The Boy Scouts, whose national council is currently in a meeting at its headquarters in Dallas, plans its long awaited vote on the organization's gay ban today, the NYT reports:
"In a secret ballot, more than 1,400 volunteer leaders from scouting’s 270 councils will accept or reject a proposal that has led to strident divisions and debate. The emotions were evident Wednesday outside the conference center here in a suburb of Dallas, where dozens of conservative Christians, many in scout uniforms, carried “no” signs and waved American flags.
“We’re trying to uphold traditional values,” said Bill Lizzio, 58, a scout leader who had driven from Tennessee to register his concern.
Angry parents threatened to pull their sons out of scouting, saying they would never let them share a tent with a gay boy. Current and former Boy Scouts who want to end the exclusionary policy, including several who were forced out of scouting for being gay, gave their own news briefing.
David Rice, 84, of Petaluma, Calif., who said he was ejected as a scout leader in 1998 after he publicly advocated including gays, said that if scouting did not change with the culture, “it will be left behind.”
“We cannot afford to lose this American icon,” he said.
As you'll remember, the Boy Scouts' new proposal is to allow gay scouts in but continue to ban gay leaders, a proposal called unacceptable by LGBT organizations and many observers. Read the proposal HERE.
Since Harvey Milk’s assassination in the fall of 1978, the United States has seen a monumental progression in both freedom (civil liberties) and equality (civil rights) for minority groups that have endured longstanding oppression. The year 1981 saw President Ronald Reagan appoint the first female Supreme Court justice, a move challenging the age-old social perception of a woman’s role in society. Minority religious groups soon followed suit, as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993 countered the imposition of religion and ensured free exercise for minority religious groups. The year 2008 perhaps marked the culmination of the long fight for civil rights in the United States, as a black man became the most powerful man in the country.
The manner in which minority groups have sought after and claimed their constitutionally endowed rights in contemporary times is indeed remarkable. Americans, dare I say, have perhaps finally found protection from the “tyranny of the majority” about which the Founding Fathers so earnestly warned them.
Rather surprisingly, however, one particular minority group – homosexual, bisexual, and transgender individuals – has been decidedly and frustratingly unsuccessful in its endeavor to attain equal treatment afforded the majority group of heterosexual Americans. Though numerous LGBT activists reference the 14th Amendment and the “Equal Protection” clause in their fight for equality, I would contend that the denial of marriage equality is in fact a fundamental violation of one’s First Amendment right to freedom of religion. According to minorityrights.org, the rapid spread of evangelical Christianity (arguably the preeminent opponent of same-sex marriage) in recent times has “troubled” advocates of religious freedom, who warn against the politicization of religion and compulsive compliance with Christian values.
I must have overlooked the scripture passage in which God commanded Christians to lawfully impose biblical values upon non-consenting, non-Christian individuals.
Peace Corps Deputy Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet today announced that the agency will begin accepting applications from same-sex domestic partners who want to serve together as volunteers overseas. Same-sex couples may begin the application process starting Monday, June 3.
“Service in the Peace Corps is a life-defining leadership experience for Americans who want to make a difference around the world,” Deputy Director Hessler-Radelet said. “I am proud that the agency is taking this important step forward to allow same-sex domestic partners to serve overseas together.”
Expanding service opportunities to same-sex domestic partners who want to volunteer together further diversifies the pool of Peace Corps applicants and the skills of those invited to serve overseas in the fields of education, health, community economic development, environment, youth in development and agriculture. Married heterosexual couples have been serving together in the Peace Corps since its inception in 1961. Currently, 7 percent of Peace Corps assignments are filled by married volunteers serving together.
The Peace Corps requires formal documentation for all couples who want to serve, and same-sex domestic partners will be required to sign an affidavit before leaving for service that will act as verification of their relationship. The Peace Corps continually works with staff in host countries to identify placements that allow for safe and productive assignments.
Couples who serve together gain a unique perspective of host country customs and culture, but opportunities for couples are limited, as both applicants must apply at the same time and qualify for assignments at the same post. Many factors affect placements, including an applicant’s overall competitiveness, program availability, departure dates, and safety and medical accommodations. For any applicant, the number one factor in determining an assignment is the demand from host countries for skilled volunteers.
The Pentagon formally recognized earlier this month that there are transgender veterans — a step that LGBT advocates say is a long way from open transgender service in the military, but also a significant first step in that process.
In a short letter dated May 2, a Navy official told Autumn Sandeen, a veteran and transgender activist: “Per your request the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) has been updated to show your gender as female effective April 12, 2013.”
Sandeen’s military identification card now reflects the change, a move called “quite significant” by the head of OutServe-SLDN, a national organization for LGBT service members and veterans and their families.
“The fact that a process exists [to change the gender listed] indicates that there are people in the Department of Defense who are aware of the needs of transgender retirees and who are working to see those needs met. And, in that sense, the significance of this symbolic act for our broader work and for our goal of open service becomes I think a little bit more apparent,” OutServe-SLDN executive director Allyson Robinson told BuzzFeed.
Although gay, lesbian and bisexual service members have been able to serve openly since September 2011, transgender people — those whose self-perception of their gender does not match the gender they were assigned at birth — continue to be discharged if they try to serve openly.
Civil rights are not just an American tradition; it is a birthright, it is engrained in the DNA of our shared cultural understanding of self-identity. It comes in all colors, shapes, genders, political views and social choices. And each has had its touchstone moments. Rosa Parks’ refusal to move to the back of the bus, the standoff at Wounded Knee, the passage of the 19th amendment…and the Stonewall Riots.
Not familiar with the Stonewall Riots? For many, this single moment in 1969 was the flashpoint for the modern gay movement. It was the first time members of the homosexual community were not content to be treated as second class citizens-forced “into a closet” by an intolerant public. Facing persecution, prosecution and a violation of their civil rights, the homosexual community was mad as hell and they weren't going to take it anymore. The events at Stonewall lead to riots and demonstrations to open the dialogue and fight for the basic human rights of the homosexual community.
44 Years later the gay community is still fighting to achieve some basic human rights. But it started with Stonewall. And to commemorate the brave and prideful step forward, Bluewater Productions (the independent comic book leader in biography titles), in partnership with pop culture artist Michael Troy (“A Minute With Margot” and “The Gays on Film”), is launching a project to offer a detailed account of the birth of movement as a graphic novel.