Fair Wisconsin Fights On For Full Equality
Quest’s Mike Fitzpatrick interviews Executive Director Eva Schiffrin
Madison - Last May, after several months of multiple interim directors and an exhaustive bit of head hunting, Fair Wisconsin named Eva Schiffrin as its first post-amendment Executive Director. Schiffrin came to Fair Wisconsin from the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault, where she served as the staff attorney since 2002.
Schiffrin was active during the Fair Wisconsin amendment campaign in 2006 and was a founding member of Attorney’s Against the Ban, a working group of lawyers that educated the public on the potential legal impact of the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions.
Schiffrin has been an LGBT rights advocate for over twenty years beginning in high school. She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to Fair Wisconsin from both the legal and the not-for-profit sector. Schiffrin has also worked as an attorney for the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups and an instructor for the University of Wisconsin Law School. She received her J.D. from the University of Wisconsin and her undergraduate degree from Indiana University.
Over the last four months Schiffrin has begun to set Fair Wisconsin’s post-amendment course. Shrinking from a multi-million campaign with dozens of employees to public policy agency as the former Action Wisconsin had been prior to the “No” campaign (and with far fewer dollars and staff) is a kind of challenge even the most-seasoned activist would find difficult. However, Eva has done so with an aplomb that has been missed by most of the mainstream media.
Quest felt it was time to put the spotlight on an activist whose job is not merely keeping the full equality flame lit, but making it burn ever brighter in the coming election cycle. News editor Mike Fitzpatrick, himself a former Action Wisconsin President and a current board member of the agency’s educational arm, sat down with Eva to see just how well things have been going and what Wisconsin’s LGBT activists can expect from both her and Fair Wisconsin in the coming months.
Quest: Wisconsin's gay community just a few weeks shy of a first anniversary most of us do not look forward to marking: the passage of the so-called "Protection of Marriage" amendment to the Wisconsin Constitution. How do you think the state's gay and lesbian community is handling that loss?
Schiffrin: I think the LGBT community is handling this loss in exactly the way that would be expected: with sadness, sometimes with anger, sometimes with resolve, sometimes with a sense of looking forward and continuing the fight. There has been no one response, there have been many. Some feel saddened because they feel betrayed by friends and neighbors. But many, many others feel proud of the effort that they made to oppose the amendment.
We (Fair Wisconsin) did send out a survey to anybody who wanted to contribute their thoughts about (the loss). We heard from overwhelming numbers of people that were please that they could say they did everything that they could - they talked to their friends, they talked to their neighbors, they volunteered and they donated - to make sure that this would not happen in Wisconsin. There’s a sense of loss but also a sense of pride.
Now that we’re coming up on a year later, people are getting to the point where they’re ready to put things behind them and look forward as to how we can make progress. The amendment was forced upon us not at a time of our choosing and in a forum not of our choosing. Now I think people are ready to take the reins themselves and move forward with Fair Wisconsin with a pro-active legislative agenda.
Quest: How has that loss specifically impacted Fair Wisconsin, the group most highly identified with the "no" side of that battle?
Schiffrin: Obviously Fair Wisconsin has had to struggle with our own process of sadness and loss. We too have gone through the same process our supporters have. We’ve done deep soul-searching and decided we have no other option but to fight for our LGBT community and its rights.
We have taken stock of our assets and discovered they are enormous. We have thousands of volunteers and supporters. Our ability to make things happen in our state legislature and in other avenues is unprecedented, (compared to) before the campaign. We are in a position of strength that we haven’t been in before. That’s exciting and presents opportunities that we should not ignore.
Quest: To date, it’s been eleven months, has there been any real impact from the amendment's passage on Wisconsin's unmarried couples, same sex or otherwise?
Schiffrin: There have been smatterings of people saying that they’re going to attempt things. They haven’t.
Fair Wisconsin did prepare a short piece about the potential effects of the amendment (Editor’s Note: available at www.fairwisconsin.com). One thing about the amendment: it didn’t automatically undo a lot of things. It would actually take some sort of a legal action to have something declared unconstitutional under the amendment. Thus far, nothing has been declared unconstitutional.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see some attempt in the future. Thus far no effort has been successful in having something declared unconstitutional in the state of Wisconsin.
Quest: A pro-se lawsuit challenging the amendment by Bill McConkey, a heterosexual UW-Oshkosh professor, was filed earlier this year. Most of it was thrown out recently. But the suit is still partially alive due to an unresolved issue about how the question was worded on the ballot last year. Any thoughts on this?
Schiffrin: Fair Wisconsin is not a part of this case. His legal argument is based on the idea that way the issue was put to the voters was confusing. The legal issue revolves around the question as to whether it was appropriate to put a two-subject, in other words, a two sentence ballot question to the voters. It is a general principle that you’re only supposed to ask voters to resolve one question in a ballot initiative. You don’t want people to be ranking the importance of one thing over another. You want one discreet issue to be presented and one discreet issue to be resolved.
Fair Wisconsin said all along that the way the amendment was worded was extraordinarily broad, extraordinarily far-reaching, affected more than one group of people, had more than one subject and therefore was very confusing. Now I’ll guess we’ll see what the court says.
Quest: Wisconsin's protracted budget battle continues. The Senate-passed version of the budget contains provisions for offering domestic partner benefits for unmarried state employees. Since the Senate has already offered to give up their expanded health care plan, do you think the DP issue is one of the "elephants still in the room" preventing both sides from resolving the impasse?
Schiffrin: I think it would be fair to say that LGBT issues in general have been a wedge issue in our legislature, particularly with a divided legislature. It’s no secret that the Assembly took DP benefits out of their version of the budget while the Senate retained them. While I don’t have any inside information about what’s going on in the (reconciliation) negotiations, I wouldn’t be surprised that there are a lot of items currently being negotiated.
I am extremely pleased that our allies in the legislature have very strongly stated their support for these (DP) bills. My belief is that they’re in there fighting for us.
I can’t say what the end result is going to be. It’s extraordinary that we have gotten farther in the budget process than ever before in terms of DP benefits.
We have done many action alerts over the course of this process. My belief is that Wisconsin citizens do support benefits like these and our action alerts have generated literally tens of thousands of contacts on this issue with the legislature. I think the (budget reconciliation committee) is well aware of the widespread support for domestic partner provisions. I can only say that I’m hopeful.
Quest: Gut feeling - will the DP provisions be in the budget or not?
Schiffrin: As you know things are shifting every day. Some days I feel extraordinarily confident, but I don’t really have a gut feeling. It’s extraordinary that we’ve gotten this far in the budget process. That makes me hopeful.
Quest: With the talk right now saying that this budget impasse may actually drag on through the middle of October, is there anything that people can do right now to “turn the screws” a bit more on the inclusion of domestic partner benefits?
Schiffrin: Fair Wisconsin has already generated tens of thousands of constituent contacts with their legislators. I’m not sure that anything in addition to that can be done that would move it along sooner. There are a lot of reasons why the budget process is taking this long and they are things that our supporters may be able to do nothing about (as) they go far beyond LGBT issues.
Quest: What other initiatives is Fair Wisconsin currently working on?
Schiffrin: That’s a great question. Fair Wisconsin is currently working toward the establishment of the first form of relationship recognition of same-sex couples in Wisconsin. We’ve generated a lot of interest in and a lot of conversation in our state over the last two years about what it would mean for LGBT couples to gain certain rights, and how it harms same-sex couples to be denied those rights.
LGBT families should have a measure of security and stability, just the same as other couples. Over the course of the campaign we talked to hundreds of thousands pf Wisconsinites about LGBT relationships, same-sex couples and what equality would mean for those couples. As a result, we believe that we now stand poised to make real forward progress in this realm, and we don’t want to miss our opportunity.
So while marriage is currently off the table because of the amendment, there are a number of basic, fundamental rights that can immediately pursue. Fundamental rights extended to LGBT couples would not run afoul of the amendment.
It is our firm belief, based on what we have heard from all over the state, that Wisconsinites believe that same-sex couples should have the benefit of certain types of rights just like other couples. We continue hear stories about the way that the lack of relationship recognition harms same-sex couples. We continue to hear stories about people denied hospital visitation and other fundamental, basic rights.
So we think that its a critical time to keep the issue of family recognition, relationship recognition at the forefront of people’s minds, so we don’t lose the momentum that we’ve built over the last couple of years.
One of the first things we’re going to do is pursue domestic partner registry that would extend basic, fundamental rights to Wisconsinites such as hospital visitation and inheritance rights. We are in the midst of finding support for our bill up at the Capitol. It is our hope that we will see a bill introduction this Fall.
Quest: Fair Wisconsin has just come out in full support of Wisconsin Congressional Representative Tammy Baldwin's support of a fully-inclusive ENDA bill. Tell me more about this initiative. Is this also a rallying cry for a possible expansion on Wisconsin nondiscrimination laws to include gender identity?
Schiffrin: Fair Wisconsin believes that no person should be discriminated against in their workplace. That includes people who have been discriminated against on the basis of race, sex, disability, religion, national origin and other categories that have been protected under federal law in the past. We believe it should also include sexual orientation and gender identity.
When (ENDA) was introduced, it added sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of folks are protected under non-discrimination laws. The recent rumblings have been that the gender identity component might be removed in the U.S. House of Representatives. (Editor’s Note: Among the issues gender identity includes are transgender issues.)
