Thursday, May 31, 2007

Boston Pride Straying from its Routes

Boston Pride week begins this Friday with the Flag Raising Ceremony at Boston City Hall. This event marks the starts of a week filled with events to celebrate LGBT pride. The biggest event of the year for the LGBT community, the Boston Pride Parade, will take place on Saturday, June 9. The LGBT Pride Parade is the biggest parade in the city of Boston all year. The last event of the day is a "Military Ball".

There has been much controversy in the LGBT community over this years pride theme: Ask. Tell. Proud to Serve Our Community, Our Country, Our World.

I do not understand why the Boston Pride Committee chose a military theme for this years pride. It doesn't make sense, especially because we are in the midsts of a very unpopular war.

Interestingly enough, the first Boston Pride Parade began during another very unpopular war. In fact, Boston pride began with "a few dozen lesbians and gay men marching as part of a Vietnam War protest".

It troubles me that Boston pride has strayed so far from its roots. The LGBT community was a very active component of the anti-war movement of the 1970s. The first pride parades had strong anti-war sentiments to them. These early LGBT activists laid the foundation for all the advances that we have made in LGBT rights in Massachusetts.

The book Routes of Pride "traces the evolution of the Boston Pride celebration - from a few dozen lesbians and gay men marching as part of a Vietnam War protest, to a massive celebration that often draws more than 100,000 participants."

Identifying as LGBT does not mean that
you must be liberal, progressive, or anti-war. The LGBT community is made up of liberals and conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, and every other political ideology out there. However, as a movement, our community has a history of activism; not just against homophobia, but also against racism, poverty, oppression and war.
What would the early pioneers of the LGBT movement think of a pride theme that celebrates militarism?

Honor the brave men and woman who fought for our rights before us. Wear pink at Boston Pride events to show solidarity with the coalition.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Both Sides Testify At Hearing

State House hearing room B-1 was filled with citizens waiting to testify against and in support of a number of bills. The room was packed with close to a hundred people. Most of the usual anti-gay characters showed up to testify against the Health Education bill (S288) and a few in favor of MassResistance's Parental Notification bill (S321).

Check out the umbrella organization supporting the Health Education bil
l: Coalition Advocating Responsible Education for Youth.

There were some interesting arguments against the Health Education bill. One woman compared the bill to eating brownies that contained dog excrement. There were a few people who argued that god would not want health education taught in our schools.

Action League executive director, C.J. Doyle, testified in favor of the MassResistance parental notification bill. He claimed that teaching students about condoms would violate the rights of Catholic parents because of their religious beliefs. Senator Augustus, Vice Chair of the Joint Committee on Education, mentioned that there are a few very conservative sects of Islam that believe women are inferior to men. The Senator then asked Doyle if teaching that "girls are equal to boys" would violate the rights of those parents. Doyle, understanding the point that Senator Augustus was making, couldn't answer the question.

Tom Lang, co-founder of testified that, if the Parental Notification bill were to become law, students would need to have a signed permission slip in order to be taught the truth about important figures in history that were gay or lesbian; such as Gertrude Stein, Alan Turing, Michelangelo or Leonardo da Vinci. Students would even need parental permission to discuss the fact that victims of the holocaust included homosexuals.

Brian Camenker of MassResistance testified in favor of his anti-gay bill. He declared that everything from lesbianism to pansexuality to “bondage and discipline” and sado-masochism to bestiality is being taught in public schools across the Commonwealth. Camenker, responding to Lang's testimony, denied that homosexuals were ever a target of the Nazis. He claimed that homosexuals were not among the victims of the holocaust.

Representative Wolf, a strong ally to the LGBT community, stated that homosexuals were targeted by the Nazis and victims of the holocaust. Camenker continued to deny the facts. He would like to see any trace of LGBT history, good or bad, disappear from the history books.

Members of the committee questioned the opt-in aspect of the parental notification bill. Senator Augustus mentioned that opt-in, rather than opt-out, could harm students who have parents that do not take an interest in their children's schooling one way or another. These parents may not sign permission slips, leaving the student left out of health class discussions about safe sex or drug abuse.

It doesn't look like MassResistance's anti-gay bill will go very far. However, with nearly half of the legislature sponsoring the Health Education bill, it looks like it has a good chance at coming up for a vote.

Friday, May 25, 2007

TAKE ACTION: Public Hearing Tuesday on Anti-Gay Bills

On Tuesday, May 29, there will be a number of anti-gay bills taken up at a hearing at the State House in front of the Education Committee. The public is encouraged to come and testify in front of the committee. [If you can not attend the hearing, you can submit written testimony to the committee.]

When: Tuesday, May 29 @ 1:00 pm
State House, Room A1

The anti-gay group, MassResistance, is making a big push to get people to this hearing. Their infamous "Parent Rights Bill" will be taken up at this hearing.

This is one nasty bill. To start, this bill, AN ACT regarding parental notification and consent S321, would change the current parental notification bill. The current bill states that parents can opt their children out of any portion of curriculum that involves "human sexual education or human sexuality issues".

Chapter 71: Section 32A. Sex education; policy regarding notice to parents, exception: Every city, town, regional school district or vocational school district implementing or maintaining curriculum which primarily involves human sexual education or human sexuality issues shall adopt a policy ensuring parental/guardian notification. Such policy shall afford parents or guardians the flexibility to exempt their children from any portion of said curriculum through written notification to the school principal.

MassResistance's new bill seeks to add the language "
alternative sexual behavior" after the words "human sexual education or human sexuality issues". The bills then goes on to state:

The term “alternative sexual behavior” means homosexuality, bisexuality, lesbianism,
transsexuality, transgenderism, cross-dressing, pansexuality, promiscuity, sodomy, pederasty, prostitution, oral sex, anal sex, masturbation, polygamy, polyandry, sex re-assignment treatments, “bondage and discipline”, sado-masochism, bestiality, and similar behaviors. It also includes issues and relationships deriving from those behaviors, including but not limited to “sexual orientation”, and alternative family, parenting, and marriage constructs.

Wow. That is quite the definition! Pay close attention the the last sentence. Like I said, this truly is one nasty bill.

Wait, there's more! The bill would add this language:

All such school programs shall be offered only in clearly identified non-mandatory elective courses or activities in which parents or guardians may choose to enroll their children through written notification to the school, in a manner reasonably similar to other elective courses or activities offered by the school district.

This of course means that there will be no discussion of LGBT issues in health class, history class, english class, or any other class that is part of the general curriculum.

The bill then defines the term "
school programs":

The term “school program” means any school sanctioned activity, or portion thereof, whether on or off campus, whether during or outside school hours, whether organized, presented or directed by school employees, agents of the school, students, volunteers, or others. This shall include, but not be limited to classes, curriculum, assemblies, outside speakers, workshops, clubs, exhibits, private or non-private counseling sessions, ‘teachable moments’, reading assignments, videos, posters, displays, and handouts. It shall not include spontaneous student-initiated conversations among themselves.

Notice that the term "school programs" includes "teachable moments" as well as "posters, displays, and handouts". The last sentence is almost comical as it states that the definition "
shall not include spontaneous student-initiated conversations among themselves."

This bill would change the law from opt-out to opt-in. This would mean that any student who would like to attend a meeting of their school's Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA) would need a permission slip signed by their parent or guardian.

Many of the students that attend GSAs are not out to their parents. This may be because they are not ready to come out, or because their parents would kick them out of the house if they were to come out. The GSA clubs in schools provide a safe place for LGBT students and their allies to meet. These clubs have been proven to reduce the rate of LGBT teen suicide.

The Gay/Straight Alliance at my school helped me accept my own homosexuality at a time when I felt that no one could possibly understand how I felt. After gaining support from other members in the club at my school, I came out to my parents. If I needed to have my parents sign a permission slip in order for me to attend a meeting of the GSA, I am not sure what I would have done. I probably never would have been to a meeting of the GSA club.

That is exactly what MassResistance is trying to do!

The last part of this new bill is relative to surveys conducted in school. The Department of Education conducts surveys in schools for various reasons. Information gathered from these surveys are used to determine what is needed in our schools.

It is this survey that provides us with the information about LGBT teen suicide, violence, and feeling unsafe in school. This survey proves that students who describe themselves as gay or lesbian (the survey does not include bisexual or transgender) are:
  • Over four times more likely to have attempted suicide in the past year
  • Over four times more likely to have missed school in the past month because of feeling unsafe
  • Almost twice as likely to have been injured or threatened with a weapon at school.
The information that this survey provides is proof that we need funding for Gay/Straight Alliances in our schools. That is exactly why MassResistance wants to do away with these surveys with this last part of their bill:

No student in any public elementary or secondary school shall be requested or required to submit to a survey, analysis, or evaluation that reveals information concerning: (1) political affiliations; (2) mental and psychological problems potentially embarrassing to the student or his family; (3) sexual behavior and attitudes; (4) illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating and demeaning behavior; (5) feelings of victimization; (6) suicide or self-abuse; (7) birth control or abortion; (8) critical appraisals of other individuals with whom respondents have close family relationships; (9) legally recognized privileged or analogous relationships, such as those with lawyers, physicians and ministers; or (10) income without the prior written consent of the parent or guardian.

