July 8, 2011

Lambda Legal: Don't endorse Lucas' right-wing, anti-speech campaign

Last week, Lambda Legal sent around invitations to a Fire Island Pines party -- co-sponsored by Michael Lucas and his boyfriend Richard Winger (former president of the LGBT Center's board.) Queers for an Open LGBT Center asked Lambda: really?!

Kevin M. Cathcart, Executive Director
Lambda Legal // 120 Wall Street, Suite 1500
New York, NY 10005-3904

7 July 2011

Dear Kevin,

Lambda Legal is one of the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organizations in the country, and it is because of our recognition of the prominence and importance of your organization that we are writing to you to express our concern about the inclusion of Michael Lucas in the list of sponsors of your 33rd annual Fire Island event on July 9.

We fully recognize the need for any 501(c)(3) organization to raise funds to support its work, especially in an economic downturn such as we are now experiencing. However, we feel compelled to bring to your attention the involvement of Mr. Lucas in the operations of the LGBT Community Center -- in particular, his pernicious influence in persuading the Center to expel and ban the Siege Busters Working Group in March of this year and Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QAIA) in May.

It was the ban on the Siege Busters and the silencing of free speech at the Center that prompted us to form Queers for an Open LGBT Center (QFOLC). Unfortunately, the ban on both of those organizations remains in effect to this day, and represents an unprecedented as well as entirely unjustified exclusion of individuals and groups working on behalf of the liberation of the Palestinian people -- including LGBT Palestinians -- who currently struggle to survive under an illegal and oppressive Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Michael Lucas has consciously and deliberately mischaracterized both groups as being 'anti-Israel hate groups' and its members as anti-Semitic -- despite the fact that many members of both groups are Jewish -- while he himself has made outrageously bigoted statements about Arabs and Muslims. Lucas has been quoted as saying, "I hate Muslims, absolutely. It’s a horrible, horrible religion. It’s a plague." Lucas has also said of Muslims, "They have not contributed to civilization in any way, in any field — political thought, science, music, architecture, nothing for century after century. What do they produce? Carpets. That’s how they should travel because that’s the only way they travel without killing people." And Lucas has slandered the proposed Islamic cultural center on Park Place in Manhattan as a "monument to Muslim terrorism."

We have to assume that Lambda Legal as an organization does not endorse Michael Lucas's virulently Islamophobic and anti-Arab/anti-Palestinian bigotry or his efforts to exclude QAIA and the Siege Busters from the Center and repress queer political speech -- in particular, his campaign to marginalize Arab and Muslim LGBT people and to silence community members who speak out against racism and bigotry. However, we would have to ask whether Lambda Legal would want to be seen as legitimizing the position as an LGBT community leader that Lucas so obviously wants to claim for himself.


Naomi Brussel
Leslie Cagan
Bill Dobbs
Emmaia Gelman
Andy Humm
John Francis Mulligan
Pauline Park
Brad Taylor
Queers for an Open LGBT Center (QFOLC)

July 1, 2011

At NYC Pride, Israel contingent attacks LGBT Palestine supporters

Will the Center provide safe space for queers under attack? So far, it's just providing safe space for attackers.

NYC's Pride March saw a scary escalation of the effort to squelch queer political speech -- this time with violence. Pride marchers carrying Palestine-related signs were physically attacked by marchers from the Israel contingent. Facebook posts on "Queer support for Israel" (now apparently removed) indicated that the attack may have been aimed at Queers Against Israeli Apartheid.

June 23, 2011

Article on QFOLC, QAIA and more: "Protesting apartheid at Pride"

Here are some excerpts from "Protesting apartheid at Pride" by Frankie Cook (June 22, 2011)

"While QAIA received a surprising amount of support and interest at the first two New York City-wide Pride parades, the same cannot be said of NYC LGBT Center, which has kicked pro-Palestine queers to the curb. 
...The center essentially took the same position as the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs by saying that it's illegitimate and illegal to call Israel an apartheid state. Until now, the LGBT Center has been a place where activists of all sorts have come to organize--from antiwar, to abortion rights, workers' struggles and many others. 

June 22, 2011

QFOLC Tells Garden Partiers: Stop Censoring Viewpoints of Groups that Meet at Center

Patrons of the LGBT “Community” Center’s Garden Party at Pier 54 on Monday evening, June 20, were greeted by an informational picket urging them to tell Center board members that their policy of censorship and exclusion is unacceptable. About 45 members of QFOLC, QAIA and their supporters joined the picket.

Board chair Mario Palumbo briefly stopped to speak with us, but reiterated his refusal to have a meeting between QFOLC and the board, which is one of our demands. Palumbo kept parroting what are now the Center’s talking points on the controversy: that LGBT people who are concerned with Palestinian rights are a “distraction” from the mission of the Center. He said that there is nothing to talk about and walked away when he realized that a member of the press was recording him. Stonewalled again. Palumbo took special exception to our references to “OUR Community Center.” I guess it belongs to the funders on the board now.

June 21, 2011

QFOLC Garden Party protest: some photos!

About 45 people turned up to protest the LGBT Center's censorship and general bad behavior yesterday, delivering 600 flyers to partygoers and a strong message to the Center: "you can't avoid controversy by slamming the door on the queer community!" More to come on the protest. Meanwhile, here are a few pics from Pauline Park. (Full album on Facebook here.)

June 17, 2011

Trans Day of Action takes on the Center, links queer/justice struggles

The NYC Trans Day of Action takes place next Friday, June 24th. This year, as every year, it makes strong links between the rights of trans people and other queers; demands to end racism, anti-immigrant  and "war on terror" policy and repressive policing, and battles on other social and economic justice fronts. This year, the points of unity include specific support for the push to open the LGBT Center back up to the community, and end censorship there.

In the wake of protests against the Center's exclusion of queers and its odd community forum in March, many folks noted that the board (particularly Board President Mario Palumbo and Tom Kirdahy, the only board members who showed up at the forum) and director Glennda Testone seemed oblivious to the depth and history of LGBT organizing -- particularly queer work on issues they seemed to deem "not queer enough," like racial and economic justice, and human rights.

Maybe the Center bigs only attend Manhattan pride, where they could -- if blinded by beads tossed from club floats and given enough promotional Absolut cocktails -- convince themselves that all queers do is dance and join support groups. (And many of us do!) But they'd be better advised to check out the Trans March, the Dyke March, and pride marches in Harlem, Queens and Brooklyn that show the vastly wider reach, and the deep political engagement, of the queer movement.

If the Center's decision-makers were really part of the larger community, we wouldn't have to explain it to them. And they wouldn't be in so very much trouble right now.

June 16, 2011

Protest the Center, and Protest its Welcome to Mayor Bloomberg.

by Andy Humm, Queers for an Open LGBT Center

We're protesting the LGBT "Community" Center's lack of transparency and openness at its Garden Party on Monday from 5:30-7:30 PM with an informational picket at 14th St. and the Hudson River. But now we have another reason to protest as the Center is welcoming Mayor Bloomberg to his first Garden Party and hailing his "incredible support" for LGBT rights. The fact is, Bloomberg's record on LGBT rights and civil liberties in general has been a disgrace.

Yes, Bloomberg is putting himself out there as a champion of same-sex marriage, but if it passes--as it may--it will be in spite of Bloomberg not because of him. Bloomberg has given MILLIONS in donations to prop up the anti-gay Republican Senate majority. This majority is blocking every piece of progressive legislation we care about from transgender rights to stronger tenant protections to universal health care for New York.

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