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NEWS -- 2007.11.01.Thursday

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  • James Martin
    1) Another suicide tragedy 2) Same-sex couples raising children less likely to be white, wealthy 3) Florida village boasts art and diversity 4) Transgender
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 1, 2007
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      1) Another suicide tragedy
      2) Same-sex couples raising children less likely to be white, wealthy
      3) Florida village boasts art and diversity
      4) Transgender man allowed to remain as church pastor
      5) The Times of India Editorial: Magically Gay
      6) Narrow the hate crimes act
      7) It must be Argentina's first luxury gay hotel
      8) Religion doesn't confer right to discriminate
      9) Phelps held accountable -- $10.9 million damages for kin of Marine killed in Iraq
      10) What can we learn from a 'church' of hate?

      EXTRA -- from Pridelets -- http://groups.yahoo.com/group/pridelets/
      PageOneQ Pridelets for November 1
      On this day in 1997, "Billy's Boy" becomes the third book in what few
      might have seen as a trilogy when Patricia Nell Warren's "The Front
      Runner" was first published in 1974. While the two previous books have
      been in the voice of Harlan Brown, the new story has a teenage
      protagonist, whose mother has just come out, is seeking the truth about
      his father, and searching for his own identity.
      But, the story is still not over as Warren confirms that "Billy's
      Boy" is, "not the last in the series. I've already done some work on a
      fourth book in 'The Front Runner' series." Readers will have to wait as
      another novel, "Wrong Side of the Tracks," will likely hit shelves first.

      received from a friend ---

      Two weeks ago Michelle, formerly my wife, called me in tears, sobbing. A fine young man she worked with had taken his life. Some of you may wonder why I'm sending this. I did not know Jordan. I have however felt a kinship with him since his passing. I've felt called to do something in Jordan's name to stop the list of GLBT and questioning youth who take their own lives. So, in conjunction with the Utah Pride Center, IKEA of Draper, and Carol Lynn Pearson, I'm pleased to invite you to honor Jordan.

      A memorial for Jordan Jensen will be held on Thursday November 1st, 2007 at 9pm at The Salt Lake Acting Company, downstairs chapel. 168 West 500 North in Salt Lake City.

      We're especially looking for a few good friends or family of Jordan's to memorialize him with stories or experiences. If anyone knows someone who plays cello, please have them contact me right away - or forward me their contact info please.

      This will be an opportunity to pay respects to Jordan in a non-denominational setting and all walks and forms of spirituality are welcome. It will be a respectful tribute to 100% of who he was. Please respect that this will be a memorial service and understand that it will not be a place to find blame or fault with anyone in regards to the end of Jordan's life. Many of us believe he lives on and are very aware of the loss to the gay community, his co-workers, friends and family.

      Carol Lynn Pearson will be in attendance and will speak of the all-to-common tragedy of suicide amongst LGBT & questioning youth.

      Jordan James Jensen, 18. Obituary


      another comment received ---
      When the person is young, and there is no mention of "his long struggle with X" (i.e. cancer), or that he
      was tragically killed in a x accident, it is usually a pretty good guess that it was a suicide. In fact, I
      think most people--especially Mormons--would be particularly anxious for people to know that it WASN'T
      a suicide and that is why cause of death is usually stated--or at least a mention of a suggested donation
      to the Cancer society or something.

      It is what isn't said in an obituary that often makes it most interesting.

      The fact that most people can't seem to muster the cajones to mention "suicide" (or a euphamism for such)
      in an obituary is evidence, to me, of the ongoing shame and taint people/society attach to a suicide, or
      perceive to be attached to it. It is a pity, in my mind, that we all can't be more open and
      straightforward about it--and not blame--so that the friends of the family of the deceased don't have to
      tip toe around this huge elephant in the room that everyone agrees to pretend not to see. If we could be
      as open and honest about it as we were, say, dying of cancer, maybe we would learn more about how to see the
      warning signs ahead of time in people and help them get help, or try to help them accept themselves for
      who they are, before it is too late. Our insistence on living in denial about things can be very costly.

      AS far as this young man Jordan is concerned, I read his obit, and was absolutely sick and sad. What a
      beautiful kid and what a senseless and tragic loss. I am tempted to be angry at someone or something, but I
      don't really know all the circumstances....

      and from another ---
      In a case of suicide, that is the usual practice no matter the age of the deceased. Few families would choose to drag that sort of news into an obituary. My father was a mortician, and I can't remember ever seeing a suicide mentioned in a obit.


      Same-sex couples raising children less likely to be white, wealthy


      San Francisco Chronicle

      Same-sex couples raising children less likely to be white, wealthy

      - Tyche Hendricks,
      Chronicle Staff Writer
      Wednesday, October 31, 2007

      Oakland mom Huda Jadallah spent Tuesday afternoon balancing last-minute Halloween costume shopping for her twin boys against her daughter's soccer practice. It was a familiar conundrum for a woman used to juggling a variety of identities - as a Palestinian American, a lesbian and a mother.

      Jadallah and her partner, Deanna Karraa, are among more than 26,000 gay and lesbian couples across the state who are raising an estimated 70,000 children. Like most - and unlike common public perception - these same-sex parents are neither white nor above the average in income.

      A study released Tuesday by a group of Bay Area organizations serving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender families found that same-sex couples raising children in California are more likely to be people of color and that their median household income is 17 percent lower than the income of married couples with children.

      "There is an idea of LGBT families, when people think about it at all, there's this perception that it's affluent white folks, and the data show that's based on our own misperceptions," said Judy Appel, director of the Our Family Coalition in San Francisco. "We're in every neighborhood, every race, ethnicity and economic group. Our kids are playing in the playgrounds and parks with all other kids."

      The Our Family Coalition - along with the San Francisco Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Community Center and Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere - produced the report to paint a more accurate picture of gay and lesbian parents and their children. They drew on data from the U.S. census of 2000, the first year in which the government asked people to report whether they were living with a same-sex partner, as well as on several other studies, including two by the Williams Project at the UCLA School of Law.

      The Williams Project found 1,400 same-sex couples raising children in Alameda County and close to 700 in San Francisco. The Our Families report notes that the numbers are probably on the low side because the census tracked only same-gender couples raising children, not gay and lesbian individuals with children.

      The "Our Families" report focused on San Francisco and Alameda counties, which are ranked No. 2 and No. 4 respectively for the number of gay and lesbian couples among counties in the state. Los Angeles is No. 1, and San Diego is No. 3.

      In Alameda and San Francisco counties, the report found, a large proportion of gay and lesbian couples raising children were nonwhite. In addition, 69 percent of same-sex parents were women. Those two factors could help explain why same-sex families have lower incomes, Appel said, because women and people of color earn less on average.

      The groups hope that by better understanding the demographics of gay and lesbian families, they not only can help fight bias affecting children in those families, but also help improve economic equity.

      Married couples enjoy scores of legal and financial advantages unavailable to gay and lesbian parents, including preferential tax rates, inheritance rights, and the legal recognition of the family without costly court procedures, said Rebecca Rolfe, director of the LGBT Community Center.

      Jadallah, 43, and Karraa, 45, felt those inequities directly after Jadallah gave birth to their twin boys. At the time, they lived in Santa Barbara, where she was a graduate student at UC Santa Barbara. They petitioned for Karraa to adopt the twins but were rejected by a judge because they were same-sex partners. (Five years later, after the passage of Assembly Bill 25, they succeeded in cross-adopting all three children.) As a result, Karraa couldn't put the children on her health insurance at work, so Jadallah paid extra to add the boys to her student insurance and sought MediCal for well-baby care. The couple also were turned down for university-owned married student housing, so they paid more to rent an apartment in town.

      "The financial impact is still with us today, through larger student loans," Jadallah said. The family lives on Karraa's earnings as a public health nurse; Jadallah is a stay-at-home mom.

      The Bay Area is more accepting of gay and lesbian families, she and others said, but it's not free of homophobia, either.

      Another Oakland parent, Loren Henning, 45, is raising a 22-month-old son with his gay partner as well as the boy's biological mother and her lesbian partner.

      "Just recently my partner and I were walking with our son, and we were called 'fags,' " he said. "Even in a place where we're more accepted and feel safer, it's still there."

      Henning is African American, and the boy's mother is white, so as they look for preschools, they are eager to find a place where their son will feel accepted, both as a biracial kid and as the child of same-sex parents.

      Jadallah said her children, 9-year-old twin boys and a 6-year-old daughter, have many times been shut out by peers because they have two moms. When they moved to Oakland, they picked what they thought was the best public school without worrying about whether it would be welcoming to a same-sex family. But, she said, "It's much more conservative than one would think. There's definitely homophobia."

      But in recent years, there's been improvement. The school is now committed to teaching tolerance in the classroom.

      It might be inevitable for the children of same-sex parents, especially people of color, to feel like they fall between different worlds at times, Jadallah said.

      "Our kids know gay culture; they see our gay friends. They're also part of Arab culture. They go to my mom's house, and she speaks Arabic to them. Then they go to Thornhill (Elementary School) and get school culture," she said.

      "It's making them in the end be people who, kind of like me, when you grow up with immigrant parents, you learn to move in different worlds, you don't think the world is just one way. It makes them more versatile."

      Online resources:

      For information on the Our Family Coalition, go to:

      For information on Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere, go to:

      For the San Francisco LGBT Community Center, go to:

      E-mail Tyche Hendricks at thendricks@...


      Florida village boasts art and diversity


      Atlanta Journal-Constitution
      Wednesday, October 31, 2007

      Florida village boasts art and diversity


      Gulfport, Fla. - It used to be that locals avoided this former rough-and-tumble fishing town wedged between St. Petersburg and St. Pete Beach in west central Florida.

      But for the past decade, Gulfport, a city of 13,000 residents, has been steadily transforming itself into an arts community, attracting visitors from Tampa Bay and faraway.

      Along the way, it has drawn so many gay and lesbian year-round and winter residents (an estimated 30 percent of the population) that it has earned such titles as Provincetown South and Gayberry. The downtown merchant's association is involved with the regional gay pride festivities (www.stpetepride.com ), and late last year Gulfport became one of the few municipalities in Florida, and the first in the Tampa Bay area, to adopt a human rights ordinance that protects not only gays and lesbians but also transgendered people.

      But what Gulfport really has become is a place for everyone, a place where "diverse" isn't a buzzword.

      During a stroll along the mostly commercial Beach Boulevard on a Saturday afternoon recently, there were kids playing in front of a worn duplex, 20-somethings bopping and shopping, traditional families with children, bikers, grandparents, great-grandparents, and gay couples. And don't forget the dogs. Every other person had one, with Labrador retrievers and Chihuahuas leading the pack. Most seem to know one another.

      "We at the chamber call the community 'bohemian,' " said Greg Stemm, executive director of the Gulfport Chamber of Commerce, as well as a gay man and the owner of two dachshunds.

      "There's a real desire not to make this a gay ghetto. We very much value an eclectic mix. For a small town, we have a remarkable blend of people."

      Artist Frank Hibrandt feels the same way.

      "It's the reason I live in Gulfport. It's like Mayberry, updated for this century."

      The area had such a bad reputation that about 15 years ago, when Hibrandt was asked to show art at a local gallery, he mailed his piece instead of delivering it in person from Tampa.

      "Then they said I had to come to the opening," he said, smiling. That visit showed him that Gulfport was changing. He moved there a few years later and compares it to 1970s Key West.

      Several years ago he and fellow community activist Marlene Shaw started City of Imagination (www.cityofimagination.info), an arts group promoting Gulfport artists and events.

      There's also the popular Gulfport Art Walk, from 6 to 8 p.m. on the first Friday and third Saturday of every month (information and map at www.gulfportchamberofcommerce.com ).

      Many artists live or spend winters in the area. Perhaps the most visible is folk artist Hugo Porcaro. Mailboxes painted by the Rev. Hugo, as he's called, add to the flavor of several cottages and bungalows lining brick streets in the historic downtown arts district.

      Other Gulfport artists and artisans include glass blower Jackie Ballard; metal sculptor Joe Levy; and painter Keith Stillwagon, a longtime resident whose fanciful murals have turned plain buildings into lovely creations.

      Musical artist John Prine owns a home here.

      The commercial part of the downtown historic district consists, for now, of two three-block streets, Beach Boulevard to the bay and Shore Boulevard along it. A free trolley travels through Gulfport on Friday and Saturday evenings. The area, lined mostly with shops, cafes and businesses, is still in transition, with some homes and buildings needing face-lifts. Their renaissance almost certainly will come.

      "We're classing it up here," said 37-year resident Diane Yokom, who was hanging out on a Saturday afternoon with Zaba, her Chihuahua. Yokom extols the laid-back lifestyle here.

      "If you want a faster pace, you can go to St. Pete, Tampa and Clearwater," she said of the neighboring cities.

      One place classed up not long ago is the bayside Gulfport Casino, a historic building that was never a gambling hall but a place for socializing. The most recent renovation to the 1934 structure came in 2002, including refurbishing its huge wooden dance floor (event calendar at www.ci.gulfport.fl.us ).

      The casino abuts Gulfport Beach and a waterfront park, where you'll usually find folks on benches and swings, women playing volleyball on Sundays, and people fishing from the two small piers.

      The bay bottom is silty, not sandy. A true beach experience is only a couple of miles away on St. Pete Beach.

      Near the top of Beach Boulevard is the Art Village Courtyard, a cluster of historic cottages brightly painted and turned into shops. Weekends bring art and craft vendors and musical performers.

      Across the street is Backfin Blue Cafe. The restaurant, which specializes in crab but serves many outstanding dishes, is located in a 1920s house with a large screen porch.

      Another piece of history sits next door, at the Peninsula Inn & Spa. The 1904 building, decorated in British Colonial style, adds a touch of elegance to this casual town. Its wide front porch is the best spot for people- watching.

      Even though Stemm's job as the chamber director is to promote Gulfport, he admits it's tempting to keep quiet.

      "We walk the line between letting people know what a wonderful community we have and wanting to keep it to ourselves. There's an amazing sense of place here that [has] nothing to do with gay or straight. It's a human element."

      IF YOU GO

      Getting there

      Driving: Gulfport is about 480 miles from Atlanta, about a 7 1/2-hour drive.

      Flying: Expect to pay about $250 round trip from Atlanta to Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport.

      Where to stay

      . Sea Breeze Manor Bed and Breakfast Inn, 5701 Shore Blvd. 727-343-4445, www.seabreezemanor.com .

      . Don CeSar Beach Resort and Spa, 3400 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach. 1-866-728-2206, www.doncesar.com .


      Gulfport Chamber of Commerce: www.gulfportchamberofcommerce.com .


      Transgender man allowed to remain as church pastor


      The Baltimore Sun
      Wednesday, October 31, 2007

      Transgender man allowed to remain as church pastor

      By Liz F. Kay
      Sun reporter

      The highest judicial body of the United Methodist Church announced yesterday that a transgender man can remain pastor of a congregation in Charles Village.

      The ruling by the Judicial Council affirms last spring's decision by Bishop John R. Schol to reappoint the Rev. Drew Phoenix -- formerly the Rev. Ann Gordon -- to St. John's United Methodist Church.

      Schol's action had been appealed to the Judicial Council by several local clergy in the Baltimore-Washington Conference, who have raised questions about the proper role of transgender people within the church.

      Yesterday's ruling concluded that "a clergyperson's good standing cannot be terminated without administrative or judicial action having occurred and all fair process being accorded."

      The Methodists' Book of Discipline bars noncelibate gays and lesbians from serving as clergy but does not include any commentary about transgender people. In addition, yesterday's decision by the nine-member council, made up of laypeople and clergy, did not specifically address "whether gender change is a chargeable offense or violates minimum standards" of United Methodism.

      The Judicial Council "ruled that the Baltimore-Washington Conference is operating within the laws of the church," Schol said. "I'm pleased that the conference continues to abide by the discipline."

      Phoenix, who learned of the decision early yesterday morning, said he was elated.

      "To me, it's a historic day in the life of our denomination, and I think the Judicial Council decision is a very important first step in opening the doors of our churches to the transgender community," he said.

