Madison - In what is believed be the first protest of its kind in the United States, the Madison City Council voted 13-4 January 16 to give city leaders the option to denounce the state’s recently passed constitutional ban on gay marriage when they take their oath of office. The resolution will allow hundreds of elected and appointed officials to add a statement saying they are taking the oath under protest because the amendment “besmirches our constitution.” The approved statement also includes a promise to work to overturn the gay marriage ban and prevent discrimination resulting from its passage.
Supporters on the council and Mayor Dave Cieslewicz say the protest will allow city leaders to take the oath of office - a pledge to uphold the state and U.S. constitutions - with a clear conscience. Gays and lesbians also might be more likely to serve in public office, they said. Cieslewicz has pledged to take the oath under protest if he wins re-election in April.
“Voters of this city are going to be very happy to know that their elected officials are as committed to reversing discrimination as they are,” City Council President Austin King told the Associated Press. “You can be loyal to the law while also being disappointed in it and engaged in a process to change it.”
But critics said adding a statement to the oath sends a dangerous signal that city officials will only uphold the parts of the constitution they support. Council member Jed Sanborn said he voted against the gay marriage ban but found it inappropriate to tinker with the oath. Another council member who dissented, Cindy Thomas, said the protest would make Madison a national laughingstock.
City officials developed the plan after long-time gay activist Dan Ross resigned from the city’s Equal Opportunity Commission rather than swear to uphold the state constitution. Bert Zipperer, president of the city’s Equal Opportunities Commission, brought the proposal to the council.
Zipperer characterized the decision as “an act of integrity” that “reflected a sense of hope that was deeply injured in November. “This is not to undo the constitution,” he said. “It’s a voluntary statement for justice and liberty for all.”
Gay rights groups, including the Human Rights Campaign and Fair Wisconsin, believe it is the first such protest in the country. “We appreciate Madison elected officials speaking out,” Fair Wisconsin interim director Josh Freker said. “This will remind people about this amendment and why it is problematic, and why it is going to have a discriminatory impact.”
Name calling from supporters of the ban came quickly. Family Research Institute of Wisconsin director Julaine Appling tarred protest oath supporters as selfish and elitist. “Regardless of the issue, the Common Council has shown the City of Madison, the State of Wisconsin and the rest of our country that they value their personal beliefs over the laws and requirements of our system of government,” Appling said. “Their tinkering with the constitutionally required oath shows great disrespect for our democratic system and smacks of pragmatic elitism.”
Marquette University marriage ban apologist Rick Esenberg compared the city council to 19th Cnetury supporters of slavery. “In endorsing this type of nullification, the City echoes John Calhoun and twentieth century southern segregationists,” Esenberg wrote in a guest column for the Constitutionally Correct blog. Esenberg also blamed the whole process on the city’s air.
By law, public officials must take an oath pledging to support the state and federal constitutions. City Attorney Michael May told council members prior to their vote that the “anti-oath,” which is voluntary and given in addition to the formal oath of office, is constitutional.
Wisconsin voters passed the constitutional amendment banning gay civil unions and marriage by a 59-41% margin last November. Dane County was the only county to vote against the amendment, fueled heavily by Madison voters who opposed the referendum 76-24%.
Brutal Nigerian Law Could Strip All Civil Rights From Gay People
Abuja - New legislation currently being debated by politicians in Nigeria could be the most serious crackdown on the rights of gay and lesbian people since the Iranian revolution. The proposed laws have been presented as a defense of marriage, but British gay activist Peter Tatchell claims they seek to remove the few rights sexual minorities have in the troubled African state.
“The Prohibition of Relationships Between Persons of the Same Sex, Celebration of Marriage by Them, and for Other Matters Connected Therewith,” bill has been approved by the Nigerian Federal Executive Council and is now before the National Assembly. It is expected to be passed and become law shortly.
President Olusegun Obasanjo controls the country’s Executive Council. His Nigerian People’s Party has a majority in the both the Senate and House of Representatives. Although a centrist party, the party derives most of its support from the Christian south of the country, and the Anglican church has played an active role in promoting the legislation.
Tatchell is seeking to draw attention to the nature of the new legislation, which has the active backing of other Christian churches in Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa. “The bill is primarily concerned with banning same-sex marriage, but its sub-clauses go much further,” Tatchell said. “They will strip lesbian and gay Nigerians of their already limited civil rights.
According to Tatchell, the bill outlaws almost every expression, affirmation and celebration of gay identity and sexuality, and prohibits the provision of sympathetic advice and welfare support to lesbians and gay men. “This draconian measure will outlaw membership of a gay group, attending a gay meeting or protest, advocating gay equality,” Tatchell claimed.
Tatchell noted the bill’s prohibitions also include donating money to a gay organization, hosting or visiting a gay website, the publication or possession of gay safer sex advice, renting or selling a property to a gay couple, expressions of same-sex love in letters or emails, attending a same-sex marriage or blessing ceremony, screening or watching a gay movie, taking or possessing photos of a gay couple, and publishing, selling or loaning a gay book or video. The new law carries an automatic five year jail sentence for those who break it.
Despite the protests of governments and human rights activists, the Nigerian government has pressed ahead with the new laws, which are in contravention of various international treaties. Homosexuality is already illegal in the country. Nigeria’s criminal code penalizes consensual homosexual conduct between adults with 14 years imprisonment. That law was originally introduced by the British colonial administration in the nineteenth century.
In addition, Sharia law, which was introduced in northern Nigeria in 1999, outlaws “sodomy,” which could be interpreted to mean any sexual contact between men.
The Anglican Church, who have a huge powerbase in Nigeria, have been key in promoting the bill. The church has been increasingly vocal about its disapproval of the position of women and gay men in the English and American churches.
“The bill currently being debated in the Nigerian parliament, is the most comprehensively homophobic legislation ever proposed in any country in the world,” Tatchell claimed. “We appeal to gay and human rights groups worldwide to take urgent action to press the Nigerian government to uphold international human rights law and to drop this draconian legislation.”
World & National News:
Gay-Friendly Obama’s Presidential Bid Ignites Intense Interest
Senator Has Announced Plans For Exploratory Committee
Chicago - He supports equal rights for gay people - though not gay marriage. He is the only current White House candidate who has opposed the Iraq war from the beginning. And Illinois Senator Barack Obama’s January 16 announcement that he is taking steps in a run for the White House has gotten people talking – and pouring in campaign contributions.
Obama made the announcement in a video on his website, barackobama.com. “Even in the midst of the enormous challenges we face today, I have great faith and hope about the future, because I believe in you,” Obama said, “and that’s why I want to tell you first that I’ll be filing papers today to create a presidential exploratory committee.”
Political friends and strategists say they have never seen so much excitement over a grassroots candidate. Within minutes after Obama’s message began airing on the Internet, sources said Obama’s website took in more than $100,000 in campaign contributions. “I’ve never seen an outpouring of interest in a candidacy like this before; (it’s) the closest thing to a political draft that I’ve seen in my lifetime,” Obama adviser David Axelrod told CBS News.
Obama has consistently drawn adoring crowds, even among the studious voters in New Hampshire during a much-hyped visit there last month. His star has risen on the force of his personality and message of hope -- helped along by celebrity endorsements from the likes of Oprah Winfrey, billionaire investor Warren Buffett and actors Matt Damon and Edward Norton.
In his announcement, Obama outlined the challenges faced by the country and criticized the current administration. “As I’ve spoken to many of you in my travels across the states these past months, I’ve read your e-mails and read your letters. I’ve been struck by how hungry we all are for a different kind of politics,” he said. “So I spent some time thinking about how I could best advance the cause of change and progress that we so desperately need.”
“America’s faced big problems before,” he added. “But today, our leaders in Washington seem incapable of working together in a practical, common sense way. Politics has become so bitter and partisan, so gummed up by money and influence, that we can’t tackle the big problems that demand solutions.”
Obama noted Americans are struggling financially, dependence on foreign oil threatens the environment and national security and “we’re still mired in a tragic and costly war that should have never been waged.”
Obama tried to turn his biggest weakness - his lack of experience in national politics- into an asset. “The decisions that have been made in Washington these past six years, and the problems that have been ignored, have put our country in a precarious place,” he said.
Obama also said a decision on his presidential plans is coming February 10. “In the next several weeks, I’m going to talk with people from around the country, listening and learning more about the challenges that we face as a nation, the opportunities that lie before us, and the role that a presidential campaign might play in bringing our country together,” Obama said, “and on February 10, at the end of these discussions, in my home state of Illinois, I will share my friends with my friends, neighbors and fellow Americans.”
The event to which Obama referred will likely be at a big rally in Springfield, where he served for eight years in the State Senate, and where one of his role models, Abraham Lincoln, lived and worked. Insiders said one possible venue is the Old State Capitol Honest Abe helped to build and where in 1858 he delivered his “House Divided” speech that launched his own presidential campaign.
In Springfield and in two years in the U.S. Senate in Washington Obama has voted as a conventional liberal Democrat: supporting universal access to health care, tax breaks for the poor, abortion rights, gay rights and gun control. But he’s been decidedly unconventional in his willingness to work with even ultra-conservative Republicans on good government issues: including ethics reform, freedom of information and ending wasteful pork barrel spending. Some Democrats have criticized him for that.
The first-term senator has gained national attention since being sworn in to office in 2005. He has recently made appearances in key primary states and even garnered a paparazzi photo in swimsuit in People magazine.
Obama, 45, was born in Honolulu where his parents met while studying at the University of Hawaii. His father was black and from Kenya; his mother, white and from Wichita, Kansas. Obama’s parents divorced when he was two and his father returned to Kenya. His mother later married an Indonesian student and the family moved to Jakarta. Obama returned to Hawaii when he was 10 to live with his maternal grandparents.
He graduated from Columbia University and Harvard Law School, where he was the first black elected editor of the Harvard Law Review. Obama settled in Chicago, where he joined a law firm, helped local churches establish job training programs and met his future wife, Michelle Robinson. They have two daughters, Malia and Sasha.
Before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004, Obama served eight years in the Illinois state senate, and was also a lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School. He’s also written two best-selling autobiographies: “The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream” and “Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance.”
With Obama’s entry into the 2008 presidential contest, talk about gay issues has also begun as the LGBT community attempts to distinguish the candidates that support them. Most of the major Democrats, from Obama to Senator Hillary Clinton, oppose same-sex marriage but support “equal” spousal rights via civil unions. Only Congressman Dennis Kucinich and, perhaps, Rev.Al Sharpton support full marriage equality among the Democrats. Among GOP candidates, Former New York Mayor Giuliani is routinely referred to as “pro-gay and pro-abortion,” though he does not talk about those issues before Republican audiences.
Shocker: 56% Of Canadian Marriages By Foreigners
Ottawa - Foreigners are flocking to Canada to have legal same-sex marriages, according to a new report that shows more than half of recorded gay weddings were couples from abroad.
Statistics Canada data on 2003 nuptials, which included gay couples for the first time in Canadian history, found 3.5 per cent of the 22,000 marriages in B.C. were between people of the same sex. And nearly 56 per cent of those were non-residents of Canada.
“Gay and lesbian couples have been coming to Canada since the laws changed in 2003, especially to the big cities,” said Kaj Hasselriis, executive director of Egale Canada, a gay interest group. “It’s a positive thing for couples who want to be legally married, and it’s a positive thing for Canada because it enhances our reputation as a country that is very open and progressive.”
Hasselriis said the positive trend is also a boon for Canada’s economy, creating a niche tourism industry for gay marriages and honeymoons.
California Swears In First Transgender Administrative Law Judge
San Francisco - Transgender Law Center Board Member and long-time civil rights advocate, Victoria Kolakowski, was sworn in as the state’s first openly transgender Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) January 19. She was among eight new ALJs sworn-in by Angela K. Minkin, Chief Administrative Law Judge of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). Despite many gains in transgender civil rights over the last five years, Victoria’s selection as an ALJ for the CPUC will make her the only openly transgender judicial or quasi-judicial officer in the state.
“I am very honored to serve the people of California in this new role,” Kolakowski said. “I hope that my appointment it is a small step toward the day when the selection or election of a transgender person to any position in state government is considered ordinary.”
“Vicky is a valued member of the California Bar and the transgender community,” Christopher Daley, Director of the Transgender Law Center said. “Her selection as an ALJ is an example of how transgender people can succeed in California when appointment or hiring decisions are made on the basis of merit. In addition to being a landmark event in the transgender civil rights movement, this is a great day for the state because Vicky is going to make a wonderful ALJ.”
Kolakowski, 45, is a graduate of the Louisiana State University School of Law. She has practiced law as both a corporate and private attorney. She entered public service with the CPUC in 1999. She later served as Acting Assistant Chief Counsel of the California Electricity Oversight Board. Most recently, she served in a limited term position as an ALJ at the California Department of Insurance. She was a founding Board member and officer of the organization now known as Equality California and joined TLC’s Board in 2006.
Gay Lutheran Minister Faces Church Trial
Atlanta - A minister who disclosed that he was gay before Atlanta’s oldest Lutheran church hired him as its pastor could now be defrocked for announcing he has a partner.
The Rev. Bradley Schmeling was chosen in 2000 to lead St. John’s, though some worried his sexuality could threaten its standing with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. But last year, the 350-member congregation threw a party for him and his partner, when Schmeling announced he had found a lifelong companion.
Bishop Ronald Warren of the ELCA’s Southeastern Synod, however, asked the 44-year-old pastor to resign. When Schmeling refused, Warren started disciplinary proceedings against him for violating church rules barring sex outside of marriage.
On January 19, Schmeling faced a hearing - structured much like a trial - where a committee of 12 ELCA members will decide whether he can remain an ordained minister in the church that sits among mansion-lined hills just east of downtown.
If the committee rules against Schmeling, he could face suspension or no longer be recognized as an ordained minister in the ELCA. In the latter case, if his congregation opts to keep him as its pastor, the ELCA could also discipline St. John’s.
The ELCA maintains it’s simply following its own rules, which bar unmarried clergy, regardless of sexual orientation, from having sex. The denomination believes that sex is reserved for marriage and marriage for heterosexual couples. Still, many Lutheran churches support ordaining partnered gays and perform same-sex blessing ceremonies despite the policy.
Schmeling and his supporters hope his case will make the church more accepting of pastors in same-sex relationships.”We’ve always been a church that emphasizes the unconditional love of God, so this policy runs counter to that,’’ Schmeling said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.
Other mainline Protestant denominations, including the Presbyterian Church, the Methodists and the Episcopalians, also have been struggling for years to resolve differences over the Bible and gay clergy.
The Rev. Irene ‘’Beth’’ Stroud was defrocked by the United Methodist Church in 2005 for being in a lesbian partnership, while a Presbyterian assembly last year voted to create leeway for congregations to hire gay clergy.
Schmeling told both his bishop and congregation about his sexual orientation before he was chosen pastor. He didn’t have a partner at the time.
ELCA spokesman John Brooks said that if a heterosexual pastor was in a relationship outside of marriage and he refused to repent, he would face similar disciplinary proceedings. When Warren announced in August that he was taking action against Schmeling, he said he wouldn’t comment until a verdict was rendered.
In 2005, delegates to an ELCA national meeting rejected a proposal to allow sexually active gays and lesbians in committed, long-term relationships to be ordained. Schmeling and his supporters say the policy barring sexually active gay pastors is discriminatory by forcing them to refrain from sex, while heterosexuals only have to wait for marriage.
Schmeling’s hearing, which is closed to the public, was expected to run through January 21. Afterward, the 12-person committee - comprised of both clergy and lay people, including two members chosen by Schmeling - will have several weeks to decide whether to take action, which could include a suspension or removal from ordained ministry.
‘’We want Bradley to be our pastor and we want to remain in ELCA,’’ congregation president Laura Crawley told the AP. ‘’If he’s removed from the roster, he’ll continue as pastor.’’
California Log Cabin Republicans Press Schwarzenegger On Gay Nups
Sacramento - Log Cabin Republicans at the state capitol have pressured on Governor. Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign a gay marriage bill in 2007. LCR arguments frame marriage equality as a civil rights issue,
“When it comes to marriage, we believe in the fundamental fairness of the American people. There has never been a major civil rights movement that has failed in the United States,” statewide director of the Log Cabin Republicans, James Vaughn said.
Political analyst Steve Swatt said a gay marriage bill in California will be an uphill fight. “Certainly Governor. Schwarzenegger is a moderate, or seems to be, in the true sense of the word,” Swatt said. “Yet if he does sign this, he certainly would lose a great deal of his Republican base in California.”
The California Legislative Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Caucus at the capitol currently are all Democrats, though that may change. “Log cabin is working on that,” Vaughn said. “One of my goals this year is to start building a farm team of Republicans who can run credible campaigns.”
Log Cabin Republicans met with the Schwarzenegger administration also to seek appointments to state boards and commissions as part of their grassroots campaign.
California’s pending marriage equality bill, similar to a measure vetoed by Schwarzenegger in 2005, was written by Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco).
Women’s Cancer Vaccine Fights Gay STDs
Perth - According to the Royal Perth Hospital in Australia, men are seeking out a new human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine treatment that also prevents genital warts and penile and anal cancers. The vaccine, developed by Australian Ian Frazer, was intended to inoculate young women against cervical cancer, however the vaccine has also proved successful in the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases in men.
Royal Perth Hospital head of sexual health services, Dr Jenny McCloskey said she had prescribed the vaccine to about ten men who had each paid $460 for a series of three injections. The vaccine was prescribed to both heterosexual and homosexual men, including gay men wanting to reduce their risk of HPV to straight men who did not want to catch genital warts.
“We’ve got a huge problem at the moment in our sexual health clinic, we see people outside the age range who don’t have any STDs yet and there’s no subsidy for them and a lot of them can’t afford the vaccination,” Dr McCloskey told the West Australian newspaper.
Beginning in April, Australian girls aged 12 and 13 years will receive free injections through a school-based immunization program. A two-year catch-up program will also be carried out in schools for 13 to 18-year-olds. Women aged between 18 and 26 will also be able to get the vaccine free, however, men are not eligible for free injections.
Dr McCloskey said she had been calling for the Federal Government to subsidize the vaccine for boys and men, arguing that boys between nine and fifteen and men in individual cases should be encouraged to have the inoculation.
A spokeswoman for vaccine manufacturer CSL, Rachel David, said it would be running clinical trials next year to determine the vaccine’s effectiveness in boys between nine and fifteen. Based on the results of the trials, CSL would present a case for boys to be vaccinated under the subsidy arrangement.
“Grey’s Anatomy’s” Off-Camera Gay Drama Brings Rebuke, Apology
Los Angeles - Friendships betrayed, careers at stake - the stuff of many a TV drama from the afternoon soaps to top- rated prime time trash wallows like Desperate Housewives and Grey’s Anatomy. And speaking of the latter, how will the drama spilling from behind the camera into real life on “Grey’s Anatomy” affect the future of that hit TV series?
Whatever the consequences of actor Isaiah Washington’s use of an anti-gay slur to describe fellow cast member T.R. Knight, the pressure is on series executives to restore order among the cast of the medical drama better known for the ever-changing bed partners of the hospital staff than the medical miracles performed on duty.
Millions of advertising dollars for ABC and corporate parent Walt Disney Co. are at stake. On January 18, ABC formally rebuked Washington for first using the term “faggot” about Knight in an on-set argument last October with co-star Patrick Dempsey, and then repeating the slur at the Golden Globes as he denied ever uttering it.
Shortly after the ABC slap, Washington admitted to using the invective and issued a “heartfelt apology.” But it remained to be seen whether it would mollify Knight or co-star Katherine Heigl, who had leaped to Knight’s defense.
The ABC statement, which said it was addressing Washington’s actions but didn’t specify how, came a day after the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation demanded the actor apologize. He did in his three-paragraph statement: “I can also no longer deny to myself that there are issues I obviously need to examine within my own soul, and I’ve asked for help,” Washington wrote. “I know a mere apology will not end this, and I intend to let my future actions prove my sincerity.”
The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network said January 19 that Washington planned to meet with executive director Kevin Jennings on January 22, the first day of the organization’s “No Name-Calling Week.”
Grey’s Anatomy, now in its third season, hasn’t so far suffered from his behavior, at least in the ratings: It drew 22 million viewers in the week before the verbal slur was reported last fall, while the episode that aired January 18 was watched by 23 million.
Morale on the set may be another matter. Washington plays respected surgeon Preston Burke and Knight is intern George O’Malley; the characters bonded when O’Malley bunked at Burke’s house and again when Burke helped advise on care for O’Malley’s ill father. Dumping Washington from the popular ensemble cast could upset the show’s balance.
Another ABC series popular with the gay community, “Desperate Housewives,” was made out in the early going to be a hotbed of sparring divas. Openly gay creator and executive producer Marc Cherry later called that gossip inaccurate.
The most recent “Grey’s” flare-up happened on the red carpet before the Golden Globes ceremony January 15, when Washington, after hearing his wife asked a fashion question that the reporter described as “so gay,” joked, “I love gay. I wanted to be gay. Please let me be gay.” Later, after the ceremony, Washington was asked backstage about the October incident. “I did not call T.R. a faggot. Never,” he said.
Knight fired back during an appearance the next day on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show”: “He referred to me as a faggot. Everyone heard it,” Knight said of the October confrontation between Washington and Dempsey.
Freker Helms Fair Wisconsin During Transition
Madison - Former Action Wisconsin/Fair Wisconsin mouthpiece Joshua Freker will oversee the transition of the Fair Wisconsin campaign as interim Executive Director. In his first media wide press release as interim director Freker gave an overview of the next three months for the LGBT civil rights group January 16.
According to the PR release, “Fair Wisconsin, the statewide campaign that worked to defeat the civil unions and marriage ban, will continue as a statewide organization committed to promoting fair and equal treatment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Wisconsinites and their families.”
Action Wisconsin, the statewide organization founded in 1994, launched the Fair Wisconsin campaign in 2006. After seeking input from thousands of statewide supporters, the leadership of Action Wisconsin determined that it would retain the Fair Wisconsin name. Despite the loss at the ballot box, Fair Wisconsin built a massive base of volunteers and financial supporters across the state and is widely recognized as having a critical impact on statewide turnout.
According to the press release, Fair Wisconsin is implementing a “100 Day Plan” that includes educating Wisconsinites about the impact of discrimination on LGBT people, working to limit potential far-reaching consequences of the constitutional amendment, building a political program to help influence future public policy debates, and continuing Fair Wisconsin’s grassroots presence in communities across the state.
Leaders of the campaign have made a commitment to help transition the organization through the end of March. Joshua Freker, the communications director for Fair Wisconsin and Action Wisconsin before that, will serve as interim executive director. Heather Colburn and Mike Tate will work as consultants to develop the organization’s fundraising, public education, and political strategies. Colburn was the deputy campaign manager, and Tate was the campaign manager for Fair Wisconsin.
The organization has launched a search for a permanent executive director. The job description can be found online at: http://fairwisconsin.com/downloads/EDjob.pdf.
StageQ Offers Falsettos Through February 3
Madison - StageQ is pleased to present a staged concert production of the musical Falsettos, directed by Greg Harris, with music direction by Audrey Highton. The show opened January 12 and runs through February 3 at the Bartell Theatre at 113 E. Mifflin Street here.
Falsettos is a pairing of March of the Falsettos and Falsettoland, two acclaimed off Broadway musicals written nearly a decade apart. With music and lyrics by William Finn, and book by William Finn and James Lapine, Falsettos expresses edgy wit, cockeyed charm and matter-of-fact acceptance of a world Norman Rockwell never painted. Falsettos won 1992 Tony Awards for best book and musical score.
Falsettos is the jaunty tale of Marvin who leaves his wife and young son to live with another man. His ex-wife marries his psychiatrist, and Marvin ends up alone. Marvin’s best friends, a female doctor and her lover, a would-be inventor of nouvelle kosher cuisine, cheerily introduce themselves as “the lesbians from next door.” Two years later, Marvin is reunited with his lover on the eve of his son’s bar mitzvah, just as AIDS is beginning its insidious spread.
The StageQ staged concert production features Bruce Wheeler as Marvin, Joe Hammes as Whizzer, Audrey Highton as Trina, Bob Moore as Mendel, Simon Henriques as Jason, Louise Stout as Cordelia and Tara Ayres as Charlotte.
Remaining Performances of Falsettos will be January 26 & 27, and February 2 & 3 at 8 PM. A matinee performance will begin at 2 PM on January 28. A 7:30 PM performance is scheduled for February 1.
Tickets are $10 for Thursdays and Sundays; $15 for Fridays and Saturdays. Visit the stage Q website at www.stageq.com for more information or to reserve seats.
Forward Forum Returns To The Air
Madison - Madison’s gay issues talkfest Forward Forum with Laura Gutknecht and John Quinlan returned to the airwaves last Sunday, January 21 on WTDY, 1670 AM. The show now airs from 7-9:00 PM. on the Pulse - Madison 1670.
Appearing on the first show were Lt. Governor Barbara Lawton, George Tzougros and Scott Robbe discussing the possibility bringing the film industry to Wisconsin. A later segment included members of “Friends of Progressive Talk” who reviewed the ongoing efforts to keep progressive talk radio on the air in the city.
Forward Forum had aired on WXXM-FM, better known at 92.1 FM - The Mic until last November when the Clear Channel Broadcasting Inc., the station’s owners cancelled the show as part of a planned change to a sports talk format. Local protests stalled the format change, but only syndicated national programming is currently scheduled on the station.
Callers to future Forward Forum discussions may call the studio at: 608-21-1670. For more information about or bookings for the show, call 608-213-8409 or send email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Computer users may access live streaming broadcasts of the program or listen to and download podcasts online at: www.wtdy.com.
New LGBT Conversation/Social Group Begins
Madison - The first meeting of SalonQ, an inclusive adult social/discussion group organized by OutReach, will be held on Thursday, January 25 at 7PM in the cafeteria of the UW Memorial Union.
SalonQ is designed as a conversation group for any member of the community looking for a safe and healthy way to meet and get to know new people. Anyone and everyone is welcome, but respect for the diversity of perspectives in life is the group’s number-one goal.
SalonQ hopes to create a social network outside the bar scene where the objective is good talk and good times. Topics can range from politics to sex, family to music: you bring the conversation and we’ll be there.
Future meetings will be held at various locations around the Madison area.
“Have A Heart” On Hold Until Spring
Green Bay - ARCW’s “Have A Heart” northeast Wisconsin regional fundraiser will be skipping Valentine’s Day this year. Though a specific date has yet to be announced, ARCW’s special events team has indicated that the dinner and auction will occur in mid to late Spring this year, after the similar “Make A Promise” dinner, auction and dance already set for April 21 at the Midwest Airlines Center in Milwaukee. The special events team coordinates both events, with help from local volunteers.
StageQ Offers Three Theater Workshops
Madison - StageQ has announced three workshops on various aspects of stage craft to be held between January 27 and February 3. The workshops will be held on the Drury Stage of the Bartell Theater, 113 E Mifflin Street here.
The first workshop - Lighting Design And The Actor - will be conducted Saturday, January 27, from10 AM – 2 PM. Taught by professional lighting designer Chris Barker, the class is an introduction to theatrical lighting for the non-technician, although it is also a good preliminary overview for those who might like to learn the technical aspects in a later class.
In the theater, “seeing is believing,” and this course will help thespians understand how lighting works, what the basic components are, and how to play to it effectively. We’ll cover visibility, naturalism, composition and mood and explore the different qualities of light, along with giving you a tour of the equipment basics. There is no charge for the class, but pre-registration required by emailing email@example.com.
Taught by StageQ Artistic Director Tara Ayres, “I Wanna Be A Producer!” will be offered Sunday, January 28, from 10 AM to 1 PM. This class will focus on the basics of theatrical production, although it would also be helpful to those who want to produce other events, such as concerts and dances. The workshop will cover content selection, recruiting volunteers, timelines, basic legal issues, venue concerns, publicity and volunteer management, just for starters. Those who have always wanted to learn what goes on behind the scenes and how to do it yourself, should pre-register for this free event by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The final workshop, Introduction To Directing, is set for Saturday, February 3, from Noon to 4 PM. Greg Harris, director of Falsettos, 448 Psychosis and Fire Exit, will teach this course. If you haven’t directed since high school or college and want to get back into it, or if you’ve done a lot of acting and thought about trying your hand at directing, this workshop is for you. The class also will be good preparation for inexperienced directors who want to be considered to direct for Queer Shorts 2. Fee for this course is $10, payable at the door. Preregistration is also required by emailing email@example.com.
Milwaukee Community Groups Announce Membership Drive
Milwaukee - The G/L Community Center & G/L Community Trust Fund have announced their annual membership drive for 2007. Membership in the G/L Community Trust Fund helps the groups and the Southeastern coalition of organizations to continue providing services to our community. Yearly the organizations in the coalition provide information, guidance, assistance and social services to the LGBT community.
In 2006 the Trust Fund was able to give assistance to fourteen groups and programs with grants and gifts totaling more than $11,200. Over the years the G/L Community Trust Fund has distributed over $ 67,000 to the LGBT community.
Following are listed the organizations that have received gifts and grants during 2006: ARCW Food Pantry, BestD Clinic, Fair Wisconsin, Gay Peoples Union, Gay Youth Group Milwaukee, G/L Building Fund, G/L Community Endowment Fund, Golda Meir Library, Men’s Voices Milwaukee, Metropolitan Community Church, Milwaukee Pride Parade, SAGE/Milwaukee, Saturday Soft Ball League and WISCRAD.
The G/L Community Trust Fund receives no government support or community grants to help in their work, so they need your support. Membership are $20 yearly and available to everyone in the community. Memberships dues and donations are tax-deductible gift and can be mailed to the G/L Community Trust Fund, P.O. Box 1686, Milwaukee, WI 53201.
Those interested are invited to visit the organization’s webpage at: www.hometown.aol.com/glcentermil to learn more about the organization.
“Martin Luther King Jr. And Gay Rights”
By Rev. Gilbert Caldwell
Gilbert Caldwell is a retired minister in the United Methodist Church and since meeting Martin Luther King in 1958 at the Boston University School of Theology and taking part in three of King’s marches, he has devoted his life to championing “equality”. Caldwell is a strong advocate of gay rights and in this article, written for a recent observance of the MLK holiday, he considers what Martin Luther King might have to say on the subject if he were alive today.
In the USA, today is the annual observance of the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. If he had not been assassinated on April 4, 1968, he would be 80.
I have no doubt that Martin King would have been an outspoken advocate of gay rights for more than one reason: He was America’s strongest proponent of civil rights. The movement he led was called the Civil Rights Movement.
Despite the controversy in church and society on same-gender marriage and/or unions, adoption of children by gay parents and for many the right of gay persons to be in same-gender intimate sexual relationships, King was unafraid to “speak out and stand up” for issues that for him were matters of conscience.
C. Eric Lincoln in his book, Martin Luther King, Jr., A Profile, (Farrar Straus & Giroux, New York, 1970) writes of the response to King’s involvements and statements in support of the Vietnam peace movement: “His public statements on Vietnam alienated him from other black leaders and resulted in a considerable erosion of his black constituency, who felt that their leadership was being co-opted and that attention was being deflected from the civil rights fight by the peace movement. He was praised and damned in the nation’s press for this new venture outside the racial struggle.”
Yet criticism did not deter him. An exact year before he died, he spoke against the war in Vietnam in a speech titled, Beyond Vietnam delivered at Riverside Church in New York City. His commitments of conscience never bowed to those who disagreed, regardless of who they were.
Another illustration of his understanding of the interconnectedness of all human struggles was expressed in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, written April 16, 1963.
He had been jailed in Birmingham, Alabama because of his civil rights leadership. Eight white clergy placed an ad in one of Birmingham’s newspapers questioning his right to be in their city, and suggesting strongly that he and ‘The Movement’ become more moderate in their approach.
In his letter he wrote: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Using the customary rhythms of his speaking and writing, he reminded his critics of the relationship that exists between all struggles.
But, I would go further and suggest that the Martin King who used the imagery of being a ‘Drum Major for Justice’, would find other ways to identify with the struggle in church and society, for full acceptance and equality of access for GLBT persons.
He would remind society of the reality of gay persons who from the very beginnings if human history have been participants and contributors to the human journey. I believe he would expose the illogic of those who say of gay persons; “Don’t ask, don’t tell”.
How can reasonable people admit to the significant presence of Gay persons in our families, communities, churches and institutions and pretend that “they” are not there? I am reminded of the African American novelist, Ralph Ellison who in the Prologue of his book, Invisible Man has his character say of his black reality: “I am invisible, simply because people refuse to see me.” Supposedly sane people who want gay persons to be invisible are less than sane.
I believe Martin Luther King would, with his sense of humor that was experienced by his closest colleagues, expose the foolishness of the current debate. He might say this: “All of us are involved in same-gender relationships. Athletic teams, fraternities, sororities, etc., etc. exist where persons have bonded in significant ways with persons of the same gender. Most of these friendships may not be sexual, but nevertheless they are intimate in very special ways.” Why not celebrate the joy of ALL of our same-gender connections?
Dr. King might, in his unique way of identifying our human contradictions, ask: “What is is about sexual activity that causes human beings sto become illogical and unreasonable? We find it difficult to acknowledge and admit that our parents engaged in sexual activity to bring us into being. We are embarrassed about sex/sexuality that is one of God’s great gifts to human kind.”
I use same-gender rather than same-sex when I speak of marriage and unions and relationships, because of our hang-ups on matters sexual. What is it about sex that so constricts and confuses us. Is it that each time heterosexual persons point one finger of condemnation at gay persons, we forget we are pointing three at ourselves.
I think Martin Luther King would remind those of us in the African American community of those who were not African American who were our allies and advocates in the most dangerous moments and places of the black freedom struggle.
Forty years after their murders, the state of Mississippi is bringing to trial a person accused of the murders of three civil rights workers in Philadelphia, Mississippi in 1964: two whites, one black.
I was in Mississippi during that summer that we called ‘Freedom Summer’; seeking to gain the right to vote for black Mississipians. I participated in the beginning stages of the Selma to Montgomery, Alabama voting rights march in 1965. One of my friends and colleagues was a young white Unitarian minister from Boston, James Reeb. Jim was beaten by a white mob in Selma and later died.
If we who are black are unable to be in an ally/advocate relationship with our GLBT sisters and brothers of every race in their struggle, our commitment to the black justice struggle loses a bit of its integrity. The negative attitudes of black persons and other persons of color toward the rights of gay persons, suggests that we have forgotten our own struggles that continue to this day.
I cannot comprehend nor understand their theology nor their understanding of justice of many African churchmen who seem to be more ‘worked up’ about a gay Episcopal bishop than they are about the legacy of colonialism that is still present in their nations and their churches, the tragedy of the deaths of millions because of HIV/AIDS, the poverty that exists all around them and in places, the appearance that black totalitarianism is valid when white totalitarianism was not.
As a clergyman, I believe Dr. King would vigorously oppose those in religion who use Scripture to justify their denial of human rights in the church and beyond of those who love someone of the same-sex. He would remind religious leaders of how historically, the Bible has been used to oppress persons, only in time to reverse their resistance.
Some justified the enslavement of my African ancestors and the legal segregation of those of us who are African American, because they felt Scripture condoned their actions. Some of these same persons justified the exclusion of women from ordained ministry because of their reading of Scripture, only to later reverse themselves. The Bible has remained the same once the canon was closed, but human understandings of God’s intent have matured. I contend that always we must use ‘Scripture to interpret Scripture’ rather than pulling out individual verses and sections of Scripture to justify our bias and prejudice.
Those of us who claim to follow the Jesus of history and to embrace the Christ of our faith, must always guard against doing those things that are counter to our understandings of the Jesus depicted in the Gospels.
Finally, I believe Dr. King would push church and society to practice ‘proportional ethics’. By this I mean, we have become so obsessed with critiquing and denying gay persons their right to express their sexual humanity that we have ignored issues of human survival.
My church denomination, The United Methodist Church, met in its quadrennial General Conference in May of 2004. This legislative body makes the decisions and articulates the concerns that direct the life of our denomination. They were so ‘gay dominated’ in their meeting that the ‘post-war’, war in Iraq received little or no notice.
This, despite the fact that President Bush and Vice President Chaney have membership in The United Methodist Church.
How can logical human beings spend more energy in suppressing gay persons and their allies, while avoiding the raising of serious questions about our national war policy in Iraq?
I am fearful that some persons are so convinced that those whose sexual orientation is not heterosexual are such a ‘danger’ to civilization and culture that they are not responding in sensitive and profound ways to the human and property devastation in southeast Asia and parts of Africa. If it is discovered that some religious leader of any religion is homosexual, will those in his/her community be deprived of aid?
If we in the church are unable to get beyond our ‘gay phobia’ in these beginning moments of the 21st century, historians will have a field day as they write of our foolishness.
A dear friend of mine, Marilyn Alexander, has co-authored a book with James Preston titled, We Were Baptized Too: Claiming God’s Grace for Lesbians and Gays (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, 1996) In the book’s forward, Archbishop Desmond Tutu writes: “We say that sexual orientation is morally a matter of indifference, but what is culpable are homosexual acts. But then we claim that sexuality is a divine gift, which used properly, helps us to become more fully human and akin to God, as it is this part of our humanity that makes us more gentle and caring, more self-giving and concerned for others than we would be without that gift. Why should we want all homosexuals not to give expression to their sexuality in loving acts? Why don’t we use the same criteria to judge same-sex relationships that we use to judge whether heterosexual relationships are wholesome are not?”
One of the many quotations of Martin Luther King, Jr. that resonates with me long after his assassination is this: “Why is the church so often the tail-light, rather than the headlight on matters of social justice?”
Today those of us within the church and beyond are challenged to embrace the God-given humanity (and sexual orientation) of those we now exclude, oppress and would make invisible.
If we could do this and attack more vigorously matters of human survival in every part of the world, I believe Martin Luther King, Jr. would be pleased.