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I’m leaving… It’s so sad…

Today is the day. In two hours, my mom and I will get in the car and she’ll drive me to Raleigh. I’ll be leaving the “Old North State” for two months while I’m on the Equality Ride.

Until May 1st, in my mind and my heart, I’ll only be in one place:

In my mind I’m goin’ to Carolina
Can’t you see the sunshine
Can’t you just feel the moonshine
Ain’t it just like a friend of mine
It hit me from behind
Yes I’m gone to Carolina in my mind

Karen she’s a silver sun
You best walk her way and watch it shinin’
Watch her watch the mornin’ come
A silver tear appearing now
I’m cryin’ ain’t I
Gone to Carolina in my mind

There ain’t no doubt it no ones mind
That loves the finest thing around
Whisper something soft and kind
And hey babe the sky’s on fire,
I’m dyin’ ain’t I
Gone to Carolina in my mind

In my mind I’m goin’ to Carolina
Can’t you see the sunshine
Can’t you just feel the moonshine
Ain’t it just like a friend of mine
It hit me from behind
Yes I’m goin’ to Carolina in my mind

Dark and silent late last night
I think I might have heard the highway calling
Geese in flight and dogs that bite
Signs that might be omens say I going, going
I’m gone to Carolina in my mind

With a holy host of others standing around me
Still I’m on the dark side of the moon
And it seems like it goes on like this forever
You must forgive me
If I’m up and gone to Carolina in my mind

In my mind I’m goin’ to Carolina
Can’t you see the sunshine
Can’t you just feel the moonshine
Ain’t it just like a friend of mine
It hit me from behind
Yes I’m gone to Carolina in my mind
Gone to Carolina in my mind
Then I’m on to Carolina in my mind
Gone to Carolina in my mind
Gone – I’m gone – I’m gone
Say nice things about me
‘Cause I’m gone south
Carry on without me
‘Cause I’m gone

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Repeal to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell introduced

The Military Readiness Enhancement Act was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representative Marty Meehan (D-MA). YAY!

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So… I happened upon the RECALLsmall.com site today. If you aren’t from Greensboro, NC, the site is just the beginning of a campaign to recall one of our City Councilmembers, Dianne Bellamy-Small. Her child-like, playground antics are nothing short of insanity and they belong no where in the business of the City.

I think the tide is turning, really. It is time for some new and fresh blood in the City Council. How can you expect young professionals to stick around when all they see are a bunch of old fogies acting like Kindergarteners?

I think that a couple of well-qualified college students or younger 20-something folks should run in 2007. I really think they should and, you know, this tide might just turn enough to get the old bickering blood out and the new, fresh ideas in.

And, oh yeah… About that…

Matt Comer for City Council

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Equality Ride: Flowers for Union University

During last year’s Equality Ride, the 33 youth stopped at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, and were “graciously” escorted to a dirt mound behind and quite some distance from the campus (pictured right).

Here, the officials at Union University told the Equality Riders they could interact with students. Too bad the dirt mound was “conveniently” out of sight and out of mind for many of Union’s students.

Union University is once again a stop on the Equality Ride. The East Bus of the Ride will stop at Union University on Monday, March 26, 2007. Once again, officials at Union are directing us toward a dirt mound.
Us youth on the East Bus aren’t so happy about the dirt mound. To us, it just doesn’t seem very hospitable or welcoming at all. Really… If someone came to your home, even if you disagreed with what they were saying, would you, in good Christian conscience, tell them to go stand on your compost heap in the backyard? No… you, like Christ, would welcome them into your home and open a two-way dialogue and conversation.

We would like to give Union University and President David S. Dockery purple irises for every day on the Ride preceeding our stop at Union on March 28th. We also want YOU to be involved!

The bouquet of purple irises will come with a little note from 1 Peter 4:9, “show hospitality to one another without grumbling” and a note encouraging President Dockery to let us on campus and engage in an honest, open conversation and dialogue.

