Showing posts with label Op-Ed. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Op-Ed. Show all posts

Monday, March 28, 2016

Op-Ed: Discrimination is not an American value (But Republicans don’t know that)

By Sean Meloy, DNC Director of LGBT Engagement
2015 marked some really high highs and low lows for LGBT Americans. The Supreme Court ruled on Obergefell v. Hodges, legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States.

However, after this success, the GOP needed to find another way to push their anti-LGBT agenda. In Indiana they passed a “Right to Discriminate” law that made it legal for businesses to use religion as an excuse to refuse services to people because of who they are or who they love. Religion! Who could disagree with that rationale? Of course, it actually boiled down to government-sanctioned discrimination of LGBT people and had nothing to do with the actual freedom to exercise your religion.

Unfortunately, it looks like in 2016, Republicans have found new ways to write discrimination into our laws, rather than expand equal rights for all.
On Wednesday, the North Carolina General Assembly rushed the most sweeping anti-LGBT bill in the nation through the state legislature. It not only overturns local ordinances protecting many North Caroliniansincluding LGBT people and veteransfrom discrimination, but it prevents municipalities from passing any new pro-equality ordinances. Thanks to the actions of Governor McCrory and the Republican legislature, there are now no legal protections for gay, lesbian, or transgender Americans in the state of North Carolina. Yesterday some North Carolinians woke up in a state where they could be fired, kicked out of their home, or denied services because of who they inherently are.

The Georgia legislature is currently debating a similar bill. HB 757 would allow religious organizations that receive government funding to discriminate against LGBT people, including denying services or employment to a candidate based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Simply put, HB 757 is legalized discrimination, and similar legislation is pending in state houses around the country.

Here’s the thingthis isnt just about Indiana, North Carolina, and Georgia. Its the entire Republican Party. Its the Republicans in Congress. Its the Republican presidential candidates.

When the Obama administration extended Title IX policy to cover gender identity, the Republican National Committee passed a resolution condemning the action. They encouraged states to pass laws contrary to the policysimilar to the one North Carolina passed yesterday.

RESOLVED, The Republican National Committee calls on the Department of Education to rescind its interpretation of Title IX that wrongly includes facility use issues by transgender students;

RESOLVED, The Republican National Committee encourages State Legislatures to recognize that these Obama gender identity policies are a federal governmental overreach, a misinterpretation of Title IX policies, and an infringement upon the majority of students’ Constitutional rights; and

RESOLVED, The Republican National Committee encourages state legislatures to enact laws that protect student privacy and limit the use of restrooms, locker rooms and similar facilities to members of the sex to whom the facility is designated.
And bills doing just thatrubberstamping discrimination against trans kidshave been proposed in VirginiaTennesseeFloridaTexasSouth Dakota, and Oklahoma.

But this isn’t only a problem at the state levelespecially not if Republicans get their way. Because (surprise!) every single Republican running for president has a really stellar record of supporting anti-LGBT legislation. As a congressman, John Kasich voted against legislation to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, and as a governor he watered down non-discrimination protections in Ohio. Ted Cruz opposed the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) in Texas and the federal Employee Non-Discrimination Act. And Donald Trump, the party’s new standard-bearer, loudly beats the drum of anti-marriage/pro-discrimination policies. Giving businesses, schools, and cities the right to discriminate is part of the Republican Party’s national plan, and their presidential candidates are ready to keep the ball rolling:

We can’t allow for this bigotry from the Republican Party to continue. No American should be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. That’s not very complicated.

We have a lot more work to do to ensure equality for all Americans. But one thing is clear: We must elect Democrats across the countryfrom the White House to the city councilwho will stand proudly with LGBT Americans. Many people dont know what happened in North Carolina and what is underway around the country. Will you do me a favor to help spread the word?

Share this with your friends and make sure they know what’s happening, and that it could happen in other states, too. We have to stand together while Republicans are in control… but we have to organize and get Democrats elected who will have the LGBT community’s back. Discrimination is not an American value, so let’s make sure the Republican Party knows that.

Sean Meloy is the Director of LGBT Engagement at the Democratic National Committee.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Mona Lott Sez: That's Offensive!

By Mona Lott

I love drunk women, they’re so fun and happy and easy to sell into white slavery! We’re you offended? Good, then I did my job as a comic. Why were you offended? Is it because you’re a woman who gets drunk way too often, or is it because you’ve been sold into white slavery, or is it because you’re just an uptight jerk with a sphincter so clenched that if turds were footballs you’d never fumble! Sorry if I just offended turds. 

Frankly, I’m kind of tired of people getting offended lately. Actually I’m more offended by the way they react to being offended. It’s as if being offensive to someone or some group of people means you are evil personified and should not be allowed in public anymore or even in Congress! Being offensive is simply, according to Google, “causing someone to feel deeply hurt, upset, or angry.” So what is wrong with that? You can hurt someone by simply telling a guy in a bar who just bought you a drink that you’re not interested. Not that I’ve ever turned any guy down in a bar. But I have been rebuked by a few poor unfortunate souls. You can hurt someone by strategically placing a screwdriver attached to a block of wood under an ex lover’s sofa cushion but, wait a moment, I don’t think that’s the kind of hurt Google meant. Though if you are in the market for hurting someone in that way I have a cousin named Vito ... You can emotionally hurt someone by simply breaking off a long term relationship, especially if you tell them in a text message that "It’s not you, it’s me." And hell, I’m sure you’ve made plenty of people angry just on the drive to work this morning. So why have cries of “that’s offensive” become so damn full of pretentious importance as of late?

Maybe we should ask that gay pride event in Scotland that banned drag queens because transgendered folks might be offended. Did you catch that? They banned drag queens because transgendered people “might” be offended, not because they were, but just because they might. Being offended is just a part of life, folks. And frankly, if you are offended by a drag queen, then maybe the problem is you and not drag queens. The same goes for those butt clenching morons who get offended when a woman pulls out a boob in public and feeds her hungry child. You’re offended? Oh well, I’m sure you will get over it. And those black folks who were so offended by the confederate flag in South Carolina ... oh wait, now that’s a bit different. Is it, you ask? Well, yes it is because it’s not offensive, it’s malicious.

Malicious, does that make a difference? You bet your sweet ass it does and here’s why. Malicious as defined by Google is “characterized by malice; intending or intended to do harm.” See, though a transgendered person (notice how I didn’t say 'tranny' in fear of offending someone) might be offended by a drag queen, they are not in danger of that queen causing them harm, unless of course they step on her fucking dress. Then it's all bets are off. And I’m betting the word “f**king” will get edited in this article because we might offend someone. But really, I think this is the line you have to cross in determining if a particular behavior or word or item should be banned or not allowed. 

The fact that someone or some group might be simply offended is not enough to eliminate it from everyone else. Yes, it may be insensitive and it may show the stupidity and small mindedness of the GOP ... oop,s I mean of the person spouting the offense. But if it’s not malicious then it shouldn’t be banned. Is the confederate flag offensive? Maybe it is, but even moreso, it’s malicious. After all it was a battleflag used by the side that fought and killed in an effort to continue enslaving a whole race of people whose only offense was being born a different color. It’s malicious in its use since then by the Ku Klux Klan and ignorant, backwoods, cousin marrying morons to taunt and intimidate black folks with the threat of harm to themselves and their families. 

So is it offensive then when some bible thumping, four-time divorced clerk in Texas says she thinks gay marriage is wrong. Yes, it’s offensive to me. But it is it malicious? No. But when she refuses to do her job as mandated by the Supreme Court it crosses the line of offensive into malicious territory. By taking away a person’s equal rights you are intending harm and that’s why I hope she finds herself in jail for this. 

So yeah, I’m offended every damn day, by religion, conservative politics, and coworkers who think they’re hatred for themselves should be directed at me. And will I post offensive remarks and jokes about the Pope and Mike Huckabee and that bitch in the cubicle next to me who doesn’t seem to realize that the whole office can hear her personal phone call to her therapist? You bet your ass I will. Will some people be offended? Sure they will. Do I care? Hell no I don’t because I’m not promoting a wish to kill them or break their knees or throw them in jail. Well, I might call my cousin Vito about that bitch in the cubicle next to mine. Anyway, it’s time to quit giving so much power to being offended. Lighten up folks, unclench and fumble a football once and a while.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Op-Ed: July 4: Jesse Helms Freedom Day

By Jim Patterson

On the day GOP Senator Jesse Helms died, July 4, 2008, America celebrated with fireworks. As a longtime target of the senator’s hate tactics, I bought drinks for friends in San Francisco’s Castro.

My hate mail from Helms’s followers has diminished some over the years. After more than 20 years, the anonymous letters and “No Caller ID” calls still annoy me on my July 19 anniversary with Jesse Helms.

It was on that date in 1994 the North Carolina senator tried to fire me for “promoting the gay agenda” as a diplomat in the federal government. It was an action, recorded in the Congressional Record and on CSPAN, that depressed me, caused me to become suicidal, and sent me to the Dirksen Building with a long metal letter opener intending to stab Helms in the throat.

Fortunately, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t attack Helms. I feared prison. I was imprisoned anyway with depression and the painful memories of the workplace tensions over being targeted by Helms.

“Forget you ever knew me,” one colleague told me. I forgot the chap alright. When he called to apologize a few years later, I could not recall his name and refused the favor he wanted of me.

In addition to fireworks, there was a torrent of terrible tributes to Jesse Helms upon his death of dementia. Here are a few of them:

Then-President George W. Bush said he and wife Laura were “deeply saddened by the passing of our good friend and a great American: Senator Jesse Helms.”

The Wall Street Journal called Helms “a hero of the Cold War.” The paper also said Helms “was no racist.” With so much YouTube and print evidence of racial insensitivity, this statement is laughable. The paper credited Jesse’s rise to power as “a reaction to the collapse of liberal governance.”

John Fund, writing in the Wall Street Journal, said Jesse Helms’s “career provides a blueprint for anyone who represents an embattled minority viewpoint.” Consciously or subconsciously, the LGBT community, especially those with Pink Mob mentality, may be emulating the divisive and offensive tactics Helms so proudly used to force his “old time backwoods values” on the nation.

The Washington Post published an editorial of a different tone, “Jesse Helms, White Racist.”

WRAL, the Raleigh TV station, on July 5, 2008, said, “Throughout his long public career, Senator Jesse Helms was a tireless advocate for the people of North Carolina, a stalwart defender of limited government and free enterprise, a fearless defender of a culture of life, and an unwavering champion of those struggling for liberty.”

WRAL continued, “Jesse Helms was a kind, decent, and humble man and a passionate defender of what he called ‘the Miracle of America’. So it is fitting that this great patriot left us on the Fourth of July.”

Helms, who I first met in 1976 in Kansas City at the GOP National Convention, was not “kind, decent, humble, or compassionate.” He was a bigot.

Raleigh resident Patsy Clarke wrote Helms a letter in June 1995 after he implied people who died of AIDS deserved what they got. She asked him not to pass judgment on people as her gay son died of AIDS in 1994 at 31.

In his response, Helms told Clarke he didn’t judge homosexuality, “the Bible did.” He callously told Clarke her son “played Russian roulette with his sexuality.”

Helms enjoyed his nickname “Senator No” because he never saw a federal program he liked ­– except the deadly tobacco program he wholeheartedly supported to enrich for his state’s tobacco farmers at a huge toll to human suffering in the U.S. and around the world.

Smoking is a huge problem in the LGBT community as I have witnessed from attending smoking cessation programs at LGBT community centers and churches around the country. Consider this: Jesse Helms would want you to smoke so you could develop a smoking related illness and shorten your life.

On July 4, 2015, Jesse Helms Freedom Day, the LGBT community is free from the heavy burden of bigotry Helms so proudly threw at us for decades. Free yourself this year from the burden of smoking and help end the rich tobacco economy in North Carolina that Jesse supported while he denied funds to fight AIDS and legislatively delayed marriage equality and the Employment Nondiscrimination Act.

By doing this the LGBT community of 2015 can hasten the end of the Helms legacy and the one federal program he strongly valued, the tobacco program, and for which he was always “Senator Yes.”

Human Rights Advocate Jim Patterson is a writer, speaker, and lifelong diplomat for dignity for all people. In a remarkable life spanning the civil rights movement to today’s human rights struggles, he stands as a voice for the voiceless. A prolific writer, he documents history’s wrongs and the struggle for dignity to provide a roadmap to a more humane future. Learn more at

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Op-Ed: Bruce Jenner – Reality Parent of the Year

By Jim Patterson

While watching Bruce Jenner being interviewed by Dianne Sawyer, several ideas crossed my mind.

First, in the TV situation comedy land of the 1950s and 1960s, audiences were assured "Father Knew Best.” That was the name of the show starring the amiable Robert Young, a Hollywood leading man in the 1930s and 1940s, who was married to 1930s leading lady Jane Wyatt. They were the Anderson family and “father” Anderson knew best when it came to rearing children and solving all domestic matters.

“The Donna Reed Show,” though Reed was an Academy Award winning actress, gave most of the TV sit-com spotlight to husband Dr. Alex Stone, played by the late Carl Betz. The show was a slightly more modern “Father Knows Best” with father being a medical doctor and solving domestic problems while curing illnesses. The Stones’ children were played by Shelly Fabares, now 71 and a liver transplant survivor, and Paul Peterson, now 69. Both Fabares and Petersen had singing careers from their TV show. Fabares was an Elvis Presley girl in the 1960s.

The TV situation comedy father who “knew best” better than them all was the somber Hugh Beaumont as Ward Cleaver on the eternally beloved “Leave it to Beaver.” Beaumont had been an actor in B movies in the 1940s and 1950s, such as “The Mole People.” Beaumont took the role seriously and became the personification of gentle fatherly wisdom.

Beaumont will forever be known as Ward Cleaver. “Ward, I’m worried about the Beaver,” wife June, played by the late Barbara Billingsley, would say on every episode, or so it would seem. The Cleavers had their domestic hands full with two their two sons. The eldest was Wally, played by Tony Dow, now 70, and the youngest was Theodore “Beaver” Cleaver, played by Jerry Mathers, now 66. Neighborhood teens Eddie Haskell, played by Ken Osmond, now 71, and Clarence “Lumpy” Rutherford, played by the late Frank Bank, added to the Cleavers’ problems.

In these three TV situation comedies, fathers always knew best. However when ABC’s Sawyer interviewed Jenner, father of seven children, the Olympic Gold Medalist openly admitted he had, for a long time, questions about his life and sexuality. He was just now being authentic with himself and his family by transitioning to a woman, he told an estimated TV audience of nearly 17 million.

Second, Jenner did not come across as a person confused by his gender. He said he has always been a woman. It is difficult to imagine the TV “fathers” of the 1950/60s sharing such a revelation with their TV children. Yes, the TV fathers of long ago helped educate their children in issues of honesty fairness. Today, Bruce Jenner is educating his children and millions of others in honesty and fairness for dealing with sexuality issues considered taboo in the fiction family TV land.

Third, the reality of 2015 is fathers and mothers come out as gay, lesbian, and transgender to themselves, each other, and their children. Their children do the same. According to my correspondence and files, this has been happening for many decades. But TV, now labeled as reality TV, has only just caught up with the frank talk and situations about sexuality that families have dealt with for generations.

TV situation comedies, like those above and scores of others, never seriously addressed the serious problems children and their parents face as they age and accept sexuality long hidden and seldom discussed. It was the Loud family of Santa Barbara, California, who gave us a view of a real American family in 1973 when son Lance painted his fingernails, applied cosmetics and fragrances, and became America’s Gay Son on camera as Mom and Dad separated and divorced due to Dad’s sexual infidelities. “An American Family,” the groundbreaking PBS series, was a rare dose of real family dynamics broadcast into American homes.

The Jenner and Loud families are Southern Californians who gradually learned to live open and happy lives. It is sad that eldest son Lance, a victim of AIDS, did not live to see the openness, happiness, and HIV longevity possible in 2015.

The multi-episode “An American Family” ended with the music of John Lennon’s “Imagine” as the reality TV camera froze on Lance and father Bill Loud. Father and gay son looked uncomfortable as Lennon sang “Imagine all the people living life in peace.”

While peace escaped the Louds, Bruce Jenner and his family appear to have obtained it and plan to share it with others. By transitioning, Jenner is expressing love for his family and for the many other families caught in the fake TV sit-com families of yesteryear. My vote for 2015 Parent of the Year is Bruce Jenner for sharing his innate wisdom with his family and our nation.

Human Rights Advocate Jim Patterson is a writer, speaker, and lifelong diplomat for dignity for all people. In a remarkable life spanning the civil rights movement to today’s human rights struggles, he stands as a voice for the voiceless. A prolific writer, he documents history’s wrongs and the struggle for dignity to provide a roadmap to a more humane future. Learn more at

Monday, April 27, 2015

Op-Ed: Waiting For Employment Equality LGBTQ workers still face employment discrimination 50 years after landmark series

By Jim Patterson

In 1963 a New York tabloid ran a six-part series on Sex and Laws. The series was motivated by many factors including sex scandals at the United Nations, increased public health problem of venereal disease, increased number of sex workers, workplace discrimination, and availability of pornography.

“Those Who Are Different” dealt rather frankly and honestly with the problems of New York City’s then estimated 400,000 homosexuals. Prime among those problems were employment concerns. Over 50 years later, employment concerns continue to hinder the careers of LGBTQ workers in many states.

In the 1963 article, a gay activist, using a false name for his job safety, described a “crucial case” involving employment in Washington, D.C. “It involves a middle-aged wage and hours expert who was recently denied a Civil Service post, after scoring highest on a competitive exam, on grounds he was a practicing homosexual,” according to the article.

Of course federal job disqualification for sexuality could not legally happen now with Civil Service and Foreign Service protections for LGBTQ government employees. Similarly, not even medical conditions or disabilities could legally prevent a qualified applicant from being appointed to a government position. Most corporations adopted non-discrimination policies long before government.

In 1963 in New York and across the country homosexuals were prosecuted for “crimes against nature,” aka sodomy. It took 40 years for the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark Lawrence v. Texas to find a Constitutional right for private sexual activity for the LGBTQ community. Lawrence invalidated sodomy laws in the few other states which upheld them.

The gay “source” for much of the 1963 article used a false name because “[h]e believes that if he were found out it would cost him his job.” Still, the 1963 activist believed if people from “the bus driver to the Broadway producer” were to “honestly present his case” [to his employer] “he can win public understanding and support.”

Was the 1963 activist successful in getting closeted gays to come out in hopes of “public understanding and support?” No. He told the newspaper, “Most homosexuals have settled for a minimum goal of non-harassment—or they function in areas like the arts where they are accepted.”

If that 1963 message sounds depressing, the activist concluded with, “It’s useless to try to change the ‘straight world,’” is the typical attitude of this group.”

The “straight world” has changed since 1963, just not enough. At that time, a “sustained gay relationship” was jokingly referred to as a “marriage.” Depending on what U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and his Associate Justices decide, same-sex marriage may be a national legal reality within days.

Marriage equality from coast to coast will be major progress. Yet, as our African American colleagues and fellow freedom fighters tell us, “With progress comes resistance.” The fight for equality won’t be over.

Workplace discrimination still happens to African Americans as we can see from frequent press accounts. It continues to happen unabated to millions of LGBTQ workers in states that refuse to grant employment protections. The Employment Non-discrimination Act, in Congressional limbo since the 1990s, is needed now more than ever to end the historic income inequality forced on the LGBTQ community by uncaring, bigoted employers.

More work is needed to “change the straight world” when it comes to expanding employment protections to workers based on their sexuality. It has proven a tough sell from the 1960s to today. Only 18 states offer such employment protections.

When will legalized discrimination against LGBTQ workers end in the remaining 32 states? When LGBT members of Congress and their straight allies get to work and impress upon their opposing members the fundamental importance of workplace fairness and the need for a national law to protect same-sex families.

Economic prosperity, workplace fairness and a chance at the American Dream are the best wedding gifts same-sex families could get from Congress. Congress should deliver them this year.

Human Rights Advocate Jim Patterson is a writer, speaker, and lifelong diplomat for dignity for all people. In a remarkable life spanning the civil rights movement to today’s human rights struggles, he stands as a voice for the voiceless. A prolific writer, he documents history’s wrongs and the struggle for dignity to provide a roadmap to a more humane future. Learn more at

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Op-Ed: The Pink Mob and Walkerton - Social media frenzy plays into hands of equality opponents

By Jim Patterson

As Indiana Republican Gov. Mike Pence struggled to find legislative language for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act he signed in March, he and the national LGBTQ community could learn from a televised call an enterprising TV reporter made to a small-town pizzeria in Walkerton, Indiana.

Pence, the state of Indiana, the national LGBTQ community, Silicon Valley tech giants, and conservative talk show hosts remain entangled over language of Indiana’s RFRA. The good governor would be wise to repeal the act, but he feels he would pay a heavy political price for caving to the LGBTQ community.

Pence needs to consider an alternative. If he repeals the act, he might become a national political hero for a brief while and to a constituency he probably never openly sought to serve. He might also gain the political mantle of moderate in an overwhelmingly conservative party. Would that end his career or would it catapult him to the leadership for his party’s 2016 presidential contest? It is something the governor should be considering.

Meanwhile in Walkerton, population 2,200, one of the owners of the now famous Memories Pizza spoke honestly when she told a TV reporter the restaurant would not cater a same-sex wedding. Perhaps if not asked a leading question by a TV reporter (probably anxious to get a job offer in a bigger media market), the young woman might have made a different, more human statement, to another non-publicity seeking human. We’ll never know.

When the restaurant proprietor’s statement went viral on the web, the pink mob went to work. Now, in my life I have seen mob mentality firsthand more than once. As a youth during the civil rights struggle in Alabama in the 1960s, and an AIDS activist in Washington in the 1980s, I saw the ugly face of mobs who wanted to kill African Americans and gay men and children with AIDS.

What happened in Walkerton was done via faceless social media. The results were no less ugly. As I learned as a youth, mobs attract the type of mentality capable of lynching, bombing, burning, shooting, and inflicting painful words. In the case of social media, hateful words are captured forever.

The owners of Memories Pizza were so shocked by the national social media language violence directed at them they reportedly decided to close the business. No LGBTQ leaders stepped forward to urge them to reconsider their position or to call off the pink mob. That might have been seen as caving into the religious right by the LGBTQ community. We couldn’t have that because we are rebels and, in the eyes of Christians, anti-Christian and anti-religion. We can’t use LGBTQ diplomacy to change people’s minds. No, instead we have to threaten them with pink violence, social media threats which do the same job as real violence.

Supporters of Memories Pizza began a crowdfunding campaign and raised nearly $1 million for the restaurant. I suspect that is just the beginning of what will be a record year for the small restaurant.

Aside from the publicity and money, evangelicals and Roman Catholics, losers in their fight against marriage equality, were happy to see the pink mob try to destroy a small heartland business. It shows the country, they say, how heartless the LGBTQ community is. It hurts our case that those who oppose marriage equality are heartless for discriminating against us “because of whom we love.”

Is the lesson of the marriage equality struggle who can be more heartless, those who approve versus those who disapprove – or who has more heart and love to share with those who are evolving on the issue? The answer is in our heartland.

Human Rights Advocate Jim Patterson is a writer, speaker, and lifelong diplomat for dignity for all people. In a remarkable life spanning the civil rights movement to today’s human rights struggles, he stands as a voice for the voiceless. A prolific writer, he documents history’s wrongs and the struggle for dignity to provide a roadmap to a morehumane future. Learn more at

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Stonewall Fitness: Why I Support the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi

By David Smith

Now that a lot of the hype and emotion of the Sochi Boycott has died down (or been forgotten about) and we are less than 100 days until the opening ceremonies I feel it appropriate to share my viewpoint on the Sochi Boycott. If you are quick to judge yet are not willing to read the article and open your mind to another perspective then please don’t waste your time, or mine.

Given that the Olympic Games are a world wide event and one of the few that can truly unite the world through a common purpose it is no doubt that such attention will always have it’s fair share of controversy, from the direct protests of Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Summer Olympics to the indirect protests such as China’s occupation of Tibet during the 2008 Olympics. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Op-Ed: Dangerous Denver Cops allowed back on streets while the city fights their full reinstatement

By COAVP and Colorado Progressive Coalition

The Denver Civil Service Commission ruled not to honor the city's request to keep officers involved in the Denver Diner beatings off the streets while the city fights for their removal. Victims of the incident are calling foul on the decision while the Colorado Progressive Coalition (CPC) along with the Colorado Anti-Violence Program (CAVP) are asking for a federal investigation of a system that has failed Denver residents.  

While officers Kevin Devine and Ricky Nixon where removed from the force after lying on a report concerning their beating and macing of handcuffed women in front of the Denver Diner in 2009, the Civil Service Commission decided that their omissions did not constitute removable offenses. The city attorney appealed this decision after the community rose in opposition to the Commission's decision. However, the attorney failed to issue a stay on the officers' return to the force before the appropriate deadline.  

While the Civil Service Commission board could have upheld the stay today, the board chose not to do so. As a result, the officers are scheduled to return to the force, gaining back pay, while the city's appeal to remove them continues.  

"These people are not just names or statistics," said Mu Son Chi, Racial Justice and Civil Rights Director for the Colorado Progressive Coalition. "They are people whose lives have been crushed by a policing system and culture that has for too long overlooked police brutality committed against our communities. We are disappointed that the city's stay was not honored and the officers will be allowed back on the force."  

Victims are greatly concerned by the board's action.  

Miriam Peña, one of the women involved in the Denver Diner beatings and CPC Co-Executive Director, said the decision would put more people at risk while the board looks at the city's desire to remove them from office.  

"This is a warning to all residents of Denver. No one is safe when abusive officers return to the streets," said Peña.

Victims in the Denver Diner incident, CPC and CAVP are calling for the Civil Service Commission to remove the officers involved in the Denver Diner case. Likewise, CPC and CAVP are concerned that the commission will show similar leniency when it comes to similar cases.  
The Commission board was scheduled to provide a decision on whether the city will be allowed to fire officers involved in the Lower Downtown beating of Michael DeHerrera, that decision has been scheduled for release April 9. The DeHerrera family have been waiting for justice on this case for three long years.  

Michael DeHerrera was beaten by officers Randy Murr and Devin Sparks in 2009 while speaking on his cell phone to his father, a Pueblo sheriff's deputy, in downtown Denver. While the city fired the officers, the Civil Service Commission determined that they had already been punished for their action via a three day suspension with pay. The city attorney appealed that ruling asking for their removal from the force, and the Board will be responding to that appeal on the April 9.  

Anthony DeHerrera, Michael's father, while stating the delay of his son's ruling was understandable as long as justice was served, saw today's ruling as another example of what is wrong with the current police discipline system.

"These officers are yet again getting off on a technicality. It is yet another part of the appeal process that should be changed," said Anthony DeHerrera. "Seeing these officers be reinstated is re-victimizing the victims of police brutality."

CPC and CAVP strongly urge the commission to side with the city's appeal and remove officers in both cases from the force. In both cases, officers lied on reports about their violent actions which, along with the beatings themselves, constitutes a considerable threat to both the city's residents and the integrity of the police force.  

"The reality is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people of color continue to be disproportionately targeted with police brutality and misconduct, despite Colorado's inclusive anti-discrimination laws. Upholding the City's appeal and removing these officers is the first step in police accountability," said Crystal Middlestadt, Director of Training and Education at the Colorado Anti-Violence Program.

Today's ruling indicates a further breakdown in the Denver law enforcement system and is just one of many indicators that Denver law enforcement is in need of a federal investigation as called for by former Independent Monitor Richard Rosenthal.

An incident in 2009 could have prevented both Denver Diner and LoDo incidents from occurring -- had it been resolved promptly.  

The decision on whether to discipline three officers, Murr, Nixon and Tiffany Middleton, involved in a 2009 incident in which Alex Landau was nearly beaten to death while racial slurs were hurled at him has been pushed back by the Denver Police Department. Had Nixon and Murr been removed at the time the initial investigation began in Landau's case, it is likely they would not have had the opportunity to strike again.  

"If those officers involved in the Alex Landau case in 2009 would have been removed from the force, the DeHerrera and the Denver Diner incident may not have happened," said Peña. "How many more police brutality cases have to happen in order to say enough is enough and excessive force and lying will not be tolerated?"

Landau agreed with Anthony DeHerrera, stating that the system has once again failed Denver.
"Our city has promised reform in the department and again through technicality we have been let down," said Landau. "Things like this are reasons we need the help of the Department of Justice. It is extemely important that decision making power is removed from the Civil Service Commission because it is obvious that those who are unaffected by police violence and misconduct are the ones making decisions."

"As an organization we are extremely disappointed in the recent decision," Peña said. "As a city, we can do better, and a good starting point would be to stand up for the residents of Denver, even more importantly the victims of these cases."

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Op-Ed: Israel, the gays and Equality Forum

by Mark Segal

The last couple of years have seen progressive LGBT people taking on issues other than equality, as well as bringing the debate into the community. Israel and the Palestinian cause has been a flashpoint. With Equality Forum in Philadelphia poised to honor Israel this May, several progressive blogs have denounced the organization and suggested the honor be withdrawn. Their argument is easy to appreciate: Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians and Palestinian state. Those progressives might have a point, but that point is misleading and downright anti-equality.

Full disclosure: I’m Jewish, but also have been a member of “Peace Now,” an organization that has often been at odds with the Israeli government. I’ve traveled throughout the Middle East, and was one of the first LGBT reporters to do a series on LGBT people living in Middle Eastern countries, including Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and Israel. For those national readers, those here in Philadelphia will tell you I have no appreciation of Equality Forum’s executive director. Several years ago, he mass-emailed an obscene, graphic depiction of me that crossed the line of decency. We will never have a relationship. In conclusion, I’m not a diehard who blindly supports Israel or Equality Forum. With that stated, I think I’m in a good place to examine this issue fairly.

Here’s the fine print. Progressives are right. Israel keeps the Palestinians under total control, using roadblocks, settlements and blockades. All true. But at the same time, the Palestinians refuse to recognize the state of Israel and house organizations in the “Palestinian state” that have an agenda to wipe Israel off the map. I believe it’s fair to say that Israel has the right to protect itself against people who are at war with it. But for the LGBT community, that should not be the issue. Here’s what it should be.

Israel has some legal recognition of the LGBT community. It accepts marriage equality from other nations, it was one of the first nations to accept gays in the military, has a gay tourism campaign, gives government funds to LGBT organizations and, when a hate crime happened at the Tel Aviv LGBT Community Center, the prime minister, a conservative hawkish member of parliament (the Knesset), visited to assure the LGBT community that the government would not tolerate hate crimes against them. In the Middle East, and a nation with a strong religious right-wing itself, this is very progressive.

Compare that with the Palestinian state and culture. The culture is so hateful to LGBT people that any LGBT activism is limited due to the very possible chance of violence. There is little if any support within the Palestinian authority for any LGBT issues. Hate crimes against gay people happen regularly and, in fact, many LGBT Palestinians move to Israel for safety. Then there is the issue of honor killings. When a family believes it has been badly shamed, its members feel they have the right to kill. This has happened with families with gay children before. So by supporting the Palestinians, one is supporting an anti-equality cause, if not supporting hate crimes themselves.

Israel should indeed be applauded for being the one place in the Middle East that is a relative safe haven for LGBT people. Our community’s first priority is for the safety of our members. Can anyone state that being openly LGBT in the Palestinian territory is safe? No, you cannot.

Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. He can be reached at

Monday, January 30, 2012

Op-Ed: Christie sees future; Santorum wears George Wallace drag

byMark Segal

This columnist has been preaching for over a year now, but particularly during this primary season, that America is changing — in favor of LGBT rights and equality. That change was never so true as in Monday’s announcement from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Here’s how AP reported it.

“New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie moved to diversify the state’s all-white Supreme Court on Monday by proposing two firsts: the nominations of an openly gay black man [Bruce Harris] and a Korean-born law enforcer to fill two vacancies.

“‘I am proud to be standing here today to announce two historic nominations to the New Jersey State Supreme Court,’ Christie said, expressing ‘extreme confidence in their records and respect for their intellect.’”

At the governor’s news conference, Harris thanked the governor, then said, “I also want to thank my partner Mark for his nearly 32 years of love and support.”

Christie is not considered a moderate. He’s a national rising star of right-wing Republicans but he’s smart and ahead of his fellow party members in understanding that LGBT issues no longer matter to the general population — including Republicans. In other words, you can’t scare the public with the gay issue anymore since they no longer are afraid to have us as neighbors. In fact, most Americans want us as their neighbors and pollsters have discovered that 47 percent of strong conservative Republicans would vote for an LGBT person running for office.

With a generation that has grown up with openly gay friends about to enter the voting system, the handwriting is on the wall.

Now Christie is not for full equality. He’s doing exactly what this column predicted just a few weeks ago: drawing a line in the sand on equality. Domestic partners and civil unions are all OK — but marriage is for one man and one woman only.

All one has to do is watch the Republican primaries and see this working itself into the Republican fabric. As I stated before, enjoy this Republican race and watch Rick Santorum. In this race, Santorum is like George Wallace, the last proud racist to run for president. For Santorum, he’ll be the last proud homophobe to run for president. And like Wallace, he’ll become an outcast in his own party. Wallace eventually apologized, but Santorum is too arrogant to apologize for the hate he has spun.

Back to the Garden State. Here’s the fun part: If Christie vetoes New Jersey’s marriage-equality bill, it’s likely that a pending marriage-equality case will make it’s way to the New Jersey Supreme Court, where Christie’s appointee will cast a vote on equality. We are living in exciting and historic times.

Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. He can be reached at

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Op-Ed: There are no Gay Jews

by Mark Segal
For me, the aging process has led to a clearer view of equality. After all, it has been the passion of my life for 42 years. Everywhere I travel, I’m in search of how our community is depicted. Unfortunately, I notice we are not always included. That is discrimination by censorship. And unfortunately, many of our national organizations get a failing grade on this subject. They don’t understand the seriousness of this censorship. Even GLAAD doesn’t know the history of the battle to end censorship in mainstream media. They must learn that our collective history is the building blocks for our future, and the justification of why our struggle for equality deserves to become a reality.

About two months ago, my nephew and I visited the new National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia. The museum opened a little over a year ago with much fanfare. It was a spectacular debut with the likes of Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Steven Spielberg and Jerry Seinfeld. The museum not only covered the plight of the Jews in coming to the States, it showcased their religious and political views. It also highlights 12 people from the Jewish community who represent who Jews are and their contributions to American society.

It’s a shock and a failure on the part of the museum that we gay Jews do not exist. A total failure, and they should bow their heads in shame. That’s a tough statement, but as I went through the museum and saw how Jews dealt with the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the fight for civil rights and women’s rights, it was obvious that something was missing. LGBT. In fact, I didn’t find those four letters anywhere in the museum.

Here’s the rub. Many of the most prominent pioneers of the LGBT community were Jewish; perhaps the most well known, Harvey Milk, does not even get a mention. In fact, in what might look like a backhanded insult to the LGBT community, there are two gay men in the museum’s Hall of Fame gallery — Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein — who are both closeted thanks to the museum, as neither of their displayed bios mentions it.

Not only is this discrimination by censorship, it reminds me of a time when, in the Jewish tradition, if you discovered something about a member of the family that was shameful, you didn’t talk about it. Does the museum find LGBT shameful? This becomes somewhat personal for me since, in my family, one of my cousins was one of “those individuals.” At the tender age of 16, my cousin Norman was asked to leave his home. As a child on the streets in the 1950s, he was homeless and had a life of drugs and alcohol. And growing up, we children occasionally heard his name and asked about him. We were told we don’t talk about cousin Norman. Imagine growing up, knowing you’re gay, and discovering the real story of cousin Norman. How do you tell your parents? Do you worry about what the rest of the family will think? Does it sound like the 1950s? That is what the NMAJH has done. On behalf of my cousin Norman, shame on you!

Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. He can be reached at

Friday, January 13, 2012

Op-Ed: Two major benchmarks in LGBT history

by Mark Segal

Mark Segal
Mitt Romney
If you sneezed last week, you might have missed them. Two major changes in the fight for LGBT equality took place — and they literally will change the playing field forever.

During the Republican presidential debate last Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” before the New Hampshire primary, a new benchmark in LGBT equality — at least for Republicans — was christened. And the surprise was who set it and who shrugged it off. The frontrunner, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, did the honors.

Here’s the thumbnail version. One of the moderators quoted a pro-gay equality statement from Romney that was published in Boston’s LGBT newspaper Bay Windows, then asks Romney what he will do for nondiscrimination. (A well-phrased question, journalists should note.) Romney, who, it seems during this nomination process has cast aside his previous limited LGBT equality record, states very clearly that he supports nondiscrimination and that, as governor, he appointed LGBT people to his administration and as judges. He then said clearly that he does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. So he answered the question and you’d think that was it, but the journalist — this guy was good — then asked: But what will you do to further the rights of LGBT people?” (Again, journalists please note the phrasing of the question.) Romney clearly says, “I just did that.” Applause. He adds that the only difference he has with the gay community is that he believes “marriage” is solely between a man and a woman. Applause from the audience again.

Here’s the surprise, and why this is a moment that will be marked as the beginning of the long road to reality for Republicans: They then went to Santorum with the question. He attempted to make a joke but it was obvious that the audience was not amused, so he sidestepped the question that has been a hallmark of his campaign. It was his chance to stand out and he knew that disparaging gays would no longer work. And so did every candidate standing up there, since no one took Romney on.

How serious of a change is this? The Obama campaign was quick to send out a press release Monday morning suggesting that Romney was stepping away from comments made at the debate, but that was based on a 2002 flyer that Romney’s team had disavowed. Point is, the handwriting is on the wall and Republicans see the inevitable. Americans are tired of them trashing the gay community. So the frontrunner has drawn a new line in the sand: We believe in nondiscrimination up to the issue of marriage.
So enjoy the next few months and watch the dying gasps of the anti-equality Republican rhetoric, since this is the last presidential race you’ll hear it. They won’t go quietly, but Romney’s statements, if he’s nominated, make that change inevitable.

There was another change last week that needs noting, since my previous column really hit hard on that issue: Chicago’s Cardinal George comparing our community to the KKK. We congratulated the Chicago community on planning to demonstrate against the cardinal, and this column went further, suggesting that if no apology or meeting with the community happened, a look at the Church’s finances would be in order.

Guess what happened? The church blinked, as it did in D.C. when challenged. George apologized. The community in Chicago is mixed on whether the apology was strong enough, but this is their turf, and it is imperative that the national community take note that the Church now twice has blinked when challenged. This is a major change. While we should respect the Church and its religious views, it is also time for the Church to treat our community with that same respect. If not, we must use our tools to create a climate of respect.

Change is in the wind. It is imperative to recognize it and know how to move on to the next battle for equality. The two greatest foes of equality both shifted in one week — important benchmarks on our path to equality.

Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. He can be reached