TIME LGBT

U.S. Judge Strikes Down Florida’s Gay Marriage Ban

Gay male wedding figurines
Peter Dazeley—Getty Images

(MIAMI) — A federal judge on Thursday declared Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, joining judges across the country who have sided with gay couples wishing to tie the knot.

U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle in Tallahassee ruled that the ban added to Florida’s constitution by voters in 2008 violates the 14th Amendment’s guarantees of equal protection and due process. Hinkle issued a stay delaying the effect of his order, meaning no marriage licenses will be immediately issued for gay couples. That also means gay couples legally married in other states will not immediately have their marriages recognized in Florida.

Hinkle, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, compared bans on gay marriage to the long-abandoned prohibitions on interracial marriage and predicted both would be viewed by history the same way.

“When observers look back 50 years from now, the arguments supporting Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage, though just as sincerely held, will again seem an obvious pretext for discrimination,” Hinkle wrote in his ruling. “To paraphrase a civil rights leader from the age when interracial marriage was struck down, the arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Gay rights have long been a contentious issue in Florida, a politically complex swing state where the northern counties tend to lean Republican like their Deep South neighbors and parts of South Florida are reliably Democratic. In the 1970s, singer and orange juice spokeswoman Anita Bryant lobbied to overturn a Dade County ordinance banning discrimination against gays, though the protections were later reinstated.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, a Republican, has appealed previous rulings striking down the ban, which were issued earlier this year in Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach counties. Hinkle’s ruling allows time for appeals in the federal case. Bondi wants the Florida cases to remain on hold pending a definitive national ruling on gay marriage by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The U.S. Supreme Court, they need to decide this case, they are going to decide this case, hopefully sooner than later so we will have finality,” Bondi said earlier this week. “There are good people on both sides of this issue and we need to have finality for everyone involved.”

Gay marriage proponents have won more than 20 legal decisions against state same-sex marriage restrictions since the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court delayed an appeals court decision that would end Virginia’s gay marriage ban and, in January, the justices did the same thing in a same-sex marriage case in Utah. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati recently heard arguments in six same-sex marriage cases from Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

The latest Florida ruling came in a pair of lawsuits brought by gay couples seeking to marry in Florida and others who want to force Florida to recognize gay marriages performed legally in other states. Currently, 19 states and the District of Columbia permit same-sex marriage.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, which represented some of the gay couples, said the tide of rulings makes legal same-sex marriage in Florida appear inevitable.

“We’re very pleased to see the ban held unconstitutional in such unequivocal terms so that all Florida families will soon finally have the same protections,” said ACLU staff attorney Daniel Tilley.

Hinkle did add one wrinkle in his decision: he said the delay on marriages should have no effect on a proposed change to the death certificate of Carol Goldwasser, who was legally married in New York in 2011 to Arlene Goldberg before Goldwasser died earlier this year.

Goldberg, according to the ruling, has been unable to obtain Social Security survivor benefits because of Florida’s refusal to recognize their marriage, which could force her to sell her house. Hinkle said the amended death certificate showing the couple as spouses should be issued by Sept. 22, or 14 days after officials receive all the required information.

“There is no good reason to further deny Ms. Goldberg the simple human dignity of being listed on her spouse’s death certificate.” Hinkle said in his ruling. “Indeed, the state’s refusal to let that happen is a poignant illustration of the controversy that brings us here.”

___

Associated Press writer Gary Fineout in Tallahassee contributed to this story.

TIME faith

Yes, You Can Be Gay and Still Be Attractive to the Opposite Sex

PatheosLogo_Blue

This article originally appeared on Patheos.

Last week, U.K. Christian singer Vicky Beeching won some queer friends — and lost some Christian ones — when she came out as gay in an interview with The Independent.

Right off the bat, Beeching crushed the notion that you can’t be simultaneously gay, Christian, and content with yourself. In an interview with notorious homophobe Scott Lively, she shot down every one of his bigoted remarks, including his suggestion that she look to God to “change” herself.

Beeching went on to say that we need to “accept our sexual orientation as a God-given gift.”

Lively replied, “There is no such thing as a gay person. It’s this identity you adopt.”

“I believe God has made me the way he’s made me. It’s taken me thirty-five years to come to terms with that, and I believe that’s it’s part of my God-wired identity,” Beeching retorted.

After Lively said that God has the ability to help her “overcome your sexual inclinations,” Beeching replied, “That kind of thinking has been so damaging to me and it damages so many people.”

Beeching is easily a role model for LGBT people (Christian and otherwise) who need the validation and affirmation they don’t get from most churches. That’s why it’s so upsetting that Ed Vitagliano, a writer for the Christian site Charisma News, is not only “disappointed” in Beeching’s coming out, but claims she’s “broken” for saying it.

First, Vitagliano states that he loves homosexuals. It’s literally his first sentence: “I love homosexuals.” He “feels compassion toward them,” he says later, because he simply can’t imagine what it would have been like to have a crush on a boy as a kid. Then, he tests my ability not to throw my computer out a window by saying it’s hard to imagine Beeching is gay because men find her attractive:

I think most men would think that Vicky is a pretty lady, and those sorts of appraisals are usually made without thinking. This makes the subject of sexual orientation rather difficult to understand at times.

What’s truly offensive is his stream-of-consciousness attempt at explaining the origins of homosexuality. To preserve its horridness, here’s the bulk of his rant:

What causes homosexuality? I think there’s probably a web of causes — some apply to this group, some to that, etc. I believe that some homosexuals have endured sexual abuse or other trauma; others suffer from a deficit of some sort that turned them toward the same-sex side of the aisle in an attempt to heal.

At this point I realize I have offended most of the homosexuals reading this. So let me even the score and offend some Christians: I believe some percentage of homosexuals (I have no idea how large or small) simply grew up just like me — only different. Instead of having a crush on an opposite-sex person, they experienced a crush on a same-sex person. To them it appeared just that natural.

But if there’s a God who designed us — and I believe there is — then we obviously aren’t designed to be attracted to the same sex. With my apologies to the Vicky Beechings of the world, the human race is clearly designed as male and female, with sexually complementary equipment. We are obviously intended to grow through childhood and enter puberty attracted to the opposite sex — because that’s the only thing that makes sense of the biological design inherent in humankind.

So for Vicky and Ray and Jennifer and Clay — how do we explain the fact that their attraction developed in complete disregard for design? Here’s the short answer: They’re broken. Why is that so hard to say? Sexual and romantic attraction was supposed to develop one way, and it developed another. Maybe it was because of something that was done to them or around them; maybe it wasn’t. But it is different.

His conclusion isn’t new, but that doesn’t make it any less awful. He’s claiming, as so many do, that love, relationships, and basic human existence have no significance beyond reproduction. Never mind that most LGBT people are still physically capable of producing offspring (and they do); Vitagliano’s perspective is that nothing about us as human beings matters except our ability to pop out kids. Personal experiences? Nope. Emotions? Glitch in the system. Would he use this logic to call elderly different-sex couples broken? Or those who can’t have their own children?

Actually, he might. He goes on to compare homosexuality to blindness, both “conditions” that make a person broken. He says this over and over:

Are we not all broken in small and large ways? As a fallen race, isn’t there a web of characteristics about us all that doesn’t reflect the way God designed us? If a child is born blind, does that mean God approves? Isn’t it a sign that something is not as intended?

Eyes were created to see. To not see is not the same as being able to see. The blind are still human, but their brokenness is still brokenness. But isn’t that what we’re doing with homosexuality? Aren’t we denying the obvious — that there’s a disconnect between design and operation in the homosexual? Aren’t many in our society applauding as courageous those who declare their brokenness to be wholeness?

If by “we are all broken,” he means that we all deal with unique challenges over the course of our lives, then yes, we are all broken. But my fear is that he’s being far more literal than that. He perceives LGBT people — and apparently blind people, and people who are paralyzed, and who knows who else — as somehow unable to live and exist freely, happily and, yes, wholly. And he shames people who embrace their differences, an accusation that I can only assume extends beyond LGBT people, but also to other groups of people he considers “broken.”

Only God can make a broken person whole. Sometimes it is done as a miracle, as when Jesus healed a blind or lame or paralyzed person. Sometimes we must wait for our entrance into the kingdom of heaven, when all brokenness is finally healed.

I believe God can make homosexuals whole in this life. Despite the ridicule that follows such a statement, I believe that does happen. 1 Cor. 6:9-11 says so. However, for many — or even most — homosexuals, in order to be Christians they will have to accept that their “orientation” is a manifestation of brokenness, not wholeness. Like the rest of us who are broken in some other way, they will have to reject that lameness and give it to God. They will hobble through life learning to love Him more and more — and yes, learning to obey Him.

In that way, homosexuals are just like me. No better and no worse, but broken nonetheless.

(For the record, I don’t see Vitagliano standing up to proudly claim his own “brokenness” the way Beeching and so many others have. But that’s beside the point.)

While being gay does bring some people hardship, asserting that it will inherently affect a person’s quality of life — or worse, take away from their very worth as a person — does nothing except drive more LGBT people to deny their true selves, resent and loathe their feelings, and, as Beeching said, live a lie. We are more than the function of our bodies. I don’t know what’s taking so many people so long to realize it.

Vitagliano claiming that he feels “compassion toward homosexuals” is an outright lie. It’s gravely offensive to me, to Vicky Beeching, to my fellow queer folks, and even to Christians that he would dare say it.

runs an LGBT news blog at gaywrites.org.

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TIME LGBT

Smithsonian Expands Collection of LGBT Artifacts

National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
The facade of Smithsonian's National Museum of American History is lit up at dusk on June 4, 2013. John Greim—LightRocket /Getty Image

A donation from the TV show Will and Grace kicks off a wider effort to document the history of sexual orientation

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History announced Tuesday a significant expansion to its collection of artifacts documenting the history of America’s sexual minorities.

The expanded collection includes a donation of studio props from the television series Will and Grace, which debuted in 1998 with one of the first openly gay characters on primetime television. It also includes diplomatic passports from the first openly gay U.S. ambassador, David Huebner, and his husband, Duane McWaine, and a racquet that formerly belonged to transgender tennis player Renee Richards, who challenged a league-wide ban on transgendered players.

The museum said in a statement that the recent acquisitions mark a “long tradition of documenting the full breadth of the American experience and what it means to be an American. The LGBT narrative is an important part of that American story, and the Smithsonian has been documenting and collecting related objects for many years.”

 

TIME College Sports

Arizona State University Student Now 1st Openly Gay Division I Football Player

Edward "Chip" Sarafin
Edward "Chip" Sarafin in Phoenix. Arizona State University outside linebacker Sarafin has told a local magazine he is gay, making him the first active Division I football player to come out Arizon State University/AP

Edward Sarafin, a fifth-year student working toward a master's in biomedical engineering, is a linebacker for the Sun Devils

Correction appended, Aug. 14

An Arizona State University football player became the first openly gay Division I football player on Wednesday after coming out in an article published in a gay sports magazine.

Edward “Chip” Sarafin is an offensive lineman with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering and who is working toward his master’s at Arizona State University. He told Compete, an Arizona-based gay sports magazine, he started coming out to his teammates last spring so they’d hear it from him, rather than through rumors.

“It was really personal to me, and it benefited my peace of mind greatly,” Sarafin said.

Leaders within the Arizona Sun Devils Athletic Department issued statements in support of Sarafin on Wednesday, while members of the Sun Devil Brotherhood tweeted messages of encouragement. “The entire athletics department is extremely proud of Chip and is unequivocally supportive of him,” vice president of university athletics Ray Anderson said, noting Sarafin’s achievements on and off of the field, including research he’s conducted on football-related concussion.

The football team’s head coach Todd Graham said, “”We are a brotherhood that is not defined by cultural and personal differences, but rather an individual’s commitment to the Sun Devil Way.”

Sarafin’s openness about his sexuality comes months after the NFL drafted its first ever openly gay player Michael Sam, who is currently a linebacker for the St. Louis Rams. On Wednesday, Sam sent out a congratulatory tweet to Sarafin.

Correction: The original version of this story misstated Sarafin’s position.

TIME Courts

Same-Sex Marriage Ban Survives Challenge in Tennessee

First such prohibition to withstand a constitutional challenge since June 2013

Tennessee’s same-sex marriage ban has survived a constitutional challenge in court, the first prohibition to withstand such a challenge in almost 14 months.

Roane County Circuit Judge Russell Simmons ruled that “neither the Federal Government nor another state should be allowed to dictate to Tennessee what has traditionally been a state’s responsibility,” in ruling from last Tuesday, SCOTUSblog reports.

More than two dozen federal and state court rulings since the Supreme Court’s United States v. Windsor decision in June 2013 have successfully challenged and/or nullified bans. Simmons’ ruling rejects both a claim of discrimination and a claim that the Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause forces the state to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

“The Supreme Court does not go the final step and find that a state that defines marriage as a union of one man and one woman is unconstitutional,” Simmons wrote. “Further, the Supreme Court does not find that one state’s refusal to accept another state’s valid same-sex marriage to be in violation of the U.S. Constitution.”

Simmons’ ruling only formally addressed and upheld the part of Tennessee’s ban that doesn’t recognize pre-existing same-sex marriages from other states, though this aspect is now being reviewed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

[SCOTUSblog]

TIME Religion

LGBT Americans Less Likely to Be Religious

While 41% of non-LGBT Americans identify as highly religious, only 24% of LGBT Americans feel the same

Lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender Americans are far less likely to identify as religious than non-LGBT people in the U.S., according to new Gallup poll.

Only 24% of LGBT Americans identify as “highly religious” — meaning that religion is an important part of daily life and services are attended weekly or almost weekly — compared with 41% of non-LGBT Americans. For LGBT Americans, 47% identify as nonreligious, while only 30% of non-LGBT Americans do.

One common explanation behind the disparity is that LGBT Americans may feel less welcome to participate in religious congregations or organizations, although religious groups have become more accepting in recent years. According to the Public Religion Research Institute, same-sex marriage was opposed by most religious groups as recently ago as 2003. Today, a majority of Jewish Americans, white mainline Protestants, and white and Hispanic Catholics support marriage equality.

Other explanations are demographic: LGBT Americans may be more likely to live in cities, where religious participation is less frequent. The population of self-identified LGBT Americans also skews younger, and young people are the least likely to be religious in the country. The poll, however, notes that age structure alone doesn’t explain it all — young LGBT Americans are still less religious than non-LGBT Americans within the same age bracket.

Other findings include:

  • While 83% of non-LGBT Americans identify with a particular religion, only 67% of LGBT adults do.
  • While 66% of non-LGBT Americans say religion is important in their daily lives, only half of LGBT Americans feel the same way.
  • More than half of the non-LGBT population in the country is Protestant, but only 35% of LGBT adults identify as the same.
  • 42% of non-LGBT Americans attend services regularly, while roughly a quarter of LGBT Americans do.

The data was collected during 104,000 interviews conducted between January and July of this year. A total of 3,242 adults interviewed identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

TIME Boxing

Boxing Promoter Frank Maloney Reveals Gender Change

"Living with the burden any longer would have killed me."

Frank Maloney, the boxing promoter who guided Lennox Lewis to a world heavyweight title, has revealed he now lives as a woman named Kellie and is undergoing gender reassignment surgery.

“I was born in the wrong body and I have always known I was a woman,” Kellie said in an interview with British newspaper The Sunday Mirror. “What was wrong at birth is now being medically corrected. I have a female brain. I knew I was different from the minute I could compare myself to other children.”

Maloney, 61, retired from involvement in boxing last October and led several fighters to titles, including Lennox Lewis.

Maloney ran for mayor of London as a candidate for the rightwing UK Independence Party in 2004, and was condemned for making homophobic remarks during his campaign. He refused to campaign in the borough of Camden, saying there were “too many gays” there.

“I don’t think they [gay people] do a lot for society. I don’t have a problem with gays, what I have a problem with is them openly flaunting their sexuality,” Maloney said at the time. “I’m more for traditional family values and family life.” He lost his bid for mayor, capturing less than 3% of the vote.

In her interview with the Mirror, Maloney said, “I can’t keep living in the shadows, that is why I am doing what I am today. Living with the burden any longer would have killed me.”

[The Sunday Mirror]

 

TIME Uganda

Lawyer Who Led Challenge of Uganda’s Anti-Gay Law: ‘Long, Long Way to Go’

Uganda Gays
A Ugandan homosexual photographed in a safe-house at an undisclosed location in Uganda, in March 2014. AP

Nicholas Opiyo talks human rights, the U.S.'s role in his country's morality-politics, and what's next for LGBT rights in Uganda

Nicholas Opiyo, the lawyer who led a constitutional challenge of Uganda’s anti-gay law, says that while the days of gays, lesbians and transgendered people getting publicly flogged may be gone, ongoing acts of discrimination against LGBT Ugandans keep him pushing for equal rights in the East African nation.

“That is what is most scary,” Opiyo told TIME. “The unseen, the unreported, the unwritten discrimination in the shop you go to, in the medical center you go to, on the bus you take or on the motor bike you take into town. That breaks your spirit.”

In March, just days after Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed the restrictive bill that punished gays with life imprisonment as punishment for their sexual activities, Opiyo and a group of Ugandan activists and lawyers challenged the law in court. On August 1, they found success through a somewhat unusual means: Uganda’s constitutional court declared the law null and void because Parliament didn’t have a quorum when it was passed.

While the law was stricken down on account of a technicality, and lawmakers said Tuesday they had the votes necessary to re-pass the bill, activists have declared the court’s decision a victory, albeit only one step in an ongoing battle. For Opiyo, who says he grew up wanting to stand up for the underprivileged, the decision to join the fight for LGBT rights in the country was simple.

“I’m a human rights lawyer,” said Opiyo, the executive director of Ugandan human rights organization Chapter Four. “This is human rights. You’re talking about the right to associate; the right to choose your partner; the right to love who you want to love. These are human rights. To call it LGBTI rights is misleading.”

Having traveled to Washington, D.C. for the U.S.-Africa summit, Opiyo said that though he was able to meet with human rights workers, lawmakers and other stakeholders in the global fight for equality, the summit itself was a missed opportunity to have substantial conversations about the struggles Africans are facing across the continent on a daily basis.

The following Q&A is a sampling of the conversation between TIME and Opiyo. It has been condensed and edited for space.

TIME: What would you say the status of LGBT rights is in Uganda in the wake of last’s week’s decision?

Opiyo: Nothing has changed much. The deep sense of homophobia in Uganda remains unchanged. In any case, it’s only been made worse by this ruling, because the debate has been reopened in a more bitter and fierce manner than we’ve seen before. To be positive, certain incidental things that are good will happen because of the ruling. First, individuals and organizations that have been facing arrest, intimidation or investigation will now have all those cases against them dropped, because the very foundation for these cases has now been declared unlawful. Organizations that have been closed under the [Anti-Homosexuality Act] will now have their operations resume without the fear of the law constricting their work. Even if parliament is resolved, as they are now, to reintroduce the law … they will at least pay attention, some attention to the issues that we have raised in our petition, and perhaps have a somewhat watered down or even—I’m hoping—progressive law in that regard.

This law was one of a couple of instances of morality politics coming into play in Uganda. What do you think the draw is to laws like this in Uganda and across Africa?

There has been a growing influence of American evangelical ideologies in the policies of government in Uganda. The examples are plenty in Uganda—in the HIV/AIDS campaign, Uganda was praised for its response to the HIV/AIDS campaign because it had the message for condom use. When the Christian evangelists got a foothold in influencing government, the policies changed from condom use to abstinence and being faithful. Condoms were “by-the-way;” that was the influence of what we call in Uganda people who are saved. If you look at the laws that have passed since then, whether it is a media law or an NGO law, it has a strong element of public morality. That’s new, what seems to be in my view, a moralization of the legislation process. They have a strong foothold in government mainly because the Pentecostal movement is a big movement. They have numbers, they have young people, and they have a huge following. Politicians like numbers.

Is there a benefit to having this influence? And if not, what is the downside?

Not every Ugandan is Christian. Not every Ugandan subscribes to the moral values. We’re supposed to be a secular state, but we are drifting away from being a secular state to a state driven largely by religious values and thinking, and that for me is a huge downside. What happens to people who don’t believe in those values? What happens to atheists? What happens to Muslims? It creates a society where there is a majority that wants to impose their values and systems onto the whole community.

But faith can be a force for good. Faith can be an avenue for the delivery of services; many parts of our country that were under war survived because faith organizations were able to stay through the conflict and provide support—that’s the upside. But in my view I think the downside is extremely dangerous.

What role does the American government play in all of this? Can the American government in any way step in, interject?

The people who advocated for the AHA were motivated by, financed by, American evangelicals. It’s an American group driving this debate at home. This debate was not a popular debate. It was not an issue in Uganda because people in Uganda are struggling about food, employment, medical care, access to medical services, education—these are the things that occupy the people in my village, in my town. Not homosexuality—that was a non-issue. This issue was put in the national debate because of the influence of the American evangelical movement. The Americans brought this to our country they’ve got to sort themselves out back home, here, to ensure that the radical American preachers don’t spread hatred across the world.

Secondly, I think that the American government must understand that their response to this issue in Uganda at some point escalated this debate and shifted the narrative of this debate from being a human rights issue to a new colonial attempt by Americans to impose their values on Ugandans. The politicians are very quick to pounce on that. The debate shifted to America versus Uganda, not about Ugandan people who face discrimination every day. The American government can redefine this narrative by given prominence to local leaders. This is a Ugandan problem. Ugandans must find the solution to it.

What is it like working on the ground, addressing the issue of LGBT rights? How is it received?

It’s very very tough. It’s not exciting. You’ve got to have a lot of courage to stay your course. People will throw insults at you—you just have to go to my Facebook page to see the amount of insults people are throwing at me on Facebook, on Twitter. It’s difficult. People begin to put pressure on your family, on your relatives and that translates to pressure on you as a person. It’s extremely difficult. I haven’t felt physically insecure, but I felt the narrative vibe coming my way.

The height of it was in March this year, I was the Secretary General of the Bar Association of Kampala, I was in charge of managing all the affairs of all the lawyers in Uganda. At the annual meeting, a group called “The Ugandan Christian Lawyers Association” launched a campaign against me because of my involvement in this case and made sure I was booted out of the law society. Those things have happened, but in my view it is no way close to the pain and suffering that members of the community are going through. It’s not even half of it.

What makes you stay the course?

This is human rights. This is not a special category of rights. You’re talking about the right to associate; the right to choose your partner; the right to love who you want to love. These are human rights. To call it LGBTI rights is misleading. I’ve always been a human rights lawyer. I grew up in a war-torn area in Northern Uganda. I’ve been in a very underprivileged position, but I’ve always wanted to do something about it. I thought at first I should be a journalist, but I figured out writing alone doesn’t help. So I figured I should be a lawyer and here I am.

For me, whether you’re LGBTI, whether you’re a disabled person, whether you’re a woman, anybody whose rights are being abused. I will always defend your rights because to me they are human rights. I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for people supporting my family and people supporting what they believed was good. It is less prestigious, but I derive immense pleasure from seeing somebody walk free after being intimidated or being arrested.

Where’s the disconnect between understanding the benefits of human rights and the impact that equality can have on the people of Uganda—like you mentioned—how do these multiple issues play hand-in-hand?

In terms of LGBTI issues in Uganda, I think the discussion has been presented in a way that they’re separate. When you talk about health care, you aren’t talking about LGBTI rights. The discussion hasn’t been–there’s no interplay. We’ve tended to compartmentalize these issues. There hasn’t been a wholistic approach to this issue—even those working on this issue tend to look at it from a very narrow lens as opposed to an overall issue of discrimination. We’ve done a lot of work around discrimination against women, against persons with disabilities, and stigma around HIV/AIDS—you’d think that the same momentum would be applied on this issue, but it is not because people tend to look at it from different lenses, but in my view it is not. In my view that’s not helpful. In my view, there needs to be a consistent, overall approach to human rights no matter who the human being is.

This week was the U.S.-Africa summit. A couple of years back, President Barack Obama said Africa needs “strong institutions, not strongmen.” A number of people, including Daniel Bekele of Human Rights Watch, said this week’s summit should be about more than paying lip service to human rights. How do you think this conference succeeded in doing that and how do you think it failed?

This conference seemed to be more focused on issues of securities and investments, at least the ones I’ve taken part in, there has not been a meaningful engagement between civil society and those working on human rights issues and the heads of states. The thing about the heads of states, they did not engage enough on the issues of human rights. Yes, in the final press statement President Obama talked about good governance, rule of law, but it appears to me the focus has been on economics. In that room were leaders of the continent who have questionable human rights records, it would have sent a strong message if these leaders were excluded from this conference or excluded from relations of dealing with the American government.

How do you not invite Mugabe but invite Jammeh of the Gambia? What’s the difference? They are all dictators. They have been in power for over 30 years. I think the American government needs to focus on dealing with human rights as a core function of their foreign policy towards the African continent, and must not put economic and security interests above human rights issues. I thought in this summit the discussion about human rights has been very, very light.

When do you think gays, lesbians, transgendered people will be completely safe in Uganda? How long do you think that will take?

That is difficult to tell, precisely because the sense of homophobia, the sense of discrimination is so deeply entrenched. It’s going to be a long journey that will require patience; that will require deliberate actions on the part of both sides of the debate. But ultimately it’s going to take the commitment of the politicians and the leaders to reshape the narrative and the debate in our country. There has to be an honest debate within the faith community on this matter. In much the same way that they’re having an honest debate about the rights of women—that debate must come out. As long as the leaders are playing by the popular sentiment and not enforcing the values and obligations that signed up to do in their various human rights instruments this matter will still be delayed. It’s a long, long way to go. I can’t put a number to it but I think that it’s going to be a long walk and a difficult one at that.

TIME Gay Games

Gay Games 9 to Begin Saturday in Ohio

Gay Games Preview
A man looks over Gay Games t-shirts for sale in the downtown convention center in Cleveland on Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Mark Duncan/AP

Cleveland and Akron tourism officials hope the Games will turn the region into a tourist destination for the gay community

(CLEVELAND)— If Cleveland and Akron seem like odd choices to host the international Gay Games, that’s because they are. The eight previous hosts for this quadrennial affair have been gay-friendly cities with identifiable “gayborhoods” — places where those who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered feel comfortable living and hanging out.

Cleveland and Akron don’t have gayborhoods and their LGBT communities generally keep a low profile. That will all change Saturday with the opening ceremonies for Gay Games 9 at Quicken Loans Arena in downtown Cleveland. The Games run through Aug. 16.

Gay media outlets pilloried the decision to try and bring the 2014 Games to northeast Ohio, which was competing against the more gay friendly cities of Boston and Washington.

A group no longer associated with Gay Games 9 joined forces with officials from Cleveland, Akron and their respective tourism boards to convince Gay Games officials that northeast Ohio would represent a big win for everyone.

Tourism officials hope the Games will turn the region into a tourist destination for the gay community.

“The biggest reason for the region to host the Gay Games is the kind of legacy it can leave for northeastOhio,” said David Gilbert of Positively Cleveland and the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission. “The eyes of the LGBT world and LGBT media will be on Cleveland and will give our community a chance to shine.”

Boosters for the region had plenty of ammunition for selling the region’s venues for the Games’ events. But they also pushed the idea that bringing the Games into the heart of the Rust Belt would provide an opportunity to chip away at barriers that persist between the straight and gay communities through simple interactions and by dispelling stereotypes. Games organizers stress how skilled and competitive many of the competitors are and that many played their respective sports at the college level.

“The Games are about diversity, about changing hearts and minds,” said Tom Nobbe, one of the Gameslead organizers, in an interview with The Associated Press.

About 8,000 people have registered to participate in the Games’ more than 35 events, which range from traditional sports like track and field and basketball to the non-traditional, such as rodeo and ballroom dancing. The participants come from 51 countries and 48 states.

While registration numbers are lower than for past games — Cologne, Germany, had 9,500 registrants in 2010 and Chicago had 12,000 in 2006 — Nobbe said he was thrilled by the number of registrants forGay Games 9. He attributed the lower number to the Akron and Cleveland region being the smallest to ever host the Gay Games. The metropolitan areas for the two cities have a combined population of about 2.7 million. Games officials hope as many as 30,000 people will participate or attend events during the weeklong Games.

As a gay man and Greater Cleveland native, Nobbe called the Games the “event of a lifetime.” He said he would be participating in one of the swimming events.

In keeping with the Gay Games credo of “Participation, Inclusion and Personal Best,” straight people were encouraged to register for events. The Games for the first time is partnering with local, non-gay groups for events such as rowing and the open water swim. The golf tournament at historic Firestone Country Club in Akron likely will draw a number of straight competitors.

While there are no gayborhoods, organizers expect participants to find gay clubs and bars scattered around the area. They also hope visitors are made to feel welcome at businesses throughout the region. In downtown Cleveland, bars and restaurants have placed decals in their windows that say “GG9″ in the hope of inviting visitors inside. The Games are expected to produce tens of millions of dollars in local spending, Positively Cleveland’s Gilbert said.

Nobbe and Games co-organizer Rob Smitherman, a former college basketball player who will be playing for a team during the Games, said they have been heartened by the support they’ve received from the gayand straight communities. They proudly point out how industrial heavyweights like Lubrizol Corp. and Eaton Corp., are sponsors even though the companies have no obvious reasons to be supportive. Dozens of sponsors have helped the Games raise nearly $3 million in cash and in-kind contributions, Nobbe and Smitherman said.

Those contributions, the men said, are more examples of how organizers have been uniformly met with enthusiasm throughout the community. While northeast Ohio may not have a gay friendly reputation, they’ve seen no evidence to the contrary. Nobbe and Smitherman said many of the 2,000 volunteers for the Games are straight.

Yet Nobbe is not naive about the potential for homophobic confrontations. He said he has marched in enough Gay Pride parades to know better, but added that police, the FBI, Homeland Security and other law enforcement agencies have worked closely with organizers and that he does not anticipate any trouble.

While he might be overly optimistic, Nobbe would like to think Cleveland has reached a “post-gay” period when sexual orientation no longer matters.

“It’s not an issue any more,” Nobbe said.

Phyllis Harris, executive director of the Cleveland LGBT Center, at the invitation of the Cleveland Police Department, has held “competency training” for most of the officers on the force. She said she found their attentiveness to her message encouraging. And she is excited by the chance her hometown of Cleveland has been given.

“I want us to show up,” Harris said. “This is one of those opportunities that we happen to have and I think we’ll be all right. I would ask skeptics to get involved and put their money where their mouth is.”

TIME LGBT

Oklahoma Gay Marriage Case Appealed to High Court

Sharon Baldwin, Mary Bishop
Plaintiffs challenging Oklahoma's gay marriage ban Sharon Baldwin, left, and her partner Mary Bishop leave court following a hearing at the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Colorado on Thursday, April 17, 2014. Brennan Linsley—AP

Utah also has appealed its overturned ban to the Supreme Court

(TULSA, Okla.) — The U.S. Supreme Court is being asked to decide whether Oklahoma’s ban on gay marriage is constitutional.

The appeal was filed Wednesday by an organization representing Tulsa County Clerk Sally Howe Smith, who was sued after refusing to grant a marriage license to a same-sex couple several years ago.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the couple last month, upholding a federal judge’s ruling that found the ban unconstitutional. However, those rulings are on hold as the case moves through the courts, meaning same-sex couples haven’t been allowed to marry in Oklahoma.

The ban was overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2004. The couple who sued, Sharon Baldwin and Mary Bishop, challenged the ban shortly thereafter.

Utah also has appealed its overturned ban to the Supreme Court.

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