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USA: Two Supreme Court Justices, Two Takes on Marriage Equality

Friday, October 4th, 2013

US Supreme CourtWe have a couple stories coming out of the US Supreme Court today, specifically about two Supreme Court justices. First off, Justice Antonin Scalia claims he’s never expressed his view about gay marriage.

Queerty reports:

Despite all evidence to the contrary, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wants you to know that he’s never expressed his opinion on the constitutionality of marriage equality. Speaking at Tufts University, Scalia said with a straight (in every sense) face, “I haven’t expressed my view about gay marriage.” Just in case you thought that his voting to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act might have tipped his hand on where he stood, Scalia kindly clarified. “The issue in the DOMA case was not whether the Constitution requires states to allow gay marriage. The question is whether Congress can define marriage in all of the statues that Congress enacted to mean only marriage between a man and a woman.”

So is Scalia about to come out as a rainbow flag waving gay-rights activists? Don’t hold your breath.

In other Supreme Court news, Justice Anthony Kennedy expresses surprise about how far the gay rights movement has come.

On Top Magazine reports:

The 77-year-old Kennedy, who wrote the landmark ruling that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in June, is teaching this week at the University of Pennsylvania law school. “We live in an era of time compression. It’s simply stunning to me to see the change in attitudes,” Kennedy said, a reference to gay rights. “It’s something I didn’t think about or know about as a kid. But the nature of injustice is, you can’t see it in your own time,” Kennedy, who grew up in northern California, is quoted by the AP as telling the school’s faculty.

School’s back in session Monday for the court.

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The Importance of Holding Hands

Saturday, September 28th, 2013

Gay Wedding - HandsMy husband Mark and I were coming out of a movie theater in Folsom, California, yesterday (yes, that Folsom – prison and all), when he excitedly pointed to something and said “Look, look!”

I followed the direction of his outstretched finger and saw a group of people, a car, the building across the street – nothing particularly noteworthy.

Then he said “No, there,” and pointed again, and I saw it.

A young gay couple, walking across the street, holding hands.

Now, Folsom is no right-wing backwater, but neither is it a progressive mecca like San Francisco (or even nearby Sacramento). Its a solidly working-class community, a bedroom city, known for its famous prison, its Intel offices, and its shopping for locals in other cities close by.

Mark called out to the couple, and they stopped, obviously perplexed about being addressed by this stranger. We faced each other, two couples separated by something like 30 years, and Mark told them how amazing it was to see them engaged in the simple act of holding hands on a public street.

They were a little surprised – they couldn’t have been more than 20 years old, and I guess that, to them, nothing was more natural than holding the hand of the one you love.

And that’s the point. We live in a rapidly changing world. Sometimes I forget how fast its changing.

The next generation has no problem holding hands in public because, well, why should they? They are equal to everyone else, and they know it. At least here in California.

The whole thing made me realize how far I haven’t come. For all that Mark and I have embraced the marriage equality movement, a part of me is still stuck back in 1986, when I was a senior in high school, and petrified to think that anyone might find out.

In fact, my first thought when I saw this couple holding hands was the danger they might be placing themselves in by being so public.

My second thought was how sad it is that I grew up in such a different time, and that I still carry vestiges of my internal homophobia with me, twenty two years after I stepped out of the closet.

I wonder what it would be like to grow up gay now, in this place, in this time. To be sure of myself as a gay man in a way I never was at that age, and in some ways am still not today.

I wonder what it would have been like to have had a “real” wedding – one planned with time and care, instead of the one that was forced upon us by the onslaught of Prop 8 and the impending public vote on our fitness to be married.

And, if truth be told, I am a little envious of that young gay couple in Folsom, walking down the street hand in hand as if… as if it were the most natural thing in the world. And I was intensely proud of them.

We left the two of them there, probably shaking their heads at the strange attitudes of this older gay couple.

And I took Mark’s hand in mine as we walked back to the car.

USA, Kentucky: LGBT Rights Support Revitalizes Small-Town

Friday, September 27th, 2013

KentuckyA small Appalachian town in Kentucky is reaping the benefits of supporting its LGBT citizens.

Watermark Online reports:

The town made national headlines when three of four commissioners voted in January to pass the ordinance, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations. City leaders said at the time they simply thought it was the right thing to do, and today marvel at the attention that has followed. After passage, letters of support poured in from across the country, along with a handful of letters condemning the ordinance, the mayor said. Money was tucked into some of the supportive letters, mostly in the range of $25 donations. A pastor from New England sent $40 to buy a round of beers for locals who appeared in a segment about Vicco by Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report.” A mother and son in California pledged to buy all the new playground equipment for a city park, a project that could reach $90,000, Cummings said.

Sometimes, you do get rewarded for doing the right thing.

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Italy: LGBT Groups Protest Toothless Gay Hate Ban

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Italy - Google Maps

from Google Maps

Italian gay-rights advocacy groups are protesting a proposed gay hate ban that’s so riddled with holes that it is basically meaningless.

Gay Star News reports:

LGBT rights and ally groups criticized the proposed legislation, which intends to penalize homophobia and transphobia but still protects the ‘opinions expressed within political, cultural or religious organizations,’ allowing groups to continue making homophobic comments. In a dramatic demonstration, Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) staged a kiss-in during the vote hearing where members turned to members of the same-sex and locked lips, holding signs that read ‘more rights’. The group’s Facebook page revealed the kiss-in was held ‘because a kiss and a hug should not be frightening and we are not afraid’. According to la Repubblica, the bill passed with a vote 354 in favor and 79 against.

I mean, seriously, “opinions expressed within political, cultural or religious organizations”? That’s a hole you could drive a Mack Truck through.

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Canada: How Conservatives Came Around on Gay-Rights

Saturday, August 24th, 2013

CanadaJonathan Kay at the National Post has an interesting piece on conservatives and gay rights in Canada titled “Rise of the Rainbow Hawks“:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper hasn’t just come around to gay rights: He has made the issue a centrepiece of Canada’s foreign policy. His government has fiercely rebuked draconian anti-gay laws in Africa, to the point of infuriating the social-conservative group REAL Women of Canada, which this month publicly denounced Mr. Baird for using his position “to further his own perspective on homosexuality.” The Conservative government has offered protection to persecuted gays in Iran and worked diplomatic channels to convince Russia to scotch plans to ban foreign adoptions by gay couples.

And in an odd twist, the Tories’ hard-line stance against homophobic governments overseas has boomeranged back to powerfully influence the mainstream conservative view of homosexuality here in Canada — a rare example of a foreign-policy posture setting the agenda on an otherwise purely domestic social issue. In the last two decades, support for gay rights in Canada has advanced, particularly compared to historic fights for minority rights, with breathtaking speed, and much of it happening under a Conservative government.

To read Kay’s peace, it would seem that Canada has become a sort of gay utopia. Would our friends up there agree?

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Puerto Rico: Christians Protest Proposed LGBT Rights Bills, Push for Marriage Equality Ban

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

Puerto RicoA Christian group in Puerto Rico is going for the jugular on gay rights. On Top Magazine reports:

In response to 2 proposed gay rights bills, one of Puerto Rico’s largest Christian organizations says it will push for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Puerto Rico Pro Family on Wednesday protested two bills that would allow gay and lesbian couples to adopt children and would promote gender equality in the public school’s curriculum. The group said that it would seek constitutional amendments that define marriage as solely between a man and a woman and prohibit schools from educating their children on gender matters.

I haven’t seen any polling out of Puerto Rico on marriage equality. Anyone down there have a sense of how folks feel about the issue?

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USA: Young Republicans Convention Snubs Gay Rights

Sunday, July 14th, 2013

GOPThe Young Republican National Convention in Mobile, Alabama this week snubbed one of the groups the GOP just months ago hoped to win over… youth supportive of marriage equality and gay rights. Lila Shapiro at The Huffington Post reports:

The official agenda for the 2013 Young Republican National Convention this week includes several subjects near and dear to the heart of the GOP: the Second Amendment, voter targeting, campaign finance and even a session on “growing minorities in our party” (read: black and Latino voters). But there is no reference to one issue that some Republicans contend will be instrumental to winning in 2016: gay rights. “It’s discouraging and I expect more of everybody, especially young people,” said Tyler Deaton, campaign manager for the Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry, a project of the national gay rights group Freedom to Marry. Deaton tried to get a spot on the official agenda, but, like many gay rights advocates before him who have sought an official place under the GOP’s tent, he was denied. Instead, he plans to throw a Friday night reception at the Mobile, Ala., hotel where the convention is being held.

So how’s that much ballyhooed “rebranding” of the GOP going? Let’s see – alienate women with countless anti abortion laws? Check. Alienate blacks with the overturning of the most important part of the Voting Rights Act and subsequent laws to cut back minority voting? Check. Alienate hispanics by blocking the immigration bill in the house? Check. Alienate the gays by continuing to push for bans on marriage equality and keeping them out of the Big tent? Check. Alienate the youth vote with all of the above? Check. At this rate, they’ll be down to old straight white Southern voters in no time.

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Europe: European Union Upgrades LGBT Rights

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

European Union FlagThis just in from Europe – the Council of the European Union just upgraded their guidelines for the treatment of LGBT citizens. reports:

The Council of the European Union, which previously adopted a non-binding toolkit to promote LGBT human rights, has upgraded their guidelines in order “to promote and protect the enjoyment of all human rights by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons.” The new document is binding and represents a huge step forward in international human rights law. The EU Intergroup on LGBT Rights reports: Today the EU’s 27 foreign affairs ministers adopted a ground-breaking global policy. The LGBTI Guidelines instruct EU diplomats around the globe to defend the human rights of LGBTI people.

Another step in the right direction…

USA: Groups Band Together to Push for Inclusive LGBT Rights Bill

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

CongressAlmost 150 groups have joined together across the United States to push for a single, omnibus bill for LGBT rights. Edge Boston reports:

Over 145 LGBT and LGBT-supportive organizations from 36 states have joined the Pledge for Full LGBT Equality campaign. The groups are calling upon the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus to file a national bill for full equality – something that would encompass, marriage, workplace protections, education, everything. “To change course, it’s important that our existing strategy of filing multiple single-issue bills not be treated as a sacrosanct pragmatic legislative strategy, because it has not worked,” gay rights activist Todd Fernandez, who is working to advance the cause, wrote in a piece for The Huffington Post. Some of the groups that have joined the effort include nationwide PFLAG groups, Equality Pennsylvania, Equality Nevada, Equality Nebraska, Equality Hawaii, Equality Illinois, and Equality Maryland. LGBT Pride committees supporting the cause include one from Jacksonville, Florida.

Chance of passage through the house: Zero. But as the right has shown us, changing the conversation (and moving it in your direction) is half the battle.

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Russia: Court Fines LGBT Activist 20,000 Rubles for Protesting

Saturday, June 15th, 2013

RussiaA Russian gay rights protester was just fined 20,000 rubles (about $630) for participating in a protest. Gay Star News reports:

A Russian woman has been fined 20,000 rubles for participating in a May 25 Moscow Pride event. Anna Annenkov and her girlfriend Elena Kostuchenko had held up a rainbow flag at the event with the slogan ‘Love is Stronger.’ Annenkov was found guilty yesterday over her involvement in the event by federal court judge Tatyana Neverona – who will also hear Kostuchenko’s case.

The freedom of speech we take for granted in the US costs a lot more in Russia these days.