Thursday, August 31, 2006

Anti-Gay Group Gets it Wrong

The anti-gay group, MassResistance, likes to pretend they know what is going on when it comes to campaigns. Their latest email update includes a section about the current primary races. However, their analysis of the primary races is all wrong. The only thing they did get right in their latest email is this:
In about three weeks, the first -- and probably the most important -- phase of the 2006 elections take place: the Sept. 19 primaries. And while everyone's been paying attention to the race for governor, some of the real momentum of state government could be affected at the State House level. And since this is a heavily one-party state (the Republicans can't even sustain a veto) the real action is in the primaries.
Their analysis of the primary races is way off base. They have candidate's positions wrong, endorsements wrong, they are even missing major candidates in some races! I don't want to go into detail. It is better for us if we keep the folks at MassResistance in the dark.
I am not worried about MassResistance getting involved in these races. They always hurt themselves and the candidates they are working for more than they help.
Two years ago, when 16 year incumbent Vinnie Ciampa lost his seat in the primary election to Carl Sciortino, MassResistance got involved in Ciampa's sticker campaign to win his seat back in the general election. Ciampa had little chance of winning his sticker campaign, but MassResistance really did him in. It is because the anti-gay group is so far out of touch with reality and obsessed with homosexuality.
They mailed a hateful flyer to all the voters in the district smearing Carl Sciortino. The flyer accused Carl of being an "anti-catholic militant homosexual activist".
The MassResistance anti-gay flyer really made sure that Vinnie Ciampa lost his seat for good. I know this because on election day I worked the polls for Carl. (The photo above is from the general election two years ago. Carl Sciortino is in the center, facing the camera, talking with supporters while nearby campaign workers hold signs for Vincent Ciampa. I am on the right holding the sign. Photo credit: Boston Globe)

For 14 hours straight I stood in front of a polling place in Medford. The Ciampa campaign workers were handing out Ciampa stickers to voters. They were telling voters to place the sticker on the ballot to re-elect Ciampa and mentioning that "Carl is a fag". At one point a Ciampa poll worker started yelling at me. He called me a fag and asked me, "does Carl give it to you in the ass?" All of this took place in front of ordinary people going in to vote. It was the most contentious election day of my life.
I was handing out a pamphlet for Carl and telling people that they didn't need to use the stickers to vote for the Democrat because he was already on the ballot.
The truth is that many people said to me that they had planned on voting for Vinnie Ciampa until they got the MassResistance mailing. Voters found the mailing offensive and hateful.
MassResistance has no idea what issues voters really care about. We will see if they get involved in this election cycle. It might make things more interesting.
Here is my one hint to Brain Camenker and Amy Contrada over at MassResistance: voters don't care about gay marriage. That's all you get! If I give any more campaign advice I'll have to charge.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Primary Elections

Today is the last day to register to vote in the September 19th primary elections.
Primary elections are a great opportunity to elect progressive candidates. Our legislature is filled with Democrats, but that doesn't mean much. Many of the Democrats in our legislature are anti-choice, anti-immigrant, anti-equality representatives. They are so-called "social conservatives". These conservative Democrats must go!
We can use primary elections to unseat these social conservatives and replace them with progressive Democrats. Only a handful of dedicated party voters actually vote in primary elections. Most of these races will be won with just 2000 votes!
The primary election is the best time to fill our legislature with more progressive voices. This is the only time we have this chance. The general election is when we need to protect our progressive voices from their Republican challengers. However, if we don't get progressives elected in the primary election, we can't protect them in the general election.
MassAlliance has a list of progressive candidates that we need to get elected in the September 19th primary elections. Take a minute to look at this list. Find a campaign close to you and ask them what you can do.
This is absolutely the very best way to create a more progressive state legislature. Act now because there is less than three weeks until the election!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Equality Federation

The Equality Federation is in Boston right now holding its Summer Meeting. This four day meeting brings in directors, board members, and organizers from LGBT organizations across the country.
The Equality Federation is made up of LGBT groups from each state in the country. Click here to see the list of state groups.
here are representatives from national LGBT groups and over 40 state organizations here to attend the meeting. I had the opportunity to attend some of the events and meet other organizers and activists from around the country. It is interesting to hear what other state organizations are doing and how they are set up.
According to the Equality Federation:
More than ever before, state governments are making laws on the issues that impact our daily lives, from hate violence to employment and housing discrimination; from student harassment to adoption and foster care; and from domestic partnership benefits to the freedom to marry.
State organizing remains severely under researched, under resourced and understaffed. Only a handful of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender statewide groups have annual budgets of over $100,000.
The Federation has become one of the main vehicles for helping state groups to address these issues. One of the most valuable roles the Federation has played in strengthening statewide organizing has been the networking opportunity afforded to state activists. Long-lasting r
elationships formed between group leaders have facilitated the exchange of critical ideas and information on successful organizing, lobbying, and fund raising models existing in other states.
I had the opportunity to attend some workshops in the Equality Federation Summer Meeting. Workshops are varied with topics such as, "Beyond the LGBT Agenda: Making Human Rights Our Fight", "Safe Schools and Youth", "Hate Crimes Laws and Anti-Violence Programs", "Successful Lobbying Strategies", "Adoption and Foster Care", "NonDiscrimination Laws and Policies" and many more.
I presented the workshop on door-to-door
canvassing. I explained what we have been doing in Massachusetts and what has worked for us. Canvassing can be a great tool for identifying supporters and persuading people that are unsure of how they feel about LGBT issues to come to our side.
Every state is facing different issues. In Massachusetts we have had laws preventing employment and housing discrimination based on sexual orientation for years. We are able to adopt children. We have had safe-schools programs for LGBT youth for more than a decade. We have the right to legally marry.
Most of the state organizations in the Equality Federation are working to pass basic anti-discrimination laws. Laws that would ban employment and housing discrimination based on sexual orientation. Many states are working to promote safe-schools programs. Some states, in addition to these other issues, are working to obtain equal marriage rights.
It is important to share what we have done in Massachusetts and learn what needs to be done in other states. Cheers to the Equality Federation.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Stonewall Veteran

I have been spending a lot of time on Cape Cod recently. Half of my time there has been vacationing in Provincetown. The other half of my time has been spent organizing in the 1st Barnstable district, which consists of Brewster, Dennis, and Yarmouth.

The current freshman legislator in the district, Cleon Turner, is running for re-election. Turner has been a good friend of the gay community since elected two years ago. His republican challenger, Dick Neitz, is the same guy who ran against him two years ago. Neitz is a strong opponent of marriage equality and LGBT rights. He has actually compared gays and lesbians to animals.

This district is extremely conservative. Representative Turner won by only 400 votes in the last election. I have been spending a lot of my time making sure that he gets re-elected.

One of the people on the cape who I had the pleasure of meeting is David Bermudez. David is a Stonewall Veteran. He was there the night the police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City. David was part of the rebellion that started the gay movement. He is one of about 30 Stonewall Veterans that are still living today. I had a chance to hear about the night of the raid and the following events.

David told me that on the night of June 27th, 1969 he was mourning the death of the gay icon Judy Garland. She was being buried that night and everyone was feeling down. David was out with his friends and decided to go to their usually hangout, the Stonewall Inn. He said that the Stonewall was raided by police on a regular basis.

David showed up at Stonewall around 12:30 in the morning. No one had any idea what was about to happen. An hour later David was standing near the rear of the bar. He noticed smoke near the entrance. At first he thought there was a fire. He told his friends that they had better get out of the bar.

The next thing he knew he was being hit and starting punching back. David explained to me that when the police raided the bar, as they had done so many times before, they started to rough up some of the guys. He said that the drag queens started pushing the cops back. This started the fight. People who usually would not fight back were so upset over the death of Judy Garland that they decided they were not going to take it anymore.

David started to make his way to the front of the bar. He realized that the smoke was not from a fire, it was tear gas used by the police. He was being hit by police and had to punch his way out the door. Once he made it outside, he met his friends at the park across the street. They watched as the police patty wagons pulled up. The police started hauling people away. The rebellion continued for the next few days.
There are no pictures from the five days of the rebellion because the media completely ignored the entire event. There have been a couple of documentaries made about Stonewall. There was even a movie, titled Stonewall, made in 1995 based on the actual events. The film is excellent.

Today David lives with his husband Bob on Cape Cod. David and Bob have been together for over thirty years. They were legally married in 2004. Both David and Bob are very involved in politics to this day.

David is a member of the Stonewall Veterans Association. He and his partner marched at the front of New York City's gay pride parade last year as the first Stonewall Veteran to legally marry. It was an honor to meet them both.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Stand By Our Man

Recently news broke in the gay community that Bill Conley, a lobbyist for Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, was arrested for allegedly soliciting sexual favors through the Internet. The anti-gay group, MassResistance, has been attacking Bill since the news broke. When I first heard this news I did not feel that it was my place to comment on it. However, when I saw that it was on the front page of Bay Windows this week, I knew that I could not stay silent.
TakeMassAction fully supports Bill Conley during this tough time.

Bill has been a tirelessly advocate for our community. He has worked for LGBT rights for over twenty years. Because of his work we are free to be open and honest about who we are without the fear of being fired from our jobs or evicted from our homes. We are able to adopt children. It is illegal to discriminate against us in Massachusetts. Thanks in part to Bill's work, even with a huge campaign and millions of dollars against us, we are able to legally marry.
Most importantly to me is the work Bill has done in protecting gay youth. He has saved countless young lives. As a member of the Governor's Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth, Bill has made schools safer for all students.
I was able to come out in my high school when I was 14 years old. My school had a gay/straight alliance that made me feel safe enough to be honest about who I am. As in most high schools, there was a lot of homophobia in my school. However, because we had a gay/straight alliance, we had a way to deal with that homophobia. We were able educate to students and faculty. We were able to make life better for everyone.
That is exactly what Bill Conley has been doing for over twenty years; making life better for those who will come after him. That is what he has done for me, and all of us.
We have all made mistakes. Let's look at what really counts. Bill is a hero in our community. Let's do what is right. Let's stand by our man.