A LGBT activist who was facing deportation to Russia has been released from detention in Britain and taken off the 'fast-track' asylum system after details of her situation sparked an online firestorm and social media campaign. The Independent reports:
Irinia Putilova, a 28-year-old bisexual activist, left St Petersburg six months ago, after fearing for her safety. The activist talked to The Independent from Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre on Monday and said that under Russia's new anti-gay legislation, which criminalises the promotion of non-heterosexual relationships, she did not feel safe to return home. She added that it was "totally impossible" for her to be free in Russia as an LGBTQ person.
While in Britain, Putilova was initially placed in detention and on the tougher fast-track asylum process, which is typically meant for claims that have been identified as uncomplicated and quick to resolve. But many of Putilova's citizenship and immigration documents were still being held in Russia, leading to growing concern that Putilova would not be able to gather the necessary paperwork in time.
More than 5,000 people, including Stephen Fry, ended up signing an online petition asking the Home Secretary to release Putilova from detention. Others, like longtime LGBT activist Peter Tatchell, spoke out against Putilova being placed on the fast-track asylum process.
"It is outrageous that Irinia, or any refugee, is put into fast-track and detained in prison-like conditions. She is not being given enough time to prepare a proper asylum claim. Given that she has already been subjected to sustained harassment and threats, it is unsafe for Irinia to return to Russia."
By the time Tuesday had arrived, the UK government's immigration department, Home Office, announced that it had removed Putilova from the fast-track process and would no longer be keeping her in detention.
"I'm really happy that I got out and I'm really happy to see my friends," she said. "I want to spend my time supporting other people inside. It's cruel detaining people [while they wait for asylum]. It means they can't have normal lives before they are deported. I hope my case helps make asylum for other LGBTQ people from Russia, and from other countries, easier.
Posted Dec. 11,2013 at 1:55 PM EST by Kyler Geoffroy in Gay Rights, News, Russia, United Kingdom |
| Comments (0)
Courtesy of Jennifer Roback Morse and the Facebook page of NOM's Ruth Institute.
Posted Dec. 11,2013 at 1:35 PM EST by Andy Towle in Jennifer Roback-Morse, News, NOM |
| Comments (6)
Elton John explained why he went to Russia in a statement posted today to the Elton John AIDS Foundation website:
There was a lot of speculation about whether I would go to Russia this year. Many people outside the country thought I should boycott Russia because of its new homophobic legislation. Others said I must go to challenge the government.
I decided in the end to be guided by what Russian people wanted me to do. The message, from even the most marginalised Russian groups we work with at the Elton John AIDS Foundation, was ‘please come’. If you don’t come, AIDS workers and LGBT activists told us, we will feel isolated. We will miss having your voice in our debate. It might be interpreted that you don’t care. Or we may be blamed for keeping you away.
In Moscow I spent hours with gay activists, Federal doctors, human rights lawyers and people living with HIV. They told me that since the new legislation has been adopted it’s getting harder and harder to deliver basic HIV information or healthcare to gay men for fear of seeming to ‘promote’ homosexuality, which is against the law. Gay people lie even to their children about their sexuality, in case it jeopardises their families.
That night at my concert I made a statement, directly to the audience, about how sad, shocking and isolating this new law seemed to be. A young woman with a rainbow banner cheered. I realised then, with thousands of Russians cheering for a man they knew to be gay, that I had made the right decision. I believe the Russian people are decent and will be persuaded – but they need to hear us, and see we are human. They can’t do that from a distance of two thousand miles.
A number of celebrities have recently declined to go to Russia, some for fear that it is unsafe. But I say to my friends – we all owe our freedoms to people who took risks with their safety for us, and faced far greater dangers than those confronting a Western artist in Russia. Freedom is worth taking a risk for. Saving people from HIV is worth taking a risk for, and there is nothing that fuels the AIDS epidemic more effectively than stigma and isolation. We’ve learnt that over 20 years of funding HIV programmes around the world, including Russia.
As the Winter Olympics approaches, I know lots of sportsmen and artists are facing the same choice that I faced. I realise not everyone will share my view. But personally I hope and pray that prominent people will go to Russia and challenge the wrong thinking of this law. It breeds isolation, mistrust and hate, and cannot be how Russia wants to be known by the world.
Thank you to everyone who came to my concerts. And thank you to the people who gave their time to talk to me about HIV and gay rights while I was in Russia. We will continue to support your important, life saving work.“
If you missed the video of Elton John speaking out from the stage in Moscow, you can watch it HERE.
Posted Dec. 11,2013 at 1:14 PM EST by Andy Towle in Elton John, News, Russia |
| Comments (3)
NASA's Morpheus lander, which crashed and burned back in August of 2012 and has been outshone by the similar vertical Grasshopper from Elon Musk's space corporation SpaceX, completed its first successful test flight this week at Kennedy Space Center.
