Take a lesson from CNN’s Roland Martin and watch what you tweet

Webb-DavidIt’s about time for the highfliers of the world to start giving things a little more thought before they open their mouths and let everyone know about the ugliness festering in their minds — it could jeopardize their livelihood. The latest big voice to stick his tongue in the fire is CNN contributor Roland Martin, a one-time Dallasite who unfortunately tweeted what was on his mind while watching soccer star David Beckham’s Super Bowl underwear commercial. Martin tweeted that if a “dude” at a Super Bowl party gets “hyped” about the underwear ad someone should “smack the ish out of him.”

The inference in that statement is pretty clear. If a guy reveals he likes guys by showing appreciation for the nearly naked, muscular Beckham featured in the ad, then someone should punish him — with violence.

It’s unclear why Martin’s mind would react in such a fashion to the commercial, but it should come as no surprise to the commentator or any other high-profile person that perceived anti-gay remarks will result in an immediate, unpleasant reaction from GLAAD. And that’s exactly what has happened in the case of Martin, whom the media monitoring organization has accused of habitual verbal gay-bashing.

Earlier the same day, Martin, a Houston native who has worked at radio stations and newspapers in North Texas, reportedly posted on his Facebook page that someone featured at the game in a “head-to-toe pink suit” needed a “visit from teamwhipdatass.”  Everything considered, it clearly was not one of Martin’s better days image-wise.

For his part, Martin immediately began trying to explain away his statements as harmless and not at all what the people from GLAAD perceived it to be upon hearing they wanted CNN to fire him. He claimed it was intended as a “crack” against soccer fans and not intended to be homophobic at all.

After that failed to convince anyone that he didn’t really say what everyone knows full well he did say, Martin decided the following day to apologize, saying he could “certainly understand how someone could come to a different conclusion than the one” he meant.

And that apparently turned out to be the case with CNN, which announced Martin’s suspension on Wednesday, Feb. 8 saying “Roland Martin’s tweets were regrettable and offensive” and, “Roland will not be appearing on our air for the time being.”

In his defense, although it failed to spare him, Martin noted that he had spoken out on national television in the past against bullying by urging parents and schools to take an “active role in ending this epidemic that afflicts kids nationwide, gay or not.” GLAAD accepted Martin’s apology as a “start,” but it suggested that the commentator should take the extra step of meeting with the organization’s leaders and using his big voice in the future to speak out against homophobic violence as reparation for his offensive and potentially harmful remarks.

That wasn’t a bad idea at all because violence can be incited in impressionable people — especially the young — who view powerful people’s hateful words as justification for violence. Hate crime researchers have long warned that politicians, clergy people and celebrities carry a great responsibility in terms of how their rhetoric might influence others.

In Martin’s case it seems odd that someone who is an African-American TV news personality and familiar with the issues of discrimination and bias-related violence would wind up being chided for perceived anti-gay rhetoric, but that is reflective of the insidiousness of bias. Nasty thoughts sometimes lurk in nice people’s minds, surfacing only during extraordinary moments.

Often, the expression of those thoughts probably is as big of a surprise to the deliverer as it is to the audience, and the result can be harrowing. That in itself is a good reason for everyone to realize that bias against law-abiding groups is harmful to society, no matter whether it is race, religion, sex, age or whatever, and a constant vigilance to fight against it in one’s own head should be undertaken if it resides there.

That’s likely a bigger problem for people who harbor anti-gay bias because of the LGBT community’s relative youth in terms of a legitimate society of people. Anti-gay bias was considered not only acceptable, but preferable for too long for some people to change their thoughts on the subject swiftly.

In regard to gay rights, some people changed their minds long before the laws changed, but for other people the process has been delayed long after the repeal of the sodomy law and the passage of other affirmative measures. Those people continue to struggle to balance their thoughts with their speech. Usually, people accustomed to speaking in public can keep their inappropriate thoughts in check when they are talking or writing, but social media forums such as Twitter and Facebook are presenting new hazards in communication. The immediacy of the communication and its worldwide reach can create big headaches for people, as Martin has learned.

Every purposeless, derogatory statement issued about another person or group has the potential of reaching and offending someone.

Because of that, it might be a good idea for everyone to take a lesson from Martin’s disastrous faux pas and watch carefully what they post on social media. Once it is out there, it’s spreading furiously and it’s not so easy to explain away.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for three decades. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@hotmail.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 10, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Gay Polish soccer fans want separate seating

Associated Press

WARSAW, Poland — A group of gay Polish soccer fans has called on the organizers of the 2012 European Championships to set aside separate seating for gays and lesbians to protect them from harrassment and violence.

But other gay rights activists criticized the proposal Wednesday, saying it would single gay fans out and put them at greater risk.

