Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Constitutional Amendment - Senate Bill 161

This bill was sent to the Senate State & Local Government Committee yesterday:

Senate Bill 161: AN ACT proposing an amendment to Sections 36 and 42 of the Constitution of Kentucky relating to legislative sessions. Propose an amendment to Sections 36 and 42 of the Kentucky Constitution to repeal annual sessions; provide ballot language for submission to voters.

This is without a doubt the dumbest idea ever conceived! We already have a “part-time” legislature!

One major obstacle now is that Kentucky’s lawmakers are not in session long enough to accomplish anything. They currently meet for 60 days on even numbered years, and 30 days on odd numbered years. This of course doesn’t include holidays, Sunday, etc. Basically, our legislature is only in session for several months!

I wonder how many decades it would take Kentucky to have a statewide law to protect LGBT people from discrimination in employment if the General Assembly only meets every two (2) years? Who wants to wait 2 years before a new law is passed, changed, etc.? You must also remember that Kentucky’s legislature cannot call itself into special session….. only the Governor can.

Let's hope Senate Bill 161 dies quickly.

In California, their lawmakers meet year around (much like the federal model, Congress)…. so do lawmakers in California, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Florida, Ohio, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Wisconsin.

- Full-Time: California, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Florida, Ohio, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Wisconsin.

- Middle: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.

- Less than Part-Time: Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Minister found guilty in gay "therapy" case

Isn't this sick (and typical) of people who think homosexuality can be "cured."

A minister and former Christian college instructor has been found guilty of sexually assaulting a young man who sought counselling after he feared he was homosexual.

A jury returned with the guilty verdict early last night after only a few hours of deliberations. Terrance Lewis, 60, will be sentenced at a later date.

In earlier testimony, the alleged victim, now 29, told court he started meeting Lewis for counselling sessions in early 2000 after his parents caught him viewing gay pornography on the family computer.

Lewis — a family friend and minister — confided he had his own sexual identity issues and the two embarked on weekly counselling sessions designed to “assist me to be straight and to live a straight life,” the man said.

The man said Lewis started a program of “touch therapy,” which included the two kissing and fondling each other and engaging in sexual roleplaying.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Average Kentuckian Values Fairness

By: James-Clifton Spires

My work, which is with a private contractor that answers telephone calls for various U.S. government agencies, has allowed me to conduct initial telephone background checks on firearms purchases, assist people looking and applying for government grants, and help federal employees with their travel arrangements.

My co-workers and I have spoken with a wide range of people on these various issues, from country music stars and U.S. senators to pawnbrokers and people on the verge of homelessness.

The type of work we do requires an acceptance of the fact that the job requires us to be anonymous voices answering a telephone, subject to each caller's mood and interpretation of how we sound.

It's somewhat akin to being a voice actor --- you can adapt to a wide range of situations without having to change your appearance or shift your position in your chair. You just have to listen and respond accordingly.

I'm the oldest person, by a few months, in the office bay where I work. I've become aware of the fact that my voice occasionally makes me sound much younger than I am --- some people who call who are close to my own age will refer to me as "young man" --- sometimes in an affectionate manner or sometimes condescendingly, depending upon the nature of the call.

I've had enough speech training over the years to cover the Southeast Ohio Appalachian drawl (filtered through North Carolina and Kentucky) that I've grown up with and affect a neutral-sounding Midwestern accent similar to that used by network news anchors. I've also learned something about letting bits and pieces of regional accent creep in, depending upon the caller and the situation. For the most part, Ah do --- uh, I do --- just fine. I reckon.

As I said, the people who call me, or any other person who answers telephones for a living, only knows what little we give them of ourselves --- the rest is up to their imaginations and their mood when they call. I've had people cry because I sounded sympathetic, scream because they were in a mood to scream, flirt with me, mother me, threaten me and offer to hire me away just because of the way my voice sounded to them.

None of them know that I'm 57 years old, the father of adult children, shave my head, use Just for Men on my beard, am built like a long-past-his-prime heavyweight contender, or live with a male partner whom I call my husband. They do not know my politics, my religion, whether I can sing like Andrea Bocelli or Roseanne Barr, whether my eyes are blue or my skin is brown or anything else --- unless I tell them.

As a result, our over-the-phone-wires relationships are based on business and mostly first impressions. If I come off as competent, friendly, and helpful, I can usually soothe an angry or distressed or frustrated caller and leave them in a better frame of mind at the end of the call. Not all the time, but most of the time, if I'm doing my job properly.

I've had dissatisfied people ask to speak to my supervisor. I've also had callers ask if they can talk to me specifically if they need to call back again. The good and the bad. It's all based on what our experience was with each other.

Obviously, the good calls are the best ones --- you get a sense that it's going well when the caller starts to joke, tell stories about himself or herself, or gets interested enough into you to ask personal questions. We're trained to keep it light and neutral --- and not reveal too much about one's self or the inner workings of our company.

I've had callers, feeling comfortable with me, assume that I might be "their" kind of people. These folks will volunteer their political affiliations ("I voted for the woman," a brusque Boston accent told me in a call just after the Massachusetts presidential primary) and sometimes their prejudices ("Grants for minorities. Yeah, you can't be white these days if you want government money!").

Occasionally you get clues about someone who is, shall we say, a fellow traveler. "My SPOUSE and I went kayaking and camping in Alaska last year," a business-like female caller told me in a purposeful non sequitor from our discussion of her grant application. (Yeah, I thought. My SPOUSE and I went to Miami last year and ogled some cute gay boys. My gaydar's working on you, too, sister.)

Because our office is located in southeastern Kentucky, a lot of my co-workers are locals whose values (and accents, more often than not) reflect the culture in which they were raised. On the first day of our training class, we were asked to introduce and tell a bit about ourselves. I was one of the first selected to speak and, sticking to a vow I made a few years ago to never again be closeted in the workplace, came out and said that I was the father of adult children and I was on my third marriage to my first husband.

The training class instructor, obviously in new territory with this revelation, took on a tone of false heartiness and said, "Well, we don't have to get TOO personal, here," although I didn't see that what I said was too much different from my co-workers who got up and told about their families, some of which included babies with different daddies.

I figured if there was going to be any backlash from anyone in the class, I'd set up the situation so I could get it out of the way at the beginning. Instead, on our breaks in training, I found different class members coming up to me and whispering, "My brother's gay." "I have a best friend whose family kicked him out." "My husband doesn't know it, but I have a girlfriend." "Do you need a hug, James?" In other words, apparently these southeast Kentuckians' culture included something I, as a relative newcomer to their community, didn't expect: A respect for people's individuality and a willingness to accept and maybe try to identify with someone who different from themselves.

Our class bonded very closely, much like a unit of military recruits who went through the rigors of boot camp together. We struggle with the same work-related issues and know bits and pieces of each others' stories and living situations. People ask me about my husband much in the same way they'll ask someone else about a heterosexual spouse. I'm just James. They're just them. We do our jobs, get along with each other, do our work at the workplace and the rest of our lives in our appropriate elsewheres.

I've found that my co-workers are very much like most of the people who call us for anonymous assistance. What I do with my life before and after work isn't really their concern. It's how we interact together in a professional situation that is important.

My co-workers are typical of the people I've met in Kentucky, for the most part. They may have not traveled widely or been exposed to a lot of different cultural experiences, but they were raised with the basic principle, "Live and let live." They tend not to be involved with politics --- most of them ignore the frothing Fox News coverage, in the company breakroom, of the minutiae of the presidential race. They are religious, but leery of people who are "too religious."

And for the most part, they could care less, unlike certain politicians who cater to the extremist elements of the religious right, about "protecting" the institutions of marriage and the family from homosexual influences. Most people use their energies to focus on their own marriages and would resent anyone else trying to butt in and "help" them, unless they asked for the assistance first.

In other words, the average Kentuckian values fairness. He or she just wants to get along with everyone else and is willing, as most of us have been taught from childhood, to live and let live. Don't interfere with their lives and they won't interfere with yours. Any politician or religious leader who suggests otherwise is either listening to a limited constituency or has never worked in an environment where diversity is respected and valued.

There are all kinds of people in the world, with all kinds of interests and needs. None of us can tell anyone else what's right for him or her --- but what we can do is treat each other with the same courtesy, respect and equality that we want for ourselves.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

In God We Trust License Plate

Kentuckians would be able to buy "In God We Trust" license plates under a bill that won unanimous approval Tuesday in the House Transportation Committee. OK, I’m a Christian, but come on…. Isn’t their more important issues? What about in “In Allah We Trust” “In YHWH We Trust” or “In Jehovah We Trust.”

These are all basically the same “God” with different translations and pronunciation. At a minimum, they all sprung from Judaism.

As of 2000, approximately 53% of the world's population identifies with one of the three Abrahamic [term commonly used to designate the three prevalent monotheistic religions—Christianity, Islam, and Judaism which claim Abraham as a part of their sacred history] religions (33% Christian, 20% Islam, <1% Judaism), 6% with Buddhism, 13% with Hinduism, 6% with traditional Chinese religion, 7% with various other religions, and less than 15% as non-religious.

I’m a God loving, and God fearing citizen, but this is a perfect example of why religion and government shouldn’t mix. Sure we use to do it when the Commonwealth and the nation were founded, but this is the 21st Century…. I suppose respect for all religions/translations is still beyond the General Assembly’s capability.

Friday, February 08, 2008

LGBT rights in Kentucky

Want to do something to advance LGBT rights in Kentucky?

Bluegrass Fairness of Central Kentucky and the Kentucky Equality Federation are sponsoring the first LGBT lobby day of this session on February 12; Equality. Fairness. Nothing more, nothing less. This shall be the day we take the fight for equality and fairness directly to our Capitol.

We need your support as the opposition has the voices and numbers that we fail to get to the Capitol. Pro and/or friendly LGBT policies are the minority, but we need to drum enough support to seem like the majority.

We plan on having many guest speakers; including Senator Ernesto Scorsone, Representative Kathy W. Stein, Pastor Cynthia Cain, and Christine Maxwell (former chair of TransKentucky).

We have two exciting events planned for you; you may register for one or both events:

> Speak to your elected officials from 9:00AM - 1:00PM
> Rally in the Capitol Rotunda from 1:00PM - 2:00PM

Click here to register for one or both events!

Show your support by standing united with Kentucky Equality Federation and Bluegrass Fairness of Central Kentucky! Your presence will make a real difference in the fight for equality and fairness for LGBT Kentuckians!

What's at stake?

House Bill 118, the Healthcare Inequality Bill. Public universities and other government agencies would not be allowed to offer health insurance to the unmarried domestic partners of their employees should this bill become law.

House Bill 33. This bill would allow anyone 18 and older to designate a non-blood relative as having hospital room access (such as a same-sex partner).

Senate Bill 55, the non-discrimination bill. Senator Ernesto Scorsone had filed Senate Bill 55 to "to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity."