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Despite business opposition, Tenn. Gov. signs anti-discrimination law

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Despite last-minute oppostition from businesses, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed a bill prohibiting local governments from creating stricter anti-discrimination laws than the state government.

The law, signed Monday, is meant to cut down on paperwork for businesses by making antidiscrimination policies uniform across the state, Mr. Haslam, a Republican, said in Chattanooga Tuesday. “We just don’t think local governments should set HR [human resources] policies for businesses,” he said.

“The one thing that business must have is consistency to survive and thrive,” said Glen Casada, a Republican state representative who sponsored the House version of the bill.

Jim Brown, state director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, told Forbes that the group supported the law because:

“Our view was there are states like California, Michigan and others that have really gone off on the deep end and they have all these patchwork regulations from different cities,” Brown said. “I think the principle of the bill is to protect private employers from … regulations that they don’t want to operate under.”

Tennessee doesn’t include sexual orientation in its antidiscrimination provisions, so the new law nullifies an ordinance passed by the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County in April that prohibits institutions doing business with local government from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.

Metro Nashville officials said they adopted it after an incident late last year in which a lesbian soccer coach at a private Nashville university that rents fields from the local government left her job after she told her players she and her partner planned to have a baby. The circumstances of her departure are unclear but it caused an uproar among students and gay-rights activists in the Nashville area. Mike Jameson, a councilman who co-sponsored the ordinance, said it was in response to the coach leaving her job.

He disputed the notion that the new state law would address business concerns, calling it “simply a ruse to cover up homophobia.”


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May 25, 2011 at 1:26 am

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January 14, 2011 at 8:06 pm

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At least 50,000 turn up at gay festival Europride in Zurich

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At least 50 000 people turned out for the European gay and lesbian parade Europride’s annual festival in the Swiss city of Zurich on Saturday, June 07. Political speakers included politician and publicist Daniel Cohn Bendit, the mayor of Zurich city, Corinne Mauch, and the Moldovan human rights activist Mihaela Copot.

“Up to now, there are about 50,000 people participating in the parade, but there will be some more people coming for the festivities later today,” organiser Michael Rueegg said. Rueegg was optimistic that a heavy downpour in the late afternoon would not dampen the festive spirit.

This year’s Europride coincides with the 40th anniversary of the first gay rights movements in the United States.

Zurich, Switzerland’s biggest city, is festooned with the movement’s traditional rainbow colours for the occasion, under the impetus of its recently elected Socialist Party mayor, Corine Mauch, who is openly lesbian.

The festival, in the home of the country’s conservative business and economic establishment, is not without its critics.

Organisers of the Mr Switzerland pageant have expressly warned their current male icon, Andre Reithbuch, to stay away from the parade, the Swiss tabloid Blick reported.

And the Christian Social Union (BCS), a lobby group, has called for the defence of the “Christian family model” and is launching a poster and leaflet campaign during Europride.

Rueegg said that he had seen some people handing out their leaflets, but added that the parade had taken place in a festive mood so far.

“I saw a few straight couples and I went to ask them why they were here, and they found my questions very absurd. They said: ‘why shouldn’t we be here, it’s where the party is,'” said Rueegg.

The festival, which was held for the first time in London in 1993, takes place in a different European city every year, attracting participants from all over the continent. Next year EuroPride will take place in Warsaw.

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June 7, 2009 at 4:48 pm

California’s supreme court upholds gay marriage ban

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The California Supreme Court has upheld a ban on same-sex marriage that was passed by the state’s voters last November. The court also upheld the validity of 18,000 gay and lesbian marriages performed before the ban, called Proposition 8, was enacted.

Gay marriage backers vowed to continue the fight at the ballot box in 2010, and more than a hundred supporters blocked San Francisco streets in a show of peaceful civil disobedience.

The court said the roughly 18,000 marriages that took place in the state before the November ban remained valid since the ban was not retroactive. That left the state of 37 million people with a tiny group of married same-sex couples that cannot grow.

“Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California,” Chief Justice Ronald George wrote in the court’s opinion, arguing that the decision did not end broad protections for same-sex couples to form families.

Tuesday’s ruling was unlikely to be the last move in what is seen as a pivotal state in U.S. culture wars.

Social conservatives applauded but in Los Angeles gay advocates promised to try to change the state constitution again — to affirm gay marriage — in a battle seen as soon as November 2010.

“There is a smear on our constitution and the only way to get around it is through the ballot box,” Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, told supporters.

The California court on Tuesday did not back away from its sweeping decision last year, which held that same-sex couples had fundamental constitutional rights and deserved special legal protections as a minority class. Proposition 8 was put to voters as a result of that court decision.

The proposition’s single line, reading “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California,” was too narrow to invalidate fundamental rights, the court held.

“Proposition 8 reasonably must be interpreted in a limited fashion as eliminating only the right of same-sex couples to equal access to the designation of marriage, and as not otherwise affecting the constitutional right of those couples to establish an officially recognized family relationship,” Chief Justice George wrote.

Activists planning a ballot initiative in favor of same-sex marriage say they will target minority communities, including Latinos and African Americans. Many minority voters supported Proposition 8.

One black community leader, Reverend Eric Lee of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Los Angeles, hopes to reach out and change their minds.

“African Americans generally vote to uphold or restore the civil rights of people who have been oppressed or discriminated against,” said Lee. “So for that reason, for African Americans to get back to our history of fighting for civil rights for all people, our history of inclusion as opposed to exclusion, it’s necessary for that outreach to take place.”

In Los Angeles, Elissa Barrett, a lawyer and gay Jewish activist who married a woman last year, plans strategy with colleagues. She says it is time for outreach to the religious community.

“My wife has a saying: prayer and shoe leather go together. And I agree with her,” said Barrett. “And I think that there are a lot of people in churches and mosques and synagogues – wherever they were when this election happened last fall, have awoken.”

Before the California court’s move on Tuesday, a flurry of pro-gay marriage rulings and votes in Iowa and New England this year had appeared to reverse a trend toward banning them in the United States.

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May 27, 2009 at 4:09 pm

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Barack Obama nominates Jenny Durkan for U.S. attorney in Seattle

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Out lesbian Jenny Durkan has been nominated by President Barack Obama to become U.S. attorney for the Western District of Washington.

If confirmed by the Senate, Durkan would lead the Justice Department’s efforts in Western Washington, including prosecuting criminal and civil cases and defending federal agencies in court.

She would replace Jeff Sullivan, a Republican named to the position by the district’s federal judges after John McKay was controversially fired by the Bush administration.

“It is an incredible honor to be nominated for this office and the opportunity to serve our state and country,” Durkan said in an e-mail.

Obama himself said that all six of his nominees for U.S. Attorney “have distinguished themselves as fair, tenacious and respected attorneys throughout their careers in both public and private service.” And Gov. Gregoire had this to say: “I am so pleased the Obama administration also recognizes Jenny’s leadership and experience, and nominated her for this important position. I hope the Senate will act quickly on the nomination to confirm her.”

Durkan is the daughter of Martin J. Durkan Sr., a political giant in the state who served as chairman of the state Senate Ways and Means Committee and later became a powerful lobbyist. He died in 2005.

Her mother, Lorraine Durkan, the onetime executive editor of the Ballard News Tribune, died in February 2008.

Jenny Durkan has worked for years as a high-end criminal and civil attorney, simultaneously becoming a major figure in the Democratic Party.

Durkan also served on two panels, one appointed by former Mayor Paul Schell and another by Mayor Greg Nickels, to examine misconduct and accountability in the Seattle Police Department.

Durkan works as a solo practitioner in her own office now.

She began her legal career as an associate at the firm Schroeter, Goldmark & Bender and later worked for Williams & Connolly, one of the largest Washington, D.C., firms, and Foster, Pepper & Riviera.

She is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and the University of Washington Law School.

Durkan is a lesbian who lives in Seattle with her partner and two sons. It was not immediately known whether she would be the first openly gay U.S. attorney; the Justice Department said it does not keep track.

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May 19, 2009 at 12:17 pm

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Saskatoon to host the province’s first summer camp for gay youth

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Saskatchewan has become the latest province to organize a camp where queer youth can come together to support one another and develop leadership skills. An organizing committee has been planning the first Saskatchewan Camp Fyrefly since last summer. Their first camp will be held August 20 to 23 in Saskatoon.

“A lot of the bigger centres have support networks in place,” said James McNinch, dean of education at the University of Regina, who is sponsoring the camp alongside the University of Saskatchewan. “But if you’re a gay kid in Shaunavon or Meadow Lake it might not be as easy. . . . It can be a tough environment.”

Camp Fyrefly first started in Alberta in 2004 when Dr André Grace and Kris Wells of the Institute for Sexual Minority Study and Services at the University of Alberta held their first camp. They bill it as a leadership retreat for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-identified, two-spirit, intersexed, queer, questioning and allied youth. It is designed to help youth develop the leadership skills and resilience necessary for them to become change agents in their schools, families, and communities.

The four-day leadership camp for lesbian, gay and bisexual youth aims to give around 40 participants, age 14 to 24, a stronger sense of identity. It will run Aug. 20-23 at the Queen’s House, a retreat centre located in Saskatoon.

McNinch said it will give young adults an improved sense of self-esteem and connect them with a strong support network.

“This is a traditional word,” he said, “but it’s a form of fellowship.”

He’s hoping camp co-ordinators are able to recruit students from rural centres, where there isn’t usually the support that teens might have access to in cities.

Herb McFaull, a co-chair of the camp, echoed McNinch’s comments. He said it’s an important environment for gay youth to experience when studies have shown staggering suicide and depression rates among the group.

“When you’re a minority group you’re always feeling some sense of isolation or persecution,” he said. “Setting this up in a facility where kids will be the only people there means they won’t have anyone looking sideways at them and will be able to build those bonds.”

The camp is especially relevant because teens are coming out at younger ages than before, said Anthony Santoro, 23, the camp’s co-ordinator. He came out when he was 14 — something he says wouldn’t have been possible without strong support from family and friends.

“All the support has allowed me to act in the queer community in a more positive way,” he said.

There are Saskatchewan-specific gay issues that McNinch said he hopes come to light as a result of the camp. Gay or “two-spirited” aboriginal youth face particular challenges, he said.

“There are a lot of aboriginal youth whose home reserve or inner-city neighbourhoods are highly homophobic,” he said. “That’s not easy.”

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March 10, 2009 at 10:27 am

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Matthew Mitcham can’t get endorsements

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When Australian diver Matthew Mitcham – the only out male athlete at the Beijing Games – executed a near-perfect dive to win Olympic gold in front of a crowd that included his partner, he made history.

We are so proud that an out gay guy carried us thru a most prideful event that can only help more in breaking away from the stereotypical ideas that people have about gay folks.

However, Matthew Mitcham, the out Olympic diving gold medalist, is having trouble getting endorsement deals .

In an interview with Sydney Morning Herald, Mitcham says,

Yeah, I haven’t got anything yet. I’m working on stuff, and looking for stuff but, no, I haven’t got anything yet. It has surprised and disappointed me, I guess, because I have seen how successful some other athletes are after winning Olympic medals. I hope it will all come.”

However, Mitcham seems to have no regrets about coming out.

I’m really glad that I actually did win the gold medal because had I not, then I would have forever only been known as the gay athlete or the gay diver who maybe didn’t even dive very well but was famous because he was gay.

It has brought so much attention because it’s put me out there, and people know who I am, but I’d like to think that it’s not the most interesting thing about me.

Like everything, there are pros and cons about it, but nothing bad has come out of coming out yet, and that’s one of the best things of the whole experience.

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January 3, 2009 at 8:32 am

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