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NBC Expresses Support for Johnny Weir's Apology to Gay Activists

NBC released a statement late yesterday expressing support for their correspondent Johnny Weir's apology after Weir lashed out at Queer Nation activists, calling them "idiots" at a talk at Barnard College earlier this week. The activists were protesting Weir's decision to serve as an NBC correspondent during the upcoming Sochi Games in Russia and his ongoing defense of the country despite its anti-gay laws.

Deadline reports: Weir

NBC just released a statement in response to Johnny Weir’s comments this morning that he feels “remorse” for insulting protesters during an appearance Monday at Barnard College. “We’re supportive of Johnny’s apology for his choice of words last night in an emotional setting. As we’ve previously stated, NBC will cover all newsworthy issues as they are relevant to the Games, including the LGBT law”, NBC said.


Johnny Weir Faces Off with LGBT Activists at Barnard Appearance, Calls Them 'Idiots'

Earlier I posted about Queer Nation protests of Johnny Weir at a talk at Barnard College last night. Weir appeared at the talk with his husband, Victor Weir-Voronov. The openly gay skater is contracted to work at the Sochi Games as a commentator for NBC.

Weir_voronovApparently there were fireworks inside the talk as well, as Weir defended his love of Russia and attacked the LGBT activists protesting him outside.

Reports Andy Humm at Gay City News:

During his talk he spoke of “idiots like the ones outside tonight, dumping vodka in the street,” action he dismissed as useless.

“They say all these stupid things,” he told the audience of about 40 Barnard women students. “I never supported the [Russian] government. I supported the people.”

Polling shows the Russian people support the anti-gay laws overwhelmingly.

...

“We’re angry at him for not telling the truth about what’s going on in Russia to LGBT Russians and everybody else who dissents, who are being brutalized,” said Ann Northrop of Queer Nation at the protest. “He is selling out millions of people to satisfy his desire not to forgo his income or status. Is this what he would have done in Germany in 1936?”

Protest_weirVersha Sharma at Vocativ backs up Humm's report:

The real tension came when he referenced “idiots like the four outside,” referring to the half-dozen activists from organizations Queer Nation and RUSA LGBT who were protesting the event. They held up a banner in front of the school gates that read, “Weir: Russian Olympic Clown; N.B.C.: Naive Bloody Collaborators.”

...

“I as a gay man hope there’s a beautiful iconic moment, but I don’t think it will happen in Sochi,” Weir said.

The iconic moment of Weir’s talk came when longtime activist and reporter Andy Humm called out Weir for his “idiots” comment and demanded the figure skater apologize.

“You insulted them,” Humm told Weir, pointing out that the activists outside “have 100-plus years of experience…they won your right to get married.”

“When I feel attacked, I have the right and ability to say something,” Weir responded, and then apologized.


Queer Nation Protests Gay Figure Skater Johnny Weir Over NBC Gig at Sochi Games: PHOTO

Protest_weir

The activist group Queer Nation protested an appearance by gay figure skater Johnny Weir at Barnard College in NYC last night over his gig as an NBC correspondent for the 2014 Sochi Games.

“In advance of its broadcast of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Russia, NBC has embarked on a disinformation campaign to minimize the plight of LGBT Russians in order to justify its involvement in the Games,” said Duncan Osborne, a member of Queer Nation.

“NBC has had the openly gay Johnny Weir, a former figure skater, and Thomas Roberts, the openly gay MSNBC anchor, make public comments that suggest that Russia’s anti-gay laws are not harming LGBT Russians,” Osborne continued. “But those laws have led to the arrest and imprisonment of LGBT Russians, and have resulted in de facto state-sanctioned beatings, torture, rape, and murder of Russian lesbians and gay men. NBC should stop deceiving the public and tell the truth.”

Weir was speaking at an event at Barnard College called "The Sochi Olympics and the Role of Athletes".

(image: versha sharma twitter)


Pentagon: Some Service Members in Same-Sex Marriages Must Take Long Drive to Equality

6a00d8341c730253ef019aff2b6308970dThe Washington Post this week called the National Guard a "new gay rights battleground," pointing to the decision of four states--Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Oklahoma--to refuse to process married same-sex couples' benefits applications despite an order from the Pentagon to do so.

In its order, the Pentagon said that service members living in non-marriage equality would be offered seven days of leave to travel to states with equal marriage rights so that they could return to their home states and access federal marriage benefits.  

Becuase of that policy, the administration argues, it doesn't really matter that those four states are refusing to process benefits applications.  But as NBC News reports, the road to equal benefits has been long for some married same-sex couples--literally:

"All federal military installations (in Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Louisiana) will issue IDs to all those who provide a valid marriage certificate from a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage,” Nathan Christensen, a Pentagon spokesman, said via email.

For Alicia Butler, the same-sex spouse of Texas National Guard member, completing that task will take a 120-mile, round-trip drive from her home in Austin to the nearest federal installations, either Randolph Air Force Base near San Antonio or Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas. With a 6-month-old child and with Butler and her National Guard spouse, Judith Chedville, each holding jobs, the couple hasn’t had time yet to make that trek, Butler said. They married in California in 2008. Chedville served in Iraq. 

“This is an ominous signal Texas is giving,” Butler said. “When I get my military ID, will they let me onto Camp Mabry (the Austin-based headquarters of the Texas Military Forces)? And if I get on the property, will I be allowed to use the services there for military spouses: the gym, the PX, and marriage-support groups? That’s all still very unclear.”

While there is a question of state vs. federal law here--officials with the four states' National Guards say they're simply obeying those states' constitutional bans on marriage equality--the system for married same-sex couples to access benefits in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Oklahoma smacks of an unfair 'separate but equal' standard.  Technically, no rights are being withheld, but it is undeniable that forcing same-sex couples to drive farther than different-sex couples to obtain the same benefits creates a feeling of second-class citizenship.

"It ... ignores the culture that is created in these states — the culture that says it's acceptable to discriminate against a group of people," Chris Rowzee, a spokesperson for the American Military Partner Association, told NBC News. "When these states do this, they are telling their military units, commanders and members that it is OK to treat (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) members differently, to discriminate against them. That culture is what leads to gay bashing, hate crimes, harassment and discriminatory employment practices."


Andy Cohen Turns Down Hosting Miss Universe In Moscow, Cites Russia's Anti-Gay Policies

Andy

Coming on the heels of the recent anti-gay atrocities in Russia, Andy Cohen announced he will not be returning to his gig as co-host of the Miss Universe pageant in 2013 as the pageant is being held in Moscow for the first time ever.

E! News reports that Cohen, the popular host of Bravo's Watch What Happens Live and the glory that is every Bravo reunion, told two-time co-host Giuliana Rancic, that "he turned [the job] down because '[Russia's] discriminatory policies make it unsafe for the gays who live there and gays coming to work or visit...The law is that anyone under suspicion of homosexuality can be arrested'...adding that he 'didn't feel right as a gay man stepping foot into Russia.'"

Cohen has previously co-hosted the pageant in 2011 and 2012. The pageant is put on by the Miss Universe Organization which is co-owned by NBC Universal and Donald Trump.


This New York Times Story Might Violate Russian Law

Russia-articleLarge

As news of persecution against LGBT people in Russia gets more and more chilling each day, Moscow-based New York Times correspondent David Herszenhorn begins his latest report with an unforgettable lede:

If this article were published in a newspaper based in Russia, it could be labeled 18+ — like an X-rated movie — and start with the following disclaimer: “This article contains information not suitable for readers younger than 18 years of age, according to Russian legislation.”

Such warnings, put on any articles that discuss homosexuality or gay rights, are the result of a law nominally aimed at “protecting” children by banning “propaganda on nontraditional sexual relationships” but widely understood as an effort to suppress homosexuality and Russia’s fledgling gay rights movement.

Herszenhorn's article focuses on the disturbing fallout of a law signed into law by President Vladimir Putin in June and the international backlash that has placed scrutiny on the Russian government's recent rightward turn--especially in light of the country's hosting of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.

What the new law means for the LGBT people who will visit the Black Sea resort city next year--be they athletes, government officials, journalists or simply tourists--remains a topic of fervent debate.  Officials with the International Olympic Committee have told reporters the organization has received assurances that visitors to Russia will not fall under the anti-LGBT law's restrictions, but the Russian Interior Minister yesterday announced that the law will indeed be in effect during the 2014 games.

6a00d8341c730253ef0192ac784ec2970d-300wiIt's very difficult to guess what the ultimate outcome of these decidedly mixed signals may be.  NBC, which has the exclusive rights to broadcast the games, recently assured its LGBT employees that they would be safe during the network's coverage of the Sochi games.  Of course, how a private corporation might do so in defiance of a sovereign nation's laws is, at best, very difficult to determine.

As Herszenhorn notes, the 2014 Olympics is not the only international sporting event Russia would like to host, meaning the state is set for future conflicts surrounding the country's increasingly extremist politics:

Critics say Russia’s repression of gay rights is part of a pattern that also includes a tightening of pressure on civil society groups, and steps to limit foreign influences — all seemingly out of sync with Russia’s push to host international events, like the recently completed 2013 World University Games in Kazan and the international track and field championships now under way in Moscow.

Beyond Sochi, Russia will hold the World Cup in 2018 and is bidding for the World Expo in 2020. Asked if the gay rights issue might derail the bid, a spokeswoman for the deputy prime minister, Arkady Dvorkovich, noted that Russia was competing with Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, where homosexuality is illegal.

What company Russia is keeping.  Like Herszenhorn subtly points out, this is a question that goes beyond one country and one sporting event--it is a collision course between the increasingly tolerant West and countries where LGBT people are seen as criminals in the eyes of the law.


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