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When Rio and Ray married in 2008, the Bay Area women omitted two words from their wedding vows: fidelity and monogamy.
“I take it as a gift that someone will be that open and honest and sharing with me,” said Rio, using the word “open” to describe their marriage.
Love brought the middle-age couple together — they wed during California’s brief legal window for same-sex marriage. But they knew from the beginning that their bond would be forged on their own terms, including what they call “play” with other women.
As the trial phase of the constitutional battle to overturn the Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage concludes in federal court, gay nuptials are portrayed by opponents as an effort to rewrite the traditional rules of matrimony. Quietly, outside of the news media and courtroom spotlight, many gay couples are doing just that, according to groundbreaking new research.
A study to be released next month is offering a rare glimpse inside gay relationships and reveals that monogamy is not a central feature for many. Some gay men and lesbians argue that, as a result, they have stronger, longer-lasting and more honest relationships. And while that may sound counterintuitive, some experts say boundary-challenging gay relationships represent an evolution in marriage — one that might point the way for the survival of the institution.
New research at San Francisco State University reveals just how common open relationships are among gay men and lesbians in the Bay Area. The Gay Couples Study has followed 556 male couples for three years — about 50 percent of those surveyed have sex outside their relationships, with the knowledge and approval of their partners.
That consent is key. “With straight people, it’s called affairs or cheating,” said Colleen Hoff, the study’s principal investigator, “but with gay people it does not have such negative connotations.”
The study also found open gay couples just as happy in their relationships as pairs in sexually exclusive unions, Dr. Hoff said. A different study, published in 1985, concluded that open gay relationships actually lasted longer.
None of this is news in the gay community, but few will speak publicly about it. Of the dozen people in open relationships contacted for this column, no one would agree to use his or her full name, citing privacy concerns. They also worried that discussing the subject could undermine the legal fight for same-sex marriage.
According to the research, open relationships almost always have rules.
That is how it works for Chris and James. Over drinks upstairs at the venerable Twin Peaks Tavern in the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco, they beamed as they recalled the day in June 2008 that they donned black suits and wed at City Hall, stunned by the outpouring of affection from complete strangers. “Even homeless people and bike messengers were congratulating us,” said Chris, 42.
A couple since 2002, they opened their relationship a year ago after concluding that they were not fully meeting each other’s needs. But they have rules: complete disclosure, honesty about all encounters, advance approval of partners, and no sex with strangers — they must both know the other men first. “We check in with each other on this an awful lot,” said James, 37.
That transparency can make relationships stronger, said Joe Quirk, author of the best-selling relationship book “It’s Not You, It’s Biology.”
“The combination of freedom and mutual understanding can foster a unique level of trust,” Mr. Quirk, of Oakland, said.
“The traditional American marriage is in crisis, and we need insight,” he said, citing the fresh perspective gay couples bring to matrimony. “If innovation in marriage is going to occur, it will be spearheaded by homosexual marriages.”
Open relationships are not exclusively a gay domain, of course. Deb and Marius are heterosexual, live in the East Bay and have an open marriage. She belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and maintained her virginity until her wedding day at 34. But a few years later, when the relationship sputtered, both she and her husband, who does not belong to the church, began liaisons with others.
“Our relationship got better,” she said. “I slept better at night. My blood pressure went down.”
Deb and Marius also have rules, including restrictions on extramarital intercourse. “To us,” Marius said, “cheating would be breaking the agreement we have with each other. We define our relationship, not a religious group.”
So while the legal fight over same-sex marriage plays out, couples say the real battle is making relationships last — and their answers defy the prevailing definition of marriage.
“In 1900, the average life span for a U.S. citizen was 47,” Mr. Quirk said. “Now we’re living so much longer, ‘until death do us part’ is twice as challenging.”
from The New York Times
A new American research suggests that gay teenagers and young adults are more vulnerable to bullying than their counterparts.
The study found that bullying rates more than tripled for lesbians, while bisexuals reported being bullied more often.
Researchers discovered that bisexual girls were more likely to be bullies themselves whereas gay males were much less likely to bully others.
The study team came up with their findings from a 2001 survey of 7,559 children of female registered nurses.
Although, the study does not prove that being gay or bisexual is directly responsible for causing people to be bullied or to turn into bullies, it does point out the size of the bullying problem, showing that it is not limited to grade school.
Lead author Elise Berlan, of Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, said the research shows that “kids who are different – who are perceived as weak and falling out of the mainstream – are more vulnerable to bullying.
“It’s really important to have some documentation about what the experiences of our kids are.”
The participants in the study were aged between 14 and 22.
Out of 2,720 males, 93.5% said they were heterosexual, 4.5% said they were mostly heterosexual and 0.5% said they were bisexual. The other 1.4% said they were mostly or completely homosexual.
Among the 4,839 females, 88.3% said they were heterosexual, 9.5% said they were mostly heterosexual, 1.9% said they were bisexual and 0.3% said they were mostly or completely heterosexual.
Compared to completely heterosexual kids, all these groups were more likely to have experienced bullying except for bisexual girls. Gay males, mostly or completely gay, had double the risk after the study team adjusted the statistics for factors like age and race.
Before the statistics were adjusted, 44% of mostly or completely gay males and 26% of completely heterosexual males said they had been bullied.
Fifteen females, who were completely or mostly homosexual, were over three times more likely to be bullied, while bisexual females were 2.4 times more likely to report bullying others.
from Daily News & Analysis
ROBERTSVILLE, MISSOURI – When Highway Patrol Cpl. Dennis Engelhard was killed in a Christmas Day traffic accident near Eureka, the agency described him as single with no children.
Gov. Jay Nixon called on Missourians to pray for Engelhard’s family, who “lost a beloved son and brother.”
Neither statement tells the whole story.
Engelhard, hit by a car that lost control in the snow, was gay. He left behind a partner of nearly 15 years who was not mentioned in his obituary or official information released by the Highway Patrol, although members of the agency knew about his sexual orientation.
If Engelhard had been married, his spouse would be entitled to lifetime survivor’s benefits from the state pension system — more than $28,000 a year.
But neither the state Highway Patrol pension system nor Missouri law recognizes domestic partners.
A fraternal organization that provides benefits to the families of troopers killed in the line of duty is also unsure if it will help Engelhard’s partner.
Gay marriage activists say the death of Engelhard — hailed by the governor for making the “ultimate sacrifice in fulfilling his duty” — provides a poignant example of the need for greater rights for same-sex couples.
Others say that domestic partners should not receive any more recognition than unmarried partners of heterosexual troopers, who would not be eligible for survivor pension benefits either.
Either way, while Engelhard’s partner is eligible for other benefits — possibly including a significant payment from the U.S. Justice Department — he is unlikely to receive any from the state of Missouri, which in 2004 approved a constitutional amendment recognizing marriage as between a man and a woman.
“The partner, plain and simple, is out of luck,” said state Rep. Mike Colona, D-St. Louis, one of a few openly gay Missouri state legislators. “I’m outraged that that’s the situation, but it’s the status of the law.”
Engelhard, 49 when he died, was killed on a snowy Christmas morning after getting out of his patrol car to place flares near the scene of a minor accident on Interstate 44. A car traveling westbound lost control and hit Engelhard.
The 10-year veteran met his domestic partner, Kelly Glossip, 43, in 1995. The pair were introduced by a mutual friend whose girlfriend was also a gay trooper.
Glossip said his relationship with Engelhard was no secret at the Highway Patrol. Glossip was listed as Engelhard’s emergency contact. They showed up together at a Fourth of July party attended by several other troopers. A room full of troopers mourned with Glossip at the hospital where Engelhard was pronounced dead.
Here’s the thing with CBS (CBS)’s decision to allow Focus on the Family to run a pro-life Super Bowl ad featuring Christian college football star Tim Tebow: It is now difficult for the network to reject Mancrunch.com’s bid to advertise its gay internet dating ad in the same slot (video below). Which means that FOF’s ad may have opened the door for the first proper gay ad on the Super Bowl. Unintended consequences!
Clearly, CBS* would like the Super Bowl to be a controversy-free mass audience exposure for brands that want to entertain. Having allowed FOF inject politics and religion into the event, CBS could now expose itself to accusations of hypocrisy and discrimination if it declines to run the Mancrunch ad. CBS says:
“The ad is still under review, the process takes a little while. We still have a lot of ads we have yet to review.”
