TIME Italy

Italian Politician Looks to Highlight Gay Rights by Getting Married in Canada

Nicola Vendola attends the 'Che Tempo Che Fa' Italian TV Show on March 18, 2013, in Milan, Italy.
Stefania D'Alessandro—Getty Images Nicola Vendola attends the Che Tempo Che Fa Italian TV Show on March 18, 2013, in Milan

“From their elevated social rung they don’t really understand what it means to live in a country where homophobia kills"

Nicola Vendola, one of the first openly gay politicians in Italy, has announced his plan to marry his Canadian partner in Canada, as Italy has no current plan to legalize gay marriage.

The 56-year-old LGBT activist, who is also the left-wing representative for the traditionally conservative southern region of Puglia, is giving serious thoughts on starting a family and having children, Agence France-Presse reports.

“Everything is going to change, I’m going to marry Ed,” Vendola said about his partner Eddy Testa.

Although Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has announced plans to allow same-sex civil partnerships, the influential Catholic Church vehemently opposes extending this to nuptials.

Vendola also clashed with Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, Italy’s influential gay fashion-designer duo, who recently drew the wrath of pop legend Elton John by describing children born to gay parents via IVF as “synthetic babies.”

“From their elevated social rung they don’t really understand what it means to live in a country where homophobia kills and the lack of basic rights weighs heavily on many people’s lives,” said Vendola.


TIME 2016 Election

Gay Rights Activists Fire Early Shot At GOP Field

Governor Chris Christie in NH
Rick Friedman—Corbis N.J. Governor Chris Christie speaks at the Concord and Merrimack County GOP's 3rd Annual Lincoln-Reagan Dinner in Concord, N.H. on Feb. 16, 2015.

The Human Rights Campaign is firing an early shot at the emerging presidential field, releasing polling and research highlighting their opposition to same-sex marriage.

On Wednesday, the group unveiled a micro-site highlighting GOP rhetoric on LGBT issues, including their positions on marriage, conversion therapy and bullying. The launch is pegged to this weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference, which has blocked the sponsorship of the GOP gay group Log Cabin Republicans. (Although the group will participate in a panel discussion.)

The group is highlighting the results of a survey it commissioned of 1,000 self-identified LGBT voters showing that few would even consider supporting Republican candidates. Only 15 percent would consider New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; 12 percent, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; 9 percent, Sen. Rand Paul; 9 percent, Sen. Marco Rubio; and 5 percent former Sen. Rick Santorum.

“For those committed to LGBT equality, actions speak louder than words,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC’s Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs in a statement. “It’s unfortunate that a field with so many Republican candidates is so united against basic LGBT rights, from marriage equality to protecting LGBT Americans from discrimination.”

Among a sub-sample of 120 self-identified Republicans a majority say they would not back either Paul or Santorum, while the remaining candidates poll within the margin of error.

The GOP’s autopsy into the 2012 election found that gay rights issues are a gateway subject for LGBT voters, but also for young voters of all stripes. “We need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate we care about them, too,” the Growth and Opportunity Project report stated. But while a number of Republican governors have dropped opposition to same-sex marriage in their states after court rulings, none have personally said they are supportive of such unions. The issue is a litmus test for many conservative voters in Iowa, and is set to be injected into the political debate once again as the Supreme Court ways the issue nationally.

The survey was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner for the Human Rights Campaign by surveying 1,000 self-identifying lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individuals on Jan. 25-31. The full sample has a margin of error of ±3.1 percent, while the small sample of Republicans has a margin of error of ±8.28 percent.

Correction: The original version of this story mischaracterized the Log Cabin Republican’s involvement in CPAC. The group was invited to participate in the conference.

TIME China

A Viral Video Urges Chinese Parents to Welcome LGBT Kids Home This Lunar New Year

The short film has become a holiday hit in China

This week, hundreds of millions of Chinese will crowd on to planes, trains, cars and motorbikes to make their way home for chun jie, or spring festival. It is a celebration — cue the fireworks — and a chance to reunite with loved ones after months, even years, away. It is also a time to eat, a time to rest, and, for many, a time to field a whole lot of questions from family members: Where’s your girlfriend? When are you getting married? Don’t you know we want a grandchild?

For LGBT folks in China, those questions can be particularly tough. Though China decriminalized gay sex in the late 1990s, stigma and discrimination persist in the workplace and at home, as documented in a report by the UNDP released last year. Though many find a degree of freedom and acceptance in China’s big, booming cities, some struggle to discuss their gender and sexual identities with their parents — a fact that prompted the Chinese branch of PFLAG (formerly known as Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) to make a short film about the issue.

The video, Coming Home, tells the story of a young man who summons the courage to talk to his mom about being gay, only to be criticized and cast out. After a long period of heartache and estrangement, his mother comes around, tearfully welcoming him home. As the credits roll, real mothers speak directly to the camera, offering words of encouragement and advice to young people facing the journey.

The message to parents: “Accept your children, welcome them home.” And for children: “Don’t give up. Your parents might not understand today, but maybe they will tomorrow.” It’s a sentiment that obviously struck a chord: the video has already racked up 100 million views.

Read next: New Google Doodle Honors Chinese New Year

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Behind the Photos

How This Image Became the Best News Photo of the Year

Jonathan Jacques Louis, 21, and Alexander Semyonov, 25.
Mads Nissen-Scanpix/Panos World Press Photo of the Year 2014
First Prize Contemporary Issues, Singles

Jon and Alex, a gay couple, during an intimate moment, St. Petersburg, Russia.

"You don't have to go to Africa or Ukraine to take a great photo"

This year’s World Press Photo jury surprised many people when it selected Mads Nissen’s portrait of Jon and Alex, a gay couple, during an intimate moment in St. Petersburg, Russia, as the Photo of the Year.

But, the jurors tell TIME, its resonance is universal, making it the perfect candidate for the top prize.

“We thought it was a beautiful image,” says jury chair Michele McNally, the New York Times‘ director of photography and assistant managing editor. “It is a memorable image, that’s very much about love.”

In a year dominated by gruesome news events — from Ukraine, Central African Republic and Sierra Leone to Gaza, Liberia, Guinea all the way to Ferguson, Mo. — the jury’s choice was unexpected, even for its author, who entered the photo in the contest’s Contemporary Issues category. “I never thought I’d win,” he tells TIME. “But no matter which picture you take, it’s not something you should expect.”

Nissen started working on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) issues in June 2013 when he covered a gay pride in Russia. “I was standing next to a young guy, and a homophobe came up to him and screamed in his face: ‘Are you a faggot?’ And he quietly answered: ‘Yes I am homosexual.’ And this homophobe started punching him in the face.”

Nissen was horrified. “I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know [whether] I should cry or scream or get involved in the fight. It’s something you read about, but seeing it… I was unprepared. This was pure hate.”

After this incident, Nissen decided to dig deeper into the subject. “I’ve been covering many different aspects of this story – the violent attacks, the influence of the church. I’ve been photographing videos where you see homophobic groups catching gays to humiliate them for hours. I’ve been photographing young families who are afraid their children will be taken away from them just because they are gay,” he says. “But at some point I felt there was something missing. The core of this story is about love, and the right to love. I started looking for pictures of love and desire. I was introduced to Jon and Alex in May last year. We were drinking beers, talking for hours. And we went to Alex’s apartment at midnight, and this picture was taken at 2am.”

Now, the Danish photographer hopes that his photograph will help shape the political debate around LGBT rights. “I’m a journalist,” he says. “I’m not an activist, but I’m a journalist with a strong set of values about human rights, about empathy and about tolerance. I have this standpoint that we should be tolerant and acceptable of LGBT people. This story is a documentation of what is happening right now in Russia. But [it’s not limited to Russia] as I believe that there shouldn’t be any homophobia in the world. If this picture can help, then it’s all worth it.”

The World Press Photo jurors agreed. “This issue is a universal issue,” says Alessia Glaviano, a senior photo editor at Vogue Italia. “It is a picture that talks about the fear of the unknown, it talks about love and hate.”

But, the unexpected choice was also a message sent by this jury to an industry of news photographers. “You don’t have to go to Africa for Ebola, and you don’t have to go to Ukraine for war, to take a great image,” says Mark Baker, the Southeast Asia photo editor of the Associated Press and a jury member. This picture could be taken next door in your neighbor’s house or in the next town. [Nissen’s image] says that there are other images, other moments in life worth capturing. You don’t have to run off to a war to be a World Press Photo winner. That’s a message I think we, as a jury, would like photographers [to consider].”

For Instagram’s editorial director and jury member Pamela Chen, photographers can tell stories in many different ways. And a World Press Photo winner shouldn’t necessarily be about violence, she says. “What [this photo] shows is that a photographer in a daily life situation can tell a story that has resonance beyond the moment itself. It touches on so many things. It is a contemporary issue [and] it invites dialogue. We were always looking for the best. We had an incredible dialogue and in the end we came to this picture and I think that it may come as surprise for some. But we were never looking for a surprise, we were looking for the best. But when the surprise came, we didn’t hesitate.”

Glaviano goes further. “It is a message to the photojournalists around, these young guys, that [sometimes] go and lose their lives: Sometimes you have to find a story that is not maybe in front of your eyes.”

She adds that the judges knew there would be a strong reaction to the winner. “We knew and we wanted to go this way anyway.”

Read next: Why 20% of World Press Photo Finalists Were Disqualified

TIME White House

White House Avoids Talking About Obama’s Gay-Marriage Views

A textbook case of the White House all-but-confirming a story without actually doing so

What did the President believe and when did he believe it? That was the thrust of a tricky line of questioning on gay marriage for White House press secretary Josh Earnest on Tuesday.

The questions came after a new book by former political strategist David Axelrod revealed that President Obama misled the country about his true feelings on gay marriage during his 2008 campaign.

Earnest’s responses were a textbook case of the White House all but confirming a story without actually coming out and doing so.

MORE: Obama Adviser Says He Misled on Gay-Marriage Views

Instead of calling into question Axelrod’s accuracy, Earnest first praised him.

“I have not had an opportunity to read all 525 pages of Mr. Axelrod’s book,” he said. “The firsthand account that he provides in the book is not one that I would disagree with or quibble with. He obviously is sharing his views as he remembers them. Sometimes his perspective is informed by his up-close, front-row seat to history. That’s one of the reasons I’m interested in reading the book.”

Then he noted that voters had changed their views, too. (In 2008, 56% of Americans opposed it, while support was at 50% by the time Obama came out publicly in favor of it in 2012.)

“When the President made his first public comments regarding support for gay couples to marry, that was viewed as a pretty controversial political stance,” he said. “I think that’s an indication that the President was not the first person to articulate this position but certainly was at the beginning of a broader change we saw all across the country.”

And then he deflected the line of questioning by talking about Obama’s support for gay rights.

“That reflects the kind of record this President has amassed while in office when it comes to fighting for justice for all Americans including GLBT Americans,” he said. “From ending ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ to writing an Executive Order banning federal contractors from discriminating against their employees regardless of who they love or for speaking out so boldly in support of gay marriage.”

TIME Know Right Now

Know Right Now: Gay Marriages Go Ahead in Alabama

Despite a judge's order in defiance of federal ruling to allow gay marriage in the state.

Marriages between same-sex couples in Alabama began on Monday, despite an order by Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy S. Moore not to issue marriage licenses, in defiance of a federal judge’s ruling.

TIME russia

Russia Won’t Let Transgender People Drive

Rainbow flag
Getty Images

Among other "disorders" listed in new decree on restricting licenses

A new Russian law supposedly aimed at curbing the country’s high rates of traffic accidents effectively bans transgender people from obtaining driver’s licenses.

An official decree published this week, after having been signed by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Dec. 29, provides a list of illnesses that disqualify people from operating motor vehicles and includes gender identity disorders.

The law published Thursday does not explicitly ban transgender people. Instead, it singles out those with “personality and behavior disorders” by referencing a section of the International Classification of Diseases, published by the World Health Organization, which includes gender identity and behavior disorders like “pathological” gambling and fetishism.

The decree drew quick condemnation from the Association of Russian Lawyers for Human Rights. “The decision of Russian Government will cause the serious violations of human rights,” the organization said in a statement. “The decision demonstrates the prejudice against the groups of citizens.”

Russia has come under frequent scrutiny for its LGBT rights record, including its crackdown on “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

—Simon Shuster contributed reporting from Berlin

TIME Apple

Alabama to Vote on ‘Tim Cook’ Bill Barring Discrimination Against Gay Employees

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks at the WSJD Live conference in Laguna Beach, Calif., Oct. 27, 2014.
Lucy Nicholson—Reuters Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks at the WSJD Live conference in Laguna Beach, Calif., Oct. 27, 2014.

Apple CEO Tim Cook "honored" to lend his name to the bill

Alabama lawmakers plan to name an anti-discrimination bill after Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook, who disclosed in a magazine essay last October that he was gay.

The ‘Tim Cook’ bill will bar discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender state employees, including school teachers, Reuters reports.

Alabama’s only openly gay state lawmaker, Patricia Todd, told Reuters that she originally posed the name in jest, but it gained traction in the media and eventually reached Apple’s executive suite. A statement from Apple confirmed that Cook was “honored” to have his name attached to the bill.

The statement came after a company official reportedly called Todd to express reservations, a position that was later reversed by Apple’s general counsel.

“I never in a million years would have expected it,” Todd said.

Read more at Reuters.

