Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Same Sex Marriage Legalized in Mexico City

Mexico City has become the first capital city to legalise gay marriage in South America.

Same sex couples have been allowed to enter civil partnerships since 2006 but the new legislation will give gay couples equal rights when it comes to family social security benefits and loans.

The new bill will also give same sex couples the right to adopt.

David Razu, a legislator from the left-wing Social Democratic Party, told Reuters:

"We are putting an end to segregation and stigmatisation of a sector of society, giving access to full marriage rights."

Mexico has traditionally been a conservative Catholic country but Mexico City has developed a popular and vibrant gay scene in recent years.

Argentina became the first Latin American country to allow civil unions across the country for same-sex couples in 2002.

Mexico, Argentina and Uruguay have all offered same sex couples the opportunity of civil partnerships but this is the first time that full marriage has been legislated in Latin America.

Earlier this month a gay Buenos Aires couple who hoped to become the first to fully marry in Argentina said that the city mayor should be fined for not authorising their wedding.

Jose Maria Di Bello and partner Alex Freyre planned to marry on World AIDS Day after Judge Gabriela Seijas ruled last month that the ban on gay marriage violated Argentina's constitution.

Mexico’s Catholic archdiocese has stated that legalising gay marriage is immoral and will destroy families.

"Recognising homosexual civil unions as marriage goes against the public good and the emotional development of our children," said Giovanni Gutierrez, a city lawmaker from President Felipe Calderón’s National Action Party.

The decision to allow full marriage for gay couples prompted jubilation in the streets from Mexico City's LGBT community and gay rights groups.

It's Legal but Not at Christmas Time

Openly gay Novia Scotia MP Scott Brison has been given the support of Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff after a Christmas card featuring his partner stirred controversy.

The Canadian MP, who married his partner in 2007, told the Canadian press:

"I've had so many positive e-mails, calls over the last few days from across Canada and around the world,"

"Everybody is saying the same thing: It's just a Christmas card. It should not create controversy.'"

The card shows Brison with his partner Maxime St. Pierre standing in an orange-coloured autumn field next to the ocean near their Nova Scotia home with their golden retriever, Simba.

Although personalised family Christmas cards are commonplace for politicians, a number of angry commentators attacked the card.

The Globe and Mail newspaper website had to shut its comment section due to "hateful" messages, while other websites opted to disable comment features.

Brison, 42, stepped aside in 2000 to allow then-Tory leader Joe Clark to run in a by-election. He came out publicly in 2002.

Brison sought the leadership of the Progressive Conservative party in 2003, then crossed the floor to the Liberals just days after the Progressive Conservatives merged with the Canadian Alliance. He ran for the Liberal leadership in 2006.

He became the first openly gay federal cabinet minister in 2004, the same year a Nova Scotia judge ruled that not allowing gays in that province to marry was unconstitutional.

He has been quoted as saying he is "not a gay politician, but a politician who happens to be gay."

Gay marriage was legally recognised in Canada two years ago, with the passing of a bill in June 2005.

Bar or Clinic?

Other than stating this is a gay bar in the first sentence, there is no mention of anything bar related, such as booze or entertainment. If this is more an information centre, drop in clinic, or social community centre then the appropriate terminology should be used. Either way it's a step in the right direct for this communist regime.

Read on....

China's first official gay bar has opened after a three-week delay sparked by intense media attention.

Opening on Saturday evening, the bar is situated in the tourist town of Dali in the southwestern province of Yunnan. It is the first venue of its kind to receive government backing.

The project, which was due to be opened on World AIDS day on December 1st, aims to provide help and support for the LGBT community as well as provide information on HIV/AIDS prevention.

Last year China's Ministry of Health implemented its first ever national programme to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS among gay men.

The programme marked a subtle new phase in the one-party-state's attitudes towards homosexuality since sodomy was decriminalised in 1997: No approval, no disapproval and no promotion.

The bar, which was founded by Dali HIV/AIDS charity worker Zhang Jianbo, was given 120,000 yuan (£10,000) of financial support from the government.

China's health ministry warned earlier this month that homosexual transmission of HIV/AIDS was gaining pace.

Gay sex accounted for just 0.4 percent of new infections in 2005, but that figure had risen to 3.3 per cent by 2007.

Of the estimated 700,000 Chinese people living with HIV or AIDS, 11 per cent contracted the virus through gay sex, according to Ministry of Health figures.

Zhang, a doctor at a hospital in Dali, said in an earlier interview that raising awareness of the disease among the gay community was "extremely important".

The official China Daily newspaper said in 2005 that the number of gays in China came to around 30 million, although it conceded few were willing to acknowledge their sexuality.

While homosexuality is still officially classified as a "mouldering life style of capitalism" in the officially communist state, there are no laws against gay sex or lifestyles. Neither are there any laws protecting Chinese gays from discrimination.

In other related news...

The fight against HIV in Asia could be greatly assisted if countries moved to legalise homosexuality, according to a leading Chinese AIDS activist.

Zhen Li of the Tong Zhi awareness group was speaking at a three-day forum hosted by Hong Kong's Department of Health, the World Health Organisation, the UNDP and the Joint UN Programmes on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

"Between 2005 and 2008 China made huge progress in addition to working with civil society as partners," Li said.

In 2001 homosexual acts were decriminalised, allowing HIV prevention workers to work more openly with men who have sex with men.

Asia's second most populous country, India, is considering decriminalisation.

"As long as these laws are in effect it will push people into dark places," Li said.

In China, the risk of infection by men who have sex with men is 45 times higher than for men in general.

Asia is believed to have the world's largest number of men having sex with men, estimated at 10 million.

A recent UNAIDS report showed that targeted prevention interventions are reaching only 1% of the MSM population.
The report also showed that in most countries in Asia and the Pacific, national strategic plans for HIV/AIDS do not cover interventions for MSM and transgender individuals.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Uganda Uprising - BBC Debates

As the anti-homosexual laws are moving closer to reality, the BBC decided to ask their audience to give their opinion on whether gays should be executed for their sexuality. This brought about many complaints, which the BBC defended their right to discuss such a topic openly, but then later retracted and apologized.

Read on below for the latest from Uganda, and the BBC....

In an interview with a U.S. religious publication, the Church of Uganda’s assistant bishop of Kampala defended his country’s proposed law that would inflict the death penalty on Ugandan gays who repeatedly share intimate contact with consensual adult partners and provide steep penalties for others, including heterosexuals who fail to report gay individuals or gay relationships to the authorities.

Media reports indicate that the government drew up the law after visits from anti-gay American religious conservatives. The argument from religious conservatives is that gays and lesbians can "convert" to heterosexuality--a claim that reputable mental health professionals view with skepticism, warning that so-called "conversion" or "reparative therapy" has the potential to harm, rather than help, those to whom it is subjected.

Though some American clergy have joined political and religious leaders from around the globe in condemning the measure as far too harsh, prominent evangelical pastor Rick Warren drew headlines when he refused to denounce the proposed law.

The Ugandan government is slated to make a final decision on the proposed legislation next month. Meantime, protests have taken place in America, Britain, and elsewhere, and political leaders have warned that Uganda may be endangering relations with other nations, including countries that provide financial assistance to the African nation.

In an interview with the magazine Christianity Today posted Dec. 17, the Rt. Rev. Dr. David Zac Niringiye suggested that foreigners had little place in Uganda’s internal legislative debate, saying, "Ambassadors or religious leaders serve us best by not going public, by simply relating to their individual relationships. If they have none, they have no legitimacy to speak. They should just be silent."

However, when asked about media reports that indicate that it was the influence of American religious conservatives that spurred the Ugandan government to draw up such draconian legislation, Niringiye said, "On the one hand, I have no respect for such innuendos because they are suggesting that Christians in Uganda are puppets and so forth. Are there American influences in Uganda? Yes. There is no question that there is a strong homosexual lobby supported by Western groups. That is one of the reasons for the bill.

"We [also] have influences from the Muslim world," Niringiye said. "Let’s not give too much credit to the West. This is a global environment. The influences are on either side."

But Niringiye played down the influences from abroad with respect to the bill, saying, "There is a genuine Ugandan call of distaste that seeks to say, ’Our culture is under assault.’ There are Ugandans who say we need to stand against a moral tide that seeks to change our ethical, moral values. The decay in Western culture is reflected in its sexual ethics.

"For me, I would like to act here in our culture. We must deal with corruption in our culture as you do in Western culture. They are not the same magnitude, but they still reflect the decay in culture. For us in Uganda, we have to ask, ’How do we act in a way that protects our culture from the decay in sexual ethics that has happened in the West?’ That is the challenge for Christian mission in our context. We have a serious responsibility to nurture younger generations. We have a lot of work in our churches to fight the media wars. Media is one huge influence in the cultural decay."

The bill’s criminalization of homosexuality and its stipulation of death as a punishment for some gay "offenders" were consistent with other laws in Uganda, Niringiye said. "The law on rape in this country (and I am not stating a position, I’m stating a fact) has a maximum sentence of death, particularly if it is rape of a minor. Therefore, there is the idea that the law that is proposed needs to be [consistent] with other laws on the books."

Added Niringiye, "The background of the law is that there is increasing reporting of homosexual practice. There is definitely a sense that the international homosexual lobby is pushing for homosexual practice to be accepted as normal. Therefore, [they] use the idea of human rights for the protection of minorities. They say that these minorities have a right to this moral choice. It’s important to realize that within the culture, homosexuality is not acceptable."

Niringiye pointed out that adultery is also illegal in Uganda, making the criminalization of sex between unmarried individuals of the same gender consistent with the law--although the law also denies gay and lesbian couples the right to formalize their relationship through marriage. However, Niringiye said that his own opinion was that no crime justified the death penalty. "The Church in Uganda has never given an official position on the death penalty," he noted. "My considered reading of Scripture and my considered understanding of today’s culture is that the application of the Scripture, the application of the spirit of the Scripture in today’s time would seem to disallow death as a legitimate penalty for any offense."

Niringiye has previously spoken out against the death penalty, addressing a congregation on Christmas, 2007, with an anecdote about how convicted killer and death row inmate John Katuramu--who had been a prime minister of a Ugandan province before being found guilty in the murder of Charles Kijjanangoma, a prince--had been transformed through religious faith while in prison. "Katuramu now has joy, peace, love and faith because he has been redeemed by Jesus Christ," Niringiye told the Christmas mass worshipers. "He told me that he may physically be living in Luzira [prison] but at heart, he is a free man."

Telling the congregation that there were "over 500 convicts on death row," Niringiye said, "Such people should be given a chance to live a new life."

In his interview with Christianity Today, Niringiye addressed the fact that the Bible appears to advocate death for various infractions. "We will not deny that the Scriptures seem to allow the death penalty," Niringiye said. "In the culture in which the Scriptures were written it seems that there was an allowance. I would say that in applying the same Scripture today, it seems that the culture is so different from then that we would say [we need] the application of the principle of grace. My view is that the death penalty is not a legitimate sentence for any offense, including murder and so on. But there is no Christian consensus on the legitimacy of the death penalty."

When asked about how Christians in Uganda viewed the bill, Niringiye indicated that the issues went beyond religious affiliation. "This is not just a Christian response" he said. "I can certainly say the objectives of the bill have the total support of most of Uganda, not just Christians, but also Muslims and Roman Catholics. It would not be right to talk about how Christians feel," Niringiye added. "They’re all agreed on the objectives. There will be a difference of opinion on the details of the bill."

Niringiye went on to say, "The point I’m making is that Christians in the country, including other people in the culture, really support the objectives of the bill. When it comes to the issue of the death penalty, there is as much debate over the death penalty as there are different Christian persuasions. The discussion on the death penalty [in this bill] needs to be separated from [the question] ’Is the death penalty [ever] an acceptable sentence?’ I am sure there are American Christians or others in the world who will say the death penalty is an acceptable sentence. There will be Christians in Uganda who will say the death penalty is an acceptable sentence. There will be Christians in Uganda who will say no, the death penalty is not an acceptable sentence for any offense."

The bishop went on to suggest that Americans had little basis for objecting to the law, saying that "Western society and culture has lost some of its moral foundations.

"In Western society, homosexuality is accepted as one of the ways of expressing human sexuality. It is very important that you understand the context," Niringiye went on to note. "I would debate Western societies which are putting judgments on our laws to first and foremost critique your own cultures. In my own view, Western society has lost its moral fiber.... For me, the greater issue for Western societies, Ugandan societies, and African societies is to ask the question about cultures. To what extent do cultures decay and cease to reflect the will of God? You must go beyond laws. Laws simply reflect where societies are at. For me, this is the debate. It is not right that Western societies should impose cultural norms and values upon us. The issue of acceptance of homosexuality has a lot to do with the loss of moral and ethical values."

As to input from Christians of any stripe from outside Uganda, Niringiye said, "[T]o be honest, to all-whether they are American Christians, whether they are liberals, whoever they are-I think you’ve got to trust the leadership in this country, both the Christians and our legislating processes. The international community is behaving like they can’t trust Ugandans to come up with a law that is fair. ’No! No! That is not fair!’ When the Western governments or Western churches or Christians speak loudly about the legitimacy or illegitimacy of this bill, you actually begin to fuel the idea that homosexuality is the product of Western culture.

"Western homosexual groups are seeking to make homosexuality an acceptable practice here," continued Niringiye. "In these attempts by churches or Christian leaders to speak in favor or against, they seem to indicate we don’t know what we want for our own society. I would plead with governments and the Rick Warrens of this world, ’Don’t make any public pronouncements about this bill. Allow Ugandan society to be able to pronounce itself on what Ugandans feel would be good.’

"None of the American evangelicals have ever spoken first about the fact that rape is punishable by death in this country," noted the bishop. "Suddenly, because of homosexuality, the issue has arisen. Why? The homosexual lobby is very, very active in making the homosexual issue a human rights issue. How long shall we keep speaking about human rights? When shall we speak about human wrongs?"

Although Niringiye seemed to appeal to higher ideals--holiness, justice--in defending his government’s contemplation of the bill, he added, "I don’t want us to confuse the church for the kingdom of God. The church is not always a manifestation of the kingdom of God. Sometimes the church is a sign of the kingdom of God. Other times, the church is a cultural sign, pointing away from the kingdom of God.

"It does not mean every time someone is speaking in the name of Christ, they may even invoke the name of Christ; it’s not always the case," Niringiye continued. "For Christians, find ways you can encourage us, engage with us, in being witnesses to the kingdom of God in our culture. Is your culture in decay? Yes. Are there aspects of our culture that are in decay? Yes."


The British Broadcasting Corp. suffered criticism from lawmakers for inviting debate on whether homosexuals should face execution in Uganda.

The broadcaster launched an on-line debate over a proposed Ugandan law that would punish some homosexual acts by life imprisonment or death. Legislation being considered in the African country would impose the death penalty on some gay Ugandans, and their family and friends could face up to seven years in jail if they fail to report their homosexuality to authorities.

BBC’s "Africa Have Your Say" Web site asked for people’s views on whether Uganda has gone too far and whether there should be any laws against gays.

The page’s title was originally "Should homosexuals face execution?" but was later changed to "Should Uganda debate gay execution?" Several British politicians said the taxpayer-funded broadcaster should not treat the execution of gays as a legitimate topic for discussion.

"We should be looking at what is going on in Uganda with abhorrence," said lawmaker Eric Joyce of the ruling Labour Party. "We should be condemning it, and the BBC should be condemning it. ... Instead it seems to have thought it appropriate to come up with something that suggests it’s a subject for discussion."

Lynne Featherstone, a lawmaker from the opposition Liberal Democrats, said she has written to BBC executives seeking an apology and an end to the Web discussion.

"Suggesting that the state-sponsored murder of gay people is OK as a legitimate topic for debate is deeply offensive," she said.

The forum attracted more than 600 comments and triggered a lively Twitter discussion.

The BBC’s World Service Africa program editor, David Stead, defended the debate. In a blog posted on the BBC Web site, he said editors had "thought long and hard about using this question" and sought to reflect the diverse views about homosexuality in Africa.

"We agree that it is a stark and challenging question, but think that it accurately focuses on and illustrates the real issue at stake," he said.

The director of the BBC World Service has apologised for the offence caused by a debate on its website yesterday asking readers to debate whether gays should be executed.

In a statement published on the BBC Editors' Blog today, Peter Horrocks apologised but added that it was a "legitimate and responsible attempt to support a challenging discussion".

The debate was on Uganda's proposed anti-gay bill, which could see gays and lesbians executed. A number of BBC online readers said the bill should be passed.

He wrote: "The original headline on our website was, in hindsight, too stark. We apologise for any offence it caused. But it's important that this does not detract from what is a crucial debate for Africans and the international community.

"The programme was a legitimate and responsible attempt to support a challenging discussion about proposed legislation that advocates the death penalty for those who undertake certain homosexual activities in Uganda – an important issue where the BBC can provide a platform for debate that otherwise would not exist across the continent and beyond."

One PinkNews.co.uk reader questioned why he had used the phrase "undertake certain homosexual activities", saying: "What? Like window dressing and hair styling?"

Horrocks also told the BBC World Service's Newshour programme today: "The main way in which people have responded to this is because the headline was extracted and circulated through social media and people responded to that. That is something quite new and its something we have to think quite carefully about, when things are taken out of context how do they seem," he said. "We need learn from that and that is the change were are seeing."

News of the debate quickly spread around Twitter yesterday afternoon, with readers asking whether the BBC would allow topics such as the extermination of Jews in World War II.

Yesterday afternoon, the BBC changed the question to 'Should Uganda debate gay execution?' after lobbying from BBC Pride, the state broadcaster's LGBT society.

The debate was raised by parliament by Labour MP Eric Joyce, while Liberal Democrat MP Lynne Featherstone called on the BBC to apologise.

The National Union of Journalists has also attacked the BBC.

At an emergency meeting of the World Service news and current affairs chapel of the union late yesterday, it issued a statement saying the post was "overly sensationalist" and could encourage homophobia.

Minister for Europe Chris Bryant has attacked the BBC for holding a debate on whether gays should be executed.

Bryant, who is gay, told PinkNews.co.uk he would be writing to the BBC's World Service director Peter Horrocks to demand an explanation, adding that the online debate could lead to further homophobic hatred.

The Have Your Say question, posted on Tuesday evening, read: "Should homosexuals face execution?".

A number of readers agreed that the proposed bill in Uganda, which would impose the death penalty on gays, would be a good idea.

Bryant said: "I will be writing to Peter Horrocks to ask him to explain how the BBC could have made such as ludicrous mistake.

"I will be asking him in the strongest terms to explain."

He said he was "flabbergasted" to hear of the debate question on the taxpayer-funded broadcaster's website, adding: "How insensitive could the BBC possibly be? If they want to stoke homophobic hatred, this would be the right way."

He added that the British foreign ministry campaigns against the death penalty around the world, including in Uganda.

Horrocks wrote a short apology for the debate on the BBC's World Service editors' blog today. He apologised for the offence caused but reiterated previous BBC statements that the question was designed to provoke discussion of an important topic.

News of the debate quickly spread around Twitter yesterday afternoon, with readers asking whether the BBC would allow topics such as the extermination of Jews in World War II.

On Wednesday afternoon, the BBC changed the question to 'Should Uganda debate gay execution?' after lobbying from BBC Pride, the state broadcaster's LGBT society.

The debate was raised by parliament by Labour MP Eric Joyce, while Liberal Democrat MP Lynne Featherstone called on the BBC to apologise.

The National Union of Journalists has also attacked the BBC.

At an emergency meeting of the World Service news and current affairs chapel of the union late yesterday, it issued a statement saying the post was "overly sensationalist" and could encourage homophobia.

BBC editors have defended allowing online readers to debate whether gays in Uganda should be executed, saying they accepted it was a "challenging question".

The discussion, on the broadcaster's Have Your Say feature, asked: "Should homosexuals face execution?"

The debate centres on Uganda, where an anti-gay bill is passing through parliament. It would impose execution or life imprisonment on gays, its sponsor David Bahati MP says.

Some commentators on the site, from both the UK and Africa, had agreed with the country's proposed law.

It was closed at around 4pm this afternoon after provoking a storm of anger on Twitter.

A number of readers emailed PinkNews.co.uk to complain that the question was offensive, arguing that readers would not be asked to debate the extermination of Jews in World War II.

On Twitter, users attacked the BBC for allowing the debate to be held and several claimed to have reported the broadcaster to police for "hate crimes".

By way of comment, a BBC press officer cited a blog written by World Service Africa Have Your Say editor David Stead.

He said that editors of the programme thought "long and hard" about posing the question and added it prompted "a lot of internal debate".

Stead wrote: "We agree that it is a stark and challenging question, but think that it accurately focuses on and illustrates the real issue at stake.

"If Uganda's democratically elected MPs vote to proceed with the Anti-Homosexuality Bill this week they will bring onto the statute book legislation that could condemn people to death for some homosexual activities.

"We published it alongside clear explanatory text which gave the context of the bill itself. And as we said at the top of our debate page, we accept it is a stark and disturbing question. But this is the reality behind the bill.

"This issue has already sparked much debate around the world and understandably led to us receiving many emails and texts. We have sought to moderate these rigorously while at the same time trying to reflect the varied and hugely diverse views about homosexuality in Africa."

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat MP Lynne Featherstone has demanded an apology from the BBC for allowing readers to debate the topic.

Featherstone, the party's youth and equality spokeswoman, said she had written to the Director General to demand action on the topic.

She said: "I would be the first person to stand up for open debate and free speech, but any conversation that starts 'should homosexuals face execution' is completely skewed and unacceptable in this forum.

"Suggesting that the state-sponsored murder of gay people is OK as a legitimate topic for debate is deeply offensive. The BBC are only fanning the flames of hatred as many of the comments demonstrate. They must act and apologise for their gross insensitivity."

Updates from December 22nd, 2009

The President of Uganda has threatened to veto the a controversial new bill that could see homosexuals sentenced to the death penalty or lifetime imprisonment.

US newspaper DC Agenda claims that President Yoweri Museveni pledged to US secretary of state for African affairs Jonnie Carson on two separate occasions that he would reject the bill currently making its way through parliament.

The bill's sponsor, David Bahati MP, has argued that it will curb HIV infections and protect the "traditional family".

It has been subject to worldwide condemnation and since the first reports emerged in mid-October, has received widespread media attention.

UK prime minister Gordon Brown told President Museveni last month of his concerns and the United Nations and the World Health Organisation have said that Uganda may lose the chance to host an important permanent Aids research organisation if the bill is passed.
Quebec has always been at the forefront of LGBT equality, and this only goes to further their forward thinking that puts them way ahead of the rest of North America, and more in parallel with European acceptance.

