What Philly Should Do
What's up with the most progressive city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania when it comes to LGBT equality?
Philadelphia has the most extensive pro-LGBT laws in the state, yet it's got some explaining to do.
First, where is the city leadership when it comes to marriage equality? Take for example Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes who, in defiance to a 1996 state law which defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman and voids same-sex marriages entered legally elsewhere, has issued over 100 marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
"I decided to come down on the right side of history and the law," Hanes said when he announced that his office would issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on July 24.
Where is Philadelphia when it comes to standing on the right side of history? Why is the City of Philadelphia's Register of Wills, Ronald R. Donatucci, not following in the footsteps of D. Bruce Hanes?
If Philadelphia is so proud of its progressive LGBT roots and advancements, why then is there not a rising chorus of city leaders calling for marriage licenses to be issued to same-sex couples in the city? Where is the Mayor's voice? City Council's? Mr. Donatucci?
Yes, the Corbett administration is not taking Hanes' action lying down. They issued the following statement: "Individual elected officials cannot pick and choose which laws to enforce. All officials are constitutionally required to administer and enforce the laws that are enacted by the Legislature. Only the courts have the power to declare a law to be unconstitutional and to suspend its effects." And they are having the Pennsylvania Department of Health sue Hanes to have him "cease and desist" the issuance of the marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Yet, Philadelphia should be following up right behind Montgomery County and take a stand on the right side of history, just like San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom who, in 2004, braved the tide in advancing marriage equality in Californian by issuing by issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Second, in April 2012, Philadelphia's sister city, Nizhny Novgorod (formerly known as Gorky), Russia's third largest city, adopted an anti-LGBT propaganda law. No one was paying much attention to the issue then but now that Russia has federalized this Soviet style discrimination law, the world has taken notice. The question is has Philadelphia taken notice?
It's about time we did.
We must be seen as standing firm in our support of global LGBT equality and Philadelphia should take the lead and sever our sister city relationship with Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, immediately.
Their promotion and adoption of anti-LGBT laws is an anathema to our way of life and irreconcilable to the dignity of the human person.
Will City Council act? Will Mayor Nutter lead? Will Philadelphia keeps its LGBT equality crown? It's time to act!
Philadelphia City Council Members
Mayor of Philadelphia
|What It Looks Like From Here
Who doesn't need catching up on reading that pile (in my case, piles) of materials, including magazines, torn-out pages from newspapers, marketing materials, press releases, save-the-date post cards, travel brochures, fashion guides, home furnishings catalogs, and books and more books and even more books.
I don't know why, but summer is definitely one of those seasons when I do deliberately try to sort through the reading materials kept aside and go through the ear-marked magazines and other publications and read what I saved.
It's hard to believe that it's almost a year ago, September 11, 2012 (how ironic or coincidental or intentional) it was that the body of highly-respected J. Christopher Stevens, United States Ambassador to Libya, would be found dead, right in the middle of his compound in his beloved Benghazi.
Yes, what is perceived clearly as an outpost, among the International diplomatic core as well as the average American citizen, Benghazi doesn't have a waiting list for those serving our nation in International relations and diplomacy but to Stevens, that was a genuinely and entirely different perspective.
In my rereading of "Murder of an Idealist" by Sean Flynn (GQ, December 2012), one of the best explanations and serious examinations of the situation in Libya, (clearly a trouble spot for the Western World if not the entire globe) is also somewhat of a personal portrait of Stevens, who comes across as a truly unique and almost rebel as far as anyone can become within the structures and strictures of running an Embassy.
The native Northern Californian who not only grew up there, didn't stray far from home for his formal schooling, and ended up as a senior at University of California at Berkeley, but the gypsy innate to him felt the enthusiasm to travel and experience the world as it led him, as a young student, to study for a summer in Spain, and a college senior semester in Italy. The world is definitely his oyster and the combination of Foreign Service and living abroad. Both were part of Stevens' DNA and there was no stopping his early interest, focus and determination.
