Mark My Words

Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. You can follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MarkSegalPGN or Twitter at https://twitter.com/PhilaGayNews.


By now, with all his lying, you must be immune to Trump’s shrieks about fake news and know that publications like the New York Times and Washington Post, among others, are holding the country from slipping into the cesspool of Trump lies and misrepresentations.

CORRECTION: In the July 20-26 edition of my weekly column, the statement “Catholic Social Services … refused to consider a gay couple for fostering, turning them away simply for their sexuality” is inaccurate. No known complaints to this effect have been filed against CSS. The religious organization was Bethany Christian Services. However, CSS policy discourages any same-sex couple from applying to be foster parents as well.

The one point that my mother and father taught me that still inspires me to this day is to not only thank those people you’ve had the honor to work with, but to give them the credit they deserve. To that end, I want to publicly thank my good friend, Pennsylvania state Rep. Mike O’Brien.

This week, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney won a major court case that will most likely make its way to the Supreme Court and affects our community more than the super-hyped wedding-cake case. And guess what? Almost no one noticed the significance of this major turn of events, but with much higher stakes, not only for u, but especially for religious organizations. Why does it loom large, with billions of dollars in tax dollars? Yes, we’ve reached a new stage of our struggle, where discrimination against LGBT people could cost billions — that’s billions, with a B — of dollars to those who discriminate, or it could legalize discrimination.

Here’s the skinny on the facts: Catholic Social Services had a contract with Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services to aid in placing foster youth. The Catholic group refused to consider a gay couple for fostering, turning them away simply for their sexuality. They claim that same old line as the wedding-cake case, “religion,” but here’s the problem: They take public funds. Translation: Your tax dollars were used to discriminate. The wedding-cake shop was a personal business, not a nonprofit taking public funds. And this case, if it makes its way to the Supreme Court, will shine a light on the use of the Catholic Church’s nonprofit status and your tax dollars, and what those dollars are used for.

And that, my friends, is a case the Church and its friends should be afraid of, since many of your tax dollars go to places that would shock most taxpayers. And it might answer the question of how the Church is paying for its legal representation in all those child sexual-abuse cases. Or how public funds are diverted for conversion therapy, discrimination and, more importantly, paying for employees at a community center or other nonprofit rather than having that employee really working for a religious organization or maybe spending some of that time on taxpayers’ money doing religious work. They opened the door; let’s walk through it.  

Here’s a sample of the research I did: The Washington Times reported in September 2015 that “the Church and related Catholic charities and schools have collected more than $1.6 billion since 2012 in U.S. contracts and grants.” That’s just until 2012. So let’s see if we can get a little deeper.

Charity Navigator had a host of Catholic organizations listed, but guess what? Most of the funding information was missing. They explained it as follows: “Why isn’t this organization rated? Portions of a Charity Navigator’s evaluation are based on information published in IRS Form 990. The IRS does not require this organization to publish a Form 990.”

But what the organization did list was its mission statement. “Stated Mission of Catholic Charities: To provide service to people in need, to advocate for justice in social structures, and to call the entire Church and other people of good will to do the same.”

So, I guess that means LGBT people who wanted to be foster parents aren’t “people of good will”?

Another charity watchdog, GuideStar, lists an area Catholic charity with $8 million in publicly traded stock and blacked out where those funds came from. Are your tax dollars being used on the New York Stock Exchange to benefit a religious organization that might send children to torture through conversion therapy?

Back to that Washington Times report. “Catholic Charities USA, the largest charitable organization run by the Church, receives about 65 percent of its annual budget from state and federal governments, making it an arm of the federal welfare state,” said Brian Anderson, a researcher with the Manhattan Institute in the article. Add federal, state and city government funding like the one now before the courts. Again we are at welfare to the Church of over a billion dollars of your tax dollars … and how it is used? Against the laws of the government that is granting those funds?

It’s anyone’s guess how the case would be ruled on by the Supreme Court, with its newest nominee being a devout Catholic, with a capital D for devout. But here’s the same case I’ve been making since 1974: The LGBT community needs to make the Equality Act, which has been before Congress since 1974 and never passed, our number-one goal since religious charities might be considered a protected class and above government law, and we are not a protected case like race, religion, sex or national origin without that Equality Act.

So all of you who want to take action, now is the time, and peaceful demonstrations and civil disobedience are needed against those in Congress who won’t support the Equality Act. You don’t have to go to Washington, D.C. You can call out your Congress members at their home office in your city or state. Another course is that as long as these charities continue to discriminate, investigate them as I have and publicize your findings, or ask your local newspaper to do so. We are not helpless in this, we just need to be organized and have the will to resist oppression with our own funds.

And as for Mayor Jim Kenney, he’s a proud Irish Catholic who went to Catholic schools.

Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. You can follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MarkSegalPGN or Twitter at https://twitter.com/PhilaGayNews.

Readers here know my passion for LGBT history and my almost-decade-long research and writing on my favorite gay historical character — and I do believe he was a character. He is Baron Friedrich von Steuben. And there’s a longer version of his name, but that will do.

We at PGN grieve the murder of five journalists in Annapolis last week. And we applaud the determination of the staff of the Capital Gazette to carry on and continue what good journalism is: to print the news and community information so that citizens can be informed, regardless of the harm that may occur.

As we go to press, I’m preparing to travel for my last of four speaking gigs this June, all for Pride month. There are various reasons why groups ask me to speak during Pride month. Some are familiar with my column or writings; others want me to speak about publishing in the LGBT community; still others, a point of LGBT history I’ve been personally involved with. But I’m sure that very few know that when they ask me to speak, especially during Pride month, I’m going to speak about organizing that very first Pride, since what most of them don’t know is I was a part of that, and a death this past week just before New York’s Gay Pride made me think a lot about what Pride stands for.

Ah, summertime — the living is easy. We toss our cares to the wind, head for a little R&R and, for many, that great summer vacation. So it should be a time to relax, lay back and enjoy the sunshine.

But wait, we’re five months from an election. Here’s where I can envision you saying, “Mark, why are you bringing this up now?”

Here’s the point: We can’t rest until we do something to put a check on the madness that is Donald Trump, and the harm already done to this country in just 18 months. At this point you’re saying, “Mark can’t this wait till September?”

The answer is no, but there is an out: talk.

Some people think that talk is cheap, especially when you’re talking politics, but in this case it is valuable, and you can even do it on vacation.

Don’t be afraid to talk about the upcoming election. Don’t be afraid to ask the people you come across, “Are you registered to vote?” But even that is not enough. Ask your friends to ask their friends those questions.

There’s a line you’ve heard many times before, and as the Trump administration continues to chip away at not only LGBT rights but those of people of color, immigrants and even Canadians, one has to attempt to find humor in all this. Recall the slogan that should ring in your ears: “They will never have the comfort of our silence again.”

Don’t be afraid to speak up. Resistance — and that word is so appropriate — begins not in September, but now. 

Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. You can follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MarkSegalPGN or Twitter at https://twitter.com/PhilaGayNews.

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