The government of Quebec has studied the problem of homophobia for years and is now poised to implement new policies to move beyond "tolerance" and toward "acceptance."

Quebec Justice Minister Kathleen Weil was cited in a Dec. 11 Montreal Gazette article as saying that the aim of the program was to promote societal, as well as legal, equality. Homosexuality as decriminalized in Canada four decades ago, but homophobic attitudes persist.

Despite decades of gains for GLBT Canadians, "sexual diversity is still widely misunderstood," Quebec Premier Jean Charest writes in his introductory remarks to the newly published Quebec Policy Against Homophobia. "Cultures and mindsets remain
marked by homophobic prejudice and sentiment. In families, schools and workplaces, it is not unusual for individuals to face rejection, bullying, and even violent behavior triggered by homophobia. This, in turn, forces them to keep their sexual orientation a secret in order to avoid social disapproval."

Charest’s commentary continues, "An inclusive society such as ours must take the necessary steps to combat homophobic attitudes and behavior patterns, and move towards full acceptance of sexual diversity. By introducing this Québec policy against homophobia, the government hopes to trigger a firm commitment, by institutions and the general population, to fight all forms of homophobia. The policy sets out the government’s goal of removing all the obstacles to full recognition of the social equality of the sexual minorities, at all levels of society. The message is clear: our society has everything to gain from accepting sexual diversity and fighting intolerance."

The new policies are based on the findings of a 2007 report looking into the prevalence of homophobia in Quebec’s schools, workplaces, and medical care facilities, an Aug. 16 Canadian Press article reported. That report found that GLBT youth were particularly hard hit by homophobia, with a suicide rate of up to sixteen times greater than straight youth.

"Minorities are often confronted with obstacles, obstacles that stop them from reaching their full potential as human beings," Weil said. "Society can’t afford that, can’t afford to lose these great people."

The next step is the development of a pan-ministerial committee that will create a comprehensive "action plan," the article said, which is expected to take another year. After final evaluations, the plan will be put into effect.

"By creating this policy, we need the adherence of the community at large," Weil said.

Gai Écoute crisis phone line chair Laurent McCutcheon told the Montreal Gazette that although Quebec was at the vanguard of GLBT equality, society was still only at the point of "tolerance" for gays and lesbians and their families. "What we are seeking is acceptance," said McCutcheon.

Houston Elects Lesbian Mayor

Annise Parker made history this month by becoming Houston’s first openly gay mayor, seizing 53.6 percent of the vote in the city’s hotly contested election. "This election has changed the world for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community. Just as it is about transforming the lives of all Houstonians for the better, and that’s what my administration will be about," Parker told supporters after former city attorney Gene Locke conceded defeat.

Voters went to the polls on Saturday, Dec. 12, for a runoff election, which would decide whether Houston will become the largest U.S. city to elect an openly gay mayor. The runoff election pit City Controller Annise Parker against former city attorney Gene Locke.

Parker is a lesbian who has never made a secret or an issue of her sexual orientation. But in recent weeks, anti-gay activists and conservative religious groups have endorsed the 61-year-old Locke and sent out mailers condemning Parker’s "homosexual behavior."

Meanwhile, gay and lesbian political organizations around the country have rallied to support the 53-year-old Parker. Locke, who is black, was relying on a heavy turnout from black voters, but apparently the crucial suburban-ring Republican voters went toward Parker.

The gay-baiting mailers may in fact have backfired on Locke after it was revealed that some in his campaign were behind them. Houston, long known as a conservative bastion, has changed greatly in recent decades. The oil industry still dominates, but healthcare, NASA and other high-tech industries have brought an influx of young professionals. At the same time, the city has received a large influx of Hispanic immigrants and people who left New Orleans after Katrina -- all of which has probably added to Democratic voting rolls.

At her victory celebration, Parker’s partner, Kathy Hubbard, was prominently by her side. She acknowledged the historic nature of her victory. Many in the audience were gay but there were many others as well, reflecting the broad coalition she had managed to cobble together in the often-fractious sprawling metropolis of 2.2 million people.

Providence, R.I., has a gay mayor, as does Portland, Ore., The European capitals of Berlin and Paris have both had gay mayors. But this marks a major step for an American city of over 1 million people--as well as for lesbians (all the other mayors mentioned were gay men). There is one out-lesbian who is the head of government of an independent nation. Johanna Sigurdardottir is the premier of Iceland. It also has a deep significance for taking place in the largest city in Texas, normally known as a deep-red conservative bastion.

Food Vouchers for the Homeless in Toronto

This seems like a good idea, as it helps provide warms meals to the homeless, and makes the public feel good about giving away their hard earned money. The one thing not mentioned in this National Post article is how the donations being collected are going to be allocated. I'm almost certain a good percentage of all money collected will go toward administrative costs of implementing and running this program, including printing costs and staff salaries. So instead of $5.00 going directly into into the pock of a homeless person, it will be managed by an organization in whatever way them deem fit.

I'm also quite disturbed at how many times the word addiction appears in this article. Not every person on the street has an addiction. In reality, people end up on the streets due to mental illnesses, loss of work, family troubles, and various other reasons. Let's not lump everyone in the same category here people.

Overall, if it helps feed the hungry, then I'm keen to see it work. We just need to have public disclosure and accountability for the donated funds.

Read on.....


Volunteers for a Toronto charity will flood downtown subway stations on Thursday to offer, in exchange for donations, free-lunch coupons donors can give to the homeless.

The event was created to address public skepticism about giving money directly to people who live on the street.

“This way, you know your money is going towards feeding those in need and that you’re not enabling an addiction,” said Darlene Desveaux, the manager of 6 St. Joseph House in downtown Toronto. With the help of food donations from Second Harvest, 6 St. Joseph House provides a hot lunch twice weekly to anyone who comes through its door.

Alan Beattie, managing director of Sanctuary, a nearby church that works extensively with people who are homeless, applauds the effort, but cautions that donations of coupons, gift certificates and the like, instead of cash, could be construed as demeaning.

“It could be interpreted, as ‘I don’t trust you with my hard-earned money,’” he said. “On the other hand, no one wants to give someone a noose to hang themselves with, which is what giving money to an addict can feel like.”

The lunch coupons were originally conceived two years ago in a different way: they were viewed as a tool to attract potential volunteers, and invited donors to visit 6 St. Joseph House. When a woman refused to donate because she said she would not use the lunch coupon, Ms. Desveaux suggested she give it to a homeless person instead.

“The woman was so taken with the idea she took out her wallet and handed me a $10 bill,” recalls Ms. Desveaux. “I knew we were on to something.”

Ms. Desveaux said there is a second benefit associated with the coupon approach. “By giving it to someone who is struggling you’re helping that person find their way to us,” she said. The House offers several programs to help those facing challenges such as poverty, mental illness and addiction.

With the goal of raising $15,000, the charity expects to place more than 80 volunteers in nine subway stations, making it their largest campaign to date.

“Our fund-raiser is not meant to stop people from giving money to the homeless because the reality is, men and women living on the street need the coins they collect to survive,” said Ms. Desveaux. “But we are pleased to provide an alternative way of giving.”

Friday, December 11, 2009

Religion vs Reality - One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Under the duress of a lawsuit and threats of recall, the Alameda Board of Education (Califonia) has voted to phase out an elementary school curriculum it adopted in May of this year to prevent anti-gay bullying.

The so-called Lesson 9, which had become an opposition centerpiece in a national anti-gay marriage campaign, will be replaced by a more generic anti-bullying message. The board’s action Tuesday night did little to ease the tension between gay parents, who want their children protected, and parents who who think elementary school is too early to talk to students about gay people.

