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Chicago has become the third city in the US to consider having a specific LGBTA friendly high school, after New York’s Harvey Milk High School and Milwaukee’s Alliance School.  The school would be open to all students, but cater specifically to the needs of LGBT students and allies.  As the Chicago Board of education considers this school to be added to the Chicago Public Schools in 2010, Mayor Daley has expressed his hesitation in such a school, citing concern over segregating students:

“You have to look at whether or not you isolate and segregate children. A holistic approach has always been to have children of all different backgrounds in schools. When you start isolating children and you say, ‘Only 50 percent here, 40 percent here’ — same thing we went through with the disabled — then you want to do that when they’re adults.”

Something that caught my eye in the Sun Times articleon this issue (even though it’s no longer available in the article) is that they initially talked about how baffling it was that a mayor, so well known for his support of LGBT rights (helping fund Center on Halsted, supporting the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame, supporting the Cook County domestic partner registry, appointing a liaison to LGBT issues) could take this kind of stance. 

Really??  I just don’t understand why someone would find Mayor Daley to be unsupportive of LGBT rights just because he is wary of this project because of the segregation it would cause.  Oh yeah, did I mention that Rick Garcia of Equality Illinois completely agrees with him?  From the Sun Times article:

“There’s no doubt there’s violence and bullying of gay kids and something has to be done, but segregating them is not the answer,” said Garcia. “It doesn’t stop bullying at other schools. And if a kid is different and the object of scorn or bullying, instead of addressing it, the teacher might say, ‘Send him to homo high.’

“Instead of a school for gay kids, maybe we need a school for the bullies. Gay kids are not the problem. Bullies and teachers and administrators who don’t stop the bullying are the problem,” he said.

I completely agree with Rick.  Taking LGBT students out of a bullying situation will make them temporarily safer, but it does nothing to help change the stereotypes and the prejudice that the bully has.  So, once the students leave high school, they’ll be faced with the same situation.  Think of the millions of dollars it would cost to build a new school.  Wouldn’t that money be much better spent creating tolerance programs, anti-bully initiatives, harsher punishments for bullies, or after-school programs? 

I know the stats about the higher drop out rates and lower average grades of LGBT students.  I fear for these students and the intolerance they may face.  Something absolutely needs to be done.  But segregating the students?  I just don’t think that’s the answer.

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Two steps forward:

This past February, Illinois General Assembly Representative Greg Harris (D-Chicago), the only openly gay and HIV-positive representative in the Assembly, introduced the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Unions Act. This would make civil unions legal in Illinois. This is a pretty freakin‘ big deal. It would make Illinois the first state in the Midwest to have such a law, and it’s very, very close to taking it’s first giant step towards becoming a reality here. I spent this past Wednesday in Springfield lobbying with Equality Illinois for this cause. Lobbying is a really interesting process. Basically, when the representatives are in session and on the floor, you have to go to a roped-off door that leads to the floor. You then hand your business card with your rep’s name on it to the security guard there, who gives it to a page, who gives it to the rep on the floor. If the rep is able, he/she comes out to speak with his/her constituent. Sounds like a very calm, regulated process, right? It would be, if there weren’t at least ten other groups trying to lobby for different bills. It’s pretty much a madhouse with people pushing against each other in a small space, shoving their cards in front of them so someone can pass it on to the security guard.

While my rock star representative is already a co-sponsor of the bill, I decided to visit the white Republican land of Lake County representatives. I tried to speak with the representatives where both sets of my parents live as well as the representative from where I grew up. Unfortunately, I was only able to get one representative, Sid Mathias (R-Arlington Heights) to come out and speak with me. I tried to explain to him how important this bill was, and he told me that he hadn’t made his decision one way or another about the matter and that he was waiting for the debates and keeping an open mind. His tone of voice and demeanor gave me the impression that he’s already decided to vote against the bill, but you never know.

So what happens next? We’ve been told that we only need about 12 more strong supporters before they feel comfortable to call a vote to this bill, which will probably happen in the end of May. Next, it goes to the Senate to be voted on some time in November. Once it passes through the Senate, Governor Rod Blagojevich will sign it into law. And that’s it, folks. Civil Unions in Illinois for Christmas.

Want to help? Check out Equality Illinois and sign up for their updates. They’re the ones with their fingers on the pulse of this issue and will let everyone know as soon as they know who we need to lobby again, when a vote will happen, and other ways to help. This is a huge deal. Please, try and do your part to be a part of Illinois and Midwest history.

