Thursday, February 7, 2013

Mormon Church Says It Is Examining Affiliation With Canadian Boy Scout Troops Which Do Not Discriminate Against Gay Members, Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Approves Private Adoption Allowing Gay Man And Married Lesbian Couple To Be Listed On Daughter’s Birth Certificate, President Obama Nominates Openly Gay Attorney For Patents Appeals Court, North Dakota Lawmakers Hear Testimony On Bill Adding Sexual Orientation To Provisions Banning Discrimination, Gay Porn Star Arpad Miklos Takes Own Life At 45

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Scouts Canada — like its U.S. counterpart — has oaths, troops, uniforms and merit badges. What it doesn’t have is a rule excluding gay members or leaders. "Scouts Canada does not discriminate for reasons of gender, culture, religious belief or sexual orientation," it says on its website. Apparently, that’s no problem for the many Mormon troops, which use the program for LDS boys and young men. South of the border, however, the Boy Scouts of America finds itself embroiled in a heated battle about whether to allow gays to be members and leaders. The national group has postponed a decision on the matter until May, a choice lauded by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "We believe BSA has acted wisely in delaying a vote on this policy issue," church spokesman Michael Purdy said late Wednesday, "until the implications can be more carefully evaluated." The LDS Church emphasized it has not taken a stance on the BSA proposal — which would let local sponsors decide whether to allow gays — and insisted it has launched no campaign "either to effect or prevent a policy change." But the Utah-based faith noted Thursday that it is launching more and more youth programs in Canada outside Scouting. "While we affiliate with Scouts Canada, we are increasingly providing separate activities for our youth in Canada," Purdy said in a statement. "Just as we have said about BSA specifically, we continue to look at whether the Scouting programs we participate in align with our standards and meet the needs of the youth of the church." The LDS Church allows chaste gays to hold "callings," or positions, in its organizations. So some gay Mormons already are in Scouts, serving under a sort-of "don’t ask-don’t tell" policy. Lifting the ban would allow this practice to openly continue. Mormon leaders hold that same sex attraction is not a sin; acting on it is. The church recently launched a website urging members to show more compassion and understanding toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. It also has endorsed anti-discrimination ordinances in Salt Lake City that protect LGBT residents from housing and job discrimination, and is in talks for similar safeguards statewide. Scouts Canada also has opened its ranks to girls. The LDS Church won an exemption to have boys-only troops.

In Florida, a Miami-Dade circuit judge has reportedly approved an adoption allowing three people — a gay man and a married lesbian couple — to be listed on the birth certificate of their 23-month-old daughter. The Miami Herald reports that Maria Italiano and Cher Filippazzo, who married in Connecticut, and their attorney, Kenneth Kaplan, declined to be interviewed. The women, according to Miami family attorney Karyn Begin, are longtime partners who unsuccessfully tried to become pregnant via fertility clinics. “We’re creating entirely new concepts of families,” said Begin, who represented father Massimiliano Gerina in a two-year paternity case involving lesbian friends who had his baby. “If you have two women seeking to be listed as Parent One and Parent Two, that does not exclude listing a man as father.” Following a verbal agreement, Gerina gave the women his sperm and Italiano conceived. The couple planned for Filippazzo to later adopt the baby and both would raise the child. According to Florida law, sperm donors have no legal rights in artificial inseminations. But Gerina said he considered himself a parent, not simply a donor. The women, he claimed, “wanted a father for the baby, not just the sperm.” Roughly seven months after learning Italiano was pregnant, the women asked Gerina to sign a contract to give up his rights to the child. He declined and hired Begin. “My papers said I would have parental rights, a visitation schedule,” Gerina said. “They hated it. They said this wasn’t what they wanted. I said, ‘Now that you’re already pregnant, you should have thought about that before.’” Their daughter, Emma, was born March 10, 2011. The three parents feuded in court for nearly two years. A trial was set for January 31, 2013, but a week earlier, Gerina, Italiano, Filippazzo and their attorneys settled the case privately, the newspaper reports. Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Antonio Marin later approved the settlement and the court adoption clerk submitted paperwork for Emma’s new birth certificate, which indicated that Italiano, a retail saleswoman, received “sole parental responsibility,” Begin told the newspaper. Filippazzo, a financial services professional, legally adopted Emma and the state recognized Gerina as Emma’s father. He was granted time with her for the next two years and overnight visitations will be considered after she turns 4. All visits must be pre-arranged and at the mothers' discretion, the newspaper reports. “The mothers are in charge,” Gerina said. “I’m just going to spend time with her. They are the parents.”

President Barack Obama nominated Thursday an openly gay attorney to serve on the U.S. appeals court for patent cases after a previous gay nominee for that court stalled. Reuters reports that Todd Hughes, a lawyer in the Department of Justice's civil division, was nominated for the Federal U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He would be the first openly gay circuit judge in the country if confirmed. The Federal Circuit hears patent appeals from around the country, including high stakes cases like Apple Inc's smartphone battle against Samsung Electronics Co Ltd. Its docket also includes trademark cases and some claims against the federal government. The administration previously nominated Edward DuMont for the Federal Circuit in 2010. He would have been the first openly gay circuit judge had he been confirmed. However, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee did not hold a hearing and DuMont ultimately withdrew, saying some Republican committee members opposed his bid. DuMont did not identify those senators. Justice Department representatives referred questions about the Hughes nomination to the White House. Obama also nominated U.S. Patent and Trademark Office attorney Raymond Chen for the Federal Circuit on Thursday, and in a statement Obama said both Hughes and Chen have displayed "exceptional dedication" to public service. Hughes has specialized in federal personnel matters, veterans' benefits and international trade. Chen argued numerous cases at the Federal Circuit defending the USPTO's decisions, according to the office's website. Representatives of the USPTO declined to comment. The Federal Circuit is a crucial tribunal for high stakes intellectual property battles. Another Obama nominee for the court - Richard Taranto, an attorney in private practice - was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. If the U.S. Senate approves all three nominees, the Federal Circuit would have its full complement of 12 active judges.

In North Dakota, legislators heard three hours of testimony Wednesday on whether state law should add sexual orientation to provisions banning discrimination in the workplace, housing, government and public services. The Bismarck Tribune reports that nearly two dozen people took turns speaking in favor of Senate Bill 2252. They included legislators, people who have gay or lesbian family members, and members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. Ten people spoke in opposition to SB2252. Among them were two religious leaders, representatives from religious organizations and a representative of a legal organization. Rep. Kylie Oversen (D-Grand Forks) is a sponsor of SB2252. She said while North Dakota may be leading the nation economically, the state “has a long way to go when it comes to social issues.” Sen. Margaret Sitte (R-Bismarck) questioned Oversen on the impacts of SB2252. “We are creating a protected class, are we not?” Sitte asked. Oversen replied that the bill provides protections to the GLBT community that, unlike the rest of the population, its members currently don’t have. “People in our state have become more comfortable with who they are,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Joshua Boschee (D-Fargo). “(But) you can still be fired or evicted for a small piece of who you are.” Boschee, the state’s first openly gay lawmaker, said he, for example, is also a white, male, able-bodied, spiritual individual as well as a son and brother. He went on to point out that there also are exemptions for religious organizations in SB2252, something that was not in a failed 2009 version of the bill. Bismarck resident Kevin Tengesdal spoke of experience in which his sexual orientation affected his employment. “In 1988, after 15 months of service the Navy delivered me a DD214 discharge, an honorable discharge via administrative separation due to personality disorder for the convenience of the government with no chance of re-enlistment, because I am gay,” Tengesdal said. Tengesdal said he later went to Bible college. In 1996, prior to his senior year, his application for missionary service was terminated following a background check that revealed his discharge to the mission staff. “As a Christian, I ask how can we decide that a person should be a second-class citizen undeserving of the same respect and dignity that which Christ himself gives freely,” Tengesdal said. Fargo resident Riah Roe urged lawmakers to pass SB2252. Roe told the committee of her experience as a debate coach at Fargo North High School during the 2010-11 school year. During that school year, she taught as a man and testified that she received strong reviews at that time. Over the summer, while beginning the process of transitioning from male to female, Roe informed her employer of the transition process. Eight days later, she was let go. “I went from being a well-traveled individual ... to being a disgusting ‘tranny’ that was unfit to teach children,” Roe said. Tom Freier, executive director of the North Dakota Family Alliance, said state law already has adequate provisions for the GLBT community. “It does create a protected class,” Freier said. “We believe equal protections certainly do exist.” Lawyer Kellie Fiedorek, with Alliance Defending Freedom, said SB2252 pits the GLBT community and its lobby on the federal level against those operating their businesses in a way that mirrors their religious beliefs. “This isn’t discrimination. This is religious intolerance,” Fiedorek said. Fiedorek cited the example of a Colorado bakery last year that was subject to a discrimination suit after refusing to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. She said legislation such as SB2252 could work to force people of faith out of the marketplace. “They should not have to choose between their conscience and their livelihood,” Fiedorek said. John Boustead, senior pastor at Solomon’s Rest in Bismarck, said a person’s sexual orientation is a personal choice and shouldn’t receive specific legal protection under the law. “Homosexuality is a chosen lifestyle,” Boustead said, adding that the decision to add sexual orientation to non-discrimination policies should be left to the business community and places of employment, not the government. “Passing laws that promote immorality will create more immorality,” Boustead said. Bismarck resident Clint Fleckenstein said despite the religious exemptions in SB2252, it does not address the rights of individual North Dakotans. He said many residents of the state have strong religious beliefs and may object to public displays by members of the GLBT community. He asked where the Legislature draws the line if it goes down the road of building in protections for that group. “Will it be the tattoo and piercings crowd coming in here?” Fleckenstein said. He asked what would happen if someone came in claiming discrimination for not being hired due to having so many piercings that it “looks like I fell in a tackle box.” No action was taken Wednesday on SB2252. Sponsors of the bill along with Boschee and Oversen were Senators John Warner (D-Ryder), Mac Schneider (D-Grand Forks), and Representatives Rick Becker (R-Bismarck), and Nancy Johnson (R-Dickinson).

In New York City, a gay porn star has been found dead in his lower East Side apartment from an apparent suicide, it was revealed. The Daily News reports that the body of Arpad Miklos, 45, was found by friends on Sunday — next to a suicide note that instructed close friends on what he wanted for his memorial. He also wrote that he “knows there will be judgement, the haters can hate and speculate” but he did not give a specific reason as to why he killed himself. Police found pill bottles and alcohol containers scattered around the body, sources said. The tragic news was confirmed by New York writer Randal Lynch on the latest instalment of the GwistTV “Gwissues” show. Of Miklos, whose real name was Peter Kozma, he said: "He was a great guy on top of (being a porn star). There was a lot more to him than just that surface persona. He was a very active person in the gay community. He wasn't happy, I would say, but he wasn't going into crying fits. He was a hard nut to crack. I knew he was depressed, but I didn't realize the severity of it, because he was not a very talkative person about his own emotions. He wanted people to know that he was OK and wanted to put on a front for everyone around him." Hungarian-born Miklos, who worked as a chemist before being discovered by the Kristen Bjorn porn studio in 1995, starred in 60 gay and straight films over his 15-year career. He was also voted Best Top Escort at the 2007 International Escort Awards. He memorably co-starred in a video for Perfume Genius’ Hood, a sixteen second clip from the work banned from YouTube in 2012 for “promoting mature sexual themes.”

No comments: