Author: stolarzrawling

US Education Department’s Kevin Jennings to Call for National Plan to Deal with Bullying

Kevin Jennings, the openly gay Assistant Deputy Secretary at the US Department of Education, will issue “a call to action for a comprehensive national effort to address bullying during the 2010-2011 school year by all summit participants” on Thursday, according to a press release from the Department of Education.  The call to action will close out a two-day summit in Washington DC, the goal of which is “to engage governmental and nongovernmental partners in crafting a national strategy to reduce and end bullying.”

Bullying has lead to so many suicides there is now a new term for it – “Bullycide.”


U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan addressed the summit Wednesday morning, saying “No school can be a great school until it is a safe school first.”

Here are excerpts from Duncan’s address, now posted on the Department of Education’s website:

The Myths About Bullying: Secretary Arne Duncan’s Remarks at the Bullying Prevention Summit

“For the record, let me state my basic, operating premise, both in Chicago and Washington DC: No student should feel unsafe in school. Take that as your starting point, and then it becomes inescapable that school safety is both a moral issue, and a practical one.

The moral issue is plain. Every child is entitled to feel safe in the classroom, in the hallways of school, and on the playground. Children go to school to learn, and educational opportunity must be the great equalizer in America server. No matter what your race, sex, or zip code, every child is entitled to a quality education and no child can get a quality education if they don’t first feel safe at school.

It is an absolute travesty of our educational system when students fear for their safety at school, worry about being bullied, or suffer discrimination and taunts because of their ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or a host of other reasons.

The job of teachers and principals is to help students learn and grow—and they can’t do that job in schools where safety is not assured.


Bullying is epidemic in urban, suburban, and rural schools. The statistics are frankly staggering. In 2007, nearly one out of three students in middle school and high school reported that they had been bullied at school during the school year. That means that 8.2 million students a year are suffering at the hands of bullies in school.


In 2007, more than 900,000 secondary students reported being cyber-bullied. Cyber-bullying allows bullies to do their work at a distance, outside of download schools, in front of a broad audience and sometimes under the protection of anonymity. New technologies provide bullies with new tools to hurt students in old ways.


Ultimately, bullying is really a form of physical and mental abuse. If you don’t stop it when it starts, it usually spreads.

A powerful testament to the fact that bullying is not part of the natural order of things is that most people can remember, even decades later, the feeling of being bullied or bullying another individual. Or they may feel haunted by the memory of standing by while a friend or classmate was bullied.”

Duncan was joined at the first-ever bullying summit Wednesday-Thursday, Aug. 11-12, at the Washington Hilton Hotel, by governmental and nongovernmental representatives to craft “a national strategy to reduce and end bullying, the release said. In addition to Jennings, who heads the Department’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, other participants are: Assistant Secretary for the Office for Civil Rights Russlyn Ali,  Administrator Mary Wakefield of the Health Resources and Services Administration; Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin; Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli; other representatives from the U.S. departments of Justice (DOJ),newslan Agriculture (USDA), Defense (DOD) and Interior (DOI); superintendents; researchers; corporate leaders; community partners; and students.

The summit will focus on three areas, according to the release: “Research (what we know and additional gaps we need to fill); Programs (which programs work in combating bullying and areas where further programmatic development is needed); and Policy (how can policy at the local, state and federal levels help prevent bullying).” The release also says that the Education Department has “stepped up bking its efforts to address bullying to include a new Safe and Supportive Schools grant program,” a pilot program that federal funds “for interventions in those schools with the greatest needs.”

Jennings, who founded the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN) –says in a statement:

“Bullying behavior is not only troubling in and of itself but if left unaddressed, can quickly escalate into harassment, violence and tragedies. We hope this summit will help us get ahead of the game by focusing on prevention and doing everything we can to bring this plague to an end.”

Here’s MetroWeekly’s recent story on Jennings.

Lest we think bullycide only impacts the families of the kids who commit suicide – here’s a video by a 14 year old identified as pinkmints who “understands the pain” of the young people who would rather die than endure another day of bullying.

Ann Coulter Headlines GOProud’s ‘Homocon’ in NYC

During my reporting last Monday on GOProud’s weekend event in San Diego to break the boycott against the Manchester Grand Hyatt hotel, I posited that the five-month old gay conservative group may turn out to be the right-wing counter-point to the left-wing direct action group GetEqual – by shaking up “the norm” and provoking discussion, if nothing else.

Well, Friday, the Washington DC-based GOProud announced that conservative author Ann Coulter is headlining the group’s first annual Homocon, which they described as “a party to celebrate gay conservatives.”

From Christopher Barron, Chairman of the Board of GOProud:

“The gay left has done their best to take all the fun out of politics, with their endless list of boycotts and protests.  Homocon is going to be our annual effort to counter the ‘no fun police’ on the left. I can’t think of any conservative more fun to headline our inaugural party then the self-professed ‘right-wing Judy Garland’ – Ann Coulter.

I can promise you, Homocon 2010 will be a hell of a lot more fun than chaining yourself to the White House fence.”

Coulter – who is known for throwing verbal firebombs – ignited a firestorm of controversy after referring to former presidential candidate John Edwards as a “faggot” in 2007 during comments at the Conservative Political Action Conference:

“I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, but it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word ‘faggot,’ so I — so kind of an impasse, can’t really talk about Edwards,” she said, speaking to an overflow room of activists.

Media Matters notes a slew of  Coulter remarks in which she uses antigay slurs. Coulter fans say she’s just being funny. You decide. Here she is talking about Kevin Jennings, former head of GLSEN who’s now with the US Department of Education.

Homocon 2010 will take place in New York City on the evening of Saturday September 25th.  VIP Sponsorships are available for $2500 and general admission tickets go on sale August 20th.  To purchase tickets or for more information:

Unreported Prop 8 Trial Stories – Olson’s Emotion, Reaction and Political Fallout

Some terrific journalists covered the federal Prop 8 trial and have provided a nice mosaic of reporting on Wednesday’s historic closing arguments in Judge Vaughn Walker’s San Francisco courtroom. The American Foundation for Equal Rights posted the entire trial transcript on their website during which you can read how Ted Olson, arguing for plaintiffs Jeff Zarrillo and Paul Katami and Sandy Stier and Kris Perry, passionately summed up why same sex couples deserve marriage equality.

With hard news reporters summing up the remarkable closing arguments – I found that there were other unnoticed or underreported stories that also contribute to the record of this remarkable time, including how the elections this November could dramatically impact the outcome of the trial. The National Organization for Marriage’s Maggie Gallagher told me, for instance, that she thinks Walker may rule that Prop 8 discriminates based on gender as well as sexual orientation. I was also amused to see that NOM posted video of Ted Olson’s moving answer to a question I asked at the news conference on their NOM blog.

News highlights from the closing arguments

But first for some background – may I direct your attention to a piece by the outstanding LGBT reporter Lisa Keen, who covered the entire trial. Keen, co-author with famed attorney Suzanne Goldberg of a book about the Colorado Amendment 2 case,  framed the way Prop 8 proponent Charles Cooper and plaintiffs’ attorney Ted Olson argued their closings in Prop 8 closing: Fear v. Equality.  Cooper essentially reiterated what Protect Marriage/Yes on 8 used so persuasively with voters in 2008 – that there could be “profound” changes to the institution of marriage is same sex marriage is legalized. “It could portend some social consequences that would not be good ones,” said Cooper. But no one knows so the voters of California opted not to try something so risky.

Keen notes Olson’s response, with U.S. Supreme Court citations to back him up:

“They just don’t know,” said Olson of supporters of Proposition 8. “That is the essence of their case as it comes to the end of the trial and the closing arguments. They just don’t know whether same-sex marriage will harm the institution of heterosexual marriage, and I submit the overwhelming evidence in this case proves that we do know. And the fact is allowing [same-sex marriage] will not deter heterosexuals from marrying or staying married or from having babies…[but] strengthens the institution of marriage for heterosexual and homosexual persons and their children.”

Howard Mintz from the Mercury News does a great job of summing up Walker’s discomfort with the lack of evidence Cooper presented at trial. Cooper said that procreation-based marriage is “fundamental to the survival of the human race. Without the marital relationship, society would come to an end.”  But, Walker noted, Cooper’s one witness, David Blankenhorn, didn’t testify about procreation so “What testimony in this case supports the proposition?” Cooper answered: “You don’t have to have evidence of this.”

Mintz reported how Cooper explained that the main purpose of marriage between a man and a woman

is procreation and “channeling” the sexual behavior of heterosexuals into “stable, marital unions….Procreative sexual relations both are an enormous benefit to society and represent a very real threat to society’s interest.”

Walker: “Threat?”

