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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Toronto School Board Unleashes Three Groundbreaking Pro-Gay Initiatives

By Brandon Miller -

With an LGBT-specific school and a bunch of diversity workers, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) is ahead of the curve on gay rights. But now they are taking their stance on equality and inclusiveness one step further. Board officials have announced three new initiatives to make schools safer for all students that fall outside the heterosexual label.
“This is a pretty significant development. It’s historic. The TDSB as an entity has never taken this on system-wide, so it’s having huge ripple effects," says Michelle Cho, student equity program advisor for the TDSB. “We know that homophobia and transphobia have existed in our schools for a long time. It’s just being highlighted much more in the media now. There’s a real crisis that’s gone unnamed in our schools. This needs to be talked about.”
The Positive Space campaign will see middle school and secondary teachers trained by a positive space representative in order to become official points of contact for students suffering with issues stemming from homophobia or transphobia. According to Cho, the new initiatives are a first in Canada. There has never before been a system-wide promotion of gender-based violence prevention.
“[Students] will be able to contact this person in the school and look for support,” says Vladimir Vallecilla, a gender-based violence prevention work for the school board. “Obviously, that teacher wouldn’t have the expertise of a principal or social worker, but they will be trained to direct that information to the social worker or the administrator, and then to our office for greater school-wide support.”
But Positive Space isn't the only campaign being rolled out by the TDSB. They are also unveiling the Peer Support Network, an idea based around education that will see students in grades eight, nine and ten will be trained as peer educators through the TDSB.
“The idea is to teach students how to make creative media and facilitate workshops for other students on gender-based violence prevention,” says Vallecilla. “An example would be taking images from current media, Disney, pop culture, then discussing and breaking down how gender has been socialized into students.”
Lastly, the school board is starting a campaign that will recognize gay-straight alliances that are making a positive impact. There are currently twenty-five GSAs in Toronto, give or take a few, and the hope is that highlighting great ones will create interest in starting new alliances.
“It’s addressing gender-based violence. That means every teacher, support staff member, guidance counselor, teaching assistant, administrative staff member, principal or vice-principal must report any incident that can be viewed as unsafe to the school community, which now includes homophobia, transphobia, sexual harassment or sexual misconduct," says Michelle Cho. “At the end of the day, this isn’t just about policies. There are people being affected.”


Keiko Lane: A Letter to LGBTQ Youth: An Apology and a Promise

Keiko Lane
Let me tell you a story.
I met them when we were in high school, on Dia de los Muertos. I was sitting on the grassy patch of the small slope in the middle of our urban Los Angeles, locked campus reviewing notes for an afternoon chemistry class. I zipped up my leather jacket against the fall breeze and untangled my hair from the ACT UP Silence = Death stickers plastered to its back.
“Cool jacket,” I heard, as two bodies moved to face me.
“Thanks,” I said, looking up to see who was talking. Both were Chicana: The petite one had short curly hair, marigolds pinned behind her ear, and wore bright red lipstick. The other, heavier and muscular, wore her long hair pulled back in a low ponytail. Her hand rested on the femme’s lower back. A couple. A butch/femme couple in my high school. I hadn’t seen them in any of my classes— not uncommon on our campus of more than 3,000. We smiled at one another, and they sat down.
The next few weeks we got to know one another, sharing stories over lunch. Emma (the femme) and Carla (the butch) had grown up together, their families attending the same church. Their mothers were friends. They had been a couple since middle school, since Emma seduced Carla. (“She only thinks that’s how it went down,” says Carla. “Whatever you need to believe, honey,” laughs Emma.) But their families didn’t know. They thought the Emma was a good influence on Carla, and that story made everyone happy.
“Well, she is a good influence on me,” Carla had said to me, cradling Emma’s cheek in her hand.
Emma wanted to be a doctor. And though she was quiet and a little shy, she laughed easily at the jokes and teasing of her girlfriend.
Carla was fierce, smart, and not very interested in a public education system that didn’t reflect her. Emma had made her promise to stay in school, promising in return that they would get out together after graduation.
“That’s a long time from now,” Carla would sigh and shake her head. “I just want to be with you.”
Emma would smile back, “we will, I promise. We’ll get away as soon as we graduate.”
“You’ll go to college,” Carla always told her. “I’ll support you, don’t worry.”
Some days they brought their friend Angel. The three had had grown up together keeping one another’s secrets—like hiding Angel’s dresses in Emma’s closet. He got to wear them, along with Emma’s bright red lipstick, when her parents were at work. Angel knew he was trans but was afraid of what would happen if he came out. All of their parents thought that he and Emma were dating, that Carla was their awkward friend.
I asked Angel if he wanted me to use female pronouns when I talked to him. He smiled, somewhat sadly. “No,” he sighed. “I don’t want to get used to it yet. I don’t want anyone to slip in front of anyone who knows my family. When I graduate and leave home, then yeah. But not now.”
That fall, the first Gulf War was brewing, and I was spending weekends and evenings at anti-war demonstrations with my ACT UP and Queer Nation friends. Very long days and nights of meetings, demonstrations, parties, and hospital bedside vigils. Emma, Carla, and Angel wanted to know all about it, but didn’t dare join me—afraid their families would find out, afraid their picture would end up in the LA Times, the way mine had.
After telling them about an especially long ACT UP Women’s Caucus meeting the night before, Emma peppered me with questions about the politics of healthcare access for HIV-infected women and children.
“Maybe that’s what I want to do if I become a doctor.”
“You will become a doctor. I’ll make sure of it,” said Carla.
“Can we come to a meeting?” Emma asked.
“Oh, I don’t know,” said Carla, looking uneasy.
“There’s no media at committee meetings—nothing that exciting happens,” I reassured her.
“No, it isn’t that. I don’t know. The Women’s Caucus?” Carla shifted from side to side, nervous. “I just don’t…you know, always feel like a woman.”
“Well I do!” Angel was emphatic. “Can I come, too?”
“It’s so simple for you,” said Carla. “You always knew, didn’t you—that you’re really a girl?”
“Of course,” he said, shrugging.
“Not of course,” said Carla. “I just don’t know.”
Emma took her hand.

Contact Congress--Letter Writing Campaign--Out4immigration

Out4Immigration is an all-volunteer grassroots organization.  Currently, Americans in same-gender relationships with foreign partners have no right to sponsor those partners for legal residency in the US.  In this letter campaign we write representatives in Congress and the Senate to ask them to support equal immigration rights for same-sex binational couples, to become a cosponsor of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), and to support Comprehensive Immigration Reform which is inclusive of LGBT families.
This is the 82nd petition of Out4Immigration’s letter writing campaign.  As with last week’s petition, we are reaching out to all of our supporters from this Congress.   This petition serves not only as a thank you to the members of Congress who have supported the UAFA and are leaving Congress due to the results of the election, or because of retirement; it is also to encourage those returning supporters of the 111th Congress to continue demonstrating leadership on this issue in the impending 112th.  We intend to promote the below petition throughout the duration of the lame duck session, targeting the maximum number of legislators we can reach in one week, 20.  This includes 3 Senators and 17 Representatives, and we will target a new such group each week.
It is remarkable that in the 111th Congress we were able to encourage over a quarter of our national elected representatives in Washington to cosponsor the UAFA.  Many of these members have been real champions for equality, and we want to applaud their leadership.  It is also worth noting that of the Democratic losses in Congress in this recent election, relatively few UAFA supporters were among them.  In the coming weeks, we will be reminding returning members of Congress, as well as new ones, that many Americans yearn to see equality for all, that supporting our families not only makes good political sense but is the right thing to do, and to ask them to cosponsor this bill.

