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Grieving Partner of Sydney Siege Victim Tori Johnson Speaks Out for the First Time: VIDEO

Zinn

As we reported previously, Tori Johnson, the cafe manager of the Lindt Chocolate Cafe in Sydney, Australia who was killed during the hostage siege earlier this week, was openly gay and in a fourteen year relationship with his partner Thomas Zinn. 

JohnsonSpeaking out publicly for the first time on Australia's Today show this morning, Zinn spoke about the love he shared with his "humble, fair, and generous" partner as well as how the flower memorial at Martin Place has comforted him during this time of mourning. 

Zinn also released a statement on behalf of Johnson's family that read in part:

This tragedy will remain with us forever. But the uniting effects of this week, how they have galvanized our city, our country makes us even more proud of Tori and Katrina and proud of all Australians.

Mother of three Katrina Dawson was the other hostage killed during the siege.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Gay Man Killed In Sydney Siege Died Protecting Hostages: VIDEO

Syd

Tori Johnson, the cafe manager of the Lindt Chocolate Cafe in Sydney, Australia, was killed yesterday as he fought off an armed terrorist who took the cafe and its patrons hostage. Johnson was trying to disarm the terrorist to provide cover for the other hostages as they fled during a moment in which the terrorist fell asleep. Johnson is being praised as a hero whose actions "certainly saved many lives,” as Don Baxter of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organizations put it. From an op-ed in The Huffington Post by James Peron:

Tori Johnson was 34. He managed the Lindt Chocolate Café for two years. Employees and customers all said he was a good man, a kind man. He was also a gay man.

Johnson tried to take the gun to protect the other hostages as they fled, but he was shot in the attempt. His attack distracted the terrorist. The others escaped and the sound of the gunshot brought in the police, who killed the armed man. Another hostage also died on the scene, but of a heart attack on the way to hospital after being shot.

Syd2Tori is survived by his partner of fourteen years, Thomas Zinn:

Tori's partner Thomas, and his family, issued a statement: "We are so proud of our beautiful boy Tori, gone from this earth but forever in our memories as the most amazing life partner, son and brother we could ever wish for."

As NewNowNext notes, the terrorist responsible for the attack, "Monis, [was] a radical Muslim cleric from Iran...He was killed when police raided the cafe. Five hostages were injured, as well, as was a police officer, who suffered minor injuries from gunshot pellets to his face."

James Peron's op-ed in The Huffington Post draws attention to the political climate that surrounds Johnson's death. A gay man who died a hero, Johnson nevertheless died a second class citizen as Australia does not allow same-sex couples to marry. He and his partner were never afforded full equal rights under the law. Though Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott praised Johnson as "good people" and commended him for his heroism, Peron points out,

"Yes, Tori was good people, but to Abbott he still wasn't good enough, at least not when it came to marriage...If Abbot wishes to honor the heroism of Tori Johnson he should push for marriage equality. At the very least, he should get [out] of the way and allow his own party caucus freedom to vote their conscience."

Watch a news report on Johnson's death and the siege that ensued at the cafe in Sydney, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Worries Mount as Sydney Cafe Hostage Crisis Enters Fourteenth Hour: VIDEO

Sydney

An ongoing hostage crisis has rocked the Australian city of Sydney today as police enter the fourteenth hour of the central business district cafe siege.

During rush hour on Monday morning, at least one armed gunman entered the Lindt cafe in Sydney's Martin Place. It remains unclear exactly how many people remain inside the cafe, with reports ranging from 15 to 30 potential hostages. Five people have emerged from the cafe since the siege began, although police have not said whether the five escaped or were released. 

The gunman is also said to be demanding an ISIS flag and a phone call with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

The Guardian reports:

Sydney1Chilling early images showed some hostages apparently forced to hold a black and white flag against the window bearing the Islamic creed, raising fears that a terrorist attack was under way. Other terrified hostages inside the cafe could be seen with their hands pressed against the glass.

Police evacuated offices in the immediate vicinity of the cafe and directed workers in nearby buildings to remain indoors and away from open windows. Panic spread when a man in the area was arrested by police, but the incident was unrelated.

Staff and tourists around Sydney Opera House were also reported to have been evacuated after a suspicious package was spotted. Helicopters were seen hovering above the tourist attraction throughout the day.

The black flag in the window of the cafe appeared to bear the Shahada, an Islamic affirmation of the oneness of God, reading: “There is no god but the God, Muhammad is the messenger of God.”

ABC News adds:

New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione, speaking at a news conference as the situation stretched into the night, said authorities remain committed on ensuring that the hostages are safely released.

"We have the very best negotiators in the world on the job," Scipione said.

New South Wales Premier Mike Baird said people should proceed as usual on Tuesday morning, but should work from home if their offices are located within an exclusion zone near the standoff.

Watch news reports on the story, as well as PM Tony Abbott's statement on the ongoing crisis, AFTER THE JUMP...

[bottom photo via Channel 7 News]

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Australia Appoints First Openly Gay Territory Leader Andrew Barr

486px-Andrew_Barr

Andrew Barr has become Australia’s first openly gay government leader after he was appointed leader of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) yesterday, reports ZeeNews.

Barr was appointed after Katy Gallagher stepped down from the role last week.

Barr said that he would continue to be a passionate advocate for same-sex marriage.

Act"It is quite ironic that you can be elected Chief Minister but you can't marry your partner of 15 years. It's time that this discrimination is ended in this country and I will continue to be a loud and passionate voice for that change.

"Canberra is Australia's most LGBTI-friendly city. I hope for the day when it is entirely unremarkable when someone in political leadership heading a government is openly gay or lesbian or bi-sexual or otherwise.

"We are inclusive and we strive to ensure that all of our citizens are treated equally and I look forward to the day when we can say that about our country."

The ACT voted to support same-sex marriage last year but the High Court later struck down the law, ruling that the federal parliament must decide on same-sex unions.

Although his party is opposed to same-sex marriage, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has been urged to allow a conscience vote on the issue. A 2012 vote on the issue was defeated 98 to 42 after Abbott refused to allow his MPs a conscience vote.

A new bill legalizing same-sex marriage was introduced in the Australian parliament last month.


#5daysofequality Celebrates the 1 Year Anniversary of Australia's First Married Gay Couples: VIDEO

5days

For a brief window of time one year ago, marriage equality was legal in the Australian Capitol Territory and 31 eager same-sex couples tied the knot. Five days after the marriages began, however, the country's highest court struck down the new law and the marriages that had taken place were annulled.

5 daysAs the first anniversary is traditionally recognized as a "Paper Anniversary," GLAAD has embarked on a global campaign to honor the big day with custom letterpress printed cards sent to the couples. The organization has also created the #5daysofequality hashtag to enable people around the world to post a message of love and support to the couples on social media.

Check out the campaign's new video, AFTER THE JUMP...

And to meet some of the couples, visit 5daysofequaility.com

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Inspiring Parents Announce 'Arrival' Of 19-Year-Old Transgender Son - VIDEO

Kai Bogert

In a move that may well restore your faith in humanity, the parents of Australian transgender teenager Kai Bogert - who was born Elizabeth Anne - have placed a birth notice in their local newspaper to celebrate the “arrival” of their 19-year-old son, reports The Daily Mail. 23AA5C2200000578-2857263-This_birth_announcement_appeared_in_Tuesday_s_edition_of_Queensl-10_1417521571927

Kai’s parents Yolanda Bogert and Guy Kershaw placed the notice in yesterday’s edition of Brisbane newspaper The Courier Mail to correct their “mistake” and place a “retraction.”

The message reads:

“In 1995 we announced the arrival of our sprogget, Elizabeth Anne, as a daughter. He informs us that we were mistaken. Oops! Our bad. We would now like to present, our wonderful son – Kai Bogert. Loving you is the easiest thing in the world.”

Explaining the notice, Kai’s mother said:

“I needed to show my son I support him 100 per cent and wanted to let the world know that. It is all very new to us. Kai just told me a few days ago that he no longer wanted to live as a girl.”

Kai added:

“This last week has changed everything for me. I am still me but I am more me than I was a few days ago and feel free.”

Kai is yet to undergo gender reassignment.  His parents have now set up a transition fund.

Watch a preview of an Australian documentary about the struggles of young transgender people, AFTER THE JUMP...

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