This morning, SC Equality and Palmetto State citizens gathered in front of the state Senate Corrections and Penology Committee to testify against S. 1062, a bill that would prohibit the state’s department of corrections from providing hormone therapy to transgender inmates.

SC Equality Executive Director Christine Johnson updated her Facebook followers to express the organization’s position on the bill, writing that the legislation is “both unconstitutional and pointless.”

She said:

[The bill is] Unconstitutional because like Wisconsin’s bill, this one will be found in violation of the 8th and 14th Amendment. Pointless, because when SC Equality contacted the SCDOC to request the number of transgender inmates, they replied that they knew of NONE!

A later updated from Johnson exposed the sheer arrogance of South Carolina’s Republican majority (emphasis added):

The bill was amended “to address Ms. Johnson’s concerns” so that inmates who are already on hormone therapy cannot be denied therapy while in prison. It is still unconstitutional and will no doubt face a court challenge. When the potential court challenge was brought up, the sponsor and committee members laughed aloud blaming liberal activists judges for the problems.

Johnson wasn’t the only Palmetto politico speaking out on the measure this morning.

Kevin Bryant

State Sen. Kevin Bryant (R-Anderson) took to his website to mock one transgender citizen’s testimony (having earlier in the same piece called a trans person a “He/She/?”):

A spokesperson from the transgender community testified at the hearing this morning with the arguments of cruel and unusual punishment and the unconstitutionality of s.1062.

Simply put, the cruelty would be on the taxpayer footing the bill for theses procedures costing 10’s of thousands of dollars. Also, I’ve never been one to check with the local liberal activist judge for permission on every piece of legislation.

If we were to start paying for “Dan” to become “Danielle”, were would we house the inmate? How can we protect the scarce funds of the already least funded department in the U.S.?

Respect for the law and Constitution? Nada. Respect for human dignity? Nada. Respect for equal access to legitimate healthcare? Nada. Respect for the American judicial system and its purpose? Nada. Nada. Nada.

What exactly is it that Republicans stand for again? Surely, the “Party of Lincoln” hasn’t become this heartless and disrespectful. Scratch that — Yes, they have.

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.

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Stonewall: ‘Our Independence Day’

Over the next few days, I hope you take the time to pause and remember Stonewall. After years and years of abuse, small but barely noticeable progress and limited visibility, the Stonewall Riots of June 28, 1969 helped to birth our modern movement for equality. Truly, Stonewall is to the LGBT community, what Independence Day is to our nation as a whole.

In the year following Stonewall, LGBT organizations sprung up in New York City and other major cities. The first Pride parade — the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade — was held a year later on June 20, 1970. The energy of Stonewall made its way to North Carolina just one year later, when Bob Bland founded the Triangle Gay Alliance in Raleigh.

From qnotes:

If there is just one time every year that is of the utmost importance and symbolism for the LGBT community, it has to be June, when we commemorate the Stonewall Riots of June 28, 1969.

The Riots mark the beginning of our modern movement for equality. Forty years later, we’ve made great progress. Countless states, cities and other jurisdictions have passed LGBT-inclusive laws. Marriage equality is on the march. Federal law now recognizes anti-LGBT hate crimes. In the Carolinas, we’ve also seen a good number of successes on local and even some statewide levels.

But all of this progress wouldn’t have been possible without the chain of events set off after the Stonewall Riots.

Click over to qnotes to read Pride Month statements from the chairs of the North Carolina and South Carolina Democratic Parties.

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One-sided coverage in S.C. Lt. Gov. outing

NBC WIS 10 reporter Jack Kuenzie

NBC WIS 10's Jack Kuenzie

On Monday, Washington, D.C.-based blogger and activist Mike Rogers outed as gay South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer. With a 100 percent rack record outing anti-gay, closeted politicians, Rogers’ reporting can’t be ignored.

Try telling that to NBC affiliate WIS 10 in Columbia, the Palmetto State’s capital.

In a report by Jack Kuenzie, Rogers’ track record is ignored. His past reporting absent from Kuenzie’s account.

