Tuesday, May 30, 2006

NY: An update from Daniel and Curtis

I just got this from Daniel, who - along with his partner Curtis - will be among the couples asking the New York Court of Appeals tomorrow to honor their desire to form a family by allowing them to marry:

Dear Friends,


Curtis and I wanted to give you an update on our marriage case. Hernandez v. Robles has been consolidated with other marriage cases throughout New York State and we will have our day in the state's highest court, the New York State Court of Appeals, on Wednesday, May 31, 2006, in Albany. As our journey to seek marriage equality draws to a conclusion, I can say we are feeling several emotions, but most of all, nervous.

As many of you who live in the city are aware there have articles about one of the justices recusing himself. While there has been speculation about why he has recused himself, we have decided not to exert energy on speculation. Ultimately, what that means is that the court is pared down to 6 justices which leaves the case open to a 3-3 split decision. In the event of this occurrence, the final decision could be put off for some time. A split vote would require the court to call in another justice from the appellate division to sit in on the proceedings. This could require oral arguments to be re-heard all over again. In the best case scenario, a decision could be rendered by the end of June.

While we could go on about the political reasons for why we should be allowed to marry, it really has not been about that for us. Quite frankly we are astonished that we have placed our relationship under such a public light. We want to have the right to marry because we love each other and we want our relationship protected under the law, just like every other committed opposite sex couple. For us, the matter has been about respect and equality. It continues to frustrate us that we have to explain in depth the reasons for why we should be allowed to marry, when with the stroke of a pen an impetuous pop star can be fully and legally married and then proceed to dissolve the marriage hours later (Anyone remember Brittany?) What could be more a slap in the face to committed couples who have been together for years and struggle every day to protect their relationship? Curtis and I have been lucky that the hurdles we've had to overcome have been relatively minor, but what happens when luck runs out? And why should the protection and recognition of our relationship have to rely on luck?

As we head into court, we are trying to remain hopeful and positive under stressful conditions, but as most of you may recall, the justices at the appellate division were openly hostile to our attorney. It was difficult to watch especially knowing that we were at the center of the hostility. Knowing what we know now, we are bracing for a similar exchange at the high court.

We will continue to keep you posted and we ask that you keep not only us in your thoughts, but also the other 40+ couples in New York state who have placed their relationships on the line for equality.

Warmest wishes,
Daniel & Curtis

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Stumble

While I'm away for the weekend, why don't you just Stumble?

Friday, May 26, 2006

Peru: Anti-homophobia candle light vigil planned for May 30th

May 31, 2006: Day against violence and hate crimes committed against sexual minorities

HOMOPHOBIA KILLS

Vigil

Tuesday, May 30, 2006
starting at 8pm

Starting place:
Merced Church plaza
Cdra. 5 Jr. de la Union
Cercado de Lima

Closing ceremony:
Commemorative ceremony
Paseo de los Heroes
In front of the Justice Palace

IF ALL SHINE EQUALLY AS BRIGHT, WHY DO YOU SNUFF ONE OUT?

Organized by: Proyecto Experiencia - Art Against Stigma and Discrimination (Public Health Faculty of the Cayetanc Heredia Peruvian University). Co-sponsored by: MOHL, TLGB Peruvian Network, PROMSEX, GALF, LGBT activists and artistic and theatre activists.

Design and photography: Claudia Hermosilla / Mona Herbe

Thursday, May 25, 2006

As if I haven't blogged enough today: British leather pup missing in MA

Word came my way today that the Lynn Police Department in Massachussetts is seeking information about the dissapearance of Adrian Alun Dennis Exley (above).

Exley arrived from Great Britain at Logan International Airport in Boston on April 20th, 2006, headed to Lynn where he met an acquaintance, and then disappeared four days later, on April 24th, when he took a train back to Boston.

On a leather site, his profile now reads:
ADRIAN HAS BEEN MISSING. HE DID NOT RETURN FROM A TRIP TO BOSTON (USA). HIS FRIENDS AND FAMILY ARE VERY WORRIED. IF YOU KNOW WHERE THIS GUY IS PLEASE ASK HIM TO CONTACT HOME OR TEXT OR TELEPHONE ME ( HIS FRIEND IN THE UK ) ON UK MOBILE XXXXXX OR HIS SISTER ON UK MOBILE XXXXXXX. WE MISS HIM, AND DESPARATLY NEED TO KNOW HE IS SAFE AND WELL. [Editor's note: Phone numbers have been removed in light of the updates below]
Here's to Adrian being found safe from harm!

UPDATES:

Gay rugby takes over the Big Apple

I've known for months that come Memorial Day Weekend New York would be the host city for this year's Bingham Cup (named for gay rugby player Mark Bingham, who died on 9/11 on the plane that crashed in the fields of Pennsylvania).

The event, which brings together a bunch of gay rugby clubs for a three day international tournament, also includes a women's division. Matches will be held at Randall's Island starting tomorrow and through the weekend. They are open to the public and are free.

I was looking forward to attending some of the games and maybe say hi to some of the guys I know from the San Francisco Fog and New York's own Gotham Knights (pictured above at the 2002 Heritage of Pride march). Alas, I just found out that I will be out of the city this whole weekend.

At the very least, I don't see any teams from Argentina in the tournament so I'm pretty sure that it's not as if I'll miss out on a chance to meet, say, Luisma Molinari.

