Posts filed under ‘Community/Meta’

“Indeed, Let the People Vote!” — A Contrarian Manifesto.

A guest post from JPM on a very interesting topic. Opinions expressed reflect those of the author alone -Adam

By jpmassar (aka JPM on P8TT)

No one should vote on other people’s rights. That’s why we have a Constitution, a Bill of Rights and the 14th amendment, judicial review of legislation, and a federal amendment process that demands a supermajority of both Congress and the States to change our basic governing document.

But the Constitution of the United States, and the ‘fundamental rights’ the Supreme Court has said are ours inherently, have never yet been interpreted to preclude the denial of these rights to LGBT American citizens.

And the fact of the matter is, as homophobic organizations delight in telling, LGBT rights have been voted on by the people of the United States at least thirty one times, and every time said people have done so said rights have gone down to defeat.

Partly as a result of these votes, and partly out of the strong belief that people should not as a matter of moral principle be voting on the rights of others, LGBT organizations, many individual LGBTs, and many allies have taken a strong stand against putting marriage equality on the ballot — fighting the fight if left no other choice (e.g., in California in 2008 and in Maine in 2009), but otherwise eschewing such votes.

The opponents of equality don’t care what tactics they use. If a ballot initiative is the best tactic, they’ll go with that. If intimidating legislators is what’s called for, they’re happy to do that too. If recalling judges will send a chilling message, well, go for it. And if spreading lies and inciting unfounded fears via advertising will get the job done, they have no problem with that either.

Is it the case that for the proponents of equality to forgo the tactic of referendums where winnable is simply handing the opposition a victory by default?

It is time to have a debate about this. Join me on the flip.

(more…)

May 9, 2011 at 12:00 pm 5 comments

Morning equality round-up, May 5th, 2011

By Adam Bink

Around and about:

  • We’re in the final steps of the first phase for an upgrade to Prop8TrialTracker. Some new features I think you’ll like. I’ll be announcing them likely later today or tomorrow.
  • Bill Clinton, New Yorker by way of Arkansas and the White House, endorses same-sex marriage in a statement released today. Clinton did this a few years ago in a more roundabout “I think states should have the right to do what they want to do”, but this is better.
  • The rally to defend against the deportation of Henry and Josh is now rescheduled for tomorrow morning at 11 AM, Friday the 6th, in Newark. Details can be found here on Facebook. If you can attend, please do. We’ll have some exciting speakers. This may be our last shot as his final deportation hearing is at the same time.

More from Joe Sudbay on why it’s so important for the Administration to get it together on this one.

  • Are you one of the 32,010 people who follow Courage Campaign on Facebook? We often publicize a lot of important LGBT news and actions. Follow us here.
  • P8TT friend Karen Ocamb has an interview with the highest-ranking lesbian in the White House, Nancy Sutley.
  • Country music star and “The Voice” host Blake Shelton, homophobe. And this is the same guy who, last month, was insinuating Gyllenhaal had broken up with country star Taylor Swift because he was gay. Get some class, jerk.
  • Opening night for “The Normal Heart” on Broadway. I have plans in the next few weeks to go and see this. I’ve heard rave reviews all around.
  • Happy Cinco de Mayo! What are you reading?

May 5, 2011 at 8:45 am 26 comments

Demanding full support for equality: A “Sophie’s Choice” or not, and whether it’s worth it

By Adam Bink

I got into an e-mail exchange with some colleagues on the news that the NRA, following the Commonwealth of Virginia, was dropping the services of King & Spalding over their decision to drop the DOMA case. One colleague wrote:

As I predicted, it has started.  If this becomes a trend, many law firms may have to make a “Sophie’s Choice,” maximizing their revenue or standing on principle as clients pull out who disagree with their defense of LGBT rights.

To which another responded:

Somewhere along the way, multimillionaire lawyers have set up a nice little scam: charge hundreds and hundreds (if not over a thousand) dollars per hour and then when someone has some issue with the fact that there is blood on their hands say “Oh, you don’t understand, we’re lawyers, we get a special exemption.” As long as there are amazing activists like the people who slapped K&S in the face, these actions will continue. And it’s a good thing. There are a lot more big law firms out there that support us over them.

A few thoughts on this for community dialogue:

I alluded in this morning’s roundup to it, but entirely apart from the debate over whether DOMA deserves a defense like terrorists deserve a defense, there seems to be two schools of thought on how law firms should be treated in situations like this. One seems to be that they should be treated with respect and courtesy, because it is discussed in the Bill of Rights how individuals are entitled to a defense and there are many lawyers out there doing the important Constitutional work of defending unpopular individuals, corporations and laws, and placing firms like King & Spalding in an uncomfortable situation by demanding support for equality leads to our opponents doing the same to law firms defending pro-LGBT individuals, corporations and laws.

The second school of thought is that law firms are corporations and lawyers are in this business for profit just as much as CEOs of Ford, American Airlines, Coors, or any other Fortune 500 company, and if they are going to charge large sums of money and do the work that they do, they should be held to the same high standards. Accordingly, if our movement is going to ask that companies large and small offer benefits to same-sex partners of employees, sponsor events from AIDS benefits to gay Pride celebrations, offer and/or require sensitivity trainings on LGBT issues to their employees, and generally support equality in other tangible ways, and then rate them on it (HRC’s Corporate Equality Index), then law firms deserve the same.

The last part — “tangible ways” — is perhaps overlooked and quite important. When Microsoft and Boeing, two of the largest if not the largest employers in Washington State, issued a statement encouraging voters to support Referendum 71 in 2009 (the “everything but marriage” law), that mattered. When Apple and Google donated hundreds of thousands to fight Prop 8, that mattered. When Google spent north of $800,000 to feature the It Gets Better Project in last night’s Glee advertisement, that mattered. It matters as much as Harvey Milk organizing a boycott of Coors with the Teamsters, or pressuring Ford Motor Co. to ignore the American Family Association boycott and advertise in gay-interest magazines. Many large law firms are already rated, including K&S, on various standards of how they treat their employees. What seemed to remain unrated, or at least overlooked until HRC announced they would start incorporating it into their CEI and announced various actions to damage K&S in conjunction with the amount of criticism leveled in spaces like this one, is whether or not to treat the King & Spalding’s of the world the same way one might treat Apple or Boeing on these other “tangible ways” they impact our community.

The argument made at the top by my colleague is that King & Spalding would face a “Sophie’s Choice” that is unfair to any business. Well, there are two responses.

First, that was the choice faced by Coors during the Milk/Teamsters boycott. That was the choice faced by Ford during the AFA boycott. That is the choice faced by Fortune 500 companies today when told they can implement policies for partners of employees that will cost them money and do sensitivity training that will cost them money, or stand on their principle and watch employees choose to work elsewhere. This is how business campaigns work. You fight fire with fire and put them on the record.

Second, King & Spalding handled this in probably a way that other law firms wouldn’t do again. They are now getting criticized from all sides and can’t win — criticized by some LGBT activists for agreeing to take the case and criticized by the Ken Cuccinelli’s of the world, and some legal quarters, for dropping a case they took. But if another prominent law firm called Bink & Jacobs chose to tell the world they were approached by Boehner to defend this law and told Boehner they’d have no part of defending such an abhorrent law, I bet they’d find themselves with some new pro-LGBT clients or some of the brightest law school graduates for doing so. In fact, if I were a smart partner at a big law firm and that happened, I might pen an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal titled “Why I told Speaker Boehner thanks, but no thanks,” and reap the rewards. I might lose clients, absolutely. But I might also win some new ones and the praise of a large community, not to mention some news and opinion leaders. I’m no lawyer or expert on the legal community, but it seems that it doesn’t have to be a Sophie’s Choice for some firms if you do it a certain way.

The other argument is that if our movement’s activists begin targeting law firms in the same way that corporations are targeted, the AFA’s and NOM’s of the world might do the same. First, I’m not sure that they aren’t. They’re certainly pressuring mega-corporations already. But the adage I go by is that I always expect the worst from those folks. We cannot live in eternal fear of what the right-wing might do and hope they don’t dream up the same smart tactic we’re dreaming up. Let us, instead, simply go about our work.

Again, the argument over whether DOMA deserves a defense has been had and rehashed. That’s not the point of this piece or dialogue. This has moved to a discussion over how best to stand up for our community, and one that I think is worth having in spaces such as these. So with respect for each other’s arguments, the forum is open!

May 4, 2011 at 9:45 am 39 comments

Morning equality round-up, May 4th, 2011

By Adam Bink

Posting has been light of late because your fearless blogger dove for a frisbee during an ultimate frisbee game, landed on his right shoulder, and tore a coupla ligaments. I’m in a sling for the next 6-12 weeks and not having fun with it. On the other hand, I did catch the disc and score a point, plus, I always wanted to learn how to shave and brush my teeth with my left hand.

But it is rather painful to type, so I’ll be briefer than normal and posting will be lighter for a bit, with more round-ups and more diverse content, which is why you see more from Rick and Cleve. As always, if you have a piece you’d like to submit on Prop 8 or LGBT rights, please do send it in to prop8trial@couragecampaign.org. Now’s your time to shine!

A few items of note:

  • The Washington Post covers the effort to vacate Judge Walker’s ruling. This section is particularly salient and of concern:

But even those who say the argument has merit acknowledge that it may not be enough to persuade a judge to vacate Walker’s ruling. They say Proposition 8 proponents should have raised their concern earlier, when the rumors about Walker’s sexuality began to surface. And they point out that there is no evidence that Walker planned to marry his partner of 10 years.

Still, the challenge may have planted doubt in the public’s mind about Walker’s impartiality, said Gillers, the New York University professor.

“Unfortunately, Walker has muddied the waters and given the opponents of gay marriage the ability to undermine the credibility of his opinion,” he said. “That doesn’t mean the opinion becomes wrong, but it gives the proponents of Proposition 8 ammunition to cast doubt in the public debate.”

That is what the proponents of Prop 8 are trying to do by turning this into a circus. Win or lose, that’s the goal.

  • Meanwhile, the NYTimes calls the effort ridiculous.
  • H/t to Kathleen, a letter to Chief Judge James Ware on behalf of the Media Coalition’s motion. And a brief from the Pacific Legal Foundation.
  • Attorney General Holder repeats the same “everyone deserves a lawyer including DOMA” thing, but otherwise does well in pushing back against Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner’s complaints about not defending DOMA:
  • Speaking of, Maggie, perhaps a little too knee-deep in the bin Laden coverage, calls HRC’s efforts to call out King & Spalding a “jihad.”
  • The more I think about it and hear arguments on it, the more I think that there is one school of thought that believes multi-millionaire lawyers in firms like K&S are little different from Fortune 500 corporations and should be held to the same standards, and another school that believes they deserve special status and respect because, well, there’s a lot in the Bill of Rights about deserving legal representation and so forth. I’ll be writing some more later on this, but it just is an interesting divide.
  • A very painful fight in Rhode Island over the civil unions bill, pragmatism, and half a loaf as activists protest the bill in place of marriage. NOM, of course, has “grave concerns” that civil unions will lead to marriage anyway.
  • Meanwhile, let’s hope Gov. Cuomo is as good as his word in making a major, personal push in “going to the people.” Failure in Maryland, Rhode Island, AND New York State all within the span of a few months would be a major problem.
  • 727 faith leaders from across the state of New York speak out for equality, including some faith leaders I grew up knowing in Western New York!
  • I don’t know how many of you watched Glee last night, but did anyone else think it was pretty cool that Google essentially just spent a lot of money doing free advertising for the It Gets Better Project and combating bullying in schools? I did. Clarknt67, who blogs at DailyKos and Pam’s House Blend, believes it cost somewhere north of $800,000. I bet some people will say “meh, the audience that watches Glee loves the gays and opposes bullying anyway, why not advertise during, say, a football game.” That’s a reasonable point, but praise where praise is due for now. Check out the ad:

What are you reading?

May 4, 2011 at 5:10 am 40 comments

With Liberty and Justice For All

By Rick Jacobs

After watching the President’s speech last night, my hosts (I’m in town on business) took me to the White House area where we watched, photographed and had some fun with hundreds of mostly young folks who celebrated wildly.  It was an odd feeling because it’s hard to be jubilant over death, yet these folks who probably averaged 19 years in age had grown up with 9/11 emblazoned on their minds. Post-9/11 shaped their world view.  For the first time, as one sign said, the witch was dead.

On a personal level, this was all on the heels of Courage’s first-ever spring fundraising drive.  We had to reach $50,000 or we’d not achieve our match.  I know the donors who put up the challenge; they meant it.  We did not know how it would go because traditionally online fundraising occurs around an event: we won the Prop. 8 verdict or we’re being attacked and need money to beat the foes or we’re tracking NOM.  They are all sincere and necessary to the progress you have built here on P8TT and with Courage Campaign in general.  Last month, you funded a $12,000 challenge Adam issued to fund Prop8TrialTracker (and to fund site improvements this week!).  It all matters.

But this time we said to our members, “Courage Campaign has to pay salaries and fund programs.  It all costs money.  If you think Courage Campaign provides value, chip in and some major donors will match you.”  That’s what public radio does and it keeps those stations on the air.  Email is different. People get so much of it, they may just delete a fundraising request.  It’s not like radio where you can change the channel and then come back; with email, if you don’t read it, you don’t get that message ever.

As you know by now, Courage members came through with flying colors.  We exceeded our goal and then some, blowing past the $50,000 mark well before midnight on Saturday.  In the process, we got to know some of our members much better, some of whom I wrote about on Thursday.  Some of the people we talked to won the five iPod Touches; three won the special drawings for the tour of the Castro with Cleve Jones, seats to our friend Terrence McNally’s Master Class and a visit to the set of CBS’ hit show The Good Wife, courtesy of the brilliant Alan Cumming.

One thing is clear:  we have a big and strong Courage family of which you on P8TT are a key part.  We are going to work very hard to get folks together, build communication between staff and members, but also among members, much as you have done here on P8TT.  And yes, we’ll have to come back to ask for money.  That’s the way it is.  We all feel stronger, more heartened and girded for battle because of our experiment last week.

What has this to do with the spontaneous party in front of the White House in the wee hours this morning?  Everything.  Those young folks, men and women, Republican, Democratic or Independent, care deeply about America. And I assure they could care less about who is gay or straight. They don’t much care about race or ethnicity, either.  They care about a nation that promises them a bright future with access to freedom.  That’s why many of them spontaneously broke out into a series of phrases that are the essence of the equality movement, but which we so often forget:  I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

That’s worth celebrating. And that’s what you and Courage are all about.

May 2, 2011 at 3:45 pm 36 comments

Historical trends in public opinion and whether Maggie and Justice Scalia care about them

By Adam Bink

In yesterday’s NYTimes, Maggie and Justice Scalia whine about those damn propeller-heads being ahead of the American public on same-sex marriage:

“There is a big gap between elites and everyone else” over same-sex marriage, said Maggie Gallagher, the president of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, which supports traditional marriage. The polls and political science literature support her: What may be orthodoxy in faculty lounges remains an open question among the public at large.

[…]

Ms. Gallagher sounded bitter and besieged as she described how the nature if not the substance of the debate had shifted. “Either you’re with them or you’re a hater,” she said of gay rights advocates. “They’re trying to exclude you from the public square.”

[…]

Nathaniel Persily, who teaches law and political science at Columbia, says that today, a person’s education level is powerfully predictive of views about same-sex marriage. “Sometimes the norm of equality penetrates the elite levels first,” he said. In fact, the change of attitudes has moved farthest in the legal community, which has long embraced gay rights with a particular fervor, a point Justice Antonin Scalia complained about in a 2003 dissent that in a way predicted King & Spalding’s decision.

The “law-professional culture,” Justice Scalia wrote, “has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda, by which I mean the agenda promoted by some homosexual activists directed at eliminating the moral opprobrium that has traditionally attached to homosexual conduct.”

I’m not sure how people who went and got a high school degree or GED or bachelor’s or graduate degree got to be grouped into a negative term like “elites”, nor am I sure why people who claim to be for higher education then turn around and whine about those damn “elites”, a term which I usually find uttered by conservative individuals as a euphanism for “people smarter than you and you should resent it”, but whatever.

I’d take a wild guess that same-sex marriage was not and will not be the only issue on which the legal community was/is ahead of the American public, historically speaking. In fact, I’d wager segregation in schools might be another, and interracial marriage. It would be fascinating to look at historical data on touchstone civil rights and social issues and see where “elites”, or whatever, are.

Of course, if it turns out the legal community is batting a perfect 1.000 in terms of being right on such issues around which there is now public consensus, no doubt 20 years from now the next Maggie and Justice Scalia will be whining about those damn propeller head elites being of a different opinion than the American public… they must be stupid pointy-headed Ivy liberals! Don’t listen to them!

I will say one thing — I have traveled to most states in this union and met a lot of people, from people who left high school to work on their family farm to people teaching at the nation’s top universities. Maggie and Justice Scalia will find that support for equality knows no educational bounds.

May 1, 2011 at 6:00 am 100 comments

The Joys of Our Courageous Family

This post is part of Courage Campaign’s spring fundraising drive, where your dollar will be matched 1-1 by some generous donors, and you have the chance to win some great prizes! Please click here to make a secure — and doubled — contribution today. -Adam

By Rick Jacobs

It’s nearly 1:00AM here in LA on this last Friday of April.  I’ve been focused on our first-ever spring fundraising drive.  It’s not always fun to raise money, but we need to do just that in order to keep doing just this.  But the last 48 hours have filled me with joy.

Yes, I call people to ask for money, but I also get to call and write folks to thank them. I look at every donation that comes in, learning about our members.  They fill in“occupation,” and some of those are damned interesting.  One thing’s for sure: Courage is about storytelling and our members have inspiring, heartful stories.

Tuesday, I spoke with Dr. B for about thirty minutes.  He lives here in the LA area. He’s donated to us a few times, adding up to a pretty nice sum.  He’s a medical doctor, married to a woman, nearly blind and suffering from some spinal challenges that make him less mobile than he’d like to be.  And he’s a cancer survivor.  But what stories!

He cares about equality because he has two gay cousins, one of whom came out in the early 1950s and who, unfortunately, had a rather bad series of experiences which left him less than joyous in his worldview.  The other came out much later, after “living a lie” for decades.  Dr. B wants this all to end. He wants everyone to live and love as who we are, not to suffer the way his relatives did.  And he said he’s up for some treatment that may allow him to go to Europe with his wife for three weeks. I’ll check back in with him and let you know.  Oh, he said he’d be happy to record his Testimony for us.  We’ll share that as well.

Thursday morning, I got to call Annie B, in Dodge City, Kansas to tell her that she’d won the daily drawing for an iPod Touch.  She’s a widow, living “at the end of a country road,” about to move to Seattle if she can arrange it all. Her husband died shortly after they moved to Kansas six years ago to farm and live a quiet life. She’s been there alone ever since.

Why does she care about equality?  Her husband had a cousin who, together with that cousin’s partner, took care of the cousin’s father in his waning years.  They lived and loved as any couple would, except that they could not marry. She could not understand and does not understand why society prevents that.   Her cousin-in-law’s partner has passed away, so part of the reason she wants to move back to Seattle is to be near him.

I asked her to write or record her story, especially after she gets the iPod Touch. She said she would now that I’ve asked, but she had demurred when we asked via email a few months ago. She said, “I started to write my story, but I thought since I was not directly affected, others would have more compelling stories.” Then she thought about that brilliant and sad sermon (by Pastor Martin Niemöller) about Nazi Germany, “Then they came for me and no one was left to speak up.”

So she realized, as we were speaking, that civilization relies on people being civil, which all too often we are not.  She understands that telling her story can change minds and is as powerful as any LGBT story, maybe more so because she is not  superficially directly affected.

And then tonight, I noticed a modest contribiution from an Edward, whose address is California, but he’d written “I live in Cambodia.” I could not resist writing to him.  He lives near Angkor Wat where he has founded and runs a school (http://www.bridgeoflifeschool.org/Bridge_of_Life_School/Welcome.html) that helps local folks to learn basics but also to get jobs. I could not resist giving him a donation, too.  He promised that he’d send his story, first in writing and then, when he can get to an Internet café with a good connection, by video.  So this gentle man is on the other side of the globe paying attention to Courage Campaign even as he’s paying attention to building lives.

The joy of the Internet is that it provides for lots of connections. The challenge is that they are not easily deepened. This blog that Adam tends so carefully and that you each and all read and build with love and passion is perhaps our most consistent means of expanding those otherwise tenuous online relationships.  We’re gong to use our Testimony project to do even more, but know that there are thousands and thousands of us all over the globe who care about each other, who give what they can and who do even more.

Fundraising is not always fun, but it’s sure a great way to get to know the Courageous family.  And it’s worth every minute.  Thanks for caring. Thanks for being our family. Thanks for your contribution (and chance to win the prizes Adam listed yesterday) and support.

April 29, 2011 at 10:15 am 49 comments

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