Cooper: “If children are born into the world without this stable, marital union … both of the parents that brought them into the world, then a host of very important, very negative social implications arise…. The purpose of marriage is to provide society’s approval to that sexual relationship and to the actual production of children.”

Walker: “But the state doesn’t withhold marriage from people who cannot have children.”

Cooper: “It does not.”

Walker: “Are you saying the state should?”

What was not so focused on in the media recounting of the arguments was Olson’s discussion of how children were used as a virtual weapon by the Yes on 8 campaign, and then abandoned at trial. Olson said:

“It is revealing, it seems to me, that the deinstitutionalization message [from Prop 8 proponent expert David Blankenhorn] is quite different from the thrust of the proponents’ Yes on 8 election campaign. That, in the words they put into the hands of all California voters, focused heavily on: Protect our children from somehow learning that gay marriage is okay. Protect our children from learning that gay marriage is okay.

Those are the words that the proponents put in the ballot — in the voter information guide that was given to every voter.

That was not a very subtle theme that there is something wrong, sinister or unusual about gays, that gays and their relationship are not okay, and decidedly not suitable for children, but that children might think it was okay if they learned about gays getting married like normal people.

For obvious reasons [the plaintiffs’ argument that Prop 8 is discriminatory and causes them harm], the “gays are not okay” message was largely abandoned during the trial in favor of the procreation and deinstitutionalization themes.”

Legal scholar Nan Hunter notes on her blog Hunter of Justice that research shows that society is increasingly moving away from child-centered marriages to adult-centered marriages.

The City of San Francisco weighs in

Chief Deputy City Attorney Terry Stewart, right, with wife Carole Scagnetti of MEUSA and daughter Natasha Paynes

One significant but somewhat overlooked exchange between Walker and Therese Stewart, the chief deputy city attorney of the city of San Francisco, which joined the plaintiffs in the case, was whether the city would forge ahead with an appeal if Walker ruled against the plaintiffs.

Stewart, whose wife and daughter were in the courtroom, argued that the city had a lot at stake since Prop 8 promotes discrimination, which in turn leads to higher health and welfare costs (from hate crimes to psychological trauma) for which the city bears the burden. Additionally, in an amusing exchange, Stewart discussed the economic impact from the loss of tourism since the city has “long been the city of love, where people leave their hearts,” referring to the famous Tony Bennett song “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.”

Walker is expected to issue his ruling in July and whoever loses is expected to appeal. If Walker rules in favor of the plaintiffs, Cooper and Protect Marriage are expected to ask for an immediate injunction against lifting the ban on same sex marriages until the case is decided.

The complication with the Ninth Circuit

There is a popular misconception that the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco is liberal. In fact, it is more of a mixed court that could consider the case in the context of national court rulings on marriage – which is not a good thing for the plaintiffs.

Consider, for instance, that the presumably liberal high court of the state of New York ruled 4-2 in July 2006 against marriage equality – based on some of the same reasons argued by Cooper. Judge Robert S. Smith wrote in his 22-page majority opinion that, “Plaintiffs have not persuaded us that this long-accepted restriction is a wholly irrational one, based solely on ignorance and prejudice against homosexuals,” a bias that is not like anti-miscegenation laws based on racism. Smith also wrote:

“Despite the advances of science, it remains true that the vast majority of children are born as a result of a sexual relationship between a man and a woman. Intuition and experience suggest that a child benefits from having before his or her eyes, every day, living models of what both a man and a woman are like.”

So while there was much giggling, laughter and eye-rolling when Cooper sputtered on about procreation – that doesn’t mean judges in the Ninth Circuit and justices at the U.S. Supreme Court might not buy what seems to Olson/Boies and most gays as an out-of-date argument. This is one of the reasons why so many LGBT legal advocates and others (John Dean, for instance) thought the federal Prop 8 constitutional challenge was “too risky” at this time.

Maggie Gallagher’s insights and NOM’s posts

The National Organization for Marriage’s Maggie Gallagher, who was live-blogging during the trial – and actually got called out for putting her bare feet up on the railing – also thinks their arguments will be more persuasive to the Supreme Court than to Walker.

Exhibiting an almost embarrassed girlish sense of humor when I introduced myself, Gallagher told me:

“I have negative celebrity. Only the people who don’t like me know who I am. I think Chuck Cooper did a great job in a difficult situation. I think Judge Walker telegraphed very clearly two things: one, he believers there is a fundamental right to same sex marriage, and less clearly – but I would lay my bets that he is going to find that Prop 8 is gender discrimination, as well.  So we were not optimistic going into these arguments with this judge and I’m not particularly optimistic coming out.

