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Posts for November, 2011

The Daily Agenda for Saturday, November 19

Jim Burroway

November 19th, 2011

TODAY’S AGENDA (OURS):
Transgender Day of Remembrance: Several locations. While tomorrow is officially the day set aside to remember those who have been murdered as a result of transphobia, some TDoR events are taking place today. TDoR began in reaction to the brutal murder of Rita Hester, who was killed on November 28, 1998. Her murder resulted in the creation of the Remembering Our Dead web site and a candlelight vigil in 1999. In the first nine months of 2011, 116 transgender people have been killed around the world, according to Trans Murder Monitoring (TMM). They also say that there have been at least 681 murders in 50 countries since 2008. Observances for the Transgender Day of Rememberance typically consist of the reading of the names of those who have died because of their gender identity, expression, presentation or perception of gender variance. Observances are being held in cities all around the world. Click here to find an observance near you.

TODAY’S AGENDA (THEIRS):
Thanksgiving Family Forum: Des Moines, IA. The anti-gay Family Leader will host a Thanksgiving Family Forum with GOP presidential candidates Sen. Rick Santorum, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Rep. Ron Paul, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, pizza magnate Herman Cain, and Rep. Michele Bachmann “sitting shoulder to shoulder around a ‘Thanksgiving table’.” That hokey piece of stagecraft is the brainchild of organizer Bob Vander Plaats, who has this as a dress code: “the audience attire will be ‘business casual,’ but the candidates were asked ‘to dress like they’re going to Thanksgiving dinner’.” Which means that one of them will be wearing a loud green sweater with a giant white snowflake.

Noticably absent from the banquet is Gov. Mitt Romney, which has Family Leader’s Bob Vander Plaats steamed at the snub. “Mitt Romney has dissed this base in Iowa and this diss will not stay in Iowa,” he told Fox News. “This has national tentacles. … This might prove that he is not smart enough to be president. …I think what will happen is what happened in 2008. He’s been in this position before. He’s been on top of polls only to find his campaign tanking and sucking air.” Tell us how you really feel, Bob.

Family Leader promises that “ALL the questions will be centered around issues relating to the family and are designed to gauge the constitutional and biblical worldviews of the candidates.” And to make sure none of the candidates move too far from an anti-gay agenda, two ten-minute segments of the two-hour forum will be headed by Focus On the Family’s Tom Minnery, and the National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown. The remainder of the one hour and forty minutes will be moderated by Fox News’ Frank Lutz. It begins at 4:00 p.m. at the First Federated Church in Des Moines. While the event is open to the press, the latest word has it that no major network will be televising it. Thank God for small favors.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
American Council of Christian Churches Calls AIDS “God’s Wrath”: 1989. Peter Steinfels wrote in the New York Times about a gathering earlier in November of U.S. Catholic Bishops in Baltimore that had met to hammer out a document responding to the AIDS crisis. The bishops decided overwhelmingly to reject the theological proposition that AIDS was in any way a punishment from God, a position held by one in four Americans, according to a recent poll. J. Gordon Melton, director of the Institute for the Study of American Religion in Santa Barbara, had published 68 statements on AIDS from 45 different religious groups in the United States, Canada and Great Britain, and found “a remarkable” across both liberal and conservative religious groups recognizing that AIDS was not just a gay problem, and “that special ministries should be established to serve AIDS victims, their families and friends, and that the civil rights of homosexuals or of those with the AIDS virus should be protected.” But, The Times learned, that consensus wasn’t unanimous:

The Bible repeatedly describes God as employing all kinds of terrors, natural and human, to punish those who disobey his commands. These biblical accounts naturally governed the reaction of the American Council of Christian Churches, a fundamentalist group that recently expressed dismay at the consensus discovered by Mr. Melton. The council, which claims to represent about two million ”Bible Christians,” promptly went on record upholding the idea that AIDS is God’s wrath visited on homosexuals and drug addicts, although for their ultimate benefit if they turn to Jesus.

If you know of something that belongs on the Agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.

Cain Flips, Now Supports Constitutional Ban on Same-Sex Marriage

Jim Burroway

October 24th, 2011

Only six days separate two opposite positions staked by Godfather Pizza magnate and GOP presidential aspirant Herman Cain on same-sex marriage. On Sunday, October 16, Cain appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press and said that he “wouldn’t seek” (his emphasis) a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. But six days later, while appearing on Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network’s The Brody File, Cain flipped his stance before the evangelical audience and said that he now supports a federal constitutional ban on same-sex marriage:

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(On October 16, Meet The Press)

David Gregory: A couple more. Same-sex marriage: would you seek a Constitutional band on same-sex marriage?

Herman Cain: I wouldn’t seek a constitutional ban for same-sex marriage, but I am pro-traditional marriage.”

Gregory: But you would let the states make up their own mind as they do now?

Cain: They would make up their own minds, yes.

– — –

(On October 22, The Brody File)

David Brody: Just so I understand, you’re for a constitutional marriage amendment as well?

Cain: Marriage should be protected level also. I used to believe that it could be just handled by the states, but there’s a movement going on to basically take the teeth out of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and that could cause an unraveling. So we do need some protection at the federal level because of that. And so, yes, I would support legislation that would say that it’s between a man and a woman.”

Brody: Because there is a concern that the defense of marriage act could be overturned?

Cain: It could be overturned because there are already attempts by some states and some groups to weaken the Defense of Marriage Act.

The Daily Agenda for Friday, October 7

Jim Burroway

October 7th, 2011

TODAY’S AGENDA (OURS):
Campus Pride College Fair and Prep Day: Boston, MA. Campus Pride’s College Fair is an opportunity for LGBT students and their families to discuss educational opportunities with participating LGBT-affirming colleges and universities. The fair features expert advice about LGBT-friendly colleges, scholarship resources and even effective tips for campus visits. The Northwest Region College Fair takes place today at Boston’s City Hall, from 1:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. More information can be found here. Future College Fairs will take place in Los Angeles (Oct 15) and New York (Nov 4).

AIDS Walks This Weekend: Columbus, OH; Indianapolis, IN and Kent/Sussex, DE.

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Atlanta, GA; Orlando, FL; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Tucson, AZ.

Also This Weekend: Iris Prize Film Festival, Cardiff, UK.

TODAY’S AGENDA (THEIRS):
Values Voter Summit: Washington, D.C. The Family “Research” Council, one of only a handful of organizations tracked by the Southern Poverty Law Center for being an anti-gay hate group, kicks off its annual Values Voter Summit in the nation’s capital this morning with a breakfast talk by Mat Staver, Chairman of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty Unversity’s Law School. Members of Staver’s Liberty Counsel and law school staff have been implicated in the Isabella Miller-Jenkins kidnapping case, while teachers have instructed law students to ignore “man’s law” in favor of “God’s law.” And so as you might expect, the Summit just goes straight downhill from there. Other speakers include House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), and GOP Presidential candidate Sen. Rick Santorum. And all of that is before lunch, when voting begins for the Summit’s straw poll. Afternoon speakers include GOP presidential candidates Herman Cain, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, plus Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO). The evening plenary session features another GOP presidential candidate, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), as well as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. The craziness just goes on and on and on through Sunday morning.

Exodus International Florida Regional Conference. Leesburg, FL. Exodus International will conduct a two-day conference with the theme “Chosen for Freedom,” beginning today and continuing through Saturday. The conference’s featured speakers include Exodus International president Alan Chambers, former Exodus president Joe Dallas, and former Exodus vice president Randy Thomas. Also speaking is Dr. Julie Hamilton, a former president of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) and whose book, Handbook of Therapy for Unwanted Homosexual Attractions, includes a final chapter by discredited ex-gay activist George Rekers. As we reported in our original investigation of Rekers’s “treatment” of four-year-old Kirk Murphy, Rekers claimed that he had successfully turned the “effeminate pre-homosexual” boy into a straight man. He built his entire career on that supposedly groundbreaking success story. Except there were a couple of problems: Kirk grew up to be gay, and he ultimately committed suicide over the lifelong conflicts he struggled with as a result of that therapy. Yet in Hamilton’s book, Rekers boasted that Kirk “had a normal male identity,” six years after Kirk took his life. Hamilton’s book with Rekers’s boast is still on sale at NARTH’s web site, and I have no doubt that it will also be available at the conference, which takes place today and tomorrow at the First Baptist Church in Leesburg, FL.

Minnesota Anti-Marriage Strategy and Briefing Session: Bloomington, MN. The Minnesota Faith and Freedom Coalition, supporters of the latest proposed constitutional amendment to make same-sex marriage even more illegaler in the Gopher state, will hold a Strategy and Briefing Session at the Doubletree Inn in Bloomington, MN this morning from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Invited speakers include GOP presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and former Christian Coalition honcho Ralph Reed.

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

Here’s the Science, Mr. Cain

Jim Burroway

October 6th, 2011

Godfather Pizza magnate and GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain appeared on ABC’s The View this week, to talk about, well, I suppose a lot of things. But the thing that seems to have gotten the most attention is his views on gays.

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Joy Behar: I want to ask you about your conservative position on gay marriage and civil unions…

Herman Cain: Are we changing subjects?

Behar: Yeah, I’m changing the topic a little bit because you’re a social conservative…

Cain: Yes.

Behar: …strictly, I think…

Cain: Yes.

Behar: You would like to roll back… bring back “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” I think that you believe that being gay is a choice.

Cain: Yes.

[…]

Behar: It has been basically… I think that to think that gay is a choice, I don’t know how to respond to that. I mean I don’t think that anybody in this world wants to be gay considering all of the vilification that is brought upon someone who is gay. Why would you choose that?

Cain: Well, you show me the science that says that it’s not and I’ll be persuaded. Right now it’s my opinion against the opinions of others who feel differently. That’s just a difference of opinions.

[…]

Well, as we like to say in the comments sections at BTB, Mr. Cain is certainly entitled to his opinion. But since he asked for someone to show him the science, we are happy to oblige. And to start off, we can point him to research conducted by folks who are fellow conservatives like himself — the Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse ex-gay study. That’s the study that found that out of 98 gay and bisexual people who entered the study who really wanted to choose to be straight, only fourteen could do so after seven years. And even then, those few found that their choice was not “unequivocal and uncomplicated.” Which is why Jones and Yarhouse wrote that their study “is not an optimistic projection of likelihood of change for one considering that process.”

Remember, these are major advocates for choosing not to be gay writing this.

And so it’s not surprising that the American Psychological Association — you know, scientists — after reviewing hundreds of studies (PDF:  816KB/138 pages), found that “enduring change to an individual’s sexual orientation is uncommon,” and that “there was some evidence to indicate that individuals experienced harm” from such attempts. And it’s also why the rest of the medical and mental health professions agree that trying to force a choice where none exists is contrary to the best medical and psychological evidence.

Those are the facts, the science you asked for. But as always Mr. Cain, you are certainly entitled to your opinion.

New Rule: Some Soldiers Are Less Worthy of Respect and Thanks Than Others

Jim Burroway

October 3rd, 2011
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Christiane Amanpour: Let me start by asking you some of these questions. We’ve just seen what President Obama said last night about that incident at the Florida debate, where there was booing in the audience when a gay soldier started to speak. Nobody said anything. You didn’t, Rick Santorum, none of the others did. Do you wish you had said something, intervened at that moment?

Herman Cain: Well the thing that’s being overlooked is that in the heat of of debate when you have exactly sixty seconds to answer any question, you know, taking the time to try to figure out why they were booing. I happen to think that maybe they were booing the whole “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal more so than booing that soldier. But we didn’t know that. So that was not the time to try and decipher why were they reacting that way.

Amanpour: But you don’t think that you probably should have said something like, audience, you know please, a little bit of respect?

Cain: I did not have that luxury because I was not in control. I was not moderating.

Amanpour: In retrospect, would you have done something given the controversy it’s …

Cain: In retrospect, because of the controversy it has created and because of the different interpretations that it could have had, yes, that probably… that would have been appropriate. But at the moment, it was not the focus on the people on that stage, I can assure you.

I can assure you that the focus of the people on the stage at that very moment was the shocking (to them) visage of a patriotic American soldier who is in Iraq right now, who announced to them that he was gay and asked, in essence, what were they going to do about it. And every one of them froze. When you go back to the video, you find that even Sen. Rick Santorum, to whom the question was directed, stumbled a bit before he regained his footing and confirmed he would kick soldiers like him (but not that particular soldier, he hastened to add later) out. The rest stood there mute — dumbfounded, more like it — at the image of a gay soldier in Iraq.

Later that night, former Utah Gov Jon Huntsman, Jr. mustered the courage to call the incident “unfortunate.” It took an entire news cycle before Santorum apologized — sort of — on Fox News for not speaking up or thanking the soldier, only to walk it back on ABC. New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson said he was embarrassed at the intolerance, an embarrassment that took him more than a day to express after leaving the stage.

For decades since the Vietnam debacle, it has become a political maxim that any time a politician meets an American soldier, the very first thing to tumble out of his mouth is effusive thanks for that soldier’s service. Stories of Vietnam vets returning home to boos and worse were used by politicians on the right to shame politicians on the left into proving their patriotism by supporting the troops no matter what. Politicians on the left responded by doing exactly that. Granted, some of the expressions were more heartfelt among some than others, but no one was going to be caught out in that political faux pas. But no one was going to out-thank or out-praise those soldiers’ sacrifice and dedication to American freedom more than politicians on the right.  That was the rule. A rule so hard you could bet your paycheck on it and always beat the market.

Until now. We now find that there is an escape clause to that rule. When it’s a gay soldier, no thanks are required. No defense of against booing (or worse, should the situation arise?) is needed. An instinct that had been ingrained into Republican politicians so thoroughly they could reflexively salute a soldier in their sleep suddenly evaporated with the uttering of two words: I’m gay.

It took ten days and three questions by a persistent Christiane Amanpour on a low-rated Sunday talk show before Cain finally conceded that maybe — “probably” — saying something to quell the boos would have been appropriate — with all of it in the past tense and a reluctant passive voice. And he came to that only after explaining that there were maybe some good excuses for booing a soldier because now — new rule! — it’s okay to boo under certain circumstances.

But of course, there’s still nothing about thanking that soldier. Cain’s protest that they only had sixty seconds and, besides, he wasn’t “in control” rings hollow. Cain felt no compunction about jumping in at other points in the debate to say something he felt had to be said. It takes less than four seconds to say “thank you for your service” — a phrase so stock in Republican politics that it’s inconceivable that the thought of saying it didn’t cross someone’s mind on that stage. Even if it was just, “Gee, if only he were straight I’d be thanking him.”

Johnson “Embarrased” By Booing of American Soldier, Other Candidates Refuse To Comment

Jim Burroway

September 24th, 2011

ABC News’ Emily Friedman rounds up the reactions of GOP presidential candidates to the booing by audience members of Stephen Hill, a gay American Soldier stationed in Iraq, who asked about the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” during Thursday night’s debate. On the night of the debate, Ambassador Jon Huntsman Jr. said he heard the booing and thought it was “unfortunate.” He later added, “We all wear the same uniform in America. We all salute the same flag I have two boys starting their journey in the U.S military. We should take more time to thank them for their services as opposed to finding differences based on background or orientation.”

After one news cycle passed, Sen. Rick Santorum claimed that he didn’t hear the booing (which was loud enough to actually create an echo in the vast hall in Orlando), and said he should have thanked the soldier for his service. At least that’s what he told Fox News. When speaking to ABC News, Santorum walked it backed a little.

“I didn’t hear it. I didn’t hear the boos,” Santorum told ABC News. “I heard the question and answered the question, so I’ve heard subsequently that happened. I’ve heard varied reports about whether they were booing the soldier or the policy.”

“I don’t know what they were booing,” he said. “If you can go out and find the people who were booing and find out if they were booing because a man was gay or because of a policy they don’t agree with.”

“You find out why they booed, and I’ll respond to your question,” he added.

Today, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson said he was embarrassed by the episode:

“That’s not the Republican Party that I belong to,” said Johnson. “I’m embarrassed by someone who serves in the military and can’t express their sexuality. I am representing the Republican Party that is tolerant. And to me that shows an intolerance that I’m not a part of in any way whatsoever. ”

Johnson added that he could hear the boos from the stage and believes that the other candidates – despite Santorum’s denial – could as well.

That’s a second candidate who admitted he could hear the boos from the stage. Yet none of the nine candidates spoke up against the demonstrated disrepsect of an active-duty soldier stationed in Iraq, and none of them engaged in the time-honored Republican tradition of shoving each other out of the way in the race to thank that soldier for his service to the country.

And for six of those candidates, that silence continues through day three. Pizzaman Herman Cain refused to comment saying he didn’t want his comments “taken out of context.” Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann’s spokesperson refused to comment, as did the campaigns for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Texas Rep. Ron Paul’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Role of Herman Cain’s Gay Aide Questioned in Former Staffer’s Quest for Unemployment Benefits

Jim Burroway

September 14th, 2011

The Iowa Straw Poll coordinator for GOP Presidential Candidate Herman Cain alleges that the campaign tried to cover up the role of a top adviser who had been ousted as the leader of a gay pride group in Wisconsin amid financial scandal. The Associated Press reports that the coordinator, Kevin Hall, made the allegation in a letter while applying for unemployment benefits and in testimony during a hearing last week.

Hall alleged that the campaign sought to cover up the role of Scott Toomey, senior adviser and treasurer of Cains’ PAC once Toomey’s sexual orientation became known, along with his role as treasurer for Madison Pride Board. In 2008, Madison Pride removed Toomey after discovering that bills weren’t being paid along with other “financial discrepancies.” The group folded after a downsized 2008 Pride.

On June 6, Cain said he would have no problem appointing a gay While House staff member as long as the individual was qualified. Cain supporters pointed to Toomey as an example. But Hall alleges that on July 9, campaign staff was told that Toomey was no longer involved in the campaign in any capacity, but Hall said he learned weeks later that Toomey was still “very much involved” as an outside consultant. Hall claims that this exposes Cain to charges of hypocrisy. Here’s his reasoning:

“A conservative candidate, Mr. Cain is on the record as stating that he believes homosexuality is a sin and a choice. And they know that, if his top adviser, his highly paid adviser, is openly gay that it would cast a negative light on Mr. Cain and would cost him in his efforts to become president,” he testified. “Basically the campaign was trying to cover up the fact that Mr. Toomey was still involved. They asked … me to help them cover up that fact.”

Whatever religious reservations Cain may have about gay people, he did say he would have no problem appointing a qualified gay person to his White House staff. It seems that the fact that he has appointed Toomey, first as treasurer and later as an outside consultant, is in line with his June 6 statement. Toomey’s actual qualifications, of course, are subject to debate.

However, on the other hand, Cain’s decision to try to hide Toomey’s role in the campaign would appear to contradict his July 6 statement if his decision to do so were based on fears of fallout from having a gay person on staff. That would indicate that Cain would, in fact, have a problem with a gay person on his staff. And that would be hypocrisy, although I don’t believe it’s the kind of perceived hypocrisy that Hall’s concerned about. What Hall sees as hypocritical and what I see as hypocritical are two very different things.

Either way, instructing staff to say something to the press which they later discover not to be true could, I suppose, negatively impact the staffer’s future employment prospects. That is, if one were to expect campaign staffers to always be truthful.

All of this is came out when Hall petitioned for unemployment benefits, which are not granted to those who resign their jobs voluntarily. And it’s an attempt that was ultimately successful. Hall claimed that he had no choice in resigning, and Administrative Law Judge Bonny Hendricksmeyer agreed with that reasoning:

Hendricksmeyer ruled Hall resigned “due to a change in the contract of hire” and said the alleged cover-up could have damaged his career as a political consultant.

“The presence of the gay person on the campaign was misrepresented to the staff, which caused Mr. Hall and others to inadvertently misrepresent the fact to others,” Hendricksmeyer wrote. “(Hall’s) credibility and his future job prospects would have suffered. It is possible if the situation had been discovered it would have also created a negative impact on (Hall’s) job duties. He felt it was possible the candidate would lose credibility and the straw poll results would be very poor.”

Cain’s campaign did not dispute Hall’s allegations in court.

This incident however does appear to shed light on an exodus of campaign staffers in July in which many of them were accusing each other of affairs, homosexuality and professional misconduct. Hall and others resigned just before Iowa’s critical Straw Poll, in which Cain came in a distant fifth.

GOP Presidential Candidates Debate Marriage, DADT

Jim Burroway

June 14th, 2011

Last night, seven candidates for the GOP presidential nomination appeared in a debate in New Hampshire, home to the nation’s first primay. Participating were Godfather Pizza magnate Herman Cain, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachman, and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. And of course, LGBT issues came up in the debate.

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Only Herman Cain and Ron Paul opposed a Federal Marriage Amendment to ban marriage equality in the states.

Herman Cain said that he didn’t support repealing DADT, but he didn’t want the distractions that it would take to put it back into effect. Pawlenty says that he would seek the advice of “combatant commanders.” This wiggle room leaves open the likelihood that he would re-instate DADT. Ron Paul appeared to say the would keep it in place. He talked about punishing behavior, without specifying whether a consensual relationship between two people of the same gender would be punishable. Romney dodged the question altogether, saying that DADT should not have been repealed “until this conflict is over.” Gingrich answered by building a case for its reinstatement, an indication that he would work to restore the discriminatory policy. Bachmann said she “would keep the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy.” When asked to clarify, she indicated that she would reinstate the policy after sufficiently cloaking it with “advice” from the military. Santorum took a lot of words to more or less repeat what Ron Paul said, but given the context of Santorum’s overall policies and attitudes toward gay people, I don’t think his eagerness to reimpose the policy would be much in doubt.

Not one candidate spoke about gay people as though they were taxpayers, patriots, or fellow citizens.