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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Mark My Words


By Mark Segal


Sometimes the national leadership of our community makes me shake my head in wonder. The last big suggestion to come from some of our national leaders is to boycott Wal-Mart. What? There are a couple of problems with this idea.

This holiday season, Wal-Mart is expected to outpace other retailers thanks to its low prices, which appeal to Americans suffering under President Bush’s “for rich men” economic policies. Second, how can we effect this boycott if we believe our own publicity about the affluent gay market? If
we’re all fashionistas, shopping at Bloomingdale’s and Neiman Marcus, we
wouldn’t be seen in a Wal-Mart anyway.

Wal-Mart does not seem to be a great target to bring the community together
or ask allies to join us. (This is not to say that Wal-Mart isn’t a good
boycott target in general.) On the other hand, there is an event happening
in April that, if handled well, could unite the GLBT community and our
allies. Pope Benedict XVI is making his first official trip to the U.S. in
April. Like Wal-Mart, his organization does not offer domestic-partner
benefits. But unlike Wal-Mart, Benedict has a few choice words about our
community.

As a young man, Benedict served in Hitler Youth. He’s offended Muslims and
Jews as well. We know his positions on women’s rights, condoms and
homosexuality, and on homosexuality, let’s let him speak for himself:

“Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered to an intrinsic moral evil, and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.”

On same-sex couple adoption: “Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children.”

Benedict also led a witch-hunt in seminaries looking for priests with
evidence of homosexuality, calling homosexuality “objectively disordered”
and a “grave sin.”

A 2005 document on homosexual priests stated: “ ... the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, may not admit to the seminary and Holy Orders those who practice homosexuality, show profoundly deep-rooted homosexual tendencies, or support the so-called gay culture.”

This man, who speaks of morals, runs an organization that is ostensibly the
largest pedophilia organization in the world, despite a 1961 church document
that stated: “Ordination should be barred to those who are afflicted with evil tendencies to homosexuality or pederasty.”

How dare this man speak of morals.

This April, the Pope will visit New York City and Washington, D.C. This is a
time for action, for mass demonstrations. We should make his visit a
statement that his behavior and language is not acceptable in a civilized
world.

At a recent “gay wedding,” Christian protesters reminded me of the hate of
the KKK toward African Americans and the hateful words of Nazi-era Germans
toward Jews.

Jews learned to never forget and this is why they speak up at any time
someone says anything slightly anti-Semitic. Let the GLBT community take a
lesson from them: This April is a time for us to speak up and speak out!

Mark Segal is PGN publisher. He can be reached at mark@epgn.com.

Printed in this blog with permission by Mark Segal PGN Publisher © 2007 Philadelphia Gay News

Many refer to Mark Segal as the dean of American gay journalism. As a pioneer of the local gay press movement, he was one of the founders and former president of both The National Gay Press Association and the National Gay Newspaper Guild. He also is the founder and publisher of the award winning Philadelphia Gay News which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Justifying Hate

ENDA (the Employment Non-Discrimination Act) finally passed in the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday, November 7, 2007.

Although, Echelon Magazine would have preferred that they pass the version including gender identity protections, it will be interesting to see how the whole thing evolves and how far it will go. It’s likely that the Senate won’t even consider putting it on their slate of affairs until next year, and even more likely that old George won’t sign it. Whether or not it will actually be signed into law this time, and despite the lack of inclusion of our transgender brothers and sisters, ENDA as it stands today is a bold statement that our country’s political climate is moving in the right direction – even if it’s not exactly following our road map.

But, what boggled our mind, throughout the debate was why religions were given such an enormous amount of consideration with regard to how the law will apply to them. The newly passed ENDA continues to safeguard the discriminatory employment practices of religions. However, the “for-profit” religious institutions still feel that their faith/business is in jeopardy as they would not be able to fire gay people simply because homosexuality is against their religion.

Call us na├»ve, but we would think that a religion is a group of spiritual individuals whose dogma is based on love. Isn’t that the main theme of the bible, to love one another? Well, if this is love, we’re not feeling it. Let us try and figure this out for a moment. Religions consider Gays and Lesbians to be individuals who are living their lives in sin. Therefore, they need to be protected under the law by being able to not hire someone who is a sinner.

Let’s turn the tables for a moment and hypothetically require the removal of phrases stating non-discrimination on the basis of religion or creed. What if a company decided not to hire someone because they were a Christian – would our conservative friends have a problem with that? After all, your religion is a “choice.”

We are of the belief that humans do need spirituality, religion or some kind of connection to the divine in order to get out of our heads and try to come up with some kind of explanation for the unknown. Whether it is idolatry, Hinduism or tree worshiping, people have the right to believe whatever they want to believe. But, our country was founded on a principle of “Separation of Church and State” and that principle was created to protect our citizens from religious persecution. Our laws must be determined based upon what is right for our citizens regardless of creed. Anything else is a blatant nod to a collective group of Americans who blindly support a justification for hate.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

U.S. House Takes Historic Step by Passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act

Vote Marks Major Step in Achieving Equality for All

WASHINGTON – In an historic step toward equality, the U.S. House of Representatives successfully passed today the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, ENDA. The vote, 235 to 184, marks the first time ever that either chamber of Congress has passed employment protections based on sexual orientation.

“Today, we witnessed the making of civil rights history in the U.S. House of Representatives by the passing of ENDA,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “This vote by Congress is an important step at ensuring that millions of gay and lesbian Americans will never again have to go to work in fear of losing their jobs because of who they are.”

In 31 states, it is currently legal to fire someone based on their sexual orientation. In 39 states, it is legal to fire a person for being transgender.

The Human Rights Campaign helped introduce ENDA 13 years ago to prevent workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. This year, for the first time, HRC and allies on the Hill included gender identity in the bill to also protect transgender workers. One month ago, House leadership made it clear that Congress did not have the votes to pass HR 2015, which prevents discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This week, House Rules Committee reported out Congressman Frank’s HR 3685, a bill that protects only sexual orientation, to the floor.

While HRC was disappointed that HR 3685 did not include protections for transgender Americans, it believes the successful passage of Congressman Frank’s bill is a step forward for all Americans, and that it paves the way for additional progress to outlaw workplace discrimination based on gender identity.

“Our fight for equality will not be won overnight,” said Solmonese. “It will be won one step at a time, and we will not give up until we reach the finish line. This is a critical piece of legislation and a major step toward the finish line for all Americans.”

Throughout history, Congress has often taken an incremental approach toward equality for other civil rights and business regulatory legislation. For example, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was introduced in five consecutive congresses for eight years and was vetoed twice by former President Bush before it was finally signed into law on February 5, 1993, by President Clinton. Each time the FMLA was introduced, Members built upon the protection from the previous year’s legislative action.

Additionally, each piece of civil rights legislation passed by Congress -- in 1957, 1960, 1963, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975 and 1990 -- continued the legislative path of the expansion of essential civil rights protections in law.

On Tuesday, the Human Rights Campaign joined the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR); the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), among other organizations in the civil rights community, in support of the bill that would make it illegal for employers to discriminate on sexual orientation. The letter was signed by 10 national civil rights and worker protection organizations representing millions of Americans.

A copy of the letter is available on HRC’s blog, HRC Back Story: http://www.hrcbackstory.org/2007/11/hrc-civil-right.html

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against GLBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

Breaking New Ground


The Echelon team just returned from the West Coast Franchise Expo in Los Angeles on October 19-21. As the Gay/Lesbian community has been somewhat hidden in the franchise industry in the past, we were very pleasantly surprised to be welcomed by the majority of the exhibitors as well as the attendees. At the onset of the Expo, I must admit that I was curious as well as a bit concerned that we would not be welcomed. However, the entire experience was a positive one and over the course of the three days proved to me that times are definitely changing.

Similar to the franchising industry in terms of GLBT inclusiveness is the sport of racecar driving. Evan Darling is a pioneer as he makes waves by being one of the only “out” race car drivers in the country. His courage and integrity in living and working in his truth is amplified by his desire to act as a role model to inspire young GLBT individuals.
Link
Evan Darling highlights Echelon’s first Auto Industry issue which will be featured as a regular issue each year. This issue marks the first time that our publication focuses on a particular industry and describes some of the positive stories that are occurring in the marketplace. It is encouraging to read about what GM has been doing lately in terms of their GLBT inclusion efforts and GayWheels.com is also making great inroads into this industry.

Like a well-oiled machine, the Human Rights Campaign has churned out a record number of companies scoring 100% in their Corporate Equality Index (CEI). We list each company in this issue specifically to applaud their endeavors and also to illustrate how each and every one of us need to realize how respect for the GLBT community in the workplace is growing. This year’s CEI depicts an increase in the number of companies scoring 100% by 41%. So, depite how well ENDA bades in Congress this season we can rest assured that the business world is recognizing GLBT equality in the workplace. As so many companies are aligning their internal corporate culture with the diverse communities within our country, their efforts will obviously impact their bottom line.


Michael Lamb
Editor-In-Chief
Echelon Magazine

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