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Missouri Couple Organizes 'Marriage Equality Bus' Trips to Iowa: VIDEO

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Marriage equality has historically been seen as a liberal, coastal development: same-sex couples can now drive through the Northeast from Maine to Washington, DC without leaving a marriage equality state, and California allowed same-sex couples to wed early--albeit briefly--in 2008.  But since 2009, there has been one unusual, non-coastal exception: Iowa, which was joined by Minnesota this May and Illinois just last night as the only states in the Midwest to provide equal marriage rights.

Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court decision this summer invalidating the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited married same-sex couples from obtaining federal benefits, couples in non-marriage equality states in the Midwest--say, for example, Missouri or Wisconsin--have been able to wed in nearby marriage equality states to access at least some of the benefits of marriage.  As Al Jazeera America reports, Scott Emanuel and Ed Reggi of Missouri have become a pair of unexpected heroes on that front:

The St. Louis pair organizes buses that take area couples to Iowa to tie the knot. To date, they have put together 14 trips that have taken 150 couples to get married. Emanuel and Reggi were the first. Brandi and Kate Davis were the 142nd.

Dubbed the Marriage Equality Bus, the project was born from Emanuel and Reggi’s own love story. They were surprised when the Iowa Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages in that state in 2009, and the decision offered an opportunity. Iowa had become an unexpected solution to a unique problem facing LGBT couples in the Midwest.

“We found a few friends who wanted to go and get married too,” he said. “Then it expanded. Then we had more than a van.”

Emanuel and Reggi ended up chartering a bus with 16 other couples. After the first bus trip, word spread, and they haven’t stopped since.

“It’s the first time a lot of couples see their names on a document together,” Emanuel said. “That’s significant.”

With Illinois days away from becoming the 15th state to allow same-sex couples to marry (Gov. Pat Quinn has said he will signed the legislature-approved bill into law sometime this month), couples in Missouri and other nearby states without marriage equality will have a new, closer option than Iowa where there can get married.  For couples in Missouri, a state with deep red majorities in both houses of the legislature and no laws prohibiting employment discrimination against LGBT people, that's a very good thing, indeed.

Check out a short film about Emanuel and Reggi's Marriage Equality Bus, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Missouri Couple Organizes 'Marriage Equality Bus' Trips to Iowa: VIDEO" »


Lambda Legal Appeals HIV-Positive Man's Transmission Conviction to Iowa Supreme Court

Yesterday, Lambda Legal filed an appeal in the Iowa Supreme Court over the conviction of Nick Rhoades, an HIV-positive Iowan who was initially sentenced to 25 years in prison and required to register as a sex offender based on a one-time sexual encounter with another man during which they used a condom, said the organization via press release.

RhoadesLambda explains the case:

In June 2008, Rhoades had a one-time sexual encounter with Adam Plendl during which they used a condom. Several days later, Plendl was told by a friend that Rhoades might be HIV-positive.The police were contacted, and Mr. Plendl cooperated fully in the prosecution of Mr. Rhoades. The police arrested Rhoades in September 2008, and on the advice of his counsel, he pled guilty. Despite the fact that a condom was used and Mr. Plendl did not contract HIV, Rhoades was convicted under Iowa's HIV criminalization law. He received the maximum sentence: 25 years in prison and classification as the most serious type of sex offender. Subsequently, the court suspended his prison sentence, and he was placed on supervised probation for five years. On March 15, 2010, Rhoades filed an Application for Post-Conviction Relief, arguing that the attorney who advised him to plead guilty had failed to inform him of the specifics of the statute, resulting in his conviction for a crime he did not in fact commit. In December 2011, the district court denied the application, and Lambda Legal began representing Rhoades on appeal. Oral argument were presented to the Iowa Court of Appeals in early September (2013), and on October 2, a three-judge panel affirmed Rhoades's conviction.

Thirty-nine states have HIV-specific criminal statutes or have brought HIV-related criminal charges resulting in more than 160 prosecutions in the United States in the past four years. Among other things, HIV criminalization perpetuates the many myths and misconceptions that fuel other types of discrimination against people living with HIV. It sends an inaccurate message regarding prevention responsibility, creates a disincentive to getting tested, and may actually discourage disclosure of HIV status.

Added Scott Schoettes, HIV Project Director for Lambda Legal: "We're asking the Iowa Supreme Court to review this case because the facts here don't add up to a conviction. The Court of Appeals' decision was based on a misinterpretation of the plain language of the statute, and we look forward to presenting the case to the state's supreme court. A person who uses a condom and engages in safe sex, as Nick did, does not have the intent required to support a conviction under Iowa's law addressing exposure to HIV."

More on the case at Lambda Legal's website.

Previously on Towleroad...
Nick Rhoades: Imprisoned fro Months, Punished for Life, for Failure to Disclose [tlrd]
Criminalizing the HIV-Positive Community [tlrd]


News: Anchorage, AT&T, Transgender Student, Sarah Palin

6a00d8341c730253ef019afff259e6970b Elizabeth Berkley to dance to "I'm So Excited" on Dancing With The Stars

Bag6a00d8341c730253ef019afff259e6970b Man retrieves his luggage at baggage claim only to find it plastered with the words "I am gay." Airline claims they "are taking this matter very seriously."

6a00d8341c730253ef019afff259e6970b New poll: One in six LGBT Brits have been the victim of a hate crime.

6a00d8341c730253ef019afff259e6970b Meg Ryan to star in television series.

6a00d8341c730253ef019afff259e6970b Madonna banned from movie theater for texting on her Blackberry.

6a00d8341c730253ef019afff259e6970b Michael Douglas confesses to lying about the type of cancer he was diagnosed with in 2010: "But the surgeon said, 'Let's just say it's throat cancer.' I said 'OK, you don't want to say it's tongue cancer?' I said 'Why's that?' and he said, 'Well, if you really want to know why, if we do have to have surgery it's not going to be pretty. You'll lose part of you jaw and your tongue and all of that stuff.' So I said, 'OK sure.'"

6a00d8341c730253ef019afff259e6970b Will Young hopes to stop school kids from using the word "gay" as a slur.

Utah6a00d8341c730253ef019afff259e6970b Transgender University of Northern Iowa student crowned homecoming queen.

6a00d8341c730253ef019afff259e6970b Anchorage Chamber of Commerce hopes to give LGBT community support from local businesses: "'The social debates are happening outside of what we're doing,' said Andrew Halcro, the chamber president. 'This is really focusing on the economy and the economic benefits of inclusivity.'"

6a00d8341c730253ef019afff259e6970b Lesbian couple in Utah claims discrimination from manager at AT&T store. The company is investigating the charges.

6a00d8341c730253ef019afff259e6970b Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz, who initially supported the government shutdown, are now protesting it in Washington, DC.

6a00d8341c730253ef019afff259e6970b Palin also appeared in New Jersey to support Cory Booker Senate rival, Steve Lonegan.

6a00d8341c730253ef019afff259e6970b Judge: Ban on gay men giving blood in Northern Ireland is irrational.


Religious Rights Group Files Suit To Defend Religious-Based Discrimination

Gortz Haus

A few months ago a gay couple in Iowa were turned away from an art gallery wedding venue that they wanted to use for their own wedding because their homosexuality violated the religious sensibilities of the Mennonite owners. A discrimination case was pursued by the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.

A few days ago the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed an 11-count lawsuit against the Iowa Civil Rights Commission and wants the Commission to rule that the Odgaard's refusal to host a same-sex wedding in their public art gallery wedding venue was not a violation of the Iowa Civil Rights Act.

A spokesperson for the Becket Fund engaged in some contradictions, claiming that they didn't want to eliminate homosexuality as a protected class, just to allow the Mennonite beliefs of the Osgaards to supersede the civil rights of Lee Stafford and his fiancee.

The spokesperson also said “To our knowledge, no Iowa or Federal court has ever forced anyone to participate in a religious activity against their will. Doing so now would abandon Iowa’s history of being the vanguard of protecting individual freedom, and out of line with state and federal law.” This is true that no state or federal law has forced people to unwillingly take part in a religious ceremony, but state and federal laws have ruled that public venues and public services cannot discriminate based on orientation, and venues that have discriminated have lost those legal battles.


Joe Biden Says Gay Marriage is 'the Civil Rights...Issue of Our Day' — VIDEO

Biden

Vice President Joe Biden attended Tom Harkin's (D-IA) steak-fry fundraiser on Sunday, a Democratic confab typically seen as the place where candidates get their feet wet for a forthcoming presidential race.

Biden spoke about Syria, and Obama's economic policies, but he also spoke about gay rights, defending his Meet the Press interview in May 2012 at which he came out for same-sex marriage, sprinting ahead of Obama on the issue.

Said Biden at the Harkin event over the weekend:

“A lot of people criticized me for speaking out, not long ago, about gay marriage. I could not remain silent any more. It's time we stopped talking. It’s the civil rights of our day. It’s the issue of our day.....That's why the president eliminated DOMA, Don't Ask, Dont' Tell. That's why he came out against this notiong that marriage can somehow be recognized in one state and denied in another. And when it comes to the rights of - you know the president's phrase, and I'll paraphrase this slightly - that everybody in America should have the dignity to choose who they love and marry who they choose. He believes that but not just because it's a human right because it's about treating everyone with dignity.

Watch Biden's remarks, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Joe Biden Says Gay Marriage is 'the Civil Rights...Issue of Our Day' — VIDEO" »


Pastor Raped Teen Boys To Help End Their 'Homosexual Urges': VIDEO

Brent

Youth pastor Brent Girouex from Council Bluffs, Iowa has admitted to having sex with teenage boys during his tenure at Victory Fellowship Church in order to "to help [them] with homosexual urges by praying while he had sexual contact with [them]," United Press International reports.

Girouex, 31, who is married with four children, was arrested last year on 60 counts of suspicion of sexual exploitation by a counselor or therapist:

In February Girouex confessed to Council Bluffs police detectives that he had sexual relations with four young men starting in 2007 to help them gain "sexual purity" in the eyes of God. However, at least eight men have come forward with complaints that the pastor molested them.

Girouex told investigators that the longest relationship he had with any of the victims lasted four years. He said that it started when the boy was 14 years old and that the "mutual" contact took place 25 to 50 times. The victim, who is now an adult, told investigators the real number of times was between 50 and 100 times.

Three of the victims who came forward told authorities the sexual encounters took place at Girouex's house. They all said that they went there to be helped with "sexual purity."

“When they would ejaculate, they would be getting rid of the evil thoughts in their mind,” Girouex allegedly told detectives.

VicA judge originally sentenced Girouex to 17 years in prison before he "suspended it to allow Girouex to get sex offender treatment and probation," according to KCCI News. Girouex will remain on probation for 5 years, the maximum time allowed by law. Girouex's wife however, thinks her husband should be in prison:

"If that's what it takes to get him away from people, then yes," said Erin Girouex. "I don't want (my children) anywhere near him."

Erin Girouex said that what they want is for other victims of sexual misconduct to stand up and speak out before it's too late.

"We just encourage other victims that you have what it takes, you have a voice, and to come forward and to report what's happened so it doesn't happen again," [Emily] Baker, [wife of one of the victims] said.

Erin Girouex is filing for divorce, but the hang-up is that her husband wants to see their children.

Watch a news report about the horrific crimes AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Pastor Raped Teen Boys To Help End Their 'Homosexual Urges': VIDEO" »


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