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Cop Dashcam Catches House's Dramatic Explosion Due to Gas Leak: VIDEO

Exploding house NJ

A cop car was parked on the street in suburban Stafford Township, NJ with the dashcam running, meaning it was almost perfectly situated to catch footage of one of the local houses exploding. The explosion was credited as a natural gas leak on a house that was undergoing renovation. ABC News reports 15 people were injured in the blast, including one who remains in critical condition. 

You can watch the big boom AFTER THE JUMP...

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Lionsgate Picks-Up LGBT Rights Drama ‘Freeheld’ Starring Ellen Page, Julianne Moore

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Freeheld, an LGBT drama starring Ellen Page and Julianne Moore, was picked up by Lionsgate after the company and several other high-profile companies including Sony Pictures and Netflix bid on the feature reports SheWired. Execs only saw 12 minutes from the film and went through a night-long bidding war that resulted in Lionsgate acquiring the film.

FreeheldThe film tells the true story of Laurel Hester (played by Moore), a lesbian police officer with terminal cancer who fights government officials for equal rights so her partner Stacie Andree (played by Page) can have access to Hester’s pension benefits. Moore and Page’s co-stars include Steve Carell, Luke Grimes and Michael Shannon. Ron Nyswayner wrote the script for the film and the feature is directed by Peter Sollet. Page is also a producer on the film and considers it her passion project. Moore is a strong contender for this year’s Best Actress Oscar for her performance in Still Alice, and Carell is nominated for his work in Foxcatcher. The film is currently in post-production.

A documentary on the couple, also called Freeheld, was released in 2007. The feature film adaptation is currently in post-production. You can watch the heart wrenching trailer for the 2007 documentary, AFTER THE JUMP

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NJ Judge's Opinion Could Set Legal Precedent Against Gay 'Conversion Therapy' - READ

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Superior Court Judge Peter Bariso has handed down a decision regarding a New Jersey-based organization’s characterization of homosexuality as an ailment in its marketing for conversion therapy treatments. On its website Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH) describes itself as a non-profit organization that “works with those struggling with unwanted same-sex sexual attractions (SSA).”

Chaim Levin and Benjamin Unger, two of the plaintiffs named in the consumer fraud lawsuit filed against JONAH, recounts an experience that’s better described as humiliating sexual abuse. During sessions with Alan Downing, a JONAH counselor, Levin was made to list negative things about himself while removing his all of his clothing, and then instructed to touch himself. The process, Downing explained while observing (and also naked), was designed to cure Levin of his homosexuality. Other treatments included beating an effigy of one’s mother while screaming and spending more time in the gym with other men.

Though the very concept of reparative therapy is as backwards as it is dangerous, Judge Bariso’s ruling specifically took to task JONAH’s business practices, calling the organization out for violating New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act. The organization provided data meant to persuade potential clients that its reparative treatments were effective, something that multiple clinics do despite the many instances where “cured” gays admit to they haven’t changed. That data, Bariso reasoned, was tantamount to misrepresentation and fraud.

“For the first time, a court has ruled that it is fraudulent as a matter of law for conversion therapists to tell clients that they have a mental disorder that can be cured.” said David Dinielli, deputy legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center. “This is the principal lie the conversion therapy industry uses throughout the country to peddle its quackery to vulnerable clients. Gay people don’t need to be cured, and we are thrilled that the court has recognized this.”

Going forward in an upcoming trail this summer, JONAH will find itself in a difficult legal position given Bariso’s decisions up to this point. As Mark Joseph Stern explains in Slate, the SPLC has done an effective job of cutting off the bulk of JONAH’s arguments at the knees.

Key to the organization’s defense is the central idea that homosexuality is a disorder, an idea that would have allowed them to call a number of expert witnesses on the matter to the stand to defend them. In New Jersey, however, expert witnesses testimony is only permitted regarding “techniques” that are generally recognized as sound by professionals in any given field. The American Medical Association and a number of other medical bodies have thoroughly rejected the legitimacy of conversion therapy. In Bario’s opinion on the case, he agreed.

“The theory that homosexuality is a disorder is not novel but—like the notion that the earth is flat and the sun revolves around it—instead is outdated and refuted.

The significance and cleverness of this case cannot be overstated. If Levin and his three co-plaintiffs are successful in their fight against JONAH specifically on the basis of consumer fraud, the decision could set a precedent for conversion therapy clinics across the country.

Read Judge Peter Bariso’s full opinion on the case against JONAH’s reparative therapy treatments AFTER THE JUMP...

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Chris Christie Launches PAC Following Speech to Conservatives in Iowa: VIDEO

Christie

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has launched a Political Action Committee, an expected move as he prepares the way for a 2016 presidential campaign.

The AP reports:

Christie, who has been pitching himself to donors as a candidate who can expand the Republican Party's tent by appealing to minority, women and independent voters, also appears to be forging a populist message, adding that, "We must support candidates who share our vision, people who know that only through strong, bold leadership will we be able to take on these challenges and act on the promise of a better tomorrow for working and middle-class Americans."

TIME adds:

Former Republican National Committee Finance chairman Ray Washburne, who announced earlier this month he would step down to take a position with Christie, will hold the same role for the new group. Former Republican Governors Association executive director Phil Cox and longtime Christie strategist Mike DuHaime will serve as political advisers. Matt Mowers, the outgoing New Hampshire GOP executive director, and Phil Valenziano, a former aide to Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, will be the PAC’s on-the-ground presence in those two presidential early states.

Christie spoke over the weekend at the Iowa Freedom Summit hosted by Rep. Steve King which attracted several far-right conservatives interested in testing the water for a 2016 run at the presidency. These included Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and word salad masterchef Sarah Palin.

Upon introducing Christie, King trumpeted him as "pro-life" and praised him for vetoing the gay marriage bill in New Jersey. Christie was heckled at the beginning of his speech on immigration by Cesar Vargas of the DREAM coalition.

Watch the heckling and the speech, AFTER THE JUMP...

Vargas

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NCLR Hosting #BornPerfect Twitter Town Hall On Conversion Therapy

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Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 4.44.43 PMThe National Center for Lesbian Rights said it's hosting a Twitter town hall today at 6:30 p.m. ET to discuss the dangers of conversion therapy, the efforts to stop these practices once and for all and what the community can do in a release issued to the public. The town hall comes days after the tragic death of Leelah Alcorn, who took her life after facing years of rejection and enduring the harmful effects of conversion therapy. Twitters users can submit their questions using the hashtag #BornPerfect.

Town hall panelists include NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell, conversion therapy survivor and marriage and family therapist James Guay, Rev. Dr. Justin Tanis of the the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and co-author of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, NCLR Staff Attorney and #BornPerfect Campaign Coordinator Samantha Ames and Maris Ehlers-sister of Kirk Murphy who took his life at the age of 38 in 2003 after undergoing conversion therapy as a child.

NCLR launched the #BornPerfect campaign in June 2014, an initiative geared toward eliminating the practice of so-called “ex-gay” or “reparative” therapy through increased public awareness and the passage of laws across the country to protect LGBT kids from the serious harm caused by these practices. Recently NCLR helped pass legislation in California, New Jersey and the District of Columbia to ban the dangerous practice of conversion therapy. In November 2014, members of the United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) questioned U.S. Department of State representatives asking why the use of conversion therapy is still considered a valid practice despite reputable medical organizations condemning the practice.


New Jersey Assemblyman Tim Eustace Introduces Bill to Ban 'Gay Panic' Defense

Openly gay New Jersey Assemblyman Tim Eustace has introduced a bill that would ban the use of the "gay panic" defense in court, NJ.com reports:

Eustace“I want to make sure that we’re paying attention to things before they happen,” said Eustace, who is the Legislature’s second openly gay member.

Under New Jersey law, a defendant can be charged with manslaughter – a lesser charge than murder – if, among other things, the crime “is committed in the heat of passion resulting from a reasonable provocation.”

Eustace’s bill states that that a provocation can not be interpreted as reasonable if it is based on “the discovery of, knowledge about, or potential disclosure of the homicide victim’s actual or perceived gender identity or expression,” including “circumstances in which the victim made an unwanted, non-forcible romantic or sexual advance toward the actor, or if the victim and actor dated or had a romantic or sexual relationship.”

Earlier this year, California became the first state to ban the "gay panic" defense. In 2013 the American Bar Association unanimously passed a resolution “urging federal, state, local and territorial governments to pass legislation curtailing the availability and effectiveness of the use of 'gay panic' and 'trans panic' defenses by criminal defendants.”

[h/t joe.my.god]


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