Saturday, December 13, 2008

Light Up the Night in One Week

Light Up the Night For Equality is in one week and more events are in development. Check the calendar below for details.

In Los Angeles, after the vigil, our friends at the Antebellum Gallery are extending the Prop 8 - inspired artwork exhibit, "Who Do You Love, Who Do You H8?" for all, lasting from 8pm-10pm. See the calendar for further details on where.

If you know of more activities in your area, please contact us and we'll be more than happy to add it to the events calendar.

Friday, December 12, 2008

According to Pat Boone, We're "Sexual Jihadists"!

Pat Boone, crooner, TV star and evangelical is, believe it or not, still around. And though I normally wouldn't want to make that fact any more prominent in our collective cultural consciousness, the man has grabbed my attention with a pretty ignorant albeit innocuous editorial. See his insipid remarks here.

Boone's attempt to anger us and stir a response is sadly apparent. So why do I bother even posting this, you ask? Because it made me laugh, and as a recent study found, happiness amongst friends is contagious. I want to further the epidemic.

11 Facts About Rights

This was sent to me in an email:

In November, California voters approved Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage, thereby overturning the state Supreme Court decision that gave gay couples the right to wed just months ago.

Why are civil unions not enough for gay rights activists? The federal government accords 1,138 benefits and responsibilities based on marital status, not on civil union status. A few of those benefits are unpaid leave to care for an ill spouse, social security survivor benefits and spousal benefits, and the right not to testify against one's spouse, among others.

The District of Columbia and 47 states have anti-hate crime laws, however only 24 states and the District of Columbia include sexual orientation in their legislation.

According to FBI hate crime statistics, there were 7,163 reported hate crimes in 2005. 14.2% of which were based on sexual orientation. Most were violent in nature.


Last year, both houses of Congress passed a historic hate crimes bill known as the Matthew Shepard Act, which would have outlawed hate crimes based on both sexual orientation and gender identity. But the legislation never made it to President Bush's desk because of his veto threat.

While 19 states and the District of Columbia have laws barring discrimination based on sexual orientation, and many cities offer similar protections, federal law didn't offer such a shield until November of 2007, though it did bar discrimination based on race, religion, ethnicity, sex, age, disability and pregnancy. The bill, the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, was the latest version of legislation that Democrats have pursued since 1974. To ensure passage of the bill, Democrats were forced to remove language that would have granted protections to transsexual and transgender individuals by barring discrimination based on sexual identity, a move that infuriated some gay-rights groups.

In the U.S., 75% of students have no state laws to protect them from harassment and discrimination in school based on their sexual orientation. In public high schools, 97% of students report regularly hearing homophobic remarks from their peers.

Of the estimated 1.6 million homeless American youth, between 20% and 40% identify as LGBT. In one study, 26% of gay teens who came out to their parents/guardians were told they must leave home; LGBT youth also leave home due to physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Also, LGBT youth report they are threatened, belittled and abused at shelters by staff as well as other residents.

While gay couples are seen on TV shows more often than in the past (eg. Luke and Noah, the young gay couple on "As The World Turns"), affection between the two is restricted to holding hands, playing with one another's neck scarves and sharing meaningful looks. This wouldn't be odd if heterosexual couples were not shown kissing on a regular basis.

Despite the shortage of blood at banks across the country, gay donors are being turned away. Men who have had sexual contact with a man, even once, since 1977 are automatically disqualified. The agency has had its policy on men who have sexual contact with men since 1983, when the risk of AIDS through transfusion was recognized. The FDA reaffirmed the policy in May of 2007, despite improvements in testing and increased susceptibility of heterosexuals to HIV. All donated blood is tested for HIV, but the virus can go undetected until the immune system has produced a testable amount of antibodies. That window period, according to the FDA, would pose a "small but definite increased risk to people who receive blood transfusion if the policy were changed."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Threat of Being Unorganized

Newsweek continues to cover the resurgence of the gay rights movement, calling it "Gay Rights 2.0". I regularly find more LGBT coverage at Newsweek than any other on-line news source, and recently I found this article, "Gay Rights 2.0", examining the new activist generation, and whether or not they're prepared to take over the leadership role from the older generation.

I read this article and took it as a warning that if we do not organize ourselves soon, in particular Southern California, the hot bed of this new movement, we're going to lose momentum and lose any grounds that we have gained. Or, even worse, have less than when we began.

