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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Rick Santorum's Google Problem

Santorum opponents led by sex columnist, gay rights activist Dan Savage created Google bomb over his anti-gay comments.



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Lady Gaga Talks Target Deal for 'Born This Way'

By Bill Werde -

When Lady Gaga's camp announced that it would be releasing an exclusive edition -- complete with remixes and three additional studio cuts -- of the upcoming "Born This Way" album at Target, it excited some of her Little Monsters for the wrong reasons. Gaga, of course, enjoys enormous support from the gay community and is very vocal in reciprocating that love. After all, "Born This Way" is the 1,000th No. 1 single, but the first in 50-plus years of chart-toppers to use the word "transgendered."


So how, some of her fans wondered, could she choose to support a retail chain that made headlines last election season for using $150,000 of corporate funds to support a political action committee -- MN Forward, an ostensibly pro-business political action committee -- that supported Tom Emmer in his failed 2010 run for governor of Minnesota? Emmer's campaign had earlier made a donation to a Christian rock organization that advocates death and violence to gays. Emmer also supported a proposed state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel quickly apologized to the public and Target employees for the support of Emmer. But following the apology, further donations to the political right -- and specifically to candidates with anti-gay voting records -- were made.

Gaga spoke to the issue for the first time in this interview, telling Billboard that she wasn't comfortable with the Target partnership when it first came up as a possibility, and that she met with "the entire executive staff" at Target, along with her manager Troy Carter.

"That discussion was one of the most intense conversations I've ever had in a business meeting," Gaga says. "Part of my deal with Target is that they have to start affiliating themselves with LGBT charity groups and begin to reform and make amends for the mistakes they've made in the past...our relationship is hinged upon their reform in the company to support the gay community and to redeem the mistakes they've made supporting those groups."

The reality may be a bit more complicated than that, however. Target VP of communications Dustee Jenkins spoke with Billboard at length  -- the full interview transcript is available at Billboard.biz -- expressing Target's excitement to be working with Lady Gaga and portraying the controversial donations as more of a lack of procedural oversight than anything else.


Jenkins says to that end, Target has created a new "policy committee" to review such matters. The committee doesn't include Steinhafel and has yet to have its first quarterly meeting, but Jenkins directed Billboard to a page on Target's corporate site that had "in the last week or two" posted new guidelines for Target's political contributions.

To be clear, Target is not all bad news for the LGBT community. Jenkins noted a recent interview with Target director of enterprise strategy Daniel Duty, an openly gay employee who spoke to Dot429.com about what a great employer Target was for gay professionals. And Jenkins also mentioned that Target had already earmarked "almost a half-million dollars" to spend on various organizations within the LGBT community, name-checking Out and Equal Workplace, as well as local Minnesota groups such as Twin Cities Pride and Project 515.

Without a doubt, those dollars will be cherished and put to good use by those organizations. But in the world of corporate cause spending, it's worth contextualizing that figure. Jenkins says Target spends $3 million per week on community causes, which means its spend on LGBT issues represents roughly less than 2% of that budget.

And as with most large companies, political donations are a complicated calculus of company identity and strategic business interests. Case in point: Best Buy, another partner to the music industry, also donated $100,000 to MN Forward; Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn said on his blog to employees, "In our quest to focus on jobs and the economy, we've disappointed and confused some employees and customers. I'm taking it to heart."

Jenkins says she "didn't think" Gaga's feedback had resulted in direct policy change, but that she was one of many voices Target had considered in order to better understand issues concerning the LGBT community. For example, Jenkins cited a recent meeting in San Francisco between LGBT groups and Target executives, but declined to provide greater detail. "We very much appreciated the conversation and the dialogue with [Lady Gaga] and her team all along the way," Jenkins says. "They've been a wonderful partner in this and they certainly shared their feedback."

Jenkins says Target is now committed to being more "thoughtful" -- she used the word 11 times in a half-hour interview -- about the issue of political donations. But when asked directly, she couldn't guarantee that Target wouldn't end up making future donations to candidates with anti-gay voting records. "No," Jenkins says, "but what I can say is that we're going to use our policy committee to ensure that we're being more thoughtful."

They may well want to be, as Gaga will undoubtedly hear from her beloved fans if that thoughtfulness doesn't present itself. She repeatedly mentions her love for her fans and her desire to "assault" the senses of mainstream America with a pro-LGBT sensibility. "It's so important to me, please, to clear up any misconceptions or concerns," she says of the Target relationship. "Whatever you can do to assure my fans and the gay community that I have their back, please do."



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Injustice at Every Turn -- Part VI: Public Accommodation

--by Robyn


Scarlet LetterInjustice at Every Turn (pdf) is a 122-page report of data gathered in 2008 by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality concerning quality of life issues for transgender people living in this country.

Transgender and gender non-conforming people experience grave abuses when accessing everyday goods and essential services, from retail stores and buses to police and court systems. From disrespect and refusal of service to harassment and violence, this mistreatment in so many settings contributes to severe social marginalization and safety risk.


Previous "turns" have covered the basic data about who transpeople living in America are in Who we are -- by the numbers, Part I: Education, Part II: Employment, Part III: Health Care, Part IV: Family and Part V: Housing

Still to come are the analysis of the data on identification documents and police and incarceration.

Tell Singapore Film Board: Don't Censor The Kids Are All Right

Targeting: Anthony Chaim (Film Distribution and Exhibition Licence ), Cassandra Tay (Director, Communications), and Kenneth Tan (Singapore Film Commission)
 
Started by: Michael Jones
The Kids Are All Right may be one of the most successful films of 2010, garnering a number of Academy Award nominations, critical acclaim, and robust profits. But in Singapore, here's what members of the Board of Film Censors think about the flick: it promotes and normalizes a "homosexual lifestyle," and should therefore be restricted.
And that's exactly what the country has done, giving the film a rating of R21, which puts it in the category of, say, pornography. The country has also stopped the release of the film save for one single print.
The censorship has managed to galvanize Singapore's film community, with a number of filmmakers and media professionals lambasting the government's decision -- which came down from a Board of Film Censors under the country's Media Development Authority -- to clamp down on The Kids Are All Right.
"I thought we had grown up. I am flabbergasted," said Lesley Ho, who was previously director of Singapore's International Film Festival.
Send a message to Singapore's Film Advisory Board, letting them know that their decision to censor films based on "homosexual content" not only sends the message that the country is intolerant and behind the times, but it's also offensive to the spirit of art and creativity that movie professionals ought to be celebrating, not restricting.


Petitions by Change.org|Start a Petition »





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Mrs. Betty Bowers: Less is Mormon!

America's Best Christian, Mrs. Betty Bowers, calls out Mormons and schools all Americans on the unconstitutional craze of doling out civil rights by popular vote:



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Will Kansas Be Known as a Haven for Anti-LGBT Discrimination?

