SLDN issues letter to Secretary Gates requesting Special Boards

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) has done remarkable work in assisting gay veterans in the past and continues to defend us by issuing a letter to Secretary Gates requesting that special boards be created in order to assist those of us who were unfairly discharged for being gay.

There are myriad injustices those of us who were discharged for being gay faced, and this letter attempts to address those problems with the creation of special boards.

Personally, I remember just how horrible, and mentally stressful, it was to have to provide any future employer with my DD-214 discharge papers that read, “Member stated he or she was a homosexual or bisexual.” It was like asking for a job while wearing a big “Scarlet A” on my chest. Fortunately, for me, I finally came across a Court Clerk for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Northern District of Oklahoma who said, “You know what? I happen to be a very progressive Democrat and THAT is nobody’s business! Besides, I like you and I need your technical skills to help us build our computer network.” I still consider that woman, Dorothy Evans, somewhat of a Fairy Godmother to me. Mind you, this was back in the pre-”Will and Grace” dark ages, so I owe a lot to her. I think the special boards that would be setup to provide redress for us is an excellent idea. So, will the Obama administration do this?




AMERICAblog Gay

—  David Taffet

President mourns Kato murder: ‘LGBT rights are not special rights; they are human rights’

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

_________________________________________________________________________

For Immediate Release January 27, 2011

Statement by the President on the Killing of David Kato

I am deeply saddened to learn of the murder of David Kato. In Uganda, David showed tremendous courage in speaking out against hate. He was a powerful advocate for fairness and freedom. The United States mourns his murder, and we recommit ourselves to David’s work.

At home and around the world, LGBT persons continue to be subjected to unconscionable bullying, discrimination, and hate. In the weeks preceding David Kato’s murder in Uganda, five members of the LGBT community in Honduras were also murdered. It is essential that the Governments of Uganda and Honduras investigate these killings and hold the perpetrators accountable.

LGBT rights are not special rights; they are human rights. My Administration will continue to strongly support human rights and assistance work on behalf of LGBT persons abroad. We do this because we recognize the threat faced by leaders like David Kato, and we share their commitment to advancing freedom, fairness, and equality for all.

###

Obituary: Uganda gay activist David Kato [BBC]

***

*SEE ALSO: Secretary Clinton’s statement:

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Office of the Spokesman

For Immediate Release January 27, 2011

2011/116

STATEMENT BY SECRETARY CLINTON

Murder of Ugandan LGBT Activist David Kato

We are profoundly saddened by the loss of Ugandan human rights defender David Kato, who was brutally murdered in his home near Kampala yesterday. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, and colleagues. We urge Ugandan authorities to quickly and thoroughly investigate and prosecute those responsible for this heinous act.

David Kato tirelessly devoted himself to improving the lives of others. As an advocate for the group Sexual Minorities Uganda, he worked to defend the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals. His efforts resulted in groundbreaking recognition for Uganda’s LGBT community, including the Uganda Human Rights Commission’s October 2010 statement on the unconstitutionality of Uganda’s draft “anti-homosexuality bill” and the Ugandan High Court’s January 3 ruling safeguarding all Ugandans’ right to privacy and the preservation of human dignity. His tragic death underscores how critical it is that both the government and the people of Uganda, along with the international community, speak out against the discrimination, harassment, and intimidation of Uganda’s LGBT community, and work together to ensure that all individuals are accorded the same rights and dignity to which each and every person is entitled.

Everywhere I travel on behalf of our country, I make it a point to meet with young people and activists — people like David — who are trying to build a better, stronger future for their societies. I let them know that America stands with them, and that their ideas and commitment are indispensible to achieving the progress we all seek.

This crime is a reminder of the heroic generosity of the people who advocate for and defend human rights on behalf of the rest of us — and the sacrifices they make. And as we reflect on his life, it is also an occasion to reaffirm that human rights apply to everyone, no exceptions, and that the human rights of LGBT individuals cannot be separated from the human rights of all persons.

Our ambassadors and diplomats around the world will continue to advance a comprehensive human rights policy, and to stand with those who, with their courage, make the world a more just place where every person can live up to his or her God-given potential. We honor David’s legacy by continuing the important work to which he devoted his life.

###




Good As You

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Just How Helpful Was BET’s 106 & Park Anti-Bullying Special?

Last week BET aired a "Stop Bullying" special on weekday video show 106 & Park. They had the requisite experts. The requisite teens. The requisite mothers. All in all, it was a decent start for the Viacom-owned network to continue the conversation about bullying to a majority black audience, which, like LGBTs at large, often get ignored by mainstream media outlets. That's changing, and it's efforts like this special that are helping. And while I didn't find anything useful to come out of the mouths of these experts, I do appreciate BET giving a voice to kids who deal with being ostracized and harassed by classmates.

CONTINUED »


Permalink | 10 comments | Add to , , ,

Queerty

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Kramer Blasts Cooper for AIDS Special

ANDERSON COOPER 201001 X390 (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COMVeteran writer-activist Larry Kramer takes CNN’s Anderson Cooper to task
for the 360 host’s “lackluster, bloodless” and “wimpy” AIDS special which aired last night.
Advocate.com: Daily News

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Keith Olbermann’s Special Comment: Sarah Palin Must Be Repudiated By Her Party

Joe. My. God.

—  admin

Keith Olbermann Special Comment: Violence and threats have no place in democracy.

Countdown’s Keith Olbermann tonight:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Partial transcript (full transcript here):

This morning in Arizona, this time of the ever-escalating, borderline-ecstatic invocation of violence in fact or in fantasy in our political discourse, closed. It is essential tonight not to demand revenge, but to demand justice; to insist not upon payback against those politicians and commentators who have so irresponsibly brought us to this time of domestic terrorism, but to work to change the minds of them and their supporters – or if those minds tonight are too closed, or if those minds tonight are too unmoved, or if those minds tonight are too triumphant, to make sure by peaceful means that those politicians and commentators and supporters have no further place in our system of government.

If Sarah Palin, whose website put and today scrubbed bullseye targets on 20 Representatives including Gabby Giffords, does not repudiate her own part in amplifying violence and violent imagery in politics, she must be dismissed from politics – she must be repudiated by the members of her own party, and if they fail to do so, each one of them must be judged to have silently defended this tactic that today proved so awfully foretelling, and they must in turn be dismissed by the responsible members of their own party.

If Jesse Kelly, whose campaign against Congresswoman Giffords included an event in which he encouraged his supporters to join him firing machine guns, does not repudiate this, and does not admit that even if it was solely indirectly, or solely coincidentally, it contributed to the black cloud of violence that has envellopped our politics, he must be repudiated by Arizona’s Republican Party.

If Congressman Allen West, who during his successful campaign told his supporters that they should make his opponent afraid to come out of his home, does not repudiate those remarks and all other suggestions of violence and forced fear, he should be repudiated by his constituents and the Republican Congressional Caucus.

If Sharron Angle, who spoke of “Second Amendment solutions,” does not repudiate that remark and urge her supporters to think anew of the terrible reality of what her words implied, she must be repudiated by her supporters in Nevada.

If the Tea Party leaders who took out of context a Jefferson quote about blood and tyranny and the tree of liberty do not understand – do not understand tonight, now what that really means, and these leaders do not tell their followers to abhor violence and all threat of violence, then those Tea Party leaders must be repudiated by the Republican Party.

If Glenn Beck, who obsesses nearly as strangely as Mr. Loughner did about gold and debt and who wistfully joked about killing Michael Moore, and Bill O’Reilly, who blithely repeated “Tiller the Killer” until the phrase was burned into the minds of his viewers, do not begin their next broadcasts with solemn apologies for ever turning to the death-fantasies and the dreams of bloodlust, for ever having provided just the oxygen to those deep in madness to whom violence is an acceptable solution, then those commentators and the others must be repudiated by their viewers, and by all politicians, and by sponsors, and by the networks that employ them.

And if those of us considered to be “on the left” do not re-dedicate ourselves to our vigilance to eliminate all our own suggestions of violence – how ever inadvertent they might have been then we too deserve the repudiation of the more sober and peaceful of our politicians and our viewers and our networks.

NOTE: Blender Brad Smith has been feverishly capturing Free Republic posts before they were yanked. You can read them here. Brad:

I got a few clips of the postings – you can see them behind the cut. They’re itching to lay the blame for the shooting on an ‘illegal’, a gang member, a liberal, or a Muslim. It is noteworthy that many of the postings I saw were offering condolences for the victims and were also saddened by this tragedy.

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

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Watch: The Star Wars Christmas Special Everyone Really Wanted

Starwars

This is awesome! Enjoy.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP


The good folks at gamervision cut this together:

"It's Christmas time, and while today that means people grinching about whether or not you should say 'Happy Holidays' instead of 'Merry Christmas,' there was a time when the biggest issue people had was which televised Christmas special they were going to watch. We've all seen the one with Rudolph and that one with the Heat Miser, and I'm sure the amount of hours spent watching the adventures of Frosty the Snowman would be shameful. Though those were all enjoyable when we were kids, we haven't had a real grown-up Christmas special in a long time. That's where this video comes in."


Towleroad News #gay

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Glee Spoiler: Special Education


Stay out of the comments if you haven’t yet seen tonight’s episode. Otherwise, dive in and dish the strangeness. (The above clip may vanish from YouTube, of course.)

Joe. My. God.

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The Myth of “Special Rights” and Canada’s Trans Rights Bill C-389

Recent years have seen a regression with regards to the concept of human rights.  Most often, this push-back is in response to legislation that would protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and / or trans people, and is often accompanied by claims of infringement on freedom of speech, and / or that human rights legislation grants “special rights” to protected classes.

Complaints about “special rights” often look like the response to the Canadian trans rights Bill C-389 made at Timothy Bloedow's Christian Governance, by John Newnham:

“So someone assaulted allegedly over being a transvestite is considered more valuable in law than a plain ordinary victim of domestic violence or hit and run.”

And ironically, in the course of making this claim, writers will often simultaneously say that equality would be best achieved by not naming classes in legislation, while at the same time making a case as to why they feel the class in question shouldn't be entitled to equal rights under the law.

Asserting dignity and equality for all in employment, housing et al is not a radical idea.  If it were possible to write legislation that was honored in that spirit, I think we would all be happy to do so.  Unfortunately, the reality is that at home and around the world, societies' practices are largely focused on who they want to exclude from human rights.  With the advent of trans rights Bill C-389, we're seeing a number of religious right commentators demanding that trans people should be excluded from rights legislation because of unfounded (but historically familiar) fears about washrooms.  Elsewhere, 79 nations voted specifically to exclude sexual orientation from a UN resolution condemning executions based on prejudice.  Unfortunately, it becomes necessary for government to send a signal that it is not acceptable to make decisions that would marginalize or exclude people on the basis of these characteristics.

Of course, when categories are included in rights legislation, they are meant to work both ways.  For example, sexual orientation ideally protects one from discrimination because they're straight as much as it protects them because they're gay.  The intent is simply that orientation should not be the basis of decisions on hiring and firing, availability of residences and resources, or whether or not to do violence on someone.  If it seems to protect a specific subset of that, that's because that kind of discrimination in its extreme form is almost exclusively levelled at that subset.  And if such a disparity exists, then it illustrates exactly why the legislation is necessary in the first place.

(more after the fold)

Canadian Human Rights legislation also provides a key means of balancing rights conflicts by taking into account context, and giving a caveat for “undue hardship:

The term “undue hardship” refers to the limit of an employer's capacity to accommodate without experiencing an unreasonable amount of difficulty. Employers are obligated to provide accommodation “up to the point of undue hardship.” This means an employer is not expected to provide accommodation if doing so would bring about unreasonable difficulties based on health, safety, and/or financial considerations.

There is no precise legal definition of undue hardship, nor is there a standard formula for determining undue hardship. Each situation is unique and should be evaluated individually. Undue hardship usually occurs when an employer cannot sustain the economic or efficiency costs of the accommodation.

Generally, some hardship can be expected in meeting the duty to accommodate. Employers are required to carefully review all options before they decide that accommodation would cause undue hardship. It is not enough to claim undue hardship based on an assumption or an opinion. To prove undue hardship, employers have to provide evidence.

Despite the portrayal by the far right as elevating trans people above the average Canadian, Bill C-389's proposed protections apply to both trans and non-trans people alike based their on gender identity and expression – in fact, this is an added advantage of the legislation, in that it finally encodes in law that women can't be discriminated against for being too masculine, or men for being to effeminate.

Often without protective rights legislation, it becomes common for people to excuse discrimination — even hatred that leads to violence or murder, such as the tragedies we remember at the Transgender Day of Remembrance, commemorated on November 20th of every year — as being somehow justified, thereby devaluing the lives of the victims.

Human rights legislation does not elevate some classes of people above others, but instead affirms that it is wrong to base prejudicial actions on characteristics which are commonly met with prejudice.  In an ideal world, of course, we would all realize that all are created equal, but it doesn't happen that way in practical reality.  So the reminders have to be codified into law… because there is always disagreement about who should be treated fairly and what the limit to fairness should be.

The net result, then, is that bills like C-389 do not seek to make some people “more equal” so much as to address the current state of being “less than” to a point that critically impedes life for entire groups of citizens.

Questioning Aspiration and Motivation

Although rooted in enlightened concepts that were described as “natural rights,” human rights were revisited following the Second World War, in the wake of attempting to understand the first incidence in the Western World in which a democracy granted power to and collaborated with a destructive regime which targeted specific classes of its own citizens.  Prior to the rise of Nazi Germany, it wasn't really thought that something like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was even necessary; afterward, nations understandably wanted to avoid ever taking the same path of fear, terror and hatred that they had witnessed on the international stage.

But even at its genesis, the modern human rights discussion was troubled by disagreements as to whether rights should encompass political and civil rights only, or also include economic and social rights as well.  Dissenters felt that economic and social aspects were aspirational rather than intrinsic — much like arguments heard today, in which some will challenge the right of people who they broadly and without care for circumstance characterize as “lazy” to various forms of social assistance.  In this way, human rights have gradually and unjustly become seen as a socialist threat to capitalism, in a world where the memory of Nazi Germany is fading, but the increasing scarcity of wealth has come into stark focus.

Added to this has been the struggle that some have with seeing rights for LGBT people specifically as a civil rights struggle.  Some prefer to pick and choose who should be eligible for recognized equal rights, often trying to distinguish between birth characteristics and what they characterize as being choices.  And even at that, many fail, refusing to recognize gender variant people born with an intersex condition like Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome or Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (witness the ongoing troubles in sport facing Caster Semenya and Santhi Soundarajan), or expecting rights guarantees to safeguard their faith, while opposing the rights of those from another faith.   Choice invalidation also gives an out to prejudiced people for whom things like colour become an indicator that triggers presumptions about one’s motivations, culture, lifestyle, behaviours and tendencies.  Doing this, they become blind to their prejudice because they’ve seduced themselves into believing that what they’re reacting to is not really the trait itself, when they’re acting on the unspoken and often inaccurate smorgasbord of inventions that go with it.

From a decolonial perspective, the concept of human rights is actually flawed.  Legislation granting rights is prescriptive, and retains focus on disparate classes rather than dismantling borders and territories altogether — a colonial response to colonial thinking.  Decolonialism assumes value and inalienable rights for everyone, which should not be deprived on any irrational basis (the term “irrational” leaves open a proviso that allows the judicial system to step in when someone has violated legal and ethical standards).  Prescriptivism is a limited solution to a complex problem.

That said, without an entire reframing of law to eliminate colonial mechanisms used to sanction oppression (or better but perhaps less possible, a societal changing of hearts and minds), human rights legislation remains the necessary evil, to prevent hysteria and hatred from escalating to deliberate marginalization, terror and eventually genocide.

Genocide in 2010

Mr Bahati’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill stipulates the death penalty for repeated same-sex relations and life imprisonment for all other homosexual acts. A person in authority who fails to report an offender to the police within 24 hours will face 3 years in jail. Likewise, the promotion of homosexuality carries a sentence of 5 to 7 years in jail.

Tragically, we've seen a dramatic surge in hatred toward LGBT people specifically because they're lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans, most visibly in Uganda.  When Exodus International board member Don Schmirer, historical revisionist Scott Lively and ex-gay “counsellor” Caleb Brundidge travelled to Kampala to fan the flames of anti-gay sentiment in February of 2009, American far-right evangelical groups saw an opportunity.  Uganda had been a key area where funding has been targeted to address the spread of HIV worldwide, and many of these programs, including PEPFAR, have faced special limitations to make non-governmental organizations that assist people like sex workers ineligible for funding.  By stirring up anti-gay hysteria and pushing for laws like Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill (which would also criminalize organizations that advocate for LGBT people), evangelicals found an opportunity to have virtually exclusive access to the billions of dollars in AIDS relief funds — not for condoms, but to proselytize in the guise of abstinence-only education.  It is possible that the death penalty was an unintended consequence, although what little response there has been from American evangelical leaders now to condemn the bill has been weak and half-hearted.  In the process, the Ugandan government found it a way to unite their people against a common enemy, and religious extremists like Martin Ssempa seized upon it by burning condoms, subjecting congregations to graphic depictions of anal sex, and conflating homosexuality with pornographic scatophilia in slideshows designed to regularly whip the public into raging mob mentality.  While one local newspaper has been publishing photos of alleged gay people and inciting the public to burn or hang them, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is once again inching toward government passage.

And again, we remember why human rights are necessary.

Free Speech, Incitement and Harassment

It is not unusual for the far right to complain that granting rights to LGBT people will infringe upon their freedom of speech.  Usually, it will be cases like the ruling by the Alberta Human Rights Commission against Rev. Stephen Boissoin (since overturned) that people will point to, or occasionally legal actions against more fringe people like Bill “anal warts” Whatcott.

Speech is a nebulous thing to try to regulate, and will always need a context to determine when enough harm occurs that it has gone beyond “hurting feelings” (as some minimize hate speech to being) to causing incitement or real damage. And if it needs context, then there will never be any legal absolutes that will definitively solve the issue.

That said, there are some types of speech that are commonly recognized to be harmful, regardless of where people stand on the issue:

Incitement – Directly encouraging violence upon a person. Even many free speech proponents realize that our society can’t just allow someone to shout outright, repeatedly and relentlessly, that “we need to take up arms and kill all _______s,” especially in an environment where “_______s” are unpopular, and the person is likely to have others take the speaker seriously enough to actually attempt to do so. And if someone does incite others to commit acts of violence, those proponents can often understand making them a party to the crime, in terms of conspiracy-related charges, etc.

So when does it become incitement? The Protocols of the Elders of Zion never actually state within their covers that violence should be done to Jews, but the passages whip up such fear and hatred that many times throughout history, violence became the most logical conclusion.

The same could be asked of the anti-gay sentiment bandied around today. Individually, statements that fear monger or pontificate about LGBT people are just statements — even quoting Leviticus 20:13. Cumulatively, though, the environment makes it likely that someone’s going to get hurt… or else bullied enough that queer kids start taking their own lives in large numbers. Something’s broken, and yet the statements that drive it are intangible enough that it becomes difficult to know where that line should have been drawn.

That’s the problem with the Boissoin decisions. Did it become incitement? Within a couple weeks of Boissoin's letter being published, there actually was a violent attack, and it was felt by the AHRC — but not felt by the appellate court — that the letter helped to create an environment where that attack became likely to happen.

