset attaches to most Mac products and Blackberries. and prices start at $29.90.

Available through




Rufskin is known for making extreme choices in its clothing designs, but when it comes to denim, the sex appeal is out of control. Whether they rethink classic jeans or offer sexy, snug fits, Rufskin’s denim is incomparable. Jeans start at $120.
Union Jack,
3920 Cedar Springs Road.














Why not give a one-of-a-kind bottle of wine complete with a personalized label? At Two Corks and a Bottle, customers can bottle their own personal vintage wine with a list of available varietals. The winery will even help out to make it just right. After the blend is done, just add a personal holiday greeting on the label for that special touch. Half batches (about 14 bottles) start at $165.

Two Corks and a Bottle, 2800 Routh Ste. 140
(in the Quadrangle).
214-871- 9463.
















Classify this as for the person who has everything. Epic Helicopters takes the holidays to the skies with its Holiday Lights Tour. With tours in Fort Worth and Addison, Santa’s not the only one who gets airspace during the holidays. Epic offers 10 different lights tour variations through Jan. 1. Tours in Fort Worth start at $379; tours in Addison start at $429.

Epic Helicopters, Fort Worth Meacham Airport
4201 N. Main Street, Suite 109
Fort Worth. 817-625-1800.
Addison Airport, 
4553 Jimmy Doolittle Drive,
Addison. 214-799-1501.

—  Kevin Thomas

Safe haven

For 10 years, Gay-Straight Alliances in Fort Worth schools have given LGBTQ and their straight friends a place to go for support and safety

GATHERING | Rebecca Cooper, front center, opens her classroom at Southwest High School to LGBT students and their friends looking for someplace where they feel safe enough to talk openly, and where they can find friendship and support from others like them. (Andrea Grimes/Dallas Voice}

ANDREA GRIMES  |  Contributing Writer

It’s been 10 years since two high school boys started the first Gay-Straight Alliance club in Tarrant County at Fort Worth’s Southwest High School, and membership is way, way up.

This year, on any given Friday, dozens of kids show up to Rebecca Cooper’s classroom in a cramped, low-ceilinged portable building to do what a lot of kids do — braid each other’s hair or practice gymnastics in the grass outside.

But they also do what a lot of kids will never have to do: trade phone numbers so that when they come out to their family, they’ve got a place to go and a support group if the conversation ends in a fight, or worse — homelessness or even a suicide attempt. (An estimated 20 to 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBTQ, according to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.)

Between the hair braiding and the back flips, Gay-Straight Alliance clubs save lives. It’s as simple as that.

Southwest High School sponsor Rebecca Cooper says she’s seen it with her own eyes: GSAs serve as safe spaces where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning students can feel empowered rather than intimidated.

“Because there’s a lack of fear [at GSAs],” says Cooper, students are confident in sharing their own personal experiences to help their peers.

At a meeting, says Cooper, you might have a kid who says, “I thought about suicide three days ago.” But “before you know it,” she says, “You’ve got six, eight, 10 kids around him, like swoosh. They’re going, ‘Here’s my phone number, I’ve been there.’”

Anti-bullying efforts have moved to the forefront of the national conversation in the past couple of years, thanks in part to high-profile campaigns like Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project, which inspired Fort Worth City Councilmember Joel Burns to tell his own story, during an October 2010 City Council meeting of contemplating suicide after being bullied.

But every week — and every night, and every day, really whenever a student needs a help or a hug or a sounding board — since December, 2001, students in Fort Worth’s Gay-Straight Alliances have been telling each other that it gets better, that there’s someone out there who cares.

As of this year, there are three active GSAs in the Fort Worth Independent School District: Southwest High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance, Western Hills High School’s Q-Status and Paschal High School’s G.L.O.W. (Gay, Lesbian or Whatever), with two more inactive high school groups seeking sponsors.

Cooper estimates that up to 70 percent of her club is straight. The unity and cooperation between straight and non-straight students is part of what makes the simple existence of GSA’s so impactful.