By Mindy Townsend -

You know, there was a time when I would have been proud to be a Kansan. We were fighting for the rights of slaves years before Fort Sumter. The socialist periodical “Appeal to Reason” was published in Girard, not 30 miles from where I grew up. We used to care about people.
But do we anymore?
After Manhattan’s recent LGBT rights victory, I was feeling pretty positive. I was inspired by the people behind it; people who were not afraid to stand up and do the right thing. I thought that if this could happen here, even on this small scale, things might be OK.
Sure, I expected some backlash by the family values czars. A group called Awake Manhattan has started a petition that seeks to halt the enforcement of the new ordinance. Ok, that’s not great, but expected. What I honestly didn’t expect was for the state legislature to get involved.
But get involved it did (because limited government stops where the freaky gays are concerned, apparently). Recently, a bill was introduced to the Kansas House Judiciary Committee that would basically nullify any progress. All in the name of letting religious bigots do whatever they want.
In essence, what the bill does is allow discrimination against groups not included in state statute, as long as that discrimination is a manifestation of a religious belief. The bill does some amazing logical gymnastics when it says that a “compelling governmental interest” does not include the “prohibition of a practice or policy of discrimination against individuals in employment relations, in access to free and public accommodations or housing” (sound familiar?) except for already defined in the Kansas non-discrimination statute, which, natch, does not include LGBT people. (Yeah, the government doesn’t have a compelling interest in protecting it’s citizens from discrimination. And I have a bridge to sell you, too.) And as long as your basis for discriminating is that you were exercising your religious belief, it’s totally cool.
Look, I’m not religious. And I don’t especially care if other people are. But let’s be clear: anti-discrimination measures are not my attempt to force an atheist-liberal-homosexual agenda on an unsuspecting populace. It’s an attempt to create and maintain a pluralistic society, where everyone has equal dignity and rights under the law.
And, and believe it or not, those who fight for equality are fighting for you, dear religious people of the world. By ensuring the rights of the most persecuted, we ensure that you cannot be fired for being a particular race or religion or sex or whatever else. Because that’s how we do things here. We brook no foolishness. Are you a nice person? Are you doing your job? Are you peacefully living your life? Great. Because that’s all that’s supposed to matter.
At least, that’s what I thought.
But really, I personally won’t be affected by this too much. I’m straight, so I guess I should just shut my brain off and be happy. But, really, this is still a personal affront to me, an under-employed Kansas citizen and resident. We elected you to create jobs. But you, our state representatives, are more afraid that some poor, oppressed (ha!) Christian business owner will have to tolerate his gay employee, or will have to tolerate a trans-woman’s use of the bathroom. So, for the entire state, I want to say, thank you. Thank you for wasting taxpayer time and money by trying to keep one group down, instead of trying to lift everyone up. Please remind me of this next election cycle.
There is, however, a bit of good news. In late January, a bill was introduced in the Kansas Senate that includes sexual orientation and gender identity in the Kansas non-discrimination statute, effectively nullifying the House bill. (There’s still the issue of giving religious people a free pass to discriminate, but that’s an issue for another time.) It will be an interesting showdown, and one that will indicate whether we care about all people or certain people. It will tell me whether I can be proud of us again.
And if you'd like, send a message to Kansas legislators letting them know that it's time to say "no" to discrimination in the state.

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Pushing Policy: LGBT Equality in Missouri

BY COLIN LOVETT -

PROMO_Lobby_Day_2011_-_42
Promo St. Louis Field Organizer, Andrew Shaughnessy Instructs Lobby Day Participants
Over 150 members of PROMO, Missouri's statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) advocacy group traveled to Jefferson City, Feb. 15 to lobby their legislators.

The primary focus of the annual Equality Day is to let elected officials know that their constituents support LGBT rights and want to see legislators make decisions that support the rights of all Missourians.

The two bills focused on this year were the Missouri Safe Schools Legislation [HB 460 & SB 240] and the perennial Missouri Non-Discrimination Act (MONA) [HB 477 & SB 239].

The Missouri Nondiscrimination Act would extend the existing Missouri Human Rights Statute to include lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and straight people.  The current law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, and age as it relates to employment, housing and public accommodation.  The proposed legislation would add to the list a prohibition against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  Missouri would be the 19th state to pass a bill protecting LGBT people; similar laws currently exist in Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Hawaii, California, New Jersey, Vermont, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Nevada, Rhode Island, Maryland, New York, New Mexico, the District of Columbia (by court decision), Maine, Iowa, Illinois and Washington.  Seven of these states (Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Maryland, Connecticut, New York, New Hampshire and Nevada) only protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation and do NOT include gender identity.

The Missouri Safe Schools Legislation would protect Missouri students from bullying and discrimination based on actual or perceived characteristics such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, personal appearance, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or a mental, physical or sensory disability, or on the basis of association with others identified by these categories.  It also requires training for educators in order to equip them with the skills to handle bullying effectively in the classroom.  Missouri would be the 15th state to pass similar legislation.  States with laws already in effect are California, Maine, Vermont, Colorado, Minnesota, Washington, Illinois, New Jersey, the District of Columbia, Iowa, Oregon, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Wisconsin.  Connecticut, Massachusetts and Wisconsin only have protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation and do NOT include gender identity or the perceived status language.

After brief introductions and empowering speeches given by PROMO staff and pro-LGBT legislators including out gay and lesbian politicos Rep. Mike Colona, Rep. Jeanette Mott-Oxford and Sen. Jolie Justice as well as Rep. Stephen Webber, Rep. Stacey Newman and Rep. Sara Lampe, Equality Day attendees were divided into small groups to target individual senators and representatives.

“… [W]e heard incredible stories of empowerment,” says A.J. Bockelman, Executive Director of PROMO.  “PROMO supporters told us of the wonderful hospitality they enjoyed from their legislators, and how, even when elected officials disagreed with them, our people felt that they had made inroads with both veteran and freshman legislators, that they had put a face on who we are as a community."

"In fact, in these meetings a number of elected officials disclosed that they have someone close to them who recently came out, and we signed up new bill sponsors," Bockelman continued.  "It’s this ‘Hearts and Minds’ strategy that is at the core of PROMO Lobby Day – this courageous expression by everyday Missourians of why equality is important for EVERY citizen of the state – that makes me certain that equality will become law in the state of Missouri and will happen sooner rather than later."

For more information about PROMO and LGBT legislation, visit www.PromoOnline.org


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‘Lavender lobby’ on the defense in North Carolina


By Matt Comer -

RALEIGH — It was anti-gay, Gaston County Sen. Jim Forrester (R) who first called Equality North Carolina and its team “lavender lobbyists.” Forrester meant it as a jab; little did he know that LGBT journalists, bloggers and activists would later claim the phrase as their own.
For nearly a decade, conservative legislators like Forrester have led a relentless push to further institutionalize discrimination against LGBT North Carolinians by passing a constitutional amendment banning recognition of all same-sex relationships. It’s often called a “marriage amendment,” but the legislation very possibly could extend much further.
Ian Palmquist, Equality North Carolina’s executive director, says he’s proud of his organization’s ability to block the amendment, though such a victories with their own perils.
“I don’t want anyone to underestimate the threat,” Palmquist tells qnotes. “I think the fact that we’ve been able to stop this constitutional amendment for the last seven years may have some people feeling complacent, but the fact is that there is a very, very real threat of this going on the ballot in 2012.”
He adds, “We have to do everything we can this year as a community to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
At press time, the North Carolina General Assembly had been in session for a three weeks. At the end of their third week, legislators had yet to file any anti-LGBT measure. (As of Feb. 17, Forrester was planning on filing an amendment.) Palmquist cautions that such legislation could come at any moment.
“We absolutely expect that there will be an attempt to move the constitutional amendment to the ballot sometime in this legislative session,” he says, “and we’re doing everything we can to be ready for it whether it is tomorrow or in June or even in 2012.”
As previously reported by qnotes, Equality North Carolina has ramped up its efforts to reach out to legislators across party lines. Palmquist says his group has made inroads with some Republican legislators as they continue years-long conversations with Democrats.
“We’re doing everything we can to reach Republican legislators and opinion leaders to get them on our side and to make sure our messages are getting through,” Palmquist says, though declining to name specific legislators with whom his group had been in touch.
Palmquist’s group is also expanding. In mid-February they hired a new communications director — the first time the group has employed a staff member specifically tasked with communications responsibilities. Jenn Jones, a former communications and marketing project manager at UNC TV, will fill the role, giving Palmquist and Equality North Carolina’s lobbyist, Dean Plukett, more time to focus on legislative efforts.
Some of Jones’ new responsibilities will include social media outreach. Palmquist hopes it will increase awareness of his organization’s mission in Raleigh.
“So much attention in the media goes to what’s happening in Washington, D.C., and its easy for people to miss that a lot of the decisions that effect their lives the most are made at the state level,” he says.
As Palmquist continues his advocacy at the General Assembly, he says he’ll keep reminding GOP legislators of the priorities voters had in mind when they shifted legislative power from the Democrats.
“We are encouraging legislators to focus on the issues that the voters were interested in in November and that was about jobs and the economy and the role of state government,” he says. “It was not about social issues.” : :

What they do

As confusing as statewide and local politics can often be, you can know one thing for certain: There is an LGBT advocacy organization working for our community’s benefit in Raleigh.
Equality North Carolina works to to keep our issues on the forefront of the social agenda and works to protect our issues when such agendas turn negative.
“Equality North Carolina’s role is to be an advocate at the state level so that we have a consistent, professional lobbying presence at the General Assembly advocating for fairness,” says Equality North Carolina Executive Director Ian Palmquist.
Get involved: Learn more about Equality North Carolina, make a donation, join their email list or learn how to become a volunteer at equalitync.org.

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Facebook Adds LGBT-friendly Categories. Advertisers Shrug

Facebook has introduced two relationship status indicators aimed at the LGBT community in the US: now available are "In a domestic partnership" and "In a civil union." These join Facebook's other categories, such as Single, In a relationship, Engaged, Married, It's complicated, In an open relationship, Widowed, Separated and Divorced. For advertisers, though, the new categories are meaningless - outside of the fact in general Facebook has become more Gay-friendly.
Advertisers, All Facebook points out, don't have the option to target users based on these types, or any other types than "Single", "In a relationship", "Engaged", or "Married". Facebook has been slowly increasing the number of relationship status types, it also notes, pointing to the addition of "Widowed" in September 2009, and more recently "Divorced" and "Separated".
None, however, are targetable through the ad tool, All Facebook said.
It is ironic because Facebook on - when else? Valentine's Day released research it conducted to see if a person's Facebook relationship status affects how positive and negative they are. It examined the use of positive and negative words in the status updates of all English speakers over the course of one week in January. Not surprisingly, the data showed people who are in a relationship or marriage are happier than everyone else.
The data, which did not distinguish between straight and gay Facebook users, also found that people who do not disclose their relationship status are about 50% more negative than everyone else.

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Bilerico founder calls for dirt on anti-gay Indiana lawmakers

By duy -

"Now that a marriage discrimination amendment has passed the Indiana House of Representatives, apparently it's time to put out the same call I made in 2007 that helped to kill attempts to amend the constitution until now.
"Consider this a call to gossip. I want to know the scoop. Tell me the stories that will embarrass those conservative bigots -- Democrats and Republican -- that are backing a constitutional ban on our formalized relationships. Send me gossip about who's a philanderer, a kink fiend, a drug addict, a porn addict, or had a divorce, an abortion or even a stay in rehab. Ask your friends and family for the dirt. Look it up on the internet."
Bil Browning of Bilerico, the gay blogging site, says he's tired of Indiana lawmakers intruding on the personal lives of gay people. Bothered by a Tuesday night vote in the House to enact a constitutional ban on gay marriage, Browning wants to expose the lives of legislators in that state who are voting for this bill. He claims that in 2007 he made a similar call because of a similar anti-gay bill and says he successfully helped to kill that previous bill by exposing two such cases.
(Bilerico.com)

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Heated Debate In Helena Over Pair Of Civil Rights Bills

By Matt Leach -

Two controversial civil rights bills are pitting gay rights activists against conservative groups in Helena. Neither side can agree on who should be covered under the state's Human Rights Act.
House Bills 514 and 516 could bring big changes to antidiscrimination cases in Missoula or across the state.Ten months ago the Missoula City Council extended antidiscrimination protection to include gender identity and sexual orientation.Of the two bills introduced Friday, House Bill 514 would extend Missoula's law statewide. The other, HB 516, would prohibit cities from drawing up such bills unless the legislature did so first.Although Friday's debate didn't last as long as the record-setting hearing in Missoula last spring, it was just as fierce.HB 516 was supposed to be a bill to stop municipalities from making up their own civil rights laws."I believe that the Montana Human Rights Act pre-empts the city of Missoula from doing this," says bill sponsor Rep. Kristin Hansen (R-Havre).Debate quickly turned into battle over gay rights."There are those of us who would not wish to rent to gay and lesbian people, and for religious reasons," says Pastor Harris Himes, from Hamilton.Conservative religious groups turned out en masse to support the bill that would repeal Missoula's antidiscrimination ordinance."I know people in Ravalli County and Missoula County that won't take their children into businesses in Missoula right now because they do not know if they are going to be confronted in the restroom with a different gender," says Stevensville resident Dallas Erickson.On the other side of the aisle, Rep. Edie McClafferty (D-Butte) came up with a counter-argument, HB 514. The bill would take Missoula's antidiscrimination ordianance statewide, extending protection based on gender identity or sexual orientation throughout Montana.Several people in the audience stood up in support of McClafferty's bill, including one transgender lawyer who admits it can be hard to prove when someone is being discriminated against."I can't give you that direct proof. It is kind of like other United States Supreme Court justices have said, I know it when I see it," says the lawyer.Another member of the LGBT community stood up to support HB 514 from personal experience of discrimination."There was a point in time in my life, if I had been physically assaulted or fired because of my transgender status I wouldn't report it because it would require me to reveal my trans status and it would ultimately hurt my chances of getting another job," said the man.Battle lines were drawn, with no compromise offered from either side. NBC Montana will be following the status of these bills and keep you updated as developments occur.

