ACT-UP joins #Occupy in call for Wall Street Healthcare Tax

Members of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, (ACT-UP), joined forces with members of Occupy Wall Street on Wednesday to draw attention to a plan that would provide better health care for the uninsured.

About nine activists were arrested during the protest, held in the heart of New York’s financial district.

According to the Washington Post,”New York Stock Exchange workers jeered from the sidewalk as handcuffed protesters wearing Robin Hood costumes were loaded into police vans after chaining themselves together and blocking traffic in the area around Wall Street. Police used chain cutters to remove them.”

“The protestors are asking for the government to tax market trades by investment banks, hedge funds and other financial outfits to fund universal health care,” explains an ACT-UP blog post. “The AIDS activists met up with Occupy Wall Street supporters at City Hall to rally for what they call a “Financial Speculative Tax.” They contend the funds generated by such a tax would help treat HIV-positive people and those who are uninsured — and that it would register as barely a blip on the bottom line of most Wall Street firms.”

Eric Sawyer, who is one of the group’s founding members tells the Washington Post,”When it comes to AIDS and housing services…big business is not funding anything, but they got the bailout.”

Act-Up was founded in 1987 amid the AIDS crises, the group has since gone international with chapters around the world.

According to the group,”Today, out of the 34 million people living with HIV worldwide, about 6.6 million people in low- and –middle income countries have access to HIV treatment with nearly 8 million additional people still in need.”

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Overnight “Add the Words” Protest a Show of Solidarity for Idaho’s LGBT Community

What started out as an action of civil disobedience turned into a display of just how important the Add the Words bill is to Idaho’s LGBT community.

About 250 people turned out Thursday night for a vigil in support of the legislation. Those who worked on the bill this legislative session told the crowd that while some lawmakers have chosen for the sixth year in a row to ignore the voices of thousands of supporters, the work, courage and dedication of hundreds of volunteers has forever changed the issue in Idaho.

Retiring State Senator Edgar Malepeai, who sponsored the bill during a print hearing before the Idaho Senate State Affairs committee, told the crowd he believes that LGBT equality in Idaho is possible and called on the crowd not to give up their fight.

Idaho Senator Nicole LeFavour, who has worked on the legislation for over six years, echoed Malepeai’s words adding that while the majority of lawmakers support the legislation, some lack the political courage to do so publicly.

Before the vigil, Idaho Governor Butch Otter told KIVI-TV in Boise that some people were concerned that the campaign amounted to asking for “special protections.”

Supporters counter that there are no “special rights” contained within the legislation. The bill would grant LGBT individuals the same rights that the rest of Idaho’s population is already entitled to, including the right to not be fired based on their age, religion, race, creed or national origin.

Following the rally, over a dozen supporters chose to spend the night on the statehouse steps to show just how important the legislation was to them, their friends and their families.

The move was an act of civil disobedience after organizers were told earlier in the week that supporters would be arrested if they chose not to leave.

As the night wore on however it became clear that capital security was not interested in perusing legal action against the protestors. Instead, the action turned into a show of solidarity with the thousands of Idahoans who have yet to be guaranteed the same rights as every other Idahoan.

Boise comedian Matt Bragg told KTVB-TV in Boise, “We slept on the steps last night to represent the thousands of Idahoans who are left out in the cold every day while legislators ignore their voices.”

Following the action, Add the Words organizer Cody Hafer wrote, “We are determined, we are strong, we are NOT giving up, we are NOT letting this UNACCEPTABLE FAILURE go unnoticed. Idaho is too great for hate, and it is time to include gay and transgender (LGBT) Idahoans in our existing Human Rights Act!”

The legislative session is expected to wrap up sometime within the next week or so. Organizers say there is still time to get the legislation passed but that even if that doesn’t happen, they are calling for Idaho’s LGBT community to continue to the conversation with lawmakers and other minority groups, in hopes of getting the bill passed next year.

You can contact the following key lawmakers and ask them to support the bill before the legislation ends:

Representative Thomas F. Loertscher, TLoertsc@house.idaho.gov
Representative Max C. Black, MBlack@house.idaho.gov
Representative Eric Anderson, EAnderson@house.idaho.gov
Representative Ken Andrus, KAndrus@house.idaho.gov
Representative Carlos Bilbao, CBilbao@house.idaho.gov
Representative Lynn M. Luker, LLuker@house.idaho.gov
Representative Erik Simpson, ESimpson@house.idaho.gov
Representative Frank N. Henderson, FHenderson@house.idaho.gov
Representative Jim Guthrie, http://legislature.idaho.gov/about/contactmembersform.cfm?ID=1179

A New Day: Why We Can’t Afford to Let Idaho Lawmakers Ignore Us!

