Thursday, May 21, 2015

Without Explanation Russian Authorities Again Deny Request By LGBT Activists To Hold Gay Pride Parade, Federal Judge Applies Ruling Striking Down Alabama Same Sex Marriage Ban To All 68 State Probate Judge But Delays Implementation Of Order Pending U.S. Supreme Court Ruling, With Surprising Assistance From Democrats Texas House Gives Initial Approval To Bill Designed To Discriminate Against Gay And Lesbian Couples Under Guise Of Religious Freedoms, Boy Scouts Of America President Robert Gates Calls For End To Blanket Ban On Gay Adult Leaders, Appeals Court Puts On Hold Transgender California Inmate Request For State Prison System To Provide Gender Reassignment Surgery, Six Transgender Individuals Sue Michigan Challenging State's Discriminatory Policy That Prevents Changing Of Gender On Driver's Licenses

In Russia, Moscow's town hall announced Thursday that it would not allow a Gay Pride march in the Russian capital that activists wanted to hold later this month -- a ban that it repeats every year. "We have warned the organisers that the demonstration will not be authorised," and told them of the risks should they ignore the ban, the Ria Novosti agency quoted mayoral spokesman Alexey Mayorov as saying. No explanations for the ban were given but it would have come as no surprise to the Gay Pride organisers, who have attempted since 2006 to obtain permission to hold their event in Moscow. Whenever they have attempted to carry out a public event, Moscow police have quickly dispersed them. The organizers, who had applied to hold two meetings and a march on May 30, had said they expected around a hundred people at each event. One of those organizers, Nikolaï Alexeyev, told AFP that he intended to appeal the ban. He denounced the pressure placed on him, explaining that the Gay Pride ban had been announced an hour after he was brought before a judge for no obvious reason. "We will nonetheless hold some kind of action on May 30, even if the venue is not yet decided," he said. Pro-gay protests are rare in Russia, where homosexuality was a crime until 1993 and then classed as a mental illness until 1999. In 2013, President Vladimir Putin signed legislation banning the dissemination of "gay propaganda" to minors. Human Rights Watch last December sounded the alarm over a rising number of homophobic attacks in Russia, saying that the ban on "gay propaganda" effectively legalises discrimination.

In Alabama, a federal judge in Mobile on Thursday applied her ruling striking down the state's same sex marriage ban to all 68 probate judges in Alabama but delayed it from taking effect until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the gay marriage issue. The decision to put the ruling on hold contrasts with U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. "Ginny" Granade's refusal to do so when she found Alabama's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional in January. In her order Thursday, though, Granade referred to "an imminent decision" by the court in Obergefell v. Hodges, an appeal from an appellate court in Ohio. The high court heard oral arguments in that case last month, and most observers expect a ruling sometime next month. The end result is that the status quo that has prevailed for months -- since the Alabama Supreme Court ordered probate judges to follow the state's marriage law -- will continue a little while longer. Probate judges will not be forced to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. "It certainly is a victory, because in her order on the preliminary injunction, she explains why her order prevails over the Alabama Supreme Court," said Randall Marshall, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who represents the plaintiffs. Still, Marshall acknowledged he was disappointed that Granade did not allow her order to take immediate effect. "We certainly had hoped she would do as did in January," he said. Attorneys for the probate judges could not immediately be reached for comment. Heather Fann, another attorney for the plaintiffs, said Grande's order makes it clear how probate judges should respond if the Supreme Court declares same sex marriage bans unconstitutional across the country. "I would think our probate judges now have a roadmap on specifically how to proceed," she said. The current litigation was before Granade on a request to certify the complaint as a class-action lawsuit on behalf of all gay couples wanting to get married in Alabama and naming all probate judges as defendants. Granade agreed on Thursday, and ordered Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis and Baldwin County Probate Judge Tim Russell to defend against the lawsuit on behalf of themselves and their colleagues throughout the state. Granade rejected an argument raised by Davis that an order from the federal court would put him and other probate judges in the position of having to choose between that order and a conflicting mandate from the Alabama Supreme Court. "It is true that if this Court grants the preliminary injunction the probate judges will be faced with complying with either Alabama's marriage laws that prohibit same sex marriage as they have been directed by the Alabama Supreme Court or with complying with the United States Constitution as directed by this Court," Granade wrote. "However, the choice should be simple. Under the Supremacy Clause, the laws of the United States are 'the supreme Law of the Land.'" She added, "Judge Davis and the other probate judges cannot be held liable for violating Alabama state law when their conduct was required by the United States Constitution." Granade also noted that probate judges have a third choice: They could follow the example set by Davis and stop issuing marriage licenses to any couple, gay or straight. David Dinielli, deputy legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, indicated that Granade's ruling would take effect immediately after the U.S. Supreme Court rules in the Ohio appeal. "Judge Granade's ruling is decisive and definitive," he said in a prepared statement. "It ends the chaos and confusion that Attorney General (Luther) Strange and Chief Justice (Roy) Moore have intentionally caused through their reckless rejection of federal constitutional principles." The judge denied requests by the Alabama Attorney General's Office to give attorneys for Davis more time to make legal arguments on the order, which is known as a preliminary injunction. That injunction was appropriate because the judge already has found the same-sex marriage ban to be unconstitutional, she wrote. "Because this Court has continued to find that said laws are unconstitutional, the Court also finds that the new named Plaintiffs and the Plaintiff Class are likely to succeed on the merits of their claims," she wrote. It is unclear why Granade decided to stop her latest ruling from taking effect until the Supreme Court rules when she rejected a similar request following her January decision. Attorneys for the plaintiffs speculated that it might be cause the ruling expected by the high court now is judge weeks away. Fann made it clear she would have preferred the plaintiffs not have to wait even days longer to get married. "Certainly, all same sex couples, not just our named plaintiffs, are entitled to equal protection under the law, and we would like that to begin yesterday," she said. Marshall, the ACLU attorney, said Granade's ruling should remove all doubt that probate judges could be disciplined for ignoring a state Supreme Court that contradicts a federal ruling. Even though the probate judges will not be compelled to begin issuing same sex marriage licenses, he said they could choose to do so based on this ruling. "It would seem that there is some cover" for probate judges to take that step, Marshall said. All along, the defendants have argued that the case was better left frozen until the Supreme Court weighs in. But agreeing to put her own order on hold, Granade essentially has given the defense what it wanted. "There's no doubt that all of defendant were trying to delay this as far as they could," Marshall said.

In Texas, the Austin American-Statesman reports that with surprisingly strong support by Democrats, the Texas House gave initial approval Thursday to a bill designed to protect religious objections to same sex marriage. Senate Bill 2065 would protect clergy and houses of worship from lawsuits or criminal prosecution if they refuse to marry a gay or lesbian couple based on a sincerely held religious belief against same sex marriage. Final House approval is expected Friday, sending the bill to Governor Greg Abbott, who has said he will sign it into law. Democrats said the U.S. Constitution already protects pastors from making religious-based choices on who they will or will not marry. After closely questioning the House sponsor, Rep. Scott Sanford (R-McKinney) to establish that SB 2065 would apply only to clergy acting in their religious capacity, Democrats dropped objections to the bill, with only two voting against it. Most House Republicans had signed on as co-authors of an identical House bill. SB 2065 left the Senate last week on a 20-9 vote that was split largely along party lines.

The New York Times reports that the president of the Boy Scouts of America on Thursday called for an end to the group’s blanket ban on gay adult leaders, warning Scout executives that “we must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be,” and that “any other alternative will be the end of us as a national movement.” At the same time, religious organizations that sponsor a majority of local Scout troops, including the Mormons and Roman Catholics, should remain free to set their own policies for leaders, said the president, Robert M. Gates, the former director of the CIA and the former secretary of defense. Mr. Gates called for the changes at an annual national meeting of the group, in Atlanta. He said that he was not yet making a formal proposal but that the Scouts’ governing body should take up the issue formally at a future meeting. The treatment of gay men and boys has been a source of wrenching debate over the last decade. Conservative religious groups that sponsor many Scout troops, including the Mormon Church and the Roman Catholic Church, have opposed the participation of openly gay members while local leaders in more liberal areas have called for an end to the ban. In 2013, Boy Scout leaders from across the country voted, with more than 60-percent approval, to say that no youth may be denied membership “on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.” But it left intact the policy that no openly gay adults could serve in the organization. Since then, a Scout group in New York has defied that policy by employing an openly gay leader, and several other groups around the country have expressed opposition to the ban. Mr. Gates said in his prepared remarks Thursday, released by the Boy Scouts, that the national leadership would take no action against defiant local councils. At the same time, he said that in the name of religious freedom, the Scouts should allow local sponsoring organizations “to determine the standards for their Scout leaders,” Gates stating, “Such an approach would allow all churches, which sponsor some 70 percent of our Scout units, to establish leadership standards consistent with their faith. We must, at all costs, preserve the religious freedom of our church partners to do this.” Zach Wahls, the executive director of Scouts for Equality, a group that has campaigned for change, praised Mr. Gates for the speech. “Dr. Gates has built his reputation on straight talk and tough decisions, and I’m glad he’s fully endorsing a re-evaluation of the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay adults,” Mr. Wahls said in a statement. “It seems like the Boy Scouts will continue an internal dialogue about the subject and that a change within the next year or two is imminent.”

The San Jose Mercury-News reports that a federal appeals court on Thursday agreed to take a closer look at the legal controversy surrounding a transgender inmate's bid to force the California prison system to provide sex reassignment surgery. In a brief order, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals postponed such surgery for convicted murderer Michelle-Lael Norsworthy, granting the state's request to delay the medical procedure until the "serious legal questions" can be resolved. A San Francisco federal judge in April ordered the state to provide the surgery to Norsworthy, concluding it was medically necessary and that depriving her of the procedure violated her constitutional right to adequate medical care in prison. It would be the first time the state provided the surgery to a transgender inmate. The 9th Circuit put that ruling on hold, indicating it would hear arguments in the case in August. Meanwhile, a parole board on Thursday also took the first step in granting parole to the 51-year-old Norsworthy, raising the possibility she will be free before the legal challenge is resolved. Norsworthy is serving a 15-years-to-life term for second-degree murder for the 1987 killing of a drug dealer in a Fullerton bar. But the parole process could take another six months or longer, so Norsworthy's advocates are pushing forward with the court fight. "Michelle has suffered greatly in prison and continues to suffer every day she is denied the surgery she desperately needs," said Ilona Turner, legal director of the Transgender Law Center. California prison leaders, backed by Attorney General Kamala Harris, are contesting Norsworthy's bid for the surgery, as well as opposing attempts thus far by other transgender inmates who are seeking similar court orders. While prison officials say the state does not have a blanket ban on offering the surgery, they have argued in the Norsworthy case that she has been provided years of medical and mental health care that complies with legal standards of care. In court papers, the prison system also disputes a judge's conclusion that Norsworthy has proven the surgery is medically necessary. A spokesperson for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said officials are "pleased" the appeals court has put the surgery on hold to consider the state's arguments. The legal battle is one of a number arising in states around the country, where prisons are being confronted with efforts by transgender inmates to receive the surgery. There are currenty hundreds of transgender inmates in California receiving hormone therapy, according to prison medical care officials.

In Michigan, six transgender people filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, challenging a state policy they claim makes it "impossible or unduly burdensome" to change the gender recorded on their driver's licenses. The plaintiffs, represented by lawyers of the American Civil Liberties Union, claim the policy violates constitutional rights to privacy, speech, equal protection, interstate travel and "the right to independence in making important medical decisions." Information listed on a person's driver's license or ID card in Michigan must match the information on the applicant's birth certificate, according to the Secretary of State's office. That means transgender people must have their birth certificates amended before a change can be recorded on their driver's license. For two plaintiffs born in Ohio and a third born in Idaho, changing the gender recorded on their birth certificates is not legally possible, the lawsuit claims. For another born in South Carolina, the change would require a court order. And for two born in Michigan, "amending their birth certificate requires them to complete surgery, for which they have no current medical need and which they cannot afford," the lawsuit claims. "They are forced to carry and show to others a basic identity document that fails to reflect an essential aspect of personhood – their gender," ACLU lawyers argue in the complaint against Johnson. "Denying Plaintiffs and other transgender people a driver's license that matches their gender identity and lived gender results in the routine disclosure of their transgender status, as well as their medical condition and treatment, to complete strangers." Johnson's office declined to comment on the lawsuit Thursday. She will have 21 days after being served with a court summons to respond to the complaint in writing. The plaintiffs include Emani Love of Detroit, Tina Seitz of Macomb County, Codie Stone of Kalamazoo County and three others identified only by their initials, E.B. of Washtenaw County, A.M. of Livingston County and K.S. of Kalamazoo County. "The policy exposes an already vulnerable group to the risks of repeatedly having to reveal intimate personal medical information that, when divulged in some situations, can lead to discrimination, harassment, violence and even death," said Jay Kaplan attorney for the ACLU of Michigan LGBT Project.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Jewelry Store In St John's Newfoundland Posts Sign Suggesting "Sanctity Of Marriage Under Attack" After It Sold Lesbian Couple Engagement Rings, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny Calls For Yes Vote In Referendum To Legalize Same Sex Marriage, Author Of Much-Referenced Study Arguing That Face-Face Interactions Can Shifts Views On Same Sex Marriage Disavows Results

In Newfoundland, CBC News reports that a lesbian couple from St. John's is upset after discovering the jewelry store that sold them their engagement rings has posted a sign that seems to oppose same sex marriage — but one of the store's owners says he's allowed to post his religious beliefs. When Nicole White and Pam Renouf went looking for engagement rings a few months ago, the pair couldn't find anything they liked. The couple was eventually referred to Today's Jewellers in the Mount Pearl area because the store offers custom-made rings. White and Renouf visited the store and later gave specifications and a price range for potential rings. "They were great to work with. They seemed to have no issues. They knew the two of us were a same sex couple," White said. "I referred some of my friends to them, just because I did get some good customer service and they had good prices." That was before one friend went in to purchase a ring for his girlfriend — and instead found a distressing sign. It reads: "The sanctity of marriage is under attack. Let's keep marriage between a man and a woman." The friend took a picture of the poster, which made its way back to White. "I had no idea about the sign up until that point," she said. "It was really upsetting. Really sad, because we already had money down on [the rings], and they're displaying how much they are against gays, and how they think marriage should be between a man and a woman." The couple went to the store the following day, and asked about the sign. "They just said that that's their beliefs, and they think they can put up whatever they want. I just said it was very disrespectful, it's very unprofessional and I wanted a refund," White said. "I have no issues with them believing in what they believe in. I think everyone's entitled to their own opinion. But I don't think they should put their personal beliefs inside their business." White and Renouf hope to get a refund when the man who sold them the rings returns to town next month — but it's not guaranteed. White said the rings were meant to be a symbol of love, but now the bands seem tainted. "I think every time I look at that ring, I'll probably think of what we just went through," White said. Esau Jardon, the co-owner of Today's Jewellers, said he posts several signs in his store throughout the year."I have been posting different aspects of my religious beliefs the last 11 years, and I've never had one single problem with any of my customers," he said. "It seems to be a Canadian right to post what you believe." Jardon said the sign in question was posted for Mother's Day, because it had to do with families. They also have pamphlets and cards that they hand out at the store as well. Jardon said he's an immigrant, and feels blessed to live in Canada. "One of the reasons my family chose to come to Canada was the freedom of rights," he said, noting the freedom of religion and freedom of speech. "Nothing in that shop or in these posters is against the law... There's nothing there that means to discriminate or to hate anybody else." Jardon said he will not apologize for his beliefs. "I feel really bad that [White] feels that we would in any way try to hurt or discriminate against her, but we will not retract from what we believe. I cannot say, 'Well because you feel bad, I will stop believing what I believe,'" he said. "When I walk on Church Street in Toronto, where I am right now, and I see [LGBT rainbow flags], and I see a lot of signs and a lot of things on public property, I don't have a problem with them. I accept it. I chose to come to Canada... and we accept the whole package... I don't discriminate against that, nor do I come and tell them to take them down. For the same reason, I ask to have the same respect in return, especially when it's in my own business." Jardon said he's getting a big backlash from social media. "I had to shut down the Facebook page because of so many hate emails and phone calls and just, really nasty stuff," he said. When asked if he would offer a refund to the couple, Jardon said he won't be bullied into apologizing for his beliefs or to work for free. He said the finished rings are ready to be picked up; White and Renouf just have to pay the balance.

The Guardian reports that Ireland’s prime minister, Enda Kenny, has made a final plea for a yes vote in the referendum to legalize same sex marriage. The taoiseach told the Irish electorate on Wednesday night: “There is nothing to fear for voting for love and equality.” Kenny made his plea on live television ahead of a broadcasting embargo imposed on all sides of same sex marriage debate. The republic is the only country in the world where the electorate will decide whether to make same sex marriage legal. The country goes to the polls on Friday and the votes will be counted from Saturday morning. Under the Irish electoral rules, there is a ban on statements from all sides of the debate on the country’s airwaves 24 hours before polling stations open. Earlier, at his Fine Gael party’s last press conference of the campaign, Kenny said he had “no intention of becoming a gay icon” over his strong support for a Yes vote. He also rejected suggestions from those opposed to gay marriage that religious schools would be forced to teach about the validity of same sex marriages. “We have absolute religious freedom here. The churches, irrespective of what church they are, have the absolute right to continue their teaching of their doctrine, their principles and their beliefs. Civil law is a separate matter and there may be questions asked in any school about the civil law,” Kenny said. On claims by No campaigners that children could be forcibly adopted by gay and lesbian married couples, Kenny said the interests of the child would not be changed in any way if there was a Yes vote. Meanwhile, the pro-gay marriage campaign groups are claiming that a late surge in voter registration will boost the Yes cause. It has emerged that over the past weeks of the campaign more than 68,000 new voters have been added to the electoral register.

The Los Angeles Times reports that a highly publicized study that purported to show how face-to-face interactions can change people's views on same sex marriage is being disavowed by one of its authors who now says he has doubts about the data. The study, published last December by the journal Science, claimed that when gay canvassers in Los Angeles County knocked on a door and lobbied a household resident about same sex marriage, the resident was more likely to form a lasting and favorable opinion of gay marriage than if they were lobbied by a heterosexual canvasser. Coauthors Michael LaCour, a doctoral candidate in political science at UCLA, and Donald Green, a political science professor at Columbia University, noted at the time the report was published that they were initially so skeptical of the results that they reran their experiment. The results were the same, they said. But as the report was covered by news organizations nationwide -- including the Los Angeles Times -- another group of researchers began to question its findings. Green said that two graduate students at UC Berkeley recently approached him with a list of irregularities they found in the data. When LaCour's advisors at UCLA reached out to him Monday, he was unable to provide the data he claimed he had collected for the study, including contact information for survey respondents, Green said. "I write to request a retraction," noted Green in a memo to Science on Tuesday. "I am deeply embarrassed by this turn of events and apologize to the editors." LaCour said he had read the critique and would respond to it shortly. "I’m gathering evidence and relevant information so I can provide a single comprehensive response," he said in an e-mail to the Times. "I will do so at my earliest opportunity." Dr. Marcia McNutt, editor in chief of the journal Science, said in a statement that the journal "takes this case extremely seriously and will strive to correct the scientific literature as quickly as possible," adding, "No peer review process is perfect, and in fact it is very difficult for peer reviewers to detect artful fraud. Fortunately, science is a self-correcting process; researchers publish work in the scholarly literature so that it can be further scrutinized, replicated, confirmed, rebutted or corrected. This is the way science advances." On Wednesday, the journal published an "Expression of Concern" to alert readers that "serious questions have been raised about the validity" of the study and that Green has requested a retraction. "Science is urgently working toward the appropriate resolution, while ensuring that a fair process is followed," the note said. The study also reported that the 20-minute doorstep conversations had a measurable “spillover effect,” in which some household residents who did not speak with the gay canvasser also formed a positive opinion of gay marriage. In total, about 9,500 voters from Los Angeles County were involved in the study. The research was conducted in 2013 during the month leading up to a U.S. Supreme Court decision that effectively overturned Proposition 8. David Fleischer, project director of the Los Angeles LGBT Center Leadership LAB, said the group was "shocked and disheartened" by the turn of events. "We are not in a position to fully interpret or assess the apparent irregularities in the research as we do not have access to the full body of information and, by design, have maintained an arm's-length relationship with the evaluation of the project," he said. "We support Donald Green’s retraction of the Science article and are grateful that the problems with LaCour’s research have been exposed.”

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Judge In Argentina Reduces Sentence Of Father Convicted Of Raping Then 6-Year-Old Son Because Victim "Gay," Louisiana Governor Jindal Issues Executive Order Exactly Copying Anti-Gay Religious Freedom Legislation That Effectively Died Earlier In House Committee, Anti-Gay Pastor Matthew Makela Resigns After Confirming Profile On Grindr, Florida Methodist Church Reaches Agreement With Two Lesbian Day-Care Workers Allegedly Dismissed Because Of Their Sexual Orientation, Lakewood Ohio Tavern Attempts To Quell Controversy After Anti-Gay Slur Left On Receipt

In Argentina, according to the Daily Telegraph, a man convicted of raping a six-year-old had his sentence reduced because the victim was described as being gay and had already suffered abuse at the hands of his own father. The child had a "homosexual orientation," Argentinian appeal court judges said in their ruling as they reduced the rapist's prison sentence from six years to three "It cannot be considered abuse when a boy is used to being abused in his home and is accustomed to sexual behaviour and has a homosexual orientation," Horacio Piombo and Benjamín Sal Llargués said. The ruling dates from last year but has just become public as prosecutors at Buenos Aires' Supreme Court have decided to appeal the verdict. The six-year-old, who was said to have been traumatized by the attack, was one of many boys who was driven to and from training sessions in a minibus by Mario Tolosa, deputy chairman of the Florida de Loma Hermosa football club in the Buenos Aires area. Tolosa raped the boy in the club bathroom. The victim's grandmother went to the police after she saw that the boy was injured. The boy, who is now 11, suffered from "anxiety, violence at school, emotional incapacity and fear of being raped," the trial notes said. Argentina's FALGBT association of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals has said it will request that the two appeal court judges face a political trial, a procedure under which public officials can be questioned by parliamentarians and be sanctioned or struck off. "To think that the fact that a child of six was abused previously could be considered an extenuating circumstance is unacceptable in our belief. That's why we are pushing for a political trial and fortunately several lawmakers from Buenos Aires province have joined us," Esteban Paulón, FALGBT's president, told the EFE news agency.

In Louisiana, the Times-Picyune reports that Governor Bobby Jindal issued an executive order capturing the intent -- and much of the language -- of religious freedom legislation that effectively died hours earlier on Tuesday (May 19) in a House committee, after legislators voted 10-2 not to advance the bill. The order was issued Tuesday afternoon and went into effect immediately, said Jindal at a meeting with reporters that evening. The order will remain in effect until 60 days after the end of the next legislative session. The next governor, however, can repeal it upon entering office in January, if he or she chooses. The sponsor of the legislation, State Representative Mike Johnson (R-Bossier City) who also attended the meeting in Jindal's office, said the executive order reflects parts of an amended version of his bill. Johnson has said the Supreme Court of the United States' ruling on a landmark same sex marriage case, which is expected June 18, presents an imminent need for the bill. There will be an increasing number of conflicts "between the old idea of religious freedom and these new and changing ideas about marriage," he said. "Louisiana, by way of executive order, steps out to the lead of that issue to say, 'We believe our first freedom is worthy of protection.'" He added, "It's always a good time to defend religious liberty." State Senator Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans), however, criticized the timing of the order, as well as Jindal's decision to buck the will of the Legislature. "It's a sinful attempt to deflect from the failures of what should be the top legislative priority, what we're dealing with every day, which is a bogus state budget," she said from the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon. The bill (HB 707) was designed to block the government from pulling licenses, tax benefits, and the like from a company because of the owner's view of same sex marriage. But LGBT advocates and a few legal experts have said it would also allow businesses of any size to refuse to recognize and sanction discrimination against married same-sex couples, should same sex marriage become legal in Louisiana. The legislation was effectively defeated -- by a vote to return it to the calendar -- after hours of testimony from both sides. The names of more than 100 people who submitted green cards in support of the bill and more than 100 people who submitted red cards against the bills were read into the record at the hearing. About a dozen from each side spoke at the hearing, and an overflow crowd spilled in to two two extra rooms. The executive order means the 20 agencies that fall under the executive branch, including the Department of Revenue, Department of Insurance, Department of Transportation and Development and Department of Health and Hospitals, must abide by the order. Jindal spokesperson Shannon Bates Dirmann said the executive order does not have the power to force local municipal or parish governments to enforce the rules set forth in the order.In addition to codifying the intent of Johnson's bill, the order also incorporates the state's 2010-passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act and last year's Hobby Lobby ruling from the Supreme Court of the United States. The latter ruling found corporations can be treated by the law as a "person," and that those with religious owners cannot be forced to pay for insurance coverage for contraception. Jindal reiterated Tuesday evening that the bill -- and the executive order -- are "not about discrimination. It's about the First Amendment." Officials from the tourism and business industry were the first to testify against the bill. New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO Stephen Perry called the bill "a radioactive, poisonous message for (tourism)." The state could lose millions -- up to $65 million a year -- in state tax revenue because of lost business as a result the bill and perceptions that it is discriminatory, Perry said. "(Let's) not create discriminatory elements in the marketplace that destroy our economy." Johnson, speaking later at Jindal's office, doubted the loss projections. "Those numbers are unsubstantiated," he said. "So much of this is based on mischaracterization of the bill." Perry said the state could lose out on bids for Super Bowls, the final four and national championships because of the perception of the legislation. "Companies feel it would make it harder to recruit workers to Louisiana," Greater New Orleans Inc. CEO Michael Heck said during the hearing. In a statement Perry released after the hearing, through the convention and visitors' bureau, he cast doubt on the legal enforcement of the executive order. Peterson also spoke from the Senate floor about opposition to the bill by business and tourism groups, noting "not just the mom and pops," but Dow Chemical, IBM and the Convention and Visitors Bureau asked the Legislature not to pass the legislation. "This action seems determined to destroy Louisiana's business climate, especially our tourism industry that brings in millions of dollars every year...He got all the messages and ignored all of them. Purely for a national ambition," the statement adding, "We perceive this as largely a political statement by our conservative governor in support of his national position on the issue. That is certainly his right. The issuance of this Executive Order will have very little practical impact, however, since under the Louisiana Constitution and statutes, and according to on-point court Executive Order of a governor may create substantive law, even in an emergency situation. Thus, any belief that the Executive Order could enact law similar to that proposed by Rep. Johnson is simply unfounded and would not survive a court test." Dirmann countered that the order is not a law -- but policy or rules that those in the executive branch must follow. "This executive order is the next best thing to protect sincerely held religious beliefs about traditional marriage through the executive department -- it is not intended to be law," she said.

In Michigan, an associate pastor who compared homosexuality to alcoholism and equated the transgender "movement" to pedophiles "preying" on children has resigned from his position at St. John’s Lutheran Church and School in Midland, stepping down the day before personal photos he shared on the social app Grindr surfaced online. The Daily News learned of the resignation through a Facebook message from a reader and an e-mail to the newspaper. Grindr identifies itself as the “most popular all-male location-based social network out there,” and is known as a male-to-male hookup site. In a Monday article, gay and lesbian entertainment website Queerty published photos and screenshots it received from an anonymous source that depict messages the associate pastor, Matthew Makela, sent and received on Grindr. The article states Makela confirmed the screenshots were authentic but did not comment. A phone number for Makela was disconnected and he did not respond to a Facebook message and e-mail from the Daily News on Tuesday. The Queerty article also showed a screenshot of a Facebook post opposing same sex marriage that Makela wrote in September 2014. Another screenshot showed Makela’s reply to an editorial written by Pastor Dan Dickerson and published by the Daily News that stated “sexual attraction to the same sex is a sinful temptation.” His comment has since been removed from the editorial, but not by the Daily News. A resignation letter written by Makela was read to congregants of St. John’s on Sunday. Senior Pastor Rev. Daniel Kempin would not comment on the circumstances of Makela’s resignation beyond an announcement posted on the St. John’s website to inform congregants who were not at the service. “Pastor has acknowledged that there was sin and repentance, and I have testified that there is indeed forgiveness through the same Lord who forgives all our sins. Nevertheless, it is an end of our time together in ministry, and we ask for your continued prayers and support for the Makela family.” St. John’s Facebook pages have been taken down as a result of “malicious posters,” the announcement stated. It advised church members to not panic or respond but to “be patient and trust God.” Makela had served as an associate pastor at St. John’s since July 2010. He was raised in Wisconsin and lived in Midland with his wife, according to a biography that previously appeared on the church’s website but has since been taken down.

In Florida, according to the Orlando Sentinel, the Methodist church that dismissed two lesbian day-care workers said Monday that it has reached an agreement with the women. The pact was announced after Aloma United Methodist Church was threatened with a lawsuit and was rebuked by state leaders for dismissing the two women. Aloma United Methodist is offering to give the women letters of recommendation, state that they left voluntarily, and meet with gay-rights groups to better understand issues regarding sexual orientation. In addition, the state Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church will pay Jaclyn Pfeiffer, Kelly Bardier and their attorneys $28,476. The action by Aloma UMC comes after state Methodist leaders criticized the church for the dismissals of Pfeiffer and Bardier, two lesbians employed in the church's day-care centre. A letter from Conference Superintendent the Rev. Annette Stiles Pendergrass said the dismissals of the women violated their civil rights under church policy. "To the extent that Aloma UMC took action against Ms. Pfeiffer and Ms. Bardier based on their sexual orientation, such actions were improper…," the letter stated. Bardier and Pfeiffer could not be reached for comment Monday. The women worked for Aloma Methodist Early Childhood Learning Center, which is run by Aloma UMC. They say they were fired in March after they were asked by school Director Barbara Twachtman whether they were a lesbian couple. Aloma Methodist Pastor Jim Govatos said the women were not fired but left voluntarily. Under church policy, unmarried employees can be terminated for co-habitating or having sexual relations. The women's attorney said they were told they risked termination because of their relationship. "They were given an ultimatum of stop being gay or you are fired," said Mary Meeks. Govatos also said the issue was not whether they were gay, but whether they were sexually intimate while unmarried — a violation of church employment policy that applied to straight as well as gay individuals. "The [day-care] director asked them if they were involved in a sexual relationship. Each one on their own admitted that they were," Govatos said. Meeks said they were never asked about whether they were sexually intimate — only whether they were in a relationship. "My clients were never asked and never discussed that they were in a sexual relationship. They were never asked that question," Meeks said. Govatos said unmarried straight employees are held to the same standard and have been terminated in the past for continuing to have sex outside of marriage. According to a statement released by the church, "Sexual orientation is not a determining factor in employment at Aloma UMC; but sexual behavior by both gay and straight people can be." Govatos said even if Bardier and Pfeiffer were legally married in Florida, they could still have faced termination because Aloma UMC has not updated its policy to deal with same-sex marriage. Govatos, who is leaving Aloma for a position in Tallahassee within two months, said he thought it best for his successor to make that decision. "I did not think it would be fair to pre-empt my successor's conversation with local leadership about that," said Govatos, who has been with the church for five years. Methodist Bishop Ken Carter is scheduled to meet with Bardier and Pfeiffer on Wednesday in Lakeland. According the settlement agreement, Carter will then send a letter to Methodist pastors in Florida reminding them of the church policy against violating a person's civil rights based on sexual orientation. In its statement, Aloma UMC said civil rights are important, but so are employment policies based on a moral standard established by the Bible. "We believe those in the gay community should have their civil rights protected and we will actively fight to defend those rights," the church stated. "However, it is our desire to maintain an employee conduct policy that serves as a sign for God's best intentions for Christian discipleship and specifically mandates that our employees refrain from any sexual relations (whether gay or straight) outside of marriage."

In Ohio, a gay slur written on a Lakewood bar receipt has gone viral as people disgusted with the word have spread a photo of the receipt on social media. The comment was supposed to be a joke among friends, said one bar employee who declined to identify himself. The incident happened Sunday at the West End Tavern on Detroit Avenue in Lakewood, regarded as welcoming and inclusive of the LGBT community. A waitress, who was serving two friends, printed a slur on their receipt in place of their names, according to Someone took a picture of the receipt, and it has been posted online, including by commenters on the West End Tavern's Facebook page. The posts have drawn angry comments from people who feel the comment was discriminatory and prejudiced, especially in the inclusive culture of Lakewood. A man answering the phone at the West End Tavern, who said he is a manager and declined to give his name, said the bar was preparing a response, which it would post on its Facebook page. At about 2:00 pm, the bar posted a comment stating the waitress had been suspended "until we ensure that she and other employees understand that words hurt." The full statement, later e-mailed to Northeast Ohio Media Group, appears at the bottom of this story. While the waitress intended her action to be a joke, the man said the comment was inappropriate. He said the two customers who received the receipt are friends of the waitress and friends of the bar. He said they have come in multiple times and they were not offended. He said the customers receiving the receipt did not take the photo of the receipt, but someone else apparently did. He said the bar welcomes the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. "We don't disrespect anyone from any walk of life," the man said. He said the bar was unaware of the situation until a television reporter came to the bar Monday evening. The full statement from West End Tavern: "Recently one of our employees used an inappropriate and degrading term on a guest check that she thought was an attempt at humor with customers who were also her friends. We're horrified that such a stupid thing happened. The West End Tavern abhors this type of slur. It isn't funny and it hurts our friends and our customers. We welcome all of our guests. The employee has been suspended until we ensure that she and other employees understand that words hurt. The West End Tavern, at 18514 Detroit Avenue, Lakewood, Ohio, has been welcoming guests for 29 years. We wouldn't have survived this long if our customers didn't feel welcomed and comfortable. The West End Tavern is a fun place to enjoy a delicious meal and a beer or spirits and we will continue to warmly welcome all of our guests."

Edmonton Catholic School Board Now Says Transgender 7-Year-Old Girl Will Be Allowed To Use Washroom Of Her Choice, Moscow's LGBT Community Again Applies For Permit To Hold Gay Pride Parade In Russian Capital May 30, Vienna Gay-Themed Pedestrian Lights Now Permanent As Munich City Council Votes For Similar Plan, Illinois House Approves Measure Prohibiting Practice Of Gay Conversion Therapy On Minors, Oregon Governor Kate Brown Signs Into Law Bill Banning Conversion Therapy For LGBT Youth, New York City Police Identity Career Criminal Bayna El-Amin As Suspect Who Attacked Gay With Chair In Chelsea BBQ Grill, Philadelphia Police Arrest Raheam Felton In Connection To Monday Murder Of 21-Year-Old Transgender Woman

In Alberta, a young Catholic transgender student in Edmonton will be allowed to use the washroom of her choice and outspoken trustee Patricia Grell was not disciplined for speaking up in support of the child at a trustee board meeting Monday. But, reports the Edmonton Journal, Grell worried discipline could still be coming. “I don’t think I’m out of the woods. There may be some repercussions on this coming,” she said, meeting with supporters outside the Edmonton Catholic school board offices. “We’re going to deal with me at a later date.” The recent controversy arose after a seven-year-old Grade 2 student diagnosed with gender dysphoria was told to use a gender neutral washroom. The child was born as a boy but identifies as a girl and medical advice says transitioning to live fully as a girl is better for her mental health. The girl’s family filed a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission. The board of trustees discussed the issue, then decided to wait until the commission ruled before acting, even though that could take years. When Grell objected, both on her blog and in media comments, board chair Debbie Engel suggested she should resign for speaking against a board decision. But on Monday, trustees postponed the special in camera meeting they called to discuss Grell’s actions. “The mover of the intended motion advised that she wished to withdraw that single item, and as a result, the board determined that it was not necessary to proceed with today’s meeting,” said Engel in a news release. “The agenda item was to discuss the public nature of board business and may be addressed at a future date.” Grell said she hopes that discussion will lead to a resolution freeing trustees to speak their minds as their conscience dictates. “We need to start talking about freedom of speech,” she said, adding that trustees seem to be the only elected officials not allowed to speak against a board motion. She hopes that policy can be changed provincewide at the annual trustee meeting this fall. “It’s time we become good governors that speak for the people,” she added. “Why should it be that trustees should have to toe the board line?” At a board meeting earlier in the day, the board voted to let the school decide how best to handle the Grade 2 student’s predicament. The principal of the school gave the girl’s mother a call Monday afternoon to tell her the child can use any washroom she wants. The board will consult with the Archdioceses of Edmonton, medical specialists, parents and educational experts to write a policy for these situations later. “This child got to pee in the right bathroom and that to me is a victory,” said Marni Panas, a transgender woman who organized a small rally to support Grell and the mother Monday. “The hardest part in this world is to be accepted as you truly are,” said Panas. The child’s mother was also at the rally. She said her family will continue with the human rights complaint until she is assured in writing that the girl will not have to deal with this issue again while she is in the Catholic school system.

In Russia, members of Moscow's LGBT community have applied to City Hall for a permit to hold a gay pride parade and rally in the center of the Russian capital, the website reported Tuesday. The parade of up to 200 participants is scheduled to take place on May 30 along the central Tverskoi Bulvar, preceded by a rally of up to 100 participants in front of the Mayor's Office on Tverskaya Ploshchad, according to the report. Similar requests have been submitted every year since 2006, but have always been rejected by the city authorities. In 2010 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the rejections violated the European Convention on Human Rights. Attempts by gay rights activists to hold rallies in Russia are regularly broken up by groups of violent thugs and police officers. In 2013 Russia passed a controversial "gay propaganda law" that prohibited the promotion of "non-traditional sexual relationships" to minors. In a recent poll conducted by the Levada center earlier this year, 37 percent of Russians said that homosexuality is a disease, 26-percent called it a bad habit and 13-percent said it was a result of being corrupted by another person. 37-percent of Russians said gay people should be "cured," while 18-percent said they should be prosecuted. The poll was conducted among 800 respondents with a margin of error not exceeding 4.1-percent.

In Vienna, the Associated Press reports that the city's gay-themed pedestrian traffic lights are here to stay. Instead of the usual stick man, the lights show couples — a man and a woman, two women or two men. Set up recently at 47 crossings, they were to be taken down in June, after the end of several gay-friendly events. But Vienna Councilwoman Maria Vassilakou, in charge of traffic issues, says they will now remain. State broadcaster ORF quoted her Tuesday as saying they have already achieved cult status. The right-wing Freedom Party says it will lodge a criminal complaint against Vassilakou for allegedly contravening traffic regulations and wasting taxpayers' money at a cost of 63,000 euros ($70,000.) But a Facebook page calling for them to be kept has gathered more than 20,000 likes. North of the border in Germany, Munich's city council voted Tuesday to install its own traffic signals based on those in Vienna showing gay, lesbian and heterosexual couples in early July to coincide with gay-pride events in the city, the dpa news agency reported. It has not yet been decided exactly where the estimated 50 signals will be installed, nor how long they will remain. "This is an important signal, in the truest sense of the word, against homophobia," said Munich city council member Christian Vorlaender.

In Illinois, following a series of big wins during the last decade that culminated in the approval of same sex marriage in Illinois, the new cause for gay rights supporters at the Capitol is banning conversion therapy on minors — a controversial practice aimed at changing a person's sexual orientation from gay to straight. The effort gained momentum Tuesday as the Illinois House voted to approve the measure 68-43 after it failed in the chamber last year. According to the Chicago Tribune, the bill now goes to the Senate, which tends to be more liberal. Under the proposal, mental health providers would be barred from engaging in treatment aimed at changing the sexual orientation of minors. Psychologists, therapists, psychiatrists, social workers and counselors caught doing so could be deemed as engaging in unprofessional conduct by state regulators and face disciplinary action ranging from monetary fines, probation, or temporary or permanent license revocation. Businesses that advertise or offer conversion therapy services in a manner that represents homosexuality as a mental illness could face legal action under Illinois consumer fraud laws. Proponents, including state and national psychiatric and psychological groups, say conversion therapy causes depression, suicidal thoughts and other mental health issues. "I have teenagers, and they have pretty fragile self-esteem without being told they're diseased, just by being who they are," said sponsoring Representative Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) who first brought the legislation in 2014. Opponents say the measure threatens religious freedoms. "(Families) may want to make sure that their religious beliefs are included in any therapy or counseling for a minor that has questions about their sexuality," said Representative Michael Tryon (R-Crystal Lake) who voted against the proposal Tuesday. A petition was created to encourage the White House to work to ban conversion therapy. Last month, Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett responded, saying a national ban would require congressional approval but "this administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors" that are being pushed at the state level. "The overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates that conversion therapy, especially when it is practiced on young people, is neither medically nor ethically appropriate and can cause substantial harm," Jarrett wrote. It's unclear how common the practice is in Illinois. Supporters of a ban largely point to anecdotal evidence of people who have come forward to share their stories. Cassidy said she was unaware of any specific places practicing the therapy, but said she has spoken to several "survivors." The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, which oversees mental health providers, reports it received one complaint on the topic in 2012. It was filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has fought conversion therapy across the country. The state agency found no cause to discipline the therapist. Sam Wolfe, a civil rights attorney at the law center, said it's difficult to quantify how pervasive conversion therapists are in Illinois because they operate through referral services and word of mouth instead of explicit advertising after receiving negative blowback in recent years. Some Democrats also raised concerns, including Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island, who voted against the conversion therapy ban last year and did not vote Tuesday. Rita argues the government needs to be careful about limiting counseling to people who are looking for help. "I think it's a very slippery slope, and when we're dealing with issues where people are seeking help, we should be careful on how we limit that help," he said. Others insist conversion therapy can be helpful to youth who don't want to be attracted to the same sex. David Pickup, who practices the therapy in Texas, testified against Illinois' potential ban, saying it robs youth of the opportunity to seek help for unwanted same sex attractions. He said not all conversion therapists treat homosexuality as a disease or shame their patients, and that the "real thing" helped save his life after he experienced attraction to men. "This bill robs, I assure you, this bill robs that person for whom homosexuality does not represent their authentic selves," he told lawmakers. "This bill attempts very laudably to protect one group of people but at the demise of another group of people." A spokesperson for Republican Governor Bruce Rauner said his office was reviewing the legislation, a standard response before a measure reaches his desk.Mental health organizations have denounced sexual orientation change efforts by therapists as far back as 1994. Back then, the American Medical Association Council on Scientific Affairs stated it could no longer recommend the therapy for gays and lesbians, instead suggesting psychotherapy to help people become comfortable with their sexual orientations. Since then, dozens of mental health organizations have come out against the therapy, including the American Psychological Association in 2009, which discouraged families and gay youth from using it, citing severe health risks. Dr. Scott Leibowitz, head child and adolescent psychiatrist in the Gender and Sex Development Program at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital, said conversion therapy isn't based on modern science and can be dangerous to the emotional well being of children and adolescents. "These interventions work on a false premise that homosexuality is a disease, a disorder or a pathological state that needs to be cured," he testified in front of lawmakers. "Children and adolescents are particularly vulnerable in these efforts, which are often coercive and prey on the fears of youth and families... sending the message that their sexual orientation needs to be changed at this crucial time of their development is unethical and harmful." Last year, Cassidy's measure got 44 votes in favor and 51 against, with 60 needed to pass the House. She chalked up the defeat to the large number of missing lawmakers that day — 23 legislators didn't vote on the matter, with most listed on the roll call as having excused absences. This time around, Cassidy collected the 60 votes needed for approval with eight to spare. She said she worked to educate her colleagues who might not have been familiar with the issue. "Nothing good is easy in this place, and so coming back this year and really having an opportunity to work even more closely with survivors and hear their stories and stand up for them and win is incredibly gratifying," Cassidy said. "Last year, we hadn't really had that many people come up and participate in that way." Historically, gay rights proposals have taken a while to gain traction in Springfield, though the pace has sped up considerably the last decade, mirroring the national trend. Supporters tried in vain for three decades to pass a law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity before breaking through in 2005. By comparison, a measure allowing civil unions for same-sex couples was approved quickly in 2011. Two years later, Illinois became the 16th state to legalize same sex marriage. The gay conversion therapy bill now goes to the Senate, where sponsoring Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) is trying to round up 30 votes before the scheduled adjournment at month's end. "We're just going to work very hard to try to get it through the legislative process in Springfield, and I think we have a real chance," Biss said.

In Oregon, as expected, Governor Kate Brown on Monday signed legislation outlawing so-called "conversion therapy" for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth — making Oregon the third state in the nation, along with the District of Columbia, to enact such a ban. The Oregonian reports that House Bill 2307 landed on Brown's desk earlier this month after clearing the Oregon Senate in a bipartisan vote. The law — backed by advocates including Basic Rights Oregon — will prevent mental health providers from administering to teens younger than 18 any therapy that tries to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. Brown, who identifies as bisexual, did not supply a statement with her signature, which was announced Monday amid a pile of other bill-signings. But her support places the state near the front of a growing movement to outlaw the practice. President Barack Obama has called for a national ban. The American Psychological Association has also condemned the practice, which treats homosexuality as a mental disorder that can be "cured," and warns that it can lead to depression and anxiety. Oregon's ban will apply only to state-licensed mental health professionals, and not religious groups. Only one organization in Oregon offers conversion programs, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights advocacy group.

In New York City, police have named the man they say bashed a gay couple with a chair in an attack caught on video inside a Chelsea barbeque joint. Police say Bayna El-Amin, who has an extensive criminal history, is the man who hit Jonathan Snipes, 32, and Ethan York-Adams, 25, over their heads with a chair at the West 23rd Street Dallas BBQ at 11:00 pm on May 5. The attack left Snipes with a loose tooth and cartilage snapped in his ear. Police believe El-Amin has fled the state and are looking for help tracking him down. Bayna shouted anti-gay slurs at the men before hitting them with the chair, according to police. El-Amin has 18 prior arrests spanning back to 1993, police said. All but two of those incidents took place out of state. He has arrests on record in Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Alabama and New Jersey for assault, shop lifting, drug possession, credit card fraud, forgery and possession of stolen property. El-Amin's two most recent arrests took place in New York state in April 2012 and October 2013, but both cases were sealed, police said. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS.

In Pennsylvania, the Daily News reports that police have arrested a Southwest Philadelphia man for Monday's murder of a transgender woman from Wister. Raheam Felton, 31, of 61st Street near Elmwood Avenue, was charged with murder and possessing an instrument of crime for fatally stabbing a person police identified as London Banks but friends knew as London Kiki Chanel, 21, of Armat Street near Germantown Avenue. Police found Chanel bleeding on the sidewalk about 12:49 am Monday outside Ingersoll Street near 22nd in North Philadelphia. She died at 1:03 am at Hahnemann University Hospital of multiple stab wounds, police said. Felton is being held without bail pending a June 3 preliminary hearing, court records show. He is a repeat offender with multiple previous arrests - but few convictions - for offenses ranging from aggravated assault to prostitution and burglary, records show. Deputy Commissioner Kevin Bethel, the department's LGBT liaison, told Philadelphia Gay News that the murder was a domestic situation. Felton lived with Chanel and two other transgender women, and the deadly argument erupted over a personal conflict, not anti-transgender bias, Bethel told the paper. Chanel was at least the second transgender woman murdered in Philly in recent years. Charles Sargent was arrested in the July 2013 murder and dismemberment of Diamond Williams in Strawberry Mansion; he remains jailed without bail awaiting trial.

Stating That Religious Beliefs Could Not Dictate Laws Belfast District Judge Isobel Brownlie Rules Christian-Owned Bakery In Northern Ireland Discriminated Against Gay Man When It Refused To Bake Cake With Word "Gay" Written On It

In Northern Ireland, the Christian owners of a bakery discriminated against a gay man when they refused to make a cake carrying a slogan that promoted same sex marriage. The Belfast Telegraph reports that a judge at Belfast County Court found that Ashers Baking Company acted unlawfully by declining the request from gay rights activist Gareth Lee last year. Ordering the company to pay damages of £500, District Judge Isobel Brownlie said religious beliefs could not dictate the law. She said: "The defendants are entitled to continue to hold their genuine and deeply-held religious beliefs and to manifest them but, in accordance with the law, not to manifest them in the commercial sphere if it is contrary to the rights of others." The Northern Ireland Equality Commission, which monitors compliance with the region's anti-discrimination laws, brought the landmark legal action on behalf of Mr Lee. Ashers, which is owned by the McArthur family, was supported by the Christian Institute, which paid their legal costs. Delivering her 90-minute judgment to a packed courtroom, District Judge Brownlie said there was a huge interest in the case, which has split public opinion in Belfast and beyond. She said: "The defendants have unlawfully discriminated against the plaintiff on grounds of sexual discrimination. This is direct discrimination for which there can be no justification." Mr Lee, a member of the LGBT advocacy group Queer Space, wanted a cake featuring Sesame Street puppets Bert and Ernie with the slogan Support Gay Marriage for a private function in Bangor, Co Down, to mark International Anti Homophobia Day. He paid in full when placing the order at Ashers' Belfast branch but said he was stunned when, two days later, the company phoned to say it could not be processed. In evidence, which was given in March, Mr Lee claimed to have been left feeling like a lesser person. District Judge Brownlie accepted he had been treated "less favourably." contrary to the law. She also said the bakers must have been aware that he was gay or associated with others who were gay and supported same sex marriage because of the graphics he had supplied. It was the word "gay" to which they objected. Brownlie said: "My finding is that the defendants cancelled this order as they oppose same sex marriage for the reason that they regard it as sinful and contrary to their genuinely-held religious beliefs. Same sex marriage is inextricably linked to sexual relations between same-sex couples, which is a union of persons having a particular sexual orientation. The plaintiff did not share the particular religious and political opinion which confines marriage to heterosexual orientation. The defendants are not a religious organisation. They are conducting a business for profit and, notwithstanding their genuine religious beliefs, there are no exceptions available under the 2006 regulations which apply to this case." Throughout the lengthy hearing, Ashers general manager Daniel McArthur sat beside his wife Amy in the well of the court alongside other family members. The couple smiled as the judgment was read out in full. Speaking earlier, the 25-year-old said faith had helped sustain his family through a "difficult" time. Mr Lee sat impassively on the other side of the dock, flanked by male and female friends. The judge told the court she believed that if a heterosexual person had ordered a cake with graphics promoting "heterosexual marriage" or simply "marriage," the order would have been fulfilled. "I have no doubt such a cake would have been provided. It is the word 'gay' to which the second and third defendants took exception, the connotation of gay marriage which the defendants regarded as sinful." Karen and Colin McArthur, who co-founded the Co Antrim bakery, were not in the courtroom. Among the Christian supporters in the public gallery were former Stormont health minister Edwin Poots and DUP Lagan Valley MLA Paul Givan, who is seeking to introduce a "conscience clause" into equality legislation. In their evidence, the McArthurs, who employ up to 80 people across six branches that deliver throughout the UK and Ireland, said they were opposed to gay marriage on religious grounds. Karen McArthur said she initially accepted the order to avoid a confrontation but, as a born-again Christian, knew in her heart that she could not fulfil the request. After discussing the issue with her husband and son Daniel, she telephoned Mr Lee and informed him the cake would not be made. The Equality Commission initially asked for the bakery on Belfast's Royal Avenue to acknowledge it had breached legislation and offer "modest" damages to the customer. When Ashers refused, the publicly-funded watchdog proceeded with the legal challenge on grounds that Ashers had discriminated against the customer on grounds of sexual orientation. District Judge Brownlie said: "They (Ashers) are in a business supplying services to all. The law requires them to do just that." She later added: "They were contracted on a commercial basis to bake and ice a cake. The plaintiff was not seeking support or endorsement." Same sex marriage remains a divisive issue in Northern Ireland and the devolved Assembly at Stormont has repeatedly rejected attempts to have it legalized. The cake row has prompted Democratic Unionists to propose the controversial conscience clause in equality legislation - a move Sinn Fein has vowed to veto. The judge said any change in the law was a matter for the devolved Assembly at Stormont. Speaking outside the court, DUP MLA Paul Givan said he was disappointed by the ruling and accused the Equality Commission of using the "blunt instrument" of the courts to "drag" a Christian family through the legal process. Daniel McArthur said he was "extremely disappointed" with the verdict. He said: "We won't be closing down; we certainly don't think we've done anything wrong and we will be taking legal advice to consider our options for appeal." Simon Calvert, deputy director of the Christian Institute, described the ruling as sad, adding that, "The case raises key issues of public importance regarding the protection of rights to freedom of expression and freedom of thought, conscience and religion." Afterwards, Mr Lee, who has not spoken publicly about his experience, declined to address the media. Michael Wardlow, from the Equality Commission, said: "It was very robust, very clear. It sends out the signal confirming the law as we understood it. "It says to people who took part in commercial enterprises that they must act within the anti-discrimination framework."

Monday, May 18, 2015

Mother Of Edmonton Transgender Girl Implores Catholic School Board Not To Impose Sanctions Against Trustee Who Came To Daughter's Defence, Residents Angry After Violently Anti-Gay American "Christian" Andrew Wommack Scheduled To Appear At Plymouth Britain's City Council Venue, Prattville Alabama Minister Pleads Guilty To Misdemeandor Disorderly Conduct Charge In Connection To Attempt To Marry Same Sex Couple, Openly Gay NCAA Basketball Player Derrick Gordon Explains Why He Chose Catholic Seton Hall University

In Alberta, the mother of a transgender girl who was banned from using the female washroom at her Edmonton school is standing beside the school trustee who came to her daughter's defence, and who might now face punishment from the board. "She did nothing but give a little girl a voice. She is an angel, and she is the angel that we had been praying for," the girl's mother said of Edmonton Catholic School Board trustee Patricia Grell. Last week, Grell wrote a blog post in support of the girl, 7, who was barred from using the girls' washroom by her school and instead had to be escorted by fellow students to a gender-neutral washroom. Grell told CBC News on Monday she is expecting to be punished by the ECSB, and believes it is making changes to limit her responsibilities. The mother says she expected a "long, lonely journey" in her fight over her daughter's treatment. But Grell's support, and that of others following the post, have been a huge help, she said. "Here's a woman who stood up for what she believed in. She heard our cries, she recognized our pain … nobody should be in trouble for that," the mother said. CBC News is not revealing the name of the girl or her mother over fears of harassment. The mother told CBC News that the school's actions have caused her daughter considerable stress. Access to the washroom is "a huge issue to her," the mother said. "Time and time again, she's cried to me that she wants her life to end. She doesn't understand why God would make her 'an abomination.'" In an previous interview, school board chair Debbie Engel would not say whether the girl was barred from the washroom, and was elusive when asked what would happen if she went in. The mother said it is clear what would happen — she said that teachers have scolded her daughter for using the girls' washroom and have kicked her out multiple times. The girl told CBC News that while most of her fellow students are accepting, being banned from the girl's washroom makes her feel ostracized. "Because I am a girl and the rest of the girls in my life go to the girls' bathroom," she said. On Friday, after news of the ban broke, the school allowed the girl to use the female washroom, according to her mother. Although, she fears that will only continue as long as the case is in the public eye. "She was very excited when I picked her up. She said 'I just got to be a girl,'" the mother said. Grell said her future on the board remains uncertain. Shortly after she made the post, the school board chair told CTV News that she was "expecting" Grell's resignation. Later, Engel said she was not demanding Grell step down from the board, only saying that it was common for a trustee to resign after finding themselves at odds with the board. Grell believes she cannot be punished for the post, because the board has not made a firm decision on the issue. When she wrote the post, she said, she was not speaking on behalf of the board. "I thought we followed the catechism of the Catholic church … let the church inform our conscience, but in the end, it is our conscience that is the primary," Grell said. Still, she said she is worried the rest of the board is trying to force her out. Grell said she was informed of a meeting Tuesday to make changes to the school board's structure. But when she tried to get more details about what that meant, school board staff and other trustees refused to answer. "They said 'we can't tell you,'" Grell said. "Everybody knows this but me, maybe it has something to do with me." Nonetheless, Grell said she will not back away from her post and feared that both the school board and her religion were being "dragged through the mud" over the controversy. "Catholic education is about including people, not what we're doing here." The ECSB did not respond to calls for comment on this story.

In Britain, the BBC reports that Andrew Wommack, who has said publicly gay people are "not normal," is scheduled to appear at God TV's Summer Celebration, in Plymouth. The city council said it had "received verbal and written assurances" that its equality standards would be upheld. Pride in Plymouth said it was a "real backward step." Director of the organization, Jo Lewis, said: "The council has made a mistake and haven't given it the thought they should have done." She added it was unacceptable to allow Mr Wommack to "publicly preach discrimination towards LGBT people," "in a publicly-funded building." Mr Wommack, from Texas, will be carrying out three evening services in the Guildhall. Organizers God TV has described the event as "not-to-be-missed empowering teaching." On his website, Mr Wommack claims "homosexuality is wrong from a moral and social point of view" and "their lifestyle is not only destructive to themselves but also to society." Plymouth City Council said the organizers "have provided verbal and written assurances that their event will comply fully with our equalities policy, which is one of the booking conditions." Plymouth Humanists have also started a social media campaign urging God TV to disown some of Mr Wommack's views. Chairman, Ben Kerr, said Mr Wommack's "attitude to gay people threatens to undermine the good work that is going on in Plymouth to counter homophobic attitudes." Pride in Plymouth said it would not be staging an official protest but would "expect the council to take legal action if hate speech was spouted." God TV and Mr Wommack have been unavailable for comment.

The Montgomery Advertiser reports that a Prattville Unitarian minister, arrested on a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge in February for trying to marry a same sex couple, pleaded guilty to the charge Monday morning in Autauga County Circuit Court. Anne Susan DiPrizio, 44, of the 300 block of Cambridge Street, entered the plea before Judge Ben Fuller, but not before some delays and judicial wrangling. He gave her 30 days in the Autauga Metro Jail, and then suspended the sentence in place of 6 months unsupervised probation. Fuller also ordered her to pay a $250 fine and other associated court costs. On February 10, DiPrizio offered to marry a lesbian couple inside the Autauga County Probate Office. The couple had received their marriage license just a few minutes before. Probate Judge Al Booth had halted all marriage ceremonies in the office the day before. DiPrizio refused to leave the office after sheriff's deputies were called and she was charged with disorderly conduct, court records show. She spent about three hours in the Autauga Metro Jail that day before posting a bond of $1,000, jail records show. "I'm glad this is over and we can put this behind us," DiPrizio said after the sometimes confusing process was complete Monday. An apparent plea deal was agreed to before the bench trial began. When Fuller pronounced the 30 day suspended jail sentence the first go round, DiPrizio balked. "That's not what we agreed to, we said no suspended 30 day sentence," she said. Fuller withdrew the plea agreement and told Desirae Lewis, the assistant district attorney handling the case to prepare to call her witnesses. During the break prosecutors huddled with DiPrizio, who was representing herself, and tried to clear up any confusion on the sentence. Fuller came back to the courtroom and second time, handing down the sentence and DiPrizio interrupted him when he was talking about the fine. "Can I ask a question?" she said to Fuller. "When I'm done!" a visibly angered Fuller said with a raised voice. "We are here to take a misdemeanor plea. I don't know if you think this is a game. If you do, you can learn differently very quickly." When Fuller finished informing DiPrizio of the conditions of the unsupervised probation, he asked if she had any questions. "I heard a six month sentence," she said. "Your sentence is 30 days in the county jail, that sentence is suspended and the court is ordering you to serve six months unsupervised probation," Fuller said. "You can serve your sentence if you don't want the six months unsupervised probation." DiPrizio agreed to the unsupervised probation and the proceeding closed. Lewis too expressed relief after it was over. She said DiPrizio may have been confused by court procedure. "It took a little longer than I was expecting for a misdemeanor plea, but I'm glad it's behind us," Lewis said. "No one wanted to see Mrs. DiPrizio serving any jail time." DiPrizio's arrest came in the midst of controversy over same sex marriage being allowed in Alabama. Her arrest garnered national and international media attention. Usually misdemeanor cases are heard in Autauga District Court. Fuller took the case after District Judge Joy Booth recussed herself. She is Probate Judge Al Booth's daughter-in-law.

Since Derrick Gordon, the first openly gay Division 1 men's basketball player, decided to transfer from UMass in March, the process was more difficult than he expected. He says some schools in need of guard help had no interest, and others seemed hesitant to take him on. For a while, Gordon thought it was all hopeless. But he ended up finding what he calls a "great situation" at a seemingly unlikely place — Seton Hall, a Catholic school that once refused to sanction a gay-rights student organization and allegedly removed a popular priest who ministered to Seton Hall teams because of a Facebook post supporting lesbian, gay and transgender equality. Gordon, who is from Plainfield, New Jersey and starred in high school at now-shuttered St. Patrick in Elizabeth, said he's not concerned about the past situations at Seton Hall. In fact, he said he didn't give them much thought. "I mean, I'm there for basketball," Gordon said. "All that other stuff is irrelevant to me right now. I was going in there basing my decision on how can they use me, what they need me for and then going from there. I wasn't necessarily looking at it being a Catholic school because regardless of wherever you go, there are always going to be people who talk about you." Gordon said he was aware of the allegations from Rev. Warren Hall, who claimed just three days ago he lost his job over the Facebook post. A spokesperson for the university said personnel decisions about priests on campus are managed by the Archdiocese of Newark. Either way, Gordon said he wanted to base his decision strictly on basketball. "It [stinks] that it happened, but none of that stuff honestly was going to play a factor when I was deciding anyway," Gordon said. If Gordon's decision is all about basketball, he'll find controversy there, too. The Pirates started last season 12-2 and appeared headed for the NCAA tournament when locker room tension and poor play torpedoed the season. Starting guard Jaren Sina left the team in February, and guard Sterling Gibbs transferred after the season. Gordon, who started his career at Western Kentucky before transferring to UMass and averaging 9.8 points and 4.9 rebounds last season as a junior, said he plans to blend into Seton Hall's campus life like any other student. He wants to be an advocate for gay rights at the school, but said he plans to do so quietly. "Nothing is going to change," Gordon said. "I'm still going to be the same person. It's not like I'm going to go on campus and start waiving around a gay flag. It's all about leading by example. You don't see a straight person going around doing anything so I'm not going to just because I'm gay. It's all about how you carry yourself. I'm just going to be myself and let that take care of everything and let people see that, rather than try and do too much." Gordon said he was won over during the recruiting process by Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard and assistant coach Shaheen Holloway, who spoke excitedly about what he would bring to the program. Gordon, a graduate transfer, is immediately eligible for the Pirates."Just hearing their passion for how bad they wanted me to come there, it meant a lot," Gordon said. "Everything they were saying, I looked at it as something that I can't give this up." Gordon also said Seton Hall's coaches and athletic director "told me not to worry about" any of the school's past issues with gay rights. "The coaches, the AD of the school — everybody's just extremely excited for me to get there and that's all that matters to me," Gordon said. "All the outsiders and everything, I don't worry about that stuff."

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Russian Police Detain 17 Activists As They Release Balloons To Mark International Day Against Homophobia, Australian Lesbian Fulfills Dying Wish By Marrying Partner In New Zealand, French Protestants Vote To Permit Vicars To Bless Same Sex Marriages, Champion Of Gay Police Officers Sam Ciccone Dies At 71, Republican Presidential Candidate Jeb Bush Tells Christian Broadcasting Network Same Sex Marriage Not Constitutional Rights, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand Introduces Legislation Prohibiting Anti-LGBT Adoption Policies, Openly Gay NCAA Division 1 Player Derrick Gordon Transferring To Seton Hall, Oregon Police Arrest Man After He Tried To Steal Gay Pride Flag In Portland, Cate Blanchett Denies She Had Same Sex Relationships As Todd Haynes-Directed Lesbian-Themed Film Carol Success Of Cannes

Reuters reports that Russian police detained 17 protesters on Sunday as they gathered in central Moscow to release colorful balloons into the air to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, an organizer of the failed flashmob said. Some 50 people assembled on a square outside a Moscow theater but crowd control police drove up a bus and started shoving the protesters inside before they managed to unfurl any banners or chant any slogans. One of the organizers, Andrei Obolensky, said later that he and others were still detained at a police station, and only one of them had so far been released. The LGBT community has come under increased pressure in Russia as President Vladimir Putin has charted a more conservative course since starting his third term in 2012. A 2013 law against gay "propaganda" sparked an outcry among Russian rights activists and in the West. But partly reflecting the influence of the Orthodox church, many Russians back the law or have negative feelings towards gays. A similar event took place undisturbed in Russia's second city of St Petersburg on Sunday, with activists waving rainbow flags and releasing scores of balloons while police looked on. "It's tough, members of the LGBT community face lots of discrimination in their lives, at work, at school... people are faced with violence in the streets," said protester Nika Yuryeva.

The Guardian reports that an Australian woman has fulfilled her dying wish by marrying her same sex partner in New Zealand. Sandra Yates, 57, and Lee Bransden, 75, from Tasmania were married at Rotorua’s Mitai village on Saturday. Brandsen has a lung disease and just weeks to live. The wedding was her dying wish. The couple exchanged vows in a glade surrounded by ferns near a spring, with Maori warriors arriving by canoe. Unable to legally marry in Australia, a New Zealand marriage became an option for the two pensioners when a crowdsourcing campaign raised almost $10,000 in two days. The couple thanked everyone who helped make their marriage possible. “We will use this inadequate word of ‘thank you’ to everyone who has supported us in our fabulous journey to become married. Thank you for all the beautiful wishes and generous donations enabling us to succeed in our destiny to be wed,” said Yates. Brandsen added: “It’s been the most wonderful day of my life. I am married to the most wonderful woman. This should have happened in Australia. For any other Aussies wanting to be married, I can highly recommend the beautiful people of New Zealand.” Yates says Australia is behind the times on marriage equality. “We are supposed to be a leading-edge country. We really are not that advanced,” she said. The Australian Marriage Equality national director, Rodney Croome, congratulated the couple on their New Zealand nuptials, but said it highlights the urgency of Australia adopting equality. “While it is a happy day for Lee and Sandra, it is a reminder marriage equality is an urgent reform many Australian couples and families can no longer wait for,” he said.

The Daily Telegraph reports that France's largest Protestant church voted on Sunday to allow vicars to bless same sex marriages, two years after they were legalized amid huge protests by Roman Catholics. The United Protestant Church said its synod had agreed that vicars opposed to same sex unions would not be forced to bless them. Church weddings or any religious marriages in France must be preceded by a civil ceremony in a town hall. "The synod has decided to take a step forward in accompanying people and these couples by opening the possibility of celebrating liturgical blessings if they want," said Laurent Schlumberger, president of the Church. The United Protestant Church claims 110,000 active members from a community estimated to number about 400,000 believers. Most of France's smaller, evangelical Protestant churches oppose gay marriage. About two-thirds of French people identify themselves as Catholic. Hundreds of thousands of people joined street protests, including conservative Catholics, far-Right supporters and several prominent members of Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP party, to protest the controversial 2013 legalization of same sex marriages. However, the former president came under fire from allies for promising to scrap gay marriage laws if he is re-elected in 2017. Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-Right Front National, stayed away from the 2013 protests as she tried to court gay voters and distance the party from the homophobic outbursts of her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen. Her deputy, Florian Philippot, was "outed" as gay by the magazine Closer last year. Mr Le Pen has accused him of creating a "heterophobic" clique around his daughter. The 86-year-old Mr Le Pen blames Mr Philippot for his political and personal rift with her over his comments that the Nazi gas chambers were "a mere detail of history" and his defence of the head of France's wartime Vichy government, which collaborated with the Nazis. The vote by French Protestants came as Ireland prepares to hold a referendum on legalizing same sex marriage this week. The Church of Scotland voted on Saturday to allow the ordination of gay ministers.

The New York Times reports that in January 1978, the mayor of New York, Edward I. Koch, issued an executive order banning discrimination in city agencies on the basis of “sexual orientation or affectional preference.” Less than three weeks later, in an essay on the Op-Ed page of the Times, Samuel DeMilia, the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, declared that the mayor’s order would be “unworkable in the Police Department, and can do more harm than good. “Sociability, vital to building a cohesive force, can never develop with homosexuals for obvious reasons,” Mr. DeMilia wrote, adding, “The overt homosexual is distinguished by his speech, mannerisms, conduct and dress. These have generally been received negatively by the public. There is no reason to believe that public attitudes toward these features that distinguish homosexuals will change once he puts on a police officer’s uniform.” The following year, Sam Ciccone, a sergeant in the Fairview, New Jersey, police department, quit his job there after 15 years spent concealing his sexual orientation. He moved to New York, and in 1982 he and Charles H. Cochrane Jr., a gay New York City police sergeant, founded the Gay Officers Action League, known as GOAL, the first organization to address the needs and concerns of gay and lesbian law enforcement personnel. Similar groups have since arisen throughout the United States and abroad. Mr. Ciccone was 71 when he died on May 10 at his apartment in Manhattan. His nephew Joseph Ciccone, a former New Jersey police officer who is now a Roman Catholic priest, confirmed the death. Edgar Rodriguez, a friend and a former police officer, said the cause was heart disease. Sergeant Cochrane died in 2008. As an activist, Mr. Ciccone (pronounced chih-KO-nee) preferred to work behind the scenes, but he was known as a clever strategist, a persuasive debater and an effective conciliator. He maintained that an essential part of GOAL’s mission was in fact better policing, and that the department needed to be more sensitive not only to the concerns of its gay officers but also to those of the gay community; the public weal required a mutual respect. In an interview, Matt Foreman, a co-chairman in the 1980s of Heritage of Pride, which organized the gay pride parade, recalled that before Mr. Ciccone became involved, the relationship between the gay community and police officers was so antagonistic that the organizers refused to apply for a parade permit. Mr. Ciccone, he said, “was instrumental” in bringing the parade committee and the police together. Mr. Foreman later served as executive director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project. During a spike in anti-gay violence in the late 1980s and early 1990s, he said, Mr. Ciccone helped persuade the Police Department to add resources in Greenwich Village and Chelsea, neighborhoods with a substantial number of gay residents and businesses. Mr. Ciccone also helped the anti-violence project write a curriculum for the city’s Police Academy to help teach recruits about dealing with gay people as crime victims. “Sam made a very important difference at a very challenging time,” Mr. Foreman said. Salvatore Ciccone was born in Englewood, New Jersey, on March 18, 1944, a son of Nicholas Ciccone, a union painter, and Ida Pinzone. He grew up in Fairview and graduated from Cliffside Park High School, in a neighboring town. He joined the Fairview Police Department in 1964, rising to the rank of detective sergeant. “He loved being a cop,” said Carl Locke, a New York City detective and the current president of GOAL. “He told me that if they would put him on, he’d do the job for free. But he said that in the ‘60s he was so afraid people would find out about him that his life was so miserable that he had to leave policing.” About a dozen people attended the first meeting of GOAL, held in the basement of St. Joseph’s Church in Greenwich Village. Patrick Suraci, a psychologist working for the department, said in an interview on Friday that Sergeant Cochrane, who had been publicly open about being gay, had received a bomb threat, but that many of the others in the room were still in the closet and fearful that their secret would be revealed. For several years that remained the case for many gay police officers, including those on the board of GOAL. (The organization’s mission now states that it includes under its protective umbrella “active duty and retired lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender law enforcement officers and other personnel of recognized law enforcement institutions.”) In an interview, Mr. Rodriguez, now a retired sergeant, recalled attending his first meeting, in the late 1980s, with great trepidation, and watching Mr. Ciccone argue that the organization needed to be represented by people who were out of the closet. Mr. Rodriguez said Mr. Ciccone became a father figure to him. “Largely due to Sam, his friendship and mentorship, I went from being a frightened, closeted gay cop to being president of the organization,” Mr. Rodriguez said. Mr. Ciccone later earned a law degree at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, and worked for the firm Napoli Bern Ripka Shkolnik. He wrote an autobiographical play, “Nothing to Report,” about the travails of a gay cop, which was produced Off Broadway in 1987. Mr. Ciccone is survived by his partner, Ta-Wei Yu, a pianist, and three sisters, Mildred Hutton, Patricia Vitti and Barbara Mastropolo. Detective Locke said GOAL now has some 2,000 members. Among Mr. Ciccone’s other accomplishments, he said, was pushing to have GOAL accepted by the Police Department as a legitimate fraternal organization, and helping to advance police recruitment in the gay community. “I went to the academy in 2001 as an openly gay man, a change that was hard for Sam to believe,” Detective Locke said. Mr. Ciccone and Sergeant Cochrane, he added, were fighting to be recognized and fighting for equality. “We have that now,” he said. “We have that place at the table. He and Charlie — they changed policing forever.”