According to Fox News:
The 30-second spot shows two men excitedly watching the game, before their hands brush as they both reach into a bowl of chips. Suddenly, the two begin making out, much to the shock of a guy sitting close by.
Mancrunch’s tagline is, “Where many many many men come out to play.”
CBS has already rejected one gay-themed ad from the game, by GoDaddy.com. That ad features a fictional retired footballer, “Lola,” who uses his post-career riches to launch his own line of lingerie. Lola is shown mincing like a fashion designer throughout.
The forgoing suggests the network is a lot more comfortable with conservative Christians than it is with homosexuality, which is not the impression the network wanted to create going in.
And finally: Doesn’t the Super Bowl feature a lot of gigantically muscled men hugging each other and slapping each other’s butts? Just sayin’.
And finally, 2: If the Mancrunch ad airs, it won’t be the first gay kiss to air in the big game. That honor belongs to a Snickers spot, which showed two men locking lips over a chocolate bar in 2007. The ad was criticized for being sophomoric and homophobic.
from BNET/CBS/Jim Edwards
INDIA – A new film which includes Bollywood’s first gay screen kiss has stirred controversy in India months before its release.
The film, Dunno Y … Na Jaane Kyun, was made in the wake of a High Court ruling last year which legalised homosexuality. But the film industry and gay rights campaigners are steeling themselves for protests from religious conservatives.
Film posters featuring two semi-naked young men locked in a passionate clinch reveal how liberal India’s traditionally conservative society has become. But they are expected to fuel controversy in the run up to its release in May.
Gay activists say that they are braced for a backlash from religious and political conservatives, many of whom opposed the decriminalisation of homosexuality.
The film’s director, Anil Sharma, has said that Indian cinemagoers are “mature enough” to deal with a storyline that departs from Bollywood’s staple boy-meets-girl romance.
“The only thing I was particular about was that this character should not come across as a caricature or just as an object of mockery. I am truly happy with what I have chosen.”
Despite its legalisation last year, homosexuality remains a taboo in India where until now homosexuals have been portrayed in Indian films as effeminate comedy characters.
The recent hit film Dostana marked a slight change in approach when it portrayed two straight men pretending to be gay to persuade a landlord his beautiful daughter would be safe with them in the house.
In Dunno Y … Na Jaane Kyun however the two lead characters are unambiguously gay and the relationship between them is explicitly sexual.
Its release will mark a growing boldness in Bollywood with directors increasingly willing to challenge conservative mainstream attitudes. It follows a series of films released last year which show nudity and passionate kissing, or “lip-lock” as it is known in India, for the first time.
Kambakkht Ishq, one of last year’s major hits featured action hero Akshay Kumar and Kareena Kapoor, locked in a steamy embrace, while September 11 revealed Bollywood heart-throb John Abraham’s bare buttocks.
In Dunno Y Na Jaane Kyun, Kapil Sharma plays a struggling actor who “compromises his morals to get ahead in the film industry”. He has said he initially struggled with the “sex scenes”.
“Though I was prepared mentally, when the shoot actually began, I got nervous about doing it in front of the camera. I was especially awkward in a gay party scene,” he said.
Manvendra Singh, one of India’s leading gay rights campaigners, said he believed the film will provoke protests when it is released, but he welcomed the debate it will open. “There could be a backlash, but as long as it does not show vulgarity it will go some way to sensitising the public,” he said.
The film, Dunno Y … Na Jaane Kyun, was made in the wake of a High Court ruling last year which legalised homosexuality. It is already being billed as India’s answer to Brokeback Mountain.
from The Telegraph Uk
It has been more than three years since charismatic pastor Ted Haggard left his megachurch in disgrace, mired in a scandal involving drug use and a male prostitute. But the woman who stood by him says now that the experience has brought them closer together than ever.
“Our relationship is better than it’s ever been. Going over this mountain together has given me the marriage that I’ve always longed for,” Gayle Haggard told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira Wednesday in New York.
Gayle Haggard had come to discuss her new book, “Why I Stayed: The Choices I Made in My Darkest Hour.” Although the dilemma was painful, the answer, she writes, was simple: She loved her husband.
In 2006, the Haggards were an evangelical version of the American Dream. They had met as students at Oral Roberts University, fallen in love and gotten married. As they were starting their family of five children, they also started a church that first met in their Colorado Springs home.
With Gayle directing the women’s ministries and Ted driving the growth of the congregation, the New Life Church grew to a 14,000-member congregation, and Ted became the president of the National Association of Evangelicals. His counsel was sought by President George W. Bush.
And then, in November of that year, it all came crashing down. A homosexual prostitute, Mike Jones, angry at Haggard’s opposition to same-sex marriage, alleged that Haggard had been a client for several years and had also purchased methamphetamines from him.
Gayle told Vieira that when she first heard the accusations, she was in “total disbelief. I felt as though my marriage was at a healthy place. Everything in my life felt healthy at that time. I felt as though our family was doing well. Ted was clinging to me and felt closer to me than ever before. Our church felt healthy. That was probably the happiest time in my life up until that point.”
The next day, the couple went to their attorney’s office to discuss the allegations. Although Haggard would hide the truth from the public for as long as he could, he came clean to his wife.
“The attorney told me to go in the office with Ted and he closed the door,” Gayle said. “I just felt life draining from my body because things didn’t feel right all of a sudden. I sat down with Ted and he looked at me and he said, ‘Gayle, I have to tell you, some of the allegations are true.’ ”
Gayle was dumbstruck.
“That was such a shock and such a heartbreak, I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t put the words together. They didn’t fit with the man I knew,” she said. “I think eventually I uttered the words, ‘Who are you?’ Because it was so far removed from the man that I knew.”
The Haggards drove home and told their children. They also met with the church elders who would eventually strip him of his job and order him to leave Colorado altogether.
That night, Gayle allowed Ted into her bed, and when he reached out, she found herself struggling to decide whether to allow him to touch her. She writes about that moment in her book:
“My heart broke in that instant. I knew the importance of physical touch … And I knew the damage rejection could cause. Broken people need to be touched, and by reaching out, Ted was pleading for my help. I wanted to help him; I didn’t want to reject him — but what was I supposed to do with the anger, revulsion and pain that were warring in my heart? I had coached other women through this. Now it was my turn …. And so that night I began my journey of choosing … Choosing to love.”
Vieira asked Gayle what led her to make that choice at a time when she had to be hurting so horribly.
“I knew I was going to have to make the choice early on as to what I was going to do,” Gayle said. “I chose early on that I really do love this man, and I’m willing to fight with him for our marriage and for our family — actually for everything that I cared about.”
The couple had no savings. They received a year’s severance pay, but their income dried up during the three years they were forced to live in Arizona while Ted went to therapy to deal with his sexual demons.
Both Ted and Gayle say that their love life was always strong. Ted has said that he learned during therapy that he had been abused by an adult male when he was a child and he was acting out that experience as an adult.
In an appearance on “Oprah,” Ted said, “The biggest thing that’s helped me is therapy. Since that time, I have not had one compulsive thought or behavior.”
To Vieira, Gayle added, “In Ted’s case, he had had some experiences as a child that kept replaying themselves in his mind. Once he went to therapy he was able to identify that and was given the tools to deal with it. Because of that, he no longer has those compulsions. That’s not true for everybody. That’s his story.”
Ted had told Gayle of one experience with another man he’d had early in their marriage. She accepted his plea for forgiveness and thought it wouldn’t happen again.
“At that point, I was ignorant of the gravity. I felt as though we all struggle in different areas of our life, and certainly in our sexuality, so I was willing to forgive him. That was painful at that time,” she told Vieira. “He had gone to a counselor … I felt as though the problem was pretty much solved.”
But it wasn’t solved. “Through the years, what I’ve discovered is that it would reemerge in Ted’s life from time to time, but he didn’t tell me about it,” Gayle said. “When I would ask him, he would say it was no longer a problem, since it was something he was ashamed of and trying to hide.”
Finally, Jones dropped his bombshell allegations and the game was up. They moved the family to Arizona and found themselves disgraced and reviled. Their struggles were documented in last year’s HBO documentary, “The Trials of Ted Haggard.”
And now, Gayle is telling her own intimate story in her book.
Jones said he revealed Ted’s activities to expose the pastor’s hypocrisy. Vieira asked Gayle if it was true that her husband had been a hypocrite.
“The term means to say one thing and do another,” Gayle said. “However, I have discovered that is the human condition. All of us have ideals that we strive for in our lives. So I think that all of us are to one degree or another a hypocrite. Ted just had to play his out on a very public stage.”
An estimated 66,000 gay, lesbian and bisexual people are serving in the U.S. military, roughly 2 percent of all military personnel, according to a report released Tuesday by a gay rights policy center. The figures suggest a slight increase in the number of gays, lesbians and bisexuals in the military, and they provide opponents of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy with fresh data as they lobby the Obama administration for its repeal.
Gays, lesbians and bisexuals account for about 13,000 active duty service members, equal to less than 1 percent currently deployed, the report estimated. About 53,000 others serve in the National Guard and reserves, equaling about 3.4 percent.
The actual number of gays, lesbians and bisexuals serving in uniform is unknown; the military does not track such figures. The research brief was released by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, a public policy institute that studies sexual orientation law.
Its authors used a variety of statistical methods to arrive at the estimate, drawing in part on the Census Bureau’s 2008 American Community Survey and the 2000 Census, in which some people identified themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual and as serving in the military. A similar 2004 study, widely quoted by gay rights advocates and supportive lawmakers, estimated that roughly 65,000 gay people were serving in the military.
Although President Obama’s top domestic policy aides insist that the president is committed to an equality agenda for gays and lesbians, many liberal and gay rights groups are unhappy that the administration has failed to act on Obama’s campaign pledge to end “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday that the issue has been “a point of discussion” among top White House aides. Gibbs declined to say whether Obama will mention his support for a repeal in his State of the Union address Wednesday.
from The Washington Post
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday that the issue has been “a point of discussion” among top White House aides. Gibbs declined to say whether Obama will mention his support for a repeal in his State of the Union address Wednesday.
from The Washington Post
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – The online dating service eHarmony has agreed to settle a California lawsuit that claimed it discriminated against homosexuals.
Under a proposed settlement filed Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, eHarmony will link its straight and gay Web sites and allow people to use both without paying double fees.
Plaintiff’s attorney Todd Schneider says the company also agreed to pay about $500,000 to an estimated 150 Californians to settle the class-action suit, plus around $1.5 million in court and attorney’s fees.
The company didn’t admit any wrongdoing.
A judge must approve the settlement. A court date is scheduled for Feb. 3.
from The Associated Press
New cases of HIV infection in Minnesota rose 13 percent in 2009, the biggest increase in 17 years, signaling the return of a scourge among young gay men that public health experts had hoped was under control.
The largest increase by far was among gay men ages 13 to 24.
Of the 95 new cases reported among 15- to 24-year-olds, 77 were among men, almost all gay and bisexual men, the Minnesota Department of Health reported. It released the preliminary data two months ahead of its usual annual report, a reflection of the public health urgency.
“This increase in cases tells us that HIV/AIDS remains a significant health threat in Minnesota, and we need to take steps to strengthen our prevention efforts,” said Dr. Sanne Magnan, Minnesota Commissioner of Health.
“We haven’t had numbers this high in 17 years,” said Peter Carr, director of the HIV and sexually transmitted diseased department at the Health Department.
Carr said the increase does not reflect higher rates of testing but rather a true increase in the number of new cases.
Public health experts said that increases among gay men are the result of a number of factors. One is likely complacency – many young teenagers and adults view HIV as a treatable disease, and do not fear the consequences as do older adults. Also, the internet has exploded as a means of connecting gay men seeking casual sex, Carr said.
“It’s way easier than connecting with someone in a bar,” he said. “That high efficiency may be contributing to greater levels of anonymous sex,” he said.
Safe sex education and public health interventions must go to the internet as well, he said. “We need to be taking a look at how we can use internet and social media sites to connect with people in that generation.”
In all, there were 368 new HIV cases reported in 2009, compared with 326 in 2008.
from The Star Tribune
HOLLYWOOD, FLORIDA – Michael Verdugo’s 15 minutes of porn film fame cost him his job as a Hollywood police officer and his budding career as “Mikey V” of HGTV’s Design Star.
Verdugo is fighting to get back his police job and is preparing to sue the police department for discrimination.
Hollywood Police fired Verdugo — and Design Star dumped him — after a 1996 video turned up on the Internet showing the future cop in a 15-minute bondage scene from a gay porn flick called Rope Rituals.
“I don’t regret it,” Verdugo, 35, said of his one-time appearance at age 22 in porn, three years before he became a police officer. “It was a time in my life that I wanted to explore.”
Verdugo — billed as Jeremy Wess in Rope Rituals — said he performed nude in the short scene, but didn’t engage in hardcore sex. “It was all role-playing bondage. I was tied. I used handcuffs later on in my career.”
Just after the video turned up in July 2008, Design Star uninvited Mikey V from a reunion episode. Hollywood Police put Verdugo on administrative leave with pay. An investigation followed and the department fired him in January 2009 for not disclosing on his police application that he had made the porn film. An arbitrator recently upheld the termination.
Now, Verdugo has asked his attorney, Alberto Milian, to file a civil lawsuit against Hollywood Police for wrongful termination and discrimination.
“When you’re a gay cop in a paramilitary organization like law enforcement, a lot of discrimination exists,” said Milian, a Coral Gables criminal defense attorney who also specializes in labor law for police officers and firefighters. “He was a damn good cop. This guy was an asset and there’s no doubt his talents were very useful to the people of Hollywood.”
The city denies firing Verdugo — a onetime undercover officer — because he is gay.
“This had nothing to do with Mike Verdugo’s sexuality. It had to do with his honesty. The application process to become a police officer is very arduous,” Hollywood spokeswoman Raelin Storey said.
Hollywood Police Chief Chad Wagner determined Verdugo had not been honest on his application for omitting the porn film, Storey said, and “that was why he was let go.”
Verdugo said he never gave thought to putting the movie on his résumé‚ when he first became a Lauderhill cop in 1999, or when he applied to the Hollywood department two years later.
He believes his sexual orientation had plenty to do with his firing, that if a male cop appeared nude in a straight porn film his police buddies would be “high-fiving him in the hallway.”
Verdugo said he was offered a part in a gay porn film back in 1996 at the old Copa dance club in Fort Lauderdale. He filmed Rope Rituals in San Francisco, got paid $700 and that was the end of his porn career, he said.
The brawny Verdugo, who grew up in Hialeah, appeared during the 2008 season of Design Star. He placed fourth that season and was supposed to return for a reunion episode, but the series dropped him after the porn news broke. He now owns an interior design company, Verdugo Design Group, and a company that fixes up vacant homes, Elite Home Staging.
Verdugo said he always was out in both Lauderhill and Hollywood police departments and that he even briefly dated a fellow Hollywood police officer.
His current boyfriend, Mike Silver, is a field training officer for Pembroke Pines Police.
Not many police officers are open about their sexuality, Verdugo said.
“Just a handful,” he said. “They don’t want to come out because they see what happened to me. It’s a double-edge sword,” Verdugo said. “Discrimination is still huge in the police community. It’s just huge.”
from The Miami Herald
UNITED KINGDOM – Church leaders have inflicted a humiliating defeat on the Government by overturning plans to force members of the clergy to hire gays and transsexuals. Under the current law, religious groups can restrict jobs to believers and refuse to hire people whose private conduct is inconsistent with their teaching.
The Government had been proposing to water down these restrictions in Harriet Harman’s Equality Bill, which was being debated in the House of Lords yesterday.
However, the key amendments to change the law were thrown out by peers in a vote by 216 to 178 in a humiliating defeat for Miss Harman.
Miss Harman can try to force the measure through the Commons – and risk losing the whole Bill because of the short amount of time left in this Parliament.
The other option would be to drop the proposal and leave the UK at odds with an existing EU directive.
Last night secular campaigners said they would be complaining to the European Commission if the measure was dropped.
During a debate in the Lords, Baroness O’Cathain, who led the rebels, said: organisations should be free to choose their staff on whether they share those beliefs.
“How would a rape crisis centre operate if it was forced to employ male counsellors. This is the state trying to tell people who the can and can’t employ.”
She added that a Government minister had already given warning that the plans would lead to legal battles between churches and atheists, insisting that both sides “need to be lining up (their lawyers) by now.”
John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, added: “Where are the examples of actual abuses that have caused difficulties?
“Where are the court rulings that have shown that the law is defective? If it ain’t broke, why fix it?
“The truth is that there are none because the status quo has been working perfectly satisfactorily.”
In reply Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, Leader of the House of Lords, insisted it was “not the Government’s intention to narrow the scope of the Bill”.
The Equality Bill is an attempt by ministers to consolidate existing anti-discrimination legislation into a single Act of Parliament.
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the Conservatives’ shadow minister for Community Cohesion, hailed the vote as a “victory for common sense”.
She said: “We delivered a blow against the governments attempt to narrow the definition of ‘employment’ for the purposes of religion.
“The Church of England, the Catholic Church and leaders of other faiths have all campaigned together in a true spirit of Community Cohesion to protect an important religious freedom.”
Mike Judge, a spokesman for the Christian Institute, said: “We are delighted that the House of Lords has voted to protect freedom of association for churches.
“It is a shame that the Government didn’t listen to churches earlier. It’s almost as if they don’t care about Christians.”
But Keith Porteous Wood, executive director of the National Secular Society, said: “The Government has faced a humiliating defeat at the hands of religious agitation in the Lords.
“The National Secular Society will once more complain to the European Commission. It is now quite likely the Government will be prosecuted in the European Court of Justice.”
Lady Butler-Sloss, one of Britain’s longest serving senior judges, told peers the Bill would restrict “the rights of religious groups to work with those of the same views and same religious convictions and it will, if passed, create the confusion it seeks to avoid.”
Labour peer Lord Davies added: “My support for my Government is second only to my Christian view.
“My view is that the standards and morals of the Christian church makes this country a much better place and I shall always oppose any measures that seek to marginalise the Christian Church.”
from The Telegraph UK
MOSCOW – Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov, known for his negative attitude toward sexual minorities, said Monday he will not allow gay parades in the Russian capital, calling them “satanic.”
“We have banned such parades and will ban them in future as well! Everyone must accept this not as a theorem but as an axiom,” Luzhkov said during Christmas educational readings in Moscow.
The city chief in the past has resisted pressure from rights campaigners to allow gay parades in Moscow.
In June 2009, during the Facing the City talk show on the TV-Center channel, Luzhkov used the word “homos” (gomiki, in Russian) when referring to members of the gay community. Gay activists said the word was offensive and sued the mayor over the incident, but a Moscow court rejected their claim.
An attempt to hold an unauthorized parade to coincide with Moscow’s hosting of the Eurovision Song Contest in May was swiftly dispersed by police, while a march in May 2007 saw participants attacked by members of radical groups. More than 30 people were briefly detained.
Activists have called the bans illegal and threatened to sue the authorities through the European Court of Human Rights if need be.
Luzhkov also said there was a “crisis of faith” in the world, which, he said, included the blessing of homosexual marriages, and “sexual aids” with “pictures, one glance at which insults the soul of even an adult” which are “lethal moral poison” for children.
“We cannot complacently watch numerous displays of blasphemy under the guise of creative work or freedom of speech,” the mayor said.
He said propaganda of same-sex relations was inadmissible and urged the fight against drug trafficking.
The mayor also said there could be no place for discussions of “human rights and universal values” in these cases, and urged harsh measures in the fight against immorality.
from RIA Novosti
RIVERSIDE, CALIFORNIA – After a parent complained about an elementary school student stumbling across “oral sex” in a classroom dictionary, Menifee Union School District officials decided to pull Merriam Webster’s 10th edition from all school shelves earlier this week.
School officials will review the dictionary to decide if it should be permanently banned because of the “sexually graphic” entry, said district spokeswoman Betti Cadmus. The dictionaries were initially purchased a few years ago for fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms districtwide, according to a memo to the superintendent.
“It’s just not age appropriate,” said Cadmus, adding that this is the first time a book has been removed from classrooms throughout the district.
“It’s hard to sit and read the dictionary, but we’ll be looking to find other things of a graphic nature,” Cadmus said. She explained that other dictionary entries defining human anatomy would probably not be cause for alarm.
Meanwhile, some parents are questioning the district’s response and some school board members are asking why officials did not consult with them.
“Censorship in the schools, really? Pretty soon the only dictionary in the school library will be the Bert and Ernie dictionary,” said Emanuel Chavez, the parent of second- and sixth-grade students. “If the kids are exposed to it, it’s up to the parents to explain it to them at their level.”
Board member Rita Peters questioned why one parent’s complaint would lead the district to pull the dictionaries.
“If we’re going to pull a book because it has something on oral sex, then every book in the library with that better be pulled,” she said. “The standard needs to be consistent … We don’t need parents setting policy.”
Peters said if the dictionary quarantine is setting a precedent, a committee should be formed to review all school books for age-appropriateness.
Board member Randy Freeman, an elementary school teacher and parent to four daughters in Menifee schools, said he supports the initial decision to ban the dictionary temporarily.
Freeman said it’s “a prestigious dictionary that’s used in the Riverside County spelling bee, but I also imagine there are words in there of concern.”
from The Press-Enterprise
As a candidate for president, Barack Obama told the country’s leading gay rights group, the Human Rights Campaign, “America is ready to get rid of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. All that is required is leadership.” Now he is about to decide whether he will make good on his promise to end what he called a “policy of discrimination.”
His decision will come soon because Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen are set to testify at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on the policy—the first of its kind since the law was enacted in 1993.
Most administration observers who follow this closely believe that the Pentagon has already signed off on supporting an end to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell once the White House decides the timing is right. But Messrs. Gates and Mullen have yet to say so publicly. Their upcoming testimony is the result of pressure from New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat, who last year called for legislation that would have placed a moratorium on gay military discharges.
Many question why the White House avoided dealing with Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell last year, when Democrats had big majorities in Congress and polls showed that a majority of Americans favor changing the policy. A Quinnipiac poll in April, for example, found that 56% of Americans support repealing the policy.
A big part of the reason why the White House hesitated is fear of a backlash similar to the one suffered by President Bill Clinton in 1993 when he tried to allow gays to serve openly in the military. Recently we saw the potential beginning of an antigay fear campaign—much like the one in 1993 when then Sen. Sam Nunn (D., Ga.) was leading the charge—in the form of a leaked memo from a legal adviser to Mr. Mullen. The legal adviser opined that “now is not the time” to lift the ban because of “the importance of winning the wars we are in.” Also, the New York Times reported recently that the Pentagon had begun considering “the practical implications of a repeal—for example, whether it would be necessary to change shower facilities and locker rooms because of privacy concerns.”
Fortunately, these scare tactics are for the most part relics of an older era. People understand that our military needs every talented American it can get, and that excluding gays from the military detracts from our ability to win wars.
Most people also understand that we are long past the point where our military personnel need to be reminded about appropriate behavior on duty, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. Men and women serve side by side today in combat, as do gay and straight service members, without incident.
If repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell becomes impossible in the shifting congressional dynamic this year (despite bipartisan support), the president has several options that would stop the discharge of gay American soldiers.
Current law does not require the services to discharge members based on sexual orientation per se. Rather, it looks to certain conduct to create a presumption for discharge. Thus, the Department of Defense has the authority to devise regulations that determine when such prohibited conduct has occurred. Defense could also interpret the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell statute more literally (as intended) and refuse to discharge a service member unless he willfully discloses that he is gay, which almost never happens. Finally, Defense could invoke current regulations to retain gay service members in the interest of national security. All are good options.
What is especially troubling, however, is Mr. Obama’s oversensitivity to a dwindling minority of bigots on this issue. Hundreds of military careers have been destroyed on his watch for no valid reason. The country has been deprived of the talents of these service members and has wasted millions of dollars on their training.
Many wonder when their president will show the same kind of concern for the constitutional rights of gay American service members as he has for enemy combatants held at Guantanamo Bay. Many wonder what the administration’s willingness to treat gay Americans as second-class citizens says to Uganda and other countries that are considering laws that would subject gays to imprisonment and even death.
Gay Americans have been among the president’s most ardent supporters. Their enthusiasm, and that of their families and friends, could be crucial in this year’s elections. The president’s action—or inaction—on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell will be noticed.
An increasingly frustrated bloc of gay voters—angry over marriage setbacks in California, Maine, New Jersey and New York and emboldened by Ted Olson’s and David Boies’s high-profile effort to declare unconstitutional laws that prohibit gay marriage—are growing impatient for equality. As Mr. Olson said in federal district court in San Francisco recently, discriminatory laws serve only to “label gay and lesbian persons as different, inferior, unequal and disfavored.”
from The Wall Street Journal / Richard Socarides