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  • Posted on May 28, 2012 By Chris Hedges

The sentencing of Dharun Ravi for the hateful abuse that may have driven his gay roommate at Rutgers, Tyler Clementi, to commit suicide, or Barack Obama’s public acceptance of gay marriage, prevents many of us from seeing that life for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people is getting worse—much worse.

No one understands this better than the gay activist and pastor Mel White. White, along with his husband and partner of 30 years, Gary Nixon, founded Soulforce, an organization committed to using nonviolent resistance to end religion-based oppression. White and hundreds of Soulforce volunteers protest outside megachurches that preach hatred and bigotry in the name of religion. White travels to communities where young gays, lesbians, bisexuals or transgender people have committed suicide. He holds memorial services for them in front of the church doors. He accuses the pastors of these churches of murder. His books “Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay and Christian in America” and “Holy Terror: Lies the Christian Right Tell Us to Deny Gay Equality,” are two of the most important works that examine the innate cruelty and proto-fascism of the Christian right. White, more than perhaps any other preacher in the country, has pulled young men and women back from the brink of despair, from succumbing to the tragic fate of Tyler Clementi. And White is scared.

“What kind of environment creates a Dharun Ravi who would carry out that kind of bullying, as well as a kid like Tyler who would become a victim of that kind of bullying?” White asked when I reached him by phone at his home in Long Beach, Calif. “It is society. At its heart it is the church. The churches should be convicted, not just Ravi. He’s just an extension of the hatred that people feel about this threat, this gay threat. Pope Benedict XVI should be on trial. Richard Land from the Southern Baptists should be on trial. Religious leaders, Protestant and Catholic, should be on trial. They made this happen, but too few Americans make the connection.”

White applauds President Obama for taking a personal stand for marriage equality. But he also notes that the president’s statement was accompanied by a reiteration that states have the right to determine their own policies toward marriage.

Despite gains by gays in the wider culture, especially in the entertainment industry, and despite the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the civil rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people in most states are deteriorating, White said.

“Married gays in the military are miserable,” White said. “They can get married, but they can’t have any of the rights of other married military members, including housing or travel. They can give their lives but they get so little in return.”

“Class difference is at the heart of understanding sexism and homophobia,” White said. “Class difference is based on sexism. It is based on homophobia. It is based on men who want to stay in power. And men who want to stay in power go to church. They sit in the front pews. They are generous, loving and faithful. They give away a tiny little bit to keep these churches going. Which is why I stand with the Occupy movement. At least I know I’m with people who will be on my side.”

White and Nixon left Virginia for California a few weeks ago because the culture, he says, had become increasingly inhospitable to gay couples. In distressed communities across the country there is a correlating rise in intolerance, hate talk and homophobia.

“When I moved to Lynchburg it was a blue city, in spite of Liberty University being there,” White said. “We had an amazing progressive woman, Shannon Valentine, as our state representative. She visited our home. We had a progressive mayor and a progressive City Council. In 2008 everything went to hell. Our new attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, is crazy. He talks about putting cameras up vaginas [as part of a trans-vaginal ultrasound procedure that would be required by law of all women seeking abortions]. We had so many possibilities until 2008. Then it suddenly ended. Unfortunately, more and more this is reflected across the country. The reversal came with the collapse of our financial system. Suddenly everything blue was seen as costing too much money, including helping the poor. There was a revolt led by Fox News and its allies. It’s difficult to find a restaurant or bar in Lynchburg that isn’t playing Fox News. People quote Fox as though Fox is the arbiter of truth. In fact, Fox is the enemy.”

The long-term unemployment, the collapse of housing prices, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the draconian cuts in social spending have created a climate in which the vulnerable, the different, the marginal—from Muslims to undocumented workers to homosexuals—are blamed for the nation’s decline, White argues. This climate is fueling a culture of hate. Right-wing candidates, channeling the rage and frustration of a beleaguered working and middle class, use marginal and oppressed groups as scapegoats. And, White says, those who disseminate this culture of hate lie about the positions and records of liberal elected officials such as Shannon Valentine.

“The lies against her were heinous,” White said, “but the Christian right is convinced that if you have a call to save the nation you are allowed to lie, because the ends justify the means. Jerry Falwell lied on a regular basis. We lost Shannon Valentine. We lost so much that was good about our state after that election. And this is true almost everywhere.”

The culture of hate feeds off the frustrations and feelings of betrayal among the impoverished, the unemployed, the underemployed and the hopeless. And the longer the expanding underclass is ignored, the longer we refuse to define what is happening to us in our corporate state as a vicious class struggle, the more the culture of hate spreads. The dwindling culture of tolerance, confined now mostly to white, urban, college-educated members of the middle class, because that group refuses to engage in the struggle of class warfare, unwittingly abets the economic dislocation that is empowering the increasingly potent culture of hate.

“Progressives ought to move out of New York immediately,” White went on. “Gay people should evacuate the major cities to see what life is like for gays in rural areas. The urban centers of the gay community are too isolated from wider reality. Many in these [urban] communities do not seem to care about reality. Gay people can survive, unfortunately, without paying attention to reality, especially if we’re white and male. If you’re white and male you often can pass.”

“You see Ellen DeGeneres, the most popular talk show, or you see Queen Latifah leading this week’s gay pride parade [May 20] in Long Beach, and you think all is well,” White said. “But you have to remember that in the local Baptist church, or among any of the 15 million Southern Baptist congregants, people see Ellen andQueen Latifah as a threat to family values. What we count as a forward step, they count as evil. They see it as more gay people getting power. We may watch the same television programs. But while we cheer the presence of an openly gay woman or man on television there are large numbers of people in Virginia and other states who see these public affirmations as another step towards the country’s oblivion.”

White fears that the vast sums of money available to the Christian right and groups such as the tea party (which he sees as an extension of the Christian right) are solidifying institutions from universities to media outlets in the propagation of this culture of hate. White, before he accepted his homosexuality as a gift from God, ghost-wrote autobiographies for Christian-right leaders including Falwell. White and Nixon, knowing that White’s old clients were the primary sources of anti-gay rhetoric, moved to Lynchburg. They set up house across the street from Falwell’s megachurch. They attended services and stood together in silent protest as Falwell delivered anti-gay rants from the pulpit. White watched as Liberty University rose to dominate Lynchburg.

“Liberty University is funded by fundamentalist billionaires, like the man who owns Hobby Lobby, like Chick-fil-A and the fundamentalist author who wrote these terrible books, the ‘Left Behind’ series, Tim LaHaye,” White said. “These guys are giving tens of millions of dollars to institutions such as Liberty. They see the Liberty Universities of the world as the Koch brothers do, as the bastions of training for the new Americans. They are brainwashing young people whom they hope will guide us away from the precipice of liberalism.”

Liberty is one of the fastest-growing universities in America. It has 50,000 students, on campus or taking degrees through online courses. The university built a 24-hour, all-seasons ski resort, the first in the nation. It has an Olympic-size pool and an Olympic-style ice rink. It has an accredited law school. Its debate team often beats major Ivy League teams. It is putting in a medical school. This is also a university that teaches that the oldest fossils date from only 6,000 years ago. It produces Ph.D.s who believe exclusively in creationism, reject evolution and deny that global warming exists. And it is a university that is openly hostile to gays, lesbians, bisexuals and those who are transgender.

“By the time Gary and I moved away from Lynchburg, a majority of Virginians seemed to be turning against gay people,” White said. “They passed a constitutional amendment against marriage equality and new laws saying we cannot adopt [children] or provide foster care. More than half the people of Virginia seem to see us as the enemy.”

As the economy unravels, as hundreds of millions of Americans confront the fact that things will not get better, life for those targeted by this culture of hate will become increasingly difficult. Rational debate will prove useless. “Fundamentalists aren’t interested in data,” White said. “They are not influenced by truth, including scientific, psychological, psychiatric or historic truth. They are not influenced by a personal experience with truth. The Bible is more important. Verses are taken out of context to condemn even sons and daughters. How do you oppose that?”

“We have 29 states that do not outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” White said. “Transgender Americans are invariably the worst victims of discrimination and violence. And yet there are 44 states that do not outlaw discrimination on the basis of gender identity. There are 44 states that have laws or constitutional amendments denying us the rights of marriage, claiming our relationships are unholy, that we’re sick and icky,” White said. “And Mr. Obama has just said marriage equality is up to the [individual] states. A majority of the states have already decided against us. If you ask a gay person in New York, ‘Can we adopt?’ he will respond of course we can adopt. Can we provide foster care? Of course we can provide foster care. Can we get jobs equally? Of course we can, especially if we are white and male. But with all the progress we have made, 44 states still see us as the enemy. Add a few more states to this list and it is over. How awful it will be if these restrictions make their way to states such as Connecticut, New York and California. Remember, California is going down the tubes financially. And the fear about the nation’s financial future is the engine that drives all of this.”

“Too many of my sisters and brothers in the gay community don’t seem to understand the power of religion,” White lamented. “They have been rejected by religion. They hate the idea of religion. Therefore, they’re not going to deal with religion, which is fatal, because religion is the heart of homophobia. Without religion there would be no homophobia. What other source of homophobia is there but six verses in the Bible? When Bible literalists preach that LGBT people are going to hell they become Christian terrorists. They use fear as their weapon, like all terrorists. They are seeking to deny our religious and civil rights. They threaten to turn our democracy into a fundamentalist theocracy. And if we don’t reverse the trend, there is the very real possibility that in the end we will all be governed according to their perverted version of biblical law.”

THINK PROGRESS LGBT By Annie-Rose Strasser on May 21, 2012 at 1:40 pm

North Carolina Pastor Charles Worleyshared with his congregation this weekend how he thinks the country should deal with the scourge of gay men and lesbians: Lock them into a pen with an electrified fence, drop food down to them, and because they can’t reproduce, they will die out.

The Pastor’s leper colony-esque proposal came in response to the president’s endorsement of same-sex marriage, which he said “anybody with any sense” would be against. Worley explained that the idea of two men kissing makes him “pukin’ sick,” so he developed a proposal to “get rid of all the lesbians and queers”:

WORLEY: I figured a way out — a way to get rid of all the lesbians and queers. But I couldn’t get it passed through Congress. Build a great big large fence, 150 or 100 miles long. Put all the lesbians in there. Fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexuals. Have that fence electrified so they can’t get out. Feed ‘em, and– And you know what? In a few years they’ll die out. You know why? They can’t reproduce.

Watch it:

These comments are in line with other anti-gay religious leaders in the state, like Sean Harris, who said parents should “crack” their children’s “limp wrist.” Harris walked back his statements, but Worley emphasized in his speech that he did, in fact, “mean to say that.”

At a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.

– President Obama, May 9, 2012

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Though he does not officially support gay marriage, President Obama voiced opposition to a proposed anti-gay marriage ballot measure in Minnesota today.

Obama for America Minnesota Communications Director Kristin Sosanie said:

“While the President does not weigh in on every single ballot measure in every state, the record is clear that the President has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same sex couples.”

“That’s what the Minnesota ballot initiative would do – single out and discriminate against committed gay and lesbian couples – and the President does not support it.”

The proposed Minnesota marriage amendment reads simply, “Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota.”

It’s the second time in as many months Obama has weighed in on the issue.

The Obama campaign in North Carolina issued a statement in March with the same language in opposition to Amendment One, which would also define marriage in the state’s constitution as between one man and one woman.

Just as in North Carolina, same-sex marriage is already banned by a statute in Minnesota. Unlike the North Carolina amendment, the Minnesota amendment does not mention civil unions or domestic partnerships.

Today’s news comes after White House press secretary Jay Carney stated that First Lady Michelle Obama – in referencing how Supreme Court decisions will impact whether people can “love whomever we choose” – was not commenting about marriage equality.

Her husband, though “evolving” in his views on marriage equality, technically opposed marriage equality and supported civil unions in his 2008 campaign.

April 9th, 2012 4:32 PM by Free Britney

March 29, 2012|Jason McLure | Reuters

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  • (Image- HERB SWANSON, REUTERS)

NORTHFIELD, Vermont (Reuters) – When Joshua Fontanez began training as a cadet at Norwich University in 2008, he kept silent about his sexuality for fear of being expelled from the military school’s Reserve Officer Training Corps.

Now after the repeal of the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, a gay pride group he helped found is staging a “Queer Prom” and a “Condom Olympics” as part of the first gay pride week at any of the nation’s public and private military academies. Events kicked off on Monday.

“It really wasn’t talked about,” said the 22-year-old Fontanez as he stood before a rainbow flag and an information booth for the Vermont school’s club that is aimed at lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders as well as those who are questioning their sexuality and their supporters.

“‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was not a topic to discuss,” he said. “Now we have this change.”

The groups have sprouted up at academies in the wake of the repeal six months ago, decades after similar groups first appeared at civilian universities.

About 60 gay and straight cadets at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut have formed the Spectrum Diversity Council, while others at the Military Academy in West Point, New York and the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado have applied to form similar clubs.

Cadets at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland and two prominent state military schools, Virginia Military Institute and The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina have not formed such clubs, though all three have gay alumni groups.

Under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ signed into law by President Clinton in 1993, service members could not talk openly about their sexuality if they were gay, although the military was prevented from discriminating against them.

Chip Hall, a senior at the Coast Guard Academy, said the clubs that are open now had their roots in an underground network of Facebook and online groups for gay military cadets prior to the repeal.

Hall said on Saturday he plans to don his dress uniform and bring his tuxedo-clad boyfriend to the academy’s Castle Ball.

It’s a far cry from his freshman year, when talking about his sexuality would have resulted in being expelled from school.

“I didn’t know any gay people at the academy. It was pretty lonely,” he said. “On top of that, being a freshman at a service academy is really very difficult. Now it’s the opposite. All my friends know.”

Hall’s classmate Kelli Normoyle said she considered quitting the school several times but is now set to graduate this spring and become a commissioned officer.

“I was tired of having to lie,” she said.

Richard Schneider, the president of Norwich and a retired rear admiral in the Coast Guard Reserve, said a gay classmate at the Coast Guard Academy in the 1960s had been thrown out of school “after having been found in a compromising position.”

Today’s group has gotten some resistance within the student body, but much of the criticism has come from alumni, he said.

The school, which has about 1,300 military cadets and 1,100 civilian students, has gotten about 200 e-mails from alumni in response to the group. Most have been critical, particularly of Fontanez naming the group’s social the “Queer Prom,” he said.

“It’s very symbolic and it’s kind of in your face, but we’re an educational institution, and I want them to have a respectful dialogue,” Schneider said. “My alums have to get used to it, and some of them are just going to have to get over it.”

(This version of the story fixes dateline to Vermont instead of New Hampshire)

(Editing By Ellen Wulfhorst and Paul Thomasch)

HUFF POST POLITICS Posted: 03/19/2012 12:59 pm

Obama and gay marriage: 'Evolving' is no longer an option

President Obama has been called on the carpet yet again by some gay activists for not forcefully and unequivocally saying “I support gay marriage.” This doesn’t mean simply his backing full equality, civil rights, and civil unions for gays, or support for gays in the military, calls on UN to end discrimination against gays, making supportive speeches to gay rights groups, or strongly opposing the seemingly never-ending ballot initiatives and legislative efforts to outlaw gay marriage. He’s done all of that. No, he must say the words, “I support gay marriage” to fully satisfy some gay rights activists. The “some” is a crucial qualifier. Many gay rights activists understand that a GOP White House would be beyond a horror. GOP Presidential contender Mitt Romney would subtly, and GOP Presidential contender Rick Santorum would openly, back any and every anti-gay rights initiative measure, and piece of legislation any and everywhere in the country. But the president is different. He is clearly a friend of the gay rights movement, and an African American so therefore more, much more, is expected of him.

However, the 2012 election will be, as it was in 2008, a numbers, not a percentage game. This means that Obama must not just get a majority of gay votes which he’s assured of. It means he must stir passion, excitement, and enthusiasm among gay voters as he did in 2008. This translates directly into numbers, and in the key battleground states of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida with a large number of gay voters and an even larger number of conservative Christian evangelical voters, any slack off in the number of gay voters that turn out in November would be a hard blow to the president.

But President Obama would have to totally reverse his cautious approach to politically loaded issues to say once and for all: “I support gay marriage.” It would also be the final test of his fundamental and personal beliefs. He’s made those beliefs clear on several occasions when he flatly said he wouldn’t sign on to same sex marriage because of his “understandings” of what traditional marriage should be. He later softened that to the equally cautious note that he’s “evolving” on the issue.

Obama is no different than many other moderate, tolerant and broad minded African Americans on diversity issues. But he, like many others, still can draw the line on gay marriage and that’s fueled by deeply ingrained notions of family, church, and community, and the need to defend the terribly frayed and fragmented black family structure. This mix of fear, belief, and traditional family protectionism has long been a staple among many blacks and virtually every time the issue of legalizing gay marriage has been put to the ballot, or initiative, or a legal challenge, or just simply the topic of public debate there has been no shortage of black ministers and public figures willing to rush to the defense of traditional marriage.

At the same time, polls have shown that anti-gay attitudes among blacks have softened at least publicly among many blacks. But the line continues to be just as firmly drawn among many blacks on same sex marriage. The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life (in polls in 2009 and 2010) found that blacks opposed same sex marriage by gaping margins over whites or Hispanics. The finding was even more striking in that Pew also found that for the first time in the decade and half that it had been polling Americans on attitudes toward gay rights, and that includes gay marriage, that less than half of Americans opposed same sex marriage.

The Pew poll is in line with other polls that show that the number of Americans that either outright back gay marriage, are or tolerant or indifferent toward it, is inching toward a majority nationally. The number that supports gay marriage has topped a majority in the states that have legalized it. But those states are still in the numbers minority, and the public acceptance of it is hardly evenly widespread. In the Deep South, parts of the West, and in the Midwest, gay marriage still stirs anger and loathing among many. Presidents, like other elected officials, take keen note of the polarizing impact of gay marriage.

President Obama, though, has not taken the final step and said, “I support gay marriage,” solely because of narrow religious beliefs, conservative family upbringing, or a racial herd mentality that is unyielding on the traditional defense of family values. However, these are factors that have made for pause and caution by him. Still, Obama still has gotten it mostly right on gay rights, and given the grim GOP presidential alternative and the near certainty that he’ll eventually get it right to the total satisfaction of gay activists in full support of gay marriage, to hold his refusal to utter the final words and endorse gay marriage now is worse than dumb and silly; it is politically suicidal.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author of How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour heard weekly on the nationally network broadcast Hutchinson Newsmaker Network.