A bill to allow the creation of a “Choose Life” specialty license plate resurfaced Monday in the North Carolina Senate. The bill has been filed in previous legislative sessions as far back as 2008, though it’s never advanced. Democratic leaders in the House and Senate wouldn’t touch the bill with a 10-foot pole, but now, under Republican leadership, pro-choice advocates should be concerned with the bill’s possible success.

“But it’s just a specialty plate,” you say. “They aren’t requiring people to buy them. What’s the big deal?”

Never before has the state sanctioned a specialty plate with a decidedly political message or aim. The bill would also shuffle the money generated by each sale to the Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship, a network of religiously-affiliated pregnancy crisis centers that, as the bill requires, denies women information about all of their legal and medical options. Continue reading this post…

I had the pleasure of meeting filmmaker Chris Mason and his friend Potter when they made their way through Charlotte during their Summer 2009 trek across the lower 48 states. Their aim was to capture a glimpse of LGBT life across the country.

Chris has released an 11-minute teaser of his new film. It’s some exciting and interesting stuff, including attempted interviews at Focus on the Family and Chris’ interview with Shirley Phelps-Roper.

Check out the short preview clip from Charlotte at about the 7-minute, 30-second mark. It includes me and Denise Palm-Beck, former chair of the Lesbian & Gay Community Center of Charlotte.

I hope you’ll support the Chris and his film: Chris has launched a fundraising effort this month and wants to raise $5,000 before the end of February (he’s raised nearly $2,000 so far). Please lend him your support; even a small donation of $5, $10, $20 or $50 will go a long way in helping him complete his project. Visit DrivingEquality.com for more information and to donate.

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

I saw this on the magazine racks at the grocery store today (photo right). I couldn’t resist: I had to snap a quick photo, not so I could make fun of Pat Robertson, per se, but rather the National Examiner.

You have to wonder exactly what took the National Examiner‘s folks so long to notice just how crazy good ol’ Pat is. Someone missed a very important memo about, say, 30 years ago.

Luckily, I wasn’t the only one to catch the National Examiner‘s lazy and late tabloidism. From blogger Matty Boy (It’s News 2 Them™):

I didn’t open the magazine, that’s my policy, but if you are a “friend” of Pat Robertson, I have to wonder exactly what he’s doing that makes you think he’s crazy NOW given the long history of unhinged things he has said and done in the past.

I mean, in 1976 when he predicted Doomsday would be in 1982, you thought he was okay?

When he prayed for a nuclear attack on the State Department during the Bush 43 administration, that wasn’t crazy to you?

When he claimed he could leg press 2,700 lbs. due to his “age-denying energy shake” a few years back, that wasn’t proof he was a deluded lying scumbag?

The better headline might have been, “All Pat Robertson’s ‘friends’ are blind fools!”

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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”

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Freshening up

You’ll be noticing a few changes on the site in the next week or two. In fact, there’s already a significant change. After nearly two years of neglect (damn those day jobs), InterstateQ.com is getting a face lift, and, in case you haven’t already noticed, a better commitment from me to keep it updated with new commentaries and news several times a week.

And, years after WordPress finally debuted the nested comment feature (you can reply directly to a user’s comment and your comment will appear directly under theirs), InterstateQ.com has joined the fold.

I’m guessing this is a good thing this blog isn’t a child. For all the neglect it’s suffered, I’d have been arrested, booked and charged, and convicted and sentenced already.

And, in case you’re wondering or curious, I’ve only got two significant items yet completed on the list of site redesign to-do’s: Custom tag, category, search and archive pages, and Twitter/Facebook integration. Not too shabby.

If you notice any problems, shoot me an email (matt ‘at’ interstateq ‘dot’ com) or comment below.

Week three of the North Carolina General Assembly’s 2011 session is coming to a close. Though GOP leadership has allowed plenty of attacks on the poor, communities of color and immigrant communities, they’ve not yet touched the LGBT community.

GOP legislators were ushered into the General Assembly last November with the promise of creating new jobs and balancing the budget. So far, no jobs and it seems the only person doing much of anything to solve our $3.7 $2.7 billion budget shortfall is Gov. Perdue.

By all means, I’m not happy about the GOP’s unfulfilled promises on jobs (I just wonder how many of those voters who chose them are even paying attention), but I’m phenomenally thankful we haven’t yet been forced to deal with any anti-LGBT legislation. That doesn’t mean it’s not coming, and we have only the good and hard work of groups like Equality North Carolina and their allies to thank.

We’ll see what next week brings.

P.S. — Have you signed up to attend Equality North Carolina’s Day of Action? If not, unfortunately, the registration deadline has already passed. But, I’m sure they wouldn’t mind if you still decided to show up. Learn more: equalitync.org/events2/day-of-action-2011

On Monday, both the North Carolina House and Senate adopted resolutions honoring the Boy Scouts of America in recognition of their 101st anniversary yesterday.

Unsurprisingly, neither resolution (House, Senate) mentions the Scouts’ anti-gay and religious discrimination against youth members and adult leaders. And, unsurprisingly yet again, not a single member of the legislature had the courage or conviction to vote against the resolution.

Dear state lawmakers, do you actually care about children — all children — or just the straight and religious ones?

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?