Archive for October, 2009

>Ex-gay pushback

October 31, 2009

>This is background for what you will hear next week about so-called “ex-gay” therapies, which have been discredited by every professional organization.

  • American Psychiatric Association (“the risks…are great” and include “self destructive behavior,” and “reinforces self hatred…already experienced by the patient”)
  • American Psychological Association (“so-called conversion therapy is not supported by the science”)
  • American Medical Association (“oppose any psychiatric treatment, such as ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapy”)
  • American Counseling Association (supports “appropriate interventions in order to counteract bias that is based on ignorance or unfounded beliefs about same gender sexual orientation)
  • American Academy of Pediatrics (Therapy directed specifically at changing sexual orientation is contraindicated…provokes guilt and anxiety while having little or no potential for achieving changes in orientation)
  • National Association of Social Workers (No data demonstrate that reparative or conversion therapies are effective, and in fact they may be harmful).

We believe that truth wins out, and here are the facts. Gay teens are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers, and are at higher risk of dropping out of school, being kicked out of their homes, and turning to life on the streets for survival. They are at risk because their distress is a direct result of the hatred and prejudice that surround them, not because of their inherently gay or lesbian identity orientation.

Next week several events will take place in Birmingham regarding an ex-gay ministry. Watch this site, facebook, examiner.com, and the news for more information.

Thank you Mitchell Gold, Wayne Besen.

Update in Bessemer. Aaron Killings and Denise Blue Poe are back on the job. No explanation given.

>Weekly wrap

October 30, 2009

>If you’ve missed me…I’ve been at a loss for words since Larry Langford was convicted. It’s not the conviction that has me baffled, its what his wife, Melva said:

Only in Alabama can a black man not get a fair trial.

Then her husband agreed:

They struck as many blacks off that jury as they could.

Oh, well, my response to that will be forthcoming, probably in the form of a Western Tribune column. I’m trying to avoid a letter writer’s bait that has been dangled in front of me. You know…if not, see the notes on my facebook page.

So on to other subjects.

This has to be just about the quickest response to one of my columns I have ever seen. This column was printed on Tuesday and posted on Wednesday, and then the next day the Senate voted to confirm Dr. Regina Benjamin as U. S. Surgeon General.


Glad to know that Senate republicans are reading my column.

Of course their quick action may have also been because they got a tongue lashing from Senate majority leaders Harry Reid.

Late last week, President Obama declared a national emergency because of the flu
outbreak, Mr. Reid noted, adding: “Unfortunately, though, right now we have no
permanent surgeon general in place. And the reason is as simple as it is
mind-boggling: Republicans in the Senate refuse to confirm President Obama’s
exceptionally qualified nominee for this job.”

In addition to Dr. Benjamin, Mr. Reid singled out Dr. Tara O’Toole, who would oversee bioterrorism defense at the Department of Homeland Security. “For that position, President Obama nominated an expert in combating both pandemics and bioterror attacks,” Mr. Reid said, adding: “Imagine that: Americans are bracing against a flu epidemic here at home and threats of terrorism from abroad, the President nominated someone highly experienced in both of those areas, and Republicans are saying no.”

Congratulation to Dr. Benjamin.

In Bessemer, the Western Tribune is reporting that city attorney Charlie Waldrep has fired two of its attorneys, Aaron Killings and Denise Blue Poe.

That might throw a wrench into…well, let’s just wait and see.

Update: Aaron Killings and Denise Blue Poe Are back on the job.

>Celebrate!!!!

October 28, 2009

>Be sure to read my Western Tribune column that follows.

It’s time to celebrate.

In my Western Tribune column on November 19, 2008 , I made the following prediction:

“Barack Obama may not immediately grant all of our wishes, but I would be willing to bet that the first legislation that mentions sexual orientation to be passed and signed by a president will occur within the first year of his administration. And then we will be on the way to a nation that values each of its citizens.”

Moments ago, that prediction came true. President Obama has signed legislation enacting the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

It took 11 years after the murder of Matthew Shepard and and James Byrd, Jr before this legislation was signed.

Thankfully we now have a president who supports (however slowly) our community, unlike the previous president who…well we won’t even bring that up.

To see what the gay community must do to see that equality is reached, go here.

Locally, in Birmingham, we can celebrate because the Board of Education has passed a policy on Anti-Bullying that includes sexual orientation, gender identity and expression!!! The first of its kind in the state. Thanks to board member Howard Bayless for leading the way on this. Will Bessemer follow suit?

Now, if we can just get a verdict in the Larry Langford trial.

Update: Langford guilty on all counts. Carole Smitherman is now mayor of Birmingham. Let’s see about electing Patrick Cooper.

Here’s a video from my college years. Three Dog Night

>Western Tribune column October 28, 2009 Party of No

October 28, 2009

>Western Tribune column today

The party of “no” will be left behind

I’m beginning to wonder why we trust our health care to insurance companies, and why anyone would trust the Republicans to lead on this issue.

We are in the middle of an H1N1 flu pandemic, and seasonal flu season has not even started yet. The H1N1 flu is affecting and killing people in different age groups than the seasonal flu.

The surgeon general holds a key position in educating the public on health issues, and presumably if we had one she could be at work during the current pandemic.

But the top Republican on the senate health committee, Michael Enzi, has indicated he will block the confirmations of Dr. Regina Benjamin and other top health picks from moving forward because of a so-called gag order on health insurance companies that would prevent them from telling their views on health care legislation.

Even after the Obama administration retreated on the order, Enzi is still working to stall the nominees.

Members of the party of “no,” the Republicans, claim health care decisions should be between a patient and his or her doctor. They say they do not want the government involved.

Yet they are fine with insurance companies making decisions about an individual’s care. On an almost daily basis we hear examples of such practices.

A friend of mine had a drug prescribed by a physician, and the pharmacy would not fill it because the insurance company wanted it changed to another drug. Not a generic. Another drug.

I requested a refill of a prescription from a pharmacy one day before I was to run out because I was leaving town. The pharmacy had no problem with filling it, but my insurance company would not pay because I was filling the prescription a day early.

Insurance companies have refused to cover babies who were too fat, and now refuse to cover those who are too thin.

The television and the internet are full of stories of people who have been denied a procedure, or denied coverage, because an insurance company decided so.

Yet when the government is involved, as with the veterans and the seniors, the decisions seem to be made by the doctors and patients.

The party of “yes, we can” is going to pass health care reform with a public option that is now being described as “Medicare, part E (for everyone).

And the party of “no” will be left behind.

>Craziness

October 26, 2009

>There is an effort underway to ban divorce in California, based on the same arguments used to pass Prop 8, which took away the right of couples to marry in that state. Namely, protecting traditional marriage, and protecting the children.

Live blogging from Lala’s trial here , not much going on yet. It’s 9:51 and the attorneys are just now returning to the courtroom from the judge’s chambers. Here we go!

Why in the world would the senate even consider health care reform with a public option where states can opt out. How fair is that? I live in a state where one company has a practical monopoly, and where the public option option is desperately needed. But we are also probably one that would opt out. So where does that leave us? Separate but unequal, that’s where.

We need a public option. Plain and simple.

Did you know that slavery existed long after the Civil War in Alabama? Especially in Bibb, Jefferson and Shelby counties. More on this later.

The Tea Party Express is coming to Birmingham on November 9. At noon, at Linn Park. I hope that good supporters of health care reform and those who support our president will be there to contrast with the crazies.

>Jefferson Jackson Dinner 2009

October 23, 2009

>The Jefferson Jackson dinner was held last night, and as usual, elected officials and candidates from Bessemer or who want to represent Bessemer were there. State senator Priscilla Dunn and her husband Grover Dunn, tax collector for the Bessemer Cutoff, were there.

Claire Mitchell, aiming to take senator Dunn’s place in the house, was there also.

As was Terri Sewell, hoping to take the place of Artur Davis as AL-07 representative.

Of course Davis and his competition, Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks were there, and most other elected democrats.

The big hit of the night was West Virginia governor Joe Manchin (who grew up neighbors with Nick Saban), who reminded us that politics was like driving a car. Park and neutral you don’t go anywhere, but R, like republican takes you in reverse and D, like democrat, drives you forward.

He also made a quip about Abraham Lincoln probably being a closet democrat. That’s not the only closet Mr. Lincoln may have hidden in if you believe a recent book, which I mentioned here, titled The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln by C. A. Tripp.

Manchin mentioned 5 key points to success, especially concerning children.

  1. Give them unconditional love.
  2. Provide a safe place for children. A home, or a grandparent’s house, a school, or other place at times.
  3. Give them a healthy start and teach a healthy lifestyle.
  4. Teach them a livable skill.
  5. Have them grow to be a loving adult who is willing to give something back to the world.

Good advice, for both republicans and democrats.

>Good things

October 22, 2009

>Today I am waiting on a call from the Jefferson County sheriff’s department, but that’s a good thing.

U. S. HUD announced that they will implement non-discrimination policies so that LGBT individuals and couples are treated fairly in housing and FHA loans, and that is a good thing. That means here in Bessemer, as well.

Tonight is the Jefferson Jackson dinner at which democrats eat well and meet and greet and listen to party stars, and that will be a good thing. West Virginia governor Joe Manchin will be the speaker.

Paving 18th, 19th and 20th streets in Bessemer will begin within 30 days, and that is a good thing. Except it costs $13 million for 27 blocks. That’s almost $50,000 a block. Are you in the wrong business? I am.

UAB is offering same-sex partner insurance benefits, reported today in the Birmingham News, but reported weeks ago on Examiner.com. Now the University of Alabama is looking into offering benefits as well, and that would be a good thing. Auburn? (My call to Auburn’s Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual caucus have not been returned yet).

Christmas is 64 days away. That is a good thing. (Don’t think this display is complete. It will be fabulous when it is completed).

Here is the video that helped inform the UAB community about the need for fairness in benefits policies. The article says the video was not a factor in making the decision, but we know better.

>Endorsements

October 21, 2009

>My Western Tribune column (same-sex marriage) follows this post.

You can waste your day but have fun keeping up with LaLa’s trial, with live continuous updates by Kyle Whitmire (Birmingham Weekly) here.

Terri Sewell, running to replace Artur Davis in AL-07, has recieved the endorsement of the National Organization for Women PAC.

This is her first national endorsement, and it highlights her support from women.

Sewell would be the first woman elected to congress from our state.

“NOW PAC is proud to endorse Terri Sewell in her groundbreaking campaign. We are confident she will be a strong leader in Congress for full equality for women and girls,” said NOW PAC Chair Terry O’Neill.

In the governor’s race, former Birmingham mayor Richard Arrington has endorsed Ron Sparks. This is surprising considering that Arrington, in his own words, “I have spent most of my life making decisons based on race.”

He says his endorsement is not anti-Davis, rather it is pro-Sparks. But he also has questions about the effect Davis at the top of the ticket might have on democrats chances down the ticket and on the control of the House and state Senate.

I giggled a little bit reading that the Davis camp said voters “will also make their own independent judgements” about who to vote for, while promoting the endorsement of their candidate by Judge U. W. Clemon. Should we make up our minds independent of his opinion, too?

Certainly, we all make independent decisions about who to vote for, I hope, after learning about the candidates and seeing if they share values and have a plan for whatever office they are running for.

>Western Tribune column, October 21, 2009, Same-Sex Marriage

October 21, 2009

>This Western Tribune column might turn some heads in Bessemer.

*****

I keep having to remind people that we are living in 2009 and every once in a while I remember why. Earlier this month a Louisiana justice of the peace refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple. This was out of concern for any children the couple might have, the justice said.

If he were to look around in the 21st century, he would realize that a child of an interracial couple can achieve the two highest honors in the country – president of the United States and American Idol winner. Barack Obama was elected in 2008 and Jordin Sparks was voted American Idol winner in 2007.

Loving v Virginia was the civil rights case that legalized interracial marriage in 1967. But did you know that the ban on interracial marriage up to that point was based on an Alabama case, Pace v Alabama, in which the Supreme Court affirmed that Alabama’s ban on miscegenation was constitutional?

Tony Pace, a black man, and Mary Cox, a white woman were actually charged with fornication and were imprisoned because of their love.

The court at that time condemned all sexual relations between whites and blacks regardless of marital status. The court argued that it was the duty of the state to protect the institution of marriage, similar to arguments used today against same sex marriage.

Details of Tony Pace and Mary Cox have been lost to history, but we can assume they knew their actions were illegal, yet their desire for intimacy was strong enough that they ignored the law.

There is no law against intimate relations between same sex couples. Some seem to be unaware that the sodomy laws in the United States were struck down by the Supreme Court in Lawrence v Texas, in 2003.

As a result, there is no legal basis for the various bans on same sex marriage across the nation, other than the anti-marriage amendments themselves. Our own state of Alabama, sadly, passed an anti-marriage amendment in 2006, thus adding to a constitution in which a discriminatory statute must feel very comfortable.

I know several same sex couples now living in Alabama who were legally married in other states. At some point, their marriages will be recognized here.

As Lady Gaga recently said regarding equality in our country, “It is not equal if it’s sometimes.”

When equality is achieved, it will be full time.

>Marching for Equality by Zach Childree

October 20, 2009

>My friend Zach Childree marched in Washington for Equality along with 200,000 others, including my partner and me. I have posted five accounts of the event, and may come up with more, on Examiner. (See what Julian Bond said here. See what Dan Choi did and said here. See what Urvashi Vaid said here. See what Lady Gaga Said here. See some of the signs at the march here).

Zach wrote a piece for the Chanticleer, the student newspaper at Jacksonville State University, where he is editor-in-chief. the piece is also posted on his blog, Sweet Homo Alabama.

Marching for equality

by Zach Childree

My feet hurt.

They hurt because I did a lot of walking this weekend during my trip to Washington, DC. I walked around the national mall, up and down stairs at the Smithsonian and at the Lincoln memorial.

My feet don’t just hurt because I walked, My feet also hurt because I marched in the National Equality March.

My partner, David, and I and roughly 200,000 other lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people took to the streets of our nation’s capital with a simple message for the nation- we demand equality. We demand to be treated with dignity and respect and to be granted the same rights and responsibilities as straight Americans.

Right now, LGBT Americans in many states, including Alabama, can be fired from their jobs just for being honest about who they are.

LGBT Americans cannot serve openly in the military, nor can we marry the person of our choosing.

Right now, LGBT Americans are second-class citizens. We are denied the right to visit our partners in the hospital because the state doesn’t recognize the validity of our relationships.

A gay or lesbian couple could be together for decades, but the federal government still calls them legal strangers.

In some states, such as Florida, being gay means you can’t adopt children.

That it’s 2009 and the people of the United States still allow such a miscarriage of justice to continue is a travesty.

While President Obama has continually promised to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell as well as the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, the LGBT community is still waiting to see action from the administration or even a suggestion as to when those promises will be fulfilled. We’ve grown tired of waiting for full equality.

We marched because we’re tired of hearing empty promises from the man we helped put in the White House.

We’re tired of hearing about another lesbian who wasn’t allowed to see her partner as she lay dying, alone, in a hospital.

We’re tired of hearing about yet another gay bashing where a young man lies bleeding and dying in a gutter. We’re tired of being told our relationships are somehow less valuable than straight ones.

We’re tired of watching family after family being legally dissolved because of the will a deceitful campaign misusing religious ideas.

We grow weary of hearing lies told about us from the floors of state legislatures around the country.

We marched because our voices won’t stay in our throats any more. They are bursting forth with a mighty yell as we demand equality for all Americans.

We marched on the streets of our nation’s capital on National Coming Out Day to stand together as one people and burn down the closet doors once and for all.

We marched for LGBT youth around the country who come out each year to be sentenced to homelessness by religious parents. We marched to bring those kids hope. Hope that one day they may come out and not be persecuted for who they are.

In 1978, San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected to public office in California, was assassinated along with Mayor George Moscone by Dan White, a former supervisor.A few months before, Harvey sat down with a tape recorder to dictate his thoughts in case he was killed. On this tape, he told a story about receiving a phone call from a young gay man in Altoona, Pennsylvania who had just heard of Milk’s election in California. The young man thanked Milk for giving him hope.

Milk’s eerie words echoed in my mind as we marched toward the White House this weekend. “It’s not about personal gain, not about ego, not about power – it’s about giving those young people out there in Altoona, Pennsylvania’s hope,” Milk said.” You gotta give them hope.”

We marched for those young people.

We marched for Harvey.

We marched for hope.

My feet hurt, but I’ve never been more proud of my bruises than I am today.