You Tube: I Can't Get No Sleep

Masters at Work featuring India: I Can't Get No Sleep.

Their alter ego, Nuyorican Soul, will be introducing percussionist Luisito Quintero at the Hiro Ballroom this coming Tuesday.

As for La India, she has had tremendous success in the past but her last CD, Soy Diferente, hasn't gotten much play despite a duet with Raggaeton royalty Queen Ivy and a new sound that this reviewer called "salsaton."

And about "I Can't Get No Sleep," well, what can I say? It certainly takes me back a few years when I had just arrived in New York City and used to hang in the West Village piers. Blink and you'll miss some of the gals and guys from the legendary House of Extravaganza performing in the background.

Noticed: Pam's Blend, UN status, foreigner in Colombia, the men of Dominica

Fellow blogger Pam Spaulding gets a nice write up in last Friday's issue of the Washington Blade. Her blog, Pam's House Blend, is an interesting blend of politics, LGBT rights news, feminist commentary and musings on how skin color and hair get played through media - and society.

Last week, I was glad to find out that the United States had back-tracked on a shameful vote in January in which they joined countries such as China and Iran in blocking two international LGBT organizations, ILGA and LBL, from being considered for consultative status to the United Nation. On May 17th,
ILGA Europe and Germany's LSVD were also denied consultative status but this time the United States voted in favor of the LGBT organizations. What came as a surprise in reading this Blade article was that Colombia switched from abstaining the last time around to also supporting the LGBT organizations (yay for Colombia!). They joined Chile, France, Germany, Peru and Romania who had been previously supportive. Against consultative status? African nations Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Senegal, Sudan and Zimbabwe as well as China, Iran, Pakistan and the Russian Federation (India and Turkey abstained and Cuba, which voted against the LGBT organizations in January, was absent at last week's vote). In February, Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA), had sent a letter to Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe expressing his disappointment in the earlier votes. Last week Frank told the Blade that he was pleased but that additional pressure was needed to secure consultative status for these organizations in the future.

Speaking of Colombia, we've been checking out Sangroncito's World as of late. The self-described "compulsive traveler" arrived in Bogota on Monday and has been blogging about his experiences. We're not so sure what to think of his indulgence in some of the younger men he meets during his time abroad, including some beautiful Brazilian hustlers on his last trip, but it's interesting to see a foreigner discover the country I love so much through his eyes. I hope he doesn't mind me also sharing a link to his Colombia photo album on flckr.

Speaking about beautiful boys, Anthony Montgomery, who graciously linked to this site a while back, truly gives you a view of the vibrant gay social life that exists nowadays in the Dominican Republic through his blog. Recently, he has also been featuring some glorious images of Dominican men as captured by photographer Paul Culver (including Cesar, above). For more of life in DR and those men, check out Anthony's blog, Monaga. There is also a lot more on architecture in Santo Domingo, travel to the island and Dominican club life as well.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Play in the Sunshine: NYC outdoor concert highlights for summer of 2006

Summerstage has arrived, check the full schedule here (some highlights acording to yours truly):

Not enough? Well, you can always check the shows at Brooklyn's Prospect Park Bandshell Stage, including Nortec Collective (July 15), and Los Amigos Invisibles (August 4); or the smaller Madison Square Park where the great Me'shell Ndegeocello (pictured above) will perform on June 21st. Over at the Lincoln Center you have vocal house legend Martha Wash on June 15th (also not a freebie but we must pay respect to our house foundations).

As for the Annual Clubhouse Jamboree in Prospect Park (which last year had us grooving to DJ Spinna and the amazing Barbara Tucker), word is that it will take place, so look for updates.

Take it from Ms. Barrington: Bermuda in dire need of a gay community center

Take it from Ms. Sybil Barrington: "Bermuda is in dire need of a gay and lesbian centre where homosexuals could go for counseling and education."

In yesterday's Bermuda Sun, Ms. Barrington, also known as Mark Anderson when not in drag (pictured right), talks about teens in the Caribbean island who are struggling with their identity and have nowhere to go for support, counseling or advice.

The Sun says that Mr. Anderson was in the headlines last week when some objected to his alter ego, Ms. Barrington, being named as "Queen of the Gombeys" for the annual Bermuda Heritage Day Parade.

In yesterday's The Royal Gazette, there is also a lengthy profile of Mr. Anderson, who was born and currently lives in Bermuda, but has also recently performed at Sylvia's Restaurant in Harlem and other New York City clubs. He talks of perhaps bringing Harmonica Sunbeam to perform with him at an upcoming presentation scheduled for late June at City Hall and of his ultimate dream to perform with legend Patti LaBelle at the Bermuda Music Festival, where she is scheduled to appear.

Breaking News: Costa Rican court ratifies same-sex marriage ban

EFE is reporting that Costa Rica's Constitutional Court has ruled, in a 5-2 vote, that same-sex couples do not have the right to marry and that the country's Family Code does not violate their rights by establishing marriage as being that between a man and a woman.

The ruling is a defeat for gay attorney Yashin Castrillo, who asked the court to allow him to marry his partner.

UPDATE: In today's Al Dia, Pablo Guerén Catepillán and Paula Chinchilla report that, in the majority opinion, the Court determined that "there are no legal impediments for gays living together and [that] the ban instituted in the questioned norm only refers specifically to the institution of marriage."

