It’s OK, Idol fans, Adam Lambert’s in on the joke.
In a Twitter post Wednesday, the openly gay American Idol runner-up, 27, told fans and critics his new album’s outlandish cover art for his For Your Entertainment disc is supposed to be just that.
“Thank you to those who appreciate and understand that the album cover is deliberately campy,” he wrote. “It’s an homage to the past. It IS ridiculous.”
Seen in the pic wearing yellow eye shadow, black eye liner and black nail polish to accent a blue ‘do, the singer — dubbed “Glambert” by fans during Idol — is glad to have at least gotten fans buzzing.
“For those that don’t get it: oh well…Glad to have gotten your attention,” he continued. “Androgyny. Rock n Roll”
What can fans expect musically from the new disc? “It’s modern and futuristic,” he tells Us. As for the lead single, also called “For Your Entertainment,” out next week: “Get ready to shake yo asses to this song. It’ll make ya dance for sure.”
from US Magazine
Archive for October, 2009
It’s OK, Idol fans, Adam Lambert’s in on the joke.
Kenya is to carry out a census of its gay population in an effort to bolster the fight against HIV/Aids – despite homosexuality being against the law.
Nicholas Muraguri, head of Kenya’s Aids prevention program Nascop, told the BBC it was vital that the government reached out to the gay community.
He said gay people suffered from a lack of information about the disease.
But analysts say many gay people will be afraid to come forward in a country where homosexuality can result in jail.
Mr Muraguri conceded that an accurate count was unlikely.
But he told the BBC’s Network Africa program that getting a clearer idea of the number of gay people would be a huge help with targeted interventions such as provision of condoms.
He said the survey would involve gay men identifying each other, and officials carrying out HIV tests and providing along with information on safe sexual practice.
“Kenyans cannot actually afford to say that the gay community are isolated somewhere in the corner – they are part of our lives,” he said.
“This group must be reached with information and services so they know how to protect themselves from getting infected.”
Analysts say Kenya has made progress in its fight against HIV/Aids – one-in-10 people had the virus in the late 1990s, a rate that has now fallen to 6%.
The BBC’s Gladys Njoroge in Nairobi says the census, which will begin in June next year, will be the first of its kind in Africa.
Gay rights activist Peter Njane told the BBC he was optimistic that the survey would play a key role in the fight against HIV.
“Most of the gay community think that having sex with men is safe. There’s no information here about safety measures,” he said.
But Kenyans are divided over the survey’s impact, with some Nairobi residents saying they did not believe it would help control the spread of Aids.
Gay Kenyans told the BBC they would be willing to be counted – but only if their identities were protected.
Homosexual activity is punishable by up to 14 years in jail in Kenya.
from The BBC
“I can imagine two women together, but not two men,” my sweet but rather conservative sister told me during one of those run-of-the-mill family discussions about homosexuality. A guy said the same thing to me the other week. It got me thinking.
My sister’s justification for her statement was that she believes women’s bodies are just softer and nicer to look at, and that it just seems more natural for two women to be together. The guy told me it was because he loves women, so he can understand one woman loving another woman. “I don’t love men, so I can’t understand what it’s like to love a man,” he explained.
Hmmm… I suppose that’s why porn aimed at straight women is full of boy/boy scenarios. Except it isn’t. Most women would also rather see two women having sex in their porn than two men. (Including my sister — she’s not that conservative.)
Sure, there are exceptions. There are straight women who can’t stand the idea of two women together. And there are straight women who get completely turned on by gay male sex. “It’s more to the point,” as one female friend tells me. She finds all the long-winded plotlines of women’s erotica tiresome.
And there are straight men who aren’t turned on by the idea of two women together. No really, there are — I’ve met him.
But generally, two women having sex is a much more common and acceptable fantasy for straight men and women alike. Part of it has to do with the fact that we’re more used to seeing women depicted sexually in our culture.
There are other reasons that straight porn doesn’t tend to feature many boy/boy spreads, beyond the fact that women look better airbrushed. “The whole lesbian-fantasy thing is less threatening,” one woman at the Messy Bedroom Research Centre (a.k.a. the local bar) offers. “There’s no penis.”
And usually no lesbians. If they were really depicting lesbian sex, the women wouldn’t feel the need to master the art of licking pussy and looking at the camera at the same time. They’d be focusing on the business at hand. “For men watching, I think there’s the idea that the women are performing for them,” one guy suggested.
Which doesn’t explain why most women prefer it. If we buy earlier “I-only-understand-loving-women” guy’s logic when it comes to same-sex fantasies, women should be turned on by gay-male sex, right? But aside from my aforementioned gay-smut-snaffling friend, most women aren’t. “I’ve shown women some of my gay porn,” a gay male friend tells me. “They find it interesting but not a turn-on.”
There are studies that claim that women are more bisexual by nature, that their sexuality is more fluid so it’s easier for them to imagine themselves with another woman. Perhaps, but I also suspect it has a lot to do with the fact that, culturally speaking, men are given a harder time for colouring outside their traditional gender-role lines than women are. A straight woman, for instance, can casually mention she’s thought about sleeping with another woman, but a straight man will be less comfortable mentioning that he’s thought about sleeping with another man.
And team sports aside, we’re more accepting of women being more physical in general. You’re not going to see two straight guys walking down the street arm-in-arm in this country. And two guys are more apt to shake hands than hug when they greet one another. Most straight women are more at ease being naked in front of each other too. I know two guys who lived together for years and claimed never to have seen each other’s penis.
“I think [straight men’s discomfort with male-male sex] is all based on the fear of two sets of hairy balls rubbing together,” was one, I thought, particularly astute take on the whole thing. I’ve certainly heard stories of male porn actors refusing to do threesome scenes involving two men and one woman because they “weren’t gonna touch no guy’s genitals.”
This is all based on stereotypes, of course — stereotypes that I like to think are slowly breaking down. Hopefully, one day, straight men won’t have to play football in order to be comfortable getting physical with each other.
from See Magazine
NEW YORK – “Golden Girls” star Bea Arthur’s generosity lives on.
The actress, who died in April, included a $300,000 donation to New York’s Ali Forney Center, an organization supporting homeless LGBT youth, in her will, leaving center Executive Director Carl Siciliano overwhelmed by her kindness.
Siciliano said he knew of Arthur’s plan to include the center in her will, but never knew the amount.
He had been struggling to keep the doors of the shelter open. The organization assists more than 1,000 people each year, providing shelter for those who had to leave home “for being who they are,” Siciliano said.
“The last year and a half, since the economic crisis started, it’s been really hard to keep this program going,” Siciliano said. “A lot of the foundation and corporate money that we used to get has dried up, and we’ve been growing. Every day, we have about 125 kids a night waiting to get into our housing.”
But on Tuesday morning, a FedEx carrier delivered a $300,000 check.
Siciliano said he immediately started to cry. Arthur’s donation couldn’t have come at a better time.
“For months, I’ve been really sweating to make each payroll, and we’re usually a month or two behind on our rent, and there have been times when I was afraid that I wasn’t going to hold it together,” he said. “That kind of terror of [trying to] keep this thing going has come to an end for now with this extraordinary generosity.”
Arthur’s relationship with the center goes back to 2005, when the stage and screen star agreed to do a benefit at the request of a former set designer to help ease the center’s growing pains.
“At that time we were a really small, grassroots organization. We were only sheltering 12 kids at a time,” Siciliano said.
The amazing thing, he added, is that Arthur “didn’t realize at that point what a serious issue it was, that so many thousands of gay kids were on the streets of our country.”
Nevertheless, she was on board. She flew to New York to reprise her one-woman show, “Bea Arthur on Broadway: Just Between Friends” for one night only, raising more than $40,000 for the organization and contributing another sizeable personal donation.
But her generosity didn’t stop once the curtain fell. Arthur consistently raised the issue of LGBT homeless youth in press interviews, such as her November 2005 interview with Next magazine.
“I’m very, very involved in charities involving youth,” Arthur said in the interview. “These kids at the Ali Forney Center are literally dumped by their families because of the fact that they are lesbian, gay or transgender — this organization really is saving lives.”
With Arthur’s donation, Siciliano hopes he can save a few more. Part of the $300,000 will go toward buying a residence that can house 12, and Siciliano plans on naming it after the woman who helped make it happen.
“To have her choose to shine that kind of light on us was remarkable,” Siciliano said. “She became an advocate for the issue; she said she would do anything that she could to help these kids.”
UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON – Though a recent study by Trojan implies sexual-health awareness at the UW is decreasing, students and staff seem to doubt the legitimacy of the study.
In the annual Sexual Health Report Card ranking sponsored by Trojan Condoms and conducted by Sperling’s BestPlaces, the UW placed 91st out of 141 colleges in the United States.
This number demonstrates a significant decrease from the past two years. Between 2007 and 2008, the UW dropped from third place to 74th place and has since dropped 17 more places in the past year.
The ranking structure is based on 13 separate criteria, ranging from “student opinion of the health center” to “condom availability.” Each category receives a grade, all of which are combined to create an overall “GPA” that represents sexual health at the specific school. Despite the UW’s low ranking and 2.52 GPA, the results show eight “B’s,” three “C’s,” and only one “D” in student survey answers, and one “F” in availability of an anonymous sex-help hotline.
In a handout sent out to all ranked schools, Trojan expressed their reasons for conducting this annual study.
“America has poor sexual health, and the Trojan Sexual Health Report Card is another iteration of our efforts to raise awareness and spark conversation about the importance of sexual health,” the handout said.
However, Mark Shaw, UW director of health promotion, believes the survey to be subjective.
