Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Opponents Of California Law Protecting Rights Of Transgender Students Appear To Have Failed To Collect Sufficient Signatures To Initiate Repeal Referedum, Kansas State Gay Rights Activists Condemn Democratic Representative Jan Pauls For Her Stance Opposing Inclusion Of Sexual Orientation In Nondiscrimination Clause For Victims Of Human Trafficking, U.S. Youth Soccer Organization Adds Gay And Lesbian Ally Page To Website, Soccer Player Alex Spouts Anti-Gay Garbage, Thomas Hitzlsperger On His Coming Out

In California, opponents of a new state law that expands transgender students' rights appear to have fallen just short of qualifying a repeal initiative for the November ballot, the secretary of state's office said Wednesday. A random sampling indicated that the law's opponents failed to gather the 504,760 valid signatures of registered voters that they needed to put their measure on the ballot, Secretary of State Debra Bowen said. Her office will now begin a full signature-by-signature count that could take 30 working days, or until February 24. Opponents of the law, AB1266, turned in 619,244 signatures in November. But the random count showed that just 482,582, or about 78-percent, were likely to be valid, Bowen's office said. The signature-gathering drive was mounted by a coalition of church and conservative groups called Privacy for All Students. It was led by Frank Schubert, a Republican political strategist who also headed the 2008 campaign for Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment that would have banned same sex marriage in California. That measure passed, but federal courts ruled it unconstitutional. The law opposed by Privacy for All Students was sponsored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) and signed by Governor Jerry Brown last year. It mandates that schools let transgender students use facilities such as bathrooms and locker rooms of the gender with which they identify. It also requires that such students be given access to activities such as sports teams that are in line with their gender orientation. The law took effect January 1, according to Bowen's office, but would be put on hold if the repeal initiative qualifies. Although Bowen's announcement Wednesday signals that may not happen, the initiative's proponents said they weren't giving up. "I'm looking forward to seeing every signature counted, because this is such an important issue," said Assemblyman Tim Donnelly of Twin Peaks (San Bernardino County), a Republican gubernatorial candidate who pulled his teenage son out of public school in protest of the new law. "It's basically upsetting the social order," Donnelly said, "and in my travels across the state, this was the single hottest topic with every single demographic. That included people who had never voted, new parents, grandparents and business people." Proponents of the new law argue that it will protect transgender students from bullying and better protect their rights. They say several school districts, including those in San Francisco and Los Angeles, have had similar policies for years and have reported no problems. Dean Weloiver, 17, a transgender boy from Bakersfield who has received assistance from the Transgender Law Center in San Francisco, said the law "just clarifies guidelines for schools," adding that,"They didn't know their responsibilities," he said. "Now that it's passed, kids like me can be protected." Advocates of repeal, however, dispute Bowen's finding that the law took effect New Year's Day. Kevin Snider, an attorney for the Pacific Justice Institute - which supports the referendum - said Wednesday that a law is suspended if opponents turn in enough signatures within 90 days after the governor signs it. He noted that Bowen's office has not ruled on whether enough of signatures were valid in this case. Snider said opponents of the law have not decided whether to go to court over the issue.

In Kansas, the state's leading gay-rights advocacy group blasted Rep. Jan Pauls (D-Hutchinson) on Wednesday for her stance against a state agency including sexual orientation in a nondiscrimination clause for safe houses for victims of human trafficking. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Pauls said Tuesday she was only attempting to ensure the new regulations proposed for the safe houses comply with current state statutes that don't include sexual orientation among attributes for which Kansans are legally protected from discrimination. But Equality Kansas and the LGBT Caucus of Pauls' own party rebuked her recommendations to remove sexual orientation from the protections written into the safe house rules by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. “We unequivocally condemn Rep. Pauls’ position on this matter as cruel and inhumane,” said Thomas Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas. “Children, teens and young adults who are forced into prostitution are victims of horrific crimes, but Mrs. Pauls thinks that if they happen to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, that refusing them treatment is just fine.” Pauls, a lawyer, said during a hearing Tuesday she was concerned that including sexual orientation in the legal nondiscrimination clauses could prove problematic for religious organizations that wanted to sponsor safe houses. She said she didn't believe any safe houses would deny victims access to initial treatment based on sexual orientation, but such organizations "might refuse if part of the follow-up treatment is to make the person comfortable in the alternative lifestyle they may have been forced into." Pauls said language ensuring treatment for homosexual victims could be added to other parts of the regulations — an idea proposed by Sen. Tom Hawk (D-Manhattan) — but not the nondiscrimination clause. Another lawyer on the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules and Regulations, Rep. Mark Kahrs, R-Wichita, concurred with Pauls' recommendation to remove sexual orientation from that clause. Kahrs also suggested adding "ancestry" so the nondiscrimination clause precisely mirrors existing statutes. But Witt and Ryon Carey, chairman of the Kansas Democrats' LGBT Caucus, expressed skepticism of Pauls' contention that her position was a purely legal concern. They pointed to her history as the author of the state law banning same-sex marriage, a co-sponsor of the constitutional amendment doing the same, and her consistent opposition to repealing the state's anti-sodomy law, despite court decisions in other states that suggest it wouldn’t pass constitutional muster. “Once again, Rep. Pauls has targeted LGBT Kansans for unfair and discriminatory treatment,” Carey said. “For over 20 years, Pauls has not missed an opportunity to wage war against fair treatment for all Kansans, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity." Witt said Democrats and Republicans are "lining up" to challenge Pauls in the 2014 election. In 2012 she defeated openly gay Democratic primary challenger Erich Bishop by eight votes.

