Monday, November 29, 2010


It's looking as though America's LGBT citizens are going to be on their own in trying to convince Congress to pass the repeal of DADT during the lame duck session. President Obama will be unable to call wavering Senators owing to an injury to his lip, requiring 12 stitches, sustained during a basketball game.

According to the official White House statement: "After being inadvertently hit with an opposing player's elbow in the lip while playing basketball with friends and family, the President received 12 stitches today administered by the White House Medical Unit. They were done in the doctor's office located on the ground floor of the White House."

The opposing player was identified as Rey Decerega, director of programs for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.  Decerega stated, "I learned today the president is both a tough competitor and a good sport. I enjoyed playing basketball with him this morning. I'm sure he'll be back out on the court again soon."

Picture credit:  Savark Dicupe

Sunday, November 21, 2010

100 Days Without a Hospital

At first glance, you might think this is a local New York City story. But it's not.

It doesn't matter where you live. You've heard of St. Vincent's Hospital. Maybe you just don't remember it right now. In the history of New York City, St. Vincent's has stood tall through every crisis. It first opened in 1849 to treat victims of a cholera outbreak in a small brick house with 30 beds on West 13th Street. When the immigrant gangs of New York finished their skirmishes on the streets of the infamous Five Points, the subject of Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York, they brought the wounded to St. Vincent’s. It was in St. Vincent's that the victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire were treated. It was to St. Vincent's that the survivors of the Titanic were brought when they arrived in America. St. Vincent's was in the trenches during the city’s HIV/AIDS crisis, its beds were full of the sick and the dying. When the car bomb went off in the basement parking garage of the World Trade Center back in 1993, it was St. Vincent's that treated the injured. And we all remember watching the hospital's staff in their scrubs, standing in Seventh Avenue on September 11, waiting in vain for the survivors of the fallen Twin Towers who would never arrive for treatment.

From New York Magazine's story St. Vincent's Is the Lehman Brothers of Hospitals: "St. Vincent's plight has been portrayed by public officials and the media as a story of local misfortune -- a community losing a vital piece of its infrastructure and a centerpiece of its identity to a combination of mismanagement, the recession, and bad luck. The truth, though, is considerably more alarming. St. Vincent's collapse is only the most visible symptom of an ongoing financial emergency facing the city's five dozen remaining hospitals and threatening those they serve. In a sense, St. Vincent's is the Lehman Brothers of the local hospital industry: an institution whose dramatic disappearance, once unthinkable, raises dire questions about the viability of the entire system."

Don't think the problem is confined to New York City. Hospitals across the country are having to do more with less and cost cutting is only providing temporary relief. As beds are cut to save money, overcrowding is getting worse. Fewer services will be offered. The experts are predicting a seemingly inescapable downward spiral in the quality of the care being offered. Our politicians are focused on medical insurance, but that's only one component of a looming health care crisis.

This video documents a rally that was held on the site of the now boarded up St. Vincent's Hospital. Watch it. Take notes. You may need to be organizing similar rallys in your city one day soon.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Place for Us

Yes, my friends - there is a place where LGBT people enjoy full equality. A city where 650,000 same-sex couples are living together in happily wedded bliss. And that place is:  FRONTIERVILLE, in the Mary, Mary land of ZYNGA!

(OK - If you've never played Farmville, Frontierville, Mafia Wars or any of the other games Zynga offers to the users of Facebook, you can tune this story out right now.)

"That's amazing. That's probably more [same-sex marriages] than any country in the whole world," Marc Pincus told attendees of the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco. 

Zynga's games are not as action-oriented as most of us would expect from a video game, but Pincus sees that as being a large part of their success. And you can't argue with the results.  320 million people have played a Zynga game. At their peak, they have had 3 million players online at the same time.

As Pincus sees it, our lives have become so hectic that we no longer have time to indulge in many of our more traditional methods of relaxation. But you can still play a Zynga game.

So what if you don't have a half hour free to sit down and watch a TV show. You can still squeeze out ten minutes here and there to tend your virtual gardens, clear your land or build your evil criminal empire. And along the way, you can make your partner an honest man or woman.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

DADT: Where are We, and How Did We Get Here?

Veterans' Day, Thursday, Nov. 11: The New York City LGBT Community Center presented a forum on the the current status of the struggle to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the 1993 law which bars anyone who is openly LGBT from serving in the US Armed Forces.


Seen left to right, the panel was moderated by Richard SocaridesWhite House adviser under President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 1999 in a variety of senior positions, including adviser for gay and lesbian issues. He is a frequent commentator on LGBT issues on a wide variety of television news programs.

Jonathan Capehart is an editorial writer for The Washington Post and frequent contributor to MSNBC. Prior to joining the Post, he worked for the NY Daily News and NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration. He and the NY Daily News editorial board won the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing for their editorial series on the Apollo Theater in Harlem.

Winnie Stachelberg is the Senior VP for External Affairs at the Center for American Progress. Prior to joining the CAP, she spent 11 years with the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest LGBT civil rights organization. Before joining HRC, she worked at the Office of Management and Budget in both the George H. W. Bush and Clinton administrations.

Dr. Nathaniel Frank is Senior Research Fellow at the Palm Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and an adjunct professor of history at New York University. He is perhaps the most widely published journalist on the military’s current policy on gay troops and is the author of the groundbreaking Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America.

To briefly summarize a ninety-minute discussion, there were really only two things that all of the participants in the discussion seemed to agree on: DADT should be consigned to history's trashcan, and Barney Frank is right when he says that "There is zero chance of anything good happening with Republicans in control of the House." Opinions differed, however, as to the odds of winning repeal during the lame duck session.


Statchelberg was the most optimistic panelist, saying, "We're closer than ever to repealing DADT." She brandished a copy of that morning's Washington Post article, with the leaked preliminary results of the Pentagon's survey of servicemembers and their families, saying that the study's results would be "the rocket fuel" that would propel the success of the repeal efforts. She said the crucial factor in passing the repeal will be "how the majority leader [Harry Reid] handles it." No one disputed that, by limiting the number of amendments and attaching the Dream Act to the appropriations bill, Reid had made it much more difficult to obtain the votes needed for passage.

She also claimed that if LGBT organizations [such as HRC?] had been supportive of such a study at the start of Obama's administration, "We'd be further ahead."  (Despite the fact that, in January 2009, no one from the Pentagon, the White House or from either side of the aisle in Congress was calling for such a study.) Frank challenged this assertion, citing the 22 other such studies conducted over the last two decades. He said that the timing of the study, scheduled to be released on Dec. 1, only weeks before an anticipated GOP takeover of the House, illustrated the President's "long-term plan to delay." Capehart was noncommittal.


During a time of war, the President has the statutory authority to stop discharges in order to maintain sufficient numbers of troops. It has long been argued that, were such an order issued, the lack of any deleterious effects would prove the fallacy behind the argument that DADT is necessary to maintain unit cohesion. Frank, who had aggressively pushed for such an order, said that it was unlikely that the President would have done so but it seemed to be the best tactic to motivate the WH to move with more determination on the legislative repeal front. Stachelberg reiterated the WH's position, that their lawyers felt that Obama did not have the authority to circumvent the law. Capehart, other than defending his editorial in opposition to such an action, was noncommittal.


This was the one subject that I wish the panelists had spent more time discussing. Stachelberg called Judge Phillips' decision "unbelievably helpful."  "The Pentagon hates a lack of clarity," she explained, suggesting that enforcing the policy one day, then not
enforcing it, then enforcing it again, created a mindset in which the Pentagon would be more likely to embrace a final repeal of DADT.

On the subject of the Dept. of Justice filing an appeal of Judge Phillips' decision, Capehart said that it was a "tradition" for the DoJ to do so, and that it is an important tradition to uphold if we expect future Presidents to uphold the laws that our community desires. When it was pointed out that the DoJ has frequently failed to defend specific laws that the President does not wish to see continue, Capehart was noncommittal.

Capehart was noncom... are you noticing a pattern here? For a man who is paid to write op-ed pieces, Jonathan Capehart expressed surprisingly few strong opinions. I kept waiting in vain for anything approaching the passion in the opening paragraph of his WaPo piece Wrong on Gays in the Military.


It was, I have to say, a pleasure to see an audience that was so knowledgeable about the subject. Time was running short and only three audience members were able to question the panel. Tanya L. DomiJustin Elzie and Scott Wooledge all brought forward well reasoned challenges to some of the assertions made by the panel's members. Wooledge, for example, was the only person during the course of the evening who pointed out the fact that the repeal of DADT as it is presently written will only turn back the clock to where we were in 1993. If it passes, it will mean only that the Pentagon is no longer required to discriminate against LGBT servicemembers; it does not mean that the Pentagon will be prohibited from discriminating against LGBT servicemembers. But the reactions of even the audience members who did not get a chance to ask questions made it very clear that they were well aware of the current state of the movement to repeal this discriminatory and now unconstitutional law.


After nearly two years in power, the simple fact is the Obama administration has failed to make good on the President's promise to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." We've waited. We've called our legislators. We've marched, and demonstrated... Heck, we've even repeatedly handcuffed ourselves to the White House gates! But other than a few reassuring speeches, this administration has failed to take any kind of consistent, concrete action to bring about the repeal. It isn't the kids who are watching MTV we need our President to be speaking to, it's the members of Congress. The only way DADT is going to be repealed in the lame duck session is if the WH actively lobbies for it. Now, with the clock rapidly running out before the Republicans take control of the House of Representatives, it is possible, just slightly possible, that President Obama finally has a motive to move forward.

The game changer for me is the Log Cabin Republicans' challenge to the constitutionality of DADT. If it ends up being the Judiciary, not the Executive and Legislative branches, that ends this discriminatory law, any hopes President Obama may have that the LGBTQ populace will support his reelection bid out of gratitude to our "fierce advocate" will be long gone. Whether you believe that Obama's support of us has been sincere or just a political calculation, the one thing I think we can all agree on is that like every other politician out there, he wants to be reelected. If he can publicly succeed in shepherding repeal through the lame duck Congress before this session comes to an end, he will have come a long way toward repairing his painfully strained relationship with our community.


The following videos document virtually the entire evening. The only edits I have made were brief and forced on me by the technical limitations of the equipment with which I work. I've spent several days trying to clean up the sound quality, which is still poor, but finally understandable.








Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Homophobic Graffiti Condemned at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

Before Tyler Clementi took that fateful walk out onto the George Washington Bridge, he complained that he found many of the students on the Rutgers campus were more supportive of his peeping-Tom roommate than than they were of him.

How refreshing it is, then, to see the reaction to the recent vandalism of an openly gay UMass Dartmouth student's car.  The unnamed student left his car parked in a campus parking lot for a few hours, only to find anti-gay slurs spray painted on it when he returned.

Campus police launched an immediate investigation and are asking for the assistance of any students who may have witnessed or have other knowledge of the incident.  Even more importantly, Dartmouth's administration quickly sent out an email to all of the students advising them of the resources available to them if any of them felt threatened or harassed.

Quoted in the Boston Globe, Chancellor Jean F. MacCormack stated, “As members of a community that highly value every person, we must join together to condemn this cowardly act... We must join in support of this student and all members of our GLBT community who — like all of us — seek to be treated with respect and dignity as they pursue their dreams and aspirations here.’’

UMass Dartmouth spokesperson John Hoey said, "This is something we take very seriously.  Our campus police and office of student affairs are working to make sure people understand this kind of behavior is not tolerated."

Local mainstream media reporting has also stressed the long-standing tradition of diversity in the University's community.  Here is the coverage from Boston channel 5 news:

Thursday, November 4, 2010

UPDATED VIDEO of the 5/2/10 DADT Rally in Washington, DC!

With everyone on the internet (and on cable, and on TV, and on street corners) offering up their analysis of the election results yesterday, I thought I'd make my initial blog entry about something completely different.

Yesterday was also the 6-month anniversary of the rally in DC against "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" that ended with the arrests of six demonstrators: Alan Bounville, Nora Camp, Iana DiBona, Natasha Dillon, Mark Reed-Walkup and Anne Tischer.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell US to Wait UPDATED 11/2/10 from David Wallace on Vimeo.

This rally featured the most varied group of DADT activists I have seen gathered in one location, officers and enlisted men and women from the Viet Nam era to the Iraq war.  There were Democrats, Republicans and members of the Green Party, liberals and conservatives, all united in their determination to see a full and unconditional repeal of DADT.  The speakers included: Robin Chaurasiya, Jarrod Chlapowski, Lt. Dan Choi, Tanya L. Domi, Justin Crockett Elzie, Alex Nicholson, Jim Pietrangelo II, Aubrey Sarvis, Brett Edward Stout, Evelyn Thomas and the former Chairman of the Democratic Party, Howard Dean.

I've updated this documentary with a new epilogue to reflect the changes (and lack thereof) in the status of the ongoing struggle for repeal.  On recently seeing the original version, one activist from GetEQUAL commented, "GREAT job! Felt like I was really there."  Which was exactly what I wanted - to share the day with those who, for whatever reason, couldn't be there.

I hope this inspires everyone who sees it to join us in keeping the pressure on Washington to repeal this discriminatory (and unconstitutional) law.