NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE
4805 MT HOPE DRIVE • BALTIMORE, MD 21215-3297 • (410) 358-890
September 18, 2007 JULIAN BOND Chairman, Board of Directors
Marsha Ellison, President
Fort Lauderdale, Florida NAACP
1409 NW 6th Street Fort Lauderdale, FL 33311
Dear President Ellison:
Thank you for your courageous stand against homophobia in your community.
I am astounded by those who believe hostility toward homosexuals and the denial of civil rights to them is not a civil rights issue.
That's why when I am asked, "Are Gay Rights Civil Rights?" my answer is always, "Of course they are."
"Civil rights" are positive legal prerogatives - the right to equal treatment before the law. These are rights shared by all – there is no one in the United States who does not – or should not – share in these rights.
Gay and lesbian rights arc not "special rights" in any way. It isn't "special" to be free from discrimination – it is an ordinary, universal entitlement of citizenship. The right not to be discriminated against is a common-place claim we an expect to enjoy under our laws and our founding document, the Constitution. That many had to struggle to gain these rights makes them precious - it does not make them special, and it does not reserve them only for me or restrict them from others.
When others gain these rights, my rights are not reduced in any way. Luckily, "civil rights" are a win/win game; the more civil rights are won by others, the stronger the army defending my rights becomes. My rights are not diluted when my neighbor enjoys protection from the law – he or she becomes my ally in defending the rights we all share.
For some, comparisons between the African-American civil rights movement and the movement for gay and lesbian rights seem to diminish the long black historical struggle with all its suffering, sacrifices and endless toil. However, people of color ought to be flattered that our movement has provided so much inspiration for others, that is has been so widely imitated, and that our tactics, methods, heroines and heroes, even our songs, have been appropriated by or serve as models for others.
No parallel between movements for rights is exact. African-Americans are the only Americans were enslaved for more than two centuries, and people of color carry the badge of who we are on our faces. But we are far from the only people suffering discrimination – sadly, so do many others. They deserve the laws' protections and civil rights, two.
Sexual disposition parallels race – I was born black and had no choice. I couldn't and wouldn't change if I could. Like race, our sexuality isn't a preference – it is immutable, unchangeable, and the Constitution protects us all against prejudices and discrimination based on immutable differences.
Many gays and lesbians, along with Jews, worked side by side with me in the '60s civil rights movement. Am I to now tell them "thanks" for risking life and limb helping me win my rights – but they are excluded because of a condition of their birth? That they cannot share now in the victories they helped to win? That having accepted and embraced them as partners is a common struggle, I can now turn my back on them and deny them the rights they helped me win, that I enjoy because of them?
Not a chance.
Opponents of homosexuality have the right to their opinion: they do not have the right to use their beliefs to denigrate and marginalize others. A people who suffered bigotry in the past and suffer from it today ought to be the last people in the world to tolerate bigotry towards others.
Julian Bond, Chairman
NAACP National Board of Directors
Letter from NAACP National Chairman Julian Bond: "Are Gay Rights Civil Rights? ... Of course they are"
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE
About 100 people attended a Gay & Lesbian Issues Forum and Artistic showcase Saturday at Wallflower Gallery, 10 NE Third St. in Downtown Miami. I moderated two panel discussions, one about being gay in the workplace, the second about Florida's proposed marriage amendment.
Here are some pictures I took (click to enlarge):
Entertainment by local band Coffehouse Gypsies
Flash of Wallflower Gallery
Poet Andrew Baldwin reads to the audience.
A packed audience listened to the marriage amendment discussion.
The marriage amendment panel: SAVE board member Pamela Sweeney, Juan del Hierro of SAVE's Grassroots Action Committee and Donald Cavanaugh, assistant director/program director of Safe Schools South Florida (formerly GLSEN South Florida).
BY JAMES H. BURNETT III, [email protected]
''I say it was nothing short of a small miracle,'' says Bishop Leo Frade, of the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida.
But that doesn't mean vocal opinions don't remain on both sides of the issue.
Earlier this year, the leaders of the Anglican Communion, the worldwide overseer of Episcopal churches, demanded its U.S. church not install any more gay bishops, stop blessing same-sex unions and try to install more conservative bishops to accommodate more traditional church members.
Liberal clergy opposed the demands. Conservative clergy sided with the Anglican Communion and its leader, Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury.
In the end, both sides issued a statement to the Communion and the Anglican Church's 38 primates -- archbishops or regional presiding bishops -- agreeing in spirit to the demands of no more gay bishops and same-sex unions for now, but gently rejecting Communion input on future U.S. nominations.
The concessions won't jeopardize the status of V. Gene Robinson, the openly gay bishop of New Hampshire whose 2003 election started the controversy. Nor does it invalidate blessings previously given at same-sex commitment ceremonies.
''I can't tell you how, but we all came together on this one,'' says Frade, who attended the New Orleans assembly. In the end, the vast majority of the bishops . . . voted for the statement that we presented to the church's 38 primates.''
Still, not all South Florida Episcopal clergy agree that the statement and concessions healed the rift or that it eliminates the possibility of a future church split.
''It is wonderful news that the Episcopal Church in the United States remains intact. But to me it was sort of like putting a Band-Aid on the sun,'' says Father Orlando Addison, rector of St. James in the Hills Episcopal Church in Hollywood.
``It just wasn't enough. The truth is the bishops and priests on either side of this issue are no closer to agreeing. This statement simply puts things off till the next general assembly of the church in 2009.
``Hopefully then we can come to a resolution. But I fear we won't, and the church will split.''
That fear received a small boost Friday when Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, unsatisfied with the New Orleans compromise, announced he wanted to form a splinter church.
The problem, Addison says, is that both sides disagree on how literally to take the Bible, which some conservative clergy say condemns homosexuality.
''On a personal level, I believe all people should have the rights to the same social and financial benefits,'' Addison says. ``But to the issue of homosexuality, I'm sorry. But those rights should not alter how the church is run.''
Father Carlos Miranda, a former Episcopalian who is now rector of the breakaway King of Glory Anglican Church in Doral -- which aligned itself with the conservative Anglican Missions in the Americas -- has been watching the feud closely. He hopes that when the Episcopal general assembly meets in two years, conservative bishops will prevail.
''This is not a complicated issue,'' Miranda says. ``It comes down to the truthfulness and trustworthiness of Scripture. No, I am technically not an Episcopalian at this point. But I am a part of the Anglican Church. So this concerns me.''
Episcopal clergy like Father Sharrod Mallow, rector of All Saints Church in downtown Fort Lauderdale, argue that talk of an eventual church split is hype.
''The church is not going to split, not now, not at the next assembly,'' Mallow says. ``I'm amazed at what I hear -- especially in the media -- about our impending destruction. It's just not true.''
BY SAMUEL MAULL, Associated Press
The lawsuit was filed by Michael Harrington, 30, who claims his superior officers failed to take proper action when he told them about the malicious and discriminatory mistreatment he suffered.
"The hell he's gone through is heart wrenching," said Harrington's lawyer, George D. Rosenbaum.
Connie Pankratz, spokeswoman for the city's Law Department, said the city had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment.
Harrington says in court papers that his trouble with co-workers started in February 2003, when he told another officer at the 75th Precinct in Brooklyn that he was gay.
Harrington, of Brooklyn, said in the suit that within months he overheard an officer in the men's room referring to him as a "faggot." Harrington spoke to the officer who said he would hurt Harrington if he confronted the officer again.
Court papers say Harrington also repeatedly sought a transfer from the 75th Precinct but his written applications "kept getting lost." He was told that after he finally transferred, that someone posted obscene drawings of him in a sex act, the lawsuit alleges.
While working at the 79th Precinct in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, Harrington brought his domestic partner to the station house Christmas party. Upon introducing his partner, another officer spit out his drink and began laughing.
Harrington says he complained to a supervisor about being mistreated and the supervisor said he was going to transfer him to the Sixth Precinct in Greenwich Village "so plaintiff could be with his people," the suit said.
At the Sixth Precinct, court papers say, a co-worker told Harrington in December 2006 that "all faggots should be shot."
According to the suit, the stress, harassment and a hostile work environment caused Harrington to develop stomach cramps and nausea.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday at a state court in Manhattan, asked for unspecified money damages.
BY STEVE ROTHAUS, [email protected]
''I loved it. And the kids love it. It has universal appeal,'' said Andrew ''Drew'' Tabatchnick of Weston, who since college in 1979 has performed as Drew T at thousands of weddings, bar mitzvahs and other celebrations.
'I am the wedding singer. And everyone says, `Really?' They think that's so cool,'' said Tabatchnick, who'll take his own kids to see The Wedding Singer touring production that opens Wednesday at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.
''As a wedding singer, we're dealing with people at the most joyous time in their lives,'' he said. ``As opposed to being a divorce attorney who's dealing with tragedy and tsuris.''
Tabatchnick is one of several prominent South Florida wedding singers. Carlos Oliva, who began his career in nightclubs and producing albums for Miami Sound Machine, is another.
''I like the fact that people hire me for a wedding,'' Oliva said. ``They hire me knowing they're going to have fun.''
The Wedding Singer musical ran eight months in New York. Based on Adam Sandler's 1998 hit movie co-starring Drew Barrymore, the show is about Robbie Hart, an '80s rock musician who finds happiness performing at other people's special days.
''He's very content doing what he loves and he doesn't need the fame or the money,'' said actor Merritt David Janes, who plays Robbie in the touring company. ``The challenge for any performer is to reach your audience. Whoever your audience is, you have to find a way to identify with them and entertain them.''
In multicultural South Florida, that's a challenge, said Tabatchnick, whose repertoire ranges ``from Justin Timberlake to society music.''
''You need to have an ensemble that's large enough to have a full range,'' he said. ``I have Latin singers in the band. I do that. Whether its Hasidic or Sephardic or country, that's what's fun about it. You have to learn different material.''
Oliva, whose band is called Los Sobrinos del Juez (The Judge's Nephews), plays ``a lot of Latin weddings and bilingual weddings.''
He made the transition from nightclubs to weddings in 1980 and his band gets paid ''under $10,000'' per reception.
South Florida partygoers enjoy it when Oliva sings English-language songs such as Love the One You're With and Rock With You to a Latin beat. ''The American people recognize the songs and the Latin people love it,'' he said.
Oliva sings today's music ''up to a point.'' No rap or Reggaeton, he said.
Tabatchnick stays current by following Billboard.
''I Will Survive, The Macarena, believe it or not, no one asks for it anymore,'' he said. ``We don't play those trite things any more. We do new stuff.''
Sunrise, Sunset from Fiddler on the Roof is out, too.
Drew T used to sing lots of KC & the Sunshine Band, Billy Joel and Madonna. Now, it's Beyoncé, Usher and Fergie.
But what goes around, comes around. Tabatchnick's orchestra is working on a '60s and '70s medley from the current hit Frankie Valli-inspired Broadway musical, Jersey Boys. ''We start with Sherry and end with Oh, What a Night,'' Tabatchnick said.
Tabatchnick plays up to 10 weddings a month. The joy of being a wedding singer, he said: ``Part of it is your ego, getting it stroked. But part of it is making them happy. You put on a new suit and you feel like a million dollars.''
Not quite, but families pay up to $15,000 to hire Tabatchnick's orchestra.
''You're getting all the generations together to tumult and have a good time. That's what's fun about it,'' he said. ``When you see The Wedding Singer show, you walk away with that same feeling, having a good time.''
A great wedding singer is the most important thing at the party, according to South Florida events planner Barton Weiss, better known as Barton G.
''That's probably the single hardest element. It's what people stress the most about,'' Weiss said. ``Music is like food. Everyone's taste is different. The time, the pulse, how to read them. To know when -- and when not -- to sing Hava Nagila.
''It's all about taste and what kind of style and how to keep the party going,'' said Weiss, who works with only about 10 local wedding singers, including Tabatchnick and Oliva. ``If the band doesn't keep the energy and build to the climax, forget about it.''
Photo by HECTOR GABINO / EL NUEVO HERALD STAFF
South Florida wedding singer Carlos Oliva likes to give English-language songs a Latin beat. 'The American people recognize the songs and the Latin people love it,' he says.
» More Photos
IF YOU GO
- What: The Wedding Singer
- Where: Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale.
- When: Wednesday-Oct. 14, 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. Sundays, 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, with additional performances 2 p.m. Oct. 3 and 8 p.m. Oct. 9.
- Cost: $21-$65 plus handling and service charges. Purchase tickets at box office or Ticketmaster, 954-523-3309 in Broward, 305-358-5885 in Dade and 561-966-3309 in Palm Beach; www.ticketmas ter.com. Order for groups of 20 or more by calling 954-462-0222 or 800-6GROUPS (647-6877).
- Info: 954-462-0222 or www.browardcenter.org
BY JOSHUA FREED, Associated Press
Web sites had touted that restroom as a popular site for sex with strangers, and police reports over the summer described several cases of men ducking their heads under the dividers into adjoining stalls, allegedly in search of sex.
On June 11, an undercover police officer was the men's room when Craig allegedly tapped his feet and swiped his hand under the divider in a way authorities said was a signal for someone wanted sex.
Craig pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, but when the incident became public, he denied ever seeking sex there and said the officer misunderstood his actions. Craig is now seeking to withdraw his guilty plea to the misdemeanor.
The Minneapolis airport has more than 80 restrooms, but only two are being targeted for the new dividers, including the one now known for Craig's arrest.
"These two have been the most problematic in terms of complaints from people and indications on Web sites that sexual activities are occurring in them," said airport spokesman Patrick Hogan. He said the dividers would be installed within the next two months.
Both restrooms, in the busy Northstar Crossing shopping area, had a reputation on some Web sites as good places for bathroom liaisons. Hogan said airport officials had been checking the Web sites and found the activity had dropped off since Craig's arrest.
One person arrested over the summer told police he had four sexual encounters in three hours, and it was only on his fifth approach that someone objected, Hogan said.
The new stall dividers will fall to just 2 to 3 inches above the floor, instead of leaving as much as a foot of open space as they do now. The airport expects to spend $25,000; installing them in every restroom there would cost about $1 million, Hogan said.
"It is unfortunate to look at having to spend $1 million on something that wouldn't be necessary if people simply behaved themselves," he said.
BY JAY LINDSAY, Associated Press
Three years later, despite attempts in many states, the nation's highest courts haven't followed Massachusetts' lead. Last week, Maryland's high court became the latest after New York, Washington and New Jersey to refuse to grant marriage rights to gay residents.
"We were very disappointed to lose," said David Buckel of Lamdba Legal, which led the court fights in New York, New Jersey and Washington. "But you have to expect it in a civil rights movement because what you're doing is creating enormous change and there are enormous forces lined up against us."
Gay marriage opponents said the losses, coming in the states thought to be most open to gay marriage, show how far advocates overreached after the ruling in Massachusetts. Gay activists point to gains, such as court-ordered civil unions in New Jersey, and say they are prepared for a long fight. Two gay marriage cases are pending before high courts in Connecticut and California.
One reason for the court struggle could be that an anti-gay marriage decision in a liberal state such as New York creates cover for other high courts who face the issue, said Yale law professor William Eskridge, a constitutional scholar who supports gay rights. For example, the Maryland court cited the New York decision.
"There's a lemming effect," Eskridge said. "The fact that all the other lemmings are doing it makes the other lemmings feel not so bad about it."
Marriages in Massachusetts began six months after the state's Supreme Judicial Court ruled in November 2003 that gays had a constitutional right to marry.
Gay marriage proponents carefully selected where to advance litigation next, weighing factors such as whether the state had anti-discrimination laws protecting gay residents, the strength of the gay community and a state's legislative composition, Buckel said.
At the same time, opponents across the country immediately began to work to put marriage out of judicial reach by passing state constitutional amendments defining the union as between only a man and a woman. Twenty-seven states now have the amendments, including 14 that approved amendments in 2004.
Even in the legal venues deemed gay-friendly, that swift public backlash against the Massachusetts decision had an impact.
"I think that frankly has scared judges in state courts a bit, even in states where they've tended to be quite liberal," said Dale Carpenter, a University of Minnesota law professor.
First came the loss in New York in July 2006, followed by the decisions in Washington state, New Jersey and Maryland. Tony Perkins of the Family Research council, which opposes gay marriage, said the rulings were about more than political expediency - they're also legally correct.
"There actually are some good judges that do what they're supposed to do," he said.
Gay marriage advocates made a strategic blunder by becoming unwilling to accept modest steps toward marriage, such as same-sex partner registries, said Lynn Wardle, a Brigham Young University law professor and gay marriage opponent. A less provocative approach might have been the difference in the one-vote losses in high courts in Washington and Maryland, Wardle said.
Buckel said gay advocates would continue to bring court cases where appropriate. The process of going before the judiciary helps gay advocates reach lawmakers and the public, and that can clear the path for expanded rights, even if there's a court loss, he said.
High court losses don't mask huge gains for gays in the last decade, Eskridge said. Nine states have approved spousal rights in some form for same-sex couples - Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Maine, California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii.
Every state will eventually have to create some kind of legal structure to deal with the financial and social realities of same-sex relationships, Eskridge said. It may not be gay marriage everywhere, but it will be some form of expanded rights, he said.
"It took generations to make any progress on race," Eskridge said. "This stuff doesn't come overnight."
"I feel I've learned so much this past year, so I'm grateful for that - so, yeah, that changes you," the 34-year-old actor said Thursday on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."
Knight, who plays Dr. George O'Malley on ABC's hit medical drama, "Grey's Anatomy," announced that he's gay after it surfaced that Isaiah Washington had used an anti-gay slur against him during an on-set clash with a co-star.
Washington, 44, was booted from his role as a surgeon on the show after he used an anti-gay epithet backstage at the Golden Globe Awards in January while denying he'd used it previously on the set against Knight.
He publicly apologized and tried to make amends by meeting with gay-rights organizations and filming a public-service announcement calling for tolerance.
Knight said telling the world you're gay isn't an easy thing to do.
"Everyone has their own path," he said. "You just have to respect that. I know a lot of people who make statements but you have to do it when it's right for you."
Knight joked that he's dating someone very close to "Grey's Anatomy" co-star Katherine Heigl.
"Recently Kate and her fiance, Josh Kelley, and me and her mom went out to dinner ... and it was reported that it was with me and my new boyfriend. But that was really her mom," he told DeGeneres.
"So I guess I'm dating Katherine's mom right now," he quipped.
I'll be moderating a gay-issues panel discussion on Saturday. Please join me.
Here's the news release:
The Wallflower Gallery's Gay & Lesbian Issues Forum & Artistic Showcase
The Wallflower Gallery’s Gay & Lesbian Issues Forum & Artistic Showcase is on Saturday, September 29, 2007. The purpose of this event is to bring people and organizations together to open up a dialogue about issues that best represent the concerns of individuals and our society. To that end, we're hosting informational panels and group discussions to address relevant topics and potential solutions. The goal is to educate for greater awareness and tolerance in our diverse community.
The Gay & Lesbian Issues Forum is an outreach program that is designed to share points of view, experiences and projects from within the community. With awareness, individuals and organizations can network to increase resources and gain more support for their positive impact in our community.
- 4 p.m., Sept. 29, 2007
- Gay & Lesbian Issues Forum & Artistic Showcase, 10 NE Third St., Miami
- Cost : $5
In Mexico with co-star Kevin James to promote the film's opening in theaters here, Sandler told a news conference: "If I can help anybody in any way, I certainly would."
But the 41-year-old comedian stopped short of calling himself a potential gay icon.
"I don't think that's gonna happen, dude, certainly not," Sandler said. "If I was a gay man, I wouldn't want me to represent" the gay community.
"Chuck and Larry," scheduled to be released on DVD in the U.S. in November, tells the story of two straight Brooklyn firefighters who pretend to be gay domestic partners for pension benefits. The movie raked in about $35 million in U.S. box-office sales on its opening weekend despite weak reviews and some complaints of homophobia.
"Of course, we didn't want to offend anybody or hurt anybody," James said at the news conference. "If we can help people too along the way, that would be great."
Sandler described the kiss the two actors shared during filming as "not bad."
"He was clean, and he seemed to brush his teeth and all that," Sandler said.
Caption: U.S. actors Kevin James, right, and Adam Sandler joke during the presentation of the movie "I now pronounce you Chuck and Larry" in Mexico City, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2007. (AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini)