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08/15/2013

The Best Bar Mitzvah You've Ever Seen: VIDEO

Sam

Young little Sam Horowitz from Dallas, Texas has now set the bar for what constitutes an awesome entrance at your own bar mitzvah.

Watch as Sam shuts it down AFTER THE JUMP...

How many of you are going to go as him for Halloween this year, burlesque dancers in tow?

Posted Aug. 15,2013 at 7:12 PM EST by in News | Permalink | Comments (75)


Rainbow Colored Nails Cause Uproar At Moscow Athletic Championships: VIDEO

Rainbow

Controversy has erupted at the World Athletic Championships in Moscow over Swedish high-jumper Emma Green Tregaro's nails, which she painted in rainbow colors to show support for LGBT people in Russia suffering under the country's harsh and prohibitive anti-gay laws. Those laws forbid the dissemination of "propaganda" that promotes "non-traditional" sexual practices to minors. Though vague, many believe the laws can and will be construed to punish shows of support for LGBT rights such as the donning of pins, ribbons, or even painting one's nails.

Though Green Tregaro was not arrested for her "advocacy," her display of solidarity comes just days after the IOC announced it would not allow similar displays of support at the Sochi Olympics.

Green Tregaro shared a picture of her newly-painted nails to Instagram, using several hashtags including "#pride" and "#moscow2013," according to the AP. Green Tregaro also posted a video explaining her decision to paint her nails in the prideful colors of the rainbow:

"The first thing that happened when I came to Moscow and pulled my curtains aside was that I saw the rainbow and that felt a little ironic," Green Tregaro said in a video posted on the website of Swedish newspaper Expressen. "Then I had a suggestion from a friend on Instagram that maybe I could paint my nails in the colors of the rainbow and that felt like a simple, small thing that maybe could trigger some thoughts."

Fellow Swede Moa Hjelmer also painted her nails in rainbow colors to show LGBT support. They were visible as she ran in the 200-meter heats. However, Green Tregaro's gesture did not sit well with Russian pole-vaulting great and "mayor" of one of the Olympic villages in Sochi, Yelena Isinbayeva. Reuters reports:

Izi"It's disrespectful to our country, disrespectful to our citizens because we are Russians," Isinbayeva, speaking hesitantly in English, told a news conference.

"Maybe we are different than European people and people from different lands. We have our law which everyone has to respect. When we go to different countries, we try to follow their rules. We are not trying to set our rules over there. We are just trying to be respectful.

We are not trying to set our rules over there. We are just trying to be respectful. We consider ourselves, like normal, standard people, we just live boys with women, girls with boys ... it comes from the history. I hope the problem won't ruin our Olympic Games in Sochi," added the 31-year-old, who is one of Russia's best known athletes and won her third pole vault world title in front of an enthralled crowd on Tuesday.

American mid-distance runner Nick Symmonds was aghast at Isinbayeva's remarks:

Nick"It blows my mind that a young, so well-educated woman can be so behind with the times," Symmonds told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"Guess what Yelena, a large portion of your citizenship are normal, standard homosexuals...I wanted to compete with a rainbow sticker but was told I would go to prison if I did that. It was suggested that if I pushed this too far it was a real possibility."

Asked what the feeling about the [anti-gay propaganda] law was among the athletes in Moscow, Symmonds said: "It's a very divided subject but from most of what I've seen, this is not an issue for my generation. We believe in equality. There's been a huge shift to equality now being the majority view in America. Here it seems the majority of people respect this law so you have to respect that in a democracy. But if you are going to host the Sochi Olympics, history will look back and say 'you are on the wrong side of history, Russia'."

Symmonds said he was against a boycott of Sochi but would continue to speak out.

"My aim was to come here and race and try to win a medal for the United States. Having done that, if I can help to advance the cause then that's something I'd like to do."

According to the AP, Symmonds took to his blog on Runners World before the Moscow Championships to show support for LGBT people, understanding the significance of competing in these and the upcoming Sochi Games, adding,

"If I am placed in a race with a Russian athlete, I will shake his hand, thank him for his country's generous hospitality." Then, after beating his opponent badly, he would "silently dedicate the win to my gay and lesbian friends back home. Upon my return, I will then continue to fight for their rights in my beloved democratic union."

Check out a video of Isinbayeva making her remarks AFTER THE JUMP...

Posted Aug. 15,2013 at 6:42 PM EST by in Moscow, News, Russia, Sochi Olympics | Permalink | Comments (42)


How Long Do Baby Animals Stay With Their Mothers?: VIDEO

Newbaby

It's been a big summer for babies. Not only did we finally get to meet Prince George of Cambridge, but a number of other über cute babies (pandas, tigers and elephants, oh my) have garnered much attention. But all this talk of babies got The Wall Street Journal's Jason Bellini to wondering, "How long do baby animals stay with their mothers?"

