Saturday, January 29, 2011

Spotlight: Novelist Rick R. Reed

Novelist Rick R. Reed has become one of the most prolific authors on the literary scene today. His books features gay characters in the most prominent roles and often his works are of the horror, and sometimes supernatural, genre. Unzipped magazine dubbed him "The Stephen King of gay horror."

Rick has spent the last few years amassing a huge following. His fan base is varied and it's also international. He's the recipient of an Eppie Award for his novel Orientation and he's been honored with many other awards as well, including Elisa Rolle's annual Rainbow Awards. The man is a dynamo when it comes to writing.

With his last couple of releases, Rick has given his fans something other than murder and mayhem with which to whet their appetites. His first gay romance novel, Tricks, has been a popular title on the bestseller lists and now he's out with a new tale, Dignity Takes A Holiday.

Rick is an old friend of mine. His warm, congenial nature wins people over immediately and the tenacity of the loyalty he has for his friends is inspiring. He regularly graced the pages of Web Digest Weekly with snippets from his books and also with insights into his world through more interviews than any other guest who appeared on the WDW Spotlight page. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to talk with Rick again now that his new book is out. Welcoming him to The Outer View is a pleasure.

CP:  Rick, long time since we chatted. How's life in Seattle?
RR: Misty, drizzly, and rainy, but at least we've seen very, very little snow and temperatures are mostly in the 40s and 50s. I do my best to get outside and avoid umbrellas at all costs--they're for amateurs.
CP: You've got a new book out, I see. Tell me about Dignity Takes A Holiday.
RR: Here's the cover blurb, which gives you a pretty good idea:
   Pete Thickwhistle doesn't live what one might call a charmed life. At age forty-seven, he's a flamboyant gay man who believes no one knows he's gay, still living at home with his harpy of a mother. Worse, he's still a virgin, longing to find just the right man to make his life complete. Pete's an upbeat kind of guy, yet he's never learned that the answer to his motto "What could possibly go wrong?" is always: "Everything."
   Pete's road to love and happiness is full of potholes, yet he never tires of searching, despite job losses, weight battles, clothing faux pas, and disastrous vacations, parties, and dating debacles. Pete is the ultimate underdog living a television situation comedy, one named Dignity Takes a Holiday.
CP: Where did you get the inspiration for this one?
RR: To paraphrase Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, I never look any further for inspiration than my own back yard. Because if it isn't there, I never really had it to begin with. How's that for metaphysical and literary all at once?
CP: (Laughing) What's the general reaction to it been?
RR: Horror, shock, and disgust. No seriously, it's only been about a week and several readers have written me to tell me how funny they thought it was. One even said she peed a little when she read it, she was laughing so hard. I'll take that kind of reaction over a five-star review any day!
CP: And Tricks? That was another success for you.
RR: was my first full-length gay romance novel, so it's validating that it's had some wonderful reviews and strong sales. Here's the blurb for it:
   Tricks can mean many things: sex partners, deceptions, even magic. In Rick R. Reed searing love story, it means all three.
   Arliss is a gorgeous young dancer at Tricks, the hottest club in Chicago's Boystown. Sean is the classic nerd, out of place in Tricks, but nursing his wounds from a recent break-up. When the two spy each other, magic blooms.
   But this opposites-attract tale does not run smooth. What happens when Arliss is approached by one of the biggest porn producers in the business? Can he make his dreams of stardom come true without throwing away the only real love he's ever known? And will this question even matter if the mysterious producers realize their dark intentions?
CP: You are one of the most prolific writers on the scene today. How do you turn out so many popular titles so fast?
RR: I employ a staff of literary elves who have a penchant for crime and sex.
CP: Do you have another book in the works?
RR: I always have another book in the works. This spring I have two e-books coming out, Speed Demon and How I Met My Man, both from Amber Allure (the GLBT imprint of Amber Quill Press). In the summer, the one I just finished, Echoes, will also be published by Amber Allure. All three of those books combine gay horror and erotic romance in a hybrid I am forever working to perfect. I am just about to start on a new novel and have several ideas floating around. Even I don't know at this point which one I'll pick.
CP: When do you have time to, say, sleep? LOL.
RR: Between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m. most every day.
CP: How's the family?
RR: My partner Bruce is doing well; his job as a national buyer for a major retailer keeps him very busy and traveling too much (he's in New York City all next week), but I plan on accompanying him to Milan when he goes for work in March; we'll also take some time out to spend a few days in Rome as well. Lily, our Boston Terrier, continues to lead a pampered lifestyle at the center of the universe. And my son and his husband in Montreal celebrated their first anniversary last summer and my son has a new job, which he loves.
CP: What have you been doing in your "Rick" time lately?
RR: What's that? You mean like spare time? What a concept! I do read constantly and just finished Stephen King's latest, Full Dark, No Stars. It was wonderful. I've also managed to see a number of really good movies over the past 6 weeks or so, including The King's Speech, 127 Hours, Rabbit Hole, and Black Swan.
CP: You're a renowned cook. Any new recipes you'd like to share?
RR: I don't know about renowned. But I do like to cook; it relaxes me. How about this? Take a bowl large enough to hold about half a pound of linguine and in the bottom of it put some olive oil, lemon juice, grated lemon zest and capers, salt and pepper to taste. Cook linguine, drain, reserving some of the cooking liquid and toss the pasta in the oil, capers, and lemon. Serve it atop a bed of arugula and top with a nice piece of grilled salmon.
CP: Sounds delicious! Rick, it's always a delight to visit you.
RR: And it's always a delight when you stop by; don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Book Review - Another Enchanted April by Eric Arvin

