Scouting for All’s annual fundraising drive

Scouting for All, the Petaluma, CA-based organization fighting discrimination against gays and atheists in the Boy Scouts of America, has started its annual fundraising drive.

Below is a letter from one of Scouting for All’s co-founders, 21 year old, straight, Eagle Scout Steven Cozza:

To Our Scouting for All Supporters / Members

We are asking for your financial support to help our organization continue its educational and advocacy outreach, reaching out to gay (GLBT & Q) youth in our attempt to get the Boy Scouts of America to rescind its harmful and discriminatory policy against gay and atheist youth and adults. Please read Steven’s letter below and make a contribution. Scouting for All is a 501(C)(3)Charitable Nonprofit, so all donations are tax deductible. You can also go to http://www.scoutingforall.org/ and off our temporary homepage you can donate through paypal. If you could pledge a regular donation through paypal it would be most appreciated. All of our staff are grassroots volunteers. So all donations go to direct service.

Scouting for All’s 2006 Annual Fundraiser

Dear Supporter of Scouting for All,
My name is Steven Cozza, Eagle Scout. What I said last year remains true this year. I am now 21 years old. In 1997, when I was 12, I took a stand against the Boy Scouts of America because of its discrimination against gays and atheists. My advocacy inspired the creation of Scouting for All. Donations from supporters like you have helped us in our efforts to convince the Boy Scouts of America to end its discrimination. Each year, Scouting for All conducts an annual fund-raiser. It is that time of year again, and Scouting for All needs your financial support. I am writing to ask you to stand with us again by making a contribution to Scouting for All’s annual fund-raising campaign for 2006. This is Scouting for All’s only fund-raising event of the year.

We have come a long way over these last nine years. In fact, we have had a number of gay youth and several gay adults who have told us that Scouting for All saved their lives by letting them know that there is an organization which advocates for their civil rights and conveys a message that being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered is normal. I am not giving up on my efforts to stand against the discrimination by the Boy Scouts of America, and I’m also asking you not to give up! We should all continue to maintain the vision of social justice for everyone and strive to reach that vision’s goals of liberty and justice for all. The BSA discriminates against my gay and atheist friends. Its policy of discrimination hurts people and teaches my fellow Scouts to discriminate. As an Eagle Scout, I’m actually ashamed of the current national leaders of the Boy Scouts of America. They are ruining a good program that was meant to include all youth, not just some youth. It is also important to understand that when we stand up against the bigotry of the BSA we are also standing up against the bigotry of other institutions in our society. When we say homophobia, sexism and discrimination against one’s belief within the BSA is wrong, we are saying these “isms” are wrong for all of our public institutions including the military. The BSA is not a religious institution. It’s by-laws say it is nonsectarian. We support the right of two people of the same sex who love each other to marry, adopt and should have the same rights that are afforded to all in our society. Our race, religion / nontheist, gender, sexual orientation are differences we should embrace. They make up the beautiful rainbow of the human family.

When Lord Robert Baden-Powell founded the Scouting movement in 1907, and I am sure that he would never have supported discrimination against gay or atheist youth or adults. He wanted Scouting to accept all kids. Most scouting organizations in the world do not discriminate against gays, girls or atheists. Why does the BSA? The Boy Scouts of America should represent the very best in us as a nation, but its current national leaders choose to embrace the very worst: bigotry, discrimination, sexism and homophobia. The BSA’s policy of discrimination really hurts kids, both gay and heterosexual.

The leading cause of death for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth is suicide because they experience rejection from society. As an Eagle Scout I hold organizations like the Boy Scouts of America and individuals like President Bush who is the Honorary President of the BSA and who condones the BSA’s bigotry by remaining silent accountable for the high LGBT & Q youth suicide rate. A college student, Matthew Shepard was murdered a few years ago by an Eagle Scout and a Mormon, because he was gay. Homophobic institutions do play a role in causing hate crimes. Scouting for All works every day to challenge the BSA’s policy of discrimination and by doing so we challenge all institutions in America that discriminate including President Bush, who says “No child left behind”, but he leaves gay and atheist youth behind. Scouting for All continues to be very successful in lobbying the United Way and other funding organizations around the country to end their funding of the BSA. Nearly one-third of the funding that formerly went to the BSA through the United Way has been diverted to other nondiscriminatory organizations. Yet, we still have much more work to do.

