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LMPD launches 1st LGBT Citizens Police Academy

Sunday, March 1st, 2015

What began as out outreach effort two years ago to a portion of a potentially undeserved population is now the first LGBT Citizens Police Academy offered by the Louisville Metro Police Department.

The department has worked with Chris Hartman, director of The Fairness Campaign, to plan and recruit for the academy.

“The hope is this new workshop series will be a bit more geared toward the safety needs to the LGBT community,” Hartman said.

Hartman noted the murders of two openly gay men in Louisville in January and a slew of murders of transgender women this year in the U.S. as reasons he supports police efforts to educate the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community on safety and strengthen their relationship.

RELATED | Kentucky universities move toward LGBT inclusion

The new version of the citizens academy, open to straight “allies” as well as members of the LGBT community, is meant to increase understanding and trust between police and the community and impart knowledge to increase LGBT community safety. The academy runs from Feb. 26 to April 2 with 90-minute classes held on Thursday nights.

“The fairness community has not necessarily had the best relationship with LMPD in the past,” Hartman said.

But in recent years, there has been a “pretty intentional dialogue” about the relationship between the two, Hartman said, largely initiated by Community Relations Officer Johnny Burgraff, who worked with Fairness in launching the academy.

Burgraff first reached out to the Fairness Campaign, which lobbies and advocates for the rights of LGBT people, in 2013 to start an outreach program. That year, LMPD hosted a four-week workshop attended mostly by two dozen people connected with Fairness.

Burgraff and Hartman said the feedback was positive, but attendees wanted a more personalized experience.

The academy will feature topical mainstays of citizen police academies: the Neighborhood Watch Program, Crisis Intervention Team and the recruitment unit, with elements will be geared toward the LGBT audience.

In the domestic violence session, police plan to address how their response to a same-sex couple would be handled the same as other couples, said Lt. Jessie Browning of the Community Relations Unit.

Hartman said some members of the LGBT community are hesitant to report domestic violence, fearing prejudicial treatment by law enforcement.

“But at the end of the day, domestic violence is domestic violence,” Hartman said.

And while much of the experiences offered in the academy won’t be specific to the LGBT population, dedicating an entire citizens police academy to that community will hopefully allow participants to feel comfortable posing questions, Browning said, and in turn develop community contacts for the police.

RELATED | JCPS grapples with approach to LGBT issues

Though the LGBT academy is only six weeks long — instead of the traditional academy’s 10-12 weeks — participants will still graduate and then be able to apply to volunteer with the department.

One of those potential graduates is Chase Barnett, a Louisville native and junior Justice Administration major at the University of Louisville who hopes to join LMPD or another area police force.

As a member of the LGBT community, he said he thought the academy might offer insight into police life and how he could fit in on the force.

“I was really apprehensive about how law enforcement would connect with being gay or being part of the LGBT community,” Barnett said. “Over time, I’ve outgrown that.”

In 2013, LMPD invited the Fairness Campaign to lead cultural sensitivity training, Hartman said, or an LGBT 101 of sorts to explain terms used in the community, the legal status of same-sex relationships and other issues facing LGBT people.

UofL student Barnett isn’t sure what he’ll learn at the academy, but he hopes interaction between police and LGBT citizens will lead to better understanding.

“This goes for both communities, but don’t be so quick to judge people,” Barnett said. “We have something to learn from both groups.”

Reporter Matthew Glowicki can be reached at (502) 582-4989. Follow him on Twitter at @MattGlo.

Article source: http://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/crime/2015/02/28/lmpd-launches-st-lgbt-citizens-police-academy/24145585/

WATCH: What It's Like to Be LGBT in Colombia

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

Two new clips from a French documentary film called The World According to Homophobes aim to shine a light on the experience of LGBT Colombians. 

In the first clip, Colombians speak openly and honestly about their struggles coming out and being accepted by friends and family members. A young woman tearfully reflects on her mother and aunt telling her she need an exorcism, and threatening to throw the cat her girlfriend gave her out the window. 

One young man recounts enduring “ex-gay therapy” at the age of 15, describing how his mother took him to a Christian doctor, who played gay porn on a screen while electrodes were attached to the then-teenager’s genitals. 

“If you had any type of reaction watching these types of films, they launched a shock,” he recalls. “It wasn’t anything brutal. But it was a kind of treatment to teach you not to be like that.”

The World According to Homophobes, produced by Emmanuelle Schick Garcia,  “is filmed in four countries, exploring the perceived gender roles, superstitions, and sexual experiences of a variety of homophobes seeking to uncover the role shame plays in shaping a homophobic view of sex,” according to a press release announcing the film.

While Garcia was filming in Colombia, the crew worked with the local LGBT community and La Casita de Godot in an effort to capture the authentic experiences of a community struggling for visibility in a country that is moving toward acceptance of same-sex unions, but still facing staggering rates of anti-LGBT discrimination, violence, and youth suicide rates. 

The second clip features the same Colombians featured in the first segment, this time reading homophobic tweets and responding to them. 

“I have nothing against gay people, but if I’m in public and I see two men hold hands or some shit I want to vomit,” a young gay man reads from a tweet. 

“If you want to be respected, respect me,” the young man replies. “I deserve the same respect as you and any other person in the world. 

Watch both clips below, and learn more about the film at its Facebook or IndieGogo pages.

Ser LGBT en Colombia – To Be LGBT in Colombia from JPS Films on Vimeo.

Tweets homofobicos leidos por LGBT de Colombia from JPS Films on Vimeo.

Article source: http://www.advocate.com/world/2015/02/28/watch-what-its-be-lgbt-colombia

LGBT Around the World

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

Russia

Whilst homosexuality was legalised in Russia over 20 years ago, there has been an increase in homophobic violence and hate crimes in recent years. The sad truth is that being gay in Russia means that you can be hunted down and brutalised for fun by vigilante gangs. These homophobic vigilante groups often disrupt LGBT events and festivals, in an attempt to intimidate and marginalise the LGBT community. Shockingly, the Russian parliament recently passed a loosely worded propaganda law that bans all positive and neutral references to so called ‘non-traditional relationships’ that anyone under 18 might see. However, work is being done to combat the situation and there are progressive groups in Russia such as Direct Action who hold demonstrations to demand investigation into these hate crimes.

 

The USA – San Francisco

Although generally progressive, legislation and rights in the USA vary between the States. San Francisco has one of the world’s largest LGBT communities. In the 1970s, the city became a centre of the gay rights movement, with the emergence of The Castro as an urban gay village. Today, in The Castro, the gay and lesbian community is over a quarter of a million strong. San Francisco also has one of the biggest gay pride parades and last year’s event saw over 100,000 people attend with 220 acts. This year’s event is taking place on the 28th of June with the opportunity to cheer the ‘Dykes on Bikes’, ‘Bears in Straps’ and ‘Trannies in Gowns’ groups, along with other groups from the LGBT community.

 

Iraq

While same-sex relationships are legal in Iraq, the majority of the population view such relationships as unacceptable. It has been reported that non-uniformed police in Iraq abuse their power and status to beat and torture homosexuals, and the LGBT community often suffer ill-treatment and discrimination in everyday life. Moreover, the two main victims of so-called ‘honour killings’ in Iraq are women who have disrespected the wishes of their families and LGBT people. Even more shocking is that the death penalty is enforced for entering into homosexual acts. It is difficult to comprehend that nothing is being done in Iraq to combat this appalling situation, but LGBT people are often forced to seek asylum in other countries to escape such hate crimes.

 

Australia

In general, Australia is extremely accepting of the LGBT community and Sydney is the gay capital of the southern hemisphere with a vibrant gay scene and nightlife. In 2009, the Australian Government actively set reforms in place in an attempt to improve the lives and rights of homosexual couples and the LGBT communities share many of the same rights as heterosexuals. Moreover, Australia even has laws in place to protect LGBT people in the workplace and homosexuals are allowed to serve openly in the military, unlike in the USA where they operate a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy. However, the legislation has perhaps not completely caught up with the progressive attitude of the people in Australia as same-sex marriage is yet to be legalised.?

 

 

Uganda

Uganda was at the centre of controversy in February last year when its parliament and its president approved the ‘Anti Homo-Sexuality Act’. The bill encouraged the growth of homophobia within Uganda, which was often expressed violently. This led to it being informally dubbed the ‘Kill the Gays’ bill.

The bill increased the penalties against those who engage in same sex activity within Uganda and asserted the country’s right to extradite Ugandans who have engaged in same sex activity abroad. It also imposed penalties for people or organisations who knew of gay people or supported LGBT rights. Although the law was declared invalid by the country’s Constitutional Court, the Ugandan MP who introduced the bill has already declared he will appeal this decision.

 

Iceland

Iceland’s stance on LGBT issues is widely viewed as one of the most open and progressive. The government that took power in 2009 was led by Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, the world’s first openly gay head of state. Advancements made by this government include giving same sex couples equal access to adoption, IVF and surrogacy treatment.

The government also changed the laws surrounding gender in 2012, which saw the creation of a department dedicated to the study of Gender Disphoria in one of Iceland’s largest hospitals. People who are believed to have Gender Disphoria undergo an 18 month process, including 12 months living as part of their preferred gender, before appearing before a panel who will permit a legal name and gender change if the diagnosis is appropriate.

 

China

Homosexuality has been legal in China since 1997, although it was legally considered a mental illness until 2001. Same sex couples also have different legal rights to heterosexual couples – for example they are not permitted to adopt children.

Unlike many other countries where LGBT rights are enshrined in law, there are no laws preventing discrimination on the basis of sexuality or gender. This has resulted in censorship of many positive interpretations of homosexuality by the media and the continuing existence of informal discrimination against LGBT related issues.

 

Brazil

The LGBT community is active in the society of Brazil, with over 300 LGBT organisations established across the country. The city of Sao Paulo also plays host to the worlds largest LGBT pride parade, attended by over 4 million people every year. Same sex couples also have the same financial and social rights as heterosexuals in brazil after a ruling made in 2011.

However, the situation is often difficult for transgender people. Although sex reassignment surgery is given free as it is classed as part of the right to medical care it is very difficult for transgender people to find employment opportunities, even in major cities.

 

 

More articles in LGBT History Month 2015
  1. A Case of New Found Gender Fluidity
  2. The Harder Truth
  3. Sexuality and the British Boarding School System: Stoicism and Repression
  4. Coming Out
  5. Gays Who Hate Gays
  6. Pride and Science
  7. Homosexuality in Sport: Widely Accepted or Still a Taboo Subject?
  8. Faith and Sexuality: The Story of MySilentHalf
  9. Look to the Vloggers: The Importance of Gay Role Models to Young People
  10. LGBT Around the World

Article source: http://www.wessexscene.co.uk/features/2015/02/28/lgbt-around-the-world/

As Brent Sopel retires, impact on LGBT hockey not forgotten

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

Andrew Sobotka remembers the power of the Stanley Cup. 

He remembers hockey’s Holy Grail rolling down the streets of Chicago in the 2010 Pride Parade. He remembers watching people who might not otherwise attend a LGBT event lighting up when the float caught their eyes.

“Everyone who is a Chicagoan was happy to have the Cup there,” said Sobotka, then president of the Chicago Gay Hockey Association, “and it continued the conversation about LGBT athletes.”

The Stanley Cup was featured in the parade because the Chicago Blackhawks won it that season, and because defenseman Brent Sopel believed it would be an important way to honor a friend and his dedication to the LGBT movement.

Sopel, who retired from hockey on Friday after 18 seasons as a pro, had been traded to the Atlanta Thrashers after the season but returned to Chicago in June 2010 for the parade. He wore his Hawks sweater with a shamrock over his heart, inscribed with the initials “BB” for the late Brendan Burke.

“I wasn’t here to advocate (anything), but if coming here helps break down walls in the meantime, so be it. I was here for Brendan,” said Sopel at the parade. “I hope he is smiling (from heaven).”

Burke, the son of Calgary Flames president Brian Burke, died in an auto accident earlier that year. “He was a very unique individual,” Sopel said. “For him to come out, and then die a few months later … when you’re a parent and you have to bury a kid, it’s just heartbreaking.”

Sobotka’s organization requested that the Blackhawks have a presence in the parade that year. Sopel answered the call, and team president John McDonough made a special arrangement for the Cup to be flown from Los Angeles, the site of the NHL draft that year, 15 hours earlier than scheduled so it could appear in the parade.

It was the first time a professional sports trophy from the “big four” had appeared in a Pride Parade.

“It hasn’t happened since,” said Sobotka.

While that might seem like a step back for LGBT fans and athletes, Sobotka said many barriers have been broken since the Stanley Cup appeared in the Pride Parade.

Today, athletes give interviews to mainstream and LGBT publications without causing a stir. Players offer support for LGBT causes without creating headlines – in Chicago, he cites Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp as vocal supporters.

This June, around the Pride Parade, the Chicago Gay Hockey Association plans on having a tournament. Sobotka intends on asking Sopel to attend, along with other advocates in the NHL like Tommy Wingels of the San Jose Sharks.

The ultimate goal, however, is to just to be seen as hockey players.

“One of the things I’ve heard echoed from other groups is that we’re looking for this to become a non-story,” Sobotka said. “Some day, we don’t want to even exist.”

It all starts with acknowledgement and respect, continues with conversation and breaking down barriers.

Brent Sopel bringing the Stanley Cup to the Pride Parade may not define his 18 years as a pro or 12 years in the NHL – nor does it erase some of the other questionable stances he’s taken – but it remains an important moment for LGBT hockey players and fans.

“It was a really big time. Not just for my organization, but for the city, and for fans around the country,” said Sobotka.

MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY:

Article source: http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nhl-puck-daddy/as-brent-sopel-retires--impact-on-lgbt-hockey-not-forgotten-150607064.html

LGBT Religious Film Fest Aims to Build Bridges

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

Level Ground, a film festival that seeks to facilitate conversations about religion and LGBT issues, kicked off Thursday in Pasadena, Calif., and will continue through the weekend.

Among Level Ground events:

• Author Jeff Chu will interview Alan Chambers, former president of shuttered “ex-gay” group Exodus International
• A screening of Give Me Sex Jesus, a film that includes interviews with religious leaders, historians, LGBT people and others in an exploration of the history of “sexuality and purity within the Christian church”
• A screening of The Homestretch, a documentary about homeless teens in Chicago
• A bullying-themed performance for kids ages 4-12
• Other film screenings and discussions with filmmakers
• Opening and closing galas and an awards brunch

This is the second year that Level Ground will be held in Pasadena, where five venues will be host to film fest events. Level Ground co–executive director Samantha Curley told the Pasadena Star-News that this year’s festival will highlight youth, homelessness, racial inequalities, and mental health issues.

“The festival is trying to help people form relationships across their differences and disagreements to learn how to value people over ideology. … Both faith and sexuality are parts of very wide and deep identities. They can coexist together,” she said.

Level Ground, which emerged out of a student organization at the evangelical Fuller Theological Seminary, lists its mission as using art “to create safe space for dialogue about faith, gender, and sexuality.”

“As social and political opinions in the United States continue to shift, faith communities and LGBT people are often left hostile, defensive, and largely afraid to talk with one another,” its website says. “Yet these difficult conversations are needed now more than ever. “Level Ground uses art to create space within our communities where we can learn to engage one another across our differences and disagreements.”

Article source: http://www.advocate.com/politics/religion/2015/02/27/lgbt-religious-film-fest-aims-build-bridges

Ukip’s LGBT chair quits due to party's lack of ‘gay-friendly tone’

Friday, February 27th, 2015

Ukip’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group chair has resigned over concerns that the party’s leadership has failed to “set a gay-friendly tone”.

Announcing his resignation on Twitter, Tom Booker said that his departure was because he “simply couldn’t defend the party any more”. “It’s a long way from Classical Liberal these days”, he added.

In a later statement to Pink News, Booker said:

I stepped down from my position as founder-chairman of LGBT* in Ukip, and resigned my membership of Ukip, due to disillusionment of policy direction and dissatisfaction at the failure of the leadership to set a gay-friendly tone.

I also now wish to focus more time on my career development and personal life.

I am proud of my contribution to Ukip. The new LGBT* in Ukip committee is excellent, and I hope that the enthusiasm and dedication of the committee will take the group to new heights.

I would like to wish them all the best.

— Tom Booker (@thomasbooker)
February 24, 2015

Last night I stepped down as Chairman of LGBT* in UKIP and gave up my membership of #ukip. I’ll remain unaffiliated…for now ;-)

— LGBT* in UKIP (@ukiplgbt)
February 24, 2015

We are delighted to announce @FloLewis1 as the new Chair of #LGBT #UKIP. Thank you to outgoing Chairman @thomasbooker for all his hard work

Booker, who runs a hydrotherapy pool in Peterborough, will be replaced by Flo Lewis, while the party’s parliamentary candidate for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, Nathan Garbutt, will continue as the group’s vice-chair.

Booker’s resignation comes just before the start of the party’s spring conference in Margate on Friday.

On Thursday Nigel Farage told Fox News that mosques in Britain have been infiltrated by criminal hate preachers, and warned that religious minorities need to understand the law of the land.

— Tom Booker (@thomasbooker)
February 24, 2015

I want to wish my ukip friends, inc. the guys at @ukiplgbt@Nathangarbutt (whom I’ll still campaign for) and @FloLewis1 the best :-)

Ukip’s LGBT group – which opposes same-sex marriage on the grounds of religious freedom – spoke out against comments made by the party’s councillor for Henley-upon-Thames, David Silvester, who argued that heavy flooding in January 2014 was because of the government’s plans to legalise gay marriage. The group wrote a letter to Silvester describing his comments as “an unacceptable act for which you cannot be excused”.

“I write with perverse intrigue as to why you have chosen to blame the bad weather on gay marriage, using the Bible as the point of reference for your theory,” the letter read.

On his public Facebook page, Booker describes his politics as “classical liberalism”, writing that he is dedicated to “small central governance, more localised power (yay, power to the people!), the pursuit of civil rights, humanism, laissez-faire capitalism and a sensible, more sustainable world”.

Article source: http://feeds.theguardian.com/c/34708/f/663828/s/43d4d9bc/sc/7/l/0L0Stheguardian0N0Cpolitics0C20A150Cfeb0C260Cukips0Elgbt0Echair0Equits0Edue0Eto0Epartys0Elack0Eof0Egay0Efriendly0Etone/story01.htm

‘Families must end LGBT violence in Asia’

Friday, February 27th, 2015

BANGKOK – Some of those most guilty of violence and discrimination against gays, lesbians and transgender people in Asia are their families, which must instead play a key role in improving LGBT rights, activists from the region said.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people (LGBTI) in Asia face the threat of violence and widespread discrimination – denied education and jobs, and disowned by their families in societies that are often patriarchal and religious, the activists said ahead of a three-day meeting on LGBT health and human rights in Asia.

“The family is one of the main perpetrators of violence and discrimination. (According to) Asian values, you control your family’s sexuality, and it’s a shame – a family shame – when one of your family members does not fit into… what society says is normal,” said Ging Cristobal of the Philippines-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) last Wednesday.

If LGBT people suffer violence at the hands of family members, there are few places they can turn to in countries where traumatic conversion and religious therapies are common, Cristobal said.

“You don’t have access to services, counseling. Where do you go if you’re being battered by your family? The service providers are also homophobic or transphobic,” she said.

Cristobal and other activists spoke on a panel at the launch of the second phase of Being LGBT in Asia, an $8-million project supported by the Swedish government, USAID and the UN Development Program (UNDP) that aims to improve LGBT rights through research and support for civil society groups.

The first phase of the initiative included national consultations and interviews to learn more about the challenges facing LGBT people and organizations in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Mongolia, Nepal, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

Among the findings, published in country reports in English and local languages, was evidence that high levels of stigma and discrimination persist in families, workplaces and sectors such as health and education.

In many countries, the laws and social framework cast LGBT people as criminals or deviants, a statement on the project said. – Reuters

Article source: http://ph.news.yahoo.com/families-must-end-lgbt-violence-160000555.html

Ukip's LGBT chair quits due to party's lack of 'gay-friendly tone'

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

Ukip’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group chair has resigned over concerns that the party’s leadership has failed to “set a gay-friendly tone”.

Announcing his resignation on Twitter, Tom Booker said that his departure was because he “simply couldn’t defend the party any more”. “It’s a long way from Classical Liberal these days”, he added.

In a later statement to Pink News, Booker said:

I stepped down from my position as founder-chairman of LGBT* in Ukip, and resigned my membership of Ukip, due to disillusionment of policy direction and dissatisfaction at the failure of the leadership to set a gay-friendly tone.

I also now wish to focus more time on my career development and personal life.

I am proud of my contribution to Ukip. The new LGBT* in Ukip committee is excellent, and I hope that the enthusiasm and dedication of the committee will take the group to new heights.

I would like to wish them all the best.

— Tom Booker (@thomasbooker)
February 24, 2015

Last night I stepped down as Chairman of LGBT* in UKIP and gave up my membership of #ukip. I’ll remain unaffiliated…for now ;-)

— LGBT* in UKIP (@ukiplgbt)
February 24, 2015

We are delighted to announce @FloLewis1 as the new Chair of #LGBT #UKIP. Thank you to outgoing Chairman @thomasbooker for all his hard work

Booker, who runs a hydrotherapy pool, will be replaced by Flo Lewis, and the party’s parliamentary candidate for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, Nathan Garbutt, will continue as the group’s vice chair.

Booker’s resignation comes just before the start of the party’s spring conference in Margate on Friday.

On Thursday Nigel Farage told Fox News that mosques in Britain have been infiltrated by criminal hate preachers, and warned that religious minorities need to understand the law of the land.

— Tom Booker (@thomasbooker)
February 24, 2015

I want to wish my ukip friends, inc. the guys at @ukiplgbt@Nathangarbutt (whom I’ll still campaign for) and @FloLewis1 the best :-)

Ukip’s LGBT group – which opposes same sex marriage on the grounds of religious freedom – spoke out against comments made by the party’s councillor for Henley-upon-Thames, David Silvester, who argued that heavy flooding in January 2014 was because of the government’s plans to legalise gay marriage. The group wrote a letter to Silvester describing his comments as “an unacceptable act for which you cannot be excused”.

“I write with perverse intrigue as to why you have chosen to blame the bad weather on gay marriage, using the Bible as the point of reference for your theory,” the letter read.

On his public Facebook page, Booker describes his politics as “classical liberalism”, writing that he was dedicated to “small central governance, more localised power (yay, power to the people!), the pursuit of civil rights, humanism, laissez-faire capitalism and a sensible, more sustainable world”.

Article source: http://feeds.theguardian.com/c/34708/f/663828/s/43d4d9bc/sc/7/l/0L0Stheguardian0N0Cpolitics0C20A150Cfeb0C260Cukips0Elgbt0Echair0Equits0Edue0Eto0Epartys0Elack0Eof0Egay0Efriendly0Etone/story01.htm

Ukip's LGBT chairman steps down

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

The chair of Ukip’s group for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) supporters has quit the party, citing “dissatisfaction at the failure of the leadership to set a gay-friendly tone”.

Tom Booker had led the LGBT in Ukip group for three years, but said in a message on Twitter that he was giving up his membership because he found it “increasingly difficult” to defend the party’s policies.

“Last night I stepped down as chairman of LGBT in Ukip and gave up my membership of #ukip. I’ll remain unaffiliated…for now,” said Mr Booker.

“I found that I couldn’t defend the party or convincingly campaign for it any more. It became increasingly difficult for me to argue for a non-Classical Liberal manifesto.”

Mr Booker later told PinkNews magazine: “I stepped down from my position as founder-chairman of LGBT in Ukip, and resigned my membership of Ukip, due to disillusionment of policy direction and dissatisfaction at the failure of the leadership to set a gay-friendly tone.

“I am proud of my contribution to Ukip. The new LGBT in Ukip committee is excellent, and I hope that the enthusiasm and dedication of the committee will take the group to new heights. I would like to wish them all the best.”

Article source: http://uk.news.yahoo.com/ukips-lgbt-chairman-steps-down-160044979.html

Arkansas Town Defies State Ban, Protects LGBT Citizens

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

An Arkansas town just passed an ordinance that bans discrimination against city employees on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity. But the policy could become moot in the wake of a statewide antigay bill that became law Tuesday. 

The City Council in Conway, Ark., met Tuesday night to review the emergency measure and voted 6-2 in favor of adding workplace protections for LGBT city employees, according to local outlet Log Cabin Democrat

Conway’s ordinance updates the city’s equal employment opportunity statement to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity or expression” as characteristics that may not be used to discriminate in hiring. The city, which is home to the University of Central Arkansas, has a population of more than 63,000 people, according to U.S. Census estimates from 2013

Mayor Tab Townsell said he was “proud “of the outcome of yesterday’s vote, telling the Democrat he found it a necessity to give explicit protections to people of the LGBT community in Conway. The emergency ordinance will take effect immediately, allowing it to be enacted before a statewide ban on pro-LGBT protections takes effect this summer. 

Conway’s pro-LGBT ordinance was approved the same day that Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson let the statewide ban become law without his signature. The measure rescinds any local ordinances that offer greater protection to the LGBT residents than is guaranteed statewide. Because Arkansas does not recognize sexual orientation or gender identity as protected characteristics, opponents of the statewide law have argued that it effectively legalizes discrimination against LGBT Arkansans. 

This makes Arkansas the second state with such a law on the books, after Tennessee, which enacted a similar measure a few years ago. In 1992, Colorado voters approved a law of this type, but it never took effect due to court challenges, and it was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1996. The Arkansas law takes effect 90 days after the legislative session ends in May.

The only other another Arkansas town with an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance happened to approve that legislation the same day the state Senate passed the statewide antigay law. The City Council in Eureka Springs, a small tourist town known as the “gay capital of the Ozarks,” enacted its antidiscrimination ordinance this month, worried that a statewide law would roll back such protections. 

Article source: http://www.advocate.com/politics/2015/02/25/arkansas-town-defies-state-ban-protects-lgbt-citizens

Arkansas Town Defies State Ban, Protects LGBT Citizens

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

An Arkansas town just passed an ordinance that bans discrimination against city employees on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity. But the policy could become moot in the wake of a statewide antigay bill that became law Tuesday. 

The City Council in Conway, Ark., met Tuesday night to review the emergency measure and voted 6-2 in favor of adding workplace protections for LGBT city employees, according to local outlet Log Cabin Democrat

Conway’s ordinance updates the city’s equal employment opportunity statement to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity or expression” as characteristics that may not be used to discriminate in hiring. The city, which is home to the University of Central Arkansas, has a population of more than 63,000 people, according to U.S. Census estimates from 2013

Mayor Tab Townsell said he was “proud “of the outcome of yesterday’s vote, telling the Democrat he found it a necessity to give explicit protections to people of the LGBT community in Conway. The emergency ordinance will take effect immediately, allowing it to be enacted before a statewide ban on pro-LGBT protections takes effect this summer. 

Conway’s pro-LGBT ordinance was approved the same day that Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson let the statewide ban become law without his signature. The measure rescinds any local ordinances that offer greater protection to the LGBT residents than is guaranteed statewide. Because Arkansas does not recognize sexual orientation or gender identity as protected characteristics, opponents of the statewide law have argued that it effectively legalizes discrimination against LGBT Arkansans. 

This makes Arkansas the second state with such a law on the books, after Tennessee, which enacted a similar measure a few years ago. In 1992, Colorado voters approved a law of this type, but it never took effect due to court challenges, and it was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1996. The Arkansas law takes effect 90 days after the legislative session ends in May.

The only other another Arkansas town with an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance happened to approve that legislation the same day the state Senate passed the statewide antigay law. The City Council in Eureka Springs, a small tourist town known as the “gay capital of the Ozarks,” enacted its antidiscrimination ordinance this month, worried that a statewide law would roll back such protections. 

Article source: http://www.advocate.com/politics/2015/02/25/arkansas-town-defies-state-ban-protects-lgbt-citizens

Many LGBT homeless youth sell sex to survive on the streets, report says

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

Many homeless youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) are likely to engage in “survival sex” in order to stay alive on the streets or in homeless shelters, according to a new study.

The federally funded study by the Urban Institute, which was conducted over three years, included in-depth interviews with 283 young people in New York City, most of them 15 to 21 years old.

“The information they shared paints a vivid picture of how they survive in the face of adversity, often dealing with issues rooted in poverty, homophobia, transphobia, racism, child abuse, and criminalization,” the report states.

Recommended: How much do you know about gay rights in America? Take the quiz!

For many, selling sex to survive comes at a time of alienation when questions of sexual orientation and gender identity are still being resolved – questions that much of society finds difficult, if not impossible, to relate to.

Among the key findings:

  • Such youth are likely to have experienced family rejection, physical or sexual abuse, and other causes of mental and emotional trauma.
  • Young people might be recruited by an exploiter, but then eventually trade sex independently for money in order to pay such basic needs as food and shelter.
  • They experience frequent arrest for various misdemeanor crimes, creating further instability and perpetuating a reliance on survival sex.
  • Many of those interviewed report disappointing or frustrating experiences with social service systems and providers, which often fail to meet their need for safe housing, reliable income, and adequate mental and physical health care.

Some of the young people interviewed by the Urban Institute “experience violence at the hands of staff and clients at social service organizations and other locations that are intended to be safe.”

Still, researchers found, such youth are “extremely resilient” in the face of external challenges as well as sexual and gender identity issues.

“They find ways to survive, often relying on their informal networks, street savvy, and quick learning abilities to share resources and skills and to adapt to difficult and often dangerous situations,” the report states. For some, that means carrying weapons, including knives and Mace.

“These are kids in very desperate situations who will do what they need to do to be able to survive,” Meredith Dank, the report’s lead author, told the Associated Press.

Given that much of this activity is in the shadows of urban life, hard figures can be elusive.

But a study by Boston Children’s Hospital, published online by the American Journal of Public Health, finds that 1 in 4 gay and lesbian high school students are homeless, compared with 3 percent of heterosexual teens. Another study by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law finds that 40 of homeless youth identify as LGBT.

Meanwhile, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), the percentage of young runaways who likely became victims of sex trafficking has been edging up – from one in seven in 2013 to one in six in 2014 – and 68 percent of these likely sex trafficking victims were in the care of social service agencies or foster care when they ran.

The NCMEC cites estimates showing that 30 percent of shelter youth and 70 percent of street youth are victims of commercial sexual exploitation.

In New York City earlier this month, city officials and youth advocates gathered to protest what they said was a two-thirds cut in youth homeless shelters since 2008.

State Sen. Brad Hoylman noted over 5,000 instances in 2012 where teenagers were turned away from shelters due to a lack of beds, a large increase over the 573 that were turned away in 2008, the Gothamist city blog reported.

“It’s unconscionable that thousands of kids struggle each year to find a safe place to sleep,” Senator Hoylman said.

Founded in 1968, the Urban Institute is a social and economic policy research organization in Washington funded by government contracts, foundations and private donors. The new study on LGBT youth engaging in “survival sex” was funded by the US Justice Department’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

If you or someone you know have been a victim of sex trafficking, you can contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP to BeFree (233733).

Related stories

Read this story at csmonitor.com

Become a part of the Monitor community

Article source: http://news.yahoo.com/many-lgbt-homeless-youth-sell-sex-survive-streets-224030697.html

Many LGBT homeless youth sell sex to survive on the streets, report says

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

Many homeless youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) are likely to engage in “survival sex” in order to stay alive on the streets or in homeless shelters, according to a new study.

The federally funded study by the Urban Institute, which was conducted over three years, included in-depth interviews with 283 young people in New York City, most of them 15 to 21 years old.

“The information they shared paints a vivid picture of how they survive in the face of adversity, often dealing with issues rooted in poverty, homophobia, transphobia, racism, child abuse, and criminalization,” the report states.

Recommended: How much do you know about gay rights in America? Take the quiz!

For many, selling sex to survive comes at a time of alienation when questions of sexual orientation and gender identity are still being resolved – questions that much of society finds difficult, if not impossible, to relate to.

Among the key findings:

  • Such youth are likely to have experienced family rejection, physical or sexual abuse, and other causes of mental and emotional trauma.
  • Young people might be recruited by an exploiter, but then eventually trade sex independently for money in order to pay such basic needs as food and shelter.
  • They experience frequent arrest for various misdemeanor crimes, creating further instability and perpetuating a reliance on survival sex.
  • Many of those interviewed report disappointing or frustrating experiences with social service systems and providers, which often fail to meet their need for safe housing, reliable income, and adequate mental and physical health care.

Some of the young people interviewed by the Urban Institute “experience violence at the hands of staff and clients at social service organizations and other locations that are intended to be safe.”

Still, researchers found, such youth are “extremely resilient” in the face of external challenges as well as sexual and gender identity issues.

“They find ways to survive, often relying on their informal networks, street savvy, and quick learning abilities to share resources and skills and to adapt to difficult and often dangerous situations,” the report states. For some, that means carrying weapons, including knives and Mace.

“These are kids in very desperate situations who will do what they need to do to be able to survive,” Meredith Dank, the report’s lead author, told the Associated Press.

Given that much of this activity is in the shadows of urban life, hard figures can be elusive.

But a study by Boston Children’s Hospital, published online by the American Journal of Public Health, finds that 1 in 4 gay and lesbian high school students are homeless, compared with 3 percent of heterosexual teens. Another study by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law finds that 40 of homeless youth identify as LGBT.

Meanwhile, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), the percentage of young runaways who likely became victims of sex trafficking has been edging up – from one in seven in 2013 to one in six in 2014 – and 68 percent of these likely sex trafficking victims were in the care of social service agencies or foster care when they ran.

The NCMEC cites estimates showing that 30 percent of shelter youth and 70 percent of street youth are victims of commercial sexual exploitation.

In New York City earlier this month, city officials and youth advocates gathered to protest what they said was a two-thirds cut in youth homeless shelters since 2008.

State Sen. Brad Hoylman noted over 5,000 instances in 2012 where teenagers were turned away from shelters due to a lack of beds, a large increase over the 573 that were turned away in 2008, the Gothamist city blog reported.

“It’s unconscionable that thousands of kids struggle each year to find a safe place to sleep,” Senator Hoylman said.

Founded in 1968, the Urban Institute is a social and economic policy research organization in Washington funded by government contracts, foundations and private donors. The new study on LGBT youth engaging in “survival sex” was funded by the US Justice Department’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

If you or someone you know have been a victim of sex trafficking, you can contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP to BeFree (233733).

Related stories

Read this story at csmonitor.com

Become a part of the Monitor community

Article source: http://news.yahoo.com/many-lgbt-homeless-youth-sell-sex-survive-streets-224030697.html

How LGBT Youths Survive the Streets

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

A groundbreaking report released Tuesday documents the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youths in New York City’s commercial sex trade. It delivers a portrait of youth sex work that’s more complicated than the popular narrative of “girls working under pimps.”

Here are some of the findings: Half of the interview subjects identified as male, one-third were female, and more than 10 percent identified as transgender. Ninety-five percent of the subjects were youths of color. This reflects the deep barriers that black, Latino, Asian, and multiracial LGBT youths face accessing education, employment, health care, and housing and, ultimately, simply becoming full participants in American society. Most of the study’s participants were not enrolled in school and did not have a high school diploma. Nearly 55 percent reported living in a shelter, and an additional 10 percent lived on the streets. The average age of entry into sex work was 17 but ranged from seven to 22 years old.

The new research was led by Dr. Meredith Dank, senior research associate at the Urban Institute, a liberal Washington think tank focused on social and economic issues. To reach such an underground population, Dank worked with Streetwise Safe, a New York–based leadership development group for LGBT youths of color. Dank trained young people to identify subjects and help conduct interviews. Dank’s team interviewed nearly 300 youths over three years. The new report, Surviving the Streets of New York, offers an unusually in-depth look into what drives young people to sex work and their experiences in the industry.

Dank sat down with TakePart to discuss the findings. Here’s an edited excerpt:

TakePart: How did you come to this topic and the study?

Dr. Meredith Dank: This report came out of the 2008 study I worked on at John Jay College. What everybody told us was (a) we’re not going to get the sample size we need, and (b) it’s all going to be girls, and the girls are all going to have these third-party exploiters that are going to make things really difficult.

There is a lot of conversation around human trafficking and commercial sex exploitation of children right now. I think LGBT youth are often left out of that conversation because they don’t fit the predominant narrative that’s out there. But you can’t talk about those issues without talking about these young people. If you’re putting all the funding into only helping one subgroup, and that’s young cisgendered [i.e., not transgender] girls who have pimps, then you’re not really serving the needs of all young people.

I’m not saying that doesn’t exist, and we were able to capture some of those stories in our study. But there’s so much more when it comes to these young people and their experiences. Yes, cisgendered girls were more likely to be in an exploitative situation with a third-party exploiter. But young boys, transgender girls, and transgender boys were also dealing with this. And most youth weren’t working under someone.

As far as these findings go, anecdotally, I’ve heard from those who work with these young people that these are things they know, but there wasn’t the evidence to show that this problem extended beyond just a handful of young people.

