Sunday, January 30, 2011

Facts of Life Star Comes Out and How it Could Have Been

It's about time one of the cast of The Facts of Life came out. While many people had their guesses, the cast member that has made the announcement is Geri Jewell. Jewell played Blair's cousin Geri who was a comedian and someone with Cerebral Palsy. Her character provided a personal look at Cerebral Palsy and the stigma around disabilities in general. While it was a small role, she was on 12 episodes from 1980-1984, it made Jewell the first person with a disability cast in a recurring role. Jewell has also been a regular on the series Deadwood and The Young and the Restless.

Geri discusses the discrimination in Hollywood and the fear she had about coming out among many other topics in her memoir, "I'm walking As Straight As I Can."

The Facts of Life is by far my all time favorite show. I even went to a live taping and it is one of my favorite memories. Now my main reason for watching the show was the character Jo played by Nancy McKeon. Many people feel that if the show was made today Jo's character would have been gay. While we will never know if that is true we can still dream.

There are a ton of fan videos out there that have some fun with the "chemistry" the characters Blair, played by Lisa Welchel, and Jo have on the show. While I had a blast looking at a bunch of videos from the show and from fans, I couldn't resist putting this one up.

Oh, don't we wish!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, January 28, 2011

LGBT Virtual Convention Panels Announced

The folks over at have developed a great way to interact with leaders of various areas in the LGBT community. They have created a free virtual convention that has various panels. Individuals are able to submit questions to a panel and hear the discussion. The panels are also recorded and can be listened to any time. Below is some information on the upcoming panels.

Sunday January 30, 2011
7:00 pm to 8:00 pm EDT
After HRC appended the "T" in 2004 and the bruising battle over an inclusive ENDA in 2007, are we again forgetting trans and gender-non conforming concerns?


Stephen Glassman, Chairperson, Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission
Diego Sanchez, Legislative Assistant to Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA)
Melissa Sklarz, New York City transactivis
Meghan Stabler, Board of Directors, Human Rights Campaign

Question Moderators

Jessica Lee, Board Member, GOProud
Lisa Turner, Political Strategist, The Turner Group

Monday February 7, 2011
Noon to 1:00 pm EDT

Do current policies still discriminate against HIV? In which ways the law still discriminates against HIV?


Edwin J. Bernard, Editor of HIV and the Criminal Law (NAM, 2010) and Criminal HIV Transmission
Vanessa Johnson, JD, Executive VP, National Association of People with AIDS
Sean Strub, Senior advisor, Center for HIV Law & Policy's Positive Justice Project, founder of POZ Magazine

Question Moderators

Todd A. Heywood, Reporter, Michigan Messenger

To submit questions just go to
Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, January 21, 2011

Podcast - Episode 9

Episode 9 of "Thoughts From A Lezzymom" is now available FREE on iTunes. You can subscribe and listen to it here. Please use the tell your friends, Twitter, and Facebook links in the drop down section next to the subscribe button in iTunes and spread the word about the show. If you don't have iTunes use the player in the sidebar on the blog to listen to the show.

In this episode there is an interview with 16 year old, Caleb Laieski, the Executive Director of Gays and Lesbians United Against Discrimination, Caleb has taken on school districts in Arizona over bullying. Hear his powerful story.  We also play a song from Music Alley by Ann Wilson and Elton John called Where To Now St. Peter from Ann's album Hope and Glory. The song can be found at We wrapped things up with a final thought about the current state of the LGBT movement and where we go from here.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the show. You can rate it and leave comments on the iTunes page.

Thanks for listening.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Giffords Responds to Girl Power

Description unavailableImage by Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington via FlickrThis is one of the most touching stories I have seen in a long time. Yesterday, President Obama announced that Congresswoman Gabby Giffords opened her eyes for the first time since being shot in the head just four days before. This extraordinary moment happened when her friends - Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand - visited her in the hospital. Below is the story told to the press on Air Force One following the memorial event in Tucson, Arizona.

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release January 13, 2011
Press Gaggle by Senator Gillibrand and Representative Wasserman Schultz Aboard Air Force One en route Andrews Air Force Base

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Andrews Air Force Base

12:14 A.M. EST

Q So tell us what it was like in there. You were just standing around a friend of yours and -- just put it in your terms.

SENATOR GILLIBRAND: Okay, well, I’ll go, and then you’ll go -- okay. Well, we were very excited that we were even going to have the chance of getting to visit her hospital room. We didn’t know when we first came whether we had that opportunity. And so when we did have the chance, we were so excited to get to see her. And when we came in the room, the doctor was there, her parents were there, Mark is there, and the Speaker -- Speaker Pelosi and Debbie and I went in.

And we just were so excited, so we were telling her how proud we were of her and how she was inspiring the whole nation with her courage and with her strength. And then Debbie and I started joking about all the things we were going to do after she got better. And we were holding her hand and she was responding to our hand-holding. She was rubbing our hands and gripping our hands so we could -- she could really -- we knew she could hear and understand what we were saying and she moved her leg, and so we knew she was responding. And the more we joked about what we were going to do, she started to open her eyes literally.

And then you have to recognize, her eyes hadn’t opened -- we didn’t know that -- and so she started to struggle. And one of her eyes is covered with a bandage because it was damaged in the gunfire. So her eye is flickering. And Mark sees this and gets extremely excited. And we didn’t -- I didn’t know what that meant. And so he said, Gabby, open your eyes, open your eyes. And he’s really urging her forward. And the doctor is like perking up and everyone is coming around the bed. And she’s struggling and she’s struggling and it’s a good -- we couldn’t figure it out, maybe 30 seconds, where she’s really trying to get her eyes open, like doing this, this, this.

And then she finally opens her eyes and you could she was like desperately trying to focus and it took enormous strength from her. And Mark could just -- can’t believe it. I mean, he’s so happy. And we’re crying because we’re witnessing something that we never imagined would happen in front of us.

And so Mark says, he says -- he said, Gabby, if you can see me, give us the thumbs up, give us the thumbs up. And so we’re waiting and we’re waiting and --


SENATOR GILLIBRAND: And we just thought, okay -- and you could watch -- when you’re watching her eyes, she’s really trying to focus. Like you could see she hadn’t opened her eyes in days. And then instead of giving the thumbs up, she literally raises her whole arm like this -- like this. It was unbelievable. And then she reaches out and starts grabbing Mark and is touching him and starts to nearly choke him -- she was clearly trying to hug him.

And so like -- she was -- it was such a moment. And we were just in tears of joy watching this and beyond ourselves, honestly. And then Mark said, you know, touch my ring, touch my ring. And she touches his ring and then she grabs his whole watch and wrist. And then the doctor was just so excited. He said, you don’t understand, this is amazing, what’s she’s doing right now, and beyond our greatest hopes.

And so then they decided we had to go because it was a lot -- (laughter) -- of excitement for her and it was -- we just told her how proud we were and how much we loved her and said we’d visit soon.

But, Gabby, you should describe a little about how you felt --

REPRESENTATIVE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: You know what, she keeps -- she’s been calling me Gabby the whole day. (Laughter.)

SENATOR GILLIBRAND: Debbie has to tell you --

REPRESENTATIVE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: That’s the sixth time she’s called me Gabby. (Laughter.)

SENATOR GILLIBRAND: Debbie has to tell you about what she said after because the way she -- the way Debbie phrased it was I thought very amazing.

REPRESENTATIVE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: It was just -- really, it felt like a miracle. It felt like we were watching a miracle. And Kirsten is totally right -- we just both wanted so badly to be there for her as her friends. We wanted to do -- we wanted to be there for Mark and for her parents. And just the strength that you could see just flowing out of her to get -- it was like she was trying to will her eyes open. It was just -- I mean, it felt --

SENATOR GILLIBRAND: Debbie, you should say about -- when you had your children -- that it was like the only experience that’s similar is when you have a child.

REPRESENTATIVE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Exactly. The only way I could describe the feeling that we had, that I had, was other than the birth of my kids, this was the most incredible feeling, to see literally your -- one of your closest friends just struggle to come back to you, to come back to her family, to come back to her friends. I mean, we know how strong Gabby is and you could see all the strength pouring out of her to touch her husband --

SENATOR GILLIBRAND: And to tell us she’s there. Like she was -- it was -- you imagine this when you watch a movie, but it’s like she wanted to tell us, I’m here, I can hear you, I’m with you, and I appreciate everything you’re doing.

REPRESENTATIVE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: We told her -- when Kirsten was talking to her, she said -- because she and her husband had just gone and had pizza with Gabby and Mark, so she said, you know, come on -- come on, Gabby, you got to get going here, we’re going to go out for pizza. The last couple of summers, Gabby and Mark and Mark’s kids have vacationed with my family and I in New Hampshire. And I said, Gabby, we fully expect you to be up and ready to go to come back up to New Hampshire this summer, and that’s when she started to open her eye. And the Speaker was talking to her this whole time. We just kept alternately talking to her.

And literally the doctor said, no, you don’t understand, this is really, really significant progress. He starts pounding out a message on his BlackBerry. Her mother and father are just crying. When we -- when they finally pretty much kicked us out because, you know, obviously --

SENATOR GILLIBRAND: It was a lot of excitement.

REPRESENTATIVE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: A lot of excitement, she had to rest. We told her how much we loved her and we’d be back to see her and whatever she needed us to do, we’d be here for her. And we went out, Dr. Lemole, who is the one that’s been on TV and has been so good about explaining everything, he literally said to us, you know, I’ve discounted -- on TV, I’ve discounted emotion being -- and friendship and family -- really, I’ve sort of discounted that as meaningless out loud. He said, I just witnessed the impact of friendship and what you guys -- he said, you did this here today.

Q That was not the doctor in the room; that was a different one?

SENATOR GILLIBRAND: Different doctor.

Q Different doctor. And what was his name?



Q And just real quick, which hand were you holding?

SENATOR GILLIBRAND: I was holding her left hand.

Q And it was you who was holding the hand?


REPRESENTATIVE WASSERMAN SCHULT: We were alternating holding here hand.

SENATOR GILLIBRAND: I’ll show you what she was doing -- I’ll demonstrate it on your hand. Can you hold this for her?

Q Sure.

SENATOR GILLIBRAND: So this is Gabby’s hand and I’m just holding it like this and her hand -- she kept doing this, she kept going like that, like her thumb was reacting. And then she squeezed, like she totally was present in every way.

Q And then when she lifted up her arm, that was her right arm?

SENATOR GILLIBRAND: The same one. Same arm. She lifted it up like this -- it was like a whole hand thumbs up.

REPRESENTATIVE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: And he was trying to -- he kept telling her, if you can see -- he said, Gabby, if you can see me, give me a thumbs up sign, give me the thumbs up sign. And then she went -- she pulled up her whole arm.

SENATOR GILLIBRAND: Whole hand, like that.

REPRESENTATIVE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Actually, they wanted her to calm down --

SENATOR GILLIBRAND: They’re untying her arm because when she started to move more --

REPRESENTATIVE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: -- involuntary movements --

SENATOR GILLIBRAND: -- they wanted to give her the freedom to move so -- her hand had been secured. They unsecured it so she could move freely, and that’s when she brought the whole arm up to do her thumb up. Because they don’t want her to take the --

REPRESENTATIVE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: The neck tube. She was going back to reach for the breathing tube.

SENATOR GILLIBRAND: Yes, she obviously doesn’t like the breathing tube.


Q Could you talk a little bit about the friendship between -- among the three of you and how you got to know each other? We talked on the phone about this the other day a little bit, but I’d be interested in knowing a little bit more from you guys about the bond that you share.

REPRESENTATIVE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I think I told you the other day, I mean, there’s very few of us --


REPRESENTATIVE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: -- young women who -- so we naturally gravitate to each other. And Kirsten and I were -- I was assigned as Kirsten’s mentor when she --

SENATOR GILLIBRAND: Before I ran for office in 2006, I called Debbie and she gave me advice about what was it like to have young children and serve in Congress. So Debbie was instrumental in making me feel comfortable before I even ran for office to be able to know that I could be a good mom and a good legislator at the same time.

REPRESENTATIVE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: So literally right from when I was elected, these were my two girlfriends. I mean, I met Gabby before I was elected, Kirsten before she was elected -- or Gabby before she -- both of them before they were elected.

SENATOR GILLIBRAND: Well, you ran Red to Blue.


SENATOR GILLIBRAND: She ran Red to Blue --

REPRESENTATIVE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: The year they were elected, right.

SENATOR GILLIBRAND: So that’s how we -- so were entwined in many ways. But Gabby and I were on Armed Services together as freshmen members after we won in 2006. And what I admired about her so much is the way she brought something different to our committee. I always complimented Speaker Pelosi because one way she transformed Congress was she put five women on the Armed Services Committee all at one year. And our nature of our questions were always different.

And one thing Gabby always focused on was the well-being of the troops and their families. And she would talk about how she’d be talking about the troops with the doctor at the military base where she represents, and he would always say, I’m concerned about sending these men and women back into harm’s way when they’re not mentally or physically ready. And so I’d often bring up her stories as evidence that women in Congress matter because we have a different perspective.

And then I always wanted to get our husbands together because a lot of -- some of the women don’t have their husbands in D.C., and so -- and as you know, Gabby’s husband is an astronaut so he travels all the time. So we always talk about, we got to double date, double date, double date. So we started to do these double dates and her husband is one of the most charming men in the world. He’s not only brilliant and fascinating and an astronaut, but he’s a nice person and they love each other so clearly.

And what they seem to enjoy most about each other as a couple is how interesting each other -- each of the other one is. And so they take their New Years and they go to the renaissance weekend and they were telling me all about their New Years and the different speakers. And both of them were like finishing each other’s sentences.

REPRESENTATIVE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: The best way to describe them --

SENATOR GILLIBRAND: Clearly in love.

REPRESENTATIVE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: -- they’re really in a perpetual state of newly-wed. I mean, they really are. Steve and I -- my husband Steve and I met Gabby and Mark because Gabby and I were both chosen for this legislative fellowship, the same one that Trey Grayson was in; we were all in the same fellowship together. And so we were a part of this couple-year fellowship and we travelled around to different places and spent a lot of time together.

And then Gabby ran for Congress -- she was a state senator, she ran for Congress. I was the head of the Red to Blue program, so we got to know -- I travelled to Tucson that cycle. Mark’s last shuttle launch, our family went with Mark and Gabby’s family to see the launch. We were able to be there the night before with the family when the shuttle is all lit up at night. And we’ve had them in New Hampshire for the last couple summers.

And then as far as social time -- we don’t get a lot of social time -- but like I said, we gravitate to each other so Gabby is one of the girlfriends that I spend time with after -- I mean, we really miss Kirsten because she’s on the other side of the --

SENATOR GILLIBRAND: -- I had planned and we had lunch, a ladies lunch at the Senate dining room.


SENATOR GILLIBRAND: Gabby, Debbie, and Stephanie -- it was the four of us.

REPRESENTATIVE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Yes, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, Kirsten, Gabby and I all had lunch --

SENATOR GILLIBRAND: I just wanted them, I missed them so much -- I was like, you have to come have lunch with me.


Q Moving back to the hospital room just a little bit, once the eyes were open, was she smiling? Can you describe her --

SENATOR GILLIBRAND: No, she has a tube in her mouth. No, she can’t move her face.

REPRESENTATIVE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: No expression. No expression. She just --

SENATOR GILLIBRAND: She couldn’t because of the equipment. Even if she tried -- I mean, she kept pursing her lips and I felt like she was trying to talk, but she has the breathing apparatus in her mouth so she can’t really --

REPRESENTATIVE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: But you could see -- you could clearly see the determination in her face that she was struggling to get her eyes open because she was responding to our voices. It was like she wanted us to know that she knew we were -- that we were there. It was --

SENATOR GILLIBRAND: It was raw courage. It was raw strength. It was so beautiful and so moving. And, I mean, as I said, we were in tears. We couldn’t believe our eyes how courageous she was and how much she wanted to talk to us, that she wanted to -- she wanted us to know that she was with us a hundred percent and understood everything we were saying and appreciated it.

Q Can you talk a little bit about what you were told kind of going into the hospital, what you were expecting?

REPRESENTATIVE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: They didn’t really tell us a whole lot. They didn’t warn us about anything. I mean, I had spoken to Mark on the phone and he kind of gave me an idea a couple days ago of what she looked like -- I mean, where there was a big scar and what bandages there were and things like that. So I wasn’t so -- actually she looked --

SENATOR GILLIBRAND: She looked beautiful.


SENATOR GILLIBRAND: Absolutely beautiful.

REPRESENTATIVE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: And she looked not anything like you would imagine someone with a gunshot wound to the head would look. She looked angelic, I have to tell you. It was stunning. I mean, she -- the strength that she has is -- we were already aware of, but it clearly -- I mean, it just resonates all the way through her.

Q Describe the room a little bit for us.

SENATOR GILLIBRAND: Well, if you ever have a chance to talk to her mother, you can understand where Gabby gets it from, because her mother was just sparkling with pride and her own level of determination and will.

REPRESENTATIVE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I mean, we’re bordering on violating her privacy now by describing -- I don’t want to get into what she looked like or, you know, the --

SENATOR GILLIBRAND: Between her mother and Mark, there’s no doubt -- both Debbie and I know Gabby has the courage and strength it will take to recover from this. We know her spirit is indomitable. We know she’s got the kind of conviction that it would take someone to recover from this kind of incident. But when I finally met her mother, I knew where it came from because her mother says, of course she’s getting better, of course she’s going to be walking soon.

And when I talked to Mark two days ago -- both Debbie and I have been sharing this story -- he said, Gabby is going to be walking. I told the doctor that Gabby would be walking on two weeks.

REPRESENTATIVE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: A couple, two weeks. He said the same thing to both of us.

SENATOR GILLIBRAND: And so when Mark told to both Debbie and I the story, we said --

REPRESENTATIVE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Separately, and we didn’t even know that we both had talked to him.

SENATOR GILLIBRAND: So you can understand the world she’s in. There’s the people who are around who believe in her, who know of her strength, and we just feel so lucky that we could have been a small part of this -- of the hope that I think the whole nation has for her future.

REPRESENTATIVE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: She’s totally enveloped by the love of her family, of her friends, of her constituents, and now the whole nation. And I think it’s absolutely clear that all that energy has been felt by her.

Q Thank you. We really appreciate it.

Q What was the name of the pizza place where you were joking about going back to?




Q The Matchbox on the Hill or --

SENATOR GILLIBRAND: On H Street. (Laughter.) They have really good pizza.

Q What’s her favorite pizza?

SENATOR GILLIBRAND: I don’t know, but then -- the funny thing about the dinner was we were supposed to go to a more conservative, fancy restaurant and when I saw it on the schedule, I said, no, I’m not in the mood. So I called Gabby and I say, where do you want to go? And I talked to her scheduler and I gave her four options of restaurants I knew were good. They picked Matchbox and they had been there the night before, so they really like it. (Laughter.) And they had had pizza the night before so -- it’s Mark’s favorite. It’s his favorite restaurant.

Q Thank you both very much.

12:31 A.M. EST
Enhanced by Zemanta

President Obama's Speech at Tucson Memorial - Video and Transcript

This tragedy has hit Arizona hard. I thought the President delivered a speech that was exactly what we needed to hear. This is the full video of President Obama's speech. The transcript follows.

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release January 12, 2011
Remarks by the President at a Memorial Service for the Victims of the Shooting in Tucson, Arizona

McKale Memorial Center
University of Arizona
Tucson, Arizona

6:43 P.M. MST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you very much. Please, please be seated. (Applause.)

To the families of those we’ve lost; to all who called them friends; to the students of this university, the public servants who are gathered here, the people of Tucson and the people of Arizona: I have come here tonight as an American who, like all Americans, kneels to pray with you today and will stand by you tomorrow. (Applause.)

There is nothing I can say that will fill the sudden hole torn in your hearts. But know this: The hopes of a nation are here tonight. We mourn with you for the fallen. We join you in your grief. And we add our faith to yours that Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the other living victims of this tragedy will pull through. (Applause.)

Scripture tells us:

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.

On Saturday morning, Gabby, her staff and many of her constituents gathered outside a supermarket to exercise their right to peaceful assembly and free speech. (Applause.) They were fulfilling a central tenet of the democracy envisioned by our founders –- representatives of the people answering questions to their constituents, so as to carry their concerns back to our nation’s capital. Gabby called it “Congress on Your Corner” -– just an updated version of government of and by and for the people. (Applause.)

And that quintessentially American scene, that was the scene that was shattered by a gunman’s bullets. And the six people who lost their lives on Saturday –- they, too, represented what is best in us, what is best in America. (Applause.)

Judge John Roll served our legal system for nearly 40 years. (Applause.) A graduate of this university and a graduate of this law school -- (applause) -- Judge Roll was recommended for the federal bench by John McCain 20 years ago -- (applause) -- appointed by President George H.W. Bush and rose to become Arizona’s chief federal judge. (Applause.)

His colleagues described him as the hardest-working judge within the Ninth Circuit. He was on his way back from attending Mass, as he did every day, when he decided to stop by and say hi to his representative. John is survived by his loving wife, Maureen, his three sons and his five beautiful grandchildren. (Applause.)

George and Dorothy Morris -– “Dot” to her friends -– were high school sweethearts who got married and had two daughters. They did everything together -- traveling the open road in their RV, enjoying what their friends called a 50-year honeymoon. Saturday morning, they went by the Safeway to hear what their congresswoman had to say. When gunfire rang out, George, a former Marine, instinctively tried to shield his wife. (Applause.) Both were shot. Dot passed away.

A New Jersey native, Phyllis Schneck retired to Tucson to beat the snow. But in the summer, she would return East, where her world revolved around her three children, her seven grandchildren and 2-year-old great-granddaughter. A gifted quilter, she’d often work under a favorite tree, or sometimes she'd sew aprons with the logos of the Jets and the Giants -- (laughter) -- to give out at the church where she volunteered. A Republican, she took a liking to Gabby, and wanted to get to know her better. (Applause.)

Dorwan and Mavy Stoddard grew up in Tucson together -– about 70 years ago. They moved apart and started their own respective families. But after both were widowed they found their way back here, to, as one of Mavy’s daughters put it, “be boyfriend and girlfriend again.” (Laughter.)

When they weren’t out on the road in their motor home, you could find them just up the road, helping folks in need at the Mountain Avenue Church of Christ. A retired construction worker, Dorwan spent his spare time fixing up the church along with his dog, Tux. His final act of selflessness was to dive on top of his wife, sacrificing his life for hers. (Applause.)

Everything -- everything -- Gabe Zimmerman did, he did with passion. (Applause.) But his true passion was helping people. As Gabby’s outreach director, he made the cares of thousands of her constituents his own, seeing to it that seniors got the Medicare benefits that they had earned, that veterans got the medals and the care that they deserved, that government was working for ordinary folks. He died doing what he loved -– talking with people and seeing how he could help. And Gabe is survived by his parents, Ross and Emily, his brother, Ben, and his fiancĂ©e, Kelly, who he planned to marry next year. (Applause.)

And then there is nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green. Christina was an A student; she was a dancer; she was a gymnast; she was a swimmer. She decided that she wanted to be the first woman to play in the Major Leagues, and as the only girl on her Little League team, no one put it past her. (Applause.)

She showed an appreciation for life uncommon for a girl her age. She’d remind her mother, “We are so blessed. We have the best life.” And she’d pay those blessings back by participating in a charity that helped children who were less fortunate.

Our hearts are broken by their sudden passing. Our hearts are broken -– and yet, our hearts also have reason for fullness.
Our hearts are full of hope and thanks for the 13 Americans who survived the shooting, including the congresswoman many of them went to see on Saturday.

I have just come from the University Medical Center, just a mile from here, where our friend Gabby courageously fights to recover even as we speak. And I want to tell you -- her husband Mark is here and he allows me to share this with you -- right after we went to visit, a few minutes after we left her room and some of her colleagues in Congress were in the room, Gabby opened her eyes for the first time. (Applause.) Gabby opened her eyes for the first time. (Applause.)

Gabby opened her eyes. Gabby opened her eyes, so I can tell you she knows we are here. She knows we love her. And she knows that we are rooting for her through what is undoubtedly going to be a difficult journey. We are there for her. (Applause.)

Our hearts are full of thanks for that good news, and our hearts are full of gratitude for those who saved others. We are grateful to Daniel Hernandez -- (applause) -- a volunteer in Gabby’s office. (Applause.)

And, Daniel, I’m sorry, you may deny it, but we’ve decided you are a hero because -- (applause) -- you ran through the chaos to minister to your boss, and tended to her wounds and helped keep her alive. (Applause.)

We are grateful to the men who tackled the gunman as he stopped to reload. (Applause.) Right over there. (Applause.) We are grateful for petite Patricia Maisch, who wrestled away the killer’s ammunition, and undoubtedly saved some lives. (Applause.) And we are grateful for the doctors and nurses and first responders who worked wonders to heal those who’d been hurt. We are grateful to them. (Applause.)

These men and women remind us that heroism is found not only on the fields of battle. They remind us that heroism does not require special training or physical strength. Heroism is here, in the hearts of so many of our fellow citizens, all around us, just waiting to be summoned -– as it was on Saturday morning. Their actions, their selflessness poses a challenge to each of us. It raises a question of what, beyond prayers and expressions of concern, is required of us going forward. How can we honor the fallen? How can we be true to their memory?

You see, when a tragedy like this strikes, it is part of our nature to demand explanations –- to try and pose some order on the chaos and make sense out of that which seems senseless. Already we’ve seen a national conversation commence, not only about the motivations behind these killings, but about everything from the merits of gun safety laws to the adequacy of our mental health system. And much of this process, of debating what might be done to prevent such tragedies in the future, is an essential ingredient in our exercise of self-government.

But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized -– at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do -– it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds. (Applause.)

Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding. In the words of Job, “When I looked for light, then came darkness.” Bad things happen, and we have to guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.

For the truth is none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack. None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped these shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man’s mind. Yes, we have to examine all the facts behind this tragedy. We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of such violence in the future. (Applause.) But what we cannot do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on each other. (Applause.) That we cannot do. (Applause.) That we cannot do.

As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let’s use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy and remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together. (Applause.)

After all, that’s what most of us do when we lose somebody in our family -– especially if the loss is unexpected. We’re shaken out of our routines. We’re forced to look inward. We reflect on the past: Did we spend enough time with an aging parent, we wonder. Did we express our gratitude for all the sacrifices that they made for us? Did we tell a spouse just how desperately we loved them, not just once in a while but every single day?

So sudden loss causes us to look backward -– but it also forces us to look forward; to reflect on the present and the future, on the manner in which we live our lives and nurture our relationships with those who are still with us. (Applause.)

We may ask ourselves if we’ve shown enough kindness and generosity and compassion to the people in our lives. Perhaps we question whether we're doing right by our children, or our community, whether our priorities are in order.

We recognize our own mortality, and we are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this Earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame -– but rather, how well we have loved -- (applause)-- and what small part we have played in making the lives of other people better. (Applause.)

And that process -- that process of reflection, of making sure we align our values with our actions –- that, I believe, is what a tragedy like this requires.

For those who were harmed, those who were killed –- they are part of our family, an American family 300 million strong. (Applause.) We may not have known them personally, but surely we see ourselves in them. In George and Dot, in Dorwan and Mavy, we sense the abiding love we have for our own husbands, our own wives, our own life partners. Phyllis –- she’s our mom or our grandma; Gabe our brother or son. (Applause.) In Judge Roll, we recognize not only a man who prized his family and doing his job well, but also a man who embodied America’s fidelity to the law. (Applause.)

And in Gabby -- in Gabby, we see a reflection of our public-spiritedness; that desire to participate in that sometimes frustrating, sometimes contentious, but always necessary and never-ending process to form a more perfect union. (Applause.)

And in Christina -- in Christina we see all of our children. So curious, so trusting, so energetic, so full of magic. So deserving of our love. And so deserving of our good example.

If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate -- as it should -- let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost. (Applause.) Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point-scoring and pettiness that drifts away in the next news cycle.

The loss of these wonderful people should make every one of us strive to be better. To be better in our private lives, to be better friends and neighbors and coworkers and parents. And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their death helps usher in more civility in our public discourse, let us remember it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy -- it did not -- but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to the challenges of our nation in a way that would make them proud. (Applause.)

We should be civil because we want to live up to the example of public servants like John Roll and Gabby Giffords, who knew first and foremost that we are all Americans, and that we can question each other’s ideas without questioning each other’s love of country and that our task, working together, is to constantly widen the circle of our concern so that we bequeath the American Dream to future generations. (Applause.)

They believed -- they believed, and I believe that we can be better. Those who died here, those who saved life here –- they help me believe. We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another, that’s entirely up to us. (Applause.)

And I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us. (Applause.)

That’s what I believe, in part because that’s what a child like Christina Taylor Green believed. (Applause.)

Imagine -- imagine for a moment, here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that some day she, too, might play a part in shaping her nation’s future. She had been elected to her student council. She saw public service as something exciting and hopeful. She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model. She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted.

I want to live up to her expectations. (Applause.) I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it. I want America to be as good as she imagined it. (Applause.) All of us -– we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations. (Applause.)

As has already been mentioned, Christina was given to us on September 11th, 2001, one of 50 babies born that day to be pictured in a book called “Faces of Hope.” On either side of her photo in that book were simple wishes for a child’s life. “I hope you help those in need,” read one. “I hope you know all the words to the National Anthem and sing it with your hand over your heart." (Applause.) "I hope you jump in rain puddles.”

If there are rain puddles in Heaven, Christina is jumping in them today. (Applause.) And here on this Earth -- here on this Earth, we place our hands over our hearts, and we commit ourselves as Americans to forging a country that is forever worthy of her gentle, happy spirit.

May God bless and keep those we’ve lost in restful and eternal peace. May He love and watch over the survivors. And may He bless the United States of America. (Applause.)

END 7:17 P.M. MST
Enhanced by Zemanta

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Shocked by the Shooting of Gabrielle Giffords

The tragedy that happened at a Safeway in Tucson, Arizona yesterday is something I am still having trouble comprehending. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords had been shot. My brain clearly was not reading that tweet on my phone correctly. But no matter how many times I read it it came out the same.

Then it got worse. A few tweets later and the news had shifted to her being dead. What in the world was going on. Clearly no one was making sense. This just couldn't be happening. Luckily, that report turned out to be wrong. But all of that set the roller coaster of the day in motion.

I had wanted to blog, to report, but there were no words I could write.

Rep. Giffords was someone I had come to know through my work with the Human Rights Campaign. I had been in Gabby's office in Washington, D.C. several times. I would go to lobby her on issues from Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). I had pressed her on some issues and asked her tough questions even though her track record with HRC was very positive. Gabby always was gracious, thoughtful and happy to be a supporter of LGBT rights. She would meet with us personally which is something not all members would do. Recently, after the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell our local committee received this message from her:

I just wanted to congratulate you and all of the HRC team for the DADT repeal. This was one of the most extraordinary accomplishments I could have hoped for. As much as I am sad to lose the majority, when I look back on all that we accomplished, I have no regrets.

Have a wonderful holiday and thank you for all of your great work against this discriminatory law.


I was lucky to meet her husband and spend some time with them and Gabby's parents after an awards event. I was taking a picture for someone and Gabby was excited they wanted to include Mark Kelly, her husband, in the picture. She said, "He's an astronaut you know?" Clearly proud of her husband and his accomplishments. Her parents couldn't say enough about how proud they were of Gabby. However, Gabby was just as proud of them. It was actually her parents that had been honored that night and the Congresswoman had beamed on stage discussing how they had raised her and how proud she was of them.

But now things had changed. 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner had shown up to Gabby's Congress on Your Corner event and shot her at point blank range in the head.

I have known two people with head injuries, one from a gun shot wound. These people survived, but they are not the same people. Head injuries are tricky things. Doctors can't predict how anyone's recovery will be and Gabby's doctors are no different. They are staying far away from discussing recovery. A smart thing to do.

The roller coaster continues with erroneous reports still cropping up. I hope there will be less of those.

There has got to be something positive that comes out of this. Of course, the fact that so many survived and the doctors are extremely hopeful Gabby will continue to recover is the most positive. But on a bigger picture I think there will be more. Gabby has a way of working with both sides of the aisle. There has been much discussion about whether the increasing negativity of the political rhetoric drove Loughner to do this awful act. We may never know that. But I believe Gabby is working her magic right now through this incident. Both sides respect her too much to not take a hard look and check themselves. At least this is my hope.

Something good has to come from it...

Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Human Rights Campaign Releases 2011 Flashpoints for LGBT Equality

SVG Version of Image:Hrc_logo.png, which has t...Image via Wikipedia

Today the Human Rights Campaign released it's Flashpoints for LGBT Equality. The document highlights the challenges and opportunities facing the LGBT community both on a national level and at the state level. The document can be seen in its entirety here.

One of the first points discussed in the document is how the last election shifted the Congress toward a more anti-LGBT make-up.

According to HRC this shift puts a roadblock on getting pro-LGBT legislation passed. While it is highly unlikely, HRC and it's allies do plan on introducing or reintroducing pro-LGBT legislation. This bills include:

  1. Employment Non-Discrimination Act
  2. Repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act
  3. Safe Schools Improvement Act
  4. Student Non-Discrimination Act
  5. Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act
  6. Tax Equity for Heath Plan Beneficiaries Act
  7. Uniting American Families Act
  8. Freedom from Discrimination in Credit Act
  9. Every Child Deserves a Family Act
Other items to work on include HIV/AIDS funding, and legislation to protect LGBT people from housing discrimination. According to HRC the bills that deal with students have a good chance because of all the national attention around bullying. Also, the Republicans also like to hear about items that deal with tax cuts so those items may get some positive attention as well.

HRC will continue to push the Obama administration to make changes in federal policy. There have already been some big victories in this area and that should continue.

In terms of state legislation, HRC sees 6 states that could make progress in marriage and relationship recognition: Maryland, New York, Rhode Island, Hawaii, Delaware and Illinois. However there are also states where HRC sees a risk that protections for same-sex couples could be rolled back. New Hampshire and Iowa could lose marriage equality while Indiana, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina could have a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Other issues to fight will be adoption bans.

The HRC also discusses possible victories in the courts. These cases will have impacts on marriage equality and will be worth keeping an eye on. As HRC states these cases, "could make an impact on the marriage equlaity landscape in subsequent years."

Enhanced by Zemanta

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Winner - Winner - Chicken Dinner

Ok just post for fun.

I won my fantasy football SUPER BOWL!!

I'd like to thank Tom Brady and Arian Foster for pretty much carrying me through the season.

Enhanced by Zemanta