Equality For All

South Carolina Senate Candidate: Impeach Pro-Equality Judges, Give Teachers Machine Guns

South Carolina state senator Lee Bright, who is challenging Sen. Lindsey Graham in this year’s Republican primary, suggested to a Tea Party group today that Congress should impeach federal judges who rule in favor of marriage equality in order to intimidate other judges into doing “the right thing.”

Discussing the recent federal ruling legalizing marriage equality in Utah, Bright told Tea Party Express, “Congress ought to stand up and do its job and impeach one of these federal judges. And I think when you do that, being a federal judge is a pretty good gig, and I think if you’ll impeach just one, the rest of them will do the right thing. And they’ll do it out of necessity, because self-preservation is an instinct that so many folks have.”

The Constitution grants lifetime appointments to federal judges “during good behavior.” In the nation’s history, only eight federal judges have been impeached and removed from office by Congress –most for committing crimes or severely neglecting their duties.

Later in the interview, Bright launched into a discourse on the balance between liberty and security, including a rant that we don’t quite understand about how “there are institutions that can put you in a room that you can’t harm yourself but you’re not free, and I would rather take the risk and be free.”

This led him to the topic of gun laws, on which he said the U.S. should follow Israel’s example, including putting “teachers with machine guns on playgrounds.”

"You look over at Israel, and that’s an armed group of folks over there,” he said. “I mean, they are teachers with machine guns on playgrounds, because you got terrorists over there that would choose to harm children and whose teachers are there to protect them. When you’ve got folks that are armed and able to defend themselves, the threat of terrorism goes down drastically.”

In fact, Israel has much stricter gun control laws than the U.S. does and in 1995 mandated guards at the entrances to schools to protect against terrorism. As an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman put it, “We're fighting terrorism, which comes under very specific geopolitical and military circumstances. This is not something that compares with the situation in the U.S.” Also, we weren’t able to find anything about Israeli teachers walking around playgrounds with machine guns.

We’ve previously reported on Bright’s attacks on the social safety net and violent anti-government rhetoric.

US Conservative Groups Supported Nigerian Anti-Gay Law That Led to Wave of Arrests

The Associated Press is reporting that “dozens of gay men” have been arrested in northern Nigeria as a result of a new law strengthening the country’s prohibition on homosexuality, in what public health groups fear will be a setback to efforts to fight AIDS.

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Police, working off a list of 168 suspects purportedly obtained through torture, are arresting dozens of gay men in Nigeria's northern Bauchi state, human rights activists said Tuesday.

A new law in Nigeria, dubbed the "Jail the Gays" bill, is encouraging the persecution of gays and will endanger programs fighting HIV-AIDS in the gay community, said Dorothy Aken'Ova, executive director of Nigeria's International Center for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights.

On Monday, President Goodluck Jonathan's office confirmed that the Nigerian leader signed the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act that criminalizes gay marriage, gay organizations and anyone working with or promoting them.

CBS notes that “sodomy has been illegal in Nigeria for many years...in some parts of Nigeria’s Muslim-majority north where strict Sharia law is upheld, gays and lesbians risk being stoned to death if they are caught.”

This seems like a good time, then, to look back at the American religious right’s support for Nigeria’s harsh penalties for its LGBT residents and opposition to Obama administration efforts to protect LGBT rights abroad.

In 2011, when then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the Obama administration would work to protect LGBT rights abroad – including in places like Nigeria that criminalize homosexuality -- the religious right exploded in anger. Pat Robertson called the policy “appalling” and warned of God’s wrath in response. Radio host Janet Mefferd cited Nigeria’s anti-gay laws in a rant against the Obama administration’s policy, saying “I don’t see that this is something that the United States has to jump in on because it’s such a huge global tragedy. It’s crazy.” The Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute also cited Nigeria’s move to tighten criminal sanctions on homosexuality in its opposition to the Obama administration policy.

Liberty Counsel’s Matt Barber, the anti-gay group MassResistance, and Family Watch International’s Sharon Slater have also supported Nigeria’s anti-gay laws at various stages.

We wonder if any of these groups will comment about this wave of arrests.

PFAW Foundation Staffer Reacts to Utah Marriage Battle in CNN Op-Ed

It has been a roller-coaster few weeks for marriage equality in Utah, where a legal battle over the state’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples continues and more than a thousand marriages are caught in limbo.

On Friday People For the American Way Foundation Major Gifts Associate Tyler Hatch reacted to the struggle in Utah, and his op-ed was featured by CNN.