Not only are GSAs safe spaces for LGBTQ students, they also build rapport and trust between the LGBTQ community and the straight majority.

“Straight people want to be part of the change,” says Western Hills’ Q-Status President Italia Salinas, a junior. “You don’t have to be gay to help others have respect and support.”

Often, hurtful and hateful speech comes out of what English teacher Marvin Vann calls anti-gay individuals’ sense of a “mandated right” to denounce homosexuality because of their religious beliefs. He says Gay-Straight Alliances help give strength to students who might otherwise feel swamped and surrounded by Christians with “loving” messages — like the employee who told Italia Salinas’ friend she was going to hell for being a lesbian.

Last year, recalls Salinas, a school employee — not a teacher — told a friend of hers that she’d go to hell because of her sexuality.

While Salinas and her friend were walking down the school hallway one day, an employee asked the two girls where they were headed. When they talked about going to a Q-Status meeting and explained what it was, the employee asked Salinas’ friend if she went to church. She said she did, a Catholic church.

Salinas remembers the employee, someone they’d laughed and joked with since their freshman year, telling her friend, “I love you, but being gay is not okay, and I care about you so I don’t want you to go to hell for doing that.”

Salinas says her friend was “in shock” that a school employee would say such a thing to a student.

Cooper says she’s had to correct other teachers who would tell students it’s not okay to be gay — teachers who didn’t even realize that Cooper herself was gay.

Tensions between teachers, administrators and school employees have heightened in Fort Worth over the years, so much so that Sharon Herrera, an out lesbian herself, was brought in to teach training seminars and handle complaints.

But, as reported by the Fort Worth Weekly, Herrera was perhaps too good at her job.

Her position was eliminated at the beginning of this year, and although she’s still an employee of the district, she’s no longer conducting the seminars and handling the multitude of complaints that came across her desk, which included instances of anti-LGBTQ bullying as well sexual and racial harassment.

Everything, it seems, has gone silent. But that doesn’t mean everyone’s problems have been solved.

Herrera says that quality training that is LGBTQ-specific is vital in Fort Worth, and programs like their “It’s Not Okay” campaign, launched in June of 2010, simply do not address LGBTQ issues in a meaningful way — or at all.

Instead, it is often left up to the more-than-capable students to stand up for themselves when something goes wrong. That’s one of the wonderful things about GSAs, say participants: They get to learn real-world activism in high school.

This year, Italia Salinas says, Q-Status has not been allowed to make public announcements and hang signs in the hallways, ostensibly because they’re a non-academic group. However, a conservative Christian extracurricular group for boys at the school has been able to do those things.

Salinas and her group will have to actively fight to get their school to respect the Equal Access Act, which guarantees that if one extra-curricular club has access to school resources, all of them must.
Nine students from Fort Worth ISD marched in the city’s recent gay Pride parade, and when the Dallas Voice stopped by Southwest High School to talk to their Gay-Straight Alliance, the room positively lit up when the march was brought up.

Hands shot into the air, attached to squirming bodies, each student anxious to talk about the amazing feeling they got from being accepted in an adult space.

In fact, says Western Hills’ Q-Status teacher sponsor Bernardo Vallarino, showing kids that the LGBT community is more than just dance clubs and drugs — something he was exposed to very early on as a young man — is an integral part of what GSAs do for students.

In forming GSAs, he says, “it creates a right way of learning about the LGBTQ community that doesn’t include drugs, alcohol or inadequate sex.” The biggest take-away from GSAs, says Herrera, is that they prevent bullying and, again, save lives because of their specific focus on the needs of LGBTQ students.

Inclusivity, says Herrera, is not enough; LGBTQ kids need programs tailored to their specific challenges — challenges that are made ever more apparent every time the local news reports on yet another bullied teen’s suicide.

Southwest junior Ryan McCaleb says being gay “is the way we live, think, breathe.” But because of the social stigma and pressure from religious and conservative students and teachers, he says, “You’re the talk of the school, and everything that’s said comes back times 10.”

