Thursday, November 15, 2012

Three Men Appear Before South African Court Charged In Connection To September 2011 Murder Of Gay Man, Islamic Group Denounces Plans By French Government To Legalize Same Sex Marriage Saying It Will Lead To Bestiality, Gay Vote Proved Profound For President Obama Re-Election, Roman Catholic Church Donated Nearly $2 Million To Four States Where Marriage Equality Were On Ballot, Sparks Steakhouse Pays $600,000 To Settle Federal Male On Male Sexual Harassment Suit, Smoking Gun Names Sheldon Stephens As Elmo Accuser, Politicians Including Lt. Governor Newsome Lend Support To Openly Gay Boy Scout Denied Eagle Rank, Ryan Phillippe Bends Over, Gap Celebrates Same Sex Married Love of Rufus Wainwright

In South Africa, three men appeared in the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court for allegedly killing a gay man, Gauteng police said on Thursday. Maxwell Nyathi, Mthokozisi Ndlovu and Bekithemba Maseko appeared in court on Monday, Brigadier Neville Malila said. The matter was postponed to December 10 for further investigation. The Independent Online reports that they remained in custody. They were arrested in Yeoville on Friday and Saturday in connection with the murder of Barney van Heerden in Norwood in September 2011. “The evidence that we have linked them to the murder,” Malila said. On Thursday, The Star and Eyewitness News reported that Van Heerden's murder was one of eight gay killings in Gauteng that a provincial police task team was investigating. The killers apparently gained the trust of their victims. Once invited to their homes, they killed and robbed them. According to the newspaper, rights groups had claimed for the past year that the sexual orientation of the victims resulted in lax investigations. Malila disputed this and said there were convictions in related cases. “The police are viewing crimes against minority groups in a serious light, and will do everything in their power to pursue justice in these cases.” He said out of eight cases there had been two convictions, although not for murder. Two men were serving sentences after they were found in possession of items belonging to two other gay men killed in 2010 and 2011. “In the Soweto murder of Siphiwe Nhlapo, in September 2011, the accused was convicted and is currently serving a sentence of 15 years' imprisonment for the possession of stolen property,” Malila said. “In the Parkview murder case of Manilos Veloudes, in April 2010, the suspect has been sentenced to three years' imprisonment for the possession of stolen property.” Malila said the killings were still being investigated.

According to the AFP, in the latest clash over France's plans to bring in same sex marriage, the government on Thursday denounced comments from the French Union of Islamic Organisations that same sex marriage may lead to bestiality. "The UOIF's comments are... a terrible verbal attack on not only those directly affected, but our entire society," government spokesperson Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said, asking "Muslims to respect the distinction between the religious and the civil." The UOIF, an umbrella organisation for Muslim groups in France, posted a statement on their website that claimed gay marriage could open the door to bestiality and polygamy. "If marriage between persons of the same sex becomes the norm, then all claims, even the most unseemly, might one day also become the norm," it wrote, listing bestiality and polygamy as two of the possibilities. The issue has drawn strong reactions from religious and secular leaders, with industrialist and media magnate Serge Dassault claiming that the French will die out within 10 years if gays are allowed to marry. The Socialist government last week adopted a draft law to authorize homosexual marriage and adoption, a cornerstone of the election manifesto that brought President Francois Hollande to power in May. It now has to be voted through parliament before becoming law. Hollande has promised it will be on the statute books by mid-2013.

According to the New York Times, the overwhelming support President Obama received from a growing demographic group – Americans who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual – proved a decisive factor in his re-election. Obama’s more than three-to-one edge in exit polls among the 5 percent of voters who identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual was more than enough to give him the ultimate advantage, according to the study, by Gary J. Gates of the Williams Institute at the U.C.L.A. School of Law, in conjunction with Gallup. The results are consistent with earlier research on the size and political beliefs of gay voters.

