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Saturday, February 26, 2011

'Lord of the Rings' EW.com Reunion 2010

http://www.ew.com/reunions
Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, and Dominic Monaghan on downtime in New Zealand, hitting a gay club with Ian McKellan, uncomfortable shooting moments, and watching "Return of the King" now



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An LGBT degree at City College?

By Andrea Koskey -


City College of San Francisco
Breaking boundaries: If the state grants City College of San Francisco’s request, it could be the first California community college to offer a major in LGBT studies. (Examiner file photo)
The nation’s first college department that studied homosexuality is trying for another feat: becoming the first California community college to offer LGBT studies as a major.
Faculty members at the City College of San Francisco’s LGBT studies program is pushing the state community college board in Sacramento to allow them to offer an associate’s degree in the field.
Ardel Thomas, chair of the LGBT studies department, said for years students have been asking for a major, but a degree would also “legitimize the department.”
“In some parts of the country, we’re seeing women’s studies and ethnic studies getting eyeballed for cuts,” she said. “We’re in a recession, but this isn’t going to cost the school anything.”
Several four-year universities in the Bay Area offer LGBT bachelor’s degrees, including San Francisco State, UC Berkeley and Stanford. Offering the degree to City College students who complete 21 credit hours of coursework will allow pupils to move on to four-year universities with an LGBT studies major.
Pau Crego, 23, a former LGBT studies student at CCSF, is one person who could have benefited from a major in the program.
Though he obtained an associates degree in women’s studies, the transgender international student will not be able to work in his field of choice, LGBT, until he receives a degree in the field.
“Legally, it would have reflected my field of study,” he said. “Recognizing LGBT as a major is very validating and necessary.”
City College’s curriculum committee gave Thomas the green light to approach Sacramento for a major this month.
Thomas said the curriculum committee’s approval is a larger hurdle than the state. She said the city college board is tougher and with its blessing, the major can now be listed in the school’s catalogue, which means students can start taking classes that will go toward the major. When it’s approved by the state those courses then will be retroactively added toward their degree. How long it will take Sacramento to decide on the program is unknown.
City College began offering LGBT courses in the 1970s. The department was officially recognized in 1989.

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Injustice at Every Turn -- Part VIII: Police and Incarceration

--by Robyn


Scarlet Letter
Injustice 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.

Most people interact with police officers during the ordinary course of their lives. Transgender and gender non-conforming people may have higher levels of interaction with police. They are more likely to interact with police because they are more likely to be victims of violent crime, because they are more likely to be on the street due to homelessness and/or being unwelcome at home, because their circumstances often force them to work in the underground economy, and even because many face harassment and arrest simply because they are out in public while being transgender. Some transgender women report that police profile them as sex workers and arrest them for solicitation without cause; this is referred to as “Walking While Transgender.”


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, Part V: Housing. Part VI: Public Accommodation and Part VII: Identity Documents. This is the last in the series.

Glbt-friendly accommodation for Christchurch quake victims

A database of glbt-friendly accommodation available for people displaced by the Christchurch earthquake, or those needing a break from the stress and aftershocks has already attracted a number of offers.

GABA, the Gay Auckland Business Association, and OUTLineNZ have joined forces to create a database and offers of housing assistance are already flooding in through the Gay Stay network for free and subsidised short and long-term accommodation throughout New Zealand. Offers are also being welcomed from people with holiday homes or spare rooms available anywhere in the country.

The database is being compiled cooperatively by GABA and OUTLine, and both organisations will help to facilitate the appropriate placement of those in need. It will also be made available to government ministries and NGOs that are approached by families and individuals who would prefer to be placed in a glbt-friendly environment.

“The whole of New Zealand has come together to help Christchurch residents, but we recognise that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people affected by the earthquake may feel more comfortable placed within a glbt or glbt-friendly environment,” says GABA President, Glenn Sims. “We encourage anyone who needs short or long-term housing – or simply has to get away from the devastation for a few days – to get in contact.”

OUTLine has made their 0800 OUTLINE toll-free service available for people who want to access the database directly. "OUTLine volunteers will assist in coordinating the placement of Christchurch residents with appropriate accommodation – as well as just being there to talk, if that’s all that’s needed,” says OUTLine General Manager, Vaughan Meneses.

Anyone with offers of accommodation should email president@gaba.org.nz or outlinenz@outlinenz.com





 =end=

Donation saves Alan Turing’s papers

By Jessica Geen -


A collection of computer genius Alan Turing’s papers have been saved for the nation by the National Heritage Memorial Fund.
The documents were to be auctioned last year but a campaign began to raise enough money for them to stay at Bletchley Park, where Turing worked during the second world war.
The rare documents are offprints of almost of all of Turing’s published work and include his handwritten notes.
The codebreaker, who killed himself after being persecuted for being gay, did not keep much of his work and few artefacts of his achievements remain.
He had given the collection to his friend and Bletchley Park colleague Professor Max Newman.
IT journalist Gareth Halfacree began the campaign to save the papers and managed to raise £23,000 from public donations. Google and a private donor also pledged significant amounts.
Today, it was announced that the National Heritage Memorial Fund had stepped in at the last minute with £213,437, the final sum needed to avoid the papers going to auction.
Dame Jenny Abramsky, chair of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, said: “This is such welcome news. Alan Turing was a true war hero and played an absolutely crucial role during the Second World War.
“The National Heritage Memorial Fund was set up in memory of those who have given their lives for the UK and this grant will now ensure that this extremely rare collection of his work stands as a permanent memorial to the man and to all those who paid the ultimate price in service to this nation.”
Simon Greenish, the chief executive of the Bletchley Park Trust, welcomed today’s announcement, saying: “The acquisition of this hugely important collection has been made possible only by the astonishing support demonstrated by the public, the media, Google, the National Heritage Memorial Fund and Christies the auctioneers, whose help in brokering the purchase is gratefully acknowledged.
“We are delighted to have the collection here at Bletchley Park, which is surely its most fitting home and it will be an incredible addition to the visitor experience.”
Next year, Manchester, Turing’s hometown, will celebrate the centenary of his birth.
Scientists, computer programmers and athletes will join efforts to celebrate his life and work.

=end=

The wedge turns: Republicans now gun shy on gay marriage

By Nan Hunter -


The NY Times this morning makes it official that the political tide for cheap anti-gay political attacks is ebbing, with an article (read it after the jump) on the astonishing degree of silence from the Republican establishment in reaction to the Attorney General's announcement that the Justice Department will no longer defend the constitutionality of DoMA.
The Times article concentrates on reactions, or the lack thereof, from likely Republican presidential nominees, but the let's-just-think-about-cutting-spending response from Republicans in Congress is much more important because Congress actually has some authority to respond to the Justice Department decision. Each chamber of Congress can determine independently whether it will seek to intervene in the pending lawsuits to defend DoMA as constitutional.
Consider the statement issued by Speaker Boehner:
While Americans want Washington to focus on creating jobs and cutting spending, the President will have to explain why he thinks now is the appropriate time to stir up a controversial issue that sharply divides the nation.
The statement gave no indication of whether the Speaker will ask the General Counsel of the House to actively defend the law. Since the Dems control the Senate, as a practical matter it would be only the House that can exercise an option to ask the courts to allow it as a body to intervene as a defendant. [Both chambers have their own independent counsel offices. The General Counsel of the House has authority under 2 U.S. Code 130f to "provide legal assistance and representation to the House..." I will write more about these possibilities in the DoMA litigation in coming days.]
Individual members can seek to intervene, as Rep. Lamar Smith already has in the Gill case, arguing that the Justice Department was not defending DoMA strongly enough. But if only individual members of Congress seek to intervene, that will simply add to the marginalization of arguments in support of DoMA. The courts will be hard pressed to sustain a statute repudiated by the Executive Branch and effectively abandoned by Congress.
On the technical jurisdictional issues, it is unclear whether parties other than DoJ would have standing to appeal a ruling that the law is unconstitutional (shades of Perry). However, here, unlike in Perry, DoJ seems to be saying that it will seek review of decisions that the law is invalid in order to eliminate the possibility of a standing question such as has arisen in the Prop 8 case.
All of this indicates to me that the wedge has turned, and in a stunningly short period of time. Seven years ago, Republicans rolled through the states with constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage (and it will be a while before those get dislodged). Gay marriage as an issue was no-lose for them and no-win for the Dems. Now it has become an "oh no, let's avoid" issue as much for Republicans as for Dems.
We saw the beginnings of this crack emerge with the brouhaha over the C-PAC conference just a few weeks ago. I wrote then that "we may look back on this in a few years and see it as watershed marking the beginning of the end of the coalition of economic and social conservatives in the Republican Party." Whatever else happens, this is going to be fun to watch.
From the NYTimes: President Obama’s decision to abandon his legal support for the Defense of Marriage Act has generated only mild rebukes from the Republicans hoping to succeed him in 2012, evidence of a shifting political climate in which social issues are being crowded out by economic concerns.
The Justice Department announced on Wednesday that after two years of defending the law — hailed by proponents in 1996 as an cornerstone in the protection of traditional values — the president and his attorney general have concluded it is unconstitutional.
In the hours that followed, Sarah Palin’s Facebook site was silent. Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, was close-mouthed. Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, released a Web video — on the labor union protests in Wisconsin — and waited a day before issuing a marriage statement saying he was “disappointed.”
Others, like Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, and Haley Barbour, the governor of Mississippi, took their time weighing in, and then did so only in the most tepid terms. “The Justice Department is supposed to defend our laws,” Mr. Barbour said.
Asked if Mitch Daniels, the Republican governor of Indiana and a possible presidential candidate, had commented on the marriage decision, a spokeswoman said that he “hasn’t, and with other things we have going on here right now, he has no plans.”
The sharpest reaction came from Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, in an interview here during a stop to promote his new book, who called the administration’s decision “utterly inexplicable.”
A few years ago, the president’s decision might have set off an intense national debate about gay rights. But the Republicans’ reserved response this week suggests that Mr. Obama may suffer little political damage as he evolves from what many gay rights leaders saw as a lackluster defender of their causes into a far more aggressive advocate.
“The wedge has lost its edge,” said Mark McKinnon, a Republican strategist who worked for President George W. Bush during his 2004 campaign, when gay marriage ballot measures in a dozen states helped turn out conservative voters.
Mr. Obama’s move provoked some outrage, especially among evangelical Christians and conservative groups like the Family Research Council. In a statementWednesday, Tony Perkins, president of the council, condemned the president’s decision as pandering.
But Republican strategists and gay rights activists said on Thursday that the issue’s power as a political tool for Republican candidates is diminishing. While surveys suggest that Americans are evenly divided on whether the federal government should recognize gay marriages, opposition has fallen from nearly 70 percentin 1996.
Prominent Republicans like Dick Cheney, the former vice president, and Barbara Bush, daughter of the former president, have defended the right of gays to marry. And Mr. Obama has been emboldened by the largely positive response to his recent, and successful, push for Congress to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the military’s ban on gays serving openly.
At the same time, the rise of the Tea Party movement, and the success that Republicans had last year in attacking Democratic candidates on economic issues, has pushed the debate over abortion and gay rights to the back burner.
“I don’t think this is the issue that it once was,” said John Feehery, a Republican strategist. “I think that the economic issues are so big that this one pales in comparison.”
In his first two years in office, Mr. Obama drew criticism from gay rights advocates who thought he was dragging his feet on their issues. Those same advocates see the shift as evidence that with an eye on the 2012 campaign, the president has calculated that the benefits of responding to his base outweigh the risks of upsetting conservatives who wouldn’t be voting for him anyway.
Among them is John Aravosis, the founder of Americablog.com, who in a 2009 blog post called the administration’s first legal brief in a Defense of Marriage Act case “despicable” and “homophobic.” Mr. Aravosis said on Thursday he is “much happier” with Mr. Obama, adding: “I think the gay community got to him. I’m not convinced we got to his heart, but I think we got to his political head.”
Others, like Kerry Eleveld, editor of EqualityMatters.org, a new Web site, say Mr. Obama appears to be evaluating the politics of gay rights issues differently since the positive response to the don’t ask, don’t tell repeal from people on the political left, many of whom have criticized him over issues like health care, climate changeand immigration.
“He got this big bump from it in terms of the progressive base, and didn’t get a whole lot of heat, and I think that has given him a little more heart in feeling like L.G.B.T. issues aren’t as toxic as a lot of people have been painting them for the past 20 years,” she said.
While Mr. Obama has changed his legal position on the Defense of Marriage Act, his personal views on same-sex marriage — he opposes it, but favors civil unions — have not changed, the White House says.
A big question is whether they will. Mr. Obama has said his views are “evolving,” and some expect he will announce his support for same-sex marriage as he campaigns for re-election. But that could complicate Mr. Obama’s efforts to appeal beyond his liberal base.
“It’s still part of Obama’s record now,” said Kevin Madden, a Republican strategist, who has advised Mr. Romney. “It’s one where it looks like he’s changing his position.”

for more from Nan visit Hunter for Justice.