We are extraordinarily pleased to have a Congresswoman in Tammy Baldwin who recognizes the importance of making sure that no member of our LGBT community is discriminated against in the workplace. She has come forward to say she supports a fully inclusive ENDA that supports sexual orientation and gender identity.
As to whether this is a rallying cry? You will, I think, see that when the time is right Fair Wisconsin getting involved in this issue at a statewide level. This (the ENDA inclusion debate) is certainly a wonderful opportunity to make sure that Wisconsinites are educated on the harm that transgender individuals face in the workplace. Transgender individuals are being discriminated against at high levels in the workplace. This provides a starting point for individuals in our state to understand those harms.
Quest: The last three months have been pretty amazing for gay issue political junkies. Between the seemingly never-ending gay sex scandals among closeted Republicans and the recent Democratic Presidential debate on gay issues, it seems like the tide in favor of full LGBT civil rights is turning into a tsunami. Especially, some may feel that the recent, open Democrat support for full LGBT inclusion - including marriage equality - would seem to make the need for "special interest" groups like the Human Rights Campaign or Fair Wisconsin obsolete. Why do you feel it is important for Wisconsin's LGBT community to continue to support a statewide LGBT civil rights organization like Fair Wisconsin?
Schiffrin: Nationwide, the news has been enormously positive. I agree. It feels like the tide is turning. More states than ever before support workplace protections for LGBT individuals, more states are moving for domestic partners, more efforts for full marriage equality and civil unions, attempts at (anti-gay) ballot initiatives have failed.
In many ways these events are due to the hard work of organizations like Fair Wisconsin. They take time. Some people say that change is inevitable. I believe that change is inevitable. But its only inevitable when folks like us do the hard work of building a movement and educating our citizens about LGBT families. That means also talking to our friends about the challenges our community as LGBT families, couples and individuals.
While there are healthy signs that public opinion is shifting in our favor, I think it is also fair to say that Wisconsin has a long way to go. It is imperative that we continue to do the hard work to ensure that forward progress. We need a strong LGBT advocacy agency to ensure that we will be the first state to remove an amendment from our constitution.
Quest: What kind of money will it take to keep a visible, effective voice for Wisconsin's LGBT community statewide in the 2008 election cycle? Moreover, how critical is the need to financially support Fair Wisconsin right now?
Schiffrin: Fair Wisconsin right now is poised to make great change, not only in the public policy arena, but change in the composition of the face of our legislature. This is going to be critical in the next year.
We want to make sure that the folks in our Capital are pro-fairness and support LGBT individuals, families and communities. This will - of course - require resources.
One of the exciting things going on in Wisconsin and around the nation is the ability of LGBT groups to bring their political power to bear upon the composition of our state legislature. Fair Wisconsin is no exception to this. In November and in the Spring election pro-fairness voters went to the polls in unprecedented numbers. LGBT issues have been a unique motivator for civic engagement for a large number of voters in Wisconsin. We need to maintain these efforts.
Maintaining the statewide presence necessary to ensure victory on this front is challenging. Our extensive volunteer network is a start, but its only a start. We have a massive presence on campuses. We have a massive presence in rural communities, urban communities, faith communities, business communities and more.
However, to raise the bar on our issues; to conduct the outreach and education necessary; to make sure that every Wisconsinite knows who stands for fairness and who gets in the way of fairness, we do need significant resources. While I know people feel asked a lot for support, it is a critical time for Fair Wisconsin and to show that our issues still matter to a large number of Wisconsin voters. To do this we do need significant resources.
I don’t think it will come as a surprise to anyone that we don’t have campaign-level resources to bring to these issues. But do we need to continue our commitment to ensure forward progress. In many ways it is more important than ever to keep fighting for a fair Wisconsin.
Quest: I brought the question up because there are people who think that because there’s a bake sale or a drag show that gives money to Fair Wisconsin, they’ve done their part. Those events raise tens or hundred of dollars. You aren’t talking that kind of money: “significant resources” is what kinds of thousands of dollars? This not something that can be done with a five dollar donation.
Schiffrin: It takes tens of thousands of dollars if not hundreds of thousands of dollars to run a politically-sophisticated campaign. Dollars have to be sought that cannot come from sources other than private or government grants.
We are looking to our community to show that these issues are important to them and that ensuring a pro-fairness legislature is important to them. Our state would not be in the position we are in now if we had a legislature that was pro-fairness.
Quest: Here's a tough question: why is it important for the state's largest gay community in Milwaukee to give as much - or possibly even more - to the Wisconsin statewide efforts through Fair Wisconsin as they do to their own very effective, Milwaukee-based gay civil rights group Center Advocates? I’m not saying don’t give to one, give to the other, obviously. I’m saying we need to support both.
Schiffrin: Wisconsin is lucky to have a vibrant LGBT movement. That community includes a variety of different groups: local, statewide, youth, public policy advocacy, etc. Along with a vibrant LGBT community comes the need to support multiple organizations with multiple, different visions. Fair Wisconsin’s mission - and its strength - is its statewide presence and its statewide voice for public policy. We are dedicated to advancing the civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. We are uniquely situated to do this work through our education, legislative advocacy, grassroots organizing, coalition building and electoral efforts.
It is only through a strong statewide movement that progress will be made for all of Wisconsin’s citizens. Forward progress in the electoral and public policy realm will benefit all Wisconsinites. Therefore its something all Wisconsinites should play a pert in, regardless of where you live.
No other LGBT organization maintains a presence in every corner of the state or has an ability to work in our Capital like Fair Wisconsin does. This is our unique role. I believe it is something that all Wisconsinites can get behind.
That said we are great believers in coalition building. We could not do our work without the support of local agencies and groups. Our coalition with Center Advocates when we were working on the amendment was a prime example of this. We need all of our partners to help us build our collective voice because building that collective voice is important. That’s what Fair Wisconsin brings to the landscape of LGBT organizations in this state.
Quest: Any last words you'd like to share with Quest's readers?
Schiffrin: I’d just like to say check out our website (www.fairwisconsin.com). Stay updated about our activities. The website includes information about action network meetings in your areas. Fair Wisconsin remains a vibrant, powerful voice for positive change in our communities. We need your support as we go forward.
Quest: And if I can add something: dig deep and write a check today, just in case you haven’t done so in awhile. It’s time to get back in the habit.
Schiffrin: Thank you.
Madison - The Wisconsin Supreme Court heard opening oral arguments related to the case of six lesbian state employees seeking domestic partner health insurance and family leave protections equal to those of married couples employed by the State of Wisconsin. The court will decide on whether Wisconsin municipalities can intervene – permissively or by right – in a constitutional challenge to a statute regulating state employee benefits.
Michael Dean of the First Freedoms Foundation of Wisconsin argued for the municipalities: “It is imperative that this court hear all the voices that are potentially impacted as a matter of constitutional law,” Dean said.
Public Education Director of the ACLU’s LGBT Project Paul Cates countered that adding municipalities to the lawsuit would slow down justice for the state employees who need insurance and family-leave protections. “Especially now that the state has made it clear that gay people can’t marry, it’s unfair and unconstitutional for the state to bar lesbian and gay people from having access to these benefits,” Cates said The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin originally filed the benefits lawsuit in April, 2005. At a press conference announcing the suit, retired UW-Stout English professor and Unitarian Universalist minister Virginia Wolf explained her participation in the suit.
“I worked as many hours and just as hard as my straight colleagues and coworkers. I shouldn’t be denied the ability to provide my family with health insurance solely because my partner of 29 years is another woman,” Wolf said.
Republican lawmakers later responded by hiring the Alliance Defense Fund to insert the Assembly into the lawsuit - the first time in U. S. history a governmental body has selected a religious-based organization to represent them in a civil rights lawsuit.
Following the Assembly Republicans’ lead, a one-man, religious-based group calling itself the First Freedom Foundation later approached eight villages, towns and cities - the largest of which was Green Bay - to solicit them to file a similar motion to intervene, arguing that a ruling forcing the state to grant benefits in the case would force them to follow suit.
Dane County Circuit Court Judge David T. Flanagan later threw out both motions, ruling that they would violate the separation of powers outlined in the state Constitution. Flanagan ruled that state law gives the Department of Justice the authority to defend the state’s interests, and the department is already doing so in the lawsuit. Flanagan also found that the municipalities and the Legislature had no compelling interests that met legal requirements.
Arguments heard October 3 addressed First Freedom's appeal of Flanagan's ruling. Following the Supreme Court's decision on the municipalities' inclusion, the ACLU suit will continue in circuit court.
The ACLU suit also was filed during the middle of the legislative process for the adoption of the "Marriage Protection" amendment to the Wisconsin Constitution whose language effectively barred legal recognition of all unmarried couples regardless of the partners' sexual orientation. Wisconsin voters adopted the amendment last November by a 59-41% margin.
Though Republican lawmakers repeatedly claimed during the "gay marriage ban" debate that the amendment would not impact domestic partner benefits, legal analysts have noted that the amendment's broadly-written second sentence could potentially impact the ACLU case. Ads run by the "Vote Yes For Marriage" campaign referenced the lawsuit in advertisements supporting the amendment's adoption.
The oral arguments were heard as the Conference Committee impasse over the state budget continues into its fourth month. The Democrat-controlled Senate version of the budget contains provisions for domestic partner benefits for state employees similar to those sought in the Helgeland suit. The Republican-controlled version of the budget lacks the DP benefits language.
Fair Wisconsin, Center Advocates Join ENDA Battle
Groups Ask Support For Tammy Baldwin's Initiative
Madison, Milwaukee - Wisconsin's two leading LGBT civil rights organizations are encouraging their members to support Wisconsin's openly-lesbian Congressional Representative Tammy Baldwin's initiative to restore a fully-inclusive version of the federal Employment Non-discrimination Act (ENDA).
The action comes just days after a September 28 initiative introduced by openly gay Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank to split ENDA into two separate bills, one addressing sexual orientation and the other addressing gender identity issues. Frank made the proposal after Democrats in the House determined passage of the fully-inclusive ENDA bill was in jeopardy. House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and leading Democrats immediately embraced the idea, announcing plans to move the first bill to a vote and to hold a committee hearing on the second bill, dubbed GENDA by full-inclusion supporters.
In an October 1 email to Fair Wisconsin members and supporters, Executive Director Eva Schiffrin advised that “members of Congress have decided to move forward with a version of ENDA that does not protect individuals discriminated against on the basis of gender identity. Congresswoman Baldwin (D-WI), who cosponsored the original inclusive legislation, has refused to cosponsor an ENDA that would exclude transgender protections.”
Schiffrin went on the explain the impact of the federal bill: “This bill would extend federal employment discrimination protections currently provided based on race, religion, gender, national origin, age and disability, to individuals discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community has worked very hard to include transgender protections in this legislation.”
“Transgender individuals face discrimination in the workplace at high levels,” Schiffrin wrote. “Wisconsin is proud to have a Congresswoman who supports this important protection.”
The email then asked recipients to “let Congresswoman Baldwin know how important her support on this issue is to you! Let her know that you stand with her in support of an inclusive ENDA!” A sample letter was offered for submission.
Center Advocates also issued a statement in support of ENDA on October 1. The release stated that Center Advocates has long supported a strong comprehensive federal “Employment Nondiscrimination Act,” or ENDA, that would add federal protections against employment discrimination for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, especially because transgender people enjoy no protections in Wisconsin law. ENDA has recently been fatally compromised, split into separate bills -- one to protect lesbians and gays and the other to protect transgender people. The released emphasized: “Center Advocates believes strongly that only an ENDA that covers the whole LGBT community, including transgender people, is worthy of support.”
“Last year, during our marriage amendment, it was the determined commitment of so many churches, labor unions, women’s groups, and ordinary citizens not to sell out their gay neighbors that made Wisconsin worth living in after our difficult loss. It would be a betrayal of this spirit of togetherness for an organization like Center Advocates to support an ENDA that excludes transgender people,” Advocates Director Patrick Flaherty said.
Both Fair Wisconsin and Milwaukee-based Center Advocates have formally signed onto a letter supporting a fully-inclusive ENDA that has been sponsored by the national Equality Federation. The Federation letter now includes over 140 LGBT civil rights organizations nationwide.
After initially declining to sign on the full inclusion proposal, the Human Rights Campaign issued a statement October 2 stating that the HRC board of directors had reaffirmed its 2004 decision not to support ENDA without transgender protections. The statement came after the resignation of the HRC’s sole transgender board member Donna Ross over initial support of Frank’s plan to split the bill.
Madison’s LBGT center OutReach also issued a statement of support for Rep. Baldwin’s position on ENDA. In his October 2 statement OutReach Executive Director Steve Starkey said that “Tammy is coming down on the proper side of this issue. Wisconsin's 2nd Congressional District sent Tammy to Washington to protect the rights of all people - straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender! I commend Tammy's consistent ethic both in here and in Washington.”
Pelosi, Frank and Baldwin and Education and Labor Committee chair George Miller (D-California) later issued a joint statement postponing consideration of the revised ENDA bill for at least two weeks. “This schedule will allow proponents of the legislation to continue their discussions with members in the interest of passing the broadest possible bill,” the statement said. Both the original ENDA bill and the split proposals are assigned to Miller’s committee.
To send a letter of support via the internet, go to the Equality Federation website at: eqfed.org/campaign/InclusiveENDA.
World & National News:
Gay Politico Watch:
Larry Toe-Taps Back Into the Senate, While A Cajun Counterpart Denies a Similar Step
By Mike Fitzpatrick
Washington, DC - Will the last Republican to come out of the closet please close and lock that goddamn door? That has to be the main question occupying GOP strategists’ frontal lobes as the party’s brand of political circus seems to be a never ending act of queer clowns erupting from that tiny little car in the center ring. Let’s check up on what’s been happening since last our last edition.
Larry Craig: Apparently no one in the GOP has yet to find the effective hook to yank the wide-standing Idaho Senator from the media spotlight. Larry lost his bid to have his guilty plea overturned when on October 4 Hennepin County Judge Charles Porter wrote: "Because the defendant's plea was accurate, voluntary and intelligent, and because the conviction is supported by the evidence ... the defendant's motion to withdraw his guilty plea is denied." The judge didn’t buy a single argument.
That didn’t stop ol' Larry, however. "I have seen that it is possible for me to work here effectively," Craig said in a written statement reversing his decision to exit the Senate if his guilty plea stood. Craig plans to stay through the end of his term, but not seek re-election next Fall.
Not good enough, Republican leaders are saying, though the talk in the cloakrooms is that of censure not ouster from a safe Republican seat in 2008. Of course, the faithful back in Idaho are aghast.
"A lot of Republicans in Idaho think they need to sit down on a good shrink's couch right now," former state GOP vice chair Tracy Lotz told the Associated Press. "We're in shock."
No sooner had Larry locked his Senate seat in a death grip than Ted Haggard’s call boy Mike Jones, eager for an additional 15 minutes of fame himself - not to mention a few more book sales - came forward on October 5 to claim that Larry had toe-tapped up to his place during a Denver layover. Or almost claim, that is. Jones stopped short of a direct accusation. He said has to look up the Senator’s flight plans to make sure.
Let me just say this," Jones told KSEQ’s Bulldog Bill Feingold. "His travel records to Denver have been documented. That's what I'm going to say."
BlogActive’s Mike Rogers, clearly wishing to defend his own tiara as top Republican closet buster this election cycle, poo-pooed Jones’ comments in a direct confrontation with Jones on the Feingold show.
"You've intimated tonight that you've had sex with him...I'm the guy who first reported on him in October of 2006, and I'm the guy that's been all over the media about Larry Craig,” Rogers said. “I'm ready to ask you... Did you do him, or not?"
Jones retorted with the ultimate put-down: "I don't know who you are.” Pass the Meow Mix, girls. Its not about you two - its about the rampant hypocrisy going on here. While you’all were hitting the scratching posts, Craig cast another anti-gay ballot, opposing the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act.
However, as gag-inducing as Craig’s vote may be to LGBT folks, that didn’t top the latest the factoid that emerged about his June escapade in the love loo. Turns out that Larry didn’t flush after he left his stall. Just a class act all around, doncha think?
The one glimmer of hope for the GOP in the Craig mess in the last few days? The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport announced that they were going to re-fit that infamous men’s toilet, “Craig proof” it so to speak, by putting in extended partitions that will prevent the toe-tapping and finger play the good Senator was arrested for last June. Hopefully those partitions will be in place before the first horde of GOP conventioneers hits the airport next summer.
Joey DiFatta: One potential GOP conventioneer who won’t be taking a pit stop in the Twin Cities will be Louisiana Senate candidate Joey DiFatta. The St. Bernard Parish Councilman Joey DiFatta withdrew from the 1st Senate District campaign there on October 4. And now we know why. The 53-year-old married with kids DiFatta had been stopped twice since 1996 for suspicion of engaging in lewd behavior in public restrooms in Jefferson Parish, according records obtained by the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
"If I had done something wrong, I would have been arrested," DiFatta told the paper. "I was not. I will deny that I was involved in any activity of that nature."
DiFatta, did acknowledge that reports he had been stopped are true, but he denied any wrongdoing in both cases. He claimed he was not prosecuted in either case and has no arrest record. We’ll see. The picky press at the Times-Picayune have vowed to continue checking.
At the press conference announcing his withdrawal earlier in the day DiFatta cited heart palpitations as his reason for dropping out. That and his inability to handle the scrutiny of not one but two documented toe-tapping toilet trysts.
Bob Allen: Speaking of toilet trysters, let’s turn to the political aftermath that Florida’s “$20 for a lip lock on your black banana” boy is suffering. Not only has the state’s GOP stripped Allen of all his committee assignments and shunned him in public, he was locked out of his office on October 3, according to the Pensacola News Journal. Turns out that the House staff had rekeyed several work areas on the second floor of the state office building, so Allen couldn't get into his office.
However blow-job Bob is now forced to sit in the corner as well. He has been reassigned by the GOP leadership to a corner seat in the house chamber near freshman Democrats. Uh oh. Fresh men? Down Bob!
AIDS Walk Wisconsin Raises $387,682
Walkers Up, Gay Bar Community Renews Financial Support
Milwaukee - Nearly perfect walking weather greeted participants at the 18th Annual AIDS Walk Wisconsin here Saturday, September 29. The 2788 walkers combined with corporate supporters to raise $387,682. The total was on par with the last two years' tallies, slightly higher than the 2005 total but just shy of the $403,833 raised last year.
Walker numbers were up, however. "Look at the huge numbers of young people here today," ARCW President and Chief Executive Officer Doug Nelson told Quest as the walk ended. "A new generation has taken up the fight against AIDS."
This year's walk featured a new, shorter 5K route that hugged the city's Lakefront, ending on the recently opened Lakeshore State Park. Walkers were greeted by the music of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville marching band as they passed volunteers holding large placards announcing the final walk total.
Earlier in the day participants heard about the renewed financial support form the state's gay bar community. Nine taverns and clubs statewide participated in the "Raising The Bar" competition. As a group the bars raised over $40,000, slightly more than 10% of the 2007 walk tally. Philanthropist Joseph Pabst presented the Milwaukee Pumphouse with the competition's traveling trophy. Both the Pumphouse and Christopher Allen's Club 1226 raised more than $12,000, with the Milwaukee club edging the Oshkosh bar by just a couple of hundred dollars. The Johnson and Pabst LGBT Fund supplemented the top two bars' totals with $2500 each, bring their total contributions to over $14,500 a piece. Third place in the competition went to Milwaukee's Fluid, which raised slightly over $8000.
Walkers were also rallied with exciting statistics about Wisconsin's fight against HIV. ARCW's Vice-President Chief Operating Office Mike Gifford reported that HIV+ state residents live longer than in any other state, that in 2006 not a single child was born with HIV, and that Wisconsin has the seventh-lowest new infection rate in the United States. However, Gifford also noted the state's 9% increase in new infections in 2006. Those new cases occurring disproportionately among those ages 18-24 and surging anew in Wisconsin's gay male population are cause for concern Gifford said.
Nelson summed up the day's events and Walk's important mission. “AIDS Walk Wisconsin 2007 was another highly successful event that will ensure access to care and treatment services for everyone with HIV in Wisconsin,” Nelson said. “We are so grateful for the tremendous support individuals and the Walk’s corporate sponsors provide to ensure the ARCW Medical Center can continue to provide medical, dental and mental health care and vital social services to anyone with HIV, regardless of their ability to pay.”
In addition to ARCW, other agencies benefiting from Walk proceeds include Camp Heartland, the Chippewa Valley LGBT Community Center, Elena’s House, the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center, No Condom? No Way!, Richard’s Place, and the Sheboygan County AIDS Task Force.
AIDS Walk Wisconsin corporate sponsors include Miller Brewing, Assurant Health, the Sovereign Oneida Nation of Wisconsin , Midwest Airlines, Dynacare Laboratories, Travel Wisconsin, Walgreens, American Family Insurance, Starbucks Coffee, American TV and Appliance, SC Johnson, United Healthcare, Milwaukee County Parks, Whole Foods Market, Lamers Bus lines, Van Galder Bus Company, Central Bark Doggy Day Care, Managed Health Services, and Weyco Group and numerous media sponsors.
Wisconsin’s First Lady Calls For Full LGBT Equality
Madison - Wisconsin's First Lady Jessica Doyle has called for full equality for Wisconsin's LGBT citizens. Doyle issued the statement of support in conjunction with her involvement with the national "Seven Straight Nights for Equal Rights" campaign being coordinated by national gay civil rights organizations Soulforce and Atticus Circle. The "Seven Straight Nights" campaign will feature a series of vigils and rallies nationwide that included an October 10 rally and vigil at the State Capitol.
"Because of our LGBT community, Wisconsin is stronger and better," Doyle said in her written statement. "We are at our very best as a state when we are open, inclusive, and actively dedicated to equal rights for all."
"I encourage all citizens to remember that our LGBT brothers and sisters and to work in our own ways, large and small, so that all citizens are guaranteed full access to precious human rights," she concluded.
The First Lady issued her statement after hearing of the "Seven Straight Nights for Equal Rights" campaign. The Madison event was preceded by a similar rally and vigil at the United Presbyterian Church in Superior on October 9.
The Madison Rally and Vigil consisted of a kickoff rally at the Wisconsin State Capitol at 6 PM , followed by a nine-hour, overnight candle light vigil. The event concluded on October 11 with a march down State St. to library mall for the kickoff of National Coming Out Day.
The First Lady's statement can be found in full at The campaign's website at: (www.sevenstraightnights.org), along with information about events that occurred in 22 states throughout the United States during the first full week of October.
Additional information about the sponsoring groups can be found at: www.soulforce.org and www.atticuscircle.org.
Northeast Wisconsin Pride 2008 Set For July 12
Green Bay - Northeast Wisconsin's revitalized LGBT pride event has been tentatively set for July 12, 2008. That was the decision made at a September 19 town hall meeting held here. The open forum was attended by more than 50 interested individuals representing dozens of Green Bay and Fox Cities groups involved with the gay community. Representatives for groups such as the Family Services Sexual Assault Center, Positive Voice, Angels of Hope MCC, N.E.W. Brotherhood, Entertainers Against AIDS, Harmony Café, Door County PFLAG, Fair Wisconsin, UW-Marinette, UW-Green Bay, Bayport High School GSA, and Rainbow over Wisconsin were in attendance.
Pete Angelillo presented a brief history of northeast Wisconsin Pride events. Andrew DeBaker offered a history and overview of the Green Bay Action Network (GBAN). Open discussion on what the 2008 pride event would look like followed.
Attendees agreed that their vision of a pride event would include the event being held at a centrally located, stationary location that provides providing ample visibility for the LGBT community. Current plans envision an event beginning on a Saturday afternoon and running through the evening with activities for the entire community, including events for families and kids. Attendees discussed the need for a central theme or message. One possibility may be “Community.”
The possibility of holding an alcohol-free event was discussed, though no final decision was reached. Those at the meeting also discussed providing organizations the opportunity to staff booths and raise funds for their groups.
With the event occurring during the heat of a major election cycle, the discussion also included whether political candidates and politics should be a part of Pride. Attendees had with mixed feelings on the issue. The need for transparency in the planning process was urged, as well as the need to speak with one voice to the larger community about the progress and intent of the Pride event.
GBAN's Andrea Schultz then announced the businesses and organizations that have made commitments to the Pride event. They include: Angles of Hope MCC, Arketype, Club XS, Four Seasons Floral, Positive Voice, Rainbow Over Wisconsin and Salon Harris.
Discussion to set a date followed: July 12 is the group's first choice with July 26 and June 21 as possible alternates if a site cannot be confirmed on the primary date. The group will investigate the possibility of holding the event on one of three Green Bay area locations: St. James Park, Bay Beach or Leicht Memorial Park.
Seven committees covering administration, entertainment, finance, marketing/advertising, programming, vendors and volunteers were then set up. The committees held their first meetings on Wednesday, October 3 in the Phoenix Room C on the UW-GB campus. All interested in participating on planning are invited to attend future meetings. To learn more about how to get involved, contact GBAN by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The group also announced plans to hold a vigil on the first anniversary of the passage of the constitutional amendment to ban legal recognition of all unmarried couples regardless of sexual orientation. Details for the November 7 event will be announced shortly.
For more information about GBAN and NEWPride ‘08, visit the group’s MySpace page at: www.myspace.com/lgbtgban.
Kurt Dyer to Head ARCW's Gay Prevention Efforts
Milwaukee - ARCW has hired gay activist Kurt Dyer as an Associate Director of Prevention. Dyer will head the agency's gay and men who have sex with men (MSM) HIV prevention efforts. Additionally, Dyer will play a significant role in the implementation of the new ARCW social networks testing program.
"With all his experience as the founder of Project Q at the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center, we know we have in Kurt a strong leader to manage one of our most important prevention areas," ARCW Director of Prevention Services Scott Stokes said. "ARCW is fortunate to have Kurt joining our team and the fight against HIV in Wisconsin."
At ARCW, Dyer will be responsible for leading and implementing prevention programming directed at gay men and at other populations most at risk for HIV infection statewide. He will also be responsible for developing new programs to meet the needs of at-risk populations. In addition to the BagBoyz HIV prevention outreach and ImsexEd internet outreach programs, Dyer will be responsible for initiating new and innovative programs to reach the gay and MSM communities.
"After spending a tremendously rewarding eight years with the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center, I am excited to join the talented staff at ARCW," Dyer said in an agency press release. "I am eager to utilize my experience and vast community involvement to support and create important, life-changing programs to battle the HIV epidemic throughout Wisconsin. I look forward to beginning this next challenge in my life and can't imagine a more worthwhile cause to invest myself into than the fight against AIDS."
ARCW is Wisconsin's largest AIDS service organization with offices in Appleton, Eau Claire, Green Bay, Kenosha, La Crosse, Madison, Milwaukee, Superior and Wausau. ARCW provides medical care, dental care, mental health therapy, legal representation, housing services, a food pantry and social work case management to 3,000 Wisconsin residents living with HIV/AIDS. Additionally, ARCW annually reaches 150,000 people at risk of contracting HIV with life saving prevention information and resources.
The Dim Sum Of Us: SAGE Samples Chinese
Milwaukee - SAGE members and friends are invited to share a Sunday Dim Sum brunch as the LGBT seniors organization gathers at China Gourmet, 117 E. Wells Street on October 14.
Dim Sum is Chinese cuisine which involves a wide range of light dishes served alongside Chinese tea. The items are usually served in a small steamer basket or on a small plate. Yum Cha (literally "tea drinking") is the actual term used to describe the dining session
The China Gourmet restaurant moved from its long-time location in the Park Plaza building and to the current Wells St. site last Spring. The horseshoe-shaped bar area and open kitchen are decorated with lovely flowers, plants and Chinese-themed touches to make the space seem more ethnic. The restaurant boasts a fully stocked bar that includes a fairly wide selection of non-alcoholic choices.
The cost for the Dim Sum Brunch will be $15.25 including tax and gratuity. The SAGE event will begin at 1:30 PM.. For more information and reservations call Raymond at 414-617-1152 by October 12 .