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Ramon Johnson

Gay Life


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Malta's Prime Minister Celebrates New Gay Marriage Law

Wednesday April 16, 2014
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat joined an estimated 1,000 people celebrating a new law that gives same-sex couples in Malta the same rights as marriage and the right to adopt.

Although Malta's legal system follows closely with the United Kingdom, the former British colony gained its independence on September 21, 1964 and officially became the Republic of Malta in 1974. Although acts between same-sex parters have been legal since 1973, the new bill approved by the Labour government does not call the new legal unions "marriage" but extends the same rights.

Finland Launches New Gay Tom of Finland Bondage Stamps

Wednesday April 16, 2014
This September, Finland mail users will have the option of a special edition Tom of Finland stamp that features gay bondage porn.

In September-October 2014, Itella Posti will release seven new sets of stamps, containing a total of 33 new designs in honor of the artist behind Tom of Finland, Touko Laaksonen (1920-1991). The stamp sheets represent "strong and confident male figures typical of their designer."

Timo Berry, the graphic artist who designed the stamps with Susanna Luoto, the Finnish representative of the foundation named after Tom of Finland, says the stamp sheets represent "a sensual life force and being proud of oneself. There is never too much of that in this northern country."

The autumn's stamp series begins September 8 with Tom of Finland, who is considered one of the most well-known Finnish artists around the world.

Turkey Plans Gay-Only Prisons

Wednesday April 16, 2014
Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag announced at the weekend that plans are in process to build separate gay-only prisons in Turkey to "protect" inmates who identify as gay.

"Convicts who stated that they are gay will not mix with other convicts in the communal area or during social activities in the new prison facilities," Bozdag wrote in a response to parliament.

While homosexuality isn't illegal in Turkey, gay activists worry that the segregating gay prisoners will only deepen existing homophobia. Murat Koylu, a gay rights activist with the Ankara-based gay rights group Kaos GL, tells Huffington Post that this form of segregation is the government's latest attempt at ostracizing gays. Koylu and others are concerned that gay-only prison will single out openly gay convicts and their families as well as provide less protections for gay men and women who are not out.

Officials estimate that there are 79 LGBT identified prisoners currently in the system, but activists say the number is much higher and does not account for the prisoners who hide their sexuality.

Brendan Eich and the Myth of the Gay Mafia

Wednesday April 9, 2014
Part of the myth that a gay mafia looms in the corners of all aspects of our lives is fueled by media's need to "track" the progress of gay rights as if it's a planned strategy. This is of course heightened by the latest "attack" on Mozilla that forced CEO Brendan Eich to resign.

Take Slate's article on the dangers of the "gay mafia" and this quote from USNews:

"For the last decade, debates over the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual Americans have been waged in courtrooms, congressional halls and at the ballot box. Now the boardroom is becoming the next battleground as two major - but very different - private institutions."

It would seem that Eich's Godzilla-like fall was a planned attack in a natural progression of gay activists to rid the ranks of Capital Hill, our suburban and city hills and now the peak of corporate offices of homophobia and discrimination. But the fact is, Eich's self-dismissal was not a planned attack. If it were strategic, it was only in the sense that our every day lives as LGBT has always been strategic. We have always demanded and fought for equality in our lives. This has been an organic progression in the way that every human rights movement evolves into an increased intolerance for discrimination and disadvantage.

What Eich-gate demonstrated (and perhaps this is what scares the rainbow out of the conservative right) is that gay rights movements today are adventitious. They appear spontaneously in response to any form of anti-gay sentiment, whether they be in the political, social or corporate office. Increased acceptance and support for LGBT causes from allies has emerged into a collective voice of response against actions, like Eich's, that would have otherwise been treated without penalty.

What this signals is the fundamental right we have all adopted in this country, the right to freedom and a right to respond. In most instances, this far outreaches a formal plan.

James Franco Tapped to Play 'Ex-Gay' Activist Michael Glatze in New Gus Van Sant Film

Wednesday April 2, 2014
James Franco loves a good gay role and famed filmmaker Gus Van Sant is delivering with a new project about ex-gay activist Michael Glatze.

Since his role as the warm-hearted Scott Smith, longtime partner of Harvey, in the film "Milk", and as Allen Ginsberg in "Howl", Franco says he can't stay away from playing gay characters.

In an interview with The Daily Beast, Franco talked about his attraction to gay heroes:

"It's not like it's my mission to tell the stories of as many gay men as possible, although in some cases, I think it is the point. In "Milk," the point is to show one of the great fighters for equal rights for the gay community, so I was happy to do that. With characters like Allen Ginsberg [in "Howl"], my love for him started with his work when I was a teenager. So his sexuality is secondary to me. It's an important aspect of who he was and his character, but it wasn't like, 'Yes, I want to play another gay role,' it was more, 'Yes, I'd love to play another one of my heroes.'"

Franco's aspirations have come true. Page Six reports that Franco will star in the forthcoming film about "ex-gay" activist Michael Glatze.

The yet unnamed film follows the story of Michael Glatze, who founded Young Gay America (or Y.G.A.) and toured America promoting a documentary about gay teens, before becoming a fundamentalist Christian and renouncing his homosexuality.

Shooting is scheduled to start in New York this summer. Gus Van Sant, who directed Franco in "Milk", is producing the film.

Just When We Were Starting to Like The Boy Scouts, They've Gone and Done This

Wednesday April 2, 2014
It was clear as mud what would happen after the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) voted last year to open their youth ranks to openly gay kids yet ban gay adult scout leaders. But it was hoped that the organization had tired of lengthy legal battles and nasty public relations campaigns, and would do the right thing by reversing their policies for adults. The call was a little too optimistic.

The BSA is in the news again, this time with front man Geoffrey McGrath, who news outlets are reporting is the first adult ousted from the ranks since last year's landmark decision. McGrath, a prized leader by all means, founded two United Methodist Church-sponsored scouting units in Seattle, but is deemed insufficient for service due to his sexuality.

While McGrath is out teaching youth about bonding and survival in the wild, the BSA can't see the forest for the trees. "It's extremely disappointing to not be fully supported and defended in my membership," McGrath told NBC News. "They are complaining that the problem [his status as an openly gay man] is a distraction to Scouting and they don't seem to understand that the distraction is self-inflicted."

LGBT scout advocacy group Scouts for Equality and LGBT rights group GLAAD have come to McGrath's defence. Zach Wahls, Scouts for Equality co-founder points out the BSA's shortsightedness to TIME: "If this unit had not been inclusive, it would not have existed. By effectively shuttering this unit, the BSA is depriving these youth of the opportunity to be a Scout and they are telling all their youth that discrimination is okay."

The BSA responded in a statement by blaming McGrath for coming out. They wrote:

"As a part of our longstanding leadership standards policy, the Boy Scouts of America does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of our members. We don't believe the topic of sexual orientation has a role in Scouting and it is not discussed unless it is deliberately injected into Scouting. Recently, this individual provided both Scouting national leadership and the media with information that led to his removal as a leader. The BSA does not have an agenda on the matter of sexual orientation; we remain focused on working together to deliver the nation's foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training."

Apparently being gay is ethically viable to the BSA, as long as they don't know about it. So much for the 'protection of youth' argument.

OK Cupid Snubs Firefox, CEO Still Refuses To Apologize

Wednesday April 2, 2014
Apologies are a necessary element of our human relations, and they aren't only appropriate when you've done something wrong. They help clear the air of confusion over an offence, and if done correctly and with accepted levels of compassion the offended are more likely to at least consider vindicating the offending. However, an apology or transparent admission is not the route Mozilla's Brendan Eich wants to take.

Should We Boycott Firefox?

In fact, as anti-Firefox sentiment rises, Eich hasn't said much of anything about his $1,000 donation to the Prop 8 efforts in 2008. His principle strategy is to deflect questions over his dodgy donation to Mozilla's standard diversity and inclusiveness policies. Eich prefers to water down a direct line to his homophobia by re-iterating that Mozilla has always been inclusive of gay marriage supporters as well as an array of other human rights causes.

What Eich does not realise-- or maybe he does-- is that Mozilla's policies of inclusiveness aren't on spotlight here. What's at issue is again what Eich will not answer to or even apologize for: his personal donation to a very specific anti-gay voter campaign. It would seem that Eich is so arrogant in his stance that he's willing to tank one of the best browsers around to protect what he sees as his rights, and his employee's rights, to be homophobic.

Since Eich was outed, nearly 72,000 people have signed a petition for him to step down. Online couple matching giant OKCupid had a few strong words for both Firefox and Eich: "Those who seek to deny love and instead enforce misery, shame, and frustration are our enemies, and we wish them nothing but failure."

Rudder hasn't stopped with a letter. The company now redirects any of its users on Firefox to the letter which encourages them to choose another browser. Mozilla's response? Still no specifics on Eich: "Mozilla supports equality for all, including marriage equality for LGBT couples. No matter who you are or who you love, everyone deserves the same rights and to be treated equally," a spokesperson said.

I don't mean to suggest here that an official apology would silence this issue or that freedom of speech should be limited only to certain causes. What is particularly disturbing about this situation is Eich, Mozilla Chairwoman Mitchell Baker, and Mozilla's insistence that employees (who are people) can simply check their personal beliefs at the door.

Even as a person that carries more faith in the human spirit than a measurable bunch, I find it difficult to assume that the representation of Eich as a 'homophobic' CEO won't poke holes in Mozilla's prized policy of inclusiveness. It is highly unlikely that the visibility of an open homophobe does not or will not have a direct impact on potential hiring and termination policies, benefits packages, harassment and discrimination protections or even the workplace culture. If Eich is allowed to be openly homophobic, why not anyone else?

Eich and Mozilla are parading their policy around as if it is impermeable. Mozilla's policies are not a constitution. And even if they were Eich, of all people, knows how effectively they can be altered given enough time, energy, and money.

How To Marry in Minnesota

Monday March 31, 2014
Continuing in our same sex marriage series is a step by step to getting married in Minnesota. Gay and lesbian couples wanting to marry in Minnesota, the 12th American state to legalise same sex marriage, must first apply for a license then complete the application at a local service center. More information is available here.

Same Sex Marriage in Delaware: A How To Guide

Monday March 31, 2014
Same gender (also known as same sex or 'gay') marriage has been legal in the state of Delaware since summer of 2013. These simple steps to marriage in Delaware can help gay and lesbian couples tie the knot.

Should Gays Boycott Firefox?

Wednesday March 26, 2014
Firefox, the lead product parent Mozilla lauds for its mission of "openness, innovation, and opportunity", is under fire for a leadership choice that opens questions about the company's commitment to gay rights.

The issue comes in the form of a $1000 check now CEO Brendan Eich wrote in 2008 in support of Prop 8 campaign. Prop 8 was a voter initiate to ban same sex marriage in California.

Soon after the announcement of the hiring of Eich, longtime company CTO, as its new leading person, Mozilla employees, specifically its developers voiced their concerns with what Ars Technica calls "a mix of boycotts and reluctant acceptance."

Ars also reports that App developer Rarebit also pulled its app from Firefox, noting that Rarebit CEO Hampton Catlin married his partner and co-founder Michael Catlin in California.

Mozilla representatives insist that Eich's personal decision in 2008 does not reflect the company's mission or commitment to diversity.

"Many Mozillians are themselves advocates for human rights, animal rights, prison abolition, marriage equality, racial equality, etc," Education Lead Christie Koehler wrote. "Some of those causes might overlap with the cause of a free and open Internet, but they are separate causes, and none of them are the focus of Mozilla the organisation."

The claim is dubious, however, given that as CEO Eich has direct influence over the company's present and future direction. And although it is commonly accepted that a leader has the ability to separate personal beliefs from the responsibilities of leadership, the two cannot be completely separated.

Mozilla has entrusted its platform of inclusiveness to a CEO with a personal history of exclusion and discrimination. To assume these ideal are impenetrable is perhaps as naive as assuming Eich cannot and will not, as he says, put his "personal beliefs in others' way in all matters Mozilla, JS, and Web."
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