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Friday, December 31, 2010

RNC Chairman Michael Steele on Marriage Equality

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) posted a lengthy interview with Republican Party chair Michael Steele about his personal philosophies and the party's strategy for fighting same-sex marriage over the next two years.


2010: From trans liberation (?) to geezers on the left and into 2011...

By Nan Hunter -


   As a way to close out 2010, here's the official pronouncement from the NY Times that this was a technicolor transversal year:

It's certainly a statement on our times that, in the same month, James Franco graces the covers of GQ and Candy. In GQ, he appears in a moody head shot. In Candy, a style magazine dedicated to what it calls the “transversal” — that is, transsexuality, transvestism, cross-dressing, androgyny and any combination thereof — Mr. Franco, shot by Terry Richardson, vamps in trowel-applied makeup, heavy jewelry and a woman’s dominatrix-style power suit.
Candy, it turns out, is but one of the more visible bits of evidence that 2010 will be remembered as the year of the transsexual. Yes, Mr. Franco is just dressing up and doesn’t feel he was born the wrong sex. But it is a grand gesture of solidarity with gender nonconformists and certainly hasn’t affected attendance at “127 Hours.”
Other celebrities have flirted with “the other side,” cross-dressing for fashion publications. On the cover of the current Industrie, Marc Jacobs is decked out in one of his signature women’s designs (albeit with a beard). Japanese Vogue Hommes revealed its new male model, Jo Calderone, who was, in actuality, Lady Gaga.
Not since the glam era of the 1970s has gender-bending so saturated the news media. ...The only thing that would have raised more awareness of trans people would have been a link with the president — even better, a link that rhymed. That’s when the “tranny nanny,” Barack Obama’s transvestite nanny from his boyhood in Jakarta, Indonesia, was discovered and made headlines...
[The third photo is of model Lea T, in feathers, who told the Times,] “I hope we have a big revolution, and people change their minds about us — that it is just the beginning.” 
   If only.

   And then there's this photo of a group that looks (especially by comparison to the first photo) like the new leadership team for Geezers Anonymous, or maybe for a group representing everyone ever voted off the island.
From left: Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, Pete Stark, Henry Waxman, Charles Rangel and John Dingell are pictured

   Not so funny, though, when you consider that no political entity in the country produced more significant social change this year (or this decade) than the House of Representatives 2010, which led every successful progressive initiative - from health reform to new regulation of the financial markets to literally hundreds of bills that were blocked in the Senate to, at the end, kickstarting the final push to repeal DADT. No, none of those is perfect, but compared to anything we've seen come out of either chamber of Congress in 30 years, it's a pretty darn impressive list of accomplishments.

   So, unlikely as hell, this crew really can claim to be fierce advocates. Yes, Virginia, liberals can be fierce. Too bad they're about to return to the political equivalent of the North Pole.

 for more visit Hunter for Justice.


YEAR IN REVIEW: ‘News Story of the Year’ Countdown

The story of the year was repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” but there were many other big stories that kept us busy this year. Here are the rest of the top 10. Compiled by Blade staff writers Lou Chibbaro Jr. and Chris Johnson.

#2 Youth suicides lead to “It Gets Better” Campaign
A rash of suicides committed by gay youths throughout the country this year prompted the “It Gets Better” campaign in which prominent U.S. officials and LGBT leaders advise teens struggling with their sexual orientation that their lives will improve.
Four gay youths took their lives in September, reportedly after they had been bullied because of their sexual orientation. Among those who committed suicide was Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old Rutgers University freshman who leaped off the George Washington Bridge connecting New York and New Jersey.
In response to the suicides, Dan Savage, a gay Seattle, Wash.-based activist, founded the “It Gets Better” project, an online video channel in which U.S. officials and LGBT leaders urge youth to look to a brighter future. President Obama was among the officials to appear in a video.

#3 Democrats get clobbered in midterms
Democrats this year sustained heavy losses in the mid-term elections and lost control of the U.S. House to Republicans, which will likely kill LGBT rights advances in Congress for at least two years.
Republicans claimed 63 seats in a result that will lead to the ascent of Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), who scored a “0” in the Human Rights Campaign’s most recent congressional scorecard, as House speaker. Democrats retained control of the U.S. Senate, but will have a reduced majority of 53 seats.
Still, the LGBT community enjoyed one bright spot in the election through the win of David Cicilline, a gay mayor of Providence, R.I., to the House. Upon the start of the 112th Congress in January, Cicilline will become the fourth sitting openly gay member of Congress.

#4 Proposition 8 court battle
California’s Proposition 8, the ballot measure that amended the state’s constitution to halt gay marriage, has been a non-stop battle in the court of law — and the court of public opinion — since it passed in 2008.
A federal lawsuit seeking to overturn the ban, led by famed attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies, advanced in August, when U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker ruled Prop 8 unconstitutional.
But rather than allowing gay couples to resume marrying in California, Walker issued a stay on his ruling pending the outcome of inevitable appeals. While California state leaders, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, refused to defend the law, the “Yes on 8” campaign challenged the ruling as expected.
A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals heard arguments in the appeal on Dec. 6, in which supporters of the ban argued that gay marriage “will make children prematurely preoccupied with issues of sexuality.” The appeals panel is expected to issue its decision in 2011.

#5 CDC: 1 in 5 gay men has HIV in cities
Nineteen percent of men who have sex with men in a study of 21 U.S. cities was found to be infected with HIV and nearly half did not know they were infected, according to a report released this year by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“This study’s message is clear: HIV exacts a devastating toll on men who have sex with men in America’s major cities, and yet far too many of those who are infected don’t know it,” said Kevin Fenton, director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention.
The report, published in September, shows that among the men who have sex with men, or MSM, participating in the 21-city study, young MSM and MSM of color were least likely to know their HIV status.

#6 Three more countries legalize same-sex marriage
Portugal, Iceland and Argentina became the latest three countries to legalize same-sex marriage in 2010, with Iceland becoming the world’s first nation to do so with an openly gay head of state in office.
Lesbian Johanna Sigurdardottir, who became Iceland’s prime minister in 2009, faced virtually no opposition when she and her Social Democratic Party introduced a same-sex marriage bill into the island nation’s parliament. According to Reuters News Service, the legislation passed by a vote of 49-0.
The situation was far different in Argentina, where the Catholic Church raised strong objections to a same-sex marriage proposal backed by the majority-Catholic nation’s president, Cristina Fernandez. But church opposition failed to sway public opinion and a majority of lawmakers.
The action by the three countries brought the total number of nations where same-sex marriage is legal to ten. The other nations are Canada, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, South Africa, Norway, and Sweden.

#7 Lesbian mayor takes office in Houston
Lesbian Annise Parker was inaugurated as mayor of Houston in January, becoming the first openly gay person elected mayor of a U.S. city with a population greater than 1 million.
Parker became Houston’s first out gay elected official in 1997 when she won election to the City Council. She held her Council post until she won election in 2003 as the city’s controller. She came in first place in her November 2009 bid for mayor but didn’t receive enough votes to avoid a run-off election, which she won in December 2009.
In one of her first actions as mayor, Parker issued an executive order extending non-discrimination protections for city government workers to cover transgender employees.

#8 ‘Kill the Gays’ bill in Uganda draws attention
LGBT and human rights activists across the globe voiced opposition and outrage over a bill introduced into the Parliament of Uganda that calls for strengthening the country’s criminal law against homosexuality to include the death penalty or life imprisonment.
The proposed law, introduced by Ugandan Parliament member David Bahati, who has ties to fundamentalist Christian groups in the U.S., drew opposition from the U.S. State Department and members of the U.S. Congress.
Bahati has said he would not seek a vote on his bill until after the country’s February 2011 elections.

#9 Gay service member held in WikiLeaks scandal
A 22-year-old gay U.S. service member emerged in August as the prime suspect in the investigation of leaked classified documents and videos to WikiLeaks, the controversial whistle-blowing website that has rocked U.S. intelligence agencies.
Army Pfc. Bradley Manning has been held since August in solitary confinement at a brig in the U.S. Marine base in Quantico, Va., while military and civilian authorities continue their investigation into the leaks.
In an instant message conversation with a friend, Manning reportedly said he was responsible for leaking a classified video showing a U.S. Apache helicopter strike in Bagdad that resulted in civilian deaths. Manning, who had been stationed in Iraq as an intelligence analyst, also reportedly claimed to access to 240,000 classified U.S. diplomatic cables that would reveal the inner workings of U.S. embassies worldwide.

#10 Mass. judge rules DOMA unconstitutional
A U.S. District Court judge in Massachusetts ruled in July that the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, is unconstitutional because it violates the right of same-sex married couples to equal protection under the law.
DOMA defines marriage under federal law as a union only between a man and a woman and bars same-sex unions from access to all federal marriage-related benefits such as Social Security pensions for married spouses.
Gay rights attorneys said the ruling by Judge Joseph Tauro was an important first step in the quest to either persuade Congress to repeal DOMA or to have it struck down by the courts. The Obama administration, to the disappointment of gay activists, announced it would appeal Tauro’s decision to a federal appeals court.


Los Angeles Times Editorial: "Enough Agonizing Mr. President"

Obama_gaymarriage_1222_480x360 By David Mixner -
The Los Angeles Times, in a strongly worded editorial, pushes President Obama to stop agonizing over marriage equality and show leadership on the issue. The paper, which supports same sex marriage, makes clear that the time has long passed for him to come down on the side of freedom and justice. Here is the editorial printed in full:

Obama says he is struggling with whether to endorse same-sex marriage. We say, support marriage equality.

We can't peer into President Obama's soul, but his statement last week that he is "struggling" with whether to endorse same-sex marriage is open to an unedifying interpretation. Given the president's support of gay rights in other contexts, his opposition to marriage equality raises the question of whether the struggle Obama referred to is between politics and principle. If so, we hope principle will prevail.
At a news conference, Obama was asked if it is "intellectually consistent to say that gay and lesbians should be able to fight and die for this country but they should not be able to marry the people they love." Obama, rightly, took the question as a reference to his opposition to same-sex marriage. His answer was awkward and unsatisfying:
"As I've said, my feelings about this are constantly evolving. I struggle with this. I have friends, I have people who work for me, who are in powerful, strong, long-lasting gay or lesbian unions. And they are extraordinary people, and this is something that means a lot to them and they care deeply about. At this point my baseline is a strong civil union that provides them the protections and the legal rights that married couples have, [but] this is something that we're going to continue to debate and I personally am going to struggle with going forward."
The president could spare himself that struggle if he would analyze the issue logically. If he did, he would recognize that it's irrational, once same-sex couples are given the practical advantages of marriage, to deny them married status. Civil unions, while a vast improvement over the absence of any recognition of same-sex relationships, are almost by definition second-class arrangements.
The temptation is to think that Obama knows this, and that his reluctance to endorse marriage equality is more political than personal. When he ran for the presidency in 2008, it was the conventional wisdom that supporting gay marriage would be politically fatal. With shifts in public attitudes, that probably will not be the case in 2012. According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 42% of adults now favor same-sex marriage, compared to 37% in 2009. The trend seems clear.
We'd prefer to think that such considerations wouldn't be uppermost in Obama's mind. What should determine his position is logic and the fact that same-sex couples across America, not just those in his circle, yearn for recognition of their relationships. Enough agonizing, Mr. President. Support marriage equality.
for more from David visit Live from Hell's Kitchen.


How the Elton John AIDS Foundation Is Supporting Gay Youth in Texas

By Brandon Miller -

It's been a good week for Elton John, right? In case you haven't heard, Mr. John and his longtime partner, David Furnish, welcomed a baby boy this week via a surrogate. I don't know how a 62-year-old has the energy for a newborn, but that's one lucky kid right there. I mean, think about the hairpieces, wigs and eyewear alone. Dress-up fun!
But Mr. John doesn't only have his focus set on his child. Instead, he has put his money where his mouth is and shown that he truly cares about LGBT people, and about gay youth in particular. Even with babies on the brain, The Elton John AIDS Foundation made a generous $25,000 donation to a Texas organization this holiday.
Out Youth is based in Austin, Texas. The agency supports LGBT youth between the ages of 12 and 19, providing a variety of services. Predictably, the Elton John AIDS Foundation put forth the money to help in HIV prevention, testing and counseling.
"It's critical that GLBTQ youth have regular access to confidential HIV testing and counseling," says Monrovia Van Hoose, the clinical director of the organization.  Staff, clinical interns and volunteers have received intensive training to provide testing and counseling for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections."
The campaign that the Foundation specifically donated to is called KYSS, which stands for "Knowing Your Status is Smart." According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), more than 50 percent of HIV diagnoses for people between 13 and 24 (from 2003-2006) were due to male-to-male sexual contact. Men who have sex with men (MSM) remains the largest transmission category for HIV in the United States and from 2001 to 2006, HIV/AIDS diagnoses in MSM increased the most in the 13 to 24 age group.
The figures only get more frightening when you look at men of color, who have even higher transmission rates. But what the Elton John AIDS Foundation can help with the most is the KYSS mission to make people aware of their statuses. A whopping 77 percent of urban MSM who tested HIV positive as part of the CDC study did not know they were infected. We are talking about $25,000 well-spent and much appreciated.
"This generous grant from the Elton John AIDS Foundation is a tremendous holiday present for Out Youth and the youth served by our organization," says Executive Director Candice Towe.


Equality Michigan Blasts Target for 2010 Anti-Gay Political Donations

By Michael A. Jones -

We learned earlier this month that retail giant Target, despite offering a tepid apology for giving political contributions to anti-gay candidates, continued to give money in support of some of the country's most homophobic politicians all throughout the 2010 election season. Candidates that benefited from Target's largesse?
There's Rep. Michele Bachmann, who compares gay marriage to terrorism and says that same-sex couples are a major threat to American children. There's Sen.-elect Roy Blunt, who wants to rewrite the U.S. Constitution to ban gay marriage and who wants to keep LGBT people from adopting children. And Rep. John Kline, who earlier this year joined with The 700 Club's Pat Robertson to try and stop same-sex marriage from moving forward in the District of Columbia. Talk about a collection of some fiercely anti-gay politicians.
Target's political contributions became one of the largest stories of 2010, at least in terms of the role of corporations in the American electoral process. And Target let it be known in very clear terms: we don't care if politicians are extremely anti-gay, we have the right to support them anyway.
But that philosophy has cost Target a number of LGBT shoppers. Boycott pages on Facebook are plenty, with tens of thousands of people saying they will no longer send their pink dollars to Target. And now Equality Michigan, a leading organization working on behalf of LGBT rights in Michigan, has come out and condemned Target. They're not calling for an official boycott, per se, but they're saying that it would be wise for LGBT people to take their money elsewhere in order to show Target that supporting anti-gay politicians comes with a price.
“Target, which prides itself on being a family company, defended its initial contributions by saying that their donations were based on a desire to invest in economic development. In Michigan, we know better than most that everything possible needs to be done to promote economic growth and sustainability, and to create healthy, stable communities,” says Emily Dievendorf, policy director at Equality Michigan, according to the Michigan Messenger. “What Target neglected to consider in their support of anti-gay candidates is that public policy makers that work to allow the denial of basic human rights for LGBTQ individuals and families are supporting and compounding economic and social vulnerability – for all citizens.”
Way to thread the needle, Equality Michigan. And way to show that while Target might like to justify their anti-gay donations by saying, "Oh, we're just doing this for economic reasons," that justification just doesn't fly. Dievendorf then put the ultimate punctuation mark on the reason LGBT people should be upset about Target's anti-gay political work.
"If corporations are not willing to consider the implications of the availability of housing, health care, jobs, and parental and spousal rights on the success of their communities, they should refrain from using their profits to weigh in on our selection of political leadership. When corporations do choose to take active roles in political races, they should be prepared to have consumers interpret their support as an indication of their corporate values.”
Darn right. And that's exactly why Target not only owes its LGBT customers an apology for supporting anti-gay candidates, but they owe it to either stop trying to buy elections, or put in place processes that include a candidate's social positions when determining whether they deserve political support.