According to NASA:
The 54-second test began with the Morpheus lander launching from the ground over a flame trench and ascending approximately 50 feet, then hovering for about 15 seconds. The lander then flew forward and landed on its pad about 23 feet from the launch point.
Project Morpheus integrates NASA's automated landing and hazard avoidance technology (ALHAT) with an engine that runs on liquid oxygen and methane, or "green" propellants, into a fully operational lander that could deliver cargo to asteroids and other planetary surfaces. Morpheus and ALHAT are examples of the partnerships that exist within the agency since seven of the 10 NASA centers have contributed time, energy and resources to both.
Also, NASA's Johnson Space Center unveiled a 6-foot tall, 275-pound humanoid robot.
Valkyrie's two cannon-like arms are interchangeable, and its legs are designed to walk over rough, uneven terrain. It's equipped with cameras on its head, body, forearms, knees, and feet, not to mention with additional LIDAR and sonar units. While it operates via remote right now, the ultimate goal is to make Valkyrie as autonomous as possible. It's hard not to see that glowing circle in the center of its chest and not think about Iron Man.
Watch the lander and the robot in action, AFTER THE JUMP...
Continue reading "NASA's Morpheus Lander and Valkyrie Superhero Robot Step Out in Flashy Sci-Fi Style: VIDEO"
Posted Dec. 11,2013 at 11:53 AM EST by Andy Towle in NASA, News, Space |
| Comments (3)
In addition to the announcement that the IOC will send a letter to athletes and participants at the Sochi Games reminding them to refrain from engaging in demonstrations, political gestures, or protests while in Russia, the IOC said Russia will be creating "protest zones" for people to do just that, the L.A. Times reports:
The announcement came during a news teleconference held by International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach.
"This was under discussion with the IOC for quite some time," Bach said. "This is a measure we welcome so that everybody can express his or her opinion."
The Games in Sochi have become particularly controversial because of Russia's recently enacted anti-gay legislation threatening prosecution of anyone who, in the presence of minors, promotes "nontraditional sexual relations."
Critics worldwide have condemned the law as a violation of the right to free expression, saying the measure effectively bans events such as gay rights parades. Bach did not offer any details about the size or location of the zones.
He said Russian officials have assured him protesters will not face negative consequences. "I think this is the purpose of these protest zones," Bach said. "This is what we’ve been discussing with Russian authorities."
Posted Dec. 11,2013 at 11:24 AM EST by Andy Towle in News, Olympics, Russia, Sochi Olympics, Thomas Bach |
| Comments (21)
The New Jersey legislature is planning to take up a marriage equality bill on Monday, the Star-Ledger reports:
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday is scheduled to hear a new bill called the Marriage Equality Act, (S3109) which is a slightly modified version of a bill (S1) to legalize gay marriage that Republican Gov. Chris Christie vetoed in 2012.
The measure was posted for a committee vote late today. Sponsors said while they believe this is the best option, the debate isn’t over.
"This is the step we’re taking right now. This is a very fluid situation," said state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen). "It could change."
Gay marriage has been permitted in New Jersey since October, thanks to a Superior Court decision to legalize it. Hours after the weddings began despite efforts to stay the ruling, Christie dropped his appeal. Some advocates have argued for the need to write it into state law, stating that a higher court could overturn the decision if things change.
Said Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak: "We will treat it as we do with all bills in the normal course."
In related news, the AP reports that more than 700 gay couples have married in the first 47 days the state has allowed it:
The state Health Department that as of Dec. 6, town registrars had informed the state of 679 new marriages and 30 couples married legally out-of-state renewing their vows. Of the new marriages, 461 of the couples already had civil unions or domestic partnerships in New Jersey.
Meanwhile, a petition drive is underway on MoveOn.org urging conversion of the more than 16,000 civil unions in New Jersey to full marriages.
Write the petitioners:
16,000+ Same Sex couples completed the process of getting “Married” when New Jersey Civil Unions were promised to provide complete EQUALITY; they followed all the rules, paid the required fees, filed the applications and they have already had their wedding day. These Couples chose the people who would be their best men and maids of honor; they meticulously planned their special events, picked out the locations, the flowers, the Tuxedos and the Dresses. These couples already stood in front of their family members and friends to vow to love, cherish and obey each other for as long as they both shall live. And such as it is with any other Marriage, this experience was meant to be a “Once in a Lifetime” celebration and for that special day to be commemorated with each Anniversary Year on that exact date. These couples entered into New Jersey Civil Unions with the full knowledge, understanding and expectations of the being granted the legal equivalent to every other New Jersey Marriage. It’s time the New Jersey Legislature honor its promise of Full Marriage Equality to these Civil Union Partnerships.
Posted Dec. 11,2013 at 10:44 AM EST by Andy Towle in Gay Marriage, New Jersey, News |
| Comments (2)