Friday, October 31, 2008

Barack Obama's image used to push CA gay marriage ban; his campaign objects and reaffirms opposition to ban

A despicable "Yes on 8" campaign flyer featuring Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama to push a same-sex marriage ban in California got into the wrong hands today. Namely, long time San Francisco HIV awareness and LGBT rights advocate Michael Petrelis who describes it here. He also cross-posted it at Daily Kos which got massive reax.

The mailer was also received by the offices of the Bay Area Reporter who posted this story on their website today.

"Needless to say," Michael added on his blog, "the Obama campaign should denounce the use of Obama's image... while he should also personally speak out this weekend encouraging a strong NO NO NO vote."

Rex just sent out a press release sent out tonight by the "No on Prop 8" campaing which quotes the Obama campaign as saying the following:

"Senators Obama and Biden have made clear their commitment to fighting for equal rights for all Americans whether it's by granting LGBT Americans all the civil rights and benefits available to heterosexual couples, or repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Senator Obama has already announced that the Obama-Biden ticket opposes Proposition 8 and similar discriminatory constitutional amendments that could roll back the civil rights he and Senator Biden strongly believe should be afforded to all Americans."

To see how you can support the "No on 8" campaign, click on this banner:

Related:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Steven Mackin, Kevin Broderick, Ewing's Sarcoma

Meet cuties Kevin Broderick and Andrea St. John (right). They got married in May after two years of courtship.

Andrea says "I think it took a little while for him to build up the courage to ask me to do something alone. We had a lot of seventh-grade-style dates" (cuteness rules!).

That according to a profile (and interview) posted at National Public Radio a few days back ("A Love That Defied a Cancer Diagnosis").

A week after the wedding, Kevin passed away at the age of 36. You see, when they met, Kevin was in recovery from a 2004 bout with a rare cancer called Ewing's sarcoma, which usually afflicts people during their younger years.

He thought he had defeated it but, unfortunately, a doctor's visit revealed that the cancer was back in a big way.

"There's a spot in my thigh, and my ribs, and in my pelvis," Kevin disclosed to Andrea, "The scans lit up like a Christmas tree."

When I read about Kevin and Andrea my thoughts, of course, turned to my friend Steven Mackin who also faced Ewing's Sarcoma and fought it back until it came back a couple of years later and took his life.

As a matter of fact today, October 28th, marks the two-year anniversary since his passing. And yet his spirit is still vibrant and present in so many ways.

Just this weekend I was writing about Roisin Murphy's first ever full-fledged concert in New York City as a solo artist as part of the CMJ music festival.

Well, David Banner also performed as part of the festival which brought up memories of Steven's thoughts about Banner's song "Play":

It sounds like it would be a really pretty song. I mean, David Banner totally sounds like the name of a wholesome pop star from the UK. I was sooooo wrong. He's a rapper!!!! And this rapper or whatever is a pretty dirty mofo. The lyrics to 'Play' are off the hook...
OMG! I miss Steven's humor.

And then there's the fact that he used to be a high school band team geek which accounts for his love of film scores including the theme to "Field of Dreams." I still have the mp3 file which Steven sent me long before he found out that the cancer was back and, from time to time - when I am listening to I-Tunes in shuffle mode - it will start playing unexpectedly and all sorts of emotions fill me up. Mostly gladness that Steven is still in my thoughts.

From time to time I remain in touch with his mother and Steven's friendship has also led to other friendships as well (including Kawika).

But the fact still remains that he is gone and I truly miss him.

If you haven't read about Steven in my past blog posts, please head over to his Live Journal blog "Things I've Found in My Butt." It is worth a read from start to finish. If you take the time, you will appreciate why so many people loved him.

You might also want to visit www.stompoutcancer.com while you are at it. Music producer Jake Wheat set up a site to raise funding for the research and treatment of Ewing's Sarcoma in the name of Steven and has put together a couple of indie music compilations which he sells to raise funds for related charities.

I'll leave you with this video which was put together a few days after Steven died. I don't know who put it together but for some reason an image I sent to Steven when he was in the hospital and expecting to get better opens up the series of shots. In some ways I find the video perfect and the song has come to represent his spirit so well. Rest in peace, Kevin & Steven and others who have succumbed to Ewing's Sarcoma.


Previously:
Related:

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Musica: Róisín Murphy in NYC

OMG! So perhaps I should have been sh*t'in' in my pants last night but I still could not believe that I was at Róisín Murphy's first ever solo show in NYC (which understandably was sold out).

Róisín stuck mostly to songs from her last album ("Overpowered") which was OK. Unfortunately she also neglected a great deal of her past catalogue as the lead singer for the band Moloko which produced one of the greatest unsung albums in pop music history ("Statues").

Leaving all of that behind, I did rejoice! The show was amazing even if the place was too crowded. Murphy seemed thrilled at how many people showed up and the gays were certainly giving her lotsa love.

And she certainly lived up to the haut-couture expectations by changing into a new outfit for almost every song (photos below).

