As the oldest brother to four siblings — three brothers and a little sister — I find this ad very touching. I paused several times as I read it.

It’s running today in the Union-Leader, New Hampshire’s widely read (and conservative) newspaper.

Text below…

An Open Letter to the New Hampshire Legislature

Dear Legislators:

As a former Marine, I take freedom and liberty very seriously.  And as a conservative, I find the effort to take away marriage from loving gay and lesbian couples not only to be wrong, but completely off task.

This is not why we sent you to Concord. There’s a lot of work to do to fix our economy, create jobs and manage the state budget.

After completing my tour of duty in Iraq, I came home to New Hampshire to marry the woman of my dreams. Family means everything to us – as you can see from this picture of my brothers and me. I’m on the far left; the tall guy is my brother and best man, Calvin. He is gay. I hope he will one day ask me to be his best man when he decides to marry.

Limited government is not one that takes rights away from our family members, neighbors and co-workers.  No real conservative believes government should be managing the personal lives of any decent law- abiding citizen of New Hampshire.

My brother is finally happy and comfortable with who he is. I am so proud of the man he has become, and no one has the right to take away his freedom to marry.

Craig Stowell

3

Robin Tyler and ‘trickle down’ activism

Marching toward an empty building: "The only thing they're going to be putting pressure on is the grass," Rep. Barney Frank told The AP in 2009.

Yesterday evening I posted briefly about activist Robin Tyler’s desires to organize another national LGBT march on Washington, this time in 2012. I pointed to the five alternatives I suggested when activists in San Francisco called for a similar march in 2009, ultimately leading to the National Equality March in October of that year.

I have a few more thoughts to add…

Back in 2006 (0r sometime around then, I’m not entirely sure), Robin Tyler ramped up efforts to organize a national march in 2008. (On a side note: What’s up with organizing these things in huge election years?) I was recruited to start building support for the march in the Greensboro/Triad area of North Carolina. I started a little website, tried to get others involved in the planning processes, spoke to student groups and community members and… the idea went no where. No one I knew then was interested in helping to organize a national march when there was so much work to do on the ground in their schools, communities and in our own home state. The time, money and other resources spent on getting people to Washington, D.C., for a one-day, feel-good, accomplish-nothing rally was better spent organizing locally, lobbying locally and creating change locally.

It’s been nearly a year-and-a-half now since the 2009 National Equality March, and despite big promises of after-march action in all 435 congressional districts across the nation, march organizers (many of whom are now involved in GetEqual) have done nothing to move their mobilized hundreds of thousands toward that goal. Small GetEqual chapters have started up here and there, but nothing has come close to the master plan march organizers had in mind.

Similarly, no one so far has pointed out any single direct benefit gained from any of our community’s past national marches on Washington. I’m willing to listen and weigh the evidence, but as it stands I know of no victories, successes or changes that came as a direct result of encouraging thousands or even hundreds of thousands to blow hundreds or thousands of dollars in traveling for to the national mall for one day’s worth of chanting and holding signs.

Yet, according to the Washington Blade, Robin Tyler is pushing that same old, tired meme that bringing thousands to D.C. will somehow create massive waves of change across the country:

Tyler said the process of organizing a national march would trigger more activity in the states than what is currently taking place under the leadership of both state and national LGBT groups.

“[L]arge national marches on Washington, which take over a year to do on that scale, produce activists and activity from every state,” she said.

National marches do create activists and activity in every state, but the activity is focused on getting people to Washington and money raised for the event. Never in any significant way is the activity focused on creating change at home. This “trickle down” theory to activism is just as flawed as Reaganomics.

National marches on Washington are not effective. They are not effective at creating change in the Capitol. They are not effective at creating change in the states. They certainly aren’t effective at creating change in the thousands of small cities and towns scattered across our country.

If activists like Robin Tyler are truly interested in creating change in this nation, then they would seriously consider giving more support to equality initiatives focused on the state and local levels. Our movement has made significant progress at state and local levels and we stand to make more, if given the resources that is. If you want to have a national gathering, try going to a Creating Change conference. There you’ll at least learn something, meet new and valuable friends and allies and have the real resources to start doing the work of equality at home.

But if education and true motivation to create change is not want you’re really after, then go ahead and plan a national march on Washington. You’ll just spend a day walking and marching and chanting and holding signs. When you go home, you’ll feel really, really good. But you’ll have exactly the same amount of resources you left home with: zero.

(Photo credit: J. Morton Scott, via flickr.)

I’m reminded today of the children’s song:

Here we go round the mulberry bush,
The mulberry bush,
The mulberry bush.
Here we go round the mulberry bush
On a cold and frosty morning.

The Washington Blade reported Sunday that veteran activist Robin Tyler is ratcheting up her previous call for a national LGBT march on Washington, D.C., in 2012.

Anyone feeling a bit of deja vu?

I have nothing further to add to the discussion than what I’d already discussed as a response to 2009’s National Equality March. If you care, you can read those “Five Alternatives to the March on Washington” here…

Update: “Robin Tyler and ‘trickle down’ activism”

These series of tweets from @NAACP came across my news feed Monday and immediately caught my eye:

From NAACP Sr. VP of Advocacy Hilary Shelton: “Last summer, the NAACP passed a resolution calling for a civil political discourse…(cont)
http://twitter.com/#!/NAACP/status/34709131927490561

“We continue to call on all Americans to abandon vitriolic language. It serves as a distraction from the real issues our society need…
http://twitter.com/#!/NAACP/status/34709324769009664

…to address and distorts the challenges we as Americans have to confront to make our nation greater still.” #p2 #tcot
http://twitter.com/#!/NAACP/status/34709460110811136

It’s a phenomenal statement. It sure makes me feel good. It should make you feel good, too. Yay for civil discourse! Boo to vitriolic rhetoric! How could anyone in the world disagree?

Except there’s one slight problem: Exactly who gets to make the decisions on what statements are or are not vitriolic? Who sets the standards for “civil political discourse”?

Take for example Laura Donovan’s Daily Caller commentary, “Civility advocates bash the late Ronald Reagan on his birthday.”

“February 6 marked what would have been Reagan’s 100th birthday,” Donovan wrote, “and many left-wing writers took to Twitter to bash the late Commander-in-Chief as others celebrated his presidential accomplishments.”

And, while some of the comments might have been considered rude or uncivil, others were nothing more than straight-forward acknowledgments of Reagan’s failures.

From her piece, some of the comments Donovan calls out:

“Happy birthday in hell, Ronald Reagan,” tweeted Salon’s Mary Beth Williams, who recently slammed the Palin family as well.

“Reagan at 100. He loved America. He loved the rich more. He killed the middle class. Never forget. http://mmflint.me/a1HCcs,” tweeted “Fahrenheit 9/11″ film director Michael Moore.

Emerging New York City comedian Joe Mande also took to Twitter to poke fun at Reagan, “Happy birthday to Ronald Reagan’s dumb corpse.”

Daily Kos writer Scott Wooledge tweeted of Reagan, “More gay people DIED under #Reagan than any other President. Is that why#GOP loves and revers him so? #LGBT#tcot #p2 #HIV #AIDS.” Wooledge also published a blog entry titled, “Screw Reagan.”

Woolidge later wrote to Donovan (emphasis added):

Update: Daily Kos blogger Scott Wooledge has reached out to The Daily Caller and contests being considered a “civility advocate.” “I’ve never considered myself a ‘Civility Advocate,’” Wooledge wrote in an email to TheDC. “I’m much more aligned with Alan Grayson school of ‘if conservatives can talk trash, why can’t we?’ I’ve never advocated or endorsed violence, however, and am quick to condemn such talk. But a clear-eyed assesement that Reagan sat on his hands while tens of thousands of Americans died? That isn’t incivil at all, in my opinion. That’s a clear and incontrovertible, if now, inconvenient fact.

Reagan’s economic track record and service (or, rather, disservice) to the middle class and poor Americans is also a “clear and incontrovertible, if now, inconvenient fact.” So, why exactly is open and honest debate about facts now considered uncivil?

The same dynamic is present among LGBT advocates and those who would seek to deny our community its rights and well-being, and even our lives. What about all those comments about gays being pedophiles and sexual predators? Or that we have mental illnesses or that we’re unfit to serve our country? Are these uncivil? To any person with a sane mind, yes, but ask the conservative, evangelical, anti-LGBT Christian why he or she said it and the response will be, “I do it because I love you, blah, blah, blah.”

So, back to my original questions: Exactly who gets to make the decisions on what statements are or are not vitriolic? Who sets the standards for “civil political discourse”? The answer, obviously, is any movement with the loudest voice (no matter the real size). Unfortunately, the progressive movement doesn’t make that cut, at least not in our present political environment.

So, NAACP and other progressive groups, if you continue down this “civility” road you will inevitably find yourself in bed with some pretty scary, racist, xenophobic, classist, anti-LGBT, and all-out uncivil, “the rules don’t apply to me” crowds. Don’t take my word for it — just look around: Have you seen anybody launch criticisms against uncivil conservatives that successfully result in apologies? Or, has such progressive criticism simply emboldened them?

Why is it that progressives are willing to back down on solid, unequivocal facts and reality and allow conservatives to control the message and the future of this country?

1

Baby steps: GOP taking a stab at jobs?

[Ed. Note — In the original version of this post, we incorrectly identified Josh Stein has a Republican. As testified to in the comments, Stein is not a Republican and has, in fact, been a great ally to many communities in this state, including LGBT people. We regret the error, and wish’d we’d had, perhaps, another cup or two of coffee before writing this morning. Thanks.]

Hey, at least it’s a start.

N.C. Sen. Pete Brunstetter (R-Forsyth) and Josh Stein (D-Wake) filed a bill yesterday to expand the duties and purpose of the (soon-to-be renamed?) Economic Development and Global Engagement Oversight Committee. (They also want to create a global engagement study committee.)

It’s nice to know that GOP legislators like Brunstetter have decided to take a stab at this jobs and economy thing. Though with such a simple bill, you have to wonder why it wasn’t filed last week (especially for a committee that’s yet to have been appointed members and hasn’t had a substantial meeting since last April). I don’t know about you, but I’m still waiting to see exactly what the GOP’s priorities are this session. It’s not looking good, so far.

Dear GOP: Surprise me, please, by doing the job you sold to Tar Heel voters last fall.

Statesville attorney and Democratic National Committee member David Parker was elected Saturday the new chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party.

Parker takes the helm after abysmal performance by his predecessor David Young, especially on LGBT issues. In contrast, Young’s predecessor, Jerry Meek, often reached out, spoke with and worked together with LGBT constituents.

If Parker’s live-blog with Durham-based blogger Pam Spaulding is any indication, North Carolina Democrats have elected a fine leader who truly values the participation and contributions of LGBT party members:

Pam Spaulding:
Since PHB is a blog focusing on LGBT issues, there are huge ramifications for LGBT North Carolinians because of the outcome of the midterms in our Gen Assembly. A question from reader HunterC:What I’m most interested in is for political operators to recognize that in 2011 in North Carolina, embracing LGBT issues is not toxic. What will you do to get through to candidates and the political machinery that NC in 2011 has moved past LGBT items as wedge issues? Even US Senator Richard Burr — A NORTH CAROLINA REPUBLICAN — acknowledged the “generational change” after he voted to repeal DADT.

David Parker:
We are already seeing LGBT issues being used as a wedge: I got a mailing yesterday addressed to 5 million Senior Christians saying that Obama’s signing the Hate Crimes Bill was tantamount to criminalizing Christianity becuase the Bible speaks against homosexuality and is therefore outlawed.

This approach is just to arouse anti-gay passion and we have got to stand firmly against it and stand firmly for individual dignity also … it is my belief that sexual orientation is a gift from God. I will support the issues of personal dignity and the adoption of the Dallas Principles as well. They make sense across the board. LGBT issues are universal issues and should be treated as such.

Read Pam’s full interview with Parker…

0

N.C. GOP, is this the week for jobs?

Despite all the high-minded, feel-good rhetoric last fall about creating new jobs and saving the state from a budget crisis, one would be hard-pressed to find any evidence last week that GOP leaders in the North Carolina House and Senate were gung-ho about tackling what they’ve described as the number one legislative agenda item.

Newly-elected House Speaker Thom Tillis even wore and passed out to other legislators rubber bracelets that read, “Think Jobs” on the opening day of the new legislation session last week. He told his colleagues to snap themselves with it if they found themselves thinking about anything other than the economy.

From the list of introduced bills in both the House and Senate last week, the North Carolina taxpayer is left wondering: Exactly who’s paying for the doctor visits resulting from the bruises and lacerations from too much bracelet-snapping?

Out of 26 bills introduced last week, not a single piece of House or Senate legislation dealt with jobs, the economy or the state budget, which, by the way, faces a $3.7 billion shortfall this year. What GOP leaders did have time to do, apparently, was start in earnest their attacks on the poor, undocumented young people, community college students and public education.

Republicans’ election into the majority was clearly prompted by economic issues; the people spoke firmly. Voters want legislators to deal with pressing issues like job creation, the reversal of a downtrodden economy and the creation of a state budget that solves gaps while maintaining much-needed human services.

For all their usual talk about “mandates” from voters, Republicans sure did prove themselves uncaring last week. Legislators return to Raleigh this evening and tomorrow to start a new week doing the people’s business. Perhaps this week will be their turn-around: Lay off the social agenda and get to work for the people.

Update (01/31/2011, 8:14 a.m.): Why even get my hopes up? Carolina Journal: “NCGA Preview: Week of January 31. Health care, property rights, and charter schools top agenda.”

(photo src)

Interesting data points,courtesy UCLA’s Williams Institute, for a story I’m working on, set for publication in QNotes‘ Feb. 5 print edition…

Ranking of metropolitan areas with population above one million by the percent of same-sex couples who are raising children under age 18, American Community Survey (2005-2009).

Rank Metropolitan Area % of Same-sex couples raising children under age 18 Same-sex couples raising children Same-sex couples not raising children Total Same-sex couples
3 Raleigh-Cary, NC 29.5% 571 1,365 1,936
36 Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC-SC 18.9% 840 3,613 4,453

An important side note: It’s important to remember that data sets like these do not accurately reflect the entire LGBT population. In this case, the numbers are a reflection of same-sex couples and excludes single LGBT people. Further, the American Community Survey and U.S. Census do not count total numbers of LGBT citizens or residents. It’s a shame really, since all we have to go by regarding total LGBT population in this country are numbers like these and other data sets extrapolated by groups like the Williams Institute (by far, the best and most in-depth). Some studies, like Indiana University’s National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, found 7 percent of women and 8 percent of men identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual (of 6,000 people nationwide between the ages of 14 and 94). That study also found that by age 60, 15 percent of men have had at least one oral, same-sex sexual encounter.

Some jobs aren’t fabulous. Many don’t get praise or recognition. Folks who work in these jobs are often given nary a passing thought by most people whose lives would be dramatically different if not for the services these workers provide.

There’s lots of examples. The garbage man (and woman) is one. Honestly, how many people think about the people who collect your trash on a weekly basis — the shit (figuratively and literally) they have to deal with as they weave their mammoth trucks through small neighborhood side streets picking up your untouchables?

Another example might be those who work for your municipality’s sewage and water treatment system or those who work for portable toilet services. That hot dog you ate at the county fair was mighty tasty, but you drop it off at the portable toilet and you’re on your way happily ever after. Tell me, have you ever paused to think what a Porta-John employee’s work day is like, cleaning up after your bodily waste? I doubt most people have.

Unfortunately, journalists get a similar type of treatment. Though journalists are far from ignored — because they’re regular targets of public disdain and contempt — they do live in a world where their jobs are largely underpaid, under-appreciated and under-utilized (especially as traditional, print news-media companies continue to languish in a lack of innovation under the ever-continuing move to online news and entertainment).

Ultimately, public disdain for journalism emanates, I believe, from a collective, public ignorance that neither understands nor really much cares about the types of real, meaningful and important services journalists actually provide their local communities, states and nation.

Such is the case with a recent example from The Charlotte Observer. Continue reading this post…

A friend of mine still living in Winston-Salem, N.C., pointed my direction to a handful of ill-conceived, tasteless and offensive political cartoons syndicated by Cagle Cartoons and published by The Winston-Salem Journal following Wednesday’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal signing.

Perhaps the worst of the three political cartoons is Brian Fairrington’s which pictures a flag-draped coffin and a newspaper lying side-by-side. The paper’s headline reads, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repealed,” while a comment bubble over the coffin says, “You Go Girl!” The cartoon, in one fell swoop, manages to not only make light of the sacrifices of lesbian, gay and bisexual servicemembers but also each and every American who gave the ultimate sacrifice in service to their nation.

Though the flag-draped coffin is the worst, the other two are just as tasteless. Again, they make light of the service of lesbian, gay and bisexual servicemembers and the personal and public sacrifices they’ve had to make to serve this nation especially in this time of war. Mike Lester’s cartoon, picturing an older man imagining the worst possible “queering” of the military, serves only to perpetuate the exact prejudices and bigotry that made “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” possible and kept it in place for 17 years. The same is true of Daryl Cagle’s cartoon, picturing not a valiant and respectable gay servicemember but rather a servicemember “flaunting” his sexuality along with his service awards.

Gay and lesbian members of the U.S. Armed Forces are disrespected in these cartoons. Their tireless service on behalf of our freedoms and safety, along with that of their heterosexual colleagues, is reduced to serving as punch lines of insensitive jokes.

The cartoons are below. Two were published on the Journal’s site and one published in the paper on Dec. 23, 2010. Links to each cartoon on Cagle’s site are provided below.

Artist: Brian Fairrington. On Cagle: link

Artist: Mike Lester. On Cagle: link

Artist: Daryl Cagle. On Cagle: link