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    July 31, 2007

    Joe Biden's Don't Ask, Don't Tell

    Posted by: Chris

    We won't be hearing answers from Joe Biden on gay-related questions, whether of mine or anyone else's choosing, at least anytime soon. In putting together the post suggesting a tough question to be put to the Delaware senator at the Aug. 9 presidential candidate forum put on by HRC and Logo, I overlooked the fact that Biden won't be there.

    Biden is alone about the eight leading candidates to claim a "scheduling conflict" — the same weasel move, by the way, that John Edwards and Bob Graham pulled four years ago for a similar HRC event. Biden's campaign has much more in common with Graham's than Edwards', considering he has yet to catch fire with, well, anyone.

    Being MIA for the HRC-Logo event seals one thing at least: We can now say without hesitation who the worst Democrat candidate is on gay issues: Joe Biden.

    He waited until years after it was first introduced to sign on as a co-sponsor of the milquetoast Employment Non-Discrimination Act, he still hasn't signed on to the Uniting American Families Act or the Early Treatment of HIV Act, even though he says in principle he supports both.

    It's not that he's anti-gay; far from it. It's just that he speaks with no conviction on gay issues and is up against candidates who have much stronger records of specific support and, in a few cases, actual leadership.

    Sorry we won't see ya on Aug. 9, but we'll hardly miss ya.

    July 30, 2007

    Ask the Dems: Joe Biden

    Posted by: Chris

    Biden Time to put on our thinking caps and come up with the toughest gay-related question we can think to ask another Democratic presidential candidate.  The idea behind the exercise is to consider the weaknesses of each contender and the areas that ought to be probed at the upcoming Aug. 9 forum sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign and Logo.

    Next up: Joe Biden. The Delaware senator has a strong if not stellar record of supporting gay rights. His scores on the HRC congressional report cards over the years have run from 86 ('99-'00), 100 ('01-'02), 63 ('03-'04), and 78 ('05-'06). He's been marked down mostly for failing to sign on as a sponsor for gay rights legislation, even though his voting record is good.

    Even today, Biden comes off as commitment-phobic. HRC gives him full credit on its presidential candidate "report card" for supporting the Uniting American Families Act, which extends immigration rights to gay Americans wanting to sponsor a foreign partner for citizenship, and the Early Treatment of HIV Act, which extends Medicaid coverage to those who are HIV-positive but don't have an AIDS diagnosis. And yet Biden has never signed on a co-sponsor for UAFA or its predecessor or ETHA.

    Asked specifically in the HRC questionnaire whether the federal government should recognize marriages and civil unions entered into by gay couples, or extend federal marriage rights to gay couples in long-term relationships, Biden dodged, saying only in general terms that, "he believes that legal recognition should not be denied to same-sex couples."

    And unlike his primary opponents, Biden dodged even on the question of gay marriage, saying only that he backs civil unions.

    The question:

    Senator Biden, you've avoided express commitments and delayed or avoided co-sponsorship on some gay rights legislation pending in Congress. And you've not said to what extent gay couples who are married or in civil unions should receive federal recognition. Are you prepared now to make firm, clear commitments and if so, why has it taken you so long?

    Previous questions:

    Dennis Kucinich

    For a complete summary of gay issues in the presidential race, go to: http://www.gaynewswatch.com/whitehouse08

    July 28, 2007

    Another victim in the war on terror

    Posted by: Chris

    180pxgay_terrorist Beware the gay terrorist! Is the looming pink menace so threatening that the White House has taken note?

    Please tell me the exigent circumstances under which the United States might need to know if  airline passenger arriving into the country from Europe might be…gay. And yet there it is, in today's Washington Post.

    In yet the latest example of colossal overreach in the name of our "war on terror," the Bush administration has cajoled European Union officials and the airline industry into dramatically expanding the range of information the U.S. will receive 72 hours before each American-bound jet leaves Europe.

    Under the agreement, airlines flying from Europe to the United States are required to provide data related to these matters to U.S. authorities if it exists in their reservation systems. The deal allows Washington to retain and use it only "where the life of a data subject or of others could be imperiled or seriously impaired," such as in a counterterrorism investigation. According to the deal, the information that can be used in such exceptional circumstances includes "racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, trade union membership" and data about an individual's health, traveling partners and sexual orientation.

    The article is a bit vague about how it is, in the first place, that an airline might have gathered information so personal as to include a passenger's sexual orientation. But given all the bits of data gathered about every aspect of our lives these days, it's not too paranoid a stretch. The Post reports:

    Airlines do not usually gather such data, but officials say it could wind up in passenger files as a result of requests for special services such as wheelchairs, or through routine questioning by airline personnel and travel agents about contacts, lodging, next of kin and traveling companions. Even a request for a king-size bed at a hotel could be noted in the database.

    So maybe there's not a field marked "sexual orientation" in the airline's database, just the fact that you booked an airline ticket in conjunction with an Atlantis cruise, or typically traveled with the same same-sex passenger and booked a king-size bed, etc.

    Like most Americans, I understand that the "war on terror" can cause all manner of inconvenience and minor invasion of privacy. But the Bush administration has proven, time and again, that the end will always justify the means. And the Cheney-led penchant for secrecy means we only know a small fragment of the measures actually being taken.

    So if things look this bad from what's visible, we can only imagine the data mining that goes on in reality. It's not necessarily a gay-specific issue for the 2008 election, but it would be refreshing and reassuring to hear some presidential candidates talk more about the need to balance the "war on terror" with the civil rights of those being protected.

    I won't hold my breath. The leading Democrats are already terrorized — of being "soft on terror." And the least right-wing Republican in the White House race already proved as mayor of New York that he has zero respect for civil liberties in the fight against crime.

    July 27, 2007

    Human rights make good bedfellows

    Posted by: Chris

    Un_logo You may have seen the news last week that the United Nations Economic & Social Council, better known as ECOSOC finally granted observer status to two gay organizations: the Coalition Gaie et Lesbienne du Quebec (CGLQ) and the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL).

    The two biggest international gay groups — the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and the International Lesbian & Gay Association (ILGA) — have led an effort for years to push for observer status, which simply allows these gay groups, alongside hundreds of other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) the right to listen and participate in discussions of human rights and public health, among other topics.

    Opposition has come from an unusual anti-gay alliance of U.S.-based conservative Christian groups and hardline Muslim countries — proving once again that Andrew Sullivan is right that Christianists are often just Islamists in a less extreme form.

    These unlikely allies combined to tell what they knew was a lie: that the gay groups seeking observer status had ties to pedophilia. More than a decade ago, ILGA allowed the North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) as a member organization because the group's bylaws included no way to exclude them. That extraordinarily stupid decision was reversed in the '90s but still forms the basis for the gay-pedophilia smear. But this time, thanks to strong support from the Canadian delegation, the tired ploy didn't work.

    The final tally at ECOSOC was 22 for recognition, 13 against, 13 abstaining and 6 absent. Just look at how the votes stacked up:

    FOR: United States, United Kingdom, Albania, Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Guinea-Bissau, Iceland, Japan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Romania

    AGAINST: Algeria, Belarus, Benin, China, Guinea, Indonesia, Iraq, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan

    Doesn't that list just about say it all? There it is, in stark form, just how gay civil rights fit into the broader framework of human rights. Personally, I strongly prefer our bedfellows.

    For a complete summary of news stories on treatment of gay groups at the United Nations, click here.

    July 26, 2007

    Ask the Dems: Dennis Kucinich

    Posted by: Chris

    Kucinich1 Dennis Kucinich showed up at a Gay Pride event in St. Petersberg, Fla., with his wife Elizabeth. (Photo courtesy of Bay News 9)

    Since we've got some time between now and the Aug. 9 presidential forum on gay issues, hosted by HRC and Logo, I thought we might come up with some questions to suggest for the candidates. Yeah, I know HRC is offering its own submission form and other bloggers are taking their shot.

    I'm hoping we can cut through the superficial rhetoric of the Democrats, which is positive and affirming and of absolutely zero legal benefit, and get to the heart of the matter. So what I'm looking for is: What is the hardest question on gay issues you can think to ask of each candidate?

    Up first, Dennis Kucinich. Sort of start from the bottom and work our way up. I didn't start with Mike Gravel because I just recently blogged about him and want to think of a fresh angle. So for Kucinich, who has a 100-percent HRC voting record and actually supports full marriage equality, what is there to ask?

    Here's my suggestion:

    Congressman Kucinich, your incredibly strong positions on gay rights are matched by your incredibly weak chance of being nominated, much less elected. Aren't gay Democrats who support your candidacy only siphoning money, support and votes from the candidate who is best on our issues with a decent shot of actually winning? Throwing gay support for you could allow someone with a relatively poor record on gay rights to become the party's standard-bearer. Doesn't that make you the Ralph Nader of the Democratic primary for gays?

    OK so that's two questions, but it's really one question repeated. Your thoughts/suggestions?

    For a complete summary of gay issues in the presidential race, go to: http://www.gaynewswatch.com/whitehouse08

    July 24, 2007

    The questions get more pointed

    Posted by: Chris

    Snowman_vid For all the grief the CNN-YouTube debate has gotten, some of it deserved, for trivializing the most important single election in the world, gays were fairly well served by the format.

    We've seen time and time again how mainstream journalists ask a surface gay rights question, usually on marriage, and then let presidential candidates off with no follow-up. Mostly that comes from where gay rights stand on the national political agenda: We've arrived, no doubt, but we're not first tier.

    But when you let the gays themselves ask the question, the opportunity is there to either waste our collective time or perchance cut through the rhetoric, even if we get only one or two question over the course of the debate. We got an example of each last night.

    The first of two gay marriage questions, from a lesbian couple in Brooklyn, was direct if off-topic: "If you were elected president of the United States, would you allow us to be married to each other?"

    Err, Mary and Jen, your video is cute, but the president doesn't decide whether you can get married. That would be the New York legislature, which passed a gay marriage bill through the House this year, and your governor, Democrat Elliot Spitzer, who introduced the legislation. It was a softball query that moderator Anderson Cooper gifted to Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who along with former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel is the only candidate in the race who backs full marriage equality.

    After Kucinich's moment in the spotlight, Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd repeated his family vignette, imagining what he would want for his own daughters if they were gay. The answer: equality but not marriage, a disconnect that was left untouched by follow-up.

    New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, in his first big public appearance since his "maricón moment," gave the most honest reply from the dais: "Well, I would say to the two young women, I would level with you -- I would do what is achievable. What I think is achievable is full civil unions with full marriage rights."

    Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards ought to take a cue from Richardson when it comes to straightforward replies, because he was truly made to look ridiculous by the second gay marriage question:

    I'm Reverend Reggie Longcrier. I'm the pastor of Exodus Mission and Outreach Church in Hickory, North Carolina. Senator Edwards said his opposition to gay marriage is influenced by his Southern Baptist background. Most Americans agree it was wrong and unconstitutional to use religion to justify slavery, segregation, and denying women the right to vote. So why is it still acceptable to use religion to deny gay American their full and equal rights?

    It's a great question, and one that has needed to be asked of gay-friendly marriage opponents who have hid too long behind their personal religious faith to deny us our civil rights. John Edwards' answer was an exercise in sputtering:

    I think Reverend Longcrier asks a very important question, which is whether fundamentally -- whether it's right for any of our faith beliefs to be imposed on the American people when we're president of the United States. I do not believe that's right.

    I feel enormous personal conflict about this issue. I want to end discrimination. I want to do some of the things that I just heard Bill Richardson talking about -- standing up for equal rights, substantive rights, civil unions, the thing that Chris Dodd just talked about. But I think that's something everybody on this stage will commit themselves to as president of the United States.

    But I personally have been on a journey on this issue. I feel enormous conflict about it. As I think a lot of people know, Elizabeth spoke -- my wife Elizabeth spoke out a few weeks ago, and she actually supports gay marriage. I do not. But this is a very, very difficult issue for me. And I recognize and have enormous respect for people who have a different view of it.

    In other words, he had no answer, and kudos to openly closeted Anderson Cooper for calling him out on it, asking, "Why is it OK to quite religious beliefs when talking about why you don't support something?" Edwards fared no better the second time around:

    It's not. I mean, I've been asked a personal question which is, I think, what Reverend Longcrier is raising, and that personal question is, do I believe and do I personally support gay marriage?

    The honest answer to that is I don't. But I think it is absolutely wrong, as president of the United States, for me to have used that faith basis as a basis for denying anybody their rights, and I will not do that when I'm president of the United States.

    Talk about talking yourself into circles. Edwards says it's "absolutely wrong" to use his personal faith "as a basis for denying anybody their rights," but his "personal journey" on marriage hasn't yet arrived at equality. He gets credit, at least, for not throwing up some fake reason for his opposition; he's essentially against it because he doesn't have the political courage to be for it.

    The same could be said for the maverick Barack Obama, whose "new politics" look decidedly old and tired in his subsequent exchange with Cooper:

    COOPER: Senator Obama, the laws banning interracial marriage in the United States were ruled unconstitutional in 1967. What is the difference between a ban on interracial marriage and a ban on gay marriage?

    OBAMA: Well, I think that it is important to pick up on something that was said earlier by both Dennis and by Bill, and that is that we've got to make sure that everybody is equal under the law. And the civil unions that I proposed would be equivalent in terms of making sure that all the rights that are conferred by the state are equal for same-sex couples as well as for heterosexual couples.

    Now, with respect to marriage, it's my belief that it's up to the individual denominations to make a decision as to whether they want to recognize marriage or not. But in terms of, you know, the rights of people to transfer property, to have hospital visitation, all those critical civil rights that are conferred by our government, those should be equal.

    Come on, Barack. You know better than to throw out that "individual denominations" should decide whether to marry gay couples. Only rabid Republicans suggest gay civil marriage would require religious gay weddings. It is a non-answer even less satisfying than Edwards' lame response.

    Even still, I was encouraged by both the minister and Cooper's questions, and the way the candidate responses were so weak that they made obvious that continued opposition to gay marriage among gay-friendly politicians is nothing more than politics. Again, props to Bill Richardson for at least saying so.

    All the candidates, including frontrunner Hillary Clinton, who managed to escape both gay marriage discussions, will need to do better on this and other issues for the HRC-Logo candidate forum on Aug. 9. Especially with the happy news reported by Karen Ocamb today that real journalists Margaret Carlson of Bloomberg News and Jonathan Capehart from the Washington Post will moderate, alongside "panelists" Melissa Etheridge and Joe Solmonese, HRC's director.

    Of course Etheridge and Solmonese are perfectly capable of asking pointed questions like those from Anderson Cooper and the North Carolina minister. But there's just absolutely no evidence they would. My own bet, which I would be thrilled to lose, is that Etheridge's questions would come off like the uninformed but cute Brooklyn couple and Solmonese would stick to softball after softball.

    But expectations are much higher for Carlson and, especially, Capehart, who is a very well respected gay journalist who worked for New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican, which should certainly spice things up.

    Taking a cue from the CNN-YouTube experiment, HRC-Logo are also inviting questions from the general public, albeit in old-fashioned writing rather than by video. "Put the candidates on the spot!" HRC announces on the submission page. We can only hope…

    Video clips of both gay marriage questions and their replies are available on the jump.

    For a complete news summary about gay issues in the presidential campaign, go to: GayNewsWatch.com/whitehouse08

    For a complete news summary about gay marriage, go to: GayNewsWatch.com/MarriageEquality

    Continue reading»

    July 23, 2007

    Karl Rove should be flattered

    Posted by: Chris

    At least he should if it's true that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Because Rove-ian (Rove-like? Rove-ish?)  is the only way I can describe how some gay Democrats react when a fellow 'mo dares to suggest that The Party could do more and do it faster on gay rights.  Faced with criticism, however reasoned and based on facts, these partisan apologists go immediately into a shoot-the-messenger mode that would make Karl and his GOP cronies proud.

    That's what has happened in response to my recent blog post, "Something rotten in the Senate," which questioned the strategy of attaching the gay-inclusive hate crimes bill to the massive Defense Department reauthorization, which was itself burdened by the Democrats' effort to force a withdrawal from Iraq.

    On an invitation-only list serv for politically active gays, two prominent gays affiliated with the party apparently took me to task, albeit in a way that denied me the opportunity to respond. From the way the posts were described to me, one even made light of my gay bashing in Amsterdam and only credited my opinion as worth listening to because of it. This is sadly typical; anyone criticizing Democrats must be some sort of closet Republican. Of course my Republican past — now a decade behind me — only opens that door.

    Except in this case, I anticipated that favored straw man, and answered it in my post:

    And just to get this out of the way (for the 100th time): By criticizing these Democrats, I am not saying Republicans are better. Of course they're not. And anyone who suggests differently should have their head examined. But the question is whether our energy is better spent complaining about conservative Republicans we’ll never change or pressing "friendly" Democrats who actually control the fate of gay rights legislation. Even our friends in Congress are politicians first and will take the path of least resistance. We need to make action more attractive than inaction for them. Look no further than the anti-war movement’s unrelenting pressure and the way Democrats have responded.  Only we have the votes on our bills that they do not.

    All too often, gay Democrats generally say they like the idea of activists pressing the party on our civil rights, but then they go immediately into defensive-apologist mode when it happens. You would think, as sophisticated as the gay rights movement has become, more of our "leaders" would welcome the good cop-bad cop approach — and would relish the "good cop" role since they play it with such gusto and they're certainly not out protesting in the streets.

    Another prominent gay party apologist apparently claimed on the same listserv that we should be satisfied that gay rights legislation has at least been introduced, as if that was some sort of victory. Except any member of Congress can introduce legislation, and in 2007, with overwhelming pubic majorities favoring workplace rights, hate crime protection, gays in the military and more, we deserve actual votes on our bills.

    HRC and the Democrats are claiming that the DOD authorization was a good strategic vehicle for the hate crime bill because President Bush wouldn't veto it. That strategy makes little sense if the same legislation also includes the Iraq withdrawal, which he surely would veto. It makes no sense, that is, unless the plan is to delay a hate crimes vote until later this year, putting off pressure to act on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the Uniting American Families Act and any number of other gay rights bills currently languishing.

    Of course hate crimes legislation isn't more important than Iraq or other issues of national security. But Congress has already passed dozens of bills on a staggering variety of topics, and there's no indication that taking up hate crimes would absorb more than a moment of the Senate's time. The fact that Harry Reid and other leading Democrats won't take that time says it all.

    July 20, 2007

    Something rotten in the Senate

    Posted by: Chris

    Harry_reidThere's disappointing (if not surprising) news on the fate of a gay-inclusive hate crimes bill in the U.S. Senate. According to HRC's Back Story blog, the debate on Iraq has dragged down with it the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention/Local Law Enforcement Act, the bill's official title. The blog quotes an explanation from HRC legislative director Allison Herwitt:

    After a protracted debate about the Iraq war, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid temporarily suspended consideration of the Department of Defense (DoD) Authorization bill.  Earlier, Senators Kennedy and Smith had filed hate crimes as a potential amendment to the DoD bill.  As a result, consideration of both the bill and hate crimes will be delayed for the moment.  Reid pulled the bill after the Levin-Reed amendment failed to garner the necessary 60 votes -- a procedural hurdle needed to end a filibuster against the amendment. Levin-Reed would have called for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by next spring.  This could mean that a vote on hate crimes may not occur before Congress adjourns for its August recess.

    Our congressional allies -- including Senate leadership -- remain committed to getting a vote on hate crimes this year.  Senators Kennedy and Smith continue to look for ways to advance this crucial legislation.

    All this still begs the question of why in the first place HRC and its Democratic allies in the Senate chose to burden the hate crimes bill by linking it to easily the most controversial piece of legislation in Congress. The hate crimes measure has bipartisan majority support in the Senate and so would pass if voted on as a free-standing measure (or attached to something germane and not so controversial).

    There is the potential for filibuster, of course, which would raise the bar to 60 votes for Senate passage, but there's no guarantee (or even a specific threat) that the Republicans would target such a popular measure or that there'd be too few votes to overcome a filibuster if attempted. In fact, the last time the gay-inclusive hate crimes bill passed the Senate, in June 2004, the vote was 65 to 33, with 18 Republicans voting in favor. That's not only enough to overcome a filibuster, it's just shy of enough to override a veto.

    And yet once again, like so many times before, through years when Democrats controlled one or both houses of Congress and even the White House, gay rights bills wallow as low priority items. There's no talk of votes in the House and Senate for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act either, even though it has majority support in both chambers. We shouldn't be surprised. Democrats and their lackies at HRC have been hinting privately since January that "the deal" with the party's leadership is that only hate crimes would get a vote this year, so this "frustrating delay" fits the pattern.

    What further evidence do we need that gay rights are little more than a political football to Howard Dean, Harry Reid and other Democratic leaders? They called for votes on gay rights measures when the GOP controlled Congress and they knew Republicans would kill them, but they sit on their hands when they're in control.

    They sit on their hands not because they oppose our civil rights. Their support is real, if mostly rhetorical. But they know that if a hate crimes bill passes, or even if it's vetoed, the gays will start clamoring for a vote on ENDA. If ENDA passes or is vetoed, then "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is next on the list. And as we travel down that list, the political risk to Democrats grows. Or worse yet, a lame duck Republican president might sign hate crimes or ENDA, and the Democrats' lock on being the party of equality would be challenged.

    It all boils down to this: Democrats have controlled Congress for six months now, and no gay rights bill has made it to their priority list for passage. Now, according to HRC, all we've got is a "commitment" for a vote on hate crimes "this year." Even if that happens, that still leaves ENDA, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and a half-dozen other gay rights bills languishing in Congress.

    And when "this year" is over, and maybe hate crimes at best will have gotten a vote, we already know what we'll be told because we've heard it so many times before: 2008 is an election year, and gay rights is too hot a potato to touch right now. Now more than ever is the time for action from our "courageous" Senate allies Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Chris Dodd. They've all promised "leadership" on gay rights if elected president, so let's see some "leadership" now and demand a vote in the Senate on the gay rights bills that are pending.

    And just to get this out of the way (for the 100th time): By criticizing these Democrats, I am not saying Republicans are better. Of course they're not. And anyone who suggests differently should have their head examined. But the question is whether our energy is better spent complaining about conservative Republicans we’ll never change or pressing "friendly" Democrats who actually control the fate of gay rights legislation. Even our friends in Congress are politicians first and will take the path of least resistance. We need to make action more attractive than inaction for them. Look no further than the anti-war movement’s unrelenting pressure and the way Democrats have responded.  Only we have the votes on our bills that they do not.

    Regular readers will remember my tete-a-tete with "Bloggernista," who wrote on his blog, Pam's House Blend and Bilerico last week that Andrew Sullivan and I should quit sniping at HRC and focus on "the real work" of the gay rights movement: calling Senate offices to pass the hate crimes bill. Like that would have made a difference. Now I have a question for Bloggernista: When will we wake up to the reality that HRC's willingness to be co-opted by the Democrats, and the Democrats willingness to play politics with our equality, is really where we need to focus our attention?

    If the gay blogosphere and its supporters really want to be effective, we’ll put aside championing lost causes like Mike Gravel and join together to press HRC and the Democrats for a vote on hate crimes by the end of the summer, and ENDA by the end of the year. Bring our bills to a vote! Bring our bills to a vote!

    July 19, 2007

    Lose some even winning some

    Posted by: Chris

    For those of  you keeping track of when we gays are on the wrong side of civil rights battles, of when our activists fail to keep their eyes on the prize, consider two more examples from our progressive friends in the U.K. and Canada.

    Johnreaneyihr_228x223 First there's merry olde England, where gay groups are celebrating the victory of John Reaney, a gay man who won his case before an employment tribunal. Reaney had applied to be a youth worker for the Church of England and was shocked during his job interview with the Bishop of Hereford, Rt. Rev. Antony Priddis, about his sex life. Priddis' position was that anyone, gay or straight, involved in a sexual relationship outside of marriage would be turned down for the position.

    Bishopofhereford185_155383a This is a gay rights triumph? The government stepping in and telling a church that it cannot follow its own religious code in its hiring decisions? I call it a gay rights nightmare. Not only do I think church-state separation ought to be a two-way street, but the right reverend's position, however wrongheaded, was consistent as to sexual orientation.

    Yes I know that gays can't marry (even in England, where civil partnerships are civil union equivalents) and  yes I know that the Church of England is not "separated" from state the way religious faiths are on our side of the pond. That's beside the point. The gay rights movement is about ensuring equal treatment by our government and equal opportunity in the workplace. It's not about forcing churches to make exceptions to their own teaching in the hiring of youth workers.

    Steveboissoin Then there's our friends up north, in Canada, where yet another minister has gotten himself into hot water with the gays. Youth pastor Stephen Boissoin wrote a letter to his local newspaper, the Red Deer Advocate, warning the populace of the evil gay menace.  Here's what he wrote, taken from a report on Canada.com:

    "From kindergarten class on, our children, your grandchildren are being strategically targeted, psychologically abused and brainwashed by homosexual and pro-homosexual educators," he wrote. "Your children are being warped into believing that same-sex families are acceptable; that kissing men is appropriate."

    Boissoin went on to attack gay activists as "spreading their psychological disease," saying they were "just as immoral as the pedophiles, drug dealers and pimps that plague our communities."

    This diatribe upset Darren Lund, even though he's not gay but is (or was) a high school teacher, so he filed a complaint with the human rights tribunal in the Alberta province. He's even arguing that Boissoin's letter is to blame for "fostering the hate" that led to a gay bashing two weeks later. The Alberta government is backing Lund's claim, he's been called a "Peace Hero" by the Action Committee Against Violence, and Exemplary Multicultural Educator of the Year by the Canadian Council for Multicultural and Intercultural Education.

    Lund21 Thankfully, the gay rights group EGALE (Equality for Gays & Lesbians Everywhere) has said — and bless them for this! — that Boisson has a right to express his views, however despicable, in the public arena. EGALE has it exactly right, and we should join in telling Lund thanks, but no thanks, for being straight, supportive and unfortunately narrow. It ought to be anathema to anyone who believes in civil liberties along side their civil rights that someone could be brought up on charges for a letter to their local newspaper. You don't get more core "free speech" than that.

    And, of course, the worst part about the Reaneys and the Lunds of the world pushing at the margins of civil rights protections for gays is what it does to the rest of us. Those of us who live in places where the battle to decide if we have these rights is not yet decided, even in core disputes like being fired from your job or beaten up in the streets for being gay.

    Knowing that fair-minded majorities will side with us on those example, are opponents are forever on the lookout for thoughtless efforts like Reaney's and Lund's, so they can scare those same fair-minded people into believing the cure we offer is worse than what ails.

    Shame on Reaney and Lund all of their supporters for not understanding that. Why we oughta sue…

    July 18, 2007

    Blog groveling for Gravel

    Posted by: Chris

    Gravel041706146 The progressive gay blogosphere is all a-twitter this week, flush from victory over the big bad Human Rights Campaign and its partner in crime, the Logo TV channel.

    The two corporate gay behemoths announced they are cosponsoring a “forum” featuring the Democratic candidates for president. Initial reports called the event a “debate,” although it turns out the candidates agreed only to appear one after the other on stage, where they will “engage in conversation” with, of all people, lesbian rocker Melissa Etheridge and HRC chief Joe Solmonese.

    Logo and HRC called the event a “historic first,” even though the Democratic field subjected themselves to real questioning on gay issues by ABC’s Sam Donaldson in a similar forum four years ago, broadcast nationwide on basic cable channel C-SPAN.

    But progressive gay bloggers weren’t upset by that downgrade of fortunes. Their beef was over the exclusion of fringe candidate Mike Gravel, who wasn’t invited to participate because, according to HRC, the former senator from Alaska didn’t meet a cutoff for candidates to have raised at least $100,000 in campaign funds — later amended to mean $100,000 in the last quarter.

    It was ludicrous, of course, for HRC to claim that the $100,000 cutoff wasn’t aimed at Gravel. It was similarly silly for HRC to argue that the cutoff was intended to limit the event to “candidates who could actually be elected,” considering an invitation was extended to Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, whose campaign like Gravel’s is all protest or ego, or perhaps both.

    But Gravel and Kucinich are alone among the Democrats in the race to have come out in favor of marriage equality, so the diss by HRC-Logo got Gravel, and the bloggers who have his back, hopping mad. Gravel often comes off like Billy Crystal’s “grumpy old man” on “Saturday Night Live,” so it was a cinch for him to go from zero to livid over his exclusion.

    “Fighting for a hated minority is a pretty dumb way to get elected president,” grumped Gravel with a Huff and a Po on Huffington Post. “And obviously it hasn't helped with my fundraising. But I want to live in a country where there are no second-class citizens.”

    Leftie gay bloggers swooned in response, but does Gravel’s claim make any more sense than HRC-Logo’s? Since Gravel has zero chance of being elected president and has no constituency except the “none-of-the-above” anti-war folks that he and Kucinich are splitting, a play for the gays isn’t dumb at all. It’s a smart, even obvious move. Far from hurting Gravel in the wallet, some gay bloggers began fund-raising for him, arguing gay donors should do their part to hoist him over the $100,000 cutoff.

    Still, none of that stopped the bloggers from soaking in the thrill of victory when HRC-Logo reversed its decision and invited Gravel to the big dance.

    “The progressive gay blogosphere has arrived and the rest of the political world is cordially invited to take notice,” boasted Mike Rogers, who cut his blogo-teeth outing closeted Republican staffers on Capitol Hill, in a piece on Huffington Post.

    Rogers is right that we can learn quite a bit from this gay blogosphere triumph, but he might not like the real lessons. The influence of the blogosphere generally has long been sidelined by quixotic quests, lost causes and misdirected “netroots” resources. The gay grovel for Gravel is unfortunately a classic case.

    How exactly does it help the cause of gay rights to be associated with a man whom most Americans dismiss as fringe and probably unbalanced? Is the push for gay marriage boosted or burdened if Gravel and Kucinich are seen as its champions?

    It’s not just that they have no chance of actually winning; the same could be said of Senators Joe Biden and Chris Dodd, but at least they are serious candidates taken seriously by the public and the media.

    Gravel and Kucinich, like Ron Paul on the GOP side (who, gulp, also apparently supports gay marriage), are nothing more than political sideshows, and it doesn’t help convince legitimate, mainstream candidates to take our views if they’re espoused by the likes of these guys.

    What’s worse, the exclusion of Gravel was much less potent a problem with the HRC-Logo “forum” format than the exclusion of real journalists to ask real questions of the candidates who might actually win. Four years ago, Sam Donaldson pressed John Kerry and the others on gay marriage, forcing them to explain their opposition to our equality.

    Does anyone expect Melissa Etheridge — and I’m a fan — to do the same, and as effectively? Anyone who has heard Joe Solmonese’s chatfest on XM Radio already knows he makes even a big softie like Larry King look like, well, Sam Donaldson by comparison.

    Fortunately, in addition to responding to the leftie bloggers on Gravel, HRC and Logo also heard criticism from others about their panelists. Now a top-notch, mainstream journalist is being recruited to participate. Now that's a victory worth actually celebrating, for those whose eyes remain on the prize.

    July 13, 2007

    Eternally-bitter, combative me

    Posted by: Chris

    "Bloggernista," an occasional reader of this blog who hides behind a pseudonym on his own, takes a shot at Andrew Sullivan and me for criticizing the Human Rights Campaign-Logo "forum" of Democratic presidential candidates. In a cross-post on his blog and Pam's House Blend and Bilerico, he writes this under the headline "Fight the Right, Not Each Other":

    Even now as the Senate is set to debate the federal hate crimes bill, much of the energy among progressive LGBT activists is focused on attacking the Human Rights Campaign for a political forum featuring presidential candidates. … This just goes to show that we are not nearly as politically sophisticated as we would like to believe ourselves to be and that our activism is steeped in personal self-expression rather than a focus on political effectiveness. … HRC staff should have recognized that eternally bitter homocons like Andrew Sullivan and Chris Crain would piss all over their efforts no matter what…

    He goes on to acknowledge "comments" by Pam Spaulding that criticized HRC for not including a real journalist as a moderator and Bloggernista's own view that Mike Gravel should have been invited.

    You just have to love the irony in a blog post with the headline "Fight the Right, Not Each Other," which then proceeds to fight each other, and not the right.

    So "Bloggernista" thinks Andrew Sullivan and I are being "eternally bitter homocons" for registering criticism about the HRC candidates forum, while Pam Spaulding's "comments" about the event were on point. How does that work exactly? Pam and I raised the same issues, as did Andrew. But we're bitter while her points are well taken. I'm glad we're not wasting time on senseless fights with each other!

    In fact, I posted a second time yesterday crediting HRC with deciding they need a real journalist moderator and saying I wasn't bothered by the exclusion of Mike Gravel. So, in reality, "Bloggernista" and Pam were more critical of HRC than eternally-bitter me.

    Here's our fundamental difference in strategy, from my point of view (and crazy me for thinking the blogosphere was supposed to be the kind of place we had these types of open discussions without shushing each other up):  "Bloggernista" seems to think we win our equality by "fighting the right." I disagree. I think we win our equality -- and much faster, btw -- by pressuring those who say they support our rights to expend political capital on our behalf.

    Otherwise, they will act only after the societal consensus is so overwhelming that there's no risk at all to supporting us.  "Bloggernista" can wait for that distant day, and in the meantime make himself feel better by pointing out obvious silliness of "wingnuts" and the like.  I'd rather focus on the here and now, and converting gay-friendly rhetoric into the passage of gay-friendly legislation.

    You want to see the hate crime law passed? The immediate problem is not "the right."  It's whether leading Democrats will make it a priority to keep the amendment in the DoD authorization bill and then not blink if Bush threatens veto.

    July 12, 2007

    Hopeful signs for HRC's 'forum'

    Posted by: Chris

    01mikegravel74003258_10 Signs of hope have emerged concerning the Democratic presidential candidates' "forum" co-sponored by Logo and the Human Rights Campaign.  In response to criticism, here and elsewhere, that the candidates were to "engage in conversation" with non-journalists Melissa Etheridge and HRC's Joe Solmonese, the debate sponsors are now on the hunt for a more legitimate moderators.

    According to Chris Johnson at HRC's Back Story blog:

    In addition to Joe Solmonese and Melissa Etheridge, there will be a moderator at the event.  We've got asks in to several top-tier journalists to serve as moderator and we'll have more updates on this as soon as possible.

    Four years ago, HRC brought in Sam Donaldson from ABC News to quiz seven of nine Democrats then running for president. Lou Chibbaro's report for the Washington Blade gives a taste for how important Donaldson was to the success of  the July 2003 event:

    Sam Donaldson, the ABC News senior correspondent and moderator of the forum,   set the tone when he opened the questioning by asking presidential candidate   and U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), “You support civil unions but   you do not support gay marriage. Why not?”

