Sunday, November 30, 2008

Commentary on the Movie "Milk"

"Milk" is a film based on the true story of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official. It stars Academy Award Winner Sean Penn as Harvey Milk. What struck me the most while watching the film were all the similarities to what gays and lesbians are struggling with today.


                               "Milk" movie trailer

In the movie, which takes place in the mid to late 1970's, the discrimination against LGBT people was fierce. Police would raid bars to round up gays and have them arrested. The physical violence they faced at that time was much worse and not stopped by the police.

However, one of the big struggles shown in the movie was the struggle against the religious right. It wasn't over marriage but over protection in the work place. It was fascinating to watch and realize that history is repeating itself. I'm watching as Harvey Milk is telling everyone,

"You must come out. Everyone must come out."
I had just finished having dinner with friends and all of us discussing how many people we knew we had influenced to vote against the marriage ban just because we had come out to them. The fact is if you build relationships with people it makes them think before they vote. It puts a face on who the vote is against - makes it personal.

It was such a powerful experience. The gay rights movement has made strides, but at the same time it seems we are having the same debate 30 years later. I was left wondering, who will our generation's Harvey Milk be. There is clearly the same desire to come together and fight. So who will be the voice of our generation?

I say we all need to be. What I took away from the movie was it can't be about one person, but about all of us. We must all learn to use our voice. We must use it to come out. We must use it to help others reach for equality. Most importantly, we must use it to demand our equality. We must say as Harvey Milk said,
"Enough is enough!!"
 I encourage implore everyone to please go see this movie. More importantly make everyone you know go see it. When it comes out on DVD have "Milk" house parties. The story and the message in this movie speaks to what is happening now and will touch people and make them think.

Funny, I guess Harvey Milk may turn out to be the leader and voice of another generation.

Love is Love

This is a great short film. It features Jane Lynch who I love. Take the six minutes and check this funny one out. Enjoy the twist! Please stop by their website and learn about their upcoming feature film project.

Love is Love.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Laramie Project

Last night my wife and I went to see a community college production of "The Laramie Project." This is a play based on the Matthew Shepard story.

Matthew Shepard
For those that don't know Matthew was killed 10 years ago in Laramie, Wyoming for being gay. Unfortunately the things the play speaks about still happen much too often today. Just a few days ago a man was shot in Syracuse, NY while sitting in his car. The reason given by his shooter - was because he didn't like gay people. You can read more on the story here.

One thing that happens in the play is the Westboro Baptist Church, led by Fred Phelps, comes to protest the trial of one of Matt's killers. You will love the name of their website . If you go to their "church" website be prepared. The signs they hold at their protests are hateful. What I find most frightening is they bring their children and have them holding these signs and spewing this same hate.

Well Mr. Phelps decided to come and protest the play here in Arizona. The community did a call to action and we had over 300 gay, lesbian, transgender, and straight people there to counter protest. It was beautiful. Everyone wearing red and protecting the sidewalks so people felt safe to go to the show. In from of the theater everyone had giant angel wings on, just like they did at the court house, to block the sight of Phelps' hateful signs. Phelps' supporters did come - all 10 of them. However, they stayed so far away no one knew they were on the campus. Not being able to get near the parking lots, walkways, or theater they were pretty much shut down. The community college sold out the performance that night and got a standing ovation. A few of the actors were so overwhelmed by the crowd (80 had been the most to attend) and the ovation they broke down right on stage. I imagine some of those young people were gay and to see the support from their own community was just too much. There wasn't a dry eye in the place. An email received today from the technical director of the play commented on the irony "Our show sold out, THANKS WESTBORO BAPTIST CHURCH, we made a lot of money off of your CRAZY ASSES!"

The video gives just a small part of the play. It's an important part if you don't know Matt's story. I encourage you to take a few minutes and watch it. If you haven't seen the whole play I encourage you to keep your eyes open for a local production. Also there is an HBO version that was made. Unfortunately, the story still speaks to what is happening now. 10 years after Matt's murder hate crimes law for LGBT people still has not gotten passed. It made it through Congress this year but President Bush vetoed it. He clearly doesn't know Judy Shepard. I have had the opportunity to meet and speak with her a few times. She is an amazing woman that has taken on this fight to protect the rest of us even though her son is gone. Everytime I see her I just want to say "I'm sorry we haven't gotten this done for you." 10 years is a long time to fight and tell about the death of your child over and over. Her speech to Congress and her being at the door when they walked into vote is what got the job done. I wish she could have been in the oval office. I'm not sure even George Bush would have vetoed the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill (yes that was the name of the piece of legislation) with her standing right there.

