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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Feds issue new guidance for trans employees

--by Robyn

While we struggle along a state at a time on the right to nondiscrimination in the workplace, having just reached 14 of them and having ongoing efforts to increase that number in Connecticut and Massachusetts, the Federal Government has issued new guidance about the employment of transpeople (
Guidance Regarding the Employment of Transgender Individuals in the Federal Workplace). Attached was information about How to Reconstruct a Personnel Folder due to a Change in Gender Identity and an FEHB Carrier Letter authorizing change of gender on insurance and health records (but noting that sex-specific care such as mammograms and prostate exams should still be covered).

The guidance comes from the Office of Personnel Management, directed by John Berry.

It is the policy of the Federal Government to treat all of its employees with dignity and respect and to provide a workplace that is free from discrimination whether that discrimination is based on race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity or pregnancy), national origin, disability, political affiliation, marital status, membership in an employee organization, age, sexual orientation, or other non-merit factors. Agencies should review their anti-discrimination policies to ensure that they afford a non-discriminatory working environment to employees irrespective of their gender identity or perceived gender non-conformity.

Michelle & Michelle: Civil Union Tracker Illinois

On June 1, 2011 the Illinois civil union law will go into effect. Michelle Chappelle and Michelle Franke from Champaign are preparing to take advantage of the new legal protections that civil unions will provide. Meet their family in this short video, and sign up for Lambda Legal's Civil Union Tracker to stay informed!

Dozens arrested in violence at Moscow gay rally

By Olga Nedbayeva -

MOSCOW (AFP) – Moscow police Saturday detained three prominent global gay rights leaders as violence broke out at an unprecedented rally that activists tried to stage near the Kremlin wall.
The protesters -- waving rainbow flags and some carrying signs reading "Russia is not Iran" -- were attacked during the unsanctioned rally by members of an ultra-Orthodox group who had gathered near the Kremlin in anticipation.
An AFP correspondent saw the police then move in and violently wrestle both activists and members of the religious group to the ground before leading them off in handcuffs to waiting security vans.
Those detained included the prominent US gay rights activist Dan Choi as well as Britain's Peter Tatchell and France's Louis-George Tin.
"We have come here to prevent this event from happening," Orthodox group member Leonid Simonovich-Nikshich said as scuffles raged around him.
"God burned down Sodom and Gomorrah and he will burn down Moscow too if we let things like this happen," he told AFP.
Members of the religious group wore black robes and brandished Christian Orthodox cross. An AFP correspondent saw one man rip up a picture of Elton John -- the openly gay icon of the global gay and lesbian community.
The small group of rights activists were mostly composed of young people who chanted "Russia without homophobia" and wore shirts with signs such as "I love her".
Police had cordoned off the area in advance to thwart activists' plans to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Moscow -- whose former mayor Yury Luzhkov once likened gays to the devil -- has banned gay pride parades for six years running citing public discomfort with behaviour that was considered illegal in Soviet times.
The European Court of Human Rights in October ordered Russia to pay one local rights leader damages for banning earlier marches.
A Russian policeman (right) tries to stop a man hitting
a gay rights activist on their attempt to hold a pride flag
But Moscow activists said what they most feared were not the arrests but attacks from Russian nationalists who have already vowed to disrupt the event.
"What we are really afraid of are the homophobes and the neo-Nazis who have been promising to come down to beat us up," activist Nikolai Bayev told AFP by telephone.
"But instead of arresting the groups threatening to create violence, the police are promising to arrest us."
Some 120 Russian activists were arrested during their first attempt to stage a Moscow parade in 2006 and the city warned in advance that those who showed up at the Kremlin would get no leniency on this occasion.
A Moscow police spokesman said officers would be out on the streets in large numbers because the rally coincided with a national holiday commemorating Russia's border guards -- an occasion that has seen drunken violence in the past.
Gay rights activists were planning to hold a second event outside the Moscow mayor's office later Saturday afternoon.
"Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are universal," Tatchell told reporters before his arrest.
His fellow international marchers argued that their arrest would only prove a point about the state of freedoms in Russia.
"Our methods are nonviolent," Choi said. "My hope is that this will be the last pride prohibited by this country."

Short snippet of the arrests of Dan Choi and Louis-Georges Tin in Moscow Pride. Check out for more information!

Media Release: Massive protest planned for marriage equality at the National ALP conference in December

Media Release - 28/05/11

Massive protest planned for marriage rights at ALP conference

Activists announce plans for historic LGBTI rights protest at ALP conference and calls for people to come out in bigger numbers than ever.

Community Action Against Homophobia Sydney is pleased to announce plans for their biggest protest for marriage equality yet outside the National Labor Party Conference in December. Activists around the country have been waiting with bated breath to see which city will host the conference, this week hearing the announcement that the location is set for Sydney.

Cat Rose, CAAH Co-convener said “Three years ago the Labor Party held their national conference in Sydney and attracted an amazing crowd of three thousand people protesting for marriage equality outside. But this conference is the one that matters; it will be the first time a motion will be put forward that if passed will see marriage equality adopted as full party policy. In the last week Katy Gallagher, Chief Minister for the ACT and the National Labor Women's Conference has joined the chorus of people inside the Labor Party calling for equal marriage rights. Unfortunately Julia Gillard and people such as Joe de Bruyn are digging their heels in against progress and we have no indication that we can assume victory at the conference. We are determined to come out in force come conference time and challenge the Labor Party to end institutionalised homophobia in the biggest and brightest display of support for marriage equality yet. We urge people to keep the weekend of 3-4 December free for this historic moment. Stay tuned as we work out the details.”

Ben Cooper, CAAH Co-convener said “In just a few days since we made the announcement, we have already been informed that dozens of people are booking plane and train tickets from as far Auckland and Perth, to protest outside the conference. We are expecting tens of thousands of people to converge on Sydney for what is beginning to shape up as the biggest day of action for LGBTI civil rights in Australian history”

Cooper continued “If you have never been at a marriage equality protest before, then this is the one that you and everyone you know needs to be at.” The window of opportunity is opening and we need to make sure that we are there in record numbers to make sure that Labor makes marriage equality party policy. If you want equality then you need to be here to make it happen.”

Alex Greenwich stated "The December National Conference provides the ALP with a unique opportunity to make history and end discrimination in the marriage act. Supporters of equality can help to ensure this happens by attending this historic protest"

Details of protest to be announced

The next mass demonstration for marriage equality will be held in Sydney, from Town Hall, 1pm on Saturday August 13th - the 7 anniversary of the ban on equal marriage rights.

Ben Cooper
0434 082 229
Cat Rose
0405 770 302
Co-conveners, Community Action Against Homophobia

Alex Greenwich
Australian Marriage Equality

After 30 years of HIV/AIDS, real progress and much left to do

By Anthony S. Fauci -

Three decades ago, the June 5, 1981, issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) reported on five previously healthy young gay men in Los Angeles diagnosed with pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), an infectious disease usually seen only in people with profoundly impaired immune function. As a specialist in infectious diseases and immunology, I had cared for several people with PCP whose immune systems had been weakened by cancer chemotherapy. I was puzzled about why otherwise healthy young men would acquire this infection. And why gay men? I was concerned, but mentally filed away the report as a curiosity.
One month later, the MMWR wrote about 26 cases in previously healthy gay men from Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York, who had developed PCP as well as an unusual form of cancer called Kaposi’s sarcoma. Their immune systems were severely compromised. This mysterious syndrome was acting like an infectious disease that probably was sexually transmitted. My colleagues and I never had seen anything like it. The idea that we could be dealing with a brand-new infectious microbe seemed like something for science fiction movies.
Little did we know what lay ahead.
Soon, cases appeared in many groups: injection-drug users, hemophiliacs and other recipients of blood and blood products, heterosexual men and women, and children born to infected mothers. The era of AIDS had begun.
I changed the direction of my career to study this disease — to the chagrin of my mentors and many colleagues — and began a 30-year journey through this extraordinary global health saga. The early years of AIDS were unquestionably the darkest of my career, characterized by frustration about how little I could do for my patients. At hospitals nationwide, patients were usually close to death when they were admitted. Their survival usually was measured in months; the care we provided was mostly palliative. Trained as a healer, I was healing no one.
In the first couple of years, few scientists were involved in AIDS research, and there was very little funding to study the disease. Initially, we did not know the infectious agent — if indeed there was one — so researchers had no precise direction in which to search.
The first major research breakthrough came in 1983 with the discovery of the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, and then in 1984, with proof that it caused AIDS. Our knowledge of HIV/AIDS rapidly grew with the development of a diagnostic test in 1985 that revealed the frightening scope of the pandemic. Our desperately ill patients were just the tip of the iceberg.
The first drug that slowed the progression of HIV/AIDS — zidovudine, initially called AZT — was licensed by the Food and Drug Administration in 1987. For those in the field, this was a major high point. Finally, we could treat the disease instead of just its complications. Soon, however, we learned that the benefits of AZT as a stand-alone treatment waned within months as HIV developed resistance to the drug. The disease relentlessly progressed. The realization that we were in for the long haul began to set in.
In 1984, I became director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and soon established a distinct AIDS research program. This met considerable opposition from some senior figures in medicine, who believed that I was overreacting and that focusing on AIDS would divert resources from other important infectious diseases. Despite our intensive efforts to find solutions to this emerging global plague, federal scientists — including me — and my colleagues at the Centers for Disease Control and the FDA were vilified by growing numbers of AIDS activists, who thought that the government was not moving fast enough to fight the epidemic and should modify its research agenda and drug approval procedures to meet the special circumstances of the pandemic. In many respects, the activists were correct. Looking back, one of the most productive decisions I made in the 1980s was to fully engage with the activists. Clinical trials were soon modified to be more flexible and user-friendly, and through activist engagement with the FDA, the drug approval process was markedly accelerated while retaining proper attention to safety.
There is a stunning contrast between how I felt as a physician-scientist in the 1980s and the optimism I feel today as more infections are prevented and lifesaving drugs increasingly become available throughout the world. Annual funding for HIV/AIDS research at the National Institutes of Health exceeds $3 billion, thanks to consistent support from Congress and each successive administration. Thousands of researchers globally are intensively studying HIV, developing therapies, and designing and implementing prevention modalities — including a thus-far-elusive vaccine. The surge in research efforts has enabled enormous medical advances, especially in therapeutics. More than 30 anti-HIV drugs have been developed and licensed; in combinations of three or more these medications have proved extremely effective since the mid-1990s in slowing and even halting HIV’s progression. In the 1980s, patients received a prognosis of months. Today, a 20-year-old who is newly diagnosed and receives combination anti-HIV drugs according to established guidelines can expect to live 50 more years. Furthermore, HIV treatment not only benefits the infected individual but can reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to others.
In 2002, President George W. Bush sent a team to southern Africa on an HIV/AIDS fact-finding mission. Upon our return, the president asked me to help design a plan for providing HIV-related services on a large scale in low-income countries. Eventually, this became the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Visiting African hospitals and seeing scores of HIV-infected people, I noted that the physicians were experiencing the frustration that I and so many of my colleagues in rich countries had felt 20 years earlier, as we saw people die because of our inability to treat the disease. In Africa in 2002, the effective treatments that had transformed HIV/AIDS care in wealthy countries were available only to the privileged. The developing world clearly needed PEPFAR, and President Bush made it happen.
The implementation of PEPFAR — as well as programs such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria; the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; the Clinton Foundation; Doctors Without Borders; and others — has changed the landscape of global AIDS. PEPFAR alone has provided anti-HIV drugs to more than 3.2 million infected people in the developing world, predominantly in southern Africa and the Caribbean, and it has offered HIV care, counseling, testing, prevention services and support to millions more. In 2010, PEPFAR’s support of antiretroviral prophylaxis to prevent mother-to-child transmission allowed more than 114,000 infants to be born HIV-free.
With most diseases, these results would sound like an unqualified success story. The HIV story, however, is far from over. There have been more than 60 million HIV infections throughout the world, with at least 30 million deaths. In 2009, 2.6 million people became infected with HIV and 1.8 million died; more than 90 percent of cases occurred in the developing world, two-thirds in sub-Saharan Africa. For every infected person put on lifesaving therapy, two to three people are newly infected. To control and ultimately end the pandemic, we will need to treat many more HIV-infected people, for their health and to reduce the risk of their sexual partners becoming infected. We also must accelerate implementation of other prevention approaches, as well as research toward a cure.
We cannot lose sight of the fact that lifesaving HIV/AIDS programs at home and abroad must be strengthened despite global constraints on resources. Enormous challenges remain and must be met by the next generation of scientists, public health officials and politicians throughout the world. History will judge us as a global society by how well we address the challenges in the next few decades of HIV/AIDS.

The writer is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.

Christian ‘gay cure’ therapist guilty of malpractice

Lesley Pilkington was found guilty of malpractice
By Jessica Geen -

A Christian therapist who tried to turn a gay undercover journalist straight has been found guilty of professional malpractice.
This week, a professional trial at the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) unanimously ruled that Lesley Pilkington had acted unprofessionally.
Mrs Pilkington, 60, was secretly recorded last year by gay journalist Patrick Strudwick, who had approached her claiming to be a Christian who wanted to become straight.
She told him that his homosexuality was a “mental illness” and she could help him overcome it.
Such therapy is recognised almost universally as useless at best and harmful at worst.
Mr Strudwick, who won several awards for his expose, was also told by Ms Pilkington that he must have been sexually abused as a child by a member of his family.
After visiting her for counselling in Chorleywood, Hertfordshire, he reported her to the BACP.
According to an article written by Mr Strudwick for the Guardian today, the BACP panel described Mrs Pilkington as “reckless”, “disrespectful”, “dogmatic” and “unprofessional”.
Mrs Pilkington’s BACP accreditation has been suspended and she must complete “extensive training and professional development”. If she does not comply, she may be struck off, the report says.
The BACP refused to provide with a copy of the ruling. A spokesman said Mrs Pilkington has 28 days to appeal and would not comment further.
Mrs Pilkington, who is supported by the Christian Legal Centre, accused Mr Strudwick of “irresponsible reporting” and of breaching the hearing’s confidentiality.
She said she would make “seek to make a joint complaint with the BACP to the Press Complaints Commission in relation to the subterfuge and deceit used by [him].”
She added: “Reparative therapy is a valid therapy that many people want and it should not be damaged by irresponsible reporting. The hearing is still subject to an appeal.”
Andrea Minichiello Williams, of the Christian Legal Centre, said Mrs Pilkington was being “persecuted” by gay rights campaigners.
She added: “We are grateful that the decision of the Professional Conduct Committee has not questioned the validity of reparative therapy and individuals are still free to seek counselling services for reorientation when they choose to change their behaviour.”
In January, the Christian Legal Centre claimed Mr Strudwick was “intimidating” Mrs Pilkington’s trial witnesses. The journalist responded that the other camp was conducting a “smear campaign” and did not actually have any witnesses.
Mr Strudwick’s undercover investigation, which also involved a psychiatrist who promised to cure gays, was published in the Independent last year and sparked anger in the gay community over the treatments.
Speaking to, Mr Strudwick said he was “delighted” with the outcome of the hearing.
He said: “This sends out a very strong message to psychotherapists in the UK and around the world that there practices are not accepted by mainstream medical opinion and are not supported by professional associations.
“I am somewhat disappointed that the BACP did not see fit to immediately strike Pilkington off but that is a matter for them.
“As for the Christian Legal Centre accusing me of breaching confidentiality, I would remind them that it was them who went to the press in the first place. I never named Pilkington.”
He added that the CLC had published a “large chunk” of the ruling on its own website.

