Saturday, December 8, 2012

24-Year-Old Openly Gay Corner Brook Newfoundland Man Has “Faggot” Painted On Truck, Alberta Town Anti-Bully And Bystander Law Takes Effect, University Of Saskatchewan Issues Campus Safety Advisory After Man Distributes Anti-Gay Material, Russian Prime Minister Voices Opposition To Proposed Gay Propaganda Law, Prime Minister Cameron Facing Party “Revolt” Over Same Sex Weddings Vote, Concern That Conservative U.S. Supreme Court Could Rule Against Same Sex Marriage, One Direction Airport Chaos, Tom Daley Sandwich

In Newfoundland and Labrador, a Corner Brook man discovered his truck had been vandalized, with a hateful slur left on the vehicle. CBC News reports that 24-year-old Jonathan Pearce was at work Thursday morning when customers began mentioning something amiss with a truck in the parking lot. Pearce went outside to see what they were talking about. It turns out a vandal had spray painted "#1 faggot" across the back and passenger side of his truck. Pearce says that he has no idea who the person was. "People have their opinions on other people and that's okay," he said. "That's the world we live in." This is the second time this week Pearce's truck has been targeted. Earlier this week, Pearce updated his Facebook status, stating that he was going to Memorial University's Grenfell Campus library. "When I came out around 9, it had been egged," he said. "I didn't think that anybody would ever follow me anywhere to do something like that."I just passed it off as a random act." Now Pearce believes it is the same person(s) responsible for both acts. However, he does not know who is responsible. "I don't think it needs to go to this point, of destroying others' property," Pearce said. Pearce said the RNC have told him they have little evidence and, without a witness, there isn't much that can be done to find the responsible parties at this point.

In Hanna, Alberta, bullies now face fines and possible jail time for calling people names, and their followers who cheer on their taunts could be forced to pay up, too. The Sun reports that the town council's anti-bullying bylaw came into effect in November. Investigations will be done at the RCMP’s discretion based on the consistency and severity of the insults. The punishment for breaching the bylaw is a $250 fine for the first offence with subsequent offences carrying a fine of up to $1,000, six months in jail or community service. There is also a bystander clause, which carries a $100 fine for people who, for example, cheer on an attack. The bylaw was passed in response to an increase in bullying, which the local RCMP found to be occurring off school property where no one had the means to do anything about it. “It’s mainly to give the RCMP…another mechanism to help in those situations,” Mayor Mark Nikota said. When parents and children come to the RCMP for help in this town northeast of Calgary, the police can now act on their concerns rather than simply provide advice. The bylaw’s purpose is to allow police to deal with bullying before it escalates into a criminal offence or, at worst, a suicide. The anti-bullying bylaw won't circumvent the Criminal Code in cases involving uttering threats or assault, but can provide additional evidence for the court to consider should a bully intensify his or her abuse.

A man distributing anti-gay material at the University of Saskatchewan this week was the subject of a campus-wide safety advisory. According to the Star-Phoenix, U of S officials sent out the advisory to the campus community Thursday morning after receiving complaints that day about a man distributing a leaflet titled Say No to the Homosexual Agenda. The advisory encouraged staff and students to contact the U of S discrimination and harassment prevention services if they were concerned about the material. “We do not condone this message against valued members of our campus community,” U of S associate vice-president of student affairs said David Hannah in an interview. The man, whose identity is not known, was seen handing out the material in the Arts tunnel, in parking lots and in administration meeting rooms. Campus officials did not intervene in the distribution, but they did face a decision to say nothing or send a message to staff and students, Hannah said. “Based on our understanding of the law, this individual has the legal right to distribute his views and so we didn’t do anything to stop him,” Hannah said, adding the views expressed in the material are not supported by the university. The leaflet has contact information for Bill Whatcott, who was arrested on a trespassing charge in 2008 at the University of Calgary while distributing anti-gay material. A Crown appeal in that case was dismissed earlier this year in a Calgary court when the judge sided with an earlier ruling that found the arrest had violated Whatcott’s right to free speech. Hannah said the man distributing anti-gay material did not return to campus on Friday. But he urged staff and students who are concerned about the incident to contact the university. “Some people might feel like they need support,” he said. “We want people to know that options are available to them if they are concerned about this.”

Appearing on a televised interview by Russian journalists, and answering a question about the legislative ban on gay propaganda, Prime Minister Medvedev said that he personally considered such a bill as unnecessary as “not all relations between people can be regulated by law.” Russia Today reports that Medvedev, who is the head of Russia’s parliamentary majority United Russia added that the party shared this opinion. The bill on administrative responsibility for propaganda of homosexuality among minors was submitted to the Lower House in late March this year. The first hearing on the bill is scheduled for mid-December. Previously, several Russian regions adopted similar laws on a local level, drawing criticism from gay activists and human rights campaigners

British Prime Minister David Cameron is facing a backlash from traditional Conservatives after he confirmed plans to allow churches and religious organizations to host same-sex weddings. Opponents of gay marriage claim more than 120 Tory backbenchers will reject the plans in the free vote promised in the Commons. Details of the draft legislation will be unveiled next week. The prime minister is backing the proposal in the face of opposition from the Church of England and the Catholic hierarchy. He supports a compromise through what is known as a permissive clause that allows gay marriages to be held in places of worship but does not oblige religious organisations to hold same-sex weddings. Speaking in Redditch, Cameron said, "I'm a massive supporter of marriage and I don't want gay people to be excluded from a great institution. But let me be absolutely 100% clear, if there is any church or any synagogue or any mosque that doesn't want to have a gay marriage it will not, absolutely must not, be forced to hold it. That is absolutely clear in the legislation. Also let me make clear, this is a free vote for members of parliament, but personally I will be supporting it." One cabinet minister has said he will vote against the proposals and believes at least three others will also refuse their support. "This is a sad day. I don't want to oppose the PM's wishes, but I haven't much choice," he said. David Burrowes, Conservative MP for Enfield Southgate and parliamentary private secretary to the environment secretary, Owen Paterson, told the Guardian there are several members of the cabinet who will vote against or abstain. "I have spoken to many Conservative MPs about this and a majority are against this particular change," he said. "These proposals raise many more questions than they answer. The so-called protections will not be sufficient. "It is an attempt by the state to redefine marriage. This is not just about the freedom of churches to administer gay weddings. It is about the freedom of public sector workers and others to exercise their liberty of conscience. It has opened a can of worms," he said. Despite the rebellion, the proposals should get through the Commons because most Liberal and Labour MPs are expected to back them. There may be a bigger fight in the Lords. The deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, also voiced his support. "I'm a supporter and always have been of same sex marriage, because I think marriage is a wonderful thing, a wonderful institution," he said during a visit to the south-west. "It's a demonstration of a couple's commitment to each other, of their loving relationship and they wish to celebrate that in the eyes of society and I think we should make that celebration, that ceremony if you like, available to everyone regardless of who they are. It's very important to remember that in our plans we're not going to force any church or any religious denomination to hold same sex marriage ceremonies if they don't want to but I do think it's time that we allow any couple, no matter who they are, to marry if that's what they want to do." Under the proposals, governing bodies of each faith will be able to opt-in or opt-out of holding gay marriages; individual parishes will not be able to adopt different positions. A government spokesman added, "We are committed to bringing equal civil marriage forward and the consultation results will be announced next week. We are very clear that religious organisations must be protected and that none will be forced to conduct same-sex marriage. EU law is very clear that this is the case and we will additionally bring in very strong legal locks to ensure that this is watertight." Although the UK's main churches oppose the reform, other groups, including the Quakers, Unitarians and liberal Judaism, support marriage rights for gay couples and have said they would like to conduct the ceremonies. Benjamin Cohen, of Out4Marriage, which campaigns for same-sex weddings, said, "We're delighted to hear that the government will be legislating to introduce full equal marriage including same-sex marriages solemnized by religious ministers. Legislation must give individual religious organisations the freedom to decide for themselves whether to hold same-sex marriages. None should be forced to, but those that wish to must be given the rights to do so." Paul Parker, recording clerk for Quakers in Britain, said, "Quakers have been discussing sexuality for 50 years and in 2009 that led us to seek a change in the law so that all marriages in Quaker meeting houses, of whatever sex, can be prepared, celebrated, witnessed, reported to the state, and recognized as legally valid, without further process. We are waiting for the law to catch up. For Quakers, this is an issue of religious freedom and we don't seek to impose this on others." Meanwhile, the gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said that under the new law, heterosexual couples would have fewer rights than gay couples, adding, "Despite proclaiming that the legalization of same-sex civil marriage is driven by the principle of equality, David Cameron is expected to retain the inequality of the current legal ban on heterosexual civil partnerships. Opposite-sex couples are legally prohibited from having a civil partnership and David Cameron intends to keep it that way. This will mean gay couples will soon have legal privileges over heterosexual couples. There will be two forms of official state recognition for lesbian and gay couples: the present system of civil partnerships and the new system of civil marriages. Heterosexual couples will have only one option: marriage. They will be subjected to legal inequality and discrimination. This is very wrong. I support straight equality." Ayesha Vardag, a divorce lawyer, said, "Civil partnership is almost identical in law to marriage, and is treated by the Courts in the same way … However setting up a distinction, albeit in name only, has caused confusion in the public generally and resentment among gay couples who feel they are being put on a sort of 'second tier' civil partnership track subordinate to their married heterosexual counterparts. We now have heterosexual couples saying they like the look of civil partnership for themselves and gay couple wanting marriage, when in reality they are the same thing." Andrea Minichiello Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre, said, "We have seen countless cases where Christians have been forced out of their jobs for their refusal to condone and promote homosexual practice. Their views have not been respected or accommodated and Mr Cameron has ignored their plight. This does not bode well for British Christians if further legislation is passed. Assurances to churches who do not wish to perform same-sex 'marriages' fly in the face of all the evidence." Jonathan West, head of Family and Matrimonial law at city law firm Prolegal said, "The prime minister's desire to give religious institutions the chance to offer marriage services for same-sex couples is welcome, but it doesn't go far enough. Religious institutions currently exist in a legal niche where they can discriminate on the basis of sexuality against same-sex couples. However, Governments should not shy away from attacking discriminatory practices in every part of society. Apart from religious bodies, any institution which engages in this form of discrimination would be pilloried by public opinion and would certainly be on the wrong side of the law."

Within moments of the announcement on Friday that the Supreme Court would hear two cases relating to same-sex marriage, gay activists rejoiced, heralding the decision as a major advancement for their movement. “Today’s news is nothing short of a milestone moment for equality,” said Chad Griffin, a champion of the legal challenge to Proposition 8, the California initiative passed in November 2008 that banned same-sex marriage and is now heading to the Supreme Court. Yet amid the celebration, there were signs of concern over how the Supreme Court might rule. According to the New York Times, the fact that the Supreme Court is hearing the cases hardly means it is about to ratify same-sex marriage. As supporters and opponents said in interviews, the court might well use these cases to find that there is no constitutional protection for same-sex marriage. “There is no question that it is a risk,” said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom of California. “If they nationalize it and reject it, that’s going to take decades to come back to the court.” As the mayor of San Francisco, Newsom began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples just over a month after his election in 2004 until he was stopped by the courts. Newsom said he trusted the counsel of the high-profile lawyers for the plaintiffs, David Boies and Theodore B. Olson, that this time and this court were right for the case. “I’m going to defer to their expertise rather than my instincts,” Newsom said. “I think it’s worth the risk.” Jubilation was tempered with apprehension as the implications of the decision were discussed across the country. “That the Supreme Court is taking this up is truly exhilarating, but I’m very nervous and unnerved by the possibilities of what could come out of this,” said Don Romesburg, 42, an associate professor of women and gender studies at Sonoma State University. “It is frightening to have our basic rights as citizens in the hands of just nine people, when four or five of them are deeply ambivalent, at best, about our very existence,” said Romesburg, who is gay and legally married his partner during the window before Proposition 8 was passed. Angela Gabriel, 43, a lesbian in Atlanta, said she was cautiously optimistic that the court would rule in favor of same-sex marriage, but was concerned about the ramifications of that outcome in socially conservative regions. “Georgia is just not as progressive or forward-thinking or accepting of everyone,” she said. “There would be a lot of pushback.” When Griffin, who now heads the Human Rights Campaign, and other California gay rights leaders sought to overturn Proposition 8, they encountered a wave of criticism from some established gay rights groups that were fearful that the Supreme Court would rule against them. “An unsuccessful challenge may delay marriage even longer, not only in California but in other states, and seriously damage the rights” of gay men and lesbians on a range of issues, the groups said in May 2009. The organizations, which included the Human Rights Campaign and Lambda Legal, cautioned against “premature” legal action. But Griffin said he was always confident of victory, now more than ever. “Look, we wouldn’t have filed this case were we not optimistic that once this case finally reached the Supreme Court that it would come down on the side of liberty and equality,” he said. “Throughout the history and struggle for civil rights in this country, there have always been those who said slow down. But at the end of the day, millions of gay and lesbian Americans are counting on us to stand up for them and for our most basic constitutional principles.” Evan Wolfson, the president of Freedom to Marry, said the legal victories over the last four years had created a decidedly different environment for the Supreme Court than when gay leaders battled over the wisdom of bringing this challenge. “Since then, we’ve made enormous progress and built irrefutable momentum, winning the freedom to marry in state after state and winning over a solid majority of support in this country,” he said. Kate Kendell, the executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which initially opposed court action, said she now expected the court to rule in favor of same-sex marriage. “There is no doubt that the wind is at our backs,” she said. “We’ve hit a tipping point on this issue. I think we are better positioned than ever.” In Atlanta, Josh Bergeleen, 20, a junior at Emory University, said he was not concerned about the outcome. “Yes, it’s a very conservative court,” he said. “But momentum is moving in favor of gay marriage.” Romesburg of Sonoma State University said he was more concerned about the future. “My gut says that the next six months are going to be really hard,” he said. “When I heard the Supreme Court would consider Prop 8, my initial feeling was ‘Here we go again.’ ” In Cambridge, Massachusetts, Kevin McDonald, 26, a graduate student at Harvard, said he was “pretty excited” to hear about the decision, but drew comparisons to the unwelcome ramifications for the abortion rights movement. “I’m not sure we’re there yet — we’re making really good progress — but I don’t want to see that progress impeded somehow, with a ruling that makes people feel like they don’t have control over something so fundamental like marriage,” he said.

One Direction returned home to England from America and there was complete chaos at Heathrow Airport, security struggling to maintain order, Liam Payne (who angrily tweeted about the incident, including a photograph of scratch he endured) spotted stowing a stuffed elephant under his arm.

Tom Daley tweets a picture of himself sandwiched between Glee’s Matthew Morrison and Chronicles of Narnia hotness Will Poulter.

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