To Youth Camp
Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund is happy to report
a victory in a case that will have broad impact for lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth accross the country. Lambda represented an all-volunteer gay youth support group in Greensboro, NC, that applied for tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service. The group, Gay and Lesbian Adolescent Support System (GLASS), got a letter back from the IRS asking for proof that GLASS does not "encourage or facilitate homosexual practices or encourage the development of homosexual attitudes and propensities by minor individuals." Once GLASS recovered from the shock of such a blatant anti-gay stance by the federal government, the group called Lambda.
Lambda's response, in short, was that a tax agency like the IRS should be as concerned with "homosexual attitudes" as it is with "heterosexual attitudes"-namely not at all. In a July 2 response to the IRS, Lambda demanded withdrawal of their anti-gay letter and appropriate action for GLASS. Exactly seven days later, the IRS formally withdrew the letter, and the next month confirmed the granting of tax-exempt status to GLASS. Tax-exempt status allows GLASS and groups like it to inform donors they can write off their donations, which increases funding and allows for more outreach and support to lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth.
The rapid response from this huge bureaucracy gives us real encouragement that the IRS takes anti-gay discrimination seriously. In an effort to determine whether the scope of anti-gay bias at the IRS merits further attention, Lambda has filed a Freedom of Information Act request about the agency's dealings with other organizations.
The First Douglas Simonson Calendar
What do an Italian boy from
Argentina, a Thai boy who
grew up in Hawaii, a Mexican dancer from San Francisco, and a French-Vietnamese boy from Ohio, have in common? Answer: they're all Simonson models. And they all appear in the 1998 Simonson calendar, the artist's first ever.
For almost 20 years, Douglas Simonson has been creating drawings, paintings and prints of the male nude for a worldwide audience of collectors. And many of those collectors have asked Simonson over the years: When are you going to create a calendar?" The answer was always "Someday."
"Someday" has arrived. Simonson's first calendar, a large-format (12" X 18") collection of 12 Simonson drawings, reproduced in fine detail on high-quality stock, is now available.
The artist has chosen a selection of drawings which provide a wide variety of styles and a diversity of ethnic types-Polynesian, Asian, Hispanic, Black and Caucasian. None of these drawings has been published previously.
The 1998 Simonson calendar is now available for $19.95 ($29.96 signed by the artist) on the artist's website at www.douglassimonson.com, or by mail or phone from the artist's studio in Honolulu.
Salt Lake Tribune
School Gag Order A "Disgrace"
Following a federal lawsuit filed
by Utah P.E. teacher and mother
of two Wendy Weaver against the Nebo School District, saying she was illegally fired as volleyball coach for being a lesbian and that a district gag order violates her right to freedom of expression, the Salt Lake Tribune featured an Oct. 24 editorial calling the antics of the district and school administrators a "disgrace."
In July, the Spanish Fork High School (SPHS) principal fired her as coach despite 18 years of service, including four state titles, after discovering she is a lesbian. The district told Weaver "not to make comments, announcements or statements to students, staff members or parents regarding your homosexual orientation or lifestyle," threatening that if she did, it "may jeopardize [her] job and be cause for termination." The editorial begins, "Nebo School District and Spanish Fork High School administrators have given their students a model lesson in how not to treat a person with a sexual orientation different from the norm."
It mentions that students of Weaver were generally perplexed by the actions of the alarmist adults, adding, "What could Nebo District and [SPHS] officials possibly have been thinking when they benched a successful coach for her sexual orientation and then compounded the matter with their bizarre gag order?.... Her simple identity as a lesbian should be irrelevant to school administrators .... [They] chose to judge her home life instead of her professional record, and they deserve all the opprobrium that derives from their shameful actions. They should rescind their cruel gag order and reinstate Weaver as the coach of next year's volleyball team."
Serving as a textbook example of the need for legal protections against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, Weaver's case also highlights the particular difficulties lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender educators face at the hands of ignorant or outright bigoted officials. The Tribune's stand in a conservative and often intolerant state is both rational and courageous.
Vote On Gay
& Lesbian Teachers
An on-line poll being taken by
MSNBC at www.msnbc.com, following up on Utah teacher Wendy Waver filing suit against a rural school's threat to fire her if she spoke about her sexual orientation, took a sharp swing after right-wing groups put out action alerts. Although initially 88% of respondents said they would not object if their child had a gay teacher, by Nov. 5 the OK-with-gay group had fallen to 57%. On the more confusing second question as to whether one would object to the same teacher if s/he "never discussed it with parents, students or other teachers"-essentially the same restrictions as the Nebo School district attempted to place on Wendy Weaver-the wouldn't-object group had fallen from 86% to 59% as of Oct. 31 [current figures were not available at press time]. (The option of objecting to the gag but not to the gay teacher is not offered.) The American Family Association (http://www.afa.net/) issued their alert mentioning that they had learned of the poll not only from the Christian Family Network but also from PlanetOut (home of NewsPlanet).
