Today's Mighty Oak


The Pope was just featured in an article in Time talking about the meaning of Lent and how sacrifices and fasting should serve a greater purpose.

So, if we’re going to fast from anything this Lent, Francis suggests that even more than candy or alcohol, we fast from indifference towards others.

And that’s a great sentiment.

However, it comes a day after reports of his new book emerged where he compared the trans* community to nuclear bombs:

Francis claimed people who ‘manipulate’ their bodies are similar to ‘Herods’ that “destroy, that plot designs of death, that disfigure the face of man and woman, destroying creation.”

He made the comments in a new book published in Italy, Pope Francis: This Economy Kills, speaking out against what is known as gender theory.

“Let’s think of the nuclear arms, of the possibility to annihilate in a few instants a very high number of human beings,” Pope Francis stated, according to the National Catholic Reporter.

“Let’s think also of genetic manipulation, of the manipulation of life, or of the gender theory, that does not recognize the order of creation.”

And here is the big issue: trans* individuals, especially minors, are already at significantly higher rates of abuse, depression and assault.  The Pope leads a church of 1.2 billion, and many of those members hang on to his every word.

When someone with that kind of clout and power says that an entire minority is “a manipulation of life,” there are consequences.  Dire consequences for those individuals who already have to fear mob violence in their everyday life.

This also comes less than a month after The Pope endorsed a (failed) referendum to prohibit marriage equality and gay adoption rights in Slovakia.

The more and more I watch this pope, the more of the same it is.  Lip service of actual respect and dignity, but the same harmful and hateful statements that lead to more violence and deaths.  This Pope may have captured the hearts of the world, even those outside of the Catholic Church, but he is still dangerous, and still the leader of a very dangerous organization.

All my best,

Mike



In case you haven’t heard, there was a horrific gay-bashing in Philadelphia earlier this month.  Sleuths on Twitter figured it out, using clues from social media to identify the suspects.  It was revealed that they were former classmates from a Catholic school.

Why do I specifically mention that they went to a Catholic school?  Because the Catholic church has a demonstrated record of continuously saying that gay men are intrinsically evil, disordered and should be put to death.  Now I don’t know about this specific Catholic school, but the overall record of the Church both in the U.S. and around the world isn’t great, and now they have the audacity to be shocked that their church members would beat up gay men!

Now, the Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia did come out with a statement basically saying “don’t beat up gay people, even if you don’t like them.”  Which is a great sentiment, although two points.  One, I feel as though any person, Catholic or not, should know that.  And two, it’s a little bit late for them to try to backtrack now after years of hatred towards the LGBT community.

So back to the crime: a mob of 12 people beat up two men after they asked if they were a couple since they were holding hands.  Think about that brutality for a minute.

Since then, one of the suspects, a basketball coach at a Catholic school was fired (well done) and another suspect who is a nurse was also fired (also since she was sharing patient’s x-rays on Twitter, a big violation of privacy).

But here’s the rub: only three people were charged.  Yes, this is an on-going investigation, but that still leaves nine people.  And no one will be charged with a hate crime, because sexual orientation and gender identity aren’t covered by PA’s hate crime laws.  Brian Sims is making a renewed push for HB/SB 300, which would add those classes to the hate crimes laws (in addition to those with disabilities), and he brought some of the victims and their representatives to Harrisburg to lobby.

Just like the police officer to used excessive force at Pride here in Pittsburgh, who was not charged, there’s no legal recourse for members of the LGBT community here in the Commonwealth.

If you want to do something, contact your local representative to Harrisburg and sign this petition.

All my best,

Mike



Why am I talking about Mississippi?  I have zero desire to go (I don’t really like heat and humidity to start with), but it’s still one of the states in the United States, so we should pay attention.  Recently, a new law went into effect where businesses can turn customers away based on religious beliefs.

AKA, “Don’t serve the Gays.”

We’ve seen religion used before to deny service to African Americans at lunch counters.  We’ve seen religion used to justify denial of service to Irish immigrants.  And as a society, we moved past this.  Except for the LGBT community (and immigrants, which I will remind you, unless you’re Native American, you’re ancestors were immigrants too).

When you operate a business, you work in the public sphere and have to serve the entire public, not just the portions you choose.  This is why the Civil Rights Act was so important, it stopped businesses from being able to say “No blacks,” “No Irish.”  Putting a sign in your store window today that says “No Italians,” or “No Women” in this day and age is abhorrent.  But for the LGBT community, it’s a reality.

For some reason, the courts are allowing those with “closely held religious beliefs” to discriminate however they want.  But as Rob points out, when the logical inconsistency is brought up, the laws, as well as the bigotry falls apart:

 

Bigots hate to be seen as bigots, they just want to hate and discriminate without being noticed.  But the above graphic shows exactly the logical conclusion of their bias.

And on the other side of the coin, the President signed an Executive Order making businesses that have federal contracts required to follow non-discrimination practices in hiring.

After a brief period of lying and saying they already had that policy in place, Exxon Mobile is finally being forced to not discriminate against the LGBT community: this is after 17 straight years of denying those workers any protections.

Allegheny County has non-discrimination policies in place.  But like I’ve mentioned before, Pennsylvania does not, so outside of the county, I can legally be denied employment, housing and any public accommodation (retail), simply for being gay.  We’re the only state that has marriage equality without these other basic protections, and it’s nerve-wracking at times.

ENDA (in all it’s flaws and shortcomings) is stalled in the House (and no one is surprised), but until these inclusive bills are passed, we’re still living and working in a system that is inherently unequal.

All my best,

Mike



Today marks the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which launched the LGBT-rights movement.

If you’re not familiar with the riots, here’s what happened:

People ask why we celebrate pride.  NoFo writes it much more eloquently than I ever could, here is an excerpt:

We’re proud because despite relentless persecution everywhere we turn—when organized religion viciously attacks and censures and vilifies us in the name of selective morality, when our families disown us, when our elected officials bargain away our equality for hate votes, when entire states codify our families into second-class citizenship, when our employers fire us, when our landlords evict us, when our police harass us, when our neighbors and colleagues and fellow citizens openly insult and condemn and mock and berate and even beat and kill us—we continue to survive.

We’re proud because—thanks to the incredible bravery shown by gay people who lived their lives openly in the decades before us—we can live our lives more and more openly at home, at work, with our families, on our blogs … and even on national television.

We’re proud because after all we’ve been through, the world is starting to notice and respect us and emulate the often fabulous culture we’ve assembled from the common struggles and glorious diversity of our disparate lives.

We’re proud because this weekend we’ll celebrate with drag queens, leather queens, muscle queens, attitude queens and you’d-never-know-they-were-queens queens, and together we can see through the “pride” in our parade and enjoy the underlying Pride in our parade.

Quite simply, we’re proud that we have so much to be proud of.

We can take some time, and even in the face of hatred, bigotry and discrimination, we can carve a place in this world, claim it our own and celebrate.

We can celebrate, because this is our party.  We don’t need anyone’s permission to celebrate:

Because even if Pride doesn’t change many minds in the outside world, it’s our PARTY, darlings. It’s our Christmas, our New Year’s, our Carnival. It’s the one day of the year that all the crazy contingents of the gay world actually come face to face on the street and blow each other air kisses. And wish each other “Happy Pride!” Saying “Happy Pride!” is really just a shorter, easier way of saying “Congratulations on not being driven completely batshit insane! Well done, being YOURSELF!”

We can celebrate the community that we have, the radical acceptance that we embody and the fact that we’ve survived.  We have a chance to come together, remind ourselves we belong to a larger community, have some fun and take back our city; just for a little bit, even when it’s still dangerous to be perceived as gay, even in places like The Village:

This is my home. I’ve walked by that corner hundreds of times while holding Tony’s hand. And now, holding his hand again, I felt sick to my stomach. I felt sick because of the injustice. Because of the loss of life. Because my home had been violated. Because I thought we had moved beyond this. Because I felt vulnerable.

We know that hatred will continue, but still we march forward.  We have pride because it helps those coming after us.  In the words of Harvey Milk, it gives the next generation hope:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWo8BKJCxYQ

And this is a chance to celebrate the fact that I’ve survived.  A chance to celebrate the fact that I’m a proud gay man.  And even that act, powerful unto itself, has hopefully made a difference.

The most important and powerful action a person can make is to come out to those around them.  Then the LGBT community isn’t a scary abstract anymore, it has a face.  If you know someone who is openly LGBT, you see their humanity.  You can understand that we’re not asking for anything special, just the same rights everyone else is guaranteed by the constitution.  A chance to be happy.  A chance to live the life we want, surrounded by those we love.

When will we stop talking about coming out?

“Many of us want to, and will: when a gay, lesbian or transgendered kid isn’t at special risk of being brutalized or committing suicide.

“When a gay person’s central-casting earnestness and eloquence aren’t noted with excitement and relief, because his or her sexual orientation needn’t be accompanied by a litany of virtues and accomplishments in order for bigotry to be toppled and a negative reaction to be overcome.”

We will stop talking about coming out when it’s not news anymore, when the last barriers have finally been broken down.  We’ll stop screaming for our rights when we’re finally treated as equals by our government.  We’ll only stop telling our stories when they don’t matter.

This is a bit heavy handed (the original that this parodies was also over the top), but Crew Magazine put this together, and it rings true:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zCuw-cIoWa0

So we keep fighting for progress, wherever we can.  We celebrate our advances and keep chipping away at our obstacles: and this month we can celebrate both, as well as the individuals that make up our amazing community.

We’re proud of how far we’ve come.  We’re proud to keep fighting.  We’re proud.



Another year, and another time I’ll use my blog as a blog.  This year I’ll be talking about the whole of Pride weekend, marriage equality coming to Pa. and all the related stories to it.

(more…)



Dustin Lance Black, screenwriter of “Milk” and boyfriend of Tom Daley (not really important, they’re just cute together), was recently asked to speak at his alma mater’s graduation.

However, once they realized there naked pictures of him  on the internet, they rescinded the offer, citing their previous sex scandals and not wanting to draw attention to those issues.  Well, guess that backfired, since now it’s back in the forefront of everyone’s mind.

We’re quickly getting to the point where no one running for political office won’t have naked pictures somewhere on the Internet.  Teenagers (and adults) have cell phones with cameras, it’s going to happen.

The pictures were lifted off Black’s ex-boyfriend’s computer, and he won in court after suing them, because of how they were procured.

But Black hits back, and his response is eloquent:

For too long now I’ve sat silent on this issue. That ends here and now and with this sentence: I did nothing wrong and I refuse to be shamed for this any longer…

And yes, we were doing what gay men do when they love and trust each other, we were having sex. I have never lied about my sexuality. If you invade my privacy, this is what you will find. I have sex. It brings me joy, fosters intimacy and helps love grow. I hope anyone reading this can say the same for themselves and for their parents…

With this cruel act, PCC’s Administration is punishing the victim. And I ask you this: If I was a heterosexual man or woman with this same painful injury in my past, would PCC’s Administration still be rescinding such an honor?

I think it’s a good response, and it’s nice to see.  I hope it makes other organizations think twice about things like this in the future.

All my best,

Mike



Geoffrey McGrath, along with other adults, started a Cub Scout Pack and Boy Scout Troop at the Rainer Beach United Methodist Church, an inner-city church in Seattle.

This church had never had Scouting units before, and they quickly signed up 15 youth between the two, most of them kids who had never had any experience with the Scouts.  The kids like the camping, and programs and the community service opportunities.

McGrath is a gay man (we’re friends on Facebook through our work with Scouts for Equality and I’ve been living vicariously through him and his husband’s pictures from their recent trip to Italy), and RBUM knew this.  And was happy to have him.

The national BSA office revoked his membership, but he continued to work with the kids, refusing to let the units fold, lest the kids not have a chance to experience the program.

Well, on (Good) Friday, national revoked the charters from the church, because the church refused to kick out McGrath.

Yes, you read that right, national decided that those fifteen youth, those two units (it’s all about the numbers, believe me), should all be kicked out, because they want to discriminate against one gay man, even after the city council and mayor of Seattle (which I believe includes the President of the Board of the Chief Seattle Council) sent a letter to national taking them to task for revoking McGrath’s membership.

The story exploded on Facebook, was picked up by news outlets all over the country, including Time Magazine.

In the meantime, Pack and Troop 98 are now working to find another program (since they aren’t allowed to use the BSA program, advancements or uniforms), and they are looking into if they can transfer into other units.

Most people realize that this adult policy will not be around for much longer.  This is going to be looked back as one of the ugliest incidents BSA every choreographed.

All my best,

Mike



Today, the ACLU announced that they submitted a motion for the trial for marriage equality in Pennsylvania to move it to summary judgement.  Basically what that means is both sides have agreed that the case can be decided by the judge on the briefs submitted.  No witnesses, although the judge may decide to ask for opening statements.

This moves up the entire timeline.  The deadline to appeals to the motion are due by May 12, so anytime after that date, we could have a decision from the judge.  Originally arguments were set to take place in June, so this really is moving things up significantly.

As of right now, marriage equality is batting 1,000 since the Supreme Court decisions last summer, but every single time a stay has been issued.

So, my thinking is now that we’ll have a decision by the end of May, a stay, and hopefully a failed appeal by the end of the summer.

The other side of the coin, Corbett, who is in a precarious position for his reelection could choose not to appeal.  I think he will appeal, but he may want to try to gain some votes, even at the expense of losing some of his base.  If that is the case (which again, I don’t think will happen), most likely some right-wing group will try to swoop in and claim standing to keep the appeal going.  If that happens, my guess is it will take a while for the courts to decide if they have standing or not, further delaying the process.

Anyway, if you want to read more, the ACLU of Pennsylvania has an FAQ here.

All my best,

Mike



So Pope Francis, in a new interview, said that he would be open, in certain circumstances, to civil unions.

