Archive for February 16th, 2012
TENNESSEE – A bill to restrict teaching about homosexuality before high school cleared its first hurdle in the state House of Representatives, setting the stage for a second year of debate on the appropriate way to handle discussion about gays and lesbians with schoolchildren.
The House Education subcommittee approved the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill on a voice vote Wednesday, renewing a debate that roiled the legislature last spring over whether elementary and middle schools should be allowed to initiate discussions about homosexuality.
The panel accepted the version of the bill that passed the state Senate late in last year’s session.
Opponents say it will not curb talk about homosexuality among grade school kids but will send the signal that it should be stigmatized. But several lawmakers argued that it would protect parents’ right to educate their children about their beliefs on their own terms.
“The basic right as an American is my right to life, my right to liberty and my right to the pursuit of happiness,” said state Rep. John DeBerry, D-Memphis, arguing to keep the subject of homosexuality out of elementary school classrooms. “Within that includes being able to run my home, raise my children as I see fit and to indoctrinate them as I see fit.”
The vote sent the measure to the House Education Committee, which could take the measure up as soon as next week. The vote also kept the bill on a path to be voted on by the full House before the legislature adjourns in the spring.
The measure, labeled “Don’t Say Gay” by its opponents, has proved to be one of the most emotionally charged bills to go before the Tennessee legislature in recent years. Gay and lesbian groups have led opposition to the bill, but many Nashville high school students — particularly those involved in gay/straight alliance organizations at Hume-Fogg, Martin Luther King and University School of Nashville — have turned out as well.
Several dozen students, many of them wearing purple T-shirts, lined the rows of seating in the hearing room Wednesday to show their disagreement with the measure. Their numbers led the subcommittee to relocate the hearing to a larger room.
“To me, they’re sending a message that in society gay people aren’t really equal,” said Thomas Kibby, a Hume-Fogg student. “This law would be kind of moving backwards.”
Lawmakers discussed the measure for about half an hour Wednesday. The bill’s original sponsor, state Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, opened up by adding an amendment that lined up the House version with the version that passed the Senate last year. He said the new wording should dispel “hysteria” that has surrounded the issue.
“What this amendment does is keep us in line with current curriculum,” he said. “This bill, if amended, does not prohibit the use of the word ‘gay,’ it does not change the anti-bullying statute, and it does not prohibit a school guidance counselor from discussing the issues of sexuality with a student.”
But the Rev. Thomas Kleinert, pastor of Vine Street Christian Church in Nashville, said the bill would discourage discussions about a subject that children hear about constantly.
“Our children have to deal with that complexity long before they’ve reached sufficient maturity,” he said. “Silence in the classroom only adds to the cloak of pain and shame, whereas open, age-appropriate conversation may give them a chance and the courage to talk to an adult they trust.”
The only member of the subcommittee to speak against the measure was House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley.
“I really don’t know the purpose in bringing this legislation again,” he said. “It looks to me to be a solution looking for a problem.”
Supporters alluded to the emotion of the issue, but they said the principle at stake was ensuring that children receive appropriate instruction in a publicly funded setting.
“We put ‘phobia’ on the end of words, and then we automatically demonize someone who has an opposing view,” DeBerry said. “What this bill does is it says everybody has the right to train their children.”
from The Tennessean
MONROVIA, LIBERIA – Former Liberian first lady Jewel Howard Taylor has introduced a bill for homosexuality to be made a first degree felony, amid a raging debate over gay rights in the country, a lawmaker said Wednesday.
The bill submitted by former president Charles Taylor’s ex-wife, now a senator, also seeks to amend laws to prohibit gay marriage.
“No two persons of the same sex shall have sexual relations. A violation of this prohibition will be considered a first degree felony,” reads the proposed amendment.
Sodomy is already a criminal offence in the west African country.
George Tengbeh, a senator supporting the bill, said he hoped it would put an end to months of acrimonious public debate on gay rights.
It aims “to prevent the parliament from talking about such an issue that is against our tradition and culture,” he told AFP.
The issue has been in the headlines this year as a group of activists in the country began lobbying for a bill legalising same-sex marriage.
This created a furore in the country whose President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is a Nobel Peace Prize winner.
The information ministry released a statement on January 26
saying: “The Liberian government will not allow the legalisation of gay and lesbian activities in Liberia. The president has vowed not to allow such a bill, and even if the bill goes before the president she will veto it.”
Gay rights in Africa have been in the spotlight since the United States and Britain have threatened to condition aid on enhanced rights for homosexuals.
“The first time we heard about it was at the AU (African Union) summit when the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, appealed to African leaders to endorse gay rights,” Tengbeh said.
“We came up to say that it’s not suitable for us because our tradition does not allow such things to happen,” he said.
from Independent Online
PARIS, FRANCE – President Nicolas Sarkozy’s party said Wednesday it is kicking out a legislator who said gay people hold too much sway in France and downplayed the persecution of gays during World War II.
The comments by lawmaker Christian Vanneste unleashed an outpouring of criticism from left and right, and embarrassed Sarkozy’s conservative party just as the unpopular president announced that he will seek a second term in upcoming elections.
Vanneste looks set to lose his spot in the UMP party and his parliament seat over the remarks.
In a video broadcast on a French website, Vanneste said gays are “at the heart of power” in France, manipulating the media and making humankind “lose its dignity.”
He said the media overplays “the famous legend of the deportation of homosexuals” from Nazi-occupied France, saying German gays were sent to concentration camps, but “there was no homosexual deportation in France.”
Gay rights groups denounced him and UMP members said he had crossed a line. Vanneste, responding Wednesday to the uproar, said he was being unfairly targeted by a “gay lobby.”
UMP chief Jean-Francois Cope said Wednesday that Vanneste would be expelled because of his “deeply shocking and intolerable comments.”
The party will finalize the decision at a meeting next week, Cope said. Vanneste could no longer be the UMP’s candidate for parliament from his district in northern France in legislative elections in June.
Vanneste has made remarks seen as disparaging to gays in the past, but touched a particularly sensitive chord by referring to World War II.
It was 1995 before France’s then-President Jacques Chirac acknowledged the nation’s responsibility for the deportation of Jews during the war. Denying the Holocaust is a crime punishable by prison and fines in France, and some critics accused Vanneste of negationism.
Nazi Germany declared homosexuality an aberration that threatened the German race, and thousands of gay men were sent to concentration camps, where few survived.
In France the numbers were much lower, according to the author of a book on deportation of French homosexuals. Mickael Bertrand says on his blog that exact figures are hard to pin down, but that his research found 62 French people were deported for being gay.
Wednesday’s uproar puts Sarkozy’s party in a tough spot as he seeks to garner support from the far right to bolster his weak chances for his presidential campaign.
Sarkozy condemned the remarks on national television Wednesday night, saying he is “horrified by anything that from near or far could appear to be homophobia.”
Sarkozy opposes gay marriage, though recent polls suggest a majority of French voters support it. Vanneste is part of the influential hard-right wing of Sarkozy’s party.
Polls put Sarkozy in a distant second behind Socialist candidate Francois Hollande ahead of the April and May elections, with far right candidate Marine Le Pen in a close third.
from Fox News
HOUSTON, TEXAS – Twitter has changed the way we view and interact with public figures. It’s a glimpse into their private lives and inner thoughts.
And, as we’ve recently seen, that’s not always such a good thing.
On Sunday, while watching the Grammy Awards, Houston Aeros hockey player Dave McIntyre tweeted his appreciation of the Foo Fighters’ performance with David Guetta, Lil Wayne, Chris Brown and Deadmau5. Teammate Justin Fontaine responded, “I disagree, the Foo Faggots were awful. #TerribleShow #BadTaste #6205.”
Sure, the band’s performance could have come off as slightly less contrived — but it goes without saying that a homosexual slur is never, ever an appropriate insult. Didn’t Fontaine learn that in elementary school?
Though Fontaine quickly deleted the opinion, it remains online in a retweet by fellow player Jon DiSalvatore.
The Minnesota Wild (the minor league Aeros’ National Hockey League parent club) reacted quickly, thanks in part to the NHL’s recently-instituted social media policy which holds players accountable for social media communications.
“Minnesota Sports and Entertainment (MSE) apologizes for the offensive slur that was posted by Justin Fontaine on Twitter last night. Fontaine has been suspended from playing in the next two games for the Houston Aeros,” the Wild announced in a statement.
Fontaine, an Aeros rookie who is second on the team in scoring, returned to social media to ask forgiveness . . . In 140 characters or less.
“My apologies to everyone, it was wrong. Twitter rookie and it came out totally wrong. It was a roommate battle, nothing more. #sorry,” tweeted Fontaine. He later tweeted, “I still feel awful about it and want to apologize to everyone again. Its a word ill [sic] never use again.”
But beyond the ignorance and immaturity that the use of “faggot”and reuse on the retweet implies, does it speak to a greater homophobia in a sport that’s still plagued by high-profile racism incidents? As noted in a play-by-play of the online incident on HockeyWilderness.com, DiSalvatore — the retweeter — is the Aeros’ team captain.
from Culture Map