Al Franken asks public for help passing Student Non-Discrimination Act

Sen. Al Franken

Sen. Al Franken

Sen. Al Franken, D – Minnesota, is asking the public for help passing S. 555, The Student Non-Discrimination Act, a bill that would prohibit discrimination against public school students on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Under the provisions of S. 555 students who experienced discrimination because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or because of their association with LGBT people could bring a civil suit against the school officials or districts responsible for the discrimination. The bill currently has 34 co-sponsors (none from Texas) and its House companion (H.R. 998 by Rep. Jared Polis, D – Colorado) has 150 (with 7 Texan co-sponsors including Houston’s own Sheila Jackson Lee and Al Green) . Both bills have been referred to committee but neither has received a hearing, a crucial step towards becoming law.

In the video requesting the public call their Senators (after the break) Franken points out that federal law already provides protection for school children harassed because of race, color, sex, religion, disability, and national origin, but that no protection exists for sexual orientation or gender identity.

The inclusion of “association” in S. 555 is particularly well thought out. According to the Williams Institute nearly 1 in 5 same-sex couples in the United States is raising children, in Harris County 18% of same-sex couples are.  As these children enter school it’s important that they be able to receive an education without harassment or bullying due to who their parents are.

Franken is asking people to call the Senate switchboard at 202-224-3121 and encourage their Senator’s to support the bill.

—  admin

WATCH: Houston megachurch Pastor Joel Osteen equates being gay to having an addiction

Houston mega-church pastor Joel Osteen spoke to Sally Quinn of the Washington Post  as part of the media tour hyping his new book Everyday a Friday: How to Be Happier 7 Days a Week. Quinn steered the conversation towards Osteen’s recent appearance on Piers Morgan, and his statement that he would attend a same-sex wedding, but not perform one.  Osteen has gotten a lot of flack from the religious right for his willingness to attend attend a “homosexual wedding,” and it must be said that, in the world of mega-church leaders, his position is remarkably tolerant.  Unfortunately, Olsteen’s attempt at a middle-of-the-road response to Quinn’s question quickly steered toward the absurd:

“Somebody that maybe had this certain difficulty now, maybe in five years they’re not if we will love them. You know, I think one of the messages I speak on sometimes is, you know, we can love people back into wholeness. But sometimes we want to beat them down — you got this addiction and you shouldn’t have that, or you did this — I just don’t think that’s the best way.”

Yes, because being LGBT is just like having an addiction. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t hear much of a difference between “love away the gay” and “pray away the gay.”

—  admin

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) Pledges To Work Towards Marriage Equality

Today Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand appeared on The View where she vowed to work towards marriage equality. A nice round of applause from the audience followed.

(Via – Good As You)

Joe. My. God.

—  admin

To Me, The LGBT Movement Seems To Be Moving Towards Irrelevancy

Remember the Women’s Movement of the 1970′s? — A movement with it’s myriad of issues? When many think of the women’s movement these days though, it’s thought of as a one issue movement — and that one issue is abortion. If you’re currently not part of the women’s movement, can you quickly name one other current issue of the women’s movement issue?

And if you can name a second issue, I would still argue that you’re in the minority; that many others would be hard pressed to name a current women’s movement issue beyond abortion that doesn’t deal with reproductive rights.

In this way, I believe the women’s movement has become functionally irrelevant to the politics of the United States. We do have the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act from a couple of years ago, but I’d be hard-pressed to name any other legislative initiatives from women’s movement of recent years.

Let me work off of that hypotheses that a movement becoming a one or two issue movement is working itself to irrelevance. In my mind, this is what’s happening to the LGBT movement — we are functionally becoming irrelevant because our federal focus is so narrow.

Right now, we have two major national issues — marriage equality, and repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT). It appears to me that passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) has fallen off the LGBT community’s national discourse.

Want an example? Well, what was the subject matter, at the recent media conference between the President and five bloggers, of the LGBT community related questions? You can look it up: the two LGBT specific questions were about marriage equality and DADT.

This is not to knock the LGBT bloggers who met with President Obama — the questiona they asked were on the two issues that our community appears to care the most about.

But in asking those questions on those two issues, did we learn anything from the President on marriage equality or DADT that we didn’t already know? Was any national news made from the media conference that made it into the mainstream media (MSM)?

If we become a movement only interested in those two issues, I believe we in the LGBT community will work ourselves into national irrelevance; I believe we in the LGBT community will basically become a clanging bell of a sounding alarm that legislators will just ignore as an irritating noise.

I can think of some questions that I would have liked to have asked of the president at that media conference. For example, some questions I would have like to have asked if I were invited to that meeting:

• The Family Acceptance Project put out a press release this week, entitled “Critical Study Finds Direct Link Between School Victimization Of Gender-Nonconforming LGBT Youth With Depression And Quality Of Life In Adulthood.” In the release, they reported that LGBT young adults who did not socially conform to gender roles as adolescents reported higher levels of anti-LGBT victimization, with significantly higher levels of depression and decreased life satisfaction in young adulthood. This research shows that the negative impact of anti-LGBT school victimization affects both quality of life and the LGBT young adult’s capacity to enjoy life. Most crucially, the findings show that anti-LGBT bullying in school largely accounts for this psychological harm.

The issues related to school bullying go far beyond LGBT youth dying by suicide after severe bullying related to perceived membership in the LGBT community. Is there going to be any initiatives coming from your administration regarding quality of life for LGBT youth? Remember, we are talking about how bullying impacts the “jobs, jobs, jobs” of LGBT young adults — the gainful employability of bullied LGBT youth.

~~

• We hear a lot about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, regarding lesbian, gay, and bisexual servicemembers being able to serve openly in the military services. But, what about the Department of Defense civilian employees? Even though the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) released a memorandum in June of 2009 that addressed antidiscrimination policies regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees in the federal government, I’m told that the climate in DOD isn’t good for the LGBT employees.

When Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in unequivocally repealed via congress or the courts there obviously should be a major training component included as part of the change of policy. Yet when we look at the DOD’s civilian employee side of the house, there hasn’t been a major training component for LGBT antidiscrimination in the Department of Defense — especially in how gender identity, which was added to the OPM’s antidiscrimination policies last year. So there are two questions here: 1) How is the DOD going address the poor employment climate for LGBT civilian employees, as well as the lack of a training component in the implementation of LGBT antidiscrimination policies, and 2) does the lack of a training component for LGBT antidiscrimination policies for DOD’s civilian employees in any way signal how the DOD is going to deal with LGB antidiscrimination for military servicemembers when they’re finally allowed to serve openly?

~~

• While anyone can become infected with HIV, some Americans are at greater risk than others — And this includes gay and bisexual men of all races and ethnicities, transgender women of all races and ethnicities, Black men and women, Latinos and Latinas, people struggling with addiction, including injection drug users, and people in geographic hot spots, including the United States South and Northeast, as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Many states — such as California — have cut services to HIV infected citizens because their budgets in this economic downturn have become exceptionally tight. Your administration does have a National HIV/AIDS Strategy, and it calls for increasing access to care and improving health outcomes for people living with HIV. With states cutting back on what resources they’re putting towards people living with HIV, and the United States being under its own budgetary pressures, where do you think the resources are that can be brought to bear that will increase access to care and improvement to health outcomes for people living with HIV?

I could go on, but I believe y’all get my point.

In all this, we can say a lot about how our national LGBT organizations have had few legislative victories over the years, but the HRC, The Task Force, NCLR, GLAAD, GLAD, Lambda Legal, NCTE and many other organizations are focusing on a broader range of issues than just marriage equality and DADT. It seems to me that the focus on marriage equality and DADT is partially coming from the focus of LGBT media — both legacy and new media — and that emphasis has also been picked-up by mainstream media. And too, it also seems to me that the focus on marriage and DADT is coming from the collective LGBT community “us” — the issues that we in the LGBT community talk about with our peers, friends, family, coworkers, and acquaintances regarding community’s issues.

