Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Two Swedish Women Arrested After Topless Protest In Support Of Gay Rights Outside Russian Embassy, Russian Toy Store Chain Under Investigation For Carrying Game That Allegedly Promotes Homosexual Behaviour,United States To Send Openly Gay Athletes As Part Of Sochi Winter Olympic Games, Controversy And Vandalism Mar Announcement Of Gay-Straight Alliance Formation In Lincoln County North Carolina, Missouri Police Investigate Cyber-Harassment After Lesbian And Transgender Partner Threatened Following Craigslist Post, Gay Couple Will Wed Atop Float During Rose Bowl Parade

In Sweden, two women are charged with trespassing after a topless protest in support of gay rights at Stockholm's Russian embassy, court records show. UPI reports that the unidentified women, one Swedish and one Egyptian, are members of the feminist movement Femen, and targeted the embassy for protest during Stockholm's Gay Pride festival in August. They staged a similar protest outside a Stockholm mosque in June, the Swedish news website TheLocal.se reported Monday. Femen activists across Europe have gained notoriety for staging topless protests at sports events in Poland and Ukraine, as well as a nude demonstration at Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral to mark the end of the tenure of Pope Benedict XVI, TheLocal.se said.

In Russia, a toy store chain is under investigation for carrying a game that promotes homosexual behavior, prosecutors said Friday. The game, Fanty, violates a Russian law criminalizing the promotion of “non-traditional sexual relations” by instructing players to act out the seduction of members of the same sex like in an erotic film, a parents committee in the southern Russian city of Stavropol told RIA Novosti. The Katyusha toy store chain, at which the game was labeled for children 12 and older, will be informed of the results of the investigation after 30 days, according to the local prosecutor’s office. A resident of Stavropol filed a complaint after purchasing the game at a Katyusha toy store. The law, whose proponents say is aimed at protecting children from harmful influences, has been repeatedly criticized in Russia and abroad as discriminatory. Human rights activists have urged a boycott of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi over the legislation.

Former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will lead the United States delegation to the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics next year in Sochi, Russia, after the US decided against sending any senior officials to the games. The delegation will include two openly gay athletes – tennis champion Billie Jean King and ice hockey player Caitlin Cahow - and has been interpreted as designed to send a strong message about America's opposition to Russia's anti-gay laws. The White House said U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul will join the opening ceremony delegation. So will figure skater Brian Boitano and presidential adviser Rob Nabors. Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns will lead the closing ceremony delegation. He will be joined by McFaul, Olympic medal-winners Bonnie Blair, a speed skater; and Eric Heiden, a speed skater. Gay rights groups have urged the Obama administration to use the delegation selection to make a point about Russia's treatment of gays and lesbians. "The US Delegation to the Olympic Games represents the diversity that is the United States," a White House statement said. "All our delegation members are distinguished by their accomplishments in government service, civic activism, and sports. We are proud of each and every one of them and think they will serve as great ambassadors of the United States to the Olympic Games." The French and German presidents have already announced they will not be attending the games. Russia passed laws earlier this year that ban "propaganda" about "nontraditional sexual relations", ostensibly to protect children.

In Lincoln County, North Carolina, controversy spread through the halls of West Lincoln High School last week due to the recent formation of a new school club. West Lincoln high school students and parents expressed their concern over a Gay-Straight Alliance club starting at the school in conversations with administration and on social media. According to the Times-News, many were vocal on Twitter, stating their displeasure with such a club being associated with the school. Others commented as to whether such a club was even necessary. No students could be reached for comment. This semester, West Lincoln High School principal Dr. Cale Sain is serving as the club’s interim advisor. Two new faculty members plan to begin advising the club in January. While the club is still in its early stages, Sain estimates approximately 10 students attended their first meeting earlier this semester, and 20 students attended Thursday’s meeting. News of the meeting late last week along with flyers advertising the event appears to have sparked the conflict. Several of those flyers were torn down from the school’s walls. While Sain has spoken to students and parents, he says there have been no major disruptions during school hours. “Once we figured out who tore down the signs and addressed it, there haven’t been any other issues,” Sain said. He believes an ongoing discussion is important for understanding all sides of the controversial issue. “A few parents have called, and I told them, ‘Let’s just chit-chat and talk about the mission of the Gay-Straight Alliance,’” Sain said. Sain explains that the club’s mission is to promote understanding and tolerance. “We want to get to the point where the ideas of all students can coexist at this high school,” Sain said. “People are fired up on social media because it is very different for West Lincoln. We’ve never had a Gay-Straight Alliance before, and that by itself is a change. And while it is a change, every student deserves respect and understanding. In a public school, not all 900-plus students are going to come in with the same beliefs and background. But, given a little more time, I believe we’ll get to that point with a greater level of understanding and respect.”

In Missouri, police investigated a case of cyber harassment after the victim and her partner felt threatened following a Craigslist posting. "It's really scary to find out that someone you don't know spends that much angry energy on you,” said Meg Hensley. Hensley said she lives in fear of someone she doesn’t known by who apparently seems to know her. The evidence appeared online in a graphic Craigslist posting that revealed the victim’s home address in Tower Grove and targeted the gay pride flag that hung on the porch. The posting stated, in part, “You make me sick everyday when you kiss your girlfriend goodbye.” Hensley said, "I just want to express it's not about a flag it's about someone threatening my personal safety and the safety of my family and that’s not acceptable." A professional photographer who lives with her transgender partner, Hensley said it started with a frightening encounter last week in front of the house. "I don't know if they had been waiting on us or if it was some coincidence that they happened to be right there and angry at the moment we walked out of our house but they pulled up and started yelling slurs and threats,” said Hensley. St. Louis Police got involved since under Missouri Law harassment over electronic communication is illegal. Ironically, St. Louis was named earlier this year as one of the top gay friendly cities in the country. Meg Hensley hopes it can stay that way.

In Pasadena, California, in a Tournament of Roses first, two Los Angeles men will celebrate their gay marriage atop a Rose Parade float as it goes down Colorado Boulevard on New Year’s Day. The wedding of Danny Leclair, 45, and Aubrey Boots, 42 will take place atop a giant wedding cake-shaped float sponsored by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, according to a press release. It is the third float sponsored by the foundation. “Having my relationship recognized legally is already a dream come true,” said Leclair in a press release. “To be able to declare my love to the world at large in hopes of inspiring others to live proudly and authentically is an enormous honor. It’s awe inpsiring to be committing your life to another person and to have millions of people bear witness.” Loots and Leclair own Studio DNA Salons, a chain of three L.A. area hair salons. The float’s theme is “Love is the Best Protection.” It will feature a large wedding cake, decorated in white coconut chips and maroon-colored kidney beans with white roses and dendrobium orchids. Leclair posted the news on his Facebook page Sunday with the note: “Umm...those two tiny men on top of the float is us! Hee Hee…” The first-ever live wedding during the annual Rose Parade took place in 1989. It was called the “most widely witnessed wedding in American history.” Leclair and Boots will take their vows before the nearly 500,000 people who will line Colorado Boulevard on January 1

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