Wednesday, April 24, 2013

New Brunswick Government Services Minister Stultz Apologizes For Omitting Gay Reference In Statement Marking Remembrance Of Holocaust, Kent Washington Police Arrest Suspect Who Robbed At Least Two Victims Using Gay App, Elizabethtown College Disciplines Students For Series Of Anti-Gay Slurs, Los Angeles Boy Scouts Offer Alternative Proposal To Organization’s Policy Prohibiting Gay Members And Leaders, Idaho Announces It Will No Longer Require Surgeon’s Note To Allow Transgender Drivers To Change Sex Designation Of Licenses, Former Kicker For Christian College Could Become First Openly Gay NFL Player

In New Brunswick, Government Services Minister Sue Stultz apologized on Tuesday for leaving out section of a quotation that she read in the legislature earlier this month to commemorate the Holocaust Remembrance Day, reports CBC News. Stultz's Yom HaShoah statement quoted the words of author Judy Tierney, saying, “Never again should religion, race, ethnic background, or disability define who lives, who dies, who is equal or unequal.” But Stultz spoke again on Tuesday, saying she had left out a part of the quotation. "It has come to my attention that the quote as it was presented to me was edited without my knowledge,” she said. The original quotation also mentions sexual orientation, a phrase removed from the text Stultz read on April 10. It's estimated 50,000 gays and lesbians were arrested under Nazi rule with thousands of them being sent to concentration camps. Stultz said it was unacceptable that the reference to homosexuals was taken out and she wanted to make it clear she is an advocate for all New Brunswickers. "It is my hope that any who I may have inadvertently offended will understand that my commitment is to human rights for all,” she said. I have based my life’s work upon helping everyone, regardless of their religion, their race, their ethnic background, sexual orientation or disability,” she said. “My words have stated that, my actions have shown that and I am committed to serving everyone as I go forward.” Stultz did not say who took out the reference or why they did so.

In Washington State, Kent police have arrested and charged a man for robbing at least two people using a dating app. Detectives say the suspect met his victims using a cell phone dating app frequented by members of the GLTG community. The program allows subscribers to locate other users via a GPS-generated map. KING 5 reports that the suspect arranged to meet his victims in a remote location. Once the parties met, the suspect pulled out a semi-automatic handgun and robbed them. While Kent police have identified two victims, Seattle police have located three more. “We’re concerned that there may be still more victims in the community that are afraid to come forward,” said Kent Assistant Police Chief Pat Lowery. “With this suspect now in custody, we are urging any other victims to contact us and report if they were also victimized." The suspect is described as a 32-year-old black male, 5'7" tall and of medium build. He has dark hair and facial hair. Police are not identifying the app used out of caution for its subscribers. Individuals with any additional information or who may have been robbed by the suspect are asked to call Kent Police Detective Sergeant John Pagel at 253-856-5910.

In Pennsylvania, several Elizabethtown College students have been disciplined in the wake of a series of incidents involving racial and anti-gay slurs. According to the Lancaster Online, students determined to have played a role in the incidents have been subjected to suspension, disciplinary probation and/or residence relocation, according to Amy Mountain, the college's director of communications. No criminal charges have been filed. Citing student confidentiality, Mountain declined to say how many students were disciplined and to identify them. From the beginning of February through the end of March, campus officials received several reports about anti-gay and racist remarks being written on message boards that hang on dorm-room doors, according to Mountain. Also, one student sent a threatening message to another via social media, and an anti-gay remark was scratched onto a bathroom stall. FBI officials told the college none of the incidents constituted a hate crime, according to Mountain. The college, however, is still investigating the incidents, and it could classify one or more of them as hate crimes, she said. No other incidents have been reported since the end of March, Mountain said.

An update on a previous post: In California, a Boy Scouts of America proposal to admit gay boys as members while continuing to bar homosexual adults as leaders is not a good way to settle a longstanding controversy that has roiled the youth organization in recent months, a Los Angeles Scouts official says. The proposal, recommended unanimously last week by the Boy Scouts' executive committee, would require 1,400 members of the group’s national council to choose between admitting gay children or no gays at all. “We’re put in a very, very difficult place,” said David Meshulam, president of the Scouts’ Los Angeles Area Council, who will be among those voting next month. He likened it to Sophie’s Choice, the fictional account of a Polish woman forced to choose which of her two children to spare during the Holocaust, reports the Los Angeles Times. A vote either way on the proposal would continue discrimination in one of America’s oldest and most traditional youth organizations, Meshulam said. As a result, his group, one of several major councils in Southern California, has proposed admitting anyone who meets Scouting’s standards. “The focus should be on a person’s conduct, measured against BSA’s standards of conduct, not a person’s status as homosexual or heterosexual,” the proposal reads in part. “In my heart, I know that it is absolutely vital that we include everybody,” Meshulam said in an interview, acknowledging that his views are not shared by all councils in his region, much less across the country. The two proposals underscore the divisions in Scouting as it tries to come to terms with its policy on gays. On Friday, top national Scouts officials described their proposal as an effort to acknowledge changes in society while respecting the religious organizations that sponsor many troops across the country. “We believe the BSA can no longer sacrifice its mission, or the youth served by the movement, by allowing the organization to be consumed by a single, controversial and unresolved societal issue,” National President Wayne Perry said. Though it is a profound shift from the Scouts' outright ban on gays, the proposal left many on both sides of the debate unsatisfied. It follows months of intense pressure inside and outside the organization, whose leadership has sent mixed signals. Many conservative groups and Scouting’s largest sponsors, including the Roman Catholic and Mormon Churches and the Southern Baptist Convention, have opposed changing the current policy on gays. Others top chartering groups, including the United Methodist Church, have urged the Scouts to lift the ban. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Scouts' policy in 2000, but it has continued to draw opposition. Petitions against the ban have drawn more than 1.6 million signatures, according to the Scouts for Equality website. In January, news was leaked that the Scouts might retreat from the ban and allow local groups to decide. A week later, however, the organization’s national board, buffeted by the furor that erupted, postponed a vote until May. Since then, Scouting has conducted more than 250 town hall meetings across the country and polled more than 1 million members, according to a statement issued Friday.

In Boise, Idaho, the State Transportation Department this week agreed to new regulations allowing transgender drivers to change the sex designation on their driver's licenses without a note from a surgeon, after two people complained that previous policy violated their civil rights. According to the Associated Press, in April 2011, the highway agency began requiring a signed surgeon's note signifying the individual "had undergone a complete surgical change of gender." Early this year, two people were blocked from getting their driver's licenses. Through the American Civil Liberties Union, they complained this was an invasion of their privacy as well as an arbitrary requirement, since only a fraction of people undergoing a gender transformation do so through surgical intervention. Idaho's agency will now require a court order or doctor's affidavit attesting to a gender change, according to a policy director Brian Ness signed Monday. That's similar to requirements in most states. Erika Falls, one of the two people who complained, has been without a driver's license since February after having it revoked. A student at Boise State University, Falls said losing her license was an enormous inconvenience: Her partner had to take her to class and applying for jobs became an arduous task. And simply sticking with her old Idaho driver's license with a male gender marker on it was out of the question, because it put her personal safety in jeopardy, she said. "It was scary, going out and handing my ID to someone, and having that male marker," Falls said. "They see the male marker, I don't necessarily know them, or trust them. It's very dangerous." She finally received her temporary license Tuesday. The other person, Andrew Geske, received his temporary license with a male gender marker in January, only to receive an ITD revocation letter shortly thereafter, on grounds he had submitted no surgical proof. Geske, also a BSU student, said he didn't have the luxury of going without a license (he's a caregiver for a family member) and he re-applied for a license as a female. With this week's change, he plans to re-apply again Wednesday. "It's major brownie points for personal liberties," Geske said. "It's really encouraging that even in a state with a fairly conservative Legislature and a long history of pretty conservative policies, all it took was sitting down and having an informative conversation to secure rights for a group that's pretty thoroughly marginalized across the board. That just felt good." On average, ITD receives up to six requests annually to change gender markers on driver's licenses. Until 2011, the agency required only a doctor's affidavit. The agency began demanding a surgeon's note that April after state licensing officials at the time decided applicants were providing insufficient information about their gender transformation and more details were needed. Interviewed Tuesday, Division of Motor Vehicles administrator Alan Frew said his agency now agrees with the ACLU - that it went too far. "We want to be out of the business of determining gender at our DMVs," Frew said. "We felt this policy was much more fair and far less invasive." The ACLU said many people who change their gender designation undergo only hormone treatments, not surgery, which is expensive and often unnecessary to allow for a person to live within their identity. Consequently, ITD's 2011 policy was not only a privacy invasion but also an inappropriate medical standard, said Idaho ACLU Executive Director Monica Hopkins. "These are medical decisions that are made between a patient and physician or medical care giver," Hopkins said. While states generally don't demand surgical documentation, this issue has emerged elsewhere. A lawsuit brought by the ACLU prompted Alaska to change its licensing rules in 2012. And Idaho's neighbor to the east, Wyoming, still requires those seeking such a change provide proof of surgery. Wyoming ACLU's executive director, Linda Burt, said her organization received one complaint in recent years. It was resolved, she said, resulting in the individual receiving a license with the appropriate gender designation. "We're always open to receiving those kinds of complaints," Burt said. "But as far as ... any legislative changes, we haven't done that." A Wyoming Department of Transportation spokesman, Dave Kingham, said there are no pending complaints.

