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May 27, 2006

MOSCOW POLICE ARREST GAY PRIDE LEADER AND 50-100 OTHERS TODAY AT BANNED MARCH--Gay German MP Volker Beck, Oscar Wilde's Grandson, and Paris Mayor's Rep All Injured (Updated)

Moscow_pride_logo_3 Moscow's police --1000 of whom were deployed to enforce Mayor Yuri Luzhkov's ban on a Gay Pride March scheduled for today -- have arrested Nicolas Alexeyev, principal organizer of the banned, first-ever Pride March in Russia's capitol, the Russian news agency Interfax has reported.  Alexeyev was arrested while attempting to lay flowers at Russia's World War II-era Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (right) in Alexander's Garden, one of Moscow_tomb_unknownthe city's largest parks, which runs the entire length of the Kremlin's west wall. (Photo of Alexeyev's arrest, lower left, via BBC)Nicolas_alexeyev_arrest_1 The choice of the Tomb for the wreath-laying was designed to emphasize the links between the struggle against Nazi Germany and the fight for the rights of gay people. Ten other Gay Pride participants were also arrested at that time. Reuters later reported that Alexeyev was "dragged, bent almost double, away from the gates [of the Tomb] by two policemen."

Yevgenia Debryanskaya, a prominent lesbian movement activist, was also later arrested by police today near Moscow's city hall, at the monument to Yuri Dolgoruky (a 12th century ruler also known as Yuri_dolgoruky_monument George I of Russia, photo left), along with some dozen other Gay Pride marchers, after the demonstrators moved to the monument, police told Interfax.

"OMON anti-riot task force servicemen have now cordoned-off the square in front of the monument to Yuri Dolgoruky and are shoving those protesting the gay parade from the square," Interfax reported at 3:40 PM Moscow time. The OMON (insignia at right), frequently accused of abusesOmon_insignia  of power and repressive violence, was created as an anti-terrorist cum riot militia for the Moscow Summer Olympics in 1980, and continues to exist since the fall of the Communist regime.

A crowd of anti-gay protesters -- many from fascist groups like the Russian All-National Union and the Union of Orthodox Gonfalon-Carriers, and the ultra-right and xenophobic Movement Against Illegal Immigration, and including many skinheads -- which police estimated at 150, had been shouting "Sodom Won't Pass Here" at the gay marchers as they approached the Dolgoruky monument, Interfax said.

In a separate dispatch, Interfax reported that police put at 50 the number of those arrested so far in connection with today's Gay Pride events. Not only the Pride march, but gay meetings in connection with it, were banned by Mayor Luzhkov, while major Russian religious leaders called for violence against the gay demonstrators. There is as yet no word on whether any of the foreign delegates to the Pride events -- including a number of European political figures -- had been arrested.

However, the news agency Deutsche Press-Agentur reports that an openly gay Volker_beck_2 member of the German Bundestag (Parliament), Volker Beck (right), was injured by the fascist anti-gay protesters in a scuffle. "There was no aggression from our side, we were simply there,” Herr Beck told the DPA press agency. “It is unacceptable that the police offer no protection to gays on the streets.” Later, CNN reported on its website via an Associated Press dispatch that, "as Beck was giving an interview before TV cameras, about 20 nationalist youths surrounded him and pummeled him, bloodying his nose. Volker Eichler, a gay activist from Berlin who witnessed the beating, said police did not intervene." CNN International aired a report by its Matthew Chance showing the arrest of Alexeyev and footage of the attacks by the anti-gay goons--a link to that footage can be found on the CNN website, in the middle of the text of their Beck_bloody version of the AP report, by clicking here. (The BBC later carried video footage of the attack on Beck -- and showed him afterward, dazed and shaken with blood streaming down his face. (Photo of Beck after the attack, at left, via Toronto Globe and Mail.). A link to the BBC's video segment can be found on their website by clicking here.) Beck is considered the father of Germany's domestic partnership law. The German news agency puts the number of arrests at 100. The BBC, in its first report on the events filed at 4 PM U.K. time, put the number of arrests at 70, adding that "Eyewitnesses said several foreign gay rights activists were beaten Peter_tatchell_good by [anti-gay] protesters." That seems to have been an understatement -- late this afternoon, noted British gay and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell (left) filed a first-hand account from Moscow for U.K.Gay News of the violent attacks on the gay activists by the counter-protesters.

"We were immediately set-upon by about 100 fascist thugs," Tatchell said, "and religious fanatics who began pushing, punching and kicking us. They snatched flowers out of our hands and abused us with chants of ‘No sodomy in Moscow’ and ‘Put the pederasts on the iron’ and ‘Russia is not Sodom’.  We were pushed and carried like corks on a sea of fascist pushing and shoving." Read the rest of Tatchell's gripping account by clicking here.

Kurt_krickler_vienna_hosi And an e-mail I received from veteran Austrian gay activist Kurt Krickler (right), co-founder and Secretary-general of Homosexuelle Initiative (HOSI) in Vienna, and editor of its magazine, LAMBDA-Nachrichten, Pierre_serne reports from Moscow: "Pierre from France [Pierre Serne, left, a member of the City Council in the Paris suburb of Vincennes and a staffer for openly gay Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoë, whom he represented in Moscow] suffered so severe injuries in an attack of skinheads that he had to be hospitalized. "

Krickler added that, "When leaving the site of the demonstration across the City Hall, I myself was attacked by four youth kicking me with their feet and beating me with their fists. I got a blow on my eye and could escape, and the aggressors ran away.  I had a bad bruise at the eye, and a friend took me to a clinic where the doctor ordered an x-ray as he suspected the sinus could be damaged, too. Fortunately, no severe injury, besides a huge hematome on the eye."

Merlin_holland_298_2 A Le Monde report from Moscow says that also injured was Oscar Wilde's grandson, Merlin Holland (left) -- who gave the opening address at the international conference organized by Moscow Pride in conjunction with the Paris-based International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO). Holland was repeatedly kicked by the fascist goons, the paper said. Le Monde quoted Jean-Luc Romero --an openly gay elected member of the Regional Council in the Ile-de-France region (which includes Paris) who is from Jacques Chirac's conservative UMP Party, and who witnessed the beatings -- as saying, "The situation of the homosexuals in Russia is even worse than I imagined." Le Monde added that another member of Paris Mayor Delanoë's personal staff, Philippe Lasnier, was briefly Clementine_autain_1arrested by police. The French daily quoted a Delanoe deputy mayor also representing the mayor in Moscow, Clémentine Autain (left), as saying she was shocked at how little the Moscow police did to protect the gay demonstrators from physical attacks by the hundreds of counter-protesters (whom Le Monde described as "ranging from groups of skinheads and Cossacks, to Russian Orthodox extremist priests and old ladies who threw eggs at the gay demonstrators.")

MosNews.com reports today that Mayor Luzhkov, in radio comments on Friday, cited "moral" reasons for banning the Gay Pride march and meetings. ”I believe that such a parade is inadmissible in our country above all for moral considerations. People should not make public their deviations,“ Mayor Luzhkov said.

For background on all this, read DIRELAND's earlier post on the Moscow events by clicking here.

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MOSCOW INT'L GAY CONFERENCE ATTACKED BY GAS -- 1000 Police Sent to Stop Gay Pride March

The international conference organized in connection with Moscow's first-ever GayMoscow_pride_logo_1  Pride March --scheduled for today (Saturday, May 27) -- has been attacked by gas-spraying hoodlums. Saturday's Times of London reports, that, at the opening session of the international conference, during an address by Oscar Wilde's grandson, Merlin_holland_298_1 Merlin Holland (left), "As Mr Holland delivered his opening lecture, about 20 skinheads burst into the hall, screaming abuse, throwing eggs and spraying an unidentified gas." In a constantly updated Moscow diary being published online by the Washington Blade, Scott Long -- director of LGBT affairs for Human Rights Watch, photo right -Scottlong - is providing several times a day a running account of what's happening in Moscow at, and to, the historic gay events. You can read Scott's fascinating online Moscow diary by clicking here. The Moscow events are taking place under the cloud of a ban on them by Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and calls for anti-gay violence by Russia's religious leaders.. And U.K. Gay News reports this morning that Moscow city authorities say 1000 police have been deployed to stop the Pride march. In yesterday's Gay City News (New York City's largest gay weekly) I published an account of the latest ukase by Moscow city authorities, banning not just the Pride march but the gay meetings in connection with it. For background on all this, you can read my GCN article below:

Gay Standoff Brewing in Moscow


Yuri_lushkov_168_1 In yet another blow to organizers of Moscow’s first-ever Gay Pride March, scheduled for May 27—previously banned by Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov (left) in an April announcement—city authorities this week said that the conferences and festival planned by Pride organizers would also be banned.

In announcing the ban on any of the gatherings, Moscow’s chief of security, Nikolau Kulikov, told the Echo Moskvy radio station on May 21 that “all public expressions [by gays and lesbians] must be banned. They violate our rights. We have our traditions, lots of religious groups told us that they were against this Gay Pride.”

Activities ancillary to the Pride March—which organizers insist will be held despite the ban on the demonstration—include an international conference on homophobia co-sponsored by GayRussia.ru and the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO). Among the scheduled speakers at that conference is Merlin Holland, the grandson of Oscar Wilde.

Nicolas_alexeyev_1 Nicolas Alexeyev, one of the principal organizers of Moscow Pride, (in rainbow t-shirt photo left, with former French Culture Minister Jack Long) told Gay City News from Russia, “In all, from abroad we expect 100 participants from 20 different countries.”

The ban comes as Russia last Friday assumed the rotating presidency of the Council of Europe. Founded in 1949, the Council has 46 member countries and is composed of their foreign ministers. While the Council is a separate entity from the 25-member European Union, no country has ever been granted EU membership without first being a member of the Council. At its quadrennial summit meting held in Warsaw last year, the Council of Europe adopted a political declaration making its first priority “promoting the common fundamental values of human rights, the rule of law, and democracy,” according to the Council’s Web site.

A number of European politicians have announced their intention to go to Moscow toSophie_in_t_veld_2  participate in the Pride March, including members of the European Parliament from several countries. One of the Parliament members, Sophie in ‘t Veld of The Netherlands (right), said of the ban on gay activities, “This is a very unfavorable start to the Russian chairmanship in the Council of Europe.”

Bertrand_delanoe The openly gay mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe (left), is sending two representatives, including a vice mayor, to the Moscow Pride events. Openly gay German member of Parliament Volker BeckVolker_beck  (right)—the former spokesman for the German gay rights group LVSD, who is considered the father of Germany’s domestic partnership legislation—will also make the trip to Moscow.

Jack_lang_best_4 Last week, Jack Lang (left)—France’s former minister of culture and also of education under the late President Francois Mitterand, who is a declared candidate for the Socialist Party’s 2007 presidential nomination—told Moscow Pride organizers that he would also travel there to join the march. Last Thursday, Lang released a personal letter he’d written to Russian President Vladimir Putin denouncing both the actions of Mayor Luzhkov in banning the march and the “unacceptable threats of violence by religious authorities” against the gay participants, Agence France Presse reported. In his letter to Putin, Lang—consistently one of France’s most popular politicians according to public opinion polls—declared that he felt “personally insulted by the attitude and statements of the mayor of Moscow and these religious leaders.”

The grand mufti of Russia’s Muslims, Talgat Tajuddin (right), had earlier called for the gay Talgat_tajuddin_2_1 marchers to be “beaten” by believers, and the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church had publicly condemned the Gay Pride festivities as a “sexual perversion.”

Berl_lazar_1 Russia’s chief rabbi, Berl Lazar (left), said that if the Pride Parade were allowed to go ahead it would be a “blow to morality,” adding that “sexual perversions” do not have the right to exist.

At the beginning of May, hundreds of Russian neo-fascist skinheads and Russian Orthodox Christians bearing icons and crosses attacked gay men and lesbians arriving at parties at two Moscow nightclubs, throwing bottles, rocks, and eggs and forcing the cancellation of both gatherings. Moscow police were tardy to arrive, but eventually made 39 arrests in the two incidents.

Pride organizer Alexeyev told Gay City News that plans have been made to protect Pride participants against violence.