Bloomberg reports that Jeb Bush, interviewed Sunday by the Christian Broadcasting Network's David Brody, was asked whether he believed that same sex marriage was a right protected by the United States constitution. “I don’t, but I’m not a lawyer, and clearly this has been accelerated at a warp pace,” he said. The Supreme Court is expected to rule sometime next month on whether gay marriage should be made legal in all 50 U.S. states, and Bush tied the future of the country itself to the issue of the family structure. "To imagine how we're going to succeed in our country unless we have committed family life, a child-centered family system, is hard to imagine," Bush said. "Irrespective of the Supreme Court ruling, because they're going to decide whatever they decide, and I don't know what they're going to do, we need to be stalwart supporters of traditional marriage." In previous interviews, Bush has argued that same sex marriage is something best left to the states to decide. On Sunday, however, he spoke about the issue in much more urgent, and moralistic terms. "If we want to create a right-to-rise society, where people, particularly children born in poverty, if we want to have them have a chance we should be—a core American value," Bush said, "we have to restore committed, loving family life with a mom and a dad loving their children with their heart and soul." In the wake of the nationwide controversy over so-called religious freedom laws, that critics argue allow for discrimination against gay and lesbian couples, Bush was asked whether he thought it acceptable for business owners to refuse to provide services for a same sex wedding. "Yeah, absolutely," Bush said. "If it's based on a religious belief. The best example is the florist in Washington state who may lose her business because of this and has lost a lot because of the costs of all of this. She had a regular customer who came in and she would provide flowers to him and he was going to marry his significant other—asked her to participate as a friend in the wedding, to help organize it, and she thought about it and said, 'look, I love you. You're my friend, but I can't participate. It goes against my conscience.'" In the case Bush referenced, a superior court judge in Washington ruled in February that Baptist florist Barronelle Stutzman had violated the state's anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws by citing her religious beliefs as her reason for not providing floral arrangements for a same sex wedding. "A big country, a tolerant country ought to be able to figure out the difference between discriminating against someone because of their sexual orientation and forcing someone to participate in a wedding that they find goes against their moral beliefs," Bush said.

According to the Associated Press, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is announcing legislation to remove legal barriers to adoption by lesbian, gay, and transgender parents. Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, said Sunday she will introduce legislation this week that would prohibit discrimination against LGBT adoptive parents. The Every Child Deserves a Family Act would prohibit any entity that receives federal funds from discriminating against adoptive or foster parents based on sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status. New York is one of seven states that explicitly ban discrimination in adoption based on sexual orientation. Louisiana, Mississippi, and Michigan prohibit gay and lesbian couples from jointly adopting. Four other states restrict same sex couples from using the second-parent adoption process. Gillibrand says the absence of a consistent national policy prevents thousands of children from growing up with devoted parents.

Former UMass guard Derrick Gordon is returning home, the Plainfield, New Jersey native telling USA TODAY Sports he is transferring to Seton Hall. Gordon, the first openly gay Division I men's college basketball player, announced in March he planned to leave UMass. Gordon came out in April of 2014. According to USA TODAY, Gordon said, "I'm walking into a great situation. This gives me a chance to showcase what I can really do in one of the best conferences (the Big East) in the country, in the national spotlight." Gordon is a 6'3" guard who began his career at Western Kentucky. USA TODAY reports Gordon will be eligible to play immediately as a graduate transfer. He averaged 9.8 points and 4.9 rebounds a game this past season for the Minutemen. Seton Hall is in need of depth at the guard position, with Sterling Gibbs transferring to UConn. Gibbs was the Pirates' leading scorer last season. Gordon sounds up to the task, telling USA TODAY, "Coach (Kevin Willard) has already talked to the players and they said, 'as long as he helps us win, we're gonna be his brother.' It's about what I can do for the team ... Obviously, me being on the team will be a new experience for everyone involved. This is another new chapter for me."

Police in Oregon arrested a man for trying to steal a gay pride flag in downtown Portland on Sunday morning. Daniel Svoboda, 36, was charged with Theft III. Police say he appeared somewhat disoriented and was checked by medical personnel prior to his transport to jail. According to police, at 9:53 am on May 17, Central Precinct officers received a call regarding an individual climbing the side of a building in an attempt to steal a flag. Officers responded to the area and found the suspect 12 to 14 feet off the ground on the side of the a building located at 318 SW 3rd Ave. That is the address of the Silverado Bar. Officers were able to talk the suspect into coming down and took him into custody. The investigation revealed that Svoboda had climbed a drainage pipe in an attempt to take the flag.

According to AFP, Cate Blanchett -- in Cannes for the red-carpet world premiere of her latest movie about a lesbian romance -- on Sunday scotched media speculation that she had a real-life gay past. Early reviews of Carol, set in New York in the 1950s and directed by American film-maker Todd Haynes, have been so glowing that the film is already generating Oscar buzz and is a leading contender for the top Cannes prize, the Palme d'Or. Reviewers have heaped praise on Blanchett, 46, for her performance as a socialite who begins a relationship with a shopgirl played by Rooney Mara despite the personal and societal hazards that poses. The Australian actress already has two acting Oscars under her belt for The Aviator and Blue Jasmine. Variety described her as "incandescent" in the role, adding that the film had "supreme intelligence, breathtaking poise and film-making craft of the most sophisticated yet accessible order." Speaking to the press ahead of the premiere, Blanchett found herself forced to deny that she had had any gay experiences herself. "Have I had sexual relations with women? The answer is no," Blanchett told reporters at a media conference. The actress said speculation about possible gay episodes had sprung from an interview she had given to Variety. The publication had reported that it asked Blanchett whether she'd had "past relationships with women" and got the response: "Yes. Many times." That triggered cascading speculation in other media (including this blog) that Blanchett had revealed past gay encounters. Blanchett added that the part of the interview where she had stated she had had no "sexual relations with women" had been edited out of the article. The actress added firmly that "in 2015, the answer (to that sort of question) shouldn't matter", noting that "in 70 countries around the world, homosexuality is still illegal." Despite some progress, she said, "we're living in deeply conservative times." Wearing an elegant black dress with a partly transparent top, the actress spoke lucidly and with some humour about the movie and her approach to it. "The wonderful thing is that it has male and female perspectives -- it's not a niche experience," she said. A nude love scene generated some "apprehension" for her, but "no more so than in a love scene with a man." Reviewers have been nearly unanimous over director Haynes's "masterful" restraint, which drew the audience along until the end, when a stately yet powerful climax brought tears to the eyes of even hardened film critics. Movie website Indiewire called it "a love story that starts at a trickle, swells gradually to a torrent, and finally bursts the banks of your heart." The movie is based on a book by Patricia Highsmith, who wrote crime thrillers including The Talented Mr Ripley. Here, there is no "crime" committed -- although the women's relationship is viewed as such in the reproving period in which it is set. "The almost-pathological paranoia that is usually defined as criminal is, in this case, romantic," Haynes, who is gay, explained to The Hollywood Reporter. "Even before it became a story about lesbian love -- which was, of course, criminal, as defined by the world at that time -- it was just about love itself as something criminal." Ultimately, though, it seeks to tell a universal love story built around themes of sacrifice and defiance, and pursuing love with dignity. That it is filmed with superlative costumes, intricate attention to detail, and irreproachable performances heightens the impact. Haynes and Blanchett had worked together before, on I'm Not There, in which Blanchett is one of a cast of actors who play Bob Dylan. If Carol ends up winning Cannes' Palme d'Or trophy in a week's time, it won't be the first time a sensitive picture about a lesbian couple has won over the jury. Blue is the Warmest Colour, a French lesbian drama, picked up the top prize in 2013. In an unusual step, the award was given not just to the director but also to the two female leads, in order to bypass a Cannes rule that the Palme d'Or and acting trophies cannot go to the same film.

"Carol", which has US and British financing, is scheduled to be released in the United States in December -- a key point in the calendar for films seen with Oscar potential. The rest of the world will likely only get to see it in 2016.