In the United Kingdom, Philip Hammond, the defence secretary, has become embroiled in a row over equal marriage amid claims that he likened it to incest. The minister, who opposes David Cameron's plans to grant gay couples the right to marry, denied equating equal marriage with incest after Pink News reported that he had linked the two issues. Hammond released a statement after Pink News reported that he had made the comments to two students at Royal Holloway, University of London, on Friday. The website reported that Hammond "told students in Surrey that allowing gay couples to marry would be like sanctioning 'incest' … When the students asked why, the MP believed the government should retain a ban on same sex marriages, he responded by likening the current ban on equal marriage to 'incest', where it is illegal for two siblings to enter into wedlock." A spokesperson for the defence secretary said: "It's untrue. He didn't equate equal marriage to incest." One of the students told the Guardian that Hammond had not actually used the word "incest", but had raised the issue when he was challenged about his opposition to equal marriage. Joe Rayment told the Guardian: "When I asked Philip Hammond what right the state has to tell two people in love that they can't get married, he said: 'Well, siblings can't get married either'. We found this a very offensive and quite disgusting thing for him to say." The physics student, 21, said that Hammond offered to meet him and a second student, Jack Saffery-Rowe, 19, after hearing that they were organizing a protest during a visit to the university to address politics students. Rayment added: "We asked him to go outside and face the protestors and tell the gay protestors outside that he didn't think they should be allowed to get married. He said he wouldn't play silly games with us. I asked him to tell Jack, who is gay, that he doesn't believe Jack should be able to get married. He didn't because he won't face the reality of his opposition to it." Rayment said: "Philip Hammond was very slippery in the meeting. We were unravelling his arguments and picking them apart and he avoided any of our arguments."
In the United States, at least 13 businesses, including Marriott International Inc. and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., are throwing their support behind an effort to repeal the federal law that defines marriage as solely between one man and one woman. Bloomberg News reports that companies such as Aetna Inc., the third-biggest U.S. health insurer, and eBay Inc. (EBAY), operator of the world’s largest online marketplace, also have joined a coalition put together by the Human Rights Campaign, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy group in Washington. Efforts to legalize gay marriage have gained momentum within the past year. The White House has dropped the government’s support of the Defense of Marriage Act, which is being challenged in court, while nine states and the District of Columbia now allow gay and lesbian couples to lawfully marry. “We are proud of our longstanding commitment to diversity, inclusion and equal treatment of all our employees within our benefits programs,” David Rodriguez, executive vice president and chief human resources officer at Marriott, the largest publicly traded U.S. hotel chain, said in a statement. “Joining the Business Coalition for DOMA Repeal affirms that commitment, and we urge Congress to pass this important legislation.” Senator Dianne Feinstein of California and Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, both Democrats, are preparing to introduce bills that would repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and federally recognize all legal same sex marriages. Spokespersons for Feinstein and Nadler said the lawmakers will introduce similar versions of legislation they authored during the 112th Congress. Those bills would have repealed DOMA, which defines marriage as solely between one man and one woman and thus prevents same-sex married couples from claiming the same federal tax breaks and other marriage benefits that opposite-sex spouses receive. Feinstein, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sponsored a bill that gained 32 cosponsors, with no Republican support, and did not come up for a floor vote before the end of the session. There also was no action was taken on Nadler’s bill, which had bipartisan support among its 160 cosponsors. Nadler is the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice. The panel has jurisdiction over proposed constitutional amendments, abortion, federal civil rights laws, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. House Republicans this month adopted H. Res. 5, which established rules of the 113th Congress that include authorization of taxpayer dollars to pay legal fees to fight challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act. Last February, Attorney General Eric Holder told Congress that the Obama administration would no longer defend DOMA. “These corporate pioneers understand one marriage deserves no less respect and dignity than any other marriage,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “They understand that repealing the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act is the right thing for our nation, and the smart thing for American business.” That support, however, could make companies susceptible to boycotts. Last month the Family Research Council, a Washington-based advocacy group that calls homosexuality “unnatural,” said it would cut all business ties with United Parcel Service Inc., the world’s biggest package-delivery company, after the company announced a new non-discrimination policy for corporate giving, excluding groups like the Boy Scouts of America because of its prohibition on openly gay members. “If UPS wants to cater to the intolerant crowd, that’s their business,” FRC wrote December 11 on its website. “But from now on, it won’t be ours. FRC is taking its shipping needs elsewhere.” The Human Rights Campaign said such concerns are unwarranted. “The question of boycotts or backlash against companies that stand up for equality has fast become a relic of a previous era,” Deena Fidas, deputy director of HRC Foundation’s Workplace Project, said in an interview. “The threats simply do not hold power or sway. To attempt to boycott these businesses for what have become mainstream views of a majority of Americans does not work.” The Supreme Court in March will take up gay marriage for the first time, considering two cases including a challenge to a California ballot initiative barring same sex nuptials. The administration must decide by the end of February whether it will argue against the ballot measure.
In Menlo Park, California, a former offensive tackle for the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders faces charges that he assaulted his boyfriend at a restaurant after an argument involving soy sauce and underpants, San Mateo County prosecutors said Monday. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Kwame Harris, 30, became angry with Dimitri Geier, 36, in August 2012 at Su Hong restaurant on Menlo Avenue, according to court documents. The ex-football player lashed out when Geier tried to put soy sauce on Harris' rice, said Al Serrato, a San Mateo County prosecutor. "Basically they're having dinner together and they get into a verbal dispute and it gets violent from there," Serrato said. "One of them had poured soy sauce onto the rice and the verbal dispute had escalated." Serrato said the men were romantically involved and had previously lived together. Geier, a resident of Los Angeles, was visiting Harris at the time of the altercation, said Craig Charles, Geier's attorney. "They'd broken up and gotten back together a few times," Charles said. "It was not a formal relationship." During the restaurant argument, Harris accused Geier of stealing his underwear, Serrato said. Harris then tried to pull down Geier's pants, the prosecutor said. "I guess he was trying to prove that he was wearing his underwear," Serrato said. Harris, 6-foot-7 and 240 pounds, then pinned the 6-foot-1, 220-pound Geier against a plate glass window and hit him several times in the face and head, Serrato said. Doctors at O'Connor Hospital in San Jose determined that Geier had suffered complex compound facial fractures that required surgery and the insertion of a metal plate, Serrato said. Harris was later charged with felony domestic abuse with great bodily injury and assault with great bodily injury, prosecutors said. Harris pleaded not guilty in the fall and was in San Mateo County Superior Court on Monday for a pretrial appearance. Defense attorneys were not immediately available to comment. Geier sued Harris in October in San Mateo County Superior Court seeking unspecified damages. Through an attorney, Harris has denied all the suit's claims. Harris played his college ball at Stanford and was the 49ers' first pick in the 2003 draft. He played five seasons for the team before signing with the Raiders as a free agent. He played the 2008 season with Oakland, and then was released. He has been out of football since.
A federal appeals panel said Monday that a Virginia inmate is entitled to a full court hearing on her lifelong quest for a sex change operation. The three judges of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals returned Ophelia De'Lonta's case to a lower court, concluding that her constitutional claim should be heard, reports the Associated Press. She contends that the denial of her sex-change operation amounts to a violation of her Eighth Amendment freedom from cruel and unusual punishment. A federal judge in Roanoke dismissed De'Lonta's self-filed lawsuit in 2011 after he concluded the Virginia Department of Corrections was adequately treating De'Lonta. Born Michael A. Stokes, De'Lonta has been in prison for 30 years serving a 73-year sentence for bank robbery. De'Lonta has been diagnosed with a severe form of a rare, medically recognized illness known as gender identity disorder. Her desire for a sex-reassignment surgery has prompted her several times to attempt to castrate herself. Corrections officials have provided her with psychological counseling and hormone treatments and she has been allowed to dress as a woman in a men's prison. Those actions, however, have not dissuaded her from her desire for a sex change, and she was hospitalized in 2010 for injuries suffered in a self-castration attempt. The appeals panel ruled only on the constitutional question and not De'Lonta's request for a sex-change operation. However, it compared her plight to a prisoner who was denied surgery for a serious injury that was treated only with pain medication. While a prisoner does not have a constitutional right to the treatment of his choice, "the treatment a prison facility does provide must nevertheless be adequate to address the prisoner's serious medical need," the judges wrote in their unanimous decision. De'Lonta's attorneys have said the surgery could be done at a cost to the state of about $20,000. Similar lawsuits have failed in a handful of other states. Lawmakers in some states have tried to ban the use of taxpayer money for the operations.
In West Hollywood, Eddie Redmayne spotted entering the Chateau Marmont holding the hand of unidentified male companion, Redmayne ridiculously sexy in a chocolate-brown velvet suit.
In Miami, Monday, Justin Bieber was spotted roaming shirtless, wearing only his boxerbriefs, but given that he has become (almost overnight) such a cold mess, it isn’t that sexy.