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Saturday, November 6, 2010

Marines' leader: Keep policy on gays in military


Gen. James Amos, on the far right.
SAN DIEGO — The new commandant of the U.S. Marines Corps said Saturday that now is the wrong time to overturn the "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy prohibiting gays from openly serving in the military, as U.S. troops remain in the thick of war in Afghanistan.
"There’s risk involved; I’m trying to determine how to measure that risk," Gen. James Amos said. "This is not a social thing. This is combat effectiveness. That’s what the country pays its Marines to do."
Last month, the Pentagon was forced to lift its ban on openly serving gays for eight days after a federal judge in California ordered the military to do so. The Justice Department has appealed, and a federal appeals court granted a temporary stay of the injunction.
Amos said the policy’s repeal may have unique consequences for the Marines, which is exempt from a Defense Department rule for troops to have private living quarters except at basic training or officer candidate schools. The Marines puts two people in each room to promote a sense of unity.
"There is nothing more intimate than young men and young women — and when you talk of infantry, we’re talking our young men — laying out, sleeping alongside of one another and sharing death, fear and loss of brothers," he said. "I don’t what the effect of that will be on cohesion. I mean, that’s what we’re looking at. It’s unit cohesion, it’s combat effectiveness."
Amos, who began his assignment last month, said he was reviewing preliminary findings of an internal Pentagon survey of the policy that was sent out to about 400,000 troops and another 150,000 family members. He will make recommendations to Defense Secretary Robert Gates later this month.
Amos declined to comment on the survey results, though portions have been leaked to reporters. Most troops and their families think the policy could be done away with, according to officials familiar with its findings who spoke on condition of anonymity because the results had not been released.
Amos said his top priority was success in Afghanistan — no matter how many people or how much equipment is required — and that he didn’t expect any pullback in Marine forces over the next year.
President Barack Obama wants to start to reduce the number of U.S. troops in July, if conditions on the ground allow.
Amos said the U.S. effort is showing progress, pointing to improved security in the Nawa district, but that more work lies ahead in allowing the Afghan army and police to gain control of the country.
"The Marine Corps will stay the way it is (in Afghanistan) right now for probably at least the next year," he said.
He said he expects the Marines to shrink from its current size of 202,000 after leaving Afghanistan, but that "we need (the current numbers) now."
Amos, 63, spoke with reporters in a wide-ranging interview during a Southern California visit to mark the Marines’ 235th birthday. He addressed other subjects:
— A living Marine who served in Afghanistan has been recommended for a Medal of Honor. The Marine Corps has had only one Medal of Honor recipient, stirring controversy due to its heavy fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Amos’ predecessor, Gen. James Conway, made the recommendation last month to the secretary of the Navy, and it must eventually be approved by Obama. Amos said a report on the Marine’s actions brought tears to his eyes.
— The fate of the amphibious Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle should be known in January or February. Gates, who is scrutinizing military spending in a search for roughly $10 billion in annual savings, has expressed doubts about a $13.2 billion plan for the Marines to buy large number of vehicles starting in 2012.
— The number of suicides in the Marines this year is "markedly below" the same period last year. In 2009, the Marines had 52 suicides, the highest rate of any branch.
"I don’t want anyone to walk out of here and say we’ve turned the corner and the Marine Corps has figured it out," he said. "That is not the case. This is hard."


First Openly Gay Episcopal Bishop to Retire in 2013


   Bishop V. Gene Robinson, whose consecration as the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church set off a historic rift in the global Anglican Communion, announced to his New Hampshire diocese on Saturday that he intended to step down. Bishop V. Gene Robinson said pressure had taken a toll. He plans to retire in January 2013 after nine years as bishop, to give the diocese enough time to elect a new bishop and get the approval of the national church, a process that can take two years.
   The news took some by surprise because Bishop Robinson is an energetic 63-year-old, and mandatory retirement age for Episcopal bishops is 72. He has led a relatively stable and healthy diocese, despite predictions by some that his election would undermine the Episcopal Church in New Hampshire. The reason to depart, he said in a speech delivered at the close of the annual convention of his diocese, is that being at the center of an international uproar has taken a toll on him and on the diocese. “Death threats, and the now worldwide controversy surrounding your election of me as bishop, have been a constant strain, not just on me, but on my beloved husband, Mark” and on Episcopalians in the state, he said.But those who know Bishop Robinson say he has no intention of retiring from public life.
   His status as a symbol in the international gay rights movement means that after he steps down, he will have no shortage of platforms from which to preach his message that God blesses gay relationships too. (Through a spokesman, he declined interview requests.) Bishop Robinson has become a national figure. In 2009, he gave the invocation for the opening event of the inauguration of President Obama. He also sees himself as an evangelist to people alienated from Christianity. The election of Bishop Robinson in a church in Concord, N. H., in 2003 was the shot heard round the Christian world. It cracked open a longstanding divide between theological liberals and conservatives in both the Episcopal Church and its parent body, the Anglican Communion — those churches affiliated with the Church of England in more than 160 countries. Since 2003, the Communion’s leaders have labored to save it from outright schism, not just over homosexuality, but also over female bishops and priests. The current strategy, pushed by the archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, is for each regional province to sign a “covenant” of common beliefs. The covenant has been slowly making its way through laborious writing and approval processes, which could take years. Late last month, an international coalition of liberal Anglicans started a campaign to reject the covenant, saying, “The covenant seeks to narrow the range of acceptable belief within Anglicanism.” The group, Anglicans for Comprehensive Unity, said, “Rather than bringing peace to the Communion, we predict that the covenant text itself could become the cause of future bickering and that its centralized dispute-resolution mechanisms could beget interminable quarrels and resentments.”
   The church in New Hampshire suffered less fallout under Bishop Robinson than the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion. Only one New Hampshire congregation departed during his tenure, a congregation long unhappy with the direction of the Episcopal Church, according to diocesan leaders. The number of active members in New Hampshire fell 3 percent, from 15,259 in 2003 to 14,787 in 2009. In that period, the Episcopal Church, like most mainline Protestant denominations, lost about 10 percent of its members. (It had about two million in 2008, the last year for which statistics are available.) Bishop Robinson won critics over with a leadership style that was decisive but collaborative, said Margaret Porter, moderator of the diocesan council. “The people who were skeptics, that did not last,” she said. “He was willing to meet them where they were. There were churches that were reluctant to have him visit as bishop for a time, and I think he now visits every congregation and is welcomed.” But the pressure on Bishop Robinson became apparent in 2006. He took a monthlong leave to be treated for alcoholism. He said Saturday that he was in his fifth year of sobriety. He and his partner of more than 20 years had a civil union ceremony in New Hampshire in 2008.
   Bishop Robinson is no longer the only openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church. Bishop Mary D. Glasspool was consecrated in Los Angeles earlier this year. In his resignation speech in New Hampshire, Bishop Robinson said: “This is the one place on earth where I am not ‘the gay bishop.’ I believe that you elected me because you believed me to be the right person to lead you at this time. The world has sometimes questioned that, but I hope you never did.”

