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Michigan House Speaker Proposes 'Religious Freedom' Act As Debate Over LGBT Job Protections Bill Continues

As lawmakers in Michigan debate on whether to support legislation that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (but not gender identity or expression), Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger has proposed a bill that would allow businesses to discriminate against gays based on religious beliefs. 

MLive reports:

Jase Bolger“I believe workers should be hired and fired based solely on their work ethic and their work experience,” Bolger told reporters during a media roundtable. “And nobody should be discriminated against based on their sexual orientation or their religious beliefs.” [...]

Bolger, offering an analogy, said he does not think a baker should be able to fire an employee for being gay or refuse to make a birthday cake for gay customer.

But that same baker should not be forced to make a cake for a same-sex wedding if such a union would run counter to his or her religious beliefs, according to Bolger, who said courts would ultimately draw that line.

“This does not presume an outcome, and it clearly does not provide a license to discriminate,” Bolger said. “It provides a test of balance.”

Bolger is hoping to pair both bills together, a move that has angered State Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor):

“If you’re going to act in the public space, you must act in a way that is fair and equal to all citizens regardless of skin color, national origin, religion and hopefully sexual orientation and gender expression,” Irwin said. “If they don’t believe in that compromise, they don’t believe in it. They can’t have it both ways.”

LGBT advocates, meanwhile, continue to push for a fully inclusive non-discrimiantion bill, Buzzfeed reports:

Chad griffin“A fully inclusive non-discrimination bill that covers both sexual orientation AND gender identity is the only acceptable option,” HRC president Chad Griffin said in the release. “The Human Rights Campaign and our coalition partners will oppose anything less.”

The coalition partners include state groups like the ACLU of Michigan and Equality Michigan, as well as national groups that include the American Unity Fund and Gill Action — the political arm of the prominent donor Tim Gill’s efforts.

Kirk Fordham, the executive director of Gill Action, echoed Griffin and Cook-McCormac’s remarks, writing, “We, too, support only and inclusive bill and would oppose anything less than that. We’ve made that position clear to the GOP and Democratic leaders in the state.”

The sexual orientation-exclusive bill is being introduced by Republican state Rep. Frank Foster. Foster plans on holding a hearing on the bill, along with a Democratic alternative that includes trans protections, some time after Thanksgiving. 


U.N. Committee Members Find Use Of Conversion Therapy 'Troubling'

Picture 2The United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) finds the discredited practice of conversion therapy used on LGBT youth in the U.S. cause for concern as reported in a press release today from the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Leaders from the NCLR testified before the committee and the U.S. State Department asking the U.S. government to address the use of the archaic practice.

Notable CAT members Sabtyabhoosun Gupt Domah of Mauritius, Jens Modvig of Denmark and Sapana Pradhan Malla of Nepal repeatedly questioned U.S. Department of State representatives why conversion therapy is still considered a viable treatment for LGBT youth despite receiving condemnation from every major, reputable medical organization and is a treatment that is clearly known to lead to depression and suicide in its "patients." NCLR's Samantha Ames, a campaign coordinator behind NCLR's #BornPerfect campaign who testified before the U.N. Committee yesterday on the issue, praised the committee for addressing the issue.

Said Ames:

"Today, for the first time, a United Nations committee recognized that conversion therapy is an issue of international human rights. We are incredibly grateful to the Committee Against Torture for raising up the voices of conversion therapy survivors, and ensuring their suffering is finally being vindicated. Today was a historic day for LGBT people in the United States and around the world. There is no going back."

NCLR’s #BornPerfect campaign is a national effort aimed at ending conversion therapy within the next five years by introducing and passing laws across the country to protect LGBT youth, fighting in courtrooms to ensure their safety and raising awareness about the serious harms caused by these unsanctioned and dangerous practices. California introduced a bill banning conversion therapy in 2012 that was later challenged this year by therapy practitioners. However, the U.S. Supreme Court later upheld California's bill banning the controversial therapy.


HRC Launches Deep South Television Campaign for LGBT Equality: VIDEO

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The Human Rights Campaign today launched the first-ever LGBT public education campaign in the Deep South - All God's Children

The first television ad features Mary Jane Kennedy, a self-described "Bible-believing born-again Christian," telling the story of her middle son coming out to her as gay and why she thinks people of faith could do a better job embracing the LGBT community.

The Associated Press reports:

TV commercials will begin airing Monday in Jackson, the state's largest city and prime media market, with Kennedy featured as a mom who struggled to understand her own sons' sexuality and believes God loves them, just like everyone else. The commercials also will be available online, as will banner ads on websites.

Other commercials may follow in Alabama and Arkansas depending on the reception and results of the Mississippi campaign. The Mississippi effort — which will cost $310,000 — is part of an $8.5 million, three-year effort launched six months ago in the three states.

Watch the spot, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Uganda's New Homophobic Bill Is Even Worse Than Last Year's Anti-Homosexuality Act

A government committee in Uganda has drafted a new anti-gay law, one that has the potential to be even more draconian than the country's (now-invalidated) Anti-Homosexuality Act.

The Guardian reports:

According to a leaked copy of the new draft law, MPs have instead focused on outlawing the “promotion” of homosexuality – a potentially far more repressive and wide-reaching measure.

MugishaFrank Mugisha [pictured], a gay-rights activist, said: “People don’t realise that the ‘promotion’ part of it will affect everybody. If newspapers report about homosexuality it could be seen as promotion. My Twitter account could be seen as promotion. All human rights groups that include LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender] rights defence in their activities could be accused of promotion.”

According to the draft, anyone convicted of “promoting” homosexuality would be liable to seven years in prison. “We have confirmed that the draft comes from the cabinet. Their plan is to present it to parliament as soon as possible, before the end of the year,” Mugisha said.

“They have just twisted the language but it is the same thing. It’s actually worse because the ‘promotion’ part is harsher and it will punish the funding of LGBT and human rights groups.”

In an editorial published earlier this month in Uganda's leading newspaper, president Yoweri Museveni warned that the country would be devastated by trade boycotts should lawmakers pursue additional anti-gay legislation. 

Check out the draft legislation below:


Gay Lithuanian Filmmaker And Activist Giving Away Nude Selfies To Fund Movie: VIDEO

LITHUANIA

Gay Lithuanian filmmaker and LGBT rights activist Romas Zabarauskas is taking a novel approach to generate interest in a Kickstarter for his latest film: giving donors nude selfies of himself. 

Says Zabarauskas of the human rights situation in Lithuania, "Lithuania is a tiny Eastern European country with approximately 3 million inhabitants. It’s a country of spectacular landscapes, a rapidly growing economy, and people who dream big. The bad news is that our politicians are increasingly pushing a homophobic agenda. Since 2010, a controversial Protection of Minors law, similar to Russia’s anti-gay legislation, has been in force."

YCELZabarauskas' previous films Porno Melodrama and We Will Riot took on homophobia, neo-nationalism and corruption. Zabarauskas is no stranger to controversy or fanfare. In 2013, he walked the red carpet at the Moscow Film Festival wearing a "Free Pussy Riot" t-shirt

Of his new film, You Can't Escape Lithuania, Zabarauskas adds, "The provocative campaign and the film will challenge the Lithuanian society and will bring up the important political context in crazy artistic ways." The film also seems to promise plenty of beefcake (see actor Adrian Escobar pictured right).

You can check out and support Zabarauskas's Kickstarter campaign, HERE.

And watch trailers for his previous works, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Ted Cruz Has a Message for Houston's Anti-gay Pastors: VIDEO

Tedcruz2

Although Ted Cruz was unable to attend the Family Research Council's anti-gay extravaganza in Houston last night (he was busy campaigning for Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Dan Sullivan in Alaska), the tea party firebrand still managed to record a message for the right-wing pastors in attendance.

Said Cruz:

Just this past week the mayor announced that they would withdraw the subpoenas of the pastors. Praise be to God! What an answer to prayer. By God's great and mighty hand, our faith once again remains free. But these threats are ever-present. They are coming from every direction and we must remain vigilant. If we speak with resounding voice and if we stand for religious liberty, the truth will prevail. Out of the rubble, we will restore the faith that is the rock of this nation.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

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