U.K. Plans to Lift Ban on Gay Church Ceremonies

Interesting news from the United Kingdom.

Lawmakers in the United Kingdom plan to lift the ban on same-sex civil partnership ceremonies in churches.

The Sunday Times reports Liberal Democrat Equality Minister Lynne Featherstone will present a timetable to allow the unions in religious buildings and a proposal to end the ban on same-sex marriages.

Religious groups will not be forced to perform the ceremonies. The Church of England is one organization that opposes the law.

Of course, I’m all for the separation of church and state and England doesn’t have it. There are several ways of looking at this decision and plenty of room for personal opinion. Most of us in the United States simply want the same rights afforded to straight couples without experiencing discrimination and second class status. Maybe this would be a good article to forward to all those who scream and argue in favor of removing that wall of separation?




AMERICAblog Gay

—  David Taffet

 EastEnders Plans Gay Surrogacy Storyline

The popular British soap opera is planning a gay surrogacy storyline for couple Christian and Syed.
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  admin

Wyoming GOP Plans To Block Recognition Of Gay Marriages From Other States

GOP lawmakers in Wyoming plan to introduce legislation banning the recognition of same-sex marriages from other states. Such a move failed in 2009, but the plan is to put the issue to voters.

State law defines marriage as a legal union between a man and woman, but Wyoming also recognizes marriages performed in other states. Rep. Owen Petersen of Mountain View says that raises questions about what happens when gay couples from other states move to Wyoming. Petersen and Sen. Curt Meier of LaGrange say they plan to co-sponsor a resolution that would let voters decide whether to amend the state constitution to clarify.

Joe. My. God.

—  admin

Family Research Council plans to go on tour against the Southern Poverty Law Center

crossposted on Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters

Another interview with another "friendly" publication and the Family Research Council puts its foot in its mouth.

The organization and its leader, Tony Perkins is still steaming over the anti-gay hate group designation given to it and several other religious right groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. This week, the organization ran full page ads in Politico and the Washington Examiner calling the designation into question but conveniently not directly addressing the charges that they deliberately spread anti-gay propaganda and junk science to smear the lgbt community.

The ads also had the signatures of over 150 conservative leaders, including over 20 members of Congress.

Yesterday during an interview with Tucker Carlson's Daily Beast, FRC's Perkins made an interesting comment:

“We’re not afraid to debate the issues,” Perkins said in a phone interview. “We are not running from the debate. We are confident on the issues we advocate for based on empirical, peer-reviewed research.”

The comment is highly ironic seeing that the last time Perkins did have a debate on the issue – on the news program Hardball with the SPLC's Mark Potok – he distorted data to make the inaccurate claim that pedophilia and homosexuality is connected. He also cited an organization, the American College of Pediatricians. It was later discovered that the ACP is not a legitimate medical organization but a sham group created to push religious right distortions about the lgbt community.

Hardball's host, Chris Matthews, was forced to give a clarifying statement regarding the ACP on a later broadcast.

 

Since that time, Perkins has pretty much avoided debates, appearing on "friendly" news programs such as  Fox and Friends.  Nor has he been directly addressing SPLC's charges.

That seems to have been left up to the other anti-gay groups listed by SPLC. But unfortunately, their spokespeople haven't been doing such a good job.

This week during an interview with the Concerned Women for America's Martha Kleder, Peter LaBarbera (head of Americans for Truth, another organization cited as a hate group) actually admitted to citing bad studies in order to smear the lgbt community.

Meanwhile, Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association (yet another group cited by SPLC's for its spreading of anti-gay propaganda) has made statements during interviews and columns that have, to many, justified SPLC for calling his organization and several others out.

During the same Daily Beast interview, Perkins said the organization plans to go on a nationwide tour to get more signatures for its letter. He also said:

We’re going to full-speed but not in the direction they want us to. The left wants to say these issues are beyond debate. If we, as a country, decide there is no debate, it becomes a totalitarian state.” 
 SPLC didn't respond to the Daily Beast's request for a comment * (see below), but the organization already put out a statement regarding the Family Research Council's campaign:
(FRC's letter) was a remarkable performance, given that it was precisely the maligning of entire groups of people — gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people — that caused the SPLC to list groups like the FRC.

. . .  Despite the claims made in today’s statement, the SPLC’s listings are not in any way intended to suppress these groups’ free speech. We’re not asking that these groups be silenced or punished in any way. What we are doing is calling them out for their lies. There is nothing wrong with labeling an organization a hate group based on what they say. A simple example illustrates the point: If a neo-Nazi group said all Jews are “vermin,” no one would argue with our characterizing it as a hate group.

Neither are we mounting an attack on individuals or “groups that uphold Judeo-Christian moral views,” as today’s statement suggests. In fact, as we say in our article dissecting the views of these groups, “Viewing homosexuality as unbiblical does not qualify organizations for listing as hate groups.” Instead, as we explained there, “the SPLC’s listings of these groups is based on their propagation of known falsehoods — claims about LGBT people that have been thoroughly discredited by scientific authorities — and repeated, groundless name-calling.”

Personally, I am all for FRC taking their letter on tour.  That would give the lgbt community the opportunity to ask them several questions such as:

Please explain how the following statements are an example of upholding "Judeo-Christain" moral views:

•Gays should be exported from the country;

•The federal government must be overthrown if it allows gay marriage;

•"Moral perverts" need to be kept out of the military;

•There is nothing "conservative" about "one man violently cramming his penis into another man’s lower intestine and calling it 'love'";

•Homosexual behavior ought to be outlawed;

•Gay sex ought to carry criminal penalties;

•Gays ought to be prohibited from serving in public office;

•Gay sex is domestic terrorism;

•"Hitler recruited around him homosexuals to make up his Stormtroopers … [because] homosexual soldiers basically had no limits [to] the savagery and brutality they were willing to inflict."



Hat tip to People for the American Way's Right Wing Watch.

* Even though SPLC didn't respond to the Daily Beast's request for a quote, the site had an obligation to at least report the fact that SPLC did address FRC's letter. That's what a credible journalist would have  done. Or have I answered my own question in terms of why the Daily Beast didn't report on SPLC's reponse to FRC?
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  admin

Pastor Plans Rally Against Eddie Long

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The firestorm surrounding Bishop Eddie Long will get some fresh fuel later this month, when a South Carolina Pastor named Prophet H. Walker leads a rally in Georgia calling for Long’s resignation.

“[Long] has no right to assume the office of pastor at any Christian church. A pastor should be above reproach,” said Walker, whose rally against Long will be held on Halloween. Long, a homophobic conservative, has been accused of sexually assaulting four young men from his congregation.

The claims against Long come as no surprise to radio host Reuben Armstrong, who says someone came to him in 2006 and told him, “Bishop Long was allegedly grooming young vulnerable male members of his church for his own personal sexual use.” Armstrong has always been a voracious critic of Long, whom he included in his best-selling book, Crooks and Homos in the Pulpit.

Long, meanwhile, maintains his innocence and refuses to back down.


Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright

KKK Plans Protest For Anti-Gay Student Jennifer Keeton

6a00d8341c730253ef013486629d1a970c-800wi Well here's something unsettling: members of the Ku Klux Klan have decided to stage a rally in honor of Jennifer Keeton, the former August State University counseling student who sued for not being able to tell potential patients that homosexuality's an "identity disorder."

The KKK, like Keeton, believes the Georgia-based school violated her First Amendment rights. "It's your constitutional right, so how could you tell someone you have to do something completely different?" said Bobby Spurlock, imperial wizard of the KKK's North and South Carolina branches.

Spurlock also said that Keeton hasn't endorsed their action, scheduled for October 23 at ASU, although he did cryptically suggest a link: “She has not contacted us but we were contacted by someone that is aware of her.”

A judge tossed Keeton's First Amendment lawsuit against ASU earlier this year.

Perhaps the KKK will be met with protests similar to those that welcomed the Westboro Baptist Church yesterday.


Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright

From wedding to retirement plans: Maggie just has ideas about all milestones, huh?

Screen Shot 2010-09-30 At 6.23.03 PmThis speculation/activist view of the court comes from our ol’ two step partner Maggie Gallagher:

How could Judge Walker exhibit such gross bias and deliver such an injudicious opinion? The answer appears to be, in part, that it was his swan song. He’ll leave the bench famous, a hero in his hometown, and a hot commodity in whatever private venture he moves into.

Compare that to where Judge Walker would be if he had done what a lower level federal judge probably should have done: found that Baker v. Nelson is binding precedent, even if he also felt compelled to state why he believed it should be overturned by the Supreme Court.”

Judge Walker’s Swan Song [NRO]

Right. Because that’s exactly the principle in which Judge Walker crafted his 146 page decision: Fame. Instant Celebrity. A thirst for his 15 minutes. In fact, didn’t he actually study at the Kim Kardashian School of Law?

Oh, and as for Baker v. Nelson (as much as we’d like to continue talking about reality TV instead): These social conservatives really need to stop acting like that case went completely unacknowledged at trial! Because Walker quite pointedly brought up that 1972 case (which SCOTUS dismissed with a one-sentence “for want of a substantial federal question” order), leading Ted Olson to even more pointedly explain why the current matter before the court was/is different:

THE COURT: Well, now, the Supreme Court in the Baker vs. Nelson case, decided that the issue which we are confronted with here was not ripe for the Supreme Court to weigh in on. That was 1972. What’s happened in the 38 years since 1972?



MR. OLSON:
Well, a great deal has happened. Among the things that have happened is the Romer case. Among the things that have happened is the Lawrence vs. Texas case. You know what those cases involve. A lot of other things have happened. Changes in the ballot propositions. California has adopted something completely different than the state — I guess it was Minnesota or Michigan, involved in that case. So there are a lot of factual situations that are different. This case is very different.

And, by the way, the Supreme Court rejected the opportunity to take a miscegenation case. Now, I think it was — Dr. Cott testified to this. I think it was 1955. And then they took the case, the Loving case, in 1967.

CONTD: Closing Arguments [AFER]

As Olson aptly mentioned: The reality of both the world and the law has greatly changed since 1972. Romer v. Evans. Lawrence v. Texas. DOMA and anti-LGBT ballot initiatives, which while anti-equality, certainly raise new legal questions about the constitutionality of bias that did not exist in 1972. Plus the undeniable reality that is five U.S. states and one jurisdiction in our nation’s capital with equality, as well as the many other countries with marriage equality abroad. Oh, and the civil unions and domestic partnerships that are spread all over, including in California.

Baker would only be binding if the current court was deciding the precise issue that it examined almost four decades ago. But things have undeniably changed, regardless of how much the Maggie Gallaghers of the world think the Earth’s trajectory is dependent on their team’s heels alone!




Good As You

—  John Wright

Bardot Condemns Plans for Biopic

Brigitte Bardot, the quondam French femme fatale with a history of
racist and homophobic remarks, warns that “sparks will fly” if plans for a
biographical film move forward.
Daily News

—  John Wright

Watch: Stephen Colbert’s Plans to Destroy Same-Sex Marriage

Colbert  

Stephen Colbert weighs in on the Prop 8 ruling, with a plan to destroy same-sex marriages.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
How to Ruin Same-Sex Marriages
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes 2010 Election Fox News


Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright

Partner denied sick leave by AT&T

Bryan Dickenson, left, and Bill Sugg hold hands in Sugg’s room at a rehabilitation facility in Richardson on Wednesday, Jan. 27. (Source:John Wright/Dallas Voice)

Despite 100% rating from HRC, company won’t allow gay man time off to care for ailing spouse

JOHN WRIGHT  |  News Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

Bryan Dickenson and Bill Sugg have been together for 30 years.

For the last 12 of those years, Dickenson has worked as a communications technician for Dallas-based AT&T.

After Sugg suffered a debilitating stroke in September, Dickinson requested time off under the federal Family Medical Leave Act to care for his partner.

But AT&T is refusing to grant Dickenson the 12 weeks of leave that would be afforded to a heterosexual spouse under the act.

As a result, Dickenson is using vacation time so he can spend one afternoon a week at Sugg’s bedside at a rehabilitation facility in Richardson. But Dickenson fears that when his vacation runs out, he’ll end up being fired for requesting additional time off to care for Sugg. Dickenson’s attorney, Rob Wiley of Dallas, said he initially thought AT&T’s refusal to grant his client leave under FMLA was just a mistake on the part of the company. Wiley said he expected AT&T to quickly rectify the situation after he sent the company a friendly letter.

After all, AT&T maintains the highest score of 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, which ranks companies according to their treatment of LGBT employees. And just this week, HRC listed AT&T as one of its “Best Places to Work.”

But AT&T has stood its ground, confirming in a statement to Dallas Voice this week that the company isn’t granting Dickenson leave under FMLA because neither federal nor state law recognizes Sugg as his domestic partner.

“I really couldn’t be more disappointed with AT&T’s response,” Wiley said. “When you scratch the surface, they clearly don’t value diversity. I just think it’s an outright lie for AT&T to claim they’re a good place for gays and lesbians to work.”

Wiley added that he’s disappointed in HRC for giving AT&T its highest score. Eric Bloem, deputy director of HRC’s workplace project, said Thursday, Jan. 28 that he was looking into the matter. Bloem said a survey for the Corporate Equality Index asks companies whether they grant FMLA leave to same-sex couples, and AT&T replied affirmatively.

“I’m not exactly sure what’s going on, so I don’t really want to make an official comment on it,” Bloem said.

Walt Sharp, a spokesman for AT&T, said the company has “a long history of inclusiveness in the workplace.”

“There are circumstances under which our administration of our benefits plans must conform with state law, and this is one of those circumstances,” Sharp said in a written statement. “In this case, neither federal nor state law recognizes Mr. Dickenson’s domestic partner with legal status as a qualifying family member for a federal benefit program. There is no basis for this lawsuit or the allegations contained in it and we will seek its dismissal.”

Sharp didn’t respond to a request for further comment.

Wiley said Sharp’s statement doesn’t make sense. No law prohibits the company from granting Dickenson an unpaid leave of absence, which is what he’s requesting. Wiley also noted that no lawsuit has been filed, because there isn’t grounds for one.

The federal FMLA applies only to heterosexual married couples, Wiley said. Some states have enacted their own versions of the FMLA, requiring companies to grant leave to gay and lesbian couples, but Texas isn’t one of them.

Wiley said the couple’s only hope is to somehow convince the company to do the right thing, which is why he contacted the media.

“At some point in time this just becomes really hateful that they wouldn’t have any compassion,” Wiley said of the company. “I think the recourse is to tell their story and let people know how AT&T really treats their employees.”

Through thick and thin

This isn’t the first time Dickenson and Sugg have endured a medical crisis.

Sugg, who’s 69 and suffers from congenital heart problems, nearly died from cardiac arrest shortly after the couple met in 1980.

At the time, Dickenson was a full-time student and didn’t have car. So he rode his bicycle from Garland to Parkland Hospital in Dallas every day to visit Sugg in the intensive care unit.

In an interview this week at the rehab facility, Sugg’s eyes welled up with tears as he recalled what a Parkland nurse said at the time – “If that isn’t love, then I don’t know what the hell love is.”

“And sure enough, it was,” Sugg said over the whirr of his oxygen machine, turning to Dickenson. “As long as I have you, I can get through anything.”

Dickenson said in addition to visiting Sugg each Wednesday afternoon, he wakes up at 7:30 on Saturday and Sunday mornings so he can spend the day with Sugg at the rehab facility.

This past Christmas, Dickenson spent the night on the floor of Sugg’s room.
“That would have been our first Christmas separated, and I just couldn’t bear that, him being alone on Christmas,” Dickenson said.

The worst part of the whole ordeal was when he had to return to work after taking 13 days off following Sugg’s stroke, Dickenson said. Sugg didn’t understand and thought his partner had abandoned him for good.

“He called me over and over every night, begging me to please come see him,” Dickenson said. “And I said, ’Honey, you don’t understand, I had to go back to work to save my job.’

“That’s what really hurts about what they’ve put me through, not my pain and anguish, but his,” Dickenson said.

Dickenson said it was 3 a.m. on Sept. 22 when he rushed Sugg to the hospital. Doctors initially said it was “the worst sinus infection they’d ever seen,” but within 48 hours Sugg had suffered a stroke affecting his cerebellum.

Sugg lost the ability to swallow and his sense of balance. He’s still unable to walk and suffers from double vision.

Because he wasn’t out as gay at work, Dickenson initially told supervisors that his father was sick.

When he returned to work after 13 days at the hospital, Dickenson explained that his domestic partner was ill and he needed more time off. His supervisor managed to get him an additional 30 days of unpaid leave.

In the meantime, Dickenson phoned the company’s human resources department and asked whether he’d be eligible for leave under FMLA, which allows 12 weeks (or about 90 days) per year. Dickenson said he was told that since he lives in Texas, he wouldn’t be eligible.

Dickenson filled out the FMLA forms anyway and sent them to the company, but he never got any response.

When Dickenson returned to work, he asked to be reclassified as part-time employee, so he could spend more time with Sugg. His supervisor refused and told him his best bet was FMLA leave, even though he’d already been denied.

That’s when Dickenson contacted Wiley.

Sugg is scheduled return to the couple’s Garland home from rehab in about a week, but he’s still on a feeding tube and will require nursing care. With any luck, he’ll someday be able to walk again.

Sugg bragged that he was able to drink his first cup of coffee last week, and he’s looking forward to getting back to his hobby of raising African violets.

Dickenson said he knows of at least seven medical appointments he’ll have to arrange for Sugg once he returns home. He said his vacation time likely will run out by April, and he fears that if he loses his job, the medical expenses will eventually cause him to go broke.

But Dickenson, who’s 51, said he’s committed to taking care of Sugg, even if it means living on the street someday.

“When it runs out, I’ll be fired, and it really hurts to be in a situation like that, because I’ve worked very hard for AT&T,” Dickenson said. “We suffer now, but maybe other people in our shoes in the future, if they work for AT&T, they won’t suffer like we do.”

—  John Wright