Equality Riders Inspire Idaho Crowd with Message of NonViolent Action

About 25 people gathered to meet and learn from a group that is making its way across the country in the name of equality, on Tuesday night.

The SoulForce Equality riders, chosen each year from hundreds of applicants, travel throughout the country for two months visiting communities and college campuses.

Their mission?

To end political and spiritual oppression felt by those in the LGBTQ community.

Over a potluck meal, held at the Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, the group of 17 riders, ages 18-31, shared their personal stories of why they got involved. They also took the time to make some personal connections with those who came to welcome them.

Earlier in the day, at a press conference on the Capital steps, rider Zachary Pullin said one of the biggest things the group does is work to reconcile faith identity with those who identify as lesbian, gay, transgender and queer,”We try to visit campuses that have discriminatory polices against the LGBTQ community, whether they be explicit policies that say you can’t be LGBTQ or an ally, to some schools where you can be kicked out for being LGBTQ identified.”

While the riders didn’t visit any Idaho schools during their tour this year, eight previous riders were arrested at BYU-Idaho in 2007.

Pullin also said the group is extremely troubled by the actions of Idaho lawmakers during this year’s legislative session, “I know that there were a couple of setbacks in Idaho this year by not including sexual orientation or gender identity in the Human Rights act  and by not passing the bullying act. We really understand that a lot of lawmakers are influenced by their religion. We are here to say that you can be LGBTQ and Christian! To use your faith as an excuse to not include sexual orientation or gender identity in the human rights act, there’s no excuse for that,” he said.

Following the dinner, the crowd watched, “Live free of Die,” a new documentary exploring the faith, struggles and confirmation of openly gay Episcopalian Bishop Gene Robinson. The film fit well with the ride’s mission.

After the screening, the riders opened themselves up for questions and answers.

Interfaith Alliance of Idaho’s Executive Director, Pam Baldwin, asked the group about their much publicized meeting with LDS church officials in Salt Lake the day before.

While some riders expressed disappointment that they weren’t able to meet with any high-ranking leaders, Jason Conner, co-director of the Equality Ride and director of programs for SoulForce, said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the meeting.

“We are one of the first LGBTQ groups to meet with church officials and not be tied an agreement of secrecy.” Conner said. “We were also able to find some common ground. Those we met with agreed that no kid who identifies him or herself as LGBTQ should ever be shunned by their families or kicked out of their homes. Hopefully there’s a 13-year old out there who is sleeping in their own bed tonight because of that meeting.”

Several riders identified their experiences in Colorado as being their most meaningful. There, four of the riders were arrested at Colorado Christian University for attempting to hold an on-campus Bible study. The group was also able to meet with leaders of the notoriously anti-gay Evangelical organization, “Focus on the Family”, headquartered in Colorado Springs.

“We found some common ground with them as well,” Conner said.

“I’m pretty confident hearts are being changed across the country. I’m seeing it with my own eyes. It’s amazing!” one rider enthusiastically told the crowd.

Following the stop in Boise, the group headed to Portland.

They will wrap up their tour in San Fransisco.

The Equality Ride’s visit to Boise was sponsored by the Interfaith Alliance of Idaho and the Pride Foundation.

Click HERE to learn more about the SoulForce Equality Ride.

Click HERE to visit the ride’s Facebook page. 

Three Hours On A Bridge: Was It Really Worth It?

On Saturday, as I rolled out of bed and stumbled around in the dark to turn off the alarm clock, I wondered if getting up at five o’clock in the morning to go hold some sign along the interstate out in the cold was really the best use of my already busy weekend.

While I showered and dressed as warm as I could, I tried to talk myself out of it. I really did.

“Who would notice if I wasn’t out there?” I tried to reason. “Am I really that naive to think that just because I’ll be standing out there with a sign asking people to “Add The Words, Idaho” that it’s really going to make a difference?”

I really wanted to call it off. Even more so after my husband and I opened the front door and got a blast of the cold predawn frigid air.

I fumbled through songs on my I-pod looking for inspiration, anything really, that would give me encouragement. I settled for Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors”, but I was still having a hard time breaking through the dread and tiredness.