As the LGBT community seems to more and more narrowly focus on marriage equality and DADT, to the exclusion of other community issues, I believe that the LGBT community is moving closer to legislative irrelevance.

Tell me how and why I’m wrong — I want to be wrong. But even though I want to be wrong, at this point I don’t think I am.
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  admin

Washington keeps trending towards marriage equality but isn’t there yet

For the 5th year in a row, the number of pro-equality voters in Washington state is increasing.  Last week The Washington Poll released the results of their annual fall poll of likely voters on questions including this one:

Q: Which of the following statements best describes your views on the issue of same-sex marriage?
  • Gay and lesbian couples should have the same legal right to marry as straight couples.
  • Gay and lesbian couples should be able to have the same legal rights as stright couples but it should not be called marriage.
  • There should be domestic partnerships that give gay and lesbian couples only some of the benefits and protections of marriage.
  • There should be no legal recognition of gay and lesbian couples.
  • Dunno/Getoffmylawn

  • The Washington Poll is a non-partisan academic survey research project sponsored by the University of Washington’s Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race & Sexuality.  They first asked this question in 2006.  I combed through previous reports so that we could look at the most recent results in historical context.  Looking at the graph above, the positive, unwavering trend towards equality is very clear.

    We saw this statistical trend validated last year when almost 53% of the Washington electorate voted to ratify the new comprehensive domestic partnership law via Referendum 71 (a national first!).  A post-election analysis showed that 38 of Washington’s 39 counties had demonstrated an increase in pro-equality voting since the last time an LGBT measure was on the ballot.

    So we’re ready to push for marriage equality in the legislature, right?  Well, not so fast.
    The really great news is that fully 29% of voters in Washington State believe gay and lesbian couples should be legally recognized.  But from here it gets a little more complicated.  The graph to the right should make you drool.  I’ve combined the results from the Washington Poll graph above into two pots: voters who support marriage equality or full domestic partnerships, and voters who support limited domestic partnerships or no legal recognition for lesbian and gay couples.  In the Land of Wishful Thinking, we’re nearing 70% support when you look at this way.  Do not look at it this way.  Then why am I showing you this?  So that you can see that we have great potential for success in Washington if we marshal our resources over the next 2 years..  

    Strong support for marriage equality currently polls somewhere close to 40%.  Taking a sober look at that number is vital because Washington is a referendum state and any marriage equality law passed by the legislature will almost certainly need to be defended at the polls.  The wild card are the 29% percent of voters who support giving same-sex couples all the rights and benefits of marriage but don’t want the  legal status called marriage. While many of these voters will ultimately support marriage equality we can’t even count on a majority of them.  And here is what we know about how voters actually behave when it comes to marriage referenda and initiatives.

    * Pre-election polls consistently underestimate opposition to marriage equality.

    * We cannot change voters’ attitudes on marriage equality during the course of an election campaign.

    These facts are well known to our leadership in the Washington state Legislature, and Senator Ed Murray for one has said he will file but not push a marriage equality bill until he’s satisfied that the electorate is ready to ratify it at the polls.

    Equal Rights Washington’s Executive Director Josh Friedes says we are at the point where we can seriously start talking about winning marriage equality at the ballot box as early as November 2012.  According to Friedes, what we need to do over the next 18 months is explain to voters why full domestic partnerships are not equivalent to marriage.


    Part of this conversation has to be sharing our personal stories and the stories of people we care about. We need to help people see that domestic partnerships don’t provide the dignity every person is entitled to.  Another part of the conversation has to be explaining how domestic partnerships do not attempt to confer the federal protections of marriage such as Social Security protections, immigration rights and equal treatment under the IRS tax code. Lastly we need to address the concerns many voters have, we need to ask adult children of same-sex couples to speak out so that ambivalent voters can see that our children grow up to be productive and well adjusted.

