Thursday, May 28, 2009

National Organization for Marriage launches NY ad, misspells "marriage"

NOMfail: So, over on Facebooklandia and Twitterlandia I've been complaining that I keep getting robo-calls from the homophobic National Organization for Marriage asking me if I believe in "traditional marriage" and urging me to call my state senate representative to vote against marriage equality.

So today's announcement by NOM that they have done over 1.4 million robo-calls in 25 of New York State's senate districts comes as no surprise.

But - hey! - they also announced the launch of a new ad (as well as a TV ad-buy targeting markets in Long Island, Albany-Schenectady-Troy, Poughkeepsie, Watertown, and Newburgh-Middletown).

Obviously the messaging is similar to the ads that proponents of Prop. 8 in California said were most effective: Claiming that children are at risk if same-sex couples are allowed to marry. Notice, too, the voice over and imagery and know that they are also specifically targeting black communities in the area.

Some folk have already indicated that the ad uses stock images from a British company (never mind that NOM is based in New Jersey and meddling in New York State). But the funniest bit is that - for an anti-marriage organization - they certainly seem to have a loose hold on their actual spelling of the word "marriage".

Check out the last frames and see what I mean.

Go ahead. Feel free to chuckle. "Say no to same same marraige" indeed! I certainly had a big laugh this morning. But, also, don't let the funnies make you think that their strategies will not be effective. As much as they present themselves as victims, they are going to push hard to deny us our rights with a single-minded tenacity that our community sometimes lacks. Keep an eye on NOM and push back. Please consider donating to the Empire State Pride Agenda so they can fight back (click here for info). The cynical part of me thinks that NOM might have even deliberately misspelled marriage at the end so that it would ensure that the YouTube video would be passed on over and over.

In the meantime, The Advocate reports that WPIX-TV has refused to air the NOM commercial. Please contact WPIX-TV here and thank them for refusing to run an advertisement that clearly seeks to discriminate against one specific community by denying us the same rights as everyone else.

BTW: Good as You has a screen capture of one of the last frames here.

UPDATE: A second version of the new ad is out! "Marraige" is now "Marriage"! Good for NOM spell-checkers! "Same Same" is still on. NOMfail. Again. Here's my screen capture of the 'fixed' but still embarrassing ad. Will the third time be the charm?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

NY's largest Spanish-language newspaper calls for marriage equality once again

On November 17th, 2008, in the wake of passage of Prop. 8 in California, the largest Spanish-language newspaper in New York finally stepped off the fence and unequivocally stood for marriage equality ("A stand for same-sex marriage").

At the time, I noted the surprisingly strong stance that they took against homophobic Democratic Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr., and his prolonged efforts to deny rights to same-sex couples living in New York State.

Three weeks later, on December 5th, the paper once again took a dig at the Senator's stance on marriage rights while saluting the possibility of increased Latino representation in the state legislature ("Representation that counts").

Now, five months later - and two days before last Monday's Prop. 8 ruling in California - the paper took a third stand for marriage equality in New York State which also alludes to Diaz, Sr., without calling him by name ("A Shameful Denial of Rights"). I am taking the liberty of publishing it here in full.
When a husband or wife is hospitalized, a spouse deserves the right to be informed of their health status and be consulted for any life or death decisions. Spouses also have the legal right to have a say about shared property, the well being of their children and a host of other issues critical to their lives together.

These are only a few of the legal rights that heterosexual, married couples benefit from and take for granted, But gay and lesbian couples –who also share their lives and raise families together – are denied these fundamental legal protections.

A legal marriage is not merely symbolic. There are 1,138 rights and responsibilities that are given to married couples by the federal government, according to the Empire State Pride Agenda. Another 1,324 rights and responsibilities come from New York State government—but these rights come only with a legally-sanctioned marriage license.

To deny same sex couples the right to get married, is to deny them basic legal rights.

A legal marriage is not the same thing as a religious union. The right to a legal marriage by same sex couples does not infringe on any religious freedoms. No religion or congregation need recognize or consecrate a union that runs against their beliefs. No customs or religious practices need change. None.

Yet, conservative religious and political groups continue to stoke irrational fears. Legislation that would allow same-sex marriage is caught up in politics in Albany, where some legislators are worried about political blowback for supporting this measure.

We call on these legislators to muster the courage to do the right thing. New York needs a fair law to protect same sex couples and families that have been shamefully marginalized for far too long.
I want to publicly thank El Diario La Prensa for their invigorated leadership on standing for what is right and on challenging the wrongful view that Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. speaks for the Latino community.

IGLHRC launches Peruvian police gay ban protest, calls for e-mail writing campaign

From the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC):
The Issue: On May 12, 2009, the Peruvian Parliament adopted Law 29356, establishing a new disciplinary code for the Peruvian police. Article 34 of that code classifies offenses as minor, serious and very serious and assigns penalties accordingly. "Having sex with people of the same gender that cause scandal or undermine corporate image" is classified as a very serious offense with a penalty of discharge.

Take Action: The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) joins Movimiento Homosexual de Lima (MHOL) and requests that you send emails to the Ombudsman and Public Defender of Peru noting that Article 34 of Law 29356 infringes fundamental human rights, and asking her to file an Action of Unconstitutionality with the Constitutional Court to challenge the so-called “offense” of same-sex relations and its associated penalty.
To join in the protest, please follow this link to read the text of a sample letter and to get the contact information where you should send the letter.

Previously on Blabbeando:

Marga Gomez at the anti-Prop 8 rally in San Francisco

Yes, there was a rally against the California Court decision yesterday in San Francisco as well. And - guess what! - Marga Gomez was there.

