Thursday, October 31, 2013

2013 PARIS MASTERS: Quarterfinals Are Set

The quarterfinals of the last ATP Masters Series event of the year are set: Paris Masters defending champion David Ferrer will face Tomas Berdych, Rafael Nadal versus Richard Gasquet, Juan Martin del Potro versus Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic versus Stanislas Wawrinka.

Interestingly, these same eight players are exactly the same players who will be competing in the ATP World Tour Finals in London next week.

QUEER QUOTE: NOM Founder Thinks Nationwide Marriage Equality In 2 Years

Well, well! The heterosexual supremacists are in full despair as the writing on the wall becomes clearer and clearer that eventually marriage equality will be a nationwide reality in the United States. Maggie Gallagher is the co-founder of the National Organization of Marriage, the pre-eminent nationwide organization devoted to preserving the discriminatory status quo which has been repeatedly accused of being a front group for conservative religions like Mormonism and Catholicism.

Ever since the Supreme Court issued two amazing pro-LGBT decisions in summer 2013 with U.S. v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry Gallagher has been giving increasingly pessimistic about her sides chances. Recently she said the following which is today's Queer Quote:
"I believe the Supreme Court is going to impose gay marriage in all fifty states within the next two years. I think the battle's going to shift to religious liberty and we're gonna need politicians with backbone. What happened first in the gay marriage issue is liberals used their dominance in the mainstream media to persuade GOP pundits that they should be silent on the issue and retreat."
So, basically Gallagher and her fellow heterosexual supremacists realize that their standard non-sensical arguments against marriage equality have failed to persuade decision makers. They are instead trying to change the terrain of the battle over full LGBT equality to the area of religious freedom and "conscience."

As Jeremy Hooper at Good As You notes, by her own words Gallagher has undermined the rationale for why people should donate to support the organization she co-founded and led for so long. The National Organization for Marriage was created to fight marriage equality so that the co-founded just admitted defeat should be a fatal blow to the organization.

Hawaii Senate Passes Marriage Equality Bill 20-4!

The race to become the 15th state with marriage equality between Hawaii, Illinois and New Mexico seems to have the Aloha State in the lead right now.  Thanks to a special legislative session which started on Monday, the Hawaii state Senate has overwhelmingly approved a bill to enact marriage equality by a vote of 20 to 4. The bill now goes to the state House, where passage is expected, according to The Advocate.
The House, where the vote is likely to be closer, may try to put more religious exemptions into the measure. It currently exempts clergy members who oppose same-sex marriage from having to perform such unions, but it does not allow for-profit businesses to refuse, on religious grounds, to provide wedding-related services to gay couples. An amended bill would have to go back to the Senate for another vote.
An interesting historical footnote here is that Hawaii was the site of the beginning of the modern movement to legalize marriage equality when the state Supreme Court issued a ruling in 1993 that it believed denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples was sex discrimination requiring the government to provide a compelling state interest to justify it. Within 3 years the Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act in a hysterical response to the possibility that Hawaii would legalize same-sex marriage and the rest of the country would be "forced" to recognize these marriages. In 1998, Hawaii voters enacted a constitutional amendment giving power to the legislature to ban same-sex marriage. Because that measure did not explicitly define marriage as between a man and a woman, the Legislature also has the power now to enact marriage equality.

It's amazing to think that 20 years later Hawaii could (finally) end marriage discrimination, just as the Hawaii Supreme Court predicted.

Hat/tip to LGBT Think Progress

FILM REVIEW: Prisoners

Denis Villeneuve is fast becoming one of my favorite directors that no one has ever heard of. His Incendies from 2010 was one of the best films I saw in 2011, and would probably have been on the top of my Top 10 list, if I had compiled a list that year. Incendies is an independent French-language film set in various foreign countries made under Canadian auspices. Villeneuve is back with a much bigger studio film called Prisoners which has been getting quite a buzz for its large, excessively talented cast: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Terence Howard, Viola Davis, Melissa Leo, Paul Dano and Maria Bello.

The film has a very strong 88% rating from the audience on and has made nearly $60 million since it was released on September 20. It is a very intense film, with a story that is centered around the disappearance of two pre-teen little girls and the impact this event has on two families, headed by Jackman and Bello and Howard and Davis. Gyllenhaal has the largest role in the film, as the police detective whose job it is to try and find the person responsible for the despicable act of kidnapping two kids, after Thanksgiving dinner no less. Dano has the unforgiving role of playing the prime suspect whose vehicle (a decrepit white RV) had been seeing hanging around the neighborhood the day the girls disappeared. Leo plays Dano's adopted mom.

Unsurprisingly, the plot revolves around Jackman's role as Keller Dover, the devastated, determined and wrong-headed father of one of the kidnaped girls. He is a can-do kind of guy and he is unable to wait for the police, to solve the mystery, eventually taking extraordinary steps to try and break open the case that present charged ethical situations directly to the audience. The script keeps the audience guessing and I bet you will be surprised but even exceeds that when the true culprit is revealed at the end.

Prisoners is more suspenseful than Incendies and even exceeds that excellent film in the emotional wallop it delivers to the audience; it's complicated enough that multiple viewings would not be amiss to catch the subtle clues and twists embedded within the stellar screenplay.

In a very strong cast, Jackman and Gyllenhaal stand out, but really the entire film works as a string ensemble piece, perfectly cast.

Title: Prisoners.
Director: Denis Villeneuve.
Running Time: 2 hours, 26 minutes.
MPAA Rating: Rated R for disturbing violent content including torture, and language throughout.
Release Date: September  20, 2013.
Viewing Date: October 12, 2013.

Writing: A+.
Acting: A.
Visuals: A.
Impact: A.

Overall Grade: A/A+ (4.083/4.0).

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Entire Senate Democratic Caucus Now Supports ENDA; Vote Next Week

Well that was quick! All members of the entire Democratic caucus in the United States Senate has announced that they will vote for passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a federal LGBT rights bill. Just yesterday I blogged about Sen. Bill Nelson's co-sponsorship of ENDA meant that there were only two holdouts in the Democratic caucus: Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas) and Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia). Today comes word that the entire 55-member Democratic caucus is united in support of S. 815, which means that if you count the support of Republican co-sponsors Mark Kirk and Susan Collins and include the support of Orrin Hatch and Lisa Murkowski who voted for it in committee the measure has 59 votes, just one shy of a 60-vote filibuster-proof majority.

Hat/tip to Joe.My.God

GODLESS WEDNESDAY: 38% of Americans Do What God "Tells Them To"

A stunning poll from YouGov reveals that believers in God also believe that their deity tells them things to do, and what is even more astonishing is that significant percentages of these people say that they do things that God tells them to "all of the time," "most of the time," "some of the time" or "very few times."

An analysis of the poll results can be summarized:
38% of Americans say that they have done something because God told them to, while more than half of people who believe in God say that the deity sometimes controls weather and disasters. New research from YouGov suggests that many Americans believe God plays an active role in their lives. Out of the 76% of Americans who said that they personally believe in the existence of a God, half say that they have at least once before done something because God told them to. Including non-believers, this makes up 38% of the entire country. The group most likely to have acted on God's command are 'born-again' or evangelical Christians, who make up about a third of Americans. Almost two-thirds (65%) of born-again Christians say God has told them to do something at least once before. Only a quarter (25%) of the remaining population have ever had the same experience.
You can count me in the 24% who say they do not personally believe in the existence of God.

Hat/tip to Joe.My.God 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sen. Nelson (D-FL) Announces Support for Federal LGBT Rights Bill

Good news! The chances of historic action on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) improved recently with the news that U.S. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida has signed on to co-sponsor the federal bill to ban LGBT employment discrimination nationwide.

The Washington Blade reports on recent ENDA developments:

After months of lobbying and public pressure, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) on Monday became the 54th sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
The senator’s name is listed as among the sponsors of ENDA on “Thomas,” the website for the Library of Congress that monitors legislation. According to the website, Nelson signed on as a supporter Monday, the same day Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced that a Senate vote on ENDA would take place before Thanksgiving.
Republicans Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) also voted for ENDA in committee. That means the legislation now has 57 votes, which is three short of overcoming a filibuster.
The Florida Democrat’s support arguably places the legislation well ahead of any other legislation specific to an LGBT issues in terms of the number of co-sponsors. Since Sen. Jay Rockfeller became a supporter, ENDA has exceeded the number of co-sponsors for legislation that led to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal in 2010 and the 2001 version of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
It is perfectly legal to fire employees because of their sexual orientation in twenty-nine states; while technically it is illegal to fire someone based on their gender identity only 17 states have laws explicitly prohibiting the practice, which is believed to be widespread.

Even if there are 60 votes in the Senate to pass ENDA (which is likely since it is only 3 votes shy right now) it is considered almost impossible for ENDA to pass the House of Representatives while it is under Republican control.

Hat/tip to HRC

TENNIS TUESDAY: Serena Ends 2013 Season 78-4, With 11 Titles, $12.3M

Serena Williams ended her 2013 season with her 78th win, the first time in her illustrious career she has won more than 62 matches in the same year. Compared to only four losses (to Victoria Azarenka in Doha and Cincinnati, Sabine Lisicki at Wimbledon and Sloane Stephens in Melbourne), that gives her a winning percentage of .951, 9th on the all-time list.

Serena defeated the new World #3 player in the world, Li Na in a tough 3-set final where she was outplayed for the first 30 minutes but ended it in complete control, winning the last 9 consecutive games, 2-6 6-3 6-0. By winning, Serena won her 11th WTA tour title of the year and amassed over $12.3 million in prize money, the 3rd largest annual haul by any player, shattering by more than $4 million the previous record set by Azarenka. It is also Serena's 57th career title and 632nd career win (10th all-time).

Monday, October 28, 2013

QUEER QUOTE: Janelle Monae Avoids Defining Her Sexuality

Janelle Monae appeared on Saturday Night Live this weekend, reflecting the avant garde musician's increasingly heightened profile in  the popular zeitgeist. However Joe.My.God describes her answers to questions about her sexuality as "Latifah-esque" (referring to Queen Latifah who has moved from being only known as rap musician to appearing in Oscar award-winning movies to hosting her own daily daytime television  talk show). Latifah, who is also now know by her name Dana Owens is widely believed to be a closeted lesbian.

This is what Monae said recently in response to "The Question":
“Women are amazing€ and so are guys. There’™s nothing wrong with being bisexual, there’s nothing wrong with being lesbian or gay. I am an advocate. I have friends who are in same sex relationships and I feel love has no sexual orientation. Love has no religious belief. Love is the purest and most important thing we can possess for ourselves and for others. €œI keep my personal life very much to myself. I want everybody to focus on my music. I also don’t want to let anybody down. I want women to still be attracted to me. Go get my album! I want men to still be attracted to me so I have to be political in this. So I can’€™t really tell y'all.”
If someone has an example of a straight celebrity who went through a stage of refusing to define their sexuality in public and then was revealed to actually be completely heterosexual, I would be happy to hear that. It just seems like there are numerous examples of celebrities who claimed they did not want to reveal their sexuality and when it eventually is revealed (celebrities really just need to acknowledge that the price of fame is their loss of privacy in this area) it has always been because they are a member of the LGBT community. Names like Sean Hayes, George Michael, and Ricky Martin all come to mind immediately.

We'll see if Monae follows that trajectory or if she follows Latifah's cowardly path.

EYE CANDY: Kurtis Baptiste

Kurtis Baptiste is a 33-year-old model from Florida, according to his Model Mayhem profile. He is 6-foot-1, 185-pounds. I discovered him at the fantastic eye candy blog, Gorgeous Sexy Guys. Baptiste is definitely gorgeous and sexy, as you can see from these photos (two of which were taken by photographer David Vance).


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Basel 2013: Del Potro Defeats Federer (Again) In Final

Juan Martin del Potro defeated hometown favorite Roger Federer 7-6(3) 2-6 6-4 in the finals of the Swiss Open for the second consecutive year.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

2013 WTA YEC: Serena vs Li Na In Final

As expected, Serena Williams continued her recent undefeated streak by outlasting Jelena Jankovic 6-4 2-6 6-4 in the semifinals of the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships in Istanbul. Williams will face Li Na, who defeated the 2011 WTA Championships winner Petra Kvitova 6-4 6-2. With her win, Li will reach world #3 for the first time, becoming the highest ranked player of Asian descent, male or female.

Serena was clearly physically hampered in her match with Jankovic, who is one of the rare players on tour to have beaten Serena four times and matches up well with her. Oddly, both players ended the match with an equal number of winners and errors, 40 each for Williams and 22 each for Jankovic. But somehow Serena was able to gut out her record 77th win of the year.

In the final, Serena has a 9-1 head-to-head advantage over Li Na, although the two have played some relatively close matches this year that were decided by a single service break or less per set. With Serena ailing and Li Na ascendant, this is probably the Chinese player's best chance to score  a big win over Serena.

However, Serena is playing in her 6th year-end championship (having won 3 times before, including last year) while Li Na is playing in her first. Serena is playing for history, since only Chris Evert (4), Steffi Graf (6) and Martina Navratilova (8) have won more than four year-end championships.

MadProfessah's prediction: Serena.

MadProfessah at Google NY

View from Google NY Cafeteria

U.S. LGBT Black Population Estimated At Approximately 1 Million

Previously I had blogged about the Williams Institute report about the U.S. Latino LGBT population and today I want to discuss a similar report about the U.S. African-American LGBT Population. One of the main results is that 3.7% of African American adults identify as LGBT. This is slightly higher than the latest estimate that 3.4% of the overall American adult population is LGBT.

A summary of the other results of the report is:
The report finds overall higher unemployment rates (15 percent v. 12 percent) and lower proportions with a college degree (23 percent v. 26 percent) among LGBT African-Americans, when compared to their non-LGBT counterparts. However, these disadvantages are not present among African-Americans in same-sex couples. Twenty-five percent of African-Americans in same-sex couples have completed a college degree, compared to 22 percent of African-Americans in different-sex couples. In addition, 71 percent of African-Americans in same-sex couples are employed compared to 68 percent of their counterparts in different-sex couples. LGBT African-Americans are also less likely than their non-LGBT counterparts to have health insurance.
African-American same-sex couples raising children, report household median incomes $15,000 lower than comparable African-American different-sex couples ($47,300 vs. $63,020). Female African-American same-sex couples, which comprise 58 percent of all African-American same-sex couples, earn over $20,000 less than male African-American same-sex couples. LGBT African-American females and African-American females in same-sex couples are three times more likely to report military service than their non-LGBT counterparts.
Additionally, the Williams Institute analyzed Census Data and estimates that in Washington, D.C. nearly 10 percent of the Black population identifies as LGBT. No wonder they call the District "Chocolate City" eh?

Friday, October 25, 2013

WTA YEC 2013: Serena Goes 3-0 To Reach Semis

World #1 Serena Williams has defeated Angelique Kerber, Agnieska Radwanska and Petra Kvitova in straight sets at the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships in Istanbul, Turkey. This was her 76th win of the year (to only four losses). In the other half of the draw Li Na and Jelena Jankovic qualified for the semifinals, with the Chinese player going undefeated 3-0 against Victoria Azarenka, Sara Errani and Jankovic. Li eliminated World #2 from the field with a 6-2 6-1 win against the curiously unmotivated Belarussian.

The last final semifinal slot is being fought over between the two remaining lefties: Kvitova and Kerber.  Serena will face Jankovic in the semifinals, a replay of the China Open final won by the World #1 a few weeks ago. Interestingly, the match-up between the lefty K's is a reprise of the final
of the Tokyo Open final where Kvitova emerged victorious despite dropping a bagel middle set. Li Na will face either Kvitova or Kerber and will simply need to win that match to reach the Year-End Championships final to reach World #3 in the world for the first time.

CELEBRITY FRIDAY: Jim Parsons and Boyfriend Out In Public

3-time Emmy winner Jim Parsons, one of the stars of the hit television show The Big Bang Theory, came out as gay last year but only recently has been seen in public with his boyfriend Todd Spiewak. Jim and Todd have been together for ten years and Parsons spoke about their relationship when the two received an award from GLSEN last weekend:
"It was surprising to hear that we were getting an inspiration award. We feel very average, we feel very normal," the 40-year-old star told Us Weekly at the event. "We really do. The strange stuff is the Hollywood stuff we have to walk through, not the gay stuff we have to walk through." 
Parsons received the Inspiration Award by LGBT young advocacy group GLESN and was taken back by the whole idea of it. "It's very moving. It's very surprising and I think once we got over the shock of it, we were able to feel the honor of it," he explained.
Jim called Todd his "favorite person on the planet" during his acceptance speech when he won his third Best Actor in a Comedy Series Emmy award for playing Sheldon Cooper last month.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Columbus Circle in Manhattan

Stopped by the Home of the Best Burger in the world (Burger Joint in Le Parker Meridien) and took this picture afterwards.