We encourage you to take part in this campaign by using one of four options:

(1) The easiest one.   By clicking through and adding your name to this page, you will send letters to all of the lawmakers being targeted in this petition.  You can also provide the link to your friends and family to take action too!;
(2) Contact any or all of the elected representatives here with your own letter, your own story; or
(3) Creating a booklet telling your story. See for more info on this option.
(4) Check out other actions on our action page and sign the other week's action too to urge the other members of Congress to sponsor and support the passage of Uniting American Families Act, or visit Out4immigration's website, O4I's Facebook page or the O4I blog.  If you use Twitter, you can also follow O4I that way.

Additionally, don’t hesitate to call our recent cosponsors and thank them for their support.  Let’s hit our target of 500 signers with this petition.  Can each of you who sign get a few of your friends to do so as well?  Please share this widely, and thank you for taking action!!!

Petition Text-

Thank you for supporting the Uniting American Families Act

Greetings to our House and Senate supporters,
As the 111th session of Congress comes to a close, we would like to thank you for your support of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA; H.R.1024; S.424).

As you know, under current U.S. immigration law, gay and lesbian Americans in committed relationships with foreign partners are denied the right to sponsor their partners for a green card. This terrible oversight that has led to thousands of heartbreaking cases of gratuitous cruelty in forcing same-sex binational couples apart could be fixed with the passage of UAFA. UAFA would add three simple words to existing U.S. immigration law “or permanent partners” wherever the word “spouse” appears. It would then give the same rights and responsibilities to same-sex binational couples that opposite-sex binational couples can currently obtain.

We urge you, our supporters, to do what you can in the lame duck session of Congress to either move UAFA forward as a standalone bill, or ensure that it remains included in any version of Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR). Our families are grateful to you for your support to date, and are depending on your support now and in the future.

Whether you are returning to Congress in its 112th session next year or leaving at the close of this
session, we hope that you will continue to support equal rights for LGBT Americans and continue to
champion the end of immigration discrimination against same-sex binational couples.


The members and supporters of Out4Immigration
[Your name]


Dieux du Stade rugby calendar 2011


Almost as popular as the Beaujolais nouveau, the Dieux du Stade calendar is a sort of worldwide annual event promoting the good products of France :-)

French photographer François Rousseau shot for the second time the hunky French Rugby players. 42 photos and a poster. Not only the Stade is giving a preview of what's inside this new edition but we also have a video to share with vous.

Dieux du stade 2011

"Le calendrier 2011 est un calendrier à la fois sobre et viril avec un aspect pictural. Les sportifs nus ont posé avec simplicité dans des éléments proches de la nature."

Dark, viril, pictural and with elements close to the nature ... indeed ... I mean closer to that horse on the picture above would be kind of inappropriate!

Apple removes ‘anti-gay’ iPhone app

By Jessica Geen  -

Apple has apparently removed an app from its iTunes store which rails against gay marriage and LGBT rights.
The app, created by a Christian group, disappeared from the online store after media attention.
It was based on the Manhattan Declaration, a manifesto released in 2009 by Christian and Catholic leaders which rails against the “erosion” of marriage.
Apple did not return requests for comment and calls to Manhattan Declaration organisers went unanswered.
Almost 7,000 people signed an online petition calling on the usually gay-friendly company to remove the app.
Apple gave it a 4+ rating, meaning that it contains “no objectionable content” but gay rights website called on supporters to “send a strong message to Apple that supporting homophobia and efforts to restrict choice is bad business”.
The app asked users whether they agree with four statements on abortion and same-sex marriage and those who answer that they are pro-choice and pro-gay marriage are told that they are incorrect.
It also had links to read and sign up to the full declaration, which says that gay relationships are “immoral” and that same-sex marriages are equivalent to sanctioning incest.
The declaration says that signatories act out of “love and “concern for the comment good” rather than prejudice.
In October 2008, Apple donated $100,000 to the No on Prop 8 campaign, which called to preserve gay couples’ right to marry in California.
The company said it was speaking out publicly because “a person’s fundamental rights – including the right to marry – should not be affected by their sexual orientation”.


Handy Tips for Transgender Travelers

The hubbub over the TSA naked machines and "enhanced pat-downs" impact everyone who travels. But if you're a transgender individual, you might be especially wary of what you'll confront in the security line. So be sure to check out the National Center for Transgender Equality's travel tips for transgender individuals. They also offer a FAQ on Whole Body Imaging (PDF).
And remember, if feel you were singled out or treated differently because you are transgender, be sure to let us know with this form, and file a complaint with the TSA.


Friday, November 26, 2010

Personal Identity

By Robyn

We are not confused about our gender. It is other people who have that problem. They confuse who we are with their image of who we should be.

Would you stand for anyone else doing that to you, for whatever reason?

Transgender people look long and hard into our identities to discover who we truly are. Self-introspection. We don't look between our legs for that. Human identity is in the mind.

Identity has no material form (Locke: "Consciousness makes personal identity."). Identity does not reside in the chromosomes or genes.

GLEE: Special Education The Garblers


Seattle gay dads say "It Gets Better"

Feather Boa Fathers was the brainchild of Peter & Franz and Tom & Larry. Prior to becoming dads through surrogacy in the Spring of 2007, the two couples wanted a way to meet other gay dads to expand their social network, to have a good time with other dads and to make sure that their children grew up with families that looked like theirs. Gay dads of all types are welcome with children of all ages.

The group's website says, "We believe it is important to build and develop a strong sense of community with one another which is built around a supportive and nurturing, celebratory and fun environment."

For information or send and email to contact one of the organizers.

Feather Boa Fathers created a video to join the IT GETS BETTER campaign.


US judge says lesbians can be ‘cured’ by male soldiers

By Jessica Geen -

"Lesbians could be 'converted' in the military"- Joe Rehyansky.
An American judge has been accused of advocating corrective rape for lesbians.
Joe Rehyansky, a part-time magistrate and Vietnam veteran, wrote on conservative news site The Daily Caller that lesbians should be allowed to serve in the military because straight male soldiers could “convert” them.
The Daily Caller swiftly removed some of his remarks but not before they were picked up by other websites.
Mr Rehyansky, of Hamilton County, Tennessee, argued that men were naturally more promiscuous than women and “it fell to men to swing through the trees and scour the caves in search of as many women as possible to subdue and impregnate – a tough job but someone had to do it”.
Then, he claimed that the “promiscuity” of gay men, coupled with HIV, would have “the potential for disastrous health consequences” if gay men were allowed to serve openly in the military.
“Gays spread disease at a rate out of all proportion to their numbers in our population and should be excluded from the military,” he argued.
He continued: “Shouldn’t the overwhelmingly straight warriors who answer their county’s call be spared the indignity of showering with other men who achieve lascivious enjoyment from the sight of those lithe naked bodies, and who may be tempted to seek more than the view?”
Lesbian military personnel, who Mr Rehyansky praised for their “medical and administrative specialties”, should be allowed to serve because they apparently have low sex drives.
His final argument, which has now been removed by The Daily Caller, was as follows: “My solution would get the distaff part of our homosexual population off our collective ‘Broke Back,’ thus giving straight male GIs a fair shot at converting lesbians and bringing them into the mainstream.”
Mr Rehyansky was accused of advocating corrective rape for lesbians by some commentators.
Blogger Amanda Hess sardonically noted: “Once all the lesbians are easily accessible in one place, an army of straight dudes will turn them all straight, presumably through that time-tested tactic of subduing and impregnating women against their will.”


Red Cross scolds ’failed’ HIV policy among nations

By John Heilprin -

Thailand’s Prime Miniter Abhisit Vejjajiva wears a hat made of condoms as he takes part in an anti-HIV/AIDS campaign ahead of World AIDS Day, which falls on Dec. 1, at Parliament in Bangkok on Thursday Nov. 25, 2010
Thailand’s Prime Miniter Abhisit Vejjajiva wears
a hat made of condoms as he takes part in an
anti-HIV/AIDS campaign ahead of World AIDS Day,
which falls on Dec. 1, at Parliament in Bangkok
on Thursday Nov. 25, 2010
The spread of HIV and AIDS among millions of people could be slowed if addicts who inject drugs were treated as medical patients rather than as criminals, the International Federation of the Red Cross said Friday.

More than 80 percent of the world’s governments "are inclined to artificial realities, impervious to the evidence that treating people who inject drugs as criminals is a failed policy that contributes to the spread of HIV," the Red Cross said.

An estimated 16 million people worldwide inject drugs, mainly because it delivers the fastest, most intense high, in what has become a growing trend on every continent, according to the Red Cross.

The launch of the International Federation of the Red Cross’ 24-page report - essentially to promote a new strategy for nations to stop the spread of the virus among injecting drug users - comes in the week before World AIDS Day on Dec. 1.

The federation, which represents national Red Cross chapters in almost every country of the world, suggests ways to lessen the risk that addicts will contract the virus from tainted blood transmitted through shared needles.

It also points out that many of the addicts are selling sex to pay for their habits, which "massively increases the likelihood of spreading HIV into an unsuspecting public."

More than 3 million people who inject drugs now have HIV - almost one-tenth of all the 33.3 million people worldwide who are infected with HIV.

In the United States, about 56,000 people, many of them injecting drug users, become infected each year, a rate that has held steady for about a decade. But many of those who are infected don’t know it and spread the virus unwittingly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For years the U.S.-based organization recommended routine testing, mainly for intravenous drug users and other people at high risk. If new infections are discovered early enough, HIV patients can be treated with drugs potent enough to postpone the slide into full-blown AIDS.

Meanwhile, the Red Cross report says China, Malaysia, Russia, Ukraine and Vietnam have "mega-epidemics" of injecting drug use. In some countries, such as Russia, Georgia and Iran, drug-injecting users account for more than 60 percent of HIV infections.

The Red Cross calls the increasing rate of HIV infection among drug users who use needles "a public health emergency" and recommends more governments provide health services such as substitute drug therapy and clean needle and syringe exchanges.

It says studies consistently show that needle exchanges can lower transmission rates by as much as 42 percent.

"The IFRC is focusing on injecting drug users because a growing body of evidence shows that failing to reach them with hard reduction programs not only jeopardizes their own health, but also the safety of the public at large," said Tadateru Konoe, the group’s president.

The Geneva-based United Nations’ AIDS agency said earlier this week that the global AIDS epidemic among the general population has slowed, with a 20 percent decrease in new HIV infections over the past decade.

But that agency’s report also noted there are still 7,000 new infections each day - a rate that means two people are becoming infected with the virus for every one who is starting treatment.


Boycott The Salvation Army Kettles

This holiday season please remember NOT to support The Salvation Army.  This organization is one of the most virulent homophobic groups in the country.  They refuse to offer equal benefits for their glbt employees and openly discriminate against gays and lesbians.  In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina they refused to assist Blacks, gays, and those who were HIV+.  These were your tax dollars funneled through Bush's faith based initiatives financing discriminatory behavior.  Your tax dollars supported this bigotry.

We ask all progressive thinking people to refuse to contribute to this group.  Instead please drop notes of protest in their kettles.  Tell them what you think of their policies.  Let them know this is why you left them a note instead of cash.
In San Francisco The Salvation Army stopped accepting donations from the City because of its domestic partnership benefits.  They also cut back on their programs in the City.  In other words, because the City of San Francisco decided to provide equal benefits to their employees for doing equal work the Salvation Army, which receives federal tax dollars, decided to cut back their programs and refused contributions from City government. 
Why should your tax dollars support organizations which are freely allowed to discriminate in who they help?  This is the biggest problem with Bush's faith based initiative program.  Public agencies are required by law to help everyone who is eleigible.  Charities like the Army can openly discriminate in hiring and in offering help.  This isn't only wrong, it isn't Christian.  Do not support The Salvation Army this Christmas season. 

Join the campaign:

Salvation Army position statements on marriage and homosexuality

Salvation Army opposes repeal of Section 28

"Salvation Army: Deal Made To Promote Faith Initiative" (10 July 2001)

"Charity Is Told It Must Abide By Anti-discrimination Laws" (11 July 2001)

"Salvation Army Uses Homeless To Fight Gay Benefits" (24 May 2004)


Justin Bieber Premieres 'It Gets Better' Video On 'Ellen DeGeneres'

Canadian teen singing sensation Justin Bieber says he opposes bullying in an It Gets Better video.
The 16-year-old American Music Award-winning singer's video premiered Monday on the Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Bieber keeps his message short and to the point in his 20-second clip.
“Hey guys, I'm Justin Bieber. I just wanted to say there's nothing cool about being a bully. And if you're getting bullied, make sure to tell someone and, you know, it gets better. And if you're a bystander, make sure to step in and, you know, help out,” he says while wearing a black T-shirt and black baseball cap worn backwards. (The video is embedded in the right panel of this page.)
On the show, Bieber said that even he has been bullied.
“Everybody goes through bullying. Everybody has, even me. On my YouTube page, there are so many haters.”
The It Gets Better Project is a collection of inspiring videos that urge troubled gay teens considering suicide to get help.


Students from W.E. Greiner Middle School donate 65 frozen turkeys to HIV/AIDS food pantry

By John Wright -

Macario Hernandez, left, assistant principal of W.E. Greiner Middle School,
and Jesse Garcia,  president of LULAC #4871.
Last week we reported that Resource Center Dallas’ food pantry for people with HIV/AIDS won’t be able to offer turkeys to its clients this Thanksgiving, due to increased demand and declining donations. However, it turns out the pantry will have at least 65 frozen turkeys to give out that were dropped off last Friday by folks from Dallas’ LGBT chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens. According to LULAC #4871 President Jesse Garcia, the turkeys were donated by the families of students at W.E. Greiner Middle School. “I want to publicly thank Greiner Middle School and their assistant principal Macario Hernandez for donating much-needed protein to the Resource Center Dallas food pantry,” Garcia said. “This food pantry helps people of all ages from every part of the city who are affected by HIV. These clients have to deal with being sick and at times are unable to work. Some have to sacrifice between paying for their expensive medicine or affording a good meal. Greiner Middle School just made a big difference.” Read Garcia’s full press release below.

Resource Center Dallas facilities manager Lionel Solis, left, and volunteer Luis Zarate.
This holiday season got a little brighter for the clients at the Resource Center Dallas Food Pantry. The pantry usually serves an average of 700 Dallas residents with HIV/AIDS a nutritious meal each week. But demand is up, and contributions are down.
Thankfully Oak Cliff families who send their children to W.E. Greiner Middle School stepped up to the plate and provided 65 frozen turkeys to the food pantry on Nov. 19.  The school included the Resource Center Dallas among its beneficiaries for its fall food drive after members of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) recommended the food pantry as a worthy choice.
Members from LULAC Councils 272 and 4871 helped deliver the product just before the Thanksgiving holiday.
“I want to publicly thank Greiner Middle School and their assistant principal Macario Hernandez for donating much needed protein to the Resource Center Dallas Food Pantry,” said Jesse Garcia, president of LULAC Council 4871, whose organization has donated to the RCD Food Pantry for the last two holiday seasons. “This food pantry helps people of all ages from every part of the city who are affected by HIV. These clients have to deal with being sick and at times are unable to work. Some have to sacrifice between paying for their expensive medicine or affording a good meal.  Greiner Middle School just made a big difference.”
In North Texas, the Resource Center of Dallas has been at the forefront of providing nutritional assistance to those with HIV/AIDS.
The center got its start during the outbreak of AIDS in the early 1980s, feeding gay men afflicted with the epidemic. Today the center is seeing clients from other communities, especially Latinos and women.
“I think is pretty remarkable that children at Greiner Middle School are being taught at every young age about philanthropy and community service,” said Garcia. “This is a great example of how a community becomes stronger when a helpful hand is extended to those in need.”
The Resource Center Dallas Food Pantry is located at 5450 Denton Drive Cutoff, Dallas, TX 75235. The pantry is open noon to 7 p.m. on Mondays, and noon to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays. The pantry is closed Fridays through Sundays. Donation drop-off hours are 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Mondays, and 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays. For more information, call (214) 521-3390.
LULAC 4871 is conducting its own food drive for Saturday, Dec. 11, that will benefit the Resource Center Dallas Food Pantry, AIDS Interfaith Network’s Daire Center, a West Dallas senior center and a Pleasant Grove community church. The organization is need of copy paper size boxes to deliver meals during its “Cena En El Barrio” food distribution event that is sponsored by North Texas LULAC, Tyson Foods and the North Texas Food Bank.  If you can donate sturdy boxes (up to 250 needed) that can carry frozen chicken, bags of rice and beans, along with canned vegetables and fresh produce, please contact Garcia at

For more information about LULAC 4871, visit

Anti-gay groups upset at being called ‘hateful’

By Jessica Geen  -

US anti-gay organisations have hit back after being included on a list of ‘hate groups’.
The Family Research Council (FRC) and National Organization for Marriage (NOM) were named by a civil rights body as two of 18 groups which “demonise” gay people and propagate “known falsehoods”.
The list was compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
FRC president Tony Perkins accused the centre of slander and claimed his group always worked with ” civility and compassion”.
Calling the list a “deliberately timed smear campaign”, he added: “Family Research Council will continue to champion marriage and family as the foundation of our society and will not acquiesce to those seeking to silence the Judeo-Christian views held by millions of Americans.
“We call on the Southern Poverty Law Center to apologise for this slanderous attack and attempted character assassination.”
According to the SPLC, FRC senior research fellows Tim Dailey and Peter Sprigg have both claimed that homosexuality is linked to paedophilia and Mr Sprigg said in 2008 that there should be “criminal sanctions on homosexual behaviour”.
Another group on the list, the National Organization for Marriage, said the SPLC was trying to equate gay marriage opponents to racists.
President Brian Brown told the Washington Post: “This is about protecting marriage. This isn’t about being anti-anyone.
“The whole idea that somehow those folks who stand up for traditional marriage, like the Family Research Council, are hateful is wrong. [The law center is] trying to marginalise and intimidate folks for standing up for marriage and also trying to equate them somehow to the KKK.”
Last year, NOM was mocked by critics after it produced a video claiming that gay marriage would damage people’s rights and lifestyles.
The group was accused of peddling “outrageous falsehoods” by gay rights campaigners and tried to have its original films removed from YouTube after spoofs were made.


Five LGBT Victories To Be Thankful For in 2010

By Michael A. Jones -

Today is Thanksgiving, and what better way to celebrate than looking back on the year that was, and recalling some of the best victories the LGBT movement saw in its march toward equality.
Sure, 2010 wasn't all peaches and cream. Legislation like the Respect for Marriage Act or the Employment Nondiscrimination Act saw little traction, and whether "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" gets repealed remains probably the biggest question mark for what's left of this year. But let's leave the creatures of Congress and the White House out of this list, and look for some real people power and activism out in our streets, communities (both online and off), and neighborhoods that led to some special moments for LGBT rights this year. Honoring these victories while downing some cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, or green bean casserole (always the most underrated Thanksgiving delicacy) seems like the perfect way to celebrate a day meant for giving thanks.
5. Marriage equality on The Today Show
OK, on the surface, a competition on The Today Show hardly sounds like the subject matter of an important LGBT victory. But indeed it was, when earlier this year bloggers and organizations united to open up a competition that same-sex couples were originally banned from participating in. It all started with Jeremy Hooper over at Good As You pointing out that The Today Show's "Modern Wedding" contest -- a contest where lucky couples would get the wedding of their dreams in front of morning television's largest audience -- wasn't open to same-sex couples. That resulted in a blog post heard 'round the world, or at least through the LGBT blogosphere. It also led to some unique and inspiring collaboration between LGBT bloggers and one of the biggest LGBT organizations, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). Thousands of people wrote The Today Show and put pressure on producers while GLAAD worked with the show behind the scenes. The end result? The competition was retooled, and same-sex couples were allowed to participate. Again, it may not be the type of victory one remembers in the history books for years to come, but it demonstrated a model of campaigning and organizing that is, unfortunately, all too rare, where bloggers and organizations meet eye-to-eye and put pressure on targets collaboratively.
4. Two words: Constance McMillen
Hands down, the most famous student of 2010 had to be Constance McMillen, the 18-year-old Mississippi woman who took her high school to task for denying her a chance to attend her senior prom with her same-sex date. McMillen's story became a rallying call for equal rights in schools, as she dealt with homophobic classmates and administrators who wanted more than anything to keep her away from prom. And indeed they did, by holding a "secret prom" that McMillen and several other students weren't invited to attend. But it's McMillen who gets the last laugh in this story, as her story is now being made into a television movie, and more importantly, her lawsuit against her school district resulted in sweeping change that established a non-discrimination policy inclusive of LGBT students. McMillen also was awarded $35,000 from her court settlement, and went on to make stellar videos for GetEqual, and march in the New York City Pride Parade. Not too bad for a woman who one year ago was roaming high school halls instead of championing the movement for safe schools.
3. Showing some love to Bowling Green, Ohio
Election Day 2010 saw some wonderful victories for LGBT rights (Jerry Brown, Pat Quinn, Deval Patrick,  Neil Abercrombie, Kamala Harris, David Cicilline), and some frightening developments (Pat Toomey, Marco Rubio, huge losses in New Hampshire that could threaten marriage equality, and the ouster of three Iowa Supreme Court Justices who ruled for marriage equality in the state). But one community's Election Day story is particularly important for the LGBT community. That would be Bowling Green, Ohio, where a vote on two citywide ordinances kept in place laws that protect LGBT residents from discrimination when it comes to fair treatment in employment, housing, and education. Pretty awesome, and a sign that community organizing (especially on college campuses!) can yield amazing results for the LGBT movement. As the manager for One Bowling Green, the organization that led the charge to keep these two ordinances, said, "Now Bowling Green residents will not have to live in fear of being fired from their jobs, denied housing, or discriminated against in public education and public accommodations simply for being who they are." Yeah, that's definitely something to be thankful for.
2. Gay marriage comes to Portugal, Iceland and Argentina
Across the world, the number of countries that recognize same-sex marriage tripled this year, with Portugal, Iceland and Argentina joining the marriage equality club. Iceland might not be that big of a surprise. After all, it is the only country in the world with an openly gay leader (Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir). But Portugal and Argentina sent a loud and proud message that even in the most Catholic of countries, marriage equality can find robust support. For her part, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner even recorded a video segment blasting the Catholic Church for being against same-sex marriage. Kirchner said that the Catholic Church can't say it's a church dedicated to peace and justice, if it's also a Church that fosters a climate of violence toward LGBT people. Booyeah.
1. The first gay marriages in Washington, D.C.
OK, so we said we'd leave the creatures of Congress and the White House out of this list. We'll still honor that statement, but let's head back to the nation's capital, because in March of this year, the city saw its first same-sex marriages take place after the City Council voted in favor of (and the Mayor signed) legislation enacting marriage equality. Angelisa Young and Sinjoyla Townsend were one of the first couples to get a marriage license, and one of the first couples to get married. As Young told the Washington Post in regards to being one of the first same-sex couples married inside the Beltway, "You know what they say about everyone getting 15 minutes of fame? I can't wait for Minute 16." That's one of the best quotes of the year. Why? Because it shows what the battle for marriage equality is all about. It's not about grandstanding or taking a big public stand. It's about the lives of LGBT people, and the right of same-sex couples to get married like everyone else and then enjoy their time together like couples and families are supposed to do. Young's quote gets at just that -- yes, it's important to be front and center during these times. But it's also about families and relationships and building lives with the person you love. This time of year, that's something we should all take a moment to honor.
Have any other victories you'd like to share? Feel free to leave them in the comments. And Happy Thanksgiving. Sure, this year had its low points, and there's still so much work to be done. But there's also a fair amount of work to be thankful for, and no better time to be thankful for it than today.
Now if you'll pardon me, there's a whole batch of green bean casserole getting the shaft over the more popular sweet potato casserole. And we just can't have that.


Michelle Obama Hires Gay Rights Superstar as Spokeswoman

By Brandon Miller -

I love people who fight for gay rights. What I love even more than that is when those people go on to assume powerful positions in the world. And what's more powerful than the White House? We need as many homo-friendly supporters and advocates as can be squeezed into that place.
And maybe Michelle Obama gets that, because she just hired a new spokeswoman with an extensive background in LGBT activism. The new hire, Kristina Schake, co-founded the American Foundation for Equal Rights last year. The organization was formed in order to file a federal court lawsuit against Proposition 8, California's ban on same-sex marriage.
Sure, it has been reported that she was hired for her work on obesity and children's health, but I'm hoping that the gay rights issue on her resume helped her cause. I mean, the woman wrote about women's and gay rights for the Huffington Post in January. They wouldn't have hired her if they didn't like her pro-gay stance, right?
“Kristina was instrumental in the conception of the American Foundation for Equal Rights and she’s played a key role  in every strategic success we’ve had as an organization,” says Chad H. Griffin, president of the board for the American Foundation for Equal Rights.  “She’s one of the most intelligent and valuable resources the equality movement has ever seen. We’re sad to see her go but, are extremely proud of where she’s headed.”
Schake starts November 30th and that's when the White House gets just a little gayer.


The LPGA Seems Set to Welcome Transgender Women

By Michael A. Jones -

If things move according to plan, the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) could be set to overturn a more than 30-year-old policy that prevents transgender women from playing golf in LPGA-sponsored events. That policy says that LPGA players must be "female at birth," else they are disqualified from competition.
The move comes following a complaint issued last month, where 57-year-old Lana Lawless filed a lawsuit after she was barred from participating in the 2010 Long Drivers Championship of America event. Organizers of the competition, which adopted the same rules as the LPGA, said that because Lawless was transgender, she was unfit to compete in the event.
If that sounds like discrimination to you, you wouldn't be alone. That's why scores of folks have written the LPGA and asked them to rewrite their rules to allow for full inclusion in their sport. And pending a vote on November 30, that's exactly what the LPGA seems intent on doing.
As Pat Griffin notes on her excellent sports blog, there will be a players' meeting on November 30, where the LPGA will encourage its players to vote for a constitutional amendment eliminating the “female at birth” requirement. In so doing, they would open up the sport to players like Lawless, who are no more or less qualified to participate in the sport than players who were born female.
"The LPGA has been out of step with several other golf organizations that have amended their policies to include transgender golfers who meet the requirements identified by the International Olympic Committee in 2004," Griffin writes on her blog. "The U.S. Golf Association, the Ladies European Tour and the British Ladies Golf Union all have allowed transgender golfers to play for four or five years."
The vote to eliminate the "female at birth" clause from the LPGA constitution requires a two-thirds vote. But the LPGA is telling its members that the principle probably won't stand legal scrutiny, and should be stricken from the Association's constitution.
Meaning that either way, it looks like this policy is going the way of Clear Pepsi -- headed toward extinction. But the sensitivity around the issue will still remain, which is why Griffin says that the onus is on the LPGA to inform all of its members about the reality of transgender athletes. The common myths and stereotypes that some will put forward, undoubtedly, is that the LPGA is kowtowing to activist pressure and allowing a "man" into a "woman's" sport. But those concerns don't reflect reality or science.
"It is really important that the LPGA provides its membership with some good information about transgender identity and the latest information about the effects of gender transitions on physiology, to help them make their own transition from an organization that discriminates based on preconceived prejudice to one that will accept transgender women competitors with grace and respect," Griffin concludes in her blog post.
And she's right. The LPGA's own mission is to "inspire, empower, educate and entertain by showcasing the best golf professionals in the world." Golfers like Lawless will only help make that mission come alive.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Dolly Parton On Her Gay fans

Dolly talks about people being who they are, racism & her decision to not have children.


EU-Wide Recognition of Member States’ Gay Marriage, Civil Partnership a Step Closer

Ulrike Lunacek MEP: “It’s a vote for equality: 
everyone should retain their existing rights 
when travelling in the EU.
STRASBOURG, November 23, 2010  –  Gay couples with civil marriages or civil partnerships must retain their rights in all European Union countries, the European Parliament reaffirmed this morning.
Currently, same-sex couples are not guaranteed to retain the rights given by their existing marriage or civil partnership when travelling in the European Union./p>
In its just-adopted report on civil, commercial, family and private international law, the European Parliament “strongly supports plans to enable the mutual recognition of the effects of civil status documents”, and “stresses the need to ensure mutual recognition” of such documents by EU countries.
This entails recognising the effects of all existing marriages and partnerships when citizens move in the EU.
Following this vote, the European Commission will now have to propose ways to enable mutual recognition of all partnerships and marriages throughout the EU.
 “This is a great development for the many couples and families who see their fundamental rights diminished every day when crossing a border inside the EU,” said Ulrike Lunacek MEP, co-president of the European Parliament’s all-party Intergroup on LGBT Rights
“It’s a vote for equality: everyone should retain their existing rights when travelling in the EU,” she pointed out.
At present a marriage certificate is recognised by other countries when a couple move abroad, but the same isn't true of other legal documents.
Conservative groups in the Parliament had advised against the measure, arguing that it risked undermining national sovereignty.
UK Tory MEPs were defeated in an attempt to block the call for equal treatment for people in same-sex partnerships.
The newly elected leader of the Conservative MEPs, Martin Callanan, had tabled amendments to specifically delete references to “civil status documents” which proposed extending this type of “mutual recognition” to civil partnerships.
But this measure, as passed by the European Parliament. strengthens the universality of fundamental rights for EU residents across borders in the European Union, supporters argued, adding that it does not change national laws on civil unions, which remain a national prerogative.
“It follows the Commission’s assertion in September that freedom of movement must be guaranteed for all citizens, regardless of sexual orientation. Claims that mutual recognition will ‘undermine national sovereignty’ are plain wrong: it won’t affect national marriage or partnership laws, but simply recognise civil unions that already exist,” said Michael Cashman, the other co-president of the Intergroup.
Arlene McCarthy MEP, UK Labour’s spokesperson on the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee, also welcomed the decision.
“Currently same sex couples who have a civil partnership in the UK can find themselves losing their rights when travelling to other countries in the European Union,” she said.
“In Britain we recognise the status of other countries’ civil partnerships but that isn’t always true for British people who move abroad.
“I am shocked that a Tory MEP felt the need to table amendments to this report deleting the reference to civil partnerships,” she said.  “They seem to be saying that people in a civil partnership in the UK don’t deserve to have their partnership recognised when travelling abroad.”
While today's vote will not result in immediate changes to the law on this issue, it is seen in Brussels as an important step in the preparation of legislation that is expected to be proposed by the European Commission next year.

■ The report to the European Parliament can be read HERE.


John Travolta enraged by gay sex claims

John Travolta demanded the claims be removed
John Travolta is said to be furious after a US gossip website published claims that he had sex with men in saunas. published claims made by Robert Randolph, who plans to release a tell-all book about the star – and other celebrities – having alleged gay affairs.
According to Gossipcop, Travolta’s lawyer Marty Singer has demanded that the story be removed immediately and a prominent retraction issued.
In a letter sent to Gawker, Singer accused the site of publishing “blatant defamatory lies” from a “patently unreliable source” and said Randolph had admitted suffering “permanent brain damage” in 2003.
Singer said that Randolph’s claims “go back fifteen years, yet inexplicably, he has waited until now to peddle these phony tall tales”.
He added that the idea of Travolta committing adultery in public repeatedly was “absolutely ridiculous”.
Gawker, which is known for refusing to budge on contentious stories, listed Randolph’s claims in detail and said: “Most media outlets. . . were too shy to delve into the steamy details. We’re not quite as timid.”
Singer wrote that this claim was “significantly compounding the damages” incurred by Travolta. At the time of publication, the website had not removed the story.
The letter was sent shortly before Travolta’s wife of 20 years, Kelly Preston, gave birth to their third child.


South Korean Takes Title of World’s Most Beautiful Transwoman

By Kilian Melloy -

Miss International Queen 2010 winner Mini, together with runners-up Aini Takeuchi of Japan and Stasha Sanchez of the United States

Miss International Queen 2010 winner Mini, 
together with runners-up Aini Takeuchi 
of Japan and Stasha Sanchez of the US.
The sixth annual Miss International Queen contest saw a first when a South Korean beauty took the top title on Nov. 19. The contest serves as a "Miss Universe" for transwomen and transvestites. This year’s edition of the pageant took place in the Thai city of Pattaya, reported the Asia News Network on Nov. 21.

The South Korean contestant--who also took the title of Best in Costume--appeared under the name Mini. She did not disclose her legal name, saying that her family did not know she was participating in the pageant, the Asia News Network story said. But Mini also said that she was dedicating her win trans people who had experienced social rejection.

The pageant welcomes pre-and post-operative transsexuals and transgendered contestants, as well as transvestites, a Nov. 22 CNN International article said, but is restricted to individuals who were born as biological males.

The contest ran for five days, from Nov. 14-19, and included competition in various categories, including Congeniality, Evening Gown, Swimsuit, and Perfect Skin.

[Video is of the 2009 Miss International Queen Swimsuit Contest.]

Text at the Miss International Queen website said that the event "[strives] to advance and support today’s transgender/transsexual," and "offers great opportunities for transgender/transsexual from all over the world to present their individual beauty and intelligence in a friendly atmosphere."

The pageant was sponsored by Tiffany’s Show, a Pattaya cabaret show with its roots in a 1974 single-performer act. The spectacle has grown since then into a production that showcases "[t]he incredible, talents of the transvestite, transgender community, all drawn from the provinces of Thailand" who present "exotic spectacular scenes playing 3 shows nightly every night of the year," according to the Tiffany’s Show website.

The American contestant, Stasha Sanchez, was the event’s second runner-up; Japan’s Aini Takeuchi took first runner-up.

New Tory head in Europe accused of ‘trying to block gay equality’

By Jessica Geen -

Martin Callanan is the new head
of the Conservatives in Europe
The new head of the Conservatives in the European Parliament has been accused of trying to block a motion to call for recognition of civil partnerships across Europe.

Conservative MEP Martin Callanan, who began his new post this week, tabled amendments to a motion calling for member states to recognise legal documents, including civil partnership certificates.

Mr Callanan argued that the issue was a matter of states’ sovereignty but Labour MEPs accused him of trying to block equality.

Three amendments were tabled to the motion by Mr Callanan and Polish Law and Justice Party MEP Konrad Szymanski, who said last year his party would always vote against gay marriage and adoption.

The Polish party and the Conservatives are part of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group.

One amendment called for the deletion of a pledge to “strongly support plans to enable the mutual recognition of the effects of civil status documents” and add a reference to recognise “member states’ sovereignty in family law matters”.

The other two referred to respecting the principle of subsidiarity, or that government should not interfere more than is necessary with decisions regarding citizens.

The motion was passed without the amendments. It does not change the law but is seen as a step towards future legislation on recognition of relationships.

Arlene McCarthy MEP, Labour’s spokeswoman on the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee, said: “I am shocked that a Tory MEP felt the need to table amendments to this report deleting the reference to civil partnerships.

“They seem to be saying that people in a civil partnership in the UK don’t deserve to have their partnership recognised when travelling abroad.”

Labour MEP Michael Cashman, who is gay, added: “Claims that mutual recognition will ‘undermine national sovereignty’ are plain wrong: it won’t affect national marriage or partnership laws, but simply recognise civil unions that already exist.”

Mr Callanan could not be reached for comment but a Conservative spokesman said that while the party supports civil partnerships, it does not believe the EU should force countries to recognise them.

He told “Our amendments sought to ensure that matters related to family law are decided under unanimity with all 27 countries agreeing, rather than under a Qualified Majority system where one country could find its family law altered against its will.

“We fully support civil partnerships in the United Kingdom and we hope that other countries will cooperate to ensure that such partnerships are recognised abroad. However, we do not believe that it should be the place of the European Union to dictate family law or social policy in another country.”

The Conservative Party has promised to push for international recognition of UK civil partnerships.

An equalities manifesto earlier this year said: “We will use our relationships with other countries to push for unequivocal support for gay rights and for UK civil partnerships to be recognised internationally.”

Last year, the party left its EPP grouping in the European Parliament to join the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, which includes the Polish Law and Justice Party.

A number of the Polish party’s senior politicians have made homophobic statements, with the late president Lech Kaczynski banning Pride marches.

David Cameron has consistently said that the Polish party are not homophobic, although the Tories’ most senior gay MP, Nick Herbert, said in March that other parties had unsavoury European allies.

“Labour is allied with parties who have banned gay pride and called homosexuality a disease; the Liberal Democrats with a party that called it a mental disability,” he wrote in the Guardian.

He is thought to have been referring to Labour’s Bulgarian and Lithuanian allies, and to the Lib Dems’ Latvian and Lithuanian allies.


Official California position on unconstitutionality of Prop 8 will continue

By Nan Hunter -

PhotoWith the now finally settled election of San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris as California's next Attorney General, the risk is over that a state official would seek to reverse the refusal of the state to defend the constitutionality of Prop 8. The Republican candidate had promised that he would seek to intervene in the pending appeal in Perry v. Schwarzenegger to present the court with a formal defense of the law and, more importantly, to inject a defendant that unquestionably had standing to appeal. Because there will be no change in the state's position of declining to defend Prop 8, the standing question - whether the proponents of Prop 8 can properly appeal Judge Walker's ruling - will remain central to the outcome of the case.

Harris, a progressive Democrat, won one of the closest races in state history.  FYI, here are excerpts from an interview with her published in 2009:
My family has a long history of civil service. My parents met when they were taking part in the civil rights movement in Berkeley, California. Growing up, I was therefore surrounded by people who were always passionately fighting for this thing called "justice." I was ultimately inspired to make my own contribution to this noble cause through public service. I went to public schools in Berkeley and then on to Howard University in Washington, DC where I decided to pursue a career in the law. After law school, instead of joining most of my friends and classmates at the big downtown firms, I decided to go to the Alameda County District Attorney's office - the same office once headed by the great Earl Warren. It was the best decision I ever made. 
Who were your heroes growing up?
Apart from my mother, Dr. Shyamala Gopalan Harris, who will always remain my greatest hero in life, my heroes growing up were the architects of the civil rights movement: the lawyers. People like Thurgood Marshall, Charles Hamilton Houston, and Constance Baker Motley demonstrated to me that progressive social change could be successfully achieved in the courtroom.
What is your position on gay marriage? Do you feel that previous marriages that have already taken place should stay legal?
I support marriage equality. It is a civil rights issue. I opposed Proposition 8 and the recent Supreme Court decision to uphold it was a sad day in California history. The court has allowed a ballot measure to strip rights away from Californians and fundamentally alter our constitution. But the fight for equality is not over. The history of the civil rights movement is a history of perseverance in the face of adversity. I wholeheartedly believe that equal marriage rights for all will soon be the law of the land.

for more visit Hunter for Justice.

STEVE HAYES: Tired Old Queen at the Movies

In his Oscar winning Best Picture "The Apartment" (1960), director Billy Wilder guides Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine through this brilliantly funny satire of the seedier and sexier side of corporate life in the "Big City". Filled with all the style, sex, cynicism and wit that is classic Wilder and that made "Some Like It Hot" the hottest ticket in town, "The Apartment" is also one of the great romantic films of the '60's. Along with Lemmon and MacLaine in career defining roles, it also features Fred MacMurray, breaking from his good guy image to play a corporate snake, Edie Adams as his world weary secretary, Jack Kruschen in an Oscar nominated performance as Lemmon's beleaguered neighbor and Ray Walston as one of his many colleagues who uses Lemmon's apartment for his romantic trysts. "The Apartment" is a smart, sexy and often hilarious example of the right people, in the right roles, with the right director, doing it right.

"MOISTY THE SNOWMAN SAVES CHRISTMAS" brings Ho-Ho-Holiday Hilarity to Dixon Place for four nights only.

Tix on sale NOW!

Friday, December 3rd @9:30pm
Saturday, December 4th @9:30pm
Friday, December 10th @ 9:30pm
Saturday, December 11th @9:30pm

More Info:


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

New Thrusts at DOMA

Attorney General Eric Holder is defending DOMA
against a host of new, targeted constitutional challenges.
In the seven years since the US Supreme Court threw out the nation’s remaining sodomy laws in its historic Lawrence v. Texas ruling, a significant legal trend, one that has emerged slowly and, for most of that period, quietly, is now bearing tangible fruit, at least at the federal district court level — the current assault by LGBT public interest law firms on the US Defense of Marriage Act.

The actual legal precedent established by Lawrence was based on the holding that a state may not attach criminal penalties to consensual, private homosexual conduct between adults because such intimate conduct falls within the sphere of liberty protected under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. The language of the ruling, however, also included passages not strictly related to the court’s finding — dicta, in legal jargon — suggesting that it is also improper for the government to place significant obstacles in the way of adult intimate familial relationships.

The implications of Lawrence now form a significant thrust in the push against DOMA.

Early challenges to DOMA’s constitutionality — waged between its enactment in 1996 and the Lawrence ruling in mid-2003 — were all unsuccessful. The statute provides that no state is required to recognize same-sex marriages contracted in another state (Section 2), and that no federal law may be interpreted to recognize same-sex marriages (Section 3).

DOMA’s language does not itself state any policy justification for either the federal government or any state to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages lawfully contracted in jurisdictions that authorize them. However, in the statute’s legislative history, based on congressional committee reports, four reasons are laid out: advancing the government’s interest in defending and nurturing the institution of traditional heterosexual marriage; advancing and defending traditional notions of morality; protecting state sovereignty and democratic self-governance; and preserving scarce governmental resources in terms of public spousal and family benefits.

In the early tests, all mounted in private litigation rather than by the leading advocacy groups, federal judges reacted dismissively, finding that the law need merely survive the most undemanding rationality test. In each case, one or more of the four justifications articulated in the legislative history were deemed sufficient.

Challenges filed by couples who were not actually married were tossed out on the grounds of standing — an unmarried couple could state no tangible harm from either the federal government or that of any state.

After Lawrence, LGBT rights litigation groups — the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), Lambda Legal, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) among them — crafted a new strategy for attacking DOMA. Individuals who had actually married and been denied some federal right or benefit as a result of DOMA would file suit — represented by one of the public interest law firms — contesting the constitutionality of DOMA as applied to their claim.

Litigants would not launch a broadside challenge to DOMA arguing that it was unconstitutional on its face, but rather narrowly target their claims based on specific applications of the law. Significantly, that new litigation would focus on Section 3 of DOMA, which denies legal marriages federal recognition.

The first fruits of this strategy were harvested in Boston this past summer in Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, a lawsuit brought by GLAD, and in a companion case filed by the Massachusetts Office of Attorney General, challenging several specific instances in which Massachusetts’ ability to accord equal treatment to same-sex marriages — in programs administered jointly by the state and federal governments — had been curtailed by federal policies required by DOMA.

In his rulings in the two cases, Judge Joseph Tauro, a veteran federal trial judge appointed to the bench by President Richard Nixon, found that the unequal treatment required by DOMA was not justified and that the law improperly invaded the sovereignty of Massachusetts.

The Justice Department has appealed that ruling to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals. The parties agreed to stay the judge’s orders pending appeal.

Going Legal in Russia- St. Petersburg holds first sanctioned gay pride demonstration

In an historic first for Russia, on Saturday, November 20, activists in St. Petersburg held the first-ever legal gay rights demonstration approved by authorities anywhere in that nation.

The rally took place just one month after the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) issued a landmark ruling in the Alexeyev v. Russia case, declaring that Moscow’s repeated bans on gay pride marches and events were illegal.

A jubilant Maria Efremenkova, a principal organizer of Saturday’s successful demonstration, told Gay City News by telephone from St. Petersburg, Russia’s second largest city, that “there were 15 gay activists who were participants,” while a number of supporters looked on.

But the gay contingent was hugely outnumbered by a highly organized homophobic counterdemonstration that included more than 100 religious extremists and skinheads. Some local radio stations played Christian Orthodox religious music during the demonstration, the Russian news agency Interfax reported.

“These fanatics screamed homophobic insults at us and chanted religious songs and slogans, threw eggs at us, and finally tore down our posters, banners, and rainbow flags, at which point we ended the demonstration after about 40 minutes,” Efremenkova said.

She noted her disappointment that police did a wholly inadequate job of protecting the gay activists from the violent counter-demonstrators. The 40-some police present were outnumbered by more than two to one by the homophobic demonstrators.

“The police explained to us they weren’t expecting so many of them,” Efremenkova said. “But that is no excuse for not following Russian law and protecting our right to free speech.”

In another first, the gay activists’ rally received coverage on local St. Petersburg TV stations, which are government controlled.

“Although most media coverage focused on the egg-throwing by the homophobes,” Efremenkova told Gay City News, “the impact of breaking the silence on homosexuality cannot be overestimated. Seeing strong, proud gay people speaking out and standing up for themselves and declaring they want the same human rights as everyone else inspires many people — especially those gays in the closet and young people struggling with creating their own identity in a homophobic society — to know they are not alone.”

The demonstration was also extensively covered on Echo Moscovy, a popular independent radio station heard throughout the country.

“Most Russian gays are in the closet, so visibility and coming out are our path to a brighter future of freedom and our day in the sun,” Efremenkova emphasized.

The gay rights rally was organized by Equality St. Petersburg, a fledgling direct action group of lesbians and gays founded in February with the help of Nikolai Alexeyev, the courageous young Moscow lawyer who has been the lead organizer of the banned Moscow Gay Prides and the founder of, the gay human rights news website that has been the principal catalyst for modern Russian gay organizing. Alexeyev was in St. Petersburg at that time in connection with a gay rights demonstration at which 12 activists were arrested. (For a profile of Nikolai Alexeyev and his work, see this reporter’s June 24, 2010 article, “Moscow’s Man of Action.")

“Nikolai was terribly important in helping organizing our group,” Efremenkova told this reporter. “His example and his experiences in gay organizing were inspiring and invaluable lessons for us.”

Chafee reiterates marriage stance in Rhode Island

By Katherine Gregg -
PROVIDENCE — Same-sex marriage opponents have mounted a post-election effort to try to change Governor-elect Lincoln D. Chafee’s mind.
In his role as director of the Rhode Island chapter of the National Organization for Marriage, Christopher Plante tried to convince a top Chafee aide of the political merits of allowing voters — rather than state lawmakers — to decide the issue during a 2012 public referendum.
Plante said he dropped by Chafee’s transition office unannounced about two weeks ago, and came away from his conversation with aide Michael Trainor believing that the governor-elect was open to sitting down and talking with people on all sides of the gay-marriage debate.
Hence his “surprise” when he received a letter from Trainor, reaffirming the position that Chafee stated repeatedly through his campaign for governor over the last year. It said: “The governor elect feels that the issue should be addressed as soon as possible by the General Assembly, and does not believe that the question should be decided by a ballot referendum.”
In his Nov. 16 letter to Plante, Trainor also reiterated Chafee’s belief that: “Marriage equality is a basic right that should be extended to all Rhode Islanders — a question not only of fairness and justice, but of economic development as well.”
“I was surprised,” said Plante on Tuesday, “because Mr. Trainor indicated that he thought that Governor-elect Chafee would sit down at the table with all parties ... I left there thinking that maybe we’ll get a roundtable. We’ll get ‘Marriage Equality’ ... We’ll get NOMRI to sit at the table and talk about how we are going to go forward on this ... But what he has done is rejected our position out of hand.”
The push to allow same-sex marriage in Rhode Island dates back more than a decade, but none of the bills have made any progress in the face of opposition by past leaders of the General Assembly and an almost certain veto by lame-duck Governor Carcieri. But the political calculus has changed with a governor-elect and a House speaker who support same-sex marriage, and Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed, a longtime opponent, indicating she would not block a Senate vote if a Senate committee approved a same-sex marriage bill.
According to its national website, NOM was founded in 2007 in response to “the growing need for an organized opposition to same-sex marriage in state legislatures.”
Asked on Tuesday what led him to believe Chafee would veer from his previously stated position, Plante laughed, then answered this way: “What insanity got into my mind? That I have real and credible polling data that shows that 80 percent of Rhode Islanders want it on the ballot ... And he was elected with — what? — 36 percent of the vote, fewer popular votes than (unsuccessful independent lieutenant governor candidate) Bob Healey got.”
Plante alluded to a series of recent polls of roughly 400 “randomly selected voters” that retired Rhode Island College Prof. Victor Profughi’s Quest Research did for the local National Organization for Marriage chapter, at a cost of roughly $8,000 each.
One of the polling questions was framed this way: “Voters in thirty states in America have had the opportunity to decide whether gay marriage would be legalized in their state. Do you think Rhode Island voters should also have an opportunity to vote on this issue?” In June 2009, 84 percent said yes. In December 2009 and August 2010, 82 percent said yes.
Another question asked those participating in the poll was whether they agreed or disagreed with this statement: “The people of Rhode Island themselves should decide the question of marriage, not judges or backroom politicians.” Only 22.87 percent disagreed or had no opinion.
By mid-afternoon, a public-relations firm had issued this statement for Plante: “It is clear that Governor-elect Chafee intends to put fringe issues and radical politics over saving Rhode Islanders’ jobs and securing a prosperous future for our State,” but “we are confident that the majority of Assembly-women and men know there are more important things to deal with and we will support their efforts to push for a referendum.”
The Chafee camp was not pleased with what Trainor described as the “colorful verbiage” that Plante used to try to minimize the newly elected Chafee’s level of support within the electorate. Trainor called it “regrettable” and said it “certainly does not suggest that Mr. Plante is open to listening on his end.”
He also denied ever telling Plante “that the governor-elect would sit down with him.” In fact, Trainor said, his letter reflected his belief that a meeting would probably “not be productive” in light of Chafee’s “long-established position” on the issue.
But Trainor said Chafee is, in fact, open to talking with Plante one-on-one about the issue. Explaining why his own letter to Plante did not raise this possibility, Trainor said it was sent without the governor-elect’s knowledge, amid “literally hundreds of requests for meetings.”
“But now that Mr. Plante has decided to make a public issue of this, Lincoln Chafee is more than willing to have him in and to have a conversation.”