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Chicago’s Cardinal George: gays ‘invited obvious comparison’ with K.K.K.

Growing calls for resignation may lead to rare backtracking on LGBT issues by historically anti-gay leader

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Cardinal George fears a parade route that takes revelers past Our Lady of Mt. Carmel church near Boystown will 'morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan.' (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

After a surprising statement released by Chicago’s Cardinal George, in which Chicago’s Catholic leader says that organizers of the city’s LGBT Pride parade “invited obvious comparison” to the Ku Klux Klan, calls for his resignation are mounting.

On Tuesday, the Archdiocese of Chicago released a statement on behalf of the Cardinal in response to the uproar over several comments from the Cardinal over the past several weeks that compared revelers in the 2012 Chicago Pride parade with the Ku Klux Klan.

Last week, the Cardinal seemed to be backing away from the statement, but Tuesday’s statement stoked the coals of controversy anew.

“The Chicago Gay Pride Parade has been organized and attended for many years without interfering with the worship of God in a Catholic church,” the statement, which sought to clarify the Cardinal’s statements, began. “When the 2012 Parade organizers announced a time and route change this year, it was apparent that the Parade would interfere with divine worship in a Catholic parish on the new route.”

However, the next few sentences in the statement are causing more organizations to line up behind those LGBT groups that have already began calling on the Cardinal to resign.

“When the pastor’s request for reconsideration of the plans was ignored, the organizers invited an obvious comparison to other groups who have historically attempted to stifle the religious freedom of the Catholic Church,” the statement continued. “One such organization is the Ku Klux Klan which, well into the 1940’s, paraded through American cities not only to interfere with Catholic worship but also to demonstrate that Catholics stand outside of the American consensus. It is not a precedent anyone should want to emulate.”

The Cardinal was already under fire for the initial Ku Klux Klan statement, last week.

“You don’t want the gay liberation movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism,” the Cardinal said on a Chicago Fox affiliate last week.

“Part of the issue here is that [Cardinal] George still needs to take responsibility for his comments, and apologize,” said Anthony Martinez, Executive Director of Illinois LGBT group, the Civil Rights Agenda. “Until that happens, I don’t see that the community of Catholics here in Illinois may be able to heal. This is sort of an open wound now, and the fact that he’s only reiterating his stance is disheartening to say the least. Especially for LGBT Catholics.”

On whether or not relations were now souring between the LGBT community and the previously welcoming Our Lady of Mt. Carmel parish, Martinez hopes that reconciliation is possible.

“He was the one who initiated these calls,” Martinez said of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel’s pastor Father Thomas Srenn’s calls for the parade start time to be changed so that Sunday morning services would not conflict. “Of course the hierarchy of the Church often decides how a priest should approach these issues. In the past he has been very supportive of the LGBT community, and they have a whole LGBT section of their parish that are in fellowship with each other, so I would venture to say that the church is still supportive. Hopefully the priest is still supportive of these issues, however these last few weeks its definitely not clear to me that he is.”

Last week, Tracy Baim, the editor of Chicago’s LGBT newspaper, The Windy City Times, took the unprecedented step to call for the Cardinal’s resignation.

“In comparing the LGBT community to the Ku Klux Klan — in his remarks about the potential disruption and inconvenience of the new Pride Parade route and start time — Cardinal George has gone too far, and he should graciously apologize, and step down from his post,” Baim wrote in the editorial. “Other religious facilities have long endured the Pride Parade passing their doors on Pride Sunday, with no “anti-religious” problems reported in four decades. In fact, religious groups, including gay Catholics, have been a part of Pride almost since it first began. Ironically, the KKK did march against the Pride Parade in its early years, and many spiritual people helped counter their presence.”

The continuous refusal by the Archdiocese to disavow the comments, for for the Cardinal to apologized have sparked rage in the LGBT community in Chicago, as well as with their allies in the region and around the nation. The Cardinal, on the other hand, has only stood by his own statements.

“If you organize a parade that looks like parades we’ve had in our past because it stops us from worshiping God, well then that’s the comparison,” he told a Chicago NBC affiliate this week.

“I’ve sort of held off calling for his resignation, but after the statement yesterday he’s showing that he’s completely disassociated the laypeople within the Catholic church,” Martinez told NBC in response Wednesday.

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, who took the Chicago Fox affiliate to task over re-airing the original comments on Christmas day, report that nearly 75% of Catholics are supportive of equal protections for LGBT people.

“In fact, there are a vast number of gay and transgender people who are devout Catholics,” the statement from GLAAD reads. “The LGBT movement is in no way anti-Catholic.”

The the letter reinforced the comparisons between the LGBT community and the Ku Klux Klan, the tone of the Cardinal’s statement, however, did shift abruptly to the conciliatory in the second paragraph.

“It is terribly wrong and sinful that gays and lesbians have been harassed and subjected to psychological and even physical harm,” it said. “These tragedies can be addressed, however, without disturbing the organized and orderly public worship of God in a country that claims to be free. I am grateful that all parties concerned resolved this problem by moving the Parade’s start time so as not to conflict with the celebration of Mass that Sunday.”

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Patrick O’Connell, acclaimed AIDS activist, dies at 67

Played key role in creating red ribbon for awareness

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Activist Patrick O’Connell was instrumental in creating the red ribbon to promote AIDS awareness. (Photo courtesy of Allen Frame; courtesy Visual AIDS)

Patrick O’Connell, a founding director of the New York City-based AIDS advocacy group Visual AIDS who played a lead role in developing the internationally recognized display of an inverted, V-shaped red ribbon as a symbol of AIDS advocacy, died on March 23 at a Manhattan hospital from AIDS-related causes, according to the New York Times. He was 67.

Visual AIDS said in a statement that O’Connell held the title of founding director of the organization from 1980 to 1995.

During those years, according to the statement and others who knew him, O’Connell was involved in the group’s widely recognized and supported efforts to use art and artist’s works to advocate in support of people with HIV/AIDS and efforts to curtail the epidemic that had a devastating impact on the art world.

Thanks to a grant from the Art Matters foundation, Visual AIDS was able to retain O’Connell as its first paid staff member in 1990, the group said in its statement.

“Armed with a fax machine and an early Macintosh computer, Patrick helped Visual AIDS grow from a volunteer group to a sustainable non-profit organization,” the statement says. “A passionate spokesperson for the organization, he helped projects like Day Without Art, Night Without Light, and the Red Ribbon reach thousands of people and organizations across the world,” the group says in its statement.

“We were living in a war zone,” the statement quoted O’Connell as saying in a 2011 interview with the Long Island newspaper Newsday. “But it was like a war that was some kind of deep secret only we knew about,” O’Connell said in the interview. “Thousands were dying of AIDS. We felt we had to respond with a visible expression,” he told the newspaper.

With O’Connell’s help, Visual AIDS in 1989 organized the first annual Day Without Art in which dozens of galleries and museums in New York and other cities covered art works with black cloths to symbolize the mourning of those who died of AIDS. Among those participating were the Brooklyn Museum, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which replaced a Picasso painting with a “somber informational placard,” according to the New York Times.

In 1990 O’Connell helped Visual AIDS organize the first Night Without Light, which was held at the time of World AIDS Day. New York City’s skyscraper buildings, bridges, monuments, and Broadway theaters turned off their lights for 15 minutes to commemorate people who lost their lives to AIDS, the New York Times reported.

In the kickoff of its Red Ribbon Project in 1991, McConnell helped organize volunteers to join “ribbon bees” in which thousands of the ribbons were cut and folded for distribution around the city, the Times reports. Those who knew McConnell said he also arranged for his team of volunteers to call Broadway theaters and producers of the upcoming Tony Awards television broadcast to have participants and theater goers display the red ribbons on their clothes.

Among those displaying a red ribbon on his label at the Tony Awards broadcast was actor Jeremy Irons, who was one of the hosts. In later years, large numbers of celebrities followed the practice of wearing the red ribbon, and in 1993 the U.S. Postal Service issued a red ribbon stamp.

The Times reports that O’Connell was born and raised in Manhattan, where he attended Fordham Preparatory School and later graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., in 1973 with a bachelor’s degree in history. According to Visual AIDS, O’Connell served as director of the Hallwalls arts center in Buffalo, N.Y. from 1977 to 1978 before returning to New York City to work for a gallery called Artists Space.

The Times reports that O’Connell learned in the middle 1980s that he had contracted AIDS and began a regimen of early AIDS treatment with a cocktail of over 30 pills a day. His involvement with Visual AIDS, which began in 1989, ended on an active basis in 1995 when his health worsened, the Times reports.

As one of the last remaining survivors of his New York contemporaries who had HIV beginning in the 1980s, O’Connell continued in his strong support for AIDS-related causes through 2000s and beyond, people who knew him said.
Visual AIDS says it is gathering remembrances and photos for a tribute post for O’Connell on its website. It has invited people to share their memories of him by sending written contributions and images via email to: [email protected].

