One Million Moms calls for boycott of NBC sitcom












Even moms can be bullies, as it turns out.

Activist group and ever-present pain in the rear One Million Moms has publicly expressed its disappointment in major networks’ choice of gay-friendly programming, this time standing against NBC’s brand-new comedy sitcom.

“The New Normal,” which features two monogamous gay men trying to push past the hurdles of dealing with a surrogate, has set the group ablaze with loaded, choice words about “morals” and “marriage.”

“NBC is using public airwaves to continue to subject families to the decay of morals and values, and the sanctity of marriage in attempting to redefine marriage,” the organization said in a statement. “NBC’s ‘The New Normal’ is attempting to desensitize America and our children. It is the opposite of how families are designed and created.”

One Million Moms has taken strong stances in the past against JCPenney’s pseudo-controversial ad campaign featuring Ellen DeGeneres as well as NBC’s previous prime-time newbie “The Playboy Club,” which although the group cites their efforts as the reason for advertisers pulling on the show, we think it might be more likely that the show just wasn’t very good. (See: “Work It.”)

From this perspective, a television show featuring stable and responsible parents-to-be fostering a healthy relationship with a surrogate doesn’t sound like such a bad thing. But then again, what do we know about morals?

This post was written by Brandon Baker, a junior journalism student at Temple University in Philadelphia.

Truvada approved by FDA for HIV prevention

It’s no cure, but we’ll take it.

Truvada, a prescription antiretroviral drug approved in 2004 to suppress the progress of HIV in infected men and women, was approved on Monday by the Food and Drug Administration for use in those not infected by the disease. LGBTQ test study individuals were found to be 42% less likely to contract the disease when used in conjunction with other safe-sex practices, making it a significant — but not conclusive — victory in the on-going battle against HIV.

“Practicing safer sex and good health practices must be part of the treatment,” said Dr. Debra Birnkrandt, director of the Division of Antiviral Products, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research at the FDA. “We will be putting a box warning to let those using Truvada know that it is part of the therapy with combination of safer sex practices, and that doing this, will reduce the risk of the development of AIDS/HIV.”

The use of Truvada has additionally been shown to reduce the risk of becoming infected by 75% in heterosexual partners, making the drug stand out as particularly monumental as 50,000 new cases of HIV are reported each year.

Time will tell how effective the drug will be as a preventative tool, particularly as health insurance companies remain hesitant to cover pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) preventative drugs akin to the newly-approved Truvada.

More on the story.

OPINION: Youth must be catalysts for change

Every November, we witness an all too familiar scene. Politicians become prone to gaffes courtesy of the 24-hour news cycle, middle-aged constituents concerned about tax increases and job security get fired-up with yard signs and canvassing efforts, and youth become…


On my way to the gym on Temple University’s campus last week, I stumbled into a wall of on-the-spot voter registration officials, each one boasting a clipboard and a smile that — to the ordinary passerby — screamed “I’m here to interrupt your day” more than “I’m here to help you participate in an honorable public service.” Curious, I humored the apparent poacher who stopped me, a dark-skinned young woman of about 21 who had an endearing smile and a valiant political energy, and allowed her to persuade me to fill out the necessary registration paperwork on the spot.

Granted, I knew I had already registered even as I was dotting my Is and crossing my Ts, but I wanted to see the process “in action,” and that I did. Signing my name and wishing her well, I walked a few feet past her and stood to watch her colleagues fail in their attempts to flag down college students, who rushed by as if their life depended on where they were going. Even more strikingly, I observed as low-income, North Philadelphia constituents who could easily decide the outcome of the election in the fall turned their nose in ignorance to the registration forms waved in front of them.

Why is it so taboo, such an extraordinary hassle, to be politically involved?

A total of 59% of eligible voters between 18-24 are currently registered to vote. Granted, considering only about a third of the United States’ population votes, this is not a terrible number of registrants; however, being registered and actually voting are two very different things.

Consider this: Out of all the folks with a Bachelor’s degree in the 18-24 bracket, only 51% of those people actually take advantage of their voting power. By comparison, 82% of those 65 and older with a degree voted in 2008.

What, then, is the difference between a 22-year-old college graduate, and a 65-year-old college graduate? One might imagine a fresh-eyed 22-year-old being more empowered as a voter with their life ahead of them than a 65-year-old who has, more than likely, already decided their social and financial future.

Moreover, despite the assumed higher level of political involvement in the Northeast, roughly 3% more youth showed up to the polls in the Midwest in 2008, with minority youth from the Northeast being in the bottom half of the voting totem poll.

Mind you, LGBTQ voting trends among youth are not part of that “minority” category, something that sticks out like a sore thumb on a data sheet in this day and age.

I understand that youth may feel as if they “don’t matter” or that their opinion is invalidated by a lack of life experience, but these are insecurities that must be left behind in large numbers if our country is to be properly reflective of its population. In the case of LGBTQ rights, youth must wake-up and realize that representatives will only open their eyes and begin to care when their chances of re-election begin to look bleak because they can’t win the LGBTQ voting bloc. This is a sad but true reality not just for LGBTQ individuals, but all groups of voters looking to boost their whispered voice with a megaphone.

But that doesn’t mean becoming a defeatist, that means working that much harder to put pressure on representatives and grant your voice the clout it deserves.

Youth hold a unique power in today’s democracy that is largely unprecedented: We are fierce, individual media sources capable of influencing more people than most in the 65 and older bracket can imagine. Though your Facebook or Twitter network may feel like an intimate resource for sharing what you had for breakfast, it actually represents your own mass media opportunity to make your voice heard and participate in the political process in a way that can complement your vote.

I plead youth to stop seeking excuses to not be involved, and start seeking reasons to deepen your own involvement and widen the involvement of your peers. Voting is not an opportunity, it is an obligation, and not just for your parents and grandparents.

Despite the gloomy prospects for voter turnout among youth this fall, with a middle-of-the-road president in terms of popularity and a vanilla Republican candidate who can’t help but remind me of Herman Munster, I still remain optimistic that youth will in fact surprise the masses and come out in large numbers in November.

The power of today’s youth is something no politician should discount, and it is their unique responsibility to make that message ring loud and clear when Election Day approaches on November 6.

This post was written by Brandon Baker, student at Temple University and director of communications for the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition.

OPINION: Christian school sets dangerous precedent

Sharon Wright’s son came out via an online social media blog nearly three years ago, and ever since then, his Christian-affiliated school has been making nothing but trouble… for both of them.

Apparently, it’s no longer enough for some religious institutions to condemn their homosexual youths as sinners, it is now grounds for expulsion and removal of all involved. But there’s no reason to worry; this Harrisburg mother and teacher is busy making sure we never have to hear about something like this again.

Wright had been teaching full-time at Covenant Christian Academy since 2002 so you’d think she might have had an easier time convincing her school board to let her son finish his final year there. However, when she appealed to them, blame was put on her as well. They told her that it was her job to “fix” her son who was, in their words, “broken.” They went on to say that his soul was at stake and that he “may have been abused as a child” and “didn’t bond with [his father].” She, being an amazing, supportive mother, took all the tedious steps of sending her son through psychiatric and pediatric review. The doctors’ verdicts? His sexual orientation is pre-determined, and the school making him “renounce his sin” could be potentially harmful.

What a shocker.

Ms. Wright kept on sticking by her son and the school simply wouldn’t budge. Naturally, this all took a toll on her. But when she told the school she needed some time to take care of her adjustment disorder, anxiety and depression during the school year, they told her not to bother coming back. And this was after they clearly stated that her employment should not be affected. So here comes the legal system, hopefully, to her side. Wright is using claims under the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Pennsylvania Human Rights Act, and the Human Relations Act to fight against her unlawful dismissal (which we all understand is definitely related to her support of her son’s sexual orientation, rather than her disabilities). She is currently being represented by Solomon Krevsky of the Clark & Krevsky firm from Lemoyne, Pa.

Pennsylvania students shouldn’t have to limit their options when it comes to their education. If Wright’s school gets away with this, it could trigger a chain reaction of other private institutions to commit similar heinous actions against LGBTQ students, faculty, and, as in this case, anyone even associated with them. This is hitting home turf and that’s not okay. Whatever happened to schools being places for nurturing and growth? Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the Wright v. Covenant Christian Academy case wins in Sharon’s favor.

This post was written by Danielle Hernandez, a student at Gettysburg College.

Anderson Cooper officially steps out of the closet

Anderson Cooper, the prestigious, long-time CNN talk show host who has faced gay speculation for years, has finally admitted to the general public that he is in fact gay.

“I’m gay, always have been, always will be,” Cooper said. “I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, [or] proud.”

Cooper has led a notoriously private life as a public figure, failing to disclose political, religious, or sexual preferences in the past in an effort to keep an objective image as a leading figure in mainstream journalism. Recent tragedies, however, in combination with a public perception that Cooper had been “ashamed,” led the reporter to finally open up about his sexual preference.

“There continue to be far too many incidences of bullying of young people, as well as discrimination and violence against people of all ages, based on their sexual orientation, and I believe there is value in making clear where I stand,” he said.

Regardless of the reason, we couldn’t be happier that Silver Fox has finally joined the growing ranks of openly-gay celebrities.

Congress launches new Anti-Bullying Caucus

Congressional leaders launched the historic Anti-Bullying Caucus Thursday afternoon, a landmark achievement as efforts heat up to pass national anti-bullying legislation.

The caucus, led by Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), hosts a largely bi-partisan membership of 41 congressional representatives, some of whom spoke at a press conference Thursday.

“We need to let [bullies] know that bullying – in any way, shape, or form, is wrong,” Rep. Robert Dold (R-Ill.) said. “Let’s reverse this disturbing trend in our schools.”

Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) recalled a personal story of a 21-year-old military family member who suffered from hazing, committing suicide shortly after being subjected to three hours of being taunted to do push-ups while wearing body armor.

“To stop military hazing we must first stop bullying itself – what happens on the battleground often begins on the playground,” she said. “Bullying is not just a harmless rite of passage for kids; this is a problem we can actually fix.”

Entering the room late in flip-flops, Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) remarked on the profound affect the personal stories of many have had on her as a parent and legislator.

“As a mom, it just tears at your soul…” Sanchez said, teary-eyed. “These aren’t just statistics; they’re children.”

The caucus members were joined by activist organizations from across the country Thursday, with strong presences from the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN), The Trevor Project, the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition and even ever-crucial third parties like Facebook. The caucus’ press conference and panel discussions were followed by a screening of Lee Hirsch’s “Bully,” a striking documentary on the realities of bullying in the United States’ school system. The parents of one of the film’s documented suicide victims spoke briefly but with notable conviction at the conference.

“Now is the time; we have this opportunity, and if we don’t take it, how many more parents are going to lose their children?” Tina Long said. “We’re tired of excuses.”

Philadelphia and Pittsburgh prepare vigils for gunned-down Texas lesbians

The Philadelphia and Pittsburgh communities are readying their LGBT armies for two vigils intended to honor the memory of a lesbian couple shot in Texas last week.

The pair had reportedly been seen together in a South Texas park when they suffered bullet wounds to the head, proving to be a fatal wound for Mollie Olgan, and leaving her partner, Mary Chapa, in critical condition. Police have been unable to determine any suspects since the shooting.

The two candlelight vigils will honor their memory and aim to spread a grander message of tolerance, compassion and love. Check below for specific times for the events.

Pittsburgh: Sunday, July 1 from 7 – 8 p.m., located at Northside Park (Brighton Road and Ridge Avenue – next to CCAC)

Philadelphia: Friday, June 29 from 7:30 – 9 p.m., located at LOVE Park, 1599 John F. Kennedy Blvd.

An additional event will be held in Washington D.C. on Friday at DuPont Circle, starting promptly at 6 p.m. A full list of vigils to be held can be found online with Get Equal Texas here.

WHAT PRIDE MEANS TO ME: Feeling the love on and off the dancefloor

The Keystone Student Voice celebrates June 2012 as LGBTQ Pride Month by hosting a compilation of personal essays written by students/youth across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on what “pride” means to them.

Philly Pride came and left without me giving much thought to it. As a recent graduate of college, I was broke and had a family to spend time with and dinner to prepare. But, while cooking with my girlfriend and listening to Ingrid Michaelson on Pandora, I remembered what my pride was: my healthy, beautiful family; my education; having a roof over my head in a great area of the city; coming home to someone who loves me and challenges me intellectually; my identity.

My sexuality is fully woven into every thread of the fabric of my life. Do I need to pay 10 dollars to be with large crowds of sweaty people still navigating their fabrics, or fully content in their identities, surrounded by the sounds of Beyonce and Brittney? Although I do enjoy a Thursday night on Sisters’ dance floor, this year Philly Pride just wasn’t where my heart was. A year ago, I was waving a flag or wearing a rainbow belt to every kind of gay shindig I could get to. I have matured and evolved in the past year and have begun to simply live my life. I am obviously active in the LGBTQ communities because of my work and my studies and passion for equity and justice. But now my pride is usually subconscious. My every day is powered by pride, passion, and love. When obstacles arise, I take them on. Can it be scary? Absolutely, but that’s life. It’s a roller-coaster of challenges — especially for a queer woman.

I have had the privilege of a supportive community of family, friends and mentors and hope to never have to walk the paths of individuals I’ve read about. I’m currently nose-deep in Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg and Jess’ story of love, loss, and the world of butches; and the pain these people suffered is insurmountable to that which we rarely endure here in the City of Brotherly Love, Sisterly Affection, and Genderless Independence.

I like to think of Outfests and Pride celebrations as moments to celebrate together as communities but also as a time of remembrance of the lives lost and silenced because of their pride. I am proud of my community of queer, straight, trans, fluidly ambiguous friends and family. I will never let a festival overshadow that. I am me. You are you. I live my life proudly everyday.

This post was written by Natasha Wirth, PSEC’s director of development and student at Arcadia University in Philadelphia.

ENDA hearing aims to push forward legislation

This past Tuesday, the Senate Committee for Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions met in a hearing on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a piece of currently proposed labor non-discrimination legislation. ENDA, if passed, would add factors of actual or perceived gender identity or sexual orientations to federal protections against workplace discrimination, which currently includes race, color, religion, sex and national origin, as detailed in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The five witnesses who testified before the Senate in the hearing included Kylar Broadus, an attorney and founder of Trans People of Color Coalition in Missouri, who made history as the first-ever trans person to testify before the US Senate. Broadus focused his testimony on the numerous instances of transphobia in his professional career which have caused severe consequences, including long periods of unemployment and post-traumatic stress. Also testifying was a social scientist and sexual orientation policy specialist at UCLA’s Williams Institute, a high-ranking executive of General Mills, and two lawyers specializing in First Amendment issues and labor policy.

“It is long past time to eliminate bigotry in the workplace, and to ensure equal opportunity for all Americans,” Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said in his opening statement.

Emphasizing and encouraging a speedy passage of ENDA through the Senate, Harkin, along with the original sponsor of ENDA, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), emphasized through their statements and questions the major points of the bill: that despite dissenters’ arguments, the bill would not cause “a flood of lawsuits,”would extend equal protections as already exist for other groups, would increase businesses’ profitability and would include exemptions for religious groups.

The exemptions for religious groups proved to be the most contentious issue brought to light in the hearing. Craig Parshal, a witness and First Amendment lawyer with the National Religious Broadcasters Association, repeatedly stated his organization’s position that ENDA would present a serious breach of the first amendment of the Constitution. Citing parts of the bill’s sixth section, Parshal contended that the exemption procedures, modeled on those laid out in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, were excessively ambiguous.

In rebuttal, Samuel Bagenstos, a professor of law at the University of Michigan, made clear to the Senate committee that the language of the bill was clear, and that the procedures it called for had already demonstrated effectiveness in practice. In fact, ENDA’s exemptions for religious groups are so broad, Dr. Bagenstos testified, that the bill’s exemption language has been severely criticized by groups such as the Human Rights Campaign and the American Civil Liberties Union. Sen Harkin, following Dr. Bagenstos, also reminded the committee of similar First Amendment issues brought by religious groups in debates over racial and women’s equality, which have been thoroughly accepted as constitutional.

ENDA has had a troubled history. Currently, while sixteen states and 186 cities and counties (including the District of Columbia) have passed workplace equality policies for sexual orientation and gender identity, the policies have consistently lacked support as federal legislation. ENDA, in its current form, has been introduced in every Congress since 2007, and similar legislation providing protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation has been introduced consistently for almost four decades without passage. Additionally, between 2000 and 2008, the Bush administration issued a pre-emptive veto threat applying to all LGBT equality legislation. This year, along with Sen. Merkley’s Senate ENDA bill S 811, Rep Barney Frank (D-Mass) has re-introduced ENDA to the House of Representatives as HR 1397.

This post was written by Robin Banerji, a student at Haverford College and a member of the PSEC Coordinating Committee.

University of Pittsburgh denies claims of discrimination

The University of Pittsburgh last week filed a motion defending itself against a complaint in April by the Rainbow Alliance claiming that officials had discriminated against transgender students by enacting a new restroom policy.

The complaint made by the Rainbow Alliance to the Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations alleges that the university had unfairly decided on new guidelines for its dormitories, locker rooms and, in particular, its bathrooms, which would require transgender students to provide a birth certificate to determine their appropriate facilities.

University spokesmen maintain there has not been any discrimination reported against one particular individual, making the complaint a moot point. Other officials refused to comment due to ensuing litigation.

The Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition responded with this statement in April:

“The university is ignoring their equal access statement by actively discriminating against and creating a hostile environment for transgender students. We call on the University to redact this medieval policy – to force transgender students to provide a birth certificate to use the bathroom. We must work on improving the campus for transgender students by adding trans-inclusive policies and providing gender-neutral bathrooms and housing.”

Rainbow Alliance has expressed an intention to dispute the defense, and will follow suit with litigation as necessary.

This post was written by Brandon Baker, director of communications for the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition and student at Temple University. Brandon can be contacted at