Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fidel Castro on persecution against gays in Cuba: "If someone is responsible, it's me"

A stunner of an interview with Fidel Castro was posted today on the site of the Mexican newspaper La Jornada. In it, journalist Carmen Lira Saade interviews to the former dictator at his home in Havana and discusses the US blockade, Cuba's relationship with Mexico and LGBT rights. Here is my translation of the passage in which the Cuban dictator addresses LGBT rights when he was leading the country.
[NOTE: The reporter writes in the first person and uses dashes for some citations and quotation marks for others, making the interview difficult to follow at parts. Nevertheless I have tried to retain the punctuation used in the original Spanish-language article from La Jornada].
Even though there is nothing that shows he feels any discomfort, I do not think Fidel is going to like what I am about to say.

- Comandante, despite the enchantments of the Cuban Revolution, the acknowledgment of and solidarity with a great part of the intellectual universe, the great achievements of the people against the blockade, in short, everything - everything - went down the pipes as a result of the persecution against homosexuals in Cuba.

Fidel doesn't shy away from the topic. He doesn't deny nor reject the claim. He only asks for time to remember - he says - how and when prejudice took over the revolutionary ranks.

Five decades ago, based on homophobia, homosexuals were marginalized in Cuba and many were sent to agricultural-military labor camps accusing them of being "counterrevolutionaries."

- Yes, he remembers, it was a time of great injustice - A great injustice! - he repeats emphatically - no matter who did it. If it was us who did it, us... I am trying to define my responsibility in all that because, of course, I don't hold that type of prejudice.

It is known that among his oldest of friends, there are homosexuals.

- But then, how was that hatred against the 'different' established?

He believes all was the result of a spontaneous reaction in the revolutionary ranks, which came from tradition. In earlier Cuba blacks were not the only ones discriminated against; women were also discriminated and, of course, homosexuals...

- Yes, yes. But not in the Cuba of the 'new' morality, the pride of those revolutionaries on the inside and on the outside...

- Who, then, was directly or indirectly responsible for not putting a stop to what was happening in Cuban society? The Party? Because the Communist Party of Cuba still does not 'explicitly' ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.

- No - says Fidel - If someone is responsible, it's me...

"It is true that at the time I could not take care of that issue... I found myself immersed, primarily, in the October Crisis [as the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 is known in the island], in war, on political matters..."

- But this became a serious and grave political problem, Comandante.

- Understood, understood ... We didn't know how to give it value ... systematic sabotages, armed attacks were happening all the time; we had so many problems, some terrible, problems of life or death - you know? - at we did not give it enough attention.

- After all that, it became very difficult to defend the Revolution abroad... The image had forever been damaged in some places, particularly in Europe.

- Understood, understood - he repeats -; it was just...

- The persecution of homosexuals could happen with be lesser or greater protest, anywhere. Not in revolutionary Cuba - I tell him.

- Understood; It's like when a saint sins, right?... It's not the same thing as when a sinner sins, no?

Fidel gives a faint smile, then get serious again:

- Look: Imagine how our days were in those first few months of the Revolution; the war with the Yankees, the how you think were the days of ours in those early months of the Revolution: the war with the Yankees, the issue of the armaments, and, almost simultaneously, the planned attempts on my own life...

Fidel reveals how they all had "tremendous" influence on him and how his life was changed by the life-threats and actual attacks he suffered:

"I could not go anywhere, I didn't even have were to live..." Betrayals were the order of the day and I had to go a salto de mata [an expression that means 'to live day to day']...

"To escape the CIA, which used to buy so many traitors, sometimes among my own people, was not an easy thing; but whatever, anyway, if responsibility has to be taken, I take my own. I will not blame others...", says the revolutionary leader.

He only regrets not having corrected it back then...
The article goes on to mention the work of Mariela Castro. Fidel's niece, in pushing for LGBT rights in the island and recent advances which include public health policies that allow transgender people to undergo gender-reassignment surgery free of charge.

UPDATE: A few English language articles have started to roll in...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Three Latino candidates oppose marriage equality as they seek statewide office in New York

[UPDATED BELOW] New York State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. is certainly not the only homophobe in the state legislature and it took more than his one vote to sink the state's marriage equality bill back in December of 2009. Nevertheless, the Reverend has certainly emerged as the most visible symbol when it comes to the issue - and one of the top targets for LGBT-rights advocacy groups such as Fight Back New York.

The sometimes outsized attention given to the man - including on this very blog - speaks to his ability to flaunt his fundamentalist homophobia as a legislator and get away with it.  But it also overshadows the views of other state legislators who are just as homophobic... as well as those who hold similar views and are seeking state-wide office.

The later is the case with Miguel EstrellaLuis Sepulveda, and Héctor Rámirez, all of whom are running for separate seats in the NYS Assembly.

A long-shot by any stretch of the imagination, Miguel Estrella (pictured) is one of six candidates vying for an open seat in the 72nd Assembly District in Upper Manhattan.  Mr. Estrella caught my eye through coverage of his race in newspapers from the Dominican Republic, his native country.

Take this excerpt from an August 12th article in Primicias in which they fawn over the "charismatic emerging leader":
Miguel Estrella, candidate for state assembly district 72, which covers parts of Washington Heights, Inwood and Marble Hill, opposes marriage between homosexuals.

"As a politician who is concerned about the well-being of the family, I understand we must pay careful attention to the integral cell of society.  Marriages between couples of the same-gender cannot produce children and, thus, break up the chain of procreation mandated by the Bible which makes it a requirement to 'be fruitful and multiply'", said  the political leader.
"To defend marriages between people of the same gender would send the wrong message to new generations; which would lead to the norm of accepting these unions as something which is normal, which it isn't, because people of the same gender cannot procreate," continued the charismatic emerging leader.
However, he said that as an assemblyman, he will equally represent all sectors [of society], guaranteeing and respecting - as is customary in our society - the constitutional rights of all sectors [of society].
Although he immediate said: "I will fight with all my might so that New York won't pass a law of this nature, and will fight with all institutions that are against this aberration."
Oh, joy! Another Bible-thumping politician calling our relationships an "aberration" is exactly what we need, right?

Luckily, the lead candidate in the race, Guillermo Linares, has a storied history in New York City politics as the first person from the Dominican Republic to be elected to political office in the United States when he became a New York City Councilmember in 1991.  In 2004 he was appointed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg as the NYC Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs.  Now, as he seeks office once again, Linares has picked up the backing of openly lesbian New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and the endorsement of the Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats (GLID).

I have found no mention anywhere of whether Estrella has any allegiances to Reverend Diaz, although it wouldn't surprise me. That's certainly not the case when it comes to Luis Sepúlveda, who is trying to unseat Democratic Assemblymember Peter M. Rivera in the 76th Assembly District in the Bronx.

This two and a half minute clip is an excerpt from an Aug. 13th segment that ran on "Pura Politica" on Time Warner Cable's NY1 Noticias.  In addition to Sepúlveda, Miosotis Muñoz who is running in the 32nd Senate District in Upper Manhattan; and Julissa Gómez, who is running in the 72nd Assembly District (the same district as Estrella and Linares, as discussed above).

Here I have to stop and highlight the fact that both Muñoz and Gómez back marriage equality even though, just like Sepúlveda, they are first time candidates for their specific seats and running in heavily Latino - and presumably overwhelmingly Catholic districts - in New York City.

Sepúlveda, on the other hand, fidgets and seems uncomfortable with the issue, even as he ultimately admits he'd vote 'no' on marriage equality when he is pushed on the issue by anchor Juan Manuel Benitez.

What's interesting is how he tries to argue that the support he has received from Reverend Diaz is incidental and came only after he launched his campaign. He also initially tries to get away with having a 'wait-and-see' attitude on the issue of marriage equality. He tried the same tack on an English-language debate show without being challenged (courtesy of NGblog)...

"The height of hypocrisy" the host says. And Peter Rivera couldn't have put it better! It's a cop-out. What is there to 'get' about a marriage EQUALITY bill?

Amazingly, NG also pointed to this audio clip from March of 2010 in which Sepúlveda actually said he was FOR marriage equality less than five months ago!