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New York Times - Gay Marriage Seems to Wane as Conservative Issue

WASHINGTON — President Obama’s decision to abandon his legal support for the Defense of Marriage Act has generated only mild rebukes from the Republicans hoping to succeed him in 2012, evidence of a shifting political climate in which social issues are being crowded out by economic concerns.
The Justice Department announced on Wednesday that after two years of defending the law — hailed by proponents in 1996 as an cornerstone in the protection of traditional values — the president and his attorney general have concluded it is unconstitutional.
In the hours that followed, Sarah Palin’s Facebook site was silent. Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, was close-mouthed. Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, released a Web video — on the labor union protests in Wisconsin — and waited a day before issuing a marriage statement saying he was “disappointed.”
Others, like Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, and Haley Barbour, the governor of Mississippi, took their time weighing in, and then did so only in the most tepid terms. “The Justice Department is supposed to defend our laws,” Mr. Barbour said.
Asked if Mitch Daniels, the Republican governor of Indiana and a possible presidential candidate, had commented on the marriage decision, a spokeswoman said that he “hasn’t, and with other things we have going on here right now, he has no plans.”
The sharpest reaction came from Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, in an interview here during a stop to promote his new book, who called the administration’s decision “utterly inexplicable.”
A few years ago, the president’s decision might have set off an intense national debate about gay rights. But the Republicans’ reserved response this week suggests that Mr. Obama may suffer little political damage as he evolves from what many gay rights leaders saw as a lackluster defender of their causes into a far more aggressive advocate.
“The wedge has lost its edge,” said Mark McKinnon, a Republican strategist who worked for President George W. Bush during his 2004 campaign, when gay marriage ballot measures in a dozen states helped turn out conservative voters.
Mr. Obama’s move provoked some outrage, especially among evangelical Christians and conservative groups like the Family Research Council. In a statement Wednesday, Tony Perkins, president of the council, condemned the president’s decision as pandering.
But Republican strategists and gay rights activists said on Thursday that the issue’s power as a political tool for Republican candidates is diminishing. While surveys suggest that Americans are evenly divided on whether the federal government should recognize gay marriages, opposition has fallen from nearly 70 percent in 1996.
Prominent Republicans like Dick Cheney, the former vice president, and Barbara Bush, daughter of the former president, have defended the right of gays to marry. And Mr. Obama has been emboldened by the largely positive response to his recent, and successful, push for Congress to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the military’s ban on gays serving openly.
At the same time, the rise of the Tea Party movement, and the success that Republicans had last year in attacking Democratic candidates on economic issues, has pushed the debate over abortion and gay rights to the back burner.
“I don’t think this is the issue that it once was,” said John Feehery, a Republican strategist. “I think that the economic issues are so big that this one pales in comparison.”
In his first two years in office, Mr. Obama drew criticism from gay rights advocates who thought he was dragging his feet on their issues. Those same advocates see the shift as evidence that with an eye on the 2012 campaign, the president has calculated that the benefits of responding to his base outweigh the risks of upsetting conservatives who wouldn’t be voting for him anyway.
Among them is John Aravosis, the founder of Americablog.com, who in a 2009 blog post called the administration’s first legal brief in a Defense of Marriage Act case “despicable” and “homophobic.” Mr. Aravosis said on Thursday he is “much happier” with Mr. Obama, adding: “I think the gay community got to him. I’m not convinced we got to his heart, but I think we got to his political head.”
Others, like Kerry Eleveld, editor of EqualityMatters.org, a new Web site, say Mr. Obama appears to be evaluating the politics of gay rights issues differently since the positive response to the don’t ask, don’t tell repeal from people on the political left, many of whom have criticized him over issues like health care, climate change and immigration.
“He got this big bump from it in terms of the progressive base, and didn’t get a whole lot of heat, and I think that has given him a little more heart in feeling like L.G.B.T. issues aren’t as toxic as a lot of people have been painting them for the past 20 years,” she said.
While Mr. Obama has changed his legal position on the Defense of Marriage Act, his personal views on same-sex marriage — he opposes it, but favors civil unions — have not changed, the White House says.
A big question is whether they will. Mr. Obama has said his views are “evolving,” and some expect he will announce his support for same-sex marriage as he campaigns for re-election. But that could complicate Mr. Obama’s efforts to appeal beyond his liberal base.
“It’s still part of Obama’s record now,” said Kevin Madden, a Republican strategist, who has advised Mr. Romney. “It’s one where it looks like he’s changing his position.”

=end=

Queer Union, NYU LGBT community to FDA: 'Don't waste our blood!'

Doug Miller, NYU junior, pours the 'blood' he can't donate in the trash.
Doug Miller, NYU junior, pours the 'blood' he can't donate in the trash.

By Doak Jantzen -


A blood drive in Washington Square Park on Friday had some unlikely protesters: its own organizers.

New York University's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered organization, Queer Union, co-sponsored a blood drive outside the university student center with the New York City Blood Center and No Boundaries, an international LGBT organization.

The LGBT groups were also there to protest the Food and Drug Administration's policy barring men who have sex with men (MSM) and women who have sex with men who have sex with men (WSMSM) from donating blood.

According to the FDA, the ban goes back to 1983, when the possibility of spreading HIV through transfusions was first recognized.  The current policy deferring donations from MSM and WSMSM has been in place since 1992.

Chanting "Don't waste our blood!" members of Queer Union encouraged pedestrians to sign their petition against the policy and donate blood.

To draw attention to those prohibited from donating, the protesters symbolically drew fake blood from illegible donors and dumped it in a waste basket.

Queer Union Co-Vice President Carlo Maria Ampil called the ban "institutionalized homophobia."  A statement from Queer Union said the ban stems from a “heterosexist discourse from the HIV/AIDS crisis that designated the queer body as the diseased, the contaminated, and the unwanted body.”

After pouring a pint of fake blood in the trash can to represent the blood he would have donated, NYU junior Doug Miller said, "My understanding is they're screening the blood anyway.  I know so many people in [the LGBT] community that would donate if they could.”

Keith Hudson, manager of regional communications at the New York Blood Center, said the barrage of heavy snow that hit the city this winter shut down blood drives by keeping potential donors indoors.  After the NYBC's reserves fell to a dangerous two-day supply level, the center held an emergency appeal for blood donations from Jan. 27 to Feb. 9.

"We have a great relationship with NYU, so when they approached us to do this blood drive and this demonstration, we were happy to come down," Hudson said.

The NYBC distributes blood to some 200 hospitals in the area, including city hospitals and hospitals on Long Island, in the Hudson Valley, and in Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

"The MSM issue is one that has been around since 1983," said Hudson. "We're just happy to be here so that people can donate blood and [Queer Union] can tell people about the ban."

In April 2010, the New York City Council held a meeting about the ban, prompting the FDA to review its policy.  Hudson said that such reviews have occurred periodically over the decades.

"It is [the position of the NYBC] that the FDA should continue to review this policy," said Hudson.  "They take this issue very seriously and have lots of statistical data that they use."

According to the FDA's website, men who have had sex with men since 1977 (the official beginning of the AIDS epidemic) are 60 times more likely to test HIV-positive than the general population.

"The FDA's primary responsibility is to enhance blood safety and protect blood recipients.  Therefore FDA would change this policy only if supported by scientific data showing that a change in policy would not present a significant and preventable risk to blood recipients," reads a statement on the FDA’s website.

"We just want to bring a university perspective to the debate and let people know that this ban exists," said Ampil.  "Lots of people think it has been lifted, but it still is here."


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Lady Gaga to be godmother to Elton John’s son

By Jessica Geen -


Lady Gaga is to be a godmother to Elton John and David Furnish’s new baby son.
Furnish recently let slip in an interview that the bisexual star would be an important part of two-month-old Zachary’s life.
Speaking to Canadian website macleans.ca about rumours that Gaga would be Zachary’s godmother, he replied: “We haven’t publicly confirmed that yet but your sources are very good!
“I prefer not to comment on it because we are going to make a statement about godparents later on.”
John recently described Gaga’s single Born This Way as “the new gay anthem”.
He added: “She’s all about inclusiveness and tolerance. She believes that you can be whoever you want to be and that we don’t have to live in a world of conformity and that we can all benefit from individuality.
“That’s the best message in the world. The freedom to be who you are, do what you want and love who you want to love.”

