A couple in Kentucky has joined the ranks of countless others who are fighting state-wide bans on same-sex marriage, USA Today reports. The lawsuit, filed in Louisville Friday morning by attorneys Shannon Fauver and Dawn Elliot, is the first federal challenge to Kentucky's ban on same-sex marriage which not only prohibits same-sex couples from marrying in Kentucky but also denies recognition of same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. The couple who brought the suit, Michael DeLeon and Gregory Bourke, married in 2004 in Ontario, Canada but have been together for over 30 years, first meeting in college at the University of Kentucky. DeLeon and Bourke have adopted two children together, a son, now 15, and a daughter, 14. Part of their motivation in filing was to have the same rights and securities afforded to heterosexual couples and their children. DeLeon told USA Today,"There's no reason why we should be second-class citizens...We should be at the table with everybody else."
Kentucky's ban on same-sex marriage was added to the state's constitution in 2004, a big year for anti-gay marriage activists who capitalized on then-widespread disapproval of gay marriage following Massachusetts's state Judicial Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's issuing of marriage licenses to gay couples at San Francisco City Hall. You'll recall 2004 was also the year that President George W. Bush advocated amending the US constitution to ban same-sex marriage on a federal level. Ten states in addition to Kentucky ammended their constitutions that year to include language prohibiting same-sex marriage.
However, the tide has begun to turn with the US Supreme Court's gutting of DOMA and effective overturn of California's same-sex ban, Prop. 8. Of the day those rulings were handed down Bourke said, "That was probably the most hopeful day we've had in our 31 years of being together." Immediately after, Fauver and Elliot saw an opportunity to make a change in Kentucky, and they began to seek out a couple they could represent to challenge the state's ban. "We thought somebody should do it...It's our duty as lawyers to try to right wrongs when we see them," Fauver said. In their 19 page brief, Fauver and Elliot hit all the right notes, invoking equal protection, heightened scrutiny, and discrimination:
"Kentucky’s exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage infringes on the Due Process and the Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This discriminatory treatment is subject to heightened scrutiny because it burdens the fundamental right to marry and because it discriminates based on sex and sexual orientation. But it cannot stand under any level of scrutiny because the exclusion does not rationally further any legitimate government interest. It serves only to disparage and injure lesbian and gay couples and their families."
Randy Thomas, the former Vice President of 'ex-gay' group Exodus International, has posted an open apology on his blog for the three decades of lies, pain, and suffering that his organization directed towards the LGBT community.
Thomas, who back in 2011 considered himself an 'ex-gay superstar,' now says that his 'uncritical perspective contributed to the hurt that many LGBT persons were already feeling.'
He writes, in part:
My understanding of public policy at that time was limited to the talking points I was given to tailor my testimony around. I did not do much research beyond these talking points - and as a result, my perspective was limited and nearsighted. I am very sorry that my uncritical perspective contributed to the hurt that many LGBT persons were already feeling.
I participated in the hurtful echo chamber of condemnation. I gave lip service to the gay community, but really did not exemplify compassion for them. I placed the battle over policy above my concern for real people. I sometimes valued the shoulder pats I was given by religious leaders more than Jesus' commandment to love and serve. That was wrong and I'm disappointed in myself. Please forgive me.
I directly empowered people to co-opt my testimony and use it against the gay community. There were a few times I almost worked up the nerve to confront them, only to hear them invoke my name at an opportune moment. 'Of course I love gay people,' they would say. 'Just look at my good friend Randy...' It was very selfish of me to back down in these situations. I apologize.
I apologize to the gay community for idealizing and reinforcing the institutional groupthink of Exodus. I apologize for remaining publicly silent about the hurt caused by some of Exodus' leaders and actions. I also apologize for my inexperienced participation in public policy, placing my personal ambition over truly serving the gay community as a Christian friend.
The news comes on the heels of Exodus International's President Alan Chambers issuing an apology of his own last month to those 'who have been hurt by the Church, Exodus International, and me.'
Some are calling Thomas' apology too vague. Thoughts?
Due to recent human rights atrocities committed in Russia, LGBT and human rights activists are calling for a boycott of Russian vodka. Many celebrities as well as gay and gay-friendly bars across the country have jumped on the bandwagon, prompting a response from the CEO of SPI Group, the company that produces Stolichnaya vodka. Dan Savage has already issued a response to the response. Now, Queer Nation is issuing their own reply in a press release.
Val Mendeleev, the chief executive officer of SPI Group, the owner of the Stolichnaya brand, confirmed in an open letter on July 25 that SPI produces this vodka in Russia and that SPI has offices and operations in Russia. Stolichnaya is a Russian vodka that is owned by a company that was founded in Russia in 1991.
On the same day that SPI released its open letter to the Advocate, we learned that Russian thugs, emboldened by Russia’s anti-gay law, have taken to gay web sites to lure gay people to supposed encounters where they are viciously beaten. This is just the latest in a series of violent attacks against LGBT Russians and foreign LGBT nationals in Russia.
This violence follows news reports of Russian police and prosecutors targeting LGBT people and groups in Russia for arrests and trials. At least two Russian LGBT groups have gone underground as a result.
In the open letter, Mr. Mendeleev cited a few LGBT events where SPI promoted its Stolichnaya brand as evidence of the company’s support for our community. Mr. Mendeleev, marketing will not save LGBT lives.
A single open letter that was discreetly placed with a single gay publication in the US will not help LGBT Russians nor will it have an impact on the Russian government’s anti-gay campaign. This and your refusal made in an earlier statement to confront the Russian government’s anti-gay bigotry make clear that you are not the fervent supporter and friend to the LGBT community you claim to be.
By its own admission, SPI Group operates in Russia and pays taxes to the Russian government. That money funds these continuing attacks on LGBT people and organizations in Russia. Queer Nation will continue its boycott of Stolichnaya and other Russian vodkas until this anti-gay law is repealed and the Russian government guarantees the safety of its LGBT citizens and foreign LGBT nationals in Russia.
We will not help you fund the Russian war on LGBT people.
Dennis Vitug, a 37-year-old gay Filipino immigrant, was facing deportation by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Thankfully, he was granted a reprieve by a Federal Appeals Court after presenting "evidence that he had been raped and beaten numerous times in his native country for his effeminate behavior," and even experienced mistreatment at the hands of police. The court opted to spare Vitug any additional abuse by allowing him to stay in the United States. The Advocate reports:
"The Department of Homeland Security had attempted to deport Vitug, pointing to his expired tourist visa and a crime of drug possession, for which he recently served eight months in prison. Vitug, who is HIV-positive, claimed asylum and contended that he had been taking methamphetamines to combat depression related to his status."
Judge Harry Pregerson of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in his decision:
"Vitug showed that he was beaten multiple times over a period of years... [and] demonstrated that two of these beatings were severe. Vitug also demonstrated that he is gay and perceived to be effeminate and that his attackers called him names and beat him because he was gay. While Vitug did not report these attacks, he credibly testified that it is well known in the Philippines that police harass gay men and turn a blind eye to hate crimes committed against gay men. Vitug bolstered this testimony with documentary evidence of a police raid on a gay theater during which police beat and robbed the patrons."
Russia's anti-gay propaganda law, which has already been used to detain four Dutch citizens visiting the country, has proved problematic for the International Olympic Committee in recent weeks. While the committee has previously promised that it would "work to ensure" that LGBT athletes can participate in the games without worry, safety has recently been far from a guarantee, especially with at least one openly-gay Olympian pledging to wear a rainbow pin to the games.
Now, according to RiaNovosti, the IOC has released a statement saying that it has received “assurances from the highest level” that any LGBT individuals paticipating in the games will be able to do so without incident. The statement comes via R-Sport:
“As a sporting organization, what we can do is to continue to work to ensure that the Games can take place without discrimination against athletes, officials, spectators and the media. To that end, the IOC has received assurances from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the Games.”
"The legislation", of course, refers to Russia's ban on "homosexual propaganda". RiaNovosti notes that, normally, said ban...
"Imposes fines for such offenses from 800,000 rubles ($24,000) to 1 million rubles ($30,500) for legal entities, from 4,000 rubles ($120) to 5,000 rubles ($150) for individuals and from 40,000 rubles ($1,220) to 50,000 rubles ($1,530) for officials...Promotion of such relations with the use of mass media or Internet resources will see harsher penalties of 50,000-100,000 rubles ($1,520-3,050) for individuals, 100,000-200,000 rubles ($3,050-6,100) for officials and 1 million rubles or 90-day suspension for legal entities."
Should the IOC's announcement prove true, this would no doubt embolden those wishing to use the 2014 Games as a forum for protest. No word has yet been released as to how this news affects the many advocates and organizations calling for a boycott of the games. Although, since such boycotts are intended to protest more than just the potential harassment of gay athletes, few are likely to change their tune.
When Eric Myers, a "deeply religious father of five", disappeared back in 1991, authorities, friends, and family were all baffled. He was eventually pronounced dead, leaving his family "devastated and emotionally traumatized". Imagine how shocked they must have been when Myers returned to them 16 years later. Perhaps even more shocking was the fact that he had spent most of his time living with a man and identifying as openly gay.
Myers, a devout Christian real estate agent from just outside Phoenix, Arizona, had travelled to San Diego for a seminar before going missing and never returning. When asked why, he told ABC News, "I just wanted it all to end. I wanted everything to end." He confided that he knew of his sexuality at six years old, and therefore felt trapped by both his upbringing and his subsequent reputation as a God-fearing family man. Thus, when he was robbed during the last day of his seminar, he saw an opportunity and headed south toward Mexico.
"He says the details of his trip are hazy but he remembers crossing the border in Tijuana and buying a bus ticket to Cabo San Lucas. Cabo, with its warm sandy beaches, provided a total escape from a life which he says held a secret that would shake his religious roots to their core."
Myers would eventually make his way to Palm Springs four months later, where he met a Canadian tourist, Sean Lung, and fell in love. The two would end up spending a majority of the subsequent 16 years together. However, in 2007, Myers, content with his new life and wishing to "make peace", decided to return to Arizona. His welcome was far from warm.
During his absence, his family had finally decided to declare him legally dead in 1996. This allowed them to cash in an $800,000 life insurance policy, money that was placed in trusts for his two daughters. Myers' return prompted a legal battle with Liberty Life Insurance, which claimed that the family now owed that money back, plus interest. Liberty initially won the case, which is currently being appealed. The homecoming also elicited strong emotions in Myers' former wife and children. His youngest daughter, now a parent as well, told ABC News "I know how much I love my children, and if he loved me even half as much as I loved them, there would be no situation where he would ever think that it was okay to leave me."
Myers ultimately divorced the wife he left behind, and is no longer in contact with any of his children. He has managed to reconnect with most of his siblings, according to ABC. He and his new partner have also moved in with his parents to help care for his now-ailing father.
As was noted by HuffPost Gay Voices:
"Myers' life story has received mixed reviews in the media, with many questioning his motivations and asking whether it's ever acceptable to abandon one's children."
Nevertheless, he maintains that he does not regret his return, even if it has been met with hostility from former loved-ones. "To live in a disguise is a horrible prison," he said, referencing both his time in the closet and the time he spent in hiding. Unfortunately, his daughter doesn't see his secret homosexuality as a valid reason for disappearing.
"I know a lot of people who would never do this … absolutely never blame it on their homosexuality. I don't believe that he is capable of love."
Watch the extended video and hear the whole story, via Hulu, AFTER THE JUMP...