COVER STORY: Larry and KC Jansson found love in the midst of anti-gay ‘reparative’ therapy

How counseling by unqualified therapists and distorted use of a 12-step program brought a young gay couple together at an ‘ex-gay’ camp

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

KC Jansson came out to his parents in ninth grade. His parents sent him to counseling. Then he came out to them again as a high school senior.

“My dad’s a Southern Baptist pastor in Missouri, in a small southern town.” he said. “They said I was either going to be on the streets or do it their way. They were going to pay 10 grand for me to go to this camp.

“I didn’t have a choice but to go there,” he said.

Jansson described the camp as a sort of drug rehab center for being gay. He said he was raised to believe that if he was gay he was going to become an alcoholic and a drug addict and get AIDS and never go to college or love anyone.

INSEPARABLE | People who know the Janssons call them the most perfectly matched, in-love couple they know.

Larry Jansson, on the other hand, lived in Southern California and had very accepting parents.

“I never thought I’d marry a small-town guy,” he said. “There was no God in my family. No church.”

But when he was 18 and still struggling with his identity, Larry started doing theater with a Christian group.

“They started doing their work on me,” he said.

He “got saved,” he said, by a group called Harvest Crusade. But from then until he was 26, he lived a double life.

“I was either hanging out with these people who thought that I was a Christian or I was out totally doing the gay thing without them knowing,” Larry said.

Then he found out about Love in Action, a group in Memphis, Tenn., that does “reparative therapy.” He decided that he was going to figure things out and so spent his entire $10,000 savings to attend.

Larry said he convinced himself, “If somebody says that God is the answer and this can be changed, I want to know for myself.”

So Larry’s parents drove him to the program. But his mother kept telling him he didn’t have to go.

KC and Larry arrived at the facility at the same time. This was KC’s first time away from home and his first time to be around other gay people.

The camp

The two described the restrictions: No cologne. No clothing by Calvin Klein.

“I had a Nintendo Gameboy. I couldn’t keep that, because it would keep me from being focused on God,” Larry said.

“I played piano,” said KC. “I couldn’t play because they said it would distract me from my therapy.”

And although they described the therapy as based on recovery programs used for addictions, the 12 steps they followed were a very distorted version based on shame, the two men said.

For the first three days, they were not allowed to talk and always had to look at the ground. Each person was assigned a “house brother” who had gone through the program. That person, who was gay, had made it through the first three months to the next stage.

“My big brother was more flamboyant than anyone else in the house,” Larry said. “But he was so about Jesus and getting through this.”

The first night there was a meeting with the four new house members and their “big brothers.” Although they weren’t supposed to look at each other, Larry and KC kept making eye contact.

There were no doors on the rooms and each room had three beds. Larry and KC were assigned to share a room.

Bathroom time was limited to 15 minutes. They had to set a timer to make sure no one was spending too much time locked in there doing something they weren’t supposed to be doing.

The next day they went to church. Larry and KC described the church as Prestonwood Baptist-sized, and said all of the members knew who they were. They were escorted to the first row and felt the condemnation of the crowd as they took their seats.

Each morning they would drive down to the church. They would sit in a circle for “Courage, Honesty and Respect” group.

“You would call someone else out for something they did,” said Larry, and the person being accused couldn’t respond for 24 hours.

“I would say something like, ‘KC, you didn’t set your egg timer this morning and we have rules here and I want you to think about that,’” Larry said. “And KC would get fuming red — but he couldn’t say anything.”

KC regarded the rules as a joke. Larry took them very seriously. He wanted to know if these were the rules that were going to turn him straight.

They had group and individual counseling sessions. A woman in Larry’s group said that she was raped and that she didn’t feel comfortable sitting next to a man.

No one there could help her.

KC said his “counselor” was in college but worked at this house unsupervised. Two others were former drug addicts who had gone through 12-step programs themselves. None was a licensed therapist.

“In individual sessions, I was asked to open up about certain things that only a real counselor could deal with,” Larry said. “I now am seeing a true counselor because they opened up these wounds and never closed them.”

At night, the counselors would discuss the group. In the morning they would come to the meeting and tell each one what they could no longer do.

Larry was a dancer and today teaches two dance classes in Plano. He said when he was nervous he’d begin to tap. One morning he was told he could no longer dance.

“That was one of the most devastating things they could do to me,” he said. “It was like waking up one day and finding out I was paralyzed.”

In order to turn the group into “men,” at 6:30 each morning they had to go to the gym because gay people don’t go to a gym.

But they had Larry play basketball.

“We’re in a gym full of hot bodies and muscles,” said Larry. “One day, they had me play basketball. Just because I’m 6’-2” doesn’t mean I can dunk a damn ball.”

But he did it because he wanted the program to work.

LET THEM EAT CAKE | KC, left, and Larry became the Janssons when they married in Connecticut. They later held a ceremony at Cathedral of Hope, followed by a lavish party at the W hotel, complete with a 5-tiered wedding cake. (Photo courtesy Jessica Adkins/Aravaggio Photography)

Building a friendship

During the first three months of the program, KC and Larry developed what they both called a genuine friendship.

Whenever they went anywhere, they had to go in groups of three and always had to be within eye contact of each other. Larry said that if one person needed to go to the bathroom, they all had to go.

After three months, Larry and KC graduated to the second part of the program. Their parents attended an actual graduation ceremony, but they simply continued to the next phase of the program.

KC said he had no choice but to stay because his alternative was to return home to rural Missouri. Larry was still determined to see the program through.

During this period, they were allowed to get a job. Larry went to work for the church, and KC got a job at Radio Shack. But the program still tried to monitor every movement.

“But they’re constantly calling you, constantly e-mailing you,” KC said.

“You have to call your house manager when you leave work and they time you to make sure you get home at the right time,” Larry said.

In this part of the program, they had to work on “trigger trips.” They sent the group of four who had started together to places that might trigger sexual feelings.

Their first trip was to the mall — their first shopping trip in three months.

“I remember walking into that mall and hearing angels,” Larry said.

Larry was given a clipboard and had to write down what triggered them.

One member of the group wanted Godiva chocolate but the other three restrained him because apparently only gay people eat Godiva chocolate.

But the biggest test was when the four walked by Abercrombie & Fitch. Larry said that when the four saw the huge poster of the ripped model in the window, they stopped short and fell on top of one another.

Larry and KC had become best friends and once they graduated and were given more freedom, they began doing things together.

“Any time we were allowed to be alone together, we started doing crazy little date things,” Larry said.

They went to a drive-in movie; “We told them we were going to go to the batting cages,” KC said.

But still nothing happened between them. They were just enjoying each other’s company.

“I never even told KC that I thought he had the most beautiful eyes I had ever seen,” Larry said, “because I thought God wanted something else for me.”

Over the next five months their friendship developed, but without physical contact between them. “No kiss. No hug. No touch,” Larry said.

Then the church secretary was going out of town and asked Larry to walk her dogs and water her plants. KC began to tag along.

“All of a sudden we had this place to go that was a little more intimate,” Larry said.

Then on the way back one evening, they stopped at Sonic.

“I had my leg propped up where the gearshift was and he put his arm on me,” KC said. “And from that point forward, I knew I was in love with him.”

A few days later they were at the church secretary’s house. Larry could tell something was wrong with KC.

When Larry finally convinced him to talk, KC admitted he had feelings for Larry and both agreed that it was wrong.

KC turned his back to Larry, and Larry put his arms around him. And as they sat on the couch with their arms around each other, they told each other that it was wrong.

They drove back to the house where they were living, conflicted and in silence. But later that night, they had to let the dogs out again, so they went back. And that’s when they had sex for the first time.

Larry said KC told him he loved him before they had sex. KC thought it was after.

But KC said he told Larry, “I love you. I want to be with you. We’ll do whatever it takes.”

Leaving the program

They were in the last month of their program. Larry needed to decide what he was going to do. He thought he might return to California, but whatever he did, it would be whatever Jesus had planned for him.

He knew he loved KC also, but couldn’t say it.

“I was the brainwashed one trying to make this work,” Larry said. “I wouldn’t let myself say it.”

He wondered if he should tell someone what they had done.

On the third day after they had sex, they drove around Memphis looking at houses. Larry drove up to a mansion that he had seen and stopped.

“What are we doing here?” KC asked.

“I’m going to get you that one day,” Larry told him and KC started crying.

They said that was the point they knew they would build their lives together.

“We just needed to find a way to get out of there together,” Larry said.

KC had planned to move to Dallas, live with his brother and go to college. Larry signed up to go on a short missionary trip to Dubai.

At the end of the six months, KC left for Dallas and Larry left for Dubai. Larry had spent all of his savings on the program. KC had some money. He took enough to get to Dallas and left the rest in a drawer at the house for Larry to get when he got back from Dubai.

When Larry got back from the Middle East, he returned to Memphis, gathered up his belongings, collected the money KC had left for him, got in his car and headed to Dallas.

He packed and snuck out of the house at 3 a.m. No one from the program ever called him to find out where he was or what happened.

KC’s brother was married with three children and Larry was not welcome there. So KC rented him a room at a cheap extended-stay motel. KC told his brother that Larry was his accountability partner. Accountability partners are friends that help each other not be gay.

Larry drove into Dallas and met KC at a gas station at Frankford and the Tollway.

“We were excited about beginning our life together,” Larry said.

Larry had already gotten a job in Carrollton with Washington Mutual, the company he had left six months earlier in California to enroll in the program.

After three days, KC couldn’t stand being apart from Larry and he moved in with him. He told his brother, he said, who was more extremely religious than his parents.

“Thanks, con man,” his brother told him. “You better get out of my house before my wife gets home.”

Happily ever after

Larry and KC lived in the extended stay hotel, changing hotels several times until they could afford an apartment. Then three months after moving to Dallas, Larry proposed.

For KC’s birthday, the two drove to Galveston. After checking into their hotel, they went to the beach and walked out onto a rock pier.

Larry got down on one knee, took out a ring and said, “I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?”

But before they were able to get married, Larry got a call in the middle of the night that his mother had been killed in car accident. A drunk driver hit his parents and his father was seriously injured as well.

KC recalled the last time he saw Larry’s mother.

“As we were leaving, she said to me, ‘Promise me you’ll take care of him for the rest of your life,’” she said to him.

They waited for the trial of the drunk driver to be finished before getting married. In September 2009 they legally married in Connecticut and then held a ceremony for friends and family at Cathedral of Hope in December. They had 14 attendants and a lavish reception at the W Hotel.

They invited everyone they knew, and a few they didn’t, including the Obamas and Larry’s favorite TV host, Tyra Banks. While the Obamas didn’t respond, Banks sent her regrets but invited them to participate in a show on same-sex marriage, which they did last June.

By the time the wedding in Dallas took place, KC’s brother had divorced his wife. The brothers had become closer and he served as KC’s best man.

The couple took a honeymoon cruise, and now own a house in Frisco and a little Maltese dog. They decided they wanted the same last name. Because they liked the way KC’s sounded better, with the help of attorney Lorie Burch, they legally became the Janssons.

KC is finishing his degree in accounting at UT Dallas and works full-time managing a salon. Larry is the director of marketing for Boys and Girls Clubs of Collin County.

Mention the Janssons to Dawson Taylor, the pastor who married them at Cathedral of Hope, and he just laughs.

He said he’s never met two people who are so perfect for each other and so in love.

And despite having gone through reparative therapy camp, Larry said, “I want everyone to know we’re good with God.”

Taylor agreed and said that their wedding was as much a worship service as a marriage ceremony.

After dealing with Larry’s mother’s death and the subsequent trial, Taylor said, Larry’s family needed a celebration. Family members came from all over the country and Larry and KC reveled in being the source of joy after so much sadness in the family.

Now, life for the Janssons has settled into a normal routine.

In addition to their jobs and school and a happy suburban life in Frisco, both have returned to activities taken away by Love In Action. Larry teaches dance classes. KC plays the piano.

And once KC finishes school, they’ll begin seriously looking into adoption.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 11, 2011.

—  John Wright

Dallas Morning News bills gay couple $1,034 for wedding announcement it refused to publish

Thomas-Mark-Reed-and-Dante-Karl-Walkup
Mark Reed-Walkup, left, and Dante Walkup

After filing a discrimination complaint against The Dallas Morning News for refusing to publish their marriage announcement under “Weddings,” a local gay couple reports that they received a $1,034 bill in the mail for the unpublished ad.

Mark Reed-Walkup, who filed the discrimination complaint against The DMN after marrying his partner Dante Walkup in Washington, D.C., says he wrote the following to James Moroney III, publisher and CEO of the newspaper:

“Does the DMN always send out invoices to ‘customers’ who placed an ad online but it was never published due to the paper’s discriminatory policies? We just received an invoice today for our December ad that you banned from your paper because our wedding wasn’t ‘really’ a wedding in your eyes. Unbelievable.”

Reed-Walkup says Moroney responded as follows:

“Not a good practice. I’ll take up with sales. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.”

Reed-Walkup also notes that more than 8,000 people have signed a petition launched by Change.org calling on The DMN to publish same-sex marriage announcements under Weddings. He’s hoping to get the petition up to 10,000 signatures.

As for the complaint filed against The DMN, the director of the Fair Housing Office told Instant Tea recently that the city was still in the process of reviewing it. The Fair Housing Office investigates discrimination complaints filed under a 2002 ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing and public accommodations. Reed-Walkup maintains that Wedding announcements are a public accommodation.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Gay couple burned out of home; trans discrimination study; marriage updates

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. A gay couple in Clayton, N.C., was burned out of their home (above) in a possible hate crime on Friday after suffering anti-gay harassment repeatedly over the last year. A neighbor says the couple had their tires slashed, had a gay slur written on their home in marker and received a note with a gay slur in their mailbox telling them to move. Police, however, still aren’t convinced it was a hate crime. Watch a video report here.

2. The largest study ever on discrimination against transgender people showed that 41 percent have attempted suicide, compared to 1.6 percent of the general population. The study, by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality, also showed that trans people are four times more likely to live in extreme poverty, and that 26 percent said they’d lost a job because of their gender identity/expression. Read more here, or download the full study here.

3. Same-sex marriage updates from Maryland, Rhode Island and Indiana.

—  John Wright

Gay couple accuses Baylor-owned gym of ‘draconian and bigoted practices’

For the second time in less than a year, a popular East Dallas gym owned by Baylor Health Care System is under fire for blatantly discriminating against gay couples.

Last May, a gay couple filed a discrimination complaint against the Tom Landry Fitness Center, which has a stated policy of refusing to offer family memberships to same-sex couples. The couple’s complaint was filed under a city of Dallas ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in public accommodations.

However, the couple later withdrew the complaint after they said city officials told them the Tom Landry Fitness Center may be exempt from the ordinance because it’s a private club.

Now, another gay couple plans to file its own discrimination complaint against the Fitness Center if the policy isn’t reversed. Alan Rodriguez, who recently moved to Dallas with his partner of 10 years, says he was told by the director of the Fitness Center that Baylor defines family as “one man and one woman.”

Rodriguez, who’s renovating a home on Gaston Avenue with his partner, said he chooses to live and work in Dallas largely because of the ordinance prohibiting anti-gay discrimination. He also said he goes to the Fitness Center for allergy shots and considers the gym a “neighborhood friend,” but was shocked to learn about the family membership policy.

“It is clear Baylor has taken the position to discriminate against gay people with respect to family gym membership. It is also clear Baylor has a regimented policy excluding domestic partners from the definition of ‘family,'” Rodriguez wrote Tuesday in a letter to a Baylor executive that was also sent to Instant Tea. “Therefore, I must conclude your organization also believes it lawful to discriminate against gay people regarding other medical services. Clearly, your organization considers this policy a legal form of discrimination. It remains unclear the extent to which this policy permeates all Baylor operations. Such draconian and bigoted practices are unthinkable in 2011.”

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Dad says gay teen’s death not suicide; ex-cop gets jail in rape of transsexual

Lance Lundsten

1. Gay Minnesota teen Lance Lundsten was laid to rest Tuesday night, but questions remain about what caused his death. Some news reports have suggested that Lundsten, 18, took his own life in response to anti-gay bullying at school. However, Lundsten’s father maintains that he died from coronary edema, a condition caused by an enlarged heart. Autopsy results will take several weeks.

2. A former San Antonio police officer accused of raping a transsexual prostitute was sentenced to one year in jail on Tuesday. The former officer, Craig Nash, pleaded guilty to official oppression after prosecutors agreed in exchange not to charge him with sexual assault by a police officer, which carries a life sentence. Prosecutors also agreed not to pursue an allegation by a man who said Nash raped him a few years earlier.

3. A federal appeals court in Louisiana today will hear a case involving two gay dads who simply want both of their names listed on their adopted child’s birth certificate. A federal district judge and a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals have already ruled in the gay couple’s favor, but the bigoted state attorney general is appealing the decision. The couple is represented by Lambda Legal’s Ken Upton of Dallas, who warns of a “gaping loophole” in the doctrine of full faith and credit if the decision is overturned: “An exception that permits states arbitrarily to ignore legal parent-child relationships as families travel throughout the United States would create unprecedented chaos and harm.”

—  John Wright

Court says Texas AG can’t block gay divorce

Angelique Naylor

Associated Press

AUSTIN — The Texas attorney general can’t block a divorce granted to two women who were legally married elsewhere, an appeals court ruled Friday, Jan. 7.

A judge in Austin granted a divorce last February to Angelique Naylor and Sabina Daly, who were married in Massachusetts in 2004 and then returned home to Texas.

A day after the divorce was granted, Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbott filed a motion to intervene in the case, arguing the judge didn’t have the jurisdiction to grant the divorce because Texas has a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. The judge ruled that the attorney general’s motion wasn’t timely, a decision Abbott then appealed.

In Friday’s ruling, a three-judge panel of 3rd Texas Court of Appeals in Austin said the state was not a party of record in the divorce case and Abbott therefore did not have standing to appeal.

The ruling, however, does not settle the debate over whether same-sex couples should be allowed to divorce in Texas, where a different appeals court has ruled against a gay couple seeking a divorce in the state.

The 5th Texas Court of Appeals in Dallas ruled in August that gay couples legally married in other states can’t get a divorce in Texas. In that case, Abbott had appealed after a Dallas judge said she did have jurisdiction to grant a divorce — though had not yet granted one — and dismissed the state’s attempt to intervene.

The ruling by the Dallas appeals court’s three-judge panel also affirmed the state’s same-sex marriage ban was constitutional. Texas voters in 2005 passed, by a 3-to-1 margin, a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage even though state law already prohibited it.

Austin attorney Jody Scheske, who handled the appeals in both divorce cases, acknowledged the divergent rulings far from settle the issue of gay couples seeking a divorce in Texas.

“It’s complicated and to some extent remains unsettled and that’s unfortunate,” he said. “If you have a legal marriage you should have the same equal right to divorce as all other married people have.”

But for his client in the Austin case, the Friday ruling means she will remain divorced, Scheske said.

“For the larger issue, what it means is the state of Texas can’t intervene in private lawsuits just because it doesn’t like one of the trial court’s rulings,” he said. “The state was not a party, so they couldn’t intervene after the fact.”

The attorney general can choose to ask the entire Austin appeals court to hear the case there or can appeal the Friday ruling to the Texas Supreme Court.

Abbott spokeswoman Lauren Bean said their office “will weigh all options to ensure that the will of Texas voters and their elected representatives is upheld.”

“The Texas Constitution and statutes are clear: only the union of a man and a woman can be treated as a marriage in Texas. The court’s decision undermines unambiguous Texas law,” Bean said.

Unlike the Dallas case, the Austin case did not examine whether the judge had jurisdiction to grant the divorce. Ken Upton, a staff attorney for Lambda Legal, a national legal organization that promotes equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, noted the Austin appeals court decision was in fact quite narrow.

“Basically, the only rule that comes out of it is that (Abbott) waited too long,” he said.

He said the predicament of gay couples seeking divorce in Texas highlights what happens when states adopt “such different views about marriage and relationships.”

“The more we have this patchwork of marriage laws, the more difficult it is for people who don’t have access to the same orderly dissolution,” he said.

—  John Wright

Gay couple married via Skype files complaint against DMN for not publishing announcement

Mark Reed-Walkup, left, and Dante Walkup

A gay couple has filed a discrimination complaint against The Dallas Morning News for refusing to publish their same-sex wedding announcement.

Mark Reed-Walkup and Dante Walkup, who were legally married in Washington, D.C., in October, filed the complaint on Friday. The couple’s wedding has made international news in recent weeks because it was held in Dallas but officiated from D.C. via Skype.

Reed- Walkup said he’s been trying for several weeks to get The Morning News to publish their paid announcement in its “Weddings” section. But the newspaper has refused due to a policy that says same-sex wedding announcements can only be published in a separate section called “Commitments.” The policy reportedly is based on the fact that same-sex marriage isn’t legal in Texas.

The couple filed the complaint under a city ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing and public accommodations. Reed-Walkup says he believes wedding announcements, which are paid advertisements, constitute a public accommodation.

“Our ultimate goal is for the newspaper to realize that this is discrimination and change their policy,” Reed-Walkup said. “They [the city] may agree with the newspaper that because of the ban on same-sex marriage in Texas, they have every justification to not publish it in the ‘Weddings’ section. At least we can say that we tried, and take it from there.”

Beverly Davis, director of the city’s Fair Housing Office, said she didn’t receive the complaint until Monday.

“We just got it,” Davis said Monday afternoon. “I haven’t had time to make an assessment yet.”

The Fair Housing Office investigates complaints under the ordinance before turning them over to the City Attorney’s Office for possible prosecution. Each violation of the ordinance is punishable by a $500 fine.

Jim Moroney, publisher and CEO of The Morning News, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

—  John Wright

Top Republican TV shows are also gay favorites

‘Modern Family’ was No. 3 on the Republicans’ list.

A new study of TV viewing habits of Republicans vs. Democrats reveals something not surprising — that the two groups like completely different shows. What is surprising is that on the Republican list are more shows that are popular among the LGBT community than on the Democratic list.

Most glaring is the No. 3 Republican show — Modern Family. That program features one of the best portrayals of a gay family ever seen on television. And Ed O’Neill, the patriarch of the family, is married to a woman from Columbia who has moved to the United States with her son. Immigration is not usually a popular Republican theme.

At No. 12 is another very gay show, Desperate Housewives. Bree’s son is gay. There’s a gay couple living on Wisteria Lane. Marc Cherry, the show’s creator who earned his TV cred as a writer for Golden Girls, is gay. Gay, gay, gay. But it’s on the Republican favorites list, not the Democrats’.

Coming in at No. 2 on the Republican side is yet another gay favorite, Dancing With the Stars. I guess that explains Bristol Palin’s continued appearance. Next season there’s talk of a gay couple. The Israeli version of DWTS tried that this year and it’s become the most popular show in that country this season.

And No. 1 is Amazing Race, which usually features gay contestants. The winner of the fourth season was Reichen Lehmkuhl and his partner at the time Chip Arndt. Mel White has appeared. Are Republicans watching to root against these players?

On the Democratic side, the No. 1 show is something called Flashpoint. Really? It’s a CBS show apparently. No. 2 in popularity is a PBS show called Hometime. OK, did Democrats answer this poll seriously?

About the only two shows on the Democratic list that would also be up there on the LGBT list are Brothers and Sisters (No. 10), which features a gay couple living in a family of Democrats with the exception of one progressive Republican sister, and Palin-impersonator Tina Fey’s 30 Rock (No. 15).

Law and Order? Good show but sounds perfectly Republican, right? Nope. Democrats prefer that show. America’s Most Wanted on FOX? Democrats. Really?

Republicans prefer The Mentalist. Democrats prefer Medium. There’s a difference?

Glee? Not on either list.

Only one show made both lists — Friday Night Lights. Great choice by both sides. Republicans rate the show one notch higher than Democrats. The writing is smart, although I’ve never seen anyone actually stick to the script. It’s something other than a police or hospital procedural show. Great character development. Interesting plot. And I’m on the show. (I play a Dillon, Texas reporter on the sidelines of the football games and at press conferences on the show. It’ll be back for its final season in the spring.)

—  David Taffet

Stay of Prop 8 ruling prompts protests on a day when gay marriages would have resumed

Nine protesters were arrested Thursday morning following a sit-in at the San Diego County Clerk’s Office, where a gay couple requested a marriage license. The couple had scheduled their appointment prior to a federal appeals court’s decision earlier this week to put same-sex marriages on hold until at least December. Sheriff’s deputies eventually showed up in full riot gear (shown above) to arrest the nine protesters, who are members of the San Diego Alliance for Marriage Equality. More pics from the protest can be found here. According to the San Diego Gay & Lesbian News, supporters have called an emergency rally for 5 p.m. outside the jail to protest the arrests and demand the activists’ immediate release.

Meanwhile, up the road in West Hollywood, a rally is planned for 6 p.m. Thursday night at Santa Monica Blvd. and San Vicente Blvd. From the Facebook event page:

Although Judge Walker’s decision was a victory for Prop 8 opponents, the fight is NOT over. Do not let that victorious feeling make you complacent! Let it be known that we will remain vigilant and active until marriage equality is restored in California!

UPDATE: Here’s some video of the San Diego protest:

—  John Wright

1st foreign gay couple marries in Nepal — a new destination

BINAJ GURUBACHARYA  |  Associated Press

KATMANDU, Nepal — A Hindu priest performed the first wedding ceremony in Nepal for a foreign gay couple, a rights group said Wednesday, Aug. 18, as activists and tourist agencies increasingly promote the Himalayan nation as a gay-friendly destination.

The ceremony was held Tuesday night in Katmandu for Sanjay Shah, 42, a Briton from Leicester, and an Indian man who did not want to be identified, said Sunil Pant, a member of Nepal’s parliament and the nation’s most prominent gay activist.

Pant’s gay rights group, Blue Diamond Society, organized the ceremony and issued the pair a certificate for a $200 fee.

The two men were not legally married because Nepal has no laws legalizing same-sex marriage and does not marry foreigners. However, marriages performed by priests are generally accepted by society and most people who live in rural areas do not register their marriages with authorities.

Gay rights have improved dramatically in a country where just five years ago police were beating gays and transsexuals in the streets.

Now, in addition to having an openly gay parliamentarian, Nepal is issuing “third gender” identity cards and appears set to enshrine gay rights — and possibly even same-sex marriage — in a new constitution.

The charter, however, has been delayed because of bickering among political parties that have been unable to choose a new leader since Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal resigned in June.

Tuesday’s private ceremony was attended by a small number of gay rights activists and members of Pant’s group. Pant said there have been a few same-sex wedding ceremonies among Nepalese people, but it was the first for a foreign gay couple.

The improvements in gay rights have become a major marketing opportunity in a country where tourism is a main driver of the economy. Government officials hope gay tourists will spend more money than the backpackers who now stay in cheap hotels and travel on shoestring budgets.

Pant’s group has established Pink Mountain tour company, which caters to gay tourists and promotes Nepal as a safe destination for them. It offers gay honeymooners trekking trips in the Himalayas and has proposed same-sex wedding ceremonies at the Mount Everest base camp.

—  John Wright