Tea Party Activist Claims Bullying is “Healthy”

Lately, I’ve been following the HRC’s (Human Rights Campaign) Call it Out campaign which aims to “call out” homophobia and transphobia and promote respect and civil discourse. Their latest target is Tea Party Nation’s activist, Rich Swier.

 Last month, People for the American Way (who preach against intolerance) reported on the anti-gay diatribe of TPN’s Alan Caruba, who claims that the “queering of America” is “one more factor in the destruction of America.” Now they’re launching another attack on the LGBT community, this time in the form of Rich Swier, an activist for TPN and the anti-Muslim group Act! For America. Recently, when Gulf Coast Gives launched an anti-bullying initiative, he rallied against the Florida group, saying that bullying of LGBT youth is a “sham” because “this is not bullying. It is peer pressure and is healthy.”

Gulf Coast Gives is working to raise funds to bring homosexual activist Hudson Taylor to Sarasota, FL. According to their website:

“77% of all bullying victims are picked on due to sexual orientation, gender identity, or the perception of either. LGBT youth are up to five times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight counterparts. ALSO Out Youth is the only LGBT youth organization serving both Sarasota and Manatee Counties, providing advocacy, leadership, support, and outreach since 1992. Please support ALSO in bringing Hudson Taylor to Sarasota. Hudson, an outstanding athlete, is a committed LGBT advocate and founder of Athlete Ally.”

 The problem is the entire bullying campaign is a sham created by radical gay activist Kevin Jennings. Jennings is the founder of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). As MassResistance.org reports, “The homosexual movement in the public schools has always been based on lies and deception. But until the mid-1990s, they were still having difficulty getting into the schools. Then they found the key to their huge success – what they call ‘re-framing the issue’.”

 …

This is not bullying. It is peer pressure and is healthy. There are many bad behaviors such as smoking, under age drinking and drug abuse that are behaviors that cannot be condoned. Homosexuality falls into this category. Homosexuality is simply bad behavior that youth see as such and rightly pressure peers to stop it. In Sarasota County over 70% of all HIV/AIDS cases are due to male sex with males.

I agree with Gulf Coast Gives that “LGBT youth are up to five times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight counterparts.” Homosexuality, like drugs, harms young people if they experiment with it. That is the greatest tragedy.

I have several issues with his stance. For one, he states himself that he agrees with GCG’s findings that LGBT youth are more likely to attempt suicide. The Trevor Project has corroborated that figure, also stating that for every one that attempts it, twenty more try. Swier seems to think that homosexuality itself is to blame. However, study after study has shown that the majority of kids who attempt suicide, whether or not they succeed, do so because of a lack of support and acceptance. They feel they have nowhere to turn and therefore, suicide is their only way out.

In the majority of other bullying cases, students can turn towards teachers, counselors or parents. I’m in no way diminishing the difficulty kids face in these other cases, but there is a support system that can help. However, when it comes to LGBTQ youth, the fear of abandonment from their peers and family often keep them from speaking out. The problem is that they’re not always wrong.

According to the National Coalition for the Homeless:

–       20% of homeless youth are LGBT. In comparison, the general youth population is only 10% LGBT.

–       While homeless youth typically experience severe family conflict as the primary reason for their homelessness, LGBT youth are twice as likely to have experienced sexual abuse before the age of 12 (as their primary reason for homelessness).

–       LGBT youth, once homeless, are at higher risk for victimization, mental health problems, and unsafe sexual practices. 58.7% of LGBT homeless youth have been sexually victimized compared to 33.4% of heterosexual homeless youth.

–       LGBT youth are roughly 7.4 times more likely to experience acts of sexual violence than heterosexual homeless youth.

–       LGBT homeless youth commit suicide at higher rates (62%) than heterosexual homeless youth (29%).

Seeing these statistics and knowing how fragile the psyche is at that age, I don’t see how Rich Swier can claim that LGBT bullying is “healthy.” I recently wrote an article on the Trevor Project and sited ten standout suicide cases from last September alone. Two of those boys were only 13! The families of Asher Brown [who shot himself on September 23, 2010] and Seth Walsh [who hanged himself on September 19, 2010] claimed that they were “bullied to death” and that the bullying began even before they came out. Their parents spoke with the School Board several times, but their complaints fell on deaf ears.

Rich Swier needs to understand that bullying is never ok, no matter what the circumstances. He calls it “peer pressure,” but the last time I checked, those words didn’t have a very positive connotation either. He equates homosexuality to a drug problem or smoking. But as far as I know, you don’t come out of your mother’s womb with a cigarette in your mouth. Homosexuality is not a “bad behavior.” It is not a choice. Unless you’ve been there, you might not completely be able to understand it, but most of us went through periods of denial and trying to fight these feelings when we were younger. Seth Walsh is proof of that. His grandmother Judy Walsh, a retired schoolteacher was quoted as saying: “Initially he wanted to have a girlfriend. He wasn’t happy with his orientation. He read the Bible a lot. This was not the way he wanted to live his life, but that’s what he was dealt with.” So, does Swier honestly think anyone would choose to be on the receiving end of all this hatred?

As adults in this country, it is our duty to protect our youth. Right wing activists like Rich Swier are making this increasingly difficult. All he is doing is fanning the flames of hatred, and it needs to stop. We need to take a stand against this intolerance. Please take a moment to send this letter to Mr. Swier and let him know that his comments are harmful and potentially dangerous to our country’s youth.

And as always, if you or anyone you know are having thoughts of suicide or just need someone to talk to, please contact the Trevor Project by calling 1-866-4-U-Trevor or by clicking the image below.

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Marriage Equality in World Politics

Recently, a friend of mine posted an interview online of the new Australian Prime Minister’s opposition to same-sex marriage. It was an interesting article, as she has a very different background from most groups that oppose marriage equality, which I will further discuss later on. I wanted to take a look at the various marriage laws and how they came about in different countries. Currently, there are ten countries, 5 U.S. states and Washington D.C. that have legalized same-sex marriage.

On April 1, 2001, the Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalize gay marriage. It wasn’t a quick process. As early as the mid-eighties, a group of gay rights activists asked the government to let same-sex couples marry. In 1995, Parliament decided to create a special commission to research the possibility of same-sex marriages.  The Democratic Christian Appeal was not part of the ruling coalition for the first time since the introduction of full democracy. The commission finished their investigation in 1997 and ruled that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. After the legislative election of 1998, the government promised to tackle the issue. In September 2000, the final draft of the bill was voted on by the Dutch Parliament. The House passed the bill 109-33 and the Senate approved the bill on December 19, 2000. Only the Christian parties, which held 26 of the 75 seats at the time, voted against the bill. The mayor of Amsterdam became a registrar specifically to officiate these ceremonies and on April 1, 2001, four couples were married. Statistics show that by June 2004, more than 6000 same-sex couples had been married in the Netherlands, as Dutch law states that only one of the two people in a gay couple that wishes to marry must have citizenship or reside in the country.

On June 1, 2003, Belgium became the second country to legalize same-sex marriage, but with some restrictions. Originally, Belgian law stated that foreigners could only get married there if similar unions existed in their own countries. However, a law enacted in October 2004 allows any couple to marry in Belgium as long as one of the spouses had resided in the country for at least three months. On May 28, 2002, the bill was introduced to the senate and on November 28 of that same year, it passed by an overwhelming 46-15. On January 30, 2003, the bill passed the House with an even more astounding 91-22. King Albert II signed the bill on February 13, 2003 and by July 22, 2005, the Belgian government announced that approximately 2442 same-sex couple had been married since its enactment.

Spain became the third country to legalize same-sex marriage on July 3, 2005. In 2004, the newly elected socialist government, led by President José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, began campaigning for its legalization. After a lengthy debate, the law was passed by the Cortes Generales (Spain’s bicameral parliament) on June 30, 2005, and approximately 4500 couples were married in the first year. The legalization was not without conflict, however, as Spain is a more religiously conservative country. The Roman Catholics were heavily opposed to the law despite a 66% approval from the population.

On July 20, 2005, Canada became the fourth country in the world and the first in the Americas to legalize same-sex marriage, enacting the Civil Marriage Act, which provides a gender neutral definition of marriage. Court decisions in 2003 had already legalized gay marriage in eight of the ten provinces and one of the three territories. Interestingly enough, the Ontario government decided to uphold a marriage performed in Toronto on January 14, 2001, which makes Canada the location of the first legal same-sex marriage in the world.

Same-sex marriage was legalized in South Africa on November 30, 2006. This was probably the most surprising victory for me considering how many gays and lesbians live in fear of their lives in other African countries, such as Uganda, where politicians are currently pushing the Anti-Homosexuality bill, which calls for the death penalty for gay people. This is such a discriminatory and controversial law that even the Roman Catholic Church is publicly opposed to it.

Sweden became the seventh country to legalize same-sex marriage on May 1, 2009 following the passage of a new gender-neutral marriage law by the Swedish parliament. One of the things that I found most surprising about Sweden’s story is that on October 22, 2009, the governing board of the Church of Sweden voted 176-62 for allowing their priests to wed same-sex couples in the new gender-neutral ceremonies, including the use of the term marriage. They were the first Church to take a positive position on the new law. The second and third largest Christian denominations, the Catholic Church and the Pentecostal Movement respectively, said they were “disappointed” with the decision of the Church of Sweden.

Norway legalized same-sex marriage on June 1, 2009, when a gender-neutral marriage bill was passed by the Norwegian legislature. Norway became the first Scandinavian country and the sixth country in the world to legalize gay marriage. Four different polls conducted by Gallup Europe in 2003, Sentio in 2005, Synovate MMI in 2007, and Norstat in 2008, concluded that 61%, 63%, 66%, and 58% respectively, of the Norwegian population supported gender-neutral marriage laws.

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Iceland since June 27, 2010. This was yet another gender-neutrality bill that was passed by the Icelandic Althing (their national parliament) on June 11 of that year. No members of parliament actually voted against the bill and public opinion polls show that it was heavily supported bill.

Argentina followed soon after on July 22, 2010. The bill was passed by the Chamber of Deputies on May 5, 2010, and July 15, 2010 by the Senate. Argentina was the first Latin American country and the second in the Americas, following Canada, to pass the law. In a country where the majority of the population is Roman Catholic, the bill passed despite large opposition from the Catholic Church in Argentina led by the Catholic Primate (title or rank given to bishops in certain Christian churches) of Argentina, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires Cardinal Jorge Mario Begoglio. Evangelical groups also joined the opposition.

The final full country to legalize same-sex marriage was Portugal on June 5, 2010. The Prime Minister, José Sócrates, introduced the bill in December 2009 and it was passed by the Assembly of the Republic in February 2010. As with other largely Catholic countries, the bill was met with a great deal of opposition. The Catholic Church of Portugal was opposed to the law, and even though Portugal is a constitutionally secular country, its history as a Catholic country was a main reason for the media sensationalism which heightened the controversy. On May 13, 2010, during an official visit, Pope Benedict XVI publicly opposed the bill, calling it “insidious and dangerous”.

In addition to the countries around the world that have legalized same-sex marriage, many jurisdictions have their own laws. For instance, same-sex marriage became legal in Mexico City on March 4, 2010. Even though that’s the only city in Mexico where these unions can be performed, anyone in Mexico can get married there. In the U.S. there are six states and D.C. that perform same-sex marriages: Massachusetts legalized it in 2004, Connecticut in 2008, D.C., Iowa, and Vermont in 2009, New Hampshire in 2010 and New York in 2011. With the Defense of Marriage Act being signed into law in 1996, states are not required to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. The Obama administration has now declared DOMA unconstitutional and it’s being considered for repeal.

Gay marriage has begun, and life has not changed for the citizens of the commonwealth (referring to Massachusetts being the first U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage), with the exception of those who can now marry.  –  Brian Lees (One of the original sponsors for the amendment to ban gay marriages.)

It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come even in the last 10 years even though we still have a long way to go. Homosexuality was not fully legalized in the United States until 2003 when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Texas’ anti-sodomy law in Lawrence vs. Texas. Meanwhile, it’s still illegal in all of Northern Africa with penalties ranging from two years in prison up to the death penalty depending on country. There are a few reasons that I wanted to do this piece on the marriage laws in the world. I wanted to take a look at the reasons for opposition as well as the change in public opinion. Looking back, public opinion has been changing for a while now. Where the majority of the population of the world opposed same-sex marriage when the advocacy groups started their campaigns, with a little education, public opinion over the last decade has swung in our favor. I have noticed that the great majority of opposition comes from religious conservatives. I have heard three main arguments that I want to address: 1. We have to preserve the sanctity of marriage. (With a 53% divorce rate in the U.S. and Larry King on his ninth wife, I’m not sure this argument is really valid.) 2. We have to protect our children. (An Alabama case took a lesbian woman’s children away and gave custody to her abusive ex-husband. How is that protecting our children?) 3. Homosexuality is an abomination. (See my article: Equality vs. Religion.) So, if the main arguments are marriage, children, and religious beliefs, what is the Prime Minister of Australia’s excuse?

In an interview, the new Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, stated that she’s against gay marriage. Now, we’re definitely used to government leaders opposing these unions. However, the majority of them have conservative and religious beliefs to back up their reasoning. That doesn’t seem to be the case here. She’s never been married (she actually lives with her boyfriend), she has no children and she’s an atheist. When asked why she opposes the change in law, she talked about her conservative upbringing and her “respect” of other people’s beliefs. She also mentioned that current opinion prefers that the law continues defining marriage as one man and one woman, but this seems to be a contradiction, as public polls actually show that the population is largely in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. She has made it clear that as long as she’s prime minister, gays and lesbians will not be allowed to marry, and she’s taking her anti-gay policy global. She has instructed the Australian government to deny couples access to CNI (Certificate of No-Impediment to Marriage) documents, thereby prohibiting same-sex couples from getting married overseas.

While our governments have the final say, they do listen to public opinion (most of the time), so I would encourage everyone to get involved. I have often said that we can’t keep complaining about the inequality in the world if we’re not willing to stand up and do something about it. I urge everyone to reach out to your local legislators and let them know where you stand on these issues. Sign this letter to your lawmakers urging them to repeal DOMA. If you want to contact your legislators separately and you don’t know who they are, here’s a list of legislators by district in Maryland. As many of you know, I’m also a huge advocate of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and they’re always looking for volunteers for their coalition of marriage campaigns. So, please, reach out. Let your opinion be known. It matters!

***On a side note***

When you use the Bible as your excuse for restricting marriage equality, know what you’re supporting:

Philly QFest 2011: The One

It’s time for another film review! Yesterday I got the chance to view another film from the festival, The One.

“This romantic comedy takes the convention of the genre and gives it a stylishly queer twist – think Philadelphia Story meets Latter Days, or better yet, a comedic updating of the 1992 groundbreaking Making Love. Hunky Daniel couldn’t have it better – great parents, a successful career as an investment banker and the beautiful Jen as his fiancée. A seemingly perfect life…but there is one temptation that may derail his best-laid plans for a straight-and-narrow life: he has a thing for Tommy, the charming former college classmate who is now openly gay. After a few drinks, Daniel succumbs to his repressed desires and makes a one-time “mistake.” Soon after their initial tryst, the normally jaded Tommy falls head over heels in love, but Daniel wants nothing more of him or his dazzlingly seductive smile – he’s back with Jen, determined to marry her. With Tommy’s friends warning him against his involvement with a straight man and Daniel’s pledge of heterosexually, it would seem that nothing will come of them…but love and lust have a way of messing up even the best laid plans of man. A refreshingly funny story of coming out as well as a belated coming-of-age tale that sparkles with witty dialogue and believable characters.           –           Raymond Murray

I’m not sure if Mr. Murray and I watched the same movie. Ok, maybe that’s a little too harsh. There were definitely some high points: the chemistry between Daniel (Jon Prescott) and Tommy (Ian Novick) was very believable, and I could feel the angst and anguish that Daniel was going through, wanting his normal life while being drawn back to Tommy over and over again. . That being said, the movie did drag in a couple of places, and I felt there were some parts that could have been cut to help smooth out the transitions.

There were only really a few things I had problems with. Tommy meets up with Daniel at a bar, they have a few drinks, Daniel winds up in bed with Tommy and immediately Tommy is head over heels in love. I realize that this was intentional because Tommy mentions love at first sight several times, but it still felt a bit rushed, especially considering Tommy’s mention of his jaded self. I also found myself spending most of the movie waiting for the other shoe to drop. I was always hoping that there were a few surprises left, but the movie played out exactly how I expected it to and I was left thinking, “Was that it?”

Some of my problem might have been that this was a very familiar story. The “straight” guy has the perfect life and perfect woman and then he meets a guy that makes him realize that he wants something different. My favorite character in this movie was, oddly enough, Jen, Daniel’s “perfect woman.” She was a very likeable character and I actually found myself dreading her getting hurt. I was also very impressed with her reaction when she found out about the affair. There was just the right amount of horror, understated but obviously painful. It was very well played. Toby (David Albiero) who plays Tommy’s best friend was also very well played as the comic relief. The supporting cast alone definitely made this movie worth sitting through. I’m not sure yet if I’ll be adding this film to my collection, but I’m definitely glad I got the opportunity to view it here.

Philly QFest 2011: Finding Mr. Wright

As you all know, I’m a big fan of the independent gay film genre and an even bigger fan of Matthew Montgomery.  So when I heard that his new movie was coming to the Philadelphia QFest, I knew I had to see it.

“Boy Meets Girl, Boy Helps Girl, Girl Helps Boy get Boy”

As someone who has complained of late that all the storylines seem to be the same, this one was refreshingly new. Clark Townsend (Montgomery) is a work-obsessed gay man who seemingly has it all. Not only is he one of the hottest young men in West Hollywood, he has managed to turn his first client, Eddy Malone (Rebekah Kochan), an eccentric party girl, into one of the most sought after actresses in Hollywood. He throws a dinner party at his new condo and invites his friends and colleagues, including TJ (Rasool J’Han), a powerhouse lesbian publicist, who’s quickly losing patience with Eddy’s wild ways. With TJ comes longtime friend, Pierce Wright (David Moretti), a slightly awkward, down to Earth, spiritual life coach who becomes infatuated with Clark at first sight. However, Clark is far too wrapped up in Eddy to notice, especially when she pulls a stunt that threatens her career and forces TJ to drop her as a client once and for all. Hoping to win Clark over, Pierce makes a deal with TJ. He’ll take Eddy and crew on a wilderness therapy retreat, so he can convince her there’s more to life than parties, and TJ will give her another chance. That weekend, the group of them head to a cabin in the woods, where Pierce hopes to give not only Eddy a new perspective on life, but Clark as well…

I know I stated before that I’m an avid Matthew Montgomery (Back Soon, Long-term Relationship, Socket) fan and I haven’t seen a work from him yet that I didn’t enjoy. I would have seen Finding Mr. Wright just for that. However, I have to give props where they’re due, and in this piece the entire cast blew me away. David Moretti (The Lair) plays the awkward but sweet Pierce to perfection. There were several instances in which I wanted to smack Clark upside the head to get him to notice. I’ve also been a Rebekah Kochan (Homewrecker, the upcoming Crimson Creek) fan since the Eating Out series and I think this has to be one of her best roles. She was hilarious and crazy, yet she also managed to make Eddy sympathetic. You just had to like her. My favorite, though, was probably Rasool J’Han (Socket, Pornography: A Thriller) as the angry, black  lesbian, TJ. Her deadpan delivery of the witty dialogue was just flawless.

I also want to give shout outs to the stars behind the scenes. With so many things going on at once, it could have easily been chaos, but Nancy Criss directed this entire film beautifully. Jake Helgren wrote the screenplay and I never would have believed this was his first feature film. The movie was produced by Nancy Criss, Tracy Wright and Matthew Montgomery (is there anything he doesn’t do?) in conjunction with Nandar Entertainment and Proteus Pictures.

Finding Mr. Wright kept me engaged from the opening to closing credits. I found myself laughing, but also really feeling for these characters. The dialogue was witty and heartwarming. It moved at just the right pace and I found myself wishing it wouldn’t end. I was definitely left wanting more and I already can’t wait to see it again. It comes out on DVD and Blu-ray with plenty of wonderful extras promised on September 1, and I know I’ll be picking up my copy as soon as it’s available. For the rest of you Montgomery fans out there, Nandar Home Entertainment is also offering a special edition boxed set of Finding Mr. Wright and Role/Play.

And just to show you how multi-talented these guys are, be sure to check out Matthew Montgomery’s directorial debut in Crimson Creek coming out in 2012, starring Rebekah Cochan, Nancy Criss and Tracy Wright.

**On an unrelated note**

I’m always looking for worthy causes to promote and I’ve definitely found one in this. Matthew Montgomery has announced that he is doing the LA Aids Walk again this October and I would encourage everyone who can to consider donating by clicking the image above.

Equality vs. Religion: The Great Debate

Can you be gay and still a Christian? This is a question that has been the subject of a heated debate since the beginning of the push for equality within the LGBT community. I have followed this debate with interest because as someone who’s part of both communities, I am a firm believer that we can coexist. I also happen to be Episcopalian, the denomination of the world’s first openly gay Anglican bishop. Stereotypes exist on both sides, and since we all know that gay stereotypes don’t fit everyone, I’d like to point out that the same can be said for Christian stereotypes. I can’t even count how many times I’ve heard someone say that “Christianity and religion are what’s wrong with the world and the reason we have so much hate in it”. That’s just not true. I could write a whole list of Christians that I personally know who are pro-equality, many of them gay themselves. The truth is, the people that hate are the ones with the loudest voices and are therefore the first, and often only ones heard.

I watched an interesting documentary recently called “For the Bible Tells Me So.” I went into it expecting more of the usual right wing points of view on homosexuality, so I was pleasantly surprised when it actually featured clergy giving alternative interpretations of the scriptures that “condemn” being gay. I’ll be discussing some of these passages more in depth.

 The Bible is the Word of God through the words of human beings.    – Archbishop Desmond Tutu; Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

This is a subject that has long been of interest to me and it was nice to see that I’m not the only one who thinks religion and homosexuality can intermingle.

There is nothing wrong with a fifth grade understanding of God as long as you’re in the fifth grade.     – Reverend Dr. Laurence C. Keene; Disciples of Christ

Reverend Keene also made the statement that the Bible has long been misused to support discrimination. Biblical literalists have used it against homosexuals, women, slaves, and the list goes on. There are six to seven passages that “condemn” homosexuality and I’ll discuss in the following paragraphs. However, there are also a host of other passages that call everything under the sun an “abomination” and we choose to ignore them.

There is of course, the most popular biblical passage that most people can quote. Leviticus 18:20 states, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind. It is abomination.” Biblical literalists will say that this obviously means that same-sex relations are forbidden. However, when you delve deeper, there are other interpretations that can be drawn from this passage. In the time the Bible was written, the word “abomination” meant something very different. It didn’t imply the type of depravity it does today, it simply meant unnatural or against tradition.

Then there is the story of Onan from Genesis 38:8-10. When Onan’s brother, Er, died, his father, Jonah, instructed him to fulfill his duty as brother-in-law to Er’s wife, Tamar by giving her offspring. However, he went against principle when he withdrew before climax and spilled his seed upon the ground, since any child born would not legally be his heir. He did this several times and was accordingly sentenced to death for his wickedness. The same can be said for man lying with mankind. In biblical times, a man’s seed was considered sacred. A woman was inconsequential and only really considered an incubator. It was the man who had the important duty of procreation and since it’s biologically impossible for two men to procreate, climaxing that way was against tradition and also punishable by death, which is what is being said in Leviticus 20:13: “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”

There’s also the story of Sodom and Gomorrah from the Book of Genesis. There have been many interpretations of this story. In Biblical times, whenever a stranger came to your house, it was law that you would offer lodging and food. However, the people of the town became greedy and didn’t want to share their wealth. When two strangers (angels) came to Lot’s house, he took them in and offered them a meal. The townsfolk surrounded the house and demanded that they bring out the strangers so that they could “know” them. This has been interpreted many different ways, including the townsfolk saying they wanted to have sex with the strangers. Even if that were true, in those times it would have been a form of humiliation and not about being gay. Instead, Lot offered the townsfolk his two virgin daughters to do with what they will. The angels rescued Lot and his family and cast down fire and brimstone on the town for their sin of inhospitality.

These are the two most popular books in the Bible that “condemn” homosexuality, and I realize that the arguments have all been heard before, so it’s not likely that offering these other explanations will change anyone’s mind overnight. There is something else that confuses me, though. People are so quick to judge same-sex relationships as a horrible sin, but there are so many other “abominations” in the Bible that we choose to ignore: mixing fabrics, comingling crops, being disrespectful to your parents, shaving, eating rabbit, eating shellfish, etc. According to Exodus 35:2, “Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a Sabbath of rest to the Lord: whosoever doeth work there in shall be put to death.” I’m pretty sure if we followed this passage, the majority of the country, if not the world would be put to death. There’s also Exodus 21:7, which says: “And if a man sells his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do.”

Since we don’t go around killing people for working on Sundays and it’s definitely not ok to sell our daughters into slavery, I’m not sure how the Biblical literalists justify only following parts of the Bible. They believe the Bible is the letter of the law and if we follow that reasoning, why haven’t they given all their belongings to the poor as the Good Book demands?

We can argue religious interpretations all we want, but the problem with trying to understand a book that’s 2000 years old is, we’ll never be able to prove which side is more accurate. There is one thing we can prove, though, and that is medical research. The American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychoanalytic Association, The American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Association of Social Work have all stated that homosexuality should not be treated as a mental disorder. They are adamantly opposed to alternative reparative or conversion therapies. And the biggest finding is that they have all stated that homosexuality is NOT A CHOICE.

These religious arguments are especially harmful for our nation’s LGBTQ youth. Representatives from the Trevor Project have said that every five hours an LGBT teen takes his or her life, and for every one that does, there are 20 more who try. According to them, the majority of the calls they get to the Trevor Lifeline are for religious reasons.

Since we can’t prove for certain either way on the religious front, all we can state is our opinions. And my opinion is that God loves me no matter what. If being gay (or bi in my case) really isn’t a choice, then God made me this way and He’s not supposed to be fallible, right? I think God will judge me more for hating someone than for loving. So, I’ll just live each day to the best of my ability and focus on loving and treating everyone with the respect they deserve.

As Lady Gaga would say, “No matter gay, straight or bi, lesbian, transgendered life, I’m on the right track baby; I WAS BORN THIS WAY!”

And just because this moved me:

UPDATE: I just wanted to quickly add that this is the story that prompted me to write this post. A four year old was shot to death when a religious cult leader suspected he was gay. Apparently, he’s planning to use the Bible in his defense. I really hope the courts stand up for what’s right and shoot down this strategy. Exodus 20:13, Deuteronomy 5:17, Matthew 5:21 and Romans 13:9 all state: “Thou shalt not kill.” This isn’t the age of the Holy Crusades and IT IS NOT OK to kill in His name. This boy deserves justice.

Philly QFest 2011: Judas Kiss

It’s that time of year again; the gay and lesbian film festival circuit is in full swing. I’ve been a big fan of the independent gay film genre for years now, but never before have I actually had the opportunity to experience any of the festivals. So this year I decided to make a point of going to Philly QFest’s 17th festival, and I’m really glad I did.

Today I went to the 2nd screening of Judas Kiss. I had wanted to see this film since I first saw the teaser trailers, and it was well worth the wait.

Judas Kiss stars Charlie David as Zachary Wells who was a boy wonder filmmaker in his college days, but now approaching thirty, his best days are long behind him. So, when his agent encourages him to travel to his alma mater to judge a student film festival, he reluctantly goes:  after all, he has nothing else to do. Returning to his old campus, he tosses professionalism aside when he has a one-night stand with Danny (Richard Harmon), the talented student filmmaker who’s much talked about movie proves to be the one to beat at the festival. Sexual shenanigans are the least of Zachary’s problems when he realizes that there has been some sort of time shift and that Danny is really his 20-year-old younger self! He’s looking directly at his past. But Danny’s none the wiser: he considers it just a fling with an old dude as he goes about his tumultuous personal life, juggling relationships with the cocky Shane (Timo Descamps) and with Chris (Sean Paul Lockhart), a fellow student with a crush on him. As Danny plots his way to an award-winning filmmaking future, Zachary works to change his past…and hopefully his future. Director J.T. Tepnapa (2002 short Masturbation: Putting the Fun Into Self-Loving) directs a very talented cast including David (Mulligans, Kiss the Bride, “Dante’s Cove”), Lockhart (Another Gay Sequel, Milk, I Was a Teenage Werebear) and Harmon (“The Killing”).     – Raymond Murray

Although I am a fan of the genre, independent gay films often suffer from notoriously tight budgets. With low production values, they can frequently appear to be little better than student films. That was definitely not the case here. As writer/producer Carlos Pedraza stated in the Q & A, they “wanted to make sure that every dollar raised for this project went into the production”. It definitely shows. The movie is beautifully lit, and the cinematography is interesting and draws you into the story. There were a lot of good people involved in the making of this film, a few of whom donated some of their time to get it made. They had an unbelievably large cast for such a low budget, with 32 speaking roles and a slew of extras. This film was set on a college campus, and they wanted realism.

The story was one we have all heard before; a misfit, failed soul gets a chance at redemption and an opportunity to change his life for the better.  So, I was curious as to what the filmmakers’ take on it would be. They took the familiar story and made it their own. I was drawn into the drama from the first scene. Now, I have to admit that I’m a sucker for a sweet, gay love story, but I was immediately taken with David’s Zach and found myself more interested in his character’s development than anything else.

I was also really impressed with the acting of the main cast. I’ve see Charlie David in a few films and can say without a doubt, I felt this was one of his best. Sean Paul Lockhart (better known as Brent Corrigan to adult film audiences) has only been in a few films at this point, but I see a bright future for him. He was actually honored with the rising star award at QFest on opening night. Finally, we have Timo Descamps, the new gay indie breakout star. He’s a Belgian pop star who’s done mostly musical theater and tv roles and lends one of his singles to the film. I was not aware before the Q & A that this was not only his first feature film, but also his first English speaking project. He played the bad boy very well.

Overall, I have to say I enjoyed every aspect of this film: the actors, the location, the direction. All of it was top notch. I would definitely rate this as a must see movie for gay cinema fans, and see this film earning a spot on the top ten list for 2011.

For those interested, a sneak peak at the many talents of Timo Descamps:

NOM Pledges $2 Million to Fight Marriage Equality

We knew it was coming, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has pledged “at least” $2 million towards the 2012 election to fight against marriage equality and to try to reverse the bill being passed in New York.

“The Republican party has torn up its contract with the voters who trusted them in order to facilitate Andrew Cuomo’s bid to be president of the U.S. Selling out your principles to get elected is wrong. Selling out your principles to get the other guy elected is just plain dumb” (NOM, 1).

Members of NOM feel that passing the marriage equality bill will have dire consequences for the next generation, for parents, for religious people, even for small business owners. I’m not sure I really understand the connection to that one.

They have stated many times over the last couple of weeks that they feel the Republican Party has betrayed them and they have vowed to fight against the reelection of the four Republican senators who were, in my opinion, brave enough to put aside the beliefs of their upbringing and look at the bigger picture. This wasn’t a decision any of them made lightly. They knew what vote their supporters favored and they were aware that they would lose some of that support. My favorite explanation for his change of vote came from Mark Grisanti, a Republican senator from Buffalo, explained his change of vote the best. He stated that while he was uncomfortable with the use of the word marriage as applied to same-sex couples, he couldn’t legally think of any reason they shouldn’t be allowed to wed. The biggest factor in his decision seemed to be the benefits being denied to gay and lesbian couples.

New York has passed the marriage equality bill, Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed it, and it will go into effect July 24. There are several factors we can credit for this bill getting passed: the immensely popular Governor Cuomo, the most aggressive advocacy campaign in U.S. history, Republicans wanting to be on the right side of history and public opinion swinging in our favor.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) speared-headed the most aggressive field campaign in U.S. history, spending $1 million in its efforts. An unprecedented 30 field organizers from across the state produced over 151,608 constituent contacts, including:

–          Delivering more than 75,515 post cards from constituents to state senators

–          Generating more than 47,199 emails from New Yorkers to their state lawmakers

–          Generating more than 25,622 phone calls from constituents to their state senators

–          Running twice weekly phone banks

–          More than 3,272 hand-written letters to targeted state senators

Here’s just one example of why this campaign was so important. Senator Joe Addabbo announced at a press conference that two years ago 73% of his constituents were opposed to marriage equality. This year, 80% of them urged him to support it. That’s what won his vote. Without the HRC reaching out to these supporters, the senator might not have been aware of the change in public opinion.

We all know the draw of celebrities, and the HRC is well aware of the publicity they could generate for the campaign. Over the last six months, the HRC has released 51 video testimonials featuring celebrities, sports figures, media personalities, everyday people, and politicians, all in support of marriage equality. These videos received over 1 million views on YouTube and drew a great public awareness to the issue.

In the end, it was these efforts that won our fight, but as I stated before, the fight’s not over yet.  And if we want to continue coming out ahead, we need all the help we can get. As the HRC is entirely funded by its members, I urge everyone to get involved. Whether you become an HRC member or volunteer your time, it doesn’t matter.  Every little bit helps.

1. “NOM to GOP Senators: ‘We Pledge $2 Million to Reverse Same-Sex Marriage in New York’”. Nation For Marriage.com. June 24, 2011. July 6, 2011. http://www.nationformarriage.org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=omL2KeN0LzH&b=5134145&ct=10885939&notoc=1.