Paraguay Presidential Runner Criticizes Gays

Tobacco Magnate Not Gay-Friendly

Horacio Cartes, the front-runner in Paraguay’s presidential election on April 21, 2013, has not been “making nice” with gays in his country.  He likened gays to “monkeys” and the support of same-sex marriage to believing in “the end of the world.”

On the radio this month, Mr. Cartes, 57, a tad dramatic, said “he would shoot himself in the testicles, if his twenty-eight year-old son were to marry another man.”

Response from the Gay Community

This month, a Paraguayan gay rights group, Somos Gay, issued a statement calling Cartes’s comments on same-sex marriage “cruel” and pressing him to apologize publicly.  Said Sergio Lopez, a director of the group, “ The Colorado Party (of which Cartes is a member) claims to protect the Paraguayan family, claiming that if lesbians and gays become visible in our society, the traditional family will disappear.  But in fact, they are ignoring reality since that traditional family is no longer the norm.” Cartes has not issued an apology.

Cartes’s Opponent in Race

Senator Efrain Alegre of the Liberal Party is Cartes’s opponent for President.  They are both ideologically similar, conservative, with business-friendly proposals.  Yet, Mr. Alegre, who believes also that marriage should be between a man and a woman, said on April 16th that he is open to more debate on same-sex marriage.  He called Mr. Cartes’s statements on same-sex marriage reflective of  “the Paraguay of the past.”

Although Cartes was ahead in the polls, one recent poll suggests that the tide is shifting not only because of his stance on gay rights, but also his reputation of possible laundering money and profiting from the smuggling of contraband Paraguayan-made cigarettes into Brazil.  The Colorado Party was ruled for sixty years by Fernando Lugo, a former Roman Catholic bishop who was ousted last year.

Will Paraguay follow Uruguay and Argentina?

Legislators in Uruguay voted this month to legalize same-sex marriage.  Argentina had already voted to do so.  These recent developments in South America have impoverished Paraguay talking about gay marriage.

 

Colorado’s Rep. Jared Polis Reintroduces Bill to Protect LGBT Students

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Republican Rep. from Florida Is Co-Sponsor

Openly gay Rep. Jared Polis(D-Colo), former chair of the Colorado State Board of Education, plans to reintroduce the Student Non-Discrimination Act in the U.S. House.  This act would prohibit schools that receive public funding from discriminating against LGBT youth. Modeled after Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, SNDA established LGBT students as a protected class.  According to The Miami Herald, the bill has more than a hundred cosponsors.

Statistics Point to Need for Bipartisan Bill

This bill was also introduced by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) who said that “schools should be places where our kids can learn and thrive, and that are free from persecution and harassment.” Polis remarked that surveys have indicated that as many as 80% of LGBT students experience harassment in school because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

According to a Human Rights Campaign Family Project, sixty-four percent of LGBT teens, compared to forty-seven percent of non-LGBT teens never participate in afterschool activities for fear of bullying or discrimination.  LGBT youth are twice as likely as their non-LGBT peers to experience harassment or bullying in school. Said Ellen Kahn, director of the HRCFP, “while most of the bullying and exclusion is perpetuated by their peers, we also know that adults who work in the our schools – from bus drivers to teachers – engage in anti-LGBT behavior and discrimination as well.”

“The Single Most Important Step to Help LGBT Students” – Ian Thompson, ACLU leg. rep.

“There is no federal law that explicitly protects LGBT students from discrimination and harassment in our nation’s public schools,” said Ian Thompson, ACLU’s legislative representative. S. Inouye, a White House spokesperson, said President Obama supports the goals of SNDA.  “We look forward to working with Congress to insure that all students, including LGBT students, are safe and healthy and can learn in an environments free from discrimination, bullying and harassment.”

History of the Bill

Last year, the  SNDA bill died in the Senate after Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) who sponsored it  in the Senate, withdrew the measure as an amendment. The exact timing for Senate introduction of SNDA is unclear.  Franken is planning on introducing the bill in the upcoming weeks.

With a Republican majority controlling the House, it may be hard to get the bill passed, but if Congress takes up the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, it may pass.  SNDA would be part of the reauthorization.  Polis has also considered passage of the bill as a standalone bill through a markup process in the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

On the same day that Polis introduced SNDA, more than eighty-two advocacy organizations sent a letter to Congress members urging them to sign on to support of the legislation: “The Student Non-Discrimination Act presents us with a historic opportunity to offer critical protections to current and future generations of LGBT youth and their student allies by ensuring that discrimination against and harassment of students on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity will have no place in our country’s public elementary and secondary schools.”

Safe Schools Improvement Act

Another bill that would address anti-gay bullying is the Safe Schools Improvement Act, which would require schools and districts receiving federal funds to adopt codes of conduct against bullying, including on basis of LGBT actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity  status. The Act requires reporting bullying data to the Department of Education.  Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Ca.) in the House and Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.) in the Senate are sponsoring that legislation.

 

Boy Scouts’ Proposal Would Allow Gay Youth, Not Leaders

Scouts’ National Council Voting on May 20

On April 19, 2013, the Scouts announced that the proposal to lift the ban for gay youth members, but keep the ban for adult leaders who are lesbian or gay would be submitted to over 1,400 voting members of its National Council on May 20. If the resolution is approved, “no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone, “Deron Smith, the BSA’s spokesman stated.

During this past January, the Boy Scouts of America was considering a plan to give sponsors of local Scout units the option of admitting gays as both youth members and adult leaders or continuing to exclude them. However, the BSA changed its course owing to the surveys sent out to the Scouting community’s million members, starting in February.

Survey Results

The organization sent out about one million surveys and heard from 200,000 respondents, including many churches and religious organizations who are large supporters of scouting.

The results?  Sixty-one percent favored keeping the current policy of excluding gays while thirty-four percent did not.  However, among parents, 45% opposed the existing ban while 42% supported it.  A majority of teens opposed the ban. Three years ago, 58% supported the ban. The BSA in a statement said “while perspectives and opinions vary significantly, parents, adults in the Scouting community and teens alike tend to agree that youth should not be denied the benefits of Scouting. “ The proposed resolution also reinforces that “Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting.”

A divisive Issue

Gay-rights groups and other have been pressing the Scouts to end the ban.  Said Richard Ferraro, the vice- president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Discrimination, “what this resolution appears to be doing is reinforcing the outrageous idea that gay people somehow pose a threat to kids, which experts like the American Psychological Association have dismissed for more than a decade.” Four experts consulted by the Scouts, according to the summary, said, that homosexuality is not a risk factor for sexual abuse and that there was no evidence that having a gay leader would alter a child’s sexual orientation.

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said the BSA hadn’t gone far enough. “What message does this resolution send to the gay Eagle Scout who, as an adult, wants to continue a lifetime of Scouting by becoming a troop leader?”

For some gay scouts like Ryan Andresen of California, this policy will come too late.  Last year, Ryan was denied his Eagle Scout award because he is gay.  ‘Had this proposed policy been enacted just a few months ago, Ryan would have received his Eagle award.  Now that he’s 18, under the proposed policy, he would once again be rejected by the Boy Scouts.’

 

Conservative Members

More conservative members have advocated maintaining the ban, which the Scouts defended before the Supreme Court in 2000.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the largest organization for Scouts troops, is non-commital about the ban at this point. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said the policy is incoherent. “ The proposal says in essence, that homosexuality is morally acceptable until a boy turns 18- then, when he comes of age, he’s removed for the Scouts.” The Family Research Council has been circulating an online petition urging the BSA to keep the ban.

Besides the Mormon Church, many scout units are sponsored by relatively religious denominations that have supported the ban on gays in the past, notably the Roman Catholic Church and Southern Baptist Churches. They have expressed concern over having gay adult leaders and were less concerned about gay youth members.

The survey gauged the proposal’s impact on financial support.  Local Scout councils reported that fifty-one percent of their major donors opposed easing the ban, while a majority of Fortune 500 companies supported a change.

Outcome in May

The BSA has anticipated that easing the ban on gay adults might prompt between 100,000 and 350,000 members to leave the organization which now has 2.6 million youth members. Gay-friendly scouting group, Navigators USA, now has forty-five chapters in twenty-one states, with nineteen chapters since March 2012.

 

 

 

Jay Brannan On The Road Again

The wonderfully talented and dashingly handsome actor, musician and all round nice guy Jay Brannan is on the road again with the next update of his tour schedule.  It seems this boy is always off on some leg of some tour or other,  last year he played various dates in many European cities, including my home town of Brighton, England.  I caught up with him back then and was surprised at not only how intimate a night with Jay is, but also how much effort and passion he packs into his performances on stage.    There is no big production,  no cast of hundreds,  first there is often an opening act,  but then it’s just Jay, a guitar and a mic and a who room full of happy and thoroughly entertained music fans.

Here’s the dates and details of Jay’s latest tour,  I’m sure he’d love it if you pop along and say hello,   just tell him Jason Shaw sent you!

Date City Venue / Tickets More Info
Apr 29, 2013   Washington, DC Rock & Roll Hotel Facebook Event Page opener: Justin Trawick
Apr 30, 2013   Philadelphia, PA World Café Live (Upstairs) Facebook Event Page opener: Josh Schurr
May 01, 2013   Boston, MA Middle East (Upstairs) Facebook Event Page **EARLY SHOW**
May 03, 2013   New York, NY Joe’s Pub Facebook Event Page *sold out* / no opener!
May 06, 2013   Chicago, IL Schuba’s Tavern Facebook Event Page *sold out*
opener: julie meckler
May 08, 2013   Austin, TX Lambert’s Facebook Event Page no opener!
May 10, 2013   Los Angeles, CA Hotel Café Facebook Event Page opener: Terra Naomi
May 11, 2013   San Francisco, CA Bottom of the Hill Facebook Event Page openers: Rin Tin Tiger & The Plastic Arts

More details on Jay’s own website

 

If you want to read my review of his show at the rather oddly named venue ‘Sticky Mikes Frog Bar’ click here.

 

French Gay Marriage Update.

There were many celebrations in France during the evening of Tuesday 23rd April and that date will go down in history as the day that the large European country became the 14th nation in the world to legalize marriage laws for same-sex couples.

The French National Assembly in Paris passed the equal marriage bill on Tuesday afternoon with 331 MP’s voting in favour of the bill, 225 against and there were 10 abstentions. According to many, the country could see the first gay marriages taking place towards the end of June.

The new legislation also awards adoption rights for same-sex couples, is expected to be approved by the Constitutional Council and then rapidly signed into law by President Francois Hollande, who made it a manifesto pledge whilst he was trying to become president and is a keen supporter of equality.

“I hope people across the country will celebrate this moment,” marriage equality campaigner Martin Gaillard told the media.

Justice Minister Christiane Taubira told legislators on Tuesday evening the law was “very beautiful reform.”

The good news from Paris has been welcomed by many gay groups throughout Europe, Evelyne Paradis, executive director of ILGA-Europe, said: “We congratulate the French parliamentarians and the French nation for this historic step. The country whose motto is ‘Liberté, égalité, fraternité’ has finally fully applied it to all citizens when it comes to marriage.

“We also hope that this latest development in France will inspire other European countries to take concrete steps to eliminate discrimination and to ensure equal rights to same-sex partners and their families.”

“Equality cannot be partial, if a country is serious about equality for same-sex partners and their families, it means removing all legal obstacles and differences, it means equal access to marriage and adoption entitlement.”

I am delighted for my French brothers and sisters that will now have the opportunity to tie the knot in public, in front of their friends and family. It is a great step forward, not just for the gay population of France, but also for gay people all around the world. Slowly and surly marriage equality is coming to many countries and the more nations that legalize same-sex marriage the easier it will be to campaign in favour of equality. No longer can those that oppose marriage equality be able to say it will destabilise and cause the destruction of traditional marriage values, as just even a courtesy glance at the 14 nations that allow same-sex marriage, prove otherwise. Change is coming, marriage equality is coming, one nation at a time!

French President Calls For Calm

President Francois Hollande of France has publicly condemned the displays of homophobic violence that have occurred in the country over the recent days and weeks at an alarming rate.

“Homophobic acts, violent acts have been committed. The right to protest is recognised by our constitution and accepted by the French. But no protest must degenerate,” said President Hollande on Thursday 18th April, speaking after France’s Interior Ministry had confirmed that four people had been detained on suspicion of carrying out a vicious attack at a gay bar in Lille. The bar owner blamed the incident on the mounting “tensions” in the country over the same-sex marriage bill currently going through the French National Assembly.

There is growing concern over the levels and ferocity of an increased number of homophobic attacks and abuse in France over the last two weeks. Several anti-gay protests have turned violent in many cities across the country. A protest on Wednesday turned ugly when several thousand anti-gay protesters damaged cars, vandalised public property and attacked police officers and journalists.

Many gay activists and pro marriage equality supporters have reported threats of violence directed at them and according to gay groups monitoring the situation, reports of anti-gay and homophobic violence has gone up by a staggering and shocking 30% this year alone.

Manuel Valls, the Interior Minister is believed to have held meetings with representatives of security forces in order to “reinforce security measures surrounding protests following the excesses of the past days”. He has also verbally pledged to prevent further homophobic assaults.

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has also condemned the violence and has called for calm. “These protests have a right to take place, we are in a republic. But calls for violence, calls to hate, must be condemned,” he said earlier last week.

 

UK Soccer Stadium Welcomes Same-Sex Couples

A soccer stadium might not be the first place you think of for a same sex civil partnership ceremony,  but one of the leading top flight football clubs in the United Kingdom’s  north east ‘SUNDERLAND’  has just opened it’s doors to same sex couples who want to tie the knot!

 

The impressive and spacious ‘Stadium of Light’ became the unlikely setting for a true love match when two Black Cats fans scored a first for the venue on Friday 5th April.  Sarah Price and Heather Thompson, from Nettlesworth, County Durham became the first same sex couple to tie the knot at the stadium, which is home to Sunderland AFC,  when they exchanged vows in front of family members and friends earlier this month.

 

The couple, both of whom are keen Sunderland supporters, left no stone unturned ensuring the day was red and white – the clubs colours, from start to finish – even down to the wedding cake which was constructed from wheels of cheese wrapped in red and white wax, especially for the occasion!

 

“We’re both really big Sunderland fans,” said 27-year-old Sarah, who wore a grey suit and red shirt for the occasion, “and we were delighted when we found out we could hold the event at the Stadium of Light, particularly as my mum and dad bumped into former goalie Jim Montgomery when they arrived – they were over the moon.”

 

Their special big day kicked off with an emotional ceremony in the stadium’s Drumaville Suite before Sarah, a school sport partnership manager and Heather, a teaching assistant, headed to the hallowed turf to have their photographs taken next to one of the stadium’s most well-known characters, mascot Samson the Cat.

 

Afterwards they moved on to the dug out and the dressing rooms for more photos before re-joining their guests in the red and white themed suite for a wedding breakfast, later 150 of the couples friends arrived for an evening reception.   “It was just perfect,” said Sarah, “and we even kept the red and white theme going with our choice of honeymoon – we’re off to Canada.”

France’s Bill Legalizing Gay Marriage Expected to Pass Week of April 22.

Opposition Takes to Streets to Protest

The Socialist-controlled Senate, the upper house of the French Parliament, on April 9th approved the most crucial article of a draft law that would legalize same-sex marriage in France. This Article 1 removes opposite gender as a condition of the right to marriage and was adopted by a vote of 179 to 157 in the National Assembly on February 2nd.  On February 12th, the entire bill won approval by a vote of 329 to 229.

Both houses of the French parliament have already approved the bill in a first reading.  The final second reading is expected on April 23. It also allows for adoption by same-sex couples and is endorsed by President Francois Hollande. If passed, it would make France the world’s fourteenth country to legalize same-sex unions.

Last Ditch Efforts by Opponents

Right-wing leaders have mounted a campaign against gay marriage in this largely Catholic country. This week, MPs in parliament debated and gay activists reported a rise in attacks on gays in recent months and weeks.  Violence by four suspects at Lille gay bar was reported last week. They are accused of intentionally targeting gay customers in the bar, punching the bar manager and causing material damage. Interior Minister Manuel Valls said on April 18 that he “condemns, with the greatest firmness, the homophobic aggression perpetrated last Wednesday in a bar in Lille and Bordeaux.”

Several rallies, some violent, have been held to protest the imminent passage of the legislation. Some demonstrators fought police and damaged cars along the Champs-Elysees Avenue. Commented Jean-Marie Le Pen, the far-right former National Front leader, he was amazed by the “extraordinary “ and “practically permanent opposition to the reform.  It is normal that people demonstrate against a bill they oppose, but it’s a surprising phenomenon, including for people in power, to see that the demonstrations concern hundreds of thousands of people,” he said.  “It’s quite exceptional.”

Officers have had to use tear gas on protestors in recent rallies. Seventy-five people were detained. Even in the National Assembly, deputies had scuffles while debating the legislation.  A mass protest in Paris is planned for May 26 if the law is approved to demand its withdrawal and a gay marriage referendum .

Legacy of the Past

Catholic fundamentalists and far-right nationalists will not accept the legitimacy of a left-wing government nor the separation between church and state from two centuries ago.  While a majority of French people, as evidenced by opinion polls, support gay marriage, a slight majority opposes adoption rights for homosexual couples.  Said Michel Wievorka, one of France’s well-known sociologists, “it was clumsy of the government to initially suggest that the bill would also legalize medically assisted procreation for gay couples.”

On April 21, a fifty-eight year-old lawyer, Patrick Poydenot, stood on the sidelines with his son, one of thousands, to stop the controversial gay marriage legislation from being approved. “We believe that this bill is a threat to the social fabric.”

 

Marriage Equality is Coming – Slowly!

Marriage Equality is Coming.

Marriage Equality is coming, it may be taking its time, but be in no doubt that marriage equality is most definitely coming. Slowly but surly the politicians and government leaders of countries around the globe are embracing the ethos of equality for all and moving towards a more encompassing society by allowing same-sex couples to marry. The latest in an ever-growing list of enlightened nations are the glorious islands of New Zealand, reports Jason Shaw.

Last week New Zealand became the first country in the Asia Pacific region to welcome same-sex marriage when seventy-seven of the one hundred and twenty one parliamentary members voted in favour of changing the country’s 1955 marriage act, allowing same-sex couples to wed.

There was celebratory singing and dancing in the chamber after just over two thirds of the parliament endorsed marriage equality after a long and hard fought campaign. Despite vigorous opposition from the Catholic Church, conservative political groups and some misguided family groups New Zealand became the 13th country to legalise same-sex marriage.

The New Zealand bill makes it clear that clergy can decline to perform same-sex ceremonies without fear of prosecution if conducting such ceremonies would go against their beliefs. Similar protections have been written into same-sex marriage laws in other countries for religious organisations and churches.

Only days before the congress in Uruguay voted in favour of legalising same-sex marriage, making it the second country in Latin America to do so. Seventy -one of the ninety-two lawmakers voted in favour of the proposal a week after the senate passed by a large majority. Opposition to the bill came, predictably, for the various churches, who fear same-sex marriage would endanger family life and the institution of marriage, “We are opposed to this bill because we understand it distorts and changes the nature of the institution of marriage,” said opposition lawmaker Gerardo Amarilla.

France and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland also look likely to legalise marriage in the coming months after political moves and votes in favour of a changing their respective marriage laws. In a surprise move, Ireland is to hold a referendum on gay marriage legalisation after a special convention set up to reform the Irish legal system recommended full equality for same-sex couples wanting marriage. Under the Irish constitution, any major law change has to be ratified by the electorate.

There are also strong political moves towards marriage equality in Germany, Finland, Columbia, Luxembourg, Taiwan, and Vietnam. Whilst same-sex marriages are already legal in Argentina, Belgium , Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa and Sweden.

Meanwhile as the rest of the world looks to be moving forward on the equality front, the Republican party in America seem to be going backwards and reaffirming their opposition to marriage equality in a recent vote of its governing body, despite moves by chairman of the Republican National Congress, Reince Priebus to soften the party’s image and position with a ‘Growth and Opportunity Project’ report which called for a rethink on the anti-gay marriage, anti-equality stance.

Marriage Equality is coming, it may take a while before the United States of America catch up with the advancing move to progress equality for all elsewhere in the world, but be in no doubt, marriage equality is coming.

French Politicians Fight Over Gay Marriage.

 

The prospect of Marriage Equality in France has certainly raised tensions in the European country over the last few weeks, including in the French National Assembly!

In surprisingly ugly scenes inside the house also exactly replicated the violence going on outside the building cantered on the issue of marriage equality. The politicians came to blows, with punches being thrown in a scuffle that lasted a number of minutes as the MPs came to the end of an incredible 25-hour debate on the same-sex marriage bill that would also give same sex couples the right to adopt.

The incident, blamed on fatigue and high emotions that accompany such a controversial subject was condemned outright by the ruling Socialist party. One minister criticized the scuffle as outrageous and the worst he’s seen in the house in 30 years.

The fever pitch tensions are set to remain until the final, and decisive vote on the same-sex marriage bill is expected to take place on Tuesday 23rd April. Should the bill pass this crucial vote, it will then go to the Constitutional Council, which will review its constitutionality, once passed by them, it will be sent over to the French President, Francois Hollande to sign it into law.

The tensions inside the assembly come after calls for calm had been made by both the French President and Prime Minister after a number of violent homophobic attacks and ambushes.

The Interior Minister Manuel Valls, warned that the movement opposed to equal marriage was being infiltrated by far-right organisations, who seek nothing but violence. Frigide Barjot, the figurehead of anti-marriage equality group Manif pour Tous, said if the French President Francois Hollande “wants blood”, and promised “He will get it”.

The police in Paris are on standby and there are expected to be large numbers of both pro and anti marriage equality protestors on the streets of the capital next week.