by David Cohen - Publisher

Today is a special day for the LGBT community in the USA. In a monumental decision today, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in California ruled that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. I would like to share with you the readers,  few of the emails I received  today from some of the leaders in our community.

From: Bernard Cherkasov, Chief Executive Officer of Equality Illinois
The inexorable march to full marriage equality achieved a significant milestone with the historic ruling that Proposition 8 violates the U.S. Constitution. The court’s gratifying decision makes a clear statement that marriage equality is a fundamental freedom. This victory, if upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, will restore full marriage equality in California, the nation’s largest state, and add to the pressure in Illinois and elsewhere in the country to end marriage discrimination. In addition to the dignity and respect marriage equality grants loving and committed couples, it ensures security and critical safety net protections for all married couples and their families.  


While we support the implementation of civil unions in Illinois in 2011, it still falls short of achieving full marriage equality on the state level and does little to guarantee the federal rights and privileges that marriage provides opposite-sex couples. With this ruling, political leaders who support full equality will have important arguments to share with state legislators who will inevitably be asked to vote on full marriage rights in the future.  


Lawmakers need not wait for the ultimate disposition of the California case and other legal rulings to do the right thing in Springfield and Washington, D.C. to end marriage discrimination. We will continue to fight for equality on every level and could not do it without YOU. Thank you!

From: NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell, Esq.
Today, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the August 2010 decision of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco striking down Proposition 8, the 2008 measure that stripped same-sex couples of the right to marry in California. The Court affirmed the ruling of former Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker that Prop 8 discriminates against same-sex couples in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The court also rejected Prop 8 supporters’ offensive argument that Judge Walker should have refused to preside over the case because he is gay and in a relationship with a man.

The court ruled that Proposition 8 violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution because it "serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples."


The supporters of Prop 8 have 15 days to ask the Ninth Circuit panel to reconsider its decision or to ask for reconsideration by a larger panel of judges on that court. Alternatively, they have 90 days to request that the Supreme Court of the United States review the case.


NCLR, Lambda Legal, ACLU of Northern California, and Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders filed an amicus brief urging the court to affirm Judge Walker’s decision.

From: Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy.
Today’s decision by the 9th Circuit declaring that California’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution is good for marriage, it is good for religion and it is good for the people of California.  How the government defines marriage must be rooted in the Constitution – as is this decision.  Doing so in no way inhibits the right of a church or other house of worship to base its definition on religious doctrine. 

To the religious institutions that would attempt to redefine the inherent concept of religious freedom by arguing that today’s ruling somehow diminishes religious freedom, Interfaith Alliance holds that in fact, the ruling makes very clear that legalizing same sex marriage has no impact whatsoever on religious freedom.  A church that opposes same sex marriage is under no more legal pressure to perform such unions now than it was before the ruling.  In fact, no religion would ever be required to condone same-gender marriage, and no member of the clergy would ever be required to perform a wedding ceremony not in accordance with his or her religious beliefs.  While I hope that those who oppose same sex marriage will eventually change their position, they are under no legal requirement to do so, but neither should they stand in the way of those of us who embrace marriage equality.

While we are sure that supporters of Proposition 8 will appeal the ruling, we hope today’s decision will be upheld, enshrining marriage equality for same-sex couples in the State of California – and paving the way for the rest of the country to follow its lead.

From: Joe Solmonese, President Human Rights Campaign.
This monumental decision affirms what we all know to be true – our Constitution exists to protect the basic civil rights of all Americans – gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.

Prop. 8 does nothing to strengthen or protect any marriage. Instead, it singles out thousands of loving California families for different treatment, simply because they are gay and lesbian couples. The Ninth Circuit ruled on the right side of history by recognizing that our Constitution cannot tolerate such egregious discrimination.

Their move upholds a lower court's decision that anti-gay bigotry was behind Prop. 8, the hateful law that denied gay and lesbian Californians the freedom to marry.

Here's what the Court said in its decision: Prop. 8 "served no purpose, and had no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationship and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples."

The path ahead may still be long, but this case has helped propel the fight for marriage equality forward. And as the struggle continues in courtrooms and statehouses, we'll all know the power behind it is driven by devoted supporters like you. The fight goes on, and I can't thank you enough for being a part of this extraordinary movement.
 
 
by David Cohen
As a gay man I believe that we should support our own especially in the courtroom. Gay candidate Brad Trowbridge is running for a judge in Cook County in the 8th judicial sub-circuit and he needs your vote and support. The real reason you should help and vote for Brad is because of who he is as a person, and for what he stands for, his qualifications and experience. I hope you will support Brad and vote for him on Tuesday, March 20, 2012.
Having two jobs one as a social worker, and the second as an attorney Brad is used to working hard. For many years Brad worked with disadvantaged people from all walks of life: minority teen mothers, people with HIV/AIDS, and seniors living in poverty, he made many visits to places like Cabrini-Green and the Lathrop Homes.  "I believe my experience makes me uniquely qualified to sit on the bench.  My life and professional experiences are far broader than just within the legal system."

As an attorney, in the last 11 years Brad focused on helping victims of domestic violence. He also help their children to escape abusive situations.  He spent thousands of hours at the courtroom and gained experience as he represented over 500 victims of domestic violence in obtaining orders of protection, dissolution of marriage, child support and custody of their children.

"I am running for judge because I believe we need more judges who understand the complexities of life and human relationships," said Brad in a recent interview with PINK. He wants to help people because "people are not treated fairly or with respect in the judicial system," and that's why we should vote for Brad who wants to change the bad experiences many people have at the courthouse. 

PINK: Where were you born and when did you come out?
Brad: I was born in central Illinois...Jacksonville, IL....a town of 19,000, and I'm the only child. I came out to my first friend when I was 22. I didn't come out to my family until much later. I was scared to death. I thought my friends and family would disown me. It was the mid-80s, a very different time for gay people. We were also dealing with the AIDS epidemic and the homophobia that was connected to that. 

PINK: Why did you choose to go to law school?
Brad: I worked for Horizons Community Services (now Center on Halsted) as an AIDS/HIV counselor from 1988-91. I counseled gay men who had just tested positive. It was a very demanding job because back then there was limited treatment available and many of my clients died within a few months of finding their test results or diagnosis. I was offered a job at Northwestern University's Counseling and Psychological Services office as a counselor for all undergraduate students, but particularly LGBT students. There had been two student suicides on campus, one by a known gay student and one suspected gay student. The school administration felt they needed an "out" gay counselor to send the message to the student population that they viewed gays in a positive manner and that LGBT students had a resource available to them.  Many of my clients were either abused as children or were "coming out" and dealing with the a lot of self-loathing and hostility from their families, churches, and society in general. After almost 5 years, I decided I wanted to be more of an advocate. I wanted to fight for things like equal rights for LGBT people and holding bullies and abusers accountable. That's not the role of a counselor. So I went to law school at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. It was a great law school but not very progressive at the time regarding LGBT issues. I became the president of the gay law student group because no one else would do it. I was in my mid-thirties at that point. I didn't really want to be the "student" president of anything. But I did it because I knew if I didn't, we were going to be even more isolated as a community. I made sure we brought in speakers about same-sex marriage and a representative from a transgender advocacy group speak to the whole law school. We were attacked by a conservative school newspaper for doing it but it educated a lot of future lawyers. 
 
PINK: Is being gay makes it more difficult for you to win this election as a judge?
Brad: No. The 8th sub-circuit encompasses Andersonville, Boystown, Lakeview and Lincoln Park. Gay candidates tend to do better in this sub-circuit than in county-wide races.

PINK: Would it make a difference if a gay person sitting on the bench and how?
Brad: Under the law, no. The law is sexual-orientation neutral for the most part. But I have seen and heard homophobic judges. Most of the time a judge's opinion about gays is often irrelevant, homophobia in family law cases can be devastating.   A few years ago, in a well-publicized case, a Cook County judge denied a lesbian couple the right to adopt and appointed an anti-gay group to represent the minor child. That judge is still on the bench.  

PINK: What are you going to do for the gay voters? 
As a judicial candidate I can't state how I would rule on a case or issue. I can tell you that I have been a gay rights advocate for many years and wrote a book chapter on civil unions and legal issues facing same-sex couples. That should give gay voters some idea about my issues I am personally passionate about. 

PINK: Can you change anything to benefit the gay community and how? 
Brad: As a judge, I can do several things to help the gay community. First, if elected I would be only the fifth openly gay male judge out of 420 in Cook County. We need more visibility and representation. And judges talk to each other. Gay judges can educate their colleagues on issues informally. With my professional and life experience I think I would be a good resource for other judges about sexual orientation and gender identity issues. Second, the bulk of my experience is in family law. With the passage of the Civil Unions Act, there are going to be many same-sex couples coming to court to dissolve those relationships at some point (ie, get divorced) and litigate custody of their children. There currently are no openly gay male judges who hear those cases. We have to have judges who will do what is fair and in the best interest of children and not be guided by homophobia or their notions of gender stereotypes in deciding cases. I think having more gay judges in those courtrooms will be very important to our community.  

I hope you will support Brad and vote for him on Tuesday, March 20, 2012. To learn more about Brad visit his website 
www.bradforjudge.com.
 
 
Posted on April 8, 2011
by David Cohen

WASHINGTON–The Human Rights Campaign hails the Arkansas Supreme Court’s decision upholding a lower court ruling that a law prohibiting adoption by unmarried couples who live together violates the Arkansas Constitution. On Nov. 4, 2008, Arkansas voters approved a statutory ban on adoption and foster parenting by unmarried individuals cohabiting with a sexual partner.  Today’s ruling affirms an April ruling by a Pulaski County circuit judge that Initiated Act I of 2008 intrudes on privacy rights guaranteed by the Arkansas Constitution.  HRC also congratulates and thanks the American Civil Liberties Union for their work in providing representation in this case.

“The Arkansas Supreme Court has removed a discriminatory barrier for loving gay and lesbian couples who, child welfare experts agree, are equally able parents,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese.  “Too many children are in need of a loving home and the court has rightfully put their interests ahead of discrimination.”

Today’s victory leaves Mississippi and Utah as the only states with adoption bans for unmarried couples, including same-sex couples.  Currently the Virginia State Board of Social Services will decide in the coming weeks whether to enact regulations proposed by former Governor Kaine that would prevent discrimination based on marital status by child welfare agencies in the adoption process.  Governor Bob McDonnell has until April 16 to make a formal recommendation to the State Board of Social Services and has said publicly he is against the regulations.  HRC has called on the Governor and the State Board of Social Services to enact the regulations.

Detailing adoption laws across the country is available at www.hrc.org/documents/parenting_laws_maps.pdf.

Source: HRC press release
 
 
Posted on December 24, 2010
More than $650,000 raised in 50 days, thanks to community support

CHICAGO – Dec. 23, 2010 – Broad community support from more than 1,400 donors delivered a miracle lifeline to Howard Brown Health Center, which announced today that it received donations of more than $650,000 since launching its Lifeline Appeal 50 days ago.

Capping day-50 of this unprecedented campaign, Walgreens added $25,000 to the total amount raised.  The donations enable Howard Brown to keep its doors open and continue providing services to its more than 36,000 clients in the new year.

Lifeline Appeal contributions came from friends around the globe touched by Howard Brown’s mission and its health care services to the GLBTQA community. For example, a Howard Brown Health Center patient, who earns less than $24,000 a year, donated $2,000 to the Lifeline Appeal.

“We’ve been overwhelmed by personal stories like this one and others that demonstrate how people truly sacrificed to help Howard Brown Health Center in a time of need,” said President and CEO Jamal M. Edwards.

The campaign received an early boost from an ‘angel’ donor who asks to remain anonymous. He learned about the Lifeline Appeal when it was announced on Nov. 4 and quickly called to offer a $200,000 gift that was to be used to match additional fundraising efforts.

“More than 1,400 individuals, businesses, staff and board members, and even on-line friends took a stand to save Howard Brown Health Center from closing its doors. With your dollars and efforts, you gave us a lifeline and made the health of the LGBTQA community a high priority,” Edwards told the crowd gathered to hear the announcement. “Our hearts are filled with gratitude. We give many thanks to all our donors like Walgreens and our anonymous ’angel‘ donor for helping to make the Lifeline Appeal a great success.”

Mark Andrews, board chairman, credited the grassroots efforts — from small fundraising parties to Facebook outreach — with reaching people who care about continued quality health care services in the community. “This has been a team effort involving so many people, and today we’re here to celebrate and thank each and every one who made this possible,” he said.

Beginning Jan. 1, Karma Isrealsen will become Howard Brown’s board chair as part of the responsible transition plan that will bring several new people on the board.

“This is a powerful testament to the generous spirit of our community,” she said. ”We encourage the many people who supported this Lifeline Appeal to continue their support by volunteering time and/or continuing financial support Howard Brown.  As the community has helped us, we will continue to be here to help the community by providing culturally competent and compassionate health care to our entire community.”

A plaque with the names of each Lifeline Appeal donor will be on display in the lobby of Howard Brown Health Center.
Donations can still be made by visiting www.HowardBrown.org or calling (773) 388-1600.

About Howard Brown Health Center
Founded in 1974, Howard Brown is now one of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning and allies (LGBTQA) organizations. The agency serves more than 36,000 adults and youth each year in its diverse health and social service delivery system focused around seven major programmatic divisions: primary medical care, behavioral health, research, HIV/STD prevention, youth services, elder services, and community initiatives. Howard Brown is a multi-site operation based in Chicago and includes a main health and research center in the Uptown neighborhood TRIAD Health practice at Illinois Masonic Hospital, the Broadway Youth Center, and three Brown Elephant resale shops in Chicago and Oak Park.
 
 
Posted on December 3, 2010
by David Cohen

This week is a week to remember in Illinois gay history. On Tuesday, the Illinois House passed the civil union legislation and on Wednesday the Senate with a narrow victory voted to legalize it.

When Gov. Pat Quinn signs the legislation, it will become a new law but the opposition to the new law is still there.

Governor Pat Quinn said Wednesday he will sign Senate Bill 1716, which creates civil unions and passed the state Senate on a 32-24 vote. “I think this is a proud day for the people of our state,” Quinn told reporters in his office after the vote. “It’s everybody in and nobody left out.”

But Don Blasing, the current president of the Evangelical Ministerial Association of Greater Peoria has a different opinion “We feel it violates the Biblical standards God established for human relationships and marriage”

Personally I believe we are on the right path to equality and it is a step in the right direction. The law will give gay couples some of the same rights as heterosexual couples have, including health insurance to the partner of a gay employee in a civil union. Unfortunately, we would not be able to file joint federal tax returns because the federal government does not recognize civil unions as a real marriage.

I hope this will change in time, This is a new era for the state of IL, an era of prosperity, growth and acceptancy . We are moving forward toward freedom and equality. There is nothing more beautiful then seeing two people in love regardless of their color, race or sexuality.

 
 
Posted on November 20, 2010

Washington—November 18, 2010 – Senators Bob Casey and Al Franken and Representatives Jared Polis and Linda Sánchez were joined by singer Clay Aiken, Dancing with the Stars’ Louis Van Amstel, and Sirdeaner Walker and Tammy Aaberg, two mothers who lost their sons to suicide after they faced in-school bullying, to stress the importance two bills that address the bullying and harassment of students in schools.

The Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA), introduced by Rep. Linda Sánchez and Sen. Bob Casey, is a federal anti-bullying bill that includes protections based on race, sex, national origin, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. The bill has bi-partisan support and currently has 130 cosponsors in the House and 15 cosponsors in the Senate.

The Student Non-Discrimination Act, modeled after Title IX, introduced by Rep. Jared Polis and Sen. Al Franken, would provide protections to students targeted for bullying, harassment and discrimination based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill currently as 127 cosponsors in the House and 30 cosponsors in the Senate.

“Our nation has failed to address the pervasive problem of bullying and harassment in schools for far too long,” said GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard. “Countless youth are denied access to an education every day because they do not feel safe in school. Passing the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act would go a long way toward laying the necessary foundation of support lacking in many American schools.”

“No student should have to dread going to school because they fear being bullied,” said Senator Al Franken. “With the spate of recent suicides in Minnesota that were linked to anti-LGBT bullying, it’s clear that we need to do more to ensure schools provide a safe environment for all students. We must address bullying and harassment in schools in the next Congress.”

Clay Aiken, known to many as an American Idol star, is also a father and a former special education teacher who feels strongly about enacting specific anti-bullying protections so that future generations have the opportunity to fulfill their dreams. “I never had someone who told me that it was ok to be different…that it was okay to be me. What I did hear was that it would get better once I was out of high school…that things would get better. But from where I sat, I could not possibly believe that to be true. We need federal leadership from Congress to encourage all states and districts and each and every school to create safe learning environments where all students can learn and succeed.”

Source: Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) press release; edited for brevity. www.glsen.org
 
 
Dear Friends,

For more than 36 years, Howard Brown Health Center has been providing care, preventing illness, conducting cutting-edge research, and safeguarding the health of our community. It may be that you, a friend or loved one, or someone you know has benefited from Howard Brown’s services and knows the friendly faces that provide kindhearted treatment and care to those who rely on us. When the Chicago LGBTQ community needs compassionate care, advocacy for their health, and life-saving medical services and support, Howard Brown is their lifeline.

Today, we need you to be a lifeline for Howard Brown. Without your support, we will most likely close our doors by the end of the year. Why? Our past leadership mismanaged Howard Brown’s funds. Ultimately, their actions have led to a need to raise $500,000 by the end of this year, and an additional $500,000 next year. We are reaching out to all of our friends and supporters for gifts great and small to help us continue our lifesaving services.

Your gift today to the Lifeline Appeal will save lives and help secure the future of Howard Brown’s desperately needed medical care and health services in our community. As Howard Brown begins a new day – steadying from extraordinary challenges to remain a vital lifeline for LGBTQ individuals and families – please act now and make a contribution to help keep our doors open.

This is a critical time. Quite simply: Without your lifeline of support in the next 50 days, Howard Brown may cease to exist, people will go without necessary health care, and countless lives will be at risk. With your help, we won’t allow that to happen. We refuse to allow youth like Will, who was turned out by his family and harassed and assaulted in his school just because he is gay. Will felt so isolated and alone that he thought about taking his life. Instead he found Howard Brown’s Broadway Youth Center, a lifeline of services for LGBT youth. At the Broadway Youth  Center, Will was welcomed by compassionate staff and caring professionals who provided more than our expert services; they helped him understand that he is not alone. The BYC nourished him physically with warm meals and nurtured his spirit with the support that every one of our youth deserves.  Will’s own words best describe the lifeline of support you provide with your gift to Howard Brown: “There is no other place like the Broadway Youth Center or like Howard Brown Health Center in Chicago. I believe that they saved my life, and I will be forever grateful.”  Today, Will is a nursing student at Loyola  University, committed to giving back to his community in the way that he was supported at Howard Brown. Your support of the Lifeline Appeal helps us ensure that all our youth, adult, and elder clients have a place to go for vital care and support. Our outstanding new leadership team and I firmly believe that Howard Brown  Health Center will be here for many decades to come – yet only with your support and the support of our entire community.