Harassment – Something else our court recognizes is harassment, and again, context is everything. If someone tells their co-worker once that they think homosexuality is a sin, well, that could be justified under freedom of speech. But stating it multiple times, every time he or she passes their desk, in every email they send, in any conversation spoken loudly with others while near that co-worker, making an environment where it becomes very difficult and very unfriendly very fast and impossible to function… that’s “expressing an opinion,” but it’s also clear harassment. But what about activity that’s in between? Incidental conversation where it’s unclear if there was any intent… Context. And for those who might state that even the extreme case is justifiable, swap out “homosexuality is a sin” for “all religious leaders are pedophiles,” and they might feel differently.

Hate speech is never free. It drives minorities underground, into hiding, into fear and shame, it becomes an impediment to fulfilling their dreams or even just going out to the grocery store. While freedom of speech is something definitely worth valuing, if proponents seek total unrestrained speech in law, then they need a clear solution to mitigate this effect. And leaving it up to “personal responsibility” is just not good enough, because people are just not that responsible — as witnessed by our entire code of laws.

Bill C-389 Status Update

Trans rights Bill C-389 should be coming up for Third Reading and final vote before Canada's Parliament, possibly in early December.  After that, it proceeds to the Senate, which is usually a rubber-stamp (although some are concerned that C-389 may become an exception).  There is a Quick Facts brochure available for those who'd like to know more about the bill or have hand-outs.  Now, more than ever, it is important for our allies, parents, friends, co-workers and people who actually know real trans people to contact their Members of Parliament, express support, and inform about what trans people are actually like.

(crossposted to DentedBlueMercedes. Originally written for GayCalgary Magazine, and adapted in response to “When Some Are More Equal Than Others“)

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

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SPECIAL TO JMG: Father Tony Interviews CT Lt. Governor Candidate Nancy Wyman

As the CFO of a state agency in Connecticut for many years, I attended monthly meetings of the State Bond Commission where I would present and explain projects needing funds to a panel including the Governor, the Attorney General, the State Treasurer and Nancy Wyman, the State Comptroller, or her openly gay Deputy, Mark Ojakian. I developed a respect for these two dedicated public servants who delivered many years of efficient financial management and who made diversity and safety for LGBT people in the workplace look natural and easy.

Now, Nancy Wyman is in the final week of her campaign to become Connecticut’s Lieutenant Governor as the running mate of Dan Malloy, the Democratic candidate for Connecticut Governor. I was delighted that she agreed to answer a few questions for the readers of JoeMyGod.

Has same-sex marriage changed Connecticut?

Same sex marriage has been legal in Connecticut for two years with no bad effects. And, because it is legal in Connecticut we have enjoyed an influx of visitors from other states coming here for celebrations. This has had a significant and positive economic impact on Connecticut. Some people in other states that are still debating same-sex marriage fear its repercussions. Any message for them?

I just have no idea what they are afraid of. It just makes sense to not stand in the way of letting people love and live as they prefer. Have you always been supportive of the concept of same-sex marriage and LGBT rights in general?

I’m proud to say that Dan Malloy and I were among the very earliest supporters of first civil unions and then same-sex marriage in Connecticut. Both of us didn’t need any convincing. We both testified in favor of civil unions and for same-sex marriage while many others hesitated. It’s how we believe things should be. I never dreamed I would officiate at a same-sex marriage but I have, and it’s wonderful.

As a straight married wife and mother, why were you always such a strong advocate for LGBT rights?

It might be due in part to the way I was brought up by my parents. Everyone was welcome in our home. I learned the importance of taking time to get to know people. Once you know somebody, you respect and value them. It might be due in part to the fact that my husband was passed over for promotions in a large Connecticut insurance company because he is Jewish. We had to fight for our rights just as you had to fight for your right to be out and comfortable as a state employee. I’ve been very happy to see the state government workplace improve over the years for LGBT employees. I’ve been lucky to have Mark Ojakian who was the highest ranking out state employee as my Deputy. I’m proud of Kevin Lembo who is also an out gay man and was in my agency and is now running for my previous position as State Comptroller.

We still need to do more outreach to young LGBT people who get bullied. We are just now realizing how extensive and serious a problem this is. It’s shocking and sad and we have much work to do to change this.

Any final message for the readers of JoeMyGod?

Yes. Please vote. No matter what state you live in.

Joe. My. God.

—  admin