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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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Bachelorette parties at gay bars

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They’ve become a familiar sight : straight women holding bachelorette parties at gay bars. Who knew?

For years, some bar owners have tried to accommodate both groups, but that’s becoming increasingly difficult. With California’s vote last November in favor of the gay-marriage ban known as Proposition 8, some gays are saying that bachelorette parties at their bars are becoming more than a minor nuisance. They’re a constant reminder that gays don’t have equal marriage rights.

A sign on the front door of Cocktail, a gay bar on North Halsted Street, now reads “Bachelorette Parties Are Not Allowed.” Geno Zaharakis, owner of Cocktail, said the fact that gays aren’t allowed to get married makes the celebration of a woman’s upcoming wedding somewhat less than mutual in the bar. “The women are a hoot, and some can be just delightful,” Zaharakis said. “But because not everybody can get married, watching them celebrate, it’s such a slap in the face. Prop 8 just reopened the wound.” Cocktail stopped hosting bachelorette parties a couple of years ago when Zaharakis noticed his gay patrons weren’t just complaining about the women being minor irritants but about them “flaunting” their right to marry.

Art Johnston, the owner of the popular Halsted Street bar called Sidetrack, prefers not to hold bachelorette parties in his establishment. “As gay men who understand discrimination, none of us want to look like we don’t welcome folks,” Johnston said. “But it comes down to ignorant, bad behavior. … That’s the issue.”

For others, though, the issue is gay marriage, and women who are considering hosting these parties should think about that issue. Such a party may feel less like a celebration in the presence of men who feel they’re being discriminated against.

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March 24, 2009 at 8:15 am

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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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Microsoft banned lesbian from Xbox live

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Microsoft has banned a woman from its Xbox live service because she listed herself as a lesbian in her profile.

Consumerist magazine has reported that ‘Teresa’ got shedloads of abuse from other players and in the end the gay haters shopped her to the Vole. Microsoft took the liberated and enlightened view that it didn’t want anyone to mention sex. Ever.

Games were all about shooting and carving people up and not about thinking about two women pleasuring each other.

“Any use the text or comments that anyhow indicates the sexual orientation of the gamer, gay or straight, will result in a ban,” said the Vole.

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March 2, 2009 at 3:05 pm

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Chewing gum makers Wrigley suspends Chris Brown

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Chewing gum makers Wrigley on Monday suspended a commercial featuring Chris Brown after the popular R&B singer was arrested on suspicion of attacking a woman widely reported to be his singer girlfriend Rihanna.

Singer Chris Brown was arrested and charged with making criminal threats on Sunday. Los Angeles police officer Karen Smith says Brown walked into a station around 7 p.m. and was being interviewed by detectives. He released on $50,000 bail, according to a Los Angeles Police Department statement.

Both the Brown and Rihanna camps were silent on Monday. Police sources told the Los Angeles Times and celebrity Web site TMZ.com that the woman who reported she had been attacked by Brown in the early hours of Sunday was 20-year-old Rihanna, singer of hits “Umbrella” and “Disturbia.”

Brown, who was competing against Rihanna in a Grammy category, was a spokesman for Doublemint gum and his hit song “Forever” was part of that advertising campaign.

Wrigley said in a statement it was “concerned by the serious allegations” made against Brown, who was booked by police on suspicion of making a felony criminal threat. The company said that while Brown should be afforded due legal process “we have made the decision to suspend the current advertising featuring Brown…until the matter is resolved.”

Brown is also a pitchman for the long-running Got Milk? campaign, in which celebrities are photographed with a milk mustache. The Milk Processor Education Program said his participation was scheduled to end this week, as planned.

“The Milk Mustache campaign is taking the allegations against Chris Brown very seriously,” the Washington, D.C.-based trade group said in a statement. “We are very proud and protective of the image of the Milk Mustache campaign and the responsible message it sends to teens.”

Law enforcement sources tell TMZ Rihanna’s injuries were severe — two “huge contusions” which swelled up on both sides of her forehead. We’re told she also suffered “a bloody lip and nose.” Celebrity Web site Radaronline quoted an unidentified eyewitness who said she had seen Rihanna being treated at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on Saturday.

The incident appeared to be out of character for Brown, who has been dating Barbados-born Rihanna for about a year and helped produce her album. Los Angeles prosecutors are considering whether to formally charge Brown, who could face up to three years in prison if convicted, legal sources said.

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February 10, 2009 at 12:26 pm