Teczowa Trybuna 2012, or Rainbow Stand 2012, calls itself the first gay fan club for Poland’s national team. It says on its website that its members fear aggression from other fans and want to feel safe during the championship in Poland and neighboring Ukraine.

“During trips to matches of our beloved clubs … we unfortunately are often faced with unpleasantness, harassment and violence from the ‘real’ fans,” it said. “We dream of being able to relax in the stands — we can’t imagine not being at the Euro 2012 matches, which will be held in our country!”

Polish soccer matches are often the scene of violent attacks and fights involving hooligans.

Homophobia also remains deeply embedded in Poland because of the legacy of communism — which treated homosexuality as a taboo — and the teachings of the church in the predominantly Roman Catholic country.

One match venue, the city of Gdansk, rejected the group’s call for separate seating, saying it would stigmatize gays. And some gay rights groups are distancing themselves from the appeal.

Gregory Czarnecki of the Campaign Against Homophobia, a leading gay rights group in Warsaw, said he believes that very few gays and lesbians would willingly choose separate seating.

“I understand their initiative, and what they are trying to do,” Czarnecki told The Associated Press.

“But the message might be counterproductive in Poland,” he said. “I don’t think many people would be brave enough to not only come out, but also to sit in this section.”

—  John Wright

Argentina scores a goal

Catholic Church lost in its bid to stop a win on same-sex marriage

Leslie Robinson General Gayety

Argentina suffered a distinct blow when its promising soccer team was bounced from the World Cup. What did the country do to pick up its spirits?

It passed gay marriage.

Argentina is the first nation in Latin America to legalize same-sex marriage. Gays and lesbians in Argentina will have all the legal rights and responsibilities that marriage affords straight couples.

Goal!

The days leading up to the momentous decision were infused with pressure, both sides pushing and pushing. About the only thing missing were vuvuzelas. And for all I know, some Argentine soccer fans brought those horns home from South Africa and blew them in the streets of Buenos Aires, aggravating people on both sides of the marriage battle.

The issue of same-sex marriage pitted the Catholic Church against Argentine President Cristina Fernandez.

Time.com reported that Buenos Aires archbishop and Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio said, “This is no mere legislative bill, it is a move by the father of lies to confuse and deceive the children of God.”

Fernandez responded that Bergoglio’s statement was “really reminiscent of the times of the Inquisition.”

The hyperbole was sky-high enough to tickle St. Peter’s feet.

Polls indicated a solid majority of Argentines favored same-sex marriage, even though the country is overwhelmingly Catholic. With the president of the nation a strong supporter of the bill, and the lower chamber having approved it in May, all that remained was for Argentina’s Senate to get in the game.

In a march organized by the Catholic Church and evangelical groups, 60,000 people descended on Congress the evening before the vote.  Same-sex marriage supporters held smaller, loud rallies. As the final debate took place inside Congress, opponents stood outside reciting the rosary in freezing temperatures, and supporters chanted equality slogans.

These people must’ve wondered if the senators had escaped out the back door — the vote didn’t take place until 4:05 a.m., after 15 hours of debate. This game lasted so long it went into penalty kicks.

“Marriage between a man and a woman has existed for centuries, and is essential for the perpetuation of the species,” asserted Sen. Juan Perez Alsina, according to The Associated Press.

Sen. Norma Morandini compared the discrimination closeted gays experience to the oppression Argentina’s past dictators imposed. “What defines us is our humanity, and what runs against humanity is intolerance,” Morandini said.

With that, every dictator rose from his grave and tried to give her a red card, but no one noticed.

At the end of the long, tense session, the Argentine Senate approved same-sex marriage 33-27, with three abstentions. Argentina became the 10th nation in the world to approve gay marriage.

On the same day the Catholic Church lost the game, the Vatican announced that the “attempted ordination” of women is now one of the most serious crimes under church law, on a par with clerical sexual abuse of children.  Altogether, the Catholic Church is shooting on the wrong goal.

The first legal same-sex wedding is scheduled for Aug. 13.  Ernesto Rodriguez Larrese, 60, will wed Alejandro Vanelli, 61.  The men have lived together for 34 years, so presumably they require no pre-wedding counseling.

Mexico City, which legalized gay marriage last year, made an offer the guys might not be able to refuse: The city’s tourism minister promised a free honeymoon to the first gay couple wed in Argentina.

The minister seeks to recognize tolerance and to promote gay tourism, a healthy, eminently practical combo.

By the way, the two World Cup finalists, Spain and Holland, both legalized gay marriage. All the soccer-playing nations in the world, and it was those two that made it. I’m just sayin’ … .

Leslie Robinson thinks the U.S. better hurry up and legalize gay marriage if it is ever to do well in the World Cup. E-mail her at lesarobinson@gmail.com, and visit her blog at GeneralGayety.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 30, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas