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When do I get my $1000?

I’m just kidding… Mike Rogers deserves it.

BlogPac has honored Mike for his work with progressive political projects, especially for his websites BlogActive.com and PageOneQ.com.

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Congrats Mike!

Just a couple of weeks ago, I told you all about a new book being released on homosexuality and Christianity. Gay Christian 101: Spiritual Self-Defense for Gay Christians is written by conservative, fundamentalist, gay pastor Rick Brentlinger.

I’ve gotten almost 100 pages in to the book and I have to say that I am, so far, quite impressed. The book is taking the issues in order and doing a great job of explaining the Scripture and philosophies that go hand-in-hand with an anti-gay interpretation of them in such a way that, I think, the average lay person can actually understand it.

So far, I’m most impressed with Brentlinger’s more than 40 page section on Sodom & Gomorrah. Most people who write on the subject of homosexuality and the Bible gloss over the Sodom story, thinking that its explanation of not being about homosexuality is enough to suffice. Unfortunately, Christians still cling to the Sodom story and this is the first time I’ve seen a writer deal with the subject so well and so in-depth.

I’ll keep you updated on my progress with the book and will be writing a review once I am done.

On July 17, 2007 (of course, while I was out of town and so not even paying attention to NC news), the North Carolina State Legislature honored Rutherford County Doctor Bob Crummie as the state’s “Doctor of the Day,” according to an article from the Charlotte Observer (h/t LegalJuice)

The honor isn’t really news in and of itself, but what is news to me (and what should be news to any person with any ounce of care or interest in LGBT issues) is that the North Carolina State Legislature chose to endorse a doctor who not only is up for review by the state medical board (and who might get his license taken away) and who not only was convicted of driving while intoxicated a few years back… BUT who also advocates the use of electroshock therapy to cure homosexuality.

In his “Dr. Bob’s Grocery Store Medicine and Healthy Life Anecdotes,” the good Doctor explains how he “put a stop to homosexuality” at a North Carolina prison, along with describing being gay as a “character flaw.” From the Charlotte Observer article:

Perhaps his most controversial opinions relate to gays and lesbians.

“There is no such thing as a homosexual. The Gay Movement is a hoax,” Crummie writes. “Individuals who act out homosexually are at best very neurotic and at worst psychotic. Most of them are character disorders.”

In what he describes as “one of my funniest stories,” Crummie tells how he once put a stop to homosexuality at an N.C. prison when, as superintendent, he threatened to give electric shock therapy to anyone caught in the act. With several inmates present, he demonstrated the procedure on one inmate who was severely depressed, he writes.

The American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association have said since the mid-1970s that homosexuality is not a mental illness and is not a choice.

Disgusting. Absolutely disgusting, that my state legislature would see fit to honor a person who shows such obvious disregard and contempt for an entire portion of our state’s citizenry.

The “Doctor of the Day” honor is a volunteer position partially arranged by the North Carolina Medical Society. According to the Observer article, “Together with the Nurse of the Day, he or she helps people in the Legislative Building with maladies ranging from a paper cut to a heart attack.” Doctors are told not to lobby state legislators or engage in any political work.

Obviously, Crummie broke that rule. Mike Edwards, the director of the NC Medical Society says that they have not seen Crummie’s anti-gay book and that the doctor will “have to stand by it.” Edwards says that the book “does not represent us or any of the other members who are physicians.”

Okay. Okay. Enough damage control. What in the world got in to the folks at the NC Medical Society. For that matter, what crazy bug infiltrated the North Carolina State Legislature and even leaned them toward thinking that honoring this crazy, anti-gay doctor was a good idea?

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender North Carolinians deserve an apology from our elected officials. They have honored a man who has absolutely no regard for the dignity and inherent worth of all our citizens. They have honored a man who would go as far as performing dangerous, harmful practices such as electroshock therapy on people who are guilty of nothing but being a minority in a state not-so-keen on acceptance of them.

Maybe next time, the State Legislature and Medical Society should be a little more careful of who they chose to honor. Maybe they should make sure that person would truly treat all members of our great state with equal respect and dignity.

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The news is a little old, but I thought it was interesting to note a few things and to provide some commentary.

Back on July 2, 2007, the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) put out a press release noting that the number of gay-straight student organizations registered with them had surpassed 3,500 across the nation. In the release, GLSEN included a list of the number of gay-straight alliances (GSAs) by state. North Carolina ranked number 20th, with 76 GSAs registered in the state.

It is interesting to note, for me at least, that the high number of GSAs in North Carolina has not always been. In 2000, when I started the gay-straight alliance at my high school, R.J. Reynolds in Winston-Salem, NC, there were only about eight other GSAs registered, or known to exist, around the state. The GSA at Reynolds High was only the second in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School System (the first being started at West Forsyth High School).

In the past seven years, the number of North Carolina GSAs has grown by almost ten times the number it was back when I first started my LGBT activism and advocacy.

It is also interesting to note that many of the other states in the top 20 of GLSEN’s list tend to be more liberal or have more active and visible LGBT communities than that of ours in North Carolina. That we have many GSAs in our state, I think, says a lot about our youth and the future of North Carolina.

I just got back from spending two weeks in New York working on Soulforce Q’s Right to Marry Campaign. One thing that was apparent there was that the populous is easily trending more liberal, or, more accepting of LGBT people and our equality. I would not doubt for a second that the very same thing is true for the good Ole’ North State.

We have no constitutional amendment banning marriage equality and we have been as equally affective in getting more progressive legislation passed in the past few years. Just this session, in May 2007, our state House heard the first LGBT-inclusive, state-wide bill to ever pass at least one of the two bodies of our General Assembly.

I’m predicting it here and now…. In 20 years, LGBT equality will not be an issue for the majority of North Carolinians. Furthermore, in 20 years North Carolina will continue to be able to claim that we are among some of the most progressive Southern states, first in the Civil Rights Movement and, I hope, believe and pray, first in LGBT equality.

* Note: The comment regarding North Carolina being “first in the Civil Rights Movement” was meant only as being among the first states to make civil rights progression and gains in the South. Yes, I’m fully aware North Carolina has its fair share of bad history, but we certainly don’t have as much as other Southern states (at least, not that I’ve ever been aware of).

Tully Satre, the teenaged, openly gay activist in rural Virginia is stepping down from his various leadership roles and, in some ways, stepping almost completely away from the public light.

In a blog posting, Satre, 18 years old, states:

I have grown tremendously as an artist and I will continue to kindle that muse as I move my studies to Chicago where I will be attending the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University.

Come August 24th I will be moving downtown on State Street in the windy city. A lot of people have judged my decision to leave Virginia saying that I am abandoning the work I have started. First of all I would like to point out that the work I started in Virginia continues and lives on through the many dedicated and hard-working individuals and groups who worked with me from the beginning. Equality Fauquier/Culpeper continues to thrive and is currently under-going a bit of a make-over as authority transitions. CEEVA was converted into the Virginia Safe Schools Project which will enable Virginia’s LGBT youth to find a statewide outlet that serves and protects their specific needs as youth. The Voice Project which lives and breathes online through social networking arenas such as Equality MySpace continues to grow under the authority of Matt Hill Comer. Although I have given up my leadership positions in many of these venues I will continue to write for The Advocate, with a pending piece about religion currently underway and another article in development about generational gaps and vocabulary in the gay community.

Other people have asked me why I no longer accept speaking invitations. I think a lot of people who did not necessarily agree with my views or way of doing things decided to start a rumor that I am an opportunist; willing to take any chance I can for the spotlight. I resent this statement both as an activist and an artist. In either venue I never was striving for the spotlight, but when it shined I wouldn’t turn it down but would rather use it in accordance with my plan to advance an organization or work of art. Regardless of this I decided it was important for me to “be a kid” and live out of that sort of spotlight as it was one which demanded constant maturity, responsibility, and wisdom which I lack at my young age.

Later in the posting, Satre explains why he never intended to enter politics as a career and tells the world of his plans as a future art student. He says the work he did while a high school student was “a reflection of doing the right thing.”

You can read more at Satre’s blog.

I should note… Tully is a good friend of mine. I like the work he has done and fully believe that he did it all precisely because it was the right thing to do, not because he wanted the spotlight (I think his exit from the public sphere is enough to show he never wanted the spotlight to begin with).

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PlattsburghFor the past two weeks I have spent my days and nights working with Soulforce Q’s Right to Marry Campaign in the State of New York. From July 14th through the 28th I joined 32 other young adult activists in traveling across New York. My particular route took me and seven others to the beautiful North Country. From Albany north to Saratoga Springs, Plattsburgh, Canton, Lake Placid and more, we took in the wondrous sights, sounds and smells of the Adirondack Mountains and the local, down-home flavor of each of the small towns we visited.

Photo right: The Northern Van in Plattsburgh, NY

To our surprise, we found that no matter where we traveled, the overwhelming majority of community members and leaders we spoke to supported offering full marriage equality to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. Our meetings with state legislators, although not as productive as conversations with community members, also went very well.

Our first meeting with a New York lawmaker was, perhaps, our most important. At the beginning of the two week campaign, we met with Senate Majority Leader, Senator Joseph L. Bruno. A Republican who has been in office since the 1970s, Senator Bruno is a powerful member of the New York Senate and represents a very conservative district north of Albany, oftentimes called “Bruno Country.” As leader of the Senate, Senator Bruno has the power to place – or not to place – certain bills on the floor of the legislative body. It was his decision not to place the marriage equality bill on the Senate floor that prompted our meeting with him.

We were saddened that we were not able to meet with Senator Bruno himself, instead meeting with a staff person. The Senator’s staff member was polite and cordial, although we learned nothing in the meeting that we did not know prior to it.

So from our meeting with Senator Bruno’s staff, we moved north. From the Chief of Staff for Assemblyman Roy McDonald in Fort Edward, to the LGBT-accepting Republican Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, our meetings varied in style and feeling.

Assemblyman McDonald’s Chief of Staff, Mark Luciano, was condescending and arrogant. He offered his “advice” in telling us that we should try “different tactics” other than talking to elected officials. He suggested we talk to community members and constituents, of which he thought many were “white trash.” He said that we should be patient and that the lack of progress was because of “the process.” He said civil unions were better. The meeting, needless to say really, was not a positive experience.

SaywardSo, after having our plight of second class citizenship compared to water-sewer problems in Saratoga County, we moved to Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward. The mother of an openly gay son, Assemblywoman Sayward joyfully agreed to meet with us. The only Republican co-sponsor of New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s marriage equality bill, the Assemblywoman spoke to us very frankly, stating that once you come to the point where you know being gay is not a choice, then this issue becomes not a religious or moral one, but rather one solely about civil rights.

Photo left: The Northern Van with Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward

DupreyWe also met with Assemblywoman Janet Duprey. The Assemblywoman had originally voted no on the marriage equality bill, but in our meeting with her she stated that since that time she had met with many people, read more on the subject and was beginning to see things in a different light. We firmly believe and hope that the Assemblywoman, if the vote ever comes up again, will vote in our favor.

Photo right: The Northern Van with Assemblywoman Janet Duprey

Our saddest “meeting” was with Senator Griffo in Utica. I put the quotation marks around the word “meeting” because we really never got the chance to meet with him. For weeks, if not months, we worked hard to secure a meeting with either the Senator or his staff. Time and time again, we were shrugged off. When we showed up to his office anyway, we were shrugged off once again. What kind of elected official ignores American citizens who wish to only speak with him?

Overall, I had a wonderful time on the Right to Marry Campaign. Unlike the Equality Ride, this particular Soulforce Q action was more politically based, something I absolutely love and something that was definitely right up my alley. The meetings with state legislators and their staffs was definitely a high point, but more importantly the meetings and conversations we had with community members and New York citizens was definitely enjoyable and productive as well. The overwhelming majority of those we met supported us fully.

New York is next. New York will be a place where LGBT citizens are full citizens and where second class citizenship is a thing of the past. Maybe not this year, perhaps not next year… but it is coming and it is coming soon!

A Couple’s Story
The following is from Greensboro, NC couple Cris Elkins and Gene Hannold. They sent the following letter and shoes to the office of New York Senate Majority Leader, Senator Joseph L. Bruno, as a part of the “Walk a Mile in My Shoes” Campaign (link).

July 27, 2007

Senator Joseph L. Bruno
Legislative Office Building, Rm. 909
Albany, NY 12247

Dear Senator Bruno:

Walk1We are a same-gender couple who have been in a committed, loving relationship for 33 years. We are not getting any younger and could use the security, protections, rights, and responsibilities that a marriage license affords. Marriage equality for gay and lesbian Americans is all about civil rights and having our nation live up to its highest ideal of liberty and equality under the law. There is no greater personal freedom than the right to marry the person one loves. To love, honor, and cherish is the noblest promise two people can make. Barring gays from marriage is inhumane and unfair. Allowing and expecting marriage would show respect for the welfare and equality of all Americans.

Walk2Two years ago we sold our home of 26 years in Virginia and moved to North Carolina. A plethora of anti-gay legislation, including a marriage amendment, made it clear that gays were no longer welcome or safe in Virginia. Since we are both retired we did not have to stay and support our own oppression. We are currently living in mother’s home in NC and taking care of her. We have found NC much more accepting, affirming, and supportive of gays and lesbians than Virginia. NC is the only southern state without a marriage amendment. Perhaps that is because the state legislature is controlled by Democrats and the governor is also a Democrat.

When mother dies we will be looking to relocate to a state that provides us the right to marry. It is my hope that New York will be one of those states. We have a great fondness for NYC and made numerous trips there while living in northern Virginia. Please do the right thing and allow marriage equality in NY. You will be proud that people around the world can look to NY as a beacon in the struggle for human dignity.

Sincerely,

Cris F. Elkins
Gene E. Hannold

Here are some snippets and links from articles about Soulforce Q’s Right to Marry Campaign from the past two weeks…

SoulForce Youth in NY to Lobby on Marriage link
By: ANDY HUMM
07/26/2007 Gay City News
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Thirty-five young people from SoulForce Q, mostly from out of state, fanned out across New York this week to lobby legislators on the bill opening marriage to gay couples that passed the Democrat-led Assembly in June but is stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Matthew Nelson, 26, the co-director of the group’s Right to Marry Campaign, told Gay City News from Nyack that “people of my generation really care about marriage equality.” A resident of California, he said that he and his partner of two-and-a-half years are set to sign up as domestic partners there in the only other state where at least one branch of the legislature has approved a marriage equality law. A 2005 measure passed by both the Assembly and the Senate in California was vetoed by Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

SoulForce Protests State Senator Diaz link
July 26, 2007 New York Press
Gay rights activists from the New York chapter of SoulForce stopped by the Bronx office of State Senator Rev. Ruben Diaz today to demand a meeting with him on passing legislation in the State Senate to legalize same-sex marriage in New York State (the Assembly has already passed a bill calling for it).

Rev. Diaz is perhaps the strongest Democratic opponent of same-sex marriage in the State, and SoulForce organizer Matthew Nelson said his group was hoping to meet with the state senator to change his mind on the issue. But Rev. Diaz denied a request for a meeting, stating that his mind is already made up on the issue and no meeting would ever change that.

So without a meeting SoulForce decided instead to take their fight to the streets, handing out literature to passers-by, reading from the Bible and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, in particular emphasizing the “and justice for all” closing line. The group also sent two bouquets of flowers to Rev. Diaz’s office, with one of the cards reading “please let this [sic] roses remind you of the flower my daughter will never walk down the aisle holding.”

Young adults campaign for same-sex marriage in New York link
By ANDREA VanVALKENBURG
Staff Writer, Plattsburgh Press-Republican

PLATTSBURGH — Brian Murphy recently left a pair of shoes with Sen. Joseph Bruno’s staff, asking the New York representative to walk a mile in his shoes.

The California man was one of 32 young adults who fanned out across New York to meet with residents and legislators in support of the New York State Equality of Marriage Act and the right for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender New Yorkers to marry.

“There’s such a need for this,” Murphy said when eight members of Soulforce Q, a national interfaith organization, stopped in Plattsburgh during their two-week Right to Marry Campaign across the state.

“Marriage is a right that should be protected for everyone.”

Video from the North Van of the Right to Marry Campaign
The following video was put together by me and Brian Murphy.

The Right to Marry Campaign
Put together for the Right to Marry Campaign by Brian Murphy

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Finally home…

After getting my flight moved (and a wonderful $400 credit to use with Delta Air, haha), I’m finally home. Total length of a day of travel = 10 hours. It feels so good to be back home.