Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird spoke out today, blasting Russia's vicious anti-gay law and the announcement from that nation's sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, that the Russian Federation would enforce its "homosexual propaganda" law during the 2014 Sochi Olympics. As reported earlier today, Mutko's remarks are directly opposed to assurances given by "the highest levels" of the Russian government to members of the IOC that LGBT athletes and visitors would not be targeted by Russian authorities during the Sochi Games. Baird told The Canadian Press:
"As concerned as we are about the Olympics, that's nothing. That's two, three, four weeks for the athletes and participants and the visitors...This mean-spirited and hateful law will affect all Russians 365 days of the year, every year. It is an incitement to intolerance, which breeds hate. And intolerance and hate breed violence."
"We wanted more than a verbal commitment to the IOC. And now the comments by the Russian sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, are of deep concern. The Olympics is a great celebration of international sport, of international co-operation. This type of law being enforced flies in the face of the entire Olympic spirit."
Baird insists that he and others in the Canadian government have attempted to lobby Russia away from their extreme anti-gay views since the anti-gay propaganda law was first proposed in January. Citing criticism he received in the past for being "too vocal" in denouncing the human rights abuses committed by Uganda's virulently anti-gay regime, Baird said he and his aides were cautioned against being too outspoken in their condemnation of Putin and the anti-gay laws, instead being advised "to work behind the scenes quietly."
Attempting to explain the history behind Russia's recent animosity towards its LGBT population, Baird points to a meeting of G8 foreign ministers in May 2012 as an early warning sign that Russia was keen to take action against the LGBT community:
"I can recall being in Washington when (then U.S. secretary of state) Hillary Clinton was chairing the G8 foreign ministers meeting and we put, as part of our statement, support for sexual minorities. Russia put an asterisk beside it saying they were not on board. This did not just pop out of nowhere."
Though gay couples cannot legally be married in Colorado, they can get divorced. On Monday, Juli Yim and Lorelei Jones became the state's first gay couple to get divorced thanks to a recently passed civil unions bill which took effect May 1st. Though the law does not allow marriage licenses to be issued to same-sex couples in the state, it does recognize gay marriages performed out of state and also has provisions for those unions to be dissolved. According to USA Today,
"Colorado's civil union law...provides legal protections including division of property, financial responsibility between former spouses, parental visitation and child support to splitting couples, provided one involved individual has lived in Colorado for more than 90 days."
Though the couple in question was married in Massachusetts in 2009, Yim has since found a new partner, Suzie Calvin, in Colorado and has resided in the state long enough to be able to legally seek divorce from the state. Yim has stated that she intends to marry Calvin, a friend of hers since high-school, outside of Colorado's borders now that her divorce with Jones has been finalized. Colorado still has a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
As they announced they would earlier this month, the ACLU and Lambda Legal, along with the regional ACLU of Virginia, today filed a federal class action challenge in Virginia arguing that the state's marriage equality ban violates same-sex couples' rights under the U.S. Constitution. The Washington Post reports:
The suit comes on the same day that Minnesota and Rhode Island became the 12th and 13th states to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The groups filed the suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia on behalf of Joanne Harris and Jessica Duff of Staunton and Christy Berghoff and Victoria Kidd of Winchester, and seeks to represent all same-sex couples who are seeking marriage rights in the state.
“Virginia is home for us. Our families are here, our jobs are here, and our community is a great support for us, but it makes us sad that we cannot get married where we live,” said Joanne Harris, a native Virginian who grew up on a Bedford, Va. pig farm, in a statement.
The Virginia legal brief tells compelling stories of the two couples' love and commitment. Harris and Duff, the complaint explains, "fell in love at first sight when they met in 2002," and were later "baptized together in the backyard river of a fellow church member." Together, the couple are raising a four-year-old son, and the complaint chronicles the legal uncertainty that their family faces without marriage equality. Duff is prohibited by Virginia law from adopting the couple's son as a co-parent, and worries she could be left powerless in the event of a health crisis for Harris, who suffers from epilepsy.
Berghoff and Kidd, the other couple, have been together for over nine years and are raising an eight-month-old daughter. Berghoff, an Air Force veteran, works for the Justice Department in Washington, D.C. The two women married in D.C. in 2011. Like Duff and Harris, Berghoff and Kidd are prohibited from being recognized as their daughter's two parents, and the couple carries co-custodianship papers with them wherever they go in an attempt to protect their family in an emergency.
As mentioned above, the Virginia challenge is a class action suit, brought on behalf of all same-sex couples in Virginia who wish to wed in the state but cannot or who have been denied marriage licenses by state officials. The class action suit also encompasses Virginia residents with marriage licenses from other jurisdictions that are considered invalid by the state.