petition text -

Please stop funding anti-gay politicians

Dear Target,

In recent weeks it was disclosed that Target Corporation had given $150,000 to a Minnesota political action committee that is funding candidates with ties to extremely anti-gay groups. The group in question that Target is funding, Minnesota Forward, has used that money to support a candidate named Tom Emmer.
Mr. Emmer has close ties to a group in Minnesota, You Can Run But You Cannot Hide, that advocates violence toward gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people. Indeed, the leader of You Can Run But You Cannot Hide, Bradlee Dean, has said that it would be moral and righteous for religious people to commit violence against gay people. And Tom Emmer has consistently supported this group, welcoming them at GOP events, and going on record as calling them "nice."
Does Target agree with this?
I kindly ask you to not only denounce the Minnesota-based group, You Can Run But You Cannot Hide, but to also explain how money from Target -- long considered a friend to the gay and lesbian community -- could make its way to a politician that supports a group with such violent and hateful positions.
Thanks for your time.

[Your name here] 


Apple Rejects ’Anti-Gay’ App Once Again

By Killian Melloy -

Apple has once again rejected an app from an anti-gay Christian group on the grounds that it is "objectionable and potentially harmful to others," according to a posting at GLAAD’s website.

Though Apple had initially approved the app in October, a subsequent outcry from gay organizations led to its removal the following month. The app offered a quiz that rewarded conservative, "right" responses to questions about homosexuality and abortion, and allowed users to add their name to the document with which the app was affiliated, the so-called "Manhattan Declaration."

The document runs to 4,700 words, and was presented at a media conference on Nov. 20, 2009. The Manhattan Declaration purports to trace a Christian tradition of defending "the sanctity of life" and "traditional marriage" through the ages, and makes the claim that Christianity laid the groundwork for democracy and equality for all before the law. Anti-gay groups such as Focus on the Family embraced the manifesto and encouraged their adherents to put their names to it.

But the declaration also raised hackles. The text claims that the push for equal marriage rights for gay and lesbian families is nothing more than an attempt to "redefine" marriage to suit "fashionable ideologies." The Manhattan Declaration goes on to "affirm... marriage as a conjugal union of man and woman, ordained by God from the creation, and historically understood by believers and non-believers alike, to be the most basic institution in society." An online petition organized by gathered thousands of signatures within a week; Apple responded by removing the app.

GLBT equality group the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) noted that the app went beyond an implicit assumption that same-sex families were somehow undeserving of the "dignity" that the Manhattan Declaration indicated should be reserved solely for mixed-gender couples. "The app features an electronic version of a declaration, through which users can pledge to make whatever sacrifices are required’ to oppose marriage equality, even, presumably, if that means breaking the law" in asking users not to "bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth," a Dec. 15 GLAAD release said.

"The ’Manhattan Declaration’ calls gay and lesbian couples ’immoral,’ it calls the recognition of their relationships ’false and destructive,’ and claims that allowing them to be married will lead to ’genuine social harms,’ " the GLAAD release noted. "The original application also contained a quiz in which the ’right’ answers were those that oppose equality for gay and lesbian people.

"This application fuels a climate in which gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are put in harm’s way," the GLAAD release went on. "Apple did the right thing in recognizing that this application violates the company’s guidelines."

Noting that the quiz had been stripped out of the revised app that was re-submitted to Apple for approval, GLAAD went on to say that, "simply removing the quiz does nothing to address the underlying problem, which is that this application tells people to pledge to oppose equality for gay and lesbian couples."

Apple evidently agreed, declining the app once again and saying that it could potentially "expose a group to harm."

"This application fuels a climate in which gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people are put in harm’s way," GLAAD stated when the app was dropped. "Apple did the right thing in recognizing that this application violates the company’s guidelines."

In the wake Apple’s decision to remove the app, the Mormon Church-affiliated anti-gay organization the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) produced an ad accusing Apple founder Steve Jobs of anti-Christian censorship. NOM was a key player in promoting Proposition 8 in 2008 and has, since then, spent massive amounts of money across the nation to defeat or overturn marriage equality in the handful of states where it has been (or might be) approved.

The app’s backers condemned Apple anew following the app’s second rejection, noted JoeMyGod in a Dec. 30 posting that quoted text from

"Inasmuch as the Manhattan Declaration simply reaffirms the moral teachings of our Christian faith on the sanctity of human life, marriage and sexual morality, and religious freedom and the rights of conscience, Apple’s statement amounts to the charge that our faith is ’potentially harmful to others,’ " the site told readers.

"It is difficult to see how this is anything other than a statement of animus by a major American corporation against the beliefs of millions of Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox citizens," the text went on. "It is our sincere hope that Apple will draw back from this divisive and deeply offensive position. The corporation’s leaders must be made to understand that they do the country no good service in capitulating to efforts to stigmatize, marginalize or defame people on one side or the other in important moral debates."

Text at also claims, "Nearly 500,000 Christians have signed the Manhattan Declaration."

"The Manhattan Declaration asks its signees to vow to civilly disobey any law that grants LGBT rights," noted JoeMyGod. "Its authors say they will make a third run at Apple in the new year. Oh, and they’ll need you to send them LOTS OF MONEY for that."
Kilian Melloy reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes commentary for EDGEBoston, where he also serves as Assistant Arts Editor.

Aussie Same-sex parents more egalitarian

Lesbian couple with kid.jpg
Same-sex parents more egalitarian
 A new survey has shown that when it comes to dividing household tasks and parenting responsibilities, same-sex partners are more egalitarian than heterosexual parents.

Where lesbian couples are concerned, the mother who carries the baby and breastfeeds it, is not assumed to be the parent who will stay at home or be the main nurturer.

The study, Work, Love and Play, compared the experience of 317 same-sex parents, including 27 men, and 958 heterosexual parents, and it challenged the notion that biology is destiny.

"It is not uncommon for the biological capacity of mothers - childbearing, breastfeeding, nurturing - to be used as the rationale for women's more limited participation in the workforce and their primary role as homemaker," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Jennifer Power, of La Trobe University, a co-author, as saying.

But among lesbian couples, generally both women take on a mothering role, regardless of who gave birth, and both tend to take on the work role. In other cases, the women changed roles over time.

The study found that compared with heterosexual parents, both same-sex parents are much more likely to be working part time.

Only 6 per cent of Australian couples with children under the age of 15 have neither parent working full time, compared with 23 per cent of lesbian couples.

The study found that perhaps because of the extraordinary effort gay people must go to, to have children, spending time with them is a big priority for both parents.

As a result, both partners tend to take responsibility for generating income and for all household tasks.

The findings have been published in The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy .


Thursday, December 30, 2010


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Opinion: Advance on AIDS or Give Up on Gay Men?

AHF President Michael Weinstein Opinion Editorial Published
Today in San Jose Mercury News
eblast giving up on gay men header image
Recent headlines that heralded taking medication as a means of preventing transmission of HIV among gay men were applauded by many AIDS experts. The news came in a study of nearly 2,500 men in six countries that found that an average man taking the medication was 44 percent less likely to become infected than a control group taking a placebo.

How very sad that we have come to this point. The applause for this approach shows just how disposable we consider the lives of gay men.

If we were talking about protecting the general population with a treatment that was only 44 percent effective, would we be celebrating? Yet that is how the media and most of the public interpreted this study.

First, 100 real live men got infected with HIV while on this study. This is a tragedy. Thirty-six were infected while receiving the pre-exposure drugs.

The 44 percent who received a benefit were also intensively counseled monthly. Blood was drawn five times in the first six months, and there were frequent tests for all manner of sexual infections. This is in no way representative of any real-world situation, in which the efficacy rate would likely be even lower.
And the patients did not know whether they were receiving the drug or not, so the risk of infection was high. In effect, half the chambers in the gun were loaded.

Why would anyone willingly subject themselves to such drug therapy if they had any intention of using condoms? If someone tells almost any man that it is reasonably safe to have sex without a condom, as this study may suggest, he will likely do so.

Kevin Fenton, chief of HIV/AIDS for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said: "Some studies suggest that even a small increase in risk behavior due to a false sense of security about the pills' effectiveness could actually increase HIV infections, an outcome we cannot afford."

Given that a large percentage of patients infected with HIV do not take their medications, how likely are healthy men to take pills every day for the rest of their lives? And if the pre-exposure medication is not at therapeutic levels in their system before they have sex, they will not be protected.

The potential use of this drug is based on the premise that we cannot succeed in getting gay men to use condoms. Have we really made a wholehearted effort to do this? Are condoms readily available in bars, bathhouses and other meeting spots? Are they advertised on TV? Do our political, religious and community leaders speak out for protecting gay men from HIV? The answer in each case is no.

The rates of HIV infection in tolerant places in the world, like Holland, are one-sixth what they are in the U.S. Partner reduction, delay of sexual debut, faithfulness and condom use, combined with political will, have brought HIV rates down in such diverse places as Cambodia, Brazil, Northern Europe and Senegal.

Another question: Who will pay for this pre-exposure treatment? Today, almost 5,000 Americans who are already HIV-positive are on waiting lists for lifesaving medications. The minimum these new drugs will cost in the U.S. market is $10,000 per person per year. Will insurance companies cover them for preventive use? Will they cover HIV medications when the preventive drug fails?

I applaud efforts to find new ways to prevent HIV transmission. However, far too often baby steps forward are interpreted as huge leaps in scientific knowledge. We must consider this if we are going to offer up hundreds of thousands of gay men for this misguided experiment.

MICHAEL WEINSTEIN is president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. He wrote this article for this newspaper.


In the Life- Censoring Wojnarowicz

In The Life Media looks at the controversy surrounding the removal of David Wojnarowicz's video installation, "A Fire in My Belly," from the National Portrait Gallery's Hide/Seek show at the Smithsonian. The video, which represents the artist's anger as he faced death from AIDS ignited outrage among conservative lawmakers and religious leaders.


Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears pride at being a gay teen role model

Jake Shears, the lead signer of the Scissor Sisters has spoken out against homophobic bullying but also his pride at being a role model for gay teens.
In an interview published by ContactMusic, he said: “I’m proud to be that. I know what it’s like to be a teenager, and what it’s like to come out, and the difficulties of it all. And how it feels to be in school and be bullied.
“When I read about suicides and gay teenagers it’s so tragic. I don’t think teenagers realise that it actually does get better. The minute you’re done with high school your life gets better.
“If I’m the go-to for new gays, and if I can be someone that gay teenagers can look at as someone who’s happy and who has made a good life for himself, then that’s great.
“I had people like that for me when I was growing up, and it was very important.”
The Scissor Sisters front man added: “My advice would be to just stick to who you are. There are sacrifices you have to make, there are crosses that you have to bear. You’re always going to be portrayed in a certain way, you’re always going to be pigeon-holed. That’s the price that you’re going to pay.
“But it’s a price that’s worth it. It’s a responsibility. So that would be my advice – remain exactly who you are.”
Earlier in the year, Jake Shears engaged in some canny viral marketing for the band’s new album with a spoof advertisement on a leading gay male escort website.


Rupert Everett: Hollywood homophobia denies gays leading roles

Rupert Everett says his career
has been harmed by coming
out of the closet
Rupert Everett, the openly gay star of ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding’ has once again hit out at Hollywood, claiming that the lack of roles for gay actors is caused by homophobia.
Everett who also starred ‘An Ideal Husband’ alongside Cate Blanchett came out as gay in the 1980s and has in the past claimed that coming out of the closet damaged his career.
“Showbusiness is ideally suited for heterosexuals – it’s a very heterosexual business, it’s run mostly by heterosexual men, and there’s a kind of pecking order,” he told BBC Radio 4.
“I just never got a job there [in Hollywood], and I never got a job here, after (coming out). I did a couple of films, I was very lucky at the beginning of my career… and then, I never had another job here for 10 years probably and I moved to Europe. Hollywood is an extremely conservative world that pretends to be a liberal world.”
The star claimed that there is a “pecking order” to decide who appears in big money films regardless of the actors box office success. He cites former co-star Jennifer Aniston as an example of this. He said that she “will just have one too many total flops. But she’s still a member of that club. And she will still manage to, like a star forming in the universe, a whole lot of things will swirl around and suddenly solidifying into yet another vital tasteless rom-com, a little glitter next to the Crab Nebula.”
A year ago, Everett advised gay actors to stay in the closet if they want to succeed.
He told the Observer: “I would not advise any actor necessarily, if he was really thinking of his career, to come out."
“The fact is that you could not be, and still cannot be, a 25-year-old homosexual trying to make it in the British film business or the American film business or even the Italian film business. And I’m sick of saying, ‘Yes, it’s probably my own fault.’ Because I’ve always tried to make it work and when it stops working somewhere, I try to make it work somewhere else. But the fact of the matter is, and I don’t care who disagrees, it doesn’t work if you’re gay.”
He added that there were probably other stars in closet but agreed that while he was not as rich or successful as them, he is “vaguely free” to be himself.


Gay and adopted Daily Mail columnist slams Sir Elton’s decision to have a baby

Andrew Pierce is an editor for the Daily Mail
Andrew Pierce, the consultant editor of the Daily Mail had penned a column criticising the decision of Sir Elton John and David Furnish to have a surrogate baby, despite being both gay and adopted himself.
Mr Pierce wrote: “I have no doubt of the couple’s ‘over whelming’ happiness and joy at the arrival of their son. I am quite certain that the child’s unorthodox parentage — he was born to an unidentified surrogate mother who had carried the child after being implanted with a donor egg from another mystery woman — will prove no barrier to the love the couple will lavish on him.
“Yet I can’t help feeling that his decision to become a father is another grotesque act of selfishness from Sir Elton, and that the child is a little Christmas bauble he and his partner have awarded themselves. How telling it is that he was born on Christmas Day.”
Mr Pierce in a sense echoes the sentiments of Christian fundamentalist Stephen Green who told the BBC that Sir Elton’s child is a “designer accessory” for the popstar.
However, unlike Mr Green, Mr Pierce does believe that gays couples should be allowed to adopt. He wrote: “I have two very good male friends who are in a civil partnership and have adopted a little girl. They will make wonderful parents not least because they are absolutely committed to each other, but also because one of them has given up his job to be a full-time parent.”
Mr Pierce points out that in almost ten years ago, Sir Elton argued that he was too old to be a parent, telling Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet: “I have come to the conclusion that it is too late for me. Had it been 20 years ago, then I would definitely have done it. I don’t want to be 70 years old when my daughter turns 16.”
In reality Sir Elton will be 79 when his son turns 16.
Mr Pierce argues that Sir Elton wouldn’t have been allowed to adopt a child due to his age, so paid to create his own.
“He [Sir Elton] is also an ageing, pampered, self-indulgent millionaire — look at the absurd names he and Furnish have given the poor child, for heaven’s sake!
“And it is the nagging suspicion that Elton — a man who is by nature an obsessive — has simply acquired a son to satisfy his latest fixation that I find repellent.”
Mr Pierce touched on his own personal story, writing: “as an adopted gay man, I have no interest in having children of my own — although I don’t denigrate those who want to.
“Let’s hope Elton John’s son gets the same chances that I had, which had nothing to do with money. My parents had little of that.
“What they offered instead was the love and support of an ordinary, hard-working couple who were always there for their children. How often will Sir Elton be there for his son?”


