Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Beware political candidates backed by evangelical stooges who want to turn clock back on gay rights

There’s probably never before been a safer — or more critical — time in American culture and politics for LGBT people to come out and acknowledge their identities.

This week when Dan Koeffler, an ABC News co-anchor on the World News Now show, acknowledged he was gay, in a reference to Star Trek actor Zach Quinto, Koeffler likely caused a lot of people to realize we might just pop up anywhere — even on TV at 3 a.m.

The television personality’s off-hand quip that he might drop his rule against dating actors in favor of Quinto, who recently came out in a New York Magazine interview, might serve as an good example for members of our community who have thus far opened the closet door only a little bit.

The television journalist’s declaration hopefully will inspire LGBT people who are tired of listening to Republican presidential candidates backed by evangelical stooges, condemn us and threaten to rollback our hard-won human rights gains.

If there was ever a moment for us to stand up against the likes of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who was introduced recently at a campaign event by First Baptist Church of Dallas’ senior pastor Robert Jeffress, it is now. The thought of Jeffress — who has made a pastoral career out of trampling on the rights of LGBT people — having the ear of the next U.S. president ought to be enough to scare anyone into action.

If Jeffress would dare to publicly condemn the Mormon faith of Perry’s Republican political rival Mitt Romney in a weaselly attack before reporters after the event, what retributions against our community might he attempt to exact in exchange for helping deliver the evangelical vote to Perry in a presidential election?

We’re talking about an obsessed man who goes on TV to rail against anyone who doesn’t follow his religious philosophy, declaring that merely being a good person is not enough. Anyone one who doesn’t want to burn in hell must believe as Jeffress does, according to his sermons.

A friend of Perry’s who has known him for more than a half-century told me recently that the governor is more enlightened and tolerant than the LGBT community perceives him to be. But I don’t buy that — especially after he failed to condemn Jeffress’ outrageous remarks.

The message doesn’t get much better over in the camp of Herman Cain, who has vowed to veto the Employment Non-Discrimination Act if it were to pass Congress if he is elected to the presidency. There are other Republican candidates, such as Rick Santorum and Michelle Bachman, vying for the party’s presidential nomination that are just as scary. But they appear to be trailing so significantly in
the polls that they aren’t a threat — at least for now.

Veteran LGBT activists have long known and shared their wisdom with us about the need for people to come out and stand united against hypocrisy and bigotry. And much has been accomplished as a result. There is strength in numbers, and to quote one of my favorite gay activists, William Waybourn of Washington D.C., “If everyone who is gay came out at once, the discrimination and bullying would stop immediately.”

That obviously won’t ever happen, but it does present a strong argument for the kind of mass, non-threatening demonstration that is the philosophy of the National Coming Out Day. The event has already passed this year, but there is nothing to say we couldn’t declare 2012 a coming out year in light of the importance of the national election.

Bullying is something everyone needs to remember and condemn, and it’s what Kloeffler said was on his mind when he came out on national television in the early morning television broadcast. He was referring to a gay teenager, 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer of Buffalo, N.Y., who had valiantly fought intolerance and violent anti-gay discrimination to the point of posting a YouTube video titled “It Gets Better,” only to finally succumb to suicide when he lost the will to endure more intolerance from his peers.

Although Koeffler was likely confident he would suffer no repercussions at work nor in the rest of his life by his admission, it was still a courageous move, apparently undertaken in an effort to help others in less comfortable situations. Too many people who could make a difference sit by idly and silently when opportunities arise to speak out against intolerance and discrimination. And Koeffler acknowledged he had been one of those for quite some time.

When it comes to anti-gay discrimination and bullying or any other class of prejudice, situations just don’t get any better without concerted resistance on the part of the oppressed. I know this because I have in the past tried to reason with evangelical Christians, including a close associate of Jeffress’, whom I have known most of my life.

Their reaction to my pleas for compassion as regards the plight of young LGBT people who are victims of anti-gay bullying and other issues involving discrimination was something along the lines of, “They deserve what they get.”

A typical response during the conversations was a flabbergasting, “We are so far apart on this,” which was based solely on what I consider to be misguided religious beliefs.

What I learned from trying to reason with the opponents of our quest for equal rights is that it was destined from the start to be a fruitless endeavor, and that our only hope in attracting allies is to appeal to the compassion of open-minded individuals who believe in fairness.
Even if that wasn’t Koeffler’s conscious objective in speaking out on the broadcast, I think his words probably reached a lot of people who are realizing our sheer numbers necessitate them giving more thought to our mission.

Maybe it’s a good time for others to follow Koeffler’s lead and see what kind of difference they might be able to make in spreading tolerance and fairness in their communities.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Texas Gov. Rick Perry's lifelong friend comes to his aid, addresses racism, gay rumors, homophobia allegations

A lifelong friend of Texas Gov. Rick Perry claims a recent Washington Post report detailing the involvement of the Republican presidential candidate's family in the lease of a West Texas hunting camp known as "Niggerhead" inaccurately portrays his buddy.

The New Republic, a national liberal magazine based in Washington, D.C., quotes Dallas banker Riley Couch as saying Perry is "just not like that," when it comes to racial prejudice.

In his more than 50 years of friendship wth Perry, he has never heard the governor use a racial slur, said Couch, who was born in Haskell County where Perry also grew up.

Couch was in the same Boy Scout Troop, graduated from Texas A&M and sold Bible books in Missouri during college summers with Perry. The Dallas banker, whose father owned a West Texas bank, has been a strong supporter of the governor's political career, and Perry appointed Couch to the Finance Commission of Texas in 2009 to a term that expires in 2012.

Perry, who was a yell leader at Texas A&M, is the longest continuously serving governor in the history of Texas. He is a favorite of conservative religious groups, and he professes strong religious beliefs.

Perry, who is generally recognized by LGBT activists as the  most virulently outspoken anti-gay governor in the history of Texas, has been plagued by rumors that he is gay since 2006. Before he announced his presidential candidacy his advisors acknowledged they were ready to address the rumors.

In an e-mail message today to The Rare Reporter, Couch said the rumors Perry is gay are unfounded. "No, I firmly believe he is straight," said Couch, who is straight and has a daughter by a previous marriage.

Numerous people from Haskell County, both gay and straight, have said in interviews over the years that they had never heard anything about Perry being gay or saw anything that made them suspect he was. But rumors persist in Austin that Perry had male lovers dating back to the mid-1980s when he was elected to the Texas Legislature.

Several national media outlets have launched investigations about the allegations Perry is gay but so far none have produced any stories indicating he has had a secret gay live. Hustler Magazine recently offered a $1 million reward for anyone male or female who could prove they had sex with Perry after he was married to his wife Anita, who is also from Haskell County, in 1982.

Despite the governor's well-known record of opposition to the passage of any laws granting equality or anti-discrimination protection to Texas' LGBT residents, Couch said he believes the governor would treat gay and lesbian employees on his staff fairly.

"He would not treat a gay any different than a straight, I firmly believe," said Couch, who reportedly received numerous media inquiries today in regard to the Washington Post story.

Couch added that he had never heard the governor speak disparingly about LGBT people.

"I have been in many, many social, business and other settings with him over the years. I have never heard him make a crude joke, derogatory statement or use demeaning words to describe any gay individual or lifestyle," Couch said.

Couch said he suspects the governor supports equal rights for all individuals, short of marriage equality rights. Perry has repeatedly said that he believes marriage should be limited to union between men and women only.

"I just cannot picture Rick discriminating in the workplace or his appointments because an individual chooses a different lifestyle. I don't think he would ask or care, as he shouldn't ask or care."

Read The New Republic online article at:  http://www.tnr.com/blog/the-stump/95697/hes-just-not

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Washington Post bombshell may finish Perry off

Someone in the know about things political recently told me a really ugly story was about to blow up about homophobic presidential candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and I assumed it was somehow connected to the rumors about his alleged past gay life.

Imagine my surprise today when I learned the Washington Post had published a story detailing the involvement of Perry and his family in the leasing of a hunting camp in Throckmorton County in West Texas that was known as "Niggerhead." The name reportedly was once displayed in black letters on a large rock at an entrance to the camp, although it was later thinly painted over in white paint.

Perry's camp is currently involved in furious overtime damage control, claiming the name was painted over shortly after Perry's family leased the camp and began entertaining people there. The Washington Post story indicates otherwise, quoting sources (some anonymous) who claim the name remained on the rock for years.

It would appear now the gay rumors that have plauged Perry for years were nothing in comparison to this bomb that was about to blow up in the presidential candidate's face. I wonder if in their haste to begin preparations for addressing the gay rumors Perry's handlers overlooked this monster lurking in the background?

Read the Washington Post story at http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/rick-perry-familys-hunting-camp-still-known-to-many-by-old-racially-charged-name/2011/10/01/gIQAOhY5DL_story.html