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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Beer with Ben Cohen at Taurus

England rugby star Ben Cohen came to Taurus bar in Canal Street to launch his Foundation and raise money with an auction, all with the help of comedian Jonathan Mayor. Photos at http://www.bearpix.co.uk/

Find out more about the Village Spartans and the 2012 Bingham cup here- http://www.manchesterpride.com/blog/post.aspx?ID=879



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York University (Toronto) campus disturbed by potential homophobic attack, police release security images of suspects

By Irene Preklet -

TORONTO, Ont. - Several campus and student groups at York University are set to meet Friday night after what appears to be a targeted attack on a lesbian student.

Some York University students have reported feeling uneasy around campus after word of the violent attack spread.

Valerie Bustros told 680News she was using a woman's washroom Tuesday night when a man stopped her and said she was using the wrong one.

"I went into the bathroom and a gentleman opened the door and told me it was the ladies room," Bustros said of the incident. "I told him I was just a lesbian, not a dude."

The man and two of his friends were waiting for Valerie when she left the bathroom, at which point she was attacked.

"And then his friends were around me, at this point I don't know who or what is hitting me, I know I have one guy I'm on the floor with, who was kicking me in face," Bustros said.

Alastair Woods of the Trans Bisexual Lesbian Gays Allies group at York said while he was shocked by the assault, he wasn't completely surprised.

"As a gay man who goes here to university [York], while thankfully I haven't experienced any physical assault, I've been teased, I've been called names and I definitely have experienced homophobia on campus," Woods said.

What surprised Woods most about the incident was where it occurred.

"The fact that something like this could take place at a crowded pub night just outside the doors in a university building, it's very disconcerting," Woods said.

Mamdouh Shoukri, President and Vice-Chancellor at York University, released a statement Friday morning condemning the attack.

"I was deeply disturbed and upset to learn that a member of our community reported being verbally and physically assaulted this week at Winters Absinthe pub. This reported assault is distressing to all of us," Shoukri said in the statement. "York University Security Services responded quickly to the incident and offered counselling and medical treatment to the community member. In addition, our security services are cooperating with Toronto Police Service in their investigation."

The statement also said the university would do everything it could to prevent another incident like this from occurring in the future, but many students, especially those in the gay or transgender communities, are still on high alert around campus.

"I have spoken to many queer and trans[gender] students that we serve here at TBLGAY who are worried about their safety," Woods said.

Police have released security images, as well as a description, of three suspects believed to be involved in the attack.
Suspect one is described as brown, 20-30, 5'4", 140 lbs., with black hair. He was last seen wearing a black jacket and blue jeans.

Suspect two is described as brown, 20-30, thin build, brown eyes and black hair. He was last seen wearing a black coat and dark jeans.

Suspect three is described as brown, 20-30, 6', 160 lbs. with brown hair. He was last seen wearing dark jeans.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 416-808-3100, Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477), online at www.222tips.com, text TOR and your message to CRIMES (274637), or Leave A Tip on Facebook.

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Newly-out gay MPs attend Stonewall Equality Dinner

Tory MPs Crispin Blunt, Margot James & Nigel Evans @event
By Jessica Geen -


Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans and Conservative MP Crispin Blunt were among the guests at last night’s Stonewall Equality Dinner.
They joined 600 guests at London’s Dorchester Hotel to raise £340,000 for the charity’s gay rights work.
Both men came out last year. Mr Evans’ sexuality was regarded as an open secret in Westminster, while Mr Blunt’s declaration was a shock even to those closest to him.
Other guests at last night’s event included Christopher Biggins, Amy Lamé and Sue Perkins.
BBC newsreader Jane Hill, who was the keynote speaker, hit out at the lack of gay people on television.
She said: “How many gay women are there on telly? I am the only gay on the BBC News Channel.
“It’s 2011 – do we not have a right to see ourselves reflected? Stonewall’s Unseen on Screen research showed how little positive representation there is of lesbian, gay and bisexual people.
“What we crave isn’t tolerance – it’s ambivalence. We still really need Stonewall to fight the bigger battles. But the real good news is when it’s no news.”
Stonewall deputy chief executive Laura Doughty said: ‘All funds raised tonight will go towards Stonewall’s pioneering campaigns for lesbian, gay and bisexual equality – at home, at school and at work.”

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Australian politician denies homophobia towards gay MP

By Jessica Geen -


An Australian politician has denied that a ‘queen’ joke he made about a gay MP was homophobic.
Rob Johnson, who is the West Australian police minister, had been asked by openly gay opposition MP John Hyde about spending on the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.
Mr Johnson said the question was irrelevant and added: “He is just really, really upset and jealous that we have got a true queen coming to WA.”
Opposition MPs responded angrily and the policing minister withdrew his remark minutes later, AAP reports.
Today, Mr Johnson said he had not been referring to Mr Hyde’s sexuality and claimed the joke referred to Oprah Winfrey visiting Perth instead of Queen Elizabeth.
“The only reason I withdrew the remark is because some members obviously misconstrued my comments and confused my reference to the royal Queen with another term,” he said.
Gay rights campaigner Kitty Hawkins said there would be “uproar” if a similar joke was made about a non-white MP.
“There was no cause for his comments, they were completely irrelevant and unrelated, it was just a spiteful pot-shot at John Hyde,” she told AAP.
Ms claimed Mr Johnson had made anti-gay remarks before. In 2001 he said that homosexuality was “not normal” and in the same year, he claimed that lesbians and gays were trying to “persuade young people to adopt their way of life”.

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European parliament calls for special protection of gay and trans asylum seekers

By Jessica Geen -


The European parliament says that LGBT asylum seekers must be given special protection.
MEPs voted this week to adopt a series of measures, such as ensuring that physical examinations are respectful and providing expert advice to asylum officials.
Other measures include ensuring that LGBT people are not automatically fast-tracked for removal to their home country.
The measures concern a provision which considers certain characteristics as “special needs” when they may impact on an asylum seeker’s rights under the law – for example, elderly or disabled asylum seekers may require special protection.
MEPs approved an amendment to add “sexual orientation”, “gender identity” and “physical or mental illnesses”.
Sirpa Pietikäinen, a member of the centre-right European People’s Party and vice-president of the LGBT Intergroup, said: “Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people fleeing countries such as Iraq, Uganda, Honduras or Indonesia must receive particular protection taking into account cultural sensitivity.
“This is a major step towards fully complying with our engagements under international asylum law.”
The new measures are the European parliament’s formal position on asylum.
Asylum rules will not be amended until EU governments agree the text.

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261 Personnel Discharged Under DADT

Alexander Nicholson
Alexander Nicholson
By Chuck Colbert -


During its final year as federal law and military policy, "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" has resulted in the discharge of 261 members of the armed forces. The Department of Defense numbers for the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines stand at 250, while the Department of Homeland Security, with authority for the Coast Guard, discharged an additional 11 guardsmen.

News of the latest gay-related discharges, under a nearly 18-year policy that was supposed to allow gays to serve as long as they were not out, came March 24 from Servicemembers United, a DADT repeal advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. The organization requested data under the Freedom of Information Act, which provides for public disclosure of documents and information controlled by the federal government.

Roughly three-fourths, or 180 of the 250 discharges from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, fell under the category of "statement," according to a March 4 DADT separations tally provided by the Defense Manpower Data Center. Another 65 discharges were in the category of "act," with five discharges classified as "marriage."

