With human rights atrocities causing controversy in Russia, scrutiny of the 2014 Olympic games and its sponsors seems to be at an all time high. LGBT rights advocates have already begun targeting Olympic corporate sponsors such as Procter & Gamble and McDonalds. Now, Buzzfeed is attempting to gather statements from even more corporate sponsors, despite the fact that many seemed reluctant to do so.
A vast majority of statements provided back to Buzzfeed seemed to echo prior statements made by the International Olympic Committee. Many even referred to some of those statements directly. Those sponsors included Dow Chemical, Samsung, McDonald’s and Visa, which all used strikingly similar verbiage "down to the adjectives used, suggesting coordination among the sponsors or directly from the IOC itself." All four, for instance, used the sentence, in some form or another, "___________ believes in the spirit of the Games and its unique ability to unite the world in a way that is positive and inspirational."
Panasonic and Adecco, a workforce solutions company, both chose to give responses that were even less committal. Adecco told Buzzfeed “we’re closely monitoring these developments, but I’m afraid we cannot offer a comment at this stage.” Panasonic, meanwhile, informed them that the company “has no involvement in, and is not in a position to comment on political and social matters related to the Olympic Games or specific governments in any country or region.” At the same time, Procter & Gamble and Microsoft chose not to respond to Buzzfeed at all.
GE seemed to be the one sponsor that was willing to hold th IOC accountable in any way, saying in their statement that “we expect the IOC to uphold human rights in every aspect of the Games.” It isn't exactly clear, though, what GE is prepared to do to ensure that standard, or what sort of consequences it intends to present, if any. The IT company Athos took a slightly softer stand, saying that "We are fully confident that the IOC will do the right thing." While that sort of statement is significantly more passive, it at least puts some pressure on the IOC to modify its current stance.
Some companies also chose to spotlight their previous records of LGBT inclusion and advocacy. One such company was Coca-Cola, which touted its prior record as "a strong supporter of the LGBT community [that has] advocated for inclusion and diversity through both our policies and practices.” McDonalds also added in their statement that "there’s no room for discrimination under the Golden Arches."
You can read Buzzfeed's full report HERE.
The first major legal test of the effect of Supreme Court's June decision invalidating the Defense of Marriage Act takes place this week, with a New Jersey state judge scheduled to hear oral arguments tomorrow morning in Trenton as to whether the state's decision to offer same-sex couples access to civil unions but not marriages violates both the state and federal constitutions. CBS New York reports:
A New Jersey court case headed for oral arguments this week is among the first to test what a June U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down key parts of a law barring federal recognition of same-sex marriage means in states.
The hearing Thursday in Superior Court in Trenton is based on a lawsuit from two years ago, when six couples and their children argued that New Jersey’s civil union law didn’t fulfill a 2006 state Supreme Court ruling that said gay couples had to have the same legal protections as married couples. The civil union law was intended to give same-sex couples the legal benefits of marriage.
Lambda Legal and Garden State Equality, the LGBT advocacy groups behind the lawsuit, have argued that the end of DOMA's denial of federal marriage benefits to same-sex couples means that New Jersey's civil unions are now inherently unequal to full marriages, since they bar same-sex couples from accessing federal benefits.
Officials for the state of New Jersey, on the other hand, argue that because state law views civil union partners as spouses in a legally equivalent manner to different-sex married couples, civil unions should qualify same-sex couples in New Jersey for federal marital benefits. Lambda Legal and Garden State Equality, the state officials contend, should be suing the federal government as opposed to the state.
Tomorrow's court hearing will likely focus on whether the judge should issue a summary judgment--that is, a judgment before a full trial--instituting marriage equality in New Jersey. If the motion for summary judgment is denied, the case will proceed to trial. Any decision by the court could be challenged in New Jersey's appeals courts or the state Supreme Court.
Last month, New Jersey Senate Democrats announced in a press conference that they plan to hold a vote before the year's end to override Governor Chris Christie's veto of a marriage equality bill that successfully cleared the state legislature last year. Christie has said that the issue should be put to a vote of the people.
While LGBT people are enjoying greater acceptance in China, many still face difficulty when coming out to their conservative and/or traditionally-minded parents. As a result, many were shocked to see a 90-year-old woman playing such a vital role in the creation of a video by PFLAG China.
Upon viewing the actual video, though, the woman's comments don't prove to be all that revolutionary. Like many other grandmas the world over, all she wants is to see her grandchild meet someone nice and settle down:
"I am 90-years old. My grandson is gay. He is kind and mature. I hope he will find a boyfriend and live a happy life. And I hope our government supports him.”
According to Queerty, the video's star is the grandmother of "an engineer in Fuzhou who goes by the alias Mutou". He said that, despite her message of love and acceptance, she "will have to deal with lots of pressure from strangers and relatives." Then again, senior citizens in general aren't exactly known for paying much mind to "pressure from strangers and relatives".
"Mutou came out to his parents last year, but it was his nonagenarian nana that was the most supportive and understanding. 'She even tried to calm my parents — who were less accepting in the beginning — and asked them to take it easy,' Mutou told the South China Morning Post. 'She did it out of simple love.'"
Watch the full video AFTER THE JUMP and try not to smile...
The IOC's recent announcement that it plans to crack down on all forms of pro-LGBT protest and activism has obviously sparked strong reactions from members of the international LGBT community. Some athletes still plan on making statements, regardless of the consequences. Pride House, an international coalition of LGBT sport and human rights groups, has a new solution to offer, one that encourages participation from LGBT athletes as well as their straight allies. It's also relatively simple, and requires no special equipment, wardrobe, or paraphernalia.
The group is proposing the "Same Sex Hand Holding Initiative, which encourages all Olympic participants: athletes, coaches, spectators, staff, media, regardless of their orientation or background, to hold hands with as many members of the same sex as possible as often as possible. That's it.
Lou Englefield, Director of Pride Sports UK and PHI coordinator, talked about the genesis of the idea with Pink News:
“The very first thing the members of the Pride House International coalition did was to ask our Russian counterparts for their leadership on our campaign. Any response, no matter how well-meaning, would be inappropriate without the input of LGBT sportspeople in Russia."
"The Same-Sex Hand-Holding Initiative enables everyone to get involved with a simple yet iconic gesture. We know from gestures like Usain Bolt’s lightning stance the impact of such images that are simple, replicable, and identifiable."
Les Johnson of the Federation of Gay Games also weighed in:
"There are extreme restrictions on the uniforms and other items worn by athletes at any Olympic Games. Flags, badges, or pins are not allowed without IOC approval, a near-impossibility, and wearing something as seemingly innocuous as pink socks or shoelaces is very difficult for athletes to do, and complex to organise for other participants and spectators. But everyone can hold hands with their neighbour. Indeed, raising your rivals’ hands in camaraderie is an image we see on every podium at every sporting event."
Johnson raises a very interesting point. Since the initiative encourages participation from all those in attendance at the games, not just LGBT people, the gesture could theoretically pass by Russian authorities as purely innocuous. Nevertheless, Pride House still encourages those participating in the Same Sex Hand Holding Initiative to do so in a public place where there are plenty of spectators (and potentially press).
For those still wishing to make statement with actual concrete materials such as posters, shirts, pins, and so on, Pride House has also announced that it will be making those materials available starting in October on its official website.
California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill two days ago enacting new legal protections for transgender students. Thanks to the new law, trans public school students will now be allowed to use the restroom and locker facilities and play on the sports teams that correspond to their desired gender. The landmark decision was naturally praised by some and lamented by others.
CNN recently tried to feature just a small portion of that debate during one of its broadcasts. To do so, they brought on Masen Davis, the Executive Director of the Transgender Law Center, and Randy Thomasson, president of the SPLC-identified hate group Save California. The debate proceeded rather unremarkably, with Thomasson repeatedly claiming that the new “sexual indoctrination laws” violates the privacy of cisgender students. It wasn't until the very end of the debate that Thomasson decided to end the debate with an unnecessary and bigoted bang.
As host Brooke Baldwin thanked her two guests, Thomasson countered back with a placid “hey, good to talk to you ladies.”
Davis, who behaved rather placidly on the air, shared his thoughts on the barbed comment with Raw Story.
"Thomasson’s attempt to disrespect my own gender identity by referring to me as a ‘lady’ said more about him than me (I’m no lady, and clearly he is no gentleman). I am comfortable in my own skin, and proud of my journey as a transgender man. I have heard, though, from many transgender people and allies who are very upset by his shallow attempt to mis-gender me. Failing to honor the gender identity of a transgender person is a common way for anti-equality zealots to try to undermine our credibility and humanity...I am surprised and disappointed that CNN relied on Randy Thomasson, described by Media Matters as the leader of an ‘anti-LGBT hate group,’ to discuss the passage of California’s AB1266 (the School Success and Opportunity Act). Thomasson’s extremist sentiments exemplify why transgender youth and adults alike need legal protection from discrimination and bias. I urge CNN to engage more reasoned and legitimate ‘experts’ in future segments about transgender issues."
Perhaps Thomasson is still bitter about being previously humiliated while on the airwaves. Or perhaps Thomasson and Save California are simply following their usual pattern of fearmongering and making hateful and ignorant remarks.
View the entire exchange AFTER THE JUMP...
In all the news around Russia's anti-gay pogrom, one comparison that gets brought up again and again is Putin to Hitler, Godwin's Law be damned. The comparison shows even greater similarity when set side-by-side with the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Over at AmericaBlog, John Aravosis provides a quick history lesson on how the IOC responded to Der Führer's campaign against the Jews.
In short, IOC chair Baillet-Latour was appeased by Hitler taking down anti-Jewish propaganda for the duration of the Olympics, but "asserted that the agitation against participation [in the Olympics] was exclusively a political campaign, citing as evidence the fact that none of the national Olympic committees now opposed having the games in Berlin."
And thus the maxim about being doomed to repeat history becomes ever more ominous.