The Los Angeles Times reports that in a groundbreaking effort to curtail bullying and harassment and make the group more inclusive, the National Soccer Coaches Assn. of America has added a "Gay, Lesbian and Ally" page to its website. "We have to make it clear the association stands for the acceptance of everyone," the group's president, Jack Huckel, told Soccer America magazine. Huckel said reports of hazing were part of the impetus to launch the page, along with the organization's mission to improve coaching. "If a kid is dealing with any issues that prevent him from focusing, he's not going to be as good a player as he could be," Dan Woog, who heads the association's LGBTQ committee, told Soccer America. "He's not going to be able to contribute what he could and that impacts the entire team." The Web page offers links to LGBT blogs, offers confidential and anonymous services, access to programs and a list of frequently asked questions aimed at coaches and players. "The point is not to have kids come out before they're ready," Woog said. "The kid wants to be on the soccer field. He looks up to his coach. The time he puts in is really important to him. So coaches need tools -- what they say, what they don't say, the words they use, the examples they use -- to create an atmosphere where all kids feel comfortable to achieve to their potential." At its highest level, soccer in the U.S. has been the most accepting major sport when it comes to gay and lesbian athletes. Midfielder Robbie Rogers became the first openly gay athlete to play in a major professional U.S. sports league when he took the field for the Galaxy last May. The top-ranked U.S. women's national team has two lesbian stars in midfielder Megan Rapinoe and forward Abby Wambach, the leading scoring in the history of women's soccer.

The Independent reports that on the same day former Germany international soccer star Thomas Hitzlsperger came out, PSG defender Alex has become embroiled in a row after claiming that "God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Yves." Thomas Hitzlsperger expressed his gratitude for the kind messages of support he has received after announcing he is gay. Hitzlsperger, who retired in September, took to Twitter to thank "everyone" while sports stars past and present also welcomed the news. "Hello everyone! All these messages about my news, I am overwhelmed from this and I can't say thank you enough times!," Hitzlsperger wrote on his twitter account. The only sour note on an otherwise landmark day for football with Hitzlsperger becoming the most high-profile player to come out was anti-gay comments attributed to former Chelsea defender Alex. A supportive Joey Barton took to Twitter to voice his opinion on the news in typically uncompromising fashion. The QPR midfielder tweeted: "Thomas Hitzlsperger has shown a lot of courage today. Sad times when people have to wait till they retire from their chosen profession before they feel other people will judge them solely on who the human being is. Shame on all of us as a society." However, he also added two further tweets which read: "But it is understandable when brainwashed, religious zealots still believe in a fictional book written over 2000 yrs ago. To be religious extremist, you must first be extremely dumb in my opinion. Alex from PSG simply confirms my theory with his comments today." Alex, who now plays for PSG is said to have told French channel Canal+, in a programme to be aired tonight on religion in football: "God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Yves." Another Brazilian defender who plays for Marcos Ceara also says on the 'Jesus Football Club' show: "I am against divorce and abortion. I’m not really for homosexuality." Aside from Alex and Ceara's comments a host of sports stars were quick to congratulate the former Aston Villa midfielder for his 'brave' decision in coming out. While there has been widespread support for Hitzlsperger, the comments made by Alex as well as Michael Johnson's resignation from the Football Association inclusion advisory board are indicative that not everyone is so accepting. Johnson withdrew from his FA role on Tuesday after footage emerged showing the former player describing homosexuality as "detestable." Johnson, 40, made the comments in 2012 while appearing on a BBC1 series called The Big Questions, during which he opted not to back the FA anti-homophobia campaign. His remarks were brought back into focus after his appointment to the FA body, although Johnson said last week that his views had changed. Former Jamaica international Johnson, who played for Notts County, Derby and Birmingham, said he would continue to back anti-discrimination ventures in football.

In an interview published late Wednesday with the Guardian, Hitzlsperger said that coming out was a moment he always knew would arrive, and one he dreaded. The decision to address this issue publicly was a "hard, difficult one" that took a number of years to gestate, he tells me. The 31-year-old, who retired from the game last year because of injuries, first told his friends and family. "I was surprised and happy that they were all totally OK with it. Where I come from, in rural Bavaria, homosexuality is considered 'un-normal'. I knew that there would be negative reactions from those who will never understand it, also towards my family, but that didn't bother them. I've had nothing but total support from them." Hitzlsperger, who was engaged to his childhood sweetheart and broke up with her shortly before the scheduled wedding six years ago, was not certain of his sexual orientation until his career was almost over. "I finally figured out that I preferred living with a man," he says.

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