The information provided by the Coast Guard to Servicemembers United did not include classification categories for its discharge numbers.

Overall, the Army led the way in total number of discharges, tossing out 93 soldiers. The Air Force discharged 64 airmen, the Navy booted 54 sailors, and the Corps discharged 39 marines.

Across the four branches, statement discharges accounted for twice as many as those categorized as act, except for the Army, which reported four times as many - 74 classified as statement compared to 18 categorized as act.

The 2010 fiscal year time period for the numbers reported ran from October 1, 2009 through September 30, 2010.

"While this latest official discharge number represents an all-time annual low, it is still unusually high considering that the secretary of defense issued a directive half-way through the fiscal year to make it much harder for military units to discharge troops under ’Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’" said Alexander Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United.

Nicholson was referring to guidelines, issued last March by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, designed to reduce the number of gay discharges.

There were several regulatory policy changes last year, as debate raged over repealing the anti-gay policy. One raised the rank of military officer who could initiate investigations and authorize separations to flag officer - admiral or general. Another change disallowed "hearsay" and "overheard statements," along with confidential or privileged information as trigger mechanisms for fact-finding investigations of suspected violators of the policy. Additionally, a third party was no longer considered as a "reliable source" of information for initiating investigations.

The 261 discharges last year are significantly lower than numbers from previous years. By comparison, 499 members of the armed forces were discharged under DADT in the 2009 fiscal year, with 715 discharged in 2008 and 696 tossed out in 2007, according to a count by Servicemembers United. Altogether, 14,316 military personnel have been discharged under the policy, according to the organization’s unofficial count, which included the National Guard.

And yet, Nicholson said, "Despite this law clearly being on its deathbed at the time, 261 more careers were terminated and 261 more lives were abruptly turned upside down because of this policy."

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said the findings point to the need to quicken the implementation of last year’s legislation repealing DADT.

"Even one discharge under the discriminatory ’Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy is too many," Sarvis said. "These numbers underscore the need to accelerate the timeline for training and repeal. The reality is that investigations continue and service members are still in danger of being discharged. We look forward to certification by Secretary Gates, Chairman Mullen, and the president as we move toward full repeal. Until we achieve full equality for all LGBT service members, the job is not done."

During a lame-duck session of Congress last year, a bipartisan majority of lawmakers voted to repeal DADT and President Barack Obama signed the legislation into law on December 22.

But before the ban is lifted, Obama, Gates, and Mullen must certify that openly gay service will not undermine military readiness and effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the armed forces.

The various military branches are currently training their forces in order to implement the policy change. Gates has said he will not recommend certification until training for repeal is implemented throughout the service branches.

After certification, a 60-day congressional review period is also required before DADT is finally repealed.

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A Hard-Earned Victory for Arkansas Kids

By James Esseks -

I’m thrilled to report that we’ve just struck down a second state parenting ban. Just six months after we got rid of Florida’s 33-year-old ban on adoption by gay people, yesterday the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down that state’s related parenting ban as unconstitutional. This removes a barrier that harmed kids and families all across the state, and shows once again that the ideas driving laws like this — that gay people are bad for kids — are simply unfounded.
The Arkansas law struck down yesterday was Act 1, which banned any unmarried couple, straight or gay, from serving as adoptive or foster parents in Arkansas. Yesterday's decision was the culmination of 2 1/2 years of hard-fought litigation against Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel and the Family Council Action Committee, who were the proponents of the initiative. It was also the culmination of a much longer battle against the efforts of anti-gay activists in that state to ban gay people from adopting.
Back in 2006, after a seven-year lawsuit, we got this same court to strike down an earlier ban on foster parenting by gay people . Then we prevented anti-gay activists from passing a new gay parenting ban through the legislature, so they put Act 1 before the voters in 2008, and it passed with 57 percent of the vote. While Act 1 doesn’t focus solely on gay couples, the measure’s proponents made clear during the election that it was designed to “blunt the gay agenda.”
Act 1 had devastating effects on kids and families in Arkansas. Take plaintiff W.H., a little girl who was taken into state custody at two months old after suffering serious physical abuse. Her grandmother, lead plaintiff Sheila Cole, is a registered nurse and wanted to adopt W.H. But since Sheila lives with her female partner of many years, Act 1 disqualified her, despite the fact that it’s a given among child welfare professionals that kinship placements like this one are preferred. So rather than going to live with her grandmother the nurse, W.H. stayed in foster care with strangers. Act 1 also barred Stephanie Huffman and Wendy Rickman, who have been together for over a decade (check out this great video of them), from adopting a child in need in Arkansas, even though they had previously been approved to adopt a special needs child from the state’s foster care system before the ban was enacted.



The plaintiffs also included three teenagers living in a state-run group home for children waiting for a family to adopt them. These kids joined the lawsuit because they don’t care whether their new family includes gay people, they’re just looking for a “forever home.”
In yesterday’s decision, the court held that Act 1 violates the Arkansas constitution’s right to privacy because it punishes unmarried couples for having intimate relationships in their homes. The court explained that Act 1 “presents a pernicious choice for [plaintiff Sheila] Cole. She can either give up her fundamental right to sexual intimacy in her home free from investigation by the State,” and thereby be able to adopt or foster her granddaughter, or she can keep her longstanding relationship with her partner but “forego the privilege of having children by adopting or fostering. We hold that the burden inflicted on her is direct and substantial.”
The only way Act 1 could both impose this burden on privacy rights and still be constitutional is if the Act were the “least restrictive method available” to the state to protect child welfare. But the court held that Act 1 failed that requirement on two grounds. First, Arkansas’s own senior child welfare officials testified that Act 1 didn’t promote child welfare at all. And second, Arkansas already puts applicants for foster or adoptive parenthood through an exhaustive individualized screening process, checking for everything from criminal records to child abuse history to substance abuse to medical history. That screening process by itself shows that Act 1’s categorical ban is both overkill and unconstitutional.
The fact that the supreme court of a conservative state struck down Act 1 after an exacting constitutional review should help us convince legislatures in other states not to pass similar restrictions on parenting by LGBT people. And if the laws do get on the books, it will help us get those laws struck down too.
But our real goal is to get to the point where laws like Act 1 don’t get passed in the first place. To do that, we have to convince people that the stereotypes that lie behind laws like Act 1 are false. The core idea we’re up against is that gay people are bad for kids. Some voters and legislators worry that we will molest kids, that we’ll make them gay, that we’ll make them gender nonconforming, or just that our kids won’t grow up to be as happy and healthy as they ostensibly would with married straight parents.
Cases like Cole and our successful challenge to Florida’s adoption ban help debunk those stereotypes. With great plaintiffs, expert testimony, and strategic lawyering, they show America that there are many kids being successfully raised by lesbians and gay men. They show that lots of other kids are hurt when they’re stuck in group homes because the pool of possible adoptive homes is unjustifiably narrowed by restrictions like Act 1. They also help show that the stereotypes about how gay people are bad for kids are just wrong — they’re based on fear rather than science. For instance, as I mentioned above, the court in Cole noted the testimony of high-level child welfare officials within Arkansas’s Department of Human Services that there was no child welfare basis for Act 1 in the first place. In other words, the folks in Arkansas who best understand what kids need say gay people aren’t bad for kids. That’s a powerful message from powerful messengers, with a stamp of approval from the state supreme court.
So the ACLU has now gotten rid of the two most prominent anti-gay parenting restrictions, and we wait to see whether similar restrictions will appear again in either state — whether in the statehouse or at the ballot — or whether the people of Arkansas and Florida are finally ready to move on. We’ll be there if our opponents try to pick up the fight once more, but for the moment, we’re savoring a hard-earned victory for kids all across the state.