Lezzymom & Wife with Judy Shepard
HRC Dinner 2006

Friday, November 21, 2008

Fred Phelps is Coming to Town

Well, well it looks like extreme religious right leader of Westboro Baptist Church, Fred Phelps, is bringing his show to Glendale, Arizona. He has promised to protest the Laramie Project at Glendale Community College.

In past protests he has brought such signs that read "God Hates Fags" "Fags Die God Laughs" and "Matt in Hell."

Let us show him that he is not welcomed in the Valley of the Sun. Wear a red shirt to show unity! Bring angel wings, (the bigger the better to block the protest signs).If you can't make a pair of angel wings there will be some extras to hand out. The angel wings are in honor of the original counter-protest when Matt's friends blocked out the Phelps' group at Matt's funeral the trial of one of the murderers.
You are encourage to not engage the Fred Phelps group since they make their money off of suing counter protesters.

If you are not wanting to counter protest I encourage people to support the production. GCC does not pre-sell tickets. They will be available 1 hour prior to the show.
Dates of performances - Nov. 20, 21, 22  All shows start at 7:30pm

The Laramie Project
In October 1998, a 21 year old student at the University of Wyoming was kidnapped, severely beaten and left to die, tied to a fence in the middle of the prairie outside Laramie, Wyoming. His name was Matthew Shepard, and he was the victim of this assault because he was gay.

Mois├ęs Kaufman and fellow members of New York's Tectonic Theater Project made six trips to Laramie over the course of 18 months in the aftermath of the beating and during the trial of the two young men accused of killing Shepard. They conducted more than 200 interviews with the people of the town, whose varying reactions to the crime are fascinating. Kaufman and the Tectonic Theater members constructed a deeply moving theatrical experience from these interviews and their own experiences. The Laramie Project is a breathtaking theatrical collage that explores the depths to which humanity can sink and the heights of compassion of which we are capable.

The counter protest was AMAZING. Phelps' group showed but because of the size of our group they came no where near the theater. There were only 10 of them and hundreds of us. They didn't protest in the parking lot or really anywhere that was visible. In fact, no one really knew they were there. It was nice to provide a great atmosphere for the closing night of the play. To top it off the play SOLD OUT. They had to turn people away. What a great night.

National Journal ranks Human Rights Campaign among top five most effective interest groups in 2008 contests

From HRC Back Story


Chris Johnson

National Journal, a reputable weekly magazine for political insiders, has listed HRC among the top five winning member interest groups in the 2008 U.S. House and Senate elections. (Only People for the American Way, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and Sierra Club ranked higher, respectively.)
Download a copy of HRC's 2008 ranking in National Journal (PDF).
In 2006, HRC helped elect 211 candidates, ousting a number of anti-gay-rights politicians, including Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa. The National Journal ranked the organization as the second-most effective interest group that year.
Check out this video that gives a look at the Human Rights Campaign's efforts to elect pro-equality candidates and defeat anti-LGBT ballot measures in 2008:

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Special Comment on Gay Marriage ~ Keith Olbermann

I had been meaning to put this amazing message from Keith Olbermann up for a while now. Thanks to one of my readers for making mention of it in my comments so that I would remember to get it done.

The following is the transcript from the MSNBC site.

Finally tonight as promised, a Special Comment on the passage, last week, of Proposition Eight in California, which rescinded the right of same-sex couples to marry, and tilted the balance on this issue, from coast to coast.

Some parameters, as preface. This isn't about yelling, and this isn't about politics, and this isn't really just about Prop-8. And I don't have a personal investment in this: I'm not gay, I had to strain to think of one member of even my very extended family who is, I have no personal stories of close friends or colleagues fighting the prejudice that still pervades their lives.
And yet to me this vote is horrible. Horrible. Because this isn't about yelling, and this isn't about politics. This is about the human heart, and if that sounds corny, so be it.

If you voted for this Proposition or support those who did or the sentiment they expressed, I have some questions, because, truly, I do not understand. Why does this matter to you? What is it to you? In a time of impermanence and fly-by-night relationships, these people over here want the same chance at permanence and happiness that is your option. They don't want to deny you yours. They don't want to take anything away from you. They want what you want—a chance to be a little less alone in the world.

Only now you are saying to them—no. You can't have it on these terms. Maybe something similar. If they behave. If they don't cause too much trouble. You'll even give them all the same legal rights—even as you're taking away the legal right, which they already had. A world around them, still anchored in love and marriage, and you are saying, no, you can't marry. What if somebody passed a law that said you couldn't marry?

I keep hearing this term ‘re-defining’ marriage. If this country hadn't re-defined marriage, black people still couldn't marry white people. Sixteen states had laws on the books which made that illegal in 1967. 1967.

The parents of the President-Elect of the United States couldn't have married in nearly one third of the states of the country their son grew up to lead. But it's worse than that. If this country had not "re-defined" marriage, some black people still couldn't marry black people. It is one of the most overlooked and cruelest parts of our sad story of slavery. Marriages were not legally recognized, if the people were slaves. Since slaves were property, they could not legally be husband and wife, or mother and child. Their marriage vows were different: not ‘Until Death, Do You Part,’ but ‘Until Death or Distance, Do You Part.’ Marriages among slaves were not legally recognized.

You know, just like marriages today in California are not legally recognized, if the people are gay.
And uncountable in our history are the number of men and women, forced by society into marrying the opposite sex, in sham marriages, or marriages of convenience, or just marriages of not knowing, centuries of men and women who have lived their lives in shame and unhappiness, and who have, through a lie to themselves or others, broken countless other lives, of spouses and children, all because we said a man couldn't marry another man, or a woman couldn't marry another woman. The sanctity of marriage.

How many marriages like that have there been and how on earth do they increase the "sanctity" of marriage rather than render the term, meaningless?

What is this, to you? Nobody is asking you to embrace their expression of love. But don't you, as human beings, have to embrace... that love? The world is barren enough.
It is stacked against love, and against hope, and against those very few and precious emotions that enable us to go forward. Your marriage only stands a 50-50 chance of lasting, no matter how much you feel and how hard you work.

And here are people overjoyed at the prospect of just that chance, and that work, just for the hope of having that feeling. With so much hate in the world, with so much meaningless division, and people pitted against people for no good reason, this is what your religion tells you to do? With your experience of life and this world and all its sadnesses, this is what your conscience tells you to do?

With your knowledge that life, with endless vigor, seems to tilt the playing field on which we all live, in favor of unhappiness and hate... this is what your heart tells you to do? You want to sanctify marriage? You want to honor your God and the universal love you believe he represents? Then Spread happiness—this tiny, symbolic, semantical grain of happiness—share it with all those who seek it. Quote me anything from your religious leader or book of choice telling you to stand against this. And then tell me how you can believe both that statement and another statement, another one which reads only ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’

You are asked now, by your country, and perhaps by your creator, to stand on one side or another. You are asked now to stand, not on a question of politics, not on a question of religion, not on a question of gay or straight. You are asked now to stand, on a question of love. All you need do is stand, and let the tiny ember of love meet its own fate.

You don't have to help it, you don't have it applaud it, you don't have to fight for it. Just don't put it out. Just don't extinguish it. Because while it may at first look like that love is between two people you don't know and you don't understand and maybe you don't even want to know. It is, in fact, the ember of your love, for your fellow person just because this is the only world we have. And the other guy counts, too.

This is the second time in ten days I find myself concluding by turning to, of all things, the closing plea for mercy by Clarence Darrow in a murder trial.

But what he said, fits what is really at the heart of this: ‘I was reading last night of the aspiration of the old Persian poet, Omar-Khayyam," he told the judge. It appealed to me as the highest that I can vision. I wish it was in my heart, and I wish it was in the hearts of all: So I be written in the Book of Love; I do not care about that Book above. Erase my name, or write it as you will, So I be written in the Book of Love.’"

And, because he did not say it that night. Thank you, and good night.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Update on Marriage Amendment Protests

Since my last post more cities from Arizona have gotten involved in the nationwide protest this weekend.

Phoenix - November 15th - 200 W Washington St, Phoenix, AZ - We will meet at Cesar Chavez Memorial (across from Phoenix City Hall). The event will start at 11:30am. For more info click here.

Tucson - FRIDAY Nov 14th - El Presidio Park and La Placita Village, Downtown Tucson. The event will start at 5pm. For more info click here.

 Flagstaff - November 15th - City Hall on Route 66. The event stars at 11:30am. For more information click here.

Kingman - November 15th - Locomotive Park, Downtown (across from Powerhouse 1st street and Andy Devine). There are very few details on this. I can't confirm a time. To stay updated on details click here.

For information on the protest happening in other states go to JoinTheImpact

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Phoenix Protest of the Passed Gay Marriage Ammendments

Join the Impact is asking for a nationwide protest of the passing of the gay marriage amendments. Below is the information on the event taking place in Phoenix on Saturday Nov. 15th at 11:30am.

Protest Flyer

Let the community know that we need to be treated equal. Make sure to bring your signs! We will meet at Cesar Chavez Park and then head across the street to City Hall.

PASS IT ON and invite everyone you know.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Conversations With a Six Year Old

On the way to take my little Princess to her first grade class today we had an interesting conversation. I mentioned that tomorrow was election day. She asked what that meant. I reminded her of the day she went with me to vote and we voted for a woman named Hillary Clinton to run for President. She said
"Oh yes I remember that!"
 I explained that was and election where we narrowed the choices down. Hillary didn't win that one but that was ok. Now tomorrow we decide if John McCain or Barack Obama will be President. She says from her booster seat in the back,
"Well I want Barack Obama to win because John McCain is dumb!"
 Now I figured she got that explaination from the ex's house. Here is more of the conversation:
Me: "Well I agree."
Princess: "You do?"
Me: "Yes I am going to vote for Barack Obama."
Princess: "Oh. Well that's what Julie at school said. But I like Barack Obama too."
Me: "Good. I don't think you need to say it quite like Julie said it if it comes up at school ok? However, I do like Julie even more now.:
Princess: "Why?"
Me: "Well that means she probably heard that from her parents and they are probably voting for him then."
Princess: "Oh"
Me: "Do you want to come with me and vote tomorrow for Barack Obama?"
Princess: "YES! Kids voted online for President and Barack Obama won. I didn't get to vote but I would have voted for him so I'll go with you tomorrow."
Me: "I saw Barack Obama on TV thanking the kids for voting for him! Ok cool. I'm so excited it feels like my birthday or something. Mom Mom and I are going to go work all day tomorrow at the election because it's so important and we are so excited."
Princess: "Oh. Why are you so excited?"
Me: "Because this is the first time there is and African-American that could be President. It's a big day. Plus there are some laws we have to vote on and one we really don't want to happen."
Princess: "Oh. What's an African-American?"
Me: "It's a person with black skin - like John in your class."
Princess: "Oh ok I get it."
Me: "It's a big deal because for a long time African-Americans couldn't do things like vote or own a house. People wouldn't be nice to them just because their skin was black. Pretty dumb huh?"
Princess: "Yeah that is dumb."
Me: "It would be like not playing with someone or being friends with someone because they had freckles or were in a wheelchair. We don't choose our friends because of how they look we choose them based on how they treat others and if they are good people right?"
Princess: "Yes, I play with people all the time that don't look like me. One even has a freckle on her forhead."
Me: Laughing "Exactly we don't care if someone is a little different than us as long as they are kind and make good choices then they are ok to be friends with. So that's why this is a big deal tomorrow and I just can't wait."
Princess: "Me too Mommy!"
It had never occured to me that she didn't know what African-American meant. We have friends that are African-American and she has had classmates since pre-school. I was also kind of proud that she hadn't learned people had labels and I was kind of sad that I had ruined that and put a label on people for her.

When we got to her line and were waiting for the teacher a bunch of moms were talking about going to the polls tomorrow and how to work their schedules. I spoke right up and said,
"Oh we are going before school and she can be late for all I care. Tomorrow is too important and she will be right there with me when I cast my vote."
The moms looked at me with renewed enthusiasm. They started thinking that getting up and getting there at 6 am was not a bad thing if that is what it was going to take.

Oh and one last thing - Remember, I live in Arizona. We are going to turn this state BLUE!