Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Randi ReitanMother, Gay Rights Activist

Dear President Obama,

I watched you preach on Father's Day and my heart was touched by your words. I listened with a mother's heart. I have been blessed with four dear children. Not a day goes by that I don't thank God for the gift my children are to me.

You told the congregation that the family is the most important foundation. You said we must take responsibility for those we love and we must set an example of excellence for our children. We must give our children dreams without limits and we must teach them the importance of having empathy for others. We must teach them to stand in another's shoes to know another's pain and their challenges so we can lift them up.

You said when you were younger you thought life was all about yourself and now you realize life is about leaving this world a better place for our children.

Your words touched this mother's heart but they also made me wonder if you are truly living your words.

I wonder if you are living those words as you listen to the gay community. There isn't a newspaper across this great nation that has not shared the news of the gay community's fight for equality. You must have heard their pain when your administration affirmed DOMA with their brief. You must have heard their pain as one after another brave and loyal gay soldier has been kicked out of the military because of DADT. You must have heard their pain as Prop 8 snatched marriage away from gay couples.

My youngest child is gay. As parents we were ignorant about homosexuality when Jacob came out to us as a 16 year old young man eleven years ago. We embraced him and we told him we loved him that night, but we were clueless about what it meant to be gay.

We had to educate ourselves. Another part of your message on Sunday addressed the importance of education. I ask you now to educate yourself about homosexuality.

When we visited with the medical community on our journey to understanding we learned that homosexuality was simply the sexual orientation our son was given. We learned it was not a choice that Jacob made. We were told it was a given for him and we as his parents should encourage him to embrace his orientation and live his life with dignity and respect.

This began a new chapter in our lives. We learned to live in the empathy you extolled. We met hundreds of young gay people who have had such difficult lives because of the ignorance of our society. We have listened to pastors condemning gays and teaching others to do the same. We have felt the pain of discrimination as our son has been harassed with words and attacks. We have listened to young people with tears in their eyes share that they have been rejected by their own parents. We have watched as our son tried to enlist as a gay man and was instead led away in hand cuffs.

We also took responsibility as you asked parents to do on Sunday. We have spoken out, marched and led rallies. We have been arrested numerous times doing civil disobedience to try to bring the issues of injustice to light. We have poured our financial resources into programs and agencies that work to educate the people. We have lobbied at the Capitol in our state of Minnesota and in Washington, DC. We have written hundreds of letters to law makers, pastors, teachers and now to you our President.

Our country needs your voice on this issue. I am impatient to see my dear son live his life with full equality. Can you imagine if one of your daughters had equality and the other did not? That is the reality for every family with a gay child. It is heartbreaking and it is wrong.

You may not be able to lift DADT today. You may not be able to end DOMA today. You may not be able to bring marriage back for the gay community in California today. But, as our president, you can move legislation that would right those wrongs. You can sit down with my son and others and listen to their stories so you can stand in their shoes with empathy. You can address this nation about the terrible discrimination the gay community faces in our country. You can live out your campaign promises on some level.

Your final lesson in your sermon was on the gift of faith and hope. You spoke of a hope that insists that something better is waiting for us. You spoke of your faith and your love of Jesus. The Jesus that I know would not make outcasts of God's beloved children. The gay community has been made into outcasts by many in our churches. We need to hear from you that no one is less than another. The greatest commandment that Jesus taught was to love one another as He loves us.

You talked about the importance of fathers teaching their children. If you don't address the issues of equality for the gay community, the discrimination will not end. Your daughters are watching you. They are learning from you and so are all the sons and daughters in this country.

You can be a president who not only embraces equality but who fights to see the day all God's children actually live it. To be able to bring equality to a group of people should be seen as not only a duty of justice but an honor of the highest level. You must be the one to lead our country by setting an example of excellence in treating all Americans with equality in all areas of life.

I sat on the lawn in front of our nation's Capitol on that cold day in January when you took the oath of office. My heart filled with hope that day because I believed the words you spoke as you campaigned. Those words seem hollow to me now.

I ask you with tears in my eyes, with pain in my heart and with a mother's enduring love for her dear children..... please bring equality ... true full equality to my son and to all in the gay community.

Gay Marriage
Barack Obama
Dear President Obama, I watched you preach on Father's Day and my heart was touched by your words. I listened with a mother's heart. I have been blessed with four dear children. Not a day goes by th...
Dear President Obama, I watched you preach on Father's Day and my heart was touched by your words. I listened with a mother's heart. I have been blessed with four dear children. Not a day goes by th...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

It’s Time to Stonewall Obama

by Jennifer Vanasco

First published in the Chicago Free Press on June 17, 2009

It is starting to seem like a tautology that if the Obama administration is asked to weigh in on a question of gay rights, then it will come down on the wrong side.

It happened again last week.

Obama’s Department of Justice crafted a brief defending the Defense of Marriage Act that used all of the arguments of the anti-gay Right. Heterosexual marriages are “traditional,” it said. Denying federal recognition to legal state marriages doesn’t hurt anyone, it said. States don’t have to recognize gay marriages performed by other states just like they don’t have to recognize a marriage between an uncle and his niece, it said.

We do not have a “friend in the White House.”

We do not have a “fierce advocate.”

What we have is an enemy.

He is, sure, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, wearing a glittering costume embroidered with “Hope,” “Change” and empty promises. He is master of doublespeak, saying that he is against DOMA yet not protesting when a Bush-holdover presses a poison dagger of a marriage brief into our chests; he says he supports the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, but has yet to issue a Stop-Loss order to keep hunted gays and lesbians in their military jobs.

Leave gay rights to the states, he says. Leave them to Congress.

Barack Obama is no longer hurting us with benign neglect. Barack Obama’s administration is now actively attacking us.

If George W. Bush had responded this way to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and DOMA, we would be rising in the streets. We would be protesting in front of the White House.

"Barack Obama has forgotten, perhaps, that we are human beings with families. He perhaps has made the erroneous assumption that we will wait our turn humbly, hats in hand, until he decides to be beneficent in the waning days of a second term. We need to show him that we will not."Barack Obama is not our friend. He is not our fierce advocate. He is someone who used our vulnerability and hope to get elected.

Joe Solmonese, executive director of the Human Rights Campaign, wrote a beautiful letter to the White House expressing just this sense of betrayal. “I cannot overstate the pain that we feel as human beings and as families when we read an argument, presented in federal court, implying that our own marriages have no more constitutional standing than incestuous ones,” he wrote.

Barack Obama has forgotten, perhaps, that we are human beings with families. He perhaps has made the erroneous assumption that we will wait our turn humbly, hats in hand, until he decides to be beneficent in the waning days of a second term.

We need to show him that we will not.

The world is a different place than it was five years ago or even six months ago. Establishment Republicans — Dick Cheney! Joe Bruno in New York! — are now coming out in favor of gay marriage. A majority of Americans favor the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Gay and lesbian civil rights are no longer a fringe issue. And gays and lesbians are no longer a minority who will be placated with hate crimes legislation in lieu of full and equal rights.

There will always be urgent issues competing for a President’s attention. That’s what being President is. But those other issues shouldn’t make us back down. In fact, they should make us fight harder.

Health care? DOMA might make it impossible for our spouses to be our dependents in a federal health care program. The economy? Our families would certainly be better off if the money we paid to Social Security could go to our loved ones if we passed before they did. The war? America would have a stronger fighting force if it stopped ejecting perfectly qualified, long-serving soldiers just because they are gay.

We must stop giving Barack Obama the benefit of the doubt. It is time to show him that we will not support a second term, that we will not support the Democratic Party, if this continues. We will not give a dollar of our money. We will not give an hour of our time.

We will Stonewall him and his administration. The time for being treated as the equal Americans we are has come, and we will not be pushed aside.

Monday, June 22, 2009

As Long As We Are Complaining About Obama Not Doing Anything...
by Brian Chase

Posted on June 19, 2009

Anybody remember the "Tax Equity For Health Plan Beneficiaries Act"? I didn't think so. It’s the federal bill that would end the unfair taxation of health insurance benefits for domestic partners.

Right now, if your employer provides health insurance for your domestic partner or same-sex spouse, the insurance is taxed as income. Economist Lee Badgett estimates that this discrimination costs an average of $1069 per year and takes a collective $178 million dollars per year out of the pockets of gay and lesbian families. The Tax Equity Act would fix all of that.

The Tax Equity Act is co-sponsored by a Republican, has the backing of a huge swath of corporate America, and would provide real, concrete financial relief for same-sex couples. So when we list all of the things Obama and the Democrats in Congress aren’t doing for us, why do we keep forgetting about this bill?

A hate crime bill may be psychologically satisfying, but it isn’t going to do a thing to reduce hate crimes. ENDA is just going to give us another blistering fight over the political feasibility of transgender inclusion. The Democrats are so terrified of looking anti-military that they probably won't repeal Don’t Ask Don't Tell until the ghost of Douglas MacArthur appears before a joint session of Congress and reveals that he was actually gay himself. So why don't we focus on something that can actually pass and would do a tremendous amount of good?

I know "tax relief" and "backed by corporate America" are dirty, dirty phrases to many on the left, but this bill really shouldn’t be allowed to die on the vine.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Love it!

Ruby-Sachs: The Memo and The Movement

By Emma Ruby-Sachs, 365gay blogger 06.18.2009 5:02pm EDT
Here’s the important thing: it is best to assume that the memo and the movement have nothing to do with each other.

A memo is temporary, does not include health benefits and only applies to the few Federal employees. It’s like a gift: an unrelated pleasant surprise from a source one expects to get nothing from. For those Federal employees who can now use sick days to take care of their partners (and I know one and she is thrilled and I celebrate with her, her good fortune) yesterday was a good day.

But the movement isn’t about temporary measures. It isn’t about dividing the gay community into small segments that slowly each get a few benefits.

A movement does not depend on the goodwill of a benevolent leader. It requires the leader to pay attention. It takes away funding until that leader listens and it organizes to create enough friction that the objective of the movement becomes as important as the everyday emergencies facing this world.

That is what we tasted these past few days. Then Obama served up a little dessert. Let’s not let the sweetness of a few words and few benefits for a few people lampoon the real movement that we are all part of. Let’s work to create the same conflicts and news worthy protest until rights are granted completely and to all.

Good for him..

Schwarzenegger Names Gay Judge
California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who recently declined to defend the validity of Proposition 8 in federal court, has appointed an openly gay man to serve as a state judge.

Ronald E. Albers, a founding co-chair of the National Lesbian and Gay Law Association and a San Francisco County superior court commissioner, was sworn in as a superior court judge on Monday. Of the position, Albers told the Bay Area Reporter that he is “particularly honored [that] the governor would recognize my legal skills, abilities, and commitment to service in its full range of rainbow colors.”

Earlier this week, Schwarzenegger, who has twice vetoed state legislation that would have legalized same-sex marriage, declined to defend the constitutionality of Proposition 8 in a federal lawsuit filed last month by two unmarried California gay couples who were denied marriage licenses.

In papers filed with the court, Schwarzenegger said the lawsuit contains “important constitutional questions that require and warrant judicial determination.” He has not taken a position on the arguments presented in the suit, however.

A court hearing is scheduled for July 2 to determine whether Proposition 8 should be blocked pending the suit’s outcome.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Maybe now people will pay attention!

Gay Dems complain DNC cut off funding, drop support for Biden event

Theboard of directors of the National Stonewall Democrats are dropping their support for a June 25 DNC fundraiser with Vice President Joe Biden over, they wrote in an email obtained by POLITICO, a combination of policy slights and the claim that they've been cut off from traditional party funding.

In the email to Tom Petrillo, who runs the party's substantial gay fundraising operation, the board members write:

[W]e are incredibly disappointed that the DNC has made a decision to withhold any financial support to National Stonewall Democrats this year but is in turn asking us to help raise money for the DNC in a difficult financial environment. The DNC has historically supported National Stonewall through sponsorship of the annual Capitol Champions event. This year, we did not receive any support. The DNC has traditionally provided materials for the many Pride parades and festivals around the country to help educate the LGBT community about why the Democratic Party is the Party for full LGBT equality. This year we were informed that we would not be receiving any materials or support for producing materials for the various nationwide Pride activities. These decisions were very disappointing.

We'd be remiss to also not mention that the recent legal brief of the Obama Administration defending DOMA is incredibly hurtful. The members of the Board and our membership put our hopes, our dollars and our time into ensuring the election of Barack Obama because we believed that he supported us. To now have his Administration refer to our relationships in the same terms used by our long time enemies such as Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and James Dobson hurts on so many levels. To have our committed and loving relationships referred to as the moral equivalent of incest and pedophilia is not something that any of us ever expected from this Administration considering how hard we worked to be seen and respected. For that reason alone, advocating for attendance at a fundraiser to support the Administration and the DNC, while they have not condemned this hurtful language, is not something our membership will receive positively.

The group says it's not "boycotting" the June 25 fundraiser with Joe Biden; it just won't encourage its members to attend.

Gay money is, historically, of outsized importance to the Democratic Party. Howard Dean, in particular, launched his presidential campaign in part on enthusiasm from gay donors about his support for civil unions, and maintained those relationships as chairman.

UPDATE: A source forwards over Petrillo's conciliatory response to Stonewall's Shane Larson:

While the DNC was unable to help with Pride materials this year, I did, in a recent conversation with Kyle Bailey, express that the DNC would be able to sponsor a project with Stonewall this year. He mentioned a Young Democrat guide that Stonewall is working on and I asked for him to send a proposal for possible assistance with funding. I am sorry if that was not communicated.

Finally a member of Congress willing to stand up and speak out on this issue

Send her an email thanking her for speaking out! Because she has not always been on board with this...

That’s a major shift from her position as a congresswoman, when she received the lowest ratings among New York Democrats on gay rights issues, according to the Human Rights Campaign scorecard.

In fact, she voted against declined to co-sponsor legislation that would have repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t’ Tell in 2007.

I Stand With Lt. Dan Choi, It's Time To Repeal DADT
by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
Share this on Twitter - I Stand With Lt. Dan Choi, It's Time To Repeal DADT Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 08:13:32 AM PDT

Last week, I had the honor of meeting a proud graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point, NY – Lt. Dan Choi. Lt. Choi came to my office to meet me and discuss how we right the wrong that has occurred in his life and ensure others do not experience the same injustice.

In 2003, Lt. Dan Choi graduated from West Point with a degree in Arabic. Since graduating, Lt. Choi has served honorably in the 1st Bn., 69th Infantry of the New York Army National Guard, including a deployment in Iraq. Now, it appears his service may come to an end simply because he has publicly said these three words: "I am gay."

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's diary :: ::
Lt. Dan Choi is not alone. Since 1994 when the law was implemented, approximately 13,000 able, knowledgeable, well-trained soldiers have been discharged from the US military for being gay. 800 of those discharged soldiers were -- like Lt. Choi -- experts in mission critical disciplines.

Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) comes with a severe financial burden as well. Estimates of the cost of implementing Don't Ask Don't Tell from 1994-2003 -- including recruitment, re-training and separation travel costs -- have ranged from almost $200 million to $363 million. This is millions of dollars that could have been...and should have been...spent on crucial personnel and equipment for our military.

In the discharge letter sent to Lt. Choi, authorities claimed that soldiers, such as Choi, "negatively affect good order and discipline" within their units by being openly gay. This is directly contradicted by opinion polls of servicemembers, which say that the more they are aware of their fellow soldiers' homosexuality, the less they feel it's a factor in their service.

In December 2007, 28 retired generals and admirals urged Congress to repeal the policy. They pointed to the fact that 65,000 gay men and women are currently serving in the armed forces, and that there are over 1,000,000 gay veterans. Now, more than 100 retired U.S. military leaders -- including the former head of the Naval Academy -- have signed on to a statement calling for an end to DADT policy. During a time when our military is engaged in multiple wars abroad, and the potential for future conflicts on the horizon, it is critical not to undermine our military's effectiveness and readiness.

I am firmly committed to repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Not only am I working closely with Congressman Murphy and Senator Kennedy's offices to develop support for repeal legislation, but I will be among the original co-sponsors of the bill when it's introduced. In the weeks and months ahead, I plan to work with Lt. Choi to repair the damage that has been done to his career and spare thousands of innocent, brave men and women, from the same injustice.


Besen: Obama’s empty words
By Wayne Besen, columnist,
06.18.2009 11:30am EDT
A debate is raging on whether to have a national gay March on Washington in October. Most leaders I have spoken with are against the idea, preferring to keep scarce financial and human resources in the states. Others, such as myself, are largely ambivalent. A galvanizing force, however, is giving new life to this idea and his name is Barack Obama.
The President is in serious danger of motivating a huge mass of gay people to stream into Washington for the simple joy of standing in front of the White House and giving him a piece of their minds.

Send / ShareAdd CommentThis frustration may lead to an embarrassing situation for the President, where former supporters mount the largest anti-Obama pep rally not fronted by Sarah Palin.

This week, an array of GLBT leaders expressed their dismay with the President by pulling out of a Democratic National Committee fundraiser. The action is in protest of a noxious legal brief submitted by the Department of Justice. It implausibly defended the heinous Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) by using anti-gay arguments that likely drew a standing ovation from Rev. Pat Robertson.

DOJ’s paper included a comparison of gay relationships to incest and opposed same-sex relationships on the absurd basis that it would cost taxpayers money (Don’t gay people pay taxes?). HRC also sent a pointed letter to Obama highlighting the betrayal felt by the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

“I cannot overstate the pain that we feel as human beings and as families when we read an argument, presented in federal court, implying that our own marriages have no more constitutional standing than incestuous ones,” wrote HRC’s President, Joe Solmonese.

The deteriorating situation is exacerbated by confusion about who will push for equality. The Obama administration claims to be awaiting congressional action on a number of issues, including ending employment discrimination, eliminating DOMA and repealing Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell. Meanwhile, Senate majority leader Harry Reid is waiting for Obama to act, as well as the House of Representatives. The GLBT community has become a hot potato that the Democrats do not seem to want to touch.

Aggravating matters was John Berry, the highest-ranking gay official in the administration. In an interview with The Advocate, he said that Obama’s timetable to enact his pro-gay campaign promises is “before the sun sets on this administration.”

So, now we have to wait 4-8 years, while watching him suck up to Rick Warren on Day 1?

For what seemed like forever, Democrats told us that when the big bad Republicans went away, our lives would improve. Well, the Republican nightmare is over, so why do I still feel like I’m in the middle of a political Friday the 13th movie?

The Democrats took our money, our votes and our volunteer hours and now they tell us to wait patiently, like good little gays. As far as I’m concerned, if the donkeys can’t deliver now, they can kiss my ass. The Democrats run the show in Washington and if they will not act like a majority party, then they do not deserve to be one.

This is not about making unreasonable policy demands, but about the Democrats recognizing the daily struggles faced by gay people. A new report by The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs said, “violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people increased 2% from 2007 to 2008, continuing the trend of a 24% total increase in 2007.”

Recently, I read about a lesbian who was barred from visiting her partner in a Fresno hospital, and as a result her partner received the wrong medication. Last week, I was in conservative Western Michigan where I spoke to young people who were nearly driven to suicide as a result of anti-gay attitudes.

We need a president who recognizes these evils and demonstrates the courage and leadership to enact the change he so eloquently promised during his campaign.

If Obama continues down the current path it will come at a steep price. When Bill Clinton settled for Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell, it solidified the growing perception that he was “Slick Willie.” By turning his back on the gay community, Obama will play into the idea, stoked by Hillary Clinton and exploited by John McCain, that he is a man of beautiful, yet empty words.

What Obama fails to understand is that when poetry does not translate into policy, and hope turns hollow, the American people will begin to tune him out.

I’m still undecided about the wisdom of a march on Washington, but I am decidedly fed up with my political “friends” marching all over my dignity and taking my support for granted. If the majority party does not cough up the votes to protect our families, we should close down our generous coffers.

Press Corps Fixates On LGBT Concerns

I am glad someone is asking the if we could just get some Real Answers from Mr. Obama!

The Associated Press began by asking whether the Presidential Memo was “too little, too late. Can you talk about why people should see this as more than kind of an empty gesture or just a symbolic move on his part?”

Gibbs responded, “I think as you'll hear the President say later today, he believes this is a matter of fairness. The President is committed to ensuring that fairness, as well as working on and fulfilling other promises that he's made in the campaign around things like DOMA and "don't ask, don't tell."

Reporters also asked a number of questions of the Department of Justice’s decision to defend the Defense of Marriage Act.

Regardless of the fact that President Obama believes DOMA should be repealed, said Gibbs, “the Justice Department is charged with upholding the law of the land, even though the President believes that that law should be repealed.”

ABC’s Jake Tapper pressed further on the content of the Justice Department brief.

“But a lot of legal experts say that the brief didn't have to be as comprehensive and make all the arguments that it made, such as comparing same-sex unions to incestuous ones in one controversial paragraph that's upset a lot of the President's supporters,” he said. “Does the President stand by the content, the arguments made in that brief?

Gibbs responded, “Well, again, it's the President's Justice Department. And again, we have the role of upholding the law of the land while the President has stated and will work with Congress to change that law.”

When asked if the president had seen the brief before it was made public, Gibbs said he would “have to check on that.”

The DNC will NOT get my money!

(click the title for the article - with links)

by David Link

Posted on June 18, 2009

Barack Obama is adding a coda to Mario Cuomo’s observation that people campaign in poetry but govern in prose: based on his press conference yesterday, when it comes to gay rights, even prose is failing him. On our issues, he is governing in grunts.

There is no better illustration of how badly the toxic residue of anti-gay prejudice distorts ordinary politics than Obama’s flailing on the simple and fundamental issue of the inequality that federal law demands for those who are homosexual. And that is a point that cannot be overemphasized: DOMA and DADT are federal laws that explicitly require the government to discriminate based on a person's sexual orientation. Discrimination is the considered policy of the U.S. government when it comes to lesbians and gay men.

To be fair, we share part of the blame for the President's dilemma. Some of our leaders led him to believe that gestures toward equality would do. But since Obama was elected, four states have recognized full marriage equality, three of them by legislative action. On the other side of the ledger, the government has discharged one of its most articulate and talented Arabic translators, Lt. Dan Choi, because he has been honest about being gay -- at the same time that 69% of Americans say they do not support the policy under which he was fired. That is, in large part why the weak tea the President offered yesterday looked so much like weak tea.

What he did is satisfying enough, if you’re among the 2% of American workers who are federal employees, and also among the 3% or so of them who are homosexual, and also among the unknown percent of them who have a committed partner. I’m not a mathematician, but I believe the overlap of these three circles in a Venn Diagram would be quite small. I know I’m immediately disqualified because I’m in the 98% of workers who isn't a federal employee.

But the scattershot benefits that are now available to that infinitesimal percentage of Americans exclude the one that makes the biggest daily difference in people’s lives: health insurance. This is not just the dominant benefit in most people’s employment, it comprises, by itself, between 6.9% and 8.1% of total compensation.

But the President’s compelled performance was matched by those in our community who had to grit their teeth and act as if they were grateful. Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force did everything but blink out S.O.S. with her eyelids in supporting the memo.

And, let’s be honest, none of this would have happened (at least not now) but for the DNC fundraiser that continues to fall apart because the President’s DOJ filed its “squalid” brief (in Dale Carpenter’s perfect description) in the Smelt case – the very non-pink elephant in the room the President declined to mention.

Despite all this, it is depressing to have to acknowledge the Democrats remain better on gay issues than Republicans. But when even the Democrats are still acting with the skittishness of 1994, it’s hard to distinguish the two.

At the very least, I wouldn’t want to give the DNC the $1000 entrance fee to their fundraiser. At best, I think that all we’ve gotten from them is about $57 worth of equality.

This always makes me laugh and cry!

We all need to laugh from time to time..

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

this is another reason why I have long hated HRC...this guy writes a letter blasting the president then shows up for this silly show where we get crumbs! Grow a spine and make a decision on one side or the other !!

I am no longer on the Obama Bandwagon!

Not off the hook with me...

Ryan Sager

Being Barack means never having to say you’re sorry

Yesterday, I wrote about apologies, and why we do or don’t accept them. The context there was the Sarah Palin / David Letterman clusterf–k, which seems to be over now (save for Dave’s getting a week’s worth of bits out of it).

But, this morning, it’s got me thinking about apologies in the public sphere in general. And why our behavior with regard to public figures that disappoint us is so robotically predictable.

Take President Obama’s announcement that he’ll direct the federal government to start providing same-sex partner benefits to the federal workforce. While not an apology, per se, it’s essentially a conciliatory gesture for a series of actions he’s taken to — not to put too fine a point on it — screw the gay community:

* First, he stood on the sidelines as the African American community in California pushed Proposition 8 over the top, stripping gay couples and families in that state of their civil rights.

* Second, he abandoned his pledge to reverse don’t-ask-don’t-tell in the military.

* Third, he filed an extremely damaging brief in federal court supporting the Defense of Marriage Act, invoking tropes about incest marriage and arguing that DOMA is good for the federal budget (it keeps all those pesky gay partners from collecting Social Security).

Now, he wants the gay community and supporters of gay rights in general to take this as an apology and as sufficient recompense for the previous (and ongoing) screwing of gays in other areas. And, you know what, they (we) will pretty much take it. Just like with Bill Clinton, who did even more to screw gay people (and interns, yes, got that out of my system).

Sure, there will be some angry blog posts written. Sure, some of Obama’s gay supporters will try to work up some anger. But, at the end of the day, for most of them, their hearts won’t be in it.


Well, it goes back to what I wrote yesterday about why we accept apologies from some people and don’t accept them from others. If we generally like someone — and the vast majority of gay people like Obama and voted for him — we’re far more likely to accept an apology from them. And, we’re more likely to believe that their intent was good, and thus we’re even more likely to forgive them.

[By the same token, if you didn't like President Bush, you were certainly never going to forgive him for supporting the Federal Marriage Amendment (even though Bush only fake-supported it to appease his base and then made sure it never moved forward in Congress — arguably making him better on gay rights than Clinton).]

Another factor at work is the “false consensus bias.” It’s a shame the things Obama has had to do out of political necessity, you tell yourself, but I know deep down he cares about gay rights and is just “playing a long game” — he’ll do what he can when he can. Deep down, he’s on the same page as me. Of course, this is bull. Experiments have shown that we’re all terrible intuitive psychologists and extremely prone to projecting our views onto others (that is, in the absence of evidence, we assume people think what we do).

Obama, in fact, has really been the master of false consensus bias. Does he support charter schools? Well, I support charter schools, and he’s given me enough material to pretend he agrees with me. At the same time, a teachers union official somewhere out there believes he really plans to strangle charter schools in their crib. Does he support affirmative action? Gun rights? Gun control? Socialism? Market capitalism? On dozens of issues, millions of Americans have attributed their own views to President Obama. Now that’s how you get elected.

Add in a dash of cognitive dissonance — I voted for Obama, I support gay rights, Obama must support gay rights — and you’ve got the perfect storm.

Will Obama be able to placate the gay community? Being Barack means never having to say you’re sorry.

It is about damn time!

Maybe just maybe people are finally going to get it!!!!

Bastian -- who donated $1 million to the campaign against Prop. 8 -- sent a message to the Democratic Party leadership saying that he will no longer donate to the party as a whole, according to the Washington Blade. "I will continue to support certain congressmen, congresswomen, and senators whom I believe will continue to fight for our rights, but I don’t think blanket donations to the Democratic Party right now are justified, at least not in my book," he told the Washington Blade.

Gay Pride....really?

This month in cities all across the country people are celebrating Gay Pride. In many cities there will be parties, concerts, games and a parade. In Minneapolis a few hundred thousand people will line Hennepin Avenue to watch a parade. Many of those same people will also walk through Loring Park and visit the booths set up by businesses and corporations that want to be seen as “gay friendly” or more importantly want ‘our’ money.

I have often had mixed feelings about the entire celebration. Once again I find myself wondering when the ‘gay community’ is going to get with it and get serious about what I think the parades etc should be about – Equality for all. I find it amazing that in cities all across the country we can get hundreds of thousands of people to come out for a parade but yet we can not seem to organize any real effort to push for gay rights. I mean think about it. If the 300 + thousand people that show up on Hennepin Avenue or the 300+ thousand that will line Boys Town in Chicago all showed up for a rally at their state capitol or wrote letters to their elected officials – perhaps, we just might see some serious movement on the issue. I have never understood why there is so much effort to get the “gay community” to support certain people that are running for office (you can bet HRC will be at every pride event asking for money and showing you a list of politicians that are ‘gay friendly”) but yet no real effort to have an organized ‘the community’ to get involved, to have a mass demonstration, boycott or something.

The civil rights movement of the 60s had boycotts, sit ins, marches etc. What do we have? A parade, a party, guys dancing shirtless or in drag, everyone waving a rainbow flag saying “give me my rights” But yet, I bet more than half of them could not be pulled away from there circuit party, beer bust or Internet chat room to get out and do something meaningful to see that the words “equality under the law” actually mean something

I am also not sure what we are suppose to be celebrating. Is it because in many states you can still be fired because your gay, or denied housing because your gay?. Or is it because same sex marriage is legal in 5 states and still illegal in 46 others? or is it because brave men and women are being kicked out of the military because they are gay? Or is it because years after Matthew Shepard died we still don’t have a federal hate crime law? Oh, surely it is because we now have a President that understands ‘us’ and will finally give us the rights we deserve?

I don’t know about anyone else…but I don't feel like having a party.

Not So fast.....

Obama to extend some benefits to same-sex partners

Reacting to a rising tide of anger from gay and lesbian supporters at a series of slights and deferred promises, President Obama will tomorrow extend some benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees.

The move, which begins to mirror the policy of many large corporations, will have an immediate effect for many workers, but it is a deeply reactive response to a core Democratic group whose concerns have been festering for six months. The presidential memorandum -- scheduled for signing tomorrow at 5:45 p.m., may in the short term, give Joe Biden something positive to say at a June 25 fundraiser that has seen prominent guests drop out, a host sharply attack the administration, and which is expected to be marked by protests.

However, the Defense of Marriage Act prohibits the federal government from extending health and retirement benefits to same-sex couples, so the benefits are more likely to be marginal -- like relocation assistance.

The order is one of several lower-profile moves the administration had promised gay groups this month, but appears to have been announced this evening to stem rising protest.

"President Obama will be signing a presidential memorandum tomorrow to provide benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees," an administration official said.

The silence on gay rights in the early days of the administration have pushed many gay rights leaders toward demands that Obama go beyond smaller-bore issues toward the heavier political lifts of ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the Defense of Marriage Act and supporting same-sex marriage. And they're shifting toward a more confrontational strategy, which could include a march on Washington later this year.

The executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, a large state-based gay rights group, Alan Van Capelle, greeted today's announcement sarcastically.

"Welcome to 1999," he told POLITICO. "How revolutionary of the White House to give benefits to same-sex couples, when two-thirds of conservative Wall Street are already doing it. What an achievement."

"It's just one of the things that should have been done in January," Van Capelle, who was among those taking his name off the Biden event, said, calling for a "comprehensive strategy." "If the President makes the announcement tomorrow, it will still fall short of what LGBT people are expecting from this administration."

Richard Socarides, a gay former Clinton aide, called a plan to extend benefits "terrific."

But Obama "will have to address 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and the [Justice Department motion supporting the Defense of Marriage Act] at this point to give it any real meaning. People want to know - his gay supporters want to know - why has this gone so wrong."

UPDATE: This post has been updated to note that health benefits appear not to be among those to be extended, to add comments, and to clarify that the document is formally a presidential memorandum, not an executive order.


President Obama's plan is drawing a lukewarm reaction this morning, as it becomes clear that -- contrary to some early reports -- the benefits can't include access for same-sex partners to health or retirement plans.

The Defense of Marriage Act, which Obama vowed during the campaign to repeal, prohibits the federal government from extending those benefits, so today's announcement appears likely to be limited to meaningful, but less sweeping, changes for gay and lesbian federal workers.

"Are they kidding us? Domestic Partnership benefits WITHOUT health insurance because of DOMA? What kind of reality do they live in?" gay fundraiser and activist David Mixner emailed me this morning. "It is like rubbing salt in the wound. I am glad that some barriers will be lifted for Federal Employees but what is the most important benefit insurance! Good god."

Even some congressional Democrats appear unimpressed by the move. Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York emailed out this lukewarm statement this morning:

President Obama’s decision displays the administration’s commitment to ensuring that certain basic rights and privileges are extended to all Americans.

While encouraging, this measure only grants same-sex couples benefits that have been provided by corporations for years and fails to reverse the administration's troubling refusal to fully recognize same-sex couples under the law and to allow lesbian gay bisexual trangender Americans to serve openly in the military.

That said, I am still pleased to say that the unacceptable reality of offering fewer benefits to same-sex couples is about to change."
David Biespiel, Poet and writer, Attic Writers Workshop:
It'll be a good day, too, when President Obama adopts former Vice President Cheney's position on universal equality for marriage

Like the romanticized Japanese fighters crawling out their caves long after World War II ended, like American and Soviet spies coming in out of the cold like a blink when the Cold War ended, many die-hard American culture warriors are finding that the culture has moved on. It'll be a good day, too, when President Obama adopts former Vice President Cheney's position on universal equality for marriage.

Peter Fenn, Democratic media consultant:
The train has left the station

Yes...when Dick Cheney supports same sex marriage you know that the train has left the station. Look how fast that train is moving legally and culturally towards equality and greater tolerance!

Andres Martinez, Director, Bernard L. Schwartz Fellows Program, New America Foundation:
What took Uncle Sam so long?

The only sensible reaction to this news is: What took Uncle Sam so long? The federal government, as an employer, should always set an example with enlightened, non-discriminatory practices. It is embarrassing that the government in this case has lagged behind corporate America. Plenty of large companies have long realized that passing judgment on whom their employees choose to make their life partners is not only discriminatory, but a terrible strategy for attracting and retaining a talented workforce.

Bradley A. Blakeman, Republican strategist, consultant, entrepreneur:
I am a conservative who believes strongly in the freedom of contract

Any person regardless of gender should be able to assign rights, beneficiaries, etc. Government should allow people the freedom and respect to stay out of their private lives. If contractual rights are available to one they should apply to all.

Victor Kamber, Carmen Group:
Absolutely, this is long overdue

It begins to fill President Obama's pledge to treat same-sex relationships as fully equal to all relationships in society, He should move quickly on 'don't ask don't tell' and any other provision that treats the gay community as second class citizens. I applaud President Obama just wished he would move even faster on these kinds of issues.
Promises Are Made of Air
by David Link

Posted on June 17, 2009

The gay community’s reaction to the Obama administration’s insulting and slanderous brief in the Smelt case has had some effect. A DNC fundraiser set for next week is falling apart, and the President will announce he wants to give the same federal benefits to homosexual federal employees as he gives to heterosexuals (well, some of the same federal benefits; health care seems to be off the table – the single “benefit” that comprises the lion’s share of all employee benefits).

We have every right to be furious at the President, but it’s important that we be furious for the right reasons.

I don’t think it is fair to criticize the administration for filing the brief. The well-intentioned but hapless plaintiffs in this case have gotten themselves (and the rest of us) in over their heads. They are certain to lose their case, and it’s better if they lose early on procedural grounds rather than in a published opinion that rules against us on the constitutional issues. The administration is doing nothing wrong in filing a brief to clear away this irritation.

The brief did not need to go any further than the procedural issues, and would almost certainly have prevailed on that ground. It was a mistake to have gone further. But when it did wade into the constitutional issues, it adopted arguments – as the administration’s – that cannot be entertained by any reasonable person. The argument (and I quote) that “DOMA does not distinguish among persons of different sexual orientations, but rather it limits federal benefits to those who have entered into the traditional form of marriage,” is a non sequitur. As Joe Solomonese so tartly put it, this is to say that “DOMA does not discriminate against gay people, but rather only provides federal benefits to heterosexuals.” Spend some time with that analysis, because Solomonese nails it. The argument assumes it is possible to provide benefits only to heterosexuals in a way that does not discriminate against homosexuals. Would it also be possible to provide benefits only to men and not discriminate against women? Or to provide benefits to whites in a way that does not discriminate against people of color?

