Bil and Jerame, both Indiana natives, are going to the White House today for a reception honoring the Indiana Fever, which just won the WNBA championship. Bil jokes that yesterday was the White House LGBT Pride reception, but today is Hoosier Pride at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
In that spirit, I thought I’d share two news items that make me proud of the states I’ve called home: Wisconsin and Vermont.
First, Wisconsin. I haven’t found many reasons to take pride in my birth state lately, but I couldn’t help smiling when I read a press release announcing Door County’s inaugural “Commit with Pride” weekend, scheduled for September 20-22.
The weekend, hosted by the Door County Visitor Bureau, revolves around a mass commitment ceremony to be held on the waterfront at the Stone Harbor Resort in Sturgeon Bay. Rev. Richard Feyen of Hope United Church of Christ will officiate. The end of September is the beginning of Wisconsin’s fall colors season, so the setting should be especially beautiful.
Same-sex couples in Wisconsin are forbidden from marrying each other by a constitutional marriage discrimination amendment, and with anti-LGBT Republicans in firm control of state government, repeal efforts are dead in the water for the time being. So it’s especially encouraging to see tourism groups and faith leaders stepping up and providing other creative opportunities for couples to make meaningful commitments to each other. Continue reading →
A little birth state pride: Democratic Rep. Ron Kind, whose district covers the lower two-thirds of western Wisconsin, announced his support for marriage equality yesterday in a message posted to his Facebook page. It reads:
My 18-year marriage to Tawni has taught me that we’re both stronger because we love and support each other. I support marriage equality because if two people want to make a lifetime commitment to love and care for one another, then the government shouldn’t stand in the way. Continue reading →
A gay employee of Applebee’s in Rice Lake was brutally bashed by the husband of a co-worker, then told by the restaurant’s manager he could not return to his job due to publicity surrounding the incident, he said.
Timothy Phares subsequently did return to his job as a server after Greg Flynn, CEO of Apple American Group franchise, intervened on his behalf.
According to Phares and his sister Krista Kathrine, they were getting out of his car in the parking lot of a Perkins restaurant at about 6 a.m. on March 17 when Rien Hendricks and his wife Shannon Hendricks pulled up behind them in an SUV.
“(Hendricks) was getting out of his vehicle, and he said, ‘Fucking faggot, I’m going to kill you,’” Phares said.
At that point Phares said Hendricks struck him in the head with great force using a 2 x 4 piece of lumber. In a written statement, Krista Kathrine said she heard her brother’s head smack the pavement, but Tim Phares lost consciousness and doesn’t remember anything else before waking up in the hospital.
Phares suffered head and facial abrasions as well as multiple facial fractures that will ultimately require surgery to implant metal plates, he said.
Phares had given his two-week notice after Applebee’s management failed to intervene on his behalf when a table full of customers hurled anti-gay slurs at him; he later reversed his decision. The attack by co-worker Shannon Hendricks’s husband (left) took place just days later.
Restaurant manager Tara Steinberg has refused to fire Hendricks despite her role in the attack (she drove husband Rien to the scene of the attack, heard him threaten to kill Phares, and watched Rien brutally assault him). Phares says he doesn’t expect he’ll stay at Applebee’s for much longer because he feels unsafe at work.
In an interview yesterday on NBC’s Meet the Press, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker demurred and deflected when host David Gregory asked him about Sen. Rob Portman’s historic endorsement of marriage equality and whether Walker believed it was indicative of a sea change in opinions on the issue within the Republican Party.
Instead of simply answering the question, Walker ducked and dodged, noting that Wisconsin passed a marriage discrimination amendment (not “years ago” as he claimed, but in 2006). He also disingenuously implied that Wisconsinites don’t really want to focus on the freedom-to-marry issue, then changed the subject entirely.
Here’s your heartwarming story for the day: remember my post yesterday about Julaine Appling, the “pro-family” homophobe from the Badger State who’s raising a stink about an upcoming drag show at the University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley?
At the time I published the post, only about half the tickets to the show had been sold. I decided to buy a few tickets and donate them to the UW-Fox Valley Gay-Straight Alliance as a way to show support, and closed my post by asking if anyone else felt like joining me.
Now here’s where it gets freaking awesome: after publishing the piece I posted it to Facebook and Twitter as usual, but this particular tweet happened to catch the attention of a certain amazing author, media personality, and advice columnist named Dan Savage. Not only did Dan retweet the story to his 140,000+ Twitter followers, he also said that he wanted to help UW-Fox Valley sell out the show.
To make a long story short, after talking with Dan and getting him in touch with the UW-Fox Valley box office, he decided to buy all the remaining tickets and donate them to the school to distribute free of charge to students and community members!
Amazing, right? I’m incredibly touched that a tireless national LGBT advocate like Dan would team up with a blogger in Vermont to help make a university drag show in northeastern Wisconsin a success. What a great gift to the entire Fox Valley community! And as a bonus, it’s also great way to stick it to Ms. Appling and the puritans over at Wisconsin Family Action.
Thanks, Dan. A free drag show and a one-finger salute for the haters? Sounds like a win-win to me.
Julaine Appling, Wisconsin’s most outspoken anti-gay bigot and the president of Wisconsin Family Action, an anti-LGBT, anti-choice, pro-“intelligent design” GOP front group, is very, veeeery upset about a drag show that’s coming to the Univeersity of Wisconsin-Fox Valley this Thursday.
In a breathless ACTION ALERT (!!) posted on the group’s website, readers are warned about a shocking “‘drag show'” (yes, scare quotes and all) featuring as its “‘main attraction'” (again, scare quotes are theirs, not mine) an appearance by “self-proclaimed male homosexual transvestite ‘Shangela’ from a lewd reality television show ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race‘ in which homosexual male drag performers compete for prizes.”
Be very afraid. It continues: “The tickets are cheap ($3), and so, it appears, is the propaganda, display of immorality, and overall message to the Fox Valley community.” (Seriously?!? Who wrote this, Anita Bryant?)
Then Appling sanctimoniously scolds:
Our University of Wisconsin System is placing the stamp of approval on homosexual propaganda and explicitly immoral content with an upcoming “drag show” event that sends the wrong message to our next generation of leaders, parents, and families. Taxpayers should beware, and quickly take action to defend our shared values. The Badger State’s standards for it’s families are much higher than this shameful display of sexual immorality on our campuses and in our local communities.
The release also includes contact information for the UW-Fox Valley Dean’s Office, presumably to encourage WFA supporters to flood the switchboard with outraged calls, and an UPDATE about a similar show (gasp!) that was presented at another UW school in January. It’s actually rather hilarious that WFA is just now catching wind of drag shows being held at UW campuses — at some campuses, they’re incredibly popular annual events.
At least one controversy-hungry local news affiliate, apparently hard-pressed for actual, umm, news, picked up the non-story. Reporter Chad Doran of WLUK-Fox 11, Green Bay’s self-proclaimed “balanced news” source, interviewed Appling and a poor, hapless UW-Fox Valley student who claimed drag shows are “contrary to her religion” and said she “would feel uncomfortable seeing it.” (Note to student: If you don’t want to see the drag show, don’t attend the dragshow.)
There’s more than a little irony in Julaine Appling’s opposition to LGBT culture, LGBT people in general, and LGBT equality. To be sure, she’s a wretchedly spiteful person who, for all intents and purposes, represents the public face of homophobia in the state of Wisconsin. Appling is the architect of Wisconsin’s voter-approved 2006 constitutional marriage discrimination amendment. Her group even sued unsuccessfully to block the implementation of Wisconsin’s domestic partnership registry, which provides a very limited set of basic protections to same-sex couples in that state.
But for all her vitriol, Appling is also arguably the state’s leading (ahem) confirmed bachelorette — one whose living situation makes her eligible for a domestic partnership herself. Ms. Appling is over sixty years old and has never been married, but she doesn’t live alone. No, Julaine owns a house in south-central Wisconsin with a woman named Diane Westphall (left), another never-married woman who works with Appling at WFA and has been her companion for decades. No one knows the precise nature of their relationship and Appling claims she’s straight, but it’s an unconventional arrangement at the very least. The Wisconsin Gazettereports that when Westphall’s father died in 2007, Appling was listed as a survivor in his obituary, despite the fact that she’s not a legally-recognized member of that family. (How did they refer to her, I wonder? Diane’s “special friend?”)
It’s always the ones who are most outspoken that are the biggest hypocrites, amirite?
UPDATE: as noted in the Fox 11 article, approximately half of the tickets to the drag show have been sold so far. I think I’m going to see if I can purchase a few tickets and donate them to the UW-Fox Valley Gay-Straight Alliance as a way to show support and perhaps enable someone who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to see the show to attend. General admission tickets are only $3 in advance, and VIP tickets are $12.
No, you’re not reading the Onion. Green Bay FOX affiliate WLUK-TV reports on a homemade sign in little Redgranite, Wisconsin (population 2,149):
The new attraction in Redgranite? A controversial sign.
It reads: “Hang in there Obama,” next to a picture of a noose.
“A lot of people find it offensive,” said Rachel Kern, who lives across the street. “It’s definitely a very big eye catch to people driving past.”
From further away, you can really only read the larger print that says “HANG OBAMA” in bold, red letters. You can see the outline of the noose. But if you get up close, you can see the smaller print that says, “in there.” And this message has some people confused.
“I’m not really sure if it’s supposed to be for Obama or against him. Because if you actually read it, it’s like, ‘keep up the fight.’ But with the noose, it doesn’t exactly say, ‘keep up the fight,’ at the same time,” said Kern.
“That got your attention. It got you to look at the sign,” said Thomas Savka, who made the sign.
I’ll say. but despite the presence of, oh I don’t know, a freaking noose, Savka wants you to know that he’s not, not,not racist. In fact, he actually likes the President! (“See? I wrote ‘I love Obama’ on it! That means I’m not racist, right?’”)
He claims he’s actually pro-Obama. He says he even put that in small print in the corner of the sign.
“It’s my attitude for it. Everybody’s picking on Obama. It’s the attitude of ‘hang in there, buddy!’ It isn’t over ‘til you’re done kicking,” said Savka.
Dude. You drew a noose. Who do you think you’re fooling?
During the months-long fury over Governor Scott Walker‘s aggressive union-stripping, education-cutting, teacher-scapegoating agenda, some progressives referred to the state using nicknames like “Wiscissippi.” Given Wisconsin’s recent forays into ugly, racial politics, I’m starting to worry that their words may prove to be eerily prophetic.
Photos of Savka’s sign and video from the WLUK-TV report are below.