Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Culture war at the United Nations ends with victory for gay rights organizations.

Lexington, KY -- Nearly a month after the United Nations General Assembly's Human Rights Committee approved an Arab and African proposal to cut the reference to slayings due to sexual orientation from a resolution on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, international pressure lead by the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, as well as the United States Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, the original text has been reinstated.

The United States Department of State 'incensed' sexual orientation be added back to the list of protected minorities and a culture war broke out at the United Nations over whether gay people should be offered the same protections as other minorities whose lives are threatened under the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

The International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA), a non-government United Nations observer and its 600 member organizations, including Kentucky Equality Federation, condemned the action by the United Nations General Assembly last month.

The 192-nation General Assembly approved a U.S. amendment to the resolution that restored the reference to sexual orientation with 93 votes in favor, 55 against and 27 abstentions. The amended resolution was then adopted with 122 yes votes, none against and 59 abstentions.

The main opposition to the United States amendment came from Muslim and African nations, which had led the push to delete the reference to sexual preference from the resolution last month.

"We recognize that the fight at the United Nations underscores the historic split over gay rights at the United Nations and their diverse religious and cultural sensibilities, stated Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer.  "However, no State at the United Nations has the right to deprive someone of life because of the way they are born; we all have the right to live and to protect ourselves and our families."

Richard T. Jones, Kentucky Equality Federation's Chairman of the Board of Directors reiterated that the decision the United Nations General Assembly's Human Rights Committee made in removing protections for sexual orientation was contrary to the directives of the head of the United Nations, Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, who in September 2010 stated: "The responsibilities of the United Nations and the obligations of States are clear. No-one, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, should be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. No-one should be prosecuted for their ideas or beliefs. No-one should be punished for exercising their right to freedom of expression."

"We are very happy for the outcome of this vote," said Gloria Careaga and Renato Sabbadini, ILGA co-Secretaries General. "It restores the original inclusive language of the resolution on extra-judicial executions and acknowledges that indeed many people around the world are killed every year because of their sexual orientation. We also know that many people are killed because of their gender identity or expression and we believe that the language of the resolution should refer to this as well – a proposal to be taken in consideration in the future by all United Nations States which voted in favor of today's amendment."

In the United States, Fox News mocked the fighting at the United Nations over gay rights.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Kentucky Equality Federation's Chair and Treasurer Promise legal action for Noah's Ark tax incentives; teacher's express alarm

Lexington, KY -- Ark Encounter LLC, a for-profit entity, and Answers in Genesis, Inc. the nonprofit ministry that built the Creation Museum in Petersburg, will partner to build the $150 million Ark Encounter on a 160-acre site, including Noah's Ark and Tower of Babel with Kentucky taxpayer money!

Previous pictures taken inside the "Creation Museum" attribute homosexuality as being an abomination.  Kentucky Equality Federation has created an online petition to stop government sponsored religion by denying tax incentives to the "Ark Project."

The freedom of religion is clearly outlined in the Section V of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. In addition, the Kentucky Supreme Court has repeatedly struck down funding to religious institutions.

However, by personally announcing the Ark project, Kentucky's chief of state, government, and commander-in-chief, has done exactly that. Governor Steve Beshear said the group has applied for tax incentives via the Kentucky Tourism Development Act, and the fact that the project has a religious theme should not be a factor in the approval process.

By giving tax incentives to Ark Encounter LLC, or Answers in Genesis, the Commonwealth is in fact giving "preference to a religious sect, society or denomination."

"We have a responsibility to our Constitution and our youth.  By ignoring science, in addition to the Kentucky House of Representatives passing a resolution adopting the Manhattan Declaration's anti-gay "Christian values," they are creating a religious Commonwealth, stated Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer.  How many additional teen suicides will occur because our government is adopting these so-called "Christian values?  They are certainly not any Christian values I have ever read."

Palmer continued: "People across the United States are making fun of Kentucky because of the "Ark Project," in addition to the Kentucky House of Representatives adopting the Manhattan Declaration.  We will not allow Kentucky to become a religious state.