Landed in Newark for a conference in New York City this weekend

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

GODLESS WEDNESDAY: Religion Is Organized Bullsh*t

The much lamented Atheist Pig cartoon site has some good pieces in its archive. Sadly, it looks like the website is no longer adding new cartoons but the ones that are there always worth a chuckle.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

33% Of U.S. Population (100+ Million People) Living With Marriage Equality

One decade ago there were exactly zero states that had marriage equality, even though the Defense of Marriage Act had been federal law for seven years. In November 2003 the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the state constitution required equal marriage rights for same-sex couples under the law and issued an order to go in effect on May 17, 2004. Note that the second state, Connecticut did not have marriage equality until November 2008 (and for a brief 173 days starting in June 2008 Californians had access to same-sex marriage prior to the passage of Proposition 8). So, really in a little over 5 years marriage equality has increased from roughly 10 million to another order of magnitude.

With New Jersey becoming the 14th state to enact marriage equality this week there are now well over 100 million people who live in states with marriage equality, about 33% of the entire U.S. population.

The American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) summaries the astonishingly rapid progress:

StateDate EffectivePopulationPercent
MassachusettsMay 20046,547,6292.12%
ConnecticutNov. 20083,574,0971.16%
IowaApr. 20093,046,3550.99%
VermontJun. 2009625,7410.20%
New HampshireJan. 20101,316,4700.43%
Washington, D.C.Mar. 2010601,7230.19%
New YorkJun. 201119,378,3616.28%
WashingtonDec. 20126,724,5402.18%
MaineDec. 20121,328,3610.43%
MarylandJan. 20135,773,5521.87%
DelawareJun. 2013897,9340.29%
CaliforniaJun. 201337,253,95612.07%
MinnesotaAug. 20135,303,9251.72%
Rhode IslandAug. 20131,052,5670.34%
New JerseyOct. 20138,791,8942.84%




Any predictions for when the United States will hit 50%? Remember Illinois, Hawaii, New Mexico and Oregon are widely expected to legalize civil marriage for same-sex couples sooner rather than later.

TENNIS TUESDAY: Dimitrov Wins First ATP Title In Stockholm

Bulgarian wunderkind Grigor Dimitrov won his first ATP Tour title in Stockholm, Sweden. Dimitrov defeated World #3 David Ferrer in the final 2-6, 6-3, 6-4. Dimitrov is 22 years old and will rise to a career high rank of #22 in the ATP World ranking on Monday.

WTA YEC 2013: Serena, Aga, Petra and Angie in Tough Group

(L-R) Sara Errani of Italy, Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, Petra Kvitova of Czech Republic,
Serena Williams of USA, Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, Li Na of China, Jelena Jankovic of Serbia,
and Angelique Kerber of Germany pose with the Billie Jean King trophy for the official photo of the
TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships-Istanbul
The 2013 Year-End Championships of the WTA Tour begin on Tuesday in Istanbul. The eight players who have qualified have been split into two groups of four. The Red Group consists of Serena Williams, Agnieska Radwanska, Petra Kvitova and Angelique Kerber.  The White Group consists of Victoria Azarenka, Li Na, Jelena Jankovic and Sara Errani. The two groups play 3 round robin matches against each other with the top 2 players qualifying for the semifinal matches against players from the other group (which are elimination rounds), the winners who will meet in the final.

Tuesday features Azarenka versus Errani, Williams versus Kerber and Radwanska versus Kvitova.
Serena won the title last year and has already won 10 titles in 2013 but would love to make it 11.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Marriage Equality Starts In New Jersey; Christie Drops Appeal

As expected, marriage equality reached New Jersey at 12:01am this morning and soon afterwards U.S. Senator-elect Cory Booker officiated his first marriage as Mayor of Newark, the state's largest city.

Interestingly, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced a few hours later that he had decided to drop his administration's appeal of the September 26 ruling that is being implemented today to the New Jersey Supreme Court, thus removing any ambiguity about the future status of marriage equality in the Garden State.

Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry released a statement making it clear that his organization is not willing to stop at the 14 states (and Washington, DC) that now have marriage equality:
"At long last, the freedom to marry is now permanently law of the land in New Jersey. The marriages of loving, committed couples throughout the Garden State, combined with Governor Christie's withdrawal of his appeal, is joyous news to New Jerseyans, both gay and non-gay. The momentum continues to build nationwide and we are working hard to deliver victories in Hawaii, Illinois and New Mexico yet in 2013."
And Chad Griffin of Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBT rights group in the country, emailed supporters reminding them of their goal to reach 50 marriage equality states within 5 years of this year's Supreme Court ruling in U.S. v. Windsor and listed the states that they are focused on in the foreseeable future:
  • In Hawaii, we've sent three senior field organizers to work with the Hawaii United for Marriage campaign, and we're expecting a vote in the legislature any day now.
  • In Illinois, we have invested more than $255,000 in the legislative marriage campaign. Nine HRC organizers are on the ground working to generate constituent contacts and secure a favorable House vote for the marriage equality bill, which has already passed in the Senate.
  • In New Mexico, we have hired two field organizers to mobilize support as a marriage equality lawsuit is pending before the State Supreme Court.
  • In New Jersey, we have deployed four field organizers and a senior field organizer to partner with the New Jersey United for Marriage campaign following Governor Christie's appeal of a pro-marriage trial court decision and his veto of the marriage equality bill.
  • In Oregon, HRC is part of the governing board of the Oregon United for Marriage campaign that seeks to replace the state's existing marriage amendment with full marriage equality. HRC is also funding the campaign's faith director and has deployed a senior field organizer to be part of the campaign.
  • In Indiana, HRC is fighting alongside the bipartisan coalition Freedom Indiana to defeat an anti-marriage constitutional amendment.
  • In Arizona and Ohio, we helped launch educational campaigns with the aim of repealing and replacing the states' "Defense of Marriage" Amendments at the ballot in 2016.
Only time will tell what will happen next. What do YOU think? Will there be 50 states with marriage equality within 5 years?

I think it is possible, but I would probably give it until 2020. In order to do so one would need a ruling from the United States Supreme Court recognizing that the freedom to marry explicitly includes the right to marry someone of the same-sex. In order for that to happen within the next five years it is likely one needs to reach a majority of states (twenty-six) that have marriage equality as well as a majority of Supreme Court justices (five) that would endorse the concept. That would almost certainly require at least one (if not more) Republican-appointed justices to retire.

What do you think?

POLL: Virginia Voters Oppose 2006 Same-Sex Marriage Ban

A new poll indicates that Virginia's ban on marriage equality, enacted by voters in 2006, would not survive if voters could vote again on the measure in next month's election. 56 percent of Virginia voters say they oppose the state's same-sex marriage ban while 36 percent say they favor it.

Although voters will not be able to vote to impact marriage equality any time soon, there are two pending marriage lawsuits in federal court in Virginia, one that includes the participation of the very high profile duo of Ted Olson and David Boies who successfully sued to have  California's voter-approved same-sex marriage ban invalidated in federal court.

EYE CANDY: Ryan Tongia

Ryan Tongia is an Australian rugby player who has been featured on Rod 2.0's site twice in the last week, wearing nothing but bulging briefs and described as a "super hotness slash fitness model slash sex siren."

According to his Wikipedia page, Tongia is 23 years old, 5-foot-11-inches and 190 pounds (180 cm and 86 kg). As you can tell from these photographs taken by Nathan Duff, he is in really good shape.

You're welcome!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sunday Gossip: L.A. Councilman Jose Huizar Reveals Affair With Staffer

Ooops! While I was busy grading papers this weekend a big local story broke in North East Los Angeles politics. My City Councilperson, Jose Huizar, is being sued for sexual harassment by a former staffer named Francine Godoy; Huizar has said that the two had a "consensual relationship" but denies the harassment allegations. The drama is because Huizar has had a reputation as something of a "boy scout" and is married with four kids, including a daughter that was recently diagnosed with cancer. He is the first Mexican immigrant to be elected to the Los Angeles City Council.

Huizar has been my City Councilperson since he won a special election to replace Antonio Villaraigosa in 2005, representing various parts of North East Los Angeles like the neighborhoods of Eagle Rock, Highland Park, El Sereno and Boyle Heights. Among blogging circles, Huizar's relationship with his female deputy chief of staff has long been a subject of speculation.

Huizar has already filed to run for re-election in March 2015. He won re-election in 2011 after a  contentious race with Rudy Martinez. Los Angeles City Councilmembers are limited to three terms in office.

Friday, October 18, 2013

New Jersey Poised To Become 14th Marriage Equality State Monday!

More big news out of New Jersey today. Wednesday night Cory Booker made history by becoming only the fourth black man to ever been elected to the Senate (one went on to become our President of the United States!) Today's big news is that New Jersey will become the 14th marriage equality state on Monday because the New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously denied Governor Chris Christie's motion for a stay to delay implementation of a lower court ruling that said the state must start issuing marriage licenses October 21. The New Jersey Supreme Court had earlier decided to hear the appeal of the lower court decision and the current skirmish was over whether the ruling would go into effect prior to its ratification or nullification by the state's highest court. The fact that the Court left the ruling go into effect would seem to signal they will uphold the ruling. And even if they don't there is a pending vote in the New Jersey legislature to override Christie's veto of a marriage equality bill.

The Court allowed marriage equality to begin in New Jersey by saying:

A spokesperson for Governor Christie has issued a statement saying "The Supreme Court has made its determination. While the governor firmly believes that this determination should be made by all the people of the state of New Jersey, he has instructed the Department of Health to cooperate with all municipalities in effectuating the order of the Superior Court under the applicable law."

New Jersey may not even be the last state this year to enact marriage equality. Hawaii has a special session of the legislature starting on Monday October 28th in order to consider a marriage equality bill and Illinois also still has a pending bill which has passed the State Senate and is stalled in the House (and there's a pending lawsuit). The New Mexico State Supreme court will hear oral arguments to determine whether every county has to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples next Wednesday October 23.

CELEBRITY FRIDAY: Greg Louganis Marries Johnny Chaillot

Olympic diving medalist Greg Louganis got married last weekend to Johnny Chaillot. This is how People magazine reported the nuptials:
 Louganis, 53, married paralegal Johnny Chaillot, 52, Saturday evening at Geoffrey's in Malibu.  
 "It was amazing because I have so many people from all facets of my life here tonight and they are all here and celebrating it is all wonderful," Louganis told PEOPLE immediately following the sunset ceremony. "I already feel different. The ceremony was so reflective and representative of who we are."  
 The recent Splash coach and Chaillot began dating in 2012 after finding each other on the online dating site and became engaged almost exactly a year later on April 8.
Louganis is well-known for winning multiple Gold medals in diving for the United States, and later revealing in his 1995 autobiography Breaking the Surface that he competed and won his medal at the 1988 Olympics (in Seoul, Korea) after becoming HIV-positive. During a 1996 interview with Oprah Winfrey he discussed publicly his sexual orientation and HIV-positive status for the first time. Breaking The Surface was made into a televised movie starring Mario Lopez.

Hat/tip to Joe.My.God

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Oregon To Recognize Legal Same-Sex Marriages (From Out of State)

Good news today out of Oregon. The "Chief Operating Officer" of Oregon, Michael Jordan, (not that Michael Jordan!) sent  a memo to all state agencies informing them that they should treat legally married same-sex couples as married under state law.
That means that gay couples who were legally married in other states are entitled to the same benefits in Oregon as any other married couple, said Matt Shelby, spokesman for the Department of Administrative Services. That would apply to everything from medical benefits to taxes to business licenses, he said.  
Jordan wrote the memo after receiving the seven-page legal opinion, which he had sought because of other states, including neighboring California and Washington now recognize same-sex marriage. 
Deputy Attorney General Mary Williams wrote that Oregon's constitutional prohibition on same-sex marriage "would likely be construed as also prohibiting recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages." However, she added, "such a construction would likely violate the federal constitution."
That's a big deal, because Oregon is sandwiched between two states, California and Oregon, which both have marriage equality. 

 Hopefully this will increase not decrease for marriage equality coming to Oregon itself, as the question of whether the state constitution should be amended to end marriage discrimination against same-sex couples will be on the November 2014 ballot and things look good for the discriminatory provision to be repealed. 

In addition, there is now a federal lawsuit working its way through the system in Oregon to win the freedom to marry for same-sex couples as well.

But until they can get married in their home state, Oregonian same-sex couples can atleast rest easy knowing they can get married and have their unions recognized in their home jurisdiction (and by the federal government!)

Cory Booker Becomes 4th Black Man *Ever* Elected To U.S. Senate

The 44-year-old Mayor of New Jersey's largest city, Cory Booker, won a special election Wednesday to become the 4th Black man ever elected to the United States Senate. Booker is a Democrat and has well over 1 million followers on twitter. He's also a strong ally of the LGBT community.

Booker will join Republican Senator Tim Scott from South Carolina as the only other African American to currently serve in the United States. When that happens, it will be a rare time in our nation's history when there will be more than one Black member of the Senate at the same time.

Congress Ends Government Shutdown And Raises Debt Limit

The Congress passed a bipartisan agreement to end the shutdown of the federal government and allow it to borrow money to finance the national debt. The U.S. House passed the measure 285-144 and the U.S. Senate passed it 81-18. The agreement was brokered by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and passed the House with the vote of every single Democratic member (198) and was opposed by a majority (144) of the Republican Congressional majority.

The federal government is funded through January 15, 2014 and the debt ceiling is lifted until around February 7, 2014.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

GODLESS WEDNESDAY: Atheists Respond To Times Square Billboard

Last week I blogged about billboards that chide atheists with the message "Thank God You're Wrong." This week comes word that the atheists are responding with their own message, by  advertising in the same spot in New York City's Times Square.

Their ad says "OMG, there is no God!" and features a picture of Julia Sweeney, a former castmember of Saturday Night Live and playwright. It looks like this:

To me this is not a very effective response. I suspect that Sweeney donated the money for the advertisement to FFRF but I think they should have used the opportunity to communicate a more specific message about why godlessness make sense. There are many examples of effective atheist billboards to choose from. (One of my favorites is "God is an imaginary friend.")

Regardless, it's good to see FFRF having the wherewithal to respond to the initial religious provocation.

Hat/tip to Joe.My.God

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

After DOMA: "Married, Filing Joint" For 1st Time!

Today is the date when your federal taxes are due if you filed an extension. Despite being married legally for five years, today is the first time the federal government is recognizing my marriage. Sentient Meat and I filed our taxes "Married, Filing Joint" today.

It feels good. Thanks, Edie (Windsor)!

SCOTUS Considers Voter Ban On Affirmative Action Today

Today there will be an important oral argument before the United States Supreme Court that could determine whether race-conscious remedies of past discrimination conducted by public and private entities (i.e. also known as affirmative action) will have a future in the United States.

The High Court will consider Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, 12-682. SCOTUS blog summarizes the issue as: "Whether a state violates the Equal Protection Clause by amending its constitution to prohibit race- and sex-based discrimination or preferential treatment in public-university admissions decisions."

The Los Angeles Times reports that we in California have an interest in this legal skirmish over Michigan's voter-approved ban on affirmative action because California has a similar measure in its state constitution thanks to the 1996 passage of Proposition 209. In fact voters in Michigan, California, Arizona and Washington have all passes similar ballot measures banning "preferential treatment" based on race or sex in public education.
[Mark] Rosenbaum and the American Civil Liberties Union sued in 1996 to block the California ban from taking effect, but the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the challenge, and the Supreme Court refused to hear the case. 
Now, in the Michigan case, Rosenbaum gets a chance to make a constitutional argument against state bans on affirmative action that would apply in California as well. He does not contend that race-based policies are required. Instead, he relies on what lawyers call the "political restructuring doctrine." Under it, Rosenbaum argues, Michigan unfairly "rigged" the political process by taking away from university officials the power to set admissions policy and instead writing it into the state constitution. 
By adopting the state ban, the voters — most of whom were white — deprived minority students of a right to press state officials to adopt affirmative action policies. This is "changing the political process along racial lines to prevent the state from taking constitutionally permissible race-conscious action," he said. 
A Michigan-based group called the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action goes further and describes the state's policy as a "new Jim Crow" system akin to the "separate but equal" doctrine that the high court established in Plessy vs. Ferguson in 1896.
It is not a good sign that Justice Elena Kagan has recused herself from considering the case so that there will only be 8 voting members participating in the decision. However if by some miracle there is a 4-4 split, the lower court's 6th Circuit en banc 8-7 decision that struck down the ballot measure would go into effect.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin