Special Touch

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Iran Hangs Gay Teens

Two teenagers were imprisoned, beaten, and finally sentenced to death by hanging in Iran for the crime of consensual same-sex relations according to a report by the Iranian Student News Agency. The boys, one under the age of 18, endured 14 months in prison and 228 lashes, before being robbed of their lives on Tuesday, July 19, 2005.

Peter Tachell of the UK gay rights group, Outrage!, had this to say:
"According to Iranian human rights campaigners, over 4,000 lesbians and gay men have been executed since the Ayatollahs seized power in 1979. Altogether, an estimated 100,000 Iranians have been put to death over the last 26 years of clerical rule. The victims include women who have sex outside of marriage and political opponents of the Islamist government." (source)

Three other accused youth, who face similar execution charges, have gone into hiding.

While it may be tempting to dismiss Iranian law as the product of a distant brutal theocracy centuries behind our civilized society, I'm struck that the last state-sanctioned public hanging in the United States was only 1996. It was only two years ago that the United States decriminalized private consensual sexual conduct and only this year that the death penalty for juveniles was deemed unconstitutional.

I'm horrified at the authorities that would intrude on individuals most private and deeply intimate relationships - humiliate, shame, torture, imprison, beat, and finally squeeze the living breath out of two young boys. And, even more appalling, the justification of these unspeakable actions: invoking the name of a divine and loving Creator, citing a hurtful interpretation of scripture, and making false appeals to justice, morality, and the preservation of society. "We are only performing God's will. Who are we to question what God has decreed?"

However sincere, however devoutly committed to the literal "Truth", however deeply held our religious beliefs, the instant we place greater value on ancient precepts and traditions and moral absolutes - greater value on faith, the love of God, and, yes, even personal salvation - when we value these more than human compassion, more than human love and human life, we lose our own humanity.

Read more about this story at Direland: Iran Executes 2 Gay Teenagers

Send an email to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice demanding the United States publicly condemn the gross violation of human rights of gay men and lesbians in Iran and around the world. Demand that the United States pressure its allies in the European Union to adopt a resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Commission to condemn the violations of human rights in Iran, which the EU has refused to do for the past three years.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

In God's Name

I find it so incredibly disheartening the way God has been used in this country to condemn same-sex marriage; as though Almighty God advocates the denial of hospital visitation, the nonpayment of child support, or the refusal of spousal health insurance. I am deeply saddened that the religious opponents of marriage equality have apparantly failed to learn from our history, from the faithful loving couples of the past that have been denied the recoginition of marriage in the name of God-ordained Christian tenants.
"Such equality does not in fact exist, and it never can. The God of nature made it otherwise, and no human law can produce it, and no human tribunal can enforce it." (Scott v. State, 1869)

"[T]he natural law which forbids their intermarriage and the social amalgamation which leads to a corruption of races, is as clearly divine as that which imparted to them different natures." (Gibson v. State, 1871)

"It is an institution of God, and a very honorable state ... 'Thou shalt not,' said Abraham, 'take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanities,' ... The laws of civilization demand that the races be kept apart in this country." (Lonas v. State, 1871)

"The purity of public morals ... require that [the races] should be kept distinct and separate, and that connections and alliances so unnatural that God and nature seem to forbid them, should be prohibited by positive law, and be subject to no evasion." (Kinney v. Commonwealth, 1878)

"[Marriage] is a public institution established by God himself, is recognized in all Christian and civilized nations, and is essential to the peace, happiness, and well-being of society." (Frasher v. State, 1877)

"Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay, and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that He separated the races shows that He did not intend for the races to mix." (Loving v. Virginia, 1967)

The above quotes were taken from unjust U.S. rulings upholding bans on interracial sexual conduct and, by extension, marriage. Religious conservatives of the day (and others in the national majority) heralded such rulings as "common sense" and in accordance with God's will.

Today's religious conservatives would be wise to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors and not misuse fallible interpretations of scripture to inflict continued injustices upon future generations. Most of the quotes were drawn from "The Sexualization of Difference" by Josephine Ross (pdf) from the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Barbara and Tibby

I promised that I would keep you posted... Here's the release. If you want more info just leave me a note.

DOCUMENTARY TAKES ON VIRGINIA SAME-SEX UNION BAN Screening Slated in District of HB751’s Chief Patron

The Welcoming Congregation Committee of the Bull Run Unitarian Universalist Church will host a documentary critical of Virginia HB751, a controversial law banning same-sex unions in Virginia. The screening will be held in Manassas, the hometown of the law’s Chief Patron, Delegate Robert Marshall.

“Barbara and Tibby: A Love Story in the Face of Hate” features a Fredericksburg lesbian couple leaving Virginia because the legal arrangements they’ve made to protect each other could be barred under HB751. Tibby relies on legal documents to ensure the medical care of her partner of nearly 40 years who has a brain aneurysm. Barbara remarks in the film, “I truly don’t know why people hate us. I really truly do not understand it.”

Following the 40-minute film, panelists will relate how HB751 has strained their own lives, families, and relationships. The speakers include: Suzanne Moe, the film’s creator; Gaye Adegbalola, blues musician and Black civil rights activist; Rev. Nancy McDonald; attorney Leila Kilgore; and several concerned Manassas residents.

HB751 voids “arrangement[s] between persons of the same sex purporting to bestow the privileges or obligations of marriage” (full text). Critics of the legislation contend it could be used to void powers of attorney, wills, medical directives, and property arrangements since these contracts grant rights automatically conferred in marriage (more on marriage rights).

Gov. Mark Warner had vetoed HB751, asserting to the Associated Press on April 16, 2004: “The ramifications of this could be enormous in terms of their ability to break apart business partnerships. It would move Virginia so far out of the mainstream that that’s not where I think we ought to be.” Despite the Governor’s objections, both Virginia houses passed the original broad language of the bill into law, just five days later.

A statewide coalition of over 70 organizations has joined together in opposition to the exclusionary law. The Stand Up for Equality Coalition includes churches, civil liberty organizations, social justice groups, and businesses. Companies such as the Acteon Multimedia Group joined the coalition, concerned HB751 would hinder employee recruitment and retention. In addition, the Virginia Education Association listed the repeal of HB751 as one of its ten legislative goals for 2005.

The documentary screening will take place on Friday, April 1, 2005 in the Fellowship Hall of the Bull Run Unitarian Universalist Church, 9350 Main Street in downtown Manassas. Doors open at 7pm for refreshments and social gathering. The film starts at 8pm. It is free and open to the public.
# # #

Press coverage:
Local film addresses same-sex unions
Couple feels forced to leave
Film will be used to educate
Some choose to leave

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Revealing my Nerdiness

I am a d20

Take the quiz at dicepool.com

You are the large, round, friendly d20! (You probably didn't know this, but the shape of the twenty-sided die is called an Icosahedron.) You are the friendly, outgoing, outspoken, leader of friends. You are often looked up to, even though you don't normally deserve it. Most other types secretly wish they were you, and you'd give them tips on how, if only you had a clue yourself. Your charisma is often all you need, but you have your occasional moments of brilliance as well--just never when it's actually needed. You are the all-around good guy, a dependable chum, a respectable foe, and an inspiration to those who need one. Who says you can't get by on a smile and good looks alone?

This survey is completely scientific. Despite the mind-boggling complexity of mankind, the billions of distinctly different personalities found on Earth can easily be divided into seven simple categories that correspond to the five Platonic solids, a pseudo polyhedron, and whatever the hell a d100 is. The results of this quiz should be considered not only meaningful but also infallible, and pertinent to your success as a fully realized individual. If you feel the results of this examination do not match your perceived personality, you should take whatever drastic measures are needed to cram your superego back into proper alignment, as described by the quiz results.

And if you believe that, we have some really great critical-hit insurance to sell you.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Stranger than Fiction

Cris Elkins sent me this one:
First they came for Bert and Ernie
and I did not speak up because I was not a muppet.
Then they came for TinkyWinky
and I did not speak up because I was not a teletubby.
Then they came for SpongeBob SquarePants
and I did not speak up because I was not an underwater sea creature.
And now they have come for Buster...
and there is no one left to speak up for us!!!
-- Anonymous

Thanks to you, O moral crusaders, O avatars of justice, O defenders of Truth, for once again saving us from ourselves.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Penguins Resist Ex-Gay Therapy

From the Herald Sun's Penguins Stay Fairy:
A German zoo's plans to tempt its gay penguins to go straight by importing more females has been declared a failure.

The female penguins were flown in especially from Sweden in an effort to encourage the Humboldt penguins at Bremerhaven Zoo to reproduce.

But the six homosexual birds showed no interest in their new companions and remained faithful to each other.

Zoo director Heike Kueck said: "The relationships were apparently too strong."

365gay.com reports:
The gay males were separated from their mates and one by one the females were introduced. The males pined for their mates until they were reunited.

Earlier, the German-Switzerland gay rights group, HOSI, protested the zoo's intervention, saying in a public statement:
We deeply resent the attempts to interfere in the natural homosexual instincts of these penguins that are obviously happy in their same-sex partnerships. We urge any further attempts to break up these happy couples to be abandoned. (source)

I'll be the first to admit, I'm probably over-identifying here, but living as a gay man in Virginia, I know just how those penguins must feel.

Related post: Chum-Guzzlers

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Moving to Higher Ground

Wayne Besen on Virginia's recent flurry of proposed antigay legislation and the effects of the recently passed HB751 (aka the Marriage Affirmation Act):
The spectacle of grandstanding delegates tripping over one another to add a superfluous Constitutional Amendment is beyond political pandering - it's persecution. This heavy-handed overkill sends the message that gay people are not wanted - or even tolerated - in Virginia. As a result, many gay people are choosing to bring their talents and spend their tax dollars elsewhere.

For example, after the Marriage Affirmation Act was passed, Virginia Tech biology professor Lynn Adler left the school to work at the University of Massachusetts. In her letter to Virginia Tech's president, Adler said she was "sad and sorry" to be going, but the laws of Virginia made it too difficult to live in the state.

Another example is that of Fredericksburg-area couple Barbara and Tibby. Barbara, a therapist, and Tibby, a retired schoolteacher, have been together for 40-years and lived in Virginia for more than three decades. According to the Free Lance Star, in 2001, Barbara had a brain aneurysm. While she is still able to function, her long-term future is uncertain.

Thanks to Del. Marshall's Marriage Affirmation Act, the couple can't be sure that the legal contracts they once drew up will sufficiently protect Tibby if Barbara passes away. Although they would much rather stay in Virginia, they are moving to Maryland. (source)

And from The Virginia Progressive's Affirming Marriage:
Restricting the rights of same-sex couples does not "sanctify" nor does it "affirm" marriage. Loving relationships like Barbara and Tibby's make our state richer, happier and, yes, more moral. The day Barbara and Tibby leave will be a sad day, a sad indeed.

Suzanne Moe, an old friend of mine from Fredericksburg, has made a documentary about Barbara and Tibby. A screening of it might becoming to Manassas soon... I'll keep you posted.

More about the documentary: The Fredericksburg Freelance Star: Couples Forced to Leave

Official Documentary Site

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Sonya Renee + Slam Poetry = Amazing!

I just found the website for my favorite Slam poet Sonya Renee!! You have no idea how happy I am about this! Her performances are so breath-takingly profound! You really need to see see her live to get the full force of it, but you can listen to her poetry here. There's more than one track on there, so make sure you hear Liking Me and Thick.

I'm also partial to Droopy Anderson, though sadly his site doesn't have any audio/video performances. Still you can read some of his lyrics. I suggest Why Do I Like You? and No Accounting For Taste.

DC Slam - my Slam venue of choice.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Sounds Like Just Robbery to Me

ABC news just aired a 20/20 documentary purporting that the murder of Matthew Shepard may not have been an anti-gay hate crime, but just a robbery gone awry. Aaron McKinney, convicted with Russell Henderson of Shepard's murder, claimed he only planned to "beat [Matthew] up and rob him" when he was gripped by an unbiased meth-induced rage.

Aaron McKinney, sealed his own conviction, however, in a taped confession to the Laramie sargeant Rob DeBree, less than three days after the crime, before any line of defense had been established by legal counsel:
DeBree: Okay, where do you go after you leave the Fireside [the bar where Matthew Shepard met his killers]?
McKinney: Some kid wanted a ride home.
DeBree: What's he look like?
McKinney: Mmm, like a queer. Such a queer dude.
DeBree: He looks like a queer?
McKinney: Yeah, like a fag, you know?
DeBree: Okay. How did you meet him?
McKinney: He wanted a ride home and I just thought, well, the dude's drunk, let's just take him home.
McKinney: We drove out past Walmart. We got over there, and he starts grabbing my leg and grabbing my genitals. I was like, "Look, I'm not a fuckin' faggot. If you touch me again, you're gonna get it." I don't know what the hell he was trying to do, but I beat him up pretty bad. Think I killed him.
DeBree: What was the first thing that he said or that he did in the truck that made you hit him?
McKinney: Well, he put his hand on my leg, slid his hand like as if he was going to grab my balls.

What antigay bias? Sounds like just robbery to me.

Thankfully, GLAAD has released a viewer's guide and a take action page to combat the sensationalism of the 20/20 broadcast. Also, Judy and Dennis Shepard (Matthew's parents) have released a statement about the 20/20 program.
- read the full post -

Thursday, November 25, 2004


The Daily Show: Birds of a Feather

I recently came across this video of my all-time favorite Daily Show segment ever, a Samantha Bee exposé about gay penguins at the Central Park Zoo in New York City. In it, she interviews the infamous Paul Cameron, a controversial researcher and chairman of the anti-gay Family Research Institute. Samantha Bee has so many hysterical lines in this one, and she delivers each one flawlessly.

Gay penguins were also the subject of a number of other reports from more legitimate news sources, including a New York Times article and a CNN video (I had trouble viewing it in any format other than WMV). Somehow, The Daily Show video seemed more insightful. I still bristle at the zoo keeper's heterosexist comment in the CNN video about one of the two female penguins being "the guy" in the relationship.