As I already reported earlier this week, two town hall meetings were held in Los Angeles this past weekend. Though very effective and well done, the attendance could've been better. And as I have already discussed with the coordinators, more now needs to be done about what's next, keeping the community motivated with action and less talk. We're running out of time.

Plans are already in the works for early January ACTION meetings and coalition building (stay tuned - the cogs are indeed churning). We need the community to remain involved and motivated, including leaders and founders of all the different groups to put time aside to come together and form a coalition. As already stated, there are plans to reach out to you and inform you of these meetings, so stay tuned and participate.

This is a grassroots movement, and without a community, there is no grassroots. During hard economic times, holidays and political setbacks, it's hard to keep going, to make the sacrifices needed, to find the strength and energy to keep up the fight. Yet, these are historical times, and it's our chance to make a world of difference, not only for us, but for future generations. We need new leadership, we need this fresh blood to keep flowing. Are you prepared to join the fight?

A Good Reminder of Our Activist History

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Thank you, Jon Stewart!

Today is DAY without a GAY

To find out what's happening in your area, visit Day Without A Gay website or check out the calendar below.

For Los Angeles, check out Equal Roots events for details.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Iowa Court Hears Same-Sex Marriage Case Today

UPDATE: This morning Lambda Legal sent out this message, inviting everyone to a teleconference regarding the Iowa Supreme Court hearing their cases for same-sex marriage.

BREAKING NEWS: This morning, Lambda Legal argued our historic marriage case, Varnum v. Brien,
before the Iowa Supreme Court. "We hope that the Court breathes life into the Iowa Constitution's promise of equality," said Camilla Taylor, Senior Staff Attorney and chief architect of the lawsuit.

The case was argued this morning on behalf of Lambda Legal's six plaintiff couples and their children by co-counsel Dennis Johnson, former Iowa Solicitor General and partner at the firm Dorsey and Whitney.

Lambda Legal would like to invite you to a telephone briefing this Thursday, December 11, at 2:00 pm EST (1:00 pm CST, 11:00 am PST) to learn more about this landmark case. We are making history again, and we would like for you to share in this historic moment on the road to marriage equality.

In August of 2007, a district court ruled that denying marriage to same–sex couples violates the Iowa Constitution. But the court granted a stay of the decision pending appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court. In March of 2008, we filed our brief with the Iowa Supreme Court, which was joined by 15 friend–of–the–court briefs supporting same-sex couples seeking the right to marry and the right of their children to have their families treated fairly.

Ingrid Olson and her partner Reva Evans are plaintiffs in the case with their son Jamison. Today Ingrid said: "My grandparents were married 68 years and Reva's grandparents were married 57 years. My family values the importance of marriage and commitment, and I learned that lesson very early — it's a lesson I want to pass on to our son."

Please join us for our one-hour briefing Thursday, December 11 at 2:00 pm EST (1:00 pm CST). Our Senior Staff Attorney and architect of the marriage case, Camilla Taylor, and Dennis Johnson, former Iowa Solicitor General and partner at the firm Dorsey and Whitney, will provide an overview of this latest case for marriage equality in Iowa.

Here are the call-in instructions:

Step 1: Call 888-640-7748

Step 2: Enter code 958621#

Questions can be emailed before and during the call to

(We will not be able to respond to all questions during the call, but we will try to respond later in writing to any questions that we do not have time to address.)

With your support, we are making history. Please consider making a year–end donation and join us this Thursday, December 11, to hear how your support is making a difference!


The Iowa Supreme Court will hear a same-sex marriage lawsuit brought against the state today by six same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses because they were gay. This case "could echo throughout the nation" says USA Today.

If the judges rule in favor of the plaintiffs, Iowa law would make it much more difficult to overturn through a ballot initiative than in California, making Iowa the first mid-western state to allow same-sex marriage.

See local station KCCI article and video on today's session. Also, visit local LGBT Iowa advocacy group, One Iowa for more information and how you can get involved and offer support.

A Letter from Sen. Barbara Boxer

In response to Mr. Freidman's imploring of Sen. Barbara Boxer to support same-sex marriage, the US. Senator sent this encouraging letter.

Dump DOMA!

Want to tell the federal congress how you feel about the Defense of Marriage Act? Well, you can! Go to and tell Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi that it's time to get rid of it!

A New TV Ad Campaign

As many of has have already said (or yelled), we were pretty upset with the No on 8 tv ads that ran prior to the election. The ads showed no LGBT people, nor our kids, which would have showed Californians that in fact, we're not much different than they. The Yes on 8 campaign was about protecting the family - well, what about our families?

We're finally going to address this, and it will be made possible through the Get to Know Us First ad campaign that will start airing in January.

This is our chance to show our faces, our kids, our families. The campaign needs your stories, your help in spreading the word, and donations. Go to their site and contribute in any or all of these capacities. It's time to show the world who we are.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The El Coyote Showdown - My Blog Report

UPDATE: Marjorie Christofferson, of the El Coyote, has tendered her resignation, and as of Saturday evening, was no longer employed as manager of the restaurant nor on its board of directors. She turned her resignation into her mother, Grace Salisbury, whose sister-in-law founded El Coyote in 1931.

Today's open brunch at the El Coyote (see post), hosted by Marjorie Christofferson, co-owner of the famous restaurant and popular hang out of the gay community, was intended for Marjorie to have a civil, open discussion with the gay community. She wanted to explain how she ended up donating to the Yes on 8 campaign, but many of the restaurant's gay regulars who attended and make up a majority of the establishment's patrons, vocally expressed their betrayal.


To put Marjorie's appearance in context, the meeting opened with one of the managers pleading with the group to realize that the restaurant is a separate entity than Marjorie, that is does NOT support Prop 8 and that it's more than 89 employees, several who are gay, have families that depend on their patronage. He mentioned that he has received three days of nasty phone calls, at work and at home, and he wanted to reiterate that Marjorie's personal decision did not reflect the restaurant's nor his.

The group immediately voiced its objection. One shouted, "She took our money and used it against us." And though they recognized the 89 employees and their families, "What about the 18,000 gay families disrupted by Prop 8?"

Bill Schoeppner, General Manager, informed that the restaurant itself intended to donate to both LAMDA and the Gay & Lesbian Social Center, and though this received applause, it was quickly pointed out that this wouldn't undo the harm of what Marjorie's personal donation had caused.

I don't believe this miasma was what they were hoping to bring Marjorie into, but they couldn't delay much longer. Marjorie, normally healthy and smiling, was overwhelmed with nerves. The past few days seems to have been torture, for she appeared frail and near hyperventilation, requiring the assistance of her two daughters to enter the room. After drinking some water, she apologized for needing to read from a prepared speech.

Marjorie began saying how "emotionally taken with all this," she has been, "sick at heart if I offended anyone in the gay community." Her voice shaking, she continued to say that the gay community was a "treasure to me and has been throughout my whole life." However, she went on to say that not everyone agrees with each others viewpoints, especially her own, even within her own restaurant.

Marjorie continued to defend the employees of her restaurant, begging the community to not take its anger out on them, for their livelihood depended on their patronage. It was she who donated, not them. "I've been a part of the Mormon church all my life. I responded to their request. It was a personal donation."

She went on to say that her aunt, Blanch March, founded the El Coyote to "create a caring atmosphere" for its patrons. Early on, before it was even well-known, she was aware of the "challenge and plight of gay individuals and always responded with love and empathy." El Coyote was to be a "healing place."

At this point, I noticed one of the employees, sharply dressed in a button down and tie, began to cry. His name is Alberto and has been waiting tables at El Coyote for over twenty years. As a gay employee, he feels a lot of confliction. "I feel bad. I'm with the gay community. But I'm a homeowner and I don't want to lose my job." When I asked about Marjorie, he told how she donated $2,000 for the AIDSWalk and went on to say, "I think she made a mistake, but she has apologized."

Yet the group never heard an apology from Marjorie before being walked out by her daughters, hardly fielding any questions. They said all they heard was an explanation. And it appears that wasn't enough.

Rocio, a waitress, tried to appease the group with tears in her eyes, saying when she started working at El Coyotoe years ago, it was "where I first saw so may gay people. They were nice." She believes she was led there by God, because just a few months later, her brother came out to her and working at the restaurant made all the difference in her response to his coming out.

Though the attendees expressed a lot of empathy towards the employees, they felt what Marjorie had done couldn't be changed. Or ignored.

Regan DuCasse stood up and spoke to the group. "As the only black person in the room, I feel betrayed." She said, just as Marjorie had always come up to them at their tables while they ate, smiling and asking how they were, many white people had smiled and treated her well only later to stab her in the back. She feels what Marjorie has done is just another betrayal. This last sentiment applied to what the whole group felt at that moment.

"Marjorie was in and out," Regan continued, referring to Marjorie's quick departure after her speech. "Her actions were cowardly. She didn't want to face the serious damage" she helped create.

