Archive for the ‘Equality’ Category

>MLK, what do you say?

January 17, 2011

>Martin Luther King Jr. Day has been celebrated for 25 years, and I wonder what he would say today.

I attended the Martin Luther King Jr Unity Breakfast in Birmingham this morning. Several hundred people; black, white, male, female, straight, gay, were present. There was definitely diversity in the room. But was there equality? Would King be satisfied?

Those are easy questions to answer: No!

Years ago the buzz word for the gay community was “tolerance.”

But we quickly realized that tolerance still left room for indifference, even hatred, as one can tolerate the cold of winter, even if one hates the snow and ice. So acceptance was adopted as a goal, rather than tolerance.

Likewise, diversity was a concept that was aspired to, but just achieving diversity does not satisfy. One can place a diverse group of cookies; say, chocolate chip, raisin oatmeal, and peanut butter; on a platter and call the kids in and 9 out of 10 times the chocolate chip cookies will disappear first. The cookies are not treated equally. So, for people anyway, equality is what needs to be achieved, not just diversity.

At the MLK breakfast, a film documentary about King and his effects on our city was shown. Rev. Scott Douglas, executive director of Greater Birmingham Ministries was one of the people interviewed in the film. “Alabama has never voluntarily stepped into the future,” he said.

Douglas is a former member of the Board of Directors of Equality Alabama, so I am sure he would not mind me expanding his words to reflect the challenges confronting the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community in the state. The ultimate goal of equality for the gay community is seen to be marriage, and Rev. Douglas and others would agree that we don’t expect Alabama to voluntarily acknowledge that right.

Birmingham Mayor William Bell was the keynote speaker at the event. He urged the audience to “confront those in Montgomery (and elsewhere) who are holding you back.” This is precisely what Equality Alabama is going to do during the next year.

Mayor Bell also said that we may say, “Woe is us,” because Republicans have taken over the state legislature, or “Woe is us,” because Republicans have overtaken the House in Congress. But, he said, we should really be saying, “Woe is us,” if we sit and do nothing, which is often the case.

Many in the LGBT community “sit and do nothing” to help the cause of Equality. One thing you can do without having to become an activist or a political wonk is to tell your story. Tell your story to your family and to your neighbors and co-workers or fellow students. Let them know how discrimination has affected you, and how your life is not equal to theirs.

Here’s a start. You can be fired from your job for the simple reason that you are gay.

You can be kicked out of your apartment or denied a mortgage simply because you are gay.

You can be denied inheritance of your partner’s possessions simply because you are gay (including the home you might have shared for decades – you could be out on the street).

If you are a student, you can be harassed or bullied, simply because you are gay, or perceived to be.

If you are a parent, you can be denied custody or visitation rights simply because you are gay.

If you aspire to be a parent, you can be denied the right to foster or adopt simply because you are gay.

If you are partnered, you can be denied tax breaks worth thousands of dollars a year that a straight married couple enjoys, simply because you are gay.

The list goes on.

Equality Alabama
will be looking for LGBT people who are willing to share their stories. Watch for an announcement from Equality Alabama about this in the near future, regarding gay parents. (Also watch for changes to our web site, which we are in the process of updating.)

In the meantime, remember the words of Dr. King as we fight for equality.

“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom.”

>Prop 8: the ruling

August 5, 2010

>You gotta love the 14th amendment of the U. S. Constitution.

Section 1.

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

That clause should mean that my partner and I shall be able to marry, just like all three of my brothers have, to the person I love.

It may take a few years, but that will be the law of the land in Alabama before its over with.

Yesterday, Judge Vaughn Walker wrote:

“…Prop 8 both unconstitutionally burdens the exercise of the fundamental right to marry and creates an irrational classification on the basis of sexual orientation.”

And more.

Here is the entire ruling (I’m having a hard time loading the whole thing here. Come back if you can’t see it now).

Prop 8 Ruling

I love it when people express their feelings.

Here’s Sam Harris.

Remember, I posted a video by Sam after Prop 8 was passed. He expressed his feeling at that time also.

Anyway, the ruling is a huge victory, if you are interested in Equality and Liberty. I will be writing more about this for a magazine!

The confirmation of Elena Kagan today is a great thing, as well.

>Jobs, jobs jobs

January 11, 2010

>Jobs are coming to Bessemer.

The Birmingham News is reporting that a Pennsylvania company will create 80 new jobs with a new plant in Bessemer near the CSX railroad hub in Interstate Industrial park. This is at the former site of the Pullman-Standard rail car manufacturing plant.

Update: By the way, the Bham News claims “News Exclusive,” when in reality this was reported and printed in the Western Tribune on December 2, 2009. Looks like the News snoozed when the story broke.

