Tag Archives: Discrimination

Controversy Alert: I Think We Went Too Far Again With 2 Gay Hoteliers

I’m not going to win any popularity points here, but I think our LGBT Community has gone over the edge a bit in boycotting the two gay men from NYC, who hosted Bigoted Senator Ted Cruz, in their NYC apartment.  There are valid points on each side, and being as such, boycotting men who have also given so much to our Community, seems extremely short-sided.  Senator Cruz is by no means a friend to our LGBT causes, but there are a few ideological points that everyone can have in common.  From what I’ve read, stances on Israel was the link that brought these people together.

Important factors to me on the event, includes that it was NOT a fundraiser to help the Senator in his quest for being President; and There WAS some discussion on LGBT issues, including Cruz’s steadfastness in opposition to gay marriage, however saying that if his daughter was gay, he would love her no different or less.  Do I wish that the event didn’t happen?  Yes AND No!

If I had the money and influence to be able to meet with a powerful Senator in Congress, (regardless of your thoughts on the man’s positions, you have to admit he does hold sway over a certain segment of the legislature), I would welcome the chance to talk to him in my home to try to persuade him to my point of few, and offer examples of how wrong his thinking is on the issues we don’t agree with.  I’m not saying the two men did that, but they had that ability to do it.  We should be engaging those that are actively trying to quash our best interests, but let’s do it face to face and not just by not spending our money on them, we both lose that way.

So creating a discussion is one thing, actively raising money for someone who has clearly stated views against items that are important to us is just wrong, no matter how many other ideas you can agree with, if the one sticking point makes you or your Community less than anyone or anything, you should not support that with your money.  It was made clear by the New York Times, that this was not a fundraiser.

From what I have read and heard, these two gay men have been steadfast in giving back to the LGBT Community in and around NY.  I know for a fact that he has donated space for free to hold major fundraisers at locations they own.  Now because of simply meeting with the Senator, we are asking our Community to stop spending money at their establishments, where they have used that money for so many worthy causes for us?  This does not make sense logically or in my heart of hearts.

Can we not just sit down with these two reasonable men and air our grievances with what they have done.  Educate them on the optics and our concerns, just as I would hope they were doing to Senator Cruz on our LGBT issues.  Ask for another donation to HRC or some worthwhile charity as a token of their understanding about our Communities concerns.  There are a lot of thoughtful ways we could have handled this situation and we failed to do so.

I hope you will comment on this with your ideas as well.  Agree with me, or disagree, but please take the time to give me your opposite points of view, I would greatly appreciate reading what I may be missing in this conversation….Scott

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When Our Quest For Gay Rights Goes Too Far!

Has our LGBT Rights Movement, “Jumped The Shark?”  I am old enough to remember the days of ACT UP and other LGBT organizations that were just fed up with government and people simply ignoring our Community, or actively working against it.  The idea was just to be so loud and in your face, that the public would have to at least notice and acknowledge our existence, and it was a strong tool in rallying, but also brought a lot of ammunition to those working against us.  The “Indiana Pizza Incident,” is an example of right thinking gone wrong.

If you aren’t familiar, as the Indiana legislature and Governor Mike Pence put through their Religious Freedom Bill, our LGBT Community and one of the biggest outpouring of Allies that I can remember, immediately called the Bill what it is, a bigoted response to the current same-sex marriage wave, allowing individually owned businesses to discriminate against us gays.  A small town Indiana pizza shop co-owner, along with her co-owner father, was interviewed by a local television station and said they were in support of the Bill.  They said that although they have no problem serving our Community in their restaurant, they would be unwilling to cater a same-sex wedding under the new law, as it goes against their Christian beliefs.  Adding more naive insult to the injury, they made it clear they thought that being gay was a choice, just as they thought being a heterosexual is.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way, most gays are not going to cater their wedding with pizza and beer.  (Not saying that’s a bad idea when you’ve lived together as any couple for quite a few years, and just want to have a party with your friends to celebrate gettin’ hitched, lol).  Also obvious to us, is that being LGBT is not a choice, just how we were born.  However, we had a good chance to use this as an example of what the Bill is really about.  A way to showcase that you wouldn’t ask if a couple was divorced, have a child out of wedlock, or any other of the sins of the Bible that Christians routinely don’t care as much about.  It is discrimination, pure and simple, but instead of illuminating it for what it is, we blew it.  Big Time!!

Backlash against the store owners started immediately.  Their YELP customer comments were deluged with many bad reviews, but it didn’t stop there.  Some of the Internet comments started to get just plain nasty.  There were threats to burn their business down, and even more brutal threats.  Their phone was blowing up off the hook with nasty comments.  Our LGBT Community and allies went from taking the high road and using these store owners as an example of how bad the Bill is, to instead, bringing national attention to how low we will go if you don’t support us.

The owners decided to close the pizza shop after all of the attention.  Is that really the victory we wanted?Did we want some naive at best, ignorant at worse, small town business owners to lose their lively hood for not catering pizza at our weddings?  Soon, religious Conservatives rallied to the pizza owners defense.  They began a GoFundMe Internet fundraising campaign to help the owners out as their doors are closed.  At last glance, and in less that two days, the owners are now sitting on a treasure chest of over $500,000 dollars that has been donated to them, and they plan on re-opening the shop in a few days.

Our LGBT Community and allies, by taking the low road of intimidation and threats, have made this stand against our rights, an example and rallying point for those trying to pass similar Religious Freedom Bills across the country.  Worse yet, the pizza shop owners are calling all of this money a certain blessing from God, for standing for their religious beliefs, and are creating a case for all Christians of the same belief to think that if they dig their heels in and spout ignorance, they will be rewarded as well.  I don’t think that is the outcome we were hoping for in making them a bad example.  They have turned it around completely.

I think this battle in Indiana and following in Arkansas and others, was starting to tip the war in our favor as an LGBT Community.  We have business leaders, allies, and individuals who stood up and noticed that this so-called Religious Freedom Bill, was just a smokescreen to promote bigotry and discrimination.  But as we charged forth, we lost another battle and might have taken us a step backward in the fray.

We should never remain silent in our call to demanding full equality for our Community.  We should never let anyone try to relegate us as second class.  However, in order to win the war, we must keep these battles at least civil.  Personal threats and physical force will make us as bad as those we are fighting against, and not do us any favors in the meantime.  Be Vocal, but offer the same respect we are trying to achieve.

My Idea for the LGBT Response to Indiana, (and any other state’s), Religious Freedom Bill

Fair warning dear readers, this post will be a little tongue in cheek, but then again…….maybe not.  Regular readers know from my last two posts that I really don’t find boycotts effective, and I have been slowly converted into Agnostic/Atheism by the Conservative Christians.  However, with the recent passage of the so-called “Religious Freedom Law,” in my neighboring state, Indiana, I have come to a revelation.  It’s time for the  LGBT Community to create our own religion.

For the ten people on holiday in the wilds of Alaska who might not know, the “Religious Freedom Bill,” was drafted by the Republican majority Statehouse in Indiana, as a version of the Federal law of the same name but with much different intentions.  It basically allows public business owners to refuse service to anyone, based on their religious beliefs.  Republican Governor Mike Pence, who has been a potential Presidential candidate, signed the bill into law last week, saying at the time of signing, that the bill in no way allows discrimination.  Of course it does, and by the Governor’s appearance on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, he flat out refused to answer the question that it does not discriminate against the LGBT Community, and even added that he would never make the Community a protected class, exempted from such legislation as many other States have done.

Commendably, many national businesses and celebrities have come out against the law, with some even boycotting expansion or holding events in the Hoosier State.  Angie’s List, Sales Force, GenCon, Yelp, the NCAA, Audra McDonald, Ashton Kutcher, Charles Barkley, and more have voiced their disappointment in the new law.  As much as the law was intended to discriminate against the LGBT Community amid all the growing support for same-sex marriage and equal rights, the law lets anyone discriminate based on any religious beliefs.  So realistically, a Muslim shop owner can refuse service to a woman, because they refuse to wear a burka or some type of head covering.

Now back to forming our own LGBT Community religion.  I looked it up.  It doesn’t really take much to become ordained and to start your own ministry.  An online blessing and certification, along with a quick charter and tax paperwork filed and viola!, you are an official religion that has all the same rights and grievances afforded everyone else in Indiana’s new law.

Let’s start with a name and a Diety to worship.  Personally, I think we should call the religion, “Disciples of Star Fleet,” and worship to our God, Takei.  He will be a benevolent God, teaching in the ways of acceptance and non-discrimination.  I think we should take the shooting star logo from, NBC’s, “The More You Know,” campaign, layering it above the Starfleet symbol.  With the simple prime directive, ummm, I mean religious purpose statement of, “Accepting everyone from all the colors of the rainbow,” we will have just cause to not serve anyone who does not believe as we do.

Not to stereotype, (okay, just a little), what if our first “recruitment” drive to our religion was aimed at all the hair stylists of Indiana.  Most good hair stylists I know are either in our Community, or are strong allies of it.  Could you imagine what would happen if the, “bless your heart, little old blue haired ladies,” could not get their regular weekly or monthly stylings, and could be refused service without promising to accept the LGBT Community?  Heck, just the 15 Republican women in the Indiana State Legislature alone, (thank you google), would never vote for another discrimination bill.

What if just ten percent of the star forwards of all of Indiana’s high school, college, and professional basketball teams came out as gay and refused to play against the religious private schools, on our their religious grounds?  (Basketball is big in Indiana.  Didn’t you see the movie, “Hoosiers,” with Gene Hackman?  Shame on you!)  Or what if one of our stars of stage, screen, or behind the cameras, like Ryan Murphy, Jeremy Jordan, Mike Epps, Vivica A. Fox, and Brendan Frasier, decided you could not see their movie, play or television show because you support LGBT discrimination?

What if our religion really took one of the Bible verses to heart and agreed that the most important commandment is to, “Love one another as I so love you,” with the caveat that it’s only if you aren’t straight.  Wouldn’t that be a kick in the head to the Christian Right?  So in all silliness/seriousness, who wants to become ordained with me in the Disciples of Star Fleet?  Let’s go out and spread the good word in Indiana, and maybe in Arizona and Georgia soon, that our LGBT Community has a religion as well, and some of you all that discriminate against us, may find the shoe on the other foot sometime soon.

Purporting to run a business for the general public should mean the ENTIRE public.  There should not be a law that allows discrimination based on your religious beliefs to just one segment of the population.  It has been tried before with women, black people, Irish people and more, but it just doesn’t stand up.  Not only is it not good for business, it’s not good for your so-called spiritual health.  As I kneel down, all I am asking is that the great and mighty Takei, look down upon our people, and share his enlightened wisdom.

How Christianity Converted Me To Be An Athiest (A Religious Freedom Parable)

I want to believe in a God.  I was baptized in the Episcopal Church at a young age, but my parents stopped going around my 4th birthday.  No reason really, just life and a baby brother on the way, and they have never returned still to this day.  In Junior and Senior High School, I loved reading about Greek and Roman mythology; their Gods of love and war, the sea and earth.  But something else happened around those same school-age years, I realized I was gay.  The how’s and the why’s of this revelation is really not important, I knew it was something ingrained in me, as i could not push these thoughts and feelings aside, and from what little remained of my brief religious teachings, God made me perfect, and in his image, so I was good to go, Right?  I was still afraid to admit it to anyone, but I only had the regular fears of family and friends not accepting me, since this was clearly not the norm I was surrounded with.  I didn’t even think about religious judgement.

Around my 15th birthday, after many years of selling butter toffee peanuts for a free ride to YMCA summer camps, I was able to become a camp counselor.  (Realizing you are gay and spending summers in a cabin full of boys, is a story for a different day).  If you only thought the Y was a big gym and daycare center, it actually stands for Young Men’s Christian Association.  At summer camp, the Y served what I will call, “Christianity Light.”  Every morning we would have “chapel,” that usually consisted of a few ‘Kum-By-Ya type songs, and a parable story about something like kindness, appreciation, and the like. There was also a “Rag” program, that was a voluntary experience about being a better person, and a little closer to God.

I liked the idea of being a better person and really took to the Rag program.  Because of these summer camps, I decided to see what going to church was all about and went with a couple of friends from camp to one of the local Baptist churches.  There was a band, and singing, and Sunday School, usually refreshments, and occasionally a little basketball or volleyball, so it was not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  It took almost 7 months of attending before I really got the opinion of the Church on homosexuality.  I guess I was naive enough, that I didn’t understand til then, that the reason family and friends didn’t accept gay people was because of religion.  I honestly can’t remember what I thought during that time before realizing this.  It was clear to me, that I was not cut out for a weekly church experience.

Although attending church wasn’t a good idea, I still felt the pull to be a better person, and liked the idea that there was a God or something, that has good intentions for us all.  I became the all-encompassing “Spiritual,” in my mind after I stopped going to church.  Let them believe in their God of wrath and persecution, my God wanted more for us, and was much more nurturing, than menacing.  This belief served me well.  I would try to be the best person I could be, still failing at things big and small like we all do, but there was still a grand-design for me to come out on top.

My “Spirituality,” was tested constantly, when I would have to hear stories about Jimmy Falwell, Pat Robertson, Ted Haggard, and of course Fred Phelps, et. al., and all of their fear and hate-based, anti-gay words and actions.  Maybe there was just good and bad people in the world, no matter what their religion or non-religion.  And there is no, “higher-power” who could really give a damn.  Maybe these Agnostics or Atheists, have a point.  I have long thought that the Bible is just a book, but it was becoming more and more propaganda to me, than just a good read.

I can no longer think of being a “Good Christian,” as a good thing.  Between the political religious right and the pastors, they have converted me.  I am now Agnostic at best, Atheist at worse.  And now I don’t consider either of those things bad.  I can not and will not idly sit by, while people speaking in the name of this religion promotes separation and hate.  The Bible cherry picking and total opposite of ‘love thy neighbor as thyself,’ has become the highest form of hypocrisy.  How can you speak out of one side of your mouth that we are all sinners, and from the other side, say that we must denounce homosexuality more than any other sin.  If all of us are sinners, and all sins are equal, why aren’t there more protests at other “Biblical Abominations,” like at farms growing two separate crops side by side; a clothing manufacturer mixing two fabrics, or protesting the lying lips of almost everyone in Congress?

My point of this entire blog is that we have come so far, that the “Good Christians” of Indiana, in their ivory towers of their House and Senate, have decided to enact a law that frees businesses and entities from serving the public, to those who they feel are opposed to their religious beliefs.  Everyone knows that this is truly a thinly veiled law, aiming to allow people to discriminate against mostly gay people.  Mike Pence, the Governor of Indiana, is said to be, “looking forward to signing the bill.”  I cannot in good faith, call myself a Christian if I supported such a bill.  As a business owner, I have decided to open a shop to serve the public, not just some of the public, but all of it, otherwise, I should not become a business owner.  It’s a truly sad day when a religion converts you to stop believing in God.

Are Boycotts as Out of Style as Dolce & Gabbana

So I am coming a few days late to the party of commenting on the Dolce & Gabbana boycott, called out to we gays and our supporters by Sir Elton John and others.  I would hope that we as people, both lgbt and straight folks, can agree that the out and gay designers, put their foots-in-their-mouths with such offensive and stupid statements.  (Use your inside voices boys, don’t spew hate to a wide-audience interview).  Do they have the right to their opinions?  Sure!  Should all personal opinions be given to the world at large?  Definitely Not!  I think we do have to understand that these men are true Italians in a country that has not been very forward-thinking in lgbt rights and equality, and also a country that has a plurality of Catholics, (c’mon, the Pope-Mobile is parked in Italy), where these issues and right-to-life, are the daily group-thought.

My point in addressing this issue however, is not what they said, or the amount of stupidity that I thought they spewed, but is a boycott really the best we can do?  The first lgbt boycott I can remember, was against the Coors brewing company, primarily for their anti-gay hiring practices.  I guess you can call it successful, as it did bring attention to the issue, and I remember it, but was it successful in changing the practice?  Eventually the practice was changed, but was it due to the boycott that was enacted in 1973?  If yes, that’s a long negotiation, because the boycott wasn’t called off until twenty two years later in 1975.Since then, our lgbt Community as called for other boycotts, including: the Heinz Company, the Salvation Army, Target, Best Buy, Chic-fil-A, and Stoli vodka.  To my knowledge, all these companies are still going, have not really changed the issues that we were boycotting against, and I can tell you that personally, without my trusty Internet, mostly been forgotten.

In today’s day and age, is a boycott really worth our time?  I am not saying there are not acts, both in words and deeds, that should not be rallied against in protection or defense of our Community, but with the technology we have available, and the communication that is available, I think we need to re-think our definition of boycott.  Maybe it is my definition of boycott that is archaic, but doesn’t it still mean primarily to stop using your dollars to support the company or person?  Most boycotts that I am familiar with, start with some great press, but after the initial round of press, you never hear anything about it.

I want to support our Community, but a boycott for me and many like me, are just not an option.  I don’t drink beer, I like my fries with Ketchup dammit, and if I could afford Dolce & Gabbana, I would not still be living in Northeast Ohio.  I can participate in physical and virtual protest that isn’t a solitary purchasing boycott, and I could keep at it until we seem some actual hard line results.  I could create a video-a-week about two men kissing or together in a Heinz ad, and send it to their headquarters every day until I saw them show diversity in one of their ads.  I can write letters to the editor and blogs weekly about a candidate who I completely disagree with their politics, that has been supported by some company’s money.  I don’t want to have to sneak into Target to get my next discounted coffee maker.  Look at Elton John, who days after calling for the D & G boycott, had the misfortune of carrying a make-shift man purse, out of an older D & G bag from a prior purchase, just days after calling for the boycott. (See, social media can be a real b*tch).

Our lgbt Community is online like almost no other, and we have a large range of options we can use to put pressure on companies or persons who spread homophobia, hate, or sometimes, just plain ignorance.  Let’s coordinate email campaigns, micro-protests at storefronts when possible, social media posts and videos that can be shared, and shared again.  I am not trying to oppose the “idea” of a boycott, just maybe the execution of one.  How can we come together as a Community and make it successful, and sustaining until we get the change we are looking for, or the acknowledgement of our complaint.  Anyway, that are my thoughts on boycotts, I would love to know how others feel and what alternatives you have found that are working, or what didn’t work.

Watching Discrimination Live in Real Time

First off, it has been quite a while since I have written on my blog.  Sorry, and Not Sorry!  Lot’s of things in life get in the way, and I know I cannot call myself a true writer yet, not until all I can think about doing from the time I wake up, until the time I fall asleep, is wanting to carve out a little time for writing.  Obviously I am not there yet, although I am writing about and commenting on daily, things I see and find, on my social media streams.  Last night, I watched some live streaming on the Internet, that compelled me to write again, and for that, I am thankful.

Charlotte, North Carolina’s City Council last night decided once again, to allow discrimination to exist in my LGBT Community, and it was all captured through the magic of the Internet.  An ordinance was debated and voted on, to include protections to the LGBT Community, that are already available by statute, to most of Charlotte’s citizens.  If passed, Charlotte would have become the first city in North Carolina to pass LGBT-inclusive public accommodations and other protections. That would have meant that LGBT people could not be denied service in businesses open to the public, like restaurants, hotels, bars or movie theaters.  Other ordinances proposed for amending — adding marital status, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression — included commercial contracting, passenger vehicles for hire and regulations for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations Committee.

To the City Council’s credit, the town hall debate, and subsequent vote, were all streamed on the Internet, Live, although that may happen for all City Council meetings, I do not know.  Almost 120 speakers signed-up, and took turns addressing the Council on their opinions of the ordinance.  It was definitely an example of Democracy in action, and I do applaud the crowd for remaining civil and courteous for the most part, and Council seemed attentive and had an overall control of the room.  The citizenry’s comments lasted from approximately 6pm to 10pm, before the hour or so it took the City Council to vote on the ordinance shortly after 11pm.

