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Wheaton’s Law is my Religion If Brewer Signs SB 1062

The Arizona legislature passed SB 1062/HB 2153 last week. They call it a law to protect your right to “exercise your religion” but what it really does is give businesses the ability not to do business with someone if it violates their “religious beliefs.” What it does is give businesses the ability not to do business with members of the LGBT community.

My Wheaton's Law T-Shirt

My Wheaton’s Law T-Shirt

This law is fucked up on a lot of levels. While so many states and cities are legalizing same-sex marriage and updating anti-discrimination laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity, Arizona is moving backwards and trying to legalize segregation. It’s frustrating that the majority of the Arizonans oppose this proposed law, including several business organizations, but an influential minority was able to push it through both houses.

Here’s what’s really fucked up about this law – your “religious beliefs” don’t have to be affiliated with any officially recognized religion;” they only have to be your sincerely held religious beliefs.

I’m pretty agnostic but I do have some firmly held beliefs that are as dear to me as some religions are to others. One of those beliefs is Wheaton’s Law – “Don’t be a dick.” This rule was created by actor-author-gamer Wil Wheaton to encourage good sportsmanship during online gaming, and it has spread to and been adopted in everyday life. If you want your own Wheaton’s Law t-shirt, it’s available online.

Sign at Rocco's Little Chicago Pizzeria

Sign at Rocco’s Little Chicago Pizzeria

And yes, just because Wheaton’s Law isn’t affiliated with any official religion or culture that requires some type of worship practice, it doesn’t mean it can be a religious belief. According to Dictionary.com, a religion is merely, “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.” Note that superhuman agency and ritual observances are not required; therefore, Wheaton’s Law can be a religious belief.

Open to everyoneSo if Governor Brewer signs this bill into law, it will give me, and anyone else who considers Wheaton’s Law to be part of their religion, the ability to refuse to do business with anyone who acts like a dick. This will include any members of Arizona Senate and House of Representatives who voted in favor of this discriminatory law. I wonder how fast they would change their stance on this law if suddenly their grocery store, gas station, salon, landscapers, golf course, gym, neighborhood bar, and the private school where they send their kids refused to do business with them. (Hat tip to Rocco’s Little Chicago Pizzeria for posting a sign that says they refuse to do business with Arizona Legislators after this bill passed.)

Some groups, like One Community, are taking the high road and saying that all are welcome to do business with them and encouraging others to do the same. And good for them – I’m too pissed off to be the bigger man on this one.

Please contact Governor Brewer’s office and tell her to veto this hellaciously discriminatory bill. You can call her at 602-542-4331 or 520-628-6580. You can also sign the petition about SB 1062 on Change.org.

[Note: I sent Wil Wheaton an email about claiming Wheaton’s Law as a religious belief if SB 1062 is signed. He didn’t respond so I interpreted that to mean that he didn’t object - at least not enough to tell me about it. I mean no disrespect to Wil Wheaton or Wheaton’s Law with this post.]

Coming Out Day 2012

October 11th is National Coming Out Day. (In case you didn’t know, I’m bisexual.) I wish holiday didn’t have to exist. I wish sexual orientation was a non-issue and that people could be attracted to any gender without anyone raising an eyebrow.

Rainbow Flag

Rainbow Flag (Photo credit: Rev Dan Catt)

Unfortunately, we’re not there yet. Children across this country and the world are being told that they’re going to hell if they’re gay. (I generally try to stay out of people’s religious beliefs when it comes to who/what they worship, but I take issue when a minority is being told they’re going to hell for something they can’t control.) These kids are being teased so badly in school it’s driving some of them to drop out or commit suicide. Depending on which study you read, 20-40% of homeless youth are LGBT.

This problem continues into adult society where many people can still be fired because of their sexual orientation. And in most states, a committed homosexual couple is treated differently under the law than a committed heterosexual couple. The question that comes up for me is “Why do you care?” If you’re a hetero, two homos getting married does not pose a threat to you or your relationship. Why should you get over a thousand benefits under the law when you get married but they can’t? It broke my heart when I learned that at least one person in my family voted in favor of Prop 8 in California in 2008, and my family knows that I’m queer.