Alan Gendreau would seem an unlikely pioneer. He is a former kicker for Middle Tennessee State, the leading scorer in Sun Belt Conference history, a little-known 23-year-old who wants a shot at the NFL. And he is gay. Recent attention on the sooner-or-later milestone of an openly gay male athlete in a major American team sport has been spurred by a presumption: that the first will be a current professional athlete. But those who have long tracked the issue have thought the more likely situation would involve an already-out athlete climbing through the college ranks to reach the NFL, NBA, NHL or Major League Baseball. They thought it would be someone like Gendreau. And it might be, if and when he can secure an invitation to try out for a team in the coming months. Gendreau’s motivation is not to become the first openly gay player in the NFL. It is simply to play in the NFL. “I’m a kicker that happens to be gay,” Gendreau said Tuesday. “It’s a part of who I am, and not everything I am. I just want to be known as a normal kicker.” The New York Times reports Gendreau’s story was detailed in a substantial feature and video released Tuesday by Outsports. Cyd Zeigler, a co-founder of Outsports who wrote the story, said Gendreau was not looking for a spot in history. “His goal is not to be the first,” Zeigler said. “His goal is to be who he is.” Gendreau has been openly gay since high school in Apopka, Florida, and he did not disguise his sexuality when he arrived at Middle Tennessee State — which might have led to notice as the first out player in major college football, had anyone noted the historic cultural relevance. As a freshman in college, Gendreau told his story to Outsports. But he did it anonymously, concerned about the effect the disclosure would have on his family and afraid that it might hurt his NFL prospects. “My whole thing in this is just to help anybody who is struggling with coming out,” Gendreau said. “I want people to know that I didn’t have a problem with it, and they shouldn’t, either.” Zeigler long worried that prejudice toward homosexuality would diminish an athlete’s chances of playing in a major American team sport. Now he is optimistic that it will have no bearing on Gendreau, an indication of how quickly society’s views have changed. “NFL teams will do whatever will win games,” Zeigler said. “I don’t think being openly gay hurts or helps him. It might hurt him with one NFL executive, or help him with another. But it won’t determine whether he gets a job.” During his sophomore and junior seasons, on the way to back-to-back bowl berths for Middle Tennessee State, Gendreau made 28 of 34 field-goal attempts, the longest from 55 yards. As a sophomore in 2009, he kicked a game-winner as time expired against Maryland and was one of 20 semi-finalists for the Lou Groza Award, given to college football’s top kicker. As a senior in 2011, Gendreau missed four of his first five kicks — a potential tying 47-yard field goal on the last play of the season opener at Purdue was blocked — for a team that went 2-10. Interest in his skills waned despite a strong second half of the season, and Gendreau was lost among the sea of kicking prospects vying for 32 NFL jobs. “I took that as my sign to hang it up,” Gendreau said. He has spent most of the past year living in Washington as an assistant at a real estate firm. Last summer, he coached at a football camp, where other coaches saw him kick and encouraged him to continue pursuing his dream of playing in the NFL. “I’m not in the NFL,” Gendreau said. “If that were to happen, I’d love to be that role model to anybody struggling. I know that’s a lot of pressure, but that’s the life of a kicker.”

No comments: