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Buddhist Temple Officiates Gay Weddings As Japan Continues to Struggle With LGBT Rights - WATCH

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The Shunkoin Temple in Kyoto, Japan has become the first zen Buddhist temple offering to officiate symbolic same sex weddings within the country. Japan’s views on homosexuality and gender nonconforming individuals is a complex one. Despite artistic cultural exports that sometimes Japan as being a socially progressive society in regards to gender and sexual expression, the country still struggles with broad legislation that would ensure LGBT equality.

TempleA Pew poll conducted in 2013 found that Japanese citizens, while divided on the issue, were slightly more inclined to agree with the idea that homosexuality should be accepted by society. Nevertheless, change has been gradual.

“It’s not like we have to keep tradition the way it is,” Takafumi Kawakami, a priest at the Shunkoin Temple said in an interview with CNN. “We welcome every couple regardless of their faith or sexual orientation.”

Though there are a number of openly queer politicians in Japan, openly gay people run the risk of being evicted, fired, or denied access to Japan’s health care infrastructure.

“Japan still has no LGBT protection laws, lawmakers aren’t even talking about it,” said LGBT activist Maki Muraki. “If more people come out and get married, it’ll increase LGBT awareness, marriage equality, and workplace equality.”

Watch Buddhist priest Takafumi Kawakami and LGBT activist Maki Murakai’s interviews with CNN AFTER THE JUMP...

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More Stunning Footage Of Japanese Volcanic Eruption That Killed At Least 36 People: VIDEO

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Over the weekend, Mounta Ontake in Japan erupted killing at least 36 individuals. Previously, we showed you footage of the eruption captured by hikers in the region. Now, new video from AFP shows just how quickly the volcanic ash spread. Experts now warn that further eruptions could be possible.

The LA Times reports on the havoc unleashed by the Volcano:

At 11:52 a.m. Saturday, authorities said, Mt. Ontake erupted without warning, spewing smoke and ash and, apparently, toxic fumes.

On Sunday, authorities said four hikers were confirmed dead and an additional 27 bodies were found on the mountain about 150 miles west of Tokyo.

At least 30 more people were injured, and a search and rescue crew including helicopters and about 300 people was dispatched to the area.

Naofumi Miyagi, spokesman with the Nagano prefecture police, said all 31 victims found lifeless showed signs of cardiopulmonary arrest; autopsies were conducted on four hikers who were brought down from the mountain Sunday afternoon.

Watch the terrifying video, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Hiker Captures Dramatic Footage of Enveloping Ash Cloud During Japanese Volcano Eruption: WATCH

Volcano

Dramatic footage from the the Mount Ontake volcanic eruption in central Japan over the weekend, as hiker Kuroda Terutoshi and his party race to find safety from the ash cloud chasing after them. 

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

The Guardian reports on the rising death toll:

Five more bodies have been found near the peak of an erupting Japanese volcano, before rescuers were forced to suspend their search due to fears of toxic gas.

The grim discovery brings the number of people feared to have died in the Mount Ontake eruption to 36. The volcano erupted without warning during a busy hiking weekend. [...]

A Japanese army official who took part in the search said rescuers had worn helmets, bullet-proof vests, goggles and masks to protect themselves from any fresh eruption.

“I saw rocks up to probably one metre across [that had been thrown through the air],” he said, adding the search had been difficult and involved digging through ash.

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Final Fantasy XIV Gamers Hold Virtual 'Pixel Pride' Parade: VIDEO

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The digital denizens of of Final Fantasy XIV’s Eorzrea gathered last weekend to celebrate Square Enix’s decision to finally allow avatars of the same sex to marry each other with a virtual pride parade. The inclusion of LGBT marriage comes as the latest in a long line of revisions made to the fourteenth entrant into the Final Fantasy franchise. Initially released in 2010, Final Fantasy XIV was met with widespread disappointment from fans.

Problems ranging from convoluted menu systems to clunky controls to effectively useless non-playable characters drew so much criticism that Square Enix owned up to its mistakes and made the decision to relaunch the game last summer as Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. It was a much better game.

As more and more new mechanics were added to the game to enhance gameplay, Square Enix created a forum to get more direct feedback from players. Amongst the hundreds of suggested tweaks to the game was the option for players to create characters that were queer-identified. Statistics surrounding the number of LGBT gamers are few and far between but a survey conducted in 2007 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign concluded that gay gamers made up about 23% of the gaming population and preferred RPG games like Final Fantasy.

"People within Eorzea will be able to pledge their eternal love and or friendship in a ceremony of eternal bonding.” Game director Naoki Yoshida announced at this year’s E3. [T]his will be open to people regardless of race, creed, and gender. Two players...if they want to be together, in Eorzea, they can-through this eternal bonding ceremony."

The pride parade was organized by the Rough Trade Gaming Community, a group of LGBT gamers with significant presences in a number of popular massively multiplayer online (MMO) games.

Watch video of the digital pride parade AFTER THE JUMP...

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Sailor Moon Reboot Returns With LGBT Storylines Intact: VIDEO

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Usagi Tsukino, better known by her crime fighting persona Sailor Moon, is back after a 14 year hiatus, and she’s brought some of her gay friends with her. Initially published by Naoko Takeuchi as manga for Nakayoshi magazine in the early 90s, Sailor Moon’s original source material and its subsequent run as a popular anime series were noted for their inclusion of complex lesbian, gay, and trangendered characters.

References to the romance between Sailor Venus and Sailor Mercury were written out of the American releases, as was that between notable villains Zoisite and Kunzite. Sailor Moon: Crystal, the latest release from Toei animation and Viz Media here in the West, seeks to restore the series with a retelling much closer to the original story.

“SAILOR MOON was groundbreaking in the way its storyline and main characters resonated with both a male and female audience,” said VIZ Media VP of Animation Brian Ige. “We’re thrilled to be able to release this empowering action title uncut and in its entirety.”

The series, airing on Hulu here in the US, premiered last weekend to much internet fanfare. Featuring Kotono Mitsuishi, Usagi’s original Japanese voice actress, Sailor Moon: Crystal integrates updated animation as well as a global simulcast, airing here in the States every first and third Saturday online.

Watch the trailer for Sailor Moon Crystal AFTER THE JUMP...

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Monday Speed Read: Mary Yu, Gene Robinson, Indiana, Wisconsin, HUD Discrimination, Akie Abe, Russia

BY LISA KEEN / Keen News Service

LESBIAN TO WASHINGTON SUPREME COURT: Yu

Washington State’s Democratic Governor Jay Inslee appointed openly lesbian Judge Mary Yu to the state supreme court May 1. In making the announcement, Inslee noted that Yu, 56, a native of Chicago, becomes the first openly gay, the first Asian-American, and the first Latina on the state supreme court. She will be sworn in next month and must run for election this fall in order to serve out the two years remaining in the six-year term of the retiring justice she is replacing. Yu has been reelected four times for her current seat on the King County Superior Court.

RobinsonGAY BISHOP ANNOUNCES DIVORCE:

The Episcopal Church’s first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, announced in an email to his diocese and a column in the DailyBeast.com Sunday that he and his husband, whose civil union automatically became marriage under New Hampshire law in 2010, are divorcing. Robinson offered no details for why the couple is splitting after 25 years together, except to say “gay and lesbian couples are subject to the same complications and hardships that afflict marriages between heterosexual couples.” The Episcopal denomination’s General Convention affirmed Robinson’s election as bishop in 2003.

INDIANA DECISION COMING ‘SOON’:

A federal judge in Indiana heard oral arguments for two hours May 2 in Baskin v. Bogan, a case brought by Lambda Legal on behalf of three lesbian couples in Evansville. U.S. District Court Chief Judge Richard Young (a Clinton appointee) said he would rule soon on a motion for summary judgment in the case, reports the Indianapolis Star, but both sides intend to appeal if they lose at this level. Such an appeal will be the first marriage ban lawsuit to reach the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which covers Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. The Baskin case is one of five currently pending in federal court in Indiana.

ON WISCONSIN, ON WISCONSIN: Crabb

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb (a Carter appointee) last week denied Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s request to dismiss an ACLU-led lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on marriage licenses. The lawsuit, Wolf v. Walker, also challenges the state’s ban on civil unions and its prohibition against same-sex couples obtaining marriage licenses from other states.

COMMENT ON HOUSING SEARCH:

The Federal Register today announces the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is extending by another 30 days its public comment period on housing discrimination against LGBT people. The notice, originally published in January, says HUD is preparing to do focus group studies and is “interested in the manner in which people identify themselves as lesbian, gay, or transgender when searching for rental housing.”

JAPAN’S FIRST LADY JOINS PRIDE EVENT:

First Lady Akie Abe, wife of conservative Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, participated in the annual Tokyo Rainbow Pride parade April 27, according to Japan Daily Press. At a speech before the UNAIDS-Lancet Commission in London last February, the First Lady said, “I have made up my mind that throughout the rest of my life, I should work as a self- appointed, public amplifier, amplifying the voice of the voiceless, and the cause that in our life time we must work to end AIDS.”

RUSSIAN LGBT MARCH ALLOWED:

Russian authorities took no action May 1 to stop a contingent of 300 people marching behind a rainbow banner that said “Love is Stronger than Hate.” A report in GayStarNews.com said the march took place in St. Petersburg during a May Day parade in which many groups participated. Laws passed by Russia last year prohibit any public expression of support for LGBT people and authorities stopped similar demonstrations previously.

© copyright 2014 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.


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