As you can see, this is one hateful and extremely hurtful bill. On Tuesday, May 29, MassResistance will pack the hearing room with its supporters who will testify in favor of this awful bill. We need to be there as well.

We need to testify against this bill. Did you have a gay/straight alliance in your high school? Did your health class ever discuss LGBT issues? Did you have any LGBT signs, posters, or assemblies in your school? If so, write a letter on how they affected your experience in school.

If you cannot attend the hearing in person, you can submit written testimony to the committee.

There is also a good bill that will be taken up at the hearing on Tuesday. This bill,
AN ACT to provide health education in schools S288, would add health education as a requirement for graduation. Can you believe that health education is not already a requirement for graduation?

There is a lot of good parts to this bill. Check out Planned Parenthood's website for more information about this bill. You can also take a look at why MassResistance hates this bill and wants people to testify against it.

Come to the State House on Tuesday, May 29 and testify against the horrible MassResistance anti-gay bill and testify in favor of the health education bill.

If you plan on attending the hearing, bring written testimony to submit to the committee. If you can not attend the hearing, send written testimony to the committee.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Openly Gay State Senator, Jarret Barrios, Poised to Retire

Senator Jarrett Barrios, the only openly gay member of the Massachusetts Senate, is leaving the Senate to take a job with The Blue Cross Foundation. The foundation promotes health coverage in Massachusetts.

Senator Barrios is one of only five openly gay members in the Massachusetts Legislature, which consists of two hundred members. The other openly gay legislators are Representative Liz Malia, Representative Cheryl Coakley-Rivera, Representative Carl Sciortino, and Representative Sarah Peake.

Senator Barrios has been an outspoken advocate for safe schools legislation, domestic violence prevention, and same-sex marriage. He has been a leading voice in the Senate for LGBT rights. He will be missed.

Protect Funding for LGBT Suicide Prevention and Domestic Violence

Please call your Senator today and ask them to support these amendments to the budget.

Line item number 7010-0005: LGBT Youth Suicide Prevention Services - Amendment for $50,000

This program funds suicide prevention programs in the Department of Education. In the most recent survey conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Education, more than 40% of the LGBT youth reported that they had attempted suicide.

Line item number 4513-1130: LGBT Domestic Violence Program - Amendment for $92,000

This program funds the only LGBT-specific domestic violence program in the Commonwealth. LGBT couples have the same rate of domestic violence as heterosexual couples. Currently, this line-item is level-funded at $158,000 from FY 07 in both the House and Senate budgets. The program needs additional funds to expand their intake beds from 5 to 7. This additional appropriation will allow them to help more victims of domestic violence.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Obsessed with Homosexuality

It is no surprise that Brian Camenker and Amy Contrada, of the anti-gay group MassResistance, are obsessed with homosexuality.

Just by taking a quick glance at their website or their blog you can clearly see that they spend an enormous amount of time and energy documenting every kind of LGBT issue and event that takes place in or around Massachusetts.

They have detailed
photographs, videos, scanned in handouts, and lengthy reports. Their obsession with the LGBT community and it's individuals is, at best, scary.

Take a look at their recent detailed report on Massachusetts LGBT Youth Pride.

Pay attention to the pictures, the video, the comments, even the words they use. It is a small glimpse inside the minds of two very sick people who are obsessed with homosexuality.

This leads one to wonder why these two people are so obsessed. Why would someone spend all of their time spying on young LGBT people? Why would someone spend hours photographing, documenting, writing, and thinking about homosexuality? Why would someone work so hard to attack LGBT people? I don't know the answers to these questions, but I am reminded of Ted Haggard. I will let you come to your on conclusions there.

Update: QueerToday has a great report on Amy Contrada and her actions at Youth Pride.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Governor, Senate President, and House Speaker Join Hands in Support of Marriage Equality

Governor Deval Patrick surprised the crowd in Nurses Hall at the State House yesterday. The Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry organized the event to celebrate the three year anniversary of marriage equality.

During the rally, the Governor, the Speaker of the House, and the Senate President made an impromptu appearance. They were greeted with thunderous applaud by marriage equality supporters. Massachusetts's three most powerful people joined hands and raised them high as supporters cheered them on.

Later in the evening, Governor Patrick spoke at an anniversary celebration hosted by MassEquality. The Governor presented a proclamation declaring May 17th Equal Marriage Day in the Commonwealth.

During the celebration,
MassEquality released their new ad campaign. See the new ads here.

Check out pictures from the Three Year Anniversary of Marriage Equality Celebration here.