Friday, April 18, 2014

Ontario French-Language Catholic High School Denies Student Claim Of Homophobia, Two Ugandan Men Will Stand Trial Accused Of Homosexuality In May In First Case Under New Anti-Gay Law, Jessica Dutro Receives Life Sentence For Murdering 4-Year-Old Son She Said "Was Walking And Talking Gay," Latta South Carolina Mayor Fires Lesbian Police Chief Because Of Her Sexual Orientation, Norwalk Community College Investigates Anti-Gay Slur, Dustin Lance Black Claims Alma Mater Pasadena City College Uninvited Him As Commencement Speaker Because Of 2009 Bareback Internet Incident, Opponents Of California Law Protecting Transgender Students From Discrimination Again Foiled In Attempt To Repeal Legislation

In Canada, a French-language Catholic school board denies a gay student's allegation there is systemic homophobia at a Mississauga high school. The board responded Wednesday to a complaint filed to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal in February by Christopher Karas, a Grade 12 student at École secondaire catholique Sainte-Famille, who claims he has been repeatedly denigrated by teachers and administration for being gay. "The complaint is unfounded, " said a spokesperson for the Conseil scolaire de district catholique Centre-Sud which covers Ontario's south-central region. "There was no discrimination based on sexual orientation, nor were there discriminatory practices, " Mikale-André Joly said in a news release. "There was no violation of the Human Rights Code." Joly stated the board met its Education Act obligations to promote a positive school environment and prevent any intimidation or discrimination. The school board would not release a copy of its submission to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, nor would the tribunal itself. Both cited privacy concerns. Responding to the school board's statements on Thursday, Karas said the situation has devolved into "he said, she said," adding that, "They just said these teachers had not done what I said they did, those incidents never happened. I was hoping they would try to find a way to meet everyone's interests, but that's not what's happening here." Karas said his problems began in Grade 10 during a school field trip to Ottawa. Several boys said they didn't want to bunk with him because of his sexuality, so the teacher relocated him. He brought up the incident with the teacher and was told "nothing further could be done." In Grade 11, Karas said, a religion teacher taught that "gay people should not be permitted to adopt." And in a psychology class about family structures another teacher said "homosexual couples are not recognized" as families under Catholic doctrine. In his final year, Karas was forced to read Doric Germain's Poison, a novel about a family divided by alcoholism. In one passage a father comes home to find his son "pants down with another boy." The father tells the son: "I will not tolerate a f—t in my house." And then he beats his son. Karas not only objected to the language of the novel, but also that the teacher made no attempt to explain how the beating was morally wrong. In his submission to the rights tribunal, Karas said he suggested the school add books with more gay-positive representations. According to the board's news release, no high school staff "used discriminatory or homophobic language in the classroom" and they did everything possible to offer support and intervene in cases of discriminatory language or conduct used by other students. It also said Poison complies with the Ontario curriculum and contains no hate literature. "Neither the book nor the evaluations of it are in any way intended to encourage acceptance of a homophobic message." Karas was also embroiled in a dispute with the school late last year after he was prevented from putting up posters that featured a quote by Harvey Milk, an openly gay San Francisco city politician. He put up 10 posters across the school anyway. Within a day, they were taken down. The board said the posters were removed for lack of support from members of Open Doors, a student group which discusses issues of sexuality and identity, and due to a breach of procedures. Karas has read a copy of the board's defence and says it leaves out many crucial details, such as a letter signed by every student leader of Open Doors supporting the Harvey Milk posters. In a statement Thursday, the school administration took responsibility for removing the posters, saying Karas overstepped an approval process. As for Karas's letter of support, a school board spokesperson said, "there are certain questions as to the content of this letter, its intent and how the signatures were solicited." In his human rights complaint, Karas is seeking $25,000 compensation, a letter of apology and public interest remedies including the removal of Poison from the curriculum, gender-neutral washrooms and sensitivity training for all teachers and students. He has hired a lawyer and plans to stay on top of the case after he graduates in June. "For me it's important for future students to have a safe space at school."

In Uganda, two men will go on trial next month accused of homosexuality, the first people to be charged since a controversial new anti-gay law was passed. Prosecutors said on Wednesday that they had sufficient evidence against Kim Mukisa and Jackson Mukasa, who denied the charges when they first appeared in court earlier this year. They have been held in Luziro prison in Kampala since December. Mukisa, 24, a businessman, was charged with "having sexual knowledge of a person against the order of nature" and Mukasa, 19, with permitting a person to have sexual knowledge of him against the order of nature. They are the first Ugandans to face trial on homosexuality charges, with an earlier case collapsing before it reached court and the majority of those arrested paying stiff fines to avoid prison. Uganda's president Yoweri Museveni signed the anti-gay law in February. It punishes first-time offenders with 14 years in jail and allows life imprisonment as the penalty for acts of "aggravated homosexuality." Since the law was passed several donors have cut aid to Uganda, while others have diverted development support to projects that promote human rights. Mukisa and Mukasa, however, have been charged under the 1950 Penal Code Act, which also prescribes life imprisonment if a person is found guilty of homosexual acts. They are expected to defend themselves during the trial, which is scheduled to start on May 7.

In Oregon, for her 4-year-old son’s death, Jessica Dutro received a life sentence Friday. She will serve 25 years before she gets her first chance at parole. In half that time, her boyfriend, Brian Canady, will have been released from prison for his role in the child’s killing. The Oregonian reports that prosecutors say the pair committed a deadly assault on Zachary Dutro-Boggess in a Tigard homeless shelter, then watched as his health deteriorated. They called for help only when he was beyond saving. Emergency crews took the unresponsive boy to a Portland hospital August 14, 2012, the day after his 4th birthday. He was taken off life support two days later. Washington County jurors convicted Dutro of murder and second-degree assault earlier this month. Canady pleaded guilty to first-degree assault and second-degree manslaughter in March. They were both sentenced Friday afternoon. Authorities say the pair subjected Zachary, his older sister and one of his brothers to a pattern of abuse. When Zachary arrived at the hospital his brother, then 3, had five broken ribs and bruises all over his body. His then 7-year-old sister was also covered in bruises. She eventually disclosed that Dutro and Canady gave the children “lickins.” The girl, who testified against Dutro at trial, told investigators she witnessed the couple’s fatal attack on Zachary. Dutro, 25, and Canady, 24, have one son together. Doctors did not find evidence of abuse on the child, who was still a baby when Zachary died. On Friday, prosecutors put up a poster-sized picture of the smiling, surviving siblings – now ages 8, 4 and 2 – in the courtroom. Canady’s eyes froze on the image when he came into the room Friday afternoon. He sat with his attorneys in the jury box for the duration of the hearing. Canady watched Dutro as she entered and took her seat with her lawyers at the defense table. Both defendants were in jail scrubs and handcuffs. Both declined to speak. Dutro’s parents and sisters, who now care for her children, wrote a statement, which prosecutor Dustin Staten read during the hearing. In Dutro’s and Canady’s care, the family wrote, the children were ruled by violence and lacked any sense of joy. “These four beautiful children lived every day in fear. Fear of wondering if they would be beat or not,” the relatives wrote. When Zachary died and his siblings began living with their grandparents, the children showed clear signs of neglect, the family said. The two youngest didn’t move or play like children their age. All three were behind in their physical, social and educational development. Over time, the family wrote, they have begun to catch up. Zachary’s older sister is a sweet, caring third-grader, Dutro’s family said. His younger brother, now 4, “rarely ever stops talking” and “plays joyfully with his many friends.” His baby brother, now 2, learned "on fast-forward" to hold himself up, crawl and walk. The family wants to draw attention to child abuse and neglect in Zachary’s memory. “His short life will always be cherished, never forgotten,” they wrote. Dutro’s sentence was mandated by Measure 11. Senior Deputy District Attorney Megan Johnson said there was no sentence appropriate for the level of harm and devastation that Dutro had caused. Judge Don Letourneau kept his comments brief. “Parents are supposed to protect their kids,” Letourneau told Dutro. “And you were the most dangerous thing in your kids’ lives.” Letourneau told her she’d failed to learn from her prior assault conviction in Hawaii and the court-ordered parenting classes she’d taken there. “And then you made an 8-year-old come here and testify in front of jury when you had no triable case,” he said. “That is low.” Canady’s sentence was determined as part of a plea agreement. Prosecutors originally charged both defendants with Zachary’s murder. The plea offer for Canady came after the judge ruled his statements inadmissible, prosecutors said last month. Dutro was escorted out of the courtroom in tears before Canady was sentenced. Letourneau told Canady he was a “close second” to Dutro in dangerousness to the children. “That’s a very slim distinction,” the judge said.

In South Carolina, the police chief of the Dillon County town of Latta has been fired and she says it is because she is gay. An estimated 100 people attended a special town council meeting Thursday, hoping to be heard on the firing of Crystal Moore. But Mayor Earl Bullard said the firing was not on the agenda. Bullard fired Moore on Tuesday and has refused to say why because it's a personnel matter. Moore said she has been with the Latta Police since 1989. She said she has never been written up, and that she was shocked to see seven write-ups in one day. She says she did not want to sign off on the write-ups until she spoke with an attorney. That's when Mayor Bullard fired her, and she said she feels that it has something to do with her sexual orientation. "I've always worked hard, I've always treated everyone fairly," Moore said. "I have those morals and values instilled in me, and it's sad that in this day and time that because of who I love I can't carry them on my insurance or we don't have the same equal rights as everybody else."

In Connecticut, officials at Norwalk Community College are investigating an anti-gay slur that was written on a bathroom wall. The slur was discovered on the wall of a second-floor bathroom in the West Campus building, according to a notice sent out by NCC President David Levinson. "This kind of behaviour will not be tolerated and the person(s) responsible will be subject to disciplinary and legal action," Levinson wrote. "I would like to remind everyone that a bias incident of this kind is a criminal offense and a hate crime." A hate crime is defined by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a criminal offense "motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender's bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin." Levinson wrote that, "Norwalk Community College is a diverse and welcoming community. The college upholds the Board of Regent's Non-Discrimination Policy. If you see something that violates this policy, say something." Levinson was not available for additional comment Wednesday, April 16. The incident is currently being investigated by campus security.

In California, Oscar-winning screenwriter, actor and LGBT rights activist Dustin Lance Black has accused Pasadena City College administrators of rescinding and invitation for him to be the commencement speaker because of a scandal involving private photos released on the Internet of Black and a former partner. Black, who graduated from PCC in 1994, posted a letter to PCC students on his blog Friday saying he was disappointed and angered by the college’s decision, saying he had accepted the invitation to speak more than a month ago. “I confirmed the invitation, booked the international flights to get back to Southern California, canceled work and turned down paid invitations. This invitation was that meaningful to me,” Black wrote. “This morning, I woke up to the headline that I have been uninvited to speak at my Alma Mater. The reasoning: that I was involved in a ‘scandal’ in 2009 regarding extremely personal photographs that were put up on internet gossip sites of me and my ex-boyfriend.” Black concluded the letter with a request that PCC students speak out on his behalf about a decision by college administrators he claims was discriminatory. “As PCC Administrators attempt to shame me, they are casting a shadow over all LGBT students at PCC,” Black said. “They are sending the message that LGBT students are to be held to a different standard, that there is something inherently shameful about who we are and how we love, and that no matter what we accomplish in our lives, we will never be worthy of PCC’s praise.” The college declined to comment on the controversy. “Pasadena City College is busy today assembling facts on the chain of events connected with the choice by the College of a commencement speaker,” PCC spokesperson Valerie Wardlaw posted in a statement on the college’s website Friday. “The College will provide a statement on Monday, April 21, 2014 of what it has learned. It would be inappropriate to comment further on this subject until this review has been conducted.” PCC announced this week that it had selected Pasadena Public Health Director Eric Walsh as the graduation speaker, with no mention of an invitation to Black. However, in a PCC Board of Trustees meeting on April 2, Vice President of Academic Affairs Robert Bell said that all but two of the people on the board’s pre-approved list of nominees had declined the invitation. He said he doubted that the final two, Magic Johnson and California Supreme Court Justice Joyce Kennard, would likely be unavailable, so the college reached out to Walsh instead. When questioned by board members why two invitations were extended at once, Bell blamed a convoluted college procedure for commencement. Board Member Jeannette Mann pointed to the confusion as a reason that the board planned to revise the policy for next year. At the meeting, Student Trustee Simon Fraser questioned Bell’s statement, saying he knew of a nominee that had already accepted the invitation to speak. “Perhaps if we can get some clarity, I’m getting confused,” Fraser said at the meeting. “I was sort of party to this process and one of the candidates from the original list accepted weeks ago and that was communicated through the interim dean.” Bell did not address Fraser’s question and deferred to PCC President Mark Rocha, who said that Bell had followed the college process in selecting a speaker. But Board President Anthony Fellow told the PCC Courier that he didn’t want Black to speak at graduation because of the sexual photos released online, which Black said were taken from his ex-boyfriend and posted without consent. “With the porno professor and the sex scandals we’ve had on campus this last year, it just didn’t seem like the right time for Mr. Black to be the speaker,” Board President Anthony Fellow told the student newspaper. “We’ll be on the radio and on television. We just don’t want to give PCC a bad name.” Fellow did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.

Also in California, a judge in Sacramento has ruled that elections officials in 30 California counties do not have to turn over records that would help supporters of a failed ballot referendum challenge the invalidation of thousands of voter signatures. Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley on Friday granted the state's request to quash subpoenas issued on behalf of Privacy for All Students, which sought to repeal a new law that spells out the rights of transgender students in public schools. Relying on counts submitted by county offices, the secretary of state determined in February that the group was about 17,000 signatures short of the number needed to qualify its proposed referendum. The state argued that the referendum's supporters were entitled to review the discounted signatures, but that supplying copies of the detailed records they requested would violate voters' privacy. Privacy for All said its plans to appeal.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Supporters Of Student-Led Gay-Straight Alliances Rally Outside Alberta Legislature, Amid Raids And Extended Prison Sentences Egypt's Gay Community Fears Crackdown By New Authoritarian Government, Procedural Dispute Threatens To Delay Oklahoma Lesbian Couple's Fight To Wed, Suit Accuses X-Men Director Bryan Singer Of Sexually Assaulting Underage Boy

In Canada, dozens of people rallied on the steps of the Alberta Legislature on Thursday, pushing for legislation allowing Gay-Straight Alliances in all provincial schools. “People are disappointed that the Progressive Conservatives and the Wildrose party voted against establishing Gay-Straight Alliances in our schools,” said Liberal MLA Kent Hehr, whose private member’s bill on the issue was defeated 31 to 19 on April 8. The bill would have made it mandatory for all Alberta schools to allow for the creation of GSAs. “Gay-Straight Alliances reduce bullying for LGBTQ students and for all students,” said Hehr at Thursday’s rally, reports Global News, Hehr adding, “We should have them available in all schools in Alberta where kids want them established… this [rally] is to hold the government’s feet to the fire.” Students, their supporters, and advocates were among the roughly 40 people who attended the rally. “The unfortunate side of when we say no to these types of things is it’s almost as if we’re giving permission to some of the fringe parts of society that want to discriminate and further persecute these marginalized groups,” said Everett Tetz, a counselor in a public school in Red Deer. “Ultimately, I hope it brings the change that we want to see in the province,” Tetz added. “If nothing else, I want it to bring awareness. I think it’s just such an amazing opportunity for all the educators in Alberta to look at their own practice and say ‘where do we stand on this issue and how can we move it forward?’” There are currently 40 GSAs in Alberta, all of which are in public schools. Jeff Johnson, Alberta’s Education Minister, voted against the GSA bill, saying legislation wasn’t the way to go. “I do believe that the member’s approach to this issue in the motion in question is not the most appropriate way to go about combating bullying,” said Johnson on April 8. “Singling out a specific group of students in legislation, potentially at the expense of other students being forgotten, is troublesome, adding, "There are, like I said, many other highly effective groups like GSAs that promote acceptance, build bridges, and help fight bullying. But we can’t possibly legislate for each and every one of these groups, Mr. Speaker; so instead we endeavour to create schools and learning environments that are accepting of all students and empowering for all students regardless of what their differences are." During Thursday’s rally, several students shared their personal experiences with – and without – GSAs. “If the students want it, they should be able to have it,” said Xander Hartman, president of the Queer-Straight Alliance at Ross Sheppard School. “I tried to start a Gay-Straight Alliance in a small town in a Catholic school, which didn’t go well, obviously. The principal immediately denied it. That’s something that shouldn’t be allowed.” Dr. Kristopher Wells, director of the University of Alberta’s Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services, agrees. “We have no greater job than to create educational environments where all young people can thrive, said Wells, adding, “The GSA rally is to continue to educate our politicians and the public. Today, for the first time, we’ll actually have youth front-and-centre speaking about their experiences and the impact that GSAs have had on their lives.”

