Joel Burns talks on Anoka-Hennepin and their Section 28-esque policy

When I started No More Lost, it was in part inspired by Joel Burns incredible coming out story and somewhat impromptu “It Gets Better Video”. He stood up and said who he was, and I felt like I could either stay in the safeish closet of being a somewhat stealthy lesbian transwoman, or I could be true, honest and open about who I am.

Today, there’s a crisis going on in Anoka-Hennepin school district, where the policy that forbids teachers from offering any support to LGBTQIAPPQA students, is having a devastating effect on those most vulnerable of students. Seven recent LGBTQIAPPQA suicides are still not enough to repeal this regressive and damaging policy.

Joel Burns who has become a voice on equality talked with Lawrence O’Donnell about the changes that vitally and immediately need to happen, for the students and the teachers who are currently unable to help, because if they dare to do so, their jobs may be forfeited.

Joel is right on the ball, and the statistics are frightening…

Who let the religious zealots back into Parliament?

Yes that was meant to be a provocative statement, because I’m actually surprised that religion is being given any credence in 21st century Britain. This is the post-religious age, and while personal faith is wonderful and supportive to so many, it has no place in the House of Commons. Yes I know that there are members of various faith communities within the House of Lords and that will probably continue but thankfully they are mostly harmless.

heaven or hell, its your choice
Keep this out of government

I remember a few years back when Tony Blair after he left parliament formally converted to Roman Catholicism, and half the country looked up and thought that as well as all his other crimes, he’d pulled a fast one and been a religious nut, as well as a megalomaniacal war criminal. We look at parliament and see all the corruption, backstabbing and good governance and don’t react, but a religious zealot making a speech and its scary and wrong.

I know that there are many LGBTQIAPPQA people of various faiths out there, who I’m sure are preparing to leap to defend faith and religion, honestly there’s no need, I’m not talking about purging religion, I just want it kept out of where it does not belong. We currently have MPs defending the right of fundamentalist christians to hate calling for inquiries into whether treating a clear and unreasonable prejudice is okay, provided its cloaked in a religion.

Its not about freedom, its about discrimination just as bad as those in the BNP, just as self-righteous and just as disgusting. I’m categorically not condemnation of all Christianity, because where Christianity is in Britain its so progressive and compassionate, unlike this pre-reformation styled position found in the fanatical fringe.

David Cameron and no-one important
Walk the walk David, Not Just Talk the Talk

You can look back to Geoffrey Fisher, Archbishop of Canterbury at the time of the Wolfenden Report, supported the report, saying

“There is a sacred realm of privacy… into which the law, generally speaking, must not intrude. This is a principle of the utmost importance for the preservation of human freedom, self-respect, and responsibility.”

These haters are hypocritically applying levitical law, picking only the laws that they want to hear, ignoring the shellfish, slavery, stoning, and sumptuary laws among others. You don’t get to object to being gay without objecting to slavery being the will of God.

The fact that the EHRC is even considering such a move, let alone Parliament entertaining an inquiry is a sign that the tories still have a problem with homophobia that they claim to have purged. Its time for David Cameron to step up and quash this support for hate.

Its Discrimination, Period!

repeal section 28 pink bus from protest in picadilly circus
Not so long ago

Despite this being the 21st century, in one of the most progressive liberal societies on earth, and yet a new minor undercurrent of homophobia is being given credence by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. While we are not too many years away from the days of “Section 28″, disparity in age of consent laws, and absolutely no chance of marriage equality, under the last Conservative government, by the time the Conservatives regained power the country had changed fundamentally.

In 2010 Britain, homophobia is targeted in schools, both head on, and in more and more schools by education programs. Hate crimes and Employment protections are sacrosanct, and we have marriage equality in all but name. Now despite the perversions of anglicanism across the world, the Church of England has been a supporter of basic respect and rights, if not full equality, and has made it clear that it is not its place to enforce its views on the country. However there are always other sects of christianity, who are frankly not as progressive and evolved as the C of E, or even the Catholic Church. To certain Pentecostals, Baptists and other Evangelicals the Bible is treated as word for word perfect, rather than the views of progressive sects, being highly open to interpretation, and full of metaphors and parables.

Some people who hold these stricter views are coming into conflict with 21st century and LGBTQIAPPQA people no-longer to be satisfied with discrimination a probability of daily life.  There was a time that a gay or lesbian couple would struggle to get a hotel room, get served in a restaurant, or hospital visitation rights, and brave people have fought for basic rights and protections.

sheffield mothers against section 28
Mothers who did think about their children

Freedom of religion is a limited and specific scope right, that is very important to British Society, and should you remain quietly in your home and job, not bringing your faith out into the real world, then you are as free as a bird to practice your faith, however you are expected if you are working in a business or even more so a public office, to leave you faith at the door.

As per normal hypocrisy comes into play, these are not foster carers demanding the right stone unruly children, or wedding chefs refusing to cook with shrimp, or even registrars complaining that their uniform requires them to wear 2 different kinds of fabric. No those issue, which should come up with all of these “Bible Believing” people don’t have a problem with stoning children, seafood, or sumptuary laws, they have a problem with  treating gay people with the simple basic respect they are due.

The EHRC rather than standing up against bigotry, seeks to find ways to smooth over issues of homophobia rather than really address them. So a registrar who refuses to officiate a gay wedding would not be fired for refusing to do their job, but instead , give the shift to an un-bigoted registrar. This sounds like a nice and equitable solution, nobody gets hurt, except the British values of justice and fairplay.

Remember David Cameron supported section 28, don't trust a tory
Tory Influence on EHRC?

Here’s a simple test for discriminatory behaviour, if you replace gay, with race, does what you are asking sound reasonable. “A registrar refuses to marry a couple because she believes interracial marriage is wrong” is horrific and “A registrar refuses to marry a couple because she believes gay marriage is wrong” is equally horrific.

There are certain restrictions placed on business practices, be they health and safety, employment protections or non-discrimination in provisions of service. Now if you are a registrar you are expected to do your job and marry people, without prejudice, and you are not entitled to a right to refuse to do your job. A vegan should not work in a slaughter house, a pacifist should not join the army, and someone who refuses to perform marriage ceremonies should not be a registrar.

Lillian Ladele
Magistrate who refused to do her job

In business provision its the same, you don’t get to decided whether to serve someone based on your prejudices, whether its race, gender, or sexuality. If you are a couples counsellor, you don’t get to say “I won’t provide therapy for gay couples” and more than you could say “I won’t provide therapy for interracial couples”.

Its clear that many of the people that are turning to a new homophobic right wing christian group called Christian Concern, are sold on the lie that being LGBTQIAPPQA is a choice, no matter the mountains of evidence to the contrary. The director and co-founder of Christian Concern  stated “Race is totally different from sexual orientation practice, homosexual practice”.

Its sad to see that the good name and reputation for tolerance and acceptance of Christianity in the UK brought into disrepute by groups like this who seem to be modelled around hate groups in the US like Focus on the Family, American Family Association and the ACLJ.

This is discrimination, this is wrong, and its a tragedy that the EHRC has put forward such a policy that suggests discrimination is acceptable, and equally tragic that 13 MPs have signed the policy. Its discrimination plain and simple.

 

Why We Need To Take California Back at the Ballot Box

So here’s the rub, we screwed up big time in 2008, when we let Prop 8 pass.Did I Vote on Your Marriage

Yes, I know I’m talking about a campaign I was mostly only looking at from the peripheral before I really got involved in any activism. I realise that many of these actions happened before I had the bravery to walk down the street as who I am, but I use the term “we” to describe the equality movement as a continuous movement of which every brave soul who stands up, true to themselves is a part of.

However despite all the work of the NoH8 campaign, the general mood of lgbtqiappqa people around California and the USA, was that Prop 8 had no chance of passing. I remember watching in utter disbelief as the results came in.

In 2003 we had a move forward so basic and fundamental, that said something so utterly simple, that being gay was no longer a crime. The backlash as almost immediate, with the republicans using homophobic hate to fuel their re-election of a man who proudly admitted he would block any expansion of hate crimes if it protected gay people.

If the equality movement had crumbled at every set back, the President might still be in chains, the Secretary of State might still be the property of her husband, and I would be either in prison, or dead. Instead of faltering, we began to fight back with a renewed passion, in part, because we knew if we did not fight, hate for our very being would be codified into the constitution.

Fight Back!

Massachusetts was the first state to legalize marriage equality, and we slowly made moves to bring in civil unions, domestic partnerships and in a few states marriage equality, when the event happened. The California Supreme Court struck down the laws on marriage equality as discriminatory. Suddenly we had a victory, and it was an unmatched game changing victory. We’d won in one of our home states, and we could already smell DOMA on its deathbed. But from across the USA haters gathered, seething in their unholy disgust of ordinary americans daring to demand their rights.

They came to California with their tax-exempt funds and loyal minions who thought they were doing the work of a loving god who wanted them to fight equality. Lies, mistruths and whispers were spread to scare people about the simple concept of equality. Those lies tipped the balance, and while we’d come a long way since the 70% vote in 2000.

