Tuesday, October 1, 2013

New Jersey Asks For Stay Delaying Judge's Order That State Must Allow Same Sex Marriage Ruling, Montgomery County Pennsylvania Clerk Appeals Lower Court Ruling Barring The Issuing Of Marriage Licenses To Same Sex Couples, Southern Poverty Law Center Sues Shannon Mississippi On Behalf Of Lesbian Pat Newton For Refusing Her Request For Business License For Gay Bar, Lambda Legal Sues State Of Virginia Over Its Ban Of Gay Marriage, NASCAR Fines And Suspends Nelson Piquet Jr. After He Writes "Fag" Across Fellow Driver's Instagram Picture, Washington Capitals' Alex Ovechkin Is "Just A Hockey Player" And Cannot Comment Of Russia's Draconian Anti-Gay Law, Soccer's Fraser Mullen Tweets Then Deletes Anti-Gay Post, Same Sex Parents Contend Daughter Expelled From Daycare Because Of Their Orientation

The Associated Press reports Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's administration is asking a judge to delay an order that the state must allow gay marriage until an appeal can be decided. Tuesday's request to Judge Mary Jacobson was expected. The judge ruled last week the state was violating its constitution by denying same-sex marriage. She says state law is blocking couples from receiving federal benefits. The judge made the ruling effective October 21. The state attorney general's office is appealing to a higher court. The state's lawyers say in their motion for a stay that if the judge's ruling stands it could be a blow to the state's ability to make its own laws. Lawyers for the gay and lesbian couples suing for the right to marry have until Friday to respond.

Pennsylvania's same sex marriage battle headed to the state's supreme court on Tuesday when a county clerk appealed a lower court's September order to stop issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes landed in the public spotlight in July when he began issuing gay marriage licenses, saying that a June ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that knocked down a portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act also made Pennsylvania's statutes against same-sex nuptials invalid. Reuters reports that in Hanes' appeal, county lawyers who are supporting his case argued that the September 12 court order that stopped him from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples contained legal and factual errors. The appeal questions whether the Commonwealth Court that ordered Hanes to stop issuing same sex marriage licenses had appropriate jurisdiction in the case and whether the state health department, which brought the lawsuit that lead to the order, had met the burden of proof needed to make its case. Hanes issued 174 same sex marriage licenses before a lower state court judge ordered him to stop the practice, saying that a county clerk did not have the authority to ignore state law. In an interview, Hanes contended the state's law conflicted with the U.S. Constitution. "As we all know, when a law conflicts with the constitution, the constitution wins," said Hanes, 66, who is married and has two adult daughters. Thirteen U.S. states and the District of Columbia currently allow gay marriage. A New Jersey state court judge on Friday ordered state officials to allow same sex weddings beginning on October 21, a decision that state's governor, Chris Christie, said should be decided by the state supreme court. Christie is a Republican who is seen as a likely 2016 presidential contender, and has treaded carefully on the issue, which is polarizing on the national political stage. Pennsylvania's governor, Tom Corbett, opposes gay marriage. Nils Hagen-Frederiksen, spokesman for the Pennsylvania general counsel, declined comment on Tuesday, saying that the office had not yet seen the appeal.

In Mississippi, the town of Shannon was sued Tuesday for denying a business license to a gay bar, lawyers for the bar's lesbian owner said. According to UPI, The Southern Poverty Law Center said in a release posted on its website that it filed suit in U.S. District Court against the town, its mayor and its aldermen on behalf of O'Hara's bar owner Pat Newton. The legal advocacy organization alleges they are violating Newton's right to free speech and equal protection under the First and 14th amendments. "The mayor and aldermen have no legitimate reason to deny Pat Newton the business license," David Dinielli, the center's deputy legal director, said in the release. "Their opposition is rooted in blatant hostility toward a legitimate business, simply because a lesbian would operate it and because it would serve the LGBT community. They have discriminated against our client, even relishing the opportunity to discriminate." Newton had operated the bar from 1994 to 1998, serving primarily LGBT customers. She decided to reopen the bar and spent thousands of dollars renovating it, as well as obtaining state business and liquor licenses. When she went to the city for a local business license in June, however, she ran into a hostile environment from city officials and townspeople, the law center said. Newton's application was denied on a 4-1 vote after an adviser to the town board said that while she had met all application requirements, it could be denied on public health and safety concerns, the law center said. In July, the board refused a request by the law center that it reconsider its decision. "I simply want to open a business in Shannon that would mean so much to so many people," Newton said. "I was asked by people within this community to open this bar. I've met all of the town's requirements. It's sad that town officials have chosen to engage in ugly, discriminatory behavior that doesn't represent the town I know."

A national gay rights organization sued the state of West Virginia over its ban on same sex marriages Tuesday, declaring its Defense of Marriage Act a violation of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Washington Post reports that New York-based Lambda Legal filed the complaint in U.S. District Court in Huntington on behalf of three same-sex couples and the child of one couple. It filed a similar lawsuit last month challenging Virginia’s ban on gay marriages. In the West Virginia case, Lambda Legal argues the state’s ban unfairly discriminates against same-sex couples and their children. The organization says its clients are denied the legal sanction, societal respect, financial protections and other support that marriage gives to heterosexual couples. The group also contends the law violates constitutionally guaranteed rights to equal protection under the law and sends a message that gay men, lesbians and their children are second-class citizens “without any compelling, important or even legitimate justification.” West Virginia doesn’t allow same sex marriage or recognize those that occurred in other states. The lawsuit says the Kanawha and Cabell county clerks denied the six adults marriage licenses under the state law, and that effectively denies them many benefits that could make their lives easier. Those include shared health insurance, reduction of tax liabilities, family leave, caretaking decision power and death benefits. The law also punishes their children by giving them “a badge of inferiority that invites disrespect in school, on the playground and in every other sphere of their lives,” according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit asks a federal judge to declare the state law unconstitutional and require the county clerks to issue marriage licenses. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey declined comment. The Family Policy Council of West Virginia, which has long battled gay marriage legislation, said lawmakers should respond to the lawsuit “by doing everything in their power to strengthen and defend marriage” as it’s traditionally been defined. President Jeremiah Dys called the lawsuit a regrettable but not surprising. He said his group has tried for years to get legislators to strengthen the state constitution because the law itself “may not be sufficient to protect the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman.” “We hope our lawmakers will now — as they have promised — protect this most central institution for society and the well-being of children,” he said. The plaintiffs are partners Casie McGee and Sarah Adkins, and Justin Murdock and Will Glavaris, all of Huntington, and Nancy Michael and Jane Fenton, of St. Albans, and their son, Drew. Michael said she and Fenton have been together for 16 years. “We have done everything we can to protect and take responsibility for our family,” she said, “but we worry all the time that it isn’t enough. We need the protection that marriage affords.” Lambda Legal attorney Beth Littrell said the state’s motto, Mountaineers are Always Free, will ring hollow “until all West Virginians — no matter who they love — have the freedom to marry.” Casey Willits, executive director of the advocacy group Fairness West Virginia, praised the lawsuit as a critical first step toward ending discrimination.

NASCAR's Nelson Piquet Jr. has been fined $10,000 and ordered to attend sensitivity training after posting an Instagram comment with a gay slur. USA Today reports that in response to fellow Nationwide Series driver Parker Kligerman's selfie after a workout, Piquet wrote a comment with a three-letter slur - "fag." Kligerman appeared to laugh it off with a comment of his own, but a fan snapped a screen shot and it caught NASCAR's attention. In a Twitter exchange with @MatthewBreuer, Piquet said the comment was teasing between friends. "Don't act like if u have never called your friends names," Piquet said in a now-deleted tweet. "Were (sic) not living in the 50s anymore bud.. jokes are jokes." In a statement Tuesday, Piquet said: "I sincerely apologize to everyone for my poor choice of words last week. I did not mean to hurt or offend anyone. This has been a cultural learning experience that will make me a more sensitive person moving forward." Kligerman didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. Piquet also was placed on indefinite probation. Earlier this season, Nationwide driver Jeremy Clements was suspended for two races after he made a racial slur toward African-Americans. "Nelson Piquet Jr. recently communicated an offensive and derogatory term that cannot be tolerated in our sport," NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations Steve O'Donnell said. "NASCAR's Code of Conduct explicitly spells out in the 2013 rule book our position regarding the use of disparaging terms. We expect our entire industry to abide by this code." The Code of Conduct in the rule book says a driver "shall not make or cause to be made a public statement and/or communication that criticizes, ridicules or otherwise disparages another person based upon that person's race, color, creed, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, religion, age, or handicapping condition.'' In a separate statement from Turner Scott Motorsports, the team said it had spoken to Piquet about his "insensitive comment" and the driver "understands that such remarks will not be tolerated," the statement adding, "TSM expects those associated with the team to uphold professional standards that we can all be proud of. Nelson has assured the team that he has learned his lesson and he knows what it means to represent TSM." This isn't the first time Piquet has found controversy in 2013. After on-track fireworks in May's Nationwide race at Richmond International Raceway, the ex-Formula One driver argued with Brian Scott and kicked him below the belt. On the way out of the track, Piquet and a friend were then confronted by two crew members from Scott's Richard Childress Racing team. The crew members were arrested and charged with assault.

When the NHL's Alex Ovechkin was asked recently in Greece about his opinion on Russia’s anti-gay laws, he declined to offer an opinion. “To be honest with you, I’m a hockey player and I’m not (into) politics,” the Washington Capitals winger said, via the AP. “In this kind of situation you’d have to ask those (in) politics.” NPR spoke with Ovechkin after practice on Monday, and before their chat they were asked by the Caps PR staff not to ask about Russia and gay rights. So, they asked about Russia and gay rights. The question was whether or not gay athletes heading to Russia should be worried, and here’s what Ovechkin had to say: “Nah, I don’t think so,” he said (audio here). “To be honest with you, man, it’s just a situation when people have rights and I’m just hockey player. I just support everybody and everybody have own mind.” Ovechkin and Russian President Putin are friends, so the likelihood that he will offer a more committed answer than that one seems remote, but maybe if he continually asked, he’ll say something different.

19-year-old Fraser Mullen, a professional soccer player for Hibernian, has sparked a row after branding someone who tormented him on a night out a “poof." Mullen used the offensive term in a message posted on Twitter at 1:50 am Monday, which has since been deleted. The message read: “To the homosexual who ruined my night. Thank you poof bore off and grow a set.” It was instantly retweeted by people outraged at the term – and has sparked fury from gay rights campaigners. Mullen, a former Hearts player, has faced jeers from some fans of the Tynecastle club after crossing the Edinburgh divide earlier this year. Tuesday, a spokesperson for the defender said the slur had been a “mistake." However, it comes just days after a major campaign was launched aimed at eradicating homophobia in football. Gay rights charity Stonewall distributed multi-coloured laces to 42 Scottish professional clubs in the hope that players would lace their boots up in support of the campaign, called Right Behind Gay Footballers. Daniel Aldridge, policy manager for Stonewall Scotland, said: “More than 50 per cent of young LGB people in Scotland suffer homophobic bullying in our schools and nearly all hear insulting homophobic remarks like ‘poof’ there. Mr Mullen’s comments unfortunately give the green light to bullies and sadly this tweet exposes a side of our national game that alienates LGB people, their families and friends. “If Scottish football is serious about tackling homophobia, it must start acting on these issues. As a first step, we would welcome work with Hibernian FC and the SFA to make sure Scottish football is a place where everyone is welcome, regardless of their sexual orientation." Tom French, policy co-ordinator for Edinburgh-based LGBT charity the Equality Network, said research showed homophobia was still a “big problem” within sport, adding, “There is never an excuse for homophobia and such language is particularly damaging when it comes from a public figure who could be seen as a role model to many young people.” But former Hearts star Kevin Twaddle, 42, said people should bear in mind the player’s young age – and try to imagine the amount of abuse he gets, adding, “I feel a wee bit sorry for the guy – he’s gone from Hearts to Hibs and he’s going to get people winding him up wherever he goes. You take so much abuse when you are a footballer up the town it’s unbelievable, but then when you give anything back people don’t like it.” Glasgow-born Mullen – who has 3800 Twitter followers – is represented by the agents ViolaFC. A spokesperson for the firm said: “It was a mistake. He went out and one or two people had given him a hard time and a bit of stick. He lashed out but he deleted the tweet straight away.” Former Hibee Leigh Griffiths was driven to the brink of suicide after months of internet abuse aimed at his children. He gave up Twitter because of it.

