Corporate Christ: Lives Less Ordinary

Gay musician Corporate Christ has released a documentary he made about his life growing up, struggling with depression and Schizophrenia. From being bullied as a teenager to developing a bowel disease that nearly killed him, Corporate Christ explains how he took strength by the experiences he went through.


Azerbaijan Considered Worst Place To Be Gay In Europe

During the last two weeks of September, Azerbaijani police launched a violent campaign of “arresting and torturing men presumed to be gay or bisexual, as well as transgender women,” according to Human Rights Watch and local advocacy organizations. On Oct. 2, by all accounts, police released all the detainees, officially acknowledging that 83 had been detained. Local advocacy organizations claim that beatings, electroshock, coercion, blackmail and other abuses were carried out based entirely on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Azerbaijan is “the worst place to be gay in Europe,” the 2015 and 2016 Rainbow Europe reports by ILGA (International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association) concluded. The LGBT community in Azerbaijan has no legal protection. But for the most part, the state leaves the community alone – except when police extort money from individuals, often sex workers. The state can ignore the community because families routinely and effectively stigmatize, discourage and punish deviations from societal rules. So when the state does intervene, as it did in September, there’s usually a motive.

Why the September crackdown?

Early in September, an investigative journalism coalition called the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) released a report on something called the Azerbaijani Laundromat, apparently a slush fund that for two years laundered $2.9 billion in cash that helped Azerbaijani elites and officials buy luxury goods and that paid European lobbyists and politicians to support Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan reacted to the report by attacking the OCCRP, linking it to American Hungarian financier George Soros. European politicians called for investigations.

Separately, on September 12, more than 20 international human rights organizations sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin calling for sanctions against the Baku chief of police for abusing political prisoners. The head of the Council of Europe called for legal action against Azerbaijan over its refusal to release one such prisoner, despite being ordered to do so by the European Court of Human Rights. On Sept.ember26, two U.S. congressmen introduced legislation charging Azerbaijan with human rights abuses and calling on the U.S. government to respond.

In response, Azerbaijan renewed its anti-Western campaign.

Why target the LGBT community?

Historically, Azerbaijan’s anti-Western campaigns targeted civil society and pro-democracy groups. This time, the regime targeted the LGBT community, more vulnerable in the Trump era. The LGBT community is also widely disliked in Azerbaijan; it’s a group no one is willing to defend.

Survey research in Azerbaijan is challenging because citizens self-censor and the government interferes. Nonetheless, when asked, Azerbaijanis express very negative attitudes toward LGBT people. In a 2012 nationally representative survey, 63 percent of adult Azerbaijanis said they would not like to have neighbors of a different sexual orientation, and 72 percent said they would not like to have neighbors who have AIDS. The World Values Survey, collected in Azerbaijan in 2011-2012, reports that 93 percent of Azerbaijani adults believe that homosexuality is “never justifiable,” with a mean of 1.19 on a scale of 1 to 10. Similarly, a 2011 Pew study finds, that, when asked, 92 percent of self-identifying Azerbaijani Muslims say that homosexual behavior is morally wrong.




That’s how the Azerbaijani government is portraying the recent attacks on gay people and trans women. Pro-government media explicitly describe the raids as measures to “prevent acts contrary to national and spiritual values,” associating these individuals with sex work. In an interview with Eurasianet, a Ministry of Internal Affairs spokesman said:

“The main reason for such raids was the numerous appeals from the residents of the capital. People complain that such people walk around us, walk in our streets, and sit in our cafés. ‘These are people who do not fit our nation, our state, our mentality, please take action against them.'”

Gay men and trans women are framed as a health risk. Edenborg explains that LGBT people are characterized as not only a moral threat, but also a health risk. In Azerbaijan, much of the early official response claimed that nearly all detained have several sexually transmitted infections, although the most recent statement said that fewer than 40 percent had at least one. The Ministry of Internal Affairs spokesman said, “This once again proves that both our citizens’ concerns and the actions we take about it are justified. It is important for the health of our people. Those who have diseases are being isolated from society.”

Attacking LGBT people may shore up the government’s relationship with the Muslim majority. Further, although Azerbaijan is an officially secular country, religiosity is growing – which the government considers one of the strongest threats to the regime. The LGBT raids let the regime display a commitment to protecting spiritual values and nod toward the country’s Islamic religious groups, a faction with whom it has had a challenging relationship.

This is a particularly sensitive time for that relationship. Political commentator and religious history scholar Altay Goyushov notes that the LGBT raids come during Muharram, one of the holiest times in the Islamic calendar, which may be an effort to appease religious groups.

Finally, the LGBT raids are a boon to the government in that they further marginalize and divide the opposition. No one, not even human rights and pro-democracy groups, can afford to defend the LGBT community, according to Azerbaijani LGBT advocates, and the raids prompted heated social media debates between LGBT advocates and opposition figures. Creating drama within the opposition is a favorite authoritarian tool for social control, particularly in Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan, ironically, brands itself “the land of tolerance,” notoriously sponsoring op-eds making the same claim. By finding a hated and indefensible target, the regime wins. The domestic benefits of these raids profoundly outweigh any international costs.


Pearce is an assistant professor in the department of communication at the University of Washington. She studies technology and inequality in the South Caucasus. For other commentary from The Monkey Cage, an independent blog anchored by a group of political scientists from universities around the country, see www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage


Taken From HoustonChronicle.Com 





2 Gay Iraqi Soldiers Found Love Amid War. Then The Death Threats Started

SeattleEach night, when the guns fell silent in Iraq, Btoo Allami would invite his friend Nayyef Hrebid over for dinner.

The two first locked eyes on a dusty battlefield in Ramadi. After days of exchanging hasty glances amid gunfire, they snuck away one night to listen to Michael Jackson on shared earbuds.
The music stopped, but a love story was just beginning.
A decade ago, Allami was a sergeant in the Iraqi military when he met Hrebid, then a translator for the US Marines.
Militants had seized a hospital in Ramadi, and they were part of a mission to reclaim it.
When not defusing bombs, they’d talk late into the night at a pitch black lot surrounded by Humvees. Allami fell in love, unafraid of the war, yet terrified by what was happening with Hrebid.
Their love story would take them through two continents as they joined the 22 million refugees in the world, all fleeing war, grinding poverty and in their case, persecution from militants and relatives. Last year, only 14,700 Iraqi refugees were resettled worldwide, says Andrej Mahecic, a spokesman for the UN refugee agency. The UN does not have the number of applicants who claim asylum based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Few countries, if any, collect such statistics, he says.

Taking chances

Neither Hrebid nor Allami knew the other was gay. Iraq is not a country where same-sex attraction is discussed in the open.
LGBT people in Iraq risk harassment, beatings, and brutal killings — sometimes by family members. ISIS, which held large swaths of Iraqi territory until recently, has also targeted gay men, tossing many to their deaths from tall buildings.
Despite the risks, Allami took a chance two weeks after they met. “I love you,” he told Hrebid.
Hrebid did not say a word, but drew him close and kissed him.
Allami was so excited, he didn’t eat for two days. At the time, he didn’t know that Hrebid loved his calm demeanor and the way his dark hair shone in the sunlight.
Their relationship grew, but in secret. They knew loving each other openly could be deadly. Even during the days of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, when the US did not officially allow gay people to serve in the military, Hrebid says a base officer allowed them to spend time together at the American base.

Their talks put them in a bubble. During those moments, war and bloodshed did not exist.


One last night

Hrebid loved his job as a translator.
At the base, his American buddies called him David to protect his identity. But word got out that he was gay, and that he was a US translator. His name was added to a militant hit list posted on the streets of Ramadi.
People started talking. It was time to leave.
In March 2009, Hrebid applied for asylum as part of a program that gives preference to Iraqis and Afghans who translated for the US government overseas. Hrebid’s application was approved eight months later.
The night he got his US visa, they sat up all night in a candlelit room, hugging each other and crying.
As much as it crushed him, Hrebid flew to Seattle in December 2009, leaving Allami behind.
But they kept their promise to stay in touch. One night, as they chatted on Skype, Allami’s relatives overheard them and realized he was gay.
Some of his relatives accused him of bringing shame to the family, and wanted him killed, he says. Terrified, Allami deserted the military and stuffed a backpack with pants and a few T-shirts. Hrebid paid for his ticket to flee to Lebanon in November 2010.
Seven thousand miles away, Hrebid started his new life in Seattle, the only place he knew someone in the US.
But while he was finally safe, he’d lie awake worrying. What if Allami was detained for overstaying his 30-day tourist visa and deported back to Iraq? A return home now included the risk of arrest by the military for desertion.
One day, while at a party, Hrebid met activist Michael Failla and told him about his relationship with Allami. His new friend would become their lifeline.

Living in the shadows

Allami’s new life in Beirut did not involve parties and new friendships. He lived in the shadows and worked illegally as a shoe salesman for $250 a month. Hrebid sent him money to help with upkeep as he desperately sought a way to get him to Seattle.
With every day spent away from Hrebid, Allami sank further into depression. He’d sit in bed at night and guzzle bottles of beer.
Hrebid blamed himself as Allami languished in a new country. Despite the time difference, they did their best to maintain a “normal” relationship. They would Skype and virtually eat together — breakfast for one and dinner for the other.
“We would cook together, and discuss things almost like we lived together,” Hrebid recalls.
They also showered each other with sentimental gifts, including locks of each other’s hair.
Hrebid would sit in bed, smell Allami’s hair and cry. Other days, he’d send Allami long letters describing his undying love.
“My heart melts at the sound of your voice,” one letter says. “When I look at you, I see clear skies.”
In December 2010, desperate to join Hrebid, Allami filed for asylum from the United Nations refugee agency, not knowing it would take years.
The United Nations refugee agency interviewed Allami eight times, but his application was bogged down by translation errors, according to Failla, who attended several interviews with him.
One error in particular complicated his case. During one asylum interview, he was asked whether as a soldier, he was familiar with the Abu Ghraib prison torture. He said he watched it on TV — but it was translated that he witnessed it first-hand, implying he was complicit, Failla says.
In the process of seeking asylum, applicants can have a preference for country of resettlement, but countries decide whether to accept an applicant.
Allami’s preference was the US. But the agonizing wait for a decision was so long, he applied for a separate visa to Canada at its embassy in Beirut.
In March 2013, nearly three years after he escaped from Iraq, Canada said yes.
Allami arrived in Vancouver in May of the same year. He was now 150 miles away from Hrebid, and their dream of living together suddenly seemed within reach.
Hrebid would drive to Vancouver every weekend to see him. On Valentine’s Day 2014, they got married at a courthouse in Vancouver, with Failla as a witness.
“We always say Michael was our angel — the world needs more angels like Michael,” Hrebid says.
Washington state recognized same-sex marriages at the time, and Hrebid quickly applied for a visa for his new husband at the US Consulate in Montreal.
When the consular official approved it, Allami sat down on the embassy floor and wept. Hrebid covered his mouth and screamed.

“I was shaking so hard,” Allami says. “I asked the embassy person to repeat again just to be sure.”


A new chapter

The date March 6, 2015, will forever be etched in Allami’s mind. He finally moved to Seattle to be with Hrebid.
A few months later, on August 8 of the same year, they had their dream wedding at Failla’s house, surrounded by friends.
Allami then applied for permanent residency — known as a greencard — as Hrebid’s husband. The couple relishes their life in Seattle, where they live with their Siberian Husky, Cesar, and cat, Lodus. A rainbow flag draped over the balcony of their new town home flutters in the wind.
Inside their home, black and white photos of their wedding day line the walls. In other photos, they are hiking through the mountains or simply gazing into each other’s eyes.
After six years of living on different continents, their new life is idyllic. Hrebid is a kitchen specialist at a home improvement store while Allami is a maintenance worker for a residential building.
Failla describes the couple as “major influencers” in the gay community in Seattle. They open their home to LGBT people who’ve fled the Middle East, help them get jobs and into schools, and teach them about their new culture in the US. They’ve helped 21 people find jobs and places to stay, and are working with several rights groups such as Canada’s Rainbow Refugee to assist more.
“First we were the ones who needed help now it’s our turn to help,” Hrebid says. “Anything we can do, even if it’s changing people’s minds just by sharing our story.”
Their story is already bringing about change.
Christine Matthews, a deputy director for the UN refugee agency, said last year they used the gaps in Allami’s case as a learning experience. They have since launched an effort to sensitize staff on the best ways to process such claims.
“We need to do better for refugees, all refugees including LGBT refugees,” she said.
And after years of separation, Hrebid still wakes up at night and asks: Am I dreaming or is this real? Are we really married? Will I wake up one day and find you gone?
“It’s almost like that fear never leaves you,” he says.
In Iraq, the two say they are considered an embarrassment to their communities, and family members don’t utter their names.
“Out of Iraq,” a documentary on their romance and fight for asylum, recently won an Emmy, but its two stars say they are hardly feted back home.
Even though they can’t go back to Iraq for fear of being killed, they’ve learned to define “home” in their own way.
“He’s my family, he’s my safe place, my love,” Allami says as Hrebid gently strokes his face.
“I may not have my country anymore, but he’s my country now.”

Taken from Edition.CNN.Com





Romania ‘Turns Illiberal’ With Moves Against Gay Marriage

Conservative campaigners in the country are gearing up for a referendum that could put the country on a collision course with Brussels.


BUCHAREST — Romania is gearing up to hold a referendum to amend the constitution to prohibit gay marriage, a move that civil rights groups warn could put the country on an “illiberal” path alongside the likes of Hungary and Poland.

Romania’s civil code forbids same-sex marriage, and civil partnerships — whether between heterosexual or gay partners — are not legal. But the constitution’s gender-neutral formulation on marriage, which defines it as a union “between spouses,” has left the legislative door open to legalizing gay marriage.

“This is an issue of immense depth,” Liviu Dragnea, leader of the governing Social Democratic Party (PSD) and the most powerful politician in Romania, told reporters last month, pledging to quickly amend the constitution. “Even if some of my colleagues in Brussels are unhappy with what is happening in Romania, we will make it happen.”

The planned vote — which could be held as early as November — is the result of a campaign by “Coalition for Family,” which brings together more than 40 groups, many of them religious or describing themselves as “pro-life.” With the backing of the influential Orthodox Church, the organization collected 3 million signatures (Romania’s population is 20 million) in just a few months in 2015, enough to take the initiative to parliament.

“We have the constitutional right and moral obligation to defend the family from those tendencies of modern society which diminish its importance and accelerate its degradation,” says the Coalition for Family’s website.


All major political parties in Romania have expressed support for the constitutional change, with the exception of newcomer Union to Save Romania(USR), and the initiative is expected to be approved in parliament. The government has said it wants to call a popular referendum as soon as November, but the Constitutional Court’s announcement this week that it would analyze the law’s compatibility with the rest of constitution may push back the date of the vote.

As long as participation exceeds 30 percent of the electorate, a vote in favor will give the green light to constitutional change, undoing decades of campaigning by LGBTQ groups in Romania and possibly putting the country on a collision course with Brussels.

“This referendum is evidence of Romania’s moving in an illiberal direction,” said Vlad Viski, the president of MozaiQ, one of Romania’s largest LGBTQ rights groups.

Religious influence

Romania’s referendum against marriage equality is not the first of its kind in the region.

In Croatia, a group called “In the Name of the Family” collected 750,000 signaturesin 2013 to launch a referendum that successfully amended the country’s constitution to stipulate that marriage can only take place between a man and a woman.

In 2015, the “Alliance for Family” mobilized Slovakians to trigger a referendum to restrict the family rights of gay people, but the vote eventually failed because of low turnout. That same year, Slovenia’s “Children are at Stake” group used a referendum to block the government’s plan to legalize gay marriage. (The country passed the legislation this year.)

Efforts to prohibit gay marriage also tend to go hand-in-hand with campaigns to remove sexual education classes and restrict abortion rights.

Similar efforts to mobilize citizens to restrict gay rights have taken place in Georgia, Bulgaria, France and elsewhere across Europe. In many cases, U.S. religious groups have played an active role in their campaigns.

Romania’s Coalition received legal assistance from the international chapters of several U.S.-based conservative Christian groups, including the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and Liberty Counsel. In the U.S., both have been designated as anti-LGBTQ hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The international chapters of both organizations submitted pro-referendum legal opinions to Romania’s Constitutional Court while the body assessed whether the civic initiative could be considered by parliament.

In response to repeated requests for comment for this article, the Coalition responded with three internet links — one to an article about alleged attacks on pro-lifers, another to a video of a kink festival, and another to an article about propaganda. It gave no further information.

Liberty Counsel’s vice president of legal affairs, Horatio Mihet, said his organization “provided legal support and shared lessons we have learned while advocating for natural marriage in the United States and elsewhere.” Andreas Thonhauser, a spokesman for ADF International, said that the group also gave legal expertise to other countries in the region that requested help.


Local churches — be it the Orthodox Church in Romania or the Catholic Church in Slovakia or Croatia — were also involved in recent anti-LGBTQ rights campaigns.

Efforts to prohibit gay marriage also tend to go hand-in-hand with campaigns to remove sexual education classes from school curricula and restrict abortion rights.

Academics from Central and Eastern Europe, including feminist historian Andrea Peto from the Central European University in Budapest, have argued that this type of initiative constitutes an “anti-gender movement” that targets not only LGBTQ people but also takes aim at women and people who don’t fit into their conception of a “natural, traditional” family pattern.

“They do politics, they are lobbyists,” Peto said of the movement’s campaigners across the region. “They rely on transnational know-how, borrow talking points and transfer symbols, concepts and ideas.”

“The American groups have been promoting these themes for a long time, also outside of Europe, but in the last five years or so they became very active in Eastern Europe where they seem to have found fertile ground,” said Viski, of MozaiQ.

‘Traditional values’

Despite Eastern European countries’ accession to the EU, most are still plagued with social inequality and have not attained the prosperity they expected as European citizens. The resulting frustration has made them a fertile breeding ground for conservative social and political movements.

Self-styled illiberal regimes such as Viktor Orbán’s in Hungary and Jarosław Kaczyński’s in Poland have honed a political formula that strategically builds support among lower-income classes with targeted economic measures and pushes a socially conservative agenda rooted in a nationalist narrative of defending the nation from outside threats: refugees, gay people, feminists.

The fight against “gender ideology” — or “sexo-Marxists,” as liberals defending gay rights in Romania have been labeled — fits into this narrative, with illiberal regimes claiming to be protectors of traditional family values.

Since Orbán became prime minister in 2010, Hungary has changed its basic law to protect a fetus’ life from conception and to restrict the definition of marriage to a union of a heterosexual couple.

Earlier this year, Orbán hosted the World Congress of Families, a U.S.-founded global coalition of religious groups that opposes gay rights, abortion and sex education. It was the first time a government hosted the annual congress, which has taken place since 1997 and is widely thought to be the influence behind stringent anti-gay laws in Russia.


In Poland, the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party has declared war on what it calls “gender ideology” — which it portrays as an imposition from Brussels — and has introduced an education reform bill that would eliminate anti-discrimination education in schools and promote “education for family life.” The government has also cut support for female victims of domestic violence.

Last year, conservative legal group Ordo Iuris collected close to half-a-million signatures to further restrict Poland’s abortion legislation. The proposal was rejected in parliament after tens of thousands of women took to the streets in protest, but Poland still has some of the most restrictive abortion laws on the Continent.

Unlike in Poland and Hungary — where a push for “traditional family values” is part of the ruling parties’ conservative agenda — the Romanian group’s effort to block same-sex marriage is a novelty in the country.

Romania is, overwhelmingly, a conservative country. Until 2001, it was illegal in Romania for same-sex couples to hold hands or express any other sign of affection, which was considered indecent exposure in public. The law changed as part of Romania’s EU accession process.


The Coalition for Family describes itself as a “pro-family group,” saying its main objective is for Romania to have “as many families as possible, as long-lasting and numerous as possible, and to ensure to their members a proper economic, social, psycho-emotional environment … and to ensure the continuity and demographic, economic, social and cultural development of the nation.”

The group has proposed measures that would increase economic support for traditional families, including subsidized housing for young couples and early retirement for full-time mothers, and would cut state funds that go toward elective abortions.

No matter the result of the upcoming referendum on the definition of marriage, the Coalition for Family and its Christian conservative backers have already changed the terms of the debate by portraying it as a fight between those who defend “the natural family” and “the Brussels-supported, [George] Soros-financed” NGOs, said historian Dan Cirjan.

“In Poland and Hungary, the political space has been defined in a similar way,” Cirjan said. “As an opposition between the ugly forces of globalization and the white cavaliers of tradition and ‘Christian Europe.’”

An illiberal turn

In Romania, the governing Social Democratic Party (PSD), by far the most popular party, has been cutting its teeth on the illiberal formula. The party ramped up the nationalist rhetoric in the run-up to the 2016 general election and since coming to power, it has tried to bring the judiciary under its control in order to safeguard the interests of corrupt party members.

“There’s a high risk that Romania will go the way of Hungary,” political scientist Cristian Pirvulescu, the founder of Respect, a campaign opposing efforts to outlaw gay marriage, said in an interview published on Respect’s Facebook page.

“We cannot separate the referendum from the Romanian government’s judiciary reforms, which would transform judges into terrified agents of the state,” he said, noting Romania has also become susceptible to rhetoric demonizing philanthropist George Soros and has started looking at tightening control over NGOs, much like in Hungary.

“These are all attacks on the liberal philosophy of democratic states and they come together. What happened in Russia is being reproduced here, in Hungary, Poland and Romania,” he warned.

Some effects of the referendum campaign in Romania are already visible. LGBTQ rights group MozaiQ reported an increase in violent attacks against gay people since the referendum campaign started in 2015.

Still, the group’s leader struck a note of optimism.

“The LGBTQ community and its allies have been forced to mobilize more,” said Viski. “We’ve had more protest actions and bigger participation in Pride marches, and there is more support expressed for the legalization of civil partnership.”

“This has — paradoxically — opened up opportunities.”



Taken from Politico.Eu


 

The Gay Men Turning To The Far Right In Germany

Karsten holds the metal implements that held his face together following the attack.

Karsten P. empties a test tube filled with metal pieces into the palm of his hand. They’re the tiny screws and bolts that held his face together after he and his partner Sven were violently assaulted in a life-changing attack outside their local store.

Two surgeries later and fearful of being attacked again, the openly gay 52-year-old taxi driver — who doesn’t want to be identified because of concerns of another attack — avoids public spaces and always takes pepper spray with him. He and his partner have also been forced to move neighborhoods in the northwest German city of Bremen following mounting costs as a result of being injured.
“I went outside and saw someone kicking my partner’s head. I was trying to stop him and right at that moment, I got hit from the side,” Karsten recalls about the attack. “I kind of lost consciousness and when I got up again, I thought my partner was dead. He was all covered in blood and he didn’t move at all.”
Police identified the attackers as two locally known Muslim extremists. They were never arrested and later fled to Syria. After demanding answers from local prosecutors and the mayor’s office and not getting a response, Karsten turned to Germany’s far right party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD).
“I don’t like everything they say,” Karsten says, “but this is too dangerous for gay people to live openly here, if we get attacked like that. We need a party that’s talking openly about this.”
Campaigning on a vociferously anti-immigration platform, the four-year-old AfD party now has seats in 13 of the country’s 16 state parliaments. It has proposed a ban on mosque minarets and cutbacks on migration, from within the European Union and beyond, while its party manifesto says that “Islam does not belong in Germany.”
Critics accuse the party of being a flimsy disguise for neo-Nazi sentiment, and cite one candidate who allegedly sent a photo of Hitler to some AfD supporters with the text: “Adolf please get in touch! Germany needs you! The German people!”
Germans vote in national elections this month, and the AfD is contesting them for the first time. The party is polling around 9% in recent days, which could put it in contention for third or fourth place, well behind Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats and the center-left Social Democrats, who have ruled out entering into a coalition with the AfD.
In some ways, the AfD is an unlikely place for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) voters. The party has threatened to sue the government for allowing the recent vote to legalize same-sex marriage, and the AfD manifesto advocates the “traditional family as a guiding principle.”
Yet one of the AfD’s top candidates, Alice Weidel, is an openly gay woman raising children with her partner. Weidel, an economist, was brought in as the softer, moderating face of the party, but her campaign speeches show she can deliver an angry rant on immigration as well as her AfD peers.
“Merkel’s refugee policy will destroy our welfare state of the Federal Republic of Germany!” she said in a recent campaign post. “We, as AfD, will make sure that this comes to an end. Because open borders do not work with a sustainable social state.”

‘Homonationalism’

People like Karsten and Sven aren’t alone in supporting the party. There is even a German term for gay support of the far right: “homonationalism.” A 2016 survey from “MEN,” a monthly magazine for gay men, showed that 17% of respondents openly supported the AfD, higher than the national average.
“A party like the AfD gives people from minorities an offer of social identity,” says Beate Kupper, a social psychologist at Hochschule Niederrhein University in North Rhine-Westphalia who studies the far right in Germany. “If you identify strongly with a group and you have an ‘out-group’ that you can position yourself against, that is a good feeling for your personal belonging.”
Kupper singles out Weidel’s campaign speeches as a particular example of this. “If you look at Alice Weidel, she’s an economist, so her expertise is on the economy. [But] she is not speaking that much about the economy. Her topic is very much devaluation and hatred towards Muslims. Muslims are now the identified out-group.”
Mirko Welsch was also once an AfD supporter, initially drawn to the party by its resistance to the euro currency. He was even an elected AfD official in his district council of Saarbrucken, a rare feat for a gay member of the party.
“I was convinced that the AfD would grow as a party into a well-respected opposition to the Christian Democrats,” he says. “I believed in what it originally stood for.”
But he became increasingly uncomfortable as party leaders ratcheted up the anti-immigration rhetoric. He resigned in March, after one AfD leader called for a “180-degree turn” in the way Germany deals with the Second World War, particularly “national guilt” over its Nazi history.
“The AFD has developed in a way that we are seeing incitement against different groups of minorities,” Welsch says. “The party has just moved too many inches to the right.”
Welsch believes that LGBT support for the AfD is actually dropping, despite Alice Wiedel’s prominence within the party.
“You will see that many more AfD voters in the LGBT community won’t vote for the party in the future. There is just too much turmoil going on,” Welsch says, adding that his former party “has become a farce.”
Welsch points out that he was once one of the 130 or so openly gay AfD members. That number now stands at 20, says Alex Tassis, the man who is now responsible for the AfD’s gay outreach.
Tassis heads up Alternative Homosexuals, the AfD group that reaches out to the LGBT community. A gay immigrant from Greece, Tassis says he strongly believes that “Islamization” is a threat to Germany and Europe and that the AfD will soon become the most popular party among gay men. There’s no contradiction in the party’s stance against gay marriage, he says. And it’s clear he views the LGBT community as an overlooked source of votes this election.
“Gays, lesbians and also older migrant groups in Germany — like myself who came to Germany a long time ago — are just as important to Germany as any other human being who lives here,” he says.
“The LGBT and older migrant groups have concerns that other parties simply don’t understand and don’t get. I represent those groups and want to give those groups a voice. That’s what I am here for. “
Tassis was the one who answered Karsten’s email for help after he and his partner were attacked. Within three hours of reading it, Tassis met the couple in a downtown Bremen cafe and connected them with a lawyer, encouraging them to sue the local prosecutor, something the pair are looking into.
“Cases like Karsten’s or similar cases have unfortunately happened in Bremen amongst citizens before,” Tassis says. “This case was particularly dramatic. Every citizen has a right to be heard, every citizen needs an ear and this is what I did In Karsten’s case.”
That swift response turned Karsten from someone who used to vote for the left-wing Green Party into an AfD supporter.
“It has nothing to do with being a Nazi or being totally right. I’m not against every foreigner. And I’m not against every Muslim. But I’m against the criminals,” Karsten explains. “This was the only way we could get some help. Because the other parties didn’t care.”

 


Taken from Edition.CNN.com


Kid Rock’s Full Senate Speech From The First Little Caesars Arena Concert

DETROIT, MI – Kid Rock for U.S. Senate in 2018 is not official, but the Detroit area rocker is already delivering campaign speeches. Sort of.

Amid protests outside of Little Caesars Arena calling for his concerts to be cancelled, and accusations of campaign finance violations, Rock received some of his loudest cheers at the inaugural Little Caesars Arena concert on Sept. 12 when he gave fans a mock political speech.

Just one song into the show, Rock left the stage and returned to an introduction: “Ladies and Gentlemen. Will you please welcome, the next Senator of the great state of Michigan, Kid Rock.” Then, “Hail to the Chief” played. A graphic on the screen said “Kid Rock ’18 For U.S. Senate.”

Rock took the podium and delivered this more than four-minute intense speech:

“What’s going on in the world today? Seems the government wants to give everyone health insurance, but wants us all to pay. To be very frank, I really don’t have a problem with that since God has blessed me and made my pockets fat. But, if redistribution of wealth seems more like their plan, then I don’t believe you should save, sacrifice, do things by the book and then have to take care of some dead beat, milking the system, lazy ass @#$#$ man.”


“The issue of struggling single parents is an issue close to my heart. But, read my lips: We should not reward those who can’t even take care of themselves but keep having kid after @##% kid. Of course we should help them out. I don’t want to stand here and sound like a jerk. But let’s help them out with child care, job training and find them a @#$# place to work.”

“And you deadbeat dads who refuse to be a man. Who refuse to be there for your sons and raise them up to be good men. You no-good derelict sperm donor wannabees. I say lock all you a-holes up and throw away all the keys.”

“If you want to take a knee or sit during our Star Spangled Banner, call me a racist because I’m not PC and remind me that Black lives matter. Nazis, @@#% bigots and now the KKK. I say @#$# all you racists. Stay the hell away.”

“And why these days is everything so gay? Gay rights. Transgender this and that. I say let gay folks get married if they want and I’m not even close to a death trap. But things shouldn’t be this complicated. And, no, you don’t get to choose, because whatever you have between your legs should determine the bathroom that you use.”

“It’s no secret we’re divided and we all should take some blame. We should be ashamed because we all seem scared to call him by his name. (Picture of Jesus appears) So, please almighty Jesus, if you’re looking down tonight, please guide us with your wisdom and give us the strength to fight. To fight the tyrant evils that lurk here and abroad and remind us all we are still just one nation under God.”


“I do believe it to be self-evident that we are all created equal. I said it once, I’ll scream it again. I love black people. And, I love white people. But, neither as much as I love red, white and blue. And, if Kid Rock for Senate has some people in disarray, wait until they hear Kid Rock for President of the U-S-A.”

“Wouldn’t it be a sight to see. President Kid Rock in Washington, D.C. Standing on the desk in the Oval Office like a G. Holding my @#$@ ready to address the whole country. I’d look them straight in the eyes. The eyes of the nation live on TV. And I simply turn. You’ve never met a @#$# quite like me.”


Rock says he is considering a run for U.S. Senate in Michigan. He even has Kid Rock for U.S. Senate shirts available for sale online and at his concerts. In a recent MLive interview, Ted Nugent says Rock has no plans to run for U.S. Senate.

Meanwhile, the D.C. based organization Common Cause has accused Rock of violating finance rules. The complaint argues despite the Rock’s statements to the contrary, he should be considered an official candidate based on the merchandise sold and the continued existence of the Kid Rock for Senate website.



Taken from Mlive.com

As A Gay Child Of Fundamentalist Christians, I Was Horrified By The New Jehovah’s Witnesses Video

gayrightsA few days ago, I read an article in one of the more LGBT-focussed online publications about the Jehovah’s Witnesses (hereafter JWs) highlighting the fact that they’ve recently put together a selection of films. In amongst them is a film entitled “One Man, One Woman”, that I’d encourage you to watch – it’s currently listed proudly in the ‘Featured’ section of their very slick website. This video purports to be about gay parenting, but it’s really a direct challenge to the first encounter many children will have with gay people – namely classmates with gay parents.

For anyone who thinks they’ve never encountered the JWs before, you probably in fact have. You’re quite likely to have seen a pair of well-dressed inoffensive-looking middle-aged folk, Watchtower magazines in both hands (and on a magazine stand next to them), holding out both hands with a benign expression in an ostentatious gesture of assumed generous benevolence. In London they’re usually outside major train stations like Oxford Circus or Liverpool Street, but you will also find them in high streets around the country, and of course sometimes they’ll even come a-knocking. Most people dismiss them gently but firmly, although some are gentler than others.




I didn’t grow up a JW, but I was brought up by fundamentalist Christians. We had no television, went to church twice a week, and I spent a good portion of my earlier life almost entirely unaware of popular culture. An insular environment like this can have a profound effect on a child, and gives parents a great deal of control over what the child does, thinks, and is exposed to. For me growing up, my parents were my whole world – I hung on their every word, believed it passionately. I’m sure this is the same for many children, but I think for me it was a little more extreme.


Learning how my parents felt about homosexuality (they definitely weren’t on board with the whole thing whatsoever) took me to quite a dark place, especially for an 11-year-old. My parents were very fond of that catchall quotation from 2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is God-breathed”, taking it to mean that every word in the Bible was literally and directly from God. As they gently and kindly explained to me that how I was feeling could be changed, should be changed, and didn’t fit with what God wanted (going so far as in fact to say that it was the moral equivalent of bestiality), I believed every single word. They were quoting from the Bible, which came from God, and so clearly everything they were saying was indubitable, incontestable and I was just wrong somehow. Sounds pretty absolute, doesn’t it?

In this case it was clear to me that I had somehow been programmed wrong, or maybe I just didn’t understand myself properly – so for the next few years I meandered on in something of a grey, periodically suicidal daze.

“This is ridiculous, imagine believing something like this!” is the reaction from the intellectuals, the secularists, even some mainstream Christians, no doubt. The natural way so many people deal with these messages is with dismissal and ridicule. Articles on LGBT websites reporting on the videos take pretty sardonic stances – Pink News refers to a “Creepy Cartoon Mother” and comes to simple conclusion: “Solid parenting.” Sure, it’s good to laugh – but we’re missing something important here.


Taken From Independent.Co.Uk



Corporate Christ is a Musician and Author from Cardiff, UK.

CORPORATECHRIST BLOG LINK

Virulent Anti-Gay Remarks Test Indonesia’s Moderate Image

lgbt flagJAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Gays are a contagion, declares the banner in bold red and black lettering that hangs on the sidewalk of a bustling neighborhood in the Indonesian capital close to embassies, luxury hotels and the homes of some of the country’s leaders.


Erected by an ultra-conservative Islamic group, it’s the latest manifestation of a virulent campaign of denigration against gays, lesbians and other sexual minorities that has entered the mainstream and is testing Indonesia’s image for moderation.

Echoing venomous headlines in conservative newspapers, government officials and leaders in areas from psychiatry to religion also have heaped condemnation on homosexuality. The defense minister even said gays and lesbians were a more serious threat to national security than nuclear war.

The fevered atmosphere began emerging in late 2015 when top academics attacked gay support groups at universities. By February it had become an onslaught. Pressure from Islamic hardliners forced the closure of an Islamic boarding school for transgender students in Yogyakarta last month.

“Everyone in society is reading the propaganda of hate,” said Augustine, a veteran lesbian activist who goes by one name. “They forget LGBT are human.”

She said that for several weeks, she has received phone calls late at night or before dawn from men who threaten to kill her if she does not close the advocacy organization she works for.

Augustine said she has not felt so abused over her sexual orientation since she fled her own father’s anti-gay violence in the late 1990s.

Indonesia’s human rights commission has deplored the outpouring of hatred, but President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has been silent. He was elected on a platform that included human rights and respect for diversity as a top priority.

Kyle Knight, a researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch, said it feels like the cause of equality has been set back by a generation. Bigoted officials “actually do ruin people’s lives,” he said.

Among the startling announcements from officials, the minister for technology, research and higher education said LGBT people should not be welcome on university campuses. Harking back to medical theories discredited decades ago, the head of the psychiatry association called homosexuality a mental condition that could be treated, earning a rebuke from professional associations abroad.



Smartphone messaging app Line pulled stickers showing same-sex couples from its Indonesian emoji store in a response to a quixotic order from officials to stop the spread of gay and transgender imagery.

Homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia, which is the world’s most populous Muslim nation and embraces both democracy and moderate Islam. Some of the archipelago’s ethnic groups have centuries-old traditions of same-sex love. Transgender women, known as waria, are familiar to many people and extended tolerance by the majority. Some of the stickers abruptly censored by Line were created with the help of waria, whose slang has been widely adopted in popular culture.

But daily life is lived under an uneasy status quo that tolerates LGBT people as long as they are not too visible. Activism has largely focused on areas such as preventing the spread of HIV and reducing social isolation rather than pushing for specific rights such as anti-discrimination measures. Violence has forced some gay people to flee Aceh, a Sumatran province that practices a form of Shariah law and canes people for behavior such as adultery, gambling and drinking alcohol.

Many activists believe conservatives in Indonesia’s ruling circles are unnerved by incremental liberalization in neighboring Southeast Asian countries and the advance of gay rights in Western nations, including the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last year in favor of same-sex marriage.

Some misunderstand homosexuality as being a disease or cultural trend and fear the idea of an Indonesian gay movement, said Dede Oetomo, who founded Indonesia’s first gay-rights groups in the early 1980s.

A U.N. report in 2014 on the status of gay rights in Asia that estimated Indonesia has more than 100 LGBT groups was probably also unsettling to some a country where ignorance about sexuality is widespread, he said.

“They are afraid LGBT will recruit their children,” said Oetomo.

Some government ministers have grudgingly spoken out against the anti-gay onslaught, saying LBGT Indonesians have the same rights as anyone else.

“We have to treat them as citizens of Indonesia,” said Luhut Pandjaitan, coordinating minister of legal, political and security affairs. “This is something naturally happening. I don’t think we can stop this one. But to contain, we can do it to some extent.”

He said he prays daily that none of his grandchildren are gay because “nobody wants to be like that.”

Groups that represent foreign businesses in Indonesia hope the current controversy will blow over, like previous episodes of social panic about alcohol and prostitution.

Despite being one of biggest economies in the developing world, Indonesia lags behind neighbors such as Singapore and Thailand in attracting foreign investment. If the anti-gay hysteria mounts or produces legal measures at the national level, it could add to perceptions of the country as unpredictable and deter some foreign executives from working in the country.

Oetomo said there are signs the level of hysteria is abating. Republika, a hardline newspaper, has toned down its attacks after activists met with its editors.

Though activists say the onslaught was frightening and wiped away years of progress, in the longer run it may galvanize more activism and be a catalyst for overcoming social isolation.

“LGBT has become a household word,” Oetomo said. “It’s going to be long haul, but in an ironic way, we could thank the bigots.”


Taken from Salon.Com

A Man Poured Boiling Water On A Gay Couple. Georgia Won’t Charge Him With A Hate Crime.

Marquez_Tolbert_2A man and his boyfriend in Atlanta spent 10 days and nearly one month in a hospital, respectively, after another man poured boiling hot water on them, allegedly because of their sexual orientation.

Anthony Gooden and Marquez Tolbert were sleeping in Gooden’s apartment on February 12 when Martin Blackwell, the boyfriend of Gooden’s mother, walked in. According to Tolbert, Blackwell poured boiling water on the men, causing severe burns that required surgery to treat. Blackwell, who didn’t live in the apartment, told Tolbert, “Get out of my house with all that gay shit.”

“The pain doesn’t let you sleep. It’s just, like, it’s excruciating, 24 hours a day, and it doesn’t go anywhere,” Tolbert told Atlanta’s WSB-TV. “It doesn’t dial down, anything. It’s just there.”

Blackwell said the men were having sex when he poured hot water on them, Sarah Kaplanreported for the Washington Post. But Vickie Gray, a friend of Tolbert’s, said they were sleeping, although the attack wouldn’t be justified if the men were having sex.

Blackwell is currently in jail, charged with two counts of aggravated battery.



Georgia doesn’t have a hate crime law

One charge Blackwell won’t face from Georgia: a hate crime charge.

Like 19 other states in the US, Georgia doesn’t include sexual orientation in its hate crime laws, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

In fact, Georgia has no hate crime law at all. According to the Anti-Defamation League, it joins just four other states that don’t: Arkansas, Indiana, South Carolina, and Wyoming.

Still, federal officials are considering hate crime charges, according to WSB-TV. Federal hate crime laws include sexual orientation and gender identity following the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009.

Americans supported the addition: A 2009 Gallup survey found 67 percent of Americans supported including gay and lesbian people in federal hate crime laws.

The FBI reported more than 1,000 incidents of hate crimes in 2014 against someone based on sexual orientation, but the data is likely incomplete for all LGBTQ people. Still, the reported count averages to nearly three incidents of hate crimes based on sexual orientation each day in the US.


 

Taken from Vox.Com

A Tech Entrepreneur Is Moving His Company Out Of Georgia Because Of Its ‘Anti-Gay’ Bill

gayrightsMarc Benioff isn’t the only business leader threatening to move business out of Georgiabecause of a new bill that critics say discriminates against gay people.

Kelvin Williams, founder oftelecom company 373Kheadquartered in Georgia, tells Business Insider that he’s already in the process of moving his company to Delaware.

He vowed to move in late February, when Bill 757, dubbed the “First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), initially passed the Georgia Senate. On Wednesday night, the bill was amended and passed by the House and the Senate, and is now headed to Governor Deal, who is being urged by Salesforce and others to veto it.

But Williams, who is gay, isn’t waiting to find out what the governor will do.

“When they passed FADA the first time, we decided to move at that point. Everyone thought it was a threat, but no. We were dead serious,” he said.

His decision to move earned him national attention and he heard from economic development officials all over the country inviting him to move his business to their states.

But Delaware did one better: Governor Jack Markell called Williams. “He extended a personal welcome to Delaware.”



On Thursday, 373K officially “became a Delaware corporation” and in the next couple of days, it will dissolve its Georgia corporate status. It will fully relocate to Delaware within couple of months, he said.

373K is a telecom provider with about 20 employees, and is hiring. Williams says his staff voted on the decision to relocate. Employees won’t be required to move if they want to stay in Georgia. 373K has many remote workers, he says.

And he’s not leaving the state just because he feels personally unwelcome but because he’s concerned for his employees, too, he says.

“One reason we decided to leave is because our employees are from around the world. You name it, we’ve got it here. What I tell people is that, under this law, if it is to become a law, I only have two employees that would be acceptable in the state of Georgia, only two heterosexuals that have only been married once,” he says.

His team includes people of multiple faiths (Muslim, Buddhists, atheists), single divorced parents, and members of the LGBT community, all of whom he fears could be targets of discrimination, or worse, in Georgia’s current political climate.

“The support versus the hate mail, it’s like 99% to 1%. But the hate mail we have gotten reaffirms our decision to leave,” he says.


 

Taken from UK.BusinessInsider.Com

Colorado Fight To End ‘Gay Conversion Therapy’ Could Carry National Weight

State will debate legislation this month that would ban the counseling on minors, a practice psychologists say can lead to depression and suicide

 

gayrightsThe day before Brad Allen planned to kill himself, he had an epiphany. It was September 2012, and the then 31-year-old Colorado pastor had spent years learning from his therapist and church leaders that his same-sex desires were a disease that could be cured.

“I was disordered and embodied toxicity to other people … I had a suicide plan, and I was ready to go through with it,” the Denver man recalled. “But I felt this thought: ‘You are not toxic.’ And that resonated deeper than what I had learned in therapy.”

Allen, now an openly gay worker at a not-for-profit organization, is sharing his story in the hopes that it will inspire state lawmakers to pass legislation this month banning therapists from using “gay conversion therapy” on minors.

But Colorado Republicans and conservative religious groups have mobilized against the proposed ban, even though the practice of trying to change someone’s sexual orientation has been widely discredited as harmful and dangerous, and are expected to defeat it.

Repeating homophobic and scientifically disproven claims about sexual orientation, Republican legislators and backers of “reparative therapy” have argued that this kind of counseling can be effective at enabling LGBT people to live heterosexual lives. And if their efforts to defeat the bill are successful, the state’s licensed professionals will continue to expose queer youth to a methodology that advocates and psychologists say can lead to depression and suicide.

The legislative battle could have national implications as other states explore similar efforts. Some supporters of the ban who have experienced conversion therapy will testify that their parents sent them from across the country to Colorado for the controversial services, which can have long-term negative impacts on mental health.

Colorado Springs, which has a high concentration of evangelical Christian groups, is also the headquarters of Focus on the Family, a Christian conservative organization that does national advocacy work and is a major defender of therapists’ rights to promote what the group calls “sexual orientation change efforts”.

“There are therapists and mental health professionals licensed by the state of Colorado who are harming children,” said Paul Rosenthal, a Democratic state representative who sponsored the bill, which passed a legislative committee this week and is awaiting a vote on the House floor.

“They are still trying to convert people to be a person they are not,” said Rosenthal, who is gay. “Why should we condemn an individual to a lifetime of guilt and shame?”

A handful of states, including California and New Jersey, already ban conversion therapy for minors.

Colorado’s Republican-controlled senate is expected to block the bill from reaching the governor, and Republicans at a recent committee hearing interrogated experts in psychology and LGBT people with a line of questioning that advocates deemed insensitive and offensive.

Representative Kathleen Conti, a Republican, compared being gay to alcoholism, asking psychologists who testified against reparative therapy whether they would help a minor who came to them wanting to overcome the addiction.

Conti further expressed concerns that the bill would prevent professionals from helping LGBT minors who want to “compartmentalize” and suppress same-sex desires, who may say to a therapist: “I feel like I have these homosexual desires, but … I know innately I want to have my own biological children.”

Sarah Musick, 33, said that after she came out, she and her parents in Virginia agreed that she should travel to Colorado Springs for conversion counseling through Focus on the Family – an experience that damaged her for many years. “I felt like I was just this broken, good-for-nothing human that didn’t deserve to be loved,” she said. “I spiraled into a long depression.”



Musick, who still lives in Colorado Springs and is married to a woman and has two children, said she was shocked by Conti’s comments that implied she and others were failures for not successfully completing conversion therapy. “It just triggered so much of the hurtfulness.”

In an interview, Conti defended her comments, saying she was not homophobic and that the bill’s backers are “heterophobic” for proposing a law that would specifically prevent gay youth who want to live heterosexual lives from getting help.

“I have many friends that are gay that I love unconditionally … but I feel there’s a sector of the population that may have these attractions and yet may not want to live that way and would like to follow a different path in their life,” she said. “They have a right, whether they’re a minor or an adult, to pursue their happiness.”

Jeff Johnston, an issues analyst with Focus on the Family, said his organization does not have licensed professionals who currently offer reparative therapy, but said it may refer people with “unwanted homosexuality” to professionals who offer these services.

Johnston dismissed the testimony from those who said the therapy made them suicidal. “Just because a counseling practice doesn’t work for one person doesn’t mean we should ban it for everybody,” he said.


 

Taken from TheGuardian.Com

 

Primary School Stages ‘Gay Play’ To Teach Children About Diversity – But ‘Homophobic’ Parents Don’t Like It

Two parents were reported to police following the homophobic comments they made about the school on social media

Sacred-Heart-Primary-School teacherA headteacher has said she refused to be cowed by homophobic parents who slammed her primary school on social media for staging a “gay play”.

Carrie Morrow, head of Sacred Heart RC Primary in Atherton, near Wigan, was shocked when a gay-friendly workshop aimed at teaching children about diversity was blasted by parents on Facebook.

The comments, posted by a “small minority”, came after a theatre company performed a fairytale where two princes fall in love.

Writing on Facebook, one dad said he was annoyed when his son came home “talking about gays, saying he had learned about gays.”

Two men were reported to the police by another Facebook user, and have since been spoken to by officers in the area, Manchester Evening News reports.

The head of Sacred Heart says she is proud to be one of the first schools in the area to publicly stand up to homophobia.

Ms Morrow, who has worked at the school for 13 years, said: “We are very proud of what we have done.

“I know for some schools it is not an easy aspect of the curriculum to teach, but our pupils handled it with maturity and sensitivity.

“We have been quite bold and it has not been without some negativity from the community.

“We are not intimidated as we know such homophobic attitudes are in the minority.”

As well as the play, children learned about when it was appropriate to use the word gay, and were asked to design a logo for Wigan’s first Pride festival in August.

Yet Mr Marsh accused the school of ‘social engineering” on Facebook.

In a public post, he wrote: “I think people who promote PC sex to kids below 11 border on paedophilia and are depraved.

“It has nothing to do with gay sex that upset us but the lack of parental consent, a bit like finding the school had decided it has the right to vaccinate your kids for you and did it without your consent because it knows best.”

A GMP spokesman said: “Shortly after 10:25pm on Sunday 28 February 2016, police were called to reports that a number of homophobic comments had been made on Facebook.

“This was investigated as a hate incident but it was determined that the comments did not amount to a criminal offence.

“Local resolution officers spoke to all parties involved and advised two men of their future conduct on social media.”


Taken from Mirror.co.uk


California High School Students Wearing Anti-Gay Stickers On Their Name Tags Are Asked To Remove Them ‘For Now’

rainbow smiley
Response to the homophobic stickers

High school students, who sparked outrage after they started wearing anti-gay stickers on their identity badges, have been told to take the images off ‘for now’.

The symbols in question show a rainbow pattern crossed out with a red circle and a line.

They started popping up in the hallways three weeks ago, prompting concern by classmates and teachers.

Both anti-gay stickers and pro-gay rights symbols were allowed as a matter of free speech at Shadow Hills High School in Indio, California, according to The Desert Sun and FOX News.

But Superintendent Gary Rutherford said new information instigated an additional review he said on Monday but didn’t say what the new information was.

‘Recently some information has been brought forward that requires additional investigation and follow-up to determine a proper course of action.

‘Pending further investigation, we are going to ask students who are displaying the symbol showing a rainbow pattern with a circle and a line, at least for now, to remove symbols while at school,’ Rutherford wrote.





Faculty at Shadow Hills High School in Indio, California, had insisted they couldn’t force the teenagers to remove the labels because it would violate their right to freedom of speech.

However, federal courts allow some limits on student speech, allowing schools to prohibit items like banners and T-shirts that mentioned drug use.

People also slammed the labels as homophobic when images of them were uploaded to Facebook.

The school initially released a statement to the Desert Sun when the symbols started cropping up saying: ‘After consulting with district level personnel and our legal counsel, it was determined that these students do have the protected right to freedom of speech, just as students portraying rainbows in support of the LGBT would.

‘If at any point students are interrupting class time to express their beliefs, they are to be sent to the discipline office with a referral for disruption.

‘We all have a right to freedom of speech, but students also have a right to be educated without fear. This has always been our policy, and we will continue to enforce it.’

In response to the anti-gay stickers, students including eighth-grader Paige Labayog started coloring in rainbow smiley faces to wear on their ID badges.

Some teachers have also gone against their school district, insisting they aren’t happy with the decision.

Amy Oberman, an AP U.S. History teacher at Shadow Hills, told the newspaper: ‘Yes, there is freedom of speech established by Tinker, but at least in my view, it’s a hate crime because a group was targeted.

‘I’m Jewish, and if that had been a little swastika on my window, what’s the difference?’

Michelle Bachman, a senior at Shadow Hills and vice president of the Gay Straight Alliance, said she feels the anti-gay symbols ‘rise to the level of bullying and intimidation.’

‘This group of students was publicly displaying an intolerance and hate for the LGBT community when a large portion of our students at SHHS are part of the community or close to people a part of it as well,” Bachman said on Twitter through a direct message conversation with The Desert Sun. “This is definitely hate speech, but legally, we can’t do anything until these students start to physically harass us, which I believe is an injustice.


Taken from DailyMail.Co.Uk

Gay Music Video Makers Defend Raunchy Song

After the Kenya Film Classification Board banned a music video depicting same sex relationships by Kenyan band Art Attack, the band members have come out to defend themselves.

KFCB banned the video titled Same Love (Remix) because “it does not adhere to the morals of the country”.

In an email interview with Word Is, Art Attack said: “Obviously, someone alerted KFCB about the video. It’s that simple, really. Either that or they stalk me. And were among the first people to watch it after it dropped. Kidding, they must have heard it from the grapevine, really. And then sprung to action.”

What went through your head when they banned it? “Nothing. I expected a ban anyway. I was actually surprised it took that long — a week — for them to eventually ban it. So I wasn’t surprised. Bans happen all the time. These are the same guys who banned 50 Shades of Grey, right? And still allow us to watch Empire, Haves and Have Nots and other shows with a strong gay narrative? Hmmm. OK.”




 

The group of rappers under the Art Attack umbrella are not featured in the music video. It features known LGBT faces like Noti Flow, Joji Baro, Binyavanga Wainaina and the late South African music legend Brenda Fassie.

“I was inspired by Michael Jackson’s decision not to feature in music videos for his social conscience songs ‘Cry’ and ‘Heal the World’. I followed the same pattern. And stayed away from the video myself,” he said.

They added that KFCB has not seen the last of them, as they have ‘big plans’. “We can’t divulge what’s in store. Surely, you will have to wait and watch it happen. KFCB’s ban is not the end of the narrative. But the interesting start. We’re emboldened. And will be rolling out hotter stuff in no time.”

In conclusion, the group noted: “What adults do in the confines of their bedroom is their own business. Not anyone else’s. Not the government’s. Nor the public’s. And certainly not the business of Twitter users. Live and let live. As for the Bible-quoting bigots, start a church. We are not listening.”

By the time we went to press, the banned video had more than 110,000 views on YouTube.


Taken from The-Star.Co.Ke

Novelty ‘Gay Bar’ Soap Gets Business Park Boss In A Lather

pride chairmanA business park boss sparked anger after he got himself in a lather over a pink novelty soap left in a men’s toilet with the words ‘gay bar’ on it.

Danny McLaughlan fired off an email to firms at Rainton Bridge Business Park with an image attached telling workers he found the bar of soap to be “inappropriate”.

The novelty £5 bar is available for sale in numerous gift retail outlets, including Amazon and eBay.

Mr McLaughlan’s email informed workers the offending soap had been removed – and told staff to contact him if they wanted it back.

He also called for a cull of other toilet products that had been left by staff members in Alexander House on the Houghton park, where the Echo is based.




But the call backfired because staff and gay rights campaigners found the email and stance “offensive”.

It is understand the soap had been given to a gay staff member at the park as a gift and they put it in the toilet for everyone to use.

One worker said: 
“How can this be inappropriate?””

“It’s just ridiculous. We found his email inappropriate and offensive.”

“Why is he offended by the word gay on a bar of soap?”

“The whole ‘soap police’ thing is just barmy anyway.”

“It’s jobsworth attitude and over-zealous.”

“Who has got time to worry about soap and deodorant left in a toilet?”

When contacted by the Echo, Mr McLaughlan declined to comment and asked us to contact his manager.

James Millson, associate director of CBRE Ltd, which manages the building, said: “The park manager’s email makes reference to a number of items, the bar of soap probably being the most easily identifiable.

“The point being made in the email is that the items being left in the common toilets, which are shared with other users of the building, are not in keeping with consistent and corporate image that we aim to provide across the estate.

“We would have been removing any items ‘bars of soap’ irrespective of the slogan, brand or design and the point being made here is that the ‘random products’ being dispersed around the common parts are not in keeping with the management strategy for the building.

“In short there is no discriminatory agenda here, only a desire to provide premises to our tenants that are clean, smart and in keeping with the expectations of our client, tenants and visitors.”

Mark Nichols, chairman of Northern Pride, said: “It’s a bit like anything when it’s taken out of context, it could be used perfectly well, but could be taken to be insulting. It’s like saying ‘I’m gay’ and then ‘You’re so gay.

“The LGBT community use the word gay, there’s nothing wrong with saying gay.

“Everybody uses it all the time, so there shouldn’t be a problem with it.

“If he had just said ‘Please don’t leave personal items’ then fine, it would have been a bit petty.

“He doesn’t say the word gay is offensive but the fact is he has singled it out, that one item.

“He could have sent a picture of the make up bag and said this shouldn’t be left in the bathroom.”

Alisdair Cameron, North East-based Pride in Mind, a mental health support group, said: “Being gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans or any other sexuality or sexual identity is ordinary and a healthy part of life.

“Humour and self-mockery is also ordinary and again a healthy part of life.

“Somewhere down the line in this story, someone lost sight that both of these things are true, and that 
one does not negate the other.”




 

Taken from Sunderlandecho.com