For the sake of objectiveness, I must say that the following Moloko video (and song) is among my all-time favorites:


So even if the sound quality hardly matches, I was thrilled that Murphy sang "Forever More" last night in a retooled version (yup! That's me singing along as well):

Luckily I was also able to capture "Primitive" also from the "Overpowered" CD:


as well as the title song:

Make sure you click on the high-quality link below each YouTube video.

Upcoming US Tour: By the way, Arjan says that Ms. Murphy plans to come back in March of 2009 and tour some other major US cities such as Los Angeles, Atlanta, San Francisco, and Austin for the South by Southwest music fest.

Official Sites:
  • Roisin Murphy's official website here
  • Roisin Murphy's MySpace page here
  • Roisin Murphy's MySpace Remixed page here
Related:
A sample of Roisin's attire:
The furry feather thingie with shades and cap on...

The little red riding hood thingie....

And the vulture allure thingie with a flat moon hat (we assume you already noticed the deer for shoulder-pads thingie in the "Overpowered" video).

PLUS: One of my videos is now featured on Roisin's official page! Brilliant!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Dominican Republic: Prosecutor links earrings to homosexuality, strips them from young men in the Hato Rey province

A public prosecutor from the eastern province of Hato Rey in the Dominican Republic, has begun a public campaign to have young people remove all rings and pendants from their ears, belly buttons and noses and all bracelets from their wrists.

“Young persons who use earrings and rings in their ears, navels, noses and other parts of the body, don't know that it links them to vices such as drugs, tobacco-use and the practice of homosexuality," explained Manuel Emilio Santana Montero (right) to El Nuevo Diario in an article published yesterday.

The prosecutor says that his office has already collected more than 2,000 rings, pendants and bracelets from young people who have submitted them "voluntarily" during his visits to educational centers and schools. He claims that the practice of wearing them among the younger population is due to influence from North American culture where "young people are always associated with the use and sale of drugs."

Local Evangelical pastors are said to have welcomed the campaign enthusiastically.

“I want this initiative to be practiced by other prosecutors in other provinces and towns of the country, since it is contributing to the elimination of prototypes imposed by other foreign cultures, specially the United States" said pastor Anselmo Silvestre.

The paper says that Santana Montero is often seen putting the 'operation' into action and says that he has instructed his employees to do the same during interventions involving the National Police.

"This Tuesday," the reporter writes, "this writer observed how the prosecutor, Manuel Emilio Santana Montero, asked a young person to hand over a pair of earrings in the middle of the police precinct, acceding after listening to a mini-lecture from the judicial officer."

The initiative is said to be welcome by the community which is also said to be worried by the decline in moral values among young people.

The prosecutor's office also has a second campaign to also take away fire arms from those carring them without a liscence.

A little research brought up another article from La Republica dated May 9, 2007 ("Students protest prohibition of make-up, miniskirts, earrings") in which - what do you know! - Mr. Santana Montero, with the collaboration of the directors of the César Nicolás Penson Politechnic all-girls school, sought to enforce a ban on make-up, mini-skirts and earrings by turning away any student seen arriving in school wearing them.

The policy, Santana Montero said then, “seeks to make education more decent and to put youth on the path to righteousness, the rescue of moral and spiritual values."

Sounds eerily like his current efforts.

On that occasion, though, it seems that the prosecutor and his police officers were actually run off the school grounds by a number of angry students who shouted "These are modern times! We don't want dictators! It's time for the miniskirt and if we are blocked from entering, we will throw stones at you!"

For two hours during the morning, students burned tires, erected barriers, threw stones and mangoes at the authorities until some of the girls that had been blocked from entering the school were allowed back in and the police officers agreed to leave. The school principal suspended twelve of the protesters in the aftermath.

As with the current anti-earring operation, the 2005 anti-miniskirt efforts were said to be backed by the church, neighborhood associations, parents associations, political parties and community groups worried about the loss of moral values in the province.

Must be the same despots who have kept Santana Montero in charge as a prosecutor two years after he was run off a girls high-school with his tails between his legs.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Musica: Alison Moyet chomps up the big juicy apple, spits out the seeds

Above: Alison Moyet performing on Oct. 10th at the Paramount Theater in NJ (photo by rustiallen)

A bit late, perhaps, but I wanted to share just how amazing it was to see Alison Moyet live in New York back on October 7th in her first United States solo tour in fourteen years. Not that it had been that long since I'd seen her singing live. That would have been July 19th at the Beacon Theater when she performed as Vince Clarke's muse in a Yazoo revival but - even back then - I said the following:

"I just hope that the adulation and love [from concert-goers] results in a future Alison Moyet tour; I am amazed that I was finally able to see and hear her live but I really hope to see her perform some of her solo work in the future as well."

Well, it didn't take long! Three months later and there I was at the Blender Theatre (much better acoustics) listening to an amazing array of Moyet's back catalogue (she must have sang over 20 songs).

