Congress Could Vote On Repeal Of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell By March 2010

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Rep. Tammy Baldwin

(SAN FRANCISCO)  Speaking to a packed room at the 2009 Gay & Lesbian Leadership Conference, Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) Wisconsin, said she is confident the House of Representatives will successfully present a bill aimed at ending “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”.

Pennsylvania Congressman Patrick Murphy (D) currently has 184 co-sponsors  of his bill aimed at repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.  Fifteen more members of Congress have voiced their commitment to vote in favor of his bill to repeal the law that was enacted in 1993.

218 votes are needed for the bill to leave the House of Representatives and go on for consideration in the Senate.   That means the repeal in the House only needs 19 more votes to pass.

Congresswoman Baldwin said she expects Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and a couple of other key LGBT agenda items to successfully pass the House of Representatives by February of 2010.

“We can see a January markup and February House consideration of ENDA and I think when we do the Defense Authorization Bill, which we have to do every year, it’s a must pass bill for the Congress… you know inclusion of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell… all of that you know really within the first three months of 2010.”

Rep. Baldwin acknowledged the frustration within the LGBT community about the pace of the Congress and the Obama Administration in dealing with issues like Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, Employment Non Discrimination and the Defense of Marriage Act.  But she encouraged the LGBT community to stay engaged in the political fight.

“As representatives, as many of us are, we meet the people who bear this burden every day.   You think of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, you cant’ meet a Dan Choi or Lt Col Fehrenbach and say ‘Oh I hope sometime next year we’ll get around to doing this’.   You want it done immediately and I think that tension is very healthy and it should be placed at our feet as members of Congress but also at the President’s feet.”

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Does The US Have The Moral Authority To Lead On Gay Equal Rights?

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(SAN FRANCISCO) The question was posed to a panel gathered at the 2009 Gay and Lesbian Leadership Institute Conference in San Francisco.

Panelists Discuss International LGBT Human Rights

Panelists Discuss International LGBT Human Rights

It’s a question that met with a low rumbling round of laughter from the audience of more than a hundred local, state and national elected or appointed officials from across the country.

The first member of the panel who attempts to answer the question is part of the international delegation in attendance at the conference.

In broken English, the Mayor of Berlin, Germany, Klaus Wowereit responds with another question, “Do I answer truthfully or diplomatically?”

Another round of laughter rumbles through the room.

The unfortunate part of the continuing conversation outlines three problems the United States is actually creating internationally.

First, in many instances, conservative US religious groups are fostering deadly homophobia. The glaring example is a bill making it’s way through the Ugandan Legislature. If passed, people found guilty of engaging in homosexual acts could be put to death. The authors of the bill in Uganda, as well as the President of the African country have close ties to US religious leaders like Pastor Rick Warren.

Second, US voters tend to be pre-occupied with national issues, and that parallel can be drawn with Gay and Lesbian voters. With issues like Gay Marriage and “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” Gays and Lesbians are often blinded to Gay Civil Rights in other countries.

And Finally, America’s reputation abroad is still recovering from the Bush eight year Presidency, as well as it’s role in a sluggish world wide economic disaster. Those two situations have put the Obama Administration in a delicate balancing act in global affairs, including Gay Human Rights issues.

Cary Alan Johnson, the Executive Director of the International Gay & Lesbian Human Right’s Campaign suggests to the room full of local and state elected officials to use the levers of their local offices.

“Who in the room here is from Atlanta?” Johnson asks the audience, “Atlanta is a sister city of Kingston, Jamaica. During those sister city meetings and economic summits, bring up their treatment of Gays in their country. Make it clear that your city doesn’t approve of their action, or in-action when it comes to attacks on gays.”

Many European countries are making huge strides in advocating for Gay Equal Rights. Some governments are leaps and bounds ahead of US policies. But panelist Philippa Drew, a retired member of the United Kingdom Civil Service points out the leadership role the American Gay and Lesbian community has, simply because of history.

Drew points to the Stonewall Riots, and the well mobilized reaction to the AIDS epidemic.

“Of course there is still a lot of work to go,” Drew says passionately, “But we have watched you from outside and we have taken courage from that, what I would say now is please come out of your national closet…please come out of your national closet. Please, we need you to come and join the promotion and protection of LGBT rights worldwide.”

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Girl Can Bring Girlfriend To Prom

(THARPTOWN, AL) An Alabama high school student who was told she could not bring her girl friend to the prom may be able to take the date of her choice after all.

May Be Allowed To Bring Girlfriend To Prom

May Be Allowed To Bring Girlfriend To Prom

Seventeen year old Tharptown High School junior Cynthia Stewart devoted lots of time and energy to the event.  She even helped create the theme of the prom for Tharptown High.

But according to American Civil Liberties Union attorney Christine Sun, the teenager got some bad news from her principal when she asked about bringing a date.

“She asked the principal if she could bring her girlfriend who goes to a different high school to the prom,” Sun said in a telephone interview, “and the principal told her no.”

Sun said the seventeen year old Stewart and her guardian asked school superintendent Gary Williams and members of the school board to reconsider the decision… to no avail.

Stewart and her guardian contacted the Alabama ACLU.  Within days Sun and her co-council sent a letter to the school demanding that Stewart be allowed to bring her girlfriend to the prom.

Included in the letter was a court decision on a similar case.

“There was a very recent decision in an Alabama State Court holding that gay students have a right to bring a same sex date to the prom,” Sun said.

School System Considering What To Do

School System Considering What To Do

Reached by phone, Superintendent Gary Williams said they resolved the situation.

“Cynthia will be allowed to bring her girlfriend to school,” Superintendent Williams said, “she will just have to go through the normal screening process that all guests from other schools have to go through.”

He said the screening process includes basic items, like making sure the other student is in good standing with her own school.

According reports by local media, the school system was trying to handle the situation before the ACLU got involved.
But ACLU Attorney Sun says she’s still waiting to hammer out details on the school systems decision.

“I still remain concerned that they will find some other so called non-discriminatory reason to disallow her from bringing her girlfriend to the prom.  So we’ll continue to monitor the situation,” Sun said.

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Dancing With The Gays

 

(SAN FRANCISCO) The tag line for the “California Dreaming” dance competition offers a brighter variation on the 60’s Mamas And The Papas ballad: “All the leaves are brown and the skies are Gay.”

The ballroom dance-off gives amateurs and professionals the opportunity to show their skills… but in a same sex setting.

“It’s something that’s barely breaking the surface, I just feel it’s really important that everyone has a chance to dance with a partner they like,” event judge Chris Beroiz said.

Beroiz is also a choreographer for ABC Television.  He says he’s served as dance judge at several same-sex ballroom competitions across California.

And They Can Dance

And They Can Dance

“California Dreaming” is one of three major same-sex ballroom face offs in the state.

Event co-producer Jeff Chandler says the Bay Area is often the anchor of the ballroom universe on the West Coast.

“Prior to this… this competion has happened twice before, and it’s been in the East Bay in Oakland,” Chandler said, “and we really wanted to bring it into the city, and this is the first year we’ve done that.”

More than 150 competitors, some from other states, converged on the Landmark Hotel Whitcomb.   The day’s events include dozens of dance competions in several different ballroom styles.

“Everything from Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango, Quickstep, Samba, Cha Cha, Rumba,” Chandler said, “everything they do on ‘Dancing with the Stars’, we’ll do here.”

Among the competitors is amateur dancer Le Truong.  He’s been dancing for five years, and for this competition he’s paired with professional dancer Heintje Soriano who has been dancing for more than fifteen.

Truong and Soriano have spent most of their dance careers paired with women.

“Same sex competions, I’ve done only one other one,” Truong said as he prepared for his heats.

The two have only been working with each other for a month.  Soriano says he’s spent much of his career teaching female competitors.

But he says same sex ballroom is actually more difficult than opposite sex competitions.

“In same sex competition it’s different because you basically switch leads and follows,” Soriano said, “so you have to find a partner who knows everything and knows what they’re doing.”

Chandler said these competitions offer dancers and audience members a chance to be who they really are, and get recognized for skills they may have taught others, but never got to celebrate in other settings.

“The same sex thing, I mean it’s so stark in Ballroom Dancing, you know the Fred and Ginger type ideal, ” Chandler said, “and to see two men do a beautiful Waltz, or two women do a romantic Rumba, it really strikes home for a lot of people.”

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Voters Consider Gay Equal Rights

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(PORTLAND, ME/SAN FRANCISCO) Maine Voters will cast ballots to issue a people’s veto of a law passed in April legalizing gay marriages, or affirm the law making it the fifth state to allow same sex weddings.Maine Vote

The closely watched election has drawn supporters and financial support on both sides of the issue from across the country.

But according to the Associated Press, supporters of Same Sex Marriage have raised more than double what opponents have raised.  The AP reports supporters of Same Sex Marriage have raised about $2.7 million.  Supporters of the ballot measure hoping to defeat Same Sex Marriage have raised about $1.1 million.  The campaign against gay marriage is also in debt by about $400-thousand.

In San Francisco a team of volunteers from Equality California worked the phones encouraging people in Maine to vote to defeat “Question One” on the ballot.

“From what everything I’ve heard it’s neck and neck,” volunteer coordinator Michael Keiser-Nyman said, “All the phone calls that we’re making today will make a difference in terms of getting our supporters to the polls.”

Several local opinion surveys leading up to Election Day showed both sides of the issue within a few percentage points of each other.

Coordinators of the “No on One” campaign say they’re encouraged by the support they’ve seen across the country.  But they say they’re most encouraged by the support they’re seeing from Maine voters.

Mark Sullivan with the “No on One” campaign says they’ve been working hard to build grass roots support leading up to the legislative action in April that passed the bill in the first place.

He says opponents of Gay Marriage have run a formidable campaign if not very original.

“We’re disappointed that they presented a campaign that basically was based on the playbook that was used in California with Proposition 8,” Sullivan said.

Scott Fish, a spokesman for “Stand for Marriage Maine” said they want to protect marriage as a union between one man and one woman.  He says many in his campaign support domestic partnerships for gay and lesbian couples.

“A Yes On One win in Maine will say that the people of Maine care about the tradition of marriage, that they recognize that there really is no substitute for a mother, father, child relationship, that they recognize that not all families fall into that category, and that those families deserve equal dignity and respect, and with domestic partnerships whether they be gay or straight that if there are inequities in the law lets correct them.”

DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIP BENEFITS IN WASHINGTON

Washington Voters will cast their ballots on Referendum 71 which will make domestic partnerships between gay couples and senior couples over 62 legally equivalent to marriages except in name.

Here is how the referendum reads on the Washington Ballot:

This bill would expand the rights, responsibilities, and obligations accorded state-registered same-sex and senior domestic partners to be equivalent to those of married spouses, except that a domestic partnership is not a marriage.

Should this bill be:

Approved ___ Rejected __

A vote in support of the issue would expand domestic partnership rights in Washington.

According to an October 26th poll conducted by researcher Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, 53% of the people surveyed said they would vote to expand domestic partnership rights.  37% said they would reject the measure.

GAY RIGHTS ORDINANCE IN KALAMAZOO MICHIGAN

Kalamazoo’s city ordinance 1856 granted equal rights protections for gays and lesbians.  Section B of the ordinance also granted protections for religious organizations not to hire gays and lesbians if that goes against their beliefs.

But opponents of the ordinance still managed to collect enough signatures to put city leaders in a tough position.

Instead of rescinding the law, city leaders put it on the ballot for voters to decide.

Low voter turnout on odd numbered election years does not usually bode well for progressive candidates and issues.  So, organizers supporting the equal rights ordinance have been targeting college students who are yet to go on fall break to turn out and vote.

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Merry Queer Christmas

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It’s been years since the Castro in San Francisco closed down the streets to traffic and held a city sanctioned celebration of All Hallows Eve.

But even without a formal event, thousands crammed into the Gayborhood to celebrate Halloween, a holiday some consider “Queer Christmas”.Halloween 2009

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