Saturday, March 2, 2013

Former Poland President Lech Walesa Tells National Television Audience That “Homosexuals Should Sit On Last Bench” Of Parliament “Or Even Behind A Wall,” The Slow Procession Of Gay Rights In Puerto Rico, New U.K. Study Confirms Children In Gay Adoptions At No Disadvantage, Idaho Police Arrest 22-Year-Old George Mason Who Allegedly Attacked Gay Couple Walking Dog, Atlanta Police Arrest 26-Year-Old Michael Taylor Zimmerman After He Repeatedly Stabbed 32-Year-Old Gay Man

In Poland, in an astonishing outburst against homosexuals, former Solidarity leader Lech Walesa has said that gay MPs should sit at the back of the parliament chamber, or even “behind a wall,” reports the “Homosexuals should sit on the last bench in the plenary hall, or even behind the wall, and not somewhere at the front,” Walesa, who was president of Poland from 1990 to 1995, told the TVN24 broadcaster on Friday evening. Walesa was giving his views on recent debates in parliament about legalising civil partnerships for gays and straights in Poland and other social issues, when he said: “a minority cannot impose itself on the majority. They must know they are a minority and adapt themselves to smaller things.” The 1983 Nobel Peace Prize winner and staunch Roman Catholic added that he would not have voted for Anna Grodzka, Europe's only transsexual MP, when she was nominated by her party, the Palikot Movement, to become deputy speaker of parliament in January. Robert Biedron, who became Poland's first ever openly gay MP in the 2011 general election, responded to the outburst by saying, “I would be happy to meet with Lech Walesa. I love Lech Walesa - because if it was not for him I would not be here sitting with you,” adding, “But his son [Jaroslaw Walesa, who is a member of the European Parliament] should sit him down and explain a few things: civil partnerships, IVF.” The ruling centre-right Civic Platform party – who Lech Walesa has given qualified support to in the past - has yet to come to a unified stance on civil partnerships and state funding for the IVF treatment. Prime Minister Donald Tusk has said that the party will meet on Monday to decide the fate of leading Civic Platform conservative, Justice Minister Jaroslaw Gowin, within the government, after he led campaigns to block votes in parliament legalising civil partnerships.

The advance of gay rights across the United States is spreading into Puerto Rico, making the island a relatively gay-friendly outpost in a Caribbean region where sodomy laws and harassment of gays are still common, according to the Associated Press. The governing Popular Democratic Party is pushing a bill through the legislature that would outlaw discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation, a step taken by about half of U.S. states. Another bill would extend a domestic violence law to gay couples. Soon after taking office in January, Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla signed an order extending health insurance coverage to the live-in partners of workers in his executive branch of government, regardless of gender. And a popular former conservative governor, Pedro Rossello, surprised supporters and foes when he stated last month that he unequivocally supports same sex marriage. "We're in a period where it's important to talk about human rights," said Rossello, who 14 years ago signed a law as governor to prohibit the recognition of same sex marriages held abroad. "This is extraordinary," said Pedro Julio Serrano, a Puerto Rican gay activist. "We've reached a point of no return in Puerto Rico ... Equality is inevitable." Osvaldo Burgos, spokesman for the Broad Committee for the Search for Equality, which represents more than a dozen local human rights organizations, said, "The issues that we're discussing publicly now would have been unthinkable a couple decades ago.” Gay rights activists also say they are encouraged that the island's Justice Department is prosecuting its first hate crime case for the killing of a hairstylist who was set on fire. The momentum has not all been one way, however. The island's Supreme Court last week narrowly upheld a law that bars same sex couples from adopting children. Despite a string of legalizations in the U.S. over the past decade, adoptions by same-sex couples remain banned in many U.S. states as well. And many Puerto Ricans remain uncomfortable with the changes. Church groups in February rallied an estimated 200,000 people against a move to include gay couples under domestic violence laws. The spokesman for that march, Cesar Vazquez, said the state should not meddle with marriage and the family, and a prominent Puerto Rican pastor, Wanda Rolon, said children should not be taught at a young age that different types of families can exist, a proposal that Garcia's administration is considering. "That is very dangerous," she said. "It's going to raise some doubts that can bring about confusion,” adding, "What we need to protect in these times is the strengthening of marriage, the strengthening of families. We will be a healthier society." Resistance to rights for gays was even stronger in the 1970s, when gay activists protested the island's sodomy law, only to see legislators increase the penalty to 10 years in prison from three. Many gays and lesbians lived in fear. A serial killer in the 1980s, nicknamed "The Angel of Bachelors," was linked to the killings of 27 gay men. Public opinion remained largely unchanged until the early 2000s, when legislators passed a hate crime law and abolished the sodomy law. Another watershed moment occurred in November 2009, when police found the decapitated and partially burned body of 19-year-old college student Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado, known for his work with organizations advocating HIV prevention and gay rights. Soon after, popular Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin announced he was gay, saying he couldn't remain silent amid such hate, and legislators began considering gay rights bills. Last year, Puerto Rican featherweight boxer Orlando Cruz apparently became the first professional boxer to come out as openly homosexual while still competing. "Puerto Rico at last recognized that homophobia was a social evil that had to be fought," said Serrano, spokesman for the U.S.-based National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "After that, things began to change quickly." Many other islands in the Caribbean remain deeply hostile to homosexuality. Jamaica, Barbados, Guyana and Grenada still uphold sodomy laws, and many gay people live in fear of exposure and violence. Those fears are not unjustified: Masked gunmen broke into a vacation cottage in St. Lucia in March 2011 and beat three gay U.S. tourists. Two of five suspects were arrested. A year earlier in Jamaica, police found the body of a 26-year-old gay rights activist who had been stabbed to death. Last year, authorities in Dominica hauled a gay couple off a cruise ship and charged them with indecent exposure. Angry protesters have met gay cruise ships in Jamaica. Meanwhile, a large gay cruise arrived in Puerto Rico recently and caused not even a ripple in the media. "(Puerto Rico) has long had a reputation for being one of the friendliest places in the Caribbean," said LoAnn Halden, spokeswoman of the Florida-based International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association. The court ruling on gay marriage already has caused some backlash in favor of further gay rights. "What they did was barbaric," said Eduardo Bhatia, president of the island's Senate and member of the governor's party, saying that children of gay couples should have equal rights. Carmen Milagros Velez, a medical sciences professor at the University of Puerto Rico and the mother of the 12-year-old girl at the center of the adoption case, said the Supreme Court should reconsider its decision. "We are a family like any other, with the same challenges, probably even more challenges because we have fewer rights," she said.

In the United Kingdom, fears that children adopted by gay and lesbian couples do less well in life are completely unfounded, according to the first study into how children and parents in non-traditional families fare compared with heterosexual households. The Independent reports that the findings, from the University of Cambridge's Centre for Family Research, will be published in a report by the British Association of Adoption and Fostering tomorrow. Researchers found that gay and lesbian parents are at least as good at coping with the demands of parenting. Children do not suffer any disadvantage, and the vast majority are not bullied at school, but the report warns: "Bullying and teasing are much more of a problem in secondary schools than primary schools; thus, only follow-up will reveal how things turn out in the future." The experiences of 130 gay, lesbian and heterosexual adoptive families in Britain, with children aged four to eight, were examined – focusing on the quality of family relationships, how parents cope and how children adjust. The study concludes "there was no evidence" to support speculation that children's masculine or feminine tendencies are affected by having gay or lesbian parents. Family life and the quality of relationships are very similar for children regardless of their parents' sexual orientation, it says. Professor Susan Golombok, director of the Cambridge centre and report co-author, said: "What I don't like is when people make assumptions that a certain type of family, such as gay fathers, will be bad for children. The anxieties about the potentially negative effects for children of being placed with gay fathers seem to be, from our study, unfounded." Gay men are less likely to have depression, anxiety, stress and relationship problems while coping with parenthood. One reason cited is that "same-sex couples were much less likely to have experienced infertility on their route to parenthood and were more likely to come to adoption as their first choice". In addition, "gay fathers, in particular, are extremely committed to parenting.” The former television presenter Phil Reay-Smith, who has an adopted son, said: "I'm not at all surprised that gay couples have been found to be just as good adopters as straight adopters are. I look at my own family, which is me, my husband, Michael, and our son, Scott, who is six, and we just have a very boring family life. We haven't had any problems in the playground yet. My main concern is perhaps what happens at secondary school, but my belief is that if we educate him to have the confidence in himself about his family situation, he'll be able to deal with anything that does crop up." The issue of children being brought up by same sex parents divides opinion. Welsh Secretary David Jones was condemned last month after claiming that gay couples "clearly" could not provide a "warm and safe environment for the upbringing of children". He has since said he is not opposed to same sex adopters. More lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people should come forward, said Sir Martin Narey, the Government's adoption adviser. Speaking on the eve of LGBT adoption and fostering week, he said: "I have seen how LGBT people, who tend to come to adoption as their first choice for becoming parents, bring determination and enthusiasm to it. Many more gay adopters need to be encouraged to come forward."

In Hillsboro, Idaho, Police arrested a suspect Saturday who allegedly attacked a gay couple walking their dog Friday afternoon. Police arrested transient, George Mason Jr., 22, and charged him with intimidation, assault, unlawful use of a weapon and reckless driving. At about 3:30 pm, David Beltier and his boyfriend were walking their pink poodle near the Tanasbourne Town Center at Northwest Evergreen Parkway and Northwest 185th Street when the suspect pulled into a nearby parking lot and got out and hit Beltier, said Mike Rouches with Hillsboro Police. Mason was driving a late 90s Land Rover, and police said after he hit the victim, he grabbed either a pipe or a wrench and again hit the man on the back of his head. Police later found the vehicle in the parking lot of a Target store at 19000 NW Evergreen Road. Mason's wife was in the vehicle and he was found nearby on foot, Rouches said. "Honestly I'm devastated by it," said Beltier. "My family is all concerned about me." The attacker also reportedly shouted a homophobic epithet at the victim while he attacked him. "I'm just thankful he didn't have a more serious weapon like a gun and pull it out," said Jeremy Mark, the victim's boyfriend. The victim refused medical attention and said he did not recognize his assailant. "He could've gone more at it and killed me on that sidewalk," said Beltier.

In Atlanta, Georgia, Michael Taylor Zimmerman, 26, remains in custody after last weekend's street fight near 5th and Juniper streets that led to a man being stabbed and rushed to Grady Hospital. Project Q is reporting that the victim is a 32 year old gay man, and that he and the suspect knew each other. Project Q reports that witnesses saw Zimmerman fighting with the victim, and that the victim was screaming for help. The incident happened around 10:30 pm on Friday, February 22. The responding police officer talked to a witness who stated that he was driving when he saw Zimmerman stabbing the victim. In the police report, the witness states that the victim began running towards him as the witness began honking his horn and yelling for Zimmerman to stop. The witness claims the victim had multiple cuts and collapsed on the front of his hood. According to the police report, the initial officer on the scene stated upon his arrival he observed the victim lying on the hood of a vehicle. The suspect was on the ground with another witness holding him until police could arrive. The suspect had multiple cuts to his hands and face. He was taken to Grady hospital for surgery. The Atlanta Police charged him with three felonies—aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated battery and possession of a knife during a crime.

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