The Roman Catholic Church and its affiliate, the Knights of Columbus, played a leading role in funding anti-LGBT equality efforts in the four states where marriage equality was on the ballot this fall. The Church hierarchy invested nearly $2 million in the failed attempts to write discrimination into the Minnesota constitution and stem marriage equality in Maine, Maryland, and Washington. Dioceses from across the country supported these efforts financially, thought it’s doubtful that the parishioners fueling these contributions had any idea that their money was being used to fund discrimination. According to Public Religion Research Institute, nearly 60-percent of Catholics support marriage equality. And an astounding 83-percent of Catholics in the United States say they don’t feel compelled to vote in accordance with the political preaching of bishops. These numbers from the laity represent people who, whether they know it or not, are living out their faith daily - Catholic social teaching promotes treating everyone with love, dignity, and respect. But despite the values of the laity, the Catholic Church hierarchy is pouring immense resources into preventing loving, committed same sex couples from marrying. In fact, in the wake of last week’s historic victories for equality, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops doubled down and vowed to continue funding efforts to discriminate against LGBT people. The Roman Catholic Church will make these investments at the same time and with the same dollars that would otherwise go to support soup kitchens, homeless shelters and domestic violence programs. Taking up where the Mormons left off in 2008, the Catholic Church – and its affiliate, the Knights of Columbus – have made considerable investments in the marriage fights in Minnesota, Maryland, Washington State and Maine this election cycle – spending nearly $2 million. In addition, a close ally of the Church and past co-conspirator, the National Organization for Marriage, spent more than $5.2 million this cycle. Final campaign figures for Maryland and Maine will be available by the end of the month. Marriage equality opponents across the four states raised $11.3 million. The Catholic Church’s contributions make up 17-percent of that total figure. When you add in the contributions of Church ally NOM, the reality of the coordinated effort becomes clear: the Catholic Church, the Knights of Columbus and NOM are responsible for funding nearly 65-percent of all anti-equality efforts in Minnesota, Maryland, Washington State and Maine. The partnership between the Catholic Church, the Knights, and NOM goes back several years. In 2008, the Knights’ $500,000 donation to NOM was the largest known donation on record for the anti-LGBT group. In 2009, the Knights donated $1.4 million to the organization – enough to fund most of NOM’s successful $1.8 million push in Maine to repeal the state’s marriage equality law. The Knights invested heavily in California’s Prop 8 battle – contributing $1 million and calling it vital to a “healthy society” that same-sex couples be prohibited from marrying and starting families. Given this history, it seems unsurprising that the Catholic Church is once again dumping a stunning amount of money into efforts that prevent loving, committed same-sex couples from marrying. Dr. Sharon Groves directs the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion & Faith program. Dr. Groves says that the Church hierarchy’s heavy investments in anti-equality measures shouldn’t be seen as reflecting the values of lay Catholics. “The majority of Catholics support equality for their LGBT sisters and brothers, and they do so precisely because their faith compels them to extend the same love and dignity to others with which they themselves wish to be treated. That is the Golden Rule that guides not just those in the Catholic faith, but so many people across religions. The Church hierarchy should be reflecting the values that the laity holds – instead they are supporting a discriminatory agenda that does not speak to the fundamental underpinnings of the Catholic faith.” A list of the Church’s donations in the four ballot states, based on public filings, is available at the source.

Sparks Steak House, an upscale steakhouse in New York City, will pay $600,000 and take other steps to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency announced Thursday. According to the EEOC's lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of New York, 22 male waiters were subjected to harassment based on their sex, chiefly by one male manager, over a nearly eight-year period. The misconduct included the manager groping the buttocks of the male waiters, making lewd sexual comments and attempting to touch their genitals. Many of the waiters complained to other managers and Sparks' owners, but the harassment did not stop. Some victims of harassment suffered retaliation for complaining by being given more difficult work assignments and/or ultimately being suspended. Sexual harassment and retaliation for complaining about it violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. In addition to paying the $600,000 in damages to be distributed among the victims, the restaurant must prohibit further sexual harassment and retaliation. The settlement also requires the restaurant to: 1) establish a complaint hotline for reporting incidents of discrimination; 2) distribute an amended policy prohibiting sexual harassment and retaliation to all employees; 3) conduct anti-discrimination training for employees; 4) post a public notice about the settlement; and 5) report all sexual harassment and/or retaliation complaints to the EEOC. "The EEOC is serious about upholding the law, which includes protection against same-sex harassment," said Charles F. Coleman, Jr., lead trial attorney on the case for the EEOC. "When an employer fails to address harassment and responds by retaliating against the victims, it compounds the violation. We believe this is a fair resolution." EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Robert D. Rose added, "The severe sexual harassment at Sparks ran rampant for too long. Employers must recognize and act on their duty to prevent sexual harassment of any kind."

The Smoking Gun has identified what it claims is the man responsible for accusing the voice of Sesame Street character Elmo of engaging in an underage sexual relationship. The site says it is 24-year-old model/actor Sheldon Stephens, once arrested for the knifepoint robbery of $250,000 in jewelry from a music manager he was interning for.

In California, several Bay Area political leaders have voiced support for a Moraga teenager who was recently expelled from the Boy Scouts -- and denied Eagle Scout rank -- after acknowledging he is gay. This week, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a former Webelos Scout, sent a letter to the Boy Scouts' Mt. Diablo Silverado Council, based in Pleasant Hill, on behalf of Ryan Andresen, reports the Contra Costa Times. "In defending this hurtful and discriminatory policy barring gay youth and leaders, the Boy Scouts of America are simply standing on the wrong side of history. And in doing so, the Boy Scouts are hurting the very people that you aim to serve: the young men who participate in your programs," Newsom said in his letter. Support from Newsom and U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer follows that of 32 state legislators, organized by state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco. The letter, addressed to Mt. Diablo-Silverado Council Scout Executive John Fenoglio and Boy Scouts of America President Wayne Perry, calls on the Boy Scouts to honor Andresen's application to obtain the Eagle rank and to end the Scouts' long-standing policy barring gay youth and leaders. Several large corporations, including UPS, Intel, AT&T and Ernst & Young, have also called for an end to Boy Scout policies they view as discriminatory.

Ryan Phillippe, and a pose that appears to be a proposition I’d gladly accept.

The Gap celebrates the holidays with the campaign Love Comes in Every Shade, featuring the Married Love of Rufus Wainwright and husband Jorn Weidbrodt.

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