Real World Star Writes Anti-Gay Tweets, Apologizes

Less than a week after GLAAD gave MTV its first-ever “Excellent” rating, a star on MTV’s The Real World showed some outright viciousness toward LGBT people. A gay Twitter user and follower of Ryan Leslie, a cast member of Real World New Orleans, accused Leslie of being homophobic. He responded, “I would love to see you in person, and smash your gay f*cking face in.”

GLAAD’s response tweet, which was also posted by thousands of GLAAD supporters, confronted Leslie about his homophobic tweet: “Tell @MTV Real World’s @imRyanLeslie: stop threatening anti-gay violence on Twitter.”

At first, Leslie tweeted in response “I’m not homophobic!! And even if I were I would be aloud to be! So chill out.” Aside from the atrocious spelling, his tweet didn’t exactly show any regret for threatening to gay bash someone. While Leslie is allowed to hold whatever views he’d like about the LGBT community, threatening violence against anyone is not acceptable.

Apparently he eventually got the message. He later tweeted “No gay hate here.” And then, “Want to apologize to the gay community -tweet not meant to offend. I take responsibility for what I said on Friday and I am sorry.”

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After Three Months in Captivity, Syrian Gay Men Released

In March and April, the Syrian government raided more than four private gay parties and arrested 25 young gay men in attendance at the parties. Most of the men were charged with “having a homosexual act,” and some were charged with organizing illegal obscene parties or encouraging homosexual acts.

Syrian law clearly states that engaging in homosexual activity is illegal. Article 520 in the penal code of 1949 prohibits “carnal relations against the order of nature” with a penalty of three years in prison.But does a law against homosexuality really excuse raiding private parties? These men were attending a party behind the closed doors of one of their homes. The Syrian government put men at extreme risk without adequate reasoning to lock them up in the first place. In Syria, the stigma against homosexuality is so bad that the men are now ostracized from their communities.

For three months after the incident, all of the men remained in police custody because their families would not bail them out. Luckily, the men were released from police custody last Thursday. The Syrian authorities released the men without a trial because the Syrian authorities were embarrassed by the attention drawn by the arrests.

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Arizona Blocked from Nixing Domestic Partner Benefits

A federal judge has blocked Arizona from enforcing a law denying domestic partner benefits for gay and lesbian state employees. U.S. District Court Judge John Sedwick issued a preliminary injunction requiring the state to provide family health insurance to gay and lesbian state employees with established relationships.

Last September, lawmakers approved legislation to eliminate health benefits to the spouses of both gay and straight domestic partners. House Bill 2013, which was signed into law by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, amended the definition of “dependent” to apply to a child or “spouse under the laws of this state,” preventing domestic partners from receiving benefits. This especially impacts gay couples since they cannot marry in Arizona. The drop in benefits to domestic partners would hit about 800 state employees.

In the case, Lambda Legal represents 10 state employees who rely on their employers to provide health benefits to their families. Lawyers representing the state argued that the legislation was necessary in order to cut deficit. They also claim that the elimination of benefits isn’t harmful to gay and lesbian employees, since they can still obtain private insurance. Sedwick rejected this claim, pointing out that it’s unequal to allow some employees full access to the State’s health plan, while forcing other employees to go elsewhere for health insurance.

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Complaint Against Tammy Baldwin Unanimously Rejected

Most politicians use their home address as their address when submitting nomination papers. But for some politicians, that isn’t so easy. Tammy Baldwin, one of three openly gay members of Congress, has received threats since she was first elected to Congress in 1998.

Baldwin was given permission to use her campaign office as her address due to threats of violence. She submitted homophobic and threatening emails she had received for approval to keep her home address off the documents. The U.S. Capitol police did a threat assessment on Baldwin’s home and office and recommended that she keep her personal address off the records. Since then, when Baldwin has submitted nomination papers to the state, they’ve included her campaign office address instead of her home address.

Until now, this hasn’t caused her any problems. But the Young Republicans of Dane County are fighting against this decision. The group claims that Baldwin shouldn’t be allowed on the ballot because her campaign office is listed as her address instead of her voting address.

The complaint was rejected because state election officials have allowed Baldwin to keep her voting address private. The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board unanimously rejected the complaint. Baldwin has been cleared to run for her 7th two-year term in the House.

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Transgender Widow Forced to Fight for Benefits

After Texas firefighter Thomas Araguz III died battling a fire, a new battle began. His transgender wife Nikki Araguz is being forced to fight his family in order to get any of his death benefits.

Thomas’ family wants to keep his wife from receiving any of his benefits. His mother, Simona Rodriguez Longoria, claims that her son’s marriage was invalid because Nikki was born a man and Texas doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage. Messed up, but perhaps true — it’s the same law that gave two women marriage recognition because one was transgender. A 1999 ruling says that trangender people who change their gender still remain legally tied to their biological sex.

Unfortunately, Nikki isn’t only battling against Thomas’ mom, but also his first wife, Heather Delgado, who is the biological mother of his two children. Thomas’ family wants all of his benefits to go to his two children.

But as if that isn’t enough of an insult to Thomas and Nikki’s two year marriage, Thomas’ mom is claiming that Thomas didn’t know she was transgender until after they married. Reports of the story vary wildly on their take of whether or not Thomas knew she was transgender, some claiming that they separated after he was informed that she was transgender, in April.

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In Oklahoma, Can a Transgender Candidate Beat a Homophobe?

In Oklahoma, Democrat Brittany Novotny is running against a Republican incumbent, Sally Kern, for a seat in the State House. The race is an exciting match between a transgender woman, Novotny, and one of the most aggressively anti-gay politicians in the country.

Kern has made her stance against equality clear. In 2008, she said: “Studies show that no society that has totally embraced homosexuality has lasted more than, you know, a few decades.” She also compared gay people in a community to getting cancer on a toe, and claimed that gay people are “going after our young children.”

While Kern was spewing messages of hatred, Novotny had just finished her transition. She graduated from the University of California Hastings College of the Law, and currently doesn’t view her transition as an issue.

Some of Kern’s supporters claim that Novotny, who identifies as a heterosexual woman, was recruited by the “homosexual lobby.” She is particularly unpopular among the group Reclaiming Oklahoma for Christ, which has held “Rallies for Sally.” In a mass e-mail, they stated that “The homosexual lobby from across America will be pouring money into this local race in an attempt to make a statement to the country by knocking out an outspoken Christian, pro-family representative.”

While Kern claims no responsibility over the messages spread by Reclaiming Oklahoma for Christ, she has attended events held by the group.

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Pakistani Transgender Women Hired As Tax Collectors

Transgender people often have trouble finding adequate employment — they face discrimination both in hiring and in the workplace. So it’s exciting progress when a government in any country takes steps to help employ its transgender citizens.

But in Pakistan, where transgender people are used as tax collectors, should we be rejoicing or not? And the answer, it sure seems, is a resounding no.

A division of the Pakistani government is using transgender women to embarrass people who don’t pay their taxes, since much of Pakistan views transgender women as an embarrassment. The Clifton Cantonment Board is hiring transgender women to collect taxes in the hope that the embarrassment of their presence will pressure people to pay their taxes.

In a place where less than 1% of the population pays taxes, it’s clear that finding a new way of collecting taxes is necessary. The low revenue from taxes results puts Pakistan in serious financial trouble, resulting in substandard government services and large debt to other countries. But how could using transgender women be a good solution? After all, the success of this program is contingent on the poor social stigma of transgender women.

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Coming Out of the Closet as a Conservative for Gay Rights

How can Conservatives modernize their campaigns and appeal to younger voters? Take a clear stance for LGBT equality and direct campaign advertising toward LGBT voters.

In the UK, the Tories filmed an advertisement that would have done just that. The advertisement, meant to be shown before elections, shows a gay couple in the shower “coming out” as Conservative. One of the men said “It feels so right. I am going to tell everyone.” And the other man embraced him before replying “I think I am too.” The audience is meant to believe the two men are considering coming out as gay, before a Vote Conservative slogan shows up on the screen.

The advertisement series was linked to the “I’ve never voted Tory before” billboard campaigns, was meant to pick up voters that normally would not consider voting Conservative. The series included an advertisement with a teenage boy who looks like he’s watching porn but is actually reading Conservative Party literature, and another advertisement where a girl confesses to her parents that she’s “three months Conservative” (and the parents blame her boyfriend).

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Lady Gaga’s Fight Against the Westboro Baptist Church

Saturday night was not the first time that Westboro Baptist Church protested at one of Lady Gaga’s concerts. But it was the first time that Lady Gaga went on the defense.

The Church protested by holding “God hates Lady Gaga” signs outside her Saturday night concert in St. Louis. They claim that Lady Gaga uses her music to teach “rebellion against God.”

In response, Lady Gaga wrote about the Westboro Baptist Church both on her website and her twitter.

“At the risk of drawing attention to a hateful organization, I would like to make my little monster fans aware of a protest being held outside the Monsterball in St. Louis tonight,” she wrote. “Although we have had protesters before, as well as fundamentalists at the show, this group of protesters are hate criminals and preach using lewd and violent language and imagery that I wish I could protect you all from.” Gaga also stated that Westboro’s message is one of hatred and that the group is violent and dangerous. She urged fans not to engage members of the Church in conversation.

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Anti-Gay Tour Lacks Supporters … and Covers Bus in Stock Photos

The National Organization for Marriage is on a tour, called the “Summer for Marriage, One Man-One Woman Tour”. They’re taking a bus across the country and holding “a series of 20 rallies to encourage supporters to stand up for marriage.” Luckily, their rallies have drawn almost no support, with only twenty or thirty attendees at their recent Maine rally.

As if that isn’t pathetic enough, apparently the organization couldn’t even find families who were willing to have their picture on their bus. The families depicted on the sides of their tour bus are actually actors from generic stock photos. The photos of families that appear next to NOM advertisements were found for sale on a stock photo website. These actors could very well support LGBT equality, yet they are plastered on the bus as if they are representatives for NOM.

Couldn’t NOM have found people within the organization, who agree with their mission, to be photographed for the bus?

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