I also don’t understand people who say that gay unions should be legal but the word “marriage” should be reserved only for hetero couples. Seriously? The Supreme Court ruled that separate isn’t equal a long time ago. I don’t care if you call it “marriage,” “civil union,” or “oogie boogie,” whatever term you want to use for governmentally recognized homo unions should be the same as hetero unions. If individuals and religious organizations want to use a different word, that’s their prerogative.

We’ve made a lot of progress in terms of gay rights in the last few decades. I try to remember how far we’ve come when I feel like a lonely gay in a hetero world. It gives me hope that it will get better and some day we’ll be equals.

This is the song that reminds me that even when I feel like a freak, I’m not a freak alone.

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I Want Gay Couples on the Kiss Cam

I was at the Arizona Diamondbacks/San Francisco Giants game on Sunday, September 16th. Some time during every game they do the “Kiss Cam” where they put couples on the jumbotron and try to get them to kiss. This is also when we see marriage proposals during the game. It’s cheesy but it’s sweet.

Jamie and Lisa

I don’t go to many Major League Baseball games, but out of all the games I’ve gone to, I’ve never seen them put a same-sex couple on the Kiss Cam. I put the question out to my Facebook friends and none of them had ever seen a same-sex couple on the Kiss Cam either. It makes me wonder if the Diamondbacks are homophobic, or if they are afraid to acknowledge supports for gay couples.

One of my friends suggested that perhaps the Diamondbacks as an organization are not homophobic but they are concerned about the backlash that might occur if they show a same-sex couple kissing in the stadium. She brings up a good question: how many people would stop attending Diamondbacks games if a gay couple kissed on the jumbotron? Would there big protests like they had Chick-Fil-A?

Sam and Clinton

I’m of the belief that if you’re not attracted to people of the same gender, don’t date them. It doesn’t make homosexuality wrong. It’s like any other sexual attraction and everyone has their deal-breaker quaities. Just as some people won’t date someone if they are a smoker or have kids, other people require certain genitalia on their partners. I’m bisexual so the junk in your pants isn’t going to be the deal-breaker for me and that may help me view sexual orientation differently than others. To me, it’s ok if you’re not attracted to someone, but it’s not ok to say that another person is sick or wrong if they are attracted to them.

Tyler and Krys – They’re Straight

Another friend brought up the question of how would the camera operator know if two people are a couple or just friends. That’s a challenge that the camera operators already deal with. I’ve seen them put people on the Kiss Cam who are siblings or otherwise not in a romantic relationship. Innocent mistakes happen. If they see two people kissing during the game, that’s a good indicator they’re a couple.

The Arizona Diamondbacks, and all professional sports teams who have a Kiss Cam during their games, have an obligation to treat all their patrons equally, which means putting heterosexuals and homosexual couples on the jumbotron.  They have an opportunity as leaders in their communities to demonstrate their acceptance of homosexuality, that sexual orientation should be a non-issue, and that two people in love is not a threat to other relationships.

If you have professional sport team that does a Kiss Cam during their games, tell them that you want same-sex couples on it. If they already do it, thank them.

Special thanks to my friends Jamie, Lisa, Sam, and Clinton for letting me use your photos. Much love to all of you! Thanks Victor Moreno for letting me use your photo Tyler and Krys.

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Is That Legal – Glitter Bombing

Improv AZ Fake Protest Part Deux by Sheila Dee

I love glitter. This is not a secret. On several occasions I’ve covered myself with glitter hairspray and shed glitter everywhere I went. I’ve even verbally assaulted cars about my enjoyment of glitter. I love the way it sparkles. It makes me happy.