To my disappointment, most of those who signed up to talk were against the ordinance, and to no surprise, most were Christian Conservatives.  Also disappointing, was the amount of speakers that did not live or own businesses in Charlotte.  I do not believe that they deserved to speak, since they had no real standing in the matter.  There was the usual religious nonsense and homophobia, but the argument most of them were making, was against the ‘Public Accommodation,’ clause and how they were in fear for their daughters of a man being in the restroom with them.  Some going so far as to say that this would cause sexual predators to start dressing up as women, to gain access to them in public restrooms.  While I cannot say that would never happen, I feel it would happen less than the ridicule that would be meted out for a transgender woman to have to walk into a men’s room to go to the bathroom.

It was a surreal feeling, watching so many people speak out against my rights as on openly gay man, who may also be fired, denied housing, and other discriminatory practices that are also legal here in my state of Ohio.  You often hear of discrimination, but it is different to watch it from face after face, out in the open, not ashamed or afraid to deny a group of people their rights.  I have seen “group-speak,” in the form of protesters, speaking out against our LGBT Community, at a rally or pride festival, but rarely have I seen individuals, one after the other, 70 or 80, speak hatred or inequality in a single setting.  It is off-putting, especially when watching from far away, alone in your living room.

There were a good number of people who did speak up for the ordinance, although they were outnumbered. Voices rose from Allies, Activists, Transgendered, and Religious backgrounds, to speak on why the ordinance should be passed.  There were personal stories of hate and discrimination, and soul affirming support from staunch allies.  I believe these courageous people went in with the wind at their backs, depending on the tide of equality that is slowly rising over our country, would help carry this important piece of legislation. Unfortunately, as my friends and I have been discussing recently, equality and acceptance are two worlds still far apart in most of the United States.

After the speakers had their turn, it was time for the Council to vote. An amendment was immediately brought forth and seconded, to strip the controversial public accommodation in regards to bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, and changing rooms, from the ordinance.  The debate that followed showed the split the Council had been working with on this ordinance, with two saying it should be all-inclusive or nothing, and two saying that in order to govern and get “some” progress in the city, they would reluctantly vote for the amendment, and a few steadfast detractors of the entire ordinance.  Six of Eleven Council Members must vote yes, to pass any ordinance.  After the debate, the amendment was accepted, clearing what I thought was the passage of the watered-down ordinance.

Surprise!  The ordinance failed after the two Council Members, John Autry and LaWana Mayfield, the ones that did not support the amendment because they wanted they entire ordinance passed, voted against the amended ordinance, thus stopping ANY protections to be passed.  The vote was especially stinging from Mayfield, as she was the first lesbian, ever to be elected to City Council.  As much as I agree that the ordinance should have been passed as originated, I cannot believe that a member of our LGBT Community would hold up any progress that could be made out of the situation.  I am especially concerned, knowing that it took from the first failure of an equal rights ordinance in 1992, until 2015 to get anything on the agenda again for equality.  I understand her point and passion about an all-inclusive ordinance and that excluding any one of us, is a slap in the face to us all, but even a bitter pill staves off part of an ailment.

I am saddened and disappointed by this vote.  I am sadder still to have witnessed all of the outright animosity to our Community that was on display by so many.  This affects me not only as a gay male here in Northeast Ohio, but as a citizen of these United States of America.  My brother lives 25 miles outside of Charlotte.  I am saddened that the next time I visit, and he offers to take me to one of the fine dining establishments they have in Charlotte, I will have to decline.  It is not a community’s fault for discrimination to exist because there has been no act of trying to change that from within their own laws, but to have the chance to end that discrimination, brought before a governing body and purposefully denied, should not, and will not be tolerated.  For a link to this story, you may go to THIS LINK.  

I am happy to have found some passion to write again, although sad it has to be on this topic of eye-witnessed discrimination.  Thank you if you are still following along, and I hope this inspires me to keep at it as much as I love to inform and discuss……………..Scott