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News: Episcopal Support For Gay Marriage, Rugby, Omar Sharif Jr., Gay CEOs

Jesus RoadAwesome counter-protest at Chicago Pride.

RoadA guy in Britain had his already well endowed member made girthier thanks to plastic surgery.

RoadChris Colfer tweets he was let go from Glee; reps then say his account was hacked and the actor will in fact be returning to the show.

RoadThrowback Thursday: TRL returns for one day only.

RoadThe Episcopal Diocese of St. Louis announces support for challenge to Missouri's same-sex marriage ban: "Bishop George Wayne Smith said in a statement that he 'supports St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and City Counselor Winston Calvert in their challenge to Missouri law prohibiting same-sex marriage. Even as the Episcopal Church works to clarify our theological understanding of and pastoral practices around same-sex blessings, I believe that it is not the place of the State of Missouri to deny the privileges and responsibilities of marriage to anyone, basing that denial solely on the gender of the couple.'”

RoadJessica Chastain played Juliet in NYC's Shakespeare in the Park.

RoadFault in Our Stars star Ansel Elgort to play gay pianist Van Cliburn in biopic.

RoadFirst official image of Henry Cavill as Superman in Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Henry RoadPennsylvania High School won't allow production of Monty Python's Spamelot because play features gay wedding: "Dawn Burch, director of the school’s drama department, told WNEP news that Principal Jesse Smith wrote an email to her informing her that homosexuality does not exist in a conservative community such as South Williamsport. Smith did not respond to a ThinkProgress inquiry regarding these specific comments."

RoadApparently, there were some fireworks on the set of The Notebook. Hate and love are the closest emotions.

RoadAustralian rugby team Sydney Convicts are first gay team to play on professional level: “The Sydney Convicts are very excited and proud to be the first gay and inclusive rugby team to be invited to play as part of an elite level rugby match," [The president of the Convicts, Dave] Whitaker told the Gay News Network. “We hope this game helps to challenge these misconceptions while also raising awareness that homophobia in sport is still a major issue and gay people often still feel unwelcome.”

RoadHorrible Bosses 2 trailer released.

RoadOmar Sharif Jr. one of People's hottest bachelors.

RoadBrothers & Sisters alum and out actor Luke MacFarlane to play gay service-member on NBC's Night Shift

RoadRussian conductor Valery Gergiev, known for being close with Russian President Vladimir Putin, says Russia's anti-gay propaganda law isn't anti-gay: “It’s not anti-gay… Nothing to do with gay. It’s about propaganda in schools, in schools, what they call ‘non-traditional’. I don’t understand all these things; I also don’t understand the campaign [of protests against his performances].” He went on to claim that the impacts of the law are exaggerated by western media, saying: “I didn’t know about this law. I learnt about this law in the west. Nobody knows about this law in Russia because [the] law is never applied. No one is put in prison, no one is killed, no one is arrested. We have no idea what is this law in reality to do with our lives here. No idea. Nobody here is about this at all.”

RoadGay CEOs reluctant to come out? "'Of course there are gay CEOs and I reached out to many of them and got an extremely cool reception,' said New York Times columnist Jim Stewart on CNBC, 'Not one would allow to be named for the column.'"


Mormon LGBT Rights Advocate John Dehlin Faces Excommunication: VIDEO

Dehlin

John Dehlin, a Mormon advocate of LGBT rights, has said that no decision has been made on whether he will be excommunicated from the church.

Last month a top Mormon official reiterated the church's stance against same-sex marriage.

Speaking to The Washington Post, Dehlin, who runs the Mormon Stories website, said that regional Mormon church leader Bryan King told Dehlin he needed time to think and pray on whether to send the case to a disciplinary panel.

Writing on Mormon Stories, Dehlin says “that many LDS church leaders have good intentions, but I am deeply troubled by their historical and current treatment of women, racial and sexual minorities, and scientists/intellectuals.”

He also writes:

“I believe that I am being considered for disciplinary action because of: 1) the popularity of Mormon Stories podcast, 2) my support for LGBT rights within Mormonism, and for the legalization of same-sex marriage, 3) my support for Ordained Women, and 4) I believe that both local and high-level church leaders are blaming Mormon Stories for the fact that some people inevitably leave the church.”

Although Mormon officials have not specifically discussed the case, they have said the church welcomes questions and conversations about the faith.

Dehlin has agreed to no longer talk with the media about the case.

Watch a video of Dehlin speaking about LGBT rights at a TEDx talk this past November, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Mormon LGBT Rights Advocate John Dehlin Faces Excommunication: VIDEO" »


California Baptist Pastor Who Came Out In Support Of His Gay Son To Attend White House Pride Reception

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Danny Cortez, the pastor of the New Heart Community Church in La Mirada, California will attend a White House reception today along with his fifteen-year old son Drew in honor of Pride month as a guest of President Obama, Pink News reports. Cortez made headlines earlier this month when he announced to his congregation that his son was gay and that he sought to welcome the LGBT community to his church. Some within the Baptist community branded him an ‘apostate’ for contravening The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) constitution that states “explicitly that any congregation that endorses homosexual behavior is 'not in cooperation with the Convention,' and thus excluded from its membership.” Cortez’s own congregation, however, voted to keep him as pastor and become a ‘Third Way’ church.  

6a00d8341c730253ef01a3fd19ffc9970b-250wiThe New Heart church also issued a statement of support for Cortez and his family:

"As you know, the Cortez family has recently been under fire for reaching out to those in the LGBT community, who have been marginalized far too long.

“If you know Danny like we do, this is not out of character for him. He’s been standing in the gap, and seeking truth, and fighting for justice, and defending the widow, and loving the homeless—for years and years.

“He leads his family, he shepherds a church, and he has been there for you and me when we’ve needed him most. For good reason, we call him pastor."

Danny and Drew Cortez raised money for their travel to Washington, D.C. through a a successful crowd funding campaign. 


Supreme Court Limits Obamacare's Contraception Coverage

BY ARI EZRA WALDMAN

6a00d8341c730253ef01a73dd60f4d970d-300wiIn the words of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, dissenting today in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby:

In the Court’s view, [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act] demands accommodation of a for-profit corporation’s religious beliefs no matter the impact that accommodation may have on third parties who do not share the corporation owners’ religious faith—in these cases, thousands of women employed by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga or dependents of persons those corporations employ. Persuaded that Congress enacted RFRA to serve a far less radical purpose, and mindful of the havoc the Court’s judgment can introduce, I dissent. 

"Havoc" is one mild, understated way to put it. I would add "dangerous," "unprecedented," and "violent."

BrYbC7YCMAAOCqRWhen last we heard about Obamacare, the number of enrollees had exceeded certain Administration expectations. But if you recall, these enrollments were only allowed to happen after the Supreme Court concluded that the central piece of the law -- the individual mandate that requires people to have insurance -- is constitutional.

Today, Obamacare is back in legal news. In a 5-4 decision in Hobby Lobby, the Court held that family-owned corporations can opt out of generally applicable laws for religious reasons. You can read the full decision here. I previewed the legal issues back in March because this case has dangerous implications for the future of LGBT equality.

This case is a so-called religious freedom challenge to a federal law. The Affordable Care Act requires that health care plans provide their customers with certain contraceptives and contraceptive services free of charge. Hobby Lobby, a closely-held (that is a fancy legal term for "family-run") chain of retail arts and crafts stores run by a deeply religious family, took issue with providing its employees with contraceptives that it believed violated the owners' religious beliefs. The company challenged the requirement, arguing that corporations can have religious rights, should be able to sue to protect those rights, and that Obamacare violated its freedom of religion.

Many of us are concerned about our health care and the health care of others. This decision impacts directly all of us who work for companies that provide health insurance: granted, today's decision only applied to private, closely-held companies; but there is little in the opinion to prevent expansion down the road.

However, more to the point, Hobby Lobby sets a dangerous precedent in the gay rights universe. Gay equality laws -- from marriage equality laws in New York to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that passed the U.S. Senate -- have religious exemptions. States that gained marriage equality by judicial decision still have vocal opponents whose arguments (perhaps pretextual) are based on religious freedom. They say they should not be forced to bake a cake for a gay wedding, or rent out their catering halls for gays, or provide any services to gay couples because they oppose gay marriage. If Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts company that has nothing whatsoever to do with religion, can exempt itself from a federal law aimed at providing equal access to all, then perhaps a baker or a florist or a limousine driver can do the same to us.

Religious exemptions and religious freedom arguments can grow to a point where they endanger equality. Our community cannot simply be satisfied with Windsor, the post-Windsor marriage equality winning streak, and the prospect of an impending second shot at the Supreme CourtHobby Lobby could undo much of it.

AFTER THE JUMP, I discuss the Hobby Lobby decision, its dangers, and its limitations.

Continue reading "Supreme Court Limits Obamacare's Contraception Coverage" »


Supreme Court Rules In Favor Of Hobby Lobby In Narrow Decision

HobbyThe U.S. Supreme Court today ruled today that businesses can object on religious grounds to providing contraceptive coverage to its employees as mandated by the Affordable Care Act, The Chicago Tribune reports. The decision came down to a 5-4 vote, with the justices dividing along ideological lines:

In a majority opinion by conservative Justice Samuel Alito, the court said the ruling applies only to the birth control mandate and does not mean companies would necessarily succeed if they made similar claims to other insurance requirements, such as vaccinations and drug transfusions.

In the majority opinion, Alito indicated that employees could still be able to obtain the birth control coverage via an accommodation to the mandate that the Obama administration has already introduced for religious-affiliated nonprofits. The accommodation allows health insurance companies to provide the coverage without the employer being involved in the process.

Under the accommodation, eligible non-profits must provide a "self certification", described by one lower court judge as a "permission slip" authorizing insurance companies to provide the coverage. The accommodation is itself the subject of a separate legal challenge.

As Towleroad contributor Lisa Keen previously pointed out, The Hobby Lobby case is of particular concern from an LGBT perspective because some have believed that a ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby could later be used by employers seeking exemptions on religious grounds from providing health benefits to LGBT employees “such as coverage for the same-sex spouses or partners of employees, reproductive services for lesbian couples, testing and treatment for men at risk of HIV infection, [and] transgender treatment for people with gender dysphoria.” 

Stay tuned for Towleroad legal analyst Ari Ezra Waldman’s in-depth analysis of the Hobby Lobby ruling later today.

You can find previous coverage from Ari on Hobby Lobby and why this ruling matters HERE and HERE

(Image via Twitter)


140 Religious Leaders Petition For Exemption From Obama’s Pending LGBT Executive Order

IRFA letter on anti-discrimination in the workplace

On June 25 a group of about 140 religious leaders and advocates for religious freedom sent a letter to President Barack Obama to try and secure an exemption for faith-based groups in a pending executive order which aims to protect LGBT government contract workers from discrimination.

Barack obamaOrganized by the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, the letter does not endorse the pending order as the best way to curtail work discrimination. It also recommends the religious freedom protections that the Senate accepted in November 2013’s Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) bill, but requests additional protections.  

Although the House announced it would not vote on the legislation, the June 25 letter suggests that Obama adopt some of the religious exemption language from the bill.

The letter states that religious organizations that contract with the government to provide such services as overseas relief and development with USAID:

"Often are the best-qualified applicants for federal contracts or subcontracts. It would be counterproductive to bar them from offering their services to the federal government simply because of their legally protected religious convictions; it would be wrong to require them to violate those legally protected convictions in order to be eligible to receive federal contracts. Their exclusion from federal contracting would be diametrically opposed to the Administration's commitment to having 'all hands on deck' in the fight against poverty and other dire social problems."

However, a growing coalition of critics is urging Obama to drop the practice of allowing religious groups to hire and fire based on a person’s faith when they receive federal money, saying Obama is reneging on a promise he made in 2008. Obama, who originally campaigned against the Bush-era discrimination policy, said in 2008:

“If you get a federal grant, you can’t use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help and you can’t discriminate against them — or against the people you hire — on the basis of their religion."

Some of the religious leaders who signed the letter include: Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Christian Hispanic Leadership Conference and Hispanic Evangelical Association; Joel Hunter, senior pastor of Northland-A Church Distributed; Franklin Graham, president and CEO of Samaritan's Purse and The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association; and George Wood, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.

Additionally, the letter was signed - personally,rather than on behalf of their organizations - by the presidents of numerous Christian colleges, including Colorado Christian University, Houghton College, Biola University, Calvin College, Moody Bible Institute, and Denver Seminary.


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