Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Presbyterian Charged, Officiated at Wedding for Two Women

For the first time in California, a Presbyterian minister was charged by her denomination for performing legal marriages.

The Rev. Janie Spahr faced a pretrial hearing on March 3, 2010, in Rohnert Park, Calif., based on charges for an alleged disciplinary offense in the Presbyterian Church (USA) for officiating at the marriage of Sara Taylor and Sherrie Holmes in June 2008.

Janie is the founder of Spectrum LGBT Center (formerly Ministry of Light). She has a long history with charges being filed against her in various church courts. She has now been charged with church-related charges of officiating at a legal wedding under the laws of the State of California.

(Media-Newswire.com) – For the first time in California, a Presbyterian minister was charged by her denomination for performing legal marriages. The Rev. Janie Spahr, faced a pretrial hearing on March 3, 2010, in Rohnert Park, Calif., based on charges for an alleged disciplinary offense in the Presbyterian Church USA for officiating at the marriage of Sara Taylor and Sherrie Holmes in June 2008.

The charges came as a result of allegations filed with the Presbytery of the Redwoods, a regional body, made by a member of a local church. The allegations were reviewed by the Investigating Committee of the Presbytery who then charged her with a violation of her ordination vows. Rev. Spahr officiated at many legal, same gender marriages that are still legal in California, since Proposition 8 did not annul any marriages. More than 11,000 same-sex couples are legally married in California.

For the past 500 years the church and state have participated together in celebrating marriages that are authorized by the civil authority and solemnized in religious ceremonies. Should the Rev. Spahr be found guilty of the offense by her Presbytery, it would be the first time a minister in the Presbyterian Church USA would be disciplined for celebrating a marriage authorized by the State. At a pretrial hearing held March 3rd the Rev. Spahr pled not guilty. The trial before the Presbytery of the Redwoods Permanent Judicial Commission is expected to be held either the week of August 23rd or the week of September 20th. The exact date has yet to be announced.

Rev. Spahr remains in good standing within the church and is honorably retired. Rev. Spahr’s advocates in this church proceeding are Scott Clark, a former attorney who is now a candidate for Ministry in the Presbyterian Church and Beverly Brewster, a Presbyterian Minister.

In 2008, the Presbyterian Church USA national body took a step toward full equality for gay people in the denomination when it passed a constitutional amendment to eliminate all bars for membership or ordination. The amendment received historic levels of support from the 173 regional presbyteries but fell short of receiving the two-thirds vote needed for ratification. The denomination will hold its next biennial meeting July 3-10, 2010, in Minneapolis, Minn. Full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people will be on the table again.

To find out more, visit http://www.revjanespahr.org/.

Friday, March 19, 2010


Online 'suggestion box' seeks to inform HUD on design of historic research

Offer your Feedback on HUD's LGBT Housing Discrimination Study Here

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development today launched a new website to allow citizens to offer comment on the design of an unprecedented national study that will examine housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. While there have been no national assessments of housing discrimination targeting the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) community, there is a body of evidence suggesting this sort of bias exists.

HUD recently hosted town hall meetings in Chicago, San Francisco and New York City to solicit feedback on how it might approach such ground-breaking research. This 'online suggestion box' is intended to offer the public throughout the U.S. an opportunity to comment on HUD's study.

"It is critical that as we embark on this historic discrimination study, that we hear from those who may have been denied housing based on their sexual orientation or gender identity," said Dr. Raphael Bostic, HUD's Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research. "The comments we received in our town hall meetings, and those we will gather from this new website, will help inform how we might test for housing discrimination in the sale or rental of housing based on LBGT status."

While there are no national assessments of LGBT housing discrimination, there are state and local studies that have shown this sort of bias. For example, Michigan's Fair Housing Centers found that nearly 30 percent of same-sex couples were treated differently when attempting to buy or rent a home (www.fhcmichigan.org/images/Arcus_web1.pdf).

HUD's new LGBT website will seek suggestions on how best to execute the study. For example, how would a 'tester' signal in a conversation with a landlord that an individual or couple was LGBT? The website is not designed for users to lodge complaints about a particular incident. However, if you believe you have been a victim of housing discrimination, you may file an online complaint, or call HUD's Housing Discrimination Hotline at 1-800-669-9777.

HUD is the nation's housing agency committed to sustaining homeownership; creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans; and supporting the homeless, elderly, people with disabilities and people living with AIDS. The Department also promotes economic and community development and enforces the nation's fair housing laws. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet at www.hud.gov and espanol.hud.gov.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

We All Count: The 2010 Census is Here

From Credo Action's website

The census tells the story of who we are as a nation, and that includes LGBT people — but only when we participate, and only when we're fully counted. Thanks to the collection of unmarried partner data, a more complete picture of who we are has emerged. For example, we know that:

•Same-sex couples live in 99% of all US Counties.

•LGBT parents live in 97% of all US Counties.

•Black and Latino same-sex couples are raising children at almost the same rates as their heterosexual peers, but on lower incomes ($10,000/yr less).

Still, there is no question on the 2010 census that asks individuals if they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender — and LGBT questions are not included in almost all other major federal surveys.

It's a big problem. The census, which counts everyone living in the United States every ten years, provides the data that is used to determine funding and policy priorities at the national and state level.

Being counted isn’t just a numbers game, but a question of whether the LGBT community gets access to the resources that support our health, economic well-being, safety and families. The LGBT community must be visible--and that means participating in the census, but it also means being counted fully.

That's why the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, together with CREDO Action, has launched Queer the Census. We must ensure that LGBT people are accurately counted in the next census — and we need your help to make it happen. Here's how:

1. Sign the petition to the right to pledge your support of a census that counts everyone!

2. Get the Queer the Census sticker and use it to seal the back of your census envelope.

3. Spread the word about the Queer the Census campaign.

4. Make a contribution to support the campaign.

You can get your very own FREE Queer the Census sticker at http://act.credoaction.com/sticker/queerthecensus/. CREDO Action is partnering with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force to make sure the census counts everyone. Order your sticker now and use it to seal the back of your census envelope when it arrives in the mail.

The sticker is free. Stickers are 4.5" x 6" (about the size of a postcard). Make sure you order your sticker before midnight March 22nd so you get it in time to mail with your census form on April 1st!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

ACTION ALERT: Tell Your Representative to Vote YES on Health Care Reform!

Health Care Reform IS an LGBT Issue!
Tell Your Representative to Vote YES on Reform!

We are so close to the finish line in health care reform: the House of Representatives hopes to vote on reform THIS WEEK.

While the bill isn’t perfect, it is a huge step forward in making health care affordable and accessible for all, including the LGBT community. The bill includes:

  • Improved data collection on disparity factors, including “any...demographic data as deemed appropriate by the Secretary regarding health disparities” – this will likely include sexual orientation and gender identity 
  • Non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in federal grants for mental health education and training 
  • $8.5 billion in funds for community health centers 
  • Prohibition of insurance exclusions based on pre-existing conditions 
  • Extension of insurance coverage to approximately 31 million uninsured people
In 2007, 50% of spending on health in the U.S. was used to treat just 5% of the population, and an estimated 45,000 people die every year in this country because they do not have insurance coverage. The status quo harms our community and our families, and we deserve better. 
Tell your Representative to pass health care reform NOW.

To contact your member of Congress, dial the House switchboard at (202) 224-3121, give your zip code, and ask to speak to your Representative. When you are connected to your Representative’s office, tell them that you are a constituent who supports reform and wants your Representative to vote YES on reform. Take action today!

Take Action Today! Call your Representatives for LGBT Inclusion!

Representative Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) is currently circulating a letter in the House of Representatives, requesting funds for the addition of a question about sexual orientation and gender identity to the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), the federal government's most comprehensive and influential survey. This question is vitally important for gathering the information needed to understand and address the health disparities affecting the LGBT community.

Please call your representative today and urge them to sign on to Representative Baldwin’s letter. To contact your member of Congress, please dial the House switchboard at (202) 224-3121, give your zip code, and ask to speak to your Representative. When you are connected to your Representative’s office, ask to speak to the staff member who works on Health and Human Services Appropriations. Tell them you are a constituent who supports appropriating an additional $2 million for the National Health Interview Survey and that you would like them to sign on to Representative Baldwin's letter.

In order to sign on, they must contact Elizabeth Lee in Representative Baldwin’s office and enter their request in the Appropriations Committee's database. If they have any questions, please have them contact Rebecca Fox at 202-558-6828 or rebecca@lgbthealth.net.

SF LGBT Center responds to recent media reports

NOTE: Recent news reports inaccurately reported on the financial condition of the San Francisco LGBT Community Center.  This kind of 'bad news' reporting can be devastating on a hard-working institution that is, in fact, beating the odds in this rough economic climate.  It's important that this misinformation is corrected.  Here is a letter from the board chairs and executive director, doing just that.  In solidarity, Paula Pilecki, Executive Director, Spectrum LGBT Center

The San Francisco LGBT Community Center serves over 9,000 people each month and hosts over 3,000 programs and workshops each year; we pilot groundbreaking programs, serve LGBT community members most in need, and provide information and referral services to link community members to critical services.

What we are not is in foreclosure – nor are we asking the City for a $1 million bailout.

For the last 24 months, we have been diligently working on a number of strategic financial initiatives to reduce expenses and increase revenue.

Two years ago we began a program to cut costs and have been successful at cutting a total of $300,000 a year from the annual budget of $2.1 million. While those expense reductions have been difficult, they have been strategic, allowing us to preserve our core services and programs.

We have also been pursuing strategies to increase our revenue. We are working on the permitting process to allow more commercial use of the Center, which would increase our revenue by over $120,000/year. We are expanding the board of directors; in the past seven months we have welcomed six new board members to a board that is fully engaged in activities to strengthen our financial base. Finally, we received grant funds to expand our development team and allow us to focus on further developing our individual giving program.

