Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Advocates Support Attempts By Vancouver School Board To Update School Policy And Student Guidelines To Create Safe Learning Environment For Transgender Students, Christian Group That Warns Against Using Pornography Denies It Was Trying To Change Homosexuals After Placing A Now Removed Ad On Grindr, Federal Lawsuit Filed Challenging Constitutional Amendment Approved By Voters In Georgia, Federal Judge Says Attorneys Defending Indiana Same Sex Marriage Ban Have Yet To Demonstrate Reason Not To Recognize Union Of Lesbian Couple, Proponents Of Constitutional Amendment Aimed At Overturning Ohio Same Sex Marriage Ban Can Gather Signatures To Get Measure On Ballot, Saginaw Michigan Decides To Postpone Indefinitely Vote On Ordinance That Would Ban Discrimination Based On Sexual Orientation And Gender Identity, College Of Charleston South Carolina Stages Gay-Themed Play To Sellout Audience Amid State-Funding Controversy

In British Columbia, a local trans-rights advocate is applauding the efforts of the Vancouver School Board to update its school policy and student conduct guidelines to better support transgender students.​ CBC News reports that the school board has spent the past few months listening to concerns in order to revise a 10-year-old plan created to help foster a safe learning environment. Marie Little, chair of Vancouver's Trans Alliance Society, says the revisions are both welcomed, and necessary. "It indicates people are beginning to move in the right direction in their thinking," she said. The new content in the draft plan includes a section on gender identity and expression, and the guidelines outline practices that include allowing trans students to dress, within existing school rules, according to their self-identified gender and to be called by a name or pronoun that matches their identity. Under the plan's revisions, which will be presented for approval later next month, teachers are advised to cut down on sex-segregated activities, and trans students are permitted to use washrooms or change rooms that match their gender identity. The VSB says decisions around gender-separated facilities will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. The proposal doesn't go as far as a recent move by the Vancouver Park Board to create gender neutral washrooms. Little says those who identify as transgender are often bullied more than others in the LGBTQ community. "The whole thing about being gay or straight is, for a whole long time, [it's] easier to hide. If you're trans, [and you] show up one day at school in a skirt, everybody's going to notice," Little said. But social policy activist and radio host Kari Simpson says the revisions go too far and give preferential treatment to trans students, when the school board should be treating all students as equal. "We're saying, 'All you other young ladies don't matter. If the 17-year-old grad student wants to become a woman and use your washroom, too bad. We're going to let him,'" she said. Little denies that the trans community is asking to be treated differently. "People who are trans don't have a choice about it," she said. "They just want to live their lives and they are no threat to anyone."

A Christian group that warns people against using pornography and partaking in “sexual immorality”, has denied it was trying to “change” homosexuals after an advert of theirs was found on gay-networking website Grindr. The advertisement posted by Christian group GodLife appeared on the gay-networking site across the Easter Weekend and was discovered by gay news website PinkNews. The article behind the advert, takes users to a page that warns: “God will remove His hand from your service to Him if you allow lust to lead you to actual sexual immorality.” It also warns readers to “avoid pornography” and “monitor your fantasizing and daydreaming when your mind is idle”. Despite this GodLife released a statement claiming that the advert was by no means aimed at turning gay men straight. A spokesperson for the group said: “Wow, we really are all over the world. We do not judge anyone. We simply want you to know the love of God and what His son did to save you from your sin," adding that, “I am not trying to change you from who you are at all. God made you just the way you are. He loves you that way so who am I to go against God’s love. Happy Easter to you. He has Risen!” The site’s administrators were alerted to the ad by Grindr users across the world, and have since begun action to take the advertisement down. Explaining the situation, a spokesperson from Grindr said: “We have both direct advertisers as well third party ad networks which supply advertising to the app. The ad you reference was served by one of these third party ad networks," adding that, “While we do have safeguards in place to monitor for ads on third party networks, we do serve billions of ads on our network, so there is the occasional chance that an inappropriate ad may appear.” As a result of the unfortunate product placement that occurred on the site this weekend, those that run Grindr have made a decision to stop religious groups advertising on their website or phone app.

In Georgia, three couples and a widow on Tuesday filed a federal lawsuit challenging the state’s ban against same sex marriage. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the suit will ask a federal judge in Atlanta to find that the ban, ratified as a constitutional amendment by voters in 2004, denies equal protection to gays and lesbians who want to get married here. The plaintiffs include two Atlanta Police officers and a Snellville couple who own a pet daycare center. Also joining the suit were two Atlanta men — a lawyer and a Realtor — and a Decatur woman whose partner died March 1 after a long struggle with ovarian cancer. “We need the protection that marriage affords,” said Christopher Inniss, a veterinarian and pet resort owner. Inniss, 39, wants to marry his partner of 13 years, Shelton Stroman, 42. They have a 9-year-old son. “We own a home together, we own a business together and we are raising our son, Jonathan, together,” Inniss said. “We have done everything we can to protect and take responsibility for our family but marriage is the only way to ensure that we are treated as the family that we are.” Beth Littrell, senior attorney for Lambda Legal, said her organization decided to file the Georgia lawsuit after a number of federal judges nationwide struck down same sex marriage bans in other states. “Momentum is behind us,” Littrell said. “There is an unbroken string of successes in the federal courts. … It’s discrimination, pure and simple, and it’s wrong.” Lambda Legal is joined in the litigation by two other law firms, Bryan Cave LLP of Washington and White & Case from Miami. The suit, which seeks class-action status, was filed against state Registrar and Director of Records Deborah Aderhold, a Fulton County Probate Court judge and the clerk of the Gwinnett County Probate Court. Last June’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that married same sex couples were entitled to federal benefits has eased the path for proponents of gay marriage. Justice Antonin Scalia predicted as much in his dissent, saying the court’s majority “arms well every challenge to a state law restricting marriage to its traditional definition.” Stroman and Inniss said many want to know why they haven’t tied the knot in a state where gay marriage is legal. “We have friends who’ve gone to New York or wherever to get married, but to us it’s like you were married for a weekend then you’re not when you come back,” Inniss said. “This is our home, and this is where we want to marry.”

In Indiana, a federal judge says attorneys defending Indiana's gay marriage ban haven't shown any good reason to not recognize the marriage of a lesbian couple, one of whom has a terminal illness. Judge Richard Young's order dated Friday outlines the rationale behind his April 10 decision to grant the couple a temporary restraining order barring the state from enforcing its gay marriage ban against them. Young says he granted the request in large part because Niki Quasney and Amy Sandler are likely to succeed in their bid to have Indiana's gay marriage ban declared unconstitutional. Young also says his order was based on a wave of recent court rulings finding similar laws in other states unconstitutional. The state's attorney general's office is defending the ban and had no immediate comment Monday.

In Ohio, proponents of the latest version of a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at overturning Ohio's gay marriage ban can now gather signatures to get the measure on the ballot. The Ohio Ballot Board agreed Tuesday that the proposed "Freedom to Marry and Religious Freedom Amendment" contains a single constitutional amendment, clearing the way for the effort to move forward. The updated amendment includes language requiring that all legally valid marriages be treated equally under the law. It also keeps clergy from being forced to perform a same-sex marriage. The group FreedomOhio is seeking to repeal and replace Ohio's 2004 prohibition on gay marriage. The amendment is not related to a federal judge's recent decision ordering Ohio authorities to recognize the marriages of gay couples performed in other states. Petitioners will now need to collect 385,247 signatures, which is equal to 10-percent of the total vote cast for governor in 2010.

In Michigan, more than 120 people crammed into the Saginaw City Council chambers and an attached hallway on Monday, April 21. Inside the chambers, men and women stood shoulder-to-shoulder along the walls and jockeyed for spots. Saginaw Fire Marshal Ralph Martin counted as each person entered and exited the room in order to make sure its occupancy limit was not exceeded. Most were there to speak or to listen to others speak on a proposed ordinance that would create a citywide ban on a certain type of discrimination. The Ann Arbour News reports that in particular, the ordinance would ban any discrimination in "employment" or "public accommodations" based on an individual's "real or perceived" sexual orientation or gender identity. About four hours into the meeting, when members of City Council finally began debating the issue, most of those people had left. In the end, city leaders voted 7-2 to postpone consideration of the proposed "Human Rights ordinance" indefinitely. Mayor Pro Tem Amos O'Neal proposed the motion, saying city leaders should take the time to meet with landlords, business leaders and leaders of the faith-based community. That group, O'Neal said, should get a chance to meet behind closed doors and hash out a compromise acceptable to all parties. "This is a very important issue to the community," he said. "I think it would be premature to do it without allowing ample opportunity to bring these parties together." City Councilwoman Annie Boensch, who led the effort to bring the ordinance to the table, fought vigorously against postponement. "I cannot vote in support of postponing this any longer," Boensch said. "I do not know what we were supposed to be doing the last two weeks." City Council voted in favor of introducing the ordinance during its April 7 meeting. Under provisions in Saginaw's city charter, that ordinance must be held over for at least two weeks before being approved. The city administration decided, since there was enough time for city attorneys to address a handful of questions from members of City Council, the issue should be placed back on the agenda Monday. Mayor Dennis Browning said the answers to his questions just spawned more questions. Browning said he would support O'Neal's proposal to discuss the issue further, but thought city leaders should set some sort of time limit to ensure the issue is brought back to the Council table. "I am not comfortable with an indefinite tabling or postponement," he said. Boensch said she was concerned that postponing could be an attempt to stop the progress of the proposed ordinance, pointing out that city attorneys were there Monday to answer any questions posed by members of City Council. "We have the people sitting here that can answer those questions," she said. "But by making the motion you shut down that conversation." Of the 38 individuals signed up to make public comments Monday night, 29 addressed the proposed ordinance. The majority of those were vocal supporters, though some critics, including a few local pastors, spoke out against the ordinance. Alvernis Johnson said he would like to see religious exemptions more clearly spelled out in the ordinance, to protect the actions of religious organizations like his. "We need to be assured that we do not have to jeopardize our beliefs to accommodate the ordinance," Johnson said. "I believe in rights for everybody. Everybody means me too. I do not want to think about being dragged into court or fined because I do not accommodate what I do not believe."

In South Carolina, the Post and Courier reports that Fun Home author Alison Bechdel said she owes a debt to the generations of gay people who came before her, including her closeted, gay father who killed himself. And she was proud to be part of bringing to Charleston the off-Broadway show based on her book, despite threats from South Carolina lawmakers that they could continue to slash the College of Charleston's budget. Bechdel and the original cast of the New York show volunteered to present two performances in concert format at the 750-seat Memminger Auditorium Monday. The 7:00 pm show sold out and most seats for the 9:00 pm show also were filled. Local organizers of the event said the cast was horrified by legislators' reaction to Fun Home being selected as a freshman summer reading assignment. "This is about stories about real people's lives," Bechdel said. "It's not pornography. The play is an amazing work of art." Warren Redman-Gress, executive director of the Alliance for Full Acceptance, said that in addition to students, the performances were important to Charleston residents, including members of its gay community. The General Assembly "is still trying to bully those with certain views," he said. The graphic novel Fun Home was the selected title for the College Reads! program and made available to all incoming freshman in the fall of 2013. In the book, which Bechdel has written and drawn in comic-strip form, she describes her childhood with a closeted gay father, who was an English teacher and owner of a funeral home; the trial he faced over his dealings with young boys; his suicide; and her own coming out as a lesbian. In February, some lawmakers took issue with the book, and the S.C. House budget-writing committee moved to withdraw $52,000 of school funding, the cost of the summer reading program. The censorship controversy flared, prompting acrimony on both sides and concern from supporters of academic freedom. Last week, state Sen. Larry Grooms (R-Charleston) said the college was unwise to host the play, and threatened more budget cuts. "If lessons weren't learned over there, the Senate may speak a little bit louder than the House. There would be a number of members in the Senate that would have a great interest in fixing the deficiencies at the College of Charleston," Grooms said. Bechdel said she thinks Grooms is "severely out of touch." Sophomore Kayla Robbins, a theater major, said she had the rare opportunity to observe a Fun Home rehearsal. "We don't get opportunities like this down here very often," she said. "The reason they are here is because of how ridiculous the situation is," she said. "But it's beautiful." Redman-Gress said threatening budget cuts in an attempt to control academic content at the College of Charleston isn't a new tactic for lawmakers. In 2003, the late Rep. John Graham Altman of Charleston used that method to quash a proposal to create a lesbian and gay studies minor, he said. And, he said, he's not surprised that opposition to Fun Home by some members of the General Assembly prompted the performances. "Truth will always speak out. It will force its way out sometimes." Todd McNerney, chairman of the college's Department of Theatre and Dance, said bringing Fun Home to town was a boon for the college. On April 14, it was announced that the musical had been named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It also was nominated for nine Lucille Lortel Awards. The production premiered at New York's Public Theater in September 2013, and its run was extended multiple times because of demand. The production closed in January 2014 and is now off-Broadway bound. McNerney said the performances were not meant to be an insult or a challenge to lawmakers. They were meant to expose students to accomplished artists. "I hope they won't punish us for presenting a piece of artistic work." And, he added, "not a cent of state money was used to support this." Tom Casserly, a member of the performance's production team, said "it was hard to pass on an opportunity to show our work to students when they are really interested in it. I know there are a lot of passionate kids here." When he was in college, Casserly said, "I would have killed to see this." Earlier in the day Monday, dozens of College of Charleston students rallied on the Cougar Mall in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning students, a move prompted by the "Fun Home" performances. Sophomore Kade Pope, who is from Aiken, said she enjoyed reading Fun Home more than Jonathan Safran Foer's book Eating Animals, which addressed topics such as factory farming and commercial fisheries and was the College Reads! selection when she was a freshman. "And don't worry," Pope told the crowd, "Eating Animals didn't turn me into a vegetarian."

Monday, April 21, 2014

Vancouver British Columbia Parks Board To Vote On Progressive Gender-Inclusion Measures, Boy Scouts Of America Revokes Charter Of Church-Sponsered Seattle-Based Troop For Refusing To Fire Openly Gay Scoutmaster, Rally Staged In Support Of Diversity And Academic Freedom At University Of South Carolina Upstate Following Funding Cuts For Gay-Themed Programs, Gay University Of Central Florida Student George Dumont Says Fraternity Removed Him From Pledging Process Because Of Sexual Orientation, Bryan Singer Accuser Sues Three Male Hollywood Executives, Challengers To Pennsylvania Same Sex Marriage Ban Ask Federal Judge To Bypass Trial In Favour Of Expedient Ruling

In Vancouver, British Columbia, a task force commissioned by the city Park Board is recommending measures to make all genders feel safe and comfortable at recreation centres across the city – and that means more than just changing washroom signs. Drop-in programs geared to community members with non-conforming genders, single change booths, and additional gender options on registration and application forms are some of the proposals in the report. The Globe and Mail reports that the Vancouver Park Board will vote on the recommendations by the city’s Trans* and Gender-Variant Inclusion Working Group on April 28. The report is the result of a period of community consultation that began in October, 2013. “What we heard is that for many people, myself included, that don’t easily or conveniently fit into narrow definitions of gender – whether that be male or female – accessing public washrooms and change rooms can be a real challenge,” said Drew Dennis, co-chair of the group. The report lists “quick starts” – recommendations that can be implemented within three to six months – which include installing universal signage for all single-stall washrooms and booths in change rooms. Another “quick start” project would be drop-in swimming for transgender and gender-variant community members, supporters, friends and families. Dennis, who doesn’t use a gender-specific honorific, said Templeton Park Pool was chosen because it is already host to All Bodies Swim, a volunteer group that organizes inclusive nights at local public pools. All Bodies Swim organizes events at Templeton every six weeks. Dennis said these new initiatives will allow for trans and gender variant people to access centres more frequently. “The only time they’re going into a community centre, the only time that they’re swimming is at those All Bodies Swims. So obviously if you’re going once every six weeks that’s not really part of an active routine,” Dennis said. Theo Jakob, volunteer member of the working group, said these initiatives will benefit more than just trans and gender-variant folks. “We are hoping that more individual, universal change rooms will create space for trans and gender-variant folks to feel safe, but also folks who are experiencing disabilities, or who have multiple children or who need a bit more time get changed. We see [the washrooms] as something that will benefit many stakeholders in our community, including and in particular trans and gender-variant folks.” The report also includes priorities with a one-year timeline, such as additional gender options on forms, and priorities with a two- to three-year timeline. These include having all people in volved in service delivery receive training on how to support trans and gender-variant patrons. “What we heard loud and clear from staff was one, they want the tools and language so that they can be dealing with people respectfully, and two, they wanted to know the policies and protocols and what was expected,” Dennis said. The long-term priority listed in the report, with a timeline of four to 10 years, is having universal change rooms and washroom options available in all Vancouver Park Board facilities. Tami Starlight, executive director of the Vancouver Transgender Day of Remembrance Society, welcomed the recommendations. Starlight said some community members may resist the change at first. “One time white-only spaces existed and it was the norm, and when people pushed for fully inclusive spaces there was a lot of backlash and a lot of people were confused because they were accustomed to the way things were. There’s going to be some anxiety and animosity towards this societal change.” But Starlight is hopeful. “We as a society can work together through whatever hiccups may happen.”

In Seattle, Washington, the Boy Scouts of America, which voted last year to allow gay scouts but not openly gay scout leaders, has revoked the charter of a church-sponsored troop here for refusing to fire its adult gay scoutmaster. The New York Times reports that the decision, which one gay rights organization said was a first since the policy change last year, essentially bars the Rainier Beach United Methodist Church and its 15 scouts from using logos, uniforms or names associated with the Boy Scouts as long as the scoutmaster and Eagle Scout Geoffrey McGrath, 49, remains in charge. The church’s pastor, the Rev. Dr. Monica K. Corsaro, said Monday that Mr. McGrath was there to stay, and so was the youth group he leads, though perhaps without the familiar uniforms and the Scout oath. “We’re going to stand firm,” she said. “Geoffrey attends our church, and this is a way to support our youth in the neighbourhood.” This month, the Boy Scouts ordered the dismissal of Mr. McGrath, a software engineer who is married to his longtime partner, after he spoke about his sexual orientation in a news article profiling the troop, which was formed last year in a south Seattle neighborhood heavily populated by immigrants and lower-income families. The decision to disenfranchise the organization, sent in a letter on Friday, came after church officials said they would continue to support Mr. McGrath and had no intention of following the order. “Because the church no longer agrees to the terms of the B.S.A.-chartered organization agreement, which includes following B.S.A. policies, it is no longer authorized to offer the scouting program,” a spokesperson for the Boy Scouts, Deron Smith, said in an e-mailed statement on Monday. “We are saddened by this development.” The debate over whether to allow gays in scouting has been a grim one for the Boy Scouts, which has prided itself for generations on its assertions that scouting builds character and integrity, even as revelations in recent years about sexual predators in the ranks have exploded in court cases and news coverage. The scandals have made the organization sensitive about choosing leaders, many people involved in scouting said, especially as scout numbers have declined. Last year’s policy shift, to allow gay youths, sharply divided the religious community in particular. Mr. McGrath, who is on vacation in Italy, said in a telephone interview that discussions were already beginning about what might come next for the youth organization at Rainier Beach. However, Mr. Smith, the Boy Scouts spokesman, said in his statement, “We have already identified a new chartered organization to sponsor the units and are contacting the parents and leaders of the units to inform them of the change.” Mr. McGrath described his church’s youth group as diverse. He said there were boys from immigrant families, including from Asia and Africa, as well as two boys with gay fathers. “We’ll have to figure out a new name,” he said.

In Spartanburg, South Carolina, more than 100 USC Upstate students, faculty and administrators made sure their voices were heard during a rally in support of diversity and academic freedom at the university Monday. A new student group called SPEAK (Stand Proudly Everyone is Allowed Knowledge) formed at the University of South Carolina Upstate about a week and a half ago in response to a proposed $17,142 state budget cut to the college over a gay-themed book assigned to freshman this school year. Faculty also cancelled a performance at the university by a lesbian comedian earlier this month due to outcry from state legislators and the community, officials said. Republican Sens. Lee Bright of Roebuck and Mike Fair of Greenville issued a statement recently saying they were concerned about “left-leaning” books and performances with gay themes being held at USC Upstate. Organizers were pleased with the turnout at Monday's rally. “I didn't expect to see this many students here,” said senior Laketra Cureton, who founded SPEAK with classmate Marniqua Tompkins. “This really shows that students care about their education and what they're allowed to learn.” SPEAK organized several events on campus last week, including banner and petition signings, wearing black in solidarity and leading an online campaign that has drawn hundreds of followers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. As the rally began, Tompkins told the audience gathered in the university amphitheater that the group did not form in support of homosexual rights or Christianity, but for diversity and academic freedom. “We're here to say it's OK to discuss those things in the classroom,” Tompkins said.Matt Iyer, a Democratic challenger for state House District 32, was one of several speakers during the event. “The LGBT community deserves to be treated with equality and respect like everyone else,” Iyer said. “This is America.” Warren Carson, the university's chief diversity officer, said USC Upstate has always supported diversity on campus. “You have the right to be who you are, whatever you are. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise,” Carson said, his comment drawing spirited applause. “The issue is human dignity — the right of every person to be valued for who they are.” Carson encouraged the students to continue educating others about diversity issues, to vote and get others registered to vote. He said he was pleased to see so many students in attendance. “It's a great occasion,” Carson said. “Let's keep it going.” For theater student Bethany Lancaster, the recent cancellation of lesbian comedian Leigh Hendrix's performance was distressing. “Art is about subjectivity,” Lancaster told the crowd. “Even if you don't agree, you can still learn things from it. They (the senators) robbed us of the educational experience.” After the rally, senior Brittany Hazel said she was proud of her fellow students for organizing the event and speaking out. USC Upstate is considered a commuter campus, and she said many students returned in the evening to attend the event. The students are taking action against what I call bullies,” said Hazel, who said she's tried to speak to the senators and their office staff about the issues with little success. “It's sort of a 'my way or the highway' approach. I feel like it's mid-term election time, and they need a hot topic to get their constituents riled up.” Reached by phone Monday night, Bright said he is responsive to his constituents, giving out his cellphone number, and he spends much of his time talking with people, including those who disagree with him. He said it’s a shame that professors are encouraging students to push this agenda. “We’ve gone from education to indoctrination,” Bright said. As for bullying, Bright said taxpayers are subsidizing the education of students at the university and “the homosexual agenda is not something the taxpayer wants to pay for.” Efforts to reach Fair were not successful Monday night.

A University of Central Florida student who contends that a fraternity kept him from joining because he's openly gay is using social media to plead his case. Sophomore George Dumont of Sebring recently posted a YouTube video in which he and a friend discuss how he was kicked out of the pledging process shortly before he was initiated into Beta Theta Pi late last fall. He also created a Tumblr page titled "Worth Fighting For" to promote his story. The University is investigating the complaint that Dumont, 19, a former UCF cheerleader, brought against the fraternity's local chapter in February. Leaders of the fraternity said his rejection had nothing to do with his sexual orientation. Martin Cobb, a North American spokesman for Beta Theta Pi, said it has investigated Dumont's allegations and found no evidence of wrongdoing. The group has many gay members, Cobb said. At least 7 percent of members who are undergraduate students and live in the U.S. and Canada identify themselves as bisexual or homosexual, according to a study conducted earlier this year by administrators at the fraternity's headquarters in Ohio. Beta Theta Pi chapters are prohibited from using sexual orientation as a basis for determining who gets in. Nat Jones, president of the 70-member chapter at UCF, said a gay student who had pledged at the same time as Dumont last fall was initiated as a member in November. "The men of Beta Theta Pi are certainly disappointed by the recent video statement indicating our chapter is intolerant based upon one's sexual orientation," Jones said in a statement to the Orlando Sentinel. "Our brothers have gay relatives and gay friends, and we have long prided ourselves on being an inclusive fraternity that values diversity in all forms …" Neither the local chapter nor the fraternity's headquarters would say why Dumont was rejected during a vote of the chapter's full membership. Dumont told the Sentinel he was shocked to learn five days before his initiation that the fraternity did not want him. The group did not give a reason, he said. Later, however, a few friends in the fraternity indicated that his sexual orientation had played a role, he said. "I met with some brothers for dinner later that night and I asked what happened and why. I didn't understand," Dumont said, explaining that he asked one of the men if he was turned down because he's gay. "He looked at me and nodded, and I was like 'Are you kidding me?' The other brother nodded." Before UCF's winter break, Dumont claims another fraternity member told him in a text message that some members are "homophobic." Dumont would not name the fraternity members who he said corroborate his story. Dumont, a marketing major, said he did not file a complaint with UCF until early February because he fell into a deep depression. He also worried about how people would respond. "There was lot of stuff going on and I was trying to process the whole situation," he said. "I had just been removed from a group of people I was very close with. Coming forward — I was nervous and even doubtful people would even hear me out." UCF spokesperson Chad Binette said Monday the issue is still under review by the school's Office of Student Conduct, which looks into complaints brought against student organizations. Binette said the Just Knights Response Team, which was created to assist students alleged to be victims of bias, "remains involved in working with the student and the fraternity chapter." On Tuesday, Dumont said he is scheduled to meet with representatives from the fraternity and the university to try to reach a resolution. He said he would not join the fraternity now if he had the chance. "I just don't feel like it's a good place for me anymore," he said. Meantime, Dumont's social-media campaign continues. "I was kicked out of my fraternity for being an Openly Gay Male and so I took action!," Dumont wrote on his Tumblr page. "I am currently fighting for my situation and this blog is to keep everyone who is Fighting with and Supporting me up-to-date with the Progress being made!"

The attorney for the man accusing X-Men director Bryan Singer of sexual abuse has filed additional, similar cases against three Hollywood executives. The Los Angeles Times reports that Garth Ancier, David Neuman and Gary Goddard were named in three separate complaints, filed by attorney Jeff Herman in Hawaii, accusing them of sexually abusing Michael F. Egan III. Last week, Singer was accused in a federal lawsuit of drugging and sexually assaulting Egan in the 1990s. Ancier is a prominent television executive who has held senior positions at Fox and NBC. Neuman is a former senior Walt Disney television executive. Goddard is the founder of a firm that designs theme park attractions, hotels and resorts and produces live shows. They could not immediately be reached for comment. An attorney for Singer has called the lawsuit against his client "absurd and defamatory." The lawsuit against Singer filed on behalf of Egan claims that Egan was forced into a "sordid sex ring" in the entertainment industry in which underage boys were supplied alcohol and drugs. Egan alleges that the assaults took place at parties in California and Hawaii when he was 17. The lawsuit also says Singer promised Egan jobs in film, commercials and other projects. The plaintiff is now 31 and lives in Nevada. The claims made "about Bryan Singer are completely fabricated," Marty Singer, a lawyer for the director, said in an e-mail last week. "We look forward to our bringing a claim for malicious prosecution against Mr. Egan and his attorney after we prevail." Singer's next big-budget movie, X-Men: Days of Future Past, is to hit theaters May 23. Singer broke onto the Hollywood scene with the 1995 thriller The Usual Suspects. Herman was also the attorney behind the 2012 lawsuit filed against former Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash.

In Pennsylvania, gay and lesbian couples and others challenging the state's 1996 law banning same sex marriage asked a federal judge Monday to bypass a trial in favor of a quicker ruling in the case. According to the Associated Press, attorneys representing the plaintiffs filed the request in federal court in Harrisburg, saying they no longer see the need for a trial, which had been scheduled to begin June 9. They say Gov. Tom Corbett's office has not refuted their arguments concerning their relationships and their inability to get the same legal protection and tax benefits afforded to married couples. "Today we have provided the court with moving personal stories from all of our plaintiff families describing how this ban hurts them and their loved ones," said Witold J. Walczak, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania. "We hope the judge will see the profound harm caused by this law and strike it down." A spokesperson for Corbett, who opposes same sex marriage and is defending the law, said the governor's office plans to also request a ruling without a trial. A decision from U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III, if he decides to rule without the case going to trial, is not expected before May 12, the deadline for both sides to respond to each other's motions. Every state in the Northeast, except Pennsylvania, recognizes same sex marriages. In all, 17 states give legal status to gay marriage. The ACLU said that in challenges to laws in other states banning gay marriage, federal district courts have issued 11 consecutive favorable rulings. The Pennsylvania lawsuit, filed July 9, was the first known challenge to the state law that effectively bans same-sex marriage and the recognition of gay marriages from other states.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

United Kingdom Christian Nursery Worker Claims She Was Fired For Refusing To Read Stories About Gay Couples To Children, Openly Gay District Judge Michael McShane To Hear Arguments On Oregon's Constitutional Same Sex Marriage Ban, Landlord Janet Berger Refuses To Allow Brooklyn Bar Owner To Turn Establishment Into Gay Club, Musical Shares Stage With Gay Rights Debate At South Carolina Public University

In the United Kingdom, a Christian nursery worker is taking her former employers to court claiming she was sacked for her beliefs after refusing to read stories about gay couples to children. Sarah Mbuyi says she was dismissed due to religious discrimination, having also been accused of “harassing” a lesbian colleague to whom she gave a Bible when she was recovering from an accident. The Telegraph reports that the case, lodged at an employment tribunal, comes amid growing concerns among some Christians that religious beliefs are being “outlawed” in the workplace. A Christian group backing the case says it is an example of believers being “robbed” of the freedom to express views. Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, has warned that “militant atheists” are attempting to impose “politically correct intolerance” on others. “We’re a Christian nation,” he insisted. Last week David Cameron said Christians should be “more evangelical” about their faith and “get out there and make a difference to people’s lives”. But the Christian Legal Centre, which is funding Miss Mbuyi’s case, said his words were “failing to play out." Miss Mbuyi, 30, who lives in north London, carries a Bible. She started work for Newpark Childcare, a London-based group of four nurseries, last April, before being taken on full-time in one of the schools in September. The same month a lesbian worker also joined the nursery, in Shepherd’s Bush, west London. After discovering that Miss Mbuyi was Christian she repeatedly asked her about her beliefs, the tribunal will be told. Miss Mbuyi, now working at another nursery, will claim her colleague sought to provoke her. In December the co-worker spent time in hospital having had an accident at work and Miss Mbuyi gave her a Bible on her return. The present, Miss Mbuyi says, was as a result of the interest she had shown in her faith. It was received well, she insists. The following month, however, Miss Mbuyi, a Belgian national who came to Britain six years ago, says her colleague told her she had received abuse about her sexuality from religious people in the past. During the discussion, Miss Mbuyi says she told the woman that “if I tell you that God is OK with that I am lying to you." At a disciplinary meeting, her employers accused Miss Mbuyi of “harassing” her co-worker, saying such behaviour amounted to “gross misconduct." The co-worker could not be reached for comment. Her employers inquired how she would feel if she was asked to read children’s storybooks featuring same sex parents. She replied that she would not be able to read such books. The Christian Legal Centre has instructed Paul Diamond, a prominent religious rights barrister, to fight the case. Andrea Williams, chief executive of the group, said: “Sharing Biblical truths out of genuine love and concern for colleagues is being outlawed in the workplace by a dominating cultural correctness. There is a culture of fear which closes down freedom of speech and the manifestation of faith. This culture brands the liberating good news of the Gospel as oppressive and regressive.
“The Christian Legal Centre is representing Sarah Mbuyi as the latest in a line of Christians who are being threatened by a movement to repress Christians from living out a genuine expression of their faith in a country which once led the world in freedom and justice.”

In Oregon, starting next week, the spotlight on the status of same sex marriage in America will shift to the Eugene courtroom of U.S. District Judge Michael McShane – who finds himself in an unusual position. Unlike the five federal judges who have struck down laws prohibiting same sex marriages in other states in recent months, McShane won't have anyone in the courtroom defending Oregon's constitutional ban when he holds oral arguments Wednesday. And, reports the Oregonian, unlike the other judges, McShane also happens to be one of just nine openly gay members of the federal judiciary, according to the Human Rights Campaign. It's an unusual combination of factors for the 53-year-old jurist, who has served as a federal judge for less than a year. McShane, citing the sensitivity of the case, declined to be interviewed for this story. But friends say they're confident he'll produce a careful decision while setting aside any personal feelings. "You don't want to be the lawyer going in saying with a wink, 'I'm the lawyer on the gay-marriage side and he's going to be with me,'" says Lane Borg, who heads Metropolitan Public Defender and has known McShane for decades. "They would be ill-advised to think that just because Michael is gay that he is going to rule that way." Still, the widespread view is that McShane will follow the lead of other federal judges in ruling that same sex couples have the right to marry. Backers of a gay marriage initiative are even asking McShane to rule by May 23 so that they don't have to take their fight to the November ballot. In his courtroom, McShane will face a battery of lawyers all telling him to strike down the 2004 voter-approved constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman. That's because Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum announced earlier this year that she wouldn't defend the law because it violates federal equal-rights protections as interpreted by last year's Supreme Court decision. Several lawyers on both sides of the issue say the lack of opposition will almost undoubtedly lead McShane to strike down Oregon's constitutional prohibition. "That would appear to make the case a foregone conclusion," says William Duncan, who heads the Marriage Law Foundation, a Utah-based group opposed to same sex unions. If McShane decides to strike down the law, his major issue may be whether to stay his decision while appeals are heard from other states – or whether to allow gays and lesbians to begin marrying in Oregon. McShane's own journey to the federal courthouse in Eugene has been unusual enough. He grew up in a conservative Catholic family in small-town eastern Washington. After college, he came to Portland with the Jesuit Volunteers Corps and counseled homeless parolees and probationers. That led him to law school and then work at Metropolitan Public Defender, where Borg and others say he quickly became one of the sharpest and hardest-working trial lawyers in the office. He became a pro tem judge in 1997 and a full Circuit Court judge in 2001. Around the courthouse, he became known for going to unusual lengths to try to help defendants turn their lives around. He and his staff held a Friday breakfast club for probationers he knew wouldn't get regular supervision. Once, he offered the shoes off his feet to a bare-footed defendant. Another time, his socks. He also regularly met defendants for their scheduled early-morning appointments at Hooper Detox, reasoning that they would be more likely to actually show up if they knew McShane was there waiting for them. "Your only option is to be a disinterested observer and watch a train wreck, or step in," McShane told Willamette Week in a 2010 interview. For all of that, McShane also earned the respect of prosecutors, who quickly came to see him as evenhanded, says former Multnomah County District Attorney Michael Schrunk. "He's not super-harsh or super-lenient," says Schrunk. "He's fair but not a pushover." McShane also became known around the courthouse for having a temper. He could be particularly tough on lawyers he saw as unprepared. One prosecutor privately calls him an "equal-opportunity screamer" given to chewing out hapless attorneys. McShane became part of a four-judge team that handled the county's aggravated murder cases. "I don't think there is a judge in the state who has handled more death penalty cases than he has," says fellow Multnomah Judge Eric Bergstrom, a former prosecutor who became a close friend. "He's a big collector of people around him," Bergstrom adds. "He throws a big taco party every Christmas, and you'll see an eclectic collection of people. ... He's just instinctively warm and welcoming." For years, McShane collected religious icons and was frequently given pictures of St. Michael. "I don't think he's a practicing Catholic," says Bergstrom. "But I think it informs his life. ... I think he would say he considers himself a Catholic." With one longtime ex-partner, McShane adopted a young boy, now 20, who had come from an abusive home. He's now helping rear the 13-year-old nephew of his current partner, Gregory Ford, who has gone back to school to become a nurse. McShane's sexual orientation may have helped him get a foot in the door to be considered for a federal judgeship. The Obama administration has pressed for a more diverse federal judiciary. The five finalists for the Eugene judgeship that McShane won included three women, one an African-American. Opponents of same sex marriage have stayed away from McShane's court -- declining, for example, to file any "friend of the court" briefs aimed at influencing his thinking. Some say there's little reason to get involved since they don't have standing to appeal. But there's been some grumbling about McShane's involvement in the case. John Eastman, a constitutional law professor and chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, an anti-gay marriage group, questions whether McShane has a conflict. "The question is not his sexual orientation," says Eastman, "but whether he is situated identically to the plaintiffs and will benefit from the exact relief he provides to them." In other words, McShane could also get the right to marry his partner if he strikes down the Oregon prohibition on gay marriage. Opponents of same sex marriage unsuccessfully made the same argument in California when they tried to erase U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker's 2010 decision striking down that state's anti-gay-marriage initiative. After Walker retired from the bench, he said publicly for the first time that he was gay and in a long-term relationship. Walker's successor, Judge James Ware, refused to vacate the decision, saying that the presumption about Walker's state of mind "is as warrantless as the presumption that a female judge is incapable of being impartial in a case in which women seek legal relief." In an initial court hearing with attorneys involved with the current case, McShane made clear his willingness to recuse himself if there were any concerns – and he didn't hear any. John Parry, a Lewis & Clark law professor, says the court system is based on the belief that judges can set aside their own opinions. "It's not like straight judges will necessarily be neutral in their thinking," says Parry. Still, he adds, he's sure the judge knows his ruling will attract a lot of attention. "I would expect," Parry says, "Judge McShane to take extra care with the opinion."

In New York City, a Brooklyn bar owner says he’s going out of business because his landlord won’t let him turn his watering hole into a gay bar. The New York Post reports that John McGillion says he wants to transform Lulu’s to take advantage of a growing gay and lesbian community in the neighbourhood. But there’s just one problem: his lease specifically prohibits McGillion from running a gay bar. “I am barely scraping by on the proceeds of the bar . . . If I am permitted to operate a gay bar at the premises I believe that I will be able to make a considerable profit,” McGillion said in Brooklyn Supreme Court papers filed last week. Greenpoint was up and coming when John McGillion opened Lulu’s back in 2005, just a block from the East River. He added two mezzanine levels and “put a lot of money” into the business, McGillion said. Still, the establishment “lost money, there’s no doubt,” he told the Post. McGillion, who owns a handful of other bars in Brooklyn and Manhattan, believes he could have done another “40 to 50 percent” more business as a gay establishment. McGillion has withheld the rent for months and has been battling landlord Guard General Merchandise Corp. for more than a year over the issue, but says it won’t budge. "I don’t know what their problem is. Who knows? I thought those days were gone,” he said of the lease. “I mean, who cares, today? Gays — everybody’s got their rights. What’s the big deal?” Fed up, he tried to sell the business on three or four occasions, but the deals fell through when the landlord, identified in public records as Janet Berger of Manhasset, tried to triple the rent for the prospective buyers, he claims. “When we went in there 10 years ago we were taking a big risk. Ten years later there’s a big, big difference. Their property is a lot more valuable,” he said. Bars catering to gay customers have a big upside, McGillion said. “They do well because you don’t have issues of fighting,” he said. “They’re nice people, they’re wonderful to deal with. It’s easier. Typically you don’t have to offer food.” But with just 10 months left on the lease, McGillion is asking a judge to declare the controversial clause invalid, and to instead extend the deal by two or three years. The landlord declined to comment on the litigation.

In South Carolina, students at a public university are snapping up tickets to the musical Fun Home after state lawmakers approved a proposed cut in school funding over the critically acclaimed lesbian memoir on which the musical is based. Outraged over the proposed budget cut for the College of Charleston, which was triggered by a freshman reading assignment, the cast of the Pulitzer Prize-nominated show volunteered to put on two performances of selected songs from the musical at the college without pay. Little more than a day after the box office for both Monday performances opened, 900 of the 1,500 available tickets had been sold for $10 or $15 apiece, a spokesperson for the liberal arts college with 11,000 undergraduate students said on Friday. "The legislature’s punishment of the college for teaching Fun Home just feels ridiculous," said Alison Bechdel, whose 2006 memoir recalls growing up a lesbian with a closeted gay father in rural Pennsylvania. She will be on hand for the performances on Monday. In March, the Republican-controlled state House voted to slash the school's budget appropriation by $52,000, the amount the college spent on its summer reading program. The program included Bechdel’s book, a bestseller that was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award, for incoming freshmen. Republican Representative Garry Smith told Reuters he proposed the cut after a parent complained about the book's "graphic pictures of two females having sex" and because the college did not offer another choice for summer reading. The school, whose founders in 1770 included three signers of the Declaration of Independence and three framers of the U.S. Constitution, has said participating in the summer reading program was optional. The Republican-led Senate is now considering the cut, which critics have called an assault on academic freedom. "I don't have a problem with their academic freedom but they're asking someone else to pay for it," said Smith, who accused the college of promoting a social agenda. "We want to send a message to the colleges and universities that their academic freedom comes with responsibility." The College of Charleston has been buzzing with talk about gay rights ever since a faculty member, in response to the proposed spending cut, reached out to the creators of the recent Off Broadway musical. The nine-member cast, which includes the Tony Award winner Michael Cerveris, offered to perform for free as educational outreach, Fun Home producer Barbara Whitman said. The college has raised about $20,000 that will be used in addition to the ticket sale proceeds to cover food, lodging and travel expenses for the cast, said Todd McNerney, chairman of the college's department of theater and dance. Also helping to fund the effort is a community foundation grant from the family of Harlan Greene, head of Special Collections at the college's library, who said the shows "will spark debate on an issue that has been bringing, frankly, all kinds of negative and hate-filled reaction." Greene said the state's political stance on gay rights is similar to its resistance to racial integration in the 1950s and 1960s. "A lot of southern demagogues at that time said we're not going to knuckle down, we're not going to obey the law of the land," he said. "It's the same exact thing that's happening with gay rights in the South." In 2006, South Carolina voters approved an amendment to the state constitution that bans same sex marriage.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Prominent AIDS Doctor Charles Farthing Dies At 60, Abbott Laboratories Urges Federal Appeals Court To Revisit Ruling That Found Gay Man Improperly Excluded From Jury Service To His Sexual Orientation, Saginaw Moves Closer To Being One Of Michigan Counties With Ordinances Protecting Against Workplace Discrimination Based On Sexual Orientation, Olympia Washington Police Search For Suspect Who Used Anti-Gay Slur, Beverly Hills Hotel Subject Of Boycott Over Owner's Anti-Gay Policy In Brueni

Charles F. Farthing, a physician who was at the forefront of care for HIV/AIDS patients and who drew attention to the need for an AIDS vaccine by announcing his willingness to inject himself, has died. He was 60. Farthing, who collapsed in a Hong Kong taxi April 5, had a heart attack, family members said in an announcement, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times. Farthing was chief of medicine for the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation from 1994 to 2007. He was planning to return to the foundation in June as director of treatment programs in the 32 countries outside the U.S. where it provides services. At the time of his death, Farthing was based in Hong Kong and working for the pharmaceutical company Merck, Sharp & Dohme as Asia Pacific director of medical affairs for infectious diseases. "He was one of the most recognizable personalities in our field," said Dr. Michael S. Gottlieb, a Los Angeles physician who co-wrote the first scientific report identifying the disease that came to be known as AIDS. "He had a lifelong commitment to the cause." In 1997, Farthing was frustrated by what he saw as the slow progress of work on a promising vaccine that contained a weakened form of the HIV virus. With drug companies reluctant to do expensive research that might be dangerous for human test subjects, he controversially said he would volunteer as a guinea pig. Others in the field followed suit and expressed their willingness, although ultimately the idea stalled. Still, Farthing, who was unafraid to take outspoken positions, was for a time intent on the idea. "Someone has to go first," he told the Times. And the first injection wouldn't be the last; to see if it worked, it would have had to be followed years later by shots of the virus in a stronger form. "Years ago, people took risks," Farthing said. "Now, it's as if medical research can't expose anyone to any risk. That's why this research is going so slowly. People have to accept some risk." In the end, discouraging results from tests of a similar vaccine on monkeys dissuaded even Farthing. "Based on follow-up data, he believed the vaccine wouldn't work," said Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "But the fact that he was willing to take a chance with his own life — when we were still in the era of certain death — showed his commitment, his courage, his willingness to do anything for a breakthrough." Research on a vaccine is ongoing, and medications have made the disease far more manageable. Born in Christchurch, New Zealand, on April 22, 1953, Charles Frank Farthing thought of becoming a priest but was attracted to medicine when he helped treat banged-up rugby players in high school. "He was a fixture on the sidelines with his little white box," said his cousin David Williams, who attended the same school and is now a neurobiologist at UCLA's Jules Stein Eye Institute. Farthing received his medical degree from the Dunedin School of Medicine in New Zealand's Otago province. Practicing in London at St. Stephen's Hospital, he helped start one of England's first AIDS wards in the early 1980s. Several years later, he became head of an AIDS program at New York's Bellevue Hospital. In Los Angeles, he was a key figure in the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which describes itself as the largest non-governmental AIDS organization in the world. "He was to a large degree responsible for building our medical program," Weinstein said. "He recruited, mentored and trained many doctors. He helped build a medical structure that continues to this day and now covers the globe." Farthing's survivors include his partner, Dougie Lui, and his brother Bruce.

Reuters reports that an Abbott Laboratories spinoff urged a federal appeals court to revisit a ruling in a case against GlaxoSmithKline Plc, but without disturbing landmark constitutional protections for gays and lesbians. In a brief filed with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Thursday, AbbVie Inc said the full court should review an initial three-judge decision that found a gay man was improperly excluded from jury service due to his sexual orientation. The court in reaching that conclusion in January ordered a new trial for GlaxoSmithKline Plc against AbbVie, which contended Thursday that the 9th Circuit's ruling needed review due to its potential to affect "thousands of jury trials." But AbbVie said it is not asking for the court to reconsider a holding that heightened the constitutional protections judges in several Western states must now apply when evaluating laws that curtail gay rights. "Abbott condemns discrimination in all forms, including in jury selection, and no discrimination occurred here," Abbott's lawyers wrote. A spokesperson for Glaxo did not respond to a request for comment. The case involved Abbott's pricing of HIV medications, a contentious issue in the gay community. Glaxo accused Abbott of improperly increasing the price of one drug, Norvir, to help it preserve sales growth of one of its other HIV blockbusters, Kaletra. Norvir plays a key role in AIDS-fighting cocktails because it can boost the effectiveness of other drugs. Glaxo accused Abbott of raising Norvir's price by 400 percent in 2003, as part of an effort to harm competitors whose drugs were dependent on being used in combination with Norvir. Glaxo had sought $571 million, but after a four-week trial came away with only a $3.5 million jury award. AbbVie had initially let the deadline to seek 9th Circuit reconsideration pass, and the company said March 10 it would not seek to appeal the 9th Circuit's landmark ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. But on March 27, the 9th Circuit, without prompting from the parties, instructed AbbVie and Glaxo to address whether a larger panel of judges should review the case. Dirk Van Eeden, a spokesman for AbbVie, said the company opposes discrimination. But AbbVie is "raising the fact that a well-established procedure in jury selection was not followed," he said. "This omission may have important privacy implications for potential jurors, such as the possibility of having to disclose their sexual orientation in court and under oath," he said. "These implications go beyond the underlying case and may warrant a larger panel's consideration." The case in the 9th Circuit is Smithkline Beecham Corp dba GlaxoSmithKline vs. Abbott Laboratories, 11-17357.

The city of Saginaw soon may join a list of 28 Michigan communities with local ordinances in place to protect against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. The proposal is more expansive than many across the state, protecting against discrimination based on either real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity in both employment and public accommodation. Sponsored by Councilwoman Annie Boensch, the proposal will come before Saginaw City Council for a second time on Monday, April 21. Boensch said she brought the language forward because there is a gap in current state and federal laws that essentially legalizes discrimination against someone who is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. "There is an absolute need for this ordinance," she said. "The state of Michigan currently allows for LGBT individuals to be discriminated against in Housing, public accommodations, and employment." Some have spoken out against the proposed ban, saying it is unneeded and could actually do more harm than good. Saginaw resident Jordan Haskins said he fears the ordinance will force some business owners to violate their consciences, giving the example of a baker being asked to bake a cake for the commitment ceremony for a same sex couple. "Why use the force of government to force them to participate in a ceremony that they feel is sinful?" Haskins asked. "The First Amendment protects rights of conscience. The Michigan Constitution protects rights of conscience. It is not just a right to worship, but to live out your faith in how you do business, how you live your life, how you do charity." Timothy Price, a gay Saginaw resident, said he knows first-hand of discrimination and harassment that has taken place in the city. "I also know many others who have left Saginaw, as they did not feel comfortable and/or feel could exceed to their full potential and live in a community they wanted to be part of," Price said. He said City Council passing the ordinance would be a step in the right direction for the community. After hearing public comments from 17 speakers on the issue on April 7, City Council approved the ordinance for introduction. Pursuant to Saginaw's city charter, Monday night's meeting will be the first opportunity to put the matter to a vote. The ordinance seeks to ban discrimination against someone based on that person's "actual or perceived sex, sexual orientation or gender identity." Violations would be considered civil infractions, and violators could face a fine of up to $500. Boensch explained enforcement of the ordinance would be handled by the city manager and city attorney. "An individual would be able to file a notarized complaint with the city manager's office," she said. "The complaint would be turned over to the city attorney's office to see if it has merit." Critics, including former Councilman Paul Virciglio, have questioned the need for Saginaw to take the risk, pointing out enforcement and any lawsuits resulting from the issue could amount in some unknown cost to city residents. "The need is there for uniformity of LGBT law," Virciglio said. "Instead of a local ordinance, efforts should concentrate on the state or federal level." Other items on Monday's agenda include a new proposal for a code enforcement program from Chief Inspector John Stemple and a natural gas supply contract expected to save the city more than $80,000 over the next two years. A second ordinance is also on the agenda for final consideration Monday. If approved, it would allow the city to collect "payment in lieu of taxes" on a tax-exempt subdivision on Saginaw's East Side. City Council will also consider a resolution that would authorize the city to borrow up to $694,872 to finance a handful of major purchases: A fire truck, a high lift loader with a 5-yard bucket and two pickup trucks with plow attachments. According to the resolution, the city would be charged an interest rate of 3.37 percent and would pay back the loan from FirstMerit Bank in 20 semiannual instalments.

In Washington State, a man inside Jake's on Fourth reported being punched in the face by another man who called him a slur commonly used to disparage another person's sexual orientation, according to an Olympia police report. The 32-year-old man reported to police that "he believes he was punched in the face because he is gay, and that the suspect was yelling homophobic remarks," the police report states. The attack occurred in the early morning hours of Sunday, April 5 at Jake's on Fourth, a nightclub in the heart of downtown Olympia. The 32-year-old said he was punched in the face a single time by a black male, wearing a red hat, and was approximately five-feet tall. The man said he believes the suspect is in the military. The man was bleeding from the face when police interviewed him, but he declined medical attention. No one has been arrested in connection with the incident. Anyone with information that can help police solve the crime is encouraged to call the Olympia Police Department at 36-753-8300.

In California, the Beverly Hills Hotel is the subject of a boycott by an LGBT political advocacy group over an anti-gay policy instituted by the owner of the hotel chain, the Sultan of Brunei. The Gill Action fund -- a national organization founded by entrepreneur and activist Tim Gill -- was scheduled to hold a conference for political donors at the Beverly Hills Hotel on May 1-4, according to the Washington Blade. (A spokesperson for the Beverly Hills Hotel declined to comment on the the details of the conference.) The executive director of the fund, Kirk Fordham, disclosed to the Blade that it was moving locations due to the government of Brunei's new penal code. “In light of the horrific anti-gay policy approved by the Government of Brunei, Gill Action made the decision earlier today to relocate its conference from the Beverly Hills Hotel to another property,” Fordam told the paper. The Southeast Asian nation of Brunei will institute a revised penal code on April 22 that includes "stoning to death" for a broad range of sexual offenses, according to a United Nations news release on April 11. The country's leader, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, had announced plans last October to implement the code, which applies only to Muslims, the Associated Press reported at the time. Bolkiah controls Brunei Investment Agency, which counts the Dorchester Group as a subsidiary. The Dorchester Group owns The Dorchester collection, which owns The Beverly Hills Hotel. Many A-list industry events are held at the hotel, including The Hollywood Reporter's annual Women In Entertainment gala, hosted on December 11 of last year. "[W]e do not tolerate any form of discrimination of any kind," read a statement issued by the Beverly Hills Hotel. "We are also against any law in any other country around the world that punishes people for their religious beliefs, ethnicity, race or sexual orientation. The laws and policies that govern how we run our hotel have nothing to do with the laws that exist in any other country outside of the United States. We do not tolerate any form of discrimination and strongly value people and cultural diversity amongst our guests and employees."

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.”