Corporate support for gay and transgender rights is reaching workers in new corners of the country and economy six months after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, according to a new report card from the nation’s largest LGBT advocacy group.
The Human Rights Campaign found that more than two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies and 90 percent of all large employers it surveyed are offering health insurance and other spousal benefits to same-sex domestic partners of their employees.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Hormel Foods LLC and Wendy’s International Inc. are among the corporations extending the benefits for the first time next year, the campaign says in a report scheduled to be issued Monday.
The group’s 12th annual Corporate Equality Index, which rates private companies on policies affecting gay and transgender workers and consumers, also found a record number of businesses adopting policies prohibiting discrimination against transgender workers and job applicants. They include 61 percent of the Fortune 500, up from 57 percent a year ago, and 86 percent of the 737 companies evaluated.
With same-sex marriages still outlawed in 34 states and without a federal law prohibiting workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, the ratings suggest that big businesses are helping to fill a gap in rights and recognition, said Deena Fidas, who directs the campaign’s Workplace Equality Program. That companies like the Cracker Barrel restaurant chain and discount retailer Dollar General, both headquartered in Tennessee, started sponsoring gay rights events and working to raise their marks on the index this year is as much a bellwether as the 303 employers that received perfect scores, Fidas said.
“There is no more succinct way to say we have arrived than the Wal-Mart story,” she said. “The stores and restaurants that you find across strip malls and along highways in every pocket of the country and that are serving demographics that are more senior in age and more rural, cutting across what conventional wisdom would tell you, are places where you now find LGBT-inclusion.”
Arkansas-based Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest private employer, announced in August that it would extend its health care benefits to its full-time U.S. workers’ domestic partners, including those of the same sex, starting Jan. 1. The company said it was making the change not as a political or moral decision but because it wanted to have one uniform policy for all 50 states at a time when some states have their own definitions of domestic partnerships and civil unions.
Bi-Lo Holdings LLC, the South Carolina-based parent company of the southern supermarket chains BI-LO and Winn-Dixie, started offering same-sex domestic partner benefits and health coverage to its workers in 2012, which first attracted notice when the company voluntarily submitted the information to the Human Rights Campaign this year.
“Offering same-sex partner coverage directly aligns with the company’s diversity and inclusion practices and is part of our strategy to recruit and retain top talent,” said Brian Wright, vice president of communications for Bi-Lo Holdings.
The demise of the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited the federal government from recognizing marriages not between a man and a woman, has both directly and indirectly required large employers who had not already done so to acknowledge their gay employees and their families.
After the Supreme Court struck down a critical provision of the act, the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Labor Department ruled this fall that widows and widowers who had legally married were entitled to a late same-sex spouse’s pension benefits even if they lived in a state that bans gay marriages. The decision has compelled companies to make sure they are in compliance and develop procedures for verifying eligibility,
“The most conservative employer in the world who has no interest in doing this is now legally required to do this,” said Todd Solomon, a Chicago lawyer who specializes in employee benefits.
The high court ruling also puts large, multi-state employers with self-funded health plans at risk of being sued for discrimination if they deny coverage to the lawful same-sex spouses of their employees, and many have since decided to offer coverage not only to married gay couples, but those in civil unions or domestic partnerships, Solomon said.
“Large employers are very squeamish about limiting benefits to spouses … because it’s unfair to those who say, live in Georgia and would have to spend several thousand dollars to jump on a plane and fly to New York or New Hampshire to get a marriage license,” he said. “There is no way that company is going to limit benefits just to married couples because until marriage is legal in all 50 states, somebody is not getting compensated equally and companies are really, really anxious about treating employees differently.”
The campaign also scores companies on “public commitment” – whether businesses directly appeal to the gay and lesbian community through advertising, philanthropy, recruiting, contracting, and advocacy on issues such as gay marriage. This year, 79 percent of the rated companies received credit in that category.
The trend concerns Chris Stone, a North Carolina brand strategist who evaluates companies on their compatibility with Christian biblical values for his website, the Faith Driven Consumer.
For the second year in a row, Stone has issued a Christmas buyer’s guide that detracts points from major retailers that support Planned Parenthood or have been outspoken advocates of same-sex marriage and job discrimination protections for gay workers.
“The LGBT community is here, and they are going to be here. They have been here since the beginning of time and we are not trying to push them out of the marketplace,” Stone said. “But … we are trying to establish our own place within the marketplace as well.”
from The Associated Press
Corporate support for gay and transgender rights is reaching workers in new corners of the country and economy six months after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, according to a new report card from the nation’s largest LGBT advocacy group.
What percent of American men are gay? This question is notoriously difficult to answer. Historical estimates range from about 2 percent to 10 percent.
But somewhere in the exabytes of data that human beings create every day are answers to even the most challenging questions.
Using surveys, social networks, pornographic searches and dating sites, I recently studied evidence on the number of gay men. The data used in this analysis is available in highly aggregated form only and can be downloaded from publicly accessible sites. While none of these data sources are ideal, they combine to tell a consistent story.
At least 5 percent of American men, I estimate, are predominantly attracted to men, and millions of gay men still live, to some degree, in the closet. Gay men are half as likely as straight men to acknowledge their sexuality on social networks. More than one quarter of gay men hide their sexuality from anonymous surveys. The evidence also suggests that a large number of gay men are married to women.
There are three sources that can give us estimates of the openly gay population broken down by state: the census, which asks about same-sex households; Gallup, which has fairly large-sample surveys for every state; and Facebook, which asks members what gender they are interested in. While these data sources all measure different degrees of openness, one result is strikingly similar: All three suggest that the openly gay population is dramatically higher in more tolerant states, defined using an estimate by Nate Silver of support for same-sex marriage. On Facebook, for example, about 1 percent of men in Mississippi who list a gender preference say that they are interested in men; in California, more than 3 percent do.
Are there really so many fewer gay men living in less tolerant states? There is no evidence that gay men would be less likely to be born in these states. Have many of them moved to more tolerant areas? Some have, but Facebook data show that mobility can explain only a small fraction of the difference in the totally out population. I searched gay and straight men by state of birth and state of current residence. (This information is available only for a subset of Facebook users.) Some gay men do move out of less tolerant states, but this effect is small. I estimate that the openly gay population would be about 0.1 percentage points higher in the least tolerant states if everyone stayed in place.
The percent of male high school students who identify themselves as gay on Facebook is also much lower in less tolerant areas. Because high school students are less mobile than adults, this suggests that a gay exodus from these areas is not a large factor.
We can approach the question of whether intolerant areas actually have fewer gay men another way, too, by estimating the percent of searches for pornography that are looking for depictions of gay men. These would include searches for such terms as “gay porn” or “Rocket Tube,” a popular gay pornographic site. I used anonymous, aggregate data from Google. The advantage of this data source, of course, is that most men are making these searches in private. (Women search, too, but in much smaller numbers.)
While tolerant states have a slightly higher percentage of these searches, roughly 5 percent of pornographic searches are looking for depictions of gay men in all states. This again suggests that there are just about as many gay men in less tolerant states as there are anywhere else.
Since less tolerant states have similar percentages of gay men but far fewer openly gay men, there is a clear relationship between tolerance and openness. My preliminary research indicates that for every 20 percentage points of support for gay marriage about one-and-a-half times as many men from that state will identify openly as gay on Facebook.
In a perfectly tolerant world, my model estimates that about 5 percent of men in the United States would say they were interested in men. Note that this matches nicely with the evidence from pornographic search data.
These results suggest that the closet remains a major factor in American life. For comparison, about 3.6 percent of American men tell anonymous surveys they are attracted to men and a tenth of gay men say that they do not tell most of the important people in their lives. In states where the stigma against homosexuality remains strong, many more gay men are in the closet than are out.
How deep in the closet are these men? Obviously, it is possible for a gay man not to acknowledge his sexuality to Facebook or surveys but to still have healthy, open same-sex relationships.
But data from Match.com, one of the country’s largest dating sites, which has high rates of membership for both straight and gay men, reveals a similarly large number of missing gay men in less tolerant states. This suggests that these men are not only not telling Facebook they are gay but are also not looking for relationships online.
Additional evidence that suggests that many gay men in intolerant states are deeply in the closet comes from a surprising source: the Google searches of married women. It turns out that wives suspect their husbands of being gay rather frequently. In the United States, of all Google searches that begin “Is my husband…,” the most common word to follow is “gay.” “Gay” is 10 percent more common in such searches than the second-place word, “cheating.” It is 8 times more common than “an alcoholic” and 10 times more common than “depressed.”
Searches questioning a husband’s sexuality are far more common in the least tolerant states. The states with the highest percentage of women asking this question are South Carolina and Louisiana. In fact, in 21 of the 25 states where this question is most frequently asked, support for gay marriage is lower than the national average.
Craigslist lets us look at this from a different angle. I analyzed ads for males looking for “casual encounters.” The percentage of these ads that are seeking casual encounters with men tends to be larger in less tolerant states. Among the states with the highest percentages are Kentucky, Louisiana and Alabama.
There is, in other words, a huge amount of secret suffering in the United States that can be directly attributed to intolerance of homosexuality.
Sometimes even I get tired of looking at aggregate data, so I asked a psychiatrist in Mississippi who specializes in helping closeted gay men if any of his patients might want to talk to me. One man contacted me. He told me he was a retired professor, in his 60s, married to the same woman for more than 40 years.
About 10 years ago, overwhelmed with stress, he saw the therapist and finally acknowledged his sexuality. He has always known he was attracted to men, he says, but thought that that was normal and something that men hid. Shortly after beginning therapy, he had his first, and only, gay sexual encounter, with a student of his in his late 20s, an experience he describes as “wonderful.”
He and his wife do not have sex. He says that he would feel guilty ever ending his marriage or openly dating a man. He regrets virtually every one of his major life decisions.
The retired professor and his wife will go another night without romantic love, without sex. Despite enormous progress, the persistence of intolerance will cause millions of other Americans to do the same.
from The New York Times
German President Joachim Gauck will boycott the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, according to a report Sunday.
The announcement would make Gauck, a former pastor, the first major political figure to boycott the Games, which will be held at the Black Sea resort in February.
According to a report in the German publication Der Spiegel, Gauck made the decision in protest against human rights violations and the harassment of Russian opposition political figures. The magazine said the Russian government was informed of his decision last week.
The German presidential office could not be reached for comment Sunday. Russia’s Presidential Press Service said there was no immediate official reaction to the report.
Germany’s presidency is largely ceremonial; Chancellor Angela Merkel oversees the government.
Some athletes have spoken out against Russia’s new “propaganda” law that bans even discussion of homosexuality anywhere that children might hear it.
The legislation, which President Vladimir Putin signed in June, gives authorities the power to impose fines as well as detain and deport foreigners who are deemed to have breached the law.
Some artists and activists have called for a boycott of the Sochi games, which run from February 7 to 23.
“I don’t think that we should be going to the Olympics at all,” Lady Gaga said last week during an interview on the British television show “Alan Carr: Chatty Man.” “I just think it is absolutely wrong for so many countries to send money and economy in the way of a country that doesn’t support gays.”
In August, British actor and writer Stephen Fry wrote an open letter to the International Olympic Committee and British Prime Minister David Cameron saying: “An absolute ban on the Russian Winter Olympics of 2014 on Sochi is simply essential.
“Stage them elsewhere in Utah, Lillehammer, anywhere you like. At all costs Putin cannot be seen to have the approval of the civilized world,” he wrote in the letter posted on his website.
Putin said in an interview on state television in September that gay people would not be discriminated against at the Sochi games. But that appeared at odds with statements made by government officials that the anti-gay propaganda law would be enforced.
Putin also later said everyone would be welcomed to the Winter Olympics in Russia, regardless of sexual orientation, state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported.
The IOC in August said it received assurances “from the highest level of government in Russia” that the law would not affect people attending or taking part in the Games. The next month, the IOC said the law did not violate the Olympic Charter.
U.S. President Barack Obama rejected calls for the United States to boycott the Games, saying such a move would hurt American athletes who trained and sacrificed to qualify.
Earlier this year, Sen. Lindsey Graham suggested a possible boycott of the Olympics if Putin allowed NSA leaker Edward Snowden to remain in his country and if Putin continued supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Elton John spoke out against anti-gay policies in Russia, describing them as “inhumane,” at a sold-out gig in Moscow Friday. He dedicated the show to the memory of Vladislav Tornovoi, a 23-year-old Russian killed in a horrific homophobic attack earlier this year.
“You took me to your hearts all these years ago, and you’ve always welcomed me with warmth and open arms every time I’ve visited,” he said from the stage. “You have always embraced me and you have never judged me. So I am deeply saddened and shocked over the current legislation that is now in place against the LGBT community here in Russia. In my opinion, it is inhumane and it is isolating.”
The singer went on to justify his decision to go ahead with his two Russian concerts, despite the prevailing anti-gay mood in the country.
“People have demanded that because of this legislation, I must not come here to Russia. But many, many more people asked me to come and I listened to them. I love coming here.
“I want to show them and the world that I care, and that I don’t believe in isolating people. Music is a very powerful thing. It brings people together irrespective of their age, their race, their sexuality, or their religion. It does not discriminate.
“Look around you tonight. You see men, women, young and old, gay and straight. Thousands of Russian people enjoying the music. We’re all here together in harmony and harmony is what makes a happy family and a strong society.
“The spirit we share tonight is what builds a future of equality, love and compassion for my children and for your children. Please don’t leave it behind when you leave tonight. Each and every one of you please, keep this spirit in your life and in your heart. I wish you love and peace and health and happiness.”
He concluded by dedicating the show to the memory of Tornovoi, who was killed in the city of Volgograd in May. Tornovoi’s skull had been smashed and he had been raped with beer bottles. A suspect told police he had been killed because he was gay.
Elton John’s Russia Concerts To Go Ahead Despite Anti-Gay Law
NEW JERSEY – Donations to the New Jersey waitress who claimed she received an anti-gay note instead of a tip at the restaurant where she worked are being refunded after her story was questioned, NBC 4 New York has learned.
Dayna Morales, a server at Gallop Asian Bistro in Bridgewater, posted a photo on Facebook last month showing the bill with a line through the tip area. The photo of the receipt showed someone had written, “I’m sorry but I cannot tip because I do not agree with your lifestyle.”
But days later, a New Jersey couple came forward to NBC 4 New York, claiming the receipt was theirs and that they had left a tip and did not write a note, suggesting it was used for a hoax. The handwriting, they said, was not theirs, and they also supplied what they said was a credit card statement showing they were charged for the total plus the $18 tip.
After Morales’ initial Facebook post, her story got national attention and she began receiving money from all over the world. She said at the time that she planned to donate some of it to the Wounded Warriors Project.
This week, three people who sent money to a PayPal account set up in her name say their electronic donations were refunded.
Brittney Stilgenbauer of Tuscon, Ariz. was one of hundreds of supporters across the country who immediately rallied around Morales after reading her story on Facebook. She told NBC 4 New York over Skype Friday, “I felt awful for her, and I thought it would be great if people could come together and donate a dollar each and make up for her tip that she lost.”
Stilgenbauer said she and others on Facebook encouraged Morales to set up a PayPal account to accept donations.
On the same day, Nov. 13, a PayPal account in Morales’ name was set up and publicized on Facebook, and Stilgenbauer donated $1 to the account, according to time stamps on the Facebook photo and the receipt emailed to Stilgenbauer after she made the donation.
Over three weeks later, on Friday, Stilgenbauer received another email from PayPal informing her that her $1 donation to Morales’ account was refunded.
Two other people told NBC 4 New York in phone interviews they also saw their electronic donations refunded. However, one man who mailed cash to Morales at the restaurant said he has not gotten the money back.
Morales did not respond to requests for comment Friday but in her last interview with NBC 4 New York, maintained she had been telling the truth: “All I know is what I’ve been saying.”
Gallop Asian Bistro, meanwhile, suspended Morales from her job last week and says its internal investigation is still ongoing.
Stilgenbauer said she would like Morales to “return all the funds.”
“Hopefully her heart was in the right place and she’s sorry,” she said.
from NBC New York
Waitress Who Was Denied Tip Because She Was Gay May Have Forged Receipt
DENVER, COLORADO – A baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex ceremony must serve gay couples despite his religious beliefs or face fines, a judge said Friday.
The order from administrative law judge Robert N. Spencer said Masterpiece Cakeshop in suburban Denver discriminated against a couple “because of their sexual orientation by refusing to sell them a wedding cake for their same-sex marriage.”
The order says the cake-maker must “cease and desist from discriminating” against gay couples. Although the judge did not impose fines in this case, the business will face penalties if it continues to turn away gay couples who want to buy cakes.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint against shop owner Jack Phillips with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission last year on behalf of Charlie Craig, 33, and David Mullins, 29. The couple was married in Massachusetts and wanted a wedding cake to celebrate in Colorado.
Mullins and Craig wanted to buy a cake in July 2012, but when Phillips found out the cake was to celebrate a gay wedding, he turned the couple of away, according to the complaint.
Nicolle Martin, an attorney for Masterpiece Cakeshop, said the judge’s order puts Phillips in an impossible position of going against his Christian faith.
“He can’t violate his conscience in order to collect a paycheck,” she said. “If Jack can’t make wedding cakes, he can’t continue to support his family. And in order to make wedding cakes, Jack must violate his belief system. That is a reprehensible choice. It is antithetical to everything America stands for.”
The Civil Rights Commission is expected to certify the judge’s order next week. Phillips can appeal the judge’s order, and Martin said they’re considering their next steps.
Mullins said he and Craig are “ecstatic.”
“To a certain extent, though, I don’t think that this is necessarily a surprise,” he said. “We thought it was pretty clear cut that he had discriminated against us.”
Mullins said he hopes the “decision will help ensure that no one else will experience this kind of discrimination again in Colorado.”
A similar is pending in Washington state, where a florist is accused of refusing service for a same-sex wedding. In New Mexico, the state Supreme Court ruled in August that an Albuquerque business was wrong to decline to photograph a same-sex couple’s commitment ceremony.
Colorado has a constitutional ban against gay marriage but allows civil unions. The civil union law, which passed earlier this year, does not provide religious protections for businesses.
“At first blush, it may seem reasonable that a private business should be able to refuse service to anyone it chooses,” Judge Spencer said in his written order. “This view, however, fails to take into account the cost to society and the hurt caused to persons who are denied service simply because of who they are.”
ACLU attorney Amanda Goad said no one is asking Phillips to change his religious beliefs.
“But treating gay people differently because of who they are is discrimination, plain and simple,” she said.
from The Associated Press
Gay Couple Sues Bakery For Allegedly Refusing Them Wedding Cake
Family Secrets, directed by Hany Fawzy, is the first Egyptian film to deal with homosexuality directly. However, despite having no explicitly sexual content, the country’s censors have objected to 13 scenes and have asked for them to be deleted.
The film is based on a sad real-life story of a young homosexual man who has grown up in a single-mother household with an elder brother who was subjected to sexual abuse as a child. Family Secrets hardly advances the gay agenda, as the film’s protagonist, Marwan, sees several therapists in an attempt to rid himself of his sexual urges. With this portrayal of homosexuality as a disease to be cured, Marwan does successfully shake off his natural tendencies, but finds himself uncomfortable with his new self.
Fawzy has said that the censor board’s demands would remove vital plot devices from the film and damage its artistic value. In one, Marwan “confesses to his sister that he is a homosexual” and in another “accuses his father of being responsible for his sexual orientation”.
Ahmed Awad, head of the censor board, told AFP at the Alexandria film festival last month that Family Secrets would suffer no censorship just because it is talking of homosexuality.
The censorship arrives as Elton John has announced he will go ahead with his two concerts in Russia this weekend despite a national law banning the “propaganda of homosexuality” to minors. Sir Elton has said he intends to speak out about the law, a situation he describes as “awful” while on stage in Moscow and plans to “meet with the LGBT community” out there.
from The Telegraph
MOSCOW – Organizers of Elton John concerts scheduled to take place in Russia late this week have denied rumors that the shows could be canceled based on the country’s controversial law against “gay propaganda.”
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“Contrary to groundless rumors disseminated over the Internet and in the media about possible cancelation of Elton John’s performances in Russia, the promoter confirms that Elton John’s shows in Moscow on Dec. 6 at Crocus City Hall and in Kazan on Dec. 7 at Tatneft Arena are to be held as scheduled,” SAV Entertainment, which is organizing the gigs, said on its web site.
Earlier this week, The Times of London suggested that Russian authorities could ban the shows based on the law against “gay propaganda” among minors, which was enacted in Moscow earlier this year. The singer has repeatedly said that, unlike some other Western stars who refused to perform in Russia out of protest against the legislation, he would come here to voice his support for the local gay community.
Over the last 16 months, Russian performances by Madonna and Lady Gaga, who expressed support for the gay community during their gigs, have created controversy here. The two singers’ gigs in St. Petersburg in August and Dec. 2012, respectively, triggered court cases. A $10 million lawsuit against Madonna was thrown out, but the promoters of Lady Gaga’s show were fined a symbolic $600.
Meanwhile, SAV Entertainment also denied The Times’ claims about John’s extravagant tour rider, or set of requests or demands, which allegedly included a miniature forest with live birds and diamond-adorned cutlery. The report “is false and discredits the artist’s image,” the promoter said.
from The Hollywood Reporter
A Republican congressman is under fire from LGBT groups following a report that he has been pushing to block campaign donations to gay GOP congressional candidates.
According to a report published Wednesday evening by Politico, Virginia Rep. Randy Forbes has been actively seeking to convince colleagues on Capitol Hill as well as the National Republican Congressional Committee, which donates to GOP congressional campaigns, to end their support for Republican candidates who are gay.
Forbes’s anti-gay campaign comes as Carl DeMaio, an out gay Republican who served on the San Diego City Council, is seeking to unseat Democratic Rep. Scott Peters. In Massachusetts, many suspect Richard Tisei, another out Republican, will again challenge Democratic Rep. John Tierny after narrowly losing to Tierny in 2012 by 47.1 percent to 48.3 percent. Tisei announced in October that he was creating a committee to explore another run.
“You either want Republicans to win, or you don’t — it’s as simple as that,” said Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director Gregory T. Angelo in a statement. “Apparently, Congressman Forbes does not. Thankfully, the real GOP leaders in the House know how to pick winners, and their money is on Richard Tisei and Carl DeMaio.”
Although Forbes has been pushing back against candidates like DeMaio and Tisei, the majority of Republican leadership, from House Speaker John Boehner to Majority Leader Eric Cantory and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, have been supportive of their campaigns.
Asked during a press conference on Capitol Hill Thursday whether he believes his party should support gay candidates, Boehner responded, “I do.” Boehner helped fundraise for Tisei last year.
Forbes’s actions come as the political landscape continues to shift rapidly on LGBT rights and as the GOP has sought to make inroads into the gay community following the 2012 presidential election. In March, the Republican National Committee released an expansive “autopsy” report providing a path forward for the party, with gay inclusion cited specifically.
Three Senate Republicans — Rob Portman (Ohio), Mark Kirk (Ill.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) — have endorsed same-sex marriage in the past year. Last month, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would outlaw anti-LGBT workplace discrimination, passed the Senate with the support of 10 Republicans – the most Republican senators to have ever voted for a piece of gay-rights legislation. Despite those advances, much of the party remains opposed to key LGBT issues such as marriage equality.
With the Democratic Party firmly entrenched in its support for LGBT rights, activists have turned their focus to softening the GOP’s opposition to LGBT issues. Among the ways they have sought to do that is by electing out Republican candidates.
Declaring Forbes’s rhetoric an “embarrassment to Republicans everywhere,” the organization GOProud said in a statement, “This type of rhetoric is symptomatic of someone who does not understand the importance of being a team player. Our Party cannot win elections by appealing to the lowest common denominator amongst the minority of American voters.”
Although gay Republicans have come out while serving in Congress in the past, DeMaio or Tisei would be the first out gay Republican candidate ever elected to Congress should they win.
from Metro Weekly
Gay teenagers who have had at least four sexual partners are at increased risk of contracting human papillomavirus (HPV), a new study suggests.
At least half of sexually active people get HPV at some point in their lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Previous research has suggested most adult gay men have the sexually transmitted infection. HPV is usually cleared by the immune system but can cause genital warts and anal cancer, as well as cervical cancer among women.
“In this study we found rates of anal infection increased rapidly with increasing numbers of partners with whom they have received anal sex,” senior author Marcus Y. Chen said. “The virus is presumably being transmitted from penis to anus.”
Chen is an associate professor in the School of Population and Global Health at the University of Melbourne in Australia.
The CDC recommends boys and girls get vaccinated against HPV at age 11 or 12, before becoming sexually active. There are two versions of the HPV vaccine, one of which is available for boys.
The vaccine is very effective if given before a person is exposed to HPV but provides “diminishing protection” after that, Dr. Ross D. Cranston told Reuters Health.
“Thus if there is a high rate of HPV acquisition, as we also see in girls, there is a lost opportunity to provide protection if the HPV vaccine is not given early,” he said.
Cranston, who was not involved in the new study, directs the Anal Dysplasia Clinic and Research Program at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Pennsylvania.
Chen and his team tested 200 young gay men age 16 to 20 for HPV and genital warts and gave them a sexual history questionnaire.
One-third of the men tested positive for high-risk forms of the virus, and 11 percent tested positive for two or more forms.
Men who’d ever had vaginal sex or anal sex were more likely to test positive for penile HPV, according to results published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.
Among men who had never received anal sex, 10 percent tested positive for anal HPV. That compared to nearly half of those who said they’d had at least four anal sex partners.
The finding that some young men who reported never receiving anal sex tested positive for anal HPV suggests the virus can be transmitted in other ways, the authors write.
About 7,000 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with anal cancer in 2013, according to the American Cancer Society. Rates are higher among gay men than heterosexual people, Chen noted.
Of the many types of the HPV virus, HPV 16 is most commonly associated with anal cancers.
“Our study found that gay male teens acquire the HPV virus including HPV 16 very soon after they first become sexually active,” Chen told Reuters Health.
“This means that the HPV vaccine, which has been shown to be effective in preventing HPV infection in males, including anal infection in gay men, needs to be given very early on, preferably before gay teens start to have sex.”
Many countries routinely vaccinate all girls against HPV. But as of 2013, Australia is the only one to implement universal and free vaccination of boys at school, Chen said.
“This is great news for boys in Australia including those that are gay but in other countries the absence of such a program means gay males will miss out on anal cancer prevention,” he said.
Some gay teens might be reluctant to admit their sexuality and ask for the vaccine, he said.
Gay men are no more susceptible to HPV than heterosexual men, but more often have anal infections, Cranston said.
He said doctors can increase awareness and the likelihood that boys will be vaccinated against HPV through conversations with their parents.
UNITED KINGDOM – Diver Tom Daley has told how it was “love at first sight” when he met the man who now shares his life.
The Olympic medal-winning star, who revealed the relationship for the first time this week, also explained that keeping his sexuality under wraps had felt like “a dirty little secret”.
In an interview with ITV’s Jonathan Ross Show to be screened on Saturday, he explained how he had made the first move, even though he was not sure if his now-partner was even gay – and it was his first experience of love.
Daley, 19, announced he was in a relationship with a “a guy” by posting a message on YouTube on Monday. Although he has not confirmed the identity, he is said to be dating screenwriter and activist Dustin Lance Black, who is aged 39.
Speaking for the first time since since he went public, Daley told Ross: “It really was love at first sight, I’d never felt like anything like it before. We were at a party and I hadn’t even spoken to him all night.
“I didn’t know what to do or if he was gay at first. I made the first move, I typed ‘call me’ in his notes with a smiley face on this phone and the next day he texted.
“He makes me feel safe and happy, right now I couldn’t be happier.
“I’d never felt the feeling of love, it happened so quickly, I was completely overwhelmed by it to the point I can’t get him out of my head all the time. I’ve never had it before where I love someone and they love me just as much.
Daley – who was a mentor on ITV celebrity diving show Splash! earlier this year – said his new partner helped him rekindle his interest in training competitively once again.
“He saved me from not wanting to dive anymore. After the Olympics I was down in the dumps, as it’s such a hard way to get back into everything, but he gave me the extra motivation and made me work harder and that is exactly what I need.”
Daley said it was a tough decision to speak out about his private life, but he feels liberated by doing so and has been encouraged by the support he has received.
“It was a terrifying decision to make, I didn’t know what the reaction was going to be like, I didn’t know how it was going to go but I felt I needed to say something. I wanted to say something in my own words and from the heart, I didn’t know what else to do,” he said.
“Right now I couldn’t be happier, the support and reaction has been amazing, everyone has been so supportive and I just have to thank them.
“People ask why I had a girlfriend last year, well, it’s because I had a girlfriend last year. It wasn’t until spring this year that it came upon me, I didn’t expect this, it happened and everything clicked and felt right.”
In the programme to be screened at 10.45pm on Saturday, he explained: “It felt like a dirty little secret, it felt like I had chains wrapped around me, I couldn’t be who I was, I felt alone and trapped.
“Just telling one person made me feel so much better, just that one person took a weight off my shoulder. I told Sophie my best friend first as I knew she’d be really accepting of it. She’s been so supportive and there for me.
“Now that everyone knows, I have nothing to hide, those chains that I felt wrapped around me are gone and I can carry on with my life as normal and be happy.
Daley advised other people to confide in someone if they were unsure about their sexuality, and not feel alone he had done.
“I felt like there was something wrong with me, I didn’t know other people out there felt that way, I felt so alone, so locked away and couldn’t say anything.”
He encouraged others by saying: “Tell one person. Tell your story, how you feel.
“I’ve had people send some lovely Twitter messages with people telling me they’ve since come out to their parents, that they’ve had some hope, it shouldn’t matter who I’m dating in this day and age. Be who you want to be.”
The bronze medallist said his family had been concerned about the public reaction.
“My family will always want to look out for me and not want me to get hurt but they were worried what the reaction would be like in case people would be horrible to me in the streets,” Daley said.
“Now that it’s all happened they couldn’t be happier, the support of the public has been an added bonus, it makes me smile to think about it – my life at the moment is perfect.”
Daley told Ross he did not want to put a label on his sexuality.
“Everything is all pretty new so I don’t see any point in putting a label on it – gay, bi, straight, any of those kind of labels. All that I feel happy about at the moment is that I’m dating a guy and couldn’t be happier, it shouldn’t matter who I’m dating and I hope people can be happy for me.”
Looking ahead in his diving career, he said: “I’m training full time now and it’s always tough the first year after the Olympics. I’m working hard and want to be at the Commonwealth Games in the best shape I possibility can.
“My dream is to get an Olympic gold medal and I hope Rio 2016 will be my chance to do that. London 2012 was an amazing experience and so was Beijing but as a diver you normally peak between 22-24 and I’ll be 22 in Rio.”
He will return to Splash! in the New Year, which will feature Ross’s broadcaster brother Paul among the contestants.
He said: “He’s doing really well, he’s working on a little something special.”
from Bridport News
A day after being sued by legally married, gay engineers, the nation’s largest freight rail carriers announced they will provide health care benefits to the same-sex spouses of their employees.
Gus Melonas, a spokesman for BNSF Railway Co., read the statement Wednesday from the National Railway Labor Conference to The Associated Press. The conference represents the railroad companies in dealings with labor groups, lawmakers and courts.
Same-sex spouses will be eligible for dependent health care coverage starting Jan. 1, the statement said. “While this it is not a benefit required by law or under current collective bargaining agreements, the railroads agreed with labor to provide the benefit in light of recent changes allowing same sex couples to access same federal tax benefits provided to other married couples,” the conference said.
Two BNSF engineers in Washington state, one man and one woman, sued the company Tuesday over its refusal to provide benefits to their spouses. The federal lawsuit, which alleges violations of the federal Equal Pay Act, seeks class-action status on behalf of any other BNSF employees who may have been denied benefits for their same-sex spouses in a legally recognized marriage. It says the same-sex spouses have been denied benefits provided routinely to those of opposite sex.
A lawyer for the couples, Cleveland Stockmeyer, disagreed with the conference’s statement that benefits for same-sex spouses aren’t required by law or by collective bargaining. The company’s health plan describes eligible dependents as “your husband or wife,” without excluding same-sex spouses, he argued.
Stockmeyer said the railroads’ decision is a good first step but would only partially resolve the lawsuit. The couples still need to be compensated for the financial and emotional drain of spending months without the benefits as they fought BNSF to have the spouses added, he said.
“It shouldn’t take a federal lawsuit to make a national company do the right thing,” Stockmeyer said. “If they tell me or my clients the benefits will be offered, and if they actually do it, we’ll believe it. But they still need to account for denying them benefits for one year.”
The rail conference represents the largest freight carriers in the nation – including units of Norfolk Southern Corp., Union Pacific Corp., CSX Corp. and Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s BNSF – as well as some smaller railroads. Its statement, reported earlier Wednesday by the Omaha World Herald’s Omaha.com, said employees would receive more information about the same-sex spouse health benefits in the coming weeks.
The industry spends more than $2 billion a year on health care benefits for rail employees, the statement said.
from The Associated Press
Justin Goforth was just a 26-year-old nursing student when he had unprotected sex with another man and, as a result, got the diagnosis that changed his life.
“I started to feel like I had the flu — aches, pains, chills, fever, swollen lymph nodes, that kind of thing — and so I went to my doctor … we did a viral load test, which was rare back then … and he called me and said, you know, it came back (HIV) positive.”
It was 1992. Goforth’s doctor immediately sent him to the National Institutes of Health, where research was being done, but treatment options were, at the time, still few.
Patients were being treated with AZT, the first drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1987 to treat HIV/AIDS in the United States — by then known for its serious, even life-threatening side effects.
The reality of the diagnosis set in.
“I was so sick,” Goforth says. “I was sitting silently and crying because of my circumstance … and the nurse came over and was trying to console me, I believe, and said … ‘Because you were just infected, you may have, you know, six or eight years before you die.’
“I think she was trying to cheer me up,” he says. “Didn’t work very well, but that’s just a good commentary on where we were at the time”
That was then, but what does it mean to have HIV today, after years of research and advances in treatment?
“It means likely you can have a normal lifespan and have a similar life to someone who does not have HIV,” says Dr. Ray Martins, chief medical officer at Whitman-Walker Health in Washington, which provides health care services for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
“For people who had to deal with the medications and stuff from the ’80s and ’90s, it was a bit of a rough road there, so figuring out the virus and the medications that would work effectively with the least side effects, it took a while,” Martins says. “But now we’re at the point where we have three options for one pill, once-a-day regimens with very little side effects.”
In 1981, when the virus was discovered, being HIV-positive was considered a death sentence. For most patients today, it’s a chronic disease, much like diabetes or heart disease.
Goforth is a perfect example. He has been living with the disease for 21 years and today is a healthy 47-year-old.
Instead of the difficult treatment regimen he was on back then. which included some 40 pills five times a day with “horrific” side effects, he now takes five pills twice a day “with virtually no side effects,” he says.
For the last 7½ years, Goforth, who is a registered nurse, has worked at Whitman-Walker in a variety of positions, including director of nursing and in case management.
He sees potentially thousands of patients each year, and has personally delivered the same news he got two decades ago to more than 200 patients. But he tells them living with HIV today means that you can be healthy, thrive and live a normal lifespan without complications.
“You can go to your doctor two, three times a year, get some tests done and make sure everything’s on track, and then just live the rest of your life as you would,” he says. “Follow your dreams … have your career, your family, or whatever it is that you’d like to do with your life, and that is the truth of where we are.”
Today’s science, he said, supports that.
“We are at a place that we actually have the tools we need to stop the epidemic and then just get to a point where we’re just taking care of the people who have HIV throughout their life,” he says.
“But because of how horrible the first 10, 20 years of this (epidemic) was, we have collectively this culture of what it means to be infected and affected by HIV that still is this huge block, this huge barrier for people understanding that they can get into care and they can be OK and that it’s not something to be afraid of.”
About 1.1 million Americans live with HIV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But because of improved treatments, they’re living longer and their quality of life is better.
“If a person is HIV infected today, it is important that they put themselves under the care of a physician experienced in caring for HIV-infected individuals,” says Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health. “Depending on the stage of infection, it is highly likely that it will be recommended that the person begin antiretroviral therapy (ART).”
ART is a combination of at least three antiretroviral drugs that prevents the virus from replicating. It can also help reduce virus transmission.
Unlike years ago, when effective treatments were not available, HIV patients now benefit significantly from ART, Fauci says.
“These drugs are highly effective in suppressing HIV replication and, if taken as directed, can result in the HIV-infected individual having an almost normal lifespan without experiencing serious illness related to their HIV infection.”
And so, on this 25th World AIDS Day, Goforth has mixed emotions.
It’s a day that, in the past, has been incredibly sad and traumatic for him. Now, he says, he has tremendous hope.
“I see the freight train being slowed down so that we can turn it around,” he says. “Even five, six years ago, I’m not sure that I could have said that I had the hope that that was going to happen, but I think we’re at that point we’re at a really historical moment with this.”
Each November in advance of World AIDS Day, POZ, an award winning magazine started in 1994 to provide education and information for people living with and affected by the disease, names its “POZ 100″ — HIV-positive people who are unsung heroes in the fight against AIDS, and committed to ending the epidemic.
This year, Goforth is on that list.
SAN FRANCISCO — There were times — after he told his parents he was gay, for example, and his mother wept and his father tried to hit him — when Fredy Bolvito curled up on a bench in Union Square here and cried because he had AIDS and no job and no place to stay and he felt, he said, that “my life was over.”
But there were also days when he sat on the bench in the square and sang “The Star-Spangled Banner,” looking up at the flags atop the Westin St. Francis hotel and thinking, “That’s breathtaking, that’s my American dream.” Or when he mingled with tourists, giving them directions to the cable cars, or gazed through the windows at the shoppers in Macy’s and was saddened by how rich and healthy they looked.
He scavenged for meals in garbage bins. He avoided the homeless shelters, where he had heard that gays were taunted, or worse. His “angel,” he said, was in the center of the square: the statue “Victory,” a trident in one hand, a wreath in the other.
“I would look at it at night and think, ‘Oh my God, that’s my hope,’ ” he said.
San Francisco is often viewed as a Mecca for gay people. But the warmth of the city’s welcome can quickly vanish for those who are poor.
City leaders were startled this year when a survey revealed that 29 percent of the homeless population —about 2,100 of the 7,350 people counted — identified themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
Bevan Dufty, the director of the city’s homelessness initiatives, said he was surprised the percentage held true for all age groups, even adults and the elderly. “What was really staggering was to see that it didn’t change as you got older,” he said.
The survey found that gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people who are homeless had higher rates of disability than homeless heterosexuals and were more likely to be homeless when they arrived in the city. Some of them were older gay men with AIDS who had been evicted from their apartments or people who had been cast out by their families in other states. Others, like Mr. Bolvito, a native of Guatemala who graduated from college in Hayward, Calif., with a degree in political science and once worked as a real estate agent, had good jobs that disappeared during the recession.
In response to the findings, Mr. Dufty and Kara Zordel, a coordinator of Homeless Connect, organized an event in October that offered medical and dental services and other assistance to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people who are homeless. And in August, the city’s planning commission approved permits for a 24-bed shelter with a focus on helping them. The shelter is expected to open in the coming months. Other cities have shown interest in San Francisco’s efforts, Mr. Dufty said. Officials from Santa Clara and Phoenix attended the Homeless Connect event.
Brian Basinger, a co-founder of the AIDS Housing Alliance in San Francisco, said the harassment of gays is common in the city’s shelters.
People there “do not have a lot of status in society to begin with, and so the way they protect or generate status in these social environments is to step on the queers,” Mr. Basinger said.
Gay and transgender residents have their shoes stolen, he said. They are robbed or beaten up in line.
Mr. Basinger, whose partner was homeless for 10 years and who came close to being homeless himself after he developed AIDS, brought in an architect to design the new shelter.
“I really wanted to think about how does the built environment impact people’s experiences,” he said. “So we spent a lot of time thinking that through and talking to people and designing something that was going to be functional and respect people’s dignity.”
But the shelter will house only a fraction of those who are without homes.
On a recent evening in the Castro District, Hjalmar Bjorkman, 48, sat cross-legged in a doorway. He has lived in the Bay Area for years. But two months ago, he said, he lost his job at a bar and his partner kicked him out. Since then, he has been sleeping on the sidewalk behind an old theater, he said, or at the home of a friend, who charges him $20 a night for the couch.
“My ex-partner walks by me every day,” Mr. Bjorkman said.
Bobby Spencer, 47, arrived in San Francisco from Atlanta in May, thinking he had a job as a nanny with a former co-worker at the company where he had worked as an executive assistant.
He was excited about the move. “Being gay in the South is still a lot different than being gay here, even in Atlanta,” he said. “I moved here to be queer, that was part of the plan.”
But the job did not work out and, after having volunteered in soup kitchens in Atlanta, Mr. Spencer abruptly found himself without a place to stay.
He bunked for a while with people he had met, but then ended up on the streets. He was hungry and sick. He is H.I.V. positive, and his viral load rose from undetectable to high levels after his medication ran out, he said.
Mr. Spencer said the gay community he had expected to open its arms to him had been less than gracious.
“It’s a mad, cold world out there, even in your own family,” he said. “My own community treats most queers that are homeless as pariahs; they want nothing to do with them.”
He eventually found a clinic where he can get his medication and moved to a shelter, where he has settled in for now, taking cooking classes and living on food stamps.
But he said he is constantly alert for trouble. On his first night in the shelter, a man in the next bed became abusive.
“It makes you anxious and it makes you nervous to have things like that going on and knowing that it’s absolutely being directed at you,” Mr. Spencer said.
Supervisor David Campos, who held hearings on the shelter problem, said that even though the homeless population may not have grown, homelessness has become more visible in San Francisco recently, perhaps because of an increase in evictions. Mr. Basinger and other advocates held a “sleep in” in Dolores Park in October to protest a proposed ordinance that would close city parks, where many homeless people sleep, between midnight and 5 a.m. The proposal narrowly passed on Nov. 5.
For Mr. Bolvito, Union Square, with its tourists and constant stream of pedestrians, provided a sense of safety for the months he spent there. But he is happy now to have enough to eat and a roof over his head — in September he moved into a single-room-occupancy hotel that he found with the assistance of Mr. Basinger’s housing alliance. Mr. Bolvito earned a cosmetology degree while he was homeless and is looking for a job. His mother, who lives in Oakland, helps him out when she can.
“I wanted people to know that poverty is not just the addicts,” he said. “It’s people who are educated like me. It is so many.”
from The New York Times