TakePart: What can you tell us about the population in the study? Who are they, and what are some of their key characteristics?

Dank: Prevalence [the size of the youth population involved in sex work] is such a hot-button issue, and it’s really difficult. That was not what we had set out [to study] in our proposal. We’re not trying to say, “Of all young people engaging in this, X percent of the population identifies as LGBT.” We wanted this study to focus on their experiences, their needs, and why they were doing this [work]. The minute you start trying to put a number on it, you miss the point that at the end of the day, there are things we can do to prevent young people from feeling like that is their only choice.

TakePart: Your research on this project is focused on New York City. What lessons can citizens and government officials in other cities take from your research?

Dank: Even though this was a report solely focused on New York City, I don’t think it’s unique to New York. I think LGBT youth are having the same experiences in other cities, in other places, in other towns across the country. They are being kicked out of their homes because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and not having any social support or safety net once they leave, they are creating these peer networks and finding a way to survive.

I’m hoping that people outside of New York can take this [research] and go to whomever and say, “This is exactly what’s happening with the young people I’m working with, and these are things we need to be able to help them.”

TakePart: What are the top policy recommendations you would make based on your findings?

Dank: It’s really important that there are preventative measures that can be taken. They’re difficult, because they have to do with structurally changing institutions that have been working inefficiently for a really long time—like the foster care system, the juvenile criminal justice system, and our education system. If we don’t start tackling that, it’s going to be really difficult to stem the tide of young people who are engaging in commercial sex work.

This is not something we can arrest ourselves out of. Especially because when a young person is arrested for prostitution, only then are we like, “We have these services set aside for you.” But if they aren’t arrested for prostitution, if they’re arrested for something related to this—like theft or assault—no one’s connecting the dots to say, “Oh, maybe you could benefit from these services.”

Housing is a top priority for many people. And not just emergency housing but long-term housing. Without housing, you don’t have that address to put down on a job application, to put on a school application, to even put on a public assistance application.

TakePart: What progress are you seeing in New York?

Dank: New York Mayor Bill de Blasio had committed to funding 100 beds every year for homeless youth until the need was met. He added 100 beds last year. But in the budget he just released, there were no new beds for homeless youth. When you only have 350 beds available to a homeless population in a city that has a minimum of 4,000 young people at any given time who are homeless, well, desperate times call for desperate measures. A lot of these young people are extremely resilient, and they’re going to go out and do what they have to do.
 

TakePart: What’s at stake for these young people—and our country?

Dank: The more these young people are out on the street, the higher the likelihood they’re going to be caught up in the criminal justice system, which is a huge burden for everyone—particularly for misdemeanor crimes.

At the end of the day, this is a human rights issue. We should all care that these young people are having their rights violated. There are agencies in place that are supposed to be helping these young people, and they’re not.

These young people have a lot to contribute, they’re amazing, they’re resilient, and they’re very talented. By denying them basic rights and needs, we’re failing the country. Because these young people are the future.

Original article from TakePart

Article source: http://news.yahoo.com/lgbt-youths-survive-streets-004545772.html

How LGBT Youths Survive the Streets

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

A groundbreaking report released Tuesday documents the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youths in New York City’s commercial sex trade. It delivers a portrait of youth sex work that’s more complicated than the popular narrative of “girls working under pimps.”

Here are some of the findings: Half of the interview subjects identified as male, one-third were female, and more than 10 percent identified as transgender. Ninety-five percent of the subjects were youths of color. This reflects the deep barriers that black, Latino, Asian, and multiracial LGBT youths face accessing education, employment, health care, and housing and, ultimately, simply becoming full participants in American society. Most of the study’s participants were not enrolled in school and did not have a high school diploma. Nearly 55 percent reported living in a shelter, and an additional 10 percent lived on the streets. The average age of entry into sex work was 17 but ranged from seven to 22 years old.

The new research was led by Dr. Meredith Dank, senior research associate at the Urban Institute, a liberal Washington think tank focused on social and economic issues. To reach such an underground population, Dank worked with Streetwise Safe, a New York–based leadership development group for LGBT youths of color. Dank trained young people to identify subjects and help conduct interviews. Dank’s team interviewed nearly 300 youths over three years. The new report, Surviving the Streets of New York, offers an unusually in-depth look into what drives young people to sex work and their experiences in the industry.

Dank sat down with TakePart to discuss the findings. Here’s an edited excerpt:

TakePart: How did you come to this topic and the study?

Dr. Meredith Dank: This report came out of the 2008 study I worked on at John Jay College. What everybody told us was (a) we’re not going to get the sample size we need, and (b) it’s all going to be girls, and the girls are all going to have these third-party exploiters that are going to make things really difficult.

There is a lot of conversation around human trafficking and commercial sex exploitation of children right now. I think LGBT youth are often left out of that conversation because they don’t fit the predominant narrative that’s out there. But you can’t talk about those issues without talking about these young people. If you’re putting all the funding into only helping one subgroup, and that’s young cisgendered [i.e., not transgender] girls who have pimps, then you’re not really serving the needs of all young people.

I’m not saying that doesn’t exist, and we were able to capture some of those stories in our study. But there’s so much more when it comes to these young people and their experiences. Yes, cisgendered girls were more likely to be in an exploitative situation with a third-party exploiter. But young boys, transgender girls, and transgender boys were also dealing with this. And most youth weren’t working under someone.

As far as these findings go, anecdotally, I’ve heard from those who work with these young people that these are things they know, but there wasn’t the evidence to show that this problem extended beyond just a handful of young people.

TakePart: What can you tell us about the population in the study? Who are they, and what are some of their key characteristics?

Dank: Prevalence [the size of the youth population involved in sex work] is such a hot-button issue, and it’s really difficult. That was not what we had set out [to study] in our proposal. We’re not trying to say, “Of all young people engaging in this, X percent of the population identifies as LGBT.” We wanted this study to focus on their experiences, their needs, and why they were doing this [work]. The minute you start trying to put a number on it, you miss the point that at the end of the day, there are things we can do to prevent young people from feeling like that is their only choice.

TakePart: Your research on this project is focused on New York City. What lessons can citizens and government officials in other cities take from your research?

Dank: Even though this was a report solely focused on New York City, I don’t think it’s unique to New York. I think LGBT youth are having the same experiences in other cities, in other places, in other towns across the country. They are being kicked out of their homes because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and not having any social support or safety net once they leave, they are creating these peer networks and finding a way to survive.

I’m hoping that people outside of New York can take this [research] and go to whomever and say, “This is exactly what’s happening with the young people I’m working with, and these are things we need to be able to help them.”

TakePart: What are the top policy recommendations you would make based on your findings?

Dank: It’s really important that there are preventative measures that can be taken. They’re difficult, because they have to do with structurally changing institutions that have been working inefficiently for a really long time—like the foster care system, the juvenile criminal justice system, and our education system. If we don’t start tackling that, it’s going to be really difficult to stem the tide of young people who are engaging in commercial sex work.

This is not something we can arrest ourselves out of. Especially because when a young person is arrested for prostitution, only then are we like, “We have these services set aside for you.” But if they aren’t arrested for prostitution, if they’re arrested for something related to this—like theft or assault—no one’s connecting the dots to say, “Oh, maybe you could benefit from these services.”

Housing is a top priority for many people. And not just emergency housing but long-term housing. Without housing, you don’t have that address to put down on a job application, to put on a school application, to even put on a public assistance application.

TakePart: What progress are you seeing in New York?

Dank: New York Mayor Bill de Blasio had committed to funding 100 beds every year for homeless youth until the need was met. He added 100 beds last year. But in the budget he just released, there were no new beds for homeless youth. When you only have 350 beds available to a homeless population in a city that has a minimum of 4,000 young people at any given time who are homeless, well, desperate times call for desperate measures. A lot of these young people are extremely resilient, and they’re going to go out and do what they have to do.
 

TakePart: What’s at stake for these young people—and our country?

Dank: The more these young people are out on the street, the higher the likelihood they’re going to be caught up in the criminal justice system, which is a huge burden for everyone—particularly for misdemeanor crimes.

At the end of the day, this is a human rights issue. We should all care that these young people are having their rights violated. There are agencies in place that are supposed to be helping these young people, and they’re not.

These young people have a lot to contribute, they’re amazing, they’re resilient, and they’re very talented. By denying them basic rights and needs, we’re failing the country. Because these young people are the future.

Original article from TakePart

Article source: http://news.yahoo.com/lgbt-youths-survive-streets-004545772.html

LGBT students are focus of HRC Mississippi Community Conversation

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

JACKSON, MS (WDAM) -

This is a news release from The Human Rights Campaign 

This week, HRC Mississippi will host a community conversation on bullying and its effects on LGBT students as part of HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools Project. The event will also present the award-winning film What Do You Know? during the conversation to facilitate discussion. The event will be held on Tuesday, February 24 from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. in the Camelia Room at the Old Capitol Inn on 226 North State Street in Jackson. Families, teachers, administrators and key stakeholders within the education community will learn about creating a welcoming school environment for students.

“For some students, simply going to school is terrifying due to teasing, harassment and bullying in the classroom. This community conversation is meant to be a starting point to support our teachers and families in doing more to protect our children, who simply want and deserve to get a quality education,” said HRC Mississippi director Rob Hill. “This is a critical link to improving academic achievement and the mental health of Mississippi students.”

What Do You Know? is a 13-minute film produced by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Welcoming Schools Project. It features students from Alabama and Massachusetts discussing what they hear about sexual orientation and gender expression at school, and how they’d like teachers to address things like name-calling and harassment. The kids in this film range in ages from 6 to 12, come from rural, urban and suburban settings, and represent a variety of economic backgrounds and family situations. Of the 25 children featured, 19 are being raised by moms and dads, three have lesbian or gay parents, three are being raised by single moms, two are adopted, and six have parents who were not born in the United States.

According to a 2014 HRC survey, almost half of respondents in Mississippi have experienced harassment at school. Even more disturbing, one third of LGBT students in rural areas have experienced harassment in school on a weekly basis. HRC Mississippi is working to advance equality for LGBT Mississippians who have no state or municipal level protections in housing, workplace, or public accommodations; legal state recognition for their relationships and families; state rights to jointly adopt children; and state protections from hate crimes. Through HRC Mississippi, we are working toward a future of fairness every day—changing hearts, minds and laws toward achieving full equality.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. HRC envisions a world where LGBT people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

Copyright 2015 WDAM. All rights reserved. 

Article source: http://www.wmcactionnews5.com/story/28190424/lgbt-students-are-focus-of-hrc-mississippi-community-conversation

Arkansas Governor Lets Anti-LGBT Bill Become Law

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

Local governments in Arkansas are now forbidden from passing ordinances that protect LGBT people from discrimination, after the state’s Republican governor let an anti-LGBT bill become law without his signature Tuesday. 

Gov. Asa Hutchinson did not sign the bill into law, instead taking no action on the pending bill for five days, triggering its automatic passage, reports the Associated Press. The law will take effect 90 days after the state legislature adjourns in May. 

The new law will prevent cities and counties from enacting or enforcing laws that ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, making Arkansas the second state with such a law; Tennessee passed a similar law a few years ago. The law is also reminiscent of Colorado’s Amendment 2, which was approved by voters in 1992, but never enforced because the 1996 Supreme Court ruling in Romer v. Evans struck down the law as discriminatory. 

The bill’s sponsor, Arkansas Sen. Bart Hester, told BuzzFeed News earlier this month that he wanted the state to have uniformity in civil rights laws, referring to LGBT rights as “special rights.”

“I want everyone in the LGBT community to have the same rights I do,” he said. “I do not want them to have special rights that I do not have.”

Once it takes effect, the law will invalidate existing LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances, like the one passed earlier this month in Eureka Springs, a gay-friendly tourist town in the Ozarks. LGBT advocates were initially encouraged by the passage of a similar ordinance in Fayetteville last year, but after a campaign from right-wing activists and a transphobic robo-call from Michelle Duggar, the matriarch of TLC’s reality show 19 Kids and Counting, voters repealed the ordinance in a special election last December. 

Little Rock, the state’s capital and largest city, is considering such an ordinance, with a window to pass such a bill because the state ban won’t go into effect for 90 days after the end of the legislative session, the Arkansas Times reports. It could help set up a court challenge to the state law, the paper notes.

Similar bills, which aim to gut local nondiscrimination ordinances that provide protection to LGBT residents from discrimination in housing, public accommodation, employment, and education, have been proposed in several other states, but so far only Mississippi has seen one become law. Both chambers of the Arizona legislature passed a “license to discriminate” bill last year, but under great pressure, Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed it.

Article source: http://www.advocate.com/politics/2015/02/24/arkansas-governor-lets-anti-lgbt-bill-become-law

LGBT Friendly Weddings and Travel are Embraced in the Washington, DC Area

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015
  • Email a friend

Same-sex marriage in Washington, DC

We have always been a supporter of LGBT rights and our support for equality shows in our service and in how we celebrate diversity among our associates,” said Tim Bowes, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Crescent Hotels Resorts.

TYSONS, VA (PRWEB) February 24, 2015

As acknowledgement of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) rights continues to grow, so do the ways to show support to the LGBT traveler. “We have always been a supporter of LGBT rights and our support for equality shows in our service and in how we celebrate diversity among our associates,” said Tim Bowes, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Crescent Hotels Resorts, operator of over 100 hotels throughout North America including sixteen hotels in the Washington, DC area.

With same sex marriage gaining recognition in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia, more couples are searching out wedding venues in the region. “We are proud to play a key role in supporting same sex marriages and glad to see other hotels are following our lead,” stated Bowes. “All Crescent Hotels in the Washington, DC area are TAG Approved, a designation that demonstrates our company’s commitment to the LGBT community. Also our LGBT website is an excellent resource, including a link to our wedding information. We have received great feedback from our wedding clients on these pages as they are a tremendous resource for wedding offers, online menus and many other details.”

The Sheraton Tyson Hotel, offering one of the largest ballrooms in Fairfax County, VA, has always been a “go to” venue for weddings. “We have hosted many civil unions and celebration ceremonies even before marriage equality was achieved last year,” said, Laura Mahon-Tinsman, Director of Catering of the hotel. In her capacity as an ordained minister, Mahon-Tinsman has also officiated over several weddings, including same-sex ceremonies.

Washington, DC is no longer the region’s sole preferred location for the area’s LGBT travelers. The Dulles Triangles, a social club for the LGBT community, has been meeting in the Sheraton Reston Hotel, located in the Washington, DC suburb, for over nine years thanks to the support of the property. “We are happy to have the Dulles Triangles call our hotel home once a week,” said Claudia Eggspuhler, the hotel’s general manager. “The fact that the group grows year after year shows the importance of these types of social networking events. We also now have the Metrorail Silver Line Wiehle-Reston East station serving the hotel, making it easier for Washingtonians to join the events. Additionally, we see many of our overnight guests plan their business or leisure travel around these social gatherings. It’s a great way to meet people while traveling.”

Crystal City, just over the bridge from Washington, DC is also a popular LGBT location. “We are located just a short walk from 23rd Street, and it’s collection of LGBT (and LGBT friendly) bars and restaurants,” said Harold Bassler, General Manager of the Hilton Crystal City at Washington Reagan National Airport. “Combined with the fact that we are walking distance to Metrorail, which gives our guests direct access to downtown Washington, DC, this makes us the ideal location for those that want to see the city like a local.”

While proximity to LGBT establishments is a plus, it’s far from a necessary. “We have seen an uptick in volume of LGBT travelers,” said Mark Nelson, General Manager of the Hilton Washington DC/Rockville Hotel Executive Meeting Center. “We have found the demographic has changed dramatically in just the last few years. We are seeing more LBGT families with kids and they are looking great service at a fair price. Being on the Red Line Metrorail stop is a large plus for us. We are a direct ride from Dupont Circle, an area known for its LGBT restaurants, boutiques and bars, and access to all the sights and sounds of the nation’s capital.”

ABOUT STAY IN WASHINGTON DC

Stay in Washington DC includes Crescent Hotels Resorts’ hotels located in and around Washington, DC. These properties are internationally recognized brands including, Hilton, Hyatt, Sheraton, Westin, Wingate by Wyndham and Best Western. Many hotels are in walking distance to a Metrorail or offer complimentary shuttle service that links guests to the city’s world renowned Metrorail network. All locations offer various dining, shopping and entertainment options just minutes away via walking, complimentary shuttle or Metrorail. Several locations offer award winning restaurants right inside the hotels. For more information, visit http://www.stayinwashingtondc.com, like on Facebook, follow on Twitter and connect on Google+.

ABOUT CRESCENT HOTELS RESORTS

Crescent Hotels Resorts is a nationally recognized, top-5 operator of hotels and resorts. Crescent currently operates over 100 hotels and resorts in 36 states in the US and 4 provinces in Canada. Crescent is one of the few elite management companies approved to operate upper-upscale and luxury hotels under the brand families of Marriott, Hilton, Starwood, Hyatt and IHG. Crescent also operates a collection of legendary independent hotels and resorts. Crescent’s clients are made up of hotel REITs, private equity firms and major developers. For more information, please visit http://www.chrco.com.

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Article source: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/02/prweb12537488.htm

In the Loop: Kerry picks foreign service officer to be State’s first special envoy for gay rights

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

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Article source: http://feeds.washingtonpost.com/c/34656/f/636635/s/43b62be1/sc/7/l/0L0Swashingtonpost0N0Cpolitics0Ckerry0Epicks0Eforeign0Eservice0Eofficer0Eto0Ebe0Estates0Efirst0Especial0Eenvoy0Efor0Egay0Erights0C20A150C0A20C230C23ed3ede0Eda9c0E43ab0Eae4c0Ed0A143f2949f70Istory0Bhtml0Dwprss0Frss0Inational/story01.htm

U.S. Appoints First-Ever Special Envoy For LGBT Rights

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

A protester waves an American flag and a rainbow flag in support of gay marriage in Miami in 2014. Secretary of State John Kerry announced Tuesday the appointment of a special envoy for the human rights of LGBT persons.i

A protester waves an American flag and a rainbow flag in support of gay marriage in Miami in 2014. Secretary of State John Kerry announced Tuesday the appointment of a special envoy for the human rights of LGBT persons.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images


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Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A protester waves an American flag and a rainbow flag in support of gay marriage in Miami in 2014. Secretary of State John Kerry announced Tuesday the appointment of a special envoy for the human rights of LGBT persons.

A protester waves an American flag and a rainbow flag in support of gay marriage in Miami in 2014. Secretary of State John Kerry announced Tuesday the appointment of a special envoy for the human rights of LGBT persons.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

For the first time ever, the United States has appointed a Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT Persons.

