Monday, January 7, 2013

Halifax Group Aims To Be First To Bring Gay And Lesbian Refugees To Nova Scotia, Cameroon Appeals Court Overturns Conviction Of Two Men Jailed In 2011 For Homosexual Acts, U.S. Supreme Court To Hear Two Cases Challenging Constitutional Validity Of Laws Defining Marriage As Union Between Man And Woman On March 26 And 27, Rhode Island Roman Catholic Bishop Calls Same Sex Marriage “Immoral And Unnecessary,” Pentagon Agrees To Full Pay For Military Personal Discharged Under DADT, Harry Styles Shirtless Tattooed Hot Mess, Zac Efron

In Canada, a refugee sponsorship organization based in Halifax is hoping to become the first such group in the province to bring lesbian and gay refugees to Nova Scotia. According to the Chronicle Herald, the Rainbow Refugee Association of Nova Scotia decided to set the wheels in motion after attending a presentation by a visiting activist in 2011. Corrie Melanson, one of Rainbow Refugee’s co-ordinators, said in many parts of the world, gay people are persecuted for their sexual orientation. “In more than eight countries, people are convicted by death for being gay or lesbian, but (they are) also just unable to find work, unable to support themselves, being beaten, just the whole gamut of human rights abuses,” she said. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual people are often victims of discrimination, abuse, detention, extortion, torture or murder. Even when refugees flee their home country for another, they may continue to face those threats in their country of asylum, the agency notes. But for groups hoping to sponsor gay refugees, finding them is not easy. Many refugees do not volunteer information about their sexual orientation when they apply for sponsorship or refugee status, and the high commissioner doesn’t ask applicants to disclose it. “Someone would have to come forward and be very out about being gay or lesbian in order to make a case, whereas a lot of people can’t do that,” Melanson said. “For safety reasons, for their own lives, for the lives of their families, they can’t do that.” So, Rainbow Refugee teamed up with the Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees, a Toronto group that assists gay and lesbian Iranians. In Iran, homosexuality remains a crime that can be punishable by death. The Iranian Railroad selected a refugee whose case it considers urgent and sent the file to Rainbow Refugee, which agreed to sponsor him. The Nova Scotia group had only a handful of criteria to guide their selection, including that the refugee be single, not have significant health problems and not have ties to bigger cities such as Toronto or Vancouver. Melanson said the organization hopes the refugee will remain in Nova Scotia. Rainbow Refugee has also partnered with the Immigrant Settlement and Integration Services, which will assist with the sponsorship. Evelyn Jones, the refugee sponsorship co-ordinator with Immigrant Settlement, said the refugee is from Iran, in his late 20s or early 30s and is now living in an asylum country. Before the man is accepted into Canada, he must make a refugee application, be interviewed by someone at the Canadian Embassy in his asylum country and obtain a criminal and health check. Rainbow Refugee has raised about $6,500 of the estimated $11,000 needed to cover rent, food, clothing and transit costs for the refugee’s first year in Canada. The group hopes to get about $2,500 in matching funds from the federal government, but needs another $2,000 to reach its goal. The sponsorship process will likely take more than a year, but Jones said the wait will be worthwhile. “The refugee will make great contributions to Canada, and that’s what we’ve seen over and over. Refugees come, they work very hard, they contribute, and they are involved in Canadian life in so many positive ways.”

An appeals court in Cameroon has overturned the conviction of two men jailed in 2011 for homosexual acts, their lawyer has said. Alice Nkom said she was pleased because the judge who convicted them had been influenced by "stereotypes.” He had stated "the way the men dressed... spoke and the fact that they drank Bailey's Irish Cream proved they were gay,” Nkom said. Homosexual acts are illegal in the central African nation. In November 2011, a court sentenced the two men to five years in prison after police arrested them for allegedly having oral sex in a car in the capital, Yaounde. They denied the charge. On Monday the Court of Appeals ruled saying they were not guilty, Nkom said. She told the BBC's Focus on Africa program the ruling was not surprising. "They were doing nothing when they were arrested by police," Nkom said. "Just because they were wearing women's clothes and had make-up the police said this must be a network of homosexuals and put them in jail." She said it was unclear whether the prosecution intended to challenge the verdict in the Supreme Court. Nevertheless, she said she expected the two men to be freed on Tuesday. International gay rights campaign group All Out welcomed the ruling. "This case demonstrates that when courts rely on law and fairness instead of bias and stereotypes, justice is possible," said Andre Banks, the group's executive director. "And while we celebrate.... we renew the call for President Paul Biya to release all other prisoners who have been prosecuted for allegedly being gay or lesbian under Cameroon's unfair anti-gay law." Nkom told the BBC that last month, the Court of Appeals upheld the sentencing to 36 months in prison of another Cameroonian, Roger Jean-Claude Mbede, under the anti-gay legislation. She said he was sentenced simply for sending a "text to someone to say he loves this man" and she planned to challenge the ruling in the Supreme Court. "There was no partner. You cannot condemn someone for homosexuality made by himself," Nkom said. Homosexual acts are illegal in many African countries - including Uganda, which is considering imposing harsher penalties on people convicted of the offence.

Reuters reports that on March 26 the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a pair of cases challenging U.S. laws that define marriage as a union of a man and a woman. The court will review a California ban on same sex marriage, which voters narrowly approved in 2008. That case could give the court a chance to accept or reject a constitutional right to same sex marriage, or issue a narrower ruling affecting only the nation's most populous state. The next day the court will review a New York court ruling striking down a centerpiece of the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that denies married same-sex couples a variety of federal benefits that heterosexual couples receive. The scheduling was announced in a calendar released by the court on Monday. In May, President Barack Obama said he believed same sex couples deserve the right to marry, and the government is no longer defending the federal benefits law. Both cases are the most anticipated in the court's current term and are among several cases that could allow the nine justices to better define what constitutes equality. In October, the court heard arguments challenging the use of affirmative action in admissions at the University of Texas at Austin. Next month, it will hear a challenge to a central provision in the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Decisions in these cases are expected by the end of June. In the California case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had last February voided the same sex marriage ban but ruled narrowly, saying the state could not take away a right to same sex marriage after previously allowing it. That case was brought by two lawyers, Theodore Olson and David Boies, who were on opposite sides in the 2000 case Bush v. Gore, which decided the 2000 U.S. presidential election. The New York case, U.S. v. Windsor, challenged Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between only a man and a woman for the purpose of benefits such as Social Security survivor payments and the right to file joint federal tax returns. In October, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York struck down Section 3, in a decision by Chief Judge and Republican appointee Dennis Jacobs, joining a May 2012 ruling by a federal appeals court in Boston. Thirty-one of the 50 U.S. states have constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage. Nine states and Washington, D.C. have legalized it, including three on Election Day in November. While state laws still largely disfavor same sex marriage, public support has been rising. Last month, the Pew Research Center said 48-percent of Americans say they favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, and 43-percent oppose it. In 2008, 39-percent supported same sex marriages and 51-percent opposed it, Pew said. The cases are Hollingsworth v. Perry, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 12-144; and U.S. v. Windsor, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 12-307.

The leader of Rhode Island’s Roman Catholic Diocese has again entered the debate over same sex marriage, calling it ‘‘immoral and unnecessary.’’ According to the Associated Press, Bishop Thomas Tobin released a statement Monday urging lawmakers to drop legislation to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry. Tobin says the Catholic Church rejects the ‘‘homosexual lifestyle’’ and says gay marriage poses a threat to religious freedom. Tobin also argues Rhode Island should wait for the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on the federal law defining marriage as being between a man and a woman. He says that if the state must consider gay marriage, it should be placed before voters as a referendum. Rhode Island is the only New England state without gay marriage. State representatives are expected to vote on the matter this month.

Before the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” in 2011, gay and lesbian service members who were forced to leave the military because of their sexual orientation were often honorably discharged. Yet they were given only half of their discharge pay. That changed on Monday. The New York Times reports that under a settlement to a class-action lawsuit, the Pentagon has agreed to pay full separation pay to all service members involuntarily separated from the military after November 10, 2004, because of their sexual orientation. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the action against the Defense Department, the half pay was the result of an internal policy adopted in 1991. Troops are entitled to separation pay if they are involuntarily and honorably discharged after completing at least six years of service. Separation pay is calculated based on years of active service and the service member’s monthly basic pay when at the time he or she was discharged. The lead plaintiff in the suit was a former Air Force staff sergeant, Richard Collins, who served nine years before two civilian co-workers observed him exchanging a kiss with his civilian boyfriend and reported it to his superiors. The A.C.L.U. said the Pentagon withheld about $2.4 million from at least 180 other honorably discharged veterans. “This means so much to those of us who dedicated ourselves to the military, only to be forced out against our will for being who we are,” Collins said in a statement. “We gave all we had to our country, and just wanted the same dignity and respect for our service as any other veterans.” Under the terms of the agreement, service members covered by the lawsuit will be contacted by the government and notified that they are eligible for payments. The settlement covers service members who were discharged only on or after November 10, 2004, because that is as far back as the settlement could extend under the statute of limitations, the A.C.L.U. said.

I realize Harry Styles and girlfriend Taylor Swift recently broke up (likely the day before these photographs were taken) but when did the One Direction star become such a hot mess?

A scruffy, sexy Zac Efron spotted on the NYC set of Are We Officially Dating?

No comments: