Middle Schooler trying to Start GSA in Florida

Middle Schooler trying to Start GSA in Florida

ACLU Gets Involved

Bayli Silberstein, 14, an openly bisexual, is attempting to form a gay-straight alliance at her Carver Middle School in Leesburg, Florida.  However, rather than letting her do so, the school board is considering eliminating all non-academic clubs from middle and high school campuses.

Parents, Community Members, and Students Protest

On February 18, 2013, dozens of students, community members, and parents attended a meeting of the Lake County School Board on Monday.  In unity with Bayli, they wore read “Standing with Bayli” shirts.  They urged the board to allow the gay-straight alliance according to the newspaper the Orlando Sentinel. A decision from the board is not expected until April.

The American Civil Liberties Union

Bayli said her application was denied last school year.  She reapplied last November, but didn’t hear from the school’s principal about the status of the application. The school board has not denied Silberstein’s second application.  However earlier in February, it drafted a policy that would put an end to any club that is not tied to a specific class. If this policy goes into place, Bayli’s gay-straight alliance club will not form.

The American Civil Liberties Union reported that Silberstein wanted to form the alliance to combat bullying against LGBT students.  Bayli’s application cited instances of physical abuse and name calling.  Citing the federal Equal Access Act, the ACLU has advised the school district that it cannot pick and choose which clubs to allow based on what they think students should or should not discuss.

Those Opposed to GSA

Some think the real issue is bullying and that students would not get the support they need in a gay-straight alliance.  One school board member feels that gay-straight clubs were tantamount to “social engineering.” Just two years ago, a teacher in Lake County told his students that gay men and women should be allowed to openly serve in the military “only if they were sent to the front lines with no weapons.”

Illinois Poised to Become 10th State to Legalize Gay Marriage

State Senate Approved Measure on February 14, 2013

The Senate passed the measure 34-21 and now it goes to the House where supporters are optimistic that there will be enough votes to pass it.  Democratic Governor Pat Quinn, pleased that the Senate passed the bill,  has said that he would sign the legislation and called the bill “historic”.

The bill was sponsored by Heather Steans, a Democrat Illinois Senator.  Democrats maintain a majority in the Senate and the House. Illinois, the fifth largest state, has allowed gay unions since 2011.

The Chicago Tribune Endorses Gay Marriage

The eighth largest newspaper in the United States, The Chicago Tribune, on February 18, 2013, in an editorial, endorsed same-sex marriage and said it was “the fair thing to do.” A surprising viewpoint for a newspaper noted for its conservatism, the newspaper “urged the House to finish the job.”

Here’s what the editorial stated:

Allowing same-sex couples to wed under the law would not devalue traditional marriage.  It would affirm the bedrock values that underlie and sustain such unions.

Marriage promotes stable families, safeguards the interests of children and rewards committed relationships.

Recognizing same-sex marriages demonstrates respect for personal freedoms and keeps government out of the intimate affairs of citizens.  Many people in same-sex relationships are adopting or giving birth to children; this provides the security of a legal commitment for those children. It’s the fair thing to do.

Chicago Tribune Reflects Opinion of At least Half of U.S.

A 1996 Gallup poll found that twenty-seven percent of Americans were in favor of allowing same-sex marriage.  Now it’s at fifty percent with the strongest support coming from voters under 30.

Status of States’ Gay Marriage

Although most states ban gay marriage in their constitutions, nine states, mostly in New England, allow same-sex marriage and the District of Columbia.  Rhode Island, Delaware, and Minnesota have constitutions which don’t ban gay unions yet don’t allow them in their respective states. However, legislation is expected to be considered later this year.  In Rhode Island, the House of Representatives passed a same-sex marriage bill, but the Senate has not taken up the measure yet. Maryland, Delaware, and Minnesota recently passed  gay marriage with the voters.

Opposition to Gay Marriage

The Illinois legislation has faced strong opposition from Catholic church leaders in the state.  Some senators warned the legislation as written may not protect religious institutions enough: and churches could be sued if they don’t perform gay-marriage ceremonies.

Those who are opposed want to keep marriage between a man and a woman as it is defined in constitutional amendments in about thirty states.  Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes gay unions, says “Chicago is not representative of the Midwest or Middle America.”

The U.S. Supreme Court Decision Influential

The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in two cases tied to gay marriage in March 2013.  Justices may be less likely to make a landmark ruling on gay marriage than to hand down narrow decisions that will keep the fight for gay marriage settled by the states.


Lessons Learned

From the moment we are born the learning process begins.  Human beings during their lives are exposed to many situations and learn many lessons.  As a result, we form habits and life perceptions based upon those lessons learned.  The lessons we learn guide our lives until a new lesson or better understanding of what we learned replaces that which was engrained into us at a prior point in our lives.

As children, we were always asking questions, wondering why things were the way they were.  There was an inherent desire to explore the unknown and to better understand the world around us.  As children our minds perceived the world around us with very few filters  We had not yet learned the prejudices and pre-conceived notions of our parents and other adults that circulated amongst us.

As we grew older, the innocence of youth and the natural curiosity of the environment around us as seen through our own eyes becomes more distant.  We start to be influenced by peer pressure, and the opinions and worldviews of others rather than perceive our lives through our own filters as we did as children.

In terms of our sexuality, instilled in us at a very early age are lessons on the “appropriate” gender roles on how boys and girls are supposed to act and function in society.  We were taught that boys wear blue and girls wear pink, that boys are not supposed to cry or show emotions, along with all the other stereotypical nonsense that society feels should be engrained into our consciousness in order to be “normal” boys and girls.  Mother Nature, many times, has a different plan.

Due to lessons learned in the past, there often times is an unwillingness to accept different worldviews from our own.  Some people become unable to embrace differences in people, and accept the fact that not everyone falls into a neat and tidy gender role.  If a child is not encouraged to bloom as he or she was intended, and told to repress their feelings and deny their true essence, their very core of who they are meant to be, internal conflicts arise and cause one to fabricate a life that is not their own, simply to suit the will and desires of someone else and that which society dictates.  We create a life that is premised on false assumptions and the guilt that arises from being told we are not “normal” or that there is something wrong with us.

As adults we have a responsibility to care for our children, to nurture them and to protect them from harm.  However, along with this responsibility comes an obligation to not unduly influence and hinder their growth and development into the people they are meant to be.  We cannot instill in our children lessons of life that do not apply to them.. We cannot falsely engrain into a child who is queer, that they need to get married and have kids, when it contradicts the very essence of who they are and the feelings they are experiencing for others of the same sex.  It is one of the worst travesties of life for a child to grow up thinking that they are abnormal; that there is something wrong with them because they don’t fit a neat, tidy model of what others think they should be.

We, as a society, must begin to teach our children that it’s ok to be who they are, and that they will be loved no matter what.  To do otherwise, will simply cause internal conflicts, and perpetuate the false premises upon which society’s lessons are built.  We have an obligation to reject past lessons learned and embrace new ways of thinking, based on acceptance and understanding of the differences in people.

Soccer player Robbie Rogers comes out

Robbie Rogers

Robbie Rogers, a professional soccer player decided to come out as gay and quit the sport. At the age of 25, he was released from the Leeds United last month and explained why he quit soccer on his website.

“Now is my time to step away. It’s time to discover myself away from football. It’s 1 A.M. in London as I write this and I could not be happier with my decision. Life is so full of amazing things. I realized I could only truly enjoy my life once I was honest. Honesty is a bitch but makes life so simple and clear. My secret is gone, I am a free man, I can move on and live my life as my creator intended.”

Roger’s played for the Columbus Crew of the MLS before playing for Leeds and most recently League One’s Stevenage. Born and raised in LA, currently living in London.  By coming out, makes him one of a small number of pro-footballers since Justin Fashanu in 1990 to announce publicly.

The Chicago Fire of the MLS owns his rights and head coach Frank Klopas said this after hearing about Rogers’ coming out: “Yesterday I thought he was a very good player and I still think that today. Should Robbie want to return to the game, we would still be open to him being part of the Fire.”

Roger’s also writes on his website:

“For the past 25 year I have been afraid, afraid to show whom I really was because of fear. Fear that judgment and rejection would hold me back from my dreams and aspirations.   Fear that my loved ones would be farthest from me if they knew my secret.  Fear that my secret would get in the way of my dreams.”

He tweeted by writing this on his twitter account:

@RobbieRogers “http://www.therobbierogers.com/ Just getting some sh*t off my chest. http://fb.me/2G6VcA57v

Support for Professional Soccer Player Robbie Rogers is spreading across the world. He wrote Saturday a update on his twitter account by saying:

@RobbieRogers “Thank you everyone for all of the support and love. Wasn’t expecting this.”

Share your support or opinions in the comments section. Do you think it was a good decision to step away from the sport to deal with his own personal issues reguarding his sexuality? Should he return to soccer in the future? Share your thoughts.

Israel’s HIV Rate Up Since 2005

Ministry of Health Figures Up 55%.

Israel’s Ministry of Health found that infection rate among gay men is five times more common  than among heterosexuals.

Haaretz reports that there are now an estimated 7,750 people living with HIV in Israel, and probably one-third of them don’t know it. It is not clear if increased testing and awareness are leading to an increase in reported cases or if there is a spike in actual infections.

Alarming Current Statistics

  • More than 20% of gay Israeli men report not using condoms.
  • Number of respondents who reported casual partners jumped to 40%.
  • Penile gonorrhea 55% higher among gay men than among straight men.
  • Sixteen times as many cases of pharyngeal (throat) gonorrhea .

Past Statistics

From 1981 to 2011, there were 6,579 people in Israel who tested positive for HIV or AIDS. Out of that population, 1,265 were gay men.  In January 2010, there was a reported spike of other sexually transmitted diseased among gay men.

Reasons for Rise in HIV Increase

  • Firstly, the transformation of HIV/AIDS into a chronic manageable disease has decreased the fear effect.
  • Secondly, this is the generation that did not experience firsthand the AIDS plague of the 80’s that killed so many.
  • Thirdly, there is an increase in risk behavior, especially with recreational drugs and unprotected sex.

What Israel is Doing About the Spike in Infections

The findings are similar to those found in the West, and requires work not only on preventative methods and risk awareness, but the psychology of why people, knowing their risks, engage in unsafe sex. In the last few years, Israel’s Ministry of Health has started working with the country’s main LGBT organization called The Aguda, and in the next few weeks, is planning on launching a new program to combat the rate of HIV infection in the LGBT community. Stay tuned!

Founder of PFLAG to Receive 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal

Jeanne Manford, Mother of Straight Ally Movement, Honored February 15, 2013

The founder of PFLAG, Parents and Friends of Gay and Lesbians, in 1972, Jeanne Manford, will posthumously receive 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal, the second-highest civilian honor in the United States on February 15, 2013 at the White House.  The medal is given to those who display “exemplary deeds of service for their country or their fellow citizens” as Manford did until she died at age 92 on January 8, 2012.

The Presidential medal is second only to the Presidential Medal of Freedom and will be accepted by her daughter Suzanne Manford Swan who told her mother of the honor before she passed away. Manford was chosen from more than 6,000 nominees and will be honored by President Obama along with twelve other honorees for 2012.  Obama in 2009, in a speech called Jeanne’s work “the story of America … of ordinary citizens organizing, agitating, education for change, of hope stronger than hate, of love more powerful than any insult or injury.”

Jody M. Huckaby, National Director of PFLAG, which has over 350 chapters and 200,000 members in the United States, said “all of us – people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual. transgender, and straight allies alike – owe Jeanne our gratitude.  She paved the way for us to speak out for what is right, uniting the unique parent, family, and ally voice with the voice of LGBT people everywhere.”

For more information on Jeanne’s activism that started when her gay son Morty was beaten, to her grassroots organization POG (Parents of Gays), the forerunner of PFLAG, see Wesley Davidson’s post “A Stranger’s Death Impacts My Life,” http://www.straightparentgaykid.blogspot.com.

Colorado Senate Passes Civil Union Act on 3rd and Final Reading

Bill Passes, 21-14, and is Headed to the House

Republican Senator Ellen Roberts (R-Durango) was the only Republican to join with Democrats in the Senate (20-15) to pass Civil Union Bill SB-11 on February 11, 2013.  There was no debate because it was the third time in three years the Senate has debated the measure.  With Democrats now in the majority in the House, the bill is expected to pass, be signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper in March and became effective in May.

A committee hearing is expected to be scheduled next week. The speaker of the House Mark Ferrandino is the sponsor  and is openly gay. “These committed couples want civil unions to uphold the values we all hold dear: commitment to others, stability, responsibility, and, most importantly, family.” While civil unions are not entitled to as many benefits as heterosexuals receive, it nevertheless gives more benefits than a domestic partnership.

History of the Bill Allowing Gay Couples to Form Civil Unions

On February 8, 2013, the Senate gave initial approval to the bill.  The measure is sponsored by two gay Denver Democrats, Senators Pat Steadman and Lucia Guzman.  Steadman introduced the civil unions bill in 2011 when it had a mini-debate. “Civil unions will allow committed couples to share in the responsibilities and protections in Colorado law that most families take for granted.  Our society is stronger when we promote personal responsibility and taking care of one another, and civil unions do just that,” said Senator Pat Steadman, sponsor of the bill. Brad Clark, Executive Director of One Colorado, LGBT rights group, commented “ it’s well past time that these families have equal protection under the law. We applaud the bipartisan passage of civil unions in the Senate and look forward to the debate in the House.”

The bill in 2011 and 2012 died in the Republican-controlled House. Last year, it was stalled in the House.  Republicans previously in the House have blocked the bill from becoming law.  All four of the Republican amendments failed.

Republican Attempts to Thwart Bill

Republicans attempted to amend the bill by adding religious exemptions for private businesses and adoption agencies on February 8 during a mini debate.  The minority party, the GOP, tried to send the bill to the voters.  GOP lawmakers in a final plea asked to have the start date of May 1 pushed back so that voters might be able to repeal the law at the ballot box.  Called a “compromise” by the Republicans, their last amendment was defeated.




Pentagon Extends Some Benefits to Same-Sex Couples In Service

After review, Pentagon Extends Additional Benefits Previously Unavailable

Seventeen months ago after the military ended “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta today announced that the Defense Department would extend additional benefits to same-sex partners of service members.  Panetta said in a statement: “At the time of repeal, I committed to reviewing benefits that had not previously been available to same-sex partners based on existing law and policy.  It is a matter of fundamental equity that we provide similar benefits to all of those men and women in uniform who serve their country.”

Details about the New Benefits

Hospital visitation rights, child care, ID cards, legal assistance and disability and death compensation for soldiers held as captives are among the new benefits granted.  However, because of Federal Defense of Marriage Act that defines marriage as between a man and woman, the so-called Command-Sponsored Benefits don’t apply. Those benefits are health care, burial rights at national cemeteries such as Arlington National, housing and survivors’ benefits.  The United States Supreme Court is reviewing DOMA, but until DOMA is not the law of the land, the military can not give all benefits to its members and dependents. (for list of benefits for same-sex Domestic benefits, see americanblog.com/2013/02/dod-extends-spousal-y-benefits-to-gays-secdef-calls-for-doma-repeal.html).

Additional benefits will require substantial policy revisions and training.  According to Panetta, the Pentagon will try to extend the new benefits to service members by August 31 and no later than October 1, but Outserve-SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson wants a quicker resolution.  Said Robinson : “the Pentagon has done almost as much as it could with DOMA still in place. Secretary Panetta’s decision today answers the call President Obama issued in his inaugural address to complete our nation’s journey toward equality, acknowledging the equal service and equal sacrifice of our gay and lesbian service members and their families.  We thank him for getting us a few steps closer to full equality – steps that will substantively improve the quality of life of gay and lesbian military families.”

However, Robinson continued, “as encouraging is this step is for our military families, the passing on February 10th of U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer and activist Charlie Morgan, and the needs of her family, unmet because of DOMA, reminds us of how far we still are from true equality.”

Even with DOMA preventing true equality, Panetta said that “extending these benefits is an appropriate next step under current law is to ensure that all service members receive equal support for what they do to protect this nation. Taking care of our service members and honoring the sacrifices of all military families are two core values of this nation.”







Shhh! Don’t say “Gay!” It doesn’t Exist!

“Don’t Say Gay” Bill Back in Tennessee

Last year, the so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill died because the state assembly adjourned.  Originally sponsored by Rep. Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville), the bill passed the Senate, but died in the House last spring when lawmakers failed to put the bill up for a vote.  The 2011 version of the bill would have allowed students to ask teachers or guidance counselors about “alternative lifestyles,” but outlawed teaching homosexuality as an “acceptable lifestyle.” But like a zombie, the measure returned, with even harsher requirements.

How Does The New Bill Differ?

The bill identified as SB 234, still bars K-8 teachers from discussing any facet of “non-heterosexual” sexuality with children.  But now, it’s even tougher because it has a provision requiring teachers or counselors to rat on some students who identify themselves as LGBT to their parents. The author of the first time and current bill, State Senator Stacey Campfield, a Republican, calls out students who might be “at risk,” but leaves the interpretation of that behavior to the teacher.

Officially titled the “Classroom Protection Act,” it proposes to limit all sexually related instruction to “natural human reproduction science” in kindergarten through eighth grade. “Any such classroom instruction, course materials or other informational resources that are inconsistent with natural human reproduction shall be classified as inappropriate for the intended student audience and, therefore, shall be prohibited.”The general assembly recognizes that certain subjects are particularly sensitive and are, therefore, best explained and discussed within the home.”

However, the new version of the updated bill makes no mention of homosexuality. It does not prohibit nurses, principals, school counselors or assistant principals from counseling students on the subject of sexuality, sexual orientation of or gender identity or as they put it “behavior injurious to the physical or mental health and well-being of the student.” “Parents or legal guardians of students who receive such counseling shall be notified as soon as practicable that such counseling has occurred.” In other words, the students are being outed.

One Less Place to Turn

Some critics find the bill is superfluous because alternative lifestyle discussions are already banned from the state school’s curricula guidelines. Others fear for the LGBTQ children who may be rejected by their parents and then face depression, even suicide or expulsion from their homes.

Senator Minority Leader Jim Kyle says he believes that the proposal is unnecessary and “puts government into family dynamics.” Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville agreed that Campfield’s measure is intrusive.




Kevin James, Gay Republican, Running for L.A. Mayor

A Long Shot for James Running In a Democratic City?

Kevin James, a former  conservative talk show host, and former prosecutor, is running for Mayor of Los Angeles to succeed Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa.  Although considered a long shot in a Democratic city and state in which 61% of voters endorsed President Barack Obama in the last election, James, if elected, would be the first openly gay mayor of Los Angeles.

Uphill battle

Bill Carrick, a Democratic consultant advising City Council member Eric Garcetti, one of Mr. James’s Democratic rivals, states the challenge: “He has to both energize a shrinking base of Republican voters who are decidedly more conservative than the rest of the city’s electorate, at the same time he reaches out to the ultimate Democratic voters.

However, in an ABC 7-Survey USA poll,conducted January 12th through January 15th, found that James is the only candidate who is gaining in polls.

Republicans Eager to Rebuild Party

Republicans are hoping to get back in the game with James’s candidacy in the March 5th vote.  John Weaver, a long-time adviser to Senator John McCain, Republican from Arizona, is now advising James and has raised $700,000 as of February 1st.  Mr. Weaver has warned Republicans that “they are marginalizing themselves by moving to the right on issues like abortion, gay rights, and immigration. Since we stopped winning in California, we (Republicans) have not done well nationally.”

James has the support of, among others, Bring Hollywood Foundation, a community organization dedicated to fighting for producing incentives that will end the outflow of independent films and television industry jobs from California to other states.

What Kevin James Stands For

James is a fiscal conservative who supports abortion rights and same-sex marriage. Wendy Greuel, the city comptroller, is competing for the same votes in the San Fernando Valley. He wants to renegotiate the 5.6 percent raises due city workers next year if the city is still in a fiscal crisis.  This former entertainment lawyer wants to delegate power to the neighborhood councils and reduce business taxation.

Currently, he serves on the AIDS Project Los Angeles Ambassador’s Council.  From 1998 to 2000, he was the co-chairman of AIDS Project. Since 2010, he has been involved with LA Clean Sweep, a non-partisan grassroots citywide coalition of community groups and activists working for change at City Hall in Los Angeles.

His Qualifications

Radio and Television:

Prior to the Mayoral campaign, James, 49, was radio host on KRLA AM 870 in Los Angeles between 12 a.m. and 3 a.m. on weeknights since 2007.  Prior to KRLA, he was the host of Red Eye Radio, an overnight (1 a.m. to 5 a.m.) call-in program on KABC AM 790 in Los Angeles. He focused on national and local issues.

James announced in 2010 a neighborhood council tour in which he would visit over forty-five neighborhood councils all across Los Angeles, taking their issues of concern directly to the airwaves.  Called TeamKevin James, a website, listeners could follow his neighborhood council tour schedule and learn his issues of top concern and communicate with him.

He has appeared as a guest commentator on television news programs.  James has made several appearances on Hardball with Chris Matthews.


Kevin Lee James is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma where he was a President’s Leadership Scholar and attended the University of Houston Law Center.  He prosecuted federal crimes as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for three years and was given the Director’s Award for Superior Performance.  He worked for more than twenty years in private practice as an entertainment lawyer. James was a regular on Court TV’s now-defunct Catherine Crier Live.

Once a Democrat, he is the hope of the Republican party to gain back their status that has fallen out of favor.