Category Archives: Current Events

In Which I Argue with my Inner Child about Jewish Holidays

"Inner Child VII: Naughty," by Steve Heath via Flickr

5-year-old Me: [Looks around office] All of your Jewish co-workers are out ?  Happy Hanukkah!

22-year-old Me: Nooo… Passover.  Hanukkah’s usually in December.

5-year-old Me: Passa-whuh?

22-year-old Me: Y’know, the holiday marking the exodus of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt?  We watched a “Rugrats” special on it?  Duh?

5-year-old Me: … Let’s ride bikes!*

*Editor’s Note: I should not think up blog posts before my first cup of coffee…

Isaiah Washington donated to Obama’s campaign

My new Advocate story!

    Campaign filings show Washington gave to Obama

Political operatives are in motion sifting through opponents’ latest financial filings in the presidential race, as The Washington Post reported Tuesday. One point of interest for LGBT voters is that former Grey’s Anatomy star Isaiah Washington, a lightning rod lately for gay criticism, gave $2,300 to Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign.

The donation came on May 4 and is the maximum amount an individual can give to a presidential candidate per election. Washington used a homophobic slur against Grey’s costar T.R. Knight last year, then repeated the word at this year’s Golden Globe Awards in January; he later apologized on Larry King Live, and his contract was not renewed on Grey’s Anatomy.

Obama now faces the classic “Should he or shouldn’t he return the money?” question asked of candidates who receive funds from donors that some observers find objectionable. Kenneth Sherrill, professor of political science at Hunter College, says the Washington case is par for the course.

“Virtually every candidate gets money from people who are controversial. This is an exercise of free speech on Washington’s part,” said Sherrill, noting that Washington should be able to participate in the political process. “Under current American constitutional law, he’s got a right to give his money to a candidate. The difference here is, it’s public; we know who he gave money to.”

All three Democratic front-runners have faced check-rejection dilemmas in the past and likely will again. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Obama’s campaign gave back $37,000 to Wilmette, Ill., businessman Tony Rezko, who is fighting public corruption and business fraud charges.

During Hillary Clinton’s Senate reelection campaign in 2005, the senator returned $5,000 to the political action committee of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., after serving on the company’s board from 1986 to 1992. She believed that the company should provide better worker benefits, according to the Associated Press.

John Edwards returned $10,000 to employees of a Little Rock, Ark., law firm during his 2004 presidential bid after one of the firm’s clerks said she expected her boss to reimburse her for her $2,000 donation, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

Obama campaign officials declined to comment about whether they would return Washington’s donation, instead forwarding the following statement to The Advocate: “Barack Obama strongly disagrees with the statements made by Isaiah Washington last year, but he joins members of the GLBT community in encouraging [Washington’s] efforts to seek counseling and his decision to tape a public service announcement on behalf of GLAAD.”

Washington made the PSA, in which he decried hate speech, as part of his effort to make amends for using the slur against Knight. It began airing in May.

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation declined to comment on Washington’s contribution to Obama. (Padraic Wheeler, The Advocate)

Study finds gays mistreated just as much as other minorities

Here’s a new piece I did for the Advocate:

    Report: Hate-crimes rate for LGBs comparable to other minorities

A new report released by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law shows that the rate of bias crimes committed against lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals is comparable to that of other groups already covered by federal hate-crimes laws. The “Comparison of Hate Crime Rates Across Protected and Unprotected Groups” report shows that on average, 13 in 100,000 gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals per year report being the victim of a hate crime, compared to eight in 100,000 African-Americans, 12 in 100,000 Muslim Americans, and 15 in 100,000 Jewish Americans.

“Often people try to pass off [the lack of legal protection for gays] as ‘Oh, it’s not as big a problem as race-based hate crimes,’ ” says Rebecca Stotzer, a research fellow at the Williams Institute. “But when you actually look at the rates and you think of it as a risk per person, you can see that the numbers are actually much more even between groups that are protected versus those that are not.”

The new report was based on a 2004 study by Williams Institute faculty chairman William Rubenstein, but current hate-crimes legislation before Congress and the availability of more data prompted an update to the report. The U.S. Senate is presently considering the Matthew Shepard Act, which would extend legal protections to LGBT people; an identical bill passed the House of Representatives last month. The bill proposes expanding current federal hate-crimes laws to include actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, and disability. Current law identifies only race, color, religion, and national origin as protected categories.

“This report’s findings provide a new perspective that should inform policy makers who are deciding whether to include hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity in federal hate-crime laws,” noted M.V. Lee Badgett, research director of the Williams Institute. “The numbers show that hate crimes remain a serious problem for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender communities.” (Padraic Wheeler, The Advocate)

Taking a stand from across the divide

Here’s a quick “Valentine’s Day shout-out” to the hometown.

California clerk/recorder Freddie Oakley gave out 20 “Certificates of Inequality” yesterday to gay and lesbian couples. Oakley is an elected official in charge of issuing marriage certificates in Yolo County region, which includes the cities of Woodland, Davis [Whoo!], Winters, and West Sacramento.

“After the noon rush, many of the applicants stood in the clerk’s office and serenaded Oakley with a chorus of ‘For She’s a Jolly Good Person.’

‘Thank you very, very much, I appreciate it,’ Oakley said.”

What’s even more encouraging about this story, Oakley is an Evangelical Christian. Unlike many of her religious peers, she actually gets the importance of separation of church and state. “I don’t think that religion belongs at the office. I think it’s wrong. I don’t go down and tell my pastor how to preach and I don’t want him to stand behind my counter….I think [taking a stand] absolutely is [the place of a puclic official]. In fact, I think it’s our duty. We don’t just enforce laws, we’re policy makers. If I’m comfortable in my morale [sic] heart that I’m doing the right thing, then let the chips fall where they may.”

Unfortunately, not every Christian shares her views. The number of protestors at the event rivaled that of supporters. And although she is still widely supported, backlash from her actions have obliged Oakley to resign membership from her church.

Keep strong, Ms. Oakley. Thank you for sticking your neck out there to show how discrimination against LGBT citizens still exists at many levels of government. I just hope that sometime in the near future, Freddie Oakley will be able to hand me an honest, legal certificate.

"The Worst Kind Of Nightmare Out Of The Old American West"

Wait, wait, wait. Could we back up here a second?

A (1) rushed execution with (2) executioners dressed up like thugs. . . and all this so close to a (3) Sunni religious holiday???

Great going. Just. . . great.