After college, Stevens joined the Peace Corps, ending up teaching English to school children, in the Atlas Mountains in "the rugged, isolated and beautiful" region of Morocco, and recalling after his two-year tour of duty, "quickly grew to love this part of the world." After that assignment, he returned to California, picked up a law degree, and relocated to Washington, D.C., where he specialized in international trade for a prestigious firm.
But his sights were set way beyond settling for a life in our nation's capital city, and quickly he took the foreign service exams in 1991, in the hopes of pursuing his lifelong dream to become an overseas diplomat as his way of serving his country and practicing his eternal optimism.
Somehow, Stevens was destined for the Middle East. His first assignment was his post at Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Flynn writes of Steven's career development: "Every other overseas assignment after that (Riyadh) was in the part of the world that diplomats call, usually with affection, the "Sandbox."
He continued: "[Stevens] studied Arabic in Tunisia and did tours of the embassies in Cairo and Damascus, and also at the U. S. mission in Jerusalem during the second intifada. Even when he rotated back to Washington, his jobs-Iran desk officer, staff assistant in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs-usually related to the Sandbox."
The tall, blonde, handsome, stately, intelligent, worldly, appealing (he attracted countless friends of all kinds effortlessly), genuine and down-to-earth Stevens almost could have been selected from central casting. Yet he was always on the ground, in the field, among the people, interested in their plight, wanting to help resolve conflict, and also always truly interested and appreciative of their cultural heritage and lifestyle.
Of Stevens, "the incessant optimist," his colleagues told Flynn: "Chris was the single most important voice," says Jeffrey D. Feltman, who at the time was the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, "That didn't mean he was the only voice, and it didn't mean everything he said was acted on. Bu his was the most important single voice."
[Editor's Note: This is the first of a special two-part feature article on Ambassador Christopher Stevens. Part two will appear in the August 30, 2013 edition of Qt and will explore when Stevens was a gay man working and living and serving our nation in the midst of the homophobic and intolerant Muslin World.]
speakOUT on the Qt!
Jordan Gwendolyn Davis
Coming Home One Last Time: My Unfinished Activist Business In New Jersey
As everyone knows, I am an LGBT (or TLGB, as Brian Sims so eloquently put it) activist who is focused mostly on Philadelphia, the state of Pennsylvania, and even the federal level. As a matter of course, though I care about LGBT issues elsewhere, I generally shy away from actively lobbying in another state's affairs. However, I have to make an exception, due to the unique nature of this transphobic policy.
I was born in Toms River, NJ. According to New Jersey state law, in order to change the gender marker on my birth certificate, I would have to have undergone gender confirmation surgery, something I cannot afford at this time. As such, my New Jersey birth certificate is the ONLY piece of identification which still reads "male". Currently, legislation (A4097/S2786) is making its way through both houses that would remove the surgical requirement, the Assembly version passed relatively narrowly, and the Senate version (of which the language is identical) will be going through committee hopefully in the fall.
This is weighing very heavily on me and other transgender individuals who were born in New Jersey. While a native New Jerseyan can flee, for example, bad property tax policies by moving to another state, we can NEVER flee bad birth certificate regulations, no matter how far away we move. They will always govern the most primary of identification, and it is imperative when it comes up in the New Jersey State Senate, that the powers that be take into consideration the fact that we cannot get away from this, and the only way we can no longer be bound by bad policy is to get our elected officials to take action.
There are plenty of scenarios where a birth certificate with an uncorrected gender marker can be problematic, from applying for a passport (one more piece of paperwork to have an affirming gender marker) or moving to another state, or even having to present a birth certificate to get benefits, such as housing subsidies (even if the housing is gender neutral, there is always the chance for discrimination and violence) or FAFSA for single-gender institutions, to name a few.
Even though I washed my hands of New Jersey almost three years ago when I moved to the Keystone State, I must, in a sense, "come home" for one last time and lobby actively for the right to change my birth certificate. While Garden State Equality must be commended for doing a lot of groundwork for this, for purposes of people like me, lobbying for this policy can be very difficult for out of state residents, even though the state has "extraterritorial jurisdiction" over my life in this regard.
The assembly bill passed, but not by a veto proof majority, on the same exact day that an anti-conversion therapy bill passed with a greater veto proof majority. The anti-conversion therapy bill later passed by a veto proof majority in the Senate. While I do not wish to throw shade on the necessity of anti-conversion therapy bills, I believe that we need to not give up on transgender rights and to keep on all 40 state senators and the governor to pass this into law. And if we get vetoed, we need to make it veto proof. And if we can't make it veto proof, well, I will be willing to sue the state to change their policy.
Jordan Gwendolyn Davis is a lesbian transgender feminist writer and activist from South Philadelphia who has approached LGBT rights from a social justice perspective and fights for the rights of the underdog, as she is one. She can be reached at email@example.com. Her blog can be read at grumpydyke.wordpress.com
"Tourism along the Jersey Shore and famed Atlantic City Boardwalk is alive and well and we're thrilled to bring back the exciting Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival [July 25-28, 2013] for its fifth anniversary celebration," rightly boasted Danny Brockdorf, regional vice president of marketing for Caesars Entertainment."
Indeed, this year's event was definitely a celebration that attracted your's truly (for the fifth straight year) and thousands of foodies from the Tristate area and beyond.
To mark the fifth year, organizers put together the four-day event with plenty to allure the public to attend any number of stellar special food events such as the always-popular The Grand Market, a signature event, that features a wide array of food products, wines and bubblies like those from Barefoot, to new beverages like Solerno, a blood orange liqueur, made in Sicily, Italy (I'll admit that I returned for a second tasting as the fruit for me is nectar from the gods!), with too many wine vintages to list, and plenty of craft brews such as Blue Moon. Some vendors were promoting trends that have attracted the American palate like the rise in Prosecco (I'm a big fan).
There were also plenty of culinary tastings from Atlantic City restaurants to make a meal out of everything from fondue from The Melting Pot (a resurgence of a decades-ago phenomenon) and modern Mexican cuisine and tequila from Dos Caminos (a rising interest and appreciation of this ethnic culinary heritage).
The crowds were clearly attracted to the Caesars Entertainment Fifth AC Food & Wine Festival with the appearance by celebrity chefs Robert Irvine, Rocco DiSpirito and The Neelys in the worlds of Food Network and Top Chefs, among countless others. The headliners hosted the wonderful series, Chef's in the Kitchen, with deluxe dinners created by the guest chefs.
Other opportunities to meet and greet as well as taste the foods by the Neelys at the newly-added Blues Brews & BBQ delicious buffet luncheon and the unique Sunday Gospel Brunch with the Southern-inspired buffet serving up everything from homemade biscuits and country gravy to Creole chicken shrimp jambalaya, complimented by gospel-inspired live performances. Both events were appropriately housed at The House of Blues at the Showboat.
The versatility of the Neelys was further celebrated by their hosting of an Island Luau, serving favorite Hawaiian treats, male and female hula dancers and flamethrowers, and was set at Harrah's Resort Pool Deck, as the festival's closing event on Sunday evening.
But the-over-the-top event at this year's AC Food & Wine Festival was the newly-added Beach Soiree on Saturday night, where the huge, festive, good-looking, friendly and fashionable crowd gathered, ate, drank, danced, and partied, literally on the beach in front of Bally's, with elaborate spreads of food from the casino's restaurants in the family of Caesars Entertainment (don't kid yourself their fine dining restaurants offer gourmet dishes) and it was, at this party, aplenty, enough to make a dinner meal without much effort on the public's part.
Fans got to meet and greet in an impromptu situation with all of the celebrity chefs who made appearances, talking, handshaking and having their pictures taken with their personal favorites.
As I mentioned to almost anyone who would listen-from new friends to media types to casino management staffers to event organizers, the AC Beach Soiree was as absolutely fabulous and reminiscent of many an event that I've attended on the sand, near the ocean, or under the moon of Miami South Beach. That's a good comparison and a compliment to the AC folks!
Next year-my advice-don't miss it! I'll see you there!
Sponsorships now available. Contact Thom Cardwell
What They Said and Did!
For us, friend to the LGBTQ community and entertainer Margaret Cho has always been outrageous, outlandish and always outspoken. Unafraid to provoke or insult, she has gotten into trouble, more than a few times with her signature outspokenness, but she is always at the ready, headfirst, any and all kinds of oppression, as "she writes passionately and movingly of her own experience of oppression-familial, sexual, political, and racial-and of her own empathy for others who suffer oppression" in her book, Margaret Cho: I Have Chosen To Stay and Fight (Riverhead Books/Penguin, 2005). With honesty, humility and humor, the Korean-American female comedian speaks out about the current state of affairs and issues facing us all in our crazy but fascinating contemporary world: "Who do you think you are? I am often asked this question. I ask myself this question whenever I sit down to try to create something out of nothing. What emboldens me to give my opinion of what is going on? I certainly don't fit in with any of the great political thinkers of the day. My profile doesn't match up. I am not a man, not am I white. I am not really old enough or educated enough. What could I possibly have to say that would be of any use to anyone? Perhaps the things that set me apart from the commentators we are used to hearing from are the things that make my opinion worthwhile. Haven't we heard enough from those ancient white guys? There is this silent agreement that everyone everywhere has made regarding old white men. They are the bottom line, the last word, no matter what. The saying 'It's not over 'til the fat lady sings' is erroneous because women who are fat are never listened to. It's not over until the old white guy says it's over, which sounds simple-and maybe a little angry, coming from me."
Queer celebrity photographer Mike Ruiz is a looker himself, a fine specimen of gay and sexy maleness, much like his choice of hyper-masculine models that he has amassed in his latest coffee table, Pretty Masculine. Now, he's into more than just the traditional ways to sharing images with the creation of The Pretty Masculine App, offering unprecedented access to Ruiz's entire creative process. "My goal with . . . the app is to introduce a new way for people to consume art," he explained, "The app is unique in the way that it combines a photography showcase with interactive functionality. It is the first of its kind to be released by a photographer." He further explained: "Following the philosophy behind the Pretty Masculine coffee table book, my app seeks to deconstruct and maybe even blur society's notion of what is masculine and what is feminine. New and emerging technology enables us to do this with greater ease. We can now push our collective imagination even further, allowing us to explore our psyches in earnest. It is my aim to give my audience some additional tools to look more deeply at two-dimensional images by offering them the back story on the images, allowing them the opportunity to interpret these images from a place of greater understanding."
Anyone who recently saw the brilliant documentary, Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia, premiered at Philadelphia QFest 2013, knows now if they didn't before that this queer literary giant of the 20th century was almost too smart, clever, educated and intellectual for his (and actually anyone else's) own good. Thumbing through Gore Vidal: Palimpsest a Memoir, it's such an entertaining, honest and witty book that it's difficult to resist quoting almost the entire book! But, here's a taste, to encourage you to both see the film (even for a second time, it's that excellent) and read his words on the printed page. In the chapter, "Getting Out," Vidal writes: "It is much harder to get out of worlds than to get into them, or so I have found. I got into television, then the movies, then theater, then conventional politics. Ten years had passed since I had published my last novel, Messiah, in 1954. During that decade I had accomplished my original mission: I could now afford to do only what I wanted to do, which was to write novels, even though it had been clear to me for quite some time that the novel as an art form-much less diversion-was of no great interest to the public at large and of too great an interest to academics in pursuit of theory. But this did not seem to me any reason not to goon doing what I liked to do."