What Have You Done for Me Lately?

IMG_3194Image by jessebucksc via Flickr

Yes, I have been quite remiss with SESW lately. But I have good excuses, I promise.

As noted here a couple weeks ago, I took part in the Tucson Freedom to Marry event. Michael and I were to be "the" couple to be denied a license but at the last moment a lesbian couple joined us. In the confusion of the office their clerk issued them a license and the next several days were rather wild. I ended up acting as the local contact for Marriage Equality USA for press comments and appearances. Thus, Michael and I ended up doing an interview for Cronkite News Watch as well as fielding calls for comments from print media.

After that experience I was tapped to help organize a Candlelight Vigil in Tucson on the eve of the Prop 8 oral arguments before the California Supreme Court. That has taken up the lion's share of my time for the past week as we've sought a place to hold the vigil without having to shell out large sums of money for permits and insurance.

We finally were invited by the United Church of Christ of the Painted Hills to hold the vigil on their property. They have been extremely supportive and are the type of folks who can restore my faith in religion and Christianity in the face of so much hatred and intolerance. You can find more information on the event at Rainbow Foot Soldiers.

Speaking of which, I've also been getting that site off the ground and invite you to check it out. We have news updates daily from around the web over there on LGBT issues. Please sign up for the newsletter as well so you can get weekly updates of events around the country.

Michael has been finalizing a new album that will be available shortly. I ended up doing the artwork for it as well. I also worked on a new website for him: www.michaelemmanuel.com as well as a Facebook Fan group and a new iLike page for his music.

So, things have been keeping me pretty busy in that department. Thus, SESW has been neglected, but I promise to do better. Really, I promise.

Thanks to all my regular readers for sticking by me during this downtime as I've been inundated with other projects.

Mug shot of Paris Hilton.Image via Wikipedia

Finally, the comments thread on the "Is Ryan Buell Gay?" post has become a constant source of amusement. Outside Bobby Jindal's trainwreck of a speech, it's one place I can count on for a quick laugh. If you haven't checked it out lately, please drop over there and read the hysterical ramblings of the tweens who are crushing on Ryan Buell and trying desperately to be witty or insulting. It's really hilarious.

One of my favorites is "Baby" (yes, she actually calls herself that) who tried to insult me for being gay by telling us all she looks like Paris Hilton in a bikini! I kid you not, she actually makes that reference. So, we can only assume that when in a bikini she looks like a 13 year old boy with a glandular condition trying out drag for the first time.

Anyway, thanks for being here and look forward to more frequent posts very soon.
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Bring Down Joe Arpaio

From America's Voice:

We all know Sheriff Joe Arpaio loves the spotlight.

Well, now he's got plenty of it: the spotlight of Rep. John Conyers and the House Judiciary Committee. They want Sheriff Joe investigated by the Department of Justice for his appalling, unjust law enforcement tactics -- just like the 3,500 of you who've already signed our petition!

On Friday the Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, saying:

"We write today concerning allegations of misconduct on the part of Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio that we believe merit federal investigation and action."

It's obvious that Arpaio's latest publicity stunt crosses the line. On February 4th, he rounded up hundreds of immigrant detainees and forced them to march, shackled, through Phoenix to a segregated "tent city" surrounded by electric fencing in the Arizona desert.

Thousands of you have already signed our letter to the Attorney General, calling for an investigation into Joe's abuse of power. Thousands have denounced Joe's blatant racial profiling and civil rights violations. But with this week's big news from the Judiciary Committee, and with major events being organized across the country to protest Arpaio, we believe it's time to do more.

With your help, we can finally get Sheriff Joe the attention he really deserves. We're counting on your help to get 10,000 signatures to Attorney General Holder to investigate Sheriff Joe by the first week of March.

Please sign the petition then ask your friends and family members to sign the petition today:

Under Sheriff Joe's jurisdiction, real criminals get away scot-free while hard-working immigrants live in perpetual fear. There are 40,000 outstanding warrants for real felons gathering dust on Joe's desk. Meanwhile, Arpaio's posse sweeps low-crime, Latino neighborhoods and stars in botched reality TV shows that make a mockery of law enforcement.

There have been over 2,700 lawsuits filed against Arpaio. Now, as Sheriff Joe completes his latest tirade -- rounding up immigrants and segregating them in electrified holding pens in the desert -- we cannot, and will not, stand silent.

We're joining with the House Judiciary Committee and human and civil rights advocates across the country to make sure Joe gets what he deserves. As we said, we're collecting 10,000 signatures to make sure that the Justice Department gets the message.

Like Chairman Conyers said on Friday:

"Racial profiling and segregation are simply not acceptable... Media stunts and braggadocio are no substitute for fair and effective law enforcement."

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NY Post Crosses a Line

NEW YORK — The New York Post is standing behind a cartoon that some have interpreted as comparing President Barack Obama to a violent chimpanzee gunned down by police. The cartoon in Wednesday's Post by Sean Delonas shows two police officers standing over the body of a bullet-riddled chimp. One of the officers says the other, "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill."

Civil rights activist Al Sharpton called the cartoon "troubling at best given the historic racist attacks of African-Americans as being synonymous with monkeys."

But Sharpton said the Post should clarify the point it was trying to make with the cartoon, which was playing off Monday's rampage by a pet chimpanzee in Stamford, Conn., that left a woman severely mauled. Police ended up killing the chimp.

In a statement, Post Editor-in-Chief Col Allan said: "The cartoon is a clear parody of a current news event, to wit the shooting of a violent chimpanzee in Connecticut. It broadly mocks Washington's efforts to revive the economy. Again, Al Sharpton reveals himself as nothing more than a publicity opportunist."

A story about the cartoon on the liberal-leaning Huffington Post Web site drew hundreds of reader responses, many calling the cartoon racist and insensitive.

Sam Stein, a columnist for the site, wrote that "at its most benign, the cartoon suggests that the stimulus bill was so bad, monkeys may as well have written it. Most provocatively, it compares the president to a rabid chimp. Either way, the incorporation of violence and (on a darker level) race into politics is bound to be controversial."

OK, here's my take on this. I looked at this and my first thought was "WTF?" The thing made no sense. The only reasonable explanation was that they were comparing the President to a Chimpanzee, a very old racial stereotype. Then the level of violence was simply stunning.

Look, I come from the South. I've heard jokes comparing African-Americans to monkeys or chimps and since President Obama who happens to be African-American was the force behind the stimulus bill, there could only be one reading of the thing for me.

At the very least the NY Post needs to stop digging a deeper hold by attacking Rev. Sharpton and start apologizing for not have the God given sense to realize that they were about to print something that was patently offensive - regardless of their stated good intentions.

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Who Is the Real Gino Meriano?

Arizona activists have been reeling for the past several weeks over an attempt by two men, without the support of any established rights groups, to get a “Civil Partnership” initiative on the ballot in 2010.

Gino Meriano, owner of Pink Weddings. Is his "Civil Partnership" initiative a serious move or a variation on the Producers?

The measure crafted without the input of civil rights attorneys, attempts to grant all 1138 federal, state, and local rights in a few short sentences. The wording is fraught with ambiguity and a lack of understanding of the most basic concepts of our legal and lesgislative process.

Indeed, most LGBT rights groups who have had their attorneys review it conclude that the initiative could be disastrous both in the short term and long term due to its ignorance of law and culture.

However, it is not entirely surprising the legislation does not take into account our unique legal structure here in the United States. It’s major backer has been Gino Meriano of Pink Weddings, LLC.

Meriano is a British citizen who opened a branch of his “gay wedding” business in the United States in 2008.

In November, he enlisted the help of Philip Cotton and launched his campaign, urging people to “Vote No on Gay Marriage, Yes on Civil Partnerships!”

This PR stunt was particularly ironic in light of his stated goal upon immigrating to the US: “Our mission is to support those organisations in the USA fighting for same-sex family rights and to introduce the concept of federally recogonised civil partnerships across all the states of the USA.”

Shortly after the launch of their two man crusade, they began collecting donations to support their cause.

In the first days after their initiative was registered and the signature gathering could begin, they seemed more concerned with raising money than actually laying out their case. Emails and calls from private citizens and LGBT groups asking for details about how their claims of altering federal law with a state statute would work, went unanswered.

The original donations for "Yes on Civil Partnerships" went directly to Gino Meriano's business.

Instead, their websites, of which there are several, pointed people to a PayPal donation page. Surprisingly, this donation page did not lead to a registered PAC, but instead directly to Gino Meriano’s business account for Pink Weddings, LLC.

After there was a bit of buzz around the state about this fact, the email address on the PayPal account quickly changed. However, it is impossible to know where the money may be going at this point.

In recent days, several community activists have stumbled upon previously unknown information about Gino Meriano that has alarmed them.

In 2002 Meriano was convicted of “false accounting” in the UK.

Tourism PRO Gino Meriano has been jailed for nine months for false accounting whilst employed by Kuoni Travel.

Guildford Crown Court heard last week how the 39-year-old PR manager swindled tour operator Kuoni out of around £160,000 worth of holidays over a four-year period.

Meriano, of Chertsey in Surrey, pleaded guilty to 16 charges of false accounting and was sentenced to nine months in prison.

In July, Sharon O’Brien, prosecuting, told Redhill Magistrates’ Court that between 1997 and 2001 Meriano had embarked on a spree of fraud that was premeditated and involved fictitious journalists.

Could it be that this is a different Gino Meriano? That is always a possibility, though both the Gino Meriano who committed a crime and the Gino Meriano who became an “activist” lived in Surrey and are the same age. In fact Meriano’s office is located at 15 Church Street, Weybridge Surrey.

Certainly, this new information makes this ballot initiative even more chilling for the community.

We asked Philip Cotton, Meriano’s associate on the ballot initiative for his comment about this information via email. We received the following response:

You will need to refer these allegations to Mr. Gennaro [sic] Meriano. Thank you for keeping me in the loop.

A request for comment, clarification or denial from Gino Merriano has yet to elicit a response. We wrote to him at his personal email address, provided by Philip Cotton explaining this post would go forward at 4:00pm MST and asking for a comment or clarification before that time. We have not received any response whatsoever at this time.

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Love Will Prevail

Pima County CourthouseImage by jessebucksc via Flickr

These are the remarks I had prepared to deliver at the Freedom to Marry Counter Action yesterday in Tucson. However, thanks to the unexpected events where the other couple received a license the rest of the event went in an entirely different direction.

However, despite the wonderful news, the fact remains that if these women move forward and actually get married and file this license it will be a long and extremely difficult court fight. Pima County has already signaled that they consider this a clerical error and the license invalid. While we retain hope that this cracks the door to full equality we are still far away from that reality.

So, because even this happy coincidence gives us hope for a brighter tomorrow, the road will remain long and fraught with hurdles I present my prepared remarks:

"On March 31, 1968 the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered a speech at the Washington National Cathedral. Near the end of that speech Dr. King made a statement that still echoes through the decades to us today.

“Were going to win our freedom because both the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of the almighty God are embodied in our echoing demands. And so, however dark it is, however deep the angry feelings are, and however violent explosions are, I can still sing "We Shall Overcome. We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Many lies are told about us. Those who oppose our right to marry and even to love one another sow fear and distrust. They tell us that we can change our orientation. They tell us that we cannot be trusted to raise children. They tell us that our love is a falsehood and that our commitments are meaningless.

As Thomas Carlyle noted almost 200 years ago, no lie can live forever. Each of us stands as a living testament to the falsehoods spread by the “Social Conservative” and “Religious Conservative.”

Michael and I stand before you having seen each other through both the good times and the bad. We have sat beside each other while facing life threatening illnesses. We have taken care of each other as any married couple in this country. We have committed our lives to one another and each day we renew that commitment because in a world where lies are told about our relationship, we must continually fight for even the most basic recognition of our shared love.

Fear drives the opposition to marriage equality. Fear that there are people in this world whose relationships last decades and stand in stark contrast to the 50% divorce rate in this great country. Fear that there are couples who will not give in to pressure to give up. Fear that indeed, being gay is not a choice or a “lifestyle” but an inherent characteristic of the human condition for us. Fear that there is more to marriage than procreation and sex. Fear that love, true love, deep love, love that flies in the face of adversity and hate can and will overcome.

Those opposing marriage equality must know deep down that Dr. King's words ring just as true 41 years later: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it tends toward justice.” There is nothing more moral than love, respect, and mutual support. Even the Bible used so often to beat us up and bloody us affirms that there is no greater commandment than: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” No ballot initiative, no anti-gay amendment, no scare tactic recited from a pulpit can alter that noble truth that justice and truth will prevail.

No matter how many anti-marriage laws they pass. No matter how many Kenneth Starrs dishonestly argue their cases in court, they cannot destroy love. No matter how many times we are turned away at the courthouse door. We will go on. We will continue to love one another. We will always fight them in the legislatures, in the streets, and in the courts. We will continue to stand for the transcendence of love while they fall behind the march of history and the evolution of the human soul.

We will prevail. The road may be long. The battles may be many and we may not win them all, indeed we may not win most. But, in the end we will prevail. Love will go on. Love will always conquer fear and hate! Have hope, for love will prevail!"

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Opportunist Queens

As we were sitting at lunch yesterday discussing the unexpected outcomes of events at the courthouse, the conversation turned to the big money LGBT groups. I was bitching as usual about how they seem to only want money but not to actually want to do anything. Instead they always caution "patience" and "civility" and "compromise."

Denise made a stunning comment when she noted that these groups exist only so long as we do not have equality. If we are ever given full and equal civil rights they have no purpose. As she put it, there's far too much money and prestige involved in inequality. If tomorrow we got equal civil rights they would all be out of work and out of funds.

That's a true statement, I think. Indeed even in the blogging world those bloggers who make a fair amount of money playing up the inequality stories are often less than thrilled when strides are made.

Consider the comments and commentary from some of the biggies like Box Turtle Bulletin.

Almost all the comments there about Sheri and Theresa and indeed everyone's involvement in the events yesterday have been catty and bitchy. Many call any sort of action like this "stupid" and others claim that while being "no legal expert" that the opinion of family lawyers "won't go very far in court."

Gee whiz guys, why not? Let's see she has infinitely more experience in Arizona law than some guy sitting on his ass at home. She has an advanced degree while you have a PC or Mac and Wikipedia. That good enough for you?

Or maybe the fact that the argument is strong enough for the ACLU and Lambda Legal to take it up as well? How's that?

The level of pure ignorance and opposition to anything that moves us forward amazes me at times. I suppose though, that like the big bloated fundraising organizations if we manage equal rights then their lives and money will dry up. If that's all you have going for you, then the day after full equality your life becomes empty and that revenue stream from "Advertise Liberally" dries up along with your traffic.

Well, now I know where these guys stand and I know that they're disingenous when they claim to be for equality for LGBT people. They're really not. They have their own agenda which is to claim to be in favor of equality but try to prolong this fight as long as humanly possible.

As for me... I don't make crap blogging. I could happily go back to talking about just anything that pops into my head if we were to finally get full and equal civil rights. Guess that's what makes me different from opportunist queens.
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Wow! What a Day!

It's taken me this long to finally gather my thoughts about what went on yesterday at the Pima County Superior Courthouse here in Tucson.

It was supposed to be just a run of the mill Freedom to Marry Protest. Michael and I had agreed to be the couple to ask for a license and be denied. Because we offered to do the event it was the first year that it was held here in Tucson.

So, this morning we headed downtown to meet Denise Heap of Marriage Equality USA. Because the gem and mineral show is in town Michael had to park blocks away but let me out at the courthouse to find Denise.

I finally located them at the old courthouse nextdoor and we trooped to the Superior Court Building with Rainbow Flags flying. Upon arriving we found a few videographers from local TV and a pair of very nice young women working on a project for the University of Arizona.

Before going in I gave my first interview to the UA students outlining the reasons for marriage equality and why we were doing the event. I also gave them background on our relationship.

After I finished Denise approached me and said that two women had arrived and asked to take part. Since Michael and I were the "designated" couple I could say whether I minded if they joined at the last minute or not. I figured the more the merrier so we all trooped into the courthouse with some of the supporters with us.

Immediately the cops seemed to get edgy. They ordered one of the people who was holding a fabric pinwheel to get outside for carrying "protest symbols" - nevermind we were all wearing Marriage Equality USA stickers and the new "white ribbons" to symbolize marriage equality.

After making it through the metal detectors and being told we could not use cellphones or cellphone cameras inside, we moved to the clerk's offices just to the left of the entrance.

Once inside Sheri and Theresa immediately took a number and picked up a form. We got a form but then realized the courthouse didn't provide pens, we had to send John Mijak outside to find someone with a pen to fill in the form. Meanwhile, the women had been called to a window and were busy filling out their form in front of the clerk.

