The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Queen Rania of Jordan

Be sure to scroll down to read my Thanksgiving column from the Western Tribune, to see what I think we should all be thankful for.

Queen Rania of Jordan has her own YouTube channel.

Here are her top 10 reasons for starting a YouTube channel, as expressed in her video acceptance of YouTube's Visionary Award.

"Suspicion, intolerance and mistrust are driving us apart," was her number one reason. She wants to change that, and this is her way. She's not your average Queen.

Congratulations on the Award, Queen Rania, and thanks for taking this on.

Western Tribune Column November 26 2008

Today is Thanksgiving. I hope you enjoy some time with your family, have lots of good desserts with your turkey dinner, and get in a good nap afterwards. Like so many columnists, I wrote a Thanksgiving column for the Western tribune this week. Here it is.


This week we ponder what we are thankful for and across the country and in our own city people seem to be thankful of the change they see coming. In spite of the crumbling economy, about 70 per cent are optimistic about the future. This includes a number of people who did not vote for Barack Obama, but who see better things ahead knowing that he will be their leader.

We should be thankful that we live in a country where democracy works, and that so many people were engaged in the political process this year. This shows us that a great majority of the people really care about our country.

We should be thankful that we will soon have a president that wants to end the war in Iraq. Americans are war weary, and are tired of seeing their sons and daughters returning from serving their country with physical or mental problems, or worse. We should be thankful that our new president has pledged to improve mental health treatment for our veterans and to rebuild the Veterans Administration’s broken benefits system.

We should also be thankful for the food on our table. Improvements in agriculture, food storage and preservation over the last few decades, along with the giving spirit of our people, should mean that everyone can enjoy a good Thanksgiving meal, and hopefully, continue to have adequate food on a daily basis. The economic crisis could mean that more will be required of some of us to ensure that no one goes hungry during the holidays.

Let’s also be thankful that science and research will regain credibility as the new administration takes over. Although a lot of money will be necessary to solve the energy crisis, good science is the key to progress. It has been clear for years that the green that is pocketed was more important to automakers than the green that represents our planet’s health, but now we see that the future of the economy and the environment are tied to the auto industry and a big, necessary, shift in their operations and policies would help to solve both problems.

There is much more to be thankful for: our families, our faith, our freedom. Take a minute and tell those around you that you are thankful for them. We will all benefit.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Jesus and Marriage

First, though, why do people not stop at red lights? This happened at our corner yesterday.
No serious injuries, but a really p-o'ed young man and a shook up woman (who ran the light in the white pick up).

Pay attention when you are driving. I don't know why the woman didn't stop, but don't text or read emails when driving. In fact, don't use your phone. Watch the road, and pay attention to the traffic lights. Don't screw up your holidays with a wreck.

Jesus and Marriage

In response to Kristi's comment yesterday in which she wrote "Marriage, and the guide for marriage is laid out in the Bible. And clearly it is for a man and a woman. There is no question about that. So let's recognize the true unity of marriage, which is two people of opposite sex."

(Anonymous...this is not an attack on Kristi. I respect her and her right to have her beliefs. I just disagree.)

Like Dianne said, Christians did not invent marriage. But Jesus did speak about marriage. In response to Kristi’s comment yesterday, let’s consider what Jesus had to say about it. I will turn to a good resource, which I have quoted from before: The Children Are Free by Jeff Miner and John Tyler Connoley.

Beginning on page 44:

Some Christians confidently assert that God did not create homosexual people “that way.” This is important because they realize that if God did create gays “that way,” rejecting them would be tantamount to rejecting God’s work in creation. In pressing their “creation order” argument, some Christians are fond of saying, “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!” To bolster their position, they often cite Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:4-5, where he responds to a question about whether divorce is permissible:

“Jesus answered, “have you not read that the One who made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh”? Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.’”

From these words, some Christians draw the conclusion that heterosexuality is the creation norm and, thus, heterosexual marriage is the only legitimate way for people to form romantic relationships. Ironically, Jesus’ own words in this very same passage refute these conclusions.

As the dialogue continues, Jesus’ disciples are disturbed by his strict teaching on divorce. The disciples say that if a divorce is not a ready option, perhaps it would be best for a man not to marry a woman. Jesus responds:

“Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are enough eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.” (Matthew 19:11)

Here Jesus identifies three classes of men who should not marry woman. Taking his categories in reverse order, first, there are those who have made themselves “eunuchs” for the kingdom of heaven, i.e., those who forswear marriage to better serve God. Second, he mentions those who have been “made eunuchs by others,” an apparent reference to castrated males. But Jesus mentions a third category – eunuchs who were born that way. Some might argue that Jesus was referring to males born without testicles, but this would be extremely rare. Moreover, this interpretation ignores how the term “born eunuchs” was used in other literature of the time.

As we have already seen(there is an interesting discussion on this in the book), in the ancient world, including ancient Jewish culture (as reflected in the Talmud), “natural” or “born” eunuchs were not associated with missing testicles. Rather, they were associated with stereotypically effeminate characteristics and behavior (just like modern gay men, and were thought by Rabbi Eliezer to be subject to “cure” (just like modern gays). Moreover, as we have also seen, eunuchs were commonly associated with homosexual desire. As a reasonable informed person of his time, Jesus would have been aware of this common view of eunuchs. Yet he very matter-of-factly asserts that some people are simply born that way. The implication of his statement is profound – God created gay people the way they are! Jesus says so.

Unlike Rabbi Eliezer, Jesus feels no need to “cure” these born eunuchs. He speaks no words of condemnation. Rather he lists people born gay alongside another honored class (eunuchs for the kingdom), and accepts them as a natural part of God’s creation order.

Thus, when Matthew 19 is read as a whole, we see Jesus teaches that most people are created for heterosexual marriage. (We too accept this as God’s predominant creation paradigm.) But, unlike some modern Christians, Jesus does not see this as the only honorable way to live. He acknowledges that some human beings have been created by God to follow a less common, but equally legitimate path. There are some who have been eunuchs from birth – made that way by God.

But we’re not quite done. In fact, we’ve saved the best for last.

From here to book continues with the story of Jesus and the Gay Centurion, which I have previously posted and recently referred to. (I hope I don't end up publishing their whole book here).

Of course this does not say gays should marry gays. But when you factor in the centurion's story, David and Jonathon, Ruth and Naomi (Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people; and your God my God.) Ruth's words of love and devotion for another woman are used in countless straight marriages (and gay ones) and their love is further exemplified when the passages that follow focus on their relationship, and not the convenience marriage of Ruth to a man.

David expressed his love for Jonathon in a song after Jonathon's death, "Greatly beloved you were to me; your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women." This is not "male bonding" with a beer and a football game.

So, same sex relationships are legitimate according to the Old and New Testaments. But while same sex marriage is not specifically drawn out in the Bible, what does the Bible have to do with civil marriage anyway? I mean, marriage as a sacrament, by the church, certainly should be decided on by that church. But marriage as a contract, recognized by the government, should be based on our constitution, including the equal protection clause. The constitution is the "sacred" document of our country, not the Bible.

Here's a little video of Mikey and Jaz's wedding (music, No One by Alicia Keys). This dispels the rumor that there are no black gays, and that all blacks are against same sex marriage.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tom's Marriage Manifesto

If you are looking for the owls, just scroll on down.

Let's just not recognize anyone's marriage, until we can recognize all marriages.

This comic by Mar Bennett:

...expresses what this blog by Tom Ackerman: A Marriage Manifesto...of sorts
proposes we do. Thanks John for sending this.

I no longer recognize marriage. It’s a new thing I’m trying.

Turns out it’s fun.

Yesterday I called a woman’s spouse her boyfriend.
She says, correcting me, “He’s my husband,”

“Oh,” I say, “I no longer recognize marriage.”

....Suddenly the majority gets to feel what the minority feels. ... (Read the post)

So, we can take this away. We can refuse to recognize marriage in the cultural sense. It is totally within our rights, as Americans, to follow our beliefs and recognize or not recognize what we like.

I guess this is a call out to all Americans with beliefs similar to mine.

If you believe that all people should have equal rights, and if you believe that marriage is one of the greatest destinations of a relationship, then perhaps you believe that nobody should have marriage until everybody does.

That’s what I believe.

Seems like a harmless way to make a point.

Who - hoo knew?

Have you sent your postcard to President elect Obama urging him to ask congress to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act? We sent 2, one says "Alabama" and the other "Birmingham Civil Rights Institute." You can get souvenir postcards like these at Petro (exit 100 on I-20/59) and probably at Flying J and Cracker Barrel too, in and around Bessemer.

Who-Hoo-hoo knew? Northern saw-whet owls live in Alabama. Birders previously thought the little owl lived only in Canada and Northern US.

Photo credit Wikipedia

Bob Sargent and his wife Martha have caught nine of them near their home in Clay. They are bird experts and worked on this project for three years before capturing any this year. Jackpot. They document, photograph and put an ID band around its leg. They only weigh 3.5 ounces. Cute, huh?

In Bessemer, no owls, but lots of turkeys. 400 turkeys were given out by Earl Cochran Jr and DeMeco Ryans, Houston Texans players from Bessemer.

Monday, November 24, 2008

New Blog Links and a Prediction

Since my kids have become "adults" (sorry about the "", kids, but you know), I don't know many younger people. If I know any 12 year olds, I hope they are as articulate and progressive as Joey. Here is what Joey wrote for a school project:

I think it is so amazing and so wonderful that Obama won the presidency. It’s just that all throughout history in America we have never elected a black president or anyone for that matter who is not in the category of white men who have been oppressing so many people throughout history through slavery and racism. I just can’t believe that it has taken people so long to realize that no matter what color, no matter what gender, no matter what religion, straight or gay, it doesn’t matter. We are all people, aren’t we? But last night I saw on the television that Barack Obama had won the spot of the 44th President of the United States of America, and I just thought to myself: this is change; that we as a people of America can change. And that we will change from this awful past we have had. I just hope this is a milestone for America and for the world, that there can be people from more different races elected for president and for senate.

Joey's thought were posted on The Wild Reed. The Wild Reed is labeled as Thoughts and reflections from a progressive, gay, Catholic perspective. I discovered The Wild Reed because google told me he linked to this post about Jesus and the gay centurion. You know how I appreciate progressive gay religious perspectives, and Michael offers that.

My other new link is Homer's World where Homer, A Queer Archaeologist Living in Tuscon, writes. Homer is like me, he just writes about anything. And like me, he was fuming after Prop 8 passed. Like me, he cooks interesting things, and bakes. Homer owns cats.

You can link to The Wild Reed and Homer's World from my blog lists.

Speaking of writing about anything, we saw Quantum of Solace yesterday.

Everyone knows not to wear heels when you're going to be traipsing across the desert, or formal wear either, for that matter. And Bond and Camille don't seem too happy about it, do they.

We were recently in the desert (not in Bolivia) but we didn't see anything like this.
Great movie, though. I'll leave the vampires and Twilight to the young females.

Now, a prediction. I hate to say this, but I am afraid the movie theater in Bessemer (Premiere) is going to fail, because they don't advertise. Many people have asked me about this. Some people still grab the newspaper and run out the door to see a movie. When the listings aren't in the paper, we aren't gonna go there. We went to Rave in Patton Creek.

Play, the Birmingham News entertainment supplement, does not have listings for Premiere. If you go to the Birmingham News web site, they aren't even listed. It's difficult to find them even if you google their name. So come on Premiere, give yourselves a chance. Advertise a little.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Chinese Democracy

Well, right wingers are accusing the incoming president of being a socialist (still, I listen to talk radio at times), so wouldn't Chinese Democracy make sense.

Actually it's the title of Guns N' Roses new album, in the works since 1994.

Why does Bessemer Opinions care?

Because Dr. Pepper made a promise of free soda to Every One In America if the album was released before the end of this year.

"We never thought this day would come," Tony Jacobs, Dr Pepper's vice president of marketing, said in a statement. "But now that it's here, all we can say is: The Dr Pepper's on us."

There's one catch. You must visit the Dr. Pepper web site to retrieve a coupon, and the offer is only available for 24 hours beginning Sunday at 12:01 AM. I assume the coupon will be here. Remember to do this on Sunday.

The Colbert Report

Robert sent me this. You know that I don't blame any race for the defeat of Prop 8 in California, but I also love political comedy. Watch this clip from Comedy Central where Dan Savage takes on Stephen Colbert regarding Prop 8. Do not watch at work, if others are listening. Be prepared to embarrass yourself laughing. Savage actually made Colbert blush. How cute.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Join the Impact has a good idea. Buy one of those touristy post cards, you know, that has a picture of something related to your state or city, and send to President Elect Obama with a hand written message.

Something like this:

Dear President-elect Obama,

Please ask Congress to repeal DOMA! All Americans should have the right to marry. Thank you in advance for advocating for the civil rights of your LGBT citizens.


Your name and state

Take a picture of yourself with the postcard and email it to Join the Impact to add to their album, like this guy from Seattle, Washington did.

Mail the postcard to:
President-elect Barack Obama Presidential Transition Office
Kluczynski Federal Building
230 S. Dearborn St., 38th Floor
Chicago, IL 60604

To learn more about Join the Impact and how they might be working in Birmingham (this is new) come to the Alabama Stonewall Democrats meeting tonight at 6:00 at Logan's in Crestwood. We will also be electing officers for next year.

Obama and Civil Rights

If you visit the Obama transition team site you can get an idea of what Barack Obama wants to accomplish in all areas.

"The Obama Administration has a comprehensive and detailed policy agenda."

Click on Civil Rights and you will lean that he includes the rights of GLBT folk as civil rights. Included are:

Employment Discrimination: This includes passage of the Fair Pay Act to ensure that women receive equal pay, as well as ENDA, the inclusive employment non-discrimination act.

Expand Hate Crimes Protection: Passage of the Matthew Shepard Act, to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

In addition you can read about repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", expanding adoption rights, promoting AIDS prevention with a comprehensive AIDS/HIV strategy, empowering women to prevent HIV transmission, and repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act and ensuring "that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally-recognized unions."

The participation of tens of thousands in the recent protests who have never been involved in gay equality before is akin to the participation of thousands in the election who had never been involved in voting before. We are entering a new age of participation, both in general and in GLBT support. Equality Alabama, Central Alabama Pride, ACLU, Stonewall Democrats, Join the Impact, all of these organizations need your support. Become involved with one or more.

The opportunity before us is immense. Equality awaits us.

Back to the postcards. Obama will be receiving cards from all fifty states, from the state capitals, as Wakko points out, and other cities as well.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Caring for Veterans plus Music for Lovers

Be sure to read the post directly below this one. It is my column from today's Western Tribune, where I explain the significance of Barack Obama's election to the gay community.

This story, seen on NBC News last night, will touch your heart. Well, it did mine. Because I think we should do a better job in caring for our vets who come home with physical or mental wounds. And because it involves dogs. I am still a veterinarian, you know. And even though I focused on cats during my career, what dogs can do is amazing.

Service dogs, being trained to assist wounded service persons, are being trained by veterans with PTSD, and the training is part of their therapy as well. This is great.

Shifting gears a bit...

, the boy band from Ireland (now more of a "man band") with openly gay heartthrob Stephen Gately, will be releasing a new song in December. "Better" is a cover of a song recorded by Tom Baxter last year and is touted as being the first "boy band" music video that shows a gay couple in love. The band first wanted to use their real love interests in the video but the partners would not agree. The other pairings are straight couples.

This song reflects the feelings that any couple, gay or straight, might have as they consider a life together. And separate but equal institutions of recognizing those lives are not right. So watch the video, consider how you feel about your husband, wife, partner, bf or gf or whoever, and think about how everyone in love should have equal rights.

At any rate, Tom Baxter recorded the song in 2007, and his video is just as diverse.

So, which video, and which version of the song, do you like?

But "gayish" videos go way back. Some of us remember Pet Shop Boys "Being Boring" from 1990. Don't let the bare bunned guy at the first scare you, the video is really just about life when you are young, and the song is actually in remembrance of people lost to AIDS.

But what memories...(although our parties never featured donkeys or chimps on bicycles).

Western Tribune Column November 19 2008

This is my column from today's Western Tribune.

What a mixed bag of emotions the gay community is feeling after the election. A president-elect who believes in equality, and the negating of established marriage rights in California, often thought to be the most liberal state in the nation.

Civil rights did not come easy for African Americans, and this setback will not stop the progression toward equality for gays.

For starters, the Democratic National Platform calls for passage of the employment non-discrimination act, which will prevent employees from losing their jobs because of their sexual orientation, as well as inclusion of sexual identity in hate crimes legislation.

We will also see the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t tell,” the exclusionary policy that prevents gay and lesbian servicepersons from serving openly, in spite of the fact that they have served in our armed forces since day one, probably by your side or in your foxhole if you are a veteran.

But full equality will not be recognized until same sex couples can receive the same benefits that married heterosexuals do. There are over 1000 rights that come with civil marriage.

Since the passage of Prop 8 in California, huge protests have occurred across the nation. This repeal of established rights has left many wondering who is next. Will they try to take away the right of interracial couples to marry? Apparently all it takes is a vote to remove people’s rights. What about the right of Jews to worship? That could be gone with a vote in California. What a dangerous precedent for that state and our nation.

But the one positive thing that has happened as a result is the mobilization of the gay community across the nation. Our country will not be at full strength until we recognize the value and equality of all of our citizens. Fortunately, this mobilization comes as we are looking forward to working with a President who believes in equality.

Barack Obama may not immediately grant all of our wishes, but I would be willing to bet that the first legislation that mentions sexual orientation to be passed and signed by a president will occur within the first year of his administration.

And then we will be on the way to a nation that values each of its citizens.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Obama and Lincoln

It's mid-November and Christmas will be here before you know it. The hallway is as finished as its gonna get and there is even a (pink) Christmas tree decorated in that room.

The tree? $5.00 at an estate sale in Bluff Park years ago.

The Barack Obama drawing? An original by Steve Shepard of Gautier, MS. Shepard is often seen at area art shows with his snappy partisan work.

The Abraham Lincoln portrait? A signed print by Walter Tittle (1883-1966). Tittle was known for his portraits of presidents. Any art historians out there?

Since Obama seems to be modeling his upcoming presidency after Abraham Lincoln, it's only fitting that their portraits should hang close by each other. I also have a print with JFK and Lincoln's portraits together that needs framing, that could go there.

Obama read Doris Kearns Goodwin's book, Team of Rivals, about Lincoln and spoke about it during his campaign. Here, after a brief excerpt from Obama's campaign, Goodwin talks with David Gregory about Obama and how this strategy can benefit him, based on Lincoln's history.

More power to ya, Barack.

I haven't read Goodwin's book, but I did read The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln by C. A. Tripp which presents evidence of Lincoln's homosexuality. Among other things, Lincoln shared a bed with an army captain while serving in the White House while Mrs. Lincoln was away. Sort of puts a new twist on that whole "Lincoln bedroom" thing, doesn't it? The book's in my library, if anyone wants to borrow.

And Lincoln wasn't the only president that had thing for guys. More on that later.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Polls, Statistics, Money, and a Dog

If you make it through this post, you will be rewarded with a great picture at the end.
An anonymous comment asked the following:

In a blue state like California, who voted for this ban? Democrats overwhelmingly carried this state. Since blacks and Hispanics are more traditional concerning gay rights it would seem to me that the very people who supported Obama voted for this ban. So in theory Obama supporters did this. What is Obama's position on this ban? How can he go against his supporters in the state of California? I really don't agree with the term gay marriage, but I do understand the need for rights, privileges, and financial protection. But protesting where the advertising money came from seems odd when the people of the state voted. Should we protest that they also voted for Obama?

These are important concerns, and Jeff posted a response while I was writing this. You can read Jeff's response in the comments to yesterday's post.

In California, 61 % ( 7,342,729) of voters voted for Obama and 37% (4,501,611) for McCain and 2% (225,488) voted for third party candidates.
52% (6,242,786) voted for Prop 8, 48% (5,727,336) voted against Prop 8.

The difference between Yes and No votes on Prop 8 was 515,450, so if only 257,726 people changed their vote, but still voted, the Prop would have failed.

Some people that voted for president (12,069,828 voters) did not vote on Prop 8 (11,970,122 voters), a difference of 99,706.

Because the number that voted for 3rd party candidates (225,488) is fairly close to the number of vote flips that would need to change the outcome of Prop 8 (257, 726) it is hard to make a statement that the number of Obama voters who voted Yes is significant. If I used all of the statistics I learned last year, and had SAS or SPSS on this computer, I could back this up, but I don't.

But the exit polls showed that African Americans, who voted heavily for Obama, also voted heavily in favor of Prop 8. Further examination of the exit polls shows that the more educated one was, the more likely to vote No.
Voting Yes: those with a high school only education (56%), some college (57%). College grads were evenly split (50%) and those with post graduate education voted yes only 40%.
So it gets complicated, but it seems to be more a divide because of education than race. Blacks and Latinos are less likely to have a college degree or post graduate degree, and their numbers swing toward Yes votes. And it seems likely that education could influence one's beliefs about same sex marriage and civil rights, where race in itself would not.

As to protesting against where the money came from, I see no problem. Right wing Christians have protested against Disney, Ford and McDonald's for their (sometimes wavering) support of gay rights by calling for boycotts (with limited success, I might add). They wanted to hold those corporations accountable for their support for equality (in general, not on Prop 8).

People who donated to Yes on 8 are listed on the State of California web site, just as those who donated to No on 8 are. Business owners need to realize that they might be held accountable for public support of the issues, just as Disney and Ford and McDonald's were held accountable for their support of issues. And if they feel strongly enough to donate money, they should be proud regardless of the consequences.
However, they should really feel shame, for donating money to take away an established right from a particular group of people.

And because the money was used to create negative ads that used lies and misconceptions to scare people regarding their children and to manipulate them into voting Yes, then certainly, exposing the ones who contributed is justified. Anyone who was faced with losing the right to equal treatment would do the same thing.

OK, here's an unusual sight, from Morgan County, AL.
A pick up truck, from Alaska, with an Obama sticker. And a great dog. And another sticker that reads, "Alaska Girls Kick Ass."

In part because I am a southern gentleman, but mostly because the dog was keeping his eye on me, I asked the driver if I could photograph her truck. She laughed and said yes, and that I was the first person to ask. She said people take pictures all the time, she could be stopped in traffic and people would get out of their cars and run up and snap a picture.

I didn't ask what she thought about Sarah Palin.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Protests, continued

Across the United States thousands, possibly a million, people stood together in support of Equality. Here are estimated totals from various cities. Over 100 are listed, and results still coming in. Here are a few.

Athens, Ohio: 150+ "We're a small college town located in the SouthEast corner of Ohio in the Appalachian Hills and are proud of our LGBT community as well as our friends, family and allies who showed their support today for marriage equality and human rights for all."

Columbia , South Carolina 150-175

New Orleans 500

Knoxville, TN News Report

Jackson, Mississippi 50 Thanks, Knol

Hattiesburg, Mississippi 30 Thanks, Knol

Montgomery, AL 7

Dallas 1200 Newspaper Report

Gee, we are surrounded by people in cities who effectively demonstrated for same sex equality.


Here are our Las Vegas buddies, filmed by some out of towners it seems.


MSNBC describes the protests as peaceful, but with anger evident. That pretty much sums it up.

In spite of all I have heard, I still feel like an opportunity has been missed in Birmingham. Maybe we need an organization that will fight for equality in a pro-active way. Or maybe the organizations we have just need to step it up a bit. What do you think? Answer the poll questions to the left. There are two questions.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Carrying On

I've received a lot of critical emails as well as some supportive ones. But to address some of the points that I am sure many others have as well, here goes.

As Jeff pointed out in a comment, Equality Alabama probably received information about the protest too late to do anything about it. It was a quickly thought up and organized event. That in itself should not have prevented the event from being a success.

I was told I don't really do anything. Here are some facts. Not including the time I spent researching and posting blogs about the protest, I spent over 4 hours yesterday communicating with numerous attorneys and police officers and mayoral assistants and event sponsors in two cities making a last ditch effort to arrange for this event. Yes I was too late just as every one else was. But I am sure that some people were already aware of the permit requirements in Birmingham. I learned yesterday.

Permits to hold a demonstration on Public Property in Birmingham require a permit if more than 6 people are demonstrating. I spoke with a person in charge of issuing the permits yesterday, and not until we were in the process of completing the application did I learn that application must be made three days in advance. I begged, but he could not issue the permit.

I contacted Join the Impact to see what they would think about moving the event to Bessemer if I could get a permit here. They said go for it. I thought a good protest and then lunch at the Bright Star, Alabama's oldest restaurant, would be a draw. I tried. Bessemer, too, requires a waiting period of two weeks. The officer I spoke with was very apologetic and supportive, once they were told what we were wanting to protest.

I let Join the Impact know and they felt it best to cancel the event here.

Yes I am an officer in a "gay" group and yes, that group did not actively support the event either. I tried to get the officers to support the demonstration, but when it comes down to it, and these are just my thoughts and no one else's, Stonewall Democrats should support the Democratic Platform, which does not support same sex marriage, so that is an out, although a pretty weak one in my view. In addition, we are not an advocacy group, we are a partisan political group that tries to get people to register to vote and vote our way. All of that comes from me, not the other officers.

As for Central Alabama Pride's vice president saying in a comment yesterday "Because of this status, the organization can NOT endorse or be in charge of political rallies/protests."

All 501(c)(3) organizations are also permitted to educate individuals about issues or fund research that supports their political position as long as they don't overtly advocate for a position on a specific bill.

From the IRS, " it (a 501c3) may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.

The protest was not about a bill or a candidate that voters here could vote on. It was to educate the public. Similar efforts to educate include Central Alabama Pride's annual march, excuse me, parade, in June, where similar signs promoting same sex marriage and equality are found.

A representative from EA said "The recurring opinion I heard was that marriage is a state issue so demonstrating at city halls would be confusing."

There is one state capital in each state. The legislatures by themselves are not going to change the laws in this state or any other. The support of the people is needed. There is a city hall in every city. More people could be educated by having events in every city.

Another email from an "EA" person said "Also protest are NOT effective or helpful for changing hearts and minds."

Sorry. Rosa Parks' action on the bus was a form of protest. Pretty effective.

The first ever demonstration for gay rights, in Washington DC, led by Frank Kameny, involved only a handful of people, in April, 1965.

That same year anti war demonstrations began. Pretty effective I believe.

Martin Luther King led a March on Washington. Wonderful protest.

I've protested in Montgomery. I've been to Washington. I've protested with members of Act Up at the Capitol. Don't tell me that protests do not work.

Let's just be more on the ball in the future and not let this happen again. If we need to start an organization whose only purpose is to protest, let's do it.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Birmingham Protest Cancelled

Join the Impact has cancelled the Birmingham event. No one from Central Alabama Pride or Equality Alabama, the supposed leaders of our community, thought this important enough to acquire the necessary permit. In spite of my emails and myspace messages to leaders of both groups urging them to. Without the permit, there would be no police protection, and remember, there are crazies out there. Plus, we want to do everything by the book.

On Join the Impact numerous people indicated they would be there. I hope they see that the event is cancelled.

The rest of the nation will be protesting, we will be on the sidelines.

More protests will be held, I am told by Join the Impact, and I assured them this would not happen again.

This will make the extremists in our community happy, but change and progress is coming. It can not be stopped, in spite of ourselves.

Soon: Milk, Now: Gold

If you support equality visit Join the Impact to see where a Protest against Prop 8 and for equality may be close to you and suggestions of signs to make. Be nice. In Birmingham, 12:30 at City Hall Saturday is the place. At least three other Protests are taking place in Alabama, visit the site for information. Local Gay advocacy groups seem to be dropping the ball on this, but that shouldn't stop people interested in equality from being there. Spread the word.

Thirty years ago Harvey Milk was a 48 year old San Francisco supervisor who was murdered, along with Mayor George Moscone. Harvey Milk was gay. Here are his thoughts, in his own words, about the options a young gay person might have 30 years ago. Those same options, and that same hope, exists today. Thanks to Mike Rogers at BlogActive for this.

The movie Milk will be released next month, and Sean Penn will win, or at least receive an Oscar nomination for his role, according to all who have seen the movie. If you have been to any movie during the last month you have seen the preview. If not, here it is.

What would you do if your son or daughter were gay? How would that person feel, what would they be going through?

Mitchell Gold makes furniture. He also started an organization called Faith in America. Now he has written a book called Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay in America.

These are the stories of people you have heard of. Professional baseball player Billy Bean, Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson, actor (Dr. Kildare) Richard Chamberlain, Oprah buddy Nate Berkus, Representatives Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin and many more.

These are not happy coming out stories. These are the personal stories of the religious and social turmoil the individuals suffered. Collectively, it is the story of what society and religion and families do to their gay children, followed by some information on the consequenses and some information to help guide someone, a parent perhaps, when dealing with these issues.

Charlie Rose interviewed Mitchell about the book. See the interview here, in two parts.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Call For Action

Protests against California's Prop 8 are scheduled for Saturday across the nation, including in Birmingham. More information below.

In Los Angeles there is a popular Mexican restaurant named El Coyote Cafe. You remember, Sharon Tate ate her last meal there. A very popular place with the trendy and the gays.

But…oops…the owner, Marjorie Christoffersen, (a Mormon), gave $100 to Yes on 8. Some had called for a boycott, and Margie offered a free lunch to explain her position. The place was packed. An employee stated that “89 people would be affected by this boycott” and someone yelled out “18,000 families have already been affected.”

Then it got ugly. Really ugly.

Here are the people from Alabama who contributed to Proposition 8. (It’s easy to get information these days). It’s hard to tell where these people might work but I would suggest, if you live in those towns, that you not support their businesses, knowing that your money supports hatred and inequality.


JOHN ENSLEN $100 WETUMPKA AL 36092 Support



WALTER MORGAN $600 MOBILE AL 36609 Support

Total contributions against equality from Alabama...$1100.

Donations to preserve equality from Alabama totaled $2400, including my own, a fellow blogger and 13 other fair minded individuals.

I also discovered that a Phil Openshaw (DDS) of Hughson, California contributed $2500 and Rachelle Openshaw of Isari Flower Studio in San Diego contributed $100 to support inequality. To my knowledge, there is no relation.

Then, Wednesday night a huge protest occurred in New York near the Manhattan Mormon Temple. 15,000 people it was estimated.

"Gay, Straight, Black, White, Marriage is a Civil Right"

The passage of Prop 8 is a bellwether for gay equality, possibly equal in effect to the Stonewall Riot in September 1969. It is motivating the GLBT community across the nation to action. With the presidential election over, there is a lot of energy still out there waiting to be tapped.

So there are supposed to be protests nationwide, including Birmingham, Dothan and Mobile. Exact locations for any state or city can be found here. I don't see anything (yet) on Central Alabama Pride's web site, but I would hope they would take this up.

In Birmingham the protest is scheduled for in front of City Hall, quite appropriate seeing how Larry Langford is so anti-gay. Protests in central time zone cities should be at 12:30 PM, to coordinate with protests across the nation. Please spread this information to GLBT supporters, and let's have as big a crowd as we had at Pride this year.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Valley of Fire

Be sure to read my Western Tribune Column, following this post, which is somewhat critical of Obama supporters at Thompson Manor, a polling place in Bessemer, on election day.
The Valley of Fire
In Nevada we visited the Valley of Fire , a state park where we saw fascinating rock formations and petroglyphs, which are ancient Native American rock carvings used to communicate stories.

The Anasazi lived there around 300 BC until around 1150 AD. Well, actually they passed through during migrations or for ceremonies, because it is desert and not really much of a place to try to make a permanent settlement.

Petroglyphs are not merely drawn onto the rock, they are carved or inscribed, so they required a good bit of effort and skill. Remember, they didn't have routers or Dremel tools. Here are examples of petroglyphs in the park, carved maybe 2000 years ago!

There are several sites in and near the park with petroglyphs, and experts have decoded or translated the symbols into stories, which (to me) are fascinating.

One such story was The Offense of the Evil Man (and Its Consequences).

It is the story of a flagrant, Native American environmental health episode, and tells of one man with an anti-social mental condition who purposely contaminated the limited water supply with his own wastes, and the resulting sickness and death that spread though the clan, and how they dealt with the Evil Man. It is a tragic story.

The petroglyphs that tell this story are near an area of the desert that was used as a camping spot during their migrations, with limited water resources. The story was carved in to rock years after the event, as a reminder to those who came later of the tragedy that had occurred and the sadness the events brought to the clan.

This story interested me because of its public health significance, and I plan to look into it more deeply, beginning with a book that I bought and maybe ending with another trip.

Hey that sounds like a good idea!

Western Tribune Column November12 2008

Here is my column from today's Western Star. After this was written, and after I posted this, I heard from others who were not treated right by Obama supporters. But in no way is this critical of the Obama and his team, rather it is critical of local supporters who seemed to forget why we have elections and have no idea what Obama's call for unity means.


Approximately 53 % of Americans voted for Barack Obama for president, but an even greater number have expressed confidence that race relations will improve as a result of his election. Sixty seven per cent described their reaction to his election as optimistic, and 59% as proud, according to a USA Today/Gallup poll.

Some Obama supporters in Bessemer must not have gotten the memo.

At Obama’s headquarters in Bessemer, and at locations across the nation, volunteers worked day and night to organize, register new voters and get the vote out on Election Day.

On Election Day, when everyone is encouraged to vote, Obama volunteers treated white voters with disrespect at the Thompson Manor polling place. One person I know was called a “white devil” and a “honkey” as he was leaving the polling place by a volunteer who was passing out Obama flyers. And my own daughter, a strong Obama supporter who was among the first to vote that morning, faced angry stares and words from Obama supporters as well.

Of course there are bad apples in every bunch. But those who would verbally attack people at the voting booth obviously are not interested in building coalitions and working in a united way to solve the problems of our community and our nation. I advise them to listen to the president-elect’s victory speech, in which he urged us to “resist the temptation to fall back on the same pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.” He quoted Lincoln, who told a divided nation that “we are not enemies, but friends.” And he called for the support of those who did not vote for him.

The unity our next president seeks may be difficult to achieve when some who support him treat those who they assume oppose him with contempt.

Before the election I called for support for whoever the next president would be because the problems of our country are so great. An African American supporter of Obama in Nevada told me “in unity there is power.” And it will take a powerful president to lead this country out of the mess we are in.

If the angry Obama supporters who targeted white voters want our president to be successful, they need to be working to bring people together rather than pulling people apart. Healing our nation begins in our own community.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans, Mormons and Love

Today is Veterans Day, and the annual Veterans Day Parade in Birmingham begins at 1:30. Toward the end of this column I question what our service men and women fought for. Be thankful that people have put their lives on the line so that we can enjoy our freedoms.

Last night Keith Olbermann, in a Special Comment, asked people who supported Prop 8, "Why?" He makes the same points I did, and more.

In addition to the protests in California and Salt Lake City regarding the Mormon Church's role in passing Prop 8 in California, a major protest is planned for tomorrow in New York City at the Mormon Manhattan Temple.

My question is...we have a Mormon facility nearby in Gardendale. Why aren't we protesting there?

Just as an aside, how does what these two men are doing hurt anyone? How does the celebration of their love threaten the marriage of anyone?

Here Michelangelo Signorile takes a call from Nancy, a Mormon who contributed to Yes on 8. The discussion is about 15 minutes long, and focuses on whether the rights of groups of people can be taken away with a ballot measure. In the end, Nancy agrees that if the people of California voted to ban Mormons, that would be OK. In doing so, and in context of the conversation, she also agrees that the rights of African Americans could be taken away in this manner.

This probably does not bother Nancy, because she must know (from the conversation if not already), that the Mormon Church did not support the Civil Rights movement. They used the Bible, and their Book of Mormon, to support their discriminatory beliefs. More recently they have (so they say) moderated their beliefs on racial equality, but I am sure that many individuals still cling to their old beliefs, just as some still believe in polygamy and child marriage.

This may sound wacky, but this is scary, and not just for gays. 52% of people in California were manipulated to vote to take away an established right. Who's to say they couldn't be persuaded to vote to take away the rights of blacks to attend public colleges? Or the rights of Jews to gather in worship?

This is America? Where good men and women have fought for our freedom and for our Constitution, and we end up taking people's rights away by a vote? Today is Veteran's Day. Is this what our service men and women fight for? While many who march in the parade in Birmingham today may not agree that same sex couples should be able to marry, I bet most would hate to know that they fought for a country where the rights of individuals can be taken away with a vote.

This is different than the vote in Alabama that amended our constitution to restrict marriage. The potential right to marry was denied, but established rights were not taken away as they were in California.

In a decade or so, people will laugh when they look back at this. By then, the love between two people will be recognized and celebrated, regardless of who the two people are. Why does it have to be so difficult to get there? I'm sure African Americans asked this question throughout the history of the country. Sexual minorities are fortunate. Our rights are being realized much quicker. It just doesn't seem that way.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Honeymoon in Vegas

No, we didn't.

But we were in Las Vegas the week of the election. California is close by, and it would have been easy enough to take a day trip and get married.

It would not have been recognized in Alabama, but possibly one day it would.

Anyway, in the Houston airport on the way out there I noticed in the Sunday, November 2, New York Times, that 6 of the 30 wedding announcements were for same sex couples (that's 20 %), including a feature article on Max Mutchnick, the creator and executive producer of Will and Grace, and Erik Hyman, an entertainment attorney.

Photo Credit New York Times

In September the two became fathers to daughters Rose and Evan, and decided to get married in California before the vote on Proposition 8. On October 25 the couple vowed their love to each other in a ceremony officiated by Rabbi Lisa Edwards. For a couple living in California, that made perfect sense, as there is a good chance that even with the right to marry being taken away, those already married will get to remain married.

Even though over 22,000 lesbians and gay men have married in California, many have waited to see what the vote on Prop 8 would bring, wanting to make sure their marriage would be permanent before taking the vows.

Some where in that mix my partner and I fall. I mean, there is chance we would have come back married. I won't reveal what our plans were. But for argument's sake, let's say we were planning a West Hollywood wedding and a Vegas Honeymoon, and for whatever reason, we had decided to wait until after the vote to do it.

Tuesday's vote took that option off the table.

A lot of people feel that this is California's problem, but it does not stop there. People from every state have travelled to California to marry, and many in the U. S. looked at the right to marry in that state as the second chapter in a fifty chapter book on marriage equality.

I know that not everyone who reads this agrees that gays and lesbians should have the right to marry. But most would agree that same sex couples should be treated with dignity and afforded the same rights as other couples.

The passage of Prop 8 is not a done deal. The vote itself may have been illegal, as California law requires that measures used to take civil rights away from a group would have to first be passed by the legislature. In other words, you can't vote away people's rights, if that were so, would blacks have achieved equality?

California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said yesterday on CNN he hopes the State Supreme Court overturns the ban. Of course that would create all kinds of chaos as supporters of Prop 8 would cry foul, but let them cry.

Tens of thousands of protesters marched in Los Angeles and San Diego, as well as Palm Springs and Long Beach over the weekend, and the Mormon Church is taking a lot of heat. They provided half or more of the millions of dollars used to support the ban, and hopefully they will lose their tax exempt status because of it.

It is so odd to me that proponents of same sex marriage are being accused of "changing the definition of marriage" with the argument that you can't change the definition, and the funding to prevent the "change" comes from the group whose definition of marriage has included polygamy and child marriage. WTF?

There is also the issue of strong support for the ban from the African American community in California. Again, how odd, since California led the way in allowing recognition of marriage between the races.

Well, even though the equalization of marriage in California was a huge deal, this is not so huge, because progress marches on. Massachusetts still believes in equality. Connecticut will take up where California left off. New York may soon follow.

Maybe a trip up east will be planned for the not too distant future.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

I Won the Bet

I am changing comment moderation back to where anyone can comment. For a while anyway. My rules still apply. For those who don't know the rules, well, if you break them, your comment will not be published, and then you can try to figure out which rule you broke. I might even give you a hint.

On June 19 in the comments to this post I wrote:

"... I support progressive views, Jones supports conservative views. In presidential politics, that is Obama v. McCain. Let's see what the Bessemer precinct totals show us in November. I will wager that Obama receives more votes than McCain in Bessemer."

This was in response to an anonymous "former elected official in Bessemer" who claimed huge support for Dale Jones and to an ongoing dialogue pitting conservative values against progressive values.

So who won the wager?

These totals may not be complete, but its what I had sent to me by Jeff Hanson of The Birmingham News, who wrote this article describing why Democrats won in Jefferson County.

At 9 precincts in Bessemer, Obama totalled 8694 and McCain 4485. In other words, 66% of voters in Bessemer favored the progressive, Democrat candidate over the conservative, Republican candidate.

McCain prevailed at Canaan Baptist (1718 to 667) and Muscoda precinct 5602 (212 to 22).

Obama carried Bessemer City Hall (1005 to 181), Dunbar Abrams (1620 to 10), Fire Station #5 (888 to 108), Jonesboro (1717 to 824), Lawson State (1960 to 1024), Muscoda precinct 5603 (373 to 267), and Thomson Manor (742 to 141).

Thompson Manor is where I vote, and in my upcoming Western Tribune column I will let you know what went on there on election day. It wasn't pretty.

But, back to my point. Bessemer is full of good, progressive voters.

Thank you Bessemer for helping Barack Obama carry Jefferson County!!!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Yes We Did!!!

Be sure to read my column from this week's Western Tribune, which follows this post.

Barack Obama has just been declared the winner of the presidential race. America has just elected an African American as president!!!

Thank the young people.

Thank the community organizers.

Thank Robert Gibbs, David Plouffe and the other Obama campaign organizers. Thank all of the volunteers, here in Bessemer and across the nation.

Thank all Americans who voted for taking part in the historical election.

Final numbers are not in. I can not comment on the electoral college results. They just called Nevada for Obama!!!

President elect Barack Obama is about to speak in Grant Park, I wish I were there, but being here with Michelle Obama yesterday was good enough.

Let's go party. I am taking a break from blogging for a few days.

Western Tribune Column November 5 2008

My column for Wednesday November 5, 2008. It was difficult to write a column in advance with the election this week. I chose to address the major criticism of Barack Obama, by addressing a comment made about me.

The latest stone tossed my way was the label of “liberal, socialist Democrat” by a letter writer to this paper. If one must assign a label and liberal or conservative are the only choices, then yes, I am a liberal. But oddly enough, social democrats are by definition more to the center of the political spectrum, than, say, democratic socialists, who are more to the left.

So words and labels can be confusing. Positions are a better way to categorize people.

Yes, I believe in social justice. I believe that all people, regardless of their race, age, religion or sexual orientation should be afforded the same rights and responsibilities. Civil rights legislation (which was signed by a Democratic president) aims for social justice.

I believe in the social programs of today, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. These also began under the leadership of Democrats. Most elderly people and their family members believe in these programs also. In fact, without these programs the health and well-being of many of our elderly would be compromised.

I support the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) which was passed during the Clinton Administration and allows funds to be used to help provide coverage for uninsured children. Without this program, many children are at risk of poor health or death.

I support public education as long as the potential for quality education is distributed equally to all students. Traditionally, equality in education is supported by Democrats. A well educated individual is more likely to live a healthy lifestyle.

I have stated before in this column that healthcare is a right and that its provision is a moral issue. I look forward to the day when the quality of one’s health care does not depend on one’s income, possibly during the next administration.

Most of these programs began during my lifetime, and I have observed first hand that the quality of life for individual Americans improved with each. Most social programs either directly or indirectly affect the physical or mental health of individuals. As one who is trained in Public Health, I believe that elevating the health of Americans is one aspect of the greatness of our country.

I prefer the term “progressive” to describe my positions on the issues because U. S. policy is dynamic. To be conservative is to resist change, in spite of so much in need of change.



Bessemer Opinions readers are informed and engaged, and by my polling narrowly support Barack Obama. So I urge you to all vote, and to call at least 5 people and make sure they have voted. Make it 10 people. Let's have a historic turnout in Alabama.

We voted absentee last week, and this week we are here:

Yesterday we went to a Las Vegas rally where Michelle Obama spoke. Afterward she worked the crowd. People were really excited, and Michelle seemed to be truly enjoying herself. Her message was clear. Barack's experience working in the poor neighborhoods of Illinois increases his understanding of what Americans are going through. He and she had student loans like so many young people that they paid off not to long ago. They are regular Americans, "Joe Americans," I like to say.

After Michelle spoke she greeted the crowd.

Before the event we waited in line for a couple of hours. This guy pulled us aside and asked if we would stand on the riser behind the speaker. Of course we said yes. I mean...

Obama may not take Alabama, but I feel confident he will take Nevada. These folks are really well organized. But that is true of Obama's campaign across the country, including Bessemer.

Now, go vote. Make history. Enjoy.

Monday, November 3, 2008

One More Day

Today is a busy day. More about that tomorrow.

Here's something from the Barack Obama campaign staff.

Le MizBarack

And here is another Les Miz song for Barack.

And finally, here's an unlikely endorsement of Barack Obama.

Call your friends today and tomorrow and remind them to vote.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Trick or Treat

Trick or Treaters in this neighborhood were greeted by the future president, and never was so much laughter heard from little kids and even more from their parents.

Barack got fist bumps from 3 and 4 year olds, comments such as "Obama brings change," and even had his picture taken by a mom. We probably had 50 or 60 kids, some in groups of 6 or 7, some by themselves, some 16 or 17 years old. The older ones discussed the election seriously. Some came to the door while their parent waited in the car at the curb. The parents hooted and hollered, and some motioned for Barack to come to the car so they could meet him.

A couple of kids said they wanted to see the scary mask, so they saw this guy.

The choice is clear.

These kids will hopefully tell their parents, and those of voting age will be reminded of how important this election is.

Never miss an opportunity to promote your candidate.