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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Baseball Coach’s Alleged Threats, Anti-Gay Slurs Dog Atlanta Braves

Roger McDowell
Roger McDowell
By Kilian Melloy -



The Atlanta Braves are doing well in the game--but off the field, the team is dogged by an alleged incident of homophobia and threatened violence that reportedly took place April 23 in San Francisco, where the Braves were playing the Giants.

Fresno resident Justin Quinn was at batting practice at AT&T Park with his wife, twin 9-year-old daughters, and other relatives, when Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell allegedly began to hurl homophobic abuse at several men in the stands.

An April 28 Associated Press report said that McDowell yelled at the men, "Are you guys a homo couple or a threesome?" McDowell then used a baseball bat to mime in a sexually suggestive manner.

When Quinn called out that there were children present, the response he reportedly got from McDowell was that "Kids don’t fucking belong at the baseball park." McDowell then allegedly approached Quinn, baseball bat still in hand, and asked the father, "How much are your teeth worth?"

At that point, Quinn told the media, his children became terrified that their father was about to be beaten.

"My kids are in panic mode ... they’re like grabbing onto me," Quinn told the AP. "I’m talking to him, trying to calm him down and the kids are screaming."

With fans booing and taking their children away from the scene, McDowell eventually left. Quinn reported the incident right away, first to a Giants staff member, and then to the San Francisco police.

He also engaged the services of attorney Gloria Allred, who sent a letter to Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig. The commissioner was quick to issue a statement, saying, "Although I do not yet have all the facts regarding this incident, the allegations are very troubling to me.

"The Atlanta Braves have assured my office that they will immediately investigate the allegations, and report the results of the investigation to me," Selig’s statement added. "After I have all the facts, I will make a determination of how to proceed."

Allred and Quinn had a press conference on the incident, calling for an apology from McDowell.

The coach did issue a statement subsequent to the press conference, in which he said, "I am deeply sorry that I responded to the heckling fans" and added, "I apologize to everyone for my actions." But McDowell did not mention Quinn or offer the family an apology.

Allred said that no one had contacted her client regarding the incident.

"If they’re doing an investigation, one would think they would want to talk to my client," Allred said, the AP reported in an April 29 follow-up story. "This may not be an isolated incident," Allred added. "I have been contacted by another fan in another state who alleges another incident."

The alleged second fracas, as described by Allred, bore striking similarities to the April 23 incident in that it "involved what the fan believed to be angry and inappropriate words directed at him and his wife who had her young children with her," Allred said. "This fan has authorized me to supply his information to the commissioner."

"The Atlanta Braves and Major League Baseball must take real disciplinary action and send the message that anti-gay slurs have no place in sports," the head of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, Jarrett Barrios, told the AP. "Professional sporting events should be an environment that all fans and families can enjoy, not a place where children are exposed to violent threats and discriminatory language."

TMZ reported that GLAAD had "reached out to the Braves in the hopes of partnering with the franchise to educate their employees about homophobic remarks."

Allred spoke with Fresno radio station KMJ-AM on April 28, telling listeners that McDowell’s verbal harassment of the three men was even more explicit than initial reports indicated. While miming a sexual act with that bat, Allred said, McDowell asked the man, "Are you three men giving it to each other [in the ass?]."

"We consider Coach McDowell’s behavior to be completely unacceptable and outrageous," Allred said, going on to say that she and her client were seeking an apology from McDowell "in person to the family."

"We think that ’Take Me Out to the Ball Game’ shouldn’t mean that fans and their families are forced to endure these kinds of homophobic slurs and sexually explicit behavior," Allred continued, adding, "It’s interesting to me that Coach McDowell did apologize yesterday, but he didn’t really say what his was apologizing for."

When asked whether her client wanted monetary damages, Allred replied, "He has not retained me for that purpose. What we want is change in Major League Baseball."

Allred cited another recent episode of violence in which Giants fan Bryan Stow, 42, was attacked by two men wearing Dodgers regalia outside of Dodger Stadium following the March 31 season opening game. Stow had been wearing a Giants jersey. He was so badly beaten that he had to be put into a medically induced coma. Two other Giants fans were also attacked.

"It’s bad enough when one fan beats up another fan, but now we have a representative of Major League Baseball , a coach, doing this to a fan, apparently threatening him with violence," Allred said. "This has to stop."

Allred went on to note that the incident set a poor example, since players look to their coaches to set "the standard that they should follow for conduct in the future, because he is a person in authority, he is the coach."

The radio host asked Allred whether McDowell might not have been trying to make a joke.

"There’s nothing funny about this," Allred responded.

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

GLAAD: Latinos Are More Open To Accepting LGBT Family & Friends

We just read this piece about the depictions of gay characters in novelas which, according to Cuban-American GLAAD president Jarret Barrios, are "getting better." Jarret says they've been working with the likes of Univision to include more gay characters in their novelas. La Reina Del Sur, a very popular novela right about now, just featured a lesbian kiss between Kate Del Castillo and Christina Urgel. So yes, things are getting better but still; Jarret concludes "they've been slow to adapt."
But according to Monica Trasandes, director of the Spanish-language media at GLAAD, research shows that being gay in the Latino community is becoming less taboo:
"What we're finding in our research at GLAAD, is that Latinos are as, or more, supportive of marriage equality. And it's because Latinos understand the value of family and how important it is to have that family at the center of our culture. It doesn't mean social taboos are erased overnight — what it means is that Latinos are open to supporting the equality of their lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender friends, family, and neighbors."
Just like our uncle used to say "los parientes son de a huevo!" [relatives aren't optional]. Once your dad gets over your collection of William Levy pictures or, if you're marimacha — we love that word! — your Chavela Vargas CDs, he'll finally be ready to start loving you for who you really are.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Good Parents v Bad People

--by Robyn

Last week I shared the first four of five episodes of a series called
Transformation, produced by Canada'a Global News BC.



My first objective for tonight was to share the last episode.


Nikki's Story


What struck me about this short video was the acceptance of Nikki that we see she has gotten from her mother, Michelle Buchamer.





Then I got to reading some other articles about what's been going on and once again, the role of parents seemed to be handily filled. Although Chrissly Polis did not attend the vigil held in her honor at the Rosedale, MD Mc Donald's, her mother, Renee Carr, was there as was her grandmother.



She was thankful, and I came on her behalf. I'm shocked looking at all of these supporters out here today. I'm so happy that everyone pulled everything together and that everyone is rooting for my daughter.

--Renee Carr


Warms the cockles, in my opinion.



There is hope that some good may come out of the beating that Chrissy Polis received.



Joseline Pena-Melnyk, who sponsored the transgender protection bill that the Maryland State Senate eventually crushed, issued an open letter to her colleagues regarding the attack and the need for the bill.

Incidents such as this illustrate why the transgender community in Maryland and elsewhere needs to be protected through antidiscrimination legislation.

--Pena-Melnyk letter


Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamentz also issued a statement, calling the attack "vicious" and "a wake-up call".



Last week's beating of Chrissy Lee Polis in Rosedale once again reminds us of our responsibility as citizens to do all that we can to ensure that our neighborhoods provide a safe and welcoming environment for residents and visitors.

--Kamenetz


Maryland transgender politician Dr. Dana Beyer has penned her own essay calling for reconsideration by the Maryland legislature, which she entitled, A Perfect Storm



In a profound irony, the assault on Polis occurred exactly one week after the end of the legislative session, the day the gender identity bill, shorn of its usual public accommodations protections, died. Protecting the transgender and gender-non-conforming communities from discrimination in the public sphere was simply too much for many delegates to seriously consider.





The two girls charged with the crime are in dire need of an education. Clearly they know nothing of sex and gender, and have been taught that violence is acceptable. Maybe they were taught by their parents, or church or peers. The right-wing fundamentalist opposition to any protections for gender nonconforming individuals gets spewed into the pews of our state's churches, as well as the floor of the House of Delegates.



Dana is a co-author of the Dallas Principles. If you are not familiar with them, it is perhaps time to learn.



I'd be remiss if I didn't also include the testimony by the father of a transgirl up in Maine, where there is a movement to try to strip us of some hard won public accommodation rights.



My name is Wayne Maines, I live in Old Town. I have a 13-year-old transgender daughter. In the beginning, I was not onboard with this reality. Like many of you I doubted transgender children could exist, I doubted my wife and I doubted our counselors and doctors. However I never doubted my love for my child. It was only through observing her pain and her suffering and examining my lack of knowledge about these issues did I begin to question my behavior and my conservative values. I learned that the medical standard of care requires parents seek assistance from a panel of experts. We did this and our team of doctors recommended my daughter to live fully as a girl. We cannot turn back now. When my daughter lost her privileges at school and both children and adults targeted her, I knew I had to change and I have never looked back.



When we moved to Maine, it was clear my daughter was transitioning from male to female with us or without us. She used the girl's bathroom with no fanfare; she was confident and very social. Her strong personality helped the entire school transition right along side of her. She was proud and secure with herself and when people asked at the young age of six she openly stated that she was a girl trapped in a boy's body.



The transformation was amazing, but her happiness would not last. Unfortunately the fears of others would destroy everything that our team of doctors, teachers, school counselors, friends and classmates had work so hard to establish.



I know that it is difficult for some of you to understand the needs of transgender children. You only need to spend some time with these kids to see that they are struggling and suffering beyond your imagination only because they are singled out and misunderstood. They are just like your children and grandchildren; they have the same hopes and the same dreams.



In the fifth grade because of significant negative exposure we had to take drastic measures to protect her from harm, including splitting our family up to go in hiding and we are not the only family that has had to do so. When she was told she could no longer use the appropriate bathroom her confidence and self-esteem took a major hit. Prior to this my daughter often said, "Dad, being transgender is no big deal, my friends and I have it under control." I was very proud of her. It was only when adults became involved with their unfounded fears that her world would be turned upside down. "She came to me crying and asked, "Daddy what did I do wrong? Daddy please fix this?" That is what dads do -- we fix things. I had to break her heart and say, "You have not done anything wrong sweetie, but Mommy and I do not know how to fix this, but we will try."



Continuing to single these kids out is not necessary. Having the opportunity to use the bathrooms of their true gender is essential for these kids' well being. This bill places transgender children in a position of doom and hopelessness. This bill tells my daughter that she does not have the same rights as her classmates and reinforces her opinion that she has no future. Help me give her the future she deserves. Do not pass this bill.

There were some not-so-nice people in the news as well. Texas Sen. Tommy Williams and Rep. Lois Kolkhorst come immediately to mind. They are the proponents of a law in Texas to prohibit tradespeople from entering into heterosexual marriages by denying legal recognition of sex reassignment for marriage purposes.



gender is assigned at birth and sticks with a person throughout their life

--Texas State Appeals Court, 1999


I'm also not feeling too kindly towards John Lee (D-North Las Vegas)

While voting for SB 331, which would grant protection from discrimination for transpeople in public accommodation, and SB 368, which would grant protection from discrimination for transpeople in housing, which fortunately both passed the Nevada Senate and will move on to the Nevada Assembly, Good Ole John also voted against SB 180, which would have added "real or perceived gender identity or expression" to the state's Hate Crimes Law, so it failed to pass by a vote of 10-11.



But when it comes to SB180, I felt we were looking for a solution to a problem that's not there.


Chrissy Polis and the transwoman known as Stephanie at the Cosmopolitan would probably disagree. So might Angie Zapata and Gwen Araujo. Oh…and we shouldn't forget Francheska Gonzalez, who was viciously attacked while pumping gas in a Rio Piedras, PR gas station the same evening that Chrissy was getting mauled in the McDonald's.



Lee, who said he supported two other gender expression bills out of compassion for God's creatures, said he could not support SB180 because it would require education about gender expression.


Would the bill indeed have required education about gender expression? No (pdf), but why let facts stand in the way?



Here's some testimony by Andrew Davey of Stonewall Democrats during the events leading up to the vote.



While looking for an appropriate video like the one above, I also found testimony from a mother, Elvira Diaz:





Perhaps I also should add something about Jennifer Carr, mother of a 7-year-old transgender girl and a 5-year-old boy who lives in Chicago and has written a children's book about her family, Be Who You Are.



We all know what happens when things don't go so well.

A director of BGLTQ student life at Harvard

New position will improve coordination of College resources
 
By Paul Massari -

Harvard College Dean Evelynn M. Hammonds announced on Wednesday (April 27) that she will appoint a new director to coordinate resources and develop programming in support of bisexual, gay, lesbian, transgender, and queer (BGLTQ) undergraduates on campus.
Hammonds, the Barbara Gutmann Rosenkrantz Professor of the History of Science and of African and African American Studies, said the director will be a resource for undergraduates who identify as BGLTQ or have questions about their sexuality, and for all students who want to help create a supportive climate for their classmates.
“The new director will bring together the College’s existing — and substantial — supports for BGLTQ students, and also take a leadership role in the creation of new programs and initiatives,” she said. “I’m very pleased to announce the establishment of this important new position within the College’s student support services.”
Establishing the new position was the primary recommendation of the BGLTQ Working Group, created last fall and made up of Faculty of Arts and Sciences faculty, student leaders, and administrators to explore various facets of the BGLTQ student experience at Harvard. According to Paul J. McLoughlin II, associate dean of Harvard College and senior adviser to Hammonds, the College will also address one of the group’s other major recommendations: creation of a centrally located, accessible space to house the office of the new director. Space in Boylston Hall will be re-purposed to house this office, which will provide curricular connections to the Committee on Degrees in Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality.
Hammonds also said the new director will be in charge of reviewing and implementing the working group’s other recommendations, which include improved coordination of physical and mental health resources, establishment of a centralized information website, and collaboration with the Harvard Gay and Lesbian Caucus (HGLC).
“A full-time director of BGLTQ student life will facilitate progress on all areas of concern identified by the working group,” she said. “It is for precisely this reason that I am launching a national search for a new director as a first step in addressing the working group’s subsequent recommendations.”
HGLC President Rhonda Wittels ’79 said she is excited about this new chapter in the group’s partnership with the College.
“HGLC has a long history of supporting students and providing programmatic and financial assistance through its Open Gate Foundation,” said Wittels. “We look forward to working with the new director while continuing our support for BGLTQ undergraduates at Harvard.”
Susan Marine, assistant dean of the College for student life and director of the Harvard College Women’s Center, served as co-chair of the BGLTQ working group. She said the environment for BGLTQ undergraduates has improved dramatically over the last generation. As evidence, she pointed out that since 1985 the College has implemented the Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender and Supporters adviser program in the Houses and in the Yard; provided space for the Queer Resource Center; and contributed funding, office space, and advisory support to CONTACT (the BGLTQ-specific peer counseling group). These resources — as well as the proliferation of BGLTQ student groups and well-staffed Mental Health Services — recently earned the College a rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars from the nonprofit advocacy group Campus Pride. The lack of a director of BGLTQ student life was the one place where Harvard fell short of its peers.
“We’re doing good things,” Marine said. “We provide resources, but we are really the only institution among the Ivies and other elite colleges that does not have a designated point person whose job is to ensure that BGLTQ resources are coordinated, publicized, and accessible. As a result, several College administrators serve as advisers in this area, but this informal approach can create confusion for students about where to go.”
Student leaders who served on the working group reacted positively to Hammonds’ announcement. Marco Chan ’11, co-chair of the Harvard College Queer Students and Allies (QSA), said the director will fill an important gap in the College’s support for the BGLTQ community.
“Right now, oversight of the well-being of the BGLTQ community is divided among student leaders, faculty, and staff members,” he said. “I’m so excited to see that we’ll have one person to carry this charge, to make accessible all the fantastic resources we already have, and to provide continuity of leadership and a long-term vision.”
Chan’s concerns about oversight and coordination of BGLTQ life reflected those expressed by students during the working group’s data-gathering phase. In a survey, 25 percent of respondents somewhat or strongly disagreed with the statement “Students at Harvard know how to access support and information (when needed) about issues common for BGLTQ students.” The number was actually higher among those who self-identified as BGLTQ, 39 percent of whom somewhat or strongly disagreed.
Chan’s QSA co-chair, Emma Wang ’12, was also a member of the BGLTQ Working Group. She said she is happy to hear about the new director, but cautioned that BGLTQ students still face challenges and that there’s work to do to improve the campus culture.
“Many undergraduates — particularly international students and those from some religious backgrounds — still feel as though they have to choose between coming out and the support of their family and friends,” she said. “The advisory board I will be on next year will continue the work we started last fall and keep the ball rolling as Harvard thinks about changes and restructuring BGLTQ resources.”
Chan, who graduates this year, said the long-term goal of the BGLTQ Working Group is to move campus culture beyond tolerance to affirmation of BGLTQ life. He said he looks forward to returning to Harvard for his 10-year reunion to see how things have changed by then.
“I want to see a campus where BGLTQ students are happy and comfortable to be who they are in everything that they want to do,” he said. “I want Harvard to be a place where they can bring their … identity to their academic, social, and creative lives, and can feel whole and supported.”

