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Mar 4, 2009
Sean Penn, who won Best Actor at this year's Academy Awards for his role in "Milk" a biopic on the life of gay politician Harvey Milk, is pushing to have a bill revived that would designate the 22nd of May Harvey Milk Day in California.

This comes after Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill last year claiming that, whilst Harvey Milk should be honored in San Francisco, where he became the first openly gay elected official to the area, his story did not have wide enough appeal to institute a state-wide celebration. It seems that Penn believes Harvey Milk's appeal might have broadened somewhat since the release of the Oscar winning film.

The History of the Harvey Milk Bill
State Senator Mark Leno first introduced the bill back in February of 2008. It was called AB 2567 and was to "encourage public schools and educational institutions to conduct suitable commemorative exercises on that date," in order to educate pupils about Milk's life, his historic rise to a place of power, and his tragic murder.

In the Assembly, the bill passed with a convincing 45-23 vote. The Senate then voted, and although closer, the bill for a Harvey Milk Day, AB 2567, passed with a vote of 23-13 through the Senate. It was then vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger on the 30th of September 2008.

There had been considerable vocal opposition from anti-gay groups and religious conservatives who were of the opinion that this bill was a way to push a "homosexual agenda" on children, given the man Harvey Milk was and his liberal attitudes to sex, gender identity and his derisive opinions of organized religion.   

At the time, Equality California, who had also sponsored the bill, released a statement showing their disappointment at the veto of AB 2576:

"Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's veto of this bill is a disappointment to thousands and thousands of Californians who regard Harvey Milk as a national hero. This is a sad reminder of the lack of understanding of both the LGBT community and of the impact of Harvey Milk. As one of the first openly gay leaders in this country, Milk inspired Americans in every corner of our nation to stand proud in the face of adversity, and he gave his life in the pursuit of equality. This fall, his story will be celebrated in movie theatres nationwide as a tribute to a legacy that extends far beyond California."
-EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors

The revival of the bill comes during an important week for California State and the gay rights movement as a whole as a legal challenge is launched against Proposition 8. Considering this, should Proposition 8 be overturned, the synergy of the two events might be an appropriate way to commemorate the life of civil rights beacon Harvey Milk. After all, mindful that an assassination attempt was possible, Harvey Milk said in a speech just days before his death, a speech that resonates powerfully now:

"If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door."
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Posted: Mar 4, 2009 6:00am
Mar 3, 2009
Is it written in the stars...?  Is this God's experiment...? – No, wait, that's an Elton John song. But if you logged-on for your daily dose of horoscopes last week on this lovely berg in the middle of the internet that we call Care2, you may have found such camp stars referenced in the new "gayscopes" and "lesbianscopes" that Care2 commissioned amongst a whole host of new categories including horoscopes aimed at moms, horoscopes for singles and even "scopes" for our feline nearest and dearest. What could be wrong with that?

But friction was afoot. There was fuming on the forums, grumblings in the groups, and displeasure in the d… the d… well, people weren't pleased, lets put it that way. Specifically gay and lesbian people. You see, they'd read the horoscopes and found the content objectionable. Why? Well, to understand that, I think I'll share my personal perspective.

Let's face it, as one man, I'm small. I'm limited. And I'm also based in old Blighty (that's England for anyone born after the 1940's who doesn't have a penchant for War Time drama or Wilfred Owen poetry), so hearing from the Care2 LGBT community was something I was keen on, and hence the reason why I joined quite a number of groups. And hear from them I did.

In "GLBT Rights Global" the users were very quick to respond. Neal S., a group host, first raised the issue of the horoscopes with me in a thread designed specifically to discuss issues that people might want featured in the Civil Rights blog.

"The horoscopes given are so patently stereotypical.  For example, an Aries friend [who] checked her 'gay' horoscope got this message for the day: 'Real problems will call for real solutions today. So tackle issues rather than dance around them. And you know how much you love to dance. So pray that Madonna's not playing when the boss asks what went wrong with a project. Shaking your groove thing in front of him won't be an appropriate answer.'

I'm pretty sure I can keep my gay butt in a chair when asked a question by my boss, whether or not Madonna's playing…
"

Maybe it's because I'm British. Maybe it's because I'm slow. Maybe it's a combination thereof, but at first, I didn't see the issue. I said as much:

"Neal, I take your point, but surely horoscopes are sweeping generalizations anyway, and their content can't be expected to step outside that realm?"


We conversed for a while, and I said that, whilst I thought the stereotypes were frustrating, I also was of the opinion that Care2 had been admirable in their attempts at trying to cater for everyone – and I actually still think that – and whilst I thought that generalizations are never helpful, this was something that was perhaps being blown out of proportion.

Neal S. then replied with something that made me stop. It showed me another perspective. He said:

"Steve,
I can agree with frustrating, but it is frustration multiplied when found on a site such as this, which highly values political-correctness. There are many members among the 10.5 million here who have a negative view of the GLBT community and what we stand for. Care2 cannot and should not change that. Neither should Care2 give these people reinforcement for how they think."


I had been quoting a case for context. That we not overlook that these horoscopes were for entertainment purposes, and as such should be expected to draw on generalizations. But the kinds of generalizations they draw on, that's the real issue, isn't it? What is it that we are allowing ourselves to be defined as? If we allow negative stereotypes into our entertainment, then what is the next step that we take?

This point was further emphasized by another member of the group, Scott L., also a host of GLBT Rights Global, who said:

"Yes, these horoscopes are meant to be light, trite and funny. This can be done without pandering to stereotypes. They can be done in a way that uplifts and provides a bit of hope. I personally do not find it amusing to remind the gay aries not to grind his a$$ against the boss in the office anymore than anyone would have found it acceptable to remind the african-american aries male to wipe the fried chicken grease from his fingers before shaking hands with his boss."

Now we have context. You may already be aware that, thanks to the very vocal community here, Care2 reviewed the horoscopes (which were bought form Astrology.com and not written in-house) and in due time took them down, having listened to the group's concerns. Some said that perhaps the team did not act fast enough, but I don't want to debate that, for fear of loosing the real point:

What deserves to be highlighted here, shining and beautiful as it is, is the way that the gay community and gay rights supporters on Care2 took this matter and became active about it. They did not sit back, did not simply let the issue go, but wrote petitions, letters, paragraphs and paragraphs in forums as to why this wasn't appropriate.

Maybe you, yourself, do not care about gay rights. Or, maybe you think that the gay horoscopes and the language that was used therein, was merely a storm-in-a-tea-cup issue. But what we can agree on, surely, is that at Care2, caring is really the thing that brings us together. Being passionate about causes, about this world, that's what makes this place different.

And that's why its important to fight even the smaller battles, because that gives energy and impetus to those being fought on bigger stages, like the battle for gay marriage and other civil liberties.

And that's what this showed me. So now it's time to hand this discussion over to you. What do you think? When do generalizations become harmful? When are stereotypes helpful, and when do they damage? Or do you think stereotypes are the least of our troubles? And finally…
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Posted: Mar 3, 2009 7:30am
Feb 28, 2009
Richard Gaywood. Millinda Gayheart. Tyson Gay. All these names and more will currently get you flagged by Xbox Live if they're found in your gamertag. Now the Consumerist reports of a self identifying lesbian player who, whilst playing an Xbox Live game, was hunted, had abuse hurled at her and then had her account suspended because she was open about her sexuality in her profile.

Homophobia and Virtual Hate Crimes
A gamer who identifies herself as Teresa, wrote in to the Consumerist online paper about her experiences of homophobia in Xbox Live games. She had this to say:

"I was harassed by several players, 'chased' to different maps/games to get away from their harassment. They followed me into the games and told all the other players to turn me in because they didn't want to see that crap or their kids to see that crap… as if Xbox live is really appropriate for kids anyways!"

To read her full account, please click here to go to the Consumerist article.


Teresa goes on to allege that she has suffered anti-gay slurs, such as people calling her a "fag", and that, although mindful of this, Xbox has done very little to remedy the situation. This is surprising since Xbox has always been very vocal as to its stringent policies against abuse and any kind of hate crime activity.

When questioned over their policy, specifically as to what their views were on expressing sexuality, Xbox were adamant that no expression of sexuality, be it heterosexual, homosexual or any shade in between, would be allowed. It did say, however, that if players wished to self identify whilst in the gaming world they were free to do so through the speech function of the game, and that this would not be prohibited. 

However, this is not the first instance of a problem with Xbox Live. AfterElton, the gay news and media site, also interviewed a gamer called xxxGayBoyxxx who was similarly ganged up on by groups of homophobic players whilst playing Halo 3. You can read an interview with him here.

Interestingly enough, readers may like to note that xxxGayBoyxxx points out that, one of those individuals who had previously antagonizing, threatening and insulting him, eventually became one of his best online friends after the two bonded over their game playing skills.

Perhaps, before Microsoft become too ban happy, they might want to consider the implications of this, and how, if two people could overcome their differences spontaneously, the online virtual world might be a favorable place in which to challenge people's preconceptions head-on, all be it with a guiding hand from the Microsoft team.

Microsoft's Reaction To The Homophobic Incident

Microsoft has refused to comment on individual cases, but Stephen Toulouse, chief of moderating at Xbox Live, seemed to recognize it was important for people to express that side of themselves when he said via his Twitter stream: "Expression of any sexual orientation (straight or gay or otherwise) is not allowed in gamertags. However we've heard from the user-base they want that capability, so I am examining how we can provide it in a way that wont get misused."

The actual text input method still allows gamers to use words like "gay" and "lesbian", as well as allowing other, more derogatory terms, however, it seems, Xbox – through creating a blanket ban system - is placing the blame firmly at the door of players who are self identifying as gay and holding them responsible for the treatment they are receiving from the Xbox Live community at large. This, surely, can't be permissible? This leaves me asking several questions.
 
Are we, in fact, entering an age where the virtual world is taking on a Don't Ask Don't Tell policy so as not to offend those sensitive to homosexuality?

Some have asked why such players feel the need to "broadcast" their sexuality in the games, but to counter that, why should they have to hide it either?

The defense that children might be playing seems, well, redundant, given the nature of such games as Halo 3, Resident Evil 4 and the Grand Theft Auto series, and, even if they are, how would being around players who identify as gay or lesbian really affect them? Let me be clear. If this is an online game for children, sexuality, of any kind, obviously has no place.

But if children are being allowed to enter virtual environments which have mixed age ranges, and still parents expect their children to not be exposed to an array of cultures, ways-of-life and, yes, sexuality, well, isn't that like telling your child to go outside, but only with their hands firmly clamped over their eyes?

So we await the team at Xbox Live's next move, but with increasing pressure and attention firmly on this issue, it seems they will have to act both decisively and fairly in a way that can facilitate all of its users.

But, at some point, something will have to give, and as usual it comes down to one basic tenet: let people express themselves fully and prepare for the friction as they rub one another up the wrong way, or don't let them express themselves at all, and prepare for the friction as they rebel against their chains.
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Posted: Feb 28, 2009 2:00am
Feb 26, 2009
Another week, another dismissal from the forces because of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy, with the latest victim being 18-year-old student Todd Belok, who brought his boyfriend to a college party and was "open" about his sexuality to his friends, two of which then informed on him.

You may remember that we previously reported on the case of Amy Brian, an Iraq war veteran and a woman who had served with the Kansas National Guard for nine years, that was discharged after one of her civilian colleagues reported seeing her kissing another woman in a Wal-Mart checkout line.

Now, another person has fallen victim to the DADT policy, but as we shall see below, there are wider reaching implications to the DADT that go beyond excluding openly gay people from the military.

The Case of Todd Belok
Belok, a student at George Washington University and openly gay, was mindful of DADT when he went into the Navy Reserve Officer's Training Corps (ROTC), but he didn't think that the two were completely incompatible and had hoped that he could keep that part of his life separate, after all, being gay does not, under Pentagon guidelines, bar you from service in the military. He drew lines between his private life and work in the ROTC, but unfortunately didn't recognize where those lines bled together.

The guidelines set out over DADT make it clear that a person can be dismissed for “homosexual conduct” whether it be a "homosexual act", a self identification as being gay or bisexual, or attempting to enter into a union with someone of the same gender.

Still, Todd Belok attended a party with his boyfriend in a Fraternity basement and openly introduced his partner to other partygoers as his "special friend". Two such partygoers, who were also part of the same ROTC program as Belok, saw Belok and his boyfriend kissing, and subsequently reported him to their superiors.

Belok was called in for a meeting with his commanding officer a few weeks later. They discussed the incident, and Belok was told there would be an enquiry. Time past, the verdict came in and Belok was informed that he could either decide to leave the Navy ROTC of his own accord or go in front of a Performance Review Board who would determine whether or not he should be dismissed. Contrary to legal advice, Belok chose the latter and was then formally dismissed from the Naval ROTC. 

Belok was certainly naïve in thinking that he would be immune to the DADT policy, but perhaps this is evidence, not of support for the policy, but rather its weakening hold, given the emergence of new information:

Todd Belok's Fellow Students Rally Round Him
The Washington City Paper reports that since the news of Belok's dismissal came to light early last month, there has been an outpouring of support from his peers at George Washington University. Conversely, the two members that "told" on Belok were subjected to several e-mails that verged on being abusive for what their classmates saw as a betrayal of not only a fellow recruit, but of group unity as a whole.

As The Washington City Paper points out though, the insidious nature of DADT policy means that it does not just affect gay service personnel, but also their fellow service members who must, when faced with situations like this, choose whether to tell on other recruits or risk a reprimand in future should the details of the event ever come to light.

In short, it seems that the increasing cases of DADT leading to the dismissal of perfectly good recruits – Belok was thought to be an exemplary candidate, as was the aforementioned officer Amy Brian - is serving to show that this policy has, since its conception under the Clinton administration, been a rotting, festering albatross around the military's neck.

And now, with increasing impetus, many look to the new Obama administration to repeal DADT, recognizing that, far from helping maintain cohesion in the military, it may be that all DADT has ever accomplished is turning away fine service men and women who just want to serve their country but can not for the simple fact that they are gay and are unable to hide it, what with eyes being everywhere, eyes that are forced into informing on one another no-less. Something which can hardly be good for troop unity, can it?

It occurs, however, that the reasoning behind DADT was sound, but not carried through far enough. Stay with me here.

Don't just ban gay and lesbian people from discussing their sexuality. Ban straight people as well. Make the military a "sexuality-free zone". No more talk about what the wife is up to at the weekend, or when you'll next get to see your husband, what the latest of your many lovers is up to, or how you're head-over-heels in love with your new beau.

No. Make it all, or make it nothing, and show that the DADT policy really was about protecting the military rather than reacting against outdated ideas on what it means to be gay or lesbian with a quick stop-gap measure as an alternative to a total repeal of the ban on homosexuals in the military.

But wait, America isn't in the habit of taking away people's rights, is it? That ban on straight sexuality could never happen. But then again, the Californian constitution was amended by a public vote to ban gay marriage, so perhaps, with similar precedent, anything is possible in today's polarising climate. 
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Posted: Feb 26, 2009 6:00am
Feb 25, 2009
“Structured Flexibility” were the buzz words of last week as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) concluded that it couldn’t collectively decide on whether to allow the ordination of gay clergy in same-sex relationships and so would let “individual congregations and synods decide” instead.

The ELCA’s Decision On Gay Ordination
The ELCA, which is the largest Lutheran denomination, made its findings public last Thursday (Feb. 22) when an appointed panel decided that, rather than coming up with a blanket decision, it would be more prudent to allow jurisdiction to fall to a local level. This will serve to preclude an official stance on the matter that the ELCA will make public once they have considered and “clarified” certain questions around the ordination of gay clergy subsequent to the August meeting.

Rev. Peter Strommen from the Prior Lake area, Minnesota, who was chairman of the task force for the ELCA, said of the decision, “At this point, there is no consensus in the church … the question ends up being, 'How are we going to live together in that absence of consensus?'”

It was stressed that, far from pushing for a liturgical stance on gay clergy members, the ELCA panel wished to promote a way for synods to feel they had discretion as to whether such a thing would be both right for their churches given present clergy views, and was appropriate given the particular stance on homosexuality within their congregation.

It should be noted that at present, some churches allow gay clergy members to serve on the provision that they remain celibate. This is up to the discression of synods and individual pastors.

The ELCA panel came up with a four-step plan, and it starts with same-sex partnership recognition.

"The task force agreed that this church cannot responsibly consider any changes to its policies unless this church is able and willing in some way to recognize lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships … most of the task force members believe that ways can be found within local congregations to surround the commitments of such couples with prayer," the ELCA task force report said.

Areas That Will Be Clarified During the August ELCA Meeting

The measure will go to a vote in a four-fold test. The first test will ask the church if it accepts same-gender unions. The wording was chosen with great care to avoid asking the question of whether they approve of, or condone same-sex unions, but rather if they believe that they can accept same-gender unions within the church sphere.

If the vote gives a “No” verdict, then all four steps to the measure will be thrown out and the ELCA will go back to the drawing board as to how to integrate the church around the issue of gay clergy without falling susceptible to the degradation suffered by the Anglican church over similar ordinations in England.

If the first vote gives a majority “Yes,” the next step is to ask if the members support allowing those clergy in monogamous same-sex unions to work in churches that allow them to serve. Again, the measure stops short of enforcing that right, and instead allows general discretion of the synod and even the individual church to prevail.

The third area, which has been criticized perhaps most vehemently as undermining the rest of the plan, is an acceptance of the right for churches to refuse gay ordination. Many believe this will lead to the very thing that the ELCA is looking to avoid, that being a schism between factions of the church over the gay clergy issue by giving too much autonomy to individual parishes, as occurred in England and has led some to predict that a break-away from the Church of England is close at hand.

The fourth step builds on the previous three, asking for a formal change in policy within the church to allow homosexual clergy members to serve.

All of these measures are subject to review by bishops and then by church councils before even reaching the official meeting in August. If they are unanimously against it, the proposed policy change will never see the light of day.

Reactions to the ELCA’s Decision on Gay Ordinations
Especially vocal in their opposition to the measure were members of the Leaders of Lutheran Core, a group that professes to make every attempt at preserving “the authority of the Bible in the ECLA,” and who vowed to defeat the measure in the coming ECLA Minneapolis summer convention. They believe this is deviating from the law of the Bible and its stance on homosexuality, and as such should not be allowed.

The Lutheran Core have also raised what others have called “valid” concerns of the larger ripple affect that the Evangelical Lutheran Church’s decision to allow LGBT people in civil partnerships might create. There are concerns that it might be seen as legitimizing civil partnerships in a secular context.

In turn, this could give credence to any legal cases against churches on the grounds of discrimination based on sexual orientation, given that the ELCA would be seen as, if not endorsing gay committed relationships, then, at the very least, allowing them to be part of church life.

It has also left some conservative religious groups asking if this is not just one step away from allowing gay marriage, something which the ELCA has been clear to deny.

Others have, however, praised this report, saying that it offers definitions and standards as to what kind of relationship that those looking at gay ordinations will have to measure by, as well as allaying fears that gay ordinations would be forced through liturgical compulsion.

Background to the Gay Ordination Debate
2007 was the stand-out year for gay ordinations making the headlines when Bradley Schmeling, a pastor in Atlanta, was removed from his position as part of the clergy when he revealed that he was involved in a committed relationship with another man.

Debate raged over Schmeling’s removal from the clergy roster, but, in the end, the ELCA meeting of that year urged its bishops not to discipline any clergy found to be in monogamous same-gender relationships. Pressure has been building ever since for a decision either way as to gay clergy, but it seems that, yet again, the ELCA is reluctant to commit to any change without first testing the waters.
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Posted: Feb 25, 2009 4:00am

 

 
 
Content and comments expressed here are the opinions of Care2 users and not necessarily that of Care2.com or its affiliates.

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Steve Busfield
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Feb
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\\nIn a meeting of the EU General Affairs Council nineteen states opposed the approval of  GM Maize Pioneer 1507, developed jointly by DuPont and Dow Chemica l, while five supported it and four abstained from any view, EU officials s...
Feb
11
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\r\nHow to spread the news\r\n02/11/14\r\n\r\nT his is really awfull, i did write many hosst announcements, but they dissapeared, luckely
Feb
1
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Message to the President, and to the Congress:It\\\'s very simple. We can aim for a UNIVERSAL Standard of $15 an hour Minimum Wage for ALL - that would be {frugally} a living wage these days. One should not have to be employed, and on government assista...
Jan
26
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\\nThis is my Message that I send every week or so, to the President, my Representative, and my two Senators. {And in this instance, to the Vice President also.} \\r\\nThe Majority of the people of this country, approve that the President {and Vice Presi...
Jan
21
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\\n\\r\\n\\r\\n\\r\\nEuro pe’s depressed carbon markets are to be given an automatic ‘market reserve’ facility allowing at least 100 million carbon allowances – or 12% of the market – to be withheld or released to buoy prices, ac...
Jan
18
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I feel Care2 members should KNOW about the \\\"work from home\\\" ads, RECRUITING \\\"MULES\\\" TO CARRY OUT ILLEGAL ACTIVITIES. Just like the Drug Cartels do... A person who was recruited unwittingly by one of these ads, was given in a seattleweekly.com arti...
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\\nEvery week or every other week, I send a Message to the President and to my Representative and Senators. This is the text of my latest:\\r\\nI have just sent the following message to President Obama; and I believe all Congresspersons need to hear it a...
Jan
12
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I shared 3 times the smae story with different types, so one of them would show up in my group Greenforever, but NOOOO, nothing is there, strangely enoough old shares come up, i am sure i shared much more the last months but in hostshares it ends 6 mo...
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\\nIf car sales were an Olympic sport, then China would take the gold medal.\\r\\nAccording to recent data from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, the country sold more than 20 million new cars domestically in 2013, a global sales record ...
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\\nThe satellite image below was taken on December 7, 2013 and shows smog stretching about 750 miles from Beijing to Shanghai. Clouds or fog are white in the image, while pollution appears as gray swirls, NASA explained.\\r\\nIf car sales were an Olympic...