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PostPosted: Sun Jun 09, 2013 8:50 pm 
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Key dates for gay-rights movement in US
8 June 2013

Some important events in the history of the gay-rights movement in the United States:

1950: Mattachine Society, widely considered first national gay rights organization, is formed.

1957: Frank Kameny is fired from job as government astronomer because he's gay; his appeal later reaches Supreme Court before being denied.

1969: Stonewall Inn riots break out after patrons of New York City gay bar protest police harassment.

1977: After campaign led by Anita Bryant and other conservatives, Miami-area voters overturn ordinance banning anti-gay discrimination.

1978: In San Francisco, Mayor George Moscone and pioneering gay politician Harvey Milk are assassinated.

1979: First national gay-rights march on Washington.

1985: Rock Hudson dies, after acknowledging he had AIDS

1986: U.S. Supreme Court upholds Georgia anti-sodomy law criminalizing consensual gay sex

1987: Second national gay-rights march on Washington; AIDS memorial quilt displayed on National Mall

1993: "Don't ask, don't tell" policy implemented for U.S. military, allowing gays to serve but not to be open about their sexual orientation.

1996: Congress passes Defense of Marriage Act, stipulating that federal government will not recognize same-sex marriages.

1997: Ellen DeGeneres comes out publicly as lesbian in appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

1998: Gay university student Matthew Shepard killed in Wyoming.

2000: Vermont becomes first state to establish civil unions; Supreme Court upholds Boy Scouts' right to exclude gays.

2003: Supreme Court strikes down Texas law criminalizing consensual gay sex.

2004: Same-sex marriages start in Massachusetts in compliance with state high court ruling; many other states adopt bans on same-sex marriage.

2008: California court orders legalization of same-sex marriage; voters overturn the ruling by approving Proposition 8 limiting marriage to one man, one woman.

2010: Appeals court strikes down Florida's three-decade-old ban on adoptions by gays.

2011: Military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy is repealed; New York becomes largest state to approve same-sex marriage.

2012: President Barack Obama endorses same-sex marriage; voters approve it in referendums in Maine, Maryland and Washington state.

2013: Rhode Island, Delaware, Minnesota raise number of states with same-sex marriage to 12; Boy Scouts vote to let openly gay boys participate.

Source: AP.

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 22, 2013 5:00 pm 
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Condoms Approved for Schools in Massachusetts
By JESS BIDGOOD
June 19, 2013

The Boston School Committee on Wednesday approved making condoms available in the district’s high schools.

The new policy allows students to obtain condoms, and counseling, from school health centers or trained staff members, unless parents opt them out, and makes sexual education a required part of school health curricula.

The district first made condoms available through health centers in some of its schools in the mid-1990s; in the past few years, a coalition of students and community leaders campaigned to broaden access to condoms and sexual health education in the district.

Source: New York Times.

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 26, 2013 2:58 pm 
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Gay marriage momentum prompts US Republican angst
7 April 2013

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Same-sex marriage supporters demonstrate in front of the Supreme Court on March 27, 2013 in Washington, DC.

AFP - With Americans tilting toward support of gay marriage and two GOP senators now in favor, Republicans find themselves in a tightening political vice on the issue ahead of mid-term elections and the 2016 presidential race.

Last year was a watershed of sorts for the movement, with gay marriage laws passing in three states, Democratic President Barack Obama offering his public endorsement of marriage equality, and Wisconsin electing Tammy Baldwin as the first openly gay US senator.

But same-sex marriage is suddenly, unavoidably in the political spotlight once again, with the US Supreme Court mulling whether to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act which restricts federal benefits to marriages between a man and a woman. And with the number of US senators backing gay marriage roaring past the halfway mark this past week -- 53 of 100 members are now in favor -- activists say Republicans risk getting left in the movement's wake, which could find them struggling to attract new voters. "The reality is, there is now irrefutable momentum in the country" in favor of marriage equality, Evan Wolfson, a founder of the gay marriage movement in the United States and president of the non-partisan group Freedom to Marry, told AFP.

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Same-sex marriage supporters demonstrate in front of the Supreme Court on March 27, 2013 in Washington, DC.

With each passing year the support for gay marriage grows greater and broader, with a solid 58 percent now in favor, according to the latest Washington Post/ABC News survey. Wolfson said "true opposition to gay marriage is dwindling and isolated to a few demographic groups" -- namely Americans over 65, non-college-educated whites, and white evangelical Christians.

Young Republicans are siding with Democrats on the issue. Conservative freshman Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona even conceded last week it was "inevitable" that a future Republican presidential nominee would be in favor of marriage equality. That puts Republicans in a pickle, especially after party leaders conducted a brutal self-criticism in the wake of their 2012 election debacle and announced they must do more to attract minorities like Hispanics. Conservatives promote family and traditional values in their political platform. A Republican White House hopeful who openly espouses same-sex marriage could alienate the party's base, while opposing it could trigger charges he or she is behind the times.

Some Republicans are not shying away from pressing their case, namely that same-sex unions dilute the importance of marriage as the traditional avenue for raising children with both a mother and father. But their alarmingly off-script statements are "sending a shudder through the coroners who just finished the Republican autopsy," noted Wolfson. Among them are remarks by Tea Party-favorite Louie Gohmert, a congressman from Texas who mentioned homosexuality in the same breath as polygamy and bestiality. "When you say it's not a man and a woman anymore, then why not have three men and one woman or four women and one man?" Gohmert told supporters on a recent conference call. "Or why not, you know, somebody has a love for an animal or -- there is no clear place to draw a line once you eliminate the traditional marriage."

Wolfson dismissed Gohmert as an extremist voice who operates on the fringes and not in the weighty conservative center. "But if that's the kind of voice the Republican Party puts forward, they're going to continue to sink like a stone," he said.

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Opponents of same-sex marriage hold signs in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington on March 26, 2013.

Republican leaders like House Speaker John Boehner and his deputy Eric Cantor continue to speak about big-tent inclusion, even while expressing their own personal opposition to gay marriage. Potential Republican candidates for the White House in 2016 -- Senator Marco Rubio and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, to name a few -- are opposed as well, while another possible candidate, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, has said it should be left to the states, nine of which now allow gay marriage. "I could not imagine somebody who supports same-sex marriage winning the Republican nomination for president," said Joseph Backholm, executive director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington which supports traditional unions.

Likewise, a Democrat would need to back gay marriage -- and support a woman's right to abortion -- in order to be accepted by the party machinery, he noted. "We're in an emotional debate," Backholm said, and today's climate has allowed Republicans like Senators Rob Portman and Mark Kirk to switch their positions to support gay marriage. Most rights advocates insist the arc of history points toward broad acceptance of gay marriage, but Backholm believes the "emotional leverage" will fade, and the country will reconsider its current trend. "There is no chance that this issue becomes uncontroversial any time soon," he said.

Source: France24.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 22, 2013 2:56 pm 
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Indiana county clerk: Same-sex marriage applicants could face jail
July 10, 2013

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (UPI) -- Same-sex couples seeking to marry could be jailed for submitting a marriage license application in Tippecanoe County, Ind., the county clerk warned.

Indiana's marriage license application has spaces designated for "male applicant" and "female applicant," and Tippecanoe County Clerk Crista Coffey noted only one man and one woman may seek marriage in the state. "Applicants for marriage do sign their paperwork under penalty of perjury," Coffey said, adding two men or two women applying to marry could trigger the 1997 law. Perjury is a felony in Indiana, punishable by as much as 18 months in prison and a potential fine of $10,000.

"When our government doesn't support us, the LGB (lesbian, gay, bisexual) community, and we have all these gay-straight alliances pop up, and you have all these bullying issues, what type of message does that send to our children?," Ashley Smith, of the group Pride Lafayette, told WLFI-TV, Lafayette, Ind.

Source: UPI.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 13, 2013 6:27 am 
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Pa. lawyers: Same-sex licenses risk serious harm
12 August 2013
By MARK SCOLFORO

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) -- A Pennsylvania county court clerk's decision to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples is a separation-of-powers violation that "risks causing serious and limitless harm" in Pennsylvania and beyond, according to a legal filing Monday by lawyers for the state Health Department and Gov. Tom Corbett.

The filing in Commonwealth Court fleshed out the Health Department's legal claim against D. Bruce Hanes, the Montgomery County orphan's court clerk who has issued 116 marriage licenses to same-sex couples over the past three weeks.

"There is no limit to the administrative and legal chaos that is likely to flow from the clerk's unlawful practice," the administration's lawyers wrote. The administration said Hanes has a duty to follow state law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman - and argued that county officials who flout the law "may be guilty of a misdemeanor for each act of neglect or refusal." The administration's lawyers argued that if a law directs government officials to do something, they can't disregard that direction simply because they believe it to be unconstitutional. A 1996 state law defined marriage as involving "one man and one woman."

Hanes began issuing marriage licenses after Attorney General Kathleen Kane, a fellow Democrat, announced she would not defend the state's ban on same-sex marriage in a federal lawsuit, saying current law was not constitutional. A spokesman for Montgomery County said its lawyers were reviewing the filing and had no immediate comment.

Hanes has cited as justification for his decision this summer's U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the federal government can't deny benefits to married same-sex couples who live in states that allow same-sex marriage. He said Monday he had not read the administration's brief. "I don't think it's a good idea for me to comment on this at this point," Hanes said.

The Corbett administration wants a judge to order Hanes to immediately cease issuing licenses to same-sex couples. The latest filing argued the clerk's actions have interfered with the uniform administration of law. It warned that one possible consequence of Hanes' actions may be that same-sex couples may apply for benefits reserved for married couples. "Ours is a government of laws, not one of public officials exercising their will as they believe the law should be or will be," the administration argued, adding that only courts can declare a law unconstitutional and suspend it.

Source: AP.

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 18, 2013 6:26 pm 
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Puerto Rico to debate new gay rights, gender bills
14 August 2013
By DANICA COTO

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- Religious groups gathered Wednesday in front of Puerto Rico's seaside capitol to protest proposed laws that would allow same-sex couples to adopt children and would establish a public school curriculum examining gender issues including sexual discrimination.

One of the island's largest Christian organizations, Puerto Rico Pro Family, said it would seek two constitutional amendments to limit marriage to heterosexual couples and to award parents the sole right to educate their children on gender matters.

"There are certain issues that are non-negotiable," said Dr. Cesar Vazquez Muniz, spokesman of Puerto Rico Pro Family. "The problem is that they are trying to change the values of this country."

Legislators currently are holding public hearings on the bills and are expected to debate them soon as the U.S. territory pushes for expanded gay rights amid heavy opposition from religious groups. Sen. Maria Gonzalez Lopez, who filed both bills earlier this year, told The Associated Press that children should not be discriminated against and that prohibiting same-sex couples from adopting has economic, emotional and psychological consequences. "It's imperative that this legislative assembly recognize and not deny existing families their rights," the bill states. "People's lifestyles are moving further away each time from the concept of a traditional family nucleus."

The bill was filed after the island's Supreme Court in February voted 5-4 to uphold a local law banning adoptions by same-sex parents. The decision was unsuccessfully appealed by a Puerto Rican woman who has sought for nearly a decade to adopt a 12-year-old girl whom her partner of more than 20 years gave birth to through in vitro fertilization. The judges had said it was up to legislators to change the adoption law if they saw fit. The other bill that Gonzalez submitted calls on public schools to teach a curriculum that aims to promote gender equality and curb the island's domestic violence problem.

While the island's education secretary has said he supports the measure, he warned that the department needs more funds and additional resources to create such a curriculum. Other officials have asked that penalties be established for schools that don't comply. Opponents of the measure say only parents should teach their children about such matters. "The state is interfering with that right," Vazquez said.

If the bills are approved, it would further establish Puerto Rico as a relatively gay-friendly island in a region where sodomy laws are enforced and harassment of gays is still common. In late May, legislators approved a bill that outlaws employment discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation. While most local government agencies already have anti-discriminatory policies, human rights activists say they are often not enforced. Lawmakers earlier this year also approved a separate bill that extends a domestic violence law to gay couples.

Source: AP.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 08, 2013 11:09 am 
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Brothels in Nevada Suffer as Web Disrupts Oldest Trade
By Alison Vekshin
August 28, 2013

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Sex workers Jaylynn Jones, left and Sarah Vandella, who also works as an adult film actress, sit at the bar at the Mustang Ranch brothel in Sparks, Nevada, Aug. 19, 2013. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

In a dim parlor furnished with red velvet couches and a stripper pole, Brooke Taylor is having a sale on herself.

“I offer a lot more specials and discounts and incentives for people to come in to see me,” said Taylor, 32, a brunette prostitute in a short, green dress at the Moonlite Bunny Ranch outside Carson City, Nevada. “People are looking for deals.”

Nevada’s legal brothels, which took root in the mid-1800s silver-mining boom, are dwindling, down to about 19 from roughly 36 in 1985, according to George Flint, an industry lobbyist. Many have been the highest-profile businesses in their sparsely populated regions, and their decline hurts already-stretched county budgets and marks the end to local institutions -- though not the universally beloved sort.

The state’s flagging economy, decreased patronage by truckers squeezed by fuel costs and growing use of the Internet to arrange liaisons are to blame, managers say. “A lot of our clients don’t have the discretionary income they had six years ago, five years ago,” said Susan Austin, 63, the madam of the Mustang Ranch in Sparks, about 15 miles (24 kilometers) from Reno. “The ones that can come in, they aren’t spending quite what they were spending before.”

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Dennis Hof, owner of the Moonlite Bunny Ranch in Mound House, Nevada, says his customers spend $200 to $600 on average. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Lonely Outposts

Recent years have not been kind to Nevada. The 18-month recession that began in December 2007 still holds a grip on the state. It had America’s highest unemployment rate in July, 9.5 percent, compared with 7.4 percent nationwide, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since the last quarter of 2007, the state’s economic health has declined 46 percent, according to the Bloomberg Economic Evaluation of States. That’s second-worst in the nation behind New Mexico.

Most brothels are in rural areas with few people and employers. If Manhattan had the density of Lyon County, home to the Moonlite Bunny Ranch, the population would be 594. The brothels pay little to the state, sending most of their fees and tax payments to the counties that oversee them. Every dollar helps. In Lyon County, where the largest private employers are an Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) distribution center and a Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) outlet, total revenue fell from $33 million in fiscal 2009 to $29 million in 2012, according to Josh Foli, its comptroller. In the past five years, the county’s staff has been cut about 25 percent, Foli said.


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Sex worker Brooke Taylor reads a book at the Moonlite Bunny Ranch in Mound House, Nevada, on Aug. 20, 2013. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

In the fiscal year ended June 30, Lyon’s four brothels paid it $369,600 in business-licensing fees and $17,800 from work permits for the prostitutes, Foli said. The brothels also pay room and property taxes to the county, along with sales tax to the state on merchandise, including t-shirts.

Steady Clientele

Then there’s the main transaction: Visitors select from a lineup of women, negotiate a price and pay a cashier in advance. The women, independent contractors, say they typically give half to the house. Dennis Hof, owner of the Moonlite Bunny Ranch, said his customers spend $200 to $600 on average.

Austin, who said she became a prostitute at 49 before becoming a madam, said the Mustang Ranch is seeing fewer clients than five years ago, though she wouldn’t provide figures. “They’re getting less services because they’re paying less, but they’re still seeing their favorite ladies,” Austin said in the brothel’s Italian suite, which features a four-poster bed, tiger-print carpet and hot tub. “It’s like anything: When the economy takes a dive, you just live with less frills.”

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Nevada Brothel Owners Association lobbyist George Flint, who also owns Chapel of the Bells, a Reno wedding service, says rural brothels that depend on truck drivers to survive have been among the hardest hit. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Siegel’s Vision

Some say the downturn is overdue. “Legal prostitution creates a cultural acceptance,” said Melissa Farley, executive director of Prostitution Research & Education, a San Francisco-based group that fights the sex trade. “The evidence tells us prostitution is profoundly harmful.” The decline of the bordellos threatens an emblematic industry in a state that, since gangster Bugsy Siegel envisioned Las Vegas’s casinos in the 1940s, has cultivated a global reputation as a sinner’s paradise of gambling and louche delights.

The houses were woven into the fabric of the American West in the days of the pioneers, said Barb Brents, a sociology professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. While some states banned them, Nevada left the question to local governments in counties with fewer than 700,000 residents. Ten of the state’s 17 counties allow them. “They don’t bother anybody,” Brents said. “Brothels operate on an idea that men are a certain way and women are a certain way and there’s a need for these services.”

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Timers are displayed inside the Wild West Saloon & Brothel in Winnemucca, Nevada, on Aug. 21, 2013. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Phoenixxx Twirls

In the Mustang Ranch’s Wild Horse Saloon, scantily clad women put that idea into action, approaching men on barstools and at tables. A woman leads a customer through a locked door. A 41-year-old redhead who calls herself Phoenixxx twirls on a pole atop the bar in a tight striped dress, then moves to a corner where she repeats the moves, this time in the nude. Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl” booms from the stereo.

The spectacle masks the fall of the fleshpot. Prostitution is shifting online, said Scott Peppet, who teaches law at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and writes about technology and markets. “A brothel is an intermediary,” Peppet said. “It’s pulling together women so it’s easy for buyers to find them.” That role is now being filled by the Internet, he said.

Craigslist, the free online classified-advertising site, eliminated its adult-services section in 2010 in response to pressure from state attorneys general. Many ads shifted to closely held Backpage.com.

Open City

In Las Vegas, the state’s largest city and one where prostitution is outlawed, women offer themselves online as “escorts.” Backpage.com carried more than 500 advertisements for Las Vegas on Aug. 25 alone. The come-ons ranged from “Teach Me... Spank Me... Pull My Hair!!!!” to “Fun, freaky, flirty, fulfill, favored, fetish friendly.” In 2012, the city’s “vice enforcement/arrests” rose 67 percent to 8,908 from the year before, according to a 2012 annual police department report.

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The Mustang Ranch brothel stands in Sparks, Nevada, Aug. 21, 2013. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Jose Hernandez, a police spokesman, said prostitution “is a concern of ours.” He said a lieutenant for the vice division was too busy for an interview. Some women see freelance escorting as dangerous work. In December 2010, the bodies of four prostitutes who had advertised online were found near a New York beach. Some Nevada brothels have guards and panic buttons in the rooms. Workers must be examined by a doctor weekly. “There’s a huge benefit for us working girls to work in this environment as opposed to escorting,” said Taylor, the Bunny Ranch prostitute. “We’re tested here. It’s safe.”

Hustler Covergirl

Taylor, who has appeared on the cover of Hustler magazine, began at the Bunny Ranch on New Year’s Eve 2005 and learned she could earn in an hour what she made in two weeks as a case manager for adults with developmental disabilities. Hof, 66, her boss, said the good times will return. The recession allowed him to buy five struggling brothels, bringing his holdings to seven. “With the economy coming back, I think it’s going to do real well,” said Hof. “I’m buying up everything.”

Marriages, Too

Flint, 79, the lobbyist, said he began representing the industry in 1985 and now has about 10 clients, including the Bunny Ranch. Flint said rural brothels that depend on truck drivers have been among the hardest hit. “A lot of these long-haul truckers have to buy their own fuel,” he said. “They could afford diesel when it was $2.49 a gallon, but now when it’s up over $5, particularly in rural Nevada, they don’t have any leftover income.” Flint has hedged his bet on fornication: He also owns Chapel of the Bells, a Reno wedding service, where his office is decorated with portraits of Napoleon.

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Susan Austin, the madam for the Mustang Ranch brothel, center, talks with sex workers Amaris, left and Jaylynn Jones inside the Mustang Ranch brothel in Sparks, Nevada, on Aug. 20, 2013. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

One of the state’s smallest brothels is in Winnemucca, straddling Interstate 80, where a billboard bears the silhouette of a woman in a cowboy hat with the invitation: “Wild West Saloon. Girls, Girls, Girls! Truckers Welcome. Get Off Now.” Owner Mike Yeager, 65, said he’s escaped the recession thanks to a steady clientele of truckers, hunters and gold miners. There’s a $100 minimum and timers count down patrons’ sessions. Sitting at the bar, he predicted a stable future. “There’s always money in this business,” said Yeager. “Put a couple of girls in here and you’re always going to make money.”

Source: Bloomberg.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 08, 2013 2:59 pm 
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Las Vegas casino seeks to evict raunchy nightclub
29 August 2013
By MICHELLE RINDELS

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In this image provided by The Act nightclub, patrons enjoy a perfromance at the club located at the Palazzo hotel-casino on the Las Vegas Strip. The Palazzo is trying to terminate their 10-year agreement with the nightclub after 10 months of operation. They say the shows at the venue inside the Palazzo are so raunchy they violate obscenity laws. (AP Photo/The Act Nightclub, Denise Truscello )

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- It turns out that even in Sin City, some sins are hard to overlook.

The Palazzo hotel-casino on the Las Vegas Strip is trying to evict a 10-month-old nightclub for shows it says are so raunchy that they violate obscenity laws. It says actors - some nearly naked - toss condoms into the crowd and simulate sex acts and bestiality on stage. The club is seeking a restraining order to halt the closure, arguing that simulated sex acts don't constitute obscenity.

Casino officials "were well aware of our brand," said Sean Dunn, special events director at The Act, in an email statement, adding that representatives of the hotel-casino have frequently attended shows and did not complain. Las Vegas Sands, which owns the casino, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The Act remains open for business while a district judge considers its fate, but the fight over its future has exposed an underlying reality in Vegas: While the city sells itself as a racy, no-holds-barred destination, there are limits. "I think there's the perception that anything goes in Vegas - there's no boundaries, no lines," said Lynn Comella, a professor of sexuality and women's studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. "In reality, nothing could be further from the truth."

That perception, in part, is fueled by what tourists see. Trucks roll down Las Vegas Boulevard advertising "hot babes" delivered directly to hotel rooms, the phone book is full of come-ons for escorts and private dancers, and taxis and billboards feature scantily clad women who leave little to the imagination. While Las Vegas is also rife with strip clubs, tourists won't find them along the Strip or in the city's hotel-casinos. They can take in a topless stage show or lounge at a European-style topless pool, but they have to catch a ride to a side street to see strippers.

"The goal for Las Vegas was to be naughty enough to attract you but not naughty enough to repel you," said Michael Green, a history professor at the College of Southern Nevada. The city - which rises and falls on the pocketbooks of its 40 million annual visitors - must balance the sexiness with the sensibilities of foreign tourists and large, multinational casinos. "It's highly sexualized and gets a lot of mileage out of that, but it's a very particular version of that," Comella said.

In The Act's case, Sands executives notified club officials on April 26 that they'd crossed a line with the show and were no longer welcome in the $15 million space. The casino giant wants to evict it, ending a 10-year lease. The casino notified club officials after undercover security officers went into the venue in March. The details of the show were laid bare this week in court, when an investigator apologized for getting graphic and looked pained while describing some kinky scenes.

The club contends Sands "manufactured this `breach' in an attempt to improperly evict" it. "We believe we are on the leading edge of the next evolution of nightlife in Las Vegas and that The Act fills a niche for patrons looking for an alternative to the typical Las Vegas big-box club scene," Dunn said.

Those who stray outside the limits of what is considered acceptable in the city risk invoking the wrath of the state's powerful Gaming Control Board and losing their lucrative gambling permits. The board smacked the Planet Hollywood casino with a $750,000 fine in 2009 amid accusations that employees at the independently owned Prive nightclub allowed toplessness, turned a blind eye to prostitution and physically and sexually assaulted patrons. The board isn't investigating The Act and is waiting for the lawsuit to play out, according to chairman A.G. Burnett.

There's no doubt that Las Vegas markets itself as an adult playground, said Oscar Goodman, the larger-than-life former Las Vegas mayor who's often flanked by scantily clad showgirls, martini in hand. "We have standards and we're not going to advocate illegal activity," he said. "Unless the sex goes out of the line, we embrace it."

Source: AP.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 11, 2013 2:50 pm 
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Sexually transmitted HPV declines in US teens
19 June 2013

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A pediatrician (L) gives an HPV vaccination to a 13-year-old girl on September 21, 2011 in Miami, Florida.

AFP - The number of US girls with the sexually transmitted disease HPV has dropped by about half even though relatively few youths are getting the vaccine, research showed on Wednesday.

Human papillomavirus is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States and has been linked to cervical cancer in women as well as in oral, head and neck cancers, particularly among men, health officials said. Since a vaccine against HPV was introduced in 2006, 56 percent fewer girls age 14-19 have become infected, said the research announced by the US Centers for Disease Control and published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

CDC Director Tom Frieden described the findings as a "wake-up call" that the vaccine works and should be more widely used. Currently, about one-third of girls age 13-17 are fully vaccinated. "It is possible to protect a generation from cancer and we have got to do it," Frieden told reporters.

The study used nationwide survey data to compare HPV rates before the HPV vaccine was widely available (2003-2006) to afterward (2007-2010). "The decline in vaccine type prevalence is higher than expected," said lead author Lauri Markowitz. Possible reasons for the decline include "herd immunity, high effectiveness with less than a complete three-dose series and/or changes in sexual behavior we could not measure," she said.

US health officials urge routine vaccination for both boys and girls age 11-12, before sexual activity begins. A series of three shots is recommended over six months. The CDC says about 79 million Americans, most in their late teens and early 20s, are infected with HPV, and every year some 14 million people become newly infected. Often the virus clears the body on its own but some strains, if left unchecked, can lead to cancer.

HPV is believed to cause 19,000 cancers per year among women in the United States, with cervical cancer being the most common. About 8,000 cancers caused by HPV occur in men each year in the United States, mainly throat cancers.

Source: France24.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 25, 2013 6:34 am 
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Mississippi aims to curb teen pregnancy with umbilical blood law
By Emily Le Coz
June 7, 2013

JACKSON, Mississippi (Reuters) - Mississippi will require doctors to collect umbilical cord blood from babies born to some young mothers, under a new law intended to identify statutory rapists and reduce the state's rate of teenage pregnancy, the highest in the country.

