In Canada, Premier Kathleen Wynne thanked a historic Toronto church Sunday for being a place of refuge when she was coming out in the 1990s. “I can remember the feeling of, this is a place that’s going to give me solace and strength,” Wynne, whose premiership has made history, told the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto, where the country’s first gay marriages were performed. After a standing ovation, Wynne explained how when she was coming out, she would sometimes “sneak” from North Toronto to the church near Gerrard St. E. and Logan Ave. Back when her kids were young, she and her partner, Jane Rounthwaite, would go to some evening services there, Wynne said, thanking the congregation for the “strength” it gave them. “There was lots of turmoil in that coming out; it was not easy to do that. Jane had known her whole life that she was a lesbian and I had not known until I was 37,” said an emotional Wynne, getting laughs when she called herself a “slow learner.” During the recent Liberal leadership race, when people started questioning whether the province was ready for its first openly gay and woman premier, she said she became determined to run. She addressed the “whisper campaign” head-on in her speech last month at the convention, where she was selected on the third ballot. “The moment after I made the speech I thought . . . I absolutely want to win, but really it doesn’t matter because I’ve put the issue on the table,” she said, adding there was vindication in a poll that said most Ontarians “couldn’t care less whether I’m a lesbian.” She was invited to the Sunday service with guest preacher Right Rev. Gary Paterson, who was recently elected the first openly gay moderator of the United Church of Canada. Wynne, a United Church member, sat in a row second from the front, with family members including Rounthwaite, as well as local NDP MPP Peter Tabuns. Senior pastor Rev. Brent Hawkes expressed excitement throughout the service about Wynne, who is recalling the legislature Tuesday. “This is a moment for us, politically. This is a moment for our province and this is a moment for all three of our political parties in the provincial legislature,” Hawkes said, noting it’s the first time women and members of the LGBT community “see themselves reflected in the premiership of our province.” Not that long ago, the church couldn’t get most politicians at Queen’s Park to listen, he said. “I remember when we had to chain ourselves to the legislature just to get our human rights,” said Hawkes, a long-time gay rights activist. “We had to take the province to court just to get our marriages recognized and now, we’re here.” After the service, while Wynne was having her photo taken with churchgoers, Sonja Mitrovic said Wynne’s election is a reminder of how much progress there has been. “Being young, I don’t know a lot of the history,” said the 32-year-old. As a teacher, she said she’s more interested in whether Wynne can improve government’s relationship with teachers than her sexuality, which she was unaware of until recently. But she and her wife said it doesn’t stop Wynne’s premiership being significant. “It’s going to be hard for her because everybody’s going to be looking up to her,” Mitrovic said. “She’s going to be the example for all the kids, all the people.”
In the United Kingdom, a mass for gay and lesbian Catholics has been held for the last time in central London because the Church says it goes against its views on sexuality. The leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales said it conflicted with religious teachings on sexuality. The Archbishop of Westminster has asked organizers of the service in Soho to instead concentrate on providing pastoral care. Gay rights charity Stonewall has said it was a "real shame.” The masses have been held at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Warwick Street, Soho, for the last six years. Previously they had been congregating in an Anglican church. Joe Stanley, chairman of Soho Masses Pastoral Council, said: "Because a lot of LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] people find a lot of difficulty in being open and honest in Church, what we offer here is the ability, twice a month, to come and stand openly and honestly and directly before God." Congregation member Renate Rothwell said she felt really sad. "The tears which are shed are angry tears, because I feel angry that this didn't need to have happened," she added. Monsignor Seamus O'Boyle, parish priest of Soho Mass, said: "To be able to reach out in love, which I think is what we have done, for me has been personally quite gratifying. To see this community grow, which it has, and to feel that they could come to church and be part of the church has been something quite marvellous, but it's not construed that way by everyone else." Archbishop Nichols said that, "The moral teaching of the Church is that the proper use of our sexual faculty is within a marriage, between a man and a woman, open to the procreation and nurturing of new human life,” adding, "As I stated in March 2012, this means that many types of sexual activity, including same-sex sexual activity, are not consistent with the teaching of the church." Ruth Hunt, Stonewall's director of public affairs who is Catholic, said that, "The archbishop's views on gay issues are well rehearsed and have nothing to do with the spirituality of some lesbian and gay people and their desire to express their faith." The BBC's religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott said, "The services were allowed by Archbishop Nichols on the condition that they weren't used to challenge church teaching. His decision to end them is a significant change of heart: only two years ago he defended the masses giving gay Catholics the chance to identify themselves by their Catholicism rather than their sexuality. He told the traditionalists who protested against the services to hold their tongues. Since then Archbishop Nichols has become a leading figure in the campaign against same sex marriage." Christopher Lamb, from the Catholic newspaper The Tablet, said that, "I wouldn't say it's a U-turn because Vince Nichols is still very keen to support gay Catholics. I think it is of course a change of direction, but I think it was because of the pressure he came under by the authorities in Rome." Madeline Teahan from the Catholic Herald said Catholics had become uncomfortable with seeing political symbols such as the rainbow flag at the altar. Members of the congregation are now being encouraged to attend the mass at Jesuit Church at Farm Street, Mayfair. The coalition government is committed to legislating on gay marriage by the 2015 general election and a bill is expected to be tabled in January.
In New Zealand, men in precarious heels, generously-girthed women on growling motorbikes and a showing from the Gay Wakeboarding Association – it could only be the return of Auckland’s Pride Parade. Thousands of people lined Ponsonby Rd this afternoon to see the event which has been absent from the city since 2001. In the sweltering sun dozens of groups walked, danced, roller-skated and, in one case, were carried in a Roman chariot, from Western Park to Three Lamps. On Twitter, one person wrote: “All of the homosexuals in the world are in ponsonby right now. ALL OF THEM [sic].” There were drag queens and dancers in body paint, a flatbed truck bearing a 30-piece choir, many rainbow flags and the occasional nipple tassel. But among them were some conservatively dressed participants too. David Shearer and Jacinda Ardern led a red-shirted Labour Party contingent, and a group of Greens wheeled about on bicycles. The final floats pushed the message for marriage equality. One was a giant cake bearing two brides and a child, and another was vintage car carrying two kissing bridegrooms. But the biggest cheer of the day was reserved for the 30 or so members of the Defence Force. For the first time, members of the NZDF’s peer support group Overwatch were given permission to parade in their uniforms, and they demonstrated their military training with the best-maintained formation marching of the day.
In Nebraska, a judge has pushed back Charlie Rogers’ sentencing a month. Lancaster County Court Judge Gale Pokorny was set to sentence the 34-year-old on Thursday for faking a brutal hate crime that shocked and galvanized Lincoln while drawing the attention of the country. He delayed the sentencing until March 14. Rogers faces up to one year in jail, plus a $1,000 fine, for the misdemeanor crime. Pokorny found her guilty after the former Husker basketball standout pleaded no contest December 10 to a misdemeanor charge of filing a false report to police. Rogers told investigators three men broke into her house on July 22, tied her up, carved anti-gay slurs into her skin and tried to light the house on fire. Rogers maintained her innocence and stuck to her story, even as she pleaded no contest and Pokorny found her guilty. After the verdict, her attorney, Brett McArthur, said his client chose to take the rap rather than endure a trial. “The courtroom is not a gentle place," he said then. "Charlie is a very fragile personality. This has been a very distressing experience, and she felt she couldn’t go on.” Media from across the country -- including CNN, NBC and Sports Illustrated -- covered the story last summer.
In New York City, not long ago, Brandon Perlberg had a growing law practice and a Manhattan apartment he shared with his partner, who is British. They hosted themed dinner parties and wine tastings for a wide circle of friends. But Perlberg, an American who is gay, now lives in London. Early last year he reluctantly left his law firm, rented out his apartment and said goodbye to friends. After nearly seven years in the United States on legal but temporary visas, his partner had not been able to obtain a visa as a permanent resident. The two were facing the possibility of permanent separation. Americans with a foreign-born spouse of the opposite sex are able to get them resident visas, or green cards, with relative ease. But federal law does not allow Americans to petition for green cards for same-sex spouses or partners. Eventually, they face a choice of remaining in the country with the immigrant here illegally or leaving the United States. “Ultimately, we resolved that staying together was the most important thing for us,” Perlberg said. “And the only way to guarantee that we got to stay together was by making this move.” Perlberg is part of a diaspora of gay Americans who have found they had to uproot and leave the country to continue to live with foreign partners. And this year, binational gay couples like his are a new — and controversial — focus of the debate in Washington on an ambitious overhaul of immigration laws. In a blueprint that President Obama presented last month, he pledged to give citizens, and also immigrants who are legal residents, the ability to petition for a green card for a same-sex foreign partner, if they can show they have “a permanent relationship.” The Supreme Court will also take up same sex issues this year, with hearings in March on two cases that challenge the definition of marriage as being a union between only a man and a woman. One case deals directly with a 1996 statute, the Defense of Marriage Act that prohibits the federal government from recognizing same sex marriage and governs the exclusion of gay couples from visas and other immigration benefits. The politics of same sex marriage are rapidly shifting, with polls showing Americans viewing it increasingly favorably but still divided. Many Republican voters strongly oppose it. Leading Republican lawmakers have questioned whether Congress should include such a hotly disputed issue in the debate when it will also wrangle with giving legal status to 11 million illegal immigrants. “There are so many other, bigger issues the Congress has to resolve in immigration reform before we would even get to a point where we would be discussing a change to a longstanding policy like this,” said Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the highest-ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is working to prepare immigration legislation. The restrictions in the marriage act, known as DOMA, have a direct impact on Americans with foreign-born spouses or partners who want to live in the United States. “A straight couple living in the U.S. can apply for a green card based on their spousal relationship,” said Rachel B. Tiven, the executive director of Immigration Equality, a legal advocacy group focusing on gay men and lesbians. “Gay couples simply can’t do that.” For the first time, in Obama’s blueprint, same sex couples have been included in a comprehensive framework for immigration legislation. The president “has long believed that Americans with same-sex partners from other countries should not be faced with the painful choice between staying with the person they love or staying in the country they love,” the White House spokesman, Jay Carney, said when Obama announced his plan in Las Vegas on January 29. The president’s proposal was echoed in a bill introduced last week in the Senate by Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, a Democrat who is the Judiciary Committee chairman, and Susan Collins of Maine, a Republican. A similar bill was introduced in the House of Representatives this month. Perlberg, 34, has been following the debate in Washington from the apartment in London where he landed with his partner, Benn Robert Storey, 31. In a telephone interview, they recalled that Storey had never felt like an exile during the years they lived together in New York. A graphic designer, Storey already had a job and a work visa lined up when he moved to the United States. I did not feel like a British person in New York, I felt like a New Yorker,” Storey said. “And during that time, my relationship with Brandon grew stronger and stronger.” But the end of Storey’s temporary visas was approaching. Because he does not have an advanced degree in a technical profession, lawyers advised them that Storey’s chances of gaining a green card based on his employment were very slim. The uncertainty of Storey’s immigration future became “a dark cloud that hung over our relationship,” Perlberg said. In July 2011, same sex marriage became legal in New York State. But under the federal marriage law, Storey still would not have been eligible for a green card as a spouse. When immigration also became a volatile issue in Britain, they decided to move quickly, fearing that they might not be able to live in either country. In contrast to Storey’s indefinite wait in the United States, Britain approved a resident visa for Perlberg in 48 hours. But the move was wrenching for him. “I had developed an identity as a New Yorker,” Perlberg said, “and, really, a passion for the city and the country in which I lived. And then in one fell swoop I was just pushed down to the bottom of the ladder.” When they arrived in London in January 2012, neither one had a job. In New York Perlberg had practiced marriage law. But there was no demand in London for a lawyer versed in New York State marital code. After a year of searching and financial hemorrhage, Perlberg finally took a job at an international accounting firm. Gay Americans in binational couples have settled in many countries in Europe, which have friendlier laws for them. One American, Martha McDevitt-Pugh, started a group in the Netherlands, the Love Exiles Foundation, to bring gay Americans together. Speaking by telephone from Amsterdam, she said she moved to the Netherlands so she could live with her wife, Lin, who was born in Australia. They were married in the Netherlands in 2001. “So many Americans have met someone from another country,” McDevitt-Pugh said. “They fall in love, and they have no idea that anything could go wrong. They assume there must be some way to get your partner to stay in the U.S.” She said there were also communities of gay American immigration exiles in Australia, Canada, Germany and Spain. In a sign of the emerging differences among lawmakers, a bipartisan Senate group that is drafting a comprehensive bill did not include any reference to same-sex couples in a blueprint it released last month. A Republican in the group, Senator John McCain of Arizona, has warned that adding the divisive social issue to the legislation could “derail it.” As Perlberg watches from London, he acknowledges that things could be worse. “London is not Siberia,” he said. “I have a new job and a new career, and I’m excited about that.” But he said he wrestles with resentment. “It’s very difficult as an American to have gone through all that and know that the country just pushed us out for being in love,” he said, “and being gay.”
One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson spotted alongside Eleanor Calder attending the TopShop Show at London Fashion Week, Tomlinson wearing more makeup than Calder, which is unfortunate.