Defining moments

Leo-CusimanoIt was 1992 and I had just moved to Dallas from a small college town in Florida. HIV/AIDS was a growing issue in my experience, but it had already taken many people in Dallas, including leaders in our LGBT community. I was too young to understand the power of the Stonewall Riots in 1969, so my personal experience with HIV/AIDS was my first defining moment to get involved in the community.

The mind-set in our community was different then. We had lost so many, and ACT-UP was in the streets and angry. Our community was under attack.

I remember making signs for protests and joining the board of DGLA. Lesbians fought to help save the lives of their gay brothers and in the process galvanized our community. Drag queens and transgender people were at the heart of many community actions. The sense of LGBT community was very strong.

Today, HIV/AIDS is still a devastating diagnosis for anyone, but is viewed by some in our younger community to be a manageable illness. These millennials have not experienced the struggles and death at the same scale. Our sense of community has waned over the years.

But then ….

It’s 2 in the morning in Los Angeles, where I have traveled for work, and the phone rings. Fifty people lay dead in a Florida gay bar, and more than 50 others are injured.

This is the start of another heart-wrenching, defining moment that unfortunately will make history and play out as Pride celebrations prepare to march.

The morning stretches on and I find myself sitting in a hotel room in West Hollywood preparing for LA Pride. I feel sick as the stress rises in my body, watching the reports from Florida, then the vibration of my cell phone makes me jump. A text message about an arrest near L.A. that has foiled another attempted attack on our community illuminates the room. My heart drops.

What is next?

We have come so far as a community, and each positive or negative defining moment presents an opportunity for us to come together in a way that makes our community stronger.

My husband Tony and I had been living in Dallas for several years when the Supreme Court invalidated sodomy laws with the Lawrence vs. Texas ruling in 2003. This was a positive defining moment for us that provided hope for our community and empowered our movement.

We experienced a setback in 2008 when California passed Prop 8, but our commitment to stand up and fight just made us stronger. Last year, the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling legalized our marriages, and as a community we have seen growing acceptance as Love Wins.

But now, once again our community is under attack. We are devastated by this senseless act of violence. As we mourn the victims in Florida, we also march on in solidarity and in honor of those we lost.

This is another defining moment for me. I feel like our community has a renewed fight. Once again, arm-in-arm we march. We stick together and support each other. My hope is that we find renewed strength in this tragedy and we once again become galvanized and strengthened as the LGBT community.

Our life experiences and defining moments influence our choices and how we choose to show up in the world. What is your defining moment? How will you make a difference?

Leo Cusimano is co-owner and publisher of Dallas Voice and Voice Publishing Co

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 17, 2016.

—  Dallasvoice

Scalia claims he’s never expressed his views on marriage equality

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, right, reads from his new book, ‘Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts,’ alongside SMU professor and co-author Bryan Garner. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia told an audience at Southern Methodist University on Monday night that he hasn’t previously “expressed [his] views” on marriage equality or gun control.

The comment came while Scalia and SMU professor Bryan Garner were lecturing on their new book, Reading Law: Interpretations of Legal Texts. Part of the lecture focused on interpreting texts in the context in which they were written.

Garner explained that someone can personally disagree with a text but can agree on its interpretation. He explained that he and Scalia differ on gun control and marriage equality because he favors both. Scalia countered that he hadn’t expressed his views on either topic and left it at that.

Scalia’s statement seems at odds with his dissenting opinion in Lawrence v. Texas, which declared state sodomy laws unconstitutional. In the opinion Scalia wrote:

“State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity are likewise sustainable only in light of Bowers’ validation of laws based on moral choices. Every single one of these laws is called into question by today’s decision; the Court makes no effort to cabin the scope of its decision to exclude them from its holding.”

—  Dallasvoice

Overjoyed, yet full of consternation

HATE LIVES ON | Like the Ku Klux Klan that vilified all minorities in its terroristic oppression of people and also operated under the guise of Christianity, today’s militant Christian Rights groups target LGBT people for scapegoating.

UN resolution on LGBT equality is a victory, but also a reminder of how far we have left to go toward equality

DAVID WEBB |  The Rare Reporter

The passage of a resolution by the United Nations Human Rights Council last month declaring that LGBT people around the world should be afforded equal protections with all other human beings left me overjoyed — yet still full of consternation.

The measure’s passage represented a great victory for human rights advocates who pressed for it. But the very need for such an action underscored how dangerous it is to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender in many parts of the world, including the United States of America.

Homosexuality remains illegal in 76 of the globe’s countries, and it is punishable by death in five of them.

In the United States, where the Texas sodomy law — and in effect, all sodomy laws in the country — were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003, discrimination and violence against LGBT people continues to run rampant. An analysis of 14 years of FBI hate crime data by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project in late 2010 revealed that LGBT people are more than twice as likely to be violently attacked as Jews and blacks, more than four times as likely as Muslims and 14 times as likely as Latinos.

In a press release by the U.S. Department of State, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called the U.N. resolution an “historic moment to highlight the human rights abuses and violations that LGBT people face around the world based solely on whom they are and whom they love.”

She noted that torture, rape, criminal proceedings and killings are sanctioned all over the world by religions that condemn anyone who does not adhere to traditional heterosexual norms regarding sexual orientation and gender identity.

The controversial resolution, which was proposed by South Africa, passed narrowly on a vote of 23 to 19. Although the measure was supported by the U.S. and other Western countries, it was opposed by African and Arab countries where the prosecution and persecution of LGBT individuals is the most severe.

Three countries, including China, abstained from voting.

Reaction to the U.N. resolution from opponents of LGBT rights was telling.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s representative to the Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, denounced it as a maneuver in an international agenda to restrict the freedom of churches.

Tomasi claimed the church opposes violence against homosexual behavior and punishment based on a person’s “feelings and thoughts,” but he condemned the measure as detrimental to society and likened laws against homosexuality to prohibitions against incest, pedophilia and rape.

In Ghana, the Rev. Joseph Bosoma of the Sunyani Central Ebenezer Presbyterian Church called on President John Evans Atta Mills to crack down on homosexuality in the country, warning that society was on the verge of a punishment similar to what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah in Biblical times.

The president assured the pastor that the government would take action to check homosexual activity.

Similarly, Alex McFarland of the American Family Association, the group that is sponsoring Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s The Response Prayer Rally in Houston on Aug. 6, declared recently that the world is now in “The Latter Days,” in response to the passage of marriage equality in New York.

He argued that LGBT rights are not the equivalent of human rights.

Soulforce, an LGBT group that monitors conservative religious groups, noted that another host of Perry’s rally, Lou Engle, the leader of The Call, is one of three evangelical leaders in the U.S. who supported the “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda.

For three decades, the greatest impediment to the LGBT rights movement has been Christian Rights groups and their leaders who have seized on the concept of a “homosexual agenda” bent on destroying American culture and society. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, declared the fight against LGBT rights to be a “second civil war.”

Some of these Christian Rights groups have earned the distinction of being identified as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center because they have resorted to crude name-calling and spreading false information about LGBT people in an effort to draw support to their cause.

Like the Ku Klux Klan that vilified all minorities in its terroristic oppression of people and also operated under the guise of Christianity, today’s militant Christian Rights groups target LGBT people for scapegoating.

LGBT people comprise the last minority group left that it is politically correct in some quarters to attack, and Christian Rights groups and politicians like Gov. Perry are making the most of it.

The beginning of this summer marked the 16th anniversary of the Southern Baptist Convention’s apology to black people for its abominable treatment of that race over the years, and some gay activists, such as Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out, petitioned the church group to issue a similar apology to LGBT people.

That, of course, did not happen, but one day perhaps it will.

Until groups like the Southern Baptist Convention, which urges followers to “go the extra mile when witnessing to gay people,” recognize LGBT people as equal, freedom will continue to be a worldwide challenge.

The U.N. resolution was a milestone in that journey to equality, but the road ahead for LGBT people will continue to be a long and difficult one. The U.S., which admittedly is far behind some countries, will likely see success long before LGBT people in some parts of the world feel free.

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.

—  John Wright