WARSAW, POLAND – President Barack Obama has taken the U.S. gay rights revolution global, using American embassies across the world to promote a cause that still divides his own country.
Sometimes U.S. advice and encouragement is condemned as unacceptable meddling. And sometimes it can seem to backfire, increasing the pressure on those it is meant to help.
With gay pride parades taking place in many cities across the world this weekend, the U.S. role will be more visible than ever. Diplomats will take part in parades and some embassies will fly the rainbow flag along with the Stars and Stripes.
The United States sent five openly gay ambassadors abroad last year, with a sixth nominee, to Vietnam, now awaiting Senate confirmation. American diplomats are working to support gay rights in countries such as Poland, where prejudice remains deep, and to oppose violence and other abuse in countries like Nigeria and Russia, where gays face life-threatening risks.
“It is incredible. I am amazed by what the U.S. is doing to help us,” said Mariusz Kurc, the editor of a Polish gay advocacy magazine, Replika, which has received some U.S. funding and other help. “We are used to struggling and not finding any support.”
Former President George W. Bush supported AIDS prevention efforts globally, but it was the Obama administration that launched the push to make lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights an international issue. The watershed moment came in December 2011, when then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went to the United Nations in Geneva and proclaimed LGBT rights “one of the remaining human rights challenges of our time.”
Since then, embassies have been opening their doors to gay rights activists, hosting events and supporting local advocacy work. The State Department has since spent $12 million on the efforts in over 50 countries through the Global Equality Fund, an initiative launched to fund the new work.
Just weeks after the Supreme Court struck down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act last June, consular posts also began issuing immigrant visas to the same-sex spouses of gay Americans.
One beneficiary was Jake Lees, a 27-year-old Englishman who had been forced to spend long periods apart from his American partner, Austin Armacost, since they met six years ago. In May Lees was issued a fiance visa at the U.S. Embassy in London. The couple married two weeks ago and are now starting a new life together in Franklin, Indiana, as they wait for Lees’ green card.
“I felt like the officers at the embassy treated us the way they would treat a heterosexual couple,” said Armacost, a 26-year-old fitness and nutrition instructor. “It’s a mind-boggling change after gay couples were treated like legal strangers for the first three centuries of our country’s history.”
Some conservative American groups are outraged by the policy. Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, calls it “a slap in the face to the majority of Americans,” given that American voters have rejected same-sex marriage in a number of state referendums.
“This is taking a flawed view of what it means to be a human being – male and female – and trying to impose that on countries throughout the world,” Brown said. “The administration would like people to believe that this is simply `live and let live.’ No, this is coercion in its worst possible form.”
The American efforts are tailored to local conditions, said Scott Busby, the deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor at the State Department. Ambassadors can decide individually whether to hoist the rainbow flag, as embassies in Tel Aviv, London and Prague have done, or show support in other ways.
While some gay rights activists say support from the U.S. and other Western countries adds moral legitimacy to their cause, it can also cause a backlash.
Rauda Morcos, a prominent Palestinian lesbian activist, said local communities, particularly in the Middle East, have to find their own ways of asserting themselves. She criticized the U.S. and Western efforts in general to help gay communities elsewhere as patronizing.
“It is a colonial approach,” she said. “In cases where it was tried, it didn’t help local communities and maybe made things even worse.”
An extreme case has been Uganda, which in February passed a law making gay sex punishable by a life sentence. In enacting the bill, President Yoweri Museveni said he wanted to deter the West from “promoting” gay rights in Africa, a continent where homosexuals face severe discrimination and even attacks. In response, the U.S. imposed sanctions and Secretary of State John Kerry compared the policies to the anti-Semitic laws in Nazi Germany and apartheid in South Africa.
In Russia, President Vladimir Putin has waged an assault on what he considers the encroachment of decadent Western values and the government last year banned “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors,” making it a crime to hold gay rights rallies or to openly discuss homosexuality in content accessible to children. Afraid for their security, some Russian gay advocates try to keep their contacts with Western officials quiet.
The official U.S. delegation to the recent Winter Olympics in Russia included three openly gay athletes. Soon after that the U.S. Embassy in Moscow opened its basketball court for the Open Games, an LGBT sporting event which had been denied access to many of the venues it had counted on. The U.S. Embassy also operates a website where Russian gay and lesbians can publish their personal stories.
Jessica Stern, executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, praised the U.S. policy but said there have been missteps along the way, citing a 2011 U.S. embassy gathering in Pakistan that prompted a group of religious and political leaders to accuse the U.S. of “cultural terrorism.”
And in Senegal a year ago, President Macky Sall bluntly rebuked the visiting Obama for urging African leaders to end discrimination against gays. Sall said his country was neither homophobic nor ready to legalize homosexuality, and in an apparent jab at the U.S., he noted Senegal abolished capital punishment years ago.
“The response in the local press was voluminous praise of the Senegalese president, maybe not actually for his stance on LGBT rights, but for effectively asserting Senegal’s sovereignty, yet the two became intertwined,” Stern said.
Busby, the State Department official, denied that increased harassment by governments is ever the consequence of U.S. advocacy, instead describing it as “a cynical reaction taken by leaders to advance their own political standing.”
In some countries, like Poland, the U.S. efforts are a catalyst for change.
The embassy there financed a 2012 visit to Warsaw by Dennis and Judy Shepard, the parents of Matthew Shepard, a gay Wyoming college student who was tortured and murdered in 1998.
A group of parents who heard their story were so shaken by the Shepards’ tragedy that they founded a parental advocacy group, Akceptacja, which is fighting homophobia. The parents are now reaching out to their lawmakers personally, in what advocates say is the conscious adoption of an American strategy of families of gays and lesbians appealing to the hearts of officials.
“The killing of Matthew Shepard represents the fear I have that my son could be hurt for being gay,” said Tamara Uliasz, 60, one of the group’s founders. “I realized that what happened in Wyoming could happen here.”
from The Associated Press
Simon Hobbs is likely wishing he could press rewind.
The CNBC co-anchor spoke too soon during a live segment of “Squawk on the Street” Friday when he accidentally outed Apple CEO Tim Cook.
New York Times columnist and CNBC contributor James B. Stewart spoke about his recent column dealing with the “tortured life” former BP chief John Browne led as a closeted gay CEO.
“I just found it very, very fascinating,” Stewart said about Browne being the first CEO of a Fortune 500 or FTSE 100 company to publicly acknowledge that he is gay after being outed by a tabloid.
Shortly after, Browne resigned from BP in 2007.
“Of course, there are gay CEOs in major companies,” Stewart continued. “I reached out to many of them.”
Upon speaking to the closeted gay CEOs Stewart was aware of, he realized how none were willing to be identified although their initial interaction was pleasant.
“I got an extremely cool reception,” he recalled, adding that “not one would allow to be named at all.”
“I think Tim Cook is open about the fact he’s gay at the head of Apple,” Hobbs said. “Isn’t he?”
An awkward silence followed as Hobbs quickly realized his snafu.
“Hmm, no,” Stewart said shaking his head.
“Oh dear, was that an error?” Hobbs asked. “I thought he was open about it.”
While Cook has been candid about his support of LGBT rights, he has never publicly spoken out about his own sexuality or addressed Hobbs remarks.
“I applaud @WhiteHouse decision to ban #LGBT discrimination at fed contractors,” he tweeted June 17. “House must act on #ENDA. A matter of basic human dignity.”
Confirming Hobbs error, co-anchor David Faber said, “Wow, I think you just … yeah.”
Still Hobbs tried to conceal his mistake by saying, “I think he’s very open about it.”
from The New York Daily News
Mexican fans have been cleared of anti-gay chants in their opening World Cup match against Cameroon on June 13 and the Mexico FA will not be punished, FIFA said on Monday.
Mexico were reported for the slurs allegedly heard during their Group A clash in Natal.
“The Disciplinary Committee has decided that the incident in question is not considered insulting in this specific context. All charges against the Mexican FA have been dismissed,” FIFA said in a statement.
FIFA has not yet ruled on other reported cases involving Croatian, Russian and Brazilian fans.
Croatian fans displayed a neo-Nazi banner at the opening match of the tournament against Brazil in Sao Paulo, Russian fans displayed neo-Nazi banners in their first match against South Korea in Cuiaba and Brazil fans were also reported for homophobic chants in the match against Mexico, the second match both teams played.
FARE, the European monitoring group which has spotters at matches, alerted FIFA to the right-wing banners displayed by Croatia and Russia fans inside stadiums.
In a statement FARE said it was disappointed by the decision not to take action against Mexico.
“We have not been notified of the outcome of FIFA deliberations over the Mexico report.
“But if the decision is that the use of the word “Puto” (faggot) is not homophobic then this is disappointing and contradicts the expert advice of the Mexican government’s own anti-discrimination body CONAPRED and numerous other experts.”
Starbucks made a very prominent declaration of its support for LGBTQ rights on Monday when company headquarters raised a rainbow flag in honor of the Seattle Pride Parade.
This isn’t the first time the national coffee chain has used its prominent brand to advocate for the gay community. In 2012, Starbucks was on a list of companies endorsing the legalization of same-sex marriage in Washington state, the Seattle Times reported.
“Given our public stance on diversity and inclusion of all people, particularly on this issue, it makes sense to raise the flag in celebration,” Executive Vice President Lucy Helm said in a statement.
The flag will remain raised throughout the weekend.
from Time Magazine
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney tied the knot with his longtime partner, designer Randy Florke, Saturday night in New York.
“Even after 22 years together, we’re overwhelmed by how blessed we feel to celebrate this special day with our friends and family,” the couple said in a statement.
With their marriage, Maloney, 47, becomes the second member of Congress to legally wed his same-sex partner while in office. Former Rep. Barney Frank, D-Massachusetts, became the first to do so in 2012.
Maloney, a Democrat who served as a senior adviser to President Bill Clinton and now represents the lower Hudson Valley region in New York, is the first openly gay congressman from the Empire State. Florke, 51, is a real estate and design executive in New York City for The Rural Connection, Inc., the company he founded in 1996.
The couple were married at the Church of St. Mary-in-the-Highlands in Cold Spring, where they live with their children Reinel, 24, Daley, 13, and Essie, 11.
“With our three kids by our side, this couldn’t have been a more perfect day. Thank you to all our friends near and far for their love and support as we continue to fight to ensure all families can experience the joys of a lifetime commitment,” they said.
Maloney isn’t the only current member of Congress in a same-sex marriage. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wisconsin, married his husband in Canada in 2006 and was elected to Congress in 2012.
The claim that homosexual men share a “gay gene” created a furor in the 1990s. But new research two decades on supports this claim – and adds another candidate gene.
To an evolutionary geneticist, the idea that a person’s genetic makeup affects their mating preference is unsurprising. We see it in the animal world all the time. There are probably many genes that affect human sexual orientation.
But rather than thinking of them as “gay genes,” perhaps we should consider them “male-loving genes.” They may be common because these variant genes, in a female, predispose her to mate earlier and more often and to have more children.
Likewise, it would be surprising if there were not “female-loving genes” in lesbian women that, in a male, predispose him to mate earlier and have more children.
We can detect genetic variants that produce differences between people by tracking traits in families that display differences. Patterns of inheritance reveal variants of genes (called “alleles”) that affect normal differences, such as hair color, or disease states, such as sickle cell anemia. Quantitative traits, such as height, are affected by many different genes, as well as environmental factors.
It’s hard to use these techniques to detect genetic variants associated with male homosexuality partly because many gay men prefer not to be open about their sexuality. It is even harder because, as twin studies have shown, shared genes are only part of the story. Hormones, birth order and environment play roles, too.
In 1993, American geneticist Dean Hamer found families with several gay males on the mother’s side, suggesting a gene on the X chromosome. He showed that pairs of brothers who were openly gay shared a small region at the tip of the X, and proposed that it contained a gene that predisposes a male to homosexuality.
Hamer’s conclusions were extremely controversial. He was challenged at every turn by people unwilling to accept that homosexuality is at least partly genetic, rather than a “lifestyle choice.”
Gay men were divided: The finding vindicated the oft-repeated claims that “I was born this way” but also opened frightening new possibilities for detection and discrimination.
Similar studies gave contradictory results. A later search found associations with genes on three other chromosomes.
This year, a larger study of gay brothers, using the many genetic markers now available through the Human Genome Project, confirmed the original finding and also detected another “gay gene” on chromosome 8. This has unleashed a new flurry of comment.
But why such a furor when we know of gay gene variants in species from flies to mammals? Homosexuality is quite common throughout the animal kingdom. For instance, there are variants that influence mating preference in mice, and a mutation in the fruit fly makes males court other males instead of females.
The puzzle is not whether “gay genes” exist in humans, but why they are so common (estimates from five percent to 15 percent). We know that gay men have fewer children on average, so shouldn’t these gene variants disappear?
There are several theories that account for the high frequency of homosexuality. A decade ago I wondered if gay gene variants have another effect that boosts the chances of leaving offspring (“evolutionary fitness”), and passing the gay allele on. This is a well-known situation (called “balanced polymorphism”) in which an allele is advantageous in one situation and not in another. The classic case is the blood disease sickle cell anemia, which leads to disease and death if you have two alleles, but to malaria resistance if you have only one, making it common in malarial regions.
A special category is “sexually antagonistic genes” that increase genetic fitness in one sex but not in the other; some are even lethal. We have many examples across many species. Maybe the gay allele is just another of these.
Perhaps “male-loving” alleles in a female predispose her to mate earlier and have more children. If their sisters, mother and aunts have more kids who share some of their genes, it would make up for the fewer children of gay males.
And they do. Lots more children. An Italian group showed that the female relatives of gay men have 1.3 times as many children as the female relatives of straight men. This is a huge selective advantage that a male-loving allele confers on women, and offsets the selective disadvantage that it confers on men.
I am surprised that this work is not better known, and its explanatory power is neglected in the whole debate about the “normality” of homosexual behavior.
We have no idea whether these genetic studies identified “gay alleles” of the same or different genes. It is interesting that Hamer detected the original “gay gene” on the X, because this chromosome has more than its fair share of genes that affect reproduction. But I would expect that there are genes all over the genome that contribute to mate choice in humans (female-loving as well as male-loving).
If there are male-loving and female-loving alleles of tens or hundreds of genes battling it out in the population, everyone will inherit a mixture of different variants. Combined with environmental influences, it will be hard to detect individual genes.
It’s a bit like height, which is influenced by variants in thousands of genes, as well as the environment, and produces a “continuous distribution” of people of different heights. At the two extremes are the very tall and the very short.
In the same way, at each end of a continuous distribution of human mating preference, we would expect the “very male-loving” and the “very female-loving” in both sexes.
Gay men and lesbian women may simply be the two ends of the same distribution.
from The Washington Post
The Texas Republican Party would endorse psychological treatment that seeks to turn gay people straight under a new platform partly aimed at rebuking laws in California and New Jersey that ban so-called “reparative therapy” on minors.
A push to include the new anti-gay language survived a key vote late Thursday in Fort Worth at the Texas Republican Convention where, across the street, tea party star U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz fired up attendees at a rally to defend marriage as between a man and a woman.
Under the new proposed plank, the Texas GOP will “recognize the legitimacy and efficacy of counseling, which offers reparative therapy and treatment for those patients seeking healing and wholeness from their homosexual lifestyle.”
The full convention of nearly 10,000 delegates from across Texas will take a final vote on the platform Saturday.
Gay conservatives in Texas could still emerge with a rare victory on a separate issue: removing decades-old platform language that states, “Homosexuality tears at the fabric of society.” Stripping that phrasing survived a sometimes-tense challenge from hardliners who not only wanted to preserve it, but wanted to replace “homosexuality” with “sexual sins.”
“I really beg my social conservative colleagues to let this issue go,” said Rudy Oeftering, a Dallas businessman and vice president of the gay Republican group Metroplex Republicans. “It’s your opinion. It’s your belief – but it’s my life.”
That issue also faces a full vote Saturday.
The Texas Republican Convention has long been unfriendly territory for gays, even conservative ones. For years, the party has refused to let gay GOP organizations rent booths in the convention hall.
The therapy language was inserted at the urging of Cathie Adams of Dallas, leader of the influential tea party group Texas Eagle Forum and a onetime chairwoman of the Texas Republican Party.
Adams, whose group backed tea party outsiders who dominated Texas Republican primary races this year, said she simply promoted language proposed by a man who she says was helped by such therapy.
“He knows what he’s talking about. He is one of those who has benefited,” Adams said. “I think the majority of Texans feel that way too. It’s not like this is mandatory. This is only a voluntary program.”
In August, New Jersey became the second U.S. state to ban licensed therapists from trying to turn gay teenagers straight. The bill was signed by Republican Gov. Chris Christie, a possible 2016 presidential candidate who opposes same-sex marriage but has said that he believes people are born gay and that homosexuality isn’t a sin.
Judges on a federal appeals court also upheld a similar ban in California last fall, saying that trying to change a minor’s sexual orientation through intense therapy appeared dangerous. The California Legislature has cited reports, experts and anecdotes involving suicides, substance abuse and other behavior by young recipients of the therapy.
Cruz ducked a question about his state party’s platform on gays, saying he would leave it up to the “grass roots at the convention.”
Republican delegate Elizabeth Hunter, 20, said she didn’t see any reason for removing language that describes being gay as tearing at the fabric of society.
“I don’t see anybody leaving the Republican Party because of that language,” she said. “I think it would actually encourage someone to join when they see that the Republican Party takes a strong stand rather than standing in the middle.”
from The Associated Press
WASHINGTON – Wilson High School, in Northwest D.C., held a gay pride celebration during its lunch hour Wednesday. And the school’s principal made a very special announcement at the event.
His hands trembling, reading a speech he wrote the night before – a speech he was not sure he would actually deliver until the moment arrived – Wilson High School Principal Pete Cahall said something he had waited 50 years to say.
“I am a proud gay man that just happens to be the principal of Wilson High School,” he said as the students and staff around him erupted in cheers.
It all unfolded at the school’s second annual gay pride celebration. And when Cahall handed over the microphone, he doubled over, overwhelmed. Until now, he said he’d only told a small circle of friends. Not even his family knew.
“What I kept thinking was, how can I be the principal of Wilson and oversee a pride day and tell kids to be themselves and be who you are and then not do that? It’s hypocritical,” he said.
He said he was inspired to come out by openly gay NBA player Jason Collins and Michael Sam who recently became the first out player to be drafted by an NFL team.
Now, Cahall himself hopes to inspire his students – that they can come out too.
The response from the student body was immediately positive.
ilson H.S. senior Todd Allen-Gifford said, “I was really surprised. That’s for sure.”
Senior Tao Marwell agreed. “That was so unexpected. I had no idea. I have so much more respect for him now,” she said.
Sophomore Tymon Clark said, “Happiness is happiness, you know? If you [are] happy, I’m happy.”
Cahall said openly gay D.C. Council member and education committee chair David Catania had quietly supported him during this coming out process.
After Cahall’s announcement, Catania told the crowd, “What we have just seen from Principal Cahall is an incredible lesson in integrity and courage.”
Catania said he wished such a gay pride event was possible when he was in high school 30 years ago.
“And I think that’s an incredible message. I think it should make everyone in the District proud of these students. And I’m here to show my support and gratitude,” he said.
Because of this pride event, the Westboro Baptist Church has threatened a protest at Wilson High School.
In response, students involved in the school’s Gay Straight Alliance like Aidan Parisi are preparing a counter-protest. “We cannot be intimidated by them. We will be here. We will be proud. We will be strong and united,” Parisi said.
Speaking at the rally, Mayor Vincent Gray had a message for Westboro.
“In my best biblical reference, my words to the people of Westboro in Kansas is they can go straight to hell,” Gray said. “Because that is not the behavior that we tolerate here in District of Columbia. And they can take it back where they came from and I hope the people run them out of there as well.”
In a press release, the Westboro Baptist Church said its protest outside the school will begin at 8:15 a.m. Monday. If the group does show up, Wilson students say they’ll be ready with their counter-protest.
from WJLA TV
LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA – Robert Garcia swept aside his opponent on Tuesday to become the youngest mayor in the city’s history, and the first openly gay person to win the office.
Unofficial results showed Garcia, who will also be Long Beach’s first Latino mayor, with 52.1 percent of the vote and 47.9 percent for real estate investor and former NFL player Damon Dunn. Garcia had 23,296 votes and Dunn 21,398 votes, a difference of 1,898. Voter turnout was 17.6 percent.
The tally, with all 278 precincts reporting, was not completed until after 1 a.m. Wednesday, and Garcia, 36, was unable to give a victory speech at his Election Night party aboard the Queen Mary.
Earlier, Garcia, the vice mayor and 1st District councilman, pepped up supporters by calling the city that he first came to in the mid-1990s as a student at Cal State Long Beach the “best city in America” because of its strong community and acceptance of people of all races, of all socioeconomic statuses and sexual orientations.
“That’s what makes Long Beach strong is all of you, the people of Long Beach,” said Garcia, a Peruvian immigrant who came to the United States when he was 5 years old.
Garcia, an adjunct faculty member at USC, will replace Mayor Bob Foster, who has held the city’s top post since 2006.
The mayor’s race has been marked by heavy spending and a dearth of campaigning on issues as both candidates and their surrogates focused on attacks since the April 8 primary.
Garcia came out on top of a 10-candidate field in that election, earning 25.2 percent of the vote. Dunn trailed at 22.6 percent but beat several well-known politicians, including Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, who had never lost an election.
Dunn, 38, pumped more than $700,000 of his own money into his campaign on the way to raising about $1 million. Garcia raised $450,000, and both candidates had their efforts augmented by hundreds of thousands of dollars in special interest money.
Garcia branded himself as a “consensus builder” on the campaign trail and ran on his record of making decisions as a city council member that reformed public employee pensions and righted Long Beach’s fiscal ship, taking the city from deficits of tens of millions of dollars to a surplus this year.
Dunn promised to spur job growth by applying his “business acumen” learned from developing dozens of drug stores. He also criticized his opponent’s claims, saying that Foster provided executive leadership while Garcia cast a single vote on a nine-member panel.
As Tuesday faded and the long campaign finished, though, Dunn extended an olive branch and called Garcia to concede.
“He will be a fantastic mayor,” Dunn said by phone on Wednesday. “The city of Long Beach is lucky to have him. I’m proud of the support we built. But, this is Robert’s moment and he deserves it.”
Just after polls closed at 8 p.m., Garcia clung to a slim advantage in absentee balloting, leading Dunn by only 117 votes. The campaign had been expecting a greater lead after vote-by-mails were counted, and an uneasiness reigned among supporters on the Queen Mary.
The mood improved as Garcia pulled away when more of the results came, and appearances were made by U.S. Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who declared the rivalry between the county’s two largest cities to be over.
In the coming days, Garcia said he will put together a transition team, with a first goal of examining the budget that will be unveiled about two weeks after he takes office on July 15.
He also wished Dunn well.
“I’m hopeful he wants to stay involved and be part of the future of this city,” Garcia said.
from The Press-Telegram
Pool employees in Staten Island kicked a transgender man out of the men’s locker room and told him he could either use the women’s facilities or leave, the man claims in court.
In his lawsuit in New York County Supreme Court, Bryan Ellicott claims he “felt upset, embarrassed, and stigmatized by being singled out” when Lyons Pool employees told him he couldn’t change his shirt in the men’s locker room.
The 24-year-old has been living as a man since February 2012, when he had his name legally changed and began hormone therapy, according to the complaint.
He says he chose the name Bryan in honor of his late father, Lt. Brian Ellicott, an emergency medical technician for New York City’s Fire Department and a first responder to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Ellicott says he’s had his name and designated sex changed on other records, including his New York driver’s license.
Though born female, Ellicott says he “has a longstanding, innate sense of being male.” He was diagnosed with gender dysphoria, meaning he views himself as male though he is biologically female.
“He has an appearance, including facial and body hair, traditionally considered male,” according to the lawsuit. “In social situations, others recognize and interact with him as male, including using male pronouns to refer to him.”
He claims a key part of his treatment for gender dysphoria is “living openly as a man.”
But when he attempted to change his shirt in the men’s locker room at Lyons Pool on July 21, 2013, he says an employee “said something to the effect of ‘Hey, you need to leave,’ because ‘someone complained about someone being in the locker room who doesn’t belong here.”
Ellicott notes that he was wearing swim trunks and a chest-compression garment, or binder, at all times.
The employee told him to use the women’s locker room or leave, a view reiterated by a second employee, Ellicott claims.
When he complained, he says their supervisor “appeared uninterested in the matter, and told Mr. Ellicott something to the effect of, ‘if you don’t like it, you can leave.'”
“Mr. Ellicott did not want to, nor realistically could he, use facilities designated for women, and felt upset, embarrassed, and stigmatized by being singled out by Parks Department employees,” the lawsuit states. “He left Lyons Pool.”
He claims he avoided city pools all last summer, fearing additional “embarrassment, humiliation and degradation” by the defendants. He also grew anxious about using public restrooms and developed “several urinary tract infections” from waiting too long, according to the lawsuit.
Ellicott says he now wears his chest binder for longer periods of time, as the experience at Lyons Pool “has exacerbated his dislike of his breasts.” He says he wants to have a double mastectomy but can’t afford one.
He is suing New York City, the parks and recreation department and its acting commissioner, Liam Kavanagh, for alleged violations of the city’s human rights law.
He seeks unspecified damages and a court order barring the department or its employees from discriminating against other transgender individuals.
from Courthouse News
A documentary telling the story of a landmark Supreme Court trial typically depends on archival photos, legal documents and interviews with historians or, with some luck, participants long after the trial itself.
Not so with “The Case Against 8.” The HBO documentary, opening in Los Angeles and New York theaters on Friday, captured the road to the Supreme Court as the bricks of that path were laid out.
The film follows the legal team that successfully argued against Proposition 8, California’s same-sex marriage ban that passed in 2008. Directors Ben Cotner and Ryan White got to be flies on law office walls during preparations for a series of trials and appeals that eventually ended with the Supreme Court in June 2013, leaving intact a lower court’s ruling that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional.
When Cotner approached White at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival about making a documentary following the lawsuit, the unlikely team of conservative Ted Olson and liberal David Boies — legal counsel on opposite sides of Bush v. Gore — is what made the case compelling to the filmmakers.
“But once we started to follow them and get to know the plaintiffs, it really became more about the plaintiffs’ journey,” Cotner said.
That journey became a five-year process for the plaintiffs, two gay couples who were denied the right to marry following the passage of Prop 8. Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, then of Berkeley (now living in Washington, D.C.), and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, of Burbank, agreed, after some deliberation, to appear in the documentary. “The Case Against 8” was already shaping up to be a legal thriller; the plaintiffs’ involvement meant audiences were also in for a romantic drama.
The couples and the legal counsel opened the doors of their offices and homes to Cotner and White, allowing their cameras into everything from cross-examination rehearsals to family Christmas gatherings. Perry said she trusted the filmmakers with this access — including filming her teenage sons — because of the duo’s “high degree of compassion and empathy.” For Katami and Zarrillo, it was because Cotner and White had a stake in the outcome too.
“I’d never worked on [a film] that had a direct effect on my life,” White said. “We’re both gay Californians, so it’s something that affects our lives too.”
The plaintiffs and lawyers — along with strategists of the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), an organization created with the focus of overturning Proposition 8 — ultimately felt comfortable with Cotner and White’s presence throughout the process thanks to the directors’ skill at being inconspicuous, even with cameras in hand, in the middle of key strategy meetings.
Before starting the moot court that would become the documentary’s opening scene, Olson told the filmmakers that they could film just for 10 minutes. “But then he got in such a zone that he let us film the entire time,” White recalled.
Another scene reveals Zarrillo shedding tears on the anxiety-filled first day of trial, as he prepares his speech for the media. Deep in discussion about the speech with AFER co-founder Kristina Schake, Zarrillo was unaware White had followed them with the camera.
But the plaintiffs were of course fully cognizant of the cameras on them in the sit-down interviews for the film.
“For me, it was hard to talk on camera in those interviews about the ways in which you don’t feel like people treat you as equal,” Perry said. “[That discrimination] takes a toll on you already, then to have to stop and try to cover a lot of examples of it at one time and be reminded of it was emotionally draining.”
Notably absent from the film’s interviews are the opposing legal counsel or other Proposition 8 supporters. The “Case Against 8” directors decided to not interview lawyers defending the proposition, including Charles Cooper and David Thompson, who declined to comment for this article. White said to closely follow one side and then “to throw in one interview with the other side would just feel unfair…. It would just seem unbalanced without trying to make it half-and-half.”
Sheila Nevins, president of HBO Documentary Films, contends that the opposing legal counsel’s view is evident in the documentary’s scenes featuring transcripts from the trials. “You know what they think,” Nevins said. “It’s not really a film about what people think. It’s a film about how people who think certain things can change the course of history.”
The one exception to the defense’s absence in the film is witness David Blankenhorn, founder of the Institute for American Values, who was interviewed for the documentary after he changed his position on same-sex marriage.
Blankenhorn exemplifies a wave of change in public opinion in the last two decades: According to Gallup polls, Americans who believe same-sex marriage should be legal went up from 27% to 40% between 1996 and 2008. By 2013, when Proposition 8 was overturned, 53% were in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage.
That shift is important to Olson, who said in a recent interview that “winning in court was one part of our job, but winning public opinion was another part of our job.” He said that he participated in the film in part because he believed it would aid that second job description.
Nevins anticipates that those who buy tickets to see “Case Against 8” in theaters will already have some interest in the case and other LGBT issues, but she hopes the documentary will be eye-opening for more viewers who catch it on HBO (where it airs June 23).
Beyond the LGBT-supporter audience, the film has been finding success with those in the legal world. “Lawyers salivated over seeing the film more than anyone because it is such a legal thriller,” Cotner said. At a screening at Harvard Law School, Olson recalls, “students were just wild about it.”
As the film nears its limited theatrical release and HBO premiere, following a festival circuit that started with Sundance in January, the plaintiffs are balancing promoting the film with work and with some continued efforts to raise awareness about the case and efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in other states. All four have spoken to students about the case.
AFER co-founder “Chad [Griffin] always told us throughout the process, you’re just regular guys, you’re not activists,” Zarrillo said, “but I think now we’re no longer regular guys. We’re more activists.”
Once the couple feels it’s the right time to scale back their activism commitments, they plan to talk seriously about becoming parents — something, as discussed in the film, they didn’t want to do until they were married.
When Zarrillo mentions the possibility of showing “Case Against 8” to their kids someday, Katami jokes, “‘Your timeout is watching this documentary. ‘Again?'”
from The Los Angeles Times
Jonah Hill has apologized for launching a homophobic slur at a paparazzo.
The “22 Jump Street” star was caught on camera by TMZ over the weekend taking a stroll with a pal in Los Angeles when he lost his temper.
The 30-year-old actor turned angry at the photog following him, abruptly snapping back when he told him to have a good day.
“Suck my dick, you faggot,” Hill yelled.
The shutterbug was teasing Hill about his outfit choice earlier in the video, captured by the gossip site.
“I like the shorts though, bro. They are pretty sexy.”
Hill made an appearance on Howard Stern’s radio show Tuesday and sincerely apologized for his actions.
“I’m upset, because, from the day I was born, and publicly, I’ve been a gay rights activist,” he told the radio host in an audio clip via TMZ.
To “give it some context, not excusing what I said in any way, this person had been following me around all day, had been saying hurtful things about my family, really hurtful thing about me personally, and I played into exactly what he wanted and lost my cool,” he explained of the paparazzo.
“And in that moment, I said a disgusting word, that does not at all reflect how I feel about any group of people,” he continued.
“I’m not at all defending my choice of words but I am happy to be the poster boy for thinking about what you say, and how those words even though you don’t intend them, they are rooted in hate, and that’s bullshit and I shouldn’t have said that.”
“What I said in that moment was disgusting and a hurtful term I should have either said nothing or fuck you, instead I use a word I don’t use in my personal life, it’s not part of my vernacular. I’m happy to take the heat for using this disgusting word but It would break my heart for anyone to think I would be against anyone for their sexuality.”
The actor added to Stern, “I think I am pretty good at making movies but I am not good at being a famous person.”
from The New York Daily News
An actor in a Santa Clarita, Calif. production of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” was fired Saturday after physically removing a heckler in the audience who lobbed anti-gay slurs at the cast for nearly half of the show.
John Lacy, who played Big Daddy in Tennessee Williams’ classic play that tackles homophobia among other themes, was fired after jumping off stage and physically confronting an audience member who repeatedly made noise and yelled “fag” during emotionally tense scenes, according to audience members’ accounts of the incident on Facebook.
The show apparently continued following the confrontation and concluded to a standing ovation. Lacy was apparently not let go until after the performance.
Lead actor Anton Troy resigned in solidarity with Lacy, writing on the social networking site that the show’s producers should have handled the unruly patron, who had apparently been drinking before the show and returned to the audience after consuming more alcohol during intermission.
“I will not support homophobia or an establishment that doesn’t support its talent,” Troy wrote. “Hate in any form is not something I choose to subscribe to. John is a seasoned professional and an honorable man. It should never escalate to a point where the talent has to handle an unruly drunk in the audience themselves regardless of the outcome. Producers dropped the ball, the fish stinks from the head on down.”
Troy resigned to show support for his castmate, but not all of Lacy’s fellow actors agreed with his decision to confront the heckler.
“I, unlike most of you, am NOT proud to be an actor today,” cast member Missy Kaye wrote on Facebook in response to Troy’s resignation.
“By you jumping off the stage and putting your hands on this guy put the whole theatre in jeopardy, cast and audience, and to me that is unforgivable,” Kaye added.
“What if this guy had a weapon? Did that cross your mind?”
Fellow actress Emily E. Low, who plays the female lead, agreed that violence should not have been the answer, adding that part of acting is accepting criticism from the audience.
“As actors we must take the positive audience responses with the negative. It’s not always about cheers and standing ovations,” she wrote in the same Facebook thread.
Low added that Troy’s character, Brick, is gay, suggesting that the heckler’s anti-gay slurs may have been appropriate.
“And, the truth is, Brick is, after all, a gay man,” she wrote. “The material is strong, and it elicits strong responses from an audience, different every night.”
The Repertory East Playhouse in Newhall said Monday that its managers had not been made aware of the situation at the time, or else they would have intervened.
“The management of the REP regrets that this situation was not brought to their attention sooner and would like to assure future audiences that disruptive behavior, including disparaging remarks from the audience, incidents of bullying or hate speech, and racial, discriminatory or homophobic utterances, will not be tolerated and offending parties will be asked to leave the theater,” REP said in a statement.
The run of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” had been suspended Monday and the original performance schedule would not be completed due to cast loss from “an incident during the May 31 performance.” Because the play was slated to run for just two more weeks, the theater said, there was insufficient time to recast the two vacated roles.