SF Gay Men’s Chorus Announces Tour Through Conservative California Central Valley

(SAN FRANCISCO)  The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus has announced plans to take its music to some of California’s more conservative cities.San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus

“We were actually thinking about going on a tour to Europe,” said Chorus conductor Dr. Kathleen McGuire, “and someone said we need to eat our vegetables before we have our dessert, we really need to work on what needs to be done here in the United States before we go galavanting off to Europe.”

January destinations include cities that do not include much of a gay community.  Michael Tate is a second tenor singer in the SF Gay Men’s Chorus and the president of the board.  He said their tour through cities including Chico, Redding, Tracy, Fresno and Bakersfield is part of the chorus’ ambassadorial mission.

“With so much going on with politics and same-sex marriage I think that we just wanted to be another voice for equality and pride,”Tate said during pre-show rehearsals, “not taking a political stand but just letting people know there are people here making a difference throughout California.”

Tate said the tradition of the Gay Men’s Chorus allows different communities to see a strong image of the LGBT community.

“There are people in the chorus who have been parents, grandparents, bankers, lawyers, so we cover the gambit,” Tate said, “I think just us appearing at different venues and being the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus and having that in our name is very significant.  We come in our tuxedos, our sweatshirts, we’re proud, our heads aren’t hung down, and I think it makes a big impact just that we’re there and happy to be there.”

During the holiday season, the SF Gay Men’s Chorus played to sold out crowds.  Many of the shows regularly include a diverse audience.  In the city, the SF Gay Men’s Chorus has become an institution.

The new tour will mark the 32nd year of the chorus’ existence.  It is the first gay identified chorus in the world, and remains one of the biggest with almost 250 singers.

The chorus’s history has seen it through some of the LGBT community’s darkest moments.

Within weeks of their first rehearsal in 1978, the chorus was called on for one of their most powerful performances ever.  They sang for a shaken group of mourners in front of San Francisco City Hall following the murders of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk.

Through the 80’s, the chorus toured the United States.  In their wake several other Gay Men’s Chorus’ were established.

While not on tour the chorus also helped San Francisco survive through the AIDS epidemic with countless performances at memorials and fund raisers.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of a holiday program called, “Home For The Holidays.”  According to Dr. McGruire the program is integral to the LGBT communities celebrations of the season.

“Being able to perform these concerts for the holiday season really means a lot for our members and for the community,” Dr. McGuire said, “because it’s a time when a lot of people are reminded that they’re not welcomed with their families.”

The 2010 tour through California’s Central Valley will pull the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus out of what’s sometimes called the Bay Area Bubble.  Their tour will take them through cities that have a tiny, or very closed gay community.  And just like every other performance, the leaders of the chorus say they plan to put on a great show for anyone who loves good music.

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Commentator Jeff Johnson Calls Out Black Religious Leaders In Houston For Their Role In Mayor’s Race

During the nationally syndicated Tom Joyner Morning Show on Wednesday, regular contributor Jeff Johnson dedicated his rapid fire commentary to the Houston mayoral election and homophobia within the African American community.

He specifically called out a group of African American Pastors for their role in trying to derail the election of Annise Parker, Houston’s first openly homosexual mayor elect.

Johnson pointed out the Houston election was pretty typical with each candidate spending much of the race attacking each other on their records.  Parker’s sexual orientation didn’t become an issue until the final stages of the race.

“The gloves came off when a group of Black Pastors spoke out against Parker for what they called her ‘Gay Agenda’,” Johnson said in his commentary.

During his six minute address, Johnson further questioned the alliances that were built between Black Clergy and conservative white activists.

“What’s interesting to me is that many of the most vocal critics of Parker from the African American community were willing to unite with political conservatives that in many cases they wouldn’t even want to sit down at dinner with,” Johnson said,”they created the alliance based solely on this woman’s (Parker’s) sexual orientation.”

Johnson congratulated Houston voters, liberal and conservative, for casting their ballots based solely on the issues in the race.  He also called Parker’s campaign “Obama like” for trying to address the concerns of all Houston citizens.

As he wrapped up the commentary he broadened the dialogue to address the homophobia he sees in the larger African American Community.

“There was little need to attack a gay agenda that she (Parker) never said she was trying to address.  What this speaks to for me is the fact that we as a Black Community still have not been willing to have an honest conversation about the fact that we’re homophobic.”

You can hear Johnson’s full commentary here.

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Speedo Santas Storm San Francisco

Speedo Santas 4About twenty runners sporting only Speedos, running shoes, and Santa Hats sent people scrambling for their cameras in the Castro.

The “Speedo Santa” fun run was an event organized by Tyler Cole and Team SF.

“There’s a lot of fun runs like this around the country and I thought well if you’re going to have a Speedo run any where in the country we should do it here in San Francisco,” Cole said.

Runners collected pledges which benefited the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

“I’m still asking myself why I’m doing this,” runner James Loduca said, “I work for the San Francisco AIDS foundation so it seemed like the thing to do.”

The Lookout bar on Market Street also donated some liquor sales for the day to Team SF.

Cole said they will use that money to help send athletes to the 2010 Gay Games in Cologne, Germany.

“It’s just about getting athletes to participate in the Gay Games,” Cole said, “It’s been one of my passions my whole life to get people involved in Gay and Lesbian sports.”

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Annise Parker Wins Houston Mayoral Runoff

The voters of Houston have elected their first openly lesbian mayor, making Annise Parker the chief executive of the fourth largest city in the United States.Annise Portrait 2

During her acceptance speech to a packed room of supporters he acknowledged the historic significance of her win.

“This election has changed the world for Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual and Transgendered community.”

As polls closed at 7pm local Houston time, Parker maintained a slim lead over her runoff opponent Gene Locke.

With all precincts reporting, Parker won the close race taking 53% to Locke’s 46%.

The two Democratic candidates in this non-partisan race differed only slightly on the issues, so their campaigns tried to draw contrasts through their experience.

Parker touted her current role as City Controller as her qualifications for running an efficient city hall.

Locke highlighted his former role as City Attorney and ran as a champion of public safety.

Gene Locke Concedes Houston Mayor's Race

Gene Locke Concedes Houston Mayor's Race

But as the election wound into it’s final days, Parker became the target of conservative attacks on her sexuality.

Anti-gay activists like Steve Hotze blanketed Houston with fliers calling on voters to reject Parker because she was a lesbian.

Hotze’s endorsement of Locke, a long time civil rights crusader, forced Locke into an uncomfortable political situation.

Locke took another hit when it was revealed just days before the election that two key members of his campaign donated $20,000 each to Hotze’s anti-Parker efforts.

During his concession speech Gene Locke congratulated Annise Parker on her win.

“I want to thank Annise Parker, she ran a wonderful race, I am proud that she is now the winner, I congratulate her,” Locke said.

Parker acknowledged Locke’s hard work in the race during her victory speech.

“Public service is a noble calling and I know how much he loves this city, and I know how hard he worked to win this race,” she said about Locke.

Parker With Life Partner Kathy Hubbard

Parker With Life Partner Kathy Hubbard

Parker has been open about her sexuality, and it continued through her victory speech.  As she thanked her supporters she turned to her partner and two children.

“I want to introduce the people who are closest to me who have been going through this campaign with me, but also who will be with me as I take the reigns of the city of Houston, first, the person who has shared my life for the last 19 years Kathy Hubbard.”

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International Human Rights Day Brings Several Developments With Ugandan “Kill The Gays” Bill

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOit_OKcmwI[/youtube]Uganda Protest, London

(LONDON/SAN FRANCISCO) Dozens of demonstrators gathered outside the Ugandan Embassy in London to call for a repeal of the country’s anti-homosexuality legislation.

The lively protest included about 50 people.

Event organizer Peter Tatchell, a gay rights activist, was joined by other activists from Uganda , Zimbabwe and South Africa .

“At this particular moment our thoughts, our hearts and our solidarity are with lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender Ugandans who are under attack via the anti-homosexuality bill,” Tachell said during the rally.

The protest in front of the Ugandan Embassy coincided with International Human Rights Day.

It also came several hours after two provisions of the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill were reportedly dropped.

According to Bloomberg News, a maximum punishment of the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” as well as a life sentence for those convicted of “homosexuality” are no longer being considered by members of parliament.

There is no word if other provisions of the controversial bill have been dropped, including punishment for people who fail to report homosexuals to the government or penalties for individuals or organizations convicted of “promoting homosexuality”.

During the demonstration in London , Tatchell said anti-homosexuality laws currently on the books in Uganda are already severe, and are a hold over of British Colonialism.

“For Uganda to uphold and maintain laws that were imposed by colonialism goes against the whole principal of a sovereign independent nation.  And we know that one of the reasons by the British imposed these laws was part of a regime to control and suppress the Ugandan people and to destroy Ugandan culture.”

A couple dozen people held a similar demonstration in San Francisco , and included words of support from Mayor Gavin Newsome.

California Pastor Rick Warren also released a statement on the proposed Ugandan anti-homosexuality law.  Over the last few weeks he has drawn considerable criticism for influence with Ugandan ministries and politics.  Several reports have linked Warren and members of his ministry “ Saddleback Church ” to legislators in Uganda who drafted and supported the anti-homosexuality bill.

In a video statement to Ugandan churches, Pastor Warren denounced the proposed legislation.

“The potential law before your parliament is unjust, it’s extreme and it’s un-Christian toward homosexuals,” Warren said in the statement.

He also took issue with reports that have linked him to the Ugandan bill and its supporters.

“As a pastor, I found that the most effective way to build consensus for social change is usually through direct, quiet diplomacy and behind the scenes dialogue, rather than through the media.  But because I didn’t rush to make a public statement, some erroneously concluded that I supported this terrible bill.”

During an appearance on NBC’s meet the press November 29th, Warren did not speak out against the proposed bill.  Instead the said it was not his role as a US minister to take sides on issues in other countries.

Guy Torrey contributed this story from London.

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