Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Godless Wednesday: Young Godless Liberal Democrats Are Cool!

Hemant Mehta over at Friendly Atheist looked more closely at the recent Gallup poll about marriage equality that I blogged about yesterday and noticed that he is a member of all of the top five groups which strongly support marriage equality: Liberals (77%), "No religion" (76%), Democrats (70%), 18-34 years old (69%) and Rarely/Never attend church (67%). These are all well-above the level of support given by all American adults to marriage equality: 52%.

Since this is a Godless Wednesday® post I must also point out that the groups most opposed to marriage equality are 55 and older (58% opposed), Protestants (58% opposed), Republicans (66% opposed), Conservatives (67% opposed) and attend church weekly (73% opposed).

I think this explains why House Republicans (who as a group are widely oversampled in at least 3 of these groups) were willing to blow millions of tax payer money on defending DOMA all the way to the Supreme Court and are so virulently opposed to marriage equality.

Battle Over Marriage Equality in Pennsylvania Heats Up

One of the latest fronts in the nationwide battle for marriage equality is the 6th largest state in the country, Pennsylvania. Openly gay legislator Brian Sims has introduced a bill to legalize marriage equality in the state. And the state is being sued by a number of same-sex couples who wish to marry but can not do so because of a homophobic marriage statute. The Attorney General has refused to defend the statute, and one particular county, Montgomery County, started issuing marriage licenses about a week ago.

Today comes word that the state Department of Public Health is suing Montgomery County to prevent it from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Apparently, marriage licenses have been issued to 31 same-sex couples so far.

However, Montgomery County says that it is not going to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, according to
"While it comes as no surprise that the Corbett Administration has filed an action seeking to enjoin marriage equality in Montgomery County, the petition filed today in Commonwealth Court by the state Department of Health has serious flaws," county Solicitor Ray McGarry said. "Montgomery County will be filing a response shortly. In the meantime, the Register of Wills office will continue to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples."


The lawsuit against [Mongtomery County Registrar] Hanes and the letter to Kane's office signal the first blows by the Corbett administration to subdue what could become growing challenges to Pennsylvania's version of the federal DOMA law. The Health Department lawsuit could become an important precedent to determine whether public officials have the right to interpret the legality of the state's Marriage Law on their own.


The Health Department lawsuit claims he is not only derelict in his duty to uphold state and local laws, but also is misleading those couples he issued licenses to. "It appears that same-sex couples are proceeding with the marriage ceremonies that are not permitted by Pennsylvania law, marriage certificates are being illegally filed, and the same-sex couples are left to believe erroneously that they have entered into a valid marriage," the suit said.

Unfortunately, I think that the Pennsylvania Department of Public Health is probably going to win this battle (but lose the war). A very similar thing happened in California nearly a decade ago, and the 4,000 marriages that occurred when San Francisco County started issuing marriage licenses were eventually invalidated and nullified. However, Pennsylvania's statute does violate the federal constitution guarantees of equal protection and substantive due process and sooner rather than later the Pennsylvania Department of Health will be registering marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples.

Until that day, though, it is useful to raise awareness about the issue and I agree that local officials who believe that their state's marriage law is unconstitutional should speak out about it, but the correct legal action is to join the lawsuit striking it down, not ignoring the law on the books, regardless of how odious it is.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

GALLUP: U.S. Support For Marriage Hits 54% Nationwide

The latest polling from Gallup reaffirms the fact that support for marriage equality is a majority position in the United States. 54% of respondents say that they "think marriages between same-sex couples should be recognized by the law as valid,  with the same rights as traditional marriages." 43% of respondents still say that such marriages should not be valid.

Gallup tried to gauge support for marriage equality by asking a hypothetical question about whether people would vote for or against a national referendum on the question of marriage equality. The results were similar to the regular public opinion on gay marriage, with 52% saying they would vote for such a referendum while 43% say they would vote against it.

Interestingly, there are wide variations between how sub-groups of Americans feel about marriage equality:
Across the nation's major demographic, political, and religious groups, support for the proposed law ranges from as high as 77% among self-described liberal Americans, and 76% among those with no religious affiliation, to as low as 23% among weekly churchgoers, and 30% among Republicans and conservatives.
Other groups showing at least 60% support for legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide include Democrats, adults aged 18 to 34, those who rarely or never attend a church or other place of worship, moderates, Easterners, and Catholics. Others showing less than 50% support include Protestants, adults 55 and older, Southerners, and men.
Gallup has also continued its history of tracking public opinion on interracial marriage as well. The latest results show that currently 87% of Americans "approve of marriages between blacks and whites."

The interesting fact of this graph is that interracial marriage was legalized nationwide by judicial fiat of the United States Supreme Court in 1967, when popular support for the concept was below 20%. Even though marriage equality now has majority support the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to play a similar role and declare that marriage is a fundamental right for same-sex couples.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Sen. Rubio (R-FL) Blocking Black Gay Federal Judicial Nominee

Here at we have been following the progress of President Obama's openly LGBT federal judicial nominees quite closely and were thrilled when the first African American gay male, Judge Wiliam Thomas, was nominated to be a federal district court judge in November 2012.

However recent blog reports have noted that Thomas has yet to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, in fact a hearing has not even been scheduled on his nomination before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The invaluable Washington Blade reports:

Rubio’s office didn’t respond to repeated requests from the Blade over the past two weeks to comment on why he continues to hold up the Thomas nomination. According to a report last week in the Tampa Bay Times, Rubio has concerns about Thomas’s involvement in a controversial case in which a man was given a sentence of just 364 days in jail for the hit-and-run death of a cyclist.


Thomas has experience both as a defense attorney and as a judge. He’s been a circuit judge in Florida’s 11th Judicial Circuit since 2005, where he has presided over both civil and criminal matters. Before that, he was an assistant federal public defender in the Southern District of Florida and represented indigent clients in federal criminal cases.
Rubio faced criticism last week from members of the Congressional Black Caucus for holding up both the Thomas confirmation and that of Brian Davis, another black judicial nominee who was nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for Middle District of Florida. The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund also called for the Thomas nomination to move forward.
Rubio continues to hold up the Thomas nomination even though he and [U.S. Senator Bill] Nelson recommended Thomas for the seat following approval from Florida’s Federal Judicial Nominating Commission, which makes recommendations to the state’s senators.
LGBT groups have begun to put more pressure on Rubio to explain the reason for his hold on the Thomas nomination. Let's hope that join with African American groups to call for Rubio's holds to be lifted on both Judge Thomas and Judge Davis in the near future.

Hat/tip to TowleRoad

Eye Candy: Adam Ayash (reprise)

Adam Ayash has appeared as Eye Candy here before (May 3, 2013). According to his Model Mayhen profile, he is 25 years old, 5'11 and 190 pounds. He has size 12 feet (gulp!). He has a Facebook page for fans, a Twitter handle and an Instagram account. The Muslim Hunks blog says that Adam is of Lebanese descent, coming from South Lebanon but has moved to the United States after the Lebanese civil war.

Whatever Adam's story is, he is yet another example in my belief that "hawt is hawt"! Do you agree?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

ATLANTA 2013: Isner Beats Anderson To Win 7th ATP Title

6'10" American John Isner won his 7th career ATP tour title by defeating 6'8" South African Kevin Anderson in a wild 6-7(3) 7-6(2) 7-6(2) final of the BB&T Open in Atlanta, the first stop on the 2013 US Open Series. It was the tallest final in ATP history and the first final since Milos Raonic won the 2012 Chennai Open over Janko Tipsarevic that a title was decided by a match with no service breaks. The 3-set match lasted just 5 minutes shy of 3 hours.

Isner saved 11 break points and had 24 aces, compared to 21 aces (and only one break point on his serve) for Anderson. Two of the breakpoints that Isner saved were also match points at 5-6 in the 3rd set, and he also fought his way out of 0-40 in his first service game at 0-1 in the deciding set as well.

Isner improves to 7-7 in career finals (and a tour leading 26-7 for the year in tiebreaks) while Anderson falls to 2-4. The American will return to the Top 20 after today's win in Atlanta when the new rankings come out tomorrow. Isner had played tennis in college for the nearby University of Georgia Bulldogs and this was the third time in four years he was playing in the final of what he considers his hometown tournament (losing to fellow American Mardy Fish in 2011 and 2010). Isner's win puts him in the lead of the US Open Series on the men's side.

In other ATP news, Fabio Fognini's amazing win streak on clay came to an end at 13 when he lost in the finals of the Croatia Open in Umag to Tommy Robredo 6-0 6-3. It was the pulchritudinous Italian's 3rd consecutive final in as many weeks, but the Spanish veteran used his experience to win his 12th career title (11 of which have been on clay).

Queer Quote: Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu has joined the recently announced campaign by the United Nations to fight homophobia called Free & Equal. The BBC has an interview with the South Aftican Nobel Peace Prizewinner denouncing religious-based homophobia which is today's Queer Quote.
"I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place." 
"I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this."
Bishop Desmond Tutu is one of my heroes!

Hat/tip to Joe.My.God

6,035 posts and counting...

Somehow I went right past the 6,000 post milestone without noticing it. This is very unlike what happened when I reached blog post 5,000 on June 3,  2012. This post is number 6,035! I have been blogging here regularly since 2005 and my very first post was March 25, 2003. I consider my "blogiversary" date to be January 14.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

New Jersey United For Marriage Launches

A group of organizations in New Jersey have joined together to form a coalition called New Jersey United for Marriage which is dedicated to winning the freedom to marry in New Jersey by January 2014. They are reading from a playbook that has been run in many states, like HawaiiNew YorkWashington, Maine, Rhode Island and Minnesota.
“Today’s announcement is a game-changer.  Over the past decade, Garden State Equality has moved public opinion from minority to majority support for marriage,” said Troy Stevenson, Executive Director of Garden State Equality.  “With over 60 percent of New Jerseyans supporting marriage equality, we are in the last leg of a marathon race and are inviting everyone to run the last mile with us.” 
Speaking at the rally will be leaders of New Jersey United, several families who are directly impacted by the state’s  civil union law, clergy members and local small business owners.  Modeled after successful efforts in New York, Rhode Island, Maryland, and Maine, the campaign will broaden the existing coalition of supporters to engage new groups, including Main Street businesses, large corporate employers, industry organizations and Republicans. 
The Marriage Equality and Religious Exemptions Act passed in the State Senate and Assembly in February 2012, but was vetoed shortly thereafter. NJ United for Marriage seeks an override of the veto by early January 2014.
The coalition launched on July 24 with partners Garden State Equality, American Civil Liberties Union of NJ, American Unity Fund, Freedom to Marry, Gill Action Fund, Human Rights Campaign, and Lambda Legal.

New Jersey goes to the polls in November 2013 to decide the fate of Governor Chris Christie and elect state legislators. Following that election

30 Years Ago Today: Madonna's Madonna Released

Do you remember the first time you heard a Madonna track? Believe it or not, today is the 30th anniversary of the official release of Madonna's first album, eponymously titled Madonna.

The first time I heard a Madonna song it was Lucky Star. I heard it in summer 1984 while visiting my cousin Kim in London, England. In fact, I heard it while I saw the original music video for the song, which featured Madonna dancing with two back-up dancers in front of a stark-white screen wearing her soon-to-be signature attire of too-many bracelets, mismatched earrings, hoop belts, lace gloves and mesh tops. I think I went into puberty right at that moment!

Remember this?

Watch it again for the millionth time! Madonna went on to sell 10 million copies worldwide and featured the classic singles Borderline, Physical Attraction, Lucky Star, Everybody and, of course, Holiday. Which is your favorite?

Hat/tip to Joe.My.God

Friday, July 26, 2013

Openly Gay Black Man Named CEO of Ford Foundation

Darren Walker was recently named chief executive officer of the Ford Foundation. Walker is an openly gay, Black man who will run one of the largest charitable foundations in the world. According to Wikipedia, the Ford Foundation is currently ranked 5th in the world and has assets of nearly 11 billion dollars and hundreds of employees.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports:
Mr. Walker, a gay black man who grew up in a small town in Texas, worked for nearly a decade as a lawyer and bond salesman on Wall Street before giving up corporate life in 1995 to volunteer for a year at a school in Harlem.
He went on to become chief operating officer at Abyssinian Development Corporation, a community-development group in Harlem. Mr. Walker then worked for many years at the Rockefeller Foundation, before moving to Ford in 2010 as vice president for education, creativity, and free expression.
“The opportunity to lead the Ford Foundation is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for someone of my background, with the interest in social justice and the passion for social-change work that I have,” Mr. Walker said in an interview on Thursday.
Mr. Walker’s selection—he will officially take over in September—was widely praised by philanthropy peers, who described him as a well-connected and energetic manager with an unusual ability to build consensus among different groups of people.
Congratulations to Mr. Walker! I hope he is able to have an impact on focussing the Foundation's word on addressing inequality in the United States, especially inequalities based around race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.

Federer's Slump Continues; Loses to #55 in Gstaad

Roger Federer decided to add two European summer clay-court events after his shocking 2nd round loss to Sergiy Stakhovsky at Wimbledon in order to build up confidence before the United States hard court season. Ever since that disappointing result things have not gone well for Federer or Stakhovsky. The Ukrainian has failed to win a single match since then while Federer has been winning some matches with surprising difficulty but is also losing to players he would typically dismiss in his sleep. Last week he lost to qualifier Federico Delbonis in the semifinals of Hamburg after two close 3-set matches against Florian Mayer and Daniel Brands. Delbonis went on to lose the final against red-hot (in more ways than one!) Fabio Fognini. This week he faced Brands again and failed to win a single set, falling 6-3 6-4 in the 2nd round of the clay court tournament in Gstaad, Switzerland.

Federer apparently tweaked his back while playing in Hamburg and probably should have withdrawn from Gstaad. He is also playing with a larger racquet but he insists that neither are the cause of his recent sub-par results (his only title of the year so far is in Halle, on grass). Although he is down to World #5 now, exactly one year ago Federer was ranked World #1. If he doesn't do well in the upcoming Masters series tournaments in Cincinnati and Toronto he may have to face one of the members of the big Four in a US Open quarterfinal. This is likely since he won Cincinnati last year, and it would be a big surprise if he were able to defend that title, but we shall see.

Celebrity Friday: Game of Thrones Got 17 Emmy Nominations!

The television series Game of Thrones received its most Emmy nominations ever for the recently concluded third season last week. Game of Thrones was nominated 17 times, 5 more than in Season 2 and 4 more than in Season 1. It won 2 Emmy awards for the first season in 2011: for Main Title Design and Peter Dinklage was named the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for playing Tyrion Lannister. In the second season which aired in 2012 the show won 6 Emmy awards, all in the creative categories (and Dinklage was nominated again). The show has been nominated for Outstanding Drama Series every year, losing in 2011 to Mad Men and to Homeland in 2012.

For Season 3, Dinklage was nominated for the third consecutive year but this time there were other members of the cast whose performances were also recognized, the most notable being Emilia Clarke for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for playing Daenerys Targaryen (more commonly known as the Mother of Dragons an Daenerys Stormborn). Also nominated was Dame Dianne Rigg for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series for playing Lady Olenna Tyrell (more commonly known as the Queen of Thorns for her acerbic wit). In the Outstanding Drama Series category this year Game of Thrones is facing off against Mad Men, Homeland, Breaking Bad, House of Cards and Downton Abbey in Outstanding Drama Series. It has a pretty good chance, because although Homeland won last year for its first season, its second season was not as good, and reviews for Mad Men have not been kind. Breaking Bad is supposed to be amazing but I have never seen an entire episode. The show with the most buzz is probably House of Cards, which made history as the first show to not be broadcast on television (it is streamed on Netflix) to be nominated for the top Drama award.

The full list of Game of Thrones Season 3's 17 Emmy nominations can be found at

Thursday, July 25, 2013

FILM REVIEW: Pacific Rim

I finally saw the long-awaited Pacific Rim from Guillermo del Toro, his film about giant sea monsters fighting giant robots. Critical reaction has been somewhat mixed (72% on with the audience more favorably disposed to the action-packed film (82% on del Toro is known for his florid visual style, a somewhat macabre (and spooky) sense of humor and devotion to comic-book genres. His oeuvre includes the comic book movies Hellboy and Hellboy 2, the critically acclaimed (and Oscar-nominated) Pan's Labyrinth and the freaky horror films Mimic and The Devil's Backbone.

Pacific Rim features huge sea monsters (reminiscent of Godzilla) known as Kaiju who are appearing on Earth through a portal to another dimension found in the bottom of the Pacific Ocean and coming on to shore and demolishing cities on the Pacific Rim (San Francisco, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Tokyo etc). In response, humanity bands together and creates equally gigantic (basically 1000-plus feet tall) robots called Jaegers to battle the Kaiju. del Toro is trying to introduce mainstream American audiences to a form of Japanese anime called mecha which features adventures by robots or machines as well as kaiju which features giant monsters.

The film definitely has a comic book feel to it while simultaneously fulfilling its role as mindless summer blockbuster entertainment. In fact, the number of familiar movie tropes that flash by is somewhat dizzying. Here are just a few: the smoking hot (typically a blonde and blue-eyed white male) hero with chiseled abs who has suffered an emotionally devastating loss and now needs to be rehabilitated to restore his long-lost hero status (Charlie Hunnam); the super-smart female with daddy issues who has undiscovered depths of ability that become revealed during the story (Rinko Kikuchi); the harsh and grizzled military man in charge, oftentimes played by an African American in recent multicultural revisions of reality, who has a secret weakness (Idris Elba); the mad scientist/technically proficient geek who has to dig deep and reveal surprising resources of courage and/or strength (Charlie Day and Burn Gorman); the hot-headed hottie who doesn't follow the rules but succeeds anyway despite his rivals (Robert Kazinsky); the amoral kingpin who is exploiting the horrible situation for his own gain (Ron Perlman). And those are just the character cliches!

The action itself is a curious (but entertaining) mish-mash of many many films we have seen before. My list of Pacific Rim's influences would include: Transformers (blindingly fast action), Top Gun (testosterone-fueled machismo), Real Steel (fighting robots controlled remotely by shadow boxing humans), Godzilla (huge Japanese sea monsters/aliens), Independence Day (a classic speech given before the final battle to save humanity from extinction) and Ghostbusters (huge creatures destroying skyscrapers in a major urban setting). This is not an exhaustive list!

Even though the film is not doing that well at the box-office, the theater I saw it in was packed (mostly with fanboys, to be sure) on a balmy Tuesday night in Arlington. I would encourage you to see Pacific Rim in the theater while you can, especially if you enjoyed any of the films on its list of influences.

Title: Pacific Rim.
Director: Guillermo del Toro.
Running Time: 2 hours, 11 minutes.
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief language.
Release Date: July 12, 2013.
Viewing Date: July 23, 2013.

Writing: C+.
Acting: B+.
Visuals: A+.
Impact: A-.

Overall Grade: A-/B+ (3.50/4.0).

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Godless Wednesday: The World Will Become Less Godless

Joe.My.God highlights a study projecting the worldwide growth of Christianity from 1970-2020. The study (Christianity in its Global Context, 1970-2020) is published by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. The main conclusion of the study is that the world is getting more religious, not less, on a global scale. The figure above indicates that the number of Christians in the world will more than double from 1970to 2020. While this is happening, the fraction of the world that is godless is decreasing.
The world in 2010 was more religious than in 1970, and this trend will continue to 2020 and perhaps beyond. The year 1970 was the symbolic height of the world’s agnostic and atheist populations, which at that time together claimed 19.2% of the total population (see figure at right). While secularization had been slowly in progress around the world, especially in Europe, the numbers of agnostics and atheists increased greatly under Communism in Eastern Europe and China. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, large numbers of the non-religious returned to religion. One of the most profound examples is Albania, the first officially atheistic state, which in 2010 was 62.7% Muslim and 31.6% Christian. Russia also experienced a resurgence of religion, rising from 38.4% Christian in 1970 to 71.2% in 2010, with a projected increase to 81.2% by 2020 (these gains are being made primarily by the Russian Orthodox Church).

Projections to 2020 indicate a sustained decrease of the global share of the non-religious. This is due primarily to the resurgence of Buddhism, Christianity, and other religions in China, and Christianity in Eastern Europe. If this trend continues, agnostics and atheists will be a smaller portion of the world’s population in 2020 than they were in 2010. Although the number of atheists and agnostics continues to rise in the Western world, the current growth of a variety of religions in China in particular (where the vast majority of the nonreligious live today) suggests continued future demographic growth of religion. From the point of view of 1970–2010, there has been a global religious resurgence, and it seems likely to continue into the future.
I guess the only good news about this is that at least the Western World is moving in what I would assess asa positive direction, with less religiosity rather than more. However, it can not be a good thing for humanity as a whole for more and more people to believe in an unknowable, mythical creature from which blessings and punishments flow.

This sad result can be seen in the following graphic:

Hat/tip to Joe.My.God

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

New Mexico AG Announces He Won't Defend State's Marriage law

Interesting news out of New Mexico today. Democratic Attorney General Gary King has announced that he is not going to defend the state against a lawsuit that seeks to declare that same-sex couples have a right to marry in New Mexico (because he believes that the state's equal protection guarantees demand marriage equality), but he is also arguing that the particular lawsuit be thrown out on procedural grounds.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports:
In written arguments filed with the court, King said the justices should invalidate the state’s ban on gay marriage if they agree to resolve the issue in a lawsuit filed by two Santa Fe men who were denied a marriage license. 
King, a Democrat who plans to run for governor next year against Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, said New Mexico law effectively doesn’t allow gay marriages although there’s no statutory provision that specifically prohibits, or authorizes, gay couples to be married. 
“New Mexico’s guarantee of equal protection to its citizens demands that same-sex couples be permitted to enjoy the benefits of marriage in the same way and to the same extent as other New Mexico citizens,” King said in the filing. 
The five-member court had asked King’s office to respond to the lawsuit. No hearing has been scheduled in the case so far, and it’s uncertain whether the Supreme Court will issue a decision resolving the same-sex marriage dispute. 
The lawsuit was filed directly with the justices to try to get a speedy decision. However, the court could decide that the case should be handled differently and has to work its way through the legal system as an appeal from a lower court ruling.
New Mexico is an interesting locus for battles around marriage equality because it is one of the very few states in the Union which does not have explicit statutory or constitutional language barring same-sex marriage.

It will be interesting to see what steps the New Mexico Supreme Court takes to resolve this issue. The last state Supreme Court to enact marriage equality was Iowa, which did it by a unanimous vote in 2009 in Varnus v Brien. Other state courts which have ruled in favor of marriage equality are California, Massachusetts, and Connecticut

Serena Wins 53rd WTA Title in Bastad, Sweden

Serena Williams won her 53rd WTA Tour title in Bastad, Sweden this weekend. She defeated hometown favorite Joanna Larsson 6-4 6-1, coming back from 1-3 down in the first set and won 9 of the last 10 games in the match.

The Swedish Open is Serena's 4th clay court title this year and 53rd of her career (tying her for 9th all time with Monica Seles) having finally won Roland Garros again  last month as well as Madrid and Rome in May. She has now won 28 clay court matches in a row and is 51-4 for the year going into one of her strongest periods of the year, the U.S. hard court season which culminates in the US Open where she is the current defending champion.

LA TIMES Covers Anti-Homophobia Campaign In Black Los Angeles

There is a very interesting billboard at an important intersection in a predominantly African American section of South Los Angeles (near La Brea and Coliseum Avenue). The billboard has  the word "HOMOPHOBIA" and large black letters on a white background with a bright red ex through them. This is part of a public awareness campaign by the Black Gay group called In The Meantime Men's Group.

The campaign caught the attention of the Los Angeles Times which ran an article on the reaction of some in the black community to the anti-homophobia campaign.
The new campaign aims "to address one of the key factors in why we're seeing high rates of HIV, especially among gay black men," [Executive Directory and Founder Jeffrey] King said.
Although a lack of resources remains a prominent reason for the racial disparity in HIV infections among those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or still questioning their sexuality, Fielding said the attitudes some people have toward men who have sex with men are also partly to blame. Black men who have sex with men "suffer from stigma, discrimination, from a reduced rate of acceptance for their same-sex orientation, and they also have historically had less access to healthcare," he said. And, he said, they tend not to use condoms.
Also, King said, many gay and bisexual black men in South L.A. are not getting tested for HIV because the very act might "out" them, while many straight black men are not getting tested because they don't want to be perceived as gay.
"One of the key reasons we're seeing HIV rates as high as they are is linked to homophobia in the community, which is taught from a high place, which is the church," King said.
It's good to see the campaign getting attention from mainstream media sources. According to the Times, it turns out that AIDS Healthcare Foundation, one of the largest AIDS service organizations in the United States (and perhaps the world) is actually paying for the billboards to go up.

Monday, July 22, 2013

GRAPHIC: Marriage Equality Throughout Europe

With England's completion of the enactment of same-sex marriage earlier this month, it's instructive to review the geographic distribution of marriage equality throughout the European continent. The above map indicates that Spain, Portugal, France, England, Scotland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Iceland, Denmark and Norway are all dark-blue marriage equality states. Additionally, there are many other states in Europe which have other forms of legal recognition for same-sex couples. Of the dark-blue marriage equality states only Iceland and Norway are NOT members of the European Union.

There are ten European countries (in red) which have constitutional bans prohibiting recognition or legalization of same-sex marriage: Belarus, Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia and Ukraine. Half of these countries (Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland) ARE members of the European Union.

It will be interesting to see how the European Union will resolve the question of marriage equality. I would guess that the EU will have uniform laws recognizing same-sex couples well before the United States does.

Hat/tip to Joe.My.God

Eye Candy: Cameron Gentry

Cameron Gentry is a professional male model from Torrance, CA. He is represented by some of the big name agencies like Wilhelmina and DNA. According to his model info on those sites he is 6-feet-2.5 inches tall, with size 12 feet and a 31.5" waist. But I have been unable to find out how old he is even though his birthday is listed as January 2.

Anyway, I thought he would work well as a somewhat less risque Eye Candy entry then some, so enjoy!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

HAMBURG 2013: Fognini Saves 3 MPs, Wins 2nd Title in 2 Weeks

Italian Fabio Fognini won his 2nd title in as many weeks by saving 3 match points on the way to defeat Federico Delbonis 4-6 7-6(8) 6-2 in the final of the bet-at-home open in Hamburg. Delbonis had defeated Roger Federer in the semifinal to reach his first career ATP tour final.

Fognini is on a 10 match-winning streak and won his first career ATP title last week in Stuttgart. He will rise to #19 on the ATP World Tour when the rankings are released on Monday. He has 25 match wins on clay this year, second behind the King of Clay Rafael Nadal.

POLL: Varying Support For Marriage Equality In Virginia

The latest Quinnipiac poll of Virginia indicates that 50% of respondents support marriage equality while only 43% oppose it. However, there have been at least four public polls of marriage equality in Virginia over the last year and support has varied extensively. In September 2012 support was at 49% Yes, 40% No, in April 2013 support was at 45% Yes, 41% No while in May 2013 support was at 56% Yes, 43% No.
The Quinnipiac poll found substantial age, gender, ethnic, educational, religious and political divides in the emotionally charged debate. 
Women who responded to the survey backed gay marriage 55 percent to 39 percent, but men opposed it 49 percent to 43 percent. 
Sixty-eight percent of self-identified Democrats supported gay marriage and 26 percent opposed it. Republican respondents opposed it by the same ratio. 
Sixty percent of those with college degrees supported same-sex marriage and 34 percent of college grads opposed it. Among those with no college degree, 49 percent opposed it and 45 percent supported it. 
Catholics favored gay marriage 56 percent to 40 percent, while Protestants opposed it 57 percent to 36 percent. Among those who identified themselves as born-again evangelicals, 74 percent opposed it. 
A majority of whites surveyed, 51 percent, supported gay marriage while black respondents opposed it 48 percent to 42 percent. 
Among voters age 18 to 29, 74 percent backed same-sex marriage, and 52 percent of those age 30 to 44 favor it. But among those 45 and older, majorities opposed it.
There is also a recent PPP poll (July 11, 2013) that shows in addition to marriage equality, Virginians support other equal rights for LGBT people. The PPP poll indicates that 55% of Virginians support marriage equality.

