Sunday, October 19, 2014

Police In Brazil Arrest 26-Year-Old Man Suspected Of Committed 39 Murders And Who Targeted Gay Men Killing Them Out Of "Fury" Anti-Gay Russian Lawmaker Vitaly Milonov Ask That Post Prevent Finnish Stamps Honouring Tom Of Finland From Entering Country, Coeur d'Alene Idaho Wedding Chapel Files Federal Suit Alleging City Violating Religious Beliefs By Forcing Them To Perform Same Sex Marriages, Police Charge Kentucky Youth Pastor With Sex Abuse Of Juvenile After 16-Year-Old Male Sodomized In Attempt To "Cure" Him Of Homosexuality, Human Rights Campaign Endorses Efforts To Promote Once-A-Day Pill To Prevent HIV Infection

In Brazil, police have arrested a man who they say has confessed to at least 39 murders over a three-year period. According to the BBC, police said the 26-year-old security guard targeted homeless people, women and homosexuals. They said Thiago Henrique Gomes da Rocha - who approached his alleged victims on a motorbike with his face hidden - was cold but driven by rage. He was arrested in the central Brazilian city of Goiania by a special police team investigating the murders. Police said he often demanded valuables from his victims before shooting them and leaving without their possessions. A police official who had been present at the interrogations told a Brazilian TV channel the killer called his victims by the numbers 1 to 39. "We have been shocked by his coldness," the official said. He never knew those he targeted, police said, and acted out of an inner "fury" that he felt "against everything", which only subsided when he committed murder. He would feel remorse after killings, police said, which only fuelled his anger more. The alleged suspect had also described accurately the locations of each murder and the emotions he had felt at the time, and police said he fired on his victims while cruising the streets. Investigators said they were sifting through evidence, including closed-circuit TV footage, and had seized weapons and stolen license plates from his grandmother's home. He is also being investigated over 90 robberies of shops, pharmacies and lottery outlets.

The Moscow Times reports that St. Petersburg lawmaker Vitaly Milonov has appealed to Russian Post to prevent an influx of postage stamps depicting homoerotic scenes by a Finnish artist that the outspoken deputy says violate Russia's anti-gay-propaganda law. Milonov has demanded that all letters and parcels featuring the stamps — a series of six released in September by Finland's postal service to commemorate the artist Touko Laaksonen — be returned to sender and not allowed to enter Russia. Laaksonen, also known as Tom of Finland, was renowned for his homoerotic fetish art. The stamps that have so enraged Milonov feature several provocative images, such as a man's bare buttocks with another man's face visible between his legs, and a naked man sitting between another man's legs. In a letter to the head of Russian Post, Dmitry Strashnov, Milonov condemned the stamps for "contravening Russian law," the TASS news agency reported Saturday. "They are basically elements of homosexual propaganda, which is banned in our country. I ask the leadership of Russian Post to pay close attention to this request. In addition, I urge the Finns themselves, our close neighbors, to refrain from using these stamps when sending letters to Russia," Milonov wrote, TASS reported. Russia's anti-gay propaganda law, which came into effect in summer 2013, prohibits the promotion of nontraditional sexual relations among minors. Milonov, who spearheaded the legislation's adoption, told TASS that he learned of the stamps from a "like-minded person" in Finland who was equally outraged by their appearance. Finnish broadcasting company Yle apparently anticipated Milonov's reaction, having conducted an experiment in September immediately after the release of the stamps to see if they could get past Russian customs officials, TASS reported. Several letters featuring the stamps were sent from Finland to Moscow and St. Petersburg, and all of them reached their destinations, the report said. The stamps proved hugely popular even before their release, with advance orders coming in from 178 different countries, Finland's postal service, Itella Posti, said on its website. "Tens of thousands of Tom of Finland stamp sheets were pre-ordered before issuing," Markku Penttinen, the company's development director, was quoted as saying by Forbes earlier this month. The stamps, available for purchase on the Finnish postal service's website, cost three euros per sheet.

In Idaho, the owners of the Hitching Post wedding chapel filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Coeur d’Alene Friday, claiming that the city is unconstitutionally forcing them to violate their religious beliefs by performing same sex marriages. Owners Donald and Evelyn Knapp say in the lawsuit that they believe marriage is a sacred covenant between a man and a woman. “Performing same sex wedding ceremonies would thus force the Knapps to condone, promote and even consecrate something forbidden by their religious beliefs and ordination vows,” the suit reads. The city passed an ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in 2013. It applies to housing, employment and “public accommodation.” Religious entities are exempt from the ordinance. But in May city attorney Warren Wilson told the Spokesman-Review that The Hitching Post, which is a for-profit business, likely would be required to follow the ordinance. According to the lawsuit, a man called the business Friday to ask about a same sex wedding ceremony and was turned down. The Knapps are now asking for a temporary restraining order against the city to stop it from enforcing the ordinance. Violation of the ordinance is a misdemeanor punishable by fines and jail time. “The Knapps are thus under a constant, coercive and substantial threat to violate their religious beliefs due to the risk that they will incur the penalties of jail time and criminal fines for declining to speak a message and perform a wedding service that contradicts their religious beliefs and ministerial vows,” the suit reads. When reached by phone late Friday afternoon, Coeur d’Alene Mayor Steve Widmyer said he was not aware of the lawsuit and had no comment. The city’s ordinance is a violation of the couple’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights along with a violation of the Idaho Free Exercise of Religion Protected Act, the lawsuit said. The lawsuit was filed by Georgia and Arizona-based attorneys for Alliance Defending Freedom in partnership with Coeur d’Alene attorney Virginia McNulty Robinson. The group’s website defines ADF as a “legal ministry that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.”

In Kentucky, police have charged a youth pastor in Pulaski County with sex abuse involving a juvenile. Eubank Police Chief Colin Hatfield told the Commonwealth Journal that 30-year-old Rex Allen Murphy is charged with first-degree sex abuse, third-degree sodomy and use of a minor in a sexual performance. The Pulaski County jail's website shows Murphy was booked into the facility early Tuesday. It did not list an attorney for him. The newspaper reported the Murphy is a youth pastor at Polly Ann Church of God in Eubank.

According to the Associated Press, the largest U.S. gay-rights organization Saturday endorsed efforts to promote the use of a once-a-day pill to prevent HIV infection and called on insurers to provide more generous coverage of the drug. Some doctors have been reluctant to prescribe the drug, Truvada, on the premise that it might encourage high-risk, unprotected sexual behavior. However, its preventive use has been endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and many HIV/AIDS advocacy groups The Human Rights Campaign, which recently has been focusing its gay-rights advocacy on same-sex marriage and anti-discrimination issues, joined those ranks with the release of a policy paper strongly supporting the preventive use of Truvada. It depicted the drug as "a critically important tool" in combatting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. "HRC does not take this position lightly," the policy paper said. "We recognize there is still ongoing debate ... and that there are those out there who will disagree with our stance." Truvada has been around for a decade, serving as one of the key drugs used in combination with others as the basic treatment for people with HIV. In 2012, the Food and Drug Administration approved it for pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP — in other words, for use to prevent people from getting sexually transmitted HIV in the first place. "Today, there is an unprecedented chance to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic, in part through PrEP's aggressive prevention of new HIV infections," said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign. "There is no reason — medical or otherwise — to discourage individuals from taking control of their sexual health and talking to their doctor about PrEP." The CDC says studies have shown that Truvada, when taken diligently, can reduce the risk of getting HIV by 90 percent or more. Research discussed at the International AIDS Conference in July found that use of the drug does not encourage risky sex and is effective even if people skip some doses. As part of its announcement, the Human Rights Campaign called on insurers, regulators and Truvada's manufacturer to take steps to reduce costs, raise public awareness, and make the option available to all medically qualified individuals who could benefit from it, regardless of ability to pay. The cost of Truvada varies widely; a New York State Health Department fact sheet gives a range of $8,000 to $14,000 per year. The manufacturer, California-based Gilead Sciences Inc., has a program that provides assistance to some people who are eligible to use Truvada but cannot afford it. The Human Rights Campaign urged all states to emulate Washington state, which implemented a program earlier this year offering assistance in paying for PrEP. The preventive option also was endorsed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo when he announced initiatives in June aimed at ending the state's AIDS epidemic by 2020. The HRC called on state insurance regulators to take action against any insurers who deny legitimate claims from patients who've been prescribed PrEP by their doctors. A prominent provider of services to HIV-positive people, the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, remains a vocal critic of the preventive use of Truvada. In an ad campaign launched in August, the foundation says many gay men fail to adhere to Truvada's once-a-day regimen and describes government promotion of the drug as "a public health disaster in the making." On October 10, an alliance of about two-dozen HIV/AIDS organizations in New York released an open letter to the Healthcare Foundation, asking it not to extend the ad campaign to their state. "We believe your campaign could prevent people at risk for HIV from using this potential lifesaving medication," the letter said. The Healthcare Foundation's president, Michael Weinstein, said his organization did plan to run ads soon in New York City asserting there is data casting doubts on Truvada's effectiveness. "Censoring the discussion is not the answer," he said. Weinstein also noted that — according to figures from Gilead — only a few thousand people thus far have filled prescriptions for Truvada. "If people really felt it was the answer, it's hard to imagine it wouldn't have spread like wildfire," Weinstein said. "It's obvious there is enormous ambivalence in the medical community." According to the CDC, there are about 50,000 new HIV infections annually, with gay and bisexual men accounting for nearly 63-percent of them.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Kyrgyzstan Lawmakers Vote To Adopt Stronger Version Of Russia's Gay Propaganda Measure, Springfield Missouri Becomes 14th City In State To Extend Protection From Discrimination Based On Sexual Orientation And Gender Identity But Opponents Vow To Overturn Policy, ACLU Of Montana Files Motion Asking That U.S. District Judge Morris Rule In Favour Of Four Same Sex Couple Suing State To Overturn Constitutional Gay Marriage Ban, After Same Sex Marriage Stay Lifted Idaho Agrees To Allow Gay And Lesbian Veterans To Be Buried With Spouses, North Carolina Magistrate Resigns Rather That Perform Same Sex Marriages, North Carolina Cancels Play Because Of Same Sex Content, New York City Police Again Searching For Suspect In Apparent Anti-Gay Hate Crime, Houston Texas Same Sex Couple Removed From Yellow Cab For Kissing

In Kyrgyzstan, lawmakers have voted in favour of adopting a tougher version of Russia’s law against "gay propaganda." If passed, the Kyrgyz version would mandate jail terms for gay-rights activists and others, including journalists, who create “a positive attitude toward non-traditional sexual relations.” The vaguely-worded bill passed its first reading on Wednesday with a vote of 79 to 7, AKIpress reported (the 120-seat legislature is rarely full). During a meeting last week to discuss the bill, one lawmaker said the draft is not tough enough and proposed to increase sentences from up to one year to three years. If it passes two more readings, the bill will go to President Almazbek Atambayev – a staunch Russia ally – for his signature. One of the bill’s authors, Kurmanbek Dyikanbayev, often sounds as if he is repeating Kremlin talking points. Dyikanbayev told Radio Azattyk last week that he sponsored the bill to protect Kyrgyzstan’s “traditional families.” He also blames Western democracy for moral degeneracy and for encouraging homosexuality. Bishkek-based LGBT-rights organization Labrys, whose advocacy would be outlawed by the bill, notes that the legislation contradicts numerous human rights provisions in Kyrgyzstan’s constitution. Nika Yuryeva of Labrys said she fears the bill will encourage more violence against the LGBT community. In a detailed report released in January, Human Rights Watch alleged that Kyrgyz police subject gay and bisexual men to “physical, sexual, and psychological violence; arbitrary detention; and extortion under the threat of violence.” On occasion the abuse “rose to the level of torture,” the report said. In response, the Interior Ministry refused to acknowledge any problem and the country’s top cleric issued a fatwa against same sex relations, saying the government should be wary of “public organisations that disseminate social discord.” The US Embassy has expressed “deep concern” about the bill. “No one should be silenced or imprisoned because of who they are or whom they love. Laws that discriminate against one group of people threaten the fundamental rights of all people,” the embassy said in a statement on October 10. Kyrgyz legislators are also pushing for another Russian-style bill, which would stigmatise non-profit organisations that receive foreign funds as “foreign agents” — a Soviet colloquialism for spies. The original law in Russia, passed in 2012, has silenced NGOs and, activists allege, been used selectively to close down Kremlin critics. One of the lead supporters in Kyrgyzstan, Tursunbai Bakir uulu, a former human rights ombudsman, told last year that the bill would protect Kyrgyzstan from foreign “sabotage” and “sexual emancipation." Many rights activists in Bishkek believe Russia would like to turn a pliant country once known as Central Asia’s “island of democracy” into a moral ally in its fight with the West. Journalist and gay-rights activist Masha Gessen, writing in the New York Times on October 5, said Kyrgyzstan is the “perfect lab rat: it is small and poor and extremely susceptible to Russian pressure.” Several times this year, nationalist youth groups have rallied against gay rights, at times using homophobic slurs to denounce human rights activists generally.

An update on a previous post: In Missouri, Springfield became the 14th community in the state to extend protections to gays, lesbians, and other sexual-identity minorities in the areas of employment, housing, and accommodations. Springfield had been the largest community in Missouri, and of the largest cities in the country, without such protections. The city council? voted 6-3 Monday night to approve a stronger bill expanding city's nondiscrimination ordinance. However, the battle is likely far from over. Sexual-identitiy minorities will now be a protected class under Springfield's existing nondiscrimination clause that already includes things such as race, religion, and disability. "We are just really happy that the council stepped up and made a leadership decision on the comprehensive version," stated Stephanie Perkins, local director of PROMO, an organization advocating for LGBT rights. "It could have gone either way and we are really really happy that they saw the value [in this measure]." The expansion comes after Springfield's city council voted in favor of the ordinance, which protects LGBT individuals from discrimination in employment, housing, and accommodations. Those who have supported the bill, however, are expressing cautious optimism. That's because opponents have vowed to attempt to defeat the ordinance through an initiative-petition process and voter referendum. In Monday night's vote, Mayor Bob Stephens, Councilmen Jerry Compton, and Craig Fishel cast the dissenting votes. Mayor Stephens had sponsored a 'weaker' version of the bill that would have only extended to housing, and not to employment. That version of the bill was he recommendation of a task force, which had studied the issue since council tabled an initial non-discrimination measure introduced in 2012. Some members of the LGBT community said they believed Stephens was a strong ally of the cause, and expressed disappointment in the mayor's 'no' vote on the issue. In recent months and years, Stephens has been the keynote speaker at several events and fundraisers for the LGBT community, including Pridefest. He was also a speaker at last year's 'Black Tie' event, a fundraiser benefiting charities serving the LGBT community. In a conversation following Monday night's meeting, Stephens told KY3 his vote does 'not in any way reflect his views on equality.' The mayor said he felt obligated to the 'weaker/substitute' bill that he sponsored. And, while he could have voted 'yes' on the larger bill, he felt it would have undermined the hard work of he task force, which had recommended the content of the bill he had sponsored. The mayor also explained he believed both versions of the measure were a step (forward) for the city of Springfield. Furthermore, he explained individuals, "don't need to draw assumptions' he is not an ally of the LGBT community. Opponents of the ordinance say they will immediately begin efforts to get the new ordinance repealed. "It will get on the ballot and I really believe it will be firmly defeated, what the council did not expose are the thousands of emails, faxes, phone calls [expressing opposition to this bill]," stated Calvin Morrow, spokesperson for opposition group Springfield Citizens United. "What is not being heard and understood is that this community is overwhelming against this, but it is being portrayed as the opposite. And, so the referendum and vote tall with demonstrate that," he added. Morrow's group hopes that, if the measure is brought to the ballot box, the voters will defeat the measure. The group says it is confident it can collect the necessary signatures within days, qualifying the measure for a public vote. Even if voters of the city repeal the measure, it doesn't mean LGBT citizens would forever be stripped of rights in the area of employment and housing. A decision by judge could theoretically delay or prevent the protections from being repealed. Also, in the future, if protections are issued on the federal and/or state level, they could extend to the city level. Twenty years ago, in 1994, Springfield voters defeated a measure that would have added sexual orientation to the classes of people protected against hate crimes. The bill would have made it possible to charge individuals with 'hate' crimes if they committed violent crimes against an LGBT person, and it could be proven the victim was targeted because of their sexual orientation. While the bill failed on the local level, the protections were eventually extended on the federal level.

According to the Great Falls Tribune, the ACLU of Montana on Wednesday filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Great Falls asking Judge Brian Morris to rule in favor of four same sex couples who sued the state to overturn Montana's constitutional ban on same sex marriage. The move comes in the wake of a unanimous 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling issued October 7 that overturned same sex marriage bans in Idaho and Nevada. The appeals court ruled those states' bans on same sex marriages were unconstitutional because the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment bars discrimination based on sexual orientation. "We don't think there are any material facts in dispute, and so the case can be decided without a trial," ACLU of Montana Legal Director Jim Taylor said in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon. "The ban on same sex marriage in the Montana Constitution is the same as the bans that were ruled unconstitutional in Idaho, and Nevada." Taylor said the four couples who sued Montana are in the same situation as the couples who won in the Idaho and Nevada cases. "We are raising the same issues that were raised in the Idaho and Nevada cases, and we are optimistic that the decisions of the 9th Circuit in those cases will convince the District Court to rule in our favor," Taylor said. Montana is part of Ninth Circuit, and federal district courts in Montana use precedents from that circuit to make rulings, Taylor said. "With the 9th Circuit's ruling, there is no reason to delay giving loving, committed same-sex couples in Montana the protections and respect that marriage provides," said Elizabeth Gill, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. "We are looking forward to the day when we can celebrate with them."

In Idaho, the Statesman reports that based on the legalization of same sex marriage that took effect in the state on Wednesday, October 15, the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery will allow gay veterans to be buried with their same sex spouses, said James Earp, cemetery director, on Friday. A U.S. Navy Veteran, Madelynn Taylor, 74, had filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Boise in July after attempting to make advance arrangements to have her ashes interred with those of her late wife, Jean Mixner. The cemetery denied her request based on state law. The state of Idaho owns and operates the cemetery. Taylor and Mixner were legally married in California in 2008. Mixner died in 2012. Earp said Friday that Taylor had contacted the cemetery to begin making arrangements.

In North Carolina, even though same sex marriage is law now, some magistrates are refusing to perform same sex marriages citing religious beliefs. One of Swain County's magistrates, Gilbert Breedlove is resigning rather than marry gay couples. Despite a state memo telling magistrates to follow their oaths of office, or face suspension or dismissal, Breedlove says same sex marriage not only violates his religion, but he says the federal mandate violates the U.S. Constitution. Jennifer Simon and her spouse are one of the first gay couples to be married in Swain County. She’s proudly displaying their marriage certificate on her Facebook page. When a federal judge overturned the state’s ban on same sex marriage, she and her partner of 26 years filled out the paperwork for a license at the courthouse Monday. She says it was an extremely easy and pleasant experience. About Breedlove’s decision to resign she says, “I’m sorry that he feels so strongly that he would have to resign over an issue that really should be okay.” Residents have different opinions about the issue. Beth Jenkins says, “He won't marry them and I don't blame him. I’m sorry. I don't blame him.” Roger Jennings says, “They need to be married. And they need to have the rights that married people have.” Breedlove's last day on the job is this Monday. Magistrate Curtis Graham says Breedlove will not face charges because he's resigning in advance of handling a gay marriage request.

