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Archive for June, 2009

Act NOW to support ENDA!

Posted by admin On June - 24 - 2009

Representative Barney Frank, joined by Reps. Tammy Baldwin and Jared Polis and at least 100 cosponsors, introduced a Federal Inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination (ENDA) bill today.  ENDA will add sexual orientation and gender identity to pre-existing employment non-discrimination laws. ENDA is such a common sense idea that most people believe it is already illegal to fire someone for being Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or Transgender.  While there are already 12 states and 100 localities that protect 40 percent of the population, millions are still at risk.

Can you imagine what it would be like to be approached by your boss and fired for who you were born to be? What would you do? How would you protect yourself and your family?  Many can not without ENDA. THIS CAN’T CONTINUE! This is wrong. This is un-American. We must put an end to it.

Join the Impact is a proud member of the United ENDA Coalition.  Together we have come up with several actions you can do RIGHT NOW:

Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and have them connect you to your Representative (based on your zip code). Tell them:

I am a constituent and I would like you to please tell Representative _______ that I would like him/her to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. ENDA would ban discrimination against all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the workplace. Can you tell me whether or not Representative _______  will support  the bill?

Send a message to Laura Hart with United ENDA with a report of your representative’s response.

Once you make your call, follow up with an e-mail, or even better a physical letter.  You can find contact info here: https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml

Finally, follow up your calls and letters with visits to your representatives during their August recess.  Join the Impact will be rolling out tools in the near future for you to use during your meeting to discuss ENDA and other important goals.  In the mean time call now to make your appointments.

Your personal stories are your most powerful tool.  Have you ever been fired for being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender?  Please share your stories in the comments section below. Don’t stop there; write a letter to the editor, write a blog, tweet, Facebook, make a you tube video, or even stand on a soap box with a bull horn during lunch. Do anything and everything you can to tell your story.

We need your help and we need it now.  Call your reps and make a stand for equality today!

We count: LGBT Americans and the 2010 Census

Posted by admin On June - 22 - 2009

The following Op-Ed was written by Joe Mirabella. Joe Mirabella is a volunteer for Join the Impact as the Washington State Community Organizer.  Mirabella is a full time writer and content developer. He is engaged to marry his partner of 5 1/2 years in their home state of Iowa.

The AP reported on Sunday:

Married same-sex couples will be counted as such in 2010, Census Bureau official said, reversing a decision of the Bush administration.

The US Census is a Constitutional requirement and is vitally important to our Republic. During the 2000 Census there were not any states that allowed same-sex marriage equality. Now there are five, but many of us resigned ourselves to go uncounted in 2010 because Bush instructed the Census to change data if we identified ourselves as married. Hopes that Obama might correct this problem were initially squashed by reports that the Census Bureau was left so miserably underfunded by Bush that it would be a miracle if the Census occurred at all, and if did it was too late to change anything for 2010. To be left out of the census was not only damaging to our community, but it was un-American. An Editorial from the New York Times accurately pointed out:

The census is vital to democracy — and to American citizens. It is used to decide the number of representatives from each state, draw Congressional districts and allocate federal aid. It and other bureau surveys also supply the underlying data for an array of government statistics on education, crime, health and the economy.

Many thought DOMA was going to give Obama an out to amending this injustice, but the White House announced Friday that its interpretation of the act did not prohibit them from gathering the information.

This news came one short week after the controversial Department of Justice brief that defended DOMA and sent gays and lesbians and their allies into a tail spin of anger, and loss of hope that Obama was going to be the “fierce advocate” he promised us he would be. Thousands of flash activists responded with twitter messages @barackobama and @whitehouse. They also expressed their anger and disappointment on Facebook and blogs. Financial contributions to the Democratic National Committee were withdrawn until legislative action on DOMA or DADT was produced.

The response was so pointed that it prompted President Obama to sign a memorandum granting some Federal benefits to some Federal employees. Weakened by DOMA laws, the memorandum lacked same-sex spousal health care and retirement benefits. Furthermore, military personal will not have access to the expanded benefits because Don’t Ask Don’t Tell prevents them from identifying their sexual orientation without facing discharge. Obama’s attempted olive branch back fired and fueled even more criticism from the LGBT community. The gesture was immediately dismissed by myself and others as a weak attempt to placate the LGBT community. We justifiably demanded lasting action through a bill to repeal DOMA and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

With that said, we should not diminish the importance of the change in Census policy. It is yet another indication that Obama is trying to reach out to the LGBT community, and it is an important one. Some writers who I have a lot of respect for dismissed the 2010 Census revision as yet another “crumb.” Michelangelo Signorile wrote:

What we need now is real action. Not these crumbs, whether it be the census inclusion or some benefits for federal employees. We need something big, and until then, the DNC fundraisers should continue to be threatened, and nobody among the gay leadership should be partying with this president.

We should not be so dismissive of this very vital change in public policy. The Census is not a crumb. Without this change, 10 or more years would go by before our marriages would be counted. Invisibility is our biggest enemy. I learned that from Signorile himself when I read his book Outing Yourself as a young man yearning for help with my own coming out process.

To be clear, I do agree with Signorile and others who called for a boycott of the Democratic National Committee fundraisers until either DOMA or Don’t Ask Don’t Tell are repealed. Instead of blanket donations to a party that delivers questionable results to our community, we should focus our funds on candidates with a proven track record on equality. We should use our money as a powerful vote, whether it is an election year or not. We can make that point while still celebrating the change in Census policy.

Before the DOJ brief firestorm Jared Polis of Colorado along with 48 other congressional members sent a letter to Office of Management and Budget director Peter Orszag asking that the 2010 Census count same-sex married couples. The Advocate reported the contents of the letter, “We are deeply concerned about the implications of this policy for same-sex couples and for the integrity of the Census as a whole and firmly believe the [Census] Bureau’s primary objective should be to collect data and report it, not collect data and alter it.” This letter was sent well before the DOJ briefing was released.

Unfortunately the Census will only collect data about same sex couples that consider themselves married. We still need accurate data on how many people identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered. The Census would be an excellent resource to gather that information. Since the Census is willing to amend the 2010 questionnaire to include same-sex marriages, they should move forward with plant to include questions about sexual orientation. After all, the majority of LGBT citizens live in states that do not recognize our equality, so it will be difficult to count those of us who still can not marry or choose not to.

Unfortunately it is not very likely additional data about the LGBT community will be collected in 2010. According to the National Center for Transger Equality, the questions were solidfied two years ago. The change to count same-sex married couples is far less complicated than adding additional questions. The questions that exist on the Census as it stands will gather the necessary information to count same-sex marriages without adding addtional questions. The change was merely a policy change to recognize the answers provided by same-sex couples as they were reported rather than augment those answers to reflect a certain political ideology that chose to deny reality. Check out this pdf for more info.

While we should remain persistent about our goals for lasting legislative reform through the repeal of DOMA and Don’t ask Don’t Tell, we should also recognize the important change that the new Census policy represents. We must pressure the administration and our representatives to expand the questionnaire for future Censuses so that all of us can be counted. Once we remove the invisibility vail the country should see us for who we are — a powerful and vociferous demographic throughout the country who should not be discounted.

Equality is now. Demand it!

Posted by admin On June - 17 - 2009

The following Op-Ed was written by Joe Mirabella. Joe Mirabella is a volunteer for Join the Impact as the Washington State Community Organizer.  Mirabella is a full time writer and content developer. He is engaged to marry his partner of 5 1/2 years in their home state of Iowa.

UPDATE 4:12 PM PST: Transcript of the President’s comments during the signing ceremony.

UPDATE 3:34 PM PST: The President signed a more lasting executive order and renewed his commitment to over turn DOMA. Our voices are making an impact.  Keep it up. For up to the minute blogging of the signing ceremony visit the Law Dork 2.0.

The President announced plans to sign a memorandum to grant Federal Employees in Same-Sex relationships access to some domestic partnership rights. This announcement came on the heals of last week’s release of the Department of Justice memo comparing same-sex relationships to incestuous and pedophile relationships among other outrageous and highly injurious claims. The 50 page brief was a stab in the back and the President is quickly trying to recover from it. However, instead of introducing meaningful and lasting legislation that will impact the entire country, the President’s memorandum is weak and temporary. When he leaves office the memorandum will lapse leaving those protected by this symbolic measure with nothing but a legal and fiduciary mess.

And let’s not forget, domestic partnership benefits like health care are taxed unfairly. Same-sex couples must claim benefits like health care as income. Opposite sex couples do not. Domestic partnerships are just one more glaring example that separate is never equal. But this may be a moot point since the President is likely to stop short of offering health care and retirement benefits because of DOMA.

Some have suggested we should applaud the move. Chris Geidner from Law Dork, 2.0 wrote:

Yes, we want and deserve more, much more — including all those campaign promises the President Obama gave to us. But, in the midst of the turmoil of all the legal debacles of the past week — and regardless of why Obama chose to take this action now — let’s stop and be strategic for a minute to realize how we can harness the power of this memorandum to move forward the causes of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and DOMA and passing ENDA. In each case, this can be used to advance those missions:

  • As John Aravosis pointed out, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would keep military service members from accepting the benefits — even if they are eligible under the memorandum. The obvious unfairness of that can be used to urge Congress to take quick action.
  • As for DOMA, the reality of a quarter-million folks in D.C. being eligible for benefits tomorrow that they weren’t today will be a powerful everyday sign of the need for a less anachronistic federal policy on marriage equality. This action is living proof of how wrong the DOJ brief filed in Smelt v. United States truly is.
  • ENDA becomes a common-sense step under the same logic as above. If the federal government is granting its lesbian and gay employees partner benefits, it seems obvious that an employer should never be able to fire an LGBT employee based on that fact alone.

Geidner made some very excellent points, but this memorandum must be leveraged at the grass roots level. Last Friday when the DOJ memo was released it unleashed a firestorm of criticism from bloggers like David Badash, Andrew Sullivan, and others. Editorial boards like the New York Times decried the memo as “a bad call.” But most importantly citizens throughout this country said, “No!” Twitter and Facebook were alive with messages to @barackobama and @whitehouse protesting the memo and its insulting language. The President clearly heard our message, but he did not go far enough.

We must not be placated by this disingenuous move. The HRC and others were very clear, and very correct to demand the President to introduce legislation now to repeal DOMA, to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and to protect all gay, lesbian, transgendered and bisexual citizens in their employment through the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA).

The administration told the Advocate there is not enough votes to pass ENDA or even the very symbolic and highly over due hate crimes legislation. Politicians have not heard us. We must be relentless. We must be unforgettable. We must be loud and clear that their jobs are on the line. Simply, if the Democrats do not start taking action and supporting the people that funded their campaigns, that volunteered their time, that gave them their vote, they are going to lose us and likely their jobs. We are the swing vote. We have enormous power.

Let’s unleash a firestorm on the switchboards of congress today, tomorrow, and every day. (202)224-3121 Let’s follow up our calls with hand written letters. Let’s follow up those letters with visits to their offices. Let’s follow up those visits with a march on Washington in October. Let’s learn from civil rights movements of the past and participate in acts of civil disobedience. Dan Savage from the Stranger proposed one possible idea at the link.*

Friends, if we do no not seize this brief moment in history before the next Presidential election cycle begins in 2010, you can bet our issues will be ignored by anyone who has the power to make the change they were so proud to represent in 2008.

Now is your time. Now is your moment. Equality is now. Demand it!

*(Note: Please consult an attorney before engaging in any acts of civil disobedience that could result in arrest.  Join the Impact is not specifically endorsing Savage’s plan, but simply pointing it out as an example).

Obama defends DOMA, we defend our families

Posted by admin On June - 12 - 2009

The following Op-Ed was written by Joe Mirabella. Joe Mirabella is a volunteer for Join the Impact as the Washington State Community Organizer.  Mirabella is a full time writer and content developer for an online retailer. He is engaged to marry his partner of 5 1/2 years in their home state of Iowa.

The Obama Flip-Flop campaign was a creative attempt to convince Obama to instruct the Justice Department to refuse to defend the DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) lawsuit started by GLAD.  Presidents have the option to let lawsuits go through undefended when they believe they are unconstitutional.  Both Clinton and Bush exercised this option.  Unfortunately, the Justice Department released a 50  page brief today outlining the Obama administration’s defense of DOMA.  Check out the AMERICAblog for their translation of the motion. (A copy of the brief is at the end of this post.) In the mean time let me summarize; it is not good.  The Obama administration is attempting to diminish the two Supreme Court cases that most of our rights are based on, Loving vs Virginia and Lawrence vs Texas.

The LGBT community supported President Obama and his campaign with our money, our valuable time, and our votes.  We believed the President when he promised us he was going to repeal DOMA, end Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, Pass the Employment Non Discrimination Act, support Hate Crimes Legislation, and more.  We believed the President because he offered the country hope and our community needed hope more than any other community in America.  We needed a friend in the White House who was willing to lead us through the civil rights movement of the century.  We needed someone who was not going to stab us in the back.

Mr. President you flip-flopped.  We should have known.  You started your Presidency with one of the most anti-gay Pastors in the country giving your inaugural prayer, Rick Warren.  You further hurt us by remaining silent on proposition 8.  The one moment you mentioned our advances in Iowa and other states was in jest at the correspondence dinner. You asked the Supreme Court to ignore an appeal on Don’t Ask Don’t tell for “unit cohesion”.  You did all these things and yet your promises remained on Whitehouse.gov (FYI his promise to repeal DOMA is no longer there.)  Some of us still hoped, myself included, that you would do the right thing and not defend DOMA.

I no longer have hope for you President Obama.  I no longer believe you are on my side. Your adminstration is using the arguments of our worst enemies to uphold laws that destroy our families.  I should have known. I should not have been so enchanted by your beautiful speeches and colorful campaign posters. Mr. President you are no different than the rest.  You used our community to get to the White House and now you have pushed us aside. This time is different though, because we won’t take it anymore!

I was once on the fence about the October march on Washington.  It is clearer to me now more than ever we can not wait. We need to show up and stand up.  We need to destroy our worst enemy — apathy.  We need to mobilize our communities to fight locally and nationally. We need to demand that our leaders not only say they are going to protect our families, but they must prove it through action.  Flowery speeches will no longeer woo us.  Colorful posters are a red flag now.  If you want the support of the LGBT community, you will have to earn it.

A group of leaders met this spring in Dallas to discuss the future of the LGBT civil rights movement.  They developed a set of ideals that I think are a good start. They are called the Dallas Principles:

In order to achieve full civil rights now, we avow:

1.Full civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals must be enacted now.  Delay and excuses are no longer acceptable.

2.We will not leave any part of our community behind.

3.Separate is never equal.

4.Religious beliefs are not a basis upon which to affirm or deny civil rights.

5.The establishment and guardianship of full civil rights is a non-partisan issue.

6.Individual involvement and grassroots action are paramount to success and must be encouraged.

7.Success is measured by the civil rights we all achieve, not by words, access or money raised.

8.Those who seek our support are expected to commit to these principles.

We are in a fight for our lives. Maine needs our help to protect marriage from a voter initiative to overturn the recent gain there.  Washington needs our help to protect Domestic Partnerships from a group of fundamentalists. Gays and lesbians are still being fired from their jobs because of who they were born to be.  Children are being hurt as they are ripped from loving same-sex parent’s arms and returned to foster care systems. Our community continues to be violently attacked in hate motivated crimes. Obama reminded us today that we are the only ones we can depend on to fight for our rights. Apathy is no longer an option. Either stand up for yourself now or don’t be surprised when we are left with nothing.

Join the Impact will be launching several tools in the near future to help you fight for your rights. In the mean time volunteer your time locally, get ready to go to Washington DC, donate your money to LGBT causes, demand your representatives vote for your rights, talk to people about our issues, and most importantly do not give up.

When Obama became President, he asked us to hold his feet to the fire when he was letting us down. Mr. President, you let me down.  Join me by telling the president he let you down by twittering the president @barackobama with the tag #promise

It is no longer okay for our elected leaders to take advantage of us. If you want our support, you will have to earn it through action.  You better start now, because we are watching.

Obama’s Motion to Dismiss Marriage case

at home in a crowd of thousands

Posted by willow On June - 8 - 2009

The following post was originally published on Tuesdaysblog.com on May 19, 2009.  It is republished here with the permission of the author, Tony Clements. Tony Clements is a sometimes actor, director, composer, playwright, t-shirt salesperson, former telemarketer (he’s sorry), piano salesman, newspaper ad man, wedding band singer, and kimball organ demonstrator in the local shopping mall (at eight years old.) 28 years ago he was editor of the emerald echo, his school newspaper – experience he’s sure is evident here.

last sunday afternoon, as i stood among the thousands of people corralled into the closed-down southbound lane of 6th avenue between 45th and 47th at new york city’s rally for marriage equality, i glanced around and realized i was experiencing an emotion i hadn’t felt so strongly since i first walked into a gay bar back in the early 1980s. and i’m not talking about an overwhelming sense that my hairstyle is five years out of date.

that first gay bar was actually in san francisco, california. cliché? maybe. but for a small town wisconsin boy, fresh out of high school, that was going some. my good friend kevin and i had finally taken that long-planned trip to california – (was it late 1979?) – something we’d been dreaming about for years. like millions of other kids, we’d told ourselves we would drive across the country in a beat-up volkswagen van, making pit stops along the way to camp-out. as with most “drive a van to california” schemes, reality eventually set in (where were we gonna get camping gear, much less a beat-up volkswagen van?) and we opted to fly.
we stayed with a friend

who’d moved to the west coast from southeastern wisconsin the day after his high school graduation, a couple of years prior. after a long day of travel and a quick dinner, we dropped our bags and our california buddy, eager to show us the town, looked us in the eye and said,“now: do you really want to see san francisco?”

somewhere deep down i knew what he meant. i’m not sure kevin did.

we walked a couple of blocks to a corner bar – nothing special. far from seedy, but certainly not fancy. neighborhoody, like the kind of place my dad hung out after a ballgame. (go ahead, make that leap.) fifteen or so minutes and a beer and a half later, kevin leaned in to me and whispered, “shit tony, i don’t think there are any girls in here.” and he was right. scanning the bar, we sort of giggled to ourselves, finished our beers, and moved on to “safer environs.” kevin was uncomfortable. i pretended to be.
before we left the bar, however, i’d taken notice of a late 20-something year-old man playing a game of pool. by himself. he was dressed modestly – worn-out blue jeans, work boots, a brown hooded sweatshirt – and had an intense, but warm, open face. no one spoke to him, no one approached him, yet he was anything but alone. there was a solace, a confidence. i caught his eye at one point, and something subtle passed between us. nothing sexual, but awelcome, if you will. as if he knew something i didn’t, and was telling me everything was going to be okay. at the time i wasn’t sure what it was, but i remember it vividly to this day.

after his pool game he perched in a corner, still by himself, and pulled out a small, silver harmonica. a harmonica. what a fantastical place this san francisco is, i thought. no one seemed to care or even notice when he began to play. the tune was sweet and simple, but it was a bluesy, haunted sound that filled the echoy openness of that quiet barroom, interrupted only by the muffled whistles and dings of a lone pinball machine in a back room somewhere. and eventually the jukebox playing the stones’ “miss you”.
it wasn’t the absence of straight folk that i found intriguing about that neighborhood bar, or even the mysterious harmonica player in the corner. it was the stunning sense of freedom. of being at home. it’s not something you feel as a gay person growing up in a small, rural town. it’s not something you know enough to miss, either. without realizing it, you carry with you a sense of staying hidden, keeping quiet, no matter who you’re with or where you are. you must never let your guard down, not for a moment, for fear of not only the shame it could cause your family, your friends, you, but of the physical harm that might follow. even in this bar, thousands of miles from home, that new taste of freedom – palpable as it was – wasn’t quite complete because my friend kevin was always present. i couldn’t completely embrace it, savor it. as much as i loved kevin and was enjoying our trip together, i longed desperately for him to leave for a hour or two so i could be completely unencumbered by any fear of judgement or ridicule. not so anything could happen, just so i could…be.

sunday, at the rally, i looked around and took in some of the people near me – three couples in particular. two older men, probably mid-70′s, standing side by side, one gently rubbing the other’s neck. every so often they would share a look that i don’t ever remember seeing between my parents.

behind me were two women standing one in front of the other in an easy, casual embrace. now and again the woman behind would rub her nose in the other woman’s hair, and they would both smile a gentle, peaceful smile.

the third couple was my partner rob and me. look at us, i thought. we are so stronghappy. together. a team.

and then there was a young man, 17 maybe, standing with friends. he glanced at me, our eyes met briefly, and i smiled. he did too. everything’s gonna be okay, i said.

i had to force myself to think, for a moment, about how uncomfortable this scene might make some people feel. to me, we were all beautiful human beings, loving each other, supporting each other, caring for each other. the mystery, the solace, the confidence. it was all quite wonderful.

kevin would still probably be uncomfortable, i thought to myself. thank god i don’t need to pretend to be anymore. we don’t need to pretend.

we are at home.
we are free
.

Dr. George Tillers death: A violent reminder.

Posted by willow On June - 2 - 2009

Yesterday, Dr. George Tiller was shot down and killed at his church in Kansas.  George Tiller had been scrutinized for his practice in later term abortions, and has been under the fire of many Pro-Life groups across the country for decades.  His clinic, like many similar ones across the country, was subject to vandalizing and protests.   However, he continued his practice because of the beliefs and freedoms he advocated, despite the daily and bitter backlash he received.  He was an active member of his church, and their statement regarding his death can be found here.  A suspect has been taken into custody, and the investigation has begun.

While this is abhorrent and extreme, it is a reality that exists all across the country.  Just like LGBTQ people face discrimination and violence because of their lifestyle, people like Dr. Tiller are slain purely because of personal beliefs.  Dr. Tiller believed in a woman’s right to reproductive freedom, and he lost his life for it.

A startling article in the Huffington Post mentions the trends of terrorism against the people working in abortion practices under different presidential administrations.  It poses the question of what could happen in the remainder of the Obama Administration as conservative extremists become angrier with the liberal direction the country is headed.  Read it here.

Pro-life and pro-choice Americans are mourning this act of terrorism, and events have been planned across the country to come together to recognize this injustice.  Click here to see a list of these events, and it will be updated as more come along.

Yesterday’s murder is a shocking reminder of what people can justify with their beliefs.  It can happen at any angle, and our community needs to be poised to handle that.  Our community also needs to pledge complete non-violence in every aspect of our activism.

Americans need to pledge non-violence in every aspect of our lives.  What has violence given us?  Heartbreak and social distress.  It has deteriorated our country in ways that may not be reparable.  It’s in our media, in our homes, and it’s on our streets.  It’s in our dreams.  Regardless of whether or not our country is in a state of rapid transformation, and opinions are more passionate than ever – we all hold one thing in common.

Violence will only hurt us.

Nik, the author of this post, is an organizer for Join the Impact Chicago, which has been holding events, forums and rallies since the group’s creation after the November 15th protest against Proposition 8.  Visit their website to sign up for their mailing list and stay tuned in on their upcoming actions!