Tuesday Lambda Legal filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia on behalf of a widow and three same-sex couples challenging Georgia’s discriminatory marriage ban. The case was filed on behalf of Christopher Inniss and Shelton Stroman of Snellville, Rayshawn Chandler and Avery Chandler of Jonesboro, Michael Bishop and Shane Thomas of Atlanta, and Jennifer Sisson of Decatur.
“Georgia is our home. Our family is here, our business is here, and our community here is a great support for us,” said Christopher Inniss, veterinarian and pet resort owner. “Shelton and I have been together for 13 years. We own a home together, we own a business together, and we are raising our son, Jonathan, together. We have done everything we can to protect and take responsibility for our family but marriage is the only way to ensure that we are treated as the family that we are. We need the protection that marriage affords.”
Lead plaintiffs Chris, 39, and his partner Shelton Stroman, 41, have been together for 13 years. Their son, Jonathan, is 9.
“Every day that same-sex couples in Georgia are denied the freedom to marry, the government sends a message that their families are not worthy of dignity and respect,” said Tara Borelli, Senior Attorney in Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office based in Atlanta. “Georgians believe in the Southern values of love, honor and family, but as long as the State of Georgia continues to bar same-sex couples from marriage, it devalues these families and reinforces unfairness and discrimination.”
“Georgia joins a growing chorus of Southern voices clamoring for marriage equality. The freedom to marry is indeed coming south. We do not want a country divided by unfairness and discrimination. Same-sex couples are in loving, committed relationships in every region of our nation and should be treated the same way, whether they live in the Empire State or the Peach State,” said Beth Littrell, Senior Attorney also based in Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office.
Joining Inniss and Stroman as plaintiffs in the lawsuit are: Rayshawn Chandler, 29, and Avery Chandler, 30, Atlanta Police Department police officers who have been together for almost three years; Michael Bishop, 50, and Shane Thomas, 44, together for seven years and the parents of two children; and Jennifer Sisson, 34, whose wife, Pamela Drenner, died on March 1 at age 49. Jennifer and Pam were married in New York in 2013. Despite being legally married, the State of Georgia has refused to list Jennifer as Pam’s wife on Pam’s death certificate.
In the lawsuit, Lambda Legal, joined by pro bono co-counsel from Bryan Cave and White & Case, argues that Georgia’s marriage ban unfairly discriminates against same-sex couples and sends a purposeful message that lesbians, gay men, and their children are second-class citizens who are undeserving of the legal sanction, respect, protections, and support that different-sex couples and their families are able to enjoy through marriage.
“Today’s filing represents a critically important step in the ongoing work toward marriage equality in Georgia. Georgia Equality stands with these inspiring couples in their fight to enable more than 21,000 same-sex couples and their families living in Georgia the freedom to marry the person who they love,” said Jeff Graham, Georgia Equality Executive Director.
Read the complaint here.
Learn more about Lambda Legal’s Love Unites US campaign here.
Lambda Legal attorneys Tara Borelli, Beth Littrell, Gregory Nevins, and Susan Sommer are handling the case, joined by Georgia co-counsel William V. Custer of Bryan Cave LLP and David P. Draigh of White & Case LLP.
The case is Inniss v. Aderhold.
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Pharrell Williams would be “happy” if equality was reached for all people.
The 41-year-old singer was promoting his album G I R L on the Ellen DeGeneres Show and talked about pay inequality between men and women.
“There is a lot of inequality with women and you know how that goes,” he said. “Everything from, you know…still to this day, what is it, 73 cents to a man’s dollar? Like what is that? The last I heard, this whole entire species can only come into existence through the portal in a woman’s body.”
Pharrell went on to question how we have made so many scientific discoveries, yet we haven’t figured out equality.
“We’re a species that has had a space station floating around the earth for over 20 years – we even have a rover on a surface of Mars – how can we be the same species that has legislators and legislations in a place that are telling women what they can and can’t do with their bodies?” He asked. “How is that possible?”
His belief of equality encompasses homosexuality as well and he lives by his motto “live and let live.”
“And when I saw equality – you may be surprised – I mean equality for everybody. Like, who are you telling who they can marry and who they can’t,” he said. “What is this? This is 2014.”
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Photo Credit: Karl Hab
They say that money talks, and nowhere is that more true than in politics.
Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry is launching a $1 million campaign to reform the national Republican Party platform between now and the 2016 GOP convention. The group’s aim is to strike existing anti-gay language from the official party platform and replace it with more respectful and unifying language.
“It’s time to modernize the Republican Party,” said Tyler Deaton, campaign manager for the Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry. “Our aim is to make the national platform less divisive toward gay people and their families – and more focused on unifying all conservatives around our core beliefs of freedom, family, and limited government. The future of the Party is clear on the marriage issue- a seismic shift is already underway in support of the freedom to marry.”
A Pew poll earlier this year shows 61 percent of Republicans under the age of 30 supporting gay couples marrying. Another poll by the New York Times/CBS News shows a majority of Republicans under 45 are also supportive.
The campaign is also in response to the Republican National Committee’s post-2012 election Growth and Opportunity Project. “We do need to make sure young people do not see the Party as totally intolerant of alternative points of view,” noted the report. “Already, there is a generational difference within the conservative movement about issues involving the treatment and the rights of gays…If our Party is not welcoming and inclusive, young people and increasingly other voters will continue to tune us out.”
