More gay men reported being cancer survivors than straight men in a new study from California.
That suggests they may need targeted interventions to prevent cancer, the researchers said, but more studies are needed to answer lingering questions. For example, are gay men more likely to be diagnosed with cancer than straight men? Or, are they just more likely to survive if they do get cancer?
“A lack of hard data” on how sexual orientation affects the risk of cancer is “one of the biggest problems we have,” said Liz Margolies, executive director of The National LGBT Cancer Network. Margolies, who was not involved in the research, told Reuters Health, “It’s critical that we know that for funding and for program planning.”
As a step toward addressing the lack of data, researchers looked at three years of responses to the California Health Interview survey, which included more than 120,000 adults living in the state.
Among other health-related questions, participants were asked if they had ever been diagnosed with cancer and whether they identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or straight.
The findings are published in the journal Cancer.
Out of 51,000 men, about 3,700 said they had been diagnosed with cancer as an adult. While just over 8 percent of gay men reported a history of cancer, that figure was only 5 percent in straight men. The disparity could not be attributed to differences in race, age, or income between gay and straight men.
About 7,300 out of 71,000 women in the study had been diagnosed with cancer, but overall cancer rates did not differ among lesbian, bisexual, and straight women.
However, among women who were cancer survivors, lesbian and bisexual women were more likely to report fair or poor health than straight women.
Ulrike Boehmer, the study’s lead author from the Boston University School of Public Health, said higher rates of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) may be related to the increased risk of cancer in gay men, but the study couldn’t address that question specifically.
Margolies thinks there is more going on. “Gay men as a group have a bunch of risk factors for cancer,” she said.
For instance, gay men and lesbian women are more likely to smoke and abuse alcohol than straight men and women. They’re also more likely to avoid going to see their doctor for routine physicals or cancer screening, Margolies added – since healthcare providers may not all be tolerant and accepting of their identity.
“I don’t think that we’re going to get people to have early screening or see doctors except in emergencies … until they can be guaranteed a safe and welcoming experience” at the doctor’s office, she said.
Margolies said that while the new findings are “very important,” she cautions about generalizing them too far beyond this individual study. Partially that’s because she suspects lesbian women may also have an increased risk of cancer compared to straight women, because they have some of the same risk factors as gay men.
But Margolies and Boehmer agree that there is still an important message to take away from the findings: gay, lesbian and bisexual people need more attention from the healthcare community, specifically when it comes to their cancer risks.
“Because more gay men report as cancer survivors, we need foremost programs for gay men that focus on primary cancer prevention and early cancer detection,” Boehmer told Reuters Health in an email.
And, “Because more lesbian and bisexual women than heterosexual women with cancer report that they are in poor health, we need foremost programs and services that improve the well-being of lesbian and bisexual cancer survivors,” she added.
“Health care facilities and social service agencies — any organization that addresses the needs of cancer survivors — must understand the extra challenges that lesbian and bisexual cancer survivors and gay men have,” Margolies concluded.
Archive for May, 2011
More gay men reported being cancer survivors than straight men in a new study from California.
President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign is banking on gay donors to make up the cash it’s losing from other groups of wealthy supporters who have been alienated and disappointed by elements of Obama’s first term.
Pleased by an all-out White House push to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” gay donors have surprised campaign officials with the extent of their support. And the campaign’s new fundraising apparatus appears designed to capitalize on their enthusiasm: Obama’s finance committee included one gay man in 2008; there are 15 this year, a source said.
The Obama campaign finance director, Rufus Gifford, was a top California gay fundraiser; the DNC finance chairman, Andrew Tobias, is gay; and the White House social secretary – traditionally a key, if unofficial, fundraising job – is also a gay man, Jeremy Bernard.
The spur for the gay community becoming an anchor for Obama’s re-election fundraising is a series of policy shifts in 2010. After a year of rocky relations and suspicion from Obama’s gay supporters that he wasn’t really committed to their issues, the last year saw a surge in activity. Along with the high-profile repeal of the military ban, Obama’s Justice Department recently refused to defend the Defense of Marriage Act. And the administration has taken smaller steps, like gay partner hospital visits and hate crimes legislation, concrete and important gestures that simply weren’t made during the Bush administration.
“It’s ironic – a year ago there was no constituency more unhappy. There was a sea change,” said David Mixner, a veteran New York gay activist, who said that White House actions during the past year had swayed restive gay donors. “You not only will see a united community that will contribute to Obama, but they will work their asses off.”
Professional gay men, with a personal stake in politics and less likely to have children or college funds that would consume their disposable income, have long been key to Democratic fundraising. A rarely-told story of Howard Dean’s 2004 rise, for instance, was his early, blockbuster fundraising from gay donors who appreciated his support for civil unions, then a cutting-edge policy.
Gay support is particularly key this year to Obama, whose 2008 campaign raised huge sums from the very rich, just as it did from smaller donors. Now, key categories of supporters have grown leery. The left-leaning super-rich, including George Soros, see Obama as hopelessly compromised, and have lost their enthusiasm for him. Some Wall Street and hedge fund executives, tired of being criticized and regulated, have switched sides. Some pro-Israel Jewish donors, a mainstay of Bill Clinton’s fundraising, dislike Obama’s pressure on Benjamin Netanyahu. And rich men on both coasts whom Clinton had accustomed to personal flattery, personal visits, and late-night bull sessions have received no such personal attention from the more solitary Obama.
Gay donors, though, have only intensified their support and are expected to participate in unprecedented numbers in a “LGBT Gala” DNC fundraiser scheduled for June 23 in New York.
“He’s coming back up in the estimation of the gay community pretty rapidly, and I think justifiably,” said Ethan Geto, a New York lobbyist and key figure in Dean’s gay fundraising, who said many gay supporters had hoped “don’t ask” would be repealed during the president’s first year in office. “When things didn’t happen in [that] time frame and on the track that Obama had held out hope for, people got very disillusioned,” said Geto. “This was the time to strike.”
Others said that Republican candidates’ shots at gay rights in their attempt to appeal to socially conservative Iowa voters had reminded gay donors of the stakes. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum this week said gays and lesbians shouldn’t have the “privilege” of adopting children, while former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty suggested he would block the repeal of the ban on gays in the military, and Donald Trump compared same-sex marriage to faddish golf gear.
“Our community has tasted change, and it’s hard to conceive of going backward,” said Fred Sainz, the vice president for communications for the Human Rights Campaign, the largest gay rights group. “It’s hard to conceive of that coming to a screeching halt or reversing — and so it’s a subject of great energy for members of my community and especially those with great resources.”
“Any reservations that a significant number of donors might sit this out have been answered by Donald Trump and the fools in the Republican Party,” said Mixner. “They have become so vehemently anti-gay.”
The support for Obama among gay rights activists isn’t complete. The last two years has seen a nascent, noisy pro-gay conservative scene emerge, funded in part by the gay tech investor and libertarian Peter Thiel. Gay Obama critics on both ends of the spectrum note the president has yet to return to the support for same-sex marriage he advertised as a local politician in Chicago in the 1990s, and some donors have turned their focus to state-level marriage fights.
But people involved in campaign fundraising said that key donors in New York and Colorado who have in recent years turned away from national politics in favor of local issues had returned to the Obama campaign in recent months.
“There’s much more receptivity and openness toward the president now,” said Jeff Soref, a prominent gay donor and activist who is among those funding state fights. “It stands to reason that the gay money will be committed to the president’s reelection.”
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Peter Vidmar resigned as chef de mission for the United States 2012 London Olympics team on Friday, saying he did not want controversy over his opposition to gay marriage to be a distraction to athletes.
“I have dedicated my life to the Olympic movement and the ideals of excellence, friendship and respect,” said Vidmar in a statement released by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC).
“I wish that my personal religious beliefs would not have become a distraction from the amazing things that are happening in the Olympic movement in the United States.
“I simply cannot have my presence become a detriment to the U.S. Olympic family. I hope that by stepping aside, the athletes and their stories will rightly take center stage.”
A double gold medalist at the 1984 Summer Olympics and a devout Mormon, Vidmar has publicly opposed same sex marriage. The Mormon church considers pre-marital sex and same-sex marriage immoral.
The USOC did not immediately name a replacement.
“Peter is respected the world over for his dedication and commitment to the Olympic movement and is rightly considered one of America’s great Olympic champions,” said USOC CEO Scott Blackmun.
“I believe Peter would have served our athletes well but given the nature of this issue, I certainly respect his decision to resign.
“As we look toward London 2012 and the selection of Peter’s replacement, we’ll do so with the sole intent of showcasing America’s best and brightest stars and the inspirational story that each member of our Olympic team has to share.”
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The deafening chants roared from the packed bleachers each time the volleyball player stood and focused on his serve: “Bicha! Bicha!”
Michael dos Santos bounced the ball, sent it soaring and over the net. In one voice, the crowd called out again the homophobic slur: “Bicha! Bicha!”
Santos didn’t flinch, despite the constant chanting of the Brazilian slang word for “faggot” during the playoff match in Brazil’s widely popular professional volleyball league.
Four days after the game in early April between Santos’ team, Volei Futuro, and Sada Cruzeiro, the player took the rare step among sports figures anywhere and declared on the GloboEsporte website: “I am gay. Everyone here knows it.”
That announcement stoked a national debate over homophobia in Brazil.
On Thursday, Brazil’s top court ruled that same-sex civil unions must be recognized. The nation has its first openly gay congressman. Even one of its beloved soap operas will feature its first televised gay kiss this month.
While Rio de Janeiro is routinely ranked as a top destination for gay tourists, watchdog groups say violence against gays is on the rise in Brazil, and the casual homophobia thrown in the face of Santos is an endemic problem, especially in sports and not only in Brazil.
Such controversies will resonate more widely now that Brazil is hosting both the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, bringing new scrutiny of its society.
Santos’ team stood with him, asking the Brazilian Confederation of Volleyball for sanctions against Sada Cruzeiro, possibly a fine, loss of points in the championship or immediate expulsion from the league.
Few high-profile athletes anywhere have acknowledged they are gay, and most of those are women, such as Martina Navratilova in tennis, Sheryl Swoopes in the WNBA and Rosie Jones of the LPGA.
In Europe, where gay marriage is legal in seven countries, there are only two active big-name male athletes who have come out: Gareth Thomas, the former Wales rugby captain, and English cricket player Steve Davies.
There has yet to be an openly gay player in Major League Baseball, the NBA or NFL, and only a few have spoken publicly about their sexuality after retiring.
Santos, 27, said he felt threatened by the insults, which were heard around the country because the match was televised. Despite his stoic behavior during the match, Santos said the chants affected his play. Volei Futuro lost, 3-2.
“It really hurt me, and I think it should be discussed publicly so that it doesn’t happen anymore with anyone else,” Santos said in a statement after the match.
Both teams and Santos declined interviews with The Associated Press, saying they had released statements containing all they wanted to disclose. But sports fans, TV commentators and bloggers across Brazil discussed the issue for weeks as the two teams faced off two more times in the semifinals.
Santos and his team also became part of a larger struggle by Brazilian gays for respect.
Brazil’s first openly gay congressman, Jean Wyllys de Matos Santos, took office this year, making gay rights part of his platform. A popular prime-time soap opera broke stereotypes by including several gay characters and producers of another plan this month to air the genre’s first gay kiss, between women.
Last year, 60,000 same-sex couples in Brazil identified themselves to the national census in results released last week. Thursday’s ruling by the Supreme Court on civil unions gives gays the same rights as heterosexual couples when it comes to alimony, retirement benefits of a partner who dies and inheritances, among other issues.
Activist groups are encouraging people to come out. Thousands have responded to an online campaign asking Brazilians, including the congressman, to submit photos of themselves holding a sign saying, in Portuguese, “I am gay.”
“Brazil is living a crucial moment, a moment of conflict,” Congressman Santos said. “There is a reframing of the debate.”
Most Brazilian state capitals now have gay pride parades. Same-sex couples can file their taxes jointly. But there has also been a backlash.
The civil rights group Grupo Gay da Bahia, which has been keeping a record of attacks against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people for more than 30 years, said 260 were murdered in 2010, up 113 percent from five years ago.
On April 5, the body of 16-year-old Adriele Camacho de Almeida was found in a marshy area in the state of Goias. The father and brother of her teenage girlfriend were arrested in connection to her death.
Ten days later, security cameras captured the beating death of Daniel Oliveira Felipe, 24, in the northeastern state of Paraiba. He was a transvestite, a category particularly targeted by violence; 110 were killed last year, said Luiz Mott, the founder of Grupo Gay da Bahia.
“The greater visibility is provoking greater aggression,” Mott said. Congressman Santos reported receiving threats of violence or death almost weekly.
At the volleyball tournament, Volei Futuro’s effort to have Sada Cruzeiro reprimanded for its fans’ behavior saw mixed results.
In the following game, Volei Futuro fans turned out with pink thundersticks bearing player Santos’ name. The mayor of the small town of Contagem, where the game was held, hung up a banner denouncing homophobia, and even the maintenance crew wore rainbow-colored T-shirts with messages of support.
Many Sada Cruzeiro fans carried banners apologizing for the insults. When Santos went up for a serve, opposing fans booed him as they would any other player, but without reference to his sexual orientation.
Team officials for Sada Cruzeiro denounced discrimination in a press release, but they also called Volei Futuro “sore losers” and described the game as a “beautiful celebration, where enthusiastic fans celebrated and helped their team.”
“The fans express themselves, not always appropriately, but moved by the customs of the society in which they live,” Sada Cruzeiro said in its statement. The team eventually reached the finals, and lost.
Brazil’s media and on blogs overwhelmingly lauded Santos’ decision to go public with his sexuality to combat homophobia in sports, although there was no shortage of derogatory comments from mostly anonymous posts in online news sites and elsewhere.
A sports tribunal decided April 13 to fine Sada Cruzeiro $32,000. While that team is appealing, Volei Futuro said it was too small a price for using discrimination to unsettle an opponent.
“Now it has a price. You can pay and discriminate, pay and reach your objectives,” the team said in a news release. “It’s just a matter of money.”
from The Associated Press
An immigration judge in Newark on Friday suspended the deportation of a Venezuelan man who is married to an American man, responding to an unusual signal this week from the Obama administration that it is exploring legal avenues for recognizing same-sex marriages in immigration cases.
The Venezuelan, Henry Velandia, had been awaiting the hearing with dread, since immigration authorities had said it was the last step before his deportation. Mr. Velandia, a dancer, was legally married last year in Connecticut to Josh Vandiver, a graduate student at Princeton. Mr. Velandia was denied legal residency as Mr. Vandiver’s spouse because under a federal law, the Defense of Marriage Act, immigration authorities do not recognize same-sex marriage.
On Thursday, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. intervened in a different immigration case involving a same-sex couple, suspending the deportation of a man from Ireland and sending his case back to the immigration appeals court, asking it to consider several possible grounds on which the Irishman might qualify for legal residency.
Citing the move by the attorney general, Judge Alberto J. Riefkohl of immigration court in Newark postponed Mr. Velandia’s deportation until December at the earliest. The judge said he wanted to allow time for the attorney general and the appeals court to work out whether a gay partner might be eligible under some circumstances for residency.
Gay rights advocates said the back-to-back developments were an important sign that the Obama administration was working to bring consistency to its policy on same-sex marriage. The administration determined in February that the Defense of Marriage Act discriminates unconstitutionally against gay people.
Mr. Holder said then that the administration would no longer defend the act, also known as DOMA, in the courts, but would continue to enforce it until the courts reached a decision on whether it was constitutional.
Rachel B. Tiven, the executive director of Immigration Equality, a legal group that advocates for gay immigrants, said the change of course in the two cases had sent “a signal of openness” from the administration.
“Something is shifting and opening, and change is on the horizon,” Ms. Tiven said.
Supporters of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage for the purposes of federal law as between a man and a woman, reacted strongly to Mr. Holder’s action.
Representative Lamar Smith of Texas, the Republican who is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the attorney general had “instructed an immigration court to ignore DOMA in future rulings.”
Mr. Smith said the administration was “coming dangerously close to giving the impression they don’t care what the law says.”
In Newark, Mr. Velandia and Mr. Vandiver were mainly relieved that they had avoided separation. “We know this is just a reprieve,” Mr. Vandiver said. “But every day we can have together is invaluable.”
Mr. Velandia, 27, is a salsa dancer who came to the United States in 2002 and failed in his effort to gain an employment visa. He has become a poster case for gay immigrants across the country, as he and Mr. Vandiver, 29, gathered thousands of signatures on an online petition asking Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security, to suspend deportations for all same-sex spouses.
Before the hearing, dozens of gay protesters demonstrated on the sidewalk in front of the federal building in Newark where the immigration court is housed.
Judge Riefkohl noted in the hearing that Mr. Velandia and Mr. Vandiver were a married couple, and he said he wanted to wait for the outcome of the immigration appeals court’s reconsideration of the case of the Irish immigrant.
“We won the victory we were looking for,” said Lavi Soloway, the lawyer for Mr. Velandia and Mr. Vandiver. “The government acknowledged that Henry’s removal was no longer a foregone conclusion.”
The Irishman, Paul Wilson Dorman, came to the United States in 1996 and stayed beyond the term of his visa. But in a potentially important wrinkle, Mr. Dorman joined with an American citizen in June 2009 in a civil union — not a marriage — in New Jersey. That state does not offer same-sex marriage.
His lawyer, Nicholas J. Mundy, said the courts had denied his partner’s petition for a permanent resident visa for Mr. Dorman. But Mr. Holder asked the immigration appeals court to re-examine the case to determine whether Mr. Dorman might qualify for the visa by virtue of his civil union.
Mr. Mundy said he was optimistic about the significance for gay immigrants of Mr. Holder’s action. “It is an extraordinary measure,” he said, “and it sends a clear message that the Obama administration intends to do away with DOMA in its entirety.”
Ms. Tiven, of Immigration Equality, was more cautious. “This is not yet the solution that thousands of families clearly need,” she said.
from The New York Times
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL – Brazil’s high court ruled that same-sex civil unions must be recognized, a decision welcomed as a watershed by gay activists who also hope it will cool rising violence against homosexuals in Latin America’s most populous nation.
The ruling, however, stopped short of legalizing gay marriage in Brazil, which has more Roman Catholics than any other country. The Catholic Church fought the measure.
In a vote late Thursday, all but one of the 11 Supreme Court justices backed civil union rights for same-sex couple. One justice abstained.
The court ruled that gay couples deserve the same legal rights as heterosexual pairs when it comes to alimony, retirement benefits of a partner who dies and inheritances, among other issues.
In Latin America, gay marriage is legal only in Argentina and Mexico City.
Same-sex civil unions granting some rights to homosexual couples are legal in Uruguay and in some states of Mexico outside the capital. Colombia’s Constitutional Court has granted same-sex couples inheritance rights and allowed them to add their partners to health insurance plans.
Brazil’s ruling sets a judicial precedent that must be honored by all public institutions, including notary publics where civil unions must be registered.
“This is a historic moment for all Brazilians, not just homosexuals. This judgment will change everything for us in society – and for the better,” said Marcelo Cerqueira with the gay rights group Grupo Gay da Bahia. “Gays, lesbians and transsexuals will be recognized as being more human. We’ll be more accepted by having our rights honored.”
Grupo Gay da Bahia said in a recent report that 260 gays were murdered in 2010 in Brazil, up 113 percent from five years ago, including recent high-profile cases that made headlines.
On April 5, the body of 16-year-old girl was found in a remote area of Brazil’s Goias state. The father and brother of her teenage girlfriend were arrested. Less than two weeks later, security cameras captured the beating death of a 24-year-old transvestite in northeastern Paraiba state.
Gay activist Cerqueira said he hoped the ruling would be the start of an end to such violence.
“This ruling will help. The violence comes about because of impunity for those who commit it,” Cerqueira said. “When a country judges a case like this in favor of us, it will have an impact across the judicial and law enforcement sectors.”
The request for the Supreme Court to recognize civil unions came two years ago from the Brazilian attorney general’s office, largely because legislation that would give same-sex couples the rights enjoyed by married heterosexual couples has been stalled in Congress for more than a decade.
Brazil’s constitution defines a “family entity” as “a stable union between a man and a woman.” But the attorney general’s office argued the clause is only a definition and not a limitation, and thus the charter does not say a stable union can “only” be between a man and a woman.
The attorney general also argued that the constitution does not specifically forbid a civil union between people of the same sex – and that failing to recognize same-sex unions violates the charter’s defenses of human dignity and equality.
A lawyer representing Brazil’s National Conference of Brazilian Bishops, Jose Sarubbi de Oliveira, argued to the court that the constitution recognizes only a legal partnership between a man and a woman and that the justices would be wrongly interpreting the document to rule otherwise.
Oliveira said the document’s lack of an explicit statement that a family partnership is limited to those between a man and a woman did not mean that “every type of union has to be considered.”
Ralph Lichota, a lawyer representing religious groups, told the court the legal recognition of same-sex couples should be left in the hands citizens.
“Power emanates from the people, and the Brazilian people are Christian,” he said. “God created marriage when he created Adam and Eve. Just like the Brazilian people aren’t ready to legalize marijuana, like they’re aren’t prepared to have abortion, we’re not ready for homosexual marriage.”
Luis Roberto Barroso, a law professor at Rio de Janeiro State University, argued in a friend-of-the-court appearance before the justices that allowing same-sex civil unions would mean “overcoming historical discrimination.”
“The implications of a homosexual relationship are the same as those of a heterosexual one. To not recognize that is to say that the affection they (gays) have has less value and can be disrespected,” said Barroso.
from The Associated Press
Blake Shelton stuck his boot in his mouth, but now The Voice coach is apologizing.
It all started when Shelton, 34, Tweeted on Tuesday his own version of a Shania Twain song: “Any man that tries touching my behind, he’s gonna be a beaten, bleedin,’ heaving kind of guy.”
