Sunday, January 30, 2011

Exclusive Video - Meet Ugandan Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, Fighting for LGBT Equality

Bishop Christopher Senyonjo
The Huffington Post said of Bishop Christopher when it named him to their list of Religion's 10 Most Influential people of 2010, "As Uganda considered a bill that would make homosexuality a capital offense, Ugandan Bishop Senyonio (sic) stood up for LGBT rights. As a result he has been the target of death threats and condemnations. The Bishop demonstrates what it means to have the courage of conviction, and faith enough to side with those whom Jesus called 'the least of these.'"

When Rolling Stone (the Ugandan "newspaper," not to be confused with the one published in the USA) printed their list of the 100 Top Homos with it's yellow "Hang Them" banner, the front page featured two photographs: prominent LGBT activist David Kato and Bishop Christopher.

Along with three others, Kato successfully sued to have Rolling Stone (whose editor told Reuters was "stone that is rolling to smoke out the homos"shut down.

Kato was brutally murdered last week, bludgeoned to death with a hammer in his home in what Ugandan authorities are calling a robbery. Unconfirmed rumors are circulating in Kampala that Kato's computer was left in his house, highly unlikely if the motive for the attack were robbery.

The Reverend Canon Albert Ogle, a San Diego-based gay Anglican priest,  reports on what happened at Kato's funeral: "As an excommunicated bishop of the Church of Uganda, Christopher has no standing in the official hierarchy of the church... Although he was disinvited by the Church to speak at the funeral, he found a way to bring words of comfort to the mourners and said the final blessing over David’s battered remains.

In this one sad occasion, we can see there are two churches in Uganda and indeed elsewhere. The bishop was horrified by what he witnessed from his fellow Christians. Yet, it was good that Christopher was there. He told me he was honored to be there and though was not welcomed to speak to the whole assembly, had the final word of love and peace for David. May he rest in peace."

Bishop Christopher was recently in the US, speaking in a number of cities to raise support for his St. Paul’s Centre for Equality and Reconciliation. Accompanied by Canon Ogle, the Bishop discussed the history of his involvement in the struggle for LGBT civil rights in Uganda, the AIDS epidemic in Africa, and, of course, the pending Bahati Bill and what the international community can do to help Uganda's LGBT citizens. 

This is the unedited video of his appearance here in New York City:

For those of you who may know of Bishop Christopher, but do not know much about him, some background information:

After 24 years of service to the Anglican Church, Bishop Christopher "retired" in 1998 but felt that he still had God's work to do. "I started a consultation and counseling services office. So there were many people coming to me. And among those who came were homosexuals."

Holding a doctorate from Hartford University in Connecticut, the Bishop's views on homosexuality were a little more progressive than many serving the Church in his country. "I suggested to them that they should accept themselves and keep their faith in God for he loved them."

The Ugandan Anglican Church was not as understanding. He has been barred from leading services and stripped of his pension. He has even been accused of being a pederast who is trying to "recruit" Uganda's youth into homosexuality because of his work with the young. (For the record, the Bishop is heterosexual, married, a father and a grandfather.) Still, he has not wavered in support of his flock. "I said, 'I will not abandon this group' because I was convinced that the Lord who gazes on me didn't envisage any kind of discrimination."

"I realized from the outset that I was in for very tough times. So I am very grateful for a number of my friends among you and others who are not here who have tried to sustain me in spite of the catastrophic recession that has hit the world.

One might wonder what has helped me to stay the big storms of life that I have been experiencing. It is because I am convinced that the Gospel of Christ does not discriminate against any body. I can say that I believed God wants to make it clear during my life time that the homosexuals are equally God’s people like the heterosexuals. This truth has made me free as we read in John 8:32.

It is of course not easy to live with rejection by the old friends. It sometimes almost drives me crazy. It is not easy to live barred from practicing the day-to-day Sacramental duties for which one was ordained. It is not easy to see that you are by-passed and not recognized by your contemporaries. But I have found out that the Grace of God is sufficient for me."

Bishop Christopher is back in Uganda now, continuing his work of counseling those who need his support, the poor, the women and, of course, the LGBT people of Uganda. If the Bahati Bill passes, the Bishop will be a considered a criminal for his work with, and support of, Uganda's LGBT citizens. I hope he is able to continue his mission in safety for many years to come, and I look forward to seeing him again when he returns to New York.

In the meantime, to give him the final word, "I would say that the church generally has not dealt with human sexuality. People have been afraid of human sexuality as such, so there's a lot of taboo connected with it. There's a verse which really helps me a lot, in the Gospel of St. John, 16:12 -- "And our Lord said, 'There are still many, many things I would like to tell you but you cannot bear them now.'" The only problem is if you're not willing to listen to what the spirit is saying now."

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cumming on Coming Out (AKA Chamberlain's Dilemma, Part III)

In a recent interview with The Advocate, Richard Chamberlain stirred up controversy with his statement, "There’s still a tremendous amount of homophobia in our culture. It’s regrettable, it’s stupid, it’s heartless, and it’s immoral, but there it is. For an actor to be working is a kind of miracle, because most actors aren’t, so it’s just silly for a working actor to say, 'Oh, I don’t care if anybody knows I’m gay' — especially if you’re a leading man. Personally, I wouldn’t advise a gay leading man–type actor to come out... Despite all the wonderful advances that have been made, it’s still dangerous for an actor to talk about that in our extremely misguided culture."
Then Rupert Everett weighed in on the subject, agreeing with Chamberlain: "The fact is that you could not be, and still cannot be, a 25-year-old homosexual trying to make it in the British film business or the American film business or even the Italian film business."
I blogged about the controversy at the time here, writing: "The advice... is essentially selfish, placing one's career above all other concerns. And it is short-sighted. Only by coming out does someone contribute to that change in our culture... Coming out is never the wrong decision to make. Living in the closet, living a lie, exacts a toll that no one should have to pay."
Recently, Glee's Jane Lynch agreed with Chamberlain, saying "...This is a business of projection and desiring people from afar ... so there has got to be some truth to it, in terms of, 'I could see myself with that person.' Because the leading man and lady are the person we want them to fall in love with, and most of the audience is straight. So for right now, we can only use straight actors." She continued, "I’ve never been turned down for a role because I’m gay... I’m a character actor, and that’s probably why. I don’t find Hollywood, in my own experience, to be homophobic. Have I ever been turned down? I don’t know because you never know when you don’t get something or why you didn’t get it. But I do think the straight folks will continue to play the straight roles."
Now Alan Cumming has entered the fray. In an interview this week with Hadley Freeman in The Guardian, Cumming is quoted as saying: 
"'I think it's so mean-spirited... If you're living a lie, that's not healthy, and I think it is really irresponsible of [Chamberlain] and Rupert to say these things.' But do they not have a point – that audiences don't seem able to accept actors who they know to be gay playing heterosexual lovers onscreen, and therefore their acting opportunities are instantly limited?
'But it's not about your work,' he says, scornfully biting out the last word. 'It's about how you exist as a person in the world, and the idea that your work is more important than you as a person is a horrible, horrible message. I always think about a little gay boy in Wisconsin or a little lesbian in Arkansas seeing someone like me, and if I cannot be open in my life, how on earth can they? Anyway, it's an academic question: how can you know [that coming out affects your career]? Some people get less work than others and it has nothing to do with sexuality.'"
Well said, Alan. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Empty Seats at the State of the Union?

Last year, after Obama spoke about the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, saying, "With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests - including foreign corporations - to spend without limit in our elections," Justice Alito was caught on camera shaking his head and saying "Not true." Alito came in for considerable flak from the press for this lapse in political manners.

This year, his spokesperson tells us he will not be present, having a previous commitment that will keep him in Hawaii. (Searching for Obama's birth certificate, no doubt.) 

Justices Scalia and Thomas are also going to be no-shows tonight. Thomas says the State of the Union speech "has become so partisan."

And Scalia?  He hasn't "gone to the State of the Union in the last 10 years... I'm not starting tomorrow night, either." On another occasion, Scalia said, "It is a juvenile spectacle, and I resent being called upon to give it dignity."

It appears Chief Justice Roberts, who calls the speech "a political pep rally," will attend, although he is quoted as saying, "The image of having the members of one branch of government standing up, literally surrounding the Supreme Court, cheering and hollering while the court, according to the requirements of protocol, has to sit there expressionless, I think is very troubling," Roberts said. "And it does cause you to think whether or not it makes sense for us to be there."

Garrett Epps writes in The Atlantic, "Being a judge involves etiquette as well as integrity.  Both points are covered in Canon Two of the Code of Conduct for Federal Judges: 'A judge should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all activities.' A judge may know he or she is being fair, but others can't see the judge's heart and they must evaluate actions.  And a certain sloppiness of action has lately crept over the federal bench... Whatever happens Tuesday, a Chief Justice could use his influence to remind his charges of the two aspects of Canon Two. Roberts has politely called on Congress to stop its partisan irresponsibility with vacant judgeships, and God bless him for it; he might also call on judges to temper their passion with good manners."

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Michelle Obama's "China Red" Gown


Now the right wing pundits are attacking our First Lady for wearing a red gown to a state dinner.

Matt Drudge, Doug Powers, Jim Hoft... One by one, they're lining up to criticize her gown.

As though her wearing a red gown proves that her husband is a communist.

Funny - I seem to remember another First Lady who was partial to red...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Battle Hymn of Sarah Palin

For several days now, my friends on Facebook have been posting, and re-posting, the YouTube video of this lovely couple singing the praises of Sarah Palin.