In Egypt, the gay community fears it is the latest target of the country's authoritarian government following a series of recent raids on gay people. Activists interviewed by the Guardian said they had documented up to nine raids across the country since October 2013 – an unusually high rate of arrests. Most significantly, at least seven raids have seen people arrested at home rather than at parties or known meeting places, raising concerns that the community is facing the start of a targeted crackdown. The latest and most concerning raid saw four men seized from their east Cairo apartment on April 1 within hours of signing the lease, according to activists. Within a week, the four were given jail terms of up to eight years – sentences unusual for both their length and the speed at which they were handed down. Interviewees warned against exaggerating the oppression levelled at what is a flourishing underground gay community. But almost all agreed the recent arrests had frightened and perplexed many of its members. One experienced activist, who identified himself as Mohamed A, said: "It has struck fear within many of us. I could be sitting with a couple of friends [at home], and these arrests could happen at any moment." While homosexuality is technically legal in Egypt, citizens suspected of being gay have long been the target of sporadic detentions – with those arrested often convicted of debauchery or insulting public morals. But some activists claim the recent arrests, which began at a gay meeting-place in a poor Cairo suburb last October, are happening at a faster rate than at any point since 2004. No one is certain how systematic they are, or exactly why they are happening. Some think the raids are simply another example of the aggression aimed at all kinds of dissidents in recent months. Also, several of the raids may have been caused by complaints from neighbours, rather than instigated by the state itself. But regardless of the background to each raid, what is unusual is how regularly and how willingly the state has prosecuted individuals – especially at a time when there is so much else in Egypt for the authorities to address. Dalia Alfarghal, a human rights activist, said: "We have a lot of crazy things going on in the country – and they're detaining these guys instead of catching terrorists." Many wonder if the government wants to assure a largely homophobic Egyptian society that – despite ousting Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last summer – they can be as conservative as the man they replaced. April's arrests, for instance, came soon after a police chief announced a special taskforce to arrest atheists. "These kinds of cases help show they can be society's moral gatekeepers," said Mahmoud, an activist on gender issues. "I guess their point is that even though the Islamists are gone, we're still going to keep an eye on the behaviours that may, according to them, disrupt society." Another explanation is that widespread coverage of the raids would help distract the public from the government's failings – much as the media storm sparked by the 2001 arrest of 52 men at the Queen Boat, a gay nightclub in Cairo, did for Hosni Mubarak's regime. But if that is the strategy, several note that it has not been particularly successful so far – there is too much else going on in the mayhem of Egyptian politics. "I think there is a clear difference between [now and] the time of the Queen Boat," said Mahmoud. "At that time it was very easy to use a certain issue to camouflage others. But now, since the start of the revolution, people's attention span only lasts a day or two – and then another thing comes up." The gay community's response to the raids also differs from the aftermath of the Queen Boat arrests, according to Mahmoud. "At the time, it created a lot of panic. Everybody went to their homes, they wouldn't talk to anybody, they were afraid of each other – because who knew who might turn the other in? But now, although there is a lot of anxiety and fear, I don't feel it has the same impact." This is partly down to the community's support networks, which activists say are bigger today than they were 13 years ago, particularly since the 2011 revolution. But stronger though the community may be, its members still strive to keep it as invisible as it ever was, fearing a fiercer crackdown. Homosexuality as a concept, however, has become slightly more visible. This January film censors finally approved the screening of Family Secrets, billed as the first widely-shown Egyptian movie to feature a gay protagonist (though many were furious that the film ultimately suggests homosexuality is a curable disease). But more exposure to gay issues has not necessarily led to the spread of less-homophobic attitudes. People coming out to their parents often find themselves sent to psychiatrists for a "cure." One interviewee said they saw 16 in total. At Mohamed A's workplace, many people know he is gay, and he does not feel in danger as a result. But some female colleagues say they would prefer not to be left alone with him. "It's kind of funny. In their minds, being gay is perverted and I want to have sex with any object. But maybe it'll change with the building of trust between me and them." As in many countries, Egyptian homophobia has both religious and cultural roots. Regarding the former, Egypt's Christian and Muslim communities lack high-profile liberal voices to counter homophobic readings of both religions. As for the latter, Egypt's patriarchal society feels threatened by those who challenge traditional gender roles. "We live in a very masculine society," said Adam, a graphic designer who was attacked by his brothers and mother after coming out to them six years ago. "You have to follow certain lines – you have to study, graduate, then get married, and then have kids. And if you break the line, then there's something wrong." In this context, gay women in Egypt say they are less conspicuous than gay men. Women have not been the focus of any crackdown – perhaps because mainstream Egyptian society, according to one gay woman, has only recently begun to deal with concepts of lesbianism. "I think people didn't know what lesbians were 10 years ago – I didn't even know," said Pam, an ecologist. "It was never on TV. But now it's part of the dialogue. You do get people calling out in the street: ya lesbian!" Given this environment, some gay Egyptians question the usefulness of bringing western assumptions about gender and sexuality to a context as specific as Egypt, and query the application of western-rooted labels such as LGBTQI. "LGBTQI emerged in a certain context in a certain time in a certain group of people," said Pam. "There are so many other formulations of sexuality that fall outside of that and cannot be encompassed by it." Others warned against equating same sex intercourse to a defined sexual identity. In lower-class areas, said Mohamed A, it is common to find young unmarried men who have sex with other men but who do not consider themselves gay, or even know the term. "They would think that the only right thing to do is to get married," he said, "and that being in a relationship with a man is only something temporary." But away from questions of definition, the main fight remains one for acceptance. Progress is slow in such a conservative society, but some see hope in the younger generation. "I feel there's more willingness to discuss this," said Mahmoud. "Maybe that's more about my age group, but I see more openness and acceptance of diversity."

In Colorado, the Denver Post reports that oral arguments before the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Oklahoma's ban on same sex marriage Thursday had less to do with weddings than whether the plaintiffs sued the wrong person — again. "We don't believe the plaintiffs have standing," said Jim Campbell, attorney for defendant Tulsa County Clerk Sally Smith. But plaintiff attorney Don Holladay, who represents two Oklahoma lesbian couples, suggested an ironclad reason they sued Smith: a 10th Circuit panel of judges ordered them to sue the clerk in 2009. The argument looms large because if defendants are correct, then the plaintiffs' 10-year court odyssey that began in 2004 will have been in vain. "If the court agrees on our issue, that will end the case," Campbell said. Thursday's hearing in Denver was the second time in a week that the same panel of judges heard arguments on the issue of gay marriage. Utah's gay marriage case came on April 10, but arguments in that case seemed to be more on point — whether gay marriage bans are unconstitutional or if individual states have the right to define marriage. Court watchers say it could take months for a decision in the cases, which are expected to eventually land before the U.S. Supreme Court. "We're ecstatic," said Sharon Baldwin as she stood with her partner of 17 years, Mary Bishop, following the hearing. "We think the hearing went well. We think justice is on our side." Her optimism came despite a long history of tough setbacks. Plaintiffs, who also include Susan Barton and her partner Dr. Gay Phillips, first sued Oklahoma's governor and attorney general the day after voters passed a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage on November 3, 2004. But in 2009, the first panel of 10th Circuit judges to review the case ruled that they shouldn't have named the governor and attorney general as defendants. So plaintiffs sought a new attorney and followed an appeals court order to sue Smith instead. In January, federal Judge Terence Kern struck down Oklahoma's gay marriage ban, but in his ruling he pointed out that they should have sued the governor and attorney general. A few sentences into Holladay's argument Thursday afternoon, Justice Paul K. Kelly Jr. interrupted. He wanted to know about the issue of standing. It would dominate the rest of the hearing. Apparently exasperated by the back and forth of the debate over who should be sued to properly challenge Oklahoma's gay rights law, Justice Carlos Lucero asked whom the plaintiff should sue if they can't sue the clerk, the governor or the attorney general. "Ours is the longest-running marriage equality case in the country," Baldwin said. It may soon be extended.

The filmmaker Bryan Singer, whose big-budget X-Men: Days of Future Past is set for release next month by 20th Century Fox, was accused in a federal lawsuit filed on Wednesday of drugging and raping an underage boy here and in Hawaii more than 14 years ago. A lawyer for Mr. Singer, Martin D. Singer, said in a statement that the claims were without merit. “We are very confident that Bryan will be vindicated in this absurd and defamatory lawsuit,” he added. The suit, which includes graphic, detailed allegations, was filed in the Federal District Court in Hawaii by Michael Egan, a one-time aspiring actor who is now a resident of Nevada. Mr. Egan’s suit alleges that Mr. Singer provided him with drugs and alcohol and subjected him to unwanted sex on trips to Hawaii in 1999, after meeting him at California parties organized by Marc Collins-Rector, who in 2004 pleaded guilty to charges of transporting minors across state lines to have sex. Mr. Egan is represented by Jeff Herman, a Miami lawyer known for pursuing cases against pedophile priests and representing plaintiffs in a 2012 scandal involving allegations of underage sex against Kevin Clash, a Sesame Street puppeteer. The suit against Mr. Singer creates publicity problems for Fox, which is just starting to introduce its marketing artillery for “Days of Future Past,” a big-budget film starring Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry and Jennifer Lawrence, among other stars. Fox is counting on the film to be a global blockbuster. Days of Future Past is also meant as a come-back vehicle of a sort for Mr. Singer, whose last film was the bomb “Jack the Giant Slayer.” Fox responded to inquiries by issuing a statement Thursday afternoon. “These are serious allegations, and they will be resolved in the appropriate forum,” it said. “This is a personal matter, which Bryan Singer and his representatives are addressing separately.”

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ethiopia Cancels Two Anti-Gay Rallies And Walks Back Planned Legislation Designed To Further Demonize Homosexuality, India Supreme Court Creates New Class For Transgender Individuals, United Nations Condemns And Calls Attention To Revised Penal Code In Brunei That Would Permit Death By Stoning For Same Sex Activity, Newly-Diagnosed HIV-Positive Dakota Basinger Removed From Kissimmee Florida Recreational Basketball Game, Federal District Judge Black Stays Order Forcing Ohio To Recognize Same Sex Marriages Performed Elsewhere Save For Four Couples Who Filed Original Suit, Louisiana House Of Representatives Votes To Retain Unconstitutional Anti-Sodomy Law, Alabama Police Charge Mother With Murder After She Shoots Son's Longterm Boyfriend Claiming He Had Been Emotionally And Physically Abusive

In Ethiopia, a planned anti-gay rally that would have made the nation the latest African country to demonize gays has been cancelled, officials said Wednesday. In addition, plans by the legislature to add gay sex to a list of crimes not eligible for presidential pardons has been dropped, said Redwan Hussein, a government spokesperson. Hostility toward gays across Africa is high. Uganda and Nigeria increased penalties against gay acts this year. Homosexuals in other countries face severe discrimination and harmful physical attacks. Gay Ethiopians still face severe penalties for living in the open. Same sex acts are punishable by up to 15 years in prison. A 25-year jail term is given to anyone convicted of infecting another person with HIV during same sex acts. But the government does not appear ready to further demonize homosexuals. Redwan said the anti-gay rally was on certain groups' agenda, but not the government's. "It is not a serious crime. Plus, it is not as widespread as some people suggest. It is already a crime and a certain amount of punishment is prescribed for it. The government thinks the current jail term in enough," said Redwan, who confirmed that gay crimes would not be added to the list of unpardonable crimes. Two groups had been planning to hold a large anti-gay rally in Addis Ababa on April 26. Dereje Negash, chairman of a religious group affiliated with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, said the cancellation came after people inside the church asked the government to prevent the rally. "Currently I'm being threatened by the gay community for organizing the rally. Despite the threat, I will continue to pursue my struggle against the gay community. I believe I have been given a task by God to do this. I will do this even if it means life or death," Dereje said. Dereje said his group is not seeking the harassment of gay people, but he wants Ethiopian law to increase punishments for gay sex. Dereje said that gay sex tourism is increasing in the country and he wants it stopped. "We believe the gay people should be supported to get out of their bad life. We have helped hundreds of people to abandon gay acts so far," he said.