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WikiLeaks cables reveal Ugandan homophobia

David Kato was mocked at a meeting.
Diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks show the extent of Ugandan homophobia.
American embassy cables describe a 2009 UN-sponsored meeting which gay rights campaigner David Kato spoke at, the Guardian reports.
Mr Kato, who was murdered this month, was openly mocked as he nervously read a speech against a bill to strengthen Uganda’s laws against homosexuality.
The US diplomat wrote that the homophobia of bill sponsor David Bahati MP was “is blinding and incurable”.
The cables also refer to anti-gay pastor Martin Ssempa and Ugandan ethics minister James Nsaba Buturo.
One said: “Bahati, Buturo, and particularly Ssempa’s ability to channel popular anger over Uganda’s socio-political failings into violent hatred of a previously unpopular but tolerated minority is chilling.”
The memos also showed diplomatic attempts to combat the controversial bill.
The status of the bill is currently unclear but anti-gay feeling runs high in the country.
Gay rights campaigners in Uganda are calling for a full investigation into Mr Kato’s death.
One man has been arrested and police say Mr Kato’s activist was not relevant.
The activist had received death threats after successfully suing a newspaper for publishing his name, address and photo in an anti-gay campaign.

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Hey Pharma! Provide Low Cost HIV Medications to All Americans

By Elizabeth Lombino -

In covering the ADAP Crisis in America, we've been focusing primarily on individual states. Many states have cut funding to these vital AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAP) that provide financial assistance to HIV-positive individuals who cannot afford their insanely expensive, yet life-saving medications.
At the same time, it's not just state legislators who are denying medications to these vulnerable individuals due to the cost. The pharmaceutical companies (pharma) that develop and distribute these medications are also acting more out of concern for their bottom line than out of concern for HIV-positive individuals.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is calling for top pharma to decrease the prices of their medications to assist with the ADAP crisis.  In a letter published on February 3 and sent to all the top companies, AHF is asking pharma to cut their medication costs by 20% to help ease the financial burden off state and federal funds. These medications can cost an HIV-positive individual thousands of dollars a year or more. One newer medication by Merck, called Isentress, can cost over $13,000 a year. By comparison, the popular cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor costs around $2 per day, or $730 a year. Seriously?
To be fair, some pharma provide lower-cost medications and reimbursements to some clients who qualify. They have developed various programs in different states to help states with the costs. We recently highlighted the Welvista program in Florida that has provided tremendous assistance to that state's severely financially troubled ADAP program.
In addition, some companies, including Merck, provide little to no cost medications internationally to help combat HIV/AIDS in severely ravaged areas like China, India and Africa. What many people may not realize is that HIV/AIDS is still spreading at alarming rates in some parts of our country. In fact, a recent study showed that in some inner-city communities, like Washington, D.C., HIV is spreading at rates higher than those in Sub-Saharan Africa.
So while it is certainly noble for pharma to assist international HIV-positive individuals who are disenfranchised and with little to no medical care, they cannot do so at the expense of American HIV-positive individuals who may be equally disenfranchised and with little to no access to medical care.
The problem is that there is no consistency. AHF is calling for pharma to be consistent in their cost reduction strategies so no HIV-positive individual is at risk of losing access to these vital medications due to the expense. This needs to be a joint effort between federal and state government and pharma. They cannot rely on outside resources and programs to bail them out. This is a major crisis that needs the attention of all parties involved.
As AHF’s President Michael Weinstein writes in the letter:  "Without the assistance provided by ADAPs, the people affected by this crisis have very few (if any) available options to get their treatment. These programs are the only real safety net for people with AIDS. Patient assistance and other programs, such as Heinz-Welvista, cannot provide help to everyone who needs it. ADAPs were set up for this purpose and, as long as they are protected from increasing drug costs, ensure that patients don’t slip through the cracks.”
These are life saving medications that should not cost a person their life savings. This is an alarming crisis that needs to change now!
Up to this point there has been little more than silence from pharma regarding ADAP. This is unacceptable. Please join us in urging Merck to make a statement about ADAP and pledge to work with all stakeholders to combat this crisis. Pharma must work to provide low cost HIV medications to all Americans!

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Court overturns Budapest police’s ban of gay pride march

The Budapest Metropolitan Court has overturned a police decision to deny permission for Budapest’s Pride march planned for June 18th 2011.
The court overruled a decision made by the Budapest police on February 11th to deny an application by Rainbow Mission Foundation, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) organisation, to extend the route of the 2011 Budapest Gay Pride March to the parliament building. The police had blamed their decision on concerns over traffic disruption, although campaigners said the decision was politically motivated.
“The court’s decision was a victory not only for the  community of lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people, but for the right of all Hungarians to freedom of assembly,” said Boris Dittrich of New York based Human Rights Watch.
Budapest Pride has been heavily guarded by police in the last two years.
In 2008, 1,500 people joined a gay rights demonstration and Hungarian police were forced to use tear gas and a water cannon to clear the route for marchers to leave.

There were also violent scenes at Pride in 2007, which was plagued by skinheads and fascists shouting abuse and throwing petrol bombs at the peaceful marchers.

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Six Wall Street Firms Plan LGBT Summit

 BY PAUL SCHINDLER -

“Out on the Street,” planned for March 30 at Deutsche Bank at 60 Wall Street, will be the first-ever LGBT leadership summit sponsored by top Manhattan financial firms.

The gathering, which will bring together senior executives from Deutsche, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Barclays, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley, will focus on two issues –– Wall Street as a career choice for LGBT professionals and ways for companies to leverage LGBT diversity to strengthen new business development.

According to organizers of the event, 48 percent of LGBT professionals are still in the closet at work.

Among the speakers at the summit with be Deutsche Bank CEO Seth Waugh, Mitch Cox, head of wealth management at Barclays, Bonnie Howard, chief auditor at Citigroup, R. Martin Chavez, a partner at Goldman, and Linda Riefler, head of global equity and fixed income research at Morgan Stanley.

Others making presentations at the summit include Kevin Jennings, an assistant secretary of education in the Obama administration, Dr. Brad Sears, president of the Williams Institute, a UCLA Law School think tank that works on legal issues related to sexual orientation, Sylvia Ann-Hewlett, president of the Center for Work-Life Policy, and author Brian McNaught, an LGBT leadership expert.

For more information on the summit, contact Jonathan Saw at jonathan@jonathansaw.com.


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Same Sex Marriage Debate in Australia

Human rights activist Peter Tatchell has arrived in Australia to debate same sex marriage.



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Tory MP claims most gay people don’t want the right to marry

By Jessica Geen -

A Conservative MP has claimed that only a “tiny number” of gay people actually want the right to marry.
Edward Leigh, the MP for Gainsborough, questioned why the language of marriage should be “mangled” and suggested that changing the law would lead to recognising polygamy.
He wrote on his website: “The British are a tolerant people and it is right that homosexual people should be allowed to get on with their lives.
“But this does not extend to mangling the language of marriage so that, for the sake of the tiny number of gay people who prefer marriage to civil partnership, everyone else in society must have the definition of their own marriage altered forever.
“Once we have departed from the universally understood framework of marriage, there is no logical reason why the new alternative institution should be limited to two people. Why not three? Or thirty-three?”
Mr Leigh also claimed that most gay people do not want the right to marry.
He said: “Why must they also have the language of marriage? No doubt because it is an important symbol to them. But it is also an important symbol to many other people. Must the religious and cultural heritage of the whole nation be overturned to suit the demands of a minority even of the gay community itself?”
It is not clear what Mr Leigh, who has always voted against gay rights, based this claim on.
A recent PinkNews.co.uk poll of 800 readers found that 98 per cent wanted the right to marry.
Seventy-seven per cent agreed that marriage and civil partnerships should be open to everyone, while 23 per cent said that marriage should be the only form of recognition for all couples.
A Populus opinion poll for the Times in June 2009 found that 61 per cent of the public believe that ‘gay couples should have an equal right to get married, not just to have civil partnerships’. Only 33 per cent disagreed.
The government announced yesterday that it would allow religious civil partnerships and begin consulting on allowing gay people to marry.
Equality minister Lynne Featherstone insisted that the plans have the support of the entire government and that there had been no resistance from Tory ministers.
“I am fully supported by all of government over these plans going forward,” she said.

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Aviator fighting discharge under gay ban to retire

Victor Fehrenbach
Victor Fehrenbach 
By Jessie L. Bonner -

An aviator fighting his discharge under the "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy has been granted his request to retire from the U.S. Air Force with his full rank and pension.

Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach told The Associated Press on Thursday he is scheduled to remain on active duty until Oct. 1.

Fehrenbach is stationed at the Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho and filed a federal lawsuit last year seeking to block the Air Force from discharging him under the Clinton-era law that banned gays and lesbians from openly serving in the armed forces.

President Barack Obama signed the law repealing the "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy in December.

Fehrenbach said the Air Force notified him in January that his request to end his 20-year career with his rank and benefits intact had been granted.

"It was a big relief," Fehrenbach said. "There was actually a light at the end of the tunnel and that was the first time I felt that."

The winner of nine air medals for distinguished service in flight, including one for heroism the night U.S. forces captured Baghdad International Airport in 2003, Fehrenbach disclosed he was gay in 2008 as he defended himself against allegations investigated by the Boise Police Department that he sexually assaulted another man.

Fehrenbach acknowledged that he had sex with the man, but said it was consensual and he was cleared of the assault allegations.

But he still faced ouster from the military under the "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy, which prohibited the military from asking about the sexual orientation of service members but requires discharge of those who acknowledge being gay or are discovered to be engaging in homosexual activity.

Fehrenbach, the son of Air Force veterans, was devastated when he learned he might not retire with full military honors or his pension. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group seeks equal treatment of gays in the military, represented Fehrenbach in his legal fight to keep his job and filed a federal lawsuit on his behalf in August.

A week after the lawsuit was filed, Fehrenbach reached an agreement with the Air Force to temporarily block his discharge. The agreement prevents the military from discharging him until a hearing on a court order to stop his ouster from the military is held.

M. Andrew Woodmansee, who served as lead counsel for Fehrenbach, said the federal lawsuit is still open. But the legal fight will not be pursued unless the Air Force tries to discharge Fehrenbach before his scheduled retirement later this year, Woodmansee said.

The decision to grant Fehrenbach’s request for retirement makes it unlikely the military will pursue his ouster under "don’t ask, don’t tell," Woodmansee said.

"My assumption it’s kind of an acknowledgement that they’re not going to pursue the case," he said.



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Rufus Wainwright and Partner Have a Baby

RUFUS WAINWRIGHT X390 (ON AIR) | ADVOCATE.COM

Singer Rufus Wainwright is a father — he, along with his partner Jorn Weisbrodt and Leonard Cohen's daughter, welcomed Viva Katherine Wainwright Cohen into the world on February 2.
The baby girl was born in Los Angeles via a surrogate — Lorca Cohen, daughter of the musician Leonard Cohen, carried the child.
Wainwright released a statement on his website: "Daddy #1 would like to offer everyone a digital cigar and welcome the little lady in with a French phrase from his favorite folk song, A La Claire Fontaine : 'Il y a longtemps que je t'aime, jamais je ne t'oublierai.'"

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Sisterhood of the Gay Icons - Gaga, Madonna and Streisand.

LADY GAGA BEHIND THE SCENES 60 MINUTES X390 (GRAB) | ADVOCATE.COM
Besides their status as gay icons and chart-topping musicians, 60 Minutes reveals another similarity between Lady Gaga, Madonna, and Barbra Streisand.
While being interviewed by Anderson Cooper for a recent 60 Minutes profile, Gaga reveals a tendency to control the setting, lighting, and photography of the interview. Cooper tells the pop star that he's never had any interview subject adjust the camera lights, then suggests that Madonna and Streisand did the same during previous profiles for the long-running CBS program. Gaga laughs and tells Cooper he's talking about two of her sisters.
CBS compiled a video of the three entertainers, all determined to direct the interviews. Watch it below.



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Injustice at Every Turn -- Part V: Housing


Scarlet Letter
Injustice at Every Turn (pdf)is a report of data gathered in 2008 by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality concerning quality of life issues for transgender people living in this country.

Housing insecurity for transgender and gender non-conforming people is a crisis. Respondents reported direct discrimination by housing providers and negative housing impacts of discrimination in other critical areas of life such as employment, health care and criminal justice. Accordingly, respondents were forced to employ various strategies to secure places to live.
Previous "turns" have covered the basic data about who transpeople living in America are in Who we are -- by the numbers, Part I: Education, Part II: Employment, Part III: Health Care and Part IV -- Family.

Still to come are the analysis of the data on public accommodations, identification documents and police and incarceration.

Top Marine Says DADT Repeal Won't Lead to Exodus in Force

By Andrea Stone -

WASHINGTON -- The Marine Corps commandant who once said openly gay service members would be a dangerous "distraction" and was among the most outspoken opponents of repealing the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy said today he does not expect to lose troops over the change.

"I haven't had any indication yet at all, not at all," Gen. James Amos told reporters when asked if he expected the mass exodus of troops that Sen. John McCain and other critics predicted if the ban was lifted.

Amos was visiting troops in Afghanistan's Helmand Province when President Barack Obama signed the repeal in late December. He said he addressed some 12,000 Marines about the change and "everyone said, 'Sir, we got it. We're going to do this thing.'"

The about-face by the Marines' top general came before the ink was dried on the law and was underlined in a video Amos taped with the Corps' Sgt. Maj. Carlton W. Kent last month. In it, he said the service "will step out smartly to faithfully implement this new law. It's important that we value the diversity of background, culture and skills that all Marines bring to the service of our nation."

A Pentagon survey of troops released in November before Congress approved the repeal revealed that of all the armed services, the Marines held the most negative views about lifting the ban. More than four out of 10 said serving with openly gay Marines would negatively affect their work; 58 percent of those in combat arms units voiced opposition.

"It would be naive to think that somewhere down the road there's not going to be issues," Amos told reporters. "I think there probably will be in probably all the services, but I don't think it's going to be of any magnitude that's going to cause much more than a blip. So I'm very optimistic."


Amos said training of military lawyers, counselors and chaplains began Feb. 7. He said he and the service's three-star generals and their spouses underwent a training session recently in New Orleans, and he expects all leaders down to company commanders and platoon sergeants to have been briefed by the middle of next month.

The general said nearly every Marine, including those deployed in Afghanistan, will get a chance to walk through possible scenarios by early June, if not sooner.

The Air Force, Navy and Army also have begun training in preparation for the policy's demise sometime later this year.

Earlier this week, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey said the military's largest service would need until mid-July to finish training the active duty force of 565,000 and until mid-August to brief the 567,000 Guard and Reserve members.

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Rosapepe Puts Maryland Marriage Bill Over the Top

By Chris Geidner -

Following quickly on the heels of today's historic committee vote sending Maryland's marriage equality bill to the floor of the full Senate, the final necessary vote for passage in the Senate declared his support for the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act.
Sen. James Carew Rosapepe (D-Prince George's, Anne Arundel) is the 24th member of the 46-member body to declare his support, telling his constituents in an e-mail that he intends to vote for the bill as it was approved by the committee today, according to the Baltimore Sun.
From Rosapepe's e-mail:
I intend to vote for the bill as it was reported out of Committee with a strengthened conscience clause to respect the views of religious denominations which do not recognize same sex marriage. I don’t know what other amendments may be proposed on the Senate floor but will keep your concerns in mind as we consider them.
Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery) told Metro Weekly earlier today that he expects the bill to be considered by the full Senate next week.
As of now, Sen. John Astle (D-Anne Arundel) is the only senator to remain undecided. Sen. Joan Carter Conway (D-Baltimore City) is also undeclared, but according to Equality Maryland, Conway has told her constituents that if Senate Bill 116 receives 23 votes, she would cast a vote in favor it.

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Lady Gaga hits out at Fred Phelps and his ‘God Hates Fags’ church

By Jessica Geen -

Lady Gaga hit out at members of Westboro Baptist Church, calling them “hate criminals”.
The singer played a concert in St Louis, Missouri on Saturday night, which was picketed by the controversial church.
Members stood outside the venue holding signs that said “God hates Lady Gaga” in protest at her “promotion” of homosexuality.
The bisexual singer has joined gay rights marches and is a strong advocate for equal rights.
She took to her Twitter account before the gig to warn fans of the protest and ask them not to retaliate.
Gaga wrote: “At the risk of drawing attention to a hateful organisation, I would like to make my little monster fans aware of a protest being held outside the Monsterball in St Louis tonight.
“Although we have had protesters before, as well as fundamentalists at the show, this group of protesters are hate criminals and preach using lude [sic] and violent language and imagery that I wish I protect you all from.
“My request to [fans] and public authorities is to pay these hate criminals no mind. Do not interact with them, or try to fight… Do not respond to any of their provocation.”
She continued: “Don’t waste your words, or feelings, no matter what you hear or see you are more fortunate and blessed than they are, and in your heart just pray for them.”
Westboro Baptist Church is known for picketing the funerals of US soldiers with slogans such as ‘God hates fags’. It believes that the deaths of US soldiers in the middle east are God’s punishment for a country which allows homosexuality.
Earlier this year, church spokeswoman Shirley Phelps-Roper said: “We will be going to her concert with placards reading ‘God Hates Lady Gaga’ – to inform people that they will be going to hell too if they listen to her messages.
“According to the Bible homosexuality is an abomination and she has to shut her filthy mouth and stop promoting it.”

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Halton Catholic District School Board: New Policy, Same Homophobia

By Brandon Miller -

After an extremely large amount of interest in our Change.org petition, an activist-run Facebook group, and numerous articles in the gay press (where the story originated), Toronto and regional news outlets were all talking about the Halton Catholic District School Board's ban on gay-straight alliances. If you recall, gay-straight alliances were even compared to Nazi groups.
So, the Halton board overturned the policy. They drafted a new equity statement. But, once again, it makes no mention of the word "gay" and does not make a space for students to form groups with this word in the title. Basically, it's a big middle finger to the queer community wrapped in a bow and disguised as a gift.
According to Xtra.ca, Canada's leading source of LGBT news, the board decided to include procedural reports that follow the "Pastoral Guidelines to Assist Students of Same-Sex Attraction." Which is a fancy document essentially saying that gay sex is bad and should be avoided at all costs. If gays cannot live a "moral life," they should "live a life of chastity."
What is promoted is a program called "By Your SIDE" (Safety, Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity), where groups would act as non-specific equity clubs. No gay in the title and likely no talk about gay issues, as these would be spaces to discuss the four SIDE principles in general terms. It is no better than the last policy.
"I’m really worried we went from revoking a ban on GSAs to banning the word 'gay,'” openly-gay trustee Paul Marai told Xtra. “What kind of message does this send to the [lesbian, gay, bi and trans] students at our schools?… We want students to congregate, but we don’t want them to be visible.”
The new policy talks about training staff members, but only in the ways that respect the "pastoral" guidelines. So, essentially, these students are going to be told that being gay is wrong and that they are immoral if they act on their God-given feelings and desires. I love religion!
At the Board meeting, a random woman even showed up and talked about being a recovering homosexual. She was against these clubs and wanted groups to help students turn away from sinful homosexual behavior. And she proves exactly why these spaces are needed.
How many kids -- in 2011 -- are growing up feeling like they need to change who they are entirely? It's amazing that most everyone on the Halton Catholic District School Board can't see the implications that these policies have on the mental health, self-esteem, general well-being and overall happiness of LGBT youth. Telling a gay kid he can't have gay sex does not mean he won't do it; it means he will do it secretly, with little information to make informed choices, with lots of guilt and shame, and that he will possibly engage in risky behaviors, both in terms of HIV/STI risk, but also physical and emotional safety.
If you have not already, please sign the petition regarding this policy, and let Halton hear from folks that though they have a new policy, this issue is far from over in the district.

petition text -

Greetings,
I am writing to ask you to please consider allowing students in your district to form groups known as Gay-Straight Alliances. I'm aware that Halton has changed their policy from a blanket ban on GSAs, to a policy that now allows students to form clubs to discuss "equity" issues. But your district still has a ban on the word "gay" when it comes to student groups, and that's entirely unacceptable.


As you are likely aware, the Ministry of Education promotes Gay-Straight Alliances as effective tools in eradicated homophobia and building connections between all students. The province of Ontario is committed to educating the public and supporting all youth, including those that are not heterosexual. It is a shame that you are showing your students that some are less worthy based on something that is an ingrained trait. Your policy is homophobic, offensive and un-Canadian.


Take a stance on anti-gay bullying and equality for all the students you serve.


Thank you,
[Your name]

Petitions by Change.org|Start a Petition »


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Lady Gaga Interview - Good Morning America - 2-17-2011

Lady GaGa talk with Robin about fundraising for the fight against HIV/AIDS worldwide.



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Ben Cohen and Andy Cohen share an important message

England Rugby Player and GLBT equality activist Ben Cohen joins Talk Show Host Andy Cohen in the studio with a message about how important it is to accept the differences in people.



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Clover raises our flag!

Sydney’s gay season has officially begun, with the Rainbow Flag now fluttering in the breeze above the Town Hall.
Lord Mayor Clover Moore and New Mardi Gras co-chairs Steph Sands and Peter Urmson met on the steps of Town Hall this morning for the rainbow flag-raising ceremony celebrating the start of this year’s Mardi Gras.
Moore made special mention of members of the 1971 Campaign Against Moral Persecution (CAMP) group who attended the ceremony and drew cheers from the assembled crowd which included key community and political figures.
Urmson encouraged people to get involved in the season by purchasing tickets to the official Mardi Gras Party – which is being headlined by DJ Calvin Harris – as it helps fund the internationally recognised parade, which costs more than $1 million to stage.
Moore has long been a community supporter in her roles as both an MP and the city’s Lord Mayor.
“Sydney is internationally known as Australia’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender [GLBTQ] capital and a truly inclusive and diverse city,” Moore said.
“We are proud to fly this flag and mark the start of what promises to be another fun-filled and action-packed Mardi Gras festival in 2011.”
Moore said the City of Sydney’s float this year is themed ‘One Step Closer To Equality’ and celebrates the recent passage of NSW’s Same-Sex Adoption Bill.
“The Bill, which I introduced into Parliament, was a significant win for the GLBTQ community. Allowing both adoptive parents to be legally recognised is an important equal right achieved,” she said.
“The raising of the rainbow flag plays a valuable role in breaking down barriers and promoting equality and respect in our community.”

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Facebook Adds Civil Union, Domestic Partner Statuses

By Mark Hefflinger -

Palo Alto, Calif. - Facebook has added the ability for users to designate their relationship status as "in a civil union" or "in a domestic partnership," after consultation with leading groups that represent the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities, the Huffington Post reported. "This has been a highly requested feature from users," said Facebook's Andrew Noyes, manager of public policy communications. "We want to provide options for people to genuinely and authentically reflect their relationships on Facebook."

The new statuses will become available in countries including the U.S., U.K., Canada, France and Australia, which have created such legal arrangements.

Other options offered by Facebook include single, in a relationship, married, engaged, "it's complicated," in an open relationship, widowed, separated and divorced.

"As LGBT people face a patchwork of relationship recognition laws, this gives people more tools to adequately describe their relationship," said Michael Cole-Schwartz, a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign.

"Facebook has been a company that has tried to be inclusive of the LGBT community and this just one sign of it."


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Nigella Lawson says all women could have gay love affairs

TV chef Nigella Lawson says all women have it in them to fall in love with someone of the same sex.
Speaking to DIVA, the curvy beauty said she once had a crush on a girl.
She said: “Oh yes, at school. I was at one school for a while and they were called a crush, a craze, and I remember there was a very beautiful Egyptian girl called Nilgen and I was allowed to go make her bed every day. Nevertheless, it was considered normal in those days.
“I think it was seeking the comfort of a mother or an older sister. Being at boarding school is a strange feeling, and you want somebody to show concern for you. It was certainly a very unphysical sort of crush.
“I was very much an introverted child who lived in my head. I was so shy, I remember hating it if any of my parents’ friends addressed a question to me. Up until I was 19 and went travelling in Italy.”
When asked if she had ever had a same-sex relationship, she said: “No, I haven’t had a love affair with a woman but I have very close woman friends, which is a very different thing but I think we all have it in us — women more than men.”
She added: “I do feel that I find difference very interesting. In a sense, a smooth-skinned man wouldn’t appeal.
“I know a lot of straight men feel threatened. But pleasure is pleasure, and I’m not saying it’s all fluid, but in a sense one’s relationship is with the person.”
Lawson was voted the fifth sexiest woman by DIVA readers in 2009.

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New Moscow mayor says no to gay Pride marches

Moscow’s mayor Sergei Sobyanin says that the city does not need gay Pride marches.
When asked by the Ekho Moskvy radio station if a march would be permitted this year, he said: “I doubt it.”
The Moscow News reports that Mr Sobyanin continued: “I have my own opinion on this. Moscow absolutely does not need this and I am not in favour of it.”
The city’s last mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, repeatedly banned the marches on pretexts of health and safety and has called gays and lesbians “satanic”.
In October, the European Court of Human Rights upheld three complaints over Moscow’s Pride ban.
Russian gay rights leader Nikolai Alekseev complained to the court that the parade bans in 2006, 2007 and 2008 breached the European Convention on Human Rights.
The court agreed.
Since 2006, campaigners have attempted to hold the events but these were broken up by police.
In May 2006, more than 120 people were arrested and in 2007, British gay activist Peter Tatchell was severely beaten by neo-Nazis. In 2008, marchers accused police of brutality.

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Amnesty International asks Hungary to allow Budapest gay Pride

Human rights charity Amnesty International has asked Hungary to allow this year’s Budapest Pride.
After asking permission to hold a rally outside parliament, organisers were told that the entire march would be banned.
Police said it would cause traffic disruption but gay campaigners claimed the decision was politically-motivated.
The march was scheduled for June 18th.
Amnesty said that the banning of the march was a “violation of the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and non-discrimination as set out in several international human rights conventions to which Hungary is party”.
It added that the ban was “disproportionate and without reasonable justification”.
Police apparently did not object to the march before organisers asked to stop outside parliament.
This week, the Rainbow Mission Foundation, assisted by the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union and the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, appealed to the Budapest Metropolitan Court over the ban.

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Oregon Gay Student Teacher Settles for a Hefty $um

By Kilian Melloy -

Seth Stambaugh & his Infamous Cardigan Sweater
A young student teacher was booted from his assigned school last year for disclosing to a curious student that he was gay, leading to a flap that ended with the teacher back in the classroom. Now the story has come to a conclusion: the teacher, Seth Stambaugh, and the Beaverton School District settled on Feb. 11, with Stambaugh receiving $75,000 reported local newspaper the Beaverton Valley Times on Feb. 11.

But the incident’s price tag might seem a bargain if an even more valuable lesson has been learned by school district administrators, a local newspaper suggested.

Stambaugh, 23, was just starting his career as an educator at Sexton Mountain Elementary school in the town of Beaverton, Ore., a town seven miles west of Portland, when he was abruptly taken out of the school where he’d started after answering questions from one his fourth-grade students, reported local news station KGW on Oct. 18, 2010.

Stambaugh was sent to teach at a school in Portland, outside of the Beaverton School District. The student teacher’s advisers at Lewis & Clark College were reportedly asked by the school district to pull Stambaugh out of Sexton Mountain Elementary and send him elsewhere.

"The student asked me if I was married," Stambaugh told the news station. "I responded, ’No.’ He asked, ’Why?’ I said it was illegal for me to get married. I said, ’It’s because I want to marry a man.’ "

Stambaugh was reassigned shortly after that Sept. 10 conversation, and though he was not initially told why, he was pretty confident about the reason from the start. "I felt extremely hurt and discriminated against," Stambaugh told KGW. "Everyone in the school is free to talk about their marital status as long as they are heterosexual."

The head of the Beaverton Education Association, David Wilkinson, agreed. "As a heterosexual male, I can talk about my wife and our children," Wilkinson told the Portland Tribune. "Our GLBT members have been shown that they are not at liberty to discuss their personal lives in the same way."

Added Wilkinson, "I have been contacted by many teachers who are deeply concerned about their vulnerability in light of this incident... [which] has brought a bright light to the lack of clarity around what is allegedly age-appropriate or reasonable to discuss with students."

A statement from the Beaverton School District seemed to confirm that his disclosure to the student was the cause of Stambaugh’s dismissal from Sexton Mountain Elementary. "We understand this action has resulted in the student teacher alleging discrimination," the school district’s statement said. "The concerns were about professional judgment and age appropriateness. While the details of this issue remain confidential, the district’s policy and practice is non-discrimination."

Student teachers are not employees of the school district, but rather are interns. As such, they are not protected by district non-discrimination policies or by state laws regarding discrimination in the workplace.

"I think that 4th graders know that gays exist," Stambaugh said. "They hear it on the playgrounds. To say this guy, meaning me, came out and should disappear sends a negative [message] to a gay child who could be questioning their own sexuality."

At least some parents agreed. "I don’t think anybody should be fired for giving a well though-out articulate answer to a kids’ question," said one father, Mike Speer. However, other parents seem to have had reservations about the fact that gays exist being acknowledged in a fourth-grade classroom; it was a parent’s complaint that triggered Stambaugh’s dismissal, media sources said.

The same parent lodged a prior complaint about the student teacher’s "inappropriate" manner of dress, "which consisted of cardigan sweaters, neatly pressed slacks and bow ties," noted Oregon Live educator and guest columnist Marcia Klotz in an Oct. 17, 2010, op-ed. "We all know what kind of people dress like that," added Klotz.

"Are 9-year-olds mature enough to understand the issue of same-sex marriage?" Klotz, Portland State University assistant professor of English, wondered. "Maybe, maybe not. But if they are old enough to worry their parents about their exposure to the rather subtle fashion clues of a bow tie and cardigan, they must be quite savvy indeed."

Klotz went on to question whether lying to the student would have been morally preferable. "This might all seem rather silly if the stakes weren’t so high,’ she wrote. "Sexual shame kills, as the recent rash of lesbian and gay suicides across the country attests. Imagine a child in that class, one who may not have a name yet for certain stirrings he is dimly becoming aware of, which already shame and humiliate him. What might it mean for such a child, a few years down the road, to look back on that teacher, who was brave enough to answer honestly when the students put their curious question to him?

"And what does it mean when that very teacher is taken out of the class--for the crime of not being ashamed enough?" Klotz added.

That question may be behind the snowballing of the incident, which quickly became a full-blown controversy that rattled the school district. But the district’s superintendent, Jerry Colonna, turned the controversy into a learning moment, reported Oregon Live on Oct. 14. Colonna took several days to speak with and listen to people from the GLBT community, community religious leaders, parents, and GLBTs working in the district’s schools. In the end, he reached a conclusion: "There is a need to repair relationships, rebuild trust, learn from the issue and listen."

Added Colonna, "As we have talked to individuals involved in this, especially those who are sexual minorities, we have found that there are many incidents in which they feel the district has not responded to their needs so they feel safe and respected. This is also true of students."

There are guidelines for how student teachers are supposed to handle students’ questions about their personal lives, but, "There is no line in the sand of here are the following tips you need in having this conversation," said Jodi Heintz, who directs the college’s PR.

"We want teachers to be fully present as humans to their students," the dean of Lewis & Clark’s Graduate School of Education and Counseling, Scott Fletcher, told the Portland Tribune. "We expect the kind of relationship that can motivate the students to be their best, to inspire them."

"Unfortunately, it is still the case that some people view [being gay] as being inappropriate somehow," said another dean of an educational program, Randy Hitz, of the Graduate School of Education at Portland State University. When a teacher is straight, such interactions are not problematic; however, for a gay teacher, "it gets complicated," said Hitz. "You don’t flaunt it."

Said Fletcher, "It’s simply a fact that there are schools in which the circumstances don’t allow teachers to be out."

That apparent double standard is something that might be addressed as the school district reexamines its policies. "We want to look at the incident as greater than one person in one classroom having one discussion," said Colonna, going on to note that the abrupt manner in which the incident was handled may not have been the best approach. "The opportunity to sit down and discuss the item with the student teacher, Lewis & Clark, human resources staff and the principal, before any action had been taken or decisions made, would have been helpful."

The terms of the settlement allowed Stambaugh and the school district to avoid litigation. The school district also agreed to train school personnel about GLBT issues and to review school policies with an eye to ensuring that they were "inclusive in scope," the Beaverton Valley Times reported.

A Feb. 16 op-ed at the newspaper praised the school district’s leadership and expressed the view that the imbroglio, while "embarrassing," had led to a positive result.

"Under the leadership of Superintendent Jerry Colonna, the Beaverton district and its administrators have more fully embraced challenge and differences than ever before," the newspaper’s editorial read. "We suspect that this embarrassing and costly dispute is a reminder for all to not quickly judge or react. And this case is a reminder to the school district staff, students and the public that diversity and appropriately managed differences of opinion are a moral, educational and community standard welcomed in Beaverton."

Kilian Melloy reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes commentary for EDGEBoston, where he also serves as Assistant Arts Editor.

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Congratulations Hawaii on Securing Civil Unions!

By Gloria Nieto -

Equality has spread across the Pacific and the Aloha state legislature has made civil unions and LGBT equality part of the beautiful landscape of Hawaii.  As always, there is a lot of work that was done to make this tropical dream a reality for another state. Wednesday, after many efforts in the legislature, both houses of the Hawaiian legislature passed SB 232 [previously HB 444] which recognizes civil unions.  Ceremonies on the beach anyone?

This is part of a report from my friend, Van Law, [from Pride Alliance Hawaii] who I met at Hula’s bar. He was wearing a No H8 tshirt. It was love at first sight.
There were so many opportunities between 2009 and now for the civil unions bill to flounder, but it was through the steadfast commitment by a tireless individuals and a handful of key organizations that the bill survived and eventually passed in 2010 and again in 2011.
Initially, the bill’s supporters comprised of a loosely knit coalition of many individuals and some partner organizations. During the heat of the legislative battle, advocates met every week at the UNITE HERE Local 5 union headquarters for hours to go over strategy. The coalition targeted many fronts in the war for equality with some members focusing on lobbying, while others focused on public education. In the last week of April of 2009, the advocates collected over 10,000 signatures petitioning the legislature to pass HB444.
After 2009, the individual members formed new organizations that specialized in complementary fields of interest. ACLU and Lambda Legal worked together on building a lawsuit that would add pressure for passage of HB444. Pride Alliance Hawaii worked closely with PFLAG Hawaii and members of the Hawaii Democratic GLBT Caucus to create public awareness by holding sign waving in targeted areas within the State of Hawaii, and by going door to door to pass out informational pamphlets to the constituents of key legislators. Equality Hawaii and the Human Rights Campaign focused on lobbying and getting prominent people in Hawaii to endorse the bill. Citizens for Equal Rights was created to give a voice to our straight allies and they worked to compile a booklet with names and faces of people who support equality. All the organizations worked together to get their members to submit testimony and make contact with their legislators.
The passage of civil unions in Hawaii truly required a collaborative effort and no single organization can claim responsibility for the victory. The advocates were successful because they had good allies in the House (Rep. Blake Oshiro) and in the Senate (Sen. Gary Hooser and Sen. Les Ihara Jr.), and the multiple organizations were able to coexist without working against one another.
On this very exciting day, Pride Alliance Hawaii would like to thank all of the organizations and individuals for their passion and commitment to supporting LGBT equality in Hawaii. We are proud and honored to be part of such a wonderful victory.
In the words of Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Today, those fighting for equality in Hawaii proved these words to be true.”
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