When I initially filled out the form I scratched out "female" in the pre-printed place for Bride. We then completed the form and our number was called and we went to another, young male, clerk. He looked at the form and said he couldn't accept it because of the scratch out. I asked him if he would accept it knowing we were both men if I didn't scratch it out. He hesitated and seemed a little unsure how to answer so I sent Michael back to the rack of forms to get a new application. I then began to fill it out again at which time he said "You know you have to take an oath." I asked what the oath entailed and if it mentioned specifically that one of us was female. He told us it didn't say that in the oath but that by swearing the oath we were swearing that all information on the form was true. I asked him if that meant I was swearing I was female and he replied "yes."

So, at that point we were stuck. We couldn't see how to complete the form and swear the oath using the information this clerk had given us without committing perjury which is a felony in Arizona. So we thanked the young man for being a good sport and shook hands.

At that point I saw Sheri return to the rack to get another form. Waiting for them so we could all exit together I walked back over and stood near the door. One of the other people there whispered to me that the clerk was going to issue the license.

Needless to say, I was thunderstruck. I asked what they were doing and was told that they had done the same thing we had but then were told they could swear that only the "information [they] provided on the form was true." Since the "Male/Female" headings were pre-printed they were not swearing to the accuracy of that.

Looking out the door I noticed a large throng of police beginning to gather and taking interest in what we were doing. I asked one of the other people to go outside and tell Denise Heap who was coordinating the event that they might get the license so she could find out what to do. I also wanted her to be ready in case the police decided to do something because of our presence.

Finally, as it looked as though the women would get the license, Michael and I went outside in order to ask Denise what the next steps would be. At that point she asked us to go ahead and do an interview with the press as planned. So, I stepped up to the cameras and did my abbreviated "love will prevail" speech and the stuff about the 1138 rights.

Just as I finished Sheri and Theresa emerged from the courthouse with marriage license in hand! We cheered and applauded, each of us wondering just how legal this whole thing was going to be. After the obligatory interviews the women said they had to get back to work. They had stopped in on their lunch hour to make history!

While they were being interviewed and congratulated, a phalanx of cops appeared at the top of the stairs ordering everyone to get away from the steps of the courthouse (despite the steps wrapping around the whole courthouse). I later found out that while we were inside several had come outside and tried to run off the other people waiting by accusing them of being "ACORN Agitators" there to protest some property sale. This is despite the Rainbow flags and Marriage Equality signs and stickers. Regardless, these guys were really freaked out about us or anyone being at the courthouse yesterday and were quick to let you know it.

Michael, Denise, and I walked up the street to have lunch and discuss the events. By that time the national chapter of Marriage Equality USA was involved and legal experts were already weighing next steps. According to a family law expert the Pima marriage license application is non-binding because it asks for information (sex) that is not required by the actual statute that only asks for names and other indentifying information.

By the time lunch was over the ACLU and Lambda Legal were on board and by evening the legal gurus had expanded even further.

By the time I'd gotten home the Clerk of Court was already spinning her story. She was claiming the women had lied about one of them being male. It was obvious both were female and they specifically told the clerk that. I got a call from Denise who was on the side of the road fielding media inquiries asking me to call a reporter at the Arizona Daily Star and tell her what I'd seen and that Sheri and Theresa had not lied about their sex.

So, that was my day. I got a moment of fame at 5:00 while the TV folks were trying to sort out the story and get quotes from all the various people involved. By 6:00 they had their story cut together of the first Lesbian marriage license issued in Arizona and I was history and became one of the "two men who were denied a marriage license" because we'd "marked out" the sex. Nevermind that we tried the same thing Sheri and Theresa did but were told point blank by our clerk that we'd be committing perjury.

Anyway, this is going to be a really interesting thing to watch. If they can get the license itself upheld as valid and make sure Pima County doesn't go after Sheri and Theresa for perjury then all they have to do is get married and then the real battle will begin when the signed license is filed.

It's been a wild and wonderful day here in the Old Pueblo. I'm just pleased I was riding on that bus with Rosa Parks today. Way to go Sheri and Theresa!

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Lesbian Couple Obtains Marriage License

From the AZ Daily Star:

A lesbian couple who decided to take part in a 22-state rally supporting same-sex marriage shocked participants Thursday when they obtained a marriage license from the Pima County Clerk of the Court's Office.

Patti Noland, clerk of the court, said the women filled out the form, which is preprinted to state the groom is "male" and the bride is "female." They then swore to the accuracy of the form.
Unlike a male couple that changed the wording of the document to state the bride was "male," the two women left that part of the application unchanged.

However, one of the organizers of the event, John Allard of Marriage Equality USA, said the women told the clerk's office they were only swearing to the information they filled in, not the preprinted form itself.

"They were told 'that's not a problem,' " Allard said, noting the women clearly looked like women.
On Thursday, same-sex couples in 22 states and 30 cities tried to obtain marriage licenses and then held protests afterward, Allard said.

"It was to call attention to the fact that millions of couples across the country, because they are the same sex, are denied marriages and the 1,138 rights only conveyed through marriage," Allard said.

Last year Arizona voters approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as solely between one man and one woman. In effect, the amendment banned gay marriage. Such unions were already prohibited in state statute, but the law was seen as vulnerable to change.

Allard, who is co-leader of the Arizona chapter of Marriage Equality USA, said the women who obtained their license weren't expected to participate in the event — two men were. The women "got caught up in the moment."

When the women announced they had successfully obtained their license, Allard said, "It was surprising. It was exciting and it was exhilarating."

Marriage Equality has already gotten in touch with the American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights for assistance in helping the women defend their right to get married, Allard said.

The full names of the two women were not immediately known. Efforts to contact them after leaving the clerk's office were not successful.

Buck Bannister said he and his partner of 11 years, Michael Koch, knew their attempt to get a marriage license wasn't going to be successful. Their application was rejected because they scratched out "female" and wrote in "male" for the bride, Bannister said.

When the women were successful, they were "elated," Bannister said.

"A lot of us were tearing up even though it's going to be a long fight through the courts," Bannister said.

Noland said various media outlets informed her ahead of time that a protest was going to be held and that same-sex couples might be applying for licenses.

Still, Noland said her clerks do not ask about a couple's gender when they apply for a marriage certificate.

"It doesn't matter one way or another. If they fill out the form and swear it's true and correct, we'll issue the marriage license," Noland said.

The women could face charges of fraudulent schemes and practices, a Class 5 felony.

Whether criminal charges should be filed is in "someone else's hands," Noland said.

Jason Cianciotti, executive director for Wingspan, Southern Arizona's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center, said regardless of how the women came to get their license, "for a split second the couple got to feel what heterosexual couples take for granted."

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Lesbian Couple Granted Marriage License in Tucson AZ! | Rainbow Foot Soldiers

Big new from Tucson!:

Simultaneously a lesbian couple at a separate clerk requested a license and were told that if they swore the oath they would be “attesting to the information you have provided on the form.” Since they had not written the genders they submitted the form and the license was issued to them.Lesbian Couple Granted Marriage License in Tucson AZ! | Rainbow Foot Soldiers, Feb 2009

You should read the whole article.


The Epitome of Self Hate

Anty LGBTImage via Wikipedia

Recently, I posted about an event going off in Phoenix where LGBT people were told to make sure they didn't wear anything identifying them as gay or to self-identify.

Now, the event is supposed to be a coming together of "diverse" communities to promote peace and pray for togetherness and tolerance.

Already you can see the irony of all that.

However, there were those in the community who saw nothing wrong with asking LGBT people to hide from the upstanding religious people who might show up. When the question was brought up on Facebook this is one response from a particularly vocal advocate for hiding:

Note that what *we* think about the stuff is irrelevant to the issue.

Its what others will think that counts in this case.

Will you be tolerant when called names because of wearing such? Or will you be challenging them, and angering them, and ruining the purpose behind this event?

It matters.
Isn't that an interesting statement? Doesn't it speak volumes about the damage done to some people by their desire to "fit in" with the same religions who abuse them regularly?

This poor woman feels that if right wing Christians attack people for simply being present and participating solemnly in an event devoted to peace and tolerance that it would be the fault of the people attacked that the event was ruined. It would not be the fault of the people who verbally or physically attacked a peaceful person, it would be the victim's fault for daring to even exist in the same public space.

Could self-hate be more clearly illustrated than in that one short comment?

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Are You an Atheist?

{{Potd/2006-09-13 (en)}}Image via Wikipedia

Someone asked me recently if I was an atheist. That's a fairly complicated question because I am not an "atheist" in the strictest sense of that word meaning that I disavow all spiritual matters in favor of science and reason. But in some sense I do reject the traditional view of God and spirituality even the "New Age" varieties.

So, here are my thoughts on things to help those who read this blog better understand my statements and viewpoints when reading posts touching on religion.

1. I believe that morality is not a function of "religion." Each of us knows, unless we are psychologically damaged, that we should not kill others, steal from others, or harm others. Respect and human dignity are ideas that religion can embody but that religion can also undermine by giving us "loopholes" for our behavior.

2. I do not believe that my personal ideas about relationships should be applied to everyone. Religion allows people to turn personal foibles into universal "truths." For instance, religious people will say that polyamorous relationships are forbidden by "God." I am not a fan of those types of relationships but I know that my reticence has to do with my personal psychology. Because I am self aware, I know I could not be in such a relationship . I know that I would be unable to deal with the stresses because I prefer one on one contact with people. That preference even extends to my friendships. I prefer small gatherings to large parties. I like to focus my love and attention and in return like to have theirs focused on me. It is a personal foible. I do not need to invent a patriarchal "God" to justify it. If such relationships work for others I have no problem with it.

3. I do not believe that my personal spirituality has a place in the public square. Our spiritual lives are reflections of our own personal desires and psychology. Pretending that they are larger than us may be attractive and give us a sense of belonging, but the continual practice of those beliefs in public affairs eventually leads us to believe that our own ideas are superior to others. Once we are comfortable doing this publicly it is a small step to requiring others to follow suit.

4. I believe that spiritual matters are extremely personal. I reject the idea of priests and ministers because it teaches us to be intellectually and spiritually lazy. Rather than looking inward and learning our own desires and motivations we contract that out to others so that we never have to confront uncomfortable or contradictory parts of our own psyches.

5. I believe that reason and intellect are far superior than blind obedience to scripture. I grew up around people who stated flatly that the "Bible is the absolute word of God." They believed every line of it was invioable, unless it was a line that made their life difficult. They would apply the scriptures to others while not often turning it on themselves. The Bible is full of contradictions. People have spent their entire lives trying to square that circle. Reason and intellect allow us to identify those parts of that work that are truly universal truths and which are the personal prejudices and historical framework of ancient people. People who say the "Bible is the word of God" signal to me someone who is intellectually lazy and historically ignorant.

6. Life is full of mysteries. I like to revel in the delicious mysteries of life. I do not need to invent angels or patron saints to explain why things happen. I accept things as they are because I lack the means to investigate them properly. Likewise, I do not know what happens after we die. I do not need to invent a Heaven or a Hell to make myself feel better about my own mortality. I know that one day I will die. It's not a particularly lovely thought. But when you've been as sick as I was, you know that you are living on borrowed time from the moment you are born. What happens after death? I have no idea, but I do know that everyone who has ever lived and who is living will find out at some point. Until then, I'll enjoy the here and now because there is little I can do about that first nanosecond after death.

That in a nutshell is my spirituality. I do not attend churches, I do not attend public prayer meetings and I do not proselytize my own psychology and call it "God's Word."

