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Posts Tagged ‘HRC’

It’s Time to Take Action

March 19, 2010 Leave a comment

So, it turns out Lt. Dan Choi’s action yesterday was what GetEqual.org, the new group behind the actions, says was the first of “many more actions planned for the coming weeks and months.”

GetEqual.org launched today and included video of Choi’s arrest as well as coverage of coordinated efforts in Speaker Pelosi’s DC and district offices.

GetEqual.org’s founders, Robin McGehee and Kip Williams, were also lead organizers behind the National Equality March last October. That march had many supporters, most notably Equality Across America, which McGehee and Williams have since left. This new effort includes Will Phillips, the 10-year old Arkansas boy who has become a new advocate for equality. I gotta say. I love this kid.

In their press release today, McGehee says GetEqual.org is doing exactly what the Obama administration and congressional supporters have said they should.

“D.C. politicians, including President Obama, have said they need pressure in order to move the right policy forward — and if they don’t live up to their promises, we promise to be back.”

I don’t really write much about DADT, but I definitely support its repeal and I’m behind all the efforts to make that repeal happen. I don’t understand why conservatives like Sen. McCain don’t get it, especially since they’re all about national security. How does it make sense to discharge an Arabic interpreter in the middle of a war and during a recruiting crisis?!

My thoughts on GetEqual? Well, a friend put it best when he said, “you gotta love those agitators.” I think he’s right. We need them.

There are other pressing issues, it’s true. Equality is no less pressing and repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is an easy lift for the federal government, despite what McCain says. I’m all for making sure the public doesn’t forget that this is a real fight happening. There are real men and women in uniform who just want to be recognized as an equal citizen in the eyes of the government they serve.

So, fight on GetEqual.org. Don’t let the public forget.

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Griffin was Awesome. Dan Choi Stole the Show

March 19, 2010 2 comments

It was a great day for a protest in Washington.

The official news: Kathy Griffin led the call for the immediate repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell at a rally in downtown DC. She was a crowd-pleaser for about 1,000 people. Surely the gorgeous weather the nation’s capital is enjoying helped. It was a cool experience and I for one am grateful to have her on our side.

The big news, though and surely much to the chagrin of HRC, was the arrest of  Lt. Dan Choi, which followed a last-minute request to HRC President Joel Solmonese to deliver remarks.

From Choi’s statement:

You have been told that the President has a plan. But Congressman Barney Frank confirmed to us this week that the President still is not fully committed to repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell this year. And if we don’t seize this moment it may not happen for a very long time. Some may tell you that I am one of the lucky ones. I have been welcomed back by my unit with open arms.  And it would be easy for me to stay quiet and hope that change will happen.

But what I was taught at West Point and learned in war is — hope is not a strategy. As officers, James and I both find it a dereliction of our moral duty to remain silent while thousands of our brothers and sister are not allowed to serve openly and honestly.

HRC explained the situation on its blog:

There’s been some confusion about Lt. Dan Choi’s role in the rally.  As Joe Solmonese was walking to the stage, Lt. Choi asked Joe if he could have a speaking role. Joe explained that it wasn’t his sole decision to make on the spot given that there was already an established program that included Kathy Griffin, other organization and veterans.  After Choi then spoke with Kathy Griffin, she agreed to bring him up on stage and speak to the crowd during her remarks.

It was in an interesting cap to the event and Kathy’s performance was awesome. I’m glad I was there to see her, if nothing else because it was fabulous to see Kathy’s reaction to Cher’s text right before she was about to wrap up. “That’s why I love you, bitch.” That’s why WE ALL love you, Kathy.

Choi’s move was a dramatic one for a Lieutenant whose discharge is under review.  After seeing him arrested I can’t help but wonder if Lt. Choi knows of an impending discharge coming down the pike. Did this action mark his last stand as a currently serving member of the Marine Corps? A final stand in defense of human rights and for a change in a policy ensconced in hate?

I sure hope not.

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Supporters of Anti-gay Legislation in Uganda Hosting President Obama Thursday

February 3, 2010 Leave a comment

Heads of state and other dignitaries will gather this week to attend the annual National Prayer Breakfast. A highly secretive Christian fundamentalist organization called The Family hosts the event each year. The Family has ties to major players in our government and also boasts such members as the embattled Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) and the governor from South Carolina, Mark Sanford.

The event has happened for several years and usually without much fanfare, but this year attendees and the rest of the country can expect much more hoopla over the event. That’s because a coalition of civil rights organizations are calling on the President and other invited guests to skip the annual event to protest the involvement of members of The Family who had a direct hand in crafting Uganda’s horrendous and deeply violent Anti-Homosexual bill. Up until recently this bill included execution as punishment for violation of the law. It was only amended after much arm-twisting by the international community. The new legislation does nothing, however, to address the other draconian elements that look to be codified.

If you don’t know much about The Family, it’s probably because they don’t have a web site nor any discernible appearance of a legitimate non-profit organization. Instead, the group is shrouded in secrecy and only really surfaces every year to host this annual event. The Family has been the subject of much scrutiny in the last year not only for its involvement with Uganda, but also for its shady dealings and influence with some of the highest office holders in America. Check out the video below of Rachel Maddow interviewing Jeff Sharlet, who has recently published a new book about The Family.

At a press conference in Washington today, organizers of an alternative to the National Prayer Breakfast, dubbed the American Prayer Hour, called on the Congress, the President and the world-at-large to repudiate the homophobic legislation and The Family, whose only reason for existing is to organize the prayer breakfast.

“It is irresponsible for any public official to associate themselves with a group that has such a checkered past,” said author FrankSchaeffer. “I don’t think that anyone with a conscience should participate in the breakfast, especially if there is a good alternative.” Schaeffer, whose father was instrumental in the up-rise of the modern Christian right wing movement, has been outspoken about The Family’s involvement in Uganda and its ties to leaders in government.

Schaeffer went on to compare to terrorists organizations calling The Family, America’s version of the Taliban.

“Our national leaders have got to stop and think a minute about working with a group similar to the Taliban and who, if they had their way, would do here in the U.S. exactly what the Ugandan’s are trying to do,” Schaeffer said.

According to Schaeffer, the National Prayer Breakfast has become The Family’s annual meeting saying that as soon as it is over, the wheeling and dealing for more influence begins.

“They deal in the currency of oppression. They see U.S. divided into ‘We’ and ‘They’,” he said. “Enough of the pussyfooting around on this. It is time to see who is interested in religion and who is just interested in power.”

The press conference marked the first in a series of events this week designed to spotlight and ramp up the pressure against The Family and its involvement with Uganda’s efforts to eliminate its LGBT population.

The most compelling moment at today’s event came when a soft-spoken gentleman, Moses, took to the podium. Moses is a gay Ugandan man who is seeking asylum in the United States in order to escape persecution at home for being gay. He is also in serious fear for his life so he delivered his remarks with a paper bag draped over his face to hide his identity.

He talked at length about his experience, which has included severe beatings, rape at the hands of the police and public outing. He praised the efforts of the organizers and called on all Americans to do all they could to bring sunshine to the human rights atrocities happening in his home country.

“In Uganda, one would rather die than come out of the closet,” he said. “When you’re gay in Uganda, you’re denied things like housing because of the threat you pose to spreading deviance.”

The discrimination has even infiltrated Uganda’s health care system as evidenced by Moses’ harrowing story of being raped by a local police officer. He went home to treat himself, knowing he would be denied assistance at hospital in favor of being reported.

When speaking about the Ugandan legislature’s decision to remove the execution provision of the bill, Moses called the move insincere. The bill still retains a provision that calls for a minimum sentence of 20 years for violation of the law.

“The average Ugandan dies at 51, he said, so if one is outed in their 20s or 30s they would in effect be handed a death sentence,” he said.

Other events this week include a protest outside The Family’s C Street House tomorrow evening. The protest is being organized by Full Equality Now DC. Protesters will gather on Capitol Hill at 5:30 and hold a rally outside the residence which houses members of Congress including  Sen. John Ensign, who admitted last year that he had had an affair with the spouse of one of his staffers. That staffer claims that the C Street House was the site where many of Ensign’s adulterous acts took place.

The week will culminate in the American Prayer Hour on Thursday morning. It will be running counter to the prayer breakfast and organizers are urging all who can to attend any of the several meetings happening all over the country. Prayer hours will be taking place in Dallas (where the Nat’l . Lesbian and Gay Task Force is having their annual Creating Change conference), Chicago, L.A. and even Anchorage, Alaska! For a complete list, visit AmericanPrayerHour.org.

According to the American Prayer Hour web site, organizers hope to “share our inclusive vision and worldview by celebrating our core values of diversity, justice, respect for all people and religious pluralism.” It is also very much about highlighting the anti-gay activists who are behind the National Prayer Breakfast and the role they have played in promoting homophobia in other countries, specifically Uganda.

The White House has already confirmed the president’s attendance at the breakfast on Thursday, despite repeated calls to skip the event. Bishop Gene Robinson said, however, that Mr. Obama’s attendance on Thursday is key.

“To get someone not to attend at this point is inappropriate. One of the things we like about Obama is his tendency to go where angels fear to tread,” said Robinson. “I’d rather he do go as it’s an opportunity for him to speak out.

In anticipation of the president’s attendance on Thursday, Harry Knox, who is HRC’s director of Religion and Faith and also a member of Mr. Obama’s Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnership Advisory Council, said every effort has been made to ensure the president uses the opportunity to repudiate the Ugandan effort and those of anyone associated with them. The administration’s recent actions have also been encouraging.

“At the direction of the president, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made it clear to Uganda that if this bill passes the country will have serious diplomatic issues with the United States,” Knox said.

No word exactly on what those issues could be, but most on the panel today agreed that Uganda’s substantial foreign aid could be at risk.

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