World AIDS Day
marked at Sidetrack
by KAITLYN MCAVOY
In honor of World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, Chicagoans gathered in Lakeview for a candle light vigil that included a peaceful walk outside on the ice-covered sidewalk along North Halsted Street.
About 30 people came to the service that started inside Sidetrack, 3349 N. Halsted. The annual vigil is a "simple way to remember" those living with HIV and AIDS and those who have passed due to the disease, said organizer Robert Hadley, founder and director of Caritas Chicago, a treatment facility for substance abusers.
Hadley welcomed the crowd before handing the microphone to speaker Jeremy Butts who was diagnosed with the disease in 2003. Butts talked about all the advocacy groups here in Chicago saying he was "blessed" by all the support he has received. He also urged others to take advantage of the help offered in the city and to also lend a hand by volunteering at HIV/AIDS organizations.
The candlelight walk began at 7:30 p.m. and ended at the Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted. Participants held their lit candles and they trekked almost half a mile in the 20-degree weather as snow flurries fell.
This is the first year the event also had the walk, said Hadley. Even though the vigil is not a religious ceremony, in previous years it has been held at churches. Since this year it was held at a bar, the walk along Halsted Street gave those under 21 years old a chance to participate, said Hadley.
This was the second year in a row Lance Tines, 44, of Rogers Park, has attended the vigil. Tines said he has been helping people with AIDS for a long time and has lost friends to the disease.
"It is important for me to do something to commemorate them on World AIDS Day," Tines said.
overturned by mob rule
by JAMAR OSBORNE
Imagine that in this past election, there were state initiatives to ban interracial marriages because children might learn about them in school. Now imagine that there were racially discriminatory state initiatives designed to preserve the "sanctity" of white neighborhoods. I would like to think that most Americans would be outraged. Some might respond that this could never happen because America has a legal system to ensure equal protection of all its citizens. Does equal protection really apply to all Americans or does it apply to all Americans except gays?
In May of this year, the California Supreme Court struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage. The moderately conservative, Republican-dominated court ruled that citizens have a fundamental "right to marry" the person of their choice and that gender restrictions violate the state Constitution's equal protection guarantee.
Religious and conservative groups slammed the decision as judges legislating from the bench and vowed to have the decision overturned by a vote of the people in the November election. They began campaigning for Proposition 8, an initiative to ban gay marriage in the state of California. Over $73 million was spent on the initiative and by a narrow margin, the ban was ultimately passed with a 52-48 percent vote.
In Marbury v. Madison, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that "An act of the legislature repugnant to the Constitution is void." The court went on to say, "It is emphatically the province of the judicial department to say what the law is. If two laws conflict with each other, the courts must decide on the operation of each." The Court reasoned that "those who apply the rule to particular cases, must of necessity expound and interpret that rule."
The decision reached by the California Supreme Court that the state's original ban on gay marriage violated the state constitution's guarantee to equal protection was not the result of activist judges pushing a liberal agenda. This was a Republican-dominated court and under the court's interpretation, the state's ban on gay marriage violated the state's Constitution. Courts have a huge responsibility to protect minorities and ensure equal protection under the law. For those who believe that the court's decision was judicial activism, I would like to point out that America has never had a purely codified system of government. Since its inception, America adopted common-law principles from England. America has a mixed legal system; our system is part common law and part codified law. It was well within the California Supreme Court's authority, duty and responsibility to rule on the issue.
Article Four of the U.S. Constitution states that "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government … " Contrary to popular opinion, America is a republic and not a democracy.
John Adams distinguished a democracy from a republic by affirming that a republic is a "government of laws and not of men." The founding fathers were cautious about how a democratic form of government would lead to the intrusion of individual liberties. James Madison wrote that the greatest danger to liberty lies not in the executive or legislative branches of government, but "in the body of people, operating by the majority against the minority." Madison forewarned that a "pure democracy is unwieldy, dangerous in its passion, and subject to mob rule thereby lending itself to instability and violence." The founders believed that the best way to safeguard individual rights from the impulsive will of the majority was to have a government of fixed laws, created by elected representatives ( as opposed to laws created by the people directly ) .
