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News items affecting gays, lesbians, bisexuals & transsexuals

2011-MAY-01 to 15: Accelerating steps toward
equality etc., after DOMA decision in early 2011

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We use the acronym "SSM" throughout this section to represent "same-sex marriage"
We use the acronym "LGBT" to refer to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons and transsexuals.

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See also events during the previous month: 2011-APR

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Background:

The Obama administration announced on 2011-FEB-23 that it would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court. They cited an earlier decision in a Massachusetts federal court that found multiple reasons why the federal DOMA legislation violates the U.S. Constitution and is thus invalid.

Some commentators predicted that this decision will generate a tipping point that will lead to a more rapid decline in discrimination against sexual minorities in the U.S.

This prediction may be coming true. We have noticed an increase in events -- some important, some minor, some merely symbolic -- that indicate a gradual evaporation of animosity and homophobia against sexual minorities.

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Developments toward marital equality and a lessening of discrimination against sexual minorities:

  • 2011-MAY-03: North America: Google anti-bullying ad on Glee: On this evening's episode of Glee, Google showed the first broadcasting of its new anti-gay bullying ad. It encourages teens that it eventually "gets better." Anne Hathaway, Lady Gaga, Adam Lambert, Cathy Griffin and Woody from Toy Story contributed to the ad. Some conservative faith groups and parachurch organizations are not happy. 1

  • 2011-MAY-05-08: Public Religion Research Institute poll conducts same-sex marriage poll: They polled 1,007 American adults and found that 51% supported same-sex marriage compared with 43% opposed. The margin of error is ±3 percentage points. The gap between support and opposition is 8 percentage points, very close to what two other polls reported. The Institute reported strong support among those who are religiously unaffiliated (77%), Roman Catholics (56%) and white mainline Protestants 55%). Opposing SSM were black and other minority Christians with only 37% support, and white evangelicals with only 23% support.

  • 2011-MAY-10: North America: Gay equality breakthrough in professional sports: Cathal Kelly's article in the Toronto Star begins: "When social historians chart the final breakthroughs of the gay rights movement into the most resistant corners of mainstream culture, this will be one of them." He discussed New York Ranger winger Sean Avery who has been "... a steady advocate for gay causes. ... [He has recorded] a video messages for the New Yorkers for Marriage Equality campaign."

    Avery said in his message: "I treat everyone the way I expect t be treated and that applies to marriage. Committed couples should be able to marry the person they love. Join me in supporting marriage equality." Other endorsers include former President Bill Clinton, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and various local screen stars. Avery has offered to fly anywhere in North America to support any player who wants to reveal his homosexual sexual orientation to his teammates.

    Kelly wrote: "It's still taboo to talk about being gay in a clubhouse, but out in the real world, we've all agreed that homosexuality isn't a big deal any more"

    Hockey agent Todd Reynolds from Burlington ON posted a tweet on Twitter calling Avery's position on same-sex marriage "very sad" and "wrong." Kelly wrote:
  • "Within hours. Reynolds was the one being raked online and forced to defend himself on radio. The territory in this culture wars is changing hands quickly. ... Twenty years from now, few will remember Avery the player. Many may remember this new Sean Avery, the advocate. The next step in this climb requires that an active hockey, football, basketball or baseball player publicly declare his homosexuality. That will be a first and , like all cultural first, take real guts." 2,3

  • 2011-MAY-10: Coral Ridge Ministries issues Alert!: Jennifer Cassidy of Coral Ridge Ministries issued an emergency alert concerning a memorandum from the Navy Chief of Chaplains that permits same-sex civil unions and marriages to be conducted in those states where they are legal. She also expressed alarm that:
    "[W]e find it unconscionable that the United States Navy, a federal entity sworn to 'preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States,' believes it is their place alone to train and direct servicemembers to violate federal law. ..."

    "The President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, may certify in June that the military is ready for final repeal of the law prohibiting open homosexuals in the armed forces. With certification in place, homosexuals will begin to serve openly sixty days later." 4,5

    The violation of federal law to which she is referring is the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which has been ruled unconstitutional by a federal court in Massachusetts.

    Still, the statement by the Chief of Chaplains is probably unconstitutional for two reasons. The Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy of the military is still in force and will be for at least a couple more months. Making civil unions and same-sex marriages available on base might be interpreted as an enticement to lesbian, gay, and bisexual servicemembers to reveal their sexual orientation. This is not allowed. Also, allowing same-sex couples to use base facilities might be interpreted as federal government support of same-sex marriage. That is not allowed under the DOMA law. Anyway, Chief of Chaplains, Rear Admiral M.L. Tidd, suspended his memo on 2011-MAY-10. 6

  • 2011-MAY-10: The Presbyterian Church (USA) changed rules on LGBT clergy: During 2010-summer, the General Assembly passed a resolution for the fourth time to remove Section G-6.0108 -- the "fidelity and chastity" clause -- from the Book of Order. It prohibited the ordination of sexually active LGBT clergy. Once again, a majority of their 173 U.S. presbyteries was asked to ratify the decision. A major breakthrough happened when The Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area in St. Louis Park, MN, voted 205 to 56 to removed the clause. Their's was the 87th affirmative vote among the denomination's presbyteries and caused the resolution to be ratified. 7 More details.

  • 2011-MAY-11: DE: Delaware legalizes civil unions: On 2011-MAY-11, Governor Jack Markell (D) signed Delaware's Senate Bill 30 into law, creating civil unions for eligible same-sex couples and granting them all of "... the same rights, benefits, protections and responsibilities as married persons under Delaware law." More details.

  • 2011-MAY-12: Sports broadcaster fired: Damien Goddard, host of a Canadian sports program Rogers Sportsnet was fired on MAY-11 after posting a series of tweets on Twitter in support of Tod Reynolds attack on same-sex marriage. One of his tweets said: "I completely and wholeheartedly support Todd Reynolds and his support for the traditional and TRUE meaning of marriage." During an interview, Goddard said: "In terms of what I said, I stand by it. I am a Roman Catholic. It's not about hate at all." We heard the identical comment on Sirius Radio's Catholic Channel a few weeks ago. Goddard may not realize that supporting marriage between one man and one woman does not necessarily require one to oppose same-sex marriage. A majority of people in the U.S. and Canada support marriage access for everyone.

    Online readers of the Toronto Star article posted 151 comments within the first 16 hours after the article was posted. 8

  • 2011-MAY-13 to 15: Chaz Bono, formerly Chastity Bono featured in 3 TV programs. Chaz is a FTM transsexual who has identified as a male since infancy. He appeared in two interviews and a documentary in mid May to discuss his transition from female to male, and his new book. He was interviewed on the Late Show with David Letterman on CBS and Piers Morgan Tonight on CNN. Oprah Winfrey Network's (OWN) World of Wonder featured a documentary on MAY-15 titled "Becoming Chaz." All three were well worth watching, although David Letterman seems to have had difficulty understanding some of the concepts associated with transsexuality and homosexuality. When Chaz mentioned that his girlfriend is bisexual, Letterman threw up his hands in utter confusion. 9

  • 2011-MAY-13: CitizenLink: This is a division of the Colorado-based fundamentalist Christian group Focus on the Family. They announced that:

    "On this week's CitizenLink Report video, Stuart Shepard talks with Judicial Analyst Bruce Hausknecht about the Olympic controversy and how the growing acceptance of same-sex marriage impacts our religious liberties." 12

    This is a rare admission by conservative Christians that the public acceptance of SSM is increasing. It may have been influenced by a Washington Post-ABC News poll in 2011-MAR:

    Washington Post graph 11
    The poll showed 53% support and 44% opposition to SSM, a margin of 9 percentage points. It would take a fairly large fear-based publicity campaign to overcome this level of support.

    The controversy involves the U.S. Olympic Committee's selection of Peter Vidmar, a former gold medallist in men's gymnastics, as its "chief of mission" for the 2012 London Olympics. Some gay-positive groups complained because Vidmar had previously donated $2,000 in support of Proposition 8, the voter initiative that terminated the hopes of LGBTs in California to marry the person that they love, to whom they are committed, and whom they wanted to marry in the future. He also spoke at a Prop. 8 rally in favor of restoring marriage inequality to California.

    Their reference to religious liberties being negatively impacted appears to come from three concerns:

    • Increasingly, the public is viewing homophobia and transphobia as one more form of bigotry of the same class as racism, sexism, xenophobia, etc. They fear that future denigration by Christians of LGBT persons will result in much of the public viewing religious conservatives as bigots.

    • They are concerned that their religious freedom will be limited. This used to mean restrictions on a person's or a denomination's religious beliefs. More recently, it is being redefined to refer to restrictions on their freedom to denigrate groups like sexual minorities.

    • They are concerned that they might be sued if they reuse to marry same-sex couples. Fortunately, this third concern is not a possibility since the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives religious groups total freedom to refuse marriage to a couple with a valid marriage license. In fact, churches have done that with impunity on the basis of the couple's race mixture, and/or religious differences, and -- in the case of the Roman Catholic church -- physical disability.

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See also events during the second half of: 2011-MAY

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
  1. Josephine Vivaldo, "Google, Woody Endorse Homosexuality in New Ad ," Christian Post, 2011-MAY-04, at: http://www.christianpost.com/
  2. Cathal Kelly, "Avery stand on gay marriage only natural," The Toronto Star, 2011-MAY-10, Page S1 & S8.
  3. Cathal Kelly, "Kelly: Avery backing gay marriage seems only natural," Toronto Star,2011-MAY-09, at: http://www.thestar.com/
  4. J.K. Cassidy, "Navy Gives Green Light to Homosexual Marriage! Urge Congress to Act!," Email, Coral Ridge Ministries, 2011-MAY-10.
  5. "Revision of Chaplain Corps Tier 1 training," Chief of Navy Chaplains, 2011-APR-13, at: http://cmrlink.org/
  6. Charley Keyes, "Navy reverses itself on gay marriages on military bases," CNN, 2011-MAY-11, at: http://articles.cnn.com/
  7. Rose French, "Presbyterians to allow gays to be ordained ministers," Associated Press, 2011-MAY-11, at: http://www.startribune.com/
  8. Cathal Kelly, "Fired Sportsnet host Damian Goddard ‘stands by' tweets," The Toronto Star, 2011-MAY-11, at: http://www.thestar.com/
  9. Alex Alvarez, "Chaz Bono Tries To Explain ‘Transgender’ To A Befuddled Letterman" Mediaite, 2011-MAY-12, includes 10 minute video, at: http://www.mediaite.com/
  10. Tommy Christopher, "NN’s Don Lemon Comes Out: Publicly Acknowledges He Is Gay Via Twitter," Mediaite, 2011-MAY-16, at: http://www.mediaite.com/
  11. Sandhya Somashekhar and Peyton Craighill, "Slim majority back gay marriage, Post-ABC poll says," Washington Post, 2011-MAR-17, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
  12. "Will same-sex marriage affect you personally?" Focus on the Family, 2011-MAR-13 Citizen Link® report.
  13. "For first time, majority of Americans favor legal gay marriage," Gallup Inc, 2011-MAY-20, at: http://www.gallup.com/ Image copyright © Gallup, Inc. All rights reserved.
  14. Alison Matheson "Evangelical: We're Losing Fight Against Gay Marriage," The Christian Post, 2011-MAY-24, at: http://www.christianpost.com/
  15. Daniel Blake, "Church of Scotland Votes to Lift Ban on Gay Clergy," The Christian Post, 2011-MAY-24, at: http://www.christianpost.com/
  16. Marites N. Sison, "Same-sex blessings get the nod in Nova Scotia, PEI, Anglican Journal web site, 2011-MAY-31, at: http://www.anglicanjournal.com/

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Copyright © 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2011-JUN-01
Author: B.A. Robinson

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