We all know that this is going to end up in the Supreme Court so a lot of what happened today was aimed at Justice Kennedy, not Judge Walker.”

Protect Marriage Ron Prentice and attorney Charles Cooper

Most people watching the trial might disagree with Gallagher’s confident description of Cooper’s performance. Indeed, he seemed so distracted and flustered – at one point literally putting his hand up to his head in a reality TV version of a 1950s melodrama – that Walker asked him if he needed to take a five minute recess. But during the Protect Marriage news conference, Cooper was short, heard to hear and left after he said:

“The closing argument was extraordinary in its length and its depth. The central and overriding question – the issue before the court was before the people of California – to be decided in his courtroom by him or if an issue like this should be decided by the people themselves. Whether the judgment of the majority of Californians – some 14 million- plus making themselves heard on this issue – whether that judgment to be trumped in court. Obviously, it’s been our position from the beginning that the constitution does not require that.”

Cooper introduced Protect Marriage’s Ron Prentice and then left before any of us could say, “Huh?”

I might also note that NOM has posted the section of the news conference during which Ted Olson responded to a question I asked about why he got so passionate in presenting his closing arguments. See NOM’s blog here:

Ted Olson on getting passionate

At the first news conference in May 27, 2009 when Olson was first introduced as part of the new lead legal team, I asked him why the gay community should trust him, given his conservative credentials. At Wednesday’s news conference, I asked Olson what he was thinking when he became so passionate, so emotional at moments during his closing – was he experiencing the burden of trust not only the plaintiffs but the gay community had placed in him?

Olson said:

“You sensed how emotional I felt and passion is a good word for how I felt throughout this trial. There may have been a couple of moments in there where I had more emotion running through my mind and body than another but I felt that way all day. I felt that about this case and I do think all the time of Jeff and Paul and Sandy and Kris – what they’ve said in their testimony, what their family relationship is and part of their family was there today. And I need to be able to convey that emotion as well as those facts to the law, to the judge. That is our job – to try to give life to the arguments our clients could make if they could make them, if they were lawyers.

But more than that because I’m somewhat separate – I need to be able to feel it in order to be able to say it as passionately as I can. You don’t want to be maudlin or anything like that – in a trial. This is partially a very academic exercise – we’re talking about the law.

But we’re talking about human lives here and discrimination. I think about the history of discrimination in this country. And it’s important to understand this discrimination in the context of that discrimination, historically. It’s different each time but it’s still same – excluding people on the wrong basis. So I was trying to convey that.”

(See separate story for an interview Ted Johnson and I did with David Boies on this, to be posted Saturday.)


Afterwards, I asked Marriage Equality USA’s Molly McKay if Olson had earned and won that trust. She said:

“He was awesome. It was fantastic. He truly put this case and framed it exactly in the American civil historical context. I can’t imagine a better and more articulated argument. It reminded me of the hero we found in [San Francisco Mayor] Gavin Newsom when, after 32 days in office – we didn’t know who he was – he stood up for us like the big brother we always wished we had and allowed us to get married. And today, Ted Olson is that same straight ally hero.

He absolutely earned that trust and I think it also shows a lesson to the gay community that we need to be open as to who our allies are in the world and that we really need to not be limiting at all – because we have allies everywhere – really powerful people ready to help us. We don’t have to do this by ourselves, nor should we. This is an American moment. This is our generation’s opportunity to participate in the moving forward of our civil rights history. And look at that – on the opposite aisle of the political spectrum together for the American principle of equality.”

Lance Black and Cleve Jones

Cleve Jones, who is on the AFER board, said:

“I was very moved and I was kind of surprised at what a poor job our opponents did. The message to the community needs to be right now that this case moving forward to the U.S. Supreme Court is the single most important thing we are doing. And in my opinion, everybody should drop everything else to get behind AFER and raise the money necessary to move this forward.

There is no better opportunity for our people to advance. It’s a real challenge for us because we are not known for our attention span, nor are we known for our solidarity or discipline. And we need that. We need to pay attention. And it will be a challenge because we have many months now to wait – potentially a couple of years as it winds its way to the Supreme Court. I believe that decision will change everything for LGBT America forever.”

Dustin Lance Black, who is also on the AFER board, had this moving reaction:

“What was so important for me today – something that Cleve and I have been fighting about for a long time and I made a promise on a very big stage about a year and a half ago at the Oscars that kids out there would one day soon be able to enjoy their federal equality. And it was amazing today to hear those federal constitutional arguments being made for the first time regarding relationship recognitions. It feels like the first piece of that promise was fulfilled – regardless of outcome – the first piece of that promise was fulfilled.”

The Political Context

Barely mentioned in coverage of the closing arguments was the extremely important political context in which these arguments are being decided.

This November, Attorney General Jerry Brown – who refused to defend Prop 8 in court because he believes it’s unconstitutional – is running for governor. It is likely that if elected, he will continue to refuse to defend Prop 8 in court – just as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has done. However, if Brown’s Republican challenger Meg Whitman is elected, the case might change. Whitman voted for Prop 8 and will likely order that it be defended in the Ninth Circuit, joining Cooper and the Protect Marriage group.

Additionally – San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, who is running to be Attorney General – says that she, like Brown, would refuse to defend Prop 8 in court. However, her opponent, Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley said he would defend Prop 8 in court.

One other note about the Attorney General’s race: the AG is responsible for writing the ballot title and summary. Brown chose not to accept wording submitted by Protect Marriage for the Prop 8 initiative, for instance, and titled it: “Eliminates Rights of Same-Sex Couples to Marry. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.” If the Ninth Circuit rules next year and if the U.S. Supreme Court accepts the case and issues its ruling in 2012 – that could be at the same time as a proposed repeal Prop 8 goes on the California ballot for that election year. The high court could either decide narrowly on the constitutionality of Prop 8 in California or it could rule – either way – on the fundamental right of same-sex couples to marry.

NOM is already gearing up for the election fight in November. It is imperative that those working for marriage equality and to defeat Prop 8 get into gear, too.

DADT Protester Talks About Disrupting Obama Fundraiser for Boxer

Dan Fotou was among five GetEQUAL activists who bought tickets to the expensive fundraiser for US Sen. Barbara Boxer Monday night at the California Science Center in Los Angeles.  Shortly after President Obama started speaking, first Laura Kanter, then Fotou started heckling Obama over his lack of leadership in repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“It was worth it to us,” Fotou told me by phone shortly after leaving the event with fellow GetEQUAL activist David The tickets for the VIP reception were three tiers, with Fotou and Kanter buying three of the $500 tickets each and Zoe and – buying $250 tickets each; they did not pay the $2,500. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell must be repealed and the president has to take leadership on it.”

Fotou described the scene, saying they planned their disruptions in a sequence. First Democratic National Committee chair Tim Kaine spoke, then Boxer, who introduced Obama. Shortly into his speech, Kanter started yelling: “Show leadership, Mr. President. Repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell! It’s time to get Equal! We’re waiting for you!”

After Kanter interrupted, Fotou started chanting the same thing; then Zoe. The crowd was very angry but the security who dragged them out were OK – offering to let them stay if they promised to be quiet, since they had already paid their tickets. They were allowed back in – though they were assigned to the $250 seat area. Then Zoe Nicholson started in with her chant, followed by Michelle Wright and Laura McFerrin – perplexing Obama who said, “I’m on your side. I’m working to do what I can. What do you want?”

“Boom! That was it,” said Fotou, saying he shouted to insert language into the Defense Re-Authorization bill. “I started screaming, ‘Insert the language’ – over and over and over – until the police came.” This time they were escorted out and advised that if they attempted to come back onto the property, they would be arrested. Meanwhile, Fotou said, the “people inside were very angry.”

Fotou said they had planned to have videographer there, but the president showed up early by helicopter, which closed the major streets in the surrounding area. He said some photos were taken and will be uploaded on Flickr. Meanwhile other protesters outside the museum where cordoned off in a designated demonstration zone.

Fotou said GetEQUAL was particularly angry about a recent Pentagon letter to military  families asking their opinion about repealing the policy. “They weren’t asking the families about how to implement the repeal,” Fotou said angrily. “They were asking the families of servicemembers about what they think about the repeal. Why should our rights be going to a poll? The president can change all that by showing leadership and putting the repeal into the Appropriations bill.”