Novelist Eric Arvin has written yet another tale that is an instant must-read. The author of such popular books as SubSurdity, Superbilicious, Simple Men, and The Rest Is Illusion always takes his readers on a journey with his stories; a journey they simply don't want to get off. Another Enchanted April continues his magic streak.

This is the story of three guys who travel to a quaint bed and breakfast in the seaside town of Beechwood. Each one is looking for something different. While Doug is looking for sex and Jerry is looking for love, Tony isn't sure why he's there. In fact, he didn't want to come at all. But these three guys are in for more than they expected when they set out on their trip.

There's a garden with something supernatural going on. A roller skating drag queen enters the mix, as does a chef named Anna Magnani, and our trio of guys find themselves enjoying a comedy of errors of sorts as they wend their way toward the conclusion of this adventure. It's a ride to the finish that each of the protagonists will find illuminating in his own distinctive way.

Eric Arvin writes like someone who was born to write, and I think he was. His formulas are superbly wrought tales of human emotions and drama, into which he injects humor and insight, that give his tales a stamp that is uniquely Arvin. He knows just what his readers want and this he delivers with amazing clarity and a passion for what he's doing.

Another Enchanted April is a winner. Recommended reading.

5 Stars.

Book Review - Meets Girl by Will Entrekin

Boys meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Girl doesn't love boy back. But he wants her anyway. It sounds like a formulaic plot, yes?

Well, think again. Novelist Will Entrekin has taken this theme and spun a story around it that makes for a great read indeed.

The protagonist of the story is a writer who wants to be a success at his craft. Like so many in his field he faces the obstacles of massive competition and apathetic readers. So he distracts himself with his one sided romance and is equally frustrated as things continue not to unfold along the course he'd like on either front. The girl just isn't interested in him.

Then he meets a man who offers him the choice of his life. He can either have the girl... or become a successful writer. One or the other, but not both. Who is this mysterious would-be benefactor? If you're thinking the devil, well you're not by yourself. Even our hero thinks so. Whether he is or not, his offer stands. And what does the guy choose?

I'll leave that to the reader to discover. I will say that Will Entrekin has really shown himself to be a first rate novelist with Meets Girl. The story crackles with energy as it progresses toward a satisfying conclusion. It's one you just can't put down. In fact, don't be surprised if you find yourself reading long into the night to get to the end.

5 Stars.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Book Review: Caesar's Fall by Dorien Grey

Dorien Grey's third Elliot Smith story once again combines the elements of murder and romance to paint a picture that even the most casual reader will enjoy. Elliot is aided by paranormal assistant John, a ghost with a lot to offer. He also has the support of his lover Steve, who is a painter, and the two must face the moment in all relationships when their future comes into question.

The mystery centers around lottery winner Bruno Caesar's murder. Bruno dies a somewhat grisly death. His killer also helps himself to a stamp collection that Bruno held dear. Bruno dies after telling everyone who's been taking advantage of his newfound wealth that he's cutting them off. Those suspected of the crime range from friends to family members and it seems all of those involved had something to gain from his untimely death.

Elliot becomes involved in solving the murder when the presence of John begins sending him messages in the scent of Old Spice cologne. Elliot and Steve were neigbors of Bruno's. Until now Elliot hasn't told Steve about John's manifestations. His reluctance is tested when Steve begins to smell the Old Spice as well. Also, John is giving Elliot informatin on the crime through his dreams and Elliot finds himself more and more embroiled in the case as the book progresses.

With the climax forthcoming, Elliot and Steve are brought to the moment where they must decide the fate of their romance, while Elliot has a killer to unmask thanks to the help of John. It's a threesome of infinite proportions as Elliot unfolds Caesar's Fall. The resolution will also lead him to his future.

A fine thriller with more hooks than a bait and tackle shop, Dorien Grey again gives his readers exactly what they're reading for. Caesar's Fall is a delight.

5 Stars.

Spotlight: Sportscaster Mark Dondero

One of the most common requests I get from my local readers is the desire for more local stories. As is often the case, one doesn’t always have to look far to find what he’s seeking. Dalton has its own TV station, WDNN, and each evening WDNN telecasts its own news program. Recently I noticed Mark Dondero doing sports on WDNN and I was struck not only by how good he is at what he does but by the way he conducts himself. As my grandmother would have said, Mark is not “from around these parts.” With a decidedly northern accent, he injects his own brand of talent into the work he does. I was impressed to say the least.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote Mark at WDNN and asked him for an interview. I wanted to find out what prompted him to relocate to Dalton. His bio was very interesting and so I knew he’d give a great interview. I wasn’t disappointed.

CP: Mark, thanks for chatting with me.
MD: No problem, Carey. Thanks for asking me.
CP: Where did you move here from?
MD: Boston.
CP: Where did you go to school?
MD: In Rhode Island, at Bryant University.
CP: And what brought you south?”
MD: I wanted to get into television and I saw the ad for a sportscaster on a website that advertises for openings at TV stations. So I got in touch with Calvin Means (WDNN general manager) and we had a good phone interview. One thing led to another and here I am.
CP: What about Dalton attracted you to the area?
MD: Aside from the job, I was really struck by the passion that people here have for sports and for their school teams. You don’t find that where I’m from. Dalton has different strengths. I really love it here.
CP: How long have you been here now?
MD: Just over a year.
CP: What were you doing before you came here?
MD: I was working for Toshiba, in sales. That was a good situation but it just wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. So I gave myself a little time to find a good opportunity.
CP: What are your long term goals?
MD: I’d like to move up in the market and make a career of out something I’m passionate about doing.
CP: What are some of your favorite places in Dalton?
MD: I’m a big fan of Spring Lakes Golf Course and I really like Dalton Stamp and Coin. It’s the best card shop I’ve ever seen.
CP: You’re an Italian American, right?
MD: Yes, that’s right. My great grandparents come over from Italy.
CP: Who are your heroes?
MD: I would have to say my dad. I’ve always admired how he handles himself. He’s much more by the book than I am. I think more out of the box than my dad. I also am a huge fan of Ken Griffey, Jr.
CP: What are some of your hobbies?
MD: Snowboarding, going to the beach. I’m a music guy. I enjoy a wide range of music. I really just like to have fun.
CP: What movies do you consider your favorites?
MD: I’m a huge Toy Story fan. I also enjoyed The Shawshank Redemption and Jurassic Park. The Mission Impossible Series is also a favorite.
CP: Do you enjoy reading?
MD: Yes. I really like James Patterson.
CP: Having lived in Boston and now here in Georgia, what is your personal preference, long sleeves or barefoot weather?
MD: I am a summer guy, so I’d have to say the barefoot weather.
CP: What advice or wisdom do you like to pass along?
MD: I suppose it’s something I learned from my mom. Just work hard for your goals and do what you want to do.
CP: Mark, thanks again for talking with me.
MD: Thank you, Carey.