In the report, various websites reporting Rogers’ claims were quickly flashed across the screen, including Rogers’ BlogActive, Advocate, Towleroad, Huffington Post, On Top Magazine and Q-Notes [my employer] but failed to mention Rogers’ site by name or the blogger himself.

jackkuenzie_qnotes

Q-Notes website

Who got the precious airtime, you ask? Bauer aides and political activists aligned with him (and one, perhaps unbiased public policy professor, Dr. Robert Oldendick, from the University of South Carolina). At the end of his report, Kuenzie says a party activist told him the outing claims “are not bound by the truth” and should be “ignored by voters” and “ignored by the mainstream media.”

Maybe if Kuenzie dealt more in matters of truth, and if his reporting were accurate and complete, Columbia’s local NBC affiliate couldn’t be accused of covering for its state’s second-highest-ranking executive?

Just in case you’d like to politely ask Jack Kuenzie to file a more accurate and complete follow-up story, you can email him at jkuenzie@wistv.com.

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A new South Carolina secession?

It seems Palmetto State Episcopalians aren’t too happy with their national denomination. Will the Diocese of South Carolina pull out of the Episcopal Church and join ranks with The Anglican Church of North America (ACNA), or will they stay in the church as “loyal opposition”?

A new commentary at VirtueOnline.org asks this very question:

Is the Bishop of South Carolina, the Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence planning to take his diocese out of The Episcopal Church? Word has it that Lawrence has been in “substantive talks” with Archbishop Robert Duncan of The Anglican Church of North America (ACNA). But Lawrence has commented (in the past) that he is concerned about whether ACNA has a sufficient “catholic ecclesiology” — by which he means that he is not sure it is sufficiently united. It looks to him more like a loose federation than “one body”.

It is not, apparently, the direction he is expected to take the diocese. Sources tell VOL that when Lawrence meets with the clergy of his Diocese on Thursday, he will propose that his diocese push to be on the first level of the “two level, two tier” approach advocated by the Archbishop of Canterbury for the Anglican Communion. He will also advocate closer ties with the Anglican Communion Institute’s (ACI) approach of staying in TEC as the denomination’s loyal opposition.

Despite what you might think, South Carolina isn’t as conservative as you’ve been led to believe. Don’t get me wrong: The Palmetto State is pretty anti-gay. But, there are liberal and progressive pockets. I can’t imagine Episcopalians in Columbia — one of only a few cities across the South banning discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations on the basis of gender-identity and sexual orientation — being opposed to LGBTs living a full life of worship, fellowship and leadership in their church. (Update: I’ve learned South Carolina is comprised of two Episcopal dioceses. Columbia is in the Diocese of Upper South Carolina.)

Even in conservative, aristocratic Charleston, I imagine there are liberal pockets of Episcopalians and folks from other religious faiths.

Perhaps the South Carolina bishop’s reticence to pull out isn’t based so much on loyalty to the national church, as it is loyalty to his local parishioners, many of whom might be divided on the issue?

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Mark Sanford the sex offender

For days on end now, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford has found himself in a sticky political and personal mess. Having an affair and cheating on the mother of your four boys is bad enough. Sneaking off, lying about your whereabouts, completely abdicating your duties and risking impeachment for malfeasance, that sounds like a deal breaker.

Sanford is no longer listed among the possible contenders for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. Why would he be? After all, he could very well be charged with sex crimes, impeached and removed from office. And, he damn well should be.

Continue reading this post…

South Carolina’s Greenville News has a report on U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) and his vision for the Republican Party.

Raju Chebium reports:

Since Democrats took control of Congress and the White House in January, the South Carolina Republican has sharpened his message of economic fundamentalism and is trying to get more Republicans to oppose what he calls the big-spending, big-government Democratic agenda.

But in the process he’s irked the moderate faction of the GOP, which accuses him of putting his ideology ahead of practicality and argues that the conservative wing has hijacked the party and tarnished its image.

“I see my role as reminding the American people of the principles that work, that made our country prosperous and successful — the principles of limited government, free markets and individual freedom,” DeMint told Gannett Washington Bureau in a recent interview.

Nothing about DeMint’s cute little soundbite is true. Time for a reality check, yes?

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The “South Carolina is so Gay” advertising controversy from last summer sneaked back into public debate as the South Carolina House questioned the state’s tourism director over budgeting and salary concerns.

In an Associated Press article published by The Columbian, Director Chad Prosser’s feet were held to the fire as S.C. House Rep. Brian White questioned why he wasn’t in the office five days a week:

White said the controversy that erupted last summer over ads in London promoting South Carolina as a “So Gay” destination for gay and lesbian tourists seem to suggest he’s not around enough. Prosser responded that was the misjudgment of one employee, who spent about $5,000 on the campaign from a fund he controlled, and who resigned.

Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter chimed in that not everyone in South Carolina thought the ads were a bad idea.

“Quite frankly, as someone who is extremely tolerant of people and their choices, I was for a brief moment proud South Carolina had seen the need to reach out in this economy to people who might want to come,” said the Orangeburg Democrat. “That was the silliest thing I’ve come across in a long time.”

Of course, S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford, the same guy who directed the firing/forced resignation/”policy” and “procedural changes” inside the tourism department, supports his guy:

Sanford spokesman Joel Sawyer said the governor is very happy with Prosser’s performance, and that lawmakers shouldn’t single out the salary of a single agency head.

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Black in a white neighborhood

A man in rural Hollywood, S.C. – a town near Charleston – claims he and his family are being targeted for being black in a white neighborhood:

Clifford Washington asked his wife to stop taking walks down their country road after the day someone shouted the N-word at her.Soon after that incident two years ago, Washington started seeing bullet or pellet holes on his garage, the trucks parked in his yard and above his front door. He thinks he and his family are paying the price for being a black family in a white neighborhood.

“This is harassment and I think it’s a hate crime,” Washington said.

He called the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office 13 times in the first two months after the trouble began. Since then, Washington says he has lost count of how many times he has tried to get help. Deputies have responded to his calls but say they can do little without a lead or a suspect.

“I feel as if I am fighting a losing battle,” Washington said, adding that he does not think anyone is taking him seriously.

The rest of the article from The Charleston Post-Courier goes into some good detail, including the steps Washington has taken to speak to local law enforcement and a recent cross burning in his neighborhood (the local sheriff claims it was simple teen mischief.

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Sanford gay friendly? Yeah, okay.

From Bob Roehr’s 11/20 Bay Area Reporter story on Log Cabin Prez Patrick Sammon’s departure:

[Sammon] sees an encouraging sign in that the governor of South Carolina is talking about how the party’s position on gay issues is driving young voters away.

Umm… Did Sammon completely miss that whole “South Carolina is so gay” debacle over the summer, or is he just ignoring the facts?

Gov. Mark Sanford is pro-gay, even moderately so? Only in our dreams.

Let’s reminisce:

When South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford learned that his state was being advertised as a gay tourism destination, he ordered a Cabinet-level department head “to do the right thing personnel-wise or process-wise to ensure this does not happen again,” Sanford’s spokesman Joel Sawyer told Q-Notes.

[..snip..]

In the Governor’s office, Sawyer said that the state will not promote itself as a tourist destination through campaigns “aimed at a specific group of people.”

Sawyer said the “so gay” ad should have been “run up the flagpole,” but did not know whether any standard procedures were violated at the time it was approved.

“It defies common sense that someone would sign off on an advertising campaign that controversial,” Sawyer said.

Asked whether South Carolina would, for example, position itself as a tourist destination for African-Americans by utilizing black media and promoting vacation spots of relevant cultural interest, Sawyer said that the state does not “get into targeting a specific group that might have a social or political agenda.”

NAACP, the leading U.S. African-American advocacy organization, is working to boycott South Carolina tourism due to the state’s official display of the Confederate flag.

“We don’t believe that the average South Carolina taxpayer would agree” with advertising the state as a gay tourist destination, Sawyer concluded.

Governor Sanford mandated that PRT director Chad Prosser will from now on have to personally sign off on all advertising campaigns, Sawyer said.

Sanford’s just eying a future career in some place other than the Palm(I’m-looking-backward)etto State. He’s figured out he’s got to play nice in a political world quickly changing right before his very eyes. His “gay friendly” nature doesn’t really come all that naturally, but I guess in the interest of career development he’s willing to give it a go.