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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Is It Discriminatory to Refuse to Consider Dating Someone of a Particular Race or Ethnicity?

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Written by Mike Miksche

I’m a defender of political correctness and believe that it’s a form of decency and respect. At the same time, I understand that there’s nothing politically correct about sexual attraction. People simply like who they like. Sometimes they understand the root of this attraction and sometimes it’s a complete mystery. However, to say “never” is very different from saying, “I prefer white guys”, or “I prefer blondes.” So is that what differentiates a preference from prejudice? I definitely have a preference in men. I love guys in their late 40s to early 50s, who are beefy, hairy and are okay with being called “daddy.” I have no racial preferences so long as they fit within that daddy/beefy bear criteria. That said, my lover Ernan isn’t any of those things and I still find him extremely attractive. For me, nothing is set in stone, and chemistry trumps preference. I think it’s immature and even ignorant to say that you’d “never” do this or that because who knows? And when applied to race, dating and sex, what I think it really means is that someone is saying that they find a whole race of people so unattractive that there isn’t even the slightest possibility, not even in the future, that you’d find anything sexual about any of them based on their looks alone, regardless of who they are as a person. Not only is that highly insulting but it is a prejudice. It’s not a preference, no matter how you slice it. READ MORE

Why It’s Still Not ‘Mission Accomplished’ for LGBT People in the Workplace

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Written by Matthew Todd

Although it has never been easier to be Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender, a significant number of LGBT employees are still afraid to ‘come out’ at work because they fear this will lead to harassment and damage their career opportunities. Research supports this fear although figures vary between industries, with some sectors appearing to be more homophobic than others. Many colleagues are too scared to speak up against the homophobic harassment, which they witness others experience. However, there are numerous organisations such as the UK’s leading gay rights charity Stonewall campaigning for LGBT equality and there are many industry-specific and sometimes company-specific LGBT groups. READ MORE

Supportive Social Networks Can Mitigate LGBT Mental Health Risk: Study

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Written by Elle Hunt

Sexuality poses no risk to mental health, a new study has found, challenging a common perception that homosexual and bisexual people are at risk of poor mental health and suicide because of their orientation. The research, carried out over eight years and led by the Australian National University, found that the risk commonly attributed to sexual orientation was driven by other factors, including negative social interactions, the absence of support, adversity in childhood such as sexual trauma, and even smoking. Homosexual and bisexual people did experience more of these risk factors, which leader researcher Dr Richard Burns said may be a consequence of their orientation, particularly at the time of their coming out.

People of bisexual orientation were found to be at more at risk of poor mental health than those of homosexual orientation, but the study concluded the risk was mitigated “when all individuals are provided with positive and supportive social networks and they have lower risk factors”, said Burns. He said a heterosexual person feeling unsupported in a stressful or traumatic situation “would be at just as much risk as a homosexual who is reporting negative social support ... It’s these other risk factors that are driving people’s risks, not their sexual orientation.” Burns added that social support and negative health behaviours were “modifiable”.

Burns said an absence of support from family, friends and the wider community was a known risk factor for poor mental health, and that could include discrimination under legislation or in public discourse. READ MORE

News, Politics & Current Events: Round-Up

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Drop in Teenage Suicide Attempts Linked to Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage
Legalization of same-sex marriage in US states has been linked to a drop in suicide attempts among teenagers. Researchers say suicide attempts among high school students fell by an average of 7% following the implementation of the legislation. The impact was especially significant among gay, lesbian and bisexual teenagers, for whom the passing of same-sex marriage laws was linked to a 14% drop in suicide attempts. Julia Raifman, co-author of the research from Johns Hopkins University, said she hoped the research would help to draw wider attention to the scale of the issue among sexual minorities. “I would hope that policymakers and the public would consider the potential health implications of laws and policies affecting LGBT rights,” she added.

Canadian Government Under Fire for Ending LGBT Iranian Refugee Program
The Trudeau government is under increasing pressure to explain why it started turning away LGBT Iranian refugees during the Syrian airlift, ending a program that resettled hundreds of persecuted Iranians through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). “Why has the government ended the practice of prioritizing persecuted Iranian LGBT [people] as refugees to Canada?” asked Conservative MP Michelle Rempel during question period on Feb 10, 2017. Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen touted his government’s intake of Syrian refugees and stressed its commitment to queer and trans refugees. “We take seriously our refugee commitment to make sure that it is compassionate and focused on the most vulnerable people,” Hussen said. “We work very closely with the UN’s refugee agency and private sponsors to continue to identify the most vulnerable; and that obviously includes members of the LGBTQ2 community.” Rempel, who is the Conservative Party’s immigration critic, pushed back, noting that queer Iranians are tortured and executed under the country’s laws.

RELATED Ghanaian Gay Man Denied Asylum in Canada

Longtime Vancouver LGBT Activists Speak Up for Police Presence at Pride Parade
The group's petition is countering one presented by the Vancouver branch of Black Lives Matter. Pioneering members of Vancouver's LGBT activist community have presented a petition in support of police participation in the Pride parade, countering one presented by Black Lives Matter earlier this month. It raises concerns that removing Vancouver police from the parade would renege on decades of relationship-building undertaken by the force and the city's LGBT community. "Vancouver's LGBTQ community has a long history of positive engagement with the Vancouver Police Department, from the first Gay and Lesbian / Police Liaison Committee in 1977 [...] and continuing today as the LGBT / Police Liaison Committee. We've been doing this work for 40 years now," it reads in part. Black Lives Matter Vancouver first asked Vancouver police to voluntarily withdraw from the Pride parade last July — a request that was reiterated this month. The "Our Pride Includes Police" petition was brought forward by some of Vancouver's most seasoned LGBT activists, including Gordon Hardy, a co-founder of the Vancouver Gay Liberation Front, and Sandy-Leo Laframboise, a trans activist and Métis elder.

National Security Council Spokesman Quits CIA, Writes Scathing Editorial in Washington Post
Edward Price, who has worked for the CIA since 2006 and until recently served as spokesman for the National Security Council, is leaving because he was deeply troubled by President Donald Trump. “Despite working proudly for Republican and Democratic presidents, I reluctantly concluded that I cannot in good faith serve this administration as an intelligence professional,” Price wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post. “This was not a decision I made lightly. I sought out the CIA as a college student, convinced that it was the ideal place to serve my country and put an otherwise abstract international-relations degree to use. I wasn’t disappointed.”

Tanzania Threatens to Publish List of Gay People
The threat to publish the names of suspected homosexuals in Tanzania has been defended by the deputy health minister in a fierce row on Twitter. Homosexual acts are illegal in the East African nation and punishable by up to 30 years in jail. Those who advertised homosexual activities online would also be targeted, the politician warned. Tweeters accused him of homophobia and infringing on the right to freedom of expression online.

Former Le Mans Racer, Danny Watts, Reveals He's Gay: “I Want to Live in a World Where Nobody Has to Lie”
Danny Watts, who retired from Strakka Racing last year after two class wins at Le Mans, has come out publicly as gay. In an interview with Badger GP, he revealed that his decision to come out is the product of a lot of contemplation. ‘Now that I don’t have to think about keeping my team and sponsors happy, I can do what’s right for me,’ he said. ‘It’s not a decision I took lightly. This secret has been eating me up inside for a while, and I can’t hold it in any more. Something snapped in me last year, and I began coming out to my friends. Now it’s time for the public to know.’ Watts has moved on to young driver coaching since his retirement. His goal is to combine his work in driver development with activism and visibility work with the queer motorsport community. He has become a charity ambassador for Gay Racers, an organisation for LGBT+ people within motorsport whose website will officially launch in the near future, and Motorsport Sisterhood, an organisation supporting feminists in motorsport. ‘I’m thrilled to have opportunities to give back,’ Watts said. ‘There have been so may people who have supported me over the course of my career. I want to pay it forward for my community.’

Conservatives Are Using the Old 'Gay Friend' Trick to Try to Pacify LGBT Advocates. Don't Fall For It
Neil Gorsuch can’t be an opponent of LGBT rights — he has gay friends. That’s what his colleagues argue in a New York Times profile of the Colorado appellate judge tapped by President Trump to fill Antonin Scalia’s spot on the Supreme Court bench. During the 2016 presidential race, Trump vowed to replace the late justice with a candidate “very much in [his] mold.” Given that Scalia was a virulent opponent of LGBT equality — who believed that homosexuality was on par with polygamy, murder and animal abuse — many have expressed concern that Gorsuch shares his forebear’s views.

FBI Not Expected to Pursue Charges Against Former National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn
The FBI is not expected to pursue any charges against former national security adviser Michael Flynn regarding a phone call with Russia's ambassador, barring new information that changes what they know, law enforcement officials told CNN Thursday. Flynn resigned earlier this week after it was revealed that he withheld information from Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with Sergey Kislyak, Russia's ambassador to the US. A US official confirmed to CNN last week that Flynn and Kislyak discussed sanctions, among other matters, during a December call.

Neo-Nazi Flier at University Targets LGBT Community
Students and alumni at the University of Mary Washington are reacting to a flier posted on campus that depicts Nazi symbols and targeted the school’s LGBT community. A student reported the incident earlier this month to the school but the larger campus community found out about the incident just yesterday after a story about it was featured on the front page of campus newspaper, the Blue & Gray Press, titled “UMW student finds aggressive Nazi message on bulletin board on Campus Walk.”

'Enemies of the People': Trump Remark Echoes History's Worst Tyrants
At a different time, in another country, it was effectively a death sentence. Being branded an "enemy of the people" by the likes of Stalin or Mao brought at best suspicion and stigma, at worst hard labour or death. Now the chilling phrase - which is at least as old as Emperor Nero, who was called "hostis publicus", enemy of the public, by the Senate in AD 68 - is making something of a comeback. In November, the UK Daily Mail used its entire front page to brand three judges "enemies of the people" following a legal ruling on the Brexit process. Then on Friday [ Feb 17, 2017], President Donald Trump deployed the epithet against mainstream US media outlets that he sees as hostile.

Gay Son Inspired Sebastian Barry to Write His Award-winning Novel
Novelist Sebastian Barry has said his youngest son coming out was pivotal in the writing of Days Without End, winner of the Costa Book of the Year prize. "He basically has been my teacher in all matters gay," the Irish writer told Radio 4's Today programme. Days Without End, which begins in the 1850s, tells of two Irish soldiers who go to fight in America. At the heart of the story is a gay relationship Barry said was informed by his son Toby's experiences. Toby coming out at 16, he said, "was the beginning of him teaching me the ins and outs and the majesty and the wonder of being gay".

Thursday, February 16, 2017

News, Politics & Current Events: Round-Up

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American Intelligence Community Pushes Back Against a White House It Considers Leaky, Untruthful and Penetrated by the Kremlin

Our Intelligence Community is so worried by the unprecedented problems of the Trump administration—not only do senior officials possess troubling ties to the Kremlin, there are nagging questions about basic competence regarding Team Trump—that it is beginning to withhold intelligence from a White House which our spies do not trust. That the IC has ample grounds for concern is demonstrated by almost daily revelations of major problems inside the White House, a mere three weeks after the inauguration. The president has repeatedly gone out of his way to antagonize our spies, mocking them and demeaning their work, and Trump’s personal national security guru can’t seem to keep his story straight on vital issues.

FRANCE: 32% of Gay Married Couples Support Far-Right Presidential Candidate Marine Le Pen Even Though She's Pledged to End Same-Sex Marriage... File this under WTF?!

Leader of The National Front, Marine Le Pen
and her openly gay deputy, Florian Philippot
French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has pledged to end same-sex marriage, despite gaining support from the country's gay voters. The far-right leader said she would abolish same-sex marriage in a long list of 144 pledges released this week. President Francois Hollande signed a law that legalized gay marriage in 2013. Le Pen, who is currently leading the polls for the spring elections, said the reversal of the same-sex marriage law would not be retroactive. The National Front leader is proposing to revert back to the system in place prior to 2013. This would mean gay couples are only able to enter into civil partnerships (PACS), according to legal experts at Marilyn Stowe. Despite the pledge to abolish the same-sex marriage law - which was buried at number 87 on the list - the far-right leader has gained the support of LGBT voters in France. Her support from gay married couples rose from from 19 percent in 2012 to 32 percent in 2015, the Guardian reported. It has been suggested that one of the reasons behind the growing support among gay voters is the party's presentation of Islam as a threat to LGBT rights. The party also has several gay men in senior positions, including Le Pen's deputy Florian Philippot. However, the majority of voters are against a reversal of the same-sex marriage law, with an Ifop poll in August suggesting 65 per cent would be against a repeal.

HRC anticipates that, as in 2016, anti-equality activists will push for legislation giving a license to discriminate against LGBTQ people under the guise of religion; measures specifically targeting transgender people; and proposals to eliminate local LGBTQ non-discrimination protections, among others. The new analysis also highlights opportunities to advance LGBTQ equality in 2017. In recent years, the steady increase in public support for LGBTQ equality has been met with a wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation being introduced in state legislatures. As lawmakers begin new sessions in state capitols around the country, HRC is bracing for a repeat of the 2015 and 2016 sessions, with hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills filed. In 2016, legislators in 38 states filed more than 250 bills meant to restrict the rights of LGBTQ individuals and their families. With hard work, collective cooperation, and tight focus throughout the state and national LGBTQ equality movement, only 8 of those bills passed both legislative chambers, and after gubernatorial vetoes, just 5 bills actually became law. However, with the 2016 election results, 2017 has the potential to be even more challenging. As the 2017 legislative sessions begin, more states will have Republican single-party control in the House, Senate, and Governor’s office than in the previous legislative period. The discriminatory legislation targeting LGBTQ people is taking many different forms across the country. They range from measures specifically targeting transgender people and seeking to prevent them from accessing sex-segregated facilities consistent with their gender identity; legislation aimed to authorize individuals, businesses, and taxpayer-funded agencies to cite religion as an excuse to refuse goods or services to LGBTQ people; and bills seeking to eliminate the ability of local governments to protect LGBTQ residents and visitors from discrimination, among other proposals.

How Vladimir Putin and Russia are Using Cyber Attacks and Fake News to Try to Rig Three Major European Elections This Year

Vladimir Putin, President of Russia
Governments and security services across Europe have sounded public warnings about Russian interference in upcoming elections, amid mounting concern about a spate of cyber attacks on political parties and government institutions. Officials and security officers in France, Germany, and the Netherlands have agreed to share information as they brace for “influence operations,” including the leaking of hacked emails and using internet bots to spread fake or misleading news on social media, in the run up to presidential and general elections this year. "[It is] a way not to convince people, but to confuse them, not to provide an alternative viewpoint, but to divide public opinion and to ultimately undermine our ability to understand what is going on.”

Vermont tops a new ranking of states by the portion of adults in 2015 and 2016 who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) at 5.3%. Massachusetts (4.9%), California (4.9%), Oregon (4.9%) and Nevada (4.8%) round out the top five. The District of Columbia's 8.6% LGBT exceeds that of any of the states. States with the lowest percentage of LGBT-identifying residents include South Dakota (2.0%), North Dakota (2.7%), Idaho (2.8%), South Carolina (3.0%) and Montana (3.0%). At 4.9%, the Pacific region, which includes the West Coast, Alaska and Hawaii, has the highest portion of LGBT-identifying adults among eight regions in the U.S.

Washington Court Rules Against Bigoted Florist in Gay Wedding Case

Curt Freed, left, and his husband Robert Ingersoll
 (Source:AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
The Washington Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday that a florist who refused to provide services for a same-sex wedding broke the state's antidiscrimination law, even though she claimed doing so would violate her religious beliefs. Barronelle Stutzman, a florist in Richland, Washington, had been fined by a lower court for denying service to a gay couple in 2013. Stutzman said she was exercising her First Amendment rights. But the court held that her floral arrangements do not constitute protected free speech, and that providing flowers to a same-sex wedding would not serve as an endorsement of same-sex marriage. "As Stutzman acknowledged at deposition, providing flowers for a wedding between Muslims would not necessarily constitute an endorsement of Islam, nor would providing flowers for an atheist couple endorse atheism," the opinion said. Stutzman's lawyers immediately said they would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the decision.

Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim country, has just gone and released a government-sanctioned video that basically encourages gay Muslims that they should go on the ‘straight’ path. The video is entirely in Malay, and was posted by Syed Azmi, whom Malay Mail Online classes as a ‘social activist’. The video compares sexuality with horse racing, saying that people who find they have a different orientation, and wish to change it, they should receive extensive training and guidance. Gay conversion therapy has been banned in multiple countries, and its efficacy has been debunked by numerous scientific studies. Watch video here.

'Alliance Defending Freedom' Has Been Designated a Hate Group by The Southern Poverty Law Center

The Southern Poverty Law Center on Wednesday announced it has designated an anti-LGBT legal organization as a hate group. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which is based in Montgomery, Ala., describes the Alliance Defending Freedom as “a legal advocacy and training group that specializes in supporting the recriminalization of homosexuality abroad, ending same-sex marriage and generally making life as difficult as possible for LGBT communities in the U.S. and internationally.” The Alliance Defending Freedom has filed dozens of religious freedom lawsuits in the U.S. and challenged efforts to protect transgender students in public schools. The organization also represented Prince William County (Va.) Circuit Clerk Michèle McQuigg, who was a defendant in the Bostic case that challenged Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban.

Things Are Pretty Screwed Up At the National Security Council Right Now

Historically, the National Security Council has served as the President’s primary resource for determining issues of national security and foreign policy. In a volatile global climate, it is an especially critical forum for strategy and advising. So, it’s all the more disconcerting that ever since Trump’s inauguration, the council’s organizational structure has crumpled. According to the New York Times, a number of conditions have coalesced to engender uncertainty and dishevelment. Donald Trump’s daily cascade of tempestuous tweets requires damage control — that is to say, staff members must seek to make them coherent with extant policy. But this task is difficult, to say the least, when most of the council is not privy to what Trump tells foreign leaders during official calls.

People in the country have been tweeting the hashtag, ‘I love gays and I’m not one of them’. Saudi Arabia is ruled under sharia law where homosexuality is condemned and those guilty of engaging in gay sex can be executed. But there appears to be scores of ‘straight’ supporters showing solidarity for the nation’s gay citizens. Homophobic campaigners in Saudi Arabia recently called for tougher anti-gay laws after social media was blamed for ‘making too many homosexuals’. Men found guilty of having sex with other men also face life in prison, torture, chemical castrations and whipping. Some people found the hashtag offensive and accused tweeters of ‘going against god’s creation’.

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson Refuses to Stay Silent About Donald Trump

Dwayne "The Rock: Johnson 
Many people look up to Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as the epitome of athleticism. The wrestler turned actor has looked like the ultimate personal trainer since he was fifteen years old. As popular athletic brand Under Armor’s CEO Kevin Plank said Trump could be a “real asset” to the country, The Rock took to Instagram to disassociate from the political stance of a brand he once endorsed. The message included the statement: “We don’t partner with a brand casually. I partner with brands I trust and with people who share my same values. That means a commitment to diversity, inclusion, community, open-mindedness and some serious hard work. But it doesn’t mean that I or my team will always agree with the opinion of everyone who works there, including its executives.”

The nearly century-old American Civil Liberties Union says it is suddenly awash in donations and new members as it does battle with President Donald Trump over the extent of his constitutional authority, with nearly $80 million in online contributions alone pouring in since the election. That includes a record $24 million surge over two days after Trump banned people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States. The organization said its membership has more than doubled since the election to a record of nearly 1.2 million, and its Twitter following has tripled.

A 29-year-old Ghanaian asylum seeker's fate is in limbo in Canada on the basis that he was a gay being persecuted in Ghana. Authorities of Immigration and Refugee Board in Canada said the man's application was rejected because he had fake identity documents and so his identity could not be established. "He has been accused by the member [of the board] to have had fraudulent identity documents and his identity is not clear. That is entirely incorrect and we disagree. He will not be at risk of deportation, but certainly he will live with the mental fear of how much longer, what's going to happen in the end," said the claimant's lawyer, Bashir Khan. The man, who has asked not to be identified, says he is gay and that he fears for his safety if he has to return to Ghana. Khan said his client plans to appeal the ruling and can remain in Canada until his appeal application is reviewed and a new decision is made, according to report by CBC news.

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