The new lawsuit, filed in the Western District of Virginia and known officially as Harris v. McDonnell, joins two other recently filed ACLU challenges, one in Pennsylvania and the other in North Carolina. (The North Carolina case was previously an adoption case.) It is the second marriage equality case to be filed in Virginia this month: a Norfolk couple filed their own suit a few weeks ago.
As the Washington Post points out, litigation is the clearest way forward for marriage equality in Old Dominion, since a legislative push to repeal the state's ban would need to be approved twice by the General Assembly (with an intervening election for the House of Delegates) and then be approved by voters in a ballot referendum.
Ill-content with the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court's lack of response thus far to a petition filed Tuesday intended to stop Montgomery County and its clerk D. Bruce Hanes from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the Pennsylvania Department of Health along with Governor Tom Corbett requested expedited action from the court on Wednesday, ratcheting up the rhetoric against gay marriage in the process. According to Philly.com, Gov. Corbett said of Hanes, "Every time he issues a license, he is violating the law...I know the clerk thinks he is coming down on the right side of history, but he has to come down on the right side of the law."
Hanes began issuing marriage liscenses to same-sex couples last week, much to the dismay of the National Organization of Marriage and other gay marriage foes in Pennsylvania. The move came on the heels of state Attorney General Kathleen Kane's decision not to defend Pennsylvania's law that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman in a federal challenge brought by the ACLU.
In their request filed Wednesday, attorneys for the Department of Health argue,
"The clerk is repeatedly, continuously, and notoriously acting in clear derogation of the Marriage Law. Many agencies of government - federal, state, and local - as well as persons and entities in the private sector may be misled by invalid marriage certificates that purport erroneously to certify that same-sex couples are married under the laws of Pennsylvania."
In fact there is some concern that a defeat in court will mean the invalidation of the 41 or so marriage licenses granted by Montgomery County since last week, just as couples in California saw their marriages invalidated after a court ruled in 2004 that then-San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom violated state law in allowing same-sex couples to marry. Nevertheless, LGBT allies and advocates in Pennsylvania remain resolved. Montgomery County commissioners are standing behind Hanes and County Solicitor Ray McGarry is said to be "drafting a response to the state's lawsuit."
"The Marriage Law is one of the last discriminatory statutes in the commonwealth," Kane's office wrote in response to a letter from Corbett's Office of General Counsel. "Just as discriminatory laws based on race, religion, gender, disability, and ethnic origin have been struck down by the courts one by one, so, too, will the Marriage Law." Kane's office called this "a watershed moment" and said it was "certainly not the beginning of the 'chaos and uncertainty' that you hysterically predict."
Last week, an Anglican minister in Gosford, Australia posted an image in support of LGBT people to his parrish's Facebook that quickly went viral. The image showed the Church's sign board with the message: "Dear Christians, Some people are gay. Get over it. Love, God." The Daily Telegraph reports that, "within 24 hours, the post had more than 100,000 hits, 1000 shares and 3000 likes." As of today it has received 7,184 likes and 3,701 shares. Father Rod Bower was "overwhelmed" by the response he received to the post:
"I have had a number of phone calls and ran into people who have said, 'Good on you this is really great'... I think it shows that it's an important issue and that a lot of people have spiritual questions that are not being met by traditional forms of Christianity."
Father Bower said he put the sign up to tell the wider community there was more than one way to approach gay rights.
"The conservative view is not the only view," he said. "Marriage equality is a hot issue at the moment and it seems the church is struggling to get over this issue. I am reflecting on what the spirit of God might be saying in a modern world."
San Diego Mayor Bob Filner apparently isn't to blame for sexually harassing 8 women because the city failed to provide him with proper sexual harassment training.
Matt Damon talks bulking up for Elysium.
Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale and Amy Adams work it in trailer for David O. Russell's American Hustle.
Dustin Lance Black to pen new semi-autobiographical mini-series about gay rights, Mormonism for ABC: "Details on the miniseries are scarce, but according to The Hollywood Reporter it is currently in development at ABC Studios, and will be told from Black's perspective about his life growing up gay in a Mormon household to becoming a leader in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights movement."
Family Planning Programs Saved Taxpayers $10.5 Billion in 2010.
An Israeli man shares his struggle to be a devout Jew and a drag queen.
Check out this wonderful gallery of images from Rhode Island's first day of gay marriage.
Uncle Karl hangs out with their Serene Highnesses, the Grimaldis of Monaco. C'est normal.
Glenn Beck wants to name streets after Rush Limbaugh: "You have to embed what we are and who we are. Every way you can everywhere you can."
France to get first gay retirement village: "The over-50s "active lifestyle" community will feature 107 houses in "traditional village style" that will be separated from other hamlets owned by the Villages Group, a British company that builds retirement communities in France. Homes will cost 236,000 euros (about $312,000) or 248,000 euros (nearly $328,000), along with weekly maintenance fees of 70 euros ($92)."