Hatch writes:

Regardless of the ultimate outcome of Kitchen v. Loving (Utah’s marriage equality case currently under review by the 10th Circuit) the issue of marriage equality is once again before the Mormon or LDS church.

I was raised LDS and went to church nearly every Sunday until I was 18. I participated in weekly youth meetings, attended Boy Scout outings, and was a leader within my church. By all accounts I appeared to be the model youth, however inside I was dejected. Severe depression, suicidal thoughts, and extreme self-loathing plagued my adolescent and teen years due to an overwhelming sense of guilt regarding my sexuality.

….Whether it is in the halls of elementary schools, the wedding chapel, or feeling secure and safe in the workplace there is much work to be done. LGBT equality is an issue that will surely grip our generation for years to come. As society becomes more accepting of LGBT individuals I remain optimistic that progress will be made, at least within civil society.

….There are no easy answers for the countless number of LGBT individuals with conservative religious backgrounds and the struggle to find an identity within that intersection is a fight that will continue throughout our lives.

PFAW Foundation

Illinois Family Institute Warns Of 'Eternal' Consequences For Notre Dame LGBT Group

The Illinois Family Institute, the state affiliate of the American Family Association that led the unsuccessful fight against marriage equality last year, is back to fighting smaller battles, this time attacking the University of Notre Dame for officially recognizing an LGBT group.

In an open letter to Notre Dame president Rev. John Jenkins posted on IFI’s website, the group’s “cultural analyst” Laurie Higgins expresses her “disappointment” that Notre Dame has for the first time recognized a student LGBT group, or as she calls it, “those who affirm homosexual acts and acts related to gender confusion as normative and morally defensible.”

Higgins tells Jenkins that in recognizing its LGBT students, Notre Dame might as well affirm “other sin predispositions” like incest or pedophilia.

She then turns to the eternal consequences of LGBT organizing, warning that openly LGBT students will bring “nothing but temporal and eternal harm” to themselves and their colleagues.

I also want to express my disappointment that Notre Dame has chosen to recognize a “student organization” initiated and shaped by those who affirm homosexual acts and acts related to gender confusion as normative and morally defensible. In permitting an organization that affirms subjective moral propositions that defy Catholic (as well as orthodox Protestant) doctrine, Notre Dame’s distinct Catholic identity has been weakened. Would Notre Dame recognize other “student organizations” initiated by those who affirm other sin predispositions (e.g. polyamory, consensual adult incest, or the “sexual orientation” recently designated “minor-attracted persons”)?


If the Notre Dame-recognized “LGBT” organization had been initiated by those who were committed to helping “LGBT” students live lives that embody Catholic beliefs on sexuality and gender, such an organization would be a service to Notre Dame students. Unfortunately, the central goals of students who affirm a homosexual or “transgender” identity are contrary to Catholic doctrine and as such can bring nothing but temporal and eternal harm—intellectual, emotional, physical, and/or spiritual harm—to “LGBT”-identifying students and the larger Notre Dame community.

Higgins did, however, praise Jenkins for Notre Dame’s challenge to the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage mandate.

Utah Eagle Forum Compares 'Disturbing And Disruptive' Homosexuality to Murder, Theft

A sample letter opposing a proposed state antidiscrimination measure circulated by the Utah Eagle Forum this week calls homosexuality a “disturbing and disruptive” “personal weakness,” which the group compares to “theft, dishonesty [and] murder.”

Fox 13 reporter Max Roth, who attended an Eagle Forum event on the antidiscrimination bill Wednesday, posted an image of the letter on Twitter, which was then spotted by On Top Magazine. The meeting was led by Utah Eagle Forum head Gayle Ruzicka.

The sample letter, signed by Orem Eagle Forum president Barbara Petty, asks the antidiscrimination bill’s sponsor Sen. Steve Urquhart, “What were you thinking?”

“Any confusion a man or woman has for their gender other than the gender that they were born with, is their personal weakness,” Petty writes. “We all have weaknesses and some are more disturbing and or disruptive than others. There is no need to categorize weaknesses.”

“However our God inspired Founding Fathers included words in describing our Constitution as a document good only for a moral people,” she continues. “Deviant sexual life styles are immoral.”

The letter goes on to compare discrimination against “immorality” to discrimination against “theft, dishonesty [and] murder” and berates Urquhart for promoting “oppression of the majority by the minority.”

We’ve transcribed the letter from Roth’s photograph. Sic throughout, bolding is ours.

Barbara Petty
Orem, UT

August 2013

Dear Senator Urqhart

We raise our voices in extreme rejection of the Anti-Discrimination Bill that you sponsored.

To propose such an option in support of a questionable life style is unacceptable.

God’s word says he created man and woman in his image. Any confusion a man or woman has for their gender other than the gender that they were born with, is their personal weakness.

We all have weaknesses and some are more disturbing and or disruptive than others. There is no need to categorize weaknesses.

However our God inspired Founding Fathers included words in describing our Constitution as a document good only for a moral people.

Deviant sexual life styles are immoral. We urge you to withdraw your anti discrimination bill and any further activity in that direction.

We discriminate against immorality, theft, dishonesty, murder etcetera and as our representative in the Utah Senate your oath of office is to uphold the constitution. We hold you to the oath you have taken.

Such action as described in the anti discrimination bill allowing a man to say he feels like a woman and wants to use the bathroom and shower facilities for women is a disgrace to the sacred covenants we have with the God of this world and offends all decency.

It is also a complete perversion of sentiment in that, in order to make a small minority feel more “comfortable” in their unnatural behavior, the overwhelming majority must suffer being uncomfortable in natural behavior. It is not an abuse of a minority to reject its abuse of the sensibilities of the majority.

Isaiah 5:20 says: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness, that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”

What were you thinking?

Please don’t consider oppression of the majority by the minority to be good.

Sincerely,

Barbara Petty

cc: Senator Ralph Okerlund (who voted in favor to bring this Bill out of committee)
      Senator Peter Knudson (who voted in favor to bring this Bill out of committee)

You can view Roth’s report from the event and another anti-antidiscrimination event the same day here.

Indiana Marriage Equality Opponents Kick Off Campaign With Ominous Ads

The first TV ads have hit the airwaves in Indiana’s debate over putting a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage on the ballot.

The two ads, which the Indiana-based group Advance America says it is paying “several thousand dollars” to air, play ominous music over a picture of the state capitol in front of cloudy skies. One shows the members of state committee considering the ballot measure. In the other, the words “freedom” and “right to vote” float across the screen as actors say “let me vote.”

“You Deserve the Right to Vote…to Protect Marriage in Indiana!” the ad concludes.

Advance America is the same group that has been distributing flyers warning that marriage equality will result in the imprisonment of pastors and lead the state to “legalize ‘gender identity.’”

AFA Affiliate Defends Russian 'Gay Propaganda' Law

The Illinois Family Institute, a state affiliate of the American Family Association, sent an email to its members today featuring an essay by IFI’s “cultural analyst” Laurie Higgins defending Russia’s draconian “gay propaganda” law.

Higgins calls the law – which is essentially a gag rule on gay rights advocacy – “reasonable and wise” and claims that gay rights advocates oppose it because  “nothing angers homosexual activists quite like being denied access to the hearts and minds of other people’s minor children.”

She goes on to claim that anti-gay conservatives in the U.S. face far more “draconian and insidious” penalties than gay rights advocates in Russia.

Higgins joins AFA’s Bryan Fischer, who not only praised the Russian law but said it didn’t go far enough.

To further put things in perspective, note that the consequences of violating this law are only fines of $120-150 for individuals, $1,200-1,500 for “officials,” and $12,000-15,000 for “legal entities.” Hardly sounds unreasonable to fine adults $150 for trying to inculcate other people’s children with their subjective beliefs about sexual morality, but nothing angers homosexual activists quite like being denied access to the hearts and minds of other people’s minor children.

Don’t be deceived, the outrage of homosexuality-affirming activists has nothing to do with concern for critical thinking, free speech, or intellectual diversity. Proof for that claim comes from a perusal of resources presented to American teens in their government schools on the topic of homosexuality. The suppression of conservative ideas on issues related to homosexuality is virtually absolute, and the consequences for violating the de facto bans on conservative resources are far more draconian and insidious than those imposed by the Russian law. Paying a $150 fine is small potatoes compared to the kind of personal and professional repercussions that would redound to any teacher in a public school who dared to present resources to minors that articulated conservative beliefs about homosexuality.

To assault people because of their beliefs or feelings is beyond the pale, as is making inflammatory statements that express a desire that others die, experience eternal damnation, or f**k themselves (things that are hurled at any public figure who dares to express moral propositions about homosexuality with which “progressives” disagree). Prohibiting the distribution of homosexuality-affirming resources to minors is both reasonable and wise.

(Emphases ours).

Morse: 'Deadly,' 'Totalitarian' Feminism Wants To Make Everyone Androgynous

Jennifer Roback Morse of the Ruth Institute, which was until recently affiliated with the National Organization for Marriage, joined Phyllis Schlafly on Eagle Forum Live this weekend to discuss her new book of marriage advice.

Of course, the two turned immediately to bashing feminism, which Morse praised Schlafly for exposing as a “deadly” and “totalitarian” movement that made “men compete with women instead of competing with each other for the sake of women.”

Later in the program, Schlafly asked Morse about a “kooky” new law in California that requires schools to respect the gender identities of transgender students.

“In the end they want to get rid of male and female,” Morse said. “In the end they want everyone to be androgynous.”

She added that this showed that feminists and the gay rights movement harbor a “deep resentment of the human body.”

Morse also linked the fight against gay rights to the fight against the women’s movement, lamenting the cultural “wounds” from the push for equality: “There are so many people out there who have been wounded by the sexual revolution and no one has ever taken the slightest responsibility for that, none. And the only reason we’re dealing with gay marriage now is because we never faced up to the harms that have already been inflicted by feminism.”

Correction: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated that the Ruth Institute is affiliated with the National Organization for Marriage. The two groups formally broke ties in November, 2013.

NOM's Brown: Rose Parade Wedding Used to 'Target Children,' 'Indoctrinate Kids'

National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown was one of the Religious Right activists to attack last week’s Rose Parade in Pasadena for including a float featuring a same-sex wedding, lamenting that “once marriage is redefined to make it genderless, this perverse construct of ‘marriage’ is forced on everyone.”

In an interview with Voice of Russia radio on Friday, Brown doubled down, saying that Aubrey Loots and Danny Leclaire’s wedding had been “shoved in the face of families,” including those who had voted against marriage equality in their states.

This was all part of a plan to “target children” and use “a family event to sort of indoctrinate kids,” he added.

All along, we’ve been hearing from activists who support same-sex marriage, ‘Hey, if we redefine marriage, it won’t have any effect on you, this is about loving individuals, what they decide to do, it will have no effect on you.’

Well, lo and behold, it has to be shoved in the face of families -- many of whom voted to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman – on a float at a family event.



We know that when you redefine marriage this  is taught in schools, we know that teachers tell kids that folks who believe in this notion of marriage as a union between a man and a woman are discriminating, they’re the functional equivalent of bigots.

And now it hasn’t even stopped in the classroom, now the idea has to be, well, at family events we need to make a point to have a same-sex marriage to sort of put it right in their faces and call them out. Well, that’s just wrong. In America, we can disagree over key issues, but the idea that you would target children and make this about using a family event to sort of indoctrinate kids, that’s just wrong.

In a speech before the Russian parliament promoting anti-gay laws last year, Brown similarly warned that advances in gay rights would lead to “talking to children about homosexuality.”

Catholic Author: Pope, Church In Pro-Gay Shadow Of Antichrist

Conservative griping about Pope Francis continues. Billionaire Ken Langone, the founder of Home Depot, complained to Cardinal Timothy Dolan that the pope’s comments about capitalism would hurt efforts to raise funds from rich people for a renovation of St. Patrick’s cathedral in New York. But Langone’s whining about the pope hurting rich peoples’ feelings pales in comparison to a New Year’s Day diatribe published by Alan Keyes’ Renew America website about the Vatican hiring “pro-homosexual corporations” as advisors.

The piece by conservative Catholic anti-gay and anti-abortion activist Randy Engel complains that the government of Vatican City, in its efforts on behalf of financial reform, transparency, and efficiency, is turning to consulting firms EY (formerly Ernst & Young), McKinsey & Company, and the Promontory Financial Group. Among the sinister evidence that Engel marshals against the companies are the existence of employee LGBT groups, participation in LGBT Chambers of Commerce, high rankings on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index – even an executive’s praise for Rep. Barney Frank’s congressional service. After quoting McKinsey’s commitment to diversity in hiring, she says,

Wow! Now ain't that a kick in the head to every faithful Catholic layman and cleric and other people of good will who have been fighting the Homosexual Collective in the U.S. and abroad for decades with little to none support from the Vatican.

Engel is author of The Rite of Sodomy, a 1,300-page screed against “the immensity of the homosexual subculture that has hijacked the Roman Catholic Church.” Her book has been promoted by the likes of Peter LaBarbera.  

Engle uses rhetoric like “homosexual deathstyle” and “diversity of perversity.” But she outdoes herself in her Renew America post by going so far as to suggest that Pope Francis and other church leaders, are under the influence of the anti-Christ:

As for the Vatican's role in yet another moral quagmire under another disastrous post-Conciliar papacy, what can one say?

I have no doubt that the Vatican officials and clerics who hired these morally bankrupt firms to "reform" the Vatican's administration and finances, and who have given God's enemies free access to administrative and financial secret data of all kinds, knew exactly what they were doing when they made the appointments. The fact that not a single Vatican official including the current occupant of the Chair of Saint Peter, has publicly raised the issue of possible moral turpitude practiced and advanced by these mega business firms confirms what all true Catholics know in their heart of hearts – that we are living in the shadow of the Antichrist.

Vander Plaats: Marriage Equality Unconstitutional Because It's 'Against The Law of Nature'

Last year, Religious Right activist and possible 2014 Iowa Republican Senate candidate Bob Vander Plaats claimed that the Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling had provoked a “constitutional crisis” because it defied “the law of nature and the law of nature’s God.”

In an interview on the Steve Deace show last week, Vander Plaats elaborated on this constitutional analysis, claiming that a Utah federal judge’s ruling legalizing marriage equality was wrong because same-sex marriage “goes against the law of nature” and therefore is “against the Constitution.”

Vander Plaats also encouraged Utah Gov. Gary Herbert to simply ignore the court’s ruling and issue an executive order staying the decision until it’s put to a popular vote. 

He warned guest host Jen Green that the Utah ruling was the first step on a slippery slope to tyranny, showing the need to put judges “in their place” as he did in Iowa in 2010.

Vander Plaats: First of all, Justice Shelby, there’s a lot of issues with his ruling. Number one is, you had the people of Utah already amend the Constitution to what marriage is. And you’re supposed to uphold the Constitution, not redefine the Constitution. So, that’s number one.

Two is, there is no research on it, there is no data on it. Why? Because it never existed before. So all there is is speculation. But what we know is it goes against the law of nature, and the law of nature’s God, which means, again, it’s against the Constitution.

My suggestion to Gov. Herbert: Don’t overcomplicate this. Don’t over-study this or analyze this. Lead on this. Issue an executive order from the governor’s office that places a stay on this judge’s decision until the people of Utah resolve this, either through the legislature – the people’s representatives – or through another vote, if you need to go through another vote. But you don’t allow an activist judge to have his way to inflict same-sex marriage on the entire state of Utah.

It is We the People who are the final arbitrators of this deal. They gave us the power of the king. The governor is the executor. He’s got the executive branch, he’s the one who gets to enforce or not enforce. By him staying silent, he’s really enforcing this judge’s opinion. That’s why he needs to step up and lead, and what I’d say, issue that executive order.

And for the Lead or Get Out of the Way members and audience, and especially those in Utah, what really has to concern you here is that if they will do this to the institution of marriage, they won’t even blink an eye when they take your private property, tell you how to educate your kids. If you really want to have tyranny, keep allowing activist judges to keep activism alive. You need to put them in their place. That’s what I’d encourage Gov. Herbert to do.

Green: You will be made to care.

Vander Plaats: You will be made to care. But Gov. Herbert could make that judge made to care. Just like in Iowa, we made the judges, that they should care about what they’re doing.

Vander Plaats: Gay Marriage, Utah Polygamy Ruling Will Lead To Parent-Child Marriage

Count Bob Vander Plaats among the Religious Right activists responding to a court decision decriminalizing polygamy in Utah by crowing that they “correctly” predicted that marriage equality victories would lead to legalized polygamous marriage.

FRC Upset That Gay And Transgender People Are Signing Up For Health Insurance

The Family Research Council is upset that Obama administration allies are working to enroll LGBT people – who are disproportionately uninsured -- in health care plans because they are “a high risk pool fed by even higher risk behavior.”

Family Watch International & NARTH Unveil Ex-Gay 'Documentary'

Two groups that push so-called “reparative therapy” for gay people in the United States and abroad have teamed up to make a documentary explaining their junk science in an attempt to counter efforts to ban the practice for minors.

Coming Out, Wherever You Are

The following is a guest post by South Dakota State Senator Angie Buhl O’Donnell, a member of People For the American Way Foundation’s Young Elected Officials Network.

Harvey Milk’s words inspired audiences throughout his life, but his most enduring words may have been the simple push to “come out, come out wherever you are.”

To me, that’s the most important legacy of the political leader we lost 35 years ago this week – his insistence on the far-reaching impact of the very personal act of coming out. Despite the potential downsides, despite the fact that it can feel easier not to come out, Harvey Milk knew that our community must be visible in order to make legal and social equality a reality.

While Milk spent much of his life in urban centers, I believe the urgency to make ourselves visible is even greater in places like South Dakota, where I live.  It’s 2013, but some people still think LGBT people only exist in New York or San Francisco. As researcher Mary Gray has written, popular representations of rural LGBT people paint us as “out of place” in states like South Dakota – as people who need to “seek out belonging in an urban elsewhere to find happiness.” But LGBT people are in every part of our country, and we are increasingly visible in the political landscape.

Milk’s legacy has been a personal inspiration for me, as an openly bisexual elected official. Earlier this year, I became a Harvey Milk Champion of Change. While I was honored to be recognized by the White House with an award bearing his name, I actually had some hesitation about accepting. As a bisexual woman married to a man, I was worried about people thinking I didn’t really “deserve” it. But I realized that line of reasoning was not what Harvey Milk would have embraced. His legacy is about sharing your own identity, your own truth in whatever form that might take.  Besides, there’s a “B” in “LGBT” for a reason. 

PFAW Foundation

Religious Right Piles On To Defend Proponent Of Russia Anti-Gay Laws

A couple of weeks ago, the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society -- an Illinois-based group that through its World Congress of Families helped promote Russia’s new anti-gay laws -- was forced to relocate a Capitol Hill symposium on “family policy lessons from foreign lands” when Sen. Mark Kirk learned what it was up to and pulled the plug on its meeting room.

The group got a last-minute helping hand from House Speaker John Boehner , but the symposium’s speakers – World Congress of Families (WCF) founder Allan Carlson, Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute president Austin Ruse, and Concerned Women For America senior fellow/WCF board member Janice Shaw Crouse – still spent much of the event bashing Kirk over the scheduling snafu .

Now, Religious Right groups including the National Organization for Marriage, the Family Research Council, and the American Family Association are coming to WCF’s defense.

The National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown – who WCF arranged to testify before the Russian parliament in favor of its broad ban on adoption by gay people – told the American Family Association’s One News Now that Kirk decided to “discriminate against a group that stands for traditional marriage” and that by doing so he was “undermining the party platform” because “it’s part of the Republican Party platform to stand up for traditional marriage.”

The Family Research Council piled on with a press release accusing the senator of “true discrimination” and “silencing anyone who doesn’t adhere to a politically correct view of sexuality.”

"Holding a different view of marriage and sexuality is not discriminatory - especially when all the social science research demonstrates the benefits of the natural family,” added FRC’s Tony Perkins.

Meanwhile, the Illinois Family Institute, the state affiliate of the American Family Association, published an article accusing Sen. Kirk of wanting to “normalize sexual deviance while trampling the conscience rights of untold numbers of people” and followed it up with an email urging its members to call Kirk’s office and express their displeasure.

Despite what all three groups said, the Howard Center and the World Congress of Families don’t merely hold “a different view of marriage and sexuality.” WCF actively works to push oppressive anti-gay laws throughout the world, including actively working toward Russia’s ban on pro-gay-rights speech. Indeed, the speakers at the Capitol Hill symposium enthusiastically defended Russia's anti-gay laws and denyied that the laws actually harm gay people.

It maybe shouldn’t come as a surprise that three of the largest anti-gay groups in the US have jumped to the defense of WCF: Brown has close ties with WCF and has signed fundraising emails for the group, and FRC and AFA are both official “partners” of the organization.

Harvey Milk’s Legacy

The following is a guest post by Campbell, California Mayor Evan Low, a member of People For the American Way Foundation’s Young Elected Officials Network.

In 2009, I became the youngest openly gay mayor as well as the youngest Asian-American mayor in the country. Some journalists wrote about how I was making history, but I like to point out that I was preceded by a number of other courageous “firsts.”

I became mayor 35 years after Kathy Kozachenko was the first openly LGBT person elected to public office, and 32 years after Harvey Milk – affectionately known as “the mayor of Castro Street” – was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in the same state I serve today.

This week marks the anniversary of the tragic end of Milk’s short time in office, when he and Mayor George Moscone were shot and killed by Supervisor Dan White. But the legacy of Harvey Milk and other LGBT trailblazers is very much alive. Today there are more than 500 openly LGBT elected or appointed officials serving our country. Through their service and that of public officials representing other marginalized communities, it is clear that our democracy works best when our lawmakers reflect the nation’s diversity.

That’s not to say that things are always easy for LGBT elected officials. Like Milk, I have received my share of hate mail, with messages like: “We don’t want the homosexual agenda in our community.” As I have told reporters before, I don’t know what is on that so-called agenda, other than basic equality for all people.

One issue that’s certainly on my agenda is the end of the FDA’s ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men. In a petition that now has more than 62,000 supporters, I wrote:

…recently, I hosted a blood drive on city property, but was banned from donating blood myself.

As the mayor of Campbell, providing for the welfare of the general public is a top priority. As a gay man, however, I am conflicted in my advocacy for blood drives. Under current U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines, a man who has sex with another man is deferred for life from donating blood.  The ban was imposed in 1983 when there were no reliable tests for screening blood for HIV/AIDS.  It was also made during a time of mass medical confusion and cultural homophobia associated with HIV/AIDS.  The current FDA ban is wildly outdated and perpetuates unfair labels against gay and bisexual men that live on through decades of discrimination.

These kinds of stereotypes are not unlike the ones Harvey Milk was fighting nearly four decades ago, and why he, like I do today, encouraged LGBT people to come out whenever possible – to dispel the harmful lies about our community with the truth.  Stuart Milk, nephew of Harvey Milk and founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation, continues his uncle's legacy, and we are so fortunate to have Stuart carry the torch. 

In a tape Milk recorded before his death, he said, “I have never considered myself a candidate. I have always considered myself part of a movement.” I think he would be proud of the movement that lives on in his spirit today.
 

PFAW Foundation

PFAW Launches Petition in Response to Right Wing Activist’s YouTube Takedown Campaign

WASHINGTON – People For the American Way (PFAW), a national progressive nonprofit advocacy group, has launched a petition urging YouTube to change its video takedown policy in response to a barrage of frivolous complaints aimed at PFAW’s Right Wing Watch YouTube channel.

On November 7, YouTube automatically terminated the channel of PFAW’s Right Wing Watch blog after Pastor Gordon Klingenschmitt, a right-wing activist who is a frequent subject of Right Wing Watch’s reporting, made a number of frivolous copyright claims against the account. On November 20, the channel was restored following YouTube’s procedure for challenging such false claims. Within a day, Klingenshmitt filed another series of complaints, causing the channel to be suspended yet again.

“We must be doing something right if right-wing, anti-gay activists are so eager to silence our voice,” said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way. “But we can’t allow a hatemonger like Klingenschmitt to hide his record of dangerous, bigoted rhetoric simply by filing a few false complaints. We appreciate the service that YouTube provides and have made it a central part of our work monitoring and exposing the radical right. Although we distribute our videos through multiple channels, YouTube is an important network for sharing this information. It’s disappointing that a single activist with a grudge can exploit a loophole in YouTube’s policies to bring down the work of an entire watchdog organization.”

Right Wing Watch has recorded Klingenschmitt’s long history of extremist rhetoric. Videos on our YouTube account show Klingenschmitt

YouTube’s policy requires the automatic removal of an account if three challenges have been filed against theaccount simultaneously. Klingenschmitt has previously attempted, unsuccessfully, to get individual videos of himself removed from Right Wing Watch’s channel. Other right-wing figures have similarly attempted to abuse YouTube’s policy to hide videos of themselves; all the challenged clips have ultimately been restored.

Right Wing Watch’s YouTube channel holds thousands of videos that have collectively received more than 20 million views.

“Klingenschmitt’s attacks speak to the success we have had in monitoring and exposing extremism on the right,” added Keegan. “However, unless YouTube changes its policy to prevent serial frivolous copyright claims from people like Klingenschmitt from taking down accounts, we will continue to  risk losing valuable reporting for any reason at any time. YouTube should not allow extremists to silence the watchdogs reporting on their extremism.”


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Religious Right Groups Scandalized By Effort To Protect Houston's LGBT Inmates

The Associated Press reported last week on the efforts of Sheriff Adrian Garcia of Harris County, Texas, to prevent violence against the Houston county jail’s estimated 250 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender inmates. The AP notes that while a number of major cities have taken similar steps, Harris County will be the first in Texas to implement such a program.

Naturally, the American Family Association and Eagle Forum are scandalized.

Under the headline, “Deputy, Ronnie is now called Regina: Jail enacts sexual orientation policy,” Charlie Butts, a reporter for the AFA’s OneNewsNow, interviews Texas Eagle Forum president and former Texas Republican Party chairwoman Cathie Adams, who claims that Houston’s mayor Annise Parker – who is openly gay – is behind the new policy.

Adams claims that Parker actually wants to leave LGBT people “more vulnerable to abuse” and that the policy “will eke into the community and set up a very tragic situation.” She suggests instead of allowing transgender people to identify as they choose, that the jail offer conversion therapy to transgender inmates;  Butts claims, “The mental health field has an excellent track record in treating transgendered people to conform to their biological gender.” In fact, major medical groups including the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association oppose the practice of reparative therapy.

Cathie Adams, with Texas Eagle Forum, says Houston is being influenced by its mayor, Annise D. Parker, an open lesbian. The city needs a better role model, she says.

"Not a person who is going to leave them more vulnerable to abuse," says Adams. "And I'm very sorry to say, I think that is exactly what this policy will do, not just in the prison but of course it will eke into the community and set up a very tragic situation."

The policy also suggests that transgendered people can choose between male and female sections of the prison.

Adams calls that allowance "tragic," noting that a "man is born as a man."

Jailers must address the transgendered by their "chosen name" and include it on the bracelet, the AP also reported.

The mental health field has an excellent track record in treating transgendered people to conform to their biological gender. So Adams wonders why, if Houston wants to help jail inmates, they don't offer counseling instead of affirming their gender confusion.

Jailers fall under a "zero tolerance" rule for sexual misconduct or harassment toward LGBT inmates, which could include firing and criminal charges. It was unclear from The Associated Press story if those rules only apply to homosexuals.
 

Religious Right Leaders Defend Russia's Anti-Gay Law

As Miranda reported earlier, House Speaker John Boehner’s office stepped in to provide space to the anti-gay Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society for its symposium on what Americans should learn from other countries when it comes to “family policy.” Sen. Mark Kirk, who had originally sponsored the group for a room, withdrew his support last night saying he doesn’t affiliate with groups that discriminate.

The Howard Center’s Allan Carlson, who described himself as a historian by training, saw fascism at work: “The parallel I see here is what happened in Italy, Germany, other lands in the 1920s and 1930s as fascism began to impose its fear-driven grip on debate, on conversation, and on policy-making.”

[UPDATE: Concerned Women of America has posted videos of the event]

Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America boasted about having been a speaker at all but one of the World Congress of Families summits – annual events organized by the Howard Center and attended by conservative religious activists from around the world. Crouse acknowledged that “things don’t look so good” to activists watching the advance of same-sex marriage in Europe and the U.S., and public opinion in many countries shifting to “quote LGBT rights.”  But, she said that’s not the whole story, and praised countries that have outlawed gay marriage and other groups of citizens who are “with the help of God” changing the world.

Crouse is particularly excited about what is happening among opponents of marriage equality in France, which she portrays as a “David v. Goliath” battle of plucky pro-family activists fighting the French government and media. She mentioned activists in Spain, Trinidad & Tobago, and Nigeria. She encouraged the small number of attendees to “take heart” and count on the power of truth and faithfulness.

Austin Ruse, the enthusiastically anti-gay head of the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute, devoted much of his remarks to supporting Russia’s new anti-free-speech and anti-gay propaganda law.  He read from a statement of support from “pro-family groups” defending Russia’s new law. The letter claims that “the Russian law protects the innocence of children and the basic rights of their parents recognized in the international legislation and treaties.”  More from the letter:

With its new law Russia is protecting genuine and universally recognized human rights against artificial and fabricated “values” aggressively imposed in many modern societies….We thus call for respect of the sovereignty of the Russian people and we invite all organizations and people who feel responsible for the protection of the innocence of children and their rights, the natural family and parental rights to stand up for Russia, as well as for Ukraine and Moldova suffering the same pressure due to similar laws.

Ruse, who has been spending time in Russia to prepare for the World Congress of Families 2014 summit, being held in Moscow, said western LGBT rights advocates were guilty of overheated rhetoric and “propaganda” about the status of gays in Russia. He saw gays everywhere in Moscow! They can enjoy themselves “hassle-free” at clubs.  Russians, he said, accept that homosexuality exists, but they believe the political movement to celebrate and regularize it is harmful to children.

Speakers actually seemed envious of Russia in some ways.  Ruse said that with the resurgence of the Russian Orthodox Church, “Christians over there are truly dominant.” In the U.S., though, there is “an increasingly hostile atmosphere toward people with traditional values” and a “vicious totalitarianism that is loose in the land.” And “there’s more trouble coming” with the Employment Non Discrimination Act.  Crouse said American gay-rights activists are “turning into thugs who are destroying freedom of speech, destroying religious liberty.” It’s very “refreshing,” she said, to see that’s not the case in other countries.

Ruse acknowledged that anti-gay violence and thuggery is a problem in Russia. He denounced such violence and said he has urged Russian officials to do more to stop it. But when he was asked whether the conversation about the anti-gay propaganda law and protecting children from gay people might encourage such violence, he said anti-gay violence in Russia has been going on for a long time and didn’t think the new law was to blame. And he said blaming religious conservatives for creating a climate of hate is a tactic of gay-rights groups, a “maneuver to silence people.” 

Carlson said he cuts Russia a lot of slack because the country is “trying to put decent moral society back together” after both Communism and some of the “bad things” – like a “libertine approach to sexuality” – that poured into Russia from the west after the fall of Communism.

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