In India, as in almost every nation in the West, members of the transgender population have historically been forced to designate themselves as either a “male” or “female” on all governmental forms. No longer. In what local media are calling a landmark judgment, India’s Supreme Court on Tuesday created a “third gender” status for transgender people, granting the group formal recognition for the first time. “Recognition of transgenders as a third gender is not a social or medical issue but a human rights issue,” Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan said when he announced the ruling. “Transgenders are citizens of this country and are entitled to education and all other rights.” He directed local governmental bureaucracies to identify transgender people as a neutral third gender, adding that they will now have the same access to social welfare programs as other minority groups in India, the world’s largest democracy and currently in the midst an election campaign. The court’s decision would apply to individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth, the Associated Press said. The Supreme Court specified that its ruling would apply only to transgender people and not to gays, lesbians or bisexuals. India’s LGBT communities have been protesting the court’s recent decision to reinstate a colonial-era law banning gay sex, which they say will make them vulnerable to police harassment. The case was brought in 2012 when a group led by transgender activist Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, a Hindi film actress, sought equal rights for India’s transgender population. On Tuesday, Tripathi was triumphant. “Today, for the first time I feel very proud to be an Indian,” she told reporters gathered at the New Delhi court. “Today, my sisters and I feel like real Indians, and we feel so proud because of the rights granted to us by the Supreme Court.” Across much of South Asia and Southeast Asia, the language of gender is substantially more ambiguous than it is in the West. In countries such as Thailand and Cambodia, transgender people aren’t usually referred to as either a man or a woman — but as kathoey. India’s decision follows other regional countries’ decisions to recognize a third gender. Last year, neighboring Nepal offered a third gender option on official documents for its transgender population. The West has been a tad slower to adopt such measures. Last year, Germany became the first European country to recognize a third gender, allowing parents of newborns to mark “male,” “female” or “indeterminate” on birth certificates. Across the rest of Europe, Spiegel Online reports, change has been more halting. “Things are moving slower than they should at the European level,” human rights activist Silvan Agius said. “Though Brussels has ramped up efforts to promote awareness of trans and intersex discrimination, I would like to see things speed up.” Things in India sped up this year. For the first time, India’s Election Commission allowed a third gender of “other” on voter registration forms for this election. Nearly 30,000 people designated themselves as “other,” the Associated Press reported, and there are an estimated 3 million transgender individuals in India. “The progress of the country is dependent upon [the] human rights of the people, and we are very happy with the judgment,” Tripathi said. ”The Supreme Court has given us those rights.”

The United Nations Human Rights office has condemned a revised penal code in Brunei which calls for the death penalty for numerous offenses, including same sex sexual activity, and introduces stoning to death as the specific method of execution for crimes of a sexual nature. BruneiBrunei, a predominately Muslim state in Southeast Asia where homosexuality has long been criminalized, will implement a set of extreme Sharia laws that demand death by stoning for homosexual acts, adultery, rape, murder, and for declaring oneself to be a non-Muslim. The law comes into effect on April 22. “Application of the death penalty for such a broad range of offenses contravenes international law,” said Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). “We urge the Government to delay the entry into force of the revised penal code and to conduct a comprehensive review ensuring its compliance with international human rights standards,” he told a news conference in Geneva. “Under international law, stoning people to death constitutes torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and is thus clearly prohibited,” stated Colville. The criminalization and application of the death penalty for consensual relations between adults in private also violates a whole host of rights, including the rights to privacy, to equality before the law, the right to health and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, Colville added. The provisions of the revised penal code may also encourage further violence and discrimination against LGBT people, he warned.

In Florida, the Orlando Sentinel reports that a St. Cloud man was kicked out of a Kissimmee Parks and Recreation basketball game this week because he is HIV-positive. Dakota Basinger, 21, had been playing league basketball all season for Florida Dream Sports, a league sponsored by the city of Kissimmee. But four minutes into the second half of the team's playoff game on Sunday, the referee blew the whistle. "He called a timeout, which was rare," Basinger said. "He made both teams go to their benches." Basinger said a city employee called him into a room and asked Basinger if he was HIV-positive. Basinger, who was diagnosed a week ago and had posted the information on his Facebook page, said he was. Then, Basinger said, the employee told him that he would need to stop playing – for good. "I feel humiliated and discriminated against," said Basinger, a rap artist who performs locally. "I felt horrible walking out of that gym." On Tuesday, a city spokesperson said in a statement that a part-time city employee "acted independently and without supervisor approval" when he removed Basinger from the game. "The city has taken corrective action to ensure this does not happen in the future," said Arin Thrower, spokeswoman for the city, adding that "as of right now," the employee still works for the city. Basinger will be allowed to play in the league again when it starts back up, Thrower said. Basinger's mother, Lisa, was at the game and went with her son when the employee called him into a room to say he couldn't play. "I couldn't believe it," said the outraged mother. "I explained to them that they needed to educate themselves on HIV and that you cannot transmit HIV through spit or casual contact." Saliva and sweat do not transmit HIV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV can be spread by blood, semen, vaginal fluids and breast milk. "These fluids must come in contact with a mucous membrane or damaged tissue or be directly injected into the bloodstream from a needle for transmission to possibly occur," according to the CDC. "Contact between broken skin, wounds, or mucous membranes and HIV-infected blood" may also spread the virus, but such reports are "extremely rare," said the CDC. In the United States, HIV is most commonly spread by having unprotected sex and from sharing needles to inject drugs, said the CDC. Basinger said he contracted HIV, a viral infection that is the precursor to AIDS, by having unprotected sex with another man. Basinger's teammate Gustavo Delamaza, 20, of St. Cloud knew about Basinger's diagnosis but said that playing basketball with him "didn't really bother me at all. You can't catch HIV by playing ball. It's not contagious that way." Basinger's mother said she is angry society still treats people with HIV this way. "He's going through a lot, having just been diagnosed," Lisa Basinger said." My wish is that everybody would become educated about the facts and myths of HIV."

In Ohio, U.S. District Court Judge Timothy S. Black has stayed his order forcing the state to recognize same sex marriages legally performed out of state. However, the judge said Wednesday morning that the state must recognize the marriages of four same sex couples who filed a lawsuit against the state. “Premature celebration and confusion do not serve anyone’s best interests,” the judge said of the instant reaction to his Monday ruling by many members of the gay and lesbian community. Black acknowledged “that recognition of same sex marriages is a hotly contested issue in the contemporary legal landscape” and if the state is ultimately successful in its appeal - which he predicts will not happen – the court’s ruling “is likely to lead to confusion, potential inequity, and high costs. These considerations lead the court to conclude that the public interest would best be served by the granting of a stay," adding, “The federal appeals courts need to rule, as does the United States Supreme Court." He did allow his ruling to take effect for the four couples, three of whom reside in the Cincinnati area and one in New York. The state must recognize those marriages, he said. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is expected to take the case immediately to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. “The attorney general believes the stay issued by Judge Black is appropriate, and we will proceed with the appeal of this case,” DeWine spokesperson Lisa Hackley said. Cincinnati Attorney Al Gerhardstein, lead counsel for the couples in the case, told the Dispatch in response to the ruling, “Today at least for these four couples the constitution stands on the side of love. The birth certificates of their children will list both parents. The implementation of same sex marriage recognition has started and we are all very excited! We will try and expedite the appeals process so full marriage recognition for all same sex couples does not trail too far behind.” The state asked Black to hold off implementing his decision in the same sex-marriage case because it could trigger “premature” reactions, such as couples hurriedly traveling to other states to get married. Attorneys representing four same sex couples who filed the lawsuit argued that Black should lift the stay he issued on Monday because the couples will suffer “severe and irreparable harm” unless Ohio promptly recognizes their out-of-state marriages. They said women in three of the four couples are pregnant and about to give birth and want to be able to list both parents on the birth certificate. The attorney general’s brief specifically cited a story in Friday’s Dispatch about gay couples hurriedly traveling to other states to get married as a rationale for granting a stay. Black cited the same story in a footnote in his decision. “Premature implementation of such sweeping change should be avoided where such change might be temporary,” the DeWine filing said. Gerhardstein said in a motion filed late Monday that the state “cannot demonstrate how giving children born in Ohio the security of having both their parents listed on their birth certificate results in anything but good,” the filing said. Gerhardstein said judges in eight other states have made similar rulings against same sex marriage bans.

In Louisiana, the House of Representatives rejected legislation, on Tuesday, that would remove the state's symbolic ban on certain kinds of sodomy. The bill failed by a wide margin on a vote of 27-67, with 11 members not voting. Louisiana's anti-sodomy law was overturned and declared unconstitutional in 2003, with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling such state statutes could not be enforced. Still, the Legislature has been unwilling to officially strike the measure from state law, even though it can't be used as a cause for arrest. A House Committee passed the legislation onto the body's floor by a vote of 9-6 last week. But one of the state's most powerful lobbying groups, the conservative Christian Louisiana Family Forum, opposes striking the sodomy ban. The group sent out a letter to every legislator urging them to vote against the proposal, claiming that teenagers would be less protected from sexual predators if they went through with the repeal. They also said the bill would put the public health at risk. "Louisiana's anti-sodomy statute is consistent with the values of Louisiana residents who consider this behavior to be dangerous, unhealthy and immoral," stated the letter to lawmakers from the Louisiana Family Forum. The Times-Picayune reports that during a floor discussion of the bill, the legislation's sponsor, Rep. Patricia Haynes Smith, pushed back on the Family Forum's assertions. The bill only seeks to repeal a statute that is already unconstitutional, she said. "I never thought it would pass, but I thought it would do better," said Smith. "Some of the folks who voted to get it out of committee voted against it on the floor." The law remaining on the books came under national scrutiny last summer when East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriffs' Deputies used the statute to arrest men who agreed to have sex with undercover male law enforcement officers. The District Attorney declined to prosecute the men, and the sheriff, Sid Gautreaux, under intense criticism, later apologized for the arrests. Both the District Attorney and the sheriff's office supporter Smith's legislation to remove the law, according to several legislators. Smith, who represents Baton Rouge, said she brought the bill, in part, because of those arrests, which drew negative national attention to her community. "We want to be fair to the law enforcement individuals. ... We don't need inefficient bills on our statutes that they cannot take to a prosecutor," said Smith during a committee hearing last week.

In Alabama, Tuscaloosa Metro Homicide Unit investigators have charged a woman with murder after a shooting at a truck stop. The shooting happened early Monday evening at Love's Truck Stop off of Exit 100 on I-20/59 in McCalla. Deputies and Woodstock Police responded to the scene around 6:00 pm. The victim, Jamie R. Johnson, 36, had been shot once and was transported to UAB Medical West in "grave condition," according to Sgt. Dale Phillips with the Tuscaloosa Metro Homicide Unit. Johnson since succumbed to his injuries. Anita T. Hill, 51, of Pickens County, has been charged with murder in the case and was booked on a $75,000 bond. She has since bonded out of jail. Investigators have determined that Hill's son and Johnson were "involved in a long-term relationship" and had been together for about four years. "This relationship has caused tension between the suspect who is the mother of the male witness and her son," Phillips said. Investigators believe Hill's son and Johnson asked Hill to meet them at the truck stop to talk about helping them move and other issues. After a short conversation, the son returned to his vehicle while Hill and Johnson continued speaking. Investigators say Johnson turned to walk away and that's when Hill allegedly pulled out a hand gun and shot him in the back. "Witnesses at the scene describe that it appeared that the victim in this case attempted to turn and move away from the suspect. At which time she pulled a hand gun and fired one round," Phillips said. Hill remained at the truck stop until deputies arrived and took her into custody. Authorities believe Hill shot Johnson because he was allegedly in a "violent" relationship with her son. "Witnesses have told us the relationship between these two individuals, the two young men, had been at times possibly physical abusive as well as mentally abusive," Phillips said. Investigators are checking records to see if there were any charges filed against Johnson, but so far have not found any. "We do not see this in any nature being a hate crime. We see this as a family having issues in this. All the people involved in this were either related or had been acquainted for several years," Phillips said. Phillips said Johnson and Hill's son had been in a relationship for about four years. Authorities do not believe Hill came to the truck stop with the intention of killing Johnson.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Violently Anti-Gay American Peter LaBarbera Voluntarily Leaves Canada Following Arrest Monday, Maltese Parliament Votes To Recognize Same Sex Partnerships As Being On Par With Opposite Sex Marriage, Human Rights Advocates Angry Following Announcement That Turkey Will Build Separate Prisons To House LGBT Inmates, 38-Year-Old Lawrence L. Featheroff Sentenced To Prison For Abusing Disabled Brother In Attempt To "Push The Gay Out Of Him," Citing Religious Reasons Some Cleveland Cab Drivers Refuse To Operate With Gay Games Signage, Andrew Garfield Loves Being In Touch With His "Naked Nature"

In Canada, CTV News reports that American anti-gay activist Peter LaBarbera has reportedly decided to voluntarily leave Canada after he was arrested in Regina. LaBarbera, 51, was questioned by Canadian border officials Tuesday morning following his arrest on the University of Regina campus a day earlier. LaBarbera and fellow activist Bill Whatcott were escorted off university property and charged with mischief Monday afternoon, after attempting to distribute literature warning of the "evils of homosexuality." The university learned the men were on the property around 12:30 pm, and they were asked to leave the campus several times. LaBarbera and Whatcott were displaying materials the university described as "graphic" and against the institution’s policy. A counter-protest was held by the UR Pride Centre, but interactions between the two camps were peaceful. Both LaBarbera and Whatcott have been released and are scheduled to appear in court on May 26. The pair were planning to speak on the University of Saskatchewan campus Tuesday, but according to Whatcott’s website, the event has been cancelled.

In Malta, the parliament approved a law late on Monday to recognize same sex partnerships on a legal par with marriage, including allowing gay couples to adopt. Reuters reports that the law was greeted by wild celebrations by some 1,000 people in a square just outside parliament in Valletta, the capital of the predominantly Roman Catholic Mediterranean island where divorce was only legalized two years ago. Labor Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, elected one year ago, said: "Malta is now more liberal and more European and it has given equality to all its people." The opposition Nationalist Party abstained from the vote, saying it was in favor of civil unions but had reservations about gay adoptions. Opposition leader Simon Busuttil quoted a survey which found that 80-percent of the people were against adoptions by gay couples. "Malta has not been prepared for such a step" he said.

In Turkey, human rights activists reacted angrily to a government measure that has led to the segregation of lesbian, gay and transgender prisoners to protect them from harassment and attacks while in jail. According to Reuters, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag announced the "protecting convicts" measure for openly homosexual prisoners in a written response to a parliamentary question from an opposition lawmaker. Turkey's political landscape has in recent months become increasingly polarized between the opposition and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's Islamist-rooted AK Party government, seen as pushing a more conservative agenda on a range of issues. "Projects are under way for the construction of separate penitentiaries to house inmates with divergent sexual orientations," Bozdag also said in the response, published on parliament's website. The statement was dated April 3, but the issue only sparked widespread debate in Turkey this week after the lawmaker who tabled the question expressed concerns over the policy. Some took to social media to criticize it, although a survey of 10,000 people carried out by mainstream daily Hurriyet found that 52-percent of respondents backed the proposal. Homosexuality is not illegal in Turkey although it remains taboo. Recent legislation aimed at tackling so-called "hate crimes" offered no specific protection to people facing discrimination based on their sexuality, according to Kaos GL, a rights group focused on sexual orientation and gender issues. Kaos GL spokesperson Murat Koylu said many gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender prisoners are already placed in solitary confinement by prison staff who are either unsure how to deal with or openly hostile to homosexuality. The new measure was "the worst type of message for a state that is supposed to be acting in a pluralist way to give," Koylu told Reuters. "If the government behaves like this, it's great evidence for those who are in favor of homophobia, they would use it as proof (of their views)." Homophobia remains widespread in Turkey, with almost 9 out of 10 people saying they would not like having homosexual neighbors, according to the 2013 World Values Survey. Prison segregation on the basis of sexuality is not common internationally, although in 2010 Italy opened a jail specifically to hold transgender inmates.

In Ohio, a man who was caring for his disabled younger brother was sentenced today to 2-1/2 years in prison for punching him and threatening to slice off his genitals to “push the gay out of him.” Fairfield County Common Pleas Judge Chris A. Martin sentenced Lawrence L. Featheroff, 38, to 30 months of incarceration after Featheroff admitted to the charges. According to the Columbus Dispatch, Featheroff, of Lancaster, pleaded guilty to attempted complicity to commit felonious assault and abduction, both third-degree felonies. A felony charge of domestic violence was dismissed as part of a negotiated plea deal. Martin sentenced him to 30 months in prison for each crime, but said the sentences could run at the same time. He also ordered three years of probation for Featheroff after he serves his prison time. Featheroff admitted to abusing Jason A. Meyers, 26, in the Lancaster home they shared with Featheroff’s girlfriend and an aunt and uncle. Detectives said Meyers is developmentally disabled but reasonably high-functioning. He had gone to live with his brother after he’d been abused in a group home, according to testimony. Featheroff was given charge of his brother though Featheroff had served prison time for domestic violence. Lancaster police found Meyers with a concussion, a sprained ankle and bruises on his face and around his eye when they checked on him on January 15. That came after one of the men’s siblings called police, concerned that abuse might be occurring at the house. Meyers told police that his brother; the brother’s girlfriend, Jamie R. Smith; and a family friend, Brent M. Disbennet, had hit him repeatedly, allowed him to eat only once a day and made him run up and down a hill carrying a heavy railroad tie. Detective Brian Lowe testified at the sentencing hearing that Featheroff told investigators he was upset that his brother had told him he had sexual thoughts about men and boys. Featheroff said he “wanted to toughen him up to push the gay out of him and make him a normal person,” Lowe testified. He bloodied his brother’s nose on one occasion. Another time, he held a butcher knife under his genitals and threatened to cut them off, Lowe testified. Meyers and Featheroff are among eight sibings who all were taken from their mother as children and sent to live with different foster families, some of whom adopted them. They reunited as adults and have become a family again, said some of the siblings who attended the sentencing to support Featheroff. Some testified that Meyers could be challenging. Police moved Meyers from the home at 538 Carpenter St. after the abuse and he now lives in adult foster care. Smith, 40, has pleaded not guilty to complicity to commit felonious assault and abduction, and Disbennet, 25, to felonious assault. Their cases are pending.

Also in Ohio, the Plain Dealer reports that some drivers of the zone-based taxis operating out of Cleveland Hopkins International Airport have notified their companies they don't want to drive the cabs for religious reasons, citing rooftop placards that are advertising the upcoming Gay Games. Hopkins released a statement saying that two of the three taxi companies operating at the airport -- Ace and Yellow Taxi – were informed by several of their drivers they will no longer participate in the airport's dedicated taxi cab program. Patrick Keenan, general manager for the third company, Americab, said two of his drivers also have opted not to drive because of the Gay Games ads. The drivers are Muslims, Keenan and Hopkins spokesperson Jackie Mayo said. The drivers told their companies that their decision was based on religious reasons, Hopkins said in its statement. The airport said it brokered an agreement between the taxi cab stand operator, Standard Parking, and the cab companies to allow for replacing drivers who don't want to drive in the 75-cab Hopkins fleet. The companies plan to backfill the fleet with metered taxi cabs until each company can hire permanent drivers for the airport program. Hopkins cabs charge fixed amounts for the zone of the metro area you're going to, rather than charging based on a running meter. It is expected to take about two to three weeks to repopulate the fleet. Tom Noble, executive director of the Gay Games coming to Cleveland in August, could not be immediately reached. At Americab, Keenan explained that the airport sells the space on the taxis' roof-mounted placards and gets any revenue generated from the advertising. "We don't have any objections to the signage," he said. "We're fully supportive of the games. We're not in concert with (the protesting drivers) on that. We don't share those views."

Monday, at the British premiere of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, 30-year-old Andrew Garfield said, "I love being naked. It’s important to be naked and be in touch with our bodies and not have shame about what we’re made of. I love being in touch with nature and my own nature."

Monday, April 14, 2014

Fringe Anti-Gay Activists Peter LaBarbera And Bill Whacott Arrested After Refusing To Leave University Of Regina Campus, Alberta Taxpayers Funding Christian K-!2 School That Discriminates Based On Sexual Orientation, U.S. District Judge Black Formally Rules Ohio Must Recognize Same Sex Marriages Performed Elsewhere, ACLU Sues Michigan Seeking Recognition Of 300 Same Sex Marriages, Tom Finland Stamp Series

An update on a previous post: In Saskatchewan, United States anti-gay activist Peter LaBarbera and a Canadian man were arrested on the University of Regina campus on Monday and will be charged with mischief, police said. LaBarbera, who is with a group called Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, and Bill Whatcott were distributing anti-gay literature on the campus. The CBC News reports that ahead of their arrival, the university issued a news release saying the pair would be monitored to ensure they did not engage in any activity that would promote hatred. At one point, with news cameras rolling, an unidentified university official approached Whatcott, 46, and LaBarbera, 51, and asked them to leave. During that encounter, Whatcott said he had attempted to get permission to set up an information table and, since he was denied, proceeded to set up a table anyway. "I'm not leaving," Whatcott told the official, "You guys are intolerant and should be ashamed of yourselves for shutting down our message without even considering it." A short while later, several Regina police officers arrived and Whatcott and LaBarbera were handcuffed and taken off campus. University officials defended their decision to call police. "We are a diverse campus, we are a welcoming campus," Tom Chase, one of the vice presidents of the university said. "We celebrate that diversity and our staff felt that the material and some of the things they had with them simply contravened that policy and we asked them to leave." "The idea that you can't have an open debate on homosexuality on a college campus and some speech code is brought in, to kick people off ... seems to me to be pretty undemocratic," LaBarbera said. Late Monday, police issued a news release confirming they were called to the university around 1:00 pm CST and noted that two individuals were "engaged in a presentation of images and statements" and refused to leave the campus when requested by university security. "When both men refused security’s demand to leave, they were taken into custody, without incident," police said in their release. Last Friday, LaBarbera was briefly detained at the Regina airport, but was allowed into Saskatchewan to participate in an anti-abortion conference in Weyburn on the weekend. Police said the pair have a court date of May 16 for the mischief charges.

In Alberta, a school funded fully by taxpayers and answerable to a public board requires teachers to abstain from “homosexual relations” and warns students that the unjust risk everlasting torment in the “lake of fire.” An opposition critic expressed shock Sunday that the Conservative government recently committed to spending $7 million to modernize and expand Prairie Christian Academy (PCA), despite the fact the Three Hills facility displays policies on its website that “fly in the face” of both the province’s human rights legislation and the country’s Constitution.
“Fifteen years after the Supreme Court outlawed discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, it is unbelievable this is still happening,” Liberal MLA Kent Hehr said. “I am starting to question what oversight Minister Jeff Johnson and his education department are providing to the system.” A private religious school founded more than seven decades ago, Prairie Christian Academy joined the Golden Hills School Division in 2003, a decision the school’s website says allowed it to get increased public funding. While parents still pay nominal fees for religious education, the regular program of study, busing and even lease and utility costs are fully covered by the local board. The K-12 school, located about 130 kilometres northeast of Calgary, is one of several dozen faith-based facilities that have become part of the public system since the province amended the School Act in 1988 to make the moves possible. A concluding paragraph in PCA’s statement of faith, which all students in Grades 7 through 12 are required to sign, says the unjust will go to Hell and be subject to “everlasting punishment of conscious torment in the lake of fire.” The reference from the Book of Revelation entered popular political parlance in Alberta during the 2012 provincial election.
Wildrose leader Danielle Smith faced heavy criticism at the time when she refused to dump candidate Allen Hunsperger for his use of the term in a blog post critical of new policies at some school boards aimed at protecting gay and lesbian students from bullying. The handbook children at PCA receive threatens suspension or expulsion for serious violations of school rules or a display of attitudes which hinder the growth of other students. “Actions such as social dancing, the use of tobacco, alcohol and non-prescribed drugs are not acceptable,” the discipline section states. “The same could be said about the use of pornography and participation in elicit (sic) sexual conduct.” The school’s professional and ethical standards require all teachers to “uphold the sanctity of marriage, defined as that between a man and a woman, and abstain from homosexual relations and sexual relations outside the bonds of marriage.” Golden Hills’ superintendent Bevan Daverne said he was not aware of any student or staff member at PCA who has been disciplined for sexual misconduct in his three years at the helm. But Daverne said some special requirements were appropriate for staff in alternative programs. “If we were offering a language school with French or Spanish immersion, we wouldn’t be hiring teachers who weren’t fluent,” he said. “The same is true with our religious-based programming where we’re looking for staff who have a fluency within that faith.” While Daverne said the board still wants to continue its arrangement with PCA, he said some of the language in the school’s documents needs to be updated and modernized. “Some of the items you’ve mentioned that are in there, even so far as the smoking and the alcohol, we need to look at those items and see if that’s a fit with the current culture,” he said. “At the same time, we want to be supportive of our community and what they are looking for.” Jason Ewert, PCA’s society chair, did not reply Sunday to an e-mail request for comment. This is the second public board where the Herald has found a school with rules censuring gays and lesbians. A recent agreement between Palliser Regional Schools and Heritage Christian Academy in Calgary threatens students with expulsion and staff with dismissal if they engage in a “lifestyle of sexual immorality.”
A prior version of the deal defined that to include premarital relations, viewing pornography and homosexual behaviour. Johnson was not available to be interviewed for this story, but his press secretary said last week that Alberta Education is reviewing conduct policies at faith-based schools around the province to ensure they comply with the Charter and human rights law. Daverne said the province committed a year ago to spending approximately $7 million to build a larger facility that will hold up to 400 children. The project got the government go-ahead despite a recent Golden Hills study that found PCA’s current enrolment of 255 students was stable and unlikely to change in the coming years. Hehr said the Tories need to act swiftly now or risk being seen as supporting intolerance with taxpayer dollars. "Either these schools stop this ludicrous behaviour or their funding should cease immediately,” Hehr said. “I couldn’t care less what these parents believe, but what I want is leadership from our government about what our society believes.” Delwin Vriend, a lab instructor at a private religious college in Edmonton who was fired from his job over two decades ago because he was gay, said he’s disappointed. While Vriend’s successful fight all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada may have changed human rights law in Alberta in 1998 to forbid discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, he said it apparently hasn’t changed practices in the province. “These policies send a horrible message to students and staff who may already be struggling with the fact they are gay or lesbian,” Vriend said in a phone interview from his current home in France. “It’s disconcerting that a public school board is allowing a school to tell the wider society in Alberta that this sort of discrimination is still OK.”

In Ohio, U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black has formally ruled that the state must recognize same sex marriages performed legally in other states, but he put a hold on his order for the time being. “Ohio’s marriage recognition is facially unconstitutional and unenforceable under any circumstances,” Black said in a written order he announced verbally 10 days ago. “It is this court’s responsibility to give meaning and effect to the guarantees and of the U.S. Constitution and all American citizens and that responsibility is never more pressing than when the fundamental rights of some minority citizens are impacted by the legislative power of the majority.” The judge’s order does not directly impact Ohio’s 2004 constitutional ban on same sex marriage, but the larger implications are unclear. Black said the “backward evolution in Ohio, from granting accurate birth certificates to adoptive same sex parents and their children (during Gov. Ted Strickland’s term), to the current administration's refusal to do so, is yet another manifestation of the irrational animus motivating defendants' discriminatory treatment of lesbian and gay families," Black's decision adding, “When a state effectively terminates the marriage of a same sex couple married in another jurisdiction by refusing to recognize the marriage, that state unlawfully intrudes into the realm of private marital, family, and intimate relations specifically protected by the Supreme Court." He also stressed that children of same sex couples “cannot be denied the right to two legal parents, reflected on their birth certificates and given legal respect, without a sufficient justification. No such justification exists.” The Columbus Dispatch reports that in an unusual move, Black stayed enforcement of his order pending appeals to his court, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court. He ordered the attorneys for the four same sex couples involved in the case to file a response today and the state to file by 3 p.m. Tuesday on whether that stay should stand. “The court shall rule expeditiously,” he said, but noted he is inclined to remove the stay on just the four couples. The case involves Ohio rules about the names that can, and cannot, go on Ohio birth certificates when legally married gays adopt a child. The state does not allow both partners to be listed on the birth certificate in those relationships. Attorney General Mike DeWine will appeal the order and ask that overall stay remain in place, spokesperson Dan Tierney said. However, DeWine will not appeal the lifting of the stay for the four couples involved, he said. That means if Black lifts the stay, those four couples would be allowed to proceed with the birth certificate process – and state would be compelled to allow it.Cincinnati attorney Al Gerhardstein, lead counsel representing the couples in the case, called the ruling, “a great day for many Ohio families. Yesterday, they lived in a state that discriminated against them; today they live in a state that has declared them equal. Their marriages, the very foundations of their families, are recognized under the law. This ruling is a sweeping declaration in favor of same sex marriage recognition.” The plaintiffs who brought this case are four same sex couples who married in one of the 17 states and District of Columbia where same sex marriage is legal. They want the state to recognize their marriages the same way it does marriages of opposite sex couples who marry outside Ohio. FreedomOhio Executive Director Ian James called it a “landmark decision for Ohio’s LGBT families because it proves that the Ohio Constitution exists to protect the rights of all Americans, regardless of who they love. This ruling will allow same-gender couples legally married out-of-state to have their marriages recognized here in Ohio, a significant change we are all incredibly excited about.” Michael Premo of Why Marriages Matters Ohio said Black’s ruling means the state must “treat every legally married couple the same. This ruling is about love, stability and family; and it is a victory for the families that have been denied equality under the law. We thank Judge Black for his ruling, which is a great step in the right direction toward full marriage equality.” Citizens for Community Values, the Cincinnati-based group that spearheaded the 2004 constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman, issued a statement saying that Ohioans still support traditional marriage. Phil Burress, the group’s chairman, called the ruling “shockingly intolerant” and predicted it would be overturned. “It’s an example of homosexual activists using sympathetic judges and the courts as a blunt instrument to force a redefinition of marriage and family on the people of Ohio,” he said. Rob Nichols, spokesman for Gov. John Kasich said in response, “The governor believes marriage is between a man and a woman. He supported the constitutional amendment in Ohio and we are glad that the attorney general has said he is going to appeal.” Ed FitzGerald, Kasich’s likely Democratic opponent this year, said the ruling “begins to open the door to full marriage equality in Ohio, and I look forward to the day when Ohioans who love one another do not have to leave the state to get married.”

In Michigan, the Associated Press reports that the American Civil Liberties Union says it’s filing a lawsuit to enforce the legal rights of about 300 same sex couples who were married during a one-day window between separate federal court decisions. Detroit U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman ruled March 21 that Michigan’s ban on same sex marriage is unconstitutional. Clerks in four counties held unscheduled Saturday openings the next day, issuing about 300 marriage licenses. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati stayed the ruling a few hours later. Gov. Rick Snyder says Michigan government agencies aren’t yet recognizing the new same sex marriages in such areas as adoption and child custody. ACLU spokesperson Rana Elmir says the group is suing to require state recognition of the marriages. She says it’s announcing details at a Monday afternoon Detroit news conference.

Itella, the Finnish postal service, is releasing commemorative stamps featuring the art of Tom of Finland, or Touko Laaksonen (1920-1991). Laaksonen remains a towering and iconic figure in the gay art scene. His sketches, often explicit, were unapologetic depictions of gay sex and relationships. Laaksonen’s subjects were almost always muscle-bound, handsome figures, often bursting out of their clothes. His work, a meditation on masculinity, was also heavy on leather fetish imagery. It’s a pretty risque sheet of stamps, which will feature 33 different designs based on Laaksonen’s work. They even include a little exposed booty, but nothing hardcore. “Of course, the choice was discussed, but we wanted to live in the year 2014,” Itella development director Markku Penttinen told the Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat. Laaksonen’s art is part of a number of public collections, including the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Art Institute of Chicago. “The sheet (of stamps) portrays a sensual life force and being proud of oneself,” said graphic designer Timo Berry, who selected the work that will be printed on stamps released this fall. “There is never too much of that in this northern country.” The announcement of the Tom of Finland stamp follows news that the U.S. Postal Service is honoring gay rights icon Harvey Milk with a postage stamp that will be released on May 22, Harvey Milk Day. Milk, the San Francisco supervisor whose story was the basis for Gus Van Sant’s film “Milk,” was killed by a former city supervisor in 1978. Milk will be the first openly gay person person to grace a U.S. postage stamp, which features Milk’s picture and the LGBT pride flag. “Linn’s Stamp News” says Washington, D.C., and San Francisco are both possibilities for first-day cities, where a stamp is first released.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Violently Anti-Gay Peter LaBarbera Speaks In Saskatchewan, United Kingdom Conservative Party Embroiled In Tax Payer-Funded Gay Sex Party Controversy, Rally Held For Transgender Student Denied Right To Live In Men's Dorm At Oregon's George Fox Christian University, Florida's Lake Country School District Sued By Fellowship Of Christian Athletes Club Who Argue Their Right To Free Speech Denied

An update on a previous post: In Saskatchewan, a controversial American anti-gay activist delivered a speech at the provincial Pro-Life Association (SPLA) 2014 provincial conference on Saturday morning in Weyburn. This comes after Americans For Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH) president Peter LaBarbera was detained at Regina International Airport on Thursday for a possible violation of the hate propaganda law. A local group known as Intolerance Free Weyburn has been protesting LaBarbera’s attendance this past week. Roughly 30 protesters gathered across the street from where the conference was taking place at McKenna Hall on Saturday, holding signs saying “pro-love.” “Our petition was only to ask Sask. Pro-Life to look into him more and reconsider. Is his message your message too and they did that,” said Bailey Brooks, protest organizer. LaBarbera was released by the Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) after they declared there weren’t sufficient grounds to prosecute him. He says he is relieved to have delivered his speech at the conference as planned, despite the backlash he’s received. “I think it was wrong of them to try to stop me from speaking here,” said LaBarbera. “The fact that the speech was all received and everything went as planned, hopefully this will lead to less attempts by the left to block people’s speech out.” LaBarbera also held a question and answer session in the afternoon, as part of conference. AFTAH, a non-profit group, was founded in 1996. The group’s website says it is “dedicated to exposing the homosexual-bisexual-transgender activist agendas.”

In the United Kingdom, a senior minister has been criticised after claims that the taxpayer indirectly funded a gay sex party at the Conservative Party conference. Oliver Heald, the solicitor-general who was head of the Parliamentary Resources Unit (PRU) at the time, has come under fire for his inquiry into the incident. Mr Heald issued an informal warning to Iain Corby, a senior party official, who reportedly exchanged messages with another man on a gay dating website referring to “cute boys” and “orgy” at a hotel suite hired for Tory researchers. Mr Corby quit as head of the PRU, which conducts research on behalf of Tory MPs, earlier this month. The unit is paid for by MPs through their taxpayer-funded expenses. Mr Heald, the member for North East Hertfordshire, started an investigation after party whips were shown a transcript of Mr Corby’s conversation on Grindr, the gay dating website. He also examined allegations that Mr Corby was rude after returning to work under the influence of alcohol. Ipsa, the expenses watchdog, will this week investigate whether the hotel booking was a breach of the rules, which state that expenses cannot be used to cover the cost of “attendance at political party conferences or meetings." Mr Heald said Saturday that he was “unaware” that the expenditure might have amounted to a breach of the rules. He said: “About three years ago the whips brought to me complaints about a staff member at PRU. I brought in an adviser and the matters were investigated, leading to a final, informal warning.” John Mann, a Labour MP, said that, “It raises questions about whether any real investigation ever happened. Mr Heald needs to explain why he failed to spot the misuse of parliamentary money. I would question his judgment.” The claims come amid growing concern about Westminster’s “drinking culture” and suggestions that young gay researchers are bullied into accepting sexual advances from MPs. The PRU is a team of 20 young researchers who advise Tory MPs on political issues. Each Tory MP pays the PRU £4,000 a year, which can be claimed back on their expenses. In 2011, Mr Corby and other members of the PRU allegedly attended the Conservative Party conference and booked into Manchester’s Light Aparthotel, where rooms cost as much as £4,500. The Mail on Sunday claims Mr Corby sent a series of messages to another man on a gay dating website. He reportedly made an open invitation for anyone else logged on to the website to join him in his three-bedroom suite. Mr Corby reportedly said: “Sharing with two colleagues but I chose the cutest boys from my team.” He refers to a man “just out of the shower walking around naked,” adding that “he knows how to keep his boss happy even if he is straight.” A Tory MP said yesterday he told party chiefs about the “drinking culture” at the PRU but no action was taken. Michael Fabricant claimed that he complained to Mr Heald after he was approached by two PRU officials. Mr Fabricant said in a statement: “In 2011, I met with two members of PRU staff, both of whom felt that activities at the time fell far below the standards expected for a professional employers.” Mr Corby was unavailable for comment.

An update on a previous post: In Newberg, Oregon, a rally was held Saturday at George Fox University to petition for a transgender student’s right to live in the men’s dorms. “In order to create change, someone has to stand up. I’m willing to do that,” said Jayce, a transgender student at George Fox University. Jayce has garnered a strong support group, having gained thousands of signatures to support his fight to live in the men’s dorms on the Christian university’s campus. “I started testosterone last year in May, so I will be almost a year on it. I have legally changed my name now. I’m legally [a] male as of Friday,” said Jayce. However, the fight has not been an easy process. “Many people ask why I chose George Fox [University]. I chose it because it offers a great liberal arts education and because it is a Christ-centered community. I have no intentions to leave George Fox,” said Jayce. A statement from George Fox University regarding the ongoing issue read in part: “While the university did not grant his request to live on campus with males, the student was not denied on-campus housing. He was offered the option of an on-campus single apartment with a commitment from Student Life to ensuring he stayed socially connected to the community.” For Jayce, he said his stance is about much more than one room. "I believe and have faith that the LGBTQ and Christ-centered communities can be in harmony. Both sides must learn to be in conversation,” said Jayce. A spokesperson for the university said the school has researched the student’s attorney’s legal claims and believes they are without merit, especially given the religious nature of the university.

In Florida, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes club members and their school adviser are suing the Lake County school district, accusing school leaders of denying their right to free speech and religion. Club members at Mount Dora High School have been forbidden to advertise their meetings on the school's marquee, place fliers in the classroom where they meet and announce meetings on the school's public announcement system, according to the lawsuit. The conservative Orlando-based Liberty Counsel filed the suit Friday, saying the district's actions are discriminatory. It is the third federal suit in a year against Lake schools for its treatment of student clubs. One of the plaintiffs in the Liberty Counsel's action is club adviser Jerry Buell, a teacher at the school who drew national attention in 2011 after posting on Facebook that he "almost threw up" after reading a news story about the legalization of same sex marriage in New York. The suit states that Buell has lost $3,000 in wages because the district for six school years has refused to pay him a stipend for being the Christian club adviser. A school district spokesperson would not comment on the lawsuit. The suit alleges that school leaders operate under a "Jim Crow-style regime" by offering similar Mount Dora High School nonreligious clubs space on the district website, free publicity in the school's yearbook and a paid faculty adviser. The district has "continuously refused" those benefits to the Christian club, the suit states, based solely on religion. "Jim Crow" is a pejorative term used to describe laws in the United States that once forced racial segregation and prevented black Americans from enjoying the same rights as white Americans. Mat Staver, Liberty Counsel founder and chairman, said his group worked with the school for months to try to resolve issues, but school leaders have "continually invented" new ways to deny the club equal access afforded to other clubs. The district's high-school club policy allows so-called "noncurricular" clubs that are not tied to school course offerings. Those clubs enjoy benefits such as using school grounds for meetings, space in the yearbook and school bulletin boards. The policy also allows clubs "associated with national organizations" such as the National Honor Society and student government. Those rules were rewritten last year while the district faced a legal battle with the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU filed two lawsuits last year on behalf of middle-schoolers who tried to launch a Gay-Straight Alliance club. The club was temporarily allowed to meet last May as a result of the first suit, but was denied for the 2013-2014 school year. That prompted a second suit that is still ongoing. The ACLU alleges that gay-straight club should be allowed under a federal law that forbids discrimination against clubs in "secondary schools." The ACLU also argues the district is violating students' free-speech rights.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

British Columbia Law Society Approves First Faith-Based Law School In Canada Despite Trinity Western University's Anti-Gay Policies, 19-Year-Old Floyd Evans Found Guilty Of Homophobic Attack, Philadelphia Police Search For Male Suspect Who Raped And Robbed Canadian Tourist He Met Through Grindr, Sacramento Police Investigate Act Of Vandalism As Hate Crime After Posters For Julieta Venegas Concert Defaced With Anti-Gay Slurs, Lumberton Texas School Board Reinstates Transgender Substitute Teacher

An update on a previous post: In British Columbia, the Law Society of B.C. has cleared the way for a Fraser Valley university to open the first faith-based law school in Canada despite controversy over the school’s policy toward gays and lesbians. Trinity Western University’s proposed law school had already cleared two major hurdles in receiving preliminary approval by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada (FLSC) and B.C.’s Ministry of Advanced Education. Provincial law societies now have final say, by way of individual decisions on whether to recognize the law school as an approved faculty of law. The Globe and Mail reports that after short but passionate presentations from the society’s board of directors – known as Benchers – on Friday, 20 voted against a motion to reject the school, while six voted in favour of it. The decision could set the tone for other provincial law societies, which are expected to make their decisions in coming weeks. Controversy over the proposal has centred on a clause in the university’s community covenant, which all students, administrators and faculty must sign, that prohibits “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.” Critics say it discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation and question how the law school would educate students on discrimination and equality rights. On Friday, many of the Benchers referenced a similar case involving TWU and the B.C. College of Teachers. In 1995, the BCCT refused accreditation to the university over the same clause and the case made its way to the Supreme Court of Canada. In a 2001 judgment, the court ruled in favour of TWU, noting “the proper place to draw the line is generally between belief and conduct.” Bencher David Crossin said the fundamental rights to assemble, and freely and openly practise religious belief, must be jealously guarded. “It is no doubt true that some, or many, or most, find the goals of TWU in the exercise of this fundamental right to be out of step and offensive,” he said. “But in my opinion, that does not justify a response that sidesteps that fundamental Canadian freedom in order to either punish TWU for its value system, or force it to replace it. In my view, to do so would risk undermining freedom of religion for all, and to do so would be a dangerous overextension of institutional power.” TWU president Bob Kuhn called the meeting a “great opportunity for an exchange of ideas,” and affirmed “the need in a pluralistic society for voices that may not be popular, but are important as part of the dialogue.” Meanwhile, Benchers at the Law Society of Upper Canada in Ontario began making arguments on Thursday and will reconvene on April 24 for a vote. The Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society will decide on the matter the following day, and the Law Society of New Brunswick will decide on June 27. Some lawyers have expressed concerns that if one provincial law society’s ruling is different from the others, it could threaten national mobility agreements that allow lawyers licensed in one province to practise across Canada.

In England, a 19-year-old has been found guilty of stabbing a man in a suspected homophobic attack in Cheshire. Floyd Evans, of Stanley Street, Chester, attacked the 35-year-old on Chester city walls on October 21. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said he was attacked in a known meeting place for the gay community. According to the BBC, at Chester Crown Court, Evans was cleared of attempted murder but found guilty of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. The CPS said the victim was on his way home and spotted a friend on the walls. As they were talking, Evans approached and started talking to the victim's friend. He then lunged forward and stabbed the victim, before walking away. Cheshire Police said the wound pierced his heart and cut an artery. A police officer kept pressure on the wound until paramedics arrived. The victim was taken to the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, where he required emergency surgery, the CPS said. He has since made a recovery. Richard Riley, from the CPS, said: "This was a vicious attack on a man who had simply been chatting with a friend when he was targeted. "We believe that Floyd Evans stabbed [the victim] because he thought he was gay and that Evans went to that part of the city walls that night for that very reason." He added: "Evans is clearly a violent man, quite possibly harbouring sinister feelings towards certain sections of our community." Evans is due to be sentenced in May.

In Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Police have identified the man they say raped, beat and robbed a tourist after the two men met on the popular gay dating and hookup app Grindr. Detectives are asking for the public's help in finding 26-year-old Douglas Spady, a.k.a. Douglas Casey, of the 5200 block of Cottage Street, in relation to the Wednesday afternoon attack. Spady allegedly pulled a gun on a 34-year-old Canadian man, in his hotel room at the Hilton Home 2 Suites at 12th and Arch Streets, and raped him. The victim, who was visiting Philadelphia to take part in an education conference, told that he invited the suspect over to his room after they met on Grindr. “The whole thing was just a giant blur. I was scared and I kept thinking if i just do what he says, then he'll just go away," the man said. Following the assault, the victim said he was forced to buy four $500 Visa gift cards. He was then walked to five nearby ATMs and told to withdraw $200 from each cash machine. In all the suspect stole $3,000. "I was afraid to say anything. I was afraid of what was going to happen," the victim said. The suspect and victim walked about 15 blocks – from 12th and Arch Streets to 20th and Walnut Streets – during the ordeal, the man said. Then inside a bar along the 2000 block of Walnut Street, the man was able to break free, run away and call police. Surveillance cameras inside the bar captured the struggle between the men. Spady stands 5 foot 11-inches tall with wavy hair and star tattoos on the back of his right hand, police say. He was wearing a dark colored jacket, dark blue jeans and tan boots. Anyone with information to call the tipline at 215.686.TIPS.

In California, an anti-gay slur painted on the front window greeted the managing partner of a Sacramento jewelry store Thursday morning, but his business may not be the actual target of the vandal. News 10 reports that the word "FAG" covered a series of posters promoting the April 27 Sacramento performance of Grammy Award-winning Mexican pop star Julieta Venegas, rumored to be gay or bisexual. The event promoter was disgusted by the vandalism. "You have to be ignorant to do something like this," Life Entertainment's Miguel Castillo said. "What do you gain from that? You don't gain anything. You just gain people knowing how stupid you are." Prestigio Jewelers managing partner Victor Herrado said the store on Franklin Boulevard had never been vandalized before in eight years of business on Franklin Boulevard. He challenged whoever painted his window to discuss their concerns in person. "I'm not trying to shut somebody up. We've got a free speech issue," Herrado said. "But don't be a coward about it." The Sacramento Police Department is investigating the vandalism as a hate crime.

An update on a previous post: In Texas, a transgender substitute teacher will return to the classroom after some parents had complained and called the teacher a distraction. Thursday night the packed Lumberton ISD Board Room was divided not by race or by income, but by ideals. The question was whether transgender substitute teacher Laura Jane Klug should keep her job with the district. "This is a constitutional issue. You have to ask yourself if there is any rational basis for her termination," said one commenter at the podium. Supporters rallied behind Klug, who sat quietly amongst them. Some told the board of trustees their own struggles of being accepted. "My question is this. When do we start focusing more on the education than the gender?" asked a supporter. Concerned parents stood up to the board of trustees and Superintendent John Valastro, telling the district that Klug does not belong amongst students. "This has caused elementary students to be confused. Asking questions of their parents wondering why a female teacher has facial hair," said one parent. "We're just now talking to our kids about the birds and the bees. I'm not sure how we're supposed to explain this. He hired in as a male. He is a male," said another parent. Though Klug later admitted some of what was said was hurtful, she said supporters helped her keep her composure. "We're not asking for anything special, we're just asking for equal rights. I am capable of doing a job," Klug said. Within a few hours after meeting with Superintendent Valastro and trustees, Klug said Valastro let her know the district must do what's right according to the law. Klug was welcomed back into the classroom.