You can be a part of this wonderful gesture of love and gracious hospitality!

For each person who donates to buy a purple iris to give to Union University, we will create a special page on the Soulforce website to thank you. Help us show Union University and President Dockery the loving support of folks just like you who cherish the importance of honest and open dialogue on these tough issues.

You can donate to help send this message by going to: https://www.soulforce.org/donate

Be sure to put “Flowers to Union University” in the comment section of the donation form.

Check out the what happened at Union University during last year’s Ride, as seen through the eyes of Rider Kayla Bonewell.

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Soulforce Equality Ride – 2 Days to go!

Today I start packing and getting the last few things I need to go on this fantastic journey.

My mom will drive me to Raleigh, NC, tomorrow, Wednesday evening. I’ll attend the Soulforce Benefit Concert and spend the night down there. With my fellow Rider from ‘the Old North State,’ Dan Seda, I’ll head to the Raleigh-Durham International Airport for our plane flight to Minneapolis, where our two month Ride will begin…

Be sure to follow me and fellow Rider and InterstateQ.com contributor and the Equality Ride journey through our eyes right here on InterstateQ.com!

We’ll feature (or try to, given our time), the most up-to-date news from the road and up-to-the-minute, insider views into the Ride. We’ll offer first-hand accounts of our days on the campuses of religious colleges and universities adding to the oppression of LGBT people. We’ll offer exclusive video from events on the Ride and, hopefully, some expclusive interviews with those on the campuses and well-known folks who might join us on the bus.

InterstateQ.com will be YOUR total inside access to this unique, brave and courageous trip throughout the Eastern route of the Soulforce Equality Ride. We hope you’ll stick with us!

Be sure to add our RSS Feed to your feedreader… get up-to-the-minute updates as they are posted!!!

RSS Feed – InterstateQ.com

For more information on the Ride:

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Opponents to marriage equality and proponents for an amendment banning such within the Constitution of the United States of America are switching their focus and their tactics from pushing and prodding the Congress, to pushing and prodding the various states in the Union.

According to an article from The Washington Blade, gay marriage foes in the DC-based “Alliance for Marriage” say that they know getting anything through a Democratic-controlled Congress is impossible:

The group that spearheaded the push for a federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage has reset its sights on state legislatures, conceding it has little chance for success in a Democrat-controlled Congress.

The Washington-based Alliance for Marriage will try to build a nationwide network of state lawmakers who would support such an amendment, the group’s leaders said in an interview with the Associated Press on Monday, a day before they planned to unveil their new effort.

They said they consider it a temporary setback that the Democrats’ triumph in the November midterm elections resulted in a congressional leadership unsympathetic to their cause. Ultimately, three-fourths of the state legislatures would have to approve a federal constitutional amendment.

“We believe the day is coming when the Marriage Protection Amendment will be sent to the states” said Bob Adams, vice president of the alliance.”The time to organize for that is now, not 10 years down the road.”

Matt Daniels, the group’s founder and president, acknowledged the results of the November elections forced the Alliance for Marriage to look beyond Washington for supporters.

“There is no question that the shift in the balance of power in Washington has, for the time-being, made it difficult to reintroduce the federal amendment in Congress” he said.

But, he noted, voters in several states approved ballot questions opposing gay marriage. Arizona was the only state where voters rejected such a measure.

He and Adams said their group is the only one working to organize state legislators.

The Constitution outlines two ways in which an amendment can be proposed. The first is through proposal in the Congress, in which the amendment must be approved by two-thirds of those Representatives in the House and two-thirds of those Senators in the Senate. If it passes both houses of Congress, the amendment then heads to the States, where it must be ratified by three-fourths of the total number.

The second process for proposal – the one which seems to be the route that the opponents are thinking about taking – allows a Constitutional amendment to be proposed from the bottom up… from the States. In this process, two-thirds of the State legislatures must call for a Constitutional Convention. At the Convention any amendment can be proposed and debated. If approved by the Convention, the amendment must then be approved by three-fourths of the States in the Union.

Honestly, it is hard to know if any federal marriage amendment would ever succeed. As of now, only 26 out of the 50 States have passed similar amendments to their State constitutions; that is only 52%, not the three-fourths which would be needed to pass it on a federal level.

Another concern is the constant preaching we’ve heard from many, many people that marriage should be a state concern only. If marriage is a state concern, then let the states deal with it… stop pushing it on a national level.

Another issue I take extreme concern with is using the Constitution of the United States, as well as the constitutions of our various States, to limit the rights and privileges of citizens. Throughout our history, Americans have progressively used our governing documents to extend rights and privileges. Only once has the Constitution been used to limit rights. During Prohibition, all hell broke loose and the rights-limiting Prohibition amendment was later repealed, of course through the tough amendment process.

Almost every time the amendment process has been initiated, it was used to extend rights or alter some minor operation of our government (term limits and the line of succession for example). From the abolition of slavery, the granting of African-American citizenship, the right to vote for both blacks and women and more… the Constitution is not a document which should be used to mirror the whims of public opinion in this era of Bush-controlled, radical Religious Right zealotry.

The Constitution is a document created to last and if it is going to continue to last another 200, 300, 500 or 1000 years, we cannot play with it every time some group gets the notion that something is “wrong” and should be banned. I thought that was a lesson we learned in the early part of the 20th century?


Marriage, or the lack thereof, in the States (credit: GoodAsYou) Click to enlarge

Like I said above, only 26 States have passed an amendment for their State constitutions. You’ll notice one big exception in what the Religious Right probably thought would be a hands-down victory: North Carolina. In the words of my friend Ed, the fact that North Carolina has held off an amendment for the past three years is nothing short of something to make the Religious Right go stark crazy. They look at the South and they see a big hole in their “Bible Belt” South.

Marriage equality, however, remains banned, by statute, in most of the States. Only New York, New Jersey and New Mexico do not have statutes banning equality. In 2006, Arizona defeated the anti-marriage amendment.

I doubt that the route that marriage opponents want to take will work. The process of going through the States to set up a Constitutional Convention has never been used and according to one source, the exact process of how we would even go about setting up such a Convention isn’t quite known.

Foes of equality for LGBT citizens should just sit down. More and more people are starting to see through their bigoted and prejudiced speech to see exactly what they want to do in America. Their movement isn’t about “protecting marriage,” it is about putting the government squarely in the bedroom and the private lives of private citizens. America is a nation where people are free to choose their own ways and paths for their own lives.

The government should not be able to tell citizens who they can and cannot enter into a contract with. That is all marriage is to the government anyway, a civil contract binding and combining two entities – and their property, wealth and other assets – as one entity. If you’d like to compare civil marriage – that which is issued by the government – to anything at all, it really is best to compare it to the merging of two companies or corporations.

In Lawrence v. Texas (2003), the Supreme Court of the United States firmly ruled that the government has no right to stick its nose into the private lives of private citizens. It is time for the anti-gay forces of the radical Religious Right to get the message.

Oh what a blast!

Jennifer Holliday, Leslie Jordan (pictured right, center stage), Amber, Joe Solmonese, and so many other folks just look fabulous on the stage!

I had so much fun last night at the Human Rights Campaign Carolinas Gala. With over 1500 attendees, the dinner was the largest HRC dinner in the entire nation, even beating out the national DC dinner!

Did you hear that? North Carolina, a so-called “red state” hosted the largest HRC Gala in the entire nation! The largest gathering of HRC-affiliated gay and straight people working and striving for equality.

Last night was “our night” as the dinner co-chairs reminded us numerous times and I and all my friends certainly took a break from our normal, busy and hectic lives full of usually nothing but LGBT equality work to have fun.

Despite the fact that Operation Save America and their Reverend Flip Benham remained outside of the Charlotte Convention Center shooting off at the mouth the entire night, the event was surely a success!

Can’t wait ’till next year!
“If you could read my mind love” Amber
Performed at the HRC Carolinas Gala 2007 (although this is not a recording from the dinner, sorry – She’s much better live!)UPDATE: I usually don’t ever do this, but I’m going to go ahead and publish the text of my next opinions column (which will be published either on Tues. Feb 27 or Tues. March 6 in The Carolinian at UNCG… the column is on the dinner:

Showing our strength
HRC Carolinas dinner shines bright

by Matt Hill Comer, Don’t Ask (I’m Telling)
The Carolinian
, UNCG

No amount of protest could stop it. No amount of outcry against it could prevent it. On Saturday, February 24, 2007, over 1500 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and straight allied people from North and South Carolina converged on Charlotte, NC, for the twelfth annual Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Carolinas Gala.

Hosted at the Charlotte Convention Center, the dinner included an outstanding performance from Jennifer Holliday, the original Broadway star in Dream Girls and a stunning keynote address which served to be more like stand-up comedy night from the acclaimed comedian and actor Leslie Jordan (Sordid Lives, Will & Grace). The dinner attendees were also privy to what can be described as nothing but a brilliantly empowering and exciting political address from Joe Solmonese, the president of HRC and a special, surprise performance by pop/dance singer Amber, who sang her wonderful renditions of “If You Could Read My Mind” and “This is Your Night.”

North and South Carolina hardly seem to be the places in the nation where a top-level, star-studded, gay extravaganza could be held. You also would not think that our two little “red states” would play host to the largest HRC-affiliated evening dinner & fundraiser in the entire United States. Indeed, the HRC Carolinas Gala was so large that it beat out the national HRC dinner held in Washington, DC, every year.

I’ve been privileged to attend the HRC Carolinas Gala three times, first in 2004, then last year and again this year. Each time I have the chance to attend the dinner (something I hope to make a yearly tradition), I come back to Greensboro and Winston-Salem feeling empowered and refreshed. It is an absolutely wonderful feeling to be surrounded by like-minded people who believe in the struggle for full equality for LGBT people as much as I do.

The HRC Gala is much more than a simple dinner. In attending, I have the chance to meet and spend time with friends and colleagues from across the state. We get to chat it up with the leaders of our social justice movement, shoot around ideas for new activities, events and activism projects and catch up on all the latest, on-the-ground news of the current state and strength of the fight we know is right, the fight we know we will win.

While 1500 committed activists and supporters for equality enjoyed their evening safely inside the convention center, controversy expounded outside. A radical, right-wing Christian activist group known as Operation Save America and led by the Reverend Flip Benham, based out of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg metro area, held huge signs printed with Bible verses which, supposedly, condemn homosexuality and blasted their hate-filled and bigoted rhetoric through loud speakers. They even had the gall to get their protest permit for the corner of Stonewall and South College Street, the very corner in downtown Charlotte which Gala attendees would have to pass in order to get from the Westin Hotel to the entrance of the convention center.

Walking through the throng of wild-eyed crazies was tough enough, but then came the best part. The “fearless leader” of the band of radicals stood right in front of the entrance to the convention center. He looked right at me and said that I needed Jesus and needed to be saved.

“I’m already saved, sir, and Jesus is my Saviour,” I responded.

“Oh, no he isn’t son!” He exclaimed.

“Shut up!” I heard an elderly women scream toward Benham as I walked away.

All I could do was laugh and I did so, almost uncontrollably.

Echoing the statements of Leslie Jordan, I must say that it is refreshing to see the Irreligious Wrong so upset over the victories we know we will be making in this struggle for equality in years to come. They know we are winning and we are winning because we are right!

Empowering and refreshing, that the dinner was. The time spent having fun with friends and eating the fantastic dinner, meeting the other youth active and committed to the struggle for equality and going out afterward for a night on the town was definitely a great way to spend my weekend.

If you ever get the chance to attend the HRC Carolinas Gala, I hope that you will and I’m sure you’ll find the experience as invigorating as I did. It isn’t too expensive to go, especially if you apply for the youth “scholarship” award, which pays for youth ages 18-24 to attend the dinner (that is definitely the only reason I got to go).

You’ll come back feeling empowered and ready to continue our common goal to finally realize a day when all are equal, regardless of sexual orientation and gender-identity.

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From the Kentucky Equality Federation, which is working with and partnering with the Soulforce Equality Ride for our stop at University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Kentucky:

Kentucky Equality Federation is coordinating Soulforce Equality Ride’s trip to Kentucky and their visit to the University of the Cumberlands on March 28th.

Kentucky Equality Federation was contacted last month by Matt Hill Comer, East Bus Organizer for Equality Ride to assist in coordinating a community reception.

The 2007 Soulforce Equality Ride features two buses that will visit thirty-two schools with policies banning the enrollment of openly LGBT students, including Baylor University, Bob Jones University, Brigham Young University, Yellowstone Baptist College, University of the Cumberlands, and many more.

The Equality Ride stop at the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg is March 28, 2007

Kentucky Equality Federation will be paying for Soulforce Equality Ride’s hotel accommodations during their Kentucky trip, as well as a community dinner on the evening of March 27th in Berea, KY.

Soulforce Mission Statement is “freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance.”

“Jason Johnson, who was expelled from the University of the Cumberlands last year for being openly gay will be part of the community dinner and gathering on March 27th in Berea. Jason is very excited about participating in the community events during Soulforce Equality Ride’s visit to the commonwealth.” stated Jordan Palmer, Kentucky Equality Federation President. “The contribution Soulforce makes to end the misuse of religion to condemn homosexuals is remarkable; we’re proud to offer them a community dinner and pay for their accommodations.”

The exact location of the community reception is still confidential. You may however sign-up now to attend the gathering that will be hosted by Kentucky Equality Federation in Berea, KY.

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Vote for Kentucky Equality Federation AGAIN for the 2007 MySpace Social Justice Award!

Kentucky Equality Federation has been chosen as a finalist (among all myspace.com users) to win $10,000.00 for the MySpace Social Impact Award.

If Kentucky Equality Federation wins the $10,000.00 it will go to fund gay-straight alliances across Kentucky to promote tolerance and diversity.

It is indeed an enormous honor to simply be nominated, but gay-straight alliances across Kentucky could definitely make excellent use of these funds!

Voting is now live! Vote now! You may vote once per day until the polls close next week!

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Saturday: Busy Day… all over the state

Today is a busy day, for sure.

I have to pack some clothes and other things I’ll need for my stay overnight at the Westin Hotel in Charlotte, NC, then head to Greensboro for my presentation on the Soulforce Equality Ride at the General Assembly of the state-wide UNC Association of Student Governments.

After that, I head down to Charlotte, NC, with my good friend and colleague Chris Cannon for the 2007 Human Rights Campaign Carolinas Gala at the Charlotte Convention Center.

We’ll leave around 1:30pm and get to the hotel by 3pm (I certainly hope we’ll be settled no later than 4:00pm). I’ll have some time to take a shower and get dressed in my fancy, cool tuxedo and then head to a news interview outside the convention center at 5:30 (if it doesn’t get canceled). After all that, I’ll finally get to go inside the convention center, check in to the Gala’s registration desk and schmooze for an hour before dinner is served and the program begins.

I think Chris and I have plans to go out on the town after the Gala. Either that or will hit up one of the free after-parties either in the convention center or the hotel.

I’ll then be back to Winston on Sunday.

Phew…

I’ll have my computer with me and I’ll surely be taking plenty of photos, but don’t expect me to be replying to any emails at least until Sunday evening or Monday.