The way it was worded, I actually don’t know if he was specifically talking about same-sex couples.  But even if he was, he framed it in such a way that was insulting to begin with:

“Marriage is between a man and a woman. Secular states want to justify civil unions to regulate cohabitations, mainly to resolve issues involving their finances, such as health assistance. We need to look at different cases and evaluate them.”

The question was posed about civil unions, not same-sex marriage, so it really may or may not be about same-sex couples, I think it’s hard to tell either way.

But if it was about same-sex couples, Pope Francis is not recognizing that same-sex couples can be in love.  He is stating he only sees our relationships as means to tax breaks and joint health insurance.  Like our relationships aren’t real or don’t matter.

And that’s hurtful.  And bullshit.

We’re not that different, it’s not a hard concept to understand two men or two women in love with each other.

Is it progress?  I suppose it is, though.  Just as soon as January, the Vatican denied the Pope would ever be in favor of same-sex civil unions.  So again, yes, it is some progress, but we shouldn’t have to beg and scrape for the crumbs that get thrown our way.

And of course, arch-homophobe Cardinal Dolan said in an interview that we’re twisting the Pope’s words (and many people may be, like I said, I’m still not convinced he wasn’t talking about civil unions for heterosexual couples) and Francis is really not in favor or any recognition, and it would make him feel uncomfortable.

Note to self: don’t invite Cardinal Dolan to my future wedding, wouldn’t want him to feel icky.

And of course, Dan Savage hits it on the head.  It’s a long quote, but it’s worth it:

Would gay people be willing to accept civil unions in place of marriage? Would we be willing to compromise with conservative Christians? Would gay people be willing to settle for all the same rights, responsibilities, and protections of marriage right now in exchange for leaving marriage for opposite-sex couples? I told my friend we would.

In 1985.

When gay men were dying by the tens of thousands at the height of the AIDS crisis—when gay men were being dragged out of the hospital rooms of their dying partners by homophobic family members, when gay men were being barred from the funerals of their deceased partners, when gay men were being evicted from their homes after the deaths of their partners (many evicted gay men were sick and dying themselves)—conservative Christians could’ve stepped in then and said, “This is wrong. Whatever we believe about homosexual acts, brutalizing people like this is shockingly immoral and deeply un-Christian. Clearly there needs to be some sort of legal framework to protect people in loving, committed, stable same-sex relationships from these appalling cruelties.”

Conservative Christians did no such thing. They celebrated AIDS, they welcomed the plague, they said it was God’s judgement and they insisted that gay people deserved this pain and suffering—those of us who were sick and dying; those who were being dragged, barred, and evicted; those of us who were watching our friends and lovers die—and that it was only a taste of the pain and suffering that we would face in hell after our deaths.

The way gay people were treated at the height of the AIDS crisis made the importance of marriage rights—the importance of being able to declare your own next-of-kin—scaldingly apparent. Some of the most impassioned fighters for marriage equality, like Andrew Sullivan, cite what they witnessed in AIDS wards as their primary motivation. If Christians had looked at the suffering of gay men in AIDS wards in 1985 said, “The lives, loves, and rights of these couples must be protected,” and if conservative Christians had proposed civil unions then and gotten a civil unions statute signed into law by the conservative Christian president they helped elect, that might’ve halted the push for marriage equality before it could even get off the ground.

But now that we’re winning marriage—now that victory is assured—the pope is willing to maybe think about supporting some type of civil union scheme. I’ll say to the pope what I said to my evangelical Christian pal: that fucking ship has fucking sailed. What the pope is saying to gay people in 2014 is this: “Okay, now that you’re winning marriage, here’s an idea: give marriage back and we will give you civil unions… which we once opposed with the same intensity and in the same apocalyptic terms that we oppose marriage today. Is it a deal?”

No deal, Francis.

All my best,

Mike



I’m Lebanese, and from most outside perspective, Beirut (the capital city), is a partially-Westernized, big city, in the middle of a volatile part of the world.  I was trying to convince my boss of this, and then of course they went and had two car bombs the next week.  Stable, it may not be, but from pictures I’ve seen, it’s a beautiful city on the Mediterranean.

Lebanon, also has a large LGBT community, and as far as that part of the world goes, they have more freedoms than most.  Recently, the Lebanese court ruled that homosexuality is not a crime:

The court ruled that homosexual relationships do not “contradict the laws of nature” and therefore cannot be considered a crime….The assumption that homosexuality is a result of disturbances in the family dynamic or unbalanced psychological development is based on wrong information.

It’s a step forward, and it’s great to see in Lebanon, of all places, so hopefully it is thinking that will continue throughout all the corners of the world.  You can read more about the court ruling at the Good Men Project.

All my best,

Mike

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