Friday, November 16, 2012

Vigil Saturday For Murdered Gay Rights Activist Lou Rispoli, Ali Forney Center, Treatments Of Gays And Lesbians In Cameroon “Seriously Concerns” United Nations, Christian Demoted For Comments Written About Same Sex Marriage Wins Breach Of Contract Action Against Employers, Homophobic Bus Driver Refuses To Board Vehicle Carrying Gay Rights Message, Zac Efron, Patrick Schwarzenegger

In New York City, Lou Rispoli, a beloved gay rights activist who was killed in October, will be remembered by elected officials, friends and his long-time partner on Saturday in Sunnyside. “He was an incredible person. He took care of everyone,” said Danyal Lawson, 60, his partner of 32 years. “If you called him, even as a stranger, he was there for you in a minute. He touched so many lives.” Rispoli, 62, was attacked on October 20 on 43rd Ave., near 42nd Street, at approximately 2:15 am by three suspects who hit him in the head with a blunt object, police said. He died five days later at Elmhurst General Hospital. “It was an awful crime,” said City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside). “It won’t be tolerated and we will search for the killers and never give up that search. People cared and loved Lou.” The crime received little attention because Rispoli died just days before the region was devastated by Hurricane Sandy. Rispoli, who worked as an administrator at the Greenwich House Music School in the West Village, had lived in Sunnyside for over 30 years and was a fixture in the community. “He was one of the most generous, big-hearted people you could ever know,” said friend Mark Horn, 60, who had known Lou for nearly four decades. “There was such goodness in him, such giving.” Rispoli told his partner he was going to the store the night he was killed, Lawson said. “He said ‘I’m going to get milk’ and that was it,” Lawson said. “It’s just being at the wrong place at the wrong time. It doesn’t make sense.” Saturday’s march will begin at 51st St. and 43rd Ave. in Woodside and end at 41-00 43rd Ave. where the attack occurred. “The people who did this are still out there, probably thinking they got away with it,” Van Bramer said. “We want to make sure justice happens in this case.” A $22,000 reward is being offered for the arrest and conviction of the attackers, police said. Those with information can call 1-800-577-TIPS. On July 24, 2011, Rispoli told the Daily News he was ecstatic after picking up a marriage license with Lawson after 31 years of being together. “Emotionally we had the same idea of what love is and what a relationship is,” Rispoli said outside Queens Borough Hall. “The rest just happened. You don’t plan on how long you’ll be together. It just works out that way.”

It took only hours for Hurricane Sandy's surging waters to destroy an emergency drop-in center for homeless gay youths. Four feet of water swamped the hallways and rooms, buckling the linoleum floors and caking the electrical outlets with sea salt. But almost as quickly, a social media outpouring helped raise money for a new, bigger Ali Forney Center to keep helping dozens of young people a day with medical care, counseling and a safe place to sleep. "I wish every day thousands of people would help get homeless kids off the street," said Carl Siciliano, executive director of the last-ditch refuge for homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youths. "Too bad it takes a storm to get people to see how bad they have it." Siciliano founded the drop-in center in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood 10 years ago, naming it after Ali Forney, a gay 22-year-old who was shot to death on a Harlem street in 1997. He had been homeless since age 13, when his mother threw him out. City officials estimate LGBT youths represent about half the city's nearly 4,000 homeless young people, who sleep outdoors or in city subways, abandoned houses and even on rooftops. More than 100 would arrive at the center daily looking for support. The city reserves about 250 shelter beds for them, and Ali Forney offers 77 in various places, about 30 of them city-funded. Even before Sandy, the center had planned to relocate to the 8,600-square-foot Harlem space, which is six times bigger than the original one and will be open 24 hours a day. Paying for the move and renovation was a big challenge — until Sandy came along. The center, which was evacuated ahead of the October 29 storm, was hit by the same surge of water along the Hudson River that swamped a power substation and flooded commuter tunnels. A blogger picked up Siciliano's Facebook posting about damage to the center, and it quickly went viral, tweeted to hundreds of thousands of followers by actors Pam Grier and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. In the first three days, the center received almost 1,000 donations totaling more than $100,000. That total has grown to more than $250,000 — and counting — with contributions coming from around the world, including England, France, Sweden, Canada and Mexico. "This shows the power of social media, when prominent people link digitally with a healthy network of people who connect emotionally," said Ryan Davis, a pioneer in using social media in politics and activism who is on Ali Forney's board. About $400,000 is needed to replace what the center lost and prepare the Harlem site, which Siciliano hopes will be up and running by Christmas. In the meantime, Ali Forney services have been temporarily set up at a nearby community center. On Wednesday, Giovanni Stanley was waiting for a counselor who could help him find a bed so he wouldn't have to stay with a friend in storm-ravaged Staten Island. He said he was saddened after hearing that the original center was gone. "They did so much for me; they helped me with Medicaid, food stamps, housing," said Stanley, 20, who became homeless and dropped out of school about four years ago. He is now working on getting his high-school equivalency diploma.

Reports that people suspected of being gay or lesbian in Cameroon were being harassed and arrested are troubling, the United Nations human rights office said Friday. The country's penal code criminalizes sexual relations with a person of the same sex" and provides for a penalty or a fine and up to five years imprisonment -- and conflict with Cameroon's international human rights commitments and violates rights to privacy and to freedom from discrimination, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a release. "While the penal code relates specifically to sexual conduct, we are seriously concerned that it is being applied in a broad-brush way to prosecute many individuals on the basis of their appearance, their mannerisms, style of speech or general conduct," OHCHR spokesman Rupert Colville said. "It is especially worrying to receive reports of anonymous threats being made against human rights defenders working to protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons," Colville said. Cameroon has a duty to end the abuses and provide "adequate protection" to human rights defenders working to protect the rights of the gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender community, Colville said. In addition, Cameroon should also use an ongoing review of its penal code to amend the pertinent article to comply with the country's international treaty obligations, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

In England, a Christian who was demoted in his job for a comment he wrote on Facebook about same sex marriages has won a breach of contract action against his employers. According to the BBC, Adrian Smith, 55, lost his managerial position and had a 40-percent salary cut after saying a gay wedding held in a church was an "equality too far.” Smith, from Bolton, claimed that Trafford Housing Trust acted unlawfully in demoting him, and also alleged that the trust had breached his human rights. Disciplinary action was launched against Smith after he posted the comment next to a BBC News Online story, written in February 2011, with the headline, "Gay church 'marriage' set to get the go-ahead.” In a statement after the hearing at London's High Court he said, "Something has poisoned the atmosphere in Britain, where an honest man like me can be punished for making perfectly polite remarks about the importance of marriage. I have won today. But what will tomorrow bring? I am fearful that, if marriage is redefined, there will be more cases like mine - and if the law of marriage changes people like me may not win in court." He added: "Does the Prime Minister want to create a society where people like me, people who believe in traditional marriage, are treated as outcasts?" Smith's damages payout was limited to £100 because of legal technicalities. He said: "I didn't do this for the money - I did this because there is an important principle at stake." The father-of-two's Facebook comments were not visible to the general public, and were posted outside work time, but the trust argued he broke its code of conduct by expressing religious or political views which might upset co-workers. High Court judge Mr Justice Briggs said, "Mr Smith was taken to task for doing nothing wrong, suspended and subjected to a disciplinary procedure which wrongly found him guilty of gross misconduct, and then demoted to a non-managerial post with an eventual 40-percent reduction in salary. The breach of contract which the Trust thereby committed was serious and repudiatory." Matthew Gardiner, chief executive of Trafford Housing Trust, said it accepted the court's verdict and the trust had been defending its social media policy. Shortly after Smith's demotion Peter Tatchell, a prominent LGBT advocate, described the trust's actions as "excessive.”

In Northern England, bus operator First Group has had to apologize to passengers after one of its drivers refused to drive a bus with a gay rights message down the side of it. The company will not say what action has been taken against the man, but a spokesman said: “We are aware of an incident involving one of our drivers refusing to drive a bus at Rotherham Interchange. We have spoken to the driver in question and the matter has now been resolved. We would like to apologise to any customers that were affected during this isolated incident.” Passengers on the X78 Rotherham to Sheffield service had to wait 20 minutes before a new driver took the controls. The slogan, for gay rights group Stonewall read: ““Some people are gay. Get over it!” Stonewall information officer Louise Kelly said, “Passengers in Rotherham can rightly expect bus drivers to do the job they pay them to do — drive buses. If they are unwilling to, perhaps they should look for another job.”

Super sexy Zac Efron spotted getting gas in Studio City, Friday.

Patrick Schwarzenegger (and those arms) spotted clearing security at LAX.

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