Israel’s only gay MP speaks out for marriage on visit to London

By Benjamin Cohen -

Nitzan Horowitz address a neeting in London last week
Nitzan Horowitz address a neeting in London last w
Nitzan Horowitz, the first openly gay politician to be elected to the Israeli Knesset (Parliament), is a man on a mission. Representing the left of centre, pro-peace New Movement-Meretz party, he has called for Israel to introduce secular marriages for gay and straight couples as well as campaigning for help for LGBT people from neighboring Arab countries who risk death if returned home.
Speaking last week at a London meeting of young members of the Zionist Federation as well as a separate audience of LGBT Jews, Mr Horowitz spoke of his experiences as a gay politician and how they have informed his campaigning for human and gay rights across the middle east.
“If you solve the issues about separating religion from the state you can solve a lot of the issues relating to LGBT rights,” he told both groups.
“Through the courts, but not through parliament, we have very good LGBT rights in Israel already. Because of the religious power in parliament, it was always going to be impossible to pass legislation specifically to protect LGBT rights, especially with this horrible right-wing government. So we go through the courts, using the aspirations of equality within the Israeli Deceleration of Independence as the basis for our claims.
“Actually, the situation on the ground is not bad, better than here in the UK in many respects. For example, if you live with someone for just three months, it is enough under Israeli law to be considered as a ‘common law marriage’, with no marriage ceremony or registration and it makes no difference whether the couple is gay or straight. So if something happens to me and I die, my partner gets all his inheritance without any tax, just as he would if we were actually married.
“But there is a real danger with things being decided by court precedents rather than by Parliament, because if another judge, who is less liberal, makes a different ruling, then rights could be taken away, just like that. This is something we have to try and avoid on a daily basis. But the real problem isn’t gay rights in my opinion, it’s tolerance. Rights are guaranteed by the court but if people are beaten in the streets, or there is hate crime, obviously that’s also illegal but it doesn’t stop it ruining or in the tragic case of a shooting in an LGBT youth centre, ending gay peoples’ lives.”
Part of the reason why Israel protects unmarried couples as if they were married is because of the complex system of religious law that underpins a Jewish country with a significant Muslim and Christian minority.
Mr Horowitz explained: “Israel is a messy legal system with personal law being determined by different religious courts. There are the Jewish courts, the Muslim courts and 13 different denominations of Christianity have their own religious courts. We inherited this system from the British, who in turn inherited it from the Ottoman Empire. What it means is that so many religious institutions have a say about how I can live my life, how the law applies to me, that there is no provision for secular personal law.
“So, a Jew can’t marry a Christian within Israel, nor can a Christian marry someone of no faith. And a Jewish man with the surname Cohen [in biblical times the name for a priest] cannot marry a divorced woman. They are all, like gay couples forced to marry outside of Israel. The state does recognise all of these marriages and gives the couples legal protection, but it is wrong that the ceremonies themselves, particularly civil ceremonies can’t be done inside Israel.”
Mr Horowitz also pointed out that the religious groups within Israel are united in their opposition to homosexuality.
“The first time the country’s three religious leaders; the Chief Rabbi of Israel, the Catholic-Latin patriarch of Jerusalem and the chief mufti of the Muslim congregation have ever got together in history was in their opposition of World Pride coming to Jerusalem,” he said. “They got together and sat on the same table because of their hatred of gays.”
Speaking to, Mr Horowitz explained how gay Muslims are treated within Israel and the Palestinian Territories. “When I talk about gay rights to an enlightened Arab politician, who agrees with me about every other human rights issue, they simply say ‘no we don’t have this phenomenon, it is only the Jews who have homosexuals, we don’t have this problem.’ How far from the truth they are.”
Mr Horowitz added: “The gay Palestinians fear for their lives. They leave their homes in Gaza and Ramallah and come to Tel Aviv where there is a very big gay community and nightlife. The problem is that in Tel Aviv, they are living as illegal immigrants. But if you send them back to Palestine, they might be killed by their own families. So what I’m doing in some of these cases is working with like-minded politicians to find them a suitable country where they can live safely outside of the Middle East. I have helped some gay people get refugee status in Sweden, Norway and Canada. There are all sorts of solutions to enable to them actually stay alive. But some of them do remain in Israel of course and that is right and we must help and support them.
“As for the Arab countries around us, this is a big problem. They are fundamentally very undemocratic and oppressive societies that do not respect the human rights of any kind. But it should be a topic that is raised by other countries as we’re not in a position to influence them, they often don’t even recognise the State of Israel. The problem with non-Palestinian refugees is if they live in an enemy country of Israel like Syria, the border is closed and it is almost impossible for them reach us. Egyptians and Jordanians can come because we have diplomatic relations with them, but it is not very easy for gay people from those countries to live in Israel, because unfortunately, our own religious establishment is not very tolerant to gays either. The interior minister, Eli Yishai, the man responsible for issuing visas to asylum seekers hates gays, so it is impossible to talk to him about cases, it is very complicated, but I try my best that I can.”


Homeland insecurity

By Hannah Clay Wareham -

New England’s LGBT immigrants
struggle to stay with spouses.
More and more same-sex couples are facing separation simply because one of them is an immigrant -- and the United States federal government doesn’t recognize their marriage.

LGBT rights organization Freedom to Marry and recently joined forces to create a petition on behalf of a gay couple who wed in Connecticut and are now facing separation. Henry Velandia and Josh Vandiver tied the knot on Aug. 29, and are now struggling against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) -- the federal act that threatens to keep their new family apart. If Velandia and Vandiver were a heterosexual couple, their marriage would occasion the issuance of a green card -- permission to stay in the country -- to Vandiver, who was born in Venezuela and moved to the United States in 2002. The two men are considering leaving the country in order to remain together.

According to Immigration Equality, an advocacy organization for LGBT immigrants and their partners, thousands of desperate bi-national couples like Vandiver and Velandia are facing difficult decisions like these every day. DOMA prevents couples who are legally married in their home states from accessing citizenship for their spouses, and the United States does not allow its citizens to sponsor same-sex partners for immigration benefits (nineteen nations allow their citizens to do so).

Greg Gould and Aurelio Tiné are another gay couple facing separation by means of deportation, and were profiled in The Boston Globe on Oct. 16. The newlyweds -- who married in New Hampshire -- were struggling to gain residency for Tiné, a native of Venezuela who fled the country after experiencing anti-gay violence and discrimination. Gould told the Globe he planned to formally apply for legal residency for his husband, but fully expected to be rejected. The couple’s lawyer, Lavi Soloway, said that rejection letters can serve as proof of discrimination. "The few people that have done this have done it for the specific purpose of holding the government accountable for its discrimination," Soloway told the Globe. "They’re aware that one way to resolve this to sue in federal court. That’s an option that’s definitely open and will be considered."

Hope for these couples lies in DOMA repeal efforts, and in LGBT-friendly legislation. U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) on Sept. 30 introduced the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2010, a bill that includes the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), which allows citizens to sponsor their same-sex partners.

"Now is the time to reform our nation’s cruel and broken immigration system. Today, there are 12 million undocumented immigrants, including at least half a million LGBT people who are forced to live in the shadows of our society," said Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "The Uniting American Families Act is consistent with U.S. immigration law’s existing policy of keeping families intact. These couples and their families have been kept separated or forced to live abroad. It’s unconscionable to ask any American to choose between family and country."

Immigration Equality called the UAFA "a framework for comprehensive immigration reform." The legislation is sponsored in the Senate by Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, and in the House by Congressman Jerrold Nadler of New York.

"Today’s inclusive framework is an historic step forward for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender binational families," Rachel B. Tiven, Executive Director of Immigration Equality, said Sept. 30. "Now, it is time to turn these principles into laws. We will fight to ensure that the Uniting American Families Act is an indelible part of the immigration reform bill.

"The LGBT community is committed to comprehensive immigration reform that includes everyone," Tiven said. "Our community understands, all too well, the pain of being punished and singled out for who we are. Our solidarity with the larger immigrant community is deep, and our resolve to fix our broken immigration system is real. We will work for a bill that provides a path to citizenship for the undocumented, including those who are LGBT. Time is of the essence for those facing separation or deportation, and Congress must act, urgently, to pass humane, comprehensive reform."

The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2010 also includes the DREAM Act, which would give young people who came to the United States as children an opportunity to achieve citizenship through completing two years of college or spending two years in the military.

"Our nation’s immigration policies must move away from hateful racial profiling laws such as Arizona’s SB 1070 and toward the direction of fairness and social justice," Carey said on Sept. 30. "Today’s introduction marks a first step toward fixing this broken immigration system, but much remains to be done. We thank Sen. Robert Menendez for introducing this legislation, and urge our federal lawmakers and the President to move forward in fairly and humanely reforming this failed system."