At 25, Mark Dondero is positioning himself for a successful career in television broadcasting. He is a warm, personable guy who seems very much at home in Dalton. He’s easy to talk to as well. After meeting him, I can see why the WDNN brass was keen to bring him onboard. Mark has a lot to offer and he loves what he does. It’s a very refreshing thing to find a young man who is so passionate about his job. Those of us who call Dalton home are fortunate to have such a talented transplant on our hometown news team.

Carey Parrish

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Case of Murder

I'd never known anyone who was murdered in the whole of my life. All that changed on November 7th, 1985. Until then I didn't think that murders happened to people you really knew. Murders were on the news or in novels or on those TV crime shows. They just didn't seem to be a part of real life.

Murder is an ugly business. It destroys illusions of safety and gives you reason to believe that the world can really be a horrible place. When you're eighteen years old and two people you know are brutally murdered in their own home you get a sense of the unreal in a big way. When town chatter starts filtering in and you hear what people think and who they suspect the situation becomes even more gruesome. People get scared, but they get hungry for the details too. I don't know which of the two is worse.

Here in my hometown Rev. Dewitt Lewis and his wife Jesse Lou were the victims of a horrific double homicide. It happened on the date mentioned above and it was the first time in my experience that I actually knew people who were killed in such an unnatural manner. They were sixty-six years old. Quite affluent residents of Dalton, the Lewises were self made millionaires. Mr. Lewis owned and operated a very successful business, Dewitt's Electric Motor Rewinding and Repair. He was the minister of Brookwood Baptist Church where he and Mrs. Lewis were very active with their congregation. Semi retired, the couple was enjoying their life when this awful thing befell them.

Dalton was turned topsy turvy by the murders. It was the biggest news story to ever hit the town. Rumors started flying immediately. Everyone seemed to settle on one suspect in particular. Yet the police never arrested anybody. They made several statements to the press inferring that an arrest was imminent but one never materialized. Twenty-five years on this remains the situation.

I have never forgotten the Lewises or the murders that took them away from Dalton. Over the years there were snippets of news every now and then about the case but nothing ever came of any of it. I began to feel like Dewitt and Jesse Lou were being forgotten as the years passed and people moved on. It seemed such a tragedy to me for this to be so; a tragedy as equal in magnitude as what happened to them.

I started to write about the case a few years ago. I wanted people to remember them and I wanted something to be done about their deaths. I contacted various cold case groups but none of them would look at the crimes because I wasn't an immediate family member. I couldn't get the news to run anything new about the case. I was frustrated and angry. How could two good people meet such a grisly end and nobody was doing anything about it? Here in the 21st Century, with all this advanced forensic science at our fingertips, and nothing was happening to bring justice to these two dead people.

I also couldn't figure out why their immediate family wasn't demanding something be done. I remembered the rumors from 1985 and how everyone in Dalton thought they knew who the killer was, and I wondered...I wondered. If there was anything to this old feeling, why wasn't it being re-investigated?

In early 2004 there was a small bit of action on the case. The local police searched the home of the Lewis' grandson, Cary Dewitt Calhoun, here in Dalton. They would never say what they were looking for or why they obtained the warrant to search the residence. The home where he lived was in the Brookwood section of town, and it just happened to be a house that had been built by the Lewises, a house where their grandson lived when they were murdered, just about a mile away from the home where they were killed. Yet again nothing came of this. At least nothing that showed up in the news.

Then, a few weeks ago, I was contacted by a reporter for the local paper here in town. Mark Millican wanted to talk with me about the case. He had read a piece I wrote on the murders that went viral on the internet a couple years ago, thanks to my good friend and true crime writer Gregg Olsen. Mark was working on a story about the twenty-fifth anniversary of the unsolved killings and he was interested in my insights from the research I did for my article, and also he wanted to get some recollections about the Lewises, as I had known them personally. I was very heartened to know that someone was bringing some attention back to the case. The Lewises weren't being forgotten after all.

Mark's article was a piece of journalistic brilliance. He went into a lot more detail than I remembered seeing when the murders first took place. He went back to the Dalton police department and spoke to officers who worked the case in 1985. He even tried to talk with the Lewis' daughter, their only child. His work on this piece made a fabulous story, and he and I both hoped it would break open some kind of new lead in the case, but over a month has passed since this crime was revisited... and still nothing.

I decided to write again about the Lewis murders and I asked Mark some questions about his research for his article. He and I share the desire for justice for Dewitt and Jesse Lou. We made a good team on the project and I couldn't not write again about this without looking at it from his perspective. Mark didn't let me down.

1. Mark, what about this case drew you to it?
MM: Actually, it was an assignment, and since I am the ‘Cops & Courts’ reporter it fell to me to do the story. However, Dalton is my hometown. I had returned there after a stint in the service and was living there when – let’s just go ahead and call it what it was, a double homicide – occurred in 1985 before I moved to Ellijay to join the newspaper there the next year. So I remember well the crime and actually lived about two miles south of where it happened. I also worked for Dalton Parks and Rec Department for awhile and since Brookwood Park was one of the areas I kept up, I knew the ‘lay of the land’ around the neighborhood.

That being said, you can sense that it was more than an assignment. One of my pet peeves is seeing injustices done to people, and my job sometimes offers opportunities for people to have their stories told – with the hope that at times justice can be served.

 2. When we were corresponding while you wrote your article, I could sense the passion that was driving you in this case. Do you feel any differently about the case since you completed the article?
MM: Certainly. After talking to former Police Chief James Chadwick and current Chief Jason Parker, I was able to add to my knowledge of the case and in going back and looking in the archives of The Daily Citizen, I was able to refresh it in my mind.

As it turns out, much of the evidence in the case points to one person.

3. As a fellow Daltonian, the memories of that time are always fresh in the minds of our fellow citizens. Are you surprised at the amount of interest there still is in this case, after 25 years?
MM: Definitely. People who live here remember it like it was yesterday, and that even includes kids who can remember. I ran into a guy (he’s 37 now!) I used to coach in baseball and we were talking about it and he was like, “Oh, yeah! I remember that!” Of course, he was 12 at the time.

As stated in the 25-year story on the investigation, Parker says he still has people remark about it “in passing.” Interestingly, there is no hue and cry from the family about solving the case, but more on that later.

4. What was your primary goal in writing the article for the anniversary of the murders?
MM: I kept running into brick walls when it came to law enforcement authorities and court representatives naming a suspect, so making that link and coming up with the name that we could go to press with became my overriding goal. But we had to do it in an official sense, and that literally came together at the eleventh hour.

5. Tell me what happened.
MM: How we got the ‘Smoking Gun’ linking Cary Dewitt Calhoun to the investigation:
As the week leading into Sunday, Nov. 7, 2010 – the 25th anniversary of the murders – drew to a close, things got very interesting. I had been transcribing voluminous notes into the computer and realized what was missing – we still didn’t have the name of the primary suspect, and the cops weren’t going to give it to me. Outright, anyway.

On Thursday around lunch I stopped in at DeWitt Electric to ask to speak to Mrs. Cox personally – DeWitt and Jessie Lou Lewis’s only child. I was told by an employee that she had fallen down a flight of seven stairs the day before. I left, went back to the office, and determined to call Mr. or Mrs. Cox the next day after she’d had another day to recover from her fall.

