Poland's first openly gay and transsexual lawmakers took seats on the front bench of Parliament Wednesday to protest hostile remarks by former President Lech Walesa. Walesa, the leading hero in Poland's successful anti-communist struggle in the 1980s, said Friday that gays belong on the back rows of Parliament, or "even behind the wall." The words sparked huge outrage among liberal Poles, with some questioning whether the Nobel Peace Prize winner has permanently damaged his legacy as a champion of democracy. But Walesa has said he has always proven himself as a democrat and had been misunderstood. He didn't elaborate and refused to apologize. On Wednesday, Robert Biedron, a gay rights activist, and Anna Grodzka, who had a man-to-woman sex change operation, took seats in the front row of the assembly. Both are members of the progressive Palikot's Movement party, and party leader Janusz Palikot arranged for the pair to take the seats, relinquishing his own seat to Biedron. "Lech Walesa is an important symbol for us all and for the whole world," Biedron told the Associated Press before attending the session. "I respect him and I'd rather he used other words, words of acceptance and of respect for other people." Walesa, a staunch Roman Catholic and a father of eight, is known for strong views and a distinctive way of expressing himself. Palikot told the AP that he is still to decide whether the transfer of the lawmakers will be long-term. The first row in the semi-circular lower chamber, or Sejm, is reserved for party leaders and prominent lawmakers. Biedron and Grodzka (who are lawmakers since 2011) usually sit in the third row.
A warning that a Catholic adoption agency could lose its charitable status over its refusal to place children with same sex couples has been upheld. The Scottish Charity regulator issued the directive to St Margaret's Children and Family Care Society in January. The Glasgow charity challenged the decision and requested a review. Having done so, the watchdog said it found that the charity discriminates unlawfully and confirmed its decision to issue the direction. The charity has until April 22 to comply with the Equality Act or it could be removed from the register, reports the BBC. St Margaret's in Glasgow was told earlier this year that prioritizing those who have been married for at least two years discriminates against same sex couples. The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) reviewed the practices of the charity in January after a complaint from the National Secular Society and, in a report, found it was breaking the Equality Act 2010. St Margaret's gives greater priority to prospective adoptive parents who are a couple, Catholic, married for at least two years and who wish to adopt within the framework of a Catholic faith, the report said. Lower priority is given to those who have been married for less than two years, couples in civil partnerships, single people and married couples who do not wish to adopt within the Catholic faith. The regulator said marriage is not available to same sex couples and that the charity's policy constitutes direct discrimination. It ruled that St Margaret's failed the charity test and issued a direction for it to amend its procedures, or risk losing its charitable status. The OSCR has now upheld its decision after conducting a review at St Margaret's request. An updated report from the regulator said that, "OSCR found that the charity does not provide public benefit because the way it provides benefit involves unlawful discrimination which causes detriment to the public and to particular groups of people, the effect of which outweighs the other positive effects of the charity's work. OSCR also found that access to the benefits the charity provides is unduly restricted. OSCR therefore found that the charity fails the charity test and confirmed the decision to direct the charity to meet the charity test." The charity now has the right to appeal to the Scottish Charities Appeal Panel. Alistair McBay, spokesman for the National Secular Society, said: "The original decision was the only one the regulator could have made in the circumstances, to require St Margaret's to follow well-established equality law and charity law, opening up the pool of prospective parents to gay couples being in the best interests of children awaiting adoption. We hope St Margaret's will now put the best interests of children first, as many other Catholic adoption agencies have done, and comply with the law by widening the pool of prospective parents to include same-sex couples." St Margaret's is partly funded by the Catholic Church and the trustees of the charity include bishops from dioceses in the west of Scotland. A spokesman for the charity said that, "We are disappointed at the decision. We will consult our lawyers before considering what course of action to pursue. In the meantime, St Margaret's remains open for business." A Scottish government spokesman said that, "The Scottish government is disappointed at this decision. We have worked with St Margaret's to find a solution but the review process is a matter for OSCR to undertake independently. It is not for Scottish ministers to adjudicate on the law. There remain further appeals processes for St Margaret's to pursue, should the society so choose." The spokesman said the government did not believe it was "in anyone's interests to close an organization which provides such a valuable service to vulnerable children.” The Scottish government announced plans to legalise same-sex marriage in July following a consultation that attracted 80,000 responses. The proposals have received cross-party support in Holyrood and the government is continuing to seek views on its Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill.
A majority of Minnesotans oppose legalizing same sex marriage, the Star Tribune Minnesota Poll has found. 53-percent of Minnesotans say the state statute banning same sex unions should stand. Only 38-percent say legislators should overturn the law this year, while 9-percent are undecided. The new poll offers a fresh look of an issue that has deeply divided the state. It was just five months ago that Minnesotans rejected a proposal to put the ban into the state’s Constitution. Legislators now are considering bills that would make gay marriage legal. House Speaker Paul Thissen said he found the poll results surprising, with stronger opposition than has been seen in other samplings. “There have been a number of polls on the issue. The trend in general is moving toward acceptance of marriage equality,” said Thissen, a Minneapolis DFLer. “There will certainly be more conversation on this. Our members are talking to their constituents, which is more important than any poll.” The poll of 800 Minnesotans, taken February 25-27, shows that resistance is strongest in outstate Minnesota. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5-percentage points. Outstate 73-percent respondents oppose allowing gay couples to legally wed in Minnesota, with only 27-percent favoring such unions or undecided. “Gay marriage is not right, and that’s just all there is to it,” said Ed Carlson, 66, a retiree from the Potlatch paper company who lives in Brainerd. “I feel very strongly about it.” The Twin Cities area remains the core of support for those who want to legalize same sex marriage, with metro area suburban residents narrowly siding with those who want to change the law. In Hennepin and Ramsey counties, 57-percent want the Legislature to allow same sex marriage, with 35-percent saying the law should be left as is. Metro suburbs are more closely divided, with 46-percent favoring legalization and 44-percent who want the ban to stay. Jackie Colwell, 46, an Edina homemaker, said she wants same sex marriage legalized but does not want the issue to consume the Legislature and prevent progress on crucial issues like education and the budget. “If it can be done quickly without a lot of bells and whistles, then they should absolutely do it,” Colwell said. “It’s time for same-sex marriage to be legalized. Minnesota is ready for it. I just don’t want it to become this circus atmosphere at the Capitol, though.” The poll found that a clear majority of men (64-percent) oppose changing the law, with 24-percent in support. Another 12-percent are undecided. Dan Frump, of Buffalo, said gay and lesbian couples deserve some legal protections and possibly recognition, but not a union called marriage. “For me, it’s a religious thing,” said Frump, 72, who is retired from Toro Co. “In France, there is a legal marriage and a church marriage. That’s what we should have here. I totally think there should be some legal contract of some sort.” Women are also divided, with 51-percent favoring a change in the law, compared with 43-percent who do not. Younger Minnesotans are more likely to support legalizing gay marriage. Among those ages 18 to 34, more than half say the law should change, with 35-percent saying it should not. Opposition to same sex marriage grows as age increases, the poll found. Among those 65 and older, 72-percent say the law should remain as it is, with only 20-percent supporting legalization. Party affiliation opens up another fault line. About 76-percent of Republicans do not want the existing marriage law changed, while 17-percent do. Among independents, 62-percent want marriage to remain the union only of a man and woman. DFLers form the bulk of the support for legalization, with 66-percent favoring a change in the law. Only 27-percent prefer the current law to remain. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said he does not put much stock in polls. “It’s no secret that Minnesotans are pretty divided on the subject,” he said. “Members are going to do what they think personally, based on what their constituents are telling them.” Bakk said that fellow senators, not poll numbers, will decide whether the measure progresses. If it fails to meet crucial committee deadlines, it will have to wait until next year. A spokeswoman for a group pushing to block same sex marriage said the poll results strengthen the group’s central argument: that the voters’ decision to reject the constitutional amendment was not a mandate for the other side to seek legalization. “The poll certainly helps highlight that the issue of the constitutional amendment is very separate from redefining marriage,” said Autumn Leva of Minnesota for Marriage. Richard Carlbom, campaign manager for Minnesotans United for All Families, which is leading the effort to legalize same-sex marriage, said the group’s research shows that most Minnesotans want gay and lesbians to be allowed to marry and that an even larger majority believes the change will have no effect on them personally. “Minnesotans are having a conversation about marriage,” Carlbom said. “I think at the end of this conversation, the Legislature and the people of Minnesota will be at a place where they don’t think it should be illegal to marry the person you love.”
The great Valerie Harper, who played Rhoda Morgenstern on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and its spinoff Rhoda, has terminal cancer, the actress revealed Wednesday morning. And through the day, friends and fans expressed their support. Harper has the rare condition leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, which occurs when cancer spreads to the fluid-filled membranes that surround the brain, People reported in a cover story due out later this week. The 73-year-old, a non-smoker, in 2009 battled lung cancer, which according to the National Institutes of Health is one of the cancers most often linked to involvement of those membranes. According to the Los Angeles Times, a day before going public, Harper called former co-star Moore to share the news, People said. Moore, 76, said Wednesday that she was "absolutely devastated" over her friend's situation. Moore, incidentally, had surgery in May 2011 to remove a benign tumor from the membrane surrounding her own brain. Cloris Leachman, also an alum of the MTM Show, reached out on Twitter, posting, "My longtime friendship w/ @ValerieHarper has been 1 of the gr8est gifts of my life. I'm here 4 any/everything she may need one day at a time." Saturday Night Live alum Rachel Dratch noted that Harper had been an inspiration to them as actresses. "You were the ultimate comedy role model to me when I was growing up - the quintessential 'best friend!' Sending you love..." said Dratch. Harper got the news January 15. With an estimated three months left to live, she told People, "I don't think of dying. I think of being here now."