The American Independent’s Andy Kopsa reports on what has been a substantial problem for years: the dispersement of federally-funded grants — some to the tune of millions of dollars — to religious organizations engaged in anti-gay political activity.

Kopsa, who has significantly covered this topic before, reports:

The anti-gay, politically influential Christian organization the Indiana Family Institute (IFI) has been endorsed by the State of Indiana as “collaborative partner” in administering the state’s federally funded Healthy Marriage program since 2008. This arrangement provides IFI with federal support through the Indiana Department of Child Services through 2013.

The group, a state affiliate of Colorado-based Focus on the Family that has been the leading political force behind the anti-same sex marriage amendment –- House Joint Resolution 6 (HJR6) — that passed the Indiana Senate this week, got a $50,000 grant from a subsidiary of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services called the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) in 2005.

Kopsa notes that the Indiana Family Institute program is funded through 2013.

Other groups have also received funds:

In South Carolina, the Palmetto Family Council was awarded $1.2 million through Healthy Marriage and Abstinence Only grants from 2004 to 2009. According to its blog, the “top priority” for the group in 2006 was South Carolina’s anti-gay marriage amendment. Palmetto’s president, Oran Smith, condemned public funding of a gay and lesbian group’s annual statewide festival, citing concerns about using “public funds for a festival that is political or indecent or both.”

The Iowa Family Policy Center (IFPC) received more than $3 million in federal funds to pay for a marriage-mentoring program. The program, called Marriage Matters, was found not to be a third-party contractor but rather a trademark of the outspoken anti-gay group. IFPC has garnered headlines for its opposition to same-sex marriage, including public allegations that homosexuality poses a greater public health risk than second-hand smoke. IFPC recently changed its name to The Family Leader and is now a major player in Iowa politics.

A 2008 release on the South Carolina Palmetto Family Council website says the group received $3 million, to be funded over a period of five years.

Other groups have also, at one time or another, had their hands on federal grants. The Oklahoma Family Policy Council, for example, writes:

OFPC’s funding for KEEP [Kids Eagerly Endorsing Purity] comes through a combination of privately donated funds, substantial in-kind contributions from caring Oklahomans, and via the federal government through either a SPRANS Community-Based Abstinence Education implementation grant or a §510 grant, both authorized under Title V of the Social Security Act.

On her personal blog, Kopsa also records other organizations receiving federal funding:

Rocky Mountain Family Policy Council received at least $55,000 for services through federally funded abstinence education program WAIT Training in Colorado.  WAIT recently changed its name to The Center for Relationship Education. WAIT had its share of problems when it became known they had endorsed and assisted Ugandan Pastor Martin Ssempa of the disgusting “Kill The Gays” bill – here and here.

The Georgia Family Council is listed as recipient of the Georgia Department of Human Resources $960,000 Healthy Marriage waiver.  However, when I called the state of Georgia they claim to have no record of this.

Such federal funds have also been administered to North Carolina government, though a quick scan of available financial documents revealed no immediately apparent connection with the North Carolina Family Policy Council.

Control freaks.

That’s exactly what anti-LGBT organizers and activists are. They honestly believe that they, and only they, can claim the role of moral arbiter of right and wrong. Their opinions. Their religion. Their interpretation of Scripture.

Have a different point of view? Too bad. Actually think all people — including gays — should be treated equally (as in, the dictionary’s definition of “equal”)? Tough luck.

Charlotte Hays of Independent Women’s Forum takes issue with the White House’s recent anti-bullying summit. She writes:

Okay, bullying is wrong. But this isn’t entirely about bullying, is it?

This is partly about promoting acceptance of alternative lifestyles. Most of us today are pretty accepting of these lifestyles, and all decent people know that it would be wrong to be unkind to anybody because of sexual orientation. Decent people don’t bully. But a kid who is a Christian is more likely to face censure in some schools. Why aren’t Christian kids on the president’s no-bullying list?

[..snip..]

My problems with the no bullying campaign are twofold: it is ideologically driven, second, this really isn’t what government should do. This is an issue for a family. Families teach children to behave decently-or they don’t. Stable families instill civility, but ideological anti-bullying campaigns instill ideology.

As if Hays’ idea of an anti-bullying program wouldn’t be any less ideological. Ha.

There was a time — and for many LGBT kids, that time is still now — when schools’ anti-bullying campaigns or policies were designed specifically to exclude them. That’s the kind of anti-bullying campaign I can see Hays supporting. Why shouldn’t Christian kids be able to torment gay kids day-in and day-out, telling them they are going to hell and excluding them from dodge ball games. After all, we all know that gay kid is condemned anyway. We might as well let the Christian kid tell him so.

5

Michael Brown’s ‘Queer’ sideshow

Concord’s Michael Brown, leader of the anti-gay Coalition of Conscience and FIRE Church and School of Ministry, released this week his new book, “A Queer Thing Happened to America: And What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been.”

I haven’t yet had the chance to read the book, though I know Brown cites/references/mentions me and/or some of my writings (unless something’s changed since the last time he and I chatted).

The book’s title and imagery are eye-catching. It’s also a bit deceptive. And, unsurprisingly, devoid of all understanding. I don’t know many trans folks or gay men who wear black socks and pink pumps. All joking aside: I expect Brown’s book, if anything like its cover, to paint a wholly inaccurate and woefully biased and prejudiced picture of LGBT people in this country.

From Brown’s blog, Voice of Revolution, a summary of the book:

Forty years ago, most Americans said they didn’t know anyone who was homosexual and claimed to know little or nothing about homosexuality. Today, there’s hardly a sitcom without a prominent gay character, movies like Milk and Brokeback Mountain have won Oscars, and even People Magazine celebrated the marriage of Ellen Degeneres and Portia DeRossi. Forty years ago, the word “queer” was considered to be an extremely insulting, ugly slur. Today, we have books like Queering Elementary Education and The Queer Bible Commentary, while Queer Eye for the Straight Guy was a cable TV sensation and even school children are learning the meaning of “Gender Queer.” Forty years ago, people were fired from their jobs for being gay. Today, college professors have been fired for taking issue with same-sex practice, counselors have been dismissed for refusing to affirm gay and lesbian relationships, and even pastors have been arrested for saying that homosexual behavior was sinful.

A Queer Thing Happened to America chronicles the amazing transformation of America over the last forty years, literally, from Stonewall Inn to the White House, and addresses the question head-on: Is there really a gay agenda, or is it a fiction of the religious right? Written in a lively and compelling style, but backed with massive research and extensive interaction with the GLBT community, this forthright and yet compassionate book looks at the extraordinary impact gay activism has had on American society – from nursery school to college, from the pulpit to Hollywood, and from science to semantics – also analyzing the foundational arguments of the gay civil rights movement and exposing the extreme intolerance of those calling for tolerance. This could easily be the most controversial book of the decade. Read it and find out why the publishing world was afraid to touch it.

And, Voice of Revolution Editor Marcus French touts the book’s number slot in Amazon.com’s Gay & Lesbian Nonfiction list. French writes:

The screenshot below, taken at 12:15 PM ET on March 17th, shows the Amazon Bestsellers Rank for ‘A Queer Thing Happened to America.’ As you can see, it is now #1 on Amazon’s ‘Gay & Lesbian Nonfiction’ chart! (A chart, by the way, I would not recommend navigating to, as it contains all sorts of sexually explicit material.) If you would like to help it stay at that position in the ‘Gay & Lesbian Nonfiction’ chart as a redemptive witness, and climb higher on the overall chart, you can help by purchasing the book on Amazon here.

I hadn’t long been a member of Fab.com, the relatively new Facebook-connected social networking site for gay men. I liked it. Sleek, clean and cool, the network was easy to navigate and understand. I just wish it had caught on steam, especially in the Carolinas.

But now, the site is changing. Fab.com writes:

We’ve had a lot of fun building toward that vision and we’ve met some incredible people along the way. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed and appreciated your experience with us. Your participation and contribution to fab.com has been the core of our popularity.

This past year has been a monumental year for gay rights and acceptance. From the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, to court victories over Prop 8, “Born This Way,” the President walking away from the Defense of Marriage Act, and the impact of the It Gets Better Project, this has been an incredible year of progress.

As we reflected on these developments, we realized that all of this progress has diminished the need for a gay-specific social network. We don’t need a gay Facebook or a gay Yelp or a gay Foursquare or a gay Groupon. The original versions are fantastic, and we are becoming more and more integrated into the mainstream.

At the same time, we recognized that one of the aspects of fab that we enjoy the most and that our users are getting great value from — providing great deals on amazing products and services — has little to do with sexual orientation. A great find is a great find and a great deal is a great deal, regardless of who you are.

No need for a gay-specific social network? It’s an interesting thought, and the same concept could be thrown into any scenario: Gay newspapers? Gay TV networks? Gay community centers? Gay bars?

It’s true that LGBT folks are “mainstreaming” more and more. I hate the term, by the way. “Mainstreaming,” urgh — it reminds me of Showtime’s “True Blood” and seems to compare us to vampires. Regardless, I can’t ignore the reality. Though there’s still an awful lot of queer folks who live in places where “mainstreaming” isn’t an option, it’s happening. The trend can be found even in places like Charlotte. While the Queen City isn’t a friend politically or religiously to LGBT people, our Uptown bars, clubs and restaurants are mostly gay and straight, mixed crowds and many openly welcome gay business.

I’m excited to see exactly what Fab.com operators have in mind. After all, I like design as much as I like meeting other gay people. It’ll be interesting see just how they handle going from a gay social network to a “love of design”-driven site. I hope they surprise me.

What to sign up for an early launch/invite, too? Click here: http://fab.com/uo7fdf

(Disclosure: Fab.com will count each person who signs up for an invite through this link. The more people I invite, the earlier I get access to the site, plus some other benefits. The same goes for you once you sign up.)

After running scared from anti-LGBT protesters for five years, Charlotte’s annual LGBT Pride festival will finally move back to Uptown Charlotte and back into the public square.

From a Pride Charlotte press release:

The Queen City’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Pride festival will be held this year on Aug. 27 in Uptown Charlotte, along S. Tryon St. between 3rd St. and the new Levine Center for the Arts. Pride Charlotte, which attracts thousands each year, is the culmination of a week-long slate of events highlighting the social, cultural, ethnic, artistic and political diversity of the metro Charlotte area’s LGBT community.

“We are very excited to move our festival Uptown and to the heart of Charlotte’s artistic and cultural center,” said Jonathan Hill, Co-Chair of the Pride Charlotte organizing committee. “The S. Tryon St. location provides a unique opportunity for our event to grow and to raise more visibility for this city’s diverse gay community.”

I’m lucky enough, again, to serve on the organizing committee for Pride Charlotte. In fact, I should offer a full disclosure and say I wrote the primary draft of the release I just quoted. Regardless, this post (like every other post on InterstateQ.com) is entirely my own opinion; trust me, it doesn’t come even close to representing the official views of anyone.

Anyways… This year we’re not only moving to Tryon St. (exciting and landmark news in and of itself), but we’re also expanding and committing ourselves to greater community-level coalition building and teamwork. Speaking as someone who has seen Pride as both a current and former committee member, as the editor of the local queer paper and as a general community member and Charlottean, I think it all adds up to phenomenal news and a wonderful change in the pace of the last few years’ events.

For far too long, Charlotte’s queer community has been weak and timid in the face of anti-LGBT prejudice, protesting and bigotry. Despite the relatively small number, we’ve allowed anti-LGBT protest groups like Operation Save America and Coalition of Conscience to dictate to us the terms of our own community’s outspokenness, political involvement and civic engagement. No more. Come August, Pride Charlotte will be back in the public square and in the heart of Uptown. LGBT Charlotteans are no less deserving of full participation in the political, social, artistic, cultural, civic and religious lives of this city. This is the year we take back our God-given rights to be who we are, openly and proudly, and as fully-deserving citizens and residents of the Queen City.

Pride Charlotte’s move back into the public spotlight comes after five years of nearly-closeted Pride festivities. After a 2005 Charlotte Pride event in which scores of protesters caused distraction (and later proclaimed to the city council, “Charlotte Pride is back in the closet. And it’s back in the closet because the church of Jesus Christ came out of the closet. And because you, city council, helped us to do that very thing.”), organizers of a new event (“Pride Charlotte”) organized under the umbrella of the Lesbian & Gay Community Center moved the event to Gateway Village. The new, privately-owned Uptown venue left much to be desired; enclosed on three sides, a passer-by would never have known what was happening there. I never could understand why we were “hiding,” though organizers always rejected the accusation they were running from anybody or anything.

Last year, Pride Charlotte organizers took the closeting of Charlotte’s gays a step further. The N.C. Music Factory is a phenomenal building. Great bars and restaurants, and the Center is even located there (that’s an entirely different story, altogether). But, like Gateway Village, the choice to move Pride to the Music Factory felt to many, including me, another instance of closet-ization. How are we supposed to “Stand up, Stand out, Stand Proud” when no one in the city can see or even knows about our community’s premier cultural, political and social event each year?

I believe this year will be unlike any of the past years’ Pride festivities I’ve known. We’re out. We’re proud. We’re visible. We are what an LGBT community should be. With any luck, we’ll see that spirit spill over into other local, LGBT organizations. Perhaps, this is the year Charlotte will start working toward becoming a better, more LGBT-inclusive city. We’ve waited long enough, wouldn’t you say?

Photo Credit: JenelleRW, via Flickr.