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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Governor “Terminator” Kills AIDS Program

In a “Heartless Act” Governor Schwarzenegger Dismantles California’s Lifesaving HIV/AIDS Prevention, Testing, Housing and Treatment Services

Deadly Cuts Will Cripple HIV Testing & Prevention Efforts, Endanger Public Health and Cost California Taxpayers Infinitely More in the Future

LOS ANGELES, CA (July 28, 2009)¾AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the US’ largest AIDS organization as well as the operator of California’s largest alternative HIV testing program, today condemned Governor Schwarzenegger’s gutting of California’s lifesaving HIV/AIDS programs as he approves a budget plan that includes millions of dollars worth of cuts to the state’s HIV/AIDS education, prevention, counseling & testing, housing and treatment services.

Today’s cuts to HIV/AIDS programs include: an 80% reduction in funding for Education & Prevention, a 70% cut in HIV Counseling and Testing, a 50% cut for Early Intervention (that provides primary medical care), a 100% cut in Therapeutic Monitoring Program (the program that monitors the effectiveness of HIV/AIDS drugs administered through the state’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program), a 20% cut in Housing and more than a 50% cut in funding for Home and Community-Based Care.

With a single stroke of his blue pencil, Governor Schwarzenegger has terminated the state’s AIDS programs and, along with it, the lives of some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “The Governor’s heartless act is not only deadly, but guaranteed to cost California taxpayers millions more in the future. With HIV testing programs sidelined and the state’s ability to prevent new infections stymied, new infections in California will increase—each new infection can mean up to $600,000 dollars in lifetime health care costs. A 100% cut to the Therapeutic Monitoring Program is the definition of penny-wise and pound-foolish—with the ability to monitor the effectiveness of lifesaving AIDS drugs hampered, the state’s already cash-strapped AIDS Drug Assistance Program will only end up spending more for drugs.”

Governor Schwarzenegger’s unilateral decision to essentially dismantle the state’s lifesaving HIV/AIDS programs will cost lives, endanger the public’s health and constitutes negligence,” said Whitney Engeran-Cordova, Director of AHF’s Public Health Division. “The state’s ability to identify people living with HIV is now severely crippled—creating an enormous obstacle to the prevention of new infections and linking those who need it to treatment. Not only will the Governor’s callous funding cuts devastate those living with HIV/AIDS who rely on the services the state provides to stay alive and healthy, but today’s cuts also pose a serious threat to our shared responsibility to combat the spread of HIV in California.”

Attacks on LGBT athletes in Copenhagen

We condemn the violent attacks against LGBT athletes and spectators during the OutGames taking place this week in Copenhagen, Denmark. This week we are all Copenhageners and we stand in solidarity with OutGames organizers and the very gay-friendly people of Copenhagen against this kind of violence.

Our thoughts are with the runner injured by the explosive devices at the Track Stadium today and the people who were attacked on Sunday. We are pleased to hear that all injuries have been minor and that runner will still likely be able to compete. We extend our full support to all the participants at the OutGames.

Copenhagen has a reputation as one of the most LGBT friendly places on earth. Even there, we are reminded that our community still faces those that would deny us our basic human rights, even the freedom to run in a track meet in safety. But we will not be discouraged; rather, we will run, swim, jump, throw, grapple, volley and perform at events like the Gay Games and OutGames, celebrating our right to love who we want.”

Media coverage of the two incidents:

Monday, July 20, 2009

Walter Cronkite personal memories

By Mark Segal, Philadelphia Gay News.

Walter Cronkite was my friend and mentor. That fact attests to his generosity of heart and spirit when one considers the way in which we first met. That's explained by the New York Times article of that day below.

After that incident CBS News agreed to look into the "possibility" that they were censoring or had a bias in reporting news regarding the struggle for gay rights. Walter and I would disagree about that to this day, both with smiles on our faces. But the fact remains, a week after the incident, Walter showed a map on the Evening News of US and pointed out cities that had passed gay rights legislation. Network news was never the same after that.

Walter went on to speak in support of gay rights whenever asked at his numerous speaking engagements. After stepping down from the anchor chair, he was free to do more and he did. He spoke up about HIV/AIDS and even against "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." On gay issues he was ahead of his time. In an unpublished interview we did thirteen years ago he even speaks about marriage equality.

Each time we met for dinner, lunch or even just a phone conversation the first thing he'd say was "Mark, how's the paper doing?," and offer advise with a smile on his face. That smile was because he was doing what he loved best, talking about journalism and attempting to make it better, in this case, by assisting the publisher of a small LGBT weekly newspaper.

He was funny. He outed me, or rather outed our friendship on his televised CBS memoirs as well as showing a clip of the disruption itself. He felt it important that his memoirs of report news contain LGBT issues.

In 2005 I produced Philadelphia's July 4th mega concert with Sir Elton John which that year was dedicated to AIDS Education. The opening segment of the concert & broadcast was Walter Cronkite, speaking about the importance of the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Walter embodied a tried and true journalist, one who covered all sides of the story and was committed to the idea of bringing news to the public. I am proud he lent me some of that expertise, and proud of all his accomplishments as a journalist, friend, and person.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

STATEMENT: The First Pro-Equality Bill in Over a Decade

Congress Considers the Matthew Shepard Act

By Winnie Stachelberg | July 16, 2009

I witnessed in 1998 two shocking images that shocked the country into dealing with the horror of hate crime violence. First, James Byrd Jr. was brutally lynched, dragged for three miles behind a car purely out of hatred for African Americans. A few months later, Matthew Shepard was beaten and left tied to a fence to die, simply because he was gay. This week, we have the best opportunity in 11 years to send a clear message to those who would perpetrate tragedies like these, as the Senate votes on adding the Matthew Shepard Act to the Department of Defense Authorization bill.

I have pushed over years since these atrocities for hate crimes legislation that would protect Americans from hate crimes wherever they are committed, and on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. Meanwhile, over 12,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and untold numbers of transgender Americans have experienced hate crimes since 1998, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigations, including vandalism, assault, rape, and murder.

LGBT Americans have been forced for years to hear members of Congress, the White House, and even the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights claim that the violence that they live with is not real or not important. Legislators denied state and local law enforcement agencies the tools they desperately need to fight these crimes. Our community reached an unprecedented milestone on this bill in the last Congress, with versions passing both the House and the Senate, but the legislation could not withstand the threat of a White House veto.

We finally have clear momentum for this legislation. The House, Senate, and White House for the first time all stand in support of this bill and are eager to send it to the president’s desk for signature before the August recess. Our conservative opponents are left to try to defeat the bill with decade-old misrepresentations about religious freedom and procedural maneuvers. Senate leadership has determined that the best way to defeat these tactics is by passing the Matthew Shepard Act as part of the Defense Authorization bill.

There have been legitimate strategic disagreements within our community on how to pass this essential legislation. But now, with the opportunity to see the first pro-equality legislation become law in over a decade, it is time to put the full force of community behind the bill and see it to the president’s desk.

Winnie Stachelberg is the Senior Vice President for External Affairs at American Progress.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Former President Bill Clinton Supports the Freedom to Marry

Former President Bill Clinton now favors the freedom to marry. Following a speech on July 8th, the former President was asked if he supported marriage equality and he responded for the first time in the affirmative. He joins a list of other high profile political leaders including the U.S. Conference of Mayors, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) and Christopher Dodd (D-CT), former NY Senate leader Joe Bruno, Republican operatives Roger Stone and Steve Schmidt, and former Vice President Dick Cheney who have all within the past few weeks endorsed the freedom to marry.

President Clinton’s support for the freedom to marry has evolved over time, and shows the power we each have when we talk about why marriage matters to the people we know and help them rise to fairness,” said Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry and author of Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality and Gay People's Right to Marry. “President Clinton has grappled with this question for a long time, and clearly he, like the country, has come a long way since fear and politics brought about such discriminatory measures as the so-called ‘Defense of Marriage Act’ that he signed and now has moved past.”

Read Online:

Thursday, July 9, 2009


July 9, 2009 – Williams Institute Research Director Lee Badgett testified before the Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, Postal Service, and the District of Columbia, on HR 2517: Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligation Act of 2009. A recent study by the Williams Institute found that offering health and other benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees would add a relatively small and quite manageable amount, $41 million, to the federal budget in the first year of coverage. Over ten years the study predicts the budgetary cost to be $675 million, a small percentage of the federal budget.

The federal government now competes with many large and prominent employers who already offer domestic partner benefits to the same-sex partners of lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) employees,” stated Badgett, “research by myself and other scholars support my conclusion that the federal government can adopt and implement this new policy easily and affordably.”

A video recording of the hearing will be available on the subcommittee website. Click here to visit.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Obama talks the talk, but will he walk the walk?

By Mark Segal
PGN Publisher

I’m the only writer in the LGBT media who can write this analysis. Let’s get
right down to the facts, for fairness. Before last April, this writer was
considered the most outspoken journalist opposing Sen. Barack Obama in the
Democratic primary; some said I was in the Clinton camp. At the time, I
pointed out that Obama, unlike Clinton, gave few interviews to gay press,
but made many statements with no follow-ups and always held out the
possibility of an interview to local LGBT media until their state primary
was over. The reason personal interviews are so important is that you get to
follow up and not allow a candidate to just recite his/her standard stump
speech; it gets the facts out there. To be sure, answering a questionnaire
is not an interview: It most likely is answered by a low-level campaign

Looking back at my history of activism, going back to Stonewall and the
action group and the community’s fight against the TV networks, it’s ironic
that I was viewed as being in Clinton’s camp — the “establishment”
Democratic candidate.

