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Alabama Probate Judges Who Turn Away Gay Couples Could Face Jail Time

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Alabama probate judges who refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples beginning Monday — but continue to provide them to opposite-sex couples — could face fines and jail time, according to legal experts.

AL.com reports: 

"If the (federal) court issues an order and they refuse to comply with the order, then the court can find them in contempt of court, which could result in a fine or incarceration until they purge themselves of the contempt," former U.S. District Court Judge U.W. Clemon said. "I don't think that's likely to happen," he quickly added.

With Alabama set to become the nation's 37th marriage-equality state, several probate judges say they'll stop issuing marriage licenses altogether, decline to provide them to same-sex couples, refuse to sign them, or no longer perform marriages. 

MSNBC described the issue as a "constitutional crisis," which seems like a bit of an overstatement but apparently is what right-wing groups are hoping for. From AL.com

"It would be a significant clash of judicial power," said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel which represents five or six Alabama probate judges. ... 

If a same-sex couple comes to an Alabama probate judge Monday and is denied a marriage license, then it would likely result in that couple filing a federal lawsuit against the probate judge, Clemon and others said. Or the couples could ask to intervene in the case in Mobile and seek an order from that judge.

"Given the current state of the law they could probably get an injunction," Clemon said.

The fact is, the probate judges who plan to resist marriage equality represent a small fraction of the total number in Alabama, and an even smaller fraction of the state's population — which is largely concentrated in cities like Birmingham, Montgomery and Mobile, where same-sex couples will be able to obtain marriage licenses.

Given that residents don't have to obtain marriage licenses in the county where the live, this will amount to a relatively minor inconvenience for a few same-sex couples in rural areas — but perhaps a major one for these judges' constituents in the long term:  

David Kennedy, an attorney for plaintiffs Cari Searcy and Kim McKeand in Mobile, said the law is ambiguous as to whether probate judges unilaterally can stop issuing licenses. But it is "incredibly foolish" either way, he said. "I think it's doing an incredible disservice to the residents of their county," he said.

With Roy Moore as the state's chief justice, it seems likely the legal wrangling will continue in Alabama for a while. But no matter how hard they try, these bigots will be unable to steal the spotlight from marrying same-sex couples on a historic day. 

In related Alabama news, a "Sanctity of Marriage" rally was held outside the state capitol yesterday. Watch footage of the rally and counter-rally AFTER THE JUMP...(warning: autoplay)

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Gay UK Doctor Commits Suicide After Coming Out To Disapproving Mother Who Told Him to Get 'Cured'

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A London doctor committed suicide when he jumped from the fourth floor of his luxury penthouse apartment on Harley Street in reaction to his mother telling him to "seek a cure," after coming out to her, reports the London Evening Standard

Dr. Nazim Mahmood leapt to his death from his balcony the street on July 30, traumatizing nearby pedestrians and children who witnessed his death. An inquest at St. Pancras Coroners Court relayed information that before Mahmood's death, he told his mother that he was gay and revealed his 13-year relationship with his fiance, Matthew Ogston.

Dr. Mahmood kept his sexuality secret from his Muslim family in Birmingham because of fears that their religion would prevent them from accepting him. When Dr. Mahmood returned home to celebrate Eid, commonly known as Ramadan, he decided to come out to his family. Ogston, Mahmood's fiance, revealed that the doctor's mother was less than supportive.

Said Ogston:

"She had suggested to him he needed to see a psychiatrist to see if he could be cured. Together I think they agreed they would get through it. Telling someone they needed to be cured would not be the easiest thing to take."

The court found that Dr. Mahmood, having never suffered from depression or any other mental illness, took the drugs mephedrone and ketamine shortly before his death. Dr. Mahmood was a GP who also ran Face Clinic London - a chain series of medical clinics providing facial treatments for wrinkles such as Botox and chemical peels. Ogston is deeply saddened in the passing of the man he was about to marry, calling him his "soulmate."

Coroner Mary Hassell officially ruled that Dr. Mahmood took his life, and no foul play is involved. Hassell also expressed sadness for Dr. Mahmood's situation.

Said Hassell:

Uk"It seems incredible that a young man with so much going for him could have taken his own life. But what I’ve heard is that he had one great sadness which was the difficulty his family had in accepting his sexuality.

"It seems desperately sad that in 2014 a person should feel that they can’t be accepted because of the way that they live and I can only feel the deepest sympathy for Nazim that he felt so sad and desperate about this that he took his life."

Witnesses say Mahmood's body was left lying on the pavement, covered with a thin, red blanket, just yards away from a busy shopping area for almost four hours. One witness said, "The body was left outside for hours. I can't believe they just left it there. It's like he's an animal." A Scotland Yard spokesman apologized for not having a tent available to shield the body from the public.

The spokesman said:

"There was no tent available to officers to shield the body from the public. Officers instead used blankets. We apologise for any distress this may have caused members of the public."

Dr. Nazim Mahmood graduated from Birmingham Medical school in 2003 and moved to London a year later. He worked in several hospitals with a variety of specialties including HIV medicine, gynecology, orthopedics, pediatrics, accident and emergency before completing specialist training as a GP. Dr. Mahmood, along with colleague Dr. Anita Kapoor, founded Face Clinic London in 2009 with clinics located in Soho, West Hampstead and Harley Street.


'Rhinestone Rhino' Unveiled in Birmingham UK's Gay Village

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I've posted about this project occasionally over the past year. The massive sparkling rhinoceros being approved by the Birmingham, England City Council to revitalize the city center and gay village is now a reality, the Birmingham Mail reports:

Three artists were commissioned to design and create the rhino: Emma Butler, Vikki Litton and Robbie Coleman. Emma said they started making the statue in February. It was made out of a polystyerene mould, carved into a rhino shape and then coated in fibreglass. Its “bling” was created out of 80 pieces of smashed mirror and dozens of fake diamonds.

“We’re immensely proud of it and feel like proud parents but know that it now belongs to the community,” she said.

She said they had also given the rhino - which is neither male or female but gender neutral - a “heart”. This is a memory stick put inside the statue containing music, photos, videos and stories from the city’s lesbian and gay community.

The rhino has been an until-now largely abandoned gay rights symbol.

From the website Lambda.org:

The purple rhino made its first appearance in December 1974. It was created by  two Boston gay rights activists: one source names Bernie Toal and Tom Morganti, another says it was Bernie Toal and Daniel Thaxton. The entire campaign was intended to bring gay issues further into public view. The rhino started being displayed in subways in Boston, but since the creators didn't qualify for a public service advertising rate, the campaign soon became too expensive for the activists to handle. The ads disappeared, and the rhino never caught on anywhere else.

As Toal put it, "The rhino is a much maligned and misunderstood animal and, in actuality, a gentle creature." But when a rhinoceros is angered, it fights ferociously. At the time, this seemed a fitting symbol for the gay rights movement. Lavender was used because it was a widely recognized gay pride color and the heart was added to represent love and the "common humanity of all people." The purple rhinoceros was never copyrighted and is public domain.


Bedazzled Rhino Approved for Birmingham, UK's Gay Village

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A massive sparkling rhinoceros being considered by the Birmingham, England City Council as a monument to mark the city's gay village has been approved, the Birmingham Mail reports:

The City Council has approved the statue, which will stand on Wynner House on the corner of Bromsgove Street and Hurst Street in the city centre.

But concerns that at just 5ft and raised three storeys high it might not be seen were swiftly dismissed. Coun Barry Henley (Lab, Brandwood) said: “It is too high or too small from this low vantage point.”

But chief planning officer Richard Goulborn replied: “It is decorated with diamanté mirrors and will be spotlit at night. It can’t fail to have impact.”

See our previous post for information on the rhino's history as a gay rights symbol.


Rhinestone-Encrusted Rhino to Mark Birmingham, UK's Gay Village

Rhino

You will know you have arrived at Birmingham, England's gay village by the light from the bedazzled rhinoceros.

The Birmingham Post reports:

It has been partly-funded by Birmingham’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) group and the leftover cash from previous grants made by the city council as part of the Big City Plan to revitalise the city centre.

The overall cost of the model is £15,000 with Birmingham City Council providing the bulk of the cash through money received from nearby building schemes, with £2,500 from the Southside Business Improvement District. Organisers said a rhino was chosen to represent the area because the beast was “associated with strength and was originally a symbol of the gay rights movement in the United States”.

The use of rhinestones is supposed to reflect Birmingham’s rich jewellery-making history.

It is hoped that the rhino will be enough of a tourist draw to help revitalize the depressed district.

UPDATE: Some commenters noted that they had never heard of the rhino as a symbol of gay rights. I had never heard that before either.

Here's this, from the website Lambda.org:

The purple rhino made its first appearance in December 1974. It was created by  two Boston gay rights activists: one source names Bernie Toal and Tom Morganti, another says it was Bernie Toal and Daniel Thaxton. The entire campaign was intended to bring gay issues further into public view. The rhino started being displayed in subways in Boston, but since the creators didn't qualify for a public service advertising rate, the campaign soon became too expensive for the activists to handle. The ads disappeared, and the rhino never caught on anywhere else.

As Toal put it, "The rhino is a much maligned and misunderstood animal and, in actuality, a gentle creature." But when a rhinoceros is angered, it fights ferociously. At the time, this seemed a fitting symbol for the gay rights movement. Lavender was used because it was a widely recognized gay pride color and the heart was added to represent love and the "common humanity of all people." The purple rhinoceros was never copyrighted and is public domain.


Alabama's First Mainstream Same-Sex Wedding Announcement?

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Our tipster Terry says this announcement from the Birmingham News is the first of its kind in mainstream Alabama media. Can anyone confirm?


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