In the United Kingdom, the four men at the centre of the scandal that led to the resignation of Britain's leading Catholic cleric have dismissed suggestions that they were part of a "gay cabal" seeking "revenge" for his publicly anti-gay stance. Speaking about Cardinal Keith O'Brien's resignation last month over claims of inappropriate behaviour towards several priests, the four rejected reports quoting church sources who claimed the cardinal had been forced to quit by gay priests angry at his hypocrisy about same sex marriages. "This isn't about people being gay. It's about abuse of power," said "Father Peter", who admitted in the Observer report which broke the story that he had been involved in an inappropriate relationship with the cardinal that led to him needing counselling. "The emotional and psychological power Keith O'Brien had over me was incredible. He was utterly manipulative." "Lenny", a former priest who described how he had rebuffed the cardinal's advances while he was a seminarian, said the newspapers were forcing parts of the jigsaw puzzle together that didn't fit: "I was surprised at the suggestion that I was part of a gay cabal. And my partner of 26 years? I'd say she was quite surprised too." In February, the Observer revealed that Lenny and Father Peter, and two others, "John" and "Kenny", had complained to the papal nuncio about O'Brien. The cardinal resigned, casting a shadow over the election of Pope Francis. The instinct of many, said Father Kenny, had been to demand forgiveness for the cardinal while blaming the complainants. The story has been complicated by leaked details of a fifth complaint, dating to September 2012. The priest involved reached agreement on the matter. When the four men made their complaints five months later, they were advised to stay silent and were informed that O'Brien would retire to Rome. Fearing another cover-up, they went public, prompting the cardinal's resignation and apology in which he admitted: "There have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me." Father Peter, who became suicidal as he struggled with guilt and depression, says the story has been misunderstood. The complaints were neither political, nor timed to affect the papal conclave. "Our complaints were made before the pope resigned. I am now more convinced than ever they played a part in his resignation. But this is not something that all happened last month. I sought help for this a decade ago. I was on antidepressants and I couldn't cope anymore." Father Peter claimed he felt O'Brien had "groomed" him. As a young priest, he had personal problems of which the cardinal, more than 20 years his senior, had been informed. "I was vulnerable and he knew that. He was very charismatic and I couldn't believe his interest in me. I thought he was helping me." A relationship developed that Father Peter struggled to disentangle himself from, until he temporarily left the priesthood. "Only when I got away could I assimilate what had happened. It was like the Stockholm syndrome. I kept trying to argue in his favour, even to my psychologist. She just kept saying, 'Peter, it was abuse'." He describes watching a film in which a mother behaved lovingly, but secretly, she was poisoning her daughter's soup. "I remember thinking, that's my relationship with Keith to a T. He is poisoning me." While the four complainants knew one another, not all were close friends. A chance reunion for Lenny and Peter led to the discovery of their common link to the cardinal. "We couldn't have acted alone because Keith was too powerful," explains Father Peter. "Gradually, we all found one another. We had each thought that Keith had a problem, but then we realised there was more to it. This was a man who was using his power wickedly." Lenny said he had not received a formal response from the nuncio and did not know whether there would be an inquiry. When contacted by the Observer, the nunciature refused to confirm whether more priests had come forward since the original article. A spokesman also refused to comment on an inquiry. Not even on the process? "Not even on whether it exists." The complainants deny being motivated by malice. "This was done for altruistic reasons," says Father Peter, who is still seeing a psychologist. "I see the bigger picture: the cleansing of the church." The opprobrium has caused them great distress. Father Kenny begins counselling this week. "I feel a real need to shed tears but fear that if I start, I will have difficulty stopping." Lenny believes the church would make them all disappear if it could. "I think we are seeing evidence of this in the sheer anger of these statements. These may be men of the cloth but they are not men of the holy spirit."
In Washington, D.C., A line has begun forming at the Supreme Court for people who want to attend next week's arguments in two gay marriage cases. Supreme Court spokesperson Kathleen Arberg confirmed by e-mail that people began lining up at some point Thursday, according to the Associated Press. The justices will hear arguments Tuesday on California's Proposition 8 ban on same sex marriage and on Wednesday on the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Lines frequently form in advance for the free tickets to high-profile arguments, but five days before a case is particularly early. For last year's three days of arguments over the Affordable Care Act, the line began about three days early.
The Los Angeles Times reports that certain law partners no longer call Theodore B. Olson for lunch. Old friends no longer come to dinner at his sprawling house in the woods near the Potomac. One of his best friends died in December, somewhat estranged. All since Olson — the conservative legal hero, crusader against Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton, defender of George W. Bush — signed on to fight for same-sex marriage in California, a battle that he will take to the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday when he challenges Proposition 8, the state measure that banned gay marriage. Olson and his co-counsel will argue that gays and lesbians should have an equal right to marry, a view that, if shared by the justices in a ruling after Tuesday's hearing, would not only strike down the California ban but also would make gay marriage legal nationwide. "They feel a little rebuffed, that their leader has turned on them," said Olson's wife, Lady Booth Olson. Olson, 72, brushes aside the shunning. The marriage case, the 60th case that he will have argued before the nation's highest court, has been a transformative experience, he says. He speaks with passion, and sometimes a tear, about the gay men and women, including Republicans, who reach out to thank him. "Oh, there are some people who are not very happy about it," he said in a recent interview. But the case "has changed my life a lot because I think this is so enormously important to so many people. When I talk about it I get very emotional.... I found out that some people I never guessed were gay. Lawyers came up to me and disclosed that about themselves." Born in Chicago; raised in Los Altos, California, in an "Ozzie & Harriet family"; a graduate of UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall law school, Ted Olson has been at the center of legal and political battles for more than three decades. He came to Washington during the Reagan administration when a partner in his Los Angeles law firm, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, became attorney general. William French Smith picked Olson to head the department's Office of Legal Counsel. That made Olson, at 40, the primary constitutional advisor to the president. The two became close, and Olson eventually became President Reagan's personal lawyer. Among Reagan-era hard-liners, some had regarded Olson as ideologically soft. But after President Clinton's election in 1992, he increasingly was drawn into political battle. His identity as a conservative warrior rose as he wooed, and eventually married, Barbara Bracher, another Washington lawyer who became lead counsel in several House investigations of the White House and engaged in what she called "entrenched warfare" with the administration, especially Hillary Rodham Clinton. After he married Bracher, Olson joined the board of the American Spectator, which had received millions of dollars from a Pittsburgh billionaire determined to bring down the Clintons. He gave the magazine legal advice and wrote several denunciations of the Democratic administration. The American Spectator wrote the first story about President Clinton's relationship with Paula Jones, who had accused him of sexual harassment. Olson later worked to prepare Jones' lawyers for a Supreme Court appearance. Barbara Olson, meanwhile, was writing books attacking Rodham Clinton and frequently appeared on Fox News as an anti-Clinton commentator. Ted Olson, in an interview, minimized his role. "Barbara was very active, and I didn't do much. I wrote a few articles for the American Spectator poking fun at the Clintons mostly," he said. "I'm not running away from it, but it was something I did in my spare time." Lady Booth Olson, a Democrat, sees that chapter of his life a bit differently, as do other close friends. "During the Clinton years, a lot of people lost their compass," she said. "They went after Clinton like Javert," she added, referring to the relentless pursuer in "Les Miserables." Barbara and Ted, she said, "turbocharged one another." But it was the election to replace President Clinton in 2000 that made Ted Olson a conservative hero. He persuaded the Supreme Court in Bush vs. Gore to block a planned re-count of presidential votes in Florida. The legal coup handed the White House to the Republican. Bush rewarded Olson by naming him solicitor general, the government's chief representative at the high court. The nomination sparked a three-month confirmation battle. Worse lay ahead. On September 11, 2001, shortly after 9:00 a.m., Olson was in his Justice Department office preparing for the Supreme Court term that would begin in a few weeks. Barbara called, sounding anguished. She was on an American Airlines flight to Los Angeles. It was his 61st birthday, and she had delayed her trip to be with him the night before. The plane had been hijacked, Barbara said, and she asked what she should do. The call was cut off. She called back, staying on the line long enough for them to exchange quick words of love. Ten minutes later, the plane crashed into the Pentagon. Olson went home to grieve, surrounded by his closest friends, including Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and Kenneth Starr, who had investigated the Clintons as an independent counsel. "It was one of those things that you have to decide whether it's going to be disabling or not, how you are going to live with it, whether you are going to curl up in a corner someplace or whether you are going to move forward," Olson said. Olson stuck to his work, delivering his arguments to the court on schedule. Seven months after Barbara's death, he started dating Lady Booth. Olson went home to grieve, surrounded by his closest friends, including Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and Kenneth Starr, who had investigated the Clintons as an independent counsel. "It was one of those things that you have to decide whether it's going to be disabling or not, how you are going to live with it, whether you are going to curl up in a corner someplace or whether you are going to move forward," Olson said. Olson stuck to his work, delivering his arguments to the court on schedule. Seven months after Barbara's death, he started dating Lady Booth. It is a matter of considerable discussion in Washington how much Olson has changed since his marriage to Lady Booth — who is named after an aunt — and whether it has anything to do with his apostasy on gay marriage. "I think everybody thinks she's changed Ted," said Rosalie Blair, the eye surgeon in Washington who introduced them. "She's certainly made him a little bit — people will say — a kinder, gentler Ted." Olson says he doesn't think his politics have changed, though he concedes that he has "learned a lot" about himself from the current case. He believes gay marriage is a conservative cause. "There are libertarian conservatives, fiscal conservatives and social conservatives," he said. "I feel conservative in terms of limited government, individual responsibility, self-sufficiency — that sort of thing. Why would [conservatives] be against individuals who wished to live together and have a stable, loving, long-term relationship?" But, according to one Olson friend, "there are a lot of people who are very unhappy" about his views — "people close to Ted who because of their faith are strong believers in the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman,” the friend, who spoke on condition of anonymity to preserve relations with both sides, adding, "I don't think Ted has been very brave about facing them. He's braver in front of the Supreme Court." Lady Booth Olson says Washington critics have confused cause and effect. Her husband didn't change to handle the case, she said; rather, the case changed him. "When you look discrimination in the face — these people who got up and testified for hours about what it's like to be denied the right to marry — it's transformative, really," she said. "I think he's starting to open his mind and heart a little bit more than he used to."
In Grand Rapids, Michigan, Michael Woerner and Dave Battjes are married. Just not in Michigan. Two and half years ago, the Grand Rapids couple went to Iowa, where same-sex marriage is legal, and exchanged vows. Saturday, Woerner and Battjes gripped each other's gloved hands and marched for rights they and other gay couples in Michigan are denied. "It's about time this community rallied," Woerner said. "It's nice to see people getting involved." More than 100 people marched Saturday, March 23, along streets in downtown Grand Rapids in a March for Equality. The march was sponsored by Vote Equal, a Grand Rapids group that wants to put a same sex marriage proposal on an upcoming state ballot. Marchers carried signs and flags. Rainbows lightened the cloudy skies and cold temperatures. The group met at Rumors Night Club, 69 S. Division Ave., marched on the sidewalks along Division Avenue, Pearl Street, Monroe Avenue, Fulton Street and back to Division and Rumors. This coming week will be momentous for the gay-marriage movement in the United States, with the U.S. Supreme Court hearing arguments in cases involving California's Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in the state in 2008, and the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman. Chris Silva, head of Vote Equal and organizer of the march, said he is a little nervous about the coming week but felt same sex marriage supporters had momentum on their side. "Either way, the trend is seeking same-sex marriage and an end to LGBT discrimination," Silva said before the march started. "We're still going to pull ahead on these issues." Marriage Michigan, the former name of Vote Equal, announced in January plans for a $10 million campaign to put a same-sex proposal on the 2014 ballot. Under new leadership, Vote Equal eyes a 2016 ballot proposal. The group also aims to add sexual orientation to the state’s civil rights law. Lakyra Sanders and Samatha Price want to marry, and they want to marry in Michigan. The couple has been together for three years and marched Saturday hoping soon they will feel equal to everyone else, Sanders said. Wearing matching "until love is equal" shirts with a heart and equal sign on them, the Grand Rapids couple was not worried about the Supreme Court. "We're together regardless if they allow us to marry or not," Price said. Gay marriage is a serious issue, but Robin Becker wanted to remind people of the joy and fun surrounding marriage. A "straight against hate," Becker, of Grand Rapids, carried a bright pink sign full of glitter that read "3 words that will save the economy Gay Bridal Registry." The word "duh" was added to the corner. Becker, who hoped to add a little humor to the march, was proud of Grand Rapids for holding such an event. "Grand Rapids has evolved so much," said Becker, who grew up in Jenison. "Every year it is just so much more open-minded." Silva said similar marches were taking place in cities across America.
It is a variant of a disease that can go from a fever and headache to a galloping rash and then to death within hours — so quickly that some victims have been found dead in bed before they could even get to a doctor. Over the last two years, it has appeared only among men, and they often got it, health officials say, through anonymous sexual encounters with other men found through Internet chat rooms or digital apps or at parties, making it all but impossible to trace the path of infection. It is a unique strain of bacterial meningitis, so new it has not even been named, and it is particularly lethal — killing one out of three people instead of the one out of five who succumb to other strains of meningitis. New York City health officials are growing increasingly worried that this strain of meningitis, which is an inflammation of the lining around the brain and the spinal cord, is so insidious that it could suddenly mushroom into a major outbreak, claiming many lives before anything can be done to stop it. “It’s been sort of marching through the community in a way that makes us very scared,” Dr. Jay Varma, the deputy commissioner for disease control at the city’s health department, said on Thursday. The department issued a warning this month recommending the standard meningitis vaccination for a particular subset of the population: “men, regardless of H.I.V. status, who regularly have intimate contact with other men through a Web site, digital application or at a bar or party.” There have been 22 cases, all among men, of the unique strain since 2010, 13 of them last year and 4 this year, Dr. Varma said. Seven of them have died. Twelve were H.I.V.-positive, a possible risk factor. Ten of the cases were in Brooklyn — in neighborhoods as varied as Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, Bushwick, Clinton Hill, Crown Heights, Downtown Brooklyn, Dumbo, East New York, Prospect Heights and Williamsburg. The meningitis vaccine is available at many health clinics, hospitals and private doctors’ offices, and is effective against the new strain. But it has not been easy for health officials to get the word out. Many of men who are at risk may not identify themselves as either gay or bisexual, even though they are having sex with other men, health officials said. So it is hard to reach out to them through gay organizations, and it is hard to get them to come forward to be vaccinated. The health department and the medical examiner have found that the current strain may have first surfaced in 2005 and 2006, in an outbreak that began with a 47-year-old woman from the Bronx. It circulated among drug users, especially crack-cocaine and marijuana users, because smoking disturbs the lining of the throat where the bacteria reside. Then it died down. Meningitis is traditionally spread in places where many people come into close contact, like military barracks and schools. It was only in the second outbreak, which began in 2010, that epidemiologists made the connection with sex and realized the variant was circulating exclusively among men. “We know there is clearly some kind of social-risk factor, being very socially active with people you’ve met either through online sites or parties,” Dr. Varma said. Many of those with the disease, he said, could not identify their sexual partners. “All they know is a screen name and a physical description,” he said, adding, “It’s another big challenge for us to identify how this disease is spreading.”