In a statement, Secretary of State John Kerry said Randy Berry’s job will be to “reaffirm the universal human rights of all persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Human Rights Campaign praised the move.

“At a moment when many LGBT people around the world are facing persecution and daily violence, this unprecedented appointment shows a historic commitment to the principle that LGBT rights are human rights,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “President Obama and Secretary Kerry have shown tremendous leadership in championing the rights of LGBT people abroad. Now, working closely with this new envoy, we’ve got to work harder than ever to create new allies, push back on human rights violators, and support the brave leaders and organizations that fight for LGBT rights around the world.”

The Washington Post reports that the idea for a special envoy for LGBT rights was first proposed by Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.).

The paper reported:

“By creating the special envoy, Kerry can bolster U.S. efforts to address discrimination and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities overseas. The appointee will be an openly gay career diplomat, the State Department said in a statement.

“In the past, Kerry has advocated for LGBT rights himself. He released astatement last year condemning Uganda’s anti-homosexual legislation, which later became law in that country, and he has worked with groups trying to discourage Eastern European media from portraying gays negatively.

“The Ugandan law is one of several that have taken effect around the world in recent years. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed legislation in 2013 banning “homosexual propaganda,” and Nigeria banned same-sex marriage and restricted homosexual behavior, including public displays of affection between gays.”

Kerry’s predecessor, Hillary Clinton, had also moved the State Department in this direction. If you remember back in 2011 Clinton announced her department would now weigh how a country treated its gay and lesbian citizens when making foreign aid decisions.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2015/02/23/388482554/u-s-appoints-first-ever-special-envoy-for-lgbt-rights?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=storiesfromnpr

US names first global envoy for LGBT rights

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States named its first international envoy for gay rights Monday, tasking a veteran diplomat with leading U.S. efforts to fight violence and discrimination against LGBT individuals overseas.

Randy Berry, currently the consul general in the Netherlands, will promote human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, Secretary of State John Kerry said. A longtime foreign service officer, Berry has served at U.S. posts in Bangladesh, Egypt, Uganda and South Africa, and speaks Spanish and Arabic.

“Defending and promoting the human rights of LGBT persons is at the core of our commitment to advancing human rights globally — the heart and conscience of our diplomacy,” Kerry said in a statement. He cited overturning laws that still criminalize same-sex activity in more than 75 countries as a specific priority.

The State Department has said it planned to appoint an openly gay diplomat to the post.

Long in the works, Berry’s appointment as a special envoy is the latest move by the Obama administration to make LGBT rights a prominent part of its human rights efforts around the world. In 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton declared during a speech in Geneva that “gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.” And earlier this year, the White House for the first time included human rights protection for LGBT people in its formal national security strategy.

“Nations that place LGBT people in the cross hairs of danger must know that the United States will not turn a blind eye,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group.

The announcement also comes amid a heightened public focus on transgender rights. Ash Carter, on his first overseas trip as defense secretary, suggested he was open to allowing transgender people to serve openly in the U.S. military.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday that President Barack Obama welcomed Carter’s comments and agrees that all Americans qualified for military service should be able to serve.

___

Reach Josh Lederman on Twitter at http://twiter.com/joshledermanAP

Article source: http://news.yahoo.com/us-names-first-global-envoy-lgbt-rights-181409378.html

Kerry names special envoy for LGBT rights

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

Secretary of State John Kerry has selected an openly gay career Foreign Service officer to serve as the United States’ “heart and conscience” in promoting equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in countries where they are discriminated against.

Kerry announced Monday that Randy Berry, currently consul general in Amsterdam, would be the first special envoy for LGBT rights.

“We looked far and wide to find the right American official for this important assignment. Randy’s a leader. He’s a motivator. But most importantly for this effort, he’s got vision,” Kerry said in a statement.

Our colleague Josh Hicks reported this month that State intended to appoint someone to the newly created diplomatic post. It was an idea Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) first suggested through legislation.

Markey promptly tweeted his congrats, saying the United States “now stands” with LGBT communities everywhere.


Randy W. Berry has been named the State Department’s special envoy for human rights of LGBT persons. (Courtesy of US. State Department)

The Human Rights Campaign, in a statement released after Berry was chosen, said it had worked with Markey and Lowenthal, and encouraged Kerry to create the position.

“This new appointment sends a message that the United States will remain on the forefront of protecting the human rights of LGBT people around the world,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Nations that place LGBT people in the cross hairs of danger must know that the United States will not turn a blind eye.”

Three countries — Russia, Nigeria and Lithuania — have laws forbidding so-called LGBT propaganda. In 76 countries it’s illegal to be gay. Last year, Kerry compared anti-gay laws in Uganda to the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany and blacks under apartheid in South Africa.

“Defending and promoting the human rights of LGBT persons is at the core of our commitment to advancing human rights globally — the heart and conscience of our diplomacy,” Kerry said Monday.

Eric Holder may be the third-longest-serving attorney general in U.S. history, but he’s almost surely the most traveled. Loop fans may recall some of his fine trips with staff and security on his FBI plane to places such as New Zealand, Morocco, Barbados and, of course, Europe. Then there are those domestic trips to fulfill his pledge to visit all 93 U.S. attorney’s offices.

And just because he’s likely to leave in about three weeks, that doesn’t mean he’s just sitting around his office packing boxes and writing farewell thank-you notes. (“Dear Darrell Issa .?.?.?”)

No, Monday morning found him in jolly old London, attending the Global Law Summit, a three-day international gabfest of 2,000 lawyers from government, business and other organizations who are celebrating the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta. (It did help shape American law.) Holder didn’t make a formal speech there, but he delivered remarks at the welcoming session Monday morning in the Churchill Auditorium of the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre.

The event styles itself as a “high-level business forum” with a mix of “practitioners, business leaders and others” to talk about and “develop relationships across markets and jurisdictions.” Folks from 50 countries were set to attend, including top officials from China, Russia, Ukraine and Malta.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon may have been too busy to attend, but he sent a video.

Not going? There may still be time to get a flight out of Dulles.

The brochure says: “Whether you are looking for investment, to invest, or wanting to collaborate, networking can be instrumental for your prospects for growth.”

Sounds like a good event for passing out business cards.

Perhaps the most moving moment of Sunday’s Academy Awards came during Graham Moore’s acceptance speech after he won the Oscar for best adapted screenplay for writing “The Imitation Game.”

Moore brought the Oscar audience to its feet when he shared that as a teenager he’d tried to commit suicide because he felt “weird and different.” He implored young people watching at home who felt like outsiders to believe that one day they, too, will have their moment.

But what Loop fans might not have known about Moore is his deep connection to the Obamas.

Moore’s mother is Susan Sher, who was Michelle Obama’s chief of staff and is now coordinating the push to have President Obama’s official library located in Chicago. But their relationship is beyond professional — the families have been friends for years. In July 2009, the Chicago Tribute wrote:

“They regularly gather for dinner or a movie at the White House. Obama has visited the apartment building for a progressive dinner: drinks at [Valerie] Jarrett’s apartment, a stop at Sher’s place and a barbecue dinner hosted by [Desiree] Rogers. They all joined Obama and her daughters for a Beyonce concert in Washington last month.”

Last week, Variety speculated that “The Imitation Game” — the film about a mathematician who helped crack Nazi code during World War II but was prosecuted for being gay — was a White House favorite because of the Obamas’ relationship with Sher.

And Moore himself is deep inside the Obama orbit. In 2010, when Sher hosted a Washington book party for her son’s novel, “The Sherlockian,” it was described as a “who’s who’s” crowd by legendary Chicago Sun-Times columnist Lynn Sweet.

Joe and Jill Biden also hosted a gathering for the book’s release at the vice president’s residence. Jarrett, senior adviser to the president, called herself Moore’s “other mother.”

But outside of the Obama inner circle and the people who follow it closely, like Sweet, many people only learned of the Moore-White House connection when congratulations and comments poured out over Twitter after his Oscar win.

— With Colby Itkowitz

Twitter: @KamenInTheLoop, @ColbyItkowitz

Article source: http://feeds.washingtonpost.com/c/34656/f/636635/s/43b75a7e/sc/7/l/0L0Swashingtonpost0N0Cpolitics0Ckerry0Enames0Eopenly0Egay0Eforeign0Eservice0Eofficer0C20A150C0A20C230C97afa8580Ebb890E11e40E86680E4e7ba8439ca60Istory0Bhtml0Dwprss0Frss0Inational/story01.htm

U.S. names first-ever LGBT human rights envoy

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

By Lisa Anderson

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The United States Department of State on Monday named its first-ever special envoy to advocate globally for the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

Randy Berry, an openly gay senior diplomat, has served as U.S. Consul General in Amsterdam since 2012. His earlier foreign service postings included Nepal, Bangladesh, Egypt, Uganda, South Africa and New Zealand.

“Defending and promoting the human rights of LGBT persons is at the core of our commitment to advancing human rights globally–the heart and conscience of our diplomacy,” said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in announcing the groundbreaking appointment.

In his new role, Berry is charged with advancing government initiatives to reduce violence and discrimination against LGBT people around the world, including in the more than 75 countries where consensual same-sex relationships are criminalized.

He also will be able to utilize the State Department’s Global Equality Fund, created in 2011 to provide critical emergency, short-term, and long-term assistance to protect and advance the human rights of LGBT communities in over 50 countries.

“At a time when many LGBT people around the world are facing persecution and daily violence, this unprecedented appointment shows a historic commitment to the principle that LGBT rights are human rights,” said Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin in a statement.

The appointment is part of an Obama administration push to promote LGBT rights internationally and make them a foreign policy priority.

(Reporting by Lisa Anderson, Editing by Maria Caspani)

Article source: http://news.yahoo.com/u-names-first-ever-lgbt-human-rights-envoy-212346569.html

These Producers Are Fearlessly Gaying Up the Oscars

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015

It’s a typical sunny Southern California afternoon outside of the temporary office of the 2015 Academy Awards in Los Angeles. The atmosphere inside the building, however, is nothing like the easy-breezy weather outside. Workers rush by, preparing for the rapidly approaching live telecast this Sunday, as a sense of urgency pulsates through the halls.

But when I’m whisked away to speak with producing duo Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, their warm, even-tempered manner takes over; never mind the flurry of work and whirlwind pressure to make the Oscars telecast a hit for the third consecutive year.

These are obviously two men doing exactly what they love.

As we sit down in a quiet corner conference room, Zadan shares one of his favorite childhood memories of the Oscars.

“When I was a really young kid, I lived in Queens and I used to take the subway in to Manhattan on Saturdays to see Broadway matinees,” he says as a wide grin spreads across his face. “One of the very first shows I saw was Funny Girl with Barbra Streisand, and I’ll never forget when she won the Best Actress award [in 1969] for her role in that film. She picked up that Oscar, in that stunning outfit, and said, ‘Hello, gorgeous.’ I remember that as though it were yesterday, because that’s the moment I knew I was a fan of the Oscars.”

It’s that personal sort of memory that likely resonates with numerous gay men who began their own love affairs with the Academy Awards in similar fashion. Affectionately referred to as the “Gay Super Bowl” by many of its LGBT fans, the Oscars have long been an annual event celebrated by the queer community, and Meron doesn’t hesitate to explain why.

“Our community has always been at the forefront of acknowledging the arts and this is like the Olympics of the arts,” he says. “Everybody turns it out, and of course there’s also the excitement of who is going to win, but ultimately the Oscars is about glamour and excellence in the arts. It’s everything our community loves rolled into one night of entertainment.”

But under Meron and Zadan, the Oscars telecast has become more than a beloved piece of pop culture for gay fans. Last year marked the second stint as host for Ellen DeGeneres, the first out LGBT person to ever host the event, and she earned the Oscars its highest ratings in 14 years. Now with Neil Patrick Harris being the first out gay man to step into the role, this year’s telecast is set to make history once more.

However, not everyone has reacted positively to the news.

“The morning this year’s nominations were announced, we spoke to a journalist from Japan and I remember he had a look on his face that seemed to say, Is this really happening? when he pointed out that we’d had two gay hosts in successive years and asked if that was a problem,” Meron says. “I simply responded by telling him that a person’s sexuality has nothing to do with how good a host they are, and that’s the truth. Because while we’re fortunate that our choices in the past two years have been prominent members of the LGBT community — and being members of that community ourselves, there’s certain sense of pride going forward with the hosts we hired — it never informed our decision.”

But Meron and Zadan, who have been professional partners since 1976, say the criticism they’ve received for hiring LGBT hosts two years in a row is minimal compared to the backlash they experienced after Seth MacFarlane marched across the Oscars stage singing “We Saw Your Boobs” during the 2013 telecast.

Meron adds, “What’s really interesting about that is, when we looked at the minute-by-minute analysis the Academy does each year measuring how people react to the show, we found the country as a whole loved the boob song and Seth. Their number 1 complaint was the appearance of Michelle Obama as a presenter because they felt politics were brought in. But in the media and the Hollywood community it was the boob song that was the most divisive. That only proves the media and certain aspects of the community are disconnected from what the public enjoys.”

That enjoyment is one of the main reasons Zadan says he and Meron agreed to produce the show for a third time, and he hopes it will be remembered as the biggest impact the two have had on the Oscars legacy.

“If you look at previous Oscars shows and the amount of entertainment, it’s minimal,” he says. “We took each show and jam-packed it with performances. We brought back a sense of entertainment, which not only resulted in higher ratings, but also fun for those attending. Previous to our time, people didn’t want to go to the show unless they were nominated. But since we’ve taken over, demand for tickets is through the roof because people want to see these performers live.”

Nevertheless, while the two eagerly admit producing the Oscars has been one of the highlights of their career, it’s not a feat that has become any less stressful with experience.

“There’s a misconception that once you’ve had some success it gets easier, but you’re still putting in the same hours, the same work, and the same fight every single day,” Zadan says. “If anything, this year is much harder than last year because we’re competing with ourselves and that previous success.”

As our allotted time nears its end, I ask both Meron and Zadan if they’d be up for the challenge of producing the Oscars for a fourth time in 2016. The two pause, exchanging a look that communicates an amount of information that could only be achieved by a decades-long working relationship like the one they share, before Zadan answers with a knowing smile.

“Most people only get asked to do this one time, and it seems impossible that the kid who watched the Academy Awards when Barbra Streisand won the Oscar for Funny Girl is now producing the Oscars for a third time, but I don’t think that’s a question that can be answered right now because it would depend on so many factors,” he says. “Ultimately, it depends on how the show turns out — not how other people think it turned out, but how we think it turned out — as well as the ratings. All that would weigh in on whether or not we’d consider coming back, and whether the Academy would ask us back.”

With that, Meron echoes the attitude of the hundreds of actors who have been Oscar nominees throughout the history of the Academy Awards when he adds, “First we’d have to be asked, and under any circumstances, it’s always an honor to be asked.” 

Article source: http://editorial.advocate.com/arts-entertainment/film/2015/02/20/these-producers-are-fearlessly-gaying-oscars

LGBT center takes on a big mission in a small space

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015

The LGBT Resource Center is a new, bright, open space tucked away in the Student Services building. It’s a small place with a big history at Weber State.

The center opened its doors in January and has already seen a generous donation from local residents Jane and Tami Marquardt.

“Celebrating the fullness of who you are, where you are,” is the proclaimed vision statement on the center’s website.

(Left to Right) Quincy Murphy (President of UVU Spectrum), Karlee Berezay, Phylicia McCord and Kate Martinson celebrate donations made to the new LGBT resource center (Emily Crooks/ The Signpost)

The LGBT Resource Center is the fruition of a long history of LGBT representation at Weber State.

“Weber State was one of the first institutions in the state to put in their nondiscrimination policy ‘sexual orientation,’” Jayson Stokes, coordinator of the LGBT Resource Center, said. “But institutional policy alone does not address campus climate.”

Over the last decade, faculty and students have recognized a need for the greater recognition of LGBT issues. The first step the university took was creating a “Safe Zone” program to educate faculty and students on what it means to be LGBT.

“From there, we recognized that, though that program was important and effective in many ways, and beneficial and valuable, there were still needs it was not able to meet,” Stokes said, who was involved in the process.

Next, the university created an LGBT resources program located in the Center for Diversity and Unity.

WSU student and LGBT advocate Karlee Berezay was, and still is, deeply involved in LGBT issues on campus. She runs a number of programs and events to spotlight the needs of LGBT individuals. A few include a book club that discusses LGBT issues through literature and a film series coordinated with the campus Gay-Straight Alliance.

At this point, Berezay took part in a letter-writing campaign to petition the university to take the next step and create a LGBT center. In her writing, she referenced her work at the University of Utah in their LGBT Resource Center.

“I expressed how helpful it was in my coming-out process to have a place that could give me information to give to my parents, or to my brothers, or to my friends,” Berezay said.

Stokes realized that though the LGBT resources program was effective, there were still needs that were not being met.

“We realized that we needed something more than an LGBT resources program,” Stokes said. “We needed a resource center. Something that could consolidate all the resources that were available and fill in the gaps that weren’t being met.”

The rest, as they say, is history.

“What we are doing is offering programming to address the common obstacles that LGBT individuals face in terms of coming to the university, engaging in programming and ultimately being successful,” Stokes said. “We’re doing that through educational programming and providing resources.”

One of those resources is a new speaker series, the “Marquardt Peace and Possibility Series,” funded by the recent donation of Jane and Tami Marquardt.

President Chuck Wight announces a large donation made by Jane and Tami Marquardt for the new LGBT resource center (Emily Crooks/ The Signpost)

A resource library, social and leadership opportunities are also offered at the center, and Stokes said scholarships may be available in the future.

“We’re looking at making sure that campus is fully inclusive and welcoming for LGBT students,” Stokes said.

Berezay is frequently involved in activities at the new center. She was grateful for the center’s opening.

“It gave my job placement a home, a place to be, and a place for people to come and utilize the resources that I provide and that we all provide in the center,” Berezay said. “Even though these events are my responsibility and they fall under my name, it really takes all of us in a collective to make all of these things work.”

Stokes said there are still misconceptions surrounding the needs of LGBT students on campus.

“Oftentimes just having an LGBT identity leaves people susceptible to facing isolation, marginalization and lack of acceptance,” Stokes said. “We can focus on specifically LGBT community and looking at our Weber State campus climate and our culture, to make sure those students have a voice and that their LGBT identity is not just welcomed, but valued.”

The LGBT Resource Center also partners with existing departments, like the Counseling Center, to fulfill specific needs for students.

“Our ultimate goal is to meet specific needs more effectively,” Stokes said.

The LGBT Resource Center is in Suite 154 in the Student Services building. All visitors are welcome. Check out their website at www.weber.edu/lgbtresourcecenter.

Article source: http://www.wsusignpost.com/2015/02/22/lgbt-center-takes-on-a-big-mission-in-a-small-space/

Millennial Evangelicals push for full inclusion of LGBT Christians

Saturday, February 21st, 2015

When Pastor Adam Phillips moved across the country with his wife two years ago and planted a new congregation in Portland, Ore., he was heeding the call of his Christian roots, an Evangelical Covenant tradition that today has a primary mission “to reach young people, engage a growing multiethnic population, and develop vibrant local churches that make disciples.”

“Pastor Adam,” as his congregation at Christ Church: Portland calls him, was well suited for such a mission. Young, familiar as much with Tumblr as with theological tomes, and a former director of faith mobilization for the ONE Campaign, the antipoverty group cofounded by U2’s Bono, Mr. Phillips brought a charisma and enthusiasm common to generations of evangelical ministers.

Phillips is also part of a growing movement of young Evangelicals who have come to support the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Christians in the church, including in leadership positions, he says. Though he does not perform same-sex marriages, which are strictly forbidden by his denomination, he has advocated that traditional church teachings on what he has called “celibacy in singleness and faithfulness in heterosexual marriage” be extended to, and expected of, LGBT Christians as well.

Because of these views, he says, in early February, leaders of the Chicago-based Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC), a denomination begun by Swedish Pietists in 1885 and which ordained Phillips in 2007, told their church-planting pastor that they would no longer support his ministry. They withdrew their commitment of $150,000 a year for three years.

Across America, many Evangelicals, estimated to be about 25 percent of the US population and a potent political force, have been grappling with the swift-moving cultural changes that have transformed attitudes about LGBT people and have so far made same-sex marriage legal in 37 states and Washington, D.C.

As a group, Evangelicals remain by far those most opposed to same-sex marriage in the United States, a Pew Research poll found last September. But over the past decade, support has nearly doubled among this mostly conservative segment of Christianity. In 2004, 11 percent of white evangelical Protestants expressed support for allowing gays and lesbians to marry. By 2014, a younger generation of Evangelicals had pushed this figure to 21 percent, according to the Pew survey.

“I would say that 2014 was a watershed year,” says David Gushee, a professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University in Atlanta, who notes that many evangelical books, conferences, and congregations have begun adopting a pro-LGBT stance. Considered one of the leading evangelical ethicists in the country, last year Professor Gushee declared his full support for LGBT inclusion in the book “Changing Our Mind,” a biblical defense of gay relationships from an evangelical perspective.

While he is among the few of his generation of evangelical thinkers to change his mind, the movement is coming “mainly from young people, Millennials, who symbolize and speak for a generational transition that is happening,” Gushee says. “In many instances, they are insisting upon their gay and lesbian friends being treated as equals and as peers in the church, as they are increasingly being treated in society.”

Last November, the ethics scholar spoke at The Reformation Project conference, a gathering in the nation’s capital of thousands of pro-LGBT Christians, but who continue to hold a conservative, biblically based theology. “I do join your crusade tonight,” Gushee told the conference. “I will henceforth oppose any form of discrimination against you. I will seek to stand in solidarity with you who have suffered the lash of countless Christian rejections. I will be your ally in every way I know how to be.”

In January, shortly before his denomination withdrew its support of his church plant, Phillips, too, joined a large gathering of pro-LGBT Evangelicals – at the Gay Christian Network Conference in Portland.

“There’s definitely something very different happening now,” the 30-something pastor says. “You saw this beautiful mix of 1,400 attendees, and they were all very rooted in an evangelical tradition and very much coming into it as kids that grew up trying to follow Jesus, went to Sunday school and Bible camp and youth groups, and they happen to be gay.”

Phillips had been open about his pro-LGBT views with Evangelical Covenant leaders during his ordination and his church-planting ministry, he says. They had encouraged him to keep a lower profile on these matters, he says, but adds that the denomination had not been outspoken on the issue and had not made it a doctrinal priority. So he was shocked by their withdrawal of support.

The ECC declined to speak about “personnel matters,” but in a statement said, “ECC congregations care about ministering to everyone, including the LGBT community. Decisions on any particular church plant are made between the regional conference and the ECC, taking into account a variety of contributing factors, only one of which is agreement with ECC positions.”

As a faith tradition, Evangelicals have defined themselves for centuries with a high view of the integrity and authority of Scripture. In both the Old and New Testaments, most argue, the Bible is clear in its condemnation of same-sex relationships as an affront to the natural, God-ordained order of human sexuality, expressed only within the confines of a marriage between a man and a woman.

“Some people want … [to] take a surgeon’s scalpel to the Word of God,” wrote Russell Moore, president of the Ethics Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest evangelical denomination, in a response to the movement last year. He accuses the movement of trying to reinterpret “what the Bible clearly calls immorality.”

“This is infidelity to the gospel we’ve received,” Mr. Moore continues. “First of all, no one refusing to repent of sin – be it homosexuality or fornication or anything else – will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10). This strategy leaves people in condemnation before the Judgment Seat of Christ, without reconciliation and without hope.”

The new movement of pro-LGBT Evangelicals, however, insists they want to maintain evangelicalism’s high view of Scripture and remain faithful to its traditions. After all, they could always move to a more “mainline” or liberal Christian denomination that embraced LGBT Christians years ago.

“I’m Covenant through and through, and it’s just been critical to my formation,” says Phillips. “And we’ve always had this idea going back to our foundation that the Bible is the only perfect rule for faith, doctrine, and life, and that’s what guides me on this stuff today.”

Many point out that the Bible sanctions and regulates slavery and has been used to justify anti-Semitism, certain forms of racism, and the subjugation of women.

“In all of these areas, evangelical Christians have altered their interpretation of Scripture in light of what God has taught us through encounters with suffering, and the dignified human beings whom we have harmed with our interpretations of Scripture,” Gushee says.  

“If you take the facts in the world seriously, and you ask what does a Christian sexual ethics look like in light of the authority of Scripture, where I come out is, to extend the very same sexual ethic … to LGBT Christians as we would to straight Christians.”

“So they get grafted into the evangelical sexual ethic – one that is really quite demanding,” he continues. “It says, you find somebody, you commit your life to them, and you stay with them.”

Article source: http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2015/0220/Millennial-Evangelicals-push-for-full-inclusion-of-LGBT-Christians

New York barber gives custom cuts in LGBT-friendly shop

Friday, February 20th, 2015

By Maria Caspani

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – For Ayanna, getting a haircut at her local barbershop in New York City meant having to fend off unwanted advances from the barber.

“He knew that I was gay but every time I went in he would constantly hit on me and try to take me out,” said Ayanna, a 22-year-old student at a New York City college who declined to give her full name to protect her privacy.

A petite girl sporting short, androgynous hair, Ayanna said she started looking online for barbers friendly to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community to avoid similar uncomfortable situations.

This is how she found Camera Ready Kutz, a barber service run by entrepreneur Khane Kutzwell that caters to the grooming needs of LGBT people in New York City and beyond.

Kutzwell, 43, started cutting hair in 2007, after many of her friends in the LGBT community complained about how difficult, and at times unpleasant, it was to get a haircut at their local barbershop if one didn’t conform to gender norms.

“I have complaints that are posted on my Facebook page. I just recently got one from a trans male who keeps getting called ‘she’ instead of ‘he’,” Kutzwell told the Thomson Reuters Foundation while cutting hair in her Brooklyn apartment.

Neighborhood barbershops have a reputation as strongholds of machismo, and can be daunting for gay women, Kutzwell said. Women complain about not getting the haircut they want or of being refused service when they ask for a short, “boy-like” do.

As her business grows, she is looking to expand beyond the walls of her apartment and open her own shop.

“What I want is to have a space where you can find all the main queer hair professionals, in one spot.”

For now, she cuts hair in the back room of her apartment, equipped with a bright red barber’s chair, brushes laid on a wooden table, and a variety of clippers hanging on the wall.

Barbershops are usually cheaper than hair salons and use different styling techniques and tools, Kutzwell said.

‘JUST A PERSON’

Born in Trinidad and Tobago, Kutzwell emigrated to the United States as a young child and settled with her family in New York City’s seaside Far Rockaway neighborhood.

She said she grew up feeling like she belonged to both genders but her family always accepted and respected her chosen identity.

“There’s a term that I made up called trans-entity (which) just means that I’m a person on this earth who continuously transitions,” said Kutzwell.

In the United States and beyond, a growing movement views gender as a complex, mainly psychological phenomenon in which a person’s external anatomy is no longer the defining factor.

Many of Kutzwell’s customers identify as genderqueer, defined as someone who doesn’t conform to gender norms. But Kutzwell said her clientele includes people from all backgrounds, sexual orientations, races and creeds, including members of Brooklyn’s large Orthodox Hasidic Jewish community.

“You’re providing a service…My personal opinion is it doesn’t matter – unless you ask me – what kind of haircut I think you should get.”

(Reporting by Maria Caspani, Editing by Ros Russell)

Article source: http://news.yahoo.com/york-barber-gives-custom-cuts-lgbt-friendly-shop-144927515.html

Sam Smith, Tom Daley and Katie Price nominated for British LGBT Awards

Friday, February 20th, 2015

More: Showbiz, Gay Spy, Sam Smith, Tom Daley, Katie Price, Mel C, Olly Murs, Charlie Condou, Hillary Clinton, Kylie Minogue, Joan Collins, Paul O’Grady, Graham Norton, Stephen Fry, Nick Grimshaw, Clare Balding, Lady Gaga, Boy George, Antony Cotton, Dustin Lance Black, Danny Dyer

Previous: Noel Gallagher on ‘mentally incapable’ Nigel Farage, voting for a pirate

Next: Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page to receive NME Rock’N'Roll Soul Award

Article source: http://rss.feedsportal.com/c/32545/f/492401/p/1/s/25a73ec4/l/0L0Sdigitalspy0O0Cshowbiz0Cnews0Ca629420A0Csam0Esmith0Etom0Edaley0Eand0Ekatie0Eprice0Enominated0Efor0Ebritish0Elgbt0Eawards0Bhtml0Drss/story01.htm

Gay Games donates nearly $150K to northeast Ohio LGBT funds

Friday, February 20th, 2015

NORTHEAST OHIO (WOIO) -
The ninth Gay Games were the most profitable in its 32-year history, generating $120,000 for the Gay Games LGBT Legacy Fund at the Cleveland Foundation and $27,000 for the Gay Community Endowment Fund of Akron Community Foundation.

The Games released its final numbers at the “2014 Gay Games Lessons and Legacies” panel discussion hosted by The City Club on Thursday. The donations represent the net profit from the Games. The events in Cleveland and Akron have become the most profitable in Games history.


View the full report of Gay Games 9 by the numbers.

“The ability to give back to the community is a testament to the Gay Games 9 board’s leadership, which placed importance on operating in a fiscally responsible manner, as well as the tremendous corporate and individual donor support,” said Gay Games 9 executive director Tom Nobbe.

Ronn Richard, president and CEO of the Cleveland Foundation, explained that when the Cleveland Foundation decided to become the first presenting sponsor in Gay Games history, it also made the commitment to launch the Gay Games LGBT Legacy Fund in partnership with Gay Games 9. 

“We’re thrilled the fund is able to launch with such a significant donation from the Games themselves. It’s a great continuation of our century-long commitment to social justice in our community and we’re excited to have the fund grow and make a difference in Greater Cleveland,” said Richard.

The Gay Games LGBT Legacy Fund of the Cleveland Foundation will help extend the environment of inclusion and diversity created as a result of the hard work these past four years to build a welcome community for thousands of LGBT athletes, allies and supporters who came to the region for this significant global event. The permanent endowment will support grantmaking, in combination with other available funds at the Cleveland Foundation, to organizations, programs and services that positively impact and support the LGBT community. People can contribute to the fund at any time by donating online.

Copyright 2015 WOIO. All rights reserved.

Article source: http://www.19actionnews.com/story/28154922/gay-games-donates-nearly-150k-to-northeast-ohio-lgbt-funds

Women's hockey coaching controversy costs UMD its LGBT-friendly designation

Friday, February 20th, 2015

DULUTH, Minn. — The dismissal of University of Minnesota-Duluth women’s hockey coach Shannon Miller has prompted a national group to suspend the school from consideration for its annual LGBT-friendly designation. UMD had received the designation in each of the past two years.

Campus Pride, a national nonprofit for student leaders and campus groups that work to create safe environments for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, said Thursday it has suspended UMD from consideration for its 2015 list because of its actions toward Miller and the three women on her coaching staff. The coaching staff learned in December that each of their contracts would not be renewed.

All four women are either gay or bisexual, said Angie Nichols, LGBT services director for the university. The university has not publicly announced any other athletic department cuts at a time when they are working to address a $6 million budget deficit.

UMD earned the designation as a top-rated LGBT-friendly university in both 2013 and 2014. It is the first school that Campus Pride has removed from consideration.

The organization’s executive director and creator of the Campus Pride Index, Shane Windmeyer, said UMD athletic director Josh Berlo’s handling of the women’s hockey employment matter “is cause for grave concern.”

“(LGBT) safety is shaped by incidents like this and if they are handled openly and transparently by administrators,” he said in a news release.

Nichols will work to re-earn the designation, she said, but support from the top is necessary.

“Our whole community has been really proud of how far UMD has come,” said Nichols, noting she believes that includes campus administration. “I think they underestimated the damage that firing four openly gay or bisexual coaches would have on our whole community.”

UMD released a statement Friday in response to the news, saying the administration is “deeply disappointed” with Campus Pride’s decision.

It cited past years’ recognition for an inclusive campus, which included its employment of Nichols, an active Queer and Allied Student Union, gender-inclusive restrooms and an endowed LGBT scholarship. UMD also is working on offering gender-inclusive housing — in which students can have a roommate of any gender — beginning next fall, the statement noted.

But the concerns of Campus Pride are taken “very seriously,” the statement said, and a “nationally known” consultant will be hired to assess the campus climate as the university continues to work on its goal of creating an inclusive campus.

Miller, who has coached five NCAA championship teams, has led the women’s hockey program at UMD since its first season in 1999. Many in the LGBT community see Miller and her staff as role models, Nichols said, for their strength and success and the fact that they are “out” every day.

There are large numbers of allies on campus who show support, and that shouldn’t be ignored, she said.

“But every day since these coaches were let go, not one day has gone by that someone hasn’t come into my office to talk about it and how it’s impacted their experience as a student, a staff member or faculty member … and that administration has done nothing to correct the mistake of letting them go.”

Chancellor Lynn Black and Berlo have cited financial concerns as among the reasons for not renewing Miller’s contract. They have said there are other concerns, while not elaborating on what they are. A University of Minnesota official said there were concerns about “the direction of the program.”

Miller’s Bulldog teams have not made the NCAA tournament since 2011, but UMD did win 12 of its final 13 games in 2014 — with one win coming via a shootout — and is ranked No. 9 in the latest USCHO.com poll. The team stands in fourth place in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association going into its final series of the regular season, at home against Ohio State today and Sunday.

Miller said that Campus Pride made “an appropriate” move in no longer considering UMD a gay-friendly place, and it will be difficult to earn back the honor.

“I am very proud of the people who have had the courage to stand up and speak up and take action,” she said, noting the “overwhelming” support she’s received.

She never realized fully, she said, her status as a role model until recently.

“It’s a huge responsibility, and I want to be careful and professional and do justice for the people who believe in me … and are hoping to create positive change,” she said.

Miller has retained attorneys specializing in Title IX issues in the wake of her dismissal. The federal law prohibits schools that receive federal money from discriminating based on gender.

UMD junior Jace Carlson, the head of the school’s Queer and Allied Student Union, said there’s hope the action taken by Campus Pride will act as a wake-up call to some. The removal of the label, Carlson said, was “disappointing but necessary,” and the handling of Miller and the other coaches was disrespectful toward the gay community.

“I am not angry about the fact that (the loss of the designation) has happened, but I am angry it was necessary in the first place,” Carlson said.

Article source: http://www.twincities.com/sports/ci_27563518/womens-hockey-coaching-controversy-costs-umd-its-lgbt?source=rss

PHOTOS: Queer and Trans Youth Speak Out

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

Even while attention to queer and trans youth has grown recently through campaigns like It Gets Better, documentaries such as Laverne Cox’s The T Word, and a national petition for “Leelah’s Law,” which seeks to ban anti-LGBT “conversion” therapy, there remain few cultural spaces created both by and for LGBT youth.

That’s where LGBT activist and award-winning photographer Rachelle Lee Smith’s Speaking Out: Queer Youth in Focus — an internationally shown exhibit recently turned into a book by PM Press — steps in.

Smith’s project began one night in 2001, she tells The Advocate, with a call from a teen named Matty. Smith picked up her phone to hear Matty, “hysterical because she had been chased down the street by a large group of frat guys that were calling her names and throwing beer bottles at her,” Smith says.

Smith recalls, “I had been working on LGBTQ rights projects, but it was during the phone conversation with her that I knew I needed to incorporate her story, the many stories like hers, my story, and the range of experiences in between.”

What followed was a decade of Smith photographing Matty and 64 other diverse queer and trans youth (including herself), ages 14 to 24, and having them hand-write their own perceptions of self, which serve as the eye-catching backdrops to their vibrant photos. Smith followed up with many of her subjects, showing their growth over time in a way rarely seen in similar photo projects. 

“I believe there is strength in numbers, power in words, and freedom in art and I strive to raise awareness with this work,” Smith explains. If the images below are any indication, Smith’s Speaking Out is a great success.

All images courtesy of Rachelle Lee Smith.

Tara

David

Allstair

Graeme

Sabrina

Article source: http://www.advocate.com/politics/transgender/2015/02/19/photos-queer-and-trans-youth-speak-out

Many LGBT medical students don't reveal sexual identity

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

(HealthDay News) — Fear of discrimination is a major reason why about one-third of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) medical students stay “in the closet,” new research finds.

The study included almost 1,000 LGBT respondents who answered an online survey. The survey was sent to every medical student in the United States and Canada during the 2009-2010 academic year. Thirty percent of those who said they were LGBT said they didn’t reveal their sexual identity in medical school.

Fear of discrimination was the main reason why 40 percent of them said they kept their sexual identity secret. Other reasons cited included a lack of support from family or peers, social pressure and the belief that it was nobody’s business, the Stanford University School of Medicine researchers found.

“Fear of discrimination was the most common theme, discrimination from peers, from your evaluators and faculty members, also from patients,” study author Matthew Mansh, a fourth-year medical student, said in a university news release.

The researchers also found two-thirds of students who identified themselves as something other than male or female concealed their gender identity at medical school.

Mansh, who’s been openly gay since he was 17, noted, “There were definitely times, more so during my clinical years, when I didn’t go out of my way to let people know I was gay for reasons similar to some of the reasons the medical students in the survey gave.”

“A lot of grading in medical school is very subjective. I have met physicians who make sexist or homophobic remarks, and it makes you not want to come out. You don’t want your personal identity to affect your grade,” he added.

The study was published online Feb. 18 in the journal Academic Medicine.

“There is still this huge percentage of medical students who are afraid of discrimination in medical school and how it could affect the rest of their careers,” study co-author Dr. Mitchell Lunn, co-founder of the Stanford Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Transgender Medical Education Research Group, said in the news release.

“We are supposed to be a field that is accepting of people and one that takes care of people regardless of differences, and yet we can’t even do that for people who are part of our own community,” Lunn noted.

Doctors need to lead the way in encouraging more diversity and inclusion in medicine, the study authors suggested.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine offers resources about LGBT health.

Copyright © 2015 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Article source: http://www.fox14tv.com/story/28148108/many-lgbt-medical-students-dont-reveal-sexual-identity

Faith Leaders Rally for Marriage Equality in Texas

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

They say you shouldn’t mess with Texas — and that applies to religious leaders taking a stand for equal rights in the famously conservative Lone Star State. The Texas Freedom Network sponsored a Tuesday rally that drew 150 LGBT-affirming faith leaders from various religious backgrounds to the state capitol

On the same day, a Travis County judge found that Texas’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. However, that ruling did not lead to the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples, as a federal case on the issue of marriage equality is still working its way through the legal system. (Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir, a marriage equality supporter, praised Herman’s ruling but was waiting for advice from county lawyers as to whether she could issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. “I am scrambling, trying to find out if there is anything I can do,” she told the Austin American-Statesman. “Right now, I think it’s no, but we are checking.”)

In the federal case, a U.S. District judge issued a favorable ruling for same-sex couples, but his ruling is on hold while the state appeals. For now, Texas remains one of 13 states without full marriage equality.

The religious leaders who rallied at the capitol were largely “united,” the Associated Press reports in their opposition to anti-LGBT legislation introduced by Rep. Cecil Bell. Through the Preservation of Sovereignty and Marriage Act, Bell seeks to block government issuance and recognition of marriage licenses for same-sex couples. The bill would even deny county clerks their salary and benefits if they issue marriage licenses to such couples.

The participants were also backing legislation to repeal the state’s marriage ban and expand its antidiscrimination law to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

“I recognize, as a happily married straight man, that I am afforded legal and social protections that our LGBT members are still not allowed in many cases,”  the Rev. Eric Folkerth of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas told the crowd at the rally, The Texas Tribune reports. “The idea that any of them would be discriminated against by state or local law is absolutely unacceptable.”

“I think that we have heard a lot from the faith community, but we have only heard one side of the faith community,” said another participant, the Rev. Leslie Jackson of the United Church of Christ in Houston, according to the Tribune. “There are Christians in this state that do support equality, but they are hearing from this other, dominant voice. There is another view that needs to be heard.”

The marriage ban’s fate will most likely be decided in court. There have been more than 60 victories for marriage equality in state and federal courts since the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act in June 2013, with only a handful of anti-equality rulings. The Supreme Court will hear a marriage equality case this spring, with its ruling poised to decide the fate of marriage rights nationwide.

Article source: http://www.advocate.com/politics/religion/2015/02/18/wake-marriage-ruling-faith-leaders-rally-equality-texas

America Needs Straight Talk From Its First Openly Bisexual Governor

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

The fight for marriage equality has made it to the Supreme Court, transgender rights have taken center stage in everything from politics to television shows, and professional athletes have come out as gay in the macho bastion of sports.

Yet America doesn’t seem to know much about bisexuals, a contingent of the LGBT community estimated to number 4 million strong that remains overlooked and misunderstood.

Wednesday’s swearing in of Oregon’s new governor could help change that—at least that’s what advocates are hoping. Kate Brown just became the country’s first openly bisexual governor, and was appointed after Gov. John Kitzhaber resigned amid corruption allegations.

Brown, who most recently worked as Oregon’s secretary of state, serves as a role model for the bi-community because she has been remarkably open about her sexual orientation and still gets taken seriously, said Ellyn Ruthstrom, board member of the Bisexual Resource Center.

“What is really significant for her becoming governor is that she has been out as bisexual throughout her elected career,” she said.

Brown has been elected to multiple political offices throughout her nearly 25 years as an Oregon lawmaker. She served in the state House of Representatives and the Senate and was elected Democratic Senate Leader.

Roughly 9 million American adults—about 3.5 percent of the population—classify themselves as LGBT, according to 2011 research from UCLA’s Williams Institute, a think tank that studies LGBT issues. Slightly more than half of those adults say they’re bisexual. According to a 2013 survey from Pew Research Center, 73 percent of bisexuals are women—the same study found bisexuals to be a smaller proportion than what Williams found, about 40 percent of LGBT adults.

Despite being an impressive proportion of the LGBT population, bisexuals are still largely misunderstood, said Ruthstrom. People are taught that sexuality is static, and that sexual orientation is divided into only two camps of either “gay” or “straight,” she said. The Pew study found that more than half of all LGBT people say “all or most of the important people in their life are aware that they are LGBT.” But when broken down, more than 70 percent of lesbians and gays say they’re out to the important people in their lives—only 28 percent of bisexuals come out in the same way.

“There’s this whole group of other people who don’t fit that binary,” said Ruthstrom. “And I think just freaks people out, or confuses them.”

The definition of bisexuality is being attracted to your own gender as well as the opposite gender, said Ruthstrom. Although this explanation seems simple enough, it’s fluidity breeds misconception and results in convoluted beliefs that bisexuals are just “confused” about their sexuality. Other myths include bisexual people being more promiscuous, more likely to carry sexually transmitted diseases, and more likely to cheat. Some even believe that bi women are just sewing their wild oats before they settle down with a man.

It’s worth noting that in the same Williams Institute study, an estimated 19 million Americans said they had engaged in same-sex sexual behavior and more than 25 million admit at least some same-sex sexual attraction. 

“Everyone has their own way of expressing their bisexuality and experiencing it,” said Ruthstrom. “Bisexuality is complex in the way that people live it out.”

Case in point: Brown, 54, has been married to a man for 15 years. She could have “cloaked herself” in this heterosexual relationship and left her bisexual identity behind, but she didn’t, said Jeana Frazzini, executive director of Basic Rights Oregon. 

This speaks volumes to Brown’s character and “stalwart” support for the LGBT community, said Frazzini, who has worked with Brown for well over a decade.

Brown has lived out much of her bisexuality in the public eye and has experienced many of these erroneous assumptions first-hand. Brown figured out she was bi in her early 30s but didn’t come out publicly until The Oregonian newspaper wrote about it, she said. When Brown told her parents about her sexual orientation, they responded by saying it would be “much easier” for them if she was just a lesbian, while her gay friends simply called her “half-queer,” according to an essay Brown wrote for Out and Elected in the USA, a collection from pioneering LGBT individuals elected to office.

“Some days I feel like I have a foot in both worlds, yet never really belonging to either,” Brown wrote in the essay.

Even more frightening than coming out to her friends and family was coming out to her legislative colleagues, Brown wrote. In the United States, there are only about 525 out LGBT public officials, according to the Gay Lesbian Victory fund.  So it’s no surprise that Brown remembers her own political coming out, when a 70-year-old conservative legislator said to her over lunch: “Read in the Oregonian a few months ago you were bisexual. Guess that means I still have a chance?!”

Brown has been a powerful voice for the freedom to marry in Oregon, and helped push through the state’s nondiscrimination and domestic partnership laws, said Frazzini.

“I know her to be an incredibly hard-working, energetic, person, who is really dedicated to the state of Oregon,” she said.

Frazzini is hopeful that Brown will continue this streak in the State’s highest office, and serve as an advocate not only for LGBT issues like transgender health care but for broader social justice policies such as paid sick leave and comprehensive anti-bullying policies.

For now, Brown’s mere appointment to the governor position has spurred an important and overdue conversation about bisexuality, said Frazzini.

The conversation is extending far beyond Oregon. The Obama administration hosted an unprecedented 2013 roundtable with bisexual community leaders to discuss mental and physical health issues and this year, Obama became the first president to use the word “bisexual” (as well as “transgender”) in his State of the Union address.

Original article from TakePart

Article source: http://news.yahoo.com/america-needs-straight-talk-first-openly-bisexual-governor-012328789.html

London LGBT Film Festival Unveils Lineup

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

The European premiere of Malcolm Ingram‘s Out to Win will close the 2015 edition of BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival, organizers said Wednesday in unveiling the full lineup.

The festival, which will take place March 19-29, says it it the U.K.’s leading LGBT film event and one of the world’s longest established. It will screen more than 50 features, more than 100 shorts and a range of special events, guest appearances, discussions and workshops.

As previously announced, I Am Michael, which played well at the Sundance and Berlin Film Festivals, will open the festival. The feature directorial debut for Gus Van Sant protege Justin Kelly, it stars James Franco and Zachary Quinto in the real-life story of Michael Glatze, who went from crusading gay journalist to anti-gay pastor.

Read more Sundance London Canceled for 2015, Future Under Review

Meanwhile, Out to Win charts the experience of LGBT athletes with contributions from such pioneers as Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, David Kopay, John Amaechi and Jason Collins.

Also part of the BFI Flare lineup are director David Thorpe’s Do I Sound Gay?, a documentary exploring whether there is a “gay voice” that features contributions from the likes of Margaret Cho, David Sedaris and George Takei; Jim Chu Chu’s Stories of Our Lives, a drama adapted from real testimonies of LGBT Kenyans; Stephen Belber’s Match, starring Patrick Stewart as a dancer-turned-teacher who discovers more than he bargained for when he takes part in an interview about his career; Mark Christopher’s 54: The Director’s Cut, which had its world premiere in Berlin; Colin Rothbart’s Dressed as a Girl, a celebration of a group of drag performers; and Frederic Tcheng’s documentary Dior and I, about the arrival of new designer Raf Simons at fashion house Dior.

Special events at BFI Flare include a 40th anniversary screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and lecture series We Love… This year’s subject is Xena Warrior Princess. The fest will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the show and “other glorious female role models, followed by a suitably themed Warrior Women after-party.”

Read more South Korean LGBT Community in Spotlight in Cinemas, Media

Also, BFI Flare will reprise some of the year’s most popular, previously released LGBT films in its “Best of the Year” showcase. Among its screenings will be Brit hit Pride, Matthew Warchus’ about a little-known chapter of U.K. history, but a major moment for the gay rights movement.

Email: Georg.Szalai@THR.com

Twitter: @georgszalai

 

 

Article source: http://news.yahoo.com/london-lgbt-film-festival-unveils-lineup-184501182.html

'The Francis Effect': A Historic LGBT Pilgrimage to Rome

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

In what New Ways Ministry’s executive director, Francis DeBernardo, called a “singular honor,” a group of LGBT Catholics on a pilgrimage to Rome were today, for the first time of any LGBT group, given VIP seats near Pope Francis himself for the pontiff’s weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

DeBernardo is visiting Rome in the company of about 50 LGBT Catholics — about twice the number that have embarked on the journey in years past. DeBernardo helms New Ways, an LGBT Catholic group that was cofounded by Sister Jeannine Gramick, the leader of the pilgrimage.

Gramick, who has a “This Pope Gives Me Hope!” decal on her computer, chalked up the unprecedented VIP treatment to “the Francis effect,” according to a Reuters story. In an email to The Advocate, DeBernardo lauded the pope for “[raising] the level of discourse on LGBT issues in the Church.” Hence the larger number of travelers than have joined for the past 15 years, he said: “Pope Francis is a big draw for them!”

Though Gramick’s appeal to the pope for a meeting with the LGBT travelers hasn’t been fulfilled, this year still represents marked change; the New Ways leaders told Reuters their group was ignored under the leadership of previous popes. Gramick told the Associated Press that “to me, this is an example of the kind of willingness [Pope Francis] has to welcome those on the fringes of the church back to the center of the church.”

Pope Francis has walked an apparent fine line on LGBT issues — perhaps well-symbolized by the fact that the Vatican’s own list of attendees for the audience dubbed the New Ways folks a “group of lay people” without identifying them as coming with an LGBT organization.

Lauded for his “Who am I to judge?” remark (about gay priests) and other seeming overtures on LGBT issues (such as a private meeting with a transgender man and his fiancée), the pope has also been criticized for a lack of policy changes (which most observers grant are unlikely) and critical statements about same-sex marriage and nontraditional families

Some conservative forces view Pope Francis as having attempted to push through a more welcoming approach to LGBT Catholics at last year’s Synod of Bishops on family issues. The synod’s final report used more cautious language than an interim one, disappointing many LGBT activists. Now those on both sides of various family-related issues are looking ahead to synod this October that will continue the discussion.

The New Ways Ministry group left the U.S. Thursday and visited Florence and Assisi before arriving in Rome. The audience took place Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent.

Article source: http://editorial.advocate.com/politics/religion/2015/02/18/francis-effect-historic-lgbt-pilgrimage-rome

10 Oscar-Nominated LGBT Roles

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

Article source: http://www.advocate.com/arts-entertainment/film/2015/02/18/10-oscar-nominated-lgbt-roles

An octogenarian gentleman taught me that it’s never too late to come out

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

Something quite phenomenal is happening in Ireland today. A movement that started over 40 years ago is no longer in the shadows of the margins but has become a mainstream issue.

The LGBT movement has been slowly gaining traction and is no longer an issue that only concerns LGBT people but is gaining more and more straight allies every day. Even religious groups are joining the battle for equal rights as Faith in Marriage Equality, a group made up of Catholic and Church of Ireland members, launched a campaign just this week urging people of faith to vote Yes in the same-sex marriage referendum.

As a 41-year-old lesbian who was rejected by my religious parents at the tender age of 17, resulting in my becoming homeless, I cannot express how incredibly healing it is to see that religious people can be accepting and supportive too.

Positive role models not just for the young

When our Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, came out publicly last month he became the first openly gay minister in the history of the State and received huge support from his colleagues, the media and the general public. However, one comment I heard time and time again since Mr. Varadkar came out and indeed whenever anyone with a high profile comes out is “this is great for young people”.

People forget that young people are not the only ones who struggle with coming out as older people do too. Arguably it is even more difficult for them because many older LGBT people are of a generation where sexuality was not freely spoken of, and who never came out. And now, their invisibility is compounded; many feel that it’s too late for them and run the risk of being left behind.

Mr Varadkar was 36 years old when he felt safe enough to come out publicly and even then he admitted that he always thought he would be alone and was only able to envisage himself in a relationship in the last couple of years.

Then just last week, 67-year-old former Fianna Fáil minister Pat Carey spoke publicly about his sexuality. He admitted that he only understood his own sexuality in his 60s but has never spoken about the issue before because he didn’t have the courage to do so.

Thankfully he took the brave step to be open about his sexuality which not only highlights the importance of creating an equal society for all but also he has provided a valuable role model for older LGBT people.

Is it ever too late to come out?

Hearing about Pat Carey’s story reminded me of another older person who showed tremendous courage. In 2012 I worked in Outhouse, the LGBT community resource centre as a community worker. It was my way of giving back to my community and help others in their journey towards self-acceptance.

I received a call one day from a social worker who worked in a nursing home and needed my assistance with one of their residents. A resident who was well into his 80s had expressed a wish to come out. He had been in the services for a number of years and felt it was the right time for him to connect with the LGBT community. I was delighted to inform her that we had a social group for older men he could join.

Making the brave step

It took a bit of planning on both our parts to make this happen but when the day arrived needless to say we were beside ourselves with excitement! We arranged to meet in a nearby café as he wanted to meet me on neutral ground first. He was a distinguished-looking gentleman, exceptionally well groomed and impeccably dressed. He was so well spoken and mannerly despite his obvious nerves.

He asked me lots of questions about the organisation and the services we provided. After about an hour we walked over to the resource centre and as I opened the heavy Georgian door, I turned around and officially welcomed him to his LGBT community.

He stood at the door, looking around and taking it all in. After a minute or so he stepped over the threshold and paused. He looked at his foot; he looked over at his social worker and at me and said, “I’ve wanted to do this all my life”.

We were all overcome with emotion and moved to tears by the bravery of this beautiful man who proved that it’s never too late to come out.

    Dil is a social justice and mental health campaigner, broadcaster of Global Village on Newstalk 106-108fm, Saturdays 7-9pm and Training Director with Insight Matters. 

Here’s What Happened Today: Tuesday

New law will make it illegal to pay for surrogate mothers

Article source: http://uk.news.yahoo.com/octogenarian-gentleman-taught-never-too-come-131146299.html

An octogenarian gentleman taught me that it’s never too late to come out

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

Something quite phenomenal is happening in Ireland today. A movement that started over 40 years ago is no longer in the shadows of the margins but has become a mainstream issue.

The LGBT movement has been slowly gaining traction and is no longer an issue that only concerns LGBT people but is gaining more and more straight allies every day. Even religious groups are joining the battle for equal rights as Faith in Marriage Equality, a group made up of Catholic and Church of Ireland members, launched a campaign just this week urging people of faith to vote Yes in the same-sex marriage referendum.

As a 41-year-old lesbian who was rejected by my religious parents at the tender age of 17, resulting in my becoming homeless, I cannot express how incredibly healing it is to see that religious people can be accepting and supportive too.

Positive role models not just for the young

When our Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, came out publicly last month he became the first openly gay minister in the history of the State and received huge support from his colleagues, the media and the general public. However, one comment I heard time and time again since Mr. Varadkar came out and indeed whenever anyone with a high profile comes out is “this is great for young people”.

People forget that young people are not the only ones who struggle with coming out as older people do too. Arguably it is even more difficult for them because many older LGBT people are of a generation where sexuality was not freely spoken of, and who never came out. And now, their invisibility is compounded; many feel that it’s too late for them and run the risk of being left behind.

Mr Varadkar was 36 years old when he felt safe enough to come out publicly and even then he admitted that he always thought he would be alone and was only able to envisage himself in a relationship in the last couple of years.

Then just last week, 67-year-old former Fianna Fáil minister Pat Carey spoke publicly about his sexuality. He admitted that he only understood his own sexuality in his 60s but has never spoken about the issue before because he didn’t have the courage to do so.

Thankfully he took the brave step to be open about his sexuality which not only highlights the importance of creating an equal society for all but also he has provided a valuable role model for older LGBT people.

Is it ever too late to come out?

Hearing about Pat Carey’s story reminded me of another older person who showed tremendous courage. In 2012 I worked in Outhouse, the LGBT community resource centre as a community worker. It was my way of giving back to my community and help others in their journey towards self-acceptance.

I received a call one day from a social worker who worked in a nursing home and needed my assistance with one of their residents. A resident who was well into his 80s had expressed a wish to come out. He had been in the services for a number of years and felt it was the right time for him to connect with the LGBT community. I was delighted to inform her that we had a social group for older men he could join.

Making the brave step

It took a bit of planning on both our parts to make this happen but when the day arrived needless to say we were beside ourselves with excitement! We arranged to meet in a nearby café as he wanted to meet me on neutral ground first. He was a distinguished-looking gentleman, exceptionally well groomed and impeccably dressed. He was so well spoken and mannerly despite his obvious nerves.

He asked me lots of questions about the organisation and the services we provided. After about an hour we walked over to the resource centre and as I opened the heavy Georgian door, I turned around and officially welcomed him to his LGBT community.

He stood at the door, looking around and taking it all in. After a minute or so he stepped over the threshold and paused. He looked at his foot; he looked over at his social worker and at me and said, “I’ve wanted to do this all my life”.

We were all overcome with emotion and moved to tears by the bravery of this beautiful man who proved that it’s never too late to come out.

    Dil is a social justice and mental health campaigner, broadcaster of Global Village on Newstalk 106-108fm, Saturdays 7-9pm and Training Director with Insight Matters. 

Here’s What Happened Today: Tuesday

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Article source: http://uk.news.yahoo.com/octogenarian-gentleman-taught-never-too-come-131146299.html

WATCH: Jennifer Knapp's TED Talk on Coming Out, Faith, and Acceptance

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

Once a singer in the contemporary Christian music scene, folk-rocker Jennifer Knapp — who came out as a lesbian in 2010 — took her guitar onstage with her for a TED Talk that blended strumming, singing, and speaking.

Between her songs at the University of Nevada TEDx event last week in Reno, Knapp spoke about LGBT issues. She recalled that the first time she performed a song that drew from the “intimate feelings of my heart,” her hands shook and she was terrified to perform in front of her largely conservative Christian audience.

“I thought, Everyone is gonna see through me,” said Knapp, who braced herself for the possibility that audience members would walk out or even throw a shoe her way. Up until that moment, she said, she had been “just Jen.” But after coming-out, she became part of a demographic, a percentage.

Even though Knapp was safe from flying footwear — and she previously told The Advocate that she received an unexpected amount of public support when her sexual orientation became public knowledge — she noted in her TED Talk that there is still a lot of prejudice against LGBT people.

While acknowledging the marked progress on issues such as marriage equality, Knapp noted that acceptance of LGBT people is at about 60 percent — so the odds of having a good experience coming out to someone are better than half, but far from a sure thing.

Knapp encouraged people to educate themselves about LGBT issues, and she reminded her audience that in the end it’s all about love. 

“There’s no love song that I’ll ever play that’s inherently gay … I mean, I’d like to write a gay love song. Apparently gay pride parades need more anthems. But I’m just me, and I know what love is, and I think you know what love is too,” she said.

Last year, Knapp published a memoir (Facing the Music) and launched Inside Out Faith, an initiative that seeks to tackle the issues of LGBT inclusion and affirmations in religious environments by engaging and educating communities of faith.

Watch video of Knapp’s talk:

Article source: http://www.advocate.com/politics/religion/2015/02/15/watch-jennifer-knapps-ted-talk-coming-out-faith-and-acceptance

Oregon Governor Scandal Means First Bisexual Will Be In State’s Top Post

Monday, February 16th, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) – “LGBT” has become a household term amid sweeping advances for gay rights, and yet the “B” sometimes seems like an awkward fit. The sudden advent of America’s first openly bisexual governor may provide a chance to ease the awkwardness and broaden understanding of the bi community.

Kate Brown, Oregon’s secretary of state, is in line to replace Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber when he steps down Wednesday amid an ethics scandal. Brown, serving her second term after many years in the legislature, lives in Portland with her husband and two stepchildren and has been open throughout her political career about being bisexual.

RELATED

Her progress has been followed closely by bisexual activists across the country, including Ellyn Ruthstrom, who now serves on the board of Boston-based Bisexual Resource Center after 10 years as its president.

“There are so few bi political leaders out there, so we pay attention to them,” said Ruthstrom, citing U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona as the other prominent example.

Beyond elective politics, the bi community continues to struggle to establish its appropriate place in the broader civil rights campaigns being waged on behalf of lesbians, gays and transgender people.

Within that movement, there was widespread animosity toward bisexuals a couple of decades ago, Ruthstrom said. “Now it’s not as overt, but there are still issues.”

She cited a phenomenon known as “bi-erasure” – in which bisexuals are not mentioned in speeches, press releases and news reports that refer to the LGT groups.

Ruthstrom said she and her allies have been lobbying major LGBT-rights groups to be fully inclusive of the bisexual community’s issues. “They’re missing an opportunity to engage,” she said, citing research indicating that bisexuals make up about half of the total LGBT population.

Gary Gates, a demographer at the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute, estimated in 2011 that about 1.8 percent of the adult population, or a little more than 4 million Americans, identifies as bisexual – slightly more than the number identifying as gay or lesbian.

However, Ruthstrom said a majority of bisexuals remain wary of disclosing their sexual orientation, except perhaps to a few close acquaintances, and suffer high rates of depression. A study released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention two years ago said bisexual women reported a far higher rate of rape, violence and stalking by an intimate partner than either lesbians or heterosexual women.

A vice president of one of the largest LGBT-rights groups, Fred Sainz of the Human Rights Campaign, said bisexuals may in some respects face greater challenges than gays and lesbians.

“To the extent that they’re out, they may well be more so the victims of scorn because they get it from both gay and straight people,” Sainz said. “Gays want them to make a choice, and straights consider them gay, so in many ways they face increased amounts of stigma and discrimination.”

The Human Rights Campaign’s legal director, Sarah Warbelow, who is bisexual, said one of the biggest challenges for the bi community is a lack of public understanding of their social lives.

“On one hand, there’s assumption that bi people are never happy in any relationship and need to have multiple partners,” she said. “On the other hand, you’ve got people who say it’s not real – it’s an in-between existence until you figure out who you really are when you grow up.”

Brown’s pathway to the governor’s office opened up as the Human Rights Campaign was convening a conference in Portland devoted to supporting LGBT youth.

“Kate Brown is an incredible role model for bisexual youth, many of whom are grappling with the same issues that Brown dealt with when she came out in the ’90s – including feelings of not being understood by family or by their gay peers,” said Ellen Kahn, an HRC official helping organize the conference.

Efforts to increase understanding have persisted over many years,

In 2009, for example, activists convened a “Putting the ‘B’ in LGBT” summit in New York City. In September 2013, the White House convened a meeting with more than 30 bisexual activists – the first such gathering of its kind.

Kate Brown, after entering politics in 1991 as a member of Oregon’s House of Representatives, wrote a brief essay for “Out and Elected in the USA” about what it was like for her to come out as bisexual to her parents, her gay and straight friends, and her fellow lawmakers.

Her parents’ response: “It would be much easier for us if you were a lesbian.” Some gay friends called her “half queer.”

“Some days I feel like I have a foot in both worlds, yet never really belonging to either,” Brown concluded.

___

Follow David Crary on Twitter at http://twitter.com/CraryAP

 

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press.

Article source: http://sacramento.cbslocal.com/2015/02/15/oregon-governor-scandal-means-first-bisexual-will-be-in-states-top-post/

First openly bisexual governor may bring visibility to overlooked group

Monday, February 16th, 2015

NEW YORK — “LGBT” has become a household term amid sweeping advances for gay rights, and yet the “B” sometimes seems like an awkward fit. The sudden advent of America’s first openly bisexual governor may provide a chance to ease the awkwardness and broaden understanding of the bi community.

Kate Brown, Oregon’s secretary of state, is in line to replace Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber when he steps down Wednesday amid an ethics scandal. Brown, serving her second term after many years in the legislature, lives in Portland with her husband and two stepchildren and has been open throughout her political career about being bisexual.

Her progress has been followed closely by bisexual activists across the country, including Ellyn Ruthstrom, who now serves on the board of Boston-based Bisexual Resource Center after 10 years as its president.

“There are so few bi political leaders out there, so we pay attention to them,” said Ruthstrom, citing U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona as the other prominent example.

Beyond elective politics, the bi community continues to struggle to establish its appropriate place in the broader civil rights campaigns being waged on behalf of lesbians, gays and transgender people.

Within that movement, there was widespread animosity toward bisexuals a couple of decades ago, Ruthstrom said. “Now it’s not as overt, but there are still issues.”

She cited a phenomenon known as “bi-erasure” – in which bisexuals are not mentioned in speeches, press releases and news reports that refer to the LGT groups.

Ruthstrom said she and her allies have been lobbying major LGBT-rights groups to be fully inclusive of the bisexual community’s issues. “They’re missing an opportunity to engage,” she said, citing research indicating that bisexuals make up about half of the total LGBT population.

Gary Gates, a demographer at the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute, estimated in 2011 that about 1.8 percent of the adult population, or a little more than 4 million Americans, identifies as bisexual – slightly more than the number identifying as gay or lesbian.

However, Ruthstrom said a majority of bisexuals remain wary of disclosing their sexual orientation, except perhaps to a few close acquaintances, and suffer high rates of depression. A study released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention two years ago said bisexual women reported a far higher rate of rape, violence and stalking by an intimate partner than either lesbians or heterosexual women.

A vice president of one of the largest LGBT-rights groups, Fred Sainz of the Human Rights Campaign, said bisexuals may in some respects face greater challenges than gays and lesbians.

“To the extent that they’re out, they may well be more so the victims of scorn because they get it from both gay and straight people,” Sainz said. “Gays want them to make a choice, and straights consider them gay, so in many ways they face increased amounts of stigma and discrimination.”

The Human Rights Campaign’s legal director, Sarah Warbelow, who is bisexual, said one of the biggest challenges for the bi community is a lack of public understanding of their social lives.

“On one hand, there’s assumption that bi people are never happy in any relationship and need to have multiple partners,” she said. “On the other hand, you’ve got people who say it’s not real – it’s an in-between existence until you figure out who you really are when you grow up.”

Brown’s pathway to the governor’s office opened up as the Human Rights Campaign was convening a conference in Portland devoted to supporting LGBT youth.

“Kate Brown is an incredible role model for bisexual youth, many of whom are grappling with the same issues that Brown dealt with when she came out in the `90s – including feelings of not being understood by family or by their gay peers,” said Ellen Kahn, an HRC official helping organize the conference.

Efforts to increase understanding have persisted over many years,

In 2009, for example, activists convened a “Putting the `B’ in LGBT” summit in New York City. In September 2013, the White House convened a meeting with more than 30 bisexual activists – the first such gathering of its kind.

Kate Brown, after entering politics in 1991 as a member of Oregon’s House of Representatives, wrote a brief essay for “Out and Elected in the USA” about what it was like for her to come out as bisexual to her parents, her gay and straight friends, and her fellow lawmakers.

Her parents’ response: “It would be much easier for us if you were a lesbian.” Some gay friends called her “half queer.”

“Some days I feel like I have a foot in both worlds, yet never really belonging to either,” Brown concluded.

Article source: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/first-openly-bisexual-governor-may-bring-visibility-overlooked-group/

Bisexuals hopeful as Oregon's Kate Brown to be governor

Sunday, February 15th, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) – “LGBT” has become a household term amid sweeping advances for gay rights, and yet the “B” sometimes seems like an awkward fit. The sudden advent of America’s first openly bisexual governor may provide a chance to ease the awkwardness and broaden understanding of the bi community.
   
Kate Brown, Oregon’s secretary of state, is in line to replace Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber when he steps down Wednesday amid an ethics scandal. Brown, serving her second term after many years in the legislature, lives in Portland with her husband and two stepchildren and has been open throughout her political career about being bisexual.
   
Her progress has been followed closely by bisexual activists across the country, including Ellyn Ruthstrom, who now serves on the board of Boston-based Bisexual Resource Center after 10 years as its president.
   
“There are so few bi political leaders out there, so we pay attention to them,” said Ruthstrom, citing U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona as the other prominent example.
   
Beyond elective politics, the bi community continues to struggle to establish its appropriate place in the broader civil rights campaigns being waged on behalf of lesbians, gays and transgender people.
   
Within that movement, there was widespread animosity toward bisexuals a couple of decades ago, Ruthstrom said. “Now it’s not as overt, but there are still issues.”
   
She cited a phenomenon known as “bi-erasure” – in which bisexuals are not mentioned in speeches, press releases and news reports that refer to the LGT groups.
   
Ruthstrom said she and her allies have been lobbying major LGBT-rights groups to be fully inclusive of the bisexual community’s issues. “They’re missing an opportunity to engage,” she said, citing research indicating that bisexuals make up about half of the total LGBT population.
   
Gary Gates, a demographer at the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute, estimated in 2011 that about 1.8 percent of the adult population, or a little more than 4 million Americans, identifies as bisexual – slightly more than the number identifying as gay or lesbian.
   
However, Ruthstrom said a majority of bisexuals remain wary of disclosing their sexual orientation, except perhaps to a few close acquaintances, and suffer high rates of depression. A study released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention two years ago said bisexual women reported a far higher rate of rape, violence and stalking by an intimate partner than either lesbians or heterosexual women.
   
A vice president of one of the largest LGBT-rights groups, Fred Sainz of the Human Rights Campaign, said bisexuals may in some respects face greater challenges than gays and lesbians.
   
“To the extent that they’re out, they may well be more so the victims of scorn because they get it from both gay and straight people,” Sainz said. “Gays want them to make a choice, and straights consider them gay, so in many ways they face increased amounts of stigma and discrimination.”
   
The Human Rights Campaign’s legal director, Sarah Warbelow, who is bisexual, said one of the biggest challenges for the bi community is a lack of public understanding of their social lives.
   
“On one hand, there’s assumption that bi people are never happy in any relationship and need to have multiple partners,” she said. “On the other hand, you’ve got people who say it’s not real – it’s an in-between existence until you figure out who you really are when you grow up.”
   
Brown’s pathway to the governor’s office opened up as the Human Rights Campaign was convening a conference in Portland devoted to supporting LGBT youth.
   
“Kate Brown is an incredible role model for bisexual youth, many of whom are grappling with the same issues that Brown dealt with when she came out in the ’90s – including feelings of not being understood by family or by their gay peers,” said Ellen Kahn, an HRC official helping organize the conference.
   
Efforts to increase understanding have persisted over many years,
   
In 2009, for example, activists convened a “Putting the ‘B’ in LGBT” summit in New York City. In September 2013, the White House convened a meeting with more than 30 bisexual activists – the first such gathering of its kind.
   
Kate Brown, after entering politics in 1991 as a member of Oregon’s House of Representatives, wrote a brief essay for “Out and Elected in the USA” about what it was like for her to come out as bisexual to her parents, her gay and straight friends, and her fellow lawmakers.
   
Her parents’ response: “It would be much easier for us if you were a lesbian.” Some gay friends called her “half queer.”
   
“Some days I feel like I have a foot in both worlds, yet never really belonging to either,” Brown concluded.
 

Article source: http://www.katu.com/news/local/Sec-of-State-Brown-to-become-nations-first-openly-bisexual-governor-291955591.html

Bisexuals hopeful as one of their own becomes a U.S. governor

Sunday, February 15th, 2015

“LGBT” has become a household term amid sweeping advances for gay rights, and yet the “B” sometimes seems like an awkward fit. The sudden advent of America’s first openly bisexual governor may provide a chance to ease the awkwardness and broaden understanding of the community.

Kate Brown, Oregon’s secretary of state, is in line to replace Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber when he steps down Wednesday amid an ethics scandal. Brown, serving her second term after many years in the legislature, lives with her husband and two stepchildren and has been open throughout her political career about being bisexual.

Her progress has been followed closely by bisexual activists across the country, including Ellyn Ruthstrom, who now serves on the board of Boston-based Bisexual Resource Center.

“There are so few bi political leaders out there, so we pay attention to them,” said Ruthstrom, citing U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona as the other prominent example.

The bi community continues to struggle to establish its appropriate place in the broader civil rights campaigns being waged on behalf of lesbians, gays and transgender people.

Ruthstrom said she and her allies have been lobbying major LGBT-rights groups to be fully inclusive of the bisexual community’s issues. “They’re missing an opportunity to engage,” she said, citing research indicating that bisexuals make up about half of the total LGBT population.

Gary Gates, a demographer at the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute, estimated in 2011 that about 1.8 percent of the adult population, or a little more than 4 million Americans, identifies as bisexual — slightly more than the number identifying as gay or lesbian.

However, Ruthstrom said a majority of bisexuals remain wary of disclosing their sexual orientation, except perhaps to a few close acquaintances, and suffer high rates of depression. A study released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention two years ago said bisexual women reported a far higher rate of rape, violence and stalking by an intimate partner than either lesbians or heterosexual women.

A vice president of one of the largest LGBT-rights groups, Fred Sainz of the Human Rights Campaign, said bisexuals may in some respects face greater challenges than gays and lesbians.

“Gays want them to make a choice, and straights consider them gay, so in many ways they face increased amounts of stigma and discrimination,” Sainz said.

The Human Rights Campaign’s legal director, Sarah Warbelow, who is bisexual, said one of the biggest challenges for the bi community is a lack of public understanding of their social lives.

“On one hand, there’s assumption that bi people are never happy in any relationship and need to have multiple partners,” she said. “On the other hand, you’ve got people who say it’s not real — it’s an in-between existence until you figure out who you really are when you grow up.”

Efforts to increase understanding have persisted. In September 2013, the White House convened a meeting with more than 30 bisexual activists — the first such gathering of its kind.

Kate Brown, after entering politics in 1991 as a member of Oregon’s House of Representatives, wrote a brief essay for “Out and Elected in the USA” about what it was like for her to come out as bisexual to her parents, her gay and straight friends, and her fellow lawmakers.

Her parents’ response: “It would be much easier for us if you were a lesbian.” Some gay friends called her “half queer.”

“Some days I feel like I have a foot in both worlds, yet never really belonging to either,” Brown concluded.

Article source: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/02/15/world/social-issues-world/bisexuals-hopeful-as-one-of-their-own-becomes-a-u-s-governor/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bisexuals-hopeful-as-one-of-their-own-becomes-a-u-s-governor

Bisexuals hopeful as one of their own becomes a US governor

Sunday, February 15th, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) ” “LGBT” has become a household term amid sweeping advances for gay rights, and yet the “B” sometimes seems like an awkward fit. The sudden advent of America’s first openly bisexual governor may provide a chance to ease the awkwardness and broaden understanding of the community.

Kate Brown, Oregon’s secretary of state, is in line to replace Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber when he steps down Wednesday amid an ethics scandal. Brown, serving her second term after many years in the legislature, lives with her husband and two stepchildren and has been open throughout her political career about being bisexual.

Her progress has been followed closely by bisexual activists across the country, including Ellyn Ruthstrom, who now serves on the board of Boston-based Bisexual Resource Center.

“There are so few bi political leaders out there, so we pay attention to them,” said Ruthstrom, citing U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona as the other prominent example.

The bi community continues to struggle to establish its appropriate place in the broader civil rights campaigns being waged on behalf of lesbians, gays and transgender people.

Ruthstrom said she and her allies have been lobbying major LGBT-rights groups to be fully inclusive of the bisexual community’s issues. “They’re missing an opportunity to engage,” she said, citing research indicating that bisexuals make up about half of the total LGBT population.

Gary Gates, a demographer at the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute, estimated in 2011 that about 1.8 percent of the adult population, or a little more than 4 million Americans, identifies as bisexual ” slightly more than the number identifying as gay or lesbian.

However, Ruthstrom said a majority of bisexuals remain wary of disclosing their sexual orientation, except perhaps to a few close acquaintances, and suffer high rates of depression. A study released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention two years ago said bisexual women reported a far higher rate of rape, violence and stalking by an intimate partner than either lesbians or heterosexual women.

A vice president of one of the largest LGBT-rights groups, Fred Sainz of the Human Rights Campaign, said bisexuals may in some respects face greater challenges than gays and lesbians.

“Gays want them to make a choice, and straights consider them gay, so in many ways they face increased amounts of stigma and discrimination,” Sainz said.

The Human Rights Campaign’s legal director, Sarah Warbelow, who is bisexual, said one of the biggest challenges for the bi community is a lack of public understanding of their social lives.

“On one hand, there’s assumption that bi people are never happy in any relationship and need to have multiple partners,” she said. “On the other hand, you’ve got people who say it’s not real ” it’s an in-between existence until you figure out who you really are when you grow up.”

Efforts to increase understanding have persisted. In September 2013, the White House convened a meeting with more than 30 bisexual activists ” the first such gathering of its kind.

Kate Brown, after entering politics in 1991 as a member of Oregon’s House of Representatives, wrote a brief essay for “Out and Elected in the USA” about what it was like for her to come out as bisexual to her parents, her gay and straight friends, and her fellow lawmakers.

Her parents’ response: “It would be much easier for us if you were a lesbian.” Some gay friends called her “half queer.”

“Some days I feel like I have a foot in both worlds, yet never really belonging to either,” Brown concluded.

___

Follow David Crary on Twitter at http://twitter.com/CraryAP

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

Article source: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=11402406&ref=rss

New bisexual governor inspires others

Sunday, February 15th, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) — “LGBT” has become a household term amid sweeping advances for gay rights, and yet the “B” sometimes seems like an awkward fit. The sudden advent of America’s first openly bisexual governor may provide a chance to ease the awkwardness and broaden understanding of the bi community.

Kate Brown, Oregon’s secretary of state, is in line to replace Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber when he steps down Wednesday amid an ethics scandal. Brown, serving her second term after many years in the legislature, lives in Portland with her husband and two stepchildren and has been open throughout her political career about being bisexual.

Her progress has been followed closely by bisexual activists across the country, including Ellyn Ruthstrom, who now serves on the board of Boston-based Bisexual Resource Center after 10 years as its president.

“There are so few bi political leaders out there, so we pay attention to them,” said Ruthstrom, citing U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona as the other prominent example.

Beyond elective politics, the bi community continues to struggle to establish its appropriate place in the broader civil rights campaigns being waged on behalf of lesbians, gays and transgender people.

Within that movement, there was widespread animosity toward bisexuals a couple of decades ago, Ruthstrom said. “Now it’s not as overt, but there are still issues.”

She cited a phenomenon known as “bi-erasure” — in which bisexuals are not mentioned in speeches, press releases and news reports that refer to the LGT groups.

Ruthstrom said she and her allies have been lobbying major LGBT-rights groups to be fully inclusive of the bisexual community’s issues. “They’re missing an opportunity to engage,” she said, citing research indicating that bisexuals make up about half of the total LGBT population.

Gary Gates, a demographer at the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute, estimated in 2011 that about 1.8 percent of the adult population, or a little more than 4 million Americans, identifies as bisexual — slightly more than the number identifying as gay or lesbian.

However, Ruthstrom said a majority of bisexuals remain wary of disclosing their sexual orientation, except perhaps to a few close acquaintances, and suffer high rates of depression. A study released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention two years ago said bisexual women reported a far higher rate of rape, violence and stalking by an intimate partner than either lesbians or heterosexual women.

A vice president of one of the largest LGBT-rights groups, Fred Sainz of the Human Rights Campaign, said bisexuals may in some respects face greater challenges than gays and lesbians.

“To the extent that they’re out, they may well be more so the victims of scorn because they get it from both gay and straight people,” Sainz said. “Gays want them to make a choice, and straights consider them gay, so in many ways they face increased amounts of stigma and discrimination.”

The Human Rights Campaign’s legal director, Sarah Warbelow, who is bisexual, said one of the biggest challenges for the bi community is a lack of public understanding of their social lives.

“On one hand, there’s assumption that bi people are never happy in any relationship and need to have multiple partners,” she said. “On the other hand, you’ve got people who say it’s not real — it’s an in-between existence until you figure out who you really are when you grow up.”

Brown’s pathway to the governor’s office opened up as the Human Rights Campaign was convening a conference in Portland devoted to supporting LGBT youth.

“Kate Brown is an incredible role model for bisexual youth, many of whom are grappling with the same issues that Brown dealt with when she came out in the ’90s — including feelings of not being understood by family or by their gay peers,” said Ellen Kahn, an HRC official helping organize the conference.

Efforts to increase understanding have persisted over many years,

In 2009, for example, activists convened a “Putting the ‘B’ in LGBT” summit in New York City. In September 2013, the White House convened a meeting with more than 30 bisexual activists — the first such gathering of its kind.

Kate Brown, after entering politics in 1991 as a member of Oregon’s House of Representatives, wrote a brief essay for “Out and Elected in the USA” about what it was like for her to come out as bisexual to her parents, her gay and straight friends, and her fellow lawmakers.

Her parents’ response: “It would be much easier for us if you were a lesbian.” Some gay friends called her “half queer.”

“Some days I feel like I have a foot in both worlds, yet never really belonging to either,” Brown concluded.

——

Follow David Crary on Twitter at http://twitter.com/CraryAP

AP-WF-02-14-15 1748GMT

Article source: http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_27528632/new-bisexual-governor-inspires-others?source=rss

Bisexuals hopeful as 1 of their own becomes a governor

Sunday, February 15th, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) — “LGBT” has become a household term amid sweeping advances for gay rights, and yet the “B” sometimes seems like an awkward fit. The sudden advent of America’s first openly bisexual governor may provide a chance to ease the awkwardness and broaden understanding of the bi community.

Kate Brown, Oregon’s secretary of state, is in line to replace Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber when he steps down Wednesday amid an ethics scandal. Brown, serving her second term after many years in the legislature, lives in Portland with her husband and two stepchildren and has been open throughout her political career about being bisexual.

Her progress has been followed closely by bisexual activists across the country, including Ellyn Ruthstrom, who now serves on the board of Boston-based Bisexual Resource Center after 10 years as its president.

“There are so few bi political leaders out there, so we pay attention to them,” said Ruthstrom, citing U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona as the other prominent example.

Beyond elective politics, the bi community continues to struggle to establish its appropriate place in the broader civil rights campaigns being waged on behalf of lesbians, gays and transgender people.

Within that movement, there was widespread animosity toward bisexuals a couple of decades ago, Ruthstrom said. “Now it’s not as overt, but there are still issues.”

In this Sept. 28, 2012 photo, Oregon Secretary of Statenbsp;hellip;

She cited a phenomenon known as “bi-erasure” — in which bisexuals are not mentioned in speeches, press releases and news reports that refer to the LGT groups.

Ruthstrom said she and her allies have been lobbying major LGBT-rights groups to be fully inclusive of the bisexual community’s issues. “They’re missing an opportunity to engage,” she said, citing research indicating that bisexuals make up about half of the total LGBT population.

Gary Gates, a demographer at the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute, estimated in 2011 that about 1.8 percent of the adult population, or a little more than 4 million Americans, identifies as bisexual — slightly more than the number identifying as gay or lesbian.

However, Ruthstrom said a majority of bisexuals remain wary of disclosing their sexual orientation, except perhaps to a few close acquaintances, and suffer high rates of depression. A study released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention two years ago said bisexual women reported a far higher rate of rape, violence and stalking by an intimate partner than either lesbians or heterosexual women.

A vice president of one of the largest LGBT-rights groups, Fred Sainz of the Human Rights Campaign, said bisexuals may in some respects face greater challenges than gays and lesbians.

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“To the extent that they’re out, they may well be more so the victims of scorn because they get it from both gay and straight people,” Sainz said. “Gays want them to make a choice, and straights consider them gay, so in many ways they face increased amounts of stigma and discrimination.”

The Human Rights Campaign’s legal director, Sarah Warbelow, who is bisexual, said one of the biggest challenges for the bi community is a lack of public understanding of their social lives.

“On one hand, there’s assumption that bi people are never happy in any relationship and need to have multiple partners,” she said. “On the other hand, you’ve got people who say it’s not real — it’s an in-between existence until you figure out who you really are when you grow up.”

Brown’s pathway to the governor’s office opened up as the Human Rights Campaign was convening a conference in Portland devoted to supporting LGBT youth.

“Kate Brown is an incredible role model for bisexual youth, many of whom are grappling with the same issues that Brown dealt with when she came out in the ’90s — including feelings of not being understood by family or by their gay peers,” said Ellen Kahn, an HRC official helping organize the conference.

Efforts to increase understanding have persisted over many years,

In 2009, for example, activists convened a “Putting the ‘B’ in LGBT” summit in New York City. In September 2013, the White House convened a meeting with more than 30 bisexual activists — the first such gathering of its kind.

Kate Brown, after entering politics in 1991 as a member of Oregon’s House of Representatives, wrote a brief essay for “Out and Elected in the USA” about what it was like for her to come out as bisexual to her parents, her gay and straight friends, and her fellow lawmakers.

Her parents’ response: “It would be much easier for us if you were a lesbian.” Some gay friends called her “half queer.”

“Some days I feel like I have a foot in both worlds, yet never really belonging to either,” Brown concluded.

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Follow David Crary on Twitter at http://twitter.com/CraryAP

Article source: http://news.yahoo.com/bisexuals-hopeful-one-own-becomes-governor-174753973--politics.html

LGBT Community Center reopens in West Village

Saturday, February 14th, 2015

The West Village’s LGBT Community Center celebrated its $9.2 million renovation earlier this month with an art exhibit and ribbon-cutting with city and state officials. “Countless lives were saved by the LGBT center,” said Corey Johnson, an openly HIV-positive City Council member, “and countless lives continue to be saved.”

The center’s auditorium, assembly halls, library and archives, which contain approximately 5,000 volumes and 190 manuscripts, were updated. Work began in 2013.

Executive Director Glennda Testone touched upon the center’s many new initiatives, including a program targeting substance abuse among LGBT youth; a network of public and private service providers to help the trans community get health insurance, jobs and housing; and an economic empowerment program for women.

The center dedicated its café to Edie Windsor, the former IBM executive whose Supreme Court case overturned a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013. Ms. Windsor closed the evening with reflections on her connection to the center. “It began as the only place for us to meet people,” she said, “and it flourished into a center for us to be who we are.”

Correction: Corey Johnson was not the first openly HIV-positive City Council member. This was was misstated in a previous version of this article, originally published online Feb. 13, 2015.

A version of this article appears in the February 16, 2015, print issue of Crain’s New York Business.

Article source: http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20150213/NONPROFITS/150219919/lgbt-community-center-reopens-in-west-village

Mae Whitman Is on a Mission to 'Reverse-DUFF' the World

Friday, February 13th, 2015

 Above: Robbie Amell and Mae Whitman in The DUFF. Photos by Guy D’Alema.

Few teen dramas and rom-coms escape the ranks of JV productions to become varsity players in the cinematic world, but a handful of films in the genre such as Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Breakfast Club, Heathers, Clueless, and Mean Girls have not only left a pop culture footprint, they’ve helped define generations.

It’s a reality Mae Whitman says she was well aware of when she landed the part of Bianca in director Ari Sandel’s The DUFF. But as she settles into the seat across from me in a sparse conference room on the third floor of CBS Studios, she explains she never felt like the genre’s past successes cast a shadow on her performance in the production, because she was focused on the opportunity to achieve something more personal — the chance to tell a part of her own story.   

“Like Bianca, I got bullied a lot in high school and I was put into a lot of boxes, labeled a tomboy and all sorts of things, but overcoming that is exactly the road that led me to where I am today,” she says. “This movie gave me the chance to share a piece of my personal struggle and show others those labels we subscribe to aren’t real, and we don’t have to participate in [perpetuating] them.”

The film’s story, which centers around Bianca’s (Whitman) mission to upend the social structure of her high school after she learns she has been labeled the DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) compared to her “prettier besties,” has strong parallels to the struggles of LGBT youth. Not only in the sense that many are bullied because they are different from the traditional norm, but in the way a new generation has begun to view LGBT friends as an accessory or sidekick.

“The DUFF doesn’t have to be fat or ugly,” Wesley (Robbie Amell), the star football player of Bianca’s high school and her next-door neighbor, explains to her in the film. “Every group of friends has one … you’re approachable … you friend it up, good for you.”

Whitman says, “For me, that parallel is everything. People have a strong reaction to the words ‘designated ugly fat friend,’ and they should. That is the kind of shit [LGBT kids] get called every single day in school. The whole concept of this movie to me is a metaphor for looking at this social infrastructure that certain people somehow deserve to be called this or that, or it’s OK to define people by parameters that are totally subjective.”

Her passion for the film’s message is evident as she scoots to the edge of her seat and leans forward before continuing. “The DUFF is about deconstructing that and showing it’s all a joke because ultimately that doesn’t matter. You might as well call me a big blue dinosaur if you’re going to call me anything because none of those labels make any sense. They aren’t real. The boxes we get put into aren’t real, and I wanted to unravel that for anyone who has ever felt this.”

In addition to the film’s parallels to the struggles of LGBT youth, The DUFF deals directly with an issue unique to the millennial high school experience. In an era when social media can be wielded as a weapon, teens of all types now face becoming even bigger targets online than in the classroom. It’s a reality perfectly illustrated in the film during a scene in which Bianca is secretly recorded as she jokingly flirts with a department store mannequin. When the video is uploaded to the Internet by the high school’s queen of mean, Madison (Bella Thorne), what began as a moment of playful fun quickly turns into a nightmare for Whitman’s character as the video is streamed on smartphones across campus.

Though the film’s underlying themes are passionate subject matter for Whitman, she admits they aren’t the only reason she’s fond of her experience working on The DUFF.

“Ari [Sandel] gave us a lot of freedom and allowed us to improvise so much,” she says, grinning as she recalls one scene in particular.

“There’s a moment in the film where Robbie is making out with me and his character says he’s more of a tongue guy, and I say, ‘I gathered as much when I felt your tongue sticking out of my butthole,” she laughs. “It’s a great moment in the film and you can see he’s shocked by the look on his face because the line was a total improv. We really had so much fun working on this film.”

Still, it’s The DUFF’s social message of which Whitman says she’s most proud.

“If this film helps even one person feel more understood or less alone, then I would feel like we succeeded,” she says warmly. “But even more, I hope it helps people realize if someone is going out of their way to make you feel terrible than they’re threatened by you, and that makes you pretty special. That’s what you should take from that and let it inspire you rather than getting caught up in all that other shit. People will try to put you in a box or keep you down in some way your whole life, but you don’t have subscribe to their limited definition of who you are. You can walk away from all of that and be whoever the fuck you want to be.”

The DUFF lands in theaters February 20. Watch the trailer below.

Article source: http://www.advocate.com/arts-entertainment/film/2015/02/13/mae-whitman-mission-reverse-duff-world

This 5-Person Town Made A Big Statement About LGBT Equality

Friday, February 13th, 2015








© r_drewek via Getty Images
LGBT

A tiny town in West Virginia made a big statement this week when it voted to protect LGBT individuals from discrimination.

All five residents of Thurmond, West Virginia, voted Monday to enact a new town ordinance extending discrimination prohibitions on employment, housing and public accommodations to LGBT individuals. A statewide non-discrimination measure already in place doesn’t offer LGBT protections.

Tighe Bullock, a member of Thurmond’s council, told The Huffington Post that some residents had questions about the need for a ban on employment discrimination, since the town has no employers. Residents debated the measure for three months and reached a unanimous consensus on Monday. Bullock said he hopes the success can be a model for others.

“If the smallest city can pass it and come together unanimously and be of one mind about something, then I don’t think it’s too hard that other people can come together and provide protections that should be provided on a statewide level,” Bullock said.”We don’t have to agree or disagree on necessarily what marriage is or anything like that. This bill is about not being able to fire people based on their gender and sexual orientation. And I think almost everyone should be able to agree on something like that.”

Nearby Beckley tabled a similar non-discrimination measure late last year after vocal opposition.

Andrew Schneider, executive director of the advocacy group Fairness West Virginia, said the ordinance in Thurmond, as well as similar protections in Charleston and other communities in the state, show there’s a “movement afoot” toward a “critical mass” for a statewide measure.

A more inclusive state non-discrimination ordinance, Schneider said, would encourage businesses with diverse employees to locate in West Virginia and would allow the state to retain its “best and brightest.”
For Bullock, voting for Thurmond’s ordinance was simply a matter of living up to West Virginia’s ideals.

“Our state motto in Latin is ‘Montani semper liberi,’ which means ‘Mountaineers are always free,’” Bullock said. “I think that passing this ordinance is living up to that ideal that all West Virginians are free and we’re free from discrimination. We’re free from fear of being fired for our gender or our sexual orientation.”

Article source: http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/this-5-person-town-just-made-a-big-statement-about-lgbt-equality/ar-AA9kUZX?srcref=rss