Monday, September 3, 2012

Working with the White House

Kathy Young and Assistant Secretary Kathy Greenlee
from the US Department of Health and Human Services

It was an honor recently for me to plan and event with the White House office of engagement. After sending an email asking if they would bring one of their LGBT conferences to Arizona and told they were all scheduled for the year but they would be willing to help set up something just check back in a few months I was very excited. How cool was that! Just send an email to the White House and get results. Who knew?

After a few months I contacted the office again and within a few days we were off and running with a very quick turn around. I was given about seven weeks to put this all together. No pressure! The White House was able to secure two guests from the Department of Health and Human Services - Assistant Secretary Kathy Greenlee and AJ Pearlman. I was able to get the new Director of Health and Aging from the Human Rights Campaign, Shane Snowdon, to also present. Along with getting the facility and promotion for the event all set up. Below is a great piece from AZ-TV7's Morning Scramble:

The event was amazing! It also provided me with my first opportunity to moderate a panel discussion. I learned a lot prepping for that. Special thanks to Dr. Rebecca Allison for joining the panel. While I wish that attendance for the event had been high I could not have been more happy with the quality of what was presented. I hope to get to work with the White House on a project again in the future.
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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Moving Marriage Equality Video with President Obama

This morning I was lucky enough to spend sometime on twitter and happened to catch something that set a great tone for the day. has released a very moving video supporting marriage equality. Great shots of various couples in wedding gear but the kicker is the use of President Obama's voice throughout the video. It is really something else to have a President that will speak not just to the LGBT community but will really speak for us as well.

Watch the video here: Obama & Gay Couples "Speak with One Voice" On Gay Marriage from on Vimeo.
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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Chick-Fil-A: Biggest Mega Church in Town

Today I attended a presentation at by Dan Cathy, President of Chick-Fil-A. The presentation was held at Grand Canyon University, which identifies itself as a Christian University. The summary for the presentation on the website said the following, "Grand Canyon University invites you to hear Dan Cathy as he shares his collection of life-lessons and simple, yet powerful reminders that we all have opportunities to lead and impact the lives of others. As leaders you must be constantly looking for new and inspiring ways to add value and clarity of vision to our lives and the lives of others."

I consider myself a leader. It's a label I wear proudly. I will also admit I am a sucker for a good leadership seminar and certainly hearing from a successful businessman could provide for learning opportunities. Plus, it's a free event. Sounds perfect! Except for one thing. Chick-Fil-A has developed a reputation for funding anti-gay organizations. Recent reports show that in 2010 Chick-Fil-A, through its charitable arm WinShape donated nearly $2 million to organizations that are anti-gay. Now I love Chick-Fil-A nuggets but I have chosen not to eat there for quite sometime because of the amount of money given to these organizations.

The event did not disappoint from both a leadership learning perspective and an insight into the philosophy of the company. Dan, as he like to be called, shared with us the companies philosophy,
"To glorify God by being a faithful steward to all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-Fil-A."
This statement was met with great applause and enthusiasm. Being held at a Christian University I expected that type of support. Also, since I happen to come in and sit right behind Cathi Herrod, head of the Center for Arizona Policy (the most anti-gay group in Arizona), I had guessed the spin of the presentation. The philosophy sounds great! I'll have an order of that.What a great thing to try and teach employees that they can have a positive impact on every customer's day. Sounds like a great concept for good customer service which is important in the fast food industry. The problem is obviously their donations are not having a positive influence on my family. Their stance on marriage being between one man and one woman keeps my partner and I from protecting our family and gaining all the benefits of a heterosexual couple.

Dan reinforces this concept when he said he counsels young people thinking of going into the ministry to re-think that and become a Chick-Fil-A franchise owner. After all he says,
"The biggest mega church in town is a Chick-Fil-A." 
Dan feels that with each store employing 60-70 young folks working there it's bigger than most youth groups. This way operators of franchises have the opportunity to "preach" values to their employees. The company values that is.

He also shared with us this video that is used during their employee training.

The video is great. Again, what a concept for employees that are providing customer service to think about the fact that they may not know what is going on with each individual they interact with that day. Great training tool. However, it seems that Dan and his family don't extend this concept beyond the face to face interactions with their customers. They don't seem to apply this kind of thinking when looking at causes to champion.

Dan ended the day by addressing something he was very concerned about. Dan commented,
"Society and culture are getting off track. We are going to define marriage between one man and one woman."
The row in front of me went nuts! Cathi Herrod and her clan were clapping and shouting their support with all their might. However, that same excitement was not held by the majority of the room. Again, at the beginning and throughout Dan got cheers and support for his Christian positions. Things like thinking of others, supporting family, being spiritual. However, it seemed that the majority of the crowd was not with him on this. Seems to me more of the Christians in the audience realized it's not their job to judge others. Also, maybe they had listened to him and watched his video and this just didn't seem to fit with his message.

One of my favorite principals is the saying, "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." Dan and I share a belief in this principal. We also share a belief that family should be a main thing. I just wished that he would focus on his and not try to tell me what defines mine.

I did speak with one of the local owner/operators about his thoughts on the company giving to anti-gay organizations. He was very open and said he really didn't know anything about it and apologized. He said that at his store his policy is to hire the best employees and he could care less about their orientation. He was very sincere and even gave me a number to the corporate office to follow up. I asked if he was able to have any input in which organizations the company donated to and he said he didn't think so since he didn't even know they did and he had been with the company for more than a decade. I told him I missed eating his nuggets and I hope I get to again soon.

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Congratulations Mary Cheney, I Guess

English: Mary Cheney at Dick Cheney's second i...
English: Mary Cheney at Dick Cheney's second inauguration (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I usually get a warm fuzzy feeling when I hear about a lesbian couple that has been together for 20 years and have two children together getting married. However, when I heard about such a story today I got very mixed feelings. The couple is Mary Cheney and Heather Poe. Mary Cheney is the daughter of former Vice President, Dick Cheney. The former Vice President has always supported his daughter and today was no different. The statement released about the wedding can be found here.

The dilemma I have is not that she is Dick Cheney's daughter. After all he came out in favor of marriage equality before Obama did. My issue is with Mary Cheney and her role in supporting President George W. Bush in the 2004 campaign. During the 2000 presidential campaign, a group called the Republican Unity Coalition was formed. This was a type of gay/straight alliance, if you will, for the Republican Party with notable names on its board like President Gerald Ford and U.S. Senators. The group believed that the Republican Party needed to have a big umbrella that could reach out to non-traditional Republicans. The group even submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in the Lawrence vs. Texas case, which overturned sodomy laws.

This all happened while Mary Cheney was on the Board. However, she resigned from the board to become the director of vice presidential operations for the Bush-Cheney 2004 Presidential re-election campaign. This is where my issue starts. Up until this point Mary Cheney had been working to make a difference for LGBT individuals. However, the 2004 campaign is when things shifted massively for LGBT individuals. This is when  the Bush/Cheney team decided to use LGBT issues as a wedge issue by encouraging anti-LGBT marriage amendments to increase voter turnout.

While I understand a daughter supporting her father, I absolutely can't understand this. Prior to that election only 5 states had any type of constitutional amendment regarding same-sex marriage or civil unions. In that election cycle alone 13 states passed some kind of constitutional amendment. Not only did she stay to work on the campaign but many sources say she was a key player in the campaign. Also, because of Bush calling for the Federal Marriage Amendment as part of this election strategy, the Republican Unity Coalition basically disbanded. Leaving a void of any leadership speaking out for the position that sexual orientation should be a non-issue for the Republican Party.  We all know that without these leaders the Republican Party has embraced the religious right and made LGBT issues a key part of fundraising.

In 2006, eight more states passed constitutional amendments of some kind against same-sex relationship recognition. It was at this time that Virginia, the state Mary Cheney lives in, passed one of the strictest bans in the country. The amendment in Virginia bans marriage, civil unions and any other contract that might resemble marriage (domestic partnership). The trend continued until we currently have 31 states with a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage.

So while Mary and her partner got married in Washington D.C., her marriage is not recognized when she heads back home. Just like the majority of same-sex couples in the country. I hope she recognizes the irony of that. That she her marriage is worthless when she crosses a state line in part because of a campaign strategy she was a part of.

I hope she had a nice day celebrating with her family. The piece of paper she has is worthless. At least the domestic partnership paper I have is recognized where I live and I go to sleep every night knowing that I have not done anything to undermine the equality of my family.    
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Thursday, May 10, 2012


Perspective, it's an interesting thing. Two days ago the citizens of North Carolina voted to ban gay marriages. The next day President Barack Obama becomes the first sitting President to say that he supports marriage equality. Some say the President came forward a day too late. We won't know if it would have made a difference or not. However, for some the perspective is a state lost. For others the perspective is a country won. What all agree on is that the President did a historic thing in coming out in favor of marriage equality. From some people's perspective his actions might even be considered heroic

Go to today. I helped put together an event for the Human Rights Campaign to benefit the Maryland Marriage Fund to help keep marriage equality in that state. Governor Martin O'Malley was the special guest at the event. Governor O'Malley was able to show incredible leadership in helping to bring marriage equality to his state. Now that its there, he is continuing to lead the fight against a ballot measure to remove it. His conviction to make sure the LGBT community in his state is shown the same dignity and freedoms as anyone else is truly inspiring. I would guess that the perspective of many in the LGBT community in Maryland is that he is a hero.

The person that introduced the Governor was former Arizona State Senator and current candidate for Congress in Arizona, Kyrsten Sinema. Sinema has been a leader in the LGBT community for years and is known for having led the only successful campaign to defeat an anti-LGBT marriage amendment in the country. Her ability to make things happen for the LGBT community in Arizona has been remarkable. I have had the pleasure to work with her on many projects over the years and for me personally, she is a hero. That is my perspective.

So why would someone from Arizona host an event like this? Why send money in a very important election year out of the state? Perspective. It is not likely that Arizona will repeal its constitutional ban on gay marriage. The only way Arizonan's are going to see marriage equality is by enough states having it that the Federal government takes action and the Defense of Marriage Act is repealed. So from our perspective here this is how we bring marriage equality to our state - one state at a time across the country.

So my perspective of heroes this week have been of President Obama, Governor O'Malley and Congressional Candidate Kyrsten Sinema. So it surprised me when I received this post on my Facebook

Perspective. One never knows who is watching and the impact your words and actions have on them. This is not the first time someone has shared this type of sentiment with me. However, each time it catches me off guard. I mean come on, who am I? I am not the President or a Governor. How can I possibly be a hero? Perspective. You see most of the time when I hear this it comes from our youth. While I know that the time I give is not only for myself but to make a difference in the lives of many others, I forget that people actually get that too. I gotta say - it makes all the defeats and struggles worth it. To know that I am giving our youth inspiration and hope is a very humbling experience. It also fuels me to keep going.

The funny thing is from my perspective the youth today are heroes. They are so brave to come out or to be an ally for their friends that do. I can't wait for today's youth to be in the lead and take this fight for equality to a whole other level.

A lot has happened in the last two days. I think I have a new perspective on a few things.
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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Reality Check from the Five Year Old

My son was goofing around with me the other day. He was in one of his funny moods and just saying all sorts of happy and silly things. Some were correct, some were made up, and others were just plain wrong but there was no convincing him of that. At one point he called Jess (my wife) my daughter. He laughed when he said it so I figured he was being silly so I laughed and said, "No she's not, silly." He came back and was a little more insistent that he was right. He was sounding pretty sure of himself it seemed and I started to second guess that he was kidding. I said, "You are being so silly! She's not my daughter, she is my wife." He looked right at me and said, "No Mommy." I was expecting more silliness but then he said, "She is your partner." 

Jess and I exchanged a glance and agreed with him. "Yes, that too," we answered and that finished the game. It struck a cord in me though. 

Now I know that it's not because he is aware that the law prevents his Mommies from getting married. He hears when introductions are made and we usually use partner more than wife and that  is why he responded that way. However, it was one of the harshest reminders of the reality of our family. 

We are not married, by law. 
Even a five year old knows that. 
Our five year old. 

I know that the Defense of Marriage Act will be repealed one day. I know that marriage equality will come to all 50 states. I believe I will see it happen. Some days the waiting is just harder than others. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Importance of Community Events

Yesterday I had the honor of speaking at the 4th Annual March for Equality. The event is hosted by Central Arizona Rainbow Education (C.A.R.E.). It kicks off with a march and then goes into a festival. The theme this year was the importance of community and I was asked to speak on the importance of community events. It was a great day and I wanted to share the speech with you all here:

It is an honor to be here today. The 4th Annual March for Equality is an event that gives us a chance to come together – create awareness about the injustices that face the LGBT community and participate in a festival that allows us to celebrate who we are. Our community loves events. From Prides to parades – from dinners to the drag shows – we have community events constantly. The events are important to our community. Not just as fundraisers and time to see each other but because of the direct impact they have had on our movement.

The famous lesbian poet and activist, Audre Lorde once said, “Without community there is no liberation.” I couldn’t agree more. A perfect example of this is the Stonewall Riots. On June 28th, 1969 police raided the Stonewall Inn, known to many as the only gay bar in NY City. But this riot wouldn’t end like the others. See these individuals had found a place where they could meet, they could dance, they could drink, they could establish a sense of strength in each other. They were not alone. That night the patrons of the bar fought back against the police. Within days, gay rights organizations formed and within two years there was a gay rights organization in every major city across the country. This small bar community led to visible communities all across the country. On the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots the first Gay Pride March was held and is a tradition that we honor by marching today and each time we attend a Pride event.
While Pride marches and festivals let us celebrate and provide an opportunity to be visible in the society we live in, Marches also allow us to show our strength and to let our voices be heard. In 1979, the first March on Washington was held. The purpose was to nationalize the gay movement, which had previously been focused on local struggles. The event had approximately 100,000 participants and included a Congressional Lobby Day and organizational trainings. Having such a large number of LGBT and allied individuals participate in the March showed that our community was not willing to be in our closets. The LGBT community was willing to fight publicly for our rights. When the next March on Washington was held in 1987 more than 500,000 people participated. This March was held on Oct. 11th – which has become known as National Coming Out Day. To date there have been five Marches on Washington by the LGBT community. Each one has strengthened our community and our voice.
So whether the community event happens in a bar or on the National Mall they have importance. The event has importance because it reminds us that we are not alone - that we are all fighting for the same thing - that there is strength in numbers. Author and activist Terry Tempest Williams said, “I have inherited a belief in community, the promise that a gathering of the spirit can both create and change culture. In the desert, change is nurtured even in stone by wind, by water, through time.” What a powerful statement – to believe that a community can come together to create and change culture. That’s why I am so excited to be here today. To watch as our Arizona LGBT community comes together to change the culture of our state to a place where LGBT individuals are no longer discriminated against. To look out and see so many faces looking to create that culture. This is a critical time for our movement. Our visibility and the visibility of our allies have never been more important. So thank you for being here today and for being an active part of our community and I will see you at the next community event!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Giffords Steps Down, Sets Bar High

English: Official portrait of United States Re...
Image via Wikipedia

Today, in a video message, Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords announced she will be stepping down from office to focus on her recovery this week. Giffords was shot in the head on January 8, 2011 while conducting a Congress on  Your Corner event in Tucson.

In my opinion, this is just another example of her bravery during her recovery. I had a very good friend suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in 1998. It was recommended to her not to make any big life changes for a year so that she could get a good feel of what progress could be made. The first year tells a lot about someone's recovery from a TBI. Gabby's progress has been amazing, miraculous in fact. But the fact remains that with TBIs there is always a before and after. Things will never be like before and you won't know what the after looks like for a very long time. Bravery is looking at the after and realizing, this is a new life now - what will I do with it.

Seeing Gabby so full of life in this video - so strong - only shows that there will be a lot in her after. She has the best medical team around her and such a strong family support system that I have no doubt she will continue to make progress in her recovery. However, it is so clear that Gabby's dedication to her constituents is so strong that she would want them to have the best representation they could. In my opinion she is making this choice at the right time after giving her recovery a good period of time to see where she could be.

Gabby will continue to serve Arizona. She will be someone for us to always look to as to how to be a public servant. She has set the bar high and I only hope those in office now and those yet to come will strive to reach for that bar.
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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Kyrsten Sinema Announces Run for Congress

English: Senator Kyrsten Sinema
Image via Wikipedia

After months of waiting the maps have finally been drawn for the Congressional districts in Arizona. There has been a lot of discussion around the new district - CD 9. Today the first person threw their hat into the race. State Senator Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat,  announced today that she will enter the race.

Senator Sinema has been a strong advocate for the LGBT community. The biggest example came in 2006, when she led the organization Arizona Together, to become the first and only successful effort in the country to defeat a ballot initiative banning same-sex marriage.

Per election rules, Sinema has submitted paperwork resigning her job as State Senator, thereby focusing on the campaign full time. The main battle will probably come in the primary with some other well known Arizona Democrats strongly thinking of entering the race. Representative Ben Quayle lives in District 9 but has said he will most likely run in CD 6 since it is more Republican leaning. It is not a require to live in the district you represent at the Congressional level.

Watch Sinema's announcement video below then go to for more information on her campaign.

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