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Hillsborough County, Florida Extends Non-Discrimination Protections To LGBT Citizens - VIDEO

Kevin beckner

Florida’s Hillsborough County Commission voted Wednesday to extend its Human Rights Ordinance to protect LGBT citizens, reports The Tampa Tribune.

The ordinance prohibits discrimination in employment, public accommodations, real estate transactions and county contracting and procurement.

The unanimous 7-0 vote reverses a 1995 decision that removed gay people from the county’s protection ordinance.

Several speakers at the commission meeting opposed extending protections to LGBT citizens. One speaker referred to homosexality as a “disfunction” and suggested that to extend protections would lead to special rights for pedophiles.

The vote was a victory for Kevin Beckner, the county's first out gay commissioner, who had assembled a business coalition in support of the amended ordinance, making it easier for some of the more-conservative commissioners to vote yes.

Members of the coalition argued that a more inclusive and diverse community is also more prosperous and attractive to highly trained workers.

Terry Wolfe, a resident who spoke in favor of the ordinance, said that the vote “goes a long way toward creating a climate of equality” in the county.

Watch a report on the leadup to the vote, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Hillsborough County, Florida Extends Non-Discrimination Protections To LGBT Citizens - VIDEO" »


Russia Ends U.S. Student Exchange Program, Blames Elderly Michigan Gay Couple

Russia’s children’s rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov

Russia has canceled a foreign exchange program with the U.S., alleging that a gay couple persuaded a man to stay with them and apply for asylum, reports The Guardian.

FlexSince 1992, the state department-financed Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) has brought 23,000 students aged 15 to 17 from Russia and former Soviet countries to study in U.S. schools and live with local families for one academic year.

Human rights organisations have accused the Russian government of promoting discrimination following the introduction of a "gay propaganda" law last year.

Announcing the end of the country’s participation in FLEX, Russia’s children’s rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov [pictured above] said the couple became the legal guardians of the Russian student, after the student left his host family and stayed in the U.S. when the school year ended in May.

According to Russian state news agency Itar-Tass, the student met the couple - elderly veterans who had previously adopted two American boys - in church and the men offered to become his immigration sponsors and pay for him to study at Harvard University.

Astakhov explained on Twitter that the cancellation came about because of a “gross violation by the host country, the United States, of the obligation to unconditionally return students from Russia who travel there to study.”

In an interview with the official government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta, he added that the student moved in with the two men in Michigan, “and they gradually developed – how can I say this carefully – close friendly relations.”

Anton Meshkov, a former FLEX student, said the fact that 15 young people are thought to have stayed in the U.S. after the program ended was not a “serious reason to take away the chance to travel from hundreds of kids”.

“It’s absurd to suppose that the program could facilitate the seduction of young Russians. As a participant in this program myself, I know what a serious selection process host families go through.”

Last year, Astakhov vowed he would do everything possible to ensure that Russian orphans were only adopted by heterosexual couples. 


Controversy Surrounds Screening Of Gay Teen Documentary in Russia - VIDEO

404 film

A Russian television channel has created controversy surrounding the screening of a documentary about gay teens last month at the Pacific Meridians festival in Vladivostok, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

According to People's Patriotic Channel, despite the 18+ rating of the documentary Deti 404 (Children 404), tickets to the screening were sold to minors without a proper ID check.

404404 refers to an online forum for Russian-speaking LGBTQ teens and to an error message displayed on Russian computer screens when people attempt to navigate to a web page that doesn't exist. 

People's Patriotic Channel claims that the documentary violates Russia's "gay propaganda" law.

A screening of the film in St Petersburg last April was disrupted by Orthodox Christian activists and police.

The festival's organizers have said the theater is to blame for the incident but added that the inclusion of the film into one of the festival's sections was important as it deals with a major social issue.

Festival programming director Natalia Timofeyeva said “this film is very useful because we are striving for a tolerant society in which people who are different can also exist.”

Watch a trailer for Deti 404, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Controversy Surrounds Screening Of Gay Teen Documentary in Russia - VIDEO" »


California Governor Jerry Brown Extends Minority Provisions To LGBT Business Owners

BrownCalifornia Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law a historic bill that will result in new opportunities for certified businesses owned by LGBT people, reports SDGLN.com.

Brown is known for his pro-LGBT advocacy. Last week, he outlawed the "gay panic" defense in court. In August, he signed a bill that will provide unprecedented protections for transgender students in California.

The new law means that starting in 2015, public utilities in the state will be required to extend to LGBT certified business owners existing provisions already granted to those owned by ethnic minorities, women, and disabled veterans.

The law - which came about through testimony and advocacy by the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) - is believed to be the first bill of its kind in the United States. It defines an “LGBT business enterprise” as one that is at least 51% owned by an LGBT person or persons, or, in the case of any publicly owned company, at least 51% of the stock is to be owned by a LGBT individual or individuals.

Justin Nelson, NGLCC co-founder and president of NGLCC, said:

"Gov. Brown has further added to his impressive record on economic development and LGBT issues with his signing of this bill into law. We are very proud of the hard work of our team, all seven of our California Local Affiliate Chambers, our certified LGBT business owners, the California Small Business Association and other allied organizations that made this law not only our priority, but also their priority. We also are grateful for the wide support of this law from diverse business communities and the unwavering and consistent support from AT&T and Southern California Edison.”

NGLCC co-founder and CEO Chance Mitchell added:

“The LGBT business community owes a huge debt of gratitude to [lead sponsors] Assemblyman Gordon and Sen. Leno for their hard work in passing this bill that will have real impact on the lives of LGBT California business owners and the many Californians employed by them.”


St. Louis Circuit Judge Hears Challenge To Missouri Same-Sex Marriage Ban

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St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison heard arguments Monday on a challenge to Missouri's gay marriage ban brought by four gay couples who were married in St. Louis by city officials in June.

The couples are Tod Martin and David Gray, Bruce Yampolsky and Terry Garrett, John Durnell and Richard Eaton, and Miranda Duschack and Karen Davis. All but Duschack and Davis attended Monday's hearings, as The St. Louis Post Dispatch reports. Then Recorder of Deeds Sharon Carpenter performed the ceremonies in Mayor Slay's office with his consent. Attorney General Chris Koster filed an injunction to stop the marriages. Though he says he supports same-sex marriage, he also commented that he felt bound to uphold Missouri law (the state has a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage passed in 2004).

Koster did not defend the state's ban in court on Monday. Instead, that duty fell to Assistant Attorney General Jeremiah Morgan. The couples were represented by St. Louis City Counselor Winston Calvert.

The AP reports:

Overturning Missouri's constitutional ban "would at least open doors for the next generation not to have the trials and tribulations that we had," Garrett [a plaintiff in the case] said after the hearing. "We should be able to decide who we love."

But Assistant Attorney General Jeremiah Morgan told [Judge] Burlison that Missouri law limits marriage to between a man and a woman. He argued that 71 percent of Missourians voted for that definition of marriage in a 2004 referendum, and the U.S. Supreme Court has time and again allowed states to define marriage.

"It is the state's, and the people's, responsibility to make that decision," Morgan said.

Calvert noted that an increasing number of states are allowing same-sex marriage, including most of the states surrounding Missouri.

"The laws forbid some people from choosing who they marry," Calvert said. "It's only gay and lesbian couples that are treated as second-class citizens by the state."

The AP also points out that this hearing comes just a week after a federal judge "in Kansas City [heard arguments] on a suit filed by 10 couples over the state's failure to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states."

The ACLU has a pending lawsuit challenging Missouri's gay marriage ban as well.

Regardless of the outcome in any of these cases, it is almost certain that each will be appealed.


Four New Laws to Protect LGBT People in California

Edmund_G_Brown_JrNow this is a far cry from "I think gay marriage should be between a man and a woman."

California Governor Jerry Brown (pictured) has signed four new laws that bolster LGBT rights in the Golden State.

ThinkProgress has a round-up of the four laws. The first makes "gay panic" and "trans panic" legal defenses illegal. Previously, the state's policy was to tell jurors not to be influenced by the plaintiff or defendent's orientation. The Bar Association voted to ban "gay panic" defenses outright, and CA is the first state to act on this.

Another law stipulates that transgender people will have their gender identities respected after death. This law was brought on by the posthumous, tragic misgendering of filmmaker/activist Christopher Lee in 2012.

Health professionals will now have to be trained specifically to work with LGBT and intersex people. The law says it will specifically call for "understanding and applying cultural and ethnic data to the process of clinical care...pertinent to the appropriate treatment of...the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex communities.”

The final law listed by ThinkProgress, while not explicitly aimed after LGBT people, will have a major impact on the community. It protects sex workers from being prosecuted/arrested solely on the grounds of carrying condoms. Trans people are particularly effected, ThinkProgress argues, given that 43% of Trans people have turned to sex work for money at some point.

[h/t ThinkProgress]


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