CNN reports that they are a family of two fathers and one daughter, who, until recently, had lived a quiet life in an upper-class neighbourhood in the Mexican city of Monterrey. But they're now at the center of a national gay rights debate in Mexico. Their 2-year-old daughter, the couple says, was expelled from a private school in Monterrey for having two fathers. Alex and Pepe were married in Mexico City, where same-sex marriage is legally sanctioned. They asked CNN not to make their last names public to protect their daughter's identity. Alex, a 28-year-old who works in marketing and sales, is the girl's biological father. Pepe is a 39-year-old broker with a degree from the University of Miami. The couple says an administrator at The Hills Institute, which also has a daycare facility, told them they would have to hide the fact that they're a same-sex couple if they wanted the girl to stay at their school. "They were asking me to give up all of my rights as parent at the school," Alex told Telediario Monterrey, a local independent TV station. "I would've had to not participate in school or social activities. I was to not communicate with anybody nor attend together, as a family, Mother's Day or Father's Day celebrations as long as she was attending the school." The couple found the conditions unacceptable and the school called the parents to the school a few days later only to give them the news that girl had been officially expelled. "They saw us through the door's window and locked the door," Pepe told Telediario. "The receptionist went to the back of the office. After waiting for 10 minutes, they sent an employee escorted by a security guard to tell us that the girl had been officially expelled. CNN'S calls and e-mail to officials at The Hills Institute so far have gone unanswered. On its website, The Hills Institute says their vision is to become "the best bicultural school in Mexico's educational system." According to Alex and Pepe, the couple attended the school's open house in mid-August. They say they made it clear to school personnel that they were a legally married couple and had legal custody of the child. No issues were raised by the school, the parents said. The girl was expelled September 13. Last week, Alex and Pepe made the decision to file complaints with two agencies in Mexico. The couple filed a complaint with the Nuevo Leon state department of public education claiming that regardless of their family's composition, or whether the school is private or not, it is illegal to deny a child an education in Mexico, based on the Mexican Constitution's anti-discrimination protections. They also filed a complaint with the Mexican agency that protects consumers saying the school has yet to refund their money. Alex says a check the school sent bounced. In a letter to the Nuevo Leon state secretary of education, a spokesman for the LGBT community in Monterrey denounced the girl's dismissal from the school. Mario Alberto Rodriguez wrote that he believes the incident "violates several legal statutes ... in detriment of the rights of the minor." Article 1 of the Mexican Constitution states that "discrimination on the basis of ethnic or national origin, gender, age, disability status, social status, health, religion, political persuasion, sexual orientation, civil status or any other that infringes against human dignity or diminishes rights or liberties of the people is hereby prohibited." The Nuevo Leon state constitution mirrors that prohibition. Alex and Pepe say they decided to go public because they feel it's the only way authorities will do something about their case. "Our daughter has been discriminated against in the most vicious way," Pepe told CNN. As for the little girl, her parents say they're looking for an alternative school while trying to explain to her why she can't see her friends anymore.

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