June 30, 2015

Rubio Became $Rich$ via Politics in 10 yrs. How long for you?


Marco Rubio was 28 when he was elected to the Florida legislature. He was about to become a father and was struggling to balance the financial demands of a growing family with his political aspirations. 

About a year and a half after taking his seat in Florida’s part-time legislature, Rubio got a financial boost, accepting a job at the Miami law firm Becker & Poliakoff for $93,000 a year. Although Rubio was a lawyer by training, his colleagues quickly recognized the advantage of having a charismatic, high-energy politician in the office.
“It was as simple as saying, ‘Marco, who should I call in this place about this issue?’ ” recalled Perry Adair, a real estate lawyer in charge of the firm’s Miami office, where Rubio worked from 2001 to 2004. “Marco knew the staff everywhere. He had been in politics all his life.”         
 During nine years in Tallahassee, as Rubio rose in prominence and ascended to the state House speakership, he became increasingly well compensated as he walked a narrow line between his work as a lawmaker and an employee of outside firms with interests before the state government.
Although he began his legislative career as a man of modest means, Rubio in 2008 reached an income level that placed him in the top 1 percent of American earners. His outside work included helping real estate developers navigate city hall bureaucracies, assisting a law firm in adding ethnic diversity to its client base and lawyer roster, teaching college-level political science classes, and coordinating conference calls for a Washington lobbyist seeking federal funding for Miami hospitals.
Rubio’s annual income grew from about $72,000 when he was elected to the state House in 2000 to $414,000 in 2008, when his two-year speakership ended, according to financial disclosure forms and interviews with Rubio campaign staff members.
About 80 percent of his total income during his tenure in the state House came from Florida law firms that lobby state and local governments, according to a Washington Post analysis of state financial disclosure forms. Much of the rest was his legis­lative salary, typically about $29,000 a year.
Now, as the 44-year-old U.S. senator runs for president, he is facing questions about his personal finances and his spending practices. He bought an $80,000 boat and his wife leased a high-end SUV, expenses first reported by the New York Times, and he disclosed cashing out some retirement savings. He had previously come under fire over his use of a Florida Republican Party credit card for personal expenses when he was a state lawmaker, and he reimbursed the state GOP $2,400 in travel expenses that he acknowledged he had mistakenly received for official government travel.
Financial turning point
On the campaign trail, Rubio makes his humble beginnings and middle-class lifestyle central components of his pitch to voters, even bragging at times that he is among the least wealthy candidates in the race. In a subtle dig at his rivals, such as Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican Jeb Bush, Rubio often jokes that his detractors think he is “not rich enough” to be president.
Even so, Rubio’s time in Tallahassee marked a financial turning point for the lawmaker and his family. 
The bulk of his private-sector income during his Tallahassee years came from his employment at Broad and Cassel, one of Florida’s top law and lobbying firms, which hired Rubio at $300,000 a year in 2004, months after he secured the support from his House colleagues to be in line for the speakership.
Rubio declined to be interviewed for this article. A campaign spokesman, Todd Harris, said that Rubio’s private-sector income was not unusual for state lawmakers and reflected the unique skill set he offered prospective employers.
“Unlike Congress, the Florida legislature is a part-time body, meaning virtually every legislator makes their living from outside employment,” Harris said.
“When Marco was hired at Broad and Cassel, he was in line to become the first Cuban American House speaker in Florida history,” Harris added. “That gave him an enormous profile, along with some very marketable experiences and qualifications.” 
Although the annual session plus year-round committee meetings and constituent work often add up to full-time work, many state lawmakers maintain private careers as lawyers or business owners or in other jobs.
A review of Florida financial disclosure forms shows that Rubio experienced an unusually large jump in his private-sector salary. His outside pay grew proportionally more than any of the nine other Florida House speakers who served between 1997 and 2014, the documents show.
Many already earned six-figure incomes as they began climbing the leadership ladder. Generally, they experienced more modest growth during their years in the leadership, the records show.
Harris said it was “impossible, and frankly irrelevant” to compare salaries of state House speakers in a part-time legislature in which members have a broad array of financial backgrounds.
“Some were millionaires before they were ever elected,” Harris added. “Others, like Marco, started with significantly less.”
Some former colleagues say Rubio charted an unusual path, entering the legislature before establishing an outside career. He had been a city commissioner in tiny West Miami and had focused on building his political networks rather than a lucrative legal portfolio.
Johnnie Byrd, who was House speaker several years before Rubio, explained the difference, noting that he was a “country lawyer” working for a small firm in a small town while Rubio opted for a big firm with political connections.
“My memory of Broad and Cassel is that they were a really rapidly rising firm at that time,” said Byrd, who said he supports Rubio’s presidential bid. “They were one of the big firms in Florida that was doing a lot of government work.”
Rubio’s income raised some concerns among his colleagues, particularly after his big jump upon securing the speakership, said Mike Fasano, who as House majority leader in 2001 gave Rubio an early leadership post but became a critic and backed Rubio’s 2010 Senate rival, Charlie Crist (D). “Other members of the Florida House do not see their salary triple overnight,” said Fasano, who is backing Bush’s presidential campaign. “I feel confident in saying that if he had not been selected to the speaker-designate, his salary would not have shot up to $300,000.” 
Questions about lobbying
When Rubio first arrived in Tallahassee in 2000, he was employed by Ruden McClosky, a law firm that paid him $72,000 a year, a total that Rubio recalls in his memoir was barely enough to make ends meet.
In 2001, Rubio met Alan Becker, a former state legislator building a lobbying and law firm. Becker offered Rubio $93,000 to join his firm.
“I didn’t hesitate a moment,” Rubio wrote in his book, “An American Son.”
Becker, in an interview, said he hired Rubio to work on zoning and land-use issues. He said he knew that Rubio, focused on the legislature, would have limited time for the firm.
“I was paying him accordingly,” Becker said. “If he was devoting 100 percent to the law business, he would have been paid more because he was worth it.”
During his time at Becker’s firm, Rubio registered with the Miami-Dade County government to lobby on behalf of real estate and other interests. Democrats later cited this to attack him as a lobbyist, but Rubio has said his county-level work focused on local zoning issues and was not lobbying in the traditional sense.
Adair, the Miami lawyer, recalled that Rubio was especially effective in helping clients who were real estate developers cut through the clutter of local government bureaucracies. Adair said Rubio never sought to influence local officials’ decisions.
“It can be hard to get meetings with local government officials and it can be hard to get answers,” he said. “Marco was a good guy to have around because he could help you get an answer that would otherwise have taken two months.”

Marco Rubio's federal lobbying registration. (Documents/U.S. Senate lobbying disclosures.)

In December 2003, Rubio was registered as a federal lobbyist for Becker & Poliakoff in Washington, according to records maintained by the U.S. House and Senate and never previously reported. The registration form, which includes Rubio’s signature, declares that he would concentrate on “budget appropriations and health care.”
Harris said that Rubio could not recall filling out the registration form and that he did not lobby. Firm officials said it had been an error, and the firm sent a letter in 2005 asking the Senate to revoke the registration.
At the time that Rubio’s form was filed, Becker & Poliakoff had formed a joint venture with a Washington lobbying firm hired by Miami-Dade County to help find federal funding for Miami’s public hospitals. As part of his work for the Becker firm, Rubio helped Jonathan Slade, one of the Washington lobbyists, learn about the county’s federal needs, Slade said.
Rubio arranged conference calls between Slade and county officials to discuss hospital issues, Slade said. Rubio was usually on the line for the calls, Slade added, but did not participate in the conversations. Slade said that he was not aware that Rubio did any federal lobbying, and that he was surprised to learn Rubio had once registered.
‘Paycheck to paycheck’
By 2003, Rubio had lined up the commitments he needed from his GOP House colleagues to secure his place in line to assume the speaker’s gavel. Soon thereafter, he began to receive other high-income offers.
During a 2004 dinner with Rubio and his wife at Chef Allen’s, a popular restaurant north of Miami, Becker persuaded him to stay by offering him a 50 percent raise. It was less than one of the competing offers, but enough to keep Rubio, at least for a while.
But when Broad and Cassel offered to more than double his salary, Rubio was compelled to listen.
Becker told Rubio that he would be “out of his mind” to say no.
In his memoir, Rubio described himself as “torn.”
“I had been in difficult financial straits when Alan Becker had offered me a job, and I was indebted to him,” Rubio wrote. “But I couldn’t afford to refuse the financial security the Broad and Cassel offer would provide.”
Rubio described his circumstances at the time: 33 years old and the sole earner in his household.
“I had a mortgage, student loans and other debts, and we lived paycheck to paycheck,” he wrote. “We had outgrown our two-bedroom home in West Miami, and my salary at Broad and Cassel would make it possible for us to buy a bigger house and settle some of our debts.”
Broad and Cassel was known for its real estate, litigation and government relations practice.
But Rubio’s role, aides said, was non-political. He was prevented by law from lobbying. The firm’s offer letter to Rubio, dated June 18, 2004, forbade him to introduce legislation that would affect the firm or its clients. The letter also mandated, in accordance with state laws, that Rubio’s salary would not include any money the firm received from lobbying. 
Instead, the son of Cuban immigrants was brought on board largely to help the firm diversify its mostly white, male Miami office.
“Because of my political obligations it was understood that my primary responsibility would not be to handle individual clients,” Rubio said in a written response to questions from The Post. “Instead, my job was to raise the firm’s profile in Miami, help attract younger lawyers to build for the future, and opening new doors for the firm, particularly in the Cuban American business community where Broad and Cassel had limited ties.”
Rubio said that, today, the firm’s Miami office is “thriving,” adding that, “I am proud of the leadership role I played to help make that happen.”
Vivian de las Cuevas-Diaz, a lawyer recruited to the firm, said she had been reluctant to accept a long-standing offer but changed her mind after hearing Rubio’s pitch. Over lunch, she recalled, Rubio acknowledged that Broad and Cassel had not kept pace with Miami’s economic and ethnic transformation. But he said the firm would be a good home for an ambitious young lawyer. “He said it would be a great state platform” to build visibility and a client base, said de las Cuevas-Diaz, now a partner with Holland & Knight.
As he became speaker, Rubio still made time to talk with the lawyer he had helped recruit.
“I find it incredible that it didn’t matter what was going on — when I said I needed something, he was always available,” she said.
Rubio continued to work at the firm for the two years he was speaker, a term that started in November 2006.
In 2008, during his final months as speaker, Rubio’s income rose yet again — this time the result of a new teaching job at Florida International University, a large state school in Miami. The part-time position paid Rubio $69,000 a year.
Rubio’s private income got another boost shortly after he ended his two-year stint as speaker and left state office — signing on as a consultant for public hospitals he had recently championed as a lawmaker. 
Rubio and a former aide signed consulting contracts worth $102,000 with Jackson Hospital Systems and $96,000 with Miami Children’s Hospital, according to Senate disclosure forms and interviews with Rubio aides.
Then came the 2010 campaign, when Rubio secured his spot as a national Republican star.
Fame followed, as did lucrative book deals — earning him at least $1.2 million, according to financial disclosure forms — and a chance to become president.
Alice Crites and Anu Narayanswamy contributed to this report. Story from Tom Hamburger  for The Washington Post.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post 

Hollywood Embraces and Shuns Gays Depending on the Month


Activist David Mixner stood alone on a theater stage in Los Angeles at the start of this year’s Gay Pride Month, sharing his memories with an audience of friends, political figures and a smattering of celebrities, about the time Ronald Reagan saw the light.
It was 1978, and aides to Reagan, who was on the cusp of launching his presidential campaign, believed he was ready to endorse a California initiative to ban gays and lesbians from teaching in the state’s classrooms, a ballot proposition inspired by the anti-gay crusades of singer Anita Bryant.
Mixner remembered when he and fellow activist Peter Scott landed a secret meeting with Reagan, who was exceedingly charming and willing to listen. Mixner warned the soon-to-be candidate that the initiative would create anarchy: Students could retaliate for a bad grade by accusing their teachers of being gay.  
ReAgAn didn’t immediately reveal what he was going to do, but he later penned an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner. He not only didn’t support the proposition, but rather publicly opposed it. “Whatever else it is, homosexuality is not a contagious disease like the measles,” he wrote. The initiative was defeated, delivering a nascent LGBT movement one of its first victories.
There is a long and turbulent road that leads from those days of activism to the Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. In the recent past, it was unthinkable that the battle for equality would even reach this moment, and it is a sign of progress for the LGBT movement, and a reminder of how the media, government, the entertainment industry and people on the street played a crucial role in shaping public opinion and approval.
The Supreme Court ruling covers only marriage. LGBT citizens remain the only group in America who do not have national protection in terms of housing and employment. And, as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 proved, legal standing doesn’t guarantee universal acceptance. Yet while many may view the marriage decision as no surprise, it still has far-reaching implications, including considerations of religion, law, health coverage and child care. 
There has been a roller-coaster shift in attitudes since 1978, with moments of exuberance followed by crushing setbacks; Reagan’s initial helpfulness was followed by his administration’s years of indifference to AIDS, which killed tens of thousands of gay Americans.
Despite the aura of inevitability that surrounded the marriage decision, the fight isn’t over. The court majority established a clear constitutional right to same-sex marriage, but states may face resistance as they carry out the decision in areas where opposition is still strong.
“We are going to see a little bit of a backlash,” Mixner says. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we see an increase in hate crimes directed against us.”
Mixner calls the past few years “epic” in the pace of progress for LGBT rights. Jim Obergefell, the namesake plaintiff in the same-sex marriage cases weighed by the Supreme Court, filed suit to demand that Ohio recognize his out-of-state marriage to John Arthur. Obergefell writes, in an essay for Variety, “What I didn’t expect on my way to that courtroom was to discover how much our story and our fight resonated with people across the country.” (Obergefell’s essay, Page 19)
The entertainment industry has helped change hearts and minds, but the extent of its contribution is a matter of debate.
In some ways, Hollywood has embraced the LGBT movement; in others, it’s shunned the cause.
With TV shows like “Will & Grace,” primetime may have paved the way; Vice President Joseph Biden cited the sitcom as a major factor in increasing acceptance of gays and lesbians. But the industry doesn’t look so groundbreaking when it comes to the paucity of A-list stars who have felt comfortable enough to come out. Recent years have seen the first out athletes in the NBA and NFL; at the multiplexes, audiences are still waiting for a gay action hero.
Civil rights activist Julian Bond is among those who see the media as having been a significant influence. “Americans began to get used to gay people,” he says of the shift in public opinion. “Instead of being, say, frightened of gay people, or unsure about them, or (thinking) ‘What are they up to? Or is there something wrong here?’ I think they have gotten used to gay people through television, the appearance of gay actors on TV, gay characters in movies, gay people appearing in ways we hadn’t seen before.”
The biggest challenge beyond housing and employment is perception. Activists worry about complacency in the LGBT community. As Bond points out, the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act in the 1960s didn’t end racism. “People who are opposed to it now are going to keep at it. They are not going to give up the ship.”
Variety commissioned a survey by USC Annenberg’s celebrity-branding authority Jeetendr Sehdev that showed that 78% of the public supports equal employment and housing rights for gays and lesbians. However, most are unaware that LGBT adults don’t already have those rights throughout the country. For instance, many don’t realize that it is still legal in many states to fire someone for being gay.
A federal employment anti-discrimination law, proposed decades ago, has yet to make it to the president’s desk, and there are doubts it will move forward any time soon with the GOP majority in Congress. A comprehensive anti-discrimination bill “will be the biggest battle we’ve ever faced in the movement,” says Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “But it’s a battle we need to have. It’s not going to happen overnight, but it’s a battle that we’ll ultimately win.”

When it comes to adoption by same-sex couples, the picture gets murkier. According to the Sehdev survey, 42% oppose adoption by same-sex couples, mirroring the opposition to same-sex marriage. Earlier this month, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, signed a law giving adoption agencies the power to refuse service to couples if it violates an agency’s religious beliefs. A fear among LGBT activists is that conservative state legislatures could pass similar laws.
“The Michigan law was targeting the LGBT community, it was targeting same-sex couples, and it was a deliberate backlash to what we’re seeing on marriage equality,” says Emily Hecht-McGowan, director of public policy at the Family Equality Council. “We have a long road ahead of us until legal equality translates into lived equality.”
Even in California, where the passage of the rights-denying Proposition 8 was a wake-up call to LGBT activists and allies, another initiative may make it to the 2016 ballot mandating that people use publicly owned restroom facilities of their biological sex. It’s a response to the movement for transgender rights.
Even on the issue of marriage equality, side issues are likely to trigger debate. Corporate America, including Hollywood studios, was far ahead of federal and state governments when it came to recognizing the need for benefits for same-sex couples. If marriage is an option, however, does it still make sense to recognize domestic partnerships? Some companies have been eliminating that category of benefits. “This is unfortunate for many couples, gay and straight, who either cannot or do not wish to marry,” says Camilla Taylor, marriage project director for Lambda Legal.
A measure of where things are lies in the pressure to tie the knot — a familiar feeling for many a heterosexual.
“I never thought getting married would become such a stereotypical ‘gay thing’ to do,” says 25-year-old actor Chris Colfer (Kurt Hummel on “Glee”). “In just a few years, what was discussed as only a prospect has now become an expectation in my circle of friends. I can’t tell you how many hysterical arguments I’ve gotten into by defending my right not to get married.”
What encourages people like former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), however, is the recent turnabout in Indiana, after Gov. Mike Pence signed a religious freedom law that was met with hostility from the business community. Despite what lies ahead, Frank believes that the LGBT movement is close to winning. “In America, link up the moral argument (for fair treatment) with the profit motive, and you have a pretty tough coalition,” he tells Variety. “The likelihood of (there being) substantial religious-based loopholes to these laws is very slight.”
However, not everyone is convinced. Rick Scarborough, founder of Vision America, believes that marriage “is part of the natural created order” and should only be between man and woman; God’s law, they say, takes precedence over any civil law. His group started an online declaration, in which clerics and lay people have vowed that if the law clashes with their religious beliefs, they will commit acts of civil disobedience.
Attention also is likely to focus internationally, in countries where being gay is still a crime or others that have outpaced even the U.S. in recognition. In May, Ireland became the first country to accept same-sex marriage by popular vote. More quietly that month, Mexico (another strongly Catholic country) ruled that the country’s constitution would be violated by defining marriage as a union only between a man and a woman.
How much has Hollywood influenced public opinion?
The novelty of a gay character in primetime may be giving way to the normalcy of shows with gay couples and gay families, but it didn’t happen overnight. All but invisible in the ’50s and ’60s, gay characters began to appear as networks pursued more relevant, sophisticated content in the ’70s. The first sitcom to feature a positive gay character was “All in the Family” in 1971. A year later, the TV movie “That Certain Summer” provided the first lengthy, sympathetic portrayal in primetime of a gay relationship.
On the bigscreen, 1969’s “Midnight Cowboy” cautiously presented two sexually confused characters, without being explicit about their orientation, while “Sunday Bloody Sunday” (1971) offered up a well-adjusted gay doctor (Peter Finch).
“‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ was the first film to present gay relationships in a way that was real and honest,” recalls Rob Epstein, director of the 1984 documentary “The Times of Harvey Milk.” “It was the first gay kiss that didn’t end with a punch in the face.”
For a decade, though, it more or less existed in a bubble. With a few exceptions, such as “Boys in the Band,” Hollywood largely steered clear of gay issues and characters. When the industry did turn its gaze in their direction, in films like William Friedkin’s 1980 “Cruising,” gay life was portrayed as nightmarish and aberrant.
On Broadway, gay content claimed a bit more of the spotlight, but even there it suffered from a victim complex. “Gay people were either comic relief, or they were alcoholics or miserable and committed suicide in the third act,” says playwright Terrence McNally, who rallied against the trend along with fellow writers including Harvey Fierstein.
David France, the director of the 2012 documentary “How to Survive a Plague,” argues that the AIDS crisis in the 1980s radically altered the public’s perception of homosexuality.

“There was a before AIDS and after AIDS in terms of civic standing,” he says. “When AIDS hit, there were no gay people out in public life; there were no gay celebrities, no gay media figures (that) anybody knew about. We went from darkness to light through the awful crucible of the AIDS epidemic. We learned gay people had relationships, and they left someone behind when they died.”
Onscreen, films like “Longtime Companion” (1989) and “Philadelphia” (1993) depicted the personal impact of the AIDS crisis. In time, the disease element vanished, giving way to films such as “The Birdcage” (1996) and “The Kids Are All Right” (2010) and TV shows “Queer as Folk” (2000-05) and “Glee” (2009-15), which featured gay people who were healthy and relatively happy in their own skin. In recent years, digital companies such as Netflix and Amazon have seen the commercial possibilities of telling stories about gay or transgender characters in “Orange Is the New Black” and “Transparent,” earning awards and subscribers in the process.
Performers like Neil Patrick Harris have proven that sexual orientation shouldn’t determine whether an actor plays a gay or straight role.
“I’ve been fortunate in getting to play against type (in the recent film “Gone Girl” and CBS’ “How I Met Your Mother”) while people know what my actual type is,” he says. “That’s been empowering to others, and certainly to me, that I can tweet pictures of my husband and my kids.”
Not everyone is thrilled with the types of gay characters being presented onscreen. Frank praises real-life figures such as Ellen DeGeneres, but is critical of what he considers to be stereotypical portrayals of gay men on shows like “Will & Grace.”
He’s not the only one who sees mixed messages from the media. According to USC Annenberg’s Sehdev, six in 10 Americans believe that LGBT characters are not portrayed in a positive light.
His survey results also show that the most influential factors in shaping attitudes about gays have been knowing someone who is LGBT (84%) or knowing LGBT parents (69%); straight leaders championing LGBT equality (80%); and famous public figures who are gay, lesbian or bisexual (78%). Just 38% identified LGBT characters on TV and in movies as influential.
That’s not insignificant. Entertainment, while not as important as a personal connection, is still a factor in public awareness.
When it comes to major movie releases, there has been a lag, especially as studios depend ever more on international audiences. In some substantial territories poised for growth, LGBT acceptance may be seen less as an issue of fairness, and more as one of permissiveness.

“It’s just a bigger ship to turn around,” says Jeffrey Friedman, director of “Howl” and “Lovelace” alongside Rob Epstein. “Film is bigger and bulkier and it’s less supple as a medium. TV is always looking for novelty, and gay relationships and gay experiences are a great treasure trove.”
There are pockets of the industry, such as the country and hip-hop music scenes, where progress has been mixed, despite the presence of “out” stars like Frank Ocean and Chely Wright. Country singer Ty Herndon, who recently went public about being gay, admits that he faced criticism from some fans. “We’re at the gateway of change, but there’s a long ways to go,” says Herndon, who believes that the chance to be a positive influence is more important than any career blowback from his decision to come out.
“In the South, kids are killing themselves,” he says. “It was important to let them know they’re not broken.”
This belief in the role that media can play in changing lives has prompted parts of the entertainment business to assume an activist role. The effort to overturn Prop. 8 in the federal court started with an idea hatched by Rob Reiner, his wife, Michele, and political consultants Griffin and Kristina Schake at a 2008 brunch at the Beverly Hills Hotel. David Geffen and Steve Bing provided $3 million in seed money, and producer Bruce Cohen was president of a nonprofit set up to pursue the litigation.
As the Prop. 8 case made its way to the Supreme Court, they maximized their connections to the industry, raising money from star-filled benefit performances of “8,” a play written by Dustin Lance Black about the 2010 trial over same-sex marriage.
Just this month, Lambda Legal has rolled out a series of videos from celebrity activists, including one from Julianne Moore that has generated about 670,000 views, as a way of messaging to a bigger audience. “She reaches a broad range of folks, not just the LGBT community,” says Lambda’s Leslie Gabel-Brett of Moore.
Still to be determined is whether that energy will endure — in 2016 and beyond.
The presidential election contest next year may be the first in which opposition to same-sex marriage is more of a handicap than an asset in the fall campaign. Democrats seem determined to use marriage equality as a generational wedge against Republicans, a turnabout from 12 years ago. A younger generation of conservatives no longer see gay rights as antithetical to their beliefs, with nearly half of those under 50 declaring themselves as being in favor of gay marriage, according to a study by Project Right Side.
“My great hope is that Republicans will see the writing on the wall, and not dig in their heels and gin up a wedge issue to win a primary and make themselves irrelevant in the general,” says Margaret Hoover, a pro-gay marriage political commentator and former aide to President George W. Bush.
There remain questions about whether the LGBT movement can stay unified as opposition softens and new legislative goals are pursued. When gay hoteliers hosted a reception for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, also a Republican presidential candidate, they got pushback and calls for a boycott of their hotel. One of the hotel owners later admitted to having given Cruz a campaign donation.
Frontiers Media columnist Karen Ocamb, a veteran reporter of the LGBT movement, wrote in a recent essay that “sometimes it seems bashing and bullying people for venturing an inch or two beyond the accepted cool-guys groupthink of the day is an acceptable blood sport, with the most clever and vicious turn of phrase collecting the most likes and retweets. Of course, the critics see themselves as merely holding the offender accountable.”
She got a lot of flak for her piece, but her point was, how can the LGBT community achieve full equality without talking to and persuading anti-LGBT legislators to vote for the freedom side of history?
Frank thinks the road forward demands political shrewdness — perhaps of the type that, 37 years ago, may have helped convince Ronald Reagan to go public against an anti-gay initiative.
“You know who the most successful activists in America are?” Frank asks. “The people in the National Rifle Assn.” They win because they vote, they track legislation and they badger elected officials, Frank argues. There’s a lesson there. “We can use our rights as citizens,” he says. “That is the key. Marches and demonstrations are not going to do this. It is (about) getting deeply engaged in the political process.”

Justices’ “Confucius” Quote- Open Unheard of ‘Gay Debate in China’

 [SHANGHAI] The U.S. Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage has aroused significant debate in China -- a country where, while homosexuality was decriminalized in 1997, and is increasingly accepted among young people, gay rights still receives relatively little in-depth discussion.
Observers say the fact that Justice Anthony M. Kennedy quoted Confucius in his final summing up of the Supreme Court's debate -- noting that the ancient Chinese philosopher, whose thought underpins many of China's cultural values, “taught that marriage lies at the foundation of government” -- gave Chinese media a reason, or even an excuse, to report in detail on the ruling. And this was quickly followed by a heated debate online, with some posts on the topic getting millions of hits.
Some commenters emphasized that -- as Kennedy noted in his statement -- Confucius had thought of marriage as between a man and a woman, and stressed that Confucian scholars saw having children as a person’s duty, in order to continue the family line. Nevertheless, gay activists welcomed the rare discussion:
“I’ve never seen so much debate in both the traditional media and social media – so many people, and in so much depth,” Ah Qiang, director of Guangzhou-based Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) China, which campaigns for gay rights, told International Business Times. “In the past when smaller countries passed these bills, there wasn’t so much reaction. But Chinese people are especially interested in the U.S. -- so many Chinese people are travelling there now, or moving there to work. So now they have to face up to this issue.”
And some experts said the ruling could have a significant impact in China, coming at a timely moment when gays in the country are becoming more outspoken -- yet the government is also pushing back against many aspects of growing social openness:
"The US ruling … will be a boost for the gay rights movement here. I've noticed that there are more heterosexuals who support [gay marriage]," sexologist Li Yinhe, who has regularly -- and forlornly -- proposed bills legalizing gay marriage to China’s legislature, told Monday’s Global Times.
At the same time there was also angry criticism in the Chinese media: Shanghai-based news website The Paper published articles by several philosophers, including Prof. Zeng Yi of Tongji University, who described the U.S. decision to approve gay marriage as a "crime against humanity," and stressed that the purpose of marriage was to have children.
Activist Ah Qiang said the level of critical comment was also unusual: in the past he said, “people who opposed homosexuality rarely felt a need to speak out -- but they’ve taken this chance to express their feelings. I think the U.S. decision was a shock to them -- that a country with so much religious opposition to gay marriage passed the bill -- so they feel threatened.”
A reminder of why those opposed to homosexuality in China are becoming increasingly alarmed was provided by some of China’s biggest companies -- more than a dozen companies, including e-commerce giant Taobao, and Uber-equivalent Didi Dache, added the gay-pride rainbow flag to their websites this weekend in response to the ruling.
Activists say Internet companies have led the way in promoting tolerance for homosexuality, in a country where it still remains taboo in many sectors of society -- and where the majority of gay people not only don’t tell their families about their orientation, but have also felt it necessary to marry members of the opposite sex and have children, in order to conform to social mores.
This year Taobao -- owned by New York-listed Alibaba -- held a Valentine’s Day competition for gay couples to tell their love stories, with those who attracted most public support being flown to West Hollywood to hold their wedding ceremonies.
PFLAG China’s Ah Qiang said the support of such companies was a “very positive step,” and he said the Internet in general had contributed to more open attitudes among China’s younger generation. As a result of such changes he said, the number of young gay people in China’s cities who felt they had to get married to a member of the opposite sex to please their families or society was “declining sharply. More and more young people have read about how people live in other countries, and have seen there’s a new way – that you can marry someone of the same sex.”
Yet while Ah Qiang also suggested that China had less deep-rooted religious opposition to gay marriage than many Western countries, he estimated that about 60 percent of gay people in China's big cities are still marrying members of the opposite sex, and as many as 90 percent of gay people in China’s more traditional hinterland are doing the same. And he suggested it could be two decades before gay marriage might be a serious possibility in China.
And in a sign of the continuing challenges to the acceptance of gay marriage, a commentary in the official Global Times newspaper said that the U.S. ruling showed that "Society needs to show increasing tolerance for gay marriage, but it's unnecessary to hype it up to induce potential homosexuals." It added that “heterosexual marriage conforms more to the laws of nature and the purpose of marriage,” and concluded "we should send our best wishes to the homosexuals but meanwhile hope that some traditions of human beings will continue."

June 29, 2015

Gay Pride in Seoul faced wrath of Conservative Christians, blood spilled

Gay pride faced Christian outrage in central Seoul in a showdown that dramatized the conflict between Korea’s deeply conservative values and the country’s latter-day surge toward democratic equality.
Advocates and foes of gay rights clashed after a gay pride rally on the grassy plaza in front of Seoul City Hall that drew several thousand people — many celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing marriage between gay couples.
As they cheered, sang and danced inside the plaza, thousands of foes of gay marriage shouted slogans and epithets from beyond rows of policemen. The  policemen, pouring from dozens of police buses, probably outnumbered both the gay ralliers and their foes.
A parade in which those at the rally sought to march up the avenue toward the reconstructed Kyongbeok Palace of Korean kings broke up in scuffles between marchers and their critics organized by Seoul’s powerful Protestant churches.

Participants of a gay pride march wave a rainbow flag as they stand before a police cordon set up to keep out anti-gay Christian activists,  (ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
Throughout the rally, thousands of policemen formed a tight ring around a temporary enclosure hastily erected to keep out  anti-gay troublemakers. With the police staving off their foes, gay marriage crusaders cheered speeches proclaiming their freedom  to do as they please.
Across the avenue, Christian pastors shouted sermons over mega-loudspeakers denouncing gay marriage as contrary to biblical teachings. “Have you heard of Sodom and Gomorrah,” a Protestant pastor responded when asked what he thought of the rally.
The size and anger of the anti-gay protest showed the depth of the opposition to gay rights.  In a society that is actually rather open when it come to extra-marital sex, in which adultery is common and prostitution is widespread, the notion of gay marriage is almost never mentioned in political debate.

A participant poses for a souvenir photo with cutouts of U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama during the Korea Queer Festival in Seoul, (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
The fact that gay rights crusaders were able to hold the rally in such a conspicuous central location represented a signal triumph for a movement that’s been building in recent years. The police had initially refused to issue a permit for the rally but had to relent after a local court overruled them in the name of free speech.
Although gay rights advocates have organized rallies in recent years, they never before had been able to obtain the permit needed to gather on the city hall plaza, the site of numerous rallies staged over the years by political groups and labor unions.
The weather on a balmy sunny Sunday was perfect for the occasion at which a picnic-like atmosphere prevailed within the fencing that shielded the rally from its foes.
Ralliers sprawled on the grass, did impromptu dances, posed for pictures and applauded songs played by local groups on a large stage. On the fringes of the grass, souvenir stands purveyed gay literature, pins, banners and soft drinks in the rainbow colors of the LGBTQ movement.
Outside the tightly controlled fence surrounding the rally, the mood was that of righteous wrath expressed in biblical quotations as well as banners and posters in Korean and English.
In fact, the anti-gay protesters, crowding broad sidewalks in front of the Seoul City Hall and across the avenue, outnumbered the Gay Pride crowd by a wide margin. They had been preparing for weeks to block the rally, reserving potential rally sites, inveighing against the Gay pride movement in church services and meetings and demonstrating against rally organizers as they asked for permits.
Posters hefted by anti-gay demonstrators tended not to use the word “gay” other than to say, “Gay Marriage Out.” Many of the posters said “No” in large letters beside slogans in Korean. “Homosexual rights are not human rights,” said one of the posters. “Marriage is between man and woman,” said another.
Christian and nationalist values suffused the anti-gay protest.  Banners proclaiming “Holy Korea” and “Holy, Holy Holy” were raised on high while pastors  shouted out the evils of homosexuality as revealed in the bible.
The anti-gay protest was also anti-foreign, at least as seen in declarations about the U.S. Supreme Court decision. “Do not impose foreign culture on Korean cultural values,” said one sign.
The pervasive Christian influence over the anti-gay protest, however, raised another question. About one third of Korea’s 50 million people are Christian, but what about the rest of the people? About one fourth of Koreans are Buddhist while the rest tend to be agnostic or atheist but often influenced by shamanism going deep into Korean cultural history.
Non-Christians also are deeply conservative but may not be so forcefully opposed to gay pride. “I have no problem with that,” said a bystander outside the rally when asked what she thought of marriage for gay couples. “Why does it matter?”
Contributor Forbes

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