Welcome to Venus View

The content of this blog is unabashedly lesbian feminist in perspective. If that offends you, leave now.

Friday, June 30, 2006

The Power of Google vs. "Out and Proud"

By Vanessa Edwards Foster

Don't you love background checks? Yes, when in job-search mode, you become inured to this "laying bare" of your record -- and even your personal life sometimes. We know it's there and, especially if you're out in the GLBT community, you know the potential for discovery. But in our day-to-day lives, we tend to give it only passing thought.

It's occurred to me that we've been living in the 20th century if we think our lives aren't readily available to all. Take a good look around. We're living in the age of information, with computers on virtually every citizen's desk. With more users crowding the "information superhighway," user-friendly facility has become the standard.

And lest we forget, we also live in an age where evangelical neo-conservatism is in vogue, with its paranoid zeal of ferreting out and neutralizing those deemed subversive. To wit: the revelation of the National Security Administration keeping files on all GLBT organizations and their affiliates, political or no.

The potential impact for the TGLB job seeker (acronym rearranged in order of impact) with any typical employer is devastating. This doesn't require private investigators, or even the minimal cost of credit checks (a problem for anyone in the trans community who changes their name). No, all the eagle-eyed employer needs is right at their fingertips: Google.com

Yesterday I came face to face with the reality of Google in a most blatant way. Interviewing for one of a series of temp jobs, I walked in with this position's interviewer, and she sat down across from me after giving me a full once-over. She was a large-boned, grandmotherly gray-haired woman, with one perpetually cocked eyebrow, and things began rather typically: "so tell me about yourself . . . ."

After my brief report, the conversation took a mighty turn. "Obviously we do background checks here, and I was just checking online -- so, tell me, have you ever heard of the group . . ." and she referred to her folder of notes, "a group called N.T.A.C?"
It felt as if the floor fell out from under me. I knew instantly she'd done a thorough job of searching the Internet, so I answered, simply, "yes."

Her eyes studied me closely, as she asked her follow-up: "so how did you come to work with . . . THEM?" While I hate politically legalistic answers -- avoiding both lies and forthrightness, I answered in that vain: "I've worked for a number of causes, such as the Women's Political Caucus, that stand up for those whom are disadvantaged or disparate."
She acknowledge seeing my work with the Women's Caucus, then referring to her notes again, she asked if I had heard of "T.G.A.I.N"? "And how did you become involved with THEM?" Note that in her questions, there was special emphasis on her part on the one word -- THEM! It's a slightly more politic euphemism for "THOSE PEOPLE!"

Needless to say, the jig was up and I explained to her my transgender status. This drew another quick once-over, and the response "Wow. Well, I certainly couldn't tell. Surprising!" That last sentence seemed dubious since I knew she'd done her Googling pretty thoroughly. The rest of the interview was typical -- if perfunctory -- job experience questioning. Two gallons of gas burned for a job interview that wasn't going to hire me anyway. Peachy.

After telling my friend Ethan about the incident, he replied to me "well, yeah! There's like thousands of entries in Google about you!" WHAT? I figured I'd have a few. There were 119 last I'd checked . . . admittedly that was around the millennium. So I Googled myself and, lo, there were thousands of entries all right. And topping the list: the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition. And there were pictures too, lending more proof. And phone numbers, home address -- even rather personal details of my physical status in an interview I'd granted with the Hill News, Capitol Hill's prime periodical.

So where does that leave outed TGLB job hopefuls? Pioneer transgender activist, Phyllis Frye is best known for her exhortation: "Be Out And Proud!" "When you transition, don't run from one closet into another closet!" Mostly, I agree. You have to be open in order to debunk the myths and demystify the misconceptions of us that society holds. But by opening ourselves for society's edification we also open ourselves to those who still cleave to their fear of us, rationale notwithstanding.

Meanwhile, especially in the red states, how do we open GLBT folk survive? There are jobs in social advocacy, and a number of gays and lesbians do find work there. Transgender advocacy is overwhelmingly voluntary (e.g. NTAC). Paid employment for transgenders in advocacy is much rarer. So where does this leave the future of activism? One can only speculate. There are, however, certain attendant costs to being "out and proud."

