Tuesday, December 31, 2013

President Of Argentina LGBT Disappointed That Pope Reportedly “Shocked” At Maltese Legislation Allowing Gay And Lesbian Couples To Adopt, British Telecommunications Company Criticized For Blocking Access To All “Gay And Lesbian Lifestyle” Sites, Two Married Same Sex Kansas Couples Sue State To Overturn Policy Prohibiting Filing Of Joint Tax Returns, Michigan Driver Office Refuses To Change Last Names Of Legally Wed Same Sex Couples, Utah Hill Air Force Base To Be One Of Few Performing Gay Marriages, Green Bay Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers Is Not Gay Because He “Really, Really Likes Women,” Maryland Teen Pascal Tessier Aims To Become First Openly Gay Eagle Scout

The President of Argentina's LGBT Federation (FALGBT), Esteban Paulón, has expressed his disappointment over comments by Auxiliary Bishop Charles Scicluna that the Pope was shocked by Maltese legislation which will allow child adoption by gay couples. Cardinal Jorge Bergolgio (now Pope) organized strong opposition and resistance to Argentina's Gay Marriage law in 2010. Mr Paulón in a statement protested over 'interference' by the Catholic Church hierarchy in civil rights which, he said, are a matter of secular nature, and rights which should be accessible to all citizens without any form of discrimination including sexual orientation and gender identity. "This case, demonstrates yet another time - as we have repeatedly said - that there is no will from Pope Francis’ part to change the doctrinal position of the Catholic Church with respect to the family and the lack of recognition of gay or lesbian parents. "It is important to remember that during the Debate on Marriage Equality in Argentina, Jorge Bergoglio, as Cardinal of Buenos Aires undertook a war in God’s name against what he considered a devil’s plan to destroy the Argentine society." Mr Paulón said Mgr Scicluna's declaration was no surprise as it clearly showed the true position of Pope Francis with respect to sexual diversity. He said the most painful fact was Pope Francis’ silence in view of the increasing penalization and persecution of homosexuals around the world, especially in Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe. "Unfortunately there was not a single word from Pope Francis on India’s Court decision, the restrictive law in Uganda and prohibition of homosexual propaganda in Russia.”

In the United Kingdom, BT's Parental Controls system has been criticised for allowing users to block gay and lesbian lifestyle content. BT has come in for criticism after it was revealed that the telecoms giant's newly launched Parental Controls system gives users the option to block websites featuring 'gay and lesbian lifestyle' content. As well as potentially preventing browsers from accessing information and helpline sites, the filter lists 'sex education' as a category, meaning youngsters could be stopped from viewing pages that could offer them invaluable support. Ruth Hunt, Deputy Chief Executive of lesbian, gay and bisexual rights charity Stonewall, told the Independent that the internet is a "vital gateway" for many young people. "Anything that prevents them from accessing vital support poses a threat to their well-being," she explained. Responding to the news, BT insisted it was simply a matter of an "accidental mis-description" of the way its Parental Controls service functions. This has now been amended, changing the reference from 'gay and lesbian lifestyle' to 'sexual orientation', although the 'sex education' category is still in place. A BT spokesperson explained: "Some parents of very young children may wish to block sex education material. One of our optional filters does just that."

In Kansas, two married gay couples are suing to overturn a state policy preventing them from filing joint state income tax returns, arguing that the requirement is discriminatory and puts the couples "in second-tier" unions. But the attorney representing the two couples said Tuesday that the lawsuit in Shawnee County District Court is not a broad attack on the refusal by Kansas to recognize same sex marriages that are legally granted in other states. The Kansas Constitution says that the state can recognize only marriages between one man and one woman. The lawsuit, filed Monday, alleges that the state Department of Revenue is violating state tax laws that tie the Kansas income tax code to the federal code, noting that the Internal Revenue Service recognizes unions from states in which gay marriage is legal, allowing joint filing. The lawsuit also says the state agency exceeded its authority by imposing what amounts to a new regulation without first seeking public comment or standard legal reviews. The Department of Revenue issued a notice in October, "Guidance for Same-Sex Couples," spelling out the policy. It requires each person to file either as an individual or head of household. The lawsuit seeks a court injunction blocking the department from enforcing the policy and a ruling that the policy is discriminatory. "Our lawsuit is specifically limited to the actions of the Department of Revenue," Brown said. Filing the lawsuit were Michael Nelson and Charles Dedmon of Alma and Roberta and Julia Woodrick of Lawrence. Both couples were married in California. Equality Kansas, the state's leading-gay rights organization, praised the lawsuit, saying the department had singled out married gay and lesbian couples for "unfair and illegal treatment," Tom Witt, the group's executive director, adding, "By requiring legally married same sex couples to file additional tax forms and say they are not married on those tax forms, Kansas is penalizing and stigmatizing gay and lesbian Kansans."Department of Revenue spokeswoman Jeannine Koranda said in an e-mail that the agency's notice follows the state constitution and Kansas law and, "Several other states that do not recognize same sex marriage have published similar guidance." The agency declined to comment further, saying it had not been formally served a copy of the lawsuit, which names the department and Secretary Nick Jordan as defendants. According to gay-rights advocates in Missouri, that state is the first to accept joint income tax returns from gay couples who were married elsewhere even though Missouri does not recognize same sex marriages or civil unions. Robert Noland, executive director of the conservative Kansas Family Policy Council, which opposes same sex marriage, said gay couples in Kansas have had to file individual tax returns previously. What's different, he said, is the U.S. Supreme Court decision this summer striking down a federal law denying benefits to married gay couples and the IRS' subsequent decision to have married gay couples file federal returns jointly. "I don't think anything really changed for them at the state level," he said. The state constitutional change blocking the state from recognizing gay marriage was approved by a 70 percent majority of voters in 2005. Noland said he believes most Kansans support the Department of Revenue's stance. House Taxation Committee Chairman Richard Carlson, a St. Marys Republican, said he sees no reason to rewrite the state's tax laws ahead of a court ruling. He also supports the department's policy and said, "I think we should abide by the will of the people of Kansas."

In Michigan, to the federal government, he's Jesse Melot. To the state, he's still Jesse Sherman. For legal purposes, it's anyone's guess. Jesse and Derek Melot married in October. The Lansing couple traveled to New York to make their long-term relationship official because they could not do so in their home state. Michigan does not allow same sex couples to marry. And, as Jesse recently learned, the Michigan Secretary of State will not allow him to take the Melot family name by presenting his marriage certificate. "I love him, and I think that's the best gift you can give someone," Jesse said of his decision to take Derek's surname. "This is for real. I love you. I want to take your last name." Jesse visited two separate Secretary of State branches and presented his marriage certificate, which typically is the only document required for a newlywed to change his or her name on a driver's license in Michigan. His New York marriage certificate does not identify gender or say anything about a same sex relationship, but the clerks who waited on him appeared to recognize two male names and alerted their managers. In each case, Jesse was turned away. "It's utter frustration," he said this week after the second rejection. "If I had been a woman going to change my last name, it wouldn't have been an issue. They're profiling at the counter. My certificate doesn't say 'same sex.' It just says marriage. But they see the names, and they're discriminating against me." Michigan voters approved a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage in 2004. The state officially defines marriage as between one man and one woman and does not recognize marriages contracted by same sex couples in other states. Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson is simply trying to follow a law put in place before she took office, according to spokesperson Fred Woodhams. "The policy for staff is to not accept a same sex marriage license to be consistent with the state constitution," he said. "Anything that would lead the staff person to believe it is a same sex marriage license would result in the document not being accepted." Branch workers are not directed to be "on the lookout" for gay individuals seeking a name change, Woodhams said, but they are told they cannot accept certificates from same sex couples. "Some marriage licenses may note the gender of the spouses or the spouses may both have traditionally male or female names," he explained. In Jesse's case, his marriage certificate does not identify his gender. And he wondered aloud whether Derek would have been able to take the Sherman surname if clerks had mistakenly identified Jesse as a female name. On his second attempt, he also applied for a common-law name change, which does not require a marriage certificate. He provided a bank statement and insurance card showing his new name in use, along with a new Social Security card proving that the federal government now recognizes him as Jesse Melot. But the SOS denied the common-law name change request, in part, because Jesse had not been living with the name for six months. He married in October. He could go to court for a legal name change, they told him, but that could cost hundreds of dollars he'd rather not spend. In the meantime, Jesse will file income taxes and attempt to renew his license, both of which may involve interaction between the federal and state governments -- who now know him by two different names. "I wasn't asking them to recognize my marriage," Jesse said. "I was asking them to recognize a legally-binding document, period. I'm not trying to circumvent the system to get the state to recognize my marriage; all I'm looking for is my damn license." Michigan same sex couples who were married in other states have been living in a sort of legal limbo since June, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act. The federal government now recognizes same sex marriages performed in any state where it is legal, regardless of where the couple ends up living. But many states, including Michigan, will not recognize those unions. For couples like Jesse and Derek, a former editorial writer for the Lansing State Journal, that means they'll be able to file joint income taxes at the federal level, for instance. But they'll still have to file independently with the state and city of Lansing. A federal judge recently struck down Utah's ban on same sex marriage, and another said last week that Ohio must recognize such unions when issuing death certificates, a document Jesse compared to a marriage certificate as he pondered his own legal options. In Michigan, a federal judge has scheduled a February trial for a challenge to Michigan's gay marriage ban. The suit was brought by two Hazel Park nurses who are unable to jointly adopt the special-needs children they are raising together. Attorney General Bill Schuette, who is defending the voter-approved law, said in a brief that the state defines marriage as between one man and one woman in order to "promote the optimal family structure for childrearing. To suggest otherwise is to paint the majority of the people of this State as bigots, which is both unfounded and inaccurate." If the suit is unsuccessful, gay rights groups plan to challenge the law at the ballot box in 2016. The federal government has stepped up, according to Emily Dievendorf of Equality Michigan, and state officials should follow suit rather than enforcing outdated policies, such as denying a loving couple the opportunity to share a last name. "Leaders in Michigan state government continue to be offered ample opportunities to demonstrate real leadership and a willingness to keep up with this important time in civil rights history," Dievendorf said. "Unfortunately, we are seeing one miss after another, and every leadership void pretends that unequal treatment by the government doesn't harm human beings when we all know that is clearly not true."

With same sex marriage legal (for the moment) in Utah, Hill Air Force Base has become one of the few U.S. military installations where such unions can be performed. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that as of last Thursday, no same sex marriages had occurred at Hill, said base spokesman Richard Essary, who said he conferred with chaplains there. But Essary confirmed such ceremonies will be allowed at Hill, which has more than 20,000 military and civilian personnel. The U.S. military allows same sex marriage ceremonies on installations in states that recognize gay marriage, but with the highest concentration of U.S. military installations in southern states that ban such unions, few brides and grooms have gotten to wear their dress uniforms in a same sex ceremony and walk under an archway of sabres or rifles. Utah became the 18th state to allow same sex marriage when federal Judge Robert J. Shelby struck down the state’s Amendment 3 this month. That’s not to say same sex couples will be a new phenomenon at Hill. Master Sgt. Angela Shunk and Tech Sgt. Stacey Shunk were transferred to Hill from Aviano Air Base, Italy, earlier this year as the first same sex couple to be receive what the military calls a join spouse assignment, according to a September article in Stars and Stripes.

You may have heard a rumour - a longstanding one at that - regarding Green Packers quarterback Aaron Rodger' sexual orientation. Wednesday, Rodgers decided to address those rumour in an interview with ESPN 540 in Wisconsin. “I’m just going to say I’m not gay,” Rodgers said. “I really, really like women.” Rodgers has long kept his life away from football guarded, and answered the allegation with brevity and a touch of incredulity. “There’s always going to be silly stuff out there in the media and you can’t worry too much about it. I don’t," adding that, “I think professional is professional and personal is personal and that’s how I’m going to keep it.” A partial transcript is available at the source.

In Maryland, a boy aims to be one of the first openly gay Eagle Scouts when the Boy Scouts of America open their ranks to gay scouts this week. Pascal Tessier of Kensington tells WRC-TV the change is welcome, but he would also like to see openly gay scouts be allowed to serve as leaders. Tessier is 17, but when he turns 18, the Eagle Scout will not be allowed to serve as a scout leader. Tessier and his brother who is also a scout helped lead protests against Boy Scouts’ ban on gay members. Tessier and his Bethesda-Chevy Chase Boy Scout Troop held a demonstration this year at the National Capital Area Council of the Boy Scouts to demand that gay youth be admitted to the organization.

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