So will there be a boycott? Though a consensus wasn't officially reached, one of the vociferous attendees was already out in front of the restaurant, holding up a sign and chanting the sins of Marjorie Christofferson, and in effect, El Coyote, for all on Beverly Blvd. to hear. And with the KTLA cameras recording it all nearby, it looks like all of Los Angeles is going to hear, too.

What are your thoughts? Should there be a boycott? Let's discuss.

Two Town Halls Held in LA This Past Weekend

Two town halls were held in West Hollywood, CA this past weekend, hosted by Equal Roots and Marriage Equality California consecutively.

The first, held at Plummer Park, featured speakers Robin Tyler, a pioneer in the gay civil rights, grassroots movement and is currently Executive Director of The Equality Campaign; Richard Zalvidar, President and Founder of The Wall Las Memorias Project; and Marshall Wong of API Equality.

Robin was one-half of one of the same-sex couples to sue the State of California for the right to marry, which brought about the May victory in the state. She spoke about her history in the gay rights movement, starting out when she was 16 in Canada holding up signs on streets corners that said, "Gay is good" to Manhattan, where she was beaten and accidentally arrested for being a "female impersonator." Along the way, she worked with Harvey Milk, helped organize several historical marches on Washington, and took on Anita Bryant. She called for the LGBT to flood the streets in March when the Supreme Court ruling on Prop 8 is given - either to say thank you for the repeal, or to protest Prop 8 being upheld. She spoke about handing off the torch to the younger generation, saying, "The Milk Generation and the new generation are now in sync. Welcome to the streets."


Marshall Wong, a native of Silver Lake, CA, a subdivision of Los Angeles, spoke about how his father wanted to buy a plot of land there in the 50s, and was told the realtor company's policy forbid the selling to non-whites. His father fought back and won, and the family moved in despite the locals filing a petition for them to leave. Marshall asked his father why he would still want to live there, and he responded, "Overtime, as they get to know us, they will see past their fears."

Marshall related this story to the LGBT community, saying now is a critical time where marching in West Hollywood won't change anything, but one-on-one contact and conversations will. Forming API to educate the Asian community, he said history was on our side, and that the LGBT community needs to focus on building bridges, even with those who do not appear to be our allies. He ended saying, "Victory will be ours."

Richard Zalvidar spoke next, focusing his message on mobilizing the LGBT community to build coalitions with other minority and straight groups. He said, "It's a give and take." The No on 8 campaign failed to reach out to the African American and Latino communities, and as a result, they've been branded homophobic, when in fact, they are not - they were just not asked to help. He said that we will never have enough votes unless we build a coalition, and to build coalitions, we must support others. He called on LGBT leaders to march with immigrant rights groups, to support other minority initiatives, so that when we need their support, they will be there for us. He called on the community to talk, to reach out and go beyond LGBT neighborhoods.

After the speakers finished, the attendees of the town hall split up into different committees of choice, including media, outreach, and leadership. (To find out how you can be involved, visit Equal Roots website.)

The Marriage Equality town hall, held the next day at West Hollywood Auditorium, was conducted in classic town hall fashion, with many from the community given a chance to speak up from the beginning. The meeting was split into two sessions: the first half was a venting session about what went wrong with Prop 8, the second half focused on actions and the future.

Many vented in the first half, one in particular saying, "Fancy ads aren't going to convince anyone [to change their minds]. It's going to be one-on-one. They need to see us," a reference to the No on 8 campaign ads that featured no gay people.

A Log Cabin Republican faced an irate audience when he stood up before them saying that gay Republicans are essential to victory, saying that in spite of the fact that they may not vote for the candidate of choice in the gay community, many still voted No, and that future campaigns shouldn't lean so far to the left.

A quick rebuttal was given that the No on 8 campaign was too conservative, tailoring itself to make conservatives happy by not fighting back, not getting in the face of our opponents, and keeping gays out of sight.

In the second half of the session, the focus was on the future and actions that should be taken. Many spoke about the groups they were forming, actions, and how to counteract what our opponents are working on now. Issues such as No Mob Veto ad, gay adoption, boycotts, sit-ins, LGBT community indifference or complacency, volunteering and manpower, and strategy were raised.

After the meeting ended, the energy did not die. And though a Christmas play was to be performed at the auditorium after the town hall, it was difficult to get the attendees to leave, many staying behind to network, discuss issues and even broke out into smaller meetings, going to coffeeshops or standing in circles, exchanging info, forming groups and planning actual actions. Many felt this was the birth of real strategy and action, and not just marching and rallying.

A panel of grassroots leaders were in attendance, including Robin Tyler again, Terry Leftgoff, Richard D. Jacobs of the Courage Campaign, Tori Osbourne, and Dr. Sylvia Rhue of the National Black Justice Coalition.

For information on more town halls, please see the calendar at the bottom of this blog.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Religious, Anti-Gay Full Page Ad in NY Times and MY Response

A religious coalition called has placed a full page ad in the NY Times condemning "the violence and intimidation being directed against the LDS or "Mormon" church, and other religious organizations - and even against individual believers - simply because they supported Proposition 8 . . ." calling it "an outrage that must stop."

They go on to say that, in regards to the LGBT demonstrations that "far too many, however, seem never to have been demonstrations in the first place, but more nearly mobs, seeking not to persuade but to intimidate." Even better: "Those who fail to condemn or seem to condone that intimidation are at fault as well."

BUT MY FAVORITE LINE OF ALL: "Let's be clear: even the crudest anti-religious propaganda isn't illegal, and may not constitutionally be outlawed. But IT'S NEVERTHELESS WRONG. IT HAS NO PLACE IN CIVILIZED SOCIETY."

OK, after reading this and being ENRAGED, I have calmed down SLIGHTLY and realized, wow, they have made this way too easy.

So now I have a message to YOU, the religious coalition that posted this ad:

First off - your name. No mob veto? We're a mob? We're a minority! We don't have enough to be a mob! Sure, there are a lot of us, and we do get attention, but our numbers don't even come close to yours. Actually, the constitution protects minorities, that would be us, from MOB RULE, which you are now a part of! You have acted as a mob to strip us, who don't have as much power as you, of our rights. And you try to make it sound as if YOU'RE the victims?!! You heartlessly and ruthlessly imposed your religious beliefs on us, and then turn around and act as if you're innocent victims?

Second, you decry some of the demonstrations, which I will remind you, are legal (just as your right to believe what you want to believe). Sorry if it's not up to par in your perception of civility, but if your right to worship was stripped away, would you just sit by quietly to maintain the civility of society? I already know you wouldn't. The history of religious wars tells me so. You refer to "thugs" who sent "white powder to terrorize a place of worship." You're right. They were thugs. So were the people who vandalized property. But out of THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS who protested, all you have to point to are a very few incidents. Miniscule number of people compared to the thousands that pointed out YOUR bigotry. So then you turn around and say that the whole movement is violent and out of hand? (And don't get me started on the Vatican's stand not to endorse the UN measure to decriminalize homosexuality, basically supporting the execution of gays just for being gay) Not only is that illogical, it's a lie, and doesn't that break one of the ten commandments that many respectful people hold dear, including you?

Third, you have the audacity to say that speaking out against religion is "wrong. It has no place in civilized society." Suddenly, you have the right to dictate what is right and wrong and what is civilized? Newsflash! This isn't a theocracy! You speak against religious wars as "wrong" and "dangerous". How very hypocritical. I guess religious wars are OK as long as you're the winning majority, right? What you're doing is forcing your beliefs on someone's personal life by stripping away the rights their government has already promised them, the government that has said they are a protected minority, based on your religious beliefs. You broke the law by going around the legislature, lied to the public in order to further your campaign of religion against a weaker group that doesn't agree with you. That sounds like a war to me.

I believe Jesus said, "Turn the other cheek." And though I wouldn't want you to step away from this situation so you can face what you did, your mission of "exposing and publicly shaming anyone who resorts to the rhetoric of anti-religious bigotry-against any faith, on any side of any cause, for any reason" is the exact behavior for which you're condemning the LGBT community.

You have the audacity to act above the fray that you caused and to feign victimization. We, the LGBT community, have experience victimization for thousands of years. We know victimization when we see it. And you, the actual bigots in this case, are not victims.

An Amazing Newsweek Article on the Bible and Marriage

I was working on an essay about what the Bible actually says in regards to homosexuality and its remarks on marriage. Having gone to a fundamental Christian college, where I had to study the exegesis and hermeneutics of the scripture, I thought I could dig through my old notes, reread an amazing book on the Bible and homosexuality, cobble something together that would inevitably get torn apart due to my admitted lack of knowledge, and come up with the essay.

This Newsweek Article, titled "Gay Marriage: Our Mutual Joy" just saved me a lot of work and criticism. I'll let it speak for itself.