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Matthew Shepard's Parents Head To Russia To Fight Anti-LGBT Intolerance: VIDEO

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The parents of Matthew Shepard are heading to hostile territory in hopes of bringing a message of tolerance to Russia. Tomorrow, Dennis and Judy depart for St. Petersburg to attend the screening of a movie about their slain son and then move on to Moscow, where they hope to meet with parents of LGBT youth. In a country where gays are consistently harassed for spreading so-called "propaganda", the Shepards hope to bring a message of tolerance on their five-day trip. But given how entrenched anti-LGBT attitudes have become under the rule of Vladimir Putin, they know it won't be easy.

“Putin has made it so unhealthy to be LGBT or an ally,” Dennis Shepard told the AP in an interview about their trip. “It will take at least a generation to clean up the mess he’s made and get some acceptance.”

Their first stop will be a screening of Matthew Shepard is a Friend of Mine at the Side by Side Film Festival in St. Petersburg, an annual event since 2008 which has been promoting LGBT tolerance while drawing criticism from government officials there. But filmmaker Michele Josue, who was a close friend of Matthew's in high school, feels strongly about screening her film in a hostile environment. 

"We've been preaching to the choir," she said of previous screenings in the U.S. "It's important to get our film seen by a community that didn't have access to it."

The film, which has been on the festival circuit this year, makes its NYC premiere tonight at the Doc NYC Festival. You can watch the moving trailer AFTER THE JUMP...

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Procter & Gamble Comes Out In Support Of Same-Sex Marriage - VIDEO

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For the first time in its history, Cincinnati-based consumer products group Procter & Gamble (P&G) is openly supporting same-sex marriage, reports Cincinnati.com.

This may not be great news for right wing anti-gay zealots. Tony Perkins, the leader of listed hate group Family Research Council, last week hinted at a possible boycott of Apple after CEO Tim Cook came out.

Procter & Gamble says that it has embraced LGBT employees for more than 20 years and same-sex marriage has become an important enough issue to its workers that it is taking a public stand.

Deborah P. Majoras, P&G's chief legal officer and executive sponsor to GABLE, the company's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender-allied employee group, said:

"We have always supported our employees and fostered a culture of inclusion and respect – this includes the right to marry whomever they choose and to have that union legally recognized.”

William Gipson, P&G's chief global diversity officer, added that being LGBT-inclusive is “not a political statement, but a statement of support for our employees."

P&G’s announcement of its support for same-sex marriage comes a week after the city of Cincinnati won top score for inclusion by Human Rights Campaign (HRC). P&G also received a perfect score this year from HRC for its inclusion policies.

Terry Kelly, principal and investment adviser at Cincinnati-based investment management firm Bartlett, said that although P&G's latest stand could anger some consumers, the company has already weighed those risks.

Back in 2007, P&G supported the first kiss between two same-sex teenagers on soap As The World Turnswhich you can watch AFTER THE JUMP...

Back in August, advocacy group the Bilerico Project called on people to boycott P&G, the biggest television advertiser in Russia. P&G was also a Worldwide Olympic Partner and a sponsor of the controversial 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.

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NOM Is Near Death: HRC Reports Lack Of Funding And Support Crippling The Organization

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 1.12.17 PMThe Human Rights Campaign issued a press release today that contained results from a study they conducted on the National Organization for Marriage's funding and found the organization is rapidly losing support. HRC examined NOM's tax filings from 2013 and found that the organization's funding for the year dropped a whopping 50 percent from 2012, raising only $5.1 million in funds this year. Only two donors account for donating half of those funds alone, which indicates NOM's support base merely consists of a very few wealthy people and a minuscule amount of the general public.

The NOM Education Fund also dropped nearly $3.5 million in funding; a drop of almost 70 percent since the previous year. NOM ended the year more than $2.5 million in debt. Fred Sainz, the HRC Vice President of Communications, urges NOM to give up the ghost already.

Said Sainz:

“If I were Brian Brown, I’d be worried that my two or three mega-donors are soon going to come to terms with the fact that they’d largely be better off flushing money down the toilet.  Americans certainly aren’t buying what NOM is selling, and it’s only a matter of time before the trickle of money keeping the lights on at NOM HQ dries up.”

NOM fought to keep their 2013 990s secret however, HRC made an in-person request for the public financial documents on Monday morning and again Tuesday – in both instances, NOM didn't produce the documents. Federal law requires organizations to publicly release their 990s the same day an in-person request is made. HRC filed a complaint with the IRS in order to force NOM to abide by the law. 

Within the last year NOM suffered crippling blows to its core purpose and mission with the number of states allowing gay marriage jumping from 15 to 33 states, with 62 percent of the nation's population living in states that allow same-sex marriage. Both Democratic and Republican appointed judges are striking down marriage bans and the Supreme Court of the United States judges decreed that federal court rulings granting marriage rights to same-sex couples to become the law of the land in 11 states in the last two years: California, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Kansas, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Indiana, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Recent poll results show that NOM’s radical and exclusionary brand of anti-LGBT rhetoric is falling on deaf ears. An HRC survey of 1,200 registered voters conducted June 6-10 this year by Republican pollster Alex Lundry of TargetPoint Consulting, found that the number of Americans strongly opposed to national marriage equality dropped to 28 percent. Of the people polled, only three percent would challenge the Supreme Court of the United States judges if they struck down marriage bans across the country.

NOM President Brian Brown, realizing his organization is becoming obsolete in the states, took his rhetoric to Russia to support a bill – now law – banning the adoption of Russian children by same-sex couples or parents living in countries where marriage equality is legal. Although Brown would experience success in Russia, NOM's death knell is ringing loud and clear here in the states, but the organization continues to shuffle on like an undead zombie; aimless and spouting incoherent nonsense. 


Russia Levies Charges Against LGBT Internet Support Group For 'Gay Propaganda'

Russia's persecution of LGBT citizens is spreading from the streets to cyberspace as the Russian government starts cracking down on LGBT affiliated websites reports Buzzfeed. The government has its eyes set on Children 404, a group page hosted on Facebook doppelgänger Vkontakte where LGBT Russian teens can discuss their sexuality with others and without fear of retaliation.

Russia's Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media, commonly known by it's alternate name Roskomnadzor, is pressing charges against Children 404 founder and journalist Elena Klimova. A local branch of the agency is revealing the full charges levied against Klimova on Tuesday. Under the existing law Klimova's group can incur a fine of one million rubles ($21,000), and find itself forcibly shut down for 90 days.

Picture 2Modeled after America's "It Gets Better" campaign, the group came to fruition shortly before Russia passed its anti-gay laws last year. Users, which are mostly teenagers, share their stories on the site and have the opportunity to interact with up to 15 volunteer psychologists that offer professional counseling services. The name "Children 404” is a reference to the “Page Not Found,” error which is a commonly encountered server error.

Roskomnadzor only specified that they pursued the group after receiving 150 online complaints about the group. Klimova expressed her frustration with the agency's profiling of her and the website.

Said Klimova:

“Roskomnadzor says that it’s found homosexual propaganda, but instead of showing where I have forbidden materials, they’re writing that I just don’t have the special knowledge to publish them. It’s absurd!”

Anti-gay activists have targeted the group before including disrupting the filming of a documentary centered on the group with protests. Moscow prosecutors even went so far as to summon the directors of the film for questioning. A screening of the film in Vladivostok sparked controversy in September when minors managed to attend the film--the movie carries a rating of +18.


Anti-gay Russian Lawmaker Vitaly Milonov Prepares Bill Targeting Same-Sex Marriage Loophole

St. Petersburg politician Vitaly Milonov is drafting a bill to eradicate a loophole in Russia's same-sex marriage ban after lesbian couple Irina Shumilova and Alyona Fursova tied the knot last Friday, reports Pink News.

Picture 6Russia's marriage laws don't recognize transgender identities and classify Russian citizens strictly by their sex at birth. Bride Irina Shumilova [middle], who was born male and now identifies as a woman, took advantage of the oppressive law and married her wife in a Russian registrars office while both wore wedding gowns.

Milonov called the clever move the couple pulled an "ugly insult to millions of Russian families" and announced Thursday that he plans on crafting a bill to eliminate the loophole.

Milonov told Russian newspaper The Izvestia his reasoning behind his new oppressive bill:

Milonov"At present… there is a dress code by which everyone must abide when visiting state institutions. Therefore, one should not dress inappropriately when visiting (any) event associated with a change in one’s civil status.

"It’s a matter of culture and education… We will not allow people dressed in clothes [associated] with the opposite sex or beach clothes to register their marriage at the registry office. Except for when that clothing is an element of their culture or of ethnic origin."

Milonov is also calling for Apple CEO Tim Cook to be banned from entering Russia over fears that he would bring AIDS or Ebola into the country. St. Petersburg was the first city in Russia to pass an ordinance banning "Gay propaganda," with the rest of the nation following suit modeling and passing similar legislation based on the city's ordinance.  

Shumilova and Fursova are not the first couple to circumvent Russia's same-sex marriage ban, however. In August, couple Allison Brooks and Alina Davis bypassed the law as well because Davis identifies as androgyne, but the Russian government considers Davis as male reports Pink News. Both wore wedding dresses when they signed the application papers even though registrars asked them not to.


Elton John Lambasts Russia's Anti-Gay 'Propaganda' Ban During St. Petersburg Concert

In the middle of his St. Petersburg performance last weekend, the ever vocal Elton John took the opportunity to take potshots at Russia's anti-gay policies and agenda again reports The Moscow Times. While performing a song, John addressed the crowd asking, "Is Tchaikovsky's beautiful music 'sexually perverting?" bringing up the famous Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky who is widely believed to be gay.

Elton johnJohn also criticized the removal of a statue erected to honor Apple founder Steve Jobs from outside of a St. Petersburg technical college after Jobs successor, Tim Cook, disclosed to the public that he is gay. It's assumed that Russia still sells Apple products, which John recognized and called out the hypocrisy behind the statue's removal.

Said John:

"Can this be true? Steve's memory is rewritten because his successor at Apple, Tim Cook, is gay? Does that also make iPads 'gay propaganda'?"

This isn't the first time the singer spoke out during a concert in Russia; he dedicated a 2013 Moscow concert to 23-year-old Vladislav Tornovi who was raped and murdered after revealing he was gay. Fans and civils rights groups asked John not to perform in Russia, but John told the Moscow crowd why he continues to perform in the country.

Said John:

"You took me to your hearts all these years ago, and you've always welcomed me with warmth and open arms any time I've visited. You have always embraced me and you have never judged me. So I am deeply saddened and shocked over the current legislation that is now in place against the LGBT community here in Russia."

"In my opinion, it is inhumane and it is isolating. People have demanded that because of this legislation, I must not come here to Russia. But many, many more people asked me to come and I listened to them. I love coming here."

John invited Vladimir Putin to meet the country's LGBT youth to listen to their experiences, however the disillusioned leader has yet to respond to the singer's request. St. Petersburg is the epicenter of the nationwide ban on "gay propaganda," as it was the first city to pass an ordinance banning the so-called "propaganda." The nationwide federal legislation version is modeled after St. Petersburg's ordinance.


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