Glitter bombing is when someone throws glitter on an unsuspecting person, usually a public person who has strong anti-LGBT beliefs, to promote equality for the LGBT community. Newt Gingrich, Michelle Bachman, Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum have all been glitter bombed.  When Newt Gingrich was glitter bombed by Nick Espinosa, Nick said, “Feel the rainbow, Newt. Stop the hate. Stop anti-gay politics” and he poured a box of glitter all over him. Marcus Bachman’s “pray the gay away” clinic was glitter bombed by a group of people dressed up as barbarians. When they were told that Marcus wasn’t in the building, they danced and threw glitter in the clinic’s lobby.

I think glitter bombing is entertaining, but is it legal?

Is It Illegal to Throw Glitter on Unsuspecting Persons?
Probably. The law generally criminalizes the offensive touching of another person or putting a person in fear of offensive touching. Pouring or throwing glitter on a person without their consent could put the glitter bomber at risk of being charged with assault and/or battery depending on the applicable state law.

What If Someone Gets Glitter in their Eye and Needs Medical Attention?
We live in a society where we hold people financially responsible for the harm they cause. If a glitter bomb target or innocent bystander gets glitter in their eye and gets a scratched cornea, the glitter bomber can expect to be sued for the damages they caused.

Photo by Nick Russano

Why Aren’t Glitter Bombers Arrested?
I suspect the politicians who have been glitter bombed don’t want to draw a lot of attention to the fact that people throw glitter at them. It might encourage more people to throw glitter at them. It definitely will interfere with them being able to focus on their platforms.

Glitter bombers are generally rock stars for a day or two, and then life goes back to normal. If the glitter bomber is arrested for the assault, it could be in the news for weeks. I think politicians who get glitter bombed would rather their glitter bombers disappear into the background rather than shine a national spotlight on their attackers.

I think glitter bombing is going to be around for a while. It’s a festive public demonstration, and so far I have heard of only one instance where a person was arrested for glitter bombing. I’ve heard of no injuries that would discourage would-be glitter bombers from doing it. The glitter bomb videos I’ve seen suggest that the worst thing that’s likely to happen to anyone is that they’ll been escorted away by the Secret Service or told to get off someone’s private property. But there is always a risk that they’ll be arrested, or face other consequences like being fired from their job or expelled from school.

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I Was Cyberbullied – Part 1 of 4

Cyberbullying sucks. I know because I’ve been through it.

I’m sharing my story to show that it can happen to anyone, at any age, and that there are things you can do to combat it.

My story begins in February 2010, the spring semester of my second year of law school at Arizona State University. I had a full load of classes and an internship at a large Phoenix law firm. I was also an executive officer on multiple student clubs at the law school. It was because of the connections I made in a leadership position that lead to me receiving an invitation to attend the HRC gala. The invite was written and sent to me in an email that was to my personal email account, not the club’s email address.

One of the other execs, another law student, did not receive such an invitation. She became my bully.

For the following three months, I dreaded seeing the notification that I had new email in my inbox.  Every email from her was filled with anger and disrespect. She called me dishonest, unethical, phony, dumb, seedy, a poor leader, and made discriminatory statements about my sexual orientation.

From the beginning, I sensed this could be a heated situation and may not end well. I elicited the help of four of my friends:

  • Michael: former assistant dean of the law school who has a wealth of knowledge regarding law students and the ASU system,
  • Jeff: my friend who has experience with handling public criticism,
  • Andrea: was the president of an LGBT student group at Oregon State University when I was a student there, and
  • Julia: my classmate who is a former national speech champion. She is the most articulate person I know, and she’s brilliant at handling difficult people.

Project 365: Day 57 by Cara Photography

Every time I got an email from my bully, I forwarded it to these four. After her first email, I never sent a response without giving myself several hours to let my emotional response subside and to formulate the best response based on the goal of getting the harassment to end.

My bully’s impulsiveness scared me. She reacted to every email with such anger. She responded without taking any time to think through her response. I was pretty sure that she wouldn’t shift from being verbally impulsive to physically impulsive, but I wasn’t completely convinced.

After one particularly cruel email that I forwarded to my support team, I got a one line email response from Michael: “Ruth, you need to stay away from this person.” Michael has counseled thousands of law students in his career. A warning like that from him carried significant weight for me.

I reached out to Gavin de Becker and Associates, a firm that assesses threats in personal relationships and the workplace. De Becker is the author of the bestselling book, The Gift of Fear, a book I recommend everyone read to identify and respond to people who threaten your safety. I explained the situation to an associate, and he responded that I likely had cause for concern.

I was 30 years old, and for the first time in my life, I was afraid to go to school.

Read more about my experience with cyberbullying and how I fought back in Part 2 of I Was Cyberbullied.

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Oppose the Salvation Army’s Discrimination

I generally enjoy Christmas. I like the decorations, seeing family and friends, and I absolutely love the music.

One thing I don’t like about Christmas is the incessant sound of Salvation Army bells.

The Salvation Army is a Christian organization that provides a variety of services for the poor and homeless. They are also against same-sex marriage and have a history of refusing services to same-sex couples. You can check out Dan Savage’s blog to read about the gay couple who was told they had to break up before the Salvation Army would help them. In one town, the Salvation Army provided the only shelter for families. They told a homeless family headed by a lesbian couple that the children and one partner could stay at the shelter but that the other partner had to stay out in the cold.

I generally allow people to have their beliefs, but I can’t wrap my brain around homophobia. Why should anyone care who someone else loves? Why do they find it so threatening?

I cringe every time I hear a Salvation Army’s bell.  To me they proclaim, “Gays are wrong.  Give us money to perpetuate discrimination. This business promotes homophobia by welcoming us onto their property.” I feel angry deep into the core of my being every time I hear it.

This year, I decide to do something about this problem. Whenever I see a Salvation Army bell ringer, I take their picture and post it on Twitter with a message about where homophobia is being promoted that day.  I also will not spend any money at any business that has a bell ringer in front of it.

I started asking the bell ringers if they were aware that the Salvation Army opposed same-sex marriage. None of them knew. One of the ringers told me that she personally supported same-sex marriage, and I informed her that by being a bell ringer, she was perpetuating homophobia. I hope it made her think.

I do not oppose charity or charitable giving; however, people have an obligation to know where their money is going and to align their pocketbooks with their beliefs. Please find charities that do not discriminate against same-sex marriage or the LGBT community and give your money to them.

Porn Stars Can Be Effective Teachers

Kevin Hogan is the head of the English department and the crew coach at Mystic Valley Regional Charter School in Massachusetts. He’s on paid leave after he was ambushed by Mike Beaudet of Fox 25 News in Boston with photographs from his performances in pornographic films that were released last year.  

Hogan appears to be well-respected by his students and their parents. It’s understandable that parents would be surprised to learn about Hogan’s past, but once the initial shock wears off, will they care that a teacher has participated in porn? As long as he doesn’t discuss his past in porn in the classroom, I don’t think his previous work should be an issue.

Image by coolhunting "tapas" via Flickr

Being an adult film actor is not illegal as long as it is produced legally and it appears that Hogan participated in these films before accepting the position at Mystic Valley. If Hogan acted in a film after becoming a Mystic Valley teacher and his teaching contract forbid him from working in adult entertainment, then there would be a case for firing him for violating his contract. If all his contract has is a clause that prohibits “immoral behavior” during employment, that shouldn’t be enough to fire him. A blanket clause like that allows too much room for interpretation.

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is investigating this situation. Its spokesman said, “We expect teachers to hold a very high moral standard. They are role models for students.”

Let’s break this down. Can you have high moral standards and have sex? Have gay sex? Have sex while being filmed? Have sex while being filmed and get paid for it? Have sex while being filmed, get paid for it, and allow it to be available for public consumption? The adult entertainment industry is stigmatized, but participating in it does not mean that you are an immoral person.

The next argument is always that teachers are role models for students. Being a former or current porn star does not threaten the health or safety of any student. It might give the teacher a reputation that they have to manage, but it doesn’t interfere with their ability to teach.

Moreover, teachers do lots of things that I’m sure parents don’t want their children emulating. Should we fire any teacher that has engaged in any act that parents dislike? If parents and schools are so concerned about having teachers who are exceptional role models for students, then they would fire every teacher who smokes, is bad at managing their finances, is obese, is a weekend binge drinker, and every teacher who has ever gotten a speeding ticket or driven while talking on their cell phone.

One of my totally awesome liberal friends is studying to be a teacher. She said, “Doing gay porn while teaching is unacceptable . . . . Pornography and teaching do not mix, no exceptions.” While I respect that some people think that there’s no place for a porn star in the classroom, I disagree. I’m not a parent, but if I were, I’d let my child be taught by a good teacher who happened to do porn as long as they kept their porn life out of the classroom.

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First Amendment Shouldn’t Protect Homophobia in Schools

It’s distressing to hear that students are being permitted to wear t-shirts with homophobic messages on them at school. This issue has come up a few times in the past year. In one situation, judge said it was ok for a student to wear a shirt that said, “Be Happy, Not Gay” because a school didn’t have the right to prevent a student from expressing their beliefs. At another school, students were not disciplined when they came to school wearing shirts that said “Straight Pride” on the front and a verse from Leviticus on the back: “If a man lay with a male as those who lay with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination and shall surely be put to DEATH.”

May_Media- Visual

Image by NIST2018 via Flickr

Now, I’m a huge supporter of the First Amendment. Tinker v. Des Moines School District says that your constitutional right to free speech doesn’t end when you enter the school property, and I think that’s true. It’s perfectly fine to have your beliefs, but there must be limitations on how you’re allowed to express them.

There are also needs to be a line drawn between Tinker and these anti-gay t-shirt cases. In Tinker, the students wore black armbands as a symbol that they were against the Vietnam War. They were expressing their political view. They weren’t discriminating against anyone. Their armbands probably didn’t create a hostile learning environment. A shirt that says all homosexuals should be killed does.

If a school permits students to wear “Gay Pride” shirts then students should be allowed to wear “Straight Pride” shirts. The students should have been disciplined because they wore shirts that called for killing of homosexuals! There wouldn’t have been any discussion if these students had shown up to school in shirts that promoted the KKK, said that women were the lesser sex, or displayed the Nazi flag. No one would have been allowed to wear any of these shirts because “it sparked a conversation.” Discipline would have been swift and automatic.

Too often, people are using the right to religious freedom to promote homophobia, and schools are accepting this crap argument. School administrators should not tolerate any type of discrimination on school grounds. They can respect that students have a right to their religious beliefs (even closed-minded beliefs) without giving them so much freedom of expression that they allow these bigoted students to interfere with other students’ ability to learn. There’s a huge difference between allowing a student to have their beliefs and putting limits on how they are allowed to express it in the classroom. It is unacceptable for schools to use religious freedom as an excuse for allowing LGBT students to be bullied in the classroom.

Cyberbullying: What’s A Kid To Do

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer.  This blog should not be viewed as legal advice.  It is simply my experiences, opinions, and information I looked up on the internet.

Last week, the world was saddened to learn about the suicide of Jamey Rodemeyer. This 14 year-old was repeatedly bullied by his peers since the fifth grade. To the outside world, it seemed like this was a child with enough self-esteem to overcome this adversity. He had support from his therapist, social worker, friends, and family. He even made a video for the It Gets Better Project where he said, “All you have to do is hold your head up and you’ll go far.” All of this support wasn’t enough to keep Jamey from taking his own life.

Summary http://www.epa.gov/win/winnews/images0...

Image via Wikipedia

According to reports, Jamey was repeated bullied at school and online. It’s not uncommon for victims of bullying to remain quiet because they are too ashamed to report that they are being victimized. Also, many teens feel a need to be independent and handle their problems on their own. They need to know that they have resources and recourse for addressing cyberbullying when it occurs.

Here are my top three tips for responding to cyberbullying.

1. Limit Who Has Access To You Online
Jamey received hateful messages via Formspring. In his It Gets Better video, he admitted it was a mistake to create a Formspring account. It allowed people to send him hateful messages anonymously. I wish Jamey knew he could have avoided this harassment. You can adjust your Formspring settings to disallow anonymous postings. It won’t stop all the harassing posts, but it will stop anyone who is too cowardly to let their name be seen. Likewise on Facebook, you can adjust your settings so certain people can’t see you at all or so that only your friends can send you messages or post on your wall. On Twitter, you can block people who are harassing you.

2. Report Abuse To The Website Where It Occurs
If you’re being harassed on a social media website, report it! Formspring, Twitter, and Facebook all have policies against using their sites to abuse other users. The same holds true for email providers. I suspect these site start by warning users who violate their terms of service, but they don’t change their behavior, they could have their account suspended.

3. Keep A Record Of The Abuse
I know it’s hard to do, but don’t delete abusive posts, emails or text messages. Take screenshots of posts online in case the bully deletes it later. It’s easier to prove you’re being abused when there’s hard evidence. It’s not a he said-she said situation at that point.

It takes a lot of courage to stand up for yourself and report abuse. I know it’s scary, but remember that reporting abuse is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness.

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Don’t Believe Everything You Read – Verify It

Today, I saw a link to a story posted by FCKH8.com about a high school student in Tennessee who was at risk of being suspended for trying to start a gay-straight alliance (GSA).  FCKH8.com suggested that everyone call or email Principal Moser at the school to tell him not to suspend the student.

According to the story, Nathan Carroll wanted to start a GSA at high school and circulated a petition to get support.  When Carroll brought the petition to Principal Moser, the principal threatened to suspend him if he tried to create a GSA because the petition created a “disturbing the educational environment.”

My FCKH8 Shirt

Now, I love FCKH8.com. I support their mission. I love their videos and I have a FCKH8 t-shirt.  I’m glad FCKH8 publicizes stories about discrimination that occurs based on sexual orientation, but this time it looks like they didn’t do their homework before posting this story and encouraging everyone to complain to the school.

Thanks to FCKH8.com, I had Principal Moser’s phone number. So I called him. He was a very pleasant man.  According to Moser, Carroll created a petition to get student support for a GSA.  Many students supported the idea and others who were very opposed to the idea. The disagreement between the factions began to cause disruptions in classrooms that were interfering with the teachers’ ability to teach. The principle told the students on both sides that petitions would no longer be allowed in school because of the disruption they caused, and violating this directive could result in a suspension. Moser told me that he told Carroll about the process that all school clubs are required to go through in order to be created and that if students went through that process, then the school could have a GSA. I thanked Moser for his time, and I told him that I hoped the teachers used this situation as an opportunity to teach students how to appropriate communicate when there is a disagreement and people with strong beliefs on both sides.

I’m sure the real truth of this situation is a combination of the students’ and the principal’s perspective, but I looked at this situation much differently after I hung up the phone.  If Moser’s version is mostly accurate, he seems to have acted reasonably for the situation. The school isn’t against having a GSA; it just has to be done through the proper channels.

I went back to FCKH8.com’s Facebook page and posted a comment about my experience. Many others who left comments said that they had emailed the school. There were many posts that took the news story at face value, assumed that it was completely accurate, and called the principal homophobic and insensitive among other things. There were several dozen people who had reposted the original news story on their Facebook profiles.

There are enough bad situations involving discrimination based on sexual orientation in schools that we don’t need to look for problems where they don’t exist. Today’s experience taught me how important it is to verify information and to give the other side an opportunity to explain their perspective before posting comments or repeating information online. If you’re posting inaccurate information, you’re adding to an existing problem, and it’s that much harder to fix.

PS – If everything Principal Moser told me was a lie, please tell me.

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