One of the problems with democracy is that voters tend to be irrational. Voter irrationality stems from the fact that voters have strong biases and are often uninformed on the issues. In California, voters were misguided into believing that allowing gay marriages would mean that churches would be required to perform same-sex marriages and that schools would be forced to teach children about same-sex marriages.
In America, we have a government of laws, not a government of men. We have elected officials to create the laws and courts to interpret them. It's perfectly fine for voters to decide whether or not to raise taxes to build bridges or schools, but complex issues pertaining to individual liberties should be decided by public officials who can be held accountable for their public policy decisions. There is no accountability for anonymous voters and considerable questions could be raised about their objectivity and familiarity with the issues. The fact that California's ban on gay marriage came from a vote of the people adds neither to its credibility nor its legitimacy. It is completely un-American for people to randomly target a class of people, form mobs and then raise millions of dollars to disenfranchise that particular group.
While there are many Americans who are uncomfortable with the idea of gays having the right to marry, marriage is a fundamental right and should not be decided by a whimsical tyranny of the majority. Madison warned that "If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure." Today, gay rights are insecure in California because of mob rule. The founders were wise enough to realize that corruption would follow from mob rule. For supporters of Proposition 8 and other state bans on gay marriage to ignore the wisdom of the founders is reckless and sets a dangerous precedent for the sake of political expedience.
Jamar Osborne is a nationally published columnist and human-rights activist. He has a J.D. from the University of Oklahoma and a bachelor's degree from Cameron University.
E. Patrick Johnson:
by YASMIN NAIR
E. Patrick Johnson is the author of Sweet Tea: An Oral History of Black Gay Men of the South, which consists largely of transcribed oral narratives. Johnson, the department chair of performance studies and a professor of African-American studies at Northwestern University, began researching the book in 2004. In October 2006, he began enacting solo performances and recreations of the narratives. The performances ( called "Pouring Tea" ) are now part of his current book tour. Windy City Times spoke to Johnson about his book; the accompanying performances; and the lure of the South.
Windy City Times: In your introduction, you emphasize the fact that you didn't approach this as a historian. How would you characterize the difference between your work and that of historians like John Howard [ author of Men Like That: A Southern Queer History, about Mississippi gay history ] ?
E.Patrick Johnson: My book was meant to be a living archive of narratives of African-American gay men born and raised in the South. For me, it was important that it be an oral history, that it be about people essentially theorizing their own lives in the telling. In that way my approach was a little different from a historian's approach. I wasn't necessarily interested in it from a scholarly perspective, in analyzing what they said or imposing a certain theoretical frame onto what they said as much as I was interested in documenting narratives and letting the theories speak through what was said. The other difference between mine and other such histories of the South is that I do the entire South.
WCT: What were those theories?
EPJ: For instance, in the narrative of Chaz/Chastity ( a transgender person in Hickory, N.C. ) : The ways in which Chaz narrates her life is a theorizing about the performativity of gender in a way that's understandable and based on life experience, and in a way that Judith Butler [ the feminist theorist who's written on the performativity of gender ] can't explain it [ Laughs ] . We don't have to go to post-structuralist theory; we can go to Chaz. That's not to belittle Judith Butler's work, but just to say that it's a different way of accessing the performativity of gender—in a way that my mother could understand, for instance.
WCT: In your discussions about the cultural norms of the South, you write about how the South has a way of holding on to secrets. As you put it, that's a part of "Southern gentility." But is it also about maintaining power structures?
EPJ: Absolutely, it's about hostility as much as gentility. [ Laughs ] The phrase "governing with a steel fist in a velvet glove" [ comes to mind ] . The dominant discourse in much of the South is a religious discourse; it pervades every aspect of Southern life. So if one's intention is to have it both ways—to maintain the veneer of religious piety yet be able to partake of the flesh—then one must not speak of those things that might go against the grain of the predominant religious discourse. So that's why you have, particularly in the church—and not just the Black church of the South—all kinds of transgressions, all kinds of hypocrisy that transcend sexual orientation. There are just as many heterosexuals participating in that [ kind of hypocrisy ] .
[ Southern gentility ] is absolutely about maintaining and sustaining certain power structures. But that same power structure provides opportunities for sexual dissidents to use it to their own advantage. ... Some people might ask, why stay? Why not go to a club? That's what's specific to the South. Those of us who are Black and gay and Southern started going to the church in the womb [ laughs ] . It's a part of our blood. And so when we come into our sexual consciousness, we can't just chop [ the church ] off. Because at the same time that it's oppressive, it's also liberating. Because especially when you're a kid, the culture of many Black churches is such that you can be the worst singer, the worst whatever, but they'll encourage you. That kind of encouragement, in the context of all the other religious stuff, is a part of who you are. That sustains you in ways that other sexual venues can't sustain you.
Now, that's not the experience of everyone in the book. But many, especially those who've decided to stay in the church, find ways to reconcile the homophobic rhetoric of the church with their spirituality and sexuality.
WCT: That brings me to a popular trope through which many people understand Black gay male men who are not "out"—as living with the "down low syndrome." How do you prevent people reading Black gay men staying in the church and not being as out [ from seeing ] another manifestation of the down-low culture?
EPJ: First of all, the down-low terminology and discourse [ are ] old. People think it came about a couple of years ago with J. L. King [ author of On the Down Low ] . But it actually emerged around heterosexuality: "Keeping it down low" referred to various indiscretions. Secondly, for as many men in Sweet Tea who are discreet about their sexuality, there are just as many who are open. Many of the men in the church are also flamboyant. They use the rituals and performance aesthetics of the Black church to express their sexuality. So a flamboyant queen can still be that flamboyant queen while directing the choir because it's expected of him to be over the top. That has nothing to do with the down-low and more to do with people knowing that this person is gay but still not saying anything about it. It's not like a secret in the same way as men who do identify as being on the down-low.
WCT: The performances that are now a part of your book tour started in October 2006. Did you think about performing these narratives when you conceived the book?
EPJ: No. When I got deep into the research and started conducting the interviews, I realized: This has to be a play. [ Laughs ] Sitting down with these folks and hearing them tell their stories in their unique ways suggested to me that the immediacy of the telling had to be recaptured in a way that reading it on a page would not. So I decided, after I'd done more than half of these interviews, that I would put together a performance based on these narratives.
What I didn't know [ at the time ] was whether I would cast the show or if I would do it [ as a solo performance ] . It became a [ set of ] intellectual questions for me: What would it be like for the researcher to stage his ethnographic material? What are the politics around that? So, I began to think about how to frame this performance in a way that also staged this encounter. I'm still thinking through the politics of all this, but one of the things I decided that I didn't want the show to be was a kind of Anna Deavere Smith show, to "become" these people. But I also didn't want it to be a bland reading.
So I decided that it would just be me on a stool, with a music stand and the text. But I also wanted the men to be present. I decided I would play excerpts of the men's interviews so that the audience actually heard them speak in their own voices. And then go into the performance, but also keep within the performance the questions that I asked them, so that the audience is always aware that this is a dialogue between Patrick and whomever he's interviewing. I'm a performer and I'm interested in the relationship between theory and practice.
WCT: In that context, what does it mean to perform [ "Pouring Tea" ] , especially to mixed or primarily white audiences that might expect the usual stereotypical narratives of pathos and sadness ascribed to Black gay men?
EPJ: [ You can never ] overdetermine how an audience is going to react, and so I try not to do that. [ Laughs ] But what I do try to do is be very deliberate in the choices that I make in a performance that at least [ convey ] to the audience that I have thought of [ how I construct the performance ] . For instance, it's not a coincidence that you hear the voices of the men speak [ before the performance starts ] . It's not a coincidence that I'm just sitting on a stool with a music stand. All those things are deliberate. But still, there's no way I can anticipate how that performance reinforces certain stereotypical notions about blackness, about sexuality, about the South. Inevitably, there are going to be people who come to the show [ thinking ] that all these men are down on their luck.
And those men are represented in the performance, but there are also men who defy those stereotypes. I don't think people who come to the show thinking that everybody in the South is religious is prepared to hear Freddie talk about leaving the church and about how he couldn't stay in the church and listen to homophobia. They're not prepared to hear from people like Duncan Teague who critiques heterosexuality and [ talks ] about comforting a straight man whose wife has left him, and about how he [ Duncan ] can go home to his lover of eleven years.
It's tricky when you're performing this kind of material, but I think the risks involved in performing it are worth the cultural and social engagement that the performance produces.
WCT: How have the book and the performance shifted for you since the publication of the book?
EPJ: The book is what it is. But the performance is its own thing; it continues to morph; [ it ] gives the audience a three-dimensional perspective on the men in a way that the book doesn't. The book is heavily edited. … There are certain freedoms that I can have with the performances that I can't have with the book. The performance keeps morphing and narrators are coming in and out; I don't do all the same ones every time. Both the book and the performance have a life of their own.
WCT: Sweet Tea is mostly about men who don't want to leave the South, but there are some who do leave. What pushes them to leave?
EPJ: I write about my own journey out of the South in the introduction: That even though I may leave it, it will never leave me. [ Laughs ] and I think thats true for even those who reject the 'South and leave it behind. The South doesn't leave them.
[ And ] then you have people who left because they felt too confined, wanted to experience queer culture with a capital "Q." ... There are some who feel, "I will never go back there because I don't feel free." They don't want to participate in that passive aggression. They want to be in a place that allows them to be explicitly gay and not have to get shrouded in codes.
Black LGBT group
calls for facility's
by ELENA MARINACCIO
The Coalition for Justice and Respect ( CJR ) is calling for an investigation into the Ruth M. Rothstein CORE Center, saying they've received, on average, one complaint per week over the past year regarding the HIV/AIDS facility located on the city's West side.
"The CORE center is a local shame, an embarrassment of employees and an insult to the public," said CJR's Marc Loveless at a City Hall press conference on Dec. 5.
Marlon Thompson, a former employee and patient at the CORE Center claims he overheard management and employees at CORE use racial and homophobic epithets. Thompson says after he filed a complaint with his immediate supervisor and nothing was done about it he resigned from his position as a retention specialist in late October.
"I brought it up on several occasions about certain talk that I would hear and things that were said that were negative about gay people," Thompson said. "I felt like that was an insult. so I felt like I had to leave." Thompson said he described what he called "blatant homophobia" that surrounds the CORE Center in his letter of resignation.
Loveless discussed other complaints he'd received concerning CORE. One instance involved a transgendered person who filed a claim with CORE's human resources department as well as with the Cook County Inspector General after a doctor told her he felt it was immoral to give her hormones while treating her for HIV.
Thompson has also filed a claim with the Inspector General as well as the Illinois Civil Rights Commission.
"When I saw an opportunity to reach out to other people in my community who were going through the same thing I was going through—it was a really heartfelt moment for me," Thompson said. "I felt this is my opportunity to bring people here to make them want to get better. That they could look at me as an example. And the CORE Center took all of that and they destroyed it."
CJR is calling on Cook County Board President Todd Stroger to launch a full investigation into the claims of bias and discrimination, and also into possible violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
The CORE Center and Cook County administrators did not return any phone calls to the Windy City Times by the time the newspaper went to press.
CJR was slated to host a community roundtable discussion Tuesday, Dec. 9, at 6 p.m. at Club 2506, 2506 N. Clybourn. The coalition invited former and present employees and consumers to come and discuss their experiences at CORE.
Latina institute helps
launch condom radio ads
by EMMANUEL GARCIA
On Dec. 1 Catholics for Choice and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health ( NLIRH ) collaborated to produce two Spanish-language radio ads in New York City. The radio ads, launched to mark World AIDS Day, will run on Spanish-language radio in NYC through Dec. 14.
Both ads aim to inform the public about the importance of using condoms, a taboo subject within Latino and Catholic communities. One of the two public service announcements features a grandmother talking about her gay grandson and her belief as a catholic woman to use condoms not only to protect oneself but those you love.
"My grandson came to me and told me he was in love with a man, later he told me he heard that like a good catholic he wasn't supposed to use a condom, I told him, 'Go ahead son, who raised you? I took care of you because I love you and if you love that man you will also take care of him, make sure you use a condom.' I am a Catholic woman and for me there isn't anything more important than protecting the family and love; that's why I talked to my grandson about condoms."
Silvia Henriquez, executive director of NLIRH says they collaborated with Catholics for Choice on the Condoms4Life campaign because of the rise in HIV infections plaguing the Latino community. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in 2006 Latinos accounted for 17 percent of all new infections of HIV in the U.S. "Many good Catholics believe in the right of women to choose when and if they will have children; about the importance to use protection when people decide to have intercourse. We know that the Catholic Church may not allow or does not believe that condoms protect against AIDS … but we do believe that it's important that all people have access to condoms?" asked Henriquez.
Henriquez explained how the institute, which predominantly focuses on Latina women's issues, tied in the radio ad aimed at dispelling myths about Latinos, gays and the Catholic Church. "We know that all Latina women have an example like the grandmother with her grandson; these types of conversations about sexuality, reproductive health and general health is something very important that impacts us all. Our organization does focus on Latina women's health, but women are a part of a community and families. We believe it's important that these conversations occur in every family and households and that women take a role in assuring that there partners and friends; children or families protect themselves against AIDS and other diseases." said, Henriquez. Concluding that with proper funding more ads would roll out in 2009 across the United States.
To listen to the radio ads visit condoms4life.org .
by Lisa Keen, Keen News Service
Debate heated up during the past week over President-elect Barack Obama's invitation to evangelical Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration. And as it has, the Human Rights Campaign has offered Obama a way to make amends, while a lone activist has called for a doughnut strategy.
President-elect Barack Obama's selection of the Rev. Rick Warren to lead his inaugural's invocation has upset many members of the LGBT community.
Mainstream media sank its teeth into the controversy early on, with reports that "gays are furious" about Obama bestowing such an honor on a pastor who has equated marriage between two same-sex adults with marriage between a brother and a sister or an adult marrying a child.
"President-elect Barack Obama's honeymoon with the liberal win of his party came to a crashing halt" on Dec. 17, said Washington Post political correspondent Chris Cillizza.
The Associated Press called Obama's invitation to Warren "an overture to conservative Christians" and a signal of "his willingness to upset liberals by tilting to the center." The New York Times called it an "olive branch."
The Los Angeles Times quoted gay activist Howard Bragman as saying Obama "saw that Bill Clinton did damage to his early presidency by appearing to pander to the gay and lesbian community."
"Obama has chosen a different tack," said Bragman.
Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell called the choice "insulting" to Black civil-rights activists.
"How do you put a civil rights icon like the Rev. Joseph Lowery," who was asked to give the closing prayer, "at the tail end of an event that honors the nation's election of its first African-American president? The only reason I can think of for Obama to give Warren such an honor is that he is already thinking about re-election."
At first, Warren did little to calm the upset. In an interview with a Wall Street Journal affiliate Dec. 12, he suggested that the LGBT civil-rights movement "is not really about civil rights, but a desire for approval." By Dec. 20, he was telling the Associated Press that he is a huge fan of lesbian rock star Melissa Etheridge and has all her albums. Warren spoke with Etheridge when they both appeared at an annual meeting of the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Long Beach, Calif. He reportedly told the audience that he loves Muslims and, "for the media's purpose, I happen to love gays and straights."
The Los Angeles Times reported that Etheridge was "among the first to stand" and applaud Warren for his remarks at that Dec. 20 meeting.
On NBC's Dateline Thursday ( Dec. 18 ) , Warren reiterated his respect for gay people and claimed that, when protesters came to his megachurch to protest his support for the anti-gay Proposition 8, his church served them doughnuts and water.
That, according to the New York Times, prompted one activist to start a doughnuts-for-Warren movement—encouraging gay-rights supporters to buy Dunkin' Donut cards and customizing them with their photos of same-sex couples and send the cards to Warren.
Meanwhile, John Aravosis, a gay political blogger in D.C. ( www.americablog.com ) reported Dec. 19 that the Web site for Warren's Saddleback church states that, while gay people can attend church, "someone unwilling to repent of their homosexual lifestyle would not be accepted at [ sic ] a member at Saddleback Church."
And the controversy has led to some backlash barbs for gays, too. Boston Globe columnist Margery Eagan urged Obama to "ignore them."
"They're looking increasingly shrill," wrote Eagan. "They're on the ideological purity bandwagon that for too long has prevented Washington from accomplishing anything."
On Dec. 19, the Human Rights Campaign urged President-elect Obama to "turn the corner on this controversy" by committing to HRC's "Blueprint for Positive Change" on LGBT issues. The blueprint calls for Obama to accomplish five things within specific time periods. It asks Obama, in the first 100 days of his presidency, to issue an executive order that "reaffirms" regulations in place to prohibit sexual orientation discrimination in federal employment; and to "develop a plan to begin the process" of repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy of excluding gays from the military. In the first six months, it asks that he "work with Congress to sign hate-crimes legislation. And then, without specific timetables, it asks that he commit to supporting "only a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act" and that he "work with Congress" to end unequal tax treatment of domestic partnership benefits.
The latter refers to federal tax law that enables a married employee to provide health insurance coverage to his or her spouse without counting that benefit as income. However, for a gay employee, the fair market value of that health coverage is added to the gross income on which the employee must pay taxes. ( The Center for American Progress and the Williams Institute estimate that a gay employee pays more than $1,000 per year more in taxes because of that disparity. )
HRC's Web site offers visitors an opportunity to "sign" its petition to Obama, saying that the signer is "disappointed" that he invited Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration and asks that he "restore my trust by pledging to support" the Blueprint.
A parade note
Contrary to early reports, this inaugural will not be the first to invite a gay contingent to participate in the presidential inaugural parade. Julian Potter was deputy director of the parade in 1993, for President Bill Clinton's first inauguration. She said she personally invited the Lesbian and Gay Marching Band to participate. The criteria for selection prior to 1993, she said, had been to include one band for each state. But with the first Clinton inaugural, the planners decided to be more inclusive by adding bands along the parade route. The Lesbian and Gay Marching Band was given a prime spot just two blocks away from the presidential reviewing stand.
©2008 Keen News Service
NOTE: In another inaugural development, lesbian U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., has been named to the list of honorary co-chairs for the inaugurations of President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden. Among the others named to the team are Presidents Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush as well as Gen. Colin Powell and Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin.
VIEW: An Obama wish list
by TRACY BAIM
Given that he's starting off on the wrong foot with our LGBT community, I thought I'd create an Obama wish list for 2009 so that he can make it up to us. After all, he received millions of dollars and millions of votes from LGBTs. If we truly are part of his agenda, he can make Pastor Rick Warren yesterday's news quickly by making progress on long-awaited rights for our community.
Now, of course, I know a top priority has to be cleaning up the massive toxic dump left by Bush/Cheney. The economy, the wars, the environment, all the criminal changes in rules and regulations, enforcement and oversight ... what a mess. But what I hate is when people think you can separate justice issues from "bread-and-butter" issues. You can't. Not just because it's morally wrong, but also because if you are a gay person kicked out of the military, that is an economic issue for you and for our government. They wasted tax dollars training you. They need to spend more to recruit a replacement. And it impacts our ability to defend our country; If all those gay Arab translators had not been kicked out, would we know more about terrorism? So gay issues are integral to solving many of the difficult tasks facing Obama. He just needs to think more broadly. If he involves more LGBTs in his administration, he will have that much more expertise and brain power solving all those big problems.
So, given the general top issues listed above, I have my own Obama LGBT wish list. While all may not happen in 2009, it won't get easier as the right wing rebuilds, so it may be best to do these early in the administration.
1 ) The Supreme Court: Start planning now, just in case. Please do not compromise in a middle-right way on this one. Pastor Warren is bad enough; but if you "reach out" across the aisle on any Supreme Court picks, we are royally screwed for decades. You ran middle-left, you won middle-left ... please do not go "right" on this critical decision.
2 ) Employment: Make sure any statements and resolutions you include on employment in your administration include all our alphabet community: gay, lesbian, bi and trans. And then when you work to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, make sure it, too, includes the "T" and makes its way through quickly. This is among the most important bills to help your LGBT allies. If you sign it into law, we promise to forget all about Rick Warren ( even if Melissa Etheridge seems ready to have his baby; see HuffingtonPost.com ) .
3 ) Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Just do it—cut it down. Most generals support lifting the ban, and maybe you will even give us an openly gay Navy secretary to help you get this done fast. We need the troops; it's simple justice, and a lot more palatable than when Bill Clinton tried to do it. Most straight people are now OK with gays dying for their country.
4 ) Hate crimes: Hey, we know you get this one. Make sure there is not just a comprehensive law passed in your first six months, but also documentation and enforcement equally across the country.
5 ) Appointments: Your cabinet does not have any openly gay people. Maybe we have to wait now for some openings, or new positions. But come on, you know lots of LGBTs ... make sure your "to do" list includes some bench warmers from our community. As I said before, we can bring lots of talents and ideas to your team.
6 ) While you hypocritically believe marriage is for a man and a woman, you have also said marriage is a state issue. As a lawyer, you know that is only a partial truth. The federal government provides more than 1,000 benefits to married people. And because states are basically violating the full faith and credit clause of the U.S. Constitution ( in not recognizing marriages legal in other states ) , this is a federal issue. The federal Defense of Marriage Act needs to be overturned; states may not allow marriage in their own borders, but they must be forced to recognize those in others or we will have huge legal battles and tax nightmares ahead.
7 ) If we can't get all 1,000+ benefits fixed for marriage, at least fix a few important ones, such as: Inheritance made the same, so no gay tax on those who die and try to give their property and money to a surviving partner; immigration ( married partners of citizens being allowed citizenship ) ; and getting rid of taxes on work-related health benefits given to domestic partners.
8 ) Sign on to international United Nations resolutions supporting equal rights for LGBTS. Use your amazing goodwill worldwide to put our rights out front.
9 ) An LGBT round table: President Jimmy Carter made history in having a staffer invite gays to the White House. He didn't meet with them, but it still made history for its location. An ongoing presidential round table on LGBT issues ( where sometimes you attend ) would help advise you on a range of issues, and would be a good model for issues impacting other groups. Make sure, however, that those groups are not segregated or isolated, and that ideas are allowed to bubble up to the top ( you ) , not just your advisors.
10 ) Finally, I think it is critical that each key area of your administration makes sure to be fully aware of issues of diversity, to make them smarter and more effective. Education, environment, healthcare ( for better AIDS and cancer prevention policies and funding ) and all departments should be fully diverse and integrated so that the very best our country has to offer, including LGBTs, are attracted to government work once again. Corporate America can tell you about its diversity policies, and how those help it attract top talent.
Despite the fact that he can sometimes be infuriatingly dispassionate and practical, I believe we have the best chance, under an Obama administration, to make solid gains on LGBT issues and on all areas of civil rights. But we need proof now, and we also need to make sure we are not taken for granted. During the lengthy presidential campaign, he talked a good talk. Now it's time to walk the good walk.
Tracy Baim is publisher of Windy City Media Group. She blogs at tracybaim.typepad.com .
The "Yes WE Can" 2009 Inauguration Cruise—celebrating President-elect Barack Obama's transition into the White House—will take place Jan. 16-24. The cruise will leave from Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and sail round-trip to Baltimore, Md.
One of the highlights will be the "Yes We Can 2009 Cruise Ball" at the historic Frances-Merrick Performing Arts Center in Baltimore.
For more information, visit www.yeswecan2009cruise.com or call 866—621-2560.
South Asian version
of Vagina Monologues
Rasaka Theatre Company will present the Chicago premiere of Yoni Ki Baat—a South Asian-focused event loosely inspired by Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues—at Strawdog Theatre, 3829 N. Broadway, Jan. 4-Feb. 1, 2009.
The show will include six new monologues by local writers, including ensemble members Anita Chandwaney and Mary Anne Mohanraj. Tickets are $10-$20; call 312-777-1070 or visit www.strawdog.org .
"Jubilee: African American Celebration," is on view at Washington, D.C.'s, Smithsonian's Anacostia Community Museum through Sept. 20, 2009. Through a colorful display with costumes and tableaus, "Jubilee" offers a cross section of nearly 50 traditions and celebrations observed in the African-American community from days of slavery to today. Examined are holidays that are unique but no longer celebrated, regional or national in scope and of relatively recent origin as well as mainstream events also celebrated by African Americans.
Aurora theatre to salute
Black History Month
Salute Black History Month with TheatreworksUSA's story The Color of Justice, a play inspired by events and people surrounding the civil rights case of Brown v. Board of Education, will be performed at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora at 9:30 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. on Feb. 12.
The Color of Justice is the story of a courageous young girl and a great warrior for justice and the battle for equal rights. It is also the story of America in the 1950s—a time of segregated restaurants and schools, and separate restrooms and drinking fountains for "colored" and "whites" in many places.
Tickets for The Color of Justice are $8 and can be purchased at the Paramount Theatre Box Office, by phone at 630-896-6666 or at any TicketMaster ticket outlet. For more information, visit the Paramount Theatre online at www.ParamountAurora.com .