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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.

Your Representative’s View on DOMA – Mike Ross, Democrat, Arkansas.

February 28, 2011 By: jaysays Category: Your Reps on DOMA

Mike Ross - Opposition to Health Care Reform

Democrat Mike Ross also opposed Health Care Reform, leading many constitutents to post signs like this one.

From Arkansas Representative, Mike Ross, Democrat:

…please know that I support the belief that marriage is between one man and one woman. In 1997, I joined my colleagues in the Arkansas State Legislature to enact two state laws that prohibit recognition of same-sex marriages in our state, and I voted for the Federal Marriage Amendment every time it has come before the United States House of Representatives for a vote.

On July 18, 2006, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on H.J.RES.88, which would have created an amendment to the U.S. Constitution declaring that marriage in the United States be only between a man and a woman.

I voted in favor of this amendment; however, it failed to receive the necessary two-thirds support to pass.

My strong belief that marriage should be between one man and one woman is among the family values that I was raised on and still believe in.  Please know I will continue to vote to ban gay marriage and only recognize marriage between one man and one woman, just as I have done many times before.

Legislating belief is a disgusting way to legislate.  How about we start legislating facts?  Agree?  Contact Mike Ross:

Mike Ross
2436 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-3772
(800) 223-2220
(202) 225-1314 Fax
mike.ross@mail.house.gov

82nd Texas Legislative Session Welcomed with Anti-Bullying Demonstration

January 12, 2011 By: jaysays Category: Featured, Youth Issues

Queer Texas United Anti-Bully "Die In" - Austin, Texas, January 11, 2011

Yesterday marked the beginning of the 82nd Texas legislative session.  To welcome the new legislature, Queer Texas United organized a Homophobia and Transphobia Kills Die-In at the front gate of the Capitol Building in Austin.  The purpose of the Die-In was to support anti-bullying legislation.  The Texas Senate has introduced two bills with respect to bullying and cyberbullying for consideration this legislative session.  Presently, there are two anti-bullying bills in the Senate and one in the House.

Roughly fifty people attended the die-in.  On cue, we all fell to the ground while a litany of names were read aloud by organizers then repeated by participants.  Afterward, Representative Joe Farias of San Antonio spoke about the effect of bullying on his own family.  He recounted the horrible bullying his son experienced and how, upon approaching the school administration, he was met with reluctance and even denial instead of help with confronting the problem.

Rather profoundly, another demonstration was being held simultaneously in front of the Capitol Building.  This demonstration was an anti-death penalty rally.  Several participants of that demonstration joined in with the die-in participants.  Signs reading “Stop the Executions” mingled with signs reading “Homophobia Kills, Transphobia Kills.”  Bullying, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and lethal injection all have the same tragic end; life ceases.

At approximately 6:18 p.m. organizers for the execution rally announced that the prisoner who was to be executed had received a stay.  One woman screamed, “We got a stay!”  Perhaps somewhere out in this world a bullied youth received a stay, too.

Overview of introduced Texas Anti-Bullying Legislation:

Senate Bill 245, filed by Senator Wendy Davis of Fort Worth, would amend the Texas Education Code to not only require policy and program development along with staff and parent training for the prevention and reporting of bullying, but also amend the current definition of bullying to include cyberbullying.  Further, S.B. 245 would require that a student who engages in bullying, at the request of a person with authority to act on behalf of a bullied student, to be transferred to another classroom or campus.  Previously, students victimized by bullying were forced to transfer to a new school or classroom themselves which clearly punished the victim rather than the offender.  House Bill 224, field by Representative Mark Strama, is markedly similar to Senate Bill 245.

Senate Bill 205, filed by Senator John Whitmire of Houston, would require school districts to develop a policy prohibiting bullying, cyberbullying, harassment, and intimidation.  The current text of S.B. 205 does not provide for specific consequences for students who engage in bullying, but instead requires that the district develop a program for remedial action, including counseling for the bully and a referral to appropriate services or to the appropriate county or district attorney.

What you can do in Texas to get involved:

Tea Party Opponent of Gabrielle Giffords Called to Remove her by Shooting M16s

January 08, 2011 By: jaysays Category: Featured, Hate Crimes

This morning Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head by a gunman at a Safeway grocery store during a Congress at your Corner event. Prior to that, Tea Partier Sarah Palin had placed the congressperson on a “target” list for removal, noting on a map the congresspersons location with a gun site as more fully reported on by Andrew Sullivan.

In June, 2010, Republican Jesse Kelly, the Tea Party supported opponent of Gabrielle Griffords for the congressional seat, posted the following upcoming events on his Facebook page:

Shoot an M16 with Jesse Kelly

To clarify, the event held on June 12, 2010, was to remove Gabrielle Giffords from office by shooting “a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly.”

