Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Federal Appeals Court Likely To Hear Challenges To Louisiana And Texas Same Sex Marriage Bans First Week Of January, Executive Director Of National Gay Pilots Association Killed When His Plane Crashed Shortly After Takeoff, Jackson Michigan Council Opts Not To Pass Ordinance Prohibiting Discrimination Based On Gender Identity And Sexual Orientation, Apple CEO Tim Cook Calls On Home State On Alabama To Do More To Protect LGBT Rights, 27-Year-Old Tennessee Resident McCleish Christmas Benham Booked On Simple Assault Charge In Connection To His Drunken Anti-Gay Racist Attack At Dallas Airport, 20-Year-Olf Matthew Smith Facing Second-Degree Attempted Murder As Hate Crime In Connection To September Anti-Gay Shooting In New York City, South Carolina Principal Criticized For Mishandling Of Orange County School' s First Gay-Straight Alliance Resigns, Sean Haynes Engaged To Longtime Boyfriend Scott Icenogle, Cartoon Network Edits Same Sex Kiss Between Two Animated Characters

In the United States, according to a report by the Times-Picayune, a federal appeals court could hear arguments in gay marriage cases from Texas and Louisiana shortly after New Year's, court records indicate. The New Orleans-based 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Monday (Oct. 27) posted a tentative hearing date for "the week of January 5," according to the court's online docket. The cases from the two states remain separate, but have been put on parallel schedules with the court. A district court judge in Austin in February struck down Texas' ban on gay marriage, while U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman in August upheld Louisiana's ban. Feldman's ruling marked the first time opponents of gay marriage have successfully defended a ban in federal court since the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in U.S. v. Windsor struck down portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year. The judges who will hear the cases will not be announced until closer to the hearing date, but the 5th Circuit is one of four appellate jurisdictions in the U.S. with more judges appointed by Republicans than by Democrats. A three-judge panel in the conservative 6th Circuit in Cincinnati seemed hostile to lawyers challenging Ohio's same sex marriage ban in August, but has yet to issue a ruling. The U.S. Supreme Court this month declined take up the issue of gay marriage, a decision that let stand lower court rulings in three Circuit Court jurisdictions, paving the way for legal gay marriage in in a total of 32 states. If one of the 13 Circuit Courts were to issue a ruling in favor of a marriage ban it would create a "split" in case law in the federal system, a situation that could force the high court to make a definitive ruling.

In Colorado, the Daily Camera reports that one person was killed Monday morning when a small plane crashed and burned along Independence Road after taking off from Boulder Municipal Airport. The National Gay Pilots Association this afternoon identified the pilot as its executive director, Steven Moore. While officials have not yet released the identity of the pilot, the association posted on its Facebook page that Moore was killed in a crash today. "It is with greatest sadness that we must announce the loss of a treasured member of our NGPA family," board chair Scott Shatzer wrote on the post. "Our executive director, and valiant crusader for the NGPA cause, Steven Moore, passed away this morning while flying his beloved Mooney in Colorado. Steven, we love you, we will miss you, and we will be forever indebted to you for all of the passion you put into your work with NGPA." Reached by phone, Shatzer confirmed his post referred to this morning's crash in Boulder, but declined to comment further on Moore's death. Moore lived in Westminster and worked for ExpressJet, according to his Facebook page. The single-engine plane -- identified by officials as a Mooney M-20C -- crashed at about 7:40 am today in the 5500 block of Independence Road, according to Boulder County sheriff's Cmdr. Jeff Hendry. The plane hit Independence Road propeller-first and then caught fire on impact. Hendry confirmed at least one fatality and said no other injuries were reported. The Boulder County Coroner's Office responded to the crash site. Once the fire was out, officials draped a tarp over the wreckage, which has since been taken from the crash scene. The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are currently on scene and investigating. Independence Road will be closed near the crash site for several hours while crews investigate, according to officials. Jeff Slater, who was working on gas lines near the runway, heard but did not see the crash. He told the Daily Camera that the plane "didn't sound right" when it took off. "It was choking and sputtering pretty bad," he said. "It sounded horrible."

In Michigan, Jackson will not be the 33rd city in the state to pass a gay rights ordinance. A civil rights ordinance protecting Jackson residents from discrimination based on factors not included in the state's civil rights law, such as sexual orientation and gender identity, was postponed by council members Tuesday, October 28. Under recommendation by City Attorney Bethany Smith, council members voted unanimously to table the law indefinitely. The same ordinance has been kicked around by city officials for more than two years. Smith said the city would be violating state law if the ordinance were to pass. "There's case law to that effect as well," she said. When asked what case law, Smith said she couldn't remember off hand. More than 30 Michigan communities have passed similar non-discrimination ordinances, including Ypsilanti, East Lansing, Battle Creek and Flint, among others. The ordinance also includes protection for people from discrimination based on factors included in the state law such as race, religion and gender. Councilman Derek Dobies, 6th Ward, who originally pushed for the ordinance's passing, said he voted for tabling the law to wait and see if state lawmakers pass a similar law first. "We are hoping to see this pass in Lansing," he said. "I think this is needed, and hopefully we'll see some action out of the capital." State senators introduced a bill last month that would amend Michigan law to include sexual orientation and gender identity as non-discriminatory factors. It has since been referred to the Michigan Committee on Government Operations. Senate Bill 1053 would have to pass the Senate, the House and the governor's desk in order for it to become state law. "I do think this is more of a state level or federal level issue," Councilman Daniel Greer, 3rd Ward, said before voting in favor of tabling the ordinance indefinitely.

In Alabama, the Associated Press reports that the chief executive of Apple, Timothy D. Cook, challenged his home state to do more to protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, saying it was too slow to guarantee the rights of minorities during the civil rights era and that it was now too slow to ensure the rights of people based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Mr. Cook’s comments came as he and seven others, including the University of Alabama’s football coach, Nick Saban, were inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor. Mr. Cook said Alabama and the nation “have a long way to go” before realizing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of equality. Alabama is “still too slow on equality for the L.G.B.T. community,” said Mr. Cook, a native of Robertsdale. “We can’t change the past, but we can learn from it, and we can create a different future.” Alabama is among the states that do not recognize same-sex marriage, and it also does not offer legal protections on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

An update on a previous post: the Star-Telegram reports that a traveler at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport last week who was captured on video assaulting a man at a ticket counter and yelling anti-gay slurs is a 27-year-old Tennessee resident, according to airport police reports released Tuesday. McCleish Christmas Benham kicked the man in the groin and hit him on the head and then was tackled by five onlookers and an airport police officer. A video of the incident had over 3.7 million hits on YouTube as of Tuesday. The man who shot the video, Andrew Kennedy of Cincinnati, said he was waiting for a flight with his family when he heard a “loud and seemingly escalating commotion.” He walked over and started recording with his cellphone. Benham, of Shelbyville, Tennessee, was arrested at 6:46 pm Thursday near the ticket counter at Terminal C, Gate 30, police reported. The DFW police report gave this account: "A complainant told officers that Benham had insulted an American Airlines gate agent and that he told Benham to calm down because police were on their way. But a belligerent Benham cursed at the gate agent. She asked whether he had been drinking, and he said, 'Yes, 100 drinks.' Benham then turned his attention to the complainant, punching him in the right eye and calling him a gay slur. Benham then began threatening a different person. The complainant again warned Benham to calm down because police were on their way. When an airport officer arrived, he saw Benham talking to the first man and saw him kick the man in the groin and hit him on top of his head with a fist. At that point, five onlookers and the officer tackled Benham. While he was on the ground, Benham asked whether the people who tackled him wanted to know why he attacked the man. 'This is America — that’s why,” Benham said. “It’s the same reason you get to live, to breathe, to walk black. You know what I’m talking about.'" Benham faces charges of simple assault and public intoxication, according to police reports, and not a hate crime. The man Benham attacked declined medical attention and had no visible marks or bruises, according to police reports. One of the men who tackled Benham had an injured left ankle but continued with his flight, the police report said. One of the other men who tackled Benham drew attention on social media when numerous publications identified him as actor Paul Rudd. The man has since been identified as 28-year-old Ben Kravit of Dallas, an associate brand manager for Dr Pepper.

In New York City, WABC 7 reports that a Bushwick man is facing second-degree attempted murder as a hate crime and other charges in a 13-count indictment stemming from an incident in September in which he and two others allegedly taunted three men with anti-gay slurs before firing six shots at the trio, striking one of the men in the buttocks. District Attorney Ken Thompson identified the suspect as 20-year-old Matthew Smith, who is expected to be arraigned on Thursday in Brooklyn Supreme Court. If convicted of the top count, he faces up to 25 years in prison. Smith is presently being held without bail as was ordered at his Criminal Court arraignment on September 28, 2014. "In Brooklyn, everyone, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation or sexual identity, must be treated with dignity and respect," Thompson said. "The victims in this case were minding their own business and had every right to believe they could safely walk the streets. This indictment reflects our determination to protect all of the people of Brooklyn." According to the investigation, at approximately 7:00 am, on September 27, 2014, in the vicinity of Putnam and Bushwick avenues, three gay men who were dressed in women's clothing were walking on the street when Smith and his two co-defendants, Tavon Johnson and Cody Sigue, who were standing on a corner across the street, allegedly began shouting taunts at them. The victims began walking away from the area, according to the investigation, and the suspects followed them for a block. At that point, the victims started walking rapidly to get away, but were allegedly followed even after they rounded a corner. Police say that Smith then took out a handgun and opened fire. Johnson and Sigue were arrested shortly thereafter and Smith was arrested later that day. Smith is charged with three counts of second-degree attempted murder as a hate crime, three counts of second-degree attempted murder, one count of first-degree assault as a hate crime, one count of first-degree assault, two counts of attempted first-degree assault as a hate crime, two counts of first-degree attempted assault and one count of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon. Johnson, 17, and Sigue, 22, are charged with third-degree menacing as a hate crime, second-degree aggravated harassment, third-degree menacing and second-degree harassment. They were arraigned on September 28, 2014, and released without bail. If convicted on the top count, they face up to one year in prison.

In South Carolina, Chapel Hill News reports that a principal criticized for her handling of the Orange County Schools’ first middle-school gay-straight alliance has resigned. Worries about parents’ reactions, among other concerns, prompted Stanback Middle School Principal Gloria Jones to delay approval of the club for two years. She allowed the club to meet late last school year. When asked about its status recently, she said the “GSA was successfully started last year, and all clubs were implemented successfully last year as well as this year.” Gay-straight alliances connect LGBT students with supporters in an effort to decrease discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Both of the Orange County district’s high schools, Cedar Ridge and Orange, have GSAs. But a change at Stanback this year requires the middle school GSA and a dozen other clubs to meet after school, forcing members to find rides home instead of taking buses. Jones, who has been principal since 2010, announced last week that she will resign effective November 30. She did not say why she is leaving, school system spokesperson Seth Stephens said Tuesday. School officials planned to hold an information session at the school at 6:30 pm Tuesday to hear what parents, students and staff want in a new principal. “We have not had a middle school principal change in a while,” Stephens said. Stephanie Rogers, the parent of an eighth-grade student who is not in the GSA, said “several excellent teachers left the school because they were upset about the way the school administration handled the formation of the GSA club last year.” Nine teachers left Stanback over the summer, and 36 have left in the past five years, Stephens said. He said teachers have resigned or retired across North Carolina and did not know whether those numbers were high for Orange County or how they compared to departures before Jones. Elizabeth Vallero, last year’s GSA adviser, said she did not know of “anyone that left because they had a problem with (Stanback) having a GSA” or “anyone that left solely because of complications surrounding the GSA.” Supporters were inspired to start a GSA in May 2012 after seeing middle-school students at Carolina Friends School, a nearby private school, establish a similar club. “We went to the administration to ask for this club,” said English teacher Meredith Newlin. “She (Jones) said she would run it by the superintendent. … She came to us a few days later and said that the superintendent said no because there might be some parent backlash.” Stephens said he was not in his position two years ago and did not know what the superintendent at that time said. He did say that decisions on when clubs meet are made at the individual school level. Newlin left Stanback last year after teaching there for three years and now teaches at Orange High School. She said she hopes “all students are made to feel welcome, no matter who they are… Every student has value and worth.” Stephens said the GSA had six or seven students when it began meeting this year and thinks the number is in the “double digits” now.

Sean Hayes is going to be a married man: The Will & Grace alum is engaged to longtime boyfriend Scott Icenogle. Hayes' rep confirmed the engagement to the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday after the actor appeared on The Talk and The Ellen DeGeneres Show wearing a silver band on his left ring finger. He did not discuss the news on either show. (However, he did discuss how he came about kissing his The Millers costar and best friend Will Arnett.) The private Sean Saves the World star, 44, has been with the music producer/composer for about eight years, his rep told RumorFix, adding that the men had been affianced "for quite some time." The comedic actor came out in 2010 when speaking about his private life and his relationship with The Advocate. "I spend time with a special someone in my life," he said, presumably about Icenogle. "That's it. That's all I need. I don't need events. I don't do a lot. I live my life like an 85-year-old man. I'm just quiet. It's fantastic." This will be the first marriage for the actor.

According to E! News, what could have been a big moment, never made it on air. Cartoon Network decided to pull the plug on a kiss between two gay characters on their new show Clarence, replacing the moment with a kiss on the cheek instead. The show's writer, Spencer Rothbell, confirmed on Twitter what was actually supposed to happen in the scene between the two animated characters. "Originally the guy had flowers and they kissed on the mouth," he said when a fan asked how hard it was to get a gay couple on the network. His tweets have since been made private. And while it's unclear what lead Cartoon Network to change the scene, Rothbell explained that what would have been a PDA moment between the two characters shouldn't have been up for debate. "It's such a minor throwaway moment but I guess it's better than nothing," he later posted on his Tumblr, giving credit to the fact that the cheek kiss still made it into the final draft of the program. "Maybe one day the main character can be gay and it won't be a big deal." In a similar vein, the Disney Channel featured it's first-ever gay characters when a lesbian couple was written into an episode of Good Luck Charlie.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Alberta Wildrose Party Files CRTC Complaint About Anonymous Anti-Gay Robocalls, Florida Attorney General Bondi Asks That Same Sex Couples Still Be Prevented From Marrying Until Challenging To Constitutional Validity Of State Ban Resolved, Idaho's Bill For Defending Same Sex Marriage Ban Nears $100,000, Husband Of Kansas State Senator Works To Remove Trial Judge That Ordered County Clerks To Issue Marriage Licenses To Same Sex Couples, Daughter Of Houston's Openly Gay Mayor Briefly Denied Opportunity To Take Driving Test Since She Has Two Mothers, Homophobic Racist Bystander Attacks At Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, 27-Year-Old Brooklyn Man Faces Murder Charges In Fatal Stabbing Of Live-In Boyfriend

In Alberta, the Edmonton Journal reports that the Wildrose party has registered a complaint with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission about anonymous robocalls made in the days leading up to Monday’s four provincial by-elections. In a complaint lodged Saturday with Tom Lowry, the CRTC’s director of telecommunications enforcement, Wildrose communications adviser Vitor Marciano complained that voters who identified themselves as supporting the party’s candidates in previous polling calls were being targeted by a robocalls campaign. Marciano said robocalls were received by Wildrose supporters in all four byelection ridings Saturday. Each time, a recorded message stated that Wildrose party Leader Danielle Smith had marched in a pride parade “where men danced naked in front of children.” The recorded voice then asks, “Is that consistent with your values?” The recording does not identify on whose behalf the calls are being made, Marciano said, and are in clear violation of election laws. The calls came from three numbers with prefixes that indicate they originated in Oregon and Washington state. The numbers seem to be connected to a polling company, but return calls to those numbers were answered by a recorded message. “Our supporters are livid,” Marciano said, adding that Wildrose officials have been inundated with complaints. “The calls are homophobic, sleazy and despicable, and they are clearly being made in an attempt to suppress voters.” Monday’s byelections includes races in Edmonton Whitemud, Calgary Elbow, Calgary-Foothills and Calgary West. Premier Jim Prentice, Health Minister Stephen Mandel and Education Minister Gordon Dirks are all seeking seats. Earlier Saturday, the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta contacted the province’s chief electoral officer to report that fake robocalls implicating the Tories were being made to voters in all four ridings. The PCs said they were making calls, but they are only going out to party members and are clearly identified as coming from the party. Marciano said the Wildrose is placing calls to voters as well, but is not using an automated system. “We are doing nothing but live calling,” Marciano said. “If somebody gets a robocall, it is not from us.” Smith announced she had asked provincial ethics commissioner Marguerite Trussler to investigate election tactics used by the PCs. In a letter sent to the commissioner Saturday, Smith complained that there were seven instances in which PC candidates or party members had unfairly used their offices to wield an advantage in the election.

In Florida, same sex couples should continue to be prevented from getting married in the state until a legal battle plays out about the constitutionality of the state’s gay marriage ban, Attorney General Pam Bondi said in a federal-court filing Friday. The filing came after supporters of same sex marriage this month requested that U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle lift a stay that has at least temporarily blocked gay marriages from going forward. Bondi argued that the stay should remain in place until the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals can rule on the constitutionality of the voter-approved ban. “There is a great public interest in stability of the law. If Florida’s law is going to change in the substantial manner plaintiffs seek, it should be only after the plaintiffs’ legal claims undergo appellate review,’’ the filing said. Siding with same sex couples in two combined cases, Hinkle ruled in August that the gay marriage ban was unconstitutional, but he also placed the stay on the decision. The state subsequently filed an appeal that remains pending at the Atlanta-based appellate court. Since Hinkle’s ruling, however, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up similar cases from other states --- effectively clearing the way for same-sex marriages in those states. That spurred the request to Hinkle to lift the stay in Florida. After Friday’s filing, American Civil Liberties Union of Florida attorney Daniel Tilley issued a statement saying the group hopes Hinkle will reject Bondi’s request to keep the stay in place. “It’s disappointing that Attorney General Bondi and Gov. Rick Scott have chosen to continue to swim against the tide of inevitable history and block Florida families from having the protections that come with being married,’’ said Tilley, who represents same sex couples who live in Florida but were married in other states. Florida does not recognize those marriages. State circuit-court judges in South Florida have joined Hinkle in ruling that the ban, approved by voters in 2008, is unconstitutional. Bondi last week filed a document in a state appellate court arguing the Florida Supreme Court should decide the constitutional question --- an issue she also raised in today’s federal court filing. “The United States Supreme Court having passed on an opportunity to provide a decision with national effect, the state has now moved to have the issue resolved in the Florida Supreme Court with statewide effect,’’ Bondi’s filing said. “It is in the public interest to at least allow Florida’s highest court an opportunity to review the issue before ordering changes to Florida’s law.”

In Idaho, the state's legal bill for challenging a federal judge’s decision overturning the state’s ban on gay marriage has now topped $80,000. And that was before Gov. Butch Otter’s latest appeal to the 9th Circuit. In response to a public records request, Otter’s office released an October 7 agreement with Washington, D.C., attorney Gene Schaerr to pay a flat fee of $10,000 for two specific legal briefs: one appealing to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for a stay, to keep its decision legalizing same sex marriage in Idaho from taking effect; and another appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court for the same thing. Both were filed, and both were unsuccessful; same sex marriage became legal in Idaho on October 15. Prior to that, Idaho had spent $71,477 to challenge U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale’s decision overturning the state’s ban on same sex marriage, $66,920 of that for outside lawyers hired to represent Otter. The bill for the stay requests bumped the total up to $81,477. Since then, Otter has filed a petition with the 9th Circuit requesting a review by a larger, 11-judge panel. The earlier ruling was made by a three-judge panel. Otter also filed a motion for permission to exceed the 15-page limit on such petitions; the court granted the motion and allowed Schaerr to file a 35-page brief on behalf of Otter. That brief, filed late in the evening Tuesday, the deadline for such filings, argued, “The panel’s decision appears to be judicial policymaking masquerading as law. But it is bad law, conflicting with numerous decisions of this Court, other circuits and the Supreme Court. And it is even worse policy, creating enormous risks to Idaho’s present and future children – including serious risks of increased fatherlessness, reduced parental financial and emotional support, increased crime, and greater psychological problems – with their attendant costs to Idaho and its citizens. For all these reasons, the panel decision merits en banc review.” The 9th Circuit has now asked the plaintiffs in Idaho’s same sex marriage case to file a response to Otter’s petition within 21 days. The governor’s office has not yet responded to requests for information on costs for that legal action. Earlier, in the state’s appeal to the 9th Circuit, Otter was represented by private attorney Monte Stewart, who charged the state $250 an hour. Stewart has withdrawn from representing Idaho; Otter replaced him with Schaerr. Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden also participated in the original appeal to the 9th Circuit but did so using staff attorneys, so there were no outside legal bills. Wasden has announced he’s planning to file an additional appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in the coming weeks. The state also could be on the hook for the plaintiffs’ attorney fees and costs for the original federal lawsuit, since the state lost; a motion asks the U.S. District Court to order Idaho to pay nearly half a million dollars.

In Kansas, the husband of a state senator is working to oust a northeast Kansas trial judge who ordered the court clerk to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. The Kansas City Star reports Brian Baumgardner is targeting Johnson County Chief District Judge Kevin Moriarty. Moriarty faces a retention vote November 4 in the 10th Judicial Circuit, which is made up of Johnson County. Baumgardner — husband of Republican state Sen. Molly Baumgardner — lives in neighboring Miami County but told The Star on Friday that “a bad judge harms everybody.” Moriarty issued his order October 8 after the U.S. Supreme Court let stand lower-court rulings striking down bans on gay marriage as unconstitutional. The Kansas Supreme Court has halted the issuance of any licenses pending a hearing scheduled November 6.

In Texas, the daughter of Houston Mayor Annise Parker was briefly denied the chance to take a driving test this week because her birth certificate and other documentation indicated she has two mothers, the mayor said. Parker, who married her longtime partner, Kathy Hubbard, in California this year and remains a rarity as an openly gay mayor of a major U.S. city, complained on her Twitter account on Friday. "Daughter needs drivers test," the mayor wrote. "Has all docs, some in MomA name, some MomK, but w/ birth cert showing both. DPS says can only be from 1 mom!" The Texas Department of Public Safety, which oversees the issuance of driver's licenses in the state, said the initial decision to reject Parker's daughter's application had nothing to do with her parents' marital status. Department spokesperson Tom Vinger said Parker's daughter failed to prove she was a Texas resident, but that the issue was later resolved. "All individuals applying for their first Texas driver's license must provide a variety of documents to prove their identity, Social Security number, U.S. citizenship or lawful presence status, and Texas residency," the agency said in a statement. "In this case, the adult applicant did not initially present sufficient documentation to prove residency. Once she provided the required documentation, she was able to complete the transaction." Parker did not respond to several efforts to reach her for comment. On Twitter, Parker said the issue was resolved after three trips to a Department of Public Safety office. "Thank you to the DPS clerk & supervisor in the Rosenberg office who took the time to read my daughters documentation & realize it was OK," Parker wrote, after referring to the incident as an "unnecessary paper chase." Parker is serving her third term as Houston's mayor; she won reelection last year in a landslide over a Republican challenger. The openly gay 57-year-old Democrat is something of an anomaly in heavily conservative Texas. While Texas' larger cities tend to lean blue, the state is still dominated by Republicans, including Gov. Rick Perry, a conservative luminary and former presidential candidate. Parker hasn't been known to make a political issue of her sexual orientation, but gay rights advocates said Saturday that the publicity surrounding her daughter's struggle to obtain a driver's license could illuminate similar issues faced by children of gay and lesbian parents around the country. “Instances like this, especially when they happen to people as prominent and important to our country as Mayor Parker and her family, help Americans understand the indignity and inequality that’s being faced by millions of Americans, and it’s completely unnecessary," said Gabriel Blau, executive director of the Family Equality Council.

Also in Texas, a passerby caught an anti-gay assault on camera at Dallas/Fort Worth airport Thursday afternoon. The video, posted to YouTube starts off with an angry man taunting another man at a gate in terminal C because he's wearing a pink shirt. And it escalates from there. You can see the man shouting, as passengers begin to approach. A man in a black cowboy hat asks the man what he's so upset about. "Queers is what I am upset about," the angry man answers. "The [expletive] right here." And then he kicks and slaps the man in the pink shirt because he believes he's gay. Other passengers immediately jump in and start shouting at the aggressor. DFW police officers arrive and help passengers take the man down to the ground. People watch as he's handcuffed. You can hear him cursing at officers and complaining his handcuffs are too tight. One passenger asks why him why did it. "You want me to tell you the reason why I did? Because this is America. That's why," he says. "The same reason you get to live, to breathe, to walk black." Several passengers shoot video as the man is picked up and taken away. The man who shot the footage identifies himself as Andrew Kennedy. He says on camera, "That guy was crazy absolutely crazy." Kennedy then turns the camera and interviews his brother, who also saw the whole thing. "We saw a very troubled man. We hope that he was under the influence of some kind of substance," Neal Kennedy said. "Because if he wasn't and that's his true personality, then he's going to have a long road in front of him." A DFW spokeswperson confirmed the incident took place at the airport and that officers did in fact arrest the man on Thursday, but would not comment any further. No police report that identifies the man has been released.

In New York City, the Daily News reports that a 27-year-old Brooklyn man who relatives said would “never hurt a fly” is facing murder charges in the fatal stabbing of his live-in boyfriend, authorities said Saturday. Samuel Joseph allegedly stabbed and slashed 38-year-old Ledaryl (Daryl) Burns in the neck and chest during a heated dispute inside his E. 96th St. apartment in Canarsie on Friday at 9:50 pm Burns died at the scene. Joseph’s arraignment was pending Saturday night. His sister Shavon Coakley, 33, couldn’t believe her younger brother is facing murder charges. “My brother never had a fight in his life,” she said. “(He) never hurt a fly. I always fought my brother’s fights.”

Friday, October 24, 2014

British Columbia School Trustee Candidate Pushes Back After Pro-Life Group Demands Board Of Education Annul Anti-Homophobia Policy Since It Acts As "Indoctrination," Homophobic Brockville Ontario Councillor Contends Vandalized Campaign Signs Qualify As Hate Crime, Macedonia Police Investigating After Thugs Attack A Gay Rights Activist Group Injuring Two, Investigation Reveals British Home Office Interviews Of Gay And Lesbian Asylum Seekers Routinely Include "Intrusive" Questions About Sex Lives, Federal Judge Rejects Attempt By Misguided Heterosexual Couple That Sought To Intervene In Lawsuit Challenging Kansas Same Sex Marriage Ban, ACLU Will Not Challenge Northern Idaho Wedding Chapel's Refusal To Conduct Same Sex Marriages, Landmark Decision Finds Transgender Employee Discriminated Against By United States Army

In Surrey, British Columbia, the Leader reports that a school trustee candidate is firing back at a South Surrey-based group that wants the Board of Education to annul its anti-homophobia policy. B.C. Parents and Teachers for Life (BCPTL), a self-described pro-life, pro-family organization, delivered a position paper and hundreds of signatures opposing the regulation earlier this month. Among other things, the BCPTL's paper says the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity portion of the Safe and Caring Schools policy passed in 2013 “opened up the schools to wide-ranging indoctrination,” by mandating teachers and counsellors be trained “to be instruments of propaganda on behalf of homosexualist activism.” Nicole Joliet, who's running in the November 15 election, was outraged upon hearing about the crusade against the anti-homophobia policy. "This is downright horrible and hateful," she said. "Their statements make it sound like the protections our children need somehow constitute vile brainwashing propaganda." She said she was taunted daily in high school and there were no LGBTQ-friendly spaces or services at her school, or any policies that specifically addressed homo- and transphobic harassment. Joliet said the bullying affected her studies and left her with lingering anxiety and depression. "To hear people claiming that a policy against this harassment is 'homosexualist propaganda,' as though they have some sort of right to bully and harass students for being LGB or trans because our existence is part of some political debate, as if our suffering is not at all real, makes me sick to my stomach," Joliet said. The BCPTL criticized not only the lack of “facts about the consequences of homosexual behaviour included in school materials designed by pro-homosexuality activists,” but claims Surrey school trustees did not provide parents the opportunity to voice their concerns. “BC Parents and Teachers for Life wants the board to consider the viewpoints of parents who hold traditional views of sexual morality and do not wish their teachings undermined in the schools,” stated an October 16 news release. In fact, it was 2012 when the board struck a committee of teachers, parents, students and district staff, which spent months forming guidelines aimed at supporting "students, staff and community members of all sexual orientations or gender identities." A year later, in June 2013, an anti-homophobia policy was unanimously approved by the board. Regardless, Ted Hewlett, past president of BCPTL, wants his group's concerns addressed as soon as possible. The school district said last week it was formulating a response.

In Brockville, Ontario, Jeff Earle, a city councillor for 23 years, and one of 18 candidates for eight council seats in the October 27 city election, believes that the vandalism which defaced his campaign signs goes beyond the usual electorial mischief and counts it as a hate crime. The Recorder reports that Earle said Tuesday five of his large campaign signs were defaced with black spray paint – one of them, at the corner of King Street East and North Augusta Road, sprayed with the word “homophobe.” “In the high-profile areas they didn’t stop long enough to write,” said Earle. The councillor believes the same culprits were responsible for all the incidents, but were too “chicken” to stick around long enough to write a message in higher-traffic spots. “They didn’t even want to stand by their work and get caught,” he said. City police are investigating. Earle is convinced the “homophobe” charge stems from his February 11 vote preventing debate on a motion to fly the rainbow flag behind city hall during the Winter Olympics. Councillor Leigh Bursey had belatedly introduced a motion to have Brockville follow in other cities’ lead and fly the pride flag during the Olympics, in protest against host country Russia’s anti-gay laws. Because of the lateness of that motion, Bursey needed a unanimous vote to get it on the floor. Earle was the sole councillor to raise his hand in opposition to hearing the motion. Earle said at the time his decision stemmed from a desire to keep politics out of the Olympics. He said Tuesday the presence of homosexual athletes on Canada’s Olympic team was evidence enough of Canada’s Olympic inclusiveness. He added those athletes worked and trained alongside the others and did not need the distraction of a political debate. Earle resents being tarred as a homophobe because of that vote. “I treat it as a hate crime,” he said. “For them to label that, I find it a little offensive. That vote was not about whether you support individuals.” City police are investigating the incidents as acts of mischief, Sgt. Andrew Harvie confirmed. “We don’t have any suspects yet,” he said Tuesday afternoon. Although it would appear the same people are responsible for all of the vandalism, it’s too early to conclude that as well, added Harvie.

In Macedonia, police say about 30 people wearing masks and throwing rocks and bottles have attacked members of a gay rights activist group, wounding two of them. According to the Associated Press, Friday's assault occurred at a coffee shop in the Old Bazaar section of Skopje, the capital, as the LGBT Association of Macedonia was celebrating its second anniversary there. Uranija Pirovska, leader of the local office of the rights group Helsinki Committee, said it was the sixth organized attack against gays in Macedonia in two years. She urged the country's conservative government to issue a strong public condemnation. The government has promised to create a constitutional amendment that would effectively outlaw gay marriage in Macedonia.

In the United Kingdom, more than a tenth of Home Office interviews of gay and lesbian asylum seekers include “intrusive or unsatisfactory” questions about their sex lives, according to an investigation by the chief inspector of borders and immigration. John Vine said the Home Office must eradicate unacceptable questioning in asylum interviews that query the validity of same sex relationships or were likely to elicit sexually explicit responses. The chief inspector cited examples of unsatisfactory questions that included asking why a gay asylum seeker felt the need to have sex every day when that was “not even normal in heterosexual relationships." In another case, an asylum seeker was aksed whether he had had “less than 100” sexual partners before his current boyfriend. In a third case, a gay asylum seeker was asked what a relationship with a man could provide that was absent from a hetreosexual partnership. Vine was asked by the home secretary, Theresa May, to investigate the handling of gay and lesbian asylum claims after the Observer published extracts of an asylum interview this year, in which a Home Office caseworker had asked sexually explicit questions. “None of the interviews in our sample contained sexually explicit questions of the type highlighted in the Observer article. We did, however, find some questions which, we considered, invited applicants to give sexually explicit responses that were likely to be irrelevant to their asylum claims,” said Vine. “Other questions were either not relevant or appeared to be formulated to make claimants feel uncomfortable, for example by implying their sexual orientation was a deviance from a heterosexual norm.” Vine said of the 112 interviews of gay and lesbian asylum seekers his investigation reviewed, about 12 or about 10% included intrusive or unsatisfactory questions. He said such questions were twice as likely to be asked in cases involving those who had been detained as part of the fast-track asylum process. He said there was clear Home Office guidance emphasising that sexually explicit questions such as: ‘Did you put your penis into X’s backside?’, cited in the Observer article were never acceptable. In a series of three reports published on Thursday, Vine also criticises UK Border Agency staff for failing to act quickly enough on tipoffs from the public and the police and missing opportunities to tackle immigration offenders. He said progress had been made since his previous report, in 2011, which criticized the lack of action taken on tipoffs. He said since then an intelligence management system had been developed. More than 75,000 allegations were added to the system in 2013, which led to more than 4,000 arrests and 1,000 removals. However, he also found immigration staff were failing to act promptly on 39% of the tipoffs in which they had taken more than two working days, the target set by ministers, to process the allegations. “This led to some time-critical allegations not being assessed until it was too late to take preventative action,” he reported. A home office spokesperson said they had accepted all of the Vine report’s recommendations, including ensuring sexually explicit questions were not asked. “We are putting in place measures to implement,” she said. “The UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who seek refuge by establishing a genuine need for protection. The chief inspector praised our guidance and training on handling sexual orientation claims, stating that it was clear and concise. We worked closely with organizations such as Stonewall, the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to develop this training, which is now mandatory for all our caseworkers.”

A federal judge has spurned an effort by a heterosexual couple to intervene in a lawsuit challenging the Kansas ban on same sex marriage. U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree ruled Friday that Phillip and Sandra Unruh, of Harper, have no legal right to join the lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas. The Unruhs claimed in a Wednesday filing that they have a property right in their traditional marital status. They argued an adverse decision on the constitutionality of the state's same sex marriage ban could diminish their marital status and harm their property right. Crabtree concluded the Unruhs' interests are already represented by the Kansas attorney general's office, which is defending the ban. But the judge also invited the couple to file a friend-of-the-court brief stating their arguments.

In Idaho, the American Civil Liberties Union says it will not challenge a northern Idaho wedding chapel's refusal to conduct gay marriages because the chapel falls under a religious exemption. Interim Executive Director Leo Morales said in a news conference Thursday that the Hitching Post became a religious corporation in Idaho nearly a month ago. Morales said the ACLU believes that under its new business classification, the chapel does not have to comply with the city of Coeur d'Alene's ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation because the chapel only provides religious services. Unlike most churches, which are tax-exempt and private organizations, a religious corporation is still considered for-profit. However, the legal organization will reconsider not challenging the chapel if it begins offering secular services, such as providing flowers, cake or holds nonreligious marriage ceremonies. "This situation is very nuanced, it's also very new for us and for most of the attorneys involved in the case," he said. A Christian religious rights legal organization filed a federal lawsuit last week against the city contending the chapel could be compelled to perform gay marriages under the city's anti-discrimination ordinance. In a letter to Alliance Defending Freedom, Coeur d'Alene attorney Mike Gridley said that wedding chapel owners Don and Lynn Knapp would be exempted from the city ordinance if they were operating as a nonprofit religious organization. Same sex marriage became legal in Idaho on October 15. Six days later, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter filed a petition asking for an 11-judge review of the federal court's decision to overturn Idaho's ban on same sex marriage. Otter listed the Hitching Post as a business that would be harmed if the "traditional" definition of marriage was changed in Idaho.

In Alabama, a transgender Army civilian at Redstone Arsenal's Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center was forced to undergo "frequent, pervasive and humiliating," gender-identity discrimination, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel announced Thursday. In what's being hailed as a landmark decision, the OSC found that Tamara Lusardi, a software quality assurance specialist with AMRDEC, was restricted from using the women's bathroom and was called "sir" and referred to by her birth name by coworkers as she transitioned from male to female. OSC, an independent federal investigating and prosecutorial agency, said the treatment violated Lusardi's rights. "I am so grateful that justice is finally being served," Lusardi said in a statement. "As a disabled veteran, I take great pride in my role protecting our soldiers from harm. Like anyone else, I just want the freedom to be myself at work. I hope my case and this decision will help other transgender people feel safe enough to bring their full authentic selves to work. This report makes clear that we don't have to put up with being mistreated on the job just because of who we are." According to OSC, Lusardi, an Army veteran, legally changed her name in 2010 and obtained a passport, driver's license and security clearance that identified her as female. During that time, she dressed as a woman but used a separate unisex bathroom facility at her office. When that bathroom was out of order, she would use the women's restroom, something she was later advised not to do by her supervisors. During this same time, OSC said Lusardi was repeatedly called "he" or "sir," creating a hostile work environment, OSC said, and was given less work. She experienced this on a daily basis, serving "as a constant reminder that she was deprived of equal status, respect, and dignity in the workplace," the OSC report said. The Army's actions, according to OSC, were "sufficiently frequent, pervasive, and humiliating to constitute discriminatory harassment. The agency's intentional limitations on (Lusardi's) restroom usage significantly changed her working conditions, as did her supervisor's repeated use of her birth name and male pronouns and her manager's targeted restriction of the content of her conversations with coworkers." In response to the report, the Army has agreed to provide sensitivity training about working with LGBT coworkers for employees and supervisors at the AMRDEC facility. In July, President Obama signed an executive order banning workplace discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees of federal contractors and the federal government. Lusardi was represented by the California-based Transgender Law Center. The center's Legal Director Ilona Turner praised the OSC's ruling. "The Office of Special Counsel's report is groundbreaking in its conclusion that some of the most common forms of harassment faced by transgender people on the job should be recognized for what they are: unlawful discrimination," she said.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Gay Community In Liberia Face New Attacks Engendered By Fears Over Ebola, Silvio Berlusconi Calls For Same Sex Civil Unions As "Right Compromise," British Police Seek Public Assistance In Capturing Two Robbers Targeting Gay Men Via Mobile App, Christian Broadcasting Network's Pat Robertson Calls Gay Rights Activists "Terrorists," Anti-Gay Virginia-Based Group Claims It Misspelt New Jersey Senator Booker's Name On Mailer Deliberately, Arizona Approves First Transgender Student-Athlete To Play In Winter Sport

In Liberia, Reuters reports that Leroy Ponpon doesn't know whether to lock himself in his flat in Monrovia because of the deadly Ebola virus, or because he is gay. Christian churches' recent linking of the two have made life hell for him and hundreds of other gays. Ponpon, an LGBT campaigner in the Liberian capital, says gays have been harassed, physically attacked and a few have had their cars smashed by people blaming them for the hemorrhagic fever, after religious leaders in Liberia said Ebola was a punishment from God for homosexuality. "Since church ministers declared Ebola was a plague sent by God to punish sodomy in Liberia, the violence toward gays has escalated. They're even asking for the death penalty. We're living in fear," Ponpon told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by telephone from Monrovia. Ebola has infected almost 10,000 people in West Africa since March, killing around half its victims. Liberia is the worst hit country where poverty, corruption and civil war have left a weak health system unable to cope with the exponential spread of the disease. Some religious leaders have their own interpretation of the causes of Ebola. Earlier this year, the Liberian Council of Churches said in a statement that God was angry with Liberians "over corruption and immoral acts" such as homosexuality, and that Ebola was a punishment. In May, Archbishop Lewis Zeigler of the Catholic Church of Liberia said that "one of the major transgressions against God for which He may be punishing Liberia is the act of homosexuality," local media reported. Francois Patuel, Amnesty International's representative in West Africa, said there had been reports of threats and violence against the LGBTI community in Monrovia since the incendiary remarks made by the local Christian leaders. "Amnesty has received pictures of cars that reportedly belong to gays with their windows smashed as well as reports that gays have been forced from their homes and had to go into hiding," Patuel said. Neither the Catholic Church nor the Liberian Council of Churches could be reached in Monrovia. Representatives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Episcopal Church did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Ponpon prefers to move at night. He is scared to be identified in daylight after the local press splashed his picture and phone number across the front pages. But the Ebola curfew, running from 11:00 pm to 6:00 am, has complicated things. "In the day, we move around wearing sunglasses and disguises. The problem with moving at night is that it is not safe in Monrovia in the dark, and also, if you violate the Ebola curfew, it is punishable by imprisonment," he said. The curfew has affected the LGBT community in another way. When activists contact the police for protection, they reply that because of the Ebola emergency and the curfew put in place to combat the disease, they cannot help, Ponpon said. Violence against the LGBT community was already common in West Africa before the Ebola outbreak, and same sex relationships are still largely taboo in many African countries. A recent Gallup poll showed Africa as the worst continent for gay people. National laws in West Africa are in line with public sentiment. In Liberia, 'voluntary sodomy' is a first-degree misdemeanor with a penalty of up to one year in jail, according to the International Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA). Patuel said Amnesty had received no reports of similar incidents in other Ebola-stricken countries in the region, and urged African states to stand up for minorities. "In August this year the African Union passed a resolution for the protection of LGBTi rights. The authorities must adopt this into their national law and take action against homophobic statements to protect its citizens," Patuel said. In Liberia, Ponpon's demands are simple: "Right now, all we want is protection. We want the government to come forward and say that this is a minority group and they deserve the same rights as anyone else and then people will stop attacking us."

In Italy, the Associated Press reports that Silvio Berlusconi is pushing for the legalization of civil unions between gays, but not same sex marriage. In Rome, where politicians are sensitive to Vatican policy, the leader of Italy's largest center-right party told reporters Thursday that allowing civil unions by gays would be the "right compromise" between freedom for all and "deep respect for Christian values and for traditional families." The Catholic Church says only a man and a woman can be married. Berlusconi's fiancé, Francesca Pascale, recently told a radio interviewer that she favors the legalization of gay marriage and civil unions. But the former Italian premier is holding up Germany as the model of his plan. Since 2001, Germany has allowed civil unions but not formal marriage for gay couples. As the result of a tax-fraud conviction, Berlusconi no longer serves in Parliament, but he said his Forza Italia party will propose legislation to allow same sex civil unions in Italy. Berlusconi's lobbying for same sex civil unions marked quite a change for him. Four years ago, while shrugging off sex-scandals that dogged him, he said it's "better to be passionate about a beautiful girl than a gay." That comment led some to accuse him of being homophobic.

In Britain, the Guardian reports that police are appealing for help to track down two robbers who targeted a man in his own home after contacting him using a gay dating app. The 26-year-old victim arranged to meet a man at his flat in Westminster, central London, last month via the app. When the visitor, who spent much of his time at the flat texting, said he was leaving, the victim showed him to the door where a second man was waiting holding a cattle prod. The robbers forced the man back inside his flat, then stole cash and a laptop computer. Police fear that other members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities may have been targeted by the pair and said anyone who came forward would be treated with sensitivity. They released CCTV images of the suspects, who are wanted for aggravated burglary. DC April Smart, from Westminster CID, said: “The victim thankfully did not suffer serious physical injuries but has been left very shaken by this incident. I am keen to identify the two suspects as soon as possible and I am appealing to anyone who may know who they are to contact the police. While we have not connected this incident to any other ... the suspects could have committed this type of offence previously, and I would appeal to anyone who may have been a victim of this type of offence to contact the police, where they will be treated with the utmost sensitivity.” The burglary took place around 5:20 pm on September 28. One suspect is white, of slim build with short fair/blond hair and in his mid 20s. The other is white, bald and of medium build, in his late 20s. After taking the cash and laptop they ran out of the flat. Smart offered reassurance that police were doing everything they could to arrest the robbers and urged people to take steps to stay safe when meeting strangers. The Lesbian and Gay Foundation advises in such situations to meet in a public place and stay where there are other people around. Police are asking anyone with information to contact them on 020 7321 7513, or to remain anonymous, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

In the United States, a day after his controversial comments about AIDS were obliterated by Anderson Cooper, televangelist Pat Robertson called gay rights activists “terrorists." On his Christian Broadcasting Network show on Wednesday, Robertson blasted Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who is gay, for issuing subpoenas to five prominent pastors who had opposed a new anti-discrimination law. “These people are terrorists, they're radicals, and they're extremists,” Robertson told 700 Club viewers. “No Christian in his right mind would ever try to enforce somebody against their belief or else suffer jail. Now they did that during the Inquisition. It was horrible. It was a black mark on our history, but it isn't being done now. There's no Christian group I know of anywhere in the world that would force somebody to do something contrary to their deep-held religious beliefs or else face criminal penalties, but that's what the homosexuals are trying to do here in America and I think it's time pastors stand up and fight this monstrous thing." Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union slammed the subpoenas, saying they violated the pastors' civil rights. "The government should never engage in fishing expeditions into the inner workings of a church," the ACLU said in a statement. "And any request for information must be carefully tailored to seek only what is relevant to the dispute.” In response, Parker said the city would clarify the subpoenas, admitting they were “too broad.” Robertson said that, "If the gays want to go out and do their gay sex, that’s one thing, but if they want to force you to accept it and solemnify it by marriage, then that’s a different matter and it’s an infringement on people’s religious belief. What’s being done in Houston is a gay — the woman they elected is a homosexual, she’s a lesbian, and she’s trying to force pastors to conform to her beliefs. It’s wrong." Earlier this month, Robertson was asked by a 700 Club viewer if he should be concerned about traveling to Kenya in light of the Ebola outbreak. The 84-year-old televangelist replied that there was no need to worry about Ebola in Kenya. But he added: "You have to be careful about AIDS. The towels could have AIDS." On Tuesday, Cooper dedicated his Ridiculist segment to respond to Robertson. "If, Pat Robertson, you somehow missed all the research and the depth and information, you cannot get HIV if you share towels," the CNN host said. Cooper mocked Robertson's advice, telling American travelers to remain in the United States. "Except steer clear of San Francisco [because] that is, of course, where all the gay people live, and Pat Robertson thinks they have a way of giving you 'the stuff.'"

In New Jersey, a Virginia-based group that opposes gay rights has sent out a postcard to voters opposing U.S. Sen. Cory Booker’s re-election. But it spells the Democratic senator's name wrong. The postcard was sent out by Public Advocate of the United States, a non-profit group. On the front, it shows two men kissing and, in big white letters on a pink background, these words: “Is this Cory Brooker’s (sic) plan for New Jersey?” The president of the group, Eugene Delgaudio, said that was intentional. “It’s a tactic to get attention, which we did get. You’re calling me,” he said of the ad campaign, which he said was “very low budget” and included about 50,000 postcards. His group is attacking candidates in other states as well. The back of the postcard says that Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jeff Bell filled out the group’s survey and “earned a 100% pro-family rating.” The postcard also incorrectly calls Bell, who has never won an elected office, a senator. It goes on to say that Booker did not answer the survey “and has earned a 0-percent Pro-Family rating due to his praise for homosexual ‘marriage’ and co-sponsoring the Gay Bill of Special Rights.” When asked if he thought readers would doubt the misspelling was intentional, Delgaudio said he often does provocative things to get attention. The postcard came to light after Don Povia, a Mercer County resident and former executive director of the New Jersey Republican State Committee, received it in the mail and then tweeted critically about it. If gay couples kissing is Booker’s plan for New Jersey, he’s too late. The state legalized same sex marriage a year ago this month, and 3,700 gay couples have wed since then at ceremonies that almost certainly involved kissing. A spokesperson for Booker could not immediately be reached for comment. Bell said he’s met Delguadio because they had children in the same school , but knew nothing of the ad campaign. “I just don’t have any comment on it. I have nothing to do with it,” he said. “I haven’t even seen it. It’s certainly not something I would have said.” Steven Goldstein, who founded the gay rights group Garden State Equality, laughed when shown the mail piece "It's hateful. I shouldn't be laughing," Goldstein said, before calling on Jeff "Brell" to denounce it. "To say it’s something he would not have said, that’s not the same as denouncing it," Goldstein said.

In Arizona Monday, the Interscholastic Association Executive Board approved the first transgender student-athlete to play in a winter sport in the state. Chuck Schmidt, associate executive director of the AIA, said he could not give the name of the athlete, nor the sport, school and sex in order to protect the student-athlete's privacy. An AIA subcommittee recommended the eligibility of the transgender athlete to the board, which unanimously voted to allow the student-athlete to play. Schmidt said there have been several cases of transgender athletes appealing to play in the past, but the board denied those until now. The AIA, Arizona's high school sports governing body, doesn't have legislation that opens the door for all transgender athletes to participate in sports. Schmidt said it is case by case, such as hardship appeals. "We look at the school," Schmidt said. "Do they support the request? We look at the student. There is a lot of documentation to explore, the gender dysphoria. Are they working with medical professionals? Where are the parents and students themselves? What are their positions? How long have they identified as the opposite sex they were born? All of that is taken into consideration and the potential impact it would have on other students. All of those things came together. Based on all of the information, the subcommittee recommended approval, and it was supported by the board." Arizona is not alone in facing the issue. In Minnesota, a full-page ad was placed in the Minneapolis Star Tribune by the Minnesota Child Protective League in opposition of a proposal there to allow the participation of transgender athletes to play. In the ad, it states, "A male wants to shower beside your 14-year-old daughter. Are you OK with that?" Shortly after that, the Minnesota State High School League was bombarded by more than an estimated 10,000 emails before the early October vote with more than 50 people lined up to speak to show either support or opposition, according to the Star Tribune. The vote was delayed until December, according to reports. The Star Tribune reported that Zeam Porter, a junior who plays basketball and identifies as "trans genderqueer," broke down while speaking during the packed hearing. "It's like, 'I respect transgender people, but ...'" the Star Tribune reported Porter saying. "The 'but' is what I've been hearing my whole life. All I hear is, 'You are problematic; you're wrong.'" In a Washington Post story, transgender athletes have been allowed to play on their preferred teams in at least 10 states, according to Trans Athlete. According to the National Federation of High Schools, 32 states have some sort of policy on transgender athletes with some stating they have to play on the gender-specific sports, according to what is on their birth certificates. The AIA has no policy. It is case by case. "I don't know about a ripple effect," Schmidt said on how the AIA's approval of the first transgender athlete to play would impact the Arizona high school sports landscape. "A board member talked about a door is open, and there seems to be a rush to that door. I don't know in this case. A student identifies as the opposite sex born, and they're going through their internal process."

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ugandan Judge Dismisses Case Against Two Men Accused Of Having Homosexual Sex Due To Absence Of Evidence, Appeal To Filed In Ruling That Upheld Puerto Rico Same Sex Marriage Ban, Religious Leaders Gather Outside Michigan Capital To Protest Proposed Amendment To State Anti-Discrimination Law Would Include Sexual Orientation And Gender Identity, Catholic Group Stages Protests Against Same Sex Marriage In Pennsylvania, Federal Lawsuit Alleges San Bernardino County Sheriff's Deputies Mistreated Gay And Transgender Inmates

In Uganda, a judge dismissed the case Wednesday of two men accused of having homosexual sex, the first since tough laws were repealed, their lawyer said. Kim Mukisa and Jackson Mukasa, who have rejected all the accusations since their arrest in January, celebrated as they left court, an AFP reporter said. "The case has been dismissed in favour of my clients... the prosecution has not been able to produce the witnesses," lawyer Fridah Mutesi told AFP. Court officials confirmed the judges had dismissed the case due to a lack of evidence. The two men were arrested just weeks before President Yoweri Museveni passed a law further criminalizing homosexuality in the socially conservative east African nation, and accused of living "as husband and wife." Museveni's signing of new anti-gay laws drew international condemnation, with US Secretary of State John Kerry likening it to anti-Semitic legislation in Nazi Germany. The anti-gay law signed by Museveni has since been revoked on a technicality, but the pair were charged under a 1950s penal code which remains in force and prescribes jail for those found guilty of homosexual acts. Critics said Museveni signed the law to win domestic support ahead of a presidential election scheduled for 2016, which will be his 30th year in power.

According to the Associated Press, a federal court judge has rejected an attempt to end a ban on same sex marriages in Puerto Rico, saying political order itself depends on traditional marriage and deriding the logic of courts that have overturned such bans. The five gay couples who filed the suit will appeal, their attorney said Wednesday. The couples had challenged the constitutionality of several local laws, including a 1902 code that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. But in a ruling issued late Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Juan Perez-Gimenez upheld the laws, stating people and legislators, not judges, should debate the issue. "Because no right to same-gender marriage emanates from the Constitution, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico should not be compelled to recognize such unions," he wrote in the 21-page ruling. "Instead, Puerto Rico, acting through its legislature, remains free to shape its own marriage policy." National gay rights group Lambda Legal is representing the group, which includes two couples who seek to marry in Puerto Rico and three couples who live on the island and married elsewhere. "We were obviously surprised by the decision," Lambda Legal attorney Omar Gonzalez-Pagan said by phone. "Close to 50 court decisions have disagreed with that assessment, including four circuit courts of appeals." He said they would file an appeal within days. More than 30 states have recognized same sex unions, many after an October 6 U.S. Supreme Court decision that refused to hear appeals from states seeking to defend gay marriage bans. Puerto Rico is the only jurisdiction under the First Circuit Court of Appeals that bans same sex marriages, Gonzalez-Pagan said. Perez-Gimenez questioned the actions of more than two dozen judges on the U.S. mainland who have struck down state same sex marriage bans following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling known as U.S. vs. Windsor. That ruling struck down a federal provision that denied several tax, health and veterans benefits to legally married gay couples, though it did not declare gay marriage legal nationwide. Perez-Gimenez said the Windsor case only serves to reaffirm states' authority over marriage. "Windsor does not — cannot — change things," he wrote. "It takes inexplicable contortions of the mind or perhaps even willful ignorance ... to interpret Windsor's endorsement of the state control of marriage as eliminating the state control of marriage." Perez-Gimenez wondered in his ruling whether laws prohibiting polygamy and incestuous relations will be questioned now, saying that traditional marriage is essential to society itself. "Ultimately the very survival of the political order depends upon the procreative potential embodied in traditional marriage," he said. "Those are the well-tested, well-proven principles on which we have relied for centuries." The legal fight in Puerto Rico began in March, when attorney Ada Conde, 53, who married her longtime partner in Massachusetts, filed a federal lawsuit seeking to have their marriage recognized in the U.S. territory, where lawmakers last year approved four measures in favor of the gay community, including one that extends a domestic violence law to gay couples. However, the push for same-sex marriages and recognition of those marriages has met strong resistance. Johanne Velez, a 49-year-old attorney who is one of the plaintiffs, told The Associated Press in an interview that she and her partner, whom she married in New York in 2012, are seeking equal rights. They want to adopt, but Velez said she has been forced to initiate the process by herself because Puerto Rico does not allow unmarried couples to adopt. She said she was disillusioned by the ruling. "The judge adopted an extremely traditional and somewhat sexist perspective about a woman's role in society," she said.

In Michigan, an estimated 150 religious leaders and activists gathered outside the state Capitol on Wednesday to protest a potential gay rights amendment to the state’s anti-discrimination law. “Those wanting special rights for sexual orientation are seeking to rewrite the traditional moral fiber of our society,” Tim Berlin, senior pastor at Faith Baptist Church in Warren, told onlookers. “We are not stopping anyone from their individual choices or from their individual preferences, but we are unwilling to allow them to redefine what has been our biblical and historic precedent.” Michigan lawmakers are considering whether to update the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination against protected classes in the work place, housing markets and places of public accommodation. A coalition of large employers, business and advocacy groups is urging policy makers to add sexual orientation and gender identity protections to the law, which would ensure that residents cannot be fired or denied service because they are gay. “We feel it’s the civil rights issue of the day,” said Shelli Weisberg, legislative director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan. The protesters had their say, Weisberg said, “but we know for a fact that a majority of Michiganders disagree with them." Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has indicated he’d like the Legislature to discuss an Elliott-Larsen update this year, likely after the November 4 election, but he has not shared his personal opinion on the issue. Democrats have already introduced legislation, but House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) has said he’s still trying to find an appropriate balance between individual rights and religious liberty. Pastor Doug LaVesque of Immanuel Baptist Church in Corunna, reading from a mission statement posted on NoGayCivilRight.com, called the Elliott-Larsen push “a solution in search of a problem” and argued it would ultimately allow reverse discrimination against religious individuals who oppose same sex relationships. “There is no possible religious exemption which would protect our religious freedoms,” he said. The rally opened and closed with prayer. Attendees sang “God Bless America,” held signs and clutched bibles. Stacy Swimp, a Michigan activist who has urged Christians not to have “false empathy” for gay residents or the “satanic agenda,” told the crowd he was “insulted and offended” that lawmakers would consider adding LGBT protections to a law inspired by the African American civil rights movement. “They’ve never had to drink out of an LGBT water fountain or been forced to sit in the back of the bus in an LGBT section,” said Swimp, who is black. Pastor Pj Anderson, who runs the Space for Grace Fellowship Center in Lansing, watched the rally from a distance, shaking her head in response to various statements and occasionally voicing opposition. Afterwards, Anderson noted that Swimp does not speak for all black people or pastors and argued that LGBT discrimination is a civil rights issue not a theological one. “This is a similar group of people who used holy writ to support slavery and used holy writ to support domestic violence, saying wives should submit to their husbands...,” Anderson said. “Where is the love of God in all of that?” Another group of religious leaders responded to Wednesday’s rally with a show of support for the push to expand Elliott-Larsen. “My faith and my beliefs tell me to support LGBT protections that align with my values to prevent discrimination, show compassion and allow all to live without judgment,” Rev. David Alexander Bullock of Greater St. Matthew Baptist Church in Highland Park said in a statement. Jim Murray, President of AT&T Michigan and co-chair of the Michigan Competitive Workforce Coalition, said he remains optimistic that the Legislature will take up the issue this year but said most lawmakers are focused on elections right now.

In Pennsylvania, a York County based Catholic organization dubbed The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property protested same sex marriage at Market and 32nd streets in Camp Hill Wednesday afternoon. There were 21 demonstrators, some holding signs, others playing bagpipes, drums and fifes, chanting and asking drivers at the busy intersection to honk if they support traditional marriage. A similar group was spotted protesting at Cameron and Maclay streets in Harrisburg around noon. The group, which has its headquarters in York County, has no formal association with the Harrisburg Diocese. The protesters chose the Camp Hill intersection for the late afternoon demonstration simply because it's heavily traveled, said John Ritchie, the group's director of student activities. "We're here in defense of natural marriage and the bond between man and woman," Ritchie said as cars and trucks sporadically blasted their horns in support. "Marriage is being threatened by the homosexual movement." Some that drove by were disgusted by the group. One woman shouted disapproval and told the group she was a lesbian while stopped at a red-light. The group then began chanting at her: "If you love America, defend traditional marriage...a moral wrong can never be a civil right."

In California, San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies called gay, bisexual and transgender inmates “sissies” and “freak shows” and denied them access to services given to other inmates, according to a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday by civil rights attorneys. Fifteen current and former inmates of the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga filed the class-action lawsuit against the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, Sheriff John McMahon and several deputies. The Los Angeles Times reports that the sheriff’s department said it had not been served with the lawsuit, and could not comment. The lawsuit cites several cases in which gay inmates were allegedly denied equal access to drug rehabilitation and educational programs, as well as job training classes offered to their straight counterparts. The inmates were given only limited time outside their cells and were unable to participate in work programs that would reduce their sentences, the suit alleges. Inmates who self-identify as gay, bisexual or transgender are automatically segregated from the general inmate population in San Bernardino County and placed in an “alternative lifestyle tank” at the West Valley Detention Center, the lawsuit states. Although “jails have an obligation to protect the safety of inmates who may be subject to victimization” and can place them in protective custody, jails have no right to subject gay, bisexual and transgender inmates to “significantly worse conditions ... or subject them to abuse based on their sexual orientation or gender identity,” the lawsuit states. “In the United States, we punish people because of the crime they commit, not because of who they are,” said Melissa Goodman, an attorney with the ACLU of Southern California, which filed the lawsuit along with the law firm Kaye, McLane, Bednarski and Litt. “Imposing harsher penalties just because of who they are is illegal, and it’s unconstitutional,” Goodman said. The suit seeks to require the sheriff’s department to “provide all inmates equal access and treatment to programs, as required by state law,” according to the ACLU. A spokesperson said the sheriff's department would be unlikely to comment even after the suit is served. "If we had been served we could not comment because it would then be pending litigation," said Jodi Miller, a sheriff's public information officer.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Despite Having Declared Bankruptcy Assurances That Ottawa Ontario Pride Will Continue, U.S. Federal Judge Upholds Puerto Rico Same Sex Marriage Ban, Human Rights Watch Report Reveals LGBT Jamaicans Subject To Shocking Violence And Discrimination, Idaho Governor Otter Asks 9th Circuit Court Of Appeals To Review Ruling That Struck Down State's Same Sex Marriage Ban, Appeals Court Declares Lawsuit Filed Against Hawaii's Same Sex Marriage Ban Moot, Nick Jonas Flaunts

In Ontario, the Citizen reports that gay pride celebrations in Ottawa will not end because of the bankruptcy of Capital Pride, say members of Ottawa’s gay community. “It’s going to happen, even if I need to get a giant rainbow flag and march down the street my damn well self,” said Ian Capstick, who chairs the Bank Street BIA’s committee dealing with all things Pride. “Pride is going to happen. The idea of a Pride parade or a gathering of LBGTQ people far transcends the very incorporation that is Capital Pride.” Capital Pride, the not-for-profit volunteer organization that has put on Pride celebrations, announced on Monday that it was declaring bankruptcy, raising questions about whether the festival will continue. The bankruptcy announcement came after Capital Pride’s board of directors announced they were investigating “accounting irregularities” following this year’s festival after several suppliers and performers complained they hadn’t been paid. Capstick said that news that Capital Pride had gone bankrupt was “truly disappointing” since Pride festivals were “fundamentally important” to the acceptance of the gay community over the past 30 years. “It’s our cultural celebration,” said Capstick. “We are a vibrant part of Canadian culture and this is one of the ways we can explain to the rest of Canada or the rest of Ottawa who we are and how and what type of contributions we make to the city. It’s not dissimilar to a St. Patrick’s Day parade or any other parade a cultural community in Canada puts on. It’s an outward and vibrant and colourful expression of who we are as lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people.” BD “Dana” Kennedy, one of the co-founders of Pride Ottawa events in 1994 and 1995, said there is no question Pride festivities will continue. “Ottawa has a lot of pride, and that pride comes from all the individuals of all Ottawa and somebody, somewhere will be throwing one — a massive party,” said Kennedy. Sebastien Provost, the president of production company House of SAS and who himself was owed $24,000 for liquor purchases by Capital Pride, told the Citizen he is already working on what he called a “massive game-changer” for Ottawa. Provost wouldn’t go into detail, except to say it could involve the moving of an international festival to Ottawa. Provost hired contractors for this year’s festival, working, in his words, as a facilitator managing the entertainment. Capital Pride later blamed him for overspending his budget, an accusation he denies. He has since been paid the money he was owed. “There will be something. It won’t be Capital Pride putting it on. They’ve lost all credibility. Nobody will ever work with them again,” said Provost. Capstick said he believes that if Capital Pride were to continue, the organization would need to change its governance structure. “Governance needs to be front of mind. Having strict rules and regulations that govern the activities of Pride is an absolute must,” said Capstick. “We can’t have a series of ad hoc groups or boards of directors that don’t have continuity, nor decisions that are made without the community writ large.” Bank Street BIA executive director Christine Leadman agreed. She believes Capital Pride would need to hire a staff person to manage operations year round. The board of directors will also have to change how it does business, she said. “When you look at the size of the event and the duration of the event, and it’s all run on a volunteer board … It’s always challenging to finance something like this,” she said. Capstick anticipates there will be a number of differences of opinion within the LGBTQ community about what happens next year. It might be a scaled back celebration, but Capstick is certain Pride will continue. “There may not be a lot of cash around, but there certainly are a lot of gay people around and we’re going to get together one way or another,” he said.

Puerto Rico’s ban on same sex marriage remains in place after a federal judge dismissed a challenge to the ban Tuesday, saying the U.S. Supreme Court established a precedent four decades ago. The Los Angeles Times reports that U.S. District Judge Juan M. Pérez-Giménez said in his decision that by dismissing an appeal in Baker vs. Nelson, a 1971 case in which two men sought to marry in Minnesota, the Supreme Court bound all lower courts to assume bans on same sex marriage do not violate the Constitution. The high court could choose to overrule itself but has not, he said. Pérez-Giménez went on to say that legalizing same sex marriage would open the door to challenges that could legalize polygamous and incestuous marriages. “Ultimately,” he wrote, “the very survival of the political order depends upon the procreative potential embodied in traditional marriage.” He dismissed the challenge with prejudice, meaning the case cannot be refiled. Puerto Rico, a United States territory, is bound by U.S. law. Early in October, the Supreme Court rejected appeals from five states whose bans against same sex marriage had been struck down by lower courts. That signaled that such marriages could soon be legal across the country but did not set legal precedent. Bans then crumbled in several other states. Same sex marriage is legal in 32 states and the District of Columbia.

The Associated Press reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are the targets of unchecked violence and discrimination in Jamaica, frequently refused housing or employment in the Caribbean country typically described as the region’s most hostile to LGBT citizens, a leading human rights group says in a report released Tuesday. In its 86-page report titled “Not Safe at Home,” Human Rights Watch noted that LGBT citizens in Jamaica are often driven from their communities by neighbours and sometimes even family. Some health professionals stigmatize them by casting judgment on their sexuality when they seek care. Police protection against bias and physical attacks is generally poor. LGBT people in Jamaica “face intolerable levels of violence and cannot rely on the police,” Graeme Reid, the organization’s LGBT rights director, said in a release. “The authorities from the prime minister on down need to call a halt to the violence and discrimination, prosecute anyone responsible, and get homophobic laws off the books.” The New York-based rights group called on the Jamaican government to strike down the anti-sodomy law that criminalizes anal sex and another that prohibits “acts of gross indecency” between men. While prosecution is rare under Jamaica’s 1864 law making sexual intimacy between men a crime, the advocacy organization says it gives “social sanction to prejudice and helps to create a context in which hostility and violence is directed against LGBT people.” The Human Rights Watch report was the result of five weeks of research conducted last year in Jamaica. It said it interviewed various people, including 71 LGBT citizens — 44 of whom reported being victims of “some form of violence based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.” Many LGBT people on the island “live in constant fear,” the rights group said. Gay activists on the island have long called for the anti-sodomy law to be repealed and said they are still discussing the rights group’s assertions and recommendations. Jamaica’s information minister did not respond to an email seeking comment.

In Idaho, also according to the Associated Press, Governor C. L. "Butch" Otter is asking the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for an 11-judge panel to review the three-judge ruling that overturned the state's same sex marriage ban last week. Otter announced he was planning on filing a petition Tuesday evening arguing that the federal judges failed to use the correct legal standard to Idaho's Constitutional definition of marriage. Otter's announcement comes nearly one week after same sex marriage became legal for the first time in Idaho. While Otter chose not to appeal the 9th Circuit Court's ruling that ordered the state to allow gay couples to wed, he did promise that he would fight to maintain Idaho's 2006 constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Otter, who is running for re-election for his third term as governor, said Tuesday that already one Idaho business has been harmed by the judges' ruling. A northern Idaho city contends its 2013 anti-discrimination ordinance compelled a wedding chapel to conduct same sex marriages. A Christian religious rights group filed a lawsuit Friday against the city of Coeur d'Alene on behalf of the for-profit Hitching Post. "One of the key arguments against the Idaho Constitution's defense of traditional marriage has been that redefining it to include same sex couples would not harm anyone. But the Hitching Post example shows the fallacy of that position," Otter said. Otter says he is continuing monitoring same sex marriage cases in other jurisdictions and the potential for them to be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court. "I have repeatedly pointed out to the courts that unaccountable judges imposing their perception of social change on the law - rather than public policy being changed through the democratic process - undoubtedly will lead to increased religious strife and restrictions on private property," Otter said in a prepared statement. Idaho's Attorney General Lawerence Wasden is not joining Otter in the petition, said spokesman Todd Dvorak. However, Wasden's office is planning on asking the Supreme Court at the "appropriate time" to review the lower court's documents and decision — known as a writ of certiorari — regarding Idaho's same sex marriage case, Dvorak said. Deborah Ferguson, the attorney who represented the four lesbian couples who filed the lawsuit nearly a year ago challenging the state's marriage ban, said the petition does not require a response from her office.

In Hawaii, also according to the AP, a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling quietly gives closure to a last-ditch court fight against the state's same sex marriage law. The appeals court issued an opinion earlier this month declaring moot a lawsuit filed by a Hawaii couple seeking to marry before the state legalized gay marriage last year. The couple sought to dismiss the case after they were legally allowed to get married but opponents of the law fought to keep the lawsuit alive. The ruling vacates a U.S. District Court judge's 2012 ruling against the couple. The couple's attorney John D'Amato said Tuesday the dismissal doesn't come as much of a surprise but provides some vindication. Attorneys from the state attorney general's office and Hawaii Family Forum, which wanted the lawsuit to remain, didn't immediately comment.