Vanessa Edwards Foster is a long-time activist, and is currently the Chair and Co-Founder of the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Act Now to Save the Last Remaining Clinic in Mississippi !

The sole remaining abortion clinic in the state of Mississippi needs your help!

The Jackson Women's Health Organization is facing a week-long siege by the anti-abortion group Operation Save America (formerly Operation Rescue) from July 15-22.

They want to make Mississippi “the first ‘abortion-free' state in America .” Flip Benham, the director of Operation Save America, has said “We will not wait for the President, Congress, or the Supreme Court to end abortion.”

Your Feminist Majority Foundation, along with the Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Coalition, is mobilizing supporters to defend women's right to choose. We are planning a week of activities to support the clinic and to show the nation that Mississippi is pro-choice.

We are kicking off the week of activities with a Reproductive Freedom Rally on July 15 at Smith Park in downtown Jackson at 11 a.m. Speakers will include national feminist leaders, local community leaders and activists. Pro-choice activists are coming from hundreds of miles away to show their support for reproductive rights in Mississippi.

We need you to join us in Jackson ! Let us know if you can attend the rally by emailing mississippi@feminist.org.

We also need volunteers for the entire week of July 15-22. If you want to volunteer for pro-choice activities or for phonebanking or leafleting, please let us know by emailing mississippi@feminist.org.

Last, but not least, your Feminist Majority Foundation is raising money for the Jackson Women's Health Organization for the security equipment and staff they need to keep the clinic open and its patients, staff, and volunteers safe during the siege. Please make an emergency donation today, half of your tax-deductible gift will help the Jackson Women's Health Organization get the security assistance they need, and the other half will support the Feminist Majority Foundation's Clinic Defense Project as we protect the Jackson clinic and other targeted clinics across the country.

We need your help now to keep the Jackson clinic open and keep the Feminist Majority Foundation strong in our struggle to stop this domestic terrorism against women's health care providers. We cannot allow anti-abortion zealots to win through violence and intimidation.

Please forward this information to all of your friends and family in or near Jackson, Mississippi – we need all the help we can get!

Kathy Spillar
Executive Editor

Welfare Changes

An economist with the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Heather Boushey said today:

"New changes to the 1996 welfare reform law mean that more welfare participants will need to be in work activities and states will have less flexibility in defining what those activities are, all without significant increases in funding for child care. Single
parents, especially low-income single parents, need access to the kinds of work supports that make moving from welfare to work viable. Most women leaving welfare enter jobs that don't provide the kinds of benefits -- paid sick days and holidays, paid family leave, or employer-provided health insurance -- that make work work. Those with children also need access to safe, affordable, and enriching child care.

To promote work, welfare policy should not be based on rigid, national rules, but be flexible enough to recognize that families need to provide adequate care, and that many need access to education to move up the job ladder."

Heather Boushey is the co- author of one chapter in the important book, "Inquality Matters: The Growing Economic Divide in America and Its Poisonous Consequences."

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Two items of interest

TN State Supreme Court gives tacit approval to anti-choice car tags

The Xtian soldiers are "marching as to war" in Tennessee. Soon the people who advocate the colonization of women's bodies will be able to proclaim their beliefs on state-sanctioned license plates. This is just a taste of what the Xtian Nationalists have in store for women in the days ahead. Denying women readily-available medical care that enhances their reproductive freedom is definitely in the crosshairs of the megachurch and their zealots and have been for a while.

I am appalled and embarrassed that Tennessee is allowing the fundamentalists to have their way with state sanction. There is no alternative tag for people who believe that women are full citizens in our society and should be allowed full bodily integrity.

My feeling that I am living in hostile territory is increasing daily as the Xtian stalwarts take each governmental body, one by one, and create nothing more than a big rubber stamp for right wing extremists who want this country to be *all* red.

What happened to red, white, and blue?

One more time for emphasis - GAY=MALE

Those who know me well, know that I never use the word "gay" to describe myself. My rationale for doing so is a firm opinion that gay=male.

Here's a scientific study described in an article on 365gay.com that shows, once again, that I am entirely correct.

Gay Biology
by The Canadian Press

(Toronto, Ontario) A new study suggests a male's sexual orientation is not the product of his environment but rather is influenced by biological factors present before birth.

Researchers at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont., have found evidence that ``a prenatal mechanism(s) . . . affect men's sexual orientation development.''

Sunday, June 25, 2006

American Rab
bi denounces anti-gay organizing against WorldPride as hateful and inciting violence

Statement from Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, North American Co-Chair of August 2006 WorldPride to be held in Jerusalem. Rabbi Kleinbaum is also Head Rabbi of Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, the largest LGBTA synagogue in the world

"I am both outraged and saddened by American Rabbi Yehuda Levin's efforts to undermine and threaten WorldPride, its organizers and participants.

Levin's use of religion as a weapon of bigotry and violence is offensive to all who care about God and religion and morality. He blasphemer's God's name when he says that Jerusalem does not belong to all of us. Yehuda's organizing of a Jerusalem conference attended by both Jewish and Arab religious leaders, expressing their violence and hate riddled objections to holding WorldPride in Jerusalem, should be offensive to all people of faith and those who believe in free expression and diversity.

His comments, along with those of two leading Muslim religious leaders, Sheikh Taysir al-Tamimi and Sheikh Hamad Bitawi, clearly and bluntly advocated violence against LGBT people and are despicable and dangerous. Who are they to claim Jerusalem as only for those who agree with their divisive and bigoted views? These so-called "religious leaders" are the true disgrace to the true spirit of our diverse faiths.

Advocating violence goes against every holy principal we hold dear as Jews, in solidarity with millions of Christian, Muslims and people of diverse faiths.

Jerusalem was chosen as the site for WorldPride because it represents a center of tolerance, pluralism, and love for all humanity. The thousands of WorldPride participants, from Israel and all over the world and of diverse faiths - will be the best answer to Levin's display of intolerance and unholy values.

My participation in the historic multifaith convocation, the first ever to take place at WorldPride, will include religious leaders from the gay and allied communities joined together in mutual respect, not brought together in hate as Levin has done. Muslims, Jews, and Christians will come together in a display of a religious voice that respects all human beings who were created in God's image, and obligated to universal values of respect and love."

Friday, June 23, 2006


Working women know the importance of a good job in a just economy. We value jobs where our pay keeps up with prices. We value an environment where lawmakers listen to working people -- not just big corporations. We value an economy where one big medical expense doesn't wipe out a family's life savings. And whether you work in or outside of the home, this survey is our chance as working women to be heard!

The Ask a Working Woman survey is sponsored by the AFL-CIO, the largest organization of working women in America, and Working America, a community affiliate of the AFL-CIO. Responses from the survey are used to educate every U.S. representative and senator as well as state and local officials around the country on Labor Day.

So weigh in today with your opinions and values

Truth Wins Out launches counter to right wing "ex-gay" movement

Wayne Besen, activist and journalist, has taken on a brand new project. Truth Wins Out (TWO) recently debuted at a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

From their Web site:

Truth Wins OUT is a non-profit organization that will set the record straight and challenge the right as never before . Our mission is to:

  • Counter Right Wing Propaganda
  • Expose The ‘Ex-Gay’ Myth
  • Educate America About Gay Life

As part of the launch of this important new nonprofit, ex-ex-gays told their stories from within the inner sanctum of the organizations that are currenly targeting young LGBT people after years of failure in their focus on adults.

Learn how you can help in the effort to see that truth wins out over bigotry. Visit their Web site at www.truthwinsout.org or email Wayne at wbesen@truthwinsout.org.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

st Vigil Targets Anti-Gay Arson

Vigil on One Week Anniversary of Arson Attack On Gay Section of Chicago Public Library

7 PM, Tuesday, June 20

in front of the Merlo Public Library

CHICAGO – Activists are urging all community members to attend a protest vigil in front of the Merlo Public Library, 644 W. Belmont, at 7 PM, Tuesday, June 20th, the one week anniversary of an arson attack on the Library that destroyed about 100 books, mostly in the library’s unique Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Trans section. The arsonist(s) apparently used lighter fluid as an accelerant to target the collection, the only one of its kind in the entire 81-branch public library system.

ONE branch with an LGBT section is attacked, and of the many sections in that one library, it is the LGBT one which suffered most of the damage,” said Bob Schwartz of the Gay Liberation Network, the group which initiated the protest. “Whether it’s out of laziness, incompetence or a desire to promote an overly rosy image of the city to prospective tourists, the police department’s refusal to call this a probable hate crime doesn’t help matters. Instead, it sends the message that the City doesn't take the violation of the LGBT community’s civil liberties seriously.”

“Anti-gay forces have long tried to use discriminatory legislation to intimidate people from coming out, and now they've used violence to erase our presence in the libraries as well,” said Schwartz. The Merlo Library’s Lesbian and Gay collection was featured in a substantial article in the Chicago Free Press a few months ago. The arson attack comes just a few weeks after Illinois's most active anti-gay organization, the Illinois Family Institute, led a battle to censor "objectionable" books out of the curriculum of a north suburban school district.

“After the 1998 lynching of Wyoming gay student Matthew Shepard, thousands of folks around the country held vigils highlighting the hate crime. By doing so, they dramatically increased public consciousness about the problems of anti-LGBT hate and violence. With this vigil, in a small way we are attempting to make that same kind of contribution,” said GLN’s Andy Thayer.

The Gay Liberation Network is urging community members to not only attend the vigil but, if possible, to send an additional message to the book burners by bringing a new LGBT book to donate to the library's collection. A bin to deposit the books will be available at the vigil. In the event that donated titles aren't needed by the Merlo Library, they will be donated to the Gerber Hart Library, Chicago's privately funded LGBT library.

For Information: Bob Schwartz, 773-878-3697; Andy Thayer, 773-209-1187

Visit the Gay Liberation Network online at www.gayliberation.org.

Friday, June 16, 2006


from Hagai El-Ad, Executive Director of Jerusalem Open House, the main organizer of WorldPride

"This week an orchestrated campaign to sabotage Jerusalem WorldPride has been launched by those who propagate the fallacy that only they have a right to claim faith as their mantle. This campaign will fail, as it has in previous years; but the news that the Mayor of Jerusalem has signed a petition calling for the cancellation of WorldPride - accompanied by reports that extremist Jewish preacher Amnon Yitzhak is planning a so-called "humility march" in opposition of WorldPride - should be troubling to anyone who believes in Jerusalem as a welcoming city for all people.

The Jerusalem courts have decreed that WorldPride deserves the support of the city, and that pride is a protected form of freedom of speech. The Jerusalem public has shown its support for pride by attending it in the thousands over the past years. In addition, WorldPride is receiving the unconditional support of thousands of individuals and scores of groups around the world who will converge in Jerusalem in August to discuss and debate important issues in our community - from religion to politics to health to youth.

The truth is that WorldPride represents something that should make religious and political extremists very uncomfortable. WorldPride will be a historic and diverse international event bringing together lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and allied people proclaiming to the world that we too are people of faith and that we will not allow anyone to hijack our religions, our freedom or our rights.

The Jerusalem Open House looks forward to welcoming in Jerusalem thousands of our supporters this August, for a weeklong, memorable, meaningful, safe, and exiting experience - Jerusalem WorldPride 2006, commencing in 50 days on August 6."

Text of Speech

Given by Ed White

Saturday, June 10, 2006

at the PrideFest 2006 on the Square Rally in Downtown Knoxville, TN

Hello all you Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transgenderfolk and Gays! Hello all those Questioning and, last but certainly not least, our Straight Supporters, too! Hello all you beautiful, blessed people!

I was asked to speak today because I am becoming an old warrior, having fought the good fight locally since the summer of 1990; that was the year I first came out as a bisexual and found out I had a community to fight for. I am not the oldest or most experienced warrior among us, by far, but I represent, perhaps, a moment in Knoxville’s history when gay activism began to go mainstream: the birth of Knoxville Pride.

Those were heady days, but even as our local movement grew, those days were increasingly marred by a new wave of right-wing antics, from Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, to the Knox County Commission’s anti-gay resolution of 1993, a chain letter version of just one such resolution that swept county goverments across the country leading up to the ’94 mid-term election.

Some credit Gingrich’s Contract on America with the right-wing take-over of Congress that year, but the truth is, they built that winning coalition standing on our backs, using such political attacks to build their base just like today.

I continued my activism in various ways over the years, but eventually left organized LGBT activism for more of a free-lance role, most especially writing letters to editors, guest op-eds, and lobbying various reporters and editors for improved LGBT coverage. I also became an AIDS caregiver and ran quilting bees for the AIDS memorial quilt the year it last toured Knoxville,circa 1998. But the good fight left me severly burned out at the end of that decade, and I’m still struggling against that burn out today.

Only with the selection of George Bush and his validation of the right wing did I rouse myself, knowing the fight was once again on in full. I said to friends at the time that with Bush as president, at least activism would become fun again. I never thought how wrong my glib comment would be: Activism today is decidedly not “fun”! It’s exhilarating and rewarding in many ways, yes, but also scarry and often tinged with desperation.

Few here will doubt this, but we are under an extremist attack today, by some of the very people elected to represent all the citicizens of the United States. Today’s bigots – along with those who are just plain opportunists – are slicker than ever these days, too. They’ve learned the same lesson the KKK learned more than a decade ago when they took of the robes and hoods, and cleaned up their rhetoric: They stripped their soundbites and tone of all direct bashing to the point that they talk white power without hardly mentioning the races they hate.

Replay the marriage debate in Washington this week: the pro-ban side hardly uttered the words gay or lesbian, sticking to talking points carefully crafted to give the appearance that this has nothing to do with gays-and-lesbians-proper or with denigrating us. And the people who’ve coached these politicians are people like the folksy James Dobson, pretty boy all-American types like Ralph Reed and the leader of the Family Research Council Ken Connor, the latter of whom actually has past connections with white supremicists, soliciting donations from them for a Lou isiana politician he worked for early in his career.

Gays and lesbians aren't even mentioned in the wording of the gay marriage ban. Even so, you rarely hear anyone in the press or otherwise talking about the formally named "Marriage Protection Amendment". It’s hard for anyone outside of the far right to even utter the bill’s title with a straight face.

But the clear implication of this cleaned-up rhetoric is that all kinds of ultimate doom await the U.S. if those terrible gays are allowed to marry – some of them have even said they consider gay marriage the number one national security threat today - if that's not a form of gay bashing, then I don't know what is. No matter how often ban supporters speak as Bush recently did, saying that everyone "deserves to be treated with tolerance, respect and dignity," the very implication that ga ys and lesbians could harm society totally belies that sentiment.

Intentionally or not, these attacks always causes an increase in hate crimes against us.
Statistics recently release by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, whose hate crime statistics are generally considered more accurate than the FBI's, clearly show this. Hate crimes against gays and lesbians rose significantly in 2003 and 2004. That’s when Massachusetts first legalized gay marriage and the push for a ban grew louder right through the last election.

And then a funny thing happened: gay marriage dropped off the national radar in 2005 and hate crimes against gays and lesbians fell a whopping 15%. Any bets on which direction the stats will go this year?

Now, make no mistake, many of those who are uncomfortable with gay marriage are at heart good people who truly mean nobody harm. Even so, if the results of these political initiatives are increased bigotry and hate, their unintended, misguided support can't excuse them.

Even among our erstwhile supporters there are many who are culpable if bad things result this year and in the future, simply because of their inaction. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard from nominally “supportive” straight folk, “you just shouldn’t push too hard for gay rights in an election year” or even more commonly this week, “this marriage thing is so ridiculous, the best response is just to ignore it and let it go away.” We need to make these people understand: the Salemites may ultimately loose under the weight of their own idiocy and hate, but we in the LGBT community will pay a terrible price along the way without more pro-active friends on our side. We need our supporters to take every single politi cal attack to task, loudly and publically.

Remember the Edmund Burke quote, The only thing necessary for the triumph [of evil] is for good men to do nothing.’?

People need to understand – and I really don’t think enough of them do - the larger pattern at work here, being played out on local, state and national levels. LGBTQ’s are the focus of political attacks ranging from marriage to adoption and beyond. Those against us tout so-called reparative therapy to discredit our claims to our own identities, they spend millions - MILLIONS - of federal dollars to teach kids that sex is only to be tolerated for the straight institution of marriage. Don’t be surprised if next they try to resurrect their old attempts to ban us from teaching and other professions here and there around the country. They've tried it before, they will again. This is the slippery slope that’s really important: it’s far too reminiscent of the anti-Jewish Nazi pograms for anybody’s comfort. Every time they have a success it validates and inspires further anti-gay legislation to solve the gay question, It’s a drug to these people that can only lead to the question of a final solution.

At this point I must emphasize that we have to keep things in perspective: while many of us ultimately fear genecidal consequences if the Salemites win, we are nowhere near that today. We cannot afford to become like them and allow them to polarize us into extremists ourselves, locked into LGBTQ thought-ghettoes where we are fighting the whole world just to get back at our detractors. We will only alienate possible allies that way, allies without whom we cannot possibly win.

We have to understand the issues better, too: there are serious religious freedom issues at potential loggerheads with gay marriage. It’s easy to think “so what, so long as those religious beliefs are wrong and harmful”. But any precedent limiting any religious expression, even hurtful religious expression, can have far-reaching unintended consequences. Religious liberty is a cornerstone of our society, just as much as is the need for basic fairness for persecuted minorities . We need to understand this and figure out how to minimize these risks on bo th sides of the equation.

These important deliberations seem almost impossible in the current climate, but they will never be possible if we take on the right’s “you’re either with us or against us”, winner-take-all attitude. Playing zero-sum games pits us against even some of our own in the end, and leaves no room to genuinely discuss things that should be of concern to everyone. And that’s exactly what the far right hopes we will do, become absolutists, tearing us and our broader coalitions apart.

But notice something very important. While Lesbians and Gays may statistically be the primary focus of these political attacks and the subsequent hate crime, notice a lot of media coverage of these issues: you’ll see, at some point during each story, they refer to the LGBT Community, never the “Lesbian and Gay Community”.

We are a community, whole and united more than we’ve ever been, and people are waking up to that fact. WE don’t think of gay marriage and other attacks as being against just gays and lesbians We know that if any of us are vulnerable, we are all vulnerable. It’s time the rest of society understands that if any LGBTQs are at risk, they are all just as at risk too.

We are a rainbow of difference, all made the same through our differences, sexual minorities, joined in solidarity against enemies who won’t differentiate between us if they’re ever allowed to come up with that final solution. We are transgendered, bisexual, lesbian and gay.

But we are also black and white and brown and you name it. We are urban and rural, rich, middle-class and poor, third world and first. We are Bhuddist, Jewish, Muslim and Pagan, Athiest and yes, even Christian. We are smart and not so, good and bad and in-between. We are simply everywhere, our colors are shot straight thru the fabric of humanity.

We’re here! We’re queer! And people are increasingly getting used to it. Present-day attacks notwithstanding, and understanding we can take nothing for granted, our society is finally beginning to go beyond mere tolerance and the nascent respect that grows every year.

Keep up the good fight! Don’t leave the few to do all the work of organizing, as so often is the case, this year being no exception. Come out and reach out beyond our LGBTQ enclaves to the rest of society, the only place the battle can be won. And most importantly, keep hope alive! There is no other way to succeed. One way or another, we shall indeed all overcome in the end!

Thank you for listening! BE GOOD!

Monday, June 12, 2006

I'm not Keen on Being Stoned to Death, Nor do I Know Many Lesbians who Look Good in a Burqa

an essay by James Nimmo

(Oklahoma City) What a week it's been (June 4) in Oklahoma City for gay equality!

First, the anti-gay GOPer-inspired "Marriage Protection Amendment" failed in the US Senate. Then, thanks to the efforts of the sterling efforts Cimarron Alliance Foundation and lucky timing, the Human Rights Campaign Executive Eirector Joe Solmonese and his religious side-kick, Harry Knox, were at the Mayflower Congregational Church the very next day after the Senate vote to give us a rousing pep talk and the latest low-down on the strategy of HRC to help America's gays/lesbians secure our full citizenship.

Mr. Solmonese deserves every penny he's paid--his presentation was smooth and articulate, filled with the front-row details he learns as director of America's largest-budgeted gay equality organization.

Mr. Knox is one smooth-talkin' Southern charmer able to switch immediately from the brogue of his birth to that of a skilled debater. If you weren't among the 500 or so in the audience you missed a good compendium of the gay equality fight in America.
Harry Knox is the director of the newly created religious arm of HRC which is used to provide religious viewpoints when the legislative process proves ineffective against the far-out homo-foe fundie x-tians.

As one atheist liberal, I have to ask if it's the best thing to use religion to deflect the bible-bullets our enemies direct our way. How does this help correct the ignorance which this ammunition represents? I think it's likely we'll be hit by ricocheting bullets.
Now, before you godly-pure stop reading, please take a look at this statement: I'm not opposed to anyone's observance of evolved nature worship as long as that ceremony is private, between consenting adults, and is not paid for by tax dollars, or supported by the force of law.

Sounds like sex doesn't it?

Sex is the chief fly in the fundie ointment that they're using to lubricate their way to omniscient power in civil government. That's where we same-gender-attracted folk come in.

Our private lives are the primary battering ram the homo-foes are using to demolish the First Amendment wall separating church and state policies. I don't know about you, but I'm not keen on being stoned to death by the remnants of that wall, nor do I know very many lesbians who would look good in a burqa or hajib.

Portions of religious tradition are being used to keep us gays/lesbians from full warp-and-weft inclusion in the fabric of society. Is it really such a good idea for HRC and other progressive friends to try and use other portions of religious tradition in our favor?

Don't ever underestimate the hair-splitting skill of our crafty, wily religious enemies. Whatever religious-based strategy HRC uses, it will be met serve-for-serve in the tennis tournament of opposing bible verses.

Whether used for open-minded or medieval issues, religion appeals to the emotions, which are malleable, highly reliant on circumstances, and represented by latent tribal bonds of kin vs. outsider recognition.

One can look at the broad history of America and see that the biggest dividing issues have been the Civil War of North and South in the 19th century and race accommodations between blacks and whites in the 20th century. I suggest that the 21st century dividing issue will be religious intolerance between fundamentalists and the rest of us, irrespective of sexual orientation.

This religious intolerance recedes far back in political history, but let's stop at Thomas Jefferson's time (who had his own sexual contradiction) and consider what he said about religious acceptance--"It does me no injury if my neighbor professes 20 gods or no god. It neither breaks my leg nor picks my pocket."

I would like to close by thinking that the logic of jurisprudence will save our legal gay equality at the least, and our lives at the most. But the law didn't help the disembodied 2/5ths of the Indians and slaves not counted in the Constitution. It didn't help Dred Scott attain his freedom, nor did it prevent the removal of Native Americans from their ancestral homelands.

Education in the national classroom of hard knocks and experience has changed the tenor of the general American attitude towards minorities even if this does no good for the long-dead individuals in the afore-mentioned examples. It's up to us to make our case to the best of our abilities, however our circumstances may fall.

Winston Churchill said that what we learn from history is that we never learn from history. I would like to think the fight for American gay equality to be the exception to this rule.
For, after all, aren't we all exceptional?

For further consideration take a look at this New York Times article available at--
"Will Same-Sex Marriage Collide With Religious Liberty?"

James Nimmo is a Democratic Party activist in Oklahoma City and treasurer of Oklahoma Stonewall Democrats, www.okstonewall.org .

Copyright 2006, all rights reserved. Permission is granted for dispersal to any human readable outlet, provided content and attribution is kept unaltered.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Gay rights and Labor share common struggle

by Tony Pecinovsky

While the relationship between the LGBT community and the labor movement has traditionally been weak, things seem to be changing. LGBT rights organizations and trade unions are working together more and more, coordinating campaigns, running candidates and fighting for issues like domestic partner benefits and gay marriage.

Sandra Telep of Pride At Work, a constituency group for LGBT union members, says, “Unions do a lot of work with and within the LGBT community. We work behind the scenes, but don’t get
a lot of
credit for the work that we do.”In fact, unions and union members have a long history of fighting for domestic partner benefits during union contract negotiations. In 1982, the Newspaper Guild, which is part of the Communications Workers union (CWA), won the first domestic partner benefits package in U.S. history. Since then unions have fought for and won domestic partner benefits in contract negotiations all across the country.

Unions are also in the forefront in the struggle for the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry. Last year, at its national convention, the AFL-CIO, the largest labor federation in the U.S., passed a resolution in support of gay marriage rights.

The resolution said in part: “The Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) [would] amend the U.S. Constitution to deny important rights to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender families, such as the right to hospital visitation, inheritance, and health care rights for partners.”

According to the AFL-CIO, right-wing attempts to define marriage as a “union between man and woman” through the FMA only serve to divide and weaken the movement for economic and social justice.

Also at the AFL-CIO convention, Nancy Wohlforth, co-president of Pride At Work and secretary treasurer of the Office and Professional Employees International Union, was elected to the federation’s executive committee. Wohlforth, a founding member of the San Francisco-based Lesbian and Gay Labor Alliance, is the first openly lesbian or gay person to serve on the AFL-CIO executive committee.

Most recently, the Service Employees International Union, with 1.8 million members, sharply criticized the U.S. vote to ban LGBT rights groups from the United Nations.

“The U.S. joined some of the world’s most oppressive regimes in backing a United Nations initiative to silence advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality,” said Andy Stern, president of SEIU.

“All over the country unions are building successful coalitions with LGBT rights organizations like the Human Rights Campaign,” said Telep. “And in many cases unions and LGBT rights coalitions help Pride At Work chapters form.” Currently there are fourteen Pride At Work chapters across the country.

While union leaders support LGBT rights out of a sense of justice and civil rights, that’s not the only reason. They also support LGBT rights out of self-interest. The same organizations that attack LGBT rights, organizations like Focus on the Family and Exodus International, also attack unions.

For example, Focus on the Family, the largest right-wing religious organization in the U.S., finances and supports anti-union “paycheck protection” bills. These bills require unions to obtain written permission from each member before spending union money on political purposes like lobbying for pro-union legislation, communicating with and mobilizing members, and paying expenses for union political action committees. “Paycheck protection” would weaken the labor movement and create unnecessary bureaucracy and red tape in an environment where business already outspends unions 10 to 1.

Said Telep, “The LGBT rights movement and the trade unions have a common enemy. Which is another reason why the labor movement has worked so hard to support LGBT rights.”

While there is a long history of unions fighting for LGBT rights, a lot more work needs to be done. Union members are not one hegemonic group. There are many different political trends and tendencies within the union movement. And unfortunately, some union members are wary of LGBT rights organizations and have fallen victim to right-wing attempts to divide the union vote with wedge issues like gay marriage.

After the AFL-CIO resolution was announced some union members sent letters of protest to the federation leadership. Others complained about union money being used to fund LGBT rights initiatives and organizations, as well as LGBT candidates in electoral races. Others union members actively campaigned against gay marriage.

Overall, though, the organized labor movement — with its combined 13 million members, resources and infrastructure — is moving in the right direction and expanding its field of work to include LGBT rights.

Tony Pecinovsky (tonypec@pww.org) is the district staff person for the Communist Party in Missouri and Kansas. This article was originally written for the Vital Voice, a St. Louis-area gay and lesbian rights bi-weekly.

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