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July 21, 2014

President Obama signs executive orders on LGBT workplace protections

Free Speech and the Bible Museum

I want to draw your attention to an article that I have just published on the Daily Kos blog:

Free Speech and the Bible Museum

This concerns plans by the owner of Hobby Lobby to create a Bible museum a few blocks from the National Mall, and the response by Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out to the news. Besen, who has done invaluable work in exposing anti-gay junk science and religious extremism, has called for D.C. Government officials to somehow prevent the planned museum from opening. But since the museum is to be privately funded and located on private property, there is no legitimate basis to block it.

As my article discusses, GLAA has a long history of defending our opponents' First Amendment rights. This allows us to hold the moral high ground, and has won us praise, including from Washington Post columnist Colby King. We are much better off in the long run by respecting the rights of all, not just those who agree with us. Our longtime allies at the American Civil Liberties Union stand with us on this.

July 18, 2014

Obama to take executive action against anti-LGBT bias on Monday

The Blade reports:

President Obama is set on Monday to take executive action to prohibit discrimination against LGBT employees working for federal contractors and the federal government, the Washington Blade has learned.

In a conference call with reporters on Friday, senior administration officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Obama plans to amend existing executive orders barring discrimination against workers to include protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Calls for resignation mount for Minnesota archbishop in scandals

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Laurie Goodstein at NYT reports:

Just two years ago, the Roman Catholic archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis was making headlines as a leader in the battle against same-sex marriage. But for the last year and a half, the archbishop, John C. Nienstedt, has been battling to hold onto his post in the face of a series of scandals, which further deepened on Tuesday with the filing of an explosive affidavit by the former chancellor of the archdiocese.

Your Holiness, why does this man still have a job? Kindly stop apologizing and take action.

Déjà vu: NY father dies after police chokehold

25 years after Do the Right Thing, NYPD cops are still using the chokehold. The Root reports:

Witnesses say that Eric Garner was breaking up a fight when police approached him about selling untaxed cigarettes. A struggle ensued, a police chokehold was applied and moments later Garner was dead.

This is excessive, barbaric, and unacceptable. As Radio Rahim would say, ‪#‎fightthepower‬.

Mayor de Blasio vows a full investigation.

DOD: Chelsea Manning May Begin Transition in Prison

Advocate.com reports:

WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning has been approved to begin receiving hormone replacement therapy while serving her 35-year prison sentence at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., the Associated Press reports.

This is the right decision. Denial of healthcare is not an appropriate form of punishment. All prisoners are entitled to proper healthcare, and transgender prisoners are no exception.

Obama: evidence suggests Russia-backed separatists downed Malaysia Airlines

Update: London-based Russia Today reporter Sara Firth has resigned in protest over the lies her employer demanded regarding the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17. Good for her.

"The cure for AIDS may have been on that plane."


Nobel-winning French virologist Françoise Barré-Sinoussi expresses grief and loss over the crash of flight MH17.
(Video courtesy The Australian)

There have been reports that more than 100 of those aboard Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 were on their way to the World AIDS Conference in Melbourne. If so (and there have been conflicting reports), the crime of the downing of the commercial jetliner might also be devastating for AIDS research.

One of the passengers was eminent AIDS researcher Dr. Joep Lange, executive scientific director of the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development and former president of the International AIDS Society. Dr. Lange once said, "If we can get a cold can of Coke to any part of Africa, we can certainly deliver AIDS treatment." That remains true.

The Guardian reports that a team of OSCE inspectors was barred from the crash site by Russian-backed rebels:

The commander of the rebel unit, a man called Ilya who is known as Commander Glum, expressed annoyance as the OSCE team stood its ground, keen to access the scenes of carnage. 'OSCE came here without negotiating,' he shouted, as they prepared to leave...We didn’t agree to meet the OSCE here, go away,' he added, firing a warning shot. The five-strong convoy departed rapidly.
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(Photo courtesy The Guardian)

July 17, 2014

Michael Sam Wins Arthur Ashe ESPY Award 2014

The ESPY Awards (short for Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Awards) were handed out last night, and Michael Sam of the St. Louis Rams won the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. He received the award from Duane "The Rock" Johnson, the wrestler and actor known for "The Scorpion King" and other movies. Below, for no good reason, is a scene from the 2008 Get Smart movie featuring Johnson.

AFA's Bryan Fischer is sick of being bossed around by a 'little tiny minority'

Kyle Mantyla at Right Wing Watch reports:

In this video, Bryan Fischer says he can't believe America has allowed itself to be bossed around by a tiny minority of bigoted gay bullies.

USA Today ran this story on July 15 about the CDC survey to which Fischer refers. USA Today reporter Cogan Schneier asked for a comment, and I replied: "I have no expertise in population estimates, so I leave that to others. I have not read the CDC survey, which I just heard about today, so I cannot comment on their methodology. In general, I suspect that underreporting by LGB people is a potential factor in any survey, so I would look to see how the researchers sought to ensure the most accurate sampling and the fullest reporting. In any case, none of GLAA's advocacy has depended upon how many LGBT folk there are. Plainly there are more of us than the most virulent opponents of equality would like. To be clear, GLAA's advocacy includes the 'T' for transgender; I referred above to LGB because a colleague told me that the CDC researchers did not include transgenders in this survey due to difficulties they encountered in counting that population. We hope CDC overcomes those challenges and includes trans folk moving forward."

Tallahassee Mayor John Marks for the Freedom to Marry

Freedom to Marry reports:

Tallahassee Mayor John Marks shares why he supports the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. "This is the right thing to do. Individuals have rights and freedoms, and we need to allow everybody to have those same rights and those same freedoms."

Meanwhile, in Mississippi, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports:

For the first time in [Mississippi's] history, a sitting mayor has publicly stated his support for same-sex marriage, an announcement preceded by a wave of Mississippi towns approving anti-discrimination resolutions for LGBT residents during the first half of 2014.

Waveland Mayor David Garcia added his name to the Freedom to Marry – and LGBT rights group – list of U.S. mayors who support same-sex marriage.

Florida Keys judge overturns gay marriage ban; state AG to appeal

Steve Rothaus and David Smiley of The Miami Herald report:

A Florida Keys judge overturned the state’s 2008 constitutional gay-marriage ban on Thursday, and ordered that two Key West bartenders and other gay couples seeking to wed be allowed to marry.

Monroe County Chief Circuit Judge Luis Garcia — overjoying gay rights advocates and outraging opponents of same-sex marriage —ordered the Monroe County Clerk’s Office to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay couples Tuesday morning....

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi swiftly announced she would appeal Garcia’s ruling to the Third District Court of Appeal.

Connecticut Ruling Sparks Debate on Retroactive Gay Rights

Dave Collins reports for AP:

A new Connecticut Supreme Court ruling is adding to the debate on whether gay marriage rights should be applied retroactively and qualify same-sex couples for rights and benefits for which they weren't entitled before state laws allowed them to marry.

Although no states that allow gay marriage have made their laws retroactive, many same-sex partners believe they should have received Social Security survivor payments, tax breaks, inheritances and other benefits that were afforded only to heterosexual married couples before gay marriage laws were passed.

The Connecticut high court ruled unanimously Wednesday that a woman whose wife died amid a medical malpractice case may sue a doctor over the loss of her wife's companionship and income, even though that right to sue was limited to heterosexual married couples at the time. Legal experts called the decision the first of its kind in the country.

Trans sister of NBA star found dead in Baltimore

HuffPost reports on the murder of trans woman Mia Henderson in Baltimore early Wednesday morning.

The violence keeps happening. Condolences to Mia and her family, and may those responsible be found and brought to justice.

Meanwhile, Transgender Lobby Day was held on Capitol Hill Tuesday by the National Center for Transgender Equality and five other groups. The need for both cultural and political work on behalf of trans equality is all too apparent.

Culture Thieves

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(Photo by Raz Birkshaw. Courtesy Wiki Commons)

My column this week looks at a recent flare-up in the culture wars. Here's the opening:

Sierra Mannie, a University of Mississippi senior, wrote a commentary picked up by Time last week titled, "Dear White Gays: Stop Stealing Black Female Culture." Here's a portion:

"I need some of you to cut it the hell out. ... I don't care ... how cute you think it is to call yourself a strong black woman, who taught you to twerk, how funny you think it is to call yourself Quita or Keisha or for which black male you've been bottoming -- you are not a black woman, and you do not get to claim either blackness or womanhood."

Someone was looking for a throwdown. She talked about Beyoncé, white privilege and the legacies of racism and sexism. She made some valid points. She also said that black women "cannot hide their blackness and womanhood to protect themselves the way that you can hide your homosexuality."

Let's pause there. David Mariner, Executive Director of The DC Center for the LGBT Community, posted a response on Tumblr. He did not imitate a black woman saying, "Oh no you dih-int." He was conciliatory and thoughtful:

Follow the link above to read the whole thing at Metro Weekly.

NBC News Pulls Veteran Reporter from Gaza After Witnessing Israeli Attack on Children

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(Ayman Mohyeldin reports from Gaza City on killing of four Palestinian boys by Israel. Photo credit: NBC News)

NYT reports that Israel has begun its expected ground assault on the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, Glenn Greenwald reports:

Ayman Mohyeldin, the NBC News correspondent who personally witnessed yesterday’s killing by Israel of four Palestinian boys on a Gazan beach and who has received widespread praise for his brave and innovative coverage of the conflict, has been told by NBC executives to leave Gaza immediately. According to an NBC source upset at his treatment, the executives claimed the decision was motivated by “security concerns” as Israel prepares a ground invasion, a claim repeated to me by an NBC executive. But late yesterday, NBC sent another correspondent, Richard Engel, along with an American producer who has never been to Gaza and speaks no Arabic, into Gaza to cover the ongoing Israeli assault (both Mohyeldin and Engel speak Arabic).

Mohyeldin is an Egyptian-American with extensive experience reporting on that region. He has covered dozens of major Middle East events in the last decade for CNN, NBC and Al Jazeera English, where his reporting on the 2008 Israeli assault on Gaza made him a star of the network. NBC aggressively pursued him to leave Al Jazeera, paying him far more than the standard salary for its on-air correspondents.

Yesterday, Mohyeldin witnessed and then reported on the brutal killing by Israeli gunboats of four young boys as they played soccer on a beach in Gaza City. He was instrumental, both in social media and on the air, in conveying to the world the visceral horror of the attack.

NBC, you are beneath contempt.

R.I.P. Elaine Stritch

NYT reports that legendary Broadway actress and comedian Elaine Stritch has died at age 89. May she rest in peace.

The video above shows her onstage in 2002. Below, she appears with David Letterman in 1996.

"I don't know if I have paralyzed you."

Mandela the master politician at work, a few months after his release from prison. In the full video of this 1990 town hall meeting in NYC (here and here), Madiba's questioners from the audience are stacked with right-wing tools trying to bait him. As this clip shows, they woefully underestimated him. At another point, he said, "Some people make the mistake of assuming that their enemies must be our enemies." Cheers erupted. I understand those cheers much better now than I did then.

July 15, 2014

Growing implications of Hobby Lobby ruling

Above, Jonathan Capehart (subbing for Steve Kornacki) discusses the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling with Gabriela Domenzain, Justin Snow and Chris Geidner. Below, Evan Wolfson joins the discussion.

Marriage News Watch

AFER's Matt Baume provides an update on marriage equality developments across the country, including a surprise victory in Colorado.