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Ariel and Shawnee McPhail and their son in their home.
ABC affiliate in North Carolina, WTCI reports of yet another dumb decision made by a restaurant proprietor. Ed McGovern, owner of the Stingray Cafe in New Bern, NC, capped off a young lesbian couple's dining experience by handing them a a letter filled with Christian Biblical condemnations of homosexuality.

Poison pen for dessert at the Stingray Cafe
McGovern's difficulty with English has been corrected by WCTI:
"God said in the last days that man and wom[a]n would be lover of self, more [than] the lover of God.

That man and woman would have unnatural [affection] for one another. Then, the coming of the Son of Man, who is Jesus. So please, look at your life. See how it hurt[s] everyone around you. And ask the Lord to open your eye[s] before it [is] to[o] late.

The Love of Christ

P.S. my daughter also was gay. It destroy[ed] her life and my grandson."

It's actually a really sad story that his own relationship with his family has been broken. Not sure his daughter's life is really destroy, but I bet that's an accurate description of her relationship with her father. This is a reminder what a luminous light we lost when Jeanne Manford, founder of PFLAG died this week. I suppose his heart is broken, but he shouldn't be taking it out on his customers.

He waited until the couple got out to the parking lot to deliver it, where he apparently observed them holding hands. McGovern confirmed to WCTI the letter is his. 

The couple said everyone has the right to his or her opinion, but what McGovern did crossed the line.

"If we're experiencing it, then other people are too and that's not fair," said Ariel McPhail.

"We ask that anyone who agrees, not go," adds Shawnee.

In fact, McGovern told WCTI he'd delivered similar letters to other customers in the past.

More complete video at local North Carolina ABC affiliate, WCTI-12.

Isn't it funny he didn't think to confront the couple before he collected their dirty, sinful Sapphic money for the meal?

Isn't it funny "religious freedom and liberty" doesn't include gay people's right to live their lives free of and liberated from other peoples' religious beliefs?

The Stingray Cafe's rating on Yelp plummeted from 4 stars to 1 (lowest possible) in 24 hours, as the "reviews" skyrocketed from a handful to 240 and counting.

Since McGovern is fan of giving unsolicited advice, let's see if he wants mine: people in public accommodation business should keep their bigotries to themselves.

Discuss
Ashley Broadway and child.
Apparently, they don't want a Fort Bragg incident on their watch.

Short hit of continuing improvement in the military. Via the AP:

The Marine Corps has advised its legal staff that spouses clubs operating on its installations must admit same-sex spouses if they wish to remain on the bases.

[...]

"We would interpret a spouses club's decision to exclude a same-sex spouse as sexual discrimination because the exclusion was based upon the spouse's sex," the memo said.

You'll recall not terribly long ago, a same-sex spouse of a servicemember, Ashley Broadway, was denied admittance into North Carolina's Fort Bragg spouse club under spurious pretext. Angela Jean did a great job covering that story here. This is a situation that remains unresolved. But apparently the popular pushback against it made an impression. AP reports:
The Marine Corps commandant's Staff Judge Advocate, in an e-mail to legal offices throughout the corps, said the Fort Bragg events had "caused quite a stir" and cautioned, "We do not want a story like this developing in our backyard."
So, if you were among those who stirred, consider the military culture shaken.

Stephen Peters of the gay spouses group American Military Partner Association is impressed:

"The Marine Corps putting its best foot forward is great news," he said. "They're being proactive about this."

Peters said his organization would urge the Pentagon to implement a military-wide policy that would open all spouses clubs to same-sex spouses.

"You can't have different standards with the different branches," he said.

That's some real teeth behind that policy. Some clubs may not be housed on base, but this memo is a pretty clear directive from the top how they feel about exclusionary policies. On-base or not, the top brass make clear the Corps doesn't want such an unflattering story associated with their branch.

Well, good for the Marines. Commandant Gen. James F. Amos was one of the more vocal critics of DADT repeal before the bill passed.

And then when all was said and done he promised the Marines would lead the way. Promise fulfilled. I salute you, Gen. James F. Amos.

Discuss
Richard Collins
American Civil Liberties Union has announced the settlement of its case, Collins vs. United States, a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of approximately 181 honorably discharged veterans against the Department of Defense first filed in October 2011.

At issue was a DOD regulation that was not a part of the "Don't ask, don't tell" legislation.

The regulation directed the DOD to cut the separation payout to gay and lesbian soldiers by fifty percent.

