Saturday, August 31, 2013

2013 US OPEN Day 5: Sloane, Serena, Li, Aggie Win; Hewitt Ousts Delpo

Sloane Stephens and Serena Williams both won their third round matches on Friday, setting up their second high-profile meeting in a grand slam this year. Surprisingly, the 20-year-old won the earlier match in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open and I'm sure the 16-time major champion will take this meeting between the two top-ranked Americans very seriously. It will probably be the featured match on Sunday, when yours truly will be attending the tournament. However, since it will almost certainly be on Arthur Ashe stadium, I will not be seeing it live.

Most of the other top seeds in the women's draw advanced: Li Na, Agnieska Radwanska, Victoria Azarenka and Angelique Kerber but #4 seed Sara Errani and  #7 seed Petra Kvitova were both upset.

The big result of the day was 2001 US Open champion Lleyton Hewitt beating 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro 6-4, 5-7, 3-6, 7-6(2), 6-1 in a rough 5-set match that lasted well over four hours.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Queer Quote: Santa Fe County Clerk Requests Ruling From NM Sup Ct

Although she has been ordered to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples by a state judge, Santa Fe County Clerk Geraldine Salazar today filed a motion, joined by all 33 county clerks in the state of New Mexico, to intervene in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU seeking to win the freedom ti marry for same-sex couples in the Land of Enchantment.

Salazar's explanation for why she took this action to make herself a defendant in a lawsuit is today's Queer Quote:
“We want direction from the New Mexico Supreme Court. I have been ordered by two district courts to issue same-gender marriage licenses and not ordered to change the statutory marriage application to gender neutrality. I want clear judicial authority to do so.”
The ACLU of New Mexico is happy that all 33 County Clerks are a party to their lawsuit, so if they win it will expedite the uniform access to marriage equality statewide. They released a statement saying:
"We believe that the county clerks intervening in our lawsuit puts New Mexico on an expedited path towards a statewide marriage solution which would provide more certainty for the same-sex couples who married in our state. We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will agree with the lower court decision which held that denying marriage to committed, loving same-sex couples is unconstitutional.”
I suspect we'll know sooner rather than later whether this was a good thing or not, but it sure look like it from here.

Hat/tip to Joe.My.God

Thursday, August 29, 2013

IRS Announces Recognition Of All Same-Sex Marriages For Tax Purposes

Wow! The United States Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service announced today that all legally married same-sex couples, regardless of what state they live in, will be recognized for federal income tax purposes.

From the press release:

U.S. Treasury Department 
Office of Public Affairs

CONTACT: Treasury Public Affairs (202) 622-2960


Ruling Provides Certainty, Benefits and Protections Under Federal Tax Law for Same-Sex Married Couples


WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) today ruled that same-sex couples, legally married in jurisdictions that recognize their marriages, will be treated as married for federal tax purposes. The ruling applies regardless of whether the couple lives in a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage or a jurisdiction that does not recognize same-sex marriage.
The ruling implements federal tax aspects of the June 26th Supreme Court decision invalidating a key provision of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.
“Today’s ruling provides certainty and clear, coherent tax filing guidance for all legally married same-sex couples nationwide. It provides access to benefits, responsibilities and protections under federal tax law that all Americans deserve,” said Secretary Jacob J. Lew. “This ruling also assures legally married same-sex couples that they can move freely throughout the country knowing that their federal filing status will not change.”
Under the ruling, same sex couples will be treated as married for all federal tax purposes, including income and gift and estate taxes. The ruling applies to all federal tax provisions where marriage is a factor, including filing status, claiming personal and dependency exemptions, taking the standard deduction, employee benefits, contributing to an IRA, and claiming the earned income tax credit or child tax credit.
Any same-sex marriage legally entered into in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, a U.S. territory, or a foreign country will be covered by the ruling. However, the ruling does not apply to registered domestic partnerships, civil unions, or similar formal relationships recognized under state law.
Legally-married same-sex couples generally must file their 2013 federal income tax return using either the “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately” filing status.
Individuals who were in same-sex marriages may, but are not required to, file original or amended returns choosing to be treated as married for federal tax purposes for one or more prior tax years still open under the statute of limitations.  
Generally, the statute of limitations for filing a refund claim is three years from the date the return was filed or two years from the date the tax was paid, whichever is later. As a result, refund claims can still be filed for tax years 2010, 2011, and 2012. Some taxpayers may have special circumstances (such as signing an agreement with the IRS to keep the statute of limitations open) that permit them to file refund claims for tax years 2009 and earlier.
Additionally, employees who purchased same-sex spouse health insurance coverage from their employers on an after-tax basis may treat the amounts paid for that coverage as pre-tax and excludable from income.

2013 US OPEN Day 3: Murray Wins, Venus Loses, Blake Ends Career

By the end of Day 3 of the US Open, the entirety of Round 1 of the men's draw is finally completed. Although 10 of the Top 32 seeds were eliminated, none of them were in the top 10. However some big names (and players I like to watch) departed the last major of the year early: Kei Nishikori, Jerzy Janowicz, Fabio Fognini, Nicolas Almagro, Grigor Dimitrov and Fernando Verdasco. Andy Murray playing his first match at a major tournament where he is the defending champion, looked very sharp with only 5 unforced errors in his dismissal of Michael Llodra in straight sets.
The highlight of Day 3 was James Blake's heartbreaking loss in a 5th set tiebreaker after being up 2-sets against Ivo Karlovic. It was the 33-year-old American's last professional match, since Blake had announced earlier that the US Open would be his last tournament.

On the women's side of the draw, the seeds are not falling as rapidly, with the biggest names to exit being 2-time champion Venus Williams and 2011 US Open champion Samantha Stosur. Stosur lost a 3-set match to unheralded American Victoria Duval while Venus lost a 3rd set tiebreak to Zheng Jie after a marathon match that lasted three hours and three minutes. Sloane Stephens has reached the third round and will face fellow American Jamie Hampton. The winner could face defending champion Serena Williams who will play her rain-delayed 2nd round match today.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

50 Years Later: Bayard Rustin Being Recognized

Bayard Rustin was the primary organizer responsible for the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Justice which was held 50 years today. The march is considered one of the most important moments in the civil rights struggle for racial equality and the fact that an openly gay man was key in its organization and efficient execution is worth noting, but often has not been.

President Barack Obama recently announced he is awarding Rustin (posthumously) the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Secretary of Labor Tom Perez is also doing his part to acknowledge Rustin:
 I feel compelled, as secretary of labor, to pay tribute to him as well. My very first day on the job last month, I toured our department's Hall of Honor to see the heroic Americans enshrined there – Frances Perkins, A. Philip Randolph, Cesar Chavez and others. But where was Bayard Rustin?
He was one of our most tenacious fighters for the rights of workers, for collective bargaining, for the role unions play in expanding economic opportunity. The 1963 March on Washington that he organized – the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom,” as we all know, was the full name – was conceived as a demonstration against economic injustice. He understood as well as anyone that these two movements – civil rights and labor rights – are inextricably intertwined and their goals essentially the same.
So, I am correcting a longstanding oversight by formally inducting Bayard Rustin into the Labor Department's Hall of Honor.
Rustin was an openly gay man during a time of fear and intolerance. There was no Human Rights Campaign. There was no Pride Month. There was no “It Gets Better” campaign featuring some of the most visible public figures in America. Nope, “it gets better” was just something you had to believe when you told it to yourself.
This is great news!

Cross-posted from LGBT Rights in the Internet Era

New Mexico: Now At 6 Marriage Equality Counties (55% Of State's Population)

Progress on marriage equality is happening pretty quickly. On Saturday I blogged about the two counties, Doña Ana and Santa Fe, that were issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Less than a week a later that number has now tripled to six counties.

The Washington Post reports on the current state of marriage equality in New Mexico:
State District Judge Alan Malott on Monday ordered Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver and Santa Fe County Clerk Geraldine Salazar to begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples immediately. The ruling echoed another district judge’s ruling last week that ordered Santa Fe County to begin issuing licenses. 
In anticipation of the decision, both county clerks had already begun printing gender-neutral marriage licenses. Last week, the county clerk in Dona Ana County, in southern New Mexico, began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. On Tuesday, clerks in Valencia County and San Miguel County said they, too, would begin issuing licenses. 
Together, the five counties are home to more than 1.1 million of New Mexico’s 2.08 million residents.
The sixth county that is issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples is Taos County. The question now is how long will it take for a statewide ruling to be made to establish the public policy of New Mexico that marriage equality is the law of the land, making the Land of Enchantment the 14th marriage equality  state in the Union.

Hat/tip to Joe.My.God

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Queer Quote: Cory Booker Responds To Speculation He's Gay

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate from New Jersey and current Newark mayor Cory Booker gave an interview to the Washington Post yesterday where he responded to question about his status as a 44-year-old single Black man leading to speculation he might be gay with the following remark, which is today's Queer Quote:
"And people who think I’m gay, some part of me thinks it’s wonderful. Because I want to challenge people on their homophobia. I love seeing on Twitter when someone says I’m gay, and I say, ‘So what does it matter if I am? So be it. I hope you are not voting for me because you are making the presumption that I’m straight.’ "
That being said, the article does go on to quote Booker discussing his dates with women, so presumably he is heterosexual. Regardless, it is very cool to see a response to inquiries about  a public figure's sexual orientation which does not stigmatize homosexuality.

Booker is a strong LGBT ally and has supported marriage equality for years. If he wins the special election to the United States senate in October, he will be a great addition to the LGBT Equality caucus.

2013 US OPEN Day 1: Venus Surprises; Nadal,Serena Win; Blake Retires

Venus Williams won her first round match at the US Open today, getting revenge for a loss at the Rogers Cup to 2013 Wimbledon semifinalist Kirsten Flipkens from just a few weeks ago. This was something of a happy surprise, but Venus looked better than she has in quite awhile. Her serves were regular in the 110-plus mph range and her movement and groundstrokes looked crisp. Now, the question is can she maintain that for an entire 2 hour match?

A highlight  of the Day 1 results was Venus's sister Serena Williams dismantling Francesca Schiavone 6-0 6-1 in devastating fashion. Rafael Nadal schooled young American Ryan Harrison in straight sets while another young American Sloane Stephens barely escaped the first round with a 3rd set tiebreak win.

The biggest news story of the day was 33-year-old  James Blake announcing at a press conference that this tournament would be his last professional tennis appearance. Blake for years was one of the best-looking male tennis players but although he reached World #4 and 2 quarterfinals at the US Open he had not had any good results recently and his retirement was not as much of a surprise as Marion Bartoli's stunner a few weeks ago.

The rain came down and prevented Roger Federer even beginning his first round match.

Monday, August 26, 2013

EYE CANDY: Robert Christopher Riley

Robert Christopher Riley is a 31-year-old African American actor of West Indian descent whose amazing physique caught my eye in his brief role as "Outcome #6" in The Bourne Legacy. Doing some basic internet research (thanks, Google!) I have discovered that he is now best known for his lead role on the hit television series "Hit The Floor" which airs on VH1.

Riley plays Terrence Wall, the star player on the Los Angeles Devils and the show revolves around the adventures and relationships of the players and cheerleaders. Riley has a pretty significant profile on various social media such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

There's a lot of information about Riley available on the internet, although I have not been able to find his official height and weight. I have discovered that mathematics was his favorite subject in school, which is something one can't say about many of the guys who have been Eye Candy. As a math professor, I approve!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

White Gay Rapper F. Virtue Disses Homophobia In "Anita Bryant"

Rapper F. Virtue's song "Anita Bryant" is not your typical rap song, nor is F. Virtue you're usual rapper. He's white and openly gay. Apparently, he's also Canadian, 23 years old and a college graduate. How many of these descriptors does one usually associate with the word "rapper"? Anyway, check out the song for yourself below!

Now if you were in my class, we would have a discussion about intersectionality (how multiple aspects of one's identity can be combined). Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section!

Hat/tip to Upworthiest

2013 US OPEN: (Women's Draw Analyzed) Azarenka-Serena Final Likely

Serena Williams is the World #1, the #1 seed and the defending champion as the 2013 US Open approaches. The last time Serena defended a major title was in 2010, when she did it at Wimbledon and the Australian Open. Neither time was she the #1 player in the world. The last (first, and only) time she defended a title while being World #1 was in 2003 when she defended her 2002 Wimbledon title (beating sister Venus in both final matches).

So, although she is the prohibitive favorite to win in New York on Sunday September 8th, there is a fairly good chance that she won't. In terms of hard court records this year, 2013 Australian Open champion and #2 seed Victoria Azarenka has the better win-loss percentage, with 25-1, while Serena is at 29-3 (with two of those losses coming to Vika, in tough 3-setters in the finals of Doha and Cincinnati and the third loss coming to Sloane Stephens in the Australian Open quarterfinals). The only player to beat the Belarussian on  a hard court this year is 2011 US Open champion Samantha Stosur, who did it in Carlsbad.

Vika and Serena and a reprise of last year's final is the generally expected result. However, if form holds, the draw indicates that the quarterfinal match-ups would be: Williams versus Angelique Kerber, Agnieska Radwanska versus Li Na, Caroline Wozniacki versus Sara Errani and Petra Kvitova versus Azarenka. However, Williams starts off her title defense playing a fellow grand slam champion in Francesca Schiavone and could also face Magdalena Rybarikova in the 3rd round and Stephens in the 4th. If she gets through those contests I think she will most definitely make it to the final for the 3rd consecutive year.

Azarenka, on the other hand, has a much easier draw and really only has to worry about either Kvitova or Stosur in her quarter and  in the unlikely event that Wozniacki or Errani make it that far, her semifinal should be relatively easy. The only other potential big hitter that could have caused her trouble is Maria Sharapova, who withdrew with a shoulder injury. That section of the draw will almost certainly have a surprise semifinalist, who should end up being dismissed by Azarenka.

First round matches to watch: Heather Watson versus red-hot Simona Halep, Madison Keys versus Jelena Jankovic, Monica Puig versus Alisa Kleybanova, Sabine Lisicki versus Vera Dushevina, and Kirsten Flipkens versus 7-time major champion Venus Williams.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

2013 US OPEN: (Men's Draw Analyzed) Djokovic-Murray SF, Federer-Nadal QF

The men's draw for the 2013 US Open has been revealed and it is pretty good news for the #2 seed and presumptive favorite Rafael Nadal. It turns out the defending champion and #3 seed has been placed into World #1 Novak Djokovic's top half of the draw. So, the Spaniard will only have to face one of the members of the trivalry to win his second US Open title this year. If all seeds play to form, Murray and Djokovic will reprise last year's championship match in the semifinals, while Nadal could face Roger Federer in the quarterfinals. Their semifinal opponent is the winner of the Richard Gasquet-David Ferrer quarterfinal, which is probably the weakest section of the draw.

Both Murray and Djokovic drew pretty tough quarterfinal opponents: Tomas Berdych and 2009 US Open champ Juan Martin del Potro, respectively. Nadal's 4th round match could be tricky; it's a repeat of last week's ATP Cincinnati Master final with John Isner which Nadal won in 2 tight tiebreak set with no breaks of serve.

Interesting first round matches to watch are: Ryan Harrison versus Nadal, Tommy Haas versus Paul-Henri Mathieu, Michael Llodra versus Murray, James Blake versus Ivo Karlovic, and Radek Stepanek versus Stanislas Wawrinka.

NEW MEXICO: Same-Sex Couples Issued Marriage Licenses In 2 Counties

As I predicted earlier this year, New Mexico has become the latest front in the fight for marriage equality. This week, county clerks in Doña Ana County (where Las Cruces is located) and Santa Fe (where the state capitol is located) began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. In Santa Fe, they did so in response to a court order from District Judge Sarah Singleton, while in Las Cruces it happened because the county clerk responded to New Mexico Attorney General Gary King's determination that the state's marriage law is  unconstitutionally discriminating against same-sex couples.

The Washington Post reported the news:
New Mexico law doesn’t explicitly prohibit or authorize same-sex couples to be married. The attorney general’s office has interpreted the law to prohibit gay marriage, but Attorney General Gary King also contends that the law violates constitutional guarantees of equal protection under the law. 
More than a dozen other states do allow same-sex marriage. 
Singleton, in her order, said that “reading a sex or sexual orientation requirement into the laws of New Mexico violates the state constitution, which mandates that ‘equality of rights under law shall not be denied on account of the sex of any person.’” 
The order comes as about 90 same-sex couples have received marriage licenses in southern New Mexico since Wednesday, when the Dona Ana County clerk in Las Cruces decided to start granting them. 
A group of Republican legislators is planning to file a lawsuit to stop the clerk in that county, the second largest in the state.
Recently, the state Supreme Court declined to rule directly on the constitutionality of the state's marriage law but  did endorse expedited lower court review. That's good, because events around marriage equality are coming fast and furious in the Land of Enchantment.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Coalition Launched To Fight Indiana Marriage Equality Ban

A bipartisan coalition of individuals and organizations called Freedom Indiana was launched this week to defeat a proposed state constitutional amendment (or min-DOMA) to prohibit marriage equality in the Hoosier state. The Republican-controlled legislature has passed the measure once and needs to do so again in order to get the discriminatory amendment on the November 2014 statewide ballot.

Freedom Indiana campaign to oppose marriage amendment
Bipartisan statewide organization to support the integrity of the Indiana Constitution, promote liberty and fairness for all Hoosiers 
INDIANAPOLIS -- A coalition of Indiana businesses and groups today announced the formation of Freedom Indiana, a bipartisan statewide organization that opposes the amendment that would permanently alter the Indiana Constitution to define marriage and could potentially affect hundreds of rights under current Indiana law. 
Marriage already is strictly defined as between a man and woman under Indiana law.

Freedom Indiana will immediately undertake a grassroots campaign focused on the 2014 legislative session, where Indiana lawmakers can choose either to table or vote down the amendment or send it to voters for a statewide referendum next November. Freedom Indiana is committed to protecting the Indiana Constitution by defeating the amendment should it appear on the ballot.

Coalition partners include Eli Lilly and Company, Cummins, Indiana Equality Action, Freedom to Marry, Gill Action, American Unity Fund, American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana and Human Rights Campaign.

“The goals of Freedom Indiana are aligned with Lilly’s long-held position that HJR6 is bad for business and bad for our state,” said Robert Smith, director of corporate responsibility for Eli Lilly and Company. “As a global biopharmaceutical company that must retain and attract the very best talent in the world, embedding this proposed amendment into Indiana’s constitution will produce difficult and unnecessary challenges. We’re happy to partner with Cummins and several other important organizations to address our common goal of keeping Indiana a welcoming state for everyone.”

"Cummins has a long history of commitment to diversity and treating all people with dignity and respect," stated Marya Rose, Chief Administrative Officer for Cummins.  "We feel strongly that this amendment, which is unnecessary given Indiana law today, will enshrine inequality into the Indiana Constitution and negatively impact the thousands of Cummins employees who live and work in Indiana as well as harm our efforts to retain and attract the best talent here. Diversity is a core company value at Cummins and we are pleased to join the other partners of Freedom Indiana to ensure that we treat all people in Indiana with dignity and respect."

A study earlier this year by students at the IU Maurer School of Law found a significant number of rights and obligations related to marriage that could be permanently denied under the proposed amendment.
"We will make sure lawmakers and voters know that we shouldn't be tinkering with the Indiana Constitution to deny freedoms to certain individuals," said Indiana Equality Action president Chris Paulsen. "We're Hoosiers, and our core values include liberty and fairness. This amendment runs counter to both and may also create a litany of unintended legal consequences."

Freedom Indiana is run by an independent board of directors headed by Indiana Equality Action executive director Rick Sutton. The coalition includes Indiana businesses, community, civil rights and faith leaders, advocates for fairness, former and current lawmakers and Hoosiers who believe we must take a strong stand for freedom if we want our state and its residents to prosper.

The Indiana Freedom campaign is managed by veteran political operative Megan Robertson, who has worked for the Indiana Republican Party, Marion County Republican Party and on two GOP presidential campaigns. She managed Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard's successful 2011 campaign.

“Indiana has always been a welcoming community known for our ‘Hoosier Hospitality’,” Robertson said.  “This amendment directly contradicts the reputation that has helped us recruit jobs and economic investment for our state.  The Freedom Indiana campaign brings together those who have an interest in preserving our freedoms and moving our state forward regardless of political affiliation.”
The campaign currently is headquartered in Indianapolis with plans to establish regional headquarters in the coming months. 

Freedom Indiana is a bipartisan statewide organization that champions liberty for all Hoosiers. The organization is opposed to an amendment that would permanently alter the Indiana Constitution to define marriage and could potentially affect hundreds of rights related to marriage under current Indiana law. Freedom Indiana launched in August 2013.

If the good guys can stop an anti-gay marriage amendment in Indiana that would probably mean the demise of the anti-gay marriage movement and would signal that all future action in this area would most likely be positive, which would be somewhat of a surprise and perhaps increase momentum towards the day when marriage equality is a nationwide reality.

Celebrity Friday: Ben Affleck Cast As Batman In Next Superman Film

From Argo to Superman! Ben Affleck has been cast to play Batman opposite Henry Cavill's Superman in the sequel to this summer's Man of Steel.  The release date for the sequel has been set for July 17, 2015 and will be directed by Zack Snyder.
Man Of Steel director Zack Snyder is expected to reimagine the Batman character, whose pairing with Superman he announced at Comic-Con last month. Snyder said he won’t be drawing from the Dark Knight series. “I’ve pored through the DC universe for a way to tell this thing,” he said. Affleck will star opposite Henry Cavill, who will reprise the role of Superman/Clark Kent. The film will also reunite Man Of Steel stars Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne and Diane Lane. David S. Goyer, who scripted the first film and worked on the Dark Knight trilogy, will pen the sequel. Warner Bros has set the film to open worldwide on July 17, 2015.“Ben provides an interesting counter-balance to Henry’s Superman,” Snyder said in a statement. “He has the acting chops to create a layered portrayal of a man who is older and wiser than Clark Kent and bears the scars of a seasoned crime fighter but retain the charm that the world sees in billionaire Bruce Wayne. I can’t wait to work with him.”
This is interesting news. Apparently there is a whole story arc in the Batman comics where he interacts with Superman. The movie will be an adaptation of that scenario. Wonder Man has posted 10 reasons why he thinks Affleck's casting is a good idea.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Queer Quote: Bradley Manning Says "I Am A Female"

Yesterday, Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in military prison for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks. Today comes word that Manning would like to be known as Chelsea Manning from now on and declared her gender identity to be female. These revelations were made in a letter read by Chelsea's lawyer to NBC's Today show.

The full text of the statement (titled "The Next Stage of My Life") is:

Subject: The Next Stage of My Life

I want to thank everybody who has supported me over the last three years. Throughout this long ordeal, your letters of support and encouragement have helped keep me strong. I am forever indebted to those who wrote to me, made a donation to my defense fund, or came to watch a portion of the trial. I would especially like to thank Courage to Resist and the Bradley Manning Support Network for their tireless efforts in raising awareness for my case and providing for my legal representation.

As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition. I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun (except in official mail to the confinement facility). I look forward to receiving letters from supporters and having the opportunity to write back.

Thank you,

Chelsea E. Manning

As i said yesterday, anything which deconstructs the notions that sex and/or gender are binary concepts (instead of continuous spectra or distributions) is good news for the LGBT community and advances LGBT equality. Opposition to LGBT equality (and homophobia and transphobia) is almost always rooted in stereotypes and misconceptions about how males and females "should" act, so challenging those beliefs about gender supports LGBT folks.

Hat/tip to LGBT Think Progress.

TV Star Wentworth Miller Comes Out, Rejects Russian Invite

Wentworth Miller is best known as the smouldering sexy star of the Fox hit television series Prison Break from a few years ago (2005-2009). Now 41, Miller is making headlines this week for coming out as a gay man as he publicizes his declination of an invitation to visit Russia in protest of its notoriously homophobic and unwelcome atmosphere for openly LGBT individuals.

Miller wrote a letter which GLAAD publicized on its blog:
August 21, 2013
Re: St. Petersburg International Film Festival / "Guest of Honor" Invitation
Dear Ms. Averbakh:
Thank you for your kind invitation. As someone who has enjoyed visiting Russia in the past and can also claim a degree of Russian ancestry, it would make me happy to say yes.
However, as a gay man, I must decline.
I am deeply troubled by the current attitude toward and treatment of gay men and women by the Russian government. The situation is in no way acceptable, and I cannot in good conscience participate in a celebratory occasion hosted by a country where people like myself are being systematically denied their basic right to live and love openly.
Perhaps, when and if circumstances improve, I'll be free to make a different choice.
Until then.
Wentworth Miller
Member, HRC
Member, GLAAD
Member, The ManKind Project
It will be interesting to see if this move by Miller will encourage other closeted celebrities to come out of the closet to publicize the extreme homophobia being exhibited in Russia.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Germany Legalizes 3rd Gender Option, Rejects Sex Binary

The notion that sex, along with gender, consists of more than just two categories is gathering more and more traction with the news that Germany is authorizing a third category in the sex registration of new-born babies with indeterminate sex characteristics. Such individuals are usually referred to as intersex, but there is a long, unfortunate history of the medical profession forcing parents to choose what sex they want their newborn to be identified as and conducting surgery (sometimes without their knowledge) to force them into one sex category or another.
Germany is to become the first European country to allow “undetermined” as a gender type for new-born babies when, on November 1, a recommendation by the country’s constitutional court comes into law. 
The new legislation means that babies who are born without gender-defining physical characteristics can be registered as having an “undetermined” or “unspecified” gender on their birth certificate.

The law aims to redress discrimination against intersex people, a category which includes those born with both female and male genitalia (formerly known as hermaphrodites), and those affected by medical conditions that mean their bodies do not conform to a male or female “standard”. Around 1 in 5,000 people born in Europe identify as intersex.
Although only 1 in 5000 people in Europe identify as intersex the deconstruction of the sex binary also leads to the deconstruction of the gender binary which is helpful to people who believe in broader notions of masculinity and femininity (like yours truly) and associated ideas around sexual orientation, sexuality and gender identity.

The decrease in the salience of the idea that sex and gender are binaries is a key indicator that people are thinking more broadly about these categories which should lead to advancements for LGBT people as well. So, it' somewhat surprising to see that this advancement would happen in Germany which is one of the few large European countries which does not currently recognize marriage equality explicitly.

Godless Wednesday: Religious Affiliations of U.S. House On A Map

Buzzfeed has mapped out the religious affiliation of all 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and displayed their religion in a map of their districts.
There are 31 religions represented in the House, including 26 different sects of Christianity. Catholics make up the largest group with 136 members, followed by Baptists with 66 members, Methodists with 45 members, Anglicans/Episcopalians with 35 members, Presbyterians with 28 members, and Jews with 22 members. There is only one atheist.
The majority of Catholics and Jews are Democrats, and the majority of Anglicans/Episcopalians, Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists, Mormons. and Presbyterians are Republican. Among religions with more than more than five seats, Jews are the most partisan; 21 of the 22 Jews are Democrats. Mormons are the second most partisan; seven of the eight Mormons are Republicans.
Other than states with a single seat, Idaho and Utah are the only states to be represented exclusively by a single religion.
Do you really think there is only one member of the U.S. House of Representatives? Yet, it is religious people, not irreligious people who complain vociferously about being discriminated against and marginalized in the public sphere.

I think this map is a good counter argument to such spurious claims.

Hat/tip to Joe.My.God.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tennis Tuesday: Rafael Nadal Favorite For 2013 US Open!?

Rafael Nadal won the 2013 Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati on Sunday by defeating John Isner 7-6(8) 7-6(3), extending his hard court winning streak to 15-0 and establishing his status as the favorite to win the 2013 US Open which starts next Monday. Nadal has now won an astonishing five ATP Masters series tournaments this year (Indian Wells, Rome, Madrid, Montreal and Cincinnati.)

Nadal defeated Roger Federer in one of the better hard court tussles in the 31st match in their rivalry on Friday evening 5-7 6-4 6-3. In his run on hard courts this year he has beaten World #1 Novak Djokovic, Federer (twice!), Juan Martin del Potro (in the Indian Wells final) and Tomas Berdych (twice: Indian Wells semifinal and Cincinnati semifinal) but surprisingly, he has not had to face 2012 US Open champion Andy Murray. Murray is the winner of the one ATP Masters Series 1000 that Nadal did not play (and therefor did not win) and has to be considered the second favorite to win the last major tournament of the year.

Murray and Nadal have not played each other since 2011 so it will be very interesting to see this year's draw and where they could potentially meet. With his amazing 50-3 record for the year Nadal has now risen to World #2 and will almost certainly become the year end #1 and would grab the top spot  from Djokovic if he does significantly better in the US Open than last year's finalist. With Murray seeded at #3 the two could only either meet in the semifinal or final. Nadal has beaten Murray in the semifinals of majors four times (including three times in 2011!) but the one time Murray won was in the semifinals of the US Open (way back in 2008) and although Nadal leads their overall head-to-head 13-5, all five of Murray's wins over Nadal have come on hard courts.

There is no question that Nadal is the most successful hard court player of the year so far. He has won the US Open series and is eligible for a $1 million bonus prize if he wins the 2013 US Open. The only player who has done that since the US Open series has been in existence is Federer (in 2007). Additionally, Nadal has achieved the rare double ATP Canadian Masters-ATP Cincinnati Masters. The last person who did that (Andy Roddick in 2003) went on to win the Open, and every one who has done so has reached the final of the US hard court major (Andre Agassi and Patrick Rafter), so history is also on Nadal's side as the favorite to win his 2nd US Open title this year.

DEBATE: Is There Racism In Online Gay Dating?

There is an interesting discussion going on about whether (and how) racism plays a role in online dating by gay men. With the proliferation of electronic means by which gay men can find each other (websites, cellphone apps) the many ways by which men desire broadcast to each other has become clearer, easier to scrutinize, and in some cases, problematic.

On some dating sites, one can search for "dating" partners (and  I use the word "dating" liberally, because what we are really talking about is "hooking up") using various features or physical characteristics of the desired partner. Sometimes one of those features to be searched on is the race of the person you are looking to "date." (Other features are age, height, weight, et ceteraThe primary question for debate is whether it is racist to communicate a racial preference in your desired partner. For example, some people who identify themselves as one particular race may seek to only "date" within that same racial group, explicitly saying they are only looking for that group, or conversely saying that they are not looking for partners from all other racial groups. There are also situations where people who identify with one race only seeks to date from another, different racial group. Is that more or less problematic than the first scenario? In other words, should expressing an intraracial dating preference be considered differently than expressing an interracial dating preference? Or is  excluding consideration of any particular race prima facie evidence of racial animus by definition?

My position is that it is racist to specifically exclude all members of a particular race from consideration as a sex partner or potential date. One must first always remember that racial categories are fictions, problematic figments of the imagination which are used to classify groups of people in order to reify a system of dominance and subordination. Just because race is a social construct, however, does not mean that it is not "real" and that being classified by racial categories does not have real and quantifiable impacts on real people's lives. So, coming from the perspective that race brings with it a maelstrom of conflicting and confusing forces and ideas allows me to say that yes, it is racist to specifically select or exclude partners by race. (To be clear, the definition of racism I am using is this one: a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.) By eliminating all members of a particular race from being a potential partner means that you are buying into the belief that race is "a primary determinant" of desirability. Additionally, because of the slippery nature of race there are no traits or features that are indisputably aligned with one race or another, so that to make a categorical statement about people of a certain race is almost by definition, racist in of itself.

Clearly, lots of people disagree with my position that racial preference in selecting sexual or dating partners is racist. However, there are also lots of people who agree with me that this behavior can appear pretty icky.

Rick Mula, writing at The Task Force's blog, provides some data to demonstrate that racial categories do appear to impact how gay men select partners:
Based on data published by OkTrends, a blog produced by OkCupid, white gay men respond more often to OkCupid messages from other white men than from men of color. They respond to messages from other white men 44% of the time but respond only 37.3% of the time to men of color. 
White gay men also respond less frequently to messages in general than gay men of color. On OkCupid white gay men respond to messages from all races at an average rate of 41.4%, but gay men of color respond to messages from all races at an average rate of 49.3%. 
Ironically, even though white gay men respond to messages in general less frequently than gay men of color they fail to attract the highest rate of responses to the messages they send. Middle Eastern gay men, on average, will receive about 48 responses for every 100 messages they send, while white gay men will receive an average of 45. By contrast, Black gay men will receive about 36.
This data demonstrates the reality that gay men have racial preferences when selecting partners or dates. This is not a surprise, and has been defended in print:

If you enjoyed and would date all races but had a special thing for lean latino boys, does that extra crush of yours make you racist? If you are an Asian boy and have that “boi” gene in you that has you searching out bigger, older white men does that make you a racist? If you think mixed raced boys are particularly sexy then does that make you especially open-minded or again, a racist? While many would weigh their answer to each question with special thought and care, I personally blanket-answer “Nope!” to all of em’! I’m quite a black or white (forgive the pun) kind of guy when it comes to most issues and unless you think people are genetically/socially/anyway unequal because of their race then I’ll stamp you with a big ol’ R for racist, but being more turned on by a particular set of men to me is totally acceptable and pretty much exactly how we are made to cruise/date/love.
Also at the Homorazzi blog where this defense of racial preference occurs, there is a survey (with nearly 500 responses) that indicates that more than 60% of respondents felt that racial preference is not racism.

This is a complicated topic but I think it is useful to think about the issues and hopefully have  a reasonable and reasoned debate.

What do you think?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Queer Quote: San Antonio Councilperson's Private Homophobia Revealed

San Antonio Councilwoman Elisa Chan has been getting a lot of public attention recently after the release of comments she made in private with her staff that reveal a stunningly ignorant level of homophobia and transphobia.

The text of her comments are today's Queer Quote:
I don’t think homosexual people should do adoption. They should be banned by adoption. You’re going to confuse those kids. They should be banned. If you wanted to choose that lifestyle, we don’t want to discriminate you, but you shouldn’t affect the young people… You see two men go into a bedroom. You see two women kissing. Is that not confusing? It’s confusing.  
We do not want to attack any group. I’m respectful of their choices, right? Even though I don’t believe that, but they’re free people, they can do whatever they want to do. But … don’t just come back and say you’re being discriminated.
What is confusing to kids about seeing same-sex couples? Apparently Coucilwoman Chan believes (like many Russian people) that somehow if children know that gay people exist it will impact their adult sexual orientation. This belief has no basis in reality and is laughable on its face, since the converse is obviously not true (i.e. the fact that almost all LGBT people have been raised in heterosexual households and yet have non-heterosexual sexual orientations). The problem with this belief is that it can impact how people feel about public policy. In fact the political context of Chan's comments is that the San Antonio City Council is currently considering an ordinance that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The comments came to light because one of Chan's staffer taped the comments and released it to the local San Antonio media, where it has been getting a  lot of negative and critical attention.

Eye Candy: Zenith Harvey (in black and white)

Zenith Harvey has appeared as Eye Candy on the blog twice before (June 17, 2013 and April 22, 2013). According to his Model Mayhem profile, he is a 27-year-old model of Dominican descent who is 6'2" and 184 pounds.

Enjoy these pictures of Zenith (great name!) in black-and-white!

2013 CINCY: Azarenka Wins Title As Serena Falters At End

To the surprise of many, including yours truly, Victoria Azarenka was able to outlast Serena Williams in the deciding portions of the the third set and win the 2013 Western & Southern Open 2-6 6-2 7-6(6). For only the third time in fifteen meetings, Vika was able to defeat Serena, ending a 14-match winning streak. Serena dropped to 50-4 for the season with 8 titles, while Azarenka won her 3rd. However, she has now beaten Serena in 2 title matches in 2013 and is 3-all in career finals against her.

The match was  a seesaw affair with Serena running away with the first set in 26 minutes and then making over 2 dozen errors in the second set to lose it by an identical score. In the third set Azarenka broke first and held to go up 4-2 and led 30-0 on her own serve when Serena turned things around and won 3 consecutive games to serve for the match at 5-4. Almost everyone expected the 16-time major champion to close out the match at that point but she got broken relatively easily (failing to make crucial first serves) and the deciding tiebreak was the result. In the tiebreak Azarenka was ahead 2-0 and 4-2 but then Serena was up to 5-4 on her own serve. In a significant exchange Azarenka hit a running forehand down the line and was pulled way off court so that all Serena had to do was bunt the ball on the backhand side into the court to go up 6-4 and she hit it four feet long. She double faulted at 5-all to give Azarenka championship point and then hit a service return winner to save championship point but after a good first serve Azarenka had a second championship point, which she won when an errant Serena backhand hit the top of the tape.

It will be interesting to see if they both get to the finals of the US Open final in 3 weeks what will happen. It is clear that Azarenka is not intimidated by Serena and her recent results indicate that she shouldn't be!


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