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Russian Exchange Student 'Afraid to Go Home' Over Fears of Russia's Persecution of Gays

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The lawyer for the Russian gay teenager at the center of Russia's decision to end its student exchange program with the U.S. says her client is seeking political asylum in America due to fears of Russia's crackdown on its LGBT community, Radio Free Europe reports:

“Our client is afraid of returning to Russia because Russia persecutes gay people. That’s what this is about,” Susan Reed, an attorney with the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, told RFE/RL on October 7.

The boy lived with an American family and attended a U.S. high school in 2012-13 as part of the decades-old Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX).

But he did not return to his home country at the conclusion of the exchange as required by the program. His decision to remain in the United States emerged last week when Russia cited the case in its decision to suspend its participation in FLEX.

AstakhovAnnouncing the end of the country’s participation in FLEX, Russia’s children’s rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov [pictured right] said the student was "seduced" to stay in the U.S. by a Michigan gay couple. 

Reed told RFE/RL that the statements and reports from Russian officials seem to suggest “that there’s some person or some people whose sexual orientation is relevant. And that’s just not the case.”

“There’s no adoption, there’s no untoward behavior,” she said. “He met many caring adults, both gay and straight in the U.S., and he decided to stay here because he was afraid to go home.”


Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe Extends Adoption Rights to Married Gay Couples

McauliffeComing on the heels of an executive order requiring all state agencies to disregard Virginia's former ban on same-sex marriage, Governor Terry McAuliffe has secured adoption rights for married gay couples, The Virginian-Pilot reports:

“Now that same-sex marriage in Virginia is officially legal, we owe it to all Virginians to ensure that every couple is treated equally under all of our laws, no matter whom they love,” the Democratic governor said in a statement. “This historic decision opened the door to marriage equality, and now it is my sincerest hope that it will also open more doors for Virginia children who need loving families.

“By formally recognizing that same-sex couples can now legally adopt, we are more fully complying with the ruling in this important case, and sending the message once again that Virginia is open and welcoming to everyone.”


Christian Litigation Group Alliance Defending Freedom Lobbying for Anti-gay Marriage Referendum in Slovakia

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The anti-gay Christian legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom (a group whose efforts promoting bigotry abroad were profiled in the HRC's Export of Hate" report) has begun lobbying Slovakia's constitutional court to allow activists to place a referendum on the country's ballot that would reinforce the current bans on gay marriage, adoption, and domestic partner protections, Right Wing Watch reports

"The people of Slovakia should have the freedom to preserve marriage and family if they so choose," said Alliance Defending Freedom senior legal counsel Roger Kiska, who filed an amicus brief with the court. "This referendum will allow Slovaks to affirm current Slovak law and important social values, which is perfectly acceptable under the Slovak Constitution." [...]

More than 400,000 citizens signed the petition supporting a referendum, according to Roger Kiska—more than the required number of signatures. However, Slovak President Andrej Kiska asked the Constitutional Court to review the measure because of a provision in the country's constitution that forbids holding a referendum to change "fundamental rights and liberties."

In June, the Slovakian parliament approved 102 to 18 a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

Back in 2010 the country's first gay pride parade was canceled after attacks from right-wing skinheads. 


Cheerios Celebrates The Joy of Human Connection in New Ad Featuring Gay Family: VIDEO

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First Honey Maid, and now Cheerios.

General Mills' new Cheerios ad is set to air in Canada starting next week, but the video has been released a few days early online. In it, André and Jonathan share the story of their love for one another and their unexpected journey into fatherhood.

Check out the adorable and heartwarming ad, AFTER THE JUMP...

Marketing Mag adds:

Cheerio“The Cheerios Effect,” is the colloquial name some have given to a phenomenon that anyone who’s eaten a bowl of the cereal knows: when two Cheerios float in milk, they tend to attract one another thanks to surface tension. Cossette is using this as a jumping-off point to address the broader issue of social isolation and loneliness.

Even though the phrase “Cheerios effect” first popped up on Wikipedia in 2007, surprisingly, this marks the first time that the brand has ever used the phenomenon in a marketing effort.

“We were in meeting with agency talking about issue of disconnection in society, this epidemic of loneliness,” says Jason Doolan, director of marketing for cereal at General Mills Canada. “We talked about the history of Cheerios and the role it could play in bringing people together. Somebody stood up and said, ‘You know, when you put two Cheerios in a bowl, they float together.’ It didn’t take more than 30 seconds on Google for someone to say, ‘It’s a real thing.’ We think it’s a perfect metaphor for human beings’ desire to connect.”

Continue reading "Cheerios Celebrates The Joy of Human Connection in New Ad Featuring Gay Family: VIDEO" »


Russia Ends U.S. Student Exchange Program, Blames Elderly Michigan Gay Couple

Russia’s children’s rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov

Russia has canceled a foreign exchange program with the U.S., alleging that a gay couple persuaded a man to stay with them and apply for asylum, reports The Guardian.

FlexSince 1992, the state department-financed Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) has brought 23,000 students aged 15 to 17 from Russia and former Soviet countries to study in U.S. schools and live with local families for one academic year.

Human rights organisations have accused the Russian government of promoting discrimination following the introduction of a "gay propaganda" law last year.

Announcing the end of the country’s participation in FLEX, Russia’s children’s rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov [pictured above] said the couple became the legal guardians of the Russian student, after the student left his host family and stayed in the U.S. when the school year ended in May.

According to Russian state news agency Itar-Tass, the student met the couple - elderly veterans who had previously adopted two American boys - in church and the men offered to become his immigration sponsors and pay for him to study at Harvard University.

Astakhov explained on Twitter that the cancellation came about because of a “gross violation by the host country, the United States, of the obligation to unconditionally return students from Russia who travel there to study.”

In an interview with the official government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta, he added that the student moved in with the two men in Michigan, “and they gradually developed – how can I say this carefully – close friendly relations.”

Anton Meshkov, a former FLEX student, said the fact that 15 young people are thought to have stayed in the U.S. after the program ended was not a “serious reason to take away the chance to travel from hundreds of kids”.

“It’s absurd to suppose that the program could facilitate the seduction of young Russians. As a participant in this program myself, I know what a serious selection process host families go through.”

Last year, Astakhov vowed he would do everything possible to ensure that Russian orphans were only adopted by heterosexual couples. 


French Court Simplifies Assisted Reproduction for Lesbian Moms

6a00d8341c730253ef019b00262017970b-800wiThe AP reports: France's highest court has ruled that same-sex parents can adopt children born in other countries by assisted reproduction.

France has a law that limits assisted reproduction to heterosexual couples who have been together for two years. This has driven many gay couples to go abroad for assisted reproduction. 

Until now, in such cases only a child's birth mother would be legally acknowledged as a legal parent, but now the other partner will be able to adopt.

Last year, France legalized gay adoption and gay marriage, but kinks such as this one are still being ironed out for same-sex French parents.


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