Under the settlement, all service members covered by the lawsuit will be contacted by the government and notified that they are eligible to opt in to the settlement and receive 100 percent of the separation pay that they would have received had they been discharged for any other honorable reason. Federal law entitles service members to separation pay if they have been involuntarily and honorably discharged from the military after completing at least six years of service in order to help ease their transition to civilian life.

The settlement covers service members who were discharged on or after November 10, 2004, which is as far back as the settlement could extend under the applicable statute of limitations.

Richard Collins is the lead plaintiff in the case, a former staff sergeant in the Air Force who served for nine years until he was discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Collins was stationed at Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico.

ACLU quotes Collins as saying, “This means so much to those of us who dedicated ourselves to the military, only to be forced out against our will for being who we are,” said Collins. “We gave all we had to our country, and just wanted the same dignity and respect for our service as any other veterans.”

It appears the ALCU got everything they initially asked for, full restoration of separation pay for all affected servicemembers.

Joshua Block, staff attorney for the ACLU says, “It makes no sense to continue to penalize service members who were discharged under a discriminatory statute that has already been repealed. The amount of the pay owed to these veterans is small by military standards, but is hugely significant in acknowledging their service to their country.”

I never quite understood why the government didn't just settle this case long before the ACLU decided they had no choice but to go to court, after negotiations with the DOD failed. The DOD could have admitted no error, give these veterans the roughly $2M they were asking for and put the whole unpleasant chapter behind the country once and for all.

But better late than never.

It's good news to spread for its own sake. And also for the sake of eligible service men and women who the Department of Defense, for whatever reason, may not be able to contact to tell them they are in fact entitled to the full compensation they were promised when they initially joined the service.

Update: The Windy City Times is reporting the payout is expect to be about $2.4M. And The Hill says the average payout will be about $13,000, which in these times is a nice chunk of change for these veterans—that of course they earned.

Discuss
American community in Springfield, MA turns out in support of Ugandan activists' lawsuit against
American Christian Evangelical Scott Lively.
In the most basic way, the demonstrator to the right boils down the essential question that the US Federal court will be considering should Sexual Minorities Uganda v. Lively proceed. Is persecution a crime?

American Evangelical leader Scott Lively of Massachusetts appeared in Federal Court today for the first hearing of a lawsuit filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). They are suing him under the Alien Tort statute. Wikipedia describes the Alien Tort Statute (28 U.S.C. § 1350 as thus:

This statute is notable for allowing U.S. courts to hear human-rights cases brought by foreign citizens for conduct committed outside the United States.
From the Center for Constitutional Right's release:
The lawsuit, brought by the advocacy group Sexual Minorities Uganda, alleges that Lively’s actions over the past decade, in collaboration with key Ugandan government officials and religious leaders, are responsible for depriving LGBTI people in Uganda of their fundamental human rights based solely on identity. This is the definition of persecution under international law and is deemed a crime against humanity. U.S. law allows foreign citizens to sue Americans for crimes against humanity under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed the suit, the first such case brought to protect the rights of LGBTI people, on behalf Sexual Minorities Uganda.

“Coming face to face with the man who has caused us so much pain is important to me. We want him held accountable for the escalating homophobia and persecution in Uganda. This case is about making it clear to people who have exported their hate agenda to Uganda that their actions have a very real effect on us and they must stop,” said Pepe Julian Onziema, the Advocacy and Policy Officer at Sexual Minorities Uganda.

Lively is the author of “The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party” and “Seven Steps to Recruit-Proof Your Child.” Since 2002, he has traveled to Uganda, Latvia, Moldova, and other countries to consult with lawmakers and political leaders on anti-gay efforts and legislation, including the notorious the “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda.

Lively's book paints a false picture of the Holocaust, claiming Hitler was gay and so were his closet confidants, and essentially laying the blame for the Holocaust on the "radical homosexual agenda." Though a piece of fiction, completely without historical foundation and widely debunked, The Pink Swastika has become a tenent of anti-gay activism. It is referenced both in Uganda and in America, by leaders such as American Family Association's Bryan Fischer, who is still referencing it as recently as 2011.

Lively embarked on a series of missions in Uganda starting in 2009, that focused on the dangers of homosexuality. Many political leaders of Uganda were included. This ultimately culminated in the infamous "Kill the Gays" bill introduction into the Ugandan parliament in 2009.

Lively, who is represented by the Liberty Counsel, the legal arm of the university founded by Jerry Falwell, filed a motion to dismiss the case last year, arguing his activity in Uganda is protected under the First Amendment. Today, plaintiffs argued that Lively’s actions went well beyond the exercise of his First Amendment rights when he began to work in Uganda to remove  fundamental civil rights from LGBTI people, including their right to free speech and assembly, and to criminalize organizations like Sexual Minorities Uganda.
There was no resolution on Lively's motion to dismiss.
After hearing argument by both sides today, the Judge reserved his decision. A further and more detailed report shall follow this report. In the meantime the Judge has reserved Judgment for a later date as to whether or not the case will be dismissed or proceed to trial.
CCR tweeted:
Judge was very receptive to our argument. He said he is trying to decide whether to wait for #SCOTUS Kiobel before ruling. #stopthehate
Attorneys writing on Reuter's blog explain Kiobel as such:
In Kiobel, Nigerian plaintiffs accuse the Royal Dutch Petroleum and its affiliate Shell Transport and Trading Company PLC, of complicity in the arrest, torture and killing of protestors by government forcesin Nigeria’s oil-rich Ogoni region. Kiobel puts two crucial issues before the Supreme Court: (1) whether corporations may be held liable for violations of international human rights norms under the ATS, and (2) whether the ATS allows U.S. federal courts to hear claims based on activity in a foreign country.
CCR tweeted after the hearing:
If #ScottLively were doing this in US w result that #LGBT groups were raided & staff arrested, those groups could sue under 42 U.S.C 1985(3)
And:
#ScottLively lawyer's attempt to obscure case by reliance on 1st amend ironic since only party whose #freespeech was violated is @SMUG2004
I'm not a lawyer. I will freely admit the scope of the U.S. Alien Tort Statute (ATS) is way above my pay grade to comprehend.

As a general principle, I think the CCR has its work cut out for it. Much of the evidence against Lively is largely words and rhetoric. I imagine it's a heavy lift to get the judiciary to consider such a crime. Particularly in light that Ku Klux Klan rallies and Fred Phelps' protests of the military funerals have been found to be protected forms of free speech.

CCR counters this line of thought on Twitter:

This case isn't about #ScottLively speech but underlying activity w #Uganda counterparts to deny #LGBT ppl fundamental rights. #StoptheHate
And:
#ScottLively case isn't "just" about “hate preach”- it's about having crossed the line into working to deprive #LGBT #Uganda of basic rights
So, on the other hand, perhaps CCR can demonstrate what actions Lively and his ministry took to draft, introduce and move the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, aka as the "Kill The Gays" bill through the Ugandan parliament. And Lively did leave his fingerprints all over it, as did many others in the American Evangelical community. These are demonstrable actions that one can argue have had horrible consequences, such as vilification in the media.
The Newspaper Rolling Stone in Uganda Has Published a List of the Country's 100 'Top' Homosexuals With the Headline 'Hang Them'

Photos, full names and addresses were also posted in the paper.

According to the Washington Post, since the publication of the list a few days ago, four men have been attacked and many have gone into hiding in fear of their lives. One person had stones thrown at their house as well.

There have also been a spate of state arrests of LGBT activists in Uganda making the news of late.

There are still some legal questions up in the air even under in the American legal system. LGBT community has thus far been denied a finding of "suspect class" by the Supreme Court. The pragmatic affect is the denial of the LGBT community's inherent civil rights is still something of an open question as to whether it is legal even under American law. Obviously we haven't resolved yet whether the Constitution allows the denial of marriage, although the Supreme Court has declare it a right. In the case of "Don't ask, don't tell," LGBT servicemembers were undeniably punished for the exercise of free speech; the question of whether that was legal and appropriate was left unresolved after the legislative repeal bill of 2010 mooted a case headed for the Supreme Court. Proposed laws like Tennessee's "Don't say gay" law and efforts to block LGBT student groups impinge on LGBT Americans rights to free speech and assembly and association.

Of course in this case, we are talking about human rights, not civil rights. An important distinction when Ugandan LGBT people are denied in addition to marriage, speech or assembly also basic freedom and life. (Homosexuality is punishable by the state by prison there.)

A good sign for the plaintiffs is the Center for Constitutional Rights are no hacks. If they felt the case was worth taking, they must have been somewhat confident in their odds of ultimately prevailing.

Whether the plaintiffs eventually win or lose, there is in my opinion a lot of value in placing the American Evangelical's international meddling in global politics in the spotlight in this way.

It will be up to the Courts to decide if Lively can be held legally accountable for what he has done and I guess we will see. But when most people consider whether what he did was "right," the answer should be obvious.

Raging grannies rage at Scott Lively.
Center for Constitutional Rights also reports:
Guards said this was the most ppl they have ever had at the court, overflow took up the other 2 courtrooms. Lots of support!
Update: A local outlet has a less optimistic take on the judge's demeanor:
During a 90-minute hearing in U.S. District Court, [Judge Michael] Ponsor said the lawsuit filed by Sexual Minorities Uganda against the Springfield minister poses a test of Lively’s free-speech protection and the rights of sexual minorities to equal protection under the law.

But the judge said the plaintiffs needed to show a connection between Lively’s anti-gay advocacy in Uganda and illegal acts committed against gays in the country.

“I’m frankly struggling to see what behavior beyond expressive behavior” of Lively violated federal law, the judge said during the hearing attended by about 150 people, including a prominent Ugandan activist.

It mentions that the judge was also skeptical about dismissing the case saying the Federal bar for dismissals is high. So it may perhaps proceed.
Discuss
New York Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman
New York magazine has posted a lengthy profile of state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and it's well worth a read.
And halfway through his term as A.G., Schneiderman, 58, has become New York’s definitive liberal, using the national prominence his predecessors brought to the office to try to yank an increasingly centrist Democratic Party back toward its progressive roots. He’s become a gatekeeper for the left.
The administration responded not by shutting down Schneiderman but by stiffening penalties, creating a commission that included Schneiderman and seating him behind First Lady Michele Obama at the 2012 State of the Union address. The press has rewarded him with attention, including the cover of the The American Prospect.

You get a sense of where his values come from:

“I grew up in the sixties with the sense that things aren’t perfect but we keep moving toward greater equality and greater justice,” Schneiderman says, sitting at his desk in the A.G.’s office, just around the corner from Wall Street. “That was the way the world seemed to me. My grandfather never made it through elementary school. My father went to law school on the G.I. bill. He didn’t get where he got because of small government. He got where he got because of a government that was going to invest in its people.”
And also a great sense of the grassroots organizing skills that have allowed him to change business as usual politics:
In the aftermath of the financial crash, the Wall Street bailouts were the hottest progressive button. Schneiderman flew out to meet with California attorney general Kamala Harris in the summer of 2011 to try to get her to join his opposition to the mortgage settlement taking shape in Washington. California was crucial, not only because the state had the greatest number of underwater homeowners but because its decision would get outsize media coverage. Harris was inclined to go along with the majority of A.G.’s, who wanted a faster resolution for homeowners and weren’t equipped to pursue protracted investigations.

So Schneiderman mounted a behind-the-scenes effort to change her mind. He’d hired as his chief of staff Neal ­Kwatra, who had turned the city’s hotel-workers union into a potent political force. Kwatra sees life as a campaign, and now he went about organizing the ground troops, including a group called Californians for a Fair Settlement. Calls and letters were dispatched to pressure President Obama, members of Congress, and most immediately Harris. By late September, though, Harris still hadn’t budged. Schneiderman’s team turned to Gavin Newsom. The telegenic former mayor of San Francisco is now California’s lieutenant governor. Newsom is also expected to be Harris’s main Democratic competitor in a future run for U.S. Senate or governor of California. Schneiderman’s forces enlisted Newsom to oppose the settlement. Coincidentally, the same day that the Los Angeles Times wrote about Newsom’s move, Harris sided with Schneiderman.

It's worth a read to a national audience. For one, Schneiderman is clearly a man with a future and I would argue that is because he is one of those rare politicans that can ably combine smart policy with smart politics. For another it takes a very in-depth look at the chilly rivalry between he and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Schneiderman says he hasn’t given up on criminal prosecutions, but says it would have helped if more groundwork had been done before he arrived as A.G. “I’m not averse to cases against individuals,” he tells me. “I wasn’t here in 2008, 2009, 2010. We started our investigation last spring.” Left unsaid is that the state A.G. in the early days of the financial crisis was Andrew Cuomo.
I know the natural inclination will be to pluck him from NY and find a national position for him.

But in New York AG has been an excellent launching pad for Governor, at least for two of our last three governors. And New York progressives very definitely need a champion at the helm who is not playing footsie with the Republican party at every oppportunity.

New York progressives have warned the nation to be wary of a Cuomo presidential candidacy. Daily Kos' own David Nir, and Markos have done the same.

And aside from marriage equality for the gays, many NY liberal constituencies from labor to environment to social justice activists have found Cuomo's leadership wanting, to put it diplomatically. Look more closely at the Cuomo budget priorities on AIDS/HIV and youth homeless, and his silence on the long-suffering transgender protection bill, and he's not even that great on the larger portfolio of LGBT issues, just marriage.

The comparison and contrast between Schneiderman and Cuomo can very illuminating to people who are considering their primary vote in the 2016 presidential election.

And associate of Schneiderman's expands:

The larger split is philosophical. “Eric has a very different view of the political landscape than Andrew does,” a Schneiderman associate says. “He thinks the divide between right and left has never been bigger, so that trying to be in the middle, as Andrew is doing, makes no sense.” Schneiderman believes liberal Democrats are on the right side of both the issues and of history. “An extreme conservative movement has taken over the Republican Party, but they have a policy problem and a demographic problem,” he says. “They finally had a chance to implement their policies during the Bush years, and foreign policy was a catastrophe, criminal-justice policy was a catastrophe, and we ended up with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. And they’ve run and won on an appeal to fear, but last year they woke up in a country where the ‘other’ had become the majority. They’re appealing to an increasingly small portion of the electorate.”
I can't find fault with the persepctive the author, Chris Smith, provides and recommend the article, titled "The Left Flank," as a good read to anyone interesting in how the progressive movement evolves and influences the rest of the political structure. Schneiderman is now, as he long has in his career, fighting the good fight to move the Overton window left.
Discuss
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D, NY-18) was sworn into the House this week. His partner Randy Florke to his right,
surrounded by their kids and Speaker Boehner.
The nationally syndicated column of Maggie Gallagher, founding president and board chair of the National Organization's (NOM), is no more. As of Wednesday, syndicator Universal Uclick will no longer be distributing it to the 25-35 papers that carried it.

This is notable because this is another data point reinforcing the conclusion that hardcore social conservatives in general, and National Organization for Marriage in particular, are increasingly becoming marginalized and irrelevant in the national political dialogue.

Speaking with Huffington Post, Gallagher says newspapers are a dying media. She seems to comprehend the gravity of the losses her cause has suffered and says, " I wanted more time to think. So many people are flailing, I want time to think," and "I'm considering other projects, but I haven't made any decisions."

After NOM experienced what can only be described as a routing in 2012, the front woman for the anti-gay marriage movement is doing a pretty terrible job maintaining her game face. She has predicted that the Defense of Marriage Act will fall at the Supreme Court, courtesy of Justice Kennedy (and maybe Justice Roberts as well, she says). And Wednesday's column seemed to be more evidence a sense of inevitable doom has overcome her, one that she can't be bothered to hide. The exact title to her column is "This I believe: Farewell to Optimism."

It isn't a particularly unique column, just sort of an overview of her philosophies with regards to the "family values" movement. She speaks in simple declarative sentences: "Every life is precious." "Men and women are different." "Sex makes babies." "On every key measure, marriage is weaker."

Her rhetorical choices have always been tailored in this way; find some simple universal truth, and lead the reader to the next conclusion. "If A, then B." The premise being her conclusion, B, can't be wrong because A is a fact. The problem is the logical leap between the common ground objective truth and her subjective conclusion has become far too vast to many Americans to make the leap with her.

She'll take what may well be an objective truth:

Since 1993, the proportion of children born out of wedlock has jumped from 31 percent to 41 percent -- mostly since about 2003. For women with only a high school degree or less, nonmarital childbearing is the new normal.
And from that she draws a flawed conclusion: It's because of Hollywood and pornography and states that are letting gay people get married (stopping the last one being her life's mission and livelihood). Empirical evidence that suggests her conclusion may be flawed is never acknowledged, like the fact that Massachusetts has enjoyed marriage equality for almost a decade and still has the lowest divorce rate in the country.

(Continues after the fold ...)

Continue Reading

Sat Jan 05, 2013 at 12:00 PM PST

Midday open thread

by Scott Wooledge

Media Matters
  • Your lamestream media at work: Korean international sensation "Gangham Style" outpaces American news media mentions of the Ugandan "Kill the gays" bill. Meanwhile, American Christian evangelical leader Scott Lively's trial on human rights violations in Uganda begins in Federal court in Massachusetts.
  • It's past time for the Obama administration to get serious about the languishing vacancies in the Federal court system, says The Nation's Herman Scwartz:
    To avoid further damage to his legacy, President Obama should immediately form a task force to put together a pool of qualified liberal candidates from which he can choose twenty to thirty circuit and district court judges; Democratic senators involved in the process must also move quickly. The circuit court nominees should be sent to the Senate by this spring, and in groups to prevent the Republicans from concentrating their fire on just one or two. The president and the Democratic senators must then fight for the nominees in the Senate and before the general public.
    It's tough yes, but the right wing has always exceled in stacking the courts and they got Citizen's United to show for their efforts.
  • New food safety law goes into effect:
    The act “shifts the food safety focus from reactive to preventive,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement. “We are establishing a science- based, flexible system to better prevent foodborne illness.”
  • Microsoft slams the Federal Trade Commission settlement with Google as "weak."
  • Venezuela´s National Assembly considers if Hugo Chavez is fit to be inaugurated as president, over health concerns.
  • Hey, you can kill someone with a credit card, says New Hampshire State Rep. Dan Dumaine so guns in the state house are A-ok with him.
  • Labor groups not impressed with Walmart's plans to create oversight on their working conditions at their American stores.
    “Walmart’s global labor rights monitoring program is a public relations scam put in place to address public relations problems arising from their use of sweatshop labor,” Workers Rights Consortium Executive Director Scott Nova told The Nation. “In that sense, it makes perfect sense that now that they’re facing public relations problems anew around treatment of workers in their domestic distribution system, that they would choose to apply the same public relations scam to that problem that they’ve applied internationally.”
  • Put on some holiday pounds? New York Times says don't sweat it. Turns out "normal" weight is heavier and healthier than American's too thin ideal.
  • Oh, Florida: Man leaves baby behind in liquor store, returns drunk four hours later to get her back, lays down in traffic with her. (Baby is fine, father of the year in custody.)
  • Gov. Bill Richardson to visit North Korean with a Google executive, State Department calls his timing unhelpful.
  • Philippines presidential spokeswoman promises to crack down on guns in wake of shooting rampage that leaves 8 dead.
  • We built that: American auto industry had a good year in 2012.
    All automakers combined sold 14.5 million new cars and trucks in the U.S. during 2012, up 13.4% from 2011. Detroit's slice of that total was 44.5%, according to sales tracker Autodata. In 2011, the Detroit 3 had 46.9% of a smaller market, Autodata figures show, and sold half-a-million fewer vehicles.
  • It's Facebook's world, we just live in it.
  • The deep thoughts of Bill O'Reilly: Asian people can't be liberals because they aren't lazy.
  • Disney's Wreck-it Ralph will be available on streaming and download weeks before DVD, signaling a major change in distribution model, engadget asks?
Discuss
OutServe/SLDN, an activist group representing the interests of gay and lesbian servicemembers has released a statement ahead of the upcoming nomination of Chuck Hagel to Secretary of Defense. OutServe-SLDN executive director Allyson Robinson, says:
“Senator Hagel clearly has the military credentials and experience to do the job of running our nation’s Defense Department – at OutServe-SLDN, we have no doubt about that – and we appreciate his apology for the anti-gay remarks he made in 1998 and the commitment he expressed to LGBT service members and their families. It will now be incumbent upon him during the nomination and confirmation process to lay out demonstrable actions he will take to support that commitment.

Senator Hagel has said he is ‘committed to LGBT military families,’ so if nominated and confirmed, he should immediately extend, via secretarial directive, all benefits available to married same-sex military couples and families while the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is still on the books. He said he is ‘fully supportive of open service,’ so he should extend military equal opportunity and nondiscrimination policies so that all qualified Americans who wish to serve this nation in uniform may do so without fear of harassment or discrimination. Steps such as these would do a great deal to allay the concerns many in our community have expressed over the last several weeks. I look forward in the weeks ahead to discussing these and other issues important to LGBT service members and their families with Senator Hagel and his designees.”

There are a handful of purely regulatory and administrative loose ends that still need to be cleaned up to provide better equity to serving members. OutServe/SLDN and other advocates for gay and lesbian servicemembers have been asking for them for several years now.

Hopefully we can see them wrapped up soon so that ugly incidents like the one at Fort Bragg become fewer and farther in between.

I think I previously expressed my feelings at length here.

Panetta has been somewhat decent in addressing sexual assault issues in the military (by comparison to his predecessors). It is my hope that we can depend on Hagel, should he be confirmed, to continue that work.

Discuss

Via AmericaBlog:

Our site, AMERICAblog, was previously banned for being “LGBT,” but now we’re only banned at least by the Air Force, for being “political” and “activist.”  The government is banning my Web site for being “political” while permitting other Republican “political” Web sites.  Daily Kos is banned as well.  Anyone else smelling a Big Brother constitutional problem with that?

I had a few different contacts try accessing a variety of sites on Pentagon computers, in order to confirm this, including Zeke Stokes, communications director for OutServe-SLDN, who confirmed via one of their military members.  Note what they found.

Emphasis mine.
Don't worry, servicemembers, if you're interested in politics and activism, the Department of Defense is good with you getting that news from Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter. Neither of their sites trigger the "politics" or "activism" filter block.

That's understandable, right? Just straight news there.

The Department of Defense is still blocking servicemembers' access to perfectly reasonable sites. Moreover, screen captures obtained via Servicemembers Legal Defense Network/Outserve show that there's a whole category for blocking: "LGBT."

Access blocked to the popular news and entertainment site Towleroad.
Today's front page; looks salacious, huh?
LGBT category filter tag.
The LGBT filter existed before the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, but still has not been fixed.  And the Pentagon was notified of the problem as early as last summer, 2012.  Yet no one’s gotten around to doing anything about it. I’m also told that the censorship varies service and geographical reason – it’s not entirely clear why the Pentagon doesn’t use the same bans nationwide and agency-wide, if it’s going to use any bans at all. This problem has to be fixed Pentagon-wide.
Even before repeal I'm not sure it was appropriate to block "LGBT" as a wholesale category. The American Civil Liberties Union has put a lot of skin in the game of ending wholesale blocking of sites at schools that leave kids without access to sites like It Gets Better, Gay Straight Alliance clubs or anti-bullying initiatives.

Also blocked is JoshSeefried.com. Ironically, Seefried is the co-director of OutServe, a network of LGBT servicemembers and worked closely with the Pentagon on Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal. His site is innocuous but may acknowledge the existence of LGBT people from time to time.

This story demonstrates that even post-DADT repeal there is still a lot of work to do changing the entrenched homophobia in military culture.

And there is no reason military members should not have access to this site.

Update: After reading the comments it seems reports are mixed regarding whether this site is block or not, some saying yes, some saying no. It stands to reason the decision to block or not block sites is made at the commanding officer level, not the Pentagon or DOD level. It also seems the criteria for allowing or banning a site is rather arbitrary. Much like Ann Coulter is not an "activist political site" but Daily Kos is; which is not to give credence to the idea that an "activist political site," liberal or conservative, is a good reason to block a site.

Discuss
Jesse Tyler Ferguson of ABC sitcom, Modern Family, lends star power to Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon's
press conference as part of “Bow Tie Lobby Day,” in support of marriage equality.
The battle for marriage equality is heating up fast and furious in the Land of Lincoln. The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act was introduced Wednesday into the Illinois state Senate Executive committee. Advocate expectations where it would be voted on Wednesday and referred to the full Senate for a floor vote the following day. As of Wednesday evening, the bill stalled in committee on a procedural technicality, and is expected to be picked up Thursday, Windy City Times reports.

Testimony is being heard in the chambers, and lobbying efforts are ongoing. Equality Illinois CEO Bernard Cherkasov is optimistic the bill will pass. He told the Washington Blade that legislators "didn’t need to trust just the activists and the advocates anymore. They can look at a clear record of successes from four states of voters being supportive of marriage equality."

At a press conference Wednesday, Chicago Tribune reports Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon called on Illinois residents and their extended families to reach out to their legislators in support.

The legislative campaign kicked off with a great piece of big news. White House spokesman Shin Inouye told the Chicago Sun-Times President Obama was urging Illinois assembly to pass the bill. Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) told DNAinfo Chicago the president's announcement energized supporters. "I was just thrilled that the president of the United States took time to talk about an issue that is so important to so many families in Illinois," Harris said.

Leaders of the African American community, including Chicago Urban League, Chicago's Black Business Network, the West Point Missionary Baptist Church, and others, added their support in a joint letter (pdf) saying:

We remember that not long ago some states defined marriage as limited to people  of the same race.  We were told marriage between people of different races was  “unnatural” and that society would be eroded if marriage changed.  The truth is, marriage has evolved throughout history to reflect the needs and progress of society.

Illinois GOP Chair: Supporting equality is "true conservative position"


GOP chair man Pat Brady
Wednesday, news of a more surprising supporter broke. The bill is getting a bipartisan push from across the aisle in Republican circles. The state Republican Party chairman is talking to members, urging a yes vote:
Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady of St. Charles is calling GOP lawmakers asking them to support a proposal to legalize same-sex marriage, he said today.

Brady said he was making the calls as a citizen, outside of his official role with the Illinois Republican Party.

"I think it's time for people to support this," Brady said.

Regardless if he's speaking "as a citizen" or as a power-broker of the Republican Party, it's likely to hold sway in the state. When asked by the right-leaning conservative blog Illinois Review Brady told them he believes it is an "equality issue," and that the "true conservative position is in favor" of allowing gay marriage.

Windy City Times has compiled a list of state senators positions on the bill, here. Specific positions on marriage are few, but the overall picture shows a largely LGBT-friendly chamber that supported civil unions and earned the endorsement of Equality Illinois.

(More news after the orange croissant.)

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New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn appearing on CNN has some very harsh words of her own for Speaker Boehner and his caucus' decision to skip town without passing the Hurricane Sandy relief bill:

I was stunned, I mean it's really unbelievable, how Speaker Boehner and his party could just walk away from all the New Yorkers, and people in New Jersey and people Connecticut in need. And I don't really even know how you just abdicate your responsibility like that. I mean we have countless people in New York and New Jersey who have been devasted by this storm and Speaker Boehner told them to just drop dead.

And it's just outrageous and to promise us now, a vote weeks from now? Why should we believe him at all? Just shocking.

Really, there's no excuse for calling it a day and leaving Americans, quite literally in the cold and the dark.

On assurances the vote is forthcoming, Quinn says, "I'm not going to be satisfied until it's done."

Discuss
Mikey's Late Night Slice in Columbus, OH. (Facebook)
A recurrent fear heard by the Christian right is if gay people are widely accepted, those who disapprove of homosexuality will be shunned and treated just like racists!

See talking point #4 copied directly from National Organization for Marriage:

“If courts rule that same-sex marriage is a civil right, then, people like you and me who believe children need moms and dads will be treated like bigots and racists.”
Well, a post is circulating on Facebook that suggests there may be something to that. After years and years of heterosexists freely bullying gay people in public, the tables may be turning, even in Ohio, not exactly a hotbed of progress on LGBT issues.

A gay man visited to a popular late night pizza truck in Columbus, Ohio. While waiting in chilly outdoor line, he dared to hold hands with his—friend? boyfriend? he doesn't say—say companion. And this attracted the attention of an offended straight person, who told him to "cut [the] gay shit out."

And for a long time, these sorts of confrontations often end with the gay person visiting an emergency room. But not so this time... In the poster's own words, via Facebook:

Something incredible happened last night. After a fun night out Ethan and I were in line at the Mikey's Late Night Slice Truck (surprise!) in the Short North. It was really cold so we were holding hands and standing close together laughing and joking about all the fun we'd had. The guy in front of us turns around and tells us to cut our gay shit out. I didn't expect what happened next but almost every single person in that line made it known to him it was not ok for him to speak to us like that. Granted he was caught between two homos so John Warner and I let him know this was our city too and let him have it but the straight people who spoke up were so awesome. The best part though was as he grew more irate and vocal the guys who work the truck told him they would not serve him because he was spewing hate and that he should get out of line. As I walked away with my pizza all I could think about was THAT'S IT! Every person who spoke up to defend us including the pizza guys representing their business was doing their part to make hate a thing of the past. We must never forget to speak up and make our voices heard no matter where we find ourselves. No slut sauce for you mr. homophobe.
The author's original post has been shared more than 700 times on Facebook and Mikey's responded on Facebook:
Thank you Joel Diaz for sharing the account of your experience at our truck this past weekend. We can't tell you how proud we are of our truck workers that night for speaking up and doing the right thing. We are also immensely grateful for the kind words and support for us that has emerged since the post first went up.

We are humbled by the attention that this whole thing has gotten us. But we feel that the greatest recognition belongs to our neighborhood as a whole, here in the Short North. By accounts, there was no shortage of locals willing to speak up and intervene when the incident occurred. It is so wonderfully comforting to know that the hearts of our neighbors are filled with kindness and tolerance.

Thank you again, Joel, for sharing. And also to our fellow Short North denizens for standing beside your neighbors and speaking up for what's right.

This story warms the hearts of every LGBT person who reads it, because frankly most of us are kind of used to other people not standing up for us when we're harassed. It's just kind of a fact of life. This is sort of a new phenomena, and a welcome one, given how many of our teens kill themselves out of loneliness and as the only way to escape treatment like that.

How awful the world might be if hetero-supremacists to have to choose between "expressing their disapproval of homosexuality" and not getting ejected from a pizza line.

Imagine if they have to learn to keep their opinions to themselves to avoid attracting the ire of crowds of non-bigoted people!

My heart bleeds for them. And I left a note on Mikey's Late Night Slice Truck on Facebook saying thanks. Good turns deserve a thank you.

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