The Gay-Straight Alliance is a place where kids understand what that feels like — that unique feeling of shame and pain that LGBTQ kids deal with, especially LGBTQ kids in conservative cities like Fort Worth, and that their straight friends want to help alleviate. As president of Q-Status, Italia Salinas says her GSA “gives [her] hope for humanity,” that hatefulness and bullying can be prevented before it begins.

Vallarino says that in 10 years of Gay-Straight Alliance clubs in FWISD, some goals may have shifted. Last year, they successfully focused on getting written policies in place against workplace and schoolharassment and supporting equal treatment, while this year they’re hoping to get a GSA in every high school and middle school.


• Q-Status: “Q- Status is a group built on the human differences of its members, a safe place where everyone is welcome and no one is turned away. Our focus is centered on the education of our members and the community around us. We thrive by making new friends and by accomplishing our goals of informing and educating others of the cultural and legal inequalities faced by many groups including the homosexual community and their families. Everyone is welcome (heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual, questioning, confused, curious, etc.)”

• LGBTQ Saves (district-wide): “LGBTQ  S.A.V.E.S. (Students, Administrators, Volunteers, Educators Support) fosters the well-being of LGBTQ K-12 students, administrators, volunteers and educators in Tarrant County by eliminating discrimination, bullying and retaliation on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. S.A.V.E.S. is an autonomous, all-volunteer group and not affiliated with any local school districts.”

• Southwest High School GSA Vision Statement: “The Gay-Straight Alliance GSA at Southwest High School is a student-led and -organized club that aims to create a safe, welcoming and accepting environment for all youth regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. The GSA brings together gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgendered and questioning (GLBTQ) youth with their straight peers to address issues such as bullying, harassment, discrimination and bias. GSA allows youth to build coalitions and community that can work towards making a safer school environment for all people. Motto: Come as you are.”

But ultimately, “One thing that has never changed is that GSA’s are a safe haven.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 14, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Helping change begin at home

CREATING CHANGE | While in Dallas to meet with supporters, NGLTF Deputy Executive Director Darlene Nipper discussed the Task’s Force’s work. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

NGLTF staffer says national organization focuses on grassroots to help local activists make change at home and nationally

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

Change happens one person at a time, and change begins at home. That’s why the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, even though it is a national organization, focuses on activism at the grassroots level.

NGLTF Deputy Executive Director Darlene Nipper, in Dallas recently to talk with local activists and offer NGLTF’s help, said, “Our approach is working to collaborate and strengthen the grass roots community. We strengthen home communities to advance LGBT rights.”

NGLTF held its annual Creating Change conference in Dallas last year, and over the course of the months spent preparing for the conference, the organization’s staff made friends here.

“We spend time in places where we’ve held conferences,” she said, working to continue developing those relationships.

Nipper congratulated Dallas activists on their recent successes with Dallas County, the Dallas Area Rapid Transit board and Dallas Independent School District, and saying NGLTF was available to help as the community continues to move forward.

When NGLTF works with a community, Nipper said, the organization encourages local activists to ask, “What do you need?” and “What do we have?” — and then compare the answers.

The goal, Nipper said, is to build power, to get resources, to fight ballot measures and to pass inclusive legislation and ordinances.

“I’m proud of how we engage with people,” she said.

She called Creating Change the town square of the movement.

“Everyone else, all the groups come [to Creating Change] to strategize,” Nipper said.

She credited the organization’s ability to play that strategic role to NGLTF’s history as the oldest national LGBT organization.

“There’s something about being a little older,” she said — hinting that not only is NGLTF older, but also maybe a little wiser in its approach, although she stressed how well the various LGBT groups work together.

Each of the different advocacy organizations have a role to play, Nipper said, and the Task Force’s niche is grassroots organizing.

“We’re on the ground doing the training and preparing the local folks to do what they need to do to get the local ordinances passed,” Nipper said.

