Sunday, August 31, 2014

Thousands Attend Calgary Pride As Shell Canada Become First-Ever Oil Company To Sponsor Participation In Parade, Amid Protests Ultra-Anti-Gay World Congress Of Families Hears That "90-Percent Of Poverty" Could Be Eradicated Through Traditional Marriage, Berea Kentucky To Discuss Fairness Ordinance Prohibiting Discrimination Based On Sexual Orientation And Gender Identity, Seattle Attorney Instrumental In Demise Of U.S. Military Don't Ask Don't Tell Policy Is Killed While Cycling, Mississippian Jeff White Alleges Male Teacher At Church-Run School Sexually Abused Him In Attempt To Convert His Sexual Orientation

In Alberta, the Herald reports that an estimated crowd of 50,000 Calgarians - gay and straight; young and old - attended the city's 24th annual Pride Parade Sunday, easily exceeding the expectations of organizers and of previous records. “It’s absolutely amazing to see that many more people coming out,” said Steven Wright, president of Pride Calgary. “It’s exploded this year, it’s incredible. Hopefully we can keep the momentum going.” The parade, which began at noon along Stephen Avenue, featured 100 entries, including local businesses, community groups, sports teams, churches and politicians. Floats and costumes ranged from colourful to kinky, with no shortage of rainbow flags in sight. Wright said in a conservative city like Calgary, it felt good to see not only members of the LGBT community but plenty of straight allies and families. “I think it’s great they’re coming out and supporting the community and that’s what we want,” he said. “People understand who we are and they see, ‘Oh there’s nothing wrong with this.’” All three Progressive Conservative leadership candidates showed up, with Jim Prentice marching with the PC Youth of Alberta and Thomas Lukaszuk alongside Camp Fyrefly. Ric McIver did not march but attended after shifting around his schedule last minute, he said. Wildrose leader Danielle Smith, and NDP leadership candidates Rachel Notley and David Eggen were also there. Minister of Family and Community Safety Sandra Jansen gave a speech that touched on anti-bullying issues. “I will not rest until every student in this province who wants one gets a (gay-straight alliance) because they save lives,” she said. But James Demers, a transgender performer with the Fake Mustache drag kings troupe, pointed out that the gay-straight alliance bill put forth by Liberal MLA Kent Hehr was voted down in legislature. “I think it’s ironic that there are conservative politicians in the Pride Parade, marching here, that don’t actually support the gay community whatsoever,” he said. “Their practice in legislature doesn’t follow the lip service we get at these events.” The parade was followed up by song and dance numbers, DJ sets, bouncy castles, food trucks and a beer garden at Shaw Millenium Park. Amanda Bezanson, 32, and her baby girl were two of the many first-timers joining in the festivities. “I just want to get her saturated in being able to be who you are,” said Bezanson. Curtis Dell, 39, who was at the parade with his longtime boyfriend, said it was the first year his parents came with him. “It was pretty cool, I think it’s good for them to see the families and parents with their gay children.” Longtime Pride-goer 52-year-old David Stewart commended the Calgary event for how far it’s come. “It’s grown leaps and bounds,” said Stewart. “The thing that impressed me was to see the police presence, it’s triple what it was.” Andy Buck, LGBTQ liaison officer with the Calgary police, said the larger contingent was to show support to the community as well as gay members in the force. Wright and several attendees said in the future they’d like to see an even bigger turnout and more corporate support; this year, Shell became the first oil and gas company to sponsor the event.

In Australia, 90-percent of poverty could be solved through the affirmation of marriage between a man and woman, a contentious conference in Melbourne has heard. According to the Age, a day after state and federal Liberal MPs pulled out of the World Congress of Families in the face of a political backlash, U.S. campaigner Larry Jacobs added to the controversy surrounding the event by claiming poverty could be reduced if only children were raised in traditional families. "We have to find the truth, and the truth says that statistically there is no better place for a child to be," said Mr Jacobs, the congress' managing director, and an ardent supporter of Russia's anti-gay laws. "90-percent of poverty can be solved simply through the affirmation of marriage." Mr Jacobs' address kicked off what was always going to be a divisive forum, with organisers forced to change venues four times in recent weeks in the face of planned protests against the extreme views of many of its speakers. On Friday, federal Families Minister Kevin Andrews and state Attorney-General Robert Clark - who were scheduled to give opening addresses at the conference - pulled out after learning it would be hosted at a new venue run by Catch The Fire Ministries, an ultra-conservative Christian group whose outspoken leader Daniel Nalliah once blamed the Black Saturday bushfires on Victoria's abortion laws. But despite the late withdrawals, dozens of protesters gathered at the entrance of the venue on Saturday, heckling guests as they entered. One protester managed to sneak in as a registered guest, storming the stage and pouring fake blood over herself in front of NSW MP, the Reverend Fred Nile and his wife. "We don't want your backyard abortions," she yelled, before being marched out. Guests at the event were visibly rattled by the breach and turned to prayer as the woman was ushered outside. But despite ongoing protests at the gate throughout the day, the rest of the conference was incident free. Controversial American breast cancer doctor Angela Lafranchi was one of the headline acts, pushing research suggesting a link between abortion and breast cancer. Reverend Nile, leader of the NSW Christian Democrats, called for more Christians to get involved in politics. And Paul Hanrahan, the executive director of Family Life International Australia, used his speech to suggest abortion was worse than terrorism in Syria. "Many people lately have been upset at the terrible atrocities being committed in the name of religion in Iraq and Syria and other places. Terrorists and terrorists' kids holding severed heads is certainly gruesome. Answer me this: how is it worse?" he asked. The decision by Mr Andrews and Mr Clark to pull out of the conference comes only three months before the Victorian election. On Friday, state Liberal MPs Bernie Finn and Jan Kronberg also withdrew, averting ongoing concerns from moderates within the Liberal Party and claims from Labor of "right-wing extremism". However, speakers at the conference hit out at the decision, with Mr Nalliah calling it "gutless" and Dr David van Gend from the Australian Marriage Forum saying it sent a bad message to the protesters who had sought to disrupt the event. "By not coming to this conference our MP friends have encouraged this feral mob to do it again," he said. Outside, protesters gathered throughout the day, some heckling attendees or calling them bigots as they tried to enter. A group of demonstrators called the Block Party Against Hate entertained the crowd in more peaceful fashion, with a burlesque show and a "rainbow" ice bucket challenge targeting Prime Minister Tony Abbott. U.S. cosmologist Lawrence Krauss came along to the protests in Hallam, saying that as a scientist he was happy to fight the people whose religious beliefs are so strong that they "invent ridiculous information." One protester, Sam Castro from the Whistleblowers, Activists and Citizens Alliance said she was hit in the back of the head by one of the World Congress of Families attendees on their way in Saturday morning.

In Kentucky, according to the Richmond Register, the city of Berea has scheduled two meetings to discuss a proposed anti-discrimination law that supporters called the “fairness ordinance.” The proposal would outlaw discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The council will review the measure September 2 but will not entertain discussion or public comments then. A public forum, tentatively set for the Russel Acton Folk Center, is scheduled for September 16. Council member Ronnie Terrill said the folk center may not be large enough to accommodate all those are likely to attend and suggested it take place at a local gymnasium. City Administrator Randy Stone said the ordinance could be up for a second reading as early as October 2. Last month, the Berea Human Rights Commission (BHRC) revealed it has fielded four complaints of discrimination, but it has not investigated them because it lacks a local ordinance giving it legal authority. Under the provisions of the proposed ordinance, the city would appoint a human rights investigator to probe complaints of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Complaints about discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, familial status or physical disability would be referred to the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights, according to the proposal. Alleged violators would be served with a complaint by certified mail. If the matter is not settled, defendants would be required to appear before the local human rights panel for a formal hearing. The anti-discrimination ordinance also would establish penalties for violations. For a first or second offense, the civil penalty would range between $100 to $250. Upon a third offense, the penalty would range from $250 to $500. If alleged violators failed to pay penalties, the city administrator would be directed to take action to recover damages, including taking alleged violators to court. Respondents would have the right to appeal a rights commission order in circuit court.

In Washington state, a Seattle attorney, known for her commitment to civil rights and social justice, was killed Friday while riding her bike near 2nd Avenue and University Street in downtown Seattle. An ACLU spokesperson said the victim, Sher Kung, worked as a Legal Fellow for ACLU of Washington in 2009-10. Kung worked on a high-profile case involving Major Margaret Witt, challenging the Air Force's dismissal of Witt because of her sexual orientation. The victory in that case helped pave the way for the demise of the military's Don't Ask Don't Tell, according to the ACLU. Friday night, Kung's friends along with complete strangers mourned the loss. The driver of a box truck struck Kung when he turned left onto University from 2nd Avenue, according to police. "All you heard was a bang and the next thing you know the biker was face down on the street," said Daniel George, witness. "It was a green light for the trucker and the biker. The biker probably assumed it was ok to go," said a witness. Police have talked to the driver, a man in his 40s. Police say there were no signs of drugs or alcohol. He was cooperative and clearly distraught. "The bikes have the right of way to go straight, even if you are making a left turn and are on the left side. So you have to be clear the turn before you make it," said Detective Patrick Michaud, Seattle Police Department. After many years of complaints from bike organizations, the city is about to make changes on 2nd Avenue in 10 days. SDOT is installing a separated, protected bike lane and a special bicycle signal to prevent this kind of accident.

In Mississippi, a man has filed a complaint alleging that a male teacher at a church-run school sexually abused him in an attempt to change his sexual orientation from homosexuality. Jeff White, 32, said he realized he had a duty to stand up against people who harmed him in the 1990s because such efforts still hurt others. The Washington Blade reported that White told it in an interview that a teacher at Bethel Baptist School in Walls when he was a student there repeatedly forced him to have oral and anal sex for three years. White said the teacher scheduled an appointment each Wednesday for the sexual abuse to occur. His parents enrolled him in the school when he was 14 and in the seventh grade. "He would rape me because I was gay and because it would make me hate men and make me change," White said. White is now executive director of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Rainbow Center, which is the first LGBT center in Mississippi, The Advocate reports. The San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights helped White file the complaint with the DeSoto County Sheriff's Department, The Memphis Commercial Appeal reported. The center released his statement. Sheriff's department spokesman Dick Hackett confirmed that a complaint was filed last week against Bethel Baptist Church in Walls. He said he can only say it's being investigated. Church spokesperson Josh Carlisle said Friday the church knows there's an investigation and intends to cooperate.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Brazil Presidential Frontrunner Dilma Rousseff Walks Back Liberal Social Policy After Dropping Reference To Same Sex Marriage, In A First Italian Court Allows Same Sex Couple To Adopt Stepchild, Hundreds Paid To Tribute To Murdered Marriage Equality Activist Kelly Phillips, Famed San Francisco Drag Performer Arturo Galster Dead At 54, Ten Years After Decision Rejecting Formation Of Gay-Straight Alliance Another Push By Proponents In Lubbock Texas, Michael Sam Cut By St Louis Rams But May Yet Find Place On Another Team's Roster

In Brazil, surprise package Marina Silva, whom polls suggest could oust incumbent Dilma Rousseff in October presidential elections, rowed back on liberal social policy Saturday after dropping a program reference to same sex marriage. According to AFP, Silva, an ecologist and evangelical Christian who once served for the ruling Workers Party as environment minister, holds conservative opinions on abortion as well as gay marriage but says she backs civil unions for same sex couples. Friday, her campaign team had brought out a detailed plan should she, as latest polls suggest, oust Rousseff, whom polls show her as defeating in a likely October 26 run-off. The program initially contained, in a chapter entitled citizenship and identities, a direct pledge to "back proposals defending civil marriage" but her team Saturday sent out a communication saying "clarification" was required. The new version reads that Silva will "defend rights relating to civil unions between same sex couples." Civil unions bestow less rights than marriage -- for instance, a surviving partner does not enjoy rights of estate inheritance. The wording was amended as Silva, the daughter of rubber tappers who only learned to write in her teens and wants to become in her words Brazil's first "poor, black" president, visited Rio's Rocinha slum accompanied by former soccer star and would-be Rio senator Romario. "The text (initially) published was not the text which had been discussed," Silva explained, adding it had been sent back to correct the "mistake." Her team blamed an "editorial error." Silva's program indicates she will defend the rights of homosexuals and transgender people, many of whom suffer often violent persecution in Brazil. She also stressed that, despite her strong religious background (she received a Catholic education from nun) she backed a lay state. "We are committed to the defense of the lay state, defence of personal freedom and the respect of religious freedom. The lay state is there to defend the interests of all, the interests of those who believe or do not, independent of their social standing or sexual orientation."

In Italy, the Local reports that a woman whose partner gave birth has been allowed to adopt the child in the first case of stepchild adoption involving a same sex couple. It's been described by a rights group as an historic step for Italy. The five-year-old is the daughter of one of the two partners, who were married abroad. It is the first case of a “step-child” adoption involving a gay or lesbian couple in Italy. The girl was born after her biological mother underwent fertility treatment in another European country and has since been raised by the pair at their home in Rome. The two mothers have shared the care and upbringing of the child “with excellent results” and have provided her with “a solid emotional foundation," Maria Antonia Pili, the Pordenone-based lawyer involved in the case was quoted in the newspaper as saying. Although adoption by gay and lesbian couples is illegal in Italy, a stepchild adoption law for same sex couples forms part of a draft bill on civil unions by Matteo Renz’s government. In this case, the non-biological parent was allowed to adopt the child due to a clause in Article 44 of Italy’s adoption law of 1983, which prioritises “the best interest of the child in order to maintain the emotional relationship and cohabi-tation with the ‘social’ parent,” Pili added, such as the person who has raised the child other than the biological parent. “This particular article of adoption law does not discriminate between heterosexual and homosexual parents,” she said The court ruling was described as an “historic step for our country” by the gay rights group, Mario Mieli Society for Gay Culture. “We would like to send our very best wishes to the Rome couple who, while aware of the legal risks, chose to claim their rights, and the rights of their child, in Italy,” Andrea Maccarrone, the organization’s president, said in a statement. “Stepchild adoption for gay couples is part of the draft civil union bill by Renzi’s government, which we expect to soon be made State law,” he added. “We applaud the court which, with this ruling, has anticipated the law and recognized that this child, born to a gay cou-ple, has the same rights as any other child.”

In Minnesota, the Star Tribune reports that hundreds gathered in Minneapolis on Thursday evening in a public remembrance for Kelly Phillips, the slain Boston Science executive who had fought for marriage equality for gays and lesbians. The man being sought in Phillips’ killing, Lyle “Ty” Hoffman, was not publicly mentioned during the service. Instead, friends and others spoke of the loss of a beloved, humble and high-caliber man known for his generosity, charisma and infectious smile. His funeral was in his hometown of Mason City, Iowa, on August 16. This service was for his friends, relatives and co-workers in Minnesota, as well as his parents, Jim and Judy Phillips, and others who came up from Iowa. “It’s nearly impossible to describe the impact he had on us individually and as a collective group,” said a friend, Sarah K. Hays. Phillips, 48, was vice president and chief counsel for Worldwide Businesses at Boston Scientific in Minneapolis, a global developer, manufacturer and marketer of medical devices. He was shot three times outside an Arden Hills gas station on August 11, allegedly by Hoffman, his former lover and business partner in the nightclub Lush. Hoffman has been charged in the slaying. Thursday evening, the service at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Minneapolis included elected and corporate leaders, such as the chief compliance officer from Boston Scientific, where Phillips was also active in an employees’ group that promoted equality. U.S. Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minnesota), and Richard Carlbom, chair of Minnesotans United’s campaign for same sex marriage equality, delivered eulogies that spoke of Phillips’ political activism, social work and charitable contributions. He was long an activist for the LGBT community. Phillips and his fiancé, Nathon Bailey, who attended Thursday’s service, were to be married Saturday. Among Phillips’ other contributions were buying and restoring a historic office building near downtown Minneapolis and developing it into commercial and residential spaces. He had volunteered in the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association, too. In early August, Hays told mourners, a group of friends had gathered at the couple’s new house. Phillips talked about the future. “He described a snowy winter day that friends and family would gather in front of the fire, drink wine, make food, bake cookies, have a sauna,” she said. “He spoke of this day in the future with such detail that he didn’t see it as a possibility, he knew it was a certainty.” The lights dimmed inside the church at the ceremony’s end, and the Rev. Roger Franzen lit a single candle to symbolize Phillips’ life. That candle was used to begin a chain reaction among mourners, each holding and lighting a candle.

In California, Arturo Galster, a popular star of San Francisco's drag performance scene, died Monday at California Pacific Medical Center Davies Campus of as-yet-unknown causes. Widely acclaimed for his appearances as country superstar Patsy Cline - on film and in plays and club appearances throughout the United States and in London and Tokyo - Mr. Galster died two days after receiving a head injury during what his family described only as "an incident" in Dolores Park. He was 55. "I feel a bit of San Francisco theater history has been ripped from my heart," impresario Marc Huestis posted, among the many tributes that erupted online. Born Arthur Francis Galster on May 7, 1959, Mr. Galster was raised in Philadelphia, where he began performing in musicals while in high school. He moved to the Bay Area in 1978 and enrolled at the San Francisco Art Institute, which he attended for four years. By the early '80s, Mr. Galster was a rising star in the city's drag cabaret and theater world, a leader in what's been described as a new wave of ironic camp performance. Besides his iconic cabaret work as Patsy Cline - which he repeated in national and international tours with a tribute band called the Memphis G-Spots throughout the '80s and in the 1999 cult classic drag film Virtue II - he created tribute performances to Marlene Dietrich and to Chet Baker, in the guise of the jazz musician's fictitious widow, Chesty Baker. In 1986, he moved to Japan for four years, where he studied Japanese and traditional kyogen and kabuki theatre. In recent years he was an active participant in hula studies and supporter of the preservation of traditional Hawaiian culture, as well as an enthusiastic Airbnb host. Besides his cabaret work, Mr. Galster appeared in many plays, musicals and revues, including the oft-revived Christmas With the Crawfords, Dirty Little Show Tunes, Naked Boys Singing, Simply Stunning: The Doris Fish Story and Hedwig and the Angry Inch. He was most recently seen in this year's long-running Thrillpeddlers revival of the Cockettes' Pearls Over Shanghai. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the circumstances surrounding his death and its immediate cause remained unclear at press time, but friends and family said there was no indication that a hate crime was involved. Mr. Galster is survived by five brothers and three sisters - Rod, Gerry, Rick, Joseph, Greg and Miriam Galster and Helen Elliott and Cate Fetterman - as well as 17 nieces and nephews and 11 great-nieces and nephews. A public celebration of his life is planned for September 22 at the Castro Theatre, where Mr. Galster was a regular performer in Huestis' frequent drag tribute shows to camp and classic movies. The family will have a private memorial service in Philadelphia.

In Texas, according to the Avalanche-Journal, ten years ago, the Lubbock Independent School District denied a Gay-Straight Alliance group permission to meet at Lubbock High School. The decision, which made it all the way to federal court, seemed to hinge on appropriateness. Former school board President Mark Griffin said, “In an adult setting, at Texas Tech or some other place, it might have a completely different context and a different connotation. But not at a school district level, (where) we would have kids ranging from 12 to 17 on that campus.” Ten years later, the organization’s proponents argue that such teens need such a setting, as an increasing number of gays and lesbians come out in their teen years. “It’s social; it’s support; it’s education; it’s a safe place,” said Grace Rogers, PFLAG program co-chair, mother of two gay children and a retired Coronado High School teacher. Now the group wants to try again to, as Rogers equated it, “come out of the closet” and get an okay from the school district. “There are things in life that are not necessarily appropriate for a school setting,” former LISD Deputy Superintendent Fred Hardin told the Avalanche-Journal in 2004 after U.S. Judge Sam Cummings deemed the district had acted legally. Lambda Legal, a national gay civil rights organization, had sued the district the previous July on behalf of students who said their rights and federal law had been violated by denying their requests to meet and post fliers on campus, according to A-J Media archives. That was then. With the legalization of gay marriage gaining ground in the U.S. and kids coming out as gay earlier than ever before — according to studies by Avert, an international AIDS and HIV charity, and an article in Science Daily, the average age is 16 — the Lubbock chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians And Gays plans to approach the administration about allowing students to form Gay-Straight Alliances at the high schools. Texas Tech Gay-Straight Alliance Vice President Hannah Skillman described the organization as a “safe haven,” adding, “It’s just a fun place to get kids together that have the same interests and may not find each other otherwise." PFLAG President Tony Thornton, who served on a national diversity committee from 2010-12, was quick to point out a common misconception. “I think people need to understand the purpose,” he said. “It has nothing to do with describing or talking or encouraging sex. It is about a safe place that students can go to regardless of their differences and feel safe and maybe share stories about how you talked to your mother.” When Gay-Straight Alliance members do discuss sex at meetings, at least at the college level, it usually has to do with safe sex and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. Other discussions center around counseling for domestic violence and political issues affecting the LGBT community. “High school students, that’s when they kind of start to explore their sexuality. And by explore it, we’re certainly not going to say, ‘Have relationships and have intercourse,’ and all that kind of stuff,” Rogers said. “But how are you going to develop a healthy attitude about your sexuality when you’ve been told that your sexuality — because it’s not the majority — it’s wrong, that you’re just a mistake?” Skillman, a junior at Tech, had no problem coming out as a lesbian to her friends when she was in high school, but she realizes not all gay teenagers have it easy. A Gay-Straight Alliance at that level could make them feel more comfortable and provide support they may not get elsewhere. “If they had that sort of community that we have, it probably would’ve been helpful for them,” Skillman said. “I would have enjoyed having it. It would have just been fun to have more gay friends.” Dakota Newton, a recent Lubbock High School graduate and granddaughter of a homosexual couple, said she’d be in favor of the idea and doesn’t see a difference between a Gay-Straight Alliance and other student groups that meet on campus. An organization that doesn’t interfere with school work and isn’t exclusive should be accepted, she said. “I think they should just have a place they can talk,” she said of gay students. “It’s just different for them socially. They have a right to feel comfortable.” Thornton placed an emphasis on the second word in the name to further clarify the purpose. “It’s Gay-Straight Alliance. It’s not a gay club. It’s a group for support more than anything.” Newton, who is straight, said she would join. The national dialogue on LGBT rights has changed in the last 10 years. So has LISD. Rogers said she hopes to get the conversation started with the district sometime this fall. Under former Superintendent Karen Garza, PFLAG was permitted to provide its brochures, which included a list of support services, to the high schools to distribute as the staff deemed appropriate, Rogers said. In regard to a Gay-Straight Alliance, the plan is to ask the question, “Would you consider this now?” Tuesday, Superintendent Berhl Robertson Jr. said, “We haven’t had a request for a meeting from this particular group, but we would be willing to meet with them at any point in time. District policy allows for any non-curriculum-related student groups to meet on school premises during non-instructional time.” Rogers said one reason she’s heard people give for not supporting a group like a Gay-Straight Alliance is the Bible. “I used to tell my students in my government class when we got to this subject, there’d always be somebody — and I’d treat them very respectfully — ‘Mrs. Rogers, what about what it says in the Bible?’ And I’d say, ‘Whatever you want to believe that the Bible says is fine, but we don’t teach the Bible in my classroom. We teach the Constitution. Now, find me something in the Constitution where it says that gay people should be treated lesser than, and we’ll have a discussion about that,’” she said. LISD school board member Mario Ybarra said he would be in favor of allowing Gay-Straight Alliances to meet at the high schools. “I believe that the school system and the schools are there for our children, the kids, to be educated and to have a place — a safe, secure place to be. If the kids want to voice and be a part of a group, as long as it’s not violent, I’m in support of it,” he said. “They have freedom of speech and freedom to portray what they believe in as (we) all do in the United States. I believe that they should have equal opportunity,” adding, “We’re in a different environment now — a different world now. Those issues are popping up everywhere. It’s something we don’t need to hide.” Trustee James Arnold said, “On the surface, I’m against it without knowing anything about it. They’re free to sign up and follow the rules and present whatever they want to. It doesn’t mean I have to agree with it.” Trustees Dan Pope and Vernita Woods-Holmes said they would need to hear PFLAG’s presentation and have more information before arriving at a decision. “We have policy about student organizations,” Pope said. “I would hope that regardless of who that organization is we’ll follow our policy — whether it’s a Boy Scout troop or a church or whatever group that wants to use our buildings.”

Defensive end Michael Sam’s dream of becoming the first openly gay player in the National Football League (NFL) was put on hold on Saturday when he failed to make the St. Louis Rams’ 53-man roster for the 2014 regular season. Reuters reports that the 24-year-old, a standout with the University of Missouri who had announced he was gay in February, was one of 22 players waived in the final cuts by the Rams to reach the roster limit before Saturday’s 4:00 pm ET deadline. Sam, who became the first openly gay player to be selected in an NFL Draft when he was taken in the seventh round by the Rams in May, had said he would be watching the Missouri Tigers take on South Dakota State in Columbia, Missouri when the final roster moves were made. As he is now on waivers, he can be claimed by any team but could join the Rams as part of a 10-player practice squad if he clears waivers. “All my focus has been on playing and trying to make the team,” Sam had told reporters when the Rams introduced their draft selections three months ago. “I’m determined to be great. I’m determined to make this team. I have every confidence in myself that I’ll make this team.” Sam, the co-defensive player of the year in the Southeastern Conference, had been vying with undrafted Ethan Westbrooks during the pre-season for the last of nine defensive line spots with the Rams. Westbrooks, who made the roster on Saturday, ended up with 12 tackles and two sacks in four preseason games while Sam had 11 tackles and a team-leading three sacks. “I believe (Sam) can play in this league, yes. As can some of the other guys on this team that had good preseasons,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said after his team ended the preseason with a 14-13 loss to the Dolphins in Miami. Fisher was scheduled to hold a news conference later on Saturday to discuss the team’s final roster moves. St. Louis went into the preseason training camp with eight defensive linemen already inked in on the roster: Robert Quinn, Chris Long, Michael Brockers, Kendall Langford, William Hayes, Eugene Sims, Alex Carrington and first-round pick Aaron Donald.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Ottawa's Opera Lyra Fires Singer Valerian Ruminski After He Ridiculed Man On Facebook For Painting Fingernails, Young Gay Rights Activist Withdraws Legal Challenge To Jamaica's Archaic Anti-Sodomy Law Citing Fear Of Violent Backlash, Russia's Federal Security Service Raids Home Of Blogger Accusing Him Of Creating "Gay Terrorist Underworld," Columbia Constitutional Court Grants Gay And Lesbian Couples Adoption Rights, Australian Catholic Newspaper Refuses To Run Ad For Event For Former Irish President Mary McAlesse Over Her Support For Gay Rights, Florida Supreme Court To Hear Appeal To Ruling Finding State Same Sex Marriage Ban Unconstitutional, Challenge To Nevada Ban On Same Sex Marriage To Be Heard By Federal Appeals Court September 8, Video Documenting Family Of Daniel Ashley Pierce's Violent Anti-Gay Intervention Goes Viral While GoFundMe Site Raises Over $56,000 In One Day For Disowned 20-Year-Old's Living Expenses

In Canada, opera singer Valerian Ruminski has been fired from an upcoming Opera Lyra production in Ottawa after mocking a man on Facebook for decorating his fingernails over the weekend. Ruminski posted a photo of a man on an OC Transpo bus with jewel-encrusted fingernails, saying "Look at the stupid nails this moron had on while taking a bus in Ottawa. I guess he needs diamond-studded nails to make up for his face." In further posts that were screencapped and shared on social media, the American bass singer said the man was "parading his choices" and "people with issues do things to get noticed." According to the CBC, the incident happened during Capital Pride celebrations in Ottawa and involved Samnang Tep, who performs as drag queen Miss Jade London. "I almost broke down in tears to be honest, I didn't think someone would be that hurtful on social media — especially from a celebrity," he said. "I felt so hurt, I felt violated, having my picture taken without my knowledge and then being bashed about it… being basically called ugly, having my nails compensate for that, being called a stupid moron, nobody deserves to hear that especially if it's not being told to their face." Opera Lyra general director Jeep Jeffries said Ruminiski has been "relieved" of his "small but important" role in Puccini’s Tosca in September. "I was disappointed and appalled, to be honest," he said in an interview on CBC Radio’s All in a Day. Ruminski has since posted a statement on his website, saying he’s had many gay teachers and contemporaries throughout his career and that complaining about the world on Facebook makes him feel better. "I sat on a bus last week and I saw a man with 10 diamonds glued to his fingernails. I thought it was a bit over the top. I did not know who he was, To me it did not matter if he was gay or straight. I simply objected to the flambouyance (sic) and unneccessary accoutrements on his fingers," the statement says. "I didn’t take the time to pause and think and consider that we are all special and that this person was different in a way that was unique to everyone else around us. I am an opera singer. He, as I learned, is a drag queen. The two of us are not too far apart, I guess. I am sorry I didn’t say hello before flash judging him. Certainly I regret the backlash and hullabaloo after my posting. I never bashed him for his sexuality. I never would have." Peter Strummer, who has performed the role Ruminski was to portray, has been hired to fill his place. Jeffries said he’d have to be convinced Ruminski had learned from the incident before he’d consider hiring him again.

In Jamaica, the Associated Press reports that a young gay rights activist who brought an unprecedented legal challenge to the Caribbean island’s anti-sodomy law has withdrawn the claim after growing fearful about violent backlashes, advocacy groups and colleagues said Friday. Last year, Javed Jaghai made headlines after initiating a constitutional court challenge to Jamaica’s 1864 law that bans sex between men. He argued that the anti-sodomy law fuels homophobia and violates a charter of human rights adopted in 2011 that guarantees people the right to privacy. But in an affidavit, Jaghai said he has been “threatened enough times to know that I am vulnerable.” The 25-year-old man believes his “loved ones are under threat” by intolerant people and the drawn-out court challenge is causing too much stress and anxiety. “Though the cause and the case are noble, I am no longer willing to gamble with my life or the lives of my parents and siblings,” Jaghai wrote in a statement withdrawing his Supreme Court claim. Jamaica’s rarely used anti-sodomy law bans anal sex and sets a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and hard labour. Anything interpreted as “gross indecency” between men can be punished by two years in prison. Janet Burak of New York-based advocacy group AIDS-Free World said the fear that pushed Jaghai to end his court challenge is an all-too familiar fear among the LGBT community in Jamaica. It’s “the same fear that keeps gay men in Jamaica underground, away from effective HIV testing, prevention treatment, care and support interventions,” she said in a statement. When Jaghai initiated the legal challenge last year, several church pastors led crowded revival meetings in Jamaica’s two biggest cities to oppose overturning the anti-sodomy law. Many Jamaicans consider homosexuality to be wrong, but insist violence against gays is blown out of proportion by activists. But anti-gay epithets are heard frequently and attacks on LGBT Jamaicans or people perceived to be gay do occur from time to time. Last year, a transgender teen named Dwayne Jones was murdered by a mob at a crowded street dance and his slaying remains unsolved. Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller vowed to put the anti-sodomy law to a “conscience vote” in Parliament during the lead-up to 2011 elections but nothing has been accomplished. J-FLAG, Jamaica’s biggest gay rights group, says Jaghai’s courage has inspired other young homosexuals in Jamaica who are not willing to live in the shadows. “Javed has made history and will forever remain a hero to the Jamaican LGBT community,” said activist Brian-Paul Welsh.

The Moscow Times reports that a blogger in the Khabarovsk region in Russia's Far East says the Federal Security Service (FSB) has accused him of creating a "gay terrorist underworld" in a bid to bring about regime change, regional news website reported. Unidentified investigators came to Andrei Marchenko's home Thursday and "turned the apartment inside out" searching for U.S. dollars, extremist materials and drugs, Marchenko told "They were very aggressive, and one investigator said immediately that I'd have to go with them after the raid; he was apparently very confident that they'd find something. Judging by the two video cameras [they had with them], they were expecting to find millions of dollars, banned books and a bunch of underage boys," Marchenko was cited as saying. The blogger, who has expressed support on his LiveJournal blog for both gay rights and the Kiev government currently battling a pro-Russian insurgency, said he was first summoned to the FSB's offices a week ago and accused of creating a "gay terrorist underworld" with a local LGBT activist, Alexander Yermoshkin, with the aim of fomenting an "Orange Revolution" in Khabarovsk. The Orange Revolution was a series of massive public rallies protesting election rigging in Ukraine in 2004 that brought about new elections and a different, pro-Western president. Investigators also told Marchenko that it was his posts on social networks in support of Kiev against the separatists that had attracted their attention, he said. On Thursday, he posted several photos of benches painted in the colors of the Ukrainian flag in Khabarovsk, with the caption: "Politically incorrect benches in a courtyard in Khabarovsk. I'm curious, is the anti-extremism department already searching for those who painted them?" Shortly after that post, a new message appeared: "This is Andrei's friend writing at his request. A search of his apartment was conducted this evening. They're accusing him of extremism and of supporting Ukraine," the message read. During the search at his home, four computers were confiscated, along with five phones, several USB drives, hard drives and a modem, leaving him without means of communication at home, the blogger told Marchenko said he was told to return for questioning on Friday, and that investigators were seeking to charge him with public incitement of hatred. The charge carries a maximum punishment of four years behind bars. There has been no confirmation from the FSB on any case against Marchenko.

Columbia has taken a major step in recognizing the rights of same sex couples, after the country's leading court granted limited adoption rights to gay and lesbian couples. The Constitutional Court ruled on Thursday that a lesbian woman, could adopt her long-time partner's daughter, since the child in question was the biological child of one of the two partners. The court said Ana Leiderman, who underwent artificial insemination to conceive her daughter, and raised her with Veronica Botero, had the right to request an adoption by her partner regardless of sex. The Colombian Family Well-being Institute had earlier rejected Botero's adoption application. "The court considered that the discriminatory criterion the administrative authority had used to deny the adoption procedure ... was unacceptable in this case, which involves a consensual adoption in which the biological father or mother consents to an adoption by his or her permanent partner," magistrate Luis Ernesto Vargas said. However, the ruling does not not allow gay couples to adopt if neither person is the child's biological parent, and even couples covered by the ruling will have to meet certain conditions, such as having lived together for at least two years. But legal experts said it could indicate a willingness by the high court to extend adoption rights to all same sex couples, and sets a precedent for all similar cases in the South American country. The verdict comes after a number of gay-friendly rulings in Colombia and other parts of Latin America. The decison also comes on the heels of Cecilia Alvarez, the commerce minister, speaking publicly about her lesbian relationship with fellow cabinet member Gina Parody. During an interview on local radio station RCN, Alvarez dismissed a question on the implications of having a lesbian couple in President Juan Manuel Santos's government. "I give thanks to the president because he has never, ever gotten involved in personal issues. Instead he has seen our professional qualities," Alvarez said.

A Catholic newspaper based in Australia has refused to place an advertisement for an event where former Irish President Mary McAleese is speaking due to her views on homosexuality and the ordination of women. The Irish Independent reports that Ms McAleese is due to speak at a Catholic think-tank event called ‘Catalyst for Renewal’ in Sydney next week. But a Catholic newspaper based in Sydney, Catholic Weekly, has refused to run an ad for the event due to Ms McAleese’s involvement. The paper’s editor Peter Rosengren told the Irish Echo newspaper that her attendance placed him in a difficult position. “She is reported as being in favour of ordination of women as Catholic priests and in favour of homosexuality - whatever that actually means. No matter how admirable a person she is it places me in some difficulty as editor of the Catholic Weekly.” However he added that neither he nor the Church “see homosexuality as a sin," adding that, “The problem is that the Church believes God made man and woman equally in the image and likeness of God’s very self - therefore gender actually has meaning. Homosexuality and other identifications that people may use to describe themselves such as bisexual, transgendered and so on … may obscure for people the meaning of their lives, but the dividing line for the Church is that homosexual acts definitely do. Having previously employed an openly same sex attracted columnist on an official Catholic newspaper I feel quite entitled to make these observations." Mr Rosengren said on the ordination of women: “I think it’s quite clear that men got the consolation prize with the priesthood - only a woman could be the mother of God. As a married man in the … Catholic Church, I do not have the right to be ordained either, but I don’t campaign on it as a matter of equality.” The newspaper has a readership of about 50,000 people.

In Florida, according to the Tallahassee Democrat, the state's ban on same sex marriage is now in the hands of the state's highest court after an appeals court asked that the justices resolve the controversial prohibition. The request Wednesday from the 2nd District Court of Appeal for the first time puts the Florida Supreme Court in the position of deciding whether to take up the issue after five recent state and federal court decisions found that the voter-approved prohibition against same sex marriage is unconstitutional. The appeals court made the request in a 10-3 ruling in a case involving the divorce of Mariama Monique Changamire Shaw and Keiba Lynn Shaw, a lesbian couple married in Massachusetts in 2010. Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Laurel Lee refused to grant the couple a divorce because state law bans same sex marriages. The couple appealed Lee's ruling and asked the 2nd District Court of Appeal to "pass through" the case to the Supreme Court. A panel of the appellate court originally refused but, in an unusual twist, the full court revisited the case, resulting in Wednesday's ruling. It is unknown whether the Supreme Court will agree to take up the case. The issue is whether Florida's ban on same sex marriage and the prohibition on recognizing such marriages "unconstitutionally limits various constitutional guaranties including full faith and credit, access to courts, equal protection and the right to travel," the majority wrote in the 11-page ruling. Because the pair could not get a divorce in the lower court, their only options would be to go to the Supreme Court or establish residency in a state that recognizes same sex marriages, the majority wrote. A Broward County judge recently struck down the same sex marriage ban in another divorce case but put the ruling on hold until appeals are complete in two other lawsuits. The 2nd District Court of Appeal's decision to revisit the pass-through to the Supreme Court came after the Broward ruling. "Others similarly situated would face the same challenge of establishing residence elsewhere. Should the district courts disagree, couples in different districts will receive disparate treatment until the issue is settled by the Florida Supreme Court. In any event, because of the constitutional implications the issue will likely be addressed by the Florida Supreme Court regardless of any decision we might make," the judges wrote. But in a dissent, Judge Chris Altenbernd, joined by two other judges, argued that the divorce case is much narrower. "It is important to understand that the issue in this case is not whether Florida is constitutionally compelled to marry same sex couples," Altenbernd wrote. Instead, the case revolves around whether same sex couples are being denied the constitutionally-guaranteed right to access the courts, Altenbernd wrote. But he rejected the majority's position that the administration of justice would be negatively impacted unless the case was rushed to the Supreme Court. Such cases should only be passed through if there is a level of statewide urgency, he wrote. "Given that same sex marriages are a recent development in other states, I am not convinced that Florida's courts will be clogged in the next three years with out-of-state same sex couples seeking dissolution," Altenbernd wrote. "Although the issue on appeal is important to this couple, I am not convinced that the order on appeal represents an issue that is ripe to be treated as one of great public importance." Lawyers for the Tampa couple had also notified Attorney General Pam Bondi, who is defending the law in other cases, about the Shaw case, but Bondi's office never responded, Altenbernd noted. "Given that the circuit court dismissed the case without elaboration and that no one has yet appeared as a party to fulfill the function of an appellee, this issue does not seem to me to be one that this court cannot handle on appeal or that we should present to the Supreme Court as a matter ready for resolution," he wrote. But the dissent "oversimplifies the issue in this case and underestimates its public importance and the effect that delay will have on the proper administration of justice," the majority wrote. Bondi's office said Wednesday it is reviewing the appellate court decision. In the wake of a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision last year, circuit judges in Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties and a federal judge in Tallahassee have ruled against the state's same sex marriage ban. Bondi has asked that appeals in the Miami-Dade and Monroe cases be put on hold until the U.S. Supreme Court decides on similar cases. Gay rights advocates are hoping that the Florida Supreme Court will take up the Shaw case and send a signal to other appellate courts to also expedite their cases. "We believe this will have a ripple effect," said Stratton Pollitzer, deputy director of Equality Florida, which is involved in several of the lawsuits. The Supreme Court could consolidate all of the cases or separate the divorce cases from the ones in which gay couples sued clerks of court who refused to grant them marriage licenses. The Family Law Section of the Florida Bar and the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers filed briefs in the case "as a matter of family and matrimonial lawyers seeking finality and certainty in their area of practice," Pollitzer adding, "It seems as though there's a growing consensus that only the Supreme Court can fully resolve this issue. Ultimately, the central question is should Florida allow same sex couples to marry and will Florida honor our marriages performed in other states?" Ellen Ware, a lawyer representing Mariama Shaw, called Wednesday's decision "enormously significant" and, in many ways, an "easier case" than the other right-to-marriage cases. "It's easier because there is a crystal clear right that the parties have to access to the courts for the purpose of divorce and the state has an enormous burden to show why that should be restricted, and they're not going to be able to meet that burden," she said.

The Las Vegas Sun reports that a challenge to Nevada's ban on same sex marriage will be heard before a federal appeals court in San Francisco in ten days. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has scheduled arguments for Sevcik v. Sandoval at 1:00 pm on September 8, the same day the court will consider similar appeals from Hawaii and Idaho. Eight same sex couples who want to get married in Nevada are leading the challenge to the state's 2002 voter-approved ban. A federal judge ruled against the group in 2012, which led to the 9th Circuit Court challenge. A live video stream will be available on the "Live Oral Arguments Tab" of the Ninth Circuit's website. State bans on same sex marriages have been voided across the country since last summer, when the Supreme Court ordered the federal government to recognize state-approved gay marriages. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto have said they won't defend the ban when it goes before the federal appeals court. Gay and lesbian couples in the United States today can marry in 19 states and the District of Columbia.

In Georgia, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that when Daniel Ashley Pierce told his family in October, 2013 that he was gay, his stepmother seemed to be supportive, and his father had no response. All that changed Wednesday, when Pierce’s family attempted to stage a delayed intervention, berating the 20-year-old for “choosing” to be gay and demanding that he move out of the family’s home. But Pierce, who, according to his public Facebook page, is studying business administration at Georgia Highlands College in Rome, might have the last word, as a video he recorded of the confrontation has gone viral. The five-minute, profanity-laced video, originally posted by a friend of Pierce’s, has logged more than 2 million views, and a GoFundMe site set up to raise money for Pierce’s living expenses has raised over $56,000 in one day. On the video (available at the link), which doesn’t show faces, a conversation among Pierce and family members escalates into a physical altercation with screaming and profanity. In a Facebook posting about the incident, Pierce said, “What a day. I thought that waking up at 9:48 and being 15 mins late to work was going to be the biggest problem today. But I didn’t know that my biggest problem was going to be getting disowned and kicked out of my home of almost twenty years. To add insult to injury, my stepmother punched me in the face repeatedly with my grandmother cheering her along. I am still in complete shock and disbelief.” More than 21,000 comments have been left on the YouTube video of the confrontation. Thursday night, Pierce posted another note on Facebook: “Thank you for all of your support. I need some down time for myself and I am in a safe place.”

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Three Gay And Lesbian Couples Challenging Utah Same Sex Ban Ask U.S. Supreme Court To Hear State's Appeal Of Ruling Striking Down Law Defining Marriage As That Only Existing Between One Man And One Woman, Jonathan Lynn Sentenced To Two Years And Four Months For Spraying Six Patrons Of London Gay Bar With Liquid Believed To Be Ammonia, Newly Out Daniel Franzese Joins Cast Of HBO's Looking

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that for the three gay and lesbian couples who on Thursday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up Utah’s same sex marriage appeal, it’s no longer just about the state. Having won at the district court, and then the federal appeals court, the three plaintiff couples in Utah’s historic Kitchen v. Herbert lawsuit are ready to go to the nation’s high court and put it all on the line. Win here, and the couples would legalize same sex marriage throughout the country; lose and, Utah has said, the state would revert back to its "status quo" of marriage being strictly allowed between one man and one woman. "Today, our nation’s same sex couples and their children live in a country where they may be denied legal recognition as a family or may find their marriages invalidated simply by virtue of crossing a state line," according to the brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of Utah’s request that the court hear its case. "This court should grant the petition and hold that denying same sex couples the fundamental freedom to marry and to have their marriages recognized violates our nation’s cherished and essential constitutional guarantees." It’s not a question for the plaintiffs — Derek Kitchen and Moudi Sbeity; Kody Partridge and Laurie Wood; and Kate Call and Karen Archer. If they’re going to win, their attorneys said, it’s going to be all or nothing. "These couples and many others like them in Utah want nothing more, and nothing less, than to be able to marry the person they love and to have their marriages respected on an equal basis with other married couples in this country," said Peggy Tomsic, who, along with her firm Magleby and Greenwood, represents the three Utah couples. "This is one country, and we have only one Constitution. We hope the Supreme Court will review this case and affirm the 10th Circuit’s ruling that same sex couples have the same fundamental freedom to marry as others and that the law must treat their families equally." On Thursday, the couples filed a brief asking the nation’s high court to weigh in on the question of whether all citizens — gay, straight and otherwise — have a fundamental right to marry. Utah has contended that they don’t, and that states, and by extension, its citizens, have the right to define marriage as they wish. In Utah’s case, that means as a union between a man and a woman. In its petition to the high court, filed on August 5, Utah outlined why this state’s case would be the ideal one for the high court to take: because the court, which granted two stay requests from Utah, is familiar with the issues in this state; that a "majority" of Utah’s politicians are "united in defending Utah’s marriage laws"; and that "there is no need to let the issue percolate even more." The state also articulated the crux of its case: that marriage is an institution created to protect the welfare of children; and in affirming that the "freedom of choice to marry" supersedes state-imposed limitations, the country could be drawn down a slippery slope toward polygamy. "The harm in waiting is significant, regardless of which side prevails," Utah wrote. "Either thousands of couples are being denied their constitutional right to marry, or millions of voters are being disenfranchised of their fundamental right to retain the definition of marriage that has existed since before the People ratified the United States Constitution." Thursday’s filing by the plaintiffs is unusual in that they’ve already won in lower courts, but it’s a route lesbian and gay couples from Virginia and Oklahoma have also taken in recent weeks. Same sex marriage bans in Virginia and Oklahoma also have been found unconstitutional by federal appeals courts. Those states also have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take on their cases. In each case, the plaintiffs have echoed this desire to have the high court decide whether same sex couples have a "fundamental right to marriage," as has been found by the 10th and 4th Circuit Courts of Appeals. The U.S. Supreme Court is on summer break through October. At that point, the justices will reconvene and decide which — if any — same sex marriage cases the court will take. "As more and more courts affirm that same sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, it becomes harder to countenance the profound inequality in states that continue to deny that right to our nation’s gay and lesbian citizens," the plaintiffs’ brief stated. "Same sex couples in Utah cannot experience full equality until this court makes clear that the Constitution’s protection of their families does not evaporate when they cross state lines. Prolonging this uncertainty for same sex couples and their families harms them and disserves our nation." The plaintiffs’ argued that the nation’s nine justices should choose Utah’s case above all others because it is representative of so many others in the country; the lawsuit addresses the right to marry in Utah, as well as marriage recognition; the state has mounted a vigorous defense; all parties were found to have standing — or suffered harms as a result of the law they have challenged; and it was the first case in the nation in which a federal court judge overturned a state ban on same sex marriage for violating the 14th Amendment. For Utah, an appeal to the Supreme Court is its last chance to revive its ban on same sex marriage. U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby struck down Utah’s gay marriage ban last year in a historic decision that jump-started a slew of similar rulings. Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned key parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year, more than 79 cases asserting the right to marry for same sex couples have been brought in 32 states. Of those, 38 state and federal judges have ruled to toss bans on same sex unions. Of those, 38 state and federal judges have ruled to toss bans on same sex unions. Three lawsuits have made it to the Supreme Court, but experts expect more will be forthcoming.

The Guardian reports that in Britain, a man has been jailed after splashing a noxious liquid believed to be ammonia over six strangers in a "vile and violent" attack outside a nightclub. Jonathan Lynn, 29, threw the contents of a plastic bottle over a group of young gay friends in Vauxhall, in London. He previously pleaded guilty at Inner London crown court to causing the three men actual bodily harm outside the Lightbox nightclub on 8 June and possessing an offensive weapon, namely a noxious fluid. He also admitted splashing the liquid on a fourth man in the group and a female passer-by before he assaulted another man, who was sprayed with the fluid after Lynn stepped on his foot as he waited in a nightclub queue. Some of the victims were left with ulcers in their eyes and mouths as well as "significant" psychological problems, the court heard. Sentencing Lynn to two years and four months, Recorder David Etherington QC said: "I make this clear, this was a vile, violent, cowardly and disgraceful attack by you, but I do not find it was motivated by dislike or hate of people of homosexual orientation. You wrecked a number of people's lives. You decided to go out armed with a plastic bottle containing an unpleasant and, in my view, potentially dangerous noxious fluid." The court heard Lynn threw the liquid over male model Pariche Frith after the pair were involved in an argument outside Lightbox shortly before 5:00 am. Lynn had been standing with two women he did not know and claimed to Frith that one of them was his "bird", the hearing was told. After Frith stated he was gay, the pair exchanged words when the victim claimed he "could have the women anyway", which he later admitted was "arrogant", Judge Etherington said. As Frith walked away, Lynn called him back and splashed him with the contents of the bottle along with his three friends. A female passer-by, who witnessed the attack and described how two of the men were "doused" with liquid, was also hit in her eye with the fluid. Judge Etherington said Lynn's attack later on another man who was sprayed with the fluid in the nightclub queue was proof the defendant was "spoiling for trouble that night". The court heard that following the incident Frith suffered eye ulcers and had skin removed from his tongue which made it difficult to eat. "He didn't know if he was going to die or end up with no face," the judge said. The victim had also been prescribed antidepressants following the attack, the court heard. One of the victims did not seek medical treatment as he tried unsuccessfully to keep his sexuality a secret from his family, who he now feels have "disowned him", the judge said. Judge Etherington said he had ruled the attack was not homophobic following statements given by the two women standing with Lynn outside Lightbox. The women, who did not know Lynn, confirmed he had told Frith he "didn't care he was gay" during their argument, the judge said. "It doesn't excuse for a minute anything you did," he added. Judge Etherington said he viewed with "deep scepticism" Lynn's claim that he carried the liquid for his self-defence. "I think you took it out to use it if anyone … got in your face," he said. The court heard the contents of the bottle were not recovered and therefore could not be analysed, but Scotland Yard said the liquid used in the attacks was believed to be ammonia. Following the sentencing, Detective Chief Inspector William White said: "Lynn has never given an explanation as to why he did what he did that night or why he would go out armed with a corrosive liquid." Lynn, dressed in a light tee-shirt, with a beard and shaved head, had previously pleaded guilty to four counts of causing actual bodily harm, two counts of common assault and one count of possessing an offensive weapon. He committed the attack while out on licence after being jailed for seven years in 2009 for possession of cocaine with intent to supply, the court heard. He had also been sent to a youth offenders institute for 30 months for robbery in 2005. The court heard Lynn, of Worcester Park, south-west London, had problems with substance abuse and claimed he was drunk at the time of his attacks. His mother had recently died of bowel cancer and his father has a number of health problems, the hearing was told. Judge Etherington told Lynn he should consider how his "selfish and self indulgent" behaviour had "hurt the people who love you".

HBO's gay-themed dramedy Looking is bulking up its cast. Daniel Franzese, who co-starred in 2004's Mean Girls as Damian, and who came out publicly earlier this year in a letter written to that character, has boarded the 10-episode second season of Looking in a multi-episode arc, The Hollywood Reporter has learned exclusively. Franzese will play Eddie, a new love interest who works in the San Francisco nonprofit community. He is the latest cast addition to an ensemble that includes Jonathan Groff, Murray Bartlett, Frankie Alvarez and new series regulars Lauren Weedman, Russell Tovey and Raul Castillo. Production is currently underway in San Francisco. Looking is created by Michael Lannan, with executive producer/director Andrew Haigh and executive producer Sarah Condon. Franzese is repped by Stone Manners Salners and manager Gary Ousdahl at Advanced Management. Past credits include the great, late Party Down, Burn Notice, CSI, The Comeback and Yahoo's animated series Electric City. Looking is expected to return in 2015.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Little Caesars Pizza Sued For Discrimination For Failing To Provide Health Insurance Benefits To Legally Married Same Sex Spouses, Equality North Carolina Asks Governor McCrory To Announce Whether He Will Continue To Fight Legal Challenges To State Same Sex Marriage Ban, Chicago Gay Couple Removed From Cab For Kissing Files Lawsuit, Accused In London Anti-Gay Attack That Saw Club Patrons Sprayed With Acid Likely Sentenced To Jail Thursday

Reuters reports that a former trainee manager at Little Caesars pizza in California sued the company for discrimination on Wednesday, accusing the Detroit-based chain of denying employees health insurance benefits for their legally wed same sex spouses. The lawsuit was brought in state Superior Court in Orange County, regional headquarters for the nation's third-largest pizza chain, by Frank Bernard, 47, who said he quit his job after Little Caesars refused to extend coverage to his husband of six years. "I didn't want anything special, I just wanted the same benefits package as heterosexual couples," Bernard said at a news conference in Los Angeles. The lawsuit names Little Caesars Enterprises and its parent company, Ilitch Holdings, as defendants, accusing them of discriminating against Bernard on the basis of his sexual orientation, in violation of California law. It cites a letter Little Caesars presented Bernard explaining a benefits policy that defined "spouse" as "the one person to whom you are legally married under the laws of the state in which you reside, including common law spouse, and who is the opposite gender from you." The suit seeks unspecified monetary damages and a court order requiring the company to treat gay and straight married workers equally in providing employment benefits. Neither Little Caesars nor Ilitch Holdings responded to requests for comment on the case. Bernard and his partner were among some 18,000 gay and lesbian California couples who married in 2008 during a five-month window between a state Supreme Court decision legalizing same sex matrimony and passage of Proposition 8 banning it in November of that year. Those marriages were later upheld by the courts as legally recognized, and last June the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for gay marriages to resume in California for good, after Prop 8 was struck down as unconstitutional. Same sex marriage remains banned in Michigan under a voter-approved law there, though a federal judge has declared that measure unconstitutional in a case now under appeal. The Supreme Court ruled separately last year that same sex married couples were entitled to spousal benefits available under federal law, striking down provisions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. But that decision did not extend to benefits private companies provide to their employees. "With this lawsuit we look forward to expanding the employment rights and benefits for legally married same sex couples," Bernard's attorney, Gloria Allred, told reporters. Little Caesars opened its first outlet in Garden City, Michigan, in 1959. It ranked as the third-largest pizza chain behind Pizza Hut and Domino's, with 2012 sales of $2.9 billion, according to Nation's Restaurant News, an industry magazine.

In North Carolina, advocates with Equality NC asked Republican Gov. Pat McCrory to say whether he would continue to fight legal challenges to the state's ban on same sex marriage. According to the Asheville Citizen-Times, the group made three petitions drops at McCrory's offices across the state on Wednesday. It says it has more than 10,000 names of people who want the governor to stop defending the state's ban on same sex marriage. "Essentially today we are trying to find out where the governor stands on this," said Jen Jones, the group's spokesperson, outside the Governor's Western Office in Fletcher. "Whether he will continue to defend Amendment One, how he personally feels about Amendment One and, probably most important to constituents, whether he will spend taxpayer money to hire outside counsel to defend what has been considered an indefensible and unconstitutional law by the Fourth Circuit." April Riddle, the director of the Governor's Western Office in Fletcher, accepted the petitions and said McCrory would personally read them. Voters approved a constitutional ban on gay marriage in 2012. Federal courts have ruled similar bans in other states unconstitutional. McCrory's office said the issue of same sex marriage would ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. "As of now, North Carolina's marriage amendment remains in full force and effect," said McCrory spokesman Ryan Tronovitch. "To ensure that our laws remain in effect until the final Supreme Court ruling, we call on the Attorney General (Roy Cooper) to request a stay in North Carolina's pending cases." Cooper, a Democrat, is considering a run for governor in 2016. He has said his office would stop defending lawsuits brought against the state over Amendment One. Noelle Talley, a spokesperson for Cooper, said all of the cases have already been stayed.

In Illinois, a gay Chicago couple is continuing their fight against a cab company after they claim a driver tried to kick them out of his taxi for kissing in the backseat. Matthew McCrea and Steven White filed the lawsuit against Sun Taxi this week. Their original complaint, filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights in October, was dismissed because the department said it had no jurisdiction over corporate entities. Cabbie Allegedly Boots Gay Couple For Kissing "It's ludicrous to suggest that a cab company is not responsible for the discrimation enacted by its drivers," the couple's lawyer, Christopher Clark, said. "They should be liable under the law for the conduct of their agents." The suit claims the driver, who is not named in the suit, complained the men were "making sex" in the cab. McCrea and White, who were heading into the city from O'Hare, say the driver began flashing the interior lights of the vehicle and then swerved on to the shoulder of the Kennedy Expressway and demanded they get out miles before their intended destination. The couple says they refused to get out and called police, prompting the driver to get off at the nearest exit and park in a grocery store lot until officers arrived. "This is a clear violation of the Illinois Human Rights Act which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation," Clark, said. The Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, which regulates Chicago taxis, scheduled a hearing for the driver last summer, which he skipped. He was issued several violations, including unsafe driving, refusal of service and discourteous conduct, and was fined around $2,000. Neither Sun Taxi or its attorneys responded to requests for comment.

In Britain, a male model feared his career was over when he was sprayed with acid in an “horrendous” homophobic attack while out clubbing with friends in south London. Pariche Frith, 21, thought his face was “melting” and believed would never be able walk down the catwalk again after a noxious liquid was sprayed in his face. He was one of four men attacked by Jonathan Lynn, 31, in Vauxhall, on June 8 this year. He collapsed on the ground, leaving horrified friends scrambling to wash his face before an ambulance arrived. Friend Ben Moore was at Mr Frith’s side when Lynn sprayed the liquid. A third man, Yousef Khan, was also injured in the attack as the trio were doused in the noxious substance in a later incident after accidentally stepping on Lynn’s shoe in a nightclub queue. James Keely, prosecuting, told Inner London Crown Court: “A substantial amount of liquid went into Mr Frith’s eyes, nose, mouth and throat. He said his face was burning and he felt like it was melting. Mr Frith was working as a model at the time and he thought he would never get work again.” Lynn, of Worcester Park, south west London, was arrested in a pub two days later after CCTV footage of him was circulated in the media. Te court heard he was on licence from prison at the time after receiving seven years in 2009 for possessing 1.5 kilos of cocaine and £30,000 in criminal property. He is expected to be jailed tomorrow after admitting the attacks. Mr Frith told the Standard that he hoped Lynn’s conviction would encourage other victims of hate crimes to come forward. He said that, “I feel justice will be served when he is not walking the streets because it’s unfair that people should be targeted in this way. But I’m a forgiving person and I do not hold grudges.” Mr Moore, 23, suffered burns to his eyes and feared he might lose his sight after the liquid sprayed onto his face. Lynn, of Worcester Park, south west London, is due to be sentenced tomorrow after admitting four counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, two counts of common assault, and possession of a weapon for discharge of a noxious liquid.

Leading Canadian Transplant Organization Calls For Expansion Of Organ Donors To Include Gay Men, Appeals Court Asks Florida Supreme Court To Take Up Issue Of Same Sex Marriage, 9th Circuit Court Of Appeals Denies Request By National Organization Of Marriage To Intervene In Oregon Same Sex Marriage Ruling, California Assembly Passes Bill Disallowing Defendants Ability To Employ Gay Panic Defense In Murder Cases Involving Sexual Orientation Or Gender Identity, 24-Year-Old Mauricio Ruiz Becomes First Openly Gay Serving Member Of Chilean Armed Forces, Award-Winning Advertisement For Gay Club Causes Controversy In Kazakhstan

In Canada, the Globe and Mail reports that a leading Canadian transplant organization is calling for greater use of organs from deceased donors considered at increased risk for HIV and hepatitis B and C, including intravenous drug users and gay men. Safe and ethical use of these organs “may lead to an increase in number of transplants in Canada coupled with decreased wait-list times and mortality,” said a report published Wednesday from the Canadian Society of Transplantation and the Canadian National Transplant Research Program. The new recommendations, which reflect improved testing methods for infectious diseases combined with a more accurate assessment of infection risk, are being lauded by organ-donation advocates. However, HIV/AIDS experts question the continued inclusion of homosexual men in the increased-risk donor category. Previously, donors, including intravenous drug users, gay men, sex workers and prison inmates, were considered at high risk of infection because of the window period between potential exposure and the time it takes for antibodies to show up on a test, explained Atul Humar, director of the Multi Organ Transplant Program at University Health Network in Toronto, and lead author of the report. But he noted that nucleic acid testing (NAT) has shrunk the window period to seven days after exposure. With proper testing, the risk of infection in these donors is “exceedingly low,” he said. According to the report, the risk of HIV infection in a homosexual donor after blood testing and NAT is 2.4 in 10,000 donors. In an intravenous drug user, the risk is 2.7 per 10,000. The risk of hepatitis C infection is 1.5 per 10,000 in homosexual men, compared with 40.8 in intravenous drug users. The actual risk may be even smaller, since the mathematical models used in the report assumed the donor engaged in risk behaviour up until the moment of death, Dr. Humar said. “The old wording of ‘high risk’ [for these donors] is a misnomer as it does not accurately convey the risks,” he said. He added that donors such as intravenous drug users tend to be younger, “and we’re always faced with a huge shortage of donors.” Mark Wainberg, director of the McGill University AIDS Centre, applauded the new recommendations. But, he added, “being gay is in and of itself an extremely low risk factor,” he said. Policies excluding homosexual men from donating blood and organs date from the 1980s, the early days of HIV testing, Dr. Wainberg said. He pointed out that organ donation from live homosexual donors has been permitted for some time. But Canadian Blood Services allows gay men to donate blood only if they have been celibate for five years. “I think we are diminishing the pool of potential donors of both blood and organs by maintaining a discriminatory policy,” Mr. Wainberg said. Dr. Humar noted that according to data from the Canadian Standards Association, the risk of infection from homosexual donors is still higher than that in heterosexuals – “two- to four-fold higher,” he said. Nevertheless, the potential for greater access to donor organs is welcome news for the transplant community, said James Breckenridge, president of the Canadian Transplant Society, a Toronto-based charity. For patients in urgent need of an organ transplant, the slight chance of HIV or hepatitis infection “is nothing compared to being dead,” he said. Mr. Breckenridge’s wife, Lisa, spent years on a liver transplant list before falling into a coma in 2009. With hours left to live, she received a damaged liver from a donor who was brain dead. Her recovery from the transplant was slow. Given the choice, Lisa said, she wouldn’t hesitate to accept a healthy organ from a donor considered at increased risk of infection. The recommendations emphasize the importance of informed consent and provide a sample script for physicians to use with transplant patients. The wording includes: “This donor engaged in behaviours before their death that increase their chances of having an infection. You need to balance the slightly increased risk of accepting this organ with the likely benefits of being transplanted at this time instead of waiting for another organ.” The report advises physicians to discuss the chances of infection in numerical terms instead of specifying the donor’s risk behaviours. But the reason has nothing to do with the stigma of drug use or homosexuality, Dr. Humar said. "We try not to disclose too much information because organ donation is supposed to be anonymous,” he said.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, an appeals court Wednesday asked the Florida Supreme Court take up the issue of same sex marriage. The Second District Court of Appeal passed up its chance to make a ruling on the issue, that of two Tampa women who had asked a judge in Hillsborough County to give them a divorce. The smart thing, the appeals wrote, would be for the Florida Supreme Court to take over the appeal because same sex marriage has become an issue of great public importance in the state. "Resolution of the constitutional questions will no doubt impact far more individuals than the two involved here," the appeals court wrote. "And there can be little doubt that until the constitutional questions are finally resolved by the Florida Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court, there will be a great impact on the proper administration of justice in Florida." The clerk of the Florida Supreme Court immediately opened a case file. However, the high court could refuse to review it, according to Craig Waters, a court spokesperson. At issue is whether Florida must recognize out-of-state same sex marriages. The case involves Mariama Shaw and Keiba Shaw who got married in Massachusetts in 2010 and want a divorce. A judge in Hillsborough County had rejected their request, saying their marriage is not valid in Florida. Same sex couples have won limited back-to-back-to-back victories in state courts in four South Florida counties in the past few weeks: Monroe, Dade, Broward and Palm Beach. In each, a judge has struck down Florida's ban on same sex marriage, but none of those rulings applies statewide. Since those victories started rolling in, gay rights activists have pressed to get a case in front of the Florida Supreme Court, hoping to get a decision that would apply to state courts in all of Florida's 67 counties. Today's decision by the Second District Court of Appeal moved that effort one step closer. On Thursday, a judge in the federal court system, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle in Tallahassee, also found Florida's ban on same sex marriage unconstitutional. His ruling would apply to every Florida county, but he imposed a stay, prohibiting its implementation until other appeal courts have weighed in.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has denied a request by a group opposing same sex marriage in Oregon to intervene in the case. The decision, handed down Wednesday afternoon, means the National Organization for Marriage has no route left short of appealing the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Unless NOM does appeal, any threat it posed to same sex marriage in Oregon is over. The action comes in the wake of the May 19 decision by U.S. District Court Judge Michael McShane in Eugene to strike down Oregon's ban on same sex marriage. Voters in 2004 passed an amendment to the state constitution, Measure 36, defining marriage as between one man and one woman. The Oregonian reports that supporters of same sex marriage applauded Wednesday's decision. "We're thrilled by the news but not surprised at all," said Jeana Frazzini, executive director of Basic Rights Oregon. "There was never any merit to their proposal and they've been denied now at every turn." Frazzini read the court's decision and called it "decisive," adding that, "From their own filings, the National Organization for Marriage has about 100 members in Oregon. If anything, I'd characterize this entire episode as a nuisance effort on their part." NOM, based in Washington D.C., had claimed in court filings that it deserved intervenor status on behalf of "several of its members, identified as Oregon members who provide weddings services, Oregon members who voted for Measure 36, and at least one member who is an elected Oregon county clerk," according to the five-page decision. "We find that NOM's Oregon wedding service providers members' objections to facilitating same gender marriage ceremonies is not sufficient" to achieve that standing, the court said. NOM representatives did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment. Lake James H. Perriguey, an attorney who represented gay and lesbian couples who filed suit to end Oregon's ban, said the court's ruling leaves NOM with few options. "They could ask either that the full 9th Circuit review this or appeal it to the U.S. Supreme Court," he said. "But I don't think NOM ever presented a threat. Their appeals, after all, weren't based on the substantive merits of the case. It was merely a question of whether an out-of-state lobbying organization was improperly left out of the party." The decision leaves Oregon as one of 19 states and the District of Columbia where same-gender couples can legally marry in the U.S.

In California, defendants could not escape murder charges by claiming they panicked when they discovered someone was gay, lesbian, or transgender under a bill headed to Gov. Jerry Brown. According to the Associated Press, the state Assembly approved AB2501 on a 50-10 vote Wednesday. Current law allows murder charges to be reduced to manslaughter if the killings happened in a sudden quarrel or in the heat of passion. AB2501 by Democratic Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla of Concord would bar defendants from using their victims' gender or sexual orientation to support a so-called panic defense. Bonilla says such defenses legitimize violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The American Bar Association urged governments to curtail the use of panic defenses. The gay rights group Equality California says California would have the first statewide prohibition.

In Chile, the BBC reports that a sailor has become the first serving member of the Chilean armed forces to announce he is gay. Mauricio Ruiz, 24, told a televised news conference his decision had "not been easy", but he wanted to help fight discrimination against homosexuals. Mr Ruiz said that what was most important was not a soldier's sexual orientation, but his or her willingness to serve the country. His announcement came with the full backing of the Chilean armed forces. Like other parts of Latin America, Chile remains a conservative society, especially towards gay marriage. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet has come out in favour of the idea, but the majority of Chileans oppose it. Mauricio Ruiz said homosexuals had "no reason to hide," telling reporters in the Chilean capital of Santiago that, "We can do anything, be marines or in any branch (of the military). We can do whatever profession, and we deserve as much respect as anyone else. In life there's nothing better than to be yourself, to be authentic, to look at people in the eye and for those people to know who you are." Rolando Jimenez, president of Chile's Movement for Integration and Homosexual Liberation, expressed his gratitude to the Chilean Navy. "(The Navy is) telling the country and the members of the institution particularly that it is possible for gays and lesbians to be part of the armed forces and that they aren't going to suffer discrimination because of their sexual orientation within these institutions," Mr Jimenez said. Attitudes towards homosexuality are changing in Chile, especially after the 2012 murder of a gay young man, Daniel Zamudio Correspondents say attitudes are changing in Chile, especially after the brutal assault and killing of a young gay man in March 2012, which sparked outrage and triggered a fresh debate over hate crimes. Four men were jailed in October 2013 for the murder of 25-year-old Daniel Zamudio in Santiago. And in May 2012 the Chilean Congress approved a new law which made it a crime to discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, appearance or disability. The gay rights movement has achieved major victories in some other South American nations, like Argentina and Brazil, but homosexuals remain targets of violence and harassment across the continent.

In Kazakhstan, an advert featuring an image of Russian poet Alexander Pushkin and Kazakh composer Kurmangazy Sagyrbayuly kissing has sparked widespread complaint. The poster – which features the two of the region’s most prominent 19th century cultural figures – is designed to promote a gay club in Almaty, one of the most liberal cities in Central Asia. The club, Studio 69, sits at the corner of streets named after Pushkin and Kurmangazy. According to RFE/RL, 20 activists filed a lawsuit on August 25 against the advertising agency that created it, saying it “insulted both Kazakhs and Russians.” Police told TengriNews they had registered an official complaint. A descendant of Kurmangazy has also threatened to sue for damages. On social media, reaction to the image has been mostly negative, as people expressed anger at what they saw as irreverence towards cultural heroes . “There is no limit to [my] outrage. How could [they] come up with something like this?” one user wrote. Some have defended the poster, which riffs off of the famous image of East German leader Erich Honecker and the Soviet Union’s Leonid Brezhnev locking lips in East Berlin in 1979. “At least [there is] some creativity in the barren steppe of domestic works,” TengriNews quoted a local social media user as saying. One of the artists, Valery Volodin, wrote on Facebook: “One can be proud of this work. First of all because it works: people understand and remember the address. Secondly, it is a brave work, and in the case of the gay movement, traditionally living on the edge, it is more than accurate and justified.” The poster won an award for advertising firm Havas Worldwide Kazakhstan at a competition in Bishkek on August 23, but in the wake of the reaction against it, the firm apologised on its Facebook page and promise the image will not be displayed in public: “Acknowledging the invaluable cultural contribution of the great Russian poet and the great Kazakh composer, we officially announce that this poster will not be printed, posted or published in paid media.” Homosexuality was decriminalized in Kazakhstan in 1998, but anti-gay attitudes are common. In May, anti-gay activists built a wall around a gay nightclub in Almaty to protest its presence. In recent years, officials have debated adopting a Russian-style ban on so-called “gay propaganda”. Citing Kazakhstan’s “national mentality,” one lawmaker last year called for legislation that would classify homosexuals as “criminals against humanity.”

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Three Federal Judges Question Attorneys Defending Same Sex Marriage Bans Of Indiana And Wisconsin Pointedly Asking Why Children Of Gays And Lesbians Should Not Be Permitted Legally Wed Parents, New Zealand Human Rights Commission Condemns Violent Anti-Gay Attack Against Patrons And Staff Of Wellington Bar, Openly Gay Mayor Of Berlin Announces He Will Resign Amid Battle Over City's New Airport, ESPN Hits New Low Reporting On Michael Sam's Approach To Showering With Teammates

In Chicago, Illinois, attorneys for Indiana and Wisconsin faced tough, pointed questions from a panel of three federal appeals judges in this morning’s arguments over bans on same sex marriage in those states. Judge Richard Posner waited just about a minute before interrupting the solicitor general from Indiana, beginning a line of questioning about why children of same sex couples should not be allowed to have legally married parents, as do children of opposite sex couples. To press his point, Posner asked the attorney to remember when he was six, and consider what it is like for young children of same sex parents to have to realize they are different than their classmates. “Wouldn’t the children want their parents to be married,” Posner asked, also noting the thousands of children in foster care in Indiana who need to be adopted. “What do you think is psychologically better for the child?” According to the Chicago Tribune, attorneys from both states were on the defense during much of the questioning. The Indiana solicitor general defended the ban by linking marriage, as an institution, to procreation and the need for that to be regulated by the state. “Men and women make babies and there has to be a social mechanism to deal with that,” Thomas M. Fisher said under heavy questioning. Earlier, Fisher turned aside any suggestion that the state was discriminating against same-sex couples. “It’s all a reflection of biology,” he said. “It’s simply that men and women make babies.” Timothy C. Samuelson, the assistant attorney general from Wisconsin, repeatedly used the word “tradition” to defend the ban in that state on same sex marriage, leading exasperated judges to ask what he meant by that. “Tradition is based on experience,” Samuelson said. Judge David F. Hamilton pressed Samuelson to explain why “tradition” was a sufficient argument for why a ban in that state should not be overturned. “I suppose you know how that’s been working out in practice" over the last several decades, Hamilton pressed, referring to the concept that marriage is meant to promote childbirth and to keep couples together. After the hour and a half of arguments concluded, supporters of same sex marriage flooded into the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse lobby, some carrying flowers. The mood was upbeat. “Hopeful,” was how Amy Sandler, an Indiana plaintiff, described the debate. “I felt it was moving in the direction of the rest of the country.” Kyle Megrath, marriage coordinator for Hoosiers Unite for Marriage, said he was cheered by today's proceedings. "It was encouraging hear about how, when we talk about any state's interest in marriage, it is important that same sex couples be able to have the same protections for the children that they adopt and mutually agree on deciding to have,” he said. “So I think one of the best things about what I heard in there today is there is a state interest in same sex couples being able to get married." Megrath said judges were hard on the attorney from the state of Indiana. "I was surprised,” Megrath said. “I think that it was pretty clear the judges saw weakness.” Camilla Taylor, Lambda Legal’s National Marriage Project Director and lawyer for the couples who are challenging the ban in Indiana, was also happy after the hearing. “We are extremely hopeful and optimistic based on what we heard today," Taylor said. "It felt like it went extremely well. It felt like the court was not persuaded at all by the arguments put forward by the state and we’re hopeful we’ll get a speedy victory. Taylor criticized Indiana's defense of the law as "this notion that marriage is necessary to protect children who are procreated accidentally by different sex couples. . . The court was very concerned about the fate of those children being reared by their same sex parents and how those children are harmed by being fenced out from all the security protections and dignity that go along with having married parents.” But Mike Dean, attorney for Wisconsin Family Action, said the court was not interested in hearing the group's rationale that a child should grow up with both a mother and a father. “This goes back to the fundamental issue. Do we deny biological reality in order to legally affirm felt autonomy? Does a law exist to make people feel better?” Dean said. “That is their choice, but to go and say that therefore society as a whole must agree that relationship is the same as a heterosexual marriage, that is a step that cannot be taken.” Julaine Appling, president of Wisconsin Family Action, said it is in the state’s interest to make sure that "the next generation of taxpayers and work force and entrepreneurs and leaders have the best opportunities to grow up to become contributing citizens. "If that is not a compelling state interest, I don’t know what is," she said. "What is in the best interest of children to attain is to be brought up in the married homes of their moms and dads, not deconstruction of the institution that affirms that.” The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago hears cases not only from Illinois but from Wisconsin and Indiana. Several federal lawsuits have been filed in both states on behalf of same sex couples who say the refusal to recognize and allow same-sex marriages violates their constitutional rights. Lower courts in Wisconsin and Indiana agreed the bans were unconstitutional, but each state challenged those decisions to the appellate court. No decision was expected today. The cases in both states were originally filed in winter and spring 2014. There are 92 cases pending in 33 states in federal and state courts and potentially three headed to the Supreme Court. Last month a federal appellate court in Virginia also issued a pro-same sex marriage ruling, though the Supreme Court has issued a stay pending appeals, putting license applications on hold. Gay marriage became legal across Illinois in June, after the law was signed in November 2013.

In New Zealand, the Human Rights Commission has condemned a violent attack on staff and patrons at a gay bar in Wellington last week. Steven Mawhinney, a bar manager at the Ivy Bar on Cuba Street says a group of men came into the venue on Friday without realizing "what sort of bar it was", according to Mr Mawhinney says he was initially able to make the men leave but they returned soon after, reportedly throwing cans of alcohol at the heads of patrons. An argument then broke out and when Mr Mawhinney tried to intervene, he says he was set upon by the group. "It happened quite quickly. I got seven to eight good belts to the head," he said. He described the attack as the "worst thing I've ever seen in my life." Mr Mawhinney had to go to hospital following the alleged attack, which police are investigating. Human Rights Commissioner Richard Tankersley says the country's excellent human rights record is worthless if such blatant homophobia is still taking place. "We value our freedom in New Zealand and that includes being able to live our lives free from fear," says Mr Tankersley. "Respect for others is a founding principle of human rights - you don't pick and choose who deserves dignity and who doesn't."

In Germany, Berlin's mayor Klaus Wowereit has said he will step down on December 11 amid an ongoing row over the city's new airport. As mayor of the German capital since 2001, he was credited with giving it a "poor, but sexy" brand internationally. Mr Wowereit, a Social Democrat, was widely popular but his reputation was tarnished by the debacle over the opening of Berlin-Brandenburg airport. The airport was due to be inaugurated in late 2011 but it is still not open. Mr Wowereit, 60, still had two years of his term to serve and it is not yet clear who will replace him. The BBC reports that he told a news conference in Berlin that he was leaving the post of his own "free will," adding that, I'm proud that I have made a contribution to the city's positive development." The new airport is due to replace Tegel and Schoenefeld airports and handle some 27 million passengers a year. As head of the airport's supervisory council, he was widely criticised for repeated delays, but survived a confidence vote in the Berlin senate in January 2013. He admitted on Tuesday that the fact the airport was not yet open was the "biggest failure" of his 13-year term in office, but it was not the only factor in his decision to step down. "Some still think it was only a question of [the airport]. But no, we've had to get through several difficult times here." Originally a lawyer, Klaus Wowereit became Germany's first prominent openly gay politician, achieving renown for his phrase: "Ich bin schwul und das ist gut so" (I'm gay and that's okay). He was once pictured drinking champagne out of the shoe of an ambassador's wife and was once seen as a potential challenger to Christian Democrat Chancellor Angela Merkel. He had initially hoped to announce his departure last month, he said, but had delayed his statement because of Germany's victory in the World Cup.

Before Michael Sam, the NFL's first openly gay player, ever set foot on an NFL football field, doubters had claimed that he would be a distraction to his team and shunned by his teammates. However, in the first media flare-up regarding Sam's orientation, he has received the definitive support of one of the strongest voices in his locker room. The precipitating incident was an ESPN report on how Sam, no sure thing to make the Rams' roster, was adjusting to life with his new teammates. And after some initial cliches, the report took a sharp turn, focusing for almost a full minute on Sam's showering habits: The report drew immediate criticism on social media, both for its selectiveness (how many other rookies' shower habits are a story?) and its gaze too deep into the locker room. But there's a larger issue here. For years, people who claim to know NFL culture have said that the locker room wouldn't accept a gay man. But within hours after the report aired, Rams teammate Chris Long shattered that myth with one eight-word tweet: "Dear ESPN, Everybody but you is over it." Sam's teammates, at least in the opinion of one of the locker room's leading figures, have accepted who he is and have moved on to the business of football. Late Tuesday, ESPN issued the following statement: "In response to recent questions about Sam fitting in with the team, multiple Rams brought up the shower topic and we relayed that information as part of our reporting." Sam survived roster cuts on Tuesday and is currently on the Rams' 75-man roster.