“We have already ordered full security for all the events of the Pride festival. And we have paid extra for that,” he said. b“All the six events will be protected by private security or the police. I will not let anyone disrupt anything. The world is watching us.”

Human Rights Watch has condemned these latest violent attacks on Russian gays and called for the bans to be revoked, telling Mayor Luzhkov that he “can stand up to protect human rights, or endorse the views of extremists responsible for anti-gay violence.”

HRW’s Director of LGBT Affairs, Scott Long, will make the trip to Moscow to join the Pride activities.

In a separate letter to Luzhkov, Paula Ettelbrick, executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, wrote, “We remind you that your active support for the Pride Parade in Moscow is a critical component of your obligation to respect, protect, and fulfill the human rights of all citizens in Russia, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens who make up your constituency.”

At the group’s 2006 Human Rights Awards in Manhattan Tuesday evening, Ettelbrick said IGLHRC would be represented in Moscow as well.

In sharp contrast, neither the Human Rights Campaign nor the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has even issued a press release in solidarity with Moscow’s gays under attack and these groups have no plans to send representatives there.

Moscow Pride organizers are appealing the bans on their activities in the city’s courts. Regardless of the bans, Alexeyev told Gay City News, “The Russian Constitution guarantees our right to demonstrate, so on May 27 we will be in the center of Moscow celebrating the 13th anniversary of the decriminalization of same-sex relations in Russia.”

UPDATE: MOSCOW COURT UPHOLDS BAN ON GAY MARCH After the above article was published, a Moscow district court on Friday upheld a ban imposed by the city government on the Gay Pride parade slated to have been held Saturday in the Russian capital. The Tverskoi district court rejected an appeal by event organizers against the Moscow city government's decision to prohibit the event, scheduled for May 27.

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May 24, 2006


My apologies to DIRELAND readers for not having blogged these past weeks--I've been laid low by a severe sciatica attack that sharply limited the amount of time I could spend on the computer, and work had to come before my blog. I'm now going to try to resume blogging on a regular basis. I wrote the following article for the current issue of Gay City News, New York's largest gay weekly newspaper:

Iraqi gays are claiming partial success following the decision by Iraq’s Ayatollah_sistani_good_1 Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani (LEFT) and his aides to remove from his Web site a fatwa calling for the killing of homosexuals in the “worst, most severe way possible.”

The fatwa itself, however, remains in force, and has not been publicly repudiated by the grand ayatollah, who is the supreme religious authority for Iraq’s Shia Muslims.

The removal of the fatwa from the ayatollah’s Web site followed protests to Sistani by the London office of the Iraqi gay rights organization, Iraqi LGBT, which represents a clandestine network of lesbian and gay activists inside Iraq’s major cities, including Baghdad, Najaf, Karbala, Hilla, Duhok, and Basra.

Following two weeks of often tense negotiations with Iraqi LGBT—U.K., Sistani’s Iraq_map_2 office agreed to remove the fatwa calling for the murder of gay men—but unfortunately refused to remove the fatwa urging punishment for lesbianism.

Initially, Sistani’s office had demanded that Iraqi LGBT-U.K. delete its criticisms of Sistani from that group’s Web site and apologize to the grand ayatollah for questioning his religious authority. The gay Iraqi group refused, and instead issued a counter-demand that Sistani remove his death to gays fatwa from his Web site. Sistani’s representatives in London and Najaf finally agreed to drop the homophobic fatwa from his site—except for the section calling for the punishment of lesbians.

While welcome, the removal of the murderous fatwa from Sistani’s Web site is unlikely to affect the situation on the ground in Iraq, where death squads of the Badr Corps—now operating in police uniforms with the authorization of the Iraqi Interior Ministry—continue their lethal campaign of terror against gay people. Absent any public repudiation by Sistani of his fatwa and its formal withdrawal, the wave of organized intimidation, violence, and murder directed at Iraqi gays is likely to persist unabated.

(This reporter’s first story on the fallout out from the ayatollah’s fatwa, “Shia Death Squads Target Iraqi Gays,” published March 23 of this year, is available by clicking here,)

“We welcome the decision to remove the most murderously homophobic part of Sistani’s fatwa from his Web site,” gay Iraqi refugee Ali Hili, coordinator of Iraqi LGBT - UK, said from London. Ali is also Middle East Affairs spokesman for the British LGBT rights movement, OutRage!, which works closely with the Iraqi gay group.

But, Hili, said, “This decision does not go far enough. The fatwa has been removed from Sistani’s Web site only. It has not been revoked. We want the entire fatwa withdrawn, including the hateful denunciation calling for the punishment of lesbians. We urge Sistani to apologize and revoke, in public, his fatwa calling for the murder of homosexuals, and to issue a new fatwa condemning all vigilante violence, including vigilante attacks on gay and lesbian people. We believe that Sistani’s fatwa has encouraged and sanctioned the current wave of execution-style assassinations of lesbians and gay men. He owes gay Iraqis an apology. He owes all Iraqis an apology for setting straight Iraqis against gay Iraqis.”

According to the Iraqi LGBT group, “Endorsing the murder of other human beings is un-Islamic. Our Muslim faith is one of love, compassion, tolerance, and mercy. Hatred and prejudice have no legitimate place in our religion. Sistani’s encouragement of homophobic violence provokes negative views toward the Islamic faith and towards Muslim people.”

Hili added, “Iraqi LGBT-UK still holds Sistani personally responsible for the murder of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered Iraqis. He gives the killers theological sanction and encouragement.”


The all-volunteer London-based Iraqi LGBT-U.K. Group desperately needs money to buy the LGBT activists in Iraq a computer, Webcam, and scanner, plus Internet and phone access, in order to assist their efforts to document the wave of homophobic murders in Iraq and communicate them to the outside world.

Iraqi LGBT-U.K. does not yet have its own bank account. They are working closely with the LGBT human rights group OutRage! in London. Donations to help Iraqi LGBT in the U.K. and in Iraq should be made payable to “OutRage!”, with a cover note marked “For Iraqi LGBT”, and sent to OutRage!, PO Box 17816, London SW14 8WT, England, U.K.

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May 05, 2006


Uk_map Tony Blair (right) did a major cabinet reshuffle yesterday, but too late to do him any good at the polls. In this week's British muncipal elections, Tony_blair_snarlsmile Blair's scandal-plagued "New Labour" suffered a stinging defeat, losing more than 300 city councillors and 19 city halls, and saw its share of the vote plunge to just 26%, compared to the Tories' 40% and the Liberal Democrats'' 27% -- the worst showing for Labour since the Falklands War. And the openly racist British National Party, led by slick Nick Griffin, made "big gains" at Labour's expense.

Ian_williams_5 My excellent confrere Ian Williams has a sharp-eyed post today on his Jack_straw blog, Deadline Pundit, saying that Tony Blair's firing of his foreign minister, Jack Straw (right), in the cabinet resuffle was because of Straw's too-vigorous and too-public opposition to military action against Iran, which Straw had called "completely nuts." Writes Ian:

"Under cover of yesterday's local elections, Tony Blair's cabinet reshuffle may be moving the UK closer to yet another idiotic war at the behest of George W. Bush. While some of the demotions in the cabinet shuffle were understandable because of the scandals surrounding the ministers being axed, Jack Straw, the foreign secretary had not been the focus of any headlines. That leaves the suspicion that he was axed because of the small print in what he has been telling the media. He had said that it was "inconceivable" for military operations against Iran

"If you check the ever-informative sound of silence, this is not something that the Prime Minister had been saying.

"There is a poetic justice here. One of the reasons that Blair had sacked Robin Cook as foreign secretary was to remove an obstacle to his war plans over Iraq, and his successor, poor Jack Straw is now paying a similar price. A newly appointed minister, whether Straw, in the run-up to Iraq, or his successor Margaret Becket, in the run up to Iran, is not in a position to block the wishes of a Prime Minister who is so cocky and self assured that while firing others, has overlooked the one big cabinet change that could have restored Labour to popularity--his own resignation." Read all of Ian Williams' tart analysis by clicking here.

Ewen_macaskill The Guardian's Ewen MacAskill (left), their veteran parliamentary reporter, came to the same conclusion in a column today headlined, "Iran is the Key to Jack Straw's Demotion." Writes MacAskill: "Mr Straw knew it would be difficult to win support for the military option in cabinet and that it would create even more upheaval among the membership of the already weakened Labour party.

"The problem for Mr Straw is that Tony Blair does not view Iran the same way. He regards the threat posed by Iran as the most serious in the world today, and is even more messianic on the issue than George Bush. That does not mean that a military strike will happen but Mr Blair, like Mr Bush, thinks it is a good idea to keep the option on the table, if only to keep Iran guessing.

"Downing Street phoned the Foreign Office several times to ask Mr Straw to stop being so categoric in ruling out a military strike. And the White House also phoned Downing Street to ask why Mr Straw kept saying these things. And that was before Mr Straw dismissed as "nuts" the prospect of a tactical nuclear strike on Iran, an option that Mr Bush subsequently refused to remove from the table."

But Jack Straw was not the only one of Tony Blair's so-called friends to argue against military threatrs or a military strike against Iran. A major British think-tank close fo New Labour just last week issued an extensive report, Understanding Iran: People, Politics and Power [pdf format], which argued that military action against Iran would "backfire," strengthening the reactionary regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and hurting the reformist and democratic elements in Iranian society, as welli as creating a new arms race and throwing kerosene on a region already ablaze. The Foreign Hugh_barnes Policy Centre boasts that it was "launched under the patronage of the British Prime Minister Tony Blair." But its report, written by the Centre's Hugh Barnes (right), a former foreign and war correspondent for the (London) Times, the New Statesman, the Financial Times, The Independent, and the BBC's World Service -- is a detailed refutation of everything Blair has been saying on Iran. After providing a dissection of the political players and power forces inside Iraq, Barnes makes a smart, sophisticated, realpolitik case against using bellicose military threats or air strikes against Iran.

Understanding_iran_1 Not only is the Bush-Blair bellicose bluster already raising Adhmadinejad's popularity, Barnes writes, but an attack would not achieve its aims:

"Military action would have two aims: firstly, to damage Iran’s nuclear-related sites – reported tobe at Bushehr, Natanz, Arak, Saghand, Ardkan, Gehine, Isfahan, Anarak and Tehran – and, secondly, to send a message that the United States is prepared to take pre-emptive action not only to prevent WMD proliferation but also to stop Iran doing other things in the region which the Bush administration finds unacceptable.

The authors believe that such a strategy could well backfire.

"The United Nations is unlikely to give the military action moral or political legitimacy. It seems improbable at present, given the positions of Russia and China regarding sanctions, that the P5 on the Security Council would support military action. To have maximumimpact, attacks on the nuclear sites would have to be done with the greatest amount of surprise, which would seem to rule out the possibility of a diplomatic debate in public as seen in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq conflict. A surprise attack would also increase the likely number of civilian casualties from air strikes, as there will be less time for people to move away from target areas.ny destruction of the containment structure could lead to seriousproblems of radioactive dispersal affecting not only just the IranianGulf coast, but west Gulf seaboards in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates’, according to defence analyst Paul Rogers. ‘As well as the direct human effects…these [also] comprise the world’s most substantial concentration of oil production facilities....."

"Iran could respond to military action by withdrawing from the NPT [Nuclear Proliferation Treaty[, kicking out the IAEA inspectors and resuming clandestine nuclearactivities under the justification of ‘self-defence’. Even though militaryaction could set back Iran’s plans to develop nuclear weapons by ive years or more, there would be at least two long-term problems:the diplomatic fallout would spell an end to negotiations, and UN nspectors would thus be unable to monitor weapons proliferation rom inside Iran. An attack on the 1,000 MW nuclear reactor inBushehr, once the reactor is fully fuelled and goes critical (scheduled ompletion date mid-2006) could have disastrous consequences. 'A


an attack against a prominent Islamic republic would heighten anti-American sentiment in the region. Most Iran watchers agree that military strikes would increase the popularity of the regime, and would have a powerful unifying effect, thereby increasing the government’s stability and power bases. This goes directly against the stated US objective of supporting the Iranian people against the regime. Any civilian casualties would be widely reported by Iranian media and other regional broadcasters, further damaging America’s reputation in the Middle East....