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Fusion Foundation Slams Closet Door | Rainbow Foot Soldiers

From Rainbow Foot Soldiers:

Denise Heap posted a note on Facebook moments ago detailing a decision by our supposed allies at the Fusion Foundation to require that LGBT participants in a program at the State Capitol in Phoenix not self-identify as LGBT to the point of wearing rainbow flag shirts, pins, hats, or otherwise.Fusion Foundation Slams Closet Door | Rainbow Foot Soldiers, Feb 2009

Please take a moment to read the article. You will also find a response by Annie Lloyd who spearheaded the decision to ban LGBT people from identifying by wearing anything that might identify them as members of the community to the event. Fascinating reading and please join the discussion.

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Dude! Where's My Petition?

Froot LoopsImage via Wikipedia

I have to repost this in it's entirety. It's just too funny, my apologies for Lee Stranahan at HuffPo for ripping him off but, this is freakin' hilarious...

To: Kellogg's Corporation


1) Kellogg's is a major manufacturer of cereal and junk food products including but not limited to Frosted Flakes, Pop Tarts, Cheez-Its, Froot Loops, Keebler's Cookies, Rice Krispies, Eggo Frozen Waffles, Famous Amos Cookies and many other products known to be a part of the diet of many marijuana using Americans

2) The Kellogg's has profited for decades on the food tastes of marijuana using Americans with the munchies. In fact, we believe that most people over the age of twelve would not eat Kellogg's products were they not wicked high.

3)That Kellogg's has decided to end their relationship with Olympic Swimmer Michael Phelps after pictures of him surfaced doing exactly what most Kellogg's customers do right before enjoying a bowl of Rice Krispies mixed with Keebler Cookies with an Eggo on top.

4) That this action by Kellogg's, while legal, is totally bogus.

5) That Kellogg's is a big fat hypocrite, just like our parents when they found our stash under our mattress and took it and then later they sat in the living room and listened the Dark Side Of The Moon over and over and danced and laughed and I swear we smelled something.

6) That a quick Wikipedia search shows the founder of Kellogg's - john Harvey Kellogg - was a total frickin' weirdo who believe in putting children's genitals in a cage to keep them from playing with themselves and also believed in yogurt enemas.

7) That seriously, just Google John Harvey Kellogg. Dude was freaky.

8) That the thing about yogurt enemas makes us want to hurl when we look at that box of Kellogg's Yogos we have in the pantry.

9) That Michael Phelps should totally drop YOU dudes for your obsession with bran and fiber and masturbation and butts and stuff. You drop HIM? Dude won eight gold medals and probably didn't stick a single one in his butt or tie it in tourniquet around his naughty bits. Dude was just trying to relax. Seriously Kellogg's, WTF?

Given all these facts and the total disregard for your customer base and that thing with the yogurt, we the undersigned plan to BOYCOTT your products.

And we're serious.

Even though the Pop Tarts thing will be HARD.


The Undersigned

Click Here To Sign The Petition

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Get a Life Kellogg's

So we've all seen the photo of Michael Phelp's, swimming's wunderkind, taking a hit at a party. Maybe we should have known something was up when the sports folks were going nuts over his wild diet during the Olympics. That wasn't training, it was the munchies!

But really, when 42% of the public admit to smoking marijuana at least once (and those are the ones willing to be honest) you'd think people would have taken it in stride. Instead, you'd think the guy had been photographed raping a kindergarten class while kicking puppies.

The faux moral outrage of the news and tabloids was swift. The usual uptight Stepford Wives began whining and crying about the "effect on the children" and then Kellogg's, maker of everything, dumped Phelp's from its cereal boxes and ad campaigns.

I don't know about you, but I'm sick to death of all this false moralizing. I'm tired of knowing that the vast majority of the American public (over 70%) believe in decriminalization of marijuana while 30% of vocal hysterics hold our policy hostage.

I'm tired of my tax money being spent on slick commercials that pass out false information. I'm tired of people like Michael Phelps getting beat down because he puts lie to those same commercials that tell us people who smoke Marijuana even once become vegetables.

I'm tired of all this and I guess I'm not the only one. A Facebook group has sprung up calling for a boycott of Kellogg's until it reinstates Michael Phelps.

From their posting:


Please make a quick phone call to Kellogg's at 800-962-1413 and politely let the company know that as long as they treat Michael Phelps like a shameful criminal, you don't feel comfortable spending your money to support their business practices.

Plain and simple.

NOTE: Please call between 8 AM - 7 PM EST Mon-Thurs or 8 AM - 6 PM Fri.


Kellogg's is getting so many calls that they they ask you to press 1 to leave comments about the Phelps controversy. Button 2 is for salmonella in peanut butter!

Let's keep showing Kellogg's that they made a big mistake! Apparently, more people are calling to defend Michael Phelps than are calling about salmonella in their kids' food.
If you'd like to join the boycott against Kellogg's and their fake posturing you can find a list of products to avoid on their website.

We've joined and the loss of my Cheese-It and Keebler Peanut Butter Cracker revenue alone could probably bring them to their knees!

Let's also not forget that while Kellogg's goes on and on about Michael Phelp's taking a bong hit, their own company is responsible for illness and suffering by not bothering to ever check on the hygeine of its suppliers. Yes, Kellogg's makes Keebler products that are tainted with Salmonella from a Georgia plant that is over run with rodents, has massive roof leaks, and is utterly disgusting. How have they responded for the sickness they have caused? Why a coupon if you let them know you have a tainted product!

But what about this? Michael Phelp's has a DUI conviction. He got behind the wheel of a car while drunk. Did Kellogg's worry about that? Not at all. As the Marijuana Policy Project notes:
"Our members are as angry about this as I've ever seen them. We've been besieged by emails and phone calls from people wanting to boycott Kellogg's over the stupidity and unfairness of its action, so we will indeed be joining a boycott. This is a company that didn't mind that Phelps had a conviction for drunk driving, an illegal act that could actually have killed someone. For them to dump him for relaxing with a substance that's far safer than beer -- less addictive, massively less toxic, and overwhelmingly less likely to make users violent or aggressive -- is reprehensible. While boycotts are notoriously hard to pull off, the consumers who have made marijuana the number one cash crop in America represent a silent force that may just have been awakened big-time," said spokesman Bruce Mirken.
But you know what's really funny? All the know it all bloggers out there who are very supportive and keep saying they don't care who smokes a little weed. Then they have to throw in their big public disclaimer like this one from HuffPo's Cenk Uygur: "Now, I'm not a pothead. I don't think hemp is the answer for all of our problems (you know someone smokes a lot of pot when they feverishly tell you that you can make pants out of hemp - yes, but is that what you do with it?) ."

You know what Mr. Uygur? I'd have a hell of a lot more respect for you if you were a "pothead" instead of taking your own little backhanded moralistic swipe at Michael Phelps.

But Cenk isn't the only one who seems obligated to throw in the "I'm really a nice clean cut 50's kinda guy/gal" into the middle of their defense of Phelps. Let's look at Kath.A.rine who felt the need to issue the disclaimer in her Facebook posting: "A girl who DOESN'T smoke pot who is passionate about drug policy reform (you don't have to be into grass to care about justice and human rights and all that!!!!!!!!)"

So here's my disclaimer. I have smoked. I've never been what one would call a "stoner" but I've passed around my share in my younger days. In my "old" age I don't smoke anymore, but honestly, if it were not that I'd have to endanger my physical safety in unsavory parts of town to find it, I might consider a joint in place of a couple mixed drinks when celebrating a special occassion. It's that simple.

Those folks who will have their three or four white wines or appletinis or cosmos and then issue their disclaimer about how open minded they are because they don't smoke and want to make sure you know it, I say to you: Get off your high horse. Who cares if you smoke? Do you care if other people smoke? Probably on some level, otherwise you wouldn't feel it necessary to issue a disclaimer showing you aren't "like that."

By the way: Did you know Michael Phelps middle name is Fred? Seriously. I know that means nothing to 99.99% of you but "Fred" was our local code word for weed in high school. If I were buzzed I might think that was like totally wild!

UPDATE: For our Liberal organic friends. Don't think Kellogg's is just the makers of sugary goodness. They're also behind some of your favorite organic cereals and companies including: Kashi, Bear Naked Granola, Gardenburger, and Morningstar Farms/Natural Touch! Those companies are listed directly on their website because they tend to keep it quiet that the slaves of High Fructose Corn Syrup also make stuff they market as "all natural."

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The Advocate's Split Personality

Reposted from Rainbowfootsoldiers.com

I do subscribe the venerable gay magazine, The Advocate. Let me explain though. I got a free subscription as part of a survey website I belong to, honestly I haven’t shelled out cash for The Advocate since the early 90’s.

I was a subscriber in the early to mid 80’s when I was “coming out” and the mag was basically one long personal ad. In the days before the Internet it was the place to look for hook-ups around the nation. By the 90’s it had divorced itself of the “ads” and spun them off into a separate (now defunct) publication. However, at that point it became a “style” magazine mainly, telling us all the latest in pop-culture, decorating, travel and once in awhile some news.

So, until recently, I’d not picked up a copy in years. Now, I get my bi-monthly magazine by mail again.

In my second issue I was struck by the split personality of the magazine. Trying to be all things to all people it managed to reduce the impact of Harvey Milk and his street radicals to tips on fashion. Then they covered the push for equality by publishing a piece by James Kirchick titled Play Nice Folks, that chastised all us nasty gays for daring to be upset about continuing inequality and the lies of the right wing.

“Other aspects of the response to Prop. 8 have been similarly counterproductive. Looking at photos of the protests, I cringed every time I saw a poster with the equation prop. 8 = hate. A group of activists started a website titled Californians Against Hate, which lists donors to the Yes on 8 campaign. Of course, much of what is said about gay people could be qualified as hate speech. But not every argument against gay marriage is hateful.”

Kirkchick goes on to remind us all of the advances of African-Americans and telling us they had reason to boycott and we don’t.

What is so funny about this article, despite it’s incredible naivete and, yes, barely concealed self-hate is that later in the magazine the Advocate runs a piece entitled Stonewall 3.0.

In this article they talk about the backlash after Prop 8 and the way it has re-energized the fight for equality. The subtitle crows: “As protestors continue to hit the street in favor of marriage equality, they’re struck by a realization that could be the key to their strength: This is the first generation of gay activists who doesn’t have to fight a backlash from the people who came before them.”

That’s nice. Unfortunately, Charles Kaiser who wrote the piece, wasn’t aware that pages before his that backlash would be evident in Kirchick’s article calling them out with such statements as: “It seems that many gays, especially those living in liberal cocoons (that is, most gay writers and the gay rights establishment), take an all-or-nothing approach.”

I suppose there will always be the Goodstein’s out there, ironically the man who took The Advocate to national prominence and fought tooth and nail against gays who dared to take on the Democratic party establishment to which he was beholden.

Of course, after these two brief forays into debate the magazine sunk once more into tips on how to watch the Jonas Brothers with tween nieces and nephews, celebrity profiles, travel tips, and decorating tips.

Could it be that Goodstein lives on in the halls at The Advocate in the person of James Kirchick, urging us all to just sit in the back of the bus and wait while we dream of how to decorate our cute apartment and watch Dancing with the Stars and making campy comments? Seems that way.

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Hippie Heaven

Hair (musical)Image via Wikipedia

Over at Michael Emmanuel's Music and Art, he reports that at dawn on February 14, 2009 there will be a very special alignment of planets:
At dawn on 14th February the day dedicated to St Valentine, the patron saint of Love, the Moon in Libra enters the seventh house of relationships. And Jupiter and Mars are aligned in Aquarius in the twelfth house of spiritual transformation.

If that sounds vaguely familiar you might recall that specific alignment mentioned in a song from Hair, "The Age of Aquarius":

When the Moon is in the seventh house
and Jupiter aligns with Mars.

Then peace will guide the planets
and love will steer the stars

Pretty cool, huh? Especially on the day dedicated to love. So, in honor of the Age of Aquarius and this magical alignment I give you some music to remind you that despite this cynical age, the beauty and hope of the "Generation of Love" can still reign...

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Marriage Equality on Shaman's Hand


A Call for Investigation of Arpaio

I've covered the maniacal exploits of Joe Arpaio the sheriff of Maricopa County, AZ before. From his budget busting obsession with dark skinned people to his arrest of people daring to oppose his failed policies at council meetings to transporting dangerous criminals on public transportation to his media whore-Chuck Norris wannabe TV show, we've watched in awe the stupidity flowing from the MCSD and been flabbergasted by voters who continually elect a man who brings them over 2700 lawsuits for human rights violations, week long response times to rapes and murders, and a backlog of serious felony warrants that has ground the judicial system to a halt.

Instead he spends his time rounding up "illegal" immigrants. When Joe says "illegal" what he really means is anyone who has brown skin and a Spanish sounding last name. He grabs 'em all and worries about sorting them out later.

Now, he has erected his own GITMO in the Desert. Bertha Lewis of ACORN has some scary details of what the people of Maricopa County are letting happen in their own backyards:

Sheriff Arpaio - The Bull Connor of the 21st Century

Friends, there are some things that cannot go unchallenged. They are affronts to human dignity and to what it means to live in America.

Yesterday one of those things happened in Maricopa County, Arizona, the mega-county that contains Phoenix. In a move that smacks of the treatment of detainees in Guantanamo Bay and that harks back to the days of the chain gang in the South, the Sheriff of Maricopa County, Joe Arpaio, is clustering 200 undocumented inmates of the County Jail in their own special tent city. The tent city is surrounded by an electric fence, further bringing home the treatment of human being as chattel. The Phoenix New Times has a compelling story detailing yesterdays outrage.

We cannot let this stand. We are circulating a petition that asks Congressman John Conyers, the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, to hold hearings into this latest outrage and the long history of abuse carried out by Sheriff Arpaio.

What makes this move especially troubling is the Sheriff’s determination to expand his tent city to accommodate up to 2500 prisoners, an indication of the scope of his determination to continue his devastating policies of racial profiling, retaliatory arrests aimed at silencing

Fidelity... great video!

"Fidelity": Don't Divorce... from Courage Campaign on Vimeo.

Have Hope: Love Will Prevail!

Crossposted from Rainbowfootsoldiers.com:

Let’s face it. The reason the Christian Right tries so hard to strip LGBT couples of rights has nothing to do with “protecting” marriage as an “institution.” If they had ever cared for marriage as an institution they would not have a 50%+ divorce rate. If they were worried about the sanctity of marriage they would not allow children to marry while drunk at chapels in Vegas.

KissImage by Ko:(char *)hook via Flickr

No, the whole point of opposing our equal access to legal marriage is that they somehow think that by continually making us second class without rights that they can convince us all to “go straight” and abandon our sexual orientation and take up theirs.

They accuse us of recruiting but they continually try to convert people by force. They use our own government against us.

In California on March 5, the Supreme Court will take up the issue of whether Ken Starr, in the pay of the Mormon church and their allies at Saddleback Church and others should be allowed to divorce tens of thousands of legally married people in the state.

The Religious Right thinks this will show all us Gay people who’s in charge and thereby they will be able to destroy our relationships and our love. They think that by arguing that they have the right to vote on the emotional and legal attachments of others that they can assert their superiority and seeing the error of our ways we will all suddenly abandon our own orientations and join them in heterosexual relationship statistically doomed to failure over half the time.

But, no matter what they do. No matter how many anti-marriage laws the pass. No matter how many Kenneth Starrs dishonestly argue their cases in court, they cannot destroy love. We will go on. We will continue to love one another. We will always fight them in the legislatures, in the streets, and in the courts. We will continue to stand for the transcendence of love while they fall behind the march of history and the evolution of the human soul.

We will prevail. The road may be long. The battles may be many and we may not win them all, indeed we may not win most. But, in the end we will prevail. Love will go on. Love will always conquer fear and superstition!

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Blogthings - Are You a Dumb American?

I was bored and someone had posted a link to this site on Facebook so I decided to kill a little time trying a few of the quizzes.

Imagine my surprise to come across one called "Are You a Dumb American?" Of course, I had to try it out.

As you'll note from the picture above, the person creating the "Are You a Dumb American?" quiz must be a dumb American. The first question asks:

"What's so special about 1776?"

Our answers to choose from are:
a. It's the year the Pilgrims landed
b. It's the year of the American Revolution
c. It's the year George Washington became President
d. It's the year the Constitution was written

Unfortunately, there is no "e. none of the above."

Yes, to the poor dumb benighted soul who wrote the Dumb American quiz you manged to get your own quiz answers wrong.

You were probably going for b or d but you're still wrong.

The American Revolution began in 1775 and lasted until 1783 when the Treaty of Paris was signed.

You might have had the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence confused and been trying for d. However, the Declaration of Independence written by Thomas Jefferson in 1776 is not the same as the Constitution of the United States of American written primarily by James Madison in 1787.

So, sorry to tell whomever dreamed up this quiz that they are indeed a "Dumb American."

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