Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Aug 1: Rep. Jim Kolbe Comes Out: 1996

b. June 28, 1942

A former Republican member of the United States House of Representatives from Arizona, serving 11 terms from 1985 to 2007. For much of that time, he was deeply closeted, until his vote for the Defence of Marriage Act in 1996 resulted in efforts by some gay activists to out him. He then came out in August that year, becoming the second openly gay Republican in Congress, after Steve Gunderson of Wisconsin. He was able to win re-election, and went on to become the first openly gay person to address the Republican National Convention, although his speech did not address gay rights. Even after coming out, Kolbe's record on gay rights was somewhat mixed. He was lukewarm in his support of same-sex marriage, but he strongly supported the availability of universal civil unions.

In 2000, when Kolbe found out about former Congressman Mark Foley's "Internet communications with teenagers" who were subordinate to Foley, he informed the office that oversaw the page program. He assumed the matter had been taken care of, although this was not brought to the public's attention until September 29, 2006[6] when it became public that Foley had sent sexually explicit and solicitative e-mails and instant messages to young adult male pages. Republican leaders had claimed that they had only recently been made aware of Foley's actions, despite Kolbe's actions.

In October 2006, federal prosecutors in Arizona opened a preliminary investigation into a camping trip that Kolbe took in July 1996 that included two teenage former congressional pages, as well as National Park officials, then-current staff, and Kolbe's sister. During that trip to the Grand Canyon, he was accused of "acting inappropriately"; NBC News interviewed several people who were on the trip, and their accounts vary. One participant, who requested anonymity, said he was uncomfortable with the attention Kolbe paid to one of the former pages. He was "creeped out by it," he said, adding that there was a lot of "fawning, petting and touching" on the teenager's arms, shoulders and back by Kolbe. On June 5, 2007, federal investigators absolved Kolbe of any wrongdoing in the case. In a statement released by the Justice Department, "investigators have completed their work on the preliminary inquiry opened by federal prosecutors last fall, and see no reason to pursue it further."

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Tuesday, 28 June 2011

June 28: Sunil Babu Pant, Nepalese Politician

"People in general do not wish to discriminate against their fellow neighbors.

Sunil Babu Pant is the first openly gay politician in Nepal. His 2008 election to the national legislature followed years of activism on behalf of the Nepalese GLBT community.
Trained as a computer engineer, Pant received a scholarship to study in Belarus. It was there that he first heard the word "homosexual" and identified as a gay man. It was also where he was first exposed to entrenched homophobia, inspiring him to fight for equality in his home country.
In 2002, Pant founded the Blue Diamond Society. The group consists of more than 20 organizations and 120,000 members representing the interests of the country’s GLBT and HIV/AIDS communities. Leaders and members of the society have continued their advocacy in the face of threats of arrest and violence.
The Blue Diamond Society was party to a 2007 case that led Nepal’s highest court to declare that GLBT individuals were “natural persons” who deserve protection and civil rights. The court also ordered the establishment of a commission to study same-sex marriage as well as the addition of a third gender option on official government documents.
Pant was elected to Nepal’s Constituent Assembly as a member of Nepal’s Communist Party United. His legislative goals include equal justice and economic rights. He serves on a committee charged with rewriting Nepal’s constitution. In spite of his many accomplishments, Pant insists that his work is far from complete: "With our progress, however, is the awareness that so many more need to be served."
In 2005, Pant and the Blue Diamond Society were awarded the Utopia Award, Asia’s leading GLBT honor. In 2007, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission bestowed the group with its Felippa de Souza Award.
Pant, who lives in Nepal's capital city, Kathmandu, recently founded Pink Mountain, a company that offers GLBT-geared travel packages to Nepal.
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Monday, 13 June 2011

Gay Politicians: UK Minister Nick Brown

b. 14th June, 1950

In the UK, any public suggestion of homosexuality would once have been a kiss of death: no more.

Prime Minister now says that errors of judgement may be a "resigning issue", but orientation is not. The PM is standing by his Agriculture minister Nick Brown, who has revealed that he is gay.

From BBC News:
Cabinet rallies around gay minister
Cabinet colleagues have been quick to voice their support for Agriculture Minister Nick Brown, who has revealed he is gay. Their backing for Mr Brown closely follows the line set by Prime Minister Tony Blair, who declared he was standing by his minister. 
By lending Mr Brown its full support, the government's line appears to be that "errors of judgement" may be a resigning issue for ministers, but their sexuality is not.
Mr Blair's official spokesman said the prime minister was "satisfied" with Mr Brown's account of his relationship with a former male partner.
It was his former partner's attempts to sell a story about the relationship to the News of the World newspaper which forced Mr Brown to publicly declare his sexuality and to deny he had paid for sex with the man.
Once again, the lesson is clear: the simplest way to avoid blackmail over sexuality, is to out oneself.

Monday, 6 June 2011

June 6th: Harvey Fierstein, Actor, playwright and screenwriter

b. June 6, 1952
“Prejudice tolerated is intolerance encouraged.”

Distinguished by his signature gravelly voice, Harvey Fierstein is a celebrated playwright, actor and producer. He is the only entertainer to have won Tony Awards as an actor and writer in both dramatic and musical categories.

Fierstein was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of a handkerchief manufacturer and a school librarian. He graduated from Pratt Institute of Art with a B.F.A. in painting.

Fierstein wrote “Torch Song Trilogy,” one of the first Broadway shows to feature a gay theme. It focused on a gay family and their struggle for acceptance and love. Anne Bancroft and Matthew Broderick starred in the film adaptation, which was among the first mainstream movies to address gay issues.

His play “Safe Sex” (1987), another trilogy, was written in response to the AIDS crisis. “Tidy Endings,” the third of the short plays, was adapted for an HBO television movie.

Fierstein narrated “The Times of Harvey Milk” (1984) and appeared in the films “Mrs. Doubtfire” (1993), “Bullets Over Broadway” (1994) and “Independence Day” (1996), among others. He was featured in the television series “Ellen,” “Miami Vice,” “Murder, She Wrote” and “Cheers.” He develops commentaries for the GLBT documentary series “In the Life” and writes op-ed articles on gay themes that have been published in The New York Times. Fierstein also authored “The Sissy Duckling,” a children’s book about a duck who is teased for being a sissy, but ultimately demonstrates his bravery. In 2001, its film adaptation won a Humanitas Prize. 

Fierstein has received four Tony Awards, three Drama Desk Awards and a Theatre World Award for acting and writing.

Clarke, Gerald. “No Opened Doors for Me.” Time. June 20,1983,9171,926075,00.html
Collins, Glenn. “In ‘Safe Sex’ Harvey Fierstein Turns Serious.” The New York Times. April 5, 1987
Fierstein, Harvey. “Our Prejudices, Ourselves.” The New York Times. April 13, 2007
Torch Song Trilogy by Harvey Fierstein.” The Gallery Players. November 2, 2006       
Welsh, Anne Marie. “The Harvey ‘Affair’” The San Diego Union Tribune. September 16, 2007
“Times Topics: Harvey Fierstein.” The New York Times.
La Cage aux Folles (1984)
Torch Song Trilogy (1983)
Safe Sex (1987)
Hairspray (2003)
Hair (2005)
A Catered Affair (2008)