Gay USA News & Reports 2011 Aug-Dec

1 Monogamish 8/11

2 Crimes against LGBT community are up 8/11

3 American Indian tribe approves gay marriage 8/11

3a HIV Epidemic Fastest Among Black Gay and Bisexual Men 8/11

4 APA calls for legalization of same-sex marriage 8/11

5 San Francisco married gay couple lose immigration case 8/11

6 ACLU Sues School System for Censoring Gay Advocacy Websites 8/11

7 Bishop Gene Robinson: God celebrates gay people 8/11

8 Hope For Gay Bi-National Couples 8/11

9 The little tribe that could 8/11

10 Tragic Consequences of Being an Anonymous Minority Statistic 8/11

11 AIDS in America: By the numbers 8/11

12 Gay priest was 9/11’s first recorded casualty 8/11

12a How the Denver Principles changed AIDS forever 9/11

13 Gay Military Ban DADT Ends 9/11

14 Navy officer weds partner as gay ban ends 9/11

15 Celebrating gay sex 9/11

16 Homophobic Bullying Takes Another Teen Life 9/11

17 Book review:Gay in America Portraits by Scott Pasfield 9/11

17a New Book Explores Latino Gay Activists 10/11

18 Paula Ettelbrick Dies at 56 10/11

19 Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic Secures Asylum… 10/11

20 Robinson Becomes First Openly Gay Vermont SC Justice 11/11

August 2011 –

– We often protest when homophobes insist that same sex marriage will change marriage for straight people too. But in some ways, they’re right. Here’s how gay relationships will change the institution—but for the better.

by Ari Karpel
When birth control pills were making Megan’s sex drive almost nonexistent, she told her boyfriend, Colin, what many gay men in a similar position might say to theirs: “If you want to have sex, feel free to sleep with someone else; just don’t tell me about it.”
Last year, after six years together and a year and a half of marriage, Colin’s chronic back pain was making sex less than fun. So he returned the favor: “Sleep around all you want,” he said. “Just don’t do anything stupid, and don’t tell me about it.”

That’s how Megan, now 25, and Colin, 26, college sweethearts who live in Minneapolis, came to fashion a committed, nonmonogamous marriage. They don’t flaunt their unconventional lifestyle (they requested that their last name not be used), but they are hardly alone. By designing a relationship that doesn’t fit a typical married couple, Megan and Colin have joined a small but growing number of straight couples who are looking to gay male relationships as the model for long-term, nonmonogamous unions.

Anti-equality right-wingers have long insisted that allowing gays to marry will destroy the sanctity of “traditional marriage,” and, of course, the logical, liberal party-line response has long been “No, it won’t.” But what if—for once—the sanctimonious crazies are right? Could the gay male tradition of open relationships actually alter marriage as we know it? And would that be such a bad thing? With divorce rates at an all-time high and news reports full of famous marriages crumbling at the hand of flagrant infidelities (see: Schwarzenegger, Arnold), perhaps now is the perfect time for the gays to conduct a little marriage makeover.

(POLL: Should "monogamish" couples become more widely accepted among straights? Vote on Facebook)

Welcome to Queer (Roving) Eye for the Monogamous Straight Couple Lie, brought to you in part by writer Dan Savage, who coined the term monogamish to signify committed relationships in which the partners are, he explains, “mostly monogamous, but there’s a little allowance for the reality of desire for others and a variety of experiences and adventure and possibility.” Monogamish relationships are not about wild promiscuity or even Swingtown-style polyamory, two things the term nonmonogamy connotes. “It suggests a degree of promiscuity that isn’t true for most nonmonogamous gay couples I’ve known,” says Savage, who wants to promote qualities that make for an enduring union. “People primarily want stable, long-lasting partner bonds. They want safety.”

They also want to fuck other people, whether a relationship is open or closed (see: Gingrich, Newt). While many people believe that monogamy is the natural course of relationships, there are plenty of others who do not, and just as many who feel that strict monogamy denies a natural desire for life experience. “If it’s open in a controlled way, then it’s less destructive to a relationship,” preaches Savage, whose podcasts, column, and blog have become a soapbox for his views on relationships. He can count Megan and Colin as devotees. Or at least Megan, who credits Savage with helping her find a framework for the relationship with Colin, who does not agree with all of the columnist’s views. “My husband does think much of his advice is good,” she says, “but when Dan Savage talks about how monogamy is unnatural, my husband gets really angry at him. [That’s when I try to] convince him that he’s a journalist, not a scientist.”

Nevertheless, Savage’s own account of his monogamish relationship (he and his husband, Terry Miller, have been together for 16 years and have a 13-year-old son) fosters a sense of support and community for couples who find little of it elsewhere. When he posted to his blog that The Advocate was seeking monogamish straight couples to interview, more than 25 couples eagerly emailed within 24 hours. And every one of them asked that their last names not be printed.

August 1, 2011 – USA Today

Crimes against LGBT community are up, despite social gains

By Natalie DiBlasio, USA Today
Violent crimes, including murder, increased last year against people identifying themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), and people of color among those groups were most likely to be targeted, an advocacy group reports. A report last month by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, a group that supports victims of anti-LGBT harassment, found:

•Hate incidents against LGBT people and HIV-affected persons increased 13% from 2009 to 2010.

•Murders of LGBT people numbered 27, the second-highest total recorded.

•Half of victims did not report the crimes to police, and 61% of victims who did said they experienced indifferent or abusive police attitudes.

•Offenders were mostly strangers, white and non-transgender men.

This rise is no surprise to Suzanna Walters, professor of gender studies at Indiana University and author of All the Rage: The Story of Gay Visibility in America. Walters says that ongoing homophobia is hidden because of increased visibility of support for the LGBT community, including New York’s legalizing same-sex marriage and the repeal of the military’s "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy. "These positive changes are very real, there is no doubt about it, but the more visible you are as a community the more vulnerable you are, too," she says. "There is a protection in the closet, as awful as that is. Real homophobia with violent outcomes is not a thing of the past and there is much more work to be done."

Nationally, violent crimes are in decline, according to the most recent FBI statistics. Preliminary figures published in May show a 5.5% decrease in the number of violent crimes, including murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault from 2009 to 2010. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 gave the FBI authority to investigate hate crimes involving sexual orientation, says Peter Kaupp, FBI supervisory special agent and hate-crimes program manager.

A look at major cities:
•New York. Incidents happened in popular gay neighborhoods such as Chelsea and the West Village

•Chicago. The Center on Halsted Anti-Violence Project reported 73 incidents, a 12% increase over 2009.