    Kerry responded by saying he supports the full legal and economic rights   and benefits of marriage for same-sex couples. He appeared to struggle with   an     explanation of why he believes civil unions would be on par with marriage   when Donaldson interrupted him.

    “If you’re implying there’s no distinction between civil   unions and marriage, then why not support marriage?” Donaldson said. “What’s   the distinction, senator?”

    “The distinction is in the body of America that culturally, historically   and religiously views marriage very differently,” Kerry said. “Marriage   is viewed as a union between men and women, and that is a historical and cultural   view that I believe. And that’s my position.”

    Kerry’s response was greeted with loud hisses from many in the audience

    Sam_donaldson_jpg Can anyone imagine a lesbian rocker (Etheridge) or Democratic political hack (Solmonese) similarly pressing Hillary and company? In fact, Donaldson made marriage the focus of the event:

    Donaldson said he decided to devote his questioning to just two issues: gay   marriage versus civil unions and gays in the military. He noted that, based   on his review of the candidates’ positions, he saw essentially no significant   difference among them on their support for gay civil rights. Marriage was the   one area, Donaldson said, where disagreement existed.

    This year's moderator ought to take a similar approach, honing in on federal government recognition for gay relationships, because that's the only area where the Democrats really differ. A free-flowing debate on that issue, rather even than marriage, would serve far greater ends than an endless regurgitation of support on ENDA and hate crimes.

    Of course, even a discussion on those bills would be useful if it focused on what each candidate what do as president to actually enact the legislation, which have languished for more than a decade despite bipartisan majority support in and out of Congress, during times of Democratic and Republican control on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

    More good news is that we're up to four confirmed candidates (Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards) and one rumored confirmation (Chris Dodd, who was originally reported to have a conflict). No word yet on Biden or, much more importantly, Bill Richardson, who has gone a bit underground since my site Gay News Watch reported on Tuesday about his "maricón" moment a year ago on the Don Imus show.

    As I've written before, Richardson has the strongest gay rights record and should reach out to the HRC-Logo event as an opportunity to (better) explain the Imus slip and to distinguish his record of results vs. rhetoric from the other candidates in the race.

    One Democrat who won't be part of the debate is former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel, who wasn't invited. As he is on most topics, Gravel is steaming mad in his best grumpy-old-man style: 

    Ironically I think the real reason why HRC didn't invite me is that I'm too vocal in my advocacy of gay rights. None of the top tier candidates would have been comfortable facing an opponent who consistently points out their refusal to embrace true equality for gays and lesbians. HRC simply bowed to the star factor.

    It certainly wouldn't be the first time HRC put protecting Hillary and Democrats generally at a higher priority than advancing the gay rights movement.  Still, HRC insists Gravel wasn't singled out:

    Candidates we invited had to have raised $100,000.  … We wanted to make sure that with the limited time we had to present this forum, our community got to hear from candidates who could actually be president.

    Of course, HRC and Logo knew at the time they came up with the $100,000 cutoff that only Gravel of the eight Democrats wouldn't qualify. And if the standard is really to limit the "forum" to "candidates who could actually be president," then what in heaven's name is Dennis Kucinich doing on the invite list?

    The same standard would have knocked Kucinich, Carol Moseley-Braun and Rev. Al Sharpton out of the 2003 forum sponsored by HRC, but they were all there. Of course excluding them would have been unthinkable because (a) they were the only three candidates who supported gay marriage and (b) excluding Braun and Sharpton would have meant an all-white debate.

    Even given all this hypocrisy, I'm not bothered by the decision to exclude Gravel. Having to hear from him and Kucinich has been a distraction during the Democratic debates to date. They lack support in dollars and the polls, and they haven't mounted legitimate candidacies.

    Still, given how much HRC is governed by money, I was amused by one Netroots response. The bitter queens over at Queerty, apparently starstruck that Gravel returns their phone calls, have suggested their fellow angry queens donate to Gravel's campaign in the hope of helping him over the $100k limit. I somehow doubt the average salary at Starbucks or The Gap salary leaves enough pocket change to do the trick.

    Click here for a complete news summary of the presidential race, compiled by Gay News Watch.

    July 11, 2007

    HRC's 'historic' presidential forum

    Posted by: Chris

    Hillaryjoe The Human Rights Campaign and the Logo TV network announced yesterday that they will host a presidential candidate forum in August. Initially only Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were confirmed to appear, but John Edwards signed on by the afternoon.

    The HRC-Logo press release, dutifully repeated sans scrutiny by dozens of blogs and gay, straight and even anti-gay media outlets, called the forum "historic."  How, exactly, do HRC and Logo claim it is "historic"?

    This event … marks the first time in history the major presidential candidates will address a live GLBT television audience…

    That statement is about as true as HRC's claim to have 700,000 members. In fact, the very same organization (under different leadership) hosted a forum of Democratic presidential candidates on July 15, 2003. Let's compare them, shall we?

    2003 event:

        * 7 of 9 Democratic candidates
        * live gay audience of 500
        * gavel-to-gavel nationwide coverage on CSPAN
        * moderated by ABC News senior correspondent Sam Donaldson, who pressed the candidates on gay marriages vs. civil unions and gays in the military, noting that their positions largely matched otherwise
        * HRC executive director Elizabeth Birch called the event an historic first

    2007 event:

        * only 3 of 8 Democratic candidates confirmed
        * live "studio audience"
        * live coverage on Logo and LogoOnline.com
        * moderated by recording artist Melissa Etheridge and HRC director Joe Solmonese
        * HRC calls the event an historic first

    So in 2003, HRC hosted almost all the candidates to a forum in front of a large and boisterous audience and subjected them to one of journalism's most well-known aggressive questioners and broadcast the whole thing on a universally available basic cable channel to an audience of both gay and straight Americans.

    This time around, only 3 of 8 candidates will answer questions from non-journalists before a Logo TV audience largely limited, in the cable systems that carry the network, to gay people. Anyone who's heard the Solmonese radio show on XM knows he makes even Larry King look like, well, Sam Donaldson by comparison. But contempt for real media (gay and straight, old and new) is par for the course for HRC under Solmonese, and so is allowing HRC to be co-opted by "gay-friendly" Democrats to avoid upsetting them.

    This bastardization of "historic" by HRC and Logo reminds me of the time President Bush talked on CNN about the passage of his "No Child Left Behind Act." He called the legislation "historical," which was pretty "ironical," considering the law focused on educating our youth (about things like the difference between "historic" and "historical").

    In Bush's case, we've come to expect him to be unintentionally hysterical. In the case of HRC, unfortunately their "historic" event will be likely prove to be "historical."

    July 10, 2007

    Bill Richardson's 'maricón moment'

    Posted by: Chris

    Richardsononimus I posted today on Gay News Watch a story I reported with Karen Ocamb of IN LA Magazine about Bill Richardson's use of the anti-gay slur "maricón" in an appearance on, of all places, the Don Imus show. Details are here, but the gist is that on a March 29, 2006, broadcast,  Imus joked with the New Mexico governor that one of the shock jock's staffer didn't believe Richardson is really Latino.

    IMUS: “You can just answer this yes or no and this will answer that question. Would you agree that Bernard is a maricón?”

    RICHARDSON “Yo creo que Bernardo, sí — es un maricón si él piensa que yo no soy hispano. [General laughter] Was that good enough or what? [General laughter]”

    IMUS: “That’s good enough for me.”

    Most of the gay Latinos interviewed for our story, and every gay Latino I've talked to about the subject, agrees that "maricón" means "faggot" in Spanish.  So, translated into English, Richardson had replied, "I believe that Bernard, yes — he's a faggot if he thinks that I am not Hispanic."

    Christopherhubble The March 2006 appearance is resurfacing now because of one reader of this blog. Christopher Hubble, a Denver, Colo.-based book publisher and blogger, e-mailed me after I wrote very approvingly of Bill Richardson's gay right record when he announced for president earlier this year.

    Like several of the Richardson supporters quoted in the story, I think the Imus appearance raises legitimate questions about Richardson's judgment. He was clearly baited by Imus, but he replied using the same word without missing a beat. He was so anxious to reply he talked over the host. A clip of the appearance is available here.

    Even more telling for me, however, is Richardson's handling of the issue since.  He is said to have apologized privately soon after the broadcast to Equality New Mexico, his state's gay rights group, as if he could say he was sorry by proxy to all gay people who heard the broadcast by making one private phone call. In that call, Richardson claimed that in the Spanish he grew up speaking, "maricón" only meant "effeminate." So he was calling the Imus staffer a "sissy," not a "fag." Does that feel much better to anyone?

    Billrichardsonocambblog A year later, seeking the Democratic nomination for president, Richardson's statement in response to the incident is even more of a non-apology apology. This time around, he claims the word means "simply 'gay,' not positive or negative.

    "It has been brought to my attention that the word also has a hurtful or derogatory connotation, which was never my intent," said Richardson. "If I offended anybody, I’m sorry."

    We've all known since childhood that "I'm sorry you're upset" isn't a real apology, taking true responsibility. We've lived through six years of a president who never admits he's wrong; the bar should be set high for candidates willing to say when they've messed up — not when they've upset you.

    At a more fundamental level, Richardson's wavering explanations about "maricón" strain credulity. If "maricón" means "simply gay, not positive or negative," then why in the world would Don Imus suggest his staffer was "simply gay, not positive or negative" for thinking Richardson isn't truly Latino? Why would Richardson agree?

    It's also hard to believe Richardson has "since learned" that "maricón" is offensive. Spanish-language dictionaries refer to it as a derogatory epithet, and I've yet to talk to a gay Latino who disagreed or had heard otherwise.

    The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has for years taken Spanish-language media to task for using "maricón." In one press release, GLAAD referred to "maricón" as a "derogatory slur" that is "vulgar, defamatory and unacceptable."

    Luisafernanda Language can be a tricky thing, as Telemundo host Luisa Fernanda found out recently when she was fired for using "cherna," the Spanish word for grouper on the air. Fernanda is Mexican and very gay-friendly, and says she had no idea that for Cubans, "cherna" is also an anti-gay epithet.

    Respected gay Latino bloggers like Andrés Duque at Blabbeando and Alex from Stuck on the Palmetto and have largely accepted Fernanda's explanation, but it still cost her the job. Is our standard for president lower than that for a Telemundo chat show?

    Most disappointing for me personally was Richardson's effort to change the subject, suggesting that news of his Imus appearance is surfacing now through some effort by rivals to quash his "momentum." No one associated with the story has been anything but helpful to Richardson's campaign in the gay community. In addition to my previous praise, which has been linked to pro-Richardson sites, my co-author Karen Ocamb gave Richardson an extended interview for IN LA Magazine. In fact, the only dirty politics here is the effort by the Richardson camp to smear his rivals for being behind a story they had nothing to do with.

    News of Richardson's "maricón" moment — while nothing so awful as George Allen's "macaco" moment in the 2006 campaign — should depress gay voters. Richardson is right when he says his record on gay rights is better than any other serious candidate, mostly because he can point to actual accomplishments rather than simply rhetoric.

    But a candidate seeking our support and our votes owes us more than half-apologies and wavering explanations, much less unfounded, Rove-like efforts to shoot the messenger.

    Click here for a complete gay news summary on the presidential race, compiled by Gay News Watch.

    July 07, 2007

    Finally…nightlife for Rio!

    Posted by: Chris

    Theweekriooutsideblog Update at the end of the post.

    Last night marked the arrival of The Week to Rio, as (my freind and) promoter-extraordinaire
    André Almada debuted the Carioca version of his mega-club in São Paulo that is, hands down, the hottest gay club in the world.

    For years, at least as far as the gay scene goes, Rio De Janeiro offered the "day life" — the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana, juice bars, sidewalk bars like Bofetada — and São Paulo provided the "nightlife" — with New York-quality clubs and internationally known DJs.  With the exception of New Years, Carnaval and the occasional Revolution or X-Demente party, Rio gay boys and the bazillion gay tourists found the pickings surprisingly slim.

    Capa380_rj The arrival of The Week was big news in Rio, and not just for gays. The A-list magazine Veja-Rio featured a story about The Week, and the growing number of out gay couples in the city, on its cover. The headline reads: "The mega-club The Week arrives in Rio and adds to the city's list of attractions, which welcomes gay people without prejudice." A bit of hometown-hype/wishful thinking as far as Rio goes, but it's a nice goal anyway.

    If last night was any indication, the club will live up to its hype.

    The Week-Rio is a bit smaller than it's Paulista sister, but still by far the biggest regular gay venue in town and with plenty of room to grow, including an outdoor area that's rumored to be the future site of a pool, like the one in São Paulo. The interior is reminiscent of the São Paulo version without being a copy. Add in laser lighting and feather-clad go-go boys, and you've got The Week's signature look.

    Comportamento21It's curious to see Almada open The Week in Rio — with talk of additional locations in Florinapolis and elsewhere — just as the mega-clubs in the U.S. die off, one by one. To my mind, The Week is the answer to a not-so-hypothetical question I've heard on dance floors back home in the States. What would have happened to the party, if it hadn't been killed off by crystal meth?

    The answer? Come to Rio (or São Paulo), where Tina has never been welcome to the party, and find out for yourself.


    Update: The Week's second night in Rio was even better than the first: bigger crowd, higher energy level, cool video screens on the back wall of the dance floor, and powerful sets by São Paulo DJ Flavio Lima, who I can tell will be a new favorite for me, and visiting American DJ Eric Cullenberg.

    This Friday will bring Boy George to the turntables at The Week, just in time for the arrival of the Pan Am Games here in Rio.  Let's hope he's on his best behavior, given his recent run-ins with the law and the press. On second thought, a bit of mischief could be fun as well. His Karma Chameleon-ness will be spinning alongside The Week's São Paulo resident DJ, my friend João Neto.

    Check out this video for a view from the stage of The Week-Rio and DJ Flavio Lima:


    Click here for a complete news summary of gay news about Brazil, compiled by Gay News Watch.

    Follow the jump for more photos:

    Continue reading»

    July 03, 2007

    Isaiah gets the last word (hopefully)

    Posted by: Chris

    Isaiahwashingtonshh_2 For someone who claims to be censored, Isaiah Washington sure does talk a lot. By my count he's given a half-dozen well-publicized interviews since being canned from "Grey's Anatomy," but there he was again last night on "Larry King Live," saying no one had heard his side of the story on the "F-word" flare-up that cost him his job.

    Washington has been a moving target all along, taking responsibility without actually taking responsibility — apologizing to castmate T.R. Knight, who came out as a result of the October incident, even while repeatedly denying he used the word in reference to Knight in the first place.

    Of course not much light was shed by Larry King, who in his inimitable kid-glove style walked Washington through his October clash with castmate Patrick Dempsey.

    Washingtondempsey Readers' digest: Washington claims Knight had complained to him during a long plane flight about abusive treatment by Dempsey, and Washington encouraged Knight to raise the issue with "Grey's" producers. In October, after several unrelated incidents in which Dempsey was late on set, the two actors got into a heated exchange.

    KING: So why does that lead to this word?

    WASHINGTON: [Dempsey] got un -- became unhinged, face-to-face, spittle to spittle, in my face -- first. I did not start it. And I'm asking him why is he screaming at me, why are we doing this? Get out of my face. Several times. Several times. And he just becomes irate. But I'm not understanding why am I being berated to this point in front of our crew, particularly after what we experienced in Seattle [when Dempsey was several hours late]. You know, I mean, I think you owe me on apology and I'm being berated.

    And by that time I pushed him out of my face and it just took off from there and I began to say a lot of -- a lot of things that I'm not really proud of -- but all referring to myself and how I felt I was being treated.

    KING: But how did the bad word come out of that?

    WASHINGTON: Well, I said several bad words, as well as he did.

    KING: To him?

    WASHINGTON: To him about how I was feeling. I said there's no way you're going to treat me like a "B" word or a "P" word or the "F" word. You can't treat me this way in front of our crew.

    KING: So you weren't referring to him as being an F person?

    WASHINGTON: Never. Never.

    KING: Or anybody else being one?

    WASHINGTON: Never, Larry. Never, never, never, never.

    King (of course) accepted the explanation at face value, but later in the show, in retelling the story, Washington's account changed significantly, in a way that explains the connection with the in-flight conversation Washington previously had with Knight, and in a way that explains why pretty much everyone but Washington took his "F-word" reference as a shot at Knight.

    WASHINGTON: I said, "I don't -- I don't want to bring anymore attention to this than I already have. I don't want to throw anybody under the bus, but I've got to clear my name. I -- this is misinterpreted. I did not say" -- I said yes, you're not going to "B" me, "P" me, "F" me, because I'm not T.R. I never said you are T.R.

    Going back to me thinking that I could be the big brother, to defend my family and T.R. which is not my place to do, against so- called bullying.

    So Knight had complained to Washington about Dempsey's abusive behavior, and when Dempsey became abusive toward Washington, he wanted to be clear with Dempsey that he was no faggot, like T.R.

    George_blogEven accepting Washington's account, he was referring to himself but by way of contrast with Knight. "You can treat T.R. like a bitch or a faggot. But you won't get away with it with me." "I'm a man," in other words, "unlike that faggot Knight." With defenders like Washington, who needs bullies?

    Can anyone imagine Washington accepting a similarly half-baked explanation if the roles were reversed? What if Dempsey had an on-set blow-up with a castmate and said, "I'm not your [N-word]. I'm not Isaiah." Would Washington have agreed the "N-word" wasn't used in reference to him? Methinks not.

    I do agree with Washington that the situation was blown completely out of proportion, though Washington contributed more than his share by repeating the "F-word" at the Golden Globes, ruining the celebratory mood after the cast won several trophies. And his failure — to this day — to accept responsibility for the fact he did use the word in reference to Knight, only made matters worse.

    Even still, I don't believe Washington should have been canned from the cast. And as a big fan of the show since its first episode, I'll miss Dr. Preston Burke and his quirky relationship with Cristina Yang (played by Sandra Oh).

    But I am happy to see the "F-word" move closer and closer to the off-limits territory occupied by the "N-word," where it's no longer acceptable to use in any context, no matter how innocuous. A few semi-guilty folks like Washington may get overblown treatment, but it's a small price to pay for the societal good that will result -- in playgrounds and workplaces and TV sets everywhere.

    Click here for a complete news summary of the Isaiah Washington brouhaha, compiled by Gay News Watch.

    July 02, 2007

    PlanetOut finds cash just in time

    Posted by: Chris

    LgbtbloombergCorrection: In my original post, I indicated the price per share paid by these new investors was 86 cents, but Barrons reports that the price was based on last Thursday's close -- still a discount but much less than I suggested.

    The first business day after a June 30 deadline to come up with $7 million for creditors, PlanetOut managed to find three-times that amount, announcing the sale of $22.6 million in common stock to several private equity funds.

    The details are here in the Gay News Watch report, but the company's cash salvation came at a heavily discounted price. Today's sale was set according to the closing stock price last Thursday, June 28, according to PlanetOut CFO Dan Miller.  That price represents a fraction of where the stock stood as recently as January ($4.50) and its high the last 52 weeks ($7.95).

    Even though the funds raised today are enough to meet the company's current financing deadline, as well as a second deadline of $8.5 million by the end of 2007, I expect PlanetOut will go forward with plans to sell SpecPub, which publishes soft-porn magazines like Men (formerly Advocate Men), Freshmen, 2X and Unzipped (formerly Advocate Men Classifieds).

    Freshmen_feb02On the one hand, SpecPub is one of PlanetOut's few profitable divisions amid a sea or red ink from Gay.com, PlanetOut.com, the Advocate, Out and (especially) RSVP Vacations. On the other hand, the company's president and CFO have said the adult business isn't a good "fit" with the rest of the company — has no one else seen all the X-rated profile pics on Gay.com? —  which is probably code for caving in to national advertisers like Lexis who've said they won't buy into the Advocate and Out so long as SpecPub is part of the PlanetOut family.

    More than anything else, the announcement today gives PlanetOut management a bit of breathing room to work through the problems plaguing the company and set it on a path to profitability.  That may mean selling off RSVP as well, since the gay cruise company is an unlikely fit with the company's other media holdings.

    Still, the biggest challenge PlanetOut faces isn't unique at all to the gay media company. Biweekly and monthly magazine titles like the Advocate and Out are facing massive competition from the Internet, which makes any attempt at news look stale by the time these publications hit the stands. What's more, Gay.com's dependence on paid-personals faces an even more direct challenge from sites like MySpace, Friendster, BigMuscle and RealJock that offer the same services for free.

    The company refused to tell even its own reporter how sales are looking in the second quarter, so that information will come sometime in the next few weeks. But for today, at least, PlanetOut is back on more solid financial footing.

    Click here for a complete news summary on PlanetOut, compiled by Gay News Watch.

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