Sunday, December 30, 2012

Freedom Of Information Request Reveals Most Anti-Gay Bullying In Wales Goes Unreported And Consequently Unresolved, Marriage Equality Advocates “Guardedly Optimistic” That Same Sex Marriage Measure Can Be Passed In Rhode Island, President Obama Defends Chuck Hagel, 21-Year-Old Utahan Jackson Carter The Biggest Loser’s First Openly Gay Contestant, Charlie Sheen Says Gay Slur Then Compounds Stupidity By Denying It, Channing Tatum St Barts Sexiness

In Wales, most Welsh councils do not know the extent of homophobic bullying in schools because they do not keep a record of it, Plaid Cymru, the national party, claims. A freedom of information request by the party found that only four out of twenty-two local authorities had information about bullying incidents. The majority said they did not keep records, although schools might. The gay rights charity Stonewall Cymru has called on schools to have plans to deal with homophobia. The BBC reports that figures released to Plaid Cymru following the FOI request show that Ceredigion council has recorded 73 incidents of homophobic bullying which have been dealt with at its schools since September 2010. Conwy council said that it was aware of 18 incidents over the same period while one had been recorded at Gwynedd and Bridgend. The other 18 councils said they did not keep records, although individual schools might. South East Wales AM Lindsay Whittle, who is Plaid's shadow equalities spokesperson, said the party's survey was “worrying,” adding, “It reveals that most local authorities are in the dark over the extent of homophobic bullying and, possibly, bullying generally. Some local authorities like Ceredigion and Conwy clearly have systems in place to record this information which is to be applauded. Knowing the extent of any problem is key to dealing with it, so something needs to change. Schools need to pass on information to local authorities or local authorities need to ask them to pass it on. It is also important that we know incidents are also being dealt with.” He added that he would be raising the issue in the Welsh assembly in 2013 and that the Welsh government might need to take action to ensure adequate bullying records are kept by councils. Whittle said that he was also passing the information obtained by Plaid Cymru to Stonewall Cymru. The charity recently called on all schools to have comprehensive and effective plans to tackle homophobic bullying. It also wants to see every school inspector training on sexual orientation issues. Andrew White, director of Stonewall Cymru, said that its research shows over half of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people are bullied in Welsh schools. "The best schools, including those who work with us through our school champions programme, monitor all forms of bullying, including homophobic bullying, so they can tackle it more effectively," he said. "Young people should be able to concentrate on learning without fear of being attacked because of the way they were born."

In Rhode Island, the state’s listless economy remains job one for state lawmakers as they return to the Statehouse for a legislative session that’s also expected to see big votes on same sex marriage, budget cuts and perhaps even a proposal to legalize marijuana, according to the Associated Press. The General Assembly kicks off its 2013 session Tuesday with a day of ceremonial oaths of office and leadership elections. The fall elections sent 16 representatives and eight new senators to the legislature and reduced the number of Republicans serving in the General Assembly to a mere 11 out of 113. The first big debate of the year is likely to center on gay marriage. House Speaker Gordon Fox has called for an early vote on the topic in his chamber. Last fall’s election saw same sex marriage supporters gain seats in both the House and Senate, and advocates hope to build on victories around the nation by passing marriage legislation. In 2011, Fox, who is openly gay, dropped marriage legislation when it became apparent the Senate would not pass the bill. Instead, lawmakers approved civil unions for same-sex couples that offer many of the legal rights afforded to married couples. But few couples have taken advantage of the new law, and Fox argues it’s time the state joined the five other New England states in offering gay couples the right to marry. While advocates are hopeful a bill could pass the House, the Senate remains a question mark. Paiva Weed, a gay marriage opponent, said that despite her opposition she anticipates that gay marriage will get a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee if the House passes the bill. +‘‘I'm guardedly optimistic,’’ said Ray Sullivan, campaign director for Marriage Equality Rhode Island, the lead organization in the fight for equal marriage rights for gay couples in the state. ‘‘Based on the momentum both locally and nationally, we are strategically well-placed to move forward.’’

The Washington Post reports that President Obama defended former Nebraska Republican senator Chuck Hagel in an interview that aired on Sunday morning, praising the man reportedly under consideration to be the next secretary of defense. “Not that I see,” Obama said in an interview on NBC News’s Meet The Press when asked by host David Gregory is there is anything that would disqualify the former senator from running the Defense Department. “I’ve served with Chuck Hagel. I know him. He is a patriot. He is somebody who has done extraordinary work both in the United States Senate; Somebody who served this country with valor in Vietnam, and is somebody who’s currently serving on my intelligence advisory board and doing an outstanding job.” Hagel has come under criticism from gay rights activists for comments he made in 1998. At the time, Hagel said an “openly aggressively gay” diplomat might be an ineffective representative of American values. The former senator recently retracted the remark, prompting the nation’s largest gay rights group to express its appreciation. Obama, who emphasized that he has not made a decision about who he will nominate to be the next secretary of defense, noted Hagel’s apology. “With respect to the particular comment that you quoted, he apologized for it,” Obama said. “And I think it’s a testimony to what has been a positive change over the last decade in terms of people’s attitudes about gays and lesbians serving our country. And that’s something that I’m very proud to have led. And I think that anybody who serves in my administration understands my attitude and position on those issues.”

He is gay, lives in Utah and soon could become The Biggest Loser. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Layton resident Jackson Carter will sweat it out on the reality TV show and weight-loss competition, which is set to kick off its newest season on NBC starting Sunday. Dubbed the "first openly gay contestant," the 21-year-old Utahn auditioned for the show in Salt Lake City because he wanted to inspire others to be themselves, whether overweight or gay. He knows about both. "I think the biggest thing for me, not being accepted by my peer group and fitting in, I became a people-pleaser and never took care of myself," Carter said. "I put everyone else’s needs before my own. [I am now] aware of it and can try to fix it." At 21, he weighed 328 pounds. Carter decided to do something about it by joining the show. In his eyes, he is shedding the pounds like a bulky sweater, tossing it off into the corner. Show producers will showcase his battle in season 14, not only with his weight but also with his sexuality. "I think Utah has come a long way the last few years, Mormons Building Bridges and other people are becoming more aware of queer issues," Carter said. "The hardest work [on the show] is not the workout. You have to deal with people who have shut themselves off from their emotions." And dealing with those emotions can be uncomfortable. "I don’t want to do that one on one, let alone 22 million on one," said Carter of opening himself up to the country through TV cameras. He volunteers at the Ogden OUTreach Resource Center, which helps about 350 LGBT and other youths. The majority who seek help at OUTreach live below the poverty line, and 27-percent are homeless. "I think there are issues everywhere when coming out," Carter said. "Particularly in Utah, with a religious sect, it can be more difficult for acceptance." Carter was born in Roosevelt, a small town on a Ute Indian reservation, and raised there with his two younger siblings before moving at age 7 to Layton. He remembers a brief time in high school of being fit, when he transferred from public school to a charter school for the performing arts. But he has been overweight for most of his life, bullied both for his weight and his sexuality after coming out at age 14. Today, Carter is a student at Weber State University, where he is majoring in theater education with a minor in social work, while also working and volunteering. He said a busy lifestyle resulted in his weight gain. Once he loses weight, Carter said he looks forward to participating in physical activities with his OUTreach kids, being able to go to the beach and take his shirt off, and changing the lives of those around him who are also struggling with their weight. Peggy Bon, volunteer co-coordinator at the OUTreach, said Carter serves as an inspiration to many with whom he shares his experiences. Carter received services at the center at a kid, but now he helps counsel teens and adults alike, she said. "When Jackson walks into the room, everybody loves him when he’s been in a room about a minute. There’s just something about Jackson," said Bon, adding that he’ll be a great representative for Utah’s LGBT community on the show. “I think there are issues everywhere when coming out," Carter said. "Particularly in Utah, with a religious sect, it can be more difficult for acceptance." Carter was born in Roosevelt, a small town on a Ute Indian reservation, and raised there with his two younger siblings before moving at age 7 to Layton. He remembers a brief time in high school of being fit, when he transferred from public school to a charter school for the performing arts. But he has been overweight for most of his life, bullied both for his weight and his sexuality after coming out at age 14. Today, Carter is a student at Weber State University, where he is majoring in theater education with a minor in social work, while also working and volunteering. He said a busy lifestyle resulted in his weight gain. Once he loses weight, Carter said he looks forward to participating in physical activities with his OUTreach kids, being able to go to the beach and take his shirt off, and changing the lives of those around him who are also struggling with their weight. Peggy Bon, volunteer co-coordinator at the OUTreach, said Carter serves as an inspiration to many with whom he shares his experiences. Carter received services at the center at a kid, but now he helps counsel teens and adults alike, she said. "When Jackson walks into the room, everybody loves him when he’s been in a room about a minute. There’s just something about Jackson," said Bon, adding that he’ll be a great representative for Utah’s LGBT community on the show. The new season of The Biggest Loser will feature three children, whose focus will be on getting healthy rather than their weight, so they will not be eligible for elimination and will not weigh-in on camera. This season’s 15 contestants will be divided into three teams and supervised by three trainers. Each trainer and team of five adults will be paired with one child participant who will compete with and contribute to their respective teams. The adults compete for $250,000. Carter said he hopes his story will inspire other gay teens. "I think it’s good to have positive LGBT people in the media," Carter said. "It can be scary and really hard to come out, but if you feel like you’re ready, then it’s a personal choice. If you’re not comfortable to tell people, then you don’t have to. "The sad truth is it’s not always safe, so find some supporters that you can trust," he said.

Charlie Sheen, who has a long history of scandal, and is the dollar store equivalent of a pop culture figure, was caught on tape making a vile gay slur. The perennially troubled and bizarre behaving Hollywood star hosted a gala opening night dinner on Friday at his new bar, The Goose, in the Mexican resort area of Los Cabos. Video obtained by TMZ shows Sheen addressing the crowd at the event, which included musical guests such as former Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash. Sheen can be heard to say: "How we doing? Lying bunch of faggot assholes, how we doing?" The former Two and a Half Men star told the gossip website he "meant no ill will and intended to hurt no one and I apologize if I offended anyone,” and added, "I meant to say maggot but I have a lisp."

Father-to-be Channing Tatum strolls the beaches of St. Barts.

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