• Michael J. Fox and Republican Panic

    Business Wire reports the results of a new national study revealing that American voters support for stem cell research increased after they viewed an ad featuring Michael J. Fox in which he expresses his support for candidates who are in favor of stem cell research.

    The study was conducted among 955 Americans by HCD Research and Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion (MCIPO) during October 24-25, to obtain Americans’ views on the stem cell research before and after they watched the ad.

    Among the study findings:

    • Among all respondents, support for stem cell research increased from 78% prior to viewing the ad, to 83% after viewing the ad. Support among Democrats increased from 89% to 93%, support among Republicans increased from 66% to 68% and support among Independents increased from 80% to 87% after viewing the ad.
    • The level of concern regarding a candidate’s view on stem cell research increased among all respondents from 57% prior to viewing the ad to 70% after viewing the ad. Among Democrats, the level of concern increased from 66% to 83% and Republicans’ level of concern increased from 50% to 60%. Independents’ level of concern increased from 58% to 69%.
    • The perception that the November election is relevant to the U.S. policy on stem cell research increased across all voter segments, with an increase of 9% among all respondents pre- and post-viewing from 62% to 71%. The Democrats’ perception increased from 75% to 83%, Republicans’ perception increased from 55% to 62% and Independents’ perception increased from 60% to 68% pre- and post-viewing.
    • The advertisement elicited similar emotional responses from all responders with all voter segments indicating that they were “not bored and attentive” followed by “sorrowful, thankful, afraid and regretful.”
    • The vast majority of responders indicated that the advertisement was believable with 76% of all responders reporting that it was “extremely believable” or “believable.” Among party affiliation, 93% of Democrats 57% of Republicans and 78% of Independents indicated it “extremely believable”or “believable.”

    We might wonder why Republicans were in such a huff after Mr. Fox made these commercials? Why did Rush Limbaugh, certainly no stranger to prescription medications, attack Mr. Fox and accuse him of going off his medication when he made the commercials?

    Republicans are afraid. And rightly so. The study also found:

    Republicans who indicated that they were voting for a Republican candidate decreased by 10% after viewing the ad (77% to 67%). Independents planning to vote for Democrats increased by 10%, from 39% to 49%.

    The study was conducted among 955 Americans by HCD Research and Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion (MCIPO) during October 24-25, to obtain Americans’ views on the stem cell research before and after they watched the ad.

    The tide has turned. Republicans are in a panic. Democrats are poised to win Congress in November.

  • New Jersey Supreme Court and Gay Marriage

    The New Jersey Supreme Court opened the door to gay marriage today.? The ruling stipulates that lawmakers must offer same-sex couples either marriage, or something like it, such as civil unions.? In a split vote, the Supreme Court declared 4-3 that gay couples are entitled to the same rights as heterosexual couples.

    Lawmakers have 180 days to draft and pass appropriate legislation.

    “Although we cannot find that a fundamental right to same-sex marriage exists in this state, the unequal dispensation of rights and benefits to committed same-sex partners can no longer be tolerated under our state Constitution,” Justice Barry T. Albin wrote for the four-member majority.

    Here’s a twist.? The three justices who dissented said the majority did not go far enough.? They demanded full marriage for gays.

  • Amazing that This Man Is President

    Bush at YouTube

    With all of the hype about Barack Obama possibly running in 2008, it pays to spend some time considering the current POTUS. I’m amazed that this man actually was elected President of the United States, Governor of Texas, or once owned a major league baseball team. Watch these brief excerpts and laugh, and weep, and then laugh again.? Where have we gone wrong as a nation? How much thought does the electorate put into voting? Contrast President Bush with Obama at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. Weep for the present. Hope for the future.

    Barack Obama at the DNC 2004 convention

  • Ready for your Close-Up, Mr. Obama?

    Barack Obama, Tinley Park, ILNews outlets are reporting today that Barack Obama has finally admitted that he has not ruled out a run for the presidency in 2008. This is good news. However, there are quite a few who think 2008 may be too early for Senator Obama.

    I was proud and honored to work Sen. Obama’s campaign for election to the U.S. Senate. I met him first at the “Barn” in Olympia Fields, IL. At the time it was easy to approach the then-State Senator, and ask him how he stood on some key issues. First impressions? Then, as now, gold. He spoke to me, not at me.

    I have no doubt that Sen. Obama could, can, and will become one of our greatest U.S. presidents. Imagine a U.S. President who can talk to, not down to, the American people. Imagine a U.S. President who can talk to, not down to, the international community, the press. You name it.

    And I’m confident that wife Michelle will keep him grounded. She better. I’ve often wondered what his Achilles heel might be. I’m sure the weird-right is wondering as well. But I think he can handle them. With Michelle at his side.

    The Greeks spoke of kairos, the right time, the ample time, the perfect moment.

    Obama just needs to be himself. He’s remarkable. But himself at the right time, right place.

    And not a moment too soon.

  • Gay Teens and Suicide: Counting Down

    A tragic story in today’s Chicago Sun-Times demonstrates the continuing need for attention to teen suicide. The story details a “lovesick 16-year old girl” in Atlanta, GA, who crashed her car into another vehicle in a suicide attempt. In the moments leading up to the crash, the girl was sending text messages to the female classmate who spurned her. The girl survived. However, a woman driving the other car was killed, 30-year old Nancy Salado-Mayo, a mother of three.

    The teenager, Louise Egan Brunstad, was charged with murder.

    ”There was what might be described as a countdown to the actual event — 10, 9, 8 . . . then the crash,” District Attorney Paul Howard said.

    Prosecutors intend to try her as an adult. She faces an automatic life sentence if convicted.

    Tragedies like this are all too common. Suicide is still the leading cause of death for 15 to 24 year olds, the sixth leading cause of death for 5 to 14 year olds.

    And suicide is preventable. Thirty percent of all young people who commit suicide are gay or lesbian. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 1989). This statistic is incredibly shocking, as gay teens only comprise approximately one-tenth of the teen population. This means that they are 300 times more likely to kill themselves than heterosexual youth.

    Among The Warning Signs of Teen Suicide:

    • Change in eating and sleeping habits.
    • Drug and alcohol abuse.
    • Noticeable personality change.
    • Violent reactions, rebellious behavior, running away.
    • Persistent boredom, difficulty concentrating, falling grades.

    In Searching for a Way Out: Stopping Gay Teen Suicides, Ciara Torres reports:

    Examples of discrimination are ubiquitous. In 42 states, gays have no legal protection from employment or housing discrimination. Worse, laws put on the books during colonial times still criminalize homosexual acts in 25 states. These laws were upheld in 1986 by the Supreme Court in the Bowers v. Hardwick case.

    Thus young gay individuals realize that they must hide their identity for fear of social and legal consequences which can destroy their lives. Homosexuals can be fired, evicted, kept from their own biological children, restricted from adopting children, and imprisoned for sodomy. The homosexuality of historical figures has been systematically left out of education in the public schools, giving gay youth the false impression that gays have never affected history in a positive way.

    There is much room for hope, however. When schools support gay and lesbian teens, the positive results are phenomenal. The Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network reports on how Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis have taken the lead in reaching out to gay and lesbian students. Sister Mary Ellen Gevelinger, O.P., Ed.D. and Laurel Zimmerman tell of a girl who stood in front of a class and reported of her friend Heidi. Heidi had been beaten, kicked, and reviled by her parents. When she was 14 she was told she could no longer live at home. She moved from place to place, stayed with relatives and friends with whom she was barely tolerated. She attended three different high schools. “Students and teachers at the schools she attended often treated her as an outcast, so eventually she learned to keep to herself and tell no one about who or what she was.”

    Her sin? In her early teens, she had told her parents she was a lesbian. The girl concluded her remarks to the class, “I am Heidi.”

    The Archdiocese took the lead:

    We developed the following mission statement: “The Pastoral Care and Sexual Identity Study Group in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis exists to support competent and compassionate pastoral care for all students, families, and staff in the Catholic schools communities.” By the end of the year, we had identified four goals:

    1. Hold a workshop for all teachers, administrators, and counselors on the topic of sexual identity.
    2. Train faculty members in each school to function as “safe staff.”
    3. Teach students and teachers that homophobic behavior is inappropriate and unacceptable.
    4. Form an interschool support group for students.

    Sr. Gevelinger and Laurel Zimmerman respond to the question, how can a Catholic school system reach out to gay and lesbian students? They cite many writings from Catholic bishops that show “less concern for homosexual behaviors and more concern for the pastoral care and just treatment.” They provide evidence with the followin statement from John Roach, Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis (1991):

    “Many homosexuals experience unnecessary pain and suffering … It is the firm intention of this local church not only to advocate for the rights of homosexual persons, but to provide care for such persons.”

    There is hope. Sadly, Louise Egan Brunstad, age 16, is now charged with murder. And Mrs. Nancy Salado-Mayo, age 30, mother of three, is dead.

  • Replacing Mark Foley

    Contribute to Mahoney for FloridaWho can ever replace Mark Foley?

    A Democrat. Tim Mahoney.

    Mahoney is running to replace Mark Foley in Congress. Americans are completely fed up with Republican leadership. Yes, we know that the Democrats are not perfect, but the Democrats never claimed to be perfect. When we have problems, we take care of them. When the White House has problems, they promote and give medals.

    Mahoney believes in responsibility and accountability, regardless of anyone’s political affiliation. He has pledged to fight for fiscal responsibility. He is a successful rancher and businessman who supports 9/11 Commission reforms to keep our country safe. Mahoney’s website reports that Republicans are pouring in money to produce negative campaign ads.

    Mahoney has been campaigning for over a year, and the disgraced Republicans in Florida have a hand-picked candidate to try to keep the seat. If you can contribute at all, the time is now.

  • Republican Ad Calls Black Women “Hos”

    The New York Sun reports that a new Republican ad financed by white billionaire J. Patrick Roone calls black women “Hos.” The group, America’s Pac, began running ads last month in more than two dozen congressional districts. The ads triumph some right-wing pride issues: warrantless wiretapping and school choice among them. The most notorious of the ads target abortion, accusing Democrats of discrimination because “black babies are terminated at triple the rate of white babies.” The most shameful exchange explicitly exploits African Americans. In an exchange between two black men:

    “If you make a little mistake with one of your ‘hos,’ you’ll want to dispose of that problem tout suite, no questions asked,” one of the men says.

    “That’s too cold. I don’t snuff my own seed,” the other replies.

    “Maybe you do have a reason to vote Republican,” the first man says.

    Another ad attempts to link Democrats to white supremacist David Duke, who served as a Republican in the Louisiana Legislature:

    “I can understand why a Ku Klux Klan cracker like David Duke makes nice with the terrorists,”a male voice in the ad says. “What I want to know is why so many of the Democrat politicians I helped elect are on the same side of the Iraq war as David Duke.”

    The ads are completely inflammatory. Essentially, the ads are financed by white billionaires recruiting black actors who apparently speak on behalf of the black community.

  • 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.”