Saturday, December 1, 2012

Following First-Ever Defeat Of Proposed Constitutional Amendment Prohibiting Same Sex Marriage Minnesota Advocates Strategize, West Point Gothic Cadet Chapel Hosts First Same Sex Wedding, 23-Year-Old Portuguese Male Model Convicted Of Murdering 63-Year-Old Lover, Zac Efron, Tom Daley, University Of Warwick’s Men’s Rowing Club Brokeback Boathouse

Minnesotans just defeated an attempt to prohibit same sex marriage in their constitution, but does that mean they'd support changing state law to allow gays and lesbians to marry? And if so, is now the time? According to the Pioneer Press, those were among the questions being debated at a daylong conference Saturday, December 1, in Minneapolis. The event, organized by OutFront Minnesota, drew several hundred activists to a downtown hotel to talk about where to direct their energies next. Marriage was not the only issue on the table -- sessions also focused on health care, safe schools and other issues -- but the potential for legalizing gay marriage was drawing lots of interest given the recent election result. "I don't think I have any choice but to ask that we move forward" with gay marriage, said Bobby Long of Minneapolis. "We don't lose anything by trying, I don't think. We just have to just keep pushing forward. We can't let it stall out now." Corey Dahl of Minneapolis said, "I'm just worried that we might alienate some people. In my heart, I really want marriage equality to move forward, but if we move too fast, I think we might stop the momentum. A lot of this campaign was about keeping the conversation open versus charging full-steam ahead for marriage equality.” No votes were taken at the gathering -- held on World AIDS Day -- and leaders made clear they're not launching an immediate, exclusive push for gay marriage. "What's next? A lot of people ask me that question," said Richard Carlbom, campaign manager for Minnesotans United for All Families, the group that coordinated efforts for more than a year to defeat the amendment. "I'll tell you this right now; the conversation didn't end on election night. Conversations are going to continue." OutFront, which advocates for equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and was one of the founding partners of Minnesotans United, considers marriage equality a priority and will continue to build support for it, said Executive Director Monica Meyer. But "it's not the only issue," Meyer said. "We really believe that our legislators really can encompass a large agenda and be able to come up with solutions that are good." The other group that created Minnesotans United is Project 515, which advocates for equal rights for same-sex couples under state law. Project 515 shares the goal of marriage equality but is open to other measures as well, said spokesman Eric Jensen. State Sen. John Marty (DFL-Roseville) has said he plans to introduce a bill this coming session to legalize gay marriage, but the incoming leaders of the Democratic majorities in the Senate and House have preached patience, citing the state budget as first priority. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton supports legalizing gay marriage but has taken a similar go-slow approach. Democrats are wary of appearing to place social issues above the state's economic health, but some activists argue that a vote in 2013 is needed to allow time for any adverse reaction to settle before the 2014 elections. And it's possible for the state to do more than one thing at once, said Bridgette Rongitsch of Minnesotans United. "No one is saying that we should not focus on passing a budget and doing all the very, very important issues of our state, but we can also pass marriage equality in this legislative session," she said. It's also possible the U.S. Supreme Court will decide to take a same sex marriage case, which could resolve the question on a national level. Minnesota's marriage amendment, which would have added a definition of marriage as only the union of a man and a woman to the state's constitution, was defeated 53 to 47 percent on November 6. A petition being shared online calls on Dayton and the Democratic legislative leaders to legalize gay marriage "in the 2013 session. No more waiting." The petition, which claims nearly 1,800 signatures, argues that giving gay couples the right to marry is the right thing to do and that opening up a new market for the wedding industry will help stimulate the state's economy. If Democrats do decide to push for gay marriage at the Legislature, the same groups that supported amending the constitution -- notably the Catholic Church and Minnesota for Marriage -- have pledged to resist. And several Democratic lawmakers represent districts where a majority supported the marriage amendment, which would make a vote to legalize gay marriage politically difficult for them. That points up the need for citizens to make sure their legislators know where they stand, said Michelle Dibblee of Minnesotans United. "We are close enough to win, but we're not close enough to win unless we move some legislators to make what for them might be a challenging decision," she said. "To do that, they need to hear from constituents." Minnesota was one of four states registering landmark votes on marriage this past Election Day. Voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington approved legalizing same sex marriage. Six other states and the District of Columbia already had legalized gay marriage, but by legislation or court ruling, not popular vote. Minnesota became the first state to defeat a proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage as only the union of a man and woman. In 30 other states where such a vote had been held, it had passed. The only attempt that failed was in 2006 in Arizona, but such a constitutional amendment passed in that state two years later. Minnesota had 12,224 same-sex couple households in 2011, according to the American Community Survey. Gay marriage has been prohibited by law in Minnesota for years and still is, but amendment proponents had argued that the additional constitutional protection was necessary to prevent judges or lawmakers from legalizing it.

The United States Military Academy's Cadet Chapel at West Point, New York hosted its first same sex marriage Saturday. Penelope Gnesin and Brenda Sue Fulton (a West Point graduate) exchanged vows in the regal church in a ceremony conducted by a senior Army chaplain. The ceremony comes a little more than a year after President Obama ended the military policy banning openly gay people from serving. The two have been together for 17 years. They had a civil commitment ceremony that didn't carry any legal force in 1999 but had longed to formally tie the knot. USA Today reports that the couple live in New Jersey and would have preferred to have the wedding there, but the state doesn't allow gay marriage. "We just couldn't wait any longer," Fulton said. Guests at the wedding posted photos on Twitter while it was under way and afterward. Fulton said the Cadet Chapel on the campus at West Point was a fitting venue. "It has a tremendous history, and it is beautiful. That's where I first heard and said the cadet prayer," Fulton said. Fulton said that when she requested the West Point chapel, she was told that none of the chaplains who preside there come from a denomination that allowed them to celebrate a gay marriage. Their marriage was officiated by a friend, Army Chaplain Col. J. Wesley Smith of Dover Air Force Base. Fulton, a veteran and the communications director of an organization called OutServe — which represents actively serving gay, lesbian and bisexual military personnel — confirmed in an e-mail Friday night: "We will be the first same sex couple to wed at the Cadet Chapel at West Point." The wedding was the second same sex marriage West Point has hosted. The first was a small, private ceremony last weekend between two of Fulton's friends in a smaller venue on the campus. "We are thrilled for Sue and Penny, and along with them, look forward to a day when this kind of event no longer makes headlines and all Americans enjoy the freedom to marry and the justice of those marriages being recognized," said Zeke Stokes, spokesman for OutServe. In September 2011, the Pentagon issued guidance stating that "determinations regarding the use of DOD real property and facilities for private functions, including religious and other ceremonies, should be made on a sexual-orientation neutral basis, provided such use is not prohibited by applicable state and local laws." The policy change came with the caveat that the use of a military facility does not constitute an endorsement of gay marriage by the Defense Department. In July 2011, President Obama named Fulton to the West Point Board of Visitors, making her the first openly gay member of the board that advises the Academy. She graduated from West Point in 1980, part of the first class of cadets that included women, and later founded an organization called KnightsOut, which describes itself as "an organization of West Point Alumni, Staff and Faculty who are united in supporting the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender soldiers to openly serve their country." Fulton, 53, said she was getting married at the academy because "West Point has been an important part of my life," but also because Republican Gov. Chris Christie in her home state of New Jersey vetoed a gay marriage bill earlier this year. "We had always said that we wanted to get married in New Jersey," Fulton said, but "we didn't want to wait any longer," particularly because Gnesim, 52, is a breast cancer survivor and suffers from multiple sclerosis. "It is wonderful for us to celebrate the recognition that New York State will give our marriage," Fulton said, but "there is also some regret that we can't get married in our home state." In September, Obama issued a statement commemorating the one-year anniversary of the repeal of "Don't ask, don't tell," the military policy that banned openly gay soldiers from serving. He said, "Gay and lesbian Americans now no longer need to hide who they love in order to serve the country they love." But the 1996 Defense Of Marriage Act continues to prohibit the federal government from recognizing same sex marriages and says that states cannot be forced to recognize them. New York's legislature approved gay marriage in June 2011, and in October, a federal appeals court in the state ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional.

A jury on Friday convicted a former Portuguese model of murdering his journalist lover in a Times Square hotel last year, just after the victim had ended their relationship. The beaten and mutilated body of the journalist, Carlos Castro, 65, was found in his room on the 34th floor of the InterContinental Hotel on January 7, 2011. The model, Renato Seabra, 23, was arrested the next day at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center. Seabra’s lawyers conceded that he had killed Castro but pursued a defense that he was not criminally responsible because of mental illness. They told jurors in State Supreme Court in Manhattan that delusions had led Seabra to believe he was on a mission from God to rid the world of homosexuality when he castrated Castro with a corkscrew and placed the testicles on his own wrists. “He said the demon was homosexuality and he only killed Carlos Castro to make the world a better place,” David Touger, a defense lawyer, said in closing arguments. Maxine Rosenthal, the assistant district attorney who prosecuted the case, told jurors that Seabra acted out of rage, not insanity. Seabra had come to see Castro as disgusting but continued the relationship to keep Castro’s gifts and fashion contacts flowing, she said. “The motive is as clear as if it were written in lights on a Times Square marquee,” Rosenthal said during closing arguments. “It’s about rage. It’s about humiliating and emasculating the victim.” After a trial that spanned two months, jurors deliberated for just one day before rejecting the insanity defense. Castro had covered fashion and celebrities and was a well-known gay rights advocate in Portugal. He had met Seabra after the younger man was a finalist on a Portuguese reality show. Castro showered his lover with money and gifts and brought him on a trip to London and New York, partly to help further his modeling career. During their stay in the city, Castro saw Seabra flirt with women and, after confronting him, broke off the relationship and made arrangements to cut their trip short, according to trial testimony. Rosenthal told jurors that Seabra invented the story about placing the testicles on his wrists in an effort to save himself. She noted repeatedly that after stomping and beating Castro to death, he had showered, put on clean clothes, took $1,600 from Castro’s wallet and placed a “do not disturb” sign on the room’s door as he left. “All of these things demonstrate that he is aware and present and he knows what he is doing,” Rosenthal said. Seabra later took a taxi to St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center. More than 20 physicians there, at Bellevue Hospital Center, and with the city’s Department of Correction said he had a serious mental illness, his lawyers said. But the prosecution’s expert witness, William B. Barr, a psychologist who frequently testifies for prosecutors, concluded that Seabra was not psychotic at the time of the killing and expressed doubt that Seabra believed he was on a mission from God. Seabra, who had chosen to remain in his holding cell rather than be in the courtroom during recent testimony, appeared for the verdict with a new crew cut. He nodded at his mother, who was present for the duration of the trial, as court officers led him away. Had the jury accepted the insanity defense, which rarely prevails at trial in New York, there would have been further hearings to determine whether Seabra would be involuntarily held at a psychiatric facility and for how long. He will now face a minimum sentence of 15 years to life in prison on the second-degree murder charge at his sentencing next month. “This was a brutal and sadistic crime, where Renato Seabra bludgeoned, choked, and mutilated his victim before murdering him,” Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, said in a statement. “But the jury’s verdict now, finally, holds Seabra accountable.”

Zac Efron spotted departing from a storm-tossed LAX Thursday, though with those guns I’m not sure how he cleared security.

Tom Daley and his mother (?) spotted leaving London club The Funky Buddha.

The University of Warwick Rowing Club Senior Men again strip for their Fourth Annual Naked Calendar, a tantalizing tease below.

Warwick Rowing 2013: Brokeback Boathouse from Progressive Media on Vimeo.

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