#IndieGoGo Love: All Of Us Project Making Schools Safer for LGBT Students

#IndieGoGo Love: All Of Us Project Making Schools Safer for LGBT Students

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“Sadly today in Australia, school is the place where young people report the most homophobic abuse. Since 1998 levels of homophobic abuse reported by students, experienced in schools has risen from 69% in 1998 to 80% in 2010.”

- All of Us Read more

LGBT-Empowered: Shaun T Partners Up With Athlete Ally

‘Haters Cannot Touch My Shine:’ From Rockin’ Body to #Shaunspiration and Beyond

When we last checked in with Shaun T, we found him out, proud, and happily married, emphasizing equality by weaving positive social shares in with his personal life and daily goings on, on all fronts.  They say that “slow and steady wins the race,” even when you’ve created mind-numbingly hardcore workouts.

In the wake of his heartfelt story of love, celebrity fitness trainer Shaun T. continues to inspire and capture the imaginations of his fan base with his latest venture: signing up to be Athlete Ally’s newest celebrity ambassador.

Forging a unified front with celebratory tweets sent on July 11, Shaun T and Athlete Ally shared a graphic of a ripped Shaun T striking a workout pose.  With inimitable positivity in tow it reads, “Inclusion is essential in sports.  It can never be secondary.”

In the organization’s own words, “Athlete Ally is a nonprofit that empowers athletes to be role models and challenge homophobia and transphobia in sports.”

Founded in January 2011 by self-defined “straight ally” Executive Director Hudson Taylor (currently a competitive wrestler and coach at Columbia University), Athlete Ally is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization emulating the “gay-straight alliance” model.  The nonprofit brand emphasizes inclusivity and learning opportunities.  It has co-led educational awareness campaigns with athletes such as Olympic wrestler Ellis Coleman, NBA star Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets), WNBA Player Kristi Toliver (Los Angeles Sparks) and more, while promoting Public Service Announcement multimedia awareness drives to honor sportsmen like Jason Collins.

Co-launched alongside their social media campaigns, Athlete Ally’s press release, also published on July 11, further explores the value Shaun T brings to the table.  In their release, Hudson Taylor continued, “It is a true honor to have Shaun T join the Athlete Ally Movement.  He is a catalyst for the inclusion and positive change that we are continuing to see in the venue of sports.  Another vocal, recognizable fitness and athletic personality on our team will undoubtedly help spread our message.”

While Athlete Ally also works closely with the National Basketball Players Association, the NCAA and the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center among many other prominent alliances, Shaun T continues to exert influence in the fitness world.

As one of Beachbody’s most prominent fitness coaches, he just launched his official Fly Fitness Wear line and released his FOCUS T25 program which continues to lead Beachbody to profits of $250-500 million yearly.

Shaun T has worked out with everyone from Dr. Oz, to Ellen to Tyra Banks and regularly does in-person meet and greets and worldwide in outreach for his Beachbody-trained coaches and fans.

In the press release mentioned above, Shaun T enthused, “The joy of feeling free to be oneself in all aspects of life is not something that can endure if there is an underlying stressor. The ability of an athlete to step into their arena and feel free to be 100% focused on competing in their sport is the catalyst which separates the elite from the dedicated.  This is essential to an athlete’s success—it cannot be secondary.”

Learn more about Athlete Ally at www.athleteally.org, and Shaun T’s official homepage can be found at http://shauntfitness.com.

Anti-Gay Laws Pass in Nigeria

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Nigeria’s House of Representatives recently voted in favour of a ban on gay marriage, outlaw any groups actively supporting gay rights and endorsing a measure that also calls for 10-year prison sentences for any “public show” of affection by a same-sex couple.

The House of Representatives appeared to unanimously approve the proposal in a voice vote, sending it immediately to the President, Goodluck Jonathan for him to sign it into law in Africa’s most populous nation.

Nigeria’s Senate previously passed the bill back in November 2011, although it seemed to disappear in procedure for some time before re-emerging in the most recent session of the House. This new law would not only ban any same-sex marriage from taking place either in a mosque or a church, it would also see same-sex couples face up to 14 years in jail for marrying in other locations. In a horrendous abuse of freedom the law would also have implications for friends and relations of gay people, as anyone who witnesses or conducts same-sex marriages would face a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

The law would also effectively silence Nigeria’s gay population, as under the proposed legislation anyone taking part in a group advocating for gay rights or anyone caught in a “public show” of affection also would face 10 years in prison. Many fear this is just the start of an anti-gay campaign by the political leaders in the country that would lead to custodial sentences for simply being gay or lesbian. There is already a ban on gay sex in the country and a culture of hatred toward gay people has existed for many years, including when the country was rules by the British Empire.

The bill is currently with President Goodluck Jonathan awaiting for his approval or an incredibly unlikely veto. So far all requests for comment on this issue have gone unanswered either by his office or the President himself. The UK, which gives millions free money and aid to Nigeria has previously threatened to stop aid to nations that discriminate against gays, but no money has yet been stopped to any nation on this basis. Plus there seems little appetite among the government elite to make a stand on the issue because of the backbench revolt Prime Minister David Cameron faced over his stand on gay marriage recently.

During 2011 President Barack Obama issued a similar directive asking officials to “ensure that US diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of” gays, lesbians and the transgender people included having diplomats “combat the criminalisation” of being gay by foreign governments, yet the US remains the biggest customer for the Nigerian oil industry.

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Gay Marriage Bill Passes In UK Parliament

Campaigners demonstrate for a "yes" vote to allow gay marriage, as they protest outside Parliament in London
Marriage Equality in the United Kingdom came a step closer on Tuesday Night when Members of Parliament voted to approve the Marriage (same-sex couples bill) at it’s third reading by 366 votes to 161, a majority of 205.

After two days of debate, with many amendments offered and discussed, the Culture Secretary and Minister for Equalities, Maria Miller told Mps just before the crucial vote “I accept that for some colleagues their beliefs mean that the principle of this issue is an insurmountable barrier to supporting this change.

“But to other colleagues I say, now is the time. Let us not be side-tracked nor distracted. Let us not expand the remit of this bill beyond its original intention. Let us make equal marriage possible because it is the right thing to do and then let us move on. I am pleased to commend this bill to the House.”

It has been a most dramatic time at London’s House of Parliament, on Monday the bill was in danger of being completely stalled by an amendment from a backbench Tory MP, thankfully in a deal with the opposition leader Ed Miliband, they overcame the wrecking amendment, which was designed purly to slow up and even halt the bill in its

There were a few further complications on Tuesday afternoon because of an amendment calling for Humanist marriage ceremonies to be legalised at the same time. Even though it had widespread support from Liberal Democrat and Labour MPs – the amendment was withdrawn after the attorney general warned that it would fall foul of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Under the bill, the Church of England and the Church in Wales would be banned from offering same-sex marriages because of their strongly stated opposition, unless they changed canon law. Whilst other religious organisations would be able to “opt in” to holding same-sex ceremonies.

Marriage Equality and getting the bill passed the Commons has been an enormous challenge for the UK Prime Minister David Cameron and is seen by many as a key part of his modernisation of the Conservative party, giving it wider appeal to the younger generations. However, such a move has cost the leader support from many old guard in the party, MP Crispin Blunt conceded that it has cost Cameron support – “He’s made his point, everyone knows the fire he’s going through with some of his own colleagues in order to deliver this and I hope people are going to be appropriately grateful for the fantastic leadership that he’s shown on this.” he told gay media in the UK

In terms of the current opposition to the measure, Mr Blunt added: “Once this is done, it’s finished, it’s over and everyone will wonder what on earth all the fuss was about.”

The Bill will now head to the House of Lords where it is likely to face determined and uncompromising opposition. The House of Lord’s are the older unelected chamber in UK’s archaic political system and are well known for their opposition to such moves towards equality. If the bill passes in the House of Lords, it could mean that same-sex marriages could be legal in the UK as early as the autumn of 2014.

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!

UK Prime Minister Supports Gay Marriages in Chruch!

The United Kingdom moved ever closer to full marriage equality last week when the Prime Minister, David Cameron pledge his support for gay marriage, both in civil offices and religious places of worship such as churches, synagogues and mosques. Speaking after an event in Redditch last Friday afternoon he said “I’m a massive supporter of marriage and I don’t want gay people to be excluded from a great institution.” However he had it clear that even though he is a passionate support of same sex marriage, he doesn’t want religious institutions to be forced into conducting gay ceremonies, “But let me be absolutely 100% clear, if there is any church or any synagogue or any mosque that doesn’t want to have a gay marriage it will not, absolutely must not, be forced to hold it. That is absolutely clear in the legislation. Also let me make clear, this is a free vote for Members of Parliament but personally I will be supporting it.”

David Cameron

The results of a government consultation on marriage equality will become known in the next few days however, information already leaked suggests that not only the government go to Europe to fix in a legal lock to protect churches and religious from being sued should they choose not to conduct same sex marriages. The UK Culture Secretary, Maria Miller will formally launch the same-sex marriage bill on 13th December, when she officially reveal the government’s response to the consultation. A government spokesman said: ‘We are committed to bringing equal civil marriage forward and the consultation results will be announced next week. We are very clear that religious organisations must be protected and that none will be forced to conduct same-sex marriage. EU law is very clear that this is the case and we will additionally bring in very strong legal locks to ensure that this is watertight.’

Many believe the legislation will pass when it is debated in Parliament as the leaders of all three major parties have already confirmed their support for gay marriage, Nick Clegg, Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister said ‘I’m a supporter and always have been of same sex marriage, because I think marriage is a wonderful thing, a wonderful institution. It’s a demonstration of a couple’s commitment to each other, of their loving relationship and they wish to celebrate that in the eyes of society and I think we should make that celebration, that ceremony if you like, available to everyone regardless of who they are. It’s very important to remember that in our plans we’re not going to force any church or any religious denomination to hold same sex marriage ceremonies if they don’t want to but I do think it’s time that we allow any couple, no matter who they are, to marry if that’s what they want to do.’

The Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church are among some other religious denominations that have voiced their anger and complete opposition to same-sex marriage, however there are some, perhaps more enlightened religious groups, including Quakers, Unitarians and Liberal Judaism, that are in favour of gay marriage and are believed to be likely to apply to be allowed to stage ceremonies. The recording clerk for the Quakers in Britain, Paul Parker, said: “For Quakers, this is an issue of religious freedom and we don’t seek to impose this on others.”

With the majority of society supporting the move in the UK there has never been a better time for marriage equality to come to fruition.

‘Europe’s first gay-friendly mosque’ opens’

Breaking the prejudices of Islam – a Muslim prayer centre, which has been called Europe’s first gay-friendly mosque opened in Paris, France last Friday.
According to it’s founder this new prayer centre is designed to be the first step in breaking “prejudices in Islam”. However the move has been criticized heavily by other religious leaders.

Indeed most of the city’s Muslim leaders have condemned its launch with anger and hostility for what they claim is going “against the spirit of Islam”. Yet this new “mosque” is nothing more than a small room inside the house of a Buddhist monk in the eastern suburbs of Paris.

Dalil Boubakeur, head of the Grande Mosqueé in Paris, told local media that the opening of a new place of prayer for gay Muslims goes against the rules of Islam. “The mosques that are already there accept everyone so creating one specifically for homosexuals is against the spirit of Islam. Worshippers go to a mosque to worship god, they don’t go to demonstrate their sexuality,” Boubakeur said. “This is an abuse of the definition of a mosque.”

Islamic views on homosexuality are very unambiguous – its condemned in at least 13 verses of the Koran and the only legitimate sexual relationship is that between a man and a woman.

This new “mosque” promises to break two major Islamic taboos, welcoming gay Muslims and not separating men from women, the mosque’s founder, French-Algerian gay rights activist and practicing Muslim Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed, said “It’s a radically inclusive mosque, a mosque where people can come as they are.”

Zahed has already caused controversy and outrage among the French Muslim community when in April he became the first French man to marry another man in a Muslim religious ceremony, saying “I am sure that if the Prophet Mohamed was still alive, he would marry gay couples” at the time.

Zahed is hoping this new prayer room will be just the beginning and aims to eventually create a cultural centre and library, “This is just the first step in a long-term struggle to deconstruct prejudices within Islam in France.”

French Support For Marriage Equality Increases

Last week the French President Francois Hollande’s government approved a bill to legalise equal marriage and allow gay couples to adopt. The new reform was strongly opposed by many, including over 1,000 mayors and the entire French Catholic Church hierarchy.

France is one of a number of European nations that already have civil unions for same-sex couples, however gay marriage was one of Hollande’s campaign pledges during his bid to become President. On Wednesday he told his cabinet that the bill would mean “progress not only for individuals but for the whole of society” they approved the bill.

Recent opinion polls have increasingly shown that the majority of the French population now support marriage equality, Le Monde newspaper, showed that 65% of French people supported marriage equality and 52% of people supported the right of gay couples to adopt. Of course the prospect of gays and lesbians being treated equally in society has angered many in the legal, religious and conservative political communities.

The UMP have strongly denounced the measure, “It’s the end of the family, the end of children’s development, the end of education. It’s an enormous danger to the nation,” came the outrageous statement from UMP Senator Serge Dassault on a radio talk show in Wednesday.

Yet the popular move was celebrated by thousands of people who turned out on Wednesday evening to show support for marriage equality and adoption rights for same-sex couples outside the National Assembly in Paris.

Many of those gathering chanted “equality now” showing their support, there was also dancing and cheering and to show their support for the reform, “This is the first time for this cause, because of today’s announcement. We learned about the rally from Facebook events, and we have a lot of friends who sent invitations to us.” one couple at the rally told media reporters, “There is a lot of hypocrisy around all of this in the media, other people, and from the church. We’re a changing society. A lot of lesbian couples already have children, so it’s just a legal thing. It’s really important for us.”

The bill will be debated in the French parliament in January 2013, however the future is looking promising, despite the strong opposition from the religious organisations and political foes.

Equality is coming – slowly!

One In Four Young Gay People Assaulted

Shocking new researched finds that one in four young gay people in England have been assaulted simply because of their sexuality, whilst over half have self-harmed in some way.  Forty-seven per cent say they have received threats or intimidation as a result of being gay. These statistics are alarming and the research from Youth Chances, are a stark reminder of the difficulties faced by young lesbian, gay, bi and transgender people in the UK.

Youth Chances are undertaking the biggest social research project into young GLBT people across the UK. Eventually this three-year project will conducted research with some 15,000 young people, whilst the shocking figures released last week are based on initial findings from the first 3,500 responses.

Many experts and observers are very concerned by the statistics on self-harm, which, based on this initial research, are much higher than the national average of around one in 12 young people. Some researchers and commentators suggest this may be indicative of the mental turmoil many GLBT teenagers go though during their educational lives whilst coming to terms with and coming out about their sexuality.

According to this research young gay women were significantly more likely to self-harm, two-thirds said they had hurt themselves on purpose, compared to thirty-seven per cent of young men. However, the most vulnerable seemed to be the young Transgender people, nearly four out of five admitting they had deliberately self-harmed.

Youth Chances project manager, Dan Baker, said: “In 2012, despite improvements which entitle LGBT people to equality, it’s still a really challenging environment to grow up in. Self-harm jumped out as a really alarming statistic. Self-harm is a way of people expressing an internal issue that they might not be able to express. Maybe Britain is not as tolerant as we thought.”

The UK is sometimes considered to be well ahead of many other countries around the world in terms of GLBT equality and the fight against discrimination on the grounds of sexuality, yet this research shows there are still large swathes of prejudice where homophobic bullying presents a pressing and worrying problem. Youth Chances say that the research demonstrates that public attitudes have yet to catch up with the advancing legal situation. “There’s a lot of great equality now, such as allowing gay couples to adopt and have civil partnerships. But, despite the progress, there seem to be lots of cases of harassment and even assault. If people are being taunted or attacked because of who they are, it shows public opinion and behaviour hasn’t caught up with legislation.” Said Dan Baker.

Many believe part of the problem is that bullying about sexuality is not being adequately controlled or handled sufficiently in schools. According to recent research from gay rights and equality charity Stonewall, ninety per cent of secondary school teachers and around forty per cent of primary teachers had regularly witnessed homophobic bullying in schools.

I personally am appalled by the initial findings of this research, I really thought we had come a great distance from the kind of abuse I faced coming out in the early 80’s, yet it seems the same sort of prejudice and discrimination is still out there, in fact according to this report, it seems more vicious than it was in my youth. We as a society should really see this as a frightening wake up call, young people should not be having to cope with such prejudice and hatred. Every school has a duty to protect kids from all forms of bullying, including homophobic bullying and they should work so much harder to achieve an environment, not only of learning, but also of tolerance and acceptance free from hatred and abuse.

 

Stonewall Awards

The United Kingdom’s gay rights and equality campaigning charity ‘Stonewall’ held their annual awards ceremony in London this week amid controversy over one sponsor – Barclays Bank pulling out after pressure from a right wing Christian group, despite a number of religious figures nominated for awards.

The international bank, itself currently subject to numerous investigations and accusations of corrupt practices, fraudulent behaviour and misspelling millions of insurances tried to blackmail the charity – warning they would pull sponsorship of the awards and end support of the charity and gay rights unless they removed one of the awards entitled Bigot Of The Year. Mark McLane, Barclays head of diversity said “I have recently been made aware of the inclusion of a ‘Bigot of the Year’ category in the awards. Let me be absolutely clear that Barclays does not support that award category either financially, or in principle and have informed Stonewall that should they decide to continue with this category we will not support this event in the future.”

Stonewall Chief Executive Ben Summerskill hit back “We have never called anyone a bigot just because they disagreed with us. All the nominees have gone well beyond what anyone normal would call a decent level of public discourse”. The affable and friendly Mr Summerskill added “We welcome sponsorship from anyone who shares our core values, but we have an obligation to the 3.6 million gay people to do what is right, and highlighting extreme examples of bigotry when we know how harmful this unpleasantness is to the self-esteem of young people is right.”
The Bigot of the Year award remained in place in the ceremony and was won by UK’s most senior Catholic, Cardinal Keith O’Brien. The cardinal has been a staunch and prominent opponent of marriage equality, his repeated comments have been deeply offensive claiming same-sex relationships are “harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing” and compared equal marriage to slavery and child abuse. He describes marriage equality as “grotesque,” and under his leadership, the Catholic Church in Scotland did ‘declare war’ on marriage equality, giving over £100,000 to fight it.

Whilst it may not be very nice to call someone a bigot, in cases like this, when our opponents attack us with such virulent hatred and lies on a regular basis, such a name called is wholly justified and completely accurate.

Top TV presenter and comedian Sue Perkins took home the entertainer of the year award in front of the 450 people resent at the award ceremony at the Victorian and Albert museum in London. The host of ratings surprise hit The Great British Bake Off, Perkins dedicated her award to her comedy and presenting partner Mel Giedroyc.

Almost 10,000 Stonewall supporters voted for Reverend Giles Fraser to receive the Hero of the Year accolade as an inspirational faith leader who supports gay people. Collecting his award, he congratulated Stonewall for standing up to bigotry. Fraser said: ‘I’m ashamed that I share the same profession as so many of the people that were nominated and received the Bigot of the Year Award. Why I’m proud of Stonewall, and why I’m proud and delighted to have received this award, is because what you seek to attack, and what you seek to challenge, is fear.’

Jeanette Winterson was named Writer of the Year for her bestselling memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?. The Rugby Football League received the sports award for its fight against homophobia, ‘This is a fantastic honour for rugby league. We’re proud to stand up and say there’s no place for homophobia in sport.’ said Sarah Williams, their equality and diversity manager

Other notable winners included newspaper columnists Owen Jones and Hugo Rifkind, who shared award for Journalist of the Year. Stonewall’s Ben Summerskill said: ‘As ever, I’m humbled by the dedication with which this year’s Award winners have been advancing equality for millions of people. Their efforts have never been more valuable and we will never be deterred from celebrating their contribution – or from highlighting the bigotry and malice expressed by some public figures towards gay people in this country.’

Full list of the winners:

Hero of the Year (supported by PwC) – Reverend Giles Fraser

Broadcast of the Year (supported by London Women’s Clinic) – Britain’s Got Talent

Entertainer of the Year – Sue Perkins

Journalist of the Year – Hugo Rifkind (The Times) and Owen Jones (The Independent)

Politician of the Year – Ruth Davidson MSP

Publication of the Year – GayStarNews.com

Sports Award of the Year – Rugby Football League

Writer of the Year – Jeanette Winterson (Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?)

Community Group of the Year (supported by Square Peg Media and the Inclusive Foundation) – East London Out Project

Bigot of the Year – Cardinal Keith O’Brien