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Today’s email from the Human Rights Campaign:

 
  Take  action against hate crimes  
 

The hate crimes bill has been derailed.

But we’re not giving up.

We’ve made huge progress already, and we’ll work tirelessly to get this legislation through in 2008.

Dear *****,

As I write this, I am filled with both deep disappointment and gratitude. I am disappointed because our fight for a hate crimes bill has been derailed, but grateful for the historic advances that we were able to achieve this year.

As you all know, we have made momentous advancements this year by moving the federal hate crimes legislation the closest it has ever been to becoming law. For the first time ever, in one year we were able to pass the fully-inclusive legislation through both chambers of Congress – a truly historic feat.

If you recall, the Matthew Shepard Act first passed the House of Representatives back in May as a stand-alone piece of legislation. It then moved to the Senate, where it passed 60 to 39 in September as an amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization bill. Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR) attached the Matthew Shepard Act to the Department of Defense Authorization bill because President Bush had announced that he would veto a free-standing hate crimes bill. By amending hate crimes to this larger bill, Senators Kennedy and Smith thought that we had a better chance of getting the president’s signature. After all, Bush would have to veto the entire piece of legislation – hate crimes AND programs for his war in Iraq – to reject hate crimes protections.

But in a frustrating move yesterday, during the very last legislative step – a conference committee working out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill – we received word that the Matthew Shepard Act would be dropped from the final version of the bill. The hate crimes veto threat issued by the White House and organized opposition by House Republican Leadership cost significant numbers of votes on the right. Iraq-related provisions, which many progressive Democrats opposed, cost votes on the left. Moderate Democrats, many of whom voted for the hate crimes bill in May, did not want to test the President’s veto threat and risk a delay in increased pay for military personnel. All of these factors resulted in insufficient votes to secure passage of the bill with the hate crimes provision.

HRC coordinated a major final push to protect this bill. 40,000 HRC activists responded to our call and wrote to Congress. We helped organize a coalition effort with 120 national and local organizations. We held 11th-hour meetings with lawmakers.

Despite the anger we all feel that we fell short so close to the finish line, we cannot lose sight of the fact that we did succeed in moving hate crimes legislation the closest it has ever been to hitting the President’s desk for signature. And rest assured, the Human Rights Campaign is not done fighting. We are not giving up on efforts to find another legislative vehicle, in the second half of this Congress, to move the Matthew Shepard Act. Yes, we made historic advancements, but we will not be satisfied until we get a President who will use his or her pen to enshrine into our federal law books that violence against the GLBT community will not be tolerated in this country.

We have been a leader in the fight for hate crimes legislation for over a decade, and we’re not about to let this setback deter us. We will not rest until these protections are law.

We also can’t lose track of the bigger picture for 2008. On top of working to advance this bill and the rest of our equality agenda, we are already mobilizing around the 2008 elections. We are investing major resources to:

  • Elect local pro-equality officials who will be tomorrow’s national leaders,
  • Expand our majority in Congress – so that we will have the votes we need to thwart roadblocks like this – and
  • Elect a leader in the White House who would NEVER veto a bill protecting Americans from hate crimes.

These are the moments when your support counts most. Together, we’ll find the right path to victory. We know it is there.

Warmly,
Joe Solmonese
Joe Solmonese
President

Today, December 1st, is recognized around the globe as World AIDS Day. With some crisis or another grabbing the news headlines, it is easy for the importance of AIDS research and funding to somehow be diminished, if not totally pushed aside. While we should all be concerned with this far more often than once a year, I suppose this once-a-year observance at least serves as a reminder that HIV/AIDS is a fight not yet won, one that needs our constant attention and concern, and one that can easily affect each and every one of us.

We are well into the third decade of a scourge that has expanded exponentially beyond a small specific group to almost every corner of the globe. Whilst in some areas, incidence may have turned, prevalence continues to rise and will do so for a long time- more young people will be infected, more orphans will occur.

Yet, today still 70% of infected people don’t have access to life saving therapies. Many still face stigma, economic deprivation and rejection because of their infection. Many still don’t have access to basic information or simple interventions that will reduce risk. This is not the time for complacency nor apathy. It is the time for compassionate leadership that recognises that the voiceless are often those who suffer most- who can they turn to if their leaders do not listen and heed their cries.

–Archbishop Emeritus Desmond M Tutu

Thanks to my friend Davi for reminding me of the following videos. The first video is of Elton John, Axl Rose, and Queen, from the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert to raise AIDS awareness. The second one, the 2001 Artists Against AIDS Worldwide’s All-Star remake of Marvin Gaye’s classic “What’s Going On”, is unfortunately just as relevant today as it was then.

ALL-STAR TRIBUTE LYRICS

“What’s Going On?”

Tell me
People dying
People crying
Lord help us

Mother, mother
There’s too many of you crying
Oh, brother, brother, brother
There’s far too many of you dying
That’s right
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today

Oh my father, father
We don’t need to escalate
You see war is not the answer
For only love can conquer hate
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today
Barricades, can’t block our way
Don’t punish me with brutality

Talk to me
So you can see

Oh what’s going on
What’s going on
Yeah what’s going on
Ahh what’s going on

What’s going on in a world filled with pain
Where’s the love for which we pray
What’s going on
When our children can’t play
Homeless can’t eat
There’s got to be a better way
What’s going on
When we politically blind
Can’t see the signs of endangered times
What’s going on

What’s goin’ on in the world today
I’d rather be dead than to turn my head away
We got this first world vision too
Comfy to lift up our hands in the air
And cry for a switch

Father, father
Father help us, come on
Everybody thinks we’re wrong
Oh, but who are they to judge us
Together we can all be strong
United we stand, divided we fall
Oh you know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some understanding here today
Barricades can’t block our way
Don’t punish me with brutality
Baby talk to me
So you can see

Yeah, what’s going on
Hey, what’s going on
Somebody tell me what’s going on
I’ll tell you what’s goin’ on-uh

What’s going on ‘cross seas
Every minute a child dies by this disease
In record numbers indeed
Got momma’s crying out please
My baby hold on
My child ain’t done nothing wrong
Still I want to holler
Ask them why they don’t bother
Oh no, oh no
Make me turn to my father
And ask him why they all got a trapped soul

I can feel what was bothering Marvin
Why his words forever remain
Dealing with these modern day problems
‘Cause of ignorance surrounding me and my constituents
Too many infected
Too many lives diminishing
Nobody say Protestants, Jews, Blacks, and Whites, Latinos and Asians
Pray together
Less fight
We better unite
As genocide chemical war
And the rich and the poor
Know that God delivers a cure

It’s a shame our reality is devastating
People praying for a cure
Dying while they’re waiting
Ask the Lord for the comfort and strength to face it
All the kids with dreams
Won’t get the chance to chase it
Makes me sad
Think about the lives they would’ve had
Think about the orphan babies got no moms and dads
How can we sit back and not try to make it right
We gotta come together
We gotta fight for life

Somebody tell me what’s going on
(What’s going on)
We got human beings using humans for a bomb
But everyone wanna live
Don’t nobody really want to die
You feeling me right
I can’t be watching people die (die)
And watching people cry
Let me break it down for a minute
If there’s enough room here for you and me
There’s plenty of room for some humanity

Somebody tell me what’s going on
(What’s going on)
Somebody tell me what’s going on
(What’s going on)
Somebody tell me what’s going on
(What’s going on)
Somebody tell me what’s going on
(What’s going on)
Somebody tell me what’s going on
(What’s going on)
Somebody tell me what’s going on
(What’s going on)
Somebody tell me what’s going on
(What’s going on)
Somebody tell me what’s going on
(What’s going on)

I received this email to day and urge everyone to follow the links and take action. Thanks!

 
  Take  action against hate crimes  
 

The Matthew Shepard Act is at risk!
Tell your lawmakers to protect the hate crimes legislation we’ve worked so hard for.

     

The Matthew Shepard Act could be abandoned by Congressional leaders unless we act immediately.

Email Congress today and stand up against hate crimes.

 

Dear ******,

I have alarming news. The Matthew Shepard Act – whose passage in the Senate and House required months of effort – is now in serious jeopardy of not making it to the President’s desk.

The hate crimes legislation we’ve fought for has reached its final step before being sent to President Bush, but some lawmakers are working to derail it. Right now there is a very real danger that the Matthew Shepard Act won’t even make it to the President for his signature or veto. If that happens, we could lose months or years of progress.

We likely have less than a week to act. Tell your lawmakers the Matthew Shepard Act must not be abandoned by the Conference Committee next week.

How can a hate crimes victory be so close and yet still so much in jeopardy?

Here’s what’s happening: Senate leadership employed a commonplace strategy with this bill. They calculated that the only chance of the Matthew Shepard Act surviving Bush’s veto pen was if it were attached to a “must-pass” Department of Defense bill. But now that House and Senate are reconciling their versions of the DoD bill, it is under attack from anti-GLBT conservatives against hate crimes legislation, as well as progressive, pro-equality lawmakers who oppose some of the bill’s provisions for the war in Iraq.

We cannot let the Matthew Shepard Act be abandoned when we have come so close to getting it to the White House! We only have a matter of days before Congress is back in session and the final decision is made. This issue is especially timely right now. Last week, the FBI reported that hate crimes rose nearly 8% last year.

You know how hard we’ve worked to pass the Matthew Shepard Act. Since April, hundreds of thousands of HRC supporters like you have bombarded Congress with letters and phone calls. You’ve enlisted friends in the fight, written to local papers, passed out postcards at events. You’ve given time and you’ve given financial support.

Don’t back down now – not if you care about the safety of GLBT Americans.

Ask your Senators and Representative to make sure the Department of Defense bill passes with the Matthew Shepard Act included.

Thank you, again, for your ongoing commitment to equality and justice.

Warmly,
Joe Solmonese
Joe Solmonese
President

Having trouble clicking on the links above? Simply copy and paste this URL into your browser’s address bar to take action today: http://www.hrcactioncenter.org/campaign/DoD_HateCrimes/

 
 
 
 
     

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketToday, October 11th, is National Coming Out Day, so I thought I’d post a little information from the Human Rights Campaign web site. For those who have yet to come out, know that there is support out there, sometimes where you’d least expect it. And for those of you like myself, who have “come out” as straight supporters of GLBT rights, keep your voices strong. This is an issue of common sense, common decency, compassion, and most of all love.

T.R. Knight PSA for GLAAD

From the Human Rights Campaign web site:

About Coming Out as a Straight Supporter (from the HRC web site)

A straight ally is someone who is not gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (GLBT) but personally advocates for GLBT equal rights and fair treatment. Straight allies are some of the most effective and powerful advocates for the GLBT movement. These allies have proven invaluable personally and politically, and are increasingly important in the fight for GLBT equality. Indeed, their voices often have been heard while those of GLBT people have been ignored.

Coming out as a straight ally may be an extremely challenging experience, but many find that it is unexpectedly rewarding. Some may think that advocating on behalf of GLBT equality is solely the responsibility of those who are affected by the inequality.

But as straight ally Caleb Baker has put it: “U.S. Representative John Lewis once said that the next great movement in America would be the gay rights movement. His words make me remember there are white people fighting for black people’s rights in the civil rights movement. There are men fighting for women’s rights in the feminist movement. I would be greatly ashamed if there were no straight people fighting for gay rights in our movement.” (GLSEN’s Students and GSA’s Yearbook)

Like GLBT people, straight allies will find that coming out is not a one-time event, but rather a lifelong journey.

Opinion polls show that people who know someone who is gay or lesbian are more likely to support equal rights for all gay and lesbian people. Anecdotal evidence also suggests that the same is true for people who know someone who is bisexual or transgender.

—————————————————————————————-

A couple of reminders…

Cyndi Lauper on The View discussing True Colors Tour 2007

Cyndi Lauper on The View singing “True Colors”

(***UPDATE 9/27/07: GREAT NEWS: Amendment added!!!***)

It is expected that the U.S. Senate will finally be voting on The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act/Matthew Shepard Act (H.R. 1592 / S. 1105) TOMORROW! It is vital that you contact your Senators TODAY to remind them that you are one of their constituents, that you strongly support this very important hate crimes bill legislation to protect ALL people, and that you fully expect them to do the same despite the fact that George W. Bush has vowed to veto the bill. Please DO YOUR PART to make sure prejudice and bigotry is not allowed to flourish in our country by contacting your Senators and spreading the word to others.

From The Matthew Shepard Foundation:

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on the Matthew Shepard Act as an amendment to the Department of Defense bill to ensure that all people regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability deserve to be free from violent crimes committed because of hatred and bias.

Please call your Senators NOW and ask for him/her to the vote for the passage of the Matthew Shepard Act.

URGENT: CONTACT YOUR SENATORS NOW!
CALL (202) 224-3121
& ask for your Senators office

Ask for their support of the Matthew Shepard Act and let them know that all Americans regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability deserve to be free from violent crimes committed because of hatred and bias.

From HRC Backstory:

BREAKING NEWS: Senate vote on hate crimes bill expected on Thursday

September 25, 2007 4:36PM
Chris Johnson

This afternoon, Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), one of the lead sponsors of the Senate hate crimes bill, took to the Senate floor to urge the Senate to pass the hate crimes bill (S. 1105) and for President Bush to sign the legislation into law. Earlier today, Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) filed a cloture motion on the hate crimes bill, a procedural move to overcome Senator McCain’s objection to bringing the amendment to the floor. Our side must achieve 60 votes on the cloture motion to win; that vote is scheduled for Thursday. The Senate should then move towards passages of the hate crimes bill as an amendment to the Department of Defense authorization bill.

Senator Kennedy’s prepared statement on the Senate floor can be read here.

Senator Kennedy Speaks On Hate Crimes

From the Human Rights Campaign web site:

Hate Crimes Affect More than Just the Individual Attacked
All violent crimes are reprehensible. But the damage done by hate crimes cannot be measured solely in terms of physical injury or dollars and cents. Hate crimes rend the fabric of our society and fragment communities because they target a whole group and not just the individual victim. Hate crimes are committed to cause fear to a whole community. A violent hate crime is intended to “send a message” that an individual and “their kind” will not be tolerated, many times leaving the victim and others in their group feeling isolated, vulnerable and unprotected.

The Truth About Hate Crimes Laws

Related articles/information:

  • Complete text of Senator Kennedy’s statement on the floor of the US Senate regarding The Matthew Shepard Act
    • Hate crimes are a form of domestic terrorism. They send the poisonous message that some Americans deserve to be victimized solely because of who they are. Like other acts of terrorism, hate crimes have an impact far greater than the impact on the individual victims. They are crimes against entire communities, against the whole nation, and against the fundamental ideals on which America was founded. They are a violation of all our country stands for.
  • Fabricated fears about hate crime legislation (Cornel West and Sylvia Rhue Op-Ed piece from The Boston Globe)
    • The truth is that the Matthew Shepard Act protects all First Amendment rights. And, although that is a given, this bill goes out of its way to protect the free speech of ministers. Those pastors who wish to continue condemning and dehumanizing the gay community will be free to do so.
  • Hate Crimes and Justice in the Black Community (Melissa Harris-Lacewell on the Huffington Post)
    • The proposed federal statute does not punish nor prohibit free expression of one’s religious beliefs. The hate crimes bill includes language protecting individuals from race-based and religion-based crimes as well. The Act protects first Amendment rights for everyone while ensuring that the authorities fully investigate all violent crimes intended to degrade and oppress their victims. The bill protects our children, because black youth are disproportionately targeted and victimized in anti-gay hate crimes.
  • Transcript: Judy Shepard Urges Passage of Hate Crimes Law (NOW on pbs.org)
    • HINOJOSA: So right now the House has already passed the bill. And the Senate is—is set to vote on it shortly. But President Bush is expected to veto the bill. The White House has said that state and local criminal laws already cover the new crimes that are defined under the bill. So—the—basically—the President is saying this kind of legislation just isn’t necessary. So what do you say to that?
    • SHEPARD: It’s very disheartening when the leader of our nation goes on national T.V. and says that gay people aren’t—aren’t deserving of every—every equality that everyone else is. I’m very disappointed that they don’t see the difference, if nothing else than the message that it sends, that we need to protect—all of our citizens. Everyone is a race. Everyone is a sexual orientation. It just gives permission for people to continue to harass sexual orientation until we mark them as protected.
  • Senator Kennedy press release on the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007
    • Crimes motivated by hate because of the victim’s race, religion, ethnic background, sexual orientation, disability, or gender are not confined to the geographical boundaries of our great nation. The current conflicts in the Middle East and Northern Ireland, the ethnic cleansing campaigns in Bosnia and Rwanda, or the Holocaust itself demonstrate that violence motivated by hate is a world-wide danger, and we have a special responsibility to combat it here at home.
  • Support for the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007

Pass ENDA Now!

I find it very disconcerting and disappointing that as a society we have to regulate those with no moral compass by passing and enforcing laws to protect against discrimination. Shouldn’t people with common sense, common courtesy, and any level of intelligence know how to treat others? (Yes, I often wear rose-colored glasses, but when it comes to discrimination and what I have seen perpetuated against others, I’m afraid rose-colored glasses just don’t work.) We had to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit employment discrimination based on race, religion, gender, or national origin, with the Age Discrimination Employment Act following three years later to make sure discrimination based on age would not take place. A couple of decades later we realized we needed Title 1 of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 to protect qualified individuals with disabilities from discrimination in the workplace.

Sadly, here we are in 2007 having to again take people by the ear, sit them down, and legislate to them what ought to be ingrained in the compassion, tolerance, and understanding (never mind common sense) section of their human nature. But alas fear, misunderstanding, and closed-mindedness take over the brain cells of far too many people who are in a position to make or break the careers of many in the workforce. Just as institutional racism took hold and has yet to loosen its grip enough, homophobic bigotry has placed its heavy hand inside the walls of commerce and has choked the life out of the livelihood of many.

With permission from the Human Rights Campaign, I am reposting some very important information from their web site, which I ask you to not only take the time to read, but to act upon. My sincere hope is that everyone (straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and every other category in between) will realize how ridiculous the notion is that anything other than job qualification should come into play in the hiring/firing/ promoting of employees. IF someone is qualified for a job, and IF that person is hard-working and honest, then there is no logical reason to NOT hire/retain/promote that person. It should not matter how light or dark someone’s pigmentation is, which god they believe in (if any), whether they are male or female, how old they might be, or whether they have some form of a disability, nor should it ever matter what that person’s sexual orientation is, as long as they are qualified for the job. That’s it, end of story.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Info Center

The problem. Qualified, hardworking Americans are being denied job opportunities, fired or otherwise discriminated against – not because of their performance and abilities, but because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Yet those who experience this form of discrimination have no recourse under current federal law.

And state protections are few and far between. 31 states, it’s legal to fire someone because they’re gay; in 39 states it is legal to fire someone for being transgender.

Employment discrimination strikes at a fundamental American value – the right of each individual to contribute to society without facing unfair treatment. That’s why the Human Rights Campaign is working with its allies in Congress to pass ENDA.

What is ENDA? The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is a federal bill that would make it illegal to fire, refuse to hire or refuse to promote employees simply based on sexual orientation or gender identity. It would reinforce the principle that employment decisions should be based upon a person’s qualifications and job performance.

What’s the current law? Currently, federal law protects against employment discrimination on the basis of race, gender, religion, national origin or disability, but not sexual orientation or gender identity.

What is HRC doing in the business community? In addition to advocating for the passage of ENDA, the Human Rights Campaign has been working with private employers to encourage them to adopt policies prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Partly due to HRC’s efforts, non-discrimination policies covering gender identity and expression continue to multiply. For example, a total of 124 Fortune 500 companies now include transgender people in their policies; this is more then 10 times the number that had such policies in 2001. In addition, exactly 49 of the Fortune 50 companies include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies. (Exxon Mobil Corp. is the only company in the Fortune 50 that does not.) In fact, 433 companies in the Fortune 500 – or nearly 90 percent – include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies as of spring 2007.

More Resources:

Click the following links for more information:

(***Added 6/19/07: LOGO will air a True Colors special beginning this Thursday, June 21st.***)

Thanks to a VERY generous and spontaneous friend (Thanks, Jackson ;)), I’ll be hitting the True Colors Tour 2007 when it makes its final stop in Los Angeles at the Greek Theatre on June 30th. Totally something to look forward to, for so many reasons (especially after finding out just today that The Cliks are rearranging their own tour schedule in order to add the last three True Colors gigs–woo-hoo!), but especially since it will be a incredibly memorable time spent with fabulous friends. Btw, the LA stop is SOLD OUT (Not sure if more tickets have been released or what the deal is, but TicketMaster is no longer showing the LA show as sold out), so I would highly recommend jumping on tickets for the other remaining shows NOW!

I’ll let the following Cyndi Lauper interview on The View fill you in on what the True Colors Tour 2007 is all about, and I’ll include links to the MySpace pages of several of the scheduled performers. I do have to say, though, that I continue to shake my head in disgust, dismay, and ultimately sadness, over the fact that so many people continue to harbor such hatred toward others just due to one’s sexual orientation. Sigh. Life is far too short, folks. Appreciate the incredible diversity around you (who on earth wants to be just like everyone else?), embrace it, and for crying out loud just get out there and enjoy the heck out of life!

Cyndi Lauper on The View discussing True Colors Tour 2007

Cyndi performing an acoustic version of True Colors

MySpace Pages

True Colors lyrics

You with the sad eyes
Don’t be discouraged
Oh I realize
It’s hard to take courage
In a world full of people
You can lose sight of it all
And the darkness inside you
Can make you feel so small

But I see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful,
Like a rainbow

Show me a smile then,
Don’t be unhappy, can’t remember
When I last saw you laughing
If this world makes you crazy
And you’ve taken all you can bear
You call me up
Because you know I’ll be there

And I’ll see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful,
Like a rainbow

Sniffin’ out the info

Photobucket

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