"Unfortunately the Supreme Court has upheld the ban on gay marriage: I think these are the same judges that voted Adam out of American Idol..." and "...she's just trying to get an NEA grant." HA!

I love Marga! By the way, Marga blogs here for those of you who want to keep up with her.

I'll also leave a recent clip from one of her shows titled "I was a No on Prop 8 Volunteer" (warning: some salty language).

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Photos from the anti-Prop. 8 Rally and March in NYC

So there was this little court ruling in California today that ticked off a couple of people or more. Basically, with the exception of a Latino justice member, the court ruled that Proposition 8, which banned marriage equality in California back in November, should stand, even as they also decided that the 18,000+ marriages between same-sex couples that had taken place in the state until the voter referendum passed, would also stand.

In response there were 100+ rallies all over the country today and - wouldn't you know it - I decided I would go crash the NYC rally. Here, dear readers, is the rally in pictures.

An estimated 2,000 people marched in New York City but, to my knowledge, nobody got arrested (unlike protesters in San Francisco where 200+ people were arrested). Marchers met in front of Stonewall at Sheridan Square and promptly began to make their way to Union Square going up on 6th Avenue.

There were a couple of eye-catching banners up front...

First of all was the glittery green banner calling for a brand new March on Washington DC for Full Equality. The idea, which I personally think is counter-productive in that it draws too much energy for the impact it might get, has been recently championed by Californian activist Robin Tyler and, most recently, long-time LGBT rights political figure David Mixner.

The banner was actually the work of banner-maven (and rainbow flag creator) Gilbert Baker. More on him later.

The second banner directly appealed to sentiment that, in light of all the recent advances and setbacks when it comes to marriage equality, President Barack Obama has been mostly silent. On that respect, and as an early Obama supporter, you might be surprised to know I am in agreement, even though I also think some of the anti-Obama sentiment stems from lingering disappointment among some New York Hillary Clinton supporters that she did not win the presidency (and those who will always remain weary of Obama on LGBT issues despite his overtures to the LGBT community and the fact that this is still a young presidential term).

Most folk, though, were marching without an agenda other than to be recognized as equals.

Also, along the way, folks standing in apartment windows and balconies cheering the marchers on.

And, finally, a gathering at Union Square, with several speakers including New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

Back to Gilbert Baker: Facing Union Square, is clothing store Filene's Basement. At one point someone pointed out to me that two men were standing up on the 6th floor and had unfurled a banner that read "New York Marriage Equality Now". It was Mr. Baker and a friend, who were promptly asked to fold the banner by the store's staff (additional photos in the link at the bottom of this post).

Good friends were seen, including Dougie (above) and Diana (below). Also seen: Pedro Julio Serrano, Dulce Reyes, Johnny Wilches, Joe Jervis, Father Tony, Rod Towsend, Paul Schindler, Wayne Hoffman, Wayne Besen, Andy Towleroad, Pedro Julio Serrano, Michael Camacho, Mike P., Paul Vitale, Noel "Double-Headed Disco" Alicea, Jason Nelson, Dulce Reyes, Andres Hoyos, John Ozed, Sophia Pazos, Jason Haas and many, many others.

I did not take video but Russia Today did this report featuring Diana and Dulce:

And Joe Jervis of Joe.My.God took this video as well:

Boy in Bushwick has additional photos and videos here.

And over on the West Coast, Rex captured images of a humongous rally that took place in San Diego. Click here.

My friend, John, has some sweet words here.

And, as always, Andy Towleroad has the best national wrap-up here and here.

If you want to see some of my additional photos, go here. Or click on the slide show below.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Colombia: Gay candidate sponsorship might earn political parties additional public funding

On Wednesday, Colombia's El Espectador published the following attention-grabbing headline: "Political parties would receive additional funding if they include gays on their rolls". And they would, under a new initiative, but so would political parties that sponsor other minorities as candidates for political office as well.

The idea is part of a liberal senator's response to a current bill making it's way through Congress - with the backing of conservative President Alvaro Uribe - which would restrict political participation from emerging political parties and unfairly restrict potential candidates from running for office (the bill would prohibit anyone in current public office from running for higher office as long as they are still in their current post; a city councilmember, for example, would be barred from running for Congress until his council term has ended).

Proponents of the restrictive bill have denied that the intention is to limit the political participation of smaller political parties or minorities, as has been charged as well, but Senator Armando Benedetti (above) - a critic of the measure - has challenged them and argued that if they support minority participation in the political process, they should ad the following language to the bill:
The law will establish incentives for the financing of political parties and movements which create the conditions of representation according to the criteria of gender equality and respect for diversity.
Also on Wednesday, El Tiempo reported that the government had accepted making changes to the measure, in light of the criticism. Among the changes, says the paper, is "an article in which it is guaranteed that the State will increase financial support for [political] parties which highlight the participation of women, ethnic minorities and members of diverse groups such as the LGBT [community]".

It's uncertain whether the bill will pass or not but it's striking to me that the Colombian government might be ready to officially encourage political involvement by ethnic and sexual minorities throughout the nation. From a US-based point of view, it also seems a bit tokenish, but - so far - I haven't heard those who work with minority communities in Colombia criticize the plan.

In fact, it reminds me of an unrelated announcement back in February, when the Governorship of the City of Bogota announced that they would leave it up to voters on how the city would spend 6 million Colombian pesos (approx. 2,000 US dollars) on a number of suggested projects targeting several minority communities, including women, LGBT individuals, youth, Afro-Colombians, and youth communities. Voters were invited to vote for a single project targeting each group and funding would be distributed among the top projects in each area.

I don't know which projects ended up being funded but, even as I was intrigued by the engagement of community participation in the spending of public funds, I couldn't help but feel that leaving it up to an American Idol type of voting would necessarily mean that the money would be best spent. At least they did not pitch one minority organization against another in the search of funds.

As for this week's efforts to pass legislation that would reward political participation by minority communities, interestingly, I found an early mention of the idea in an April article published on a newspaper blog in Cali's El Pais. Interestingly, the article is authored by Daniel Mera Villamizar, a Colombian man of African descent, who suggests that political organizations should be granted 10% in additional public funding for campaigns if they demonstrate a 10% increase in minorities being sponsored as candidates and vouchers not only for the black Colombian community but also for the LGBT and indigenous communities and also women.

To illustrate the proposition and its potential empowerment of minorities as a political force, Villamizar uses an image of who else but United States president Barack Obama.

Colombia: Policeman's partner receives health benefits

Speaking about police institutions in Latin America and gay officers: On Thursday, May 14th, Colombia's El Tiempo reported that the country's National Police Board of Health had granted health benefits coverage to a same-sex partner of one of its officers (as it does to married partners of heterosexual couples).

Colombia Reports filed a story. Here is an excerpt:
Fabián Mauricio Chibcha Romero became the first homosexual partner of a policeman to receive benefits from the police service since Colombia's Constitutional Court granted equal civil, political, social and economic rights to gay couples in January.

Chibcha Romero's partner, a 28 year old policeman who prefers not to be named, has served in the police force for 8 years. The couple first applied for health benefits, for which the partners of heterosexual policemen are eligible, on January 11. Their application was denied. They applied again in February, following the Constitutional Court's ruling and were accepted.
Chibcha tells El Tiempo that the decision also means that he will enjoy access to private clubs set up for the recreation of police officers and their families during their vacations and to housing subsidies provided by the police department.

On Monday, the couple received additional media attention when they announced that they had cemented their 4-year relationship through a religious ceremony at a church in Bogotá.

The AFP reports that the ceremony was conducted by members of the Missionary Community of San Pablo, which they describe as an organization formed by Catholic priests which is now considered to be a dissident organization from the teachings of the Vatican.

Chibcha called it "a dream come true" and stated "We had the opportunity to become partners before the law, and now we did it before God."

Long time (and exiled) Colombian LGBT rights advocate Manuel Velandia, writing from Spain in AG Magazine, says that this is the first time that a police department in Latin America recognizes the rights of the same-sex partner of one of its officers.

Velandia, who names the officer as Javier O., says that the couple decided to speak publicly to let other officers know that they could enjoy the same benefits as married heterosexual partners.

The Catholic church in Colombia reacted in dismay that a Colombian religious institution would not only allow but also take an active role in performing wedding rights for a same-sex couple. Legally, the Colombian government still does not recognize same-sex marriages. The Constitutional Court ruling in January granting equal rights to same-sex couples also stopped short of specifically saying that gays should be allowed to marry.

The issue of Latin American military and police forces struggling to address the rights of their gay officers seems to be a trending topic these days with the issue being currently debated in Peru, Uruguay and Paraguay and Chile just this month alone. The pace of progress on LGBT rights in Latin America sometimes even catches me off guard.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Peru: A call for an "immediate repeal" of homophobic police regulation

A week after introducing a number of regulations supposedly meant to improve the image of the Peruvian police, Interior Minister Mercedes Cabanillas has been forced to respond to critics who say that the measures are homophobic and unconstitutional, and has stated that the regulations do not specifically call for a ban on gays in the police forces.

As the Associated Press originally reported on May 14th:
Peruvian police officers who "damage the image" of law enforcement by engaging in homosexual behavior can lose their jobs under a new law designed to overhaul an unpopular national police force.

The new law that went into effect [May 12th] also says officers will be fired for taking bribes and abusing detainees.

In sexual matters, however, distinctions are made between heterosexual and homosexual police officers. Those who commit adultery only face suspension, but expulsion is required for those who engage in "sexual relations with people of the same sex that cause a scandal or damage the image of the institution."

Peru's Supreme Court in 2004 overturned a ban on homosexuality in the police and military. But like the U.S. military's "don't ask, don't tell policy" — which bans homosexuals from disclosing their sexual orientation — the new law tries to sidestep the issue without banning homosexuality outright.
Criticism of the new regulation was swift. On the 14th, reported that Susana Villarán - a former police department ombudsman who ran unsuccessfully for the presidency in 2006 - joined a number of human rights and LGBT rights advocates in denouncing the norms.

"It's like going back a century," she said, "Peru does not criminalize sexual preferences, except in the police. Peru repealed a law against homosexuality in 1921."

In response, Cabanillas released a statement earlier this week and reiterated that the regulations were meant to stem inappropriate public behaviors that might be scandalous to society and reflect badly on the police department and not a ban on gays serving in the police department.

As Prensa Latina reported on Tuesday:
Faced by such anger, minister Cabanillas said that no police officer will be punished solely based on maintaining a homosexual relationship, because the idea is not to "get in anyone's bed", something that is impossible.

The sanctions, she indicated, will only be applied to scandalous, unseemly or embarrassing public occurrences or attitudes, stemming from these relationships, which have an effect on the image of the police.

In the same manner that heterosexual scandalous behaviors will be punished, which will maintain the principle that equal treatment will be given to police men, women and homosexuals, she said.

Cabanillas said that the regulation is not intended to invade the privacy of the police, because no law or rule may do so.
Villarán, responded on Tuesday according to the AFP, and continued to call it a homophobic and unnecessary regulation noting that the Peruvian armed forces did not have similar norms and that gays and lesbians were allowed to serve in the police without any discriminatory norms until only a few weeks ago.

On Thursday, a number of Peruvian LGBT rights organizations including the Homosexual Movement of Lima (MOhL) released a joint statement calling it a "hate law" and demanding an "immediate repeal" of the norm.


Monday, May 18, 2009

A pro-gay rally in New York City

I tried, I really tried. I knew I'd be covering both the morning's anti-gay rally and the afternoon's pro-gay rally and, with a few hours in between, I figured I would go to Bryant Park and make use of the free WiFi access to give a quick update. But, between uploading photos and videos, and the low upload speed, I quickly gave up.

So, let me first share with you my favorite moment of the day considering what I'd seen and listened to at the earlier rally:

YES! That's Ana Ortiz of Ugly Betty with a message to the Reverend Diaz: "Mr. Diaz: You do not represent the voice of Latinos! Absolutely not! Not in our name!" or, as she put it later, "Mr. Diaz: You are behind the times, Papi!"

Love that woman!

That's from the amazing marriage equality rally organized in midtown by the folks at Broadway Impact (it was co-sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign, the Empire State Pride Agenda, Marriage Equality New York, the Civil Rights Front and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS).

I was stunned by the number of people filling the streets considering that, as far as I know, the pro-gay rally announcement was only made on Wednesday, and you could certainly see the crowd go back a four or five blocks. Certainly not as massive as the morning's rally but impressive nevertheless.

In the morning, Diaz tried to make a mockery of the afternoon's pro-gay rally saying that those at the anti-gay rally were "real people" while those at the afternoon rally would be, you know, celebrities and Broadway folk. Thank you, Senator Diaz, for calling all of us superstars!

It all got started by the cast of "Hair" dressed in spiffed up hippie garb and singing "Let the Sunshine In". And, in addition to Ana Ortiz, Audra McDonald, David Hyde-Pierce and Cheyenne Jackson, there was the great Cynthia Nixon announcing her engagement to her partner Christine Marinoni and giving a moving, amazing speech (here in three parts, cameo by "Sex and the City" cast-mate Kristin Davis):

Amazing, no?

But the big presence at the afternoon rally was not so much the Broadway stars but the politicians with both Mayor Bloomberg and Governor David Paterson making an appearance.

And yet, just as the morning rally seemed to be all about preaching to the converted, I couldn't help but feel the same about the afternoon rally. I couldn't help but feel that those who attended the morning rallies left feeling as "uplifted" as those who attended the afternoon rally (although I hesitate to use the word 'uplifted' to describe people being preached that their homophobic beliefs are a good thing).

It was a show of force in numbers and political acumen but, in the end, I'm not sure whether it swayed anyone who is on the fence to do the right thing and vote yes on marriage equality. It just delineated the battle sides.
  • YouTube video playlist of pro-gay rally here
  • More photos of pro-gay rally here

BTW, my second favorite moment? Meeting Macha Mexico (below)!

An anti-gay rally in New York City

It wasn't necessarily the tens of thousands of people promised last week by Reverend Ruben Diaz, Sr., but it was certainly a good show by a large number of mostly Hispanic evangelical parishioners and clergy who gathered in front of Governor David Paterson's midtown Manhattan office building. El Diario La Prensa puts it at 7,000, and that might very well be a good estimate, perhaps surpassing the number of those who rallied outside the Bronx Courthouse five years ago. Then and now the issue was the same issue: Opposition to marriage equality in New York State.

Not all of them were New Yorkers, though. There was representation from churches in surrounding states and people descending from vans and buses rented to bring them to New York.

As Joe.My.God put it, "the evangelicals stayed mostly very positive, I will say, delivering nothing by smiles and heavily-accented 'Jesus loves you' type messages". And they were! One of the most discordant things about these rallies is knowing that each and every one is deeply convinced that they are being loving by denying us rights. Of course, not everyone was that loving; there were a few signs calling us 'an abomination' and a couple of references to Sodom & Gomorrah.

But parishioners who delude themselves into thinking that they love us is one thing, their religious leaders goading them into homophobic sentiment is quite another. And, on those grounds, the day's speakers did not disappoint. Take, for example, Miguel Rivera of our buddies at CONLAMIC who holds a Bible in hand as he riles the crowd in religious fervor as he talks about 'immorality' while saying that Governor Paterson is "physically blind and spiritually blind".

Or take special guest, Rabbi Yehuda Levin basking in the numbers at the rally and wondering why the Jews, Catholics, Muslims, the Chinese and the Asians were not there in the same numbers to fight "deviance and perversions" (part 2 of the video, in which he attacks Senate Majority Leader Malcom Smith and in which he argues that the legislature is turning New York into "Sodom on the Hudson" is here) [SIDE NOTE: I also noticed that when a female reporter extended her hand to Rabbi Levin before interviewing him, he pulled away and told her that his religion prohibited shaking her hand!].

And I wasn't wrong when I predicted involvement from non-Hispanic anti-gay national organizations. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council was beaming as well. He was last seen hurrying to take a cab as one of his assistants said "That went well, didn't it?"

There was also Leslie Yvette Diaz, Reverend Ruben Diaz Sr.' second wife, bringing out the warnings about kids in school being taught immorality. The family that prays together...

And, of course, there was Senator Diaz naming each and every Latino and African-American Assemblymember who voted last week in favor of marriage equality telling the crowd to throw them out of office...

...riling against a 'liberal agenda', saying that he doesn't care if the Democratic Party throws him out as long as God's word is the law and saying that those who call him homophobic are simply trying to silence the church...

...trumpeting his role in derailing marriage equality in the Senate last year...

...and calling for Governor Paterson's resignation...

At similar events in the past, I've sometimes felt like an undercover spy, secretly thrilled of being a sodomite amongst them, energized by the need to uncover them. And there was some of that yesterday. But that also mixed with a huge surge of sorrow. Particularly as I looked at the number of young boys and girls in the crowd, listening to all this hate spew from the featured speakers. I was equally crushed when I listened to Assemblymember Michael Benjamin speak about being willing to deny his own gay brother the rights he enjoys as a recently married man.

