Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Supporting global LGBT Rights during the #Sochi Olympics!

Many of us have watched events unfold in Russia with absolute disgust and horror.  Being sold out by corporations like Coca Cola, Visa, NBC, the list goes on and on.  LGBT rights are less important than the almighty dollar.  But is there anything we can do from home?

My friend Will Welch came up with the most brilliant idea!  I plan on participating, and want as many of you to join in!  I'm sharing his Facebook note, with permission.

Dear Friends,   The Olympics are little more than 2 weeks away in Sochi, Russia.  As you all certainly know by now, the Russian government passed harsh anti-LGBT laws that have led to increased violence and legal marginalization of LGBT Russians. For this reason, many groups have condemned the International Olympic Committee for their decision to allow Russia to host the Olympics, especially since discrimination such as this is against the Olympic charter.  There was even a push to move the games at the last minute from Sochi to Vancouver, to no avail.  The danger that has been brought upon LGBT Russians is inexcusable.  Vladimir Putin does not deserve to host the Olympic games. He is going to anyway, but WE DON"T HAVE TO WATCH.

  • BEAR WITH ME HERE!!  I know that many of you want to watch the Olympics, or will be in family/friend situations where you will naturally find yourself doing it. However, as long as there is some time (hopefully a lot of time :)  you can set aside during the games to deliberately do something else and tweet and/or facebook about it using the hashtag #NotwatchingtheOlypmics, you can help:
  • Imagine what kind of a message can be sent to Putin and corporate sponsors of the games if a large number of people not only reduced their viewership significantly, but also filled up social media with the message that we are #NotwatchingtheOlympics . It's too easy to pass up right? 
  • Here are some fun examples:
    1. "I can't wait to watch old reruns of Golden Girls while I'm #NotwatchingtheOlympics "
    2. "Ack! I skied straight into a tree today while I was #NotwatchingtheOlympics "
    3. "Having a great time bowling with my family in support of #LGBTRights while we're #NotwatchingtheOlympics "
  • You can even start planning now what you might want to do when you are #NotwatchingtheOlympics  
  • P.S. If you don't have twitter, I would suggest getting one even if just for this.  You don't have to follow anyone for your hashtags to count.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Anniversary Challenge!

This week, my partner Les and I celebrated our 19th anniversary.  We chose to use our anniversary to make a statement and engage others about marriage equality.  You see, because we are both gay men and happen to be in love with one another and not someone of the opposite sex, our relationship is reduced to "boyfriend," "lover," or "partner" status opposed to having the right to marriage.  We would prefer to have spent the entirety of our anniversary in celebration, but felt that instead, we should visit our local county courthouse and demand a marriage license.  As we were walking into the building, a very happy opposite sex couple was leaving with a license in hand.  We entered the Clerk's office, took a number (D 134), and sat down to fill out our application.  Discrimination was evident from the get-go as we had to scratch out "Bride" in multiple place on the application and replace it with "Groom number 2".  When our number was up, we handed our application and drivers licenses to the lady behind the desk.  She looked the paper over, as well as our IDs and promptly informed us that due to a Florida statute, she would be unable to issue us a license because we are a same sex couple.  We discussed the issue with her, and even asked if she agreed with the statute (which she refused to answer).  We remained civil but made sure to push the issue a little instead of just taking her "no" and leaving.  I even asked her if she would be willing to step outside of the box and simply do the right thing.

I have organized marriage counter actions like this, and have participated in them before.  These can be powerful actions as they put faces to the issue.  They force government workers to look us in the eye while enforcing institutionalized homophobic discrimination.  They show our friends and neighbors, our coworkers, those waiting in the lobby with us that LGBT people are everywhere, and it isn't just New Englanders and Californians who think marriage equality is important.  While we were there, friends of ours discussed our action with a family who was there supporting an 18 year old getting her own marriage license.  This family cheered and applauded us as we left the building.  I guarantee you that the lady working the desk as well as the family in the waiting room went home and talked to others about the gay couple who was not allowed to get married.  When these people next hear a politician say something good or bad about "same-sex" marriage, instead of it being an abstract concept, they have real life people to associate with it.  That is huge!

Les and I issue a challenge to all LGBT couples out there:  when your anniversary comes around, if you live in a state where you cannot get married, visit the marriage counter!  Put your faces and names out there, let as many people as possible see us for the human beings with families we are.  This is an example of a simple, very low-risk action.  If you have never organized a protest or direct action before, this is one of the easiest to do.

Here are some simple steps for having a marriage counter action of your own.
1.  Plan ahead if possible.  You might want to get the word out, a crowd of friends can help to dramatize and further publicize your action.
2.  Prepare messaging.  Messaging is very important.  You want to pick one or two main talking points, main issues or reasons for doing what  you are doing.  Come up with different ways to express those talking points and practice getting those words out as eloquently as possible.
3.  Notify press.  Press is very important, but not everybody is comfortable talking to a camera or reporter, so be prepared with one or two strong bullet points.  It is best to send out an advisory a day or two ahead of time, and a press release the morning of your action. I would be more than happy to help with composing press releases, you can email me anytime!
4.  Come prepared.  While it is extremely rare, some offices in the past have decided to issued marriage licenses.  I can think of nothing worse than a couple showing up, a clerk saying yes, and that couple not having the required documentation or money ready.  You can find information on what is required in your state/county by clicking here!
5.  Be civil.  This can be a very emotional experience.  Even though you know you most likely will be turned down, it still can be hard to hear the words.  It is important to remain as civil as possible during the interaction with the government workers.  The last thing you want is to be perceived as rude or spiteful because, remember, those you interact with will see you as the face of marriage equality when the topic comes up in the future.
6.  Be strong and consistent.  Just because you are being civil, it does not mean you have to meekly take the "no" and leave.  Engage the worker with questions and statements.  Ask them why they cannot give you a license.  Ask for documentation, statute numbers, etc.  Many clerk's offices have had some training on this and will actually have a copy of your state's marriage statue on hand to provide you.  Give them a personal story, a reason why marriage is important to you as a couple.  Give them a statistic or two about "traditional" marriage in the USA.  You could also ask to speak to their supervisor and go through a similar scenario.  When you are done, thank them for their time.
7.  Get pictures and video!  Have a friend or family member take pictures and/or get video of your visit.  This is very important.  Direct action should always be documented.  Share pictures and videos online, particularly on social networking sites, share your experience with people (we all have friends or associates who don't really get why this is important, this can help educate them).
8.  Debrief.  Write about your experiences as soon as possible after your action.  Write, video log, audio, however you are most comfortable documenting things.  This gives you something to fall back on in the future, and gives a record of your experience.

I hope these steps help those of you who want to take part in our challenge.  Again, you can email me anytime with questions or comments.  So, couples, are you up for the challenge? 


Sunday, August 19, 2012

RNC in Tampa: What not to bring!

Well, as many of you know, Tampa is about to host the Republican National Convention.  Obviously, there will be a lot of protest activity around the convention.  There will be demonstrations, rallies, marches, you name it, it will probably be happening throughout the week of 08-27.  What you aren't hearing a lot about is the list of prohibited items in what is being called the "event zone".  Kind of long and confusing, but if you are planning on heading out to protest, you really should spend some time looking not only at the list, but the full ordinance for the RNC.  It is important to think outside of the box when looking at the list.  For instance, puppets (except for maybe sock puppets) would be prohibited because their parts may fit into several of the prohibited item categories.  Want to wave the rainbow flag?  Don't do so with a flagpole unless it is less than less than 2 inches wide and 1/4 inch thick.  Basically, there isn't much you CAN bring other than yourself and signs (be sure if you have posts holding those signs up that they are "within" dimensions.  I URGE anybody planning on protesting to pay close attention to this list so as not to give authorities a reason to badger you or arrest you.

Anything made of lumber, wood, or wood product unless it is 1/4 inch or less in thickness and 2 inches or less in width, or if not rectangular in shape, it shall not exceed 3/4 inch in its thickest dimension.  If an item does not exceed these dimensions it is allowed only if the object is not filled with any material, liquid or gas
and both ends of the length of lumber, wood, or other wood product are blunt and not pointed.

Anything made of metal, plastic, or any other hard material whether hollow or solid shall not exceed 3/4 inch thickness in its thickest dimension, and 1/8 inch in wall thickness.  If an item does not exceed these dimensions it is allowed only if the object is not filled with any material, liquid or gas
and both ends of the length of lumber, wood, or other wood product are blunt and not pointed.

Aerosol cans.

The following items, defined as weapons: air rifle, air pistol, paintball rifle, explosive, blasting cap(s), switchblade, hatchet, ax, slingshot, BB gun, pellet gun, wrist shot, slung shot, blackjack, metal knuckles, nun chucks, mace, iron buckle, ax handle, chain, crowbar, hammer, shovel or any club or bludgeon or any other instrumentality used or intended to be used to cause property or personal damage. (except for guns, if you have a carry permit, you can have guns -- yeah, that still makes no sense).

Any container or inflatable device filled with urine, fecal matter, blood or any other bodily fluid.

Any container filled with any liquid, solid or gas.

Any projectile launcher or other device which may be used for the purpose of launching, hurling, throwing or spraying any object, liquid material or other substance. The prohibited items shall include but are not limited
to, water guns, super soakers and water cannons.

Rope, chain, string, strapping wire, cable, string, line, tape, or any other material of a similar nature, having tensile strength greater than 30 pounds and length greater than 6 feet.

Frangible containers of any kind, including, without limitation, glass bottles, glass ornaments, light bulbs, or ceramic vessels, regardless of whether the container holds any substance.

Locks including, without limitation, padlocks, bicycle locking devices, chain locks or similar devices, but not including: (i) an integral component of a conveyance or structure; (ii) locks when utilized by the owner of private real property to secure permanent or temporary fencing; or (iii) locks attached to a bicycle.

Material designed, intended or readily adaptable for use as a portable shield but not including, common umbrellas made primarily of fabric or soft vinyl without metal tips or other potentially hazardous modification.

Any gas mask or similar device designed to filter all air breathed by the wearer in an attempt to protect the respiratory tract and/or face against irritating or noxious gasses or other materials. This prohibition on gas masks shall not apply to any person wearing a medical oxygen mask that fits over the nose and mouth of the person and oxygen from an oxygen tank to the person.

It shall be unlawful for any person or persons to wear any mask, or device whereby any portion of the face is hidden, concealed or covered as to conceaI the identity of the wearer in the Event Zone. The following persons are exempt from this prohibition:
(A) Governmental employees in the performance of their official duties; and
(B) Any person in the Public Viewing Area; and
(C) Any person parading in a parade in the Official Parade Route.

It shall be unlawful for any person to throw, project, hurl or launch any object with the intent to cause intimidation, apprehension, injury, harm or damage to any person or property.

It shall be unlawful for any person to set, light, or use any fire, bonfire, campfire, or fire pit on public property without a permit, or on private property without written consent from property owner.

The list goes on to name other things which are pretty much normally against the law such as blocking public right of way on sidewalks, streets, repelling down buildings, performing a "sleeping dragin", public urination and defecation, camping in public places, and so on.

Here is a map of what is considered the "event zone" during the RNC:


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Shooting at Family Research Council

I am saddened to hear of a shooting at the Family Research Council's offices today.  Saddened because we're hearing of yet another person who thought violence was the way to make a statement or make his mark on the world.  Saddened because instantly, there is speculation that the shooter may have been gay and the shooting motivated as an attack on a group who works hard to spread hatred and misinformation against LGBT people.  Whether this person was gay or not, whatever his reason for doing this, I am saddened and sickened, as always, by the violence of this act.  Answering hate with hate and violence with violence will not get anybody anywhere.  My thoughts are with the security guard who was shot in hopes of a speedy recovery.  Now, let's duck down and prepare for the slinging of stinky mud from the likes of FRC, NOM, etc on how all homosexuals are now gun-toting lunatics. :-(


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Chick-Fil-A beneficiary now advocating kidnapping of children!

Folks, this takes the cake!  Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, is now tweeting advocating kidnapping the children of LGBT parents!  Now, I'm sure people will try to defend this all sorts of different ways, but here is exactly what was said by Fischer: "Why we need an Underground Railroad to deliver innocent children from same-sex households.."  Sorry, there is no other way to interpret this other than advocating for the kidnapping of children!  Remember, the AFA is a beneficiary of Chick-Fil-A money, so for those of you who still value your ultra high sodium chicken sandwiches over human dignity, you help fund this insane bigotry!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Not "just an opinion"!

I have to say, I am sick and tired of seeing people complain about us "militant gays" over the Chick-Fil-A issue.  The biggest complaint I'm seeing/hearing is how the LGBT community is being intolerant of Cathy's religious views and his "opinion".  When are people going to realize that this goes so far beyond just an opinion or religious view?  As I told NM State Rep David C. Chavez when we met with him this spring, if we were arguing "red or green" (obscure NM chile reference) then sure, a difference in opinion would be acceptable, but we are arguing over the basic civil rights of a group of human beings!  When your opinion or view is used to push an agenda that sets out to harm the LGBT community, it is no longer just an opinion.  Not to mention the fact that the real issue with Chick-Fil-Hate isn't so much the fact that Cathy issued an opinion, but that the company has shelled out millions to organizations who actively work to harm us!  THAT is not "just an opinion", nor is it an issue of religious freedom!  I saw this cartoon online today, and it fits this situation so well!


Thanking Chick Fil A?

Ok, I know it sounds totally insane, but seriously, I do find myself thanking Chick-Fil-A!  Why on earth would I thank a company who funds hate groups by the millions?  Well, here's the deal.  I found myself in quite an activist funk after getting moved and settling in here in Florida.  I helped to organize a candle light vigil, and have had some 1:1 conversations with people about joining GetEQUAL.  But was still not really energized to be doing organizing work again for whatever reason.  The recent brouhaha over Chick-Fil-Hate has really given me the spark I needed to get back in the game!  Yesterday, I joined Occupy Tampa as they Mic Checked a local Chick-Fil-A, then we visited another to hand out handbills to people sitting outside eating.  It was a great time, and I look forward to working with them again!  Now, I have a bit of work to do this week, this weekend, and beyond.  Time to GetEQUAL!  And so thank you, Chick-Fil-A for admitting once and for all that you fund hate groups, and for pushing this activist out of his funk and back into the game!!  See you soon!

And for your viewing pleasure, here is some video of the "Mic Check" from yesterday!