A taste:


From the couple of videos I posted on YouTube, "Find Me" seems to be the most popular so far (perhaps because my voice doesn't overcrowd the vocal and, really, who goes to an Alison Moyet concert to hear MY voice?).


No such luck with one of my all time favorites "This House" but how could I keep from warbling some lyrics this stunning song? And then the bf calls to ask for directions to the theater. Damn camera mic! Why won't you ignore some registers!


In the meantime, Moyet was clearly having a heck of a time with a packed theater and all those adoring gays eating up everything she did. If there seems to be a running joke between her and the audience throughout this "Is This Love" clip, it's because she had already started to sing this song and got thrown off key by the audience singing along with her. Before she began, she asked audience members to please hold on til the 2nd verse (here is the FULL banter from another angle, including the aborted take). I have a feeling part of it is pure stage theatrics but it was GREAT.


The Schemer has a clip of the amazing "Whispering Her Name," which I didn't capture with my cam. The upshot? You don't get to hear me trying to hit those high notes.


From The Schemer, here is "Wishing You Were Here" (and, finally, there is no video footage but check out the STUNNING version of Melanie Safka's "Momma Momma" and her own "Can't Say It Like I Mean It").

Yes, she did do a few Yaz songs but, at least to me, they paled in comparison with her own stuff just as I loved the Yaz show back in July but felt some of it hadn't aged well.

Some of the funniest stuff was her banter with the audience and her response to an annoying audience member who kept screaming "Invisible!" and her response to why she would not sing it that night.

The saddest thing is that while there were a few other shows planned during this tour (and she did play dates in New Jersey and DC), slow ticket sales, poor promotion from US promoters and the US economic crisis meant that it was unsustainable to continue the tour with a full band and all other shows had to be scrapped. Sadly, in a personal note, Moyet says this might have been her last tour in the US.

Related:
Previously:

Friday, October 17, 2008

Coda: McGhee gets 22 to life in murder of Edgar Garzon

Today at the State Supreme Court in Queens, John L. McGhee was given a sentence of 22 years to life in prison in the 2001 murder of 35 year old Edgar Garzon, closing a painful chapter for his friends and family.

Above, photos from Eddie's life including his baptism (above left); his loving family (just below); Eddie as a child standing next to his mother Leonor (above right); and with the Colombian Lesbian and Gay Association crew (several photos at the bottom) hoisting a huge coffee bag with the yellow blue and red colors of the Colombian flag and dancing up a storm down the 5th Avenue Heritage of Pride Parade dressed in the coffee cup costumes he designed for the parade [click on image to make it larger].

An online article by Duncan Osborne posted late today at Gay City News reports that Leonor Garzon, Eddie's mom, addressed McGhee with the help of a translator:

"There is a deep wound in our hearts that will never heal; as you see Mr. McGhee, you have taken us from living a good life... Today, our companions are sadness and loneliness."

McGhee, to the end, maintained his innocence:

"I did not commit this crime," he said. "By locking me away for the rest of my life and leaving the real criminal out there, that may feel good, but that's not justice."

A jury has decided otherwise.
Previously:
* September 11, 2008: McGhee guilty of 2nd degree murder in killing of Edgar Garzon
* July 17, 2008: Key witness vanishes as 2nd Eddie Garzon murder trial approaches
* September 5, 2007: Last night's vigil...
* September 2, 2007: Six years since the murder of Eddie Garzon...
* July 25, 2007: Judge Declares Mistrial in Eddie Garzon murder case
* July 13, 2007: Trial Begins in the Slaying of Edgar Garzon
* February 8, 2007: Michael J. Sandy and Edgar Garzon pre-trial hearings underway
* October 18, 2006: A Pansy for Edgar Garzon
* September 5, 2006: 5th Annual Memorial Mass and Vigil in honor of Eddie Garzon
* July 7, 2006: Gay City News on Eddie Garzon
* July 1, 2006: Armando Garzon talks to El Diario La Prensa
* June 30, 2006: New York Times: Stepping off plane, man is arrested in '01 murder
* Part 1: The Attack
* Part 2: COLEGA and Eddie Garzon
* Part 3: So what is, exactly, is a 'hate crime'? (and a prayer)
* Part 4: Eddie Garzon passes on
* Part 5: The Vigil
* Part 6: A Newsday Editorial
* Part 7: A parade of angels
* Part 8: Epilogue

Thursday, October 16, 2008

And now: A message from the next president of the United States

Gotta love this guy!

Barack Obama at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation dinner tonight

Update: Manhunt.net responds to comments in Mexico's La Reforma

Having written a post on Tuesday about some eye-raising comments allegedly made to a newspaper by Manhunt.net's promotional representative in Mexico ("Was Manhunt.net rep racially insensitive?"), I certainly hope that what carried through was that these were words attributed to the rep and not the company itself.

I certainly didn't expect Manhunt.net to respond but, to their credit, I just received the following message from the Chief Executive Officer of Manhunt.net, Adam Segel:
Adam Segel, MANHUNT CEO, responds to the alleged comments made by MANHUNT's Mexico Promotional Representative Javier Espinosa, published in Reforma Newspaper:

At MANHUNT, we go out of our way to assure that we are as inclusive as possible and that diversity flourishes throughout our membership. After all, our members are generally considered a minority group by the world at-large and continue to face discrimination every day.

Mr. Espinosa disputes having made the comments accredited to him in Reforma Newspaper and MANHUNT is investigating the matter.

Whether the comments were said or not, they do not reflect the thoughts or opinions of anyone at MANHUNT. We never allow or promote hateful speech or ideas on our site. We apologize to those who were offended by the remarks and share in the disdain for them.
By the way: Today The Advocate.com reports that Larry Basile and Jonathan Crutchley, owners of Manhunt.net, just donated $10,000 to California's No on 8 campaign which is fighting an uphill but crucial battle in safeguarding marriage rights for same-sex couples. This is the one battle we must win if marriage rights for all will ever be attained in all of the United States, folks, and I already made my donation. If you would like to donate, please go here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Out NOW: MARIPOSAS - A Modern Anthology of Queer Latino Poetry

New this week, from Floricanto Press, "MARIPOSAS: A Modern Anthology of Queer Latino Poetry" edited by Emanuel Xavier.

Here is what people are saying:
Just as blood curses through our queer Latino veins, so does a complex and sometimes contradictory history. The words captured in this volume of poetry perfectly capture a moment in time in which we all are in flux and yet still very much grounded in the moment. Personally, these poems speak to my being, my sexuality, my erotic desires, my future hopes and my wishes for new generations and yet they also stand for the danger that those words might also be fragile and easily forgotten. It is up to the reader to make these words count for something. And, simply said, it's just an amazing and moving collection of poems that truly represents who we are as queer Latinos at this crucial moment in time.
Oh wait! I think I wrote that! Embarrassingly, it ended up on the book jacket! Well, I meant it and don't just take my word for it.

Here's the legendary Felice Picano:
An 800-year-old tradition of Hispanic poetry gets a substantial augmentation, and at the same time, a wondrous makeover, with the rich, varied, sensual, often bi-lingual work in this collection. It helps that the translations by Xavier are so true; and that the poets amassed from all over the Americas, are mas o menos gay in subject matter and attitude.
And here is reviewer Richard Labonte writing in his Pride Source column "Book Marks:"
The 17 writers collected in Xavier's dynamic anthology of contemporary Latino poets make up a real mosaic. Some are American-born, others hail from Argentina, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. Their poems are in English, in Spanish, even in "Spanglish"; some are bilingual, and a few Spanish-language poems also appear in English, translated by Xavier - a vibrant diversity connected by mutual queerness and common themes. One such theme is sexual desire: "Why, my God, do I like men so much?" Daniel Torres wonders, and "Suddenly, our sex lives were full of safety drills," Rane Arroyo laments. Another is defiant anger: "There are not enough hate crimes/ to kill us all," Yosimar Reyes declares in memory of murdered queens, and "You call me wet back/ Yes my back is wet/ Wet of sweat/ Wet of blood," Xuan Carlos Espinoza-Cuellar cries in the face of immigrant-bashing. Xavier is a generous editor: instead of compiling a "greatest hits" sampler of one or two poems by many poets, he has opted to limit the number of contributors, giving each a real showcase for his talent.
Anyway, it IS a great book and you should really get yourself a copy. It's exclusively available here.

Related links:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Mexico: Was Manhunt.net rep racially insensitive?

UPDATE: Manhunt.net's response is here.

[
NOTE: This is part two of a two part story] Yesterday I told you about how a Argentinean man living in Mexico was able to use an online gay chat-room to lure a man who had drugged and robbed a friend a week earlier and had him arrested by the Mexican police back in July ("Putocop nabs thief who prayed on gay men online").

Well, there is another angle to the story unrelated to the main one and perhaps you will figure it out by comparing at the photo of the Argentinian hero, Fernando Gabriel Vega (above), and the captured assailant, Agustín Javier Vidal Dionicio (below).

Here is the thing: The part I left out from the La Reforma article I quoted on Sunday was that they reached out to the Mexican representative of Manhunt.net to flesh out information about gay online social sites. Turns out they have a spokesperson based in Mexico named Javier Spinozza and here is what he said in defending such sites:

"More than simply bedding someone and 'If I see you I won't remember,' gays use chats to have a 'freebie,' what is called 'sex friends'" (hm, reminds me of the recent 'I touch and I leave' sex craze in Argentina).

Hm, OK. So far so good. I guess? But when asked why some would use images online that might show themselves looking better than in real life (Dionicio didn't even show his face on his gay.com profile and Vega was able to entice him by sending images from his own gay.com profile), Spinozza says:

"More than anything it's because here in Mexico we are not a country with an Aryan race; there are many mutants, girlfriend, so, if they don't send you a photo, be weary!"

Aryan race? Mutants? Girlfriend? Oh my!

At least one Mexican LGBT-rights activist is up in arms: In a long-ass 'Open Letter to Manhunt.net' sent to several online networks in mid-September, media watchdog Sergio Alan Villarreal spends too much time writing about the virtues of gay online social sites, congratulating the young Spinozza for being chosen as Manhunt.com's Mexican spokesperson, and thanking him for their corporate support for this year's first ever International March Against Stigma, Discrimination and Homophobia.

And then he gets to the nitty-gritty:

"In Mexico, as in many other Latin American countries, we carry the heavy burden of cultural colonialism which persists through publicity messaging which are transmitted in a general manner through a few influential communication media, as well as through movies, television programs - of local and foreign origin - and printed press of all forms."

Hm. OK, I guess that's not 'getting' to the nitty-gritty in one fell swoop. He goes on and on. And on. But then he gets to the nitty-gritty?

"To affirm that 'in Mexico we are not a country of an Aryan race' and that 'there are many mutants' here while making a reference to beautiful people in the Manhunt.net context is not precisely a measure of social sensibility or of slight courtesy of those who are an important part of your meta market. For this reason I request in a friendly and respectful manner that you reconsider your attitude with respect to these issues, considering that these kind of expressions are understandable in the cultural surrounding that we have inherited but before which it is urgent to revisit and transcend in their more significant paradigms."

OMG. Sorry. I have to take a breather.

But I'll make it easier for him: A Manhunt.net representative in Mexico (of all places) arguing that the reason that fewer Mexicans show their true face on the site is because the Aryan race is not predominant in the country - and then calling most Mexicans "mutants?" - Yikes!! I just got the vapors!

Racial dynamics on these sites are sometimes charged with baggage but don't ya think these statements are a tad across the line?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Mexico: Putocop nabs thief who preyed on gay men online

[NOTE: To read a follow up story please click on "Was Manhunt.net racially insensitive?"] It's been a while since I've been able to keep a more consistent blog post schedule and a few stories out there that I would have loved to write about. This is one of them.

It all started with a September 2nd article ("Follows clues, lies and traps him") which ran in Mexico's
La Reforma (it's only available to subscribers there but was also published on the same day at Entre Todos with the slightly different title "Follows clues on internet and captures thief").

The article itself is fascinating: 31 year old
Fernando Gabriel Vega (above) who was born in Argentina but has lived in Mexico City for the past five years says that he became livid when he heard what had happened to his close friend Zenaido Torres.

On July 23rd Torres was browsing through the personal profiles at the popular online hook-up site
gay.com when he struck up a conversation with someone with the nickname of 'lalotlane' and ended inviting him to come over to his apartment. When the man arrived, he immediately said he'd brought drinks and offered him a bottle: "I drank and I stopped right there," says Torres, "I didn't know [anything] else."

Once his victim had passed out,
Agustín Javier Vidal Dionicio (alias 'lalotlane') proceeded to steal a computer, a digital camera, two cellular phones and four credit cards, one of which he used the next day, charging up to U$4,500.

The card belonged to Torres' employer and when he failed to show up to work the next day and the card company reported irregular charges on the credit card, his boss got suspicious and sent a messenger to his home. Torres was found in a stupor speaking nonsense and was taken to a hospital.

Torres' employer alerted Vega who went to see him at the hospital.
"I felt so much anguish seeing him in that way that the next day I began to monitor the chat, waiting for the dude to get connected," said Vega, "My friend had acted in good faith, and that abuse bothered me."

Exactly a week after his friend was drugged and robbed, Vega finally saw 'lalotlane' pop up online which also made him realize that there were no images of his face in his profile. Jokingly, Vega says that he realized at that exact moment that it was time "to put my beauty at the service of justice."


First, he sent several of his photos and asked if he could get Dionicio's in return. Dionicio resisted and warned Vega that he was not what others considered to be a good-looking man. Vega then used his trump card: Using details from his friend's description of the assailant, he came up with a description of his alleged 'fantasy man' which, of course, fit Dionicio's look to a T.

Dionicio finally agreed to show himself on a computer camera and Vega took the opportunity to take several digital pictures of 'lalotlane' (including the one at right). Dionicio also agreed to come over that night.


With only 40 minutes to decide what to do, Vega first sent the images he had captured to Torres for confirmation and then decided that Torres would go look for the police while Dionicio arrived.


Dionicio arrived around 10:30 at night carrying a bag with four blue-tinted "Fixion Ice Blue" alcoholic beverage bottles and immediately offered one to Vega. Vega, who had just opened a Diet Coke before his arrival, told Dionicio that he'd rather finish his drink first.

The police took a bit longer to arrive:
"I had to stretch it out, and began to inquire about the dude's life and work," says Vega, "'What do you do, how many brothers do you have, your mom, your dad, the cat, the dog...' What did it matter to me? But I had to make time. He never suspected anything, and it's because I acted enchanted by his presence; I could have won an Oscar! But my adrenaline was so 1,000 that, I swear, I was certain that I could have ripped his head off with a punch, and I wanted to. What he did to my friend was very ugly."

In the meantime Torres finally found a policeman riding a motorcycle and requested assistance. The cop called for more units and by the time Torres arrived at Vega's apartment twenty armed officers (twenty!?) were entering Vegas' building in silence.

Vega had left his apartment door unlocked and the officers were able to capture Dionicio without any struggle. They found a bottle of Rivotril in his possession (a
muscle-relaxant which can increase in potency if mixed with alcohol and can cause impaired motor functions, mental confusion, drowziness and even coma if misused).

Since July, Dionicio has been charged with 'illicit qualifying robbery' which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Vega and Torres have posted fliers with Dionicio's photo all over Torres' neighborhood seeking other possible victims who might want to bring charges. But they say that few are willing to be open about hooking up with other men online and/or fear that Dionicio might seek revenge if and after he serves a jail term.


Asked if he is afraid that Dionicio might seek revenge, Vega says "I do not have any fear, absolutely none, and if some day he comes by he knows he will lose, because I won't hold back and I will beat him up."


He also says that the police still check on them from time to time. "It's that they consider me part of their team because I acted like a detective," he half-joked, "'It's as if you worked for us,' they said."

A police officer, speaking anonymously confirms that this is exactly what the police department thinks of Vega.

In the meantime, Vega, who says he felt attracted to Superman as a kid and held a short-lived desire to own Wonder Woman's cape, says he is charmed to have earned a slightly un-PC new nickname from his friends: "Putocop" (loosely translated as "Fagcop").

He laughs it off but turns serious and says that it bothers him that if it wasn't for him sitting at his computer tracking down Dionicio for a week he would not have been caught. It's something, he says, that the police should have done after his friend Torres reported he had been drugged and robbed.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Colombia: Senate rejects same-sex partnership bill AGAIN; gay-friendly Notary Public shot to death in Bogota

Without much fanfare, a Colombian Senate committee rejected a bill on Wednesday that would have brought the legislative branch of the Colombian government up to speed with several Constitutional Court rulings determining that same-sex couples should be granted access to limited partnership benefits.

According to a statement released by Senator Gloria Inés Ramírez, the bill would have addressed what the country's top court identified as a legislative "deficit of protection" for same-sex couples. It would also have extended all the legal rights and protections already afforded to heterosexual couples in a common-law unions or long-term partnerships to same-sex couples.

It was the sixth time since 1999 that such a bill was rejected (the last time being June of 2007 when a similar bill was widely expected to pass and be signed by President Alvaro Uribe into law).

In the last two years, Colombia's Constitutional Court had determined that same-sex couples must be granted the right to share their common assets (Feb. 2007), their social security and health insurance benefits (Oct. 2007), and their pension benefits (Apr. 2008).

The Senate's failure to act does not mean that same-sex couples have lost any of these limited protections. If I understand correctly, it means that same-sex partners can continue to avail themselves by registering their names at at a notary office - but it still falls short of having the actual relationship be recognized as a civil union or marriage.

Gay-friendly notary public shot to death last night in Bogota: Now, back in February, I reported that it didn't seem to matter to a number of same-sex couples that access to a few rights did not mean that same-sex civil unions had been or were even close to being recognized by the government: They treated it as such anyway.

According to El Tiempo, notary public Norberto Salamanca - who oversaw partnership registrations at Notary Office 76 - stated that he'd "seen couples and guests carrying wedding invites in their hand, reading statements, taking pictures of the event and exchanging rings," adding "Some couples kiss each other to seal the ceremony" (see "One Bogota notary office, a hundred same-sex partnership registrations").

For his willingness to be on camera and to be interviewed by media during some of these ceremonies, Mr. Salamanca became perhaps the best-known notary public accepting these types of registrations (at the time El Tiempo had identified only two notary offices willing to register -sex couples in all of Bogota and said that Mr. Salamanca's office led in number of registrations putting the figure at 100).

Imagine my sadness this morning when I read reports online that Mr. Salamanca had been shot to death at 8:15 last night while he sat in his car.

Mexico's Milenio says that the police were looking for two gunmen who "escaped with great velocity towards an unknown destination."

They also note that Salamanca was well-known for his work with gay couples, "which cost him criticism from diverse conservative organizations that graded him as a detractor of morality."

Colombia's El Espectador says that Mr. Salamanca had driven his Mercedes Benz and had parked outside a building in an upper-class Bogota neighborhood as he waited to pick up his children from their place of residence. He was shot four times and died before his body was brought to a nearby hospital.

El Tiempo says that authorities are offering a reward equivalent to $24,000 dollars to anyone who provides information that leads them to the killer, who was said to be between 22 and 24 years of age, and said that they were also looking for a second man who was seen running away from the scene.

General Rodolfo Palomino, Director of the Bogota Police Department, said that they assume that those responsible for the crime are people who are opposed to same-sex partnerships but Salamanca's family told the paper that they didn't see a clear reason as to why someone would want to kill Mr. Salamanca.

In the meantime, El Espectador has uploaded a Caracol News segment on YouTube (below) which includes an interview Mr. Salamanca gave to CM& News hours before he was killed.

In the interview, Mr. Salamanca is asked whether notary officials should be authorized to act as judges while hundreds of judicial workers are engaging in a current ongoing strike. (bringing to a halt thousands of court cases).

Mr. Salamanca argues that notary officers can indeed serve as judges in some cases if only to assist with the backlog and that the notary office system provides a viable infrastructure for these cases to move forward in light that the court system has shut down.

Eerily he begins the interview with these words: "Since in Colombia there is no justice..."

Let's hope that's not the case and that justice comes in his murder.

Friday, October 10, 2008

La Prensa backs marriage rights for same-sex couples in California

Wait! Wasn't that the same headline as yesterday's post? Actually. No! This is the bi-weekly and bi-lingual San Diego newspaper La Prensa (we do love the bi's). And, though probably not as influential as yesterday's La Opinion editorial, in some ways it's a whole lot sweeter since this is a smaller Latino community newspaper and, unlike La Opinion, a little bit more unexpected:

Proposition 8: Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry. Initiative Constitutional Amendment - Majority Approval Required

Shall the California Constitution be changed to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry providing that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California?

Whereas opponents to Prop. 4 had the support of the State Supreme Court and the voters, Prop. 8 is different. In the year 2000, California voters approved the designation that a legal marriage is between a man and woman. It was the State Supreme Court (in May 2008) that denied the provisions of Prop 4, citing that it violated the equal protection clause of the California Constitution. Same sex couples have been getting married ever since the May 2008 ruling.

A Yes vote on Prop. 8 would be a vote for marriage as legal only if it was between a man and woman. A No vote would allow the State of California to continue recognizing the legal union between same sex marriages.

First and foremost, marriage is a statement of love between two people. Same sex marriage as a legal union will not diminish the value of heterosexual marriages. Legal recognition for same sex marriages provides a sense of pride, dignity, accountability, and as the State Supreme Court ruled: equal protection under the law.

Gays and Lesbians have been a part of society since the beginning of time. This is a community that continues to grow and speak out. The Gay community is an integral part of our society and their elected numbers continues to grow. We can no longer marginalize this part of our community. Rejecting the legal designation of a Gay marriage will do nothing more than to polarize this community toward working harder for full recognition as a part of society.

This proposition is nothing more than one group trying to impose their moral standards on another. Fortunately, the world is made up of many different people and you simple can’t contain all people in a single box. Instead we should celebrate our differences and work together to make our world a better place for all to live in happiness and in love.

We believe that if two people are in love and they want to get married, we as a State should not legislate against the happiness of these people. We Urge a No Vote on Prop. 8.
Yes, if you haven't heard, today Connecticut became the third state (after Massachusetts and California) to allow same-sex marriages (I actually cried watching this) but the current battle in California will define the issue for decades. Wouldn't it be rad if now that Connecticut has done the right thing we also beat back efforts in California to protect marriage rights for same-sex couples? The answer is YES by voting NO on Prop. 8.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

La Opinion backs marriage rights for same-sex couples in California


[NOTE: Above, the latest ad for those seeking to safeguard marriage rights for same-sex couples in California. For more info and to support NO on Prop. 8 efforts head directly here]

In an editorial published today in Los Angeles'
La Opinion ("An unnecessary proposal"), the paper asks Latino voters to vote 'NO' on California's Proposition 8 and against efforts to undo a state top court decision legalizing same-sex marriage (It counts quite a bit: La Opinion is the Spanish-language paper with the largest circulation in the United States).

While not surprising (the paper also supported the same-sex weddings that took place in San Francisco under Gavin Newsom's watch back in 2004), the editorial comes at a key time when foes of same-sex couples seem to have the upper hand and Latino and African-American voters are being mentioned as a reason why the ban could pass (not sure I am convinced by the arguments).

I am taking the liberty to reprint the English version of the editorial in its entirety.
Proposition 8 seeks to amend the California Constitution to expressly guarantee that marriage must be between a man and a woman.

We believe this is an unnecessary initiative that would impose a constitutional restriction on rights now held by a group of Californians whose mutual commitment before the law and society poses no danger whatsoever.

The idea behind this initiative and the title its proponents wanted to give it was the "California Marriage Protection Act".The state attorney general changed the title to the more accurate "Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry."

That right was declared in May by the California Supreme Court, ruling that such a ban is discriminatory. To arrive at that decision, the judges based their opinion on a 1948 legal precedent that determined that it was illegal to prohibit marriage of couples of different races.

It is subjective to claim that the voluntary marriage between two adults is a threat to an institution which, ironically, these people are fighting to join.

The true threats to marriage are lack of communication, infidelity, domestic abuse, and economic pressures.

The driving force behind the measure comes from Evangelical, Catholic, Mormon, Baptist, Orthodox Jewish, and Adventist congregations, with money, sermons, prayers, fasting, and very respectable and respected opinions.

But that does not mean it is acceptable to impose these beliefs on all of society, and much less, change the State Constitution.

We recommend voting NO on Proposition 8.
Related:

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Gay Brazilian priest found strangled in Brooklyn, Daily News online readers leave offensive comments

Ever since I read about it this morning, I've been deeply disturbed by a story from the New York Daily News ("Slain priest Jose Ricardo Ferreira de Souza killed helping others?").

From the article:


Struggling to understand his violent death, friends of a Brazilian priest found strangled on the Brooklyn shore said Monday he may have been a victim of his own kindness. Jose Ricardo Ferreira de Souza, 31, whose body was discovered on Brighton Beach on Wednesday, helped fellow Brazilians with immigration paperwork and aided homeless people...

Witnesses saw two or three men beating a man who fit de Souza's description and pull him down to the water's edge about 1 a.m., police sources said...

De Souza's body was discovered about an hour later, clad only in his shirt and socks. Relatives in Brazil have said his cell phone and wallet were missing.

His family told NYPD detectives that de Souza, a bishop in the breakaway Vetero Catholic Church, was gay. Friends, however, said he did not proposition strangers, and it was unlikely that was what triggered a beating.

This reminds me of the 2006 homicide of Michael J. Sandy which also took place late at night by the Brooklyn shore even though I don't know Brooklyn well enough to know if both incidents happened nearby. A gay man's life is gone but don't tell that to Daily News readers who don't seem to care and are already blaming the victim. A sampling:

  • How do they know a bunch of angry Russkies didn't kick his arse because he was making gay passes at them?
  • Well he IS dressed like Liberace in the picture. How do we know gay men don't join the priesthood for the fashion? You think those guys had Sex and the City nights following Sunday evening mass when the show was on HBO?
  • De Sousa was a 31 year old Catholic gay Priest. He wasnot out there at 1am to assist anyone with paperwork. Pedophilia and homosexuality has long been a problem among Catholic clergy.
  • Was he out counseling someone at 1 in the morning? Or was he cruising and got caught by some drunken gay bashers who didnt realize he was a priest and got ****** when he tried to cruise them? OR, was this the standard case of a couple of dudes that saw the opportunity to get their "tally-whacked" then beat the f-a-g to make sure he doesnt tell anyone? People, dont let the fact that this dude was a priest deter the common sense factor here.
Supposedly the Daily News has a link that allows people to flag offensive replies but these - others - have been up all day long. Imagine you being his family and having to read such trash.

De Souza's body will be flown to Brazil to his family. Friends in Brooklyn held a small memorial yesterday at his apartment
.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Argentina: "Touch and go" sex (or "agujeros gloriosos") in Buenos Aires

At least online, the portal for Argentina's Perfil newspaper has never been the most objective observer of LGBT issues in the country choosing to focus on sensationalistic stories verging on the homophobic.

So it's not surprising that on Tuesday they ran an shocking expose on what they call, in English, "touch and go" sex (which they helpfully translate as "I touch you and I leave").


Still at a loss? Well, perhaps the article's title will clarify things for you a bit more ("
Glory-hole: Sex through a hole in the wall"). Yes, glory-holes - or "agujeros gloriosos" as they are called in Spanish - which Perfil describes as "a trend that is growing in the world and that has landed in Buenos Aires" (don't mind me I am still cracking up over the whole "I touch you and I leave" deal).

But wait! There's more! So far only two gay male sex clubs have installed this imported international wonder but now WOMEN WANT THEIR OWN!!!

"There are many women that come out of curiosity, but this is only for men," says
Zoom Buenos Aires club owner Nicolas, "There are yet to be in Buenos Aires places with glory-holes also for women" [Genius! Their site has an interactive online glory-hole! Then again, it's sorta lame in execution].

And what do the experts say? "A
glory-hole is a way of bringing virtual-sex to reality, because cyber-sex is, precisely, anonymous," says Any Krieger, member of the Psychoanalytic Society of Argentina, "It's the own reflection of a postmodernist society: Quick, impulsive encounters where all that counts is the anonymity in which we are all submerged in some way or another."

Saaaaaxeeeey! Where can I buy my very own agujero glorioso? If you find out, please let me know. Maybe I can hang it somewhere in the kitchen so I can watch some TV while I do the dishes.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Progressive Victory: Blogger of the Month

Each month the DC-based Progressive Victory - a consulting firm that "helps leaders, organizations, and coalitions achieve their goals by providing strategic guidance and proven tools" - chooses a progressive artist, a progressive author and a progressive blogger to highlight on their website. I have been chosen as the "Blogger of the Month" for October and I am honored by the recognition.

President Hans Johnson writes: "

Other bloggers who have been recognized in the past few months include:
and community blogs
Pretty good company, I must say.