Nevertheless, they also indicated that more could be done to recognize same-sex partnerships arguing that, in Costa Rica, there is an absence of "an appropriate norm to regulate these type of unions, specially if they bring conditions of stability and loyalty."

They also urged the country's Justice Department to establish rights and responsibilities that would better define same-sex partnerships.

Not surprisingly the current government welcomed the ruling (they had argued against recognition of same-sex marriages during the recent court hearing on the issue): Justice Minister Laura Chinchilla said that it was a balanced decision that kept the institution of marriage available only to heterosexual couples while "reiterating the rights derived from civil partnerships between couples of the same sex."

As for Mr. Castrillo, in statements made last night, he stated that the court had shown arrogance by "establishing the superiority of heterosexuals" and pledged to take case before the Inter-American Human Rights Court.

Finally, while both EFE and Al Dia report that the two judges that voted to allow marriages between same-sex couples did so while denying that gay couples should have the right to adopt, Diario Extra says that Judge Adrian Vargas Benavides voted not only in favor of the right to marry but also for the right to adopt.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Advocate: "We Too are Immigrants"

The current print issue of The Advocate (with the polygamy cover story) has three articles on the LGBT community and immigration rights.

In "We Too are Immigrants," Todd Henneman takes a look at LGBT immigrants and LGBT participation in the recent immigration rights marches. All in all a good article - and not just because I am quoted - but unfortunately it perpetuates the falsehood that it's just a Latino/Mexican thing (Herb Sosa from Miami's Unity Coalition and Oscar De La O from Bienestar in California are also interviewed, as well as some community members caught in the legislative cross-fire).

In "Thick and Thin for Binational Couples" (no online access available to the article), Neal Broveman looks at an upcoming documentary by Sebastian Cordoba on the issue of immigration rights being denied to binational same-sex couples in the United States. It was produced by Lavi Soloway and features my great friend Emilio and his partner Tom (pictured above).

Finally, in "Fear and Loafing," Editor-in-Chief Bruce C. Steele ponders what the LGBT rights movement should learn from the immigration rights demonstrations.

UPDATES:

Saturday, May 20, 2006

AI: Nicaragua should strike down sodomy statute

On Wednesday, several people affiliated with Amnesty International staged demonstrations outside the Nicaraguan embassies in several Latin American cities calling for the repeal of Article 204 of Nicaragua's Penal Code which says:
Those who commit crimes of sodomy or induce, promote, propagate or practice any form of copulation between people of the same sex will be subject to suffer a penalty of from one to three years in prison
Over on his blog, Dani has compiled a nice group of photos taken at demos in Peru (see above), Uruguay, Chile and Mexico as well as the text of the Amnesty International call to action (Thanks to Daniel Soto for the heads-up).

Frugal Splurging

It has been six months since my Macintosh i-Book laptop died a horrible noisy death on a sunny San Diego day. As those present will attest, I threw one of my few public tantrums and swore I would never touch (or buy) a Mac computer ever again! (Truth be told, I think I was using the moment to vent over life in general as well, so - yes - it was truly a "moment").

Now, I actually do not spend that much money on too much stuff (except perhaps music) but the passage of time has healed some of the Mac-hate (truth be told, deep inside, I'm a Mac-lovah, not a Mac-hatah).

Bernard seems to be going for the recently unveiled new MacBook, and then there's also Ronn Taylor's minute-by-minute report on tonight's opening of the latest Mac store in Manhattan. But my eye is on the 15" MacBook Pro that is a bit more expensive but Oh! So! Nice! (pictured above). Then there is also the news that Central Park will go WiFi and all of a sudden there seems to be some sort of astral alignment as well.

Should anyone wanna contribute toward my upcoming birthday gift to myself, just leave a reply! (hehe). Then again, let's see how much time I hold off before splurging.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Polk Theatre closes: Last of a dying breed

I wouldn't necessarily say that I am among those that miss the old seedy, dirty, druggy, burlesque version of 42nd Street in Manhattan but this week the Village Voice has an article on the closing of a Queens institution: The Polk Theatre.

The place, which must have been a sight to behold in its Art Deco splendor back in the '30's and '40's, had since become a porn house and fallen into squalor and disrepair.

Those of us who live in the neighborhood might have wanted the place to be renovated and afforded the landmark status that its architecture deserves. Unfortunately, it appears the new owners will probably tear it down to make way for some apartment buildings (a fate that another former Jackson Heights porn house, the Earle, escaped when it became a first-run Indian movie house and was re-named The Eagle, even though it too is in dire need of renovations).

For those who have never been to New York City (or Queens for that matter), the money quote from this week's Voice article is this:
In fact, by early 2006, [the Polk] was one of only three big theaters left where people could watch porn on the big screen in the city.
For a city that is known for its sometimes ribald and racy image, particularly in movies that are set in New York but shot elsewhere ("Phone Booth," et al.), this might come as a surprise to some.

The times, they have'a'changed!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Democratic response on immigration - PUKE!

Ok, so we already knew that tonight's President George W. Bush's address to the nation on immigration issues would be puke-worthty. So maybe we should have expected the Democrats to truly offer an alternative and inclusive message? Here are excerpts from tonight's Democratic response presented by Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois:
Real immigration reform begins with enforcement at the border and in the workplace, but it does not end with enforcement.

During the last decade, we have doubled the number of Border Patrol agents and illegal immigration into the United States has also doubled.

We need a comprehensive, tough and fair approach.

People who have broken our laws should not and will not be rewarded with amnesty. But people who work hard and play by the rules should have a chance to earn their way to legal status if they pay a fine, learn English, pay back taxes and go to the back of the line.

Hm, Republicans, Democrats, where is the difference?

Yay for the FBI

I'm sure a couple of people just spit out their coffee but give some credit when credit is due. Yay for the FBI!

The Smoking Gun has a document that exposes an undercover FBI program "targeting Americans seeking overseas sex tours" focusing on companies that offer trips to the Philipines and Thailand that play up the availability of underage boys and girls

Caught in the red was 58 year-old Florida resident Gary Evans (pictured), who purportedly offered FBI agents, through a fake webiste, ways to expand business into Honduras and Costa Rica.

The sad part is that this is not necessarily ground breaking news and Lord knows that there are many others who do not get caught in these reds but, when it comes to sexual tourism, and specifically the type that involves minors, I am glad that at least someone who did this type of business in Central America might be taken out of business.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Update: Costa Rica's highest court hears challenge to same-sex marriage ban

In Costa Rica: Court to determine constitutionality of marriage for same-sex couples (April 26, 2006), I said that the Costa Rica's Constitutional Court would be holding an open hearing on May 4th to determine if attorney Yashin Castrillo had the right to challenge the constitutionality of language banning recognition of civil marriage for same-sex couples in the country's family code (which says "It is legally impossible matrimony:... 6) Between persons of the same gender").

On May 5th, Diario Extra reported that the seven members of the court sat in absolute silence for two hours while arguments were aired - pro and con - and left without asking a single question.

The paper says that both sides claimed victory after the hearing.

On the side of those arguing that the ban was unconstitutional, Castrillo argued that Costa Rica had to observe international human rights treaties and remove legislation that established limits on equality, liberty expression and emotions: "Today," he told the judges, "it is your turn to judicially recognize that every human being deserves dignity and respect."

Also according to the paper, fellow attorneys Marco Castillo and Rose Mary Madden Arias challenged religious arguments that fomenting procreation was the sole purpose for civil marriage as an institution.

On the side of those arguing that the discriminatory language should remain in the family code, Costa Rica's General Attorney Fernando Castillo argued that the Constitutional Court did not have the standing to determine the constitutionality of banning marriage for same-sex couples and that the language could only be removed by adopting a new constitution. "You cannot claim a right if it has never been given," Castillo argued, "and the Court is blocked from imposing it."

Jorge Fisher, an Evangelical preacher who also testified during the hearing, said "we cannot an institution that was born in God's heart and change it."

Reporter Oscar Rodriguez sates that it's not likely that the Court will simply reject Yashin Castrillo's arguments by throwing his "action of unconstitutionality" out of court but that it might agree with the General Attorney's office that the Court is not able to rule on the issue; or find that while the family code might violate the rights of a minority, the Legislative Assembly is in its rights to establish such violation; or, finally, rule that the Court can rule in the case and does establish that the rights of a certain minority have been violated. "From that moment on," Rodriguez writes, "the State would be obligated of accepting these type of unions."

Diaro Extra had previously reported that the Court would have a month to announce their ruling, although the paper also said that in some circumstances, the court could ask for additional time.

A detail that surprisingly gets left out of most articles I have read on this issue: In an interview shown on a Costa Rica television news station (which was available on the day of the hearing but no longer online), Mr. Castrillo spoke openly about being gay and the fact that he filed his challenge to court after he was denied a license to marry his partner.

UPDATE: Costa Rican court ratifies same-sex marriage ban (May 24, 2006)

A City Hall Meeting on Marriage

In A political experience (March 25, 2006), I shared thoughts about a meeting I attended the day before at Gracie Mansion on the issue of marriage rights for same-sex couples. The meeting, which was called by Mayor Mike Bloomberg and New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, drew some criticism when it turned out that the Director of the state's most-powerful LGBT advocacy organization, Alan Van Capelle of the Empire State Pride Agenda, was asked not to attend.

This morning at a meeting called by Speaker Quinn and held in the Red Room at City Hall two things were different: The Empire State Pride Agenda was present and Mayor Bloomberg was not.

Officially, this was not a follow-up to the Bloomberg meeting but rather to a March 16th Washington, DC meeting that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton convened, which included the Democratic Senate Steering and Outreach Committee, which Alan also attended.

Compared to the Bloomberg meeting, there were also a greater number of people in the room (about fifty people) which included staff members from Senators Clinton and Schumer's office (if not Clinton and Schumer themselves) - and a staffer from Congressman Jerry Nadler's office - along with Senator Tom Duane, Assemblymembers Danny O'Donnell and Deborah Glick, Congressman Anthony Weiner, political consultants Emily Giske and Ethan Geto, representatives from some of the city's political clubs (Gary Parker, Dirk McCall, Brad Hoylman) and LGBT organizations (Richard Burns and Myriam Young from The Center, the great Matt Foreman of NGLTF, Adam Francoeur from Immigration Equality, Joe Tarver and Desma Holcom from the Empire State Pride Agenda, Phyllis Steinberg of PFLAG NYC, Ron Zacchi and Cathy Marino-Thomas of Marriage Equality New York, and Daryl Cochrane from HRC). There were also representatives from the Log Cabin republicans and the organizers of the Staten Island pride parade.

Though not necessarily extensive, there seemed to be obvious efforts to reach to some people of color organizations and leaders including George Gates from People of Color in Crisis, Joey Pressley from the New York AIDS Coalition, Tokes Osubu from Gay Men of African Descent and the National Black Justice Coalition, Charles Rice-Gonzalez from BAAD! as well as I.

Discussion mostly centered on proposed federal legislation to amend the United States Constitution to ban marriage rights for same-sex couples which Senate Majority Leader Bill "M.D." Frist is planning to bring up for yet another vote, since everything else seems to be failing to energize the Republican vote in the upcoming elections.

On the table was also the upcoming May 31st New York State Court of Appeals hearing on whether refusing to let same-sex couples obtain marriage licenses violates state constitution for which several briefs have been filed arguing for the right to marry (over at the Gotham Gazette, reporter Andy Humm has a great breakdown of what is at stake in "Same-sex Marriage Show Down").

I'm proud to say - in a historic first - some of the New York City Latino LGBT grassroots organizations recently joined one of the friend-of-the court briefs filed for the hearing which was submitted by the Empire State Pride Agenda. These include Las Buenas Amigas, the Colombian Lesbian and Gay Association (COLEGA), the Gay and Lesbian Dominican Empowerment Organization (GALDE), Latino Gay men of New York, Mano a Mano and Primer Movimiento Peruano.

Funny, the court hearing is two weeks away and yet - unless you have followed the issue - not that many people out in the street probably know about it. Let's hope that the court, which could rule as early as this summer, will come down on the right side of history.

UPDATE: "Quinn convenes amendment confab" (Gay City News, May 18, 2006)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

You Tube of the day: If you go before me (Live)

One of the most beautiful songs ever: Sananda Maitreya (formerly Terence Trent Darby)'s "If You Go Before Me" (Click on hyperlink). The original is from D'Arby's 1995 excellent CD TTD's Vibrator (what the heck, while at You Tube you might as well check out "Undeniably (Live)," the original being also from the same album).

The Reverend Luis Barrios on Juan Mendez

Today, the New York Daily News (here) and El Diario La Prensa (here) have moving obituaries in honor of Juan Mendez.

Yesterday I also spent some time referring people who were close to Juan to Gay City News which also runs an article on his death in today's edition (you can read in its entirety here).

I was particularly struck by this paragraph:
Father Luis Barrios, pastor of La Iglesia San Romero de Las Americas, a non-denominational church in Washington Heights, remembered that Mendez drew him, a straight Episcopal priest, into LGBT advocacy in 1990 when a transsexual youth named Jesus was murdered on Fordham Road in the Bronx, near the parish, St. Anne’s, where he was then ministering. Barrios celebrated a mass for Jesus at the church and also joined Mendez in pressing the police to classify the murder as a hate crime. Mendez later helped Barrios get a religious column—“from the left perspective”—at El Diario, which he continues to write.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Juan Mendez (1965-2006)

Juan Mendez passed away on May 9 in the early morning hours from heart failure in his Chelsea apartment at the age of 41. He was living with AIDS at the time of his death. Juan was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Mr. Mendez was an award-winning journalist and activist in the LGBT communities of New York and Puerto Rico. He graduated from the Universidad del Sagrado Corazon with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and Communications, and in 1988 decided to pursue a graduate program in Media Studies at the New School for Social Research in Manhattan.

After working as Assistant to the Vice President of Orion Pictures and in response to the mounting AIDS epidemic, he decided to leave this job to work in his community as an AIDS Outreach Worker and Educator for the Lower East Side family Union. He was also a founding member of the Latino Caucus of ACT-UP New York, and among many actions, he was involved in a collaborative effort that resulted in the founding of ACT-UP Puerto Rico and the first ever AIDS protest against the Puerto Rican government and the Puerto Rican Catholic Church. He then worked as Assistant Director of the Homeless Youth Program at the Hetrick Martin Institute and later as Director of the Domestic Violence Program at the NYC Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project. He then joined the newly founded Latino Commission on AIDS as Deputy Director for Policy.


After many years of working in the AIDS/LGBT communities, Mr. Mendez decided to pursue his original calling of working in the media and joined the newly formed staff of the now-defunct El Daily News, the bilingual version of the NY Daily News. Upon the closing of the paper, Mr. Mendez was approached by the Empire State Pride Agenda and became the organization's Communication Director.

He later was hired by EI Diario-La Prensa, where he wrote the paper's bilingual editorials, edited the opinion page and later became the paper's entertainment editor. After several years at EI Diario, Mr. Mendez joined the team of Latina Magazine, as entertainment editor. He did many of the magazines celebrity cover interviews, including the first major interview with pop sensation Christina Aguilera. After two years at the magazine, Juan was approached by the Univision Company and relocated to Miami to work as editor of the film section of Univision.com.

He returned to New York in 2002 where he worked as Communications and Press for the Latino Commission on AIDS, focusing on the Commission's annual fundraiser Cielo Latino and was instrumental in the Commission's crystal meth prevention program targeting Latino gay and bisexual men. He served on the Board of Directors of GALDE (the Gay and Lesbian Dominican Empowerment Organization) and PRIDE (Puerto Rican Initiative to Develop Empowerment). Dennis deLeon, President of the Latino Commission on AIDS said, "Juan was one of the most imaginative and committed activists against homophobia and HIV/AIDS in all communities we have ever known. He was one of the best media gurus our community had." Mr. Mendez is survived by his mother, two sisters, a brother and long time friend Kent Johnson.


VIEWING & MEMORIALS

There will be a viewing tomorrow Thursday, May 11th from 4pm to 9pm. For details please call the La Paz Funerary at 718 585-0699. Two memorial services are being held: The first is also taking place tomorrow night from 7-9pm at the Bronx Lesbian & Gay Health Resource Consortium (BLGHRC). A second memorial service - which is being organized by family and friends to honor his wishes to celebrate his life joyfully - will be held at a future date.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Some history: ACT UP Latino

Someone I know died this morning. At times he was a co-worker and a fellow Latino LGBT and HIV/AIDS awareness activist. For a while, he was also gone, finding work in the communication field which drew him away from the non-profit sector and New York City. And then, he returned, and - though we were never close - at least it gave us a chance to reconnect.

Today, as I sought to inform people in the community about his passing, I was trying to find ways to convey just how important Juan Mendez had been to the community and, doing some online research, I found the following link which begins to tell the story. By no means a comprehensive look at history, but an indication of why Juan should be mourned by the LGBT community as a whole in the United States:

ACT UP Oral History


Read the interview with Moises Agosto for actions involving Juan Mendez in the early 1990's when both were part of the Latino Caucus of ACT UP. Read the interview with Robert Vazquez Pacheco for further commentary on the involvement of LGBT Latinos in ACT UP.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Update: Homophobic boxers KO'd




In Latino boxers and gay paranoia (March 1, 2006), I noted the escalating war of words between adversaries in two upcoming boxing matches and how two Nicaraguan boxers, Rosendo Alvarez and Ricardo Mayorga (both managed by US-based boxing figure Don King) were both using press events to question their adversaries' sexuality, using the Spanish word for "faggot" and generally questioning their rivals' sexual proess and masculinity. Obviously, this is boxing, so it must be said that most of these confrontations during press conferences seem to be staged for maximum scandal (and to draw interest to the fights) but, according to reports, the blatant homophobia was starting to truly annoy Oscar De La Hoya, who faced Ricardo Mayorga last night.

The pictures above tell the story, De La Hoya knocked-out Mayorga in the 6th round, after which he accepted Mayorga's appology for what had been said leading up to the fight.

As for Rosendo Alvarez? He forfeited a chance at the title in the April 8th match after weighing-in at three more pounds than the flyweight limit, but still was knocked-out by Mexican fighter Jorge Arce
in a 'special attraction' match that was just for show (before the 6th round KO, Alvarez continued to question Arce's masculinity to the the end, even in-between rounds).

The De La Hoya fight did lead to a bizarre television interview on Tuesday when Jay Leno had Dr. Phil and the boxer as guests. If memory serves me right, De La Hoya walked into it by asking Dr. Phil what he could do to deal with having to be celibate for an extended period of time before a match and not being able to have sex with his wife. Dr. Phil said something to the effect that he personally wasn't gay or needed to observe celibacy so he didn't know what to say. De La Hoya tried to laugh it off and even threw a kiss to Dr. Phil as he got a bit closer to him. Considering the questions that have followed De La Hoya all through his boxing career and how ugly the comments got in this particular match, it was a weird way to deflect some of the commentary.
---

Some Ricardo Mayorga quotes from one of the press conferences before the match:

"...tu vas a ser el maricon en mi cama cuando yo quiera" ["...you are going to be the fag in my bed anytime I want you to be"
]

"Yo te voy a partir la cara de maricon que tienes, yo ODIO los maricones como tu" ["I'm going to break that faggot face of yours, I HATE fags like you"]

You can also check-out some of Don King's comments goading his fighter on at the above link.

Friday, May 05, 2006

CORRECTION: El Salvador's gay marriage ban still needs 2nd vote for passage

CORRECTION to "El Salvador bans recognition of marriages for same-sex couples" (Blabbeando, May 4, 2006)

Juxtaposing
a comment posted on April 29, 2006 in Tim's El Salvador Blog which said:
The same-sex marriage amendment is one of a number of constitutional amendments proposed in the waning hours of the current session of the Salvadorian National Assembly which ends at midnight on April 30. Many of the current deputies will no longer have jobs after that point as deputies elected on the March 12 elections take their seats on May 1. To become effective, a constitutional amendment must be passed in two successive sessions of the National Assembly. Jjmar at Hunnapuh points out that a constitutional amendment could be passed by a vote taken on April 30th and then another on May 1 with the new legislature.
...with an April 22, 2006 Spanish language article that ran in La Prensa Grafica which said that the old assembly was ready for a vote against the right for gay couples to marry or adopt and, additionally, a May 2, 2006 Spanish language EFE article on the new assembly session which also made reference to passage of the amendment, I wrongly concluded that said amendment had quickly passed in two successive National Assembly sessions and had become law.

Now it is clear that, while the constitutional measure was passed by the previous National Assembly session that ended on April 30th, the new session that begun on May 1st has yet to debate or vote on the measure .

The fact that the first vote was taken at 4 in the morning of April 30th, on the last day that the old legislature was in session, also meant that reporters covering the opening of the new session on May 1st made passing reference to votes taken a day earlier, which aded to the confusion.

In any case, we apologize to readers.


Below is a translated excerpt from a May 1st article in El Faro describing what took place on the early morning of April 30th, 2006:


Matrimony between homosexuals is banned
This [constitutional] reform was brought to the floor by Deputy Rodolfo Parker of the Democratic Christian Party [pictured above]. At 4 in the morning, after three hours and 57 minutes of negotiations in the Policy Commission, Parker thanked the ARENA and PCN parties for endorsing the measure which "soes not seek to discriminate against anyone, but marriages are between a man and a woman."

Then, the Deputy told a story about a "small town" in which its occupants, being extremely religious, went to their priest to ask what they could eat, since it was Holy Friday and they could not eat pork in observance of the religious holiday. "And they only had pigs," said the Deputy.

According to [Parker], the priest answered that on that day he would "declare the pig seafood." Parker immediately raised his voice and said "But, gentlemen! A pig is not seafood and seafood is not a pig! Let's not deceive ourselves!"

This constitutional reform, which - following these arguments - passed with 51 votes (from the ARENA, PCN, PDC and PPSC parties), raises marriage between persons of "different genders" and adoption of minors as only allowed to couples constituted by persons of different gender to a constitutional level.

Hector Silva of the CD party, after explaining that the party had left the vote to the discretion of the moral and religious beliefs of each deputy [in their ranks], indicated that this reform discriminated against a good percentage of the Salvadorian population that have other sexual options, "that it is not an illness," and that it helped to "close our eyes to something that, in my judgment, is a very important reality." Several ARENA deputies laughed as Silva presented his arguments.

Walter Duran, of the FMLN, indicated that in his party, for the next legislative session, will leave it up to personal discretion whether to ratify the reform or not. "Miracles can happen," he said, to which Parker responded: "Let's hope that those miracles do occur."
Obviously Duran and Parker are talking about totally different miracles. In any case, unless something happens, the discriminatory constitutional reform seems to be heading towards easy ratification in the legislative session that just begun.

Jasmyne Cannick on immigration: Mending fences?

Hm, am i the only one to think that this is sorta, kinda out of left field considering this - as well as this ultimatum? And that she sorta came close to this (except for the gay stuff)? Well, if they are genuine sentiments, welcome back Jasmyne! Maybe you should sign this statement as well? (Then again, she sorta, kinda repeats some of the same offensive stuff from her original posts so maybe it's not that much of a change of heart).

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Here we go: Roisin Murphy, Osunlade, this Sunday

From the Breakbeat Science Forum:

Benny & Cabiria Present
718 SESSIONS

Sunday, March 7th, 2006

DANNY KRIVIT
and special guests
OSUNLADE
And
an unprecedented & rare US performance by
Roisin Murphy aka MOLOKO
Performing her smash hit "Forever More"

On Lights – Ariel

DEEP
16 W. 22ND Street (Between 5TH & 6TH Ave, NYC)

The Vibe Starts @ 6pm Til 12 Midnight
& Amazingly Still Only $5 Bucks !!!

(For The First 100 People Before 7PM)
$12 With Flyer Or Membership After 7PM
& Now $17 Without

YOU KNOW THE PARTY HASN'T REALLY STARTED UNTIL YOU GET THERE, SO PLEASE, MAKE SURE YOU GET THERE EARLY!!

718 Sessions Info Line: 212-978-8869
or e-mail - THE718SESSIONS@aol.com

Update: El Salvador bans recognition of marriages for same-sex couples

[CORRECTION: In El Salvador's gay marriage ban still needs 2nd vote for passage, posted on May 5th, 2006, I correct this earlier post and explain that a 2nd National Assembly vote has, to date, NOT been taken - despite my comments below - which means that the constitutional amendment still has not been ratified - Apologies for any confusion caused]

If you focus on events happening in different Latin American countries, it's often tough to keep abreast of local politics, legislative bodies, voting processes and constitutional law.

This is why in "
El Salvador: Legislation to ban marriage & adoption for gays closer to approval" (April 22, 2006) I was a bit tentative in spelling out if and when a final legislative vote on an amendment to the constitution would pass.

Guess what, folks! It's done and over with:

As of May 1st, 2006, El Salvador has adopted a constitutional amendment defining marriage as that between members that were born with the opposite sex and also limits adoptions to couples whose marriages are legally recognized by law (in effect banning adoptions for gays as well).

Over at Tim's Blog, he spells out how a constitutional amendment has to pass two successive sessions of the National Assembly in order to be adopted, as we noted previously. What we failed to grasp was that the Assembly finalized a session on April 30th and began a new one on May 1st. Well, on May 2nd, EFE reported that, as soon as the new Assembly took session, they got to work on immediately ratifying the proposed amendment language that had passed a first vote just a week earlier. A second Assembly vote was taken and the motion became law on May 1st, 2006.

The article does say that, despite comments by their spokesperson that seemed to back the amendment, none of the 32 legislators associated with the left-wing FMLN voted in favor of the amendment. Unfortunately, the opposition was able to amass the 43 'yes' votes needed from other political parties including 34 votes from the right-wing ARENA party to gain a simple majority and adopt the amendment.

To my knowledge, this makes El Salvador the only Latin American country to adopt a constitutional amendment banning the right to marry to gay couples

[CORRECTION: According to Rex Wockner's International News column of April 4, 2005, Honduras amended its constitution to ban gay marriage on March 29, 2005 and, as we have been reporting, Costa Rica is facing a challenge to its gay marriage ban as well]

Jamaica: Man pleads guilty to murdering Brian Williamson

On April 15, 2005, the Boston chapter of Amnesty International organized a demonstration outside the Jamaican embassy in New York City demanding answers in the brutal murder of gay activist Brian Williamson (more photos here). Today, the Jamaica Gleaner reports that a man has pleaded guilty to his murder.

Yesterday, Thomas Dolby, Sunday, Rosin Murphy

Last night the bf and I went to check-out Thomas Dolby at Joe's Pub at the Public Theatre (he's got two more shows lined up for tonight so it's not too late to check him out if you live in New York City).

I had never been to Joe's Pub but did not like the venue the moment I walked in. It was crowded, there were tables set up for people who had made dinner reservations, and a really small standing room space for those people who chose not to dine during the concert. At the very least, it was a small venue so that you could actually see most of the performance from pretty much everywhere you stood. The crowd was a mix of people in the mid to upper 30's, a bunch'o'gay guys and, in one annoying case, the younger girlfriend of a guy about my age who kept asking why people seemed to be so much into music she'd never heard. Then again, there were the couple of guys who seemed to think they were in a VH1 "Whatever Happened to..." concert and kept shouting stuff at Dolby.

The show ran into some technical difficulties as Thomas Dolby would introduce a song, for example, and the computers would play another; at a couple of spots, the sound dropped out altogether. All in all though, it was a truly enjoyable night with some highlights including great renditions of "I Live in a Suitcase" and "Hyperactive" among other songs. Surprisingly, most of the repertoire came from the earlier albums rather than "The Flat Earth" or "Astronauts and Heretics."

For a couple of the songs he simply broke down the layered sounds of the songs and allowed the audience to see how he constructed their melodies. You can check what I mean by taking a look at "The Flat Earth" on his website (although last night he simply allowed the tracks to speak for themselves instead of giving a spoken tour - allow time for the full clip to download).

For the most part, the song structures followed those of the original versions with some thrilling exceptions, including the cacophonously funky new intro for "Airhead" (which he did as an encore). In "Wind Power" and a couple of other songs, a hypnotic looped-in beat made me wonder what bands like Gus Gus could do with these tracks.

With additional concerts added to his New York stop, I'm not sure what the man thought about last night's audience. His blog allows you to have a different perspective on what it means to put a tour like this together.

Mostly, it felt bizarre that after all these years, I was able to see Thomas Dolby live. He's certainly been the soundtrack to some of my memories.

In any case, the music Gods are smiling down on me. Next up, if I can make it, Roisin Murphy at Danny Krivit's "718 Sessions" at Club Deep this coming Sunday. On Saturday she's also appearing at Cielo.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Women in love and outside the debate over gay marriage



In the work I have done advocating for the right of same-sex couples to marry, often I feel pitted between younger Latino LGBT community members for whom marriage remains an abstract idea that is not relevant to their daily lives; and LGBT activists, most of whom do work in communities of color, who feel that the push to embrace marriage comes at the cost of eclipsing other more "pressing needs" (then again, some would actually rather see marriage, which they see as an oppressive institution, fully disappear).

When I am asked why the issue of marriage for same-sex couples should be a priority for the Latino LGBT community, the question often comes from someone who is opposed to the issue and is trying to make a rhetorical point. And yet, the insistence on asking the "priority" question often puzzles me as I'm not sure that some of us who do advocate for the right to marry think that it's the "only" work that we do or our number one goal (I often respond that we are all able to advocate for a myriad of issues, not just the right to marry, and that I find it funny that I am not asked the "priority" question when it comes to my work on other areas which I do prioritize, such as immigration).

More difficult is to respond to criticism that marriage would benefit mostly well-to-do white gay couples and do little to benefit less well-off gay couples of color, mostly because - until recently - we have had to go by gut instinct rather than facts (as research has been sporadic and limited).

This is why an article such as "From Pain to Family: Seeking stability amid the chaos, more poor women of color are turning to each other" (Hartford Courant, April 30, 2006) is such a breath of fresh-air.

Over a period of a year, reporters Tina A. Brown and Elizabeth Hamilton followed the lives of seven poor African-American and Hispanic female couples in the Hartford, Connecticut area, and they describe the harsh life these women lead as they try to sustain their relationships and their ties to other family members including children.

Though committed relationships can fail whether they are between heterosexual or homosexual couples, it is clear to me that these women are being hurt by the fact that they are not allowed to marry. They are being denied the right to cement the family bonds they are struggling to sustain; they are being denied the right to strengthen the legal and economic protections they would enjoy as married couples and parents; and, most importantly, they are being denied the right to celebrate their love for each other in such a meaningful way.

It is an amazing article and I hope you take a couple of minutes to read it. Afterwards, feel free to write a "Letter to the Editors" of the Hartford Courant congratulating them on the piece by sending it to: letters@ courant.com

As for recent research on minority same-sex couples in the United States and the true impact of denying them the right to marry, you can go to:

For other resources check:

Happy 75th Birthday

Appropriate that New York City is celebrating today the 75th birthday of perhaps its best-known skyscraper, the Empire State Building, just as ten blocks south of the building people gather to demand immigration rights. The iconic structure, of course, was built mostly on the backs of immigrants. A fact that should not be forgotten.