Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Yes on K8; Comedienne Kate Clinton

Listen up as Equality Arizona Radio recalls their favorite moments with comedienne and friend Kate Clinton. Including never before released insight from Kate! Click here to listen now. Don't forget Kate is stopping into Phoenix Saturday, November 7th on her Yes on K8 tour! Click here to purchase tickets!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

History in the Making

As President Obama today signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the following 29 organizations issued this joint statement:

History in the Making

It took much too long, more than a decade. And it came at too great a price: the brutal killings of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. are just two among the thousands of crimes motivated by hate and bigotry.

But this week, the president put pen to paper and fulfilled a campaign promise, the signing of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, extending the federal hate crimes statute to include sexual orientation and gender identity along with race, religion, gender, national origin and disability. Our deepest hope and strong belief is that this new law will save lives. Now, lawmakers and the president have made an imperative statement to the country and the world: Our nation will no longer tolerate hate-motivated violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

We have worked long and hard for this and its passage is historic.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, there are nearly 8,000 hate crime-related incidents annually, and more than 1,200 of those incidents involve violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity. And even more alarming, while the overall occurrence of hate crimes is declining nationally, hate crimes against LGBT people have been increasing. This year alone, we saw hate crimes trials in the brutal killings of two transgender women, Angie Zapata and Lateisha Green.

As a result of this legislation, if local jurisdictions are unable or unwilling to investigate or prosecute hate crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity, the Justice Department can now step in. And that’s why the LGBT community never stopped working for this historic day.

This legislation not only has practical value, but is a symbol of our progress. It is the first time in the nation’s history that Congress has passed explicit protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. We could not have reached this moment without the powerful support of our allies who stood with us every step of the way. We are deeply grateful to civil rights, civic, faith and disability rights groups, as well as law enforcement and district attorney organizations that worked side by side with the LGBT advocates. We are equally thankful to Congress, President Obama and members of his administration for passing and signing this bill into law.

While today we celebrate this marker of progress, we must recognize it as only one of the building blocks to full equality and demand that it be just a first step toward equal treatment under federal law in all areas of our lives. And we must focus on the next step.

The passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act provides us with an opportunity. We must use this moment to educate and keep the momentum going so that we can continue to make progress on the local, state and federal levels. Yes, legislation takes a long time — often years of work. Yet, our community is on the cusp of passing much-needed protections.

This week, we call upon lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, families and allies to take this opportunity of increased media and public attention on hate crimes to educate co-workers, classmates, neighbors, family members and friends about our lives, and about why we need not only their friendship and love, but their vocal support for a more just and equal America for LGBT people. If your members of Congress voted in support of hate crimes legislation, call them and thank them. Then ask them to be there for us again when the vote turns to workplace nondiscrimination, military service and partnership rights.

With your help and our collective pressure, equality is within reach.

When talking about the need for hate crimes legislation, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said: “The time for debate is over.”

She was right.

Just as the time has finally come for stronger hate crime protections, it is also time to pass an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, and ensure that health care, economic policy and immigration reform incorporate the needs of LGBT people.

The time for debate is over.

Signed by: Jo Kenny, AFL-CIO Pride at Work, Terry Stone, Centerlink: The Community of LGBT Centers, Gabe Javier, Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals, Marianne Duddy-Burke, DignityUSA, Toni Broaddus, Equality Federation*, Jennifer Chrisler, Family Equality Council, Evan Wolfson, Freedom to Marry, Lee Swislow, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Rebecca Allison, M.D., Gay & Lesbian Medical Association, Chuck Wolfe, Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, Eliza Byard, Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, Marjorie Hill, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, Joe Solmonese, Human Rights Campaign, Rachel Tiven, Immigration Equality, Earl Fowlkes, International Federation of Black Prides, Kevin M. Cathcart, Lambda Legal, Leslie Calman, Mautner Project: The National Lesbian Health Organization, Sharon Lettman, National Black Justice Coalition, Kate Kendell, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Mara Keisling, National Center for Transgender Equality, Justin Nelson, National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, Rea Carey, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Paul Kawata, National Minority AIDS Council, Kyle Bailey, National Stonewall Democrats, Greg Varnum, National Youth Advocacy Coalition, Sharon Stapel, New York Anti-Violence Project, Jody Michael Huckaby, PFLAG National, Aubrey Sarvis, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Michael Adams, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE)

*Equality Arizona is a proud member of the Equality Federation and are proud of all the individuals and organizations involved.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

From the Equality Federation

Is there a Single, One-Stop, Equality for All, Federal Solution?

I’ve been hearing a lot of talk lately about this idea that we should demand a single federal solution for equality. I’ve heard it from donors, I’ve heard it from Equality March organizers, and I’ve heard it from angry lgbt Americans.

Much as that sounds like a great idea, equality is not going to happen that way.

A single federal solution is simply not possible. Here’s why.

  1. The separation of powers between the federal and state governments means that states reserve all the powers not granted to the federal government by the Constitution. This means that states hold the power to regulate marriage and family matters, a power upon which the federal government has been loathe to intrude. When the federal government does act, it must rely upon constitutional protections (like equal protection or the right to due process) as grounds for regulating state rules or behaviors. And while the federal government also may use the power of the purse (tying highway funds to higher age limits for buying alcohol, for example), it is unlikely to impose new rules that don’t already have support or precedent in the states.

  2. No historical precedent exists. Now, this does not mean that we couldn’t or shouldn’t try to create a new precedent. But it would be an uphill struggle. We could not do it in the courts (where cases are based on actual circumstances of individuals and must generally be limited to the most narrow, specific ruling available to resolve the litigated issues). We would have to do it legislatively. But see #4. Achieving equality for women or black Americans – the movements we most often look to for inspiration – did not happen with the passage of a single law covering voting rights, equal pay, status as property of whites/men, employment discrimination, housing rights, health disparities, and so on. Inequality breeds a whole range of harms, and to try to address all of them in one bill would fail to adequately address each of them. See #3. You think the health care legislation is complex?

  3. Politics requires compromise. We may not like it, we may believe that equality should brook no compromise, but the fact remains that political maneuvering for power is how our democracy is implemented every single day. We can rail against it, or we can educate ourselves about how to navigate through the egos and fear tactics and cynicism and favor trading and all the rest so that we can actually achieve the change we seek. We must understand that politicians do not lead, they follow. Demonstrations and marches are important because they increase our visibility and force politicians to think about our issues. But we still have to get votes for our legislation. Unfortunately, the courageous politician is an exceedingly rare creature. Add to that the politics in our own movement. Plenty of folks love or hate particular leaders in the movement (especially those who lead movement organizations), but guess what? Those leaders are simply a microcosm of the larger community and we, too, have intense disagreements about which strategies are best or where we should prioritize the allocation of resources. So compromise is required in our own community in order to move forward.

  4. We can’t amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This is a proposal I’ve heard many times, and on the face of it I think it’s a great idea. Why wouldn’t we add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to a bill that prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin? It’s a brilliant and simple strategy! Unfortunately, it’s really not. The fact is, civil rights laws passed after this great Act have been subject to attempts (many successful) to water down the kinds of protections they provide. So, for example, we have a pretty big religious exemption in ENDA that many of us don’t like but that we know we have to include if we are going to move this bill forward at all. And if we tried to amend the Civil Rights Act, we would certainly see amendments and exemptions to our simple, brilliant proposal that would actually weaken the law. Because of this, some of our strongest allies in the civil rights community could not and would not support us in trying to amend this law. And if leaders in the civil rights community actively opposed us in this approach, we would simply be unable to get the votes we needed to pass our proposal. So – we could try doing this, but it is not really a promising use of our resources or political capital.

  5. Existing proposed legislation has momentum now and multiple bills are already lined up for passage. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act is currently moving through Congress and, if we all do our part, it should pass this year. Hate crimes legislation has had a hard road but it will also pass soon. The repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is inching forward and I expect to see it happen next year, hopefully in the spring. We are actively building support right now for immigration law reforms to end discrimination against lgbt families, as well as laws to extend domestic partner benefits to federal employees and to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act(DOMA). Even if you think I’m wrong about everything else I’ve said here, this is not the time to abandon legislation that our community has been working on for years.

  6. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that we actually could pass an all-purpose federal equality law, we will still need state laws to truly achieve equality. ENDA will be a great step forward for our community, and it will protect millions of American currently protected under no other laws. But it won’t actually cover everyone. Small businesses, for example, will mostly be exempt from ENDA based on the size of their staff. In most states with employment protections, more businesses are required to comply so millions of workers not covered by federal law are actually covered by state law. And even if we repeal DOMA, we still have to get marriage in as many states as we can if we are to have any hope of winning a court challenge to the constitutionality of state DOMA’s. In the American version of government, state and federal legislation may pass independently, but its impact is most often felt in the application of an interconnected web of laws.

In this country, democracy works in something of a circular pattern. Big social issues aren’t tackled first in our nation’s capital. Instead, they bubble up from our local communities, where the harms are closer to home and citizens can work to get their local governments to address those harms. State government action often follows, learning and improving upon strategies already implemented locally, and expanding protections across the entire state. When enough states have addressed a particular issue, the national understanding of that issue will begin to shift, so a critical mass of policy changes or a social tipping point is reached. Then we see the federal government begin to take action. Finally, the action at the federal level will reach back down to the state and local level in places where we have been unable to make local and state policy changes.

Or, a law is passed and the courts must rule it constitutional or not. The legislature may have to take action again. Or litigation is filed, and the outcome of that case may spur action by the voters. That’s the beautiful thing about democracy – there are many approaches we can take to changing public policy. Of course, that means we may also be attacked on any level (witness Kalamazoo, Maine, Washington state, and Congress generally).

My point is simply this. We will not achieve equality by abandoning our work at any level of the political process. We must continue to increase the pressure to achieve the promise of equality under the law at all levels and in all branches of government. There is no magic bullet. Our strategy must be focused while also casting a very large net. And that’s how we will finally achieve equal protection under the law.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Runners Gender is Questioned and Publicly Walked Down “Gender-Row”

Eighteen year old South African track athlete Caster Semenya has been spotlighted in the news for the past few weeks but the highlights read a very different story than her 800 Meter Dash time while participating in the world championships. The IAAF, International Association of Athletics Federation, demanded a test before Semenya could claim her gold medal.

According to a 2000 Journal of the American Medical Association article over 11,000 women competing over a span of five Olympics have had their gender brought into question. Twenty-seven of which were found to have genetic “gender” disorders. Many experts worry about the psychological consequences of such public coverage after the suicide attempt of a female athlete who tested male just two years prior. One of Semenya’s coaches quit out of shame for lying to her about what she was being tested for, he told her she was taking a doping test.

This story however does end well, upon Semenya’s return home her fellow South Africans rally in support of her and promise they will not allow her gold medal to be taken from her. President of Athletics South Africa even resigned from the IAAF to show his disapproval for the way in which Semenya was treated.

It is important to remember that gender is socially constructed and cannot be tested for. Semenya fell short of the gender expectations of the IAAF and so her actual sex was tested for. The stereotypes of gender do not solely affect those who identify as transgender. The protection of one’s gender identity and expression is something all can benefit from.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sent(a)Mental Project: A Memorial to GLBTIQA Suicide

Sent(a)Mental Studios in Denver, Colorado empowers at-risk youth through the encouragement and discovery of their own creative talents. The studio also houses The Sent(a)Mental Project: A Memorial to GLBTIQA Suicide is a collection of creative works about, by, or for individuals or groups affected by suicide.

The goal of this memorial project is to bring visibility and awareness to those lost within the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersexed, queer, and allied(GLBTIQA) community to suicide and mental health. The project provides and opportunity and safe space for psychiatric and suicide survivors to have their voices heard as well as loved ones share the stories of those who have been lost.

The driving force behind the Sent(a)Mental Studio and Memorial to GLBTIQA Suicide Project is Dylan Scholinski. Scholinski is no stranger to the stigmas of mental health placed on the GLBTIQA community and the harm that they can cause. In his biography, The Last Time I Wore a Dress, he shares his experience of being institutionalized for being an inappropriate female as a teenager. He now advocates for psychiatric survivors, many of whom do not share their stories out of fear and shame. Equality Arizona would like to thank Dylan Scholinski work within the mental and GLBTIQA arena.

There are many ways to get involved and help out Sent(a)Mental Studios and Sent(a)Mental Project: A Memorial to GLBTIQA Suicide, donating art supplies, making donations, and submitting content for the Memorial to GLBTIQA Suicide Project. Also, Dylan Scholinski and The Sent(a)Mental Project: A Memorial to GLBTIQA Suicide are coming to Arizona! Dylan Scholinski will be speaking at Chandler-Gilbert Community College Tuesday, October 7th at 7:00PM in the Performing Arts Center. The event is free and open to the public, The Sent(a)Mental Project: A Memorial to GLBTIQA Suicide will be on exhibit starting October 6th in the Chandler-Gilbert Community College Library and will be on display until November 13th.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Kinsey Sicks

The Kinsey Sicks has built a reputation for being America’s Favorite Dragapella Quartet with their a cappella singing, sharp satire and over-the-top drag. They have performed at performing arts centers, music venues and comedy festivals in over forty states in the fifteen years they have been around. They have performed in all venues including the legendary Studio 54 in New York with their Off-Broadway Hit "DRAGAPELLA! Starring the Kinsey Sicks." From movies to recordings to television there isn’t much the Kinsey Sicks hasn’t done.

"The Kinsey Sicks will put a smile on your face and a song in your heart. These four musicians-actors-writers-composers-drag queens are wickedly gay, and man, can they sing! Completely a capella, their material is intelligent and scathingly funny. Their lyrical parodies of well known songs will have you rolling ... geniously hilarious ... excellent original tunes ... brilliant. With
their impeccable timing, precise harmonies, and cultural savvy, the Kinseys represent fabulous, satirical queer humor at its finest."

In Los Angeles Magazine

The Kinsey Sicks was accidentally discovered in 1993 while attending a Bette Midler concert in San Francisco. A group of friends got all dolled up as the Andrews Sisters with the assumption that they would be among many other drag queens. Upon arrival they quickly realized aside from Bette there they were the only queens in the place. After being approached to perform at an upcoming event, and realizing they all actually in fact had backgrounds in music, The Kinsey Sicks was formed.

The founders of the Kinsey Sicks have experience that passes well beyond the world of female impersonators. Ben Schatz, performing as Rachel, is a civil rights lawyer from Harvard University authored Clinton’s HIV policy and was creator of the first ever national AIDS legal project. He also served as a presidential advisor on HIV issues as well as the Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. Irwin Keller, performing as Winnie, another lawyer as well as linguist out of the University of Chicago authored the city’s gay rights ordinance passed in 1989 and was a director of the AIDS Legal Referral Panel of the San Francisco Bay Area. Their newly joined and talented members Jeff Manabat started performing with the group in 2004 as Trixie in 2004 and Spencer Brown joined in 2008 as Trampolina.

Equality Arizona is proud to announce the Kinsey Sicks are coming to Arizona. Friday, September 25th the residents of Phoenix, Arizona will be able to experience the amazing performances put on by the Kinsey Sicks at The Chandler Center for the Performing Arts! Click here for more information or to purchase tickets.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Equality Arizona and Human Rights Campaign applaud Mayor Bob Jackson and the City of Casa Grande for issuing a LGBT Supportive Proclamation

Casa Grande, AZ- Equality Arizona and Human Rights Campaign applaud Mayor Bob Jackson and the City of Casa Grande for issuing a Proclamation in support of National Coming Out Day October 11, 2009.

“We are proud to support the work of Equality Arizona’s Casa Grande Equality Team as they create a strong partnership with the City of Casa Grande,” said Barbara McCullough-Jones, Executive Director of Equality Arizona. “By developing meaningful relationships with elected officials in their home town, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people and allies from all walks are creating a safer Arizona for our community to live, work and visit.”

“We are thrilled that the City of Casa Grande, AZ is recognizing the importance of coming out. The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is stronger when we can safely be open and honest about our lives, and when we are supported by our elected officials and neighbors. We encourage members the Casa Grande LGBT community and their allies to celebrate this Declaration by talking to your family and friends about the importance of equality and fairness for our community,” said HRC president Joe Solmonese.

The Proclamation states, “educating our community about the diversity of our City is essential to overcoming stigma and discrimination; …we recognize the value of lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender people that live, work and play in our city as essential to sound economic growth”

“The City of Casa Grande realizes it is in the best interest of all of our citizens to celebrate the diversity of our city and is eager to continue working with the Casa Grande Equality Team. The first step of this partnership is this Proclamation in support of National Coming Out Day, and we look forward to a long partnership,” said Deputy City Manager Larry Rains.