Two steps back:

Just one day before we were lobbying for civil unions in Illinois, another bill was being debated on the floor, introduced by the aforementioned rock star representative of mine, Sara Feigenholtz (with help from the ACLU). This bill, called the Vital Records Act would have made easier for people to change the gender on their birth certificate after undergoing a sex change. Currently, Illinois law allows this to happen if the person presents an affidavit from the doctor who performed the procedure. This process, however, does not recognize affidavits from foreign doctors. This bill would have allowed US doctors to examine those interested and sign an affidavit affirming that they’d undergone a permanent sex change through surgery or hormone treatments. The bill failed by a vote of 32-78.

But wait, there’s more. Three particular representatives, two Republicans and one Chicago Democrat (!!!), completely demeaned the bill and those it was supporting by saying outrageous comments on the floor, in public view. Here’s a little snapshot of the incredibly asinine and insensitive things they said (taken from the Chicago Tribune article linked above):

Rep. Bill Black, a Danville Republican, said he objects to recognizing non-surgical sex changes. “Maybe you went somewhere and a voodoo doctor said you were now a man, where you had been a woman,” Black said. “I’ve often thought that perhaps I was a female trapped in a male body. I know — it scares me, too,” he said to hoots from his colleagues. “I wish I didn’t have to shave every day. … I’d like to smell better. I’d like to have softer skin.”

The legislation came up shortly after a debate about neutering deer to control their population. Mahomet Republican Rep. Chapin Rose, joked that the state might start issuing sex-change documents to deer. He complained about spending time on the issue when bigger problems, such as electricity prices, remain unresolved. “How do you possibly — possibly — bring this forward when there’s so much this body needs to be considering?” Rose asked Feigenholtz.

Rep. Art Turner, a Chicago Democrat, was presiding over the chamber during the debate and switched to a falsetto voice to ask, “Have all voted who wish?” Turner voted for the measure and said he didn’t mean to offend anyone.

Seriously, these guys run our state? This is absolutely unacceptable. If you live in Illinois, please write your representative and tell them how you won’t stand for this kind of insensitivity and bigotry. Here’s a sample text you can use:

Dear Representative __________:

The behavior that took place during the discussion of HB1732 is beyond disgusting and has no place in our House of Representatives. Rep. Bill Black (R-Danville) , Rep. Chapin Rose (R-Mohamet), and Rep. Art Turner (D-Chicago) should be censored for their comments and actions.

It is this kind of hurtful language that dehumanizes people and perpetuates and legitimizes a culture of hate. Please let your “colleagues” know that people in your district are appalled. Did they not learn anything during the Imus incident?

Please if this ever happens again have the courage to stand up and stop it — rules or no rules.

Sincerely,
(Your name here)

These people are in place because we made it so. They have an obligation to listen to us. They’re not going to hear us if we don’t speak up. Please do your part.

First of all, thanks to Robby for showing me this article in the most recent issue of Mother Jones:

The Gay Marriage Stimulus Package
Cameron Scott March 01 , 2007

Gay marriage is usually cast as an issue of human rights (for supporters) or immorality (for opponents), but what about fiscal responsibility? Herewith, some of the annual economic benefits of legalizing gay marriage:

  • Same-sex couples marry and move into a higher tax bracket, boosting federal taxes by: $400 to $700 million
  • Newly formed gay households move up in income and are cut from programs such as Medicaid, resulting in savings of: $50 to $200 million
  • Uninsured gays and lesbians, whose health care costs are now paid by the government, join their spouses’ insurance plans. If a third do so, federal costs drop by: $190 million
  • If half the same-sex couples now living together get married (the rate seen in Vermont and Massachusetts) and spend a quarter of what straight couples do, it results in a wedding-industry boon of: $2 billion
  • TOTAL: Up to $3.1 billion

Sources: Congressional Budget Office, Williams Institute

Who thinks that will help convince Congress? Anyone? Funnily enough, these stats were developed using information from the Congressional Budget Office, meaning that those folks up there on the hill have access to it pretty easily. I wonder why it hasn’t come up at all?

In more local news, I’ll be down in Springfield next week with Equality Illinois lobbying for the passage of the Religious Freedom and Civil Union Act, which would extend legal recognition and many benefits of civil marriage to same sex couples. The fact that it made it his far in the Illinois government is pretty exciting. Check out the Equality Illinois site to see what you can do to help.

From CNN Today: Ballot Measure: Straight couples, procreate or else

Basically, these people in Washington are saying, “OK, fine. If marriage is all about the procreation, let’s see it.” I think this is a great example of creative thinking and turning some one’s words against them. I understand that most conservatives have other issues with gay marriage, but I feel like this addresses a large part of the argument. There are plenty of married couples without children in this world, and the number is rising:

  • In 1970, 27.4% of women ages 50-54 had at least one minor child of their own in their household. By 2000, it had fallen to 15.4%.
  • In 1976, one in ten women in their forties was childless. In 2004, it was almost one in five women who were childless.

So, there it is. Marriage isn’t about procreation anymore. It’s about a lot more than that, and if you don’t agree, then sign onto this bill in Washington and see how many marriages become annulled, or even worse, how many married couples have children even though they didn’t want to, just to prove that marriage exists only for procreation.

No worries- even the people who introduced this bill know that it’s absurd. But they’re making a point and they’re making it loud and clear. Just the other day I was lamenting about how our generation lacks the passion and the energy that was found in the activists and protests of the 60s. These kinds of happenings gives me hope for our generation.

Media Matters is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to “comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the US Media”. These folks go through the media (written, audio and visual) with a fine-toothed comb and find any discrepancies. They’ve documented times when a politician has said something that directly contradicts what they’d said months earlier, when newscasters are blatantly favoring one side of a story or misconstruing facts and when obvious points are completely disregarded. These people rock. Most of the information that I found about the issue below is thanks to them. Please support them in any way possible.

I’m sure we’ve all heard about Mary Cheney’s pregnancy. Yes, she’s a lesbian and has a life partner. Yes, they used a donor. And yes, she is a declared Republican (which, as it were, happens sometimes with the gay community). The media jumped all over it and haven’t really let up since. It’s opened up the debate on gay parenting in a much more public light, which means that closed-minded conservatives get to construe hard facts and evidence however they wish. For example, remember when Kerry supposedly “outed” Mary Cheney in the 3rd presidential debate in 2004 (even though she was already publicly out)? The media had a field day with it and lambasted him for being insensitive and for invading her privacy. Well, 2 years later, Mary Cheney announces her pregnancy, and the media couldn’t jump all over it fast enough. Suddenly, it was OK to invade her privacy to no end. Interesting.

One certain crazy conservative who took advantage of the situation is James Dobson, founder and chairman of Focus on the Family. In a recent article in TIME magazine, Dobson took the opportunity to spout his conservative nonsense about how children thrive and grow best in mother-father parenthoods and that, as his title states, “Two Mommies Is One Too Many.” He sited studies on the importance of a father figure done by Dr. Kyle Pruett of Yale Medical School as well as from educational psychologist, Carol Gilligan. Did he represent these studies correctly? Of course not. In Dr. Pruett’s book, Fatherneed: Why Father Care Is as Essential as Mother Care for Your Child, he states that “What we do know is that there is no reason for concern about the development or psychological competence of children living with gay fathers. It is love that binds relationships, not sex.” Both Dr. Pruett and Ms. Gilligan have separately stated that their research was twisted and distorted by Dobson and that none of their collective evidence points to the conclusions that Dobson came to, namely that gay parents are inadequate. Ms. Gilligan went so far as to request that Dobson never use her research ever again and demanded an apology. And yet thousands and thousands of people will use Dobson’s words as fact.

The American Psychological Association stated all the way back in 2004 that “[t]here is no scientific basis for concluding that lesbian mothers or gay fathers are unfit parents on the basis of their sexual orientation.” Also, ” Overall, results of research suggest that the development, adjustment, and well-being of children with lesbian and gay parents do not differ markedly from that of children with heterosexual parents.” You can read their full study here. The American Psychological Association is a pretty reputable source, don’t you think? I’m probably going to listen to them a little more than some crazy conservative who founded an organization with an extremely deceptive name.

PS- For a nice counterpoint to Dobson’s op-ed, check out what Jennifer Chrisler, the Executive Director of Family Pride, had to say.

One of many, rest assured. So, the Catholic Church set new guidelines for gay outreach last week. Here are the highlights with some commentary by yours truly. It should be noted that I am not actually a scholar of the Catholic Church. I know very little about it and while I respect everyone’s right to worship who/what they choose, I obviously have some beefs with the Catholic Church:

  • All people are created in the image and likeness of God and thus possess an innate human dignity that must be acknowledged and respected.

Now, does that really mean all people or just the people who believe in your god and your bible? And what about the innate human dignity of the gay community? How acknowledged and respected is that when you won’t recognize gay marriage or even gay love?

  • In keeping with this conviction, the Church teaches that persons with a homosexual inclination must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.

Again, a really great notion, if it were actually practiced. I find it hard to buy that the Catholic Church (and yes, I’m speaking in broad generalizations. I’m aware of Catholics who support the LGBT community) treats the gay community with respect, compassion and sensitivity when it refuses to recognize the basic human rights that the gay community deserves.

  • By its very nature, the sexual act finds its proper fulfillment in the marital bond. Any sexual act that takes place outside the bond of marriage does not fulfill the proper ends of human sexuality.

Does this mean that once gay marriage is accepted in the Constitution (notice I don’t say “if gay marriage is accepted”), then gay sex will be ok with the Catholic Church?

  • While the Church teaches that homosexual acts are immoral, she does distinguish between engaging in homosexual acts and having a homosexual inclination. While the former is always objectively sinful, the latter is not. To the extent that a homosexual tendency or inclination is not subject to one’s free will, one is not morally culpable for that tendency. Although one would be morally culpable if one were voluntarily to entertain homosexual temptations or to choose to act on them, simply having the tendency is not a sin. Consequently, the Church does not teach that the experience of homosexual attraction is in itself sinful.

My translation: “It’s ok to say that you’re gay. You can be attracted to the same sex. That’s your free will. You just can’t live a life that would be in any way fulfilling and joyful. Happiness is not part of free will.”

  • A considerable number of people who experience same-sex attraction experience it as an inclination that they did not choose.

Wait, did the Catholic Church just admit that homosexuality isn’t a choice?

  • The local Church community is also a place where the person with a homosexual inclination should experience friendship. This community can be a rich source of human relationships and friendships, so vital to living a healthy life. In fact, within the Church human friendship is raised to a new order of love, that of brothers and sisters in Christ.

My translation: “You can still be a member of the Catholic Church and give us your money. We’re just going to look down on you as a worse sinner than we are.”

  • In fact, the Church actively asserts and promotes the intrinsic dignity of every person. As human persons, persons with a homosexual inclination have the same basic rights as all people, including the right to be treated with dignity. Nevertheless “‘sexual orientation’ does not constitute a quality comparable to race, ethnic background, etc., in respect to nondiscrimination.

Another translation: “We can discriminate against you all we want even though we just admitted above that you don’t have a choice, just like race or ethnic background. But race and ethnic background are not valid reasons for discrimination, even though they don’t have a choice. Are we clear?”

  • For some persons, revealing their homosexual tendencies to certain close friends, family members, a spiritual director, confessor, or members of a Church support group may provide some spiritual and emotional help and aid them in their growth in the Christian life. In the context of parish life, however, general public self-disclosures are not helpful and should not be encouraged.

Translation: Please live in the closet as best you can. We don’t want the whole world knowing that we allow gays in our church.

  • Similarly, the Church does not support the adoption of children by same-sex couples since homosexual unions are contrary to the divine plan.
  • Baptism of children in the care of same-sex couples presents a serious pastoral concern. Nevertheless, the Church does not refuse the Sacrament of Baptism to these children, but there must be a well founded hope that the children will be brought up in the Catholic religion. In those cases where Baptism is permitted, pastoral ministers should exercise prudential judgment when preparing baptismal ceremonies. Also, in preparing the baptismal record, a distinction should be made between natural parents and adoptive parents

A nice double standard: “We don’t want you adopting kids. But, if you are to adopt, make sure to baptise them as Catholics so we can teach them all about how their parents’ love is wrong and intolerable by our god. It’s even worse than all those priests of ours who had those problems back in the day.”

I exaggerate, I know. I jump to a few conclusions, sure. But it’s hard not to feel enraged. Everyone made such a big deal out of the Catholic Church coming out with a new stance on homosexuals. Um, what is this new stance? Let’s see….homosexuality still a sin? Check. Gay marriage still not allowed? Check. The only difference I see here is that now they’ll allow mostly closeted gays and their adopted children to be a part of the Church.

I’ll save the religion rant for another day. Here’s my basic idea: if god made everyone in “his” image, then wouldn’t that mean that gays are the same as everyone else? I know, I may be simplifying it too much. Regardless of what I believe now, I grew up learning about a god that was loving of all people; that sin was sin, regardless of what kind of a sin it was.

I think if Christians (again, broad generalization, I know) spent more time practicing the love that they claim their savior died for, maybe things would be a little different.

Treat yourself this holiday season! Kick off your holidays with festive, feminist fun and join the women of Chicago NOW’s Lesbian Rights Team at Early to Bed for our third Wine and Cheese soiree. Meet the women of Chicago NOW’s Lesbian Rights Team! Shop at a sex-positive, feminist-owned sex toy store! Learn about all of the nifty toys that are on the market. Come for the free nibbles and wine and stay for the company and raffle prizes. The event is free and open to the public although donations are encouraged. Mistletoe not included! Happy Holidays!

Come have some fun and find the perfect Christmas/Hanukkah/Solstice/Kwanzaa gift for that special someone in your life 🙂

Now it may be a little early to start talking about the election while a few crucial races are still being tallied and, unfortunately, may not be determined until December, thanks to Virgina recount laws. But, here’s my recap of the so-far surprising victories, upsetting loses and everything in between (with a special emphasis on IL):

The House

Congratulations to Democrats for gaining (as of 7:15 am CST) 28 seats, which is well over their needed 15. Hooray for Nancy Pelosi becoming the first female Speaker of the House. You know what that means? Only two higher positions left never to be held by a female: vice president and president. (Hillary 2008, anyone? We’ll save that for another day- I’m still undecided.)

Melissa Bean was able to hold her seat in the IL 08 district, my former hometown district. I was shocked at how close the vote was 2 years ago when she was running against Phil Crane, so I’m equally as shocked to see that it wasn’t as close of a race this time around. Nevertheless, I’m glad to see that she gets another 2 years to prove her worth.

As for the bad, unfortunately Tammy Duckworth from the IL 06 district was unable to clinch a victory for that seat. I thought she was a pretty cool chick, but that was a tough campaign from the start. But, on the bright side, losing by about 4,000 votes is pretty darn close.

The Senate

Not much to say about that for now. Still waiting on Montana and Virginia.

Illinois Gubernatorial Race

I am only slightly glad to see Blagojevich win a second term.

I voted Green on this one. No, I didn’t throw my vote away OR take it away from Blagojevich. It was never his to begin with- it was and always will be my vote to do with it what I want. Obviously, Topinka was never a question for me- she does not represent my beliefs nor do I feel that she is any less corrupt than any other politician in Illinois. That led me, at first, to decide to vote for Blagojevich. He’s done some great things for the state, including universal health care for all children and extending health care benefits to same-sex domestic partners of state employees. However, he is unbelievably corrupt, and I just didn’t feel good voting for corruption. So, after realizing that *gasp* there is another option, I checked out Rich Whitney and was really happy with what I saw: an environmentalist, a human rights activist (he’s a civil rights attorney), a HUGE supporter of LGBT rights and the only candidate who was an active supporter of same-sex marriage. I was absolutely thrilled to see this third option and quickly became a Whitney supporter.

No, I never expected him to win the election, but winning 11% of the vote is pretty freaking awesome for a third party candidate. This also means that he surpassed the 5% minimum needed to have a permanent ballot line in Illinois elections. I see this as a win for multi-party politics.

The Terribly Depressing

I’m going to try really hard not to just go off on America right now. It will take a lot of self-restraint. At this point, 7 of the 8 states with gay marriage bans on their ballots decided that it was a fantastic idea to write discrimination into their constitutions. Thank you Colorado, Idaho, South Dakota (more on you later- we may still be friends), South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and *sigh* Wisconsin for pushing this country even further into the depths of human rights violations. Wisconsin has truly hurt me the most as I thought that there was a very good chance that enough people outside of Dane County (a pretty obvious win) would vote against this terrible ban. I spent some time canvassing in Madison with Fair Wisconsin last weekend and was mistakenly emboldened by the positive support against the ban that was found there. Unfortunately, a state can’t be judged solely by its liberal college town.. The thing that really grills me, though, is that 26% of those who voted in favor of the ban consider themselves liberal. 26%?!?!?!?! I’m sorry, but if you are a supporter of writing discrimination into your state’s constitution, you are not a liberal. I understand that some liberals may have moral objections to same-sex marriage, but there is a difference between moral objections and declaring it illegal.

However, there is one small shining light of hope coming from Arizona. It’s not positive, but with 99% of the vote in, it looks like Arizona could become the first state to successfully defeat a gay marriage ban. You know, all states can’t be as rock star as Illinois, which wouldn’t even stand for the idea of a same-sex marriage ban being put on the ballot.

The Surprisingly Delightful

I can’t even begin to say how surprised and thrilled I am to see that South Dakota rejected the abortion ban on their ballot. I was almost convinced that it would have been passed, but South Dakota has pleasantly surprised me. Way to go!

Of course, this doesn’t mean that a woman’s right to choose is protected. One day after elections, the Supreme Court will hear two different cases regarding “partial-birth” abortions. With the current makeup of the Supreme Court (4 conservative, 4 “liberal” and 1 moderate conservative swing), I’m a little nervous.

OK, folks, that wraps up this morning’s Day-After Election Day thoughts. More will come as we all scramble to get the latest news, by either frantically refreshing the CNN homepage or gluing ourselves to the TV. More to come soon!

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