Friday, June 12, 2009

Candor and The Covenant

from an interview by Jennifer Skalka

of the HotLine Online section of the National Journal

Bishop Robinson: ON OBAMA~~

"...a number of us are beginning to be impatient with him."


. . . JS: You testified before New Hampshire lawmakers to advocate for the gay marriage bill that was passed last week by the state House and Senate, and I'm curious, broadly to start, what you think of New Hampshire's decision to become the sixth state to allow gay marriage.

GR: It's very exciting to have walked this bill all the way through. To a lot of people it seemed a bit of a tortuous journey. But in the end, I think we took a really good tact -- and that was true of the House, the Senate and the governor -- which was to restate what was already true in the law, but people needed to be reassured about it. Which was to restate the protections for religious institutions not to have to participate in same-gender marriages if they didn't want to and if it went against their beliefs. And I believe that that freed a lot of people, who are not even necessarily at all comfortable with the notion of gay marriage, to support this bill for what it is, which is an action of the state, not of the church.

And I argued that indeed for religious institutions to impose their will against the secular state was an imposition of the church on the state. We're normally worried about the state impinging on the rights of religion, but in this case I believe it was religion impinging on the rights of the state. And that seemed to win the day. And I couldn't be more delighted. . . .

JS: Let me ask you about Pres. Obama. There's much consternation bubbling up in the gay community that he's not visible on issues of interest to the community. Many say, for example, they'd like him to do more in trying to retract the military's 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy. And yet he's been awfully quiet since taking office on this and other issues. Do you feel like he's losing some goodwill among gays and lesbians?

GR: I think that a number of us are beginning to be impatient with him. The argument that he's got other things on his plate really doesn't hold water since he has certainly demonstrated an ability to multitask and to tackle very, very important issues at the same time. Also, I just saw a poll -- I think it was yesterday or the day before -- showing enormous support for an end to 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' even amongst the military, even amongst conservatives, amongst Republicans, not to mention the general public. I still believe that he is going to move forward on that and on the Defense of Marriage Act and so on, but I do think patience is wearing thin, and I think it's time for him to begin to give this some of his time and energy.

I know that he's put together a study committee around 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' and I don't think he would have done that if he hadn't been assured of what the verdict would be. I don't know when they are due to report, but certainly when they do would be an opportune time for him to act. I think he did that so as not to fall within the same danger zone that Bill Clinton did when he tried to do it by fiat.

JS: But politically, what's holding him back at this point. He has such an enormous mandate for his agenda and the Democrats so dominate Washington. Why do you think he's holding back?

GR: I have no idea. I don't think there is anything politically to be lost here. And I think it would only solidify his base of support in the gay and lesbian community. ... We're not asking him at this point to be open in his support of gay marriage. We're talking about a couple policies whose time really has come to be over. . .

JS: And just finally for those in Red State America who might be watching what is happening in several New England states and Iowa, what would your message to them be on this issue?

GR: I think my message would be that religious people who oppose this idea have nothing to fear from same-gender marriage equality. That no one will be asked to do anything that is against their conscience. On the other hand, let's remember that marriage is a civil act. That becomes quite clear when a marriage, let's say, that was performed in a church or a synagogue or a mosque comes apart. And the couple seeks a divorce. They don't go back to the church or synagogue or mosque. They go to the courts. Because it is a legal and civil action that was done.

It's gotten confused in this country because we have deputized clergy of all kinds to be and act as agents of the state in marriage. And so people don't know when the civil action begins and ends and when the religious part begins and ends. So I think this is a very helpful division between what the state does and what religious organizations do. And when once you understand that, you understand that allowing gay and lesbian people to have access to civil marriage has absolutely no affect on religious groups. And they have nothing to fear from this movement.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Today in Gay History

Happy 87th Birthday
Judy Garland (1922-1969)

Lifted from glbtq, THE Gayest
Online Encyclopedia

" To call Judy Garland an icon of the gay community is a massive understatement. Garland's fragile but indomitable persona and emotion-packed singing voice are undeniably linked to gay culture and identity. This is especially true for gay men, but lesbians also are drawn to identify with Garland's plucky toughness and vulnerability.

Garland's signature song, "Over the Rainbow," is the closest thing we have to a gay national anthem, and many claim that it was pain over Garland's death from an overdose of drugs in June 1969 that sparked smoldering gay anger into the Stonewall riots and fueled the gay liberation movement. Whether true or not, this story has such poetry that one feels it ought to be true.

After all, in the intensely closeted pre-Stonewall days, gays often identified themselves to each other as "friends of Dorothy," referring to Garland's 1939 role in The Wizard of Oz.

Garland was virtually born a performer. Her parents owned a theater in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, where little Frances Gumm was born on June 10, 1922. She began singing and dancing on stage at the age of four. She toured in vaudeville, performing with her sisters, before being discovered in 1935 and signed to a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film studio.

She changed her name to Judy Garland and starred with Mickey Rooney in the Andy Hardy film series before being cast in her career-defining role in The Wizard of Oz.

Early in her career, studio doctors began giving Garland prescription drugs. The "speed" she took to lose weight made her too nervous to sleep, so she was given tranquilizers and sleeping pills, beginning a destructive cycle that would continue throughout her life and finally kill her.

Garland was painfully insecure; and, unfortunately, she began her career at a time when performers worked under contract to powerful studios and had little control over their careers. Her attempts to take charge of her career caused the studios to reject her as a troublemaker, but Garland's powerful talent and sheer heart propelled her through comeback after comeback.

After Garland's childhood career ended, she wowed audiences in her first adult role in Meet Me in St. Louis in 1944. In 1954, after more difficult years, she starred powerfully in A Star is Born with James Mason.

When the film roles were not there, she went back on the concert stage, performing long runs at New York's Palace Theater. Despite an Academy Award nomination for a stunning performance in Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) and a brief but memorable television show on CBS (1963-1964), Garland found herself nearly penniless. Near the end of her life, she performed anywhere she could, even in piano bars when she could find no other work.

Garland was adored by gay fans throughout her career, but her connection to the world of homosexuality did not stop with her fans. Her beloved father, Frank Gumm, had been a closeted gay man, and Roger Edens, her strongest supporter in the early days at MGM, was also gay.

Even two of Garland's husbands, Vincente Minnelli and Mark Herron, were gay, which made possible an intergenerational ménage when Herron had an affair with Peter Allen, who was married to Garland's daughter Liza Minnelli.

Garland has to be ranked among the most memorable and indefatigable performers in the history of American popular entertainment. She made over thirty feature films, received a special Academy Award, and was nominated for two others. She also garnered several Emmy nominations and a special Tony Award.

Garland made numerous recordings, including the Grammy Award-winning Judy at Carnegie Hall, which has never been out of print. Her concert appearances became legendary, both for their triumphs and their spectacular failures.

Perhaps the most touching, and telling, picture of Judy Garland, embedded in the memories of gay men and lesbians of a certain age, is the way she ended many of her concerts. Dressed in drag as a hobo, her smudged face showing the pathos of the eternal outsider, she approaches the audience and sits on the edge of the stage. Looking far away, she sings "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," with intense lonely sweetness, longing for that impossible land where dreams come true. "


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Get Ready: the Corporatist CongressPersons and the Bought Pundits of the Right Will SCREAM the Talking Points of " Socialsim "

Universal health care's back

by: Alex Blaze

of the Bilerico Project

The push for health care reform started this week, and now there's a cacophony of voices speaking on the topic. It's all well and good for me, since I get off on that sort of thing, but it also means that there are going to be a lot of people putting out ideas for health care reform for the sole purpose of derailing it.

In the end, what private insurance companies and the congresscritters they bought and paid for fear the most is a public option that actually works. They pretty much know that the private insurance industry, as it operates now with huge executive compensation, large profit margins for investors, cold-hearted denial of payment to any patient they can manage, excessively high rates, and bureaucratic inefficiencies, would never survive. And you don't just have to believe me, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said as much on the teevee this weekend:

Wallace: Well, let me ask you about what seems to be a part of their plan, although I think we both agree that it's not very specific at this point. The president says that he wants a public health insurance option to compete against private insurance options. Is there any public plan as just one of a series on the menu that you could support?

McConnell: Well that would me a government plan that would inevitably put the government between you and your doctor and there would be no more private insurance.

Wallace: Why?

McConnell: Because the private insurance people would not be able to compete with a government option.

HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! Silly Senate Minority Leader, you're not supposed to admit that the public option you're against is way cooler than the insurance people have now!

But it's going to be hard to deliver on this promise. The health care industry is, of course, against anything of the sort, and lots of people do have great health coverage as it is. Republicans know that good government health care means further electoral defeat for them as people realize that they've been lying all this time about how people simply can't come together and do amazing things like insure themselves through a tool like the government.

And other health care industries - like pharmaceuticals - don't want a government plan that can negotiate prices with private companies. I mean, if the government did that, then how would all of Eli Lilly's middle management afford mansions in Carmel, Indiana (oh yeah, I know how you all live)?

Then again, if they keep up this talking point, it might happen sooner than we think:

But critics argue that with low administrative costs and no need to produce profits, a public plan will start with an unfair pricing advantage. They say that if a public plan is allowed to pay doctors and hospitals at levels comparable to Medicare's, which are substantially below commercial insurance rates, it could set premiums so low it would quickly consume the market.

Although the numbers are disputed by public plan advocates, the Lewin Group, a health care consulting firm, recently projected that a plan paying Medicare rates would prompt 119 million of the 172 million people who are privately insured to switch policies (while also providing coverage to 28 million of the 46 million uninsured).

Hey, unnamed critics, you know what's actually unfair? Being denied a life-saving treatment because some private insurer bureaucrat is under pressure to "control costs."

Anyway, this is make it or break it time, as they say. There's more political will now than there's been in a good few decades to change our health care system, and if something less-than passes, it'll just placate people for another few decades. There's so much working against real health care reform, and so much riding on it, that we can't just pass anything under the rubric of "Do something!" We actually have to get something good passed that will change the way we deal with health care in America.

That's why the Progressive Caucus has lined up behind their version of the public option. No triggers (Olympia Snowe's (R-ME) plan to kill the public option) that require even more people to be murdered by spreadsheet before a viable public option gets created. And no weak plan that doesn't allow the government to negotiate with health care providers. Sorry, the casino's over, folks. And no tying the hands of the public option by saying it can't be subsidized in the same ways private insurance is.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus calls for a robust public option that must:

  • Enact concurrently with other significant expansions of coverage and must not be conditioned on private industry actions.

  • Consist of one entity, operated by the federal government, which sets policies and bears the risk for paying medical claims to keep administrative costs low and provide a higher standard of care.

  • Be available to all individuals and employers across the nation without limitation

  • Allow patients to have access to their choice of doctors and other providers that meet defined participation standards, similar to the traditional Medicare model, promote the medical home model, and eliminate lifetime caps on benefits.

  • Have the ability to structure the provider rates to promote quality care, primary care, prevention, chronic care management, and good public health.

  • Utilize the existing infrastructure of successful public programs like Medicare in order to maintain transparency and consumer protections for administering processes including payment systems, claims and appeals.

  • Establish or negotiate rates with pharmaceutical companies, durable medical equipment providers, and other providers to achieve the lowest prices for consumers.

  • Receive a level of subsidy and support that is no less than that received by private plans.

  • Ensure premiums must be priced at the lowest levels possible, not tied to the rates of private insurance plans.

In conclusion, the public plan, like all other qualified plans, must redress historical disparities in underrepresented communities. It must provide a standard package of comprehensive benefits including dental, vision, mental health and prescription drug coverage with no pre-existing condition exclusions. It must limit cost-sharing so that there are no barriers to care, and incorporate up-to-date best practice models to improve quality and lower costs. All plans, including the public plan, must include coverage for evidence-based preventive health services at minimal or no co-pay. All plans, including the public plan, should be at least as transparent as traditional Medicare.

Sounds good to me.

Eventually we're going to have to rally around something, and it's good to see the Progressive Caucus flexing its muscle. Their plan isn't a watered-down compromise, it's the best plan for Americans at this point.

Even if we only wanted to reform the private industry, there isn't any way to really enforce that other than with competition from a public option. The insurance industry will do whatever to get out of any reforms, so it's better just to circumvent them and give people a real choice.

Because any health care plan without a strong public option is just kabuki.

Monday, June 8, 2009

My Thoughts, Exactly


Guest Blog by: Waymon Hudson

President of, blogging from Bilerico Project

It's not the first time I've seen it, 1.L._AA240_.jpgbut for some reason it jumped out at me in a recent press release I was reading from some nutty, fundie, right-wing group (insert some combination of "America" "Traditional" and "Family" and you'll get the name of the group- they're all the same to me at this point):

We must stop their efforts to homosexualize the troops.

Really? "Homosexualize"? When did a sexual orientation become a verb? I guess I shouldn't expect too much from groups that can't spell "marriage" in their TV commercials, but come on...

I've made my dislike for the word "homosexual" very clear. I think it is the new, acceptable form of "faggot" and it always makes me angry. I'm sure that played into why the word jumped out at me.

That and the fact that it sounds completely ludicrous and made up.

Words like this feed into the idea that sexual orientation is something that is mutable. If you can "homosexualize" others and institutions, then it must be a choice. It's a not-so-subtle swipe at gay people, meant to breed fear of a subversive, militaristic, "gay agenda" that is seeping into the lives of God-fearing Americans.

I'm sure some brilliant fundie will soon turn the word into an adverb: "Homosexually." Hmmm, can we use it in a sentence? "The man walks very homosexually."

Wait, that's probably been said about me. But I digress...

These lazy buzzwords for the right are simply meant to invoke guttural reactions about "otherness." Someone different from you, and therefore dangerous, is going to invade your lives and beloved institutions, SO BEWARE! It's a desperate need to invoke fear about the LGBT community so they can excuse their small-minded bigotry and lack of logic.

And raise funds to line their pockets.

So continue to make up words to explain being on the wrong side of equality, fairness, and justice, right-wingers. While you're wrapped up in your hate, I'll be off to do some more homosexualizing...

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Stand Out Story of the Week

Excerpts from President Obama's Historic Address to the Arab-Muslim world from Cairo:

. . . So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, and who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. This cycle of suspicion and discord must end.

I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles – principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.

I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight. No single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have all the complex questions that brought us to this point. But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly the things we hold in our hearts, and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground. As the Holy Koran tells us, "Be conscious of God and speak always the truth." That is what I will try to do – to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart.

. . .In Ankara, I made clear that America is not – and never will be – at war with Islam. We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security. Because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children. And it is my first duty as President to protect the American people. . .

. . .The second major source of tension that we need to discuss is the situation between Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab world.America's strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.. . .

. .
. Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel's right to exist.

At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.

Israel must also live up to its obligations to ensure that Palestinians can live, and work, and develop their society. And just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel's security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress..

~ Ten Memorable Lines of the Speech~

1. "I am also proud to carry with me the goodwill of the American people, and a greeting of peace from Muslim communities in my country: assalaamu alaykum."

2. "As the Holy Koran tells us, 'Be conscious of God and speak always the truth.' That is what I will try to do - to speak the truth as best I can[.]"

4. "We are shaped by every culture, drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a simple concept: E pluribus unum: 'Out of many, one.'"

5. "The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind; and whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind."

6. "Indeed, we can recall the words of Thomas Jefferson, who said: 'I hope that our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our power the greater it will be.'"

7. "All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when . . . when the Holy Land [is] . . . a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed (peace be upon them) joined in prayer."

8. "There is also one rule that lies at the heart of every religion - that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. This truth transcends nations and peoples - a belief that isn't new; that isn't black or white or brown; that isn't Christian, or Muslim or Jew."

9. "The Holy Koran tells us, 'O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.'

"The Talmud tells us: 'The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace.'

"The Holy Bible tells us, Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.'"

10. The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God's vision. Now, that must be our work here on Earth. Thank you. And may God's peace be upon you.