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Will Openly Gay OPM Director Be Next Interior Secretary?

JBerry2The Obama cabinet rearrange continues. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced yesterday he'll step down later this year, leaving yet another open spot for the president to nominate.

As speculation mounts over who could take the spot, one name keeps coming up: John Berry, the openly gay director of the Office of Personnel Management.

From the Washington Post:

Interior secretaries generally hail from the West, and Berry, a Rockville native, does not. But the president is under intense pressure from gay activists to appoint an openly gay secretary to his cabinet, a historic move. And Berry fits the bill.

He also has experience, serving at Interior during the Clinton administration as Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget then moving to direct the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the National Zoo during the second Bush administration. Obama tapped Berry to run OPM in 2009.

Berry has always been very honest about his sexuality, and last May made it the pivot for a moving commencement speech at the University of Maryland.

But an eventual confirmation by the Senate may get confusing: President Obama will have to be very careful when addressing John Berry and potential Secretary of State John Jerry.

Posted Jan. 17,2013 at 3:13 PM EST by in Barack Obama, John Berry, News | Permalink | Comments (25)

Gay Rumor Mill Ramping Up Over Manti Te'o 'Dead Girlfriend' Hoax


Notre Dame football player Manti Te'o won the nation's heart when the "girlfriend" he claimed to have met online died of leukemia. But it was revealed yesterday that said girlfriend never existed and it was all, Te'o claimed, an embarrassing hoax and he fell for it. But then inconsistencies began to appear in his story.

For example, there's the fact that claimed to have met the young woman, "Lennay Kekua," in person in 2009. Even Te'o's father said they had met. "Every once in a while, she would travel to Hawaii, and that happened to be the time Manti was home, so he would meet with her there," he said.

But Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said last night Te'o never met her. Swarbrick said it seemed a "group of people" perpetuated this hoax for cruel kicks, and that Te'o was not involved.

But an investigation by the site Deadspin leads to one person in particular, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, a former football player who is now a gospel musician who has at the very least met Te'o.

From Deadspin's report:

Te'o and Tuiasosopo definitely know each other. In May 2012, Te'o was retweeting Tuiasosopo, who had mentioned going to Hawaii. Wrote Te'o, "sole"—"bro," in Samoan—"u gotta come down." In June, Te'o wished Tuiasosopo a happy birthday. How they know each other isn't clear.

We spoke to a woman we'll call Frieda, who had suggested on Twitter back in December that there was something fishy about Lennay Kekua. She was Facebook friends with Titus Tuiasosopo, so we asked her if she knew anything about Ronaiah.

"Manti and Ronaiah are family," she said, "or at least family friends." She told us that the Tuiasosopos had been on-field guests (of Te'o or someone else, she didn't know) for the Nov. 24 Notre Dame-USC game in Los Angeles. USC was unable to confirm this, but a tweet from Tuiasosopo's since-deleted account suggests he and Te'o did see each other on that West Coast trip. "Great night with my bro @MTeo_5! #Heisman #574L," Ronaiah tweeted on Nov. 23, the night before the game.

A source also said that Ronaiah may have tried the same trick on someone else before Te'o; Te'o just fell for it. That may be the case, but it's not hard to at least pause at rumors that this was all a big cover up for Te'o being gay.

"...Not since Troy Aikman have I been bombarded on email, text, Twitter and phone calls about the sexual orientation of any athlete the way I was today about Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o," writes Cyd Zeigler Jr at OutSports.

If the gay rumors turn out to be true, then perhaps the nation would see how far some people, particularly religious people and athletes, are willing to go because they still fear an unloving world. Opposing Views described such a hypothetical scenario as "the saddest way imaginable" to cover up one's sexuality.

If the gay rumors are not true, and this was just a huge, huge misunderstanding, then maybe this becomes a conversation not about the closet but about the ratio of sports versus academic funding at big schools like Notre Dame.

Posted Jan. 17,2013 at 2:38 PM EST by in Notre Dame, Sports | Permalink | Comments (87)

Italian PM Monti Now Saying No To Marriage Equality

6a00d8341c730253ef017c355f0c36970b-800wiOne has to assume Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti's pals at the Vatican weren't pleased with his previously laissez-faire approach to marriage equality, because the lawmaker, up for reelection, has changed his tune.

Monti surprised observers earlier this month by saying that marriage equality was up to the Parliament and only the Parliament. Now he's saying, "never mind:" families should only be one man, one woman and their offspring.

"My thought is that the family should be made up of one man and one woman, and I consider it necessary that children should grow up with a mother and a father," Monti said yesterday, according to Reuters, marking the first time he's brought up social issues during his bid to keep his post. 

"Parliament can find other solutions for other kinds of unions and cohabitations."

Posted Jan. 17,2013 at 1:48 PM EST by in Gay Marriage, Italy, News, Religion, Vatican | Permalink | Comments (15)

'French Elle' Comes Out For Marriage Equality

FrenchElleAs the French people clash over whether or not same-sex couples should be allowed to marry and adopt, French Elle has come out on the side of full rights.

Their latest issue's cover, featuring two of the most beautiful brides in the land, declares: "Marriage For All."

In her editor's letter, found via The Cut, editorial director Valerie Toranian notes that unlike other countries, where the debate is divided down predictable lines, the French conversation has been marked by an often contradictory and intersecting array of interests, ideologies and cultural beliefs.

This debate is not primarily between old and modern, right and left, homophobes and progressives: there are gay, pro-marriage Catholics,  left- and right-leaning psychologists fiercely attached to the symbolism of gender difference as a necessity for any potential child. There are feminists who advocate for IVF for lesbians, but who oppose surrogate mothers for gays because they denounce the commodification of women's bodies.

And it's this swirling fondue of emotion that makes the debate such a strenuous one, and also helps explain why French citizens are more supportive of military action in Mali than marriage equality.

Posted Jan. 17,2013 at 12:06 PM EST by in France, Gay Marriage, News | Permalink | Comments (15)

'Picnic' Starring Sebastian Stan Opens On Broadway: REVIEW



With the exception of a winning performance by stage champ Elizabeth Marvel, the most invigorating aspect of Roundabout Theatre Company's staid revival of William Inge's Picnic are film hunk Sebastian Stan's high-definition abs. They feature so prominently in director Sam Gold's production, which opened Sunday on Broadway, that Ben Brantley of the New York Times suggested they deserve star billing on the marquee.

2_picnicStan plays Hal Carter, a handsome and charismatic roustabout whose arrival in a small Kansas town shakes up the constrained lives of variously lonely and restless female residents. The women of Picnic—young or old, smart or beautiful—face limited options, and not many lead far from the quaint backyard that makes up the stage.

Inge's women on the verge include Ellen Burstyn as Helen Potts, a neighbor who feeds Hal in exchange for a bit of yard work (hence his various states of undress), Marvel as Rosemary Sydney, a wry spinster school teacher whose eyes nearly bug out at the sight of him, and town beauty Madge Owens (Maggie Grace), daughter to Flo (Mare Winningham) and older sister to the more gawky Millie (Madeleine Martin).

Hoping for a new start, Hal rolls into town seeking help from his former fraternity brother, and Madge's buttoned-up steady, Alan Seymour (Ben Rappaport). Instead, Hal and Madge are naturally drawn to each other, completing the play's central love triangle.

3_picnicOriginally staged on Broadway in 1953, in a production that included Paul Newman in his Broadway debut, Picnic can seem dated to contemporary audiences, particularly in it's 'aw-shucks' colloquial dialogue. Gold's production does little to brush off the dust or breathe new life into the story. Partial reproductions of two suburban houses dominate the stage leaving limited room to maneuver a cast of twelve, while lighting design by Jane Cox borders on bizarre.

Though the conventions of post-war gender roles that fuel the play's action are outdated, restless desire simmering underneath genteel exteriors is the stuff of Chekhov. As randy, aging schoolmarm Rosemary Sydney, it's Marvel who best embodies the raw desperation for companionship and a better life that most characters share. She performs sharp emotional turns that betray innate animal instincts never far from the surface.

To be fair, Stan's abs-that-launched-a-thousand-ships are in fact integral to the play's story, though the production's emotional intensity doesn't quite live up to the promise of their carnal appeal.

Picnic continues performances on Broadway through February 24th at the American Airlines Theatre.

Recent theatre features...
'The Other Place' Starring Laurie Metcalf Opens On Broadway: REVIEW
Rob Ashford Takes on 'Cat On A Hot Tin Roof' on Broadway: INTERVIEW
Pulitzer Prize Winner 'Water By The Spoonful' Opens Off-Broadway: REVIEW
Amy Herzog's 'The Great God Pan' Opens Off-Broadway: REVIEW
What Rhymes with America Opens Off-Broadway: REVIEW

Follow Naveen Kumar on Twitter: @Mr_NaveenKumar. (photos: joan marcus)

Posted Jan. 17,2013 at 11:00 AM EST by in Naveen Kumar, New York, News, Review, Sebastian Stan, Theatre | Permalink | Comments (19)

Gay Man Discharged Under DADT Chosen As Inauguration 'Citizen Co-Chair'

HalWhen President Barack Obama takes the stage for his inauguration on Monday, David Hall will be right there with him, a testament to the progress Obama has helped along.

You may remember Hall from our 2010 piece about the open letter he sent to Obama about the pain he felt when the Air Force discharged him for being gay.  Since then, the former Sergeant has gone on to become Director of Development at the armed service's advocacy group OutServe-SLDN, where he continues to fighting for gays and lesbians in uniform.

Now, in an amazing turn of events, Hall has been selected to be one of eight "citizen co-chairs" chosen by the inaugural committee to join the commander-in-chief's swearing in.

“This is certainly the honor of a lifetime, and I am grateful to President Obama for his leadership in repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ so that no qualified American who wants to serve this country in uniform will ever again be denied that right simply because they are gay or lesbian,” said Hall in a press release.

OutServe-SLDN executive director Allyson Robinson also celebrated the news, but made clear that the fight for equality in the armed services goes on: "There is a great deal more to do on the road to full LGBT equality in our military, but it’s important for us to take a moment this weekend to honor the leadership of this President and recognize just how far we have come. There could be no better personification of that than former Air Force Sergeant David Hall."

Posted Jan. 17,2013 at 10:33 AM EST by in Barack Obama, Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Inauguration, News | Permalink | Comments (15)


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