She said that much of the language for local ordinances, especially those that are gender-inclusive, comes from language NGLTF has written. The organization has studied effective anti-bullying legislation and suggests wording to local groups working on the issue.

On the federal level, Nipper said the LGBT community has been very successful recently, noting that, “Monumental change has been going on.”

She pointed to four big pieces of legislation have been, if not passed, at least seriously considered: Defense of Marriage Act repeal, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, repeal of the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell policy” and hate crimes legislation, “which we got and never celebrated. I’m not sure what that’s about.”

Nipper said the community has also been very successful in making concrete policy change at the administration level, stuff that can get done without Congress,” on issues ranging from hospital visitation to the census count.

Having LGBT people counted as part of the census might not seem like a huge advance, Nipper said, but it can have a huge impact because being counted includes the LGBT community as part of the fabric of American culture.

“Every dollar in the federal budget begins with the census,” she noted.

Nipper also pointed out that many agencies have begun takings laws and regulations such as the Family Leave Act and applying them to the LGBT community. The State Department expanded regulations relating to diplomats’ families and extended those to cover same-sex partners.

“HUD has changed the definition of family because of the work that we do,” she added, giving credit for much of that change to NGLTF’s New Beginning Initiative.

She explained that the Task Force approached President Obama’s transition team members before he even took office, presenting team members with about 80 regulatory policies the activist thought could be changed by agency heads or the White House.

“The transition team used that as a strategy for changes they could make,” Nipper said “They took it on because it was so clear. It gave us a jump-start.”

Among the issues the Task Force embraced last year at the Creating Change conference in Dallas was benefits equality for the elderly.

“We have a public policy and government affairs office so we have a person working on aging related issues,” Nipper said, adding that inequality in social security benefits and taxes are at the top of the agenda.

Recently, the Task Force has been working with Transportation Security Administration, saying that new security procedures and equipment can create situations where transgenders might be treated with disrespect and even attacked.

Nipper said that the new technology gave NGLTF new opportunities to talk to federal officials to work out new policies that will respect the transgender community.

The list of issues, regulations and policies NGLTF is working on is long.

“We work on education bills,” Nipper said. “We’re working on ENDA.”

More generally, she said that when the new Congress came into office in January, NGLTF strategizes with other groups about how to get any bills passed over the next two years.

“We need to identify who’s on our side. Who’s willing to stand for equality?” she said.

Nipper said means identifying LGBT-friendly Republicans and working with them, as well as identifying Democrats who are not supportive.

“One of the most exciting things we’re working on to compliment the wide array of leadership development is that we’re doing an on line academy,” she said. “People can get training on line.”

The Task Force Academy for Leadership and Action includes tools, resources, a resource library and a component that is interactive and developmental and parts of the program are tailored to the individual.

Nipper said it’s a good way to feel connected between Creating Change conferences.

The next Creating Change conference will be held in Baltimore Jan. 25, which was moved earlier next year to not conflict with the Super Bowl.   •
For more information about the on line academy and NGLTF, visit

—  John Wright

Task Force: Perry’s Day of Prayer ‘a profoundly harmful act’ that ‘demeans our common humanity’

Last Wednesday we called attention to the fact that only one LGBT group had issued a statement condemning Gov. Rick Perry’s Day of Prayer, funded by the gay-hating American Family Association. We also said we had reached out to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force but received no response. However, a spokeswoman for NGLTF says she never received our email because it was caught by her spam filter. In any case, the Task Force has now joined the handful of other LGBT groups that have issued statements since then. Here’s the statement that was sent over today from the Rev. Rebecca Voelkel, faith work director for NGLTF:

“A designated hate group is the primary backer of Gov. Rick Perry’s so-called Day of Prayer. How exactly does this help heal our nation? It does nothing to foster a much-needed sense of community, peace and well-being. What it does do is fuel discord and division at a time when many people are hurting. The AFA has taken extreme positions that make our families more vulnerable to violence, bigotry and economic distress. This is not an act of love; it is a profoundly harmful act. This event as planned demeans our common humanity and makes a mockery of the principles of fairness and faith.”

—  John Wright



Anecdotally, the evidence for widespread discrimination against transgender people has existed for a long, long time. But in February, the National Center for Transgender Equality paired with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force to release a scientific survey of thousands of American transgender and gender non-conforming people in what they call the “first 360-degree picture of discrimination” against these groups.

The result is called “Injustice at Every Turn,” and shows the many ways in which transgender and gender non-conforming people are negatively affected by a variety of issues including structural racism, poverty and employment discrimination.

The report doesn’t mince words: Researchers found that “instead of recognizing that the moral failure lies in society’s unwillingness to embrace different gender identities and expressions, society blames transgender and gender non-conforming people for bringing the discrimination and violence on themselves.”

Researchers also assert that the source of this “moral failure” is likely to be foundational institutions like churches, schools and workplaces. And the findings of “Injustice at Every Turn” back up their powerful statements.

While the experience of discrimination was “pervasive” throughout the 6,450-person sample, researchers found that structural racism, combined with anti-transgender bias, was “especially devastating.” Transgender people who are also African-American are, for example, far more likely than white transgender people to be victims of police brutality.

Measuring poverty, researchers found that their transgender respondents were nearly four times more likely to live in extreme poverty — making less than $10,000 per year — than their fellow Americans.

Transgender people are also twice as likely as to be unemployed, and the numbers are even more discouraging for transgender people of color: They experience unemployment at up to four times the national unemployment rate.

Forty-one percent of the survey respondents reported attempting suicide, a number researchers called “staggering” when compared to the 1.6 percent of the general population that does so. Transgender people who are unemployed, bullied or the victims of sexual assault were more likely to have attempted suicide.

School is not a safe place for many transgender children and teens, researchers found. Seventy-eight percent of respondents said they’d been harassed at school, and a sixth reported leaving a school because of their inability to escape harassment, assault and sexual violence.

At work, 90 percent of survey respondents said they’d been harassed, mistreated or discriminated against or tried to hide their transgender status or non-conformity in an attempt to avoid it. Nearly half said they’d been fired, not hired or denied a promotion. Unemployed respondents had more than double the HIV infection rate and double the rate of drinking and drug use.

Researchers found that one-fifth of the respondents had been homeless at some point in their lives, and more than half of those who’d tried to seek assistance at a shelter reported being harassed by staff or other residents.

American Indian transgender people were most likely to say they’d been denied a home or apartment.

Updated and accurate identification is difficult to obtain for transgender people — one fifth reported being able to update all of their records with their new gender. A third had no records updated or accurate. Forty-one percent of transgender people live without identification that matches their gender identity.

Going to the police for help is reported to be an uncomfortable prospect for 46 percent of the survey respondents, and a fifth of the respondents reported harassment by the police. Race complicated this further: 38 and 36 percent of black and multi-racial respondents reported harassment by police.

Doctors also appear to have little experience with transgender needs, with half of the survey respondents reporting they had to educate their own medical providers about transgender care.

Transgender people have HIV at four times the national average. Smoking, drug and alcohol use are more prevalent among transgender and gender non-conforming people.

Despite all this, researchers called transgender people “resilient,” noting that after transitioning, more than three-fourths of respondents felt better at work. Transgender people are far more likely than people in the general population to return to school between the ages of 25 and 44.

Researchers concluded with a “call to action” to eliminate the “pervasive inhumanity” displayed in the survey results, noting that “action or continued inaction will make a significant difference between the current climate of discrimination and violence and a world of freedom and equality.”

— Andrea Grimes

—  John Wright

Recession, lack of progress on LGBT issues took toll on advocacy groups in 2009, report says

Thirty-nine of the largest LGBT equality groups saw their revenues fall by an average of 20 percent from 2008 to 2009, according to a first-of-its-kind report from the Movement Advancement Project, a Denver-based think tank. According to a CQ Weekly article about the report posted on, the groups’ combined revenues fell from $202.7 million in 2008 to $161.3 million in 2009, falling short of total expenses by $4.3 million:

Final revenue figures for last year are not yet available, but the report says the 39 groups responded to a bad 2009 by slashing their budgets last year to $135.4 million, 21 percent lower than in 2008. Among the groups participating in the survey were stalwarts of the gay rights movement such as the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

“The revenue drop reflects two things: the economic climate and some frustration at the pace of change in 2009,” says Ineke Mushovic, the Movement Advancement Project’s executive director. She expects that the burst of policy gains in late 2010 and early 2011, combined with a recovering economy, may create a better picture when the report is next updated.

Below are some other key findings listed in a press release about the report. Download the full report by going here:

• The 39 participating organizations’ combined 2009 expenses of $165.6 million are only half of the combined annual expenses of just the 10 largest organizations working to oppose LGBT equality ($333.1 million).

• Many organizations are scaling back their programs in order to align with available resources. Combined 2010 budgets ($135.4 million) are down 18 percent from 2009 expenses ($165.6 million).

• General financial health remains strong. Organizations have good and rising average working capital (a measure of cash reserves), declining but still-healthy liquidity ratios (funds to cover current obligations), and steady cash and net assets (which speaks to institutional durability).

• Movement groups are highly efficient in their fundraising and programming operations, with all 39 participants exceeding the efficiency standards of both the American Institute of Philanthropy and the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance. An average of 79 percent of expenses is spent on programs and services, 9 percent on management and general expenses, and only 12 percent on fundraising.

• Less than 4 percent of all LGBT adults in the U.S. donated $35 or more to these LGBT organizations. While organizations are generally effective at retaining smaller donors (those giving $35 or more) year over year, the number of larger donors (those giving $1,000 or more) is dropping and not easily replaced.

• The staffs of participating organizations are diverse, roughly mirroring the broader U.S. population: 32 percent identify as people of color (12 percent African American, 12 percent Latino/a, 7 percent Asian/Pacific Islander and 1 percent Native American or other). Also, 46 percent are women and 6 percent identify as transgender.

—  John Wright

In NYC, gay groups are fighting Wal-Mart

A while back we told you how the anti-gay Wal-Mart plans to take over Dallas by building 12 new stores here. Little did we know at the time that the man who’s taking “credit” for bringing the new Wal-Mart stores to Dallas, former Mayor Tom Leppert, would show his stripes as a back-stabbing homophobe only days later. Anyhow, we just wanted to note that in New York City, LGBT groups are taking stands against allowing Wal-Mart to come into the city — due to the group’s anti-gay employment practices. reports:

Last week, writer Lauren Kelley noted that the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City issued a statement opposing the construction of a WalMart in the Big Apple. Their reasons for opposing WalMart? Pretty straightforward, really: the company receives a dismal grade when it comes to workplace equality, the company’s CEO supported efforts in Arkansas to ban LGBT people from adopting children, and last year, more than 100 WalMart stores announced that they would carry a book championing ex-gay therapy.

Yuck, indeed. Now this week comes word that another heavyweight organization is lending their voice in the effort to keep WalMart out of New York City. That group? The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, which issued a statement this week knocking WalMart’s record on LGBT equality.

“With the expansion of Wal-Mart stores comes the expansion of antiquated employment policies that provide little to no protections for, and at times even hostility toward, their LGBT employees,” the Task Force said in a statement.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Anti-gay activist calling for boycott of Chili’s; Maryland marriage marathon

1. In response to the gay boycott of Chick-fil-A, anti-gay activist Peter LaBarbera is calling for a boycott of Dallas-based Chili’s. LaBarbera, founder of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, cites Chili’s support of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, which he accuses of promoting polyamory: “If you want to take a small step to stand up for family and marriage, take your family out to Chick-fil-A — and drive right by when you see a Chili’s,” LaBarbera says.

2. A Maryland Senate committee heard more than seven hours of testimony Tuesday on a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage. The president of the Senate puts the bill’s chances of passage at 60- 70 percent, and a vote could come next week. Maryland would be the sixth state, in addition to the District of Columbia, to legalize same-sex marriage.


—  John Wright

Ricky Martin becomes a hero for Latino gays

SIGAL RATNER-ARIAS | Associated Press

NEW YORK — It’s been almost a year since Ricky Martin announced to the world he was gay, but among many gay Latinos, a community that has lived in obscurity for fear of harassment or rejection, his message is still making an impact.

“Today I ACCEPT MY HOMOSEXUALITY as a gift that gives me life,” Martin wrote last March in an open letter to his fans, after refusing to speak about his sexual orientation for years. “I feel blessed to be who I am!”

“By hiding, he validated millions of closeted gays’ that homosexuality is not honorable,” Daniel Shoer Roth, a Venezuelan columnist of the Miami Herald who is gay, told The Associated Press recently.

“In the gay community we have always known that Ricky Martin is one of us,” he added. “Because he is an idol, Ricky has paved the way so these gays now say, ‘If he could do it, so can I.”’

The revelation of the Puerto Rican singer and activist, whose album Music+Soul+Sex came out last week, has had positive effects for the Latino gay community and the society in general, according to advocates for the gay, lesbian and transgender community.

“The example of Ricky Martin as citizen of the world, humanitarian, father, intelligent person, is a good example for those who have obvious stereotypes and also for those who don’t have prejudice but have ideas that may act as barriers in the lives of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT),” said Jarrett Barrios, president of GLAAD (The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation). “Ideas like ‘a gay man is good to water my flowers at home but not for business’ limit the opportunities for the LGBT community.”

Pedro Julio Serrano, communications manager of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, says that “when Ricky made the announcement the tectonic plates moved, it was almost like an earthquake.”

“It was one of the most important news in the fight for equality that the Latino LGBT community leads. It touches the hearts and opens the minds of many people,” said Serrano, who became a friend of the artist after his announcement.

Ricardo Torres, a Mexican man who was raised in Texas and lives in Chicago, was in the audience when Oprah Winfrey interviewed Martin last year. He thanked Martin, saying that his revelation was good for his own relationship with his mother.

“For the first time my mother asked me personal questions. For almost 20 years she has known that I am gay but she never asked anything … she told me not to tell anyone else in my family. It was a secret … a big taboo,” Torres, 38, told the AP.

“Everything changed after Ricky came out of the closet,” he added. “Like someone in our family came out and by doing so gave us the right to live more openly.”

And the audience in general seems to support Martin.

Me, which came out Nov. 2, was a New York Times best-seller and its Spanish edition, Yo, reached No. 1 biography in the United States. His single “Lo mejor de mi vida eres tu,” released the same week of the book, was at the top of Billboard’s Latin Pop Songs chart (English version “The Best Thing About Me Is You” debuted on Oprah and was officially released on Feb. 1.)

“If in Puerto Rico people used to love him, now they love him even more,” said Serrano, who recounted that during Martin’s first public appearance post-announcement, in April at the Latin Billboard Awards, the singer not only received a standing ovation in the theater but a multitudinous cheer from the people on the streets.

“That says a lot about the welcoming and I think demonstrates the reality of our society,” he said. “Even though we still have to fight a lot of homophobia, there is much more acceptance today.”

According to statistics published online by The Trevor Project, a help-line for LGBT teenagers who may be contemplating suicide, LGBT youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers; more than one third have attempted taking their own lives and those in highly rejecting families are more than eight times as likely to have attempted suicide than LGBT peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection.

Torres considers that “one of the biggest positive effects (of Ricky’s coming out) is that Latino teenagers that are struggling with their sexuality have an example to follow.”

“Ricky gives hope to thousands of teens that are recognizing their sexual orientation or their gender identity and this tells them that even when there is homophobia and lack of acceptance, they can get to be whatever they want to be,” Serrano concluded. “I believe that with his story he is saving lives, and for me that is crucial, it is wonderful.”

—  John Wright