At the 28:25 mark:
I am for marriage equality. I'm ah, eh, I teach constitutional law courses, ah, and I know that it's eventually gonna happen.  The problem is that, emotionally, we are not ready for that. But ultimately... it will come down to an equal protection violation and, you know, I don't see, you know, the decision in 2006 by the Court of Appeals, you know, that they... the holding that marriage... same-sex marriage somehow was going to be to the detriment of children, that ah, that that was the reason why the court upheld the ban on marriage equality.

You know, it doesn't hold water. I think Judge Kaye's dissent will ultimately rule the day and you'll have marriage equality. But we still have to get over that... that emotional barrier that we have because, in my readings of constitutional law, court cases, you know, that case was lost on the way the court - the standard review of the court used - ah - you know, rather than using a compelling reason for the state to have this kind of policy, they use a rational basis, which made it easier for the State to say "Look, this is..." "There is no constitutional provision here allowing you to do this and so we, you know, are gonna accept the reason proffered that marriage equality won't protect our children."

That's the basis, the sole basis the court took when I look at that decision.
As in the interviews I posted above, Sepúlveda goes on to voucher for Reverend Diaz and argue that his views don't have anything to do with the fact he worked for the Senator. That might have held more water if he hadn't flipped-flopped on marriage equality since that March interview.  Particularly painful now is to hear him talk about having two gay brothers, one of whom died of AIDS in 1994, and vouch for his surviving gay brother's right to marry his partner (at the 31:45 mark)...
I loved my brother who passed away, and I love my brother now. And he is in a relationship and, you know, there are certain things that come with a relationship, ahm, you know, and I, I... from my experiences, ah, there's nothing to tell me that my brother should not be allowed to marry his partner, ahm, should not be allowed to inherit from his partner, should not be allowed to get certain rights that come from marriage. That, you know, that and coupled with my knowledge of constitutional history tells me that, you know, ultimately, you are gonna have marriage equality in the state of New York.
Come to think of it, didn't the Reverend also say he had two gay brothers? It boggles the mind how Diaz and Sepúlveda can turn their backs on their own brothers based on fundamentalist homophobic convictions or mere political calculation.

Finally tonight, there is this clip from Friday's edition of "Pura Politica" featuring another two additional Dominican candidates to the New York State Assembly running this year: Héctor Rámirez and Ariel Ferreira.

Running to unseat Nelson Castro, the NYS 86th District Assemblyman, Héctor Rámirez thinks he can also get away with muddling his stance on marriage equality by saying he supports "civil unions" which, of course, are not and would not be in play if he reaches the state assembly. As with Sepúlveda, Juan Manuel Benitez doesn't let Rámirez get away at just that and presses on.  Lo and behold, Rámirez invokes his upbringing in a Catholic family to say that nope, he would not vote in favor of marriage equality.

Although not an incumbent, Rámirez - if you should know - has received endorsements by the Bronx Democratic Party, the influential 32BJ union, the Working Families Party and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. - the Reverend's son - despite his vows to oppose marriage equality.  That might have to do with the ever swirling accusations of corruption surrounding Castro but it's a shame they'd all be willing to endorse someone who is against equality.

As with Muñoz and Gómez above, it is great to see a young Latino candidate like Ariel Ferreira stand up for marriage equality as someone who was also raised in a Catholic family.  Ferreira, who is also of Dominican descent, might have a tough road ahead in defeating legendary Assemblymember Danny Ferrell in Harlem's 71st Assembly District this year. But he might have a bright political career ahead of him.

UPDATE: Again, this is not to be an exhaustive list, but ad a fourth Latino candidate who is opposed to marriage equality to the list.

Richard LaSalle was born in East New York but says he comes from a Latino background.  He is running as a Republican candidate for the 13th Senate District and faces the humongous task of unseating pro-marriage equality Democratic Senator José Peralta.

Talking to Javier Castaño, a former editor of the defunct Spanish-language newspaper HOY who now publishes a local free Spanish-language newsweekly called Queens Latino, LaSalle assails Peralta as follows:
"Peralta has voted in favor of homosexual marriage three times, but in his district, the majority of voters do not agree with gay marriages."

He doesn't stop there. He boasts he is prepared to spend half a million dollars from his own pocket to unseat Peralta (trust me, I live in the district and it doesn't really show) and stabs those who have endorsed him in the back.

His campaign site says he's gotten the backing of the Queens County Republican Party, the Queens County Conservative Party, the Fellowship Republican Club and the Frank Kenna Republican Club.  What does he have to say about running as a Republican, though?
"I registered as a Republican to scare the Democrats, even though I don't believe in [political] parties because they all do it for power and for money."
Ah! Good luck with that, bud!  The article is not available online as far as I know but it ran in the September 2010 edition of the paper.

Related (up and coming pro-gay NYS Assembly candidates mentioned in this blog post):
  • Ariel Ferreira's Facebook page here
  • Miosotis Muñoz' Facebook page here
  • Julissa Gómez Facebook page here

Sunday, August 08, 2010

NYS Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr.: Supreme Court will allow same-sex marriages as a sign of the end of days

The last time homophobic New York State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. visited the studios of local news channel NY1's "Pura Politica" in June of 2009 anchor Juan Manuel Benitez meticulously and calmly asked questions that reduced the ordained Pentecostal  reverend to this:

"I am the church, and I am the state", he kept repeating. "I am the church, I am the state".

With those words, the Reverend stood naked in in his religious-based bigotry and basically admitted what everyone knows: The Senator couldn't give a damn about separation of church and state as well as the secular laws he was elected to protect.

The Reverend's vitriolic homophobia is legion and has left a trail of destruction behind him.  From opposing the 1994 Gay Games in New York City because he claimed visiting gay tourists would spread AIDS through the city's population to opposing the opening of a school planned to serve LGBT youth (the Harvey Milk School would later open after it made concessions to Diaz and made it explicit that it would not only serve LGBT youth but also heterosexual youth).

But he's become best known, perhaps, for his unrelenting opposition to marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples.  As a New York City councilmember and now as a Senator he has been the most visible face and voice of opposition to bringing New York State closer to passing a marriage equality bill.

So it was back to "Pura Politica" on Friday to discuss a federal court's decision to strike down Proposition 8 which had banned such marriages in California.  And Diaz, true to himself, did not disappoint.

It's a long clip which consists of two segments.  In the first, Benitez masterfully confronts Diaz on his opposition to marriage equality and, in the second, my friend Pedro Julio Serrano speaks to Benitez about the reach and effects of the Proposition 8 ruling last week in California.

Highlights:  As in last year's "Pura Politica" appearance the Reverend made some jaw-dropping statements. Most surprisingly, the Reverend believes that the Supreme Court will take up the issue of marriage equality and decide in favor of the gay community [please keep in mind these is a word-by-word translation which means there might be "uhms" and "ah"'s as well as breaks in in the line of thought as each person speaks]:
[At the 2:11 minute mark]
Juan Manuel Benitez: Do you think this will reach the Supreme Court and if that happens what will be it's decision...
Rev. Ruben Diaz, Sr.: Of course! Of course! The Supreme Court will say that what the court did is reasonable, if one assumes that they are full of liberal justices, and they'll say "It's like that.
And the reason why Diaz believes the Supreme Court will rule in favor of granting marriage rights to same-sex couples? Well, it's not only what Diaz calls "liberal" and "activist" judges on the bench, picking up right-wing memes. He actually says the Bible told him so:
[At the 3:23 mark]
Juan Manuel Benitez: During the last year, since you were last here for the entire show to talk about this issue, there has been another country, in this case in Latin America... two more countries in Europe, in Portugal, and Argentina which are legalizing unions between same-sex couples.  It seems this movement is unstoppable in many countries of the world. Are you not fearful of being left on the wrong side of history on this issue?
Rev. Ruben Diaz, Sr.: If you read the Bible, and it's where I base myself upon, the Bible says that all these things will happen at the end and that this needs to happen, but because I don't do it... I do it based on biblical reasons - what does the Bible tell us? That the biblical prophecies indicate that all this will happen and that this is the way...
Juan Manuel Benitez: In other words, the Bible says that homosexual marriage will...
Rev. Ruben Diaz, Sr.: What the Bible says is that at the end of the road, what's evil and everything that is against the will of God, and everything that is against the moral principles will come to pass, they will win.
Yes, you read it here first.  NYS Senator believes that the Supreme Court of America will allow same-sex couples to marry as a sign of the end of times.

