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A Monumental Geology Lesson: VIDEO


Washington D.C.'s monuments are gorgeous and It's Okay to Be Smart's resident smartypants Joe Hanson is about to offer you some related geological factoids with which you can impress your friends on your next visit to the nation's capital.


Continue reading "A Monumental Geology Lesson: VIDEO" »

Thousands Arrive in D.C. to Commemorate 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington


The Washington Post is publishing live updates from today's commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington:

The rally will include speeches from Attorney General Eric Holder, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the Rev. Al Sharpton, among others. At 12:30 p.m., a march will leave the Lincoln Memorial, pass the memorial to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and travel to the Washington Monument.

Live coverage here.

Starting with today's march, the nation will begin a series of events commemorating this historic civil rights moment leading up to the 50th anniversary on Wednesday of MLK Jr's "I Have a Dream" speech" at the Lincoln Memorial where Presidents Obama, Clinton, and Carter will speak.

ByardEliza Byard, the Executive Director at GLSEN, will be speaking at Wednesday's event, GLSEN reports:

Dr. Byard is the only leader of an LGBT organization selected to speak at the event.

Said Byard: “I am humbled and honored to represent GLSEN at the anniversary of one of the landmark moments in United States and world history. Dr. King and March on Washington organizer Bayard Rustin are personal heroes who have inspired me and influenced our work at GLSEN to create a better world for all. GLSEN has spent more than 20 years working to eliminate injustice and inequality directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth in K-12 education, and I look forward to delivering a message of hope for a brighter future where every young person has an equal opportunity to get an education.”

GLSEN partner organizations working predominantly in the South nominated Dr. Byard to speak at the event, and the King Center selected her for the honor.

BondNAACP Chairman Emeritus, Julian Bond, in an email from the Human Rights Campaign, writes:

In August 1963, I was the Communications Director for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), led at the time by John Lewis, the march's youngest speaker that day.

A gay black man by the name of Bayard Rustin was one of the chief organizers – an early embodiment of the unity and commonality that bonded the movement for LGBT equality with the fight for equal treatment of African-Americans.

In his honor, HRC will help lead a commemoration of Bayard's incredible contributions to the civil rights movement on Monday. And it was recently announced that President Obama will posthumously award Rustin the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the highest civilian award in the United States.

Fifty years later, I can still feel the power of that noble, August day. Its weight is what drove me for years – from founding the Southern Poverty Law Center, to overseeing the NAACP as Chairman, not to mention the ten terms I served as a member of the Georgia legislature. And later, that exact same commitment to achieving equal rights is what convinced me to stand with the Human Rights Campaign in endorsing marriage equality.

Together we have marched millions of miles to land on the right side of history, and today we stand firmly planted, hoping only that more will join us, one by one, until everyone in this nation is truly free and equal. I know you are with the marchers today – in spirit and in solidarity – and I hope you'll follow the news coverage of today's powerful events.

(top image via david mixner, lower image via steven portnoy twitter,  8/24/2013)


September Announced As "Ex-Gay Awareness Month" After "Ex-Gay Pride Month" Proves To Be A Failure

Some of you out there may have just finished celebrating "Ex-Gay Pride Month" this past July. Chances are that, if you did, you were among a very small minority, at least according to Right Wing Watch. Regardless, whether due to disappointing numbers or "anti-ex-gay extremism", a Lobbying Day and Evening Reception that was previously scheduled to take place on July 31st was tentatively postponed until September. 

Now, the group "Voice for the Voiceless" has formally announced the new dates, along with the addition of a new "Ex-Gay Awareness Month". The group has declared that the new lobbying day and evening reception will take place on September the 30th, and that there will be more events announced to take place throughout that entire month. 

DL_FosterIn the group's release, however, they warned that this new "Ex-Gay Awareness Month" may not yet come to fruition, but not for reasons that you might think. Voice for the Voiceless co-founder DL Foster warned, in his statement, that if damage set in motion by the repeal of DADT was not addressed soon, the consequences could prove disasterous for the United States:

"The assassination of DADT created an even larger, more critical issue for the military who right now is a general with no clothes on. One is that its given this unchecked, almost covert power, to a group of people who demonstrated numerous times that they want revenge for the perceived and real injustices done to them by their heterosexual neighbors. Sure, its been conveniently called “equality,” but we needn’t look any further than the growing rash of anti-church, anti-ex-gay laws and policies being rushed to the front lines as evidence that revenge is a motive.

"Just look at the venomous language used by gay-hatchet group “Truth Wins Out” (ironic I know) and its commentators, and the case is closed.

"Secondly, giving “sexual orientation” unofficial power offset the very balancing nature of the UCMJ. The UCMJ was an equalized to all sexual lifestyles that carried a threat to the good discipline and order within the ranks. It kept in check adultery, fraternization, and homosexuality, at least to the degree that we all felt equal under military law.

"But now, homosexuality has the “get out of jail” free card while the other proclivities are still in stripes. That’s patently unfair. It’s an unspoken belief that soon because the filed will need to be leveraged, other sexual activities will go the way of homosexuality and be sanctified. Then something Al Qaeda can’t do will be accomplished by our own hands."

The above statement was deleted from Voice for the Voiceless' website. Luckily, Right Wing Watch was able to capture the above excerpt before it disappeared. Meanwhile, we will be following developments surrounding "Ex-Gay Awareness Month", and will provide updates should they prove significant or especially entertaining. 

Gospel Singer Donnie McClurkin Withdraws from MLK Concert After Objections from Gay Activists

Gospel singer Donnie McClurkin, a notorious homophobe who performed at the Republican National Convention in 2004, has vowed to battle "the curse of homosexuality," and believes that gays can be turned straight with religious intervention, pulled out of an MLK Memorial concert last night after objections by gay activists, the WaPo reports:

McclurkinMcClurkin was scheduled to perform at the D.C. government-sponsored concert with other singers at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial during the “Reflections on Peace From Ghandi to King” event. But at the request of Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D), who fielded concerns from the activists Friday, the Grammy-winning singer decided not to perform, a mayoral spokeswoman said.

“The commission on human rights and Donnie McClurkin’s management decided that it would be best for him to withdraw because the purpose of the event is to bring people together,” said Gray’s spokeswoman, Doxie McCoy. “Mayor Gray said the purpose of the event is to promote peace and harmony. That is what King was all about.”

However, McClurkin said that he was in fact “asked not to attend.”

He said in a video statement that the mayor “uninvited me from a concert that I was supposed to headline.”

You may recall that McClurkin caused controversy when he appeared at a Gospel Tour event for Obama during his election campaign in 2007.

McClurkin released a video statement complaining about his disinvitation.

D.C. Passes Country's Most Trans-Inclusive Policy For Updating Birth Certificates

DC flagOn Tuesday, District of Columbia mayor Vincent Gray signed into law the country's most trans-inclusive policy for updating birth certificates, one that transgender advocates hope will become a nationwide model in the near future. The Los Angeles Times details the new changes to D.C.'s birth certificate policy:

The Washington measure eliminates requirements for surgery and a court order that, transgender rights attorney Lisa Mottet said, make it too expensive and inaccessible for most transgender people to complete a legal transition.


Nationwide, only 24% of transgender people can get the gender changed on their birth certificates because of restrictive laws, according to a study by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, where Mottet works. This can create problems when they enroll in schools or apply for jobs, she said.

Washington's new policy "means that people can go about their lives and have their gender recognized, instead of having government documents that say you're not who you say you are," said Mottet, who was an advisor on the measure's language.

Washington will grant new birth certificates to transgender people who provide a statement from a licensed healthcare provider that they have undergone "appropriate treatment" for a gender transition. The measure, which passed unanimously, also exempts them from a requirement to advertise a concurrent name change for three weeks in a newspaper.

Fred Sainz, vice president of the Human Rights Campaign, said that with the Supreme Court's pro-equality rulings in June, the push for full LGBT equality should be a prime focus for advocates and allies moving forward. "Now we have momentum at our back, and we really need to use this time effectively to gain as many protections as possible for transgender people," said Sainz.

Remembering Helen Thomas: A Gay White House Reporter's Reflections

Chris Johnson, the White House reporter for The Washington Blade, has published his reflections on working with Helen Thomas as a member of the White House Press Corps. Thomas, the first female journalist to cover the president, passed away Saturday at the age of 92.

Recalls Johnson: 

Helen ThomasI first saw Helen Thomas (pictured right with President Obama) in the White House briefing room when I started attending daily briefings at the start of the Obama administration, working the beat for federal LGBT politics. Blade reporters had been kicked out of the briefing room during George W. Bush's second term, so it was a new era and an exciting time.

I remember thinking Thomas could move around the press area deftly for a woman in her late 80s and could hold her own in conversations with other reporters. During a news conference with President Obama in the East Room, she had to have someone escort her by hand over the wires and between the chairs, but otherwise she seemed full of energy.

Bestowed with a front row seat in the briefing room by her colleagues, Thomas would pester then-White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs with questions that would probably veer a little too close toward editorializing than other reporters in the briefing room would be comfortable asking. 


But Thomas was holding the White House accountable long before the Obama administration. Getting her start in the Kennedy administration, Thomas broke up the boy's club that was the White House Press Corps and was the first female reporter to cover the president, rather than the first lady.

In 1962, she pressed Kennedy to skip the annual dinner of the White House Correspondents Association unless it were open to women. After he said he wouldn't attend, the dinner for the first time admitted women.

One of my major regrets is that I never initiated a conversation with Thomas during the times I saw her in the White House briefing room or the press area. Our time that coincided covering the White House in 2009 was very short. Also, I was a little intimidated as I was still getting my bearings. Lesson to all: If you see someone you admire, take the opportunity to speak to them before it's too late.

You can check out the full article, HERE


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