Learn more about LGBT rights: Subscribe to our newsletter, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

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Equality Matters: Kerry Eleveld Says Keep Pressure On Obama

KerryEleveld 
By David Mixner -

Should the LGBT community back off putting pressure on President Obama because of the pending 2012 election? Equality Matters Kerry Eleveld says absolutely not in a post written on Wednesday. The respected investigative journalist dismisses the myth that human rights must be put on hold every two years for the convenience of politicians running for office. She makes a compelling case that not only coming down on the side of full equality (including marriage equality) is the moral position for the President to take but she argues it is also smart politics.
Here are a couple of excerpts from her articulate and must read article but be sure to go to the Equality Matters website and read it all:
"This is not an either-or proposition in my opinion, nor should we feel compelled to surrender our basic humanity to the whims of the election cycle. That type of thinking is a relic of days past when politicians held firmly to the notion that addressing LGBT concerns would undoubtedly be a drag on their electability. What we have witnessed over the past couple years is just the opposite. The repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" scored huge points with President Obama's target voters -- independent, moderate, and progressive alike - and his declaration that the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional reestablished his ability to show bold leadership."
In the long article, Eleveld make five suggestions for the President:
"Rather than assembling a patchwork of progress agency by agency, President Obama should issue executive orders or amend existing ones that set a government-wide precedent for equality in the following ways:
1) Directing the federal government to include LGBT Americans in all federal level data collection efforts.
2) Mandating that all federal contractors must have policies providing nondiscrimination protections for their employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
3) Prohibiting federal funds from being used to discriminate against LGBT Americans.
4) Prohibiting discrimination against military service members on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
5) Adding gender identity protections to President Clinton's executive order 13087, which protected civilian federal workers from bias based on their sexual orientation
She closes with:
"Some advocates will surely say I'm being nit-picky, that I'm simply looking for ways to poke at the administration. But I am not looking to diminish the administration's sizeable accomplishments to date. Rather I would like to hold them and us - as advocates - to a higher standard.
We did not achieve "don't ask, don't tell" repeal by being satisfied with White House Easter Egg roll invitations and passing mentions in a handful of speeches. Now is the time for the president to employ his considerable executive powers to effect a government-wide culture change that will trickle down to every corner of America. Let's not squander this opportunity to squeeze as much goodness out of this administration as possible, which in turn will help President Obama secure four more years in office".


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

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Ben Cohen "Beers with Ben"



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Military struggles with growing sexual assaults - Why men in the military rape other men

By Shaun Knittel - 

When men in the military rape other men in the ranks, no one wants to talk about it. In this week's Newsweek, writer Jesse Ellison proclaims that male-on-male rape is the Pentagon's secret shame and looks at why the sexual assault of males in the service is finally being confronted.

In the staunchly traditional military culture, writes Ellison, male sexual assault is an ugly secret, kept hidden by layers of personal shame and official denial.

According to the Newsweek article, last year nearly 50,000 male veterans screened positive for 'military sexual trauma' at the Department of Veterans Affairs, up from just over 30,000 in 2003. For the victims, the experience is a special kind of hell - a soldier can't just quit his job to get away from his abusers.

But now, as the Pentagon has begun to acknowledge the rampant problem of sexual violence for both genders, men are coming forward in unprecedented numbers to tell their stories and hoping that speaking up will help others - and themselves, put their lives back together.

'We don't like to think that our men can be victims,' Kathleen Chard, chief of the post-traumatic stress unit at the Cincinnati Department of Veterans Affairs, told Newsweek. 'We don't want to think that it could happen to us. If a man standing in front of me who is my size [and] my skill level has been raped, what does that mean about me? I can be raped, too.'

According to Ellison, the high victimization rate of female soldiers - women in the armed forces are now more likely to be assaulted by a fellow soldier than killed in combat - has helped cast light on men assaulting other men.

For most of military history, there was neither a system nor language in place to deal with incidents of soldier-on-soldier sexual assault. It wasn't until 1992 that the Defense Department even acknowledged such incidents as an offense, and initially only female victims were recognized.

But last year, said Ellison, more than 110 men made confidential reports of sexual assault by other men - nearly three times as many as in 2007. The real number of victims is surely much higher.

Even among civilians, sexual assault is a vastly underreported crime. In the military, the silence is nearly complete. By the Pentagon's own estimate, figures for assaults on women likely represent less than 20% of actual incidents. Another study released in March found that just one in 15 men in the Air Force would report being sexually assaulted, compared with one in five women.

ASSAILANTS ARE HETEROSEXUAL
While many might assume the perpetrators of such assaults are closeted Gay soldiers, Ellison found that military experts and outside researchers say assailants usually are heterosexual.

Like in prisons and other predominantly male environments, experts say male-on-male assault in the military is motivated not by homosexuality, but power, intimidation, and domination. Assault victims, both male and female, are typically young and low-ranking; they are targeted for their vulnerability.

'Often, in male-on-male cases, assailants go after those they assume are Gay, even if they are not,' wrote Ellison.

'One of the reasons people commit sexual assault is to put people in their place, to drive them out,' Mic Hunter, author of Honor Betrayed: Sexual Abuse in America's Military, told Newsweek. 'Sexual assault isn't about sex, it's about violence.'

According to Hunter and others, the repeal of the military's DADT policy might actually help the institution address the issue. Under that rule, being Gay meant being fundamentally unfit to serve; it meant you didn't belong. It also meant that victims were even more reluctant to report their attacks.

'I wouldn't say that the repeal is going to make it safe,' Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, a think tank on Gays in the military, told Newsweek. 'But male victims will be a little bit less reluctant to report their assaults.'

Belkin notes that it's not just the military that avoids the issue: even Gay-rights organizations are wary of it. 'We don't like to talk about it because it makes rape look like a Gay issue,' he said. 'The military doesn't want to talk about it because, as embarrassing as male-female rape is, [from their perspective] this is even worse. The very fact that there's male-on-male rape in the military means that there are warriors who aren't strong enough to fight back.'

Fear of a ruined career is a major factor preventing victims from coming forward, said Ellison. 'In 2010, the Pentagon anonymously surveyed active-duty soldiers who had been sexually assaulted about why they declined to report their attacks. Almost half the responding men said they kept silent because they didn't want anyone to know, a third said they didn't think anything would be done, and almost 30% said they were afraid of retaliation or reprisals.'

In recent years, the Pentagon has tried to show that it takes the issue seriously, defining sexual assault in broad terms as a 'spectrum of offenses from rape to nonconsensual sodomy to wrongful sexual contact, as well as attempts to commit these offenses.'

In 2005, it established a special unit, the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, and provided training for 1,200 officers to handle incident reports. Yet critics believe that the Pentagon has moved too slowly and that military procedures for prosecuting such crimes are far less effective than civilian laws.

'YOU MUST HAVE PROVOKED THEM'
'Greg Jeloudov was 35 and new to America when he decided to join the Army,' wrote Ellison. 'Like most soldiers, he was driven by both patriotism for his adopted homeland and the pragmatic notion that the military could be a first step in a career that would enable him to provide for his new family.

'Instead, Jeloudov arrived at Fort Benning, Georgia, for basic training in May of 2009, in the middle of the economic crisis and rising xenophobia. The soldiers in his unit, responding to his Russian accent and New York City address, called him a 'champagne socialist' and a 'commie faggot.' He told Newsweek he was 'in the middle of the viper's pit.'

'Less than two weeks after arriving on base, he was gang-raped in the barracks by men who said they were showing him who was in charge of the United States. When he reported the attack to unit commanders, he says they told him, 'It must have been your fault. You must have provoked them.'

In February, Jeloudov and 16 other former and active-duty service members filed a class-action lawsuit against Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, charging they 'ran institutions in which perpetrators were promoted & and plaintiffs and other victims were openly subjected to retaliation.'

CASES HANDLED WITH LITTLE TRAINING
Ellison says that because reports of such crimes happen outside the reach of police and are handled by a unit's commanding officer, according to the Pentagon's own figures, last year just 15% of reported cases were actually prosecuted.

'There's no investigatory training. They don't tell you to look for evidence,' Greg Jacob, who retired as a captain after 10 years in the Marines and is now policy director for the Service Women's Action Network, told Newsweek.

'Military justice imbued me with the ability to be judge and jury. Honestly, I had no idea what to do.'

Commanders often decline to take any action at all.

'I have nothing bad to say about the military. There's sick bastards in all walks of life,' says Michael F. Matthews, who was raped during basic training in 1972 but didn't tell anyone until 30 years later. 'I get angry with the military system sometimes, but I understand it. What happens is on small levels. You take [a complaint] to your commanding officer. He doesn't want that black eye. He wants the promotion. So he tries to keep it under the carpet.'

AN ONGOING PROBLEM
'What's clear is that the Pentagon has only just begun to figure out how to treat men who have been sexually traumatized,' writes Ellison. 'Until 2006, sexual assault was classified as a women's health issue, and even today, Pentagon awareness campaigns target women almost exclusively.'

Kathleen Chard, the Cincinnati VA psychologist who runs PTSD programs, told Newsweek that more than 11% of the men she works with eventually admit that they were sexually victimized. Nationwide, there are just six programs like hers, and there is a single VA facility, in Bay Pines, Florida, that specifically treats male survivors of sexual trauma.

If you are the victim of a sexual assault and you're seeking assistance, go to the National Center for PTSD to find a service provider in your area. For immediate help, contact the Safe Helpline, the Department of Defense's new crisis support service, via phone call, text, or instant message. Operated by RAINN, the nation's largest anti-sexual-violence organization, your information will be kept confidential and will not be shared with anyone on your chain of command. 

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Friday, April 8, 2011

Kosher.com Discontinues Affiliation with JONAH


Truth Wins Out
Kosher.com Ends Affiliation With JONAH After 1,000 Sign Petition in 90 Minutes
Dear Terrence,
Wow! This afternoon, Truth Wins Out launched a petition on Change.org asking Kosher.com to stop allowing the notorious Jewish "ex-gay" group JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality) to participate as an affiliate in their shopping rewards program.

In just over 90 minutes, over 1,000 of you signed our petition, and Kosher.com responded:

Firstly we wish to apologize if any action taken by any member of our company offended anyone. Our affiliate program has pretty much been an automated system whereby any site can go and join the program and put our banners in their email blasts going to their members.
 
In the past it was not something that we had monitored but considering the current reaction regarding jonahweb.org's decision to send their members our affiliate offerings, we have decided to discontinue that affiliation and our management will review our affiliate programs guidelines going forward.

Our agenda is simply to be a good company selling a good product and to be considerate of people's feelings and sensitivities.
  

Truth Wins Out applauds Kosher.com's decisive response. Thanks are also due to Change.org for once again providing the platform for this victory, and to Queerty for writing the story that spurred us to action. But most of all, we'd like to thank all of you, our members and supporters, for mobilizing so quickly today. You acted, Kosher.com responded, and we created positive change together. 

Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to Truth Wins Out in support of our ongoing work fighting back against dangerous organizations like JONAH. Today proved that when we act together, we win. 



Sincerely,
Wayne Besen
Truth Wins Out

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Chuck Browning GLBT Rodeo Legend

When you're built like this cowboy, the buckles seem to come easy, but Chuck Browning would just assume give 'em away. Although he isn't doing the rough stock anymore, he hasn't quit competing in other events and winning, however Browning says he is the proudest of his work behind the scenes.



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Let's Talk About Sex



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Mocked Gay Student Wants Better Apology

"My story as a gay teen and how I was treated by students and a teacher at Flagler Palm Coast High School". Read the story's background here.



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Worse and then Better(?) Again

--by Robyn

So where are we? Well, a few weeks ago, things were sort of looking up, but last week they seem to get into the well-known hand basket.




For instance, the Maryland House passed a bill disallowing many, but not all, forms of discrimination against people based on gender identity or expression. It wasn't unanimously applauded by the trans community since there were no protections in public accommodations, but there it was.



But only a week or so earlier, the Maryland House had tabled the marriage equality bill that had already passed the Senate, to someone in the Senate decided that the House need to be taught a lesson, so sent the gender identity/expression protection bill to the Senate Rules committee, expecting it to languish and die there. After all, who do those House members think they are? We'll show them! We'll kick this transpeople right where it hurts.



Wasn't that just very cool?

Mario Batali for HRC's New Yorkers for Marriage Equality

Chef Mario Batali supports marriage equality. Do you? http://www.hrc.org/NY4marriage



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Sunshine Stampede: Why Gay Rodeos are Better

We're back in Florida to cover the Sunshine Stampede! In case you have never seen a gay rodeo before, I break down a few a of the differences. One huge difference I didn't mention is that all the profits go to helping fund the battle with HIV and other charities.



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Tell Kosher.com: Homophobia Is Not Kosher

Truth Wins Out
Sign Petition and tell Kosher.com: Homophobia is NOT kosher!


The online grocery store Kosher.com has allowed the notorious "ex-gay" organization, Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality (JONAH), to take part in a program that will help fund its dangerous "Pray Away the Gay" efforts. Basically, any time a person shops at the online store and types in a special code, this organization gets a cut of the profits. Obviously, every dime that JONAH makes from Kosher.com goes directly into their harmful efforts to "cure" LGBT people.

Kosher.com must understand that this partnership is offensive, defamatory and unacceptable. It is our hope that this company is simply unaware of JONAH's unsavory history and has not seen its dishonest and mean-spirited attacks on LGBT people. We can't imagine Kosher.com giving its imprimatur to a group that purposely uses junk science and discredited therapists to psychologically damage LGBT Orthodox Jews.

In a 2001 interview, JONAH's co-founder, Arthur Abba Goldberg, told The Herald News in Paterson, New Jersey, that homosexuality is the result of "psychological trauma" and that "six months to three years of weekly therapy and prayer can cure it."

In 2007, Abba Goldberg told The Jewish State newspaper that "gays have been led astray in terms of your authenticity to yourself... People are not born gay; there's no such thing as a gay gene." He added that all gays "can readapt" from "their gender deficiency." He then said gay children should be treated the same way as "if a child was addicted to drugs or alcohol."

In 2010, Goldberg spoke at a right wing conference, The Truth Academy, and demonstrated his knack for confusing stereotypes with science:

"By the way, did you notice that a lot of gays who remain in the gay lifestyle also do a lot of body building," said Abba Goldberg. "They will be in the gym a lot trying to build up their pecs...Because they have these body image issues and don't feel they are masculine enough."

Prior to co-founding JONAH, Abba Goldberg was sent to prison for bilking clients with Wall Street bond schemes. One judge called his crimes, "a conspiratorial fraud of spectacular scope."

Additionally, Alan Downing, JONAH's lead "therapist", was recently accused of having clients undress in front of a mirror and touch themselves.

Despite Abba Goldberg's criminal past, offensive views, and fraudulent efforts to "cure" LGBT people with inappropriate quack therapists, Kosher.com has seemingly given JONAH its stamp of approval by allowing it to participate in the company's affiliate program.

It's time to tell Kosher.com that funding homophobia by supporting this dishonest, unsavory and medially unsound group is not kosher. Not even one penny should be funneled to JONAH to assist its bigoted and scientifically bankrupt anti-gay efforts. Demand that Kosher.com drop JONAH from its list of affiliates by signing Truth Wins Out's petition today!

 
Wayne Besen
Truth Wins Out
Contribute to Truth Wins Out




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VICTORY: Top NOM leader comes out for marriage equality!

Courage Campaign California


When I first got in the car to track NOM’s “Summer for Marriage” bus tour, I knew my job would be to document NOM’s lies and the stories of people who showed up to support equality. I did so to change the hearts and minds of the American public watching, listening, and reading out there.
I never imagined we would change the heart and mind of one Louis Marinelli, our old adversary who proposed and masterminded the NOM bus tour in the first place. But today, Louis announced he’s supporting marriage equality – because of the experience he had on the NOM bus tour!
Together, we made a difference by confronting NOM and turning out supporters at NOM’s stops all over the country to change Louis’ mind. Can you chip in so we can change even more minds?
If we can change Louis’ mind, we can change anyone’s. Louis and our team sparred at nearly every location. He’s the same guy who said “homosexuality” is “immoral” and an “abomination”, that all “homosexuals” are single, that they have a shorter life span, that they only care about themselves, and worse.
Yet today, in an interview with Good As You’s Jeremy Hooper, he apologized for all of these statements, and said:
One of the last tour stops added to the itinerary was Atlanta and I bring this site up because it was in Atlanta that I can remember that I questioned what I was doing for the first time. The NOM showing in the heart of the Bible-belt was dismal and the hundreds of counter-protesters who showed up were nothing short of inspiring.

Even though I had been confronted by the counter-protesters throughout the marriage tour, the lesbian and gay people whom I made a profession out of opposing became real people for me almost instantly. For the first time I had empathy for them and remember asking myself what I was doing. If my transition from opponent to supporter of same-sex civil marriage was a timeline, Atlanta would be indicated by the first point on the line.
Atlanta was where 254 equality supporters outnumbered just 20 NOM supporters, and I confronted Dr. Alveda King, Martin Luther King’s niece, about her hateful support for segregating people based on sexual orientation. Atlanta was the turning point for Louis, and we made it happen!
Can you chip in so we can create even more moments like Atlanta? We’ll use your money to continue producing stories like Ed and Derence’s to change hearts and minds, covering NOM’s lies, and fighting for civil marriage equality across the nation.
www.couragecampaign.org/changingheartsandminds

Thank you for your support. We’re making a difference!
Together for equality,
Arisha Hatch
National Field Director, Courage Campaign/NOM Tour Tracker

Courage Campaign Equality is a part of the Courage Campaign's multi-issue online organizing network that empowers more than 700,000 grassroots and netroots supporters to push for progressive change and full equality in California and across the country. To get involved in Courage Campaign Equality, visit "Testimony: Take a Stand" -- the first-ever fully searchable hub of LGBT stories to use for organizing.

To support our work to hold NOM accountable, please chip in what you can today:

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Judge: Gay Rights Group Can Canvass Outside Target

By Julie Watson -


A judge ruled Thursday that a San Diego pro-gay marriage group can continue canvassing outside of Target stores in California, but the group’s volunteers must stay 30 feet away from store entrances and canvass at just one entrance at a time.

The Minnesota-based retail giant had sought an injunction barring the activists from every outlet in the state, alleging they harass customers by cornering them near store entrances to discuss gay marriage, solicit donations and collect signatures on petitions.

Rights advocates have warned that the legal battle between Target and Canvass For A Cause could further damage the retailer’s already strained relations with the gay and lesbian community.

Canvass For A Cause director Tres Watson called Thursday’s ruling a win for not only his organization, but also for free speech.

"I think this is a victory for every American that cherishes our fundamental values," he said.

Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Barton said some Target stores may fall under California’s law that considers shopping centers to be public forums. Also, canvassing over the last year occurred mainly without incident and Target failed to demonstrate that customers were being harassed, he said.

"Target has not met its burden to show that its blanket policy to ban all solicitors at all stores in California is proper," he wrote.

The corporation has said at least eight Target stores in the San Diego area have received more than a dozen complaints daily since canvassers started working the locations in October 2010. The activists have refused to leave when asked politely and shown the company’s policy prohibiting "expressive activity" on its property, Target said.

During a court hearing last month in San Diego, Barton asked Target’s Los Angeles-based attorney David McDowell why the company didn’t present testimony from customers who the company said had complained.

McDowell said the testimony could have been obtained, but he didn’t think it was necessary since the complaints weren’t the central issue. The case was about Target’s right to enforce its rules on its land, he said.

"The question is Target’s property right and its right to exclude," McDowell said.

Target Corp. said in a statement Thursday that the legal action was "to provide a distraction-free shopping environment for our guests."

"Target’s long-standing policy is that we do not permit solicitation or petitioning at our stores regardless of the cause or issue being represented," the company said.

Barton warned the San Diego group to be respectful and to not block the flow of traffic. The restriction to canvass at just one entrance at a time was to ensure that customer access wasn’t impeded, he said in the ruling.

Watson said the constraints wouldn’t affect the group’s work because volunteers don’t follow people into stores or block store entrances.

Target was seen as an ally of the gay and lesbian community before it made a $150,000 donation to a business group backing Minnesota Republican candidate Tom Emmer, an opponent of gay marriage who lost last year’s governor’s race to Democrat Mark Dayton.

The company later apologized for the hurt feelings and tried to repair its image by creating a committee to help scrutinize its decisions on donations.

Target also negotiated a deal with Lady Gaga to sell a special edition of her upcoming album in a partnership Gaga said was tied to their "reform" - supporting the gay community and making up for past mistakes. The singer cancelled the deal a few weeks ago.

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Groups Hint Lesbian Nominee a Nod to Gay Lobby; Gov. Fires Back

Deval Patrick
Deval Patrick
By Steve LeBlanc -

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and the panel charged with approving his judicial nominees are increasingly at odds over his handling of his latest pick for the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

Yesterday, Patrick defended his decision to nominate Appeals Court Judge Barbara Lenk to the high court a day after three members of the Governor’s Council faulted him for focusing on the fact that Lenk would be the high court’s first openly gay member if approved.

Patrick pointed to Lenk’s decades on the bench and Ivy League education, including a Harvard Law School degree and doctorate from Yale University, and said her sexual orientation wasn’t central to his decision.

"She’s more than qualified, and I think the fact that she’s going to be the first openly gay member of the court is an add-on,’’ he said yesterday.

Patrick bristled at the suggestion by one member of the council that the governor had nominated Lenk as a way to cater to groups that have backed him politically.

Patrick was responding to comments by Councilor Charles Cipollini of Fall River, who said the governor was trying to satisfy political supporters, including the gay community, by choosing Lenk. "He just picks different groups, and this happens to be their turn,’’ Cipollini said Wednesday. "He’s satisfying the people who voted for him.’’

At a press conference Monday, during which he announced that he was nominating Lenk, Patrick said it was "a nice coincidence’’ that she would be the court’s first openly gay member.

Although Patrick did not mention Lenk’s sexual orientation when he introduced her at the news conference, he did respond when asked about it by reporters.

"I like the idea of firsts, as you know, and I’m proud of this one,’’ Patrick said Monday.

Patrick has also nominated the court’s first black chief justice, Roderick Ireland, and the first Asian-American member, Fernande Duffly.

Patrick’s talk of firsts drew criticism from two other members of the eight-member Governor’s Council.

Councilor Mary-Ellen Manning of Salem faulted Patrick for focusing too much on Lenk’s sexual orientation, instead of her judicial record, while Councilor Jennie Caissie of Oxford called Patrick’s comments "odd.’’

Caissie also questioned Lenk’s comments about the SJC’s landmark 2003 decision, known as the Goodridge case, which legalized same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, a first for the nation. Lenk was able to get married as a result of that decision.

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Lady Gaga to edit international Metro

By Jessica Geen -


Lady Gaga is to guest-edit all 17 editions of the international Metro newspaper.
The star will take over the freesheet, which should not be confused with the UK Metro, on May 17th.
She will work from the London newsdesk of Metro World News, giving her views on the breaking news of the day.
The gay-friendly star will highlight issues around equality and individuality ahead of the release of her new album Born This Way.
Maggie Samways, global editor-in-chief, said: “We’re thrilled to have Lady Gaga take the helm of our newspapers for the day. Together with Lady Gaga, Metro World News and our local teams will produce a one-of-a-kind newspaper on May 17th.
“Lady Gaga is an extraordinary artistic force, so I’m confident that the edition will reflect her personality: creative, inspiring and surprising!”
A competition has been launched to give one lucky fan the chance to serve as Gaga’s editorial assistant for the day. Entrants must define what makes them “born this way”.
The singer commented: “Let’s see how fans would define what ‘Born This Way’ is for them. I say I was born to be brave. That’s part of my mission in life. I was born to follow my artistic visions. Look into yourself. Are you born to be brave?”
The global free Metro newspaper is one of the world’s largest international papers and is published in more than 100 cities around the world.

In December, Elton John guest-edited the Independent and i for World AIDS Day.

Born This Way Video Remix from Zachary Fortais Gomm on Vimeo.


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Racism and homophobia ‘worse in chaotic environments’

By Steve Brewer -


People are more racist and homophobic when their surroundings are chaotic, according to new research from the Netherlands.
Scientists tested 40 people at Utrecht railway station during a cleaners’ strike that had left the station dirty and litter-strewn.
They returned to repeat the experiment after the strike ended and the station was clean.
Dr Diederik Stapel and Dr Siegwart Lindenberg, social scientists at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, asked participants to comment on social groups, including Muslims, gay people and Dutch people.
People who took part while the station was dirty were more likely to agree with both positive and negative stereotypes.
The small-scale experiment also examined subconscious responses to race. All subjects were white, but when they were asked to take a seat in a row of chairs, one chair at the end was occupied by a black or white Dutch person.
In the messy station, people on average sat further from the black person than the white person, whereas in the clean station there was no statistical difference.
Dr Stapel and Dr Lindenberg say stereotyping may be “a way to cope with chaos, a mental cleaning device”.
“The message is clear,” Dr Stapel said. “Signs of disorder will not only increase anti-social behaviour but lead to stereotyping and discrimination.”
The researchers say implications of the work for use in public policy are not yet clear.
“One question we’d need to answer is how long these kinds of effects last,” Dr Stapel said. “There is a possibility that people may quickly adapt to disorder, so I would be very wary of concluding that people who live in unclean and disordered areas are more prejudiced because of that.”
He added: “People who constantly live in disorder get used to it and will not show the effects we find. Disorder in our definition is something that is unexpected.”
The study, ‘Coping with Chaos: How Disordered Contexts Promote Stereotyping and Discrimination’, was published in the journal Science.

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From Cameroon to Seattle: One Man’s Harrowing Struggle to Be Free

Gaston Dissake, fourth from left, with his Cameroonian teammates.
Gaston Dissake, fourth from left, with his 
Cameroonian teammates.
By Shaun Knittel -

Gaston Dissake has never known life without soccer.

For as long as he can remember, the soccer field is where the 29-year-old found freedom. This freedom, however, stopped whenever he left the field in his native Cameroon. After years of police beatings; attacks from former teammates and threats on his life, Gaston fled his African homeland and sought asylum in the United States. He eventually made his way to Seattle.

Gaston’s story is one of a man who risked everything so he could be free to be himself. He is ready to embrace a gay community about which he only read or saw on television. Above all, however, Gaston desperately wants to return to the game he loves so much.

From Cameroon with love
Association soccer dominates Cameroon’s male culture. Amateur clubs abound, organized along ethnic lines or under corporate sponsors. The Cameroon national football team has been one of the most successful in the world since its strong showing in the 1990 World Cup. Within that world, Gaston Dissake was a star.

Gaston and I talked over coffee at a Capitol Hill café on a rainy afternoon. He is polite and soft-spoken, and-despite his limited knowledge of the English language-communicates well. He has a great smile and his face lights up when he talks about his favorite sport.

"I was a well-known soccer player and coach in my country," he told EDGE. "I’ve played many other sports; tennis, basketball, but soccer has always been my life."

Gaston tells me that he became a free agent after many years of professional play and minor-league coaching. He traveled throughout the African continent, Eastern Europe and Asia to play for teams that needed a player for tournaments.

A trip to Hong Kong changes everything
His life changed forever in 2003.

Gaston and his teammates were in Hong Kong when he had sex with another man for the first time. A practicing Christian and closeted gay man; Gaston not only "passed for straight," but he still considered himself a heterosexual. Still, he said he knew deep down inside that he would have to come out.

When he returned to Cameroon, he began a relationship with fellow Cameroonian Jonathan. Gaston eventually mustered up the courage to tell his mother about his relationship with his new lover. He even introduced Jonathan to her, but the meeting was not a pleasant one.

"My mother was not happy with the news and she didn’t want to believe I was gay," he recalled. "She blamed Jonathan for making me gay and said the young man had possessed him. She demanded I see a priest and prayed for the ’evil spirit’ to leave me."

His teammates didn’t take the news any better. "They became so outraged that they beat me," said Gaston. "They accused me of deceiving them. They would go to my mother house and threaten her."

Cameroonian law punishes those found guilty of same-sex sexual acts with five years imprisonment and a 20,000 to 200,000 francs fine. More severe sentences are likely when one of the offenders is under 21. Like in many African countries, Cameroonian society is conservative. Homosexual sex acts are frowned upon and LGBTs face discrimination, violence and even death.

Police arrested Gaston six times in the years after he came out. "Each time I suffered sever beatings on the bottoms of my feet plus humiliation and insults in every possible manner," he said, noting people on the street often abused him once he left jail.

Gaston’s father passed away last year. He knew that something had to change in order for him to survive and be able to take care of his mother. Gaston tried one last "ex-gay" exorcism to prove to her that he could not change his sexual orientation. He and Jonathan then emigrated from Cameroon to Colombia and then to Panama in search of asylum.

In search of a home
"I chose Panama because when I did my research on the Internet, I found the country to be very welcoming to immigrants from Cameroon," explained Gaston. "But 30 days before Jonathan and I arrived, the process had changed."

When the two men arrived in the Central American country, Panamanian authorities detained them. Gaston and Jonathan solemnly waited 14 months to hear the outcome of their case. And during that time, Gaston said he suffered discrimination at the hands of the Salvation Army.

"Once the case managers figured out we were gay, the Salvation Army no longer helped us," he said. "They were very bad to us. I think it is because of them that our plea for asylum got denied."

Down and out and quickly running out of options, Gaston used his savings for the couple to travel-paying bribes along the way-from Panama for Mexico.

Mexican authorities detained Gaston and Jonathan once they reached Mexico City. "The Mexican government asked us if we wanted asylum in Mexico," said Gaston. "I declined. I told them, ’No. I have to reach America.’ But Jonathan, fearful of the drug cartels and the uncertain journey to the U.S. border, told me he would not come with me."

Jonathan remains in Mexico City to this day.

"He was afraid to try to come to the U.S., but I am brave and so I came," he said.

Without family; Jonathan and any friends, Gaston eventually made his way to Tijuana. "At least," he thought. "I’ve made it."

Granted asylum, at last
No longer afraid, Gaston bravely walked up to the customs office at the San Ysidro, Calif., border crossing and asked the clerk for asylum in the United States.

Once again; he was taken into custody, only this time, something was different. Gaston knew his life was about to change for the better. It seemed that luck was on his side for the first time in years. "I said to myself, ’OK, I have reached the country of Liberty’ and thing as going to get better," he said.

Authorities eventually transferred Gaston to the Northwest Detention Center, a facility for undocumented immigrants in Tacoma, Wash., that can hold up 760 inmates facing immigration charges and possible deportation.

Attorney Matt Sullivan took on Gaston’s asylum case pro bono. Gaston won his claim for asylum in February. Seattle Frontrunner members Ron Hochnadel and his partner, Mike Gaeta, opened up their home to Gaston.

"Even though he suffered all this persecution, Gaston has managed to remain a kind and thoughtful person, who doesn’t seem to harbor much ill will towards anyone," said Sullivan. "He wants nothing more than to rebuild his life as a soccer coach and agent."

Gaston is now ready to put his life back together. "I want to find employment and I am taking English classes at Seattle Central Community College," he said. "I am new to Seattle, but I think it is a very nice city. I’ve met some good people and made friends easily."

Gaston doesn’t play much soccer these days. In fact, he’s just trying to get by and send money home to help take care of his mother. Gaston said that he misses Jonathan from time to time and has found it hard to integrate into the local scene because he finds it difficult to live as an out gay man after suffering so much violence in Cameroon. He is willing to try. And after speaking with Gaston, one cannot help but feel that he will persevere.

Ron and Mike are helping Gaston with his resume-he speaks French, Spanish and English. Seattle’s Rain City Soccer has donated money to help Gaston buy much needed clothing and a pair of soccer shoes. Gaston also began to receive a monthly stipend from the International Refugee Committee this month.

He is moving into a small apartment of his own this month. Those interested in donating furniture, a computer, kitchenware and other items to Gaston can contact Ron Hochnadel at ronh@intrass.com.

"I want to make Seattle my home," said Gaston. "This is where I want to stay."
Shaun Knittel is an openly gay journalist and public affairs specialist living in Seattle. His work as a photographer, columnist, and reporter has appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout the Pacific Northwest. In addition to writing for EDGE, Knittel is the current Associate Editor for Seattle Gay News. 
 
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Arkansas Supreme Court strikes down adoption ban

Dana Rudolph -


The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday, April 7, unanimously upheld a lower court ruling that struck down the state’s ban on adoption and foster parenting by any person cohabiting with a sexual partner outside of marriage. The state high court said the law violates “fundamental privacy rights implicit in the Arkansas Constitution.”
Because the ruling was made on state constitutional claims, the case cannot be appealed further.
The Arkansas law, Initiated Act 1, was passed in a voter referendum in November 2008, the same month California voters passed Proposition 8 to ban same-sex marriage. Shortly thereafter, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the ACLU of Arkansas challenged Act 1 in court.
In April 2010, a state circuit court overturned Act 1, saying it violates the Arkansas Constitution. It dismissed plaintiffs’ claims that the law also violates their rights under the United States Constitution.
The state, along with the Family Council Action Committee (FCAC)—the conservative group that led the petition drive for Act 1—appealed the case, Arkansas Dept. of Human Services and Family Council Action Committee v. Sheila Cole Et Al., to the Arkansas Supreme Court.
The state Supreme Court ruled, in the opinion written by Associate Justice Robert Brown (an appointee of then-Governor Bill Clinton), that Act 1 “directly and substantially burdens the privacy rights” of both opposite- sex and same-sex couples.
The choice faced by these couples is “dramatic,” said the court. “They must chose either to lead a life of private, sexual intimacy with a partner without the opportunity to adopt or foster children or forego sexual cohabitation and, thereby, attain eligibility to adopt or foster.”
The court explained that state agencies would have to “police” couples to “determine whether they are sexually involved in the event those couples represent that they are celibate.” That is an intrusion “into a couple’s bedroom to enforce a sexual prohibition,” an act found unconstitutional in the 2002 Arkansas Supreme Court case Jegley v. Picado.
Because the Cole case involved a fundamental right, the court upheld the circuit court’s use of “heightened scrutiny” to evaluate it. This meant that Act 1 could only be constitutional if it used “the least restrictive method available narrowly tailored to accomplish a compelling state interest”—that interest being protecting the best interests of children.
Act 1, however, was a “categorical ban against all cohabiting couples engaged in sexual conduct,” and thus not “narrowly tailored,” said the court.
The individualized assessments of prospective foster and adoptive parents by the state are effective in determining whether applicants would be suitable, said the court—and those are the “least restrictive” means to serve the State’s interest in protecting children.
The court noted that “several of the State ’s and FCAC’s own witnesses testified that they did not believe Act 1 promoted the welfare interests of the child by its categorical ban” and that attorneys for the State and FCAC admitted during oral arguments that some cohabiting adults would be suitable foster or adoptive parents.
The court also confronted the defendants’ argument that Arkansas courts often place a restriction on cohabitation on a parent following a divorce, as a condition of child custody. The court said that in those cases, the third party cohabiting with the parent has not undergone the extensive screening of people applying to foster or adopt.
The court said that because it found Act 1 unconstitutional based on privacy claims, it would not address the issues of whether it also violated due process and equal protection under the state constitution, or whether it violated the federal constitution.
Christine Sun, lead counsel for the ACLU on the case, said in an interview Thursday that she was “ecstatic” about the ruling.
“We’re relieved for our plaintiffs. Now the child welfare professionals of Arkansas can do their job and do what’s in the best interests of children.”
Plaintiffs included a lesbian couple who adopted a special-needs child before Act 1 was passed and wants to adopt another child now; a lesbian grandmother who wants to adopt her grandchild, who is currently in state care; three teenagers in the foster care system awaiting placement; and several married opposite-sex couples whom Act 1 prevents from designating certain friends or relatives to adopt their children in the case of the parents’ deaths.
The unanimity of the court, Sun said, “indicates our case was very strong.”
She noted that the ruling “should not only have an effect in Arkansas, but on other states that may be considering similar types of bans.” While the ruling is limited to Arkansas, she hopes other states will follow the same legal analysis.
Sun also noted that the federal constitution also has “a robust right to privacy,” and “the same analysis should apply to a claim under the federal constitution.”
Utah also has a legislative ban against adoption by unmarried couples. Mississippi has a ban on adoption by same-sex couples. And while Michigan has no statutory ban, state courts have ruled that unmarried individuals may not jointly petition to adopt.
A Florida appeals court in September 2010 overturned that state’s ban on adoption by gay and lesbian individuals, and the state declined to appeal it to the state supreme court.
And Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell (R) is now considering whether to enact a proposal from former Governor Tim Kaine (D) to change state policies prohibiting adoption by unmarried (and by definition, same-sex) couples. McDonnell has indicated he is opposed to the change, concerned about the impact on faith-based adoption agencies. He must make his recommendation to the State Board of Social Services by April 16.
On March 18, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and U.S. Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) told the Washington Blade they would be introducing bills to ban states from discriminating against LGBT people in foster placements or adoption. A similar bill, the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, was introduced by Stark last session, but died in committee.

