Human Rights

January 13, 2008

One of us is a realist and the other an optimist, although we both tend to flip-flop a bit between both philosophies when it comes to decision making and future planning. Suffice it to say that neither of us is a pessimist, and we try to keep the “stiff upper lip” that is necessary to maintain a positive attitude and prevents us from screaming with frustration.

However, upon yearend reflection we must confess to finding ourselves a bit dismayed about the civil rights “victories” for the LGBT community during 2007. Some think it was an eventful year and full of promise for the community, and we would like to celebrate right along with those folks. But when the facts are reviewed, we come up with a slightly more negative result.

We are well aware that some think it is a serious no-no to be negative, but we think it’s more realistic to evaluate what we’ve achieved and where we need to go with a critical eye and not just accept a passing handout that doesn’t really improve image or circumstance just because it feels good at the moment.

December 16, 2007

Jeff Herman sits on the front desk of the Shalom Community Center's dining room and hands out the laundry detergent that guests use to do their laundry. He's excited because today he'll have his first job interview in the past four years.

He met the manager of a fast-food restaurant at an AA meeting (although, he tells me, he doesn't drink -- he has a different weakness). "If he gives me a chance, I'll do everything I can to hold on to it," he says.

Jeff has been homeless for a few years now. He camps out in a tent about a mile and a half from Shalom. He served in the military for nine years and received three honors, he says. For Jeff, homeless life is not that bad. "It's as good as you make it or as bad as you make it."

December 5, 2007

"Hasta la vista, baby!" The Bush administration has announced it will return in March with a revised plan to pair Department of Homeland Security (DHS) guidance letters with Social Security Administration (SSA) no-match letters.

This past August, the administration issued a new DHS rule apparently intended to flush out undocumented immigrants. The rule directed SSA to add a letter from DHS to the envelopes containing the no-match letters SSA sends employers informing them about alleged discrepancies between their employee records and SSA's database.

The DHS letter would have warned employers to expect a stiff fine if they did not fire within 90 days any worker who couldn't resolve the data discrepancy. Up to now, no-match letters have been purely informational, with no penalty attached for failure to resolve discrepancies.

November 21, 2007

A man recently stood outside Bloomington's Planned Parenthood clinic holding a sign that read, "Planned Parenthood Kills Babies." He didn't seem to mind that it was 7:30 in the morning and below 50 degrees. He just wanted everyone who drove past the clinic to know his message.

But he's not the only one with a message. Now more than ever, Planned Parenthood of Indiana (PPIN) wants legislators to know: Its goal is not to kill babies - it's to help people make responsible choices about whether and when to become parents.

PPIN recently launched the "Prevention Now" campaign, a series of proposals addressed to the Indiana General Assembly to encourage lawmakers to support legislation that will help prevent unintended pregnancies and reduce the need for abortions.

November 21, 2007

Ever wake up in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning with waves of panic washing over you or a tight knot in the middle of your stomach?

We feel certain that most of our readers have suffered from such stress-related symptoms from trying to meet deadlines or maintain expectations in school, on the job or even in relationships.

Our heads spin while we try to keep the demands of work and careers in balance with some semblance of a social and family life.

October 24, 2007

Remember that word game we used to play when we were children? The one where we picked a word and repeated it over and over as fast as we could? The purpose was to see how fast we could speak and still correctly pronounce the word.

We would laugh ourselves silly at some of the sounds that came out of our mouths. All harmless play, but we also noticed an additional result. The more a word or phrase was repeated, the more the meaning seemed to become blurry.

And we have to wonder, is it really true that words spoken often enough can lose their sense of purpose and meaning?

Take the word "diversity," for instance. Now there’s a word that has certainly been overused and possibly become blurry in meaning or context. It seems that everywhere we turn we hear things like “We need more diversity,” “We have lots of diversity,” “We are diversified,” “We can’t hold onto diversity.”

July 4, 2007

The Indiana Civil Rights Commission (ICRC) has ruled that enough evidence of AIDS-related discrimination exists against a local business that a complaint against it should proceed.

Bloomington resident Dean Mead sued Morrison’s TV and Appliance on Dec. 16, 2005, alleging that owner Edie Morrison violated his civil rights when she fired him less than an hour after he informed her that he had tested HIV-positive.

Commission Deputy Director Christine Baca ruled on April 25 that “there is probable cause to believe that a discriminatory employment action in violation of the civil rights law has occurred.”

June 6, 2007

The simple facts in Shorty Hall's murder shout major media. Brian Williams or Katie Couric, maybe. Bill Moyers, someday. Indianapolis Star, unquestionably.

The 1998 hate-crime murder of Matthew Shepard in Wyoming is commonly invoked in comparison.

Thirty-five-year-old, 5-foot-4, 100-pound Aaron Hall was brutally beaten on April 12 for hours by two teens who have described the murder in chilling detail to police. Each says Hall precipitated the violence by making a homosexual suggestion.

The beatings included repeated pummelings with fists and boots and dragging Hall down a wooden staircase by his feet as "his head bounced down all of the steps," in one of the accused's words. He died naked and alone, in a field, where he had crawled after his killers dumped his body in a roadside ditch.

June 6, 2007

Who doesn't love a parade? Especially those colorful and upbeat parades that celebrate the joys of life and confirm our existence?

The upcoming summer months afford parade lovers the opportunity to enjoy many events that reflect and honor various community values. During the month of June the LGBT community celebrates pride with parades, picnics, marching bands and family gatherings.

June 6, 2007

In 2005, the FBI reported 1,017 hate crimes nationally based on victims' sexual orientation, 14.2 percent of all hate crimes reported in that year.

Hate crimes are classified by the Human Rights Campaign as unlawful acts motivated by bias against a person based on the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender or disability of the victims.

According to a 2001 Department of Justice report, hate crimes are under-reported, and only 20 percent of those reported result in arrest.

"Out of all hate crimes, one in seven are sexuality motivated," said Matthew Brunner, Bloomington Field Organizer for the Human Rights Campaign.

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