Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Civil Liberties Group Says Alberta Government Has Duty To Protect From Bullying And Must Mandate All Publicly-Funded Schools Support Formation Of Gay-Straight Alliances, Labour's Miliband Promises Turing's Law Would Posthumously Pardon Gay Men Convicted Of Gross Indecency, 23-Year-Old Corey Draper Of Sydney Australia Jailed After Robbing Victims He Lured Via Grindr, Police Charge Ohio Gay Rights Activist With Falsely Claiming He Had Been Abducted, Alabama Supreme Court Again Stops Same Sex Marriages, Charlotte North Carolina Votes Down Ordinance That Would Have Added Sexual Orientation And Gender Identity To Protected Categories, New York Mets' Second Baseman Daniel Murphy Disagrees With "Homosexual Lifestyle" But Would Play Alongside Gay Teammate, Nebraska Lesbian Couple File For Protection Order Against Omaha Man Accused Of Stealing Then Burning Their Pride Flag, Florida Court Told Lake County School Superintendent Rejected Application For Gay-Straight Alliance Because Language Used Was Vague,

In Alberta, according to the Herald, a civil liberties group says the provincial government has a duty to protect children from bullying and should scrap its controversial legislation on Gay-Straight Alliances and mandate that all publicly-funded schools support the establishment of the clubs where requested by staff or students. The Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association released several recommendations regarding GSAs on Monday. The recommendations were based, in part, on public hearings in Calgary and Edmonton, as well as the results of an online survey that found a strong majority of Albertans support gay-straight clubs in schools. “Albertans, as a whole, are saying very strongly that they want to support all children in schools, including lesbian and gay students,” said Kelly Ernst, president of the Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association. The online survey found 82.5-percent support GSAs in public schools and 77.1-percent in the separate school system. Only 40-percent would agree to allow GSAs in private schools. Support was strongest among Liberal and NDP party supporters, between 96 and 97-percent, dipped to 82-percent among Tory backers and plummeted to 42-percent for those who support the Wildrose. The results were based on a random sample of 1,355 and have a margin of error of 2.6 per cent. In December, Premier Jim Prentice abruptly shelved Bill 10 after parts of the proposed legislation — such as forcing GSA meetings to be held off school property if a school board objected — triggered a wave of public backlash. Prentice promised to consult Albertans before MLAs returned to the provincial legislature on March 10 for the spring sitting. In an e-mail, Education Minister Gordon Dirks said he had attended the public consultation in Edmonton and planned to review the copy of the association’s report and its recommendations. “There is no place for bullying or discrimination in our school system,” Dirks said. “I am committed to ensuring that all students are able to experience safe, caring, respectful and inclusive learning environments at their schools.”‎ According to the new report, the voluntary nature of gay-straight alliances would not infringe on students who don’t want to be involved with the club. But preventing GSAs in schools does diminish the fundamental liberties of LGBTQ students. Based on its findings, the association recommended GSAs be established in any school that receives public funding, the clubs be allows on school property, and that students determine the naming of the club. “We heard a lot of stories of how GSAs are working in schools and how they’re reducing a whole bunch of problems,” Ernst said, referring to the public consultations. “Students are really aware of that and don’t want to be held back.” The association also called for changes to the Alberta Human Rights Act, such as adding “gender identity” as a prohibited ground for discrimination and removing Section 11.1, a clause that allows parents to pull their kid out of classes that deal with religion, sexuality or sexual orientation. Ernst said the association found no credible evidence religious or parental rights would be harmed or diminished if GSAs were established in any school. Shortly after Prentice hit the pause button on Bill 10, Calgary’s Roman Catholic Bishop Fred Henry waded into the debate, issuing a missive to churchgoers in which he argued mandating gay-straight alliances in schools would infringe upon parents’ freedom to teach their children in a way that’s consistent with their faith, among other concerns. “We heard a lot of diverse views from within the separate (school) system and from within the Catholic diocese and it was very very clear that what Bishop Henry was saying is really not a core tenant of Catholicism,” he said.

In the United Kingdom, the Guardian reports that Ed Miliband has said a future Labour government would introduce a “Turing’s law”, offering posthumous pardons for gay men convicted under historical indecency laws. Labour said the legislation would allow the men’s family and friends to apply to the Home Office to quash convictions under the “gross indecency” law for consensual same sex relationships. The law will be named after Alan Turing – the Enigma code-breaker who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952 with a 19-year-old man and who received a posthumous royal pardon. “What was right for Alan Turing’s family should be right for other families as well,” said the opposition leader. “The next Labour government will extend the right individuals already have to overturn convictions that society now see as grossly unfair to the relatives of those convicted who have passed away.” Turing, whose work cracking German military codes was vital to the British second world war effort against Nazi Germany, was chemically castrated and two years later died from cyanide poisoning in an apparent suicide. He was given a posthumous royal pardon in 2013 and campaigners have been pressing the coalition government to pardon all men convicted under the outdated law. Last month, Turing’s great-nephew, Nevil Hunt, his great-niece, Rachel Barnes, and her son, Thomas, handed over a petition, which attracted almost 500,000 signatures, to 10 Downing Street calling for such a pardon. The Protection of Freedom Act (2012) provides for individuals still alive to apply to the Home Office to have their convictions for homosexual acts disregarded. But no such redress is available for the family and friends of people who died before the law changed. Benedict Cumberbatch, who played Turing in the 2014 film The Imitation Game, is backing the campaign started by Turing’s family to pardon the 49,000 men who were prosecuted for being gay. It emerged last week that the campaign is being delayed amid concerns in Whitehall that a small number of pedophiles could be included. Campaigners who had hoped that the royal pardon for Turing would be extended across have been dismayed by a warning from Whitehall officials that a blanket pardon could benefit gay men who had sex with a minor. Officials have said that there may be no record of whether a minor was involved in a pre-1967 prosecution because homosexuality was illegal regardless of age. Homosexuality was initially decriminalized in 1967 for consenting adults aged 21 and over. The age of consent was eventually equalised in Britain in 2001. Campaigners believe that the objections about benefiting pedophiles could be overcome by introducing two amendments to the relevant legislation to make clear that the men would have acted wholly lawfully under today’s law. The amendments would say that the sex took place between men aged over 16 and that they were both consenting adults. Labour said the next Labour government would review how the Protection of Freedom Act could be extended to cover the deceased as well as those still alive – allowing applications on a case-by-case basis. This would allow the family and friends of people convicted of historical offences that would no longer be considered criminal to have their conviction removed. Gordon Brown made a public apology in 2009 for the treatment of Alan Turing while he was prime minister.

In Australia, a man who met his victims on the social networking app Grindr before robbing them at knifepoint has been sentenced to at least 17 months jail. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Corey Draper, 23, contacted the victims via Grindr, a mobile app favoured by gay, bi-sexual and bi-curious men, the Sydney District Court heard on Tuesday. Draper used the app to locate potential victims in his area. After chatting online, the suggestion was made to meet up to use the drug ice. At about 1:30 am, on February 9, 2014, Draper met with a 28-year-old man in Waterloo, who handed over $200 to buy ice. They walked to Buckland Street, Alexandria where Draper then pulled a knife and took the man's wallet, removing $270 cash, and mobile phone, before handing back the wallet. Draper threatened to kill him if the matter was reported to police. The victim did call police and forensic investigators located Draper's DNA on the wallet. The following day, at about 2:00 am, Draper met up with a 48-year-old man he had been chatting to on Grindr. The victim drove to Fountain Street, Alexandria, where Draper got in the car and threatened him with a knife, telling him to drive to McEvoy Street. "Just do it or I will kill you. I have killed before," Draper said. The victim managed to get away and contact police. Draper repeatedly rang the victim's mobile phone from his own phone. His DNA was found inside the victim's car. He was arrested on February 13, 2014 and charged with robbery armed with an offensive weapon and being armed with intent to commit an indictable offence. He pleaded guilty in the local court last year. In sentencing Draper, Acting Judge Gregory Hosking took into account a further offence of stealing that occurred on February 11, 2014. On that occasion, Draper stole cash, an ice pipe and a phone from the apartment of another man he met on Grindr. Judge Hosking said Draper had a dysfunctional childhood, a criminal record, and a serious drug habit that began at age 16. However, he said Draper had some prospects of rehabilitation as he has ambitions to become a bricklayer. Draper was supported in court by his girlfriend, who travelled from the Gold Coast to attend the hearing. Judge Hosking sentenced Draper to a maximum of 33 months jail with a non-parole period of 17 months. With time served he will be eligible for parole on October 2.

In Ohio, Reuters reports that a gay rights activist was charged early Tuesday with falsely claiming he had been kidnapped and his family was in danger, setting off a police search in the Cincinnati area, authorities said. Adam Hoover, 20, who is from Harrison, Ohio, posted on his Facebook and Twitter accounts that he was in the trunk of his 2000 Ford Escort and his abductors planned to kill his family. Law enforcement officials quickly found his car, but not Hoover, who was eventually found nearby unharmed and questioned by authorities, the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office said in a news release. Investigators concluded that the abduction never occurred and Hoover, who is co-president of Marriage Equality Ohio, was charged with making false alarms, a first degree misdemeanor, the sheriff's office said. A woman who said she was Hoover's mother posted on both feeds on Tuesday morning, asking for support and prayers and for people to take down the posts and tags and give them "some time to figure this all out," adding that, "Adam has helped so many please help me help him."

In Alabama, the highest court once again ordered judges not to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples, defying a federal judge who struck down the state's ban on such unions as unconstitutional and ignoring the U.S. Supreme Court's refusal to intervene. The Los Angeles Times reports that in a 148-page ruling published Tuesday night, eight of the court's nine justices called for judges in the state not to issue licenses to same sex couples, restarting a legal battle that erupted in January when U.S. District Judge Callie Granade overturned the state's voter-approved gay marriage ban. "As it has done for approximately two centuries, Alabama law allows for 'marriage' between only one man and one woman. Alabama probate judges have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license contrary to this law," the opinion reads. "Nothing in the United States Constitution alters or overrides this duty." The top court expressed displeasure that lower courts have been acting while the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on same sex marriage is still pending. "It is unfortunate that the federal judiciary has refused to stay the order striking down Alabama's marriage-protection laws until the Supreme Court of the United States can conclusively rule on the issue within the next few months," the opinion states. Alabama had asked the U.S. Supreme Court last month to suspend Granade's ruling, but the high court refused. Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore has repeatedly ordered probate judges, who issue marriage licenses in the state, not to give licenses to same sex couples. Even after the U.S. Supreme Court let Granade's ruling stand, some probate judges refused to issue licenses. Granade held another hearing and ordered the judges to comply with her order. Moore’s February decree that judges should not issue licenses caused a fracture throughout Alabama courthouses. Roughly one-third of the state’s 67 counties began issuing licenses after the Supreme Court refused to block Granade’s order, but the other two-thirds followed Moore’s direction and refused. The state Supreme Court's ruling was met with frustration by gay rights advocates. "The Alabama Supreme Court led by Roy Moore did not even ask for briefing on the constitutional questions it rushed to get wrong," Evan Wolfson, founder and president of advocacy group Freedom To Marry, said on his Twitter account. Susan Watson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Alabama, said her office was reviewing the decision and declined to comment further. In Tuesday’s ruling, the state Supreme Court cited the confusion among the state’s judges as a reason not to issue licenses. With some judges issuing licenses to same-sex couples and others refusing to do so, the state courts could see an “overnight revolution” as to how to enforce estate law, alimony decisions, custodial rights of children and other such issues. The ruling was met with a furious reaction from Equality Alabama, one of the state’s largest gay rights groups. "This move by the Alabama Supreme Court is nothing but an attempt at delaying the happiness that all families deserve -- a last-ditch effort to stand in the way of the love we've seen in these historic weeks,” Equality Alabama board Chairman Ben Coopersaid in a statement. “As we get closer to the day the freedom to marry comes to all 50 states -- the Alabama Supreme Court is on the wrong side of history. Every day of denial is a day of harm for Alabama families." The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the constitutionality of gay marriage bans by early summer.

In North Carolina, the Observer reports that after a contentious meeting on Monday, Charlotte City Council voted down the most controversial ordinance it has considered in years, a nondiscrimination proposal that would have added sexual orientation and gender identity to protected categories. The measure failed 6-5, after a marathon meeting that featured hours of emotional debate and comments from supporters and opponents. Council members Michael Barnes, Kenny Smith, LaWana Mayfield, Ed Driggs, John Autry and Greg Phipps voted against it. Before the final vote, council members had removed the section of the ordinance that would have allowed transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with. That issue drew the most vigorous opposition from dozens of speakers. “All over the world, there are restrooms for men and restrooms for women,” said Driggs, a Republican. “It does not place an unreasonable burden on them and it does not stigmatize them.” But even with the bathroom portion removed, council remained divided. Several council members had said they were opposed to removing that part, which would also have applied to locker rooms and showers, because it weakened the ordinance. “I will not and I cannot support an amendment that does not protect all of our citizens,” said Mayfield, a Democrat. Mayfield and Autry, also a Democrat, voted against removing the bathroom section, and both voted against the final bill because they couldn’t support a half measure. The final vote against the bill brought together both supporters and opponents of the original measure. Smith, a Republican, said he believed the bill was motivated not by a desire to end discrimination but by a political agenda to “impose the progressive left’s new morality on our citizens.” Autry said afterward that the fight wasn’t over. "The struggle will have to continue,” he said. “Justice delayed is justice denied.” Voting in favor of the ordinance were David Howard, Claire Fallon, Vi Lyles, Patsy Kinsey and Al Austin, all Democrats. After the vote, Howard predicted that the city will hear Tuesday from a broad range of coalitions over the vote, including the business community. “This is not good for job recruiting,” he said.

Billy Bean, Major League Baseball’s first inclusion ambassador, made an appearance at the Mets’ camp to spread his message of acceptance. He found a welcome audience, and a particularly supportive voice in General Manager Sandy Alderson, but he also drew some respectful but pointed words from second baseman Daniel Murphy. Bean played in the majors for six seasons but did not publicly disclose he was gay until several years after his career ended in 1995. Alderson heard him speak last November to a room full of baseball executives, was inspired by what he had to say, and approached him afterward. If it all felt a little personal for Alderson, in a way it was. He had been affected by the death of Glenn Burke, another gay major leaguer who died in 1995 from the effects of AIDS. Burke ended his career with the Oakland A’s, his last game coming in 1979. Two years later, Alderson joined the A’s as their general counsel, and two years after that, he became the team’s general manager. Alderson told reporters on Tuesday that it was during his long tenure in Oakland that Burke had become homeless in San Francisco and that while the A’s had reached out to him from time to time to try to help, “it wasn’t enough” to turn around a life that had deteriorated. Bean is now touring spring training camps, and on Tuesday, dressed in team apparel, he went through workouts alongside the players. Alderson wanted him to play in a game, too, but Bean declined, not wanting the extra attention. For the players to see Bean in uniform was important, Alderson said, because it made the issue of diversity more tangible, especially once they talked with him. “He’s about baseball first, and it’s a shame that he just couldn’t survive in the game longer, given what he was feeling,” Alderson said of Bean. “That’s not right. That’s not fair. That’s not something, in this day and age, that a player should have to face.” Asked for his opinion on whether a player could now be openly gay in the major leagues, Alderson said: “I think yes. But I think it has a lot to do with the immediate environment, the 25 players.” One of those 25 players is Murphy, who is outspoken about his Christian beliefs. After Bean’s appearance, he told the Star-Ledger of Newark that he was ready to play alongside an openly gay teammate and that he welcomed Bean’s presence at the Mets camp, calling it an example of “forward thinking.” Still, he said he disagreed “100 percent” with Bean’s homosexuality. “That doesn’t mean I still can’t invest in him and get to know him,” he told the Star-Ledger. “We love the people. We disagree with the lifestyle,” Murphy added. “That’s the way I would describe it for me.” Murphy, a solid hitter whose defense is not always reliable, is going into his free-agency year, and there has been constant speculation that the Mets might look to trade him. Whether his remarks about Bean will create any lingering problems for him in New York remains to be seen.

An update on a previous post: In Nebraska, a lesbian couple have filed for a protection order against an Omaha man who is accused of stealing a gay pride flag from their home and setting it on fire. Ariann Anderson and Jessica Meadows-Anderson filed the order against Cameron A. Mayfield on Monday. According to court documents, detectives told the couple that Mayfield was “making delusional claims about stalking, and suggested that he seems unstable.” About 12:30 am Sunday, police said, Mayfield stole the rainbow flag that had been hung outside the couple’s home, which is south of Hanscom Park. He left but returned a few minutes later, and had set the flag on fire. Mayfield, 23, waved the burning flag in front of the house. Police arrested Mayfield soon after. He’s accused of arson and resisting arrest. In a statement Tuesday, Jessica and Ariann Anderson, who were married in Iowa in 2011, said they had never met Mayfield before. He lives about a block away, according to a police report. “The case with the young man who burned our flag on Saturday night is growing a bit more complex and unnerving, and is weighing fairly heavy,” the statement said. “Our number one focus is on the safety of our family. ... It’s clear that his actions were motivated by intolerance and hate, and that is what is frightening.” The good news, they said, is that they’ve received support from their friends, neighbors, co-workers — even strangers. “We are very grateful,” the statement said. On Monday, the Andersons had replaced the rainbow flag, and posted on Facebook a picture of them celebrating its arrival with a toast.

An update on a previous post: In Florida, the Sentinel reports that Lake County school Superintendent Susan Moxley testified in federal court Tuesday that she rejected a Gay-Straight Alliance club at a Leesburg middle school in 2013 because she received a vague application about the club's purpose. But she said she would have OK'd the club had student Hannah Faughnan, 14, submitted a more thorough application that expounded upon how the club would utilize critical-thinking skills to combat bullying, Moxley testified in a suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. That also has U.S. Judge William Terrell Hodges wondering about whether there's an ongoing dispute that requires his ruling because no one applied for the club for the current school year. Students, teachers and School Board members took the stand for two days to explain what happened. Hannah said she didn't realize she could reapply and wants to ensure that the club lives on beyond her graduation from Carver Middle School. "It appears from the evidence that an annual application is required, and no application was filed by the plaintiff for the 2014-15 school year," Hodges said. "It seems to me that renders it moot unless there is evidence that it would have been a futile effort." Hodges is expected to rule in the coming weeks, but a settlement could also be reached before then. Moxley testified that the club's 2013-14 school-year application didn't include enough detail to gain approval under revised board policies. The new rules require clubs to show they are related to school curriculum or impart other skills. The Gay-Straight Alliance applied under the "critical thinking" category. "When I looked at that application I saw just the basic words — I didn't see discussion of how they promote those skills," Moxley said. "If that had been developed and had some semblance of critical thinking, I would have followed suit, as I have in other situations." But testimony from Hannah and a teacher who applied to be the club's sponsor raised questions about Moxley's willingness to approve the group no matter what. Teacher Heather Jablonski, who submitted the application on Hannah's behalf, conceded that the document could have contained more detail. But she also said she thought resubmitting it wouldn't have made a difference. "My personal opinion is that it should have been approved…," she said. "I didn't think they [district officials] would ever allow us to have the club no matter what we said or how we amended the document [application]. It would not have satisfied their standards." The district implemented the new clubs policy in August 2013 after Carver student Bayli Silberstein sued the district in order to create a Gay-Straight Alliance. The new policy requires the superintendent to approve clubs instead of principals.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Often-Overlooked Gay Rights Leader Reverend Malcolm Boyd Dies At 91, Twenty-Three Gay Rights Activists Arrested For Refusing To Vacate Idaho Legislature, Federal District Judge Bataillon Strikes Down Nebraska Same Sex Marriage Ban But Stays Order, Five-Time Married Texas Tea Party Lawmaker Files Error-Filed Judicial Complaint Against Judge Who Allowed First Same Sex Marriage, Controversy Surrounds Clovis News Journal After Paper Publishes Photograph Of Same Sex Couple Celebrating Valentine's Day, Out British Actor Russell Tovey Is A "Straight-Acting" Gay Man

The Rev. Malcolm Boyd, the openly gay Episcopal priest whose book Are You Running With Me, Jesus? took prayer out of church onto the city streets in a slangy vernacular not found in Sunday missals, has died. He was 91. Boyd died Friday under hospice care in Los Angeles from complications of pneumonia, according to Robert Williams, spokesman for the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. Boyd delivered riffs on life's grittier problems — the white racists afraid of integration, or teenage girls who get pregnant — with a candor that was rarely heard from a priest leading a community at prayer. He wrote more than two dozen books, many of them about people who did not fit the blue-sky ideal. But none of his prayers for them were as raw and urgent as those in the 1965 collection that sold half a million copies. "Are You Running With Me, Jesus? is a classic of spiritual writing for its generation," said the Rev. Robert Raines, a former director of the Kirkridge Retreat Center in Bangor, Pennsylvania. "It tells about the underbelly of society, which Malcolm knew something about. His was a Christian faith lived out in bars and on the streets. His prayers came out of the realization that God is not only in church. God is in the painful situations of your life," Raines said in a 2004 interview with the Los Angeles Times. "This girl got pregnant, Lord, and she isn't married," one prayer in the book begins. "There was this guy, you see, and she had a little too much to drink. It sounds so stupid, but the loneliness was real. Where were her parents in all this? It's hard to know." Boyd's flair for drama kept him in the spotlight from his earliest years as a clergyman. In the segregated South of 1961 he was among the first white ministers to work the voter registration drives. Later in the decade, when religious institutions were criticized as self-serving or irrelevant, he delivered his "prayer poems" from nightclub stages and at the Newport Jazz Festival with guitarist Charlie Byrd. But he took his boldest step in 1976, when he announced that he was gay. At the time, most Christian churches condemned what they referred to as the homosexual lifestyle, which he was living. Boyd followed his public statement with the book "Take off the Masks," saying he wrote it because he was tired of living a lie. One former admirer burned Boyd's books. For years afterward, he had trouble finding work at a church. "It was wilderness time," he said in a 2003 interview with the Indianapolis Star. "There was criticism, there was unemployability. I learned you have to be flexible in life." It was a lesson he struggled with repeatedly. "The single great war of my life has been against fragmentation and for wholeness, against labels and for identity," he wrote in his 1969 memoir As I Live and Breathe. After announcing his homosexuality, Boyd led consciousness-raising groups for gay people and wrote books about gay spirituality. In 1984, he helped organize one of the first Christian Masses for people with AIDS. For all his pioneering ventures, it was Boyd's bestselling book of prayer poems, which conveyed a close, personal knowledge of the messy world that struck a chord with the widest audience. Boyd's "genius," South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said, was to illustrate the presence of God "even for those who say they do not believe in God." One prayer in the book begins with a walk through a Detroit slum. "Look up at that window Lord, where the old guy is sitting," Boyd wrote. "He just moved a short bit away from the window. Maybe he moved because he felt my eyes on him from the sidewalk down here. I didn't mean to embarrass him, Lord; I just wanted to let him know somebody understands he's alive and he's your brother, so he's not alone or lost. Does he know it, Jesus?" Boyd's flamboyant style was evident long before he became a priest. In his 20s he built a Hollywood publicity agency that specialized in promoting movies and radio shows. In 1949 he formed a radio and TV production company with his friends Charles "Buddy" Rogers and Mary Pickford. The company was hardly a year old when Boyd disclosed his plan to be ordained an Episcopal priest — transformation marked by his show business friends with a farewell luncheon at Ciro's, the old Hollywood haunt. Boyd was born June 8, 1923, in Buffalo, New York, the only child of Melville Boyd, a wealthy financier, and Beatrice Lowrie Boyd. The stock market crash of 1929, followed by his parents' divorce, changed his prospects. He and his mother moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she worked as a teacher and he buried himself in books. Attending the University of Arizona, he came to uneasy terms with his homosexuality. "I dated girls but I longed for boys,'' he wrote in a 1989 essay. "I had to learn to hide my feelings … and show a face that bore little resemblance to my real self." After graduation in 1944 he spent six years in Hollywood before he entered the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley. He was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1955. Controversy surrounded him from the start. At his first parish in Indianapolis the all-white membership was distressed when he invited an African American pastor to speak. As a chaplain at Colorado State University, he hosted poetry readings and group discussions in a coffee house. A newspaper dubbed him the "espresso priest" and wrote of his ''coffee house conversions." Criticized by the local bishop, Boyd resigned. He was next hired as a university chaplain at Wayne State University in Detroit, where he got involved in the desegregation movement and traveled often to the Deep South on voter registration drives. In 1965, he was named writer in residence at Washington, D.C.'s Episcopal Church of the Atonement. He traveled, lectured and read his poetry on college campuses. He and guitarist Byrd gave concerts, including one at the 1966 Newport Jazz Festival. Boyd read his work while Byrd improvised on the guitar. That year Boyd also appeared at the "hungry i" nightclub in San Francisco. Some nights he warmed up the audience for Dick Gregory, the comedian and social activist. Every night, Boyd wore his clerical collar and told the audience that he was there as a priest not an entertainer. Some of his monologues sounded like mini-sermons. "See him over there, Lord, driving the new blue car?" one of his prayer poems began. "He knows what he wants and how to get it. … But he feels awfully threatened, Jesus, by a lot of things and people. He doesn't see why the world can't remain secure, old-fashioned, Protestant and white. … He's looking out his car window. Does he see you standing on the street, Jesus?" Fame came crashing down in 1976 when Boyd announced that he was homosexual at an Episcopal convention in Chicago. For several years afterward he was turned down for staff positions at Episcopal churches. The Rev. Frederick Fenton, rector of St. Augustine-by-the-Sea in Santa Monica and a longtime friend, invited Boyd to join his staff in 1982. "We lost some members but those who stayed loved Malcolm dearly," Fenton said. "He was incredibly creative, compassionate, funny. And he burned at the ridiculing of any person. Like a human chameleon he absorbed hurt feelings and then showed the rest of us what it was like." While he was based at St. Augustine, Boyd was elected president of PEN, an advocacy group for writers' freedom of speech. He started living with Mark Thompson, who was a senior editor for the Advocate, a national gay and lesbian newspaper. At the time, it was generally expected that gay Episcopal clergy remain celibate. Twenty years later in 2004, when Boyd and Thompson renewed their vows in a church ceremony, the majority of Episcopalians had approved of gay marriage at a national conference. Boyd's anniversary service was held at the Episcopal Cathedral Center of St. Paul in Los Angeles with five bishops among the guests and Bishop Jon Bruno presiding. Boyd and Thompson married in July 2013, after Proposition 8 was overturned and same sex unions resumed in California. “Malcolm lives on in our hearts and minds through the wise words and courageous example he has shared with us through the years,” Bruno, bishop of the six-county diocese, said Friday in a statement. “We pray in thanksgiving for Malcolm’s life and ministry, for his tireless advocacy for civil rights, and for his faithful devotion to Jesus who now welcomes him to eternal life and comforts us in our sense of loss.” In his later years, Boyd was writer-in-residence at the Cathedral Center of St. Paul. He also worked as a chaplain for AIDS patients and helped to establish a gay history archive at USC. He continued to write. In a 2014 Huffington Post column, he asked, in his down-to-earth style, for a chat with Pope Francis about religious discrimination against gay people. "Is this asking too much?" he wrote. "Pope Francis, are you on board? I'd like to spend a reflective evening with you, send out for a pizza from a great place near the Vatican, open a bottle of Chianti, put our feet up, relax, and share thoughts and aspirations." A celebration of Boyd’s life will be held at 2:00 pm on Saturday, March 21, at the Cathedral Center of St. Paul, 840 Echo Park Ave., Los Angeles.

In Idaho, twenty-three activists pressing for passage of civil rights protections for LGBT individuals were arrested Monday morning when they refused orders to vacate House and Senate chambers at the start of the morning sessions. According to the Statesman, the "Add the Four Words" protesters were initially permitted access to both chambers but were arrested just prior to the start of legislative business. “We’re going to stay here until they do their job as our leaders,” said Ty Carson, a member of the group who was among those arrested. Advocates want anti-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity added to the state human rights law. After nine years of effort, supporters finally got a legislative committee to hold a hearing on the matter this session. After three days of testimony and 190 speakers, the committee voted against the law change. Since then, advocates have met with lawmakers to develop compromise language that spells out exemptions based on religious convictions for businesses and clergy. “We have compromise language that address their specific concerns that came out of the hearing process, and yet they still refuse to act,” Carson said. The protesters were charged with misdemeanor trespass. Two of the 23 were juveniles who were cited and released along with one protester in a wheelchair. The rest were taken to Ada County Jail for booking and released later in the day on $300 bail each pending March 23 court appearances. Later, at the the end of Monday’s house session, Rep. Sue Chew (D-Boise) rose to acknowledge the arrests and recount her family’s own experiences with discrimination. She urged the House to revisit action on the bill.

In Nebraska, according to the World-Herald, a federal district judge in Nebraska struck down the state’s same sex marriage ban Monday, but it is unlikely that the ruling will take effect soon. U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon delayed his order until next Monday, which would have allowed gay and lesbian couples to wed next week. But Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson immediately filed an appeal to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, which would stop Bataillon’s order from taking effect. “The state clearly has the right to encourage couples to marry and provide support for one another. However, those laws must be enforced equally and without respect to gender,” Bataillon wrote. “It is time to bring this unequal provision to an end.” It was a bittersweet ruling for the gay community, but a victory for Peterson, who had asked Bataillon not to create a situation in Nebraska where gay marriage was legal for a few days or weeks. Peterson argued that the state likely will win on appeal before the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals and that, in order to avoid “chaos,” Peterson asked Bataillon to stop his own order from taking effect immediately. In fact, Peterson wasted little time filing an appeal. Within an hour after Bataillon ruled, Peterson asked the 8th Circuit for “immediate relief” in an effort to stop Bataillon’s order from taking effect next week. Peterson declined to comment on the case this morning. He planned to wait and make his statements at an afternoon press conference at the State Capitol. It is unknown when the 8th Circuit will rule, but Bataillon has given them plenty of time to stop his order if they are so inclined. Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts also wasted little time in decrying Bataillon’s order, saying it overturned the will of the people. He noted that in 2000, more than 70-percent of Nebraskans voted for the gay marriage ban. “The definition of marriage is an issue for the people of Nebraska, and an activist judge should not substitute his personal political preferences for the will of the people,” Ricketts wrote. The same sex couples who filed the lawsuit challenging the state’s gay marriage ban had sought immediately “relief,” asking Bataillon to issue a preliminary injunction and immediately stop the state from enforcing its gay marriage ban. They argued, and Bataillon agreed, that every day Nebraska’s gay marriage ban is enforced, they suffer “irreparable harm.” Batallion said Nebraska is effectively “stigmatizing and demeaning” the marriages of gay couples who were married in states were same sex unions are allowed. The ruling prompted a mix of reaction from local clergy. Eric Elnes, pastor of Countryside Community Church in Omaha, called the decision an important step forward. “I think it’s about time the state has caught up to where the Holy Spirit has been taking us — to affirmation of LGBT persons as people who are created in the image and likeness of God, whose sexual orientation and gender identification (are) not seen as sinful in God’s eyes but part of the beauty of God’s creations,” he said. Nebraska’s three Catholic bishops were not happy with Bataillon’s order. Omaha Archbishop George J. Lucas, Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln and Bishop William J. Dendinger of Grand Island issued a joint statement after the ruling. Their statement read: “We are disappointed that Judge Joseph Bataillon granted an injunction today that presumes to nullify what God has written on human hearts since the beginning of time — that marriage is between a man and a woman, and has as one of its principal purposes the procreation and rearing of children. Marriage was established by God before the state and before the Church, and the vitality of both depends on the fruitful union of husband and wife.” It is now up to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals to decide when — or if — Nebraska will become the next state to allow same sex couples to wed. The 8th Circuit is a conservative appellate court that refused an earlier request to allow same sex marriages to be performed immediately in Missouri. If the 8th Circuit grants the state’s request for an appeal, there is a good chance the fate of Nebraska’s gay marriage ban will remain up in the air until late June. That’s when the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide the legality of same sex marriage bans for the entire nation. So far, 37 states recognize same sex marriages, a legal trend that began in earnest in 2013 after the Supreme Court struck down the federal gay marriage ban. Bataillon’s ruling Monday did not come as a surprise. In 2005, Bataillon was the first federal judge in the nation to strike down a gay marriage ban. However, his ruling was overturned by the 8th Circuit. Today’s decision means there is now a good chance Nebraska will be one of the last states in the nation to allow same sex couples to wed. The 8th Circuit may fold the Nebraska case into a May 11 hearing on same sex marriages scheduled to be heard in Omaha. Federal judges in three other states — Missouri, South Dakota and Arkansas — all have ruled their respective gay marriage bans unconstitutional. The 8th Circuit has consolidated those cases into one. In the end, it will come down to timing: Will the 8th Circuit act before the U.S. Supreme Court settles the issue once and for all? The high court is set to hear oral arguments in April on whether states can ban same sex marriages. A ruling is expected in late June — a month after the 8th Circuit hears its case. Many court observers believe that the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to strike down gay marriage bans, in large part because the court has refused to stop gay marriages from being performed in more than a half-dozen states in the last few months. Because of the timing, the Supreme Court may decide the fate of Nebraska’s ban before the 8th Circuit, said Eric Berger, a constitutional law professor at the University of Nebraska School of Law. The 8th Circuit would have to act quickly to issue a ruling after its May hearing, to beat the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling expected in June. “It depends on how aggressive the 8th Circuit wants to be. If the 8th Circuit really wants to announce its views on this issue, it could rush to get its ruling out before the Supreme Court,” said Berger.

An update on a previous post: In Texas, the Chronicle reports that a Tea Party lawmaker erred last week when he filed a handwritten complaint against the judge who permitted Texas' first same sex marriage. State Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington) a veteran groom with five marriages under his belt, called out the wrong judge and made a flawed assertion of Texas law. That's according to Bud Kennedy of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, who reported the blunder in a Saturday column, three days after Tinderholt submitted the complaint to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. On his Facebook page, Tinderholt announced the filing and wrote, "Judge David Wahlberg issued a ruling that the state's ban on same sex marriage was unconstitutional and ordered a circuit court clerk to issue a marriage license to a same sex couple. This judge deliberately violated statutory law that requires judges to notify the Office of Attorney General before ruling on constitutionality." The first problem: Wahlberg did not rule the marriage ban unconstitutional. That was Probate Judge Guy Herman, who issued the decision as part of an estate claim by a woman who wanted her deceased female partner legally recognized as her spouse. Wahlberg used Herman's ruling to marry a lesbian couple in Austin last month, saying a terminal illness made the couple unable to wait for a final ruling on the constitutional challenge. But even if Tinderholt meant to direct his qualms to judge Herman, there's another glitch. In his complaint, Tinderholt wrote "constitutional challenge by a judge requires notice and must wait until 45 days after to enter final judgment." Kennedy reported that on January 23, Herman had notified the state attorney general's office, which opted not to get involved in the case. Tinderholt's office did not immediately say why the lawmaker opposes same sex marriages, and the issue is not included amongst several on Tinderholt's "Issues" web page. Other conservatives often cite the sanctity of traditional marriage and the importance of a strong family for child-raising as reasons they oppose efforts to legalize gay marriage. However 44-year-old Tinderholt has been married five times. According to records accessed through TexasDivorceRecords.org and verified at CourthouseDirect.com, Tinderholt married Kimberly Greaves in 1990, divorced her in 1994, married her again in 1995 and divorced her again in 1996. A subsequent marriage lasted from 1996 to 1997, and another from 2002 to 2007. One of his marriages ended with the issuance of a restraining order against him by his former wife. In a court-ordered psychological evaluation, Tinderholt said once he married for "insurance reasons." He is currently married to former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader Bethany Tyler-Tinderholt.

In New Mexico, a Valentine’s Day photo posted in the Clovis News Journal has caused a lot of controversy in the small conservative town. The photo shows Diego Baca and his boyfriend of two years in an article titled, “Love is in the air” Baca said, “Thought nothing of it, then we turned and we were on the front page so that was a shock." The picture was also a shock to George Shuckman, a paper subscriber since 1971. Shuckman and at least six others have canceled their memberships because of the photo. “I objected to the same sex couple on the front page,” said Shuckman. Shuckman, 70, says Clovis is a god-fearing, bible-belt town and the paper’s out of line. “It’s a matter of morality,” he said. “There are people that don’t even go to church that feel this is a bad moral decision of the newspaper.” In a letter to the editor, Shuckman says the picture is not responsible journalism. He also calls the men’s relationship an empty lifestyle. Baca is dismissing the dispute. “It’s their life. They can think whatever they want to about it,” Baca said. “They really shouldn’t be concerned about my life.” The paper is standing behind the couple. It published an editorial saying inclusion is responsible journalism and that it needs to be acknowledged that gay people live in the community too. News 13 reached out to the Clovis News Journal for comment, but at press time no one was given. The editorial does point out that the reader reaction to the photo was overwhelmingly positive.

In an interview with the Guardian, 33-year-old openly out British actor Russell Tovey talks about being the victim of a knife attack as a teenager, of the relationship with his father, and of viewing "acting being his vocation. He missed chunks of school at his Essex secondary to make a kids’ TV show, Mud, and as a result of the absence didn’t always have a lot of friends. 'I was so envious of everyone who went to Sylvia Young Theatre School. I wanted to go but my dad flat-out refused. He thought I’d become some tapdancing freak without qualifications. And he was right in a way. I’m glad I didn’t go. That might have changed…' Tovey thinks carefully about what he’s going to say next. If I had to guess, watching him fidget, I’d say he’s weighing up whether to be honest at the risk of causing offence, or whether to divert and say something bland. He chooses to risk offence. 'I feel like I could have been really effeminate, if I hadn’t gone to the school I went to. Where I felt like I had to toughen up. If I’d have been able to relax, prance around, sing in the street, I might be a different person now. I thank my dad for that, for not allowing me to go down that path. Because it’s probably given me the unique quality that people think I have.'"

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Log Cabin Republicans Earn Formal Recognition From California Republican Party Despite Platform Calling Homosexuality Unacceptable, Nebraska Child Welfare Officials Abandon Twenty-Year Old Policy Barring Gays And Lesbians From Becoming Foster Parents, Omaha Nebraska Police Arrest 23-Year-Old Cameron Mayfield In Less Than An Hour After He Steals Then Burns Family's Gay Pride Flag, New York City Mayor de Blasio Marches In Inclusive Pre-St. Patrick's Day

In California, in a historic move, the state Republican Party on Sunday officially recognized a gay GOP group. The Los Angeles Times reports that the Log Cabin Republicans, a 38-year-old organization that had unsuccessfully sought a charter from the state party several times in the past, received the formal imprimatur on a 861-293 vote at the party’s biannual convention in Sacramento. It is among the first gay groups officially sanctioned by a state Republican Party. Brandon Gesicki, a delegate from Carmel who supported the effort, said the vote showed how much the party in California has changed in recent years. “It would have been the complete opposite 15 years ago,” said Gesicki, who also turned in a proxy vote from former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado supporting the recognition. “The fringe does not control the party anymore. We truly are a big tent once again.” Charles Moran, chairman of the Log Cabin California chapter, was visibly emotional after Sunday’s vote. “I’m personally overwhelmed,” he said, noting that he got his start in politics as a staffer at the state party in 1999. “This is the culmination of a 15-year journey for me.” The move comes as attitudes toward homosexuality and same sex marriage have shifted across the United States. A February CNN poll found 42-percent of Republicans favored same sex marriage, a sharp increase from previous polls. Log Cabin was founded in California 38 years ago and was the first gay GOP group in the country. It and other groups have sparred with Republican officials and conservative leaders over the years, and received varying levels of acceptance. The national Log Cabin group was once again turned down as a sponsor for last week’s Conservative Political Action Committee gathering in Maryland, but its executive director was invited to speak on a panel. In Texas last year, two gay Republican groups were barred from having a booth at a state party convention. Tolerance in California has been greater. Last year, GOP gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari marched in a San Diego gay-pride parade, the first statewide Republican candidate to do so. Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, who is considering a run for U.S. Senate, supports same sex marriage. The Log Cabin Luau, at which attendees don rainbow-colored leis and sip Mai Tais, is among the best-attended parties at state GOP conventions. Moran and his supporters had cited the work that his members did in several competitive election contests last year to argue that the group deserves a party charter. “We’ve earned our street cred,” Moran said Saturday. The group worked for two years to make sure its application aligned with party bylaws. “A lot of us knew we were Republican before we knew we were gay, so this is home for us,” he said. With the recognition, “the left will not be able to say to us anymore, ‘The Republican Party doesn’t want you.'" The group’s effort received support from longtime GOP leaders, including national committee member Shawn Steel, former state party chairman Bob Naylor and Assemblyman Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita). “The Log Cabin Republicans have given their time, money and resources to this party time and time again, and we have given them nothing in return,” said Nathan Miller, chairman of the California Young Republican Federation, a group for young professionals that is chartered by the state party. “This vote is not about orientation, it’s about participation.” Opposition came from social conservatives, who said the move violated the party’s values. Andrew Levy, a delegate from Sacramento, said the decision to grant the recognition was an affront to his Jewish faith. “People supported the Republican Party because they’re strong on family values,” Levy said, adding that the embrace of the gay group undermined his trust in the GOP. John Briscoe, president of the socially conservative California Republican Assembly, pointed to Log Cabin’s support of same sex marriage. “I have a hard time understanding how we’re going to charter an organization that’s in opposition to our platform,” he said during the debate. The party’s official platform says homosexuality is unacceptable. “We believe public policy and education should not be exploited to present or teach homosexuality as an acceptable ‘alternative’ lifestyle. We oppose same sex partner benefits, child custody, and adoption,” the platform says. Some opponents said Log Cabin's proposal was sneaked onto the convention agenda without notice, and that the group violates the party’s by-laws, which forbid the recognition of organizations focused on “lifestyle preferences.” Assemblywoman Shannon Grove repeatedly pleaded during the hearing, “The only thing I ask is this body stand on the rules we’ve supported for two decades that say there is a process to change the rules and the bylaws." State party chairman Jim Brulte replied that he had followed the rules -- by forwarding the group’s application to the volunteer organizations committee, which on Saturday voted to unanimously send the proposal to the floor for a vote. The Sunday morning debate and vote count took nearly an hour. Five people were allowed to testify in support, and five in opposition. Though the debate was largely civil, there were a few testy outbursts, mostly on points of order, prompting Brulte to admonish at one point: “Everyone take a deep breath.”

In Nebraska, the Omaha World-Herald reports that child welfare officials have quietly abandoned a controversial 20-year-old policy that bars gays and lesbians from becoming foster parents. According to Gov. Pete Ricketts’ spokesperson, the state’s current procedure no longer considers the sexual orientation of people seeking to foster or adopt state wards. Nor does the procedure bar children from being placed with licensed foster parents simply because of the parents’ sexual orientation. “The policy hasn’t changed but the Department (of Health and Human Services) has fallen out of compliance with it,” Ricketts spokesperson Taylor Gage said Friday. The situation has prompted the administration to launch a review of the policy. HHS removed the policy memo from its website in mid-February. However, Nebraska continues to defend the policy against a legal challenge filed by three Lincoln couples. Their lawsuit is pending in Lancaster County District Court. The policy has been in place since 1995, when HHS’s then-director outlined it in an administrative memo. The memo bars unmarried, unrelated adults who live together from becoming foster parents or from having children placed with them. The policy affects homosexual couples, unmarried heterosexual couples and platonic roommates. The policy also bars licensing or placing children with “persons who identify themselves as homosexuals,” whether those people live with a partner or not. Other single people are not prohibited from being foster parents in Nebraska. From the beginning, critics have said the policy worsens the shortage of foster homes in the state, while backers argued that children should be placed with people who are legally connected with each other. Gage said it is difficult to pinpoint when HHS procedures started departing from the policy, except that the changes came before Ricketts took office in January. The disconnect between policy and practice is one reason the Governor’s Office asked HHS officials to review the policy. The review is part of a broader regulatory review that Ricketts has directed all of his agency heads to undertake. But the foster parent policy, because it affects vulnerable children, is a priority, Gage said. “Nothing is more important than the best interests of the child, and it’s critical that the department take steps to ensure that both policy and procedure reflect that goal,” he said. Gage said he did not know if legislation introduced this year by State Sen. Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha played any role in bringing attention to the situation. Legislative Bill 647 would bar the state from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, marital status or national origin in placing foster children or licensing foster homes. The bill would require that placement be based on the health, safety and well-being of the child. HHS took no position on the bill or a similar measure that Nordquist introduced last year. Lawmakers ran out of time to debate last year’s bill, which was narrowed by the Judiciary Committee before being advanced. On Friday, Nordquist expressed concern that the policy remains in place, even if procedures differ. He said he has not decided yet whether to try to move forward with his bill, which had a public hearing February 4. Meanwhile, legal proceedings are continuing in a suit filed in 2013 by three gay or lesbian couples who want to foster or adopt children. The lead plaintiffs, Greg and Stillman Stewart, allegedly were told in October 2012 that they could not get a foster home license because of the policy. The American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Nebraska filed the lawsuit on the couples’ behalf, claiming that Nebraska’s blanket policy violates their rights to equal protection and to due process under both the U.S. and Nebraska Constitutions. Both sides have filed motions for summary judgment in their favor. The motions are set to be argued April 22 before Lancaster County District Judge John Colborn. Gage said he could not comment on the lawsuit. Attorney General Doug Peterson’s spokesperson offered no comment either, other than to note the upcoming hearing. Danielle Conrad, executive director of ACLU of Nebraska, said the couples made a formal settlement offer in July. The state has made no response yet. Conrad said ACLU is hopeful that the Ricketts administration will change the policy, which dates to former Gov. Ben Nelson’s term in office. Nebraska and Utah are the only two states with formal restrictions on gay and lesbian people being foster parents. Although gays and lesbians have been licensed as foster parents and had children placed with them, one difference remains in their treatment, Gage said. HHS licenses only one member of a gay or lesbian couple, not both, as is done with married couples. Nebraska bans same sex couples from getting married in the state or having marriages from other states recognized. Gage said he could not comment on when a new state policy might be ready or what it might say. But he said the administration wants to end up with a regulation that “puts the best interests of the child first and protects family values.”

Also in Nebraska, an Omaha man was arrested after police said he stole a gay pride flag and burned it in front of a family's home on Saturday. Cameron Mayfield, 23, is charged with felony arson and resisting arrest. It took Omaha police about 45 minutes to track down and arrest Mayfield. He's currently in Douglas County Corrections. Jess Meadows-Anderson and Ariann Anderson, who have lived in the same home for about five years, said they woke up Saturday night to what sounded like someone breaking into their home. After searching the house, Ariann Anderson said she looked outside and saw a man burning and waving something in front of the home. She said she eventually realized that their gay pride rainbow flag was gone. "That flag has been hanging on the back of our house, on the back deck, for five years," Jess Meadows-Anderson said. "In light on the ruling that we are all waiting for, we decided to move it to the front porch as of last Thursday. This is the first time we've had anything like this happen." The couple said it's scary that they walk their dog and children past Mayfield's home almost daily. They've already put a replacement pride flag in place.

In New York City, according to the Associated Press, Mayor Bill de Blasio told hundreds of participants at a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender-friendly St. Patrick's Day parade on Sunday that a society for all is one that embraces and respects everyone. The St. Pat's for All parade stepped off in Queens under a heavy snowfall. It was held as an alternative to the city's centuries-old St. Patrick's Day Parade in Manhattan, which for years has excluded gay groups and this year is scheduled for March 17. De Blasio arrived about 15 minutes late sporting a lavender shirt and green tie. Despite the snow and cold he said, "It's a sunny day in my world." "You are a hardy troupe," he told people gathered for the parade. "You are here to celebrate no matter what. That is what pride is all about — pride in the fact that in New York City you can be whoever you are." De Blasio, a Democrat, refused to march in last year's Manhattan parade because it wasn't fully inclusive, and Guinness beer dropped its sponsorship. Organizers said last year, though, that they would welcome one gay contingent under its own banner this year. The mayor said on Sunday: "A society for everyone is a society where everyone is respected, where everyone is embraced, where everyone has a say at the table." In the past, gays were free to march in the world's biggest and oldest St. Patrick's Day Parade but not with banners saying they're LGBT. Most marching units in the parade carry identifying banners. There are about 320 units in this year's parade, the parade committee said. LGBT activists say the main parade organizer, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, has been under increasing pressure to allow diversity, especially after New York state passed its Marriage Equality Act in 2011, allowing marriages for same-sex couples. The two grand marshals at the 15th annual St. Pat's for All parade were longtime human rights activist Kerry Kennedy and Tony Award-winning actor Brian O'Byrne. Patti Lowenhaupt, a retired art teacher and Queens resident who showed up for the parade, said people "are all human beings underneath it all," adding that, "We here in Queens have the ability to accept all kinds of people," Lowenhaupt said. Several protesters, however, stood on the side holding signs that read "Sodom & Gomorrah." Other elected officials participating in the St. Pat's for All parade included City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and city Comptroller Scott Stringer.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Alberta Premier Prentice Says Government Will Announce Plan For Student-Led Gay-Straight Alliances Next Week, Irish Court Convicts Three Teenage Girls Of Committing Violent Conduct In Connection To Attack Against Parents Of Gay Son, Alabama Appeals Court Reverses Decision And Recognizes Lesbian Adoption From Georgia, University Of California At Santa Cruz Students Call For Change After Attack Against Gay Student Now Being Investigated As Hate Crime, Student At Illinois Christian College Attacked With Apple By Fellow Student After Questioning School's Anti-Gay Stance, South Carolina's Erskine College Condemns Homosexuality After Two Division II Athletes Come Out, Conway Arkansas Passes Ordinance Banning Discrimination Against City And Government Employees Based On Sexual Orientation And Gender Identity Despite State Law That Prohibits It, Catholic Grammar School Pulls Out Of Boston St Patrick' s Day Parade In Protest Of Inclusion Of Gay Veteran's Group, Owners Of Indianapolis Bakery That Refused To Serve Gay Couple Closes

In Alberta, Premier Jim Prentice says his government will make an announcement about the province's student-led Gay-Straight Alliances soon, possibly as early as next week. "We're working on GSAs, I've committed that we'll deal with that before the Legislature comes back [March 10] and we will," Prentice said outside Government House. The premier oversaw a caucus meeting Wednesday while sporting a bright pink shirt. He was participating in Pink Shirt Day, an annual initiative to bring awareness to anti-bullying measures. Prentice and his government were forced to back away from Bill 10 during last fall's sitting of the Legislature. The proposed law was blasted by critics for failing to make the peer support groups mandatory in any Alberta school where students wanted to form one. "The conversation continues. I had a wonderful opportunity…to meet with a group of students who represented a significant number of GSA clubs that meet in Edmonton and I'm looking forward to continuing the conversation," said Education Minister Gordon Dirks, himself wearing a pink shirt. Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman was the first to put forward a bill on Gay-Straight Alliances — her Bill 202 would have compelled schools to allow students to set up GSAs. It was overridden by Bill 10 last fall as GSAs became a major issue of the session, surprising all sides as the controversy seemed to grow daily. She said Prentice and others in his party have to do more to support homosexual students in Alberta. "The point of that is to do more than wear the shirt, its to believe and take action," she said. Blakeman said the province must make it so students can set up a GSA in their schools, even over the objection of administrators or school boards. "What I'm worried about is we're going get another made-in-Alberta solution, which this government is famous for doing, and somehow they manage to muck the whole thing up." NDP leader Rachel Notley said that Prentice paid a political price the last time the government tried to move on GSAs. She thinks he risks more if he isn't careful with the second try at the issue. "I think it would be politically unwise for him to promise a solution and then once again attempt to deliver something that is not the solution," she said.

In Ireland, a mother and father were beaten up in their front garden after they defended their gay son from homophobic taunting, a court has heard. Following an an emotionally charged hearing at the Dublin Children’s Court, three teenage schoolgirls were found guilty of committing a violent disorder. The court heard the woman was punched, kicked and had a cigarette stubbed out on her face when she was confronted by three girls. Meanwhile her husband was set on and allegedly knocked out by a youth who is being tried separately. The girls, both teenagers, had pleaded not guilty and had no prior criminal convictions, but were drunk on alcopops and vodka, the court heard. Judge John O’Connor said the Probation Act would be considered for two of them if they wrote a letter of apology to the couple. Their parents had to be involved in preparing the letters and they needed to address the issue of the alcohol they had drank “and the torture they put this family through." They were ordered to appear again next week. The third girl, who was alleged to have stubbed a cigarette out on the woman’s face, has been remanded on bail for sentencing in April when a probation report will be furnished to the court. In evidence Judge O’Connor heard that the man and woman’s son had gone out of their home to walk a younger sibling back from a bus stop. Someone had been throwing stones at their house and there was a group of teenage boys outside. The woman said, “I could see they were very angry” and her son was repeatedly taunted about being gay. The mother said she went out and told the teens, 'We know he is gay, it is not a problem.' Three girls came running at me, screaming, shouting ‘who the eff do you think you are?’,” the woman told the court. She said one of the girls had a cigarette and “went for my eye but it hit just under my eye.” She claimed the girl picked up a bottle and she feared she would be hit in the face. She said to defend herself she grabbed the girl by her hair and pulled her down. She explained that she did this in case the two other girls “went to go on me, they would have to go on her as well." She said she then felt punches and kicks and her hair was being pulled. Afterwards she noticed she had been left with bald patches. Her husband was knocked to the ground by a youth who was “punching him and kicking him on the head.” Her husband told the court he came out and saw his wife being punched and kicked by two girls and another girl “had a hold of her hair."He tried to pull them off his wife before he was attacked from behind. “I came to in my garden, next to my car,” he said adding that his car was also smashed up. He denied claims made by the girls that he had struck one of them with a bottle. In evidence the girls claimed the woman started on them first. One said she felt she was not believed because she was a teenager. She said she had tried to stop the woman attacking her friend. Another girl claimed she had not been involved at all. However, Judge O’Connor heard evidence from a neighbour of the couple who called the guards after he saw the incident escalate. He also said he saw one of the girls approach the woman and “put a cigarette out in her face." The girls had just left a party and admitted they had been drinking. One had eight bottles of an alcopop as well as a naggin of vodka. Another youth is before the courts facing separate proceedings in connection with the incident.

In Alabama, an appeals court, in a reversal of direction Friday, recognized a gay woman's adoption of her partner's three children in Georgia. The court in October had ruled Jefferson County District Court Judge Raymond P. Chambliss erred in granting the woman - V.L. - visitation rights to three children she and her partner - E.L. - had raised based on the 2007 second-parent adoption by V.L. of the children in Georgia. During their relationship from 1995 to 2011 E.L. had given birth to one child in 2002 and twins in 2004 - all conceived via artificial insemination. The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals stated in its original ruling that Judge Chambliss should not have granted visitation rights to V.L. because a Georgia court should not have granted the adoption in the first place. Georgia does not recognize gay marriage. But in Friday's ruling the court did an about face and said that the Georgia adoption "is entitled to full faith and credit throughout the United States, including Alabama." The court, however, still said that Judge Chambliss erred in awarding V.L. visitation without affording the biological mother a hearing. "Courts of equity have broad power to act for the best interests of children, but that power must be exercised consistently with the due-process rights of both parents," according to the ruling. The court sent the case back to Judge Chambliss to conduct an evidentiary hearing to decide whether V.L. should be granted visitation. The civil court of appeal's decision did not reference the January 23 ruling by a federal judge in Mobile striking down Alabama's ban on same sex marriage. Since then a number of probate judges around the state have been issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. At least a few same sex couples have also stated second-parent adoptions. The National Center for Lesbian Rights and V.L.'s Alabama attorneys, Heather Fann and Traci Vella, sought a rehearing by the same court. The children's Guardians Ad Litem also supported rehearing, arguing that the children must be able to count on their adoption being final. Although rehearings are rarely granted, the court reconsidered the case and heard arguments. Today, the court reversed its earlier decision and ruled that the family court properly recognized "V.L. as a second parent of the children." NCLR Family Law Director Cathy Sakimura said, "We are elated that our client and her children will not be kept apart, and that the Alabama Court of Appeals correctly applied black and white constitutional law requiring all states to recognize court orders from other states, including adoptions by same sex parents. Children who are adopted must be able to count on their adoptions being final--any ruling that adoptions can be ignored or reconsidered years later puts all adopted children at risk of losing their forever families." Traci Vella said that, "This is a great victory for parental rights and children's rights. I'm very happy for my client and the children in this case who will not lose one of their parents who has raised them." Heather Fann said, "We are so pleased that our courts are recognizing that the law requires equal protection of all families. Much credit is due in this case to Legal Aid of Alabama, who fought as Guardians ad Litem for these children to preserve their relationships with both parents." The children's Guardians Ad Litem are Breauna R. Peterson and Tobie J. Smith of the Legal Aid Society of Birmingham.

In California, the Sentinel reports that members of the UC Santa Cruz lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community launched a petition demanding the university enact changes in the wake of an attack on a gay student thought to be a hate crime by police. The petition comes roughly three weeks after two men — one, a UC Santa Cruz student — were arrested after allegedly attacking others during a party because of one victim’s sexual orientation. One of the victim’s, a gay male student, suffered broken knuckles, a fractured jaw, a dislocated hip, a concussion and had his wrist broken in three places and shattered in another spot, according to the petition. The attack is being investigated as a hate crime. “A member of our community was brutally beaten and injured and we are livid,” according to a statement on the petition’s website, which has garnered more than 1,300 signatures since its launch Wednesday. The initial release drew anger from the university’s LGBTQ community because it lacked details, said Jamie Epstein, a queer student and a facilitator behind the petition. “It had a lack of transparency and they called it a fight when it was an attack,” Epstein said. “I think language is important in these matters. To call it a fight is not really shedding light on the hate and violence.” Among the demands in the petition are implementation of multistall, all-gender bathrooms throughout the campus, creation of a free self-defense class to all university students, creation of universitywide workshops on LGBTQ issues and hiring multiple staff members to implement and enforce the demands. While Epstein did not see the alleged attack firsthand, other students, community assistants and staff members at Kresge who witnessed it recounted the details of what happened. “It was very clear that it was a hate crime because people who were there heard the attackers screaming slurs and saying things along the lines of, ‘You better not be gay. That’s not OK,’” Epstein said. In the February 12 release, UCSC Chief of Police Nader Oweis described the event as a fight, with one or both of the suspects attacking at least one of the victims because they belonged to a protected classification based on gender, nationality, sexual orientation, race or religion. About 12:35 am February 7, university police responded to a report of a fight at Kresge College and arrested 21-year-old Brandon Wayne Beaton, a UCSC student, and 23-year-old Jesse Eric Robles of Los Baños, according to university police. Beaton was arrested on suspicion of battery on a person, obstructing a police officer and being drunk in public. Robles was arrested on suspicion of being drunk in public, a misdemeanor. Both were booked into Santa Cruz County Jail. The Santa Cruz County District Attorney’s Office has not received a report from university police for filing and review. Police and university officials declined to provide further details, citing an ongoing investigation. The university hosted a meeting at Kresge Town Hall on February 18 where students and faculty addressed the incident and provided resources for students. But Epstein, along with other members of the university’s LGBTQ community, wanted further action from the university and put together the petition. “I don’t think that the queer students on campus should be taking on the role of educating and organizing around this. I think the administration needs to take action,” Epstein said. Chancellor George Blumenthal, whom the petition addressed directly, and Executive Vice Chancellor Alison Galloway, will review the petition soon, said Scott Hernandez-Jason, a university spokesperson. Late Friday, Blumenthal issued a statement saying he joined Galloway in condemning the attack. “As a campus, UC Santa Cruz strives to be a place where people of all backgrounds and identities feel secure and are able to reach their full potential as students, staff and faculty. It is unacceptable and illegal to target someone because of a real or perceived membership in a group,” Blumenthal said. “This incident has prompted campus leaders to ask ourselves whether more can be done, and we are actively reviewing campus policies and resources. We will review and consider all recommendations that our students and others submit.” Hernandez-Jason also noted the campus has 40 all-gender bathrooms and campus police will offer free self-defense classes in the spring. According to the university’s most recent annual Jeanne Clery Campus Security Act report, the campus’ last hate crime in a residence hall because of sexual orientation was in 2013. In 2011, there were two reported hate crimes based on sexual orientation, one of which was in a residence hall.

In Illinois, after a student at a prominent evangelical college questioned his school’s stance against homosexuality in an all-school forum on Monday, another student allegedly threw an apple at him “as a warning against insulting the Spirit of grace.” The incident, which college administrators are now addressing, took place on Monday at Wheaton College, Billy Graham’s alma mater outside Chicago, during the campus’ traditional “Town Hall Chapel,” a campuswide question and answer session where the college president, currently Philip Ryken, takes questions from the student body. Wheaton holds marriage to be between one man and one woman, and requires students and faculty to uphold that sexual ethic. Christian colleges such as Wheaton have been at the center of the evangelical fight over lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender acceptance, especially as younger generations grow increasingly more accepting on issues such as same sex marriage. The most recent conflict began when Philip Fillion, a class of 2015 organ performance major and married heterosexual, asked Ryken a question about the theological consistency of Wheaton’s position against homosexuality. He posted his question in full in a public note on his Facebook page: “All students, via the Community Covenant, and all faculty, via the Statement of Faith, are required to affirm a sexual ethic that denies everyone except celibates and married straight people a place in the kingdom of God. This sexual ethic is not at all universal and depends on a reading of scripture that is incredibly narrow and ignores history, culture, and science. The Statement of Faith and the Community Covenant also lack any language about the sacraments of the Christian church. Why is it the case that our college, in documents we all must agree to or be expelled, insists on formally condemning and denying equality to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, on spurious theological grounds, yet completely leaves behind baptism and Eucharist, which Jesus Christ himself instituted to grow and strengthen the Christian community?” As he returned to his seat, the college tells TIME, another student sitting nearby threw the apple at him, and missed. Fillion tells TIME it hit him on his left shoulder partly through his question. “There was no response when the fruit was thrown. No boos, no gasp,” he says. “A student was in line after me and when it was his turn to ask a question, he began his time at the microphone by calling out whoever had thrown the fruit, remarking that such behavior was inappropriate and disrespectful. There was restrained applause for this.” In a statement, Wheaton College said, “President Ryken did not see the incident and did not fully understand what happened until after chapel ended."

In South Carolina, a college with at least two openly gay athletes has issued a statement condemning homosexuality. Erskine College, a Division II school in the small town of Due West, South Carolina, issued a statement saying all students are expected to follow the Bible's teachings about sexuality: "We believe the Bible teaches that all sexual activity outside the covenant of marriage is sinful and therefore ultimately destructive to the parties involved. As a Christian academic community, and in light of our institutional mission, members of the Erskine community are expected to follow the teachings of scripture concerning matters of human sexuality and institutional decisions will be made in light of this position... Sexual relations outside of marriage or between persons of the same sex are spoken of in scripture as sin and contrary to the will of the Creator." Last March, Outsports profiled two gay men's volleyball players at Erskine, Drew Davis and Juan Varona. Davis told Outsports there was only one instance where his sexuality was not accepted by his fellow students. Varona told Outsports some students have said he changed their views on homosexuality. "The release of this statement makes me disappointed because I have never received anything but kind treatment from everyone at this school, and my sexual orientation is no secret. So it took me by surprise," Varona told Outsports on Thursday. South Carolina is one of 38 states where same sex marriage is legal. Erskine is affiliated with the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, a small Christian denomination based in the South. The Erksine volleyball team is 9-3 this season. Last season, Erskine won its conference tournament and advanced to the NCAA tournament, which only features six teams. The tournament combines Division I and Division II programs. Erskine lost, 3-0, to Stanford.

In Arkansas, proponents of Conway's new ordinance expanding a ban on discrimination against city-government employees to include sexual orientation and other factors gave the City Council and the mayor a standing ovation. Many of the opponents quietly left the crowded room after aldermen voted 6-2 on Tuesday night for the ordinance advanced by Mayor Tab Townsell and for an accompanying emergency clause. Aldermen Mark Ledbetter and Mary Smith voted no. Approval followed a roughly two-hour public hearing during which two state legislators -- Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Bigelow) and Rep. David Meeks (R-Conway) -- were among those opposing the measure. Those speaking for the proposal included John Schenck, who along with his partner, Robert Loyd, organized the city's first gay-pride parade in 2004. "This is 2015, not 1915," Schenck said. Alderman Theodore Jones Jr., who said he is "pro-equality," spoke moments before the vote. "I know about discrimination. I lived it," said Jones, who is black. "Everyone should have an equal playing field." The new ordinance adds sexual orientation, "gender identity or expression" and genetic information to the reasons the local government may not discriminate against its employees. According to the Conway city government's website, the city already banned discrimination "on the basis of race, sex, color, age, national origin, religion, or disability" in its employment practices. The new ordinance says in part, "The City of Conway is committed to adding equal opportunity employment opportunities without regard to race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, genetic information, marital status or status as a covered veteran in accordance with applicable federal, state and local laws governing non-discrimination in employment." Rapert urged the City Council to postpone a vote and give more time for public input on the measure or "vote it down." He said a man who wants to be a woman might choose to use a women's restroom, where women could see the man unclothed. If the city forbade the man from using the women's room, the man could sue, Rapert said. Moments later, Kathryn Spinks, a Conway Democrat, stepped up to speak for the expanded ban and said, "I'm 62. I've never, ever had anyone of any gender come in front of me naked in a restroom." Laughter followed. Spinks and Rapert have clashed before. In 2013, Rapert objected to then-Gov. Mike Beebe's appointment of Spinks to the state's Occupational Therapy Examining Committee. In Arkansas, a senator's objection effectively amounts to a veto. Earlier, Alderman David Grimes had asked the mayor, "Can you make one other point clear: This has absolutely nothing to do with restrooms?" Townsell replied that the issue of transgender people and restrooms already exists, regardless of this ordinance. None of the speakers said they favored discriminating against anyone because of sexual orientation, although some said the ordinance would send the wrong message, was unnecessary, would cause problems or would lead to lawsuits. A couple of speakers suggested leaving the ordinance as is or just saying don't discriminate against anyone rather than specifying groups. One man who said he is a pastor said he was not homophobic, but the ordinance concerned him. "This is a matter of conviction upon morality," he said. "If you make a decision because it is fiscally better, God help us." Some supporters, including the mayor, had earlier said the measure was important to economic development, as many large companies consider such factors before moving to a city. Townsell said Wednesday that there is "general public debate as to what government can do and can't do as to religion," based on the U.S. Constitution. "But it's pretty clear government can't establish religion -- to [decide], for instance, whose god [will be worshipped], what's moral. ... That's not my role" as a public official, although it can be as an individual, he said.

In Massachusetts, Reuters reports that a Roman Catholic grammar school located near Boston has pulled out of the city's St. Patrick's Day parade in protest over organizers' decision to allow a gay veterans' group to march in next month's event. The Immaculate Heart of Mary School, which traditionally sends its marching band to the South Boston route, said on Friday it would withdraw following a decision by the Allied War Veteran's Council, the parade's organizers, to admit a group of gay and lesbian veterans called OutVets to participate. "We can't associate with that,” Brother Thomas Dalton, principal of Immaculate Heart of Mary School, said in a phone interview. "It would appear we were condoning it." For decades the organizers of the New York and Boston St. Patrick's Day parades excluded openly gay groups from participating in their events, contending that allowing them to march would violate the beliefs of their Catholic faith, which holds that homosexual acts are immoral. Both parades' major sponsors, Diageo PLC's Guinness in New York and Boston Beer Co's Sam Adams in Boston, withdrew their support last year over the issue. Boston parade organizers said they would admit the OutVets group because its members were veterans. New York's parade this year opted to allow a group of gay and lesbian employees of NBC Universal, the unit of Comcast Corp that broadcasts the event, to participate. Immaculate Heart of Mary School, in the town of Harvard, about 25 miles northwest of Boston, also withdrew from the parade last year, when it appeared that a gay rights group would be allowed to join the march. The rights group did not walk in the end. Dalton, the principal, said the school did not consult with the archdiocese in Boston before withdrawing from the parade this year, which will be held on March 15. Archdiocesan officials did not immediately return requests for comment. The Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, a conservative group, called the school's withdrawal "an act of courage." In New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan has said he will serve as grand marshal of this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, despite conservative criticism that he should withdraw over the inclusion of gay marchers. Pope Francis, the leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, has sought to move Church discussions towards social justice issues and focus less discussion on sex, even as Church dogma on homosexuality has remained unchanged.

In Indiana, an Indianapolis bakery that drew protests for refusing to prepare a cake for a gay couple has closed its doors. The 111 Cakery was still profitable, said co-owner Randy McGath. But McGath's 45-year-old wife, Trish, did most of the baking and wanted more time to spend with the couple's four grandchildren. The business "was wearing her out," her husband said. She has been taking a break from working since Dec. 31 when the bakery went out of business, he said. In March the McGaths faced a firestorm of protest after declining a request to bake a cake for a commitment ceremony for two men. Same sex marriage has been legal in Indiana since October 7. A local television station broadcast the story of the rejection, and the next day Facebook and Twitter hummed with outrage. The flap led to a single picketer urging a bakery boycott, but many nearby residents were on his side. The bakery was at the intersection of 16th and Talbott streets, a hub of gay culture for decades. At least three long-established gay bars are just blocks away. However, others seemed to applaud the bakery's stand, traveling long distances for pastries. "We had people from all over — from Brownsburg and Lafayette," 15 and 60 miles away, said Randy McGath, 48. The ensuing sales spike lasted three or four months. But McGath insisted sales never dipped below their pre-flap levels. McGath said he and his wife, who attend a Baptist church, were well aware of the neighborhood's gay culture when they opened their bakery there in 2012. They served the gay community gladly for several years but "just didn't want to be party to a commitment ceremony" because such an event reflected "a commitment to sin." Despite McGath's views his discourse remained civil even in talks with his most virulent critic, the lone picketer Todd Fuqua, both he and Fuqua said. "There was zero hate here," said McGath, who is now selling recreational vehicles. "We were just trying to be right with our God. I was able to speak to many homosexuals in the community and to speak our opinion and have a civil conversation. I'm still in touch with some."


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Canadian Conservative-Dominated Senate Committee Effectively Kills Bill Adding Gender Identity To Both Criminal Code And Human Rights Acts, Without Warning Kentucky Senate Education Committee Approves Bill That Limits Rights Of Transgender Students, British Trial Suggests Gay Men At Risk For HIV Who Took Daily Dose Of Gilead AIDS Drug Reduced Risk Of Infection By 86-Percent, Scottish Gay Couple Considering Legal Action After They Claim Luxury Hotel Refused To Host Wedding, Mississippi Lawsuit Settled Over Allegations Gay Student Routinely Bullied, Colorado House Committee Advances Bill Prohibiting Practice Of Gay Conversion Therapy On Minors, Former Salt Lake City Police Officer Who Refused To Ride In Front Of 2014 Pride Parade Claims Religious Liberties Violated By Offering Bizarre Analogies, Dallas Police And Firefighters Afforded Survivor Benefits To Same Sex Couples, Judge Who Allowed First Same Sex Marriage In Texas Target Of Judicial Conduct Complaint, North Carolina Bill Allowing Court Officials To Opt Out Of Same Sex Marriage Duties Clears Senate

In Canada, transgender people will have to wait at least another year for stronger legal protections after a Conservative-dominated Senate committee effectively killed a bill adding “gender identity” to both the Criminal Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act, according to its sponsor. The Globe and Mail reports that the legal and constitutional affairs committee voted in favour of several amendments to Bill C-279 Wednesday that would need further approval from the House of Commons. The House is unlikely to debate the bill again before it breaks for summer and then dissolves for a federal election scheduled this fall, according to its author, Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca NDP MP Randall Garrison. “It does look like the death of the bill,” Mr. Garrison said from Ottawa Wednesday. “I can’t understand why the Conservative leadership of the Senate would allow this small group of senators to derail the bill since the Senate twice voted, in principle, in favour of the bill.” Mr. Garrison said, on one level, the public debate generated by his bill has had a positive impact, noting six provinces – Ontario, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan – have adopted similar human-rights codes since he first introduced it in the House of Commons The bill was passed by MPs on March 20, 2013, with the support of 18 Conservative MPs. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the majority of Conservatives voted against it, while the NDP, Liberal, Bloc Québécois and Green Party MPs who cast votes unanimously supported it. The bill moved to the Senate a day later, but has since languished thanks largely to summer recess and Mr. Harper’s prorogation of Parliament. Conservatives have been divided on whether to add gender as a basis for hate crime protection. C-279 would add gender identity as a prohibited ground for discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act, and would also add it to the list of distinguishing characteristics of “identifiable groups” protected by hate speech provisions in the Criminal Code. Mr. Garrison said he would likely vote against the amended bill if it miraculously gets back into the House before the summer break, particularly because of an amendment introduced by Conservative Senator Don Plett that would bar transgender people from entering single-sex washrooms. In committee, Mr. Plett said the amendment would protect the “most vulnerable women” by barring “biological males” from entering female facilities like bathrooms, change rooms, prisons and crisis centres – where seeing a man could be traumatic. Senator Grant Mitchell objected to Mr. Plett’s argument, saying that it would stigmatize law-abiding transgender people and hold them accountable for the “very, very long shot” that someone posing as another gender would gain entry to a single-sex facility to prey on someone else. Mr. Garrison said Plett’s amendment “is contradictory to the whole purpose of the bill and it illustrates the transphobia that the bill is designed to fight.” Mr. Plett’s office said he was not available for comment after the committee adjourned. Laura Track, staff counsel with the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said the further delay to C-279 “sends a message to trans communities in Canada that their equality, their dignity and their right to protection from discrimination matter less than the rights of non-transgender Canadians.” The protections afforded by the bill are urgently needed, given the high rate of stigma, harassment, discrimination and violence many transgender Canadians still face, she added. The Senate could still vote down the committee’s amendments and pass it into law, but that is unlikely and there is no timetable for its third reading, according to Mr. Garrison. “I’ll have to get re-elected to reintroduce it again,” Mr. Garrison said. “This will pass, this will be law in Canada.”

In Kentucky, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports that without providing much notice, the Senate Education Committee on Monday night revisited a bill that would require transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their biological sex or to seek special accommodations, such as a unisex bathroom. The bill failed to get out of committee last Thursday because it did not have the necessary seven votes to be sent to the full Senate. But the panel approved Senate Bill 76 on an 8-1 vote on Monday night, minutes after Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) told reporters he didn't know whether the bill was on the committee's agenda. Since Friday, the committee had posted its agenda for Monday as "pending." Usually, a committee will list the bills it is going to consider on its agenda so the public will know what it is doing. The Republican-led Senate is expected to approve SB 76 and send it to the Democratic-controlled House. House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D-Prestonsburg) said Monday night that the House "would look at it" but that he had not thought much about it. Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign, said the Senate was "prioritizing discrimination." He called the panel's actions "ludicrous, willful, and mean-spirited" and contended the bill violated federal laws governing equal treatment of male and female students. He said he did not know the committee would revisit the bill, which is backed by The Family Foundation of Kentucky, until "about 30 seconds before they did it. No agenda of bills was ever posted for public consideration." Hartman noted that two members were absent from Thursday's committee meeting and three members were not present Monday, including Democrat Gerald Neal and Republican Julie Raque Adams, both of Louisville. They voted against the bill on Thursday. Senate Education Committee chairman Mike Wilson (R-Bowling Green) said he listed the committee's agenda as pending "because we had several House bills that were up in the air. We really didn't know what all would be considered." Told that Stivers said he didn't even know whether the committee would take up SB 76 on Monday night, Wilson said, "Well, that's just one of those things. But this was not a rush job. We heard from opponents of the bill last week, and some members wanted to hear from other students." Testifying against the bill Monday were David Kelty and his daughter Christina Kelty, a sophomore at Louisville Atherton High School. They said some students did not feel comfortable going to the bathroom with a transgender student. "You are putting the rights of transgender students above the rights of other students" said Christina Kelty. That prompted Sen. Reginald Thomas (D-Lexington) to say that at one time in America's history, some parents did not want their children in the bathroom with students of a different color. "I don't think that's the same," David Kelty responded. The bill stems from a controversy last year at Atherton, where a transgender student who was born male identified as a female and wanted to use the girls' bathrooms and locker rooms. A controversy arose, and the school eventually adopted a policy of letting students use bathrooms based on their gender identity. The decision was backed by the school's site-based council and a Jefferson County Public Schools appeals committee. The sponsor of the bill, Sen. C.B. Embry Jr. (R-Morgantown) said his measure allows all students to have their privacy. Henry Brousseau, a 16-year-old transgender student at Louisville Collegiate School, and his mother, Dr. Karen Berg, testified at last week's committee meeting but not at Monday's. Brousseau told the committee that he has identified himself as a male for three years but has been forced to use girls' bathrooms at times. Brousseau said Monday he was "extremely disappointed" by the committee's vote. His mother said they did not know the committee would revisit the bill Monday. "We were just told they sometimes do things like this," Berg said.

Reuters reports that gay men at high risk of HIV who took a daily dose of a Gilead AIDS drug as a preventative measure cut their risk of infection by 86-percent, according to results of a British trial released on Tuesday. Researchers who conducted the trial of so-called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) said the results offer real hope of reversing the HIV epidemic among men who have sex with men, one of the highest risk groups. "These results ... show PrEP is highly effective at preventing HIV infection in the real world," said Sheena McCormack, a professor of clinical epidemiology at University College London and the study's lead investigator. PrEP involves people who do not have HIV but who are at high risk of becoming infected and seek to protect themselves by taking a single pill, usually a combination of two antiretrovirals, every day. Some 35.3 million people worldwide have HIV. AIDS experts estimate that globally, new HIV infections among gay men could by reduced by 20 to 25 percent through PrEP -- averting up to a million new infections in this group over 10 years. The drug used in the UK trial -- Gilead's anti-retroviral Truvada -- was known to reduce new HIV infections in placebo-controlled trials, but researchers wanted to see if similar success could be achieved in a "real world" context. Some 545 men were enrolled at 13 sexual health clinics across England and randomized to receive PrEP immediately or after a period of 12 months, allowing researchers to compare those on PrEP versus those not yet on PrEP. The results, presented on Tuesday at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Seattle in the United States, showed there were 22 HIV infections among participants in the first year -- three in the immediate group and 19 in the deferred group. The researchers said the 86-percent protection is the best reported from a randomized controlled PrEP trial to date. In a second PrEP trial also presented at CROI, French researchers enrolled 450 high-risk gay men and gave half a placebo and asked the others to take four tablets of the AIDS drugs tenofovir and emtricitabine, two before and two after sex. Their results showed men in the active pill group were also 86-percent less likely to become infected with HIV. Michel Sidibe, executive director of the United Nations AIDS agency UNAIDS said these "timely and important" findings would "advance global efforts to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030," adding that, "These new results are a significant breakthrough in advancing efforts to provide effective HIV prevention options."

In Ireland, claims that same sex couples die younger, are more prone to cancer, depression, and suicide, as well as being more likely to abuse and injure children have been defended by the Alliance for the Defence of the Family and Marriage (Adfam). The claims are made in a leaflet being distributed in advance of the marriage equality referendum next May. The group has also defended its claim that same sex marriage “is a confidence trick” which “tends to be very short-lived, and promiscuous” and that “frequently, same sex pairs don’t even live together.”
A spokesperson repeated the assertion that voting for same sex marriage “is like voting for Islamic State-style sharia law.
It is giving in to a very small minority. In this case, the very small minority will dictate what marriage means. Persecution of Christians surely will follow, and it will become a crime to teach and preach Christian morality.This has already happened elsewhere.” Speaking to The Irish Times, Séamas de Barra said the claims are backed up by research undertaken in Denmark where civil partnerships were legalized in 1989. Mr de Barra, is secretary and treasurer of the alliance, said claims in the leaflet are also supported by research undertaken by Dutch psychologist Dr Gerard van den Aardweg. The alliance’s chairman is Richard Greene of the Christian Solidarity Party. The leaflet claims “sexual abuse is disproportionately homosexual in nature” and says the sexual abuse of children and adolescents will double if same sex marriage is accepted, as sex abusers will use marriage and adoption rights to gain access to victims.

In Scotland, a gay couple are considering taking legal action after a luxury hotel on Loch Lomond allegedly refused to consider hosting their wedding because of their sexual orientation. John and Stephen Devaney, from Baillieston in Glasgow, said the owner of the Loch Lomond Waterfront, Suzanne Cottam, “ushered us out” after they said they were looking for a wedding venue. Cottam declined requests for an interview but the hotel released a statement firmly denying the Devaneys’ allegations, describing them as false and “seriously defamatory” claims that had led to a surge in abusive calls to the hotel. In the latest row about alleged homophobia in the hotel trade, John Devaney told the Daily Record: “She couldn’t hide her disgust. She told me: ‘We can’t allow people like you in here,’ and said gay marriage was against her beliefs. “I told her she was entitled to her beliefs but gay marriage was now legal. She just said she was the owner so she could say and do as she liked. She then told us marriage should be between one man and one woman only – not two men like us, or two women. The woman just ushered us out, as her wedding planner stood there utterly embarrassed and in disbelief.” However, the hotel said: “Suzanne Cottam did not say the words attributed to her, nor would she do so because of her Christian faith and her belief in the dignity of all people. Due to the hysterical nature of the reporting, we have been inundated with foul, abusive and sometimes threatening messages. Suzanne has an independent witness who was present throughout the conversation and can back up her version of events. As a result of the serious defamatory comments which have been made and published, we are taking legal advice as to what remedies may be available to us. We will be making no further comment on this matter at present.” John Devaney, speaking to the Guardian, insisted his account of the conversation with Cottam was entirely accurate. He said the independent witness cited in the hotel’s statement was in fact the wedding planner employed by the hotel. Confirming he and his partner were now considering taking the hotel to court, Devaney said Cottam’s denials were “aggravating and more frustrating. Yes, she did say it and I [Devaney] would stand up in a court of law and say it.” Devaney said he and Stephen have been in a civil partnership since 2006, in a relationship for more than 17 years and run a party planning consultancy. He added that they were intending to get married under Scotland’s new gay marriage legislation in May. The five-star venue on the eastern shore of the loch, which specialises in self-catering chalets and cabins, boasts that it is one of the area’s most sought-after wedding venues. Its website states: “Loch Lomond Waterfront is a beautiful and captivating setting for couples looking for a truly unique wedding venue. Our exclusive private beach sets us apart from others, providing the most atmospheric, yet intimate setting for your special wedding day.” The Devaneys have not responded to further interview requests, but gay rights groups said that if the couple’s allegations were upheld in court, the hotel could be found in breach of anti-discrimination legislation. Colin Macfarlane, the director of Stonewall Scotland, said: “If proven, this alleged incident would be a blatant and hurtful act of discrimination. It is also against the law as no business is allowed to withhold its services to people on the grounds of sexual orientation. The couple would be well within their rights to take Loch Lomond Waterfront to court should they choose to do so. However, the damage could already be done for the resort if lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, their friends and their families felt that their custom is not welcome.” In one of the best-known cases where a hotel has discriminated against gay customers, hoteliers Peter and Hazel Bull were ordered to pay £3,600 in compensation after refusing to allow Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy to share a double room at their hotel in Cornwall.

In Mississippi, according to the Clarion-Ledger, the Southern Poverty Law Center has announced a settlement of its federal lawsuit alleging that gay students were routinely bullied in a south Mississippi school district. In a statement Wednesday, the law center says the Moss Point School District has agreed to adopt and implement new anti-bullying and discrimination policies and procedures, as well as equal educational opportunity policies to prohibit bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity. SPLC staff attorney Anjali Nair says complaints by students, parents and guardians will now quickly be brought to the attention of teachers and administrators. The SPLC sued the district in December 2013 on behalf of Destin Holmes, now 18, but it also said other gay and transgender students, or those who are perceived to be, were subjected to mistreatment.

In Colorado, proponents and opponents of a ban on "efforts that seek to change an individual's sexual orientation" spoke to a packed committee room Tuesday presenting testimony on this contentious issue. The house public health and human services committee passed a bill today to ban therapists from performing "conversion therapy" on children. If passed, Colorado would become the third state to ban conversion therapy following California and New Jersey. The bans were challenged and upheld by the courts in both states. The District of Columbia has a similar law. Bill supporters cite several studies showing that not only is conversion therapy ineffective, but results in long-term damage to individuals including increased rates of suicide attempts, depression, self-stigma, and substance abuse. Eleven Colorado health associations including Children's Hospital Colorado and the Colorado Psychological Association support the HB15-1175 and 11 national associations oppose conversion therapy on minors including the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Medical Association. Proponents of conversion therapy argue that banning the practice infringes upon their freedom of speech and religious rights. Bill sponsor Rep. Paul Rosenthal (D-Denver) said it was not his intention to prohibit spiritual guidance from being provided for homosexuality. Opponents of his bill argued that's exactly what it would do. Bishop John Brannon, who is working on Ph.D in Marriage and Family counseling, said he felt he could no longer provide spiritual guidance for what he referred to as "same sex attraction" under this bill. Ronne Hines, program director for the Department of Regulatory Affairs, was able to clarify that the Colorado Mental Health Profession Act provides an exemption for spiritual counselors. Therefore, she explained, the provisions in this bill would not apply to pastors providing religious guidance. However, it remained unclear as to whether a religious leader, who was also a registered or licensed therapist, would be held under the provisions of this law while performing religious counselling. The bill now moves on to the Democrat-controlled house where it is likely to pass. It will face a more difficult journey in the senate where Republicans hold the majority.

A former Salt Lake City police officer who was put on leave and later resigned after he objected to riding in the motorcycle brigade at the front of last year's gay pride parade is speaking out against what he believes was a violation of his religious liberties. Eric Moutsos, 33, said Wednesday that he was unfairly branded a bigot despite simply asking to swap roles and work a different part of the parade in June 2014. Moutsos, a Mormon, said he felt uncomfortable doing what he considered celebratory circles with other motorcycles leading the parade because of his religious views. But he said he never refused to work the parade. "It looks like we and I are in support of this parade," Moutsos said he told superiors about being in the motor brigade. "I said I would feel the same way if this was an abortion parade. I would feel the same way if it was a marijuana parade." In an interview with the Associated Press, Moutsos said he's coming out with his story now to be a voice in a national debate about how to safeguard religious beliefs while protecting LGBT rights. Salt Lake Police Chief Chris Burbank said he stands behind his decision to put Moutsos on leave, saying he will not tolerate officers allowing personal biases to interfere with their work. "It has nothing to do with religious freedom, that has to do with the hatred of those individuals and what the parade stands for, which is about unity and coming together," Burbanks said. "How can I then send that officer out to a family fight that involves a gay couple or a lesbian walking down the street?" Moutsos said he felt compelled to come forward with his story after months of silence after he listened to leaders with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announce a campaign last month calling for new laws that protect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination while also protecting people who assert their religious beliefs. Moutsos issued a six-page statement through his attorney Monday that didn't have his name. But he decided to reveal his identity in an interview he gave to the Deseret News and KSL-TV that came out Tuesday night. "It is unquestionably my duty as a police officer to protect everyone's right to hold a parade or other event, but is it also my duty to celebrate everyone's parade?" Moutsos wrote in the statement. Several state legislatures, including Utah, are considering anti-LGBT discrimination laws alongside measures to safeguard religious liberties. Moutsos hasn't been invited to talk to lawmakers, but he said he would testify if asked. "We can 100-percent disagree and still 100-percent love," Moutsos said. "I hate that we're labeled in this way that is so divisive." Moutsos' life changed dramatically in the days leading up to last summer's gay pride parade. He had been talking with his bosses about resolving his objections while still helping out during the parade when he was informed that he was being put on leave for discrimination — a move that shocked him. The story became public after police issued a news release saying an unnamed officer had been put on leave for refusing the gay pride parade assignment. The department said it does not tolerate bias and bigotry, and it does not allow personal beliefs to enter into whether an officer will accept an assignment.

In Texas, by a unanimous vote Wednesday, the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System board of directors voted to extend survivor benefits to same sex couples, a move met with hugs of joy and applause by those who had fought so hard for it. In the end, it was the addition of just four words: "And any other state." With those words, gay Dallas police officers and firefighters gained the right to same sex survivor benefits. It applies to couples legally married in other states. "For us, this was a huge deal, because we wanted the peace of mind that any other officers have that their families are taken care of," said Dallas police Officer Monica Cordova. The Dallas Police and Fire Pension System board on Tuesday agreed that the partners of same sex couples should be entitled to the same benefits as married couples. The board's vote came during a special meeting of the pension board. City Council member Philip Kingston made the motion, with Council colleague Tennell Atkins seconding the motion. "Bad guys and fires just do not care if you're gay or straight," Kingston said after the vote. "We need to make sure that we recognize that, and treat them equally." In a statement, board chairman George Tomasovic said the decision simply was the "right thing to do," adding that, "It ensures the DPFP remains in compliance with federal law, but more importantly, it resolves a long-standing issue of fairness that has frustrated many of our members ... The board's past reluctance to extend same sex benefits was based solely on legal issues. Fortunately, recent developments have led the board to believe we can provide LGBT members the benefits they deserve without exposing DPFP to undue legal liabilities." Wednesday's vote was the culmination of months of wrangling and often-contentious debate. Cordova and several other police officers began pushing the issue last October when they sought to put it on the ballot for a membership vote. Last year, in a 7-5 vote, the board voted to not to put the same sex measure it the November ballot, saying they needed more time to educate the membership. Cordova and others kept pushing, attended nearly every meeting, and made their voices heard. The pressure mounted earlier this month as the Employees' Retirement Fund of the City of Dallas voted to extend benefits to same sex couples. That same week, the Police and Fire Pension System board argued about the issue for hours as public safety personnel in the audience angrily demanded action. Council members Kingston, Lee Kleinman and Scott Griggs argued for immediately extending benefits to same sex partners. Other members of the board wanted to wait until the Supreme Court decides the issue. The board ultimately voted to ask the Dallas City Attorney's office for an opinion, subject to a vote by the membership. In that legal opinion, City Attorney Warren Ernst wrote that "federal law requires the (Dallas Police and Fire Pension) fund to provide joint and survivor benefits to spouses of members, regardless of the gender of the member and her or his spouse." Ernst cited recent court rulings that concluded states may not deny equal protection to same sex couples. He concluded that a lawsuit "alleging a violation of the member's constitutional rights of equal protection and due process under the U.S. Constitution would likely be successful." After the meeting, Atkins asked, "It's kind of like, if you earn a benefit, why would you take a benefit away from someone?" Kleinman said it was ultimately not necessary to seek a vote of the membership, because the pension plan "does say that if we are complying with federal law, the board can make amendments to the plan without going to the members." Cordova and the others said they were surprised and pleased by the unanimous vote. "This is about our family, and it was great to see the support of our larger family," Cordova said. "We had a lot of support from our co-workers, and that was great to see and finally put and an end to this." Cordova and her police officer spouse were legally married in Massachusetts. She said the ruling it gives their whole family a little bit of extra financial security. She submitted a copy of her marriage certificate to the city's personnel department on Wednesday. "I'm happy for my mom that she gets her equal rights," said the officer's son, 14-year-old Diego Cordova, who attended the meeting with her.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the judge that allowed Texas' first same sex marriage to go forward is the target of a judicial conduct complaint, the latest volley in the state's attempts to call the historic union into question. "This judge deliberately violated statutory law and this is unacceptable," Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R-Arglington) said after confirming he had filed a complaint against state District Judge David Wahlberg with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. "This complaint and any action, which the legislature decides to take, is about ensuring that our judicial system respects the laws of our state and respects the separation of powers. Judge Wahlberg allowed his personal views to dictate his action and ignored state law to accomplish his desired outcome." Requests for comment from Judge Wahlberg's were not immediately returned. A court reporter confirmed he was out of his Austin office this week. On February 19, Wahlberg made Lone Star State history when he allowed Suzanne Bryant and Sarah Goodfriend of Austin to wed by court order in what was hailed at Texas' first legal gay marriage. Wahlberg issued the order just for this couple, he said, because of "the severity and uncertainty of Plaintiff Goodfriend's health condition." Goodfriend, 58, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last year. Immediately after Judge Wahlberg issued the order, Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir signed the couple's marriage license and they were wed outside of the clerk's offices by their rabbi. The next day, Attorney General Ken Paxton asked the state Supreme Court to declare the license null and void. Reached for comment Wednesday, DeBeauvoir stood by the license's legality and was not surprised by the complaint. "I do believe the judge acted in good faith and in a fully legal way, and I believe the court order that I followed was a legal court order," said DeBeauvoir. Tinderholt's complaint was filed February 19. In it, he cites a Texas law that requires the attorney general to be notified when anyone "files a petition, motion, or other pleading challenging the constitutionality of a statute of this state." It is not clear what penalty Wahlberg could be facing. The commission has the power to investigate, sanction and suspend judges. Suspensions can only be ordered when a judge is indicted of a felony offense or misdeameanor of judicial misconduct. In 2014, 93 judges were disciplined or issued a letter of caution out of a total 1,075 complaints. Nearly one-quarter of those resulted in public disciplinary actions, including three suspensions and six resignations.

An update on a previous post: In North Carolina, some court officials could opt out of marriage duties — including same sex weddings — under legislation given state Senate approval Wednesday following a debate weighing centuries-old religious liberties with newly-expanded rights to marry. The bill gives magistrates and workers in register of deeds offices the ability to remove themselves from working on marriages because of religious objections — presumably for their opposition to gay marriage. At least a half-dozen other states are considering similar exemptions, according to the Human Rights Campaign, which supports gay marriage. The measure, now headed to the House, was filed after federal judges in October overturned North Carolina's same sex marriage ban. That prohibition was added to the state Constitution in a 2012 referendum. A handful of magistrates resigned as the state court system told them they were obligated to carry out all marriages. A majority of senators rejected arguments that the exemptions for "sincerely held religious objection" amounts to discrimination of gay and lesbian couples. All gay couples will still be able to get married, said Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) the bill's chief sponsor. But religious belief also must be honored, he said. "We're not saying that the First Amendment outweighs any other rights that exist," Berger said, but "there should be an accommodation when there is a conflict between rights." Magistrates and assistant and deputy registers of deeds who bring religious objections would have to stop marriage duties for all comers for at least six months. The elected register of deeds and the chief District Court judge for each county would fill in to carry out the duties if necessary. Gay rights groups and several lawmakers said the General Assembly are seeking to make gay couples second-class citizens. "It's distasteful. It's offensive and its bad public policy," said Sen. Floyd McKissick (D-Durham). The rationale suggested by the bill could lead to other government employees seeking religious exemptions, according to Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake. For example, Stein said, a Revenue Department worker may feel uneasy reviewing the tax return of a same sex couple filing jointly based on religious belief, or a North Carolina Zoo employee may seek to refuse to sell a family pass to a family led by same sex parents. "We don't have the right to pick and choose who we serve for the public," Stein said. "It's public services, not selective services." Sen. Jeff Jackson (D-Mecklenburg) said the language would be struck down in court because it was discriminatory, and others suggested the bill's similarities to past attempts at justifying racial bias. Wednesday's 32-16 vote was largely along party lines, with Republicans present voting yes and Democrats voting no, save for two on each side. The Republicans voting no were Sens. John Alexander of Wake County and Jeff Tarte of Mecklenburg County. Sen. Ben Clark of Hoke County, who with Sen. Joel Ford of Mecklenburg County were the two Democrats voting yes, said on the floor the measure was a fair and reasonable compromise. "I know discrimination when I see it," said Clark, who is black and recalled times of feeling racial bias. "This is not discrimination." The bill also requires each county to provide at least 10 hours of time and three days a week for marriages to be performed. Rep. Paul Stam (R-Wake) the House's No. 2 leader, backs the recusal idea.