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Openly gay soldiers to begin serving in summer: Pentagon; GOP critic compares DADT repeal to Alamo

The Pentagon announced that openly gay soldiers
are on track to begin serving this summer.
BY Helen Kennedy -

A GOP hearing aimed at stalling efforts to let gays serve openly in the military backfired Thursday when Pentagon chiefs testified the troops don't think there's anything wrong with that.
"We've not seen issues," said Gen. James Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps. "There's not been anxiety over it from the forces in the field."
The Pentagon has said repeal of the 17-year ban on gays in the military could be implemented by midsummer once all soldiers receive training.
Amos had been one of the strongest opponents of repealing the Don't Ask Don't Tell ban. Last year, he said his men would be distracted - possibly fatally - by allowing gays to serve.
But testifying alongside the chiefs of the Navy, Army and Air Forces Thursday, Amos told the House Armed Services Committee that training of the rank and file was going smoothly.
"There hasn't been the recalcitrant pushback," Amos said.
"Young Marines," he said, "quite honestly, they're focused on the enemy."
Army Gen. Norton Schwartz said he was "more comfortable than I was" last year about the new policy.
Navy Admiral Gary Roughead said the change would not be that dramatic.
"Repeal will not change who we are or what we do," he said. "The same regulations and standards of conduct will apply."
President Obama repealed the ban in December's lame-duck congressional session while the newly-elected Republican majority could only watch fuming from the sidelines.
Thursday's hearing was an attempt to revisit the issue and slam on the brakes if possible.
"These are people that had actually been rejected by the voters," Rep Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) said of the Democrats who passed the repeal. "It's amazing that they could have made such a decision."
Freshman Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) said he felt like he was arriving after the massacre at the Alamo and being unable to help the victims.
Palazzo said he worried that people enlisted in what "they thought was a good military, a correct military, and this Congress comes and tinkers with it."
"I just apologize to our veterans," he said. "I have yet to find anybody that is in support of repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell."
Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) pleaded with the joint chiefs: "You can stop this still."
"In your gut you know this is not the right thing," she said.
Servicemembers United, which pushed for repeal, called the hearing "a blatant waste of resources."
"This issue has been settled," said founder Alex Nicholson, a translator kicked out of the Army in 2002 under Don't Ask Don't Tell.
"Troops are more worried about seeing that a government shutdown does not happen so that they can still get paid next week than they are about the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy coming to an end," he said.

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Delaware Senate approves same-sex unions

By RANDALL CHASE -

DOVER, Del. (AP) — The state House on Thursday approved a bill offering legal recognition to same-sex couples in Delaware and giving them the same rights and obligations granted to married couples while a bill allowing same-sex civil unions cleared the Senate.
House Majority Leader Pete Schwartzkopf said the administration committee he chairs will consider the Senate bill next Wednesday, and it could be put to a vote in the full House, where it is expected to win quick passage, on Thursday.
Lisa Goodman, president of Equality Delaware, an advocacy group that has spearheaded the bill, was optimistic about its chances in the House but said her group was "not taking anything for granted."
With approval by the House and the signature of Gov. Jack Markell, Delaware would join the ranks of states offering legal recognition to same-sex couples.
Five states and the District of Columbia allow gay marriage, and lawmakers in seven other states have established civil unions or domestic partnerships for same-sex couples. Maryland and New York recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, and a handful of other states offer limited protections for same-sex couples, according to Equality Delaware.
The legislation in Delaware would authorize civil unions for same-sex couples effective Jan. 1, 2012, continuing to limit marriage under Delaware law to opposite-sex couples.
Chief sponsor Sen. David Sokola, D-Newark, said same-sex couples often face hurdles when dealing with issues such as property transfers, medical decisions and inheritance that married heterosexuals do not.
"We have members of our community who work hard, pay taxes, contribute to our state in so many ways, who do not get society supported benefits that the rest of us take for granted," he said.
Mark Purpura of Equality Delaware said the bill establishes a "rational parallel" to marriage for same-sex couples, who would have all the rights, benefits and obligations applicable to married spouses under Delaware law.
"It is intended to create a spousal type of relationship," he said.
Opponents argue that it is a prelude to establishing same-sex marriage in Delaware, and that it could result in court challenges to having two separate systems of recognizing couples.
"The ultimate goal is same-sex marriage," said Nicole Theis, executive director of the Delaware Family Policy Council. "... Marriage is about bringing male and female together, and that is good."
When asked by Sen. David Lawson, R-Marydel, whether she believed Delaware should have same-sex marriages, Goodman said only that a poll showed that most Delawareans support civil unions.
After Lawson continued to press Goodman for an answer, Elsmere Democrat Patricia Blevins protested that the question was not relevant to the bill, with Democratic Lt. Gov. Matt Denn, the presiding officer, siding with Blevins.
Opponents also argued that the bill will result in additional costs to the state from increased employee benefits, and that language in the legislation is not adequate to protect religious institutions and others from liability for refusing to allow or participate in same-sex ceremonies.
"There needs to be some work done if this body is serious about protecting religious liberties in Delaware," said Austin Nimocks, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative religious rights organization.
Before approving the bill, Senate lawmakers defeated two amendments offered by Sen. Robert Venables of Laurel, one of only two Democrats to vote against the measure.
One amendment would have allowed civil unions for heterosexual couples as well as homosexuals. The other would have required that a majority of Delaware residents approve civil unions in a statewide referendum before they could take effect.

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