Wednesday, November 26, 2014

U.S. District Judge Overturns Mississippi Same Sex Marriage Ban But Stays Ruling 14 Days, Former Washington State Catholic School Vice Principal Fired For Wedding Same Sex Partner Drops Discrimination Lawsuit, British Inquiry Hears That 23-Year-Old Darren Crotty Committed Suicide Days After Coming Out, Authorities Revise Sentence For 21-Year-Old Joseph Williams Who Tried To Kill Gay Roommate In Hammer Attack Ordering That He Now Serve Two Thirds Of 14-Year Sentence Before Being Eligible For Parole

The Clarion-Ledger reports that U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves on Tuesday handed same sex couples a victory in their quest to overturn Mississippi's gay marriage ban. Reeves granted a preliminary injunction blocking the state's ban against same sex unions as sought by the Campaign for Southern Equality and two lesbian couples who had sued in the state in federal court. But the judge also postponed the injunction from going into effect for 14 days in a legal maneuver called a "stay." This means same sex couples cannot yet obtain marriages licenses in Mississippi. In his 72-page order, Reeves said "Mississippi continues to change in ways its people could not anticipate even 10 years ago. Allowing same sex couples to marry, however, presents no harm to anyone. At the very least, it has the potential to support families and provide stability for children." Reeves' decision came the same day as that of a federal judge in Arkansas who ruled against that state's constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Their rulings join a string of others recently striking down gay marriage bans in states across the nation. Joce Pritchett, who along with her spouse Carla Webb, sued Mississippi, reacted with joy at Reeves' decision. "We've been dancing around the living room with the kids, with their little thumbs up," said Pritchett of Jackson. "Our daughter Grace yelled, 'Yay, no more bad laws.' I didn't try to explain to her the stay and the appeal, but we just told her we won." The stay gives Mississippi time to appeal Reeves' ruling at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, a move that state Attorney General Jim Hood said late Tuesday he is prepared to take. Citing his duty to uphold the constitutionality of the state's laws, Hood said he will ask the 5th Circuit to stay Reeves' decision until it can decide the two cases already before it. The appeals court is set to hear oral arguments the week of January 5 on two other pending gay marriage cases – that of Louisiana and Texas. Whatever the 5th Circuit decides in these cases also will apply to Mississippi. Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court could agree to a hear one of several other gay marriage cases elsewhere country, with its decision ultimately superseding those made in the federal or circuit courts. Roberta Kaplan, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said she's ready to continue the fight. "We will win this one in the 5th Circuit, too," she said by phone from New York where she practices law. Best known for her work litigating United States v. Windsor, in which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act, Kaplan argued against gay marriage in Reeves' courtroom on November 12. "We're thrilled that Judge Reeves understood and appreciated and took such great care and time to explain why gay people have the same rights under the constitution as everyone else," she said. "I think this opinion is going to stand as truly as a landmark opinion in this area." The Campaign for Southern Equality filed the lawsuit on October 20 on behalf of Mississippi Pritchett and Webb, who are seeking state recognition for their existing legal marriage performed in Maine; and Rebecca Bickett and Andrea Sanders, who are challenging the state's outright ban on gay marriage. Defendants in the suit are Hood, Gov. Phil Bryant, Hood and Hinds County Circuit Clerk Barbara Dunn. Bryant's spokesperson, Knox Graham, said late Tuesday that the governor has every confidence that Hood will continue to defend the state constitution. Both sides had argued before Reeves during a roughly five-hour hearing earlier this month in the federal courthouse in Jackson. Plaintiffs called Mississippi's ban on gay marriage baseless and discriminatory. The state's lead attorney, Justin Matheny, defended Mississippi's ban as necessary to promote what he called "responsible procreation" among married couples who are able to bear children. Social media and legal experts nationwide reacted to the news just minutes after the announcement. Some, including Evan Wolfson, president of pro-LGBT organization Freedom to Marry, praised Reeve's decision. Others, like Forest Thigpen, president of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, derided the decision as tyranny against the will of state voters who in 2004 overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. "We have reached this point where the voice of the people and their elected representatives doesn't matter," Thigpen said in a statement. Jennifer Riley-Collins, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, called it "a beautiful day for all the loving and committed same sex couples who have long waited to get married, or for their marriages to be recognized in Mississippi … ." But more work remains to end discrimination against gay people in the Magnolia State, said Human Rights Campaign Mississippi director Rob Hill. "For thousands of LGBT Mississippians, the reality remains that we risk being fired from over jobs, kicked out of our homes or refused service simply because of who we are and who we love—that's not right," he said. An estimated 3,484 same sex couples live in the state, according to the most recent decennial census. Pritchett said the decision gives those couples and their supporters hope, not just in Mississippi, but nationwide. "We knew when we started this that a whole nation would be watching us," she said. "They're going to say if it can happen in Mississippi, it can happen here, and they're going to have hope, too."

In Washington State, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that a former vice principal at a Bellevue Catholic school has dropped the discrimination lawsuit he filed after he was outed as a married gay man and ousted by school leaders. Mark Zmuda was forced out of Eastside Catholic School in December after school officials learned he’d married his longtime partner after it became legal to do so in Washington. Zmuda was fired from the school months later, after school officials learned he had wed. Zmuda’s removal prompted outrage by some students at the school, and a lawsuit from the fired vice principal. Through the litigation, Zmuda contended he was wrongly fired while Eastside Catholic and the Archdiocese of Seattle claimed the school was within its rights to demand Zmuda leave. Filed in March, that lawsuit ended last week with Zmuda and the archdiocese agreeing to dismiss the lawsuit and pay their own court costs. Any settlement, if one was reached, was not disclosed. Attorneys for Zmuda and the archdiocese declined to discuss what motivated the dismissal. Zmuda, a well-liked administrator and coach of the school’s swim team, was first questioned about his sexual orientation by Eastside Catholic’s top managers in January 2013. He told them he was indeed gay and in a committed relationship; Zmuda and his partner wed the following July. School managers were displeased in November when they learned of Zmuda was married. According to his lawsuit, School President Mary Tracy suggested the school would pay the costs of a commitment ceremony if Zmuda divorced his husband. Following a meeting with Archbishop Peter Sartain, Tracy opted to fire Zmuda after informing him his marriage was against Catholic teachings and principles. The decision prompted protests at the school by students who supported “Mr. Z.” Attorneys for the school defended the decision, arguing that Zmuda agreed to abide by church law when he went to work at the school. They also noted Zmuda conducted some religious services as part of his employment. Zmuda has since been hired as an associate principal and athletic director at Mercer Island High School. The dismissal, approved November 17 by King County Superior Court Judge Catherine Shaffer, ends Zmuda’s lawsuit.

In the United Kingdom, the Bath Chronicle reports that a 23-year-old man jumped to his death in a suicide after coming out as gay to friends and family. A coroner at the inquest of 23-year-old Bristol man Darren Crotty said he was likely to have felt embarrassed and unsure of his sexuality. After coming out in January this year he wrote the letter 'S' on his calendar, wrote a detailed suicide note and then threw himself off the Severn Bridge. His friends and family were accepting of his decision and feelings. The popular 23-year-old, who lived in Wolseley Road, Bishopston, was reported missing on March 5 and a police appeal for information about his whereabouts was published by the Bristol Post the following day. But it was not until the end of April that his body was found at the side of the river Severn at Sharpness Docks in Gloucestershire. An inquest in Gloucester heard Tuesday his body had been in the water for so long he could only be identified by DNA examination and his dental records. Housemate Martin Leefield said in evidence: "I found the suicide note and he had written that he intended to jump off the Severn Bridge, so I immediately contacted the police. It really upset me." The inquest heard Mr Crotty's blue Vauxhall Corsa was found parked in the Severn Bridge car park at Aust but police examination of CCTV footage did not pick up any sign of him. His other housemate, Stanley Williams, said: "We were all friends at school and although Darren was quiet, he had a great sense of humour. He told us that he was gay in January but that did not bother any of us." Darren's mother, who was at Tuesday's inquest at Gloucestershire Coroner's Court, said: "He was a quiet, intelligent boy with a good sense of humour. He told us he was gay and we had no issues with that but I think he was embarrassed and perhaps unsure of his sexuality." Environmental officer Louise Gibson told the inquest in a statement that she called the police after a colleague said she thought there was a dead body and she discovered evidence of it. Detective Constable Stephen Shellcross said in a statement: "Mr Crotty was reported missing and suicide was suspected, as a note to that effect was found under a pillow in the bedroom of a house he shared with two other men. "On a calendar on a wall in the house he had written the letter 'S' on the 31st of January." A post mortem examination revealed that there were no external injuries or fractures and that the body had been in the water for a "significant time." Medical evidence concluded that there was no significant history of mental or physical problems, although Mr Crotty had been admitted to Frenchay Hospital in January 2013 complaining of chest pains. Senior coroner for Gloucestershire Katy Skerrett concluded that Mr Crotty had committed suicide. She said that, "He left a detailed suicide note and apologised for the stress this would cause but he always planned to do this. The trigger for him taking his own life we will never know but it was probably related to his coming out as being gay."

Also in the United Kingdom, a homophobic thug who tried to kill his teenage flatmate in a hammer attack has been told he will serve at least two thirds of his sentence by the Court of Appeal. The court told 21-year-old Joseph Williams he will not be eligible for release until he has served at least two thirds of his 14-year sentence. The revised sentence also means he will be supervised by the probation service for a further five years after the sentence has lapsed. Williams left the weapon embedded in the skull of Connor Huntley, who was 18 at the time of the attack in May, as he slept at a two-bedroom flat in Margate’s Athelstan Road. Openly gay Mr Huntley, who often wore women’s clothes and makeup, was lucky to survive and required an operation to remove the hammer, bone fragments and a blood clot. He now suffers from epilepsy and can no longer live independently. Williams, who had made “disparaging comments about gay people” in the past, claimed he was suffering from mental illness at the time of the attack. He was convicted of attempted murder by a unanimous jury at the Old Bailey and began his sentence at a mental hospital. Speaking after Wednesday’s hearing, Solicitor General Robert Buckland QC MP said: “I am pleased with the Court of Appeal’s decision to increase the sentence handed to Joseph Williams. His victim suffered horrific life-changing injuries in a vicious hammer attack. “I felt that the original 14-year sentence was unduly lenient as it did not reflect the aggravating factors in this case, that the offence was motivated by hostility towards the victim’s sexual orientation and that he was particularly vulnerable at the time because he was asleep and I hope the increased sentence of 19 years sends out a clear message that attacks motivated by homophobia will be dealt with by long prison sentences.” During the trial in September the court heard how Mr Huntley now suffers from regular nightmares. Prosecutor Philip Bennetts QC said that, “The right side of his body had been affected and his movement had been affected. He suffers from epilepsy and has described symptoms of depression. The nightmares he described occur about three times a week and he went on to described the effects on his life.” Mr Huntley, who formerly lived in Dover and was a student at Archers Court School, said in his victim impact statement: “I can’t drink because I’ve got epilepsy, I can’t go clubbing in case I have a fit because of the lighting system. I can’t spent the night at my friend’s house, I can’t go out on my own. I can’t withdraw money from my bank account because someone has got my bank card.” The judge added: “It is clear he will never be able to live independently. I’ve seen photographs of him post recovery where a large section of his head is still missing as a result of the decompression of the brain.” Police arrived to find Mr Huntley lying on an air bed with the hammer embedded in his skull. He had suffered a depressed skull fracture and traumatic brain injury. An expert concluded that at least two blows must have been inflicted with severe force. Williams, of Athelstan Road, Cliftonville, Margate, had denied attempted murder and causing grievous bodily harm with intent. The increased sentence comes as new figures released by Kent Police show the number of homophobic hates crimes recorded has increased. Officers investigated 40 violent crimes motivated by a person's sexual orientation between January and October, up from the 32 offences recorded in 2013 and 34 in 2012. The Attorney General's Office initially released information stating Williams's sentence had been increased.




Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Alberta Wildrose Party Proposes Amendment To Bill Allowing Religious Schools To Opt Out Of Allowing Formation Of Gay-Straight Alliance, Islamic State Stones Two Men To Death Alleging They Were Gay, British Researchers Believe They Have Discovered Evolutionary Reason For Homosexuality, U.S. District Judge Baker Overturns Arkansas Voter-Approved 2004 Amendment Banning Same Sex Marriage Staying Ruling Until State Can Appeal, Michigan Attorney General Schuette Asks U.S. Supreme Court To Affirm State's Same Sex Marriage Ban, Proponents And Opponents Ask That Federal Judge Rule Immediately In Case Challenging Constitutional Validity Of South Dakota Same Sex Marriage Ban, Atlanta Fire Chief Suspended Without Pay After Publishing Anti-Gay Book

An update on a previous post: In Alberta, predictably, CBC reports that the Wildrose Party is proposing an amendment to Bill 202 which would allow Catholic and other religious schools to opt-out of allowing student to form Gay-Straight Alliances. The party announced this and three other amendments to the private members’ bill to protect LGBTQ students from bullying. The bill was tabled by Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman last week. Under the Wildrose amendment, GSAs would be mandatory in all public schools. In faith-based schools, staff must work with students on a strategy to prevent bullying to meet their specific needs. MLA Rob Anderson said the amendments balance the rights of parents and protection of students. He says the opt-out clause does not go against the spirit of Blakeman’s bill. “In Catholic schools and faith-based schools, there might be a more effective way to achieve the balance with regards to what the students are seeking,” Anderson said. “What we are saying very clearly is that it needs to be dealt with. They just can’t say no to the request and wash their hands of it.” The Wildrose supports the inclusion of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the Education Act but wants an exclusion for homeschoolers and faith-based schools. Earlier Monday, the Wildrose caucus sent out a statement that approved a policy on human rights that was rejected by the party membership at an AGM earlier this month. Anderson says he plans to reach out to Blakeman. He says the MLAs will have free votes on the issue.

In Syria, the AFP reports that the Islamic State group stoned two men to death Tuesday after claiming they were gay, a monitor said, in the jihadist organisation's first executions for alleged homosexuality. "The IS today stoned to death a man that it said was gay," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, adding that the victim was around 20 years old. He was killed in Mayadeen in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, near the border with Iraq. The Britain-based Observatory said IS claimed it found videos on his mobile phone showing him "practising indecent acts with males." In a separate incident on Tuesday, an 18-year-old was also stoned to death in Deir Ezzor city after the group said he was gay, the Observatory said. Activists on social media said that the dead men were opponents of IS and that the group had used the allegation as a pretext to kill them. The United Nations said this month the IS had carried out several executions by stoning of women in Syria it accused of adultery. The jihadists proclaimed a "caliphate" in June after seizing swathes of Iraq and Syria. Activists say IS carries out regular public executions -- often beheadings -- in areas it controls. A federal judge determined Arkansas's ban on same sex marriage is unconstitutional but has stayed her decision pending appeal.

In the United Kingdom, the Telegraph reports that in evolutionary terms, homosexuality presents something of a paradox. According to Darwin, any trait that makes an animal less likely to reproduce will die out in a few generations, yet the percentage of people born gay or lesbian remains more or less constant. Now researchers at the University of Portsmouth believe they may have found the evolutionary reason for homosexual behaviour: it helps us bond with people of the same sex. A study of predominantly heterosexual men and women found that people with higher levels of the hormone progesterone are more likely to have homoerotic thoughts. Because progesterone, which is produced by both men and women, is associated with affiliation, the researchers concluded that homosexual thoughts can go hand in hand with the need to forge same sex alliances, which can be traced back to the teamwork of the earliest hunter-gatherers. Dr Diana Fleischman, the report’s author, said: “In the paper we talk about why homosexuality persists, and we do explain why. "From an evolutionary perspective we tend to think of sexual behaviour as a means to an end for reproduction. However, because sexual behaviour is intimate and pleasurable, it is also used in many species, including non-human primates, to help form and maintain social bonds. We can all see this in romantic couples who bond by engaging in sexual behaviour even when reproduction is not possible. Having some degree of attraction to the opposite sex is a type of adaptive behaviour, and in any adaptive behaviour you will see extremes of the spectrum, hence some people will only be attracted to members of the same sex. But the research suggests that having exclusively heterosexual thoughts is a disadvantage – it’s better to be a little bit attracted to the opposite sex.” Dr Fleischman said her research did not point to any correlation between environmental levels of progesterone and sexual orientation. She said that while a synthetic form of progesterone is used in the contraceptive pill, which then enters drinking water supplies, “we didn’t find any difference between women on the pill and women not on the pill." She added that while environmental levels of progesterone have increased, there is no evidence that the percentage of people who are gay or lesbian has gone up. Gerard Conway, Professor of Reproductive Endocrinology at University College, London, agreed, saying: “The idea of hormones from the contraceptive pill permeating drinking water is an urban myth. The amounts are so tiny you can’t even measure it. Progesterone is just not on the radar as an environmental toxin.” Dr Fleischman’s study, published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behaviour, asked participants to answer questions such as: "The idea of kissing a person of the same sex is sexually arousing to me," and: "If someone of the same sex made a pass at me I would be disgusted.” By comparing their answers with the progesterone levels in their saliva, the researchers were able to establish an apparent link between progesterone and homosexual thoughts. Progesterone is produced mainly in the ovaries in women and in the adrenal glands in men. It is one of the main hormones responsible for caring or friendly behaviour and levels rise when people have close and friendly interactions. It does not, however, increase sexual desire; sex offenders are sometimes treated with progesterone to quell their sexual urges. Dr Fleischman said that studies of other animals in the great ape family also pointed to homosexual behaviour being used to maintain and forge new friendships. She said: “The ability to engage sexually with those of the same sex or the opposite sex is common. In humans, much, if not most of same sex sexual behaviour occurs in those who don't identify as homosexual.” Prof Conway, however, questioned whether the research had proved anything. He said: “It is a plausible theory that there is a societal benefit from homosexual behaviour, but the link to progesterone is probably spurious. It’s a long way from proving cause and effect.”

A federal judge struck down Arkansas' voter-approved same sex marriage ban Tuesday but stopped any rush to the altar by putting her order on hold so the state can consider an appeal. U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker ruled in favor of two same sex couples who had challenged a 2004 constitutional amendment and earlier state law defining marriage as between a man and a woman. The couples argued the ban violated the U.S. Constitution and discriminated based on sexual orientation. "The fact that Amendment 83 was adopted by referendum does not immunize it from federal constitutional scrutiny," Baker wrote in her ruling. The state's marriage laws and the amendment violate the U.S. Constitution by "precluding same sex couples from exercising their fundamental right to marry in Arkansas, by not recognizing valid same sex marriages from other states, and by discriminating on the basis of gender," she wrote. Baker put the ruling on hold, anticipating an appeal to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in St. Louis. A spokesperson for Democratic Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said McDaniel was reviewing the ruling and would decide after the Thanksgiving holiday whether to appeal in consultation with Republican Attorney General-elect Leslie Rutledge. "We appreciate Judge Baker's implementation of a stay in this matter in order to avoid confusion and uncertainty as this case goes through the appeals process," spokesperson Aaron Sadler said in an e-mail. Jack Wagoner, a lawyer for the couples who had told the judge last week that same sex marriage would eventually be legal nationwide, said he was pleased with her decision. "She's on the right side of history," Wagoner said. "It's pretty clear where history's heading on this issue." Another lawyer, Cheryl Maples, said eyes would turn now to the state Supreme Court, which heard arguments last week in a similar but separate case. "If the state Supreme Court strikes down on state constitutional issues, then it's gone as far as it can go," Maples said. Justices are weighing whether to uphold Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza's decision in May striking down the 2004 amendment and earlier state law as unconstitutional. Piazza's decision led to 541 same sex couples getting married in the week before the state Supreme Court suspended his ruling. Justices have not indicated when they will rule in that case. The lawsuit before the state Supreme Court also argues the ban violates Arkansas' constitution. The head of the group that campaigned for the ban said he was pleased that Baker suspended her ruling and said he hoped the state would move quickly to appeal. "It's our hope that eventually the will of the people of Arkansas will be upheld rather than the wishes of judges," Jerry Cox, president of the Arkansas Family Council, said. Lawyers in McDaniel's office had argued in federal court that same sex marriage was not a fundamental right guaranteed by the constitution. McDaniel has said he personally supports allowing gay couples to marry but will stay in court defending the ban, which voters approved by a 3-1 margin. Rutledge, his successor, has said she opposes gay marriage and has vowed to defend the ban. Judges across the country have ruled against bans similar to Arkansas' since the U.S. Supreme Court struck part of a federal anti-gay marriage law in June 2013, and gay marriage is legal in more than half of the U.S. Chad Griffin, an Arkansas native who heads the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay rights group, praised the judge's ruling. "I am proud to be an Arkansan by birth, but I'll be even prouder when this shameful stain on the state Constitution is erased once and for all," Griffin said in a statement.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette on Monday, weeks ahead of deadline, filed a response to a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review an appeals court decision affirming the state's gay marriage ban. Lawyers for April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse asked the high court to look at their case earlier this month. The Hazel Park lesbian couple sued the state because they can't jointly adopt their three children with the ban in place, and a federal judge in March ruled in their favor, briefly making same sex marriage legal in Michigan before the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals stayed that decision the next day and reversed it November 6, upholding the ban. Schuette did not oppose a review from the high court, but presented his case for upholding the 6th Circuit's ruling, which found, in a 2-1 majority decision, that the issue should be decided at the polls, not the in the courts. "Reasonable people of good will might think it is at least debatable that this definition advances the State's interest in encouraging parents to stick together to care for and raise their children," state lawyers argued in the Monday filing. "And if it is at least debatable, then federal courts have no authority to overturn the people's legislative choice." DeBoer and Rowse in their petition argued that the appeals court decision conflicts with previous U.S. Supreme Court rulings. "In Loving [v. Virginia, the 1967 Supreme Court case that overturned bans against interracial marriage], this Court decided the core constitutional issues at hand rather than wait for further studies about the claimed perils (especially to the country's children) of blending the races," lawyers argued. But the state in its response cited another past Supreme Court decision, one that came just this year, out of a Michigan case. "As members of this Court recently observed, '[d]emocracy does not presume that some subjects are either too divisive or too profound for public debate,'" Schuette wrote, citing the case that upheld Michigan's voter-approved ban against affirmative action. Michigan voters approved the ban against affirmative action in 2006. Voters approved the same sex marriage ban in 2004. Schuette quotes U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote in the affirmative action ruling that "it is demeaning to the democratic process to presume that the voters are not capable of deciding an issue of this sensitivity on decent and rational grounds." "This case comes down to two words: who decides," Schuette wrote. "The history of our democracy demonstrates the wisdom of allowing the people to decide important issues at the ballot box, rather than ceding those decisions to unelected judges." You can read both Schuette's full filing, and the petition filed by DeBoer and Rowse at the source.

A federal judge presiding over a challenge to South Dakota’s same sex marriage ban should bypass a trial and rule on the case, the state attorney general’s office argued Tuesday. The Associated Press reports that the office joined six same sex couples who are suing the state in petitioning for summary judgment in the case. The state also asked in its filing Tuesday that U.S. District Court Judge Karen Schreier reject the challengers’ July motion that she rule in their favor. Minneapolis attorney Josh Newville last May filed the federal lawsuit, which challenges a 1996 state law passed by the Legislature and a voter-approved 2006 constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. The lawsuit argues the state’s ban violates equal protection and due process guaranteed in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley said lawmakers and the voters of South Dakota should have the authority to define marriage in the state, not the federal courts. In mid-November, Schreier rejected the state’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit entirely, allowing the case to proceed, though she threw out one piece of Newville’s claims. Newville said Tuesday that the state was late in filing the motion and response, which frustrated the same sex couples challenging the ban. “I had plaintiffs up last night that that were crying waiting for this filing,” Newville said. Jackley said confusion over a rule — which would have allowed more time — and the court’s order that the response was due on Monday caused the slight delay, calling it “completely irrelevant.” Newville has two weeks to respond to the newest filings, and the case could be ready for consideration near the end of December. Schreier could deny the motions and move the case to trial, grant either side’s motion for summary judgment in whole or in part, or order a hearing. Jackley said he ultimately believes the issue will be decided by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals or the U.S. Supreme Court. Newville is confident that the ban will be overturned. “There will be marriage equality in South Dakota within the next eight months,” he said. “One way or the other, it’s going to happen.”

In Georgia, Atlanta's fire chief is suspended without pay after publishing a book calling homosexuality "unclean," "a sexual perversion," "vulgar," and "inappropriate." The book titled Who Told You That You Were Naked? is on sale at Amazon.com. It was authored by Atlanta's Fire Chief, Kelvin Cochran. The summary of the book refers to God's words to Adam in the Bible: "From God's perspective nakedness meant so much more. It meant condemnation and deprivation to his most precious creation-mankind. Though He reconciled Adam's condition by clothing him in coats of lambs' skin, Adam never got over what he had done. Condemnation has dominated ever since. Now we have a more permanent solution. We have been clothed with Christ! Redeemed men who carry the curse of condemnation and deprivation cannot fulfill their purpose as husbands, fathers, community and business leaders-world changers!" Two specific passages of the book are cited by The Ga Voice for their anti-gay stance: "Uncleanness — whatever is opposite of purity; including sodomy, homosexuality, lesbianism, pederasty, bestiality, all other forms of sexual perversion." The second reads, "Naked men refuse to give in, so they pursue sexual fulfillment through multiple partners, with the opposite sex, the same sex and sex outside of marriage and many other vile, vulgar and inappropriate ways which defile their body-temple and dishonor God." A statement from Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said he just learned about the book of Friday. "I profoundly disagree with and am deeply disturbed by the sentiments expressed in the paperback regarding the LGBT community. I will not tolerate discrimination of any kind within my administration," the statement said. Reed said the administration is conducting a review of the facts and its distribution. Meanwhile, he took action on Chochran's current employment status: Cochran is suspended one month without pay; He will be required to complete sensitivity training; He is prohibited from distributing the book on city property. Deputy Chief Joel Baker will serve as Acting Fire Chief during Cochran's absence. Mayor Reed distanced himself from Chochran's ideology: "I want to be clear that the material in Chief Cochran's book is not representative of my personal beliefs, and is inconsistent with the administration's work to make Atlanta a more welcoming city for all citizens -- regardless of their sexual orientation, gender, race, and religious beliefs."

Monday, November 24, 2014

U.S. State Department Condemns Decision By Gambia's President To Approve Draconian Anti-Gay Law, British Police Release Surveillance Video After 24-Year-Old Gay Rugby Player Punched After Being Accosted By Group, Two Texas Same Sex Couples Ask U.S. District Judge To Allow Same Sex Marriage To Take Place Immediately, Lewis And Clark County District Court Clerk Says None Of Deputies Are Exempt From Issuing Marriage Licenses To Same Sex Couples In Montana, Three LGBT Supporters Arrested In North Carolina After Anti-Gay Protest Turns Violent, North Carolina Lesbian Couple Victim Of Anti-Gay Hate Via Google Maps, Google Removes "Ass Hunter" Game Where Players Kill Gays From Its App Store, Gay West Virginia University Freshman Diver Qualifies For NCAA Zone Meet A Year After Horrific Car Accident

According to the Associated Press, the U.S. State Department on Monday condemned the decision by Gambia's president to approve a law imposing life imprisonment for some homosexual acts. In a statement, Director of Press Relations Jeff Rathke said the State Department was also concerned about reports of recent arrests targeting at least four men, a 17-year-old boy and nine women accused of committing homosexual acts. The suspects are the first to be arrested since the new law went into effect October 9, the day President Yahya Jammeh signed it. Amnesty International last week accused Gambian security forces of resorting to beatings and the threat of rape and other abuses if they did not confess. Gambian officials have declined to comment on the new law or the arrests. "We are dismayed by President Jammeh's decision to sign into law legislation that further restricts the rights of LGBT individuals and are deeply concerned about the reported arrests and detention of suspected LGBT individuals in The Gambia," Rathke said, using an acronym that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. Homosexual acts were already punishable by up to 14 years in prison before Gambian lawmakers passed a bill in August punishing "aggravated homosexuality" with life in prison. The term, borrowed from a Ugandan law signed earlier this year that drew widespread condemnation before it was overturned on procedural grounds, targets "serial offenders" and people living with HIV/AIDS. Suspects can also be charged with aggravated homosexuality for engaging in homosexual acts with someone who is under 18, disabled or who has been drugged. The term also applies when the suspect is the parent or guardian of the other person or is "in authority over" him or her. Jammeh, one of Africa's most vocal anti-gay leaders, has also been criticized for other rights abuses, including allowing the execution of nine people by firing squad in 2012. In remarks aired on state television Sunday night, Jammeh said he would push for a law imposing capital punishment for child rapists and people convicted of "baby dumping," or abandoning their children. "And I will implement the law to the letter," he said.

In the United Kingdom, a gay rugby player suffered a broken jaw while promoting his team during a "homophobic attack" in Manchester’s Gay Village. The Manchester Evening News reports that police have released a CCTV image after the 24-year-old man was punched on Canal Street. It happened when he was promoting his Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual rugby team, the Manchester Village Spartans, at about 9:00 pm on Saturday, November 1. The player was approached by a group of about four men who shouted homophobic abuse at him and one of them punched him in the face. The victim needed surgery to repair a broken jaw. Gareth Longley, spokesperson for the Village Spartans, said that "We had been out on a recruitment drive that Saturday, and most of us were wearing Halloween outfits and had painted faces. We were just telling people what the club is about and trying to get new players and more support. When they walked into the Village a group of guys were making homophobic remarks at passers by. Our players walked up to them and everything calmed down and (the player) started chatting to them about the Spartans. One of the other group took offence and punched him in the face." Det Con Louise Kelly, of GMP’s North Manchester division, said: “We believe this to be a homophobic attack and I want to make it clear that this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated on our streets. The victim was merely promoting his rugby team, but was subjected to an attack, during which he suffered a broken jaw and has had a metal plate inserted into his face. I want to reassure local businesses and residents, who live, reside or socialise in the gay village that we are treating this extremely seriously. I want to hear from anyone who recognises the man in the CCTV image or who may have witnessed the incident. It was 9:00 pm in a busy area, there were lots of people on Canal Street at that time that may have information that could help us with our investigation.” If you have any information about the incident you are asked to please call police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

In Texas, two same sex couples have asked U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia of San Antonio to allow gay marriages to begin taking place immediately in the state. According to the Dallas Morning News, on Monday, couples Mark Phariss and Victor Holmes of Plano and Nicole Dimetman and Cleopatra De Leon asked Garcia to lift a stay he imposed this winter on his own ruling that Texas’ gay marriage ban is unconstitutional. In February, Garcia said the state’s prohibition violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process. The district judge, though, held his ruling in abeyance so higher courts could rule in similar cases from other states that were further along. “The court should immediately lift the stay because the Supreme Court’s actions following entry of the stay no longer support its continuance,” Neel Lane, the two couples’ lawyer, wrote in his motion urging Garcia to lift the stay. Lane pointed out that last month, the Supreme Court declined to hear various states’ appeals that it rescue their gay-marriage bans from adverse lower court rulings. The Supreme Court’s refusal “dissolved the stays” — or put into effect — the edicts overturning prohibitions on same sex marriage in states in the 4th Circuit (Richmond), 7th Circuit (Chicago) and 10th Circuit (Denver), he said. Since then, the Supreme Court lifted stays on similar, lower-court rulings in Kansas and South Carolina, he noted. While Lane conceded that the justices’ refusals to hear appeals “do not have legal significance,” he argued that “the constitutional environment” in which Garcia acted this winter has “now changed radically and permanently. Fully two-thirds of citizens of the United States now have an enforceable federal constitutional right to marry the person of their choice, irrespective of gender.” Texas’ lingering ban continues to harm gay and lesbian couples such as the plaintiffs, forcing them to incur extra legal expenses to adopt children and transfer powers over medical decisions, Lane said. In many cases, gays and lesbians cannot confer survivor benefits on their partners, he said. There are many such benefits from marriage that are taken for granted by heterosexual couples. But society’s denial of them to same-sex couples causes needless worry and anxiety, Lane said. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has appealed Garcia’s ruling. Abbott, who takes office as governor in January, has said there is no fundamental liberty interest, of the sort courts must protect, to be found in gay marriage. It’s too new — “a more recent innovation than Facebook,” as an Abbott aide said in oral arguments. The concept isn’t deeply rooted in American history and traditions, Abbott argued in his appeal briefs. Abbott also wrote that the issue should be decided in the normal political process, in state legislatures, and not in the courts. His appeal of Garcia’s ruling is scheduled to be heard by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans on Jan. 9.

