Long Overdue - Repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell

In his State of the Union Address, President Obama took a pivotal step towards repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Approximately 16 years later, this repeal is far overdue.

It was in the middle of the speech, in one clear sentence, that America was reminded of a federal law enacted in 1993 that rips at the fabric of our nation’s core belief in liberty and equality.  President Barack Obama set a timetable to end the controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy passed during former President Bill Clinton’s tenure.  “This year -- this year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It's the right thing to do.”

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Prop. 8 Federal Lawsuit Begins, Cue Right-Wing Media Hysteria

This week in a San Francisco Federal District Court, a legal odd couple will be on display. Attorney David Boies, who represented Al Gore before the U.S. Supreme Court in the infamous 2000 case ofBush v. Gore, and conservative attorney Ted Olson, who represented George W. Bush, are joining forces to overturn California's Proposition 8. It will be their contention that the initiative passed by voters in 2008 banning same-sex marriage in the Golden State violates the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the U.S. Constitution, singles out gays and lesbians for a disfavored legal status, and discriminates on the basis of gender and sexual orientation.

Regardless of which side prevails, experts agree the case is likely to be appealed all the way to the highest court in the land.

Cue right-wing media hysteria and homophobia.

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Human Rights Battle in Uganda Hits Close to Home

Uganda, like most of the countries in Africa, is full of contradictions.

While everyone we met in Uganda was friendly and helpful, going out of their way to assist us when we needed directions, a Wifi hotspot, or a place to find vegetarian food, the country also has some of the most restrictive laws against human rights on the continent. While we were there, the "Bahati Bill" was introduced in parliament.  The Bahati called for life in prison -- and in some case the death penalty -- for people found “guilty” of homosexual activity.

As gay marriage laws are passed around the world, including most recently in Mexico City, it's hard to believe that lawmakers would punish people for being gay or having HIV/AIDS. The Bahati bill also punishes anyone who fails to report a homosexual act committed by others with up to three years in jail, and a prison sentence of up to seven years for anyone who defends the rights of gays and lesbians.

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, due to mounting pressure from governments such as the United States, across Europe, and in Canada, said that he opposes the measure, and would attempt to try and soften the bill. According to a recent story in Reuters, “the president has been quoted in local media saying homosexuality is a Western import, joining continental religious leaders who believe it is un-African.” With a national election looming in 2012, politicians seem to be using hatred against gays as a scapegoat for rising corruption and the weakening of civil liberties and freedom of the press.

Yet, even the possibility that a watered-down version of the proposed law could be passed, is an alarming sign of a dangerous trend of prejudice all over Africa. In Blantyre, Malawi, for example, a gay couple was arrested last week after having a traditional engagement ceremony. Homosexuality is punishable by 14 years in jail in Malawi

However, human rights advocates continue to fight. In Latin America, they hope that the success of legalized marriage in Mexico City will spread to Argentina, Venezuela, Chile, and other places. Uruguay permits gay parents to adopt and Columbia grants social security rights to same sex couples.

In the United States, gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender rights is one of the most import civil and human rights battles we currently face. Despite recent setbacks in California, New York, and Maine -- recent success in places like Iowa, DC, and New Hampshire -- means that during next decade the battlefield for LGBT rights is not only in Africa but also right here at home.

Winning Same Sex Marriage Equality In A Single Phone Call

http://thepoweronline.wordpress.com/2009 04/06/the-power-to-win-equality-is-in-a -single-phone-call
Today full marriage equality for lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender citizens lies in persuding a few state legislators who initially voted against marriage equality to support the vote to override Governor Jim Douglas's expected veto. You have THE POWER  to get that single vote we need. Your voice and your story are more POWERful that the fact sheets and legal arguments by any of our LGBT lobbying organizations.

Back in the spring of 1990 I was still living in RI and planning my move to NYC. Massachusetts had recently passed a gay rights law and RI was giving it another try. Previously the our bill passed the House and died in the State Senate. This year we introduced the bill into the Senate first. The vote looked very tight with the probability of narrow defeat. My Senator was Charlie Donovan Sr. I went to the same school as his son, Charlie Jr. who was a few years younger. My dad was one of Jr.'s teachers. I got Sen. Donovan's home number from my parents and nervously called. The answering machine picked up and the taped messaged rolled as I blanked on what to say. The vote was tomorrow so I had to say something to the machine. When the voice gave way to a shrill beep I blurted out "Mr. Donovan, this is Jon Winkleman, Murray's son, and I'm gay." I didn't have a fact sheet to reason with logic or the morality of equal rights. I told him I went to school with Charlie Jr. and I can get fired from my job just cause I'm gay. Also my landlord can evict me from my apartment just because I'm gay. Tomorrow you are really voting on my life. I begged him to support the bill and hung up as the second beep interrupted me.

My friends in the RI Alliance for Gay and Lesbian Civil Rights said Rep. Charlie Donovan Sr. was on record as a solid "NO" to LGBT equality but thanked me for making the call. The next day the gay rights bill passed the State Senate. My friend Padric called elated "I don't know what you said Winkleman but Donovan flipped and voted `YES'." The bill passed the Senate by ONE VOTE. The victory was ephemeral as national religious right groups then flooded RI with money and lobbyists. The Religious Right didn't get any House members to change their vote. Still they did managed to pressure enough weak supporters to miss the roll call and in 1990 RI's gay rights bill died in a tied vote in the House.

There's more...

Winning Same Sex Marriage Equality In A Single Phone Call

http://thepoweronline.wordpress.com/2009 04/06/the-power-to-win-equality-is-in-a -single-phone-call
Today full marriage equality for lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender citizens lies in persuding a few state legislators who initially voted against marriage equality to support the vote to override Governor Jim Douglas's expected veto. You have THE POWER  to get that single vote we need. Your voice and your story are more POWERful that the fact sheets and legal arguments by any of our LGBT lobbying organizations.

Back in the spring of 1990 I was still living in RI and planning my move to NYC. Massachusetts had recently passed a gay rights law and RI was giving it another try. Previously the our bill passed the House and died in the State Senate. This year we introduced the bill into the Senate first. The vote looked very tight with the probability of narrow defeat. My Senator was Charlie Donovan Sr. I went to the same school as his son, Charlie Jr. who was a few years younger. My dad was one of Jr.'s teachers. I got Sen. Donovan's home number from my parents and nervously called. The answering machine picked up and the taped messaged rolled as I blanked on what to say. The vote was tomorrow so I had to say something to the machine. When the voice gave way to a shrill beep I blurted out "Mr. Donovan, this is Jon Winkleman, Murray's son, and I'm gay." I didn't have a fact sheet to reason with logic or the morality of equal rights. I told him I went to school with Charlie Jr. and I can get fired from my job just cause I'm gay. Also my landlord can evict me from my apartment just because I'm gay. Tomorrow you are really voting on my life. I begged him to support the bill and hung up as the second beep interrupted me.

My friends in the RI Alliance for Gay and Lesbian Civil Rights said Rep. Charlie Donovan Sr. was on record as a solid "NO" to LGBT equality but thanked me for making the call. The next day the gay rights bill passed the State Senate. My friend Padric called elated "I don't know what you said Winkleman but Donovan flipped and voted `YES'." The bill passed the Senate by ONE VOTE. The victory was ephemeral as national religious right groups then flooded RI with money and lobbyists. The Religious Right didn't get any House members to change their vote. Still they did managed to pressure enough weak supporters to miss the roll call and in 1990 RI's gay rights bill died in a tied vote in the House.

There's more...

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