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Archive for March, 2011

Demand for Dan Ramos’ Resignation Escalating – Protestors Hit the Fund Raisers

March 18, 2011 By: jaysays Category: Discrimination, Headline

David Trevino stifles his anger long enough to smile for the camera.
David Trevino stifles his anger long enough to smile for the camera.

Yesterday evening, about 2 dozen lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, along with their allies, stood in front of the Granada Homes building where the “Proud Democrats” were hosting a fund raiser for the Bexar County Democratic Party (“BCDP”).  Dan Ramos has previously announced that he would attend the event; however, he did not show up and organizers claim he was not invited.  It seems though, that in Bexar County, there is no reason to be proud of being a democrat under Ramos’ leadership.

The Chair of the BCDP, Dan Ramos, recently made numerous disparaging remarks about LGBT people, disabled people and the plight of the African American Community in their quest to obtain equal representation under the law.  Since that time, a vast majority of the BCDP’s Executive Committee and Steering Committee have been demanding his resignation as Chair claiming his comments violated the rules of the party and were outside the scope of the Democratic Platform, which states:

We believe in and support the repeal of discriminatory laws and policies against members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

But Dan Ramos isn’t listening to the Board or the people of Bexar County and beyond.  In a press conference early yesterday morning, he refused to resign and reiterated his position that gay people are like, “white termites who have infiltrated the party much like termites infiltrate your house.”

Last night’s protestors were met mostly with support by those attending the fund raiser; however, a few people stood up against our plea for Dan Ramos’ resignation.  In fact, the President of the organization, Jose “Joe” Gallagos, came out to tell the protestors that it was our fault so few people showed up at the fund raiser – (Hey Joe, it couldn’t possibly be because the people don’t want to give money to homophobia and racism, though, could it?

Perhaps most surprising was an accusation from an African American attendee.  She was furious with the protestors as she walked up claiming that those that want Dan Ramos removed are “the whites.”  Yet one of Dan Ramos’ choice comments in his tirade was, “I go back to an old very well-used slogan: blacks wanted to get their way because they were black.”  While I find the comment terribly offensive and degrading to the work of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Bayard Rustin, Rosa Parks, and many more heroes of the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement, the sentiment wasn’t echoed by this objector as one would expect.

Another objector was a resident of Granada Homes (which serves as a retirement community and Banquet Hall).  She wasn’t upset that we were calling for Dan Ramos’ resignation, but instead felt we were blocking the doorway (which we were not).  However, we started talking with the lady a bit about Mr. Ramos’ disparaging remarks against the disabled people – particularly kids born with Polio legs and not being able to kill them or sweep them under the rug.  This struck a chord with the lady and she told us her own story of being taunted for being Hispanic by a fellow resident who claimed, “You Hispanics are nothing but the dirt under my feet.”  We explained that we felt as angry as she does about the comments made by Dan Ramos and she departed with a bit more understanding of us.

One supporter immediately made me think of Will Phillips, who once said, “My generation is the change they fear the most.”  Bobby, who appeared to be no more than 14 years old, and his friend were walking by the protest and noted our signs.  They stopped, inquired and joined us for a short time.  Bobby, a resident of Ft. Worth, Texas, was in town with family and was offended when he learned of Dan Ramos’ comments.  I asked Bobby what made him stop and join us.  In his social studies class in school, Bobby had wanted to take a poll of students about how they felt about Gay Rights.  His teacher felt the subject would meet with parental disapproval and refused to allow Bobby to do the project.  Bobby noted how “upset” he was that he couldn’t even ask questions of his peers about the issue, and decided he should stand with us to denounce Dan Ramos.

Dan Ramos’ comments don’t just reflect on Dan Ramos (although that’s the message the BCDP is desperately trying to relay to the public).  Rather, they reflect on the BCDP as a whole.  The BCDP is desperately seeking money to pay off the near $200,000 debt owed to the county after a nasty embezzlement charge, yet their only official spokesperson is making horrible accusations and disparaging remarks against a large part of the democratic base.  So I ask you dear readers – would you give money to an organization that is spewing hate?  I believe the answer is no – and neither will I.

Stupid Things People Say About Gays: They are termites, like Nazis and Teabaggers

March 13, 2011 By: jaysays Category: Stupid Things People Say About Gays

Dan Ramos, the Chair of Bexar County Democrats, representing the Democratic Party in the City of San Antonio, Texas and surrounding areas,  recently went on a racist and homophobic tirade:

[Gays] are all connected to the gay Democratic Party, the so-called Stonewall Democrats. Just like termites they managed to get some of their people in key positions.  … I liken them to the Tea Party — the Tea Party and the f—ing Nazi Party — because they’re 90 percent white, blue-eyed, and Anglo, and I don’t give a f— who knows that. Just like the blacks … they’re American, but you can’t get your way just because you’re black.

The degradation by Mr. Ramos of the LGBT community is so far off the mark that it almost goes without my typical ranting; however, I can’t resist.

Gays are like the Nazi Party: This couldn’t possibly be further from the truth.  Perhaps the largest indicator of how factually incorrect this is lies in the history of a symbol that has been representative of the gay community for decades – the pink triangle.   This symbol was originally sewn or pinned to the shirts of gay men during the occupation by Nazi Germany.  They were courted off, along with other non-Aryan, non-Christian, non-white folk to camps, where they were pushed into “showers” along side many others.  hundreds of thousands of gay men and lesbians were murdered by the Nazi Party.  Therefore, it seems logical that the gays couldn’t possible be “like the Nazi Party” any more so than Jewish people could be “like the Nazi Party.”

90 Percent [of gays are] White, Blue-eyed, and Anglo:  I’d love to know where Mr. Ramos found this statistic.  In my  household, only 50% of the gays are white, Anglo and blue eyed.  In my closest circle of friends, that drops significantly – to roughly 1 out of 10.

You Can’t Get Your Way Just Because You’re Black:  Putting this phrase into the context used by Mr. Ramos, it’s evident that he’s referring to the fact that LGBT people are struggling for rights such as marriage equality and prevention of work place and public sector discrimination.  In so making the comparison, he belittled not only the struggles of the LGBT community, but also the struggles of the African American community in fighting for their civil rights, desegregating society and struggling to be seen as whole citizens of the United States.

Sadly, in spite of the fact that the attack was directed mostly toward the members of the San Antonio Stonewall Democrats, the organization has not released a statement and has chosen to remain silent on the issue at this time (perhaps because May is an important election time for the group?).   Thankfully, not all LGBT organizations in San Antonio are remaining silent.  The Direct Action Network of San Antonio has recently launched a campaign to join with the state’s Chair of the Democratic Party to demand the resignation of Mr. Ramos.  You can find a petition here.

NOTE: For more of the column, Stupid Things People Say About Gays, click here.

A Sad Bullying Irony in My Facebook Feed

March 09, 2011 By: jaysays Category: Commentary, Thought of the Gay

Two headlines appeared in my Facebook feed one right after the other tonight, in what can only be described as a sad irony (if I use the word “irony” as liberally as most).


If you stop the hate, you can stop the violence.

 

 

http://www.advocate.com/News/Daily_News/2011/03/07/16_Year_Old_Arrested_for_Antigay_Beating/

Speaker Boehner’s Office has Petitioners Arrested Violating 1st Amendment of Constitution

March 09, 2011 By: jaysays Category: LGBT News, Marriage Equality

Activists at John Boehner's OfficeToday, five activists from GetEQUAL Ohio, a direct action LGBT rights group associated with the national organization, GetEQUAL, were arrested while attempting to deliver a petition to Speaker of the House John Boehner at his office in Columbus.

The petition, which urged the Speaker to focus on job creation rather than using tax payer money to defend the unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), contained over 33,000 signatures.

Upon arriving at the office, the group was locked out and denied their First Amendment right to petition the government.  Not to be deterred in their representation of those who should be treated equally under the law, five members of GetEQUAL OH began reading the names of the petition signers in front of the office while others participated in a demonstration on the sidewalks.  Shortly thereafter, they were arrested for “trespassing” and removed from the premises.

Speaker Boehner sent a clear message with these arrests: the U.S. Constitution has no value to him, his office or our government.  It is undeniable that citizens of the United States have a right to petition their government.  Such right falls squarely within the First Amendment and is a fundamental right enjoyed by all Americans.  The right can be simply defined as “the right to present requests to the government without punishment or reprisal.  This right is guaranteed in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution” (History Central, 1).

If Speaker Boehner is willing to violate the rights afforded within the “Bill of Rights” there is no reason he will not continue to deny the rights provided by the 14th Amendment, which is the portion of the Constitution that deems DOMA unconstitutional.

Call, write, email or visit (at your own risk) Boehner’s office and demand an immediate apology for continually violating the rights of Americans.  Tell him to focus on creating jobs as the Republicans promised instead of using tax payer money to defend unconstitutional government policies.

Those arrested include: Sean Watkins, Morgan Bonney, Jesse Bonney, Liz Mills and Karay Miller (pictured).

Today, five activists from GetEQUAL Ohio, a direct action LGBT rights group associated with the national organization, GetEQUAL, were arrested while attempting to deliver a petition to Speaker of the House John Boehner at his office in Columbus.

 

The petition, which urged the Speaker to focus on job creation rather than using tax payer money to defend the unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), contained over 33,000 signatures.

 

Upon arriving at the office, the group was locked out and denied their First Amendment right to petition the government. Not to be deterred in their representation of those who should be treated equally under the law, five members of GetEQUAL OH began reading the names of the petition signers in front of the office while others participated in a demonstration on the sidewalks. Shortly thereafter, they were arrested for “trespassing” and removed from the premises.

 

Speaker Boehner sent a clear message with these arrests: the U.S. Constitution has no value to him, his office or our government. It is undeniable that citizens of the United States have a right to petition their government. Such right falls squarely within the First Amendment and is a fundamental right enjoyed by all Americans. The right can be simply defined as “the right to present requests to the government without punishment or reprisal.  This right is guaranteed in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution” (History Central, 1).

 

Today, five activists from GetEQUAL Ohio, a direct action LGBT rights group associated with the national organization, GetEQUAL, were arrested while attempting to deliver a petition to Speaker of the House John Boehner at his office in Columbus.

The petition, which urged the Speaker to focus on job creation rather than using tax payer money to defend the unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), contained over 33,000 signatures.

Upon arriving at the office, the group was locked out and denied their First Amendment right to petition the government.  Not to be deterred in their representation of those who should be treated equally under the law, five members of GetEQUAL OH began reading the names of the petition signers in front of the office while others participated in a demonstration on the sidewalks.  Shortly thereafter, they were arrested for “trespassing” and removed from the premises.

 

Speaker Boehner sent a clear message with these arrests: the U.S. Constitution has no value to him, his office or our government.  It is undeniable that citizens of the United States have a right to petition their government.  Such right falls squarely within the First Amendment and is a fundamental right enjoyed by all Americans.  The right can be simply defined as “the right to present requests to the government without punishment or reprisal.  This right is guaranteed in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution” (History Central, 1).

If Speaker Boehner is willing to violate the rights afforded within the “Bill of Rights” there is no reason he will not continue to deny the rights provided by the 14th Amendment, which is the portion of the Constitution that deems DOMA unconstitutional.

Call, write, email or visit (at your own risk) Boehner’s office and demand an immediate apology for continually violating the rights of Americans.  Tell him to focus on creating jobs as the Republicans promised instead of using tax payer money to defend unconstitutional government policies.

If Speaker Boehner is willing to violate the rights afforded within the “Bill of Rights” there is no reason he will not continue to deny the rights provided by the 14th Amendment, which is the portion of the Constitution that deems DOMA unconstitutional.

 

Call, write, email or visit (at your own risk) Boehner’s office and demand an immediate apology for continually violating the rights of Americans. Tell him to focus on creating jobs as the Republicans promised instead of using tax payer money to defend unconstitutional government policies.

HRC on the Record, Part 1: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – Diversity.

March 09, 2011 By: jaysays Category: Featured, Thought of the Gay, Youth Issues

Human Rights Campaign LogoIt’s no secret that I’ve been critical of some of the decisions made by the Human Rights Campaign (“HRC”) and comments made by their spokespeople, but what should also be apparent is, like any organization, the HRC was developed with people power.  Like me, all of those people are fallible.  Mistakes can and do happen.  It took me a long time to recognize that for myself.  Sometimes, I speak for me, sometimes I speak for an organization – at no time is my speech necessarily correct.

About two months ago, I had an interesting conversation with Darrell Parsons.  Mr. Parsons is a member of the Board of Governors for HRC and Chair of the San Antonio Gala Planning Committee.  He suggested that I come to the Gala Planning meetings as media, putting on the record “the good, the bad and the ugly.”  It was an offer that a queer blogger and grassroots activist like me could not pass up.  For one, it would allow me to grow my understanding of the motivations of those involved with the HRC.  It would also provide me with a method to hold the organizational process publicly accountable when I witnessed them going astray.  While I saw the opportunity as a way to prove me wrong about some of my perceptions of HRC, I did not fully consider the very real possibility that I could be right.  What could my “report” mean for the community?  Will it build it up or further tear it down?  Would an “ugly” moment divide us more than any “good” moment could possibly pull us together?

After two committee meetings and finding budding friendships with many of those participating, I now find myself reluctantly upholding my responsibility to report “the good, the bad and the ugly.”

The Good.

One of the most obvious “good” scores was discussed in the preceding paragraphs.  It’s the fact that I was even invited to attend these meetings on the record.  This shows a willingness on the part of our local HRC chapter to be transparent to the community and to be held accountable publicly should they go astray.

Another “good” score was obtained by the HRC Gala committee developing a “Diversity and Outreach” sub-committee.  As an enormous fan of radical inclusiveness, I would be candidate number one to be on such a committee; however, my purpose with the group is as a reporter, not as a committee chair.  That position was filled by Kevin, who is also the faculty advisor for a college LGBT organization, “OUT.” While diversity should be a key factor of any organization rather than a sub-committee, this development at least shows that there is a willingness to try to solve the overall exclusion problem within the larger HRC organization – even if it is an afterthought.

The good didn’t stop there.  This year, the committee decided to offer a significantly reduced student rate of $75.00.  To further that, they have offered to allow members of the community to purchase a student ticket at that rate and have the ticket later donated to a worthy student.  They’ve also allowed for payment plans – HRC Gala, on lay-a-way.  The reason I put this in the “good” category isn’t because a $75.00 meal is affordable, but it is certainly a step in the right direction to bring less affluent members of our community to the table.

A less substantial “good” that deserves a mention is the social aspect of volunteering with the HRC.  There are many wonderfully charming and intelligent people volunteering their time to promote the organization. When asked, many stated that they chose to work with the HRC because they believe that we are all deserving of equality.  Whether we agree or disagree on the methods and inclusiveness of various organizations, we can agree that at the finish line, we will all celebrate the victories.

The Bad.

In the “good” section, I discussed the fact that the committee had a sub-committee devoted to “Diversity and Outreach.”  A bad moment was when Mr. Parsons found himself stumbling for a way to explain the committee’s function, stating its purpose was to reach out to those that might not be familiar with HRC and try to get them to come to the Gala event.  Examples of this outreach included approaching the black and Latino communities.  This was “bad” to me as it seemed to solidify the perception of the organization as being a predominantly white, upper class group that is completely out of touch with the remainder of our community. It’s possible that it would make it into the “ugly” section as it seemed to focus more on race than full diversity; however, diversity is often difficult to explain and starting with race is often the easiest path for people to get to the whole picture.

Another bad revolves around the issue of giving credit where credit is due.  I mentioned the Target debacle to Darrell Parsons and the recent interview in Billboard Magazine with Lady Gaga.  I noted that it seems like the company may be making an effort in the near future to make amends with the LGBT community and Mr. Parsons quickly noted that HRC pressured them into it.  While I would concur that HRC contributed to the pressure on Target with their petition campaign and removal of the company from their buyer’s guide, credit should also be given to grassroots organizers who took actions against the store – including, but certainly not limited to, a PFLAG mom who, on her own volition, returned a basket full of items purchased from Target and explained the rationale behind her return to management, and the group Queer Rising, who invaded Target stores in their “Target Ain’t People” campaign declaring, “Attention Target Shoppers” – know when you shop at Target, your money is going to fuel hate. Pressure on the company came from many avenues within our community without one direct action being planned by HRC directly.  No one organization or group deserves full credit for any progress made.

This isn’t the first time HRC has ignored or outright taken credit for grassroots’ efforts.  In fact, immediately following the National Equality March, HRC declared the event “big” and responsible for a “burst of momentum” in a fundraising email.  At no point did they mention that they fought against the National Equality March tooth, nail, fist and high heel all the way to D.C.

The Ugly.

Perhaps the thing that makes the “ugly” so very “ugly” was the fact that it directly affected one of the “good” items on my list, the reduced rate for student tickets.  I heralded the more reasonable rate on Facebook, noting that San Antonio is trying to bring more people to the table.  However, when a “Table Captain” and active member of the Steering Committee for HRC was asked about purchasing an entire table for students, the inquirer was quickly told that the problem with donating a table to students is that students won’t pay attention, won’t “bring anything to the table, will be drunk and won’t purchase silent action items.”

While this is ugly on its face for the “drunk” comment if for none other, it’s also terribly wrong.  I have worked closely with the students and LGBT Youth organizations on many occasions as a volunteer to help them out and as an organizer looking for them to help me out.  Each time, the students have brought a lot to my table, including: passion, energy, intelligence and hard work.  While it may be this person’s experience that students aren’t worthy of a place at the HRC Gala, I wholeheartedly disagree and would like to refer this individual to their Diversity and Outreach committee for further training.

It isn’t the official policy of the Human Rights Campaign to disregard the value of students.   According to Mr. Parsons, “Students are our future and bring a great deal to the table; which is why we have focused on supporting the student organizations over the past few years.”  But actions speak louder than words.  The San Antonio chapter of HRC has taken pro-student actions in the past, including assisting St. Mary’s University students in getting recognition for their GSA and speaking to the Alamo Community College District Board in support of a fully inclusive anti-discrimination policy; however, it is still “ugly” to call the students drunks and dismiss them for choosing to have a meal the next day instead of buying silent auction items.

Righting the Wrong.

I’ve always believed it’s never too late to right a wrong.  Hopefully, the Gala planning committee, and more particularly the offending “Table Captain,” will make it up to the students by donating a table to the local student groups, free of charge as the benefactor had originally intended to do, and with no obligation for the purchase of a silent auction item.  Of course, they may have to lock up the liquor cabinet before inviting all those pesky alcoholic students.

HRC on the Record: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – Diversity, Part 1.

Director of Equality Texas Defends Removal of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity from Anti-Bullying Bill

March 01, 2011 By: jaysays Category: Youth Issues

Anti-Bullying - Bullying Stops Here - well, almost...Texas has been spinning over a proposed “Anti-Bullying Bill” which was introduced in both the House and Senate.  The bill, which original provided for punishment of the bully rather than the victim and required the schools to report the type of bullying and “cause” of bullying (including sexual orientation and gender identity) only had a marginal chance of passing in a venue as conservative as Texas; however, it brought together many advocacy organizations and the momentum of LGBT activists was growing at an astounding rate.  With the bill we found that LGBT groups were no longer lobbying alone, but instead had the support of educators and student organizations to finally provide a symbol of hope to victims of bullying and perhaps, just perhaps, reduce the epidemic of youth suicides.

Sadly, the LGBT powers that be decided that the reporting requirement would kill the bill because of the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity.  It’s important to note that neither classification was a “protected class” under the proposed legislation, but instead just a reporting requirement – i.e. check the box if the student was bullied because of actual or perceived sexual orientation.

While the bill will still be effective in punishing the bullies rather than the victims, we lose critical information by striping out the reporting provisions.  Thus, Asher Brown’s death would no longer be reported for what it truly was, but instead, just another youth suicide without confronting causation or motive.

The redrafted bill, supported by Equality Texas, also serves as a reminder that those LGBT folks in Texas just can’t win, so why bother trying.  Chuck Smith, Director of Equality Texas, stated, “At the end of the day, the reporting part is not important compared to the rest of the guts of the bill.”  On Facebook, he went on to say, “[The redrafted legislation] contains a boatload of anti-bullying policy that doesn’t exist in TX code and needs to.”  While I recognize that fact, Mr. Smith has failed to address the real issue.  Removing the reporting requirement sends a clear message to our community: you are still less than and you must accept that.

This is a tragic turn of events for any possibility of an LGBT victory in Texas – one small victory would have been enough to cause the crowds to scream, “Yes we can” instead of “Well, no reason to try because we can’t.”

Even though we know the road is long and the battles will take their toll, we should not submit.  But that is what we have done here.  We have submitted.  We find ourselves again waving the white flag and prostrating ourselves before “The Man.”

So what happens if the bill passes without the reporting requirement?  We lose our allies in the fight.  Teacher groups and student organizations that are not specifically advocating for LGBT issues will no longer be driven with the same passion that has driven this legislation thus far.  Yet again, the LGBT will stand alone.

This is a sad day for Texas.  It is the day that those advocating for us, sold us out.