"Military action would be a highly dangerous move that could damage regional security, wouldnot prevent nuclear proliferation, would encourage acts of terrorism and would result in civilian deaths...." There's a lot more in this report, written in a language designed to convince policy makers and carefully footnoted. You can, and should, read all of it by clicking here. Will Tony Blair bother to read this contrarian report by the think-tank whose patron he is? Don't hold your breath.

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Iran_map You are invited to sign the following statement put together (with a little help from me) by my good friends at the Campaign for Peace and Democracy: "Iran: Neither U.S. Aggression Nor Theocratic Repression--A call for a new, democratic U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East," of which I am one of the initiators. The text is below. If you would like to add your name or donate to publicize the statement, please go to the CPD website at www.cpdweb.org One of the reasons this statement is important is it includes a condemnation of Iran's lethal anti-gay pogrom, and represents the first time that anti-war intellectuals and activists have joined with prominent gays on an international gay human rights issue.

        Initial signers include the following: Tom Ammiano, Stanley Aronowitz, Ronald Aronson, Rosalyn Baxandall, Medea Benjamin, John Berendt, Eileen Boris, Noam Chomsky, Joshua Cohen, Martin B. Duberman, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Rusti Eisenberg, Carlos R. Espinosa, Gertrude Ezorsky, Samuel Farber, Barry Finger, Barbara Garson, Linda Gordon, Larry Gross, Mina Hamilton, Thomas Harrison, Michael Hirsch, Adam Hochschild, Nancy Holmstrom, Doug Ireland, Joy Kallio, Larry Kramer, Joanne Landy, Jesse Lemisch, John Leonard, Sue Leonard, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Nelson Lichtenstein, Norman MacAfee, Marvin and Betty Mandell, Selma Marks, David McReynolds, David Oakford, Grace Paley, Frances Fox Piven, Len Rodberg, Nancy Romer, Peter Rothberg, Matthew Rothschild, John Scagliotti, Jennifer Scarlott, Jay Schaffner, Sydney Schanberg, Paul Schindler, Stephen Shalom, Wallace Shawn, Kenneth Sherrill, Micah L. Sifry, Meredith Tax, Steve Wasserman, Lois Weiner, Naomi Weisstein, Cornel West, Edmund White, Reginald Wilson, Kenton Worcester, Julia Wrigley, and Howard Zinn.

        Signers’ names and affiliations (for identification only) will be listed on the Campaign for Peace and Democracy website and used in ads as we raise money for them. CPD's previous statements, including "We Oppose Both Saddam Hussein and The War Against Iraq: A call for a new, democratic U.S. foreign policy” (available on the CPD website) have appeared as ads in The New York Times, The Nation, and The Progressive, as well as on many websites and listservs in this country and abroad. Your tax-deductible donation will enable us to publicize this declaration of opposition to war and repression in these dangerous times.

To join in signing the statement below, go to the CPD website by clicking here.

A call for a new, democratic U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East

Just as it did before its invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration is manufacturing a climate of fear in order to prepare public opinion for another act of aggression---this time against Iran. Three years ago it was the specter of Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction; today it’s the Iranian nuclear bomb. Washington’s immediate goal is to get the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions on Iran and, in all probability, to justify a military attack on Tehran’s nuclear facilities -- a job that may be outsourced to Israel. The White House even insists on keeping the catastrophic “nuclear option” on the table --  that is, using tactical nuclear weapons to strike Iranian nuclear facilities, many of which are located in or near civilian population centers. Although a full-scale invasion of Iran is highly unlikely at the moment, there can be little doubt that the neoconservatives in the Bush administration have a grand strategy that includes, eventually, “regime change” in Tehran as a way of further enlarging U.S. imperial power. 

        We strongly oppose the U.S. occupation of Iraq: it has brought appalling suffering to the Iraqi people with fatalities in the tens of thousands, descent into civil war and the strengthening of the most authoritarian elements in Iraqi society -- as well as more than 2,000 U.S. soldiers dead and thousands more wounded. Likewise, the U.S. government’s attempts to bully Iran are succeeding mainly in terrorizing the Iranian people and weakening internal opposition to the mullahs. The Bush administration’s claim that it is promoting democracy in these two countries is the grossest hypocrisy; its only interest is power and control of oil resources. We, on the other hand, care very much about the ability of the Iraqi and Iranian people to control their own societies, about civil liberties and the rights of women, gays, workers, and ethnic minorities there. That is why we raise our voices against the current threats to Iran and call for immediate withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq.

        We too would like to see a regime change in Tehran, but one brought about by the Iranian people themselves, not by Washington. For 26 years Iran has been ruled by a repressive theocracy. Behind the formal trappings of democracy, real power is held by an un-elected oligarchy of clerics; all electoral candidates must receive their approval, and their authority is enforced by gangs of religious thugs. President Ahmadinejad is a Holocaust denier who has called for the elimination of Israel.

        Iranian women lack some of the most basic human rights. They cannot dress, work, travel or choose spouses freely. “Honor killing” is legal, and women are hanged or stoned to death for “unchaste behavior.” Apart from Saudi Arabia, there are few if any countries in the world where women are as severely repressed by law as in Iran.

        Workers who try to strike or form independent trade unions are violently suppressed. Hundreds of thousands of workers have not been paid for months and in some cases for years. Any attempt to organize is attacked by club- and knife-wielding mercenaries, security forces and the military. 

           As in many countries, homosexuality is outlawed, but Tehran has gone further Iran_tidmus_poster_1_stop_killing_5 than most by making sex between men punishable by death and unleashing a vicious pogrom against Iranian gays, many of whom have been tortured, beaten, and publicly executed. The government is carrying on a massive campaign of entrapment through the Internet; victims are subjected to constant surveillance, loss of employment, arrest, and violent blackmail that forces them to reveal the names of other homosexuals. Torture is used to make gay people confess to crimes they never committed. The basiji, a parapolice recruited from the criminal classes and the unemployed young, kidnap gay people, who are sequestered and tortured until they name names. Gays on the government's lists are forbidden to leave the country. And now Iran has exported its violent anti-gay crusade to Iraq. 

        In recent years there has been growing resistance within Iranian society, particularly from workers fighting privatization and unemployment and young people chafing against social and political repression. This resistance holds the promise of bringing grassroots democratic change to Iran. The threat of military action or broader and harsher sanctions from outside --  and especially the horrifying menace of nuclear strikes -- only serve to rally people around the regime and to give it another excuse to clamp down on dissent, inhibiting a potentially revolutionary process and strengthening the right-wing clerics. U.S. threats help the regime to justify its quest for nuclear weapons to the Iranian people.

        As for the Iranian nuclear threat, Tehran’s assurances that it only wants to develop peaceful nuclear energy are not credible. Iran is probably still several years away from being able to produce nuclear weapons. If Tehran acquires the bomb, it is unlikely that the ayatollahs, who hold decisive power, would use it since it would be suicidal to do so. Israel alone has between 200 and 300 nuclear warheads capable of striking Iran, and this is not counting the thousands of warheads the U.S. can launch at Iran. Nevertheless, there is no guarantee that Iran, or any other state armed with nuclear weapons, won’t use them or make them available to others. As long as these barbaric weapons exist, they can be used, and the more countries that possess them the more likely it is over time that they will be used. 

        We therefore strongly oppose Tehran’s efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. But as long as a handful of nations arrogate to themselves the exclusive right to possess nuclear weapons, the have-nots will always be able to point to the threat posed by the nuclear powers and will constantly seek to acquire such weapons for themselves -- as North Korea has already done, withdrawing from the Non-Proliferation Treaty regime. Likewise, Iran, which has been menaced by the U.S. for more than two decades and was a charter member of Bush’s “axis of evil,” may opt out of the NPT.

        An end to Washington’s belligerence is a crucial step in preventing Tehran from joining the nuclear “club.” Beyond that, the only way to stop proliferation is for those countries that have nuclear weapons to begin disarming -- something the Bush administration and previous administrations of both parties have refused to do, despite the fact that the U.S. is a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty which commits it to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament. At the same time the nuclear powers must work toward nuclear-free zones around the world, but especially in the Middle East, a particularly volatile and dangerous region.

        We call for a new democratic U.S. foreign policy that would deal with the threat posed to all of us by terrorist networks, and by weapons of mass destruction, and promote real democracy in the Middle East and elsewhere, by:

• Renouncing the use of military intervention to extend and consolidate U.S. imperial power, and withdrawing U.S. troops and bases from the Middle East.
• Ending U.S. support for authoritarian and corrupt regimes, e.g. Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and Egypt.
• Opposing all forms of terrorism worldwide by Al Qaeda, Iraqi death squads, and Palestinian suicide bombers, and by U.S.-backed forces like the Colombian paramilitaries and the Israeli military in the Occupied Territories -- as well as the brutality and humiliation inflicted on Iraqis every day by U.S. occupation forces and Washington’s ominous threats against Iran.
• Supporting the right of national self-determination for all peoples in the Middle East, including the Kurds, Palestinians and Israeli Jews. Ending support for Israeli occupation of the West Bank and oppression of the Palestinian people.
• Taking unilateral steps toward renouncing weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, and vigorously promoting international disarmament treaties, instead of obstructing even minimal efforts to end the arms race.
• Abandoning the effort to impose, through the IMF/World Bank or unilaterally, neoliberal economic policies of privatization and austerity that bring mass misery to people in large parts of the world. Initiating a major foreign aid program directed at popular rather than corporate needs.

        The majority of people in this country now believe that the invasion of Iraq was disastrously wrong and that they were systematically lied to by the Bush Administration about the reasons for going to war, and they are wary of new U.S. military intervention in the Middle East. At the same time, the administration’s scare tactics are generating popular support for aerial attacks on Iran. It is therefore imperative to speak out now against Washington’s threats, to educate public opinion, and to build organized opposition to aggression against Iran, as well as support for immediate, complete withdrawal from Iraq. It is time to demand a new democratic U.S. foreign policy that genuinely expresses solidarity with the aspirations of people for liberty everywhere, renounces once and for all imperial intervention, and is committed to real disarmament.

To join in signing the statement above, go to the CPD website by clicking here.

For background on the new wave of anti-gay repression in Iran, see my previous articles: July 21, 2005 -- Iran Executes Two Gay Teenagers (Updated); August 11 -- Iran Sources Question Rape Charges in Teen Executions; August 12 -- Two New Gay Executions Scheduled in Iran, Says Iranian Exile Group; August 17 -- Iran's Deadly Anti-Gay Crackdown: With Two More Executions Scheduled, the Pace of Repression Steps Up.August 25 -- Iran's Anti-Gay Purge Grows: Reports of New Executions. September 8 -- Iran and the Death of Gay Activism. September 20 -- "They'll Kill Me" -- A Gay Iranian Torture Victim Speaks of His Ordeal ; September 29 -- Iranian Gays Urgently Appeal for Help ; October 6 -- Canada Introduces UN Resolution Condemning Iran's Human Rights Record; November 24, "Save Us"-- A Gay Iranian Who Married His Partner Begs for Help from the West ; January 12, 2006 -- "Kidnapped: Another Gay Iranian Torture Victim Speaks".....January 27, 2006 -- "A Call to Solidarity: U.S. Gay Groups Must End Their Isolationism; February 8, 2006 -- "An Iranian Trans Torture Victim Speaks from Inside Iran."  February 9, Stop the Deportation of Saba Rawi; March 3, "Dutch to End Freeze on Deportation of Gay Iranians"; March 4, "Commotion in Dutch Parliament Over Deportation of Gay Iranians."; March 16, "England: Another Gay Iranian Faces Deportation"; April 20, "Dutch Deportations of Gay Iranians on Hold"; April 26, "iran Hacks Websites to Bury Anti-Gay Pogrom"; Also, don't miss Rob Anderson's excellent article in the November 10, 2005 New Republic, "How America's Gay Rights Establishment is Failing Gay Iranians."

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INT'L DAY AGAINST HOMOPHOBIA: WHY ARE U.S. GAY GROUPS A.W.O.L.? An interview with IDAHO founder Louis-Georges Tin

I wrote the following article for Gay City News -- New York's largest gay weekly -- in whose latest edition it appears. The interview was conducted in French; the translation is mine. -- D.I.

