Showing posts with label OP/ED. Show all posts
Showing posts with label OP/ED. Show all posts

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Op/Ed: Follow CA and NJ’s Lead: Teach LGBT History in Schools

By Perry N. Halkitis

In the musical “Hamilton,” my former sixth-grade student, Lin Manuel Miranda, muses, “Who tells your story?”

His words are significant and meaningful to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals, whose health and wellbeing are dependent on living our lives and telling our stories openly and without judgment. For too long, the majority has silenced or marginalized our stories, negating our role in history and perpetuating the stigma that undermines the physical, emotional, and social health of the LGBT population.

Stigma prevents LGBT people from seeking healthcare — even when they are in need of services. For decades, we have known that discrimination and homophobia leads to poor mental health, including heightened suicidal ideation, greater reliance on avoidant coping strategies, heightened alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use, as well and more pronounced risky sexual behaviors. Conversely, research has documented improvements in LGBT health when laws are enacted that bestow LGBT individuals these same rights as their heterosexual peers.

Recently, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy took an important first step in guaranteeing the LGBT narrative is told by signing a law requiring public school students be taught the societal contributions of notable LGBT people throughout history, making it the second state in the nation after California to legislate such a curriculum. Other states should follow suit since LGBT history is history.

Because of Gov. Murphy’s initiative, New Jersey students we will be able to learn about and honor our LGBT heroes and their accomplishments, including the father of the modern computer, British mathematician Alan Turing; tennis great Billy Jean King, who equalized the playing field for women in the sport; and James Baldwin, a black gay man whose brilliant writing gave voice to the African American experience. By including LGBT history as part of the history we teach to the children of New Jersey, we will also bring to light the wrongs faced by so many LGBT people who have been forced to remain in the closet and hide their identities at the cost of their own health, such as was the case with Turing, who was subjected to chemical castration because of his sexual identity. Perhaps with these lessons, we will avoid making the mistakes of the past.

This is not the first time New Jersey has sought to affect change for underserved and marginalized groups. In the 1960s, it was one of the first states to require that black history to be taught in public schools. New Jersey’s legislation, while not perfect, makes strides toward destigmatizing LGBT people and honoring their lives. It has the potential of improving the health and wellbeing of the population, something my own research has studied and fought for nearly two decades.

Members of the LGBT community are often victims of vitriol and violence at the hands of perpetrators who have deep-seeded hatred toward this segment of the population they don’t know and don’t understand, which is the direct result of societal stigmatization of the LGBT community. Since 2017, under the Trump administration, LGBT hate crimes have been on the rise — after reaching an all-time low in the Obama administration.

It is within this climate that President Trump has stated he plans to end the HIV epidemic in the United States. While a noble and lofty aspiration, HIV — a disease that disproportionately affects gay men and trans women — is not simply a biologically produced disease. It is an epidemic driven by societal stigma, poverty, racial discrimination, and homophobia — social conditions that under the Trump administration have heightened with their attacks on people of color, immigrants, the poor, women, and the LGBT population.

Gov. Murphy’s legislation may have a more powerful effect on curbing the epidemic by normalizing and celebrating the lives of LGBT people. Stigma has been shown to be a driver of HIV, and reducing it through initiatives such as LGBT-inclusive curricula is a significant step in ending AIDS.

Other states should follow New Jersey and California’s lead to make LGBT history a standard part of their public school curriculum to ensure the stories and contributions of LGBT individuals are heard. Such storytelling can inform the ignorant and perhaps dampen the hate and stigma that undermine the individual and collective health of this population.

If the sharing of our experiences is undertaken thoughtfully and honestly throughout the nation, our stories will reveal the social and emotional paths that we as LGBT people have taken, the challenges we have faced at the hands of an often-hateful majority, and how, despite these conditions, we have shown resilience while contributing to the building of American society.

Perry N. Halkitis is Dean and Director of the Center for Health, Identity Behavior & Prevention Studies (CHIBPS), School of Public Health, Rutgers University and between 1986 and 1992 was a teacher at the Hunter College Campus Schools. His book Out in Time: From Stonewall to Queer, How Gay Men Came of Age Across the Generations will be published by Oxford University Press in 2019.  

Thursday, February 21, 2019

OP/ED: Jussie Smollett is exploiting the diversity, inclusion, and equality movement

By Christopher Coleman
Empire actor, Jussie Smollett’s attack on January 29, was regarded as a possible hate crime. Now, it is being reported as staged. I do not retract the conversation in my previous newsletter surrounding hate crimes in America, but I retract my support of Jussie Smollett. His efforts to imitate a hate crime was exploitation. Let me explain. Let’s start here, I intentionally say imitate a hate crime because these crimes are real. 

Warning for D&I Advocates, Allies, and Social Justice Activists: The naysayers and people who are in direct opposition of diversity, inclusion, and equality will use this ‘Cry Wolf’ incident as proof that hate crimes and other injustices, does not exist in America. The truth has to prevail on both sides of the fence of this story. People are being terrorized for not being an atypical American. We do not value peoples differences in this country. 

I will admit I was a big fan of Jussie Smollett. I have been to a few of his CD signings and concerts. I even have pictures with him. As much as I was a fan of Jussie, I am a bigger protester against Diversity Exploitation. That is utilizing an individual or a group of individuals oppression for your own benefit. If this is not a term yet, I am coining it as one. I believe, Jussie aimed to use the struggle of being a person of color and a member of the LGBTQIA+ community in hopes to catapult his career and notoriety. In my opinion, this is just as damaging and wrong as a hate crime. 

This is the way Diversity Exploitation works. One can use their connection with a disadvantaged group as a bargaining chip for recognition or monetary gain. It’s more complex than what some have called, “Playing the Whatever Card.” It is not about getting what you want or need because you are who you are. The individual converts their relationship and commonality with the group into a tool to create an outcome that favors them. It’s about bringing attention to oneself in order to be single out and praised for your connection with the group. Example: Because I am a wheelchair user I expect a ramp to be a the entrance of a place of business. However, if I expected that ramp to be lighted up and lined with red carpet because I am enduring and overcoming the challenges of being a part of the disabled community, I would be exploiting my connection with the community. 

This is what I believe Jessie was expecting to be the outcome of a publicity stunt. He believed by saying he has suffered greatly as a black gay man in America people would raise him up to become the Nelson Mandela of black gay youth. But suffering because of issues of diversity cannot be fabricated. Real change is the product of real trials and tribulations. 

This was an immature career move. As an aging, disabled, gay man of color, I can guarantee you, all Jessie had to do is step out of the luxury and bubble of Hollywood to connect with the hate, segregation, and pain associated with being a person with differences. The struggle is real for anyone who is a member of any disenfranchised group. In this political, economic, and social climate, there is no need to fabricate hate, pain, and discrimination. 

Mr. Smollett has used his fans, supporters, and the media as an attempt to elevate his career. In order to be a hero for our LGBTQIA+ teens and a man in which organizations such as HRC, GLAAD, and It Get’s Better can honor; he must first be a man of integrity. We cannot afford to give our allies, nor our enemies, a reason to think the struggle of being a person with differences is not a hard and real struggle in America. Oppression does not need to be dramatized any more than it needs to be minimized. 

I would also like to take a moment to encourage Jessie not to show up on 'Iyanla Fix My Life' claiming to have had some mental illness or emotional breakdown. That would be yet another demonstration of Diversity Exploitation. There are mentally and emotionally ill people who make bad decisions due to their illness yes! But. Mr. Smollett's bad decision was premeditated and calculated. The fight for diversity, inclusion, and equality is a noble fight, fought with compassion, justice, and truth. 

Now this imitated hate crime is headed to a Grand Jury because Jussie was right about one thing, there are people waiting in the background to take him down. Men and women who are much more powerful than the guys he claimed attacked him. These powerful people are waiting for any excuse to take down a gay person of color with a political message and he just gave them the ammunition to do so. There are 3 things I would suggest Mr. Smollett do at this point:
  • Apologize to his fans and supporters. 
  • Take a year or more off to get his mind ‘right.’ 
  • Start from the bottom again, and rebuild his career.
Yes, I believe we should all be given a second chance when the time is right. God knows we have all made mistakes and most of us are fortunate enough not to see our mistakes played out in the media. But I must reiterate, Diversity Exploitation is something we cannot afford to tolerate. However: someone may say I am trying to do the same thing by speaking up on this issue. Don’t get it twisted, I am using this issue as a tool to educate people, not elevate my career. 

Christopher Coleman is a Keynote Speaker, Diversity Consultant, Inclusive Leadership Coach, and the CEO of Unconfined Life Institute.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Op/Ed: In the Supreme Court Vacancy Fight, Our Future is at Stake

By Marge Baker, Executive Vice President, People For the American Way

Last week, Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement from the Supreme Court, giving Donald Trump the chance to nominate another justice to a lifetime seat on the bench and, potentially, to reshape the Court for a generation.

Since Sandra Day O’Conner left the Court in 2003, Kennedy has widely been considered the swing vote — usually joining with the Court’s four extremely conservative members in cases that broke on ideological lines, but occasionally siding with the moderates on key issues. Over the last 15 years, he provided the fifth and decisive vote on some of the most critical rulings that safeguarded justice and civil rights in our country, including women’s reproductive rights and marriage equality. If Trump is allowed to replace Kennedy with a nominee in the mold of his last pick, Neil Gorsuch, the effect will wreak havoc on our country for generations to come.

If Trump is allowed to replace Kennedy with a nominee in the mold of his last pick, Neil Gorsuch, the effect will wreak havoc on our country for generations to come.

Trump has made no bones about who he wants to appoint. During the 2016 election, he won the support of the Religious Right by promising that he’d impose an anti-choice litmus test on all his nominees. In fact, he pledged to go a step further, and to limit his choices to potential nominees preselected by two of the most extreme right-wing advocacy organizations in Washington, the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation. Since his election, he’s made clear that he intends to keep that promise. Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s first pick for the Supreme Court, is exhibit A, not just routinely siding with the other conservatives on the court, but occasionally indicating in written concurrences that he’d go much further to the right given the opportunity. Trump’s nominees to the lower courts have been a rogues gallery of right-wing activists, virtually all of whom have spent their careers pushing an extreme ideological agenda in the law.

Should Kennedy be replaced by another jurist like Gorsuch — and every single jurist on Trump’s shortlist meets that test — the results would be catastrophic.

Perhaps most obviously, Kennedy, despite having a mixed record on issues related to women’s reproductive choice, in both Whole Women’s Health and Casey, Kennedy provided the fifth and decisive vote that upheld Roe v. Wadeand safeguarded women’s bodily autonomy. But Trump has promised time and again that he would appoint anti-choice judges who will take every opportunity to severely limit abortion access — and overturn Roe. Cases challenging Roe are already in the pipeline. As CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin made clear, should one of Trump’s extreme nominees be confirmed, “abortion will be illegal in a significant part of the United States in 18 months. There is just no doubt about that.”

Similarly, Kennedy’s vote was critical in vindicating the right of same-sex couples to be treated equally under the law. Kennedy’s rulings in Obergefell and Windsor secured the right to same-sex marriage, but there’s ample reason to fear for the future of marriage equality and LGBTQ equality more broadly, if any one of the judges on Trump’s short list were to be confirmed. While many Americans might think the question of same-sex marriage is settled, the Religious Right has been working to overturn that decision from the moment it was handed down. Indeed, the Heritage Foundation, which has already approved all the names on Trump’s list, has been at the forefront of charting the legal strategy to turn back the clock on marriage equality. Without Kennedy on the Court, there simply aren’t five votes in favor of recognizing this fundamental constitutional right.

And while choice and marriage equality may be the two issues where replacing Kennedy with a narrow-minded elitist from Trump’s shortlist would most obviously endanger our rights, on other issues Kennedy provided the fifth vote to moderates on the Court who stopped the four most extreme Justices from pushing the law even further to the right.

In Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency, Kennedy’s vote prevented the Court from ruling that the EPA had no authority to regulate greenhouse gasses. In Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, Kennedy stopped the Court from eliminating the use of the disparate impact test under the Fair Housing Act, one of the most important tools we have to stop housing discrimination. In the Boumediene decision, Kennedy protected the right of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay to file habeas corpus claims in federal court. In Brown v. Plata, Kennedy’s vote protected the right of prisoners not to be housed in overcrowded prisons that provided inadequate medical treatment to prisoners and produced “needless suffering and death.”

Without Kennedy on the Court, each and every one of those decisions, and many more, are in grave danger.

Yet those cases represent only the tip of the iceberg. We know that right-wing litigators have been dissuaded against bringing cases to the Supreme Court on which they knew they couldn’t get Justice Kennedy’s vote. Now, should the Court’s balance shift sharply to the right, the floodgates would open. Instead of needing to win the vote of Justice Kennedy, right-wing activists would merely need to secure the support of Chief Justice Roberts — a frightening prospect on issues ranging from Civil Rights to sex discrimination.

Just as important, replacing Kennedy with another justice in the mold of Gorsuch would harden the Court’s far-right bloc, making it harder to move towards a day when we can overturn destructive and dangerous rulings that are already having a brutal impact on our country, from Citizens United to Janus to Shelby County.

The fate of our future and the future of generations to come is in grave danger. We need a Supreme Court that will defend the Constitution’s guarantee of equality and for justice for all and justices who understand the impact of the law on all Americans. That’s not what we would get from any of Trump’s nominees. We need to make clear that we won’t accept anyone who will protect corporations and the wealthy over ordinary Americans or roll back the clock on rulings that protect women, workers, the LGBTQ community and people of color.

Our future depends on it.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Op/Ed: Five Steps in the March to Civil Rights

by Jason Leclerc

Whether patriots disguised as “Indians” or heirs of Attucks at a Woolworth’s lunch counter or drag goddesses marching down Fifth Avenue, the power of disruption has been the overwhelming tool of the otherwise oppressed in their respective marches toward equity in the American Dream. In many ways, a dream—a la Dr. King—has been the cadence along a similar set of civil steps.

Doubtless, the most visible such March has been that of colors into America’s otherwise whiteness. But, let’s not forget that the first to protest oppression in America were the continent’s original inhabitants. Atop the victory of white colonists over “Indians,” the colonials then cried out for their own rights.

Made whole in the twentieth century along arguments for full equality, civil rights for people of color have become the marquee symbol of America’s failure to reach its promise of full, equal participation. Never mind that the culture of color has influenced the wider “popular” culture through humor, music, and fashion; some might argue that influence has become definition. Nonetheless, short of the outliers who have, against overwhelming social obstacles, achieved economic parity, there still exist barriers that make every achievement even more remarkable.

The recent obsession with which “lives matter” has disrupted American political discourse, if not city streets and other cultural moments. Nary a rally nor awards show—or even the once sacred NFL pregame exposition—is immune from the injection of the relativist statement regarding the life-colors that warrant attention. We didn’t arrive here, in the throes of this argument, accidentally. Clearly, the rhetorical tool—“what matters”—is new, but the sentiments are rooted in centuries of American history. The United States is, if nothing else, a series of marches toward civil rights—toward freedom. Whether punctuated by bugle calls and bayonets or highlighted by occupations and sit-ins, the cadence of milestones is generally similar:

Visibility: In a nation of 300 million, “I” deserve to stand out. “I” am an individual with my own strengths and weaknesses. If “I” join with others like me to bring attention to certain traits that we share, and for which we may otherwise be discriminated against, we assert our humanity against a set of institutions which may not naturally include us. For some groups, like those defined by gender or race, visibility is easily achieved, indeed it is often the basest reason for discrimination in the first place. For others, along sexuality or ideological lines, the assertions are less passive. Think about pride parades and spiritual rallies.

Acceptance: Merely the second step on the road to full rights, the now-visible group is granted acceptance among the greater populous. The power gradients between the objectified group—those who’ve gained “acceptance”—and the granters-of-acceptance remain. It implies that there is still something unequal, but for which outright and institutional discrimination is no longer tenable. Often this is hurried along as the ancillary traits that cling to the initial source of discrimination become condiments to cover up the “less palatable” traits. Think about how wrapping the rhetoric of black power in “Christian” terms or making gay rights about “love” have advanced those specific causes.

Integration: Creating space within the institutional hierarchy is the next step on the march to full rights. In many ways, this has become the standard that most societies have used as the achievement. By “desegregating,” Americans stuck feathers in their collective cap by busing black children to white schools and by giving women the right to vote and by giving LGBT the ability to serve in the armed forces. Viewing history in the lens of the present, the question of why these are achievements, underlies the absurdity in the historical institutional failures of basic human decency.

Equality: In America, this is the yet-unfulfilled promise of our Constitutional experiment. Overcoming the institutional, economic, and cultural barriers that continue to delineate a pro-forma (de-facto) segregation between neighborhoods, opportunities, and access to power is the front line of many of the greatest fights today. Beyond acceptance and integration, equality (implicitly, of opportunity) highlights the reality that the power of (black) words is still not equally accessible by every individual in society. Power has been concentrated within institutions that, by their nature, tend to denude the power of the individual. The challenge of America’s next evolution is captured in the great duality between the integrated whole’s ability to do the “most good on average” which we pair against the achievements of individuals who’ve voluntarily (or by genetics) collected into groups.

Still, education stands as the grand totem to inequality. Until every child in America can achieve the same quality education—a full investment in the power of words—equality remains a chimera.

Equity: Among that small swath of those Americans who, by the birthright of their gender, color, and sexuality, are equal-from-the-start (or those who’ve achieved equality in earlier marches), there is a fight for a more “fair” distribution of scarce resources. Thus, we see increasing arguments about how incomes are distributed, about wealth and taxation. Not baked into any constitutional promise, but omnipresent in the emerging cultural rhetoric, is the assertion that all Americans “deserve” something more than mere equality in opportunity. Equity addresses the equality of outcome.

The failure of current political discourse is that discussions about equity still ignore those groups and individuals for whom equality has still not been achieved. Thus, arguments among those in power regarding the spoils of equality have distracted us from the fact that we still lack full participation by many groups and individuals. When individuals still linger in their fights for visibility and acceptance, scheming for the redistribution of resources among the already-equal is, in itself, an unfair use of resources which should be directed toward full equality. A fair argument can be made that with full equality, equity will naturally follow.

Let’s not entrap ourselves within literal bindings. Black, in 2016, means rainbow. Black means Gray. Black means red, white, and blue. We are all black inside. Black lives matter. Blue lives matter, and pink lives, and rainbow lives. Thus, it’s true: Black lives matter.

Jason Leclerc is an internationally renowned poet (, prolific blogger (, film-maker (FLAG, 2018), and political columnist (Watermark Magazine). As concerned with form as he is with quality storytelling, the author of Momentitiousness brings his socioeconomic theories to bear each day through trade. Learn more about Leclerc and his new book Black Kettle on

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Does Your Fear Bias Your View of the World?

By Rosalie Chamberlain

Xenophobia and racism are top headlines. When tragic incidents occur, the intent and commitment to stop the separation, isolation and discrimination grows, sure, but it is often only talked about. Talking will not create change. Talking will not promote an inclusive and open society and environment.

And every time someone takes sides and makes the “other” side wrong, alien, foreign, illegal, inferior, etc., they perpetuate the biases, the prejudice, the discrimination and the separation. And the cycle keeps turning, but not for the better. We keep getting farther away from what is said to be a value, a concern that needs addressing.

A first step is to take personal responsibility of our own beliefs. If we do not believe that the violence, separation and isolation should be happening, we have to take individual responsibility for creating change. Instead, we take sides based on what we hear and read, often without question, and thus, stereotype and build prejudices against entire populations and groups. We stay silent or make excuses. We hold back or feel indifference because we are not directly affected. The reality is that we are all affected by the lack of progress in creating a more inclusive society. We all will or do experience the impact / the reverberation of inactivity.

I believe fear is the element that lurks behind biases and beliefs that exclude. We have to look at our beliefs that are caused by fear. We need to examine our own biases, prejudices, assumptions, beliefs and fears. Here is a way to start. Ask yourself this:

What belief do you hold about your impact/contribution to create change?

How willing are you to speak up?

How willing are you to examine how you vote and the impact?

What are your true values?

Will you examine and educate or rely on old messages, what others say and reactions that feed the frenzy and fuel the fire?

How can you be the change that can make a difference to building a more open, collaborative and inclusive world?

How willing are you to set an intention to work toward change – to stop hatred and isolation?

OR, will you sit back and take sides and perpetuate the vicious cycle that takes us further from a diverse an inclusive society, in which lies our strength?

Rosalie Chamberlain is the Owner of Denver, CO-based Rosalie Chamberlain Consulting & Coaching. A thirty-five year organizational culture and eighteen year coaching veteran, she specializes in maximizing talent and productivity within organizations. She is a skilled consultant, facilitator, coach and speaker in the areas of diversity and inclusion strategy, multicultural competency, leadership development, and talent management, with expertise in managing and leveraging diverse talent.

Previously, Chamberlain was a Diversity & Inclusion Manager for a national American Lawyer Top 100 law firm. She received her diversity and inclusion credentials from Cornell University’s Institute for Labor & Relations (ILR) and was certified through the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching and the International Coaching Federation. To learn more visit and connect on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Her new book,
Conscious Leadership in the Workplace, will be available on Amazon as well as other online booksellers in April 2016.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Fake News Release: Marriage Equality Comes to Colorado!

News Release

From: One Colorado (Not really…)

Marriage Equality Comes to Colorado! (A Fictional Version of What-Might-Have-Been by Todd Craig)

Denver, Colorado (March 3, 2014) – Let’s face it, the last nine months since the monumental Supreme Court ruling against the federal Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA have been a whirling dervish of activity for us here at One Colorado. As soon as the ruling was handed down, we put into motion a three-pronged attack against the discrimination that existed in the constitution of Colorado.

The first part of our plan was to file a lawsuit in federal court challenging the legality of Colorado’s one-man-one-woman marriage amendment. We weren’t stuck being self-satisfied with our victory regarding civil unions, which created a separate-but-equal status. Seeing as how the Supreme Court’s ruling gave our legal team the exact battle plan as to how best challenge Colorado’s legalized discrimination, we wasted no time in having numerous Colorado couples sign up to be part of the legal challenge. Through our strong connections with the ACLU, we were able to bring our case to trial immediately with an experienced team of high-powered trial lawyers well-versed in social justice issues. Thanks to these efforts, soon thousands of LGBT couples in our state will marry, and Colorado can consider itself more colorful than ever before. Other states like Texas, Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky personally thanked our legal team and our organization for being the leader of this wave of successful challenges in courts across our nation.

While our lawyers battled injustice in the courts, our crack team of foot soldiers on the ground mobilized the second part of our plan. They scoured all of Colorado to gain signatures for a ballot measure repealing the Constitution amendment banning same-sex marriage. We knew that even though we lost an election back in 2006, that we shouldn’t be afraid to hold another election – especially considering how the world has changed in the years since. While our ballot measure is no longer needed, our networking has allowed us to connect with many gay-friendly Colorado people, businesses, and community organizations who have pledged their support to keep equality the law of the land through our highly coordinated political efforts and flexing our combined political muscle.

Finally, our vast conglomerate of financial backers and enthusiastic members has allowed us numerous opportunities to promote and elect LGBT advocates in elections across the state. We know that every school board and city council election across our great state is as important as those of our governor and senators. If our immense amount of polling data offers any hints at things to come, our efforts will help make the 2014 elections our most successful yet.

While equality has arrived here in Colorado full-force, we must continue to build and develop our resources to maintain our hard-fought victories and to help protect our rights in the years to come. Please know that we will never fall into the trap of simply being cheerleaders on the sidelines of the great equality battle by simply holding meetings, sending copious numbers of fundraising emails and surveys, organizing awards banquets, coloring poster board signs, and sharing status updates on Facebook like other states’ lesser gay lobbying groups. No, Colorado deserves only the best, and we’re proud to say that our best has sown the results of marriage equality that we’re now all enjoying.


Monday, July 15, 2013

After DOMA, Prop 8. Rulings: A Little Less Conversation; A Little More Action, Please

By Todd Craig

A few weeks have passed since the Supreme Court rulings against DOMA and Prop 8. In that time, states across the union have jumped at the opportunity to further the cause of marriage equality. Gay groups in Illinois, which has a civil unions law and a gay marriage ban, are legally challenging the second-class status such laws mandate.

In Pennsylvania, the A.C.L.U. has challenged the legality of that state’s gay marriage ban, using the Supreme Court’s rulings as the template to dismantle the discriminatory statute.

And in Colorado? Well, we’re apparently listening to the crickets chirping.

In a July 2 article published in OutFront, One Colorado director Brad Clark outlined the vision for Colorado’s main LGBT advocacy group’s path towards marriage equality: town hall meetings this fall “… aimed at discussing the path forward.”

Let me get this straight (pun intended): While other states already have lawsuits in motion fighting for marriage equality, our primary political lobbying group here in Colorado is planning meetings to discuss what to do?

Does anybody else feel let down by this?

Sure, One Colorado wants to be deliberate here. They know that we lost an election before, and they clearly don’t want to lose again. Although in retrospect, 2006 might as well have been 1956 for all of the change that has happened since, and the polls certainly would agree.

To be critical, it’s obvious that other states and their LGBT groups have already held their discussions and have decided that now is the time to act. In Colorado, I guess talking about acting is supposed to be as good as acting itself.

It’s not.

I realize that our gay marriage ban is written into the state constitution, and I get that no such ban has ever been overturned in the history of our country. It’s a big task; I get that. I really do.

But what I also realize is that the Colorado’s constitution has been changed over 150 times. From a legal standpoint, we have one of the most easily amendable constitutions in the country. On the day after the Supreme Court’s rulings, the Denver Post reported that a ballot measure to void the amendment in question could be easily held by gathering just more than 85,000 signatures statewide.

So yeah ... shouldn’t we get started on that?

I realize that elections are expensive and require man-power, money, and coordination in massive doses.

Elections may be expensive, but talk is cheap.

I realize you need to have political networks, savvy leadership, a vision for success, and the wherewithal to make it happen.

I thought that maybe we already had that in place based on the political victories extolled by One Colorado in the legislature and in last November’s elections. They certainly had no qualms celebrating the Supreme Court’s rulings by sending out a series of fundraising emails, one of which from Brad Clark featured the line: “But there’s something else we know – something that gives us incredible hope today. We know that in every corner of this state, Coloradans have shown they are ready for a conversation about why marriage matters to all couples – straight and gay alike. And in the coming weeks and months, we must come together as a community to ensure that conversation is carried out.”

Lovely prose, I suppose. But if Coloradoans are so ready to have the conversation about marriage equality to the point where we’re encouraged to donate our hard-earned dollars to the cause, why are we so not ready to have an election or to file a lawsuit? What have Pennsylvania and Illinois got, that Colorado doesn’t?

Besides quick and decisive action on the marriage equality front, that is?

Here in Colorado with nothing but talk on the horizon, we’re left to watch and wait and settle for second rate. Apparently, while other states have coordinated their efforts into action, all that we LGBT Coloradans can look forward to this fall is discussing a path forward.

Someone once said that talk is cheap because supply exceeds demand. In the more colorful parts of Colorado, talk is all we’re getting on marriage equality from our own LGBT political leadership, despite our low demand for it.

Perhaps then, when supplied something lesser, it’s time to demand better.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Should Colorado's Gays Settle For Civil Unions - Or Fight For Gay Marriage

By Todd Craig

Last summer, I wrote a piece that criticized some of Colorado's gay-friendly political groups for targeting state legislature races in the election. Not that, as Jerry Seinfeld might have said, there was anything wrong with that, but it appeared to me that the presidential election and the significant role Colorado might have played in the election's outcome seemed to be a lesser priority for them.

Turns out, I was wrong.

Those state legislative seats that were targeted after last fall's civil unions debacle flipped to the Democrats. Obama won, handily, in Colorado and pretty much everywhere else, too.

That's the type of wrong I always hope to be.

As an added bonus, the four state measures from around the nation regarding marriage equality all fell to our side, too, as Washington, Maine, and Maryland will now allow same-sex marriage, while Minnesota politely declined a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to heteros only.

Rep. Mark Ferrandino
The election lessons seem pretty simple: the tide hath turned – big time - in our favor.

To make matters even better, Colorado Democrats named openly-gay Rep. Mark Ferrandino to the Speaker of the House position. Most of us who followed the 2011 civil unions fight remember him for his valiant efforts as he pulled out all the stops to try to gain equal rights for Colorado's LGBT population.

With election results like this, Colorado's gays have learned that we can have our cock and eat it, too.

The Denver Post has reported that the civil unions bill will likely be reintroduced and passed into law quickly once the session begins next year.

But should it?

As recently as early November, a Denver Post poll indicated that the majority of Colorado's voters support same-sex marriage over civil unions.

So the question we need to ask is pretty simple, in light of all of the political victories this past election, should Colorado's LGBT population settle for civil unions?

New York created the template for using the state legislature to pass gay marriage. Considering that we have statewide support for marriage equality, and gay-friendly Democrats now in control of the house, senate, and governor's mansion, not to mention all of the momentum from the last election, why shouldn't Colorado be asking for gay marriage too?

Sure, civil unions were a good compromise last year when we needed every vote possible in the Republican-controlled house, but that's no longer the case. Civil unions are like getting socks for a Christmas present. Sure you're grateful, and yeah, you'll wear them, but there's no denying that you want something better.

I, for one, want to marry my husband of almost ten years. The word "marry" is important to us. I'm not the first one to feel this way, but I don't want to look my husband in the eye and ask him to enter into a civil union with me. I want to marry him.

So I hope, before our state legislature convenes for the first time, that Colorado's political groups sit down with those of us in the LGBT community who helped to elect them and discuss whether or not civil unions are what we really want.

In my mind, now is the time for us to cash in some of our political clout and ask for full marriage rights. Purple state Colorado won't stay all blue for long. My fear is that passing civil unions now might saddle Colorado's LGBT population with a separate-but-equal status for untold years to come.

Of course, then again, I could be wrong.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Op/Ed: These Republicans Will Never Rule Again -- What the American Election Has to Teach the World

By Marten Weber

There are times when it hurts not to be American. On election night, I regretted nothing more than not holding an American passport. I would have voted. I wanted desperately to be a part of this resounding victory of reason over bigotry. 

In my books, I often make fun of American attitudes and stereotypes. That does not mean I do not care deeply for this country. American elections fascinate me. Nowhere on earth do so many people from such diverse backgrounds decide on a common future.

So what does Obama's re-election have to teach the world? One thing: the culture wars are over. These elections were not about abortion, guns, gays, or god -- they were about demographics. If you sift through the data on the various websites, a clear picture emerges: Mitt Romney stands for older, white men. He stands for conservative tribal attitude and antiquated bible-babble.

Obama got the vote of young people from all walks of life -- from people who want consensus over partisan bickering, equality instead of tribalism, reason rather than fairy tales, and economic fairness instead of damaging capitalism.

These Republicans were stupid enough to alienate every non-white, non-male, non-gun-toting-bible-waving constituency in America. They insulted women, ignored gay people, offended Latinos, disregarded Asians, and made a mockery of the American dream of inclusiveness and equal opportunity. So they lost, and they lost big time!

Obama did not win by a small margin. It was a resounding victory. Romney lost in every swing state on the map. And that says a lot about the future. Swing states predict where things are headed, and the message is clear: these Republicans will never rule again.

Conservative attitudes are passe. You can't win an election anymore in the most diverse country in the world, by ignoring minorities or patronizing women. You cannot win by conflating church and state. You cannot win an election any longer by disparaging gays and lesbians. You cannot win an election by pandering to outmoded principles of winner-takes-all. The white angry men of brutal capitalism are doomed. These Republicans are doomed.

Notice I say 'these.' The Republican party may well regain its footing. It may rise from the ashes with new policies and new slogans. It may win future elections. But it cannot do so without embracing diversity and equality, sooner or later.

The message for the rest of the world is clear: we are all headed for a world of inclusion, a world of tolerance and respect for other lifestyles. We are also headed for a world where values other than money and church dictate our daily lives. We are headed for a bright future.

I cried when Ohio turned blue. I wept when Obama gave his speech. I hope with all my heart that he has what it takes to push through the necessary reforms and bring about true change in America. Without the worry of re-election, he now has a free hand. Let change come for real, and let it be a beacon of liberty and tolerance in the world! Thank you, America!

Marten Weber is an author who has just released his sixth novel BODENSEE.  This post originally appeared at and is reprinted with permission.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ricky Martin Is Not Alone ...

This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

2012 Presidential Election: Time for gay Colorado to ante up

By Todd Craig

I love card games, especially poker.  I also love poker because it makes for a good metaphor, especially when it comes to politics.

Since the gay rights movement began, we’ve been fighting an uphill battle for acceptance, understanding, and compassion.  We’ve also been fighting a mostly losing battle when it comes to politics.  Until recently, we haven’t been able to command a clear majority when it comes to gay-themed political issues.

In other words, we’ve been dealt relatively weak political poker hands to play, lacking power, face cards, and opportunities to bet big and win big.

Here in Colorado, we’ve done the smart thing.  Gay rights groups have aligned our political efforts strongly with state Democrats to target smaller races at the state and local levels to give a strong fundraising edge to gay-friendly politicians who have in turn been able to advocate and expand our rights from the ground up.

Considering that the poker hands they’ve been dealt haven’t been slam-dunks by any stretch of the imagination, they’ve had extraordinary results.  They’ve known that in politics, much like poker, if you don’t have a winning hand, your best option is to whittle away here and there and make enough progress to keep your momentum alive.

But this election coming up in November is something far different.

In case you missed the last five million Romney or Obama ads on every channel of your television, let me take a minute to tell you that there’s an election coming up in a few months, and Colorado’s purple mountains are a key battle ground that could swing the election one way or the other.

This is a big election, especially for us gays.  It represents our first big hand.

For the first time in the history of our nation we have an incumbent president and vice president who are ready, willing, and able to do something for marriage equality and expanding equal rights for gay Americans at the federal level.  The Obama, Biden, and Clinton triumvirate has done more for us than any other administration in history.  And more importantly, for the first time in history we have a president, vice-president, and secretary of state who all advocate for marriage equality.

There is no overestimating how big that reality is.

On the other hand, there’s Mitt Romney, who’s own website says that “… he will also champion a Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman.”

That’s right.  The guy wants to rewrite the Constitution to legalize discrimination against us.

Romney’s campaign is currently going all in, outraising Obama and purchasing a blitzkrieg of ads with the support of a Republican fundraising machine that’s all but declared war on the current President and his gay-friendly positions for the last four years.

So what are we doing here in Colorado?

Well the news of the month features a group called Fight Back Colorado, a group dedicated to opposing state legislators who blocked the civil unions bill last spring.

Kinda seems like small potatoes, doesn’t it?

I’ll be honest, I’m on record as being pretty lukewarm about the whole civil unions thing.  I appreciate progress, but I appreciate total equality a heckuva lot more, and civil unions are just too separate-but-equal for my liking.

And it seems to me that in the poker game of politics, we gays here in Colorado finally have a chance to make a difference, a huge difference in the biggest poker game of all, the presidential election.

We’ve finally got the face cards and the poker hand we need to win big on a national scale.

So let’s ante up.  Let’s quit playing these little games and go for the big win.  Let’s tell our political groups to aim higher and to think bigger.

Let’s think about what we can do to turn this state in Obama’s favor.

Let’s dedicate all of our money, our talent, our social networking, our media savvy, and our political muscle to try to win this swing state for Obama.  Let’s get him a second term.  Let’s allow him to nominate Supreme Court justices who are more than conservative puppets.  Let’s make the most powerful American and the leader of the free world our most powerful ally for another four years.  Let's give our first president to support marriage equality the chance to make it happen.

We don’t have to think small anymore.  This is our moon shot.  We have three queens who deserve a pair of fours.

So I’m calling on our state political groups to think big for the next four months.  I want to see One Colorado’s facebook page with its 5000-plus likes filled with reasons to vote Obama.  I want Fight Back Colorado to fight back against the Republican machine that’s playing for keeps at the national level.   This election is about going big or going home, so let’s do just that.

These groups will do a helluva lot more for Colorado’s gay community if they go all in on the national election as opposed to harboring grudges towards state legislators who beat them in last spring’s civil union debacle.  Even if they win their current focus on snagging those precious two or three seats to get civil unions passed, the whole kit and kaboodle could be lost if Romney wins and has the opportunity to write his homo hate into our nation’s Constitution.

Politics, like poker, is all about recognizing the moment.  Here’s hoping our LGBT political players make the most of our best hand ever.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Turning 40? F**k That!

By Todd Craig

A little over a year ago, I turned 40. 40 is a nasty age on paper because as I’ve discovered, every cliché about 40 happens to be mercilessly true. 40 is the age of your parents. 40 means turning the radio down instead of up, watching CBS instead of MTV, going to bed because you’re tired, and taking pride in working the crossword puzzle. 40 means losing hair in places where you want it - like on top of your head for example - and growing it places where it shouldn’t grow. Last night I plucked hairs out of the edges of my ears for Christ’s sake.

Fuck that shit.

Ten years ago, my body was nice and lean. I had a full head of hair and knew the singers of the music that everyone danced to. I made killer cd mixes, went out until mornings on the weekends, ate and drank with abandon, and never had to work out.

But then my thirties happened. I met a cute boy who was 20 and married him. We bought a house, owned a little wiener dog, adopted a baby boy, and began life together.

In fact, many of the dreams I had as a single gay man in my teens and twenties came true in my thirties. By the end of my 39th year, I was a successful gay man with a gorgeous young husband, a beautiful son, a nice suburban home, and a successful career as a middle school English teacher.

So when 40 arrived, I had a lot going for me.

Yet I dreaded 40. My impending birthday seemed like a day of reckoning that I wasn’t sure I was ready for. I kept thinking about things that I needed to do, things that I wanted to do, and trying to make sure that my last 40 years on this planet accomplished more than my first 40 years.

Why was I dreading my 40s, and what was I gonna do about it?

For me, 40 was a midlife crisis that couldn’t be solved with a new sports car, which was probably good because I didn’t have the money for one anyway.

Let the personal reflection begin.

I started off my forties with a gym membership. That tall, lean body I mentioned that I had at the start of my thirties? Yeah, somewhere between then and the end of my 39th year had seen me pack on more than fifty pounds. Part of that weight gain was due to parenthood’s endless stream of macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets; part of it was due to laziness and exhaustion that changing diapers at two in the morning necessitates. Part of that weight gain was also due to the natural slowing of my metabolism, too. But the reasons why I’d put on weight didn’t really matter as much as the so-what-the-hell-are-you-going-to-do-about-it part. All I knew was that my 32-inch waistline that I had when I was 32 had seemed to increase incrementally as my age increased. Was a 40-inch waistline at age 40 something that I wanted to have? It never occurred to me that being overweight would be a part of my being. What had occurred to me was that I wouldn't be taking my shirt off at the club anytime soon.

Again, fuck that shit.

So I made myself a promise that I would make the gym a part of my daily routine like brushing my teeth or wearing pants. I dug into the internet and found some workouts that I was pretty sure I could do. I visited my doctor and received a physical. My hubby and I pre-paid for a full year’s gym membership, and I hit the treadmill and weights with equal amounts of trepidation, embarrassment, and fervor.

I started out easy, lifting the My Little Pony weights, working my way up through Strawberry Shortcake barbells, and on past Rainbow Brite ones. I would sweat through one t-shirt doing cardio, run down and change in the locker room and sweat through another lifting weights. I became careful about the foods I ate. I quit snacking after 8 p.m. I started taking vitamins and drinking protein drinks.

After three months of work, a lot of the weight had disappeared. After a year, even I felt good about the amount of muscle that was beginning to form.

At the risk of sounding like George W. Bush, I could announce that part one of my midlife makeover, incorporating fitness into my life, was a mission accomplished.

Part two was going to be trickier. You see, I love my teaching career, and after almost two decades in the profession, I’m pretty good at what I do. My successes outnumber my failures, I’m still finding ways to keep my teaching fresh and different every year, and most importantly, I’m still finding ways to have fun teaching.

But like every English teacher ever, I was also a frustrated wannabe writer. I had gone back and forth when I enrolled in college whether or not I wanted to be a journalism major and be a writer or get an English major and be a teacher before I eventually chose to teach.

It never occurred to me that I could be both.

Sure, I’d kept journals along the way. I wrote a few poems, submitted an article or two here and there for publishing. But really, my career as a writer never existed.

So at age 40, I began to write again. Maybe it was grading all of those student essays and giving all that advice over the years, but maybe, finally, the teacher was listening to his own lessons. Whatever the reason, writing came back to me with an ease that took me by surprise. The words flowed naturally. I submitted articles, essays, and even some poetry for publishing, and I had enough success that I earned enough to buy me a nice writer’s desk and some bookcases and even claimed the title of “freelance writer” on my tax forms.

I love that I’m writing again. It’s given me a new voice and a new challenge that I had been missing out on for most of my young adult life.

Missing out on things that I want to do?

Yep, fuck that shit, too.

And it occurs to me now, at age 41, that turning 40 meant quite a few things to me. Sure, it has brought its fair share of baggage. (Author’s note: I’d REALLY like my old hairline back again.) But with that baggage also came a good bit of self-reflection and the opportunity for me to consider who I am and where I want to be going in this world.

Turning 40 also gave me the swift kick in the ass I needed to start living life on my terms.
Maybe I don’t know much about the Kardashians, and maybe I do find The Mentalist more appealing than Jersey Shore.

I’m 41 now, and it turns out that other stuff isn’t made for me.

The stuff that I’m really interested in like my family, my health, and my passions are things I have to invest myself in. And I’ve discovered that the more I invest, the more I get in return.

So if you don’t mind, I’m going to turn the music down, hit my two-drink minimum, and turn in early for the night.

Turns out I’ve got lots to do tomorrow – just as soon as I finish this crossword puzzle.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Why I'm glad Colorado's Civil Union Bill failed

By Todd Craig

Lots has been said and written about Colorado's civil unions fight that took place in the legislature this spring. While both sides rallied and the wheels of politics spun faster than even Twitter could keep up, hopes rose and subsequently crashed for Colorado's gay citizenry with equal speed as Republican Speaker of the House Frank McNulty politically maneuvered to kill civil unions in our state.

Even though I was optimistic when the bill was introduced, and even though I would have been happy to see the bill pass, I now find myself kind of glad it didn't. Here are three reasons why I don't feel overly bad about the failure of Colorado's civil unions law.

Civil unions, while a step closer in the evolution of equality, aren't marriage, and settling for anything less than total equality is, well, settling for less. I know what you're going to say to this, “It's about gaining rights.” And believe me, I'm all for getting more rights. I am a gay man, a husband for the last seven years, and together we're fathers to an adorable five year old son. We have a stack of legal paperwork about the thickness of the Denver Yellow Pages that we had to buy and notarize over the course of months just to get the same legal rights and protections as someone who naturally gets them after a flight to Vegas to be married by an Elvis impersonator over the course of a drunken weekend. But, I can't in good conscience look the love of my life in the eye and ask him to enter into a civil union with me. That's gay. I want the rights, sure, but I'm greedy. I want the word marriage, too. This point was made in the ruling of the Prop 8 overturn being upheld by the California Supreme Court when they wrote in the decisions that:

“We need consider only the many ways in which we encounter the word 'marriage' in our daily lives and understand it, consciously or not, to convey a sense of significance. We are regularly given forms to complete that ask us whether we are “single” or “married.” Newspapers run announcements of births, deaths, and marriages. We are excited to see someone ask, “Will you marry me?”, whether on bended knee in a restaurant or in text splashed across a stadium Jumbotron. Certainly, it would not have the same effect to see “Will you enter into a registered domestic partnership with me?”.  Groucho Marx's one-liner, “Marriage is a wonderful institution ... but who wants to live in an institution?” would lack its punch if the word marriage were replaced with the alternative phrase.”

Long story short, if the Supreme Court of California recognizes that the word marriage is as important as the rights that come with such a union, why should Colorado's LGBT community ignore that same importance?

The fight for civil unions earned energized Colorado again. The history of gay rights in our state has definitely had its ups and downs. But for every defeat our community has suffered, like Amendment 2 in the early '90s, there has been an opposite reaction of greater force in the years following with the trend is going in our direction more often than not. Even when the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman was written into the state constitution and a civil unions measure was defeated at the ballot box as recently as 2006, the fight for equal rights didn't end; it grew stronger. The following year in 2007, then Governor Ritter signed the second-parent adoption bill into law granting same-sex couples the right to adopt. And two years after that in 2009, Colorado's legislature passed the designated beneficiaries law that addressed some of the discrimination that Colorado's LGBT community faced. If history repeats itself, as it often does, Colorado's LGBT citizenry and their growing numbers of supporters should be able to move forward in their quest for equal rights despite such a defeat.

And tying to that last point – I'll call this the Obi-Wan Kenobi factor - which is based on the famous last line he uttered before being struck down by Darth Vader's light saber in Star Wars - “You can't win, Darth. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”

Essentially, the fight for civil unions earned us more allies. We all have seen the polls that more than half of Americans are in favor of gay marriage, and as times change, more and more attitudes based on discrimination, homophobia, and fear are being left behind in the dust. As we have grown more visible and more real to the the world, so has understanding grown. As state after state and country after country around the world take steps to provide equal rights and protections to gays, lesbians, and their families, the cries and panicked screams of our opponents ring more and more hollow and out-of-touch. The world doesn't end when you give gays the right to marry. Institutions aren't harmed. Families and love grow stronger while our rich and diverse culture grows even more rich and diverse. The bottom line is that with each one of these fights – even losing ones – the gay stories are shared, understanding and knowledge is gained, and our number of allies grows. After all, it wasn't long after our loss that Judy Shepard and our Vice President convinced the President of the United States to come out in favor of gay marriage. With that announcement came magazine covers, another surge of publicity to our cause, and more allies, most recently with an endorsement from the NAACP. In the end, we may have lost a battle in the legislature, but we gained more positive press, more supporters, and the President of the United States in a whirlwind of pro-gay marriage spirit.

In the end, should civil unions have passed? Probably. Should we be bitter that it didn't? It would be understandable. But ultimately, the civil union law is dead, for now at least. Now it's time to move on and move forward. We need to marshal our energy, money, and resources from now until the November election. For if we see this loss as nothing but a loss, then nothing will be gained. If we see the death of civil unions as a lesson from which to learn, grow, and become stronger than we were the day before, then like with Obi-Wan Kenobi, even when we lose, we win. After all, Colorado's gay and lesbians deserve nothing less than the biggest win of all: total equality.