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New Report Claims that LGBT Workers in the Public Sector Face High Rates of Discrimination

Posted by David Zimmerman August 30, 2012 01:55 PM

A report released recently by the Center for American Progress (CAP) and the American Federation of Sate, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) entitled “Gay and Transgender Discrimination in the Public Sector,” reveals that LGBT people continue to experience high rates of employment discrimination and are often not afforded equal benefits on the job. In addition, it details why workforce discrimination poses significant problems for state and local governments, public sector employees and taxpayers.

According to the report;

Only 43 percent of state employees work in a state with a law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. Only 31 percent work in a state with a law also prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity. This means that the majority of Americans working for state governments still do not have statutory protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. When it comes to benefits, a majority of state employees do not work for a state that offers equal partner health insurance. Only 47 percent of state employees with same-sex partners have access to equal workplace benefits, compared to 53 percent who do not.

AFSCMA claims that approximately one million LGBT employees work in the public sector for local, state or municipal government.

In a statement by Lee Saunders, president of AFSCME, “The discrimination that LGBT public sector workers still face is deplorable. While some states have passed laws prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, a majority of state workers can still be legally fired for being gay. No worker should be subjected to these high rates of harassment or be forced into unemployment, deprived of health insurance for themselves and for their families. This is a wrong that we need to right, right now.”

AFSCME describes itself as “the nation’s largest and fastest growing public services employees union with more than 1.6 million active and retired members.”

The Center for American Progress describers itself as “an independent nonpartisan educational institute dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through progressive ideas and action.”

Scott Brown campaign affirms he’s at odds with GOP platform on some gay issues

Posted by Jim Lopata August 26, 2012 03:40 PM

In advance of the Republican National Convention, Boston Spirit confirmed Senator Scott Brown’s past stated positions on gay issues, some of which are not in accord with positions being reported to be included in the proposed GOP platform.

When asked for comment last Friday on parts of the GOP proposed platform that support a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and other positions that have been widely reported on, particularly on Buzzfeed, which released a leaked draft of relevant parts of the platform, and which can be read here, the campaign e-mailed the following statement to Boston Spirit blog:

“Scott Brown believes gay marriage is settled law in Massachusetts and it’s time to move on to issues like jobs and the economy. He opposes a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and woman.”

The campaign’s statement is notably silent on where the candidate stands on DOMA and whether he would vote to overturn the law, which is unpopular with gay rights advocates.

6 LGBT Labor Day vacation beach reads

Posted by Jim Lopata August 23, 2012 11:53 AM

by Loren King

“Summer’s beginning to give up her fight,” say the lyrics of a song by the lesbian folk duo Indigo Girls.

It’s getting darker earlier, but there’s still a few good beach days ahead.

Here’s a handful of new, gay-authored or queer-themed books to settle down with in the sun and sand before autumn gets the upper hand.

1_AreYouMyMother_Bechdel.jpgAre You My Mother?
[Houghton Mifflin Harcourt]
by Alison Bechdel

For those who think the memoir reached its tipping point long ago, Are You My Mother? Alison Bechdel’s follow up to her 2006 bestselling memoir Fun Home, is so lively, brilliant and incisive that it breathes unimagined life into the genre. The author of the wildly popular Dykes to Watch Out For comic strip has illustrated and written this dense, ultimately generous account of her prickly but close relationship with her complicated mother, the former actress who was a memorable character in Fun Home. Bechdel covers some of the same autobiographical details in her “Mom book” that she did in her “Dad book,” particularly her gay, closeted father’s suicide and her own coming out. But Bechdel this time delves even deeper into her own psyche. Are You My Mother? takes the reader into Bechdel’s universe. She writes honestly but with keen wit about therapy, the publication of Fun Home and her mother’s cool response to it, her lovers, her ambivalence and ambition, and all while shifting effortlessly from past to present and back again. The writing is funny, heartfelt and smart—Bechdel references everything from Virginia Woolf and Adrienne Rich to psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, with a little Sondheim thrown in for good measure- and the artwork is beautifully detailed. This is a first-rate book that you won’t be able to put down.


Should gay conversion therapy be illegal? California asks.

Posted by Jim Lopata August 22, 2012 03:42 PM

Californians are clashing over whether or not to ban gay conversion therapies for minors. A bill is moving forward in the state’s legislature that would make it a crime for medical professionals to offer services to change a person’s homosexual orientation to a heterosexual one.

Many arguments line up in the usual for-and-against manner, but some points being expressed are more equivocal.


In the ‘ban’ camp are mostly Democrats who support the bill. These proponents note that reparative therapies have proven ineffective at best and dangerous at worst. They include the bill’s sponsor, Calif. state Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) and James Guay, a San Francisco-based therapist who testified in favor of the legislation by explaining how the "ex-gay" therapy he had as a child led to a mental breakdown, according to a HuffPost Gay Voices article that can be read here.


In the ‘don't ban’ category are many Republicans who oppose the legislation primarily on the grounds that it deprives mothers and fathers of their parental rights. "The default of this Legislature is to assume authority over parents by getting invested in issues of medicine, which is something it is not qualified to do, especially regarding matters of medical decisions made between parents and children," said Orange County Assemblyman Donald Wagner, (R-Irvine) in an article in the Orange County Register, which can be accessed here.


Then there are some in the ‘not-totally-for-or-against’ bloc who have expressed more nuanced concerns. Many of them find common ground with Democratic state Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach). By most accounts Lowenthal is a friend to the LGBT rights movement. He voted in favor of a bill that required gay history be included in the state’s education curriculum, and he has been a supporter of marriage equality. But Lowenthal has some reservations about the conversion therapy legislation. He told the Los Angeles Times (in an article that can be read here) that he has heard concerns from some professionals that the measure may be “overly broad and might prohibit their ability to engage in discussions about sexuality.”


Top 25 LGBT-friendly campuses include UMass Amherst and UVM

Posted by Jim Lopata August 21, 2012 11:28 AM

Two New England universities — UMass Amherst and the University of Vermont — took top honors in the 2012 annual rankings of LGBT-friendly campuses released by Campus Pride in conjunction with HuffPost Gay Voices.

Campus Pride's LGBT-friendly Campus Climate Index rates institutions of higher education on a scale of 1 to 5 stars based on criteria set in eight categories: LGBT Policy Inclusion, Support & Institutional Commitment, Academic Life, Student Life, Housing & Residence Life, Campus Safety, Counseling & Health, and Recruitment and Retention Efforts.

Out of all schools that receive five stars, Campus Pride and HuffPost select 25 for special recognition.

Campuses in the top 25, like UMass Amherst and UVM, receive no further ranking, essentially tying them for first place.

Six schools from New England made the top grade of five stars.

Filling out the New England five-star ranks are: University of Maine, Farmington in Farmington, Maine; Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire; Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island; and Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts.

To look up scores for other schools, check out the Campus Climate Index website here.

Young Conservatives Support Marriage Equality

Posted by David Zimmerman August 17, 2012 02:29 PM

A group calling itself the "Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry" has made public a letter they sent to Robert F. McDonnell, Chair, Republican National Committee Platform Committee, urging the RNC not to oppose marriage equality at Committee's meeting next week.

The letter cites Ronald Reagan and Dick Cheney, among others, as part of the group's plea for equality. The authors of the letter describe themselves as "politically active young conservatives who believe strongly that support for the freedom to marry is in line with [their] core belief in limited government and individual freedom."

The full text of the letter is as follows:

August 15, 2012 The Honorable Robert F. McDonnell Chair, Republican National Committee Platform Committee Republican National Committee 310 First Street, SE Washington, DC 20003

Dear Governor McDonnell:

We, the undersigned, make up the leadership committee of Young Conservatives for the
Freedom to Marry. We understand that the Platform Committee will be gathering early next week to develop and finalize the document that will be submitted to the full convention later this month. We appreciate your considering our perspective on this matter.

We are a group of politically active young conservatives who believe strongly that support for the freedom to marry is in line with our core belief in limited government and individual freedom. As President Ronald Reagan said, it is the role of government to "work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride on our back." We feel strongly that excluding committed same-sex couples from marriage does not mesh with those principles. To quote former Vice President Dick Cheney, "freedom means freedom for everyone."

We, as conservatives, have traditionally cited the importance of marriage because it contributes to society and promotes stability and shared responsibility. Marriage makes our nation stronger socially and economically by strengthening families and communities. Committed gay and lesbian couples share with other couples the importance of family and community; worries - like making ends meet or the possibility of losing a job; and hopes and dreams - like finding that special someone to grow old with, and standing in front of friends and family to make a lifetime commitment. Same-sex couples who want to make that commitment in life before family and friends should be able to share in that commitment under law through marriage. And, if we truly
believe in family values, then we must value all families.

On this cause, attitudes have shifted rapidly, and continue to shift towards support for the freedom to marry. Nationally, multiple public polls now show there's solid majority support for the freedom to marry. A May 2012 Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that among all Americans, supporters outnumber opponents 53% to 39%. That same poll shows that, among younger Republicans, support for the freedom to marry is approaching majority, with 46% of self-identified Republicans aged 18-44 in support and 46% in opposition. And according to veteran Republican pollster Jan van Lohuizen, only 29% of Republicans oppose any legal recognition for same-sex couples. The trend lines are clear—support for marriage will continue to grow on the right, with younger Republican voters leading the way.

Over the past several years, elected Republicans have played an increasingly important role in advancing freedom to marry legislation. Last year in New York, it was a GOP-led state Senate that moved marriage equality legislation. And earlier this year in New Hampshire, the overwhelmingly GOP controlled New Hampshire House voted down a repeal of the popular freedom to marry law in that state, by a lopsided 211-116 margin, with a majority of GOP lawmakers voting against repeal. To date, 197 Republican state legislators across the nation have stood up for the freedom to marry. And of course, no one doubts the Republican credentials of former Vice President Dick Cheney, former First Lady Laura Bush, former Solicitor General Ted Olson, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and former RNC Chair Ken Mehlman. They are all supporters of freedom to marry.

We are not new to the political process and understand there are divergent opinions on the freedom to marry within the Republican Party. Yet in this environment with rapidly changing perspectives and discussions taking place around dinner tables throughout the country, we ask that the Party respect these differences by not opposing the freedom to marry in its platform.

Giving people more personal freedom is the foundation of the Republican Party, which, as the Party of Lincoln, has a proud tradition of expanding liberties. We respectfully request that the GOP honor that tradition as it considers how to address the freedom to marry in its plank.


Leadership Committee,
Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry

Democratic Party platform committee unanimously endorses gay marriage

Posted by Jim Lopata August 11, 2012 03:46 PM

The platform committee of the Democratic Party endorsed marriage equality for same-sex couples today, according to the Associated Press.

Further, The Washington Blade is reporting that the committee's decision was unanimous.

The platform also includes a call to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA.

The Blade is reporting the approved wording as follows:

“We support the right of all families to have equal respect, responsibilities, and protections under the law … We support marriage equality and support the movement to secure equal treatment under law for same-sex couples. We also support the freedom of churches and religious entities to decide how to administer marriage as a religious sacrament without government interference. … We oppose discriminatory federal and state constitutional amendments and other attempts to deny equal protection of the laws to committed same-sex couples who seek the same respect and responsibilities as other married couples. We support the full repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act.”

Final approval of the platform must come from delegates that will assemble for the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, in early September.

Read The Washington Blade article here.

Read the Associated Press as posted on The Washington Post website here.

Paul Ryan rates 'zero' on LGBT issues with HRC

Posted by Jim Lopata August 11, 2012 09:24 AM

Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney's vice presidential candidate pick, has consistently voted against legislation supported by the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest LGBT advocacy group.

Ryan has not supported the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), or the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Repeal Act of 2010, as well as many other positions important to HRC and its members.

Ryan received a "zero" ranking for his positions on LGBT legislation in both the 111th Congress and the 109th Congress.

Ryan received 10 points for his positions on LGBT legislation in the 110th Congress, because he did not cast a vote on the Murphy Amendment to National Defense Authorization Act.

The HRC report can be accessed here.

Chick-fil-A or New Hampshire Gay Pride? A local partnership raises hackles

Posted by Jim Lopata August 10, 2012 12:15 PM

New Hampshire Pride organizers reached an agreement to have a Nashua Chick-fil-A franchise sponsor its festival this Saturday, August 11. Now, local chapters of LGBT activist groups Join the Impact and GetEQUAL say they are pulling out of participating in the event.

When a local Chick-fil-A supports a Gay Pride festival, what is a gay rights supporter to do?

Eat at the restaurant?

Boycott the Pride?

Anthony Piccola, manager of the Pheasant Lane Mall Chick-fil-A in Nashua, NH, decided to cut through the national noise surrounding his company's president's opposition to marriage equality for same-sex couples. His Chick-fil-A agreed to sponsor the New Hampshire Pride festival, which is to be held this Saturday, August 11 at Veterans Memorial Park Manchester.


Dishin’ with the celebs of P’town: Margaret Cho, Kate Clinton, Judy Gold, Varla Jean Merman, and Miss Richfield 1981

Posted by Jim Lopata August 9, 2012 10:44 AM

Twenty-six years! OMG! Can you imagine performing in Provincetown for 26 years?! Margaret Cho can. She’s done it. We caught up with her and a few other P’town legends who each boast a decade or more of keeping demanding tourists entertained at the tip of Cape Cod.

Editor's Note: The following was adapted from a story that ran in the July/August issue of Boston Spirit magazine.

by John O'Connell - Miss Missy bear rug1_a.jpgMARGARET CHO

How many years have you performed in Provincetown?
26 years

What is your most marked characteristic?

What quality do you like in a person?

What quality do you abhor in a person?

What do you value in Provincetown?
The light. My friends. The water.

What is your greatest fear?

What is a perfect Provincetown day?
Riding bikes through the beech forest, breakfast at Edwidge, laying around with Ryan Landry, Showgirls, late night rides to John Waters’.

What is your idea of misery?
Endless boredom

What do you think when people recognize you at Stop and Shop?
I don’t generally get recognized! I wish I would!

What do you most regret about your experience in Provincetown?
That I don’t yet have a house there and live there year round!

What unnatural gift would you most like to possess?
I’d love to fly!

Who’s act would you like a night off to see?
Ryan Landry or John Waters

What do you have from home that makes Provincetown bearable?
Mosquito repellent!

What three words would you use to describe this year’s show?
Profane, profound, powerful.


Romney campaign affirms Romney's support for gay participation in the Boy Scouts

Posted by Jim Lopata August 7, 2012 12:24 PM

In a new Associated Press (AP) article, Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign re-affirmed Romney’s position from the 1990s that the Boy Scouts should be open to all participants, "regardless of sexual orientation," while also saying that the Boy Scouts had the right to make its own decision on the matter.

From writer David Crary’s AP story:

Back in 1994, during a political debate in Massachusetts, Romney said this: "I support the right of the Boy Scouts of America to decide what it wants to do on that issue. I feel that all people should be able to participate in the Boy Scouts regardless of their sexual orientation."

A Romney spokeswoman, Andrea Saul, said in an e-mail that this remains Romney's position today.

The whole story can be found here:

Broadway divas Betty Buckley, Megan Mullally and more descend on P’town

Posted by Jim Lopata August 4, 2012 09:14 AM

Megan Mullally

Pianist and performer Seth Rudetsky brings the best of New York—including Alice Ripley, Megan Mullally, Betty Buckley, Marilyn Maye and Billy Stritch—to the tip of Cape of Cod this August

by Loren King

Can’t decide whether your summer getaway should be to New York City or Provincetown? Now you don’t have to. The Art House again is bringing a bit of Broadway to Provincetown this summer with a series of big name performers who normally play venues much larger than the cozy confines of the cabaret on Commercial Street. From Cats phenom Betty Buckley to stage and TV star Megan Mullally, the Art House is the place to be this summer when your inner Broadway baby needs some TLC.


Comprehensive survey of congressional positions on marriage equality released

Posted by David Zimmerman August 3, 2012 07:01 AM

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has released a Comprehensive Survey of Congressional Positions on Marriage Equality.

Among both the House and Senate, 181 members support marriage equality (34 percent). 234 have made statements against (44 percent) and 122 have an unclear or unknown position (23 percent). 36 Senators and 145 Representatives support marriage equality with 52 Senators and 182 Representatives opposed.

All 100 Senators, 431 sitting Representatives and 6 Delegates were asked whether or not they agreed with this statement: “Gay and lesbian couples should not be denied the ability to pledge their love and commitment through the civil institution of marriage. I believe that two committed adults of the same sex should be able to receive a government-issued marriage license, while religious institutions retain their right to determine which marriages they will perform.”

Among Democrats, support is at 72 percent with 9 percent opposed and 19 percent unclear or unknown. Only one Republican in Congress supports marriage equality – Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida. Support is strongest in the East (58 percent) and the West (51 percent) and weakest in the Midwest (25 percent) and the South (15 percent). In states where gay and lesbian couples can marry, 69 percent of Senators and Representatives support marriage equality while 17 percent are opposed. And in the four states facing marriage-related ballot measures in November, 56 percent of leaders are supportive of marriage equality with 21 percent opposed.

Scores for the two Senators from Massachusetts (as well as all Representatives) can be found online simply by entering your zip code. Senator John Kerry scored 100% on the survey while Senator Scott Brown came in at 33%.

About the author: Boston Spirit Magazine’s daily blog brings you all of the information you need on New England’s LGBT community. In addition to highlighting local and national LGBT news, we will also highlight local leaders from the worlds of business, politics, fashion and entertainment and keep you up-to-date on all the latest events and parties, hot spots for travel, shopping, dining, and more!

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