Also, J C Penney at Colonial Tannehill has a “now hiring” sign up. The planned opening of the store is in March of this year. I don’t know how many people they will be hiring, but now is the time to apply.

I took this picture near the JC Penney yesterday. Think this driver is interested in a job?

Today is a good day to spend watching video.

At Bessemer Science and Nature, the Symphony of Science videos are entertaining and educational.

At The Examiner, there is a video that can convince anyone to stop the hate and that equality for gays and lesbians is the right thing. Also, there is a link to the video of the Prop 8 trail which begins today in California.

>Last night’s victories

November 4, 2009

>One might expect me to be down this morning, with equality voted down in Maine yesterday. But I’m not. One thing you learn when fighting for equality, is to look ahead, not behind.

There were certainly victories yesterday that progressives and democrats and GLBT can celebrate. Chapel Hill, NC has a gay mayor. Houston, Texas has a popular lesbian in the runoff for mayor. Atlanta has a gay friendly woman, Mary Norwood, in their runoff for mayor. Washington State approved “everything but marriage” partnerships. Kalamazoo voters pass equality. Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh got whipped in NY-23. Dems hold CA-10. Dems now have 258 seats in the house, up from 257. The CA winner is more progressive than the democrat he replaces. These two will be sworn in before the House votes on Health Care Reform.

In Alabama a special election saw Democrat Elaine Beech elected to the House District 65, retaining that Democrat seat.

And not an election, but Decatur democrat Bill Dukes decided to run for re-election after all, so the Dems should have no problem retaining that seat in the house.

But back to the Maine results. Every person of color in America should just be glad that their civil rights were never put to a vote of the people after laws were passed granting those rights. It’s a little disheartening to realize that 53 percent (or 80%) of your neighbors don’t look at you as equal.

And listen, 47% of the people in Maine believe in equality! They understand the constitution. they understand equality. If I remember right, only about 20% of Alabamians believed in equality a few years ago when the voters in our state jumped on the bigotry bandwagon.

Last night I was keeping up with results with Adam Bink on Open Left. He gave periodic updates from various towns and cities and boxes in Maine. From the University of Maine Orono campus he posted 81% No, 19% Yes. 81% voted to preserve marriage equality. As Bill in Portland posted on Daily Kos, “That’s the future of gay rights in America. It’s coming. It’s on our doorstep. It’s just a matter of time.”

The fight for equality is a battle every day. And there are victories every day.

There is a battle going on right here in Birmingham. Focus on the Family (a dying breed, if you value them according to their finances) is bringing their final edition of their Road Show to Bimingham. Tomorrow night (Thursday) Wayne Besen will be at UAB Hill Center to present the truth about the ex-gay industry. The event is at 7:00, is free and the public is welcome and encouraged to attend. Kathy presents it well, here.

>Around town, in DC and Besen at UAB

November 3, 2009

>Around Town

For several days I have driven by this trash can in my neighborhood with the words “Help Keep Our City Clean” on the side. The garbage trucks have picked up garbage in this neighborhood at least twice with the corner looking this way. I’m just saying…

Downtown, at the corner of Fourth Avenue North and Twentieth Street, this burned out building has begun to come down. The bricks are being saved. Recycle, reuse, reduce waste…

In D.C.

In Washington DC, the city council is considering allowing same sex marriage, and hearings have been taking place. Yesterday the hearings got personal as a witness named Andy proposed to his partner named Andy (who accepted). Not everyone was pleased, but the council was. I wonder how the Bessemer council would react if a spectator (or council member) proposed during a session…to a member of the same sex? Of course, in this news report, opponents of same-sex marriage voice the same lies we hear everywhere.

Supporters of equality are closely watching what happens in Maine and Washington State, and Kalamazoo, Michigan today.

Wayne Besen coming to UAB

I am so pleased to share that on Thursday, November 5, Wayne Besen will be at Hill University Center at UAB to take on the ex-gay industry. Details here. This is a great opportunity for young people, gay teens, questioning youth, parents and the public in general to hear the truth about the harmful effects of attempts to change one’s sexual orientation. Make plans now…and spread the word.

This event is being sponsored by The Alliance for GLBT Equality at UAB, the Office of the Vice President for Equity and Diversity at UAB, Equality Alabama, PFLAG, Central Alabama Pride and Covenant Community Church.

>Western Tribune column October 7, 2009 GLBT Equality

October 7, 2009

>Be sure to read my report on NFL players supporting gay equality on Examiner.

This is my column from today’s Western Tribune. Is this the most “gay equality promoting” column ever printed in an Alabama newspaper by a regular columnist? Maybe.

Western Tribune October 7, 2009

I’ve had a good laugh all week after reading another letter in this paper. The phrase “gay or lesbian homosexuals” caught my eye.

As a knowledgeable gay person it made me wonder who the letter writer was referring to. I didn’t know there were any homosexuals who are not gay or lesbian.

This is Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) History Month and this weekend tens of thousands of people are expected in the nation’s capital to march for equality. This will be the fifth national rally for gay equality, prior marches having taken place in 1979, 1987, 1993, and 2000.

The first protest in Washington DC for gay rights was in 1965 when about ten local men and women picketed with signs in front of the White House after several were fired from federal positions for being gay or lesbian.

But the most notable political rally in Washington was probably the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom during which Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.

Just as the political climate was right in 1963 for national progress on civil rights, the leaders in Washington today all support GLBT equality. In some ways, this march is a celebration of what we expect to come, but more so it is a reminder to those leaders to get on the ball.

Recently Congressman John Lewis was the keynote speaker at Equality Weekend in Birmingham. He recounted some of his personal history in the struggle for civil rights, including being injured here in Alabama, his home state. He equated the fight for GLBT equality to the fight for civil rights. “You cannot wait. You cannot be patient. You want your freedom and you want it now,” he said.

He also said it is not the business of the state or federal government to regulate who should marry whom. One day, he said, we will look back and laugh at ourselves because “the stars didn’t fall over Alabama because people fell in love and got married.”

NAACP chairman Julian Bond has endorsed this march and will be one of the speakers. “GLBT rights are civil rights; there are no ‘special rights’ in America. Everyone has rights – or should have – and I am happy to join in this battle for justice and fairness,” he explained.

Full equality, as guaranteed by the Constitution, is all we ask.

>I got a feeling…

September 25, 2009

>I’m ignoring the crisis in Iran (because I have confidence in our president) and all other crazy news because I have a huge project to complete today.

This video by Black Eyed Peas will get me started. At first I just someone had too much caffeine…

UAB has taken a huge step, but the right step. UAB creating a climate of equality.

I watched the PBS Health Care Reform Special last night, and am more convinced than ever that health care reform with a public option is needed. Watch it here. It’s over an hour long, but worth the time.

OK, let’s get to work…

>Equality Weekend Gala with John Lewis

September 21, 2009

>What an evening the Equality Weekend Gala Dinner turned out to be. I was able to spend a minute or so with Congressman John Lewis and thanked him for all he has done for our country, and for our community.

There were several hundred people at the event, which featured a silent auction, awards presentation, performances by the Magic City Choral Society, a scrumptious meal and dessert and of course, the address by Congressman Lewis.

Seated at our table were Birmingham School Board candidate Elisa Burns-Macon and her partner Donna, congressional candidate Terry Sewell and two of her campaign staff members, Alabama Stonewall Democrats president John Smallwood and Congressman Lewis’s driver. Pretty good company, huh?

Decor was provided by Confero Productions. Thank you Christopher.

You can view the video of Congressman Lewis’s speech here. The speech is about 18 minutes long. Thanks Pam for sharing this.

He began the speech by reflecting on raising chickens as a child, and how he used to practice preaching to the chickens. Some would bow their heads, he said, some would shake their heads, but they never quite said “Amen.”

“But I am convinced that some of those chickens that I preached to in the 40’s and the 50’s tended to listen to me much better than some of my colleagues listen to me today in Congress. As a matter of fact, some of those chickens were a little more productive.”

He want on to recount some of his experiences as a Freedom Rider and his thoughts as he sat and watched Barack Obama’s inauguration. John Lewis was the first person Obama greeted as he came out of the Capitol that day, and he asked for Lewis’s prayers. Lewis assured him.

He urged the LGBT community, just as Martin Luther King urged the black community in 1963, that “You cannot wait, you cannot be patient. You want your freedom and you want it now.”

“Discrimination is discrimination. No government, be it federal or state, should tell a person who they can marry or who they cannot marry. People have a right to fall in love and get married.”

“I do not understand. Two men, two women, fall in love and get married. Whose marriage is being threatened?”

He compared the fight for same sex marriage to the fight for interracial marriage.

Some day we will look back and laugh at ourselves, he said. “The stars didn’t fall over Alabama because people fell in love and got married.”

Thanks, Equality Alabama, for hosting this event. Like the congressman said, we will change the south, we will change America, and the country will be a better country.

>The Arc of the Moral Universe

July 9, 2009

>Many in the GLBT community feel that two of the many issues facing us are the most important: equality in marriage and repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”

Favorable outcomes are inevitable, the only question is when? “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” to paraphrase abolitionist Theodore Parker (1853) (A phrase made famous by Martin Luther King, Jr in 1967, echoed by Barack Obama in 2008).

Three items of interest that make me think sooner rather than later.

1. Rep. Patrick Murphy D. PA) says it is his job to “quarterback” the effort to pass legislation to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. He has 152 co-sponsors (and need 218 votes to pass). Murphy is an Iraq veteran and a blue dog democrat and recognizes that over 13,000 troops have been discharged, not because of sexual activity but because of sexual orientation.

Like Rachel says, he’s the right guy to be leading this fight.

2. Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has filed a suit in federal court seeking to void the Defense of Marriage Act. She says DOMA is discriminatory and puts her state in conflict with the Federal government.

“Among many of its arguments, Coakley’s suit argues that DOMA requires Massachusetts to violate the constitutional rights of its citizens by treating married heterosexual couples and married same-sex couples differently when doling out Medicaid benefits and Social Security payouts to spouses. Coakley brought up another example: Massachusetts is given federal money to maintain a military cemetery that doesn’t allow the same-sex spouses of fallen soldiers to be buried there.”

My prediction, given the slow pace that lawsuits take, is that congress will overturn DOMA before the lawsuit does. Or, given the slow pace that congress takes, they may sit on their thumbs and wait to see how the court handles it.

At any rate, something will happen.

3. Steve Hildebrand said in an interview with Rex Wockner that President Obama is listening and is on top of things with the gay issues.

Photo Credit Rex Wockner

Openly gay Steve Hildebrand was Barack Obama’s deputy national campaign director. He has spoken with the president in the last couple of weeks. Here are some highlights.

Regarding the justice department brief that upset so many gays: “he did not read the brief in advance but he subsequently has read the brief and was not happy at all with both the direction as well as the language that was used — and that he expects much better from his administration.”

On Don’t Ask Don’t Tell: “Barack Obama as president and commander in chief is, and will continue to go through, a process, methodically, to get the ducks in a row in order to get the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell done in a successful way that isn’t just going to happen overnight.”

On the power of the gay community: “I think too many people in the gay community do not push their elected officials as hard as they should. If you had 20 gay people together in a room and asked how many of them actually have reached out and either called, e-mailed or sent a letter to their member of Congress over the last two months, I would say the vast, vast majority of them will have done nothing…We need more voices, we need louder voices, and we need to tell politicians at every level we’re not willing to take their excuses anymore.”

On gay frustration with the president: “He can’t change the world overnight and — I’m doing my best to say this without providing excuses — but this is a president who was handed a larger number of really big issues to deal with at the beginning of his presidency than any other president in history. He’s got to get an economy moving, he’s got to get the troops out of Iraq, there’s a lot of big, big problems. At the same time, he is working within his administration to try and get in a position to get some meaningful things done to help the gay community achieve equality.”

On Artur Davis (well, not by name, but): “… for too many decades now of people who say, “Yes, we support equality,” but then they go to Washington and they don’t do anything about it. They’re too wrapped up in figuring out how to win their next election and they’re not concerned enough about doing what’s right for the American people. “

So, these three items give me confidence that the arc of justice is getting shorter, as my patience is extending a little bit.


June 8, 2009

>Billy Elliot won 10 Tony Awards last night including Best Musical but Hair won Best Revival of a Musical. We have tickets to see it when we go to New York.

Did anyone see the original Broadway production in 1968 (it ran for 4 years)? Remember this poster (and album cover)? Hair did not win a Tony back then, although it was nominated. (Hair premiered on Broadway in 1968, but too late to be nominated that year, so it was nominated in 1969, meaning this year’s award comes 40 years late).

During my early attempts at art I copied the poster in watercolor. I don’t still have it. Wish I did.

I also recall seeing the touring production at Boutwell Auditorium. Does anyone else remember it coming here. I know there was some controversy, but I don’t remember the details. After all, I was just a teenage hippie wanna-be wanting to see some anti-establishment, anti-war, free love kind of theater that featured nudity and an integrated cast. And I remember I wasn’t disappointed.

But I’m sure it had to do with the obscenity, the nudity or the desecration of the flag. There was a statement to be made back then.

And there’s a statement to be made today, too. I guess that’s why the current production is so successful.

Producer Oskar Eustis made a statement as he accepted the award last night.

“Peace now, freedom now, and [indicating his ring finger] equality NOW. Justice forever!” (Thanks to JoeMyGod for the pic and quote).

Here’s the cast of the Broadway revival on David Letterman. I don’t think I will be disappointed this time either.