The Daily Agenda for Friday, September 14

Jim Burroway

September 14th, 2012

Here is this week’s rundown of what’s happening with the four marriage ballot  campaigns along with what you can do to help.

Maryland Question 6: If passed, Question 6 will provide marriage equality while guaranteeing that “each religious faith has exclusive control over its own theological doctrine regarding who may marry within that faith.” Marylanders for Marriage Equality is fighting for Question 6’s passage. In case you missed it, Maryland Delegate Emmett Burns, Jr. blasted Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendan Ayanbadejo, who came out in support of Question 6. Burns actually sent a letter to Ravens owner owner Steve Bisciotti asking that he silence Avanbadejo. The two-time All-Pro linebacker shot back via Twitter: “Football is just my job it’s not who I am. I am an American before anything. And just like every American I have the right to speak!!!” Meanwhile, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Baker and and Gov. Martin O’Malley lent their voice for Maryland’s familes, and Chairman Emeritus of the NAACP Julian Bond wrote an op-ed titled “Why Marriage in Maryland Matters” for the DC/Baltimore editions of the AFRO. And finally, MME has issued a brief memo titled, “What to Watch Out For,” which warns of the strategies used by the National Organization for Marriage in previous marriage battles.

What you can do: Faith leaders can sign up to lead their congregations in Family Sunday/Shabbat activities. Other supporters can help them hit their goal of 60 house parties in 60 days by signing up to host a party, commit to volunteering during their Weekends of Action, or donate here.

Maine Marriage Initiative: The ballot details are still to be worked out, but what is certain is that a citizens initiative, “An Act to Allow Marriage Licenses for Same Sex Couples and Protect Religious Freedom” will be on the ballot in the fall. Mainers United for Marriage is the main campaign behind the initiative.  The Christian Civil League is already trotting out the ususal junk science: “When a girl doesn’t have a father to fill that role she’s more likely to become promiscuous in a misguided attempt to satisfy her inborn hunger for male attention and validation.” And in Protect Marriage Maine’s latest email they both blasted the Maine Marriage Initiative for recieving out of state funding — and announced a $500,000 pledge from the National Organization for Marriage!

What you can do: Ever wanted to see New England’s famed fall colors? You can do that when you sign up for a volunteer vacation or donate miles so someone else can travel. You can also buy stuff from their online store, or you can donate here.

Minnesota Marriage Amendment: The ballot proposal to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage is known simply as “the marriage amendment.” Minnesotans United for All Families is the main group fighting against the amendment’s passage in November. This past week, Zach Wahls completed his statewide tour of Minnesota after speaking at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. His tour attracted the attention of Minnesota Public Radio and this spotlight from WCCO Channel 4. MUAF has also launched “Faith Action Week” statewide, which consists of a series of more than 150 events in churches and religious communities to highlight that faithful Minnesotans are voting ‘no’ on this amendment because of their faith, not in spite of it.

What you can do: You can sign up to volunteer, host a One Day United fundraising party at your home on September 23, sign up to run the Big Gay Race on September 29,Sign up for a Leadership Assembly training session to learn how to become a conversation drive leader, or simply donate here. The 40,000th donor will receive a Vote No Prize Pack.

Washington Referendum 74: If Referendum 74 is approved, Washington will join six other states and the District of Columbia in providing marriage equality for same-sex couples. Washington United for Marriage has put up its first broadcast television ad in the Seattle area, and it is airing on cable statewide. They’ve also launched a new rapid-response micro-site,, to combat misrepresentations and falsehoods raised by opponents of Referendum 74. Meanwhile, Alaska Airlines is the latest corporate entity to come out in support for Referendum 74, making WUM’s Coalition Partners page a very crowded one.

What you can do: You can sign up for a house party (email to get started), sign up for one of 50 weekly phone banks across Washington, attend one of nine upcoming town hall meetings, or you can donate here.

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Boulder, CO; Brisbane, QLD; Dallas, TX; eKurhuleni, South Africa; Modesto, CA; Peterborough, ON; Roanoke, VA; Valdosta, GA.

AIDS Walks This Weekend: Birmingham, AL; Cranbrook, BC; Detroit, MI; Guelph, ON; London, ON; Mt. Pleasant, MI; Nelson, BC; Ottawa, ON; Peace River, AB; Peterborough, ON; Saskatoon, SA; Yorkton, SA.

Other Events This Weekend: Best Buck in the Bay Rodeo, La Honda, CA.

Values Voters Summit: Washington, D.C. The Values Voters Summit, sponsored by the SPLC-certified anti-gay hate group Family “Research” Council,” kicks off today at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. The morning plenary session is positively jam-packed with anti-gay speakers, including: Sens. Paul Ran (R-KY) and Jim DeMint (R-SC), and Reps. Eric Cantor (R-VA), Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NB), Tum Huelskamp (R-KS), James Lankford (R-OK).  There had been some confusion about whether Ann Romney, the wife of GOP presidential candidate Gov. Mitt Romney, would be a part of the morning plenary sessions — as of Tuesday evening, she was still listed on the schedule — but an FRC spokesman later confirmed that she had only been invited to speak and was not actually a confirmed speaker. No matter, vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) will be a part of the morning plenary instead. Actor Kirk Cameron will also be in the dais as well.

So anyway, all of that is just before before lunch. Tim Wildmon, co-founder of another SPLC-certified anti-gay hate group American Family Association, with speak during lunch, followed by an afternoon plenary featuring, once again, Tim Wildmon, with Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA), Reps. Steve King (R-IA), Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Allen West (R-FL). Also joining the pack is the GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate Ted Cruz, Garry Bauer of American Values, and Genevieve Wood of the Heritage Foundation. The evening plennary will feature Oliver North, Dennis Prager, and Fox News contributor and “comedian” Steven Crowder. Now aren’t you sorry you didn’t buy tickets?

Disgusting Depravity: 1822. The following notice appeared in the September 14, 1822 edition of The Times of London:

DISGUSTING DEPRAVITY — On Monday last Benjamin Candler, late valet to the Duke of Newcastle, was committed to Lincoln Castle by Sir R. Heron, Bart., charged with an unnatural offence. On the same day was committed to the same place by the Alderman of Grantham, William Arden, Esq., of Great Pultney-street, Golden-square, London, charged with the same offence; and on Tuesday was committed to the Castle , by the Alderman of Grantham, John Doughty, of Grantham, joiner, charged with the same. A discovery of the abominable intercourse which had been carried on it, it is stated, was made through the circumstance of a letter from Rantham, intended for the valet at Clumber, but accidentally not addressed on the outside, falling into the hands of the Dike of Newcastle. His Grace, on discovering the nature of the contents, proceeded with due caution for furthering the purposes of justice, and the consequence has been the commitment of the above persons to Lincoln Castle for trial at the next assizes. The person committed as an Esquire, was apprehended in London after the first examination of the others at Grantham, and was brought down in safe custody in one of the mail coaches on Sunday morning. We understand that he had apartments at Grantham during the last hunting season.

The “unnatural offence” was a capital crime, and the three men were hanged at Lincoln Castle on March 21, 1823.

ACT-UP Protests At NY Stock Exchange: 1989. Chaining themselves to a banister at the New York Stock Exchange and unfurling a sign reading “SELL WELLCOME,” five AIDS activists protested the price set by Burroughs Wellcome for AZT, the only drug that had been approved in the U.S. to fight AIDS. Burroughs Wellcome had been charging from $7,000 to $8,000 per year for the drug, which was far beyond the ability for many people to pay. Four days later, Burroughs Wellcome announced a twenty percent reduction in the wholesale price of the drug. A spokesman denied that the announcement was connected to the high profile protest.

David Wojnarowicz: 1954. In November of 2010, G. Wayne Clough, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, made the executive decision to remove a short silent film A Fire in My Belly by David Wojnarowicz from the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibit “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture.” The film, which included a twelve-second scene of ants crawling over a crucifix, was denounced by the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue as anti-Catholic “hate speech.” Clough removed the video after complaints from soon-to-be House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), but he neglected to consult co-curator, gay activist and art historian Jonathan David Katz, about the decision. “It was an incredibly stupid decision. I am flabbergasted that they rose to the bait so readily,” he said in an interview after the video was removed. The irony, which was not lost on anyone, is that the whole point of “Hide/Seek” was to highlight the role of sexual difference in American portraiture, including the effects of marginalization (hence, the “hide”). Katz saw history repeating itself:

In 1989 Senator Jesse Helms demonized Robert Mapplethorpe’s sexuality, and by extension, his art, and with little effort pulled a cowering art world to its knees. His weapon was threatening to disrupt the already pitiful federal support for the arts. And once again, that same weapon is being brandished, and once again we cower.

Untitled (One Day This Kid…), 1990. Click to enlarge.

Wojnarowicz, who at 37 died of AIDS in 1992, wasn’t one to cower, although he certainly had the kind of life experiences which might have encouraged him to do so. Born in Red Bank, New Jersey he grew up with an exceptionally cruel and abusive father. After his parents divorced, he and his siblings were bounced back and forth — at one point, his father kidnapped them and took them to Rural Michigan — until they finally ended up with their mother in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen. By the time he was sixteen, he ran away from home and was living on the streets. He supported himself through prostitution and became fascinated with the social outcasts he met in abandoned warehouses and on street corners, and where he began to become involved with graffiti and elaborate paintings on the walls of abandoned buildings. At one point, he spent some time in Paris with his sister, where he became more serious about photography and painting. When he returned to New York, his unique brand of confrontational street art found an audience alongside other underground artists like Keith Haring (who Wojnarowicz didn’t get along with).

Wojnarowicz had a combustable personality. When one gallery damaged one of his paintings and refused to repair it, Wojnarowicz retaliated by taking a tire iron to the gallery’s pristine white walls. In 1989, Wojnarowicz wrote a blistering essay, “Postcards form America: X-rays from Hell,” which blasted several public figures, Cardinal O’Connor in particular (“this fat cannibal from that house of walking swastikas”). The essay appeared in an exhibition catalogue, prompting the National Endowment for the Arts to rescind its funding for the show. This made Wojnarowicz the newest bogeyman for the religious right. But when the American Family Association’s Donald Wildmon copied, distorted, and disseminated Wojnariwicz’s image in a pamphlet as part of a campaign against the NEA, Wojnarowicz sued the AFA and won a historic Supreme Court case which is forever enshrined as David Wojnarowicz v. American Family Association.

Which, of course, makes the Smithsonian’s actions in 2010 all the more relevant two decades later. Here is the version of A Fire in My Belly which led the Smithsonian to crumple like a bad suit against Donohue’s charges of blasphemy. This same video was also projected onto the exterior walls of the National Portrait Gallery during a protest over the Smithsonian’s censorship.

David Wojnarowicz’s life is chronicled in Cynthia Carr’s definitive biography Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz, which was released last summer.

Another one for his fans.

Ben Cohen: 1978. The former England Rugby Union player for Northampton Saints and Sale Sharks, Cohen was already a well-liked gay icon before retiring from professional rugby earlier this year. He often speaks highly of his gay following, a fan base which he has rewarded by almost never wearing a shirt (or so it seems). In 2010, he released this video as part of the “It Gets Better” project, and since retiring, he has devoted his time to the Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation, which he established as the world’s first foundation dedicated to combating anti-gay bulling and homophobia. He was inspired by two things in his life: his father was killed when he stood up for an employee who was being attacked, and Cohen’s clinical deafness (he has about a 33% hearing loss in each ear) has made him keenly aware of how being different can make someone stand out.

And just because he’s Ben Cohen, here’s a behind-the-scenes video for Ben Cohen’s 2013 calendar, which will benefit his anti-bullying foundation:

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?


September 14th, 2012

Scotiabank, one of Canada’s largest banks, sponsors AIDS walks in Nelson (pop 10,000), Cranbrook (pop 20,00)and cities and towns across Canada. This is surprising in the 2000s but unimaginable a quarter century ago when it seemed that AIDS deaths would never end (and our governments didn’t seem to care).

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