Friday, September 18, 2009

Call for a Pro-LGBT Picket of the White House



I reported in my September 9th post that I will be going to Washington DC with other members of Chicago's Gay Liberation Network (GLN) to participate in the October 11th National Equality March.

But we will also picket the White House during the prior evening!

Why does GLN want to picket the White House?
Here is our statement:

6 PM, Saturday, Oct. 10th
Lafayette Square (on H Street just north of the White House)
Many of us watched in disgust this past January as the homophobic Reverend Rick Warren was given an honored place at the inaugural festivities. It was as if a leader of the White Citizens Council had been invited to the White House.
After indignant complaints to the incoming administration about this homophobic slap in the face, what was our consolation prize? Openly gay Episcopalian Bishop Gene Robinson was invited to speak at a lesser inaugural event, as if "balancing" a bigot with a non-bigot was good enough. Then, for good measure – at the behest of the White House – Robinson wasn't televised (see http://www.gayliberation.net/opinion/2009/0122chicagod.html).
 This homophobic behavior by the Obama White House has been repeated several times before and since:
 ** During the South Carolina primary, when his campaign featured rabidly anti-gay Gospel performer Donnie McClurkin at a major rally;
 ** With the quiet dropping of most pro-gay promises from the Obama website earlier this year – until a firestorm of protest forced them to return much of it;
** With the failure to rescind President Clinton's ban on HIV+ people traveling to the United States, and his ban on granting green cards and citizenship to HIV+ immigrants;
 ** With the unnecessary administration brief in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), with language worthy of the most vicious anti-gay bigot, making a mockery of his promise to repeal DOMA;
 ** With the statements by Obama that his "Christian beliefs" make him oppose equal marriage rights, as if the former Constitutional law scholar from the University of Chicago doesn't know anything about separation of church and state. Obama's homophobic statements were of course gleefully quoted to great effect by pro-Prop 8 forces in California;
 ** With the failure to blunt "Don't Ask Don't Tell" (DADT) by issuing a stop-loss order. Instead, he authorized surrogates to endlessly delay the junking of DADT, thereby breaking his promise to repeal it;
** While an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act has been reintroduced into Congress, President Obama has expended virtually no political capital in getting it or any other pro-gay measure passed.
 The organizers of the Sunday, October 11th March on Washington have placed almost their entire focus on Congress (which will be out of town) and almost none on the President. Indeed, rather than making demands of the President, the official march website goes out of its way to praise "Obama's Mobile Messaging Team (for) Donating Services To The National Equality March"!
By targeting congressional districts and lobbying Congress in an effort to win legal equality, the organizers' strategy looks suspiciously like a drive to elect and re-elect Democrats in the 2010 bi-elections, rather than make uncompromising demands on this President and his Congress.
Their current focus on cajoling Congress and the President to do the right thing ignores a very basic fact – this approach has never won civil rights gains. While LGBT activists fawned over the last Democratic President, Bill Clinton repaid our love by giving us much of the crap bullet-pointed above. Like today, many of those anti-gay measures came while the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress plus the Presidency.
By contrast, uncompromising street protests led by ACT-UP and others gave us the Ryan White AIDS Care and the Americans With Disabilities Acts – despite a very reactionary political climate during the first Bush administration. An era of such protests – the 1960s – caused the radical change in consciousness among LGBT people which thereby gave birth to our modern LGBT movement.
The last thing we need today is to parrot "yes we can" chants, like we are cheerleading this president and his party. Instead, we must take as our maxim the quote from the great anti-slavery organizer Frederick Douglass: "Power concedes nothing without a demand. Never has, never will."
Therefore on October 10th we will be picketing the White House to demand that the most powerful politician in the world implement the many reforms that the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans community needs. Please join us.
6 PM -- Saturday, October 10th
Lafayette Square (on H Street on the north side of the White House)
We also will be marching in the Sunday, October 11th march. We invite you to join us – just look for the big yellow banner that reads "President Obama – Keep Your #$^! Promises! Repeal DOMA, DADT"
For more information or to endorse this statement, please email the Gay Liberation Network in Chicago (LGBTliberation@aol.com) or Queer Liberaction in Dallas (LGBTliberaction@gmail.com).




Friday, September 11, 2009

British Prime Minister Issues Posthumous Apology To Alan Turing

Alan Turing pioneered computer science, broke the Nazi Enigma code and changed the course of world history.  But he was also gay.  He was prosecuted for being gay, chemically castrated to “cure” his homosexuality, and took his own life at only 41.

As stated in my August 17th post, there is a campaign in the United Kingdom to recognize Alan Turing as a genius and a hero and to apologize for the horrific discrimination he endured as a British citizen because he was gay.  This petition has been signed by many thousands of British citizens.  Now as the list of petitioners continues to grow, the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has issued a posthumous apology to Alan Turing.  Below is the text of this apology.

2009 has been a year of deep reflection – a chance for Britain, as a nation, to commemorate the profound debts we owe to those who came before. A unique combination of anniversaries and events have stirred in us that sense of pride and gratitude which characterise the British experience. Earlier this year I stood with Presidents Sarkozy and Obama to honour the service and the sacrifice of the heroes who stormed the beaches of Normandy 65 years ago. And just last week, we marked the 70 years which have passed since the British government declared its willingness to take up arms against Fascism and declared the outbreak of World War Two. So I am both pleased and proud that, thanks to a coalition of computer scientists, historians and LGBT activists, we have this year a chance to mark and celebrate another contribution to Britain’s fight against the darkness of dictatorship; that of code-breaker Alan Turing.
Turing was a quite brilliant mathematician, most famous for his work on breaking the German Enigma codes. It is no exaggeration to say that, without his outstanding contribution, the history of World War Two could well have been very different. He truly was one of those individuals we can point to whose unique contribution helped to turn the tide of war. The debt of gratitude he is owed makes it all the more horrifying, therefore, that he was treated so inhumanely. In 1952, he was convicted of ‘gross indecency’ – in effect, tried for being gay. His sentence – and he was faced with the miserable choice of this or prison - was chemical castration by a series of injections of female hormones. He took his own life just two years later.
Thousands of people have come together to demand justice for Alan Turing and recognition of the appalling way he was treated. While Turing was dealt with under the law of the time and we can't put the clock back, his treatment was of course utterly unfair and I am pleased to have the chance to say how deeply sorry I and we all are for what happened to him. Alan and the many thousands of other gay men who were convicted as he was convicted under homophobic laws were treated terribly. Over the years millions more lived in fear of conviction.
I am proud that those days are gone and that in the last 12 years this government has done so much to make life fairer and more equal for our LGBT community. This recognition of Alan’s status as one of Britain’s most famous victims of homophobia is another step towards equality and long overdue.
But even more than that, Alan deserves recognition for his contribution to humankind. For those of us born after 1945, into a Europe which is united, democratic and at peace, it is hard to imagine that our continent was once the theatre of mankind’s darkest hour. It is difficult to believe that in living memory, people could become so consumed by hate – by anti-Semitism, by homophobia, by xenophobia and other murderous prejudices – that the gas chambers and crematoria became a piece of the European landscape as surely as the galleries and universities and concert halls which had marked out the European civilisation for hundreds of years. It is thanks to men and women who were totally committed to fighting fascism, people like Alan Turing, that the horrors of the Holocaust and of total war are part of Europe’s history and not Europe’s present.
So on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan’s work I am very proud to say: we’re sorry, you deserved so much better.
Gordon Brown

See The Alan Turing Home Page for a wealth of information about this great genius and Geoffrey Wansell's article for a good synopsis of this unsung World War II hero's life story .

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The GLBT March On Washington for Equality Across America


     I'm so excited because I will be taking part in the historic GLBT Equal Rights March on Washington this October.  I will be taking a van to Washington with other members of Chicago's Gay Liberation Network.  In fact, GLN will be teaming up with another group to picket the White House on the Saturday evening before the big march.  That's right!  It would be awful to be in Washington DC and not picket the White House, wouldn't it?