Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hopes For Binational Couples Dashed As Discriminatory Policy Returns

Despite the good news from earlier in the week, the federal government has now re-affirmed it's policy of applying immigration law in a discriminatory fashion towards married binational same-sex couples.

The New York Times reports:

On Monday, Christopher S. Bentley, the chief spokesman for the immigration agency, confirmed in a statement that cases nationwide involving married gay couples had been suspended. What Mr. Bentley did not say was how long that hold might last and what issues the agency was seeking to clarify. 
But the elated reaction among gay advocates and couples was immediate. Describing Mr. Bentley’s statement as “a darn big deal,” Rachel B. Tiven, the executive director of Immigration Equality, called it “the first domino to fall” for gay American citizens with foreign spouses. 
Ms. Tiven said she understood that immigrants in married gay couples could now apply for green cards and instead of being automatically denied, their cases would be suspended until the courts decided the validity of the marriage act. 
Word also went out across the country. In Princeton, N.J., Josh Vandiver and Henry Velandia, in the middle of a public forum on immigration issues, embraced and cheered. They said they had heard from their immigration lawyer that the agency’s announcement might mean at least a temporary reprieve from deportation for Mr. Velandia. 
Mr. Vandiver, 29, is an American citizen and a political science graduate student at Princeton. He and Mr. Velandia, 27, who is from Venezuela, were married last August in Connecticut, one of the states that recognize same-sex marriages. Their application for a green card for Mr. Velandia was recently denied, and he is facing deportation as early as May. 
But on Tuesday, Mr. Bentley issued a new statement, saying that Citizenship and Immigration Services “has not implemented any change in policy and intends to follow the president’s directive to continue enforcing the law.” 
Mr. Bentley said the agency’s field offices had suspended cases for a short period, perhaps a week or two, while lawyers clarified a “narrow legal issue” concerning the marriage act. He said the agency would probably resume action on same-sex marriage cases in coming days and would continue to deny immigration status to foreigners based on those marriages. 
Immigration lawyers tried on Tuesday to sort out the meaning of the events. 
“We have to be very cautious,” said Lavi S. Soloway, a lawyer who represents Mr. Velandia and Mr. Vandiver. He said gay couples should continue to understand that “if they file for immigration status, they may be putting themselves at considerable risk of deportation.”
If you are in a binational relationship or need more information about the effects of immigration law on LGBT people, I urge you to check out the Immigration Equality (and Immigration Equation Action Fund) website. (Full disclosure: MadProfessah is on the board of directors of Immigration Equality and the Immigration Equality Action Fund.)

Human Rights Watch Issues Report On Mississippi(!)

The state of Mississippi has long been an embarrassment to the rest of the country, but now the international non-governmental organization (NGO) Human Rights Watch has made it official by issuing a report detailing and decrying the way the state deals with people who are either LGBT or have HIV or both.

From the Executive Summary of "Rights At Risk":
Throughout Mississippi, people living with HIV, their advocates, health providers and public officials describe an extreme stigma surrounding HIV that is, for many, more frightening than the disease itself. Human Rights Watch found that Mississippi laws and policies promote prejudice and discrimination against those vulnerable, and perceived to be vulnerable, to HIV, thereby contributing to the problem. Numerous legal provisions, including constitutional amendments, discriminate against homosexuals and state sex education laws marginalize lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth. In Mississippi, the criminal law penalizes those with HIV for failing to disclose their positive status, an approach that public health experts deem likely to undermine, rather than promote, the public health.
Mississippi’s sex education policies also play a harmful role in the state’s HIV epidemic. The state has the highest rates of sexually transmitted disease (STD) and teen pregnancy in the nation and alarming rates of HIV infection among young black men who have sex with men (MSM). Yet Mississippi’s legislature remains stubbornly committed to failed messages of abstinence in sex education, ignoring evidence that such approaches have little effect on reducing HIV or STD transmission. Despite the fact that students in Mississippi are having sex earlier than in any other state, the state suppresses information about condom use and effectiveness in sex education, denying youth access to accurate and relevant health information that can prevent HIV infection.
The sex education curricula in Mississippi also mandates negative messages about “homosexual activities,” creating hostile school environments for LGBT youth and interfering with their right to health. Combined with other state laws that discriminate against homosexuals, Mississippi promotes a culture of homophobia that, according to state public health officials, endangers the health of gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men by keeping them away from HIV testing and treatment services.
The HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Southern US has been particularly devastating for minority communities.Nowhere is the dramatic racial impact of the epidemic more apparent than in the state of Mississippi, where African-Americans are only 37.5 percent of the population, but comprise 76 percent of those newly infected with HIV. Mississippi’s failure to embrace evidence-based approaches in the face of increasing health threats to minority populations conflicts with fundamental principles of human rights.
An alarming rise in HIV infection among young black men who have sex with men recently prompted an investigation by federal and state health authorities, who recommended implementation of comprehensive sex education at an early age in order to increase awareness of risk and to promote condom use as a proven method of prevention. These recommendations have been utterly ignored in the public schools despite evidence that once infected these young men are unlikely to access adequate health care. Similarly, though African-American women have the second-highest HIV infection rate in the state, Mississippi’s “Just Wait” abstinence campaign does not provide evidence-based HIV prevention education to this very vulnerable population.
The factors identified in this report are not the only contributors to the HIV epidemic in Mississippi, an impoverished state with poor rates of overall health, education, and development. Stigma and discrimination, fueled by community attitudes, religious beliefs, and other societal forces are also contributing factors. But government action plays a significant role, and the harmful policies highlighted here undermine efforts to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic and disregard national and international guidelines on best practices for effective management of the disease. These policies combine to create a high-risk environment where it is difficult for many people to avoid HIV infection and to access life-saving treatment and support. If there is to be meaningful progress in access to HIV services, Mississippi’s obligation to protect public health and human rights should be the immediate focus of both federal and state governments.
Hat/tip to Todd Heywood's reporting on this report at the Michigan Messenger.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Gov. Brown Ends Budget Negotiations With Republicans

Could have seen this coming a mile away. Governor Jerry Brown has ended THREE MONTHS of budget "negotiations" with Republican legislative leaders after it became increasingly clear he was simply dealing with hostage takers who were not really interested in the ransom. The California Republican Party will now become absolutely irrelevant to the governing of the state of California, since they have decided not to negotiate in good faith to provide the four votes necessary to reach two-thirds of both houses of the state legislature (Democrats have 52 of the 54 seats they need in the Assembly and 25 of the 27 seats they need in the Senate). NOTE: Although it only takes a majority vote to pass a budget now that Proposition 25 passed in November 2010, it still takes a two-thirds vote to enact any taxes, thanks to the odious Proposition 13.

Capitol Weekly has the call:
Brown, a Democrat, in a letter to Senate Republican Leader Bob Dutton, said the negotiations had focused for weeks on a spending cap, public pension issues and regulatory reform. Brown posted a YouTube video of his position here.

But, he said, Republicans late last week added dozens of separate demands, “many of which are new and have no relationship whatsoever to the budget.”

“From my count, your list today added almost two dozen new topics, including obscure aspects of labor law and shifting the presidential primary to March. In addition, your list of demands, if met, would undermine my entire budget proposal by undoing major elements and extending the taxes for only 18 months,” Brown wrote.
Recent figures show that the Republican Party currently has 30.4% party registration in California, compared to 44% for Democrats and 20% for Independents (a significant fraction, possibly a majority, are probably ex-Republicans). By abdicating any responsibility for acting reasonably to fix California's $26 billion 18-month budget deficit, Republicans have pushed themselves even closer to political obscurity.

Hopefully, Gov. Brown will have a better result in winning ballot measures to implement his vision of the California budget than former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger did. The Governator tried legislating by ballot box in 2005 and 2009 and was humiliated both times by the California eletcorate. Brown is a much smarter and talented politician, and is in his first year of office, so Californians may give him what he wants: a common sense balanced budget with shared sacrifice and contributions from all California constituencies.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Immigration Equality Hails CIS Policy Change


WASHINGTON, DC – Immigration Equality, the national experts on immigration rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, hailed an announcement today from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that the agency will allow Americans with spouses from abroad to apply for green cards while courts weigh constitutional challenges to the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

“USCIS has issued guidance to the field,” USCIS Spokesman Christopher Bentley announced, “asking that related cases be held in abeyance while awaiting final guidance related to distinct legal issues.”

“Today’s statement is the first domino to fall for LGBT Americans with foreign national spouses,” said Rachel B. Tiven, the group’s executive director. “As Immigration Equality noted in our letters to both the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice, we believe that no spousal application should be denied until DOMA’s constitutionality is settled. Immigration Equality has been fighting for LGBT immigrant families since 1994. In that time we have counseled more than 10,000 families – and for them, today’s news is a sign that relief is finally on the way.”

Last week, Immigration Equality’s legal team filed a green card application on behalf of Edwin Blesch, an American citizen, and Tim Smulian, his South African husband. Despite being legally married in South Africa – a marriage recognized in Edwin’s home state of New York – the couple has struggled to remain together. Edwin struggles with failing health and increasingly depends on Tim as his primary caretaker. The couple joined Immigration Equality in hailing today’s announcement.

“Every day, we live with the very real possibility that, despite following every law and every policy of the United States, Tim will be forced to leave the country, and I will be left without my caretaker and the love of my life,” Blesch said in a statement. “Today’s news gives us great relief, and great hope that we may soon be able to put that worry behind us. For the first time, we can begin to plan the rest of our lives together without fear that we will be torn apart.”

Couples who believe they may be impacted by today’s decision are encouraged to contact Immigration Equality’s legal team for free, confidential advice at

# # #
Immigration Equality is a national organization that works to end discrimination in U.S. immigration law, to reduce the negative impact of that law on the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and HIV-positive people, and to help obtain asylum for those persecuted in their home country based on their sexual orientation, transgender identity or HIV-status. Through education, outreach, advocacy, and the maintenance of a nationwide network of resources, we provide information and support to advocates, attorneys, politicians and those who are threatened by persecution or the discriminatory impact of the law.

US Immigration Confirms Suspension of Married Binational Deportations

Excellent news on the LGBT Immigration front! Chris Geidner at Metro Weekly has been able to get a spokesperson from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to confirm that USCIS has suspended action on deportation cases involving same-sex married binational couples who would have a legitimate petition for permanent residence if the Defense of Marriage Act were not in effect.
Following up on reports from this weekend, Metro Weekly just received confirmation from Christopher Bentley, the spokesman for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, that cases of foreign partners who are married to a same-sex partner and would otherwise be eligible for a green card are on hold in light of questions about the continued validity of the Defense of Marriage Act. 
Bentley writes, "USCIS has issued guidance to the field asking that related cases be held in abeyance while awaiting final guidance related to distinct legal issues." 
He notes, however, "USCIS has not implemented any change in policy and intends to follow the President's directive to continue enforcing the law." 
The legal distinction means that although DOMA is still being enforced, the USCIS is using its discretion to hold off on denying green card applications where applicable.
This is pretty amazing news!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Eye Candy: Jon Micklow (3rd time)

Jon Micklow is a model with a distinctly "cute white boy" look. He has been featured on MadProfessah's Eye Candy twice before, on April 10, 2010 and March 1, 2010. Although I try to feature models of color on this blog as Eye Candy, the only criteria is that they be considered "hawt" by me, and in my eyes, Mr. Micklow definitely fits the bill.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Map Of Average Penis Size Around The World

This map illustrating the geographical distribution of average penis size by country has been whipping around the blogosphere recently.

Since all anyone cares about is the biggest and the smallest, here ya go:
The five most well-endowed nations are:The United States ranks somewhere in the lower-middle of the world penis-size rankings. The average American man has a penis length of 5.1 inches. South Korea is the most poorly endowed nation, coming in at 3.9 inches. Cambodia, Thailand, India, and Burma round out the bottom five.
Hmmm, maybe I need to plan another trip to South America (where Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela are) sooner rather than later....

Remember these are average sizes, so in any population there will be a normal distribution around this average. What we really need to know is how was this information collected (by outside observer or self-reporting) and what's the standard deviation for each number.

I think if most well-travelled gay men were to give their ranking of average penis size by country some other nations would make the top 5. Jus' sayin'.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Celebrity Friday: Elizabeth Taylor (1932-2011)

Elizabeth Taylor, glamorous Hollywood film star for decades and AIDS activist and gay icon, died on Wednesday March 23rd.

Her New York Times obituary, written by a guy who died in 2005, described her:
In a world of flickering images, Elizabeth Taylor was a constant star. First appearing on screen at age 10, she grew up there, never passing through an awkward age. It was one quick leap from “National Velvet” to “A Place in the Sun” and from there to “Cleopatra,” as she was indelibly transformed from a vulnerable child actress into a voluptuous film queen. 
In a career of some 70 years and more than 50 films, she won two Academy Awards as best actress, for her performances as a call girl in “BUtterfield 8” (1960) and as the acid-tongued Martha in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (1966). Mike Nichols, who directed her in “Virginia Woolf,” said he considered her “one of the greatest cinema actresses.”
Even here in Cape Town, South Africa, her death was huge news.

Colorado Senate Passes Civil Unions Bill 23-12

The Colorado State Senate, which has a strong Democratic majority 20-15, today completed work on SB 172, the Civil Unions Act, voting by a bipartisan majority of 23-15 to send the bill to the 65-member State House of Representatives where Republicans hold a 1-vote majority.

Interestingly, the three Republicans who voted for the bill are the only 3 female members of the Republican caucus. The Colorado Independent reports:
Highlands Ranch Republican Frank McNulty, House Speaker, will now assign SB 172 to a House committee for review. The scenario that has haunted the bill since it was introduced in February is that it would pass the Democrat-controlled Senate and then be assigned to a hard-line Republican committee on the House side where four or five members could vote it down and kill it. 
That’s still a strong possibility. Yet the bill has garnered much media attention and public polling suggests large majorities of Coloradans support it. McNulty has signaled in the past that he believes the bill deserves a fair hearing and a vote in the House, where Republicans enjoy a one-seat majority. The strong bipartisan vote tally in the Senate bolsters that case. 
Gay rights organization OneColorado celebrated the Senate voice vote Wednesday, where all three Republican women supported the bill, in part for the fact that it strengthens the case for McNulty. 
“We look forward to working with House Republican leadership who have promised a fair hearing,” said Brad Clark, executive director of OneColorado. “Issues of significant importance with overwhelming public support like civil unions deserve a full and fair hearing with an up-or-down vote by the entire House.” 
House Sponsor Mark Ferrandino, a Denver Democrat, has said for weeks that he believes the bill has enough support among Republicans in the House to pass should it make it to the floor.
Supporters of the bill might take heart from the fact there are nine Republican womenserving in the House this legislative session, at least two of whom have already signaled they would vote for the bill.
It should be interesting to see if this makes it through the lower house and to Governor John Hickenlooper's desk, where it is likely the Democratic governor would sign it into law.

Then Colorado would join other Western states such as California, Oregon, Nevada, Washington (and Hawaii) having comprehensive recognition of same-sex couples under state law without calling this legal status marriage.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

9th U.S. Circuit Refuses To Lift Stay On Prop 8

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling today refusing to lift Judge Vaughn Walker's stay on the enforcement of Proposition 8 while the ruling is appealed. Currently the California Supreme Court is considering a question of whether official proponents of a ballot measure can defend an initiative in court when the state's official representatives refuse to do so.

Here's the official text of the order from the 3-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals:
Having considered all of the factors set forth in Nken v. Holder, 129 S. Ct. 1749, 1756 (2009), and all of the facts and circumstances surrounding Plaintiffs’ motion to vacate the stay pending appeal, as well as the standard for vacatur set forth in Southeast Alaska Conservation Council v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 472 F.3d 1097, 1101 (9th Cir. 2006), we deny Plaintiffs’ motion at this time.
The ruling means that Proposition 8 will remain in effect until after the California Supreme Court rules later in 2011 on the standing question and the 9th Circuit panel issues a ruling either accepting the standing determination from the California Supreme Court (which it does NOT have to do, since there are very different standards for standing under federal and state law) and issues its own ruling on the constitutionality of Proposition 8.

Married Binational Lesbian Couple Has Deportation Suspended

Lavi Soloway of the Stop The Deportations project is reporting a monumental development in LGBT immigration reform: the very first decision by a U.S. immigration judge to suspend a deportation based on the legally married status of a same-sex couple.
Monica Alcota and Cristina Ojeda of Queens are the first married LGBT couple to argue in court that a pending deportation should be terminated since the Obama administration’s February announcement that it would no longer defend section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, according to their attorney. Alcota, a citizen of Argentina, wed her American wife last year in Connecticut but has continued to face removal proceedings.

At a Tuesday morning hearing in New York Immigration Court, a U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement attorney indicated that the government was willing to adjourn the deportation proceedings against Alcota while Ojeda proceeds with a green card petition on behalf of her noncitizen spouse. The judge agreed with the government attorney’s recommendation and asked the couple for an update on Ojeda’s alien relative petition by December.

“It definitely brings us more hope,” Ojeda told The Advocate of the hearing. “It’s the first time someone has been willing to let us pursue our case and believes that we should be treated equal."

The couple’s attorney, Lavi Soloway, said that while there was no clear indication that the government's Tuesday decision has broader policy implications on other immigration cases involving married, binational gay couples, the outcome is nevertheless “tremendously significant.”

“It means that for the first time in a deportation proceeding, the judge and the government have looked at a married gay couple and considered fairly that they ought to have an opportunity to pursue a marriage-based immigration case, given the changing legal landscape," Soloway said.
This is a very important development, but it should be noted that immigration cases are very fact-dependent and venue-specific. An immigration judge in another state could hear a nearly identical case and come to a different result. Soloway is looking for other binational couples in other immigration situations such as where the foreign national is on a valid non-immigrant visa (i.e. H-1(B) for employment or F or J for students) legally married to a United States Citizen. You can contact them directly at stopthedeportations [at]

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

WATCH: Gov. Brown Asks YOUR Help on CA Budge Impasse

White House Issues Statement on U.N. LGBT Actions


Joint Statement on the Rights of LGBT Persons at the Human Rights Council 

At the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva 85 countries joined a Joint Statement entitled “Ending Acts of Violence and Related Human Rights Violations Based On Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.”  This follows previous statements on the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons issued at the United Nations, including a 2006 statement by 54 countries at the Human Rights Council, and a 2008 statement that has garnered 67 countries’ support at the General Assembly.  The United States is amongst the signatory states to both previous efforts.  The United States co-chaired the core group of countries that have worked to submit this statement, along with Colombia and Slovenia.

Key facts about the new statement:

·         A core group of over 30 countries engaged in discussions and sought signatures from other UN member states for the statement.  In many places, United States diplomats joined diplomats from other states for these conversations.

·         This statement adds new references not seen in previous LGBT statements at the UN, including:  welcoming attention to LGBT issues as a part of the Universal Periodic Review process, noting the increased attention to LGBT issues in regional human rights fora, encouraging the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to continue addressing LGBT issues, and calls for states to end criminal sanctions based on LGBT status.

·         20 countries joined this statement that were neither signatory to the 2006 or 2008 statements.

·         The statement garnered support from every region of the world, including 21 signatories from the Western Hemisphere, 43 from Europe, 5 from Africa, and 16 from the Asia/Pacific region.

The full list of signatories and text of the statement follows:

Joint statement on ending acts of violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation & gender identity

Delivered by Colombia on behalf of: Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, the Central African Republic, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala,  Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the former-Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Malta, the Marshall Islands, Mexico, Micronesia, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Tuvalu, the United States of America, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Ukraine, Uruguay, Vanuatu, and Venezuela

1.      We recall the previous joint statement on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, presented at the Human Rights Council in 2006;
2.      We express concern at continued evidence in every region of acts of violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity brought to the Council’s attention by Special Procedures since that time, including killings, rape, torture and criminal sanctions;
3.      We recall the joint statement in the General Assembly on December 18, 2008 on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, supported by States from all five regional groups, and encourage States to consider joining the statement;
4.      We commend the attention paid to these issues by international human rights mechanisms including relevant Special Procedures and treaty bodies and welcome continued attention to human rights issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity within the context of the Universal Periodic Review. As the United Nations Secretary General reminded us in his address to this Council at its Special Sitting of 25 January 2011, the Universal Declaration guarantees all human beings their basic rights without exception, and when individuals are attacked, abused or imprisoned because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, the international community has an obligation to respond;
5.      We welcome the positive developments on these issues in every region in recent years, such as the resolutions on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity adopted by consensus in each of the past three years by the General Assembly of the Organization of American States, the initiative of the Asia-Pacific Forum on National Human Rights Institutions to integrate these issues within the work of national human rights institutions in the region, the recommendations of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, the increasing attention being paid to these issues by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, and the many positive legislative and policy initiatives adopted by States at the national level in diverse regions;
6.      We note that the Human Rights Council must also play its part in accordance with its mandate to “promote universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without discrimination of any kind, and in a fair and equal manner” (GA 60/251, OP 2);
7.      We acknowledge that these are sensitive issues for many, including in our own societies. We affirm the importance of respectful dialogue, and trust that there is common ground in our shared recognition that no-one should face stigmatisation, violence or abuse on any ground.  In dealing with sensitive issues, the Council must be guided by the principles of universality and non-discrimination;
8.      We encourage the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to continue to address human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity and to explore opportunities for outreach and constructive dialogue to enhance understanding and awareness of these issues within a human rights framework;
9.      We recognise our broader responsibility to end human rights violations against all those who are marginalised and take this opportunity to renew our commitment to addressing discrimination in all its forms;
10.  We call on States to take steps to end acts of violence, criminal sanctions and related human rights violations committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, encourage Special Procedures, treaty bodies and other stakeholders to continue to integrate these issues within their relevant mandates, and urge the Council to address these important human rights issues. 

# # #

Happy Birthday, Health Care Reform!

Hat/tip to Ezra Klein for this flow chart depicting how people will get coverage under the Affordable Care Act starting in 2014. Today is the first anniversary since President Obama signed the measure into law.

LGBT Rights Debated at United Nations

The following joint statement has been circulated about the debate at the United Nations today about the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) in the broader international human rights framework.
22 March, 2010


Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network; International Service for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, COC Netherlands, International Commission of Jurists, Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany LSVD, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights – RFSL, Solidaritas Perempuan (Women's Solidarity for Human Right),  Human Rights First, ILGA-Europe (European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association), Shirkat Gah- Women's Resource Centre, Center for Women's Global Leadership, Human Rights Council of Australia, Corporacion Humanas, LBL Denmark, International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT), Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID), International Women's Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, OMCT.

Madame Vice-President, I am pleased to speak to issues of sexual orientation, gender identity and human rights, on behalf of 119 NGOs (21 ECOSOC-accredited) from over 60 countries (see attached list), and more than 300+ participants from 23 countries who endorsed the Joint Statement during the Asia Pacific Outgames Conference last week.

We welcome the statement on violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity, delivered by Colombia on behalf of a broad grouping of 83 States from all UN regions. We also welcome the comments from the delegate from Nigeria, on behalf of the African Group that “laws that criminalize sexual orientation should be expunged.”
We commend the large core group of states advancing this initiative and we are particularly encouraged by the measurable increase in cross-regional support for these issues in recent years. It is hard to imagine that any State committed to human rights could disagree with the principle that States have a collective responsibility to end human rights violations against all those who are marginalized.

Numerous Special Procedures and Treaty Bodies have documented or commented on violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity, including use of the death penalty, killings, torture, criminal sanctions, police harassment, rape, beatings, and disappearances.[1]  We urge all Special Procedures, treaty bodies and other stakeholders to continue to integrate these important issues across all of their mandates.

As UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon stated in this room in January of this year:[2]

“I understand that sexual orientation and gender identity raise sensitive cultural issues. But cultural practice can not justify any violation of human rights...(W)hen our fellow humans are persecuted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, we must speak out…(H)uman rights are human rights everywhere, for everyone.”

And as High Commissioner stated to the Council during this session:[3]

“We are not trying to create new or special rights. We are simply trying to address the challenges that prevent millions of people from enjoying the same human rights as their fellow human beings just because they happen to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.”

In closing, Madame Vice-President, we would like to reiterate that the Council cannot simply refuse to address or discuss human rights violations against any individuals, without violating its own mandate, as provided in GA resolution 60/251. We look forward to future dialogue within this Council, with the support of those States which did not yet feel able to join the statement, but which share the concern of the international community at these systemic human rights abuses.

[1] International Commission of Jurists:
[2] Remarks by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on 25th January 2011, during a special sitting of the UN Human Rights Council:
[3] Interactive Dialogue with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, Item 3, 16th session of the HRC.
The Obama Administration strongly supported the statement and inclusion of LGBT rights into the United Nations' purview.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Openly Gay Federal Judge Nominee Has Low-Key Hearing

J. Paul Oetken, potentially the first openly gay man to become a federal judge, had an uneventful hearing before the United States Senate judiciary committee on Wednesday March 16th, with no Republican opposition.

Chris Geidner of Metro Weekly reports:
J. Paul Oetken, an out gay attorney who worked at Jenner & Block and Debevoise & Plimpton, also spent substantial time in government, working in both the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel and the White House under President Clinton. A former law clerk to the late Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, Oetken currently serves as the senior vice president and associate general counsel at Cablevision.
He was nominated, on Schumer's recommendation, for a judgeship on the Southern District of New York -- one of the key federal trial courts in the nation.
In Schumer's introduction of Oetken, the senator noted that, in addition to records of excellence and moderation, "I also look for candidates who bring diverse views and backgrounds to the bench. Paul is the first openly gay man to go through an Article III confirmation process in this country, which makes this moment historic. But long after today, what the history books will note about Paul is certain to be his achievements as a fair and brilliant judge."
We'll be monitoring the progress of this nomination carefully. It is doubtful that one of the rabidly anti-gay Republican members of the United States Senate will skip this opportunity to  curry favor with heterosexual supremacists and prevent an openly gay man from making history as a federal judge, even one as obviously well-qualified as Oetken.

The question is, how hard will the Democratic majority and the President fight to confirm the President's nominees, especially in light of the very real prospect of loss of Senate control in 2012.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Eye Candy: Darrell Holloman

Darrell Holloman is another beautiful find by TonyJoe over at the Dark Flex blog. Darrell is "a personal trainer, actor and fitness model originally from Jacksonville, Florida and now living in New York City."

He has  a Model Mayhem page and a Facebook page.

Djokovic Beats Nadal To Win Indian Wells; Woz Wins

World #2 Novak Djokovic of Serbia poses with his BNP Paribas Open trophy (AFP/Gabriel Bouys)

Novak Djokovic continued his unprecedented start to 2011 by notching his 18th consecutive match win and 3rd consecutive tournament title. Djokovic, 23, defeated World #1 Rafael Nadal 4-6 6-3 6-2 for the first time in a ATP Tour final, one day after outlasting an error-prone Roger Federer 6-3 3-6 6-2. The Serbian is clearly the hottest player on tour, and becomes only the third player to have beaten Federer and Nadal in the same tournament twice, joining Nikolay Davydenko and David Nalbandian.

The BNP Paribas Open title was Djokovic's 21st ATP Tour title, his second at Indian Wells, following his previous win in 2008 and avenging his 2007 loss in the final to Nadal. It was his 6th ATP Masters Series title.

On the Women's side, World #1 Caroline Wozniacki beat Marion Bartoli 6-1 2-6 6-3. The Frenchwoman will return to the Top 10 when the new rankings are released on Monday.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Succulent Sunday: Protea Cynaroides

While we were on a ridiculously long hike in Table Mountain National Park in Cape Town, the other half and I ran into these amazing specimens of King Protea a.k.a. Protea Cynaroides, the National Flower of South Africa. When fully open the flowers are between 6-8 inches in circumference. Truly astounding to behold.

South Africa has thousands of species of flora and fauna which are found nowhere else in the world. In fact, Table Mountain National Park has more biodiversity than the entire continent of North America!

Djokovic Outpaces Federer, Reaches World #2 (Again)

Novak Djokovic extended his 2011 match winning streak to 17-0 by defeating Roger Federer 6-3 3-6 6-2 in the semifinals of the Indian Wells ATM Masters Series 1000 tournament. Federer's 2011 record is now 18-3, with all three losses coming at the hands of the new World #2 Serbian. The two were playing for the right to face World #1 Rafael Nadal in the final; the Spaniard defeated Juan Martin del Potro 6-4 6-4 despite facing 0-3 and 1-4 deficits in the first set.

The match between Federer and Djokovic highlighted the improved serving of Djokovic as well as the advantage the Serb's two-handed backhand is over the Swiss's beautiful but less powerful one-handed backhand. At this point in his career, Federer goes through bad patches where his preternatural feel for the tennis ball on his strings seems to lose him entirely and he has difficulty keeping the ball in the court. In the third set, after cleaning up his game to win the second (his first set won in thelast three matches with Djokovic), Federer was broken early and was down 0-2 when he broke back (on a Djokovic double fault) to reach 2-2. Then, inexplicably serving at 40-15 Federer was unable to win another point and donated the service game on a double fault. The 16-time major champion never came close to winning another game after that. It should be interesting what Federer does to tinker with his game in order to react to the new reality of his rivalry with Djokovic. There's a huge difference between Federer being ranked World #2 and World #3 because it means he could face his nemesis Nadal in semifinals of major tournaments, instead of being separated by the entire field in Grand Slam draws.

The final match-up between Djokovic and Nadal should be a good one; I like the Serb's chances to win his 18th match of the year and third tournament (2011 Australian Open over Andy Murray and 2011 Dubai Duty Free Open over Federer) in 2011.

Interestingly, Federer teamed up with his compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka to beat Nadal and Marc Lopez in the doubles semifinal but then lost the doubles final 6-4 6-7(5) 10-8 to Xavier Malisse and Andrew Dologopolov. Not a good weekend for the Swiss!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

DOJ Asked To Suspend DOMA-Related Deportations

Immigration Equality has written the Department of Justice to request that same-sex couples who would be able to be get a green card except for DOMA's provisions be allowed to stay in the country pending the legal resolution of its constitutionality:

Dear Attorney General Holder:
Thank you for the courageous action you took on February 23, 2011 in announcing that the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) would no longer defend the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) in federal law suits.  We applaud your decision and believe that this is a critical step forward in ensuring equality under the constitution for all Americans and their families.

We write to request that until there is a final resolution in the DOMA litigation, you instruct the Board of Immigration Appeals to hold in abeyance the appeals of immigrant visa petitions (I-130) filed by American citizens or lawful permanent residents on behalf of their lesbian or gay spouses. We ask further that you instruct the Executive Office for Immigration Review (“EOIR”) to grant long continuances in removal proceedings where the foreign national could adjust status based on his or her marriage to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident were it not for DOMA. While we understand that your letter explained that until there is a final resolution in the DOMA litigation, the Administration would continue to enforce DOMA, staying removals is the only way to maintain the status quo for these families pending the final resolution of the DOMA cases. Where the validity of a law has been so clearly called into question the most appropriate response for the Administration is to hold cases directly affected by the law.

Of the many rights that flow from marriage, none is more immediate than the right to petition for lawful permanent residence for a foreign-born husband or wife. Every day American families are town apart because Section 3 of DOMA prevents the foreign spouse from obtaining lawful permanent residence. The EOIR immigration judges are employees of DOJ and it would be unjust for immigration judges to continue to order removals of the lesbian and gay spouses of Americans by enforcing a law that you have determined is unconstitutional. Staying removals of gay and lesbian spouses is the only way to ensure that the constitutional rights of American citizens are not being violated pending the final resolution of the DOMA cases. Maintaining the status quo for these families at this point will also preserve judicial resources by preventing potentially hundreds of immigration-based federal DOMA challenges in individual cases
In addition, openly gay immigration attorney Lavi Soloway, has sent out a press release announcing that he will be asking the federal government to stop deporting bi-national couples:
On Tuesday March 22 in a New York Immigration Court, Monica Alcota, a citizen of Argentina, and her wife, Cristina Ojeda, an American citizen, will request that an Immigration Judge terminate removal proceedings so that the couple may fully pursue a marriage-based green card process with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services free of the threat of removal. This is the first time a married same-sex couple will appear in court to seek termination of such proceedings since the Obama administration reversed its position on Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on February 23, calling it unconstitutional and announcing that it would not defend DOMA in pending and future federal court challenges.

Cristina Ojeda and Monica Alcota have been together since July 2008 and live in Queens, New York. In August 2010 they married in Connecticut. Cristina filed a marriage-based alien relative petition on behalf of Monica in September 2010. That petition is currently pending before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.  Alcota came to the United States in October 2000. She is a law-abiding, hard-working and talented antiques restorer and devoted, loving wife to Cristina.

The couple's lawyer, Lavi Soloway, will argue that removal proceedings should be terminated consistent with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement's long-standing policy of prosecutorial discretion which favors family unification and the accomodation of sympathetic humanitarian circumstances. ICE and the Court should consider the rapidly changing landscape of DOMA. That changing landscape includes the Obama administration's new position on DOMA which is expected to dramatically alter the course of future litigation against DOMA, but it also includes other significant developments.

On March 16, 2011 a bill to repeal DOMA, the Respect for Marriage Act, was introduced in the House by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) with 105 co-sponsors and in the Senate by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) with the expected support of a total of 20 co-sponsors in total.  This historic legislation seeks to end discrimination against same-sex married couples by the federal government, including for immigration purposes.

In other courts around the country, DOMA is under attack by multiple challenges. In two decisions this past July, Boston Federal District Court Judge Joseph Tauro ruled that DOMA was unconstitutional. Those cases are now on appeal at the First Circuit Court of Appeals. The Department of Justice has withdrawn from defending Section 3 of DOMA in those cases saying that it would now tell that court that it believed the statute was unconstitutional.

Termination of deportation proceedings would not restrict the Department of Homeland Security from re-initiating proceedings at a later date; it would however, free this couple from attending hearings and defending against an on-going prosecution of deportation proceedings and it would free resources of an overburdened immigration court.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Celebrity Friday: Rick Palacio, Openly Gay Chair of Colorado Dems

Rick Palacio, a 36-year-old openly gay, Latino man was recently elected Chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party.

The Denver Post reports:
Palacio, a sixth-generation Coloradan from Pueblo, received more than 50 percent of the vote from members of the state central committee of the Colorado Democratic Party at its biennial reorganizational meeting.

He defeated Polly Baca, a former state senator, and Adam Bowen, the former Larimer County Democratic chairman.

"I'm very excited," Palacio said after the vote. "I'm excited for our party. We have a lot of work ahead of us as Democrats. I look forward to working with Democrats from all 64 different counties to make sure that we succeed in 2012."

Palacio, who will resign his current position as deputy director of member services for U.S. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said it's also important to ensure that all divergent opinions within the party are heard so Democrats can all move forward in the same direction.

Colorado Democratic brass were among the 450 people who attended the morning event. Gov. John Hickenlooper, [Sen. Michael] Bennet and fellow Sen. Mark Udall all gave rousing speeches, trying to energize the base on a day of new beginnings for the state's Democratic Party.

Colorado went blue in the 2008 presidential election and currently has a Democratic Governor and two Democratic United States Senators. Republicans hold the lower state House by 1 vote (out of 65) and Democrats control the state Senate by 5 (out of 35).

Thursday, March 17, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: George R.R. Martin's A Game Of Thrones

Thanks to a friend on, I was convinced to ask for A Game of Thrones for Chrismuhkwanzukkah, and received it. I had heard about the series A Song if Ice and Fire and was aware that HBO is going to start airing a miniseries called Game of Thrones in April 2011.

Variety reports that there are over 4.5 million copies of the first four books in the series in print and it has recently been announced that the fifth book A Dance with Dragons will be released on July 12, 2011. Many fans of the series are pretty bitter because the fourth book in the series, A Feast for Crows was released in November 2005 and they have been eagerly awaiting new material for well over 5 years. And the entire series is said to consist of seven books.

It all started with the first book, A Game of Thrones, and this idea of political intrigue surrounding who will rule the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros is a central theme of the book and the series. The setting is one akin to medieval Europe with very little technology beyond the Bronze Age, although magic plays a limited role and one of the most important features is that seasons can last for years. In A Game of Thrones summer has lasted for nearly a decade, but the longer-lived people realize that this may augur an equally long bitter winter. The phrase "Winter is Coming" is a common catch phrase of the people of the North, and reveals their pessimism (some would say stoicism) about the future.

Martin has embarked upon an incredibly ambitious,m sprawling work of high fantasy. He tells his story in discrete chapters with the names and point of view of a single character. This can result in  major events of the story being revealed multiple times, from differing viewpoints or sometimes an important development for one character is revealed from a casual remark made by another. It's a compelling device, and it requires close attention by the reader. These are generally gigantic books (on the order of 900 pages) with literally dozens and dozens of characters with complex and complicated familial and familiar ties.

A Game of Thrones sets the stage for the entire series by introducing our two main protagonists: a set of families and rivals called the Starks (of the North) and the Lannisters (of the South). The Starks are dark-haired, simple and stoic while the Lannisters and blonde, green-eyed, wealthy and ruthless. In the beginning it is clear the reader is intended to identify with the Starks, as we are first introduced to the entire family: Lord Eddard Stark, his wife Catelyn Stark and their five children (Robb, Sansa, Arya, Bran and Rickon) as well as Eddard's bastard son, John Snow. The Lannisters primarily consist of Lord Tywin Lannister and his three children (Jaime, Cersei and Tyrion). Cersei is married to Eddard Stark's best friend King Robert Baratheon and has borne him three children while carrying out an adulterous and incestuous affair with her brother Jamie. Tyrion is a deformed dwarf more commonly known as the Imp.

As a Black, gay reader one of the most noticeable aspects of the books is the treatment of gender and regulation of sexuality. Homosexuality is barely mentioned, but the expectation of each gender are rigidly defined. The morals of the time strongly condemn all sex outside of marriage, although they only barely look askance as abortion/contraception (there is a special tea women can take soon after having sex which is supposed to prevent them from getting pregnant). Women are basically property of their husbands, and daughters are just there to be married off while her "maidenhood" (or virginity) is intact in order to seal connections between  Lords and prominent families, which are called Houses. There are a dizzying array of various Houses, the most prominent for our purposes are House Stark and House Lannister, each with their own castle, Winterfell and Casterly Rock, respectively.

Martin hooks you into caring for the main characters early on and the plot twists and turns which delight and horrify. Just because the Starks are our putative heroes does not mean that everything will end "happily ever after." Plus, for most readers, there are so many named characters that almost any reader can find at least one (if not more) that they can identify with and root for.

I don;t want to give away or discuss the details of the plot, but suffice it to say that you will not be disappointed if you take the time to visit Westeros and watch the Game of Thrones from the comfort of your home, reveling in Martin's imagination.

TitleA Game of Thrones
Author: George R.R. Martin
Length: 720 pages.
Publisher: Bantam.
Date: May 28, 2002.

OVERALL GRADE: A (3.917/4.0).


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

HRC Poll Shows Public Opposition To DOMA

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 15, 2011Michael Cole-Schwartz | | Phone: 202-216-1553

HRC Poll: Voters Oppose Republican Defense of DOMA
Voters favor federal benefits to married same-sex couples; Marriage ranks last on priority list

WASHINGTON – American voters oppose the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) – the law that forbids the federal government from recognizing legally married same-sex couples – as well as efforts by the House Republican leadership to intervene in court cases defending the law, according to new polling released today by the Human Rights Campaign in partnership with Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research.  This poll is the first in a series of quarterly surveys from HRC and GQRR that will analyze public opinion on critical lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues.

Overall, voters say they oppose the Defense of Marriage Act – 51 percent oppose the law and 34 percent favor it.  Independent voters, who were instrumental in the Republican House takeover, oppose this law by a 52 percent to 34 percent margin.  Additionally when read statements for and against defending the law in court, 54 percent of voters oppose the House Republicans’ intervention, while only 32 percent support it.  Poll results are available at

DOMA prohibits the federal government from granting married same-sex couples things like Social Security survivor benefits, health insurance for federal employees’ spouses, joint tax filing, family and medical leave and other critical protections.  When asked if they favor or oppose some of these benefits for gay and lesbian couples who have been legally married, voters responded: on Social Security survivor benefits, 60 favor, 34 oppose; on federal employee health benefits for spouses, 58 percent favor, 36 percent oppose; on protecting spouses from losing their homes in cases of severe medical emergencies or death, 64 percent favor, 28 percent oppose; and on avoiding tax penalties by filing joint tax returns as a married couple, 55 percent favor, 38 percent oppose.

“The debate over DOMA isn’t about whether you favor marriage equality, it’s about whether the government can pick and choose which marriages they like, and which they don’t,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese.  “With five states and DC granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples, it’s time the federal government stop playing favorites and instead create an equal playing field for all families.”

On Wednesday, leaders in the House and Senate will introduce the “Respect for Marriage Act” – a bill to repeal DOMA and open up the benefits, protections and obligations of marriage under federal law to same-sex couples legally married in states that have ended their exclusion from marriage.

Last Wednesday, Speaker John Boehner announced that the House would intervene to defend DOMA in court, following a Justice Department announcement that the administration believes the law to be unconstitutional.  At least nine cases are challenging DOMA spanning three appellate courts and four district courts in six states.  The Speaker’s announcement did not make clear if they will intervene in all of the cases, who will represent the House, how much the defense will cost, what their arguments for the law will be or other critical issues.  More background on DOMA and the unanswered questions is at

“When it comes to defending DOMA, House Republicans are wrong on the policy and wrong on the politics,” said Solmonese.  “It’s mind boggling that Republican leaders would so misread the tea leaves in their urgent effort to score some cheap and temporary political points.”

Given a list of issues important in determining their vote for President, voters ranked the economy and jobs (54 percent), Medicare and Social Security (23 percent) and education (19 percent) as most important with only 5 percent of respondents saying “gay marriage” was most important to them.

The poll also shows a plurality of voters disapprove of the way the Republicans are handling their job in charge of the House of Representatives: 42 percent approve, 45 percent disapprove.  When asked how the Republican majority is handling voters’ most important issue – jobs – 80 percent have a negative response while only 15 percent say they’re doing a good or excellent job.

“Americans are clamoring for Congress to deal with jobs and the economy,” said Solmonese.  “This new poll shows that House Republican leaders take their eye off the economic ball at their own peril.”

The telephone survey, including cell phones, was conducted 3/8/11 through 3/10/11 among 800 registered voters.  It has a margin of error of +/- 3.46 percent.  The results of the poll, including the questionnaire, a memo on the findings and charts, are available at:

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

# # #


Blog Widget by LinkWithin