In Indiana, the Republican leaders of the state’s General Assembly said Thursday that they have not decided whether to take up a constitutional ban on same sex marriage. A day earlier, a pair of House lawmakers filed separate proposals to place the ban before voters in 2014. House Speaker Brian Bosma said he was not focused on the issue right now, and Senate President Pro Tem David Long hasn’t brought up the issue with the other 36 members of his caucus. “All we’ve done is assigned it to committee, as required. Our focus is on career development, as we talked about here today,” Bosma (R-Indianapolis) said Thursday after talking at the Statehouse about his plan to improve job training in the state. “I’m not talking about (a gay marriage ban) today.” Long (R-Fort Wayne) said he expects to have an answer from members of his caucus before the session’s midpoint — at the end of February — on whether they want to take up the gay marriage ban issue. The issue has hung over the session as Republicans strategize about whether to debate on it this year or next. Gay marriage ban proposals by Rep. Eric Turner (R-Cicero) and Rep. Woody Burton (R-Whiteland) were delivered Wednesday. The separate resolutions were included in the final round of House proposals ahead of a key legislative deadline. The General Assembly overwhelmingly approved the constitutional ban in 2011, but must approve it one more time before the end of next year in order to amend it into the state’s constitution. If approved a second time, it would be placed on the ballot for a final decision by the voters in 2014. The ban was sent to the House Judiciary Committee, but its fate is still unclear as top Republicans try to keep the focus on jobs and education measures. Some of Bosma and Long’s hesitation to address the ban stems from the Supreme Court’s decision to take a pair of cases related to the issue, one which could make the battle moot in Indiana. Long has asked his staff to compile a legal review to determine what impact a high court ruling could have on the state. Legislative Democrats, who are vastly outnumbered in both chambers, have asked Republicans to avoid the debate altogether so the focus can stay on fiscal issues. House Minority Leader Scott Pelath (D-Michigan City) asked Bosma at the start of the session to place a two-year moratorium on debating social issues, such as same sex marriage. But Bosma declined, saying “social issue” is a highly subjective term.
In Hawaii, former Honolulu City Councilmember Gary Okino has angered the gay community after making inflammatory comments during a council committee meeting. All while he is trying to be confirmed as a member of the city Ethics Board of Appeals. The council committee that got an earful of Okino's biblical beliefs did not object. But critics sure are saying his prejudice should disqualify him for the position. "First of all I have to say that tolerance is not a virtue. Are you tolerant of murder? Are you tolerant of drug abuse? No you're not. So I have no tolerance for homosexuality and I get accused of being intolerant. Is it good? Is it bad? Intolerance is relative," said Gary Okino, during an Executive Matters and Legal Affairs Committee meeting last Tuesday. Okino was a member of the Honolulu City Council for 10 years. In all he has worked for the city more than 43 years. He was speaking out against homosexuality. The comments came at Okino's own confirmation hearing for a two year term on the Ethics Board of Appeals. Okino was appointed by previous Mayor Peter Carlisle. "It's not only that we're against stealing, against drug abuse. But the divine law says that same sex marriage and homosexuality is not pono. It's not right, it's immoral, it's deviant," said Okino, during the meeting. "There is an outbreak now of anal, penile and throat cancers among the homosexual community. Okay it's proven study after study that emotionally, psychologically, socially homosexuals are the mostly negatively impacted of all segments in the community. There is a negative impact on families and children. Our children are imperiled by that." Holly Huber, who testified against Okino’s confirmation, said "He called them immoral, deviant, diseased, and he compared our gay and lesbian community to murderers and thieves. This is unacceptable public statements from anyone seeking an appointment to anything." Okino's comments were made two days ago and he stands by them today. "Definitely I stand by it. I could have softened it a little more but it was a reaction to their sudden attack on me," said Okino, referring to a group of people who testified against his appointment. Okino is 71, a member of the Catholic Church and says he prays for homosexuals everyday to change what he believes is a choice. "I'm not a bigoted person. There is no bigotry in me at all. What I'm doing is trying to fight something that is not good for our community, not good for our people," said Okino. "It undermines families, undermines children, It is a huge threat to the community because it's not according to the natural law, or divine law. I think our problem is we have been silent too long. We just allow people to go ahead and do what they want despite the fact we know it's wrong. If we had spoken up sooner maybe we would have kept these things under control. They don't want any part of God. They want to do their own things. What they're doing is undermining society but they don't see that. I think it is a Christian's duty to raise that warning flag. To tell people you are doing something wrong. You are leading this country down the wrong path.” Huber said that, "He said he is intolerant of homosexuals. Well that is a violation of the city's anti discrimination policy. That should preclude him based on his acknowledged prejudice that should preclude him from the appointment. Imagine if Mr. Okino made these statements about another protected class. What if he had disparaged another race? Say he said Native Hawaiians are comparable to murderers and thieves. What if he said black people are immoral? What if he said women are diseased? I mean no one would accept these statements. He would immediately be chastised for these bigoted statements but somehow our City Council seems to think it's okay to disparage the gay and lesbian community. That hate speech against homosexuals is somehow protected by Mr. Okino's religion.” The city Ethics Board of Appeals resolves disputes with city employees, which could include discrimination. Okino says he can be impartial. "So it's not hatefulness. It is intolerance, I'm sorry. It is intolerance for something that I believe that is absolutely wrong," said Okino, to the council committee. "You can't just say whatever you want and then hide behind religion. It is not a free pass to discriminate," said Huber. "We can do without this kind of Christian love thank you very much Mr. Okino." Despite Okino's comments no one on the council committee objected to his appointment. The full city council will vote on Okino's confirmation next Wednesday. Gay activists are mobilizing to convince council members to reject the confirmation.
In the United Kingdom, MPs are set to get their first chance to vote on plans to allow same sex marriages in England and Wales. The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill will be debated in Parliament on Tuesday, February 5, the leader of the Commons Andrew Lansley has announced. The bill will allow same sex marriage and let religious organizations which want to, to offer them, the culture department says. The plans have divided the Conservative Party - its MPs will get a free vote. Labour and the Liberal Democrats back the proposals to legalize same sex marriage, but Labour said the exemption for the established Church was "disappointing.” The Church of England and Roman Catholics, among other denominations, have voiced opposition to the plans and are expected to oppose the bill, even with its caveats. But some religious groups, including Quakers, Unitarians and Liberal Judaism, are in favour. Culture Secretary Maria Miller told the Commons in December that no religious organisation "will ever be forced to conduct marriages for same sex couples.” She said the legislation - which will published on Friday ahead of the bill's second reading - would include a "quadruple lock" to protect religious freedom. The bill is set to specifically exclude the Church of England and Church in Wales to avoid a clash between Canon Law - which defines marriage as that between a man and a woman - and UK civil law. But a spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said that if the Church of England did want to opt-in to offering same sex marriages it could, saying a process for doing so was to be set out in the bill. A public consultation on plans for same sex marriage received 228,000 submissions. In its response to the consultation the government says it has no plans to change the definition of adultery or non-consummation of a marriage - which means neither could be cited as grounds for divorce in a same sex marriage, unless the adultery was with someone of the opposite sex. They also dismiss the fear that the terms "husband" and "wife" could be removed as a result of same sex marriages. They also say that teachers "particularly in faith schools will be able to continue to describe their belief that marriage is between a man and woman whilst acknowledging and acting within the new legislative position which enables same sex couples to get married.” The Scottish Government has published proposed legislation of its own to introduce gay marriage. Under the plans, religious and faith groups would need to "opt in" to perform same sex marriages.
In Scotland, Paul Maden, 45, and James Findlay, 40, whose luxury chocolate company Cocoa Mountain has attracted fans from Prince Charles to Yoko Ono, claim their lifestyle offended locals. The abuse began as soon as they moved into the area, they say, with neighbours stalking the outside of their home shouting “fuck off you English queer faggot“. But Kevin Crowe, the chairman of Durness Community Council, has hit back, claiming: "They are not the only gays in the village.” The couple are considering leaving Durness, in Sutherland, after they were taken to court accused of assaulting one of their “tormentors”, ferryman John Morrison. The case was found not proved by Dornoch Sheriff Court after Maden pleaded self defence. Findlay told the court that he had found the homophobic abuse he claimed he faced from Morrison and his son Malcolm “really upsetting.” He said: “We constantly live in fear. We're looking to get away as quickly as possible but at the moment it's difficult because of the financial climate.” The Morrison family denied the abuse and claimed the chocolatiers have made other resident’s lives miserable. Maden told the Daily Telegraph that the abuse began before he had even joined his Scottish partner in the village as the locals “thought he was English,” adding, “It was night time rants around the outside of our house.” Since then, he said, they have been threatened with death, physically attacked, pelted with seeds, and subjected racist and homophobic abuse and “gestures” – making the last decade “unpleasant,” adding, “It is quite frightening when you are in a remote place, a lot of places you do not get mobile phone signal and you feel quite vulnerable.” But Crowe – an Englishman who sealed the Highland's first same sex civil partnership with his partner Simon Long – said he was “surprised” as he found the community friendly and accepting. The chocolatiers live in the Balnakeil Craft Village, a former Cold War camp, and count among their neighbours a German porn star. Cocoa Mountain, which uses milk from Highland cows in its exotic chocolates, some of which are allegedly 'natural aphrodisiacs', and the couple have not made the final decision to leave as they rely on locally sourced produce. Prince Charles once asked the chocolatiers to blend his Barrogill whisky into a truffle, but they turned him down because they did not want to use preservatives.
In Plymouth, England, a teenager has been forced to seek medical advice after she was verbally abused, threatened, and spat on outside a burger bar. The girl has told the Herald she was left shocked and frightened by the experience, which took place in the city centre. In an effort to trace the assailants investigators have released CCTV stills of a man and a woman they wish to trace. They hope the pair can supply them with key information about what has been classed as a homophobic attack on the 18-year-old who was sitting with her two 16-year-old friends outside the McDonalds restaurant at the top of New George Street. Detective Con Anne Rose, of the Diverse Communities Team, said the teenagers had been inside the restaurant shortly before 6:20 pm on January 10 but had then gone outside and sat on a nearby bench to smoke a cigarette. Detective Con Rose said, "They were minding their own business when they saw a man mouthing and gesturing from inside the restaurant. At first they weren't sure what he wanted, but eventually they realized he was gesticulating for them to go away, swearing at them to leave. Then he came out and as one of the victims described it, he strode over aggressively and started shouting and swearing at them." Detective Con Rose said the man called all three girls extremely offensive names. She said the man then assured her he had no problem hitting a girl before he then spat at her in the face. Detective Con Rose said, "All the time she was asking him to walk away, afraid of what he might do."The woman said at one stage the man's partner came over and made similar comments. The only explanation she was able to give for the assault was because of her hair colour and the hair colour of one of the younger friends. They had just been sitting, talking and smoking." Speaking to the Herald the 18-year-old said that as a result of being spat at she had been advised to make an appointment with her doctor. She said, "We must've briefly caught his gaze and he misinterpreted it as something else,” adding, "I just don't like that it is meant to be a safe place in town to sit and that this can happen to anyone. My friends are only 16 and they shouldn't have to face that."
The Big Bang Theory's Jim Parsons is signing on to turn the spotlight on a group of young prodigies. The recently out, two-time Emmy winner behind the neurotic neuroscientist Sheldon Cooper will executive produce and develop a new series for TV based on the YouTube program Prodigies. The series, featured on Radical Media's THNKR channel, will follow exceptionally gifted young people as they navigate lives where their talents and abilities offer them limitless opportunities -- sometimes at the expense of just being a kid. The YouTube series has already featured a slew of wunderkinds -- including a 15-year-old self-taught inventor from Sierra Leone, a 14-year-old computer programmer, gifted poets, athletes and others. Parsons will produce the series -- which will be taken out to cable and broadcast networks at next week's Realscreen Summit in Washington -- alongside producing partner (and boyfriend) Todd Spiewak under the duo's new banner, That's Wonderful Productions. "I knew within a few minutes of viewing my first episode of Prodigies that I wanted to be a part of the team bringing the digital series to a wider audience via television," Parsons said in a statement Tuesday. "Spending time with these geniuses, these children, soaring and struggling with their gifts and their talents is inspiring and entertaining in a way that great television is. Prodigies reveals something about the human spirit with such joy and insight, which is why it achieved such a passionate following on the Internet. I think there are many more people out there that will find this irresistible, like I do." Since its launch in July, THNKR has amassed more than 100,000 subscribers and 12 million views, with Prodigies receiving the International Academy of Web Television's award for best documentary series. “The THNKR Channel is born out of the idea that a large and engaged audience passionately desires smart entertainment. The overwhelming online success of Prodigies has proven that if done well, small-screen content can pack a big punch," said Justin Wilkes, Radical Media president of media and entertainment. "We're ecstatic to be collaborating with Jim on bringing this program to life on longer-form television."
Ryan Phillippe, rocking a white tank top, exits the gym.