“I do not feel this survey is legitimate,” he said. “The same information was given [this year], and a vastly different ‘ranking’ resulted. That shows that the people interpreting the information at the other end, who would be different from year to year, respond differently to what’s given to them.”
Though one of the lowest scores was received in the “student survey” category, this score may not accurately represent the student body. Bert Sperling, founder of Sperling’s BestPlaces, explained the methods in acquiring survey responses.
“[The survey] was something new for us in the last two years,” Sperling said. “So that might be part of [the low ranking]. One thing I have noticed looking at the UW’s brief is that the overall student perceptions are not particularly great regarding the health center, for whatever reason.”
The survey, which was advertised through Facebook to each school on the report card, asked general questions regarding trust in the health center and knowledge of sexual-health services. However, only 75 students participated in the quiz about sexual health at the UW, Sperling said.
Despite the reported low opinions provided in the student survey, there is a myriad of opportunities to seek out sexual-health assistance. Through the University Health Education Leadership Program (UHELP), students can pay $15 for a membership card in the Condom Club and use the card up to 10 times, receiving five condoms per use. However, unlike schools such as Washington State University and Western Washington University, the UW does not offer free condoms on a consistently available basis.
Aside from the Condom Club, UHELP also offers presentations for any group that is interested, especially Freshman Interest Groups. During presentations, the group’s speakers discuss contraceptives and other areas of sexual health, as well as conducting an interactive game for students called “Condom Olympics,” which focuses on “contraceptives, their uses, effectiveness and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs),” Shaw said.
Though normally a drop in ranking may represent a decrease in the efforts of sexual-health groups, UHELP peer health educator Will Kappes says the only change in the UHELP program is advertising.
“We have a Web site, and we just designed a poster that you can see on the door, and we’re getting T-shirts really soon,” he said. “So we’re getting advertising on the way. We actually do have committees as well: presentation, marketing and events committees.”
In regard to other categories that affect the UW’s ranking, Hall Health also offers STD testing for a fee, drop-in appointments, peer health educators, and a committee to prevent rape and sexual violence.
“A more objective instrument to use could be the National College Health Assessment (NCHA),” Shaw said. Though not specifically geared toward sexual health, the NCHA provides a more comprehensive survey, with approximately 245,000 students at 400 colleges and universities participating.
from The Daily University of Washington
MICHIGAN – A local Shiawassee County school board plans to hold a meeting as soon as Monday to rescind a decision it made Oct. 23 to order the removal of an extracurricular club display honoring gay history month.
“We have violated the First Amendment rights of the students and the Diversity Club,” Maureen Stanley, president of the Corunna Board of Education, said. “We limited their expression.”
The decision to remove the display came after a parent approached the board and complained about the display, Stanley said. Under the order, the display was to be removed and referred to the district’s Sexual Health Education Review Committee. That committee is a state mandated entity comprised of students, parents and clergy, which reviews curriculum and materials about sexual health in the district.
Under the law, the committee reviews curriculum, then presents a recommendation to the board about adoption of the curriculum and related presentations.
Stanley said the board moved on the situation, fearing the display had violated the committee’s responsibilities. However, attorneys for the district were not present in the meeting, although Stanley said their presence was standard operating procedure.
After the news broke of the board’s decision, they were contacted by the American Civil Liberties Union, Stanley said, and consulted with legal counsel. That consultation led the board to believe it had violated the rights of students and the club.
In retrospect, Stanley said, she wished the board had tabled the issue and sought legal advice.
“This has been an educational experience for us,” she said.
In an interview Tuesday before the board announced its plans to rescind the motion, Superintendent Mark Miller said, “I want to make sure this is protecting everybody’s rights.”
Stanley said when the board rescinds the order to remove the display, it will also cancel its referral to the district’s sexual health committee.
Classic conflict of First Amendment issues
Laying just beneath the surface of the decision is a tension between the First Amendment and schools. This battle often surfaces when public school districts attempt to force religious beliefs on students, or attempt to stop the formation of clubs designed to allow access to students to Bible clubs or gay-straight alliances, for example.
In an e-mail Wednesday, Frank Ravitch, a First Amendment scholar at Michigan State University’s law school, applauded the move by the Corunna school officials to rescind their actions.
“The School Board should be commended for recognizing that it violated the Free Speech Clause and for taking action to rectify the situation. This is an excellent result for a decision that could have cost the board a lot of time and money to defend, and which it would most likely have lost in the end. Kudos to the Corunna School Board, and the students for upholding this nation’s deeply cherished rights to free speech.”
In a phone interview Tuesday, Ravitch said the situation was a classic case of First Amendment tensions.
“It’s a classic example of a heckler’s veto,” Ravitch said. “It’s a clear case of viewpoint discrimination.”
Ravitch explained that when school districts allow for the creation of extra-curricular clubs, such as the Diversity Club, it creates a limited public forum, requiring them to treat all such groups equally regardless of the viewpoint the group might express.
In this case, the display consisted of pictures of nine gay Americans, including actor Neil Patrick Harris. The display’s pictures had no other information attached to them. Both Miller and Stanley said they had not seen anything wrong with the display, but Stanley did say she wished the poster had some educational component to it.
Some parents, however, were concerned.
“One can respect the views of the concerned parents in this case,” Ravitch said, “without suggesting that they have a right to censor speech of students that they disagree with. That’s why heckler’s vetoes are so troubling. It suggests that we don’t have the respect for opposing viewpoints to let them be out there in the free speech world.”
And that silencing, Ravitch says, has a “double-whammy” effect on speech in the district.
Ravitch said the move by the school board sends a mixed message to the school community.
“It’s inherently chilling to the LGBT community,” he says. “But creates even bigger issues by chilling dissenting viewpoints. It says, ‘we’re going to give into complaints.’”
Eliza Byard, executive director of the national group Gay, Lesbian Straight Education Network, said Tuesday she was very worried about the message the board move sent to students, even after the announcement the decision would be rescinded.
In an e-mail Wednesday, Byard wrote: “We thank the school board for recognizing the damage its decision has done to creating an educational environment where difference is valued and respected.”
At the same time, Byard said, she hoped the board would consider the importance of encouraging diversity in educational settings, saying, “While the clear violations of the law stopped them short, the board members should also be taken aback by the educational impoverishment of a curriculum that erases facets of our common history and the reality of life in a diverse society.”
from The Michigan Messenger
When President Obama signed the Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law Wednesday, human rights advocates across the country won a decent, but insufficient, victory.
At face value, the bill is but a reluctant acknowledgment that Americans assaulted because of their sexual orientation are indeed victims of bigotry. Adding insult to injury, the measure had to be attached to a defense spending bill just to pass.
Is this the best Congress can muster when it comes to advancing gay rights?
Such legislation will not bring back to life Matthew Shepard or James Byrd Jr., the slain men for whom the act is named. Nor will it make Jack Price — the gay New Yorker beaten nearly to death this month — any less battered. The law morbidly protects gays only after they have been attacked; any consideration for their safety and human rights before such an occurrence still seems a congressional afterthought.
Put another way, our nation’s dead and hospitalized homosexuals, bisexuals and transgendered people are receiving after-the-fact sympathies, while the healthy gays and lesbians among us are expected to suffer from the same root discrimination. Are rights advocates expected to remain patient, even happy, about such progress?
The proverbial plate is too full, pooh-poohs our political elite. The rationale underlying such sentiments is that reforming our nation’s health-care system, improving our economy and winning the war in Afghanistan must of course take priority over gay rights.
Such logic is meaningless to Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, who after 18 years of exemplary service is facing dismissal for “damaging” the Air Force’s “good order and discipline.” Obama has pledged to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on openly gay service members, but he has yet to set a timetable. Meanwhile, Fehrenbach is one of many whose sexual orientation unfairly compromises their jobs, health benefits, retirement — and, ultimately, our nation’s war efforts. Political side-stepping of the issue also suggests that more sacrifice is required of a man who has already devoted much of his life to serving our country.
I come from a different generation — the one that showed up in unprecedented numbers to vote last November and by doing so helped elect a president who just happens to be the first minority to hold that office. It was noble — even hip — to fight against the bigotry and discrimination that the Obama campaign faced. Wasn’t our country in an economic crisis, debating health-care reform and fighting two wars during the campaign, too?
Recall the widespread dismay when Sen. John McCain suspended his campaign last fall to focus solely on the bailout plan. “Part of the president’s job is to deal with more than one thing at once,” Obama said in response. “In my mind it’s more important than ever.”
Obama was right then, and the point is still important. America needs the same multitasking attitude from all our elected officials.
It is wrong to ask gay Americans to wait until every future war is won, every societal ill is treated and every business is booming before being granted equal protection under law; it is equally disturbing to think that today, one must be a victim of a hate crime before receiving such consideration.
Is it too much to ask for more, sooner rather than later?
from The Washington Post / Andrew Kessinger
WASHINGTON, D.C. – For this accomplishment, President Barack Obama sought maximum publicity.
There was a bill signing at a wooden desk set up in the East Room, with the media invited, followed by a reception for joyous, champagne-sipping supporters and an address to them, again, from the East Room.
Obama was keeping a campaign promise to gays and lesbians by putting his signature on a bill to include violence against homosexuals in federal hate crimes law.
Of several such commitments to gay and lesbian supporters, it’s the first one he’s kept. Other promises are either pending or stalled entirely, proving a source of continued dismay for gay and lesbian advocates who worked to help him get elected.
As a candidate, Obama promised to end the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that bars homosexuals from serving openly in the military. He pledged to work to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, which limits how states, local and federal bodies can recognize partnerships and determine benefits. He also promised to outlaw job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Nine months into his term, those promises aren’t close to being met.
While clearly pleased by Wednesday’s signing ceremony, which was attended by many members of Congress who came to witness the fruits of a decade of effort, Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said there is still a lot of work to be done.
“We look forward to the days ahead when we will join together again to celebrate full equality and recognition of our community, including in employment, the military and in the full recognition of our families,” Carey said.
The expanded law now also covers crimes motivated by gender identity or disability.
“No one in America should ever be afraid to walk down the street holding the hands of the person they love. No one in America should be forced to look over their shoulder because of who they are or because they live with a disability,” Obama said, referring to Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr., for whom the law is named.
Shepard was a gay Wyoming college student murdered in 1998; Byrd was a black man chained to a pickup truck by three white men and dragged to his death in east Texas that year.
Obama’s relationship with gay activists has been rocky since his election. They objected to the participation of evangelist Rev. Rick Warren in Obama’s inauguration because of Warren’s support for repealing gay marriage in California. Obama responded by having Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson, the denomination’s first openly gay bishop, participate at another event.
As president, Obama hasn’t taken any concrete steps to urge Congress to overturn the Clinton-era “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. He restated the pledge this month in a speech at the annual dinner of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay civil rights advocacy group.
“I will end ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’” Obama said, offering neither a timetable nor specifics on how it would be done. He noted that legislation is pending in the House, and that he is working with the Pentagon and Congress on ending the policy.
“We should not be punishing patriotic Americans who have stepped forward to serve this country,” he said. “We should be celebrating their willingness to show such courage and selflessness on behalf of their fellow citizens, especially when we’re fighting two wars.”
On job security for gays and lesbians, Obama said “we’re pushing hard” for it because “nobody in America should be fired because they’re gay.” He said “it’s not fair. It’s not right. We’re going to put a stop to it.”
Obama also pledged during the campaign to work for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. But administration lawyers did the opposite, defending the law in a court brief. White House aides said the lawyers were only doing their jobs by supporting an existing law.
Obama has expanded some federal benefits to same-sex partners, but not health benefits or pension guarantees. He has allowed State Department employees to include their same-sex partners in certain embassy programs available to opposite-sex spouses.
from The Associated Press
UNITED KINGDOM – A Rookie police officer set upon in a vicious homophobic attack in Liverpool has spoken his first words to family and friends.
But doctors have warned that PC James Parkes is still facing a crucial 24 hours with his condition said to be “serious but stable”.
He has also briefly told investigating officers about the horrific attack that left him with multiple fractures to his skull and other serious head injuries.
The hopeful news comes as his parents condemned the gang of youths thought to be responsible.
PC Parkes, 22, was off-duty when he was attacked by up to 20 youths in Stanley Street as he left Superstar Boudoir with three friends at 10pm on Sunday.
In a statement, his parents Ann and Ron Parkes said: “We want to thank the investigation team for all the work they are doing to catch the people involved in this vicious attack.
“We are really grateful for all the support James has received since the attack, particularly from the gay community and the police.
“James has worked hard to serve the community over the last two years as a police community support officer and is very excited to be at the start of his career as a police officer.
“We cannot believe the ignorance of the young people who carried out the attack on someone who was just out on a night out with friends and had done nothing wrong.
“We are really keen the young people involved in the attack are brought to justice and would ask anyone who knows anything about the attack to contact the police.”
Acting Chief Inspector Richard Carr, of Merseyside police, echoed Mr and Mrs Parkes’s plea for people to come forward.
He said: “I urge anybody with any information to contact the police. You can talk to us in complete confidence.”
Since the attack, Liverpool’s gay community has rallied around and organised a march, which should take place late in November.
Riverside MP Louise Ellman today called for an urgent meeting with Merseyside police, saying she would be taking the issue to home secretary Alan Johnson.
Mrs Ellman, who is Jewish, has herself been on the receiving end of hate crime.
She said: “This was a horrifying and shameful attack and the perpetrators must be identified and swiftly brought to justice.”
Six youths are currently on bail over the attack.
Two males aged 14 and 17 and four aged 15, all from Kirkdale, were arrested on suspicion of assault and released on bail.
from The Liverpool Daily Post
UNITED KINGDOM – A 13-year-old boy has been arrested on suspicion of assaulting an off-duty policeman in a homophobic attack.
Rookie officer James Parkes, 22, remains in a serious but stable condition in hospital after he was battered in Liverpool city centre by up to 20 thugs on Sunday.
Six teenagers were arrested and bailed shortly after the attack. Another six have now been arrested over the hate crime, including one just 13 years of age, Merseyside Police said.
They have since been bailed.
Pc Parkes had been enjoying a night out with friends in the city’s gay area when the mob assaulted him – inflicting multiple skull fractures and fracturing his cheekbone and eye socket.
Six teenagers were arrested and bailed in the 24 hours after the attack and on Wednesday, a Merseyside Police spokesman confirmed six more suspects were arrested over the hate crime.
The 13 year-old was arrested on Tuesday along with two 15-year-olds and two 16-year-olds.
They have since been bailed as detectives harvest more evidence from the their inquiries.
The spokesman added that another 15-year-old was arrested on Wednesday and remains in custody.
On Tuesday, Pc Parkes’s parents Ron and Ann Parkes praised the gay community for rallying round their son and said they could not believe the attackers’ ignorance.
from Press Association
PARIS, FRANCE — Ewen McKenzie, recently sacked by French Top 14 club Stade Francais, on Monday slammed his former employers and accused them of prioritising the recruitment of good-looking players for the club calendar.
“Stade Francais is the best team in the world in terms of marketing,” the Australian told sport daily L’Equipe.
“It’s an international brand. But on the level of their sporting approach some things are shocking. Paris are verging on amateurism.”
He went on to accuse club president Max Guazzini of “only seeing two things – his calendar and the (team’s home ground) Stade de France”.
The popular Stade Francais calendar ‘Dieux du Stade’ (Gods of the Stadium), features nude and semi-nude photographs of team members.
“He has a marketing outlook which is not always in the best interests of sport,” said McKenzie.
“For example, Max could recruit one player over another just because he has a better look for the calendar.
“I had players in my squad who I never chose. Others were requested to leave the club because they didn’t want to pose for the calendar any more.
“I had certain players forced on me who, for me, shouldn’t have been in a team targetting the Top 14 title.”
Guazzini reacted later with disdain to McKenzie’s remarks.
“He has found a job in Australia, and it is imperative for him to justify the reasons why Stade Francais, which is a well known club in Australia, sacked him and all he comes up with are derogatory remarks,” he told French radio station RMC.
“From A to Z, everything he said was rubbish.
“Professionally speaking, ask the players, he didn’t work, he did absolutely nothing.
“In terms of recruitment, we did exactly what he asked of us.”
Former New South Wales Warratahs coach McKenzie was recruited in mid-2008 after the departure of Fabien Galthie. He was sacked on September 8 after the club endured a disastrous start to the season.
He has since been recruited by Queensland Reds for three Super 14 seasons.
For weeks, Nathaniel Cunningham and his boyfriend secretly lived together in rural Jamaica. They showed no affection in public and rarely spoke to neighbors.
Then one morning, Cunningham picked up a local newspaper with a front-page story under the headline, “Homosexual Prostitutes Move into Residential Neighborhood.” His address was listed below.
For days afterward, Cunningham said an angry mob gathered on his lawn hurling rocks and bricks and calling them “batty boys” – a Jamaican slang term for gay. Eventually, the pair grabbed what they could and fled on foot. Cunningham said neither he nor his boyfriend were prostitutes – the slur was just another example of the abuse gay men faced in Jamaica.
The story was one of many that Cunningham, now 32 and living in Worcester, recently shared with a federal immigration judge in his successful bid to win asylum in the United States. And it’s similar to other stories cited by a small but growing number of other gay, lesbian and transgender asylum seekers who are using U.S. immigration courts to argue that their sexual orientation makes it too dangerous for them to return home.
“I had no choice,” said Andre Azevedo, 39, a transgender man from Brazil who recently won asylum and now lives in New York. “Where I’m from, heterosexual men practice hate crimes against us like a sport, and the police do nothing to stop it.”
Since 1994, sexual orientation has been grounds for asylum in the United States. That’s when former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno ruled in a case that persecution based on sexual orientation could be potential grounds for asylum.
Until recently, those grounds have been rarely used and such cases represent only a fraction of all asylum cases.
But now immigrant and gay activists say more asylum seekers from the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean are citing sexual orientation as reasons for seeking asylum. Activists say the asylum seekers are escaping rape, persecution, violence, and threats of death from places where homosexuality is either outlawed or strongly, socially shunned.
Federal immigration law allows individuals asylum if they can prove a well-founded fear of persecution in their country of origin based upon race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Those applying for asylum are already in the United States, legally or illegally.
No one knows for sure just how many have sought asylum on sexual orientation grounds. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services doesn’t keep data on asylum cases won on that basis.
Still, last year Immigration Equality, a New York-based nonprofit group that helps gay clients with immigration cases, successfully won 55 asylum cases using sexual orientation as grounds, a record for the organization, said the group’s legal director Victoria Neilson. That’s up from 30 wins in 2007 and 27 in 2006, Neilson said.
And a Worcester, Mass.-based nonprofit group, Lutheran Social Services, has recently won five cases and is looking to help others.
“I think more people are finding out that this is an option,” said Lisa Laurel Weinberg, an attorney with the group.
However, not all cases for asylum based on sexual orientation have been successful. For example, a gay Brazilian man who was married in Massachusetts and whose American husband remains in the state was recently denied asylum by the Obama administration on humanitarian grounds, despite pleas from Sen. John Kerry. Genesio “Junior” Januario Oliveira had originally requested asylum because he was raped as a teenager, but an immigration judge denied the application, saying Oliveira repeatedly said in the hearing that he “was never physically harmed” by anyone in Brazil.
He was forced to return to Brazil in 2007.
Cunningham said he decided to file for asylum after working for a few years in the United States on a work visa. He conducted research online but couldn’t find an immigration group to help him with the case. “One group said my case clashed with their Christian values,” Cunningham said.
Many gay rights groups, he said, also had limited services for immigrants.
It wasn’t until Cunningham connected with Jozefina Lantz, the director of immigrant services at Lutheran Social Services, that Cunningham gained support.
To win, however, Cunningham had to revisit painful moments of running from mobs in Jamaica. Even the police would point him out for persecution, he said. In successfully arguing Cunningham’s case for asylum, Weinberg also said Jamaica’s sodomy laws banning sex between men and “dancehall” music – whose lyrics often advocate violence against gays – made life for Cunningham unbearable.
Cunningham won asylum in January 2008.
During his asylum hearing, Azevedo had to recall violent episodes in Brazil when he and a group of transsexuals were attacked in bars. He recalled a transgender woman set on fire. Each time Azevedo said he went to police about an attack or a threat, the officers didn’t even bother to file a report.
“I had such a horrific experience,” said Azevedo, who was granted asylum in July. “I was always in fear of being raped, maybe even killed.”
After winning their cases, both Cunningham and Azevedo have become advocates for other asylum-seekers by giving them counseling and directing them toward legal help.
In Worcester, for example, Cunningham has helped a Lebanese and three others Jamaicans win asylum with the legal help provided by the Lutheran Social Services’ “LGBT Human Rights Protection Project.” Another case, involving an Ugandan woman, is pending in the courts.
But while those who have been granted asylum are eager to help, Azevedo said many still haven’t resolved the pain from the past and can’t go back home to visit family – those who haven’t disowned them.
Cunningham said he hasn’t gotten over the fear that, at any moment, he may be forced to flee.
“I’ve never really owned furniture,” Cunningham said. “You just never know.”
from The Associated Press
Gardasil, the vaccine used to immunize girls and young women against the sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer, may now be given to boys and young men to protect them from genital warts, a federal advisory group recommended Wednesday.
But the panel of independent medical experts stopped short of urging its routine use in boys, as it has recommended for girls. And members questioned whether vaccinating boys was a cost-effective way to protect their future sexual partners against cervical and other types of cancer caused by human papillomavirus, or HPV.
Gardasil, made by Merck, works against four strains of the virus — two strains that are responsible for 70 percent of cervical cancers and two strains responsible for about 90 percent of genital warts. But it is expensive, requiring a series of three injections that cost $130 each.
The vaccine was approved last week by the Food and Drug Administration for use in boys and men ages 9 to 26. Wednesday’s action, by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is intended to guide national policy on use of the vaccine; its recommendations are typically adopted by professional medical associations and set the standards of practice for physicians.
The new recommendation means, in effect, that doctors and clinics may now administer the vaccine at their discretion to boys and men ages 9 to 26, but they are not expected to offer it. Parents may consider the vaccine as an option for their sons, but some health insurers may choose not to cover the shots.
Gardasil for girls and young women has caused heated debate among some public health and cancer experts. The debate over the use of the vaccine in boys is likely to be equally heated.
At a time when the Pap smear test has greatly reduced the death toll from cervical cancer in the United States, some epidemiologists argue that offering the test to women who do not have routine access to gynecologists would have a greater effect than Gardasil.
“What we need is a public policy that gets the resources to where the women are who need it the most,” said Dr. Peter B. Bach, an epidemiologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan. “But what you end up with is the wealthiest families getting the vaccine for their daughters.”
The Food and Drug Administration approved Gardasil in 2006 for use in girls and women ages 9 to 26 for the prevention of cervical cancer and genital warts. Last year in the United States, about 37 percent of girls ages 13 to 17 started the HPV vaccine series, a national immunization survey showed, and about half of them completed it.
In an interview last month, Dr. Richard M. Haupt, Merck’s director of research for Gardasil, said that vaccinating young men could reduce the amount of the virus circulating in the population and ultimately lower the incidence of HPV-related cancers in both sexes.
But genital warts are a significant problem in themselves, he said. Each year in the United States, he estimated, there are at least 250,000 new cases in males, each of which typically results in three visits to a doctor.
A clinical trial of about 4,000 young men, sponsored by Merck, reported that the vaccine prevented 89 percent of genital warts.
But experts at the vaccine advisory committee meeting debated whether it was appropriate and cost-effective to vaccinate boys for a problem that can be embarrassing and uncomfortable but is not life-threatening.
Harrell W. Chesson, a health economist at the disease control centers, said that to reduce HPV, it would be more cost-effective to increase vaccination among girls than among boys.
The committee said it would take up the issue of the vaccine’s effectiveness in preventing HPV-related male cancers at its next session in February, when more data should be available. Merck plans to present studies sometime next year on the efficacy of the vaccine against anal pre-cancers in men who have sex with men, a company spokeswoman said.
from The New York Times
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – If you’re worried that government someday will force your minister, rabbi, imam or bishop to perform a same-sex marriage, don’t be. Even if such weddings become legally enshrined and widely accepted in the United States, gay couples never will be sealed, for instance, in an LDS temple unless the church chooses to do so.
That’s the consensus of religious-liberty experts across the nation. Even so, wild rhetoric on both sides of the same-sex-marriage debate persists, overshadowing real concerns arising out of the tension between religious belief and gay civil rights. And the conflicts are not likely to evaporate anytime soon.
Although 30 states, including Utah, constitutionally bar gay marriages, the drive for same-sex unions is gaining momentum. Five states currently allow it (a sixth will join them in January) and the issue is on the ballot next month in three. Maine represents an important bellwether. It already has a legal provision for gay marriage, but that is being challenged by a ballot measure.
Meanwhile, many conservative religious groups are lining up either to oppose gay marriage or to ask for religious exemptions.
“There is a battle over the meaning of [religious] freedom,” LDS apostle Dallin H. Oaks said in a strongly worded address last week to students at Brigham Young University-Idaho. “The contest is of eternal importance, and it is your generation that must understand the issues and make the efforts to prevail.”
In Oaks’ view, opponents of California’s Proposition 8, which barred same-sex marriages in that state, not only defended their rights but also tried to intimidate Mormons into silence with boycotts and harassment. The Mormon leader, a former Utah Supreme Court justice, started a firestorm of criticism by suggesting that such tactics were similar in their effect, though not degree, to the voter intimidation of blacks in the South during the fight for civil rights. But he also made it clear that the LDS Church will not be deterred from entering the political arena when it feels a moral issue is at stake.
“We will continue to teach what our Heavenly Father commanded us to teach,” Oaks said, “and trust that the precious free exercise of religion remains strong enough to guarantee our right to exercise this most basic freedom.” Some of Oaks’ fears are overblown, but others are credible, says Charles Haynes, a religious-liberty scholar at the First Amendment Center in Washington, D.C.
“There is no question that there will be many points of contention as the gay-marriage battle continues,” Haynes says. “It’s an important conversation to have now to get ahead of the growing tensions.”
Beyond the pulpit
Religious conservatives point with alarm to strictures imposed on ministers in Canada and Sweden who can be found guilty of hate speech if they preach that homosexual behavior is a sin.
It’s only a matter of time, they warn, until U.S. clerics are censored and punished. Some conservatives worry that Congress’ newly passed hate-crimes protections for gays could muzzle clergy. Others fear churches could lose their tax-exempt status.
That’s not going to happen here, Haynes says. What they forget is that in many European countries, religions are state-sponsored. America was created to separate church and state.
“We have a strong First Amendment,” Haynes says, “and a tradition of protecting religious speech.” Instead of the pulpit, the conflicts likely will arise outside the cathedrals, temples, mosques and synagogues.
Churches still will be able to exclude gays from certain rites on the basis of their theology, for example, but many religiously affiliated businesses or individuals may not be. Several cases already have underscored religious fears, according to Robin Fretwell Wilson, a legal scholar at the Washington and Lee University School of Law in Virginia and co-editor of a 2008 book of essays, Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty: Emerging Conflicts. Wilson points to the following:
» The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, owned by a Methodist church in New Jersey, rented out its beachside pavilion to various groups. The church declined to allow a lesbian couple to use the pavilion for their civil-union ceremony. Local authorities stripped the association of its exemption from property taxes and billed it $20,000.
» The Salvation Army lost $3.5 million in social-service contracts with San Francisco because it refused, on religious grounds, to provide benefits to same-sex partners of its employees.
» Catholic Charities of Maine was forced to either extend employee benefits to registered same-sex couples or lose eligibility to all city housing and development funds.
» A pair of Christians who co-own Elaine Photography in New Mexico refused to take photos for a lesbian commitment ceremony. The lesbian couple filed a complaint with New Mexico’s Human Rights Commission, which found the photographers guilty of discrimination and levied a $6,000 fine. To head off looming lawsuits, religious-liberty experts suggest writing religious exemptions for individuals and religiously connected businesses into same-sex-marriage laws.
Wilson was among four law professors who recently wrote to Maine’s Gov. John Baldacci, proposing that solution in his state.
“Crafting robust religious-liberty accommodations to Maine’s same-sex-marriage law will ensure that same-sex marriage does not constrain the fundamental right of religious liberty,” the Oct. 5 letter said. “It would also go a long way to bringing much needed civil discourse to the debate over Question 1 [the ballot measure].” (more…)