Little bipartisan support exists for UAFA, however; most of its sponsors are Democrats. Opponents say that it will be difficult to define the "permanent partnership" that’s necessary for an LGBT American to sponsor their spouse or partner.

"MassEquality believes that government should be in the business of keeping families together and not tearing them apart. And that’s what MassEquality has been about from its early days," MassEquality’s Executive Director Kara Suffredini told Bay Windows. "We support efforts to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which would enable bi-national married same-sex couples to live together in the United States, and comprehensive immigration reform policy must include LGBT families."

The Senate’s version of the Uniting American Families Act currently resides with the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, having been introduced and read twice, and the House’s rests with the Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law. Meanwhile, The Gay and Lesbian Times estimates 36,000 LGBT couples are struggling against politics, weighing their options, and in some cases, saying their goodbyes.


Lesbian who sued over prom talks about gay bullies

(Jackson, Miss.) The lesbian who successfully challenged a rural Mississippi school district’s ban on same-sex prom dates says she wept when she read about the recent spate of gay teen suicides linked to harassment.
Constance McMillen, who was recently named one of Glamour magazine’s “Women of the Year 2010,” told The Associated Press that she became a bullying victim after she challenged the Itawamba School District over a policy that prohibited her from bringing her girlfriend to the prom and wearing a tuxedo. McMillen, 18, said she became emotional after reading about the suicides of 13-year-old Seth Walsh, of California, who hanged himself outside his home after enduring taunts from classmates, and of Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old Rutgers University freshman who killed himself after his sexual encounter was secretly streamed online.
“I read it on Facebook. I was so upset about this that I could not sleep,” McMillen said. “I knew it had to be terrible for them to choose death as a way to escape what they were living in.”
McMillen said she has had her own suicidal thoughts.
“But I never really considered it to the point where I almost did it,” she said. “Everybody thinks about it when times get hard.”
Growing up in the small town of Fulton, Miss., McMillen said she wasn’t bullied until school officials canceled the prom rather than allow McMillen and her girlfriend to attend as a couple.
“I went through a lot of harassment and bullying after the lawsuit, and I realized how bad it felt being in that position,” she said.
The American Civil Liberties Union sued the district, which paid $35,000 to settle the lawsuit and also agreed to follow a non-discrimination policy, though it argued such a policy was already in place.
Glamour magazine recently honored McMillen for her fight against intolerance, and she’s now in the company of entertainer Fergie, actress Julia Roberts, designer Donatella and Queen Rania of Jordan.
Cindi Leive, Glamour editor-in-chief, said McMillen was selected by an advisory panel of past honorees, including Jennifer Lopez and Katie Couric. The main measure for honorees is that they help make the world a better place for others, Leive said.
“We’ve seen such devastating proof this year of how tough it is for gay teens out there. To have someone like Constance stand up for who she is with dignity and pride, is a really meaningful thing for other young people to see. We respect her bravery and her example,” Leive said in an e-mail.
In a photo on the magazine’s website, McMillen is dressed in a tuxedo and a tiara and standing in her messy bedroom. A television movie about her case is also in the works.
McMillen said her family’s support helped her confront injustice.
“It seems like gay students catch a lot. It’s already a rough time in high school. Everybody wants to be accepted,” McMillen said. “The family’s acceptance is 100 times more important than people they go to school with. Whenever their family doesn’t accept them, they feel like nobody’s going to.


Amnesty International- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Human Rights

We all have a sexual orientation and a gender identity, and this shared fact means that discrimination against members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community, based on sexual orientation and/ or gender identity, is an issue that transcends that community and affects all of us.

Sexual orientation covers sexual desires, feelings, practices and identification. Sexual orientation can be towards people of the same or different sexes (same-sex, heterosexual or bisexual orientation). Gender identity refers to the complex relationship between sex and gender, referring to a person's experience of self expression in relation to social categories of masculinity or femininity (gender). A person's subjectively felt gender identity may be at variance with their sex or physiological characteristics.

Amnesty International believes that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, should be able to enjoy their human rights. Although the Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not explicitly mention sexual orientation or gender identity, evolving conceptions of international human rights law include a broad interpretation to include the rights and the protection of the rights of LGBT people around the world.

The Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in Relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, developed in 2006 by a group of LGBT experts in Yogyarkarta, Indonesia

The Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in Relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, developed in 2006 by a group of LGBT experts in Yogyarkarta, Indonesia in response to well-known examples of abuse, provides a universal guide to applying international human rights law to violations experienced by lesbians, gay men, bisexual and transgender people to ensure the universal reach of human rights protections.

However, across the globe, there remain many instances where an individuals' sexual orientation or gender identity can lead them to face execution, imprisonment, torture, violence or discrimination. The range of abuse is limitless and it contravenes the fundamental tenets of international human rights law.

Human rights abuses based on sexual orientation or gender can include violation of the rights of the child; the infliction of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment (Article 5); arbitrary detention on grounds of identity or beliefs (Article 9); the restriction of freedom of association (Article 20) and the denial of the basic rights of due process.

Examples include:
  • Execution by the state
  • Denial of employment, housing or health services
  • Loss of custody of children
  • Denial of asylum
  • Rape and otherwise torture in detention
  • Threats for campaigning for LGBT human rights
  • Regular subjection to verbal abuse

In many countries, the refusal of governments to address violence committed against LGBT people creates a culture of impunity where such abuses can continue and escalate unmitigated. Often, such abuses are committed by the state authorities themselves, with or without legal sanction.



People detained or imprisoned solely because of their homosexuality - including those individuals prosecuted for having sex in circumstances which would not be criminal for heterosexuals, or for their gender identity - are considered to be prisoners of conscience and Amnesty International calls for their immediate and unconditional release.

Amnesty International calls for the decriminalization of homosexuality where such legislation remains, including a review of all legislation which could result in the discrimination, prosecution and punishment of people solely for their sexual orientation or gender identity. All such laws should be repealed or amended.
» Read more

Read our report » Love, hate and the law: decriminalizing homosexuality (PDF 561K)

Marriage Equality

The right of adults to enter into consensual marriage is enshrined in international human rights standards.

Article 16, Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)

Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.

Civil marriage between individuals of the same-sex is therefore an issue in which fundamental human rights are at stake. Amnesty International believes that the denial of equal civil recognition of same-sex relationships prevents many people from accessing a range of other rights, such as rights to housing and social security, and stigmatizes those relationships in ways that can fuel discrimination and other human rights abuses against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Amnesty International opposes discrimination in civil marriage laws on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and calls on states to recognize families of choice, across borders where necessary. States should not discriminate against minority groups based on identity. » Read More

In addition, AIUSA calls on states to:
  • Ensure that all allegations and reports of human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity are promptly and impartially investigated and perpetrators held accountable and brought to justice;
  • Take all necessary legislative, administrative and other measures to prohibit and eliminate prejudicial treatment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity at every stage of the administration of justice;
  • Ensure adequate protection of human rights defenders at risk because of their work on human rights and sexual orientation and gender identity.


Hong Kong trans woman barred from marrying boyfriend

A trans woman in Hong Kong has been barred from marrying her boyfriend.

The woman, known only as ‘W’, was born male and transitioned several years ago. However, she is barred under city law from changing her birth certificate to female, meaning she has been unable to marry.

She began a legal fight but a court ruled against her today.

High court judge Andrew Cheung said there was insufficient evidence “to demonstrate a shifted societal consensus in present-day Hong Kong regarding marriage to encompass a post-operative transsexual”.

He added: “The court must not rush to substitute its own judgment in place of that of … the government or legislature in Hong Kong.”

Most of China allows trans people to marry once they have completed transition. However, the law is different in Hong Kong. Bizarrely, city law would allow W to marry a woman, as she would be recognised by the marriage registry as a man.

