Saturday, January 1, 2011

Carpe Diem, Community Style

Over the past year I have read and watched the news stories across America, with special emphasis being placed on the grassroots, particularly in the case of the "Tea Party." I believe the disconnect between the governing powers and the governed in this country has become too large; that we need to refocus as communities to find opportunities for growth, not in the sense of expansion, but in the sense of edification. I think it's time for people like myself who are itching to have a hand in the creation of solutions in our own communities to step up.

I am asking that anyone reading this who would like to join in a community discussion with me meet twice a month. I propose that we talk about issues in the Salt Lake Valley that we want to have taken care of. First order of business for me would be air quality, but I would like anything and everything that people want to talk about to come up.

There are a few stipulations to this: First, this is not related to politics. This is government policy that we want to see changed, and we actively want to pursue changing, or volunteer work in the community we would like help to accomplish. Second, all topics would need to be thoroughly researched before being discussed, since the entire concept is to engage each other in such a way that we find creative and effective ways to combat community issues. If you suggest a topic, you would need to come with at least a few resources and some ideas. Third, all dialogue at the meetings would need to be civil and focused on the topics at hand. Fourth, if you don't plan on following through so that our discussions turn into real community action, please send me your thoughts via e-mail and maybe I can assist or refer you to someone who can assist, rather than attending the meetings, although anyone is welcome, like I said.

The gulf between what we believe the government does, what it takes to do it, and what we, the people, perceive is vast. We need to start bridging those gaps to make this a better place.

If you're interested, let me know.

Friday, August 14, 2009


It's been a while since I've written anything here, so I've decided to write about a few things that are going on.

I started a diet a few days ago with the hopes of shedding some of the unwanted pounds I have. The diet incorporates an amino acid found in the placenta of a pregnant woman called hCG and seems to be a miracle diet. Give me 2 months and I'll tell you if it's true. The nice part is it requires no extra physical exertion, but it does require that you severely limit your caloric intake. It's mainly a test of willpower and whether you can go without the sugars and starches that we normally consume.

My other pet project right now is that I'm starting to do research for a book I would like to write. I have long been aware of many commonalities between the LGBT community and the LDS community, particularly regarding the persecution and evolution of attitudes in both communities. I haven't really started writing yet, but I'll give you an update once I start writing.

Lastly, I have everything booked to go to the National Equality March in October. If anyone else is planning on going, let me know. I fly there on Thursday the 8th and fly home on Tuesday the 13th.



Friday, May 1, 2009

Marriage Equality Estimates and Predictions

So, I'm not sure whether it was boredom or the sinus headache, but I decided to figure out when marriage equality would actually be a reality in each state given how the legislative process works. I wanted to see which states would begin issuing licenses first, and then decided to do some projections about possible states. Here is the list of states that currently have marriage equality or legislation pending which would allow for marriage equality, their expected effective date, and the percentage of the national population that would be living in places with marriage equality at that time, given 2008 census estimates:

  1. Massachusetts, 2.1% (May 17, 2004)
  2. Connecticut, 3.3% (November 12, 2008)
  3. Iowa, 4.3% (April 27, 2009)
  4. New York, 10.7% (Est. June 15, 2009)
  5. California, 22.8% (Est. June 15, 2009)
  6. Vermont, 23.0% (September 1, 2009)
  7. Maine, 23.4% (Est. September 15, 2009)
  8. Washington, D.C., 23.6% (Est. October 1, 2009)
  9. New Hampshire, 24.0% (Est. January 1, 2010)
  10. New Jersey, 26.9% (Est. January 15, 2010)

Now, a few notes about these states. 4 are for sure, and 6 aren't (one isn't even a state). I'm only including these 10 for right now because they are the ones with visible momentum toward marriage equality. I may later try to extrapolate some more data and give some estimates for other states, but I don't want to be too premature.

New York:

The Governor of New York, David Paterson, has been an invaluable ally for the LGBT community in New York, even given the criticism that former Gov. Eliot Spitzer would already have had this bill passed. The bill he is pushing is bill A07732 (Primary sponsor O'Donnell, D-69, 55 co-sponsors) in the Assembly and S4401 in the Senate (Primary sponsor Duane, D-29, 18 co-sponsors). There are 150 members of the State Assembly and passage through that chamber should be accomplished by the end of next week since the bill is already out of committee and being moved to third reading. The speed is probably due to the fact that they have already been through this bill before in 2007.

The Senate is where things get complicated. The Senate Majority Leader, Malcolm Smith did not want to introduce a bill unless it would pass, fearing that it would make the legislation harder to pass or push it out by a year or two. However, Sen. Tom Duane of NY's 29th Senatorial District, an advocate of the policy not to pursue the bill unless it would pass, has introduced the legislation. This means that it will be sent to committee, and could be out within a week or two. Making matters more interesting, a group of 3 Democrats were holding out on confirming Smith as Majority Leader, supposedly because they didn't want this legislation to see the light of day in 2009. Now, 1 of the "Gang of 3", Sen. Pedro Espada is co-sponsoring the legislation. The main opposition to this bill is coming from Senator Ruben Diaz, a Democrat from the Bronx who is an ordained minister that has frequently registered opposition to anything affiliated with LGBT people including the Gay Games of 1994 and the Harvey Milk School. Republicans in the state Senate have been told by their leadership that they may choose to vote their conscience, allowing the bill to possibly be carried with bipartisan support. Of the Republican members of the State Assembly that voted for the 2007 bill, none lost election due to their vote on that bill.

This bill has been sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee, but is not on the agenda for their next meeting (May 5, 2009, 10 am). The committee only meets once a week on Tuesday at 10 A.M., but is not required to meet every week. The Chairman, Senator Sampson, is not a co-sponsor of the legislation, and Ruben Diaz sits on this committee. However, of the 22 committee members including the chair, 8 Senators have signed on as co-sponsors to the bill. Hopefully this is a good sign and will help it move out of committee and onto the floor. I would imagine a floor vote would take place within a week, given that the Majority Leader is in favor of this legislation. The bill requires 32 votes to pass since there is no Lieutenant Governor to break the tie should it only get 31 votes.

A recent poll puts support in New York State at 53% for marriage equality. If this bill passes, the effective date is immediate. I would assume that they would allow a few weeks for county clerks to adjust, and I estimate the bill could be through the Senate by the end of May, thus my calculation of June 15, 2009. Just a side note, the NY State Legislature ends its session on June 22nd.


This is a hypothetical date, given that the court hasn't ruled and their decision is highly uncertain at this point. Oral arguments dictated that the justices would probably choose to uphold Prop 8, but given the recent advances in marriage equality across the country, the CA Supremes are going to be feeling extreme pressure about right now. Iowa's Supreme Court quoted the In Re: Marriage case to support their ruling, and the CA Supremes would be overruling their own prior ruling given that they previously upheld the rights of the LGBT minority last year. This incident is just more proof that CA needs to hold a constitutional convention. Also, Kate Kendell, Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, published a letter on her blog today stating that she thinks the court must overturn the Proposition. What is certain from the outcome, however, is that all of the groups pushing for this Proposition should be wary if it stands. In essence, it declares that California is under mob rule and that any disliked minority could be targeted next.

Out of irony, I think that the court may release its ruling on Friday, May 15, 2009, on the one year anniversary of its prior opinion. If the ruling is in our favor, it would take effect after thirty days, making June 15, 2009 the date where Californians could legally perform same-sex marriages again. If the Proposition is upheld, I expect it would be repealed by 2010. I say this because at this time, California will probably be one of only two states (the other being Colorado) where the repeal may be on the ballot. If that is the case, I would expect a legal date of December 1, 2010.


Maine seems to be a shoo-in. Testimonies regarding marriage equality were heard by the Judiciary Committee last week, and it sailed through the Senate this Wednesday. I'm not sure if they held that Judiciary Committee meeting with both Houses because of the number of people expected, or if it is standard practice in Maine to have a committee comprised of members of both chambers. Anyways, the bill should reach the Assembly floor next Tuesday, May 5, 2009. Given that the bill had over 60 Co-Sponsors and it was supposed to have a more difficult time going through the Senate (where it passed 21-14), I think it could be to Governor Baldacci's desk by the end of next week. Baldacci is mum on whether or not he will sign, but it has been indicated that his position about same sex marriage has changed and he is now unopposed. If he signs it, the bill will take effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns. They are scheduled to end the session on June 17, 2009, which would give a legal date of Tuesday, September 15, 2009. Btw, the bill is LD 1020.

One thing to beware of here is the possibility of a people's veto on this bill. Opposition is starting to mount, and may be lead by Richard J. Malone, Archbishop of Portland, Maine. However, past campaigns against LGBT rights is Maine have proven unsuccessful and Mainers are vehemently opposed to outside input on their legislative process, meaning a California-like initiative would be widely held in contempt.

Washington, D.C.:

Although it isn't a state, I include it because for all intents and purposes it operates separate of all the states. The D.C. City Council unanimously approved an ordinance that would recognize marriages performed elsewhere earlier would be recognized there. The ordinance will have a second reading and vote on May 5th, after which Congress has 30 days to review it. I am unsure if Congress really has any power over it because there is fiscal cost to D.C. that they haven't already recognized during the implementation of Domestic Partnerships in the District. I personally am inclined to believe that Congress has moot power over this, but they could indefinitely delay it or disapprove of the law. Again, I'm not sure that they actually have the power to do this because of the lack of a fiscal cost to D.C.

The City Council at that point would probably introduce a bill to allow for same-sex marriages to be performed there. 2 of the city council members are openly gay, and the Mayor, Adrian Fenty seems to be ok with it. The wildcard is Marian Berry, a D.C. City Councilman that was recently seen with a bunch of anti-marriage equality people at a rally. Although he is acting alone, the implications aren't clear what effect this may have on the Council or the Mayor. The later bill would follow the same procedure as this one, so it would have a first reading sometime in July, a second reading and final vote in August, and if untouched by Congress, become effective by October 1, 2009.

New Hampshire:

This bill recently passed the New Hampshire State Senate, where it was amended and sent back to the Assembly. No word on when they will take a final vote on the bill with the amendment before it is sent to the Governor. The Governor recently made statements that the LGBT community should be more concerned with federal recognition of their civil unions than working toward marriage equality in the state. I kind of agree with him, but it doesn't really give us any indication as to whether or not he would veto HB 436. He has gone on record as being opposed to same-sex marriage and only signed the civil unions bill two years ago, so there are no guarantees here.

If the bill does pass, it is written in the bill that it will take effect January 1, 2010. Interesting Note: Same-gender couples must both be 18, regardless of sex, whereas in a heterosexual marriage, the boy may be 14 and the girl 13. I think it has something to do with having children out of wedlock, but it's still interesting to note.

New Jersey:

There have been no bills placed before the legislature yet that deal with marriage equality. The word is that legislators are waiting until after the November elections to make their move. New Jersey's legislature is full time, meaning that their sessions can go the entire year. In essence, right after the election legislators could pass a marriage equality bill that would be forgotten before the next elections come in 2011. Governor Jon Corzine has already stated that he would sign the bill, especially since New Jersey commissioned an independent panel to study civil unions and whether, in fact, they are equal to marriage, as that's what the Supreme Court of New Jersey required when it ruled in Lewis vs. Harris that the state must provide equal legal protections to same-sex couples. Interestingly, the court was split 4-3, because the 3 dissenters felt that civil unions weren't enough and that the legislature must provide for same-gender marriage. The panel released its results on December 10, 2008 and recommended that New Jersey become the next state to allow for marriage equality. Polls show the state is almost split, but the legislature should act just after the elections.

If we estimate that it will take about 6 weeks to move through both chambers, the bill should be signed by the end of December, and allowing for county clerks to change their forms, I estimate that the legal reality of same-gender marriage in New Jersey will be about January 15, 2010.

So, these are my predictions/estimates for the first 10 places in the country that will have marriage equality. I may try and do some other predictions, but it all depends on how things shape up in the next few weeks.

It is interesting to note that 5 of these states are in New England. I say this because New England seems to have the most politically engaged population in the country. It is no wonder then that those legislators who are closest to the people can see how they are affected when equal rights aren't provided. As a side note, the lower house in the New Hampshire legislature has 400 members meaning that they represent 3,290 people according to the 2008 census estimates; in Utah the ratio is 1 legislator per 36,486 residents.

Any thoughts?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Further Musings on the Town Hall

I thought I had finished, but as I was lying in bed trying to fall asleep, I figured out the other elements that I felt were missing from tonight's meeting.

As I've worked with different groups in the LGBT community, and seen how things happen, I've noticed that we are actually quite the cheery bunch and that we all have many skills, qualities and items that we can contribute to make things go in the community. In these town hall meetings though, we aren't being asked to help create or work or do anything useful. It seems like just a fill-in on what is happening.

I propose that we institute an impartial mediator during each of these meetings, with no two meetings being mediated by the same person.

I propose that each group come with a list of projects, events, etc, that they want the community to know about, and that they need help with. They can give a brief spiel about the event as it is presented on the agenda, and then people will have the opportunity to sign up after the meeting is over. We can organize food drives, service projects, parties, fundraising, and anything else we can think of this way.

I propose that every person try to bring an ally with them to the meeting. LGBT people are not the only ones affected by the issues in our community, and we all should try and bring our friends. If possible, we should also invite our elected officials.

I propose that we design a set of rules that are in effect during each meeting. This would include only making comments that are constructive; no comments that call out an individual by name; no speaking out of turn, etc. If we don't have rules to set the tone of the meeting, we won't accomplish anything.

I propose that we choose 1 or 2 topics to be discussed as a community during each meeting. These could include racism, sexism, outreach, community awareness, our education system, bullying in schools, homelessness, etc. There are many important topics we need to address, and they will never be discussed unless we provide some time. I think 1 topic would be ample, allowing us at least an hour for discussion.

I propose that an agenda for each meeting be published. I recognize that some issues come up on short notice, but if each meeting has an agenda set 2 weeks in advance, people will be prepared to discuss the pertinent topics.

I'm sure there are many other things I am forgetting, but we need to demonstrate that our community is a force to be reckoned with. If we come together once a quarter and actually accomplish something, we may be able to work faster to receive equal rights.



Critique of our LGBT Town Hall Tonight

Tonight I felt a particular sense of frustration at our LGBT Town Hall Meeting. I've decided to write a critique in response to what I feel were some of the shortcomings of the meeting. This is by no means meant to say that I could have done a better job, but I feel that there were some major issues with the formatting.

First and foremost, these meetings need to have a set place and time that is advertised well in advance, so that everyone has the possibility to attend. I would recommend choosing a date such as the 2nd Wednesday of the first month in each quarter (i.e. January, April, July and October). If there is a consistent time and place, it will make it easier for everyone to attend, with the possibility that visitors may also come if they choose to do so.

Secondly, we need to start and end on time. This is frequently an issue I've found at meetings with LGBT groups, and it is frustrating because it demonstrates a lack of respect for people's lives. We all have other things we need to do as well, and no one wants to waste time at a meeting when we don't feel the meeting is being productive.

Thirdly, there needs to be an agenda. All issues that are seeking to be part of the agenda should be emailed to the person in charge no less than a week before the meeting. Each topic should be given a set amount of time, so that the meeting moves smoothly, and all topics get discussed, even if there are comments and/or questions that still need to be answered.

Fourth, each group that would like to be represented should have an information sheet about previous events and future events. It is nice to hear about things that are going on, but I actually read the news, and I'm not there for a recap of everything that has happened. If people fail to inform themselves, each group can have their relevant information handy.

Fifth, we need to discuss real issues. When we discuss everything going on with each group, it unnecessarily extends the meeting, and forces us to focus on topics that are best handled between the involved parties. I have enough drama in my life; I don't need to become embroiled in the war between the different groups in our community.

Sixth, I believe there should be comment cards or paper available to all attendees. Either that or a list of email addresses to contact all of the different groups. That way, if we object to a certain portion of the meeting or have comments pertaining to a certain group, instead of bringing it up in the meeting, we can address the relevant parties directly.

I believe that these meetings are meant to bring us together, and allow us to focus all of our energy on accomplishing goals within the community. Lest we forget, the infighting we have doesn't help stop atrocities like the recent suicides in Georgia and Massachusetts.

These meetings should be discussion about what needs to happen in the community, and involve coordinating efforts to bring change. We all spare the time to show up, but then nothing happens when we do.

Please, let us work together to help make a better future!

Nate Bassett

Friday, February 13, 2009

Another Life Needlessly Taken

I haven't written for a while, but there is no way that I could hear about this incident and not write something.

Michael Goucher, a 21 year-old Army veteran from Pennsylvania, was reported missing February 3rd, and his body was found a week later. He had been stabbed 20 times by a young man named Shawn Freemore that he had met on the internet. The pair had met on one prior occasion for a tryst, and were meeting in the woods on February 3rd for another sexual encounter.

It is not confirmed what the motivation for the killing was, and one of the comments I read online lead me to think that it may have been the result of Mr. Freemore abusing illegal drugs. However, it is also possible that the reason for his death may have been due to internal homophobia on the part of Mr. Freemore.

Deaths like Michael Goucher's do not need to happen. His aunt and uncle responded to his murder by saying that if he had listened to them and not attempted to solicit sex over the internet that he would still be alive. The frequency of these types of trysts in the LGBT community seems to be high, but this isn't necessarily only the fault of those in this community. Murders like these are also due to the fact that society is intolerant and not accepting of LGBT people, whereby they are marginalized and forced to meet people through unconventional means.

The reason why I find this so tragic and why I'm writing about it is because he had a lot of support in his community. He went to church and played the organ as well as sung in the choir. He was an outstanding citizen and an asset to this country. Also, Lawrence King was killed about this time last year.

Violence against the LGBT community needs to stop. No one has the right to take away another person's life and opportunities. Please, please, please, help end these outrageous incidents.

Here are the links to the articles:

And one of the other reasons why I'm writing about him; the song he had on his MySpace page:

Friday, November 21, 2008

In Quiet Desperation

As I sit here in my room, I feel more trapped in my life than I ever have before. The hot chocolate and candlelight help, but they have little influence compared to the herd of elephants I have encountered in the rooms I enter lately. John Mayer is helping too, but I still can't set aside the feelings of isolation I feel whenever I talk to a family member. The reason why I am posting this online is to remind myself that I still have a long ways to go. It's also because if you're reading this, I'm hoping you can help me out. My life has become an utter mess lately. I haven't been attending classes, and I'm not working right now, so I have no excuse whatsoever.

I do feel like I should give myself a little bit of credit. I've managed to live with my family, despite our differences, for the last 5 months. However, I need to leave. For my sake, and for their sake, we need to stop being around each other. I'm sure the pain they feel is no less acute than my own, and no less valid, either.

With the past few weeks, my will for acceptance has only become stronger. I have argued with numerous people over gay rights and marriage equality, and I think I've offended every one of them. That wasn't necessarily my intent, but in the heat of the moment, I often barreled ahead anyway. I decided over the next few weeks I would like to start a letter writing campaign. I would like to write my letter of resignation to the LDS Church first. After that, I plan on writing to a number of my family members. As soon as I can figure out a way to get out of this house, I think I am going to resign from my family. I don't think it will be permanent, but if that's the only way to find peace, so be it.

It seems that at this point in my life, I have accomplished nothing. I know my life has been worth something, but anytime I establish anything of permanence, it seems to go away.

I had a discussion with my friend Ashley, and I brought up marriage equality with her because I had just gotten into an argument with my Dad about it and I wanted to know how she felt about it. She made a remark that she was treading lightly around the issue, and I told her not to. I wanted to know exactly how she felt because I need to have friends that are completely supportive of me right now. She was angry that I am willing to throw away 10 years of friendship over something like this since we have been through so much. In my defense, I'm willing to give up my family because of this. Maybe not willing to give them up, but ready to. I don't think she understands that.

I have a lot of things to sort out and understand. The road is rough now, but I also know that in the short term, it's only going to get worse. So, if you're still reading this, and you're still wanting to be my friend, I could really use some love and support right now.