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Maryland moves towards equality

The day after the Maryland Senate voted 25-21 to end marriage discrimination in Maryland on the basis of gender, the House Judiciary Committee took up the issue. Six LGBT elected officials testified for the Civil Marriage Protection Act. Hear their words.



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Friday, February 25, 2011

India bans gay couples from surrogacy

By Jessica Geen -

India is to ban gay couples from using surrogate mothers.
As part of reforms to the country’s surrogacy and fertility treatment laws, only heterosexual couples will be allowed to have children by surrogate.
The Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) Regulation Bill 2010 was sent to the law ministry for approval this week.
There is apparently nothing in the bill to stop a single gay man from having a surrogate baby, as single men and women will be eligible.
Married and unmarried straight couples who live together will also be permitted to use surrogate mothers. However, women must be able to prove that they cannot have a baby naturally.
According to the Evening Standard, a senior Indian official said: “We have to look after the interests of our own citizens as well as handle the tricky matter of the sensitivities of these couples who have not been able to have children in the normal way.
“But above all, we have acted to put some kind of hold on the whole surrogacy issue by banning homosexual couples from coming to India to enter into such deals.
India is one of the top destinations for gay and straight couples seeking a surrogate child as it is far more cost-effective than other countries.
In the UK, single people cannot gain full legal rights over their children born by surrogate mother – a problem which affects gay single men in particular.
Parental orders are used to extinguish the rights of a biological mother and her husband or partner. However, these can only be granted to couples.
India’s emergence as a surrogacy hotspot has prompted authorities to clamp down on unscrupulous practices, such as the persuading of impoverished women to rent out their wombs.
This month, media attention focused on a Spanish gay couple who had twin girls born to a surrogate mother.
The Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights ordered the clinic involved to explain its procedures and suggested that the transaction had not been legal.
Chariman of the commission Amod Kanth said: “As the Indian laws are yet to approve of a gay marital relationship, the commission shows its grave concern over the issue as to whether the gay foreigner couple have the legal status to assign such surrogacy or having the legal status of adopting parents or otherwise.”
The bill states that surrogate mothers must be aged between 21 and 35 and cannot give birth more than five times, even if this includes their own children.
Would-be parents will be prosecuted if they refuse to accept a baby with birth defects and foreign couples or individuals will have to appoint a local guardian to care for the baby until handed over to them.
Using a surrogate mother in India costs around a fifth of the price of an American surrogate, making the country an attractive option for those interested in the process.
While an American surrogacy costs around $70,000, Indian surrogacy costs around $12,000.
This is a huge sum in India – equivalent to ten years’ average salary.
Another provision in the bill says foreign prospective parents must have obtained citizenship for their children before bringing them home.
Critics say this will be a stumbling block for many would-be parents.
Last year, an Israeli gay man was stranded in India for two months with his twin sons because Israel’s Ministry of the Interior refused to issue a paternity test, which is required for the recognition of all children born abroad.

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2011 gay rodeo season kicks off in Phoenix

By Troy Petenbrink -
The International Gay Rodeo Association contains more than two dozen regional affiliates across the United States and Canada.

 

Tom Silva traveled west from Providence, R.I., and Sara Simunovich traveled east from San Francisco; but they both came to Arizona for the same reason-to compete in the RoadRunner Regional Rodeo.

The RoadRunner, held this past weekend outside of Phoenix at Rawhide Western Town and Steakhouse on the Gila River Reservation, was the kick-off competition for the 2011 gay rodeo season. Silva and Simunovich and more than 100 other participants converged to test their mettle during two-days of events. These ranged from the traditional bull riding to the camp goat dressing (putting a pair of underwear on a not so cooperative goat.)

Aside from the steady rain during the first day of competition, local organizers were pleased with the level of participation and attendance, which they see as a positive sign for the rest of the season.

The first gay rodeo competition was held 1976. Under the direction of the International Gay Rodeo Association, there are now more than two dozen regional associations across the United States and Canada that represent hundreds of members.

It is the regional associations’ responsibility to organize local rodeos and training programs, to promote the country western lifestyle and to support the Gay Rodeo Royalty program.

Last year, many of the associations struggled and some local rodeos had to be canceled due to a lack of financial support.

"The economy has been tough on us," said Douglas Graff, president of IGRA. And while the poor economy will likely remain a challenge for 2011, Graff believes there is still strong support for gay rodeo and local associations will continue to thrive with IGRA’s support.

One of the key strategies of the associations has been to include more social events in affiliations with their rodeos and partnering with local tourism agencies to assist with promotions. As part of RoadRunner, the Arizona Gay Rodeo Association held special parties at Charlie’s, a popular country western bar in downtown Phoenix, and a Country Idol music competition.

In addition, IGRA has renewed its commitment to making gay rodeo more appealing to women. One of Graff’s first acts as president was to appoint a chair of IGRA’s Women’s Outreach committee.

For the 2011 gay rodeo season, 14 local rodeos remain; leading up to the World Gay Rodeo Finals. These include:

Texas Tradition Rodeo: Fort Worth, Tex., March 11-13.

Sunshine Stampede: Fort Lauderdale, Fla., April 8-10.

Rodeo in The Rock: Little Rock, Ark., April 29-May 1.

Hot Rodeo: Palm Springs, Calif., April 29-May 1.

BigHorn Rodeo: Las Vegas, Nev., May 20 - 22.

Great Plains Rodeo: Oklahoma City, Okla., May 27-29.

Canadian Rockies International Rodeo: Calgary, Alberta, July 1-3.

North Star Regional Rodeo: Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., July 1-3.

Rocky Mountain Regional Rodeo: Denver, Colo., July 8-10.

Greater Motown International Rodeo: Detroit, Mich., July 22-24

Zia Regional Rodeo: Albuquerque, N.M., Aug. 5-7.

Windy City Rodeo: Chicago, Ill., Aug. 19-21.

MGRA Show-Me State Rodeo: Kansas City, Mo., Sept. 2-4.

Best Buck in the Bay: San Francisco, Calif., Sept. 16-18.

World Gay Rodeo Finals: Fort Worth, Tex., Oct. 7-9.
Troy Petenbrink resides in Washington, DC and is a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association. You can follow him on Twitter: http://twitter.com/thegaytraveler

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Log Cabin Atty: DOJ Brief in the DADT Case is ‘Major Change in Govt.’s Position’

By Karen Ocamb -


Log Cabin Republicans 
attorney Dan Woods
UPDATE: Dan Woods, attorney for the Log Cabin Republicans, says this new DOJ brief is “is a major change in the government’s position.” The Justice Department just filed their 59-page brief in the case of Log Cabin Republicans v USA. According to attorney and SLDN boardmember Tom Carpenter, the DOJ asked the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse the decision by District Court Judge Virginia Phillips, who has ruled that the antigay Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is unconstitutional. The DOJ also asked the 9th Circuit to invalidate Phillip’s worldwide injunction against enforcement of DADT – which the 9th Circuit has stayed as the case continues. UPDATE: Dan Woods, lead attorney for the Log Cabin Republicans, just emailed this MAJOR UPDATE TO HIS EARLIER STATEMENT:
“The government’s brief is stunning for what it does not say.  As we expected, it argues that Log Cabin Republicans lacked standing to bring the case and that Judge Phillips lacked authority to issue a world-wide injunction; Judge Phillips’s 85-page decision from October 2010 covered these points in great detail and we are confident that the government’s arguments on these points will be rejected.  The government’s only other argument is that the recent repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was constitutional but that was not an issue tried before Judge Phillips and was never part of the government’s case before.  The government’s brief does not address the due process or first amendment issues on which Judge Phillips based her decision or the standard of review applicable to our challenge to the constitutionality of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  By not arguing merits of the constitutionality of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the government’s brief, by its silence on these issues, is effectively conceding that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was and is unconstitutional.  While it may be implicit, it is the first time in the six-plus-year history of the case that the government has not argued that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is constitutional.  This is a major change in the government’s position.” (Emphasis mine)
R. Clarke Cooper, Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director, issued this statement:
“Once again, President Obama has abdicated his responsibility in ending the failed and unconstitutional ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy. The Department of Justice’s continued defense of this case and its appellate tactics seek to obfuscate the issues and facts of this case. Log Cabin Republicans represents countless Active Duty, Reserve and National Guard servicemembers who are under the peril of a policy that seeks to advance discrimination over national security, which is why we went to court to argue this exact matter. This position is particularly difficult at a time when DOD commanders are ready to implement open service and open recruitment. When applying different standards between the government’s position in regards to the Defense of Marriage Act and ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ what makes one indefensible and the other appropriate discrimination.”
Carpenter says:
“I concur with Dan, that the Government in its open brief concedes the unconstitutionality of DADT by omitting to even address Judge Phillips’ decision on the most important issue in the case.”
Earlier Woods wrote:
“Am just now reading it.  As expected, the government argues about standing at the beginning and, at the end, argues that the worldwide injunction exceeded the court’s authority.  No surprises in those sections.  What is odd is section II.  It does not appear to argue that DADT is or was constitutional.  It does not address the due process or first amendment issues.  It does not even address, as far as I have been able to tell so far, the government’s position on the appropriate standard of review.  Instead, it argues that the orderly repeal process is constitutional, which was not an issue before Judge Phillips.”
In a story earlier in the day in MetroWeekly, Chris Geidner reported that White House press secretary Jay Carney suggested that President Obama had not told the Justice Department to stop defending DADT in federal court. There has been speculation that Attorney General Eric Holder might tell DOJ attorneys to stand down in the same or similar fashion to the decision to no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act.
UPDATE: GEIDNER HAS AN ANALYSIS OF THE DOJ’S BRIEF:
“As suggested this afternoon by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, the Department of Justice has filed its brief defending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in Log Cabin Republicans v. United States.
It has done so, though, in a rather remarkable way: It changed the question of what the lawsuit is. Noting that “[t]he repeal process is well under way,” the government argues that the appellate court should not be deciding whether DADT is constitutional but should instead be deciding whether the DADT repeal process is constitutional.
The government, in fact, doesn’t even directly address the constitutionality of DADT, aside from a single mention of past cases and past briefs.”
AP’s Lisa Leff has posted her story as well. Here’s an excerpt:
“The request was made in the government’s opening brief challenging a Southern California trial judge who in September declared the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy unconstitutional.
“This case is thus now in a different posture,” Assistant Attorney General Tony West wrote for the administration. “That statute is now undergoing a repeal process subject to a more recent law duly enacted by Congress and signed by the President.”
The relevant question now before the 9th Circuit, West maintained, is not whether “don’t ask, don’t tell” is unconstitutional, but whether it was unconstitutional for Congress to leave the policy in effect while the Pentagon works toward its repeal.”

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President Obama Anoints Jeremy Bernard As White House Social Secretary In Historic Appointment

By David Mixner -

In an historic appointment, the White House has just announced that Jeremy Bernard will be the first male ever to serve as White House Social Secretary. Jeremy, also the first open member of the LGBT community to have that high honor, will return from Paris where he was serving as Senior Advisor to the Ambassador. Before France he was the White House's liaison to the National Endowment for the Arts.

Not only have I worked with Jeremy for the last twenty years, he is also one of my dearest friends. Indefatigable, unfailingly affable and extremely knowledgeable, no one deserves this prestigious appointment more. He has shown remarkable grace under pressure and is an extremely principled young man. In addition, his vast network of friends and associates will be of great assistance to the President and First Lady. The President in announcing the appointment said:
“Jeremy shares our vision for the White House as the People’s House, one that celebrates our history and culture in dynamic and inclusive ways. We look forward to working with him to continue to showcase America’s arts and culture to our nation and the world through the many events at the White House.”
Bernard's reaction to the appointment was:
“I am deeply humbled to join the White House staff as Social Secretary and support President Obama and the First Lady in this role. I have long admired the dynamic arts and education programs that have become hallmarks of the Obama White House and I am eager to continue those efforts in the years ahead.”
Distinguished columnist and commentator Jonathan Capehart wrote this moving tribute about our mutual friend.
And now comes Jeremy Bernard.
Bernard and his then-partner Rufus Gifford were early supporters of Obama in California. And they raised a ton of money for him through their company, B&G Associates. Gifford went on to become finance director of the Democratic National Committee. Bernard was the White House liaison at the National Endowment for the Humanities before dashing off to his Paris post in November.
Full disclosure: Bernard and I are friends. He will bring a certain warmth and irreverence to the job that will make him a joy for his colleagues to work with. His knowledge of the Obamas and his intense attention to detail will ensure that their vision for the people's house continues seamlessly. And he has a reverence for the presidency and the meaning of the White House that will make him an imaginative steward of their image.
The president and the first lady have made an excellent choice.
We at davidmixner.com couldn't be happier or more proud.

for more from David visit Live from Hell's Kitchen.

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Marauding Gay Hordes Drag Thousands Of Helpless Citizens From Marriages After Obama Drops Defense Of Marriage Act (Satire)

WASHINGTON—Reports continue to pour in from around the nation today of helpless Americans being forcibly taken from their marital unions after President Obama dropped the Defense of Marriage Act earlier this week, leaving the institution completely vulnerable to roving bands of homosexuals. "It was just awful—they smashed through our living room window, one of them said 'I've had my eye on you, Roger,' and then they dragged my husband off kicking and screaming," said Cleveland-area homemaker Rita Ellington, one of the latest victims whose defenseless marriage was overrun by the hordes of battle-ready gays that had been clambering at the gates of matrimony since the DOMA went into effect in 1996. "Oh dear God, why did they remove the protection provided by this vital piece of legislation? My children! What will I tell my children?" A video communique was sent to the media late yesterday from what appears to be the as-yet unidentified leader of the gay marauders, who, adorned in terrifying warpaint, announced "Richard Dickson of Ames, Iowa. We're coming for you next. Put on something nice."

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MSNBC - Big Week For Gay Rights

Thomas Roberts talks with Dan Stone (Newsweek) about this weeks progress in gay rights including President Obama appointing first male and openly gay social secretary Jeremy Bernard, the decision to no longer defend DOMA, Maryland State Senate approves gay marriage & the Hawaii Senate passed a bill that would legalize civil unions.



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Injustice at Every Turn: Part VII: Identity Documents

--by Robyn


Scarlet Letter
Injustice 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.

Possessing accurate and consistent identification documents is essential to basic social and economic functioning in our country. Access to employment, housing, health care and travel all can hinge on having appropriate documentation. Yet, for many of the respondents, obtaining identity documents that match their gender is a major hurdle.


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, Part V: Housing and Part VI: Public Accommodation.



One last piece to come concerns treatment by police and incarceration.

True LGBT Stories - I'm From Providence, RI.

www.imfromdriftwood.com Is a compilation of true stories by gay people from all over in an attempt to help LGBTQ teens feel not so alone. Please pass the link along to anyone who might benefit from, contribute to, or simply enjoy the site, stories and videos. Thanks!



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Darren Criss Sings for Ellen!

The newest breakout star of "Glee," Darren Criss, stopped by to chat with Ellen -- and prepared an original song just for her!



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US right hopes to make gay marriage an election issue

By Jessica Geen -

Following the Obama administration’s announcement that it will no longer defend the Defence of Marriage Act, US conservatives say they will make gay marriage an election issue.
According to the Washington Post, conservatives said they expect that a Republican challenger to President Obama will highlight the issue next year, even putting it on an equal footing with the economy.
Well-funded anti-gay groups such as the Family Research Council and the National Organisation for Marriage said Republicans would have to tackle the issue head-on to avoid alienating traditional supporters.
Tony Perkins, of the Family Research Council, told the newspaper: “It is incumbent upon the Republican leadership to respond by intervening to defend DOMA, or they will become complicit in the president’s neglect of duty.”
But Jon Davidson, legal director of the gay-rights group Lambda Legal, said he doubted how much impact the issue would have.
“I think they will try to turn this into a major election issue,” he said. “But the people who feel strongly that same-sex couples should not be allowed to marry were not going to vote for President Obama anyway.”
This week, the administration said it would not longer defend the law, known as DOMA. A Democratic senator is to introduce a bill next week to repeal the law.
DOMA restricts federal recognition of marriage to heterosexual couples – meaning that even states which want to give gay couples full equality cannot do so. It also means that married gay couples cannot file joint tax returns or receive survivors’ social security benefits.
It is not clear what effect the announcement will have on current state-level gay marriage wrangles. Gay marriage opponents are apt to claim it will strengthen their case, while supporters say it will give the ‘pro’ side a boost.
Although the President does not support gay marriage, his spokesman said this week that he is “grappling” with his views on the issue and has always opposed DOMA.
Six states currently allow gay couples to wed. Others allow forms of civil union or recognition of gay marriages performed in other states. Thirty have constitutional bans on the practice.

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Will the Justice Department Drop Its Defense of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?

By Karen Ocamb -

LCR attorney Dan Woods
LGBT rights advocates were startled Wednesday with the announcement from US Attorney General Eric Holder that the Department of Justice (DOJ) will no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court. (See explanations from Lambda Legal’s Jon Davidson here / and from law professor Tobias Wolff here.)
Meanwhile – the DOJ is expected to file their brief on Friday in the Log Cabin Republican’s federal case challenging the constitutionality of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. (See more about the case here.) I asked lead attorney Dan White if he thinks the DOJ might decide to drop their defense of DADT, as they did with DOMA. Here’s his response:
If the DOJ follows the same rationale in our case, it should similarly decide not to continue with the appeal from Judge Phillips’s decision.  Two reasons for this:  (1) the statements by the Attorney General about the Lawrence case yesterday track what we (and others) have said about the true meaning and implications of that case; those statements conflict with the narrow interpretation of Lawrence posited by the government in our case; and (2) the statements yesterday about the standard of review also track and are consistent with our arguments and Judge Phillips’s decision and conflict with the government’s argument for rational basis review only in our case.
Having said that, we have no current expectations as to how the government intends to proceed tomorrow with its brief in our case.  We have heard nothing from the government and I can imagine several reasons why the government might claim it has to take a different approach in our case (e.g., ours is a facial challenge; the court in our case issued an injunction that would bind the government if it dropped the appeal, etc.).
We’ll all see what happens tomorrow.

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Cuba Education Tours Announces Rainbow Cuba Tour For LGBT People For May 2011

Cuba Education Tours is hosting a trip for lesbians, gays and all others seeking to learn about gender and sexual equality in Cuba. Tour dates are May 7 to 15, 2011. Tour participants will meet Cuban activists promoting LGBT rights and join them in rallies and forums against homophobia. The Cuba tour features NGO and museum visits, drag and fashion shows, and social and natural history activities.
Blaine, Washington (Vocus/PRWEB) February 24, 2011
A first-ever Rainbow Cuba Tour for LGBT people and their friends is being organized by Cuba Education Tours from May 7 to 15. The program coincides with rallies and forums in Havana to commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO). Tour participants from across North America will meet Cuban activists seeking greater equality and understanding for LGBT people on the island.
Two Cuban NGOs, the Federation of Cuba Women and the National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX) support the tour. These organizations define homophobia, rather than homosexuality as a malady. Both groups encourage their American counterparts to join them in Havana this May.
CENESEX has dozens of programs for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders. Its director is the globally renowned sexologist Dr Mariela Castro Espin, daughter of the Cuban president.
Every May, since 2008, Cubans have held weeklong rallies, celebrations and educational events to create awareness about social problems caused by homophobia. This year will be the largest to date.
Rainbow Cuba Tour participants will connect and collaborate with Cuban activists promoting same-sex unions, and greater awareness. There are no laws in Cuba that discriminate against LGBT people, however there remain, as elsewhere, prejudices. Overcoming this social obstacle is the focus of Cuban sexual equality advocates.
Tour participants will enjoy many cultural activities in and around Havana. The nine-day itinerary includes museum visits, tours of organic farms and eco-villages, drag and fashion shows, dance lessons, visits to community schools, clinics and art projects, and time at Havana's gay beach.
Cuba Education Tours assists Legal Cuba Travel Americans with legal Cuba travel. Its guests travel to Cuba fully licensed under U.S. regulations.
About Cuba Education Tours: Established in 1997, the organization is based in Vancouver, British Columbia. Its Cuban, American and Canadian staff assists schools, business, religious and community groups visit Cuba on education, culture, nature history tours. Cuba Education Tours is recognized in Cuba as an agency promoting friendship and understanding.

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Anonymous takes down God Hates Fags church websites (?)

Anonymous, the hacking movement has taken down the website of the Westboro Baptist Church, home of the ‘God Hates Fags’ campaign group that pickets the funerals of US soldiers whose death the group blames on an acceptance of homosexuality by the USA. It is alleged that the church made up previous threats to crash their websites by the group.
Anonymous has taken down the main website of the church together with their other websites, including the charmingly named PriestsRapeBoys.com as well as GodHatesAmerica.com, GodHatesTheWorld.com, JewsKilledJesus.com and AmericaIsDoomed.com.
The one page of the website that does resolve contains a letter from the Anonymous group that says the church’s website has been “seized by Anonymous under section #14 of the rules of the Internet.”
The church had begun a hate campaign against Anonymous and claimed that it was under threat, something that Anonymous said was a lie and a publicity stunt.
In their posting announcing the hack, Anonymous said: “Your continued biting of the Anonymous hand, however, has earned you a swift and emotionless bitchslap, in the form of this very message. Despite having had the capability to hack your sites previously, we chose not to and instead responded maturely to your threats, but you have not respected this.
“For this unremitting display of overzealousness, we award you no points. Take this defacement as a simple
warning: go away. The world (including Anonymous) disagrees with your hateful messages, but you have the right to voice them. This does not mean you can jump onto Anonymous for attention.”
The message ends with the statement: “God hates fags: assumption. Anonymous hates leeches: fact.”

In 2009, the God Hates Fags founder, Fred Phelps and his daughter Shirley Phelps-Roper were banned from entering the UK.

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LGBT activists on the front lines of Wis. union protests

By Joseph Erbentraut -

Members of Fair Wisconsin, Join the Impact-Chicago and other LGBT groups have all participated in protests against Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to curtail state workers’ benefits and their collective bargaining rights.
Members of Fair Wisconsin, 
Join the Impact-Chicago and 
other LGBT groups have all 
participated in protests against 
Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal 
to curtail state workers’ benefits 
& their collective bargaining rights.

As protests against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to curtail state workers’ benefits and collective bargaining rights approach their 11th day, LGBT activists continue to play an active role in lobbying opposition to the controversial measure.

Katie Belanger, executive director of Fair Wisconsin, the state’s largest LGBT advocacy organization, has joined many of her organization’s members in daily protests at the state Capitol. She told EDGE the movement against Walker’s bill is unlike anything she has seen in her lifetime -- which is saying a lot considering Madison is a protest-friendly locale.

"That will be the thing that stays, that people are working together," she said. "They are here and they’re not going to go anywhere.

Belanger said it was important to Fair Wisconsin to vocally support the union workers’ opposition to Walker’s proposal; not only because many LGBT people are public employees, but also because labor unions actively opposed the state’s 2006 constitutional amendment that bars same-sex marriages and civil unions. Unions also supported the 2009 introduction of a statewide domestic partnership registry that included gay and lesbian couples.

"We’ve been right there on the front line with our union brothers and sisters since the protests started," said Belanger. "We feel strongly that it’s our turn to step up for them in their fight to exist and this is an even bigger issue than just supporting them. Our government should never be in the business of taking away any person’s rights at any time."

These efforts continue to take place against the backdrop of unparalleled acts of political theater-the state’s 14 Democratic senators have left the state to avoid voting on the bill-and the apparent threats of similar union-busting measures in Ohio, Indiana, Florida, Michigan and other states. The majority of the tens of thousands of protesters who have descended upon Madison oppose Walker’s bill; clogging the halls of the state Capitol and filling the building’s surrounding sidewalks to the brim.

A prank call between a Buffalo Beast journalist who posed as billionaire Tea Party supporter David Koch and Walker revealed the governor has no plans to compromise with Democrats and union leaders who oppose his proposal, even though they have agreed to an increase in public employees’ pension and health contributions.

Walker remains staunchly opposed to bargaining rights remaining in place, even as a Gallup and USA Today poll released on Tuesday, Feb. 22, reported 61 percent of respondents opposed his plan. He claimed in a press conference on Wednesday, Feb. 23, the cuts are necessary to close Wisconsin’s budget gap. He also said 1,500 state workers would have to be laid off by June 30 if lawmakers fail to approve the bill.

Standing in solidarity with the unions
LGBT activists from outside the state have also made the trek to Madison to support the unions’ cause. Judy Heithmar was part of a Join the Impact-Chicago contingent that protested for several days. She described Walker’s proposal as potentially "igniting a fire" that could affect workers’ rights throughout the country.

"There is power in numbers, as we saw recently in Egypt, and if I can be one more person in that crowd of thousands, we become one person stronger in winning the fight," said Heithmar.

She hoped other LGBT activists would join the struggle.

"Queer activists need to support the labor movement, because we are laborers ourselves," added Heithmar, noting workers’ rights are largely intertwined with employment non-discrimination measures and other LGBT issues. "If we want to stand up to those trying to strip us of our rights, we need to come together, work together, and demand the end to discrimination of all people."

Peggy Shorey, executive director of Pride at Work, described the protests in Madison as a "really important moment in history" for the LGBT movement. "We need to take this as our moment to step up and be the best allies we know how to be [to labor] because we can’t afford to outcome if we don’t do so," she told EDGE.

Shorey added the stakes are high because union contracts are often the only protection LGBT workers have in states that lack LGBT-specific non-discrimination statutes. Without collective bargaining, many gay and lesbian public employees would also face a much more difficult road to gain domestic partner health coverage and other benefits.

"The proposals in Wisconsin right now are extremely draconian," added Shorey. "It’s not about the budget and financial savings, but it’s really about trying to penalize and take away peoples’ rights, which has a real impact for LGBT workers."

Harvey Milk and the Teamsters
LGBT activists and organized labor coalitions date back to the days when Harvey Milk forged a partnership with Teamsters at Coors who were fighting to get a union contact. The Teamsters agreed to hire more gay workers in exchange for their support of a boycott against the company.

That boycott proved successful and Milk’s friend, Cleve Jones of Unite Here, and other organizers have carried the torch.

Unite Here’s Sleep with the Right People campaign has raised awareness of hotels who do not support union contracts among their workers. Some activists criticized the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association’s decision to hold their annual convention at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in San Francisco amid a labor union protest last September.

Most national LGBT groups have remained quiet on the demonstrations in Madison, even as MoveOn.org announced on Wednesday, Feb. 23, it will spearhead "emergency solidarity rallies" at each state capital this weekend.

"It is inexcusable that some politicians are using the people as pawns in their quest for power and control," said the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in a statement released on Tuesday, Feb. 22. "The assault on working people is a disgrace, and we are heartened that so many are standing firm and saying ’no’ to this abuse of power. We join them in solidarity."

The National Stonewall Democrats also issued a statement indicating the organization would "stand strong with [their] union brothers and sisters."

Joseph covers news, arts and entertainment and lives in Chicago. Log on to www.joe-erbentraut.com to read more.
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Right On, Mr. President!

By David Mixner -

Doma 
The impact of the decision by the Obama Justice Department not to appeal Section 2 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) can not be overestimated. No matter how one looks at this decision it is just right - morally and politically. At last the President is beginning to lead on the issue of LGBT rights. Indeed, increasingly Mr. Obama is finding his voice on full equality for LGBT people. He has one more huge hurdle and that is to finalize his transition to full support of marriage equality.
The language that the Justice Department used in its announcement and with the court is simply powerful. Read this excerpt from a statement by Attorney General Eric Holder:
After careful consideration, including a review of my recommendation, the President has concluded that given a number of factors, including a documented history of discrimination, classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to a more heightened standard of scrutiny. The President has also concluded that Section 3 of DOMA, as applied to legally married same-sex couples, fails to meet that standard and is therefore unconstitutional. Given that conclusion, the President has instructed the Department not to defend the statute in such cases. I fully concur with the President's determination.
Consequently, the Department will not defend the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA as applied to same-sex married couples in the two cases filed in the Second Circuit. We will, however, remain parties to the cases and continue to represent the interests of the United States throughout the litigation. I have informed Members of Congress of this decision, so Members who wish to defend the statute may pursue that option. The Department will also work closely with the courts to ensure that Congress has a full and fair opportunity to participate in pending litigation.
Does this mean the end of DOMA? Towleroad's brilliant legal scholar Ari Ezra Waldman has once again provided us with thoughtful legal analysis of the this decision by the Justice Department. To be fully informed you should just click here and read Waldman's words in their entirety. However to the question "Is DOMA Dead?" he writes:
No, for a few reasons.
First, this is just the Administration stating its legal position. Even if the Administration was the only party arguing in these Second Circuit cases, the court does not have to adopt the Administration's opinion.
Second, the Administration will not be the only one defending DOMA. As you can see from the press release, the DOJ has notified members of Congress of the Administration's decision not to defend DOMA. Congressional leaders are permitted to step into the shoes of the DOJ to defend duly enacted federal laws passed by Congress. While Congress is split between majority Democrats in the Senate and majority Republicans in the House, it is likely that Republicans will seek to defend DOMA and argue before the Second Circuit that rational basis review is the appropriate standard of review.
Third, even if the Second Circuit accepts heightened scrutiny and declares DOMA unconstitutional, this will set up splits between the circuits on both the constitutionality of DOMA and on the appropriate standard of review. Therefore, these cases will likely go all the way up to the Supreme Court before there is a definitive and final judicial ruling on the constitutionality of DOMA. In fact, the Supreme Court may have to hear these cases twice, remanding the case for review based on a clear standard of review and, perhaps, hearing the cases again using that standard
No matter how you cut it the decision is an outstanding one by the administration. We have a long way to go but the President has given us new hope and reasons to celebrate this week. Right on, Mr. President.

for more from David visit Live from Hell's Kitchen.

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How Are Those Anti-Gay Policies Working For You, Boy Scouts?

By Evan Hurst -

Oh, but they have to protect the Boy Scouts from gay people, even though things like child molestation are far more prevalent among heterosexuals. Yeah. Background from The Dallas Voice:

A lawsuit filed in San Antonio claims the Boy Scouts should have done more to protect a teenage victim from the man who was later convicted of molesting him and is now serving 60 years in prison.

“There were violations after violation of basic safety rules with children,” attorney Pat Maloney said. “You don’t allow a scoutmaster to be one-on-one with a child. You don’t allow a scoutmaster to go out-of-state with a child, and you certainly don’t allow a scoutmaster to show pornography to a child, all of which was going on while he was a scoutmaster here.”


Charming.

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STEVE HAYES: Tired Old Queen at the Movies

SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (1952)

Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O'Connor dance and sing their way into your heart in Stanley Donen's tribute to the good old days of movie making, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN. Done in the Technicolor splendor that was MGM in its prime, the film boasts a book by Comden and Green, dancing by luscious Cyd Charisse and an hysterical Oscar nominated performance by Jean Hagen as the silent star who can't adjust to talkies. Gene Kelly has never been better, Debbie is adorable, but it's Donald O'Connor who proves he was one of the true geniuses of musical comedy. It's a fun filled trip into Hollywood nostalgia that has rightly earned its place as one of the greatest musicals ever filmed. And oh, those numbers!



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Know thy enemy - Mike Huckabee On Gay Parenthood, DOMA, & DADT

"I believe that we're in denial about potential problems as we see more and more homosexual couples raising families. Essentially, these are experiments to see how well children will fare in such same-sex households. It will be years before we know whether or not our little guinea pigs turn out to be good at marriage and parenthood."



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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mark & Sunrise Ruffalo for HRC's New Yorkers for Marriage Equality

Actor Mark Ruffalo and his wife Sunrise support marriage equality. Do you?



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Fox News Analyst Judge Napolitano on Defense of Marriage Act

Judge Napolitano spoke exclusively to the Insider about the announcement by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder that the government would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act, and both the legal and economic ramifications.



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New York Times Editorial: Mr. Obama Moves Against Bias

In a heartening reversal, President Obama has instructed the Justice Department to stop defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. That deplorable 1996 law sanctioned blatant discrimination against the spousal rights of married gays and lesbians. In a heartening reversal, President Obama has instructed the Justice Department to stop defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. That deplorable 1996 law sanctioned blatant discrimination against the spousal rights of married gays and lesbians.
The announcement by Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. struck at the core of the matter, concluding that Congress had violated constitutional due process in a debate rife with “moral disapproval” of gay men and lesbians — “precisely the kind of stereotype-based thinking and animus” banned by the equal protection clause.
The decision reversed the administration’s untenable position of defending the law’s affront to equal rights even as Mr. Obama made clear his personal opposition. Instead, Mr. Holder said it was no longer possible to advance “hypothetical rationales” in court independent of the bias-steeped record of Congressional enactment.
The act, passed in an election year and signed by President Bill Clinton, arbitrarily denied federal benefits for married couples to married same-sex couples, including Social Security survivor payments and the option to file joint tax returns. It allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages that are legally recognized in other states.
The president’s decision is a major advancement for protecting the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans. It firmly skewers what has been bad law and complements the recent Congressional repeal of the government’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” prejudice suffered by gay men and lesbians serving the nation in the military.
The administration said its revised position was in part because of the fact that current court challenges require a rigorous enforcement standard — “heightened scrutiny” — in the case of protecting minority groups who have suffered a clear history of official discrimination. The courts will still be the ultimate arbiter of the law, but it is vital that the administration dropped its commitment to press wrongheaded defenses. Congress may still pursue its own brief in the courts.
The reversal seems likely to redound into the next election cycle — a fight very much worth having. As a candidate three years ago, Mr. Obama opposed the defense of marriage law but would not endorse same-sex marriage, instead supporting civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. In December, Mr. Obama said his feelings on the subject were “constantly evolving.” Wednesday’s decision raises the hope that they are evolving in the right direction — equal rights for all Americans.
Meanwhile, it is stirring that the president has done the right thing on the marriage law. He has scored Congress’s shabby violation of constitutional rights that supposedly protect all Americans, not just a selected majority in an election year.

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