These efforts are being successful. We ended last year with less than a $6,000 operating loss, against revenues of $2.1 million. This year we are on track to have another break-even year. This is no small feat when non-profits and for-profits are reporting record losses throughout the country.

Media coverage of the Center has focused on these efforts, but most recently there was a significant misrepresentation of the facts and our situation.

We do have $3.2 million in outstanding debt related to the construction of the building, which has been carried in a loan with First Republic Bank. After almost a year of very difficult bargaining, we have achieved a loan modification that financially benefits the Center. This includes a reduction our interest rate, which will save $200,000 over the next five years, and a modification of principle payments to help cash flow. The bank is requiring that we create a reserve account, with a balance of $157,500 – reserves which we do not have. The City have been involved in the discussions from the beginning and Supervisors Bevan Dufty and David Campos are sponsoring legislation to provide a loan from the City to the Center. This is a loan and not a grant. It is also $157,500 – not over $1 million as is reported in some sources.

Our confidence about the future of the Center and our ability to meet the loan rests on the financial restructuring initiatives described above and on historic performance.

Over the past six years, we have paid First Republic Bank over $1.5 million in interest and principle payments. As of last May, when we began the negotiations, we had never missed or been late with a payment. We are currently in compliance with the bank’s payment schedule during the negotiation period. This year we have already paid over $100,000 in interest.

The work of the Center has been successful due to the commitment of many in our community. Our board of directors and community partners bring tremendous leadership and vision about how to ensure the long term success of the Center. The staff and volunteers work daily to provide critical programs and services, ensuring that folks most in need continue to have access to our youth meal nights, job services for the transgender community, HIV prevention, and connection to the critical safety net services offered by the Center and our many collaborative partners.

Most importantly, we could not achieve this success without all of you who donate, volunteer, attend events, visit, and come together to make the Center a true home for the LGBT community and our allies.

We will keep you updated as we move forward in our strategic efforts to strengthen the foundation of the Center and ensure that we continue to be here, creating community for the generations to come.


Debbie Chaw
Co-Chair, Board of Directors

James Williamson
Co-Chair, Board of Directors

Rebecca Rolfe
Executive Director

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Compassion-Collaboration-Community: Strengthening our Response to Human Suffering

JCRC’s Annual Interfaith Freedom Seder

Monday, March 22, 2010, 6:30 p.m.
Osher Marin JCC, 200 N. San Pedro Road, San Rafael

With Rabbi Ted Feldman, B’nai Israel Jewish Center, Petaluma, and Reverend Veronica Goines, St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, Marin City.

Please join us as we celebrate the festival of Passover with a delicious vegetarian dinner, traditional and new music, a gathering of old and new friends – plus stories of how Compassion and Collaboration can build a Community.

$25 adults
$20 students
$15 children 12 and under

Please reserve by Wednesday, March 17
For reservations: 415-444-8000

Questions? Contact Suzan Berns @ JCRC: 415-472-5128

Sponsor: Jewish Community Relations Council/North Bay Region

In association with: Osher Marin JCC, Marin Interfaith Council, Gan Haleve, Jewish Congregation of the San Geronimo Valley, Congregation Rodef Sholom, Congregation Kol Shofar, Marin Organizing Committee, Jewish Family & Children’s Services/Marin Region, Jewish Community Federation/Marin Region.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Welcome to our new website!

Welcome home!

For those of us who live north of the Golden Gate Bridge, we know we're home when we see the mountainscape that is pictured in our new website banner.

No matter where you live, being at home means being yourself. Our work at Spectrum is all about creating a community where you are free to be who you are, with no need to keep 'that part' of your life hidden from everyone else.

I invite you to check out our new website. It's a work in progress, so check back often and sign up to receive update notices. We hope you like our new home.

Paula Pilecki, Executive Director
Spectrum LGBT Center


Friday, March 5, 2010

The Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival shows STRAIGHTLACED: HOW GENDER'S GOT US ALL TIED UP

The Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival is proud to present
STRAIGHTLACED: How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up
Directed by Debra Chasnoff
Filmmaker Q&A following screening

Sunday, March 7th, 11:30 am at the Sebastopol Youth Annex, 390 Morris Street (next to the Community Center).  Tickets: $8 in advance.

TICKETS AVAILABLE ONLINE at http://www.sebastopolfilmfestival.org/ or SEBASTOPOL CENTER FOR THE ARTS, 6780 Depot Street, Sebastopol, CA 95472; (707) 829-4797

This screening is generously sponsored by PFLAG North Bay

Debra Chasnoff’s compellingly presented film is a powerful and intimate look at how popular pressures around gender and sexuality are shaping the lives of American teens today. Adults and teens will want to talk about this open, honest, funny and occasionally sad film about the complex, emotion-triggering topic of gender identification.