Nick Jonas recreates Mark Walberg's infamous Calvin Klein underwear ad for Flaunt magazine, Jonas having a great deal to, um, flaunt.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Kyrgyzstan Anti-Gay Youth Group Stops Ukraine Boy Band Kazaky From Performing As Police "Shrug Shoulders" And Do Nothing, Investigation Underway After London Bus Driver Reportedly Removes Gay Couple For Kissing, Same Sex Marriages To Begin Tuesday In Wyoming After Attorney General Announces It Will Not Appeal Ruling Striking Down Ban, Two Same Sex Couples File First Federal Lawsuit Challenging Mississippi Same Sex Marriage Ban, North Carolina Values Coalition Tells Public Officials It Is Their Constitutional Right To Refuse To Marry Same Sex Couples

In Kyrgyzstan, the BBC reports that a 300-strong protest by a Kyrgyz anti-gay youth group has stopped a boy band's nightclub show, raising fears of increasing homophobia in the Central Asian country. Members of the Kalys group say they blocked the entrance to Guns'n'Roses nightclub in Bishkek, where the Ukrainian four-piece Kazaky were due to perform, in order to defend "traditional values". The band is known for performing shirtless and in stiletto heels. The club's management say they had no choice but to cancel the concert. "We incurred heavy losses over the cancellation," organiser Danil Mishin tells the Kyrgyz news portal Kloop. "But what's worse is that we let down all the people who'd bought tickets to see Kazaky." The police "shrugged their shoulders and did nothing," he says, adding that Kazaky themselves were "diplomatic" about the incident. Only former band member Francesco Borgato has come out as gay, while others are married with children, according to Mr Mishin. But the band has also seen its concerts disrupted by self-proclaimed Cossacks in Russia angry at the name - Kazaky means Cossacks in Ukrainian - being associated with their topless dance routines. The incident comes after the Kyrgyz parliament passed the first reading of a bill threatening jail for the "promotion of homosexuality", a move criticized by civil rights groups. As one comment on the Kloop page puts it: "Who will they come for next?"

In London, England, transportation heads have launched an investigation after a gay couple were reportedly thrown off a bus for kissing. Jack James, 23, said he and his partner were ordered off a number 89 bus near Blackheath in south-east London by the driver, who subjected them to a volley of abuse. James, an event co-ordinator from Greenwich, told the Evening Standard: “We were chatting away when my partner gave me a peck on the lips. “The bus driver shouted: ‘Oi, you two, don’t do that on my fucking bus or you can get off, I don’t want to watch that.'" James said that, initially, the couple thought the driver could not be speaking to them. He added: “When the bus stopped at our stop I walked up to the driver and politely asked the driver if he was talking to us. His reply was: ‘Yes, it’s my bus, it is my rules, and I don’t want to watch that. It’s disgusting. Get off the bus.’ “Once we got off the bus we were fuming and I was shaking. The bus stopped again and he shouted and told us we were not real men and we should fuck off.” The alleged incident happened on August 8 at around 10:30 pm. Ken Davidson, Transport for London’s head of bus operations, said that, “All customers have the right to use our services without fear of being abused and offensive behaviour is completely unacceptable. We would like to reassure Mr James that this matter is being taken very seriously and that a thorough investigation is being conducted by [bus company] Go-Ahead.” This month, hundreds of people took part in a “big consensual kiss-in” at a Sainsbury’s store in Brighton in protest at the treatment of two women who were threatened with ejection from the store a few days earlier for kissing.

In Wyoming, gay marriages can begin in Wyoming on Tuesday after the state files a formal notice that it will not appeal a judge's order overturning a ban on same sex matrimony, the state's attorney general said on Monday. Reuters reports that U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl struck down Wyoming's gay marriage ban last week, finding that it violated the U.S. Constitution, but stayed his ruling until Thursday, or sooner if the state indicated that it would not file an appeal. "After reviewing the law and the judge's decision that binding precedent requires recognition of same sex marriage, I have concluded that further legal process will result in delay but not a different result," Wyoming Attorney General Peter Michael said in a statement. Michael said that the nuptials can begin immediately after the state files a formal notice with the court stating that it would not seek that appeal. The move will bring to 32 the number of states that allow gay marriage. "The Laramie County Clerk will be required to provide marriage licenses to otherwise qualified individuals without regard to whether the applicants are a same sex couple," he said, adding that he anticipated that other counties would also provide marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. Wyoming Governor Matt Mead has said that while the decision went against his personal beliefs the state would not take up the appeal as such an effort would likely fail. The U.S. Supreme Court surprised observers this month by leaving intact lower court rulings that struck down gay marriage in five states. A day later, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found gay marriage bans in Idaho and Nevada were unconstitutional. On Monday, two same sex couples filed a federal challenge to Mississippi's gay marriage ban, the first lawsuit of its kind in the mostly rural, Christian-conservative state. Rebecca Bickett and her long-term partner Andrea Sanders want to get married in Mississippi, the lawsuit says, while Jocelyn Pritchett and her partner Carla Webb were wed in Maine and want their union recognized. Defendants include Republican Governor Phil Bryant, Democratic state Attorney General Jim Hood, and Hinds County Circuit Clerk Barbara Dunn, who has denied gay couples' requests for marriage licenses. "I took an oath to uphold the law and the constitution, and that’s what I have to do,” Dunn said in response to the lawsuit. Bryant and Hood could not be reached for comment.

In Mississippi, according to the Clarion-Ledger, two same sex couples seeking marriage equality filed the first federal challenge to the state's gay marriage ban on Monday, the latest in a string of similar lawsuits nationwide. "We're hoping the case will move quickly," said Aaron Sarver of the North Carolina-based gay-rights organization Campaign for Southern Equality, which filed the suit on behalf of the women in the U.S. District Court in Jackson. Rebecca Bickett and her long-term partner Andrea Sanders want to get married in Mississippi, the lawsuit says, while Jocelyn Pritchett and her partner Carla Webb already got married in Maine and want their union recognized in Mississippi. Both couples have children and say Mississippi's ban deprives them – and their children – of their constitutional rights simply because they're gay. They want the ban overturned and also seek a preliminary injunction while the case is pending. "My family is no less a family than any other," Bickett said in a statement. In addition to its gay marriage ban, Mississippi prohibits same sex couples from legally adopting a child or being listed together on a child's birth certificate. It also prevents them from sharing public employee retirement and health benefits, making medical decisions on their partners' behalf and being appointed administrator of the other's estate. "It's time we are able to live with legal protections in our home state," Pritchett said in a statement. "We love Mississippi. It is home for us and we have many beautiful friends and family members here." Defendants in the challenge include Republican Governor Phil Bryant, Democratic state Attorney General Jim Hood, and Hinds County Circuit Clerk Barbara Dunn, who has denied several couples' requests for marriage licenses. "I took an oath to uphold the law and the constitution, and that's what I have to do," Dunn said in response to her denials and her inclusion in the lawsuit. Bryant spokesperson Knox Graham echoed that statement and said the governor "has every confidence in the attorney general to vigorously defend the state from this lawsuit." Hood's spokesperson, Jan Schaefer, said the office would speak through its court filings. It hadn't filed any as of Monday afternoon. This latest case comes less than two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear appeals from five states whose federal appeals courts declared same sex marriage bans unconstitutional. Its refusal effectively made same sex legal in the 11 states covered by those districts. But Mississippi's federal appeals court — the 5th Circuit in New Orleans — is more likely to uphold such a ban. And it agreed this month to expedite hearing cases challenging same sex marriage bans in Texas and Louisiana. The Mississippi Supreme Court, meanwhile, is tackling the issue in its own right after a same-sex couple married out of state appealed a DeSoto County Chancery Court judge's refusal to grant them a divorce. The judge had ruled in 2013 that since Mississippi doesn't recognize gay marriage, it can't grant a divorce. "All across Mississippi, we work with loving, committed LGBT families who are proud to call the state home," says Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Executive Director of the Campaign for Southern Equality. "But they also suffer the harms of discrimination daily. Equality cannot come quickly enough to Mississippi for these families."

In North Carolina, the Charlotte Observer reports that a group that backed a constitutional amendment on gay marriage is telling public officials that they can refuse to issue same sex marriage licenses in their counties. The North Carolina Values Coalition sent an e-mail Saturday to the state’s registers of deeds saying that their religious and moral beliefs are protected by federal and state constitutions. Registers of deeds issue marriage, birth and death certificates. They document real estate transactions and handle military discharge recordings. The officials can refuse to issue same sex marriage licenses by claiming their “First Amendment right not to violate their religious beliefs,” the coalition’s e-mail states. Advocates of same sex marriages balked at the assertion. Chris Brook, legal director for the ACLU of North Carolina, said every level of the federal court system has sided with same sex marriages, and there was “no un-ringing of the wedding bells.” He said a few officials made a similar argument in the 1970s, when they said it was against their religion to marry an interracial couple. “It (their argument) doesn’t hold any water,” Brook said. The Values Coalition e-mail referenced a memo by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian-based legal organization out of Arizona. That memo, also sent to North Carolina’s registers of deeds, said officials who disagree with gay marriages can appoint a deputy to process the marriage licenses. If they can’t find one, they can refuse to issue the license and are protected by the First Amendment and a state law that says, “no human authority shall ... control or interfere with the rights of conscience.” Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, said, “One thing is clear: Forcing voters across the state of North Carolina to carry out same sex weddings when it violates their religious beliefs ... is wrong. And it violates the free exercise of religion that’s guaranteed by the Constitution.” Fitzgerald’s group backed the state’s 2012 constitutional amendment that banned gay marriage. Brook said he understands that people have religious liberties, but he said the marriage law does not force churches or private citizens to perform same sex ceremonies. “We’re talking about state actors carrying out state job responsibilities,” he said. Fitzgerald said she’s heard from several registers of deeds and magistrates, who thanked her for the information. She guessed that hundreds of public officials agree with the coalition’s position. “When they took their oath of office, same sex marriage was illegal,” she said. “And now they’re being told they’re forced to hold ceremonies that violate their deeply held religious beliefs.” That’s why Rockingham County Magistrate John Kallam Jr. resigned last week, according to news reports. “I did not ... take that oath with any understanding that I would be required to marry same sex couples,” he wrote. Same sex marriages became legal in North Carolina earlier this month when two federal judges ruled the state’s marriage amendment was unconstitutional. Since then, hundreds of same sex couples have received marriage certificates, including an estimated 379 on the first full day without the state ban. State Sen. Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis have said they intend to appeal the judges’ rulings.