Aging with Dignity program launches to aid San Diego's LGBT seniors

Tony Freeman
By

SAN DIEGO -- The San Diego Human Dignity Foundation has taken a first step in serving the unmet needs of LGBT seniors through its new Aging with Dignity program.
Tony Freeman, executive director of SDHDF, said the organization realized there was a lack of support for San Diego’s senior LGBT community and because studies have shown that LGBT seniors have an array of unmet needs, that now was the time to take action.
“In our new five-year plan, we made a decision to significantly increase our efforts to address unmet needs in the community,” Freeman said.
The San Diego Human Dignity Foundation is a community organization that works to help LGBT people. The foundation funds and promotes programs and projects that that help advance equal treatment, tolerance and human dignity throughout the community.
Program specifics announced
The program will include several phases, the first of which is raising $250,000 to support the hiring of a full-time LGBT senior advocate to work at The Center in Hillcrest.
The senior advocate will work with the community to find out what the most pressing needs of the senior LGBT community are. The information that is collected will then be used to determine how funding should be spent in the second phase of the program.
Delores Jacobs, CEO of The Center, said she is in the process of hiring a senior advocate.
“The senior advocate will function as a case manager, connecting LGBT seniors to available resources as well as a client advocate,” Jacobs said. “They will be working with a variety of traditional and LGBT-friendly providers to increase the capacity of all senior providers to provide culturally appropriate services for LGBT seniors.”
The $250,000 will be raised through various channels. Freeman said the executive committee of SDHDF has already approved $5,000 each year for two years (for a total of $10,000) to support the Aging with Dignity program. The rest of the money will come through donations from individuals, foundations and other organizations.
“Individuals or couples who pledge $5,000 a year for two years ($10,000 total) will be invited to be a part of our Leadership Circle and will be offered semi-annual personal updates on the progress of Aging with Dignity,” Freeman said.
The Center and SDHDF will enjoy a mutually beneficial arrangement, Freeman said. SDHDF will make a grant to The Center to help support the senior advocate position and work to attract continued funding. Freeman said The Center will serve as home to the senior advocate and can help provide the invaluable data that SDHDF needs to better serve LGBT seniors.
“The Center and SDHDF have a long-standing, mutually beneficial relationship that is focused on working together to help our community,” Freeman said.
Why now?
Freeman said Aging with Dignity was started this year because of the compelling data showing all the issues that LGBT seniors face.
“Study after study has found that LGBT seniors are not adequately served by LGBT or mainstream agencies that provide services to vulnerable seniors,” Freeman said. “The issues are varied and complex, including, but not limited to, social isolation, inhospitable health-care environments, mainstream aging programs that are not welcoming, reliance on informal families of choice, who lack social and legal recognition, and higher rates of chronic physical and mental health problems than their heterosexual counterparts.”
Jaime Grant, executive director of the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College and author of “Outing Age,” a publication of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said LGBT elders often face different challenges than heterosexual seniors do.
“LGBT people generally have fewer assets when they face their elder years due to the cumulative effect of anti-LGBT discrimination in the workplace,” Grant said. “Many studies have noted that LGBT people generally earn less than their heterosexual counterparts over their lifespan, and LGBT’s are also less likely to be coupled than heterosexual counterparts, making more of us dependent on Medicare-funded nursing situations.”
Very few LGBT housing communities exist across the U.S. and the many more that are in development are often halted because of the inability to find the funds needed to complete the projects.
The Human Rights Campaign article, “Unique Challenges for Seniors,” notes that even if these housing projects were built, few LGBT seniors would be able to afford the very expensive cost of living there.
“There is no real national commitment to LGBT elders and very few resources,” Grant said. “Even in the big cities, where there are huge LGBT communities, LGBT elder services are woefully underdeveloped and underfunded.”
“Our participation over the past several years as a member of the LGBT Senior Housing Committee and the compelling and distressing research from multiple sources, confirmed for us that now is the time to address the growing needs of our LGBT seniors in San Diego,” Freeman said.
Fears of LGBT seniors
Traditional nursing homes and long-term care facilities are often not prepared for the needs of LGBT seniors and terrifyingly, many places abuse, neglect and discriminate against LGBT seniors, according to an article published by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force blog.
“Nursing homes and elder housing programs by and large are completely unprepared for LGBT clients and residents,” Grant said. “LGBT people are often at the mercy of abusive and neglectful providers in elder care, so much so, that some folks go back in the closet in their elder years.”
The article, “LGBT Elders Raise Serious Fears About Long-Term Care Facilities,” published in early April by the Task Force blog, cited a recent national survey in which more than half of those who took part in the survey said they felt that staff or other residents at a nursing home would discriminate against, abuse or neglect an LGBT senior.
The survey, “LGBT Older Adults in Long-Term Care Facilities: Stories From the Field,” was conducted from October 2009 through June 2010 and found that 43% of those polled reported a total of 853 instances of mistreatment, 89% predicted that nursing home staff would discriminate against LGBT seniors and 24 respondents reported that they were denied medical treatment.
According to the HRC article, “Unique Housing Challenges For Seniors,” some assisted living facilities even refuse to let LGBT couples move into the same room together. This can often lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness, both large problems among LGBT seniors.
LGBT seniors are often times at a higher risk than heterosexual seniors of experiencing social isolation because of higher rates of living alone and also because LGBT elders report a lack of welcome at senior homes.
In order to combat the feelings of social isolation, abuse or discrimination, many LGBT seniors feel they must go back in the closet or not openly come out to those around them at long term care facilities and nursing homes, often compounding the problem of social isolation, according to the HRC article.
How Aging with Dignity can make a difference
In a time when LGBT seniors are increasingly facing challenges that their heterosexual counterparts don’t experience, SDHDF has provided a place of support.
“Aging with Dignity starts by extending a hand to LGBT seniors who need our help,” Freeman said. “By offering a skilled person to begin assisting them with the most immediate of their issues, seniors will know they are not alone.”
The senior advocate will act as a first contact for LGBT seniors looking for guidance and help. Freeman said the LGBT seniors who contact The Center’s Senior Advocate will help better the program by providing valuable input as to where they believe the needs of LGBT seniors are underserved.
“Aging with Dignity is about caring for the individual, and taking what we learn from those relationships to inform us as what our next steps are in ensuring our LGBT seniors age with dignity,” Freeman said.
Freeman said once the needs of San Diego LGBT seniors are better understood, SDHDF can start funding programs that will help address those needs.
“Compassionate care and knowledgeable assistance is a powerful prescription for hope and aging with dignity,” Freeman said.

S.F. agency head goes to bat for LGBT asylum-seekers

BAgrungras NEW
Neil Grungras
By Patricia Corrigan -

Two tenets in Judaism hold special meaning for Neil Grungras. One is the mitzvah hachnasat orchim (welcoming the stran-ger) and the other is the line from the Talmud “To save one life is as if you have saved the world.”
Grungras, 52, takes those tenets to heart.
He is the founder and executive director of the Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration — an S.F.-based nonprofit helping refugees fleeing sexual-and gender-based violence worldwide.

“There is nothing more deeply gratifying, more sustaining, than saving a human life or helping someone find freedom in a place of tolerance,” said Grungras, who lives in San Francisco but often travels to Israel (where those seeking sexual- and gender-based freedom are often placed these days) and spots around the globe. The number of people fleeing oppression and violence based on sexual orientation and gender is on a rapid increase, according to Grungras.
He notes that some 75 countries criminalize homosexuality, and that  seven countries execute law breakers. In other countries, he adds, family members sometimes carry out “honor killings” against those who bring shame to the family through non-conforming sexual orientation or gender identity.
ORAM, which has offices in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., provides  free legal representation, advocacy work and research.
Globally, ORAM is working with government and non-governmental agencies to change protocols, systems and laws that often stifle LGBTI individuals who are seeking asylum from persecution (“I” stands for intersex).
ORAM’s newest project is the Resettlement Pilot Program.
“We are working to help connect LGBTI refugees around the world with supportive communities — mostly in the United States, Canada and Australia,” says Grungras. “We also are working to create safe spaces for LGBTI asylum-seekers to be interviewed about why they are afraid, and to get people approved for relocation more quickly.”
Once a person is eligible for resettlement, not everything will go smoothly, Grungras says. Often refugees are placed in small towns in conservative states “where the refugee still may not be safe.”
Now, Grungras says, the goal is to “funnel the person somewhere safe, somewhere like San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York or Seattle.”
Grungras identifies another goal for the Resettlement Pilot Pro-gram: to create programs in LBGTI and faith-based communities that will receive refugees. That’s  where the Jewish community enters the picture.
“We’ve established such a program with the Jewish Family and Children’s Services of the East Bay and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society,” he says.
“What we’re looking for are places to resettle LGBTI refugees where they are free to be themselves, to live up to their potential, to end the cycle of traumatization, to give them a chance to start again.”
For some individuals, Israel is that place. Through the Refugee Rights Clinic at Tel Aviv University, ORAM provides legal support to persecuted LGBTI individuals who seek shelter there.
“Israel is now known as a country that people can escape to,” says Grungras. “The old taboos about the Middle East, the sense of foreboding about Israel — that’s over. Now Israel is known as a modern place with economic opportunities. It’s an open society, and traditional persecution because of religion or sexual orientation or gender is rare there.”
Grungras, who is Jewish, was born to a Polish mother who survived Auschwitz and a German father who survived the Polish work camps. Born in Brooklyn, he became interested in refugee law while attending law school in San Francisco.
From 1990 until 2000, he had a private immigration law practice in San Francisco; later he ran a facility for U.S.-bound refugees in Austria, under the auspices of the State Department.
“I surmise my interest in refugees is because of my personal background,” he says. “I have always had a deep attraction to the plight of refugees, and to the need of people to be secure. I don’t question it — it’s what I have to do.”
Grungras says he sometimes gets depressed over the enormity of what he is trying to do, but quickly adds: “There are a few cases where I think, ‘This person would not have lived, but did, because I went the extra mile.’ And that’s good.”

New Mexico school bans all clubs after gay-straight alliance forms

By Jessica Geen  -


A school board in New Mexico has voted to ban all school clubs after a gay-straight alliance applied for recognition.
Officials on the Clovis school board said the ban was a coincidence but the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) questioned the timing.
The alliance was approved by the principal last month who apparently did not realise that the district superintendent must approve new clubs.
District superintendent Terry Myers told the Albuquerque Journal that the gay-straight alliance’s application did not trigger the ban.
“Being a new superintendent in Clovis, the board asked me to review each policy as it came up and make recommendations or at least bring those to their attention if there’s some question as to what the board truly wants with a particular policy,” he said.
“This was not prompted by a particular request.”
The school board voted to ban any extra-curricular school group from using school premises during school hours. The ban also means that groups cannot use school resources.
Micah McCoy, of the ACLU of New Mexico, told Reuters: “This sort of tactic has been used in the past by school districts to discourage gay-straight clubs from forming. A lot of alarm bells went off when we saw this.”
The gay-straight alliance has not yet been approved. Mr Myers said it would be if it meets normal requirements.

Anti-Gay "Demon Buster" Seeks Fla. City Council Seat

Kimberly Daniels
Kimberly Daniels
By Joseph Erbentraut -

 

At first glance, Kimberly Daniels’ story reads like an inspiring "rags to riches" tale. The Democrat seeking an at-large seat on the Jacksonville City Council is a former drug dealer and sex worker. She eventually joined the military and became an author and ministry leader who travels the world to speak before audiences.

Scratch just beneath the surface, however, Daniels’ opinions on slavery, abortion, LGBT equality and even Halloween become abundantly clear. As the founder of the evangelical Spoken Word Ministries, Daniels is a self-described "demon buster" who is proud of her deliverance or exorcism-oriented ministry. She has even claimed to "convert" witches, gay and lesbian people, the "mentally deranged" and atheists.

"You can talk about the Holocaust, but the Jews own everything," claimed Daniels in a video Truth Wins Out released last week. She also thanked God for slavery in another sermon caught on tape.

"I thank God for slavery... If it wasn’t for slavery, I might be somewhere in Africa worshipping a tree," said Daniels.

Media outlets picked up the video, and Daniels told the Jacksonville Action News that the Holocaust comment was something she "meant to be positive." She also reiterated her dismissal of slavery.

"I love America and it worked out for my good," said Daniels. "Slavery was bad, but if slavery would not have happened I wouldn’t be living in the greatest country in the land."

Her campaign staff responded to the controversy in an e-mail that went out to a mailing list that Daniels claims has 40,000 subscribers. "A group of homosexuals are launching a hate campaign against Apostle Kim," read the e-mail. "A note was placed on her door saying ’N***** get out of the race of [sic] else!’ This group is demanding that she get out of the race... pray!!!"

Daniels’ campaign also attracted the attention of the Southern Poverty Law Center-certified hate group the New Black Panthers, which accused Truth Wins Out of threatening the candidate. And the New Black Panthers threatened TWO in return.

"If any harm comes her way, or any other black people, we will definitely respond and the consequences will be severe," the group said in a sparsely attended press conference on April 22.

TWO co-founder Wayne Besen criticized Daniels’ conflation of the racist note with his organization as "disgusting" and called on her to apologize. He fears her message may further instigate "unstable" individuals into action.

