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04/19/2007


Maryland Teen Makes History as Openly Gay Eagle Scout

Pascaltessier

Pascal Tessier was blown away last night when he became one of, if not the first openly gay youths to receive his Eagle Scout ranking. The resolution allowing gay scouts, which passed last May, went into effect on January 1st, and many people believe that Tessier, a member of Troop 52 in Chevy Chase, MD, is the first to achieve the prestigious ranking while being completely open about his sexuality.

Becoming an Eagle Scout is no easy task, requiring twenty-one merit badges, a community service project, and a meeting with a board of review, and Tessier's road was even more difficult to traverse. The teenager spoke, and was open about being gay, to media last year while participating in a demonstration prior to the Boy Scouts of America's vote regarding gay members. The outcome was positive, but Tessier easily could have jeopardized his standing with the Scouts, who still will not allow openly gay adults to participate.

The Washington Post reports:

“It’s just really amazing, and it honestly hasn’t really sunk in yet,” said Tessier, a senior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. “We didn’t know if it was going to happen at all.”

Both Zach Wahls, outspoken executive director of Scouts for Equality, and Eric Andresen, father of Ryan Andresen, who was denied his Eagle Scout rank due to his sexual orientation just last year, commented on Tessier's achievement.

“I don’t know of any other Scouts out there who have said, ‘I am gay and I defy BSA to kick me out’ — and Pascal has done that,” said Eric Andresen...

“The fact that Pascal is now able to get his award is directly because of what Ryan unfortunately went though,” Andresen said...

“We certainly think this is a day to celebrate,” Wahls said. “As we see more Pascal Tessiers coming up though the program, getting their Eagle Scouts, other scouting parents and other scouting leaders who might be a little more conservative will see there is nothing to be afraid of, that Pascal is a phenomenal young man and people like him make scouting better.”

Tessier and his mother, Tracie Felker, were overjoyed at the news, but hesitant about the limitations still placed on gay scouts. And for good reason: Tessier's older brother, Lucien, is also an openly gay scout.

Even as he celebrated Monday night, Tessier was well aware of how the partial policy change could affect him. He will turn 18 in August.

“It’s kind of a backhanded acceptance: We accept you for now,” he said. “It says to you you’re a monster of some sort.”

...

Felker said the problem with the Boy Scout’s new policy is that it suggests something changes in her children once they hit 18.

“What no one really wants to talk about is the suggestion that gay adults are child abusers, and that is infuriating,” she said.

“It’s impossible to believe that the creme de la creme of the Scouts, just because they turn 18, are no longer suitable to participate in the programs,” Felker said.

For now, though, Tessier sets an amazing example of what openness and honesty can achieve. A formal ceremony will be held for him and other Eagle Scout honorees in June. Congratulations, Pascal! 


Pride Flags Raised All Across Canada for LGBTs in Russia

Canadian Gay Pride

Cities all across Canada are flying the rainbow Pride flag from government buildings to show support for LGBT athletes for the Olympics and to protest the anti-gay laws and abuses enacted by the Russian government. Though there is widespread support, there are a few dissenters in the mix. As we pointed out the other day, crackhead Toronto Mayor Rob Ford ordered the flag taken down, a decision that was overturned after a meeting with city councillors.

Then there was a constituent in Ottawa, Twitter handle "Awe Some, @Awesomely11", who called Mayor Jim Watson's decision to fly the flag "a stupid waste of time" and that by doing so Watson lost his vote. Watson's response to the disgruntled constituent was right on:

Jim Watson tweet


Newfoundland and Labrador Communities To Raise Gay Pride Flags During Olympics

Travel-bug-gay-pride-flags

St. John's, the capital of the Newfoundland and Labrador province in Canada, is leading the way in an effort to show support for LGBT Russians and athletes during the Sochi Olympics beginning on Friday. At the behest of Josh Eddy, the publisher of LGBT publication The Outpost, St. John's mayor Dennis O'Keefe and the town council unanimously voted to fly a rainbow pride flag over the city hall. Now Eddy's efforts are catching fire in other towns around the province.

CBC News reports:

"Flying the rainbow flag during the Olympics is really a sign of support for people in other countries, in this case in particular in Russia, the people who have been denied their liberties as individuals, and people who are being persecuted because of their sexual orientation," O'Keefe said.

"This is something we're very proud to be a part of, because it reinforces our position that all people in society have a right to realize their potential."

The flag is being raised this Friday, February 7th, the day of the Olympics' opening ceremonies. Smaller flags are also being sold at local store the Travel Bug (above image) for fifty-percent off when customers assure owner Peg Norman that they will display them throughout the games.

"The Olympics hold themselves up as this model of perfection, but at the same time they're quite willing, obviously, to stomp on basic human rights of the gay and lesbian community around the world, and they seriously need to look at their role," [Norman] said.