Anti-gay bullying continues to be a contentious issue in Anoka-Hennepin, MN School District

By Andy Birkey -

Monday night’s meeting of the Anoka-Hennepin School Board was a contentious one as the issue of bullying and suicide in the district again came up. The state’s largest school district opened an investigation into the suicides of nine students over the past year — some by students who were allegedly bullied for their sexual orientation  — and said that it found no evidence that any of the nine were bullied. Students and parents criticized the district for its statement — at times the conversation devolved to shouting — while district officials said there’s not much they can do if students and parents don’t report incidents to the schools.
In a voicemail to staff last week, the district said that reports by parents, students and staff regarding bullying are “not true.”
“We continue to correct inaccurate statements about students who have committed suicide over the past year,” Superintendent Dennis Carlson told district staff. “We know how difficult these deaths have been for our schools. Based on all the information we’ve been able to gather, none of the suicides were connected to incidents of bullying or harassment. In addition to family and friends, many of our employees were personally affected by these tragedies.”
Over the last 18 months, the district has been at the heart of the debate over LGBT-bullying. In late 2009, a high-profile investigation by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights found that two teachers in the district conspired to harass a student they thought was gay. The teachers went on leave, and the district paid $25,000 to the student.
Then, in July, the suicide death of gay 15-year-old Anoka student Justin Aaberg sparked an uproar. Parents, teachers and students held a series of press events and gave testimonials before the school board where advocates said that as many of four students took their lives at least in part because of bullying.
"None of the suicides were
connected to incidents of
bullying," Dennis Carlson
Carlson said that these statements by students, staff and parents at school board meetings weren’t truthful based on data from the district’s student services department.
“As we all try to heal from the pain of these deaths the continuation of inaccurate information is not helpful,” he said. “Once again we have no evidence that bullying played a role in any of our students deaths. In a few instances, people told the school board and district leaders that employees stood by while a student was bullied. These statements are also not true. We have no evidence of that occurring.”
On Monday night, freshman student Jacob Tighe testified to the board that he was upset that the district called those statements “not true.” He said that bullying was a factor in his friend’s death and that even he has experienced anti-gay bullying — and he’s straight.
“Not only did some of these kids who committed suicide get bullied before they died, but one of them, who was a personal friend of mine, was even bullied even after she died. Kids said things like ‘she deserved to die,’” he told the board.
“Even though I am straight, I get teased because people think I am gay based on how I dress. Recently I had an incident where a student in class harassed me, and I reported it to the teacher who then singled me out in front of the class and ultimately made the situation worse by how she handled it.” He said the teacher handled his complaints “indifferently.”
“You tell us to report things, but then when people come forward, like some have done in this very boardroom, you say that what we say isn’t true,” he said. “Why should kids come forward then if you aren’t going to believe them?”
Justin Aaberg’s mother, Tammy, was also angered by the school’s response. She and Justin had discussed his sexual orientation, she says, and she was supportive of it. Shortly after his death, she learned from his friends that he had been bullied at school.
She has pressed the school board on several occasion to make policy changes to create a safer school culture for LGBT students, especially changing a policy that bans discussions of LGBT issues in classrooms.
She said it makes LGBT students feel devalued. “Gay kids believe that they deserved to be treated this way because they were gay,” she told the Minnesota Independent. “I honestly believe this is what Justin thought, which is why he tried not to make a huge deal of what happened to him.”
“I don’t know why they are doing this,” she said of the district’s response to statements by parents and students. “This is outrageous. They are bullying [students] into silence,” she said.
Aaberg is conducting her own investigation to determine what the district knew — if anything — about Justin’s experience with bullies. She says she didn’t know that Justin had seen a school counselor about it and questions why the school didn’t inform her of that fact.
But the district maintains that in none of the nine suicides was bullying reported to the district — either before or after the students’ deaths.
Responding to testimony by parents and students on Monday night about incidents of bullying and the perceived inaction by the district to address those incidents, Superintendent Carlson said, “There’s no question this is a difficult issue for this district, and we’ve been struggling with it for a long time”
He said that no one is casting blame at the victims of bullying. “In no way do we see the victims of bullying and harassment as individuals to be blamed. I mean, in no way.”
To the presenters he said, “When you make serious allegations against this district, we are obligated to investigate. We don’t investigate hearsay or rumors. We investigate facts.”
He said the district will investigate staff that do not intervene in stopping bullying.
“If they are unknown to us or are not named, it is impossible for us to go down that road. So clearly that is something that needs to be done,” he added.
Bill Thurston, the father of an Anoka Middle School student, said, “Publicly casting doubt on the number of suicides that were LGBT or bullying-related suggests that protecting the status quo is more important than protecting students.”
At last month’s meeting, Thurston spoke about his son being bullied, and board members said they asked him for specifics so that they could investigate.
“You know, we were very sincere when we said that when you came before us at the last board meeting and said you son was bullied, but we need you to talk to administration and tell us where it’s happening so we can deal with it,” board chair Tom Heidemann said. “If you are not willing to do that with us then that becomes a real issue for us to go and investigate.”
“I have a great relationship with the principal at Anoka Hennepin Middle School, and I saw that you scapegoated her and when you scapegoat teachers as well… You have to know, Tom, that it’s this policy,” said Thurston, referring to the ban on LGBT issues being discussed in the classroom.
Heidemann interrupted, “You are out of line.”
“You are out of line too, sir!”  Thurston shot back.
That policy seems to be at the crux of the contention in the district, and each person testifying said it created an unsafe school climate for students to report anti-LGBT bullying.
A district staff member, fearful about being fired for criticizing the district about the policy, spoke with the Minnesota Independent on condition of anonymity. It can be confusing for adults — let alone students — to know when LGBT issues can be brought up at all, the staff person said: “The policy is confusing. The policy is a paragraph in length and earlier this year [the district] produced a two-page table to define situations that were either neutral or not. Only one of the points on the table was actually curricular.”
The staffer continued, “They always claim that it’s only a curriculum policy. It was very laughable because one of the points was about staff wearing rainbows on their lanyards and how some students would be made to feel uncomfortable if staff wore rainbows. In the so-called training we had at the beginning of the year, any mention of homosexuality is supposed to cause the teacher to make a referral to the counselor or school psychologist. This pathologizes homosexuality.”
The district employee added, “The policy creates an environment in which kids are implicitly told they don’t matter. If they can’t talk about who they are in class, then why would they feel okay about seeking help from a principal or counselor?”
Despite the policy and the assertion that the district has not found bullying to be a factor in recent suicides, the district has beefed up its suicide prevention efforts and altered its anti-bullying policies.
In October, the board voted to clarify its anti-bullying policies to include sexual orientation.
During the summer, the district produced videos, to be shown to all students at the beginning of the year, that address anti-gay bullying. And the district has brought in special suicide prevention staff and distributed Safe Space kits — training materials for staff on creating a safe environment for LGBT students — in district schools.
“For well over a decade we have offered SEED diversity training (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) to teachers and administrators,” the district’s assistant communication director Brett Johnson told the Minnesota Independent via eamil. “All SEED leaders include a segment on concerns of GLBT students. While it offers staff an opportunity to discuss GLBT issues from diverse perspectives, the teachers who have participated in this training have said their primary goal is to learn how to best support students.”

Out on the Ice

Brian Burke isn't just a legend of the NHL. He's a fists-up, knock-your-teeth-out gladiator. But when his hockey-loving son came out of the closet and died soon after, he was thrust into a strange new role: advocate for gays in a macho sports culture. He's no cheerleader—he looks like he hates every minute of it—but locker-room homophobia may have finally met its match.

By Mary Rogan -

Brian Burke is tormented by how much terror you can squeeze into ten seconds. Ten seconds in a car careening into oncoming traffic on a stretch of Indiana highway just shy of the Ohio border. Ten seconds sailing sideways through sheets of falling snow, straight at a reinforced truck. Ten seconds with the same unthinkable ending every time.
The sheriff at the other end of the phone told Burke that his son didn't suffer. The impact fractured the base of Brendan's skull and killed him instantly. In the passenger seat was his friend Mark Reedy. When the cops and paramedics arrived, Brendan's car was so mangled they couldn't tell Mark was inside. Mark was dead, too. Burke pressed the sheriff for more details. He needed to know exactly what happened, even if it added to the nightmare reel in his head.
The sheriff knew he was talking to one of the most powerful men in the National Hockey League. Burke is the general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the most storied and lucrative franchise in NHL history. He's a six-foot-two beast of a man, a former minor league player renowned for his fierce temper and heavy hands in a brawl, a Harvard Law graduate and Stanley Cup winner as G.M. of the Anaheim Ducks. In the past thirty years, Burke has blistered through the ranks of NHL management, including a stint as discipline czar for commissioner Gary Bettman. "When he was working for me," Bettman recalls, "there was a picture of him in his office from when he played for the Maine Mariners, with blood all over his face and uniform. I knew this was a good, smart, tough guy with no b.s. about him."
But now the combative G.M. had taken the biggest hit of his life. Lying on the side of the road was his 21-year-old son, who had stunned the hockey world three months earlier when he'd come out as the first openly gay man closely connected to the NHL. Listening to the sheriff's voice down the line, Burke could see Brendan in the snow that was still falling, surrounded by strangers who didn't know a thing about him. He must be so cold, Burke thought, and he could see the furrow in his brow that Brendan always got when he was worried. He could see the paramedics give up and step away, and already ticking in the background were those ten seconds of knee-buckling fear.
The next morning, February 6, 2010, Larry Tanenbaum, the chairman of the Maple Leafs, chartered a plane to fly Burke from Toronto to Cincinnati, but the same snowstorm that hammered the Midwest was now grounding flights out of Pearson International. He sat at the airport for six hours watching the snowbanks build along the sides of the tarmac and the daylight drain away. Brendan had already spent one night alone, and Burke was frantic at the thought of the sun going down on his child for the second time. He told himself he wasn't being rational. Brendan was dead—what difference would it make? Finally his flight left, and he arrived in Cincinnati late in the afternoon. From there, an air ambulance took him to Dayton, Ohio, where he landed just as the light was fading. They had Brendan waiting for him in a private room at the Dayton airport. He noticed a small cut on his chin. He thought to himself, This is not the right sequence of events; things aren't supposed to happen in this order.
Within an hour Burke was in the air again, flying his son home to Bedford, Massachusetts, where Brendan's mom, Burke's ex-wife, Kerry, was waiting with their three other grown children. A few days later, at Brendan's funeral, almost a thousand people, including the entire roster of the Maple Leafs, squeezed into the St. John the Evangelist Catholic church in Canton, just outside Boston. Then, three days after the funeral, Burke led the U.S. hockey team into the Vancouver Olympics. There were offers to replace him as general manager, but Burke knew quitting wasn't part of the deal. Throughout the Olympics, from their opening 3–1 win over Switzerland to the heartbreaking overtime loss to Canada in the gold-medal game, every member of the U.S. team wore a dog tag bearing the inscription In Memory of Brendan Burke.
As he tells this terrible story, Burke is sitting in the expansive backyard of his Toronto home, which overlooks one of the city's most beautiful ravines, maneuvering his cell phone on the patio table to show which way Brendan's car was facing when it crossed the center line. His voice is a low moan as he chokes out the words and lurches his way through the details. At his feet, on the weathered deck, are wet blotches from the tears he can't slap away fast enough. "Brendan died alone in the snow," he sobs. "And it haunts me that the last ten seconds of his life were filled with terror."
Before Brendan came out to an ESPN reporter in November 2009, his dad warned him how big this story would get. Nobody affiliated with the NHL—active, retired, or dead—was out as gay, because hockey isn't like any other sport. A hockey arena is a Thunderdome where giant men on steel blades crash around in pinball machines disguised as rinks, spitting out teeth and getting sewn up on the bench. It's a game with a strict code of macho behavior that most players learn before they're old enough to drive a car.
Less than a quarter of all NHL players come up through the NCAA. The best players are drafted into junior hockey when they're 15 or 16 and play for small-town teams across Canada and the United States. They live with local families and go to high school in town, but their job is hockey. By the time they lace up for an NHL game, they know that losing teeth is not a real injury, that backing away from a fight isn't an option, and that the worst thing you can call another player, the cluster bomb you drop to let a guy know just how soft you think he is, is cocksucker.

Cocksucker is just one of the words Burke promised Brendan he'd never use again.

Mixner's Year in Review: The LGBT Community

By David Mixner -

Chad-griffin-300x200   What a year for the LGBT community. There were times where everything looked bleak and hopeless and then suddenly times of great triumph. On any given day you didn't know what was going to unfold in our struggle for equal rights. Grassroots activism achieved a new energy in this turbulent year and many new faces and names joined the roster of heroes and heroines of the movement. The courts surprisingly became a place of hope and the President and Congress at the very last minute (literally!) achieved a Christmas miracle.

   So here are some my highlights for the past year of the people we should celebrate, those who should go into the Hall of Shame and events and times we should never forget.

Persons of the Year: David Bois and Ted Olson
These two remarkable lawyers represented all that was good with this year. From two totally opposite ideological homes, they came together to fight for full equality in the courts by taking on the Proposition 8 case. In the process, they took a political movement and made it a civil rights moment for millions of straight Americans. Their poise, brilliance and gentleness were an inspiration for us all..

Gay Man of the Year: Chad Griffin
Working with Rob and Michelle Reiner, Chad Griffin took the concept of bringing together Ted Olson and David Bois and going to court to repeal Proposition 8 and made it a reality. He quietly and with great perseverance overcame many obstacles and raised millions for this historic case. In the beginning, even dozens of the most prominent national organizations and leaders urged him to drop the endeavor. Who among us will ever forget the day that decision came down from Judge Vaughn Walker's court.

Lesbian of the Year: Robin McGehee
Robin became the poster child of the new activism in the American LGBT community. Through get GetEQUAL she arranged protests all over the country from Washington, DC to San Francisco. She has shown a remarkable organizer's skill in negotiating the treacherous waters of LGBT grassroots politics. She represents a new generation of leadership with passion, principles and a great family to boot!

Story of the Year: Repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"
Yes, I know we have not fully repealed DADT but getting it through Congress was a Christmas miracle. This effort had more lives than a cat. One day it was dead and then the next day we were on the verge of victory. The White House mobilized Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen to put the power of the Joint Chiefs behind the effort. And in Congress the persistence of people like Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Harry Reid, Congressman Patrick Murphy, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Senator Mark Udall and Senator Lieberman gave us an historic victory like none other.

Heroes and Heroines of the Year: The LGBT Veterans
Represented by people like Lt. Dan Choi and so many other distinguished service people and led by SLDN and Servicemembers United, these veterans inspired not only us by their endless courage and sacrifice but also inspired the Congress and the nation. Rarely have we witnessed such day in and day out raw courage.

Entertainer of the Year: Alan Cumming
Across the board, singer and actor Alan Cumming has had a spectacular year. From the release of his successful album " I Brought A Blue Car Today" to his Emmy-nominated performance in "The Good Wife," this had been Alan's year. In addition, he had a cabaret performance at Feinstein's at Loew's Regency in New York City which opened to rave reviews. In Alan's spare time he was in the forefront helping with FightBack New York and dozens of benefits for other LGBT causes.

Organization of the Year: Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund
One should judge an organization on results and effective use of our donations. No one can come close to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund in both those criteria. They won 2/3 of their races this year for a grand total of 106 victories! The organization continues with the best candidate training program in the country. Increasingly they are building a network of elected and appointed officials that means real power. Nothing can replace that famous seat at the table.

for more visit Live from Hell's Kitchen.


Dan Savage Slams GOProud!

Dan Savage: "GOProud isn't a pro-gay rights organization, they're an organization of gay quislings & useful idiots that help to window-dress the republican party which is really still rabidly anti-gay to it's core. It's a little window dressing, a little gay window dressing, that allows them to appeal to moderates perhaps & independents as being less bigoted than the republican party actually is."


Controversial New Kylie Video - All The Lovers - Kylie Minogue

song: All The Lovers
artist: Kylie Minogue
album: Aphrodite
year: 2010


Lambda Legal and ARCW Resolve Discrimination Case on Behalf of HIV-Positive Woman Denied Surgery


(Milwaukee, WI, December 28, 2010) —Today, Lambda Legal and the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin (ARCW) announced that the discrimination lawsuit they brought on behalf of Melody Rose, a woman living with HIV who was denied gallbladder surgery, has been resolved.

Ms. Rose is a Wisconsin woman who alleged she was denied surgery by Steven M. Cahee, M.D., the Fond du Lac Regional Clinic, S.C. and Agnesian Healthcare, Inc., because of concerns the doctor had regarding his own health. Prior to resolution of the matter, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin rejected the defendants' argument that Ms. Rose lacked sufficient evidence to prove her claims at trial.

"Ms. Rose is pleased that this lawsuit has been resolved," said Scott Schoettes, Staff Attorney with Lambda Legal's HIV Project. "When we brought this lawsuit, it put doctors everywhere on notice: you don't get a free pass to discriminate based on unfounded fears regarding the transmission of HIV."

In 2008, Melody Rose was suffering from gallbladder disease when her physician referred her to Dr. Steven Cahee at the Fond du Lac Regional Clinic, a facility operated by Agnesian Healthcare, to have her gallbladder removed. Dr. Cahee, however, refused to perform the surgery after learning about Ms. Rose's HIV status. Thereafter, a surgeon at a different medical facility removed Ms. Rose's gallbladder in what is considered a routine procedure. Lambda Legal and ARCW filed suit against all three defendants under various federal and state antidiscrimination statutes. Defendants denied the allegations. The case was set for trial, but is now resolved.

"Health care professionals must rely on sound medical science rather than personal misconceptions and bias," said Rebekah Kopec-Farrell, Director of the Legal Services Program at the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin (ARCW). "Doctors should be our first line of defense in the fight against the misinformation and fear that fuels such stigma and discrimination."

The case is Melody J. Rose v. Steven M. Cahee, M.D., the Fond du Lac Regional Clinic, S.C. and Agnesian Healthcare, Inc., No. 09-CV-0142.

Scott Schoettes, HIV Project Staff Attorney, is handling the case for Lambda Legal. He is joined by co-counsel Rebekah Kopec-Farrell of AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin and Kathryn Devine and Matthew B. Mock of Schiff Hardin LLP.


Gay Couple in UK Starts Surrogacy Service for Same Sex Families

By Kilian Melloy -

Recent headlines have made much of Sir Elton John and his husband, David Furnish, becoming proud new parents. But Elton and Furnish had the means to use an American surrogacy service, the Encino, Calif.-based Center for Surrogate Parenting.

Now other gay and lesbian families in Britain who wish to use surrogacy to answer their call to parenthood will have help close to home--thanks to the UK’s first gay surrogate parents, Tony and Barrie Drewitt-Barlow, who live in Essex.

British newspaper the Telegraph reported on Dec. 29 that the Drewitt-Barlows plan on a February opening for The British Surrogacy Center. The article says that the couple promise their new service will be "a center for all things surrogacy," and the new resource will have trans-Atlantic reach, with an American office in California.

The two offices will be able to coordinate and match up surrogates, donors, and parents from both America and the UK.

The Drewitt-Barlows themselves used an American surrogacy agency when they embarked on their quest to become fathers. In 1999, the couple became Britain’s first parents to have used surrogacy. Using eggs from a donor, and a surrogate mother, they welcomed twin daughters Aspen and Saffron into the world a decade ago.

In that time, their family has grown to include three more children--and soon, the couple will help untold more families achieve their dreams of parenthood.

In a separate article on Elton John and David Furnish’s decision to use surrogacy, the Telegraph reported that Center for Surrogate Parenting also has a second office, located in Annapolis, Maryland. The center was started three decades ago and in that time it has helped bring more than 1,400 children into the lives of couples who have used its services. Same-sex couples head about a third of those families, the article said.

The article said that Elton John and David Furnish are speculated to have used gestational surrogacy, in which a donor’s eggs are implanted in another woman. The cost of the procedure is close to $100,000.

Barrie Drewitt-Barlow credited the pop star’s use of surrogacy with ""help[ing] the gay parenting cause greatly."

Depending on where it is done, surrogacy can be a legally fraught undertaking. A Canadian lesbian couple and the sperm donor who helped them conceive found themselves in a feud over parental rights a year ago--and at the forefront of that country’s family law.

Because Canadian law does not permit monetary exchange for sperm donations, all but one of the nation’s sperm banks have shut down. That leaves lesbian couples that wish to conceive on their own to find a donor, but when they solicit genetic material from friends, they sometimes find themselves entering a legal quagmire.

In the case of the British Columbia couple, who obtained a donation from a male friend, the initial agreement was that the man would relinquish his rights as a father. But when the man began to come around often and to refer to the baby boy as his son, the couple saw it as a breach of contract and took him to court.

The outcome could have lasting repercussions for family law in cases where a child is conceived using donated sperm. The lack of existing law and precedent makes for "murky situations," according to Infertility Network executive director Diane Allen, reported the Canadian National Post on Jan. 8. Allen cited children of sperm donors who say that they have a right to know about their biological heritage--and to form relationships with their fathers.

"For the lesbian couple, I can certainly understand why they feel threatened and that their parenting is being interfered with," Allen told the media. "But what are they going to tell that child down the road? Are they going to say they didn’t want the child’s father in his life? What about what the child’s needs and wants?"

When the Assisted Human Reproduction Act outlawed monetary exchange for sperm donations six years ago, Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society spokesperson Dr. Roger Pierson said, "it closed all but one sperm bank in the country. So if friends start doing things on their own, and you have a female from one province and a male from another, it can be problematic."

In an American case from around the same time, a gay couple in New Jersey lost custody of their twin daughters to the surrogate they had employed, despite the fact that the girls were the product of gestational surrogacy, meaning that the eggs used for their conception were not the surrogate’s own, and she has no genetic relation to the girls.

The surrogate, Angelia G. Robinson, was the sister of Donald Robinson Hollingsworth, who was one of the fathers. The girls were conceived in vitro in 2006 using a donated ovum and sperm provided by Sean Hollingsworth, the husband of Mr. Hollingsworth. The fertilized ovum was then implanted in Ms. Robinson, who carried the twin girls to term.

The girls were born in October of 2006, and were given into the care of the male couple, who live in Jersey City. But the following March, Ms. Robinson took her brother and his husband to court, claiming she had been forced to serve as the surrogate, and seeking custody of the girls.

The court decision awarding Ms. Robinson recognition as the legal mother drew on precedent established in a 1988 case involving a traditional surrogate, whose own egg was fertilized in vivo through artificial insemination using sperm from a man who was part of a couple seeking to become parents. That case was settled by the New Jersey Supreme Court, which upheld the traditional surrogate’s rights as the genetic parent.

"The surrogacy contract is based on principles that are directly contrary to the objectives of our laws," the 1988 ruling said. "It guarantees the separation of a child from its mother; it looks to adoption regardless of suitability; it totally ignores the child; it takes the child from the mother regardless of her wishes and maternal fitness."

Superior Court Judge Francis B. Schultz referred to the earlier ruling, posing the question in his decision, "Would it really make any difference if the word ’gestational’ was substituted for the word ’surrogacy’ in the above quotation? I think not."

Court cases involving gestational surrogates have found against the surrogates in a number of states, though a case in Michigan found for the surrogate, the article said. If the New Jersey decision withstands appeal, "that suggests that gestational surrogacy is not as different from traditional surrogacy as we’ve always interpreted it to be," said Suffolk University Law School professor Charles P. Kindregan, who specializes in reproductive technology law.

The ruling has the potential to complicate the already-complex laws in New Jersey regarding surrogacy. Among other requirements, New Jersey law stipulates that surrogates may not receive a fee for carrying children, and imposes a three-day period before the surrogate gives the child over to the intended parents.

Ms. Robinson hailed the decision as "one more step in helping to insure stability and peace in the lives of our girls."

Ms. Robinson’s lawyer, Harold J. Cassidy--who also represented the plaintiff in the 1988 case--praised the ruling, declaring that surrogacy is "an exploitation of women."

The Hollingsworth’s attorney, Alan S. Modlinger, noted that the decision could impact gay and lesbian families--especially families headed by two men--who must often resort to methods such as surrogacy. Moreover, parenting as a social and legal option is on the uptick for same-sex couples, as marriage equality makes fitful advances, noted an Aug. 11, 2008 Associated Press article.
Kilian Melloy reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes commentary for EDGEBoston, where he also serves as Assistant Arts Editor.

The Powerful, Persistent Voices of Corrective Rape Activists in South Africa

By Michael A. Jones -

Talk about a type of courage that can not only create change, it can inspire the world. Meet the women of Luleki Sizwe, an organization made up of a small band of activists hiding in the outskirts of Cape Town, South Africa. Their goal? To wake the world up to an epidemic problem in South Africa, the country once thought to be a shining example of the promise and potential of human rights. That problem: the disturbing phenomenon of corrective rape, whereby lesbian women are targeted by men, and raped in an effort to turn them straight.
A few weeks ago, a volunteer for Luleki Sizwe started a petition on from a safe house for corrective rape survivors, hoping to persuade the South African Ministry of Justice to declare corrective rape a hate crime. It has since become the most popular petition in the history of, with more than 66,000 signatures. And though Luleki Sizwe hasn't scored a victory yet, there is ongoing communication with the Ministry of Justice to move discussion on this pressing subject forward.
In South Africa each year, 500 women report  being the victim of corrective rape, and perpetrators face little punishment. Indeed, Andile Ngcoza targeted a lesbian woman named Millicent Gaika, raping her, strangling her, and beating her up for five hours. And he was just set free for the equivalent of $10, less than the cost of a large pizza.
Stories like these are all too common in South Africa, where for every 25 men arrested for rape, 24 are set free. It also means that activism to address the problem of rape and corrective rape is particularly dangerous, which is why volunteers with Luleki Sizwe work out of safe houses. Today, two members of Luleki Sizwe -- founder Ndumie Funda and volunteer Billi du Preez -- spoke with about their work, their pride in seeing the community lift up their voices, and their goal of not only snagging a meeting with South Africa's Ministry of Justice, but getting the Ministry to finally declare corrective rape what it really is: a hate crime.
The interview is being published in three parts -- one below and the other two on the Human Rights and Women's Rights blogs.
Among the points that Ndumie and Billi stress are that South Africa may have a reputation for being a world leader in human rights, but the country is far from living up to its promise. This is no more evident than in how the country deals with the subject of rape. Why did you choose to target the South African government with this petition?
Ndumie Funda: We have one of the most respected constitutions in the world, but it's just in writing. They are not practicing what they preach. Someone rapes someone and is then walking free in the streets of Gugulethu [a Cape Town township] as if he's done nothing. What is the government doing about that?
We recently got another case on the 17th by a guy who attempted to rape a woman. He told her that he's sick and tired of her being a lesbian. To my disappointment it's a guy that I know. He had a gun and shouted and pointed it at me and her mom.
Billi du Preez: The perpetrators of the rape are being let out on ridiculous amount of bail, they're living in the same areas as the victims, going to the same schools, etc. There is absolutely no protection for victims.
We are being let down by the police, social services, justice system -- nobody is getting involved in this. How would getting ‘corrective rape’ declared a hate crime help?
Ndumie Funda: There are so many people who have been victims of corrective rape and nothing ever happens... Desiree got raped last year and was forced to move to the other outskirts of Cape Town to avoid interaction with that guy. Another lesbian was raped to death and the police denied that someone was found dead. In another case the victim was sent home from court in the same communal taxi as the guy who raped her.
So declaring something a hate crime is a way for us to put pressure on the South African government and show us that we are serious about this. It's about telling the government that enough is enough.
Billi du Preez: I do believe that corrective rape is a hate crime. But our point is that our police, our government and our justice system is well aware of corrective rape and they are not doing anything about it. If it's declared a hate crime we feel that it might be taken more seriously. It also might act as a deterrent, because the sentencing that they are currently getting is so minimal. Luleki Sizwe's petition is now's most popular of all time. What's your reaction?
Ndumie Funda: I'm very excited and overwhelmed by the support and I am really sorry that I haven't had the ability to thank everyone for their support. We are not a well to do organization and I am flat broke. We do not have Internet access or even a computer. I have to borrow a computer [pictured left] from my cousin so it's not easy to keep in touch.
But I want the entire world to know the suffering of the people in South Africa. I want us to embarrass the South African government for the way they are acting.
Billi du Preez: Yes it's been amazing. I’m the one who actually uploaded the petition and I remember I went to bed, woke up the next morning and was like 'Wow, what the #$% happened last night? (laugh)
If you haven't taken action yet, please sign two petitions: the first urging the government of South Africa to declare corrective rape a hate crime, and the second urging the Ministry of Justice to meet with activists from Luleki Sizwe. Last week, the Ministry of Justice actually wrote to complain about the volume of email they were receiving. If the burden of email is tough for government employees to bear, then perhaps they should imagine what the threat of being raped because of your sexual orientation feels like. And perhaps they should pledge to help deal with what's become an epidemic of corrective rape in their country.

2nd petition text -

Minister Radebe: Agree to meet with Ndumie Funda

Last month we sent a formal letter to South Africa's Minister of Justice Jeffrey Thamsanqa Radebe calling on him to take the lead in finding solutions to the 'corrective rape' epidemic and to get it declared a hate crime punishable by the harshest sentences.
When the minister did not reply, we launched a petition on, the world’s fastest growing social action platform. That petition soon became the most popular petition the platform has ever hosted, and now has more than 60,000 signatures from all over the world.
But to date the leadership of Luleki Sizwe have still received no reply from Minister Radebe - not even a call to discuss how to work together to fight 'corrective rape' in South Africa.
South Africa is besieged by the heinous crime of 'corrective rape', a term used to describe when a male rapes a lesbian with the aim of 'turning' her heterosexual!
Most of the victims are tortured, grievously assaulted and sometimes murdered! They are also prone to getting HIV/AIDS from the assault, and many of them commit suicide as a result of the "corrective rape"!
In the last 10 years 31 lesbian women have been murdered because of their sexuality and more than 10 lesbians are raped or gang raped in Cape Town alone every week. But the South African government and justice system are failing the victims of 'corrective rape' by letting the perpetrators out on ridiculously low bail, and taking literally years to bring the court-cases to a conclusion.
This is an issue which should be of great concern to Minister Radebe, and as we have shown, South Africans and the world are not going to sit by and allow this to continue.
The least the minister could do is meet with the leadership of Luleki Sizwe, a small group of activists working to end 'corrective rape', to find ways to work together in the fight against 'corrective rape'.
I call on Minister Radebe to publicly commit to a meeting with Ndumie Funda, the founder of Luleki Sizwe, at a time of his choosing.
I look forward to your reply.
[Your name here]