Find out and get your daily dose of too-cute-to-handle AFTER THE JUMP...

Posted Aug. 15,2013 at 5:44 PM EST by in Nature, News | Permalink | Comments (5)


CA Supreme Court Rejects Prop. 8 Proponents' Appeal To Stop Same-Sex Marriages

6a00d8341c730253ef0192ac06de7f970d-800wiThe California Supreme Court has rejected the requests put forth by backers of Prop. 8 to halt same-sex marriage in California. The court had previously denied a request to at least temporarily stop same-sex marriage in California, which resumed shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court's dismissal of Hollngsworth v. Perry on the grounds of standing, while it considered the legal challenges raised by Prop. 8's proponents. The LA Times reports:

Meeting in closed session, the state high court rejected arguments by ProtectMarriage, Proposition 8’s sponsors, that only an appellate court could overturn a statewide law.

A federal judge in San Francisco declared Proposition 8 unconstitutional in 2010, and state officials refused to appeal. ProtectMarriage did appeal, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that initiative sponsors have no right to defend their measures in federal court. The decision left in place the ruling by retired Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker.

In its challenge before the state’s highest court, ProtectMarriage argued that a single judge lacked the authority to overturn a state constitutional amendment.  The group also contended that Walker’s injunction applied to two counties at most and that state officials had overstepped their authority by ordering county clerks throughout California to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

State officials countered that the challenge was a veiled attempt to persuade a state court to interfere with a federal judge’s order in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

The California Supreme Court's ruling also applies to the briefs filed by San Diego county clerk, Ernest J. Dronenburg, thus putting to an end, at least for now, his contentious attempts to stop same-sex couples from marrying in the Golden State. BuzzFeed reports that California Attorney General Kamala Harris welcomed the court's rejection of the writ of mandate:

"Once again, equality and freedom triumph in California. The California Supreme Court has denied the Proposition 8 proponents’ latest attempt to deny same-sex couples their constitutional right to marry. I applaud the Court’s decision and my office will continue to defend the civil rights of all Californians."

Posted Aug. 15,2013 at 4:13 PM EST by in California, Ernest Dronenburg, Kamala Harris, News, Proposition 8 | Permalink | Comments (18)


New Jersey State Judge Considers Marriage Equality Challenge

Flag_of_New_Jersey.svg
A New Jersey state court judge in Trenton today expressed skepticism towards state officials' claims in defense of New Jersey's decision to offer civil unions but not equal marriage rights to same-sex couples, particularly in light of the Supreme Court's recent decision invalidating the Defense of Marriage Act.

In questions posed to lawyers from both sides, however, Judge Mary Jacobson (pictured below) showed hesitation towards moving too fast on a constitutional issue of such importance, asking for further briefing and telling lawyers not to expect a ruling until next month at the earliest.

"Federalism is messy," the judge said matter-of-factly early on during the proceedings, succinctly summing up the complexities present in the legal challenge, known as Garden State Equality v. Dow and brought by Lambda Legal, an LGBT legal advocacy group.

At issue today was a motion for summary judgment--essentially, a request for a decision to be rendered without a full trial--filed by Lambda Legal.  In that brief and during today's oral arguments, the legal group claimed that because married same-sex couples can now access federal benefits after the invalidation of DOMA's Section 3, New Jersey's decision to offer only civil unions (which do not provide  federal benefits) to same-sex couples comprises an unconstitutional violation of these couples' equal protection rights under both the state and federal constitutions.

MaryIn 2006, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in a case known as Lewis v. Harris that same-sex couples must be afforded the same rights and benefits as different-sex couples, although the court allowed the legislature to create a separate legal status providing such rights, which it did.

During today's proceedings, New Jersey Assistant Attorney General Kevin Jespersen trod a thin line, circling back several times to one fundamental question: can a state court, relying on the New Jersey Constitution, take action against the state for a deprivation of rights and benefits by the federal government? Because the state court has no jurisdiction to order federal agencies to extend benefits to same-sex couples, Jespersen argued, and New Jersey has done everything within its power to make civil unions and marriages legally equivalent, there is no action the court can take in response to Lambda Legal's constitutional claims.

At the same time, however, Jespersen--echoing New Jersey's larger argument--told the court that New Jersey's civil unions should make same-sex couples eligible for federal benefits because of the Supreme Court's decision striking down DOMA in the case known as U.S. v. Windsor.  In that case, the high court ruled that the federal government could not withhold federal benefits from same-sex couples whom states (such as New York, the state at issue in the Windsor case) had taken action to protect by offering them equal marriage rights.

By extension, Jespersen argued, the federal government should be required to defer to state law in determining which couples are considered to be married in order to determine eligibility for federal benefits, rather then only looking to whether couple's are married or unmarried. Judge Jacobson pushed back on this argument, telling Jespersen he was "asking the federal government to do something very complicated"--that is, to look at each state's laws in determining how to disburse each and every federal marital benefit.

Continue reading AFTER THE JUMP...

This argument was echoed by Lawrence Lustberg, the attorney arguing on behalf of the plaintiffs during today's proceedings, who at times combatively refuted New Jersey's arguments and urged the court not to overcomplicate its consideration of the case.  The Windsor decision explicitly limited itself so that it did not include civil unions and domestic partnerships, Lustberg argued, quoting the decision's final line: "this opinion and its holding are confined to those lawful marriages."

Because of that holding, Lustberg told the court--and in light of the fact that nearly all federal statutes pertaining to marriage benefits include language focusing on a couple's marital status, not on whether or not a couple is in a marriage-like partnership--the plaintiffs in the Garden State Equality case would be unlikely to succeed in federal court if they attempted to force the federal government to extend marital benefits to couples in civil unions.

Instead, Lustberg said, the Supreme Court's decision striking down DOMA means that, as a matter of law, the only constitutional remedy to the unequal treatment of New Jersey's same-sex couples is for the state to extend equal marriage rights to such couples.  "This is all caused by the state, it begins with the state, and it could end with the state," Lustberg told the court.

6a00d8341c730253ef017ee9c3b891970d-800wiOn the constitutional issues at the center of the case, although she presented both lawyers with pointed and extensive questioning as to their positions, Judge Jacobson appeared inclined to side with Lambda Legal's argument, pointing out that she is bound by the New Jersey Supreme Court's decision in Lewis mandating that same-sex couples be treated equally to different-sex couples.

In plain language, Judge Jacobson told Jespersen that the recent decisions of several federal agencies not to consider couples in civil unions eligible for federal benefits pointed to the fact that they are not being treated equally, and asked the attorney how the state Supreme Court could possibly find such treatment constitutional in light of the Lewis decision.

Yet at the same time, she expressed concern for moving too quickly on the issue. "I'm very concerned about whether this is the right time to bring this case," Judge Jacobson told Lustberg, "when I know the [New Jersey] Supreme Court wanted a factual records, and the facts in terms of what federal agencies are doing are in flux."

At the end of today's oral arguments, the judge invited attorneys for both sides to supplement their briefings to address the questions she had raised by August 28. A decision in the case, she said, will not come until September at the earliest.

Based on her questioning today, it seems quite possible that Judge Jacobson may opt to proceed to a full trial--rather than issuing a summary judgment--in order to develop a full factual record for her eventual decision. In either event, its likely that any ruling will be appealed, and could very well go to the state Supreme Court for a final determination.

In addition to writing for Towleroad, Jacob Combs is also an editor at EqualityOnTrial.com, where this report originally appeared.

Posted Aug. 15,2013 at 3:13 PM EST by in Gay Marriage, Gay Rights, Lambda Legal, Law - Gay, LGBT, New Jersey | Permalink | Comments (14)


AR Attorney General Rejects Ballot Measure That Would Overturn State's Gay Marriage Ban

6a00d8341c730253ef0192ac029d52970d-200wiArkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has for the second time rejected a ballot measure submitted by Arkansans For Equality that would overturn that state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. The Christian Post reports:

McDaniel decided Monday that Arkansans for Equality's proposed measure to repeal Amendment 83 was problematic over the ballot initiative's language.

Aaron Sadler, spokesman for the Office of Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, provided The Christian Post with a copy of the decision. "That rejection was due to misleading tendencies in the proposed ballot title and the ballot title's failure to include any mention of the proposal's effect on current law," wrote McDaniel.

"You may, after clarification of the matters discussed above, submit the text of your proposed amendment, along with a proposed popular name and ballot title, at your convenience."

As previously reported, McDaniel rejected a similar petition in July on similar grounds, asserting that the ballot initiative contained "misleading tendencies" and failed to meet the state Supreme Court's requirement for "impartiality." Arkansans for Equality has responded to McDaniel's latest decision with a statement posted to Facebook:

"Today we received word that Arkansas For Equality's ballot language has been rejected by the Attorney General Dustin McDaniel. Though we are saddened, we are not terribly surprised," reads the statement. "Getting language on a ballot is a difficult process. Regardless, it really doesn't matter… does it? We're all here to fight for our rights. We don't expect to win today, and we may not win tomorrow, but we WILL have our human rights."

The measure proposed by Arksansans For Equality, if put on the ballot and passed, would repeal the 2004 constitutional amendment that codified anti-gay discrimination into the state's constitution. However, the repeal of the amendment would not necessarily make same-sex marriage legal in the Natural State. In fact, McDaniel rejected the ballot proposal in July on the grounds that it allegedly misled voters into thinking the repeal of the amendment would make same-sex marriage legal in Arksanas.

Posted Aug. 15,2013 at 2:34 PM EST by in Arkansas, Gay Marriage, News | Permalink | Comments (9)



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