W’s lawyer, Mike Vidler, has said she will appeal.


French trans woman continues fight to be recognised as female

By Jane Fae -
France is refusing to recognise Ms Giard as female
France is refusing to recognize Ms Giard as female
Bad news for French trans woman Delphine Ravisé-Giard, as an appeal court yesterday refused, once again, to recognise her as female. This follows a year of legal to-ing and fro-ing, as initial willingness by the French state – in the form of the French Air Force – to recognise her female identity was revoked by a court in Nancy last August.
The grounds? That her transition was not “irreversible” and, more offensively, that her breasts did not measure up.
Behind the scenes, Ms Ravisé-Giard would appear to be the victim of a tussle between more progressive elements of the French legal establishment, which have read the writing on the wall, in the form of EU pronouncements on human rights – and a backwards tendency that is now digging its heels in and relying on technicalities to prevent trans men and women from asserting their gender.
Historically, before the French state would recognise transgender people, the individual involved needed to demonstrate “sterilisation” brought about by surgical intervention.
In March of this year, however, the Ministry of Justice attempted to bring France into line with the position of the European Commission on Human Rights for the recognition and treatment of transgendered individuals by asserting that surgery was not a prerequisite for recognition of a trans man or woman’s gender.
In an official statement, the justice minister indicated that “gender re-assignment surgery should not be required as a matter of course” when the petitioner is able to prove that they are undergoing other treatments designed to bring about the appearance of a change of gender.
Nonetheless, more conservative elements seized on a hint within this statement that the justice minister was looking for non-reversible change – and that requirement was used yesterday as a get-out for the French Appeal Court, which didn’t say no – but didn’t exactly say yes either.
What the court did say was that Ms Ravisé-Giard, who has now been living as a woman and undergoing treatment for several years, now has two months to prove that her “change of sex” is “irreversible”.
At first sight, Ms Ravisé-Giard is no further forward than a year ago. Hormone treatment is still not considered sufficient for her to receive legal recognition but she no longer needs to undergo an operation. Rather, she must furnish the court with a medical certificate showing that her change of sex is irreversible.
This, according to Ms Ravisé-Giard’s lawyer, Laurent Cyferman, is a step forward.
It brings the French courts just a millimetre or two closer to the position set down in July 2009, by Thomas Hammarberg, the Commissioner for Human Rights in the Council of Europe, who set out his opinion that “individuals seeking recognition of their gender identity should not be forced to undergo either sterilisation or any other medical intervention”.
Nonetheless, it could be another six months before Ms Ravisé-Giard is back in court – and there is no guarantee even then of a favourable outcome.


Lesbian activist awarded MBE

Clare Dimyon was honoured with an MBE
A lesbian campaigner from Brighton has been awarded an MBE (Member of the British Empire) at Buckingham Palace.
Clare Dimyon, 45, was honoured for “services to promoting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in central and eastern Europe”.
Ms Dimyon first joined a Pride festival 25 years ago. In the last five years, she has visited countries around Europe to support and encourage LGBT events.
Last year, she began a campaign called Pride Solidarity Tour, in which she visited countries with poor gay rights records, such as Poland, Latvia and Moldova.
She said: “Slovak LGBT are kind enough to call me the ‘Mother of Slovak Pride’ but I think it might be more accurate to call me the ‘delinquent aunt’ of Pride in central and eastern Europe.
“They do all the work and take all the risks, I just show up to waves flags and try to be a supportive presence.”
Ms Dimyon has also encouraged the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to support Pride events around the world.
She was accompanied to Buckingham Palace last Friday by three friends from Britain, Poland and Hungary.


Conservatives Praise Gay Voters’ Shift to the Right

by Kilian Melloy -

Gay voters displeased with the Obama administration’s record on GLBT issues joined in with the rest of the electorate in making their anger known at the ballot box on Nov. 2.

Exit polls suggested that Democrats had lost about half their support from the GLBT community, compared with two years ago, reported Before It’s on Nov. 4. The site said that gays have become Obama’s most vocal critics--"Even louder than the Tea Party"--and cited CNN as saying that 31% of self-identified GLBTs had cast their votes for Republican candidates. The article noted that in 2008, only 19% of GLBTs voted Republican--with 63% of the LBGT community voting Democratic.

"With their 2010 shift in support, LGBT voters are letting the President know that if he is not going to enact their agenda, while just watching as the economy goes in the tank," the article read, "[t]hey might as well vote Republican!" The article went on to note, "Conservatives will probably not enact their agenda either, but at least they will do something to fix our faltering economy."

The day before the election, mainstream news sources were predicting that gay voters would swallow their anger and stick with Democrats. Reuters declared in a Nov. 1 article that gays were "unlikely to abandon" Democrats at the ballot box. But the article also noted that GLBT equality advocates had encouraged gays not to donate money to Democrats, which some saw as a more powerful means of expressing discontent for a vocal, but not politically overpowering, minority. Stanford University’s Gary Segura cast the issued in stark numerical terms when he told Reuters, "At the national level, there are just not enough gays and lesbians to be politically powerful" in terms of most election outcomes. The article also said that Democrats had suffered financially, with gays giving substantially less than they did two years ago.

The Advocate credited gay voters with helping to "propel" the political shakeup that took place on Election Day. In a Nov. 4 article, The Advocate cited conservative gay group GOProud as offering the election results as proof that the Tea Party not only had room for GLBT members, but that gays, like many straights, favor smaller government--and might hope for limited government to translate into less interference in their lives.

"The gay left would have you believe that gay conservatives don’t exist," said Jimmy LaSalvia, the group’s executive director. "Now we see that almost a third of self-identified gay voters cast ballots for Republican candidates for Congress in this year’s mid-term. This should be a wake-up call for the out-of-touch so-called leadership of Gay, Inc. in Washington, D.C., which has become little more than a subsidiary of the Democrat Party."

Prior to the election, LaSalvia had called for gay voters to swing rightward. "The men and women that GOProud is endorsing and recommending will help bring common-sense conservative solutions to the challenges facing gay Americans and the country as a whole," LaSalvia declared in a GoProud press release.

"While the Democrats talk a good game when it comes to gay issues, their record speaks for itself," said GOProud Chairman Christopher R. Barron. "On jobs and the economy, on taxes, on retirement security, and on healthcare the Democrats reign in Washington has been an absolute disaster for gay people."

Barron addressed the persistent conceptual gap between gays and conservatism in an Oct. 11 EDGE article when he said, "It’s easier to come out as gay to conservatives than to come out as a conservative in gay circles." The article noted that GOProud, in addition to provoking fury from the anti-gay right (which views gay conservatives as "fake" conservatives), had also sparked the wrath of the gay left, which has leveled an array of colorful and evocative labels at the groups--everything from "Uncle and Auntie Toms" to "Chickens for Col. Sanders."

Barron dismissed such talk. "The message of the Tea Party is resonating well with a lot of gay people," he noted to EDGE. That message, Barron said, runs along the lines of, " ’I want the government to stay out of my life as much as possible. I want the government to leave me alone.’ "

On Top Magazine, reporting Nov. 5 on the surge of gays voting Republican, recounted that GLBT disaffection with Obama had been growing throughout the president’s first two years, finally reaching a peak when the Justice Department sought, and obtained, a stay on a federal court’s injunction against "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," the anti-gay law that punishes openly GLBT troops with discharge while allowing closeted servicemembers to remain in the ranks of the Armed Forces. Although it is standard practice for administrations to defend current law in court challenges, gays took this as a sign that the Obama administration was simply telling them what they wanted to hear while neglecting, or even working against, their interests.

Ironically, even as Obama has come in for harsh criticism from GLBT equality advocates frustrated at what they see as a lack of action on their issues from the White House, the anti-gay right has been just as critical of the president for the overtures he has made to sexual minorities, including a record number of GLBT appointees.

Obama himself disputed the idea that his administration had given cause for disaffection to GLBT voters, telling a group of gay bloggers in the days leading up to the elections that, "I guess my attitude is that we have been as vocal, as supportive of the LGBT community as any President in history." Obama, who was addressing a question from AmericaBlog’s Joe Sudbury, went on to say, "We have moved forward on a whole range of issues that were directly under my control, including, for example, hospital visitation." Added the president, "And so, I’ll be honest with you, I don’t think that the disillusionment [on the part of GLBTs] is justified."

A sizeable percentage of the gay vote disagreed. Whatever the extent of gays voting Republican might have had on the outcome, the election results--which saw the defeats of GLBT equality supporters Russ Feingold in the Senate and Patrick Murphy, the sponsor of legislation that would have repealed DADT, in the House-- may yet give the country’s GLBTs cause for remorse, according to some equality advocates. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Rea Carey was blunt about this, saying, "The shift in the balance of power will very likely slow advancement of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights legislation in Congress." But gradual, hard-won progress, Carey added, is more often than not the case for sexual minorities: "Fact is, our community has always had to fight--and fight hard--for equality."


DISD moves ahead on LGBT-inclusive bullying policy

By John Wright -

SPREADING THE WORD | Rafael McDonnell, facing camera, speaks to the press Thursday following the DISD  board meeting in which trustees gave preliminary approval to an LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying policy. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

District spokesman says new proposal likely to be approved at Nov. 18 board meeting

Click here to read a draft of the proposed policy

In response to a series of gay teen suicides across the nation, the Dallas Independent School District is moving forward with a policy that provides specific protections against bullying for LGBT students.
The seven-page policy discussed by DISD’s board of trustees on Thursday, Nov. 4, would make the district the first in Texas to outlaw bullying based on actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.
None of DISD’s nine trustees spoke against the proposal during Thursday’s briefing session, and a district spokesman said afterward that the policy likely will be approved by the board at its next meeting Nov. 18.
“I hope as a district that this sets a trend for others — that this is something that has to end, and let it begin with DISD,” trustee Nancy Bingham said.
District staff had initially proposed a general bullying policy that failed to enumerate categories of protected students, prompting objections from LGBT advocates who’ve lobbied trustees over the last month.
Trustee Eric Cowan said he’s glad the categories were added.
“I wish we were at a point where all students could mean all students, but unfortunately our society isn’t there yet,” Cowan said.
The LGBT-inclusive policy was brought forward by trustees Bernadette Nutall and Lew Blackburn. The policy is similar to one that’s in place in Broward County, Fla., home to Fort Lauderdale.
“We finally got a bullying policy where everybody is covered,” Nutall said. “I was bullied as a child, so I don’t want anybody to go through that craziness.”
Nutall said she’s asked staff to develop training on the policy for students, teachers and staff. The policy will be included in the Code of Conduct that’s distributed to all DISD students.
“They need to understand what bullying is and what they can get in trouble for,” Nutall said.
Thursday’s discussion came after trustees heard from three representatives from the LGBT community.
Roger Poindexter, director of Lambda Legal’s South Central Region, warned that gay students who’ve been bullied have won large monetary settlements from districts in other parts of the nation.
Poindexter said while a general policy might give adults “a warm fuzzy feeling,” it wouldn’t accomplish its goal.
“We need to spell it out so the bullies can understand it,” Poindexter said, before reading off the names of gay teens who’ve taken their own lives in recent months, including 13-year-old Asher Brown near Houston.
Rafael McDonnell, a spokesman for Resource Center Dallas, said 10 years of research shows that enumerated bullying policies are more effective.
“If it isn’t written, nobody’s going to think about it,” McDonnell said.
Jesse Garcia, president of Dallas’ gay chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens, told trustees they’re “sorely mistaken” if they think current policies are protecting students from anti-gay bullying.
While DISD has policies prohibiting harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation, Garcia said he knows a student who was bullied relentlessly for being gay before being “saved” by the LGBT community.
“Don’t make a suicide make you do the right thing,” Garcia told trustees. “The time to act is now.”


Big City Suicide More Complex Than a Slogan

In one of the last updates he posted on his Facebook page, Joseph Jefferson sounded like yet another young gay person succumbing to overwhelming social rejection, if not outright bullying.
“I could not bear the burden of living as a gay man of color in a world grown cold and hateful towards those of us who live and love differently than the so-called mainstream,” wrote Mr. Jefferson, 26, who killed himself last month. A few days later, the organization where he had once worked, Gay Men of African Descent, staged “A Protest to Stop Gay Bullying and Suicides” and posted a large black-and-white photograph of Mr. Jefferson on its Web site alongside the listing for the event.
Bullying and suicide — an awareness of how closely those two can be linked in the lives of gay people has never been stronger than of late. But the facts of Mr. Jefferson’s life fit no clean narrative of fragile disempowerment.
He attended Harvey Milk High School, a haven for young people of all kinds who might experience bullying elsewhere. He went on to do outreach among young gay men, working to educate them about H.I.V. He developed close mentors everywhere he went: Two successful gay black men for whom he worked came to consider him a son, offering him help, their ear or money when he needed it.
The Facebook message, then, left many of Mr. Jefferson’s friends bewildered. “He didn’t speak about being oppressed,” said Symba Soler, 22, who briefly worked with Mr. Jefferson at Gay Men of African Descent. “Bullying has nothing to do with this, and that’s what I want the world to know. Joseph has never been bullied.”
Asked about Mr. Jefferson’s state of mind, several friends and relatives spoke of seemingly routine trials: a new relationship, a new job, bills piling up. There were setbacks that left the young man, a big dreamer who longed for the glamorous life, feeling humiliated: Having run out of money for a rental car on a recent trip to Florida, he and his boyfriend ended up walking nine long miles along a highway to get to the beach and then back.
“It was a fiasco,” said Tony Shelton, one of Mr. Jefferson’s mentors, who ended up wiring him money so he could come back to New York.
BUT most people do not commit suicide because of one painful trip, or a foundering relationship, although both can surely contribute. Experts say that two main risk factors for suicide are depression and a prior suicide attempt, both of which were in Mr. Jefferson’s past, although few of his friends or family knew of that earlier close call. (In 2008, he attempted an overdose with pills, according to Michael Roberson, a gay activist who considered Mr. Jefferson his godson.) Mr. Jefferson was especially prone to bouts of depression in the fall, the time of year when his mother had unexpectedly died in 2001, a loss from which he never fully recovered, according to friends.
Mr. Roberson said that for any gay black man, homophobia is “never not part of the conversation.”
“The message that we get from the black church is that we are an abomination,” Mr. Roberson said. “I know he felt that.” And that message, he believed, made Mr. Jefferson more vulnerable to a feeling of worthlessness.
Mr. Jefferson’s stepmother, Renee Brown-Worrell, said that Mr. Jefferson’s father “never fully accepted that part” of his son’s life. Mr. Jefferson was an H.I.V. outreach worker who kept his own H.I.V.-positive status a secret from his own father and stepmother; a youth advocate who educated others about health services, but did not, so far as his loved ones know, avail himself of the services he needed when he suffered from depression.
Mr. Jefferson, like so many people, was a whole made up of contradictions: alternatively joyful and distraught; a man living in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, “who could look like a thug with his do-rag,” by one friend’s account, but who loved Beyoncé and Britney; someone who encouraged others to seek help but was too proud — or too closed off — to do so himself.
“You know that person in class who asks a question and everybody thinks it’s a stupid question — but then nobody knows the answer? He was that guy,” Mr. Soler said.
Why, exactly, did Mr. Jefferson decide to end his life? What was at the bottom of his sense of despair? What services might have reached him?
In death, as in life, he was complicated, and he left no clear answers.


Friday, November 5, 2010

Another LGBT Suicide in Utah

By Eric Ethington -

Colt David Hansen, gay, suicide, utah, salt lake city
Colt David Hansen
Salt Lake City, UT – We have lost another beautiful life. Colt David Hansen, 28, passed away Wednesday evening after a lifelong struggle against the Mormon Church which he felt never accepted him because he was gay.
Colt David Hansen
According to friends, Colt had a fight with his father the night before he died over the Mormon faith and his refusal to be a part of it. However, his obituary reads that he was a member of the Mormon church and despite never going on a Mormon mission, the family is asking that donations be made to the Mormon Mission fund. The obituary also never makes any mention that he was gay.
Colt’s family is refusing to let his friends attend the funeral, presumably presided over by a Mormon Bishop, calling it a private family affair.
The Utah LGBT community will remember Colt for who he was. A beautiful, intelligent young man who worked for several years at Try-Angles, beloved by many.
When will our families learn that they must love us for who we are, and they dishonor our memories when they try to pretend we are something other than who we are.
There will be a memorial for the community held at Club Try-Angles this Sunday, I believe at 4pm but I haven’t confirmed that yet.
Here’s a copy of the official obituary:
Colt David Hansen
BORN: May 22, 1982
DIED: Nov 3, 2010
LOCATION: Salt Lake City, UT
Our beloved son, brother, grandson, and uncle passed away peacefully in Salt Lake City, Utah on November 3, 2010 after a severe battle with depression. He was born May 22, 1982 in Payson, Utah to Ricky Duane and Connie Beckstrom Hansen. Colt graduated from Spanish Fork High School in 2000.
Colt loved being around his friends and family. He loved his niece and nephews dearly. He had a big heart and was kind and thoughtful. He loved to laugh out loud and liked to work on computers. Colt loved his dogs, Kasha and Travis. He was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Colt is survived by his loving parents, Rick and Connie Hansen; siblings, Cody Hansen, Adrienne Prestwich, Shad (Sammi) Hansen, and Seth Hansen; nephews, Tanner and Brayden Prestwich, Laton and Ryan Hansen, Tyrell Russell, and a niece, Mylie Prestwich; grandparents, Billy and Joanne Williams; and many aunts, uncles, and cousins. He was preceded in death by grandparents, Merrill and LaRue Beckstrom, and Duane Hansen.
Our son, brother, and uncle holds a special place in our hearts and will be missed daily. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the LDS Church Missionary Fund.
Graveside services will be held on Tuesday, November 9, 2010 at 1:00 p.m. at the Spanish Fork City Cemetery, 420 South 400 East, Spanish Fork, Utah. There will be a family viewing at Walker Mortuary, 187 South Main Street, Spanish Fork, Utah from 11:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. prior to the graveside service.

for more visit Pride in Utah.


Back to Square One

by Robyn

Now we can clearly see why "Later" is not a viable strategy when it comes to people gaining equal rights.

When a segment of society, no matter how small, doesn't have equal rights, there is never going to be a "better time" to work towards their equality. Justice delayed is justice denied.

This is not rocket science. It is a matter of ethics and morality.

And it certainly doesn't demand being called a "selfish prig", as I was yesterday, for wanting those equal rights.

I have to ask which of your rights you would be willing to surrender so as to not also be a selfish prig.

Gay group (LCR) asks high court to reinstate ban on 'don't ask, don't tell'

By Bill Mears -

(CNN) -- Lawyers for the gay group seeking a repeal of the military ban on openly gay troops serving in the military asked the Supreme Court Friday to step in and temporarily block enforcement of the controversial policy.
The Log Cabin Republicans filed an emergency request with the nation's highest court to reverse the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal decision to allow the military to continue with "don't ask, don't tell," while the government appeals the lower court ruling that the law is unconstitutional.
The appeals court, in San Francisco, is currently debating the constitutionality of barring openly gay and lesbian members in the U.S. armed forces. Until the larger questions are decided, that court had allowed the current policy to remain in place, prompting the time-sensitive appeal to the high court. The justices are only being asked to rule on the narrow enforcement issue at this stage. They could tackle the constitutional questions after the appeals court issues its ruling.
The high court appeal-- "called an "application" -- is now in the hands of Justice Anthony Kennedy. He will likely ask his eight colleagues to help him decide and order the federal government to weigh in with its views before a decision is made.
"It is unfortunate the Obama Justice Department has forced the Log Cabin Republicans to go to the Supreme Court," said R. Clarke Cooper, the group's executive director.
U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips in California in September had declared unconstitutional the military's ban on openly gay troops, and later granted an injunction barring enforcement of the policy. The Justice Department requested a stay of that ruling, which was denied by Phillips but granted by the appeals court. The appeals court later overturned the district court's injunction.
In their order, the appeals judges also noted that legislation pending before Congress to repeal the policy would render the case before them moot.
The House has passed a repeal provision, and the Senate is expected to consider it as part of a broader defense authorization bill when it returns for a lame-duck session in mid-November.
President Barack Obama wants to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy and reached an agreement with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on a process that includes a military review of how to make a successful transition to openly gay and lesbian soldiers serving alongside straight colleagues. Obama, Gates and Mullen would then have to certify the repeal.
Gay rights groups say the DADT policy violates the due process and First Amendment rights of military members.
In their appeal, Log Cabin Republicans said allowing the policy to remain in effect pending appeal is unacceptable and would cause "irreparable harm."
The government presented "no evidence to support a finding that open service by gay and lesbian individuals harmed the military's interests, and because both civilian and military leaders admitted that DADT actually impairs military interests," said the appeal. "Deference to military judgment here tips the scales against a stay, rather than in favor of one."
There was no immediate response from the Justice or Defense Departments to the high court filing.
The case puts the Obama's administration in an unusual position of supporting a repeal, but filing court motions to prevent it from happening faster than planned. The legislation before Congress includes the process for repeal agreed to with Gates and Mullen.
In response to the court case, Gates recently raised the level at which gay and lesbian troops can be discharged under "don't ask, don't tell" by ordering that it only be done by the secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force.
In a memo written to the heads of all the military services, Gates said his action was taken in direct response to the legal uncertainty surrounding "don't ask, don't tell" law and policy.
"Effective immediately and until further notice, no military member shall be separated ... without the personal approval of the secretary of the military department concerned, in coordination with the under secretary of Defense for personnel and readiness and the general counsel of the Defense Department. These functions may not be delegated," Gates wrote.
Since Gates made the change, no service emember has been discharged, according to Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell.


Constance McMillen: The Accidental Activist

constance mcmillen

Unsilenced: McMillen, photographed
 in her bedroom in Fulton, Mississippi.
Constance McMillen just wanted to go to the prom, like any other high school senior. Only difference: Her date was a girl, and Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, Mississippi, objected. The girls were told they couldn’t come as a couple, couldn’t walk in holding hands and certainly couldn’t show up in the tuxedos they’d planned to wear. “I was raised to always be proud of who you are,” says McMillen, 18, who called the American Civil Liberties Union to report on what had happened to her. The result was not what she’d expected: Faced with a lawsuit, the school canceled the dance, angering many of her classmates. (One girl’s T-shirt: “Thanks, Constance, for ruining prom.”)
“I didn’t want everyone to hate me,” says McMillen, who was raised mostly by her dad and learned at age 10 that her mother, Denise, was a lesbian. “But sometimes you got to do what you got to do. The easiest way is not always the best way.” Indeed, as a recent rash of suicides shows, the teen years can be especially tough on homosexual kids. (Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi’s September death was one of three in a span of three tragic weeks.) Encouraged by her mom, McMillen confronted the injustice, and by doing so set an example for the world.
While some in Fulton were upset with her, McMillen found widespread support nationally—and even internationally. Thousands of grateful teens sent her messages on Facebook, and Ellen DeGeneres gushed on her show, “I just think you’re so brave and amazing.” Finally, in July, the school agreed to enforce a nondiscrimination policy and settled with her for $35,000 (she’ll use it for college). “Constance stood up to foolishness and inequity and irrational unfairness, sending a signal that this battle should be fought at every level,” says former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson. McMillen plans to keep speaking out, hoping to spread tolerance—and maybe even save lives. “I heard, growing up, that gay people can’t go to heaven,” she recalls. “Even my grandma didn’t agree with [my lesbianism]. But she said, ‘If that’s who you are, I’ll be here. I’ll love you regardless.’”


Pope heads to a less Catholic Spain

Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI  
 By Daniel Woolls -

Pope Benedict XVI meets Spain’s Facebook generation this weekend - setting up a clash of values and lifestyles in a once-staunchly Catholic nation that has become one of Europe’s most liberal.

The visit is part of a major Vatican push to make increasingly secular Europe re-embrace its Christian roots, but the pope faces a big challenge in a nation that has undergone an extraordinary social transformation in just the past few years - with laws allowing gay marriage, fast-track divorce and easier abortions.

These changes are the latest, perhaps most dramatic, chapter in Spain’s reinvention after the deeply conservative dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco, who died in 1975. After rigid social and political constraints came an explosion of hedonism and cultural vigor that caused the nation to stray further and further from its religious heritage.

It has all horrified the Vatican, which remembers a not-so-distant age when all public schoolrooms had a picture of Franco and a crucifix mounted on the wall. For many liberal Spaniards, on the other hand, it’s the church’s association with the Franco regime that has been a cause for much of the alienation.

"This is without a doubt the least Catholic Spain in history, and demographic data suggest it will continue to become less and less Catholic," sociologist Kerman Calvo said of the country hosting Pope Benedict Saturday for a two-day visit.

Indeed, church attendance is falling steadily and at Mass on Sunday most worshippers have gray hair. Congregations are fast losing young people. And civil ceremonies now outnumber church marriages for the first time.

Against that challenging backdrop, the pope’s tour starts in Santiago de Compostela, a medieval and present-day pilgrimage site whose ornate cathedral is said to hold the remains of St. James the Apostle. It ends Sunday in Barcelona, where the pope will consecrate part of the Sagrada Familia, or Holy Family, church - Antoni Gaudi’s unfinished architectural marvel.

Tensions rose even before the Pope arrived, as riot police swinging truncheons clashed Thursday night with anti-papal protesters in Santiago, some of whom carried red banners reading "I am not waiting for you."

In Barcelona, hundreds of people staged a peaceful nighttime rally against the visit, with banners decrying everything from the cost of hosting the pope to the pedophile priest scandal that has rocked the Vatican.

Thousands of gays and lesbians plan a kiss-in in Barcelona in the pope’s presence as he leaves the grounds of the city’s actual cathedral on Sunday morning, puckering up en masse to protest against the conservative pontiff, whose opposition to gay marriage is well known.

It Gets Better: Gap Inc. Employees

Gap Inc. employees share their stories for the "It Gets Better" project. Learn more at and show your support by taking the pledge!


Claire Balding - It gets better today campaign from the UK.


Psychologist Scolds Daphne's Mom

The mother who allowed her son to dress as Daphne from Scooby Doo for Halloween appeared on CNN to discuss her blog entry, and she was scolded by a child psychologist for “outing” her son.

Jeff Gardere told Sarah from Missouri it's the "worst nightmare" of both heterosexual and gay couples "to have to fathom that their child might be gay."

Sarah is at first caught off guard, and after telling Gardere that “gay” also means happy, added that she said he might be gay — and goes on to defend her actions.


Tory MP Chris Grayling named Stonewall ‘bigot of the year’

By Jessica Geen -

Tory MP Chris Grayling
Former shadow home secretary Chris Grayling was named ‘Bigot of the Year’ at Thursday night’s Stonewall awards.
 Tory MP Mr Grayling, who was secretly recorded in May saying that bed and breakfasts should have the right to bar gay couples, was not present to collect his award but Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill said it would be delivered to him.
 Four hundred and fifty people attended the £175-a-head ceremony at the V&A Museum, including Mary Portas, Clare Balding, Labour MP Ben Bradshaw and BBC newsreader Jane Hill.
 The event was hosted by comedian Sue Perkins, who, referring to Stephen Fry’s latest woes, joked: “In my experience, women only have relationships to have sex.”

Gareth Thomas, who became the first out gay professional rugby player last December, was named ‘Hero of the Year’.
He attended the London ceremony with his parents. Some audience members were in tears as he spoke after accepting the award.
Gareth Thomas
Mr Thomas said: “I don’t really know what denotes a hero. I’m just myself. But when you live in a world that tries to make different a wrong thing, to me, being a hero is just being honest.
He added: “To be a hero, you have to follow in a hero’s footsteps. And there’s people here tonight who’ve been my heroes all my life and will be forever – that’s my mother and father.”
There were no protests outside the V&A Museum, as trans and gay marriage campaigners decided to cancel a planned demonstration after Stonewall announced it would begin to lobby for gay couples to marry.

Author Stella Duffy, who was the joint winner of ‘Writer of the Year’ with Rupert Smith, said in her acceptance speech that she had been “pushing for dialogue” between the groups and was pleased that the protest had been cancelled.
Patrick Strudwick was named ‘Journalist of the Year’ for his expose in the Independent of so-called ‘gay-cure’ therapists.
Mr Strudwick, who underwent the treatment for his story, said: “I am dedicating this award to all the victims of hate around the world who have told me their stories. Their strength and dignity spurred me on.”
He also thanked the thousands of people who added their support to his campaign to stamp out the controversial therapy.

EastEnders actor John Partidge won the ‘Entertainer of the Year’ award for his gay storyline in the soap. He paid tribute to screenwriter Dominic Treadwell-Collins for managing to “tell a gay story at 7.30 in the evening”.

Martina Navratilova won huge applause when she was given the sports award. The tennis star is currently in Colorado training to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and pre-recorded a message of thanks.

Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow was named ‘Politician of the Year’. The MP, whose wife Sally recently completed a charity parachute jump for Stonewall, praised Mr Summerskill for his “truly inspirational leadership”.

The Times won the award for ‘Publication of the Year’, while the ‘Community Group of the Year’ award was won by Mind Out, the LGBT branch of mental health charity Mind. The group receieved a £5,000 cheque.
Coronation Street, which broadcast its first lesbian storyline this year, won the award for ‘Broadcast of the Year’.
Mr Summerskill said: “This has been a landmark year. All three major soaps have featured compelling depictions of lesbian and gay characters. All three main parties have made gay equality a central, vote-winning election issue. And rugby now has its first openly gay professional player.
“We’re proud to have seen all these successes of modern Britain reflected at the Stonewall Awards ceremony.”


Election analysis: Massachusetts keeps blue bright in the rainbow state

By Sue O’Connell -
Pro-LGBT candidates dominate the state’s midterm elections.

It’s the little things that make the difference

It was just after the close of the business day on Tuesday when the main phone line at Bay Windows rang. Co-publisher Jeff Coakley answered the phone to find Governor Deval Patrick on the line. "I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to call, but I wanted to sincerely thank you for the endorsement. It means a lot to me," Patrick said.

That’s right. In the heat of Election Day, in the midst of a battle, Patrick found time to call Bay Windows to say thank you and apologize for his tardiness in showing his appreciation.

This little anecdote sums up exactly why Patrick, and his campaign, was never really behind in this race. Big picture message with attention to the little details. Voters responded positively.

Patrick’s LGBT support strong
What does Patrick’s reelection meant to the LGBT community?

Arline Isaacson of the Massachusetts Lesbian Gay Political Caucus (MLGPC):

We reelected the most pro-LGBT Governor in the state’s history. Our community will therefore be very well served, yet again, in the next four years.

We reelected a pro-LGBT incumbent. That sends a very important message to the entire political world: That when elected officials support the LGBT community, we will reciprocate and support them in return. That kind of political calculus has helped the LGBT community win legislatively in this state and others. It shows elected officials that it’s worth sticking their political necks out for us, because we will be there for them at election time.

We were lucky to have several gubernatorial candidates who supported our community. And we were lucky enough to see yet again, an openly gay candidate for Lt Governor. Hopefully, we are moving closer to the day when gubernatorial candidates will not be considered serious candidates unless they are pro-LGBT.

Kara S. Suffredini, Executive Director, MassEquality:

"There is no governor in the nation who been so uncompromising in his support for LGBT people, or who has a greater record of accomplishment in this area, than Governor Deval Patrick. At a time when youth are turning to suicide as the only escape from crisis levels of anti-LGBT bullying in our schools, and when transgender people are being fired from their jobs and evicted from their houses simply because of who they are, Governor Patrick’s reelection is a tremendous victory for all LGBT Bay Staters. MassEquality looks forward to continuing to work with him to finish our work together advancing full equality for LGBT people from cradle to grave."

Tisei on the map

The Charlie Baker/Richard Tisei Republican ticket seemed to run out of steam as Election Day approached, but State Senator Tisei definitely was a winner in this race. The elevation to a statewide ticket is usually good for all politicians, but the elevation of this now openly gay Republican is certainly something the state GOP should mine. As should the LGBT political groups. MassEquality, MLGPC, and every other LGBT political organization should meet with Tisei regularly and include him in as many strategy conversations as possible.

The Senator had this to say about his experience:

"I would like to thank everyone who supported me. This undertaking was a great experience that I will treasure for the rest of my life. Although we were not successful, we were able to bring a lot of important issues to the table for discussion. As far as the future goes I plan to continue to be an active member of our community. I also look forward to working with my partner and building our real estate business."

Grossman, Bump, and Coakley

State Treasurer elect Steve Grossman was one of the unsung, behind-the-scenes heroes for same-sex marriage. He’s a good man who has been eager to serve the public.

State Auditor elect Suzanne Bump could have run a better message campaign, but ultimately capitalized on the democratic machine. She’s an early supporter of LGBT rights.

Attorney General Martha Coakley, a national leader on LGBT issues, easily won re-election. Coakley certainly learned a lot from her loss to Scott Brown in Senate race and took nothing for granted. She may be poised for another senate race.

Congressman Barney Frank

There were a couple of furrowed brows on Tuesday around Congressman Barney Frank’s reelection effort. In the end, the Democratic pit bull was overwhelmingly hired for another term.

Rhode Island

Governor-Elect Lincoln Chafee won as an Independent candidate. Chafee is a pro-gay advocate. Openly gay former Providence mayor David Cicilline won for Congress.

New Hampshire

Democratic Governor John Lynch wins his fourth consecutive term, but faces a Republican controlled Legislature. This could set the stage for an effort to repeal gay marriage.


Suspect in Priest Beating: He Molested My Brother and Me

William Lynch
William Lynch

A suspect in the beating of a 65-year-old Catholic priest says that he attacked the cleric out of revenge for the molestation he and his brother allegedly suffered at the priest’s hands.

Rev. Jerold Lindner was attacked and beaten on May 10 at the Jesuit retirement home for elderly priests where he works in Los Gatos, California. 43-year-old William Lynch was arrested and charged with the beating after phone records showed that it was he who had called the home shortly beforehand to ask if Lindner was on the premises, an Oct. 30 Associated Press report said.

Lynch claims that Lindner sexually assaulted him and his brother when Lindner was 7 and his brother was 5. A Nov. 1 AOLNews story said that, according to authorities, Lynch appeared at the retirement home and confronted Lindner, demanding, "Do you remember me? You abused me and my brother." Lindner responded that he did not remember Lynch, and Lynch then allegedly launched a flurry of punches that left the priest covered with bruises. Lindner then drove himself to a hospital for treatment. He has not been charged with sexual assault in connection with Lynch’s claims because the statute of limitations has expired.

Lindner has denied in the past that he molested Lynch and his brother. The cleric has been accused by numerous other people of sexual assault, including a claim by his brother, a former police officer, who says he caught Lindner sexually abusing his daughter. Lindner’s sister also says that he abused her when she was a child, and that Lindner also abused her son, Linder’s nephew.

Media sources said that Lynch and his brother had received a $625,000 settlement from Catholic order Jesuits of the California Province in 1998. But Lunch mulled over fantasies in which he took his revenge, telling the Los Angeles Times in 2002, "Many times I thought of driving down to LA and confronting Father Jerry.... You can’t put into words what this guy did to me. He stole my innocence and destroyed my life." Lynch added that he had tried twice to kill himself, and that he had suffered bouts of depression and alcoholism.

World Net Daily’s magazine: for folks who are astonishingly stupid

By Timothy Kincaid -

World Net Daily, the website who never goes a day without at least a few Shocking! Discoveries! about the Homosexual! Agenda!, is declaring that America has a gay obsession. Other than the obvious observation that WND is looking at a mirror and thinking its a window, they offer evidence that is even stupider than usual. It’s even stupider than when they told us that homosexuality is caused by soy products.
In fact, so gay obsessed are WND… oh, I mean America… that WND’s “magazine” Whistleblower (only $40 for the year, buy now!!) is dedicating the next issue to AMERICA’S ‘GAY’ OBSESSION.

It’s full of fascinating and fanciful articles such as:
* “The ‘gay’ deathstyle” by J. Matt Barber, in which the attorney explores implications of the shocking news that 20 percent of “gay” males in the U.S. are HIV-positive [actually it's 11.8%, but Barber isn't very good at comprehension and can't read beyond the first paragraph]
* “The zero-sum game of ‘gay rights’” by Peter LaBarbera, an eye-opening survey of casualties in the escalating war between homosexual activism and Americans’ freedom of conscience
* “What’s causing all the ‘gay’ teen suicides?” by Linda Harvey, who shows that while some blame anti-homosexual bigotry, the truth may be quite the opposite
Yes! Buy now and read that what America really needs today is more anti-homosexual bigotry so as to stop ‘gay’ teen suicides. And WND is so impressed with its magazine that they are printing testimonials from, well, themselves.
“This issue of Whistleblower is simply terrific,” said WND Editor Joseph Farah, “and there is no other news organization that will provide this kind of amazing information and analysis on a critical issue most are afraid to touch.
“Everybody who wants the America of the future to remain ‘a shining city on a hill’ needs to read ‘AMERICA’S GAY OBSESSION’ – and share it with others,” he said.
Added Kupelian: “I know everyone these days is preoccupied with politics and the economy, and may feel that ‘gay rights’ is just some ‘marginal social issue.’ I have news for you: This ‘marginal’ issue is increasingly outlawing the Christian faith. That’s not an exaggeration: Owen and Eunice Johns, a lovely Christian couple, want to open their home to foster children – but the government refuses and condemns them because they’re Christians who believe homosexuality is a sin.
“Get it? It’s no longer a matter of whether homosexuals are fit to adopt children or take them in as foster parents,” said Kupelian, “but rather, it is now Christian parents who are considered unacceptable to raise children. This is happening more and more.
“If you want to stop the rapid criminalization of Christianity, you need to read ‘AMERICA’S ‘GAY’ OBSESSION.’”
Just one small problem… the Johns are not exactly a clear example of America’s gay obsession or even of America’s “rapid criminalization of Christianity”. In fact, the Johns aren’t American at all. They live in Derby, about 130 miles north of London. And “the government” which is “condemning” them is not the United States but the United Kingdom.
But it’s okay. World Net Daily knows that their readers never look up anything for themselves. Or, if they do, they probably won’t know that England is not part of America. You see, WND counts on its readers being stupid. Really stupid. Astonishingly stupid.