The measure, which takes effect on July 1 and is the first of its kind in the country, targets certain mothers who were 16 or younger at the time of conception. Under the law, doctors and midwives will be expected to retrieve umbilical cord blood in cases where the father is 21 or older or when the baby's paternity is in question. Samples will be stored at the state medical examiner's office for testing in the event that police believe the girl was the victim of statutory rape. But they will not automatically be entered into the state's criminal DNA database.

Supporters of the law say it offers an important new tool to prevent older men from having sex with younger girls. Critics argue, however, that it violates privacy and will do little to deter teen pregnancy. "We think it's a very invasive law to a woman who is already in a vulnerable situation," said Carol Penick, executive director of the Women's Fund of Mississippi, a nonprofit organization dedicated to women's rights.

Mississippi leads the nation in teen live-birth rates with 55 out of 1,000 babies born to young women between the ages of 15 and 19, according to 2010 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The national average was 34.2 live births per 1,000 population and the lowest was 15.7, in New Hampshire, the CDC reported. Governor Phil Bryant said, "As governor, I am serious about confronting and reducing teen pregnancy in Mississippi. Unfortunately, part of this epidemic is driven by sexual offenders who prey on young girls. This measure provides law enforcement with another tool to help identify these men and bring them to justice."

Mississippi is the first state to pass such a law, said the bill's author, Republican state Representative Andy Gipson. The state will pay for the costs of the collection and testing of cord blood, Gipson said, adding that testing will be conducted as needed as part of criminal proceedings. An estimate of those costs was not yet available. Bryant also championed a 2012 state law requiring doctors to preserve fetal tissue in abortions involving girls under 14 if they suspect the pregnancy resulted from a sex crime against a minor.

UNCHARTED LEGAL TERRITORY

The latest measure puts Mississippi in uncharted territory and opens it to legal challenges, according to Matt Steffey, a constitutional law professor at Mississippi College School of Law. "The argument is that the DNA is abandoned or about to be abandoned as medical waste, and a person doesn't have constitutional privacy over trash," he said. "But I think people are understandably nervous about the government collecting and permanently storing information from their DNA." Steffey said the law puts doctors in the awkward position of acting as law enforcement officers. The state medical association successfully pushed for a penalty exemption for doctors who do not comply in good faith.

"Physicians would rather the Board of Medical Licensure supervise and regulate the practice of medicine instead of having government intrusion between doctors and patients," said Thomas E. Joiner, immediate past president of the Mississippi State Medical Association. Penick said the state would be better off pursuing proven teen pregnancy prevention methods, such as comprehensive sex education and access to confidential health services.

Mississippi requires public schools to teach sex education, but the instruction is limited to either an abstinence-only or abstinence-plus curriculum, which critics say is not comprehensive enough.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Steve Orlofsky)
Source: Reuters.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 02, 2013 6:36 am 
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Lesbian sues Miss. town for denying gay bar permit
1 October 2013
By HOLBROOK MOHR

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Pat "PJ" Newton is standing in front of the building she is leasing in Shannon, Mississippi, September 30,2013

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- A woman is suing the leaders of a north Mississippi town, accusing them of conspiring to prevent her from opening a gay bar by denying an application for a business license.

Pat "PJ" Newton filed the federal lawsuit Tuesday against the mayor and several aldermen of Shannon, a town of about 1,700 in Lee County where Newton has been trying to open a cafe and bar called O'Hara's to cater to the gay community. The 55-year-old Newton, who is a lesbian, is seeking monetary damages and an order to allow her to open the business as well as attorneys' fees and court costs.

The Southern Poverty Law Center is representing the Memphis, Tenn., woman in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Aberdeen, Miss. It says Shannon Mayor Ronnie Hallmark "led a conspiracy to deny Newton a business license" and solicited community opposition to the bar. The mayor and aldermen did not immediately respond to a phone message left Tuesday at Shannon Town Hall. The lawsuit names six current or former members of the board of aldermen. The lawsuit says Newton got a state business license and liquor permit and made expensive upgrades to the bar, but was denied a license under the city's zoning ordinance.

The application was denied in a 4-1 vote on June 4 with the stated reason being that the bar would present a public health and safety hazard, Southern Poverty Law Center lawyer David Dinielli said Tuesday in a phone interview. "We believe that is an illegitimate reason and pretext for the real reason," Dinielli said. Dinielli believes the town leaders simply don't want a gay bar.

Newton said Tuesday in a phone interview that she first opened a gay bar called O'Hara's in the same location in Shannon in 1994 and operated it without problems until 1998, when she sold it to take on new business ventures. The new owners continued to run a gay bar there called "Rumors" until 2010, according to the lawsuit. Rumors was profiled in a 2006 documentary called "Small Town Gay Bar" about the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the rural South. The parcel of land is zoned as a general commercial district and requires establishments like churches, dog kennels and bars to get a "special exception," according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says the mayor told Newton that she had to appear before the aldermen on June 4 to present her plans, which she believed was a technicality to approval. Newton said she was met by a crowd of 30-40 people, including some who presented petitions opposing the bar. Dinielli said the mayor encouraged at least one person to get signatures for the petitions. "For over 30 minutes, Aldermen and citizens launched a series of hostile questions and comments directed at Newton," the lawsuit said. The application was denied. Bryant Thompson, the lone alderman who had voted to approve the license, was also named as a defendant in the lawsuit because he "declined to move or vote to reconsider the denial" of the application.

Newton said she's struggling "a little bit" to pay the rent and utilities but she hopes the lawsuit will be successful and she can recoup her losses when the bar opens. "Of course, I'm in it as long as it takes. I'm not going anywhere," she told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday.

Source: AP.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 18, 2013 5:33 pm 
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How Many American Men Are Gay?
By SETH STEPHENS-DAVIDOWITZ
December 7, 2013

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Where the Closet Is Still Common

What percent of American men are gay?

This question is notoriously difficult to answer. Historical estimates range from about 2 percent to 10 percent. But somewhere in the exabytes of data that human beings create every day are answers to even the most challenging questions.

Using surveys, social networks, pornographic searches and dating sites, I recently studied evidence on the number of gay men. The data used in this analysis is available in highly aggregated form only and can be downloaded from publicly accessible sites. While none of these data sources are ideal, they combine to tell a consistent story.

At least 5 percent of American men, I estimate, are predominantly attracted to men, and millions of gay men still live, to some degree, in the closet. Gay men are half as likely as straight men to acknowledge their sexuality on social networks. More than one quarter of gay men hide their sexuality from anonymous surveys. The evidence also suggests that a large number of gay men are married to women.

There are three sources that can give us estimates of the openly gay population broken down by state: the census, which asks about same-sex households; Gallup, which has fairly large-sample surveys for every state; and Facebook, which asks members what gender they are interested in. While these data sources all measure different degrees of openness, one result is strikingly similar: All three suggest that the openly gay population is dramatically higher in more tolerant states, defined using an estimate by Nate Silver of support for same-sex marriage. On Facebook, for example, about 1 percent of men in Mississippi who list a gender preference say that they are interested in men; in California, more than 3 percent do.

Are there really so many fewer gay men living in less tolerant states? There is no evidence that gay men would be less likely to be born in these states. Have many of them moved to more tolerant areas? Some have, but Facebook data show that mobility can explain only a small fraction of the difference in the totally out population. I searched gay and straight men by state of birth and state of current residence. (This information is available only for a subset of Facebook users.) Some gay men do move out of less tolerant states, but this effect is small. I estimate that the openly gay population would be about 0.1 percentage points higher in the least tolerant states if everyone stayed in place.

The percent of male high school students who identify themselves as gay on Facebook is also much lower in less tolerant areas. Because high school students are less mobile than adults, this suggests that a gay exodus from these areas is not a large factor.

We can approach the question of whether intolerant areas actually have fewer gay men another way, too, by estimating the percent of searches for pornography that are looking for depictions of gay men. These would include searches for such terms as “gay porn” or “Rocket Tube,” a popular gay pornographic site. I used anonymous, aggregate data from Google. The advantage of this data source, of course, is that most men are making these searches in private. (Women search, too, but in much smaller numbers.)

While tolerant states have a slightly higher percentage of these searches, roughly 5 percent of pornographic searches are looking for depictions of gay men in all states. This again suggests that there are just about as many gay men in less tolerant states as there are anywhere else. Since less tolerant states have similar percentages of gay men but far fewer openly gay men, there is a clear relationship between tolerance and openness. My preliminary research indicates that for every 20 percentage points of support for gay marriage about one-and-a-half times as many men from that state will identify openly as gay on Facebook.

In a perfectly tolerant world, my model estimates that about 5 percent of men in the United States would say they were interested in men. Note that this matches nicely with the evidence from pornographic search data.

These results suggest that the closet remains a major factor in American life. For comparison, about 3.6 percent of American men tell anonymous surveys they are attracted to men and a tenth of gay men say that they do not tell most of the important people in their lives. In states where the stigma against homosexuality remains strong, many more gay men are in the closet than are out. How deep in the closet are these men? Obviously, it is possible for a gay man not to acknowledge his sexuality to Facebook or surveys but to still have healthy, open same-sex relationships.

But data from Match.com, one of the country’s largest dating sites, which has high rates of membership for both straight and gay men, reveals a similarly large number of missing gay men in less tolerant states. This suggests that these men are not only not telling Facebook they are gay but are also not looking for relationships online. Additional evidence that suggests that many gay men in intolerant states are deeply in the closet comes from a surprising source: the Google searches of married women. It turns out that wives suspect their husbands of being gay rather frequently. In the United States, of all Google searches that begin “Is my husband...,” the most common word to follow is “gay.” “Gay” is 10 percent more common in such searches than the second-place word, “cheating.” It is 8 times more common than “an alcoholic” and 10 times more common than “depressed.”

Searches questioning a husband’s sexuality are far more common in the least tolerant states. The states with the highest percentage of women asking this question are South Carolina and Louisiana. In fact, in 21 of the 25 states where this question is most frequently asked, support for gay marriage is lower than the national average.

Craigslist lets us look at this from a different angle. I analyzed ads for males looking for “casual encounters.” The percentage of these ads that are seeking casual encounters with men tends to be larger in less tolerant states. Among the states with the highest percentages are Kentucky, Louisiana and Alabama.

There is, in other words, a huge amount of secret suffering in the United States that can be directly attributed to intolerance of homosexuality.

SOMETIMES even I get tired of looking at aggregate data, so I asked a psychiatrist in Mississippi who specializes in helping closeted gay men if any of his patients might want to talk to me. One man contacted me. He told me he was a retired professor, in his 60s, married to the same woman for more than 40 years. About 10 years ago, overwhelmed with stress, he saw the therapist and finally acknowledged his sexuality. He has always known he was attracted to men, he says, but thought that that was normal and something that men hid. Shortly after beginning therapy, he had his first, and only, gay sexual encounter, with a student of his in his late 20s, an experience he describes as “wonderful.” He and his wife do not have sex. He says that he would feel guilty ever ending his marriage or openly dating a man. He regrets virtually every one of his major life decisions. The retired professor and his wife will go another night without romantic love, without sex. Despite enormous progress, the persistence of intolerance will cause millions of other Americans to do the same.

Source: New York Times.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 28, 2013 3:29 pm 
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Sex, the new frontier of US cable television
By Romain Raynaldy
December 6, 2013

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Actors Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan speak onstage during the "Masters of Sex" panel discussion at the CBS, Showtime and The CW portion of the 2013 Summer Television Critics Association tour, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, on July 30, 2013

Los Angeles (AFP) - Violence has long been a staple of US cable television shows, but most producers have been coy about sex -- until recently, when an explosion of explicit content flooded the small screen.

The titillatingly-titled "Masters of Sex" is the most obvious example, but while there are no recent studies most industry watchers say fornication has never been as widely on display on TV. Pushing boundaries, the series includes multiple simulated orgasms and acres of nudity, as well as sex toys/research tools like one named the "Ulysses," basically a clear plastic vibrator with a camera inside, which films what happens in orgasm.

"Certainly TV, including broadcast TV, seems far, far more able to tackle subjects it previously didn't address," professor of cinema and television Richard Walter told AFP. Many modern shows "contain sex and violence in ways that would have been unthinkable not too many years ago," added the academic from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA).

Pay TV channel HBO's hit shows including "Game of Thrones," "Girls," "Boardwalk Empire" and "True Blood" are full of male and female nudity and sex, as are rivals' series like "The Bridge," "Spartacus" and "Da Vinci's Demons".

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Actor Teddy Sears attends The 'Masters of Sex' New York Series Premiere

David Nevins, president of cable channel Showtime, said pay TV channels are more free to do what they want than free-to-air networks. "With pay cable, you take license. Your licenses are sex, violence, and bad behavior. I think the audience wants to do it for the same reason programmers want to do it -- to be on the edge," he told the Television Critics Association. Walter agreed. "Cable does not broadcast via the public airwaves. Therefore it is not subject to the jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Commission content and language and everything else. "It is not bound by the rules and regulations that restrict over-the-air television," he said.

It is also not bound by critics like the Parents Television Council, which celebrated in 2011 when the NBC series "The Playboy Club" was canceled after only three episodes. "Bringing 'The Playboy Club' to broadcast television was a poor programming decision from the start," said PTC boss Tim Winter. "We're pleased that NBC will no longer be airing a program so inherently linked to a pornographic brand that denigrates and sexualizes women."

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(From L) Actors Emilia Clarke, Rose Leslie, Michelle Fairley and Alfie Allen attend the 'Game Of Thrones'

Michelle Ashford, creator of "Masters of Sex" which premiered in September on Showtime, said the existence of the show proved how the industry is maturing. The series, which depicts the ground-breaking research into human sexuality by William Masters and Virginia Johnson in the late 1950s, "would've been unlikely 10 years ago... because cable TV was just beginning to become the force it is today," she told AFP. "Ten years ago cable TV was still taking baby steps in many ways. 'The Sopranos' was on, 'Six Feet Under' as well I think. But there wasn't much more cable programming. Now cable is so open and thriving that any good idea about almost anything can find a home in cable."

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Actor Liam McIntyre attends the Premiere of Starz' 'Spartacus: Vengeance', at the ArcLight Cinemas Cinerama Drome in Hollywood on January 18, 2012

Perhaps surprisingly, there is little puritan-style criticism of "Masters of Sex," at least online and in mainstream media, despite its envelope-pushing explicitness. On the contrary, it been widely praised, winning a Critics' Choice award for most exciting new TV series in June.

The surge in small-screen sex comes after a trend for shows which have tested the limits of graphic violence, often focused on anti-heroes like cult show "Breaking Bad." "I don't think you can keep going further to the left of what Bryan Cranston is doing on 'Breaking Bad,'" said Nevins, referring to the actor's character, a chemistry teacher with terminal cancer who becomes a drug kingpin to leave money for his family. "I do believe our show came along at a good time," said Ashford, the "Masters of Sex" creator. "Since 'The Sopranos' in 2000, there have been a lot of shows examining violence centered around a male anti-hero, culminating recently in 'Breaking Bad'. These have been terrific shows. But I do think that area has been mined pretty thoroughly now. And luckily our show came along when perhaps people were open to a different tone, a different kind of exploration. That was just good timing, or you could also say luck."

Source: Yahoo! AFP.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 08, 2014 8:22 am 
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Gay in Utah: Hostility, acceptance part of life
30 December 2013
By PAUL FOY, MICHELLE PRICE and BRIAN SKOLOFF

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In this Monday, Dec. 23, 2013, file photo, Greg Jaboin, third from right, expresses his excitement upon being declared married to his partner of 10-years, Steve Kachocki, right, by officiant David Beach at the Salt Lake City County offices in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/The Salt Lake Tribune, Francisco Kjolseth, File)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah has long been known as a bastion of red-state conservatism with deep roots in the Mormon faith. It's the kind of place that has historically been unwelcoming to gay marriage.

The state is the world headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which championed California's gay marriage ban that was eventually tossed out in court. The church looms over almost every aspect of life in Utah, where an estimated two-thirds of residents are Mormon.

But, like the rest of America, how gays are received depends on where they live. Some gay couples describe feeling hostility in conservative, heavily Mormon cities such as Provo. The suburban areas that surround Salt Lake City are a mish-mash of family-friendly communities across the political spectrum. And Salt Lake City is more open to gays than many people outside the state realize.

The city is home to gay bars and coffee shops and a pride parade that attracts 25,000 people. There's a bus that takes gay men and women to Nevada to party. Salt Lake is also the city where hundreds of gay couples rushed to the county clerk's office to obtain marriage licenses and get married in the lobby of a government building, after a judge overturned the state's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage

As they wait for the courts to sort out the legal challenges to the Dec. 20 ruling, three gay couples describe differing experiences in Utah:

---

Cheryl Haws and Shelly Eyre have been lesbian partners for eight years in Provo, about 45 miles southeast of Salt Lake City and arguably the most conservative city in Utah.

They have been the target of outright hostility and insults. Eyre left the Mormon church years ago; Haws was ex-communicated, they said. A Mormon church leader once told Eyre, "`I would rather see you dead than commit this sin,'" Eyre said in what she described as one of her most painful experiences of being gay in Utah.

Provo is in Utah County and home to Brigham Young University, the flagship school for the Mormon faith where students are prohibited from having premarital sex and drinking alcoholic beverages. The county is overwhelmingly Republican; President Barack Obama received less than 10 percent of the vote there in 2012. The couple was initially turned down for a marriage license by Utah County, which only reluctantly started granting them days after a federal judge struck down the state's ban. The couple got a license Thursday.

Haws and Eyre are licensed clinical social workers with a private counseling practice in Utah County. A few patients abandoned them after their effort to get a marriage license made their relationship widely known. "I've never been un-friended by so many people on Facebook," Eyre said. Eyre said she moved from more gay-friendly Salt Lake City to Provo eight years ago to live with Haws, a mother of seven children from a previous marriage who wanted to stay close to her family. Haws was still caring for two of the children, who are now off to college.

When Haws' oldest son died in a car accident in 2006, Eyre found her name disappeared from a published obituary as the mother's partner. But Eyre said the couple has a circle of supporters, including traditional couples who have been "good, kind and generous - people who have protected us." Some of her neighbors help out mowing their lawn or shoveling snow. "We're not trying to judge others who judge us," Eyre said. "The folks who said they'd rather see us dead - in their mind that was all the love they could muster." The struggle in Utah is the same everywhere, Eyre said. "Just being gay or lesbian and not having support or being afraid your family is going to kick you out or will not speak to you - Catholics and Baptists can be the same way in other states," she said.

---

Jon Jensen has been with his partner more than six years, but it wasn't until last week that the couple finally was able to become husband and husband.

It was a huge moment in their lives, but also, Jensen thinks, a reflection on changing attitudes in the state and more specifically, a backlash against the Mormon church over decades of repression. Jensen and his husband, Jared Reesor, are more fortunate than others around Utah given they live in Salt Lake City, the state's liberal hub, despite the presence of the church's gleaming headquarters in the middle of downtown. In fact, Jensen said, the church has had such a polarizing effect on Salt Lake City's younger population that he thinks people in the capital are more open to gay people. "It makes people stand up more for what they believe in," he said.

With clubs and bars, coffee houses and tattoo parlors, Salt Lake City has become a bustling center for the younger, hipper crowd that doesn't live up to Utah's generally buttoned-up, clean-cut image. That's why Jensen and Reesor, 36, a residential contractor, have chosen to live here after being raised Mormon in surrounding counties where acceptance wasn't so easy to come by. "People don't even question that you're a gay couple. In Utah County, we'd have to explain who we are," said the 35-year-old software developer. "People here, they don't even care. They don't even bat an eye when you introduce your husband or partner."

Jensen said the changing attitude toward gays in the city is prevalent in the number of outspoken critics he has counted during protests at the annual pride festival. "It's so reduced at this point it's barely noticeable," he said. Jensen recalls his youth in Utah with hesitation and a bit of remorse, a legacy of his Mormon upbringing that stifled his individuality. "As a young kid, I remember lying on my bed ... feeling so guilty I wanted to die. I always felt like I just didn't belong," he said. Jensen left the church about 10 years ago while still hiding his sexuality, unable to come to terms with who he was and feeling unwelcomed by those around him.

And now, living in Salt Lake City - without the guilt, without the judging eyes of others - Jensen and his husband are finally feeling free and rewarded for having waited. They talked about going elsewhere for their nuptials, maybe Hawaii, "but we wanted to be married in our home state. We just never expected it to happen so soon."

---

Greg Jaboin is raising two teenage children with his partner in Salt Lake City. He grew up in the Boston suburbs, came out after college and moved to Utah in 2005 after meeting partner Steve Kachocki during a work training trip.

He said Utah is a huge shift from Massachusetts, the first state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2003. Jaboin, who is black, said people stare more often because of his skin color than because they notice he's gay. Utah is more than 90 percent white. "They can't get past race to get to sexuality until they see Steve," he said, referring to his white husband.

Steve's former wife lives on the same street, four houses away with her new husband. Their two children walk back and forth between the two homes, he said. "For the most part, I've had a pretty decent time here being gay," Jaboin said. "However, when work and gayness collide that's when things change."

Jaboin, 35, works in banking, and while there's a relatively diverse workforce and accepting corporate policy, he said he still notices what he calls "passive disapproval" from some Mormon co-workers, such as a normally chatty co-worker turning silent after he brought up on Monday that he'd just gotten married. Jaboin said having a family helps him gain acceptance in Utah. People become more comfortable with them because their life is similar to that of heterosexual couples, "the children, the mortgage, the two cars, the school, the soccer on Saturdays, that kind of thing," he said.

He said that he thinks full acceptance will come within his lifetime. "The change will come more fully to Utah in the next 10 years," he said. "Right now, they are a little bit shell-shocked."

Source: AP.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 26, 2014 7:13 pm 
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Gay Republicans face long odds in House campaigns
20 January 2014
By STEVE PEOPLES

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In this Jan. 13, 2014 photo, New Hampshire Republican Congressional candidate Dan Innis, right, poses with his partner Doug Palardy, in Portsmouth, N.H.
(AP Photo/Jim Cole)

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) -- Dan Innis' husband persuaded him to run for the U.S. House.

It didn't matter that Innis, a former business school dean, faced an aggressive Democratic incumbent, GOP colleagues who oppose his right to marry, and history - no Republican ever has been openly gay when first elected to Congress. "He said, `You've got to do this,'" recalls Innis, running in the 1st Congressional District, which covers most of eastern New Hampshire. "He said, `You need to take this opportunity and see if you can make a difference.'"

Innis plays down his sexuality as a campaign issue, but acknowledges the historic undertones. He is among three openly gay Republicans nationwide expected to run in this year's midterm elections. None has an easy path to Washington. Each ultimately must unseat a Democratic incumbent, overcome brushes with hate and confront passionate divisions within the GOP about the way they live their lives. The Republican Party is trying to soften its tone on divisive social issues, but many religious conservatives see homosexuality as immoral. Innis is married to a man, as is former state Sen. Richard Tisei, R-Mass., who is expected to run again for the northeastern Massachusetts congressional seat he narrowly lost in 2012 to Democratic Rep. John Tierney.

In San Diego, former Republican city councilman Carl DeMaio is challenging first-term Democratic Rep. Scott Peters. "You can't focus on any of the nasty comments or attacks - not just from far right, also from far left," DeMaio says. During his unsuccessful 2012 Republican mayoral campaign, DeMaio and his male partner of six years were booed as they walked hand in hand in San Diego's gay pride parade. "Every once in a while we'll get some hate that is truly over the top - a truly venomous voice mail message. Every time we need a lift-me-up, we play it and chuckle," DeMaio says. "It's just a reminder that what we're fighting for matters."

He is fighting his own party, too. The GOP's formal platform, as set in its 2012 national convention, declares that "marriage, the union of one man and one woman, must be upheld as the national standard." Republican opposition to gay marriage has become less visible recently as the GOP works to improve its image and polling suggests that most Americans support same-sex marriage. Prominent social conservatives such as former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Ralph Reed, former leader of the Christian Coalition, declined to be interviewed for this story. As a senator in 2003, Santorum, a leading candidate in the 2012 presidential primary, compared homosexual acts to child molestation and bestiality.

Last month, Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., drew national attention for pressuring the House Republican campaign arm not to support openly gay candidates. That led House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to pledge public support for gay Republicans. Boehner traveled to Massachusetts in 2012 to help raise money for Tisei, who notes that more than 70 members of Congress supported his last campaign.

Still, Tisei says the GOP must do more to change the perception that "we're the party that wants to deny people their rights and interfere with their personal lives." In particular, he says Republicans need gay members in their ranks to help shift their mindset on key policies. "It would be a lot harder to take positions that discriminate against people when you have (gay) people in the room you work with on a daily basis that you like and know," Tisei says.

Democrats currently have eight openly gay members serving in Congress, including Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin, who last year became the nation's first openly gay senator. There have been no openly gay Republicans in Congress since Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona retired in 2006. First elected in 1984, Kolbe didn't disclose his sexual orientation until 1996. Rep. Steve Gunderson of Wisconsin served more than a decade before a Republican colleague publicly disclosed Gunderson's sexual orientation on the House floor in 1994. Gunderson did not seek re-election in 1996.

In the 2014 election, the number of openly gay House candidates overwhelmingly favors Democrats, according to a list compiled by the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which works to elect gay candidates at all levels. Of 14 openly gay candidates expected to run, 11 are Democrats, including six incumbents and high-profile challenger Sean Eldridge of New York, the husband of Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes.

Considered top-tier challengers, Tisei and DeMaio recently teamed up to raise money in joint appearances across the country for a newly formed political action committee known as the Equality Leadership Fund. Last month, they traveled to Washington, New York and Florida and expect another tour in the spring.

In New Hampshire, Innis is trying to unseat Democratic incumbent Carol Shea-Porter. But he must first survive a Republican primary contest against Frank Guinta, a former congressman unseated in the last election. With long ties to the business community, Innis is expected to have strong financial backing in an election he says will be decided on fiscal issues. "The best history we could make would be moving the budget toward balance and getting ourselves to a position where we could invest in our future again," he says.

New Hampshire GOP strategist Jamie Burnett says he doesn't know whether candidates' sexual orientation helps or hurts their electoral prospects. "Some social conservatives might object, but many Republicans might not care at all and perhaps see it as softening the party's image," he says. "This is unchartered territory in recent New Hampshire Republican politics."

Source: AP.

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