Archive | February, 2011

YouTube Sunday: Oscar Night

27 Feb

Clarity in the Midst of Noise

25 Feb

Following Obama’s historic shift on DOMA earlier this week, signaling a profound opportunity on the horizon, the gay rights movement has entered into a new era. And while the future may appear bright, make no mistake: the road ahead will be a challenge. But I for one am proud and excited to be living in such important and changing times. The struggle is as emboldening as it is frustrating, but brighter days are undoubtedly ahead.

I have been particularly moved by the role new media has played in changing the hearts and minds of many. The tragic effects of bullying have been witnessed across the country in acts of senseless and heartbreaking violence. The Trevor Project and NOH8 campaigns have lovingly opened their arms in support of those struggling with sexuality and thoughts of suicide. Their YouTube campaigns have attracted public figures from President Obama to Cindy McCain, all spreading a common message of love and hope.

CJ was a talented and popular athlete when he became the victim of relentless bullying. Despite being brought to the school’s attention, no action was taken against those harassing CJ, ultimately forcing him to move schools. Not one to give up easily, CJ persisted and fought until those accountable were held responsible. His story is encouraging and offers a happy ending we don’t often hear about.

The stories of Tyler Clementi are tragic and make little sense. We hear it in politicians who speak of the “abnormality” and “perversion” of homosexuality and in the religious leaders who condemn love from the pulpit. It is in the very rhetoric that demonizes and fuels bigotry. The night is always darkest before the dawn, and the rise of social media has given the silent a voice and moment of clarity in the midst of noise and aimless debate. The stories of those who have lived to see a better day are a beacon of promise, and no amount of blind ignorance can extinguish that.

Be proud, be compassionate, stand strong, keep pushing on, and laugh often.

Obama: DOMA is Unconstitutional

23 Feb

Following the institutional discrimination that Congress enacted under the Clinton administration in the 1990s, George W. Bush landed a consecutive and debilitating blow against the LGBT community during his 8 long, painful years in office, halting any hopes of progress and equality.

Barack Obama, whose campaign cornered the ‘change’ market, offered a ray of hope. Despite Obama’s “evolving” stance on gay marriage and accusations that he has dragged his feet in regards to a community who helped elect him President, real progress has been made. It may not have happened overnight, and there have been plenty of roadblocks along the way. Yet the momentum has irreversibly shifted. Under Obama, hospital visitation rights have been extended to same sex couples, his administration has appointed a record number of LGBT White House staffers, and in December, against all odds and in the eleventh hour, the Senate finally repealed the appalling Don’t Ask Don’t Tell legislation. The media blitz that resulted from this momentous occasion was followed by a celebratory signing ceremony, where an emotional Obama noted, “this is a good day.” He went on to praise the LGBT community, saying “it is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed.”

Though further LGBT progress was left in doubt after Republicans took control of the House in November elections, President Obama and his administration today said they will no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act banning the federal recognition of same-sex marriage.

Attorney General Eric Holder, whose Department of Justice has defended the legislation during its 15-year lifespan, wrote in a letter to Speaker Boehner that “after careful consideration, including a review of my recommendation, the President has concluded that given a number of factors, including a documented history of discrimination, classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to a heightened standard of scrutiny. The President has also concluded that Section 3 of DOMA, as applied to legally married same-sex couples, fails to meet that standard and is therefore unconstitutional… I concur in this determination.”

Holder goes on to say, “while sexual orientation carries no visible badge, a growing scientific consensus accepts that sexual orientation is a characteristic that is immutable… it is undoubtedly unfair to require sexual orientation to be hidden from view to avoid discrimination.

Finally, there is a growing acknowledgment that sexual orientation “bears no relation to ability to perform or contribute to society. Recent evolutions in legislation… and in social science regarding sexual orientation all make clear that sexual orientation is not a characteristic that generally bears on legitimate policy objectives.”

The Defense of Marriage Act will remain law “unless and until Congress repeals Section 3 or the judicial branch renders a definitive verdict against the law’s constitutionality… This is the rare case where the proper course is to forgo the defense of this statute.

…The Supreme Court has ruled that laws criminalizing homosexual conduct are unconstitutional.”

The law has lost its biggest defender in court, and the clock is ticking. This is a historic shift, and it now stands as the most profound gay rights victory under the Obama administration. By deeming the Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional, the President of the United States has laid the groundwork for all discrimination based on sexual orientation to one day fall (sooner rather than later, we hope).

“Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

This is a good day.

Read Eric Holder’s full letter here.

Related articles:
Fighting Prop 8: Lawyers Ask Court To Lift Stay On Gay Marriage Ban
Gay Rights Advocates Celebrate Obama’s DOMA Turnaround
Obama makes historic shift on gay rights

YouTube Sunday: Love, Pixar

20 Feb

Facebook: The Next (Gay) Frontier?

19 Feb

In what appears to be a momentous progressive step, Facebook has added ‘civil union’ and ‘domestic partnership’ to its relationship status options, contributing to its uniquely positioned relationship with the LGBT community.

Richard Socarides, president of Equality Matters and an advisor in the Clinton administration, described this moment in an email to Huffington Post. “Facebook has always been an empowering place for gay people–it’s a place you can be yourself in relative safety. This is a natural progression of that. In most places, gay Americans can’t yet marry but they may be able to formalize their relationship short of marriage. This change reflects that reality.”

Individuals have for years been turning to the transparency of Facebook to come out. The extension of the public sphere online has allowed the nature of public discourse to expand indefinitely. And Facebook, Mike Zuckerberg’s multi-billion dollar venture, has become a game-changer.

In her TIME Magazine exposé, Caryn Brooks describes how Facebook has changed the LGBT community and help make it more mainstream. “Coming out used to be an exhausting process. You had to come out again and again and again to all your friends at different times. Nowadays, even with social networking, gays still have to come out, but one of the key differences between our pre-profile selves and our new online presentations is that now (finally!) the burden is also on our friends to discover and digest our identities.”

Has Facebook become the final frontier for the gay community? Or is this simply the beginning of a new digitial age? Facebook provides a certain veil of discretion that allows for a surprising level of honesty and openness that you may be less than willing to expose face-to-face. “I didn’t have to have the same conversation a thousand times,” says one bi-sexual man about Facebook. “Plus, there’s a radical empowerment that comes from declaring your identity in the public sphere.”

For now, Facebook remains a tool the worldwide LGBT community embraces and utilizes in spreading tolerance and recruiting support. And Facebook, in rewarding the loyalty of the community, has made a great social statement in return.

Facebook Adds ‘Civil Union,’ ‘Domestic Partnership’ To Relationship Status Options
How to Come Out on Facebook