    It  takes a long time for voters to move on family recognition issues so we need to start now and since the key is personal conversations we need to fund an educational program that allows us to reach out to the 40% of voters who already strongly support marriage equality and ask them to speak to their social networks.

    Friedes says that its not so much that the work is hard, as it is costly. In California and Maine the money came too late.

    We need to fully fund a comprehensive education program that starts to roll out by mid 2011, if we have any intention of winning marriage on the ballot in November 2012.

    So what’s the moral of the story?  The latest poll results are incredibly encouraging, but we still have a lot of work to do, and it is work that cannot be put off until some electoral crunch time.  I’m game.  Are you in?
    Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

    —  John Wright

    We’re quickly heading towards zero major gay accomplishments by the Obama administration this term

    With the imminent demise of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” compromise that did not, in any case, repeal DADT (even though the NYT and other lazy journalists like to claim it did), and the imminent demise of the Democratically-controlled House of Representatives, President Obama is about to have accomplished a record zero of his top promises to the gay community. A record that, if we lose the House, will likely remain at zero for the next six years, if the President is so lucky as to win re-election.

    We were told that the President simply couldn’t get to his promises to our community in his first two years in office because we are a nation at war, and he had to work on health care reform, the economy, and many other issues that were meant to believe were far more important than our basic civil and human rights.

    And now, after all the pandering by all the pro-Obama apologists who said that we were wrong to ask the President to address our community’s needs during his first two years in office, that we were wrong to warn of the imminent loss of a Democratically-controlled House, and how that loss would stymie gay rights progress for years to come, and that we were wrong to suggest that this President would never, ever get to addressing a real repeal of DADT and DOMA, and the passage of ENDA – after all that, it turns out we were right.

    Barack Obama is on the precipice of accomplishing a grand total of none of his major promises to gay and lesbian Americans in return for our supporting his candidacy with our votes and our money. I’m not smelling change.

    What do the apologists, who criticized our criticism at every turn, say now?

    1. That it’s not Obama’s fault that we’re about to lose the House? Perhaps, though I would argue that it’s precisely Obama’s fault that Democrats are in such a sorry state. After all, who’s the leader of our party? Who took the lead in setting our agenda last year, and took the lead in dumbing down every single Democratic accomplishment from the stimulus to health care reform so that none of them would have a significant enough impact to win over the American people, cure our economic and health care woes, and thus create a strong case for maintaining Democratic control of Washington?

    (Obama was warned that the stimulus wasn’t big enough, that the economy wouldn’t rebound fast enough, and that it would not only hurt our chances for a second stimulus, but would also hurt our chances at retaining control of Congress. And what did he do? He asked for a stimulus that he knew was one half the size of what was needed, and then handed 35% of it to Republicans in the form of near-useless (in stimulus terms) tax cuts. And now the economy is f’d, the voters are pissed, and Democrats are about to lose control of the House. This is a class-A f-up. And it’s one that the President walked right into, with full knowledge of the consequences. But he did it anyway. And now we’re f’d. Tell me again why I shouldn’t be pissed at the man?)

    If Barack Obama’s fear of confrontation, and his incessant need to compromise on everything, regardless of whether such compromise was necessary, didn’t set the agenda for the Democratic fall, and fail, then what did?

    But let’s put that aside for a moment.

    2. It clearly was Barack Obama’s choice not to move ahead with any of his major promises to the gay community in the first two years of his administration. No one else is to blame other than the President for that simple decision. That decision may have killed any chance of ever passing ENDA, or repealing DADT and DOMA, for the entire four years that President Obama in office. It was Barack Obama’s choice not to even touch DADT until this year, and then not to push for a full repeal, but rather some make-shift compromise that may, or may not, lead to some kind of change in the policy at some future date (though what kind of change, for the better or the worse, isn’t a guarantee). We simply weren’t important enough, and now it appears we are getting nothing.

    What is the point anymore?

    Democrats like Andy Tobias lecture us like we’re children, like we’re naive to expect President Obama to actually keep his explicit promises to us during the campaign. We were told that Obama would be our “fierce advocate.” We were told that by Barack Obama himself. That, my friends, has turned out to be a crock. The President is not our advocate, and on no issue, gay or otherwise, is the man fierce. Yes, he appointed a lot of gays to decent, but not the most senior, positions in his administration. Is it somehow now a great accomplishment for a Democrat not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in hiring and firing for lower and mid level jobs, but to discriminate on such a basis for cabinet jobs, senior White House position, and positions on the Supreme Court? Tell me again who is gay in the senior reaches of this White House – can anyone name even one person? And how about the Cabinet? And spare us the “head of OPM is gay” line. First off, OPM isn’t a cabinet-level position. Second, the appointee’s previous job was running the National Zoo. He’s not involved in any serious discussion of federal policy on the largest issues of the day. And if he is involved on gay issues, he’s clearly failed.

    So what was the point of voting for President Obama, over Hillary, for example, if you’re gay? If he wasn’t going to keep his top promises to our community, then how was he any better than Hillary, or any other Democrat running at the time? Does anyone honestly think Hillary wouldn’t have appointed more gays than any previous administration? Does anyone honestly think Hillary wouldn’t have signed the Hate Crimes bill? President Obama has done nothing on gay civil rights that any other Democrat wouldn’t have done in his stead. Such is not a definition of fierce advocate. It’s the definition of business as usual. And it’s not a very compelling argument to justify voting for one Democrat over another in the future, if words and promises are meaningless, and the candidate’s actions in office are indistinguishable from any other Democrat.

    And finally, there’s DNC Treasurer Andy Tobias’ favorite argument. Sure the President lied to us, Tobias seems to imply, but he’s a nicer liar than John McCain would have been. And Andy is right. As much as we seem to have now been betrayed by the Obama campaign’s false promise of hope, John McCain would have been an even bigger liar and worse president (though, at least, McCain wouldn’t have lied about what was coming). But as I’ve written before, I’m not a big fan of being betrayed by friends, even when I know my enemies would have treated me worse. I expect my enemies to treat me like a pariah. I don’t expect my friends to do the same. And in many ways, it’s worse when the indifference, and the lies, come from a friend rather than an enemy.

    But, yes, Andy is right. A lying president who has repeatedly endorsed bigotry against LGBT Americans is still better than a flaming bigot who almost always endorses bigotry against us. I guess. And I’m sure Andy will keep touting his increasingly long, and ridiculously thin, list of mostly-minor Obama accomplishments on gay issues, such as our invitation to an Easter Egg roll, and the cocktail party thrown to make up for the President’s lawyers having invoked incest and pedophilia to justify his defense of the despicably bigoted Defense of Marriage Act. The President is still defending DOMA and DADT in court. And conservatives are having a field day quoting the President’s supposed new-found opposition to gay marriage (which is a lot like his new-found support for offshore drilling – kind of hard to explain a valid reason to explain either flip-flop) in order to justify their own bigoted views. But hey, we’ll always have that Easter Egg roll.

    It’s becoming increasingly clear that Barack Obama is not an agent of change. He’s not out to fundamentally transform our government or our country, and he’s never going to be anyone’s fierce advocate. If gay voters want to hand their money and their ballots over to someone who won’t keep his major promises, who won’t significantly advance the cause of their civil rights, who will outright work against those promises as we attempt to advance our civil rights in courts of law, but who at least won’t be as big a bigot as John McCain, then they are certainly welcome to support him with all their hearts and wallets. I for one am not feeling an overwhelming desire to donate another ,000 to, or raise another ,000 for, a candidate who promises me the moon and then seems almost embarrassed of me the morning after the election.

    Perhaps it is naive. But I expect politicians to at least try to keep their major promises. I never said they have to succeed. But they have to at least TRY. Our fierce advocate seems fiercely indifferent. And I fear that an increasing number of Democratic voters now share his indifference.




    AMERICAblog Gay

    —  John Wright