Earlier, there is an incredibly disturbing exchange in which Diaz scoffs at the fact that gays are asking for their civil rights. Benitez is questioning Diaz as to whether people's civil rights should be put to a popular vote and asks Diaz whether he would have sponsored a referendum on the 1960's groundbreaking civil right law just because the majority of the citizens of the United States opposed it at the time.
[At the :56 second mark]
Juan Manuel Benitez: But in the 1960's, when the civil rights bill was passed, would you have granted the people of the United States a referendum, the power to decide?
Rev. Ruben Diaz, Sr.: What civil rights are you talking about? These are people who have rights. What civil rights! What are the civil rights? You know... these are civil rights... What civil rights? I don't understand. I don't understand the "chicken and rice" [arguments] you guys employ: "Civil rights". What civil rights?
Juan Manuel Benitez: Well, according to the judges...
Rev. Ruben Diaz, Sr.: What has anything to do... what does the abuse of blacks have to do, in those times of the 1960's - and I also experienced abuse down south - and those things that stemmed from black slavery, what does it have to do with a person... if I want to be - eh- homosexual, I want to be a lesbian, and I'm not allowed, "I want to be", "I want to have" - that union of those two... I don't understand that, honestly, I don't understand it.
Juan Manuel Benitez: Well, it's not that these people say I "want" to be homosexual.  These people ARE homosexual...
Rev. Ruben Diaz, Sr.: Well, whatever they might be...
Juan Manuel Benitez: A person doesn't elect if he wants to be black or if he wants to be white...
Rev. Ruben Diaz, Sr.: Whatever they might be whatever they might be, whatever they might be...
Why do I get the sense that when anyone says anything different than what the Reverend believes he just stops listening and keeps repeating the same thing over and over? Anyway, look at the utter arrogance and contempt that crosses his eyes as he discusses whether gays and lesbians are worthy of being granted civil rights.

These exchanges lead to what I thought was the most stunning part of the clips.  No, it's not Diaz stating that we will achieve marriage equality because we are nearing the end of days.  It actually doesn't come from Diaz himself.  It's Juan Manuel Benitez taking a moment in the next segment to address his viewers as he welcomes Pedro Julio...

[At the 4:30 minute mark]
Juan Manuel Benitez: Here at "Pura Politica", we've spent years debating this topic and, as we've done it, little by little, throughout the world, different countries, states and cities decided that - yes - these unions should be recognized in the same way as heterosexual ones.  And, at the same time, the predictions of the destruction of the family, of danger to children, and even the end of the world, as our previous guest warned, have not become reality. Hence, a few weeks ago, we already said here that legally and historically the opposition to these marriages is being left without arguments. Religious-wise, that's for each one to believe what they want. Thank God, this country is ruled by the text of law and not texts of religion, mythology or superstition; and I say 'Thank God' because it would be impossible to satisfy every creed and, when it comes to it, what's being asked is not to be allowed into a Synagogue or Mosque to get married, but simply City Hall or the town council. 
Just stunning. Benitez has a periodical OpEd piece in El Diario La Prensa and often prepares an OpEd segment for "Pura Politica" as well but, as the host of the show, I've always seen him maintain an objective voice when it comes to the topics addressed by the guests who are invited, as it should be.  A great political interviewer uses arguments to elicit comments from his guests and Benitez is amazing at it.  But something about the interview with Diaz - which was taped on Thursday and aired on Friday - must have set Benitez off enough to feel it was important to establish an editorial voice in the face of Diaz's hurtful statements.  I personally thought it was a great thing to do and I thank Benitez as well as the producers of "Pura Politica" for standing on principle.

He also opens his questions for Pedro Julio with the following question...
Juan Manuel Benitez: President Obama says he is against Proposition 8, which momentarily banned many marriages that took place in California, but that he still believes that marriage is between "a man and a woman". Explain this to me because I don't get it.
Pedro Julio does a great job, as he always does, of responding to that question and, like Diaz, he prognosticates that ultimately marriage equality is a movement that is unstoppable and will emerge victorious throughout the word. Unlike the Reverend, Pedro Julio doesn't argue that the end is near.  He argues that simply and plainly we all deserve the same rights as others.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Mexican Supreme Court: Mexico City's marriage equality law is constitutional

Still on a high from yesterday's historic federal court ruling knocking down Proposition 8 in California?  Well, get a load of this:

The Mexican Supreme Court of Justice has been holding hearings this week on the constitutionality of Mexico City's groundbreaking marriage equality law which was adopted by the city on December 21st, 2009.

The law, the first of its kind in all of Latin America, not only granted gay couples in Mexico City the right to marry but also explicitly said that gay couples could adopt children (previously gay individuals were allowed to adopt but, if they had a partner, that partner could not file for parenthood rights).

Upon passage of the law, Mexican president Felipe Calderón stated that the constitution only allowed marriages "between a man and a woman" and had his attorney general file an appeal before the Supreme Court.

Guess what!  Earlier today the Mexican Supreme Court ruled by a vote of 8-2 that Mexico City's marriage equality law is indeed constitutional ("Mexican court upholds capital's gay marriage law", AP). Suck it, Calderón!

Echoing California federal court judge Vaugh R. Walker in ruling that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional, Milenio reports that, in backing the law, Justice Fernando Franco stated the following:
Procreation is not an essential element of marriage nor does it threaten the protection the Constitution grants to the family and procreation, since those who want to conceive, have the full capacity of doing it.
The court had previously said that they would also take up the part of the law that grants adoption rights for gay couples as a separate debate.  To that effect, the court will convene once again this Monday to discuss whether that part of the law is constitutional.  They will also be debating whether the court's ruling has any reach beyond Mexico City.

Not all LGBT-rights advocates were happy with the marriage equality law approved in December by the legislature. Federal Deputy Enoé Uranga, an openly lesbian legislator who spearheaded a civil union bill in 2001 which was passed in 2006, warned that the law had been rushed through the legislature with not enough time for public debate.  She argued that the law reflected political interests rather than serve the needs of LGBT families and warned that making adoption rights explicit within the law might have unintended consequences should the Supreme Court decide to ban them.  As of late, though, and now that the Supreme Court is holding hearings and deciding on the constitutionality of the law, Uranga has been busy trying to draw expert witnesses and testimony for the court to consider backing adoption rights for gays.

Some observers are just as concerned the court won't be nearly as progressive on adoption as it was today on marriage equality but Mexico City Councilmember David Razú (pictured above), the author and lead sponsor of the bill which became law, is absolutely certain the Court will back adoption rights as well, according to my conversations with him on Twitter.

In the meantime, the United Nation's Deputy High Commissioner Kyung-wha Kang, visiting Mexico for an international conference on women's rights, told CNN Mexico that marriage was a right everyone should have access to, including same-sex partners.  CNN doesn't quote her directly but says that the UN Commissioner also backed adoption rights for same-sex couples "although the decision should be taken carefully in each particular case" and said that the United Nations had always been in favor of citizens having full access to human rights regardless of their sexual orientation.

As for marriages between same-sex couples that have taken place since the law was passed six months ago? NotieSe reports that 320 same-sex marriage couples have gotten married, 173 between men and 147 between women.  27 foreigners have married Mexican citizens including people who were born in Rumania, Austria, Germany, Spain, Italy, France, England, the United States, Canada, Panama, Guatemala, Venezuela and Colombia.

Full Double Rainbow All The Way Day! CA's Prop. 8 struck down!

In a 136-page ruling, a federal judge has determined that California's ban on marriage rights for same-sex couples is unconstitutional.  In what New York University Law Professor Arthur S. Leonard calls a ruling "with sweeping clarity", Judge Vaughn R. Walker, one of two openly gay judges on the federal court circuit, said:
Moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and lesbians. The evidence shows conclusively that Proposition 8 enacts, without reason, a private moral view that same-sex couples are inferior to opposite-sex couples.
And tonight The New York Times editorialized, in part, thusly:
One of Judge Walker’s strongest points was that traditional notions of marriage can no longer be used to justify discrimination, just as gender roles in opposite-sex marriage have changed dramatically over the decades. All marriages are now unions of equals, he wrote, and there is no reason to restrict that equality to straight couples. The exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage “exists as an artifact of a time when the genders were seen as having distinct roles in society and in marriage,” he wrote. “That time has passed.” 
With that, the gays were sent dancing into the streets knowing fully well that the ruling will most certainly be appealed by those wishing to deny us equal rights, perhaps all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Celebratory rallies are taking place all over the United States this evening. This afternoon I headed to the New York City Supreme Court building at 60 Centre Street in Manhattan for our version of the national celebration.

I missed the political speeches and got there just as people made their way across Centre Street to place white carnations on the steps of the Supreme Court. I counted, perhaps 100+ people, but by then a few had left. I heard others say that they had estimated 200 to 300 people during the earlier speeches.  A paltry showing considering the thousands that took to the streets after Prop. 8 was passed in November of 2008 which might have been the result of a hot and humid day, a rather haphazard alert network (I was surprised I didn't see info about the rally pop up more frequently on my Facebook or Twitter timeslines) or, simply, the fact that rejection of our rights angers and motivates way more people than the affirmation that, yes, we are equal to others (BTW: Mike Lavers has coverage of the rally and the speeches over at EDGE).

As you can see, I took a few photos. Additional pics can be seen here. You can probably spot a few movers and shakers, including the lovely Ann Northrop, Mr. "Equal Rights for Fairies" Joe Jervis (a/k/a Joe.My.God.) and Ruben Diaz, Sr. opponent Charlie Ramos.

What's really sweet about seeing Charlie there, as well as all the joyful marriage equality proponents, was that two years ago almost to the date, it was Ruben Diaz, Sr. himself heading to the same plaza.

Finally, one of the people I know who was not at the rally was Pedro Julio Serrano.  That's because he was otherwise occupied talking on behalf of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force on CNN en Español.  I've got the goods. Here you go...


Meanwhile, in San Francisco...

And San Diego (via Rex Wockner )...

Monday, August 02, 2010

Lady Gaga protests Arizona's immigration law after meeting with gay Latino immigration rights advocates

PHOTO: Immigration rights activists meet Lady Gaga Saturday night in her dressing room before showtime. She is wearing a "Pass the DREAM Act" t-shirt courtesy of DREAMACTIVIST. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ARIZONA DREAM ACT COALITION AND USED BY PERMISSION).

Saturday night the behemoth that is Lady Gaga's "Monster Ball Tour" hit Phoenix, Arizona. As you might have heard, Arizona has been in the cross-hairs of the national immigration rights debate since it passed a draconian immigration law - SB1070 - which was signed into law by Governor Jan Brewing on April 23rd.

Some of the worst provisions of the bill - including giving police the authority to stop anyone and ask for immigration status just based on the policeman's perception of who might look documented and who might not - have since been placed on hold on appeal, but the spirit of the law continues to embolden xenophobic advocates who envision similar measures being adopted across the United States.

With that in mind, a couple of immigration rights advocates who happen to be queer and Latino launched an online petition to ask Lady Gaga to cancel the Arizona dates of her tour and to boycott the state in opposition of SB1070.

It's not the first time artists have been asked to boycott the state over SB1070: Zack de La Rocha of Rage Against the Machine currently leads an effort to enlist other performers through the online site Sound Strike and has so far enlisted acts such as Nine Inch Nails, DJ Spooky, Hall & Oates, Ry Cooder, Chris Rock and reaggeton star Pitbull.

And while those asking Lady Gaga to boycott Arizona might not have had the same decibel ratings as Zack de la Rocha, they certainly were out there making noise ("The gays urge Lady Gaga to cancel Arizona show" - L.A. Weekly).

Personally, I wasn't sure if calling for a boycott was the right way to protest SB1070, but as the Phoenix tour date neared I was surprised that as vocal as Lady Gaga has been on other issues and, in particular, LGBT rights, her camp was mum on this one issue.  Well, mum no longer...

From The Arizona Republic:
About halfway through her concert at US Airways Center, Lady Gaga told the crowd, "I got a phone call from a couple really big rock and rollers, big pop stars, big rap artists, and they said, 'We'd like you to boycott Arizona . . . because of SB 1070."

"I said, 'Do you really think that us dumb (expletive) pop stars are going to collapse the economy of Arizona?"

She added, "We have to be active. We have to protest. . . . I will yell and I will scream louder. I will hold you, and we will hold each other, and we will peaceably protest this state."
For those of us on Twitter, the news came via the video posted above.  And, initially, the clip rubbed me off the wrong way, even if I was ambivalent about the call for a boycott.  Targeted boycotts do work with coordination and local buy-in and I felt Lady Gaga's quick dismissal of artist-led boycotts was more than a bit self-serving, particularly in light of the fact that she stayed mum until the night of the show.

I forgot, though, this IS Lady Gaga. Two days later on Google news search? Lo and behold.

My friend, Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano, saw thge whole thing with a less jaundiced eye than my own. Over at Change.org, he wrote a great piece on last night's outburst. An excerpt from "Lady Gaga Gets What the LGBT Movement Doesn't Yet Realize":
As I've blogged here at Change.org before, LGBT people of color still struggle to make the LGBT movement more accepting of an agenda that's inclusive of issues faced by people of color. It's true that some LGBT groups — like GetEqual — have been vocal about SB 1070. Yet artists who are seen as allies to the LGBT community have mostly focused on issues like marriage equality, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Gaga broke that mold.

By using the hyper-queer space that is her Monster Ball tour, Lady Gaga made no distinction between LGBT rights and immigrant rights. Those of us sitting at the intersections of identities have long insisted that issues affecting people of color (such as immigration, poverty and prisons) are also LGBT issues. And by speaking out against Arizona's harmful legislation, Gaga is breaking new ground and defining what it means to be a pro-LGBT, pro-immigrant and pro-LGBT people of color artist.
The best thing yet? That photo at the top of this post taken at Lady Gaga's dressing room before last night's concert? My friend Emmanuel Garcia of Chicago's Homofrecuencia has the scoop over at the Windy City Times. An excerpt:
If you had 10 minutes with Lady Gaga what would you say? Victor Medina and Amelec Diaz had that opportunity July 31 when Lady Gaga performed at the U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix, Ariz., as part of her Monster Ball tour. 

Both gay activists, working around immigration rights, wrote a petition asking Lady Gaga to join artists like Rage Against the Machine and Kanye West in honoring a boycott that's in place due to the controversial immigration law SB1070.
However, Gaga did not cancel her show; instead, her management invited both men to a meet-and-greet with the singer.

They met Gaga backstage while she was getting her hair done. She invited them to sit in a meeting that Medina said lasted 20 minutes. In that meeting Diaz shared his personal story about his house being raided and his brother being deported over a traffic violation. The young men said the meeting was emotional, describing the singer as "very nice, open and expressive." Medina said that prior to their meeting, Gaga said that she was not aware of the immigration law and asked that they scribble SB1070 on her arm so she could remember.

It was that moment that led Gaga to address her audience during her show. She told the crowd of more than 20,000 fans that she received calls from artists personally asking her to cancel the show, but said, she would not cancel, explaining, "And I said, you really think that us [ expletive ] pop stars are going to collapse the economy of Arizona? We have to actively protest and the nature of the Monster Ball is to actively protest prejudice and injustice."
Yup, the guys who launched the original Lady Gaga boycott effort were actually invited backstage to meet with Lady Gaga for twenty minutes which led to her comments Saturday night. She even posed with them wearing a 'Pass the DREAM Act" T-shirt from DREAMACTIVIST.

In the L.A. Weekly article I quoted above, someone calling himself one of the organizers of the Lady Gaga Arizona boycott call said "I made it in hopes that I can get Lagy Gaga to meet with the community and learn first hand the struggles we are going through. I am NOT asking that she cancel her concert but to denounce sb1070, spread awareness at the show, and bring attention/following to the issues of the LGBTQ migrant community."

Mission accomplished!