TIME LGBT

Alabama Supreme Court Halts Same-Sex Marriage

The Alabama Supreme Court ordered the state's judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to gay couples

(MONTGOMERY, Ala.) — The Alabama Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the state’s probate judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, saying a previous federal ruling that gay-marriage bans violate the U.S. Constitution does not preclude them from following state law, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

The all-Republican court sided with the argument offered by a pair of conservative organizations when they appealed a decision last month by U.S. District Judge Callie Granade of Mobile, who ruled that both Alabama’s constitutional and statutory bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional.

Six justices concurred in the 134-page opinion, which wasn’t signed, but the court’s most outspoken opponent of gay marriage, Chief Justice Roy Moore, recused himself.

Immediately after Granade’s ruling, Moore told probate judges across the state they were not obliged to issue same-sex marriage licenses. His stance created widespread confusion, prompting some judges to refuse to issue the licenses and others to shut down their operations for all couples, gay and straight, until they could get a clear answer.

Justice Jim Main agreed with the result but said he has concerns about procedural aspects “of this highly unusual case.”

In a dissent, Justice Greg Shaw said it was “unfortunate” that federal courts refused to delay gay marriage in the state until the U.S. Supreme Court could settle the issue nationally. But, Shaw said, the state Supreme Court doesn’t have the power to consider the issue.

The court released the decision while Gov. Robert Bentley and most state leaders were assembled in Montgomery for the state of the state address. A spokeswoman for Bentley said the administration was reviewing the decision and had no immediate comment.

Joe Godfrey, executive director of the Alabama Citizens Action Program, said he was “very excited” about the decision blocking judges from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“We are concerned about the family and the danger that same-sex marriage will have. It will be a devastating blow to the family, which is already struggling,” Godfrey said.

Godfrey said the decision will give “some stability” in Alabama until the U.S Supreme Court rules later this year. An attorney couples who filed suit to allow gay marriages said the court showed “callous disregard” in the decision and overstepped its bounds by declaring that Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriages is constitutional, something the justices hadn’t been asked to consider.

“It is deeply unfortunate that even as nationwide marriage equality is on the horizon, the Alabama Supreme Court is determined to be on the wrong side of history,” said Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

The court’s ruling Tuesday came in response to a request from the Alabama Policy Institute and the Baptist-run Alabama Citizens Action Program to halt same-sex unions after Granade’s ruling.

TIME nebraska

Federal Judge Blocks Nebraska’s Gay Marriage Ban

The decision will not take effect until March 9

(OMAHA, Neb.) — A federal judge has blocked Nebraska’s gay marriage ban, but the decision will not take effect until March 9.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon on Monday ordered the state to not enforce its ban.

Seven same-sex couples filed a lawsuit last year challenging the state’s voter-backed ban. Last week, Bataillon heard arguments for and against a motion for an injunction to block enforcement of the ban while the lawsuit is pending.

The Nebraska Attorney General’s office has said it will appeal any decision blocking or overturning the voter-approved ban on gay marriage.

The U.S. Supreme Court announced Jan. 17 that it would decide whether same-sex couples have a right to marry under the Constitution. A decision is expected by late June.

 

TIME 2016 Election

Conservatives Mostly Silent on Gay Marriage at CPAC

Ted Cruz CPAC
Mark Peterson—Redux for TIME Ted Cruz speaks on stage at CPAC in National Harbor, Md. on Feb. 26, 2015.

Don't ask, don't tell

It’s a momentous time for gay marriage. Every few weeks a federal judge orders a state — most recently, deep-red Alabama — to recognize same-sex unions, bringing the total to 37. The Supreme Court could expand that nationwide with a ruling sometime this summer. But you wouldn’t know that from the discussions at a gathering of conservative activists this week.

At the Conservative Political Action Conference near Washington, talk of gay marriage was either brief or nonexistent. When prospective candidates brought up the issue, it was to quickly note their disapproval before moving onto another topic. Gone were the fiery speeches of just a few years ago.

“Marriage is a question for the states, and it is wrong for the federal government or unelected judges to tear down the marriage laws of the sates,” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said in a brief response to a question by Fox News host Sean Hannity on Thursday.

Attendees at CPAC, many of them young libertarians, are unenthusiastic about the family values moralizing that pervaded much of the conservative discussion on gay marriage over the past decade. At a small breakout session on marriage, some CPAC attendees loudly booed a speaker who advocated continuing the fight against marriage equality.

“Any outright condemnation of gay people is not just a non-starter with general electorate, but also with the conservative base here at CPAC,” Gregory T. Angelo, executive director of the conservative gay-rights group Log Cabin Republicans, told TIME. “It’s something that doesn’t resonate.”

One reason for the change at CPAC is the broader changes in public opinion. According to a Gallup poll taken in May last year, 55% of Americans believe same-sex marriage should be legal, with just 42% opposing. That’s a complete reversal of public opinion from 2004, when just 42% supported gay marriage and 55% opposed.

Gay marriage was once a rallying cry for conservatives at CPAC, much as it was on the national stage. In 2006, then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist vowed at CPAC to pass a constitutional ban of gay marriage.

Anti-gay marriage displays were much more common in previous years, such as one by the Traditional Values coalition in 2004, which featured a woman dressed as a bride serving wedding cake. Traditional Values’ chairman, a prominent conservative said at the conference that year, “Babylon is symbolic of promiscuity, hedonism and homosexuality,” according to a report in Salon at the time.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whose emerging presidential campaign has attracted moderate voices on gay marriage, appeared reluctant to speak about the topic just days hiring as his director of communications the strategist Tim Miller, who is gay. Hannity asked Bush whether his views on the issue have changed.

“I believe in traditional marriage,” Bush said curtly, without elaborating.

It was a contrast even with CPAC in 2014, when former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum reached out to evangelicals, saying “I want to talk about reclaiming marriage as a good for society and celebrating how important it is for our economy.” This year, Santorum devoted his speech to ISIS and foreign policy.

Young attendees at CPAC largely expressed support for gay marriage.

One young attendee and activist, Drew Constable, was adamant. “Any two consenting adults should be able to marry,” Constable said.

TIME brazil

Watch this Hilarious Reply to a Brazilian Politician’s Calls for ‘Heterosexual Pride’

“In a country like Brazil, with so many beautiful guys, it must be really hard to keep straight!”

Activists in Brazil have made a poignant parody video after a senior politician announced that there should be a day to celebrate heterosexual rights.

Eduardo Cunha, the president of Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies, asked the government to consider making Dec. 3 “heterosexual pride” day, reports the BBC.

Cunha’s remarks, not surprisingly, caused offense and inspired a group of filmmakers called Põe Na Roda to make a parody video exploring the fictional problems that straight people face.

Problems like, “Yesterday I was arrested because I was straight.”

The video has gone viral in the South American country, clocking more than 100,000 YouTube views in just a few days.

But the tongue-in-cheek video has a serious message.

“There’s no reason for straight people to have their own day,” Pedro Henrique Mendes Castilho, who made the film, told the BBC. “They have all the rights, they are not a minority group. I made the video in an ironic way to criticize [Cunha].”

[BBC]

TIME LGBT

Report Sheds New Light on Lives of Homeless Gay Youth

Rainbow flag on street
Christoph Hetzmannseder—Getty Images

Youth in New York share experiences selling their bodies in order to survive in new Urban Institute report

A new report paints a grim picture of homeless youths selling their bodies in order to survive on the streets.

In partnership with the New York-based Streetwise and Safe, the Urban Institute interviewed 283 youths who had engaged in sex work or so-called “survival sex” with people of the same gender, mostly while homeless, for its latest study.

The research built on several studies on homeless youth, including a survey out of New York that found that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth were seven times more likely to have traded sex for food or a place to stay.

Meredith Dank, a senior research associate at the Urban Institute and lead author of the study, said she realized during earlier research on sex work that there was not enough good information about why LGBT youths made these decisions, so the study focused on letting them tell their own stories.

“I realized at that point that there was so much that we didn’t know about this population,” she tells TIME. “And if we were really going to be able to serve the needs of these young people we needed to know exactly what their experiences were and the large breadth of their experiences.”

Many of the stories detailed in the report are telling; and a great deal of those who engaged in the work didn’t identify as gay—but they found themselves selling their bodies to people of the same sex in order to survive.

One 20-year-old straight male described his experience: “He asked me like do you really need the money? At that moment I thought I did. I felt I did and . . . like it was just like he grabbed me by like my waist and he just started doing it. And it was like . . . and I just like, try to close my eyes. Just try to think about something else.”

Another 19-year-old gay Latino said he felt he had no choice: “If you have no food in your stomach, if you have no transportation, but you have a man in your face willing to give you money for a half hour. You put your pride to the side, you throw everything out the window and you forget who you are and you forget what you’re doing and you learn to be someone else.”

The exact number of homeless youth is hard to pin down. In 2014, the Department of Education reported that 1.3 million school children are homeless. The Department of Housing and Urban Development estimated that a total of 578,424 people were homeless on a given night in 2014—about 10% were between the ages of 18 and 24. According to some estimates, as many as 40% of homeless youths are LGBT.

Even though the report focuses on New York City, Dank stressed that it is not “the place where all gay kids go to engage in survival sex.”

“Having had many conversations with people who work with this population in California, Florida, the Midwest, the Northwest,” she says. “They’re seeing the same things amongst the young people that they are working with, particularly with LGBT youth.”

Fifty-eight percent of the young people interviewed in the study lived either in a shelter or on the streets. About 30% lived in either a friend or family member’s home or in their own apartment, often giving the money they made in the sex trade to families members in need. Almost half of the participants were male, and the report includes insight into the experiences of trans males, which according to Dank is unprecedented.

The report comes as Congress is looking at human trafficking as a rare issue of bipartisan agreement. Already the House of Representatives has sent a number of bills on the issue to the Senate, although the legislation tends not to address the needs of homeless and LGBT youths. Dank says that’s a missed opportunity.

“If you’re going to be pouring resources and passing bills around this I think [it’s] important to know that this is another part of the population that needs to have their needs met and served,” she says.

TIME LGBT

U.S. Military Takes Baby Step Toward Allowing Transgender Soldiers

Advocates hopeful the longstanding ban could be lifted after recent comments from top officials

The new Secretary of Defense may be ushering in a new era of openness in the American military. Recent remarks made by Ashton Carter and the White House have raised the hopes of advocates that the nation’s ban on openly transgender soldiers may be starting to crack.

Carter publicly reignited the issue Sunday during a town hall meeting with soldiers in Afghanistan. Asked about changing the longstanding policy, Carter replied: “I’m very open-minded about [it] provided they can do what we need them to do for us. That’s the important criteria. Are they going to be excellent service members? And I don’t think anything but their suitability for service should preclude them.”

On Monday, The White House sounded a note of support. “The President agrees with the sentiment that all Americans who are qualified to serve should be able to serve,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said when he was asked about Carter’s response. “We here at the White House welcome the comments from the Secretary of Defense.”

To critics of the ban, the prominent backing is a sign that the military may finally be ready to scrap one of its last gender-based prohibitions. But experts caution that the likelihood of an actual policy shift remains uncertain.

“I’m hopeful that this means that the regulations will be brought into line,” says Joshua Block, an attorney with the ACLU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender & AIDS Project. “But the ball is squarely in DOD’s court to move forward with this.”

Transgender people are prevented from serving under Pentagon and military medical regulations barring people who have had a sex change operation and/or have “gender identity disorders.” Advocates for transgender service say these policies, which date to the early 1960s, are out of touch with the current medical thinking. The latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic bible, replaced “gender identity disorder” with gender dysphoria, a recognition that transgender people do not suffer from a mental illness.

Indeed, though the army does not provide hormone therapy to transgender soldiers, it approved the treatment for Chelsea Manning, the former army private convicted of leaking national security secrets, after she sued the federal government for failing to provide the treatments.

There are no official statistics on the number of transgender people in the military. A 2014 report from the Palm Center, a research institute that aids sexual minorities in the military, estimated that there as many as 15,000 transgender troops currently serving.

As a practical matter, the transgender service policy would be relatively easy to change. It does not require an act of Congress or an executive order by the President, but could be changed by the Secretary of Defense. Experts said this process should follow a formal review soliciting military, medical and scientific expertise that could take a few months, and a requisite training period to follow.

Pentagon spokesman Nathan Christensen said “there is no specific review of the Department’s transgender policy ongoing.” But Christensen said officials did begin a routine review of the Department of Defense’s medical policy earlier this month that will cover 26 systems of the human body, which would include—but is not specific to—the policy on transgender service. The review is expected to take up to 18 months.

This is not the first time the Obama Administration has expressed openness to changing the policy. In May of 2014, Carter’s predecessor, former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, told ABC News that he was “open” to a change in the policy. To advocates of ending the ban, the lack of concrete action following Hagel’s remark is a reminder to keep their hopes in check.

“It’s significant that this is the very first time that Secretary Carter has spoken publicly on this issue, it’s significant that it was five days after he was sworn in, it’s significant that the question came from the field from an actively serving naval officer. It’s especially significant to have the White House chime in so enthusiastically,” says Allyson Robinson, a veteran and advocate for transgender service. “But I don’t have a lot of faith in the regular routine review process. We need a top-down intentional review of these particular regulations at the DOD and service level and the only way that happens is from an order from the Secretary of Defense.”

TIME LGBT

TV Chef Guy Fieri Officiates at 101 Gay Weddings in Florida

Fellow chef Art Smith began planning the mass wedding after Florida lifted its ban on same-sex marriage

The host of Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives Guy Fieri officiated at a mass wedding ceremony in Miami, Florida on Saturday for 101 same-sex couples.

Celebrity chef and Florida native Art Smith, who has cooked for Oprah Winfrey and former governor Bob Graham, organized the giant wedding on Miami Beach, writes the Associated Press. He summoned some of the country’s top chefs, who were in town for the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, to help out.

Smith started planning the event in January, when he heard Florida had lifted a ban on same-sex marriage. He went to Twitter using the hashtag #101gayweddings and invited the first 101 couples to take part in the free wedding.

Smith explains the ‘101 Gay Weddings’ event was inspired by the movie 101 Dalmatians and is a dig at Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who has fought against lifting the ban on same-sex marriage.

“We have our own Cruella De Vil, Pam Bondi. She was determined that she was going to prevent equality from coming to Florida,” he said.

After the couples walked down the aisle they were treated to a delectable wedding feast and a seven-tier cake made by Ace of Cakes star Duff Goldman.

[AP]

TIME LGBT

The U.S. Has Appointed Its First Ever Special Envoy for LGBT Rights

The former U.S. consul general in the Netherlands has been named in the role

The U.S. appointed its first-ever special envoy on Monday to defend and promote the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

The State Department named Randy Berry, a gay senior diplomat who previously served as U.S. consul general in the Netherlands, to the role, reports Reuters.

In his new role, Berry will work to reduce violence and discrimination against LGBT people around the world, including those in some 75 countries where homosexuality and same-sex relationships are criminalized.

“Defending and promoting the human rights of LGBT persons is at the core of our commitment to advancing human rights globally — the heart and conscience of our diplomacy,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement.

[Reuters]

TIME LGBT

Gay Couple Becomes First to Wed in Texas

Marriage Equality
Eric Gay—AP A man wearing a rainbow-colored tie and Equality Texas flag rallies on the steps of the Texas Capitol to call for more equality for same-sex couples on Feb. 17, 2015, in Austin, Texas.

"We'll be making history"

Two women were legally married in Austin, Texas Thursday morning, becoming the first gay couple to wed in the state.

Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant, who have been together almost 31 years, said their vows outside the Travis County Clerk’s Office, the Austin Statesman reports. The couple said they had been denied a marriage license there eight years ago. Their wedding comes just two days after a Texas judge ruled the state’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional.

“It’s very exciting,” Bryant said before her wedding. “My little one was worried about missing her history class. I said we’ll be making history.”

[Austin Statesman]

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

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