In the United Kingdom, senior Conservatives Sunday launch a new group which will campaign strongly for same-sex couples to be allowed to get married in church - in defiance of their party’s traditionalists. The group, which unites under the slogan “Freedom to Marry”, contains some of the party’s biggest beasts, including Boris Johnson, the London Mayor, and Michael Gove, the Education Secretary. Patrick McLoughlin, the Transport Secretary, who is a Catholic, has also signed up. Signatories share David Cameron’s view that churches should be allowed to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies but should not be forced to do so if they do not wish to. In a letter to The Sunday Telegraph, announcing the formation of the group, 19 senior Tories declare: “Marriage should be open to all, regardless of sexuality. “We recognize that civil partnerships were an important step forward in giving legal recognition to same sex couples. But civil partnerships are not marriages, which express a particular and universally understood commitment.” The issue is increasingly splitting the Conservative Party, with around 130 Tory MPs likely not to back the measure when the coalition’s plans come before parliament in the spring. Some have attacked the Prime Minister personally over the issue, including claims he is “arrogant.” Conservative MPs will be given a free vote on the plans, allowing them to decide according to their consciences without the threat of party discipline. It is thought a handful of Tory cabinet ministers will not support the move. Coalition sources said minister hoped to introduce a bill to legalize same-sex marriage “before Easter” next year. The law is expected to come into force about 12 months after that - with the first ceremonies likely be held in sprint 2014. This week, Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary, will announce how the government plans to proceed with legislation to give same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexuals following a consultation which attracted more than 225,000 responses. Cameron, who sees the issue as an important sign that he is modernizing his party, has vowed the law will be changed by the time of the next election in May 2015. While legislation is set to pass easily through the Commons - both Labour and the Liberal Democrats overwhelmingly support it - it is likely to find a tougher struggle in the House of Lords. The new group has been put together by Nick Herbert, the former police minister who resigned from the government in September’s reshuffle. As well as the Mayor and cabinet ministers, it includes Alistair Burt, the Foreign Office minister who is an evangelical Christian, two other former Tory ministers - Lord Fowler and Nicholas Soames - and Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, who is a lesbian. Herbert, who is in a civil partnership, argues in an article for this newspaper today that changing the law is “the right the thing to do,” adding, “It is precisely because marriage is such a uniquely important institution that we should ensure that all couples who want to enter into it, regardless of their sexuality, can do so. Conservatives who believe in marriage should feel this most strongly.” Herbert insists it would be wrong, however, to “compel religious organisations to marry same-sex couples against their will” and calls for “safeguards” to prevent this to be built into the new legislation. He says both Johnson and Barack Obama have won elections after endorsing same-sex marriage and adds, “It is not gay marriage which will cost Conservatives votes: it is failing to win the common ground.” Cameron has come under fire from his own side with Stewart Jackson, the Tory backbencher, labelling him “arrogant” and “disingenuous” on the issue and predicting a same-sex marriage bill would be “slaughtered in the House of Lords.” Mark Pritchard, the former secretary of the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservatives, said last night, “The bill is likely to alienate the Tory grassroots, natural Conservative voters, and multiple faith communities. Number 10 is out of touch with mainstream public opinion and needs to shelve it.” The Bishops’ Conference, which represents the Catholic Church in England and Wales, said: “We remain firmly opposed to the Government’s proposal to redefine marriage. At this time, we urge all who oppose the government’s proposal to make their views known to their own member of parliament. What is at stake is the intrinsic meaning of marriage and what is best for society as a whole. Redefining marriage is therefore a fundamental moral issue which concerns everyone. It is also one for which no mandate was sought or given to any party at the last general election. It should therefore be treated as an issue of conscience, and we urge all parties to offer a free vote to their members if a bill ever comes to Parliament.”
Also in the United Kingdom, a Conservative MP says government plans to allow same sex marriages are politically "barking mad.” Monmouth MP David Davies said the party risked losing a "large number of very loyal activists" if it went ahead. The prime minister wants churches in England and Wales to be allowed to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies. But Davies said he rejected the notion that David Cameron would be "carried shoulder high back into number 10 by Stonewall activists.” Ministers will reveal their response to a consultation this week. MPs will be given a free vote on the issue. David Cameron's proposals have angered many Tory MPs, with up to 130 members reported to be opposed to the change. When the Westminster government published a consultation document on same sex marriage back in March, it specifically excluded the idea of ceremonies in churches or other religious buildings. It has now changed its mind and a formal announcement will be made this week. The government says it is happy for religious groups to host same sex weddings if they want to, while insisting that groups who do not want to cannot be forced to. A group of senior Conservatives, including Education Secretary Michael Gove and London Mayor Boris Johnson, have signed a letter to the Sunday Telegraph supporting the proposal. But speaking to BBC Radio Wales, Davies said he was worried about plans to hold same sex weddings in church, saying, "If there are any sort of areas where there isn't full equality with married couples then I'd be more than happy to support making changes to civic ceremonies, so I really don't know why we need to go ahead with this at all. I think most people are very tolerant and have no problem at all if people are gay but, and I hate to say this in a way because I expect it's going to cause controversy, but I think most parents would prefer their children not to be gay, knowing most parents want grandchildren if nothing else." Davies said he was not sure if the UK government could guarantee that churches would not be forced to hold gay marriage ceremonies because so much law was now made by judges in places like the European Court of Human Rights. "What I'm concerned about is what we were originally given a consultation on, and that is having gay marriage recognized by law which opens to door to all churches being forced to do that," Davies said. "It changes the way that sex education is going to be taught in schools. It's going to have an impact on teachers and I think it goes against what a lot of people feel very strongly about, particularly within the Conservative Party. There is a political calculation here, at some level, that this is going to be good and if we go ahead with it David Cameron's going to be carried shoulder high back into number 10 by Stonewall activists, and it simply isn't going to happen. What is going to happen is that we're going to lose a large number of very loyal activists who've gone out and campaigned for us over the years and who don't like this idea, so politically it's barking mad." Cameron said on Friday he was a "massive" supporter of marriage and did not want gay people to be excluded from a great institution. The Church of England and Roman Catholics, among other denominations, have voiced opposition to same-sex marriage. But some religious groups, including Quakers, Unitarians and Liberal Judaism, are in favour of gay marriage and are thought likely to apply to be allowed to stage ceremonies.
Sean Avery figures there is one matter that has yet to be addressed at the NHL labor negotiations: gay slurs by players. “He’s the worst,” Avery said of Gary Bettman, on this issue. “My belief is the responsibility lies with the leagues, the way they discipline players, the position they take and use it in every-day incidents. One guy will get slapped with a fine, the next day nothing will happen. There needs to be consistency.” Avery can attest firsthand to the erratic standards employed by the NHL. In 2010, James Wisniewski was suspended for his use of a lewd, anti-gay gesture toward Avery. But a year later, Bettman did not punish Wayne Simmonds after Avery reported to the league that Simmonds had clearly called him “faggot,” Avery saying, “They said there wasn’t sufficient evidence, but it’s on YouTube as clear as day.” Avery has been an unexpected advocate for gay rights in recent years, a board member of Athlete Ally, a group of straight athletes devoted to eradicating homophobia in sports. While the former Ranger player was once suspended himself for using derogatory language toward a woman, nobody can now question his dedication to this issue. Avery has lent his backing to the musical, Bare, playing at New World Stages, which features the story of a gay jock in a bullying society. Avery even traveled to Albany to lobby Republican state officials on gay marriage rights. “Maybe it’s because when I was such a bully when I had my uniform on, that when I took it off I felt the need to stand up against the bully,” Avery said. The hockey player appeared at a Bank of America-sponsored panel this week about bullying and sports, that included Hudson Taylor, a Columbia wrestling coach and the founder of Athlete Ally; and the parents of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers student who committed suicide after his roommate used a webcam to record Clementi kissing another man. More than 20 straight athletes and ex-athletes now have spoken up to support Athlete Ally, not all of them known as politically correct in the past. Charles Barkley, Michael Strahan, Michael Irvin and Cristiano Ronaldo are among the backers. Organizers are convinced that when high-profile athletes speak out, they change the culture and make it easier for gays to find open acceptance. Avery also expressed concern about the heckling and bullying in cyberspace. “I get called a fag every day on the internet,” he said. “You have to police it somehow.” It’s clear the mainstream media does not always take the issue seriously. When Wisniewski was suspended two games for his lewd gesture toward Avery, Yahoo.com ran the headline, “Wisniewski swallows 2-game suspension…” Brian Ellner, a senior strategist for the Human Rights Campaign in New York, said he would like to see the culture changed at arenas and ballparks, with open marketing to gay fans. “I grew up a Met fan, and I’ve seen them hold Italian nights and Mexican nights,” Ellner said. “But has there ever been an LGBT Night at Shea or anywhere else?”
Swedish minnows IF Sörskogens have sacked their entire squad for taunting an opposition team with horrific homophobic abuse. According to local newspaper Aftonbladet, Sörskogens’ players chanted such slogans as “you’ve given us all HIV” and “you’ve infected us all” to members of the Stockholm Snipers team – a side comprised of openly gay and bisexual players. Some of the lineup even encouraged fans to join in with abuse and made threats against the Snipers, leaving the team visibly shaken. Indeed, Snipers coach Christoffer Smitz has since revealed his players locked themselves in the dressing and waited for the ground to empty at full-time. The incident was referred to the Stockholm Football Association, who handed out a £5,000 fine to seventh-tier side Sörskogens. But that wasn’t the end of it because, when the details were relayed to Sörskogens’ board, they agreed to terminate all of the first-team squad who were involved in the game. Sörskogens club president Ketil Torp confirmed the news on Friday, saying that such homophobic abuse would not be tolerated. “We had no choice but to close down the whole team,” said Torp. “This kind of abuse fits neither in football nor outside the game. We are a club with 90% youth players and it must be clear that this is not in our values.”
An estimated 100 people filed in to the auditorium at Boulder's New Vista High School on Saturday to listen to and participate in a youth-organized discussion panel addressing the issue of harassment and bullying of gay teens. The panel, dubbed "GLBTQ Harassment: The Dark Side of the Rainbow," was organized by city of Boulder's Youth Opportunities Advisory Board members Malie Minto, 14, Michael Clymer, 16, and Nancy Contreras, 16. The trio was spurred to organize the discussion by 2011 data indicating that GLBTQ students in Boulder County were twice as likely to be bullied as their straight peers. While there is no easy way to stop discrimination and bullying of GLBTQ students in schools, panelists, organizers and observers noted that even having discussions like the one held Saturday is a significant step in the right direction. "It's a slow process but youth make a difference and we're making a difference here today, which is hugely rewarding," said Malie. The five-person panel included B Mann, coordinator of Out Boulder's youth focused BOLD program, longtime Colorado legislator and public school teacher Dorothy Rupert and New Vista Assistant Principal Ivette Visbal. It also featured two young people with first-hand experience as gay students in Boulder County, recent Niwot High School graduate Daniel Sobrevilla, who identifies as bisexual, and Boulder High School Senior Reina Ross, 17, who identifies as pansexual and is co-president of her school's gay-straight alliance. "Sometimes it's not about physical abuse," Sobrevilla said, relating his experiences with bullying. "(People) just cast you off. It changes you. It makes you a different person. It makes you seek attention." A popular conversation topic Saturday was the common use of the words fag and gay as by high school students to belittle others. Reina said that even friends of hers occasionally use the terms without thinking. The panelist generally agreed that the best way to address the issue is through an open discussion in each school what the terms mean to members of the GLBTQ community and how it affects them. Visbal, who identifies as a lesbian, noted that at New Vista no one is given detention if caught using fag or gay toward another student. Instead--in the vein of New Vista's restorative justice policies--the student is taken aside by instructors to discuss why what they said was hurtful and how they can repay the student they offended. "It's based on speaking with the person, ‘what we you thinking when you said that?'" Visbal said. "Nothing comes out of it other than an agreement, usually an apology. The student will say, "I will stand up at a community gathering and apologize and encourage the rest of the school to not do the same again because it hurt.'" Many at the panel expressed hope that continued conversations and openness about the issue of bullying and discrimination against GLBTQ students will eventually lead to the end of such practices. U.S. Representative Jared Polis (D-Boulder) and Boulder Valley School District Superintendent Bruce Messigner attended Saturday's panel. Polis, who is gay, is sponsoring a bill in Congress called The Student Non-Discrimination Act that would enact a federal prohibition on discrimination against GLBTQ students in schools and give them legal remedies to address that discrimination. In comments delivers to the audience Saturday, Polis noted that public schools are for everyone, and while districts like BVSD are already working to end discrimination, there is a long way to go. "It's a really important issue to have community dialogue about and I applaud the Youth Opportunities Advisory Board for leading this effort in our community," he said.
Is Taylor Swift about to become the Yoko Ono of our times? According to the Daily Mail, Swift flew One Direction’s Harry Styles across the Atlantic from New York to London aboard her private jet, Styles “abandoning” the rest of 1D, who landed at Heathrow aboard a domestic airline. Swift was in attendance for One Direction’s performance Saturday night at the Jingle Bell Ball at London’s O2 arena.