While details on the shooter are still sketchy, such irresponsible calls to remove people by learning to shoot a gun or placing gun sites on their location surely have some responsibility in the idea that violence is an acceptable way to confront political difference.

Gabrielle Giffords is a supporter of pro-equality measures, including, but not limited to: hate crimes legislation, employment non-discrimination policies, and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  Our hearts and thoughts go out to her and her family.

National Organization for Marriage Launches NOH8 Campaign???

January 02, 2011 By: geekgirl Category: Featured, LGBT Lessons for Straight People, Youth Issues

The National Organization for Marriage, (NOM), learned a new strategy in 2010: steal the phrases used by the movement pushing to legalize marriage for same sex couples. It started with “Hate is Not A Family Value.” More recently, they have been offended by the FCKH8 videos, whose purpose is to counter the rhetoric  put forward by groups like NOM.

If you’ve seen them, you’ll notice that, yes, the F word is used and in one particular video,  it is used by children.

NOM has decided to use this as their next marketing campaign. Their slogan? NOH8. Perhaps, in their infinite ignorance, they have never heard of the NOH8 campaign started by Adam Bouska, where people have NOH8 printed on their cheeks, wear duct tape, and are photographed.  I can’t wait for the copyright infringement battle to begin. Better, I can’t wait for NOM to wear duct tape over their mouths. Permanently.

Setting aside their continued lack of originality and twisting of every word, methinks NOM doth protest too much. If you read their blog you would think that the children in these videos are taught to use the F word in every sentence, their parents are awful, and a lawyer should be called to check into child abuse.

NOM has conveniently ignored the true message in this video. That would mean acknowledging the logic, courage, and compassion in the message of equality for all families. Yesterday I checked YouTube. The video has almost 2 million hits and the “Likes” outweigh the “Dislikes” 10 to 1.

NOM as an organization is doing everything in its power, and bank account, to appeal to fear and hate. When asked to back up their position that marriage is between one man and woman, all they have now is “it is special.” When interviewed publicly, they have been forced to retreat from religious arguments that God made it so, marriage is for procreation, or it has been this way for 5,000 years since none of those requirements are present in the law now for heterosexuals.

They have attempted to claim that they do not hate gay people, that this is only about the special institution of marriage. Yet in their blog and their Facebook group, Protect Marriage: One Man, One Woman, they continue to promote a misinterpreted Biblical view that homosexuals choose their sexual orientation, they are sexual deviants, pedophiles, and are out to convert all of our children to homosexuality.

When has NOM stood up to protect any LGBT person? When the rash of suicides hit the mainstream media in September, they refused to support actions to stop bullying. If NOM were truly worried about what children are exposed to, they would pay attention to the statistics on bullying of youth and start a campaign to stop bullying and abusive behavior. Do they know that four out of five youth who are called homophobic slurs are actually straight?

Here are statistics on bullying for 2009 from GLSEN, The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. As a mother, I am far more concerned about the real harm that is being done to our children every single day in our schools and communities. It is far more traumatic than the use of the F word in a video. A video that comes with a warning label, by the way.

  • 84.6% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 40.1% reported being physically harassed and 18.8% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation.
  • 63.7% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 27.2% reported being physically harassed and 12.5% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their gender expression.
  • 72.4% heard homophobic remarks, such as “faggot” or “dyke,” frequently or often at school.
  • Nearly two-thirds (61.1%) of students reported that they felt unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation, and more than a third (39.9%) felt unsafe because of their gender expression.
  • 29.1% of LGBT students missed a class at least once and 30.0% missed at least one day of school in the past month because of safety concerns, compared to only 8.0% and 6.7%, respectively, of a national sample of secondary school students.
  • The reported grade point average of students who were more frequently harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender expression was almost half a grade lower than for students who were less often harassed (2.7 vs. 3.1).
  • Increased levels of victimization were related to increased levels of depression and anxiety and decreased levels of self-esteem.

I read Brian Brown’s Christmas letter on the NOM blog. He even included a photograph of his family with all of his children. One gay person who commented on the blog, trying to be calm and engage in productive discourse, stated that he disagreed with NOM but wished Brian’s family a Merry Christmas and commented that his children are beautiful. They are.

And so are the children of so many same sex couples that I know. I wonder what Brian would tell one of his children about the value of marriage and family, how special and important it is if that child turns out to be gay. Will he want his  child to have the same rights and happiness as his other children? Perhaps Brian would understand if he had to explain his prejudice to one of his own children. Or will he turn on his child, the same way that NOM has tried to dehumanize and marginalize all people attracted to someone of the same gender?