GOP Congress Prioritizes AIDS
The Republican-controlled 105th
Congress increased AIDS
funding again in 1998, with a lion's share of the funding going to the financially strapped AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), a program which President Clinton flat-funded in his proposed 1998 budget.
In February, Log Cabin Republicans made the ADAP program a top legislative priority for 1997. For the second consecutive Congress, LCR was the only gay and lesbian organization to testify on AIDS funding before a House Appropriations subcommittee, calling for a $132 million increase in ADAP.
While the ADAP program is the only part of the Ryan White CARE Act dedicated to expanding access to life-saving AIDS treatments, it is also the only part of the federal AIDS strategy in financial crisis. Due to the explosion of demand for protease inhibitor drugs and combination therapies, the state-administered ADAPs around the country have teetered on the verge of collapse trying to keep pace with the demand.
Under the leadership of Congressman John Porter (R-IL), chairman of the House Labor/HHS appropriations subcommittee and Congressman Bob Livingston (R-LA), the House approved a $132 million increase for ADAP earlier in the year. The Senate, led by Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), chairman of the Senate Labor/HHS appropriations subcommittee, approved a $50 million increase for ADAP. The White House had proposed no increases for ADAP, and never requested an increase by dollar figure throughout the appropriations process.
A House-Senate conference on the Labor/HHS appropriations bill agreed to increase ADAP by $118.5 million over 1997, an increase of 71%. The ADAP increase made up almost all of the $153.9 million increase for the entire Ryan White CARE Act programs in the federal budget-a clear signal that Congress is prioritizing saving the lives of people with AIDS through increasing access to breakthrough drugs.
Gay & Lesbian
To Add Saturday Hours
The Gay & Lesbian National
Hotline has announced new
hours for its toll-free telephone services. The new hours, effective immediately, are Monday through Friday evenings, from 6pm to 10pm and also Saturday from noon until 5pm. All hours are eastern time.
The toll-free telephone number is 1-888-THE-GLNH (1.888.843.4564).
The Gay & Lesbian National Hotline is an all-volunteer, non-profit organization, providing information, referrals and peer-counseling to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered communities. Information is also available for those concerned with gay-related issues. The services are completely free and totally anonymous.
"Since our opening 12 months ago, the Gay & Lesbian National Hotline has answered thousands of calls for help," said Brad Becker, Executive Director of the GLNH. "Due to the hard work of all of our volunteers and supporters, we are very pleased to add an additional day of coverage, bringing our total number of days open to six days per week.
"Many of our calls are from young people, struggling with their sexuality. Adding Saturday hours are important, as this will enable them to more easily reach us," Becker says. "Our volunteers are well-trained and compassionate, and can access referral information for cities all across the country from our 16,000+ resource database. In fact, our resource list is the largest of its kind in the world.
"While talking to callers about their feelings, we are often able to integrate both local resource referrals and safer-sex information into our discussions, helping someone, particularly a teenager, with important information that can help save their lives."
More information on the Gay & Lesbian National Hotline can be obtained on the world-wide-web at www.glnh.org. Individuals interested in volunteering or supporting the GLNH can call 212.633.7492.
New Oral History of Les/Gay Southern Life
The newly released book, Lonely
Hunters: An Oral History of
Lesbian and Gay Southern Life, 1948 - 1968, by historian and intellectual activist James T. Sears, is being hailed by critics and gay activists alike as an engaging and enriching history of gay Southern life (and now available at FM bookstore).
The first oral and cultural history of the gay South, Lonely Hunters is set against an incongruent post-World War II backdrop of fear and suspicion, innocence and gentility. This book tells the stories of homosexual Southerners coming of age in an era of impending social upheaval, and recall a region's smoldering homophobia that found fuel on a national level at the Stonewall riots.
Enthusiasts of both Southern history and gay history will find that personal stories of gays and lesbians have been interwoven with narratives of political and social events to form a broadcloth of historical perspective that is especially fascinating when compared to the ongoing political and civil rights struggles of lesbians and gays in today's society.
"Southern history is never simple and seldom straight," Dr. Sears said. "Most people don't realize that the South was, and is, a major battleground in the struggle for gay rights."
Published by Westview Press, a division of HarperCollins, Lonely Hunters is the first in a series of five volumes covering the five generations of lesbians and gays from the 1890's through the 1990's. The next volume, tentatively titled From Boys in the Band to Bluefish Cove, will relate the stories of the generation that came of age between 1969 and 1983. It will continue to explore and uncover contributions made by Southern gays during that era.
"Today, it is critical that activists and those who support gay rights initiatives understand the contributions and struggles that earlier generations of gay Southerners have made," Dr. Sears continued. "We must continue to chronicle and to preserve our Southern gay history."
Dr. Sears is an openly gay, tenured professor at the University of South Carolina. Most recently, he was appointed as acquisitions director for the Southern Studies collection at ONE Institute in Los Angeles. ONE Institute is the oldest gay organization in the Western hemisphere.
Information on Dr. Sears and his other work can be found in cyberspace at www.jtsears.com.