Archive | April, 2011

Reaching A Critical Mass

28 Apr

As goes New York, so goes the nation?

Advocates for marriage equality suffered a devastating defeat in 2009, when efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in New York fell eight votes short in the Senate after receiving strong support in the state’s Assembly.

Many may recall Senator Diane Savino’s powerful and heart wrenching testimony in defense of gay marriage prior to the bill’s defeat, stating for all to hear that “we have nothing to fear from love and commitment.”

“If there’s anybody threatening the sanctity of marriage,” Savino said, “it comes from those who have the privilege and the right, and we have abused it for decades.”

A renewed fight to grant marriage equality has resurfaced in New York, stronger than ever. And this time, it may have larger ramifications for the country and the world.

“A win in New York will provide significant momentum for the movement nationally and, quite frankly, internationally,” says Brian Ellner of the Human Rights Campaign. “New York is very significant.”

Why has the landscape changed so drastically in less than two years?

This time, it’s personal.

The true-life stories of decent men and women who have suffered first-hand the inequality of being denied the right to marry the person they love has struck a chord with citizens both in New York and across the country, resulting in many to switch sides.

“That debate has been replicated hundreds and thousands of times over the Internet, emails and coffee klatches and over glasses of wine in New York’s suburbs that has rapidly changed – at an accelerated pace – public opinion.” says Bruce Gyrory, a political science professor at the University of Albany.

Even populations traditionally seen as reliably conservative, such as Catholics, have seen rising support for marriage equality.

Support for marriage has dramatically increased in New York, reaching as high as 58% in a recent poll. “I think at the point you cross 60 percent and approach 2:1 levels of support, the opposition loses its critical mass,” says Gyory.

And as overwhelming support among younger generations continues to make its mark, the realization that this fight is close to a tipping point has begun to dawn.

Law firm King & Spalding, who signed on defend the now defenseless DOMA on behalf of House Republicans, dropped a bomb earlier this week when it abruptly withdrew from the case. Reports of internal conflict and “mayhem” were rampant. “Management was divided, people were threatening to quit,” said one source.

Prior to King & Spalding’s exit, the response from the LGBT community had been strong and forceful. And while DOMA has already recruited fresh defenders in the wake of its latest setback, don’t expect public support to be on their side anymore.

In its latest episode, “Glee” reached new heights of fabulous when its cast belted out Lady Gaga’s gay pride anthem “Born This Way.” It depicted a high school coming together in a defining moment of unity.

Having already called the show a “disgusting gay teen sex romp”, Dan Gainor, a conservative media critic, was less than pleased, panning the show’s creator Ryan Murphy and calling the episode his “latest depraved initiative to promote his gay agenda.”

“This is clearly Ryay Murphy’s vision of what growing up should be, not most of America’s. It’s a high school most parents would not want to send their kids to.”

Hate to break it to you, Mr. Gainor, but you’re dead wrong. Your words have lost their power to persuade. Your hateful rhetoric no longer has a place in a country that is turning increasingly towards love and fairness.

You’re history.

LGBT Advocacy Panel & Documentary Screening

26 Apr

A reminder to all James Madison University students and Harrisonburg, Virginia residents that I will be hosting a panel discussion and Q&A tomorrow evening — Wednesday, April 27th at 7 o’clock — in Harrison 0118.

Four members of Madison Equality have been gracious enough to lend us their time to lead the discussion and answer your questions!

In addition to what I’m sure will be an enlightening conversation, I will be screening a selection of scenes from at least one LGBT-themed documentary.

Whether you’re gay, straight, or just looking to know more about the LGBT cause and become an ally, I strongly urge you to come out and support this event! I know it’s crunch time with final exams and presentations just around the corner, so why not give yourself a well-deserved break? Starbucks coffee and snacks will be provided!

Once again, I will be in Harrison 0118 tomorrow — Wednesday the 27th — from 7 to 8 o’clock! I know you’re out there, JMU Dukes! Please stop by and bring your friends!

YouTube Sunday: An Apple A Day…

24 Apr

Newspeak

23 Apr

In a move straight out of an Orwell novel, Tennessee state Senator Stacey Campfield’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill has advanced out of committee and will be sent to the Senate floor.

The bill would effectively criminalize teachers and school officials who talk about homosexuality before the ninth grade.

Conveying the message that being gay is neither appropriate nor suitable for public discussion, Campfield is attempting to further alienate and isolate a vulnerable population from seeking help and guidance from educators.

Supporters of the bill maintain age sensitivity is the primary goal, but Matthew Parsons, a socially conservative advocate and founder of the anti-gay “Something Better” campaign, may have spoken too soon. “If we’re talking about homosexuality, we are talking about specific acts that are going to be unhealthy for anybody to engage in outside of marriage.”

Let’s be clear. Campfield’s proposed bill has nothing to do with what is “age appropriate.” This is about fundamentally altering society. It would effectively prohibit speech and further push the civil rights struggle away from mainstream radar. Out of sight, out of mind.

“The ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill raises all kinds of issues about anti-gay bias, free speech and government overreach,” said Tennessee Equality’s Ben Byers. “It means [teachers] can’t talk about gay issues or sexuality even with students who may be gay or have [a] gay family.”

Once again, we are witnessing a scared GOP attempting to limit debate and stifle meaningful conversation. The party of small government seems perfectly supportive of government’s large hand so long as it furthers their culturally radical agenda.

Senator Campfield’s cowardly attempts to institutionalize discrimination are painfully obvious for anyone with half a mind to see. If it’s a debate about substantive issues you wish to have, I welcome that debate. But leave the children out of it.

Gay Marriage Opponents a Shrinking Minority

21 Apr

A majority of Americans now support gay marriage.

Adding to mounting evidence that gay marriage opponents are increasingly out of touch with rational, mainstream America, a CNN poll released this week revealed that 51 percent of respondents back marriage equality for gay couples. 47 percent oppose.

“This is the fourth credible poll in the past eight months to show an outright majority of Americans in favor of gay marriage,” wrote Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight. “Support for gay marriage seems to have been increasing at an accelerated pace over the past couple of years.”

But are lawmakers listening? Will social conservatives, concerned for nobody’s happiness but their own, stop to reconsider their actions?

“If support for gay marriage were to continue accelerating as fast as it has in the past two years, supporters would outnumber opponents roughly 56-40 in the general population by November 2012,” Silver predicts.

Such staggering numbers render opposition a politically bankrupt position. As more and more young Americans come of voting legal age, opponents face an un-winnable battle.

“We have passed an inflection point wherein it is no longer politically advantageous for candidates to oppose same-sex marriage,” Silver concludes.

In more sobering news reiterating the importance of now, a study released this week revealed that LGBT youth were considerably more likely to attempt suicide, show signs of depression, binge drink, and be victims of physical abuse when raised in “unsupportive” social environments.

Who are the worst culprits? “More than 70 percent of the thousands of calls to the 24/7 Trevor Lifeline originate in the southern and central regions of the United States, where there are traditionally fewer legal protections, in-and-out-of-school support services and accepting environments for LGBTQ young people,” revealed a statistical breakdown of the results.

And to those who believe that the war against bullying is a “sexual anarchist agenda,” remember Tyler Clementi. And remember Dharun Ravi, Tyler’s roommate who secretly filmed Tyler with another guy. Remember his 15-count indictment and years of prison that await him.

Crossing Ponds

19 Apr

While we continue to witness the ramifications of Kobe Bryant’s “fucking faggot” heard round the world, evidenced by the subsequent $100,000 fine and ongoing PR disaster, I feel compelled to change the tone of the conversation and shine a light on someone slightly more deserving of our collective attention.

In response to Kobe Bryant’s homophobic epithet, UK rugby icon Ben Cohen said, “I understand the heat and passion of competition at the highest levels. But we all must remember that strong bodies must be balanced with strong characters and work towards that end. Our positions as role models demand it.”

Ben Cohen, part-time rugby icon and full-time ally, is taking his message of tolerance and community across the pond to the States.

A long-time proponent of the LGBT rights, Cohen is straight. But that hasn’t stopped him from promoting equality on and off the playing field. “Beer with Ben,” part of The Ben Cohen Acceptance Tour, will visit Atlanta, New York, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., in May and will feature Cohen challenging others to stand up against homophobia and bullying while urging respect and acceptance regardless of orientation.

“If we save one person’s life, or get someone to think different, then I’m doing a good job.”

Asked what prompted him to take a stand, Cohen replied, “For some years now we have been receiving messages and emails from people all over the world with some heart wrenching stories. I really felt that I wanted to do something about it and I felt that I could.”

Cheers to you, Mr. Cohen. Thank you for all that you have and will continue to do. The message of love you bring with you from the U.K. to the U.S. is rich and inspiring, and should spark the attention of at least one sports icon whose pockets are a little lighter tonight.

YouTube Sunday: All Out

17 Apr