The new anti-bullying lessons approved by the board, at the recommendation of School Superintendent Kirsten Vital, will be supplemented by children’s books that explicitly address six specific forms of bias, including bias toward gays. Vital said her recommendation was meant to counter complaints from parents opposed to the original lesson because it highlighted only one type of bullying.

"This has torn apart our community," said school trustee Trish Herrera Spencer, the board member most opposed to the gay curriculum and who opposed adding the supplemental books. She said the board’s latest action did not take into consideration "the strong beliefs" of all in the community.

The 45-minute Lesson 9, which was to be taught once a year in each grade starting with kindergarten, sparked a lawsuit, accusations that religious families were being discriminated against and threats of a recall election against the three board members who approved it.

"There is not an off-the-shelf, perfect curriculum that is going to work for our community," Vital said, explaining that she wants to solicit book recommendations, bring them back to the school board for approval in a few months and then work with teachers to develop accompanying lesson plans in time for the 2010-11 academic year.

Several parents said they did not trust a teachers’ committee to pick books that would both satisfy gay and lesbian parents and parents with religious views that do not condone homosexuality. "Freedom of religion is protected from harassment and discrimination from anyone. It may be of no consequence to some, but it is a very integral part of many traditional families and should be honored," said Kellie Wood, who has three children in Alameda schools and is part of a group circulating recall election petitions.

Kathy Passmore, a lesbian mother of two, said she hears students using anti-gay language in her job as a sixth grade teacher in Alameda. She urged the school board to retain the spirit of Lesson 9. "The children of gay families exist and are attending ASUD schools every single day," she said. "They are here."

A dozen Alameda families sued the school district earlier this year over its contention that parents did not have to be notified in advance when teachers planned to give the lessons so they could keep their children from receiving them. Last week, an Alameda Superior Court judge sided with the school district, ruling that a state law allowing parents to have their "opt-out" of discussions about human sexuality did not apply to Lesson 9. Kevin Snider, a lawyer with the conservative Pacific Justice Institute who represented the Alameda families, said before the school board’s vote that his clients would not appeal the judge’s ruling if the school board eliminated Lesson 9.

This seems like the typical phobic close-minded religious folks trying to keep the blinders on their children in hopes of ensuring the same staid values of centuries past are upheld. The few forward thinking individuals are being targeted to stop developing open-mindedness and creating an environment of freedom and choice. This doesn't seem like it's reached a plateau yet, so it will be interesting to see what the 2010 school curriculum will hold.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Puppetry of the Penis - December 11/2 - Toronto

The wildly successful PUPPETRY OF THE PENIS, The Ancient Australian Art of Genital Origami, will return to Toronto at the Winter Garden Theatre on December 11th and 12th at 7:30pm.

The comedy spectacular will star a brand new cast! Rich Binning and Christopher J. Cannon starred in the hit New York City production, and they are now excited to get their packages ready and go on tour! Requiring amazing concentration, astonishing stamina, an unbelievable stretch factor and a remarkable level of testicular fortitude, this show leaves the audience gasping (and groping) at over 40 heroic and hilarious penis installations including the Pelican, The Windsurfer, The Eiffel Tower, Loch Ness Monster, and their signature installation, the Hamburger.

A must-see-to-believe experience

PUPPETRY OF THE PENIS is a non-sexual adult show.
Tickets for the Friday, December 11th and Saturday, December 12th 7:30 pm engagement at the Winter Garden Theatre in Toronto are available at (416) 872-5555, Ticketmaster.ca and at the Winter Garden Theatre box office at 189 Yonge Street, Toronto. Tickets are $37.50 and $47.50.

For more information, please visit: www.puppetryofthepenis.com


Experienced by over 1 million people in over 14 countries

Puppetry of the Penis was conceived by Simon Morley in 1996 as the title of a classy, highbrow art calendar, showcasing twelve of his favorite penis installations. Years before, Simon’s youngest brother had shown him his first genital trick, ‘The Hamburger’. Natural sibling rivalry with their two other brothers resulted in the evolution of a healthy repertoire of genital gesticulations. It was on New Year’s Eve in 1997, with a garage full of calendars to sell and burgeoning requests for live demonstrations that Simon finally decided to unleash his talent on the world.

The natural choice of performing partner was David Friend, whose reputation as the life of any party was quickly growing. As a young boy, Friend began his current career in the bath and developed his skills further when he discovered beer at university in Byron Bay. After completing his degree in computing, he returned to Melbourne with his own highly individual collection of hanging art. Together, Simon and Friend became Puppetry of the Penis. Their debut season at the 1998 Melbourne International Comedy Festival was a huge hit. Simon and Friend then embarked on a national tour, circumnavigating Australia. This took eight months, covered 20,000 kilometres and was captured in all its glory in the documentary Tackle Happy.

A runaway hit at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2000, Puppetry of the Penis then set about the task of world domination, playing London's West End, the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Montreal's Just for Laughs Comedy Festival and launching multiple US companies, with one playing the John Houseman Theatre in New York for 2 years, and another two touring extensively, with sit-downs in Los Angeles and San Francisco. As of today, most of the Western World has played host to Puppetry of the Penis. Due to popular demand, Simon and his band of penis puppeteers continue to take their penises to the people with performances in Australia, Canada, USA, the UK and South Africa.

Not In My Backyard - Moscow Suggests "Sexual Minority" Events To Be Held In Berlin

The Commissioner for Human Rights in Moscow, Alexander Muzykantsk, has suggested that Russian gays and lesbians should hold gay Pride marches in Germany, instead of their own country.

In a published interview he stated, “I'm not ready to support the parade of sexual minorities in Moscow." Instead he suggested they could hold them in Berlin. “In recent years Berlin has become de facto the world capital of sexual minorities", he continued. "There are friendly relations between the mayors of Moscow and Berlin, so why not sign an agreement in which the representatives of sexual minorities in Moscow will hold their parade in Berlin with the support of the city?”, he concluded.

Past marches in Moscow have been marred by protests and violence, so it appears this is Muzykantsk's rationale behind this odd suggestion. Just how the citzens of Moscow would particpate in "their" Pride festival remains to be addressed. Perhaps increased tolerance and education for some of the citizens, the police forces and government would make for a better strategy. Voice your opinion and help eliminate hatred.

Uganda, Pepsi and Beenie Man - Strange Bedfellows

As reported through various media outlets, Uganda was proposing new anti-homosexual laws that would not only keep the act of homesexuality illegal, but would bring the death penalty to anyone found practicing this act. This was by far one of the worse forms of homophobia and hate based tactics that has been publicly exposed in quite some time. After much pressure from various international human rights and LGBT organizations, as well as vocal opposition to these proposed laws from several Christian leaders within the United States,some components of the proposed legislation have been removed.

In a public effort to denounce any such support of the death penalty for homosexuals in Uganda, a coalition of Christian groups issued a statement condemning any such action. The statement said, in part, “As Americans, some may wonder why we are raising our voices to oppose a measure proposed in a nation so far away from home. We do so to bear witness to our Christian values, and to express our condemnation of an injustice in which groups and leaders within the American Christian community are being implicated. We appeal to all Christian leaders in our own country to speak out against this unjust legislation.”

Assumingly based on these worldwide pressures to not impose such extreme and uncalled for measures, Uganda will drop the death penalty and life imprisonment for gays in a refined version of an anti-gay bill expected to be ready for presentation to Parliament within two weeks. The draft bill, which is under consideration by a parliamentary committee, will drop the two punishments to attract the support of religious leaders who are opposed to these penalties.

This does not eliminate the extreme ignorance and hatre that the government leaders of Uganda obviously retain. No form of any 'anti-homosexuality' bill should be allowed to pass within this country. Gay rights groups have urged Commonwealth leaders to throw Uganda out of the Commonwealth unless it drops the proposed law. This should also include eliminating any national funding sources.

The minister for ethics and integrity, James Nsaba Buturo, reportedly said a more "refined" set of punishments would be favoured instead of execution. Although it is not clear what this means, he pointed to so-called 'gay cure' therapies, saying the bill would promote counselling for gay people. If the provisions for execution and life imprisonment are dropped, the bill still places severe penalties on gay people, their families and those who work for gay organisations. Other offences include promoting homosexuality, aiding and abetting homosexuality and keeping a house "for purposes of homosexuality". The MP who tabled the bill, David Bahati, has argued his bill will protect children, youths and the "traditional family".

In a somewhat bizarre unrelated incident, well-known homophobic reggae artist Beenie Man recently played a concert in Uganda, sponsored by PepsiCo. Beenie Man would make a great spokesperson for this 'anti-homosexuality' bill, but does Pepsi want its image attached to all of this? Apparently their company spokesperson said they were unaware of his homophobic lyrics, and they quickly reacted by cancelling any further relations.

Beenie Man, real name Anthony Moses Davis, has a number of songs which advocate the murder of lesbians and gays. During the concernt the singer reportedly said: "In my family, we don’t have any gay person but if you’re gay, my brother that’s not my fault." He then performed his song Mi Nah Wallah, which details his wish to cut the throats of all gay men. Other lyrics by the singer include "I'm dreaming of a new Jamaica, come to execute all the gays", while one song suggests lesbians should be hanged. All this seems fine to those running the star-studded annual Grammy Awards, as Mr Man is up for four nominations. Will he make an appearance should this actually become a reality?

What this all means is that there is still a large portion of the world that exhibits hate based propoganda and actions toward those they find different to themselves. As individuals and organizations, we need to stand up and bring light to any actions deemed hateful and detrimental to society. Just because something doesn't have a direct effect on your city, neighbourhood, friends and family, doesn't mean it should be ignored. Please continue to fight hate!

Toronto Protest of Action

Pride Uganda International Alliance calls for Urgent Action to defend human rights in Uganda
Please come to a vigil to protest the new Anti-Homosexuality Bill under debate by the parliament of Uganda.

Where: 519 Church St. Community Centre

When: 5:30 – 7:30 Friday December 18 2009

The new Anti-Homosexuality Bill, imposes the following:
- The death penalty for 'aggravated homosexuality' (includes HIV positive status) and 'serial' homosexual acts.
- Life imprisonment for all same-sex behaviour.
- Life imprisonment for contracting a same-sex marriage.
- Seven years imprisonment for ‘aiding and abating’ homosexuality.
- Five to seven years imprisonment for supporting homosexuality or publishing material ‘promoting’ homosexuality.
- Three years imprisonment for not reporting any offence covered by the bill, within 24 hours.

Under Uganda’s existing laws, the police arbitrarily arrest and detain men and women accused of engaging in consensual sex with someone of the same sex. Human rights organizations have documented cases of torture against lesbians and gay men in detention because of their sexual orientation. The new bill will further criminalize the work of activists and organizations working for the defense and promotion of human rights in Uganda; and create major barriers to effective HIV/AIDS prevention efforts.

We call for the immediate withdrawal of the "Anti-Homosexuality Bill" currently being debated in the Ugandan parliament.

Please join us in defending human rights in Uganda.

Pride Uganda International Alliance.

Update - December 22, 2009

The fight against HIV in Asia could be greatly assisted if countries moved to legalise homosexuality, according to a leading Chinese AIDS activist.

Zhen Li of the Tong Zhi awareness group was speaking at a three-day forum hosted by Hong Kong's Department of Health, the World Health Organisation, the UNDP and the Joint UN Programmes on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

"Between 2005 and 2008 China made huge progress in addition to working with civil society as partners," Li said.

In 2001 homosexual acts were decriminalised, allowing HIV prevention workers to work more openly with men who have sex with men.

Asia's second most populous country, India, is considering decriminalisation.

"As long as these laws are in effect it will push people into dark places," Li said.

In China, the risk of infection by men who have sex with men is 45 times higher than for men in general.

Asia is believed to have the world's largest number of men having sex with men, estimated at 10 million.

A recent UNAIDS report showed that targeted prevention interventions are reaching only 1% of the MSM population.
The report also showed that in most countries in Asia and the Pacific, national strategic plans for HIV/AIDS do not cover interventions for MSM and transgender individuals.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Pride Toronto granted $140,000 for 'greening' of festival

The new brass at Pride Toronto seem fit on making waves in the city - waves of fresh views that is. Their recent announcement indicating a plan to make the festival more environmentally friendly is a big step in the right direction. Although the press release belows speaks in generalities only, I for one am looking forward to seeing what the overall strategic plan will be for Pride 2010. As with any large scale event, there is tons of waste created, energy used and emissions generated.

For my initial wish list, I'd like to see everyone reusing their plastic beverage glasses. Perhaps Pride could offer a discount on drinks when patrons bring up their emply cups for refills. How about alternative energy sources for some of the power needed at the stages and various other sites. This happens at the height of summer, so let's put the sun to work and think of solar energy options. Could we reduce the amount of printed guides, and perhaps have dedicated "Information Centres" where schedules are posted, pencils and recycled paper is available for note taking, computer stations are available with access restricted to the Pride homepage? For those items that do get printed, recyclable newsprint should be the only option.

I could go on and on, but I'll leave that to the powers that be at Pride, who have made the first baby step to a brighter, more sparkling and earth-friendly event.

Official Release

Pride Toronto will receive $140,000 from the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) to work in partnership with The Icarus Foundation to assist Pride Week to reduce its carbon footprint in Toronto and become more environmentally sustainable over the next three years.

The official funding announcement was made today by George Smitherman, MPP for Toronto Centre-Rosedale at a press conference led by David Whitaker, President of Tourism Toronto. Members of Pride Toronto and The Icarus Foundation were present, as well as Paul-Francois Sylvestre, a member of the OTF’s Grant Review Team.

“Although increasing focus has been placed on greening business practices, these initiatives have not spread as widely in the tourism industry, especially for festivals and public events,” said Tracey Sandilands, Executive Director, Pride Toronto. “Our aim is not only to reduce Pride Week’s footprint but to also reach and educate our diverse audience on how they can contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and to showcase this opportunity for festivals and events across Canada.”

Tourism is the world’s largest industry and the economic impacts are well documented. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, tourism generated $3.9 trillion and accounted for 9.8% of the world's GDP in 2005. However, with this growth has come negative impacts and threats.

In addition to tourism creating mass consumption of resources such as water and energy in Canada, our climate has an important influence on operating costs such as heating and cooling, food, water supply and insurance costs. Canada's roster of festivals and events makes up an important part of the tourism industry and has a huge environmental footprint.

“We are thrilled to be able to partner with The Icarus Foundation to provided added benefits to our local community,” added Sandilands. “They have a wealth of experience in working to reduce the footprint of festivals and events and they are passionate about fostering a sustainable tourism industry. The organization has international expertise in this field, and a wide diversity of skills to provide strategic direction.”

The funding will be used to conduct an audit in the first year, and to finance the employment of a Program Manager to oversee the greening initiatives and to educate and train staff, volunteers and members of the community.

Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) - To Be Passed This Week?

It seems the McGuinty government is forging straight ahead with the HST implementation, despite an apparent non-approval rating from most of the citizens of Ontario. Polls are showing as high as 80% are opposed to the new combined tax structure. However, in typical Canadian fashion, there doesn't seem to be any noticeable public protests toward this opposition, save for some online activity. If this tax is as evil as believed, and will affect pretty much everyone, then perhaps it's time to get off our collective desk chairs and make ourselves visible to our councillors and other members of parliament. If we choose to sit back and do nothing, then we all suffer the consequences, much alike those who don't vote but love to complain about government.

Here's a bit more about what HST is all about. It basically will merge the current GST and PST taxes into one lump sum to be added to most existing items already subjected to these taxes, as well as others currently subjected to only one or other other. It is set to take effect on July 1st, 2010. Ironically, Canada Day...or not!

Backgrounder (Small business and the HST)
• Many small businesses will have to add a new sales tax to a laundry list of goods and services: magazines, vitamins, veterinary care, dry cleaning, home renovation, hair cuts, and massage therapy.
• Given that many small businesses do not pay sales taxes on their inputs, they won’t be able to pass on any savings to consumers. Local small businesses worry that higher prices will force customers to look to big box stores.

Affected Items
- GST was previously applied on Gasoline and diesel which will no longer be taxed under the Harmonized Sales Tax.
- Homes below $400,000 would receive a rebate compensating for the HST, and -- unlike the GST -- the rebate would not be recaptured.
- Items from haircuts to carpet cleaning that today include only the five per cent GST will see an increase in costs. However, the PST portion of the HST will be exempt on newspapers and fast food items not exceeding $4 per purchase.
- Exceptions include household goods as children's clothing and shoes, car seats, diapers and feminine hygiene products HST exempt

Consumers are most likely to notice an increase in the price of gasoline and heating fuels. Electricity will no longer be exempt from provincial sales tax, nor will tobacco, personal services like haircuts, membership fees for clubs and gyms, newspapers and magazines, taxi fares and the professional services of lawyers, architects and accountants. Real estate commissions will also be taxed.

What the government wants us to believe:

The province says implementation of the single sales tax would bring Ontario into line with "what is viewed as the most efficient form of sales taxation around the world." The finance ministry says the single sales tax would reduce the cost of goods that Ontario exports, making the province more competitive and boosting a sector of the economy that has been particularly hard hit by the economic downturn.

At the moment, businesses may not deduct the PST from the cost of materials and other products they buy; instead, they pass the cost along to consumers. But under harmonization, businesses may claim tax credits for those purchases, which some estimates suggest could save them $3-billion a year.

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce believes a fully blended system would cost consumers approximately $905 million in additional sales taxes per year, while the GST and PST bill for companies would fall by $1.6 billion annually.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses says harmonization will save business $100 million a year in reduced red tape.

Businesses will save a further $500-million a year on the costs of administering a single tax instead of two, according to the budget documents.

British Columbia is also set to implement the same HST law simultaneously, and other provinces have done similar in the past. It seems that it isn't just the public being laxidasical about the changes being implemented without public consideration, but parliament seems to not care less either.

Recent article posted Dec 3, 2009.

The HST is closer to becoming law in British Columbia and Ontario after the House of Commons voted in favour of the controversial new collection regime Thursday.

The Conservative government's motion was backed by the Liberals and Bloc Quebecois, setting the stage for the formal amendment of the Excise Tax Act.

The government is moving to fast-track the legislation, so it could be voted into law as early as next week.

Only New Democrats voted against the ways-and-means motion, which passed 192-32.

But the fact that only 224 MPs were present to cast a vote in the 308-seat House spoke volumes about how gun-shy even supportive parties' members are of the harmonized sales tax.

Thirty-five Conservatives, including 10 members of cabinet and the travelling prime minister, missed the vote. The Liberals were short 28 MPs, although Leader Michael Ignatieff made a virtue of the fact no Liberal actually voted against tax harmonization despite several threats this week.

"The Liberals are certainly speaking with one voice on the HST," said Ignatieff.

"We made a tough decision because we believe that provinces, both British Columbia and Ontario, want this legislation. They believe that it will create jobs and employment in those two provinces."

The change, negotiated between the Harper government and provincial Liberal governments in B.C. and Ontario, will permit the provinces to start collecting a combined GST and PST next July 1.

Consumer groups in both provinces have railed against the change, since it will expand the range of goods and services subject to provincial sales tax.

But the provinces, helped by billion-dollar packages pledged by Ottawa, say they will be rebating consumers for the hit they take on newly taxed items such as heating fuel and baby clothes.

The Harper government, like the federal Liberal government that preceded it, has been pushing for the harmonized tax since at least at least 2008. The Conservative budget that year said "tax harmonization is the single most important step provinces with (sales taxes) could take to improve the competitiveness of Canadian business."

The federal government provided Ontario with $4.3 billion to induce it to harmonize, while B.C. negotiated a $1.6-billion payment from Ottawa that will help provincial consumers over the tax transition.

Quebec has already effectively gone to a single sales tax, and Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador all use a harmonized sales tax.

We all still have time for a say on this, but act fast as it maybe a lost opportunity by the end of this week.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Lambert Lambasted

Seems the guy-on-guy smooch and simulated copulation are still on the minds of many controlling American media honchos. First his new CD has vanished from the Billboard charts altogether, and has fallen drastically on both Amazon and iTunes. Also, more cancellations of confirmed performances on ABC programs have been announced. Is this because people aren't interested, or because of some internally programmed censorship. All his other co-Idols seem to be doing just fine in sales and ranking.

If you search on Billboard.com for Adam Lambert's new album, "For Your Entertainment", you will get a message saying it has not charted yet. An article on Billboard stated Adam's album debuted at #3 it's first week, but doesn't say where it stands now. Some commenters on Billboard.com are screaming censorship because they are not able to see Lambert's rankings.

As of today, Lambert's debut album, "For Your Entertainment", has fallen to the #27 spot on Amazon's top 100 downloads. The single "For Your Entertainment" has fallen out of the top 100 downloads altogether. On iTunes, "For Your Entertainment" (both the album and the single) have taken a similar nosedive.

How much does anti-Adam sentiment play into this? Well, apparently, a lot. A Facebook group called "1,000,000 to File an FCC Obscenity Complaint Against Adam Lambert" has gained a following of about 500 this past week (however, many of them are LGBT people who joined in solidarity to speak out supporting Adam, and to report the group for spreading hate speech). Some members have "Yes on Prop 8 " logos as their profile picture.

The group says, "We are organizing over 1 million people to file an online complaint with the FCC against Adam Lambert using the following statement - Adam Lambert committed several obscene homosexual acts when he French kissed another man, simulated receiving oral sex from another man, groped another mans genitals, and committed other obscene sexual acts during his live televised performance on the American Music Awards Show which was aired live on national television November 22nd, 2009 on ABC."

Lambert told Ellen DeGeneres on her show, "I suppose part of what I got caught up in, that I forgot, was that this was the first time people were seeing me on TV again after Idol. I didn't really think about that as objectively as I might of wanted to." He added, "It was maybe a little too far." His father suggested he maybe make an apology, but Lambert stated "I don't feel like I did anything wrong, it just wasn't maybe the right judgment call. It's a taste thing more than an obscenity thing. I think it's just a taste level."

This comes on the heels of news that Disney-owned ABC's head of television Anne Sweeney said the network is "reviewing the steps it takes in preparing for live broadcasts of performers" following Adam's notorious November 22nd performance on the network's American Music Awards, which has garnered both praise and criticism. Sweeney told Reuters, "We certainly don't want to suppress artistry at any level, but we also have to be very cognizant of who our audience is."

Adam Lambert tweeted today that his performance scheduled for December 17 on Disney-owned ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live had been canceled, according to the LA Times. An ABC spokesperson had this to say about the network's decision to cancel - "We decided not to move forward with the booking at this time," and declined to be interviewed about the issue. Lambert has also been disinvited to perform on ABC's Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve, although a spokesperson claimed that the booking was never finalized. However, Dick Clark Productions produces the AMA Red Carpet Show and is using Adam's name to encourage viewers to join on its Facebook fan page and follow it on Twitter.

Lambert also tweeted that his fans should blame the FCC, not ABC for his recent de-bookings. However, the LA Times points out that the FCC doesn't monitor programming after 10 p.m. It's right there on the FCC website - "The FCC has determined, with the approval of the courts, that there is a reasonable risk that children will be in the audience from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., local time. Therefore, the FCC prohibits station licensees from broadcasting indecent material during that period."Material is indecent if, in context, it depicts or describes sexual or excretory organs or activities in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium...The 'safe harbor' refers to the time period between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., local time. During this time period, a station may air indecent and/or profane material."

Lambert's performance on ABC's American Music Awards on November 22 aired near 11 p.m., well within the FCC's "safe harbor". So no matter how many people complain about the performance, nobody from ABC can point the finger of blame at the FCC for the network's continued de-booking of Adam from its shows. As for ABC's argument that Lambert "proved himself unpredictable on live television" for de-booking him on "Good Morning America" after the AMA's, he proved himself utterly safe and predictable the next day on CBS's "The Early Show" and "The David Letterman Show", delivering outstanding, crowd-pleasing performances.

Also, he seems to be building a cult of personality. He admitted to CNN International that he grew up an "ugly duckling fat kid', once weighing 250 pounds, and said his flashy behavior of late is his way of overcoming self-image problems. According to Access Hollywood, Barbara Walters has named Adam one of the "10 Most Fascinating People of 2009," which seems to be a dubious distinction, since Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and Jenny Sanford, wife of disgraced South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, also made the cut. Jenny Sanford has told reporters that gay marriage wrecked her family. Barbara's show airs December 9 on NBC (check local listings).

Whatever you think of his music, his looks, or his personality, the only real possible hold back for his future is his open sexuality. Shame!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

First California, Now New York - WTF?

Aren't these two states supposedly the most liberal in the whole conservative wrong-wing religious dominated U S of A? Why are these wing nuts in control of these decisions in the first place? How were THEY elected to power? I find it really sad to think that the majority of US citizens are this closed minded, as the MAJORITY that I meet are way more liberal thinking. Something is wrong here, and needs to be fixed. The problem lies in that the top individuals running this country are religious fanatics themselves, whether past Republicans or current Democrats. Until religion is separated from politics, we will continue to see discrimation, hatred and unnessary evil...all in the name of their loving GAWD!

Read on and rant...

The New York State Senate voted 24-38 today against a bill that would have allowed gays and lesbians to marry in the Empire State.

The long-delayed vote came on the heels of more than two hours of passionate and even emotional debate on the Senate floor.

"Provide me with the exact same rights as you have Madam President and each and every member of the New York State Senate has," openly gay state Sen. Tom Duane [D-Manhattan,] who initially introduced the bill, said. "It would make me equal in every way to everyone else in this chamber."

State Sen. Diane Savino [D-Staten Island] was among those who applauded Duane as she spoke in support of marriage for gays and lesbians.

"We have nothing to fear from Tom Duane and [his partner] Louis," she said. "We have nothing to fear from [state Assemblymember] Danny O’Donnell and his partner. We have nothing to fear from love and commitment."

State Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson [D-Mount Vernon] spoke about her gay brother as she announced her support of the marriage bill. She also discussed those who continue to oppose nuptials for same-sex couples based on their religious convictions.

"Nobody elected me... to be the moral arbiter of their decisions," Hassell-Thompson said. "They did ask me to provide leadership and the rights for all of the people I serve."

Senate President Pro Tempore Malcolm Smith [D-St. Albans] was more blunt.

"What is wrong is not knowing what the Bible says and retreating to it," he said.

State Sen. David Valesky [D-Oneida] was among the handful of undecided lawmakers who supported the bill, but embattled state Sen. Hiram Monserrate [D-Jackson Heights] and state Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr., were among the eight Democrats who voted against it. No Republicans supported the bill.

Diaz has been the most vocal opponent of gay marriage in either party. Monserrate faces an uphill re-election battle after he was found guilty of cutting up his live-in-girlfriend and trying to hide the incident.

"Let’s do what Mayor Bloomberg did: let’s go against the will of the people by doing [it] through politicians and without the people’s will," Diaz said as he spoke in opposition to the bill. "Let the people decide. I say let the people decide. If you put this issue before the voters, they will reject it." Diaz was referring to the mayor’s volte-face on term limits.

The vote has been subject to numerous delays but that the Senate Republicans wanted a floor vote at last. The state’s large Orthodox Jewish population is actively opposed; a few Orthodox Jews protested in front of the State House in Albany on Wednesday.

Activists were quick to react to the "nay" vote.

"While we are disappointed by today’s vote, we are pleased that the issue of marriage equality at last was debated in the New York State Senate," Alan Van Capelle, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, said. "We had long called for a public debate on this matter so we could determine who was truly on our side."

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, herself an out-lesbian and the second-most powerful politician in the city, expressed disappointment. "Today the New York State Senate rejected an opportunity to declare that all citizens in New York are equal," she said in a statement. "This is a loss for every family in New York. This is a loss for every lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender New Yorker."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, after sitting on the fence about the issue, came out forcefully in favor of gay marriage this year.

Another city politician, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer may not be gay, but his statement was even more blunt in its assessment of the Senate vote.

"Only the State Senate could snatch defeat from the jaws of pride and progress," he said. "Millions of New Yorkers, regardless of their sexual orientation, looked to Albany today hoping our state would once again take its place at the forefront of America’s long struggle for human rights.

"Instead," he said, "we were treated again to the last minute disappointment that has become all too familiar from the State Senate." Stringer, a co-sponsor of a the marriage-equality bill when he served in the Assembly, added, "Along with countless New Yorkers who have been fighting this fight for many years, I am saddened by the Senate vote. We will keep fighting, and in the end, equal justice will prevail."

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, agreed. "Today’s vote is a vote against equal treatment for New York families," he said.

Activists are planning to rally tomorrow night in Washington Square Park in lower Manhattan and in Albany.

Ban Divorce?

I'm all for helping move this motion along. If marriage is so sacred for heterosexuals, then they should be held accountable to their vows forever. That way there would be no threat that same-sex marriage would cause death and destruction to anyone.

A California man is leading a campaign to ban divorce in the state.

John Marcotte, of Sacramento, believes that if state voters think gay marriage should be illegal, divorce should also be outlawed.

He believes this is the logical extension of Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in the state last November, and is aiming to collect enough signatures to get a 'Marriage Protection Act' on 2010's ballot.

His website, rescuemarriage.org, features choice quotes such as "You said 'Til death do us part'. You're not dead yet." and "Jesus still loves you if you get divorced – just not as much as before."

Some readers of his website have apparently not got the irony, while others have expressed concern that churches are supporting it. Marcotte has even received some support from far-right religious groups.

Marcotte, a web designer, told the Sacramento Bee: "We're going to enforce morality in California and then we'll spread from state to state, the same way the Prop 8 backers moved to Maine.

"If you want to protect traditional marriage, don't stop gay people from getting married. Stop straight people from getting divorced."

He began his campaign in the summer and believes that with the ensuing media attention, he could secure the 700,000 signatures needed to get the issue on the ballot next year.

He has already filed his petition with the secretary of state.

When a reporter questioned whether the campaign was a joke, Marcotte replied: "If you're saying what I'm doing is ridiculous, then you're also saying Proposition 8 is ridiculous.

"I have more faith in the California voters. To not vote [for a ban on divorce] would be a little hypocritical."