Also in North Carolina, a Catawba County school's decision to not allow students to perform a popular school play has been met with controversy. Students at Maiden High School claimed they had already begun rehearsing for the play Almost, Maine when the principal decided to cancel the performance. Almost, Maine is a romantic comedy that depicts multiple love stories, including one shared between two men. Students said some parents and area churches complained to the school about the play involving a same sex couple. “If that’s the case it doesn’t surprise me,” said Savannah Harvell, who graduated from Maiden High School in 2009. “There are still people here who don’t want to move forward with the times. It’s not surprising if that’s what is going on with that production.” Doug Propst, who lives in Maiden and has children who graduated from the school, said, “I would want to watch the play first and then decide about it being performed in school. I do believe marriage should be between a man and a woman.” The school confirmed that the play had been canceled. The school’s principal, Rob Bliss, later released a statement that read: “Our faculty and staff are still in review of potential performances to be conducted by our students this fall. At this time, no final decision has been made regarding whether and what drama performances are to be presented this fall. In regards to the request for students to perform the play "Almost Maine," careful review and consideration was given to the contents of this play. The play contained sexually-explicit overtones and multiple sexual innuendos that are not aligned with our mission and educational objectives. As principal of Maiden High School, I have an obligation to ensure that all material, including drama performances is appropriate and educationally sound for students of all ages.” Students started an online petition in hopes the school's leaders will change their minds and let the show go on. It reached 90 signatures as of last Tuesday night.

In New York City, authorities are searching for a suspect in an apparent hate crime in which a 33-year-old man was attacked with a hammer and robbed in Brooklyn Monday. According to police, the suspect followed the victim back to his building on Washington Avenue around 11:00 am in Crown Heights and started yelling anti-gay slurs. The victim, Mitchell Pope, said he'd let the suspect in because he thought he was a construction worker there. But when Pope went to get his mail, the suspect began hitting him with a hammer. "As soon as I got into the staircase, I was hit from the back unexpectedly. I fell down the stairs backwards, and he got on top of me and started hitting me," Pope said. Police have released a surveillance video of a suspect in a hammer attack on a man in Crown Heights. The suspect also made anti-gay statements, police say. "I thought he was going to take my life," he said. "I was struggling to save my life." The suspect then took Pope's cellphone and ran away. Surveillance video released by police showed the suspect fleeing with the hammer in hand. Pope was taken to a nearby hospital in stable condition. He needed staples in his head. No arrests have been made. Anyone who recognizes the suspect is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS.

In Texas, a same sex couple claims they were kicked out of a cab for kissing. Travis Player and his partner, Andres Orozco, say a Houston Yellow Cab driver kicked them out of his cab after the two started kissing in the back seat. "We gave each other a kiss and he told us to get out of the car," Player said. "We thought he was joking until he actually pulled over." Orozco said, "The man just turns back to us and tells us that he doesn't give gay people rides. And he proceeds to tell us we're going to hell for being gay." The two were let out several blocks from their home and were forced to walk the rest of the distance. "The sad reality is that it is completely legal," said Noel Freeman, an LGBT community advocate in Texas. Freeman said in the last six months he's heard four other similar stories: gay couples getting kicked out of Yellow Cab taxis for being affectionate. "There are no laws in the state of Texas that protect people from discrimination in public accommodations like cabs. So someone can be kicked out of a cab because they're gay, black, because they're a woman," Freeman said. In response to questions, Yellow Cab issued to following statement: "Yellow Cab immediately investigated this allegation of discrimination, including talking to the independent contractor driver. The driver stated that he would have taken the same actions if it was a man and a woman in the taxicab. Evidently, the driver was overly sensitive to passengers kissing. Yellow Cab does not have a policy about passengers showing affection in taxicabs. In fact, we encourage kissing in our taxicabs." Player and Orozco didn't pay the $6 cab fare and said they expect nothing more from Yellow Cab. But they say the company won't be getting their business in the future. "We were expressing our love for each other, and for someone else to jump in and clearly state it's not right, that really did upset me," Orozco said. Houston has passed an equal rights ordinance that could have protected Player and Orozco, but it is currently being challenged so the ordinance can't be enforced. The case challenging that ordinance is scheduled to go to trial in January.

Rome's Mayor Defies Italian Government And Registers 16 Same Sex Couples Married Abroad, Federal Judge Strikes Down Wyoming Same Sex Marriage Ban As Attorney General Announces No Appeal Will Be Filed, Federal Judge Rule Arizona Law Prohibiting Same Sex Marriage Unconstitutional, United States Supreme Court Denies Request By Alaska Government To Stop Same Sex Marriages From Go Forward, Catholic Bishop Criticizes University Of Notre Dame For Extending Benefits To Same Sex Spouses, Houston Attorneys Back Off Request To Obtain Sermons From Five Anti-Gay Area Pastor Who Opposed Anti-Discrimination Ordinance, U.S. District Judge Rules Lawsuit Filed Against University Of New Mexico By Former Student Who Argues She Was Ostracized By Professors After Making Anti-Gay Remarks, Michigan Man Who Wielded Bat At Gay Bar Sentenced To Nine Months

In Italy, the Associated Press reports that the same sex marriage debate arrived within walking distance of the Vatican on Saturday as Rome's mayor defied Italy's government and registered 16 gay marriages celebrated abroad. Gay marriage is illegal in Italy. Interior Minister Angelino Alfano recently sent a notice to local prefects saying any registrations of foreign gay marriages would be voided, and Rome's prefect vowed to do so immediately. Nevertheless, Mayor Ignazio Marino received thunderous applause upon arrival at the city hall reception room where the couples and their loved ones gathered to make the marriages official in Rome's city ledger. Marino transcribed the date and locations of their weddings, including in Spain, Portugal and the U.S. Marino said Saturday was an important day in the fight for equal rights and that "the most important right is to say to your companion 'I love you' and to have that be recognized." Outside, a few protesters held up signs saying "Stop Marino" and "Transcriptions don't make families." Police said they blocked about 70 right-wing protesters who didn't have a permit. Jonathon Dominic Spada, 26, from Santa Barbara, California, and Fabrizio Maffeo, 35, a Roman computer specialist, were there to register their 2013 marriage in Boston. "It's important — a limited recognition, but it's something," Maffeo said. "I'm proud of our mayor." The next step, he said, was for Italy to change its law to allow gay marriage and gay adoption. Premier Matteo Renzi has said he would propose legislation allowing gay unions, though it's not expected to include adoption. The Italian bishops' conference said it was "unacceptable" that Marino registered the weddings the same day Catholic bishops were wrapping up a two-week summit aiming to reinforce traditional Catholic family values. In a statement, the bishops insisted marriage was between a man and woman.

In Wyoming, the Casper Star Tribune reports that gay and lesbian couples will soon be allowed to marry after a federal judge on Friday struck down a state ban on same sex nuptials and defendants in the case, including Gov. Matt Mead, announced they will not appeal. "I’ve never been prouder to be a Wyomingite," said Jeran Artery, who led the fight to legalize same sex marriage through his work with Wyoming Unites for Marriage and Wyoming Equality. Gay and lesbian couples are expected to start marrying in the next week. Some visited county clerk's offices Friday to begin the paperwork for marriage licenses. Other couples are relishing the thought that their marriages performed out of state will soon be recognized in Wyoming. "I had a message today from a woman I know who is a lesbian who thanked Carl and me for giving her and her partner some legitimacy,” said Rob Johnston, a Casper man who married his partner, Carl Oleson, in 2010 in Canada. “To me, that's what this is all about. And to give kids hope so that if they want to get married to somebody of the same gender, they can." Johnston and Oleson were one of four same sex couples who joined with Wyoming Equality in legal action against the state. U.S. District Judge Scott W. Skavdahl of Casper released his order at 1:30 p.m., noting that gay couples' constitutional rights were being violated. “The court understands that every day where same sex couples are denied their constitutional rights is another day filled with irreparable harm,” Skavdahl wrote. “But it is at least equally important that all same sex marriages carry the same prominence and finality that attend opposite sex marriage, including the various obligations and liabilities incumbent within the marital relationship.” Skavdahl put his ruling on hold until 5:00 pm Thursday or until all defendants have filed notice that they will not appeal the order. A little more than an hour after Skavdahl’s order was filed with the court, the Laramie County attorney filed a notice with the court that Laramie County Clerk Debra Lathrop, also a defendant in the case, will not appeal Skavdahl's order. Hours later, Mead’s office released a statement that said Attorney General Peter Michael, who is appointed by the governor, had advised that an appeal would be unlikely to succeed. “This result is contrary to my personal beliefs and those of many others,” Mead said in the statement. “As in all matters, I respect the role of the courts and the ruling of the court.” Michael will file notice with the court that the state will not appeal before Thursday, Mead’s statement said. Skavdahl’s order came a day after a federal court hearing in Casper where gay marriage advocates asked the judge to comply with the Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which determined that marriage is a fundamental right. The plaintiffs filed suit October 7, a day after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear cases from five states wanting to ban same sex marriage, allowing the lower court ruling to be the law. Two of the states, Oklahoma and Utah, are in the 10th Circuit. The 10th Circuit concluded that marriage bans violate the due process and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution. Skavdahl wrote that his court is bound to apply and follow the 10th Circuit precedent. The judge rejected arguments from attorneys for the state, who said an abrupt ruling would interfere with the work of countless agencies and local government. “However, the fact is state defendants failed to offer even a scintilla of evidence to support their assertion that a preliminary injunction would cause such administrative nightmares,” Skavdahl wrote in his order. “At the preliminary injunction hearing, state defendants offered no exhibits and called no witnesses to testify. The record in this case is utterly devoid of anything beyond conjecture or speculation supporting state defendants’ claims that the state will suffer ‘severe impact’ and a ‘profound change to the state’s and local authorities’ administration of government.'” Plaintiff attorney James Lyman, of Denver firm Arnold and Porter, said, “We’re thrilled the judge made the right call." Two additional cases over same sex marriage are in state court in Laramie County. They likely will not proceed because of Skavdahl’s decision. Lyman said he will know soon how he and other attorneys will proceed with those cases. Wyoming is now the 32nd state to allow same sex marriages, Lyman said. Plaintiffs Shelly Montgomery and Brie Barth, of Carpenter, said they will pick up their marriage license as soon as they can. Between them, there are six children, and they’re still finalizing the details of when they will walk down the aisle. “This means so much for our family,” Montgomery said. “It means we are afforded those protections that every other family has now.” Those protections include the inheritance rights and the right for a spouse to make medical decisions. Wyoming was not part of the October 6 Supreme Court decision. However, it was part of a group of six states that were nonetheless affected because they are in circuit court districts that had legalized gay marriage, said Chris Stoll, senior staff attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which also represented the plaintiffs. “The judge here was bound by the 10th Circuit’s ruling,” Stoll said of Skavdahl. “His ruling was very much based on that.” Natrona County Clerk Renea Vitto, who was not involved in the litigation, said she would accept couples' applications now. "We don’t have the updated form yet, so if they want the application now, the form reads 'bride' and 'groom,' and the couple would have to decide how to fill that out," she said. "At this point, what I would do is take their applications, hold them and not issue the actual licenses until the 23rd or until Judge Skavdahl says no more appeals have been filed." Wyoming, nicknamed the Equality State, has had a troubled history with gay acceptance. The state made headlines in 1998 after Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming college student, was fatally beaten. Shepard’s parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard, were in Skavdahl’s courtroom Thursday watching the proceedings. Jason Marsden, executive director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, congratulated Wyomingites who will soon get married. “My husband and I met, fell in love, owned a home and devoted years to public service in Wyoming, but we were never able to solemnize our commitment as marriage during our years in the Equality State,” Marsden posted on Facebook. “Nor was our friend Matt Shepard able to see the day his home state would live up to its nickname. But while this came too late for some of us, it’s far better than never. And it will make a huge difference for a lot of our fellow human beings.” Wyoming towns have shown signs recently of becoming increasingly supportive of lesbian, gay and transgendered people. In Lander this summer, a gay pride picnic drew about 250 people. Organizers said at the time that it was larger than similar events held in Casper and Cheyenne. “We were all really surprised by the turnout,” said Curtis Tronolone, a gay man and one of the organizers of the event. “There is kind of a dichotomy in Lander between the (National Outdoor Leadership School) crowd and everyone else. "What surprised me was the diversity of the crowd. It wasn’t just the NOLS crowd. It was great to see that other side of the community. I felt it was true representation of Lander as a town completely.”

Also Friday, in Arizona, the joined the historic tide legalizing the unions of same sex couples that has swept the U.S., expanding gay rights in a direction many never thought they would see in their lifetimes. Tearful couples, some with children in tow, lined up at clerks' offices around the state to be among the first to get marriage licenses. Some brought along their clergy, hastily reciting their vows on courthouse steps. They had waited long enough, they said. As rulings around the country have toppled laws banning same sex couples from marrying, Arizona's law appeared doomed. A federal judge ruled Friday morning that Arizona's law banning gay marriages was unconstitutional, but it wasn't official until Attorney General Tom Horne announced a few hours later that he would not appeal. Legal experts say the fate of Arizona's law defining marriage as only between one man and one woman is now sealed. A ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court reinstating marriage bans is unlikely. The high court last week declined to take cases challenging laws in five states, in effect directing them to begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples. "I can't conceive of them overturning gay marriages that have now occurred all over the country," said attorney Dan Barr, one of the attorneys in a lawsuit challenging Arizona's law. "The Supreme Court would not have done what they've done if that's what they were going to eventually do." Horne conceded the same during his news conference, saying the possibility of reversing a ruling last week from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals striking down marriage restrictions in two other states was "zero," as is the likelihood of the Supreme Court taking up the case. "I think this is over," he said. Opponents of same sex marriage, including Gov. Jan Brewer and Catholic bishops, criticized the judge's decision. Arizona was the 31st state in the nation to legalize marriage for same sex couples. Simultaneous with his announcement, Horne sent letters to Arizona's 15 county clerks instructing them to begin issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples. "Effective immediately, the clerks of Arizona county Superior Courts cannot deny a marriage license to any otherwise eligible licensees on the grounds that the license permits a marriage between persons of the same sex," Horne wrote in his letter. Maricopa County clerks' offices quickly began issuing licenses to same sex couples at all its locations. Some offices already had couples waiting in lobbies as Horne addressed the media, said Chris Kelly, deputy clerk of the Maricopa County Superior Court. "We had been planning for several months," including seeking advice from officials in other states on their marriage-license transition, Kelly said. Couples can now choose the wording on their licenses from among the words "bride," "groom" or "spouse." Phoenix made city judges available to perform marriage ceremonies in Mayor Greg Stanton's conference room Friday afternoon. Stanton passed out banana butter cream cake to the newlyweds. By day's end, officials at the Maricopa County Clerk's Office estimated that they had issued nearly double the daily average of 77 marriage licenses. Figures for Arizona's 14 other counties weren't available. Among the first to legalize their relationship were Karen Bailey and Nelda Majors of Scottsdale, who were plaintiffs in one of the lawsuits challenging Arizona's law. They've been together for nearly 57 years and for years felt they had to hide their relationship, even from the children they raised. "I have no words to express how I feel. It's wonderful," Majors, 76, said as the couple emerged from the clerk's office. Shawn Aiken, one of the attorneys in the two Arizona lawsuits challenging Arizona's ban, also celebrated Friday morning's historic developments. "These couples from across Arizona bravely stood for equality for themselves, their families and over 21,000 other gay and lesbian couples living in Arizona today," he said in a statement. "Allowing my clients to marry causes no harm to heterosexual married couples or anyone else." The Rev. Eric Ledermann, pastor at University Presbyterian Church in Tempe, who attended Horne's news conference, headed immediately to the San Tan and San Marcos courthouses in Chandler to preside over marriages. Ledermann said Horne "lost with dignity," adding, "I never thought this day would come. I'm fairly new to Arizona, and my impression is that Arizona doesn't jump onto these bandwagons quickly. I just didn't think it would come — I didn't think we'd be able to move this quickly." Others celebrated but said a court ruling would not eliminate discrimination and prejudice in their lives overnight. The first same sex couple to get a marriage license Friday at the Maricopa County San Tan Justice Court in Chandler said they had to hide their names for fear of job discrimination. "I feel bad because we're so proud, but we can't take any chances," one of the women said. "I'd like people to know how much it means to now have our relationship recognized the same as everyone else's," she said, pausing as she started to weep. "It's not about the gender of the person, it's about who you love." Lawsuits challenging Arizona's ban have been moving through the legal process for nearly a year, but developments over the past two weeks brought the issue to a swift conclusion. Early last week, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take the five cases from other states. A day later, the 9th Circuit declared laws banning same sex couples from marrying in Idaho and Nevada violated couples' rights to equal protection under the 14th Amendment. Arizona is part of the San Francisco-based circuit. But before conceding that the ruling applied to the state's marriage law, Horne sought an opinion from the Arizona federal court judge overseeing two lawsuits specifically challenging it. Early Friday morning, U.S. District Judge John Sedwick ruled that the 9th Circuit opinion did apply to Arizona. In deciding not to appeal Sedwick's decision, Horne on Friday cited a legal rule that says it is unethical to file appeals simply to delay a court proceeding. "I believe this (gay marriage) should be a decision of the people, not of the judiciary," he said. But pursuing further appeals would be futile, he said. But, he said, Arizona's fight to protect voters' decision in 2008 to define marriage as between one man and one woman had been worth it. "I fought a good fight," he said. While Horne oversaw the defense of Arizona's law, the Christian legal defense group Alliance Defending Freedom represented the state in court for free. Alliance Defending Freedom has become the legal muscle defending much of the conservative legislation pushed by the Center for Arizona Policy, including the traditional definition of marriage. Over the past decade, the National Christian Charitable Foundation has given more than $1.5 million to the Center for Arizona Policy and $31 million to Alliance Defending Freedom. The foundation's donors are anonymous, but records have shown they've included executives connected to Chick-Fil-A and Hobby Lobby, both of which have taken positions against same sex couples marrying. While many celebrated, supporters of Arizona's marriage law expressed disappointment. Arizona's Catholic bishops issued a statement saying the court's decision "reflects a misunderstanding of the institution of marriage," adding, "As Catholic bishops, we remain committed to affirming the truth about marriage and its goodness for all of society. It is our fervent hope that the Supreme Court will eventually reconsider the issue of marriage in the future." Brewer, whose staff consulted with Horne in recent days, issued a statement before he made his announcement. The governor, a vocal advocate of traditional marriages, said that with its decision, the court was eroding the people's power and overstepping its boundaries. Brewer noted that Arizona voters in 2008 approved a state constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union of one man and one woman. "Now, with their rulings, the federal courts have again thwarted the will of the people and further eroded the authority of states to regulate and uphold our laws," Brewer's statement said. Center for Arizona Policy President Cathi Herrod, whose organization has been the ban's most vocal defender, said she was grieving. "I am heartbroken for a country and a state that has had the redefinition of marriage forced upon them by an out-of-control federal judiciary," Herrod said in a statement. "Today, we grieve. We grieve for the children who now have no chance of growing up with a mom and a dad. We mourn the loss of a culture and its ethical foundation. We mourn a culture that continues to turn its back on timeless principles."

Also Friday, in Alaska, the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday denied a request by Alaska officials to stop same sex marriages in the state. According to the Fairbanks News-Miner, the high court’s one-line response opened the door for gay and lesbian weddings to go forward by allowing a temporary delay granted by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to expire. But because the Alaska Day holiday had state offices closed Friday, most same sex couples will have to wait until after the weekend to pick up approved marriage licenses. Gov. Sean Parnell’s spokesperson said the state would continue to pursue an appeal to the 9th Circuit. The 9th Circuit Court had granted an emergency stay of a U.S. District Court judge’s ruling that overturned Alaska’s ban on same-sex marriage so state officials could ask the Supreme Court for a stay at that level by presenting a request to Justice Anthony Kennedy, who deals with emergency requests to the high court from within the 9th Circuit's jurisdiction. By 11:00 am, no stay had been granted and the state of Alaska’s attorney handling the case in Washington, D.C., said he had not heard from the Supreme Court on the issue. A minute later, an order appeared in the court docket. "The application for stay presented to Justice Kennedy and by him referred to the Court is denied," the written order says. Still, a delay built into the marriage license application process, along with the state holiday Friday, put off the weddings of most same sex couples until at least next week. The latest legal back and forth comes as a result of a lawsuit five same sex couples filed in federal court in May against the state of Alaska. The suit had sought to overturn an amendment to the Alaska Constitution, approved by voters in 1998, that said the state could only allow or recognize marriages between one man and one woman. The couples argued the law violated rights to due process and equal protection guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. State attorneys argued that voters had a right to decide the legal definition of marriage. On Sunday, U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Burgess’ ruling in the case said the state had to immediately recognize same sex marriages performed outside Alaska and also allow gay and lesbian couples to apply for Alaska marriage licenses. Because of a normal three-day processing period, the first couples to apply were set to get licenses Thursday. Meantime, magistrates in Barrow, Haines and Ketchikan had waived the waiting period and married a total of four same sex couples, according to a spokesperson for the court system. The state appealed Burgess’ ruling and said it would not be issuing the licenses after the 9th Circuit granted the temporary stay Wednesday. By the time the stay dissolved at 11 a.m. Friday, the state Bureau of Vital Statistics and the court system were closed for Alaska Day. The state of Alaska’s appeal to reverse Burgess’ ruling is still pending before the 9th Circuit. The Alaska appeal comes after two earlier court actions that would seem to hurt the state’s chances of winning: a decision by the Supreme Court not to take up other appeals seeking to keep bans on same sex marriage in place in other states, and a ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit to strike down bans in Idaho and Nevada. After further legal maneuvering failed, Idaho and Nevada dropped their defenses of the bans. Arizona had done so earlier. In their motion for an emergency stay, Alaska officials indicated they will be seeking what is called an en banc review by the 9th Circuit, which means they want a larger panel of 11 judges to review the appeal. There was no word Friday on whether the 9th Circuit would take up the Alaska appeal. Joshua Decker, executive director of the Alaska chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, called on Parnell to drop the state’s appeal, which Decker called “an exercise in futility,” the statement adding, “All Alaskans want our government to spend our taxpayer dollars wisely. We hope that Gov. Parnell will listen to his colleagues in Arizona, Nevada, and Idaho, all of whom chose to cease their futile appeals against equal marriage, and will stop wasting Alaska’s precious resources by doubling down on discrimination.” Parnell’s spokesperson, Sharon Leighow, said in an email that the state would continue to pursue the appeal because voters had approved the constitutional amendment. “When they did that, it became part of the Alaska Constitution, which Gov. Parnell has sworn to uphold,” Leighow said. “Today’s denial of the stay doesn’t change that and the state will continue with this appeal to the 9th Circuit.” The state will act in accordance with the court rulings and resume issuing marriage licenses Monday, Leighow said. The request for an en banc review will be filed with the 9th Circuit next week, she said. Fairbanks resident Kate Wattum went forward with marrying her wife, whom she declined to name, on Friday in a small outdoor ceremony with about 15 friends and family members, she said. Wattum said she, like the other couples already approved to marry, had received the necessary court paperwork. “It’s a beautiful day. It’s nice and sunny,” Wattum said by phone as they drove to the ceremony spot. “We are very excited. It’s very nice that it’s all coming together timing-wise.”

In northern Indiana, a Catholic bishop said he believes University of Notre Dame leaders should have waited before deciding to extend benefits to same sex spouses after court rulings legalized gay marriage in the state. According to the Indianapolis Star, Fort Wayne-South Bend Bishop Kevin Rhoades wrote in the diocese newspaper that he’s uncertain about the impact of gay marriage legalization in the state on religious institutions. “I would like to see further study of what the law requires as well as what religious liberty protections Notre Dame and our other Catholics institutions have so as not to be compelled to cooperate in the application of the law redefining marriage,” the bishop’s column said. Rhoades said he believed it was important for Notre Dame to “affirm its fidelity to Catholic teaching on the true nature of marriage as a union of one man and one woman.” Notre Dame spokesperson Paul Browne told the Journal Gazette that officials of the South Bend school believe the new policy doesn’t go against church teachings by providing the same benefits to all legally married couples. Notre Dame notified its employees about the policy change last week, two days after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider appeals of rulings throwing out gay marriage bans in Indiana and 10 other states. Saint Mary’s, a Catholic women’s college affiliated with Notre Dame, has adopted a similar policy. The Rev. John Jenkins, Notre Dame’s president, issued a statement Thursday saying he consulted with Rhoades before and after announcing the policy. The bishop doesn’t oversee Notre Dame, which is governed by an independent board of trustees. Notre Dame has run afoul of the diocese bishop before, including in 2009 when the late Bishop John D’Arcy, and several other Catholic bishops around the country, objected to the university’s decision to have President Barack Obama as its graduation speaker and award him an honorary degree. The University of Saint Francis, a Catholic school in Fort Wayne, hasn’t made any decisions about benefits for married same-sex couples and will be “leaning heavily” on guidance from the diocese, spokesperson Trois Hart said.

In Texas, according to the AP, city attorneys have backed off a request to obtain sermons but have refused to withdraw subpoenas seeking other information from five Houston pastors who publicly opposed an ordinance banning discrimination against gay and transgender residents. Mayor Annise Parker said Friday the language in the original subpoenas was too broad. But she says while the word "sermons" is being deleted from the subpoenas, the request for other speeches or presentations related to a petition drive to repeal the city's equal rights ordinance is appropriate. The ordinance was passed in May. Christian activists sued after city officials ruled they didn't collect enough petition signatures to place a repeal referendum on the ballot. Parker, who is gay, says the subpoenaed information is needed so the city can prepare for trial on the lawsuit.

In New Mexico, the Albuquerque Journal repots that a former student who was ostracized by her professors for making anti-gay remarks in a critique she wrote for a film class can proceed with her First Amendment lawsuit against the University of New Mexico. Chief U.S. District Judge M. Christina Armijo denied UNM’s motion to dismiss the case, rejecting the argument that restrictions the university placed on the student were “reasonably related to legitimate pedagogic concerns.” Monica Pompeo filed the suit last year, claiming UNM acted improperly when she was kicked out of the class for describing lesbianism as perverse in a critique of a lesbian romance film. Pompeo enrolled in the course, “Images of (Wo)men: From Icons to Iconoclasts,” offered by professor Caroline Hinkley in the spring 2012 semester. As a class assignment, Pompeo critiqued a 1985 lesbian drama, Desert Hearts. After Hinkley graded the critiques, she advised Pompeo to pick up her paper from the cinematic arts office and “ponder the responses” she had written on Pompeo’s paper. Those responses included a comment that the critique was “inflammatory and offensive.” She also blasted Pompeo’s view that a lesbian character in the film had a “perverse attraction to the same sex” and a “barren womb.” The lawsuit alleges Hinkley violated her own syllabus, which called for “open minds” to examine “representations of a plethora of genders and sexualities.” Instead, Pompeo says, Hinkley accused her of resorting to “hate speech” and refused to grade her paper. The professor also made it clear that it would be in Pompeo’s best interests not to return to the class, Pompeo alleges. Later, Pompeo met with Hinkley’s supervisor, Susan Dever, chairwoman of the cinematic arts department. Pompeo was told that the use of “barren” was both inappropriate and offensive. The upshot of the meeting was that Pompeo was forced to drop Hinkley’s class and instead take an independent studies class under Dever. According to Pompeo’s lawsuit, however, she fared no better under Dever, who allegedly threatened her with repercussions for using certain language, specifically the word “barren.” In her September 29 order, Armijo found that Pompeo’s claims are “sufficient to make out a plausible case that Defendants violated Plaintiff’s First Amendment rights by subjecting Plaintiff to restrictions on speech that were not reasonably related to legitimate pedagogic concerns.” Armijo questioned whether a “university can have a legitimate pedagogical interest in inviting students to engage in ‘incendiary’ and provocative speech on a topic and then punishing a student because he or she did just that. Simply because Plaintiff expressed views about homosexuality that some people may deem offensive does not deprive her views of First Amendment protection.” Furthermore, the judge agreed with the plaintiff that “no reasonable educator could have believed that by criticizing lesbianism, (Pompeo’s) critique fell outside the parameters of the class, given the description of the class set out in the syllabus.” Hinkley did not respond to requests for an interview. Pompeo’s attorney, Louren Oliveros of Gorence & Oliveros, said Wednesday that she is pleased by the order and looks forward to litigating the case in court. “This has been pending for a long time,” she said. “A university should be a place where freedom of expression is invited and where robust debate is welcomed. We’re very much looking forward to having this case go to trial.”

In Grand Rapids, Michigan, a bat-wielding man with a history of disruptive behavior at downtown venues got a tongue-lashing and a hefty jail sentence Thursday for using a baseball bat to threaten patrons at a gay-friendly bar. "Is gay-bashing your habit?'' asked Kent County Circuit Court Judge Dennis Leiber. "No, your honor,'' replied Christopher Allen Scott, who appeared before Leiber on a felonious assault conviction. "It was random. I was there in 2005 and treated nicely.'' The "there" is the Apartment Lounge, a popular venue at 33 Sheldon Avenue NE catering to the LGBT community. Scott admitted he entered the Apartment Lounge on two occasions April 29. After the first visit, he said he left to buy a baseball bat. When he came back with the bat, "some people were pretty nervous about the whole thing,'' Scott told the judge. That might be an understatement. Scott "angrily slammed'' the bat onto the bar and threatened to "bash the next 'gay-stick''' that entered, court documents show. He was sentenced to nine months in the Kent County jail. Scott, 58, has a history of disrupting downtown bars, hotels and restaurants, Grand Rapids police wrote in a probable cause affidavit. He has two misdemeanor convictions for trespassing and a drunk driving arrest the same night he was swinging the baseball bat at Apartment Lounge, court records show. An Ottawa County judge in 2012 sentenced him to a year in prison for malicious destruction of police or fire property and domestic violence. Scott was discharged from those sentences in March 2013.

Catholic Bishops Reject Historic Proposal Welcoming Gays Highlighting Deep Divisions Between Pope Francis Factions And Arch Conservatives

In Italy, the Associated Press is reporting that Catholic bishops rejected their landmark welcome to gays Saturday, showing deep divisions at the end of a two-week meeting sought by Pope Francis to chart a more merciful approach to ministering to Catholic families. The bishops failed to approve even a watered-down section on ministering to homosexuals that stripped away the welcoming tone of acceptance contained in a draft document earlier in the week. Rather than considering gays as individuals who had gifts to offer the church, the revised paragraph referred to homosexuality as one of the problems Catholic families have to confront. It said "people with homosexual tendencies must be welcomed with respect and delicacy," but repeated church teaching that marriage is only between man and woman. The paragraph failed to reach the two-thirds majority needed to pass. Two other paragraphs concerning the other controversial issue at the synod of bishops - whether divorced and civilly remarried Catholics can receive Communion - also failed to pass. The outcome showed a deeply divided church on some of the most pressing issues facing Catholic families. It appeared that the 118-62 vote on the gay section might have been a protest vote by progressive bishops who refused to back the watered-down wording. The original draft had said gays had gifts to offer the church and that their partnerships, while morally problematic, provided gay couples with "precious" support. New Ways Ministry, a Catholic gay rights group, said it was "very disappointing" that the final report had backtracked from the welcoming words contained in the draft. Nevertheless, it said the synod's process "and openness to discussion provides hope for further development down the road, particularly at next year's synod, where the makeup of the participants will be larger and more diverse, including many more pastorally-oriented bishops." The draft had been written by a Francis appointee, Monsignor Bruno Forte, a theologian known for pushing the pastoral envelope on ministering to people in "irregular" unions. The draft was supposed to have been a synopsis of the bishops' interventions, but many conservatives complained that it reflected a minority and overly progressive view. Francis insisted in the name of transparency that the full document - including the paragraphs that failed to pass - be published along with the voting tally. The document will serve as the basis for future debate leading up to another meeting of bishops next October that will produce a final report to be sent to Francis. "Personally I would have been very worried and saddened if there hadn't been these ... animated discussions ... or if everyone had been in agreement or silent in a false and acquiescent peace," Francis told the synod hall after the vote. Conservatives had harshly criticized the draft and proposed extensive revisions to restate church doctrine, which holds that gay sex is "intrinsically disordered," but that gays themselves are to be respected, and that marriage is only between a man and woman. "We could see that there were different viewpoints," said Cardinal Oswald Gracis of India, when asked about the most contentious sections of the report on homosexuals and divorced and remarried Catholics. German Cardinal Walter Kasper, the leader of the progressive camp, said he was "realistic" about the outcome. In an unexpected gesture after the voting, Francis approached a group of journalists waiting outside the synod hall to thank them for their work covering the synod. "Thanks to you and your colleagues for the work you have done," he said. "Grazie tante." Conservative bishops had harshly criticized journalists for reporting on the dramatic shift in tone in the draft, even though the media reports merely reflected the document's content. Francis' gesture, and his words inside the synod hall chastising bishops who were overly wed to doctrine and were guided by "hostile rigidity," as well as those bishops who showed a "destructive goody-goodiness," indicated that he was well aware of the divisions the debate had sparked. His speech received a four-minute standing ovation, participants said. Over the past week, the bishops split themselves up into working groups to draft amendments to the text. They were nearly unanimous in insisting that church doctrine on family life be more fully asserted and that faithful Catholic families should be held up as models and encouraged rather than focus on family problems and "irregular" unions. The bishops signaled a similar tone in a separate message directed at Christian families released Saturday. There was no mention whatsoever of families with gay children, much less gay parents, and it spoke of the "complex and problematic" issues that arise when marriages fail and new relationships begin. "Christ wanted his church to be a house with the door always open to welcome everyone, without excluding anyone," the message read. (Oddly, the English translation was less welcoming than the official Italian, ending the sentence after `everyone.') Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier of South Africa, who helped draft the revised final report, told Vatican Radio the final document showed a "common vision" that was lacking in the draft. He said the key areas for concern were "presenting homosexual unions as if they were a very positive thing" and the suggestion that divorced and remarried Catholics should be able to receive Communion without an annulment. He complained that the draft was presented as the opinion of the whole synod, when it was "one or two people," adding, "And that made people very angry."

Friday, October 10, 2014

Federal Judge Strikes Down North Carolina Same Sex Marriage Ban, United States Supreme Court Lifts Stay On Same Sex Marriage Ruling In Idaho But Gay And Lesbian Couples Must Wait Till 9th Circuit Of Appeals Decides Tuesday To Make Ruling Effective, Virginia Governor McAuliffe Announces Married Gay And Lesbian Couples Can Adopt, 50,000 Reward Offered For Information Regarding Shooting Of Transgender Woman In East Hollywood

In North Carolina, the News & Observer reports that a federal judge in the western part of the state struck down the ban on same sex marriage late Friday, capping a roller-coaster day of legal activity. U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn issued the historic ruling at 5:32 pm. “The issue before this court is neither a political issue nor a moral issue,” Cogburn. “It is a legal issue and it is clear as a matter of what is now settled law in the Fourth Circuit that North Carolina laws prohibiting same sex marriage, refusing to recognize same sex marriages originating elsewhere, and/or threating to penalize those who would solemnize such marriages, are unconstitutional.” It came less than an hour after U.S. District Judge William Osteen entered an order late Friday afternoon postponing decisions in two challenges before him until next week. Gay and lesbian couples across the state anxiously awaited the stroke of a federal judge’s pen. "Today's ruling allowing loving, same sex couples to marry across North Carolina is a historic moment for our state," said Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality NC. "With it, we celebrate with so many North Carolinians who have worked tirelessly over decades to change hearts, minds, and unequal laws in the state we call home. Love won and the barriers to it are done." Registers of deeds in some counties kept their offices open late. By 5:44 p.m. same sex license were issued in Wake County. Osteen did not rule on a request from Republican legislative leaders to become parties to the lawsuits this week – more than two years after the challenges to North Carolina’s Amendment One were filed. Osteen rejected a request from Phil Berger, the state Senate leader, and Thom Tillis, speaker of the state House, to present oral arguments to him. But in a court document that deflated the hopes of gay and lesbian couples waiting for the opportunity to marry across the state for about half an hour on Friday, Osteen asked the challengers in the two lawsuits before him, along with N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper, to respond to several questions about the nullification of the Virginia ban. “The parties are advised that this court will proceed to ruling on an order on the motion to intervene and a final order as soon as reasonably possible following receipt of the briefs,” Osteen said in his order. “[T]hese cases will not be delayed unnecessarily.” But couples held out hope for Cogburn’s ruling. That case was filed by clergy who argued that banning gay marriages in this state violated their First Amendment Right to practice religion freely. Cogburn rejected a request from the legislators to be a part of that case. “While we recognize the tremendous passion on all sides of this issue, we promised to defend the will of North Carolina voters because they – not judges and not politicians – define marriage as between one man and one woman and placed that in our state constitution,” Berger and Tillis said in a joint statement. “It is disappointing this decision was made without North Carolina's law receiving its day in court, and we will continue to work to ensure the voice of the voters is heard.” The U.S. Supreme Court ignited the roller-coaster activity over the status of North Carolina’s gay marriage ban by its inaction Monday. The justices decided not to take up appeals of lower court decisions that struck down same sex marriage bans in five states. Those decisions had a domino effect that made same sex unions legal or soon to be legal in 30 states. North Carolina was among those states because of a U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in July that nullified the Virginia ban on marriages between two men or two women. Berger and Tillis argued that the Virginia attorney general who represented his state’s gay marriage ban offered too many concessions on the legal path to its nullification. Gay and lesbian couples across North Carolina anxiously awaited the stroke of Osteen’s pen. In the Wake County Justice Center, several dozen people crowded around couples waiting for marriage licenses on Friday — a day they hoped would be historic. Chad Biggs, a Wake County sheriff’s deputy and wedding planner, was the first in line for a same sex license at the Wake County register of deeds. He and his fiance, Chris Creech, have waited almost two years to legally wed. A friend of Biggs who is in the catering business made sure there would be cake in case festivities followed. The crowd that gathered admired the two-tiered cake – carrot cake on one level and strawberry Bavarian on the other – topped with white-cream icing and an edible rose garnish. As the legal wrangling occurred in electronic filings back and forth between the attorneys and judge, a side drama played out on social media. When courthouse officials in Wake County asked people to line up at midafternoon Friday, Twitter lit up with messages. At 2:00 pm, someone tweeted: “Order is coming down. Couples, friends, family, and media lined up!!!!” Then Equality NC, a gay rights advocacy organization, tweeted: “officials are lining us outside of the # Raleigh ROD office saying an order is coming down.” Several minutes later, Equality NC expressed the sentiment of many who kept pushing buttons on the phones and computer keyboards, thinking refreshing the page would bring the promised news. Then word came that Osteen had not yet signed the order. Deputies in Wake County who had moved the crowds to the second floor of the justice center were told to usher everybody to the first floor. “I promise we’re not doing this on purpose. # drama # DayOneNC,” Equality NC tweeted at about 2:15 pm. “If you’d told us 10 years ago we’d be tweeting over marriage equality in # NC, we’d be like: ‘what is Tweeting?’.” Equality NC said in a message to its 11,400 followers. As the curtains closed on that chaotic scene, people versed in the marriage-license process sent out checklist messages for gay and lesbian couples waiting to marry. They informed the couples of the need for witnesses, of which there were no shortage, fees for magistrates and registers of deeds, and proof of identification. Then the wait continued for many. “Judge Judy would have handed down her decision within 22 minutes. 30 minutes with commercials,” someone tweeted from@3fecta. Then came word that the status of North Carolina gay marriages was still being hashed out in the courts, not on Twitter. There were cheers and hugs when the ruling came from the west, not Greensboro.

In Idaho, the Supreme Court withdrew Justice Kennedy's Wednesday stay about 3 p.m. Friday. But it may not have any practical effect. Why no effect? Because right now the case is in the hands of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. And the 9th Circuit must still take the final legal step to make its Tuesday ruling effective. But didn't the 9th Circuit already lift the ban? According to the Statesman, Yes -- and then un-lifted it. A recap the past four days: Tuesday afternoon: The 9th Circuit issues an order striking down Idaho's gay marriage ban. The order cannot go into effect until the court issues a "mandate," which typically happens a couple weeks after the order is made. This is to give both parties time to respond to, or possibly appeal, the order; 5:00 pm Tuesday: The 9th Circuit issues its mandate, meaning Idaho's same sex marriage ban lifts immediately. County clerks prepare to issue marriage licenses at 8:00 am Wednesday; 5:00 am Wednesday: Gov. Butch Otter asks U.S. Justice Supreme Court Anthony Kennedy to grant an emergency stay, which would halt gay marriages until the state decides what to do next; 7:47 am Wednesday: Kennedy grants the emergency stay, forcing county clerks to turn away dozens of gay couples who expected to be issued a marriage license. One couple in Twin Falls does get a license before the clerk there gets the news; 2:00 pm Wednesday: The 9th Circuit, based on Kennedy's emergency stay, recalls its mandate, meaning the order striking down Idaho's same sex marriage ban still stands but is not yet in force — so no gay marriages can occur; Thursday afternoon: Same sex marriage attorneys submit a response to Kennedy explaining why the stay should not be granted; Friday morning: State attorneys submit a reply to Kennedy explaining why the stay should be granted; Friday afternoon: Supreme Court lifts Kennedy stay. So why can’t same sex marriages begin now that the Supreme Court stay is lifted? Because the 9th Circuit recalled its mandate. That means its order has not been implemented. If the 9th chooses to re-hear the case, it could hold off on issuing the mandate pending the en banc hearing. If the 9th decides not to hear the case en banc, then the 9th could reissue the mandate to implement its ruling. At that point, it would be up to the state of Idaho to decide if it wants to appeal to the Supreme Court to grant a stay and consider the case.

In Virginia, Gov. Terry McAuliffe today extended adoption rights to married same sex couples, another in a series of benefits flowing from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Monday sanctioning gay marriage in Virginia. According to the Pilot, at McAuliffe’s direction, local social services departments across the state were told that legally married same sex couples — whether married in Virginia or elsewhere -- can now be considered for adoptive and foster homes. “Now that same sex marriage in Virginia is officially legal, we owe it to all Virginians to ensure that every couple is treated equally under all of our laws, no matter whom they love,” the Democratic governor said in a statement. “This historic decision opened the door to marriage equality, and now it is my sincerest hope that it will also open more doors for Virginia children who need loving families. “By formally recognizing that same-sex couples can now legally adopt, we are more fully complying with the ruling in this important case, and sending the message once again that Virginia is open and welcoming to everyone.” The Supreme Court declined to hear appeals of lower-court decisions approving gay marriage in Virginia and four other states, allowing the long-prohibited unions to begin Monday. The next day, McAuliffe issued an executive order directing all state agencies to comply with the decision. Among the other benefits flowing from that order are health coverage for same-sex spouses of state employees and the ability of same sex couples to file joint state income tax returns.

In California, officials on Friday announced a $50,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the early-morning killing of a transgender woman during what police said was a street robbery gone bad. According to the Los Angeles Times, authorities are also looking for a possible witness who was with Aniya Knee Parker at the time she was killed. Parker, 47, was near Melrose and North Kenmore avenues in East Hollywood shortly before 3:00 am on October 2 when she got into a dispute with three men, Los Angeles police said. The dispute escalated, and surveillance video taken near the scene shows a struggle for a purse. Parker was shot as she tried to run away, and was pronounced dead at the hospital. The purse containing $24 was left at the scene. “This is one of those unfortunate crimes that we’re going to solve with the community’s help," said LAPD Rampart Division Capt. Brian Pratt. Detectives are trying to find out more information about where Parker was just before the botched robbery, and are searching for a person whom she was having a “friendly conversation with” before the crime. Parker’s sister described her as a person who loved family and enjoyed thrift store shopping, often bringing home items for her family. “We just want to know why,” Adrian Parker said at a news conference at City Hall announcing the reward. “We didn’t get a chance to say goodbye.” She urged someone to come forward. “Step up to the plate and do what’s right,” she said. Although police don't believe Aniya Knee Parker's death was related to her gender identity, Christopher Argyros, the manager of the LA LGBT Center’s Anti-Violence Project, said transgender people are often targeted and victims of violence. "We believe it is very possibly Ms. Parker was targeted because of her identity," Argyros said. Los Angeles is home to one of the largest transgender communities in the United States, members of which are often on alert, Argyros said. “Transgender people are victims of crime all the time,” he said. Anyone with information on the shooting is asked to call Rampart Homicide detectives at (213) 484-3623.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Cameroon Releases Seven Individuals Arrested On Charges They Violated Country's Anti-Gay Law, Estonian President Approves Cohabitation Bill Which Includes Provisions For Same Sex Couples, Same Sex Marriages Begin In Nevada, West Virginia Attorney General Announces Office Will No Longer Defend Lawsuit Challenging Same Sex Marriage Ban, Republican Leaders Of North Carolina Legislature Announce Intentions To Fight Challenges To 2012 Constitutional Amendment Defining Marriage As Union Between Man And Woman, Police Charge 38-Year-Old Randy Lee Parkerson In Connection To Horrific Murder Of Transgender Activist Zoraida Reyes

In Cameroon, according to the Associated Press, an official says seven people who were arrested this month on suspicion of violating the country's anti-gay law have been released but will remain under close observation. Donatus Sembe, a police official in Yaounde, the capital, said Thursday that four of them were released Wednesday for lack of evidence and the other three were freed earlier in the week. The group included men and transgender women. Lawyers working to defend them confirmed they had been freed. Cameroon arrests and prosecutes more sexual minorities than any other country in sub-Saharan Africa, according to Human Rights Watch. The country's penal code punishes homosexual acts with up to five years in prison. Sembe said the seven would be re-arrested and put on trial, if they engaged in "any deviant behavior."

In Estonia, RIA Novosti reports that President Toomas Hendrik Ilves has signed a bill on cohabitation which includes same sex couples into law, noting that the Constitution requires equal treatment of all residents of the country, the president's office reported Thursday. "Estonian society cannot survive if it is intolerant toward its own countrymen. We are too few to discriminate against any of us. Societies that respect human rights allow same-sex couples to have a family without being exposed to public disapproval and unequal treatment," the president said. Earlier, the Estonian parliament adopted in the third reading of the bill on cohabitation, including same sex couples, which caused a negative reaction in the majority of the population. Some 40 MPs voted for and 38 MPs against, while 10 abstained. The highest legislative body of the country consists of 101 members. The law will come into force on January 1, 2016. On Tuesday, the Estonian conservative Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL) proposed a bill on holding a referendum on cohabitation on March 1, 2015 – the day of the country's next parliamentary elections. The Estonian parliament then rejected a proposal to hold the referendum. Last week, Estonia's TNS Emor research company published the results of a recent poll, revealing that 67 percent of Estonians are against the state recognition of the same sex marriages. On Sunday, those standing for the protection of family values and against the law on cohabitation held a large rally in Estonian capital of Tallinn.

In Nevada, after waiting all day, same sex couples learned just before 5:00 pm Thursday that they can begin getting married. U.S. Judge James C. Mahan signed an injunction of the state's constitutional amendment that prohibits same sex marriage. At the Clark County Marriage License Bureau, couples hugged and took selfies after learning of the judge's order. The first couple in line were plaintiffs in the case that led to the repeal of Nevada's same sex marriage ban at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. "It's going to be a great wedding," said Theo Small, who is marrying Antioco Carrillo. The couple was surrounded by a crush of television cameras as they filled out their paperwork. The couple held up their paperwork for the cameras, kissing people on the way out. State Sen. Kelvin Atkinson wed Sherwood Howard shortly after gay and lesbian couples began receiving marriage licenses. Atkinson, during an emotional legislative debate on same sex unions last year, stood before the chamber and announced that he is gay. In Carson City, the clerk began issuing same sex licenses about 3:30 pm, The Reno Gazette-Journal reported. The Nevada Appeal reported that Kristy Best and Wednesday Smith were the first same sex couple to get a marriage license. “This action brings finality to the issue of same sex marriage in Nevada,” said Gov. Brain Sandoval in a statement about an hour after news of the injunction broke. The injunction means "there are no remaining legal requirements that prevent Nevada county clerks from issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples," according to Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto.

In West Virginia, according to the Gazette, same sex couples and civil rights advocates celebrated a historic victory Thursday after government officials said they no longer would fight efforts to allow couples of the same gender to marry in the state. Shortly after 1:00 pm, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said his office would not defend against the lawsuit challenging the state’s same sex marriage ban and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said he would direct state agencies to follow the law as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court, which recently refused to hear appeals of several challenges to marriage bans in other states. A few hours later, clerks in some counties were giving marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. “Our state is known for its kindness and hospitality to residents and visitors alike,” Tomblin said in his statement. “I encourage all West Virginians — regardless of their personal beliefs — to uphold our statewide tradition of treating one another with dignity and respect.” Allison Adler, communications director for the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, said new marriage licenses would be ready by Tuesday, at the latest, but same-sex couples could get licenses using the old forms Thursday. State Registrar Gary Thompson notified county clerks around 4:00 pm that “pursuant to the governor’s mandate, all county clerks’ offices are to offer same sex couples marriage certificates today, October 9, 2014.” Nancy Michael and Jane Fenton, a couple from St. Albans who were one of the three same sex couples to sue over the same-sex marriage ban, went to the Kanawha County Courthouse to get their marriage license Thursday afternoon. “It’s tremendously exciting and it’s tremendously gratifying,” Michael said. They have been together since 1998 and have wanted to get married since other states started legalizing same sex marriage. “Once the momentum started building, we knew it was going to happen,” Michael said. “We just figured it was a few years down the road.” They said marriage encourages others to recognize their relationship as valid. “I don’t think that marriage is going to change our relationship, but it’s going to change our relationship with the world,” Fenton said. County clerks around the state reacted differently to the mandate. While Kanawha and Cabell counties — where the clerks were the defendants in the original lawsuit — issued same sex marriage licenses without a hitch, Putnam County Clerk Brian Wood said he would not issue any licenses until Friday, after he’d talked with county Prosecuting Attorney Mark Sorsaia. Despite the letter from the state registrar, Wood said he hasn’t seen an actual mandate from the governor and wants a direct statement from the Governor’s Office to county clerks. “The governor never sent me a mandate,” Wood said. “I’ve got a press release.” Sorsaia said late Thursday that, because the attorney general has given up defending the ban, he predicts Putnam County will begin issuing licenses to gay and lesbian couples Friday. However, he said he believes there will be overwhelming opposition, so he said he wants to see if there’s any legal recourse to resist the change. “Quite frankly, I would only advise Brian to do it if I had no other option,” said Sorsaia, who said he personally disagrees with gay marriage on religious grounds but said it shouldn’t be a “government issue,” adding, “If we do have a legal recourse, we’ll resist it." If that recourse involves a lawsuit, he said, the decision to spend money on it will be up to the County Commission. A Randolph County courts employee said that county was issuing a marriage license to a same sex couple when a reporter called Thursday afternoon. Employees in other counties expressed hesitation over the idea. Morrisey and Tomblin pointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in explaining their statements Thursday. On Monday, the Supreme Court let stand a ruling against the same sex marriage ban in Virginia. U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers had said he was waiting on the Virginia decision to rule in West Virginia’s lawsuit; the two states are part of the same federal appeals circuit. He had given Morrisey and the Kanawha and Cabell clerk’s offices until Oct. 21 to respond to a motion to rule in the plaintiffs’ favour. Morrisey noted in the release that the Supreme Court’s decision caused the Appeals Court decision to become “final and binding in West Virginia.” “In the upcoming days, we will now seek to bring to a close the pending litigation over West Virginia’s marriage laws, consistent with the Fourth Circuit’s now-binding decision,” Morrisey said. Allen Whitt, president of the socially conservative Family Policy Council of West Virginia, pinned his hopes on state bans in the 5th and 6th circuits, which he said could still be taken up by the Supreme Court. “When the Supreme Court takes this up, all of the folks who get married between now and then will likely be voided,” Whitt said. He said he hopes to see an eventual amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning same sex marriage. West Virginia lawmakers specifically banned same sex marriage in 2000 when they passed a law defining marriage as between a man and a woman. The bill passed unanimously in the state Senate and with only three dissenting votes in the House of Delegates. Lambda Legal, a national gay rights organization, filed the lawsuit in October 2013 on behalf of the three couples: Casie McGee and Sarah Adkins; Justin Murdock and William Glavaris; and Michael and Fenton. The three couples sued McCormick and Cabell County Clerk Karen Cole, alleging that, by complying with state law and refusing to issue them marriage licenses, the clerks were unfairly discriminating against same sex couples, in violation of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Chuck Bailey, a lawyer for McCormick’s office, said Thursday afternoon that he and McCormick hadn’t had time to discuss if they would continue in the lawsuit. However, McCormick said Thursday evening that the lawsuit is dead. Beth Littrell, a senior attorney for Lambda Legal, said that even though lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people now have marriage equality, a final ruling from Chambers would “help ensure there is no cloud over same sex couples’ heads,” adding, “It would help to have a judgment on record — an order from the court. We are working to get that, as quickly as possible.” A court employee for Chambers said Thursday afternoon that it is the court’s policy not to talk about pending litigation. Littrell said she is especially proud of the historic victory, because it happened in her home state of West Virginia. She noted that, with Nevada’s legalization of same sex marriage, which also happened Thursday, 27 states now allow gays and lesbians to marry, and it could be 35 by the end of the month. “I’m glad that West Virginia is on the early side of history,” she said.

In North Carolina, according to the News & Observer, the Republican leaders of the legislature are not yet ready to let gay and lesbian couples marry in this state. Phil Berger, president pro tem of the state Senate, and Thom Tillis, speaker of the state House, filed a motion late Thursday afternoon asking a judge to let them enter the legal fray over the 2012 amendment to the state constitution that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. U.S. District Judge William Osteen gave the legislators until noon Friday to submit their fleshed out legal arguments and denied a request for extra time to review documents. In an order submitted by Osteen late Thursday, the judge said the legislators had not persuaded him of their need for extra time. The legislators, Osteen said, “allege that additional time is required to ‘investigate the files and conduct appropriate research in order to adequately prepare the pleading.’ ” Osteen said he was aware that only a short time had passed since the Supreme Court decision, but “these cases have been pending for a lengthy period of time and the defendants have been clear in their position” that what happened in Virginia could determine what happened in North Carolina. Charlotte lawyer Robert Potter had informed Osteen on Wednesday of the lawmakers’ plans, and gay-rights advocates spent much of Thursday anxiously waiting the move. The “motion to intervene” says the lawmakers plan to argue that the Virginia attorney general made too many concessions in legal challenges to that state’s ban on marriage for same sex couples and that a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision striking down Virginia’s ban should not be binding on what happens in North Carolina. Though supporters of same sex marriage questioned the strength of the legislators’ arguments, the request from Berger and Tillis slowed down what many saw as the inevitable go-ahead for same sex marriages in this state. The lawmakers asked Osteen to extend the time frame during which they could file documents to further outline their arguments. Berger and Tillis, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, have retained John Eastman, chairman of the board of the National Organization for Marriage, to lead their effort. Eastman’s group has been involved in the legal defense of traditional unions between a man and a woman in other states. Eastman, according to Shelly Carver, a spokesperson for Berger, has agreed to provide the first $10,000 of service pro bono and has reduced his hourly rate by more than a third. To help defray costs, the ActRight Legal Foundation will be accepting and applying private donations toward the effort, she added. The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday that justices would not take up challenges of lower-court decisions that struck down gay marriage bans in five states. The decision had a domino effect across the nation, opening the possibility for gay marriages to happen immediately in some states and for more bans to be overturned in others. Lawyers involved with the challenges to North Carolina’s constitutional amendment agreed months earlier in the legal process that there was no legal distinction between Virginia’s ban and North Carolina’s ban. Any ruling in the Virginia case has sweeping implications for North Carolina, because they are in the same U.S. appeals court circuit. Earlier this week, Berger and Tillis said they would seek to uphold the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage. At the time, Chris Brook, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, said such an effort would be a “futile” challenge that would use a lot of state dollars that could be better spent on education programs or economic woes. Attorney General Roy Cooper also said this week that he thought the continued defense of the gay marriage ban was “futile.” It was unclear late Thursday whether Osteen will give the legislators more time to further develop arguments for why they should be parties to lawsuits filed two years ago. Legal analysts have questioned what new arguments the legislators would bring that would warrant the action. Brook said legislation approved a year ago allowed legislative leaders to intervene in cases when they did not think the Democratic attorney general was adequately representing them. “They had more than a year to do this if they felt their interests were not being represented,” Brook said. “They failed to do so.” In another legal twist Thursday, U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn took over a case filed by clergy in the western part of the state. That case, which had been presided over by U.S. District Judge Martin Reidinger, uses a different legal strategy than the challenges in the Greensboro federal court. The clergy have argued that North Carolina’s amendment banning gay marriage violates their First Amendment right to practice religion freely. It was unclear what impact the change in judges will have on any immediate action in that case. Thursday’s uncertainty did not dampen the spirits of gay-rights advocates expecting history at any moment. Some couples and clergy waited outside county offices that issue marriage licenses, with hopes of weddings.

An update on a previous post: In California, a 38-year-old man was charged Thursday with strangling a transgender activist and dumping her body behind an Anaheim restaurant. The Los Angeles Times reports that Randy Lee Parkerson of Anaheim was formally charged with one felony count of murder. He was arrested in connection with the death of 28-year-old Zoraida Reyes. Orange County prosecutors didn't offer a motivation for the killing. Investigators said they believe Parkerson met with Reyes on June 10, strangled her, and placed her body in the trunk of his car before dumping it in a Dairy Queen parking lot in Anaheim. Zoraida Reyes' body was found in an Anaheim parking lot on June 12, and police have still not released a cause of death. Anaheim detectives said the investigation didn't uncover evidence that Reyes was specifically targeted, and that the homicide was not investigated as a hate crime. But Reyes' friends said they are unconvinced. Jorge Gutierrez, an LGBT and immigrant rights organizer, said he believes Reyes' gender identity contributed to her being targeted and killed. Transgender advocates say the community has a heightened risk of violence and harassment. "For many, the lives of transgender people don't matter and they're viewed as disposable," Gutierrez told the Times. "We know that her identity as a trans woman was a huge factor, whether the police want to acknowledge it or not." Authorities found Reyes' body on June 12 in the 200 block of North State College Boulevard. Reyes was born in Michoacan, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States. She was a graduate of Century High School in Santa Ana and received an associate degree from Santa Ana College. She attended UC Santa Barbara but moved back to Santa Ana about three years ago and was living with family when she died. Reyes was a member of several transgender and immigrant rights advocacy groups in Orange County. If convicted, Parkerson faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in state prison. He is being held on $1-million bail. He is expected to be arraigned October 31.