Taking It to School: Atticus Circle Annnounces Shirts for College Supporters of LGBT Equality

August 17, 2009

We’re proud to announce a new campaign today for the fall semester, involving college students who want to make a difference in the ongoing campaign for LGBT equality. The Fine By Me T-shirt campaign, as this release details, is ramping up for the Fall 2009 semester by making the “Gay? Fine By Me” and “Gay Marriage? Fine By Me” shirts available for bulk purchase.

Since its inception, the Fine By Me project — now part of Atticus Circle’s overall mission of education on LGBT issues — has been inspiring conversations about LGBT rights and the need for LGBT equality. We’re hoping for dialogues to be created in two key areas — the recent momentum toward same-sex marriage from a number of states, and the re-energized discussion around LGBT individuals in the military, and the potential repeal of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy.

If you (or a college activist you know) wants to know more about coordinating a shirt campaign on a specific campus, go to the Fine by Me website for more info.


Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Enough Already

August 3, 2009

Air Force Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach is the latest of a long line of honorable soldiers who may be discharged due to his sexual orientation, unless Air Force Secretary Michael Donley rejects the review board’s April recommendation. LTC Fehrenbach, who has been charged with damaging “good order and discipline,” has served in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Bosnia during the course of his eighteen-year career and has earned nine Air Medals, including one in 2003 for heroism under fire during an enemy ambush in Baghdad. Fehrenbach stands to lose the $50,000 in retirement pay and medical benefits he would have earned after twenty years of service.

The Flag and General Officers for the Military, which sent the President a letter signed by 1,000 retirees protesting any attempts to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, argues that allowing openly gay soldiers to serve would “harm morale, discipline, unit cohesion, as well as undermine recruitment and retention.” But the policy has led to the discharge of 13,000 soldiers (326 since Obama’s swearing-in), many of whom were deemed to have critical occupations such as interpreters and engineers.

Representative Patrick J. Murphy (D-Pa), the first Iraq war veteran to be elected to Congress, argues the opposite. “I have full faith and confidence in our troops’ ability to continue to respect differences in our Army,” he said, according to the Washington Post. “The paratroopers I served with in Baghdad, the thing they cared about was whether you could get the job done and help us get home.” Murphy has recently sponsored the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which, if passed, would repeal DADT.

President Obama continues to publicly support the repeal of DADT, but has also said that he believes Congress should take the lead and repeal it through legislative means. The Senate Armed Forces Committee will hold its first hearing regarding DADT in the fall.

It’s time that people realized how old, tired, and hypocritical the arguments against repeal of DADT are.   The idea that we should tolerate discrimination in our military, which is supposed to be made up of our finest citizens, because we fear our military will then be unable to work together is wrong.   If President Truman had listened to such arguments, the military would still be segregated.   As Rep. Murphy pointed out, in times of combat it really doesn’t matter whether you’re black, brown, female, Muslim, gay, or none of the above.   What matters is your ability to do your job well and with dedication.

Arguments that allowing LGBTQ soldiers to openly serve in the military will harm overall “military readiness” also blindly ignores the problems DADT actually give the military.  Not only are we losing capable LGBTQ soldiers, we are losing soldiers who can assist us in translating critical languages such as Arabic and Farsi.  At a time when we are refocusing on the war in Afghanistan while continuing to maintain a presence in Iraq, all while keeping an eye on North Korea and Iran, it seems ridiculous and short-sighted to continue to discharge LGBTQ soldiers who have otherwise served us well and advertise to LGBTQ individuals who might otherwise enlist that they are not allowed.  The point is this: we need every qualified individual we can get, and whether they are straight or not doesn’t change their qualifications or their records.

The time to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is now.  The world’s political realities demand it, the principle of equality demands it, and our national environment has never been in a better place for it.  According to a Gallup poll released in June, the majority of church-goers, conservatives, and Republicans support the repeal of DADT.  To take action and get your voice heard on DADT, go here. Make sure that when the Senate Armed Forces Committee finally discusses this issue, they know exactly how we feel.

How We Celebrated the Stonewall 40th: Our Day At Cornerstone Church

June 29, 2009

We’re pleased to report that our first Sundays of Solidarity action, in partnership with our friends at Soulforce, was a success!  Yesterday, a delegation of our straight and LGBTQ supporters attended Cornerstone Church in San Antonio — one of the largest single congregations in Texas — and embarked on a series of necessary conversations between our delegation and Cornerstone members.

While the delegation meet with Cornerstone members, Jeff Lutes (Soulforce’s Executive Director) and Jodie Eldridge (Atticus Circle’s Executive Director) met privately with Rev. John Hagee and some of his family members.  The goal of the meeting was to reach a place of new understanding and to help churches, like Cornerstone, to understand the real consequences of their anti-gay rhetoric and how it affects the LGBT community.

Pastor John Hagee agreed to explore the possibility of ongoing conversations with us beyond the one initiated yesterday. Based on reports from our delegation members, we connected with Cornerstone members in the true spirit of Sundays of Solidarity. We looked for common ground while letting them know why LGBT equality is so important to us.

Coverage from the event included this San Antonio Express-News article, looking at both parties’ views on how the conversations went; this WOAI-AM article, which called the meeting “historic,” and this Austin American-Statesman article from Saturday, previewing the meeting.

While we’re anxious to see how today’s meeting between President Obama and LGBT leaders go, and as we continue to monitor legislative and judicial developments around same-sex marriage rights and other fundamental rights, we’re hopeful that the example we set Sunday will help everyone realize the conversations that are possible and necessary around LGBT rights.

Domestic Partner Benefits: A Critical Part of Our Fight

June 19, 2009

You may have run across yesterday’s news accounts, such as this one in the Washington Post, about President Obama’s decision to award some domestic partner benefits to federal employees. You also may have read accounts, such as this Reuters release of a Politico story, that detail continued criticisms of Obama for not doing more to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

Here in Texas, we’ve been working on this issue with a coalition of state university workers who want to secure domestic partner benefits for university employees. The term accurately describing what we’re seeking is “competitive insurance benefits.” In other words, if we don’t secure the same sorts of insurance benefits that more progressive university systems have arrived at, we risk losing talented LGBT members of university faculties and staffs to schools in other states.

President Obama, to be fair, is attempting to address the concerns that LGBT federal employees. Because health care is tied so closely to employment in our current system, LGBT workers with families to support must factor in employers’ views on health care for domestic partners when looking for work or deciding to stay with a particular employer. Married couples don’t have to take those same sort of factors into account, because federal law protects them. Under the current system — a system with includes the Defense of Marriage Act and its limitations on same-sex partners, even those who are legally married in the handful of states currently allowing and recognizing those marriages — there is a separate and unequal system in place that ultimately impacts many families. Certainly, that double standard is as unacceptable as any other form of discrimination — be it based on gender, race, or sexual orientation.

An Editorial Worth Reading

June 16, 2009

From today’s New York Times, an excellent editorial (alerted to us from Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry), with disheartening news about how President Obama may actually be working against the LGBT equality movement.

It’s heartening to see supportive editorials from the likes of the New York Times’ editorial board, as we work in our continued efforts to secure basic rights for our LGBT friends, neighbors, and family members. This year has brought with it a remarkable set of victories and setbacks around the issue of same-sex marriage, leading us to believe that we are in a milestone year for this particular issue. The more attention called to the issue, the more likely we are to ask the fundamental questions at the heart of this debate.

As our founder Anne Wynne wrote last month, in response to the California Supreme Court upholding Proposition 8:

“I know a number of the couples who were married in California last year. They weren’t getting married as a way to subvert or mock marriage – they were getting married for the very reasons my husband and I got married. They wanted to declare their love and commitment to one another, whether in the presence of just an officiant or in front of family and friends. They were thinking about being parents, and gaining the legal rights and provisions that will help them be more effective parents. They were thinking about taking care of one another as a family.

Preventing same-sex couples from marrying doesn’t prevent these couples from raising children, forming family bonds, or from relying on each other’s emotional as well as financial support. Instead, measures like Proposition 8 merely create obstacles for a growing number of families.”

Unfortunately, the Defense of Marriage Act is ultimately creating the same sorts of obstacles. The issues raised in this editorial should be of concern to anyone who put faith in President Obama to champion necessary changes in laws pertaining to same-sex marriage.

Same-Sex Marriage Map

June 3, 2009

Another reason to love NPR: an excellent state-by-state map covering same-sex marriage rights, bans, and current legislation or court cases which may change the status in that state.

A Victory in New Hampshire, and a Victory (Of Sorts) in Nevada

June 3, 2009

This just in! After a disappointing, recent hiccup in the conversation over same-sex marriage in New Hampshire, the state legislature has passed a bill that will legalize same-sex marriage and address the earlier concerns of Gov. John Lynch.

According to the article, Lynch “had promised a veto if the law didn’t clearly spell out that churches and religious groups would not be forced to officiate at gay marriages or provide other services.” The revised version of the bill has addressed those concerns, and once Lynch signs it later today, will make New Hampshire the sixth state allowing gay marriage.

There’s also mildly good news out of Nevada this week — you may have heard by now that Nevada has a new domestic partnership law, by a 2/3 majority, which was necessary in order to override the veto from Gov. Jim Gibbons.

According to the article, “The move makes Nevada the 17th state to recognize the relationships of gay men and lesbians, creating the registry with the secretary of state by which couples receive legal protections associated with marriage.”

While this is a step in the right direction, the new law doesn’t require employers to provide health benefits to domestic partners of employees — which, to us, is one of the most fundamental rights that comes with marriage.

However, as as this excellent Reno Gazette-Journal article details, this law clears the way for same-sex couples to legally adopt children, and even spells out child support requirements if the couple splits up.

Ultimately, though, even with its flaws, the Nevada law is a step in the right direction, and New Hampshire’s good news most certainly is.