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“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
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Posts for December, 2011

Lewd or immoral acts in Michigan

A Commentary

Timothy Kincaid

December 14th, 2011

Laws are funny things. Generally created out of some panicky necessity (usually the necessity of a politician to appear to be statesmanlike), they linger on long after the need has passed and often to the point of absurdity.

But sometimes rather than amusing and fairly harmless laws that reflect a cultural reality that has long passed, they become tools for abuse by police or other authorities who seek to achieve their own personal goals based in their own prejudices or ill intent. And that appears to be happening in Kent County, Michigan. Sheriff Larry Stelma is using a law written to address prostitution to “clean up” county parks.

750.448 Soliciting, accosting, or inviting to commit prostitution or immoral act; crime.

Sec. 448.

A person 16 years of age or older who accosts, solicits, or invites another person in a public place or in or from a building or vehicle, by word, gesture, or any other means, to commit prostitution or to do any other lewd or immoral act, is guilty of a crime punishable as provided in section 451.

Sec. 451.

(1) Except as otherwise provided in this section, a person convicted of violating section 448, 449, 449a, 450, or 462 is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 93 days or a fine of not more than $500.00, or both.

Stelma has decided that this is his justification for ridding the parks of gay men. And he’s taking a very broad interpretation of the code to do so.

He has decided that “accosts, solicits, or invites another person” includes responding to solicitation by an undercover police officer. And “commit prostitution or to do any other lewd or immoral act” includes flirting, holding hands, or inviting another person home or to another private location to pursue sexual activities. Or rather, it does if the target is a gay man.

And Stelma acknowledges that his officers are not interested in following the letter of the law, and especially not the spirit of the law, but in harassing targets that he knows full well are not committing a crime: (Mlive.com)

“There is a range of discernment there, but whatever that act or suggestion was has to be considered by a judge or jury as being lewd or immoral,” Stelma said. “Our community has invested heavily in the parks and they expect us to keep them safe, family-friendly places and that’s what we’re going to continue to do.”

So Sheriff Stelma will arrest those whom he deems not to be “family-friendly” and parade them in front of the community for public shaming and condemnation. Oh, and if it was unwarranted, well then a judge can let them off the $500 penalty.

At Box Turtle Bulletin we do not endorse or defend sex in public or suggest that such acts should not be discouraged or punished when they occur. Half of the arrests reviewed by the ACLU were for activities that were criminal and that is appropriate.

But we also do not accept the assumption that being gay is a crime or that there is anything “family-friendly” about targeting gay people. And if an officer or police force is arresting gay people for things for which one would never arrest a heterosexual, they are engaging in criminal behavior themselves and are violating the civil rights of citizens.

Such tactics are not uncommon and the reason is clear. There is very little disincentive for police to engage in this form of selective and creative enforcement. Seldom are police chiefs reprimanded, much less fired. And there is little social cost resulting from their abuse of power.

Those who are hateful or fearful are happy that “that element” is remove from a “family park” and those who object are smirked at as being soft on crime and a seedy element themselves. And, of course, there is the internal reward of harming people whom the officer or leader considers inferior or less human. Truly, bigots love a good “round up the homos” police sting.

But the cost to their victims can be huge.

Often those who resort to meeting in a park are men who are closeted and afraid to go to a bar or look online. They will do anything, say anything, to avoid having their secrets become public. And it is on just such a fear that corrupt officers and police forces rely; the sheriff can hold the threat of being listed as a sex offender over their head to keep them from any public objection.

I’m really sick of this.

It has reached the point now that when I hear of any dispute between an officer and a civilian, I assume that the officer is simply engaging in police brutality. And sadly, I’m very seldom wrong.

And even more frustrating is the mindset that is universally shared by the police community: protection of their own before protection of the community. Even in the most extreme of cases. (OC Register)

Earlier this month, six Fullerton cops surrounded and savagely attacked an unarmed, 37-year-old Kelly Thomas until he was dead. By the time the cops were done, Thomas’ face looked like it had been put through a meat grinder.

Multiple witness say the cops repeatedly beat the 135-pound homeless man with their weapons, fired multiple Taser shots into his body, kicked his face and head with their boots and then, long after the man was subdued and on the ground, slammed their knees into his throat, apparently crushing it.

Thomas had committed no crime and it appears that the murder was for sport. Not one officer in the police force objected. The six were not put on suspension or reprimanded or even frowned at as a consequence of their action. In fact, it was not until the man’s father went to the internet and got the support of local radio hosts John and Ken that anyone knew about it or the department took up an investigation. And when John and Ken began reporting, the families of other police officers actually called up and tried to make excuses.

This was a murder committed on police time, in uniform, with police recorders running, and people watching. The victim was threatened and taunted and then beaten to death. And they didn’t care that they would be turning in “reports” or that their department would have access to the recordings. They already knew that they were protected from any consequence to any action – even murder – because they were police officers.

And when the Fullerton community erupted in anger and a few officers were finally arrested, guess who bailed out the primary murderer? Yep, his fellow officers.

This infuriates me.

The thing is that my instinct runs to ‘law and order’. I like having a police force to protect me. I like knowing that if someone breaks into my home or threatens me on the street or otherwise harms or endangers me, that there is someone to look out for me. And when people like Kent County Sheriff Larry Stelma abuse their office and bring shame to the process, it hurts those honest officers who try to do their job and protect the citizens.

But honest officers seem to be in short supply. And their honesty seems to come secondary to their loyalty to power and corruption. The “thin blue line” appears to have become an impenetrable boundary that breaks the world into two classes: “good guys” who murder citizens, and “perps” like you and me and homeless schizophrenics and closeted men in Michigan.

And I know that I’ll be told that “there are a lot of good officers”. Bull. Being a good officer means not only avoiding abuse yourself, but stopping it when others do it. And that simply doesn’t occur.

But this only happens because we allow it. We are afraid that if we stop police abuse that it will empower criminals and crooks. Unfortunately, we now are seeing that our fear has already empowered criminals and crooks – the ones wearing the uniform.

It needs to stop. We need to make it stop.

Perhaps it is time to implement a tool that police bullies use against the citizens. Perhaps it’s time to create a Police Brutality Offenders Registry and when an officer has been accused of abusing his power he goes on the registry. If you are surly or arrogant or dismissive of a citizen, it goes into the Registry. If someone dies at your hands, it goes into the Registry. If you are on a police board that excuses an officer or finds “justifiable” something that would result in jail time for anyone else, then your name goes into the Registry.

And people seeking to move into a new city or precinct can look up the Police Brutality Offenders Registry, just like they can the Sex Offenders Registry, to see just how safe their new community might be. “Great schools and few sex offenders, but the police are corrupt so we’ll not buy here.”

And perhaps it is time for society to withhold the respect afforded police until they have proven themselves worthy. They need to decide if they are peace officers or a police force, if they answer to the community first or to their loyalty to the uniform first. It isn’t enough, any more, to be honest officers themselves, it’s now time for them to insist that others in their ranks be honest or get out. And if their sergeant doesn’t like it, go the newspapers.

Until officers and police forces identify themselves as protectors of the citizenry, we must assume that they are not good people. If they cannot condemn the horrific acts in Fullerton in clear and unequivocal terms, if they cannot demonstrate that your civil rights are more important than ‘rousting the objectionables’, if they think that they are an exception and exempt from laws that prohibit murder, then we must assume that they are the enemies of law and order no different from a street gang.

I hate to assume guilt and corruption… but it seems that few police are willing or able to show otherwise.

“queers can…”

Timothy Kincaid

December 6th, 2011

No, this isn't Michel Bachmann with a bad haircut.

Janice Daniels is the newly elected mayor of Troy, Michigan. She’s also not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed. Even if the only other tool is a mallet. In fact, Janice is so dense that she thinks she’s “a good person.”

Daniels – who ran with a motto that surely sent her sixth grade grammar teacher into tears – sought to bring her private industry experience as an associate realtor to Troy so as to protect its limited, constitutional government and the interests of its leaders, We The People. And lest you doubt her “high standard of achievement in communications”, she has had her “Guest Opinions” published in the local paper. So there.

And the good people of Troy elected her with 52% of the vote. (I dunno, I don’t live there. But was the other smiley white female Republican realtor really a worse choice?)

But Janice has discovered that politicians are held to a higher standard than realtors. Higher, even, than guest opinionizeres. And comments made on Facebook are fair game.

Back in June, before Janice’s rise to power, she made a little comment in response to New York’s vote for marriage equality.

“I think I am going to throw away my I Love New York carrying bag now that queers can get married there.”

And when it was made public this week, the wheels fell off her wagon.

Folks are up in arms that Mayor Janice referred to gay people as “queers”. And Janice herself was quick to apologize.

“I may have said something like that,” she said. “I probably shouldn’t have used that kind of language, but I do believe marriage should be between one man and one woman.”

And when local students protested she demanded they “forgive” her.

“I’m a good person, I really am. I said one word that you don’t like. One word.”

But that particular word selection isn’t the issue. Yes it is undoubtedly true that Janice meant the word to be a slur. But calling gay people “queers” isn’t the problem.

Had Janice said “Oh my cousin is going to New York to marry her girlfriend. I can’t wait to go to my first queer wedding.” we’d all be so pleased. And her statement wouldn’t have been much better with any other word choice.

And it isn’t that Mayor Janice doesn’t support equality. She is entitled to “believe marriage should be between one man and one woman.” That, in and of itself, is not any indication of hatred or bigotry. Many good people with caring hearts and compassionate spirits have not yet evolved to the point where they see marriage laws in terms of equality.

But words are telling, and this sentence tells us a lot. Janice Daniels didn’t post on Facebook that she disagreed with New York’s law. Or that she was disappointed. Or that marriage should be defined on her terms. Janice didn’t mention the legislature or the law at all.

To Janice the issue isn’t over the state’s definitions. It’s about a certain group of people being allowed to do something. And, let’s be real, it’s not the “get married” part that has her in a tizzy. It’s hard to invest much emotion into weddings which we find objectionable, be it a drunken Vegas stunt, an octogenarian-golddigger match, or a reality show finale.

No, Janice’s real objection was that “queers can…”

In fact, Janice so objects to the fact that “queers can..” that she threatened to throw away her carry bag. She so objects to “queers can…” that, for a moment anyway, she no longer loved New York. The state had betrayed her. Not because it now allowed yet another class of marriages of which she didn’t approve, but because they voted and now “queers can…”

Janice can declare that she “loves everyone” all day long. But when it comes to discerning poor word selection from heart-felt animus, queers can.

The Daily Agenda for Friday, 11/11/11

Jim Burroway

November 11th, 2011

TODAY’S AGENDA (OURS):
Veterans Day: Nationwide. This will be the first Veterans Day commemoration since the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which means that this will be the first Veterans Day commemoration in which gay and lesbian servicemembers will be able to participate fully. I know of two cities  in which LGBT veterans will be celebrated as part of the mainstream events:

  • San Diego, CA: San Diego LGBT Pride extends its welcome to all LGBT veterans, active duty servicemembers, and their families and supporters to walk with us in the San Diego Veterans Day Parade. The contingent will meet at 10am on the west side of the north Parking lot of the Country Administration Building, 1600 Pacific Hwy, San Diego CA 92101. The Parade will kick off at 11am.
  • San Francisco, CA: Today’s 92nd annual Veterans Day Parade will be led by San Francisco Freedom Day Marching Band. “It’s just the right thing to do,” said Wallace Levin, the parade coordinator. “Future generations of Americans will look back on this issue and wonder what all the fuss was about.” The parade begins at 11:00 a.m. at the corner of Market and Montgomery streets, and will go down Market Street to McAllister Street and then continue up McAllister to the reviewing stand across from City Hall.

I’m sure there are others. If you know of any, please let us know in the comments.

Lou Engle at TheCall in Nashville, 2007

TODAY’S AGENDA (THEIRS):
Lou Engle’s TheCall Rally: Detroit, MI. Engle is apparently transfixed by certain numbers when they repeat themselves on the calendar. When July 7, 2007 rolled around, Engle held a TheCall rally in Nashville which he believed would mark the end of a forty year period of rebellion since the “Summer of Love” in 1967. Apparently believe that God conforms himself to the man-made western Gregorian calendar, Engle has managed to read some sort of significance into the date 11/11/11, although what that would be is anybody’s guess. Targeting the substantial Arab-American community of Dearborn, Engle’s goal for TheCall Detroit is the conversion of “millions of Muslims” to Christianity and what he calls the transformation of “urban communities.” And gays. Don’t forget the gays, although it looks like he really has his sights set on Muslims this time. He took care of the gays in 2010 at a rally in Kampala, Uganda, where he lent tactical support for the proposed “Kill the Gays” Bill.

Today’s rally begins tonight at 6:00 p.m. and continues for twenty-four hours until tomorrow night at 6:00 p.m. And Engle has issued some pretty crazy warnings if he doesn’t get a massive turnout in Detroit: “ If we actually have The Call and you don’t sustain prayer ongoing you open a vacuum for demons seven times worse to come in. If black and white can’t move together in prayer and sustain it, forget it let’s not even go there, you get demons seven times worse.” So yeah, there’s that to chew on.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Woman Who Posed As Man 60 Years, Dead: 1907. That was the headline in The Trinidad (Colorado) Advertiser above this news item:

Katherine Vosbaugh, who for sixty years posed as a man, wearing male garb, living the rough life of the pioneers in the Southwest and who even “married” another woman, died yesterday morning at the San Raphael Hospital in this city, where she had been a county charge since he secret of her life was discovered by Dr. T.J. Forham, of this city two years ago.

Born nearly four-score years ago in France of a good family, this remarkable woman donned male garb when but a slip of a girl, came to America and worked as a back clerk, bookkeeper, restauranteur, cook, and sheep herder for over half a century without her sex being known.

In July, two years ago, “Frenchy,” a cook and sheep herder on the Sam Brown ranch, near this city, was taken with pneumonia and brought to the hospital where her secret was revealed. Even then, this strange woman refused to wear skirts. Clad in regulation man’s attire, she has since worked about the hospital and was known by the nickname of “Grandpa.”

Katherine Vosbaugh was left an orphan at the age of twenty years. Her father, a well educated man of considerable means, gave her an excellent business education. At hi death she was an expert accountant and spoke her native tongue, English, German, and Hungarian. Her only motive in assuming the disguise at first seems to have been to enable her more easily to secure employment.

She worked in several cities all over the country before settling at Joplin, Mo., where she worked for fifteen years as a bank clerk, and it was in this city where she married. The name of her “wife” was never learned, but the ceremony seems to have taken place for the purpose of saving the woman’s good name. A few months after the marriage a child was born to the wife, which died after a few months.

Shortly after the death of the child the two women came to this city and opened a restaurant on Commercial street. Here she was known as “Frenchy” and the establishment was one of the most popular restaurants in the Southwest.

Wheat became of “Frenchy’s” wife is not known. She drifted away and her “husband” refused until the time of her death to reveal the woman’s name.

After leaving here the woman secured a position as cook on a big sheep ranch near Trinche ranch. The eccentricities of youth became more pronounced as she grew older and more and more she came to look like a man. For years she lived with men on the ranch, cooking for them, assisting them in the ranch work, and sleeping in the same rooms, but her secret was never suspected.

Two years and four months ago she was stricken with pneumonia, and it was then that her secret was discovered. Since then she failed rapidly in body and mind and her death was due to a general breakdown.

From Jonathan Ned Katz’s Gay/Lesbian Almanac (New York: Harper & Row, 1983), pages 323-324.

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.

Gay, Pro-Gay Candidates Win Big

Jim Burroway

November 9th, 2011

Yesterday was a very good day for gay and -pro-gay candidates throughout the country. Here is a wrap-up. Please let me know what else is out there in the comments.

NOM Loses Big: Same-sex marriage remains secure in Iowa as Liz Mathis won big, 56-44%, over her NOM-backed opponent, Cindy Golding, in a special election for the Iowa state Senate. The National Organization for Marriage threw about $40,000 toward their failed attempt to elect Golding by making same-sex marriage an issue in the race. But soon after it was clear Golding lost, NOM’s cultural director Thomas Peters tweeted: “That’s what happens when a state GOP nominates a weak candidate.” Wow. Talk about your fair weather friends.

Virginia’s First: Adam Ebbin became the first openly gay state senator in Virginia after defeating his Republican challenger by a margin of 64-35%. His district, which is solidly Democratic, includes parts of Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax counties.

First Openly Gay, African-American Republican Mayor: At least that’s what we think happened when Bruce Harris was elected mayor of Chatham Borough, New Jersey.

Charlotte’s First: LaWana Mayfield became the first openly gay city council member as part of a Democratic landslide in North Carolina’s largest city. North Carolina, which will see a marriage amendment on the ballot next year, saw a number of other LGBT victories:

  • Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt won re-election with 78% of the vote.
  • Lee Storrow, a gay 22-year-old UNC grad won his race for a seat on the Chapel Hill city council.
  • Carrboro incumbent Alderwoman Lydia Lavelle was re-elected to another term for city council.

Cincinnati’s First: Chis Seelbach became the first openly gay city council member. He worked in 2004 to help defeat Article XII in the city charter which banned anti-discrimination ordinances for gay people.

Indianapolis’s First: Zach Adamson became the first openly gay city council member. S

Missoula’s First: Caitlin Copple became the first openly gay city council member. She defeated one of only two city council members who voted against the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance in 2010, which made Missoula the first city in Montana to provide discrimination protections in housing and employment regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Youngest Mayor: Alex Morse, 22, beat incumbent mayor Mary Pluta in Holyoke, Massachusetts, to become the nation’s youngest mayor.

Houston Re-elects: Mayor Annise Parker was re-elected with more than 50% of the vote, a margin which allows her to avoid a run-off. Mike Laster also became the first openly gay member of Houston’s city council.

Traverse City Supports Anti-Discrimination Ordinance: Voters in Traverse City, Michigan voted by a 2-to-1 margin to keep an anti-discrimination ordinance.  The vote came more than a year after Traverse City adopted the ordinance to prevent discrimination against gays in employment, housing and other areas. Opponents of the measure collected signatures to place a referendum for repeal on the ballot.

And on a final note, there were a number of gains in school board elections around the country which I didn’t cover, but I would like to point one out anyway: Daniel Hernandez, Jr., Rep. Gabrielle Gifford’s openly gay intern, was elected to as seat on the board of the Sunnyside Unified School District in Tuscon’s south side. Hernandez was one of the recognized heros during the January shooting at a Northwest side Safeway which killed  six and critically injured Rep. Giffords. And on a more personal note, I couldn’t be happier about the stunning news that Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce, architect of infamous anti-immigrant S.B. 1070 which was later found unconstitutional, was ousted by voters in favor of a political newcomer in Mesa.

Lou Engle’s TheCall Announced for Wasilla, Detroit

Jim Burroway

April 20th, 2011
YouTube Preview Image

Lou Engle is taking his dominionist craziness of TheCall Crisis to the capital of crazy, Wasilla, Alaska. Why? “We believe that Alaska is key to the future of this nation,” he explains. Citing Oil, earthquakes, and apparently Johnny Cash, all signs point to Alaska as “a place of refuge for our nation.” Engle’s TheCall is part of a larger 2-day conference set for June 3-4.

Engle, who is transfixed by key numbers when they repeat themselves on the calendar, has also announced a gathering slated for Detroit on “11.11.11.” He is also a stealth supporter of Uganda’s “Kill-the-gays” bill.

Jackson County, MI, turns human resources over to Crystal Dixon

Timothy Kincaid

March 30th, 2011

On April 4, 2008, Michael Miller, the editor of the Toledo Free Press, wrote an editorial in which he declared his affiliation with and affection for the community of gay people in his life. He expressed his difficulty in understanding anti-gay prejudice and the motivations behind those who advocate for discrimination.

Because I have such intense love and respect for the people in my life who are gay, it never makes sense to me when I hear someone preaching anti-gay rights propaganda. I can never understand why they care.

It’s basic Golden Rule territory: don’t judge people for the color of their skin or their physical challenges, and don’t judge them for their sexuality. I know that is a simplified and naïve statement, but for me, the issue really is that simple.

Miller lamented that his home state of Ohio was behind the curve in recognizing the equality of its gay residents. As an illustration on how gay Ohioans can be subjected to casual and careless inequality and indignity, he discussed a local situation.

The frequent denial of health care benefits leads to horror stories. According to the panelists, UT has offered domestic partner benefits since then-president Dan Johnson signed them into effect. The Medical University of Ohio did not offer those benefits. When the institutions merged, UT employees retained the domestic-partner benefits, but MUO employees were not offered them. So, people working for the same employer do not have access to the same benefits. According to the panel, it may be 18 months before the situation is addressed. Eighteen months is a very long time to live (and work at a medical facility) without health benefits.

Miller’s criticism did not sit well with Crystal Dixon, associate vice president for Human Resources at the University of Toledo. So on April 18, the Free Press printed Dixon’s rebuttal and allowed her to set the record straight.

But the Free Press’ implied criticism of the administration was not her concern. No, Dixon was furious that Miller dared to suggest that the struggle for equality for gay people had anything in common with the struggle for equality endured by African-Americans. How dare he compare her to one of them.

As a Black woman who happens to be an alumnus of the University of Toledo’s Graduate School, an employee and business owner, I take great umbrage at the notion that those choosing the homosexual lifestyle are “civil rights victims.” Here’s why. I cannot wake up tomorrow and not be a Black woman. I am genetically and biologically a Black woman and very pleased to be so as my Creator intended. Daily, thousands of homosexuals make a life decision to leave the gay lifestyle evidenced by the growing population of PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex Gays) and Exodus International just to name a few.

Her letter went on to express her belief that Jesus Christ hates homosexuality, to accuse gay people of violating God’s divine order, to complain that “economic data” proved that gay men who have degrees make more money than a non-college educated black male, and to declare that it was “misleading” to note that gay employees were categorically denied benefits when ALL employees of the two schools have “different benefit plans.”

To say that this was an embarrassment for the University of Toledo would be an understatement. Not only did her actions threaten her department’s employment negotiation possibilities, but it put the entire university in a disadvantage. When considering their options, few prospective college students consider anti-gay advocacy to be a selling point.

So on May 2, Dr. Lloyd Jacobs, the president of the University of Toledo, wrote an op-ed to assure the public that the school does not engage in anti-gay hiring practices, that Dixon’s comments “do not accord with the values of the University of Toledo”, and that he had personally lobbied the legislature in favor of domestic-partner recognition. He also corrected the impression that Dixon gave about the university’s position on the denial of benefits.

As regards the continued asymmetry of benefits packages across the campuses of this university, do understand that we are fully aware that asymmetry that Michael S. Miller spoke of does exist and are working as rapidly as we can to correct this asymmetry. When this asymmetry is corrected, the solution will be reflective of the university value statements above.

And with a cryptic reference to taking action to “more fully align our utterances and actions” with the values he expressed, Dr. Jacobs hinted that Dixon might best update her resume. And, indeed, on the 8th, noting that “personnel actions or decisions taken in your capacity as associate vice president for human resources could be challenged or placed at risk”, the University notified her that she had been terminated.

Naturally, letters flooded in to the editor. Those offended by Dixon’s views tended towards relatively polite exclamations of consternation and little lectures on equality and civil rights. Those angry at Dixon’s discontinued employment included accusations of fascism combined with a healthy dose of religious entitlement and no small amount of homophobia.

Dixon retained the Catholic advocacy law firm, Thomas Moore Law Center, and announced her intention to sue the university for violating her First Amendment rights. And World Net Daily, never one to let a loon go unchampioned, took up her causeRush Limbaugh and Focus on the Family presented Dixon as a martyr, a victim of liberal godlessness
and soon Crystal Dixon was the darling of the anti-gay industry.

Even wackadoodlery’s favorite theologian, Dr. Robert Gagnon, rushed to get a little attention from the controversy. In an open letter to the university full of axiomatic declarations about the obviousness of heterosexuality and amusing assumptions about gay relationships (lesbians have “markedly shorter durations of sexual unions on average, even relative to homosexual males”), he declared that “the closest parallels to adult-committed homosexual relations is not ethnicity or gender but rather adult-committed incestuous unions and adult-committed polysexual unions”.

Gagnon decried the school’s “full affirmation of homosexual activity” and bemoaned the “environment that provides increased opportunities for and fewer negative sanctions against same-gender sexuality”. To not sing Dixon’s praises for her honesty and her courage of conviction was, Gagnon declared, a sign of their intolerance. (One thing you have to say about Robert Gagnon, he never lets logic or consistency dissuade him from the certainty of his presumptions.)

In December 2008, Dixon made good on her threat to sue. But after that her trail goes a bit cold. Thomas Moore Law Center waved her flag a bit in their rundraising efforts, but I’m not sure whether her case was heard or if the school settled.

But, meanwhile, Crystal made good use of her down time. She wrote a book, Destiny’s Time, which is either “A New Novel!” or a guide to turning your “God-given talents and passions” into “viable businesses as well as enhancing job readiness skills!” Or perhaps both.

And she also started a company to sell shoe laces (with the catchy slogan “keeps shoes tied”) and a consulting frim which offers not only business advice but opportunities such as

$$ THREE GREAT WAYS FOR YOU TO EARN EXTRA INCOME! $$

1.You pre-buy paper-back books directly from the author at a discounted rate of $7.50 each and then you sell each book for $11 (includes tax) to your customers. And/or you can pre-buy audio books on CD at the discounted rate of $12.50 each and then you sell each audio book for $20. YOU KEEP all monies from books you sell and you have books to sell on the spot! (Minimum of 5 books for consultant purchases).

2. With your sales, you automatically recoup your $7.50 investment and also earn a 47% ($3.50) profit on each paper-back book you sell! For audio books, you earn at 66% ($7.50) profit on each book you sell. Share the books at your convenience!

(The third great way to earn extra income appears to be a secret.)

However, it looks like Ms. Dixon may now be returning from private enterprise to the governmental sector work force. The county and city of Jackson, Michigan, have decided to consolidate their human relations departments and place them under one director’s control. And they have decided that Crystal Dixon, at a salary of $87,030, is the right person for this role.

Noting that Dixon has spent the past three years “working as a human resources and business consultant”, the Interim County Administrator praised her ability to “wear many hats and switch her leadership style based on where she is.” (Mlive.com)

Interim county Administrator Adam Brown said Dixon’s level of experience and professionalism put her “head and shoulders” above other candidates.

It’s tempting to think that if the County representatives are that stupid then they deserve what they get. But there is a bigger issue at stake; Crystal Dixon has been given authority over the livelihood of any gay people that work for the county and city of Jackson.

And while Dixon is certainly entitled to her views about matters of faith, homosexuality, choice, and civil rights, if she is incapable or unwilling to set aside those views, this will undoubtedly result in a culture – and perhaps even policy – of anti-gay discrimination.

And, even before three years of receiving accolades for her anti-gay advocacy, Dixon left little doubt as to whether she considers employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation to be objectionable. She does not. She considers it a divine mandate.

Looking back to where it started, before Dixon was the champion of God, family, and decency, she was a woman responding to a newspaper editor’s call for equal compensation for gay employees. And it was in the context of this right that Dixon countered:

There is a divine order. God created human kind male and female (Genesis 1:27). God created humans with an inalienable right to choose. There are consequences for each of our choices, including those who violate God’s divine order. It is base human nature to revolt and become indignant when the world or even God Himself, disagrees with our choice that violates His divine order. Jesus Christ loves the sinner but hates the sin (John 8:1-11.) Daily, Jesus Christ is radically transforming the lives of both straight and gay folks and bringing them into a life of wholeness: spiritually, psychologically, physically and even economically. That is the ultimate right.

In April 2008, Crystal Dixon endorsed anti-gay discrimination, saying, “one’s personal choices lead to outcomes either positive or negative.” Having now been confirmed in her beliefs by the city and county of Jackson, there is little doubt that she will see this as God anointing her to mete out those outcomes.

My existence is not a violation of your rights

Timothy Kincaid

November 3rd, 2010

I am becoming increasingly frustrated by the notion of “balance” that some in the anti-gay industry are espousing.

I support the right of those who believe that homosexual acts are sinful and wish to encourage abstinence to have their voices heard. And those who think that the social acceptance of same-sex couples in society reduces public morality and will lead to social ills should be given the space to present their case.

But the false equivalencies that have been presented lately do not speak to an exchange of ideas, but rather to the assumptions of entitlement to which anti-gay activists think they are due.

The counterbalance to “I wish to advocate for gay rights” is not “you must be kept silent.” And there is no moral equivalency between “I wish to live unharmed” and “I wish to beat you to submission.” Yet these are not greatly exaggerated from that which we see presented.

Take, for example, Russian gay rights protesters who sued their country in the European Court after being denied the right to assemble. The court found last month that their rights had been violated and ordered that Russia allow for future gay rights demonstrations and assigned compensation.

The response to this decision by the Russian Orthodox Church is astonishing. (Interfax Religion)

“The decision made in Strasbourg essentially constitutes violence against the feelings and morals of the majority of [Russian] society. That will hardly help achieve the stated purpose to cultivate tolerance and achieve accord, mutual understanding and peaceful co-existence,” Father Filaret said in an interview with Interfax-Religion.

Peaceful assembly is depicted by the church as “violence against the morals and feelings of society.” The real violence enacted against the physical bodies of gay people in Russia was given less concern by the church than the “violence” against anti-gays feelings.

Howell Superintendent Ron Wilson

Or take note of the equivalencies assigned by the school board in Howell, Michigan. (Livingston Daily)

  • On October 20, Jay McDowell wore a purple shirt to class to express solidarity with students who are bullied for being (or being perceived as) gay or lesbian. This led to a discussion about bullying and why it should be opposed.
  • One student, who had come to class with a Confederate Flag belt buckle was asked by McDowell to remove the item (she did).
  • In response, a male student declared that he opposes rainbow flags because, “I don’t accept Gays. It is against my religion. I am Catholic.”
  • McDowell attempted to explain how “I don’t accept” followed by any group was disruptive and when the student refused to back down, suspended him and another student from the class for the day.

As the Michigan Messenger describes it:

That student … and another student, were kicked out of McDowell’s Economic class after debating with the teacher about a third student’s Confederate flag belt buckle. The student questioned why it was OK for students to wear clothing to support LGBT issues, but not for a student to wear a Confederate flag.

In other words, why isn’t “I support” equivalent to “I don’t accept”? Shouldn’t both positions be given the same prominence and legal and moral weight?

No. Perhaps in some settings, but not this one.

Because the context of the debate was over the bullying of children. And in that context, “I don’t accept gays” is an implicit endorsement of bullying of school children. When speaking of bullying, “I don’t accept” is a justification for bullying.

Yet the school board found that McDowell violated the rights of these two boys to their free expression and reprimanded him. And in doing so, they made the following comparison:

You also state you routinely do not allow [the Confederate Flag] in your classroom because it offends you, and you personally connect this symbol to a list of oppressions and atrocities. You do, however, allow the display of the rainbow flag, to which some of your students have voiced opposition.

McDowell actually does not display the rainbow flag. (And, indeed, if McDowell did use his class space to advocate for specific (or even general) political positions to the exclusion of other positions, I would agree that this was unfair.) But irrespective of that inaccuracy, consider what it means that the school board administration compared the two:

On one hand the Confederate Flag has a traceable history and an identifiable connection with acts of violence and advocacy of discrimination and intolerance towards people based on their racial and religious identity. In fact, in this particular high school it was linked to a Facebook Hate Group which, in 2009, used the flag as its profile picture and students have been required to remove the symbol from their cars. The Confederate Flag at Howell High was directly connected to a threat against some students.

On the other hand, the rainbow flag is linked with a set of social positions with which some students disagree. At most, it exists as a challenge to the beliefs of some students. But in the minds of this school board administration, a challenge to their beliefs is equivalent to – or worse than – a physical threat against others.

And so they accused McDowell of bullying the students, of denying their right to “not accept” their fellow students. In response to his defense of gay students from being bullied (or “not accepted”), they order him to “cease from engaging in the promotion of your personal social issues.”

For refusing to accept statements of intolerance in his classroom, the board accused McDowell of being intolerant.

Nonsense. Contrary to what anti-gay activists claim, tolerance is not defined by the extent to which it allows intolerance to prevail.

But perhaps most troubling is this instruction to McDowell: “Where controversial issues arise, be sure all sides of the controversial issue be explored without emotion and bias.” Think back to the originating situation, the reason for McDowell’s decision to wear purple: the suicide deaths of a number of gay and presumed-gay children.

What, I wonder, are “all sides” of the “controversial issue” that gay students should not be bullied to death?

Michigan Assistant AG Takes Leave Of Absence Amid Cyber-Stalking Controversy

Jim Burroway

October 1st, 2010
Andrew Shirvell

Andrew Shirvell

Michigan Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell has taken an indefinite personal leave of absence from his job amid national controversy over his cyber-stalking blog dedicated to attacking a University of Michigan student. A spokesman for Attorney General Mike Cox, who has defended Shirvell’s continued employment with the AG’s office, said that Shirvell will be subject to a disciplinary hearing after he returns to work.

Meanwhile, Shirvell’s blog, Chris Armstrong Watch, which cyber-stalks the openly gay president of University of Michigan’s student government, is now locked and is available by invitation only. Past posts however are still available on Google’s cache.

Several of Shirvell’s posts appear to indicate that his stalking activities go beyond cyber-stalking, and appear to take on aspects of actual physical stalking. Shirvell has been spotted “protesting” in front of Armstrong’s home, crashing a house party that Armstrong hosted, and following Armstrong’s friends around campus. UM’s campus police confirm that Shirvell has been banned from campus beginning Sept 14, and is being investigated for “harassing or stalking” Armstrong.

Armstrong is seeking a restraining order against Shirvell. That hearing will be held on October 4. In Armstrong’s application for a restraining order, he makes clear that he is now in fear for his safety: (PDF: 5 pages 3.3MB)

“The actions that Mr. Shirvell has taken against me over the past 4 months have been incredibly distressing. If it were University of Michigan students or administrators who were taking these actions it would be a very different conversation since my position is to serve the currently enrolled University of Michigan students. However, since he isn’t a student his actions are concerning and make me feel unsure about my own safety.”

Michigan AG Defends Employee’s Cyber-bullying

Jim Burroway

September 30th, 2010

Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox says state Assistant AG Andrew Shirvell is only expressing his opinions, which has nothing to do with his job defending crime victims — including, presumably, victims of cyber-bullying:

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Campus Pride has re-issued its 2010 survey of American college students, which found that 33% of gay and 30% of transgender students, faculty, and staff have seriously considered leaving their institution due to the challenging anti-LGBT climate. Thirteen percent of gay students, faculty and staff and 43% of transgender students, faculty and staff fear for their own physical safety. A 2006 poll by Harris Interactive found that 43% of all teens regardless of sexual orientation have experienced cyber-bullying over the prior year. An Iowa State University study found that LGBT youth are hit especially hard by cyber-bullying.

But AG Cox sees nothing wrong with cyber-bullying this particular college student. After all, what could possibly go wrong?

Oh, by the way — Shirvell served as Cox’s campaign manager back in 2006.

Michigan Assistant DA Andrew Shirvell: raging homophobe, stalker, dumb as a box of rocks

Timothy Kincaid

September 29th, 2010

When Thomas Monaghan, the founder of the Dominos Pizza Chain, sold his business for $1 billion in 1998, he decided to dedicate the rest of his life to advancing his faith.

Unfortunately his faith is Catholicism of the Papa Ratzi / Mel Gibson variety, strong on bronze age moralism and devoted to making you follow the rules that Monaghan is sure that God wants you to follow. He is passionate about abortion issues and believes that one of the best ways to achieve a nation that obeys the Church is to create an army of lawyers who will fight for the views of the Church.

So Monaghan founded the Thomas More Law Center, an anti-gay, anti-abortion activist organization. He also funded the Ave Maria School of Law, a Catholic law school with teachings that are “in fidelity to the Catholic Faith as expressed through Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture, and the teaching authority of the Church” and which would send out graduates “equipped for leading positions in law firms, corporate legal offices, the judiciary, and national, state, and local government.”

As Ave Maria is fairly young and is among what is generously referred to as “second tier law schools”, I haven’t learned that much about them. While I knew that they included as friends and supporters Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, I’ve not yet had much opportunity to see what caliber of person they are unleashing on the nation. Until now.

The public has recently been introduced to what must be among Ave Maria’s highest profile alumni, Michigan Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell. Now how Shirvell came to be qualified for his position can be debated, but as Attorney General Mike Cox is also a conservative Republican Catholic, I suspect that Shirvell’s hard-core extremist Catholic ideology did not count as a liability.

And Shirvell has made his mark, though for work performed outside of his job qualification. And quite a mark it is.

You see, Andrew Shirvell has been, in his off time, writing a blog. And this blog is dedicated to one subject: exposing the “radical homosexual agenda” of the University of Michigan student body president Chris Armstrong. And let me tell ya, it’s quite the blog.

Welcome to “Chris Armstrong Watch.” This is a site for concerned University of Michigan alumni, students, and others who oppose the recent election of Chris Armstrong – a RADICAL HOMOSEXUAL ACTIVIST, RACIST, ELITIST, & LIAR – as the new head of student government.

Prior to Armstrong’s March, 2010, election as president of the Michigan Student Assembly (MSA), Armstrong served as chairman of MSA’s LGBT commission – a commission that solely focused on utilizing the student government to promote the radical homosexual agenda, including gay “marriage” and adoption “rights.” As chair, Armstrong also succeeded in lobbying for the annual Midwest LGBT College Conference to take place at U of M in 2011. This conference has a notorious reputation for promoting decadence, including illegal drug use and public sex acts.

Andrew Shirvell is like Peter LaBarbera, but with a real job. A very powerful job. And one that his boss, Mike Cox, seems to have no interest in rethinking. (Detroit Free Press)

“All state employees have a right to free speech outside working hours,” Cox said in a statement today. “But Mr. Shirvell’s immaturity and lack of judgment outside the office are clear.”

But this goes beyond “lack of judgment”. It is obsessive, abusive, and perhaps illegal – though when you work for the state Attorney General, “illegal” is a subjective term.

But while Cox’s lack of judgment in hiring an extremist wackadoodle is disconcerting, it is also troubling that he hired – with taxpayer funds – a bumbling fool. Now having been exposed to just what kind of lawyer that Monaghan is making, we can see that his business model hasn’t changed: put out the lowest quality in town.

I mean, if Shirvell was a pizza, there would be no detectable meat-product in his pepperoni. I’m talking cheese so processed that Shirvell was willing to go on Anderson Cooper’s 360 and show the world just what kind of sauceless crust he is:

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Well I guess the good news is that we have less to fear from an army of idiots.

I’ll take it where I can get it

Timothy Kincaid

June 17th, 2010

From the New York Times interview with artist Eminem (Marshall Mathers) regarding his new album Recovery

You’ve been accused of writing gay-bashing lyrics in the past. Would you like to see gay marriage approved in Michigan, where you live?

I think if two people love each other, then what the hell? I think that everyone should have the chance to be equally miserable, if they want.

Which means that either the notion of equality for gay people has made its way into the “white trash” culture for which Eminem speaks, or Elton John’s habit of “building bridges, not fences” with notorious homophobes actually works.

Undercover in Lansing’s ex-gay ministry

Timothy Kincaid

May 14th, 2010

It hasn’t been a good year for Corduroy Stone, an ex-gay ministry in Lansing, MI, or for it’s director, Mike Jones. In September, 2009, Truth Wins Out interviewed Patrick McAlvey who exposed Jones’ methods (similar to those of discredited Richard Cohen) and his inappropriate behavior.

Following that exposé, Corduroy Stone was disaffiliated from Exodus International. And this week, they were dropped by the Michigan Department of Corrections from being allowed to conduct their ministry within the prison system.

Also this week, CityPulse magazine published an undercover report from a reporter who posed as a gay man wishing to rid himself of unwanted same-sex attractions.

Although the article mostly left me with pity for both the sad director and his unhappy clients, one of the sessions that Brandon Kirby described relates to and helps us understand the statements by Dr. George Rekers – and others – who deny being gay while clearly demonstrating behaviors that suggests otherwise:

“We’re working through accurate vocabulary that captures where we are,” he said. “And that’s very similar to what we do when we look at the word gay. The definition of gay in this culture is very fluid like the definition of Christianity. When someone uses those terms, I haven’t the slightest idea what they mean until I’ve pursued that. I don’t know what anybody is communicating. When your friend told you, ‘You’re just gay,’ I don’t know what she means because it’s a very fluid word.”

The other client, Ben (not his real name), described his experience coming out to a friend. Jones asked him to define “gay.”

“I always thought gay meant you were attracted to people of your same sex,” he said. “I’ve since then revised that definition, and I would say that gay is somebody who is actively involved in that lifestyle. So, I guess I’m not gay. I experience same-sex attraction.”

I asked Ben why, then, he told his friend he was gay.

“I told him many years ago when I didn’t really know what gay meant. I had a couple experiences when I was a teenager, but it was only until recently, last year or so, that I differentiated gay and same-sex attraction.”

It’s sad, the linguistic gymnastics required to continue putting faith in this failed system.

Michigan Christians sue because the Matthew Shepherd Act restricts their rights. They must want to violently attack gay people

Timothy Kincaid

February 5th, 2010

Hate crimes, as defined by Federal law, are violent crimes that are motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. The Matthew Shepard Act is very clear that it relates to violent crimes, not to preaching:

(3) CONSTITUTIONAL PROTECTIONS- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to prohibit any constitutionally protected speech, expressive conduct or activities (regardless of whether compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief), including the exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment and peaceful picketing or demonstration. The Constitution does not protect speech, conduct or activities consisting of planning for, conspiring to commit, or committing an act of violence.

(4) FREE EXPRESSION- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to allow prosecution based solely upon an individual’s expression of racial, religious, political, or other beliefs or solely upon an individual’s membership in a group advocating or espousing such beliefs.

However, the Thomas Moor Law Group has filed a lawsuit on the behalf of some “Christians” who feel that this law restricts them from observing their faith. (Christian Post)

Four Christians on Tuesday filed a federal lawsuit challenging the recently enacted Hate Crimes Prevention Act, arguing that it seeks to criminalize deeply held religious beliefs that are in opposition to homosexuality.

The 27-page long complaint was submitted by the Thomas More Law Center on behalf of Gary Glenn of the American Family Association of Michigan and Pastors Levon Yuille, James Combs, and Rene B. Ouellette, who are also based in Michigan. It names U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., as the defendant.

We must assume that the Thomas More Law Center has read the law. And because the law has no effect on their rights to belief or expression of belief, the only logical conclusion is that these four Christians wish to plan for, conspire to commit, or commit an act of violence.

Or, perhaps, this is just another example of folks who think that because “homosexual acts, according to Scripture, are acts of grave depravity that are intrinsically disordered and are contrary to the natural law” then their religion trumps civil law.

Sometimes I can’t figure out if they are arrogant and opposed the basic principles of civil liberties and equality or if they really truly wish they were free to beat us in the streets.

The Day After Election Day

Jim Burroway

November 4th, 2009
Submitted by BTB reader Elliot Ryan

Submitted by BTB reader Elliot Ryan

Feelings will be running raw this morning. Having yet another state placing a portion of its own citizenry in the second-class column is never easy to take. There will be plenty of time for post-mortems; I guess you could say I’ve already gotten a jump on mine before the campaign was over.

But I think it’s very important to keep in mind what Protect Maine Equality has been able to do. They have put together one of the most outstanding grass-roots efforts I’ve ever seen in a political campaign, and for that they’ve provided a road map for future campaigns to follow. Nobody has done a better job at motivating thousands of individuals to give of their time, and nobody has put together a better get-out-the-vote effort. The fact that the vote was this close is a testament to those great accomplishments.

Meanwhile, we have an important victory in Kalamazoo, where the religious right pulled out all the scare tactics at their disposal to try to defeat a non-discrimination ordinance. It didn’t work. The ordinance was upheld by 7,671 to 4,731 — 62% voted for equality in Kalamazoo, which is now the sixteenth city in Michigan with a non-discrimination ordinance.

Meanwhile, Washington’s Referendum 71 is holding on by a razor-thin margin. The Seattle Times says that it looks promising, since most of the outstanding votes are in areas where the measure was passing. Washingtonians vote by mail, and since the law requires that ballot be postmarked by election day, they will continue to trickle in during the days to come.

In Houston, openly lesbian mayoral candidate Annise Parker will go up against Gene Lock for a December 12 runoff. Openly gay Mark Kleinschmidt was elected mayor of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and Charles Pugh garnered the highest number of Detroit city council votes among all the city-wide at-large candidates to become that city’s first gay city council president. And in New Jersey, New York, and the District of Columbia, legislative battles are heating up for marriage equality.

There are steps forward and steps back. The struggle isn’t over. We lost this one, but we pick ourselves up and go on to the next one. Our community has forged a unique strength that way, and we’ve learned to do this in ways we didn’t want to, whether it was to respond to Governmental censorship, employment bans, Anita Bryant, the AIDS crisis when nobody else could be bothered, or these state-by-state ballot initiatives. They do wear us down, but they don’t wear us out. We pick each other up, dust ourselves off, and we go on to the next battle. It’s what we do.

Kalamazoo Claims Victory

Jim Burroway

November 3rd, 2009

One Kalamazoo, which has been facing a bruising election fight to retain that city’s anti-discrimination ordinance against a blistering attack by the religious right, is claiming victory (no link yet):

With only absentee ballots outstanding, 65 percent of Kalamazoo voters have approved Ordinance 1856 by a vote of 6,463 to 3,527, adding protections for gay and transgender people to the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance. This margin is larger than the number of outstanding absentee ballots that are currently being counted.

School Board Objects to Pictures of Gay Americans

Timothy Kincaid

October 28th, 2009

A school board in Michigan decided last week that a display by the Diversity Club had put up for gay history month which showed pictures of successful gay Americans was just too offensive for their precious high school aged children.

From the wildly homophobic Argus-Press *

The Corunna Board of Education voted Monday to remove a club project in a display case at Corunna High School that highlighted the acceptance of homosexuality and alternative lifestyles.

The Diversity Club’s display featured about nine photos of athletes, politicians and educators who live a homosexual lifestyle, Corunna Superintendent Dr. Mark Miller said.

It was just shocking, shocking!, that the little darlings were exposed to a picture of Neil Patrick Harris.

But it turns out that even school board members can get an education at a public school. And the ACLU was on hand to grade this little pop quiz.

From the Michigan Messenger

A local Shiawassee County school board plans to hold a meeting as soon as Monday to rescind a decision it made Oct. 23 to order the removal of an extracurricular club display honoring gay history month.

“We have violated the First Amendment rights of the students and the Diversity Club,” Maureen Stanley, president of the Corunna Board of Education, said. “We limited their expression.”

But it does make you wonder. Did the complaining parent really object to the existence of gay people at all? Did the school board really think that saying, “these Americans are gay” was something to refer to a health advisory committee?

I guess their “thinking” is best illustrated by this quote:

“We did not feel that was something that needed to be highlighted in the school, that’s basically it,” Trustee Lyle Brooks said.


UPDATE

* I am delighted to tell you that I was completely wrong in categorizing the Argus-Press as “wildly homophobic”. Dan Basso, the editor, contacted us to inquire as to why I made such a statement and to indicate that this does not reflect his intentions. We had a meaningful and useful correspondence about the use of certain words and terms such as “homosexual” v. “gay” and “lifestyle” and I think that Mr. Basso and I both have a greater understanding of each other.

I believe Mr. Basso when he tells us that it was not his intention to offend or report in a way that appears opposed to the gay community. And I am satisfied that he intends to update his stylebook and direct his staff on the use of language in stories related to our community. And I am appreciative of an editorial – not available online – in which the editor strongly disagreed with the action of the Board.

I was wrong. And sometimes it is great to admit being wrong.

The Push Is On For Equality

Jim Burroway

October 28th, 2009

We are just one week away from a very important election in three states. We are hearing that the National Organization for Marriage is making last-minute dumps of huge amounts of cash in Washington and Maine, while Kalamazoo, Michigan is facing a tremendous onslaught of misleading ads against their non-discrimination ordinance, which is also up for a vote. Not only can you contribute, but you can help out with phone banking — right from your own home or wherever you happen to be. The following message from the Courage Campaign is being carried by LGBT bloggers nationwide, including Box Turtle Bulletin. Please do what you can today and in the coming days to ensure that on November 3, there will be no regrets.

Washington:
Who we are: Approve Referendum 71 is the campaign to preserve domestic partnerships in Washington State. By voting to approve, voters retain the domestic partnership laws that were passed during this year’s legislative session, including using sick leave to care for a partner, adoption rights, insurance rights, and more.

What we need: We need phone bankers to get our supporters out to vote. Washington is an all mail-in ballot state, and we need to ensure our supporters put their ballots in the mail. Also, youth turnout is a critical component of our campaign, and youth turnout historically drops in off-year elections. So we need a lot of help to turn them out.

How you do it: Sign up here to make remote calls for Approve 71. We’ll then contact you for a training, and you can make GOTV calls.

Maine:
Who we are:
The No On 1/Protect Maine Equality campaign is working to protect Maine’s recently-passed law legalizing marriage equality for same-sex couples. Our opponents have put the issue on the ballot for Nov 3, 2009. Because of Maine’s early voting election laws, people are already voting at the polls, so we need help immediately to turn out our side at the polls.

What we need: We need you to devote a few hours to Call for Equality. Call for Equality is a virtual phonebank set up so that you can call Maine voters wherever you are. Much of Maine is rural, where canvassing isn’t effective, so we need to reach these voters- along with other supporters- by phone. All you need is a phone and internet connection. No experience required! We’ll provide the training, and all you need is a a few hours to help get a win in Maine.

How you do it: Click here to sign up for a training and your shift. There are lots of times available for your convenience.

Goal ThermometerKalamazoo, MI:
Who We Are: The Yes on Ordinance 1856 / One Kalamazoo campaign is working in Michigan to support the City Commission of Kalamazoo’s twice approved ordinance for housing, employment, and public accommodation protections for gay and transgender residents. Opponents forced a public referendum on the ordinance so dedicated local volunteers, led by former Stonewall Democrats Executive Director Jon Hoadley, are working to ensure voters say YES to fairness and equality and keep Ordinance 1856.

Why The Urgency: In the final weeks, the opposition has gone all out with aggressive disinformation and misleading red herrings to try to defeat the ordinance. This includes signs that say “No to Discrimination” (even though voting No actually supports continued discrimination of GLBT residents), transphobic door hangers and fliers, and now radio ads that falsely suggest that criminal behavior will become legal when this simply isn’t true. The Yes on Ordinance 1856 supporters are better organized but many voters who want to vote for gay and transgender people are getting confused by the opposition.

How To Help:
1) Help the One Kalamazoo campaign raise a final $10,000 specifically dedicated to fight back against the lies on the local TV and radio airwaves and fully fund the campaign’s final field and GOTV efforts.

Give here: http://www.actblue.com/page/3-2-1-countdown

2) If you live nearby and can physically volunteer in Kalamazoo sign up here. If you know anyone that lives in Kalamazoo, use the One Kalamazoo campaign’s online canvass tool to remind those voters that they need to vote on November 3rd and vote YES on Ordinance 1856 to support equality for gay and transgender people.

Contact voters: http://www.onekalamazoo.com/tellfriends2

Lots of Interest in What the Bible Says in Kalamazoo

Timothy Kincaid

September 29th, 2009

bibleforum LOC-1.jpg

On November 3, Kalamazoo residents will vote on whether to ban discrimination against LGBT residents. On June 8, the city council unanimously passed an ordinance banning discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation for employment, housing and access to public accommodations. Anti-gay activists collected enough signatures to force a vote of the populace.

Republican activists Lorence and Nancy Wenke decided that residents needed to know just what the Bible had to say about homosexuality. Lorence Wenke is a former Republican Michigan House member who is running for the state Senate in 2010.

So the Wenkes sponsored a forum with ministers discussing scripture. But you probably have made some false assumptions about Wenke’s motivation. (Mlive.com)

“The more that you talk about this issue and the more you get to know families struggling with this issue, the more you know the Bible doesn’t condemn them,” Wenke said.

So Wenke’s forum was not limited to anti-gay messages. Rather, he presented three ministers who find scripture to condemn homosexuality and three that do not.

“It’s only .002 percent of the entire Bible, an incredibly small slice,” Laney said. “Sexual orientation is not a choice; it’s not a disorder. It’s part of God’s diverse creation.”

The Rev. Dr. Douglas Vernon, senior pastor of Kalamazoo’s First United Methodist Church, agreed, saying the Bible may be taken “very seriously” but not always literally.

“We believe there is no one right way to interpret Scripture,” Vernon said.

The Rev. John Byl, pastor of Immanuel Fellowship Church, and the Rev. Dr. Paul Naumann, of St. Michael Lutheran Church, disagreed, saying the literal words are relevant and timeless.

But the most interesting thing about the forum is that it drew a lot of interest. Close to 800 people showed up.

The large turnout surprised Lorence Wenke, who said he was expecting about 300 people.

Wenke figures he’ll lose some conservative votes because of his sponsorship. But at least he’ll know that he was a good citizen, a good neighbor, and a valued ally.

ADF Sues Michigan Group For Disrupting Church Services

Jim Burroway

May 15th, 2009
Photo from the “Bash Back!” website

Photo from the “Bash Back!” website

The Alliance Defense Fund, an a Scottsdale-based anti-gay legal group, has filed a federal lawsuit against the “Bash Back!” anarchists who invaded a church during morning worship services near Lansing, Michigan. Here is the ADF’s statement:

Alliance Defense Fund attorneys filed suit in federal court Wednesday against a radical anarchist group that openly advocates the use of riots and crime to further its views in favor of homosexual behavior. ADF attorneys filed the suit on behalf of Delta Township’s Mount Hope Church against the group “Bash Back!,” which invaded the church’s building during a worship service on Nov. 9 of last year.

“The use of violent threats and criminal behavior to make a political point should never be acceptable in America,” said ADF Senior Counsel Gary McCaleb. “Bash Back! revealed how dangerous the homosexual agenda is to our First Liberty, religious freedom. ADF filed this suit to stop Bash Back! and other activist groups from invading churches, disrupting worship, silencing pastors, and terrifying adults and children who attend religious services.”

A local news account of what happened is here. The ADF cites a clause of the “Freedom to Access To Clinics Act,” which was intended to protect those who provide or obtain abortions. That clause also protects places of worship by prohibiting actions by anyone who:

(2) by force or threat of force or by physical obstruction, intentionally injures, intimidates or interferes with or attempts to injure, intimidate or interfere with any person lawfully exercising or seeking to exercise the First Amendment right of religious freedom at a place of religious worship;

What “Bash Back!” did was clearly inexcusable and against the law. It was also abyslmally stupid. My dad used to tell me that even a broken clock is right twice a day. I think this is the first time I’ve ever said this about the ADF, but the ADF and Mount Hope Church are very much in the right. “Bash Back!” clearly and deliberately violated Mount Hope’s First Amendment rights and should be held accountable for it.

Michigan TV Station Declines To Air Anti-Gay Propaganda

Jim Burroway

February 11th, 2009

The American Family Association has been flogging a paid program to television programs called “Speechless: Silencing Christians” Already one television station had agreed to air the special before backing down from a national outcry.

WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan originally scheduled the program to air right before President Barack Obama’s Monday news conference. Program director Craig Cole decided to move it to Wednesday, saying “We didn’t feel it was an appropriate place, leading into the presidential event.” After receiving hundreds of emails, the station’s general manager acknowledged that the show “slipped through our filters,” and offered the AFA a Saturday afternoon time slot. Now we learn that the offer to air the infomercial has been taken off the table:

“We made a gesture of the 2-3 p.m. Saturday time period. It’s been 24 hours and we had no response,” Kniowski said. “Our station is being bombarded with calls and messages, and we find ourselves in the middle of someone else’s fight. Ours was a fair offer and we are removing ourselves from this matter.”

“Speechless” is a veritable tour-de-force of false accusations that the “homosexual agenda” seeks to destroy Christianity. It begins by citing Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen’s book “After the Ball” as the very agenda itself. The book, published in 1989, simply offers gay activists a set of more professional public relations techniques — the very same public relation techniques that anti-gay activists have been using for decades.

The offense that Kirk and Madsen committed, of course, is in denying anti-gay activists a monopoly on those techniques. And boy are they outraged. This latest television program is a perfect example of the AFA’s following Kirk and Madsen’s formula to a tee — with the added mix of false accusations, one-sided reporting of events, and the time-honored fear-mongering slander that gay activists pose a sinister threat to children.

All of this effort is directed towards convincing Americans that Christians are under assault by “homosexualists”, and that if we’re not all careful everyone will be “forced” to accept LGBT people as citizens deserving of civil rights, freedom from bullying, assault and murder, or even the simple right to visit dying partners in hospitals.

Of all the nerve!

“Speechless” is the latest attempt among anti-gay activists to portray Christians as a persecuted minority, even though they make up more than three-quarters of the population — and a rather religious population at that. According to the American Religious Identification Survey taken in 2001 (PDF: 452KB/47 pages), only 16% of Americans described themselves as secular or somewhat secular, while 75% regarded themselves as religious or somewhat religious.

And if there’s any question as to who’s being persecuted, all we need to do is revisit the latest hate crime statistics. According to the FBI, hate crimes against gays and lesbians continued to increase in 2007, contradicting the overall trend of fewer hate crimes since 2006. Crimes based on sexual orientation very nearly tied those based on religion for second place:

  Hate Crime Offenses, 2006 Hate Crime Offenses, 2007
Race 4,737 52% 4,724 52%
Religion 1,597 18% 1,477 16%
Sexual Orientation 1,415 16% 1,460 16%
Ethnicity 1,233 14% 1,256 14%
Disability 94 1% 82 <1%
TOTAL 9,080 100%* 9,006 100%*
Totals don’t add up due to additional
multi-category hate crime offenses.
Percentages don’t add to 100%
due to rounding errors.

Of the religion category for 2007, anti-Jewish offenses 1,010 of the total. Anti-Catholic and anti-Protestant combined make up only 124 offenses for an anti-Christian total. And of those, only 23 were attacks against persons. The rest were crimes against property.

In fact, we noted earlier that hate crimes based on sexual orientation continue to be the most violent type of hate crime by far. Attacks based on sexual orientation are much more likely to be physically violent than in any other category:

  Total Hate Crime Offenses, 2007 Violent Crimes, percentage of total
Race 4,724 1,471 31%
Religion 1,477 126 9%
Sexual Orientation 1,460 695 48%
Ethnicity 1,256 497 40%
Disability 82 21 26%
TOTAL 9,006 2,810 31%
Violent crimes include:
Murder and non-negligent manslaughter,
forcible rape, aggravated assault
and simple assault.

While we are still disturbed that WOOD-TV continued to offer to air the AFA’s hate-filled propaganda, we nevertheless congratulate them for listening to the outcry raised in this debacle. Let’s hope other station managers around the country don’t fall into the same mistake.

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