"Not only is it a question of freedom of religion, but a question of the usage of our tax dollars. There are more important things that they could be utilizing the money for," stated Matt Berry, Kentucky Equality Federation's Eastern Kentucky Regional Director.

Several Kentucky teachers have also protested the tax incentives. Due to the volatile nature of this project, their names shall remain confidential: "I teach science in Kentucky, and am confronted everyday with the difficulties of dispelling myths about what science is and what scientists do. This is not entertainment, it is misinformation that is harmful to our future. We are trailing behind other developed countries in science education - if the governor truly cared about jobs, then science, math, and technology education should be a priority rather than something to undermine." Another stated: "In the midst of a huge recession and Republicans suddenly demanding we balance the budget, we're going to give away free money to these folks? I don't think so."

"If the Commonwealth provides tax incentives to the Ark project, we will attempt to form a coalition to challenge it as government sponsored religion," stated Richard T. Jones, Kentucky Equality Federation's Chairman of the Board. "By adopting the Manhattan Declaration, and lawmakers filing 'friend of the court briefs' to uphold the law to 'Publicize the findings of the General Assembly stressing the dependence on Almighty God as being vital to the security of the Commonwealth by including the provisions of KRS 39A.285(3) in its agency training and educational materials' the Commonwealth is creating a religious state and forcing a specific religion on the Commonwealth's citizens."

Dean Byrd, Kentucky Equality Federation's Treasurer also denounced the project, and stated the Federation would sue the Commonwealth, or form a coalition to sue the Commonwealth if tax incentives are granted.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Victory: Kentucky AIDS Drug Assistance Program Funded!

Today, we celebrate victory as more than 300 people are removed from the Kentucky AIDS Drug Assistance Program (KADAP). Kentucky Equality Federation and 11 other organizations urged lawmakers during the 2010 Kentucky Legislative Session to keep the program alive since this program was a last resort to people who could not afford the life saving medications,” stated Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer.

The cost for HIV/AIDS medication averages around $1,200/month—more than the entire monthly income of most families enrolled in KADAP.

"Not funding the Kentucky AIDS Drug Assistance Program was inhumane, shortsighted, and threatened individual and public health," stated Palmer, who met with lawmakers six times during the 2010 Legislative Session about KADAP.

Led by Kentucky Equality Federation, the Kentucky HIV/AIDS Advocacy Group, and AVOL (AIDS Volunteers Inc.), organizations across the Commonwealth expressed alarm and dismay that the 2010 budget was passed without funding for the Kentucky AIDS Drug Assistance Program (KADAP).

Courtesy of the Commonwealth News Service:
The Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) announced today that improved program efficiencies, pharmaceutical rebates and supplemental funding from the federal government have led to the elimination of the list of individuals who were awaiting assistance from the Kentucky AIDS Drugs Assistance Program (KADAP).

In September, all 306 individuals who were on a waiting list to receive medications for HIV/AIDS were enrolled in the program, giving them consistent access to life-sustaining drugs. KADAP is a payor of last resort for Kentuckians with HIV/AIDS who lack the resources to obtain needed medications. Without prescription medicines, the health of these individuals could deteriorate and drug resistance could develop, making treatment even more costly.

"This is another step forward in our work to assist Kentuckians living with HIV/AIDS," said DPH Commissioner William Hacker, M.D. "Many Kentuckians rely on this program for assistance in obtaining medications that are absolutely vital for their health. Through the work of our staff – along with the advocacy community – individuals in need do not have to wait to access services."

With the addition of those on the waiting list, the program now serves almost 1,500 Kentuckians. KADAP is expected to be able to accommodate the current rate of new enrollees, approximately 20 per month, through June 2012.

"KADAP is a vital link in the triad of care, treatment and prevention. When individuals have access to medication and treatment, it improves their health and quality of life," said Bobby Edelen, president of the Kentucky HIV Advocacy and Action Group and at-large member of the Kentucky HIV/AIDS Planning and Advisory Council. "Moreover, when people realize this service is available – and they will have access to care – they are more likely to get tested."