Fotou said Get EQUAL is pushing on DADT specifically because of Obama’s apparent desire to wait to see the Pentagon study on the repeal – which would take about a year.  (UPDATE – The Advocate interviewed Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, about reports from Capitol Hill staffers that the Pentagon asked both the House and Senate to delay a vote on the repeal until after the DoD has finished its study.)

Fotou said he continues to be inspired by a campaign promise Obama made in February 2008. Obama said: I will never compromise on my commitment to equal rights for LGBT Americans.”

Fotou and GetEQUAL intends to hold the president to that promise – not just on DADT, but on all LGBT rights.

One side note of interest: to set up the interview, I spoke with Robert Polzoni in San Francisco, who told me to call Jay Carmona in Washington DC, who told Fotou, who now lives in LA, to return my call. So in a manner of speaking, this was a nationally coordinated action.  When I noted this, Fotou said, GetEQUAL represents the entire LGBT community, not just the lobbying groups.”

Political advisor and strategic organizer David John Fleck acted as their safety net, to ensure that if anything happened, the right information got out and they were protected, Fotou said. He also emphasized that the action “couldn’t have happened without each and every one of us.”

Most importantly, Fotou said he believes the message got through to Obama. “He’s a wonderful orator. He can talk you down. His response was that he is working with Boxer on this [Boxer did not vote for DADT in 1993],” Fotou said. “But that’s not enough. I know he heard us. It’s now on his radar. And we’re not going away. We’re going to keep showing up and showing up until Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is repealed.”

I just watched video on the local KCAL News which has not yet been posted online. Obama looked ruffled, while trying to calm the crowd angry with the protesters.

“We need to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which I agree with – and which we have begun to do,” Obama said. He tries to speak over the yelling. “I just confirmed with Barbara and if you’re thinking of starting a chant – Barbara didn’t vote for Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the first place so you know she’s going to be for repeal.”

Interesting how Obama turned what had been a plea for his leadership into a plug for Boxer.

UPDATE: According to the latest pool report, Obama referenced DADT at the tonier event later in the evening. I don’t know if he would have done that without the protest.

Here’s how the White House Press Pool described it:

At 6:17, several protesters among the crowd interrupted POTUS’ speech, expressing anger over the slow progress on repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gay service members. The crowd tried to hush them. “What about don’t ask, don’t tell?” one protester shouted.

POTUS yelled back “we are going to do that.”

POTUS kept talking, increasing his volume to speak over the protesters. The crowd then erupted into chants of “Yes, we can.”

He later said, “we are going to repeal don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Your pooler has learned the protesters are from GetEQUAL, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group that also orchestrated protests outside the fundraiser. The group was also behind a protest last month at the White House, where activists Lt. Dan Choi and Capt. James Pietrangelo handcuffed themselves to a gate.

“IT’s time for equality for all Americans!” another protester yelled at 9:22. Obama said, “can I just say again Barbara and I are supportive of repealing Don’t ask dont tell.” But protester keeps yelling. Bringing Obama’s remarks to a halt. The crowd responds again by “shouting yes we can!” over the protesters.

“Be quiet!” someone yells.

At 6:25 local time, POTUS has regained control of the speech.

Here’s the press release GetEQUAL put out after the action:

Moments ago, several GetEQUAL activists interrupted President Obama during his speech at a fundraising reception for Senator Barbara Boxer in Los Angeles, expressing anger over the slow progress on repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ this year and demanding that he repeal it.

GetEQUAL activists shouted, “what about ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’” and “it’s time for equality for all Americans.”   The President, at one point bringing his remarks to a halt, said, “Barbara and I are supportive of repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’.”

Activists David John Fleck, Dan Fotou, Laura Kanter, Zoe Nicholson, and Michelle Wright were then escorted out of the reception by security officers.

In a subsequent press release, GetEQUAL said:

“President Obama has been AWOL on DADT,” Fotou. “We had to reminded him of the promises he made to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community during his campaign and several times during his Presidency – that DADT will be repealed because, as he’s stated, ‘it’s the right thing to do.’”

“We made it clear our community will hold accountable our President for unkept promises,” said Wright.  “Denying LGBT service members and personnel the ability to serve their country is unfair.”

Today’s action took place nearly one year after a similar protest outside an Obama appearance in Los Angeles, when Lt. Dan Choi asked the President for a response to a letter signed by 136,000 people to repeal DADT.

“These empowering and brave activists feel so strongly about our rights they were willing to confront the President of the United States on his lack of leadership on DADT and to hold him accountable for the promises he has made to our community,” said Kip Williams, co-founder of GetEQUAL.

Those involved in the action:

David John Fleck resides in Long Beach, CA. He is a former Grassroots Outreach Organizing Director for the Courage Campaign and Steering Committee member for the National Equality March. He was involved in today’s action because he believes that this year, this Congress offers the only realistic prospect to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and that the President must take a leadership role in accomplishing what he promised in his State of the Union Address.

Dan Fotou lives in Los Angeles, CA.   He took part in today’s action because he has a dream to have access to the same rights, freedoms, privileges and protections as every other American citizen. He believes federal law must be enacted to protect the LGBTQ community against all forms of discrimination.

Laura Kanter resides in Irvine, CA with her wife.  She was one of 18,000 couples able to get married.  A good friend of Dan Choi, she is participating in today’s action because it is wrong to deny Dan Choi and every other LGBT American who is willing to risk their life for this country, the opportunity to serve. Laura will continue to fight out loud as long as LGBT people are denied equal rights and will challenge Democrats and other progressive thinkers who allow this injustice to continue.

Laura McFerrin from Dallas, TX. She organized a protest at First Baptist Church in Dallas, TX after the minister preached a sermon, “Why Gay is Not Okay”. Laura is the director of March On, a documentary following the lives of several LGBT families on their journey to the National Equality March in Washington last October.  She believes that this direct action will serve as a wake up call to Obama and remind him of his promises

Zoe Nicholson lives in Newport Beach, CA. A feminist and fighter for civil rights, she is the founder of ERA Once and For All, a life long member of NOW, NWPC, Veteran Feminists of America and outspoken voice for LGBTQAI rights.   She has been on the front lines of activism since the 1960s.

Michelle Wright resides in Fresno, CA. Through years of participation in sports she understands competition and passion. Both are key components in the life of a military service member and have the ability to weave there way into one’s internal framework. To deny LGBT the right to pursue their dreams is unjust and she took part in the action because she stands in solidarity with uniform wearing LGBT members who look forward to serving their country with pride and honor.

You can view photos of the action at

You can view videos of the action at

No Repeal of Prop 8 in 2010

What had been expected for the past few months is now official: the measure to repeal Prop 8 in 2010 failed to collect the nearly 700,000 signatures needed to qualify for the November ballot.

“This is a heartbreaking moment,” John Henning, Executive Director of Love Honor Cherish, part of the Restore Equality 2010 coalition, said in a press release.  “Despite the dogged efforts of hundreds of volunteers across California, we did not get the signatures we needed within the 150-day window set by the state.”

“Our signature collection effort may have fallen short, but we stand tall as being the only statewide campaign that fought for repealing Proposition 8 in 2010,” Sean Bohac, Chair of the Restore Equality 2010 Statewide Advisory Panel, said in a statement reported by the Sacramento Bee.

Both Restore Equality 2010 and Love Honor Cherish are now expected to join with Equality California and other LGBT groups in an all-out effort to repeal Prop 8 in 2012, a presidential year when more young voters are expected to turn out. Generally off-year elections bring out older voters who have not favored same sex marriage.

“Regrettably, Prop 8 will remain as a stain on our constitution until at least 2012, and perhaps later,” said Henning, who also encouraged other vps activists to get involved and unify around 2012.

“This signature campaign was the right thing to do in the wake of Prop 8,” Love Honor Cherish board member Lester Aponte said in the statement.  “We were determined to act affirmatively to achieve equality and we will continue to do that until Prop 8 has been finally repealed.  We had hundreds of thousands of conversations with California voters about the right to marry and we know that we have moved hearts and minds.  In the process, we have set the foundation for a future repeal effort and brought hope to thousands whose hearts were broken by the passage of Prop 8.”

Walking tour traces where F. Scott Fitzgerald once walked in West Hollywood

As part of West Hollywood’s 25th Anniversary of Cityhood, the city is commemorating some of its most famous residents, including a month-long tribute to F. Scott Fitzgerald, one of America’s greatest writers.

On Sunday, Frontiers In LA news writer Peter DelVecchico went on the “Fitzgerald in West Hollywood” tour of places frequented by Fitzgerald, including the famous the Chateau Marmont Hotel. Here are photos and notes from his tour.