San Francisco. Incidents rose 65% to 213 last year, reports the Community United Against Violence.

Kansas City, Mo. Kansas City Anti-violence Project documented a 52% increase to 31.

Mattie Leyden, 40, was born a man but legally changed her documents to reflect a female identity two years ago. Every day she says she fears becoming a crime statistic. "I’m waiting for it to happen someday," Leyden says.

Contributing: Nicole C. Brambila, The (Palm Springs, Calif.) Desert Sun

3 August 2011 – PinkNews

American Indian tribe approves gay marriage

by Jessica Geen
An American Indian tribe in Washington has become the second in the US to approve gay marriage. On Monday, the Suquamish Tribal Council voted to give marriage rights to gay couples on its Seattle reservation. Washington state does not allow same-sex marriage but it does recognise gay unions from other jurisdictions. The decision makes the tribe the second in the US to grant gay marriage rights, after the Coquille Indian Tribe on the southern Oregon coast.

Lesbian tribal member, 28-year-old Heather Purser, has been campaigning for the tribe to accept gay marriage for the last four years. She moved away to Seattle, where she met her partner, but returned to this year’s annual membership meeting where she asked elders to reconsider the issue. To her surprise, they voted in favour. Speaking to Associated Press. Ms Purser said: “I wanted to feel accepted by my tribe. I was expecting a fight to be ugly. But I was so shocked. I guess I was expecting the worst out of people. I was expecting the worst out of my people.”

Suquamish Tribal chairman Leonard Forsman said the process took “longer than expected” but added that he was “really happy” that equal rights had been granted.

August 4 2011 – ColorLines

HIV Epidemic Growing Fastest Among Black Gay and Bisexual Men

by Kai Wright
Young black gay and bisexual men are the only population in the U.S. in which the pace of HIV’s spread is increasing, according to a startling study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention yesterday.
CDC researchers looked at new infections between 2006 and 2009 and discovered that, as expected, we’re still logging roughly 50,000 new infections overall each year in the U.S. We’ve been at that level for several years. The study also re-confirmed that African Americans are a wildly disproportionate number of those new infections. Blacks accounted for 44 percent of new infections, despite being just about 12 percent of the overall U.S. population in the 2010 Census.

But CDC noted with alarm that, unlike all other subpopulations in the U.S., black gay and bisexual men between the age of 18 and 29 saw a dramatic increase in infections: up by 48 percent in the three-year span of the study.

“We are deeply concerned by the alarming rise in new HIV infections in young, black gay and bisexual men and the continued impact of HIV among young gay and bisexual men of all races,” CDC’s HIV prevention director Jonathan Mermin declared in a statement. “We cannot allow the health of a new generation of gay men to be lost to a preventable disease. It’s time to renew the focus on HIV among gay men and confront the homophobia and stigma that all too often accompany this disease.”

The findings are dramatic, but they are not unexpected. They represent a worsening of a trend epidemiologists have followed for years, since at least the late 1990s. What’s really new is the CDC’s more aggressive and nuanced efforts to track HIV, a development made possible by recent improvements in testing and tracking technologies. Regardless, the concentration of the epidemic around not only black folks, but black gay and bisexual men is in fact alarming and long overdue for meaningful attention from both public health and the overall black community.

“They’re calling this ‘alarming’ but it’s clearly past that point,” said Phill Wilson, director of of the Black AIDS Institute (for which I’ve worked previously as a consultant). Which begs the two perennial questions on HIV: Why is this happening and what can be done about it?

I’ve been reporting on and writing about the black epidemic, and the black gay epidemic specifically, for 15 years. I’ve learned about myriad causes for the striking disparities, ranging from biology to economics. And anybody who offers a singular and certain answer to either of the questions above is deluding themselves, lying to you or both. The difficult reality is that HIV has always exploited the messy, tangled web of our national and global inequities. Where there is poverty, there is HIV. Where there is poor access to health care overall, there is HIV. Where there is sexual shaming, there is HIV. Where people don’t have the economic or emotional resources to protect themselves from a whole host of threats, there is HIV. I could go on in this vein. Suffice to say that young, black gay and bisexual men are among the most economically, emotionally and culturally beat up groups of people in the U.S. They are uniquely at risk for a long list of social ills—hate crime, homelessness, honestly just about any of the things researchers look at when measuring health risks among young people. So of course they are uniquely at risk for HIV, too.

Read article

August 5, 2011 – CNN

Psychological association calls for legalization of same-sex marriage

by Alden Mahler Levine, CNN
(CNN) — The American Psychological Association is calling on state and federal officials to stop anti-gay legal measures and to legalize same-sex marriage.
The scientific and professional organization’s guiding body voted unanimously at its annual meeting this week in Washington to declare its support for "full marriage equality for same-sex couples." The resolution "clarifies the Association’s support for same-sex marriage" in light of new research, the group said. A similar resolution in 2004 opposed discrimination against same-sex relationships, but refrained from a more formal policy recommendation.

Dr. Clinton Anderson, APA associate executive director, said that the timing of the resolution is an indirect result of several states’ legalization of marriage. "We knew that marriage benefits heterosexual people in very significant ways, but we didn’t know if that would be true for same-sex couples," said Anderson, who is also director of the APA’s Office on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns. Now that six U.S. states permit same-sex marriage, researchers have been able to conduct studies with those couples. The research, Anderson said, indicates that marriage "does confer the same sense of security, support, and validation" to same-sex couples as to heterosexual ones.

The resolution also points to evidence that ongoing political debate about marriage creates stress for gay men and lesbians and perpetuates stigmas and prejudice about their communities. This stress can make people physically and psychologically sick, the APA says, calling the link between stress and illness "well established." Maggie Gallagher, chairman of the board of the National Organization for Marriage, takes issue with the assertion that legalizing same-sex marriage would improve community acceptance of homosexuality. "There is no evidence that gay teens are better off in Massachusetts, a state that has gay marriage, than they are in Wisconsin, a state which has passed a marriage amendment defining marriage as one man and one woman," she said in an e-mail response to CNN. Gallagher continued, "The release of this statement is unfortunately going to undermine confidence in APA statements generally, I would predict."

Both the National Organization for Marriage and the APA are skeptical of one solution to the gay-marriage debate: civil unions. Rhode Island NOM executive director Chris Plante is quoted in a press release on the NOM website calling the move "nothing more than a Trojan Horse that will usher in same-sex marriage sooner rather than later." Elsewhere on its website, NOM calls for dealing with legal and economic benefits separately from any discussion of marriage or unions.

The APA also feels that civil unions miss the mark. "Anything other than marriage is, in essence, a stigmatization of same-sex couples. Stigma does have negative impacts on people," Anderson said. "That’s the analysis that we’ve come to and why we’ve decided to support full marriage equality — because domestic partnership or civil union will still convey the message that same-sex couples are not as good."

11 August 2011 – PinkNews

San Francisco married gay couple lose immigration case

by Jessica Geen
A married gay couple in San Francisco who have lived together for nearly 20 years have been told that one must leave the US by August 25th. Bradford Wells and Anthony John Makk married seven years ago in Massachusetts. For most of the last 19 years, they have shared a home in the Castro district. Mr Wells has severe AIDS-related health problems and Mr Makk, an Australian citizen, is his carer. However, Mr Makk has been denied permission to stay in the US because federal law does not recognise their marriage.

The Obama administration denied the application despite the president describing the Defence of Marriage Act – which bars federal recognition of gay marriage – as “abhorrent”. While the administration said last year it would no longer defend the law in court, it is still enforcing it as case level. Officials have said they will exercise discretion on a case-by-case basis. Steve Ralls, a spokesman for Immigration Equality, which is helping the couple, told the San Francisco Chronicle: “We are appealing to the Obama administration to begin to put into action what they’ve said repeatedly they can do.

Mr Makk has no criminal record and says he has never been in the country illegally. “The Department of Homeland Security and ICE have said again and again that they can exercise discretion in individual cases, but they have not done so for a single gay or lesbian couple yet.”

Mr Wells said: “I’m married just like any other married person in this country. At this point, the government can come in and take my husband and deport him. It’s infuriating. It’s upsetting. I have no power, no right to keep my husband in this country. I love this country, I live here, I pay taxes and I have no right to share my home with the person I married.”

August 16, 2011 – Fox News

ACLU Sues Missouri School System for Censoring Gay Advocacy Websites

by Judson Berger
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed suit against a Missouri school district over claims that it is censoring websites devoted to gay and lesbian awareness. The suit was filed Monday in federal court on behalf of four organizations whose sites were blocked by the Camdenton School District’s filters. ACLU says that because the school system is using a filtering program that screens out sites under a "sexuality" category, dozens of legitimate websites dealing with gay and lesbian issues are kept off limits to students. While ACLU officials say the school system is in its right to block pornography and other sexually explicit sites, they say the "sexuality" filter goes too far.

"That has nothing to do with sexually explicit material," Tony Rothert, legal director for the ACLU of Eastern Missouri, told The groups represented by ACLU are Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG); Dignity USA; the Matthew Shepard Foundation; and Campus Pride. The suit is part of a campaign by ACLU to pressure school districts to loosen their filtering software. The ACLU initially approached the district after receiving complaints that it was blocking LGBT websites. In a May letter to the ACLU in Eastern Missouri, the school system confirmed that while it "does not explicitly block" LGBT categories, several gay advocacy sites were blocked under the category of "sexuality."

Superintendent Tim Hadfield wrote at the time that the settings were deemed "acceptable for our general audience within our network of Pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students." The district afterward unblocked a few websites that contained anti-bullying information, but would not overhaul the system or remove the "sexuality" filter, according to the ACLU. Hadfield did not respond to a request for comment from, but told the local that the district will continue to block certain websites.

"We do not specifically filter sites promoting alternative lifestyles. We do specifically block sites that are inappropriate and will continue to do so. We disagree with their position and turned the issue over to our attorney to address," he said. Hadfield also claimed the district does not use the filtering program cited by the ACLU, though Rothert said Camdenton’s software is at least based on it. The ACLU claims that by cutting off access to other sites under the broad "sexuality" category, the filter is censoring material in violation of the First Amendment.

"Part of free speech is the right to reach your intended audience," Rothert said. The ACLU says "hundreds" of other LGBT sites are still blocked and that it doesn’t make sense to have students ask for special permission whenever they want to visit them. In its suit, the ACLU and organizations it represents again asserted that the filtering policies violate free-speech rights. Further, the suit claimed there was "no educational basis" for screening out "LGBT-supportive" materials; the filters could complicate students’ efforts to "complete school assignments regarding current events or social studies;" and the filters could keep LGBT students from visiting the kinds of sites that could help them "with the difficult issues of coming out to family members" and dealing with bullies.

17 August 2011 – PinkNews

Bishop Gene Robinson: God celebrates gay people

by Laurence Watts
His election in 2003 as bishop of New Hampshire for the Episcopal Church threw the Anglican Communion into turmoil. The Christian right talked of fracture. Eight years on however, the Communion remains intact and Gene Robinson continues to be a beacon of hope for the LGBT community. Laurence Watts travelled to New England to talk faith, service and retirement with The Right Reverend Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire.
Conservatives thought it was the end of the world. For the LGBT faith community it provided hope and much needed affirmation. When Gene Robinson was elected Bishop by the diocese of New Hampshire on June 7th 2003 it made headlines the world over. When ratified he would become the world’s first openly gay priest to be ordained as bishop.

“I first felt called to the priesthood late in my college years and went right to seminary out of college,” he tells me. “But it wasn’t until the early 90s that I began to experience God calling me to the episcopate. I resisted for a long time because I knew that it wouldn’t be an easy journey.” After Robinson’s election the right moved quickly and publicly to block his consecration. Although there was some domestic opposition, the majority of noise came from the Anglican Communion’s African churches, which threatened to leave the Communion or somehow cast out the Episcopal Church should he become bishop.

“After my election but before my consecration I was getting calls to step down from archbishops around the world. People I’d never met were calling me. I took that to God and said: “If I’ve done enough and I’m to back off, let me know,” but I never got anything from God other than, ‘Come forward and I will be with you’.” When the votes of the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops and House of Deputies were counted, Robinson had two-thirds majorities in each. He was consecrated in a bulletproof vest in the presence of 48 other bishops on November 2nd 2003. History was made, but opposition remained.

“The first couple of years were full of death threats. They started the very afternoon I was elected. As recently as a year and a half ago the police arrested a man on his way to kill my husband and me. He was coming through a town in Vermont in such a rage that he shot the windows out of a parked police cruiser. He had maps to our house, pictures of us and a sawn-off shotgun.” Robinson has been with his partner, Mark, for almost 25 years. They became married on January 1st 2010 when their civil union converted to marriage under New Hampshire law, the first day such a conversion could occur.