"It's unfortunate for the athletes that have worked so hard to get to this level, but you also can't ignore the fact that there are basic human rights that we are talking about."

According to Eddy, town councils in Gander, Corner Brook, Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Mount Pearl have also shown interest in flying rainbow flags. Eddy, overwhelmed by the support, also wanted to assure people that the protest has little to do with the Olympics themselves, but rather the spotlight placed on Russia and its anti-gay propaganda laws. His is not a message of opposition, but of solidarity. 

"It's not against Olympics. It's not against Russians. It's something in support of people who are going through struggles that we went through for years."

Photo via CBC News.


Cyprus To Hold First Ever Gay Pride Parade

GaypridecyprusCyprus, the Mediterranean island south of Turkey and west of Lebanon, has a burgeoning gay community ready to show its stripes. Thankfully, the country will hold its first ever gay pride parade on May 31st in conjunction with a 15-day pride festival. The festival will include other events, such as a film festival, art shows, discussions series, and even an anti-bullying campaign aimed at Cyprus youth. It is an exciting development for a country fervently awaiting the passage of a Civil Partnership Act this April.

Cyprus Mail reports:

“A short step before the impending legalisation of civil unions and the criminalisation of homophobic rhetoric, we believe that the time is ripe for an elusive dream of ours materialise – the organising of the first Cyprus Gay Pride Festival, which will embody the will of LGBTI – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex – people to be heard and be accepted as equals, not to be discriminated against or have their human rights diminished by others because of their own personal beliefs and religious affiliations,” said the press release.

The head of the LGBTI community (Costas Gavrielides of ACCEPT LGBTI Cyprus) said he hoped that the government would make good on its promise and deliver the bill to the House by April, as it was promised by Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos.

The ministry put a temporary stop to the plan in November 2013, when Hasikos said that it should be rewritten because it violated internal ministry procedures. The minister explained then that this was merely a procedural issue and the bill would be delivered as promised to the LGBTI community.

“I am very glad we reached the point where we can organise a pride festival without fear. Acceptance is the key,” said Gavrielides.

U.S., Belgian, and Swedish ambassadors will reportedly be in attendance for the festival and parade, which will take place in Nicosia under supervision of mayor Constantinos Yiorkadjis. Festival officials have also invited members of the LGBTI community in Northern Cyprus, a republic of Turkey which decriminalized sodomy this January.


Russian Tradition Wears the Rainbow with Gay Pride Nesting Dolls

Pride matryoshka dolls

Toronto artist Brahm Finkelstein wanted to find a way to bring awareness to the LGBT human rights abuses that are going on in Russia. Then, he came up with a subversive idea for perhaps the perfect representation of gay pride and Russia: he teamed up with Italian artist Danilo Santino and crafted Pride Dolls.

The Pride Dolls are iconic Russian matryoshka dolls, or "nesting dolls", done up in each of the six colors of the Pride flag and six different portraits of gay and lesbian characters, with the drag queen as the largest, swathed in the entire rainbow. Naturally.

Finkelstein hopes that his dolls will raise awareness and predicts that he'll have a second line soon. The proceeds from the dolls will go to the Gay and Lesbian International Sports Association (GLISA), the creator of the OutGames.


President Obama Nominates African-American Lesbian to Federal Bench

On Thursday, President Obama announced several nominees to federal judge positions, including Staci Michelle Yandle. Yandle, who runs a private practice out of Illinois, would become only the second ever African-American, lesbian federal judge if she is confirmed, and her nomination is an indication of the concerted effort President Obama has made to diversify the American judicial system. Yandle will likely fill the space being vacated in the District Court of the southern district of Illinois by Judge John Phil Gilbert when he takes senior status in mid-March.

YandleHuffPost reports:

“I am pleased to nominate these distinguished individuals to serve on the United States District Court bench," Obama said of Yandle and a handful of other nominees he put forward Thursday. "I am confident they will serve the American people with integrity and a steadfast commitment to justice."

Yandle's nomination puts her on track to become the second openly lesbian African-American federal judge in the country. Judge Deborah Batts, nominated by President Bill Clinton, was sworn in as a federal judge in Manhattan in June 1994. Batts took senior status in April 2012.

Yandle said in a July 2012 interview that the judicial world needs to be more accepting of the LGBT community.

"When I first started practicing, for a while I did not feel comfortable acknowledging my sexual orientation because I didn’t want it to cost me my job," she said. "I wanted to be judged on my merit and my merit alone. Many members of the LGBT community still have that fear. We are a traditional profession that is conservative in many ways."

Congratulations to Yandle on the nomination, and we will cross our fingers for her confirmation! 


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