In Montana, the Billings Gazette reports that Lewis and Clark County District Court Clerk Nancy Sweeney on Friday said none of her deputies are exempt from issuing marriage licenses for same sex couples. “I have not exempted any of my deputy clerks to issue licenses,” she said. “And I expect all of my deputies to perform the functions they swore to do and to uphold the laws of Montana and the United States.” As of Friday evening, the Lewis and Clark County District Court had issued seven same sex marriage licenses since a federal judge struck down Montana’s gay marriage ban as unconstitutional Wednesday. U.S. District Judge Brian Morris’ ruling granted same sex couples the opportunity to legally wed in Montana. Yet some deputy clerks in the state have indicated their unwillingness to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. Sweeney declined to comment on whether any of the 13 clerks in the Lewis and Clark County office objected to issuing same sex marriage licenses. The human resources department and county attorney in Lewis and Clark County are developing a policy to address the new law and its effects on clerk functions. Statewide legal issues may arise if clerks continue to refuse to serve couples based on several factors, including religious beliefs. “I foresee this being an issue for the state,” Sweeney said. “But I believe the law will clearly indicate the correct path to follow, and if not, I’m quite certain it will be in line for the Supreme Court to decide at a future date through a court case.”

In North Carolina, according to the News & Record, police arrested three LGBT supporters Saturday night after an anti-gay rights protest and a counter-protest turned ugly. Michael James Klosek Jr., 24, of 3 Pomroy St. in Greensboro, faces three charges of simple assault and three charges of injury to personal property, according to warrants. Klosek was accused of spraying a substance possibly containing bleach substance onto a generator used by protesters, according to warrants. The substance splashed onto three people. Bail was set at $1,000 for Klosek. Yahya Alazrak, 23, of Greensboro, faces a charge of injury to personal property after breaking a sign belonging to the opposite side, according to warrants. A third person, Brian Drew Watkins, 39, of Greensboro, faces a charge of disorderly conduct for allegedly grabbing signs and yelling loudly, according to warrants. Alazrak and Watkins were released on promises to appear in court, according to court records. The original protest group, from Christ Fellowship Church in Davidson, was cited for violation of the noise ordinance. Protesters gathered at about 5:00 pm outside the Elm Street Center, 203 S. Elm St., where the Equality NC Foundation was holding its eighth annual fundraiser. “The main reason I’m here is that there is a trend of homosexuals trying to take away the rights of the general public,” Kathy Pavkovic, one of the protesters, said. “I have cousins that are gay. I don’t hate gay people.” The Equality NC Foundation gala event this year was billed as “a celebration of our recent victories around marriage equality and more that will set the stage for another unprecedented year of quality Equality engagement.” The foundation is part of Equality NC, a nonprofit group supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender North Carolinians. As the protesters yelled at people entering the center Saturday night, people in support of the LBGT community began to gather across Elm Street. Before long, the dozen or so protesters were outnumbered by LGBT supporters, whose numbers swelled to about 70; and the groups were yelling across the street at each other. Police called for more personnel at Elm Street and February One Place about 7:45 pm. Melissa Cartwright, who manages fundraising efforts for Equality NC, said the organization didn’t mind the protest outside its event. “We recognize everybody’s right to protest,” Cartwright said.

Also in North Carolina, in Canton, Jennifer Mann and Jodi McDaniel have lived together in their small home off Hilltop Farm Road for the past four years without any problems or disparaging remarks from neighbors or anyone else. The lesbian couple didn't expect the first nasty encounter to come from Google Maps. "My son was on Google Maps at school when he (searched) 'street view' for our address and it said, "Fagits live here,'" Mann said, recalling the incident of about a month ago. She couldn't believe it initially, but when she checked Google Maps, the anti-gay slur was there, showing their driveway as the inappropriately named street. "I just thought, 'Are you kidding me?'" said Mann, 39. "I tried to contact Google, but I was put on hold forever and ever and ever. This day and time, with people and hate, you just can't live your life." A spokesperson for Google said the label was removed Wednesday after the Citizen-Times contacted the the giant search engine and mapping company. According to the couple, the label was up for at least a month before it was removed Wednesday. Mann said she considers the incident a "hate crime." Kathy Hoglen, addressing coordinator for Haywood County, said the label did not originate at the county level. Hoglen said she or someone in her office approves every street name, and they typically don't name private drives like the one in question. That driveway has no name registered with the county, she said. "Of course we would never have approved anything like that," she said. "We don't allow crude or offensive names of any kind." McDaniel and Mann live together with Mann's three children, ages 23, 17 and 15, as well as one grandchild. They say they get along fine with neighbors and have not experienced any overt prejudice. They both work at plants in Canton. Mann said she grew up in the one-story home, and McDaniel moved in with her almost five years ago. They suspect someone may have hacked the Google site, or maybe an employee did it. McDaniel previously had a window sticker of two pink deer face to face, and that decal was visible from the street when the Google street mapping car came by last summer. "They just need to grow up," McDaniel said of whoever pulled the mean-spirited prank, adding she's surprised Google doesn't have better safeguards. "They've got to be able to red flag it." Mann's son, Dakota Bonham, 17, said he discovered the slur while Googling their address at Pisgah High School. He, too, is baffled as to why someone would do it. "I was just like, 'What the hell?'" Bonham said. "It's just kind of messed up. They should kind of grow up a little bit." The couple hopes to get the slur removed, but they also are considering some sort of legal action. "We just stay to ourselves and live our lives," McDaniel said. "We live ordinary lives, just like everybody else," Mann said. "Now it looks like I'm being a target."

The Independent reports that Google removed a game that asked users to kill gay people to survive today, after a public outcry, but not before the game had been available for weeks and downloaded thousands of times. Ass Hunter had been downloaded over 10,000 times and had received 200 five star reviews before it was pulled, and is still available across the internet. In the game, players control a hunter with a shotgun who must kill naked men before they approach him. If they are able to reach him then the game shows a cartoon depiction of the men having sex with the hunter. The game was first uploaded on November 5. “Popular game hunting on gays is now on android!” the description read. “Play and do not be gay!” That description remains cached on Google, though the page has now been taken down. Cached versions of the original site continue to be held by Google. In the description of the app, its uploaders AppDay described Ass Hunter as a “Legendary game, where you are hunter and your mission is to kill gays as much as you can," the game's Play Store entry adding, “Remember! When they catch you they will do with you whatever they want,” followed by a winking face. Before it was deleted, the game was last updated yesterday and carried a content rating of "Everyone." The game was removed Monday, after a Twitter campaign asking users to flag the app to administrators, though some said that the process should have been much quicker. The game appears to have been available across the internet since at least 2006, usually as Flash games playable on the PC. But moving it to the Google Play Store — which is mostly unregulated, though administrators can delete apps — brought it back to the public’s attention.

West Virginia diver Alex Obendorf Friday finished with 322.95 points, which took fourth in 3-meter at the Mizzou Invitational. By surpassing 320 points, Obendorf qualified for the NCAA postseason. Obendorf is West Virginia's first male diver to qualify for the NCAA Zone Meet this year, and he's accomplished this after missing nearly the entire 2013-14 season following brain trauma he suffered during a car accident. The Missourian adds that now that he has qualified for the NCAA Zone Meet, West Virginia coach Mike Grapner wants him to aim for the NCAA Championships. “He’s got all the mechanics to do so," Grapner said. "Now, it’s just a matter of putting the right pieces together to finish the puzzle.” Two divers with technique Obendorf tries to emulate are Olympic medalists Tom Daley and Matthew Mitcham, who are both gay men as is Obendorf. “I like their form and everything,” Obendorf said. “I’m pretty proud of them because I know that it’s a hard thing to open up about, especially to the public as an Olympian. I am openly gay. I know where they come from.”

Friday, November 21, 2014

Alberta Liberal Party Introduces Bill To Allow Gay-Straight Alliances In All Schools With Religious Exemptions, Gambia Passes Bill Calling For Life Imprisonment For Certain Homosexual Acts, Federal Appeals Courts Will Hear Arguments On Texas And Louisiana Same Sex Marriage Bans, Archdiocese Of Detroit Bans Support Group For Families With Gay Members From Using Parish For Meeting, Man Who Shot At Pair Outside Minneapolis Gay Bar Sentenced To 6 Months In Workhouse

In Alberta, a bill to allow Gay-Straight Alliances in schools, introduced Thursday in the Alberta legislature, will be the litmus test for Premier Jim Prentice’s Tories on tolerance, says Liberal Leader Raj Sherman. “It will test their progressiveness and test to see if they will do the right thing,” Sherman told reporters. “Stand up for teachers and stand up for our children, especially those children from the LGBTQ community.” Liberal Laurie Blakeman introduced Bill 202, the Safe and Inclusive School Act, mandating schools to allow students, if they wish, to create GSAs to combat bullying. According to the Canadian Press, Blakeman told the legislature the bill is about protecting students who feel bullied and, in extreme cases, try to take their own lives. “As we well know, bullying can have terrible effects. And the proof is (that) the highest suicide rate is sexual minority youth,” said Blakeman. Gay-Straight Alliances are student-led peer support networks in schools that make students of different sexual orientations feel welcome and give them support from being alienated and bullied. “Gay-straight peer support groups have been proven to reduce suicide in our gay youth,” said Blakeman. Blakeman’s bill is not sponsored by the government. It is a private member’s bill. Such bills traditionally do not pass. However, Blakeman’s bill is expected to reopen a polarizing debate on how Alberta’s political parties view gay youth and, more broadly, homosexuality. In the spring, Liberal Kent Hehr introduced a non-binding motion for schools to allow GSAs. It sparked heated debate that broke down along ideological lines. The centre-left Liberals and the NDP supported it. Some members of the centre-right PCs and Wildrose said they feared the motion would infringe on the authority of schools, which already are mandated to provide safe, caring environments for students. The motion failed when 22 PCs and nine Wildrosers joined to defeat it. Its demise re-raised questions on whether the Tories and Wildrose are socially progressive, socially conservative, or socially regressive. Both parties have traditionally struggled with the perception of being anti-gay. In 2010, the Tories amended section 11.1 of the Alberta Human Rights Act to allow parents to pull children out of class when religion, sexuality, or sexual orientation is taught. Critics say that provision unfairly limits teachers and stigmatizes sexual orientation. Blakeman’s bill seeks to remove that section. Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith was not in the house for the spring vote, but said at the time she shared concerns about how the alliances would infringe on school autonomy. This week, Smith said that while she wants to study the bill further, she is leaning towards supporting it. Smith said the personal stories she has since heard from schoolchildren had an affect. “Puberty is an awful time for kids generally speaking. It’s an extra layer of complexity when a child is struggling with coming to terms with their sexual orientation,” said Smith. “Some of the stats that I’ve seen are pretty clear about attempted suicides, suicides, (and) homelessness as a result of kids being kicked out of their homes. These kids need a safe place.” The Wildrose lost the election in 2012 in part over criticism after Smith refused to take action on a candidate who had once warned gays to repent or spend eternity in hell’s “lake of fire.” This past weekend, the party voted not to adopt as policy a statement it had already passed spelling out that it believed in the equality of gays, among other groups. A Wildrose riding official subsequently quit, saying the party is controlled by a bigoted minority. Premier Jim Prentice, during his summer leadership campaign, said he is not in favour of removing section 11.1, saying the government needs to respect the rights of parents. Asked earlier Thursday if he still stands by that, Prentice would only say he wants to study the bill before commenting further. He did reiterate that as a Conservative MP he voted for same sex marriage in 2005. “My credentials are pretty clear in terms of a Canadian who stood up for the rights of gay and lesbian people in this province going back to the gay marriage debate in 2005,” he said. NDP Leader Rachel Notley, whose caucus also plans to support the bill, said it’s time for Prentice to put his resume away and step up. “His vote was 10 years ago, and it was on a completely different issue,” she said. “Gay-Straight Alliances are a critical tool in ensuring the safety of a particularly targeted group — sexual minorities. His failure to stand up for it is a failure in leadership.”

In Gambia, the president has signed a bill into law that calls for life imprisonment for some homosexual acts, the latest African country to codify harsh penalties for gay people. A copy of the legislation, obtained by the Associated Press on Friday, indicates that President Yahya Jammeh signed it on October 9, though no government officials have publicly notified the country of the law. Jammeh, one of Africa’s most outspoken anti-gay leaders, instructed gay and lesbian people in 2008 to leave the country or risk decapitation. Politicians approved the legislation in August, prompting an outcry from human rights organisations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The law contains language identical to an anti-gay bill signed into law in Uganda earlier this year but later overturned by a court on procedural grounds. The Gambian law criminalizes “aggravated homosexuality”, and targets “serial offenders” and people living with HIV or AIDS. Suspects can be charged with aggravated homosexuality for engaging in homosexual acts with someone who is under 18, disabled or who has been drugged. The term also applies when the suspect is the parent or guardian of the other person, or is “in authority over” him or her. People found guilty of aggravated homosexuality can be sentenced to life in prison. Amnesty International recently reported that Gambian security forces were allegedly torturing people arrested in raids, threatening them with rape and pressuring them to confess to homosexual acts. The arrests were the first under the law, Amnesty said on Thursday. At least four men, a 17-year-old boy and nine women had reportedly been arrested in recent weeks on suspicion of committing homosexual acts, the group added. An earlier statement described how the suspects were detained at the headquarters of the National Intelligence Agency in Banjul. “They were subjected to torture and ill-treatment to force them to confess their so-called ‘crimes’ and to reveal information about other individuals perceived to be gay or lesbian.” Amnesty accused the security forces of resorting to beatings and the threat of rape and other abuses if they did not confess.

The Austin American-Statesman reports that oral arguments on Texas’ same sex marriage ban will be heard January 9 in New Orleans, a federal appeals court announced Thursday. The case has been pending at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals since February, when a federal judge in San Antonio overturned the Texas ban on same sex marriage as unconstitutional. Though the appeals court agreed in October to expedite the case at the request of one of the couples involved — Nicole Dimetman and Cleopatra De Leon of Austin, who are expecting their second child in March — the January argument date, with a ruling to come weeks or months later, could exclude the Texas case from an anticipated review by the U.S. Supreme Court. Earlier this month, another federal appeals court upheld bans on same sex marriage in four states — Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee — overturning lower-court rulings that had declared the bans unconstitutional. This week, plaintiffs in the four states asked the Supreme Court to review that ruling from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Four other circuit courts have ruled gay-marriage bans to be unconstitutional, creating a split that often leads to a Supreme Court ruling so laws and rights can be applied evenly nationwide. Also Thursday, the 5th Circuit Court said it will hear arguments January 9 in a Louisiana case in which a lower-court judge upheld that state’s same sex marriage ban. However, lawyers for seven same sex Louisiana couples involved in the case sought to bypass the appeals court Thursday, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to directly review the lower-court ruling as an “aberration” that neglected to follow precedent.

In Michigan, the Archdiocese of Detroit has banned a support group for Catholic families with gay members from using a Detroit parish for a Saturday meeting because the scheduled speaker represents a pro-gay rights ministry censured by the Vatican. It comes a month after Catholic bishops publicly feuded at a Vatican meeting over Pope Francis' more welcoming words and outreach to gay Catholics and their families. "I feel bad for the message that it sends to Catholics that there can't be discussion of an issue of great importance to them and their families — how to stay in better communication with their church and their gay and lesbian children," said Francis DeBernardo, executive director of Maryland-based New Ways Ministry, an advocacy group for Catholics who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT), but which is not sanctioned by the Catholic church. According to the Detroit Free-Press, Archbishop Allen Vigneron has quashed DeBernardo's scheduled appearance Saturday at Christ the King parish in northwest Detroit to the Fortunate Families support group. Instead, Fortunate Families organizers have moved the meeting to a Farmington Hills condo clubhouse. Linda Karle-Nelson of Farmington Hills — who with her husband, Tom, are Catholic gay rights activists and lead the Fortunate Families support group — said they learned last week they would not be able to host Saturday's meeting at the Detroit church, even though that's where they held last year's gathering. The difference, said Karle-Nelson, is that Saturday's meeting will feature DeBernardo. In 1999, the Vatican censured New Ways Ministry's cofounders, a Catholic priest and nun, contending their outreach to gay Catholics did not do enough to promote Catholic teaching that gay sexual relationships are "intrinsically disordered" and sinful. Joe Kohn, a spokesperson for Archbishop Vigneron, said New Ways Ministry is not an approved organization to address Catholic teachings on homosexuality. "It was brought to the archdiocese's attention a few weeks back that New Ways Ministry had been scheduled to speak at Christ the King Church," Kohn said in a statement. "Because New Ways Ministry had been identified as a group that might cause confusion in regards to Catholic church teaching, the archdiocese did clarify that a presentation by New Ways Ministry should not be hosted on church property." Last year, Vigneron drew national attention for saying that Catholics who support gay unions and gay marriages should refrain from receiving the sacrament of communion. New Ways' DeBernardo, who was in Rome attending gay rights events during the bishops' meeting, said the Detroit archdiocese's actions run counter to Pope Francis' more sympathetic posture toward gay Catholics. The Rev. Victor Clore, pastor of Christ the King parish, said he was notified last week by an archdiocese official that the parish could not host the meeting. Clore said the archdiocese's position was discouraging. "I'll give you a quote from one of my parishioners, who said: 'It amazes me how Pope Francis eagerly and happily engages those who openly deny the divinity of Christ, yet (New Ways) DeBernardo is deemed unworthy to enter our church,' " Clore stated. "That's pretty much my feeling, too," said Clore. "It's treating people as if they were children." Karle-Nelson said she fears interested Catholics might be confused by the change of location. Last year's meeting drew about 40 participants, with some walk-ins. She said 22 people are registered for Saturday's gathering so far. "It's really been a problem trying to get the information out to people who have registered and those who might want to walk in," said Karle-Nelson. "The reason we invited Frank DeBernardo, is he just returned from Rome and the Synod on the family, and he was going to share his perspective and where do we go from here," said Karle-Nelson. "The pope has asked for reactions and to weigh in." New Ways Ministry has long drawn criticism from conservative Catholics. It was Detroit Cardinal Adam Maida who conducted a lengthy investigation of New Ways founders at the behest of church officials during the 1980s and 1990s. Jay McNally, a former editor of the Detroit archdiocese's Michigan Catholic newspaper and conservative Catholic activist who is the director of the Ypsilanti-based Citizens Alliance for Life and Liberty, said Vigneron's action is appropriate. "The problem with having that guy speaking at a Catholic parish is that he is fundamentally opposed to church teaching, and they distort church teaching," said McNally. "Therefore, the archdiocese has done the right thing and it should not be held on church property. It creates more chaos and confusion in the minds of the faithful."

In Minnesota, according to the Star-Tribune, the man who shot at a pair outside a downtown Minneapolis gay bar in September has been sentenced to six months in the Hennepin County workhouse. In the sentence handed down Thursday afternoon, Wayne Odegard, 44, of Blaine, was ordered to undergo chemical dependency and psychological evaluations and to attend anger management class. If he violates any of the conditions of his probation, he could be sent to prison for a year and a day. Odegard pleaded guilty to terroristic threats in October. In addition, his probation period was raised from three years to five because of the aggravating factor that his crime was based on the sexual orientation of the victim. According to the criminal complaint, Odegard was walking downtown about 11:00 pm on September 25 when he saw two men on the sidewalk patio outside of the Saloon, 830 Hennepin Av. Odegard uttered a homophobic slur, pulled out a BB gun and fired several shots. One of the men was hit in the leg, causing a minor injury. Odegard told police he had seen two other men kissing and that made him angry.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Documents Detail Systemic Harassment And Abuse Of Transgender Inmates In Canadian Prisons, Ugandan Lawmakers Determined To Approve New Anti-Gay Bill Ahead Of Christmas, South Carolina Government Agencies Begin Recognizing Same Sex Marriages, State Agencies In Kansas Fail To Amend Policies In Accordance With New Same Sex Marriage Law, Hull Massachusetts Police Sergeant Files Suit Alleging Years Of Discrimination And Harassment, Super Sexy County Music Stars Billy Gilman And Ty Herndon Come Out Without Hours Of Each Other

In Canada, transgender inmates in federal prisons claim they're being harassed and assaulted in custody, according to documents obtained by the CBC through access to information. The documents allege abuse not only by prisoners, but prison guards as well. The Correctional Service Of Canada won't comment on the allegations, but says complaints are dealt with. "We've received complaints including sexual assaults, harassment and also complaints about access to medical treatment," said Correctional Investigator of Canada Howard Sapers, The office is an independent body that investigates complaints within the correctional system. At times, Sapers says transgender inmates are placed in solitary confinement for their protection. However, he is concerned about the overuse of segregation. "We find that the Correctional Service is relying on segregation as a population management tool," he said. Jack Saddleback, a transgender activist, said more needs to be done to protect transgender people, who he says are vulnerable. "It's just horrible to think that trans people are put as second class citizens," he said. "It's a reflection of how much more education we need regarding gender identity, regarding gender expression and regarding cultural sensitivity." Kyle Kirkup, a researcher at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law says the government needs to update its policies for transgender prisoners. He says transgender inmates would appear before a recognized psychiatric expert to be assessed. "Transgender people should be allowed to self identify their gender for legal purposes," he said. "So, a person would be asked at admission phase whether or not they would prefer to be place in a men's facility or a women's facility."

In Uganda, according to the Associated Press, lawmakers have drafted a new anti-gay bill that could be introduced for debate in the country's parliament before Christmas, a parliamentarian said Thursday. The new bill is in "advanced stages" and will focus on punishing the promotion of homosexuality, said Ugandan lawmaker Latif Ssebaggala, a strong supporter of anti-gay legislation. "We believe that before Christmas we will be through with it. It is a strong bill," he said. "The element of promotion was strengthened, putting in place measures against people who lure young people into these sex acts." Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has said anti-gay legislation threatens the country's economic ties with the West. But there is a growing movement here for new legislation following the nullification earlier this year of an anti-gay law on procedural grounds. Rights groups had condemned that law as draconian before it was nullified by Uganda's Constitutional Court, which ruled in August that the legislation was illegal because it had been passed during a parliamentary session that lacked a quorum. But the court did not rule on the substance of the law, which allowed terms of up to life for homosexual offenses. That left the door open for lawmakers to introduce another anti-gay bill, and many legislators have since vowed to pass a new law. Ssebaggala gave no details of the proposed law, saying he had only been briefed by a committee appointed by Museveni to recommend ways forward concerning homosexuality. That committee is led by Vice President Edward Ssekandi and also includes David Bahati, the lawmaker who introduced the original anti-gay legislation. Bahati was not immediately available for comment. Uganda's gay leaders say rising anti-gay sentiment in this East African country has driven many homosexuals underground, with scores being evicted by landlords and others fleeing the country. Ugandan rights lawyer Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi, who has defended gay Ugandans in court, said the wording in the new bill was unknown and that any legal action would be taken after the bill's content had been made public. The bill faces a legal challenge if it limits freedom of expression and speech, he said.

In South Carolina, government agencies began recognizing same sex marriages on Thursday, giving health care coverage to the spouses and children of gay and lesbian couples. Residents can also now change their last name on their driver's license to their partner's, as long as, like any couple, they show a marriage license. The offer is extended to all married people in the state health plan. The 181,300 state employees receiving benefits range from teachers to police officers. The State reports that the first same sex marriage licenses were handed out Wednesday and a Charleston couple exchanged vows on the courthouse steps there. On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block the marriages. Still, the state's top prosecutor, Republican Alan Wilson, vowed to fight to uphold the state's constitutional ban on same sex unions, saying federal appeals courts have issued conflicting rulings and the U.S. Supreme Court has not fully resolved the issue. Gay marriage advocates disagreed. The high court's order "officially puts an end to the long fight for access to marriage for South Carolina's same sex couples and their families," said Beth Littrell, an attorney for Lamda Legal, a national civil rights law firm that assisted plaintiffs in a Charleston lawsuit for gay marriage. While a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision cleared the way for gay marriages in South Carolina and other states in the circuit, Wilson has argued a decision by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholding gay marriage bans in several Midwest states means the matter will likely again go to the U.S. Supreme Court. "Our office will be supporting the position of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is more consistent with South Carolina state law, which upholds the unique status of traditional marriage," Wilson said. Kristin Anderson and her partner Kayla Bennett, of Charleston, were the first same sex couple married in the state. Anderson said Thursday that she doesn't expect any future court decisions to affect her marriage status. "I think the way things have gone that eventually, whether it's sooner or later, there will be no question it will be legal," she said. South Carolina is one of nearly three dozen states where gay marriages have taken place, but the situation here had been murky because of different lawsuits. With those mostly settled in favor of gay marriage, Charleston County Probate Judge Irvin Condon began issuing licenses, and the South Carolina Supreme Court soon allowed judges statewide to issue same sex licenses. Kevin Crosby with the state's Public Employee Benefit Authority said the agency had been preparing to extend coverage to same sex spouses. That includes health, dental, vision and life insurance. "We knew it wasn't a matter of if, but when," he said. In all, the agency oversees benefits for nearly 460,000 public employees, retirees and their spouses and children. Participants in the state health plan include workers in state and local governments, school districts and colleges.

In Kansas, same sex couples can get married in Kansas, but some state agencies haven't changed policies that would allow them to do such things as change their names on driver's licenses. Gov. Sam Brownback's administration will not make any policy changes to recognize same sex couples while it defends the Kansas gay marriage ban against a federal lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, spokesperson Eileen Hawley said. Hawley said all state agencies would "take the necessary legal actions once this issue is resolved." The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week that the state can't enforce its ban on same-sex unions while the ACLU lawsuit proceeds, clearing the way for gay marriages to begin. But amid confusion as the state fights to uphold its ban, some Kansas counties are issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples, and others are not. The agencies' refusal to recognize the marriages will prevent couples from changing their names on their driver's licenses and could affect such things as state income tax filings, the Wichita Eagle reported. "There are still cases under appeal in the courts, and the department will not do anything different until those are resolved," Department of Revenue spokesperson Jeannine Koranda said Thursday. A Lawrence gay couple who married this week said they were turned away from a Department of Revenue office when one of them tried to change her last name on her driver's license. "All the happiness and everything from getting married, which every woman dreams about, pretty much got stomped. It was horrible," Merrie Rouse told 6NewsLawrence. Rouse and her spouse, Alyssa Johnson, said they had no trouble getting an electronic copy of a new Social Security card, but had a much different experience when they went to the driver's license bureau. "He threw my paperwork at me and said 'we don't accept that. We don't acknowledge that. You can't have that done here,'" Rouse said. Tom Witt, the executive director of gay rights organization Equality Kansas, said it was outrageous for state agencies to refuse to treat legally married same sex couples as they would treat newly married heterosexual couples. "These are legal marriages legally performed in the state of Kansas," Witt said. Witt said same sex couples might have to sue other agencies to receive equal treatment when they file their taxes, for example. "As long as the state continues to deny people their civil rights, then we're going to have to litigate it, and that's really on (Attorney General) Derek Schmidt and Gov. Brownback to decide how much taxpayer money they're going to burn," he said. Schmidt told the Associated Press on Wednesday that his vigorous defense of the state's gay marriage ban is designed to get a final decision from the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court could issue a ruling that would cover the nation by June.

In Massachusetts, a veteran Hull police sergeant says he has been continually harassed by his superiors and discriminated against because he is gay. Donald Love, who’s been with the department for 25 years, filed suit this month in Plymouth Superior Court against the town and the department’s three top officers. Named as defendants are police Chief Richard Billings, Capt. Robert Sawtelle and Lt. Dale Shea, the Patriot Ledger reported. The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages against the defendants as well as any other relief the court may grant. In the suit, Love alleges that Billings, Sawtelle and Shea commonly referred to Love using crude, derogatory terms for his sexual orientation, including in police radio broadcasts and at shift roll calls. The suit claims the conduct goes back as far as 1998. Love filed an internal affairs complaint alleging abusive and discriminatory behavior against Billings in 2001, when Billings was a sergeant. Then-police Chief Donald Brooker testified in an affidavit that he wanted to see Billings fired or demoted to patrolman based on the findings of the investigation. “I considered Billings’ public harassment and humiliation of a subordinate officer to be extremely serious misconduct in violation of state laws and numerous department policies and rules,” Brooker testified. “I was personally embarrassed that one of the department’s employees had to endure such outrageous abuse.” At Love’s urging, Brooker reduced the penalty to unpaid punishment duty and required that Billings attend an anti-harassment course, according to the lawsuit. Billings said when interviewed in the investigation that his comments were “in jest” and only “locker room banter.” When Billings was promoted to chief in 2004, Love said he was called into the chief’s office. Love said he was told by Billings “as long as he was chief, that I would never hold a stipend position, that I would never be promoted, and that I would never be taken off the graveyard shift.” When Love, who has been a sergeant with the department for more than a decade, attempted to transfer to the Hingham Police Department in 2005, the move was blocked by Billings, the complaint states. That year, the suit says Love went to see then-Town Manager Christopher McCabe to complain about the treatment he had been receiving from Billings and Sawtelle. The suit claims McCabe would not hear the complaint, and Billings issued Love a letter of reprimand for discussing departmental matters with an “outside” agency. The suit also states that in December, Billings passed over Love for the job of hiring and training summer officers, which involves a substantial amount of overtime, despite the fact no one else wanted the job. The suit includes testimony from nine former police department employees, including Brooker and former Hull police Capt. Don DiMarzio. Brooker said the selectmen were made aware of the internal affairs investigation of Billings before they appointed him police chief. Love is represented by Hingham lawyer James Brady, who represents plaintiffs in other suits where Billings and the town are defendants. They include a suit by Wendy Cope-Allen, a former Hull police officer also charging that she was the target of harassment and discrimination, and a suit by former Patrol Officer Richard McKenna, who says he was denied retirement benefits because past police union officials had misused union funds. Brady declined further comment on the case Wednesday. “The complaint speaks for itself,” he said. At Tuesday night’s meeting of the board of selectmen, Chairman Christopher Olivieri read a four-page statement updating residents on the status of the cases and responding to critics who feel the town should take disciplinary action against employees named in the lawsuits. Olivieri said the town has taken disciplinary action when a legal basis exists, such as placing one police sergeant on administrative leave after the allegations in the McKenna suit were revealed. “If it was felt, after consideration of the facts and the law, that certain employees should be placed on leave and be replaced by others, the town would do so,” Olivieri said. “While some have publicly suggested doing that, there is not a present justifiable legal basis for doing so.” Olivieri said Civil Service and other laws “do not permit the town to lightly remove someone from their position without following due process. To do so would only create additional liabilities for the town.” He said the town is “carefully monitoring all matters relative to each case.”

Singer Billy Gilman, became the second country music star in the space of three hours Thursday to tell the world that he is gay. Gilman, who at 12 became the youngest singer to land a Top 40 hit on the country music charts, told fans in a message posted on YouTube that he is gay and has a partner. In the video, Gilman referenced country music star Ty Herndon, who, himself, revealed he is gay in an interview with People Magazine. The news about the interview and Herndon's sexuality was made public earlier Thursday. Gilman, 26, said that his decision to reveal his sexuality came, in part, when a reporter took a photograph of him and his partner at an event. "I knew that I'd rather it be from me than you reading it somewhere else and probably filled with 'not truth,'" he says in the video. Gilman went on to say in the video: "You know, it's difficult for me to make this video not because I'm ashamed of being a gay male artist or a gay artist or a gay person. But it's pretty silly to know that I'm ashamed of doing this knowing that because I'm in an genre and industry that is ashamed of me for being me. That said, I want to say that all of the country artists that literally I grew up with - Keith Urban, Vince, Lee Ann Rhimes and all of these wonderful friends of mine have been nothing but supportive. Not that they knew but they've just been such wonderful people. Gilman's hit "One Voice" put him on the county music charts in 2000.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Parent Of Gay Son Resigns From Wildrose Party Over Its Continuing Resistance To Include LGBT Rights In Platform, Federal Judge Overturns Montana Same Sex Marriage Ban, First Openly Gay NBA Player Jason Collins Announces Retirement, Manager Of Texas Restaurant Apologizes To Customers Who Left Anti-Gay Remark On Receipt Directed Towards 19-Year-Old Server Blake Butler, Portland Oregon Police Arrest Prominent Gay Rights Activist After Grand Jury Indicts Terrence Patrick Bean In Connection To 2013 Case Involving 15-Year-Old Boy

In Alberta, the parent of a LGBT son has resigned from the board of the Calgary-Glenmore Wildrose Constituency Association over the party’s policy on rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Albertans. Terrance Lo — who describes himself as Asian, atheist and the surrogate parent of a gay son — resigned from his position as vice-president of communications with the association in a letter Monday. “This is not a decision I have taken lightly,” Lo wrote in the letter. “The disastrous, mean-spirited and misguided campaign exposed me to the fact that the culture of the party needs to evolve to survive, and has taken a dangerous step back. I have been a member for five years, and will now not renew or continue as a member. I fully understand the consequences of my decision, and I accept it fully.” Lo said when he joined the party he hoped to change the “ill perception” the Wildrose earned with the “Lake of Fire” debacle during the last provincial election campaign. He also believed he was in the “right party” when leader Danielle Smith advocated for the inclusion of LBGT rights in party policy in 2013. Lo says recent events, including rejection of that policy at the party's AGM last weekend, have prompted him to change his mind. "What I honestly believe right now is that the party is now being hijacked by a small group of very small-minded people," Lo told CBC News. Smith said she read Lo’s letter and called him to discuss his comments. “I was disappointed, obviously, and hope that we can take some actions over the coming weeks and months to earn back his support,” she said. “These issues are ones that people feel very passionately and strongly about.” Smith hopes the party can rework the policy to find the right language for everybody. She thought the party had a consensus on last year's statement and said the vote came close this year. Delegates at the Wildrose AGM voted 148-109 against the motion last Saturday. It would have made the affirmation of equal rights for every person, regardless of their religion and sexual orientation, part of party policy. Instead party members voted to maintain their existing policy recognizing that "all Albertans have equal rights, privileges and responsibilities."

In Montana, the Billings Gazette reports that a federal judge on Wednesday overturned the state's same sex marriage ban. U.S. District Judge Brian Morris ruled that Montana's constitutional amendment limiting marriage to between a man and a woman violates the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. "This Court recognizes that not everyone will celebrate this outcome," Morris wrote. "This decision overturns a Montana Constitutional amendment approved by the voters of Montana. Yet the United States Constitution exists to protect disfavored minorities from the will of the majority." Montana Attorney General Tim Fox said Thursday afternoon that he will appeal the ruling. Fox, a Republican, said he has the duty to defend the ban until "no appeal can made in a court of law." In September, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Idaho and Nevada's bans are unconstitutional. Montana is part of the 9th Circuit, and Morris cited the appeals court's opinion in his ruling. The move comes after four same sex couples filed a lawsuit in May challenging Montana's ban. The plaintiffs included Angie and Tonya Rolando. "Calling Tonya my partner, my significant other, my girlfriend, my perpetual fiancée has never done justice to our relationship," Angie Rolando said. "Now I can look forward to the day when I can introduce Tonya as my wife. "Love won today," she said in a statement released by the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana. The organization said earlier that it expected the favorable ruling because of the 9th Circuit's finding. Morris also noted Montana no longer can deprive plaintiffs and other same sex couples of the chance to marry their loves. He said his ruling was effective immediately. "The time has come for Montana to follow all the other states within the Ninth Circuit and recognize that laws that ban same sex marriage violate the constitutional right of same sex couples to equal protection of the laws," the judge wrote. The Montana ACLU has also posted an event on Facebook announcing simultaneous marriage celebrations in Missoula, Helena, Billings, Bozeman, Great Falls and Butte. The Yellowstone County celebration is set for 8:00 am to noon Thursday at the courthouse. "ACLU of Montana and Fair is Fair Montana are throwing the biggest celebration of marriage in the state on the first day that marriage licenses will be issued." The ACLU plans to have a wedding officiant at each courthouse "for those who don’t want to wait another moment before marrying the person they love." There will also be a photo booth and photographer to capture the event. The Pride Foundation called Wednesday "a historic day for Montana. Every loving, committed couple in our state deserves the right to make a lifelong commitment to the person they love, and today’s decision affirms that. "We are proud that Montana will stand on the right side of history by joining the growing number of states with marriage equality—finally honoring all families and treating all loving couples equally under the eyes of the law," said the Pride Foundation's Kim Leighton, the organization's regional development organizer in Montana. "We applaud Judge Morris for this significant decision, which upholds Montanans' shared values of freedom, fairness and equality," adding, "For decades LGBTQ couples in Montana have paid taxes, voted, served in the military, and ran small businesses. They work hard and pay into the same system as everyone else. Today’s decision recognizes the important role LGBTQ people play in our economy and our communities by ensuring they are also able to get married locally. While today’s ruling will have a monumental impact on LGBTQ couples throughout the state, we also realize that there is still much work to be done before all LGBTQ Montanans are able to live openly and safely in their communities—including protecting people from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations." In a statement, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana) said, “I applaud today’s ruling. It aligns our laws with our values and is a big step forward for our state. Denying same sex couples the right to marry denies them happiness and equal protection under the law.” Gov. Steve Bullock said he instructed his administration "to quickly take all appropriate steps to ensure that we are recognizing and affording the same rights and responsibilities to legally married same sex couples that all married Montanans have long enjoyed.”

Jason Collins, the NBA's first openly gay player, announced his retirement Wednesday. Collins, 35, played 22 games with the Nets last season and was not on the roster this season. He announced his retirement in a first-person article in Sports Illustrated, saying it had “been 18 exhilarating months” since he came out as the first openly gay man in one of the four major North American professional leagues. He said in the article that he would also make the announcement on Wednesday night at Barclays Center, where the Nets will play the Milwaukee Bucks, who are coached by his former teammate and coach Jason Kidd. Collins started his career with the Nets in New Jersey in 2001 and rejoined the franchise in Brooklyn in February. He had a number of former teammates on the Brooklyn team, including Kidd. Collins thanked Kidd for his support, “considering all the speculation about problems I might face within the locker room.” Collins said he was “happy to have helped put those canards to rest.”

In Houston, Texas, an offensive note at the top of a restaurant receipt has a teen speaking out about it and how his manager reacted. Blake Butler, 19, was a server at Kelley's Country Cookin' in Meadows Place up until last Wednesday when he says a fellow server got a note on the top of the receipt from two customers. It was about him and read "Don't want to listen to a faggot through my whole meal." Butler told KTRK, "I just thought it was disgusting," said Butler, adding that it was offensive but just as offensive was how the manager reacted. "Instead of having my back and be like, you know, 'That's my employee. I can't have you talking about my employees like that.' She was like, 'Oh. It's OK. I'm sorry,'" Butler said. On Tuesday, the owner told KTRK it was an uncomfortable position for the manager to be in and if he were there, he would have confronted the customers about it. Butler says he usually can dismiss negative comments pretty easily but he felt he had to address this one. To do so, he had to have a difficult conversation with his parents. "I recently came out to my parents today because I didn't want them to find out on the news. I just finally said it," Butler spoke of the delicate discussion. As for the gay slur: "Everybody's entitled to their own opinion, but instead of leaving the opinion out for everyone to see, just keep it to yourself," Butler said.

In Oregon, detectives from the Portland police Sex Crimes Unit arrested Portland developer Terrence Patrick Bean on Wednesday on a Lane County indictment stemming from alleged sex abuse involving a teenage boy in 2013. Bean, 66, a prominent gay rights activist and major Democratic Party fundraiser, was arrested at his home in Southwest Portland and booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center at 10:12 am. According to the Oregonian, the indictment charges Bean with two counts of third-degree sodomy, a felony, and one count of third-degree sex abuse, a misdemeanor, police said. Bean, who bailed out of jail by late Wednesday afternoon, will be arraigned on the indictment in Lane County. Detectives in Portland's Sex Crime Unit are the lead investigators in the case and have been working closely with the Clackamas County and Lane County district attorneys' offices. The alleged incident involved a sexual encounter in Eugene with a 15-year-old boy. Another person alleged to have been involved in that encounter is also expected to face arrest as part of the indictment. "The investigation began in Portland, but the criminal episode occurred in Lane County,'' said police spokesperson Sgt. Pete Simpson. Lane County Chief Deputy District Attorney Patricia Perlow declined to release any information about the case or the indictment. Bean has been one of the state's biggest Democratic donors and an influential figure in gay rights circles in the state. He helped found two major national political groups, the Human Rights Campaign and the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, and has been a major contributor for several Democratic presidential candidates, including Barack Obama. He's also a close friend of former Gov. Barbara Roberts. Bean's lawyer, Kristen Winemiller, said in a statement that Bean has cooperated with the investigation, adding that it's her client who was the "victim of an extortion ring'' by several men. Winemiller released this statement: "Terry Bean is a highly respected community leader who has devoted his life to bettering our community. Over the course of several months in 2013-2014 Terry was the victim of an extortion ring led by several men known to law enforcement. This current arrest is connected to the ongoing investigation of that case in which Mr. Bean has fully cooperated. No allegations against Terry Bean should be taken at face value. We look forward to the opportunity to clear his name.'' The Willamette Week did a cover story in June on Bean about a "love affair gone wrong,'' and allegations that he had videotaped his encounters with former boyfriends. Bean's Flickr account shows him talking with Obama at several events, posing with first lady Michelle Obama and numerous other political figures, including former President Bill Clinton. A blog post from his sister, Sue Surdam Bean, detailed her brother's work on a July 24, 2012 Obama fundraiser in Portland. She included three photos of Terry Bean's ride on Air Force One with Obama to a subsequent event in Seattle. At 4:22 pm, Bean bailed out of the downtown Portland jail, posting 10 percent, or $5,000 of his $50,000 bail, according to jail records.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith Says She Supports Proposed Alberta Bill Requiring All Schools Establish Gay-Straight Alliances, Same Sex Marriage Legal In South Carolina After Appeals Court Refuses To Stay Lower Court Ruling That Found Ban Unconstitutional, Kansas Supreme Court Issues Order Allowing Johnson County Clerk To Being Issuing Marriage Licenses To Gay And Lesbian Couples, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi Continues Fight Against Same Sex Marriage, ACLU Files Federal Suit Challenging Nebraska Same Sex Marriage, Benjy The Gay Bull Saved By Simpsons Co-Creator

In Canada, a private member’s bill to help protect LGBT students in schools is gaining strength in the Alberta legislature. Bill 202 would require all Alberta schools to establish gay-straight alliances if students request them. The alliances are basically peer support networks to help prevent LGBT students from being intimidated or bullied. Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith now says she is looking at supporting the bill, which will be introduced by the Liberals in the coming weeks. “I’ve met with a number of students who have been involved in those kinds of clubs,” said Smith. “I understand a lot about why they need a safe place and an accepting place to be able to talk about their sexual orientation.” A motion to support the alliances was rejected in the spring by a coalition of Wildrose and Progressive Conservative members, who said they didn’t want to tie the hands of school officials. Smith explained Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman has already come a long way in addressing some concerns with the previous motion. “Our caucus has free votes on all issues in the legislature and you can imagine, on this kind of issue, we are unlikely to have a unanimous vote. There are potentially some amendments that we can propose that will allow more of my colleagues to be able to support this as well,” Smith said. The Wildrose leader said she wants to make sure the final bill balances all the rights involved. We do know that there are religious freedoms and the ability of our Catholic schools and our religous schools to practice their faith. That’s also a charter-protected right. I think it’s possible for us to be able to pass a policy that’s respectful. You’ll very likely see a number of of Wildrose MLAs supportive of this legislation.” Smith added she still needs to see all the details on Bill 202. Blakeman says Bill 202 is aimed at making all Alberta schools safe and inclusive, with supportive learning environments for all students. “You’ve got a more tolerant school, you’ve got a better understanding of human rights overall. It really works. Why wouldn’t we do something that works, saves kids lives and gives us a better school?” Blakeman is confident MLA positions on the bill have changed since the last vote. “I think a lot of people – when they realized it had been defeated – went ‘why did we do that? I was ok with that.'" The bill would have to get support from other parties in order to pass. “Danielle [Smith] has made a number of overtures and is now specifically asking to meet with me to work this out,” said Blakeman. “I find that really encouraging. I’ve had a number of conversations with people on the government side. It is political, and that’s why I need people to contact their MLAs and tell them they want their MLA to vote for this bill.” Blakeman said she hasn’t heard from the new education minister directly. The NDP supported the motion in the spring and plans to support the Liberal bill this fall.

In South Carolina, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has refused to stay a lower court decision allowing same sex marriage, but an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court appears to be the next step in this legal battle. The court made its decision public late Tuesday. South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson had requested a stay on a decision made November 12th by U.S. District Court Richard Gergel that declared South Carolina's ban on same sex marriage as unconstitutional. In his ruling, Gergel said that the state's ban violated the U.S. Constitution's equal protection and due process clauses. The 4th Circuit's decision seems to pave the way for gay marriages to begin Thursday. In his ruling, Gergel put a temporary stay on his decision that was to expire at 12:00 pm on the 20th, assuming the 4th Circuit didn't interfere. Wilson, though, said he intends to continue the legal fight, and will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to block the judgment from being enforced. "This issue has not yet been resolved nationally," Wilson said in a statement after the 4th Circuit's decision was announced. "It is still likely the U.S. Supreme Court will address conflicting rulings between federal circuit courts of appeal. Therefore, today's ruling by the Fourth Circuit does not end the constitutional obligation of this Office to defend South Carolina law. We continue to believe the doctrine of federalism and the Tenth Amendment should allow South Carolina's unique laws to be considered at the highest appropriate court of appeal. We will be seeking an application to the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay shortly." The case Gergel decided involved two women--Colleen Condon and Nichols Bleckley--who filed for a marriage license last month in Charleston. A probate judge there had agreed to begin granting licenses for gay couples following the Fourth Circuit's ruling earlier in the year that threw out Virginia's ban on same sex marriage. Some legal experts had said that ruling, because it came from the same circuit which holds jurisdiction over South Carolina, essentially nullified South Carolina's prohibition on same sex marriage. But Wilson felt the opposite, and asked the South Carolina Supreme Court to stop the licenses from being issued. The high court agreed, preventing the licenses from being granted until a separate lawsuit challenging the state's gay marriage laws could be heard by U.S. District Court Judge Michelle Childs. However, Condon and Bleckley went ahead and filed their own challenge to Gergel, and he came back with his decision prior to Childs making her ruling. In his order, Gergel left little ambiguity that the he felt the state's law had to be thrown out. By not challenging his decision Tuesday, the Fourth Circuit appeared to agree. Complicating matters, however, is a ruling at the beginning of the month by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. That decision upheld same sex marriage bans in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. That's led to a split between the 6th Circuit and the 4th, 7th, 9th and 10th Circuits, which all struck down gay marriage bans in their jurisdictions. It would now fall to the U.S. Supreme Court to resolve the conflicting opinions of the judges.

The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Kansas Supreme Court issued an order Tuesday lifting the temporary hold on a lower-court judge's directive that a Johnson County clerk issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. The decision cleared a legal path for gay marriages to occur in Kansas' most populous county. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt had requested the state Supreme Court prohibit same sex marriages there after Judge Kevin Moriarty issued instructions allowing licenses to be distributed to gays and lesbians despite an amendment in the Kansas Constitution prohibiting such unions. Meanwhile, the state's highest court declined Tuesday to address whether the state's ban on same sex marriage was constitutional. Those deliberations by the state Supreme Court will await conclusion of a federal case alleging Kansas' ban was violating constitutional rights of same sex couples attempting to marry. Lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union filed that federal lawsuit on behalf of lesbian couples denied licenses in Douglas and Sedgwick counties. The plaintiffs allege Kansas’ marriage restrictions defy equal protection and due process provisions of the U.S. Constitution. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court released an order dictating that Sedgwick and Douglas counties couldn't continue enforcing a gay-marriage ban while that federal lawsuit made its way through the judiciary. Same sex marriages have been allowed to proceed in Shawnee, Douglas and Sedgwick counties, but some county officials had declined to issue licenses amid the controversy.

The Miami Herald reports that Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi on Monday night formally asked an appeals court to overrule two South Florida judges who found the state’s same sex marriage ban unconstitutional. “These consolidated appeals raise the question whether the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution bars the State of Florida from defining marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman,” Bondi wrote in a filing to the Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal. “Florida has long defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman. In 2008, voters amended the Florida Constitution to reaffirm that policy. The United States Constitution does not prohibit Florida or its voters from making that choice, and the trial courts’ contrary conclusions were wrong,” Bondi wrote in the filing. “As the United States Supreme Court has recognized, States have the virtually exclusive authority to define and regulate marriage. Consistent with that authority, States may choose to allow same sex marriage, as several States have. But States may also choose to maintain a traditional definition of marriage, as several other States have. Principles of federalism leave the choice to the States.” On July 17, Monroe County Chief Circuit Judge Luis Garcia declared Florida’s 2008 gay marriage ban unconstitutional, ruling against Bondi, whose office defended the ban. He ordered that a Key West couple, Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones, had the right to marry, but an automatic stay in the case prevented the nuptials. On July 25, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel also declared Florida’s ban unconstitutional, finding in favor of six same sex couples who want to marry. Her ruling also was stayed pending appeal. The six couples are Jorge Isaias Diaz and Don Price Johnston of Miami; Catherina Pareto and Karla Arguello of Coconut Grove; Dr. Juan Carlos Rodriguez and David Price of Davie; Vanessa and Melanie Alenier of Hollywood; Todd and Jeff Delmay of Hollywood; and Summer Greene and Pamela Faerber of Plantation. LGBT-rights group Equality Florida Institute also is a plaintiff. The attorney general took both losses to the Miami-based Third District Court of Appeal, where the cases were consolidated. Bondi’s deadline for filing was Monday night, which she met “with hours to spare,” according to attorney Bernadette Restivo, who co-represents Huntsman and Jones. The filing is quite similar to arguments raised Friday when Bondi appealed a federal judge’s order that also found Florida’s same sex marriage ban unconstitutional. “I would describe it as a regurgitation,” Restivo said Monday night. No one knows how long it will be before the Third District Court of Appeal hears the case. It’s possible the U.S. Supreme Court may decide another state’s marriage case before a Florida appeal courts rules. “All we can control is what we have before us. I explained to my clients that this case is like eating a bowl of spaghetti with a knife. There are so many moving pieces, it’s hard to get satisfied,” said Restivo, who is angry that Bondi’s appeal partially hinges on the longtime history of marriage being between a man and a woman. “Maybe you should tell that to the women who fought for the right to vote and the minorities who sat in the front of the bus,” Restivo said. “Neither of the rights they were fighting for were steeped in the history of the United States.” Just after Restivo read Bondi’s appeal brief, news broke that California mass-murderer Charles Manson, 80, who masterminded the slayings of actress Sharon Tate and six other people in 1969, became engaged to a 26-year-old woman. “What I’m upset is about is that they just gave Charles Manson a marriage license,” Restivo said. “I want to know why they can give Charles Manson a marriage license and my clients can’t.”

According to the Daily Nebraskan, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in federal court Monday on behalf of seven couples fighting the state’s gay marriage ban. Some of the couples want their out-of-state marriage licenses to be recognized in Nebraska, while others want the ability to marry their partner in the state. They and the ACLU argue that the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage unlawfully discriminates against gay men and lesbian women. The plaintiffs are Sally and Susan Waters of Omaha, Nick Kramer and Jason Cadek of Omaha, Jessica and Kathleen Källström-Schreckengost of Omaha, Greg Tubach and Bil Roby of Lincoln, Marj Plumb and Tracy Weitz of Omaha, Dr. Tom Maddox and Randy Clark of La Jolla, California, and Crystal Von Kampen and Carla Morris-Von Kampen of Norfolk. In January 2013, Sally Waters was diagnosed with breast cancer, which has since been declared terminal. Because of the marriage ban, Susan will have to pay an 18 percent inheritance tax on all of their shared property, instead of the 1 percent, which is reserved for married couples. Sally’s death certificate will also forever list her as single, despite the fact she and Susan were married in California in 2008. “They seek nothing more and nothing less than the freedom to marry who they love, and to be granted the dignity that full marriage recognition provides,” said ACLU of Nebraska Executive Director Danielle Conrad in a news release. Adopted in November 2000, the last time the Nebraska gay marriage ban was challenged was back in 2005. But it was shut down in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2006. With 33 states now licensing same sex marriage, advocates feel there’s no better time than the present to remove the ban. “It is wrong for the state to treat these loving and committed couples as second-class citizens,” said ACLU Nebraska Legal Director Amy Miller. “When a family has roots in Nebraska or wants to call Nebraska home, they should be able to do so without being treated as legal strangers.” Some students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln hope the lawsuit challenges Nebraska’s leaders to reconsider their views on such social issues. “The ACLU lawsuit is good and timely,” said Cameron Wilson, a sophomore chemical engineering major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “I hope it puts pressure on the state to change the law and puts pressure on Pete Ricketts to change his stance or at least have to publicly articulate why he doesn’t support same sex marriage. I don’t think he’ll make a very good case.”

An update on a previous post: In Ireland, the BBC reports that a bull branded gay, has been saved from the slaughterhouse by charity donations, including £5,000 from Sam Simon, co-creator of the Simpsons. Benjy, from County Mayo, Ireland, was destined for the abattoir after showing more interest in breeding with other bulls than cows. Gay and animal rights campaigners launched a joint online campaign to save Benjy. It went viral. Homosexual behaviour has been observed in 1,500 animal species. Benjy's story first came to light when his owner mentioned to friend and local journalist, Joanna McNicholas, that Benjy was not fulfilling his farm role, and would have to be reluctantly sent for slaughter. Ms McNicholas said that, "He looks like a large lamb. He's very gentle and very quiet." After Benjy's plight appeared in the Connaught Telegraph, it was picked up by the Animal Rights Action Network (ARAN) in Ireland. The Gay UK, an online daily magazine for the gay community, launched a Crowdfunder campaign to raise £5,000 to buy Benjy and transport him to an animal sanctuary. In less than a week the campaign has raised over £9,000, including the surprise donation from Mr Simon on Tuesday morning. Mr Simon was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2012. He is vegan and has donated to several projects to rescue animals from cruelty. "All animals have a dire destiny in the meat trade, but to kill this bull because he's gay would've been a double tragedy," said Mr Simon in a statement. He said he was glad to help "make Benjy's fate a sanctuary rather than a sandwich." Benjy will now be transported from Ireland to Hillside Animal Sanctuary in Norwich, and the extra funding will be used to ensure his lifelong welfare, said John Carmody of ARAN. Ms McNicholas has not seen Benjy since the the campaign surpassed its target, but his owner reported that Benjy was "glowing" over the good news. According to Ms McNicholas, the challenge of dealing with gay bulls in farming is not widely talked about. The animals are seen as "no good" or "useless." Lions, penguins, and cheetahs have all been observed to exhibit homosexual behaviour. Bats are widely thought to be the animals with the highest rate of homosexuality among their male population.