New book 2007: Gay Travels in the Muslim World, Edited by Michael Luongo (ch. 10 by GlobalGayz owner Richard Ammon)
See books reviews: Gay City News and Philadelphia Gay News
January 4, 2010 – PinkNews
US HIV travel ban lifted today
by Jessica Geen
The ban on HIV-positive people entering the US officially ends today. The 22-year-old law was one of the most restrictive immigration policies in the world for people with HIV but was lifted by President Barack Obama in November. He described it as a "decision rooted in fear rather than fact".
According to On Top magazine, the first HIV-positive person to enter the country since the lifting of the ban will be Clemens Ruland, 45, a youth worker from the Netherlands. He and his partner Hugo Bausch, 50, will be welcomed by gay group Immigration Equality when they arrive in New York today. The lifting of the ban was praised by UK-based HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust.
Lisa Power, head of policy at the organisation, said: "It’s ridiculous that for over 20 years people living with HIV have been banned from entering the US simply because of a medical condition. Removing the ban is long overdue and we congratulate the US government on seeing economic and medical sense. Terrence Higgins Trust and many others have campaigned against the ban since it was introduced. Blanket entry bans have no justification on public health grounds and only increase stigma. We hope other countries with similar bans in place will now remove them too."
The ban had also barred long-term foreign residents from obtaining resident status, purely on the basis of having HIV. Only a handful of other countries, such as Yemen and Qatar, have similar policies on barring entry to HIV-positive individuals. HIV experts criticised the ban in the past for encouraging people not to get tested out of fear. Obama said that lifting the ban is a "step that will encourage people to get tested and get treatment. It’s a step that will keep families together, and it’s a step that will save lives".
January 06, 2010 – On Top Magazine
54 Gay Couples Marry On 1st Day Of New Hampshire Law
by Carlos Santoscoy
Fifty-four gay couples married in New Hampshire on New Years Day, the first day of legal gay marriage in the state, On Top Magazine has learned. According to statistics compiled by the state’s Division of Vital Records, 37 lesbian couples and 17 gay couples rang in the new year while trading marriage vows. Most of the marriages performed were conversions from civil unions. Only 10 couples had not previously entered a New Hampshire civil union.
In an email, Stephen Wurtz, acting director of the state’s Division of Vital Records, said the state has recognized 809 gay couples in the past 24 months since a civil unions law went into effect. In its first month, January 2008, 174 gay couples tied the knot, but since then the number has steadily decreased, with only195 civil union licenses issued in 2009.
As of December 31, the state no longer offers gay couples the right to enter a civil union. Couples previously joined with a civil union can apply for a conversion to marriage or a new marriage license, but all civil unions will automatically convert to marriages on January 1, 2011. New Hampshire joins Iowa, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont in legalizing gay marriage. Lawmakers in the District of Columbia have approved a gay marriage law expected to take effect in February.
January 8, 2010 – The New York Times
New Jersey Senate Defeats Gay Marriage Bill
by David Kocieniewski
Trenton — The State Senate on Thursday rejected a proposal that would have made New Jersey the sixth state in the nation to allow marriages involving same-sex couples. The vote was the latest in a succession of setbacks for advocates of gay marriage across the country. After months of intense lobbying and hours of emotional debate, lawmakers voted 20 to 14 against the bill, bringing tears from some advocates who packed the Senate chambers and rousing applause from opponents of the measure, who also came out in force. The vote ends the effort to win legislative approval of the measure, and sets the stage for a new battle before the New Jersey Supreme Court.
“We applaud the senators for upholding a time-tested institution: marriage,” said Len Deo, president of the New Jersey Family Policy Council, which has argued that gay marriage would weaken the social fabric by redefining one of society’s bedrock institutions. Supporters of gay marriage had hoped to win approval for the measure before Jan. 19, when Gov. Jon S. Corzine, who promised to sign it, will be replaced by Gov.-elect Christopher J. Christie, who opposes it.
With the effort to win legislative approval now dead, supporters of same-sex marriage vowed to focus their efforts on the state’s highest court, which in 2006 ordered lawmakers to give same-sex couples the same rights as others whether or not they called such unions marriages. The Legislature responded by enacting a civil unions law, but gay-rights leaders say that the measure still leaves them subject to discrimination when applying for health insurance or trying to visit partners in hospitals, and that they will ask the court to grant them equal treatment.
“Even our opponents in the Legislature acknowledge that the civil-union law has not provided equal protection,” said Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality, who has led the lobbying for the past six years and wept as the bill’s sponsor, Senator Loretta Weinberg of Teaneck, introduced it. The defeat in New Jersey, which has widely been viewed as one of the nation’s most socially tolerant states, was a significant setback for advocates of gay marriage. Last month, a similar measure was defeated in New York’s Legislature, and in November voters in Maine repealed a gay-marriage law in a referendum.
But leaders of Lambda Legal Defense Fund, which has helped coordinate gay rights causes in New Jersey and elsewhere, said they said they were confident that the court would prove more receptive than the Legislature. “We are upset, we are disappointed, but we aren’t done fighting,” said Leslie Gabel-Brett, Lambda’s director of education and public affairs. Opponents of gay marriage said that they, too, were prepared for a legal fight. Jon Tomicki, a leader of the New Jersey Coalition to Preserve and Protect Marriage, said that legislators had already complied with the court order by enacting civil unions, and urged lawmakers to let the public cast its verdict on gay marriage in a referendum.
“In 30 other states, voters have gotten the chance to decide,” Mr. Tomicki said. “There’s no reason why New Jerseyans shouldn’t have the same right.” In nearly every instance in which gay marriage has been put up for a referendum, it has been defeated. But supporters of gay marriage view their cause as a matter of civil rights which should be settled by the courts and Legislature, and point out that in 1915, New Jersey voters in a referendum rejected giving women the right to vote. Five years later, the 19th Amendment granted women voting rights.
Although it was not a major issue in the governor’s race, the effort to win legislative approval of same-sex marriage is widely viewed as a casualty of Mr. Corzine’s defeat in November. Some Democrats who had been receptive to the issue, and took financial and organizational support from gay activists, grew squeamish. Senator Stephen M. Sweeney, who is scheduled to become Senate president this month, said he thought voters would look unkindly on the Legislature if it pushed for a social issue at a time of economic suffering. Senator Sweeney did not cast a vote on the measure on Thursday. In all, five senators did not vote and one was too ill to attend.
Senator Gerald Cardinale, a Republican from Cresskill, said during the debate on the Senate floor on Thursday that the results of the governor’s race were a clear indication that voters opposed gay marriage. Senator Cardinale said that although the civil unions statute was flawed, the state would be doing “violence” to the institution of marriage by changing its current definition as a union between one man and one woman. “There are many who believe that this bill will change our entire culture,” he said, shortly before casting his “no” vote.
But Senate President Richard J. Codey, a Democrat from Essex, said that the furor surrounding gay marriage was based on the same type of unfounded fear of the unknown that was used to justify discrimination against women and racial minorities. “One day people will look back and say, ‘What were they thinking?’ ” Senator Codey said, and, “ ‘What were they so afraid of?’ ”
After the vote, hundreds of supporters of the bill gathered in front of the State House to exchange tearful hugs and plot the next move in their effort. Among them was Christi Sturmont, who said she and her partner were dejected, but not despondent. “We were holding out hope that we’d be able to get married and have full citizenship,” she said. “But now we’ll have to settle for second-class citizenship. For now. We’re not done fighting.”
January 8, 2010 – The Seattle Times
On gay rights, world, U.S. continue to shift
by Lornet Turnbull,Seattle Times staff reporter
In the two months since Washington voters expanded the state’s domestic-partnership law, the global landscape of the gay-rights movement has continued to shift. From the United States and Latin America to Africa, the movement has experienced a burst of wins and losses — with gays celebrating legal unions in some places while denouncing the threat of execution for being gay in one other. Three weeks ago, the Mexico City assembly became the first in Catholic-strong Latin America to legalize same-sex unions, and the Council of the District of Columbia voted overwhelmingly to allow gays in the nation’s capitol to wed.
Houston last month elected a lesbian mayor, and the California Assembly named the nation’s first openly gay speaker. "I find it all encouraging," Ed Murray, Washington state’s longest-serving openly gay lawmaker, said of developments across the globe. "And as you see these changes taking place, it makes it more promising for us to move forward (with gay marriage) here in Washington state," he said.
There have been developments as well on the federal level, where some gay leaders have complained the Obama administration has not followed through on campaign promises, such as moving to end the military’s "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy. U.S. House and Senate committees have approved equal-employment benefits for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) federal employees. And the Obama administration has included language on the federal jobs Web site explicitly banning employment discrimination based on gender identity. "We have to understand that true, lasting change occurs in these incremental ways," said Darlene Nipper, deputy executive director for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, which advocates on behalf of gays.
Those opposed to gay marriage have also had recent victories.
In November, on the same night that Washington voters approved Ref. 71, which granted gay and lesbian couples more of the same state rights as married people, voters in Maine repealed a same-sex marriage law that state’s legislature had passed earlier. In early December, the New York state Senate decisively rejected a bill that would have allowed gay couples there to wed. And on Thursday, the New Jersey Senate voted against a bill that would bring gay marriage to that state, where civil unions now can be performed.
Those who are against gay marriage and what they call special rights for gays remain steadfast in their opposition.
"We hear the argument that eventually gay marriage will be everywhere, accepted, because those who oppose it will die off," said Joseph Backholm, executive director of the Family Policy Institute Washington. "In fact what we know, what history shows us, is that the side of truth always wins in the long term."
Nationwide, same-sex marriage is legal in five states, the District of Columbia and the Indian nation of Coquille in Oregon. Seven countries — The Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Spain, Norway, Sweden and South Africa — allow gay marriage, and nearly two dozen others allow some form of civil unions or registered partnership.
In Uganda, meanwhile, a development is unfolding that has been widely denounced: The country’s parliament is considering a law to make homosexuality punishable by death. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009, as it is called, has been condemned by voices across the U.S. and Europe — from the Church of Scotland to five Republican U.S. House members who say they are all men of faith and have urged the president of Uganda to oppose the bill.
In Washington, Murray said a majority of residents don’t yet support same-sex marriage and that he lacks the votes to pass a bill out of the Senate. He also said Gov. Chris Gregoire is not on record as supporting same-sex unions.
So the same-sex-marriage bill he introduced last year — one that he introduces each session — is unlikely to get a hearing this year. "I think we have to be in a stronger position," he said. "That’s going to take at least a year." He said he wants the gay community to focus first on raising money and organizing, "so we can be prepared to pass marriage law and fight any referendum that would happen as a result."
January 14, 2010 – Los Angeles Times
Psychologist testifies on ‘remarkable similarities’ of gay and straight couples – Expert witness for Prop. 8 challengers says married couples have better health, longer relationships than unmarried couples. Lawyers defending the same-sex marriage ban point to domestic partnerships.
by Maura Dolan,Reporting from San Francisco
A federal trial on same-sex marriage focused Wednesday on the similarities and differences between homosexual and heterosexual couples, with a psychology professor citing "remarkable similarities." Letitia Peplau, an expert on couple relationships, testified that studies have found that the quality of heterosexual and homosexual relationships was on average "the same" as measured by closeness, love and stability.
"On average, same-sex couples and heterosexual couples are indistinguishable," said Peplau, a UCLA professor of social psychology called by attorneys for two same-sex couples who are trying to overturn Proposition 8, the 2008 voter initiative that reinstated a state ban on same-sex marriage. Peplau cited a survey of Californians in which 61% of lesbian respondents said they were living with a partner compared with 46% of gay men and 62% of heterosexuals.
Homosexual couples tend to have shorter relationships than married couples, she said, but so do unmarried cohabiting heterosexuals. Under cross-examination, Peplau acknowledged that gay men value monogamy less than lesbians and heterosexuals of both genders. Among heterosexuals and lesbians, "monogamy correlated for relationship satisfaction," Peplau said during the trial’s third day. But "for gay men there is no association between sexual exclusivity and the satisfaction of their relationship."
She said several studies have found that married people tend to have better health than non-married people. She cited a government report that said married individuals are less likely to smoke or drink in excess and report fewer health problems than singles, and attributed the disparity in part to the support spouses share. She also told of a recent Kaiser Family Foundation report in which 74% of homosexuals said they would like to marry some day.
During cross-examination, Nicole J. Moss, an attorney for the Proposition 8 campaign, put into evidence government statistics from Belgium and the Netherlands, where same-sex marriage is legal and, Moss said, a substantially smaller percentage of gays and lesbians chose to marry than heterosexuals. Asked about those figures, Peplau said she was "struck" that so few same-sex couples would marry in Europe while so many want to marry in the U.S. A lawyer for the plaintiffs later suggested that the smaller proportion of married homosexuals in those countries might stem from the fact that marriage is a relatively new opportunity for them.
Moss also asked Peplau if married people might have better health because they have greater access to healthcare, which domestic partnerships also provide by requiring employers to insure partners. Peplau said there was "no question" that domestic partnerships have improved the lives of same-sex couples, but said those partnerships are "not equivalent" and do not convey all the merits of marriage. Moss also tried to challenge Peplau’s contention that heterosexual and homosexual couples are extremely similar.
She suggested that one benefit of marriage is that couples do not have children out of wedlock, and asked Peplau if she agreed that gay men and lesbians do not have children accidentally. Peplau sputtered, then said: "Can two lesbians spontaneously impregnate each other? Not to my knowledge, no." The courtroom filled with laughter. Earlier in the day, a Proposition 8 attorney got Yale historian George Chauncey to say that gays and lesbians have become politically and socially more powerful in recent years. But Chauncey also said that discrimination persists and described writings by a Proposition 8 proponent as evidence of long-held and inaccurate negative stereotypes.
January 22, 2010 – The New York Times
Chinese Christians Are the Focus of Same-Sex Marriage Case
by Gerry Shih
Scores of evangelical Christians gathered this week for their regular Wednesday night prayer service at the River of Life Christian Church’s sprawling complex in Santa Clara, closing their eyes and opening their palms skyward as they rocked back and forth to soaring hymns. The 10-acre lot just off the Bayshore Freeway where they prayed is the home base of one of the largest Chinese Christian churches in North America. River of Life has more than 2,400 local members and 10,000 more worldwide — up from 70 in 1995, said its pastor, Tong Liu. Waves of immigrants from Taiwan, Hong Kong and mainland China have filled its pews, while transforming cities like Santa Clara and Cupertino.
The increase in conservative evangelical churches in Chinese immigrant communities has had reverberations well beyond the liberal confines of Silicon Valley and the Bay Area. And no political issue has transfixed this group’s attention like same-sex marriage. It is no coincidence that Cupertino, where census estimates show that one person in four is Chinese (up from one person in 30 three decades ago), was also the site of one of the biggest Bay Area rallies supporting Proposition 8, the ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage in 2008. But this month the little-noticed but burgeoning world of evangelical Chinese Christianity in the Bay Area has become the backdrop for crucial arguments in the federal trial in San Francisco challenging the constitutionality of the ban on gay marriage.
When Hak-Shing William Tam — one of the community’s leaders and the author of fervent appeals, laced with Biblical citations, to oppose gay marriage — took the witness stand in federal court on Thursday afternoon, the supporters of same-sex marriage were trying to press home a central point. Mr. Tam, a 55-year-old immigrant from Hong Kong, is the plaintiffs’ vehicle for proving their point that Proposition 8’s success was born of virulent homophobia. Among the documents pertinent to this argument is an October 2008 Chinese-language essay that Mr. Tam, one of the official sponsors of the ballot measure, distributed on the Web.
It includes a passage saying: “In a macro environment in which homosexuality is gradually accepted as being normal, child molesting by gays is gradually being viewed as normal in academia. Children who were subjected to sexual abuse only know to socialize with other men through sex. When they grow up, they would do the same to other children by molesting children of the same sex. Therefore, gay people grow in numbers even as most of them do not have children of their own.”
Last week the legal team led by David Boies and Theodore B. Olson presented a Chinese-language letter from Mr. Tam — one of the official sponsors of Proposition 8 — written to Chinese Christian churches in the Bay Area, warning them of a “gay agenda” that developed, he said, in the 1970s. The proposition’s failure, the letter said, could lead to further actions by the state, like the legalization of prostitution and pedophilia.
Mr. Tam did not respond to repeated requests for an interview.
If the legal team in the San Francisco courtroom is presenting Mr. Tam as the face of homophobia, however, his fellow Chinese Christians have a different view. In Mr. Tam’s own world, he is the voice of a set of beliefs that resonates with them. “I’m totally supporting” Mr. Tam, said Yang Shao, 41, a biosciences researcher from Fremont who is a member of the River of Life board and attended the service on Wednesday. Religious leaders across the Bay Area say that the gay marriage issue has galvanized evangelical Asians — drawn from a population of first-generation immigrants that have generally stayed aloof from politics — into a nascent but cohesive and potentially powerful political force.
The appeal of the churches for new immigrants is easy to understand. As Frank Liu, a pastor at the Christian Leadership Institute, said, “A lot of people, when they immigrate to the U.S., they’re kind of lonely or isolated so they attend church because there’s a large Chinese community over here.” According to Mr. Liu, 10 percent of the Bay Area Chinese population belong to one of 200 local evangelical churches.
Gordon H. Chang, a history professor at Stanford University, said in a telephone interview: “These churches are homes, ready-made networks for many of these immigrants to find a place. They provide solace and support, material and spiritual.” And their values are conservative, Professor Chang said, adding, “There’s a strong sense of morality, of family cohesion, of personal conservatism that might resonate.”
Read Article HERE
January 30, 2010 – On Top Magazine
Hawaii House Kills Gay Civil Unions Bill
by Carlos Santoscoy
Lawmakers in the Hawaii House declined to vote Friday on a bill that would have recognized gay and lesbian couples with civil unions, the AP reported. The bill would have granted gay and lesbian couples all the rights and obligations of marriage. The action effectively shelves the proposal indefinitely. Supporters sitting in the gallery shouted, “Shame on you!” Opponents cheered the decision. Last week, the Hawaii Senate approved the bill with a veto-proof 18 to 7 vote, giving activists hope the measure would become law despite the disapproval of Republican Governor Linda Lingle, who has chided lawmakers for not focusing on economic issues.
“It’s an election year, and they’re more concerned about keeping their seats than doing what’s right,” Stephen Nagle, a supporter of the bill, told the news service.
“We’re sorely disappointed that the Hawaii State House refused to take action on the civil unions bill,” Tambry Young, co-chair of Equality Hawaii, a group that lobbied for passage of the bill, said in a statement. “Today, the House put its own political interests before the interests of Hawaii’s families and that’s bad policy and bad politics. We pledge that his fight is not over, and we will continue in our efforts to see true equality in our state.”
Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay rights advocate, called the loss stunning. “We’re stunned that the Hawaii State House would act contrary to their previous position of strongly supporting this bill,” he said.
The events of the past week are a reversal of last year’s drama, which included quick passage in the House, followed by a sudden stall in the Senate. A key Senate panel deadlocked on a 3-3 vote, marooning the bill. But in their second attempt, Senators managed to fish the bill out of the committee during the final days of the legislative session. Senators quickly amended the bill to include both gay and straight couples, but the session ended without a vote on the measure.
During Friday’s House vote no roll call was taken, effectively shielding the identities of who voted for or against the bill. House Speaker Calvin Say denied claims by civil unions supporters that the anonymous vote was “cowardly.” “You can call me a coward, but we are all not cowards. We’ll make our tough decisions as we go ahead. But members were concerned, and that was my role as the speaker to make that determination and decision to do what we did today,” Say said.
Members might have been spooked by recent events in New Jersey and New York. Senators in both states have been targeted by both opponents and supporters of gay rights after each chamber killed a gay marriage bill late last year. Hawaii was the first state to approve a gay marriage ban in 1998 after the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay marriage.
February 3, 2010 – The Wall Street Journal
Military Chief Says Gay Ban Should Go
by Yochi J. Dreazen
Washington – Adm. Mike Mullen, the nation’s top uniformed officer, made a strong appeal for allowing gays to serve openly in the military, a shift that highlighted the Pentagon’s growing support for lifting the "don’t ask, don’t tell" law. Adm. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee he believed the "don’t ask" restrictions—which require gay troops to keep their sexual orientation a secret—could be eliminated without harming military morale, recruitment or readiness.
With the comments, Adm. Mullen became the highest-ranking military officer to ever endorse repealing the restrictions, a source of controversy within the Pentagon since they were put in place by the Clinton administration in 1993. His immediate predecessor, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, in 2007 described homosexuality as "immoral."
"It is my personal and professional belief that allowing homosexuals to serve openly would be the right thing to do," Adm. Mullen told the Senate panel. "No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens." The Obama administration’s push to repeal the ban faces a tough fight on Capitol Hill, and it’s far from clear the White House will be able to persuade enough Democrats from moderate or conservative states to vote for eliminating the restrictions, particularly in an election year.
Republicans appear to be united against repeal. GOP lawmakers, including Sen. John McCain, who once said they’d support lifting the ban if the Pentagon’s top officials signed off on the move are now arguing strongly for keeping the restrictions in place. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the Pentagon would take its strongest steps yet to allow gays to more easily serve in the military, making preparations to ease the enforcement of the "don’t ask, don’t tell" restrictions and creating a high-level commission to review the many practical questions that will arise if Congress repeals the ban.
The defense chief said he was appointing a group to be led by Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson and Army Gen. Carter Ham to develop a plan for safely incorporating openly gay military personnel into the ranks of the nation’s armed forces.
The panel will deliver findings by the end of 2010. Mr. Gates said the Pentagon would also conduct a 45-day review of its procedures for enforcing the "don’t ask, don’t tell" restrictions with an eye toward implementing them in what he described as a "fairer manner." He said possible changes might make it harder for the military to open disciplinary proceedings against gay troops whose sexual orientation was revealed without their knowledge or consent by outside parties. "We can reduce the instances in which a service member…is outed by a third party," Mr. Gates said.
The question of whether to allow gays to serve in the military has long divided both Congress and the Pentagon. Shortly after taking office in 1993, then-President Bill Clinton promised to unconditionally lift a decades-old rule describing homosexuality as "incompatible with military service." The move infuriated the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who lobbied to retain the regulation. Mr. Clinton agreed to a compromise allowing gays to serve so long as they kept their sexual orientation private. In the years since the law took effect, the military discharged nearly 14,000 troops, including at least 428 in 2009, according to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, an advocacy group which opposes the ban.
Aubrey Sarvis, the group’s executive director, praised Mr. Gates and Adm. Mullen for endorsing a repeal of the law but said the Pentagon’s planned review would move too slowly. "Service members will be fired daily while the study is going on."
Mr. Sarvis said Americans’ views about allowing gays to serve in the military have changed dramatically in the past 16 years, which could make it easier for President Barack Obama to win Congressional support for repealing the ban.
Read Article Here
February 4, 2010 – The New York Times
National Prayer Breakfast Draws Controversy
by Laurie Goodstein
For more than 50 years, the National Prayer Breakfast has served as a prime networking event in Washington, bringing together the president, members of Congress, foreign diplomats and thousands of religious, business and military leaders for scrambled eggs and supplication. Usually, the annual event passes with little notice. But this year, an ethics group in Washington has asked President Obama and Congressional leaders to stay away from the breakfast, on Thursday. Religious and gay rights groups have organized competing prayer events in 17 cities, and protesters are picketing in Washington and Boston.
The objections are focused on the sponsor of the breakfast, a secretive evangelical Christian network called The Fellowship, also known as The Family, and accusations that it has ties to legislation in Uganda that calls for the imprisonment and execution of homosexuals. The Family has always stayed intentionally in the background, according to those who have written about it. In the last year, however, it was identified as the sponsor of a residence on Capitol Hill that has served as a dormitory and meeting place for a cluster of politicians who ran into ethics problems, including Senator John Ensign, Republican of Nevada, and Gov. Mark Sanford, Republican of South Carolina, both of whom have admitted to adultery.
More recently, it became public that the Family also has close ties to the Ugandan politician who has sponsored the proposed anti-gay legislation. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a government watchdog group, sent a letter this week to the president and Congressional leaders urging them to skip the prayer breakfast. They have also called on C-Span not to televise it this year.
Melanie Sloan, executive director of the ethics group, said: “It is a combination of the intolerance of the organization’s views, and the secrecy surrounding the organization. It doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be allowed to hold their breakfast; of course they should. The question is, Should American officials be lending legitimacy to it, giving their imprimatur by showing up.”
The Family has no identifiable Internet site, no office number and no official spokesman. J. Robert Hunter, a member who has spoken publicly about the group, said that it was unfair to blame the Family for the anti-gay legislation introduced by David Bahati. Mr. Hunter said that about 30 Family members, all Americans, active in Africa recently conveyed their dismay about the legislation to Ugandan politicians, including Mr. Bahati.
Mr. Hunter said the recent controversies had prompted a debate within the group about its lack of transparency. “I and quite a few others are saying we should be much more open,” he said.
Jeff Sharlet, author of “The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power” (Harper Perennial, 2009) said in a telephone interview, “Here’s an organization that, in the past, has not acknowledged its own existence.” “It’s not a sinister plot. This is their theological stance,” said Mr. Sharlet, who infiltrated the group to do research for his book. “Their leader, Doug Coe, says that the more invisible you can make your organization, the more influence it will have.”
A White House official said that Mr. Obama, like each president since Dwight D. Eisenhower, planned to attend the breakfast. Michelle Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and other cabinet members will also attend. The president will deliver remarks about “the importance of an openness to compromise,” the official said. The official also said that the president and the State Department had spoken out strongly against the legislation in Uganda.
The breakfast, which usually features a prominent keynote speaker (past ones have included Bono, Mother Teresa and former Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain), is only the most visible in several days of gatherings where the Family’s networking takes place in smaller groups. There are separate meetings for African politicians, military leaders, business people and media professionals, to name a few. Many states also have prayer breakfasts this week, which may appear to be government-sponsored but are also mostly affiliated with the Family.
Liberal members of the clergy and gay rights leaders organized the alternative events in haste this year, calling theirs the American Prayer Hour. The will convene at places like Calvary Baptist Church in Washington; Glendale City Seventh-day Adventist Church in California; the bishop’s chapel of the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York, in Rochester; and Covenant Community Church in Center Point, Ala. Wayne Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out, a gay rights group, said he initiated the prayer-hour idea because many religious Americans who attend the breakfasts have no idea about the connection to the Family and the anti-gay legislation.
“They have symbolically taken the mantle of religion,” Mr. Besen said, “and I think it’s time to take it back. And the American Prayer Hour is a step in that direction.”
February 2010 – About.com
Gay Friendly Places (?) According to New York Times"
by Andrew Collins, About.com Guide
The New York Times Travel Section publishes an always intriguing "best places to go" round-up story each year. In 2010, they listed 31 destinations, from Sri Lanka to Istanbul.
For GLBT travelers, how does the Times list of 31 hot spots stack up? Personally, I’ll go just about anywhere I can get to, gay-friendly or not. But some of these destinations won’t specifically resonate with gay travelers, either because they have no discernible "scene" or they’re in parts of the world with unwelcoming or even hostile attitudes toward gays and lesbians. Others on the list have actually developed quite lively gay scenes in recent years. Here’s my admittedly quick-and-dirty take on each of the 31 destinations on the list, some impressions based on personal experience, others on what I’ve learned from other sources. For each one, I’ve also included a link or two for more information on the local scene.
Sri Lanka: The Times’s No. 1 pick is officially not very gay-friendly, but this small, beautiful island nation off the southern tip of India has an active GLBT community working hard to change laws and attitudes. Utopia-Asia’s excellent guide on Sri Lanka lists a number of gay-friendly nightlife and lodging options, and a Gay Pride celebration is now held each June in the capital city of Colombo.
Patagonia Wine Country: Argentina is home to one of the gay capitals of Latin America, Buenos Aires, and the country’s most famous wine region, Mendoza, is also popular with GLBT travelers. Patagonia is more remote and with no scene, per se, but it’s a great choice for couples, wine lovers, and adventurers. Several companies targeting the GLBT market do Patagonia tours, including Kuyay Travel and BA Gay Travel.
Seoul: The Times notes that Seoul has become recently "glammed up" with hip cafes and nightlife, and indeed, this increasingly cosmo, design-minded city is rapidly developing a prolific, visible, and trendy gay scene. Seoul is a city to watch, in this regard. Utopia-Asia’s guide to Seoul is extensive, and you can learn a bit more about South Korea’s slowly thawing attitudes toward gay travelers at GlobalGayz’ website.
Mysore: India’s resplendent "City of Palaces" probably isn’t super-high on the vacation list of many GLBT travelers, unless they happen to be yoga enthusiasts. Still, as several cities in India began holding Gay Pride celebrations recently, Mysore is also drawing increased interest from gays and lesbians, especially those with a spiritual bent. GlobalGayz has this gallery on Mysore, and Mysore is on the itinerary of a tour offered by Indjapink, a gay tour operator (Mumbai, another city on the Times list is also visited on these tours).
Copenhagen: Host of the World Outgames last year and one of Europe’s most progressive, attractive, and gay-welcoming cities, Copenhagen is without question one of the best GLBT destinations on the list. Resources abound, including Copenhagen Gay Life’s directory and the Patroc Gay Guide to Copenhagen.
Koh Kood: Included on the Times list as Thailand’s "emerging new luxury outpost", this lush and remote island doesn’t yet have much in the way of gay-specific accommodations. But you can bet that as the tourism infrastructure here continues to develop, so too will its GLBT popularity. Overall, Thailand is the most gay-friendly country in Asia, and you’ll find tons of information on other parts of the country at Utopia Asia.
Damascus: Not surprisingly, given Syria’s mostly Sunni Muslim population, Damascus is without a visible gay scene. That being said, there is reportedly a discreet but perhaps unexpectedly large GLBT community, with much of whatever scene there is concentrated upon the Al Jadid Hammam (a famous public bath). GlobalGayz provides a fascinating perspective on gay life in Syria, and Michael Luongo’s book Gay Travels in the Muslim World is an excellent resource on the Middle East in general, in the words of gays and lesbians.
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February 09, 2010 – USA Today
Outspoken gay activist called back to active Army duty
Lt. Dan Choi, an openly gay Iraq veteran who has been an outspoken opponent of the U.S. military’s "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy, has been called back to active duty, The Advocate reports. Last year, an Army National Guard committee had recommended that Choi, an Arabic translator, be discharged under the "don’t ask" policy after he said on The Rachel Maddow Show that he is gay.
The West Point graduate has been in limbo ever since awaiting final action from the military. The Advocate says that after he was called up this weekend, he joined his unit on active duty in Pennsylvania. The move comes one week after the nation’s two top Defense officials, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, called for an end to the 16-year-old "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy.
February 12, 2010 – The New York Times
Gay Guardsman Has Returned to Drills With His Unit
by Elisabeth Bumiller
Washington — In a sign that the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy may be weakening under pressure from the White House and the Pentagon’s top leadership, Lt. Dan Choi, who is facing discharge from the New York Army National Guard because he publicly announced that he was gay, took part in a drill last weekend with his Guard unit at what he said was the encouragement of his commander.
In a telephone interview on Thursday, Lieutenant Choi said that his commander was “totally supportive” and had asked him to participate in a weekend drill with his unit, the First Battalion, 69th Infantry Regiment, in Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa., near Harrisburg. The unit is facing possible deployment to Afghanistan in 2012.
Lieutenant Choi was never discharged from the New York Guard, but since April had not been in drills with his unit as he grew increasingly busy lobbying for an end to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law. He instead went to substitute drills, as the Guard allows. In many cases, he said, a substitute drill consisted of administrative work at the 69th Regiment’s armory at Lexington Avenue and 26th Street in Manhattan. He said Thursday that he was nervous about returning to drills with the unit because his case had become so public. “I’m more out, I think, than anybody,” he said.
Lieutenant Choi’s commander, identified by the New York Guard as Lt. Col. John Andonie, declined to be interviewed. But a spokesman for the New York Guard confirmed that Lieutenant Choi had participated in the drill and would remain with the unit until he was formally discharged — when, and if, that happens.
“We do not have an issue with it,” said the spokesman, Lt. Col. Paul Fanning, speaking of Lieutenant Choi’s announcement that he was gay. “It’s a deeply personal thing. To us a soldier is a soldier is a soldier.”
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, echoing a 2008 campaign pledge by President Obama, called this month for an end to the 16-year-old law, which forbids openly gay men and women from serving in the armed forces. Repeal of the law requires an act of Congress, but both Mr. Gates and Admiral Mullen have said they do not expect legislation any time soon. In the interim, Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the Armed Services Committee, has said he might introduce an amendment to this year’s defense authorization bill that would call for a moratorium on discharges under the existing law.
Lieutenant Choi, 28, a West Point graduate and Arabic linguist, served with the 10th Mountain Division as an Army infantry officer in Iraq in 2006 and 2007. He was a member of the New York Guard when he announced last March to Rachel Maddow on MSNBC that he was gay. Because of his public declaration, Lieutenant Choi was recommended for discharge at a hearing in June. That decision is now pending final approval by the Pentagon.
Last month, Lieutenant Choi said, he received an e-mail message from his commander, Colonel Andonie, saying that the unit was preparing for a possible deployment and that it would be helpful if he trained with the unit. Lieutenant Choi said he met in late January with Colonel Andonie, who “just wanted to remind me that there were people in the unit waiting for me to come back.” Lieutenant Choi said he enjoyed last weekend’s drill — “shooting my rifle for the first time in a long while was good” — and that he expected to march next month with his unit along Fifth Avenue in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which for years barred gay men and lesbians.
February 26, 2010 – "Svyatoslav Sementsov"
Belarusian spoke at the LGBT Immigration Forum in Washington, DC
Viachaslau (Slava) Bortnik, Belarusian LGBT activist and a member of a binational gay couple spoke along with Congressmen Jerry Nadler (D-NY-8) and Mike Honda (D-CA-15) at a Q Street luncheon on LGBT immigration on February 25 in Washington, DC. The event was moderated by Julie Kruse of Immigration Equality.Q Street is an association of over 300 LGBT lobbyists and advocates for LGBT rights that hosts quarterly speakers’ luncheons and other events. Slava, Belarusian LGBT activist who is a member of a binational couple, spoke movingly of his and his partner’s herculean efforts to be together despite discriminatory immigration laws in both the U.S. and his home country.
"It really does make a difference when binational families speak publicly. And doing so in front of not only Members of Congress, but also well-connected lobbyists in Washington, only makes the impact that much more prominent," said Steve Ralls of Immigration Equality. Congressmen Nadler and Honda, who rushed to the event between votes on capitol hill, spoke movingly of the plight of binational gay and lesbian families and the legislation that they are lead sponsors of, the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) and the Reuniting Families Act (RFA) respectively, which would end immigration discrimination against these families.
Rep. Nadler spoke of introducing the first iteration of UAFA ten years ago on Valentine’s Day of 2000, when he heard the plight of binational gay and lesbian partners who cannot stay together because immigration law does not allow them to. He said that he is against the “gratuitous cruelty” of current immigration law. Sometimes, he explained, governments are forced to do cruel things, but we should never have laws that are cruel for no purpose.
Rep. Honda spoke of the historic exclusion of specific groups from immigration benefits and said that we must end that kind of treatment of any group of people. He said that once his constituent Judy Rickard pointed out the unfairness of immigration law for LGBT families at a town hall event he hosted in San Jose, CA, he felt he had no choice but to include UAFA in his family immigration bill.
Reps. Nadler and Honda both urged attendees to reach out to members of Congress who have not yet cosponsored UAFA and RFA and to continue telling stories to educate their representatives. Honda also urged the LGBT community to stand behind immigration reform for all groups, citing the alliances Asian Americans have created with other groups including Latinos, Caribbean and Irish immigrants, and other groups to move immigration reform forward.
Both members of Congress expressed optimism that their efforts to ensure inclusion of LGBT families in comprehensive immigration reform would be successful. The event was hosted by the American Council of Life Insurers at their DC offices across the street from the U.S. Capitol grounds.
On photo: Rep. Mike Honda, Immigration Equality’s Julie Kruse, and Viachaslau Bortnik, a member of a binational couple, at Q Street event
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March 02, 2010 – The Los Angeles Times
California Assembly swears in its first gay speaker – John A. Pérez takes the oath in an untraditional ceremony. His priorities include restoring simple majority rule on budget issues and barring lobbyists from texting legislators during floor debate
by Jack Dolan and Patrick McGreevy
Reporting from Sacramento — There were rubber ducks on legislators’ desks and a chorus belting out a Broadway show tune as John A. Pérez was sworn in as the new speaker of the California Assembly on Monday.
It was an untraditional ceremony for an unprecedented occasion: The Los Angeles Democrat and former labor leader, who was elected to the post during his first year as a lawmaker, is the first openly gay legislator to win a leadership role in the Legislature.
March 3, 2010 – PinkNews
Gay couples in DC begin applying to marry
by Jessica Geen
Gay couples in Washington DC were expected to descend on the city hall today to apply for marriage licences after a same-sex marriage law came into power. The law was signed by DC mayor Adrian Fenty in November and has passed a congressional review. The district follows five other states in allowing gay couples the right to marry.
Officials at the city hall prepared for the change by making marriage applications gender-neutral and registrars have been given new advice on officiating ceremonies. Couple will not be able to marry until March 9th, due to a mandatory waiting period. Opponents had attempted a last-minute appeal to block the law but this was declined by the US Supreme Court yesterday.
Chief Justice John Roberts did not address the legal issues involved but instead said that such decisions should be taken by local courts. He also declined a request for a referendum on gay marriage. Religious and ‘family’ groups are expected to continue their efforts to repeal the law.
March 4, 2010 – San Francisco Bay News
Long-Term Non-Monogamous Male Couples
by Tom Moon, MFT
Blake Spears and Lanz Lowen have been together for over 34 years. They told me that they still have great sex, contradicting the common belief that sexual interest inevitably wanes in a long-term relationship. How do they do it? “One reason,” Lanz said, “is that we’ve been in an open relationship from the very beginning. If we hadn’t been open, we wouldn’t have been able to grow individually or as a couple.” But, they write, this was a journey they took “without a roadmap…Information about how couples navigate this terrain is surprisingly lacking. We were curious about the experience of others and assumed many long-term couples might offer valuable perspectives and hard-earned lessons.” So, a few years back, they decided to use their combined training and experience in research and psychology to do an independent, in-depth study of other long-term open gay male relationships.
They hoped to provide the community with an accurate picture of what non-monogamy actually looks like in the lives of gay men. Their study has now been completed. It’s an intimate look into the lives of 86 couples who have each been together for a minimum of 8 years, and it can be accessed here.
This study is a fascinating read because the authors largely avoid speculation and let the participants speak for themselves. One finding that fascinated me was the many varieties of “openness” that the couples practiced. Some only played together, some only separately, and some did both. Some only allowed anonymous outside encounters, while others allowed “friends with benefits” and still others built polyamorous families with multiple partners. Some (about ten percent) had no rules at all governing outside sex, while at the other end of the spectrum others created detailed ground rules and contracts. Every imaginable kind of “openness” seemed to work for someone.
The study includes a summary of previous research on non-monogamy, in which the authors report that “Most research shows that approximately two-thirds of long-term male couples who have been together for five years or more are honestly non-monogamous,” and that “Multiple studies have found no differences in relationship quality or satisfaction between samples of sexually exclusive and non-exclusive male couples.” Despite those findings, they had a hard time recruiting participants. They had no trouble finding non-monogamous couples, but relatively few who wanted to talk about it. One man who chose to participate said “Having an open relationship feels like a funny way of being in the closet again. Family and friends expect that we’re monogamous, and we don’t tell them we’re not. It’s like a secret….In our community and society, it feels like something huge isn’t being talked about or studied or understood.”
It’s no wonder. Non-monogamous relationships may be common in our community, but I still frequently hear gay men criticize them as pathological, immature, and destructive. I’m sometimes confidently assured, as if it’s self-evident, that open relationships are less healthy, loving, responsible, or honest than monogamous relationships; that if you’re having outside sex, something must be wrong with the love or the communication in your partnership; that outside sex causes you to lose your focus on one another other; and that once you “start straying” it’s “the beginning of the end.”
Blake and Lanz came to different conclusions. While they concede that “…we had a study population skewed towards the positive,” they believe their work shows that “… it is reasonable to conclude that non-monogamy for gay male couples is a viable option. When partners find enough common ground in their inclinations and perspectives toward non-monogamy, sanctioned outside sex is a sustainable and satisfying possibility. If a couple is willing to be forthright and to problem-solve as needed, non-monogamy isn’t by nature de-stabilizing. In fact, the results of this study would suggest the opposite – many study couples said non-monogamy enabled them to stay together. The average length of relationship for interviewed couples was 16 years – double our minimum requirement. Given the difficulties we had in recruiting participants, this figure suggests a positive correlation between longevity and non-monogamy. At a minimum, it destroys the myth that opening the relationship is the ‘beginning of the end’. “
On the other hand “…for most couples, there was a price of admission. Non-monogamy came with risks and required maintenance.” Most participants found that making it work required “clarifying values and making certain they are mutual; appreciating and accommodating differences; holding steadfast to agreements and a commitment to honesty; growing greater capacity to process and manage their own emotional reactions; learning to voice their desires, concerns, and uncomfortable feelings; becoming increasingly vulnerable, trusting, forgiving, generous; partnering to constructively problem-solve and find resolution for unforeseen and possibly highly charged issues.”
Wow! That’s a tall order. As I read this, it occurred to me that this may help explain why non-monogamy gets a bad rap from some gay men. Too many men go into open relationships expecting that it will be a lot easier than monogamy, providing them, more or less effortlessly, with “the best of both worlds.” That may be one of the most important myths this study destroys. It provides a much-needed dose of realism: successful open relationships require commitment, patience, and hard work.
Tom Moon is a psychotherapist in San Francisco. His website.
2010 March 5 – PubMed.gov
Internet Use and Sexual Health of Young Men Who Have Sex with Men: A Mixed-Methods Study.
by Mustanski B, Lyons T, Garcia SC.
Department of Psychiatry, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA, email@example.com.
Young gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) experience sexual health disparities due to a lack of support in settings that traditionally promote positive youth development. The Internet may help to fill this void, but little is known about how it is used for sexual health purposes among young MSM. This mixed-methods study reports quantitative results of a large survey of 18- to 24-year-old MSM in an HIV testing clinic (N = 329) as well as qualitative results from interviews. Level of Internet use was high in this sample and the majority of participants reported using the Internet to find HIV/AIDS information.
Black and Latino youth used the Internet less frequently than White youth, and after controlling for age, education, and frequency of Internet use, Black youth were 70% less likely to use the Internet to find HIV/AIDS information. Qualitative analyses identified themes related to the role of the Internet in finding sexual health information, sexual minority identity development, and sexual risk taking behaviors. Participants reported that the Internet filled an important and unmet need for sexual health education.
It allowed for connections to the gay community and support during the coming out process, but also exposure to homophobic messages. There was no evidence of increased risk behaviors with partners met online, but at the same time the potential for the use of the Internet to facilitate safer sex communication was largely untapped. Our findings generally present an optimistic picture about the role of the Internet in the development of sexual health among young MSM.
March 8, 2010 – Campus Progress
Gay, Young, and Homeless
Though all homelessness is troubling, the problem’s disproportionate effect on LGBT young people of color is especially worrisome.
by Lisa Gillespie
Nico Quintana never considered himself homeless, but he felt that way for a long time. At 13, Nico came out as gay to his low-income Latino family, which made things worse in an already abusive household. Two turbulent years later, he left his Oregon home for good. "It wasn’t safe," he says. Looking back, Nico, now 26, living in Washington, D.C., and identifying as transgender, says his sophomore year of high school was the worst; he lived out of his locker and had a hard time finding reliable shelter, often staying at coffee shops late into the night. “I was cold at certain times,” he remembers. “I was always thinking about where I was going to sleep and how I was going to get food. I shouldn’t have gone through that.”
Despite his hardships, Nico graduated high school and matriculated at Smith College, eventually landing a fellowship with the Center for American Progress’ Poverty and Prosperity team. It was during his fellowship at CAP—while researching LGBT poverty issues—that he wrote a comprehensive policy report on LGBT youth homelessness. In the United States there are between 1.6 and 2.8 million homeless youth, and approximately 320,000 to 800,000 of them identify as LGBT. Because LGBT young people comprise only between five and 10 percent of the overall population, their community is drastically overrepresented in the homeless community.
Nico, who finished his fellowship last summer, first realized how rare his adolescence was when he went to college, “I had to make a huge adjustment to comforts,” he says. “There were kids around me that had shelter their entire lives. I already felt like a grown-up.” He says his most welcome adjustment was planned meals: “It was quite a lovely experience to not worry about where I was getting food from.” Nico says the reasons for his homelessness were largely institutional. For years he kept his residential status a secret from teachers and authority figures fearing he would end up in foster care, a fate his friends told him could be little better than not having a home at all.
One 1994 study found that 78 percent of LGBT youth were either removed from or ran away from their foster care placements due to conflict and discrimination related to their sexual identity. Additionally, a 2006 study found that approximately 64 percent of the more than 400 homeless youth in San Diego had a history of foster care. Andrew Barnett, executive director of Washington, D.C.’s Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (SMYAL), says many parents are now bringing their children to his organization for counseling after they come out. Nevertheless, some are still getting by in foster care, transitional housing, or by couch surfing. As strange as it sounds, Barnett says life on the streets is sometimes preferable to public housing solutions.
“At a lot of the youth shelters—even if they have a commitment for safe spaces—kids are put into big dorm style rooms with other youth,” he says. “And very often, transgender youth are assigned by their birth sex and not their chosen identity, which can be really dangerous.” According to a 2002 study of homeless youth in out-of-home placements, 78 percent of youth clients and 88 percent of professional staff stated that LGBT youth were not safe in group-home environments. Barnett adds that, on occasion, even the staffs at shelters can be harmful: “I’ve heard of instances of staff saying things [like], ‘If I were your parents, I’d kick you out too.’”
Nationwide, homeless gay and lesbian young people are disproportionally minorities. According to a 2008 study of homeless youth in New York City, a full three quarters were people of color, with African Americans making up 45 percent and Latinos making up 24 percent. Similarly, the SMYAL serves mostly black youth from D.C. wards 7 and 8, the poorest in the District. In Ward 8—the poorer of the two—36 percent of families lived below the poverty line in 2000, along with 47 percent of the children.
“I have a sense that sometimes there is a perception that minority communities are not as accepting,” Barnett says. “But, it comes down to access to resources, resources that make it easier for [families] to work through a child’s coming out. If they have fewer resources, sometimes they do not have as much education.” Nico believes the racial disparity seen in young LGBT homeless communities stems from structural discrimination. “I come from a low-income Latino family and a lot of things correlated: poverty and inacceptance,” he says.
The consequences of homelessness on LGBT youth—and many other homeless communities—range from poor health to mental illness to substance abuse to suicide. Nico attributes his survival to a weekly internship he started that allowed him to alleviate stresses by working on Latino justice issues and local activism, giving back to his community despite being alienated himself. “I was lucky that I ended up where I am now,” he says, “and that’s largely due to having that opportunity to put all my anger and frustration into something that was larger than myself. I was lucky that I got this organization that hired me and gave me my voice.” But he adds, “My future should not have been based on luck.”
Lisa Gillespie is a staff writer for Campus Progress. She is the interim editor-in-chief of Street Sense, a newspaper written and sold by the homeless.
March 10, 2010 – PinkNews
Washington Post defends photo of gay kiss
by Jessica Geen
The Washington Post‘s internal ombudsman has unequivocally defended the newspaper’s decision to carry a front-page photo of a gay couple kissing. The newspaper printed the image last week on the first day gay couples in the district were able to apply for marriage licences. Couple Jeremy Ames and Taka Ariga are shown sharing a peck on the lips outside the DC Superior Court. But Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander said that he had received complaints from readers over the last week.
He wrote: "A few of the readers have engaged in rants, often with anti-gay slurs. One called me to complain about ‘promoting a faggot lifestyle’. Another complained about the photo in an email to the two Post reporters who wrote Thursday’s story about the licences: ‘That kind of stuff makes normal people want to throw up’."
At least 27 people cancelled their subscriptions over the front-page photo, Mr Alexander added. Others said the image should not have been on the front page and one wrote that it should not have been shown "where my kids can see it easily on the kitchen table".
After listing some of the complaints, Mr Alexander wrote: "Did the Post go too far? Of course not. The photo deserved to be in newspaper and on its website, and it warranted front-page display. News photos capture reality. And the prominent display reflects the historic significance of what was occurring. The recent DC Council decision to approve same-sex marriage was the culmination of a decades-long gay rights fight for equality."
March 15, 2010 – AP
Gay seniors come out late, start second lifetime
by Matt Sedensky, AP
Miami – On his 75th birthday, Bill Farthing decided to be reborn. In the six years since he’d buried his wife of 45 years, he’d felt as he did long before: Lonesome, different, outcast. He wondered if he was going crazy; he contemplated suicide. Looking back, the clues leading to this day had been scattered throughout his life, but only made sense just now. So Farthing dressed in the most basic of blue wool skirt suits he could find on the Internet, with a white blouse and low-heeled, open-toed white shoes, and went shopping. Arms loaded with skirts and blouses from the clearance rack, Farthing approached the checkout.
"Did you find everything you wanted, ma’am?" the cashier asked. Farthing looked over his shoulder, then realized she was talking to him. He had pulled it off. He had become a she.
Increased awareness and acceptance of varied sexualities and gender identities has led Americans to come out far younger, as early as middle school. A less noticed but parallel shift is happening at the other end of the age spectrum, with people in their 60s, 70s and 80s coming to terms with the truth that they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. While no one tracks the numbers of the elderly who come out, those who work with older adults say the trend is undeniable, and a resulting network of support groups and services has cropped up.
The decision can fracture lifelong relationships. Or it can bring the long-sought relief of an unloaded secret. "For the first time in my life, I’m not putting on a show," said Farthing, who eventually had sexual reassignment surgery and changed her first name to Chrissie. "It seems like I’ve been out on a cloud all my life and now I’m not. I’m me."
Outing yourself late in life can be complicated after having lived through times when being openly gay could get you arrested, put in an institution and given shock treatments. It’s snarled in a lifetime of trudging along through society’s view of normalcy and the resulting fear of being ostracized by children and grandchildren. And it’s marked by a nagging doubt that all the heartache, all the potential for it to go wrong, may not be worth it with one’s years numbered.
"When somebody comes out at the age of 20, they have their whole life ahead of them," said Karen Taylor, the director of training and advocacy for SAGE, a national group that works with LGBT seniors. "There’s a real sense of regret and loss for somebody who comes out later in life, even when talking to them and they say the decision was the right one."
Still, many seniors have felt empowered by the growing presence of gays and lesbians in pop culture and some high-profile, late-in-life outings. Among the most notable, "Family Ties" star Meredith Baxter came out in December at 62; Richard Chamberlain, long the target of rumors, came out in 2003 at 69, decades after the height of his career as a TV heartthrob.
March 25, 2010 – PinkNews
US defence secretary makes it harder for military to kick gays out
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
US defence secretary Robert Gates announced changes today to ease the law on firing gay soldiers. Mr Gates said anonymous complaints about soldiers’ sexuality will no longer be regarded and discharges of those outed by third parties will be curbed. He also said that the bar of evidence required for discharge under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will be raised and more senior officers will examine cases.
The measures, which are effective immediately, are an interim step while a review of the 1993 policy is carried out. Mr Gates has rejected calls to suspend firings completely while the review is underway. Instead, he said that the stopgap changes were about "common sense" and "common decency". An estimated 13,000 soldiers have been fired since the law came into effect in 1993.
US president Barack Obama promised to repeal it in his 2008 election campaign and surveys show that support for out gay soldiers is steadily rising among the public. Some military leaders oppose lifting the ban and say it will harm morale and recruitment, especially in the middle of two wars.
March 25, 2010 – PinkNews
Gay student kicked out by parents over prom date
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
A gay student who persuaded his school to allow him to take his boyfriend to prom has been kicked out by his parents. Derrick Martin, 18, a student at Bleckley County High, in Georgia, US, was initially told he could not attend the April 17th event with a male date but school officials relented after he challenged them. However, he told the Macon Telegraph that he was now staying with a friend because the media attention around his story had led his parents to tell him to leave home.
Mr Martin said he had been inspired by the case of Constance McMillen, a Mississippi student whose school cancelled prom rather than let her attend with a female date. This week, a court ruled that her rights had been violated. All students at Bleckley County High must ask permission to bring dates who do not attend the school. Mr Martin successfully argued that the only policy on prom dates was that they must be aged under 21.
The media attention around his story has inspired supporters to offer to pay for tuxedos, dinner and even a limo ride for the couple. Mr Martin told the newspaper: “I appreciate it. I was speechless that they said they would buy me dinner or buy me a tux in case someone messed mine up.” He added that he hoped his success would lead to other gay couples going to prom. He said: “Maybe [other gay students] will think if Bleckley County will let them, maybe my school will."
A school official confirmed this was the first time a gay couple have asked to attend prom together.
April 3, 2010 – Trib Live News
Documentary on small-town gay life hits home
by Renatta Signorini, Leader Times
A typical night with friends easily could turn into a gay-bashing session with Brian Bish as the target. He recalled one night being followed to his Walkchalk home by a group of baseball bat-wielding men in a pickup. "They were screaming homophobic slurs," he said. The message in a documentary shown Thursday night at the Kittanning Public Library resonated with Bish. He remembers abuse from county residents while living in Walkchalk as a gay young adult in the 1990s. "It’s such a perfect image of what everything felt like," Bish said.
"Out in the Silence," created by partners Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer, addresses the struggles of gay or lesbian people in rural areas and small towns, based on interviews in Wilson’s hometown of Oil City in Venango County. A crowd of about 30 people attended the library’s screening and some spoke of their own battles with local residents who do not agree with the lifestyles of people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and/or transgender (GLBT).
Bish was not able to attend the screening, but watched it Thursday night twice, once with his partner of nine years. They live in Connecticut. "It really made it real to see real people in a small town" going through similar situations as what he faced in Armstrong County, he said. Bish’s niece, Sheena Van Dyke of Natrona Heights, attended the screening Thursday night and was the first to offer comments in a question-and-answer session with the filmmakers. She thanked them for creating the film and said she hopes it will change minds of those who discriminate against someone based on their sexual orientation.
"Because I saw what (Bish) went through and I don’t know what I would’ve done if I had lost him due to people’s ignorance," Van Dyke said. Bish left the county for Connecticut in 1997 when he was in his early 20s, partly because he wanted to live in a more accepting community. "I wanted to be somewhere where I wasn’t known as the town queer," Bish said.
By then, he had come out to family and friends over the course of several years after realizing it himself at age 19 when he was in college at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. The first person he told was his mother, Bish remembered. "I’m so fortunate to have my family’s support," Bish said. "Out in the Silence" follows a gay teen in Oil City — among other characters in the town — who had to leave high school because of the harassment he received from classmates. Though Bish wasn’t directly targeted in high school or college, he was when visiting at home on weekends and by a former employer after he told others of his sexual preference.
"It just kind of adds to the fear of coming out," he said. Bish tried to shield his supportive family from the harassment he said he received. "I didn’t want them to go through what I was going through," he said. As far as advice for others living in a rural community, Bish suggested finding close family and friends to provide support and reach out to organizations willing to help. He is a member of the board of directors for The Trevor Project, a 24-hour crisis and helpline for teens who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or questioning their sexuality.
Though he moved away from Walkchalk, Bish said, "You don’t need to leave to be OK." Some people who attended Thursday night’s screening spoke of harassment they’ve been the victim of or have witnessed. Bish said there are more gay or lesbian people in Armstrong County than many would think and threats thrown around by community members can be hurtful. "It was a nightmare," he recalled. "It creates that environment of fear."
April 17, 2010 – The Washington Post
Those who have been there praise Obama’s mandate on gay visitation rights
by Darryl Fears and Lena H. Sun, Washington Post Staff Writers
Kate Fleming was dying. But her partner, Charlene Strong, couldn’t get to her. A social worker at a Seattle hospital barred Strong from the room because she wasn’t a blood relative, she said. Strong said it took 20 minutes to locate a relative on the phone. "A minute felt like a hundred hours," she recalled. Hours after she entered, Fleming was removed from life support.
"I was horrified. I thought it was so wrong," Fleming’s mother, Audrey, said Friday from her home in Alexandria. Her daughter died in December 2006 after nearly drowning. Strong and Fleming praised President Obama’s mandate to give hospital visitation rights to domestic partners. Strong and Kate Fleming were nearly inseparable for 10 years. They exchanged vows in a commitment ceremony at Audrey Fleming’s house in Alexandria in July 1998. They were in their Seattle home when a flash flood trapped Kate Fleming in the basement.
Susan Gregg-Hanson, a spokeswoman for Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, said Fleming and Strong were mistaken. The hospital’s policy was to treat everyone the same and allow loved ones to visit patients in trauma. Strong could enter the room, she said, but she did not have a family member’s power to make life-and-death decisions for Fleming. But Strong said she was barred from doing anything. She produced an award-winning documentary, "For My Wife," advocating domestic partnership rights in hospital visitation. When she learned of Obama’s decision Thursday night, "I could not stop crying," she said.
In Baltimore, Lisa Polyak also applauded Obama’s decision. Eleven years ago, Polyak said, her partner, Gita Deane, was delivering their baby at Union Memorial Hospital. But Polyak said the anesthesiologist told her to leave and that if she did not, Deane would not get anesthesia for pain relief. Even though Polyak had medical power of attorney, she felt she could not argue with the doctor. "Having the right document doesn’t mean anything in a crisis."
A hospital spokeswoman confirmed the birth but said she was unable to reach anyone who recalled the incident. "That said, I cannot underscore more emphatically, how the incident as described, counters the genuinely caring culture of Union Memorial Hospital," Debra Schindler said in a statement. "I can assure you it was not, and is not, an acceptable practice."
April 29, 2010 – blogs.alternet.org
NY LGBT Center Launches Handbook for Immigrants – After five years in the making, handbook now more relevant than ever.
by Antoine Craigwell
Just as the heat erupted in Arizona over the controversial new immigrant law, the social action group of the New York Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Community Center on Tuesday, Apr 20, launched the first ever handbook for LGBT immigrants arriving in the U.S. For many LGBT immigrants who fled persecution from their home countries to come to the U.S. for refuge, many are again reduced to living in fear, anxiety, and uncertainty, and the launching of the handbook, at the second annual immigrant fair and show, was right on time.
Handbook for LGBT immigrants
As a resource specifically for LGBT immigrants, director of the LGBT immigrant support group, George Fesser, MSW, in an email response said, “I have been wanting to produce this kind of manual for over five years. In my previous job, the focus of the agency was HIV prevention, so it was a hard sell. At the Center however, I was encouraged to find community partners that would collaborate and help us make this book a reality. Over my years of work with the LGBT immigrant community, individuals have always commented that they wish they could have had access to information that would have avoided them making so many mistakes and trusting the wrong people when it came to their personal immigration issues. With the feedback of over 400 LGBT immigrants, this book was formatted to answer several basic questions about what to do. “
The organizers of the handbook project waited for the specific legislation surrounding the HIV travel ban to become official before going to print. The green and white covered handbook, “Welcome Guide for LGBT Immigrants” boasts on its cover samples of welcome in at least 16 different languages and lists those who assisted in sponsoring and producing it, including, AIDforAIDS, AIDS Center of Queens County, The Center, GMHC, Latino Commission on AIDS, Immigration Equality, and Housing Works. The 12-page handbook is divided at the center page by a listing of agencies as resources across the New York tri-state region, and with one six-page half in English and the other in Spanish.
Guia del Immigrante LGBT
Along with an introduction and a welcome, the handbook concisely lists and addresses nine areas of concern for LGBT immigrants, such as understanding rental laws, landlord, and tenant rights, and laws against discrimination, “how do I find a place to live?” It makes references to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, and low wages, for those who are concerned about being able to work, “what are my rights as a worker?” With an excerpt from Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Executive Order 41, which protects all New York City residents, the handbook outlines for LGBT people how to access city-based services and the agencies to obtain help. It also addresses the needs of HIV positive LGBT immigrants, with reference to the U.S. government’s end on the travel ban for HIV positive people entering the country, which took effect on Jan 4, 2010, benefits available to HIV positive LGBT people, and dealt with issues affecting the transgender community, “I am a transgender immigrant. What about me?” Additionally, the handbook suggests to LGBT immigrants how to find a good immigration attorney, knowing about filing for asylum, and how to access free or low cost legal services.
“If you read the book, you will see the logic. On the cover of the book, are all the agencies that collaborated information according to their particular expertise on the subject. It is our hope that with the possibility of new immigration reform, this book will soon become obsolete, and that we will have to create a second edition,” said Fesser.
Fesser said that a plan is in the works to post a copy of the handbook on the Center’s Website, but because of the nature of the material, where translations into other languages have to be officially certified, and with an approximate cost of $1,500 for each translation, there is some uncertainty about being able to achieve this goal. “It took too long to make it happen, but we finally did,” Fesser said of the handbook. As a small number of handbooks were printed, Fesser said, and out of those copies remaining, photocopies would be made, so that anyone wishing a copy could get it from the Center.
Update: At a news conference held on Thursday, Apr 29, on the lawn of the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix, four groups: the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Arizona, and the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) announced legal challenges to the immigration law signed last Saturday by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. According to a press release posted on the NILC Website, the new law requires law enforcement officers to question people about their immigration status during everyday police encounters and criminalizes immigrants for failing to carry their “papers.” The unconstitutional law, the groups say, encourages racial profiling, endangers public safety, and betrays American values.