Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Malawi Gay Couple May Face 14 Years In Prison

While many westernized nations around the world are progressing, albeit slowly in some places such as the United States, many nations still persecute members of the LGBT community solely for being who they are. Recently a male couple chose to participate in a marriage ceremony in the African replublic of Malawi, a region where gay lifestyle is shunned upon, most likely as a result of ignorance. It is a very brave move for anyone to stand up and take a stance, and I think global organizations such as United Nations and Amnesty International need to get involved immmediately to prevent these two innocent individuals from going to jail.

Malawi's government recently defended the prosecution of this couple, and Information Minister Leckford Mwanza Thoto noted that Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga were clearly breaking the laws of Malawi. He was quoted in the Mail and Guardian online as saying, "Despite Malawi depending on international aid, the country is a sovereign country with its own laws and must not be influenced by the West in the running of its affairs of state."

Monjeze and Chimbalanga were arrested on December 28th after holding a wedding ceremony in Blantyre. They face up to 14 years in prison if convicted. They have pleaded not guilty to the charges and have been remanded in custody after failing to secure bail.

The men's lawyers are arguing that the prosecution is unconstitutional and have asked for a review of the country's homosexuality laws. Their legal team has asked for the case to be held before the Constitutional Court, but the presiding judge in Blantyre has said he will continue with the trial until the higher court accepts the case. The trial is expected to resume next week.

Since their arrest the police and government has allowed these men to be publicly ridiculed, held in jail without sufficient reason, and have succumbed to considerable stress and inhumane living conditions that has brought on severe illness and health concerns. The time to act is now. Send word out to the world that ignorance, disrimination and inhumanity will not be tolerated.

Government of Malawi - www.malawi.gov.mw
United Nations - www.un.org
Amnesty International - www.amnesty.org


More on Malawi -

The Republic of Malawi is a landlocked country in southeast Africa that was formerly known as Nyasaland. It is bordered by Zambia to the northwest, Tanzania to the northeast, and it borders Mozambique on the east, south and west. The country is separated from Tanzania and Mozambique by Lake Malawi. Its size is over 118,000 km² with an estimated population of more than 13,900,000. Its capital is Lilongwe, the biggest city is Blantyre. The name Malawi comes from the Maravi, an old name of the Nyanja people that inhabit the area.

Malawi was first settled during the 10th century and remained under native rule until 1891 when it was colonized by the British, who ruled the country until 1964. Upon gaining independence it became a single-party state under the presidency of Hastings Banda, who remained president until 1994, when he was ousted from power. Bingu Mutharika, elected in 2004, is the current president. Malawi has a democratic, multi-party government. Malawi has a small military force that includes an army, a navy and an air wing. Malawi's foreign policy is pro-Western and includes positive diplomatic relations with most countries and participation in several international organizations.

Malawi is among the world's least developed and most densely populated countries. The economy is heavily based in agriculture, with a largely rural population. The Malawian government depends heavily on outside aid to meet development needs, although this need (and the aid offered) has decreased since 2000. The Malawian government faces challenges in growing the economy, improving education, health care and the environmental protection and becoming financially independent. Malawi has several programs developed since 2005 that focus on these issues, and the country's outlook appears to be improving, with improvements in economic growth, education and healthcare seen in 2007 and 2008.

Malawi has a low life expectancy and high infant mortality. There is a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, which is a drain on the labor force and government expenditures, and is expected to have a significant impact on gross domestic product (GDP) by 2010. There is a diverse population of native peoples, Asians and Europeans, with several languages spoken and an array of religious beliefs. Although there was tribal conflict in the past, by 2008 it had diminished considerably and the concept of a Malawian nationality had begun to form. Malawi has a culture combining native and colonial aspects, including sports, art, dance and music.

Obama Dines With Killer

David Bahati, the MP who authored Uganda's anti-homosexuality bill, is expected to attend a prayer breakfast with US president Barack Obama.

Bahati told the Ugandan newspaper Sunday Monitor he would be attending the National Prayer Breakfast on February 4th.

The event usually attended by the president, who the newspaper described as a "gays-tolerant liberal president".

The breakfast is organised by The Fellowship – a secretive conservative Christian organisation which is also known as The Family. Its members include politicians, religious leaders and corporate executives.

Bahati may be asked to speak at the event, which will also be attended by Congress members and Cabinet secretaries. Previous speakers have included Tony Blair, Bono and Mother Theresa.

Uganda's president Yoweri Museveni signalled last week that he was stepping back from the bill, which would execute gays in some circumstances.

He said his country must consider its "foreign interests" and cited world leaders such as British prime minister Gordon Brown, who had expressed his concern about the proposed legislation.

Bahati, the MP for Ndorwa West, has refused to back down, saying his bill will "protect the traditional family".

The country's minister for ethics James Nsaba Buturo said recently he believed Museveni did not support the death penalty for gays and said the provision was likely to be removed from the bill.

Aston Kajara, minister of state for investments, has also said the bill is "unnecessary".

The bill would impose the death penalty on gays who sex with minors, disabled people or while living with HIV, along with repeat offenders. Other homosexuality offences, such as failing to report incidents to police, would result in imprisonment.

It is expected to come before parliament in late February or early March.


The main sponsor of Uganda's "kill the gays" bill, David Bahati, is planning to attend the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C. in February, Uganda's Sunday Monitor reports:

David_bahati "Mr Bahati, according to reports, may speak at the event where President Barack Obama – a gays-tolerant liberal president, is also expected to attend. On Friday, Mr Bahati said he would attend. The event is organised by The Fellowship- a conservative Christian organisation, which has deep political connections and counts several high-ranking conservative politicians in its membership. 'I intend to attend the prayer breakfast,' said Mr Bahati - himself a part organiser of the Ugandan equivalent of the national prayer breakfast. This week, citing international pressure, President Yoweri Museveni advised his party’s National Executive Committee, his cabinet and the NRM parliamentary caucus to 'go slow' on the Bill. Mr Bahati told Inside Politics he is set to meet a special cabinet session to discuss the Bill tomorrow. 'The nature of legislation is such that one cannot have a final version. There are bound to be amendments but the process will go on,' he said. The entire affair has given the Museveni administration its worst spate of bad publicity in recent times. Mr Museveni called it a foreign policy matter - elevating the Bill to the status of other concerns for the government like its engagement in the African Union and the United Nations Security Council."

"The Fellowship" is aka "The Family".

Last week, it was announced that prominent Ugandan evangelical pastor (and pal of Rick Warren) Martin Ssempa was planning a "Million Man March" to demonstrate popular support for the "kill the gays" bill.


A media personality who has been accused of homophobia will reportedly be appointed South Africa's ambassador to Uganda next month.

Jon Qwelane, a writer for the Sunday Sun, has used his column to espouse his views on homosexuality. He has attacked gay marriage and said he would disown his children if any were to come out as gay.

He has also praised Robert Mugabe for his "unflinching and unapologetic" views on homosexuality. The Zimbabwe president described gays and lesbians as "sub-animal".

Opposition party Democratic Alliance called Qwelane an "admitted homophobe" and said his appointment could be seen as a "tacit endorsement" of Uganda's current stance on homosexuality.

Uganda's parliament is currently considering a bill which would execute or imprison gays. The bill is expected to receive strong support when it is debated this spring.

Gay groups in South Africa have also reacted angrily to Qwelane's reported appointment with SA GLAAD calling him a "disgraced" homophobe.

Christina Engela, of SA GLAAD, told PinkNews.co.uk: "This is a resounding slap in the face to the pink community in South Africa and coupled with the government's failure to condemn the Ugandan genocide bill, it gives tacit approval to Ugandan human rights violations – and raises valid concerns about the future of gay rights in this country also."

The South African press has reported that President Jacob Zuma will announce Qwelane's appointment next month. Qwelane supported Zuma when he was accused of corruption.

The Sunday Times said that the International Relations department was waiting for Uganda to approve the choice.


More about the National Prayer Breakfast -

The National Prayer Breakfast is a yearly event held in Washington, D.C., on the first Thursday of February each year. The founder of this event was Abraham Vereide.[1] The event—which is actually a series of meetings, luncheons, and dinners—has taken place since 1953 and has been held at least since the 1980s at the Washington Hilton on Connecticut Avenue N.W.

The breakfast, held in the Hilton’s International Ballroom, is attended by some 3,500 guests, including international invitees from over 100 countries. The National Prayer Breakfast is hosted by members of the United States Congress and is organized on their behalf by The Fellowship Foundation, a conservative Christian organization more widely known as "The Family." Initially called the Presidential Prayer Breakfast, the name was changed in 1970 to the National Prayer Breakfast.

It is designed to be a forum for political, social and business leaders of the world to assemble together and build relationships which might not otherwise be possible. ("[T]he breakfast is regarded by the Family as merely a tool in a larger purpose: to recruit the powerful attendees into smaller, more frequent prayer meetings, where they can 'meet Jesus man to man.'"[2]) Since the inception of the National Prayer Breakfast, several U.S. states and cities and other countries have established their own annual prayer breakfast events.

The event has been criticized by organizations such as American Atheists and the Freedom From Religion Foundation,[3] who describe it as violating separation of church and state.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Interview with Playwright Julian DeZotti

Guns and Roses: The Play - Closes January 15th
More Here - http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/285051

1. What was your inspiration for writing this play?
I started writing this back in university as an assignment for a playwriting class and I was still interested in telling a "high school" story at the time that wasn't teen issue/high drama.

2. Who are you looking at to attract in your audience?
A NEW theatre audience - people who see theatre as this place for big budget musicals or Shakespeare. I wanted to get people interested in a good old fashioned stage play, reach outside the Toronto indie theatre community. This includes youth as well who either don't have access to theatre because of how much it costs or lack of interest. They are so bombarded with media these days, I wanted to attract them to the live medium, one I strongly believe in.

3. Are there school groups attending?
Yes we have a couple Arts schools in the area coming, and we are bringing a school from a low income neighbourhood as well because it should be accessible to all!

4. What sort of research was involved? Who did you speak with?
I spoke with teenagers (and just overheard conversations on the subway), friends of mine who were involved in rave and ecstasy culture when they were in their teens. I also did a lot of book reading, articles, documentaries, etc. I had people who work at Breakaway Youth and Family Services assess the accuracy of the script, specifically the behaviour of the characters when under the influence. That in tandem with dramaturgical work - a lot of colleagues read it and gave feedback on that.

5. Why Rosedale neighbourhood teens as opposed to other sections of the city?
Rosedale has a very affluent area with some low-income apartments sometimes in the same neigbourhood. I was interested in trying to cover that socio-economic spectrum in the story.

6. When did you finish high school? How old are you now?
I finished 10 years ago now. I am currently 27. I started writing it when I was 22. It sat in a drawer for almost four years in between then.

7. Do you consider a big difference between pot and ecstasy experimentation with youth?
Yes and No. YES because they are two VERY different drugs - ecstasy is manufactured, the primary component being MDMA and then its mixed with a lot of other stuff one usually does not know about before taking it. Its affects are more potent especially on the chemistry of your body. Pot is natural, it's a plant and its affects are less intense. NO because the key word is experimentation. For the most part, teenagers are going to try new things (alcohol, drugs, etc) for many different reasons, one being it is just a part of growing up.

8. How did you connect with the others involved with the project? What sort of call out was done or was it friends and friends of friends?
Because of the lack of rehearsal time and production time I could not hold auditions. I also needed to go with people who I've had experience rehearsing with (we only had two weeks) or people that I trusted recommending someone to me. For the most part I just made the calls. Two of the actors are from the reading I had last year at Canadian Stage.

9. Why Toronto Centre for the Performing Arts (North York) instead of a more central rep type theatre?
Outside of the generous support of Canadian Stage and Roseneath Theatre through staged readings, the TCFPA were the only ones who offered me an opportunity at a full scale production. And they have an intimate, beautiful space.

10. Any plans on the horizon to remount in other locations, perhaps part of Fringe or Summerworks?
That is the hope! We will see what response we get after this run. But the hope is to attract some other companies or producers to help remount. Touring is always an option. The TCFPA has also expressed interest in a possible remount as well.

11. What is the Original Norwegian?
It is a line from our first play called "Half Empty", which is about trying to stage a modern day adaptation of Ibsen's play "An Enemy Of The People". It has sentimental value for me, if nothing else.

Guns and Roses: The Play - Closes January 15th
More Here - http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/285051

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Miss'd America Is Back - Atlantic City

Given that RuPaul’s back on the runway with RuPaul’s Drag Race, and now that the former Miss California’s sex tapes and breast augmentations (can we just say boob job?) are up for scrutiny--what better moment in American culture to re-introduce the dearly beloved Atlantic City drag queen pageant known as Miss’d America.

Created in 1993 as an Atlantic City fundraiser for the South Jersey AIDS Alliance, Miss’d America was a spoof of the legendary beauty queen pageant, which took place annually and became part of Atlantic City folklore. The spoof pageant initially took place for the hair, make-up, and costume pageant workers--that is to say, the entire LGBT community of Atlantic City.

These behind-the-scene worker bees had to miss the actual Miss America pageant the night before because they were working on the show. For the next thirteen years, Miss’d America was held on the deck of the now-shuttered Studio Six, the well-loved gay club where celebrities appeared after their concerts (Cher! Neil Sedaka! Connie Francis!).

The event raised nearly a quarter of a million dollars for local charities before the nationally broadcast Miss America pageant packed up their hair rollers and stiletto heels and headed out West, to Las Vegas, in 2005.

Now, after a five-year hiatus, Miss’d America rises again on the 31st of January 2010. This time, the event will be held in real glory. In an ironic touch, the pageant will take place at the 2,800-seat Adrian Phillips Ballroom at historic Boardwalk Hall--the longtime home of those long-legged beauty queens.

With competitions in evening wear and talent, as well as a swimsuit segment, it’s no wonder that drag queens all over town are currently starving on Tic-Tacs and lettuce leaves.

This year’s version of Miss’d America will have as its host television star Carson Kressley ("Queer Eye for the Straight Guy"). In keeping with tradition will be written and directed by Robert Hitchen (otherwise known as Miss Sandy Beach).

Village Voice gossip columnist Michael Musto is serving as one of several celebrity judges. Sponsored by Grey Goose, and presented by Trump Entertainment Resorts, Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc., the Atlantic City Convention Visitors Authority, and the Greater Atlantic City GLBT Alliance, in association with the Schultz-Hill Foundation, this latest incarnation of Miss’d America ain’t just any dog-and-pony show.

With seven of Atlantic City’s casinos between them, Harrah’s Entertainment and Trump Entertainment have previously sponsored LGBT weekends such as OUT in A.C. in their ongoing effort to insure that the LGBT community is recognized and represented in Atlantic City-and both casinos are offering special package prices for the weekend, as well as hosting pre- and post-pageant parties at nightclubs such as DUSK at Caesars.

Underneath all the wigs and dresses and hilarity are some very worthy beneficiaries, which include the Greater Atlantic City GLBT Alliance, the William Way Center of Philadelphia, Broadway Cares-Equity Fights AIDS of New York City, the South Jersey AIDS Alliance-as well as the Schultz-Hill Foundation, which plans to establish a college scholarship for an Atlantic City-area LGBT student.

Don’t miss the triumphant return of Miss’d America to Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. Here she comes-again, Miss’d America!

Pat Robertson – Haiti Earthquake Work of the Devil?

Recently stated - "Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French ... and they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, 'We will serve you if you'll get us free from the French.'

True story. And the devil said, 'OK, it's a deal.' "Ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after another."

Clarification by Spokesperson

On today’s The 700 Club, during a segment about the devastation, suffering and humanitarian effort that is needed in Haiti, Dr. Robertson also spoke about Haiti’s history. His comments were based on the widely-discussed 1791 slave rebellion led by Boukman Dutty at Bois Caiman, where the slaves allegedly made a famous pact with the devil in exchange for victory over the French. This history, combined with the horrible state of the country, has led countless scholars and religious figures over the centuries to believe the country is cursed. Dr. Robertson never stated that the earthquake was God’s wrath. If you watch the entire video segment, Dr. Robertson’s compassion for the people of Haiti is clear. He called for prayer for them. His humanitarian arm has been working to help thousands of people in Haiti over the last year, and they are currently launching a major relief and recovery effort to help the victims of this disaster. They have sent a shipment of millions of dollars worth of medications that is now in Haiti, and their disaster team leaders are expected to arrive tomorrow and begin operations to ease the suffering.

Chris Roslan
Spokesman for CBN

On a more positive note, neighbouring Dominican Republic issued this statement:

The Dominican Republic (DR) Ministry of Tourism is deeply saddened by the tragic loss of life and extensive earthquake damage to the people of Haiti, its neighbouring country. The Dominican government is providing relief effort staging areas at some of the international airports located on the island.

The DR experienced no damage from the earthquake and all transportation systems, communication systems, tourism businesses and medical facilities are operating smoothly, making the country available to offer support to the relief effort in any way needed.

“The DR is making available its medical facilities for earthquake victims and is providing international relief organizations access to Haiti through the airports and seaports. Our transportation systems, communications systems, hotels, resorts, beaches and natural environment suffered no damage here. We are grateful and with deep concern open our hearts to our neighbours and will continue to do everything we can to help them,” said Mr. Francisco Javier Garcia, Minister of Tourism.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Comics Kick Cancer to the Curb with The ‘C’ Word

The ‘C’ word. Some people cringe when they hear it. Others cover their ears. And there are those who are absolutely horrified by the mere mention of it. Yes, we’re talking about cancer. But on January 19, 2010, a Toronto comic and her female cohorts want to make the ‘C’ word stand for something else: Courage. Creativity. And most of all: Comedy.

The ‘C’ Word, a benefit for Gilda's Club Greater Toronto, is a night of stand-up comedy featuring seasoned pros alongside up-and-coming comics from the StandUp For Your Sisters troupe. The title of the show was inspired by the experiences of comedian and organizer Daniela Saioni during her bout with cancer earlier this year.

“For my 40th birthday I got cancer,” Saioni says. “I’m a comic, so my natural instinct was to make jokes about it – but when I did, I got heckled. Even friends and family were uncomfortable discussing it.”

Last year’s inaugural event, StandUp For Your Sisters, was a sold-out success and raised more than $7,400 for Gilda’s Club. This year’s event has become more personal for Saioni, who credits Gilda’s Club for helping with her successful recovery.

“It was humbling having to turn to the charity I fundraise for to get help,” Saioni says, “I’m so happy to be able to give back to Gilda’s Club by doing what I love – making people laugh.”

With The ‘C’ Word’s diverse line-up of comics, there will be plenty of laughs, with topics ranging from sex to ethnicity, relationships to careers and much, much more. Since last year’s event, the Sisters have spent lots of time on local comedy stages and their acts are better than ever.

“People from last year’s audience still stop us in the street to quote their favorite jokes back to us,” Saioni says. “This year, we’ll give them even more to talk about. It’s a great night to come out and stand up for your sisters, mothers, daughters and friends. And laugh in the face of cancer.”


When: Tuesday, January 19, 2010 at 8:30 p.m. (Dinner and silent auction at 6pm)
Where: Hugh’s Room, 2261 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Who: Hosted by Martha Chaves (Just for Laughs, Something About Martha)
Featuring Jo-Anna Downey (CTV’s Women of the Night, YukYuks), Special Guests Sandra Battaglini (Canadian ComedyAward winner) and Sandra Shamas (My Boyfriend's Back and There's Gonna Be Laundry) with StandUp For Your Sisters

Tickets: $25 in advance (available at www.hughsroom.com), $30 at the door

All proceeds from tickets sales and silent auction will go directly to Gilda’s Club.

For a list of comics, bios and photos, visit www.standupforyoursisters.com.

About Gilda's Club

The mission of Gilda’s Club is to provide a meeting place where men, women, teens and children living with cancer, as well as their families and friends, can join with others to build social and emotional support as a supplement to their treatment of choice. Gilda’s Club is a non-profit organization where there is no cost to members. For more information about Gilda’s Club, please visit their website at www.gildasclubtoronto.org

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Live Green Toronto

The City of Toronto has created a new web space called Live Green Toronto, that provides easily accessible information on all things environmentally friendly that both residents and businesses now have access to in one convenient place.

As Mayor Miller leaves office, this is an extremely fitting example of his overall political goals and agenda during his term in office. He was a huge proponent of creating a cleaner environ, and hopefully this will let him depart on a high note.

Here's his address -

Living green. Here in Toronto, it’s more than a trend; it’s becoming a way of life.

We hope this new, one-stop website filled with tips, success stories, learning opportunities, information updates – even rebates and grants – will inspire you to keep taking the small steps that lead to a healthier planet.

As you may have heard, Toronto has targeted an 80% reduction of our greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. It’s an ambitious target, and we're rising to the challenge. To reach our target we not only need to take big, bold steps as a local government, we also need every resident of Toronto to take action in their home and in their neighbourhood.

The Live Green Toronto program is designed to inspire and support every resident who wants to do something right now to make Toronto an even greener city.

I hope you find this exciting new site a terrific resource for action.

We all know how good we feel when we do our part. So thanks for living green for a greener Toronto.

Mayor David Miller
City of Toronto


Live Green Toronto's new Membership Card will help you shop, save and live green!

Shop Green - When you shop at participating Live Green Toronto businesses, you support businesses that have committed to green their operations, products and services and support our local communities.

Save Green - Use your Live Green Toronto Membership Card for exclusive offers and/or instant discounts at participating Live Green Toronto businesses.

Live Green - Where you spend your money and what you spend it on is a big part of living green.

The Live Green Toronto membership card is one more way that Live Green Toronto supports and inspires residents and businesses who want to do something right now to make Toronto an even greener city.

Are you a green business owner?

Make a pledge to support Live Green Toronto and enrol your business in the Live Green Toronto membership card program today! Benefit from extensive promotion and attract new and loyal customers. There is no cost to participate.

Click here to register - https://www.livegreentorontocard.ca/signup/register.php

Putting The Knife to Darwin

Commissioned by Danish performance group Hotel Pro Forma to write the music for their opera based on Charles Darwin and his book ‘On the Origin of the Species’, The Knife decided to make this a collaborative process, working with artists Mt. Sims and Planningtorock for the first time, to capture the huge width of the Darwin and evolution theme. They extensively researched Darwin related literature and articles, with Olof attending a field recording workshop in the Amazon to find inspiration and to record sounds.

‘Tomorrow, In A Year’ is a unique musical project. Richard Dawkins’s gene trees have formed the basis of some of the musical composition, artificial sounds have been mixed with field recordings, with the music inspired by everything from the different stages of a bird learning its melody, to a song based on Darwin’s loving letters about his daughter Anne. These are compositions that challenge the conventional conception of opera music.

Pushing the experimental process further still, composer, choreographer, costume designer and set designer worked separately, only coming together 3 and a half months before the first performance of ‘Tomorrow, In A Year’ in Copenhagen on the 2nd September 2009. Described as “shifting the position of operartic art in a single leap”, further performances of ‘Tomorrow, In A Year’ are confirmed to take place in Athens (8-9 Jan), Stockholm (29 Jan-1 Feb), and Munster (5 June), with further dates to be announced.

Olof Dreijer says: “At first it was very difficult as we really didn’t know anything about opera. We’d never been to one. I didn’t even know what the word libretto meant. But after some studying, and just getting used to opera’s essence of pretentious and dramatic gestures, I found that there is a lot to learn and play with. In fact, our ignorance gave us a positive respectless approach to making opera. It took me about a year to become emotionally moved by an opera singer and now I really do. I really like the basic theatrical values of opera and the easy way it brings forward a narrative. We’ve approached this before in The Knife but never in such a clear way.”

The first track to be taken from the album, called Colouring of Pigeons, is free to download now for all mailing list subscribers

CD 1
01. Intro
02. Epochs
03. Geology
04. Upheaved
05. Minerals
06. Ebb Tide Explorer
07. Variation of Birds
08. Letter to Henslow
09. Schoal Swarm Orchestra

CD 2
01. Annie’s Box
02. Tumult
03. Colouring of Pigeons
04. Seeds
05. Tomorrow in a Year
06. The Height of Summer

Bonus track
07. Annie's Box (alt. vocal)

Go here for the exclusive download -


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Transgender News or Tranny News?

Transgendered individuals have been becoming more vocal and visible within the media of late, and now the US has appointed a trans woman as part of his congress.

US President Barack Obama has appointed a trans woman to the role of senior technical advisor to the Department of Commerce. Amanda Simpson is on the board of directors of the National Centre for Transgender Equality and has worked in the aerospace and defence industry for 30 years.

In a statement, she said: "I'm truly honoured to have received this appointment and am eager and excited about this opportunity that is before me. "And at the same time, as one of the first transgender presidential appointees to the federal government, I hope that I will soon be one of hundreds, and that this appointment opens future opportunities for many others."

Simpson holds degrees in physics, engineering and business administration along with an extensive flight background. She is a certified flight instructor and test pilot with 20 years of experience.

Way to go Amanda!

On the other side of the Atlantic, news was made when one individual took offense to a slang term used in a local newspaper headline.

The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) has ruled that a Belfast newspaper breached the press code of practice for calling a trans woman a "tranny". Keira McCormack complained she had been deeply insulted by the November 1st 2009 article in the Sunday Life which described her as "burly". She had worked as a rape counsellor in Belfast between 2005 and 2009 but the newspaper questioned whether the "5ft 10in transsexual" was suitable for the job.

The article, titled 'Tranny worked in rape centre', was found to be discriminatory and in breach of Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. The Sunday Life argued that no offence had been intended in the use of the word 'tranny' which it considered to be "widely used" in articles about trans people.

McCormack said that the term 'tranny' was generally used by transvestites or cross-dressers but was deeply insulting to transgender people. The PCC considered that the use of the word ‘tranny’ was a needless abbreviation which many found offensive. It ruled that the word was pejorative and the complaint was upheld on this point.

I believe this could be a case of who uses the term and in what context. Perhaps a transgendered person could get away with calling another a Tranny, similar to a gay man calling another the "F" word or a black person calling another the "N" word.

Casey Johnson Dead at 30

The heiress to the Johnson & Johnson fortune has been found dead at her Los Angeles home. Casey Johnson, 30, had a history of drug abuse. Police said she appeared to have died from natural causes, although a cause of death has not been determined. According to gossip website TMZ, Johnson's body was believed to have lain in the house for several days before being discovered yesterday morning.

A number of celebrity friends used Twitter to express their sadness. Lindsay Lohan wrote: “r.i.p. To a friend to and of many – Casey Johnson – my regards to her family, friends and her beautiful daughter Ava you are in our hearts CJ”. However, Lohan's ex-girlfriend Samantha Ronson added: “Am so sick of those 3 letters [RIP], so tired of losing friends to something as senseless as a drug overdose. WAKE UP people.”

She was reportedly engaged to actress and model Tila Nguyen, better known as Tila Tequila, and she was arrested in November for allegedly stealing from the house of her former girlfriend Jasmine Lennard. Johnson leaves behind her daughter Ava, who she adopted from Kazakhstan in 2007. The child was at the centre of a custody battle between Johnson and her parents.


Monday, January 4, 2010

Guns and Roses - The Play


Inspired by real Toronto teens and the city's headlines, Guns & Roses is a fast-paced, honest look into the lives of these teens and the often too-secret world they inhabit. Rather than sentimentalizing or sugar-coating the high school experience, Guns & Roses uses authentic dialogue and situations to portray the lives of five teenagers - this is not a finger waving after school special. You will not hear the words "Just say no" and it is not about "bad kids" pressuring "good kids", it's about taking a real look at their pressures and reality - drug use and abuse, sexuality, violence at school and at home, racism, and more. Focusing on teens from Toronto's Rosedale neighbourhood, and various walks of life.

The play focuses five teenagers at the end of their Grade 11 year, finishing exams and gearing up for the summer ahead. When the summer plans involve a rich kid wannabe drug dealer chasing overnight glory, an existential crisis, masturbating in a math exam, duking it out with your folks, your dad's gun, and a little pill called ecstasy - the summer high comes crashing down all in one night. In what starts off as a high promising them a world of possibility, hope and love, their bliss and delirium quickly give way to reveal the harsh consequences that lie beyond their insulated world.

Written by one of Toronto's exciting emerging artists, Julian DeZotti (NOW Magazine's Top Ten Artists To Watch) , Guns & Roses first entered his head when overhearing his 16 year old cousins talk about their daily lives. DeZotti says, "It wasn't that long ago I was in high school, but for a lot of what they were saying, I just couldn't relate back to my own high school experience. They all have cell phones, gaming consoles, iPods and access to drugs that provide an adult experience, not pot, but things like ecstasy - very emotion heightening and strong chemical drugs. This just sounded like such a foreign world to me." This year alone saw a U.N. report on drugs that listed Canada as the top producer of ecstasy on the North American drug market, and another year of gun violence in the city of Toronto. While being a show for theatre-goers of any ilk, the show will resonate with teens, but hopefully even more so with parents. "There are some very adult experiences being had by todays teens, and some experiences other generations just didn't have, like sexting for example." says DeZotti.

The show features some of Toronto's fastest rising stars: Brendan McMurtry-Howlett (Upcoming: The Overwhelming, CanStage/Studio 180), Hannah Cheesman (Upcoming: Hannah Moscovitch’s In This World at LKTYP) , Colin Doyle (2 Dora Nominations, NOW Magazine Artists to Watch 2008), Amy Lee (half of the celebrated clown duo Morro and Jasp) and Ben Sanders (Upcoming; Praxis Theatre’s Section 98 at Harbourfront Centre and Suburban Beast's Post-Eden). The video projections are being created by Cameron Davis (The Red Light District/ Mirvish Productions THE MISANTHROPE, CanStage/Citadel Theatre's Rock N' Roll, Bluemouth Inc.'s Dance Marathon) with designer Tommy Taylor (Keystone Theatre's The Belle of Winnipeg and current Theatre Gargantua intern).

The show incorporates a live DJ (Toronto's very own DJ FASE, rated the city's top club DJ by NOW Magazine) and video projections (through which the characters send text messages, etc.) creating a vibrant, kinetic production. Guns & Roses was developed with playwrights Djanet Sears and Tom Walmsley, and through staged readings with the Canadian Stage Company and Roseneath Theatre.

To ensure authenticity, the production not only has worked with teens, but also has the support and research of Breakaway Addiction Services, a progressive organization committed to aiding youth and families with variety of harm reduction and addiction services. One teenage male in their program, asking to be identified as "X", said that "E makes you feel like a $10.00 bi-polar disorder for a day."



The Toronto Centre for the Performing Arts (Studio Theatre) is located at 5040 Yonge Street (on the west side of Yonge Street, north of Sheppard Avenue.
TTC - North York Centre subway station.

January 13, 14 and 15th at 8:00 p.m. - $20.00 GA or $15.00 students/seniors/CAEA
January 14 and 15, matinees at 10:30 a.m. - $12.00 GA

Each performance is approximately 60 minutes long (no intermission).
Tickets are available at the door and through ticketmaster.ca .

WARNING: Contains mature language, sexuality, violence, drug use

More Info - www.theoriginalnorwegian.com

Presented in association with:
The Toronto Centre for the Performing Arts - www.tocentre.com
and Breakaway Addiction Services - www.breakawayaddictions.ca

God Hates Lady Gaga

Westboro Baptist Church has announced it will picket a January 7th gig by Lady Gaga. The singer has frequently spoken of her love for her gay fans and thanked them for their support.

The Kansas-based church, best known for its slogan and website of the same name, God Hates Fags, said in a press release it would protest outside the singers St Louis concert to protest her gay-friendly behaviour. Calling her a "sleazy God-hater", the church said: "'Art' and 'fashion' are the euphemisms, the guise under which proud whore Lady Gaga teaches rebellion against God."

Shirley Phelps-Roper, daughter of church leader Fred Phelps, told Radar Online: "We will be going to her concert with placards reading 'God Hates Lady Gaga' – to inform people that they will be going to hell too if they listen to her messages. “According to the Bible homosexuality is an abomination and she has to shut her filthy mouth and stop promoting it.”

Westboro Baptist Church is well known for picketing the funerals of US soldiers with slogans such as 'God hates fags'. It believes that the deaths of US soldiers in the middle east are God's punishment for a country which allows homosexuality. If you can figure this one out, please let me know.

I was trying to log onto their website to gather further updates, but was not allowed for some reason. Perhaps someone has finally got their web provider to remove this hateful diatribe, or God knows my IP address.

US Lifts HIV Travel Ban after 22 Years

The ban on HIV-positive people entering the US officially ends today, and it makes me wonder how one of the most powerful nations in the world would not have addressed this absurd regulation before now. Fear mongers run for your lifes and make sure not to touch those public toilet seats you were warned about back in the 1980's.

The 22-year-old law was one of the most restrictive immigration policies in the world for people with HIV but was lifted by President Barack Obama in November. He described it as a "decision rooted in fear rather than fact".

According to On Top magazine, the first HIV-positive person to enter the country since the lifting of the ban will be Clemens Ruland, 45, a youth worker from the Netherlands. He and his partner Hugo Bausch, 50, will be welcomed by gay group Immigration Equality when they arrive in New York today.

The lifting of the ban was praised by UK-based HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust. Lisa Power, head of policy at the organisation, said: "It's ridiculous that for over 20 years people living with HIV have been banned from entering the US simply because of a medical condition.

"Removing the ban is long overdue and we congratulate the US government on seeing economic and medical sense. Terrence Higgins Trust and many others have campaigned against the ban since it was introduced. "Blanket entry bans have no justification on public health grounds and only increase stigma. We hope other countries with similar bans in place will now remove them too."

The ban had also barred long-term foreign residents from obtaining resident status, purely on the basis of having HIV. Only a handful of other countries, such as Yemen and Qatar, have similar policies on barring entry to HIV-positive individuals.

HIV experts criticised the ban in the past for encouraging people not to get tested out of fear. Obama said that lifting the ban is a "step that will encourage people to get tested and get treatment. It's a step that will keep families together, and it's a step that will save lives".

Sunday, January 3, 2010

No Sweat - At What Expense?

As a new year begins, many look at ways to improve their health, from better eating habits to more exercise. I decided to look into a common item I use daily to see what effect this might have on my body.

For many individuals around the world, the routine of putting on deodorant or anti-perspirant after bathing is as common as getting dressed. Many people are now keen to reading ingredients on food packaging to see what they are ingesting, but how many read the ingredients on items they coat their body in. I first considered reading my antiperspirant bottle after being bombarded with hand sanitizer everywhere with the supposed end of the world and H1N1. I don't use this sanitizer as I don't like the thought of chemicals being abosored into my body. So naturally this made me wonder about other body parts.

A quick search came up with several informative websites, including www.dyingtolookgood.com which provided the information that I was looking for, and made me change my habits immediately. I now share these with you, and offer an alternative to potentially damaging and deadly chemicals.

Here are 7 ingredients to avoid when choosing your deodorant:

Aluminium chlorohydrate, aluminium zirconium tetrachlorohydrex gly or any aluminium compounds. Aluminium is absorbed through the skin and accumulates in the body. It has been suggested that there is an association between aluminium and Alzheimer's disease.

Parabens (methyl, ethyl, propyl, benzyl and butyl), are all derived from toluene, a toxic petrochemical derivative. Toluene is toxic if swallowed or inhaled. It is also harmful in contact with the skin. There is some evidence that repeated exposure to toluene may cause reproductive harm. Since 2000, 13 research studies have shown that various types of parabens act like estrogen in animals and in tissue culture. Estrogen is known to drive the growth of cancerous cells.

Triclosan is a skin irritant and may cause contact dermatitis. It may kill healthy bacteria as well as harmful bacteria. It may contain carcinogenic contaminants. It is stored in body fat and is classified as a pesticide by the FDA.

Talc is classified as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer if it contains asbestiform fibres. The quantity of asbestiform fibers in cosmetic grade talc is unregulated. If talc is listed on the label, there is no way of knowing whether or not it contains asbestiform fibres.

Propylene glycol absorbs quickly through the skin and is a penetration enhancer. It may cause delayed allergic reactions. NIOSH says propylene glycol is a neurotoxin and may cause kidney or liver damage. The EPA says it’s not fully investigated for carcinogenic potential.

Silica is a skin irritant. It may be contaminated with crystalline quartz, which is a carcinogen.

Steareth-n (n may be any number like say 100), may be vegetable derived but is reacted with ethylene oxide (ethoxylated), a known human carcinogen.

Instead choose deodorants with ingredients like vegetable glycerin, natural preservatives like bioflavanoids and lichen, herbs or herbal extracts, de-ionized water or distilled water, green tea, aloe vera, baking soda and essential oils.

Go natural with this easy to make deodorant alternative -

You can use baking soda and cornstarch in a 50/50 mixture.
Basic Deodorant Powder
1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 cup cornstarch
A few drops essential oils such as lavender or cinnamon
Place the ingredients in a glass jar. Shake to blend. Sprinkle a light covering of the powder on a damp wash cloth. Pat on. Don’t rinse.

Basic Liquid Deodorant
1/4 cup each witch hazel extract, aloe vera gel, and mineral water
1 teaspoon vegetable glycerin
A few drops antibacterial essential oils such as lavender (optional)
Combine the ingredients in a spray bottle. Shake to blend.

I also found these counter facts on www.cancer.org and www.cancer.gov that will help ensure you have the necessary information to make an informed decision on what you believe to be ture.


Saturday, January 2, 2010

US Health Care 2010

As the US continues to debate whether all citizens are entitled to free health care, here's two words of inspiration from north of the border - Tommy Douglas - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tommy_Douglas

Read on....

The final version of the Senate bill, with all its concessions and deals, came together the way it did because of strategy from a few key states -- key states only because their Senators levied the power of their must-have votes to tweak the legislation to their own specifications. There is no reason to believe that the same won't hold true as the House and Senate bills are merged.

Individual states are already sending signals to Congress about their opposition to the Senate bill.

New York Governor David Paterson (D) and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) have voiced concerns that the health care reform bill passed by the Senate threatens to overload their states with added costs of Medicaid.

According to Politico.com, Gov. Paterson said "I am deeply troubled that the Senate version of the bill worsens what was already an inequitable situation for New York and I will continue to be an advocate on behalf of New Yorkers to ensure we are treated fairly by this critical federal legislation," and Gov. Schwarzenneger wrote in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, "When asked for my support, I was assured that federal legislation would not increase costs to California or include new unfunded mandates. Unfortunately, under nearly every scenario we can predict, the federal health care reform legislation being debated would cost California’s General Fund an additional $3 billion to $4 billion annually."

The New York Times reports that Florida, along with about a dozen other states, is debating a proposed amendment to its state constitution that would attempt to block much of the federal government’s health care bill on the grounds that it tramples individual liberty. It should be noted that a study by the National Institute on Money in State Politics, a nonpartisan group based in Helena, Montana, shows that almost all of the 42 co-sponsors of the bill received large campaign contributions from health care interests, most heavily in the states with the proposed amendments.

Lobbyists for health care interests have taken it to the states. Last year pharmaceutical companies spent more than $20 million in political contributions in the states. $85 million more was spent on advertising to defeat a California ballot measure to lower drug prices.

As Congress works to merge the House and Senate bills, various opt-in and opt-out provisions for the regional health insurance exchanges will undoubtedly be a factor in negotiations.

In Nebraska, Senator Ben Nelson (D) was bombarded by pleas from Democrats and groups like the AFL-CIO to support health care reform and from opponents like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and American's Health Insurance Plans, who used webcasts and petitions to sway him to vote against reform. Television in Nebraska has been filled with arguments pro and con and hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent.

Even if a bill passes, many of the changes will not take place for several years, leaving a wide berth for state battleground strategy before the legislation can be implemented. 50 states, 50 battlegrounds. Brace yourselves. 2010 is going to be bumpy.

Prop 8 - Dueling Siblings

Not all families get along, and this just proves the differences that can exist within family structures. Everyone has their own opinion, let's just hope the sister will become more vocal and dominant than the brother in this case.

Read on....

The Bay Area Reporter published some interesting information about Frank Schubert, who ran both California's "Yes on 8" campaign and Maine's "Yes on 1" campaign, which succeeded in yanking marriage rights from millions of gays and lesbians.

Schubert Schubert's sister is a lesbian, and she's running for a judgeship in Sacramento County:

"Anne Marie Schubert, 45, doesn't mention her family or sexual orientation on her campaign Web site. But Sacramento County tax records show that Anne Marie Schubert purchased her home with Julie Greenberg in March 2005, where the women live together raising two children. Frank Schubert told the Bay Area Reporter the two women are in a registered domestic partnership."

Anne Marie won't discuss her brother's evil deeds however:

"Because I am running for a judicial seat, I am bound by the California Code of Judicial Ethics. This code applies to both sitting judges and attorneys running for judicial office. This code makes it clear that 'Candidates may not make statements that commit the candidate with respect to cases, controversies, or issues that could come before the courts.' This code also states, 'Judges involved in judicial campaigns must also avoid comment concerning a matter pending or impending in any court.' In all honesty, I do not believe it would be appropriate for me to give you my personal opinion on Prop 8."

Amazing how folks like NY Senator Ruben Diaz Sr., who has two gay brothers, and Frank Schubert can work so relentlessly to remove rights from those to whom they are closest.


The full article

The lesbian sister of Proposition 8 mastermind Frank Schubert has announced her candidacy for Sacramento County Superior Court judge.

At her campaign Web site, Anne Marie Schubert, a deputy district attorney for Sacramento County, promotes herself as a law and order and victim's rights candidate with several endorsements from local law enforcement organizations.

According to voter records, Anne Marie Schubert is a registered Republican. She has hired Gilliard Blanning, a conservative political consulting firm known for championing some of the state's best known Republican candidates and causes, to run her campaign.

Anne Marie Schubert, 45, doesn't mention her family or sexual orientation on her campaign Web site. But Sacramento County tax records show that Anne Marie Schubert purchased her home with Julie Greenberg in March 2005, where the women live together raising two children. Frank Schubert told the Bay Area Reporter the two women are in a registered domestic partnership.

"She and Julie are in a domestic partnership, and they have two wonderful children," Frank Schubert said.

Asked if he considered the children and Greenberg to be a part of his family, Frank Schubert replied, "Of course I consider them and their children to be part of my family, and I love them very much."

In a New York Times interview in November 2008, Frank Schubert acknowledged to reporter Jesse McKinley that he has a gay sister, confirming with the B.A.R. this week that he was referring to Anne Marie Schubert during the interview.

"I don't recall proactively bringing up the fact that I have a gay sister with Jesse McKinley," stated Schubert in an e-mail to the B.A.R. "I believe he asked me about it. Regardless, it is Anne Marie to whom I was referring."

Anne Marie Schubert declined to discuss same-sex marriage or Proposition 8, citing judicial code.

"Because I am running for a judicial seat, I am bound by the California Code of Judicial Ethics. This code applies to both sitting judges and attorneys running for judicial office," Anne Marie Schubert said in an e-mail. "This code makes it clear that 'Candidates may not make statements that commit the candidate with respect to cases, controversies, or issues that could come before the courts.' This code also states, 'Judges involved in judicial campaigns must also avoid comment concerning a matter pending or impending in any court.'"

Asked specifically about her position on the marriage equality issue, Anne Marie Schubert replied, "In all honesty, I do not believe it would be appropriate for me to give you my personal opinion on Prop 8."

"What I can tell you about myself is simple: I have the knowledge, skill and ability to be a well qualified judge," she said. "I have the endorsements of a significant number of law enforcement groups and victims' rights group in Sacramento County. I spent the last 20 years of my career protecting the rights of victims and prosecuting the most serious offenders in Sacramento County."

Anne Marie Schubert said someone's sexual orientation is irrelevant to being a judge.

"It is irrelevant what race, creed, sexual orientation, or gender someone possesses. What matters is that all participants in the judicial system be treated with fairness and respect," she said.

Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, the statewide LGBT rights organization, said he hopes Anne Marie Schubert will meet with the group.

"The LGBT community is extremely underrepresented in the judiciary and many qualified openly LGBT applicants have not been appointed to the bench by the present or previous governors," Kors said in an e-mail. "It is critical that qualified LGBT candidates both apply to be appointed but also run for office when opportunities arise, especially in parts of the state that are more conservative and that don't have as many openly LGBT officials. We look forward to interviewing Ms. Schubert and hope that she, unlike her brother, believes that it is a violation of the constitution to deny any minority the same rights the majority has.

"It would be terrific to have a member of the Schubert family on the bench who understands the public danger and harm that Frank Schubert has helped inflict on so many," Kors added.

For his part, Frank Schubert said that he tries to keep his family separate from his political activities.

"I have tried not to bring discussion of Anne Marie into my political activities," explained Frank Schubert. "Our relationship is entirely personal and should have no role in any political campaign. I did not want her to be a focus of comment from either side of the marriage debate."

Frank Schubert ran both the Yes on 8 campaign in California in 2008 and the Yes on 1 campaign in Maine this year, which repealed that state's marriage equality law.

"My activities in politics are mine alone – she doesn't have anything to do with them," Frank Schubert said. "I tried to focus the Prop 8 and [Maine's] Question 1 campaigns on the various issues associated with redefining marriage, not on the personalities of the people involved on either side. Anne Marie and I disagree on the marriage issue. I am certain that she opposed Prop 8. Neither of us has allowed that single issue to define our relationship as brother and sister."

Frank Schubert also said he supports his sister's judicial campaign.

"I believe she will be an outstanding judge for the people of Sacramento County," wrote Mr. Schubert. "She is a fair and diligent prosecutor who has distinguished herself for a considerable period of time. ... I am not playing any role in her campaign beyond contributing to the effort."

New Hampshire Gets More Progressive

Religious die-hards and family value supporters will undoubtedly be up in arms and declare marriage is losing credibility, but others will see that heterosexual golfers and several US politicians are the best examples of what marriage is.
Read on...

Jubilant gay couples have rung in the New Year in New Hampshire with wedding vows to celebrate the state's new law legalizing same-sex marriage.

At midnight, New Hampshire joined Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut and Iowa in allowing gay marriage. About 15 couples braved the cold to exchange vows outside the New Hampshire Statehouse in Concord. Others planned private ceremonies around the state.

The law grants no new rights to gays but eliminates the separate status for civil unions.

Couples already in civil unions have three options to convert their statuses to marriages. They can have marriage ceremonies, file marriage paperwork with their town clerks to convert their statuses during 2010 or wait until the unions are automatically converted in 2011.


New Hampshire's gay and lesbian couples are expected to gather throughout the night to ring in the start of the new year with champagne and wedding bells as New Hampshire's gay marriage law takes effect at midnight.

The law, which was signed by Governor John Lynch in June, 2009, won't grant gay and lesbian couples any more rights than they currently have under the state's civil union law, but it will give them equal access to the term "marriage".

Symbolically this is important, but more than that, when the federal Defense of Marriage Act is repealed, having access to terms like "marriage" and "spouse" will be helpful from a legal standpoint and could mean that New Hampshire's married gay and lesbian couples might finally have access to the 1150+ benefits that are given to heterosexual unions but are currently denied gay and lesbian partners.

The New Hampshire gay marriage bill was amended during the legislative process so that it expressly states a religious institution's right to decline to marry gay and lesbian couples. Religious organizations can also deny couples affiliated services such as wedding photography and the like.

A handful of gay and lesbian couples have said that they will gather just after midnight at the Statehouse in Concord to have their civil marriage ceremony performed, echoing the events of two years ago when many couples journeyed to the Statehouse to have their civil union ceremony at this time in 2008. Claire Ebel, executive director of the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, will officiate.

The Los Angeles Times has an insightful piece today in which they interview several of New Hampshire's gay and lesbian residents regarding the new marriage law. Some will marry just after midnight at one of the many events being held to celebrate the law's coming into effect, while others, who have had various partnership celebrations in the past, such as commitment ceremonies and civil unions, plan to wait until later in the year, preferring to take a little more time to plan their wedding.

The Los Angeles Times notes that New Hampshire's gay and lesbian couples that were previously joined in civil unions do not actually need to go through a wedding ceremony in order to be married. This is because New Hampshire's civil unions will be converted into civil marriages by 2011. After December 31, 2010, the state will no longer issue civil union licenses.

Overall, 2009 has been a mixed year for gay marriage. California's Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8 which meant gay marriages would no longer be recognized after they were briefly legalized in 2008 following a court ruling that struck down a previous constitutional ban. A court case will begin in January in which lawyers will argue that Proposition 8 is itself unconstitutional.

Also in 2009, Maine lawmakers approved gay marriage, but then voters decided to block the law at the ballot despite a very strong campaign from gay rights advocates.

After a long wait, the New York Senate voted to block gay marriage legislation, while a vote on gay marriage in New Jersey is still pending.

Yet, at the same time, District of Columbia's Council voted to recognize gay marriages from out of state, and in December also chose to allow gay marriages. However, the bill must first clear Congress before it becomes law. Congress are likely to take up the issue early in 2010.

Vermont legislators also legalized gay marriage in 2009, while Iowa's Supreme Court overturned a ban on gay marriage, finding it unconstitutional. Many conservative Iowans have called for a referendum on gay marriage in 2010, mindful that gay marriage has never won at the ballot. Iowan Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal has said that he will not allow any bill that would block gay marriage to come to the floor, however.

As ever, gay marriage remains a hot-topic issue for many, and will no doubt be just as controversial in 2010 as it was in 2009.

All that said, New Hampshire is starting 2010 with a new level of recognition for its lesbian and gay couples, and although this gift is not quite complete while the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) remains in place, and it will most likely still be in place until 2011 at least, it is a positive way to begin 2010 and to celebrate a new year in which even more steps toward full equality can be made.


In a candlelit church brimming with family and friends, Jennifer Morton and Michelle Morrison heard an announcement they’ve waited 13 years for: they were, at long last, married.

At the stroke of midnight, the couple joined in a rousing chorus of “Auld Lang Syne” at their church, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashua, and then rang in the New Year by observing the moments-old law allowing gay couples to marry in New Hampshire.

“It’s very exciting,” Morton said. “I’m really glad it happened in our lifetimes. I didn’t know if it would.”

Morton and Morrison, both 38, celebrated their marriage with their two children, 150 friends, family and much of the congregation. The event was open to everyone in the church, making it part New Year’s party, part wedding, part landmark moment.

“Personally, I feel honored to be able to be a part of what I think is a historical event for same-sex couples in New Hampshire,” said the Rev. Steve Edington. “It’s also a congregational event, a family event. … We have issues that not everyone agrees on, but we’re solid on this one.”

“The minute they came to our door, their family was considered as valid and real as any married couple that was here,” said Laurie Goodman, president of the congregation. “It’s nice to come together tonight and say those vows they’ve carried in their hearts so long.”

Following music, readings, vows and the big announcement by Edington – “I now pronounce that Jenn and Michelle are legally married” – the congregation let out a big cheer.

“They just have huge hearts, they really do,” said Valerie Bridge, a friend and neighbor, who was also photographing the event. “It’s been a long time coming.”

Morrison and Morton, both 38, met in 1995 while working at a childcare center in Tennessee. The two women, who realized their sexual orientation later in life, became friends, discovering their love and respect for children as common ground.

The two “laughed all day long,” Morton said, adding, “For me, Michelle was a genuine person who always put others first. It was a nice quality to have in a friend.”

“I liked her compassion, her caring personality,” Morrison said.

The pair moved to New Hampshire and by 1997, were officially a couple. They enjoyed doing everything together.

“It was an easy connection,” Morton said.

Morton’s parents were initially “shocked and concerned,” she said. “They wondered, ‘Would I be able to be happy? Could I live publicly?’ They didn’t know any gay people.”

Morton’s father, Doug Morton, said he “wasn’t as open as I should have been at first,” but he came around when he “realized the sincerity in the relationship, that they meant to each other as much as my wife and I mean to each other.”

“I couldn’t be prouder,” he added.

Morrison’s folks, however, have kept a distant relationship. They live in the Bible Belt and are strictly religious.

“They have not come to terms with it,” she said.

After the move to New Hampshire, Morrison took a corporate management job to support a future family and Morton became a nanny. She had the couple’s daughter, Grace, in March 2001 and a son, Ben, in October 2003.

Around that time, the couple was often asked why they didn’t get a civil union in Massachusetts or Vermont. It was because the union wouldn’t be recognized in New Hampshire – that is until 2008, when it became legal here.

For the couple, having a civil union was a “no brainer,” Morrison said. One reason was because they learned it should make co-parent adoption easier. Morrison had been the legal guardian of her two children but did not have the same parental rights as Morton.

The couple’s civil union took place on a warm September afternoon in 2008 among family and friends in the backyard of their house near the birch trees. Afterward, the couple filed the proper paperwork for a co-parent adoption, which went through easily.

When the discussion of gay marriage was taken up earlier this year in the state legislature, Morton said she was “cautiously optimistic. I was not convinced it would pass.”

She had reason to wonder, as the measure was on shaky ground for most of the spring.

In March, the New Hampshire House of Representatives passed an initial version of a gay marriage bill. The state Senate followed suit in April, with a modified bill that affirmed religious and civil marriages, but also allowed all couples – including gays and lesbians – to pick which marriage they wished to have.

In May, following a House vote to accept the Senate-approved compromise, nearly all Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee staged a one-day walkout in protest of the quickly reached compromise.

Then, legislation stalled in the House after a majority of lawmakers rejected changes suggested by Gov. John Lynch, which would offer religious groups and employees legal protections.

The House and Senate eventually agreed to compromises, and Lynch signed a gay marriage bill into law June 3. While it does not afford gay couples additional rights, the move made New Hampshire the sixth state to allow gay marriage. After Maine voters repealed a gay marriage law there, New Hampshire is now one of five states to recognize it.

Morton recalled getting a call about the news.

“I started jumping up and down in the front yard,” she said.

“The kids were happy because we were happy,” Morrison said. “We always keep them informed, in a kid sort of way.”

In the past few weeks, Morrison and Morton filed paperwork to convert their civil union to a marriage.

A plot to hold a dual-purpose New Year’s party crystallized: The couple decided to invite their friends, family and church for a wedding at the stroke of midnight, the second the law took effect and the “first possible moment we could get married legally,” Morrison said.

“For all of us, it’s pretty significant,” agreed Mary Morton, Jennifer’s mother. “You just want them to have a normal life, not be afraid of things, or worried too much. … I think it’s the final bridge they have to cross to feel like a family.”

Morton’s brother, Adam Morton, and his wife, Amy, were married several months after the civil union.

“It was the same, but not the same,” Amy Morton said. “I’m so glad they’re able to do this.”

“It’s a fulfillment of a dream they’ve had since they’ve been together,” Doug Morton said. “It’s wonderful to see. I’m hoping as more people become aware that this is a normal part of life, acceptance will continue to grow and there will be one less prejudice in the world.”