“In many ways I think it’s harder on him than on me,” says Robinson. “I think sometimes it’s easier for the person doing the work because you’re engaged in it. You believe it’s worth dying for if that’s what it takes, though you hope not. It’s harder for your husband to stand by, wondering if something’s going to happen.” Though he’s acutely aware of the drawbacks to being a pioneer I wonder if he’s aware of the good he does. How tangible is that for him? He smiles. “Not a day goes by that I don’t get a letter, email or message from someone, often young people, writing to say what hope this gives them. That I could be doing this. That I could put my faith and my sexuality together. Often they’re writing from places in America that aren’t remotely open and accepting.”

Read article

August 19, 2011 – On Top Magazine

Hope For Gay Bi-National Couples As Obama Relaxes Immigration Policy

by Carlos Santoscoy
The Obama administration on Thursday announced immigration policy changes that could help gay bi-national couples facing the threat of deportation under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Under the new policy, the administration will prioritize deportation cases based on security risk. High-priority cases involve people who have been convicted of crimes.
Factors to be considered include whether the immigrant is married to a U.S. Citizen, the length of lawful stay in the United States, and his or her contributions to the community.

“The prosecutorial discretion memo provides for the use of discretion for people with strong community ties, with community contributions and with family relationships,” an unnamed senior administration official told gay weekly the Washington Blade. “We consider LGBT families to be families in this context,” the official added.

The marriages of gay and lesbian couples are not recognized by immigration officials because DOMA bars it. While the policy changes are not tailored to address the inequity bi-national gay couples face, by recognizing gay couples as families they offer real hope.

Steve Ralls, a spokesman for Immigration Equality, said the guidance sounded like “good news.” “While Immigration Equality has not yet seen the written guidelines that will accompany the changes the agency has announced, our understanding is that the guidance is meant to be LGBT-inclusive,” Ralls told the paper.

August 23, 2011 – Crosscut

The little tribe that could: Inside the Suquamish decision to legalize gay marriage
– Suquamish gay marriage advocate Heather Purser never considered her tribe progressive. That is until she challenged them to stand up for her rights – and they did.

by Heather Purser
In Coastal Indian culture everything worth accomplishing is started by one stubborn person with an idea. And if that idea is good enough and they are persistent, other tribal people will rise to the occasion to support them and see the vision through. The trick, I’ve learned, is to believe in both yourself and your people. Still, my work to gain recognition of same sex marriage within the Suquamish tribe could not have been accomplished without the examples set by other strong leaders in Northwest native culture. These individuals have seen need within their communities and devoted themselves to creating a solution.

One of these is Frank Brown, the driving force behind the modern day canoe journeys. In 1989 the Suquamish tribe, like several others more integrated with non-native culture, didn’t possess even one ocean-going canoe. That is until Brown, a young member of the Bella Bella Nation, challenged a gathering of coastal tribes in Seattle to meet him on his B.C. reservation four years later. The Suquamish people responded to the challenge, sending a handful of youth to Canada to re-learn the craft of hand-carving canoes. Though just one canoe can take several months or years to carve from a single giant cedar tree, four years later 30 hand-carved canoes and 3000 people from around the Northwest made the journey to Bella Bella.

Today the Suquamish are just one of 70 coastal tribes in Washington, Oregon, and Canada that continues Brown’s tradition every year. Each July tribal people travel by canoe to gather and celebrate our culture with ceremonies, songs, and the sharing of food and gifts — a ritual known as Tribal Journeys. It is the largest demonstration of thriving Northwestern Native American culture today and is largely responsible for our dramatic cultural resurgence in the wake of atrocities like the Boarding School era, Indian relocation and the Dawes Act. Thanks to Native American leaders like Brown, I had a blueprint for creating change within my tribe. Still, before I could confront them about recognizing same-sex marriage, I had to learn how to be okay with myself as a gay person. A process that was made much more difficult by the physical and verbal violence I’d endured at the hands of my mother when I came out as a teen.

Luckily, at Western Washington University, where I went to college, the atmosphere towards peoples’ differences was one of encouragement: Students and faculty were not only accepting of differences, they were excited about them. It was the first place I’d really felt safe with my sexuality and free to be myself. Seeing so many people living their lives out in the open made me realize that I could bring the peace I felt home with me to other gay and lesbian members of the Suquamish Tribe.

Read article

August 29, 2011 –

Op-ed: The Tragic Consequences of Being an Anonymous Minority Statistic
– Author Terry Angel Mason says it’s not only the black churches that are to blame for violence against LGBT people of color.

by Terry Angel Mason, op-ed contributor
There are thousands of same-gender-loving people within the congregations of black churches. Because I have ministered from their pulpits for more than 40 years, I am very aware of how these churches’ refusal to address issues such as HIV/AIDS has gravely crippled us. But there are other more commonly overlooked culprits.
When black newspapers ignore and overlook the importance of pertinent issues that impact the lives of gay African-Americans, they tacitly approve and condone acts of hatred and homophobia. Black publications depend heavily on financial support from religious institutions, and indirectly these papers must shoulder some of the responsibility for the spread of the virus because an innumerable amount of antigay sermons have been preached from their pages.

In my new book, Love Won’t Let Me Be Silent, I call out the tremendously negative influence that hip-hop has had on the nation in regard to the LGBT community. Although much of the homophobic language has been toned down in contemporary rap lyrics, there remain cleverly disguised, subliminal homophobic messages that make it absolutely clear being gay is totally unacceptable and definitely not manly. Personally, I feel that most hip-hop artists will never truly fully embrace same-gender-loving people publicly. What’s more, some gay and lesbian hip-hop artists conceal their orientation, as asserted by Terrence Dean, author of Hiding Within Hip-Hop. The silence contributes to the rise in attacks on both HIV-positive and -negative same-gender-loving people.

To see the tragic consequence of anonymity on display, one need only recall Oprah Winfrey’s disturbing interview with J.L. King, author of the controversial book On the Down Low: A Journey Into the Lives of Straight Black Men Who Sleep With Men. King’s alarming confession of what life was like on the down low immediately garnered him national fame, and King became a trusted HIV prevention activist and educator, especially to black America.

Immediately after that interview, a series of articles published in Essence, Vibe, and The Washington Post attempted to expose a secret sexual cultural phenomenon called "the down low." Although those articles caused somewhat of a stir, none were as troubling as the cover story of the August 3, 2003, issue of The New York Times Magazine titled "Double Lives on the Down Low." Written by journalist Benoit Denizet-Lewis, the work sent a shock wave through the African-American community as the article aired some very dirty laundry.

Among the story’s many shocking insights, the article revealed that after 25 years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, not only had HIV infection rates steadily climbed for African-American women, but black religious institutions, in particular, created and supported homophobia within black communities. The result of this homophobia, according to the article, was the birth of a subculture of dishonesty and denial with respect to black masculinity, desire, and sexuality. This subculture sabotaged any attempts at HIV prevention or treatment, the article said.

Read article

2011 August 31 – Windy City Media Group

AIDS in America: By the numbers

by John J. Accrocco
It began as a rare flu for five Americans, but by the end of 1981 more than 100 cases of what would become known as AIDS had been reported in the U.S. The AIDS crisis in America is as critical now as it was 30 years ago. An estimated 400,000 Americans are living with AIDS ( more than 34,000 diagnosed in 2009 alone ) and over the last three decades more than one million Americans have been diagnosed with the disease. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has been studying AIDS for more than 30 years and part of their research includes tracking individual cases reported in all 50 states to provide accurate statistics for funding. Since the early 1980s, the CDC had been able to monitor the patterns of HIV infection by analyzing the number of reported cases of AIDS, since HIV reporting is still not a federal requirement.

See related illustrations at the links:
PDF-1      PDF-2      PDF-3

AIDS statistics hit a high point in 1993 when the CDC refined guidelines for AIDS diagnoses to include any individual with fewer than 200 T-cells. Scientists began better understanding and correctly diagnosing AIDS through the early to mid-1990s, which accounts for the spike in statistics during the 1990s. The numbers began to decline in the U.S. around 1996 when the ( HAART ) anti-retroviral therapy regiment became more widely available. Due to better HIV medications fewer patients have progressed into AIDS, so those specific statistics no longer accurately reflected HIV trends in the U.S. These days, AIDS-specific statistics are used to pinpoint where private and national funding is lacking and also where drug therapy has failed.

When broken down regionally, the U.S. AIDS statistics paint a picture of where the epidemic is most severe. From 2007 CDC reports, the Northeast AIDS rate shows a rising trend. A quarter of all new AIDS diagnosis came from the Northeastern region. New York State is the highest AIDS populated state in the country. New York City also has the highest number of people living with AIDS. Though this region’s numbers are on a rise, neither Boston nor Philadelphia were among the top five highest AIDS cities. Almost half of the new AIDS cases were reported in the Black community, while the rest were split evenly between the white and Latino communities.

"HIV/AIDS remains mostly an urban disease," says the CDC, as a majority of diagnoses occurred in cities with populations higher than 500,000. The Midwest remains on the decline, reporting the least amount of AIDS cases in the U.S. Only 11% of new cases came from the Midwest, however Chicago is still a very big hub for the epidemic.

Read article

September 8th, 2011 – CNN

Gay priest was 9/11’s first recorded casualty

by Dan Gilgoff, Religion Editor
You may not hear a lot about gay Roman Catholic priests. But one such clergyman is getting a lot of attention this week: Father Mychal Judge, a Franciscan friar who donned a brown robe and sandals and who was the first recorded casualty of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Among the many hats Judge wore was as chaplain for the New York Fire Department. He was killed after going to the World Trade Center with some off-duty firefighters after the first plane hit.
Much of the coverage Judge is getting this week refers to him as the “Saint of 9/11,” the name of a 2006 documentary about the priest that was produced by a gay activist.

An apparently celibate priest, Judge reportedly told few about his sexual orientation. He made no secret, meanwhile, that he was a recovering alcoholic, attending two Alcoholics Anonymous meetings a month. An NPR profile of Judge presents a portrait of an irreverent holy man, one who could curse a blue streak but who spent evenings returning the dozens of messages left on his answering machine from those seeking help: Another retired fireman, Jimmy Boyle, agrees that Father Mychal was one of the boys — but not when he was performing religious ceremonies.

"He could go into the firehouse, have a cup of coffee, have a meal, listen to all the talk, watch the ballgame, hear your problems, talk about anything you want," Boyle says. "But when he said Mass in the firehouse, I always felt when he got to the Eucharist, he just transformed himself. He became like Christ. He was just so pious." Judge was also pretty famous, at least in New York (he’d also managed to arrange a White House meeting with Bill Clinton). Here’s how New York magazine opens its Judge profile:

One month after Mychal Judge’s body was pulled from the shattered lobby of 1 World Trade Center, and three weeks after his televised funeral, some of the friar’s friends decided to hold a smaller memorial evening of Celtic music and storytelling. Priests, nuns, lawyers, cops, firefighters, homeless people, rock-and-rollers, recovering alcoholics, local politicians, and middle-aged couples from the suburbs all streamed into the Good Shepherd Chapel on Ninth Avenue. Pete Hamill read one of his columns from the Daily News, the Irish band Morning Star played jigs and reels, and Malachy McCourt – actor, author, and irrepressible raconteur – stationed himself by the altar, briskly moving things along as emcee. The crowd was so motley, so colorful, it looked like the setup to a joke. (A priest, a lawyer, and an Irishman walk into a bar … )

There’s a lot to learn from all this week’s Judge remembrances, about the events of September 11, about New York life, about the workaday existence of priests. But one of the biggest lessons is how many religious people defy the stereotypes about them.

September 14th, 2011 – Mark S. King

How the Denver Principles changed AIDS (and health care) forever

You must know this, because it matters. Because it has already changed your life and you may not even realize it. It was 1983. Just a year prior, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) became the fearful nameplate for the murderer of gay friends and lovers. The virus that caused it, HIV, had only been identified a few weeks earlier. Amidst this atmosphere of unremitting grief and fear, a group of activists met in Denver as part of a gay and lesbian health conference. Among them, a dozen men with AIDS. (And among their number, the inspirational Michael Callen of New York City, and Bobbi Campbell of San Francisco.) They were about to do something that would change our response to AIDS — and health care in general — forever.

As the conference drew to a close, the activists asked to address the attendees. Rather than having a report presented about the state of the AIDS crisis, they wanted to speak for themselves. If the word “empowerment” hadn’t yet been a part of the health care lexicon, it was about to be. The group took turns reading a document to the conference they had just created themselves, during hours sitting in a hospitality suite of the hotel. It was their Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence rolled into one. It would be known as The Denver Principles, and it began like this: “We condemn attempts to label us as ‘victims,’ which implies defeat, and we are only occasionally ‘patients,’ which implies passivity, helplessness, and dependence upon the care of others. We are ‘people with AIDS.’”

The seminal moment in AIDS activism was arguably those few minutes, when the principles were outlined by these brave “people with AIDS.” Identifying themselves as such, that alone, was startling at the time. How could they not be seen as anything but victims of an arbitrary and cruel killer? But they would have none of it. And they did not stop there. They outlined 17 principles that covered everything from health care decisions to civil rights to sexual conduct. And their impact on all of us is so obvious today it can easily be taken for granted. Please honor their service and read on.

They demanded that physicians see their patients as “whole people,” and provide “accurate information.” They believed their opinion on their care should be awarded equal weight, and this was revolutionary. The next time your doctor consults you about a change of medications or whether a diagnostic test may be required, you can thank The Denver Principles. They asked “all people” to fight against AIDS discrimination in the workplace and in housing, which was a provocative concept in the fearsome days of 1983 when people recoiled from those with HIV…

Read complete story

September 20, 2011 – On Top Magazine

Gay Military Ban DADT Ends

by Carlos Santoscoy
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ceased being in effect on Tuesday. The law that banned gay and bisexual troops from serving openly was repealed by Congress in December and replaced with a plan to lift the military ban. More than 13,000 service members were discharged for violating the policy throughout its nearly 18 year history.
The policy’s end means gay and lesbian troops can now discuss their sexual orientation and prospective service members will no longer be turned away because of their sexual orientation.

“Today marks the official end of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and is an historic milestone along the journey to achieving LGBT equality in America’s military,” said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), the largest group which lobbied for the law’s end. “Thanks to veterans, active duty, leaders, allies and supporters everywhere, this is a monumental day for our service members and our nation. Indeed, we have taken a tremendous leap forward for LGBT equality in the military.”

According to the Associated Press, the military had already begun taking applications from openly gay recruits and said it would begin acting on them after the policy was lifted. At a press conference on Monday, Pentagon press secretary George Little said the military was prepared for the change. “No one should be left with the impression that we are unprepared. We are prepared for repeal,” Little said. Some service members immediately ended their long silence.

In Vermont, Navy Lt. Gary Ross, 33, married Dan Swezy, a 49-year-old civilian, at the stroke of midnight. “It requires you to lie several times a day,” Ross said of the old policy. “Being in the military is extremely invasive. It becomes a web of excuses you make when you try to be as honest as possible but you can’t be honest.”

And 25-year-old U.S. Air Force First Lt. Joshua David Seefried shed the alias he used for several years as a co-founder of OutServe, the underground network of active-duty gay military personnel. On Tuesday, J.D. Smith, the name Seefried used, went away along with DADT. “It’s all about leading now,” Seefried told the AP. “If we all stay in the closet and don’t act brave, then the next generation won’t have any progress.”

Repeal supporters will hold “Repeal Day” celebrations across the country. More than 100 events are scheduled. For an event in your area, visit

September 20, 2011 – CBS News

Navy officer weds partner as gay ban ends

Duxbury, Vt.(AP) – When Navy Lt. Gary Ross and his partner were searching for a place to get married, they settled on a site in Vermont, in part because the state is in the Eastern time zone. That way, the two men were able to recite their vows before family and friends at the first possible moment after the formal repeal of the military’s "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy. Just after midnight Tuesday, the partners of 11 years were married. "I think it was a beautiful ceremony. The emotions really hit me…but it’s finally official," Ross said early Tuesday.

Hours before the change was to take effect early Tuesday, the American military was also making final preparations for the historic policy shift. The Pentagon announced that it was already accepting applications from openly gay candidates, although officials said they would wait a day before reviewing them. Ross, 33, and Dan Swezy, a 49-year-old civilian, traveled from their home in Tucson, Ariz., so they could get married in Vermont, the first state to allow gays to enter into civil unions and one of six that have legalized same-sex marriage. Ross wore his dress uniform for the ceremony beginning at 11:45 p.m. Monday at Duxbury’s Moose Meadow Lodge, a log cabin bed-and-breakfast perched on a hillside about 15 miles northwest of Montpelier.

The lodge says it hosted the state’s first gay wedding in 2009. Justice of the Peace Greg Trulson proclaimed the marriage at exactly midnight. "This is Gary’s official coming out," Trulson said. Ross and Swezy were joined by a small group of close friends and some family, who shared champagne with them after the ceremony. Pentagon press secretary George Little said Monday that the military is prepared for the end of "don’t ask, don’t tell," a practice adopted in 1993 that allowed gays to serve as long as they did not openly acknowledge their sexual orientation. Commanders were not allowed to ask.

Last week, the Pentagon said 97 percent of the military has undergone training in the new law.

Read article

September 22, 2011 – Washington Blade

Celebrating gay sex

by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
In his role as president and CEO of the National Association of People with AIDS, Frank Oldham Jr. is upfront about where he stands on the AIDS epidemic.
He’s a 63-year-old gay man who has lived with HIV for more than 20 years. He has dedicated much of his career to fighting AIDS, both in the private sector and as a high-level official in city AIDS agencies in New York, Chicago and D.C. He served from 1993-1994 as chief of D.C.’s Agency for HIV/AIDS. His driving ambition is to help bring about the eradication of AIDS for everyone, with a short-term goal of lowering the HIV infection rate in the United States over the next several years.

But Oldham says his efforts in organizing a series of D.C.-based events next week for the NAPWA-sponsored National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on Sept. 27 brings an often overlooked fact into clear view: Gay men account for more than 50 percent of the people with HIV in the United States and represent the only group at risk for HIV in the country that still has increasing numbers of new infections each year. In an interview this week, Oldham presented the Blade with two fliers NAPWA is using to promote National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Both feature photos of attractive, bare-chested young men, one black and one white.

“We’re doing something very interesting here and I think very bold,” Oldham says. “We have these pictures as part of the branding to capture gay male culture. Gay male culture is sexually celebrative. It is true that we like good-looking people, sexual people and sex is a healthy activity.” According to Oldham, societal taboos against sex and homosexuality have always had a negative impact on gay men but that impact was heightened many times over as the AIDS epidemic struck the gay male community in the 1980s.

Among other things, Oldham says societal prejudice and homophobia “poisoned” the atmosphere for many gay men who, lacking information and encouragement now offered by AIDS advocacy groups, led to self-destructive behavior that contributed to the spread of HIV. “I think that because society is so sex negative our gay male culture is always in collision with that society,” he says. “And I’m a product of this society so I also sometimes run into these kinds of challenges and conflicts,” Oldham says. “But gay male culture, by the parties we have, the circuit parties, the bathhouses – all of that is part of a beautiful, gay male culture. And it is something that has to be embraced and especially embraced if you’re going to deal with the AIDS epidemic.”

Oldham was asked how he reconciles those views with advice by many AIDS experts that one means of curtailing HIV infection is sexual monogamy or the reduction of the number of sex partners. He says the best advice other experts give is to behave responsibly and respectfully and to use the best-known methods to prevent the spread of the virus…

Read entire article

September 26, 2011 – Globalgayz

Homophobic Bullying Takes Another Teen Life

by Richard Ammon,
Beyond grief is the loss of young Jamey Rodemeyer, only 14, whose fragile ego was finally crushed by the poison of homophobic bullying from classmates at his Williamsville North High School in upstate New York on September 20, 2011. A child’s death at any young age is tragic enough, but a deliberately targeted murder seems more horrible than an accidental or disease death. This child was clearly an innocent victim of American scripture-based discrimination against homosexuals. Hatred in youth is inherited from hatred in parents, peers, church, school, society, government. Homophobia so devastating and pervasive among bigots that it is taken as normal, as a right of passage in high school, as a righteous act of religious ethics, as a popular political position.

Homophobia is truly a social cancer that kills children. If a manufactured product injured children or a medication were deemed harmful it would be recalled and removed from store shelves very quickly. But because so many local and federal politicians are steeped in self-declared ‘legitimate scriptural views’ of sex and marriage they feel homophobia is justified; based in blood-soaked Biblical-Koranic-Talmudic conditioning this killer disease remains in the public domain with no remedy in sight.

In a slight gesture toward justice (revenge is what many are calling for against the perpetrators, their parents and school officials) the local police in Amherst, NY, are investigating to determine if any hate crimes were committed against Jamey; it’s hard to imagine they were not as he received anonymous (and traceable) condemnations and urgings to kill himself from schoolmates. These bullying kids had no idea of the deadly effect of their actions, not unlike being ignorant of the risks of playing with a loaded gun; stupid on their part and irresponsible on their parents’ part.

Jamey had been verbally assaulted by cyberbullies who made degrading comments with gay slurs on his Formspring account, a website that allows anonymous postings. "Jamie Is Stupid, Gay, Fat Annd [sic] Ugly. He Must Die!" one post reportedly said. Another read, "I wouldn’t care if you died. No one would. So just do it 🙂 It would make everyone WAY more happier!" The danger of such abuse we have known for a long time. To counter this criminal behavior the internet pro-gay ‘It Gets Better’ campaign has been online for over a year. Strangely, Jamey had posted his own video on YouTube that was encouraging in tone and looked beyond current problems to future promise of better times.

But something snapped in his mind within a month and he collapsed under the cruel rejection from schoolmates. Shame is one of the most painful punishments a person can endure. Many Asian and Arab gay people remain deep in the closet for fear of being shamed or bringing dishonor to their families. Other LGBT people have come out and in turn been murdered by a family member to avenge the dishonor. Such powerful hate-and-shame-fueled homophobia is so overwhelming that it turns a loving parent or brother into a murderous family member. What switch gets flipped to turn love to hate for no apparent reason–no action, no words, no overt offense from the gay person.

And from classmates who have less bonding the curses are all the more easy to make. This is not just a personal tragedy, it’s a national disgrace among those who advocate intolerance and discrimination.

September 2011 – Gay In America

Book review:Gay in America Portraits by Scott Pasfield

In this first-ever photographic survey of gay men in America, stereotypes are laid to rest and an intimate, honest picture of contemporary gay life is revealed through stunning personal portraits and narratives.

Photographer Scott Pasfield traveled 54,000 miles across all fifty states over a three-year span gathering stories and documenting the lives of 140 gay men from all walks of life. At turns joyful and somber, reflective and celebratory, each narrative and image is an enlightening look into the variety of gay life in the United States.

Pasfield’s striking and perceptive portraits reflect the same beautiful diversity found in any sampling of our population. Each of these men is unique and whole, complex and fallible, just as we all are. They come in every size and shape, every religion, color, profession, and background. There are farmers, writers, doctors, lawyers, artists, teachers, students; there are fathers and husbands, activists, and business men. Some are successful, some are struggling, some are political, some are wealthy, some are wounded, and some are deeply content.

Their commonality draws from a single shared trait: their homosexuality. These are men who are attracted to men, and have chosen not to disguise that truth. For many, there have been harsh consequences to this decision, but also deep rewards. The message that prevails is one of great hope that true equality is close within our reach, if only we would grasp it.

October 5, 2011 – Newswise

New Book Explores Latino Gay Activists

Source: University of Illinois at Chicago
Newswise — A new book by a University of Illinois at Chicago health sociologist and educator examines how gay, bisexual, and transgender (GBT) Latino activists and volunteers are transformed by the AIDS epidemic.
In "Compañeros: Latino Activists in the Face of AIDS" (University of Illinois Press, 2011), Jesus Ramirez-Valles, UIC professor of community health sciences, writes about the life histories of GBT Latinos who come together to fight racism and homophobia, and in the process change themselves.

"’Compañeros’ tells us what it’s like to be an activist, a volunteer, and get involved in community affairs," says Ramirez-Valles. "The book is about Latino gay men and transgender individuals, but it speaks to the broader idea of getting involved in the community — not only to change major social forces that shape our lives, but to change ourselves, to connect with others, and in the process become better individuals and better citizens."

As a public health researcher, Ramirez-Valles has studied gender and race in health promotion and HIV/AIDS and substance abuse prevention in the United States and Latin America. "The voices of Latino gay men in the AIDS epidemic have not been heard, and in many instances have been distorted. I felt a responsibility to share them with a larger audience," said Ramirez-Valles, who also produced a documentary, funded by the National Institutes of Health, featuring individuals in his book.

The book and film are based on scientific research on discrimination and stigma and the consequences of these behaviors on GBT Latinos. In the late 1990’s, Ramirez-Valles became interested in how HIV/AIDS patients transformed their lives by becoming activists — from protesting against the inaction of the federal government to volunteering in the neighborhood to distribute food and take care of patients. He soon realized there were positive effects on self esteem, decreased depression, and improved health outcomes associated with volunteerism and activism, and he began writing about the subjective experiences of these individuals, or compañeros.

Ramirez-Valles hopes the book will change negative attitudes, particularly in the heterosexual community, about HIV/AIDS and that readers will find inspiration in the personal stories. "Unlike other works, ‘Compañeros’ succeeds in allowing the activists to speak for themselves and shares with readers an intimate connection to their lives, thoughts, and emotions," said Rafael M. Díaz, author of "Latino Gay Men and HIV: Culture, Sexuality, and Risk Behavior," in writing about the book. "The life stories of gay men and transgender women are movingly presented with both passion and clarity, giving a feeling of great respect and admiration for a group who heroically turns oppression into a source of resilience and strength, as well as a solidarity seldom seen in contemporary social movements."

A book signing will be held Nov. 3 at the Center on Halsted, John Baran Senior Center, 3656 N. Halsted St. from 6:30-8:30 p.m.

The book is available here.

Photos of Ramirez-Valles are available here.

Audio of Ramirez-Valles is available here . (Spanish version available upon request)

For more information about UIC, visit.

October 7, 2011 – Gay City News

Paula Ettelbrick, a Renaissance Woman Among LGBT Leaders, Dies at 56

by Paul Schindler
Paula Ettelbrick, an attorney who brought an uncompromisingly feminist perspective to policy and social justice advocacy in leadership roles at half a dozen top LGBT organizations, died on the morning of October 7, after battling cancer for the past year. She had turned 56 just five days earlier.
Ettelbrick, who is survived by her partner Marianne Haggerty and two children, Adam and Julia, born during her earlier relationship with civil rights attorney Suzanne Goldberg, was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the 2010 and spent the final weeks of her life at home with the aid of hospice care and family and friends.

In an advocacy career that spanned a quarter of a century, Ettelbrick worked at Lambda Legal, first as a staff attorney and later as legal director, from 1986 until 1993; at the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), as policy director, in 1993 and 1994; at the Empire State Pride Agenda, as legislative counsel, from 1994 until 1999; at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, as director of family policy, from 1999 until 2001; as executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) from 2003 until 2009; and since then, as the first woman to lead the Stonewall Community Foundation, a philanthropic grant-making agency that supports LGBT organizations in New York and nationwide.

Born on a US Army base in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1955, Ettelbrick graduated from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb with a degree in art history in 1978 and received her law degree from Wayne State University in Detroit in 1984. Recalling the career that followed, Richard Burns, who stepped in as interim executive director of the Stonewall Community Foundation in the wake of Ettelbrick’s resignation in August, said, "There are countless LGBTQ citizens around the world whose lives are better today because of Paula.”

In a message distributed via email from Brazil on Friday morning, Cary Alan Johnson, who succeeded Ettelbrick at the helm of IGLHRC, wrote, “First and foremost I can say that I found her to be so genuinely, deeply, unfalteringly committed to our liberation as LGBT people. She also had a deep respect for all progressive movements and causes. Paula was one of the most sophisticated strategists I’ve ever met.” In her work at IGLHRC, Ettelbrick strove with particular focus to educate American activists about the need to follow the lead of LGBTQ communities on the ground in countries where the group was seeking to provide support.

Read complete article here

October 25, 2011 – Columbia Law School

Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic Secures Asylum for Gay Mauritanian Refugee

New York — Columbia Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic has won asylum in the United States for Ahmed A., a gay man who feared persecution because of his sexual orientation if he had been forced to return to his native Mauritania. The grant of asylum, issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, highlights the perils for gay people who live in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, a country in West Africa. In Mauritania, homosexuality is punishable by death—both by the government and by the powerful tribal communities that regulate Mauritanian society.

Mauritania is one of five countries in the world—along with Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Yemen—that impose the death penalty for being gay. In addition, 76 countries prosecuted people based on their sexual orientation as of last year, underscoring the global reach of the practice of state persecution of gay people. “For nearly 40 years, our client, Ahmed, never felt free,” explains Jane Kim ’11, a clinic student who worked on the case. “His entire life, he changed his behavior to avoid suspicions, beatings, and death by his father, his tribe, and by the Mauritanian government for being gay, for being himself. He lived a private life, trusting very few.”

Last year, Ahmed fled for the United States, terrified for his life. He was referred to Columbia’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic by Immigration Equality, a national organization focused on immigration rights for GLBT and HIV-positive individuals. Seven clinic students—Kim ’11, Elyce Matthews ’11, Jeffrey Yuen LL.M. ’11, Andrea Johnson ’12, Meghna Rajadhyaksha LL.M. ’11, Hillary Schneller ’12, and MiRi Song ’12—assisted Ahmed in applying for asylum. The students spent several months conducting interviews, drafting affidavits, researching country conditions, contacting experts, and preparing the client for his interview with a U.S. government asylum officer.

“One of the difficulties in confronting Mauritania’s violently homophobic law is that reported instances of state or tribal execution are not published,” explains Matthews. “The Mauritanian government and the country’s powerful tribal system often cover up their execution of GLBT individuals, recording other causes of death.” The students relied on reports by the U.S. government and non-governmental organizations, in addition to the testimony of experts, to document Mauritania’s severe laws and the harsh treatment of and lack of protection for gay people in the country.

“As being gay and assisting gay individuals is forbidden in Mauritania, we faced challenges in collecting corroborating letters from Ahmed’s family and friends,” adds Yuen. “Fortunately, we were able to find several experts who could attest to the dangerous conditions for gay people in Mauritania and to the particular facts of Ahmed’s case.”

In April, the students also accompanied their client to the asylum office in Rosedale, New York, for his interview. After Ahmed’s interview, he and the students were told to expect a decision in his case in two weeks. Six months later, his asylum grant arrived. “With policy meetings ongoing in Washington, D.C., to step up efforts to protect the thousands of refugees and asylum-seekers persecuted each year for their sexual orientation and gender identity, we are all very relieved to see the U.S. government’s protections for gay asylum-seekers in action,” says Kim.

Columbia Law School’s Sexuality & Gender Law Clinic addresses cutting-edge issues in sexuality and gender law through litigation, legislation, public policy analysis, and other forms of advocacy. Under the guidance of Professor Suzanne Goldberg, clinic students have worked on a wide range of projects, from constitutional litigation to legislative advocacy to immigration cases, to serve both individual and organizational clients in cases involving issues of sexuality and gender law.

For more information, please visit. To contact Professor Suzanne B. Goldberg: call (212) 854- 0411 or email.

November 30, 2011 – On Top Magazine

Beth Robinson Becomes First Openly Gay Vermont Supreme Court Justice

by Carlos Santoscoy
Beth Robinson on Monday was sworn in as a member of the Vermont Supreme Court, making her the court’s first openly gay justice. Democratic Governor Peter Shumlin administered the oath to Robinson before a crowd of about 150. Robinson, 46, a long-time gay rights advocate, led the legal team that successfully argued the groundbreaking 1999 Vermont Supreme Court case that led to the nation’s first civil unions law. As the head of Vermont Freedom to Marry, Robinson lobbied lawmakers to approve a gay marriage bill two years ago.

“It was a different world just 12 years ago,” Shumlin said. “We’ve come a long way, most of it because of Beth’s work.” Robinson told the crowd that respect for the law was her highest priority. “To me, my pledge is to remember the people because to me the only thing that is important is respecting this abstraction that we call the law, is respecting the people who both shape and give life to that abstraction and whose lives are, in turn, shaped by the dictates that the law requires,” Robinson said.