Saturday, March 21, 2009

Belated St. Patrick's Day..

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For Mikey's Birthday

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Reflection on Interlocking Oppression and Religion.

The Labor-Religion Coalition promotes Fair Trade products in their publications. It's an interlocking part of our agendas.

At our meeting one member was told, when she approached the principal great brochure... but them pointing to the "New York State Labor-Religion Coalition," especially the word religion... "No can do. Parents will object."

So it's come to this. The Religious Right in their zeal to define religion has caused this backlash. Separation of church and state means the word religion cannot be mentioned. Don't get me wrong, I do not believe in prayer in school and I even have an issue with "one Nation under God," but this does not promote any religion. It simply supports that great American value of justice and fairness. But even making that an American value is wrong. It is a global value.

Institution that are separate might be working on the same agenda should be able to share materials and resources. In our economy we need to work together to maximize efforts and minimize duplication to realize common goals.

But that word... "Religion" stands in the way.

One solution is to remove the name or reduce it to NYSLRC. Or better yet, lets call it XR. Hey if XE can purge the dirty name of Blackwater...

So why is religion a dirty word...

Well one clue might be found in the fact that another member talked about taking silimar materials to her church and was told "great stuff! But that has the word 'labor' in it."

Is it separtaion of chuch and state now? I don't think so. I think it is people making assumpation about the motives of organizations. There is nothing remotely partisan or secular or religious in promting the fact that people should be paid a fair wage for the products they produce. Well, OK, there shouldn't be!

We talk about "Interlocking Oppression." How about interlocking mistrust? Not being able to see the greater good might be a far greater concern. Overcome that.

Coming Home

In the Albany Train Staion... headed home. Kyle, I'll be there at 5:00 PM. Everything is on time as of now.

NYSUT's Committee (cont.)

NYSUT's Committee on Civil and Human Rights continues...

I presented my report on "Creating Change" (see blog archive) which was followed up by Theresa Paradowski's report. She also attended and it is a witness to the breadth of this conference that I never even saw her there!

The workshops that she reported on were none that I attended and not by design. Her focus was on organizing and many of the conferences she attended were ones that I wanted to go to, but could not possibly have attended.

Lee Cutler, NYSUT's Secretary-Treasurer spoke of the the movement in NYSUT to codify our commitment to Social Justice. In the face of budget concerns and attacks on other union priorities, we are still giving attention to these issues and actually increasing the commitment.

Kevin Jennings of GLSEN will be talking at the NYSUT RA. We have been asking for a speaker on the main program and on Saturday, April 4, 2009, it will occur!

A Fair Trade discussion ensued followed by reports from visits to Mexico to view the casualities of

Ann Pavek was married recently to a woman. She approached her district administration and asked for the benefits offered to her as a result of Ramirez v. Monroe County. This case, decided by New York's highest court, the Court of Appeals, granted full contractual protection to married couples, regardless of the jurisdiction in which they were married. Ann was told that the insurance company did not offer this type of coverage. She had to fight to get the district to adhere to NYS law. We are asking to that NYSUT make sure that locals know that this is the law!

Mandy Gersten was nominated to receive an award from the Empire State Pride Agenda.

NYSUT is supporting the Equality and Justice Day on April 28. A bus from Rochester will be sponsored by NYSUT.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Commisioner of Human Rights in NYS Speaks to NYSUT Committee on Civil and Human Rights

It's Friday, March 20th in Albany, NY. The New York State United Teachers Committee on Civil and Human Rights has just had dinner and we are now listening to the Galen Kirkland, Commission of the New York State Department of Human Rights.

Kirkland is a gentle, eloquent and passionate man, who ran against David Paterson for the State Senate. They became friends and Paterson appointed him to this position. I am incredibly impressed.

The first human rights legislation in the US was enacted in NYS in 1945. It then included only Race, Creed and National Origin. It has since been expanded to include many protected class, including Sexual Orientation.

His passion for the cause is strengthening as he is called to reviewing the worst side of human nature, bigotry. Hate Crimes are the worst of the worst. He told of a Patchogue case where a gang that "regularly hunted" Latinos, murdered a man. He talked of Latitia Green, murdered because she was transgendered.

"Hate Crimes go beyond an assault on an individual. They are an assault on an identity. If the members of that community do not come back and stand up against them, the behavior is condoned."

On Staten Island, the night of the election of President Obama, 7 teenagers beat up a black man and ran over a white man wearing a hood because they thought he was black. In Bushwick, an Ecuadorian, was beaten. When the attackers started to leave, they saw him move and came back and beat him again. This time, they beat him to death.

The department works with the community, helping to build locally based response teams when horrors like this occur.

On Long Island the department to a complaint about the "Discourse of Public Officials" responding to hateful language from a mayor, delivered in a public forum. A statement of principals from community to denounce offensive language and to encourage civil public discourse.

A Sub-committee on Educating Policy Makers is a part of the department, as is a Sub-committee on Educating Young People. "When you give young people the opportunity to analyze a situation... they rise to the occasion." The Dept of Human Rights is developing regional groups for young people. Called "Teach the Teacher," these student driven projects are meant to develop policies and documents on Civil and Human Rights and harassment in the school. "Students will given the responsibility and respect needed to accomplish this. The vast majority of perpetratorss of Hate Crimes are young people."

Coordinated response with law enforcement, public official, community groups.If wedon't do 100%, we bretray everone who fought or died... they fought for laws that mean nothing if they are not enforced.

The department's goal is to make it possible for each individual to come with a complaint.

We passed a resolution asking NYSUT to investigate partner.

"To realize Dr. King's dream we must all become civil rights activists. If we retreat, the social structure begins to collapse on itself."

When asked, "What can we do in schools?" he responded, "Right away? Make sure that LGBT students are included in all anti-bias efforts in the schools."

All human rights are interwoven. Justice for some is not justice.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Worth a look...

I am waiting for my upload to be added! I was hoping it would be more immediately dynamic. Doesn't seem to have changed in a while.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Neil and Joplin say "Hey Y'all!"

Hard Working SOGIettes.....

NEA SOGI: Neil in wrapt attention.


That's National Education Association's Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identification in Washington, DC ... where I am!

Transcripts of testamonies from an LGBT summit in Chicago had been reviewed by the committee and NEA staff developed a summit report. The document will be a powerful document. The stories of homeless LGBT students was particularly powerful. Adding this to the stories of testamonies form students at Harvey Milk School the report will put important issues in a real world context.

We have reviewed the comments from hearings on GLBT issues held at NEA's 2008 Convention and an ESP Conference.

Members of the committee are about to report back on various issues assigned to them under the charges presented at our fall meeting.

Monday, March 9, 2009

"Being There" is Not Enough.

Many of us are a quiet presence in our church. We are “out.” People know that we are lesbians or gay men. We pay our pledge… or try to. However, when it comes to engaging in the conversations with our straight fellow congregants, we don’t. It’s awkward. After all, they know what our opinions are.

Well research shows that often they don’t know what our opinions are unless we share them. The after Prop 8 polling showed a significant number of those voting in favor of Prop 8 knew gay and lesbian people. Further anecdotal responses indicated brought forth comments like, “I don’t think that LGBT people care about this. They never said anything.”

We can’t let that assumption take hold. We must pull together and realize that, beyond our own “buy-in” on any particular issue, such as marriage equality, we need to support it because there are people that want and deserve that right.

Integrity’s role is to help people move beyond just “being there.”

The 3rd Most Popular Religion is None

SO WHAT? It better welcome more than just me... and it better start doing so actively.

• So many Americans claim no religion at all (15%, up from 8% in 1990), that this category now outranks every other major U.S. religious group except Catholics and Baptists. In a nation that has long been mostly Christian, "the challenge to Christianity … does not come from other religions but from a rejection of all forms of organized religion," the report concludes.

Can we afford to keep arguing among ourselves as organized religion dies?

Report from Trinity College survey in USA Today.

Like Graphics. Click HERE.

49% Episcopal Clergy Support Same-Sex Marriage and...

From Walking With Integirty

Last Friday, leading researchers on religion and politics today released the results of an in‐depth survey of Mainline Protestant clergy political engagement during the 2008 election season, attitudes on social and economic issues, and the public role of the church. The Mainline Protestant Clergy Voices Survey (CVS), conducted by Public Religion Research, is the largest survey of mainline clergy in seven years, and the broadest ever in scope.

The most significant finding for LGBT Episcopalians and their allies is that 49% of Episcopal clergy believe that same-gender couples should be allowed to marry, and another 38% believe same-gender couples should be allowed civil unions.

More than three quarters of Episcopal clergy also support adoption by same-gender couples, ENDA, and anti-hate crime laws.

More detailed results on LGBT issues will be released in May.

Read more and get other links at Walking With Integrity

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Dr. King on the Anglican Communion

Well not really...

But as i was researching for a report to NEA I re-read Dr. King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail."

"...I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth."

Friday, March 6, 2009

An Open Letter to St. David's Church, Lakeland FL

I wish I could come home... I was raised in the Episcopal tradition at St. David's. The huge controversy in my time was the departure of Father Barrus (low church, down-to-earth") and the arrival of Father Fleming (Anglo-Catholic, " that a CRUCIFIX?).

(see the picture I uploaded to the Facebook page...)

Father Fleming's first confirmation class was mine. I still have the crucifix. I still genuflect. I cross myself at every opportunity.

We were the Perfect family, Dorothy, George and Neil. My father was a pillar of the church. My mother was the good woman behind that man. I was adopted, but our family was by all appearances as "Leave it to Beaver" as any.

There was a secret there that no one but my parents knew. I hadn't a clue. Until after my father died in 1969 and I came out to my mother I did I begin to find out...

Three months before he died, my father, who suspected that I was gay, took advantage of my mother being out of town to "show what sex with a woman felt like."

Between that time and the time he died we may have exchanged 5 words. 4 months after he died I graduated from high school.

I knew that I was gay from the moment that I was aware of any sexuality. I had a crush on another boy at St. David's. I rushed home to see if Clint Walker would take his shirt off on the 4 PM reruns of "Cheyenne." My father didn't make me gay. Of course the experience took its toll, but I am glad to say that I am a pretty well adjusted gay man.

I have served in various positions of leadership in the Episcopal Church and am very sure that God brought me to the Diocese of Rochester. On February 22, 2008 my husband and I were joined in marriage in Toronto. My Bishop and his wife were our witnesses. The thought that anyone could believe that they did anything but express their complete unconditional love for Kyle and me is beyond me.

So why would I like to come home to St. David's? Why would I show my face in Central Florida?

I would come home to tell my story to my home parish.

My father lived a lie and it must have been horrible. I know he loved my mother. I know he gave me a wonderful home. But I also know that he was never able to live fully as the person that God created. It made his expressions of physical love twisted and dirty. It made him a confused and self-loathing man... and he was not a bad person.

I know from the coming out experience that I was not his only "homosexual" experience. His mother warned my mother on the night before they were married that she was marrying a "sissy boy." She told her he had been arrested for Sodomy. She told her that he was the colonel's "special boy" in Panama....

I would love to come home to tell my story.

Do I know that God loves me?

Sometimes I wonder when I see the way Gene Robinson has been treated. I wonder when I see Fred Phelps and

I wonder when I see people like Bishop Duncan and Bishop Iker that are willing to tear a church apart over the inclusion of gay people...

But don't we all wonder when we see bad things happening if God loves us? If God loves anyone?

I believe I am called to be a model of openly gay leadership in my Diocese and in the national church. I am a deputy to General Convention. I was the President of the Standiing Committee. I am a Vice President of Integrity.

Have I made the right choices? I think so. But there will ultimately be only one Judge of that.

I don'tknow if it is an original line, but Bishop Gayle Harris said, in a homily at our Diocesan Convention, "The opposite of faith is not doubt. The opposite of faith is certainty."

There are far to many people in the Anglican Communion who are certain that they know the mind of God.

Can I come home again?

Would the people of St. David's, now in the Diocese of Central Florida welcome me?

Did Jesus tell a story about that? I think he did. I know he didn't say anything about being gay.

May God continue to bless St. David's, the place of my birth into the Episcopal Church.

Neil Houghton

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Rochester's Episcopal Bishop Singh speaking at LGBT Lobby Day in Albany

The leader of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester, The Rt. Rev Prince Singh will be a featured speaker at noon-time rally in Albany for LGBT Rights on April 28, 2009.

This Diocese has been in the forefront of LGBT inclusion in the Episcopal Church.

Accepting the invitation of “Pride in the Pulpit’s” leader Kate McDonough will be speaking to a rally following visits with State Legislators from Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender citizens and their supporters from across New York State.

Pride in the Pulpit is the interfaith subgroup of the Empire State Pride Agenda. ESPA annually organizes “Equality and Justice Day” to bring people who support the full inclusion of all in anti-discrimination and marriage equality legislation to meet with legislators. The Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester acted to support marriage equality and communicated this with local legislators in the fall of 2008.

I am proud to be be a member of this Diocese and a member of the Episcopal Church!