It's been very entertaining, as we've talked about Gary Mcvay's vocal stylings and the moves of his adorable back-up singer. We've all enjoyed a good giggle at the lyrics: 

She's a cold blast from Alaska ingrained with common sense. 
She's not a Harvard lawyer, but she knew what the founders meant.
A cold blast from the north that freezes Congress in their tracks,
With God and the Tea Party, she's gonna take it back.

Sarah Palin! She won't listen to their bunk.
Sarah Palin's comin' south to hunt some skunk.
Sarah Pailn! She'll throw 'em all in jail,
and when she gets to Washington it'll be cold as Hell!

Sarah has the wisdom to walk through an open door.
She is stomping out the wretches where the evil minds is stored.  (?)
She will scrub the floors and sweep the riff-raff into cracks.
With God and the Tea Party, she's gonna take it back.

Sarah Palin! She won't listen to their bunk.
Sarah Palin's comin' south to hunt some skunk.
Sarah Pailn! She'll throw 'em all in jail,
and when she gets to Washington it'll be cold as Hell!

Congress pats themselves on the back from some new bill they just passed. I watch as my freedoms run slowly through an hour glass. They think they spend out money better than we do. But they can talk until they're blue and old. 'Cause if they ever gave us anything, they always wanted something in return. Sarah knows!

Sarah's marchin' on!

I'd like to dedicate this to the Tea Party and all the preachers.

But amid all of the humor, I'm looking at the "set" and wondering: The open book (Bible?) on the table in front of Gary. The table itself, with the words carved on it - I don't know what the specific name for it is, but isn't that the kind of table you'll find in front of the alter in churches all across America? And there, on the wall behind Gary, could that be the base of a cross?

Looks to me as though this video was shot in a church, and churches, we know, are allowed to advocate for political causes. But when they endorse a specific candidate, don't they put their tax-exempt status in jeopardy? Does anyone out there know where this video was shot?

Just sayin...

For those of you who haven't seen the video yet:


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Marriage Equality Stands in DC

This morning, the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from opponents of marriage equality who want to overturn the District of Columbia's same-sex marriage law. Their decision allows the prior ruling from the DC Court of Appeals to stand. 

On July 15, 2010, in a 5-4 verdict, the appeals court had ruled against Bishop Harry R. Jackson, Jr.'s lawsuit which would have required a citywide referendum, giving DC's citizens the opportunity to vote on whether or not same-sex couples would be allowed to marry in our nation's capital. The defendants in the case, the DC Board of Elections and Ethics, had decided that to put gay marriage on the ballot would be to potentially authorize discrimination that was in violation of the Human Rights Act.

In the ruling last July, Associate Judge Thompson, writing for the majority, said “We therefore affirm the Superior Court’s rulings that the Council acted lawfully in imposing the Human Rights Act safeguard and that the Board correctly determined that the safeguard required it to reject the proposed initiative.” While the dissenting judges disagreed concerning the authorities cited in the case, it is interesting to note that all nine justices unanimously agreed that a voted prohibition against gay marriage was a wholesale violation of the Human Rights Act, stating "the Board correctly determined that the proposed initiative would have the effect of authorizing such discrimination."

Last year, Washington began issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples, and in 2009 it began recognizing such marriages legally performed elsewhere.

Bishop Harry R. Jackson
Jackson has been staunchly opposing the efforts to legalize marriage equality in the District since the city first began considering such legislation. He writes in his weekly blog that extending the right to marry to LGBT citizens will result in "a call for legalization of polygamy, which includes polygyny (sic) (a man with multiple wives) or polyamory (which may be two men with a woman or any imaginable combination)." He calls supporters of marriage equality "all bullies or terrorists" and claims that "Marriage defenders have over 5,000 years of history, proven social science, natural law, the teachings of every major religion, and common sense on their side," conveniently ignoring the undisputed fact that, for most of those 5,000 years, polygamous marriages were the accepted norm and that todays 2-person, love-based marriages bear little resemblance to the property-based arranged marriages of the past.

He writes that he opposes marriage equality laws, "because of the impact this law will have on the way education and child rearing will be conducted," and that "Federal benefit changes will affect the already exorbitant cost of proposed healthcare reform." (It's interesting to note that he also opposed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, writing, "This legislation has the potential to criminalize the caring attempts of black clergy to maintain the tension of preaching clear traditional doctrine while reaching out to people in need of love and direction." He also agrees with the Pope on the use of condoms in the fight against AIDS, writing, "Pope Benedict XVI made the following statement in Yaounde, Cameroon, 'You can't resolve it with the distribution of condoms... On the contrary, it increases the problem.' As far as I can tell, contrary to my friend's opinion, the Pope was right this time.")

According to the Washington Blade, Jackson and his wife don't even reside in the District of Columbia. It would appear that they own two houses in Montgomery County, Maryland, and neighbors claim they reside in one of those houses. For the purpose of voting, however, Jackson claims residence in a condominium in the Mount Vernon Triangle area of DC. Tax records show a Mr. Joseph Honaker owns this one-bedroom condo and also claims it as his primary residence. Must get pretty crowded. Maybe Jackson understands the ins and outs of polyamorous marriages from personal experience?

Below, video of Jackson interview after the appeals court ruling as he was preparing to take his case to SCOTUS:

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Meet Reince Priebus, New GOP Head

After seven rounds of balloting, the Republican Party has replaced Michael Steele as its head with Reince Priebus, former chairman of the Wisconsin GOP. Before that, Priebus served as general counsel to the RNC.

Reince Priebus (l.) and Michael Steele (r.)
Prior to today's election, Priebus was best known nationally for this infamous gaffe during a conference call with journalists, when he repeatedly called for "Obama" to be executed:

After being corrected by a journalist, he apologized for the error before attacking former WI Senator Russ Feingold, saying, "Some people would just say, well, maybe he just used the wrong word, and that it was just a gaffe from a normally smooth, skilled politician. Well, if that's the case, then it's a pretty major misstep this close to the election."

On his election, Priebus said, "I am here to earn the trust and support of each and every one of you... I am going to start working right now as your chairman... We all recognize that there is a steep hill here ahead of us, and the only way we will be able to move forward is if we're all together."

Saturday, January 8, 2011

AZ Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords Shot

Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords
In a breaking story, CNN and NPR have confirmed that AZ Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot and killed during a "Congress on Your Corner" event at a Safeway in Tucson.

Five others have died from wounds sustained in the attack. At least six others were injured.

The shooter is in custody.

This story will continue to be updated as more facts come to light.

UPDATE: NPR and CNN reported that she had been killed, but Darci Slater, a hospital spokeswoman, said that Ms. Giffords was in surgery. She is reported to be in stable condition and responsive.

According to the Washington Post, "This was not the first time someone brought a gun to a Giffords event. A protester in August brought a gun to Giffords' Congress on Your Corner event in Douglas. Police were alerted after he dropped the firearm. "When you represent a district that includes the home of the O.K. Corral and Tombstone, 'the Town Too Tough to Die,' nothing's a surprise out in Cochise County," Giffords, D-Ariz., said. 

NBC News in confirming that U.S. District Court Judge John M. Roll was among those who was shot and had died. He was the chief judge in Arizona, appointed in 1991 by the first President Bush. He became chief judge in 2006.

This is a video interview with the Congresswoman concerning a break-in at her campaign headquarters during last year's elections in which she discussed Sarah Palin's website map showing cross-hairs over Giffords' district:

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

BREAKING - Ruling (?) in Prop. 8 Trial

Moments ago, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued an "Order Certifying a Question to the Supreme Court of California."
Theodore Olson

Basically, the appeals court has asked the California Supreme Court to answer the question as to whether or not the original proponents of the Proposition have the legal standing to challenge Judge Walker's ruling that it was unconstitutional. 

From Michael C. Dorf,  Robert S. Stevens Professor at Cornell University Law School:

"The named defendants in the Perry case were the Governor, the Attorney General, two other state officials, and the County Clerks of Los Angeles and Alameda counties. Yet they all declined to defend Prop. 8 in the district court--leaving that task to the Proposition's sponsors, who intervened. After the district court invalidated Prop. 8, the named defendants declined to appeal. Accordingly, before the appeals court can reach the merits, it must first decide whether the sponsors have legal standing to defend Prop. 8... Even if the appeals court holds that the sponsors lack standing, the case could go forward if another putative intervenor--the deputy clerk for Imperial County--is found to have standing."

David Boies
So... What happens next?  If none of the parties defending Prop. 8 are found to have the legal standing to do so, what does this mean?  Again, from Mr. Dorf:

"If the court simply dismisses the appeal, then presumably the district court order goes into effect, and same-sex couples can once again marry in California. But alternatively, a finding that no one has standing to defend Prop. 8 on appeal could be read to entail that no one had standing to defend it at trial--in which case the appeals court might have to vacate the entire opinion by the district court. The parties' briefs contest just this point--which could prove crucial if the court attempts to resolve the case on procedural grounds."

So at this point, it could go in any direction. Marriage equality, but only in California. No marriage equality for California. Or on to the Supreme Court in DC. If it does proceed to SCOTUS, David Boies will make the argument: "The United States Supreme Court has determined that intimate sexual conduct between same-sex couples is constitutionally protected. How can marriage rights be taken away when a person is engaged in a constitutionally protected activity? That right can not be taken away from individuals in this state. It is discrimination on the basis of sex and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation."

UPDATE: Video added 1/4/11 at 4:45 PM