Note: Tune in for the debate between Evan Wolfson, Freedom to Marry and Maggie Gallagher, NOM; brought to you by The Economist. Starts January 3rd online.

HRC’s Eric Alva Speaks about DADT and Obama’s Defense of Policy

October 17, 2010 By: jaysays Category: DADT, Featured

"We Will Not Be Silent." Don't Ask Don't Tell ("DADT")Marine Staff Sgt. Eric Alva (Ret.) was the first American wounded in the war in Iraq when, on March 21, 2003, while traveling to Basra, he stepped on a land mine.  In 2006, Sgt. Alva began working with the Human Rights Campaign, the “largest” LGBT Rights organization, to speak out against the military’s now (but likely temporarily) halted “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy (DADT). He now tours nationally for the organization and continues to lecture about DADT.

On Friday, October 15, 2010, just days after a Federal Judge ordered an injunction against enforcement of the unconstitutional policy, the Gay and Lesbian Association of San Antonio College hosted a lecture by Sgt. Alva as part of their Coming Out Week events.

Sgt. Alva began his lecture by discussing his tenure in the military and its abrupt and tragic end, with the triggering of the land mine.  He went on to explain that, after his medical discharge, he contacted the HRC to find out how he can work with them to educate and inspire a repeal of DADT.  Not only did his lecture included his personal experiences working toward a repeal, but he also used the opportunity to address the division within the LGBT community, stating that he never refers to us as a “community,” but instead prefers to refer to us as a “populace” because of our varied lifestyles, opinions, culture, etc.

It is very likely that the Department of Justice will appeal the lower court’s decision to the 9th circuit in an effort to halt a judicial repeal of the policy.  If such appeal is perfected, it means that the Obama Administration is attempting to keep the policy in place, rather than repeal it as has been stated by Obama to be his goal.  You can read more about that issue, here, including discussion of other cases which were not appealed by the justice department.

Sgt. Alva, in addressing the recent injunction, Obama’s appeal of the decision and the fact that Obama has continued to refuse to sign an executive order ending the policy, stated, “I do not want Obama to sign an executive order, ending don’t ask, don’t tell.”  He went on to explain that, if the president chose to end the policy it would put an end to the discussions; discussions he believes are important in light of the recent and highly publicized LGBT youth suicides.

DADT has been the policy of the United States Military for approximately 17 years.  Prior to implementation of the policy, the military’s policy was simply, you can’t serve if you’re gay.

Marine Staff Sgt. Eric Alva was the first American wounded in the war in Iraq. On March 21, 2003
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Stupid Things People Say About Gays: GLSEN is to Blame for LGBT Suicides

October 13, 2010 By: jaysays Category: Featured, Stupid Things People Say About Gays, Youth Issues

Bryan Fischer, the host of the American [Heterosexual Only] Family Association’s [AFA] radio show, Focal Point, recently declared on an AFA blog post that GLSEN was to blame for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender suicides.  His theory, it seems, is that you can eliminate the high incidents of suicide in LGBT kids by eliminating LGBT kids.  In the posting, Mr. Fischer states:

It must be pointed out that homosexual activists are not wholly innocent in these tragedies either. Homosexuals cannot reproduce so they must recruit. Part of the agenda of groups like GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) is to urge students at younger and younger ages to come out and declare a disordered sexual preference. Sexually confused youth are pressured into locking into a sexual identity far before they are mature enough to do so.

A lot of questions are raised by Mr. Fischer’s argument, the first being: “Who was the first homosexual recruiter?”  If homosexuals cannot reproduce and merely recruit, was it a straight person who first convinced someone to be a homosexual?  My guess is that it was Adam.  He had three sons and only one wife.  With such a shortage of women to put their seed into, perhaps Adam felt Eve needed a break from populating the world and suggested to Cain that he start blowing his brother to relieve his sexual frustrations.  Cain, then became the first homosexual recruiter and encouraged LGBT kids to come out.  Or perhaps it was one of the other male children.

Mr. Fischer further states that:

If criticism is bullying and harassment, then homosexual activists condemn themselves every day by the mean-spirited things they say about Christians and their views of homosexuality.

While I would concur that criticizing those that are Christian for their opinions would not necessarily constitute bullying, I must draw the line at forceful, obstructive, demeaning verbal abuse such as that experienced by LGBT youth.

For myself, I was harassed daily for my perceived (and ultimately actual) sexual orientation.  I had the word “fag” scrawled into the side of my car; I was chased home by kids throwing rocks and slurs at me; my friends were approached at their employment and harassed for hanging out with a fag; I was told by a teacher to, “act like a man;” I was spit on, laughed at and was terrified to go to school because the so-called Christian opinion was not that I was a sinner, it was that I was a worthless faggot.  All of this happened before my 18th birthday, most before I “came out.”  Never, in all the times I was approached with negative commentary about my sexual orientation in school was it to convince me that I was a sinner and needed to repent.  Instead, it was to intimidate me into submission, deny me my right of free passage or to just give me a sucker-punch.