Within hours, the country crooner, who is engaged to Miranda Lambert, was attacked by a slew of angry Tweeters, along with GLAAD, which wrote, “No, @BlakeShelton – violent, anti-gay statements are not what a woman wants. Apologize now. #LGBT #gay #thevoice @NBCTheVoice.”
Shelton later apologized on the social networking site for what he called a “misunderstanding with the whole re-write on the Shania song.”
“It honestly wasn’t even meant that way,” he wrote. “I now know that their (sic) are people out there waiting to jump at everything I say on here or anywhere. But when it comes to gay/lesbian rights or just feelings… I love everybody. So go look for a real villain and leave me out of it!!!”
Shelton later added, “@glaad hey I want my fans and @nbcthevoice fans to know that anti-gay and lesbian violence is unacceptable!!!!!”
GLAAD eventually forgave Shelton, posting a statement from the organization’s president on its Web site. “Following outrage from community members and allies, Blake Shelton took the right step in speaking out against anti-gay violence and sending an important message to his fans and viewers of The Voice.”
from People Magazine
GLAAD Targets ‘Voice’ Judge Blake Shelton For ‘Anti-Gay’ Tweet
In a play off its new Roaring ’20s theme, Resorts Casino Hotel opened a gay nightclub Thursday called Prohibition.
Resorts, Atlantic City’s oldest casino, is the first gaming hall in town to operate a nightclub catering to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, or LGBT, crowd.
“Atlantic City has plenty of world-class amenities, but no full-scale casino gay nightclub, and now Resorts will fill that void with Prohibition,” Joel Ballesteros, Resorts’ newly appointed director of LGBT marketing said in a statement.
With little fanfare or advance notice, the club threw open its doors at 6 p.m. Resorts issued a press release just minutes before the grand opening.
The nightclub’s name will fit in with Resorts’ rebranding into a Roaring ’20s theme under new ownership led by Chief Executive Officer Dennis Gomes and New York real estate magnate Morris Bailey. Gomes and Bailey, who bought Resorts in December for $31.5 million, hope to capitalize on the national publicity of the hit HBO series “Boardwalk Empire,” which is inspired by Prohibition-era Atlantic City.
Gomes has been trying to revitalize the aging casino by attracting a younger crowd, including the hiring of sexy cocktail servers who will parade around in skimpy costumes reminiscent of the outfits worn by 1920s flapper girls.
“Our whole philosophy here is to bring in all the different markets,” Gomes said in an interview. “If there’s a strategy, it’s that we embrace everybody in all market segments.”
Gaming analyst Cory H. Morowitz said a gay nightclub will help Resorts distinguish itself in the highly competitive casino industry. He also said the nightclub will cater to what has been an underserved part of the marketplace.
“The strategy to go after different or niche markets is the right strategy for a property like Resorts,” said Morowitz, chairman of Morowitz Gaming Advisors LLC. “I think that’s exactly the type of thing they should be doing. Atlantic City is a very competitive place and everybody is fighting after the same customers. If you can draw a market that is currently underserved and become known as a place where those markets are catered to, that’s a way to differentiate yourself.”
Morowitz doubted that a gay nightclub would create any backlash among Resorts’ traditional, older customer base. He noted that gay nightclubs have successfully operated for years in Atlantic City outside the casinos.
“I think as a society we have moved past that. I don’t see that as an issue, especially in the somewhat liberal Northeast,” Morowitz said. “I think it’s smart. It’s exciting. It creates something new for the property.”
Resorts hinted that it would open Atlantic City’s first gay casino nightclub when it hired Ballesteros in March. Ballesteros is the first casino executive in Atlantic City devoted solely to LGBT marketing.
“Resorts is going to be the place for fun, excitement and a one-of-a-kind energy that will attract people of all lifestyles, and now we have the amenities that can cater to everyone,” Ballesteros said.
Prohibition is located on the 13th floor of the Ocean Tower, where Club 1133 used to be. It will be open Thursday through Sunday from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. It will feature a lounge atmosphere during the early hours, then transition into a dance club later in the night. It is located on the same floor as Resorts’ screening room, which recently debuted “Believe, Divas in a Man’s World,” a female impersonator show that is also targeted to the LGBT crowd.
Keith Herbert, 46, of Galloway Township, sat at the bar Thursday evening for the opening night of Prohibition.
“I think it’s fantastic what Resorts is doing for the community. It’s beyond words,” said Herbert, who also added that it was about about time that a casino opened a nightclub catering to that market. “It’s phenomenal what Dennis (Gomes, chief executive officer of Resorts) has done. He opened his arms to the community.”
Herbert said he has lived in Galloway Township for the past eight years. During his time, the Ram’s Head Inn in Galloway Township started its “Out at the Inn” events on Monday nights for the gay crowd.
When Herbert first moved to Atlantic County, there were no bars catering to alternative lifestyles.
The Westside Bar & Lounge opened in Atlantic City a couple of years ago, but Herbert found Prohibition to be a classy alternative with great music to bring in the old and young.
“This is the first for a major resort. God bless them for taking that step. They are putting it out there,” said Herbert, who added he is from Washington D.C., and he went to gay bars there.
GiGi DiOrio, 50, of Philadelphia, is the mother of Joseph DiOrio, 28, one of the cocktail servers in Prohibition.
“It’s fabulous that they have some place to be open and free,” GiGi DiOrio said. “This is the beginning of a long relationship with Resorts. It’s the best thing to ever happen in Atlantic City for the gay community.”
On its opening night, people mingled before 9 p.m., and then left to attend “Believe, Divas in a Man’s World” with the expectation that they would return to the nightclub after the show ended.
The nightclub features three video screens over the bar showing music videos and two larger screens at its opposite end, which is the entrance. The 300-capacity nightclub has a dance floor with one palm tree placed at each edge.
Couches are against the walls of the club for people to sit down. The DJ played mixed music live from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m., after preprogrammed music from artists such as Michael Jackson and RuPaul was played during the club’s earlier lounge hours.
Joel Ballesteros, Resorts’ director of LGBT marketing, said it has been a long time coming to bring back gay nightlife to Atlantic City. The rainbow-colored LGBT flag flies outside of Resorts, and it can be seen as a person is driving up to the casino, Ballesteros said.
Atlantic City’s gaming industry has been catering more to the LGBT market in the past two years by staging a series of special events ranging from gay bingo nights at Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort to the “Out in Atlantic City” parties at the Caesars Entertainment Corp. casinos.
Gomes said Resorts is planning to hold a more elaborate grand opening ceremony for the nightclub during the Memorial Day weekend, the same time the casino is expected to complete its Roaring ’20s retheming.
from The Press Of Atlantic City
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – Religious groups in Australia are allowed to discriminate against people who are gay or transgender, prompting criticism from gay rights activists who find it galling that religious social service programs receive millions of dollars in government funding.
Such exemptions to anti-discrimination laws exist elsewhere, but other countries including Britain and the United States have narrowed their scope in recent years, limiting them to issues such as the appointment of church leaders.
In Australia, gays can be denied social services and employment from religious groups, including teaching jobs in their schools. Anglicare, a branch of the Anglican church, won’t allow gay parents to use its adoption services.
Anglicare Sydney received more than 55 million Australian dollars ($50 million) in government funding in 2010, and the Catholic Education Commission of New South Wales received AU$1.8 billion in 2009.
“States are providing large amounts of funding to services along with essentially a license to discriminate with the provision of those services, and it just seems very out of date and inappropriate,” said Alan Brotherton, a policy director for ACON, an organization promoting health issues for the gay community.
Some religious groups say they would scale back their social service programs if they were subject to the same rules as others operating in the public sphere.
“One of the freedoms we need to have is the freedom not to be forced to act against your conscience,” Robert Forsyth, the Anglican Bishop in Sydney, said.
The exemptions vary from state to state in Australia and are not uniformly applied by religious bodies, creating confusion and fear among gay and transgender people, activists said.
Anthony Venn-Brown, a former Pentecostal preacher who left the church after coming out as gay, said gay teachers often hide their homosexuality, but fear of being found out eventually forces many to leave.
“Teaching is a calling, it’s a vocation, it’s not just a job for many of these people, so for them to move out of that situation, it’s a huge decision to make,” said Venn-Brown, now a consultant to church groups on gay issues.
Anti-discrimination laws and religious exemptions in the United States differ by state, but faith-based groups cannot discriminate when receiving public funding, said Rose Saxe of the American Civil Liberties Union. She added that the emergence of more progressive churches in the U.S. may be helping to lessen discrimination there.
A 2000 European Union directive limits employment exemptions to ministerial roles or where it is justified by groups to maintain their religious ethos. The precise language of the exemptions leaves little room for them to be interpreted broadly or abused, said Colm O’Cinneide, a British legal expert.
In 2006, Britain made it illegal for religious groups to discriminate in the provision of services if they receive public funding – a step that activists in Australia say they would welcome here.
“The religious exemptions in Australia are probably some of the broadest that now exist,” said Wayne Morgan, a discrimination law expert at the Australian National University. “They were consistent with other countries’ laws 20 years ago, but in the meantime we’ve kept our laws the same whilst other countries have amended theirs.”
The exemptions originated through church lobbying efforts and may remain because of the power of the churches in Australia, he said.
n New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, the law provides an exemption for church leadership roles and anyone who may propagate religion within the organization, including school teachers. It further extends the exemption to any other act or practice by a religious body necessary to conform to church doctrine.
In Victoria state, the rules are even broader, allowing any person to claim an exemption “if the discrimination is necessary … to comply with the person’s genuine religious beliefs or principles.”
Former Victoria Attorney General Jan Wade said in a 1995 speech that the bill “aims to strike a balance between two very important and sometimes conflicting rights – the right to freedom of religion and the right to be free from discrimination.”
Not all faith-based groups use the exemptions. Rev. Harry Herbert, head of UnitingCare NSW, a health and social service branch of Australia’s Uniting Church, said his group wants employees to share its faith, but that sexual orientation doesn’t come into play when hiring staff.
“We simply don’t discriminate,” he said, adding that the church itself has gay ministers and leaders.
Peter Kell, the head of Anglicare, says the group would not turn someone away in need of health care because they are gay, but it wouldn’t place children with a gay couple.
Neil Foster, a Newcastle University expert on law and religion, said the Australian situation presents a dichotomy between human rights and religious rights. He considers both equally important rights.
But Morgan, the discrimination law expert, doesn’t think the religious freedom argument is valid when it comes to services that extend into the public sector.
“The churches, when they provide these services, they are not propagating their religion,” he said. “They are engaging in secular activities.”
from The Associated Press
In a surprising unanimous vote Wednesday, Palm Springs’ City Council adopted a resolution that proclaimed its support for same-sex marriage.
The resolution, passed 5-0 in the nearly packed council chambers, states the city supports the “right to full civil marriage equality for all residents of Palm Springs who wish to be married regardless of gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.”
The vote makes Palm Springs the only city in the Coachella Valley to take such a formal stance, according to Equality California, a statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy group.
“There are times when unity is extremely important, and this is one of those times,” said Councilman Chris Mills, who along Mayor Pro Tem Lee Weigel, were the only two who did not vote in support of drafting the resolution two weeks ago.
Once the votes were cast, Mayor Steve Pougnet, who made an emotional plea to his fellow council members to “do the right thing,” stood up to shake hands with Weigel and Mills as the crying audience came to a standing ovation.
“I just could not believe it,” said tearful resident Sherry Fulton, who embraced her partner of 20 years, Ruth Debra. “It means full recognition. It means acceptance. Living in an openly, accepting community is so important.”
The resolution doesn’t have legal standing, but Equality California and others like Fulton said what the council did is significant.
“If enough city councils stand with us, this can help to change California law, which will in turn work toward needed federal change in marriage laws,” said Paul D. Zak of the local branch of Equality California.
Zak and several other residents at the meeting — both straight and gay — said they weren’t sure how the council would go on the issue considering Weigel abstained and Mills voted against drafting the resolution on April 20.
But both councilmen explained their decisions were strictly based to their beliefs that the City Council should not deal with a state issue, not that they aren’t supporters of marriage equality.
“I really don’t like to legislate things that we really don’t have any type of jurisdiction on nor we can enforce,” Mills said.
“This is difficult for me but I must admit that I’m approaching things a little differently than when I walked in here and sat down,” Mills said.
The numerous emotional testimonies he heard Wednesday softened his views that the council should not get involved with “personal issues,” he said.
He said he deems individual rights more important.
“I strongly believe in those rights and I’m going to let that belief overpower my belief of what the role is of the City Council,” Mills said.
But the resolution didn’t pass without resistance.
Owen Mangan of Palm Springs, who wore a shirt that read: “Leviticus 20:13 Ever Read It?” referring to a chapter in the Bible he says states homosexuality is an abomination, said that the approved resolution will drive “even more families out” of the city.
“If you want this whole place to look like Arenas — the whole city — that’s what it’s going to be,” he said, referring to a block in downtown Palm Springs lined with gay-owned businesses. “But people aren’t going to come out here.”
Fellow resident Phyllis Burgess took a less religious stance and, while she said she, too, was touched by the testimonials of gay and straight marriage equality advocates, she remained unwavered in her opposition.
While she believes gays having “lasting relationships” is “good for society,” marriage is between a man and a woman, she said.
“Just don’t call it marriage,” she said, adding that a man cannot be a “wife.”
Still, same-sex marriage supporters argue that the word is vital to achieving equality.
Palm Springs resident Shelly Saunders, a straight mother of two, compared the issue to the plight of black Americans who fought segregation and the women who lead the suffrage movement.
“In years we will look at (this) and will be so proud we were a part of an important change in our community.”
from The Desert Sun
GLAAD is calling on country singer Blake Shelton, a judge on NBC’s The Voice, to apologize after a violent, anti-gay Tweet was sent from his Twitter account overnight.
Shelton apparently had been Tweeting about re-writing lyrics to the Shania Twain song, “Any Man of Mine”.
The original lyrics are: “Any man of mine better walk the line – Better show me a teasin’ squeezin’ pleasin’ kinda time.”
But on his Twitter page Shelton wrote: “Re-writing my fav Shania Twain song.. Any man that tries Touching my behind He’s gonna be a beaten, bleedin’, heaving kind of guy…”
GLADD says that for a judge on one of the most gay-friendly reality shows on television to make a joke to his 300-thousand-plus followers about leaving a gay man “beaten, bleeding and heaving” is completely unacceptable. The group adds, “One has to wonder how Shania feels about seeing her anthem about strong women and female empowerment turned into a violent threat.”
The group has already called the show’s producers asking them to demand that Shelton apologize for his remarks.
from The Hollywood Reporter
SOUTH AFRICA – A 24-year-old who was stabbed to death in South Africa is the victim of “corrective rape,” gay rights activists said Thursday, a crime where men attack lesbians in an attempt to reverse their sexual orientation.
Noxolo Nogwaza was attacked late last month after dropping off her girlfriend in Kwa-Thema township near Johannesburg.
She was raped, stabbed with broken glass several times and her face pummelled with rocks, Human Rights Watch said.
“A beer bottle, a large rock and used condoms were found on and near her body,” the rights group said.
Earlier this week, the nation’s Justice Ministry set up a task force to address hate crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender South Africans.
The task team was set up after activists worldwide signed an online petition demanding the South African government act to halt the attacks. The call to petition intensified after Nogwaza’s killing.
Police in Gauteng province, where the township is located, said they have not found any evidence of a hate crime and an investigation is under way.
But some gay rights activists disagree.
“Her attack is a case of corrective rape,” said gay rights activist Lydia Kunu. “Neighbors said they heard her attackers telling her, ‘We will take the lesbian out of you. ‘ They were mocking her and asking her why she acts like a man.”
Kunu is a community networking organizer for Ekurhuleni Pride Organizing Committee, where Nogwaza worked as well.
The death has sparked renewed calls for action as rights groups warn of escalated homophobic attacks.
“In these cases, killing is the end of the spectrum,” said Siphokazi Mthathi, the South Africa director for Human Rights Watch. “It follows a trail of other problems — rape, violence, problem accessing health care and violation by police.”
Mthathi said it is hard to get an overall number of the people subjected to violence because attacks go unreported over the distrust for the judicial system.
“There’s a great deal of under-representation because they are going to face secondary victimization,” she said. “We’ve heard of cases where when they report a rape, the police tell them, ‘aren’t you happy that you got a real man for a change.’”
The use of the term “corrective rape” started three years ago after the rape and murder of Eudy Simelane, a well-known soccer player who lived openly as a lesbian.
Nogwaza’s attack is similar to the soccer player’s in some ways: police say they were both raped and stabbed to death. And just like Nogwaza, Simelane’s body was dumped in a public place in the same township .
Two men were found guilty in the soccer star’s death and sentenced to prison terms, but the judges quashed any motions linking her attack to her sexual orientation.
“Nogwaza’s death is the latest in a long series of sadistic crimes against lesbians, gay men, and transgender people in South Africa,” said Dipika Nath, researcher in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights program at Human Rights Watch.
“Police and other South African officials fail to acknowledge that members of the LGBT community are raped, beaten and killed simply because of how they look or identify, and they are attacked by men who then walk freely, boasting of their exploits,” said Nath.
A police spokesman slammed the accusations, and said authorities are working to ensure safety for all.
“It is our responsibility to provide safety, and we take that job seriously,” said Col. Tshisikhawe Ndou, the provincial spokesman for Gauteng.
The spokesman said there have been no arrests in Nogwaza’s killing, but investigations are under way.
“We’re following some leads, and in this specific case, we’d like to ask anyone with information to contact the police,” he said. “They can even do so anonymously if they are scared.”
Outspoken gay rights activists have faced harassment and attacks in the nation, Human Rights Watch said.
Homosexuality is illegal in most African countries, based on rules left over from the British colonial era when sodomy laws were introduced.
However, the post-apartheid constitution bans prejudice against gays in South Africa, the first African nation to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Despite the law, attacks based on sexual orientation are still going on, rights groups said.
The new task force is scheduled to start working in July. It will address issues such as whether police and social workers should undergo sensitivity training, and whether rapists who target sexual minorities should get harsher sentences.
Mthathi said having the anti-prejudicial constitution in place is an indicator that the task force alone won’t resolve underlying problems.
“South Africa is a very misogynist and homophobic society,” she said. “We welcome the task team, but it won’t solve social problems. We need to address the culture of accountability in judicial and social institutions, we need to address the attitudes … disrupt the culture of impunity.”
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – California’s attorney general has again come out against the state’s same-sex marriage ban, this time telling the state Supreme Court the proponents of successful ballot initiatives do not have the right to defend their measures in court.
Kamala Harris, a Democrat who succeeded Gov. Jerry Brown in January as attorney general, submitted an amicus brief Monday in the ongoing legal dispute over the voter-approved ban known as Proposition 8.
In it, she argued that only public officials exercising the executive power of government have authority to represent the state when laws passed by voters or the Legislature are challenged.
“California law affords an initiative’s proponents no right to defend the validity of a successful initiative measure based only on their role in launching an initiative process,” Harris wrote.
The question of where the role of ballot measure backers ends is critical to the legal fight over California’s ban on same-sex marriages. Both Brown and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger refused to defend the 2008 constitutional amendment on appeal after a federal judge struck it down last summer as a violation of civil rights.
Proposition 8′s sponsors asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to allow them to step in, but the court punted the question to the California Supreme Court earlier this year, saying it was a matter of state law.
If the sponsors are not permitted to intervene, the lower court ruling overturning Proposition 8 will stand.
Lawyers for the coalition of religious and conservative groups that qualified the gay marriage measure for the ballot and campaigned for its passage have argued that initiative proponents need to be allowed to advocate for laws in court to prevent elected officials from effectively vetoing measures by not defending them in court.
Harris contended in her brief that rather than empowering citizens, granting the sponsors of initiatives the ability to overrule the governor and attorney general’s judgment “would rob the electors of power by taking the executive power from elected officials and placing it instead in the hands of a few highly motivated but politically unaccountable individuals.”
The California Supreme Court is expected to hold a hearing in the case before the end of the year.
Republican State Sen. Tom Harman of Orange County introduced a bill that would grant ballot measure sponsors the right to represent the state when elected officials refuse to defend enacted laws in court. The Senate Judiciary Committee defeated it on a 3-2 vote Tuesday.
from The Associated Press
Ugandan gay activist Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera has been given the prestigious Martin Ennals rights award.
The 10 organisations which make up the award jury said she was courageous and faced harassment because of her work.
Homosexual acts are illegal in Uganda, and can be punished by long jail terms.
In January, her colleague David Kato was murdered not long after suing a paper that outed them both as gay. Police denied the killing was because of his sexuality.
Three months before the murder, Uganda’s Rolling Stone newspaper published the photographs of several people it said were gay, including activist Mr Kato, with the headline “Hang them.”
The name of Ms Nabagesera, the founder of gay rights organisation Freedom and Roam Uganda, also appeared on the list.
The Geneva-based award jury said Ms Nabagesera had appeared on national television and issued press statements on behalf of Uganda’s gay community.
However, because of threats and harassment she now shifted “from house to house, afraid to stay long in the same place”, their statement said.
“[She is] an exceptional woman of a rare courage, fighting under death threat for human dignity and the rights of homosexuals and marginalised people in Africa,” jury chairman Hans Thoolen said.
In October 2009, an MP introduced a bill that proposed increasing the penalties in Uganda for homosexual acts from 14 years in prison to life.
It also proposed the death penalty for a new offence of “aggravated homosexuality” – defined as when one of the participants is a minor, HIV-positive, disabled or a “serial offender”.
The Anti-Homosexuality Bill is yet to be formally debated by the Ugandan parliament.
The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders is named after the late British lawyer who became the first head of the human rights organisation Amnesty International.
from The BBC