Needless to say, I received thousands of hateful e-mails and phone calls.
Then, when Obama pulled the same tricks in Pennsylvania — well, sorry, he
wasn’t going to get away with it in my backyard. Next to Clinton’s
front-page interview, we at PGN ran a blank space with a box noting where
you would have read Obama’s interview.

It didn’t end there: We continued to campaign every day. Finally, on his
whistle stop across the state, he gave six exclusive interviews. Five of
them, including two networks and mainstream newspapers, asked him about his
problem with the gay community. Since Pennsylvania was considering
antigay-marriage legislation, he was also forced to take a stand on gay
marriage — the same one he took later with California.

So, that is what might be considered my anti-Obama time. One of my favorite
gay Web sites is Queerty; take a look at how they handled all this. They did
it with fairness, expressing the national LGBT community’s anger with me.
And they were correct.

Next fact. A week before the Pennsylvania primary, I was at a very small VIP
party with Obama, and attempted to stay far away from him. But that didn’t
happen. I took a photo of him at the request of the City Council president,
and he learned I was in the room. He pulled me close and wanted to chat with
me personally about his LGBT positions.

Obama lost Pennsylvania and you’d think that would be it. But, his camp
reached out to me and apologized. Then asked for advice in dealing with gay

Many more gay publications and electronic media got interviews leading up to
his nomination in Denver, after which I made it clear that I expected him to
do at least one interview during the campaign with LGBT media. I had a
similar role with John Kerry’s campaign and others, as far back as Jimmy

There were many media outlets vying for that LGBT interview. I advocated on
behalf of The Gay History project, which won out. I have never done so much
research for an interview in my 33 years in journalism. I checked my
questions and research with two members of Congress, a couple of judges and
a constitutional lawyer. These were questions Obama hadn’t been asked before
and that would surprise him. (Listen to the interview at

In that interview, PGN asked about an amicus brief on the Defense of
Marriage Act for the first time. He was even asked about a signing statement
or executive order to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” (Servicemembers Legal
Defense Network helped me with that one.)

If you re-read that interview, which was published in scores of local LGBT
newspapers — Obama’s only LGBT interview as the nominee — you’ll note that
he’s now doing exactly what he said he’d do. In other words, he’s keeping
his promises.

Here’s where the schism comes in. We expect him to live up to everything he
stated during the entire campaign, especially early in the campaign when it
was easy to promise anything to everyone, right now. The mother’s milk of a
campaign is to secure your base early and then go to the middle in the final
days. Obama is an inspirational man, but he is also a politician who wanted
to win. Of course he went to the middle and, if we believe in him, we wanted
to give him room to do so. We also wanted him to win.

Problem two: He wins. He now comes up against the realities of the
presidency. His top staffers are veterans from the Clinton administration,
which made the mistake of taking on gays in the military as one of their
first initiatives. Their efforts backfired and it hampered Clinton for the
remainder of his first term. Put that together with Obama’s need to
completely change our military strategy (let’s not even talk about the
economy, Iran, North Korea, etc.), he needed time on “Don’t Ask, Don’t
Tell.” His administration was at fault in how it was handled. Our community
was lectured, not brought in to assist. While we appreciate that the
president is trying to build a coalition around this issue — and we hope he
continues to do so — the servicemembers who are being discharged right now
need a remedy. We suggest creating a commission or issuing an executive
statement — as we suggested in our interview.

As for the Department of Justice DOMA brief, the attorney general dropped
the ball and should publicly apologize. And whoever wrote those offensive
lines should be dealt with.

As for those blogs — and you should make it a point to visit Pamsblendhouse,
Queerty, Towleroad and PageoneQ — it is their job to question the
administration and create dialogue. For hard news, background and a local
connection, look to your local LGBT weekly publication.

The bottom line: If you thought Obama was a savior, he’s not. He’s dealing
with centuries of hatred and disinformation about our community. Change does
not come in six months. Those who best understand this are those of us who
have talked the talk and walked the walk on gay rights for 20, 30, 50 or
more years. We know it takes time and, in the end, it comes down to this: Do
we trust him to please us by the end of his first term, as he said at the
LGBT White House reception?

Well, this writer does. In fact, I have no doubt. So keep the pressure up
and, in three years and six months, we’ll know that answer.

Mark Segal is PGN publisher. He can be reached at