We drove to the appointed place we had scouted out the night before (at the opening of the Perrine Bridge outside of Twin Falls) just as the sky was starting to blue around its edges.

As we put our sign in place and the cars and trucks starting rolling past us, the wind seemed to be even colder than just a few minutes ago.

“I’m going to the car,” my great and faithful companion said. “It’s insane to be out here.”

I wanted to argue with him, but he was right it probably was insane.

I spent the next half hour or so telling myself that the friends I had invited to join me would soon be there. 45 minutes later, the cold taking whatever slim optimism I had regarding the morning, I knew that I was probably going to be out there by myself.

I slowly reached my numb hand into my jeans pocket for my iPhone, thinking maybe someone had emailed me in the night telling me they were going to be late.

As I did, I accidentally hit the iPod function and Cyndi’s voice could faintly be heard over the roar and rumbles of the passing traffic…

“it’s hard to take courage
in a world full of people
you can lose sight of it all
and the darkness inside you
can make you feel so small..”

I looked down at my sign, “Add The Words, Idaho.”

“so don’t be afraid to let them show
your true colors..”

I thought of the campaign itself, the countless hours spent by others over the past six years who have taken the time to ask, beg and plead our lawmakers to make it safe for Idaho’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning community to come out.

I thought about the stories and faces of people I had met over the years who had either lost their jobs because someone didn’t like their sexual orientation, or were locked into a professional situation where the fear of not being able to provide for their families kept them from talking about their partners, participating in at work rituals like displaying photos of their boyfriend or girlfriend, talking about their quirky little habits around the water cooler, or bringing them to the company picnic.

I thought about the woman I know who isn’t able to work because she needs a surgery that her and her partner can’t afford. I thought of the guilt that her partner feels because her employer offers her benefits, but because it doesn’t recognize same gender relationships, won’t cover her partner’s surgery.

I thought of the policy at a hotel in Boise that denies same gender couples from renting a room for the night, solely because they are the same gender.

I thought of the lawmakers who year after year have told those working on the “Add The Words” campaign that such things don’t happen in Idaho. The lawmakers who say “our constituents won’t support us voting for such things.”

And I thought of the LGBTQIA folks that I knew who turn a blind eye and deaf ear to the campaign. “It’s too political”, they say. I wondered what was political about asking lawmakers to protect the rights of all its citizens. “We just don’t get involved”, they said.

I thought of the video I had watched a few days before of a man in Uganda, his body burning, his only crime was loving another man. I thought of the years I had spent being silent while politicians and preachers encourage such laws both here in the U.S. and abroad.

The AIDS activists were right.

Sometimes silence DOES equal death.

A truck horn sounded jerking me out of my thoughts.  I looked up and saw the driver give me a thumbs up.

As the sun started to light my face, I wiped a tear from my eye.

Is this going to be the year that Idaho finally stands up and says it’s time to view all of its citizens as equal? Is this going to be the year that we as a community rise above our fears and frustrations and get involved in something as simple as taking the few minutes to write out a sticky note asking our lawmakers to “Add the words sexual orientation and gender identity to the Idaho Human Rights Act”?

I don’t know.

I do know this, that as I stood there alone on that icy bridge on Saturday morning, I decided that it was indeed worth it. Standing up for what is right will always be worth it.

(Please, If you haven’t already, take a few moments to ask your lawmakers to add the words “sexual orientation and gender identity to the Idaho Human Rights act. Visit Add The Words, Idaho for more information and to send yours or if you aren’t sure what to write please visit the facebook page. Your few minutes really will make a difference.Thank You!-JT)

President Obama Calls For Full Adoption Equality…Even If He did leave out the “T”

In another first for any sitting U.S. president, President Obama included the LGBT community during a proclamation declaring the month of November National Adoption Month.

“With so many children waiting for loving homes, it is important to ensure that all qualified caregivers are given the opportunity to serve as adoptive parents, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or marital status,” the President wrote on Tuesday.

The president’s inclusion comes as New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand introduces legislation that would end discrimination in adoption and foster care.

