Judy Shepard Speaks at Roosevelt University

Judy Shepherd at Roosevelt University Judy Shepard spoke at Roosevelt University in Chicago Monday, October 16. Her son Matthew was murdered at age 21 in an anti-gay hate crime October 12, 1998. The presentation was not at all what I expected. I’m not sure what I expected. Perhaps I’m still grieving for Matt, and expected tears from his mother, or someone angry. But Judy Shepard told a soft, determined, calm, and, at times, humorous story.

She started by reading the victim impact statement which she first read at the sentencing hearing for Russell Henderson, one of the two men convicted in the murder of Matthew Shepard.

“I’ll never understand why anyone would hurt Matt,” Shepard said in the statement.

Matthew Shepard Vote For MeShe then segued into a brief presentation on the importance of voting. Mrs. Shepard, a proud Democrat, spoke at length about life in Wyoming, a staunchly Republican state with a population of 450,000 people. Her tongue-in-cheek humor about Wyoming provided a window into her warm spirit, “People give the same answer when asked either why they live or do not live in Wyoming: ‘Because no one else lives there.'”

She came on stage after a brief film that spoke about two hate crimes: the murder of her son Matthew, and the murder of James Byrd, Jr. Mrs. Shepard said she felt it was important to speak about both because all crimes of hate are related.

This was not a person speaking in anger. While conveying her family’s pain seeing Matt in the hospital, hardly recognizable, she spoke about the unimaginable with strength. She seemed to draw strength from reading the victim impact statement, and conveyed strength as she continued to tell her story. She spoke about the importance of gays and lesbians coming out to family, friends, and co-workers. Telling one humorous anecdote, she recalled speaking to a 50 year old man who told her he was so touched by her talk that he finally came out to his mother. She laughed, “You mean she really didn’t know? Trust me, a mother knows.”

She spoke about Matt coming out to her at age 18. Her response was simple, “What took you so long to tell me?” Her husband Dennis took a bit longer to understand Matt’s coming out, but not much more. He was not present Monday, but his victim impact statement is worth thoughtful reflection.
Her story was about pain, forgiveness, and realizing that the pain continues for others; that racism continues, bigotry continues, hate continues.

The presentation was over too soon.

Support the Matthew Shepard foundation.

John Kerry: Man On Fire

John Kerry on Fox News Sunday

I never thought I would write those words about John Kerry. And if the man ever does another photo-op wind-surfing or in a pink bunny outfit for NASA, well, then I give up on John Kerry.

But it’s true. He’s come alive.

First, Kerry spoke last week at the New Hampshire Democratic Party Jefferson-Jackson Dinner. His speech was, well, inspiring. People were cheering. For John Kerry.

It’s worth watching.

Next, he appeared on Fox News Sunday — you know Fox News, the network that claims it will film the apocalypse — and sat for an interview with Chris Wallace. Kerry confronted accusations from the Weird Right that North Korea’s nuke test are somehow Clinton’s fault. That’s right. Georgie spent the last several years in Iraq, ignoring the rest of the world, and North Korea is Clinton’s fault. Also worth watching.

I don’t know at this point if his star is rising again, but he still has something to say.

I’d love to know what some of our friends outside the United States have to say about our political scene.

What if your boss is a Homophobe?

While many states and counties have passed non-discrimination legislation for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons, the sad fact is that many have not, and even if discrimination is not legal, it still occurs, and it is hard to prove. Many companies are gay-friendly, but there are more than enough that are not. So what do you do if you are gay or lesbian and work for an employer who is a homophobe?

There are employers who will harass employees in an attempt to get them to quit. What recourse does the employee have? According to an article published by Monster.com, employees with homophobic bosses have three options: Accept the situation, change it, or leave.

Neither one is necessarily the more pleasant alternative. It is important to know your rights. There are avenues for help, there are resources out there. One resource for GLBs is Lambda Legal. But there are other forums. Employees need to take into consideration pension benefits they may have accrued, or health benefits they may be losing if they leave a job.

All in all, discrimination in any form can be subtle or overt, but it is always destructive. Federal employees are protected by an executive order signed in 1998 by President Clinton, which is still in effect under President Bush. Unfortunately, the United States Congress has yet to pass ENDA, the Employment Nondiscrimination Act. The current Republican leadership does not support it.

Andrew Stone, editor at Los Angeles Confidential, bluntly warns, “Don’t compromise yourself. Your work should speak for itself. And if an employer discriminates against you and you don’t want to go the route of pressing charges, then leave your job. Life is too short to work for a jerk.”

Creationism and the Religious Weird

News from Great Falls, Montana. A Republican state lawmaker is calling Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer “incredibly bigoted” for remarks he made about individuals who believe the earth is less than 6,000 years old. The Democratic governor was speaking to a crowd of students, parents, and teachers Friday about global warming. In the course of his presentation, Schweitzer asked the crowd how many thought the earth was hundreds of millions of years old. Virtually everyone in attendance raised their hands.

He then asked how many believed the earth was less than a million years old. Two people, including Rep. Roger Koopman, R-Bozeman, raised their hands.

In an interview later with local media, Schweitzer made note of Koopman’s response. He said that there are people who believe that the earth is only 4,000 to 6,000 years old, despite geological evidence to the contrary.

The Great Falls Tribune reports on the governor’s comments and Koopman’s response:

Koopman called the comments insulting.

”He insulted many Christian people and other people of faith that arrived at that position other than the way I arrived at it,” he said.

Koopman claimed that his belief is not based on his faith, but on scientific investigations. He had planned to introduce legislation in 2005 to allow teaching of “intelligent design,” but never pursued the measure and says he has no plans to introduce a similar bill if he wins re-election.

Koopman is up for re-election in November.

GOP Accuses Judicial Candidate of Being Atheist

Democratic nominee for a seat on the 6th Court of Appeals E. Ben Franks has been accused of being an atheist by the Austin-based Republican Party, Law.com reports. In an online newsletter, the GOP says Franks, “is reported to be a professed atheist” and apparently believes the Bible is a “collection of myths.'”

The religion card surfaces once again. Franks says he has never professed to be an atheist, and, indeed, no one from the Republical Party has ever asked him whether he was an atheist. The Republicans are pushing the issue of religion, saying:

“Should Franks be elected in November, one would have to conclude that he will hold true to his out of touch ‘atheist’ belief system and ignore the laws and Constitution of Texas.”

The entire allegation seems to stem from an article published in the June 22, 2002 El Paso Times. The article reports that Democrats were debating whether to drop the word “God” from a sentence on the first page of the committee’s platform. The sentence read: “We want a Texas where all people can fulfill their dreams and achieve their God-given potential.” The article quotes Franks, a member of the platform committee, as saying, “I’m an atheist, [and] this does not bother me. I’m a pragmatist.”

Actually, Franks says he was offering a hypothetical, and that he was misquoted by the article. He was actually arguing to leave the word “God” in the platform. What he actually said was, “Let’s say I’m an atheist. I still have no problem with this platform, because I’m a pragmatist.”

But the GOP is playing the religion card anyhow.

Cost of Iraq War – More Than Money

The National Priorities Project current reports show the cost of the war in Iraq is at $333,085,725,999, or $333.08 BILLION, and climbing constantly. zFacts.com puts the cost so far at $330,905,485,295, or $330.90 BILLION.? The U.S. Treasury Department shows our national debt at an all-time record high: $8,545,048,487,560.99, or $8.54 TRILLION. Other sources show the national debt much higher. The U.S. National Debt Clock reports $8,553,405,931,810.83 as of 3:11:52 PM GMT.

Any other costs to the war in Iraq? Antiwar.com reports 2,743 American deaths in Iraq since the war began. An official count shows 20,468 injuries, with estimates much higher (20,000-48,100). And Iraq Body Count reports that somewhere between 43,850 and 48,693 Iraqi civilians have been killed by military intervention in Iraq.

The cost of this war is staggering.

Lawmakers Saw Foley Messages in 2000

The Washington Post reports today that Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) knew of inappropriate Internet exchanges between former Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) as far back as 2000 and confronted Foley personally about them. The Post reports:

A spokeswoman for Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) confirmed yesterday that a former page showed the congressman Internet messages that had made the youth feel uncomfortable with the direction Foley (R-Fla.) was taking their e-mail relationship. Last week, when the Foley matter erupted, a Kolbe staff member suggested to the former page that he take the matter to the clerk of the House, Karen Haas, said Kolbe’s press secretary, Korenna Cline.

So the timeline goes back 5 more years than House Republicans first claimed they had knowledge of Foley’s inappropriate conduct. Dennis Hastert had asserted that lawmakers only became aware of Foley’s behavior last fall. Apparently many more were in the know.

What else are they hiding?

Marriage Equality

The Human Rights Campaign reports that a California court has ruled against marriage equality. The court ruled that California’s ban on gay marriage does not violate the constitutional rights of gays and lesbians. The case began in 2004 when San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom began allowing marriage licenses to be issued to same-sex couples. KCBS News in San Francisco reports that city officials plan to continue the battle. According to KCBS:

KCBS reporter Tim Ryan spoke with City Attorney Dennis Herrera who said an appeal is going to be made to the State Supreme Court. Herrera said if the High Court upholds the ban it would be “one of California’s darkest hours for civil rights.”

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said simply the court “got it wrong. (The ruling ) is on the wrong side of history and it’s offensive to me.”

So the battle continues.

In a related story, in New York, the frontrunner in the governor’s race has declared his support for full marriage equality for GLBT people. State Attorney General Elliot Spitzer has vowed to push to legalize gay marriage if elected. New York passed a Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA) in 2003.

Time Magazine: Republican Revolution Is Over!

Time Magazine cover, October 16, 2006

Time Magazine’s October 16, 2006 issues declares the Republican Revolution over with a telling headline: “What a Mess.” Time reports Dennis Hastert said, in an appearance on Laura Ingraham’s conservative talk show, “If I fold up my tent and leave, then where does that leave us? If the Democrats sweep, then we’d have no ability to fight back and get our message out.” Time’s conclusion should sober any member of the G.O.P. hoping to party in November:

That quiet admission may have been the most damning one yet in the unfolding scandal surrounding Florida Congressman Mark Foley: holding on to power has become not just the means but also the end for the onetime reformers who in 1994 unseated a calcified and corrupted Democratic majority. Washington scandals, it seems, have been following a Moore’s law of their own, coming at a faster clip every time there is a shift in control. It took 40 years for the House Democrats to exhaust their goodwill. It may take only 12 years for the Republicans to get there.

Time also reports in this issue on the results of a TIME poll that shows that two-thirds of Americans believe Republican leaders tried to cover up the scandal. 54% of registered voters in November said they would likely vote for Democratic candidates in November. 65% said they disapprove of the way President Bush has handled the war in Iraq.

With less than a month before the election, the tide has turned decidedly in the Democrats’ favor. Much can happen in that time. Karl Rove has apparently been promising Republican insiders that an October surprise is in the works. Perhaps Osama bin Laden is on ice somewhere, about to be revealed? Will that be enough to deter a waking electorate?

Jeb Bush In The Closet

Gov. Bush coming out of the closetFlorida Governor Jeb Bush visited Pittsburgh, PA, Friday for a fund-raiser for Sen. Rick Santorum. Bush was making his way to the Duquesne Club, a posh, private club in Downtown Pittsburgh. Membership is by “invitation only.” If you have to ask how much membership costs, well, you probably won’t be asked to join.

The closest I ever came seeing anything like it was watching 1983’s Trading Places, with Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy.

At any rate, as Bush approached the club, he had a close encounter with a group of anti-Republican protesters. The protesters were on their way to join other protesters already gathered in front of the club.

Protesters say Gov. Bush “blew them a kiss,” which was enough to thrill the group of about 30 protesters that was made up of United Steelworkers, and members of a group called Uprise Counter Recruitment, whose website says they are, “…a tour of mid-west and mid-Atlantic states aimed at advancing regional counter-recruitment efforts and linking the issues of war and military recruitment to corporate globalization and environmental sustainability. The Tour consists of a dozen activists traveling via a bio-diesel bus to cities both large and small.” They have teamed up with Iraq Veterans Against the War and Alive In Baghdad. Alive in Baghdad “shows the occupation through the voices of Iraqis.”

It was this distinguished group, then, that Gov. Bush blew a kiss to on a street in Pittsburgh.

The group drew nearer, shouting, “Jeb, go home.”

The governor made a retreat to a nearby T-station, an entry to Pittsburgh’s subway. The protesters followed Bush into the station, so Mr. Bush descended the escalators to the mezzanine level. At this point, Mr. Bush found himself surounded by signs that read, “Pittsburgh is a Santorum Free Zone,” and, “Honk if you’re sick of Rick.” “We don’t want you here,” protesters chanted.

Some days it just doesn’t pay to be born with a silver spoon in your mouth.

The situation apparently became very tense. Approximately 75 protesters had gathered on the street. They were asked to disperse, and did not. Two protesters were tased by two officers from a Port Authority canine unit.

As a precaution, the governor was ushered into a T-station supply closet. He reportedly remained there until the crowd dispersed.

Pittsburgh police, monitoring the front of the Duquesne Club, said the protesters were peaceful, and did not respond, and apparently were not asked to respond to the incident at the T-station.

The entire incident lasted approximately 5 minutes, after which Gov. Bush came out of the closet.