Hat/tip to Joe.My.God

Saturday, July 20, 2013

HAMBURG 2013: Federer Loses To #116; Serena Gets 50th Win of 2013

Roger Federer lost to a player ranked outside the ATP Tour Top 100 for the second time in 2013 (and only the twelfth time in his career) when Argentine qualifier Federico Delbonis beat him in the semifinals of the Hamburg bet-at-home Open 7-6(7) 7-6(4). In the final Delbonis will face Italian Fabio Fognini, who will be playing in his second consecutive ATP Tour final after winning his first career ATP Tour title in Stuttgart last week. Fognini is now on a 9-match winning streak after sweeping past #3 seed Nicolas Almagro in his semifinal. 22-year-old lefty Delbonis was playing in the semifinal after defeating Fernando Verdasco following one of the Spaniard's now-legendary meltdowns on the court in 3 hours and 15 minutes.

Federer lost to another player outside the top 100 (Sergiy Stakhovsky) in the very last tournament he played in, the 2013 Wimbledon championships, in the second round. Stakhovsky was ranked #116 at the time while Delbonis is ranked #114. Federer made news this week because he has traded in his old racquet with a relatively small head of 90 square inches for one that has 98 square inches. Most top-level tour players play with racquets with at least 100 square inches. It's not clear what impact the racquet had on his game, but he played two tough 3-set matches, against Daniel Brands and Florian Mayer, two good players, but not players whom a 17-time major champion would be expected to struggle against.

16-time champion Serena Williams is now 50-4 for 2013, the fastest she has ever won 50 matches in a calendar year. She will play in the final of the Swedish Open, where she will face hometown favorite Johanna Larsson.

San Diego County Clerk Files Suit To Revive Prop 8

The heterosexual supremacists are taking the return of marriage equality to California pretty badly. The Proponents of Proposition 8 have been rebuffed by the U.S. Supreme Court and the California Supreme Court so far.

Now it is a county clerk from San Diego County named Ernest Dronenburg (the level of government which actually is responsible for the issuance of marriage licenses in California) filing a petition before the California Supreme Court asking the Court to issue an immediate stay to prevent him (and all county clerks) from continuing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

As I said before, there is some truth to what the heterosexual supremacists say about the state of marriage equality in California right now. The text of Proposition 8 is still contained in the California Constitution. But it is also true that two couples filed a federal lawsuit and won an injunction against the enforcement of Proposition 8 in Alameda and Los Angeles Counties by the Attorney General and the Governor. This federal injunction is now in force.

Attorney General Kamala Harris (love her!) issued a statement in response to the San Diego County Clerk's lawsuit:
"The filing offers no new arguments that could deny same-sex couples their constitutionally protected civil rights. The federal injunction is still in effect, and it requires all 58 counties to perform same-sex marriages. No exceptions."
At some point the California Supreme Court is going to have to make a definitive decision on the merits on what legal effect Proposition 8 has now that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that no one who supports Proposition8 has standing to appeal its loss in federal court, or the people of California need to vote to remove the discriminatory language from the sate's founding document in an election. There happens to be two statewide general election next year, in June 2014 and November 2014. I say, go for it!

Hat/tip to Joe.My.God

Saturday Politics: Racial Disparities Between Republican and Democrat U.S. House Districts

The above graphic explains why Members of Congress who are Republicans and Democrats have very different feelings about immigration reform and other issues. Republican Members of Congress represent congressional districts generally have more White people and fewer people of color than Democrats.

Friday, July 19, 2013

LOOK: Openly Gay Man Running for Mayor of Seattle

Openly gay state senator Ed Murray is running to become the next mayor of the great city of Seattle, Washington. Watch his first ad, which features his husband and also includes him taking credit for writing "Washington's marriage equality law."

You know things are going our way when politicians are using winning battles for gay rights to help get them elected to higher office!

Celebrity Friday: Jonathan Groff and Zachary Quinto Break Up?

Apparently one of Hollywood's power gay male couples has broken up. Zachary Quinto, who plays Spock in the latest Star Trek movies, and Jonathan Groff, who starred in Glee and Boss, had apparently been a well-known couple, known in the gossip rags as "Grinto"! Quinto, 36, and Groff, 28, were not able to spend much time together due to conflicting filming schedules.

US Magazine reports:
Quinto, 36, who is best known for his turn as Mr. Spock in two Star Trek films and terrifying turns in seasons one and two of American Horror Story, is currently preparing to make his Broadway debut in The Glass Menagerie this fall. As it happens, Groff has put aside any of his own heartache to console his close friend Lea Michele -- now grieving the death of her boyfriend, Cory Monteith. "He flew to be with her as soon as he heard," another pal says. "His heart is broken for her." 
He and Glee actor Groff, 28, first confirmed their relationship in September 2012, nearly a year after Quinto officially came out as a gay man in October 2011.
It's good to see that Hollywood is gossiping about the love lives of gay and lesbian celebrities just like they do with straight ones. That's what we mean by LGBT equality!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Happy 95th Birthday, Nelson Mandela!

Nelson Mandela turns 95 years old today! He was the first Black president of South Africa after that country's system of apartheid was dismantled. He is a hero to millions of people around the world. Recently, he has been in poor health and is currently n the hospital. Many people did not expect him to reach this milestone of his 95th birthday, so today is a great day!

Queer Quote: British PM Applauds Enacting Marriage Equality

Pleased by the fact that the country he leads now has marriage equality as the law of the land, British Prime Minister David Cameron wrote an editorial in the Evening Standard which is today's Queer Quote:

I am proud that we have made same-sex marriage happen. I am delighted that the love two people have for each other — and the commitment they want to make — can now be recognised as equal.

 I have backed this reform because I believe in commitment, responsibility and family. I don’t want to see people’s love divided by law. 

Making marriage available to everyone says so much about the society that we are and the society that we want to live in — one which respects individuals regardless of their sexuality. If a group is told again and again that they are less valuable, over time they may start to believe it. In addition to the personal damage that this can cause, it inhibits the potential of a nation. For this reason too, I am pleased that we have had the courage to change.

I also want to acknowledge those that worked to bring about this moment: the campaigners, groups such as Out4Marriage and Freedom to Marry, and the team in the Civil Service and Parliament who worked to deliver it.

The UK is rated as the best place in Europe for LGBT equality — but we cannot be complacent. There are subjects we must continue to tackle: not least taking a zero-tolerance approach to homophobic bullying, and caring for elderly members of the LGBT community. Rest assured, this Government will work tirelessly to make sure this happens.
I would just note that Cameron is the head of the Conservative Party of Great Britain, also known as the Tories, the same post that Margaret Thatcher had. Who says things don't change? They do!

Hat/tip to Joe.My.God

FILM REVIEW: Outfest 2013 Boys Shorts

Summer Vacation from Isreal was the stand-out short  film in this year's
collection of Boys Shorts at Oufest, Los Angeles' LGBT Film Festival

Here are my reviews of the Boys Shorts program that I saw this year at Outfest.

Directed ByWade Gasque.
USA, 2012, 15 min.
While starting anew and searching for an apartment, a hopeless romantic is thrown for a loop when he crashes with a long-term couple. Paul is the first character we see, an apparently gay guy who is moving to Los Angeles for a new opportunity, having recently broken up with his boyfriend. For some reason he is going to be staying at the apartment of an attractive straight couple named Danni and Dean who are friends with his ex-boyfriend. The couple is very friendly and curiously hostile to Paul's ex and one thing leads to another and all three end up in bed together. We start to realize that the title "housebroken" refers both to what happens to Paul and is also a play on the word "housebreaker" (i.e. a third person who complicates or breaks up  a committed relationship). As the story progresses it becomes clear that the straight couple (Danni and Dean) is not the victim in this scenario. In fact, by the end we realize that Danni and Dean make a habit of taking in "strays" of either gender and "housebreak" them (i.e. attempt to train them to fit into their household without making a mess). It's a clever concept and the filmmakers show various iterations of the boy-girl-boy interaction (in bed) which are titillating and amusing. The "B" word (bisexual) is never used and clearly a 15-minute short comedic film is not the forum to articulate a philosophical position on anything, but the assumption of the fluidity of the character's sexual orientation is somewhat jarring (and most definitely) politically incorrect. But very fun (and funny). Grade: A-.

Directed By: Tamer Ruggli.
Switzerland, 2012, 9 min.
A boy comes of age under the care of his eccentric mother and a dreadful child-psychiatrist. This is a gorgeously shot short which my film companion described as "creepy." It stars a very pretty, apparently pubescent boy on which the camera focuses in a manner that some could perceive as untowardly attentive and inappropriately sexualized. And that's just the beginning of the creepiness! The film is really about the boy's mother, as narrated from the perspective of her son. He tells the story of being sent to a psychiatrist, apparently to try to disrupt his nascent (homo)sexuality from developing. The main strength of the film is its use of bright colors and it's art direction, the latter of which is very stylized, very faux retro. We discover that the boy's father is gone by the mother's act of erasing his image from family portraits and by the end we see a family portrait in which both the father and the son have been erased, with only the mother remaining. Grade: B.

Directed By: Juanma Carrillo.
Spain, 2012, 14 min.
Two distant neighbors are brought together by their apartment building’s renovation. This film is one of those examples of a film maker who is trying to be too subtle and is trying to use atmosphere instead of script to tell a story. There are two guys in neighboring apartments who spend time on their adjoining balconies. Because a scaffolding is put up one day (at the beginning of the film) they are forced to commiserate the loss of their view and interact in a way which apparently they do not do in other ways or venues (like on the stairs or in the neighborhood they share). Time elapses and we see the two, usually in some states of various undress, becoming to interact in more intimate ways over time: drinking, playing cards, talking and laughing, all on the balcony. The film is in Spanish and clearly set in one of the large cities in Spain (though I couldn't tell which one). The guys are somewhat attractive, but not attractive enough to make up for the lack of action and the very modest plot. As one would expect, eventually the scaffolding comes down and we see the two talking. One of them is clearly happy about it coming down, and the other is not. The one that is not happy about it says that he liked it when the scaffolding was up because of how it gave them an opportunity to interact that they never had before. After some pauses and uncertainty (he disappears back into his apartment) the other guy says the last line of the film: "Would you like to come in?" However, whether the guys are gay is unclear, and it is left to the audience's imagination to complete the story. I think that was the film maker's job! Grade: C.

Alaska Is A Drag
Directed By: Shaz Bennett.
USA, 2013, 14 min.
While working in a fish cannery in Alaska, a young man dreams of being an international super star. I really wanted to like this film since it has the only black character in any of the six shorts (I guess none of the Fusion Shorts featuring LGBT people of color made the Outfest cut this year!) as well as featuring relatively cute, young (mid 20-something) actors in my three favorite flavors (vanilla, caramel and chocolate). The story is about a flamboyant black guy (Leo) who dreams of becoming a performing diva but whose gender expression and sexuality is threatening to a particularly hot and inexplicably violent Latino guy (Kyle). The setting is a fish cannery in Alaska and there are lots of shots of dead fish being sliced open and martial arts-style kickboxing. (For some reason, the black drag diva-in-waiting is a talented kickboxer.) My film companion thought this aspect was too unrealistic and brought him out of the film's context. I didn't mind it, but what disappointed me was the filmmaker's reluctance to be clear and straightforward with the character's intentions. Ambiguity in a short film is almost never a good thing. For example, a new white guy (who presents as straight) starts working at the cannery and he sees the daily fight between Leo the black queen and Kyle the Latino enforcer. Interestingly, Declan (the new guy) takes the side of Leo in the fight and they go off to a bar together where they drink heavily and talk about their lives and the future diva gets to perform for his new friend. The next day we see Leo and Declan sitting around watching the birds over the see. "We should just run away," says Declan. "How," says Leo, "There's nowhere to run to." Of course, there's another fight between Leo and Kyle and again Declan joins in to help out after Leo gets punched repeatedly and thrown to the ground (after knocking Kyle a few times). "I don't need your help!" Leo says. This doesn't remotely ring true because 1) Declan has revealed that his dad was a boxing coach and he was an amateur boxer and 2) Kyle is about a foot taller than either of them (and has a group of friends, who appear to just watch from the sidelines and not get involved, but if they did their sheer numbers would end the fight decisively in Kyle's favor). The film ends with Declan and Leo going off together into the sunset, with Declan putting his arm around Leo's shoulder. Does this mean that Declan's gay and the two are going to be a couple? Why does the film spend so much time showing violent confrontations between the characters and so little time showing peaceful and/or intimate interactions between these attractive guys? I don't know. Grade: B+.

Summer Vacation
Directed BySharon Maymon,Tal Granit.
Israel, 2012, 22 min.
A married man’s family vacation abruptly takes a turn when he bumps into his ex-lover. This is the longest of the shorts in this year's collection and also the most emotionally involving. We see Yuval interacting with his wife (Michaela), his son (Einav) and his daughter (Gaya) on the beach. He is literally buried up to his neck in sand. He is literally and metaphorically stuck in a situation that he can not get out of without help. There's a brief scary moment in which we realize the tide is coming in faster than we think and it looks like Einav could drown in barely a foot of water. Einav and Michaela frantically start digging relatively ineffectively to save Yuval but eventually it is a handsome stranger and his cute young boyfriend who appear and are strong enough to rescue him from a dangerous situation. We then see Yuval and Michaela finishing dinner when Iftach  (the handsome stranger) and the nameless blond guy appear. Yuval seems very uncomfortable and we think he is either embarrassed at the situation he was in or he's homophobic. He does say thank you to Iftach for saving his life. Suddenly Iftach's cellphone rings and his ring tone, which happens to be a beautiful, haunting ballad sung by a male voice. "Oh, that's our song!" Michaela squeals. "Don't answer it!" Iftach complies and Michaela grabs the phone and tries unsuccessfully to convince her husband to dance with her. The song ends and Michaela grabs her husband's phone and asks Iftach for his number so she can call him again in order to hear the song. He complies again and she calls him and the song starts up and Michaela and Iftach start dancing slowly to the music. The young blonde guy (Iftach's date at this vacation spot) notices that the number is not showing on Iftach's phone but there is a name instead. (I presume it's the name Yuval, but since the film is in Hebrew it uses Hebrew letters that I can't read and the subtitles don't spell it out). But the implication is clear, somehow Iftach has had Yuval's number before, and he saved it in his phone. Therefor this is not just a chance meeting. The kid may be cute but he's not dumb and he immediately gets up and says he is going back to their cabin to sleep, giving Yuval and Iftach funny looks (which I interpreted as disapproving) and didn't seem to be noticed by Michaela. Later on we discover that, yes it is true that Iftach and Yuval were lovers a long time ago. It is implied that the two of them may have vacationed at this spot together before, but Yuval's son appears to be close to 13 so a reasonable conclusion is that happened quite a long time ago. Clearly, Iftach is still in love with Yuval (he saved his number) but Yuval's feelings are more complex since he has a wife and two kids. That doesn't stop him from sleeping with his wife one day and his former lover the next! After that things come to a head when Iftach gives Yuval an ultimatum. "Either you tell her or I will." The two are together at an island a decent swim from the beach at the time and Iftach jumps into the water to swim back to shore, presumably to tell Michaela who is sitting on the beach. One of the ironies of Yuval nearly drowning in the beginning is that he is (or was) a champion swimmer and so he catches up with Iftach and holds him underwater, presumably to stop him from telling his wife at all costs. A struggle ensues and the scene cuts to Yuval getting out of the water alone, sitting next to Michaela with bloody scratches on his neck and shoulders. After a short (but quite suspenseful) period of time Iftach shows up, sits down silently on the other side of Michaela. She looks very thoughtfully at her husband and then looks at Iftach and then all three continue looking at the sunset as the mournful ballad from the ringtone starts up and the credits roll. Grade: A.

Ronny and I
Directed By: Guy Shalem
USA, 2013, 20 min.
A young man comes to terms with his sexuality and feelings for his best friend during an impromptu trip. The central conceit of this film is that it was shot on a smart phone. (Another one is that openly gay director Bryan SingerI (X-men, The Usual Suspects) and lesbian celebrity Jane Lynch (Glee).) I'm sure for a significant fraction of the viewing audience, the story of two teenage white boys hanging out and frolicking together, sometimes unclothed together in a hotel room was very compelling, as is the premise of showing what could happen when one comes out to one's male best friend who you're in love with. To me it looked like most of the film was shot by phone, handled by one of the two actors at all times but I wasn't completely convinced at the time. However, apparently the conceit is true and the film was entirely filmed on a smartphone. This gives the film an impressive sense of verisimilitude that makes one think one is watching a day in the life of two guys who love each other. One of them has a non-platonic love for the other, while what Ronny feels is not completely clear. In this context, I appreciate the ambiguity and feel like it works, to an extent. Also it helps that both the actors are relatively cute. The story unfolds in jerky, uneven chunks (similar to the ways in which the film is shot). When Ronny learns that his best friend is gay (and in love with him) he doesn't run away and they continue their road trip along the coast, and even spend the night together, where Ronny even offers to give his friend "everything he wants" (which includes physical, sexual intimacy). That is a very touching scene, although thanks to the use of the phone as the recording device of the moment leaves more to the imagination than it reveals. (This is not a bad thing.) In the end it is we don't know whether Ronny and his friend will be boyfriends or just remain best friends but it is clear that they and the audience have spent an enjoyable time together. Grade: A-.


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