May 17 will be the second annual International Day Against Homophobia. This Rainbow_flag_2_3 year, IDAHO has been endorsed by the European Parliament, in its landmark resolution condemning homophobia, passed January 18, as well as by the Belgian Parliament, and will be observed with public actions and demonstrations in more than 50 countries, including China and Iran—but not in the United States.

Neither of the two largest national gay organizations—the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force—has seen fit to join in this international manifestation of solidarity against anti-gay hate. Neither has the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission organized any event to participate in IDAHO.

Louisgeorges_tin_2_1  The International Day Against Homophobia was the brainchild of its president, a remarkable young French university professor, Louis-Georges Tin (left), born in the overseas French department of Martinique, in the Antilles chain in the Caribbean. Tin, 31, is not only one of the most creative gay leaders internationally, he is also a rising star of France’s emerging black activist community.

The founder of IDAHO, Tin also initiated CRAN, the Representative Council of Black Associations [ Conseil Représentatif des Associations Noires ] in France. Begun last November during the ghetto riots that shook 150 French cities and towns, CRAN—an alliance of some 120 associations—has already been recognized by the political establishment as a force to be reckoned with. Its first annual national convention of 2,000 people, held this past weekend in Paris, saw all major political parties on the left and right send important emissaries as observers in an attempt to curry favor with the assembled delegates.

How did IDAHO come about?

Dictionnaite_tin “In 2003, after I published the “Dictionary of Homophobia” [“Dictionnaire de l’Homophobie,” Presses Universitaires de France], I began to work on the idea of an international day of struggle against homophobia,” Tin told me. “For me it was the obvious way to move from thought to action, from theory to practice. Everybody said it was a crazy dream, but I took my proposal for this project to LGBT groups all over the world, to political parties and institutions—and that’s how the first International Day Against Homophobia was observed on May 17, 2005—15 years to the day after the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses.”

“This year,” Tin recounted proudly, “IDAHO will be observed in over 50 countries, from Guyana to Sri Lanka to Canada, England, the Ivory Coast, Russia, and Japan. There will be all sorts of actions—public awareness campaigns, conferences, street demonstrations, artistic expositions, film festivals, forums, meetings of associations, and so on.”

IDAHO is an all-volunteer organization.

“It may be surprising to some to learn that we work with no budget and no paid staff," Tin explained. “In the beginning this was a necessity, as I began IDAHO alone and with no money. But it is also a choice—because an association with a base in 50 countries can quickly become a bureaucracy. I wanted to avoid this at all costs. I tried to imagine a structure that would leave the most room for local initiatives, enthusiasm, and independence—even if there’s enormous work coordinating IDAHO at the international level with the help of our correspondents in each country. And I think this formula has worked rather well!”

Tin was born in the small Antilles island into the black middle class. Both of his parents are high school teachers.

“I was 10 when I first realized I was attracted by another boy,” he remembered. “I was never in the least ashamed of this desire, ever—but I was afraid of rejection by everyone else. Not without sadness, I accustomed myself to the idea that all homosexuals hid themselves like I did then, and that I’d never have a real sexuality or love-life. Martinique is very small, everyone knows everyone else, and that explains in part why there is no public gay space, no gay bar, no gay publication there. Nothing. All the Martinique gays live clandestinely. I didn’t begin to have a homosexual life until I went to Paris at the age of 17 for my university studies—for me, Paris was like life on another planet!

“I came out to my friends and family at 19, when I was living in Paris and had acquired total financial and moral independence from my family. To my great surprise, even though I came from a fairly religious Catholic family, they took it rather well—not all my gay friends were so lucky.”

A brilliant student, young Louis-Georges was admitted to France’s prestigious Ecole Normale Superieure.

Aime_cesaire_30s “I was the first person from Martinique admitted to Normale Sup since Aimé Cesaire (left) [the renowned poet] in the 1930s,” Tin recounted. “In the beginning, all went well, and I studied literature. But when I began to declare my interest in gay and lesbian studies, things progressively degenerated. It may be the school of Sartre, Foucault, and Derrida, but I can assure you the intellectual climate there is less open than is commonly believed. The school administration did everything to oppose the conferences on gay and lesbian themes that I organized through the LGBT group I had created at the school.”

Tin’s academic career suffered greatly after he began his gay activism, even though his post-graduate work received the highest national honors, and despite his having published several books—including an anthology of 16th century poetry and “Homosexuel: expression et répression” (Editions Stock, 2000).

“It was after I published the ‘Dictionary of Homophobia’ that things really got bad,” Tin said. “My career paid for that book very dearly, I can tell you. Even though it was unanimously hailed by the critics, and got a great front-page review in Le Monde’s book supplement—which is the biggest honor a book can receive in the French press—after it appeared my academic career simply stopped, from one day to the next. The kind of teaching jobs that I’d previously obtained without any problem whatsoever became inaccessible. It was discrimination pure and simple, and I was even told so unofficially—but there was no way to prove it, especially given the French judicial system, which is hardly protective of the rights of minorities of any sort. I wound up leaving France for university posts in Manchester, England, and then in Pittsburgh in the U.S. After I’d given up all hope of obtaining a teaching job in France, I finally got one at the university in Orleans.”

What does Tin see as IDAHO’s greatest accomplishments—and how does he envision its future?

“Last year on May 17, we organized the first gay public actions in Bulgaria, Ivory Coast, and China,“ he said. “Because they felt themselves supported by an international movement of solidarity, our friends in those countries found the courage to dare what they’d never dared try before—a political coming-out. This year, the sameMoscow_pride_logo_2  thing will happen in Russia. With Gay Russia.ru, we have organized an International Festival Against Homophobia, as well as the first gay pride march ever, in Moscow. Despite the fact that the mayor of Moscow has banned the march, we have mobilized support for the right to have that pride march in the Council of Europe, and it will happen. This is typical of the kind of actions the IDAHO committee favors.

“I should also mention that, this year, IDAHO is co-sponsoring an all-day seminar on homophobia with the European Parliament, to be held at its headquarters in Strasbourg, to discuss how to fight homophobia in the member states of the European Union. But I intend to propose that the Euro Parliament take the lead in fighting for the universal abolition of the crime of homosexuality, the theme I have proposed this year for IDAHO. This may appear a utopian goal to some, but it isn’t really. After all, two-thirds of the U.N.’s member states have decriminalized homosexuality, and one may reasonably expect a majority of the U.N. Human Rights Council to support this goal.”

Tin further elaborated on the international parliamentary strategy.

“The key objective now is to get the decriminalization resolution presented at the U.N., and I’m working hard on that goal. One step toward it is to have the European Parliament condemn those countries which make homosexuality a crime, to pressure them to change their laws. This could be a historic first in human rights. Yes, I’ll have a lot of work on my plate to get there. But people told me I was crazy when I decided to launch the International Day Against Homophobia. I believe we can succeed!”

But getting the U.N. to support decriminalization of homosexuality will be more difficult if the large national gay organizations in the U.S. continue what could be called their “abstinence-only” attitude toward international gay solidarity actions like IDAHO.

For more information on IDAHO -- the International Day Against Homophobia -- visit its English-language Web page by CLICKING HERE.

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May 03, 2006


Howard_dean Democratic National Chair Howard Dean (left) has fired the party's gay outreach advisor Donald Hitchcock (right) -- because Hitchcock's Donald_hitchcock_1 domestic partner, Democratic consultant Paul Yandura, criticised the party for not doing anything to oppose anti-gay marriage referendums in the 2004 elections and again this year.

On April 20, Yandura (right) -- who worked in the Clinton White House and on the staffs of the Clinton and Gore presidential campaigns -- Paul_yandura wrote an open letter to Dean and Democratic state chairs demanding why the party had done nothing to oppose the 11 gay marriage referenda that passed in 2004. Less than a week later, Dean responded by firing Hitchcock, Yandura's domestic partner of eight years, in what Yarunda called a "retaliation, pure and simple," adding, "It is important to note that I sat face-to-face with Howard last year to voice my concern honestly and openly" about the Democrats' failure  to oppose the gay marriage bans. But, says, Yarunda, "Nothing has happened since that meeting" to alter the party's neutrality on the issue.

Yandura now runs a political consulting firm with Marsha Scott (right), a longtime friendMarshsa_scott_1 of Bill Clinton whose name surfaced in both the Travelgate affair and in  the Clinton impeachment proceedings (when Clinton testified he'd asked her  to help Monica Lewinsky find a post-White House job. Former White House  Director of Administration David Watkins -- fired for unauthorized use of a White House helicopter -- and a friend of Clinton's since their shared boyhood in Hope, Arkansas, told reporters at the time that Scott had  a continuing extra-marital affair with Clinton.)

With bans on same-sex marriage equality again likely to be on the  ballot this year in Washington, Colorado, Wisconsin, Virginia, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Illinois, and other states, the failure of the Democrats to stand up to this Republican-Religions Right anti-gay offensive is a more important question than ever-- especially since, as the  '04 elections proved, these referendums increase voter turnout among religious conservates of both major parties, to the Democrats' detriment. Which means that the Democrats' failure to develop a strategy to fight those ballot referendums is not only a betrayal of the party's gay and lesbian constituency, it's electorally dumb and suicidal.

Donald_and_paul_1_2  When I telephoned Yandura (on the right in photo at left, with Hitchcock), he told me, "There has been no directive or request from either Chairman Dean or DNC to the state parties asking them to get off their asses and oppose these anti-gay marriage referenda in the states. When I met with Dean and senior staff last year and told them the party needed a strategy on this issue to defeat the Republicans, they all agreed -- but up until now they've done nothing except talk. Oh, they've had a couple of meetings with reps from gay groups, but you can meet all you like -- and if you have no strategy and take no concrete action, it's meaningless. Look, this isn't really about gay marriage -- it's about the Republican-Karl Rove strategy to win elections, and I'm trying to help the party win, not hurt it. But I won't allow gays or immigrants to be used as human shields to blame defeat at the polls on. If the party won't take very concrete steps and actions to fight these anti-gay marriage referenda on the ground --  referenda designed to help Republicans win -- then we may have to start withholding our financial contributions to the Democratic Party until they wake up to the fact that not having a strategy to fight them is a loser for the party. But I hope it doesn't get to that point."  My only disagreement with Yandura is that I think that point is already here. The Democrats won't get the message until they start feeling it in their electoral pocketbook.

This is not the first time Dean, as DNC chair, has taken steps that displeased gay Democrats. In February, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee's gay Jeff_soref and lesbian caucus, New Yorker Jeff Soref (left) -- a longtime party fundraiser and former board chairman of the Empire State Pride Agenda -- resigned as a party National Committeeman because, he said, of Dean's decision to eliminate most of the party's national gay and lesbian staff posts, including the Director of Gay and Lesbian Research. It was not until  after a wave of criticism from gay Democrats about the abolition of the gay  outreach department that Dean hired Hitchcock.

Dean has always had a mixed record on gay issues. Although he raised milllions of dollars from gays and lesbians for his '04 presidential campaign on the strength of hisEd_flanagan_ii  signing a bill to legalize same-sex civil unions when he was governor of Vermont, the openly gay elected State Auditor Ed Flanagan (right), who led the lobbying effort that passed the civil union bill, had said that Dean never lifted a finger to secure the bill's passage, and indeed only signed it "in the closet" in his office, with no press present--only to later exploit it for his presidential campaign's fundraising.

The fired Hitchcock is a former staffer of the Human Rights Campaign who had previously served as executive director of the National Coalition of LGBT Health. He has been replaced as Dean's gay advisor by Brian Bond, who -- the Washington Blade's Lou Chibarro reports -- had just accepted the post of executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats but had not yet assumed the post, and his acceptance of the DNC job leaves NSD without a new director (National Stonewall's co-chair, Steve Driscoll, says the Blade's report isn't true -- see Driscoll's statement posted in the "Comments" section below.) Bond is a former executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund.

I wrote the above for the new issue of Gay City News -- New York's largest gay weekly --  which hits the newsstands tomorrow.

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