Friday, December 7, 2012

20-Year-Old Charged In Connection To September Murder Of Transgender Women In British Columbia, Two Men Charged With Committing Hate Crime And Attempted First-Degree Murder In Connection To Attack In Brazil On 27-Year-Old Gay College Student, Chilean Court Fines Motel For Banning Entry To Gay Couple In First Ruling Under New Anti-Discrimination Law, Edie Windsor Long Wait For Marriage Equality May End Soon, Minnesota Governor Says He Would Sign Same Sex Marriage Measure, Notre Dame University Announces It Will Support And Implement Services For LGBT Students, River Viiperi Shirtless Sexiness, One Direction Rocks Jingle Ball

An update on a previous post: In British Columbia, a 20-year-old man has been charged in the September 30 slaying in New Westminster of January Marie Lapuz. Lapuz, a 26-year-old transgender woman, was found in her New Westminster home with stab wounds and later died in hospital. The Vancouver Sun reports that charged with second-degree murder is 20-year-old Charles Jameson “Jamie” Neel, according to Sgt. Jennifer Pound, of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team. Neel appeared in New Westminster court on Thursday afternoon and was remanded until January 7. He has no previous criminal record. Pound said IHIT investigators continue to look for a motive in the slaying, adding no further information will be provided at this time as the matter is now before the courts.

Two men were charged with committing a hate crime and attempted first-degree murder after beating up a gay college student in Brazil. Andre Baliera, a 27-year-old law student from Sao Paulo, was attacked by two men on Monday, December 3 while he was returning home from school, the Brazilian newspaper O Globo reports. The assault started after the two men repeatedly called Baliera a “faggot.” When Baliera told them to stop, the men proceeded to punch him. Residents who were witnessing the incident came to Baliera’s aid and apprehended the men, who could face fines of up to $ 24,632 and jail time. The men denied the attack was based on the victim’s sexual orientation. The attack made international headlines after Baliera took to YouTube to explain the incident, which some Brazilian journalists reported as if Baliera had himself provoked. The video garnered over 240,000 views, and 3,200 comments since Baliera posted it on December 5. “To be honest, it’s never been easy to be gay in our [Brazilian] society,” he says in the clip. “I’ve been part of a movement against homophobia… and today I am on the other side, as a victim,” Baliera says in the clip. “I still am afraid to leave the house. I haven’t left home alone [since the attack]. We have to make it stop… I don’t want to have to pretend that I am not who I am to be able to return home safely.”

A court in Chile has slapped a fine on a motel that banned entry to a gay couple in the first ruling associated with a new anti-discrimination law. According to the Associated Press, the judge ordered the motel on Friday to pay a $4,000 fine to a lesbian couple and ordered motel owners to never again forbid people from renting a room based on their sexual orientation. Chile’s leading gay rights group is calling it a victory for equality. The gay rights group Movilh filed suit against the motel after the anti-discrimination law was signed into law by President Pinera in July. The law was approved after the brutal killing of a young gay man in March set off a national debate about hate crimes.

USA Today reports that after a 40-year engagement and 20 short months of marriage, Edie Windsor and her late spouse, Thea Spyer, are getting their day in court. So, too, are hundreds of thousands of gay and lesbian couples. From now until the Supreme Court decides Windsor's case in late spring or early summer, Americans will come to learn about the lesbian couple's long march toward matrimony, encumbered by Spyer's 30-year battle with multiple sclerosis and culminating in an unlikely wedding trip to Canada in 2007. Two years later, Spyer was dead, leaving Windsor with a $363,000 federal estate tax bill that would not have been levied if Thea had been Theo. After recovering from a heart attack that doctors said was triggered by "broken heart syndrome," the petite, 83-year-old widow decided to fight back. Two lower court victories later, her case is headed to Washington. "It's not 'same-sex marriage.' It's marriage. It is marriage equality," Windsor says, surrounded in her eighth-floor Greenwich Village apartment by photos and memorabilia from the couple's marathon courtship and brief nuptials. "From my fourth-grade civics class," she says, "I somehow trust the Supreme Court to bring justice." Windsor paid more than a half million dollars in total after Spyer's death, including to New York state, which legalized gay marriage last year. Most of the couple's wealth was in the rising value of the apartment at 2 Fifth Ave. and a small "country house" in Southampton, New York, bought for $35,000 in 1968. Together, the homes are worth more than $2 million today. Is it all about the money? "The money matters to me a great deal," Windsor says, both in principle and pocketbook. But Windsor v. United States is about much more. "The suit is about a marriage," she says — "my marriage to her and her marriage to me." A diminutive blonde with a Betty White smile, Edie Windsor is an unlikely legal titan. On her bed are two books — Keeping Faith with the Constitution, by a trio of liberal scholars, and The Oath, by CNN's Supreme Court analyst, Jeffrey Toobin. She also reads her lawyers' drafts of briefs and sends back comments. It's a far cry from the early days of covert lesbian liaisons in Greenwich Village, including the one that began a nearly 44-year relationship. Windsor, who used a master's degree in mathematics from New York University to become a senior computer systems programmer at IBM, and Spyer, whose Jewish family fled the Netherlands long before she became a clinical psychologist with a Ph.D. from Adelphi University, spent most of their lives working, traveling, dancing — and lying. "All through IBM, I lied about who I was," says Windsor, still sporting the diamond engagement pin Spyer gave her in 1967 because a ring would have prompted unwelcome questions. "I gave Thea a guy's name. I never told the truth in those years — and then I told the truth plenty afterwards." When multiple sclerosis began to steal Spyer's physical strength in the 1970s, Windsor quit working to help out. She also began volunteering with gay rights organizations; for starters, she computerized all their mailing lists. Her harpsichord now holds awards attesting to her advocacy from the likes of the American Civil Liberties Union and National Organization for Women. One is named after her: the Edie Windsor Equality Award. Spyer's condition deteriorated over the years, requiring more lifts and ramps and motorized wheelchairs. Near the end, she was quadriplegic, with little physical ability beyond driving her wheelchair and pushing a computer mouse. When doctors gave her a year to live because of a heart condition, she popped the question. "She got up the next morning after the doctor said that and she said, 'Do you still want to get married?'" Windsor recalls. "And I said, 'yes!' And she said, 'I do, too. Let's go.'" Their trip to Toronto for a civil ceremony in May 2007, as well as their decades-long devotion, is now chronicled in an award-winning documentary titled Edie and Thea — A Very Long Engagement. They had two best men and four best women. And like they first did at the Greenwich Village restaurant Portofino in 1963, they danced, Edie on the arm of Thea's wheelchair. "People asked, 'What could be different? You've lived together for over 40 years — what could be different about marriage?'" Windsor says. "And it turned out that marriage could be different." The return flight from Canada was Spyer's last. She died February 5, 2009, with patients scheduled for appointments that day. Now Windsor talks to Thea's photographs. But the marriage lives on: in court. "This process right now, she would adore it," Windsor says wistfully. "She'd say, 'Go, girl!'" On the day of her first court triumph in the Southern District of New York, Windsor happened to find an old note from Spyer reading, "Congratulations, darling. You did it!!" "It was from something entirely different — probably when I stopped smoking or something," Windsor says. She left it beside an enlargement of Spyer's death notice from The New York Times, propped up prominently in the foyer. Now, in fragile health herself with an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator but still walking 10,000 steps a day, she is focused on winning her case — and returning to private life as much as possible. The gay rights community — particularly the young people who high-five her during Gay Pride parades — might not allow it. Asked about the prospect of losing, Windsor says, "I think we've exposed the world to a whole lot and made progress. If it doesn't happen our year, it will happen in other years. I'm sure of that."

Thursday, Minnesota Governor spoke on MPR’s Morning Edition, Dayton spoke Thursday on MPR's Morning Edition, and was asked about legalizing same-sex marriage after Minnesotans defeated a constitutional amendment defining marriage as only between a man and a woman, Dayton said he would sign a bill if it comes to him. But he said he's unsure if the Legislature is ready to consider the issue. "I hope we're going to get to that point. The younger generation is broadly accepting of that change and we'll get there, it's just a question of when," he said.