TIME women

Rose McGowan Was Right: Women Can’t Lean on the Gay Rights Movement Anymore

amfAR LA Inspiration Gala Honoring Tom Ford Hosted By Gwyneth Paltrow
Jeffrey Mayer—WireImage Actress Rose McGowan attends amfAR LA Inspiration Gala honoring Tom Ford at Milk Studios on October 29, 2014 in Hollywood, California.

Steve Friess is a freelance writer.

LGBTers were once so desperate for allies that they supported any and every liberal cause

Seventeen years ago, in the dark ages of the gay-rights movement, I was a member of the board of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association when we voted to move our 1998 national convention from San Diego to Las Vegas in protest of California’s passage and subsequent legal defense of Proposition 187. Prop 187 had nothing to do with gay rights; it was a measure, later thrown out by the federal courts, that stopped undocumented immigrants from using health care, public education and other social services in the state.

I was new then to identity politics, so I naively wondered what this issue had to do with ours. It was explained to me that we “owed” our friends in the National Association of Hispanic Journalists because they moved their convention some years earlier from Colorado after that state passed a measure, also later invalidated in court, that barred cities or the state from enacting gay-rights measures.

The episode springs to mind this week because actress Rose McGowan endured a crushing backlash for her declaration that gay men owe it to women to support her definition of feminism. “Gay men are as misogynistic as straight men, if not more so,” she told the American Psycho author Bret Easton Ellis on his podcast. “I have an indictment of the gay community right now. I’m actually really upset with them.” After she was attacked for these statements, she backpedaled modestly and apologized for glibly suggesting the gay-rights movement was all about earning the ability to appear in Speedos in pride parades and take drugs. On Twitter, though, she suggested gay men owe women like her because, “I fought for your right to do that as well.”

To those who were offended and appalled by these remarks, I say, get used to it. But the Rose McGowans of the world also better get used to not being able to count on “gay people” as automatic supporters of every liberal or progressive cause. LGBTers were once so desperate for political allies that they had little choice but to show support for any and every other group that might return the favor, from racial minorities to women to the poor.

Now that gays have become stunningly successful at winning their key battles at a speed that is the envy of other minority movements, their political priorities are changing and their monolith is crumbling. There will always be a hearty component of the LGBT population who agree on principle with the goals of progressive groups, but going forward neither other oppressed groups nor the Democratic Party should assume gay support without earning it. We are morphing from an interest group to a constituency.

The fact is, the objectives of gay activists are decidedly different from that of advocates for abortion rights, amnesty for undocumented immigrants, universal health care, gun control, government assistance for the poor or legal protections for racial minorities. What these contingents and gays chiefly had in common – and still do, though perhaps not for long – were common enemies. It was the same gang — the religious right, straight white men and Republicans in general – who opposed all of us.

Yet as civil rights movements go, the gays have had a staunchly conservative and traditional agenda. Our chief aims over the past two decades were legal recognition of same-sex marriage, permission to serve openly in the armed services and freedom from legal interferences in private, consensual, adult sexual relationships or discrimination because of it. Translation: we’re pro-family, pro-military and anti-Big Government. Given that, is it really an obvious contradiction or hypocrisy to be both gay and a member of the National Rifle Association? Or to be gay and believe in lower taxes and less regulation? Or, heck, even to be gay and believe that abortion is murder – especially when science could very soon help parents screen for and then dispose of their gay fetuses?

For a long time – and still in certain quarters today – African-American and feminist leaders took great offense to the LGBT community’s insistence on equating the gay struggle with theirs. It has certainly been rhetorically useful for gays to do this, especially when we fought for an integrated military and marriage equality. But perhaps, after all, they were right. But now they resent not having knee-jerk support from gays and they wonder why that is.

Please note: I am not stating my own political beliefs here. I absolutely believe that gay people, having been oppressed and subject to vicious discrimination, would do well to hold on to their sense of social justice and have that empathy influence their views on many other matters.

But the cold reality is that progressive groups will someday soon be unable to presume the overwhelming support of gay people. The nation is rapidly approaching a point at which sexual orientation is seen as a distinction as insignificant and immutable as eye color. Once gays are comfortably mainstreamed, Republican presidential candidates will garner ever-larger chunks of votes from fiscally conservative and religious gays.

McGowan may not realize it, but this is what is bothering her. Gay men are, in fact, men first. We probably aren’t actually more misogynistic, as she contends, but there’s no obvious reason why we would necessarily be any less misogynistic than any other men.

There will be times in this gay new world when the interests of LGBTers will align in direct, obvious ways with that of other minorities, or in which alliances will be mutually beneficial to similar aims of both sides. And there will be times when they won’t. That’s going to be quite a shock to everyone who took us for granted for so long.

Steve Friess is an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based freelance writer and former senior writer covering technology for Politico.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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