There was a group of people who gathered to protest the rally but I was penned in the press area and didn't get to see them. Joe.My.God was amongst them and says that he was dissapointed in the low turnout. I caught up to him at the afternoon's pro-gay rally. My post on that rally will be up later this afternoon.
  • YouTube video playlist of anti-gay rally here
  • More photos of anti-gay rally here

Friday, May 15, 2009

On the eve of this weekend's rallies...

This week, my friends Carolina Cordero-Dyer and Claudia Glasser opened their home doors to Westchester's News12, and spoke about what it means not to be able to marry in New York State when it comes to their relationship and raising their twins. I thought I'd share.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Uruguay: President to lift ban on gays in the military

As The Huffington Post reported yesterday, a bill lifting the country's ban on gays in the military has reached the desk of the President of Uruguay and is expected to be signed into law in the following days (Rachel Maddow featured the news last night on her show - see above).

The Associated Press reports that the ban was implemented by the country's rulers during the dictatorship years (1973 to 1985) and had remained in the books since then.

Not surprisingly, today's El Pais says that retired military leaders are furious and have called it "a provocation" which will end up having detrimental effects on the Armed Forces' "morals."

Current officers, also interviewed anonymously, expressed surprise at the decree, which they say caught them off-guard, but were more open to the announced changes than the old guard.

Back in December of 2007, Uruguay became the first country in Latin America to allow civil unions between same-sex couples on a national scale.

UPDATE: President Vázquez signs the bill, President of Paraguay says that his country is not ready...

President Tabaré Vázquez has signed the bill into law according to Reuters.

"The Uruguayan government does not discriminate against its citizens based on their political condition, their ethnic condition or their sexual choice," said the president.

Reuters also reports that the president of neighboring Paraguay, Fernando Lugo, was also present at the bill signing and told reporters that he agreed with the need to end discrimination in his country as well. But, when asked about promoting a similar bill in Paraguay, he said that his country was far from being discussed, much less approved.

"In Paraguay the problem has not been presented" he said, "but, as a matter of fact, I am afraid it does exist. I believe that, in Paraguay, we often are late arrivals (and) we only tackle it after the fact."

Chile: Dismissed for being gay, former police officer seeks justice in court

A former Chilean police detective who says he was dismissed from his post for being gay after fifteen years of service, has gone to Santiago's Court of Appeals to challenge the ruling. From the Santiago Times:
On Thursday May 7 ex-Investigations Officer César Ricardo Contreras Segura presented a demand letter to the Santiago Court of Appeals requesting reinstatement in the police, reimbursement of his wages lost since his 2006 expulsion, and damages [...] on claims that he was fired because the police department is homophobic.
Contreras was dismissed from the police in January of 2006, according to El Mercurio, and says that he decided to go to the Court of Appeals only after several attempts at seeking resolution through the Comptroller General office were ignored.

“From 2006 to date, I have lived in family, emotional and economic hell because of my unjust and inhumane expulsion from the Civil Police, where I served for 15 years on a faultless path that police civil servants wanted to sully only because of my homosexuality" says Contreras.

Rolando Jimenez, president of the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation (MOVILH), also appeared at the May 7th press conference and said that Contreras had the organization's full support. Jimenez called the dismissal one of the most brutal instanced of homophobia known to the organization and said that it was immoral for the police department to investigate the detective's private life prior to dismissal based on suspicions that he was gay.

Chilean gay news portal OpusGay quotes Contreras as saying that, days before dismissal, he was confronted by superiors and shown pornographic movie files captured from his computer's temporary memory folders without his knowledge, and made to listen to surreptitiously taped telephone conversations in which he seeks sexual encounters with other adult men.

In dismissing him, the police alleged that some of the pornographic images showed underage individuals and that Contreras was part of a pedophile ring. Those charges were later cleared by a cyber-crimes court in 2007 and, later, by the Human Rights Commission of the Legislative Chamber of Deputies.

I've edited part of a sentence from the Santiago Times article above which gave an erroneous figure in the amount of monetary damages that Contreras is requesting. According to El Mercurio and 123, Contreras is asking for $50 million Chilean pesos in lost wages (not $5 million as the Times says) which is approximately $65K US dollars.

Peru: Interior Minister bans gays from police service possibly setting up constitutional clash

BBC News is reporting that Peruvian Interior Minister Mercedes Cabanillas has introduced a series of regulations that ban gays and 'adulterers' from police service ("Peru 'bar gay people from police'").

Cabanillas, who is nicknamed "Thatcher" for her strong-armed tactics, has said that these and other measures are meant to combat police corruption.

Europa Press reports that those who break the norms will be suspended indefinitely ("Peruvian government prohibits presence of homosexuals and adulterers in the National Police").

Cabanillas said that these regulations were mean to "take one more step towards morality" in the police and also stated that it was "a starting point to improve the image of the police".

The new regulations seem to stand in contrast to a recent decision by the nation's Constitutional Court, which ruled that the rights of a police cadet were violated when he was dismissed due to rumors that he was gay ("Police cadets fight dismissals due to gay rumors"). The Court said that the Peruvian constitution banned discrimination based on sexual orientation despite regulations calling for dismissal of gays from the police that were still written in the military code books.

In a television report that ran on Peruvian television back in April, Constitutional Court Justice Carlos Mesia, read an excerpt from the standing military code at the time which read "punishment will be given to a military officer who practices dishonest or anti-natural acts with persons of the same gender inside or outside the military institute".

In the news report, he argued that discriminatory protections in the Peruvian constitution made those regulations invalid. Those comments seem to indicate that the new regulations passed by the Ministry of Interior might also fit the description.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

NYC: Foes and friends of marriage equality organize separate rallies

Just last night, the New York State Assembly approved a marriage equality bill by a tally of 89-52.

While the outcome wasn't surprising (the legislative body passed a similar bill in 2007), debate on the floor was impassioned - moving at times and infuriating at others - with the final vote improving on 2007's tally of 85 for and 61 against.

Of course, the true test will come if and when the State Senate introduces its own version of the bill since - despite a slight Democratic majority, Governor David Paterson's increased visibility on the bill, support from both US Senators from New York, AND backing from Senate Majority Leader Malcom Smith - it's uncertain if there are enough votes to pass it.

Surprisingly, in the face of the State Senate dragging its feet on the issue, there have been few public demonstrations or rallies to prod them in the right direction (compared to - say - the spate of press conferences and gatherings following the impact of the weddings that took place in San Francisco in 2004, or the couple of Join the Impact rallies in the wake of passage of Prop. 8 in California).

I had heard rumblings that a few organizations were doing something this weekend but couldn't find specific information... until yesterday. From a press release:
This Sunday, May 17, stars of Broadway and Television will come out to perform and rally in support of love, peace and marriage equality. Please join us from 5:00pm - 7:00pm ET on Sixth Avenue at 44th street in Manhattan as we let the sunshine in.
Yes, kiddies, bring your jazz-hands, because it will be a very Broadway event. As a matter of fact, the entire cast of HAIR will be on scene to sing "Let the Sunshine In" (will they get naked?) and Broadway luminaries such as Audra McDonald and Cheyenne Jackson will make appearances too. Oh, and Senator Tom Duane and Assemblymember Danny O'Donnell, sponsors of the marriage equality bills on each side of the legislature, will make impassioned speeches to those gathered. I hope there is a nice turn-out despite the last minute official announcement. It was put together by Broadway Impact and backed by the Empire State Pride Agenda, Marriage Equality New York, the Civil Rights Front and Broadway Cares / Equity Fights AIDS.

Of course, this is not the only marriage-related rally on Sunday.

A number of homophobic Hispanic evangelical preachers, led by State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr., are urging clergy and parishioners to stand against same-sex marriage by demonstrating outside Governor Paterson's New York City offices earlier in the day.

That one is scheduled to begin at 1pm and take place at 633 Third Avenue (btwn. 40th & 41st Streets).

Diaz organized a similar rally in September but it was a big flop.
Still, Diaz has been trumpeting this march to anyone who will listen and, unlike past events he has organized, this one seems to be getting mainstream media play, so I expect a big turn out.

In 2004, Diaz drew an estimated 5,000 people to rally against marriage equality and in support of President Bush outside the Bronx Courthouse. At the time, national anti-gay organizations joined the call and pured resources into the event, busing parishioners and clergy from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. If Diaz gets the backing from national organizations such as the National Organization for Marriage, it wouldn't surprise me if the rally drew just as many people.

Back then, Diaz expressed anger in Spanish language media that the rally did not receive any mainstream media coverage. As far as I know the only English-language press coverage it received was from Gay City News. In terms of media presence, I have no doubt that he'll finally get his wish on Sunday.

If it's a large turn-out (say 5,000+ people) watch him beam on television on the nightly news. If it's a small to medium turn out (say 500 to 2,500), watch him beam anyway and inflate the numbers. In either case, I will be there to see how it goes down.

But don't be fooled! Diaz might draw a specific segment of the Hispanic community but he is on the losing end of history. Four recent polls indicate that Latinos in New York actually back marriage equality for same sex couples (check this out as well as this).


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

HUGE: The fight aganst HIV in Latino communities gets a new ally

René Pérez from Calle 13 on the toll of HIV/AIDS:

I was thinking….

in my blood…my friends are my blood, my family is my blood, my father’s brother, tío José who died of AIDS, may he rest in peace, is my blood….Titi Rosi, one of my mother’s four sisters, is my blood. She was infected by tío Josean, her first love, may he rest in peace. She found out she was HIV positive the day more life came to her life, the day she found out she was going to be a mom, which we celebrated last Sunday here in New York [on Mother's Day]. My two cousins, her children, who thank God are negative, are also my blood.

I was thinking…

About the Caribbean, about how “polluted” we supposedly are, that for some, we are like a plague, just like AIDS. Because in the Caribbean we have been able to mingle as a people, because we are and have been able to take in all races, all colors…

And I was thinking…

That if I’m Caribbean… that if I am a son and I’m the blood of strong, brave and wonderful women, that I also have to have "the ovaries", the strength, to dare to be positive to HIV, to dare to get tested…. to dare to talk about it openly with my family….with my friends… And I call upon all Latinos to pay tribute to our mothers…and to be positive to AIDS. It's the best way to prevent it, to fight it, and to finally find a cure for it.

And I am still thinking…

With those words, the Puerto Rican reaggaeton superstar has agreed to become this year's International Ambassador for the Latino Commission on AIDS through a press release to be made public later this afternoon. His girlfriend, Denise Quiñones, who won the Miss Universe crown in 2001 and was also a past Ambassador for the Commission's, has long supported HIV/AIDS and LGBT rights as well, so it was along-time coming for the singer to publicly join her in advocating for an end to AIDS.

As perhaps the most popular singer in reggaeton, René's influence on Latino youth cannot be underestimated. It is my hope that he will use his newfound visibility on the issue not only to address HIV/AIDS in our communities but also how it overwhelmingly affects Latino gay men in what is still a homophobic culture. Calle 13 speaking out on homophobia and it's impact on the Latino community - and it's role on HIV transmission - would be the next step. Let's hope he goes there. And soon.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Musica: The sound of summer

"Beautiful Mess" by Swing Out Sister (Shaniachie Entertainment). Release Date: May 19, 2009. Advance orders: CDuniverse

Out for more than a year in certain parts of the world, including Japan, "Beautiful Mess" by Swing Out Sister finally gets a proper US release with two bonus tracks thrown in for good measure.

The release date is May 19th but I've managed to get my hands on an advance copy and it's been pretty much on repeat rotation since then.

Probably like most of those in the United States who have heard of Swing Out Sister, I was smitten at first bite when they released "It's Better To Travel" in 1987 and, it's follow-up, "Kaleidoscope World" in 1989. From album first to second album, there was a definite shift from a Stock-Aitken-Waterman'ish pop sound to jazzier explorations which suited the band fine, but by their third album, "The Living Return", they had lost me as the shift to jazzyness became, at least to me, more of a snoozefest. Nothing stood out like their earlier hits "Am I the Same Girl" or "Breakout".

So here we are twenty-two years later - and nine records into their career - and, while the sound is definitely on the retro tip, lead singer Corinne Drewery's lush vocals sound better than ever and there is a maturity and assuredness to the band that actually took me by surprise. To be sincere, I was expecting lounge jazz, but what "Beautiful Mess" turns out to be is a perfect summer album.

Take album opener and first single "Something Every Day" (unofficial YouTube video above). It certainly sets the tone for the rest of the album: Poignant, jazzy, beautiful melody and just lovely, with a nod to Burt Bacharach here, and to Dusty Springfield there. Actually, it's a preclude to stunners like "Time Tracks You Down", "Butterfly," "Out There" and "Beautiful Mess", all as memorable as the next, leaving you upon listening with a sense of joy, if also with a sense of nostalgia for summers past. Searching for comparisons, my head immediately recalled St. Etienne's recent explorations of the retro-1960's London pop-sound in albums such as "Good Humor" and "Tales from Turnpike House."

The album is not perfect. I could do without "Secret Love (You're Invisible)" - which incorporates some mellow hip-hop beats and some dramatic vocal interludes that didn't do it for me - as well as the bonus remixes. There are also a bonus "studio" take on "Something Every Day" in which Swing Out Sister winks at fans by incorporating some chord changes from "Twilight World", and a low-key version of "Breakout", probably included to entice old fans.

What's truly of note, though, is their new material. A great rediscovery, indeed.

Band / Record Promoter information:

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Peru: Police cadets fight dismissal due to gay rumors

I've certainly been burning that 'annotations' function over at YouTube as of late and here's another video which I've used the function to translate what's being said on-screen to English.

In this case, the news report is about a couple of police academy cadets who were dismissed from school in 2003 based on rumors that they were gay. As Diario de Lima reports, Peru's constitution bans discrimination based on sexual orientation, but what if they neither man identifies themselves as gay?

Well, one of the dismissed cadets brought his case before Peru's Constitutional Court and argued that it had been unconstitutional to have been dismissed based on the perception that he might be gay - and he won. He was recently reinstated as a police officer.

Based on the verdict, the second man says - in the video - that he is also considering going to court and one of the Constitutional Court judges has said that the court should also vote in his favor. Judge Carlos Mesia says that the country's military regulations still ban homosexual conduct among police officers and soldiers but that they precede changes to the Peruvian constitution which now make the ban unconstitutional.


Additional polling confirms Latino support for marriage equality

A couple of weeks back I wrote about some eye-popping numbers from a Siena poll and a SurveyUSA poll indicating that Latinos in New York State might be at a tipping point when it came to supporting Governor David Paterson's marriage equality bill.

With the news yesterday that Maine has become the 6th state in the United States to allow same-sex couples to marry and that a marriage equality bill has reached the desk of the Governor of New Hampshire, I thought I'd take a look at some additional polling numbers on Latino support for marriage equality.

On April 30th, Quinnipiac University released results of a national poll conducted between April 21st and 27th in which 2,041 registered voters were interviewed - and the Latino numbers are equally as eye-popping.

When asked "Would you support or oppose a law in your state that would allow same-sex couples to get married?" 52% of Hispanics said that they would support it against 45% who would not.

46%of Hispanics said that they think that "same-sex couples should be allowed legally to marry" compared to 19% who said same-sex couples "should be allowed legally to form civil unions but not marry", with 30% opting for granting same-sex couples "no recognition".

When asked if "same-sex marriage is a threat to traditional marriage between a man and a woman", an amazing 70% of Hispanics disagreed while while 28% agreed.

And when asked the cause of someone being gay on lesbian, 53% of Hispanics said that people were born gay, 29% who said homosexuality was a choice, and 9% said that people "become" gay or lesbian due to they way they were brought up.

The numbers, which mirror the NYS poll by Siena, show that Latinos nationwide support marriage equality at higher rates than whites or African-Americans in the United States, and oppose marriage equality at lower rates than either group.

In the meantime, a poll released this week by the New York Latino Research and Resources Network (NYLARNet) from surveys made late last year (1,232 voting age Latinos from Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island were interviewed from Nov. 13th to the 30th), paints a more complicated picture.

For one, the survey didn't distinguish between civil unions or marriage rights for same-sex couples and simply asked participants whether they were "for gay marriage and or civil unions".

The answer was also complicated. 50% of Latinos in New York State said that they were for either but only 37% of Latinos in the other surveyed states responded equally.

Authors acknowledge that views might have changed between November and today although they do not venture to say whether support for marriage equality might have increased or decreased. They also do not try to explain why there is such a discrepancy between support for the recognition of same-sex partnerships in New York by Latinos compared to those of other states surveyed.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Telegenic Latino preacher dropped from Miami church in wake of scandal

Catholic preacher Alberto Cutié, better known to millions of Spanish-language television viewers as "Padre Alberto", has been removed from his post at the St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Miami Beach and banned from conducting Sunday mass, reports The Miami Herald.

The swift removal of the Puerto Rico-born preacher comes in the wake of a series of photographs published in the Spanish-language gossip magazine TVyNotas which show Cutié frolicking with a woman on a beach. Representatives from the Archdiocese of Miami stated that Cutié was being removed for breaking his vow of celibacy.

Cutié, arguably the best known Catholic preacher among Latinos in the United States, ran a couple of afternoon talk shows on the Telemundo network in which he doled advice to guests, audience members and callers. Despite the cancellation of those shows in 2002, Cutié continued to be prominently featured on several talk shows while running a local radio show and authoring a couple of books.

For a priest with such a visible media presence, Cutié was often asked about his take on homosexuality and, although not as rabidly homophobic as other Catholic priests, his basic stance came down to the good-ol' 'Love the sinner, hate the sin' position predicated by the Vatican.

From a 1999 New York Times article:

On homosexuality: ''The church does not reject anyone. Being homosexual is not a sin because it's something that you don't choose.'' But he added, ''The practice is another matter.''

From a 2006 interview posted at Access My Library:

Q: What about homosexuality in general? Will the church ever openly accept gays and lesbians?

A: The approach of the Catholic Church, I have to tell you, is a lot more accepting than the approach of the new mega-churches and the fundamentalist churches. The Catholic Church is closer to the position of science, which says we don't really know how a person becomes, um, homosexual. We don't know if it's something you're born with or if it's something that you become. What we do know is that they should be respected.

Obviously, the statements seem to show some evolution in his thoughts about homosexuality, but I remember seeing him discuss the issue several times on television and thinking how much more insidious it was to have a telegenic preacher on national television cloak the 'practicing gayness is bad' angle with his wide smile, instead of expressing outright homophobic sentiment.

Cuité has released a short statement which reads, in part, "I ask for the forgiveness of those who may be hurt or saddened by my actions" (in other words, a non-apology apology).

Some of his parishioners have jumped to his defense and the scandal has elicited media dialogue on whether the church should do away with celibacy restrictions on Catholic preachers.

Let's hope that, now that Cutié is on the other side of those who make 'practice' of their sexuality, he will fully come around and acknowledge that his sexual drive and sexuality are as life-affirming and natural as that of gays and lesbians - as well as acknowledge that while some fundamentalist evangelical churches might be more outwardly hostile to gays and lesbians, The Catholic church is not nearly as enlightened as he paints it to be.


UPDATE: In a letter allegedly authored by Cuité, as published in a Puerto Rican television gossip show's blog, InFraganti, the priest alludes to some of the conflicts he has felt for a long time when it comes to his celibacy vows and also indicates that priests he knows struggle with issues related to homosexuality. He also states, unequivocally, that the Catholic Church should embrace the calls for reform. I have translated an excerpt:

For a long time I was convinced that with a good dosis of prayer, exercise and a balanced life, every temptation could be overcome. But, in my particular case, it wasn't so [...] Parish work and the media, introduced me to all kind of persons - including many brother priests who also struggle with diverse topics about human sexuality and the celibacy that the church requires from us. It has not been easy. In fact, to my closest friends and collaborators, I have said that "this year was the most difficult of my life"; witnessing so many unpleasant situations which [some of ] my brother priests have lived - in and outside Miami. Perhaps knowing so many things about the institution and in so many places, has made me more sensitive to all this pain and the need that the Church has of reforming itself. Scripture says: "It is not good for a man to be alone" and that I have lived in my own flesh. I have seen in many brothers and in myself.

I want you to know that I take FULL RESPONSIBILITY for my actions and that it is I who acted badly. I ask God for forgiveness and from you if anyone feels offended. At the same time I am consoled by God's mercy - because God has widely open arms and I know that He loves us all wih his unconditional love.

UPDATE 2: CNN's Rick Sanchez to the rescue! (h/t Guanabee)

Original Video - More videos at TinyPic

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

About those NOM ads on Blabbeando...

I would like to extend a hearty welcome to the National Organization for Marriage and their advertising on Blabbeando!

"Who are they?," you may ask yourself.

You know - NOM. The organization that brought us the infamous 'A Storm is Coming' ad and which stands against marriage equality, despite their pretty name.

Not that NOM specifically planned to run ads on blogs that counter their homophobic vile or that I, as a blogger, manually accepted their advertising.

Their ads, actually, come courtesy of Google's AdSense service which is supposed to automatically match advertisements on a specific topic with the most appropriate websites by analyzing which words are most frequently used on the site (in this case, Blabbeando contains a lot of words related to gay issues and since the NOM ads are all about the gays - in a negative way - it's an instant match!).

Other queer blogs currently running the ads include NGblog, The Bilerico Project, QUEERTY and GoodAsYou, among others.

Here is the thing: Every time you click on the ad, you will be redirected to the NOM website - which means that NOM has to pay Google for the click-through! Yes! By clicking on the ads, you will take money away from NOM!

So, click away and enjoy the ludicrous messages on the NOM site. Blabbeando will be thankful and you can rest assured that featuring the ads does not mean that we have, all of a sudden, switched sides to the Dark Force.

(UPDATE @ 7:00PM EST: The AdSense ads are gone a mere hours after they started to appear. Perhaps NOM caught wind that their ads were being queeryfied. Or perhaps they could only afford a few hours of AdSense exposure).

(UPDATE @12:01AM EST WED. MAY 6TH: They are baaaaaack!!! CLICK CLICK CLICK away!!!)