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Grieving Partner of Sydney Siege Victim Tori Johnson Speaks Out for the First Time: VIDEO

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As we reported previously, Tori Johnson, the cafe manager of the Lindt Chocolate Cafe in Sydney, Australia who was killed during the hostage siege earlier this week, was openly gay and in a fourteen year relationship with his partner Thomas Zinn. 

JohnsonSpeaking out publicly for the first time on Australia's Today show this morning, Zinn spoke about the love he shared with his "humble, fair, and generous" partner as well as how the flower memorial at Martin Place has comforted him during this time of mourning. 

Zinn also released a statement on behalf of Johnson's family that read in part:

This tragedy will remain with us forever. But the uniting effects of this week, how they have galvanized our city, our country makes us even more proud of Tori and Katrina and proud of all Australians.

Mother of three Katrina Dawson was the other hostage killed during the siege.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Gay Man Killed In Sydney Siege Died Protecting Hostages: VIDEO

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Tori Johnson, the cafe manager of the Lindt Chocolate Cafe in Sydney, Australia, was killed yesterday as he fought off an armed terrorist who took the cafe and its patrons hostage. Johnson was trying to disarm the terrorist to provide cover for the other hostages as they fled during a moment in which the terrorist fell asleep. Johnson is being praised as a hero whose actions "certainly saved many lives,” as Don Baxter of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organizations put it. From an op-ed in The Huffington Post by James Peron:

Tori Johnson was 34. He managed the Lindt Chocolate Café for two years. Employees and customers all said he was a good man, a kind man. He was also a gay man.

Johnson tried to take the gun to protect the other hostages as they fled, but he was shot in the attempt. His attack distracted the terrorist. The others escaped and the sound of the gunshot brought in the police, who killed the armed man. Another hostage also died on the scene, but of a heart attack on the way to hospital after being shot.

Syd2Tori is survived by his partner of fourteen years, Thomas Zinn:

Tori's partner Thomas, and his family, issued a statement: "We are so proud of our beautiful boy Tori, gone from this earth but forever in our memories as the most amazing life partner, son and brother we could ever wish for."

As NewNowNext notes, the terrorist responsible for the attack, "Monis, [was] a radical Muslim cleric from Iran...He was killed when police raided the cafe. Five hostages were injured, as well, as was a police officer, who suffered minor injuries from gunshot pellets to his face."

James Peron's op-ed in The Huffington Post draws attention to the political climate that surrounds Johnson's death. A gay man who died a hero, Johnson nevertheless died a second class citizen as Australia does not allow same-sex couples to marry. He and his partner were never afforded full equal rights under the law. Though Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott praised Johnson as "good people" and commended him for his heroism, Peron points out,

"Yes, Tori was good people, but to Abbott he still wasn't good enough, at least not when it came to marriage...If Abbot wishes to honor the heroism of Tori Johnson he should push for marriage equality. At the very least, he should get [out] of the way and allow his own party caucus freedom to vote their conscience."

Watch a news report on Johnson's death and the siege that ensued at the cafe in Sydney, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Worries Mount as Sydney Cafe Hostage Crisis Enters Fourteenth Hour: VIDEO

Sydney

An ongoing hostage crisis has rocked the Australian city of Sydney today as police enter the fourteenth hour of the central business district cafe siege.

During rush hour on Monday morning, at least one armed gunman entered the Lindt cafe in Sydney's Martin Place. It remains unclear exactly how many people remain inside the cafe, with reports ranging from 15 to 30 potential hostages. Five people have emerged from the cafe since the siege began, although police have not said whether the five escaped or were released. 

The gunman is also said to be demanding an ISIS flag and a phone call with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

The Guardian reports:

Sydney1Chilling early images showed some hostages apparently forced to hold a black and white flag against the window bearing the Islamic creed, raising fears that a terrorist attack was under way. Other terrified hostages inside the cafe could be seen with their hands pressed against the glass.

Police evacuated offices in the immediate vicinity of the cafe and directed workers in nearby buildings to remain indoors and away from open windows. Panic spread when a man in the area was arrested by police, but the incident was unrelated.

Staff and tourists around Sydney Opera House were also reported to have been evacuated after a suspicious package was spotted. Helicopters were seen hovering above the tourist attraction throughout the day.

The black flag in the window of the cafe appeared to bear the Shahada, an Islamic affirmation of the oneness of God, reading: “There is no god but the God, Muhammad is the messenger of God.”

ABC News adds:

New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione, speaking at a news conference as the situation stretched into the night, said authorities remain committed on ensuring that the hostages are safely released.

"We have the very best negotiators in the world on the job," Scipione said.

New South Wales Premier Mike Baird said people should proceed as usual on Tuesday morning, but should work from home if their offices are located within an exclusion zone near the standoff.

Watch news reports on the story, as well as PM Tony Abbott's statement on the ongoing crisis, AFTER THE JUMP...

[bottom photo via Channel 7 News]

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Sporting History Made At Gay Rugby's Bingham Cup - VIDEO

Bingham cup

Sporting history was made last week at the launch of The Bingham Cup - the World Cup of gay rugby - in Sydney, Australia.

Two Rugby World Cup-winning Wallabies captains joined senior federal politicians from every major Australian party, the International Rugby Board (IRB) publicly endorsed the event and the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) adopted a range of policies aimed at eliminating homophobia.

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The IRB is believed to be the first major international sporting federation to publicly endorse a gay sporting event.

Other international sporting organisations including world soccer governing body FIFA - which came under pressure following homophobic incidents at this year’s World Cup - were challenged to follow rugby’s lead.

John Eales, the most successful captain in Australian rugby history and a board member of the ARU, said:

“We should commend and celebrate the support around the world to address homophobia and discrimination in sport. There is still a great deal of work to do, but I’m hopefully we’ll soon see a time when athletes at all levels feel comfortable being open about their sexuality and playing the sports they love without fear of discrimination.”

IRB Chief Executive Brett Gosper said:

“Rugby recognises sport’s wider responsibility to society and its ability to drive social change. Sport can cross barriers. Sport boosts self-esteem and Sport promotes inclusivity and celebrates diversity. We are proud as Rugby grows across every continent that the sport’s strong values of solidarity, integrity, discipline, respect and passion still make a real difference in modern society.”

Senior Australian federal cabinet minister Malcolm Turnbull, a long-time advocate for LGBT equality, added:

“A person’s sexuality should be completely irrelevant whether they are playing sports or doing anything else in life.  I’m proud Australians are playing such a significant role in highlighting the need for change. We need to continue working proactively to find effective approaches to address homophobia and change sporting culture.”

The tournament, which was won by the Sydney Convicts, is named in honor of rugby player Mark Bingham who is known internationally as one of the heroes of 9/11.

Watch a report on the tournament launch and the official tournament video, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Rugby Player Voted Out Of His Club For Being Gay: VIDEO

Bingham cup 2014

A rugby club in New Zealand has denied claims that a former gay player was voted out because of his sexuality, reports The Sydney Morning Herald.

ClaydonNow based in Sydney, Australia, Jay Claydon says that when his teammates found out that he was gay, they held a vote behind his back to remove him from the club.

Both clubs that Claydon played for at senior level in 2006 and 2007 have refuted the player's claims.  Sources close to Claydon’s family have also backed up one of the club’s assertions and Don Fisher, a former coach at Claydon’s second club, said that there were no issues with the player who was ”a valued member of our club."

Speaking to Fairfax Media, Claydon said he discovered when he moved to Australia in 2008 that homophobic slurs were an accepted part of sporting culture and that he felt compelled to keep his sexuality secret for fear of being ostracised.

"It's such a stereotype, but at most clubs they see a gay guy and think you can't be sporty or masculine. They think that you're weak or you're not as tough as them. Even when they didn't know I was gay I'd hear the word 'faggot' all the time."

The Fairfax Media article also cited a new study, Out On The Fields, which was commissioned by organisers of the Bingham Cup, the gay rugby World Cup, which will be held in Sydney in August.

The reports revealed that 85% of gay athletes had experienced or witnessed homophobic abuse.

Last year, Claydon joined the Sydney Convicts, Australia's first gay rugby union club.

Watch the official Bingham Cup Sydney 2014 video, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Australian Judge Compares Homosexuality With Incest And Child Abuse

CourtGavel

Campaigners have attacked a Sydney judge’s comparison of incest and pedophila with homosexuality as “completely unacceptable” and an insult to people who have experienced sexual abuse, reports the Star Observer.

District Court Judge Garry Neilson comments arose in the case of a 58-year-old man who is charged with repeatedly raping his younger sister in the early 1980s. 

Neilson said that in the same manner as homosexuality was once seen as taboo, “a jury might find nothing untoward in the advance of a brother towards his sister once she had sexually matured, had sexual relationships with other men and was now ‘available’”.

He went on to say:

“If this was the 50s and you had a jury of 12 men there, which is what you’d invariably have, they would say it’s unnatural for a man to be interested in another man or a man being interested in a boy. Those things have gone.”

Talking to the Star Observer, New South Wales Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby policy and project officer Jed Horner said Neilson’s comments made an offensive comparison between being gay and sexual offences and were an insult to survivors of sexual abuse.


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