Just as Howard Brown and the Lesbian Community Care Project (LCCP) were founded by the community when there was a void in services and support, we now turn to the community from which we came to support Howard Brown in our unwavering commitment to continue the important work this community started. Each day, we continue to serve our clients with the expert and compassionate care that everyone deserves. And, we will continue to serve our community as we work toward our new vision of a world where being LGBT is good for one’s health – for every LGBTQA person!

Join us to help realize this future and be a lifeline for our community, just as Howard Brown has been for 36 years. Thank you for your support. We depend on you, as many depend on Howard Brown.

Please make a Lifeline Gift today to support life-saving care and services.

With our steadfast commitment and heartfelt gratitude for your support,

Jamal M. Edwards, J.D.
President and CEO

Donations can be issued here, via Howard Brown’s website.
 
 
Posted on October 1, 2010
by David Cohen

Per Equality Forum in Philadelphia, PA: Starting today, an Icon will be featured every day in October. Each icon will be highlighted with a video, bio, bibliography, downloadable images, and other educational resources – all free of charge - at www.glbthistorymonth.com.
You can share Icon videos on your favorite social networking site or embed the videos on your Web site or blog. Once embedded, the video player automatically updates with that day’s featured Icon.
The resources for the 124 icons from GLBT History Month 2006 to 2009 are archived on the site and with the 31 Icons for 2010 can be used to create a GLBT History Month exhibit.
Equality Forum coordinates GLBT History Month. 2010 marks the 5th Anniversary of GLBT History Month. Equality Forum has created commemorative resources for GLBT History Month 2006 to 2010, including a special edition 5th Anniversary Poster. All 5th Anniversary resources are available on the site.
Today’s featured LGBT icon is American Solider and DADT repeal spokesperson Eric Alva. For more information and icons, go HERE.
 
 
Posted on September 17, 2010
Per a press release distributed by Think Tank Marketing:

“Since her appearance at the MTV Video Music Awards with four members of the Service members Legal Defence Network, Lady Gaga has been on a mission to speak out against the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

”In a special video message posted this morning, Gaga urges members of the U.S. Senate to vote next week in favor of the Defense Authorization Bill, a proposed measure that would repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ Gaga is asking fans to join the fight by calling their own senators, which she demonstrates in the video by calling New York Democrats Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.

“In the video, Gaga says: ‘I have called both of the senators that operate in my district.  I will not stop calling until I reach them and I can leave them this message: I am a constituent of the senator; my name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, also known as Lady Gaga. I’m calling to ask the senator to vote with Senators Reid and Levin to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and oppose John McCain’s shameless filibuster. We need to do this for our gay and lesbian soldiers, and finally repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ “

 
 
Posted on June 29, 2010
by David Cohen
 
Last Sunday on Gay Pride Illinois became the ninth state to enact an enumerated anti-bullying bill that explicitly protects LGBT students from bullying. At a Chicago-area elementary school, Governor Pat Quinn signed the states’ recently passed anti-bullying bill that specifically mentions a list of protected characteristics that includes sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. The bill passed both chambers overwhelmingly.

New York, which passed a similar law last week, will become the 10th state to enact such a law when Governor David Paterson signs the bill.

“At long last, schools across the State will be uniformly required to take steps to protect vulnerable kids from bullying and violence,” – said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois.  “Students who are perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender are particularly vulnerable to bullying.  And the attempted suicide rate among LGBT students, which is as much as three times higher than the general average, presents alarming evidence for just how urgently we need this law.”

“GLSEN applauds Illinois Governor Pat Quinn for signing an anti-bullying law that truly will protect all students from bullying,” GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said. “Research shows that enumerated anti-bullying laws provide the greatest protection for students, and GLSEN thanks the Illinois legislature and Illinois safe schools advocates for ensuring that a strong anti-bullying bill is now the law of the land in Illinois.”

The national report School Climate in America found that students from schools with policies like the ones passed in Illinois and New York are more likely to feel very safe at school (54% vs. 36%) compared to students at schools without such policies.