In spite of Mr. Fischer’s efforts, it has gotten better.  Now, I’m called a fag only about 2 or 3 times per month instead of every day.  That’s better, but it’s still not good enough.

So, Mr. Fischer, I’m left with one more question, “How many times have gays knocked on your door to recruit you?”  I’ve certainly had a lot of your ilk try to recruit me through the love of Jesus Christ (which in my experience feels a lot more like spit in the face).

If you are considering taking your own life, please seek help.  Call the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386.

Texas Sees First *Legal* Same-Sex Wedding

October 11, 2010 By: jaysays Category: Featured, Marriage Equality

Marriage Celebration ProgramThe wedding between Mark Reed-Walkup, a provisional Board Member of the LGBT equality organization, GetEQUAL, and the “love of his life,” Dante Walkup, wasn’t the first wedding ceremony performed in Texas, but it was the first same-sex wedding performed on Texas’ soil which will have legal recognition.

The couple applied and received a “Certificate of Marriage” in Washington, D.C. back in May.  On October 10, 2010, Mark and Dante declared their love publicly to their friends and family in a small ceremony in Dallas, Texas.

As I took my seat in the ballroom, I began reading the wedding program.  “The Marriage Celebration of Thomas Mark Reed and Dante Karl Walkup” declared the program in a traditional fashion.  My heart swelled with joy for the very happy (and nervous) couple.  As I continued thumbing through the program, I quickly saw a difference between this wedding and those of heterosexual couples I have attended:

We Remember: Asher Brown, Billy Lucas, Tyler Clementi, Seth Walsh, Raymond Chase & the many other young LGBT lives who died due to suicide.  It does get better.

While weddings generally bring tears to my eyes, the tears are usually due to happiness for those celebrating their love.  In this instance, the tears were for the children we have lost before they had a chance to truly live.  Somehow, in spite of all the efforts of so many to make the world better for them, they lost hope.  I immediately thought of the words of Harvey Milk, “You’ve got to give them hope.”

As the wedding procession began, my tears continued to flow swelling with pride, joy, hope and even sorrow.  These amazing men were standing before me, declaring their love, declaring their devotion and declaring to all watching that “It does get better.”  This was no ordinary Texas wedding.

In order for Dante and Mark’s wedding to be legal in Washington, D.C., the ceremony had to be performed by an official authorized by the District to conduct weddings.

To overcome the jurisdictional issues, Mark and Dante arranged for the officiant to appear via Skype along with several witnesses in D.C., while the couple stood within the boundaries of their home state before their friends and family.

Mark and Dante have shown us that love endures and regardless of how hard people try to stop us, our love will carry us through.  It seems, after all, love does conquer hate.

On a more personal note to the newly weds:  Thank you for being a part of my life.  You have inspired me, pushed me and even carried me in more ways than you can possibly realize.  You have given me hope.

Target CEO is “Genuinely Sorry” for Anti-LGBT Contribution

August 05, 2010 By: jaysays Category: Discrimination, Featured

target gaysIn a message published today to Target leaders, Target President and CEO Gregg Steinhafel, apologized for the contribution to MNForward, which supports candidates who maintain a very anti-LGBT platform.  Here’s the statement from Target:

Civic Activity
A Message From Gregg Steinhafel, Chairman, President and CEO – 8/5/2010

Dear Target Leaders,
I have heard from many of you, and our team members, over the past week regarding Target’s contribution to MN Forward, and I appreciate your engagement and candor, both of which clearly demonstrate your loyalty and passion for our company.

In situations like this, it is often difficult to find the right words, but I would like to respond with the same honesty you have shown me.

The intent of our political contribution to MN Forward was to support economic growth and job creation. While I firmly believe that a business climate conducive to growth is critical to our future, I realize our decision affected many of you in a way I did not anticipate, and for that I am genuinely sorry.

We remain fully committed to fostering an environment that supports and respects the rights and beliefs of all individuals. The diversity of our team is an important aspect of our unique culture and our success as a company, and we did not mean to disappoint you, our team or our valued guests.

Going forward, we will soon begin a strategic review and analysis of our decision-making process for financial contributions in the public policy arena. And later this fall, Target will take a leadership role in bringing together a group of companies and partner organizations for a dialogue focused on diversity and inclusion in the workplace, including GLBT issues.

Thank you for sharing your input and for your continued commitment to making Target an even stronger company.

Sincerely,
Gregg Steinhafel
Chairman, President and CEO