India celebrates second gay film festival

By Jessica Geen -

India’s second annual gay film festival is underway in Mumbai.
KASHISH 2011, which will show 124 LGBT films from 23 countries, was approved by India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and has failed to rouse the ire of anti-gay campaigners.
India only decriminalised gay sex in 2009 and filmmaker and festival director Sridhar Rangayan told IPS that the festival was a “spin-off” of that court decision.
He said: “Last year when we organised the festival, it was a great success. We also found after a proper survey that at least 28 per cent of the audience in the festival was from outside the LGBT community, from the mainstream.
“The participation of people at large shows a change in social attitudes – gays are not seen as ‘criminals’ anymore. The image of a gay man or woman is changing.”
The festival will run until Sunday at a multiplex. Around 2,500 people are expected to see the films.

U.S. Adults Estimate That 25% of Americans Are Gay or Lesbian

By Lymari Morales -

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. adults, on average, estimate that 25% of Americans are gay or lesbian. More specifically, over half of Americans (52%) estimate that at least one in five Americans are gay or lesbian, including 35% who estimate that more than one in four are. Thirty percent put the figure at less than 15%.
Just your best guess, what percent of Americans today would you say are gay or lesbian? 2002 and 2011 Trend
The findings, from a Gallup poll conducted May 5-8, 2011, mark the second time Gallup has asked Americans to estimate the gay population. In 2002, Gallup used two separate questions to ask Americans to estimate the percentage of gay men and lesbians. At that time, Americans estimated that 21% of men were gay and that 22% of women were lesbian. Twice as many did not offer an opinion as do now.
There is little reliable evidence about what percentage of the U.S. population is in reality gay or lesbian, due to few representative surveys asking about sexual orientation, complexities surrounding the groups and definitions involved, and the probability that some gay and lesbian individuals may not choose to identify themselves as such. Demographer Gary Gates last month released a review of population-based surveys on the topic, estimating that 3.5% of adults in the United States identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual, with bisexuals making up a slight majority of that figure. Gates also disputes the well-circulated statistic that "10% of the males are more or less exclusively homosexual."
Americans' current collective estimate -- which is substantially higher than Gates suggests -- is likely driven more by perceptions and exposure than by scientific measurement or reality. Gallup previously found that a majority of Americans personally know someone who is gay or lesbian, though Gallup did not ask Americans how many gay or lesbian individuals they know, or whether they know more individuals now than they did before. Additionally, Americans tend to have difficulty estimating percentages of population groups whose numbers are more widely known. Gallup a decade ago found Americans estimating much larger U.S. black and Hispanic populations than what the U.S. Census Bureau reported for those groups.
Lower-Income Americans, Less Educated, Young People, and Women Give Highest Estimates
Americans with lower incomes and less education give the highest estimates, on average, of the U.S. gay and lesbian population, and far higher estimates than those with higher incomes and more education. Americans aged 18 to 29 give a higher average estimate than older Americans, and women give a far higher average estimate than men.
Democrats, liberals, and those who say they are socially liberal are also more likely to give higher estimates than those at the other end of the spectrum. However, the differences by political or ideological leanings are in most cases not as wide as those seen by demographic group.

Americans perceive that there is a large U.S. gay population -- one far larger than is likely reality. Perhaps more informative than the exact figure Americans give is the trend that more Americans now than in 2002 feel they have enough information to offer an estimate. This suggests Americans have had even more exposure to gays and lesbians, be it in their personal lives or through entertainment or other means. It is also noteworthy that demographics appear in most cases to be more predictive of views in this matter than are political or ideological leanings. This suggests Americans' estimates are based more on who they are -- and perhaps whom they know -- than on their worldview. Gallup also previously found those who personally know someone gay or lesbian to be more accepting on related issues. Combined with Americans' record support for legal gay relations and same-sex marriage, it is clear that America's gay population -- no matter the size -- is becoming a larger part of America's mainstream consciousness.

Cenk Uygur - George Takei On Tennessee's "Don't Say Gay" Bill

Cenk talks gay rights with George Takei.

Rachel Maddow Blocks Santorum's Attempt To Fix Google Problem!

In a new stump speech in Florida, Rick Santorum tried to fix his google problem by telling a story about a man and a dog... and a warm sensation. The Sarasota Herald Tribune ran the headline "Dog Pee Can't Stop Santorum". Rachel Maddow purchased the url which redirects to her blog.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Clowns and Bathrooms (with talented eye-candy)

--by Robyn

clownfish Pictures, Images and PhotosAs per usual, I spent some time wandering around the Interweb, looking for stories that might need elucidation…or at least response. Sometimes I find some good stuff, like the recent good news out of Nevada. More often than not, I find depressing stuff, like the transwoman who was beaten by four people in Fredericksburg, Virginia just for being trans…and apparently for chastising a young man because his dog was a loud barker. One of the assailants is thought to be a relative of that young man.

On the plus side this week is Steven Petrow's essay at
Aol Healthy Living, Straight Talk: when a Daughter Changes Her Gender, Does She Become a Son?

And he is indeed her son -- no need for quotation marks around the word. One of the basic concepts of gender identity is that you are the gender you think and say you are. The external genitalia that make a doctor proclaim, "It's a girl!" in the delivery room are not the sum total of that individual's gender identity.

Like he said. For some reason, people have this fixation that gender is determined by one's chromosomes and so sex should be inelastic. I guess they've never met a

(Cue Nemo).

Authors@Google: Dan Savage and Terry Miller

Dan Savage and Terry Miller spoke to Googlers in Mountain View in May, 2011 about their book It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living and

Dan Savage is the well-known columnist for Seattle's The Stranger, and the founder of the It Gets Better project, which uses videos on YouTube to send positive messages to at-risk LGBT youth.

Moscow police will break up banned gay Pride march

Peter Tatchell being arrested at a previous Moscow Pride
By Jessica Geen -

Moscow’s police force says it will break up an unauthorised gay Pride march to be held tomorrow.
Gay rights campaigners were denied permission to hold the event for the sixth year running but said they would hold it anyway.
Police said today they would cut short any “unlawful actions”, Ria Novosti reports.
City authorities said last month that the march could not go ahead because of a “risk of public disorder”.
But Pride leader Nikolai Alekseev said that any disorder would be blamed on police and the mayor, Sergei Sobyanin.
While campaigners have flouted past bans, some marches ended in violence and allegations of police brutality.
Neo-Nazis have targeted gay rights activists in the past.
Last October, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that bans on Moscow Pride contravene international human rights laws.
The city’s last mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, repeatedly banned the marches on pretexts of health and safety and has called gays and lesbians “satanic”. Gay rights campaigners hoped Mr Sobyanin would be more sympathetic to their cause.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg Delivers Major Address For Marriage Equality

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg forcefully championed marriage equality as a "fundamental civil right" during a sweeping speech in Manhattan, urging the state Legislature to vote on the issue before the session ends next month.

Lawsuit: Sheriff’s department took lesbian drug addict to evangelist instead of rehab

Lesbian Amanda Booker is suing Bartow Co.By Dyana Bagby -

A Bartow County lesbian is suing the Bartow County Sheriff’s Department and others after she alleges her constitutional rights were violated when she was taken to a private residence for ex-gay conversion therapy rather than to a court-mandated psychiatric hospital for her drug abuse.
The lawsuit, filed May 13 in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Georgia by Amanda Booker, names as defendants Bartow County, Bartow County Commissioner Clarence Brown, Sheriff Clark Milsap and sheriff department employees Mark Mayton, Nathan Gibbs, Pam Ploof and Amanda Pedifer. Individuals Gary Allen Covington, Chris McDowell and Donna Dupree McDowell are also named as defendants.
Sheriff Milsap told the GA Voice he had not seen the lawsuit and laughed at the allegations that were in it.
“I haven’t been served. But, no ma’am, that is the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard in my life,” Milsap said, chuckling before adding he had no comment.
County Commissioner Clarence Brown also declined comment on the suit because he said he had not seen it. Bartow County attorney Boyd Petit said his office received a notice in November of a possible lawsuit being filed, but that he had not seen a copy of the suit and also could not comment.
Attorney Anthony Perrotta, who represents Booker, said what the Sheriff’s Department and county condoned in its treatment of Booker was “egregious.”
“Any violation of a court order is egregious, and especially by the Sheriff’s Department — this is beyond the pale,” he said.
Perrotta added that Booker has been incarcerated in South Georgia at Pulaski State Prison since October after the Bartow County Sheriff’s Department arrested her and charged her for, among other things, damage to a police vehicle.
Perrotta said he learned of the case from Booker’s ex-girlfriend.
“She’s not doing well. She’s not getting the care she needs for her drug addiction. She’s hurting,” he said. “My first priority is to get her out of prison.”

Lawsuit: ‘Normal to punish homosexuals’

The lawsuit alleges throughout that, “At all times relevant to this action, it was normal procedure, practice and custom of defendants Bartow County, Brown, and Milsap to punish homosexuals and persons holding different religious beliefs.”
The lawsuit further states that it was also the normal procedure for Bartow County officials named in the suit to “harass homosexuals taken into custody, to mandate that homosexuals taken into custody refrain from living as homosexuals, and to forbid them from maintaining any homosexual relationships.”
Booker alleges in the suit that after her family called the Bartow County Sheriff’s Department in April 2010 to have her committed to a psychiatric hospital due to her drug addiction, the deputies ignored a judge’s order to take her to Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital in Rome, Ga.
According to the lawsuit, Deputy Pam Ploof picked up Booker on April 22 to transport her to the hospital. However, en route to the hospital Booker began having seizures. According to the suit, an ambulance was dispatched and Booker was taken to Cartersville Medical Center.
At the Cartersville hospital while Booker was being treated were Bartow Sheriff’s Department Lt. Mark Mayton, commander of the Bartow County Sheriff’s Drug Task Force, and deputies Ploof and Nathan Gibbs, the suit states. Also at the hospital was Booker’s probation officer, Tracy Jacobs, to administer a drug test, the suit further states.
While in the Cartersville hospital, Lt. Mayton “began harassing Ms. Booker, making numerous threats concerning her lesbian relationship with her partner,” according to the suit.
“Lt. Mayton then forbade Ms. Booker from having a lesbian relationship and ordered Ms. Booker not to contact her partner,” the suit alleges.

Evangelists asked to ‘convert’ plantiff?

Cartersville Medical Center released Booker the evening of April 22, 2010, and, according to the lawsuit, Lt. Mayton put Booker into Ploof’s squad car and Ploof drove her to a nearby shopping center.
Lt. Mayton followed Ploof to the shopping center, transferred Booker into his personal vehicle and then drove Booker to the home of his friend, Gary Allen Covington, and asked Covington to watch Booker. According to the lawsuit, Covington was paid $200 in county funds to do so. And, according to the lawsuit, Booker remained at Covington’s home up to a week.
Lt. Mayton then returned and, according to the lawsuit, transported Booker to the private residence of Chris and Donna McDowell, two self-described “evangelists.” The couple was paid $600 of county funds “to attempt to convert Ms. Booker from being a lesbian,” the suit alleges.
After several days, Booker attempted to escape from the McDowell’s home and then went to her mother’s home, where she had been staying, to get some personal items. Lt. Mayton went to the home on May 18, 2010, and attempted to arrest her without a warrant, according to the suit. Booker resisted and Lt. Mayton slammed her against a patrol car and “lifted up Ms. Booker’s shirt to expose her bare breasts.”
Perrotta said Booker has suffered immeasurably from the alleged false arrest and harassment and is asking for a jury to award her an amount to be determined.

Illinois Catholic groups stop foster care services over gay parents

By Jessica Geen -

Catholic charities in Rockford, Illinois, have opted to cease all foster care services to avoid having to cater to gay couples.
The charities must comply with a new state law which says any organisation receiving state funds must not discriminate.
Rather than place children in need of homes with gay couples, they have chosen to stop offering foster care services altogether.
The case recalls a British Catholic charity’s legal battle to bypass equality laws.
Leeds-based Catholic Care lost the latest round of its fight at a tribunal last month. It says it should not be forced to accept gay couples.
In Illinois, the Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Unions Act goes into effect on June 1st. It says bodies receiving state funding must treat gay couples equally. Couples in civil unions must be treated the same as straight married people.
Catholic Charities of Rockford attempted to secure an amendment to exempt them from the law but were unsuccessful.
The organisation receives $7.5 million a year and handles around 350 adoption and foster cases.
In a statement yesterday, the organisation said 58 jobs would be lost as a result of the decision.
Penny Wiegert, the Rockford diocese’s director of communication, said: “The law of our land has always guaranteed its people freedom of religion. Denying this exemption to faith-based agencies leads one to believe that our lawmakers prefer laws that guarantee freedom from religion.
“We simply can not compromise the spirit that motivates us to deliver quality, professional services to families by letting our state define our religious teachings.”
Anthony Martinez, executive director of the Civil Rights Agenda, said it was “sad” that children would be denied fostering services by the “bigoted” charity.
“This is a sad display of bigotry by Catholic Charities, and their bigotry will now be harming children in their care,” he said. “It is equally sad that they would invoke ‘Freedom of Religion’ as they make this announcement. That freedom is granted only when the religious agency is not funded by taxpayer dollars, and they are well aware of that.”
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services said cases handled by Catholic Charities of Rockford would be taken over by private agencies.

Sarkozy ally compares gay marriage to bestiality in French parliament

By James Park -

Brigitte Barèges, an MP in French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s ruling UMP party has sparked angry reaction in the French parliament by comparing gay marriage to bestiality.
The 58-year-old MP from Montauban was speaking at a debate to open marriage to same-couples across France.
She appalled fellow politicians by exclaiming: “So in that case, why not unions with animals? Or polygamy?”
Felllow UMP MPFranck Riester called Ms Barèges comments “disgraceful and degrading”. The leader of the UMP party,Jean-François Copé added: “these unacceptable comments naturally in no way reflect the UMP’s position.”
Left-wing MPs have called for Ms Barèges to withdraw her comments and make a public apology.
Christophe Girard, the deputy mayor of Paris said the comments were “pathetic and vulgar” adding: that Ms Barèges is “unknown to the French, is doubtless seeking publicity … What will be her next struggle? That there are too many Chinese on the planet, that transsexuals make her laugh? The most idiotic Right in the world has just shown its true face.”
Ms Barèges refused to apologise but said: “I meant it as a joke, and I am personally in favour of all types of sexual relations between consenting adults.”
Later in a statement, she said she had decided “withdraw the clumsy remarks which she contests are of a homophobic nature”.
In any case, the proposed law on same-sex marriage was rejected on Wednesday evening.

Mayor Bloomberg calls on New York State to legalize same-sex marriage

In a passionate and sweeping address May 26th at Cooper Union, Mayor Michael Bloomberg lays out the case for why the State Legislature must vote on same-sex marriage before the legislative session ends in June.

Settlement reached in Eddie Long case

By Shelia M. Poole and Christian Boone -

Some current and former members of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church expressed relief Thursday that sexual misconduct lawsuits against the church and its prominent leader, Bishop Eddie Long, have been resolved.
Attorneys involved in the four lawsuits against Long, the LongFellows Youth Academy and the 25,000-member Lithonia megachurch said the case had been settled but declined to comment further. The case is expected to be dismissed "with prejudice" -- meaning the defendant cannot be sued by the plaintiffs again in the same alleged offense -- by close of business Friday, said Barbara Marschalk, who represents New Birth Missionary Baptist Church and LongFellows Youth Academy.
B.J. Bernstein, who represents the four men who sued Long, New Birth and the academy, also confirmed the lawsuits had been settled. The academy was named in three of the suits.
Long, pastor of the Lithonia megachurch, which has an international following, had denied the men's allegations through a spokesman shortly after they first became public in September and told his congregation he planned to "vigorously" fight them.
The accusations made against Long by Anthony Flagg, Spencer LeGrande, Jamal Parris and Maurice Robinson alleged that the bishop used his influence, trips, gifts and jobs to coerce them into sexual relations.
In one lawsuit, LeGrande said when he was 15 he and his mother were among the early members of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Charlotte. When he was 16, he said, he went to Kenya with Long. Then when he was 17, they went on another trip to Kenya, and it was then that they had intimate relations, one of the suits alleged.
Rasheedah Oliver of DeKalb County, a member of New Birth for about a dozen years said the settlement means "we can move forward and continue to do what God would have us do."
Oliver said it doesn't bother her that she may never know the terms of the settlement. "I'm still steadfast," she said. "I know what he's done in my life, and I know what he has done in the lives of others."
Kamelya Hinson, a Web content editor who lives in Decatur, said the settlement has not shaken her faith.
"It doesn't make me think he's guilty or anything," she said. "I decided when this came out that I loved my pastor unconditionally. Even if he came out and grabbed the mike and said ‘I'm guilty,' it wouldn't change the way I feel about him. I wouldn't be angry like a lot of people are. You can't walk away after 15 years of being a member of a church."
Hinson said it doesn't bother her that she may never know whether the allegations are true. "He's done 1,000 good things," she said, "and he may or may not have done four really bad things."
Some, though, wish Long had done more to fight the accusations.
Former member Barbara Chumbler, who still visits New Birth from time to time, said she always believed the allegations were false, "although a settlement to me makes you look guilty."
She said she was disappointed the case was settled in mediation, although she added that she thought it was "an easy way to get it out of the way and get it over with."
Chumbler, who said she thinks Long is "like a lot of movie-star preachers, arrogant and a bit puffed up," said she still believes he is not guilty of the accusations.
New Birth issued a statement saying the decision was made "to bring closure to this matter and to allow us to move forward with the plans God has for this ministry."
"This resolution is the most reasonable road for everyone to travel," the statement continued.
Neither side would comment further and settlement terms were unknown.
According to Bernstein's office, neither she nor the plaintiffs would be available for an interview "on this matter, now or in the future. "
Thomas Eaton, a law professor at the University of Georgia, said two-thirds to three-fourths of all civil suits are resolved out of court “by settlements just like this.” He was not surprised that there would not be a public record of the terms of the settlement.
Mediation between the plaintiffs and Long, one of Atlanta's best-known religious leaders, began in February and have often been contentious. Exactly one month ago, DeKalb Judge Johnny Panos said a settlement was within "field goal range."
Panos acknowledged the discussions had been "benevolently intense," likening them to a tennis match, "with a lot of back and forth." Some of the mediation sessions lasted through the night.
Without a settlement, the case would have likely gone to trial this summer or fall.
After the charges first surfaced in September, Long vowed to "vigorously" defend himself against the charges.
"This thing I'm gonna fight," he said just days after the lawsuits surfaced.

Staff writer Michelle Shaw contributed to this article.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Premiering on IN THE LIFE this June

June Pride is an opportunity to celebrate your authentic self. IN THE LIFE features the voices of Messengers of Hope, a gospel choir that raises spirits and awareness about HIV/AIDS in African American churches. Followed by a look at employment discrimination and how some corporations provide protections to LGBT employees in the absence of a federally accepted Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

EQUALITY - WHAT MATTERS: The latest in the LGBT rights movement

BREAKING VIA AP: TRANSGENDE​R WIDOW'S MARRIAGE TO BE VOIDED - “A judge was expected to void the marriage between a transgender widow and her firefighter husband who died battling a blaze and will rule in favor of the man's mother who argued that the marriage wasn't valid, an attorney in the case said Tuesday based on a draft of the decision. The suit was brought by the mother of firefighter Thomas Araguz III and argued that his widow, Nikki Araguz, should not receive any death benefits. The lawsuit claimed their marriage wasn't legal because Nikki Araguz was born a man and Texas does not recognize same-sex marriage.” 
EQUALITY MATTERS INVESTIGATES: RIGHT-WING GROUP FUELS HOMOPHOBIA AT THE UN (via Kerry Eleveld) – “The leader of a right-wing organization, who made a name for herself by pushing abstinence-only based programs in Africa and has ties to the virulently antigay Ugandan pastor, Martin Ssempa, is stepping up efforts to promote homophobic messages among delegates at the United Nations.

The Arizona-based Family Watch International (FWI) hosted ‘26 UN delegates from 23 different countries’ at a policy forum in January that provided ‘expert presentations’ and policy briefings about ‘how to better protect and promote the family and family values at the UN,’ according to an FWI newsletter written by the organization’s president, Sharon Slater. […]

According to invitations distributed to attendees and obtained by Equality Matters the two-day session included briefings by lawyers on family policy issues dealt with by the UN’s Third Committee ­­­– the social, humanitarian, and cultural affairs committee – and those addressed by subsidiary bodies of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), including the Commissions on the Status of Women, Sustainable Development, and Population and Development.”

DISCUSSED ON THE PODCAST – Kerry Eleveld offers her perspective on the multi-week investigation. The weekly Equality Matters podcast is available for free download on iTunes:



–John Avavosis on Friday night: “The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce -- chaired by Nissan, and whose other board members include such companies as Nissan, FedEx, AT&T, Comcast, DuPont, Pfizer, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Caterpillar, KPMG, Whirlpool, Embraer, Alcoa, and United HealthCare -- actively lobbied for a religious right bill in the Tennessee legislature that would rescind Nashville's civil rights protections for its gay and trans citizens, and which bans every city in Tennessee from passing any civil rights laws, for anyone, ever again.”
--Joe Sudbay yesterday on the Family Research Council praising the new law: “Joe.My.God posted the statement from the leader of the hate group, Family Research Council on Tennessee. The corporations who serve on the Board of the Tennessee Chamaber of Commerce have a new best friend: Tony Perkins. He's quite pleased that all those corporations did his dirty work. We all knew HB 600 was really an anti-gay bill.”

--Amanda Terkel from The Huffington Post: “One of the groups that lobbied in favor of the bill was the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce. ‘Our position is now, and has historically been, that employment standards from the government should be consistent across the state and not create an additional burden on companies that are endeavoring to be competitive and provide jobs to all Tennesseans based on their individual qualifications and merit,’ the Chamber explained in a statement. The business lobby did not return a request for comment Monday.  On the Chamber's board are representatives from a handful of major national corporations, including Nissan, FedEx, AT&T, Comcast, DuPont, Pfizer, Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS), Caterpillar, KPMG, Whirlpool, Embraer, Alcoa and United HealthCare. Many of those companies have strong diversity policies, including protections and benefits for gays and lesbians.”
WHAT NEW YORK’S 26TH DISTRICT WIN MEANS FOR LGBT AMERICANS (via Metro Weekly) – “A new supporter for marriage equality and proponent of the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" has won election to the U.S. Congress with tonight's upset victory that has been called for Democrat Kathy Hochul against Republican Jane Corwin in New York's 26th District. With 91 percent of precincts reporting, Hochul was winning the race 48 percent to 42 percent, with Tea Party candidate Jack Davis garnering 9 percent of the vote.”

KEEPING AN EYE ON THE STATES - The state of equality weekly round-up by Equality Matters:
NY GOVERNOR SPEAKS OUT FOR MARRIAGE (via Richard Socarides) – “Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York, now in the middle of a heated battle to get a marriage equality bill through the New York State legislature before it next adjourns on June 20, has this morning released a compelling argument for doing so in one of his now trademark video messages to New Yorkers.”

NBA’S STEVE NASH ANNOUNCES SUPPORT FOR MARRIAGE (via HRC) – “NBA legend Steve Nash has partnered with the Human Rights Campaign in a new video for the group’s New Yorkers for Marriage Equality campaign.  In the video, Nash talks about the growing number of professional athletes who are speaking out in support of marriage equality, saying, ’I’m proud to be one of them.’  The video can be viewed at”

FAR-RIGHT RAMPS UP MEDIA IN MINNESOTA (via Equality Matters) – “The Minnesota House voted this weekend to approve a bill that would put a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage on the ballot in 2012. The vote was hailed as a major victory by a number of anti-gay groups, and for good reason.  Last week, we noted that any public vote on marriage equality in Minnesota would likely be accompanied by a massive wave of anti-gay misinformation and propaganda.. It appears that prediction was spot on.”

THE WHITE HOUSE ON MINNESOTA (via Wash Blade) - “The President has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same sex couples or to take such rights away. While he believes this is an issue best addressed by the states, he also believes that committed gay couples should have the same rights and responsibilities afforded to any married couple in this country.”

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY: “WE’VE PROBABLY LOST” MARRIAGE FIGHT (via Equality Matters) – “During a recent interview with World Magazine, Focus on the Family (FoF) president Jim Daly confessed that anti-gay conservatives have “probably lost” the fight to stop same-sex marriage from becoming legal in America.”

NOM’S OUTRAGE OVER ABC’S “WHAT WOULD YOU DO” (via Equality Matters) – “ABC recently aired an episode of its popular television show Primetime: What Would You Do? (WWYD), in which hidden cameras record the reactions of  average Americans to various staged scenarios that often touch on everyday ethical dilemmas. During the episode, cameras documented how a number of diners at a café in Texas reacted to a situation in which a waitress was harassing a same-sex couple and the couple’s adopted children.”

JUST POSTED:  IS IT OK FOR “LGBT FRIENDLY” COMPANIES TO SUPPORT FOX? (via The New Gay’s Topher Burns) – “Orbitz seems pretty pissed about the whole thing, and I understand their feelings of betrayal, but DropFox has got them on this one. Orbitz has profited from reaching out directly to LGBT consumers, and what they’re feeling now is the backlash on a miscalculation. Just because Orbitz puts a gay guy in one of their adsdoesn’t mean that they’re actually helping the gay community.”

FOX NEWS CHAIRMAN AFRAID OF “THOSE GAYS” (via Equality Matters) – “Fox News chairman Roger Ailes lived in fear of being attacked by gay rights activists and took even precautions to protect himself from in case of such an event, according to a new piece written by Rolling Stone’s Tim Dickinson.”

FOCUSING ON FAITH: HRC HOLDS CLERGY CALL 2011 (via HRC) - “Religious leaders from across the country that run the gamut of faith traditions are speaking out on why, as a matter of faith, equality for all citizens is vital to our communities and our country,” said Dr. Sharon Groves, director of the HRC Foundation Religion and Faith Program.

WATCHING THE GOP IOWA CAUCUSES ON LGBT EQUALITY (via Equality Matters) – “The 2012 GOP presidential caucuses in Iowa will soon highlight the growing divide between anti-gay social conservatives and the majority of Americans that now support same-sex marriage. Traditionally thought of as an important predictor of which Republican candidate will win the party primary, the Iowa Republican caucuses have become dominated by right-wing and anti-gay social conservatives in recent years.”

BULL’S JOAKIM NOAH SAYS FINE IS FAIR (via The Advocate) – “Noah was fined $50,000 for shouting the slur at a heckling spectator during a game over the weekend. Last month Los Angeles Lakers captain Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 for using an antigay slur directed at a referee. Noah was asked at a press conference Tuesday about the difference between his fine and Bryant's fine, handed down by NBA commissioner David Stern shortly after the altercation made headlines.”

THE WASHINGTON BLADE: CHAZ’S CHANGES – “Forget about gender identity, how he felt looking in the mirror all those years, navigating the thorny overlap of sexual orientation, the surgery and all that for a minute — for Chaz Bono, the sheer physiological aspects of being a woman wreaked decades of pain on him.”

I Expect Better Julia Gillard

This is my 'I expect better' video, the sound quality isn't great but the message is loud and clear. I am deeply disappointed in Julia Gillard, and anyone else who continues to condone discrimination, by refusing me the right to marry.
What do they think will happen if they allow my partner and I, two women, to get married?? I can tell them now the world won't end, the sky won't fall on our heads and lightning will not strike us down.
We will, however, continue to pay our taxes, get ripped off by the big banks, worry about mortgage rates, the climate, the economy... just like everyone else!!
Julia, stop treating us like second class citizens, stop wasting time and get on with the job of moving Australia forward to be a society where people are treated equally and have the same rights. Keep calm and carry on.

A change of heart, for gay marriage

By Janet L. Duprey -

I have spent most of my adult life in public service. I have been a Republican county legislator and treasurer and, for the last five years, the representative from the 114th Assembly District. The people I represent put their faith and trust in me to make the difficult decisions on issues where passions run high. Doing the right thing takes the courage of one's convictions.
In 2007, my first year in Albany, the bill to allow the freedom to marry was debated for the first time in this state's history. As a candidate for office, I advocated for civil unions. When it came time to cast my vote, I voted against the same-sex marriage bill. The debate and testimony of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle was compelling and I was deeply moved. After the vote, I said that I would continue to study this issue, meet with my constituents and keep an open mind.
For two years, I did just that. I met with people in my district on both sides and listened to their arguments. I received hundreds of phone calls, letters and emails.
I met with religious leaders and others who spoke passionately and intelligently about their beliefs. In all of those discussions, the ones who moved me most were parents who wanted nothing more than to see their gay and lesbian children share the same benefits, protections and love with their significant others as their siblings and other married couples do.
When the time came to vote on the marriage bill in 2009, I made a decision that I knew in my heart was the right thing to do. I voted for the bill.
After the vote, some were quick to write my political obituary. They said my constituents would never forgive me for changing my vote. They said the extremists who promised to defeat me would win.
They were wrong. The outpouring of support and appreciation I received was overwhelming. It came from my constituents and from advocates committed to standing behind those who support the freedom to marry.
That community of support made a difference. The moral and financial support, strategic advice and counseling and dedicated commitment by volunteers proved too much for those who campaigned against me because of my vote.
I did not lose my election because of my stand. Neither has any of the 72 Republican legislators who have voted for the freedom to marry. That is because no election is decided on a single issue. I ran on my entire record, including my vote for marriage for everyone. The vast majority of my North Country constituents respected my decision, whether they agreed with me or not.
I won re-election last November with 60 percent of the vote against two opponents. My nearest competitor received only 25 percent of the vote. And I defeated my other opponent, who challenged me because of my same-sex marriage vote, by almost a four-to-one margin.
Public sentiment is changing. Some polls show a strong majority of New Yorkers support marriage equality. My re-election demonstrates that even elected officials can have a change of heart and not lose public support.
It is a decision that does not come easily. But I'm hopeful as the marriage debate moves forward, others can learn from my experiences, search their hearts as I did, and do the right thing.

Janet L. Duprey is a Republican member of the state Assembly, She represents Clinton and Franklin counties and a part of Essex County.

Police in Grenada arrest man for having gay sex under rarely enforced law

By Danica Coto -

ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada — Police have arrested a man for having sex with another male on the eastern Caribbean island of Grenada, where a law against homosexual acts remains on the books but is rarely enforced.
A 41-year-old man was charged with having sex with an unidentified 17-year-old man, Grenada’s director of public prosecution, Christopher Nelson, said Wednesday.
The age of sexual consent in Grenada is 16 but while the sex in question was consensual, local law prohibits sodomy under the charge of “unnatural connection.”
Grenada is one of several Caribbean nations that has laws banning sex between men. The penalty in most islands, including Grenada, is up to 10 years in prison, although Barbados and Guyana have life imprisonment, according to a 2010 United Nations report.
Many islands remain socially conservative, with Jamaica considered one of the most hostile islands toward homosexuals. A gay right activist was killed there last year, and three gay men were attacked and beaten in St. Lucia in March. Gay cruises to the region also continue to draw protesters.
In Grenada, gays are discriminated against and find it hard to find employment and housing, said Nigel Mathlin, president of GrenCHAP, a local nonprofit organization that represents marginalized groups.
“The government, they are very much aware of the changes that need to be made, of bringing our laws into line with international human rights principles,” Mathlin said.

Anoka-Hennepin School District GLBT policy criticized


Two national groups have urged the Anoka-Hennepin School District to repeal a policy that requires teachers remain neutral about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues (GLBT).
The Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which sued the district earlier this year in a separate case, sent a letter Tuesday to the district after being contacted by students and alumni who said they were bullied in school because they were GLBT or perceived as GLBT.
A district policy allows sexual orientation to be discussed, but requires teachers to remain neutral. Anoka-Hennepin, the state's largest district, is one of the only local districts known to have such a policy.
The district should repeal the policy, the groups wrote to Superintendent Dennis Carlson, because it singles out GLBT students and prevents teachers from supporting them.
"The policy ties the hands of these teachers," said Sam Wolfe, attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights group. "Some of these kids are being relentlessly harassed."
District spokeswoman Mary Olson said people have differing opinions whether "homosexuality is appropriate." She added, "I don't think by eliminating the neutrality policy we're going to eliminate bullying. The board doesn't see the connection between the two."
The Alabama law center, which has been contacted by district students, has produced a video about gay bullying.
In January the Southern Poverty Law Center, National Center for Lesbian Rights and Minneapolis law firm Faegre & Benson filed a federal lawsuit against the district to allow two lesbian students to walk together at a homecoming event; a mediated settlement was later reached.
Olson said school district leaders are open to collaborating with the two groups, "but we do believe our policy is legal."
In the 1990s, district leaders took some community members' suggestions that discussions about issues such as homosexuality or AIDs weren't appropriate in schools, she said. But in 2009, the district took "a big step forward," revising the policy to be more neutral, she said.
In the coming weeks, Wolfe said, he'll pursue a lawsuit if district leaders don't take steps to repeal the policy.
"Many other school districts right next door have really got a handle on this issue," he said. "And Anoka-Hennepin is hopefully on the verge to figuring it out."

For Public Hospital Employees in NYC, New Training on Gay Patients

A doctor asks a girl if she is using condoms, and a boy if he has a girlfriend. A woman has to fill out the usual medical forms, asking whether she needs birth control, and if she is married, single, divorced or widowed.
But what if the girl is a lesbian, and the boy is gay. What if the woman, also a lesbian, is in a relationship, and neither single, married, divorced nor widowed?
The city’s Health and Hospitals Corporation, which runs public hospitals, has decided that it needs to reduce the likelihood that such awkward, inconsiderate, questions will be asked. With the help of an advocacy group, the National LGBT Cancer Network, it has put together a training program that will be required of all 38,000 system employees, from physicians to clerks.
H.H.C. officials said that research suggested that gay, lesbian and transgender patients were more likely than others to avoid medical care because they feared encountering unsympathetic or even hostile health care workers. The training is intended to teach workers to be less judgmental, and to ask open-ended questions that make patients feel more comfortable talking about their sexual and romantic relationships.
For instance, said Liz Margolies, founder of the National LGBT Cancer Network, a doctor examining a breast biopsy would be counseled not to ask the woman if she wanted her husband in the room, but rather to ask something like, “Is your partner in the waiting room?”
Al Aviles, president of the hospitals corporation, said a 15-minute training session would be given to every employee and would be a required part of orientation. Another 60-minute session will be available to departments. The training, which Mr. Aviles said cost $35,000 to develop, includes a video (available on the hospital corporation’s Web site) with a title reflecting the program’s philosophy: “To treat me, you have to know who I am.”
He said that the system already tried to ensure sensitivity to the needs of racial and ethnic minorities, and that this seemed like a natural extension. Mr. Aviles said the Joint Commission, the national organization that accredits hospitals, has called for hospitals to show that they are sensitive to the cultural needs of patients, including gay, lesbian and transgender patients.
However, changing the standard forms that ask whether patients are married, single and so forth, is not on the horizon, Mr. Aviles said, but has been done in some specialized settings and may be considered systemwide in the future. “It’s a complicated proposition,” given the number of forms the system deals with, he said.

Brazil’s president suspends school anti-homophobia campaign

Brazil's president objected to the material
By Jessica Geen -

Brazil’s president has suspended an anti-homophobia campaign in schools because she thought the DVDs and leaflets were not appropriate for children.
President Dilma Rousseff’s spokesman said she had viewed the material and “didn’t like what she saw”.
The DVDs and leaflets were to be distributed in schools across the country in an effort to counter homophobia.
Ms Rousseff’s spokesman Gilberto Carvalho said that religious groups had objected to the material and the president had decided to suspend the programme. He did not say which parts she disliked.
Some critics claimed the DVDs could ‘encourage’ homosexuality.
Congressman and gay rights campaigner Jean Wyllys, said he was disappointed in the president.
“I voted for her in the last elections,” he told BBC News, “because I thought she would defend the rights of lesbian, gay and bisexual citizens.”
“If she doesn’t do a U-turn and change her mind, I will urge all gay people not to vote for her again.”

Moscow Pride to go ahead despite ban

Activists have held illegal marches for six years
By Jessica Geen -

Gay rights campaigners say they will hold Moscow Pride regardless of a ban.
Activists applied to hold the event in Bolotnaya Ploshchad city park on Saturday but Mayor Sergei Sobyanin’s administration turned down the request, citing a risk of public disorder.
This is the sixth year in a row that city authorities have banned the event. While campaigners have flouted past bans, some marches ended in violence and allegations of police brutality.
Last October, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that bans on Moscow Pride contravene international human rights laws.
Pride organiser Nikolai Alekseev said he had approached other countries for support.
He said: “In past years, foreign diplomats always told us that they cannot express support for Moscow Gay Pride due to the absence of a European Court of Human Rights decision in our favour. This year, we have the European Court ruling on our side, so we hope they will publicly defend out right to march and send observers.”
He said: “The excuses for banning Moscow Gay Pride – given by the deputy mayor of Moscow, Ludmila Shvetsova – include ‘the impossibility to provide security,’ the risk of traffic disruption, the large number of letters received in protest against the Pride events and Russia’s international obligation to protect the rights of children because Gay Pride ‘may impact psychological health and inflict moral damage on children and teenagers who were to become unwilling witnesses of the event.’
“The reasons for banning Moscow Gay Pride this year are exactly the same reasons used in past years – which resulted in the European Court of Human Rights judging that Russia had violated the European Convention on Human Rights,” Mr Alekseev said.
British gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell is to join this year’s event. He was severely beaten by neo-Nazis at a similar attempt in 2007.
Mr Tatchell said: “I will be marching in solidarity with Russia’s courageous lesbian and gay human rights campaigners. This ban must be challenged. It is an attack on civil liberties, which threatens the rights and freedoms of every Russian person.
“All of us will be at risk of arrest and bashing by the Moscow police, and by neo-Nazi groups who have threatened to attack the parade. We fear what will happen to us but we are determined to defend gay human rights and the right to protest,” Mr Tatchell added.

Cuba’s Revolution in Attitudes About Gays, HIV+: A First-Hand Report

Once never seen, the rainbow flag flew prominently with the Cuban.
Once never seen, the rainbow flag flew 
prominently with the Cuban.
By Byron  Motley -

On the outside looking in, one would assume that Cuba is stuck in a proverbial time warp. Marked by decaying buildings, antiquated facades and vintage automobiles, it seems that the island once ruled by Mafioso bosses in cahoots with the gluttonous dictator Fulgencio Batista during the 1940’s and ’50’s has progressed little since the U.S. placed a trade embargo on the island in the early 1960’s.

Don’t stop there, though. Look a little deeper. You will see advances in Cuba that may astonish and even inspire the most arrogant Americans.

Amazingly, Cuba is far more progressive when it comes to social issues than one might realize. For years the island has been working to overcome racial issues that have dogged the country since its pre-Revolutionary days.

More recently, one of the most impressive current day issues leading social and political reform is that of equal rights for the islands’ Lesbian, Gay Bi-Sexual and Transgender (LGBT) community.

HIV pamphlets, once suppressed, 
are now widely distributed.
Fighting Homophobia
From May 3 to May 19, Cuba celebrated its fourth annual International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) in Havana and Santiago de Cuba (Cuba’s second largest city in its southern province). The two-week event included symposiums, lectures, films, art exhibits and a theatrical festival, headlined by Cuban superstar, singer Haila Mompie.

Touting this year’s theme "Humanity is Diverse", members from Cuba’s LGBT community and its supporters were out in full force to revel and participate in a show of solidarity.

Leading this unique revolution on the behalf of the LGBT community is activist Mariela Castro-Espin, the 48-year-old daughter of Cuba’s President, Raul Castro, and niece of Fidel Castro. The heterosexual married mother of three is going into her tenth year as director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX) in Havana. Government funded, CENESEX campaigns for LGBT rights and has been at the forefront on AIDS prevention education.

Until recently, the Cuban government had been largely unresponsive to gay rights issues in general. Much less so were its efforts to combat HIV/AIDS.

Even though many early infected persons were heterosexual aid workers who had returned to the island from work in other developing countries, it was still considered by the government and society at large as a "gay problem." In the mid-1980’s, HIV-positive Cubans were quarantined to treatment centers and educational opportunities were missed and outright ignored. The government was doing little, so a decade ago, the gay community stepped up to the plate and began efforts to rectify the problem by bringing together members of the LGBT community to create a grass-roots effort.

Taking the HIV issue head on, mostly through the work of CENESEX, safer=sex classes are taught several times a week and HIV prevention pamphlets and condoms are commonly given out. The government fully backs the work of CENESEX and now Cuba can boast that it has the lowest HIV rate in the Americas, and one of the lowest ratios in the world.

Mariela Castro-Espin at symposium
’Struggles with Homophobia.’ 
Castro Family Now Leads Fight
Further progressing Cuba’s stance on homosexuality was an unprecedented admission in 2010 by the country’s iconic former president, Fidel Castro. Acknowledging that past transgressions against homosexuals whilst he was in power were "a great injustice," El Comandante took responsibility for the half-century-long mistreatment of thousands of gays. Castro stated, "We had so many and such terrible problems, problems of life or death. In those moments I was not able to deal with that matter [of homosexuals]."

Blaming Cuba’s pre-revolutionary attitudes toward homosexuality as the crux of the negative treatment of gays, he went a step further, shocking many, when he declared that homosexuality is a "natural aspect and tendency of human beings."

In recent years, with Castro-Espin at the helm, Cuba’s LGBT community has made tremendous strides in terms of visibility, awareness and acceptance. Change over the years, while slow and methodical, has become noticeably apparent. Although there is much to be done, Cuba is arguably one of the most progressive Latin-American countries regarding gay rights and societal tolerance.

"Five years ago CENESEX and other groups began working to help educate families to accept gay & lesbian relationships," one CENESEX worker, Luis, explains. "We try to explain that if the family rejects a gay person, it is more dangerous for that person. If the family rejects us, where are we going to go? Family is family, and family must accept us the way we are. Because we are sons, we are mothers, we are husbands, we are fathers, we are daughters. We are everyone."

Castro-Espin is an affable yet feisty intellectual, whose presence commands attention and inspires passion. Her political lineage no doubt gives her an edge in the fight for those who might otherwise continue to be overlooked, or worst, vilified. She is the ideal leader for the cause.

Mariela Castro-Espin addresses
crowd at the La Rampa Theatre
Fired Up With Eloquence
As a member of the ruling Castro family, Castro-Espin is instantly recognizable, a celebrity known throughout the country, which brings weight to her words. As a heterosexual, she is able to reach a wider audience of Cuban citizens.

She evokes the power and passion of Eva Peron combined with the wisdom and insight of Hillary Clinton, yet she is remarkably accessible. Her girl-next-door demeanor and welcoming smile have earned her the nickname "Sangreliviana" (sweet blood). It cannot be understated how truly loved Castro-Espin is by the LGBT community and how much she loves them in return. The mutual level of respect is palpable.

Pedro Monzon, Cuba’s current Ambassador to Australia, noted, "(The changes that) Mariela has made regarding human rights is very important and has been spirited and conscientious. Everybody can feel it. She is dedicated and working for the rights and equality of all people. The job she is doing is very systematic, influencing the whole society, day by day, year by year." Monzon summed up his thoughts by saying, "(Mariela) has the heart of a Revolutionary! She is a revolutionary! How can she not be? It’s in her blood!

Before addressing the crowd at the initial gathering at the historic La Rampa theatre in the Vedado section of Havana, Castro-Espin privately complained to me that she was losing her voice and was feeling slightly under the weather. However, when she took the stage, there was no evidence of a weak throat or feeble body.

As usual, her rhetoric was full of fire. Her delivery was powerful and passionate. She told the audience, "Why should we discriminate when it comes to race, religion and sex? No differences should exist in any way. That is why we organize this International Day Against Homophobia. We do it to make people aware." She went on to say, "We have to destroy all forms of discrimination. Let’s do away with homophobia. Let’s defend the solution as a paradigm of emancipation for all human beings."

Castro-Espin at the author’s photo exhibit, Havana
Poised and passionate, Castro-Espin instills a sense of urgency for tolerance: "Society has been based on discrimination. People have dominated other peoples based on what they believe in. We have to stop this! We have to continue to establish other types of relationships, not relationships based on superiority and inferiority between humans."

Proving that Cuba is in this fight for the long haul, she stated: "Gays are criminalized in 76 countries (throughout the world) and in five countries (gays) still get life sentences. This is one of the reasons why Cuba is committed with the International community to de-penalize the LGBT population and to continue to fight for equality. It is important for us here to be respectful of all human life."

While some cynics might minimize a straight person’s effectiveness in leading a gay rights movement, Castro-Espin kindly refuted this notion. The issue of homosexuality) is, she said, "pertinent to my work and profession. Because of my background, both educationally and familial, I could provoke and initiate a debate because I had professional standing in this area. But I am not only involved in this struggle, but I am involved also with the struggles against racism, the struggles for women’s and children’s rights....and against war."

Keeping true to her political roots Castro-Espin announced "With this (work) we are also supporting and helping the development of Socialism." Adding an international presence at this year’s IDAHO (as the International Day Against Homophobia is known) was the gay Belizean Ambassador to Cuba; and Barbara Hoell, a former member of Germany’s parliamentary party who is heterosexual and is now the LGBT spokesperson of the parliamentary leftist party Die Linke. Representing the United States were Wilfred Labiosa, of the National Latino LGBT Human Rights Organization, and this writer/photographer.

International language of drag
More ’Science’ Than ’In Your Face’
I was honored to be asked by the organizing committee to exhibit
30 of my male subject photographs in conjunction with this year’s IDAHO. My exhibit "Amantes, Amores y Pasiones - Lovers, Loves and Lusts" marks the first time an American photographer has been invited to participate in this event. Because of the erotic nature of the photos, my exhibit was called "scandalous yet a breakthrough". I am thrilled to have participated.

Overall, the events in Cuba were less celebratory and more cerebral in natural. It was explained to me that the approach of IDAHO is more "scientific" in thought as opposed to an "in your face" stance in order to be more encompassing and to reach more people. The purpose is to be as inclusive as possible and to offend as few people as possible. After all the ideal of "anti-homophobia" is a relatively new venture for a Cuban society rooted in machismo.

Although Castro-Espin is Cuba’s gay community’s most outspoken and unquestionable staunchest advocate, in a revealing moment, she admitted, "I am just like everyone else, and have to face daily things that society doesn’t teach you. Sometimes I have thought of what would happen if some of my children were to come out as gay. I know it would be difficult for me, but I also know I would have to understand. I would have to ask other mothers ’how did u do it’? What I am sure of however, is that I would not discriminate against my child. We are in a society that is going to make them suffer enough, so the one thing I would do is to help make them strong when facing those hostilities. As I have been working with others, I would also give (my child) confidence, love, and the resources to respect themselves."

As Cuba continues its journey to garner equality for all her citizens, Mariela and the others involved in the cause know it will take more time but are happy to continue the necessary work of breaking down barriers. Mariela summed up her work and hopes by saying thoughtfully, "My hope is that the gay community and the non-gay community learn how to respect each other. To overcome their prejudices and learn how to understand even the things they don’t understand yet. For now that would good. Later we’ll get more."

In Part Two, Byron Motley will talk to everyday Cuban gay men and lesbians about their lives and travel to the provinces for a look at gay life outside Havana.