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Caitlyn Jenner releases campaign ad and social media reacts- ‘enough already’

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MALIBU – Former Trump presidential campaign manager Brad Parscale released the first campaign advert Tuesday for reality television celebrity Caitlyn Jenner who is running to replace California Governor Gavin Newsom in the recall election race.

The ad drew an immediate and overwhelmingly negative reaction for exasperated social media users, many who identify as LGBTQ, decrying the reality TV personality getting into politics.

Jenner, 71, who is Trans herself, had drawn a firestorm of criticism over the past few days after she was caught outside a Malibu coffee spot Saturday and made remarks to a reporter from celebrity tabloid media outlet TMZ, saying that she didn’t think it was fair to have trans women athletes competing in girls’ and women’s sports.

In Tuesday’s advert, Jenner claims to be a “compassionate disrupter” and offers to rebuild and reopen California while in imagery silently alludes that Newsom in conjunction with ‘big government’ has somehow destroyed the state.

“I came here with a dream 48 years ago, to be the greatest athlete in the world,” she says in the ad, noting her own history in the state. “Now I enter a different kind of race, arguably my most important one yet: to save California.”

Reaction to the ad has been brutal. (Sampling below)

Another challenger to Newsom also released a campaign video Tuesday Sacramento’s Fox affiliate KTXL reported.

California businessman John Cox, who has challenged Newsom previously for the governorship launched his Meet the Beast Bus Tour Tuesday morning at Miller Regional Park in Sacramento. Cox brought a live bear with him.

Throughout the news conference, Cox attacked Newsom’s handling of the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, water management and strain on the power grid.

Cox lost the 2018 general election to Newsom by 23 points.

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National transgender military advocacy group elects new president

Bree Fram has been SPARTA member since 2014

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Lt. Col. Bree Fram (Photo courtesy of SPARTA)

SPARTA, the nation’s leading transgender military service advocacy organization, announced Saturday that it had elected Bree Fram as its new board chair and president of the organization.

She has been a member of SPARTA since 2014 and has served on the board of directors since April 2018, most recently as vice president. Fram is also a lieutenant colonel and astronautical engineer in the U.S. Air Force and will soon be recommissioning into the U. S. Space Force.

She is currently a student at the U.S. Naval War College with a follow-on assignment to the Department of Defense at the Pentagon.

“I’m honored and humbled to serve as SPARTA president on behalf of so many amazing transgender service member,” said Fram. “We will do our utmost to continue SPARTA’s a rich history of incredible dedication and progress. My heartfelt thanks go to the previous leaders of the organization, including Sue Fulton, Jacob Eleazar, Blake Dremann, and Emma Shinn, and all our members for the incredible achievements of the past eight years. Despite setbacks, their desire to make transgender military service possible is reality again as of yesterday as the new Department of Defense Policy went into effect.”

The immediate past president, Emma Shinn served through a challenging time as President Trump’s ban on transgender service went into effect in April 2019. Her leadership rallied the organization and ensured SPARTA remained dedicated to positive change.

With the January 2021 executive order from President Biden directing the Defense Department to re-implement open transgender service, she and the organization celebrated a major success that will benefit all members of SPARTA and the nation.

“Leading SPARTA for the past two years has been a tremendous honor and privilege,” stated Shinn as her time at the head of SPARTA came to an end. She continued, “I am confident that SPARTA will continue to help our military and nation recognize the value trans service members bring to the mission. I am thankful for the opportunity SPARTA has given me to work with leaders in the DoD, legislators, and partner groups to make open trans service a reality again. I look forward to continuing to work with this amazing group of people under Bree’s leadership. I am excited for the future of our organization and nation.”

In a press release the organization noted that Fram’s remarks highlighted the fact that SPARTA’s mission is not over. “Although transgender service members have already proven they belong on the battlefield and here at home,” she said. “We need to ensure they can’t be erased in the future by an administration set on turning back the clock. Beyond ensuring our members can thrive in their careers, my top priority is to ensure the opportunity to serve is enshrined in law.”

Fram spoke on additional goals for SPARTA during her tenure and listed the following:

·  Minimize the administrative burden and career impact of transition in the military

·  Advocate for inclusion of transgender voices in policy making

·  Push for inclusive policies regarding intersex and non-binary military service

“All Americans who are otherwise qualified to serve in the military should have the opportunity to do so,” Fram summarized. “This nation will be better and better defended with inclusive policies that enable the military to draw upon the best talent this nation has to offer.”

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