Sunday, October 15, 2006

Tremont Temple and the Racists

Tremont Temple and the Racists

Brian Rainey and Carlo Baca

Acknowledgements: Special thanks to Max Blumenthal and Edward Sebesta of the Southern Poverty Law Center for their help in researching this paper.

Providing a platform for ultra-right, anti-gay propaganda seems to have become an October tradition for the predominantly black Tremont Temple Baptist Church.

Last October, Tremont Temple hosted the so-called “Love Won Out” Conference, a conference where the speakers said they “loved” LGBT people but nonetheless told participants that LGBT people are so evil and sick that they should be seen as a threat to society, denied legal recognition of their relationships and, of course, “changed” into heterosexuals.

This year, on Oct. 15, Tremont Temple will be hosting another event with an Orwellian name. A telecast of the infamous “Liberty” Sunday, whose purpose it is to cast same-sex marriage as a threat to religious “liberty,” will be put on at Tremont Temple. Tremont Temple’s pastor, the Rev. Ray Pendleton, is listed as a speaker along with Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council (FRC).

Outrageously, both of these October events, which the historically abolitionist church agreed to host, have ties to organizations or individuals explicitly connected to racism.

NARTH’s Slavery Apologist

Last year, one of the “Love Won Out” conference’s featured speakers was Joseph Nicolosi, President of the anti-gay “professional” organization, the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuals (NARTH). Over the past few weeks, NARTH has been fiercely (and rightly) criticized for posting an extremely racist essay on their website.[1]

This essay, written by Dr. Gerard Schönewolf, a member of NARTH’s advisory board, said that slavery was a good thing because it rescued slaves from their “savage,” “uncivilized,” and “unindustrialized” lives in Africa. He also attacked the Civil Rights Movement—people who confronted water hoses so powerful that it could strip the bark off trees, who sat at lunch counters in the face of white mobs who beat the living tar out of them, who had to deal with brutal local police chiefs like “Bull” Connor and who for decades suffered through inaction and obstinacy from the federal government—for using too much “hysteria” and “emotion.” As if this weren’t outrageous enough, this man also had the gall to accuse Civil Rights leaders of being equivalent to those who lynched and terrorized black communities in the South!

Schönewolf’s racist tantrum was harshly condemned by the blog, the Southern Poverty Law Center, “Truth Wins Out,” ex-HRC staffer Wayne Besen’s organization dedicated to fighting “ex-gay” ministries, the National Black Justice Coalition, a black LGBT organization and

The controversy over the essay prompted NARTH’s site-administrators to quietly take it down and post a disclaimer saying that what is said on NARTH’s site does not reflect the official position of NARTH—basically saying that they are not responsible for the racism expressed by a member of its advisory board. To this day, NARTH has offered no explanation, let alone an apology for Schönewolf’s essay.

Tony Perkins and White Supremacy

When it comes to Tremont Temple’s tango with far-right groups this October, a number of speakers have ties to racism, starting with the star of the circus himself, Tony Perkins, President of the FRC. In 1999, Perkins was implicated in a scandal involving his 1996 purchase of an $82,000 phone list from former KKK Imperial Wizard and notorious white supremacist David Duke, when he was the campaign manager for then-Louisiana Sen. Woody Jenkins. Perkins then participated in an attempt to hide the transaction with Duke by funneling the money through a third party—something the Jenkins campaign was fined for by the Federal Elections Commission.

According to the Federal Elections Commission’s Conciliation Agreement, which was signed by ex-Sen. Jenkins himself, “After the 1996 primary election in Louisiana, David Duke contacted Woody Jenkins and recommended that he use the services of a computerized phone bank system run by Impact Mail.[2]

Though Duke intiated the transaction between the Jenkins campaign and Impact Mail, both Perkins and Jenkins claim they had no idea the phone bank was connected with Duke when they bought it.[3] According to them, they thought they were innocently doing business with Impact Mail and were oblivious to the fact that Duke, the one who contacted Jenkins about the phone bank in the first place, had anything to do with it.

This is highly unlikely for a couple of reasons. First, we know that at least one Republican knew Duke was connected with Impact Mail. As Max Blumenthal, author of the widely cited “Liberty Sunday Preachers” article in The Nation pointed out on his blog, Louisiana ex-Gov. Mike Foster bought the same mailing list from Duke for $102,000 in 1995—one year before Perkins bought it.[4]

Foster was later accused of buying the list in order to keep Duke out of the gubernatorial election. As a result, Foster was investigated by the Louisiana Board of Ethics, who found that Foster illegally failed to publicly disclose the money spent on Duke’s list:

In 1995, Foster met with all other potential gubernatorial candidates, including David Duke, to discuss views relative to the campaign. When meeting with Duke, he was informed by Duke that Duke did not intend to seek the governorship. At that meeting, Duke offered to sell Foster the use of his computerized list of conservative voters. It was agreed by Duke and Foster that Foster would pay Duke $100,000 for the one-time use of the list during the 1995 campaign and that if Foster was elected, he would pay Duke an additional $50,000 for the right to use the list in 1999 should Foster seek reelection. Duke advised Foster that he had arranged for the transfer of the computerized list to be made through Impact Mail & Printing, Inc. (Impact Mail), a firm in Metairie, Louisiana. Impact Mail provides bulk mailing services and brokers mailing lists. Duke was neither an owner of nor an employee of Impact Mail....[5]

We really do invite people to read all of the findings of the Louisiana State Board of Ethics because there are some striking parallels between Foster’s and Jenkins’ dealings with Duke—namely that both campaigns were reproached for failing to disclose financial transactions with Duke and both campaigns funneled money through other sources.

The important thing to keep in mind is that Duke was up front about his connections with Impact Mail when he dealt with Foster, and when Foster bought the list from Duke, he knew exactly who he was buying the list from. Jenkins and Perkins would have us believe that they were duped into buying a phone list connected with Duke—even though Duke felt no need to trick Foster a year earlier.

Believing in Perkins’ innocence would also force us to accept that he would blindly sign an $82,000 contract for a phone list that he knew very little about. $82,000 is an exorbitant amount of money for a phone list. It’s so exorbitant that according to the Times-Picayune (New Orleans), political consultants say that “the price Duke received for use of his voters lists far exceeds the standard rate for political campaigns.”[6] Most political consultants seem to agree that normal phone lists—even exclusive ones—go between 7 and 10 cents, with 10 cents being on the higher end.[7]

If someone is going to spend astronomically high sums of money for a phone list, they are going to want to know why it’s so expensive and justify the investment.[8] The only way someone would know that the phone list was a good investment is if they had pretty good knowledge about its effectiveness. And who would be the only person that would have knowledge about the effectiveness of the list? The former KKK Imperial Wizard himself, David Duke.

Duke’s lists were effective and special precisely because they were associated with Duke. According to an AP article, Duke “said his lists boast strong fund-raising potential. Duke suggested other lists that go for 7 to 10 cents a name “are general mail lists that are used by 100 people.” Conversely, according to Duke, the list the Jenkins campaign received was “very intensive” and when the Jenkins campaign bought the list, they bought “an exclusive use of the list; no other candidate, no other person could use it during a specified time period” (emphasis added).[9] In other words, Duke’s list was so expensive because it was exclusive. The exclusive, special nature of Duke’s list is even more evidence that Jenkins and Perkins knew Duke was involved. Why else would they invest a large amount of money in it?

Perkins’ version of the story would have him comfortably signing an $82,000 contract without having a very good reason to invest that amount of money in a phone list. That would make him an incompetent campaign manager for dumping so much money on a list without knowing anything about it. More likely, he did have a good reason to invest so much money—the special and exclusive nature of David Duke’s phone list.

Perkins protested that “Woody [Jenkins] didn’t even tell me that this was the same company Duke had used…I would have been totally opposed.” These pleas to ignorance and claims of revulsion at white supremacists are especially spurious when considered in the context of Perkins’ other interactions with racists.

Were the Duke incident the only instance in which Perkins found himself tied up with a racist, we could, perhaps, give him the benefit of the doubt. But Perkins also spoke in front of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) not once, but twice—once in 1997 and again on May 19, 2001, according to the CCC’s Citizens Informer newsletter.[10] If Perkins had just spoken in front of this racist group in 1997, he could have, perhaps, gotten away with the claim that he was not aware of the CCC’s racist views when he spoke for them.

However, since Perkins spoke to the CCC for a second time in 2001, he would be hard pressed to resort to this lame excuse. In 1998, nearly three years before Perkins spoke to the CCC a second time, both Sen. Trent Lott and Rep. Bob Barr received widespread national media attention (and outrage) for speaking in front of the CCC—and both politicians used the “I-didn’t-know-their-politics” copout. The national tumult over Lott and Barr that year even prompted US Rep. Thomas Wexler to sponsor a House Resolution condemning the racism of the CCC.[11]

Leaving aside the obvious question of why someone would not investigate a group before speaking in front of them twice, for Perkins to be unaware of the CCC’s views three years after a scandal erupted because of politicians’ ties to the group, is beyond belief.

Even more disturbingly, a picture of Perkins featured in the Summer 1997 issue of Citizens Informer shows that he addressed the CCC in front of a humungous flag with an all-white field and a Southern Cross (the Confederate battle flag) in the corner. This particular flag was the second official flag of the Confederacy, adopted in 1863, and was explicitly designed to represent white supremacy. William Thompson, editor of the Savannah Morning News, and the one who proposed the design of the flag, said:

Our idea is simply to combine the present battle-flag with a pure white standard sheet; our Southern Cross, blue on a red field, to take the place on the white flag that is occupied by the blue union in the old -United States flag, or the St. George's cross in the British flag. As a people, we are fighting to maintain the Heaven-ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race; a white flag would thus be emblematical of our cause.[12]

The Confederate Congress was disturbed that a flag with so much white could be easily mistaken for a flag of surrender, so they suggested adding a blue stripe in the middle. But Thompson was dissatisfied and said:

If for no other reason they should discard the bars, and every thing that resembles or is suggestive of the old stripes. While we consider the flag which has by the Senate as a very decided improvement of the old United States flag we still think the Battle-flag on a pure white field was appropriate and handsome. Such a flag would be a suitable emblem of our young confederacy, and, sustained by the brave strong arms of the South, it would soon take rank among ensigns of the nations, and be hailed by the civilized world [as a] WHITE MAN'S FLAG."[13]

After hearing Thompson’s suggestion, the Confederate Congress adopted Thompson’s racist flag on May 1, 1863. The flag, then, was clearly supposed to represent white supremacy. Thompson’s flag is not to be confused with the ubiquitous Southern Cross, the Confederate battle flag, which often appears on the back of cars.

First of all, it is absolutely inexcusable that Perkins would ever be comfortable speaking with any symbol of the Southern slaveocracy as his background. We don’t care what the revisionist historians and Confederate apologists say, the literature of Civil War period, the statements by political leaders of the Confederacy, as well as good sociological analysis shows that the war was actually about slavery. Also, the ties between the Confederate battle flag (not Thompson’s flag) and white supremacy are well documented, and the Confederate battle flag was undeniably a symbol of resistance to Civil Rights during the 1950s and 60s.

Secondly, we cannot believe that Perkins would speak in front of a group that displayed a Confederate flag (incidentally one specifically representing white supremacy) so prominently and not wonder about the group’s political views. Even if one were delusional enough to believe that the Confederate battle flag does not represent slavery or resistance to Civil Rights, it is frequently used by Neo-Nazis, the KKK, and other racist groups. For Perkins to speak in front of a group that used this particular flag, without asking any questions or without being prompted to further investigate the group is recklessly irresponsible. Or, more probably, he was well aware of what the CCC’s politics were, but did not care.

Perkins’ three connections with white supremacists raise the question of why he would associate with these despicable people. Is Perkins a racist? We think it is unlikely that Perkins agrees with the particular articulation of racism espoused by the Council of Conservative Citizens or David Duke. We do, however, believe that he spoke in front of the CCC knowing full well their racist views, and probably bought Duke’s list on purpose. No one just accidentally stumbles into not one, not two, but three associations with white supremacists.

If you are an ultra-reactionary politician in the Deep South like Tony Perkins and Woody Jenkins, open racists are a part of your right-wing constituency. While a right-wing politician may disagree with racists when it comes to their beliefs about race, they by and large share widespread ideological agreement—including the notion that the Civil Rights Movement went “too far” and that persistent structural racism against blacks and other people of color does not exist. It makes political sense for a right-wing politician to make sure that racists come to the polls for them. Therefore, it is disgusting, yet unsurprising, that a right-wing politician would show up at a meeting of white supremacists.

A statement at the end of a Times-Picayune article cited above provides good insight into the thinking of right-wing politicians in the Deep South:

Earlier this year Duke ran for Congress when Bob Livingston resigned. In the May 1 primary, Duke came in third with 19 percent of the vote. [Ex-Gov.] Foster refused to get involved in the campaign, drawing criticism from anti-Duke activists who demanded that he repudiate Duke as a racist. Foster refused, just as he refused to repudiate Duke's support in the 1995 governor's race. [14]

An open racist got 20 percent of the vote in his district (and earlier got as high as 32 percent of the Republican vote in the 1991 gubernatorial race). The white supremacist message obviously has a large following among Louisiana Republicans. Later, a gubernatorial candidate, Mike Foster, knew this and refused to distance himself from a white supremacist’s support. This shows that the right-wing machine in the South is clearly dependent on racism for power—despite their public denunciations of racism. Perkins and Jenkins are no different. Apparently, Foster, the only one willing to openly embrace Duke, was also the only one willing to be honest about it.

Charles Pickering, Sr.

The other “Liberty Sunday” speaker with explicit ties to white supremacy is Charles Pickering, Sr. When Pickering was up for nomination to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, numerous critics pointed out that in the 1960s, Pickering was extremely hostile to Civil Rights[15]—even writing a defense of laws opposing interracial marriage as a law student and leaving the Democratic Party because of its (lackluster) support for Civil Rights.[16] When the KKK was terrorizing blacks and Civil Rights workers in Mississippi, Pickering with the D.A. and Sheriff of Laurel, Mississippi issued a public statement, which criticized the KKK’s violence but attacked Civil Rights activists:

While we believe in continuing our Southern way of life and realize that outside agitators have cause [sic] much turmoil and racial hatred, let there be no misunderstanding, we oppose such activities, but law and order must prevail (emphasis added).[17]

More recently, Pickering has been largely antagonistic to anti-discrimination claims[18] and even intervened in a case of a man convicted of cross-burning and terrorizing an interracial couple in order to arrange a lighter sentence for him.

Of course, Pickering’s supporters have rushed to defend him against the charges. Village Voice columnist, Nat Hentoff, who defended Pickering’s intervention in the cross-burning case, said:

Two of the three defendants in the cross-burning case agreed to a plea bargain, in which the Justice Department took part, that put the two men in home detention on a misdemeanor, but avoided jail time.

On the basis of the evidence, Pickering saw that the third defendant, Swan, who refused a plea bargain, went to trial. Swan was guilty, but Pickering knew he had not been the ringleader in the crime; had no previous record; and had not shown in the past the racial bias that, under the federal hate-crimes statute, would have put him away for the 7-1/2-year sentence that the Justice Department demanded Pickering impose.

It did not make sense, Pickering reasoned, that the actual ringleader — who had previously shot a rifle into the window of the interracial couple's home and had a history of fighting with blacks in school — should get no jail time while Swan would be imprisoned for 7-1/2 years.[19]

Pickering’s opponents were not necessarily arguing that his legal reasoning in this case was totally outrageous, but they did question why this was “the only time in his entire judicial career he had ever undertaken such an act of intervention.[20] Considering Pickering’s segregationist past, it is, indeed, suspicious that the only time Pickering would go out of his way to “intervene” in a defendant’s case was when the defendant was a racist. Additionally, Pickering’s “intervention” included unethical, private ex-parte meetings with prosecutors where he threatened to overturn Swan’s conviction if he was not given a lighter sentence.[21]

“And There Was No One Left to Speak for Me…”

The Rev. Ray Pendleton, pastor of Tremont Temple Baptist Church, boasts of his church’s history as “the first church in New England to proclaim the Emancipation Proclamation and the first church in Boston to preach the abolitionist message” which “stood against the state of Massachusetts in helping to house fugitive slaves.[22] For a pastor of a church with historic links to abolitionism to embrace groups with people who defend slavery on their staff, segregationists and people who are comfortable speaking in front of white supremacist groups, is utterly reckless. It is a betrayal of the history of Tremont Temple and its largely black parishioners for Rev. Pendleton to appear on the same stage as these people.

Many leaders of predominantly black churches are so blinded by irrational homophobia that they are willing to deal with far-right politicians to support their own prejudices. But these deals with the devil will bring a torrent of Faustian consequences on the black community. Over the past few decades, LGBT people have not been the only targets of the Right’s offensive. They have also been gunning for affirmative action and, more terrifyingly, they have been working overtime to promote the idea that institutional racism is nonexistent and that blacks should simply “get over” the historic legacy of discrimination in America. Rather than stand up to the Right’s discourse on racism, black churches and predominantly black churches are embracing the far-Right.

As the racist essay posted by NARTH and Tony Perkins’ interactions with white supremacists show, the anti-gay Right is a political coalition that includes open racists and people who want to turn back the clock on Civil Rights. That’s a reality that black churches and church leaders have to account for when they flirt with the Right.

[1] Gerard Schönewolf, “Gay Rights and Political Correctness: A Brief History.” Internet. 5 April, 2005. Southern Poverty Law Center Website. URL:

[2] Federal Elections Commission. MUR 4872. Cited in Max Blumenthal, “Tony Perkins: Dealing with the Duke.” Internet. 18 June, 2005. URL:

[3] Jenkins denies knowing the list was connected with Duke in “Duke Unsure About His Taxes; He Can’t Recall Telling IRS about List Income.” Times-Picayune. 28 May, 1999 and in a letter to the editor in the Baton Rouge Advocate on July 31, 2002. Perkins denies knowledge in “Jenkins Faces Fine for 1996 Campaign; FEC Says He Tried to Hide Deal” 24 July, 2002. Times-Picayune and “Perkins: From Pulpit to Politics, US Senate Hopeful is Comfortable with Both.” Times-Picayune. 9 October, 2002. In a press release, the Family Research Council asserted that the connection between Duke and Impact Mail “was not known to Perkins until 1999.” See “A Response to False Claims Made by the Nation.” Online. Family Research Council. URL: [12 October, 2006]. This is simply ridiculous. Perkins had to have known about the connection in 1996 because he covered up the transaction!

[4] Blumenthal.

[5] Louisiana State Board of Ethics. Opinion 99-360. URL: Cited by Blumenthal.

[6] “Foster Paid Duke $150,000 for Voter List; Ex-Klansman Takes Fifth in Testimony before Grand Jury.” Times-Picayune. 21 May, 1999.

[7] According to an AP article about the Foster scandal, “Shreveport direct-mail marketer Carl Liberto said he had never heard of one worth $150,000 - even the most exclusive ones. Some lists go as high as 10 cents per name… See Alan Sayer, “Governor, Duke Say Nothing Was Wrong with Supporter List SaleAssociated Press. 20 May, 1999. Note: In the same article, Jenkins says that $82,000 is “not excessive and that he had a more expensive contract for similar work.” Nonetheless, $.10 per name is on the high-end for phone lists, and Duke’s list, which Perkins bought, was more expensive than that. See also Steve Rita, “Price Was Sky High for List, Experts Say; Duke Defends Value of Lists.” Times-Picayune. 21 May, 1999.

[8] One political consultant said, “The main reason for buying a political mailing list is to get a return on your money, as well as a possible profit.” See Rita, “Price.”

[9] Rita, “Price.”

[10] Citizens Informer 28. Summer 1997, p. 7; Citizens Informer 32. March-April 2001, p. 13. Very special thanks to Edward Sebesta of the Southern Poverty Law Center for taking time out of his busy schedule and digging through his files of Citizens Informer.

[11] U.S. House. 106th Congress, 1st Session. H.RES 35 1999. “Resolution Condemning the Racism Espoused by the Council of Conservative Citizens.” Internet. Thomas. URL: For extensive discussion about racism and the CCC in the House, see also “Affirming the Congress’ Opposition to All Forms of Racism and Bigotry” Congressional Record. Internet. March 23, 1999. Thomas. URL:

[12] George Henry Preble, The Origin and History of the American Flag, 2nd Edition. (Philadelphia: Nicholas Brown, 1917 [1876]): p. 526.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Sayre, “Governor, Duke.”

[15] Ralph Neas, “Ralph Neas Responds to the Wall Street Journal Editorial” Internet. 12 February, 2002. People for the American Way. URL:

[16] Dan T. Carter (et. al.), “Historians’ Petition Against the Nomination of Charles Pickering.” Internet. 27 October, 2003. History News Network. URL:

[17] Ibid.

[18] People for the American Way, “Editorial Memorandum: Hearing Strengthens Case Against Judge Charles Pickering's Confirmation; Testimony Highlights Problems with Nominee's Record as Judge and State Senator,” pp. 3-4. Internet. URL:

[19] Nat Hentoff, “Justice Denied a Good Judge” Jewish World Review. 22 October, 2003. URL:

[20] Carter, “Historians’ Petition”

[21] PFAW, “Editorial Memorandum,” p.5.

[22] Ray Pendleton, “A Note from Our Pastor” Online. Tremont Temple Baptist Church. URL:

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Sunday, October 08, 2006

Grace Ross Interview

QUEER TODAY: Welcome to!

GRACE ROSS: Thanks! :-)

QUEER TODAY: First off, what does the "rainbow" in green-rainbow stand for? Is it two parties combined, or something different from the Green party?

GRACE ROSS: The Rainbow came out of Mel King's run for Mayor of Boston. He almost made it as an African American - and he had this amazing campaign with every constituency represented - folks often worked in neighborhood groups - like the rainbow of ethnic/racial etc. diversity. The idea comes from the biblical concept of a "rainbow people". Jesse Jackson picked it up with Mel's permission - but in Mass, it became its own party and eventually hooked up with the Greens.

We are the state affiliate of the national green party - we are a combined party - so we have a little more emphasis on racial/social/economic justice than some traditional Green parties. Some other states have merged parties with their local Greens too.

QUEER TODAY: Fascinating. I bet a lot of people do not know that. Has your own spirituality had an impact on your political activities?


QUEER TODAY: What is your spiritual/religious background?

GRACE ROSS: My background is Episcopalian - although I don't identify as Christian any more.

QUEER TODAY: One of my living inspirations is the Dalai Lama. Is there any particular current day leader who inspires you?

GRACE ROSS: Yes, Mel King is still one of my heroes

GRACE ROSS: Chuck Turner

GRACE ROSS: some of the others I think of actually died in my lifetime - Audre Lorde, Barbara Deming,

Thich Nat Han is still alive. And Chai Ling dies during the Beiging uprising…

QUEER TODAY: Chuck Turner is a great man. Changing direction, recently Laura Kristy, a writer for Bay Windows, criticized you in print for not coming out as the first openly lesbian candidate for governor during the first debate in which the host commented about how Kerry would be the first woman, and Deval the first African American. How do you feel about that, and do you plan on mentioning it in future debates?

GRACE ROSS: Huh, we could probably talk about this a bunch - I actually wrote a reply to Bay Windows- I hope they will publish

QUEER TODAY: Could you tell us the gist of your reply?

GRACE ROSS: It's in the two paragraph description of me on the front page of our website. I have been out for a long time - long before it was accepted as now nor as safe (although we have much farther to go on safety)

And I courted the glbt media around May and June when all the pride events were - they covered me some - mostly they did not.

And it's funny too - Bay Windows did not ask me in for an endorsement interview. How out I am is partly up to the GLBT media - if they want me out it is a significant percentage in their hands

GRACE ROSS: Because it is in my two paragraph bio, it gets read at most of the events I formally speak at, I get asked about married and kids al the time - so I get a moment then

GRACE ROSS: But partly I think things have changed. I have been on right-wing talk shows - they’ve mentioned that I am a lesbian in their lead in and then they move onto something else

GRACE ROSS: I used to hold hands with my lovers, and kiss good-bye at the airports, etc. when that was considered pretty unsafe - I think Massachusetts is just in another place

QUEER TODAY: Do you think you'll come out on TV during one of the future debates?

GRACE ROSS: Yeah, if it fits in. The host could have said it that first time. If I had a partner now it would naturally come out as part of the flow - maybe one of your readers could quickly find her for me and then it would just be obvious :-)

QUEER TODAY: we'll do our best !

QUEER TODAY: Many queer people are frustrated with the lgbt organizations' prioritization of gay marriage over struggles like safety in schools and on the streets especially considering lgbt youth suicide rates are still rising and rising, and the list goes on. Do you have any thoughts on that ?

GRACE ROSS: Yes, I have always felt that the deeper issues of safety and discrimination in other areas need to not get subsumed, and the intersections with other issues like race and gender need to not get put aside.

QUEER TODAY: mm hmmm!

GRACE ROSS: Much of my activism around glbt issues had to do with dealing with the teen suicide rate and lesbian issues too

GRACE ROSS: On the coming out issue- Also, it is clear in my style and dress - folks need to remember that there are many important issues - in an hour debate you get maybe 9 minutes of air time and I am running to represent the whole state - so as I said if it fits the flow - since Patrick is not really addressing racism and Healey, not sexism and none of them economic divide issues - there is lots to cover...

QUEER TODAY: word. I have been especially disappointed in the way Healey and Patrick discuss residents of our state who are not considered "legal" Both seem to play on peoples' fear and racism. Do you have any thoughts on that?

GRACE ROSS: Yes, I find the anti-immigrant triggers really disturbing and they warp the issues

GRACE ROSS: Healey and Mihos have said disturbing things- Patrick just waffles… like on many things - I once heard him say something really strong and great on this issue but that seems to have disappeared

GRACE ROSS: The thing I keep pointing out in talking to people in public about immigration is that immigration issues only surface when the economy is bad. Its a "look over there" tactic but the rich, powerful forces that are making policies that ruin our economy - then they want us to blame some poor immigrants who for instance, clean the toilets after midnight in down town office buildings and are too scared to stand up and demand health and safety equipment because of being deported.

GRACE ROSS: And somehow they had the power to alter decades of policy that lead to fewer jobs that pay less and have fewer benefits????

QUEER TODAY: Right on.

QUEER TODAY: Have you ever chatted with Deval off-stage and if so what was that like?

GRACE ROSS: Actually I have been with Patrick and Mihos a lot - we had dozens of forums and debates over the last several months

GRACE ROSS: What do you want to know about Patrick?

QUEER TODAY: Are the two of you friendly to each other? Do you ever discuss politics or issues off stage?

GRACE ROSS: ah, Patrick is a gentleman. I generally get along with Mihos too.

GRACE ROSS: I think they are all nice people one-on-one. and have been very respectful of me

GRACE ROSS: Talking issues? Not so much, more little things, some teasing about things.

GRACE ROSS: Patrick tends not to pin himself down on issues.

QUEER TODAY: Many people I know say that they would love to vote for you, but they are afraid that if they do Healey could win - which would be devastating. What is your response to those folks?

GRACE ROSS: Well, remember that I am the only candidate that pulls down a regular salary, the other three are all multi-millionaires. They are three of the 14,400 richest people in the US. The income of folks in their income range has almost tripled in the last fifteen years - while most of the rest of us have lost ground an are not really making ends meet

GRACE ROSS: First, many of my votes will come from those who don't get polled because they don't vote enough- they were not necessarily going to vote for anyone if I was not around

GRACE ROSS: second, Green votes generally come from both Democrats and Republicans (when anyone has bothered to exit poll folks who voted Green) - so don't assume my presence pulls votes from Patrick

GRACE ROSS: Third, you need to ask yourself what you really want? Patrick and I are pretty different. And in terms of economic policies, I don't think I know the difference between Patrick and Healey. On environmental policies, they are both good on different things - although I have seen Healey put out more, different things - Patrick would sign RGGI, she says not.

GRACE ROSS: Finally, Healy will have to do a lot to make herself actually viable. she is not showing strong leadership skills

GRACE ROSS: If you always vote for less than what you want, you will always get less. Do you work on glbt issues because the powers that be tell you you can win?

QUEER TODAY: hell no

GRACE ROSS: Why do you vote for what they tell you you can win?

QUEER TODAY: I think it is usually out of fear that people I know do that... fear of the worst. I can't say I'm friends with many conservatives so I'm not sure why they do it.

GRACE ROSS: If everyone who had ever worked for something important had waited to be told they could win, we would still have slavery, no public education, most of us still would not have the vote, not worker protections or social security, and we'd still be subjects of England I think

QUEER TODAY: that’s right

GRACE ROSS: The polls pretty much poll likely voters, the other campaigns poll likely voters. when someone like me wins it will be because of the folks not getting polled mostly. How will you know if your withholding your vote for someone like me and/or your friends doing it won't be the last votes that might have put me over the top?

GRACE ROSS: We have kids killing each other in the streets, we have more than a quarter dropping gout, almost 50% of African American kids, more than 50% of Latino kids. We have 60% of us still in a recession when it is supposed to be a boom. and that 60% is carrying more than our part of the tax burden because those on the top pay about half per dollar of what we pay

GRACE ROSS: We are barely making ends met and our services are still cut. what happens in they next economic downturn when we are already in so much economic trouble?

QUEER TODAY: You are bringing up a lot of issues that make people feel trapped, hopeless, and doomed. The environment is another one of those areas. How do you keep your hope alive in such volatile times?

GRACE ROSS: and then global warming - when I decided to run, lots of folks were already scared -every indicator in the last year has been moving faster than originally predicted. We already have spiraling allergy rates (that's global warming), and things like encephalitis. and they say not more fall foliage trees in twenty years.

GRACE ROSS: My point is - when is it going to be bad enough that settling for the least bad is not going to be good enough? I have concrete plans and the ability to inspire others to work together in the thousands (maybe more). and the other candidates have nothing significant to offer in terms of major change

QUEER TODAY: excellent answer.

GRACE ROSS: sorry, I got on a roll there - but my point is - what are you waiting for?

GRACE ROSS: Hope? Well, I have seen some pretty big changes in my life time = brought about by us regular people!

GRACE ROSS: and history is full of them - in fact that is pretty much the only time we get the changes we need

GRACE ROSS: you know folks point to Martin Luther King - but remember he started out as one of us -

GRACE ROSS: When the civil rights movement really took off during the Montgomery bus boycott - yeah, there was Martin Luther King (just starting gout) and other local religious leaders - but it was 50,000 regular folks walking for about a year that really made that change happen, most of them we will never know - they walked, licked envelopes, cooked meals, handed out fliers, made phone calls.

GRACE ROSS: each of them lead us to the changes we have now. they were all leaders together -- each of them was critical to that change

QUEER TODAY: I think a lot of folks my age- 23 - feel like the corporations run everything, its too late to save the environment, and we are all thousands and thousands of dollars in debt because we were lied too - we were told that when we got out of college we'd get good paying jobs. Now what? So many of us feel hopeless.

GRACE ROSS: yes, well, what you say is true. Corporations do control a lot and you were lied to. Much of the American dream is often beyond most people

GRACE ROSS: but women got the vote when only men could give it to them. Lincoln sign abolition when slaves could not vote. Workers got the forty hour work week in another time when corporations controlled almost everything in their lives

GRACE ROSS: Remember - they never tell us when we are about to succeed. when the Berlin wall came down it seemed like it came out of no where - but it turned out that there had been activism on the ground inside the soviet union we had never heard about. Organize, get good at it and change will happen - it is only when we give up that they win.

GRACE ROSS: Remember that even the death camps under Hitler - one of them the prisoners actually freed themselves from!

QUEER TODAY: You speak the truth and it is so inspiring to have your voice, the voice of regular folks, expressed far and wide. I was wondering, are there any fundamental differences between your views and the green-rainbow party platform as compared to the socialist and workers world parties ?

GRACE ROSS: Wow, I don't think I know the socialist and workers world platforms very well.

GRACE ROSS: Of course, we have a fair amount of diversity of opinion in a party with 11,000 members and growing. we have ten key values - some of which would surely jibe but I don't know about others - and we are probably not as specific in a number of areas

QUEER TODAY: Back to some smaller local issues that people in the blogosphere wonder about - what are your positions on ballot questions 1 and 2 (wine in grocery stores, and fusion voting)

GRACE ROSS: Fusion voting is mostly opposed by my party- it will help third parties nip at the heals of the major parties, it will make it harder for us to get people to actually run as third party candidates we think although it would make it easier for two third parties to work together. We'll see…

GRACE ROSS: As for question 1 - I lean against it. I need to study it more but it seems like it makes it easier to get alcohol which is already easy enough now in many neighborhoods. And it leads to more consolidation, I think, which is not necessarily good.

QUEER TODAY: Would you legalize marijuana for personal use? And would you like to expand further on some drug policy ideas of yours?

GRACE ROSS: In general, I think we need to look at regulation and taxation of drugs - bringing them above ground so we have more control and treating addiction as what it is - a medical issue (that radical fringe group the AMA says it is). Part of the ridiculous numbers in jail here unlike other countries is not having universal, government sponsored health coverage for everyone and criminalizing addiction.

QUEER TODAY: I was fortunate enough to spend some time in the Netherlands during college, and I was told that their addiction rates to "hard drugs" are much lower than here. And what do they have? Legalized marijuana and universal health care.

GRACE ROSS: During prohibition, alcohol became a lucrative under ground industry. More folks died and alcohol got mixed with some pretty dangerous substances - sound familiar?


GRACE ROSS: I have never understood why the government which can regulate what types of fruit flies get into the US by controlling if a person brings in a piece of fruit, but cannot seem to control huge million dollar drug shipments - which clearly the kids on the street cannot afford to bring in - so someone somewhere with a lot of money is somehow getting overlooked - and I find it hard to believe that just "happens"

GRACE ROSS: so I would want to look into, with other government leaders, decriminalization - see what we can propose

GRACE ROSS: Yeah, well we spend 43,000 per year per prison cell inmate. 1/3 of folks in Massachusetts prisons are awaiting trial (not even convicted yet). Almost half of our inmates are non-violent offenders - most drug related. And treatment costs pennies on the dollar of incarceration. I think they are being tough on the tax payer not tough on crime.

QUEER TODAY: I attended the protest against Dick Cheney that you spoke at, and all of the sudden the police came and took away your equipment. In all the frenzy I had no idea what happened. Could you explain?

GRACE ROSS: Oh, yeah - the equipment got arrested!


GRACE ROSS: I think we can safely say I am the only candidate whose free speech rights have been directly violated this campaign!

GRACE ROSS: I guess they had been told they could not use amplification near the entrance to the Cheney event so they moved the equipment pretty far away across the street. the cops did not consider that enough- they said they had checked with the officer when he said it that he meant they couldn’t use it on that side of the street so by implication the other side should be okay

QUEER TODAY: I don't drive, and I am really frustrated at the amount of time and money spent on the big dig instead of my local bus and subway system. And now they want to charge more for them!? Thoughts?

GRACE ROSS: Look, if you or I had a car in the shop, drove it out and the engine fell out - we'd be back at the shop telling them they can put the engine back and, no, we are not going to pay anything more for it

QUEER TODAY: that's right, and you wouldn't let them randomly search your body either!

GRACE ROSS: Common sense - the state had a contract, they were suppose to deliver a bill of goods - they did not. and then the other candidates talk about running the state like a business - which business - Enron? Wal-Mart?

GRACE ROSS: I would have had the CEOs of the contractors and subcontractors in my office the morning after the tunnel fell in and I'd have told them, either tell me now or deal with me in court later

GRACE ROSS: Instead Romney's off for three or four days figuring out who to blame - wonder if anyone shredded documents and erased hard drives in the mean time?

GRACE ROSS: Instead it will cost us millions in investigations - we'll never uncover what they know about what short cuts they took to cut corners. I keep imagining them down there in dive suits tiring to figure out what is wrong from the outside. Seriously it cannot be done really.

GRACE ROSS: Oh, and they still have not finished an delivered on the public transportation side of what they were suppose to do. Seven times to cost of the original bid! And this is our government! (dems and repubs signed off on all those over-runs, including the profit margin the companies wanted!)

QUEER TODAY: It's extremely frustrating. Curious, are you a vegetarian?

GRACE ROSS: Yes, I am a vegetarian - although I do eat fish

QUEER TODAY: Me too, I fell back into the fish thing a couple of years ago. I blame sushi. I still think it is wrong and I hope to be vegan one day.

QUEER TODAY: How long have you been vegetarian?

GRACE ROSS: Since sophomore year of college

QUEER TODAY: That’s great!

GRACE ROSS: The sushi reached out and grabbed you one day?

QUEER TODAY: My ex boyfriend was an international student from a small island in Japan and he pressured me to try it hehe

GRACE ROSS: Yeah, those vicious boy friends - be careful :-)

QUEER TODAY: Where in MA do you live?

GRACE ROSS: Worcester - middle of the state

QUEER TODAY: Grace this has been really great. Is there anything else you'd like to say to the readers of before we end here… after 2AM ? lol

GRACE ROSS: Yeah, I noticed the 2am too - have TV at 12:45 - so I need some sleep -let me think a second?


GRACE ROSS: Mostly, I think I want to remind your readers that change does not necessary come how we think, It's not linear - just as problems are systemic so is the process of change. It is our work together that makes the difference.

GRACE ROSS: I have spent 20+ years as a community organizer (among other things) and have made a goal of learning as much as I could about how to work well with others and how to create change and make myself the best vehicle for change i could.

GRACE ROSS: Given some really serious problems, I felt that someone who was a regular person and with my sets of skills needed to step in now - someone who could help lead the change. It was not something Id did because it was easy or comfortable

GRACE ROSS: But this was something I could do and I can lead this state if people vote me in. It is most important that each of you do what you can even if it is not easy or comfortable. If we each do our part, we can get there, I know it - And we will get there together.


QUEER TODAY: Grace I sincerely thank you for taking the time to speak with the activists and readers of QueerToday I wish you the best of luck. And I will be sure to say hi the next time we cross paths wherever that may be!

GRACE ROSS: Wonderful - now some sleep I think we both need! Keep up the good work - Thanks, yours, grace