From where the two rights advocates sit, having tea in an old-fashioned high-ceilinged restaurant in Amsterdam’s central train station, the political drama surrounding gay marriage in countries like France, Britain and the United States seems far away. Eunice den Hoedt, 38, an official with the Ministry of Education, is a lesbian, and René van Soeren, 54, a consultant, is gay. Neither has married, although as Dutch citizens, they’ve had that right for more than 11 years. According to The New York Times, as board members of COC Netherlands, the world’s oldest gay rights organization, they still relish the political victory won in 2001 when marriage became an option for everyone here, gay as well as straight. The Netherlands was the first country to adopt such a law; since then, 10 others have followed. “Gay marriage is the jewel in the crown of the gay rights movement,” Ms. den Hoedt said with a hint of triumph. Yet here in Amsterdam, the novelty of those first same-sex weddings wore off long ago, giving way to the normalcy that Ms. den Hoedt and Mr. van Soeren say was the goal all along. Normal is when Ms. den Hoedt’s mother, who in 2001 considered marriage between two women to be “ludicrous,” now keeps asking her daughter (as mothers do) when she’s going to marry her partner of 14 years. “It’s important to live in a country that treats you equally,” Mr. van Soeren said. “Before, we didn’t have role models. The idea that two women or two men could have a family, that their dreams could be the same as other people’s, was not possible.” The Netherlands’ modern gay rights movement scored its first political success in the 1970s, when laws were changed to make the age of consent the same for homosexuals and heterosexuals. “That was the start of the idea that we were really equal,” Ms. den Hoedt said. In 1998, a law was adopted that allowed gays to register their partnerships, but marriage — which has legal implications for shared property, inheritance and parenthood — was always the goal. Today, there are about 16,000 married same-sex couples in the Netherlands, a country of 16.7 million. Gay or straight, married, divorced, single or cohabiting, the Dutch (like many other Europeans) have been quietly rearranging their family structures over the past decade. The total number of new marriages here dropped from 89,428 in 1999 to 71,572 in 2011 (of which 1,355 were same-sex). In the meantime, the number of heterosexual couples opting for registered partnerships has jumped from 1,500 in 1999 to 8,343 last year, while the number of same-sex partnerships has stayed steady around 500 since 2001. Gay families are just one part of this changing landscape, which may explain the matter-of-fact attitude registered in a 2006 poll in which 82-percent of Dutch respondents said they backed same-sex marriages - the highest approval rate in the European Union. When the law passed in 2001, the approval rate was 62-percent, according to a BBC poll. “I think the shift happened when people saw that it didn’t impact society in any way,” Ms. den Hoedt said, “while it made a big difference for the self-recognition and esteem of gay people.” It may not be possible to replicate the Dutch experience in other countries where powerful political forces, including churches, are mobilized against gay marriage, and particularly gay parenthood. Last month, about 70,000 people, mostly led by Catholic groups, took to the streets of Paris to protest a gay marriage law that’s been introduced by the Socialist president of France, François Hollande. In Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron is facing a rebellion from within his Conservative Party ranks over the issue. Yet opinion polls in most European countries continue to show an astonishing change in public attitudes toward homosexuality. In a recent poll by Ifop-Le Monde, 65-percent of French people interviewed said they were in favor of gay marriage, compared with 51-percent in 1995. An Ifop pollster said he could think of few subjects about which “society has changed its views so profoundly and in such little time.” In the Netherlands, many churches, Catholic and Protestant, opposed the gay marriage law but never mounted a strong offensive against it. It was no coincidence that the 2001 law was passed by a Dutch coalition government that, for the first time in 70 years, did not include a major Christian party. Since then, the country’s major Christian parties have also shifted. Several recently supported a new law that would give parental rights to both members of same-sex couples, not just the biological parent. As their landmark gay marriage law continues into its second decade, the Dutch are left tidying up its loose ends. On the agenda is a move to end the right of civil servants to refuse to register gay marriages if they say it is against their conscience or their religion. They can do so only on the condition that someone else in their municipality will officiate at the ceremony. That clause, which originated as a compromise, may be phased out by another one. According to COC Netherlands, there are precisely 40 local officials in the country today who refuse to register gay marriages. Under a proposed amendment, those 40 would maintain the right to bow out of gay marriage ceremonies until they retire. But new civil servants entering the state bureaucracy will be henceforth required to promise to register all marriages, gay as well as straight. “This is a country that likes to find pragmatic solutions to problems,” Mr. van Soeren said with obvious pride.

In South Bend, Indiana, Wednesday, the University of Notre Dame announced plans to provide more support and services for students who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or questioning, including creating a university-recognized student organization. The move is in response to requests to officially recognize a gay-straight student alliance club on campus, which student groups have requested annually for years. Students involved in the most recent request have withdrawn their application for club status and are working with administrators to form the recognized student organization. "This is very good news," said Alex Coccia, co-president of the Progressive Student Alliance, the student activists' group that has been leading the effort. "The university is recognizing a student organization. It's going to provide the peer-to-peer support that is needed." The changes announced are part of a comprehensive pastoral plan that includes an array of initiatives based on Notre Dame's Catholic mission, the university announced. The plan, titled "Beloved Friends and Allies: A Pastoral Plan for the Support and Holistic Development of GLBTQ and Heterosexual Students at the University of Notre Dame," was developed by the university's Student Affairs staff. The university announcement states the plan follows a study of Catholic doctrine and teaching, listening sessions with students, and an examination of student clubs and structures at other Catholic universities. The plan emphasizes the "respect, compassion and sensitivity" due to all, and calls students to cultivate chaste relationships and to support one another in a community of friendship. Karl Abad, an openly gay Notre Dame senior, welcomes the decision. Abad realized he was gay as a middle schooler and has been open about his homosexuality since high school. As a freshman, he never expected such changes to be made on campus during his college years. Abad said he sometimes has been made to feel unwelcome by slurs or jokes by fellow students against homosexuals, although such comments rarely were voiced to him directly. "Students here are ready for a change, but the climate didn't encourage open discussion," Abad said. The new student organization will encourage and support honest discussion of issues related to sexuality, he said. Abad said he was involved in the talks in recent months with administrators that led to approval for the student organization. He praised the efforts of Erin Hoffmann Harding, who in August became Notre Dame's vice president for student affairs, for moving the discussions forward. "Throughout this process, she's been in constant dialogue with other administrators and knows what students need," he said. The Rev. John I. Jenkins, Notre Dame's president, released a written statement: "As articulated in the University's 'Spirit of Inclusion' statement, Notre Dame's goal remains to create and sustain a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students, and I am confident that this multi-faceted, pastoral approach represents the next step in advancing our efforts toward this aspiration for our GLBTQ students." Administrators last spring turned down the latest request to add sexual orientation to the university's non-discrimination clause, but delayed a decision about whether to recognize a gay-straight alliance to allow for a full review of existing non-discrimination practices and protections. Under the new plan, the university will: Establish a support and service student organization for GLBTQ students and their allies that will produce activities consistent with Notre Dame's Catholic mission. Not a club or a political advocacy group, the organization will be open to any student; Launch in fall 2013 a new advisory committee composed of designated students and employees to replace the existing Core Council. The new advisory committee will provide guidance to the vice president for student affairs on questions, concerns and needs of students who identify as GLBTQ; Appoint a full-time student development staff member who will oversee awareness and education programs for students that will emphasize Notre Dame's goal of inclusion, share Catholic teaching and encourage thoughtful campus dialogue. The employee, who also will serve as the advisor of the new student organization, is expected to be hired by July 1, 2013. Efforts to add sexual orientation to Notre Dame's non-discrimination clause date back to the mid-1990s. The university in 1997 adopted a "statement of inclusion" describing the university's regard for all people, with specific reference to lesbians and gays. Notre Dame's employment policy adheres to federal law, stating that the university is an equal opportunity employer and doesn't discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, age, national or ethnic origin, disability or veteran status. The Spirit of Inclusion remains in place. The new Pastoral Plan describes results of the university's review of support for GLBTQ students and undertakes comprehensive action for support and development of students while adhering to Catholic teachings, according to Notre Dame. Richard Williams, a Notre Dame sociology professor who has been a leader in efforts to get sexual orientation added to the non-discrimination clause, said he's pleased with what he has learned so far about the university's plan to create a recognized student organization, and is hopeful that progress also will be made on extending the non-discrimination clause. "This is a good thing to happen in the meantime. I hope we don't stop here."

Friday, River Viiperi spotted wandering around Miami Beach, shirtless.

Friday evening, One Direction spotted onstage at Madison Square Garden, where they performed as a part of Z100’s Jingle Ball.

No comments: