Thursday, March 7, 2013

Mexico’s Supreme Court Rules Two Anti-Gay Terms Hate Speech And Not Protected Under Freedom Of Expression, Enough Votes Reportedly Available To Pass Same Sex Marriage Measure In Minnesota House, Ernie Banks Among Four Athletes Signing Letter Urging Illinois To Pass Same Sex Marriage Bill, Massachusetts School Intends To Stage Paul Rudnick Play Despite Objections From Some Who Contend Retelling Of Genesis With Gay Characters Blasphemous, Justin Bieber Dons Gas Mask, Justin Bieber Collapses

Mexico's Supreme Court has ruled that two anti-gay words commonly used in Mexico are hate speech and not protected as freedom of expression under the country's constitution, allowing those offended by them to sue for moral damages. According to the Associated Press, the magistrates voted 3-2 late Wednesday in favour of a journalist from the central city of Puebla who in 2010 sued a reporter at a different newspaper who had written a column referring to him as "punal" and others at the plaintiff's newspaper as "maricones." Both words roughly translate into "faggot." The majority said the terms are offensive and discriminatory. "Even though they are deeply rooted expressions in Mexican society, the fact is that the practices of the majority of society can't validate the violations of basic right," their opinion said. The resolution was praised by the Mexican gay and lesbian community and anti-discrimination activists as a step forward in the fight for equality in this conservative country rife with machismo. But others criticized it as ridiculous, saying many other words would have to be added, including some used to offend poor people in a society excessively concerned with social status. "The historic resolution ... marks the first precedent in the discussion of the limits of freedom of expression versus the right to non-discrimination," said the country's National Council to Prevent Discrimination. Alejandro Brito, director of Letter S, a gay rights group, said that the resolution will lead to a more respectful way of referring to gay people but that it falls short of having an impact on the mentality of anti-gay Mexicans. "This will inhibit the use of the words in public forums and the media, and that's very positive," Brito said. "But this doesn't mean that the person who stops saying these words will stop being homophobic." Gay rights have made some advances in Mexico, with the Supreme Court ruling in favour of gay couples adopting and requiring that same sex marriages performed in Mexico City be recognized in the rest of the country. Mexico City's groundbreaking same sex marriage law, enacted in 2010, extends to wedded gay couples the right to adopt children, to jointly apply for bank loans, to inherit wealth and to be covered by their spouses' insurance policies. The capital's annual gay pride parade draws tens of thousands of people, and in some neighbourhoods gays openly hold hands. But discrimination and violence against gay people remains a problem, despite campaigns against intolerance. Violence against gays has increased over the past few years as more people go public about their sexual orientation, according to a report released by Brito's group in 2010. Mexico City had the most killings of gay people in Mexico, with 144 between 1995 and 2009, according to the report.

The Associated Press is reporting that the bill to legalize same sex marriage in Minnesota has enough votes to clear its first hurdle in the House, even as gay marriage opponents are gathering at the Capitol trying to slow its progress. Nine of seventeen members of the House Civil Law Committee tell the AP they'll vote yes at a hearing Tuesday. That's enough to move the bill to the House floor and a vote by all 134 representatives. Passage by the Senate Judiciary Committee also looks likely. Four of eight members say they'll vote yes, and a fifth says she supports same sex marriage but wouldn't reveal her vote. Full House and Senate votes are likely to wait a few weeks as backers try to secure 68 House and 34 Senate votes needed for passage. Governor Mark Dayton says he would sign the bill.

As a same sex marriage bill approved by the Illinois Senate awaits action in the House, a few former pro athletes signed a letter urging the passing of the bill, stating that it's "the right thing to do, period." DNA Info reports that a letter showing support for the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act was signed by retired Cubs shortstop Ernie Banks, former Bears defensive end Richard Dent, former Bears linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer and Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, a former Chicago Bear. "We come from a variety of backgrounds, and we have played different sports for different teams. But one thing that binds us together is our belief in the importance of fairness and respect — in all aspects of life," a section of the letter reads. It goes on to say, "Treating any group of people as second-class citizens hurts us all, because discrimination is wrong no matter whom the target is." Ayanbadejo, a noted supporter of same sex marriage, also recently filed an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court advocating marriage equality in California, along with Minnesota Vikings player Chris Kluwe. The athletes' support comes after legions of local lawmakers, celebrities and religious leaders from both sides of the aisle weighed in on the bill, which would allow same sex couples to marry and receive the same marriage benefits as straight couples. The legislation also would allow couples now in a civil union to convert to a marriage within a year of enacting the new law. The bill was introduced by state Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) and Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago). It recently received support from a Democratic-led House committee. The full letter reads: "As professional athletes, we always played for the love of the game. The competition on the field — whether it was the football field or the baseball diamond — strengthened us and continues to do so. But for that competition to take place, there have to be rules and a code of behavior. Above all, players have to treat each other with fairness and with respect. Doing so doesn’t detract from the competition. It makes it better. We come from a variety of backgrounds, and we have played different sports for different teams. But one thing that binds us together is our belief in the importance of fairness and respect — in all aspects of life. In Illinois today, gay and lesbian couples who are in lifetime committed relationships do not have the freedom to marry. This violates our sense of fairness and respect. It also goes against the Golden Rule of treating others as you would like to be treated yourself. In sports, any time a player is not treated with fairness and respect, the game is diminished. Similarly, treating any group of people as second-class citizens hurts us all, because discrimination is wrong no matter whom the target is. For this reason, we believe that the Illinois General Assembly should act now and give same-sex couples the freedom to marry. It’s the right thing for Illinois; it’s the right thing to do, period.”

The head of a western Massachusetts charter school says a student production of a play that retells the biblical story of Genesis with gay characters will go on as planned despite objections from some who say it is offensive to Christians. Scott Goldman of the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Public Charter School said in a letter to parents Wednesday that the school has received email petitions and phone calls describing Paul Rudnick’s 1998 comedy The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told as ‘‘blasphemous and hateful.’’ The Daily Hampshire Gazette reports that the South Hadley school has been urged to cancel the shows scheduled to be performed later this month, and some of the messages say they will try to organize protests through local churches. ‘‘In allowing this attack on the Mother of God through the play ‘The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told,’ you offend the religious faith of tens of millions of Catholic and other Christian Americans,’’ the petition language reads. ‘‘There is no excuse or reason for this blasphemy.’’ Goldman said most of the criticism appears to be from out of state. The play is consistent with the school’s philosophy and appropriate for a high school audience, Goldman wrote. ‘‘Is it the role of public school to facilitate an exchange of ideas on the themes explored in this particular play?’’ Goldman wrote. ‘‘This is an excellent question, with answers that I imagine will be debated in what I hope will be climate of civility, and a desire to understand others’ viewpoints.’’ The play has met with objections many times. The Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Public Charter School serves 400 students in grades 7 to 12 from more than 60 towns.

What with the reprimands from his record company and the rumours of bad behaviour, Justin Bieber is not having a good run at the moment. Naturally, his solution involves wearing a gas mask to dinner at Mr Chow’s in London, for what else can a poor boy do?

Well, you could collapse on stage during a concert, which is exactly what Bieber did Thursday night in London, his tour crew tweeting a photograph of a shirtless (naturally) Justin resting in an area hospital bed while “Gettin better listening to Janice Joplin.”

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