Friday, February 28, 2014

Federer-Djokovic XXXII: Federer Wins in 3; Faces Berdych in Dubai Final

Roger Federer won his first clash with Novak Djokovic in over 18 months, by coming back from a set down to prevail 3-6 6-3 6-2 and claim his 3rd Top 10 win of 2014 (having beaten Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Andy Murray in Australia), one less than he had for all of last year. And the first to months of the year are not done yet! Djokovic is 0-2 against Top 10 players, both from Switerland (having lost to 2014 Austrailan Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka in the quarterfinals).

Federer improved to a 17-15 head-to-head versus Djokovic and  13-12 in hard court matches. The 4-time Dubai champion from serbia has yet to win a title in 2014 and Indian Wells starts next week. That's the first time that has happened since 2006. Either Federer or Djokovic has won 9 of the last 11 Dubai tournaments. Last year Berdych beat Federer in the semifinals and then lost to Djokovic in the final. Federer has a lifetime 11-6 record against Berdych but has lost their last two meetings.

MAP: Current State of Marriage Equality In The States

Compiled by Andrew Turnbull, this handy graphic depicts the current state of marriage equality in the states. Look at all the ticking clocks, reflecting pending legal challenges to state bans on marriage equality, as well as the places where the ban has been struck down but is in abeyance due to a stay (Texas, Virginia, Oklahoma and Utah) as well as the two states where out-of-states same-sex marriage is recognized but you can't get married in the state (Kentucky and Oregon).

The map looks good!

Federal Judge Rules That Kentucky Must Recognize Legal Same-Sex Marriages

As expected, a federal judge has issued an order that Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages performed out of state.

The Liousville-Courier reports:
Dan Canon, another lawyer for the four gay and lesbian couples who won the case, said he was “cautiously optimistic. The order has been granted without qualification and without a stay.” 
He said for now that means same-sex couples in Kentucky who legally wed elsewhere can file their taxes together and apply for spousal health benefits. If one of the spouses has a baby while the order is in effect, the law would presume that the spouse’s partner is the other parent, he said. 
Elliott said she is “quietly encouraging” clients to take advantage of the ruling now, before Heyburn rules on Conway’s motion for a stay. She said the benefits that same-sex couples receive in the meantime would only be at risk if Conway appeals and Heyburn’s ruling is reversed. 
Citing the importance of the case, Conway’s office asked Heyburn to delay the effective date of his order for 90 days to give him time to decide whether to appeal, and to allow Beshear time to decide how to implement the order if it is not appealed. 
The motion suggests that Conway is at least considering joining six other state attorneys general who have decided not to appeal rulings throwing out marriage bans. Those officials, all Democrats, said the laws are discriminatory and violate the right to equal protection under the law.
The judge has yet to rule on the separate but related question of whether the laws of Kentucky that ban the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples can withstand legal scrutiny in light of the Supreme Court's Windsor ruling. It seems unlikely that if the state must recognize legal marriages from other states that the state also will have to issue marriage licenses as well.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Federer-Djokovic XXXII: Dubai 2014 Semifinals

For the 32nd time in their careers, the 17-time major champion Roger Federer will face 6-time major champion Novak Djokovic. Federer sports a slight 16-15 head-to-head lead overall and a 12-11 lead in hard court matches. However, Djokovic has won both times they played in 2013, which it must be remarked was one of Federer's worst years on tour. If he is able to acquit himself well against Djokovic at a tournament he has won 5 times before, the G.O.A.T's 2014 will definitely start looking promising.

The winner of the blockbuster semifinal between Djokovic and Federer will likely face Tomas Berdych, who beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in his quarterfinal and will probably beat Philipp Kohlschreiber in his semifinal. Last year Djokovic beat Berdych in straight sets to win the title.

QUEER QUOTE: Gov. Brewer (R-AZ) Vetoed Anti-Gay Bill SB 1062!

Governor Brewer vetoed SB 1062 last night, a bill that attempted to expand religious freedom to the point where "sincerely held religious belief" could be used to deny services to groups not protected under federal anti-discrimination law, most notably, LGBT people. The measure was widely condemned by LGBT groups and opposed by even senior Republican politicians like Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, John McCain and Jeff Flake.

Brewer said she vetoed SB 1062 because:
"I have not heard one example in Arizona where a business owner's religious liberty has been violated. The bill is broadly worded and could result in unintended and negative consequences."
There ya have it! Interestingly, the brou-ha-ha over Arizona's measure resulted in the death of several similar "license to discriminate" measures in other states like Mississippi, Georgia and Ohio.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

HBO Renews "Looking" For 2nd Season

The most high-profile gay series on television, HBO's Looking, has been renewed by the cable network for a second season despite relatively low viewership. The show is currently approaching the end of its first 8-episode season (didn't we used to call seasons this short miniseries?), with episode 6 (probably the best episode to date) airing last Sunday.

I like the show but it has some significant problems. It's what used to be called a "dramedy" (comedy-drama) in the vein of HBO's Girls but the characters in Looking are not as well-drawn as on Lena Dunham's show.

The show is set in San Francisco's predominantly gay scene.

Federal Judge Finds TEXAS Ban On Marriage Equality Unconstitutional!

A federal judge has just ruled that Texas's constitutional ban(s) on marriage equality, passed by voters in 2003 and 2005, violate the due process and equal protection clauses of the United States Constitution!

However, like judges in Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky, U.S. District Court judge Orlando Garcia put a stay on his ruling until the appellate court (in this case the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals) could review his ruling. Texas Attorney General Gregory Abbott is a well-known homophobe who is running for Governor and will almost certainly appeal the ruling to the bitter end.

However, it is striking that even in deep in the heart of deep red Texas, federal judge found that the arguments in favor of maintaining legal discrimination in marriage to be so lacking that he would say the following:
“Today’s court decision is not made in defiance of the great people of Texas or the Texas Legislature, but in compliance with the U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court precedent. Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our U.S. Constitution.”
In other words, even under rational basis review, the judge ruled that a state constitutional ban on marriage equality fails to be upheld under the most deferential form of judicial review.

Hat/tip to Equality on Trial

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

QUEER QUOTE: US AG Holder Tells State AGs They Don't Have To Defend Anti-Gay Law

United States Attorney General Eric Holder gave a speech to the National Association of Attorneys General which included the following remarks that make it clear that Holder believes that laws that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation (which includes all state-based bans on marriage equality) must be treated with heightened scrutiny (which so far only the 2nd Circuit in Windsor  and 9th Circuit in GlaxoSmithKline have accepted as reasonable jurisprudence).

This excerpt from his prepared remarks is today's Queer Quote:
The essential duty to which all of us – as attorneys general – have been sworn: not just to win cases, but to see that justice is done. This is the cause that brings us together in Washington this week – working to confront the threats and seize the opportunities before us. And this is the extraordinary task with which the American people have entrusted the leaders in this room – and the challenge that all justice professionals are called to address: not merely to use our legal system to settle disputes and punish those who have done wrong, but to answer the kinds of fundamental questions – about fairness and equality – that have always determined who we are and who we aspire to be, both as a nation and as a people. 
These are the questions that drove President Obama and me to decide, in early 2011, that Justice Department attorneys would no longer defend the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act. As I’ve said before, this decision was not taken lightly. Our actions were motivated by the strong belief that all measures that distinguish among people based on their sexual orientation must be subjected to a heightened standard of scrutiny – and, therefore, that this measure was unconstitutional discrimination. Last summer, the Supreme Court issued a historic decision – United States v. Windsor – striking down the federal government’s ban on recognizing gay and lesbian couples who are legally married. This marked a critical step forward, and a resounding victory for equal treatment and equal protection under the law. 
More recently – and partly in response to the Windsor decision – a number of state attorneys general, including those in Pennsylvania, Nevada, Virginia – and, just last week, Oregon – have reached similar determinations after applying heightened scrutiny to laws in their states concerning same-sex marriage. Any decisions – at any level – not to defend individual laws must be exceedingly rare. They must be reserved only for exceptional circumstances. And they must never stem merely from policy or political disagreements – hinging instead on firm constitutional grounds. But in general, I believe we must be suspicious of legal classifications based solely on sexual orientation. And we must endeavor – in all of our efforts – to uphold and advance the values that once led our forebears to declare unequivocally that all are created equal and entitled to equal opportunity.
Great news! Maybe this will convince even more attorneys general to stop defending discriminatory marriage statutes!

Hat/tip to Joe Jervis 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Bigots Fail To Qualify CA Referendum On Transgender Student Rights Law!

As I predicted in December, the Secretary of State today confirmed that religious extremists and heterosexual supremacists failed to submit enough valid signatures to force a referendum on the School Success and Opportunity Act (AB 1266). In order to suspend the law and force a vote on the measure in November 2014, the opponents of the measure had claimed they had enough signatures to force a vote but they submitted 619, 387 signatures and a 3% spot check showed that they were above 95% of the needed total which triggered a review of every single signature. In the end, though, the Secretary of State determined that only 487,484 were deemed valid and 504,760 were needed. That's a deficit of 17,276 or 3.4% of the total needed to qualify the measure.

They got 96.6% of the way to their total, which is scary enough. But close is not good enough!
 This is great news for transgender and cisgender students in all California schools.

The haters could still try and file a ballot measure to repeal the law or a constitutional amendment to prevent the legislature from enacting such a measure in the future.

Equality California celebrates with a press release:

Attempt to Repeal the School Success and Opportunity Act Fails

(San Francisco) Today, the effort to repeal the School Success and Opportunity Act — California’s new law ensuring that all children have opportunities to do well in school — failed to qualify for the ballot.

The law — also known as Assembly Bill 1266 — went into effect on January 1, ensuring that schools have the guidance they need to make sure all students, including those who are transgender, have the opportunity to do well in school and graduate.
The law is modeled after policies and practices that are already working well in several schools, and gives important guidance to educators so they can work with students and families on a case-by-case basis.

Oakland’s Redwood Heights School is among the California schools with policies in place that provide transgender young people with fair chances. Like other schools with similar policies across the state, the policy has been successful since it was established five years ago.

“We want our students to know that when they walk onto this campus, they are welcomed for who they are,” said Redwood Heights Principal Sara Stone. “Every educator I know went into the education field because they truly care about young people and making sure they have everything they need to do well in school.”

The law helps students like Zoey, a 12-year-old transgender girl from the Los Angeles area who transferred out of her school after administrators there refused to acknowledge her as a girl or allow her to use the girls’ restroom. Her mom, Ofelia Barba, says that the law makes it easier for her daughter to go to school and be herself.

“I love my daughter and want the same things for her that other parents want for their children,” Barba said. “I want what’s best for her, for her to be happy, and for her to be able to do well in school. No one wants to see any kid singled out and excluded from school because of who they are.”

The Support All Students campaign comprises a broad coalition of nearly 100 state and national organizations supporting the new law. The coalition includes Equality California, Transgender Law Center, National Center for Lesbian Rights, ACLU of California, Gay-Straight Alliance Network, L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, Gender Spectrum, LGBT organizations, racial justice organizations, statewide teacher and parent organizations, and others committed to ensuring that all kids have the opportunity to do well in school and graduate.

Said Transgender Law Center Executive Director and Campaign Chair Masen Davis: “This law gives schools the guidelines and flexibility to create an environment where all kids have the opportunity to learn. We need to focus on creating an environment where every student is able to do well and graduate. This law is about doing what’s best for all students — that’s why it’s supported by school boards, teachers, and the PTA.”

To learn more about the School Success and Opportunity Act and the Support All Students campaign, visit
Great news!

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) Also Supports Veto Of AZ Anti-Gay Law

Following the position of his junior colleague, 2008 Republican Presidential candidate John McCain, legislation which claims to expand religious liberty to the point where a"sincerely held religious belief" can be used as a valid defense in court for violations of state public accommodations law. The immediate impact would be to empower anti-LGBT bigots with the ability to deny services they offer to the general public to LGBT people.

Hat/tip to Joe.My.God

READ IT AND WEEP: The Text Of Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Law

Well, he went and did it! The President of Uganda signed into law the infamous "Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2014." It is the most misguided and virulently homophobic piece of legislation enacted anywhere in the world in recent memory.

Here is the text of the relevant section on homosexuality, but you should read the full text of the law which also punishes people for advocating on behalf of LGBT people as well.

2. The offence of homosexuality.
(1) A person commits the offence of homosexuality if—
(a) he penetrates the anus or mouth of another person of the same sex with his penis or any other sexual contraption;
(b) he or she uses any object or sexual contraption to penetrate or stimulate sexual organ of a person of the same sex;
(c) he or she touches another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality.
(2) A person who commits an offence under this section shall be
liable, on conviction, to imprisonment for life.
3. Aggravated homosexuality.
(1) A person commits the offence of aggravated homosexuality where the—
(a) person against whom the offence is committed is below the age of eighteen years;
(b) offender is a person living with HIV;
(c) offender is a parent or guardian of the person against whom the offence is committed;
(d) offender is a person in authority over the person against whom the offence is committed;
(e) victim of the offence is a person with disability;
(f) offender is a serial offender; or
(g) offender applies, administers or causes to be used by any man or woman any drug, matter or thing with intent to stupefy or overpower him or her so as to enable any person to have unlawful carnal connection with any person of the same sex.
(2) A person who commits the offence of aggravated homosexuality shall be liable, on conviction, to imprisonment for life.
(3) Where a person is charged with the offence under this section, that person shall undergo a medical examination to ascertain his or her HIV status.
4. Attempt to commit homosexuality.
(1) A person who attempts to commit the offence of homosexuality commits a felony and is liable, on conviction, to imprisonment for seven years.
(2) A person who attempts to commit the offence of aggravated homosexuality commits an offense and is liable, on conviction, to imprisonment for life.
Who says truth can't be stranger than fiction? If one saw a movie or read a book with legislation like this one would think it was too far-fetched to be real. This is a very sad day for people who believe in the principles of human rights around the world.

Hat/tip to Box Turtle Bulletin

Secretary of State Kerry Issues Statement on Uganda Anti-Gay Law

Office of the Spokesperson
For Immediate Release                                                                                         February 24, 2014


Enactment of Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill

This is a tragic day for Uganda and for all who care about the cause of human rights. Ultimately, the only answer is repeal of this law.

The United States is deeply disappointed in the enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda. For the four years since the bill was introduced, we have been crystal clear that it blatantly violates human rights obligations that Uganda’s Human Rights Commission itself has recognized are enshrined in Uganda’s Constitution

Today’s signing threatens a dangerous slide backward in Uganda’s commitment to protecting the human rights of its people and a serious threat to the LGBT community in Uganda. 
We are also deeply concerned about the law’s potential to set back public health efforts in Uganda, including those to address HIV/AIDS, which must be conducted in a non-discriminatory manner in order to be effective.

As President Obama stated, this legislation is not just morally wrong, it complicates a valued relationship.  Now that this law has been enacted, we are beginning an internal review of our relationship with the Government of Uganda to ensure that all dimensions of our engagement, including assistance programs, uphold our anti-discrimination policies and principles and reflect our values.

From Nigeria to Russia and Uganda, we are working globally to promote and protect the human rights of all persons.  The United States will continue to stand against any efforts to marginalize, criminalize, and penalize vulnerable persons in any society.

# # #

EYE CANDY: Darius Williams

Darius Williams is a model with Soul Artists who is making his debut as an Eye Candy model. His model page lists his height as 6-feet 1.5-inches with no information about his age or weight. I generally like to have all three pieces of information for all my Eye Candy models, but exceptions can be made. :)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Jason Collins Officially Becomes 1st Openly Gay NBA Player

The New York Times is reporting that Jason Collins, who last year came out as the first openly gay player to be competing in a major American professional sport, will become the first openly gay player in the NBA by joining the Brooklyn Nets for a 10-day contract. Collins had been playing for the Washington Wizards but when he came out the season for the team was over and he was technically not on any NBA team's roster. With his signing with the Nets, he will likely become the first openly gay player to compete in an official NBA game very soon, perhaps as soon as tonight at the Staples Center in Los Angeles (where Collins lives).
LOS ANGELES — Jason Collins, a 35-year-old N.B.A. center who announced last year that he was gay, has signed a 10-day contract Sunday to join the roster of the Nets. 
The signing is a significant step in transforming American professional sports into a welcoming environment for gay athletes. No N.B.A. game has ever taken place with an openly gay player on the floor. The N.F.L., Major League Baseball and the N.H.L. — which round out the continent’s four traditional major sports leagues — have also never had an publicly gay participant. 
The very act of Collins’s suiting up and stepping onto the court, then, would represent a milestone in the effort to change a sports culture that some feel has lagged far behind society at large in acceptance of gay people. Collins was expected be in uniform when the Nets played the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night at the Staples Center.
Congratulations to Jason (and the Nets) for breaking this lavender barrier!

QUEER QUOTE: Senator Flake (R-AZ) Hopes Brewer Vetoes Anti-LGBT Bill

The reaction to the Arizona legislature's passage of SB 1062, this week is growing louder with even the Junior U.S. Senator weighing in against it from becoming law. The proposed measure (which is on Governor Jan Brewer's desk)  purports to expand religious freedom to an extreme extent where a "sincerely held" religious belief could immunize "any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, religious assembly or institution or other business organization" from legal action from violating local LGBT ordinances in Phoenix, Tucson or Flagstaff or any other state-based civil rights legislation.

The measure is so broad that a local Arizona television news station summarizes its impact thusly:
Senate Bill 1062 re-defines and expands the state's definition of "exercise of religion" and "state action" to protect businesses, corporations and people from lawsuits after denying services based on a sincere religious belief.
According to the bill, "A person whose religious exercise is burdened in violation of this section may assert that violation as a claim or a defense in a judicial proceeding, regardless of whether the government is a party to the proceeding."
The bill also establishes a set of needed guidelines for when this potential defense could be used in court:
- The person's action or refusal to act is motivated by a religious belief
- The person's religious belief is sincerely held
- The state action substantially burdens the exercise of the person's religious beliefs
Who would have thought that a Republican-dominated legislature would be the first legislative body in the United States to support Sharia law? If SB 1062 becomes law, the legislature has thus endorsed the idea that religious belief should trump law. That includes religious belief by Muslims, Scientologists or Christian Scientists. Under this law, Muslim taxi drivers would be able to refuse to carry unmarried female passengers traveling alone, or a person could claim they were able to run a red light because their religion told them they could not be late for church.

The main argument against Brewer signing the bill is that the 2015 Super Bowl is currently scheduled for the Phoenix metro area but you know there will be intense pressure to move it if the bill becomes law, including another move to boycott Arizona. Again.

Hat/tip to Joe.My.God

POLL: Potential Oregon Ballot Measure On Marriage Equality Leads 55-41

An internal poll conducted by Anzalone Liszt Grove for Oregon United for Marriage indicates that support for marriage equality in the Beaver state has increased to a healthy 14-point margin, 55-41.
This is interesting because although the coalition has collected enough signatures to put the question before voters in November 2014, they are waiting to see what a federal judge does with a pending federal lawsuit challenging Oregon's constitutional ban on marriage (which the state's attorney general claims will not survive any standard of legal review) before deciding whether to submit them or not.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

2014 DUBAI: Venus Wins 45th WTA Title, 2nd in 4 Years

Venus Williams, 33, won her 45th WTA Tour title, in Dubai, by defeating Alize Cornet 6-3 6-0. The title was Venus' first since Luxembourg in October 2012, and only her second since winning two consecutive titles in Dubai and Acapulco in February 2010.

Venus looked very sharp against Cornet, taking advantage of an unexpected opportunity that arose when the Frenchwoman surprisingly upset her sister Serena in the semifinals.

Oregon Becomes 6th State Where Attorney General Won't Defend Marriage Ban

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum has announced that she will no longer defend that state's constitutional marriage ban in light of the recent 9th Circuit ruling in GlaxoSmithKline v Abbott that declared sexual orientation is a suspect class that requires the government to provide increased justification for laws that discriminate against LGBT people. Rosenblum said in a filing in the lawsuit Rummel v. Kitzhaber that:
State Defendants will not defend the Oregon ban on same-sex marriage in this litigation. Rather, they will take the position in their summary judgment briefing that the ban cannot withstand a federal constitutional challenge under any standard of review. In the meantime, as the State Defendants are legally obligated to enforce the Oregon Constitution’s ban on same-sex marriage, they will continue to do so unless and until this Court grants the relief sought by the plaintiffs.
Interestingly, Rosenblum joins at least 5 other attorneys-general who have refused to defend their state's laws banning marriage equality. California's Jerry Brown was one of the most prominent (and significant) to do so way back in December 2008 and the election of Kamala Harris in 2010 insured that California's attorney general would continue to support marriage equality. Others have been Illinois's Lisa Madigan in June 2012, Pennsylvania's Kathleen Kane in July 2013, Virginia's Mark Herring in January 2014 and Nevada's Catherina Cortez Masto in February 2014.

Oregon is an interesting case because signatures have been collected to go back to the ballot but the attorney general's switch, the state of law in the 9th circuit and the fact that the case is being heard before openly gay federal judge Michael McShane makes it likely marriage equality will come to Oregon sooner rather than later and that the ballot fight might not be necessary. Signatures do not have to be submitted until July 2014 for the November election.

In fact, Mike Marshall the campaign manager for Oregon United for Marriage issued a  statement responding to AG Rosenblum's action:
"If we get marriage (from the federal court) in the spring and nobody appeals and marriage licenses are being issued, nobody has any hunger for a ballot measure we don't need."
It should be noted that every federal judge who has ruled on a marriage equality lawsuit since last year's United States v. Windsor Supreme Court ruling has found in favor of equality, and this has often been under a rational basis level of review and not the heightened scrutiny required in the 9th circuit.

Friday, February 21, 2014

2014 DUBAI: Cornet Beats Serena, Faces Venus In Final

Sadly, a 25th meeting between Venus Williams and Serena Williams will not happen because Serena was bounced 6-4 6-4 from the WTA tournament in Dubai by Alize Cornet. Venus, who won this title in 2009 and 2010 but has not played here in the intervening years, is on a 14-match winning streak in the Arab emirate. She dismissed former World #1 Caroline Wozniacki 6-3 6-2, following up wins over Flavia Pennetta and Ana Ivanovic.

I like Venus' chances to win her 3rd title in Dubai. Can Alize Cornet really become one of the rare players to beat Venus and Serena in the same tournament and win it? I doubt it. Go Venus!

WWJD: HRC Calls For Veto Of AZ LGBT Segregation Bill

What will Jan Do? LGBT people in Arizona and all over the United States are wondering what Jan Brewer will do with the discriminatory legislation (called SB1062) heading to her desk. Will she prevent it from becoming law, or will she allow her state to be associated with the imposition of legal segregation based on sexual orientation or gender identity?

HRC Calls on AZ Gov. Jan Brewer to Veto License to Discriminate Law
Deeply flawed legislation harms LGBT and other communities
WASHINGTON – Following the Senate passage of Arizona’s so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin released the following statement:
“This bill is bad for business, bad for the LGBT community and bad for all Arizonans.  Governor Brewer, who herself described it as very controversial, must veto it and send a strong message that legally sanctioned discrimination has no place in Arizona.
“Religious groups have a long established first amendment ability to operate according to their own beliefs.  However, when individuals or businesses go out into the commercial market, they must abide by legal non-discrimination provisions.
“When providing a service to the public, a business owner shouldn’t pick and choose who they want to provide a service to and who they want to deny.  Instead of protecting religious liberty, this bill gives license for discrimination to run rampant across the state.”
Americans overwhelmingly believe that businesses should not be able to deny services to someone because they’re gay or lesbian:
  • According to a poll by Third Way and the Human Rights Campaign 69 percent of Americans don’t think a business owner should be allowed to refuse to provide products or services to an individual because that person is gay or lesbian, compared to an incredibly small 15% that do. And when asked about small business owners in particular, a full 68% of Americans don’t think they should be able to refuse service to gays or lesbians, regardless of their religious beliefs. This supermajority included 55% of Republicans, 75% of Independents, 67% of people without college degrees, and 68% of Christians.
  • When asked specifically about wedding-related services, like catering, flowers, or cakes, being provided by small businesses, 64% of voters were still opposed to new laws that would allow small businesses to deny wedding-related services based on their religious beliefs, compared to 31% in favor.
Because the language is so broad, any individual, corporation, institution, or business organization may be able to justify discrimination against LGBT individuals by claiming a religious belief. Potential examples include:
  • Undermining local non-discrimination ordinances protecting LGBT individuals.
  • Interfering with licensing organizations that have professional regulations protecting LGBT individuals.
  • Employees may potentially bring litigation against employers who are enforcing internal nondiscrimination policies, including employer provided benefits for same-sex spouses (health insurance, retirement) and LGBT non-discrimination policies.
  • Pharmacists could potentially refuse to provide HIV and hormone replacement therapy drugs.
  • Restaurants, inns/hotels could potentially turn away same-sex couples celebrating an anniversary, adoption or pregnancy.
  • Wedding garment shops, bakeries, photo studios, and reception halls could close their doors to same-sex couples planning their weddings.
The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.
# # #

GRAPHIC: 50% Of All Economic Activity Is In Urban Centers

Via Kevin Drum is this interesting picture demonstrating the outsized impact of urban centers on America's economic activity.

Arizona Legislature Passes "Religious Freedom" Bill That Purports To Legalize Anti-LGBT Discrimination

The LGBT blogosphere is abuzz with the news that Arizona has become the first legislature to attempt to codify anti-LGBT discrimination in public accommodations into law under the guise of expanding religious liberty.

The New York Times reported the news thusly:
PHOENIX — The Arizona Legislature passed a measure on Thursday that allows business owners asserting their religious beliefs to refuse service to gays and others, drawing backlash from Democrats who called the proposal “state-sanctioned discrimination” and an embarrassment. 
The 33-to-27 vote by the House sent the legislation to Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican. 
Governor Brewer does not comment on pending legislation, but she vetoed a similar measure last year. That action, however, came during an unrelated political standoff, and it was not clear whether she would support this plan. 
Similar religious protection legislation has been introduced in Ohio, Kansas, Mississippi, Idaho, South Dakota, Tennessee and Oklahoma, but Arizona’s plan is the only one that has passed. The efforts are stalled in Idaho, Ohio and Kansas.
It should be noted that Phoenix, the nation's 6th largest city, only enacted an LGBT rights ordinance last year and that if this measure becomes law all someone would have to say is that the have a "sincerely held religious belief" to justify denying service to LGBT people in Phoenix or anywhere in the state.

I  think if Governor Brewer actually signs the bill into law, the boycotts that Arizona saw over the passage of the xenophobic SB 1070 will pale in comparison what will happen soon as news about homophobic segregation becomes more well-known. SB 1070 was eventually struck down by the United States Supreme Court. I wonder how quickly Arizona will be in court, especially since that state is in the 9th circuit, where laws that classify based on sexual orientation receive heightened scrutiny which means that such laws need to demonstrate that they are directly related to an important governmental interest. I doubt that "we want to discriminate against gays because our God tells us so" will be a sufficient reason!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

My Top 10 Best Films Seen in 2013

This post contains the list of my Top 10 films that I saw in 2013. Last year my favorite film was A Separation. This year it was very hard to decide between the very best film of the year, with the two contenders being very different from each other but each very powerful in their own way.

Anyway, here is my Top 10 list of best films seen in 2013
  1. 12 Years A Slave. This was the best film I saw all year. Although it is a difficult movie to sit through, and despite the fact it is a cinematic rendering of a terrifying and terrible historical period, 12 Years A Slave has a lot to say to contemporary audiences. Unlike last year's Lincoln, which was another one of Steven Spielberg's forays into historicized verisimilitude in pursuit of racial reconciliation, I never felt like I was completing a dutiful chore by experiencing Steve McQueen's version of Solomon Northrup's stranger-than-fiction life story. A free black man who gets kidnapped and manages to endure and then escape any Black person's worst nightmare is the source material for a work that you would think would mostly resonate with predominantly black audiences, but from the rapturous critical responses and significant Academy Award recognition (Nine Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Director, Actor, Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress). I hope that it wins as many awards as it can but regardless of what happens on Sunday March 2nd, the value of 12 Years A Slave is not measured by the number of Oscars it wins but by the number of people who are impacted by the film now and in the future.
  2. Gravity. Although I did not end up ranking Gravity as the best film of the year I would not be upset if the Academy disagrees with me and recognizes it for  the technological tour de force that it is. Structured around a gripping performance by Sandra Bullock, the central mission of the film is director Alfonso Cuaron's desire to make the experience of watching the film to be a truly immersive experience. This is an especially effective and ambitious goal because the film is set in space and only the voices of four individual actors (and live faces of two) are ever seen on screen. I saw the film in 3-D but it is my understanding that even watching the film in other formats the strength of the film to suck you in and make you believe that you are also in space along with Bullock as her character encounters an unfortunate sequence of harrowing events which literally set my pulse racing.
  3. Prisoners. The most suspenseful moments I spent in the theater in 2013 were watching this film from Denis Villeneuve, who made my favorite film of 2011, Incendies. The cast is incredible, with memorable performances by Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Maria Bello, Melissa Leo, Viola Davis, Terence Howard and Paul Dano. The story is about the the kidnapping of two little girls (Jackman and Bello, and Howard and Davis play the parents) investigated by police detective Gyllenhaal with Dano as a strange guy who is the prime suspect in the kids' disappearance. Prisoners explores how far decent "regular" folks will go when faced with extraordinary circumstances as Jackman's character begins to unravel under the pressure of the diminishing chances of survival of his beloved daughter as time elapses and the desire to do something, even the unthinkable, in order to see his child alive again.
  4. American Hustle / Silver Linings Playbook (2012). Even though these two movies were released in two consecutive years they are linked together in my mind because they are made by the same director (David O. Russell) and feature some of the most noteworthy performances stars of both years. In fact, both movies star some of the same people: Jennifer Lawrence (who won her Best Actress Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook and who is nominated as Best Supporting Actress for her work in American Hustle) and Bradley Cooper (who was nominated for Best Actor for Silver Linings Playbook and for Best Supporting Actor for American Hustle). Russell has a richly deserved reputation as an actor's director, since in his last two movies actors received Oscar nominations in all four of the acting categories. Of the two films, I think that American Hustle is superior, and this is primarily due to the presence of Christian Bale and Amy Adams as well as a more compelling storyline, which is a comedic depiction of the infamous AbScam scandal of the 1970s. The film is both richly entertaining and quite suspenseful, as Bale and Adams inhabit their characters with such vivacity that the audience becomes quite invested in what happens to them,
  5. Zero Dark Thirty (2012)This was Kathryn Bigelow's follow-up film after her Oscar-winning turn in The Hurt Locker about the search for Osama bin Laden which made Jessica Chastain an above-the-line movie star. This would have been near the top of my list of best films for 2012 but I didn't see the film until January. It's quite extraordinary that Bigelow is able to make such a suspenseful, engaging film about a story in which we already know the ending. 
  6. Dallas Buyers ClubThis film was a pleasant surprise, centered around two astonishing, transformative performances by Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto.  The powerful story is a clear-eyed depiction of some of the darkest days of the AIDS crisis when people had to be creative to get access to potential life-saving drugs against the wishes of a heartless government bureaucracy. Jennifer Garner (Mrs. Ben Affleck) has a key role as a doctor who abandons the establishment for the good of her patients. Both Leto and McConaughey give revelatory performances and one and perhaps two of them may receive Oscars for their work.
  7. Fruitvale Station. This film is a heartbreaking depiction of the last few days of the life of Oscar Grant, who was fatally shot in the  back by a BART officer while he was face down in the early hours of 2009. Grant is portrayed powerfully by Michael B. Jordan and the film is effective at humanizing a story that could have easily become an unwatchable hagiography but instead  is as compelling and horrifying as a slow-motion car crash.
  8. Star Trek Into Darkness. My favorite action film of the year was this entry into the Star Trek franchise directed by J.J. Abrams and stars Benedict Cumberbatch as the villain. There's an exciting twist to this movie which fans of the earlier Star Trek films willl greatly enjoy. There's great chemistry between Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine as Kirk and Scott and Simon Pegg basically steals the movie as Scotty.
  9. Her. This film features one of the most creative screenplays of recent memory, another Spike Jonze joint. The story is about  a man played by Joaquin Phoenix who falls in love with an operating system voiced by Scarlett Johansson in a near-future time where this event is not remarkable. In addition to the very original screenplay, the production design and vision of Los Angeles are also remarkable. 
  10. Lee Daniels' The Butler. Although some people dismissed this film as "the Black Forrest Gump" due to the travelogue version of history it depicts of great moments of the civil rights era, it features compelling performances from Oprah and Forrest Whitaker. Additionally, there are amazing cameos from  a dizzying array of actors portraying real historical figures.
2013 was an even better year for movies than 2012. I hope that 2014 turns out to be just as good!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

QUEER QUOTE: Kerry Condemns Homophobic Comments By The President of The Gambia

Office of the Spokesperson
For Immediate Release                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      February 19, 2014


Anti-LBGT Rhetoric in The Gambia

The United States is deeply troubled by the hateful rhetoric used by President Jammeh in his National Day speech on February 18.  All people are created equal and should be able to live free from discrimination, and that includes discrimination based on sexual identity and sexual orientation. We call on the Government of The Gambia to protect the human rights of all Gambians, and we encourage the international community to send a clear signal that statements of this nature have no place in the public dialogue and are unacceptable.  
Human rights and fundamental freedoms belong to all individuals. The United States stands by you no matter where you are and no matter who you love.

# # #

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

TENNIS TUESDAY: Li Na Reaches World #2!

Li Na made history this week by reaching #2 on the WTA singles rankings, becoming the highest rated player of Asian descent. Interestingly, Peng Shuai also made history this week by becoming the first Chinese player to be ranked #1 in doubles.
"To be No.1 was a goal of mine this year. Su-Wei and I were very close at the end of last year. It is something I have worked very hard for," Peng commented. "With Li Na going to No.2 in singles, and Hsieh Su-Wei taking the No.2 doubles ranking, this is a big breakthrough for Asian tennis. We are looking forward to the rest of the year and hopefully the WTA Championships in Singapore." 
"To go to No.2 in the world is definitely a proud accomplishment for me and my team," Li said. "We have worked very hard and look to improve every week. It is an exciting time for tennis in China.
Congratulations to Li and Peng!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Game of Thrones Season 4: Trailer #2!

The second trailer for Season 4 of Game of Thrones  was released last night! (I actually aw it while the Other Half and I were watching True Detective on DVR but didn't realize at the time that it was a completely new trailer from the first one.)

I intend to blog every episode of Season 4 like I did for Season 3. The first episode of Season 4 (S4E01) airs on April 6, 2014.

EYE CANDY: Fahylando Jackson

Fahylando Jackson has an Instagram account, a Tumblr blog and a Facebook presence. He is 24 years old  and 5'10" and 170 pounds. I discovered him through a blog post by Funky Dineva, who classified him as a "Yes, Gawd."

I think you can see why, yes?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

White Houses Issues Statement On Enactment of Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Office of the Press Secretary
February 16, 2014

Statement by the President on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda

As a country and a people, the United States has consistently stood for the protection of fundamental freedoms and universal human rights.  We believe that people everywhere should be treated equally, with dignity and respect, and that they should have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential, no matter who they are or whom they love.

That is why I am so deeply disappointed that Uganda will shortly enact legislation that would criminalize homosexuality.  The Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda, once law, will be more than an affront and a danger to the gay community in Uganda.  It will be a step backward for all Ugandans and reflect poorly on Uganda’s commitment to protecting the human rights of its people.  It also will mark a serious setback for all those around the world who share a commitment to freedom, justice and equal rights.

As we have conveyed to President Museveni, enacting this legislation will complicate our valued relationship with Uganda.  At a time when, tragically, we are seeing an increase in reports of violence and harassment targeting members of the LGBT community from Russia to Nigeria, I salute all those in Uganda and around the world who remain committed to respecting the human rights and fundamental human dignity of all persons.



Blog Widget by LinkWithin