Leak prompted Boy Scouts to publicize board’s discussion of gay ban

scouts

Someone within the Boy Scouts of America leaked information that the National Executive Board would discuss ending the group’s national no-gays policy last week.

The National Executive Board ultimately postponed a decision on a proposed policy change that would have left it up to local troops whether to allow gays. A recording obtained by The New York Times explains why the BSA released a statement Jan. 28 that the board would consider the change.

Tico A. Perez, Scouting’s national commissioner, told a group of about 250 BSA staff and the executive board last week that the person who leaked the information “either didn’t like what we were doing, or they thought they were going to be helpful to the conversation.”

Perez continued to explain that instead of having a discussion behind closed doors, the board meeting received national attention and the BSA received a flood of input from across the country with 17,000 emails sent in only five minutes.

He said the attention made the change seem imminent when, in fact, the board only planned to discuss the change.

“It gave the impression, No. 1, that we were driving something to a vote, which we were not trying to do — we were trying to start a conversation,” Perez said. “And, No. 2, that we were doing something that we were going to spring on the board.”

—  Anna Waugh

SPIRITUALITY: Restoring some Dignity to Dallas

Mirroring a national trend, local LGBT Catholic group finds itself in a rebuilding stage

Jim Davis

Jim Davis

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

Dignity Dallas, the LGBT Catholic organization, is in a re-forming stage, according to leader Jim Davis.

Davis said he’s been out “beating the bushes to let people know who we are.”

Dignity is not formally recognized by the Catholic Church.

Jon Garinn, Dignity Dallas’ former spiritual leader, said the group once attracted 25 to 35 people to weekly Sunday mass.

But Davis said the group, on the verge of folding, now meets just once a month as it tries to rebuild. One problem, Davis said, has been finding local leaders willing to identify themselves openly and actively promote the group.

“The bishop already doesn’t like us,” Davis said. “What do we care what he says? I want my name out there.”

DignityUSA Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke said the role of the organization has changed, and the Dallas chapter’s situation isn’t uncommon. She said at one time, Dignity was the first connection a gay Catholic made to the LGBT community.

The organization was often a place of sanctuary — a safe place for LGBT Catholics who were verbally attacked in their parishes. That’s not true anymore.

“The LGBT community has blossomed,” she said. “As Dignity re-forms across the country, it’s taking many shapes and forms.”

But she said that Dignity is still a place for LGBT Catholics to take refuge from the mounting attacks by bishops and the pope that have hurt so many.

“We’re the group who will affirm who you are,” she said. “We’ll marry the couples. We’ll baptize their kids. Dignity is there to support the majority of Catholics who support LGBT rights.”

Duddy-Burke said a study last year indicated that Catholics are less likely to hear anti-LGBT messages from the pulpit than mainstream Protestants or Evangelicals.

A New York Times/CBS News poll released this week showed that more than two-thirds of Catholics believe same-sex couples deserve some sort of relationship recognition, while 44 percent support marriage equality.

But the message from the upper hierarchy is still negative and even getting worse.

“Dignity is the anti-hierarchy,” she said.

The national organization helps local chapters with quarterly leadership calls, a chapter-relations support team, leadership training programs and general exchanges of ideas.

Duddy-Burke said some chapters continue to offer weekly mass while others perform their own service monthly. Some attend a parish together and then go out to brunch as a group. Others maintain activities such as a book-discussion group or supper club.

Davis said the Dallas Dignity group has maintained its monthly supper club at Revlon House, one of the housing units of AIDS Services Dallas.

Duddy-Burke called that “more Catholic than the liturgy” in living the values that the church teaches.

Davis said that many Dignity members attend mass at Holy Trinity Church on Oak Lawn Avenue, where a large portion of the congregation is gay and lesbian. To explain what Dignity means to him, Davis coined the chapter’s motto — “The traditions you love. The acceptance you deserve.”

“I started attending Dignity when I began hearing edicts from Rome,” he said. “My church [parish] wasn’t welcoming either. At the time, I was ready to walk away from the [Catholic] Church.”

He agreed with Duddy-Burke that Dignity speaks for the values of the majority of Catholics who believe in equality for the LGBT community.

“We think it’s important as gay Catholics to hold a mirror up to the Catholic Church and say, ‘There’s no conflict there,’” he said.

Because the local bishop doesn’t support Dignity, Davis said the group has had trouble finding clergy to lead mass. Currently, a monk who lives in the area but is still affiliated with an order in another state and a priest from the Polish National Catholic Church with a parish in Oak Cliff act as its spiritual leaders.

“If the chapter is going to have any effect,” he said, “we have to be in your face.”

Davis wants new members who will let the group’s leaders know what the new Dallas Dignity should do.

Duddy-Burke said that the increasingly hostile rhetoric from the church hierarchy isn’t playing in the pews. DignityUSA is receiving stronger and stronger support from Catholics across the country.

“I’m giving 25 bucks to Dignity,” she said people write her after hearing anti-gay messages from the church, “because I’m not giving it to my parish.”

Dignity Dallas meets the first Sunday of the month at Cathedral of Hope at 5 p.m. For more info, visit DignityDallas.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 17, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

So what if being gay IS a choice?

Despite some activists’ outrage over actress Cynthia Nixon’s recent comments, it doesn’t really matter how we became LGBT

David Webb
The Rare Reporter

After four decades of watching people struggle to keep up with the politically correct standard of the day in discussing LGBT life, I’m beginning to think it’s time for everyone to relax a little.

I reached that decision this week when I read about activists getting in an uproar over Cynthia Nixon, an actress who starred in Sex and the City, telling the New York Times Magazine she preferred being gay to straight because she had lived both types of lives. Her remarks created a furor among those who demand we frame all of our speech in a way they think best advances the LGBT rights movement. A few days later Nixon softened her stance in a Daily Beast interview by saying she was a bisexual by no choice of her own, presumably in an effort to quell the controversy.

Frankly, Nixon’s first remarks in the New York Times Magazine article made sense to me, and so did her later remarks about believing she never made a conscious decision to be a bisexual. It’s just that I regretted she felt compelled to revise what she had said earlier to appease her critics. I got what she meant the first time without her follow-up explanation, and I imagine most other enlightened people did as well.

Cynthia Nixon
Cynthia Nixon

Nixon, who gave birth to two children with a male partner, probably did make a choice to live a gay life when she became sexually involved with a woman. If someone is attracted to both the opposite and the same sex, there probably does come a point when the individual might need to make a choice in terms of permanent or semi-permanent partnership.
Certainly Nixon ought to be the best judge of what happened in her own life, so what’s wrong with her telling the truth as she sees it?

Nixon noted correctly that many LGBT activists shudder every time they hear the word “choice,” “preference” or “lifestyle” because they fear it supports conservative religious arguments that homosexuality is a perversion practiced by degenerates who get their kicks out of being wicked. As the theory goes, that gives credence to the evangelists’ claims that bisexuality, homosexuality and gender variance can be cured by the administration of a good dose of Bible verse in quantities sufficient enough to scare the holy bejesus out of the sinner.

As we all know, that doesn’t work. Actually, even most straight people realize that won’t work because most of them have also suffered the wrath of the evangelical community in condemnation of some aspect of their lives, such as the urge to masturbate or engage in sexual activity before marriage. In reality, the only ones who truly believe a pack of Bible thumpers can transform a person’s sexual orientation are people who are lying about it, have been brainwashed into believing it or are just too ignorant to understand scientific research.

Decades of scientific evidence make it clear that every aspect of a person’s physical and mental makeup — which certainly includes sexual orientation — comes about as a result of heritable genes and the impact of sex hormones on the brain and other body parts of the developing fetus.

In his 2011 book Gay, Straight and the Reason Why, neuroscientist Simon LeVay outlines decades of scientific studies that all point to the same conclusion: In essence, people are what nature made them.

LeVay, who served on the faculties of Harvard Medical School and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, has pointed this out in various articles and books he has authored over the years. The results of a scientific study LeVay published in Science in 1991 showing marked differences in the brain structures of gay and straight men is credited with helping spur the two-decade wave of scientific research aimed at determining a biological basis for sexual orientation.

What the body of scientific evidence does for most reasonable people is confirm what common sense had already told them. There’s just no way certain people with obvious mental and physical characteristics could have been anything other than what they became — namely gay, lesbian or transgender.

With others in the LGBT community it’s a little trickier because they display either few or none of the obvious characteristics identifying them as anything other than straight. Environment might have played some role in their development, but again the scientific evidence points to biological factors. What’s more the individuals usually report experiencing feelings since their earliest recollections that set them apart from heterosexual people.

Still, the unpredictability of humans makes it impossible to categorize all people. Some members of the community undoubtedly did feel an attraction to the LGBT lifestyle and chose to embrace it for that reason. The very size and the diversity of the world’s LGBT community is so staggering that if we come across some people who are merely practicing free will, it shouldn’t be so surprising.

That’s why I liked Nixon’s earlier remarks that it didn’t matter how people came to be a part of the LGBT community. As she said, it doesn’t matter how each and every person got here, and words will never sway the opinions of bigots and opportunists. It will require life experiences — such as coming to realize they have a child or grandchild who is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender — to hopefully educate them about the realities of life.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has reported on LGBT issues for three decades for the mainstream and alternative media. He can be reached at davidwaynewebb@hotmail.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 3, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

Starvoice • 01.27.12

By Jack Fertig

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAY

Greg Louganis turns 52 on Sunday. The diver won gold medals at the 1984 and 1988 Olympics. Now he coaches up-and-coming divers. Louganis also competes in dog agility contests and wrote a second book, For the Life of Your Dog. His first book, Breaking the Surface, recounted his coming out and his HIV diagnosis and was a New York Times bestseller.

………………….

THIS WEEK

Neptune coming home to Pisces this Feb. 3 brings 14 years of heightened mysticism, romanticism, sensitivity, passions and decadence. The last time around (1848-1862) was the height of the Romantic era and the beginning of the spiritualist movements.

………………….

AQUARIUS  Jan 20-Feb 18
Flirtatious impulses prove a bit too extravagant. Remember, one perfect rose is more elegant than a dozen. Don’t dwell on the past. Think about the future and how to get there.

PISCES  Feb 19-Mar 19
With your co-ruler Neptune coming to stay the next 14 years, you will feel more in tune, a mixed blessing. Focus and shield your sensitivity. To care for others effectively, care for yourself first.

ARIES  Mar 20-Apr 19
Weird insights make you wonder how much you know yourself. Pushing yourself harder makes things tough on those around you. Ask why you do that and whether it’s really necessary.

TAURUS  Apr 20-May 20
Who are your friends really? The answers are surprising. Focus on the good. As much as some people may deserve your wrath, be careful not to say anything you’ll regret later.

GEMINI  May 21-Jun 20
There is a middle ground between needless controversies and sweeping important issues under the rug. Blowhard, diplomat or sycophant? The role you choose will brand you for a long time.

CANCER  Jun 21-Jul 22
What friends say about your sex life is none of their business, but it may be true. Being sensitive, open and patient with others helps to improve your reputation, in ways you don’t expect.

LEO  Jul 23-Aug 22
Work on your relationship karma. Find new, creative ways to do that. Being nice to your friends is too easy. Reach out to new people. If you have someone special do something special.

VIRGO  Aug 23-Sep 22
Personal relationships get more complex. Your efforts at charm and rationalization to clear the air are beside the point. Welcome the magic and mystery. It can do you a lot of good.

LIBRA  Sep 23-Oct 22
When self-improvement becomes competition, look at what inner demons are feeding that. Meditation and self-examination bring out your deep, inner beauty.

SCORPIO  Oct 23-Nov 21
Arguments at home are about stresses outside. Home should be where you can discuss your agitation and get better insights. Stay calm and focused and it could be.

SAGITTARIUS  Nov 22-Dec 20
Humility, charity and a bit of self-deprecating humor are key. A critical review of recent career moves can suggest new directions, but don’t change quite yet.

CAPRICORN  Dec 21-Jan 19
Worries about your career are not entirely unfounded. Watch out for new opportunities. They will cost you, but may be worth the price. Look ahead and think carefully.

Jack Fertig can be reached at 415-864-8302 or Starjack.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 27, 2012

—  Kevin Thomas

Perry edges Roemer, Karger in N.H.

As you’ve undoubtedly heard, Mitt Romney captured the New Hampshire primary in a snoozefest Tuesday night with 39 percent of the vote, and experts say the former Massachusetts governor is now well on his way to securing the Republican nomination for president. Romney became the first non-incumbent GOP presidential candidate to win both Iowa and New Hampshire since 1976.

Texas Congressman Ron Paul, R-Lake Jackson, came in a distant second, but continued to shock the world by again finishing with more than 20 percent of the vote. Texas Gov. Rick Perry was sixth, with less than 1 percent or slightly more than 1,700 total votes — about half as many as “other.” According to the New York Times, a breakdown of the other candidates reveals that Perry edged both Buddy Roemer, who had 920 votes, and openly gay candidate Fred Karger, who had 338.

Karger, a long shot who has campaigned almost exclusively in New Hampshire thus far, says he will now shift his efforts to the Feb. 28 primary in Michigan, where he’s also earned a place on the ballot. Perry, meanwhile, released a statement saying he skipped New Hampshire to focus South Carolina, site of the next primary on Saturday, Jan. 21.

“Tonight’s results in New Hampshire show the race for ‘conservative alternative’ to Mitt Romney remains wide open,” Perry said in the statement. “I skipped New Hampshire and aimed my campaign right at conservative South Carolina, where we’ve been campaigning hard and receiving an enthusiastic welcome.”

Perry’s assertion that he skipped New Hampshire is only partly true: He campaigned there and spent a lot of money on advertising before abandoning the Granite State a few weeks ago when polls showed it wasn’t having any impact.

Whether a “conservative alternative” will emerge to challenge Romney and at least lend the appearance of a two-person race for the GOP nomination remains to be seen. Leaders from the religious right will gather at a Texas ranch this weekend to decide whether they can unite behind one of the socially conservative candidates — or perhaps give up and throw their support behind Romney. The other social conservatives, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, finished tied for fourth in New Hampshire with about 9 percent of the vote. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who is decidedly moderate, finished third with 17 percent behind Paul, a libertarian who captured 23 percent.

Huntsman and Paul both declined to sign an anti-gay pledge from the National Organization for Marriage. With some suggesting that this primary could signal that the religious right is losing its grip on the Republican Party, the gay GOP group Log Cabin Republicans released a statement saying the New Hampshire results show that, “inclusion wins.”

“By adding a definitive victory in New Hampshire to his win in Iowa, Gov. Mitt Romney has established himself as a candidate who can unite Republicans and a clear threat to Barack Obama in November,” said R. Clarke Cooper, Log Cabin Republicans executive director. “Gov. Romney was consistently clear in the debates that he opposes discrimination based on sexual orientation. While he continues to support a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality — a position Log Cabin strongly opposes — he is also on record saying that such an amendment has been tried, rejected, and is unlikely to ever succeed. Romney has also taken a position that the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ has been settled, and he would not seek to reinstitute the ban on open service.

“Congressman Ron Paul’s second place finish underscores New Hampshire’s commitment to the libertarian principles he has consistently championed, which include his votes against the anti-family Federal Marriage Amendment and for the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’” Cooper added. “Log Cabin Republicans are also pleased with the strong performance of Gov. Jon Huntsman, a solid supporter of civil unions for same-sex couples and a candidate who frequently talked about the need for Americans to do more for gay rights. As the nomination process moves forward, Log Cabin Republicans suggest all the candidates recognize the lesson learned from New Hampshire; that inclusion wins. The 2012 election is about liberty and prosperity, and candidates who keep the focus on the issues most important to Americans, jobs and the economy, will attain victory.”

—  John Wright

Celeb sightings

This year’s Out & Equal Workplace Summit boasts a healthy amount of celebrities coming to town. From actors to comedians and more, Dallas prepares not only to host a slew of workshops on equality, but also rolls out the red carpet for these guests.

Meredith Baxter:  You’ll likely remember the actress as supermom Elyse Keaton on Family Ties. But she made a new impression by coming out last year. She speaks at Wednesday’s breakfast plenary session and follows up with a book signing at Nuvo, 3900 Cedar Springs Road, on Oct. 26 at 6 p.m.

Andy Cohen:  The senior vice president at Bravo has almost singlehandedly changed the face of gays on television. That extends to these parts with the new show Most Eligible Dallas.
The Watch What Happens Live host will appear at Tuesday’s brunch plenary session.

Rick Welts:  The name may not be as familiar but Welts made front page news this year in the New York Times. The former Phoenix Suns president is the first higher-up of a men’s professional sports organization to come out.
He appears with Baxter at the Wednesday plenary.

Margaret Cho:  The comedian has long been an ally to the LGBT community and continues in appearances at such events as this. She is part of the lineup for Thursday’s gala dinner hosted by fellow comedian Kate Clinton.

Wilson Cruz:  The actor redefined the queer image on television with his work on My So Called Life. Through his acting on stage and screen, Cruz has also become an advocate for LGBT youth. He appears with Cho and Clinton at the gala dinner.

For more information on these and other guests appearing at the summit, visit OutAndEqual.org/2011-Speakers.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 21, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Give a lot of head? Check yourself for cancer

Oral bottoms might need to be in tune with their health after reading this. The New York Times posted Monday that “throat cancers caused by a virus transmitted during oral sex have increased significantly in the United States in recent years, researchers reported on Monday.” Buzzkill, but worth knowing:

“This is the first definitive evidence that these changes at the population level are indeed caused by HPV infection,” said Dr. Maura L. Gillison, the senior author of the new study and the chairwoman of cancer research at Ohio State University.

The research is published in The Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Dr. Kevin J. Cullen, director of the Greenebaum Cancer Center at the University of Maryland, said the study was well done. “It’s very clear that this is becoming a major epidemic,” he added.

He said his own research team had found similar increases in throat cancers in Baltimore during the last 30 years. Researchers think the trend may be attributable to increases in oral sex, particularly among younger people who think it is safer than intercourse.

Dr. Gillison said the increase in throat cancers was not a cause for panic because they still are not common. There are fewer than 10,000 cases a year. Most people with HPV do not develop cancer.

So, as Gawker put in their post, “if you suck a lot of dick, either get vaccinated or spend the rest of your life worrying that every “lumpy, swollen lymph node” and “lingering sore throat or earache” might be blowjob cancer.”

We’re still waiting word on any similar trends in butt-munching.

—  Rich Lopez

The New York Times on El Paso benefits fight

Pastor Tom Brown

The New York Times on Sunday took a look at the battle over domestic partner benefits in El Paso. The one thing about the story that stood out to me — in addition to some of the extreme anti-gay rhetoric — was this passage:

While some groups have organized in support of the three officials, the city’s gay community has been noticeably quiet.

Tony Ramos, a retired Army sergeant who works on a statewide H.I.V. and AIDS prevention program, said the gay community was taking a wait-and-see attitude. “For most of us here,” Mr. Ramos said, “being gay is not an issue.”

But he predicted that gay El Pasoans would band together to fight for those who had supported them.

“People are tired and they are fed up,” Mr. Ramos said. “And they do not appreciate El Paso being painted as such a backwards type of city.”

Let’s hope Ramos is right, and the LGBT community in El Paso does stand up. Furthermore, let’s hope the LGBT community around the state and across the nation stands up behind it.

The story notes that of the 19 El Paso employees who signed up for DP benefits, only two are gay. But make no mistake — anti-gay hatred was behind the 2010 ballot measure that overturned DP benefits, just as it is behind the effort to recall the city officials who voted to reinstate them.

National LGBT groups like the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force raise a lot of money out of Texas. This seems like one of those times when they need to put some back in.

—  John Wright

Is Rick Perry in trouble?

The number of general election voters who have a negative view of Rick Perry has jumped 9 points since the last GOP presidential debate on Sept. 7, according to Nate Silver at The New York Times’ Five Thirty Eight blog. Meanwhile, Perry’s average lead over Mitt Romney in polls has fallen by 3 percent, and he’s dropped four points in a hypothetical match-up against President Barack Obama. Experts say Perry’s campaign could be in trouble if he has another shaky performance tonight in Florida.

—  John Wright

Arthur Evans, activist who once started a VW repair business called the Buggery, dies at 68

Arthur Evans

Despite having now worked in the gay press for nearly five years, I’m ashamed to say I’d never heard of pioneering activist Arthur Evans, who died Sunday at 68. Evans was involved in the Gay Liberation Front, the group that formed following the Stonewall Rebellion, and he later co-founded another group, the Gay Activists Alliance, because he didn’t feel the Gay Liberation Front was aggressive enough. Wow, has this story not repeated itself over and over throughout the LGBT equality movement? Anyway, what I found most interesting about Evans is the story of his life before becoming a gay activist. After attending Brown and Columbia, he dropped out of school and moved to Washington state, where he and a companion started a group called the Weird Sisters Partnership, homesteading a small piece of land and living in a tent. Then Evans moved to San Francisco and opened a Volkswagen repair business called the Buggery before finally heading back to New York. Evans didn’t come out to his parents until 1970 at age 28, and you’ll never guess how. From The New York Times:

Growing up, Mr. Evans had hid his sexual orientation, though he himself was aware of it at 10, he said. By November 1970, when he was scheduled to appear on “The Dick Cavett Show” with other gay leaders, he had still not told his parents that he was gay. But, by his account, he did tell them he was going to be on national television. Thrilled, they told friends and neighbors to tune in.

Mr. Evans later said he regretted his handling of the matter.

 

—  John Wright