Scouting for All has many educational activities and outreach programs. These include maintaining our Internet web site, http://www.scoutingforall.org/; providing consultations to BSA members, religious groups, governmental bodies, schools, businesses and the United Way; providing support to Gay-Straight Alliance Clubs in high schools; organizing protests at BSA events, including its annual BSA National Council meeting; participating in gay-pride events; providing support to gay and atheist or nontheistic scouts and leaders; creating and distributing literature from Scouting for All; speaking at national and regional conferences, including PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and the NGLTF (National Gay and Lesbian Task Force); organizing our Annual National Recognition of GLBT Youth and Gay and Atheist Scout Month in October, which includes rallies, fund-raisers and celebrations for GLBT youth and a global essay contest for ages 11 – 18; and coordinating Scouting for All’s Alliance for Human Rights. We are reaching out to our current President of the United States asking him to take a stand against the intolerance of the Boy Scouts of America by stepping down as the Honorary President of the BSA. We will also work to get Congress to revoke the BSA’s congressional charter. We are currently working with Gus Van Sant , film director to create a movie about my advocacy and Scouting for All that will give an affirming and empowering message to LGBT and Q youth and provide a normalizing message to the general public about what it means to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered or atheist including other nontheists.

As the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Please support Scouting for All with a generous, tax-deductible donation. We are a 501©) (3), charitable, nonprofit organization.

On behalf of my family and the entire Scouting for All organization, I want to thank you in advance for helping us to make the world a better place for all people. In this time of darkness in America, let us all become lights of hope for fostering healing social change, peace and justice. Strength and compassion lie within our own hearts not to turn and walk away, but to step forth and be counted.

Steven Cozza, Eagle Scout
Cofounder of Scouting for All
Thank you for your support!

I hope you all will consider giving to Scouting for All. When I was 14 and when I was dismissed from the Scouting program for being gay I thought that I was the only one. If it had not have been for Scouting for All, Steven Cozza and his father Scott, I would have never become as active publicly as young as I did. Scouting for All was definitely one of the organizations which helped me to know that I was not alone and that I could do something to help change what had happened to me, so that no other young boy would have to experience it again.

Help them out: www.scoutingforall.org

According to an article this morning in The Winston-Salem Journal, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools (WSFCS) Attorney Doug Punger retired last week, after serving 32 years of “service” to the school system and Board of Education.

The Journal‘s article is laden with high praises of Punger’s work and of how well he did in making the WSFCS policies among some of the best in the state.

The article does not, however, mention the work Punger did to protect the anti-gay actions and beliefs of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education.

It would have been Doug Punger who first helped the school board from accepting the gay-straight alliance at West Forsyth High School years ago. Of course (and Punger must have known this if he were as good a lawyer as the Journal article says), the school system was on the losing side of federal law.

Later, it would have been Punger who bowed down to pressure from a possible lawsuit and helped the school board place the gay-straight alliance at West Forsyth in a position of being “student-initiated” and “non-school sponsored” (read: ignored by students, faculty and staff).

Later, it would have been Punger who stood by and defended the school board when they refused to add sexual orientation and gender-identity to the system’s non-discrimination and anti-harassment policies. He claimed the policies, as they stood, were enough to protect all students. Of course, school board members like Buddy Collins and Jeannie Metcalf just thought the “fags” were being “sinful” and “shouldn’t be protected.”

Later, in the highly questionable case of sexual misconduct charges against Susan Wiseman, an out lesbian and active member of the local Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network and PFLAG chapters, Doug Punger was the one who headed up “school investigations” against her. Like school board member Vic Johnson said, being openly gay is “something that this community doesn’t approve of… as long as you’re openly gay and not accused of being with any children, I think you can get away with it.” I guess it is no coincidence that the only openly gay teacher in the school system actively working on LGBT youth issues within the school system was quickly accused of charges that would get her fired in a heartbeat. Remember… being openly gay is “something that this community doesn’t approve of.”

Later, in my personal experience with Punger, it would be him who would deny me and the members of our gay-straight alliance at R.J. Reynolds High School the opportunity to be represented, as a student club, in our school’s Inter-Club Council (a branch of our Student Government).

As our gay-straight alliance grew at Reynolds, our members felt that it was necessary that we expand our club’s mission and purpose. We became SPEAK, or Students Promoting Equality, Awareness & Knowledge, and our issues and club beliefs expanded far, far beyond working solely on issues of interest to LGBT students. From women’s history month, to black history month and race relations, as well as continued work on LGBT issues, our club was no longer a “gay-straight alliance.” In all honesty, we were a multicultural/diversity group.

We would meet personally with Doug Punger during my senior year (2003-2004). He came to one of our meetings and we asked him for school sponsorship. There was absolutely no reason to withhold school sponsorship or recognition of a diversity club or multicultural group. The school already had a student human relations council headed by one of the assistant principals and the school already held, in conjunction with other schools, a race-relations forum every year. The precedent was already set: The school system had already sponsored and recognized clubs such as ours.

But Punger refused. As he refused during that meeting he continually referred to our group as the “gay-straight alliance,” the “gay club” or “GLSEN group” (a throwback to the support that the gay-straight alliance had found in the local Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network chapter when we couldn’t find it at school). Punger claimed that we could not have school sponsorship because we were a “political group.” He based his assertion that we were “political” because when we, as students, approached the school board to ask for changes in policies which affected us, as students, we were engaging in “political lobbying.”

Even after we pointed out that the school had, all year that school year (2003-2004), sponsored two political groups, the Young Democrats and Teen Republicans, he refused to offer us school sponsorship. Instead, he told our Reynolds principal Stan Elrod to revoke the Democrats and Republicans school sponsorship, something for which I was personally later blamed for by members of those groups. Needless to say, the year after I graduated the Young Democrats and Teen Republicans not only received school sponsorship once again, they also appeared in the school yearbook (something not allowed for “student-initiated, non-schools sponsored” student groups).

Many people may think that Doug Punger did many great things for the school system. I and many other LGBT and straight allied students, parents and community members would disagree. My memories of Doug Punger are anything but “great.”

Thanks Doug, for all of your “service” and for helping to make my educational experience in high school a complete, living hell.

So much for Winston being an “inclusive community.” I guess Doug Punger never got the message:

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Stories of 2006, Year-end recap

Coming soon… the stories of 2006 and a year-end recap. Now is the time to voice your opinion and be heard.

What do you think were the stories of 2006 covered here? What deserves to go into the year-end recap.

Speak. Be Heard… or forever hold your peace (until the end of December 2007 that is).


Just Checking In…

I am keeping my word on being a slacker prior to the New Year.

Have had limited internet access… finally found a connection tonight for more than five minutes. Yet, it is quite late, and I have had

one too many

Cosmopolitans ;). Just w

anted to let the world know I am alive, and hopefully tomorrow, or definitely on the 1st of the new year, I will be able to post something of significance.

Everyone be safe tomorrow night!

Much love.


The Marriage Equality Question

Pam Spaulding asks the question in a brilliant way:

Visit Pam for more.


Right to Serve Wiki Page

Over at Wikipedia, I’ve created an entry for the Right to Serve Campaign… Head on over, help to edit and grow it. While I know a bit about Greensboro (considering I was the City Organizer and all), I don’t know much about many of the other cities. For that reason, I haven’t put up any specific information regarding any city in the Campaign, except for the inclusion of an arrest photo from Greensboro.

Check it out.

You can look up past posts and a smorgasbord of more info on the Soulforce Right to Serve Campaign, especially as it relates to Greensboro, NC, on this site’s Soulforce Youth page.


This is questionable…

When I instituted this website’s Privacy Policy (viewable at the very bottom of each page on this site, as well as being provided at the end of this individual post), I made sure to leave an exception for revealing information as it relates to publicly-owned (a.k.a. owned by “The People”) computers.

I did it exactly for a time such as this….

Look at the following screen cap and tell me if you don’t see something funny going on (click on image to enlarge):

The webpages this person is looking at refer to an ex-gay themed series of summer camps hosted by Ignite Student Outreach. One of the camps will be held at Lifeway Christian Conference Center in Ridgecrest, NC (outside of Asheville). I wrote extensively about this camp after I was invited by Ignite Student Outreach to attend (their mistake I’m sure). Click here for just one of the many past posts on the issue (one of which viewed by this WSFCS employee).

I have just a few questions:

1. Why is a Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools (WSFCS) computer showing up as being based out of Lifeway Christian Center? I’m guessing it must be a lap-top.

2. Why is an employee of WSFCS using his or her government-owned computer to look up information on ex-gay camps, while being on location at the very spot where this same ex-gay camp will be held this July?

3. I can’t help but wonder… Has WSFCS Superintendent Don Martin put together another conference/seminar for WSFCS employees featuring an ex-gay ministry and speaker like he did just a few years back at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Winston-Salem?

Does anyone know exactly when the Winston-Salem school system goes back to work? I need to call and make sure they aren’t planning anymore ex-gay excursions for school system employees again.

Visitors to InterstateQ.com will have their privacy protected when visiting the site. Information which may be collected, although not published, include email addresses which are required when posting comments in reply to blog posts. These email addresses are not published and kept private. Visitor information including, but not limited to, IP addresses and other internet/computer information related to any one individual visitor will not be passed on or revealed to any third parties, excluding times when generalized user statistics as observed over a period of time are used to inform possible advertisers or other interested parties as to the demographics of my site usage. As an LGBT/straight ally-oriented site, visitors should be comfortable in coming to this site knowing that their privacy will be upheld. Because website activity for publicly-owned (aka owned by The People) computers could be (in my opinion) considered public information, IP Addresses for publicly owned computers (such as computers from government agencies and governing bodies) are not included in this privacy policy

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Planning for Austin

In less than a week, I head down to Austin. I’m hoping all holiday travel and all this nasty weather stuff is over by January 3rd… the day I leave here for almost a week worth of training, fundraising, community building and friend-making with the rest of the folks going on the 2007 Equality Ride. (Brandy will be coming along, as well)

I sat down yesterday to put together a packing list. I can’t help but feel as though I’m forgetting something.

Other than that, however, my packing list for just a few days is SO long. How in the world will I be able to pack for the two months I’ll be spending on the Ride? I’ve always “packed like a woman” though, or so say many of my friends accustomed to seeing me drag all my stuff to monthly meetings of the Association of Student Governments.

I’ve never been to Austin, though… Anybody have any tips? What are the costs of things like down there? More expensive than here in North Carolina? Unreliable weather? Allergies? What’s the deal?

The Weather Channel has a good outlook for us while we are down there, January 3rd-8th. I’m packing some shorts, lol.

This just in, via press release from Onyx Marketing in Atlanta, GA:

Atlanta’s businessman Carey Sherrell competes to become the next “Apprentice”

ATLANTA (Dec. 12, 2006) – Handpicked by Donald Trump, openly gay Atlanta resident and businessman Carey Sherrell will compete for a job on NBC’s “The Apprentice” upcoming 6th season. Sherrell is one of 18 candidates vying to become the next “Apprentice.” The series moves to Los Angeles this season and will be airing on January 7, 2007.

Sherrell, the president and owner of The Onyx Marketing Group in Atlanta says, “it’s an honor, not just as a gay man, but as a business man, to be part of a show that has been a pioneer in the industry and to compete alongside some of the most intelligent, successful people in the world. I’m thrilled to break the stereotype and show the business community and the gay community that you can be out and work on Main Street, Wall Street or Rodeo Drive.”

Picture source: Yahoo Apprentice site

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Gay population must be higher than thought

In my work during the past 6, almost 7, years on LGBT issues and activism, I’ve run across numerous numbers purporting to be the “true” or “most accurate” percentage of the U.S. population which is either gay or lesbian.

Those numbers have ranged from 2% all the way up to an unremarkably unbelievable 30%.

The number I’ve heard most often and the number I trust is anywhere between 4% and 6%.

I believe that if you talk to any reputable scholar, LGBT activist, “traditional family values” activist or just any body familiar with this stuff, they’d agree that, most likely, the 4%-6% number is probably the most reliable (for the record, I put absolutely no stock or faith in the 10% number pushed by Alfred Kinsey – I don’t believe it is reliable at all).

But… I have to question that now, since I ran across this tiny segment in an article from 365gay.com News on Edwards announcement to run for Mr. Prez:

The LGBT vote has emerged as a sizable, discrete voting bloc of 4 to 5 percent of the vote in national Congressional and Presidential elections, according to Voter News Service data. The figures show that in large metropolitan areas that percentage is much higher. Openly gay voters account for 9 percent of the vote in large cities and 7 percent of the vote in medium-size cities.

All of us who are even the slightest bit interested or involved in politics knows that voter participation is NEVER as high as the total population of any demographic. Most times, voter participation NEVER comes ANYWHERE CLOSE to the total number of any demographic. For that matter, you can even say that most times voter participation almost never reaches close to just the number of registered voters, which doesn’t include every person who may be considered a part of that demographic.

So… I’m just kind of venturing out on a limb here, but… If the LGBT “voting bloc” is thought to be at about 4%-5% nationally, then the total number of LGBT people must be MUCH, MUCH HIGHER.

According to the Federal Elections Commission, percentages of voter turn out (out of the total voting-age population) were as follows for the following most recent, major election years:

  • 2004: 55.3%
  • 2000: 51.3%
  • 1996: 49.1%
  • 1992: 55.1%

EDIT (12/29/06 11:30am): Note: The voter turn out is the percentage of the total VOTING-AGE POPULATION (all those American citizens aged 18 and over); it is not the percentage of just those persons registered to vote (i.e. voting population).

The average of those four percentages is 52.7%. Now… just for fun (and I don’t think I’d count this as entirely academically or scientifically accurate, but it gives us some idea), let us apply this voter-turn out percentage to the percentage of LGBT voters in recent elections.

4% (LGBT voting bloc) / 52.7% (total voter turn out – out of total voting-age pop.) = 7.6%

According to this – and remember it is no where near 100% reliable – the possible total number of LGBT people in the United States equals approximately 7.6% of the total voting-age population of the United States.

I would say, however, that the voter turn out among LGBT people is most likely higher, percentage wise, than the national average, due in large part to the heightened sense of politics and its many times harmful and negative effects upon this particular community. Most often, you’d find that among many minority populations, voter turn-out is higher than the national average. Therefore, this is why my little math isn’t 100% accurate; in the math-work, I use the national, voter turn out average.

So… What is the main message here? You will never find that 100% of any given demographic or group turns out to vote. NEVER. It just will not happen. The “LGBT voting bloc” is estimated at 4%-5%. Because 100% turn out never happens, the total percentage of the U.S. population which LGBT people represent MUST be higher than what is usually purported to be the “most reliable” figure of 4%-6%. There is no doubt about this, at least in my mind.

Thoughts? Come on, Ryan… you’ve been good a “ripping me a new one” here lately…

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