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A Federal Office of LGBT Health can no longer wait

Posted by willow On November - 19 - 2009
On the eve of the Transgender Day of Remembrance, we cannot help but be moved by the impact of discrimination on our communities,  11 gender non-conforming individuals killed in US alone this past year. It is imperative to speak up to eliminate discrimination; discussing the devastating effects of discrimination and violence on both the individual and their community. A component of discrimination that should not be overlooked is its link to health.
No one should be afraid to come out to their doctor. Our health professionals should have access to information on how discrimination affects our health and what they can do to make it better. Too little attention has been paid to our health needs for too long. With the current focus on federal health reform we can no longer wait to close the gaps in our health needs.

Over the past two decades, limited research has established the trend that LGBTs are a health disparate population with increased health risks and access to care barriers, producing a broad pattern of disparities in many health areas. People in our community are more likely to delay routine medical care due to past negative experiences with providers, which puts the population at-risk for higher rates of preventing chronic conditions such as cancer.  Because of the social stressors LGBTs endure like homophobia and isolation, we have higher rates of substance abuse, mental health problems and stress-related disorders.

Unfortunately, lack of data collection and only sporadic inclusion in policy, research, and intervention programs has hindered the efforts to address and ultimately reduce these disparities. With the change of administration, it is time for us to unite as activists, health professionals, and LGBT advocates in the struggle for health equality.

Please support us by signing our petition (click here) urging the federal government to create an Office of LGBT Health.

Equal health is a part of equal rights and as we fight for full federal equality we need our government to understand that our health needs cannot wait.

We cannot be an invisible population anymore. This is a time of health reform, the leaders must hear our cry loud and clear: WE ARE A PRIORITY!

Health care reform and LGBT Americans

Posted by admin On September - 10 - 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.

Last night President Obama addressed the nation about an issue that is important to all Americans. Regardless of any other defining trait or political agenda, our mutual humanity unites us under one common umbrella; we will all at one point in our lives require medical attention. Anyone who has experienced a serious or debilitating medical condition understands that our current system is overwhelmingly flawed.  Even those of us who have had only minor medical problems understand all to well how quickly medical bills can overwhelm us even if we have insurance. Our country is blessed with some of the best medical minds in the world, and yet access is rationed based on economic and social status. Modern societies should care for the weakest among them. The United State’s is fully capable of fulfilling its fundamental promise in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Elemental in the pursuit of happiness in our modern society must be access to health care services. Like so many progressive citizens I am dismayed that the debate about one of the most important institutions in our nation was hijacked by a few unstable individuals. It is vitally important that the President knows he has the support of the progressive community as he continues this important debate.   There are currently 5 bills making their way through congress (3 in the house, 2 in the Senate) and we must monitor all of them to make sure the town criers do not intimidate our elected officials from producing a quality and fair bill.

Join the Impact’s mission is to continue the conversation about LGBT citizens and our desire to be treated equally under the law in all 50 states in all matters of civil law. Health care reform fits within that mission. It is vital that the progressive LGBT community insists our families are included in the final legislation. We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who do not have basic hospital visitation rights when the person they spend a lifetime with becomes ill. We understand that people die alone in hospitals while separated from their families because of their sexual orientation. We hope that as we stand with the President today on his goal for a health care bill (and his original goal for a public option), that he understands that health care reform is not just about insurance or about money, but about families who in times of crisis should not be separated from each other under any circumstance. When “family” is defined in the health care legislation the LGBT community must be included. Furthermore, Domestic partners and same sex married couples must be able to share health benefits without the current federal income tax burden on their families. Heterosexual families are not taxed on their shared benefits.

We can not forget our transgender friends and family whose needs are almost always left on the cutting room floor. It is all too common for transgender citizens to be denied health care simply because of who they are. Hospitals refuse their admittance, doctors refuse their care, and health insurance policies explicitly deny so-called “transgender care”. We request a strong public option that does not discriminate based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.  A public option is particularly important for our transgender community members because they are fired without recourse and regularly denied work altogether.  Most health insurance policies are provided by employers so if citizens can not find work they need a public option.

We understand the political significance of the health care reform bill.  Conservatives will stop at nothing to smear progressive attempts to reform.  We would like to request that as you construct your spin job you leave our families out of it. It will be easy for you to scare people by presenting our families and our issues. You are well practiced. There have already been attempts to scare people away from health care reform because of our inclusion in some drafts. Instead of creating even more fear about our community it would serve us all if you instead debated the structural content of the bills on a broader honest landscape. And if the conservatives remain steadfast in bullying the LGBT community, I hope the progressive community embraces our humanity and refuses not buckle under the pressure.  No human should be left behind in what could be the most monumental health care reform bill of this century.  The time for outlandish lies from the right is over — the time for swift action from progressives is now.

Equality Can’t Afford to Take a Vacation!

Posted by willow On August - 7 - 2009

Willow Witte, who authored this post, co-founded Join The Impact with Amy Balliett last November. She currently serves as JTI’s Executive Director and has since moved to Washington, DC. Email her at willow@jointheimpact.com or find her on twitter @wonderwillow.

For months many of us have been contacting our Senators and Representatives in Washington, DC urging them to support key pieces of legislation. While phone calls, emails, petitions and letters have been imperative to our efforts to get positive legislation passed, they are relayed to our legislators, through their staff, as numbers for or against an issue. We must continue these contacts, but they do not tell out stories.

August presents an unique opportunity. In August all of our Senators and Representatives will be at home, in their districts, giving us just the opportunity we need to gain their full support and send them back to the House and Senate Floor armed to fight on our behalf- and know what they are voting against if they choose not to support us.

The most effective tool we have is our stories. Discussing how discrimination affects us and our loved ones every day is most effective, and most powerful, in person.

Join The Impact and Equality Across America are joining together for an August campaign called Change Comes Home. The campaign is focused on encouraging grassroots story telling in the offices of our legislators because they are the ones who will design and VOTE on the bills we need for full equality.
It’s a simple campaign in which you need to:

1.    Schedule in-district visits with your Representatives

2.    Meet with the other folks you’re working with ahead of time to prep for your meeting

3.    Have a one-on-one talk with your legislators on the day you’ve scheduled

If you’ve never met with your legislators before, don’t worry! It just takes passion for civil rights and a willingness to speak up for them. We’re providing an informational toolkit found here including a sample letter to send to request your visit, resources on ENDA, DADT, DOMA and other guidelines & information to help make your visit as successful as possible.

Get your toolkit now to get started by clicking here!

Don’t lose this chance to have your voice heard in Congress. You have the power to make change.

Let’s show our legislators that when we say “full federal equality for the entire LGBTQI community in all matters governed by civil law- Now!” We mean it!

Schedule your visits TODAY!

What is Equality Across America?
Have you heard of the National Equality March happening in DC in October? Many people that have organized previously with Join The Impact have already begun organizing to get their district represented at the march. Equality Across America is a network of decentralized organizers growing out of the march to continue the work for full equality in all 435 Congressional districts- as a unified movement. Learn more at http://equalityacrossamerica.org/about

The Great Nationwide Kiss-In

Posted by willow On July - 22 - 2009

David Mailloux is an event coordinator with the Massachusetts chapter of Join the Impact. He is also the national press contact and national volunteer coordinator for the Great Nationwide Kiss-In, and will be planning the Boston Kiss-In event alongside JTI-MA co-chairs Paul Souand Morgan Collado. This is his first national event, so please be gentle. You can reach him at dymsumblog@gmail.com

When I first heard of the incident in El Paso, where two gay men and their friends were harassed by security guards and police officers for kissing in public, I thought it was a fluke. Then, only a couple of days later, I learned that a similar incident occurred in Salt Lake City – one man kisses his boyfriend on the cheek and, within minutes, they find themselves thrown on the pavement and handcuffed by Mormon Church security guards. A few months earlier, a woman kissed her girlfriend in a San Antonio mall, and essentially the same thing happens – except they were arrested!
They were kissing! On the cheek! It’s so innocent, so pure, probably the purest sign of affection there is, but these men and women were harassed, detained, even arrested for it. And this is 2009, folks. There is no question that this happened because they were gay. That’s the bottom line, and it’s not right.
A friend, and fellow blogger, David Badash published a blog about this (you can read that blog here) a couple of weeks ago. As soon as I read it, I realized that he and I had to band together on this one. We both started talking about it to friends and acquaintances on Twitter. How can such a beautiful expression of one’s love for another person be deemed inappropriate, or labeled “faggot stuff” and result in arrests? We wanted to find others who wanted to make a strong statement to everyone everywhere: that kissing is not a bad thing, nor has it ever been. It’s not illegal, nor is it vulgar or inappropriate. It’s a sign of affection that is as old as time itself. And it’s a beautiful thing that we share with our loved ones every single day. And if there is anything that this country needs more of, it’s definitely love – love and affection and kindness. Most of all, though, it’s love.
As a result of all the blogging, networking and rage, David Badash and I are joining forces with Join The Impact’s Co-Founder, Willow Witte, to organize the Great Nationwide Kiss-In, on Saturday, August 15, 2009, at 2 p.m., EDT (or 11 a.m., PDT). In the coming weeks, we hope it evolves into a simultaneous occasion of kissing and hugging between thousands of couples, gay and straight, in cities and towns all over the country. This will be a fun and lighthearted event, but one with an extraordinarily strong message as well: we are human, capable of a beautiful normal love like everyone else in the world. We won’t keep being excluded. There is nothing wrong with us.
Please consider joining us on August 15, both to have fun and to send out that extraordinary message to folks all over the country. If you want to host/organize an event similar to what is already being planned in Boston, New York and several other cities, please e-mail us at GreatNationwideKissIn@gmail.com as soon as possible; we will send you written guidance on how to plan your event. Again, it’s going to be really simple to put together, but we need people from as many different cities as possible to help us. In advance, thank you!

Fairness Works – The American Dream In

Posted by admin On July - 1 - 2009

Fairness does work.  Unfortunately millions are not protected from unfair job termination because of sexual orientation or gender identity.  Join the Impact hopes to change the landscape by helping pass three important pieces of legislation, the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT), and the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA).

The American Dream is a fundamental promise to each and every citizen that they have the opportunity to advance beyond their current condition to a better life rich with opportunity. The Dream is an ideal our country continues to strive for but does not always fulfill.  For some gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people the Dream is challenged by workplace discrimination and early termination based solely on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Yesterday,  June 30, Lt. Dan Choi who has worked bravely for his country as a mission critical soldier with Arabic language skills, was fired because he publicly acknowledged he is gay. This injustice must end now! We have to fight to end institutionalized discrimination and homophobia, and education is part of that fight.

It is time for America to wake up, to learn, and to urge Congress to end decades of discrimination right now!

Here’s how YOU can help.  A committee of Join the Impact volunteers developed a set of tools for you to use to teach your friends, families, and neighbors about ENDA, EFCA, and the repeal of DADT.  These tools will help you explain workforce discrimination, its impact on our culture, our military, and our families. Knowledge is power, and together we will focus our power on our Representatives during the August recess.

To learn more and to sign-up to host a Fairness Works American Dream-In, simply go to http://jointheimpact.wetpaint.com/ to sign up. You can also help spread the word on facebook!

Still haven’t set up your in-district visits to help pass ENDA? Find out how here http://bit.ly/10Ot47

Your help is vital to the success of this program.  Please volunteer, so together we can make an impact!

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
.