GetEQUAL TX plans Olympics protest, marriage equality rally this weekend

People flooded theCedar Springs Road in June for a Day of Decision rally after the Supreme Court marriage rulings. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

People flooded Cedar Springs Road in June for a Day of Decision rally after the Supreme Court marriage rulings. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

UPDATE: Due to weather conditions, the protest in San Antonio has been postponed.

ORIGINAL POST: LGBT advocates plan to protest Coca-Cola at the company’s bottling plant in San Antonio on Friday, the opening day of the Winter Games in Sochi, and then rally to support marriage equality in Fort Worth on Saturday.

The protest, organized by GetEQUAL TX, urges Coca-Cola to expand its LGBT support from a national focus to a global one.

“As a sponsor of the Olympic,s Coca Cola has the chance to become a leader on global human rights forefront by demanding the International Olympic Commission refuse any future bid from countries that use the law to persecute LGBTQ people who simply wish to live with dignity,” GetEQUAL TX states in a press release.

Then on Saturday, Cowtown-area activists will gather at Avoca Coffee to protest the freedom to marry in Texas in support of a marriage lawsuit filed by a Plano and Austin couple in San Antonio federal court. A hearing for a temporary injunction to prohibit state officials from enforcing Texas’ marriage ban takes place Feb. 12.

Among the speakers on Saturday are Dallas couple Mark Jiminez and Beau Chandler, who were arrested in their attempts to receive a marriage license in Dallas

“With a legal battle taking place in San Antonio, I could not help to think of the many civil rights that have been fought for in wars and completely forsaken,” protest organizer Damon Carver said. “After overturning DOMA, most of the nation celebrated good news, some couples who resorted to tourist weddings had great news. On this day we will be presumptuously toasting to celebrate our victories.”

“Defecting to another state for any freedom including marriage is anti-American, and will soon be anti-Texan,” he added.

Rally participants are encouraged to wear different styles of cowboy hats to the event since Texans are represented with cowboy hats. and the different styles represent the variety in the LGBT community.

The protest in San Antonio is 6 p.m. Friday at the bottling plant, located at 1 Coca-Cola Place.

The marriage rally is noon Saturday at Avoca Coffee, located at 1311 W. Magnolia Ave. in Fort Worth.

—  Anna Waugh

King unable to attend Sochi opening ceremony, Cahow to replace her

Cahow

Caitlin Cahow

Billie Jean King announced Wednesday she would not be going to Sochi for the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics on Friday because her mother is ill.

Instead, Caitlin Cahow, an Olympic silver and bronze medalist in women’s ice hockey, will replace her.

Cahow was supposed to be part of the closing ceremony but now will not participate in that. No replacement has been named yet.

Cahow and King are both lesbian and were named to the Olympic delegation by President Barack Obama to make a statement about Russia’s new anti-gay law.

Cahow will be joined by Brian Boitano, an Olympic gold medalist in figure skating. Boitano came out recently after he was named to the opening ceremony delegation.

Janet A. Napolitano, president of the University of California and former Secretary of Homeland Security, will lead the delegation. Michael A. McFaul, U.S. ambassador to the Russian Federation, and Robert L. Nabors, assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff for policy, round out the delegation. On Tuesday, McFaul announced his resignation as ambassador effective the end of the month.

—  David Taffet

State Department issues LGBT travel warning for Sochi Olympics

Sochi

Sochi bear

The U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory Saturday for citizens traveling to Russia for the Winter Olympics next month, including a specific warning that “vague guidance” from Russia about its new laws making “it a crime to promote LGBT equality in public” could be used to fine, deport, or jail foreign visitors.

The LGBT warning was part of a longer advisory alerting Americans traveling to Sochi, Russia, for the Olympics that such highly publicized global events are seen as an “attractive target” for terrorists and that several acts of terrorism have already been perpetrated in Russia in the past few weeks.

The advisory, issued January 10, urges American citizens to “avoid large crowds in areas that lack enhanced security measures” and to use caution “in any areas where protests, demonstrations, or other public disturbances are taking place.”

“Demonstrations intended to be peaceful can develop quickly and unpredictably, sometimes turning violent,” notes the advisory.

The possibility of LGBT-related protests in Russia has been a concern since last June, when the Russian government approved its anti-gay laws. Although the Russian government says the laws are just focused on protecting children from “non-traditional sexual relations,” the legislation goes much further. Signed by President Vladimir Putin in June and July, they also prohibit any public displays of affection by same-sex couples and any public events related to LGBT people.

Early talk by activists of staging protests or wearing rainbow pins or waving rainbow flags at the Olympics was met with promises by the Russian government of tough enforcement of its laws. Putin and Russian officials have softened their tone in recent weeks, and earlier this month and said they would provide a designated area in a nearby village for protests. Then earlier this month, Putin signed an executive order that will require protesters to secure approval in advance.

But tensions seemed to be ready to escalate again over the weekend, when the head of the Russian Orthodox Church suggested the Russian people vote on whether to re-criminalize homosexuality.

The State Department advisory notes that foreign citizens could be fined as much as $3,100, jailed for 14 days, and deported for violating the laws.

“The law makes it a crime to promote LGBT equality in public, but lacks concrete legal definitions for key terms,” notes the advisory. “Russian authorities have indicated a broad interpretation of what constitutes ‘LGBT propaganda,’ and provided vague guidance as to which actions will be interpreted by authorities as ‘LGBT propaganda.’

The State Department maintains an LGBT Travel Information page.

LISA KEEN  |  Keen News Service

—  David Taffet

Gay activists get ready for tough sledding at Winter Olympics

Russia getting ready for 2014 Winter OlympicsU.S. gay rights activists, buoyed by their unprecedented political successes in 2013, are gearing up to make an international statement at the Winter Olympics in Russia – but know that speaking out against new antigay laws there may be more difficult than anything they faced in America, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Few Western gay rights activists will be in Russia for the Games, which are slated for February in the resort city of Sochi. For Russians who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, speaking out about their fears – or abuse they’ve suffered since the laws passed earlier this year – can be deadly. There are only 11 paid gay rights activists in Russia, a country of 143 million people.

Boycotting Olympic corporate sponsors won’t happen; most of those U.S. companies are LGBT-friendly. And the U.S. State Department has told activists that if they are caught violating the vaguely defined Russian antigay propaganda law, their home government won’t be able to help them.

Nevertheless, activists like Dustin Lance Black, the Sacramento native and Oscar-winning screenwriter of “Milk” about slain San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, see opportunity. He said the campaign is “all about visibility. It’s about being present. I am telling people that you have to go.”

Faced bomb threats

“This law was constructed to silence gay and lesbian people and their allies. As we said during the 1980s: Silence equals death for this movement,” said Black, who faced bomb threats when he screened his film at an LGBT film festival in St. Petersburg in late November.

Visiting with Russian gay rights activists at that time, Black found them “to be incredibly brave. As a student of gay history, it reminded me of San Francisco in the early 1970s or Salt Lake City for the last five years. It speaks to me of a people who aren’t going to let the pendulum swing back in this manner.”

As Black and Oscar-winning producer Bruce Cohen corral Hollywood stars to highlight the issue, U.S.-based LGBT organizations are preparing to open a multipronged effort to pull off what they described as their own “Olympic moment” in Sochi.

Several antigay laws

They want to call international attention to several new Russian laws created earlier this year. One bans exposing minors to “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations.” Critics say that law is so vague that someone could be prosecuted for wearing a rainbow T-shirt or holding hands in public with a person of the same sex. Another new law forbids gay foreigners from adopting Russian children.

“It’s like we’re in the Middle Ages again over there where it isn’t safe for LGBT people to live their lives,” said Cohen, the producer of “American Beauty” and “Silver Linings Playbook.”

Cohen worries most about what will happen after the Games, when the international spotlight dims. That’s a focus of Uprising of Love, an organization he co-founded with Black and singer Melissa Etheridge. The growing group of a couple dozen gay and straight performers – like singer Madonna, actress Julianne Moore and actor Jim Parsons – will speak out on human rights abuses in Russia after the last gold medals are handed out.

“Our message is that the world will continue to be watching afterward,” Cohen said.

—  Steve Ramos

Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir too gay for that super-heterosexual sport of figure skating

Three-time national figure skating champion Johnny Weir is too gay for that super straight sport of figure skating. The other two team members are regularly referred to by their titles. I’m the first write to refer to Weir as “three-time national figure skating champion” since the Olympics have begun.

Rather than three-time champion, NBC reporters regularly refer to him as “flamboyant Johnny Weir” or “over-the-top Johnny Weir.”

Earth to NBC: HE’S FIGURE SKATING. Let’s see you do a triple axle followed by a triple lutz and then we’ll listen to your homophobic slurs.

Current TV did a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek piece about the coverage of the wonderfully talented skater.

—  David Taffet

An inspirational moment

Joannie Rochette of Canada tries to fight back the tears as she completes her short program in the 2010 Olympics
Joannie Rochette of Canada tries to fight back the tears as she completes her short program in the 2010 Olympics

Who watched Canadian Joannie Rochette skate her short program last night at the Olympics? I did, and I admit, it made me tear up.

For those who aren’t familiar with the story, Rochette is a Canadian figure skater who lost her mother unexpectedly to a heart attack less than 48 hours before skating last night. In a situation where most people would have been too overwhelmed with grief to even compete, Rochette stayed true to the dream she and her mother shared. She took to the ice and turned in the performance of her life. She earned a personal best score and is in third place going into the long program.

As she skated, the cameras showed her father in the stands, tears in his eyes. As she finished her program, the crowd rose to their feet as Rochette bent over, tears splashing onto the ice. It was a moment that, to me, encapsulated the spirit of the Olympics: Athletes defying the odds and doing their best, inspired by — and inspiring to — the people who worked and sacrificed alongside them to put them in that moment of potential glory.

Kim Yuna of Korea was near perfect in a dazzling routine and has a huge lead going into the long program. Mao Asada landed a triple axle (!)  and was nearly as perfect as Kim. She is in second place at the moment. Both deserved their scores and both deserve their places in the standings.

But it was Rochette who won people’s hearts last night and who I will remember long after the 2010 Olympics are over. Because sometimes, technical perfection isn’t as important as effort and emotion. (Read more about it here.)

—  admin

Not just offensive, but boring to boot

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I have always enjoyed watching figure skating (like the Olympics and the world championships type figure skating; not Barney on Ice type figure skating). I used to know a little bit about how they judged the competition, but since all the judging changes were made, now I just watch for what entertains me personally in a routine.

Last night, watching Russian ice dancing champions Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin perform their original dance routine in the Olympics, I was neither entertained nor amused. And neither were a lot of Australian Aboriginal leaders.

See, this year’s theme for the original dance portion of the ice dancing competition is “folk dancing.” For some reason, the Russian pair decided to “pay tribute” to the Aboriginal culture with their routine. To me, it looked more like “make fun of” instead of “pay tribute to.”

I thought the costumes were stupid. The “funny faces” the two made throughout the routine, and the way Shabalin “dragged” Domnina by her ponytail in parts of the dance looked like something out of a bad Vaudeville routine. Their moves did not seem particular difficult, nor was their footwork impressive. And to top it off, it all seemed badly skated to me.

Since I am not of Aboriginal descent, my complaints about the dance being offensive don’t count for much. But the complaints of Aboriginal leaders do count. And here’s what Aboriginal leader Bev Manton, chairwoman of the NSW Land Council had to say about it: “I am offended by the performance and so are our other councillors. Aboriginal people for very good reason are sensitive about their cultural objects and icons being co-opted by non-Aboriginal people — whether they are from Australia or Russia. It’s important for people to tread carefully and respectfully when they are depicting somebody else’s culture and I don’t think this performance does.”

—  admin