Now with my limited legal understanding, and with 5 minutes I can drive a truck through the constitutionality of Prop 8, and I have no doubt that once it gets to the supreme court not even Bush’s handpicked stacking of the court can argue that its just or constitutional to strip rights by majority rule. I agree that we can win this without another ballot initiative, but I think this time we have to put up up for the popular vote.

Prop 8 = American Taliban

31 states have voted on our rights, and 31 have made the wrong choice, the un-American choice, and a choice will stain the reputation and soul of every one of those states even more perhaps than those who had anti-miscegenation laws on their books. The religious right uses it in every argument, in every case, that it managed to bring intolerance to every state no matter how blue it is.

This is a war, but not of weapons and power, but one of ideas, on one side there is hate, cruelty and ignorance, and the other is a side of love, compassion and wisdom. We had a huge victory in New York, thats turned the tide against NOM and its allies, across the country from deep blue to faintly red states are talking about marriage equality, not to mention the Repeal of DOMA is being talked of and supported by significant politicians who were too cowardly to do so before.

I don’t want to fight a war, I want to find the right words to melt the most bigoted heart, and I’m still looking for those words, but as I’ll write in another article, about my experiences trying to communicate with the heathen has worn even my godlike patience to the point at which I acted in a way that I’m not exactly proud of.

At stake is more than our own selfish interest, its for the interest of every single LGBTQIAPPQA youth out there who’s vulnerable and alone because they are surrounded by christian fundamentalists, in deep red and even deep blue enemy territory. Its about telling the world that you are marrying the person you want to spend the rest of you life with. Its about building a life with someone and not having to carry around legal documents just to prove that they are your spouse. Its about employers respecting your family just the same as any other family, in sickness, and in health.  Its  for when that bond is strained by illness, and eventually snapped by death, and being treated the same as any other widow, by your friends, your town, your state and your government as every other new widow struggling to make sense of the life they have lost. Its about our children, and our families being given the same rights, and treated with the same respect as others.

 

So my fellow champions are you prepared to fight the next hard battle and take us one step closer to the victory of true equality.We’ve got to risk a lot of support, a lot of resources on a battle many think is already won.But we need to win it in a way that they cannot dismiss, they cannot rubbish and they cannot ever hold over us again. California needs to vote, not because the vote is politically, socially or constitutionally ready, but because California needs to put right the contamination of hate that the people tried to put into their constitution.

This is a strategic battle for the hearts and minds of every American be they be living true to themselves in the Castro, or hiding from themselves filled with self loathing on the Focus on the Family church campus. There is no stronger signal that can be sent, than for California to vote unequivocally for equality.

We need some hope and a symbol, and thats why we need to put the repeal of Proposition 8 on the ballot in 2012. We can and we must take California back.

“Beached” goes ahead, uncut!

    In a dramatic turnaround, the school principle, Emma Hobbs, responding to the outcry against her homophobic actions, agreed, with support from the school community to put the play back on.

    Last Saturday, at Bridlington Spa, the full cast put on the Opera in its original form.

    At final count the petition at change.org totalled 400 signatures. I hope that the people who signed their name feel that while it was not a game changing influence in changing the school’s position, it at least helped tip the balance for equality and against censorship.

    Update:
    Guardian review of the Opera

Bring “Beached” back to Bridlington

Lee Hall
credit journallive.co.uk

You’d think that being the creator of Billy Elliot, one of the most successful musicals of the last 20 years would guarantee you some artist freedom, but Lee Hall had his latest project cancelled over a character being open about being gay.

The community Opera, called “Beached” featured a huge cast that included 300 pupils from a local primary school. However production was halted when both Bay Primary School and the Local Area Authority demanded that Hall remove any lines that referenced the character’s sexuality.

Hall went out of his way to try to fix the problem and even offered to pay for Stonewall’s education team out of his own pocket. His efforts were rebuffed, and the school cancelled its participation a matter of a couple of weeks before opening night, ending the production.

We would love for the headmistress, Emma Hobbs and the Local Area Authority to reconsider. If they were to help put on a new production of “Beached” free from the homophobic censorship they tried to force in, we’d be very happy.

The critical issue here is that a supposedly tolerant and progressive theatrical group not only refuses to stand up for tolerance, but goes out of its way to defend the homophobic institution and puts the blame on the writer for daring to disagree.

Through their statements, responses and press releases, it is clear, that they feel as though they are blameless, and continue to put all the blame at Lee Hall’s feet.

We would like Opera North to put together a new production at their own expense with a cast including 300 children from local schools and community groups, to give the people of Bridlington the opportunity to see this wonderful opera, and to pledge that in future they will not be apologists for homophobia.

Please sign our petition over at Change.org

Sources: BBC and Guardian
Update:

The play went ahead last saturday

Coretta Scott King

1900 style subversive hate politics are still in Vogue at NOM

Bishop Harry Jackson
Bishop Jackson, wants to fuel the same bigotry that the civil rights movement drove away

If you listened to the propaganda from NOM, then the voice of the African American community would be Bishop Harry Jackson. He rose to prominence when the Washington DC council legalized gay marriage, in his backyard. However he failed, and Marriage Equality was now legal and recognized in Washington DC.

One of the most offensive things that Harry Jackson says is that the Civil Rights movement was for african american people, not for LGBTQIAPPQA people.

There’s constant claims that its wrong that LGBTQIAPPQA people claim the mantle of the Civil Rights movement. People like Alveda King try to abuse her familial connection the Martin Luther King Jr to try to gain moral support for her conservative political ambitions.

Alveda King, the pariah of the first family of American Equality.

Now my natural gut reaction to such comments is to challenge Harry Jackson to a “who got screwed over by white straight men more” challenge, but thats what NOM and other claimants to the KKK crown want.

 

As I mentioned in the past, these hate groups predecessors in the 1900s faced a serious threat to their power. There was a powerful union between the women’s suffragette movement and the african american equality movement, which was almost unstoppable.

However with some very manipulative techniques, the Klan managed to turn the two movements against each other, setting back both for generations.

Coretta Scott King
Coretta Scott King, our ally and champion

Today, we still have inequality in the culture and society for African Americans, Women, and LGBTQIAPPQA people, but while there are strong ties between these oppressed groups, the successor to the KKK is still trying to turn us against each other.

There’s false claims of racism in the LGBTQIAPPQA community against african americans (yes after i’ve eaten out my girlfriend, I’ll go look down on african americans..), there’s been frustration with Obama over marriage equality, and there’s been a completely false meme that the African American church was responsible for Prop 8′s passage.

If you want to see what the real african american civil rights community have to say about civil rights, you can look to Coretta Scott King, who started out fighting for civil rights before she met her husband, and continued on becoming a champion of equality for all.

After her husband’s assassination, she carried on fighting for equality for women and by the 90′s was a prominent supporter for LGBTQIAPPQA equality. In 1998 she called for the broader civil rights community to stand up for equality calling it the same as Anti-semitism, Racism and other discrimination.

Martin Luther King
I have a dream applied to us all, it did not come with a disclaimer.

She’s faced criticism from conservative african american pastors, who claim that Martin Luther King Jr would never have supported LGBTQIAPPQA equality, but she points out that he cared about inequality, and standing against prejudice.

Due to the assassination of Martin Luther King we never got to see him march for LGBTQIAPPQA rights, but he’d have been a proud champion for our equality, and someone we would have been honored to give the label of Ally.

Groups like NOM, are trying to create hatred between the LGBTQIAPPQA community, and other minority communities, claiming that these communities are “too christian” to accept the fact that there are LGBTQIAPPQA people of every color. In their world view, hate is more powerful than love, ignorance trumps wisdom, and cruelty is mightier than compassion.

We are all one people, of every gender identity, of every sexuality, and every skin color, and when we work together for our mutual equality, and mutual protection, no bigot can stand against us, be they wearing a pointy hood, a black uniform, a dog-collar, or a shiny suit. Our strength comes from our souls singing the songs of a people who will not be slaves, who will not be repressed, who will not be disenfranchised, and will not be butchered again.

Reverend Al Sharpton vs Brian Brown

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Normally these debates are set up to give one or the other side an advantage, either on the marriage equality side, or on the stone-the-gays-for-daring-to-ask-for-respect side. But on the Ed Show a few days ago we got a real political prize fight and no punches were pulled.

I don’t think there are any skillful debaters on the STGFDTAFRS, because their arguments are fundamentally very weak, but Brian Brown and Maggie Gallagher are possibly the best of the “stick our fingers in our ears and yell ‘we hate gays’” school of debate.

However Al Sharpton kept landing punches and avoided getting dragged down. The one area I’d like to have seen a few more punchbacks from the Reverend was on the issue of what would be acceptable for Brian Brown and he failed to point out the severe financial penalties LGBTQIPPQA people suffer upon the death of a partner.

Brian Brown did admit he wants LGBTQIAPPQA people to have no rights as far as recognition of their relationships, but then again he’s the kind of hater who wishes he could lobby the APA to call being gay a pathology again. He was also wrong on the fact that LGBTQIAPPQA marriages did not mystically appear when marriage was no longer about wife ownership, we’ve been having marriages since before the bible was written.

All in all it was a decent if short debate.