The Metro Weekly reports that the Human Rights Campaign did take issue with the wording of the proclamation however, “Noting the organization’s support for the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, HRC spokesman Michael Cole-Schwartz said, “We applaud the President’s long support of adoption by LGBT people. It’s our belief that statements of nondiscrimination principles should be LGBT-inclusive and we are disappointed that gender identity was not included in this proclamation.”

In this case, the HRC may have overshot. White House spokesman Shin Inouye tells the Metro Weekly, “As has long been his position, the President supports the adoption rights of LGBT families.”

“Jeff Krehely, the director of the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress, examined the steps involved in reaching the presidential proclamation, writing to Metro Weekly, “I think the first thing to note is that the 2009 and 2010 proclamations didn’t address discrimination based on sexual orientation, so this is a step in the right direction, and I’m glad they included sexual orientation. In terms of not including gender identity, most state adoption policies and related court cases (both good and bad) focus on the sexual orientation of the potential parents, and don’t address gender identity. Similarly, most stories and research on discrimination in adoption also focus on same-sex couples or even just single gay people.”

Read the Full Article Here.

On the Agenda: ‘Twas the Weekend Before Halloween….

A note to our conservative neighbors: You have your tacky plastic Jesus with the light bulb in his head that you set out on your lawn every Christmas and we have an 8-year-old nephew who will be dressing up as Lady Gaga. We won’t say anything about your plastic faith if you don’t make a stink about the gender bending little boy knocking on your door asking for a roll of your Smarties…deal?

Now that we got that out of the way, there is no reason to be the dead pumpkin this weekend Charlie Brown. There are queerly enough events going on around Idaho to keep even Michael Myers himself  happy.

In fact, Halloween just maybe one of the gayest days of the year. According to  an article on SheWired,”Long before June officially became Gay Pride Month, and October “Coming Out Month” for the LGBTQ community, Halloween was unofficially our yearly celebrated “holiday,” dating as far back at the 1970s when it was a massive annual street party in San Francisco’s Castro district.”

“Nicholas Rogers, author of Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night, points out that while Halloween is enjoyed by everyone, “it has been the Gay community that has most flamboyantly exploited Halloween’s potential as a transgressive festival, as one that operates outside or on the margins of orthodox time, space, and hierarchy. Indeed, it is the gay community that has been arguably most responsible for Halloween’s adult rejuvenation.”

Nothing like a little “adult rejuvenation” to get the juices flowing right? I personally blame the college twinks in their toga costumes, but that’s probably just me.

Anyway on to the events:

Tonight Oct. 28th:

Boise:

The Imperial Sovereign Gem Court Of Idaho and MGI will be hosting their annual Halloween show over at the Balcony Club. Tickets are five dollars. Show starts at 7:00 pm. Click here for more information.

If you haven’t checked out Boise’s Stage Coach Theatre  production of  The Rocky Horror Picture Show yet then damn it Janet, we probably don’t want to really even talk to you any more. It’s that Good. If we have to tell you what it’s about we really don’t want to talk to you anymore. Just take a jump to the left and a step to the right and go see it. It runs through Halloween with a special midnight production on Saturday. Tickets are 20.oo dollars. For reservations call 342-2000. For more information click here.

Once Rocky’s made you a man, head on over to the Lucky Dog where they’ll be getting their boo on with Friday Night karaoke, the Halloween version. The terrifying experience, their words not ours, starts at 10:00 pm and there is no cover. Click here for more information.

Twin Falls:

Halloween Party tonight at 360’s Main Event Center from to 10 to 1 for 18 and a full bar with ID. Cash prizes 200 1st Place 100 for 2nd place and 50 for 3rd. Other prizes will be given out through out the night. 348 4th ave South, Twin Falls. Also after hours from 1-3 is $5 at the door $3 for CSI students and Haunted Warehouse!!!!!!!

Saturday:

Boise:

It’s the annual a.l.p.h.a. (Allies Linked for the Prevention of HIV and AIDS) annual Halloween condom raid. Wear your costume and come help prevent the spread of some very freighting STI’s. The fun starts at 9:30. Click Here for More information. 

Do you like gladiator movies Billy?  Well good because the theme for this year’s Halloween Party at the Lucky Dog is “The Rise of Rome.” Best “Ben-Hur” of the night will win a  hundred bucks. Click here for more information.

Over at the Balcony Club they’ll be rolling in the America Revolution Vodka with their annual costume party. American Revolution drink specials all night long.  Five dollars will get you in the door. Best costumes of the evening will win 300 dollars for first place, 200 for second and 300 for third. Click here for more information.

Pocatello:

The little monsters in eastern Idaho will be eating their hearts and then their brains out at Club Charley’s during their annual Halloween party. The fun starts at 8:00 pm. Click here for more information. 

Sunday:

The Imperial Sovereign Gem Court Of Idaho will be having a chili feed and pumpkin carving contest at the Luck Dog from 2-5 pm. The cost is five dollars. Click here for more information.

It’s your chance to send your Halloween greetings to state law makers in the name of equality.  The Add the Words, Idaho pumpkin party and statewide pumpkin carving contest is happening now and will culminate at the Capital steps from 8-9:30 pm. There will be a pumpkin viewing, hot cider, cocoa and a chance to join us in telling the Idaho legislature it’s time to Add the Words! Include our gay and transgender friends in Idaho’s fair employment, housing and education laws. Oh and there will also be prizes including a $75 gift card for downtown Boise! So submit your pumpkins now! For more information click here.

Monday (Halloween):

Pocatello:

Monday, October 31, is the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” playing at 7 p.m. in the Pond Student Union Ballroom. Just in time for Halloween, this cult classic musical looks in on an engaged couple who stumble upon the weird and zany world of Dr. Frank-N-Furter when their car breaks down in the rain. (Rated R)

So grab your vampire glitter and get out of the house this weekend. There’s plenty of bumps in the night happening that you don’t have to sit and wait for the great pumpkin after all.

Report: Children Of LGBT Parents Harmed By Inequality

Family Equality Council, in cooperation with the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) and the Center for American Progress (CAP) released a groundbreaking report report yesterday that documents how  2 million children of LGBT parents have become the victims of outdated laws, discriminatory policies and political ideology in the U.S.

According to  the researchers,”All Children Matter: How Legal and Social Inequalities Hurt LGBT Families offers the most complete portrait to date of LGBT families and the ways in which laws harm their children.”

Researchers say current laws can:

  • Deny a child’s legal ties to both parents;
  • Separate children from parents after a divorce or death;
  • Deny kids access to quality health care;
  • Deny forever homes to kids in foster care;
  • Affect a parent’s right to make medical decisions for kids

Among the study’s findings:

“LGBT families face a higher tax burden: A series of tax credits and deductions are designed to help all families, regardless of economic circumstance, ease the financial costs of raising children. However, tax law also uses a narrow definition of family which excludes LGBT families. This exclusion usually results in a significantly higher tax burden for LGBT families.”

“LGBT families face health coverage disparities and unequal access to health insurance. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prevents the federal government from recognizing the marriages of same-sex couples. This lack of recognition means that employers do not need to extend health insurance benefits to the partners of LGBT employees, or to the children of these partners (assuming the employee is a legal stranger to the children). Even when employers choose to offer extended health insurance benefits, an LGBT family will be taxed on the value of the benefit while a married heterosexual family will not.”

And, “LGBT families are denied financial protections when a parent dies or is disabled. Social Security benefits and inheritance laws aim to protect families when a parent dies or becomes disabled. However, because the federal government fails to recognize LGBT families, such families may be denied critical Social Security death and disability benefits typically provided to heterosexual families. Also, if a married heterosexual parent dies without a will, all the couple’s assets transfer tax-free to the surviving spouse (and/or children); and if a parent dies a wrongful death, minor children and legal spouses may be able to sue. Yet in states where their family ties are not legally recognized, LGBT families have no such protections.”

According to the report, Idaho is one of the states that is severely lacking in LGBT protections.  Idaho LGBTQIA leaders say living in a rural state in which parents can be fired, loose their housing, or face other discrimination can be very detrimental to a child’s well being.

A move is currently underway in Idaho to ask lawmakers to add the words, “sexual orientation and gender identity” to Idaho’s human Right’s Act, which would help protect parents and other members of the LGBTQ community.

Find out more about Add The Words, Idaho here.

You can read the full report here.

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