Saturday, August 30, 2008

Fortune 500 Companies and LGBT Discrimination

Equality Forum, a national and international gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) civil rights organization, reported that 471 (94.2%) of the 2008 FORTUNE 500 companies voluntarily include sexual orientation in their employment nondiscrimination policies. This year marks the fifth anniversary of Equality Forum's FORTUNE 500 project, which is a collaboration with Professor Louis Thomas, Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and Ian Ayres, William K. Townsend Professor, Yale Law School.

Exxon Mobil is the largest of the FORTUNE 500 that does not specifically provide sexual orientation protection. At the 2006, 2007 and 2008 annual Exxon Mobil shareholders meetings, Vanguard voted its proxy of 194 million shares for including sexual orientation workplace equality and against Exxon Mobil management's opposition.
Noncompliant Companies (spend your money someplace else):

  • AES
  • Aleris International
  • Auto-Owners Insurance
  • AT&T
  • BJ Services
  • Cameron International
  • Celanese
  • CHS
  • Commercial Metals
  • D.R. Horton
  • DISH Network (they also do not carry LGBT channels or programming)
  • Energy Transfer Equity
  • Expeditors International of Washington
  • Exxon Mobil
  • Fidelity National Financial
  • Frontier Oil
  • GMAC (no longer owned by General Motors)
  • Holly
  • Huntsman
  • Jarden
  • KBR
  • Kroger
  • Leggett & Platt
  • Perini
  • Pilgrim's Pride
  • Plains All American Pipeline
  • Targa Resources
  • TRW Automotive Holdings
  • Universal Health Services
  • Virgin Media
  • Western Refining
Some of the largest Compliant Companies:

  • General Motors
  • General Electric
  • Ford Motor Company
  • Target
  • Dollar General
  • Family Dollar Stores
  • Big Lots
  • Office Depot
  • OfficeMax
  • Lexmark International
  • Chevron
  • Sprint
  • Home Depot
  • Procter & Gamble
  • General Mills
  • Winn-Dixie
  • Marathon Oil
  • Walgreen's
  • Rite Aid
  • Best Buy
  • Walt Disney
  • FedEx

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

An intolerant gay community

Two weeks ago, news emerged that the co-founder of the website had contributed $2,300 to the presidential campaign of John McCain. Uproar ensued.

Haven't heard of Manhunt?

Unless you're a gay man, that's to be expected. It's one of the most popular gay websites in the world, with 1 million registered members in the U.S. alone and 400,000 unique visitors a month. As its name implies, it's a site where many gay men go to find "casual" sexual encounters.

Except that the Internet, as Jonathan Crutchley recently discovered, isn't really private. He founded Manhunt with his partner, Larry Basile, in 2001. He ran into trouble when Out published an article about the website in its current issue. The article, in passing, referred to Crutchley -- who until last week was chairman of the board at Manhunt -- as a "liberal Republican." That tidbit apparently shocked gay blogger Andy Towle, who within seconds found Crutchley's donation to McCain on a contributor database and posted the news on his website.

The shaming and condemnation of Crutchley was swift and unforgiving.

"Let's show MANHUNT what we in the gay community think of members of our community who support politicians who vote against the interests of the community," an anonymous commenter wrote. "Delete your MANHUNT profile!" Michelangelo Signorile, a gay liberal radio host, labeled Crutchley "asinine" simply for supporting McCain.

Rarely do you come across a political candidate who shares each and every one of your political views, and Crutchley's support for McCain was hardly different from that of any other donor who doesn't make the perfect the enemy of the good. "I believe McCain will be a better commander in chief than Obama, who also opposes gay marriage," Crutchley wrote on a website that covers the online personal ad industry. "If we have an experienced, seasoned person defending the country in this dangerous age, we will be able to argue about the gay agenda later."

That explanation might not please every gay activist, but it is a feeling shared by many gay people. According to exit polls, about 25% of gays voted for George W. Bush in the last two presidential elections (the actual number is likely higher, seeing that many gays do not identify themselves as such to pollsters).

The fact that Crutchley is a Republican ought not to come as much of a surprise then, especially considering that he's a self-made millionaire. And he's hardly a radical right-winger either. "I'm a Massachusetts Republican," he wrote, "which is about the same as being an Alabama Democrat."

But such nuance is apparently irrelevant to those who equate homosexuality with political liberalism. Manhunt hasn't revealed how many people canceled their profiles. However, just how poisonous Crutchley's politics can be in a gay milieu can be deduced from the speed with which he stepped down from his position as chairman -- at "the request of the board," according to Basile. Crutchley maintains his co-ownership of the site.

If the intent was to silence a conservative gay voice, it appears to have succeeded.

The hue and cry over Crutchley's politics is all too familiar. Why can't gay activists countenance the idea of a "Massachusetts Republican"? Liberal intolerance. In the minds of too many on the left, gay people (like women and ethnic minorities) have to be liberal and support Democratic candidates. To do otherwise -- to have opinions on issues that don't follow the left-wing line -- is to be a traitor to the gay "community."

Anyone ever hear of the Log Cabin Republicans?

For too long, many gay-rights activists have acted as if throwing temper tantrums will magically bring about their political agenda. But labeling everyone with whom they don't agree a "bigot" does not help gay equality.

Civil rights for gays can't come about without the help of Republicans; gay people -- and straight supporters allies need to stand with, not silence, people like Crutchley who are working to change the GOP from within.

Did we forget California? The state Supreme Court loaded with Republican appointees legalized gay marriage and the Republican governor is one of the most powerful pro-gay publicly elected officials in the country, to understand the importance of making gay rights a bipartisan cause.

Aside from sexuality, gay people are no different from heterosexuals. There are gay people of all races, income levels, occupations, body types and, yes, political beliefs. Gay liberals are always crowing about the importance of "diversity" and lauding its importance on matters of race and gender. Too bad diversity doesn't count when it comes to politics.

Monday, August 25, 2008

McCain, the next U.S. President?

The McCain camp has a new TV add for the Democratic National Convention:

“I'm a proud Hillary Clinton Democrat,” says Debra Bartoshevich, a Racine-area nurse, as she looks into the camera. “She had the experience and judgment to be President. Now, in a first for me, I'm supporting a Republican, John McCain.”

Additionally, McCain’s campaign said that
Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO who has become among the GOP’s most visible women surrogates, will be in town to meet privately with some Democrats who backed Clinton in the primary and not yet fully committed to Obama.

Large numbers of Clinton backers — 30 percent in a recent ABC/Washington Post poll — are still not backing Obama over McCain.

"Obama not making Clinton his running mate will likely make McCain the next U.S. President," is what I continue to hear in the LGBT community.

Obama only got the number of delegates he needed very, very late in the season and the Senator Clinton had an impressive campaign. By campaign's end, Clinton had won 1,640 pledged delegates to Obama's 1,763, a mere 3.6 percentage point difference.

The Obama campaign is doing their best to paper over the deep divisions in their party among the many Hillary Clinton supporters who do not want Barack Obama to be president.

“There are a significant number [of Democrats] that want Hillary Clinton,” RNC Chairman Mike Duncan told reporters today during an open house of the temporary war room the GOP has opened up to counter-program the Democrats this week. “Typically when parties are split, the other one wins.”

A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll released last week made plain why Republicans are trying to play up divisions. According to the survey, 21 percent of Clinton supporters are supporting McCain and that another 27 percent are still holding out.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Religion and Gay Marriage

"What if this whole crusade's a charade, and behind it all there's a price to be paid for the blood on which we dine, justified in the name of the holy and the divine?"

By: DaniDe

I'll never fully understand religion. The topic itself fascinates me because it is one that so many people get worked up over. Although I was raised Catholic, I currently am at a stage in my life where I don't know if I believe in the existence of a higher being nor do I truly care. At one point in my life I probably would have said that death was my greatest fear because of my wavering faith in Christianity and the overall uncertainty that comes from it. But now I have come to realize that death isn't something to be feared and that my energy and worries are must better wasted on issues relevant to the present situations that I live in. I simply do not feel that I need to have the looming threat of eternal damnation in order to force me to be a good person. To me, it seems inherently hypocritical to one who practices a religion to say that they require a religious backing in order to create or even reinforce a desire to do good. I have never felt that I should be a good person because it is what was expected of me by a higher power. Nor have I ever felt that I need a super-empirical safety net to give my life value. I guess what I have come to realize is that the reason I am not religious is because I have no purpose for being so. I am able to obtain ethics and value out of my daily life without a need or desire for religion or spirituality.

However, even though I personally do not need religion in my life to be a happy and fulfilled person, I wish to clarify that I do not condemn those who do. Furthermore, I find nothing wrong with having a strong religious identity and I do not belittle those with a solid faith or spirituality by labeling them as weak-minded. I do, however, have a huge issue with religion when it becomes appallingly misinterpreted and abused. Too many times throughout history (and even in modern day) religion has been used as a justification for actions that are in no way, shape, or form truly representative of the intentions of religious practice. To further elaborate this point, I call upon an example that illustrates how modern misinterpretation of the Bible can cause religion to be vilely misconstrued and used as a weapon of intolerance and injustice.

But, before I do so, I would like to say that despite the fact that I am not religious, that does not mean I do not think that the Bible is not an excellent source for values and morality. Although I may not believe in some of the Church's teachings about the divine nature of Jesus of Nazareth, that does not mean that I do not think the message that Jesus preached does not have any value. In fact, I truly think that the message and values Jesus taught are ones that all people should live by so long as they actually put into practice his message and values and do not corrupt them to their own benefit. What I mean by this is that many modern interpretations of the Bible are not truly interpreted in the spirit of the message of Jesus of Nazareth.

This becomes clearly evident with the issue of homosexuality. If I could only count how many times that I have heard someone say homosexuality is wrong and that sodomy is a sin. While the Catholic church has recently slightly changed their position on homosexuality (they now preach that being a homosexual is not a sin so long as homosexuals do not engage in sexual behavior) many fundamentalist Christian denominations believe that homosexuality is not only inherently wrong but that it is sinful and disgusting. To this, they back their arguments by quoting scripture and different biblical verses. Apparently, after doing so, they find that their arguments have sound proof and that their stance on the issue is thus completely justified.

How very foolish this approach really is.

I am not sure how many people have ever heard of the idea of "context" reading but if anyone has ever taken an SAT they probably recall coming across the reading section of the SAT and encountering a question that in one form or another asked, "What is the main idea of this paragraph?" Following this question, there would be four options. Usually a couple of them would be direct quotes from the passage that, although they were mentioned within the passage, are really just diminutive details that really are not representative of the overall purpose or intention of the passage. Then there will be a couple answers that don't quote the text, but offer a summary of it—one correct, the other wrong. One answer will have clearly nothing to do with the topic and offer a summary to some text completely foreign to the passage on the page before it. The final answer may not have any words directly from the text but after deductions and analytical connections are made, it is evident that it truly gives the best representation of what the intention of the passage was. This answer is the correct answer.

I call upon this example to show how one quote or one scripture citing can rarely truly represent the main idea of a text. So when people use Old Testament passages to justify their anti-homosexual stances, I become upset by their method of biblical interpretation. First off, most Christians argue the Old Testament in itself is outdated and whereas the Old Testament was a document of the covenant of the Jewish people with God, the New Testament is a document of the new covenant of all people with God. Since this is the approach taken by most Christians, I find it in bad taste to turn to the Old Testament to justify a teaching of anti-homosexuality. But even then, my biggest issue goes back to saying the Bible justifies anti-homosexuality by quoting single biblical passages. It is at this point that I say people need to learn how to "context" read, that is, look for the main idea of the Bible as a whole—and, if you are a Christian, specifically emphasize the main idea of the New Testament. To those who think they can justify any interpretation of the Bible as being anti-homosexual after doing so I must say to them--Think again. I've read the bible in its entirety and I've been educated on it thoroughly (13 years of Catholic Schooling!). I know I am capable of quoting more scripture verses and showing more knowledge of biblical history, authorship, themes, and purposes than most Christians or Catholics who swear by the Bible as their book of salvation. In other words, I know a bit about the bible so I truly despise when religious folk argue with me that I am uninformed of the purposes behind Christian texts and doctrine just because I do not practice them. So, when you tell me that the Bible is anti-homosexual I simply cannot do anything but tell you that you have been utterly misinformed. The Bible I know shows Jesus as a healer, forgiver of sins, and a friend to societal outcasts. Jesus was a friend of the prostitutes, the beggars, the tax collectors, the Samaritans—all groups of people that were considered the outcasts of society in his time and day. So, if you, by any capability are able to apply situational factors from the past to the present, you would realize that, had Jesus been around today he would have befriended society's outcasts--who better to fall in that category than the homosexual community which so many continue to condemn today. To those Christians who condemn homosexuals, I say to you, who are you to condemn, when your own God told you "Let he without sin cast the first stone." The God of the New Testament, the God of the Christians, is a loving and forgiving God who extends his welcome to all people. And, as Jesus himself told his disciples, the final and greatest commandment of all is "To love your neighbor as yourself." If this truly is the commandment above all other commandments, laws, and teachings, it seems that any teaching that could even begin to appear anti-homosexual would be overridden by the ultimate commandment that Jesus established. As Jesus told us, all people are our neighbors (a category that includes homosexuals) so his commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves meant that we must love all people as we do ourselves. So I must ask then, how can one even begin to love a homosexual if they condemn their very being? I just don't see how that is possible. To me it seems that any person who is homophobic on the basis of religious belief is actually in violation of their own biblical doctrine, for they are, above all things, breaking the greatest commandment of them all.

It is with this interpretation in mind, that I believe society has wronged the homosexual community. Many religious people do not support gay marriage today because they either believe that 1. Homosexuality in itself in wrong or that 2. Marriage is a holy institution established by God between a Man and a woman. To any person who finds themselves falling into either of these categories, I would like to point-out that marriage was an institution separate of religion long before the time of Jesus. It wasn't even viewed to be a ceremony in which God intervened until a Church council if 300AD decided to make it a sacrament. So, marriage was an institution originally established by mankind that mankind later transformed to be a covenant between two people and the Lord. In this sense, the intolerance that arises from not allowing homosexuals to marry does not come from a biblical standpoint or even an accurately interpreted religious viewpoint, it really comes from the prejudice of those who attempt to justify their intolerance by basis of their faith even when their faith, in essence, does not truly allow for it.

It is for these reason that I do not believe that the anti-homosexual base in America is rooted in the proper practice of religious doctrine. I truly believe, and do so with biblical evidentiary support, that anyone who attempts to use scripture to justify injustice, intolerance, and prejudice does so out of their own selfish bigotry and contempt. For, as Shakespeare once wrote, "Even the devil can quote scripture for his own purposes."

As Shakespeare believed, at the end of the day, any religious book--be it the Bible, the Tanakh, or the Qu'ran--can be used to justify evil actions that contradict the original intentions of the text from which they are derived. It is these contradictions that lead to problems when they are grossly misconstrued. And it is these problems that have become a significant issue at the heart of religious intolerance and misunderstanding in the world that we live in today.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Against God's law?

I was on a radio show this weekend to discuss "Should society recognize gay marriage?" Well, I assumed we would be discussing the legality of the subject, problems some people have with the general idea, and of course the "gay people do not deserve special rights" argument.

To my dismay, the show focused on "Is it against God's law?"

Homosexuality is not unique in its status as an issue some people use to justify their hatred and/or repression of others. Throughout the history of this country, the world, and the church there have been other issues that were divisive in nature: anti-Semitism, slavery, and female clergy to name a few.

The person kept arguing "being homosexual is a choice." Being gay isn't a choice; it is something you are born with.

After the show I posted a blog on the radio shows website. Click here to view it.