So Idaho’s state lawmakers are talking about wrapping up the session and heading home. Home to their farms, ranches and offices, their cozy kitchens, their husbands and wives and their full-time lives.

Meanwhile, in the coming months, somewhere in Idaho another person will be harassed and or brutally beaten because of their sexuality. They will be forced to choose over reporting the crime or suffering in silence, lest someone finds out he or she is gay.

Somewhere in Idaho another gay person will lose their job because their boyfriend or girlfriend brought them a rose at work or because they dared to hang a picture of their significant other in a cubical, just like all the rest of their co-workers. The difference, as will be subtly pointed out to them during a talk from their supervisor over a need to cut their hours, is that their co-workers aren’t “flaunting” their agenda.

“It is, after all, a small town,” he or she will be told. “We have a family friendly image to uphold.”

Somewhere in Idaho, in the coming months, another same-sex couple will be denied a place to live because,”it’s a one bedroom apartment, and we don’t really want any “kinky” stuff going on in the complex.”

It matters not that they’ve been together longer then the apartment manager or any of their would-be neighbors, discrimination is never about logic or reason.

A gay couple will get thrown out of a taxi somewhere because they were caught holding hands, a college or university will deny a professor a job because of his or her sexuality, a church official with a grudge will threaten to “out” one of its members, a lesbian mom will have to pay thousands of extra dollars in legal fees to prove to the courts and to her straight soon to be ex-husband that she is indeed a “fit” mother in her divorce case.

Somewhere in Idaho within the coming year, another young adult will be forced to decide between being who he or she is and loosing a scholarship, a job opportunity and possibly even their family.

One wonders if the leadership within the Idaho legislature will even give these individuals another thought, if they have at all.

It’s not as if they can claim they didn’t know what is going on or how hard it is to be part of the LGBT community in Idaho.

For six years they’ve ignored the stories, the voices and the call to be heroes to thousands.

This year though many lawmakers just plain lied.

“I wasn’t aware discrimination against the LGBT community was a problem in Idaho,” one longtime lawmaker wrote slickly to her constituent.

Having talked to several people who have approached the subject with her before, it’s pretty obvious the lawmaker was choosing to stick her head in the sand rather than publicly acknowledge the problem.

“This bill will lead to gay marriage,” another told their local newspaper when asked about the legislation.

The reporter failed to point out that Idaho’s human rights act has nothing to do with  marriage at all.

“I haven’t seen the bill,” said the House Speaker to a group of reporters, before going on to state that he didn’t intend to give the bill a hearing anyway.

Never mind the fact that the bill has been around for the past six years. Never mind the fact that he has refused to return the call of the volunteers working for the legislation. Never mind the fact that he has yet to see any sort of official document because his fellow party members have refused to even print the damn thing, let alone listen to the hundreds of voices from around the state the legislation would affect.

When asked after the now infamous print hearing, in which over 200 people attended to show their support, what needed to be done to help curb the discrimination against the LGBT community in Idaho, if not the bill he had just voted not to move forward, the now former State Senator John McGee arrogantly told a reporter that more “education was needed” and he left it at that.

He failed to mention that a person maybe fired, lose their housing or be denied other services for such “education” efforts.

Not that his verbal answer mattered that much anyway. The smirk on his face the  following the 7-2 vote not to print the bill  that morning contained more truth about how he felt about the community than any non-answer answer he could ever give to any reporter anyway.

And so after ignoring, lying and again shutting out the voices of their constituents, lawmakers are getting ready to wrap things up and head home for another year.

“Sine die,” they call it.

It means “without day.”

How appropriate.

I, for one, believe that even if one member of our community in Idaho is discriminated against, hurt, or rejected we continue to live our lives “without day.”

The voices of those who have gone before us can tell us what it’s like to live as shadows, from the “Boys of Boise” fiasco to the man or woman who lost everything because he or she was labeled a “homosexual.”

They know all to well what it’s like to live their lives in the oppressive night of discrimination’s darkness.

I, for one, refuse to live “without day” any longer.

On Thursday night, March 15th, we will have one more opportunity to let our lawmakers know this session that the night for the LGBT community in Idaho is over. We have the opportunity to let them know that we will no longer be tolerated their arrogance, their slick political verbiage and, in many cases, their blatant homophobia.

Will you be there?

Will you give voice and, by your presence, strength to the shout that they can no longer ignore the discrimination and pleas of Idaho’s LGBT community?

It’s time for a new day in Idaho.

A new day in which every Idahoan can go home without the worry of being hurt or harmed simply for being part of a sexual minority, a new day when we can all go to our jobs and occupations without worrying about being fired or harassed simply because we choose to love another of our own gender, a new day when we respect every individual based on their individuality rather than their sexual orientation, gender identity, political status, or religion.

I, for one, believe that new day is already here.

 

 

(Thursday’s vigil will be held from 8:00-9:00 pm on the steps of the Idaho Statehouse in Boise. “It is time to gather together with signs and FLASHLIGHTS and let the Idaho Lawmakers know that their failure to hear the Idaho Human Rights Act amendment bill, for yet another year, was UNACCEPTABLE,” says the event Facebook Event page.)

Action Alert: Add the Words Flashlight Vigil to Be held this Thursday

It looks like Idaho lawmakers are getting ready to head home without hearing a bill that would add the words,”sexual orientation and gender identity” to Idaho’s human rights laws.

Despite the pleas of hundreds of Idahoans around the state, lawmakers continue to refuse to formally hear from the family, friends and individuals affected by the lack of any sort of protections for Idaho’s gay and transgender communities.

Organizers for the Add the Words sticky note campaign had strong hopes of the bill’s passage this year based on surveys and strong bipartisan support for the measure.

The Idaho Senate State Affairs Committee voted last month not to print the bill, and despite the renewal of hope with potential sponsors of the bill on the house side, House Speaker Lawerence Denney indicated to a group of reporters last week that he doesn’t intend to give  the measure a hearing.

According to the Spokesman-Review’s Betsy Russell, during a press conference on Tuesday Denney said, “I have not seen a bill, and I don’t think that there is any change in support on the House side.” Asked what he meant by that – a change from what – Denney said, “From  not hearing it. I think that was always the position on the House side.”

Denney also told reporters that, despite a high profile media campaign as well as six years of volunteers trying to get the legislation passed, he had not yet seen the bill.

Organizer Mistie Tolman tells the Idaho Agenda, “Add the Words is surprised that Denney says he has never seen the bill and never intended to give it a hearing.”

Supporters of the legislation say they feel that lawmakers are simply ignoring the plight of Idaho’s LGBT community. Several lawmakers have acknowledged that they know that harassment and discrimination occurs in Idaho but have thus far not taken any steps to fix the problem.

Thursday’s vigil will be held from 8:00-9:00 pm on the steps of the Idaho Statehouse in Boise. “It is time to gather together with signs and FLASHLIGHTS and let the Idaho Lawmakers know that their failure to hear the Idaho Human Rights Act amendment bill, for yet another year, was UNACCEPTABLE,” says a Facebook Event page.

Organizers are hoping the event will send a message to lawmakers that by ignoring the legislation they have also ignored the voices and wishes of hundreds of voters throughout the state.

Click HERE to learn more about the vigil.

Add the Words, Idaho Plans Silent Protest and Candlelight Vigil at GOP Lincoln Day Dinner

When the Republican majority of the Senate State Affairs committee voted not to print a bill that would amend Idaho’s human rights act, many thought the issue was over for the session.

It turns out that wasn’t the case.  In the weeks following the hearing those pushing for the  legislation have continued placing sticky notes on state house doors, they’ve met with signs at political events and they’ve silently protested in order to let the Senate leadership know that, for the LGBT community at least, the issue is still very much on the table.

The community has been trying to gain a public hearing for the bill for the past six years.  Despite positing hundreds of sticky notes from citizens across Idaho, as well as heavy turn out at rallies in 14 cities during a day of action last month, GOP lawmakers once again told the community, “no”.

When supporters gather at the high-profile Ada County Lincoln Day Dinner on Thursday night, February 23rd, the message will be the same one it has been since volunteers began the Add the Words campaign last October,”pass the bill.”

Ironically, had he lived in present day Idaho,Lincoln himself could be fired, lose his housing and be refused service based solely on the appearance of his own behavior of sleeping with another man.

Supporters say the pressure on the legislature for a rehearing for the Add the Words bill is growing and is only getting stronger,”Our goal in “protesting” at these events is to show that Add the Words is not giving up! We want our voices to be heard and we want Idaho’s gay and transgender citizens to be protected!,” says organizer Lisa Perry.

Those wishing to participate in the protest should meet outside the front entrance of the Boise Center on the grove between 5:30 and 7:30 pm. According to a Facebook event page,”Electric candles and cups will be provided. Please dress warm.”

Click HERE for More info.

If you can’t make it, please take a moment and call or write the six committee members and ask them to reconsider their votes:

Sen. McKenzie: CMckenzie@senate.idaho.gov (208) 367-9400
Sen. Lodge: PALodge@senate.idaho.gov
Sen. Winder: CWinder@senate.idaho.gov (208) 343-2300
Sen. Fulcher: Rfulcher@senate.idaho.gov (208) 332-1340
Sen Davis: BMDavis@senate.idaho.gov (208) 522-8100
Sen. Hill: BHill@senate.idaho.gov (208) 356-3677

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