The good, the bad, the in-between — what made the news for New England LGBTs in 2012
• The Advocate ranked Cambridge as the 3rd-gayest city in America in its annual report. The designation came with references to the town’s having nude yoga classes, WNBA teams, and appearances by bands such as the Veronicas and the Cliks. (Boston received an honorable mention at 24.)
• The Health Resources and Services Administration, of the US Dept. of Health and Human Services, awarded a $248,000 grant to The Fenway Institute to fund the creation of a national training and technical assistance center for LGBT health issues, marking the first time the HRSA has funded an LGBT-focused cooperative agreement of this scale.
• Mayors for the Freedom to Marry organization launched with 116 New England mayors and counting. The bipartisan coalition affirmed their support of same-sex couples to marry, saying “it enhances the economic competitiveness of our communities, improves the lives of families that call our cities home, and is simply the right thing to do.” Boston Mayor Thomas Menino is one of five co-chairs.
Pope Benedict XVI used his annual Christmas address to the Vatican to take aim at homosexuals, who he said were destroying the “very essence of the human creature.”
"People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given to them by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being," he said. "They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves. The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man's fundamental choice where he himself is concerned," he said.
"When freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God," Benedict continued.
The Pope went on to say that allowing gays to adopt children was “an attack” on the traditional family.
Several Catholic groups in the U.S. were quick to respond to the Pope’s remarks.
"Increasingly Catholics in the United States and around the world see what we see. Catholics, following their own well-formed consciences, are voting to support equal rights for LGBT people because in their churches and communities they see a far healthier, godly and realistic vision of the human family than the one offered by the pope," said a statement from the groups Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, and New Ways Ministry.
Barney Frank on coming out, legalizing marijuana and prostitution, the Supreme Court and the future of LGBT rights
Outgoing Congressman Barney Frank sat down recently for an interview with Huffington Post Senior Editor Michelangelo Signorile. Frank was, as usual, very candid in discussing topics ranging from his ‘coming out’ in 1987, the legalization of prostitution and marijuana, Prop 8 and the Supreme Court, and the future of LGBT rights.
Here are a few highlights:
On coming out:
“I simply would not have won in 1980 if I was out,” he continued. “The fact would have destroyed my chances. I didn’t deny it but just did not volunteer it. I came to Washington and it was just not satisfactory. I told myself, ‘I’m going to be a gay man privately and publicly I’m not going to say anything.’ And what I learned is that, particularly in a prominent position, you can’t live half gay and half closeted. So I decided to come out, and I was wrestling with when to do it, and the Stewart McKinney funeral drove me over the top.”
Regarding the legalization of prostitution (and marijuana):
“I always have thought prostitution should be legal,” he said. “I know people said, ‘Oh it victimizes women.’ And the women are vulnerable. We’ve seen this recently where the women are prosecuted when the customers, the men customers, have gotten away with it. But I think in the first place it’s a matter of personal choice. I’m for legalizing marijuana. I’m for legalizing gambling. I don’t think the government should be trying to make you a better person. But beyond that, the practical effect, the women, who are predominantly the prostitutes, they’re worse off when it’s illegal, because they’re outside protection of the law. They’re more subject to violence and subject to abuse because they can’t go to the law for protection.”
On the upcoming session in which the Supreme Court will hear arguments on Prop 8:
“I was critical of the decision to take Prop 8 to court,” he said. “I don’t the think the five-member Supreme Court majority that we have is ready to declare that there is a constitutional right to marry everywhere. To bring a lawsuit when you’re not likely to win it, prematurely, is a mistake. So I was very critical of those people in California who were doing that. When the Supreme Court decides the Prop 8 case, what I believe is likely to happen is that they will accept the decision by of the circuit court in the west coast [ the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which had narrowed the decision to apply only to California]. It’s people being rescued from themselves. Some of them are still trying to push the broader case, which I think is a mistake.”
On Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s well known anti-lgbt views:
“I was glad that he made clear what’s been obvious, that he’s just a flat out bigot,” Frank said. “I’d previously said he was a homophobe. And Fox and the rightwing said, ‘Oh just because he’s not for same-sex marriage? And I said, ‘No, let me be very clear. That’s not it. This is a man who has said you should go to prison for having sex.’ It was an extraordinarily abusive sentiment and it was dead wrong. And, by the way, for a guy who is supposed to be so smart -- quite stupid.This young man said to him, ‘Why do you compare sodomy to murder?’ And he said, ‘Well because I have a right to say if I think something is immoral.’ Well the question wasn’t about his right. The question was, By what morality is expressing your love for someone in a physical way equivalent to killing that person? It makes it clear that the man is an unreconstructed bigot, and given that you have a bigot on the Supreme Court like that, it is useful to know.”
Regarding the future of LGBT rights:
“The next time we have a Democratic House, president and Senate,if DOMA hasnt been found unconstitutional -- which, I still believe it will be -- then it will be repealed,” Frank stated. “And you’ll be able to get a transgender-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The transgender issue -- it’s interesting to see how time speeds up. In 1972, I filed the first gay rights bill in Massachusetts history [as a state legislator] and I remember at the time encountering this sense almost of disgust and discomfort from my colleagues. They didn’t want to think about it. And over time we eroded that. Now, the transgender issue is a new issue in the sense of being raised. When we were first dealing with it even five or six years ago, we ran into this same discomfort, unease, etc. We’ve made much quicker progress there. The time on this has sped up. So I believe we are now at the point, which we weren’t at even a few years ago, where we’re we’ll be able to get the transgender legislation.”
Her case may not be the most publicly appealing, but it’s pretty much a slam-dunk case of legal injustice
NOTE: The following is a story slated to run in the upcoming January/February 2013 issue of Boston Spirit magazine. We are running it here and now to include in the continuing coverage of the Michelle Kosilek case, including today's story from the Metro Desk of the Globe.
Every time Michelle Kosilek makes headlines, Gunner Scott’s phone rings off the hook.
Kosilek is in prison for committing a murder. By law, all prisoners are entitled to medically necessary procedures. For Kosilek, that means gender reassignment treatments. A U.S. District court has unequivocally stated that withholding treatment is a “violation of Kosilek’s Eighth Amendment right to adequate medical care.” For the judicial system, the case is a no brainer.
For just about everyone else the case can be confusing at a minimum, and downright infuriating at its worst. And some of those most disturbed by the case are often those who, like Kosilek, identify as transgender.
Gunner Scott, as executive director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political coalition, fields a number of these calls from frustrated and angry members of the transgender community who pepper him with questions like: Why is Kosilek up for getting treatment paid for by the state that they themselves can’t get from their own health insurance? Do I need to go to jail to get the health care that I need? How did a murderer become the face of transgender health care rights?
Republican Representative Todd Aiken, he of the "if it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," statement, is at it again. Aiken, a Representative from Missouri who was beaten in the November election by Democrat Claire McCaskill is now spending his last few days in Washington targeting gays in the military.
Aiken is pushing to have a bill pushed through congress that will, essentially, give military personnel a “license to bully”. From Aiken’s proposed bill:
The Armed Forces shall accommodate the conscience and sincerely held moral principles and religious beliefs of the members of the Armed Forces concerning the appropriate and inappropriate expression of human sexuality and may not use such conscience, principles, or beliefs as the basis of any adverse personnel action, discrimination, or denial of promotion, schooling, training, or assignment. [...]
No member of the Armed Forces may (A) direct, order, or require a chaplain to perform any duty, rite, ritual, ceremony, service, or function that is contrary to the conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs of the chaplain, or contrary to the moral principles and religious beliefs of the endorsing faith group of the chaplain; or (B) discriminate or take any adverse personnel action against a chaplain, including denial of promotion, schooling, training, or assignment, on the basis of the refusal by the chaplain to comply with a direction, order, or requirement prohibited by sub-paragraph (A).
In other words, military personnel would be able to discriminate, deny promotions, schooling, training or assignment based solely on sexual orientation. Senator John McCain, among others, are also supporting Aiken’s bill. Aiken has tried to get these provisions put into bills in the past and they have failed each time. Here’s hoping that our elected leaders will (as Aiken feels a woman’s body can do after being raped…) shut that whole thing down.
Matt Damon recently finished shooting for the upcoming movie Behind the Candelabra. In the movie Damon plays Scott Thorson, the long time partner of Liberace (Michael Douglas has been cast in the role of Liberace). Recently Damon sat down with Playboy Magazine for an interview on a variety of topics, including the relationship between Thorson and Liberace, having to kiss another man, gay rumors that have dogged Damon and Benn Affleck, and more.
On the relationship between Thorson and Liberace:
These two men were deeply in love and in a real relationship-a marriage-long before there was gay marriage. That’s not an insignificant thing. The script is beautiful and relatable. Their conversations when they’re dressing or undressing or having a spat or getting ready for bed? That’s every marriage. It feels like you’re witnessing something really intimate you would normally see with a man and a woman, but instead it’s two men, which was thrilling. There’s stuff I think will make people uncomfortable. Great. It’s HBO—they can change the channel.
On preparing for the role with Douglas:
We both have a lot of gay friends, and we were not going to screw this up or bulls**t it. It wasn’t the most natural thing in the world to do, though. Like, for one scene, I had to come out of a pool, go over to Michael, straddle him on a chaise lounge and start kissing him. And throughout the script, it’s not like I kiss him just once. We drew it up like a football plan. I remember asking Heath Ledger after Brokeback Mountain, "How’d you do that scene with Jake"-meaning the scene where they start ferociously kissing. He said, "Well, mate, I drank a half case of beer in my trailer." I started laughing, and he goes, "No, I’m serious. I needed to just go for it. If you can’t do that, you’re not making the movie."
On Douglas as a kisser:
Michael was a wonderful kisser. My concerns ended up mattering a lot less once we were filming. The dynamic between the men was complex and interesting. Liberace was very powerful and adored, a great showman making $50,000 a week doing his act in Vegas. Scott was much younger and grew up in foster homes, so there was a lot to play.
On the rumors of Damon and Affleck being gay:
I never denied those rumors because I was offended and didn’t want to offend my friends who were gay—as if being gay were some kind of (curse deleted) disease. It put me in a weird position in that sense. The whole thing was just gross. But look, there have been great signs of progress—the fact that Anderson Cooper and Ellen DeGeneres can come out so beautifully and powerfully, and it’s a big (curse deleted) deal that it turns out nobody gives a (curse deleted). If Liberace were alive today, everybody would love his music and nobody would care what he did in his private life. Like with Elton John.
After years of disrepair, the 2100-seat Lynn Memorial Auditorium was reopened in 2006 following a full refurbishing. It now hosts major talent on both the local — Boston’s Gay Men’s Chorus — and national scale.
Just ask the leaders of NAGLY, Go Out Loud, Art After Hours, Lesbiatopia.com and other locals—the formerly maligned suburb is turning around, and LGBTs are leading the way
By Scott Kearnan
“Everyone deserves a second act.”
So says DJ Brian Halligan. Halligan stepped away from spinning for nearly a decade. But dance music remained a passion, so last year he decided to get back into the groove. He had few connections in the current local landscape, but networked away. Gig by gig, doors reopened. Now he’s not only a regular on the Cambridge and Boston scenes, but has a Friday night residency at gay club Cirque—a revamped version of gay bar 47 Central in Lynn, Massachusetts.
Halligan sees a certain commonality between his own experience, and that of the city.
“I feel like my story is a parallel to Lynn’s,” says Halligan. “There can be a certain condescension that comes across from people outside it. But it deserves that second act.”
Ah, Lynn. She’s sort of like Boston’s hardscrabble little sister: only a fraction of the size (about 90,000 people) but with a big reputation. That rhyme “Lynn, Lynn, city of sin” is ubiquitous enough to go on coffee cups, and associations with high crime rates and economic malaise have been hard to shake. But as one of the largest cities in Massachusetts, and located just a few miles outside Boston, Lynn has a thriving gay community. It’s becoming an increasingly popular pick for LGBT folks seeking a cost-effective alternative to living in the Hub, and those looking to enjoy the city’s revitalized dining, entertainment, and arts scene as a visitor.
Seeking to be ‘morally straight,’ as the Boy Scouts' oath states, New England LGBT allies seek ways to resist the national organizations’ discriminatory policy against gays
Editor's Note: The following story is adapted from the November/December 2012 issue of Boston Spirit magazine.
by Scott Kearnan
On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.
— The Scout Oath
The date is not set yet, but the invitation went out.
A leader of Boy Scout Troop 6 in Brookline, Matthew Christensen, reached out to Greater Boston PFLAG (Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays) to speak to the membes of his troop.
“It make would make a lot of sense for what we’re trying to push, which is for scouts to be leaders in anti-bullying,” said Christensen in a recent phone interview with Boston Spirit. And, he said, it reinforces the idea of the troop being a “safe space.”
Christensen is walking a fine line. When the national office of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced this past July — less than a year after the US military successfully repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell — that it would reaffirm its longstanding policy that prohibits the inclusion of openly gay scouts and scout leaders, a policy first officially articulated in 1991, councils and council leaders across the United States had to decide how to respond.
In New England, where LGBT rights are mainstream, many local councils — which oversee local troops, like Brookline’s Troop 6 — are wrestling with the policy. Six area Boy Scout groups are listed as “supporting councils” on the website of Scouts for Equality, an organization that advocates for LGBT inclusion in the BSA.
But only one other council leader responded to interview requests from Boston Spirit: Sean Martin, from Boston Minuteman Council.
Northeastern hockey player Kelly Wallace. (photo: courtesy Northeastern University)
The Northeastern University Huskies are taking the lead in making it clear that out athletes are more than welcome
Note: the following story first appeared in the November/December 2012 issue of Boston Spirit magazine.
By Erik Borg
Gay athletes are used to being singled out. When it’s in a good way, it comes as a pleasant surprise. Northeastern Athletics Director Peter Roby recently made it clear just exactly what the athletics department at one of Boston’s largest universities thinks of them:
“If you are a young LGBT athlete looking for a place to play, we invite you to consider Northeastern University,” he proclaimed in a statement echoing support for a student-athlete-led initiative to take a stand on GLBT equality in sports.
His statement, at once bold in its significance and understated in its delivery, is likely the closest any university has come to using a stance of openness and acceptance toward sexual orientation as a tool for recruiting in athletics.
Roby calls it “just doing the right thing.”
In July, more than 50 Northeastern student-athletes, coaches, and administrators came together to film a video for You Can Play, an organization that promotes quality, respect, and safety in sports regardless of sexual orientation. Northeastern’s video was the first by an entire collegiate athletics department and one of more than 20 by professional and collegiate athletes and organizations throughout the United States and Canada. Their message in the video is simple.FULL ENTRY
Twenty-five of the nation’s wealthiest LGBT citizens sent an open letter to U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner and other government leaders urging Congress to increase taxes on high income Americans.
In the letter, the signatories, who include Suze Orman, Andrew Tobias, and Tim Gill, explain:
For LGBT Americans, this "fiscal cliff" isn't just an abstract concept. A report released by the Center for American Progress, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, and a coalition of 23 national LGBT organizations outlines the real and lasting impact it would have.
Across-the-board cuts would compromise LGBT health by reducing programmatic funding used to address the health care needs of gay and transgender Americans, impair the federal government's ability to investigate claims of workplace discrimination, and remove critical resources from government agencies working to prevent bullying and school violence.
At the same time, higher tax rates would further endanger middle class and working class members of our community. LGBT Americans have lower levels of income than other Americans, according to a recent Gallup report, and face additional economic obstacles caused by the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and the lack of federal workplace protections.
A copy of the full letter can be found at www.fiscalpride.org.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has launched a new website with the goal of promoting “greater sensitivity and better understanding” among Latter-day Saints with regards to same-sex attraction.
“When people have those (same-sex) desires and attractions our attitude is, ‘stay with us’” said Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the LDS Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during a video that introduces the subject of the website. “I think that’s what God is saying: stay with me. And I think that’s what we want to say in the church: stay with us, and let’s work together in friendship and commonality and brotherhood and sisterhood.
“Here (in the church) more than anywhere, it’s important that there be love, that there be hope’” Elder Christofferson continued. “We want to be with you and work together.”
The website is part of an effort by the church “to teach and clarify the church’s positions” on various issues, said LDS spokesman Michael Purdy.
Production for the site has been underway for more than two years, Purdy said.
“Too often these types of big, important issues are dealt with in sound bites, and often by individuals who do not have the complete picture of what the church is doing’” Purdy said. “We hope (the website) will be a resource for better understanding and better communication.”
Utilizing personal, real-life stories told by members of the church who have first-hand experience with same-sex attraction themselves or through close friends and family members, the website’s goal is to help Latter-day Saints “come together to foster a climate of goodwill and a determination to understand the workings of God in each individual life.”
“We’re not endeavoring here to cover the waterfront and address every issue that could be, and needs to be, addressed in different settings relating to same-sex attraction,” Elder Christofferson said. “The idea is to open all of us to greater understanding.”
Elder Christofferson noted that “although we don’t know everything, we know enough to be able to say that same-sex attraction is not itself sin. The feeling, the desire is not classified the same as homosexual behavior itself.” Sexual identification, he continued, “is but one aspect of any person’s life, and it need not become the consuming element of any person’s life.”
What is important, he said, is “how we relate to one another, how we preserve hope and understanding and love, and how we struggle together in some cases.”
“We want people to feel that they have a home here (in the LDS Church), and that we have much more in common than anything that’s different about us,” Elder Christofferson said.
The ladies at One Million Moms are at it again. The group, which has nowhere near one million members (their Facebook page has 50 thousand followers), was launched by the conservative Christian group American Family Association and made their first public splash when they urged supporters to boycott JC Penny in response to JC Penny’s hiring of Ellen DeGeneres as a spokesperson.
Apparently OMMs disgust with JC Penny is alive and well. The new target for their venom is JC Penny’s new commercial in which Ellen plays an Elf. Yes, the holiest of Christian icons…the elf.
From One Million Moms:
“Since April, JC Penney's has not aired Ellen DeGeneres in one of their commercials until now. A new JCP ad features Ellen and three elves,” writes OMM. “JCP has made their choice to offend a huge majority of their customers again. Christians must now vote with their wallets. We have contacted JC Penney's several times in the past with our concerns, and they will not listen. They have decided to ignore our complaints so we will avoid them at all costs.”
For what it’s worth, the Facebook group "1 Million people who support Ellen for JC Penny" has more than 325,000 followers.
Other recent targets of One Million Moms include Skittles (for their commercial in which a girl kisses a walrus), Urban Outfitters (for some questionable language on their website), NBC’s tv show ‘New Normal’, Oreo (for supporting Gay Pride) and DC Comics (for introducing a gay character)
Note: Story updated shortly after 11 a.m. to include local commentary from MassEquality.
According to a new study, LGBT advocacy organizations experienced a significant jump in revenue from 2010 to 2011.
The report, by The Movement Advancement Project (MAP), a think tank concerned with LGBT matters, found that some of the nation’s largest and most influential social justice organizations focussed on LGBT issues—such as the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Lambda Legal, Victory Fund, Immigration Equality, and the National Center for Transgender Equality—saw revenue increase 17 percent from 2010 to 2011.
“We are seeing more of a willingness to give on the part of donors, both those who are new to MassEquality and its mission to end discrimination and oppression based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, as well as those who have been with us from the beginning,” said Kara Suffredini, MassEquality executive director. “Part of that is because the economy is improving and part of that is because donors interested in advancing social justice see that we are a smart investment.”
The full press release from The Movement Advancement Project is as follows:FULL ENTRY
A federal judge has temporarily blocked California from enforcing a first-of-its-kind law that bars licensed psychotherapists from working to change the sexual orientations of gay minors.
U.S. District Court Judge William Shubb made a decision just hours after a hearing on the issue, ruling that the First Amendment rights of psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health professionals who engage in “reparative” or “conversion” therapy outweigh concern that the practice poses a danger to young people.
“Even if SB 1172 is characterized as primarily aimed at regulating conduct, it also extends to forms of (conversion therapy) that utilize speech and, at a minimum, regulates conduct that has an incidental effect on speech,” Shubb wrote.
The law, which was passed by the California Legislature and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in October, states that therapists and counselors who use “sexual orientation change efforts” on clients under 18 would be engaging in unprofessional conduct and subject to discipline by state licensing boards. It is set to take effect on Jan. 1.
Although the ruling is a setback for the law's supporters, the judge made clear that the ruling only applies to three people -- psychiatrist Anthony Duk, marriage and family therapist Donald Welch, and Aaron Bitzer, a former patient who is studying to become a counselor who specializes in clients who are unhappy being gay.
The exemption for them will remain in place only until a trial can be held on the merits of their case. However, the judge noted he thinks they would prevail in getting the law struck down on constitutional grounds.
“We are disappointed by the ruling, but very pleased that the temporary delay in implementing this important law applies only to the three plaintiffs who brought this lawsuit.” National Center for Lesbian Rights Legal Director Shannon Minter said. “We are confident that as the case progresses, it will be clear to the court that this law is fundamentally no different than many other laws that regulate health care professionals to protect patients.”