"This attack goes to show how unfit [Daniels] is for public office," Besen told EDGE.

Nevertheless, Besen said his organization is continuing to dig into Daniels’ history with the hopes of further informing Jacksonville voters of her socially conservative views and ties to the "Seven Mountains" evangelical movement. Besen said the movement’s other prominent members-including Lou Engle, Cindy Jacobs and Bishop Harry Jackson-are trying to institute a new theocracy in the United States and around the world. He described the group as "a cult, not a religion."

"I think this is much bigger than one city council race in Florida. This has everything to do with the highest level of the anti-gay movement in the world," added Besen. "[Daniels]’ whole plan for victory was clearly to ignore the media and create as little attention as possible while bringing out the church to vote. It’s important for us to go in there and make sure people know who she is and I think we’ve been effective in doing that."

The Rev. Irene Monroe, coordinator of the African American roundtable of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry at the Pacific School of Religion, identified Daniels as a prominent figure in "the new Black Christian Religious Right" movement that includes Jackson, who led the opposition to marriage equality in the District of Columbia.

"She is the new, changing face perpetuating that type of vitriol because someone like Bishop Jackson and the garden variety of black ministers have said it to the point where it no longer has cultural currency," said Monroe, who is also a columnist who opines about religious issues. "[Daniels] serves as an attention-grabber."

Monroe further criticized Daniels for contributing to the bullying and homophobia that discourages many African Americans from taking preventative measures against HIV/AIDS, particularly black women.

"Regardless of political opinions, the Bible makes it clear: Those who support the homosexual agenda and the murder of unborn babies will be judged," wrote Daniels in a column Charisma Magazine published in Nov. 2008 about why she did not support President Obama’s campaign. "How can we vote for politicians who favor these ungodly movements? The Bible says we must separate ourselves from sin and wickedness."

Daniels stated in a 2009 blog that Halloween candy has been "blessed over by witches" and implored other people of faith to not celebrate the "demonic holiday."

"This kind of rhetoric needs a new face," added Monroe. "You can say this kind of rhetoric is quite comical but the point is that she has tapped into a fear factor, particularly in smaller communities like Jacksonville which are very conservatively religious."

Leslie Watson Malachi, director of the progressive group People For the American Way’s African American Ministers in Action, criticized Daniels’ campaign. "We are disheartened by the advancement of a candidate who has instead chosen to be a voice of fear and intolerance," she said. "The people of Jacksonville deserve better."

Despite this outcry, other LGBT groups have remained silent. Neither Equality Florida nor the state’s Stonewall Democrats chapter responded to EDGE’s repeated requests for comment.

Daniels received 43 percent of the popular vote, just five percentage points shy of her Republican challenger David Taylor, in the March 15 election. The runoff vote is scheduled for May 17.

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

Calls for Dignity in Confirmation Proceedings for Openly Lesbian State Supreme Court Nominee

Charles Cipollini
Charles Cipollini
By Kilian Melloy -



The confirmation hearing for an openly lesbian nominee to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court grew so heated and strange on April 27 that even a local conservative-leaning newspaper called for the process to return to a semblance of "dignity."

The seven-hour hearing brought testimony from Lenk’s supporters and admirers, reported the Boston Globe on April 28. But the hearing was also marked by extremes of rhetoric and odd tangents into questions on incest and other irrelevant issues that seemed to have come up for no reason other than Lenk’s status as an open lesbian.

Lenk’s nomination must be confirmed by the Governor’s Council, some of whom have already spoken out to criticize Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick for having acknowledged to reporters that Lenk, who married her wife after the SJC ruled in 2003 that marriage equality should be extended to same-sex couples, is a lesbian.

Others have leveled criticism at the governor for having nominated so many "firsts" to the bench. Patrick has nominated Roderick Ireland, the state’s first African-American Chief Justice, and also Fernande Duffly, the SJC’s first Asian-American Associate Justice. One councilor, Republican Charles Cipollini of Fall River, accused the governor of nominating Lenk, who would be the first lesbian justice, simply to placate his base.

"He just picks different groups, and this happens to be their turn," Cipollini said, an April 7 Associated Press article reported. "He’s trying to satisfy everyone. He’s satisfying the people who voted for him; let’s put it that way.’’

But three members of the body made it clear to individuals offering anti-gay testimony that they had no intention of allowing their decisions to be based on Lenk’s sexual orientation, media sources reported.

One individual who offered such commentary to the Governor’s Council seemed to so suggest that having an openly lesbian justice on the SJC would imperil children.

"This will be a clarion call to all that want to indoctrinate our children into homosexuality," Carlisle, Mass. resident Sally Naumann declared. "How will we ever be able to say no to our children?"

"No" to what, exactly, was not explained in the Globe article.

Conservative newspaper the Boston Herald urged the council in an April 27 op-ed to "put its increasingly bizarre and often personal petty squabbles aside and conduct a hearing with a distinguished jurist nominated for an important job with the dignity that both deserve." But while the paper’s op-ed, published under the title "Returning to dignity," came to seem predictive, its exhortations went unheeded.

"Detractors spoke mostly about sex," noted Boston Herald columnist Margery Eagan in an April 28 essay. "David Funnell of the Commonwealth Covenant Keepers [spoke] of ’bodily pleasures, unbridled sexual license’ and the ’militant homosexual subculture elevating their shame to status.’ "

But the shameful spectacle of the hearing was the work of Lenk’s opposition, Eagan reported.

"At one point, the prose turned so wanton that Councilor Mary-Ellen Manning advised those under 18 to leave," the columnist recollected. "Then Manning delved into whether incest statutes cover homosexual activity."

The columnist marveled at the level discourse, questioning whether "these sessions [are] always XXX-rated? Or was yesterday’s so fleshy because Lenk is openly gay... ?"

The incest question may have related to a case involving two brothers and a sister that had come before the appellate court where Lenk served for a decade and a half. At the time, the law did not define sexual congress between close male relatives as incest. Legislators have since revised the law.

Foes of family parity for gays and lesbians frequently speak of other issues, such as bestiality, pedophilia, and incest, as though they were issues of particular concern with respect to the GLBT community. Councilor Cipollini, who grilled the nominee on physician-assisted suicide and marriage equality, had brought up the issue of polyamory in the context of marriage equality during Duffly’s confirmation process, noted SouthCoastToday.com on April 28.

During the course of Lenk’s hearing, Cipollini hammered on the question of marriage equality, asking the nominee if she saw the issue as being legally settled in Massachusetts--where, seven years ago, the first legal same-sex marriages in America were granted.

"I am tired of attempts by the court to redefine common words," Cipollini said, "especially those that we hold dear, like marriage." The councilor went on to ask, "Will the definition of spaghetti be next?"

"I believe that my decisions, along with the way I have conducted myself as a judge, reflect my commitment to the fair and equal treatment of all people under the law," Lenk told the chamber, SouthCoastToday.com reported.

Cipollini used the hearing as an occasion on which to denounce the state’s legislature for having prevented a ballot initiative on the rights of gay and lesbian families from going up to a popular vote, the article said. He asked Lenk how she would have dealt with the issue.

"I’m a judge, I’m not a legislator. I don’t make decisions on public policy," Lenk reminded the chamber. "I make decisions on the cases that come before me."

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

Julianna Margulies & Keith Lieberthal for HRC's NYers for Marriage Equality

Actress Julianna Margulies and her husband Keith Lieberthal support marriage equality. Do you?
http://www.hrc.org/NY4marriage

Daniel Radcliffe Supports Gay Marriage

Daniel_richard
Daniel Radcliffe speaks exclusively to dot429 about celebrity involvement
with charities, his views on gay marriage, and his favorite politician.

By dot429 -

Daniel Radcliffe has a lot to be thankful for. At merely 21, he has amassed an astounding net worth, portrayed one of the most iconic characters of all time, and frankly, he's just getting started. He's currently starring (and receiving rave reviews) on Broadway in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and looking sharp on the cover of the April/May issue of Gotham Magazine.

However, he told me last night at a party celebrating the cover at Salon De Ning, at the Peninsula New York, that his work with the Trevor Project is what he is most proud of. In fact, he is being honored by the organization this summer, as a recipient of the "Hero Award." While he is thrilled to be recognized for his work with the organization, he is quick to point out that the real heroes are working at the call centers, providing voluntary aid and counseling. What impresses me most about Daniel is his devotion to the particular cause. He is certainly not one to support a cause simply because it is trendy, as is typical in Hollywood, and his self-awareness is refreshing. "You can be perceived as jumping on a bandwagon when it comes to some issues, not that that's a reason to put off getting involved. If there's something that someone in the public eye is passionate about, they should do it to highlight awareness. But you mustn't ever put yourself on any moral high ground which is what some people are in danger of doing," he explained.

When it comes to gay marriage, a topic that many public figures shy away from, he is vocal and opinionated. "I'm more than happy to say I think gay marriage should be legal," he stated, "There's absolutely no reason why it shouldn't be." In terms of American politics, he has the most admiration for Gavin Newsom. "It's fantastic how he has spoke out about these issues over the years. He spoke out for his city. He's not worried what the rest of the country is doing," Daniel remarked. It seems like he and Gavin share the same fearlessness and desire for change.

A courteous and kind gentleman, Daniel was an absolute pleasure to speak with. His work stretches beyond simply cutting a few checks, and he has genuine concern and interest in his cause. His bold voice will hopefully continue to inspire other celebrities to get involved: not because it looks good, but because they are knowledgeable and actually care. He put it terrifically, exclaiming, “If you have an articulate opinion to give, then give it.”

MSNBC - Married Same-Sex Couple Hope To Avoid Government Forced Split

Thomas Roberts talks to married binational same-sex couple facing deportation hearing May 6th.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Fan: Anti-Gay Epithets, Crude Gestures by Coach Marred Game

In this Feb. 21, 2011, file photo, Atlanta Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell poses in a baseball uniform.
Atlanta Braves pitching coach
Roger McDowell poses in a 
baseball uniform.
By Robert Jablon -

Atlanta pitching coach Roger McDowell apologized Wednesday in response to a fan’s complaint that McDowell spewed homophobic comments, made crude sexual gestures and threatened to knock out his teeth with a bat before the Braves played the San Francisco Giants over the weekend.

"I am deeply sorry that I responded to the heckling fans in San Francisco on Saturday," McDowell said in a statement. "I apologize to everyone for my actions."

Justin Quinn, 33, of Fresno said he was in the stands at AT&T Park in San Francisco during pregame batting practice with his wife and 9-year-old twin daughters when he noticed McDowell hectoring three men and asking them, "Are you guys a homo couple or a threesome?" Quinn said he proceeded to make crude sexual gestures with his hips and a bat.

Quinn, who was down in front of the field, then shouted, "Hey there are kids out here," he said during a news conference at the Los Angeles office of noted attorney Gloria Allred.

Quinn alleged that the coach replied that kids don’t belong at a baseball park, picked up a bat, walked up to Quinn and asked him, "How much are your teeth worth?"

Quinn said he felt threatened and was unsure whether McDowell intended to hit him.

"My kids are in panic mode ... they’re like grabbing onto me," Quinn said. "I’m talking to him, trying to calm him down and the kids are screaming."

Some parents who were in the stands with their children began to boo at McDowell and came down to retrieve their children. Quinn said that eventually McDowell walked away.

Quinn said he filed a complaint with Giants personnel and also with police but missed most of the game, although his wife and daughters stayed to see it.

Allred sent a letter Wednesday to Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig asking that he launch an investigation and take "appropriate disciplinary action." She also demanded that McDowell take sensitivity training.

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation said that even though McDowell has apologized, the Braves and Major League Baseball must take "real disciplinary action and send the message that anti-gay slurs have no place in sports."

"Professional sporting events should be an environment that all fans and families can enjoy, not a place where children are exposed to violent threats and discriminatory language," the alliance’s president, Jarrett Barrios, said.

Selig said the Braves assured his office that they will immediately investigate the allegations and report the results to him.

"Although I do not yet have all the facts regarding this incident, the allegations are very troubling to me," Selig said in a statement. He said he will decide how to proceed after he gets all the facts.

Quinn’s children, Taylor and Kaylyn, said they were upset by McDowell’s remarks and actions.

"Kids should be allowed to be at baseball games without a coach yelling at them or other people," Kaylyn said.

Taylor said she was upset to hear McDowell say that kids don’t belong in baseball parks.

"Children should not have to hear disgusting things they don’t want to hear," she said.

Quinn said his family has not heard from the Braves or McDowell.

McDowell, who pitched for 12 years in the major leagues, issued his apology after the Braves beat the San Diego Padres 7-0 Wednesday afternoon.

McDowell was a star reliever with the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies in the late ’80s and early ’90s, and was a member of New York’s 1986 World Series-winning club. He was named Atlanta’s pitching coach in 2005.

US Marines begin training to accept gay soldiers

By Jessica Geen -


US Marines have begun training in preparation to accept openly gay troops.
Before President Obama signed an order to repeal the 17-year-old ban, there was concern that the Marines in particular would react badly to serving alongside out gay colleagues.
A Pentagon survey carried out last year showed that nearly 60 per cent of troops in the most dangerous roles – in the Marines and combat units – said repeal would be damaging.
General James Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps, said at the time that gay servicemembers might cause a “distraction” that could result in increased injuries and deaths.
According to AP, training materials ask Marines to consider scenarios such as seeing a colleague in a gay bar or hearing locker-room jokes aimed at gay colleagues.
While Marines will not be expected to change their views, the materials say they must follow orders.
“You remain obligated to follow orders that involve interaction with others who are gay or lesbian, even if an unwillingness to do so is based on strong, sincerely held moral or religious beliefs,” the training material states.
Testifying before a Senate Armed Forces hearing earlier this month, Gen Amos said: “We’ve not seen issues. There’s not been anxiety over [out gay soldiers] from the forces in the field … there hasn’t been pushback.”
It is expected that gay soldiers will be permitted to come out at some point during the summer.
The ban will not be lifted until military chiefs have certified that repealing the law will not harm military readiness. Following this, 60 days must pass.

Gay Cuyahoga County worker wins federal ruling on bias lawsuit



CLEVELAND, Ohio -- A federal judge ruled Monday that a gay Cuyahoga County worker can claim constitutional protection in her job discrimination lawsuit against the county.
The ruling involves Shari Hutchinson, a lesbian who works for the county child support enforcement agency. Hutchinson sued the county in 2008, claiming she was denied promotions based on her sexual orientation, and that administrators retaliated against her when she complained.
U.S. District Judge James Gwin ruled that Hutchinson's claim falls under the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution, a decision that her lawyer described as far-reaching and unprecedented.
"This potentially affects millions of gay government workers," said civil rights lawyer Avery Friedman. "The court ruled the 14th Amendment of the Constitution protects gay workers, and the case now proceeds to trial."
The burden is still on Hutchinson to prove her claims. She began working for the child-support enforcement agency in 2002, first as a support officer and then as an account clerk. Her suit claims the county passed her over for higher-paying positions in favor of less qualified straight people, though Hutchinson has a master's in business administration.
In an effort to quash a promotion, one supervisor told his boss that Hutchinson "writes for a 'lesbian porno magazine' and her license plate, PACK8, has her lesbian 'pen name,' " the suit says.
The county denied her claims in court filings. Dave Lambert, civil division chief for Prosecutor Bill Mason, said he was pleased that the judge also ruled Monday that several of her claims are barred by a two-year statute of limitation.
The judge also rejected her complaint that the county discriminated by denying her a maximum $100 credit for opting out the county health plan. The county gives married employees the $100-per-paycheck credit, and $50 to single employees with no dependents who opt out. Hutchinson, who opted out in favor of her domestic partner's insurance plan, said the "program's failure to provide a similar opt-out incentive for the county's homosexual employees amounts to sexual orientation discrimination."
Carrie Davis of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio applauded the court for ruling that the constitution provides protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation. But she said a federal law prohibiting workplace bias based on sexual orientation is long overdue.
"The judge wouldn't have had to make this decision had Congress changed the law a long time ago," Davis said.

LGBT Rights: Republicans Continue Attacks At State Level

Picture-82By David Mixner -


Really, informed citizens need to know, is there a sane wing of the Republican Party? Proclaiming loudly last fall that they would provide the leadership to get this nation's economy moving again, they swept the elections. So far the American people have been treated to a sideshow of outrageous actions and fallacious accusations. Jobs and getting people out of poverty and back into the workforce seem to be the last things on their mind. Especially in the states where they took total control last election.
We have seen them bent on busting unions in Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan. They have rushed to wipe away environmental protections including such basics as clean water, clean air and protecting people from toxic waste! As they leave the middle and lower class exposed, they have rushed to pass tax breaks for the rich and reward their special interests.
However, we are reminded once again that top of their list is to deny and revoke equal rights for LGBT Americans. That's right, you read it correctly, revoke equal rights. In Tennessee this week the state legislature is voting to override all local anti-discrimination ordinances that protect LGBT citizens. That means our protections in Nashville would be thrown out by the state. Wow, that should create a lot of jobs. Towleroad.com is reporting that the Republicans in Minnesota are 'fast-tracking' legislation that would put on the 2012 ballot a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality. Yep, they are going to put other business aside so they can be sure to get the 'gays' on the next ballot.
With Donald Trump now demanding Obama's college records, Haley Barbour withdrawing from the race because his praise for White Citizens Councils might be a distraction and Michele Bachmann a contender, is there a sane wing left in the Republican Party?
At least as "The Donald" continues his rampage he is rapidly becoming the "Charlie Sheen" of the Republican Party - mean-spirited, delusional, and totally infatuated with himself. Which, sadly, could also be an apt description of the current Republican Party.

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

Italian minister slams Ikea's gay ad


ROME - A top Italian official on Saturday called an Ikea advertisement with two gay men holding hands "in bad taste", invoking the ire of opposition parties and rights groups.
"I find it serious and in bad taste that a Swedish multinational comes to Italy to tell Italians what they should think," Secretary of State for family policy Carlo Giovanardi said in a television interview.
The Swedish furniture giant's advertisement shows two men with a shopping bag, holding hands, and the words: "We are open to all families".
"I think that many clients of Ikea will not find this pleasant," said Giovanardi.
While Ikea was free to address itself to whom it pleases, the term family as used in the advertisement "is in direct opposition to our constitution which says that family is founded on a marriage", he added.
Gay rights activist Aurelio Mancuso said Giovanardi's statements were "dangerous and aggressive and risk fueling the climate of homophobia that drives violence and insults against gays, lesbians and transsexuals."
Lawmaker and gay activist Franco Grillini pointed out that: "in the rest of Europe, they have adopted laws that recognise all forms of family", while fellow MP Ignazio Marino mocked Giovanardi for "launching a crusade against an advertisement".
Italy does not recognise homosexual marriage or civil union, and has no law against homophobia.

Joan Armatrading to celebrate civil partnership


joan_armatrading.jpg
Joan Armtrading is to have a civil partnership
The woman who wrote what some consider the ultimate lesbian love song will enter into a civil partnership next month.

British singer-songwriter Joan Armatrading will tie the knot with artist Maggie Butler on 2 May.
The three-time Grammy nominee and MBE holder has gained much critical acclaim throughout her career, which has been punctuated by much speculation about her sexuality, something the announcement of her civil partnership obviously clears up. The announcement of the 60-year-old's pending nuptials is listed on a noticeboard outside a Shetland court, the Shetland News reports.
Armatrading's heart-rending track The Weakness In Me, which was rated by Lesbian Life as its top lesbian love song, is about the tortured experience of being in love with more than one person. Many women coming out after long marriages to straight men have anecdotally expressed finding meaning in the track. Armatrading has an impressive catalogue of beautifully eclectic songs, such as Woman in Love and Love and Affection.
Check out her playing Woman In Love on Later With Jools Holland below.

Lesbian raped and murdered in South African township

By Christopher Brocklebank  -



Noxolo Nogwaza, a 24-year-old lesbian, was found dead in an alley in Kwa-Thema township, South Africa, on Easter Sunday morning. It is believed she was raped and murdered.
Ms Nogwaza was a member of the Ekurhuleni Pride Organising Committee (EPOC), the key LGBTI organisation in Kwa-Thema. The committee, along with the Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL) said that Ms Nogwaza’s face was so badly beaten that she was unrecognisable. Her body had been stabbed all over with glass shards and an empty bottle and used condom were also reportedly found in her genitals.
Victor Mukasa, project coordinator of the Human Rights Defenders Project at CALI, said: “I am so disturbed by this horrific action. It is the responsibility of the South African Government to protect all its citizens. Hate crimes against LGBT people in this country are on the rise and the government should come out openly against these actions.
“Protection of individuals who are vulnerable because of their sexual orientation and or gender identity is something provided for in the Constitution of South Africa and should be put in practice. As a regional advocacy organisation, CAL will work with EPOC and others to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to book.”
In 2008, Eudy Simelane’s body was also found in an open field in Kwa-Thema – she too had been raped and murdered. Last year, a gay man in the same township was attacked by eight men, who allegedly attempted to rape him.
Ntsupe, Chairperson of EPOC said: “It is very clear that these rapists are on a mission. We will not rest until justice prevails. Eudy’s case was not recognized as a hate crime against a lesbian and the same is not done in the cases of many other people who have been raped and/or murdered on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in South Africa.
“EPOC is determined to get to the bottom of the Noxola case and push for justice. It was definitely a hate crime.”
The murder of Ms Nogwaza has been reported to Tsakane Police. She will be buried on Saturday.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

West Point Rejects Student's Application Because Of DADT

katherinemillerBy Jonathan Higbee -



Katherine Miller left West Point in August 2010 because she could no longer lie about her sexuality. But with Don't Ask, Don't Tell in ambiguous territory as it prepares to officially go extinct, Miller thought her re-application stood a chance. But West Point says she's still not welcome.
Though DADT's death is certain and it's clear that West Point believes Miller is an exceptional student, the school will not allow her admission simply because she's lesbian.
"While at the academy Ms. Miller remained in good standing and had done exceptionally well academically, militarily and physically," said Lt. Col. Sherri Reed, the academy's director of public affairs. "The choice to seek re-admission is available to her once the repeal process is completed."
"While the don't ask, don't tell policy was recently changed and will be repealed, the effective date has not yet been determined," Reed continued. "Due to this situation, West Point is unable to offer her readmission at this time."

Last known gay holocaust survivor to receive France’s top honour

By Christopher Brocklebank  -


The last known gay survivor of the Nazi holocaust is to receive the Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur.
Rudolf Brazda, 97, who spent three years in Buchenwald concentration camp, was recommended for the honour by President Sarkozy.
News of his award came 66 years to the day he left the camp, in 1945.
Philippe Couillet, president of Les Oublié(e)s de la Mémoire (an association campaigning for recognition of the suffering of gay people once imprisoned by the Nazis), said the award marked “a further step in the recognition of the deportation of homosexuals” and was a deserved reward for the bravery Mr Brazda had displayed in speaking publicly about his experience.
Author Alexander Zinn has documented Mr Brazda’s life in a new book titled Das Glück Kam Immer zu Mir (Happiness Always Came to Me). In addition, Mr Zinn has gathered material for a documentary which he hopes will be screened this year, which includes interviews with Mr Brazda and his return to Buchenwald.
It was after the unveiling of the Berlin monument to gay and lesbian holocaust victims that Mr Brazda came forward to tell his story. He has previously received the gold medals of the cities of Toulouse and Nancy.
Writing on his LGBT Asylum News blog, Paul Canning said: “In spite of his old age, and health permitting, Brazda is determined to continue speaking out about his past, in the hope that younger generations remain vigilant in the face of present day behaviour and thoughts similar to those which led to the persecutions endured by homosexuals during the Nazi era.”
Mr Brazda will receive his award tomorrow at College Puteaux in Hauts-de-Seine. He will give a speech and the honour will be presented to him by Marie-José of Chombart Lauwe, a former resistance fighter who was an inmate at Ravensbrück, the notorious women’s work camp. She is now president of The Foundation for the Memory of the Deportation.

Pakistan allows trans men and women their own gender category

By Christopher Brocklebank  -


A landmark decision has been taken in Pakistan to allow trans people their own gender category on selected official documents.
The country’s Supreme Court has ruled that Pakistanis who do not consider themselves to be either male or female should be allowed to choose an alternative sex when they apply for their national identity cards.
This is startling and positive news given the conservative climate in Pakistan, a country where trans people - known as hijras - are often ridiculed and forced to live in isolation. Many struggle for survival and are unable to secure jobs other than sex work, or even find a place to live away from their families. Often, they are reduced to begging.
Illiteracy rates among trans Pakistanis are also reportedly high.
Shehzadi, a trans woman living in Karachi, told the BBC that it was indeed “a difficult life” and that she had known she didn’t fit into either gender since the age of six. She left home as soon as she could, she said, and came to live with other trans people.
With the new gender category comes new hope, and some trans men and women are already being employed by the government in their drive to crack down on tax evaders. Those interviewed by the BBC said they were “proud” to be working in such a role.

Judge Walker's Same-Sex Relationship Should Invalidate Prop 8 Ruling Say Foes

By Steve Williams -

Judge Vaughn Walker who ruled to overturn California's gay marriage ban in August, 2010, recently opened up about his private life and confirmed what has been an open secret for years: that he is in fact gay and in a relationship. In a court filing this week, Prop. 8 backers ProtectMarriage argue that this decade-long same-sex relationship should invalidate Vaughn Walker's ruling because, they claim, he must be biased.

From the LA Times:


In a court filing, the sponsors of the ban on gay marriage, ProtectMarriage, asked the chief judge of the federal court in San Francisco to nullify last August's ruling by former U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker, who retired earlier this year.
ProtectMarriage said Walker should have disclosed his involvement with his male partner before presiding over the marriage trial because it constituted a conflict of interest.
[...]
"Judge Walker's 10-year-long same-sex relationship creates the unavoidable impression that he was not the impartial judge the law requires," ProtectMarriage argued in the legal filing.
Andy Pugno, a lawyer for ProtectMarriage, said the group was not suggesting that it would be inappropriate for any gay or lesbian judge to sit on the case. "Rather, our motion is all about the fundamental principle that no judge is permitted to try a case where he has an interest in the outcome," Pugno said.
Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of law at UC Irvine and an expert in the federal constitution, said "there is no chance whatsover" that Walker's ruling would be voided because the judge failed to tell the backers of Proposition 8 that he was gay.
"No judge is going to say that another judge has a duty to declare his or her sexual orientation," the law professor said.
He said that would be akin to asking black judges to recuse themselves from race discrimination cases or female judges to remove themselves from litigation involving sex bias.
Critics point out that ProtectMarriage was fully aware of Walker's sexual orientation before the trial but the group never asked the judge to recuse himself, preferring to wait until after the trial to grumble that they never got a fair hearing (although the defense was widely criticized as being lackluster).

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is currently waiting on the California Supreme Court deciding whether ProtectMarriage as defendant-intervenors have standing enough to even be appealing the case before the 9th Circuit. If it is determined they lack standing, it is likely the 9th Circuit will dismiss the case and Judge Vaughn Walker's ruling will go into effect.

The state's administration would usually defend the law in such cases, but the anti-gay marriage group ProtectMarriage intervened when both the then governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the then attorney general Jerry Brown declined to do so because they believed the 2008 ballot measure was unconstitutional.

Although ProtectMarriage was allowed to intervene in the case, as defendant-intervenors the right to defend the law at appeal was not automatically granted, as Walker noted in his original ruling.

In accepting the case, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals stated that the defendant-intervenors would have to prove their standing in order for the appeal to go ahead. The 9th Circuit called on the California Supreme Court to advise whether any state law would give the intervenors standing, perhaps indicating that the federal court was doubtful that, without such a law, the appeal could continue.

With this decision factored in, it is estimated that the 9th Circuit will rule sometime in early 2012.

Iowa House GOP Moves to Impeach Gay Marriage Judges

By Steve Williams -


After having successfully led a campaign to oust three of the justices who in 2009 ruled that Iowa's statutory ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, Iowa's religious conservative House lawmakers have now launched impeachment proceedings against the remaining four justices who were part of the decision.

From the Iowa Independent:

Iowa House Republicans drew an immediate negative reaction late Thursday when they filed four articles of impeachment, one for each remaining member of the Iowa Supreme Court that participated in an April 2009 decision that struck down a legislative ban on same-sex marriage as a violation of the state’s equal protection clause.
The four House resolutions target Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady (HR 48) and Justices Brent Appel (HR 47), Daryl Hecht (HR 49) and David Wiggins (HR 50) for "malfeasance in office" specifically for their ruling in the Varnum v. Brien case, saying that each justice "exercis[ed] functions properly belonging to the legislative and executive departments."
[...]
Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines, a member of Democratic leadership, immediately challenged House Speaker Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha) and Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer (R-Garner) to speak against the actions taken by their caucus members.
"I issue the following challenge to Speaker Paulsen and Majority Leader Upmeyer on the proposed impeachment of the remaining Supreme Court Justices ... either publicly condemn your own Republican members as well as members of the Republican Party for offering this outrageous, extremist proposal ... or allow a full and open impeachment proceeding for all Iowans to consider knowing House Democrats will use every available procedural tool to shut down the Iowa House and defeat this right-wing effort," said McCarthy.
Moves to oust the justices has been the subject of fierce political debate on the implications of such tactics and how this is part of a larger agenda to remove judges that do not rule in the favor of religious conservative values.
The move to impeach has also been cause for concern given that the campaign was financed by powerful out-of-state groups including the National Organization for Marriage which has contributed to efforts to defeat gay marriage in other states like Maine.
Republican lawmakers say that Democrats in the Senate who hold the majority and have blocked attempts at a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, are going against the will of the people in not allowing a referendum on the gay marriage issue.
Regardless, it is unlikely that the Democratic senate leadership will allow the articles of impeachment to proceed.