On Friday when I called Mrs. Cox and asked how she was, she was very curt and wanted to know what I wanted. When I began to explain that we were doing a 25-year anniversary story of her parent’s murders, she said, “You just want to hurt our family.” I tried to ask her how she felt about the murders never being solved, and she never let me get the question fully out before cutting me off with, “I’m not available for comment.” I thanked her and hung up the phone.

Moments later I got a call from the unnamed employee wanting to know what I was up to and I told him I was writing a story. He told me they were concerned the renters in the Lewis’s former home might read the story and want to move out. I told him that was not going to stop us from writing the story. He then said Mrs. Cox might be contacting an attorney about me harassing her, and I related to him how I handled the conversation. When he told me that he had given me her injury condition and that I shouldn’t have called her, I told him I was prepared to talk to Mr. Cox if he answered, and I did inquire about Mrs. Cox’s condition to preface my attempt at an interview.

In the initial article on the murder 25 years ago, Mr. Cox had gone on the record with our reporter at the time and told her it had to be someone the Lewis’ knew, and went into their security measures at their home. I simply wanted to ask him if he still felt that way.

At the same time, I was trying to get a sidebar story together about a home near the murder scene that police searched in 2004. I was stymied because I was mistakenly searching archives in 2003 at lunch and frustrated I couldn’t find anything. It was getting late in the work day and finally I took a break and drove to Panera for a cup of coffee. I just needed to get away from the office and think. I called Bruce Frazier at Dalton Police just to see if I could get anything, anything at all. He told me the home was searched in February of 2004. It was 4:40 p.m. and I knew the library would be closing soon, so I sped that way. En route, I called a friend in the courthouse and asked her if she could get me property ownership records on a piece of property even if it was just 10 til 5. She said sure. (I have a brief background in real estate sales and paralegal studies and knew if I had an address the records are public.)

But there was a dead end at the library. Library archives had not been completed past 2003 and I walked out frustrated. Desperately, I called Frazier once more and asked if he would give me the address of the home searched in 2004. He said, “Sure, it’s 506 Lakemont Drive."
Just like that. I called my girl at the courthouse and she laid out the ownership by year. The home belonged to grandson Cary Dewitt Calhoun when it was searched for evidence related to the murders. Still no arrest was made, and he sold the home to his mother within days.

Here’s the link on the new evidence story:

6. What kind of feedback have you received from the article?
MM: Favorable. A lot of it has come obliquely, through other newspaper staff members who have talked to people in the community. For instance, our news editor talked to a man who was one of the Lewis’ neighbors, who said simply, “It needed to be said.”

Other feedback while I was actually writing the piece was not favorable, but that was entirely from the family and a DeWitt Electric employee.

7. Are you planning any further journalistic work on this case?
MM: Not unless something breaks in the case. My plate stays pretty full with all the crimes, court cases and features I have to cover and write.

8. Thanks for allowing me to be involved in the work you did, Mark. I enjoyed collaborating with you very much.
MM: Carey, it has been my pleasure. Your input into the main story – that of knowing the Lewises personally – is what every reporter dreams of in this type of story. It put the “personal touch” into the lives of a long-dead beloved pastor and his wife who were brutally murdered. My most fervent hope is that there will be a break in this case. I believe someone out there knows something, but is fearful of stepping forward.

And that is exactly the sentiment around Dalton concerning this case. I have always hoped that someone, somewhere, at some time, would reveal something to bring about a closure to what happened and provide an explanation as to why the Lewises were so mercilessly slaughtered that night so long ago.

Like Mark, I've also wondered time and time again why their family hasn't been insisting that something be done. If it had been my parents who were murdered, I would be screaming for justice from every rooftop I could find. The police would never hear the end of me on the matter until someone was in prison for killing them. It would become my life's work to bring this killer to justice for what was done.

A footnote to my original article on the murders was used by Mark in his story, and the next day after it ran the Daily Citizen News used it as their Quotable Quote for that day. I think it's only fitting to close this new writing with that same thought.

"There is still a killer walking around who knows what he did that night all those years ago, and there are still two people dead who deserve justice."

(If anyone who reads this knows anything that might help bring this case to a close, please contact the Dalton Police Department at 706-278-3333.)

Carey Parrish

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The End of Don't Ask Don't Tell, The Beginning of Tomorrow

Today will go down in history as one of the most important victories in the fight for equal rights in this country since the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln in 1861. The United States Senate voted to repeal the despicable "Don't Ask Don't Tell" rule that had been preventing gays and lesbians from serving openly in the armed forces since the Clinton administration. This is a monumental step forward in the evolution of our nation toward an equal and just society.

For too long gays and lesbians have been forced to live their lives in the shadows. Our country is one of the last civilized nations in the world to recognize LGBT people as more than second class citizens. The legalized brutality that the LGBT community has had to endure for more years than most people care to count has done much to diminish the world of people who are American citizens, entitled to the same rights as any other US citizen, but who've been pushed into the background, being told that they can't have their constitutional rights, while idiots like John McCain have led crusades to excuse and further this discrimination. I wonder if he's been revived since the Senate vote. (Little laugh.)

People have grown tired of having to accept that they can't live their lives as openly and as freely as other citizens of this country. The LGBT community has suffered at the hands of the religious dominations that have influenced the lawmakers of this land for far, far too long. These people are no longer willing to step aside and live their lives in secret because the Constitution says they don't have to do that. Every citizen of this nation is entitled to the freedom of religion, the freedom of speech, and the freedom of expression, set down as law by the founding fathers of our country. I for one think it's a damn shame that people have had to demand their equal rights in the first place.

With the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell," other challenges to equal rights will soon follow the same fate. The debate over same sex marriage has always been a moot point in the first place, but now it won't stand a chance to keep people from marrying who they please. Love is universal. In antiquity, gays and lesbians were not treated as sub human species either. Bisexuality was also a very common practice in the ancient world. It wasn't until the religion known as Christianity came to prominence that those who loved differently found themselves forced hide their true selves. A couple of millenia filled with persecution, torture, and ostracism has finally festered into a boil that is erupting all over the place. You can't make people live lives that aren't natural to them; you just can't do that. The struggle and the fight for equal rights that we're seeing now is what you get when you try.

In many ways, the civil rights movement is mirrored in what's happening now. A minority of people, born in this country, as human as anybody else walking around, was denied even the most rudimentary of rights - their freedom - all because of the color of their skin. A war was fought to end slavery but another century had to pass before the bonds of segregation were finally broken. Now there is another minority, having been denied their own civil rights because of their sexual preference, who are rising up as a whole and saying that they will tolerate no more of such treatment because of who they are. They are taking to the streets protesting what has been foisted upon them by an unjust society and demanding that their lawmakers force the recognition of their rights. Yes, there are very clear parallels here. Lets just hope it doesn't take another century to right the wrongs of the past.

The world is forever changing. So are the thought patterns of modern man. What was accepted without question in decades past is no longer relevant in today's world. This is the 21st Century and nobody has to bow to another simply because anymore. No one should be made to be ashamed of who they are or who they love. And nobody should be denied the right to live as freely as anybody else. It's that simple. The religious conversatives who've opposed equal rights for LGBT Americans are simply going to have to accept that there are other points of view which are as just as valid and just as equal as theirs. They don't have to embrace it, they don't even have to like it, but they do have to admit that they have no right to force their beliefs on other people. Trying to do just that is why we're in this situation right now.

Yes, today is an important day in the history of our country. It's the day when our government took the first real steps toward creating a society where people can live freely and equally, where nobody has to hide themselves in the shadows anymore, and where no one can deny a person his civil rights because he happens to be different. The definition of equality is taking on a new sheen right before our very eyes.

Let's celebrate it.