      When representatives from the entire denomination gather in April for its General Conference, an international legislative session held every four years, Phoenix said he is confident that the body "will open the doors further to gay men and lesbian women."

      Many groups, secular and religious, are struggling with how institutions ought to recognize and accommodate transgender people -- people who identify as a gender different than what was assigned to them at birth.

      The Rev. Kevin M. Baker, who had raised questions about Phoenix's name change when it was announced at the Baltimore-Washington's annual meeting in May, said he wasn't surprised by the Judicial Council's decision.

      However, "it seems to me that we need more discussion on this issue," said Baker, pastor of Oakdale Emory United Methodist Church in Olney. "We need a chance to talk about the implications of it."

      He said he wishes that the Judicial Council had called for more examination of theological issues raised by transgender people. For example, it's unclear to Baker whether transgender clergy could be married. United Methodism does not perform marriages of gays or lesbians and requires unmarried clergy to remain celibate.

      "This just is, in my opinion, another chink in a long fence of issues that we're not dealing well with in the church," such as pornography and divorce, he said.

      Susan Laurie of the Reconciling Ministries Network, which seeks expanded rights for gay, lesbian and bisexual Methodists, said her group supports the decision.

      "Reverend Phoenix has met the standards of his ordination as a United Methodist clergyperson," Laurie said. "In affirming Bishop Schol's decision, the council has simply joined in recognizing that -- and has refused to create a double standard."

      Others said they were relieved that the Judicial Council did not rewrite legislation in its decision. The Rev. Robert Renfroe, president of the Confessing Movement of the United Methodist Church, said the ruling appears limited and "didn't state whether or not being transgendered was some kind of offense."

      The Confessing Movement, which Renfroe described as supporting a traditionalist view, endorses the denomination's current position on homosexuality.

      "Our desire has always been that the people who get elected be fair to the will of the church," Renfroe said. "We don't want folks -- conservative or liberal -- trying to create law."

      At St. John's yesterday, church member Carrie Frias said she was thrilled for her pastor but even more proud of the impact the council's decision could have for people struggling with a gender-identity question of their own or who have grown disenfranchised from the church.

      "For me, it's a much broader issue that's beyond Drew and beyond the church," said the Lauraville resident. Within the entire denomination, "for now, there hasn't been a statement that you're not welcome here."

      Schol -- who oversees nearly 700 congregations in Maryland and Washington, as well as in Bermuda and parts of West Virginia -- has said he reappointed Phoenix, who has served at St. John's since 2002, because he has been an effective leader.

      Under Phoenix, Sunday church attendance has grown from about a dozen people to more than 50 members of varied racial and socioeconomic backgrounds.

      Despite the uncertainty over Phoenix's role, the church has continued to expand ministries, such as sister-city partnerships in Nicaragua and Kenya and sponsorship of two Baltimore youth arts groups. Yesterday, Phoenix was helping to prepare the church's emergency shelter for its opening Sunday.

      "It's 110 percent that he's continued to give," Frias said.




      The Rev. Drew Phoenix, pastor of St. John's United Methodist Church and a transgender person, stands outside the church on St. Paul Street. (Sun photo by Barbara Haddock Taylor / October 30, 2007):



      The Times of India Editorial: Magically Gay

      [ An excellent editorial from The Times of India ]


      The Times of India
      Wednesday, 31 October 2007


      Magically Gay

      J K Rowling's recent announcement that Albus Dumbledore, one of the most beloved characters in the blockbuster Harry Potter series, was gay has created an uproar in the English-speaking world. While many have hailed the announcement, it has given a fillip to Christian Evangelists who decried the books as instruments of Satan. Others have criticised Dumbledore's outing as editorialising after the fact, and that if Rowling really wanted to make a point about homosexuality, she should've done so in the books. But Rowling has been diligent in portraying all manner of characters in her narrative, be it ethnicity, culture, race or physical appeal.

      Indeed, it would've been a remarkable omission if none of her characters were homosexual. In a world where gay rights are still a matter of intense debate, to have a character as well-loved and admired as Dumbledore be revealed as gay is indeed a Big Deal. The Harry Potter series has been a publishing phenomenon, with almost half a billion books sold to date. The movies have done extraordinarily well at the box office, earning $4.5 billion worldwide. As far as popular culture goes, it doesn't get more mainstream than Harry Potter.

      The most important aspect of the outing is Dumbledore's character. Not only does his orientation help us understand him better, particularly with regard to his relationship with Grindelwald, but it also makes homosexuality a footnote, the way it should be. Characters don't go shouting their straightness from the rooftops, and the understated nature of this revelation does much to move away from enforcing what is called a 'heteronormative' view, that being heterosexual is normal. Being gay didn't stop Dumbledore from becoming the most powerful wizard in the world, or from discharging his responsibilities as headmaster of a premier school or heading various associations. He is, in the Potterverse, a force for the light, a symbol of hope and a champion of the underdog.

      Harry Potter's sheer visibility means that most Dumbledore fans will become aware of his orientation. Many parents have taken up cudgels at the thought of the conversation they will have to have with their children. But because Dumbledore is without doubt a heroic figure, the mentor to the chosen one, being gay will have to be OK.

      - Yamini Lohia


      Narrow the hate crimes act


      Los Angeles Times
      Monday, October 29, 2007


      Narrow the hate crimes act

      By including the disabled in the Matthew Shepard hate-crimes bill, the authors went from sensible to extreme

      The U.S. Senate has joined the House in voting to expand the federal definition of hate crimes to include acts of violence inspired by a victim's sexual orientation. Yet by declining to curb some of the House bill's excesses, the Senate may have assured its failure.

      The Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, named after the gay University of Wyoming student who was beaten to death in 1998, is a well-meaning but over-broad bill that is probably headed for a presidential veto -- if it gets that far. The Senate unwisely attached it to a defense funding authorization from which it could easily be stripped in a conference committee.

      The Justice Department already includes anti-gay attacks in its hate-crime statistics. But when it comes to federal assistance for state and local prosecutions, the definition of a hate crime is narrower, encompassing crimes motivated by a victim's race, color, religion or national origin, but not by a victim's sexual orientation or gender identity. The legislation approved by both houses would rectify that unconscionable omission. The problem is that it goes further, extending the definition to crimes based on gender or disability. That could give President Bush a pretext for vetoing legislation opposed by his conservative base.

      Obviously, acts of violence or intimidation should be prosecuted aggressively regardless of the motive, and no doubt some are motivated by hatred of men or women or even (though this is hard to imagine) of disabled people. But such crimes are rare. According to the FBI, less than 1% of hate crimes in 2005 reflected a bias against the disabled. The FBI doesn't keep count of gender-bias crimes, but California does. In 2006, "hate crime events" involving gender and disability combined accounted for only 0.8% of incidents, compared to 18.8% of incidents motivated by the victim's sexual orientation.

      Evidence abounds that, like racial minorities, gay Americans are subjected to violence because of who they are. In 2005, according to the FBI, 14.2% of "single-bias" incidents involved sexual-orientation bias. That's less than the 54.7% attributed to racial bias but more than the 13.2% motivated by "ethnicity/national origin bias."

      It's understandable why the authors of the legislation erected such a "big tent" -- the longer the list of protected groups, they may have thought, the less controversy. But in legislating so broadly, they have undermined their best argument for adding sexual orientation to the definition of a hate crime: the demonstrated existence of a problem requiring federal intervention in what is ordinarily the business of municipal law enforcement.

      By targeting the Matthew Shepard law to the all-too-common animus that cost him his life, Congress would make it harder for Bush to argue that it was providing solutions for which there is no problem.


      It must be Argentina's first luxury gay hotel


      The Guardian

      Minimalism, torsos and tango: it must be Argentina's first luxury gay hotel

      A £3.5m development is set to confirm Buenos Aires as Latin America's pink capital

      - Rory Carroll in Buenos Aires
      Wednesday October 31, 2007

      The receptionists are slender young men in sleek suits, the brochure features chiselled male torsos, the rooms are soundproofed and stocked with condoms and every now and then Judy Garland croons in the bar: welcome to Latin America's first luxury gay hotel.

      The Axel Hotel opens for business today in the heart of Argentina's capital, and it claims to be the first of its kind in a country famed more for machismo and Catholicism than overt homosexuality.

      The £3.5m five-storey complex has been conceived and designed as an out and proud celebration of gay identity and sexuality, said Nacho Rodriguez, the general manager. "This hotel is not just gay-friendly. It is gay."

      From the open-plan design and transparent elevators - "we have nothing to hide", said Mr Rodriguez - to the contemporary and minimalist decor, the low-fat restaurant menu, the rainbow lighting, the four types of soap, everything is intended to appeal to the hotel's vision of a body-conscious guest.

      Male tango dancers and drag queens will perform at an inauguration party tonight to which 1,000 people have been invited, creating a buzz of expectation about which public figures will show up.

      The hotel, aimed squarely at gay men, not women, is the second opened by the Axel group, a Spanish company which started its maiden one in Barcelona in 2003. Named after a former boyfriend of the founder, Juan Julia Blanch, the group plans rapid expansion. It declares itself "hetero-friendly", meaning straight people are welcome but as a discreet minority.

      The move to Latin America is a sign that a continent once marked by conservatism and homophobia is liberalising, albeit slowly and unevenly. Colombia has recognised gay rights and Venezuela has outlawed discrimination based on sexual orientation.

      Argentina blazed the way with a law allowing civil unions among homosexuals which has helped make Buenos Aires Latin America's gay capital. Long famed for its stylish residents, vibrant social scene and European-style architecture, it has discovered the power of the pink pound, euro and dollar.

      Argentina's 2001 financial meltdown devalued the peso, making the city a bargain to foreigners and giving local businesses an incentive to attract a lucrative niche market. Some 300,000 gay visitors are estimated to spend £300m here each year.

      Last month the city hosted the 10th Gay World Cup soccer tournament, a first for South America, and next month it will host the first gay tango festival, Tango Queer.

      The Axel Hotel, located in the bohemian San Telmo district, styles itself as the jewel in Buenos Aires's gay crown. "This is the most open city in Latin America. It is very happy to have us and we are very happy to be here," said Mr Rodriguez.

      Neighbours welcomed the new arrival. "Gays are refined and aesthetic and that's what we're looking for," said Paula Repetto, curator of a sex-themed gallery, So Much Desire, opposite the hotel. Apartment block residents said the hotel would boost property values.

      Rates for the 48 rooms range from £90 to £275 a night, pricey by local standards, but most were booked up for the next few months, said Mr Rodriguez. [ Comment -- That's about $185 to $570 USD. ]

      No details have been spared: futuristic furniture by Charles and Ray Eames, Mies van der Rohe and Eileen Gray, a garden pool lined with transparent shower cubicles, a spa pool suspended over the lobby as a transparent roof, and deck chairs positioned in front of gym equipment. If you like to watch men stretching, bending, straining, sweating, soaping and swimming you are in the right place.

      The restaurant has a calorie-conscious menu and the bar offers health drinks as well as cocktails. The music is defined as "chillout", with a bias towards 1980s tunes as well as the occasional Judy Garland classic.

      Rooms are stocked with condoms and a card which says "Have Fun". The brochure shows two muscled, naked men clinched in apparent bliss. Another photo shows a guest in a bathrobe studying his partner in the shower.

      "This place is going to be a hit," said Jean-Laurent Julieno, a reporter with the French website Citegay.com who was invited to the launch. "A good vibe and intimate. The sort of place where you can make friends."


      Religion doesn't confer right to discriminate


      Seattle Post-Intelligencer
      Saturday, October 27, 2007

      Religion doesn't confer right to discriminate

      By D. PARVAZ

      Two bills -- HR 3685 and 3686, which should be one bill -- seek to give gays, lesbians, bisexuals and the transgendered protection from discrimination in the workplace.

      Naturally, President Bush indicated that he'll veto the bills (assuming they go that far), a move groups such as Conservative Women for America applaud. A statement from the administration (on 3685) indicates that his main issue with the bill is that it "is inconsistent with the right to the free exercise of religion as codified by Congress in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act." So, being a Christian means you get to deny people jobs based on what goes on in their pants when they're not at work?

      "We would oppose any bill that would grant preferred suspect minority status based upon social sexual behaviors," says Matt Barber, a spokesperson for the CWA. He adds that there's "no history of systematic discrimination" against the LGBT community, which he also calls a powerful political lobby. Oh, right. The Rainbow Mafia. A group so mighty that you can beat the tar out of one of them without getting charged with a hate crime. Now that's power.

      Although both bills provide exemptions for religious organizations (schools, churches, etc.), Barber feels that homosexual behavior is immoral, and that it ought not be protected at the expense of freedom of religion. He doesn't say how working with a homosexual would violate his right to be a Christian, but he's certain that having to "associate" with one somehow would. I'd understand (though disagree) with his objection to gay marriage, but gay employment?

      Things are changing, though, says Walter Walsh, a University of Washington prof specializing in constitutional law. "The switch has been flipped here. The federal government ... wants to be protective of gays and lesbians," as opposed to just leaving it up to local governments. "And now the claims are coming from the other direction."

      But first, it must be determined if a law outlawing sexual orientation discrimination in employment is capable of violating someone's freedom of religion. Walsh runs down a list of cases to point out pockets of success for gay rights groups (at least in terms of advancing the dialogue) -- Bowers v. Hardwick, Lawrence v. Texas, Boy Scouts of America v. Dale and Gay Rights Coalition v. Georgetown University. He's working on a book about the Georgetown case, where it was determined that the government had a compelling reason to eradicate discrimination based on sexual orientation, and that not doing so would rob (gay) students of tangible benefits.

      That, says Walsh, is the key:

      Does the burden imposed on Christians outweigh the tangible benefits of a gay or transgendered person being employed? What's the least restrictive way of balancing both?

      To some this fight has nothing to do with Christians fearing occupying the desk next to Tom the Tranny. "I think this kind of legislation is primarily symbolic," said Mark Smith, associate professor of political science at the UW. "This is kind of a proxy for that bigger struggle, it's one front of the war," says Smith, who specializes in American domestic politics. The right wing justifies discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation while race and religion are protected. Smith wonders how those who see gender identity and sexual orientation as choices ("I think most scientists would disagree with them on that score," he says) deal with the choice of (or the conversion to) a certain faith? Why is that a protected choice? I asked this of CWA's Barber and got nowhere.

      While on KUOW's "Weekday" with Steve Scher last week, panelists (including yours truly) were discussing Idaho Sen. Larry Craig's hypocrisy when a listener called in. "I feel that people like me, gays and lesbians, I feel like our lives are being played with," said "Sarah," a married transsexual female with a family. "We live in this country too, we're productive members of society and we are not recognized equally and that bothers me a lot." What can you say to that?

      Somehow, "Sorry. A person's right to discriminate against you based on religious beliefs supersedes your most basic civil rights" doesn't cut it.

      D. Parvaz is an editorial writer and member of the P-I Editorial Board. E-mail: dparvaz@...


      $10.9 million damages for kin of Marine killed in Iraq


      The Baltimore Sun

      Huge award in funeral lawsuit

      $10.9 million damages for kin of Marine killed in Iraq

      By Matthew Dolan and Julie Bykowicz
      Sun reporters
      November 1, 2007

      A federal jury in Baltimore awarded nearly $11 million yesterday to the father of a Marine killed in Iraq, deciding that the family's privacy had been invaded by a Kansas church whose members waved anti-gay signs at the funeral.

      It was the first-ever verdict against Westboro Baptist Church, a fundamentalist Christian group based in Topeka that has protested military funerals across the country with placards bearing shock-value messages such as "Thank God for dead soldiers."

      They contend that the deaths are punishment for America's tolerance of homosexuality and of gays in the military.

      Relatives of Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder wept and hugged at the jury's announcement, which came a day after closing arguments in the civil trial in federal district court.

      "Now I know it's going to be harder for them to do it to anyone else," said Albert Snyder, who mourned at his son's funeral in March 2006 while seven Westboro members waved signs nearby.

      The compensatory damage award alone, $2.9 million, was nearly triple the net worth of Westboro and the three members on trial, their attorney said.

      Fred W. Phelps Sr., Westboro's founder, vowed to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond, Va.

      "It's going to be reversed in five minutes," he said. This case, he added, "will elevate me to something important," as it draws more publicity to his cause.

      The jury found the defendants liable for violating the Snyder family's expectation of privacy at the funeral and for intentionally inflicting emotional distress.

      Snyder's lawsuit spurred a constitutional debate over how far the First Amendment should extend to protect the most extreme forms of expression.

      Some legal experts said the judgment could be a setback for those who believe in broad free-speech protections.

      "I think when speech is a matter of public concern it still has to be protected, even when by social standards it is extraordinarily rude and outrageous," said UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh.

      University of Maryland law professor Mark Graber said the size of award, which included $8 million in punitive damages, could have a chilling effect on speech.

      "This was in a public space," Graber said "While the actions are reprehensible, the First Amendment protects a lot that's reprehensible."

      After the verdict, Phelps and his two daughters named in Snyder's lawsuit said they believed that it was really their religious beliefs that were on trial.

      "The goofy jury threw a fit at God," Phelps said.

      For years, Westboro members have crisscrossed the country, turning funerals of soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan into attention-grabbing platforms to criticize homosexuals as immoral and damned. The church's 75-member congregation is composed mainly of Phelps' relatives.

      The group also blames disasters, including Hurricane Katrina, the Sept. 11 attacks and AIDS, on what it views as permissive morals in violation of biblical dictates.

      Alarmed by Westboro protests, at least 22 states have proposed or enacted laws to limit the rights of protesters at funerals. Months after Matthew Snyder's death, Maryland passed a law prohibiting targeted picketing within 300 feet of a funeral, burial, memorial service or funeral procession.

      The courtroom fight came down to whether Westboro had a legal right to demonstrate at Snyder's funeral or whether the protesters crossed the line because their message impugned the grieving family's reputation and unlawfully invaded the Snyders' privacy.

      The Marine's father, a 52-year- old who lives in York, Pa., sued the church and three of its members, founder Phelps and two of his daughters, Rebecca Phelps-Davis and Shirley Phelps-Roper.

      For Snyder's claim of invasion of privacy to have succeeded, the jury needed to conclude that the church's actions at the funeral - and later, in an Internet posting about Matthew Snyder on its Web site - were "highly offensive to a reasonable person," according to the jury instructions.

      Albert Snyder also contended that the church's actions were an intentional infliction of emotional distress. Under the law, to find in favor of Snyder, the five women and four men of the jury needed to find that the church's conduct was "intentional or reckless."

      Jury instructions also required that the conduct be "extreme and outrageous," leading to severe emotional distress.

      "You must balance the defendants' expression of religious belief with another citizen's right to privacy," U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett instructed jurors Tuesday.

      The weeklong trial brought together Snyder and his family and the progeny of Phelps, a retired attorney.

      In the courtroom, the Phelps family dressed plainly, its women with long hair and no makeup. In testimony, they stood steadfast to their beliefs and did not apologize for their conduct.

      Often overcome by emotion, Albert Snyder sat in shirtsleeves and flanked by his attorneys. When the videos made of the protest at his son's funeral were played for jurors during closing arguments, he wept.

      During his testimony last week, Snyder told jurors that he was clinically depressed and that the sight of the protest at the funeral made him physically ill.

      Fred Phelps took the stand after Snyder, testifying that he had not considered whether children would see a sign carried by protesters with the words "Semper Fi Fags" and two stick figures that appeared to be engaged in sodomy, according to the Associated Press.

      Three adults and four children picketed the March 10, 2006, funeral at St. John Roman Catholic Church in Westminster. Westboro members insisted that their demonstration, about 1,000 feet from the Catholic church, took place legally.

      In closing arguments, the attorneys sparred over the nature of the protest and whether the demonstrators' "speech" is protected by the Constitution.

      Sean E. Summers, one of Snyder's attorneys, said Westboro members personally targeted the family because they brought Marine-specific signs to their rally at the funeral and had researched and posted Albert Snyder's marital history on their Web site in an essay titled "The Burden of Lance. Cpl. Matthew Snyder."

      But Westboro attorney Jonathan Katz argued that the protest was no different from thousands of others. Nothing about the demonstration was so offensive or damaging, he said, as to rise to the level of a libelous attack on the family.

      Protests by Westboro have produced so much negative reaction that members routinely tell local police departments of their plans so that they can provide added security.

      The defendants staged a protest on Pratt Street near the federal courthouse at noontime yesterday, before the verdict was announced.

      Counterprotests often follow, and groups such as the Patriot Guard have cropped up to try to shield families from Westboro members' controversial signs and songs.

      What sometimes took a back seat in the federal free-speech trial was the life and death of Matthew A. Snyder, a 2003 graduate of Westminster High School. A victim of a vehicle accident in Anbar province in March 2006, the 20-year-old had been in the war zone for less than a month.

      Snyder's sexual preference was not an issue at the trial; his father said his son was not gay. Church members said they did not target Snyder's funeral because of his sexual preference; they were there to oppose gays in the military.

      They said they waved placards - "Thank God for IEDs" and "Fag Troops" among others - near the funeral motorcade to bring attention to their message.

      Snyder testified that he never saw the content of the signs as he entered and left St. John's on the day of his son's funeral. He read the signs for the first time during television news reports later that day.

      A Google search on the Internet weeks later led him to the church's Web site and the posting about Matthew Snyder.

      In arguing for punitive damages after the jury ruled in favor of Snyder, attorney Craig T. Trebilcock urged jurors to "deter [Westboro] from ever doing this to another family again."

      "These are malicious people," he said. "These are stone-hearted people. They were celebrants of Matt Snyder's death."

      Katz, the defendants' attorney, urged jurors to "look dispassionately" at Westboro's financial status in awarding punitive damages.

      He said Fred Phelps is an unpaid pastor, Rebecca Phelps-Davis is a low-paid attorney at the Phelps law firm and that Shirley Phelps-Roper is a part-time law firm employee and mother of 11 children.

      As for the church, Katz said, its only income is generated by meager tithings from congregants, many of whom are children or unemployed.

      Trebilcock told jurors that they did not have to believe the Phelpses' financial disclosures - pointing out that Rebecca Phelps-Davis reported just $306 in liquid assets.

      Earlier in the trial, the Phelpses testified that they spent $400 apiece on plane tickets to get to Snyder's funeral. And Shirley Phelps-Roper eagerly showed off her iPhone to reporters, which she said was a birthday gift from her children.

      Summers, an attorney for Snyder, said after the verdict that the lawsuit was not about money, it was about stopping Westboro.

      Summers said he was ready and waiting for the appeal. "We will chase them until they have nothing left."

      mathew.dolan@... julie.bykowicz@...
      Sun reporter Liz F. Kay contributed to this article.

      from http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/law/10/31/funeral.protests.ap/index.html
      Snyder sobbed when he heard the verdict, while members of the church greeted the news with tightlipped smiles.


      What can we learn from a 'church' of hate?

      [ From The Boston Globe's conservative columnist -- Jeff Jacoby is no friend of the gay community ]

      The Boston Globe

      What can we learn from a 'church' of hate?

      By Jeff Jacoby,
      Globe Columnist
      October 31, 2007

      BELIEF IN God is no guarantee of goodness. Piety without ethics - religious fanaticism - can be a prescription for great evil, as centuries of religious brutality and bloodshed make all too clear. A millennium ago, Crusaders massacred their victims to the cry of "Deus lo volt!" - "God wills it!" Islamist radicals exclaimed "Allahu Akbar" - "God is great" - as they beheaded innocent hostages and crashed airliners into the World Trade Center.

      But you don't have to look back into history or to the global jihad for evidence that zealots who care more about God than about goodness bring cruelty and pain into the world. Consider instead the Westboro Baptist Church.

      A self-described "Primitive Baptist" congregation led by Fred Phelps, the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas is a fringe hate group obsessed with homosexuality. (It is not affiliated with any official Baptist convention.) It numbers only several dozen followers who travel the country with picket signs insisting that America has been cursed because of its tolerance for gays.

      The essence of what the Westboro members call their "picketing ministry" is mockery of the victims of tragedy, and the cheering of deadly disasters. They claim that they "used to pray for the good of America" but decided that the nation is beyond redemption. Accordingly, they now "pray daily for more outpourings of God's justice and wrath on this evil, hateful nation" and celebrate "hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, IEDs, collapsing mines, and more" as instruments of divine wrath.

      What the Westboro Church lacks in numbers, it more than makes up in rhetorical poison. Among the messages featured on its pickets are "God Hates Fags," "Thank God for Katrina," and "Thank God for the California Fires." The group's websites proclaim gleefully that the "Utah miners are in hell," as are "the Amish children in Pennsylvania" and "Coretta Scott King . . . with her husband."

      Westboro has become especially notorious in recent years for demonstrating at the funerals of US troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. "These turkeys are not heroes," one of the group's websites sneers. "They are lazy, incompetent idiots looking for jobs because they're not qualified for honest work. . . . They voluntarily joined a fag-infested army to fight for a fag-run country now utterly and finally forsaken by God who Himself is fighting against that country."

      As a legal matter, it is not easy to silence such contemptible spewings. The First Amendment, as Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, safeguards not just "free thought for those who agree with us, but freedom for the thought that we hate." Several Legislatures have passed laws restricting protests in the vicinity of funerals, but such laws may be vulnerable on constitutional grounds.

      A federal jury in Baltimore this week is weighing a different kind of legal challenge. The father of Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, a 20-year-old Marine killed in Iraq, is suing the Westboro church for picketing his son's funeral last year with signs reading "God Hates You" and "Thank God for Dead Soldiers." Albert Snyder argues that the picketers' unwanted presence and naked cruelty should be punished as an unlawful invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Full details, and a fund to help defray the Snyder family's legal costs, are at http://snyder.org/.)

      But even if it isn't legally possible to stop the Westboro hatemongers, it is possible to learn from them. They offer a vivid demonstration of why belief in God is dangerous if it doesn't include the belief that God's foremost demand is that human beings act with kindness and decency. Fred Phelps and his followers appear to believe fervently in God. Their literature is replete with quotations from the Bible. But the only passages that appear to interest them are those that warn of God's punishment for wicked behavior. Glaringly absent from their signs, websites, and press releases is the central teaching of ethical monotheism - not just that there is a God, but that God wants men and women to be good to each other. God does not smile on those who taunt victims instead of helping them.

      Does the Bible condemn homosexuality? Yes - but not nearly as often as it condemns those who treat others with cruelty. To the Westboro fanatics, no calling is higher than hating homosexuals and anyone who doesn't share their hatred. But the Bible they thump so intolerantly actually teaches something quite different:

      "He has shown you, O man, what is good," the prophet Micah said. "What does God require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" It is a shining mark in America's favor that the Westboro Baptist Church is so small.

      Jeff Jacoby's e-mail address is jacoby@...


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