HRC Works with Equality Maryland “Pride in Faith Coalition”

This afternoon, Sultan Shakir, Sharon Groves and I met with the Equality Maryland “Pride in Faith Coalition”, a group of religious leaders and lay leaders from across the state of Maryland who are taking a stand for equality. The leaders met to discuss the two bills making their way through the Maryland legislature, the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Act and the Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Act. More importantly, they discussed how they could play a role in making sure the two bills become law.

It was great to hear from these religious voices, from Catholics to Baptist to Universalist Unitarians and many others. Hearing these voices united in the fight for equality was amazing.

After the meeting, the clergy leaders are heading over to the State Capitol to join hundreds of other Marylanders at Equality Maryland’s Annual Lobby Day. We’ll be meeting face to face with our legislators to make our voices heard.

To get involved with Pride in Faith, email prideinfaith@equalitymaryland.org.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  David Taffet

Video: McCain claims DADT is working, but still doesn’t understand how it works

Remember the video of John McCain having a meltdown when Kerry Eleveld challenged him on DADT. McCain claimed, wrongly, that servicemembers are only discharged if they admit to being gay. Kerry wouldn’t let McCain get away with the lie and McCain just kept sputtering away.

As noted in the post below, today, McCain burnished his credentials as one of the nation’s leading homophobes, while continuing to lie about how the policy works. Here’s the video:

It’s worse watching what McCain said, then it is reading his words.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

Sondheim Film in the Works

STEPHEN SONDHEIM X390 (VILLAGE VOICE) | ADVOCATE.COMA film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s landmark musical Company is in the discussion stage with often-controversial director Neil LaBute attached to helm the production.
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  admin

Waiting for Rights Never Works

It’s been a common mantra coming from the Democratic Party, the Obama Administration, large beltway equality groups like the Human Rights Campaign, and many others for years: just be patient and wait.  waiting-list.jpgWe’ll get to you and your basic civil rights eventually, but we’re a little busy.  Stop griping and hop on board or you’ll be a wedge distraction that makes us lose elections.

So how has that plan worked out?

The LGBT community has been blamed, cajoled, insulted, courted, and ignored depending on whether our votes and dollars are needed, yet when it comes time for real leadership on issues that matter to basic, day-to-day rights, we are told to wait. Now, after the disastrous midterm elections, we’ve lost the chance of a generation to push forward on civil rights and equality for LGBT people.  

We waited and once again got burned.

In the majority of states, we can still be fired, kicked out of homes, or denied services just for being gay.  Want to talk about jobs, jobs, jobs?  Make it so I don’t lose mine for mentioning I went to the grocery store with my husband over the weekend.  Want to talk wars, terrorism, and national defense? Stop kicking out qualified LGBT service members to coddle bigots in the military.  Want to talk taxes and “small government”? Stop overtaxing my family because the federal government refuses to recognize my marriage and wants to tell me who I can love.

These are real issues that LGBT people face every day.  These are things that impact the lives of those that can’t afford to buy their way around discrimination with privilege and cold-hard cash that allows them to “vote with their wallet” over basic human rights.  To tell us to wait is to tell us to not live our lives fully and with the confidence in basic things needed to survive.
We’ve seen the devastating effect that societal oppression of LGBT people has on younger generations as bullying and suicide stories hit the news everyday.  Yet have we moved beyond simply lamenting these loses and worked to force change that would make their lives easier?  Have we done all we can or are we simply waiting?

We’ve seen the popping up of groups that go around the “conventional wisdom” of the larger equality organizations, like the Prop 8, DOMA, and DADT court challenges that look to topple bigoted laws that congress, political leaders, and pet lobbyists refuse to tackle or show real leadership on.  These very court cases have been mocked and looked at with disdain by politicos, even as they force the progress we need.

We’re at a crossroads.  We can continue to watch our rights traded away in the name of political “compromise” or we can refuse to wait.  We can say that delay is simply being complicit to bigotry.  We can demand action and leadership even as we take the fight to the courts and the American public ourselves.  

If we don’t learn the lessons of the past, history is doomed to repeat itself.  We can no longer be patient.  We can no longer wait.  Equality can happen, but we have to carry the load- each and every one of us.  Patience in politics is a fallacy and the death of progress.  We have to be agitated and engaged.  We have to apply pressure.  Waiting is never an option and we must never accept it.

We have to make our issues a priority, because no one else will.  Lesson learned.
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  admin

NJ GOP Rep. Chris Smith Works To Block LGBT Rights Group At United Nations

The International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) has long been attempting to gain recognition as a consulting group with the United Nations, a status which would grant them access and the ability to comment officially on critical LGBT issues such as the murder and imprisonment of LGBT people around the world. In June, IGLHRC’s recognition was blocked by Egypt “on behalf of all African nations.”

After the U.S. delegation promised to pressure the UN on IGLHRC’s behalf, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) vowed to stop them. Smith, who voted against the Matthew Shepard Act and other LGBT rights laws, says IGLHRC plans to muzzle anybody who preaches that homosexuality is immoral. He wrote the UN a lengthy letter demanding that they again decline IGLHRC’s application.

Backing up Rep. Smith is the Christianist outfit Family Watch International, who has launched a petition campaign to the United Nations.

The IGLHRC is already pressuring a number of UN member states to change their laws to advance sexual rights. When the application was put on hold, the U.S. reacted very aggressively and announced that it was planning to take an unprecedented move to bypass the UN Committee on NGOs and go directly to the full ECOSOC body to try to ram the approval through. This has never been done before, and it has caused quite a stir among the UN delegations of many of the developing nations around the world. So we have a situation where the Obama administration is again putting support for the radical homosexual agenda above virtually all other considerations. In light of what this administration is doing domestically, we should not be surprised, but in this case, the United States government’s almost obsessive quest to advance sexual rights has been exposed to the whole world, and this should concern every American.

Once again, the American Christianist right is actively working to enable the murder, abuse, and imprisonment of LGBT people outside the United States.

VIDEO: Below is a history of the work IGLHRC has done for the last 20 years.

Joe. My. God.

—  John Wright

DART accused of transphobia

Judge reversed order after transit agency fought longtime employee’s gender-marker change last year

John Wright | News Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

TRANS FRIENDLY? | Judge Lynn Cherry, right, is shown alongside drag performer Chanel during Stonewall Democrats’ 2008 holiday party at the Round-Up Saloon. A few months later, Cherry ruled against a transgender DART employee and overturned a gender-marker change. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

DART stands accused of bigotry and transphobia after attorneys for the local transit agency intervened in family court last year to challenge a gender-marker change granted to an employee.

According to court records, a transgender DART employee obtained a court order in February 2009 directing all state agencies to correct their records by changing her gender-marker from male to female, including on her birth certificate.

As Dallas Voice reported last week, many Dallas County judges have been routinely granting gender-marker changes to transgender people who meet set criteria — including documentation from licensed medical personnel — since the Democratic sweep of 2006.

The DART employee, who’s name is being withheld to protect her anonymity, later presented the court order to the transit agency’s human resources department and requested that her personnel records be changed to reflect her new gender.

But DART’s attorneys objected to the gender-marker change and responded by filing a motion seeking a rehearing in court. DART’s objections prompted 301st Family District Court Judge Lynn Cherry to reverse her order granting the gender-marker change.

“Where does this stop when an employer can start interfering with your personal life and family law decisions?” said longtime local transgender activist Pamela Curry, a friend of the DART employee who brought the case to the attention of Dallas Voice. “She was devastated. This should be a serious concern to a lot of people — everybody — and I just think this story needs to be told.”

Judge Cherry, who received Stonewall Democrats of Dallas’ Pink Pump Award for her support of the group last year, didn’t respond to messages seeking comment this week.

Morgan Lyons, a spokesman for DART, noted that Cherry reversed her order before the agency actually filed its motion for a rehearing. However, Curry alleges that DART’s attorneys met with Cherry privately and pressured her into reversing the order.

As is common with gender-marker changes, the case file has been sealed, but Dallas Voice obtained copies of some of the court documents from Curry.

In their motion for a rehearing, DART attorneys Harold R. McKeever and Hyattye Simmons argued that Texas law grants registrars, not judges, the authority to amend birth certificates. They also argued that birth certificates could be amended only if they were inaccurate at the time of birth.

“It’s not a DART issue, it’s a point of law,” Lyons told Dallas Voice this week, in response to the allegations of bigotry. “The lawyers concluded that the birth certificate could not be altered by law, unless there was a mistake made when the birth certificate was completed, and again, the judge changed the order before we even wound up going into court with it.”

Asked about DART’s LGBT-related employment policies, Lyons said the agency’s nondiscrimination policy includes sexual orientation but not gender identity/expression. The agency, which is governed by representatives from Dallas and numerous suburbs, also doesn’t offer benefits to the domestic partners of employees.

Lyons didn’t respond to other allegations made by Curry, including that the agency has fought the employee’s transition from male to female at every step of the way.

Curry, who helped the employee file her pro se petition for a gender-marker change, said the employee has worked for DART for more than 20 years and has an outstanding performance record.

The employee began to come out as transgender in 2003 and had gender reassignment surgery more than three years ago, Curry said. Curry said DART supervisors have at various times told the employee that she couldn’t have long hair, couldn’t wear skirts to work and couldn’t use women’s restrooms at work.

The employee has responded by showing up at work in her uniform so she doesn’t have to change and using public restrooms on her bus route, Curry said.

Supervisors have also told the employee she can’t talk to the media and can’t join political groups, such as Stonewall Democrats, Curry said.

“She’s intimidated and she’s scared,” Curry said. “One supervisor even suggested to her that if she doesn’t lay off it, they will mess up her retirement.”

Elaine Mosher, a Dallas attorney who’s familiar with the case, also questioned why DART intervened. Mosher didn’t represent the employee in the case but has handled gender-marker changes for other clients.

Mosher said the employee’s gender doesn’t have any bearing on her ability to do her job at DART.

“My argument in any gender marker matter is, the birth certificate was wrong, that’s why they had to go through the transition surgery, in essence to put them in the correct gender,” Mosher said. “All I can tell you is that it seems strange to me that DART would care one way or another what the gender marker of anybody that works for them is.”

Moster added that she believes someone at DART may have been “freaked out” by the employee’s transition from male to female and developed a “vendetta” against her.

“I wish I had a good explanation for why [DART got involved] other than the fact that I know there are people out there who are utterly blind and prejudiced for no other reason than they are,” Mosher said. “I compare it to some of the nonsense African-Americans had to live through in the ’60s.”

Mosher also said she’s “very surprised” that Cherry reversed the order granting the gender marker change.

Erin Moore, president of Stonewall Democrats, said she’s heard “bits and pieces” of the story but isn’t sure of all the facts.

Moore said in response to her questions about the case, Cherry told her she couldn’t talk about it because it’s still within the timeframe for a possible appeal.

“Lynn is a longtime supporter of Stonewall and I would think she would be fair in the case,” Moore said. “I’m confident she’s an ally to this community.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 19, 2010.

—  admin