Tour guide Adrienne Crew, Los Angeles liaison for the Dorothy Parker Society, led a walking tour of sites frequented by seminal American author F. Scott Fitzgerald when he resided in Hollywood during the mid to late 1930s.

A strip mall featuring a McDonald’s, a Chase bank branch, a payday loan place and various other businesses now occupies the southwest corner of Crescent Heights and Sunset, former site of the Gardens of Allah Hotel. The hotel, where guests tended to stay for weeks or months in a collection of bungalows surrounding a pool said to be shaped like the Black Sea, was party ground zero and erstwhile home for the boozing, bohemian creative elite during the 1930s and 40s, including in addition to F. Scott Fitzgerald, legendary author and wit Dorothy Parker, actress Tallulah Bankhead and a host of others. According to Adrienne, the hotel was just over the line between the city of Los Angeles, with its strict alcohol and other regulations, and the County of Los Angeles, which she described as much more lenient.

A statue, retaining wall and some shrubbery now occupy the southwest corner of the former Gardens of Allah site, where the quarters Fitzgerald rented were located.

1400-1414 Havenhurst, known as “La Ronda” during Fitzgerald’s time, was what Adrienne called a “satellite” to the Gardens of Allah, which was located directly to the rear. La Ronda and the Gardens shared a parking lot, and residents passed freely between the two. Humorist Robert Benchley, Bette Davis and Cary Grant all lived here at various times.

1401-1407 Havenhurst, the “Jefferson,” was another Gardens of Allah “satellite.” Humorist, author and screenwriter S. J. Perelman once resided here.

1471-1475 ½ Havenhurst, the “Andalusia,” was not an F. Scott Fitzgerald haunt, but was, Adrienne said, the first and most influential courtyard-style apartment building in Southern California.

1477-1479 Havenhurst. This unassuming apartment building was once Bette Davis’ home.


8221 Sunset, the Chateau Marmont Hotel, where Fitzgerald often went to visit friends.

1403-1407 Laurel, where Fitzgerald lived from May-November 1940. Lucille Ball lived across the hall.

1449 Hayworth, where Fitzgerald’s long-time lover, Hollywood gossip columnist Sheilah Graham lived. Fitzgerald died of a heart attack here on December 21, 1940.

Greenblatt’s Deli on Sunset just east of Crescent Heights, where Fitzgerald’s last meal came from. Adrienne suspects it was a pastrami sandwich.

Actress Zelda Rubinstein taken off life support

In 1984, before Rock Hudson came out as a gay man with AIDS, actress Zelda Rubinstein was the poster-mother for HIV/AIDS awareness.

Literally.  An Los Angeles County AIDS awareness campaign featured her as “mother” in an LA Cares billboard campaign with Rubinsteain warning her Village People-wanna be son, “Don’t forget your rubbers” as he made his way into a world where it was “raining men.” Those billboards were ubiquitous all over the unincorporated portion of LA County where gays, seniors and renters were campaigning to become the new city of West Hollywood.

Rubinstein was best known as the eccentric spiritual medium Tangina Barrons who played a key minor role in the Steven Spielberg-co-written, co-produced movie Poltergeist in 1982. There was something very comforting about her presence as “mother” during those very difficult times when AIDS was snatching away gay men like the creepy Beast in that film.

And there was something incredibly courageous about a Hollywood actress who got her big role so late in life willing to be associated with the gay plague long before anyone else would – even if it was potentially a career-killer.

Later, Rubinstein acknowledged that she did “pay a price, career-wise.” But that didn’t stop her. She attended the first AIDS Project Los Angeles AIDS Walk 25 years ago – and was present for the AIDS Walk anniversary on Oct. 18, as shown in this photo shot by Brian Lowe. reported today that Rubinstein is in Cedars Sinai hospital in Los Angeles and

“is dying and it has been estimated that she has only a short time left to live.

[snip] has learned the sad news that Rubinstein, 76, has been taken off of life support following the failure of two of her major organs.

‘Her lungs and kidneys have failed and she’s in and out of consciousness,” a friend of the actress tells “It’s only a matter of time now – she doesn’t have long to live.’”

For those of us who looked up at those billboards and chuckled and got the message and think of how comforting she was to so many of our friends – we can only imagine the warm welcoming reception she will receive from all those who gratefully felt her love.  Our hearts go out to her friends and family.

Here is a short video to give you some sense of Rubinstein’s delightful sense of humor. This was shot at a screening of Poltergeist in Santa Monica, California on June 16, 2007.