There is only one way to reconcile these incompatible ideas; adopt the right’s still dominant theory that all people are really heterosexual, and could marry someone of the opposite sex if they weren’t so insistent on being perverse. Everyone could get “traditionally” married, and should, so it is right to design public policy to benefit only that form of marriage. Gay people do not exist in this worldview.

This is good enough for the right, but it is not good enough for this administration – and I don’t think the President believes it. But when you look at the miniscule gesture of federal benefits, you can see the real problem he faces. The reason he cannot grant health care benefits to federal employees is because DOMA is still on the books. DOMA is the single law that most fully incorporates that outdated notion of a world that has no homosexuals in it.

The President has promised – repeatedly – that he will work to repeal DOMA. But that’s all he’s done: promise. Similarly, he has promised to repeal DADT. All the federal benefits and hate crimes laws and even ENDAs in the world cannot balance out the harm these two laws, which actively incorporate discrimination against lesbians and gay men in federal law, do.

DADT must go, entirely. And about 70% of Americans agree. That is how perverse discrimination can be – on this single issue, the most talented politician of our era is afraid of 30% of his constituents.

The numbers are very different for DOMA, and the President is right to be cautious. But there is no need to repeal all of DOMA in order to minimize its damage. It makes political sense to keep section 2 of DOMA in place, which allows individual states to wall themselves off from progress, while repealing section 3, the part that prohibits the federal government from recognizing any equal treatment for same-sex couples.

I can think of no president in my lifetime – no politician, in fact – who is more capable of understanding what the gay community experiences, and who could, if he chose, articulate for the American people a course of action. It is his abject failure on that front so far that has made the DOJ brief such a catastrophe. I hope his speech tonight helps to clarify that we can expect something more than just gestures from him in the next few years.

My Open Letter to Family & Friends

I wrote this letter a month or so ago with the intent on publishing it here on my FB page. I waited because I really didn't know if I had the nerve to do it and deal with the backlash from some. But I can no longer wait. So, for those of you that will be shocked by what is in the letter I can only hope that you will be understanding and supporting but if not then so be it. Nothing about me has changed, just you didn't know. I fully expect some of my FB friends to 'delete' me - that is fine...but don't be a coward and just remove my name and not say anything...tell me why! it goes!

We have all read the headlines. Stock Market crash; people losing their savings; unemployment at numbers not seen in decades; foreclosures at an all-time high; food shelves unable to keep up with growing demand. So, one might think that there are many citizens and organizations that could use some help right now. But what do the “religious organizations” think is the best way to spend their energy and money? They believe that it is best spent (the national organization for marriage will spend $1.5 Million) on trying to scare people into thinking the world will come to an end if two citizens (of the same sex) that are in a committed, loving relationship are treated “equal under the law”. I believe that these organizations, religious and otherwise, are free to do, say and spend how they wish. However, I am no longer going to sit back and remain silent while those (some of who are in there second or third marriage) speak with smug-self satisfaction about the meaninglessness of the committed relationships of myself, my friends and others.

I want to thank those organizations (national marriage organization, Americans for truth) for finally pushing me over the edge. I have long believed that I am not to sit in judgment of others and that EVERYONE should be treated EQUAL in the eyes of the law. I can no longer tolerate those that think it is their “religious right” to discriminate and treat others different. If you feel the same way that I do but continue to support or help fund ANY organization that supports or funds the groups that try to vilify gay citizens -then you too must think I am the monster they try to paint me out to be. If you feel the way that I do but don’t speak out when someone tells a joke or pokes fun of someone that is gay –then you must think it is okay to attack me for who I am.

Growing up raised by my grandmother in a small town in southwest Iowa, I was taught the values that make me who I am today. I was taught that you should always be yourself, and speak the truth and to stand up for the things you believe in(often times despite the ridicule or torment that this can bring in a small town) But, most of all my grandmother taught me to love unconditionally.

Not everyone is going to agree with me and this may cost me friends or contact with some family members. However, the stakes are too high for me to remain silent or to walk a tightrope so that I can maintain those “friendships”. I am who I am and if you cannot or will not accept that –then I don’t have time for you in my life anyway.

Now is the time for everyone that believes in the words “all men are created equal”; Equality Under the Law” to stand up, join forces and combat the lies of those that would attack any gay citizen for being who they are. Now is the time for those that are still not out to friends, family, co-workers to come out and let it be known that we are no different than those that we live next to, work next to and even sit next to in church. It is not enough to merely stay inside your “circle of accepting friends” and complain about those that attack who you are. We can not expect others to ‘accept us” if we are unwilling to accept ourselves. History belongs to those that get involved. With the events of the past few months on our side, we need to seize the moment and keep the momentum moving forward and hold accountable those that will make promises seeking our money and vote then turn a deaf ear to us when we need them the most!

Monday, June 15, 2009

well, there ya have it...

Barack Obama Demonstrates His Committment to Gay Rights
by David Link

Posted on June 12, 2009

There are three things worth saying about President Barak Obama’s Motion to Dismiss in the case of Smelt and Hammer v. United States:

(1) It is gratuitously insulting to lesbians and gay men, referring (unnecessarily) to same-sex marriage as a “form” of marriage, approving of congressional comparisons between same-sex marriages and loving relationships between siblings, or grandparents and grandchildren, and arguing (with a straight face, I can only assume) that discrimination against same-sex couples is rational because it saves the federal government money. There are some respectable arguments in this motion, and this kind of disrespect is offensive.

(2) It argues that the couple don’t have standing to sue because they have not “applied for” federal benefits. While there are some federal benefits that people do, in fact, need to apply for, no heterosexual couple applies for the vast majority of federal benefits like joint income tax returns – they just rest in the knowledge that they will be there when and if they need them.

(3) Most notably, we should all beware: Premature cases ruling against us can do harm long after the original has faded from memory. The motion cites specifically to a case from 35 years ago, Baker v. Nelson, in which the Minnesota Supreme Court waved off in fourteen short paragraphs any claim that same-sex couples might have a right to marry one another, and which the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed for want of a substantial federal question. This well-intentioned case from back when the 70s were in their infancy is still being used against us (it even made an appearance in California’s first same-sex marriage case, Lockyer v. City and County of San Francisco). What may not have seemed like much of a question then has certainly gained some substance over time, but the damage from that case lingers and stings to this day.

UPDATE: This only makes the DOJ approving of this brief look worse. Good lord.

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Bride ban: Gay bar says 'I don't' to bachelorettes

I find this sort of interesting. I have always found the silly bachelorette groups out at the gay bars just a bit obnoxious...but the different approach by the different bars is interesting to me

CHICAGO - Bar owner Geno Zaharakis sat one busy evening at the window of his gay nightclub, watching as groups of straight women celebrating bachelorette parties made their way along a strip of bars in Chicago's gay-friendly "Boystown" neighborhood.

That's when he made a decision now posted for all to see: "No Bachelorette Parties."

Gay bars are popular with bachelorettes, both for the over-the-top drag shows that some offer and for the ability to let loose in a place where women are unlikely to be groped or ogled. Some bars welcome the women and their free spending, even advertising weekend shows.

Zaharakis, though, instructs his bouncers to turn away groups of women sporting beads, boas, tiaras and phallic plastic necklaces. His customers say they like knowing they're not going to encounter such displays.

"It is throwing it in our face that they can get married and we can't," said Dion Contreras, a 29-year-old Chicago litigation manager, while having a drink at Cocktail with friends. "I just think they're ignorant to our situation. I want women to think twice about this issue."

Obama and the Gays: Where's the Leadership?

By Leah McElrath Renna

In the wake of the tragic murders of reproductive rights activist, Dr. George Tiller, and the Holocaust Museum security guard, Steven Johns, I know I was not alone among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans in thinking to myself, "Next it will be one of us." The time for outspoken leadership by President Obama on behalf of all of the targets of right-wing hate -- including LGBT Americans -- is here.

For some time now, many non-straight people have apparently been so relieved not to be in the bull's eye of the White House's political target practice that we have allowed ourselves to be blinded by Obama's cool. We have taken the risk of giving Obama a pass because we have chosen to believe that his personal views are not actually in alignment with his public declarations. We have allowed this belief to make us complacent.

Well, I am over the cool. The cool and the relief of not being under constant attack bought my complacency for only so long. Now, I am ready and waiting for actual leadership on the civil rights of LGBT Americans.

The fact is that we actually do not know what Obama's personal views are on marriage equality for same-sex couples. And that shouldn't really matter. Because we do know he was on record at one point as supporting marriage equality and then that changed. We also know that he now espouses the tired rationalization that so many Democrats rely upon: "Aw, gee, I'm all for equal rights, but my religion doesn't let me get behind the calling it 'marriage' thing for you all. Sorry."

But, for some reason, we allow -- without open challenge -- this Constitutional legal expert to use his personal religious beliefs as an excuse to espouse support for a separate but equal policy and not to speak out for civil equality for all Americans? Really?!

Are we that desperate?

Let's say, just hypothetically, that a meeting took place between certain administration officials and certain leaders of prominent LGBT rights organizations. And let's say, again hypothetically, that the administration laid out its plan for dealing with hate-crimes legislation, employment discrimination, and military discrimination in a characteristically controlled and pragmatic way. Further, let's say -- still talking hypothetically here -- that, within that plan, the repeal of the travesty of the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act" (DOMA) was scheduled to be addressed during the administration's presumptive second term. Let's also theorize hypothetically that some LGBT leaders were apparently so happy to be let behind the curtain that they simply nodded in response. Not acceptable.

Note to President Obama, his advisors and LGBT Grand Poobahs everywhere: that's NOT leadership. It's political strategy, sure, but it's not presidential leadership. And it's not enough.

We have a president capable of giving the most nuanced speech on race issues that our nation has heard in our lifetimes and maybe ever. We have a president capable of speaking out on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in some of the most clear-sighted, fair-minded and fully balanced language ever delivered by an American leader. We have a president who is not only intelligent, a Constitutional scholar and a gifted orator -- but one who has demonstrated the capacity for courage and unifying leadership at time when such leadership is sorely needed and lacking.

What better time is there than the 40th anniversary of Stonewall during a period in American history when state after state is also deciding in favor of marriage equality for same-sex couples for the president to speak out on behalf of full civil equality for LGBT Americans? Strategy and pragmatism are useless without the flexibility to seize a moment.

In the spirit of pragmatism and domestic realpolitik, I'll even make a suggestion to President Obama and his advisors: you simply need to make progress.

If President Obama were to come out and say that the movement of more states in recognizing same-sex marriage equality highlights the unfairness of DOMA and the need to have it repealed or overturned, that would be progress. If President Obama were to come out and say that his own prayerful thought has led him to begin to reconsider his stance on marriage equality, that would be progress. If President Obama were to come out and say that the language in his own Justice Department's response to a legal challenge to DOMA was unnecessary, wrong and dehumanizing (invoking incest and child abuse, no less), that would be progress. It would be, in his words, change.

Should President Obama come out with unequivocal verbal support -- and even actual action -- on behalf of marriage equality and many other LGBT civil rights concerns? Yes. That would be truly courageous leadership and would be far superior to the carefully parsed language (and countless "umms" in the midst of other notable eloquence) to which we are currently subjected on our issues.

Nevertheless, incremental progress from such a highly visible and respected source has an impact beyond the incrementalism of the change itself. So, I'll take even that as a start.

President Obama, speak out and act now on behalf of the humanity and full civil equality of LGBT Americans. Be the leader you are capable of being. The moment is yours to seize.

Barack Obama
Gay Marriage

Friday, June 12, 2009


It seems that with each passing day I become more and more upset/angry with the Presidnet and this Admn. Yes we can..hope...change....well, I dont see any of that now...We must keep pressure up until Obama and the Dems in control of the House and Senate (perhaps we have been letting the congress off the hook to much on this..they could take the lead if Mr. Obama wont) keep the promise they made

Again taken from Andrew Sullivan..

John Aravosis gets ahold of the government's brief in a California DOMA case. He writes:

It reads as if it were written by one of George Bush's top political appointees. I cannot state strongly enough how damaging this brief is to us. Obama didn't just argue a technicality about the case, he argued that DOMA is reasonable. That DOMA is constitutional. That DOMA wasn't motivated by any anti-gay animus. He argued why our Supreme Court victories in Roemer and Lawrence shouldn't be interpreted to give us rights in any other area (which hurts us in countless other cases and battles). He argued that DOMA doesn't discriminate against us because it also discriminates about straight unmarried couples (ignoring the fact that they can get married and we can't).

He actually argued that the courts shouldn't consider Loving v. Virginia, the miscegenation case in which the Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to ban interracial marriages, when looking at gay civil rights cases. He told the court, in essence, that blacks deserve more civil rights than gays, that our civil rights are not on the same level.

And before Obama claims he didn't have a choice, he had a choice. Bush, Reagan and Clinton all filed briefs in court opposing current federal law as being unconstitutional (we'll be posting more about that later). Obama could have done the same. But instead he chose to defend DOMA, denigrate our civil rights, go back on his promises, and contradict his own statements that DOMA was "abhorrent." Folks, Obama's lawyers are even trying to diminish the impact of Roemer and Lawrence, our only two big Supreme Court victories. Obama is quite literally destroying our civil rights gains with this brief. He's taking us down for his own benefit.

The full brief is below. Make your own mind up. David Link agrees with John:

(1) It is gratuitously insulting to lesbians and gay men, referring (unnecessarily) to same-sex marriage as a “form” of marriage, approving of congressional comparisons between same-sex marriages and loving relationships between siblings, or grandparents and grandchildren, and arguing (with a straight face, I can only assume) that discrimination against same-sex couples is rational because it saves the federal government money. There are some respectable arguments in this motion, and this kind of disrespect is offensive.

The DOJ explains:

As it generally does with existing statutes, the Justice Department is defending the law on the books in court. The president has said he wants to see a legislative repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act because it prevents LGBT couples from being granted equal rights and benefits. However, until Congress passes legislation repealing the law, the administration will continue to defend the statute when it is challenged in the justice system.

When you consider the Berry speech, it is clear that the Obama administration has a gay problem. It is currently an incoherent mess - sending signals on all sides, and doing nothing. Someone needs to be running interference on these matters - coordinating between DOJ and the White House so that this kind of offensive attack on gay equality, which goes beyond pro forma defense, is avoided.

But the best response to this latest disappointment is simply to ask when Obama intends to treat my civil marriage as equal to all the other civil marriages in Massachusetts, as he promised.

When, Mr President and Madam Speaker. When?
Yet again another gem from Mr. Andrew Sullivan....I could not agree with him more.

Andrew Gelman reproduces a fascinating state-by-state analysis of recent shifts in support for marriage equality for gays and straights. What emerges is the fact that states that were already more supportive of gay equality have become more so much faster than those initially reluctant. So New York, already pretty tolerant a decade ago, has seen support for marriage rights increase by a whopping twenty points since. Oklahoma, which started out with one of the lowest levels of support in 1994 has shown only modest - a few points - increase since. We don't know why, but my sense is that it is about the number of openly gay people in these states. Once you reach a tipping point in understanding that gay people are not evil perverts who all live under a gooseberry bush somewhere in San Francisco, the logic of full equality sweeps all before it. It's like a dam breaking. But if gays in the anti-gay hinterland want that to change, they need to make the first move. Honesty and dialogue make equality inevitable.

A good start...but..

Now, if we could just get Mr. Obama to make a public stand on this issue -one which he did not mind doing while running for President..then perhaps we can truly move forward!

The head of the Office of Personnel Management and the attorney general on Wednesday said the federal government must do more to ensure equal opportunities for gay and lesbian Americans.

In some of the most pointed remarks on the subject by an Obama administration official, OPM Director John Berry, the highest ranking openly gay person to serve in the executive branch, affirmed the president's support for gay Americans, saying, "with the help of a president who supports our cause, the aid of courageous fellow countrymen and women who love liberty, and with God's grace, we shall prevail" in the quest for civil rights.

Berry and Attorney General Eric Holder spoke at the Justice Department's celebration of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month.
Holder, who appeared with Berry at the event, said many of the same obstacles to equality for gay Americans that existed more than a decade ago are still around.
Berry drew on his personal background and experiences with family and friends to argue that public service is valuable no matter the sexual orientation of the person performing it. His father, he said, served with gay men at Guadalcanal during World War II, and told his son, " 'We didn't call 'em gays, but they were there, and died as bravely as everyone else.' "

The OPM director said his first partner, who died after a prolonged battle with HIV/AIDS, showed him the importance of supportive family and of policies that allowed Berry to care for him and be with him when he died, even though they were not legally married.

"My family has never known divorce," Berry said. "Were we married? No, but I dare anyone to say that we were not in love.... Where do you stand? Honoring love as precious and true wherever you find it, or with those who would demean or deny it? I urge you: Stand where you can be proud. Stand with service and truth. Stand with love. Stand for liberty and justice for all."

At the ceremony, the Justice Department's Equal Employment Opportunity staff and DoJ Pride, the affinity group for gay and lesbian employees, honored Frank Kameny, a former federal employee and gay civil rights pioneer who fought against discrimination and classifying gay federal workers as security risks. The event also praised Marc Salans, assistant director of Justice's Office of Attorney Recruitment and Management, who has helped DoJ Pride target personnel policies that limit benefits for gay and lesbian workers.

Holder said he planned to work closely to work with DoJ Pride to ensure that Justice offered equal opportunities to all employees no matter their sexual orientation, saying it was the department's responsibility to ensure "the right of openly LGBT employees to do their jobs with distinction and professionalism."

Other Obama administration officials have taken steps to extend benefits to the partners of gay and lesbian federal employees. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is modifying internal department manuals to give domestic partners of Foreign Service officers access to health clinics, emergency evacuations and employment opportunities when they are deployed overseas. And the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation is implementing a domestic partner benefit program negotiated during the Bush administration between the agency and the National Treasury Employees Union.
Berry said in a May meeting with reporters that he expected President Obama to back legislation -- the 2009 Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act -- that would give the domestic partners of gay and lesbian federal employees access to health and retirement benefits in exchange for their agreement to abide by rules governing issues such as nepotism.

"The president has asked both State and us to do what we can," he said at that meeting. "Where we need legislation, we will seek legislation."

Gay Marriage, state by state: a tipping point

This story did not post correctly, but just click the title to get the graphs etc. It is very interesting data!

Gay Marriage, State by State: A Tipping Point?
by Andrew Gelman @ 10:56 PM
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Jeff Lax and Justin Phillips put together a dataset using national opinion polls from 1994 through 2009 and analyzed several different opinion questions on gay rights. Here I'm going to talk about their estimates of state-by-state trends in support for gay marriage.

In the past fifteen years, gay marriage has increased in popularity in all fifty states. No news there, but what was a surprise to me is where the largest changes have occurred. The popularity of gay marriage has increased fastest in the states where gay rights were already relatively popular in the 1990s.

In 1995, support for gay marriage exceeded 30% in only six states: New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, California, and Vermont. In these states, support for gay marriage has increased by an average of almost 20 percentage points. In contrast, support has increased by less than 10 percentage points in the six states that in 1995 were most anti-gay-marriage--Utah, Oklahoma, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Idaho.

Here's the picture showing all 50 states:

I was stunned when I saw this picture. I generally expect to see uniform swing, or maybe even some "regression to the mean," with the lowest values increasing the most and the highest values declining, relative to the average. But that's not what's happening at all. What's going on?

Some possible explanations:

- A "tipping point": As gay rights become more accepted in a state, more gay people come out of the closet. And once straight people realize how many of their friends and relatives are gay, they're more likely to be supportive of gay rights. Recall that the average American knows something like 700 people. So if 5% of your friends and acquaintances are gay, that's 35 people you know--if they come out and let you know they're gay. Even accounting for variation in social networks--some people know 100 gay people, others may only know 10--there's the real potential for increased awareness leading to increased acceptance.

Conversely, in states where gay rights are highly unpopular, gay people will be slower to reveal themselves, and thus the knowing-and-accepting process will go slower.

- The role of politics: As gay rights become more popular in "blue states" such as New York, Massachusetts, California, etc., it becomes more in the interest of liberal politicians to push the issue (consider Governor David Paterson's recent efforts in New York). Conversely, in states where gay marriage is highly unpopular, it's in the interest of social conservatives to bring the issue to the forefront of public discussion. So the general public is likely to get the liberal spin on gay rights in liberal states and the conservative spin in conservative states. Perhaps this could help explain the divergence.

Where do we go next in studying this?

- We can look at other issues, not just on gay rights, to see where this sort of divergence occurs, and where we see the more expected uniform swing or regression-to-the-mean patterns.

- For the gay rights questions, we can break up the analysis by demographic factors--in particular, religion and age--to see where opinions are changing the fastest.

- To study the "tipping point" model, we could look at survey data on "Do you know any gay people?" and "How many gay people do you know?" over time and by state.

- To study the role of politics, we could gather data on the involvement of state politicians and political groups on gay issues.

I'm sure there are lots of other good ideas we haven't thought of.

Further discussion (and another pretty graph) here.

...see also gay rights

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I could not agree with the last paragraph more....

by Stephen H. Miller

Posted on June 11, 2009

Maura Flynn makes The Republican Case for Gay Marriage. She writes:

As a nation we're at a crossroads, no question. Our banking industry scrambles to escape quasi-nationalization, our auto industry is in the process of being nationalized, and we have instituted, of all things, a Car Czar (note: it took Russia roughly 300 years to stack up so many czars). If that isn't bad enough, nationalized health care is on the table again.

So as the Republic devolves and those with the means contemplate hightailing it to the Caymans, it's probably time to ask ourselves what it is to be "conservative."

One need only read the comments on this site to know that there are two fundamental schools of thought here. Some of us believe that to be conservative is to defend freedom, preserve individual liberty, and keep government small. Others believe that being conservative is about electing a government that will defend and enforce "traditional" values.
And she adds:

The Republican Party has made a huge mistake in advocating a kind of Cafeteria Constitutionalism. (I’ll take some guns, no helmet laws, please, a free market, and...yuck, hold the gay marriage!). One can’t legitimately invoke the Constitution to oppose federally mandated sex education, and then use the federal government to impose school prayer. Leave that fair-weather-federalism to the Left.

This is the type of argument a movement seeking legal equality for gay people ought to be making. But, of course, it's something the LGBT Democratic Party fundraisers at the Human Rights Campaign have decided isn't worth any effort.

The Gay Athlete

by Jeff Pearlman

I wrote the following piece recently as a freelance assignment, but it never made print. Hence, I offer it below.

Obviously, the whole gay rights issue is one I feel very strongly about. I wish I had been alive for the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, because I like to think (though one never knows for sure) I’d be out there marching and speaking up.

As I’ve said before, the gay rights movement is our civil rights moment.

Hence, this column …

I hope you are reading this.

You, the scared, closeted sufferer.

You, the potential trailblazer.

You, the gay major league baseball player.

No doubt, this dilemma has plagued your soul: Do I come out? Do I continue to hide? You have weighed the pros and cons of walking forth from the shadows, and they are, to understate, daunting. There will be heckles and catcalls; death threats and protests. You will be branded an outcast and a cancer; will be called “queer,” “fag” and 8,000 more heinous slurs. Teams that once craved your production will shy away. Fans once anxious to purchase your jersey will look elsewhere. Little boys and girls will snicker. Parents will warn their offspring who not to be like. The clubhouse, normally a sanctuary, will turn into a torture chamber. Teammates will avoid the shower in your presence. The team chaplain will thunderously cite Leviticus 18:22 (“Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.”) You will no longer be invited to dinner; to bars; to family barbeques; to the offseason caravan. Many within the sport will speak of you in the manner Tim Hardaway spoke of John Amaechi, the former Orlando Magic center who came out two years ago. “If he was on my team, I would really distance myself from him because, I don’t think that’s right,” Hardaway said. “And you know I don’t think he should be in the locker room while we’re in the locker room.”

So why bother coming out of the closet? Why should you subject yourself to certain torture?


Because right now, at this precise moment in 2009, there is a desperate need for leaders in the gay-rights movement; a desperate need for high-profile people to make a Rosa Parks-esque statement. Just last week, the California Supreme Court came to a jarringly narrow conclusion, voting to uphold Proposition 8, which limits marriage to only between heterosexual couples. The decision serves as Exhibit 1A on how far this country has to go when it comes to accepting gays and lesbians as equals. It also serves as Exhibit 1A on why you are being called to action.
Baseball, as you know, represents something that the other major sports do not. It is Americana—a symbol of all that is good and righteous about who we are and what we stand for. It is a warm day in the sun; a beer and a hotdog; red, white, and blue bunting and the national anthem before every first pitch. It’s a beloved blue-eyed, sandy-haired boy chasing down a long fly into the gap.

Now what if that beloved blue-eyed, sandy-haired boy happens to be … gay? How will Americans—especially those in the heartland—handle the juxtaposition? How will they respond?

Answer: I’m not sure. It could be horrific. Worse than horrific. That said, Americans have been known to surprise. Maybe, just maybe, instead of heckles and catcalls, there will be cheers and standing ovations; curtain calls and sellouts. Maybe you will be branded a groundbreaker and a hero; will be referred to as “the Jackie Robinson of gay rights.” Maybe teams that once craved your production might shy away at first—until they realize you’re baseball’s biggest draw. Maybe fans will purchase your jerseys in droves. Maybe little boys and girls will sing your name. Maybe parents will urge their offspring to be just like you. Maybe the clubhouse, normally a sanctuary, will serve this role more than ever. Maybe teammates will stand up for your right to be yourself. Maybe your manager will say, “Gay or straight, he’s my guy.” Maybe the team chaplain will thunderously cite John 13:23 (“One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus kept loving, had been sitting very close to him.”) Maybe you will still be invited to dinner; to bars; to family barbeques; to the offseason caravan. Maybe many within the sport will speak of you in the manner Ken Griffey, Jr. spoke of Joe Valentine, a former Reds pitcher who was raised by lesbian parents. “I salute his mothers, and anything negative he’s gone through because of that is garbage,” Griffey said. “I would embrace a gay teammates just like I embrace straight teammates. Some of my closest friends are gay. It makes no difference to me. People are people.”

People are people.

We find ourselves at a riveting crossroads. For the first time ever, five states allow gay marriage, and in a recent New York Times/CBS poll, 57 percent of Americans under age 40 support same-sex nuptials. When a man like Dennis Prager appears on Larry King Live and says, “I would like children to be raised to believe that when they grow up they will get married. And that they are not asked when they are six or seven years old, ‘Will you marry a boy or a girl?’” he brings to mind the soundbites of George Wallace from four decades ago.

And yet, there are still miles to go. Living in the liberal Mecca of New York, it is easy to forget that, to millions of Americans, gays are alien creatures, no less scary than Wes Craven’s latest invention. People fear the idea of gay teachers and gay neighbors; literally fear catching “The Gay”—as if it were a strand of swine flu. This is especially true in the sheltered world of professional baseball, where most competitors have devoted their lives to the singular, non-thought-provoking tasks of seeing-ball, throwing-ball, hitting-ball, catching-ball. The major leagues are the domain of Maxim and strip clubs; of long-legged, large-breasted girlfriends and “Check out the blonde eight rows up …” mid-game commentaries. In the mid-1990s, an American League superstar confided in a small number of peers that he was gay, but insisted the information never be released. His reason? Fear of banishment. “Baseball just doesn’t lend itself to accepting gays,” says Billy Bean, the former major league journeyman who came out of the closet after retiring. “There’s very little empathy for people like me.”

Indeed, it has been 10 years since Bean announced that he was gay, and any initial hopes of change within the sport have been largely dashed. Bean has waited and waited and waited for an active player to stand up and say, “I’m a homosexual. So what?” but he no longer holds his breath. “There’s just so much to lose,” he says. “Your contract, your teammates’ trust, your place. Do I wish I came out when I was active? Yes, I do. But I wanted to be accepted, just like everyone else. Who would have accepted me if they knew I was gay?”

Yet here’s the mild shocker: In the aftermath of Bean’s announcement, a handful of high-profile big leaguers—Trevor Hoffman and Brad Ausmus among them—not only embraced Bean’s words, but spoke out on his behalf. “It wouldn’t have made a difference to me [when we were teammates],” said Ausmus, “and it doesn’t bother me now.” Brian Johnson, Bean’s Triple A roommate and a future Padres catcher, called his old chum and said, “I wish you had told me back then. I would have supported you 100 percent.”

Now, a decade after Bean’s courageous step, the time is at hand. You have the opportunity to be more than a ballplayer; more than just another blah notation buried deep within the pages of the Baseball Encyclopedia. For every 10,000 Bill Brutons and Joe Sambitos, there’s a Curt Flood. For every 10,000 Paul Blairs and Jack Clarks, there’s a Robinson. The country’s ever-dwindling holdouts to logic are ready to see that homosexual doesn’t mean weird or strange or frightening. They are ready to see that the most pure and wholesome and revered among us—our baseball players—can be pure, wholesome, revered … and gay.

It is time to step out of the closet.

It is time to shine.
Another Shrug from Obama

by Jennifer Vanasco

First published in the Chicago Free Press on June 10, 2009

Illinois's civil unions bill, after passing a state House committee, was left to languish at the end of the session.

The bill is still alive, if barely: it can be passed by the state legislature anytime in the next two years.

It doesn't really surprise me that the bill hasn't moved this year. Despite neighboring Iowa's fantastic move to full marriage equality, Illinois's state legislature had other things to worry about, thanks to the corruption scandal surrounding Rod Blagojevich. It’s also, despite it’s tentative blue status, fairly conservative — note that the bill was for civil unions in a year when marriage is the biggest player at the table.

But that should have been its advantage.

Let's pause for a moment to consider this: Illinois is President Barack Obama's home state (at least as an adult). Obama has said — emphatically — that he is for civil unions, not marriage. And that he wants equal legal rights for gay and lesbian couples.

Why didn't Obama lobby for the bill?

Why didn't he say in a speech something like: "My own great state of Illinois is working now to further the equal rights of gay couples. I hope they pass the current civil unions bill."

Why didn't he call his former friends in the legislature, where he was a state senator, after all, and encourage them to do the right thing?

"Promises of ‘change’ are not enough. We supported Obama with our dollars and our labor, and it is time he supports us in return."If he's not for equal marriage — and he's not (he prefers gays and lesbians to have "separate but equal" status instead) — why isn't he trumpeting the recent passage of domestic partnerships in Nevada, or partnerships in Washington state?

Easy. It's the same reason he hasn't moved on the Defense of Marriage Act, and the Don't Ask, Don't Tell military ban (which the majority of Americans support) and why he didn’t issue a supportive statement on the Uniting American Families Act when it was being debated in Congress last week.

Gays and lesbians are not his priority. Which is why the only "accomplishment" his administration could claim in proclaiming the White House's support for Gay Pride month was this:

"I am proud to be the first President to appoint openly LGBT candidates to Senate—confirmed positions in the first 100 days of an Administration."

Except — ooops — the Advocate reported that this isn't true. President Clinton nominated Roberta Achtenberg as Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity and Bruce Lehman as Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks, both within his first hundred days.

The White House's response?

"President Obama remains the first president to have openly LGBT candidates confirmed by the Senate during the first 100 days of an Administration."

Call me crazy, but that doesn't seem like "fierce" advocacy to me. Things got worse this week when the Supreme Court turned down the opportunity to review Don't Ask, Don’t Tell — partly because the Obama Administration argued that it was a "rational" policy.

Obama has been mostly silent on our issues since taking office. Insiders tell us that he will keep his promises. They tell us to be patient. They tell us to wait.

Maybe they're right. Maybe not. Maybe the Obama Administration really is working like crazy behind the scenes to dismantle DOMA and Don’t Ask, to support the Employment Non—Discrimination Act and the Uniting American Families Act. Maybe they're just hoping if they placate us enough, we’ll go away.

All we know for sure when it comes to this Administration is that hope is not enough. Promises of "change" are not enough. We supported Obama with our dollars and our labor, and it is time he supports us in return.

But until he does, the good people of Illinois — like good people all over the country — have to wait for their rights.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I am not sure if anyone even reads this blog. But for the one or two people that might I just wanted to let ya know that I have not been posting as much lately because of a few things. First I had to go to Nebraska to attend the funeral of my great aunt. She was the last of my grandmas siblings to pass away. It is sad to realize that many from my grandparents generation are no longer with us. I just hope that many of the traditions they started will continue. I also feel very fortunate to have been so close, not only to my grandparents but to many of their brothers and sisters.

The other thing going on in my life is I had surgery on my shoulder Monday. I had a small lump on my right shoulder that has been there for about 3 years. It never really bothered me much so I never really took the time to get it removed. However, in the last few months I have been hitting the gym pretty hard and my workout partner (and great friend) kept bugging me to go to the Doctor and get it removed. So, I did. The doctor told me the surgery would take about 15 minutes and it would require just a very small cut etc. However that is not what happened. Without going into all the details the surgery took about 1 1/2 hours. According to the doctor the lump was "bigger and more established than we thought and it was big enough that we should have had you sedated" Yep, I was awake for the entire thing. There was really no pain but it sure was an odd thing to be awake for.

I must also add that it made me feel a lot better that my friend Doug was there for me the entire day. I could not have done it without him - nor would I have wanted to. Thanks Doug!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Spark We Needed

I think the best thing we can do to move this issue forward even more is to be OUT and to tell our story!

by Jennifer Vanasco

First published in the Chicago Free Press on June 3, 2009

Years from now, Proposition 8 is going to be thought of as the tragedy that sparked a revolution.

We’ve seen it before. Stonewall, 40 years ago this month. AIDS 25 years ago. It has always been the case that our greatest community successes were built on the backs of what at first seemed like disasters.

Our strength is that setbacks prod us to work together even more closely.

Before last November, most gays and lesbians who wanted equal marriage weren’t very active about it. We might talk to each other about inequality, but except for our activist wing, we weren’t taking to the streets.

Marriage across the United States seemed like a pipe dream. When New England’s Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders launched their 6 X ’12 campaign — pressing for gay marriage in all New England states by 2012 — I almost laughed. No way, I thought.

At the time, only Connecticut and Massachusetts had equal marriage. California was taking it away. And New York, while it recognized marriages performed elsewhere, looked blockaded by religious Democrats in the state senate.

But after the November vote for Proposition 8, gays, lesbians and our allies started marching in the street. We started boycotting. We started writing letters. We started telling our stories. And it became clear: there are ramifications if citizens and legislators vote against us. We are paying attention. And we will act.

"After the November vote for Proposition 8, gays, lesbians and our allies started marching in the street. We started boycotting. We started writing letters. We started telling our stories. And it became clear: there are ramifications if citizens and legislators vote against us."Then we started to see states jump forward with equal marriage. Iowa. Maine. Vermont. Soon New Hampshire. The District of Columbia started recognizing marriages performed elsewhere — and Maryland might go the same way in a few weeks. The Nevada state legislature overturned the governor’s veto of domestic partnership rights. Pennsylvania is taking up a marriage bill.

Some insiders are even predicting that New York may vote for equal marriage before Pride.

What felt like a Sisyphean struggle a year ago now feels like a landslide. Even last week’s California state Supreme Court decision felt something like a victory. The judges, in upholding Prop 8, ruled as narrowly as they could. Minority rights can’t be taken away, they said. They can only be called something else.

Said the opinion:

"Instead, the measure carves out a narrow and limited exception to these state constitutional rights, reserving the official designation of the term marriage for the union of opposite-sex couples as a matter of state constitutional law, but leaving undisturbed all of the other extremely significant substantive aspects of a same-sex couple's state constitutional right to establish an officially recognized and protected family relationship and the guarantee of equal protection of the laws.

"Among the various constitutional protections recognized in the Marriage Cases as available to same-sex couples, it is only the designation of marriage - albeit significant - that has been removed by this initiative measure."

They didn’t overturn the 18,000 marriages. And they didn’t overturn gay rights. Gays and lesbians have all the rights of married couples, they said. Just not the word “marriage.”

And yes, that’s “separate but equal.” But — good news! — that’s SEPARATE BUT EQUAL. And in our country we have a 50-year understanding that separate but equal is not equal at all. Which means that the decision is even more likely to be overturned the next time voters head to the polls.

June is Pride month, and we have a lot to celebrate. We still have to fight. We still have to do the difficult personal and political work of reaching our to communities of faith and of color to reassure them that by supporting us, they don’t lose anything.

Forty years ago this month, we had Stonewall. Now we have Prop H8. It is exactly what our movement nee