“Reform the Platform” will begin touring the early primary states of New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada, and South Carolina this spring and summer.
Young Conservatives propose striking the anti-gay and anti-freedom to marry references in five different sections of the official platform. The group also wants to replace the divisive language with unifying language that reads:
We believe that marriage matters both as a religious institution and as a fundamental, personal freedom. Because marriage—rooted in love and lifelong commitment—is one of the foundations of civil society, as marriage thrives, so our nation thrives.
We believe that the health of marriage nationwide directly affects the social and economic well-being of individuals and families, and that undermining families leads to more government costs and more government control over the lives of its citizens. Therefore, we believe in encouraging the strength and stability of all families.
We recognize that there are diverse and sincerely held views on civil marriage within the Party, and that support for allowing same-sex couples the freedom to marry has grown substantially in our own Party. Given this journey that so many Americans, including Republicans, are on, we encourage and welcome a thoughtful conversation among Republicans about the meaning and importance of marriage, and commit our Party to respect for all families and fairness and freedom for all Americans.
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She may not be gay, but Beyonce’s music has a powerful grip on the LGBT community which is why she will be gracing the cover of the OUT Magazine in May.
Through an email interview with OUT Editor-in-Chief Aaron Hicklin, Beyonce said she works hard as a feminist to get through this male-focused society. By doing so, she speaks to all minorities.
“Being that I am a woman in a male-dominated society, the feminist mentality rang true to me and became a way to personalize that struggle…But what I am really referring to, and hoping for, is human rights and equality, not just that between a woman and a man,” Beyonce said. “So I’m very happy if my words can ever inspire or empower someone who considers themselves an oppressed minority…We are all the same and we all want the same things: the right to be happy, to be just who we want to be and to love who we want to love.”
Beyonce released her fifth album last December which OUT called her “most sexually liberated project.” She spoke about the double standard between men and women regarding sexuality.
“There is unbelievable power in ownership, and women should own their sexuality. There is a double standard when it comes to sexuality that still persists,” she said. “Men are free and women are not. That is crazy. The old lessons of submissiveness and fragility made us victims. Women are so much more than that. You can be a businesswoman, a mother, and artist, and a feminist – whatever you want to be – and still be a sexual being. It’s not mutually exclusive.”
Whether her music speaks to men, women, gay or straight, Beyonce said she worked hard to make sure her album was honest.
“While I am definitely conscious of all the different types of people who listen to my music, I really set out to make the most personal, honest and best album I could make,” she said. “I needed to free myself from the pressures and expectations of what I thought I should say or be, and just speak from the heart.”
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‘I’m not sure there’s a name for what I am,’ says Dillon, a college hockey player. Welcome to the world of the mostly straights.
Dillon, a college varsity hockey goalie, is an eager volunteer for our interview. In fact, he so loves telling his story that he stays beyond the 90 minutes he believes it will take, and offers to come back for the chance to talk some more. When we reschedule, he’s thrilled, and shakes my hand and thanks me four times in the process of leaving.
Besides being remarkably polite, Dillon is talkative, self-aware, and reflective, with an engaging smile and an at-ease quality. Nothing he says feels rehearsed. It’s as if each topic brings forth another triumph, as if he’s discovering his life as he reflects on the questions.
When eventually asked about his sexuality, Dillon isn’t fazed. Though he wants to “fuck lots of girls” before graduation, he’s not entirely heterosexual. “I’m not sure there’s a name for what I am,” he says. He wants this process, this interview, to help him figure it out.
By his own admission, Dillon says he resides in the “Sexual Netherlands” (his words), a place that exists between heterosexuality and bisexuality. In previous generations, such individuals might have been described as “straight but not narrow,” “bending a little,” and “heteroflexible.”
Dillon is part of a growing trend of young men who are secure in their heterosexuality and yet remain aware of their potential to experience far more—sexual attractions, sexual interactions, crushes, and, ocassionally romantic relationships with other guys. Dillon lives these contradictions—seemingly hetero guys who now reject that label, sexual description, and identity.
And he is not alone. National surveys in the U.S. and Canada show that 3 to 4 percent of male teenagers, when given the choice to select a term that best describes their sexual feelings, desires, and behaviors, opt not for heterosexual, bisexual, or gay, but for “mostly” or “predominantly” heterosexual.
An even higher percentage of post-high-school young-adult men in the U.S. and in a handful of other countries (including New Zealand and Norway) make the same choice. There are now more young men who feel they are “mostly straight” than who say they are bisexual or gay.
To the uninitiated, “mostly straight” is a paradox. These young men fracture the heterosexual agenda—or do we call it a lifestyle? If a guy is not exclusively into girls, he can’t be totally straight. Aren’t you supposed to pick a side?
If a guy is not straight, not bisexual, and not gay—and yet still falls in love and gets an erection—what the hell is he?
It’s a common misconception that the “mostly straight” phenomenon is nothing more than an adolescent foray into sexual experimentation, possibly due to excessive hormones and sexual confusion.
Sizable numbers of young men maintain their “mostly straight” status—not just as adolescents or college students, but as adults. Of the 160 guys we interviewed for a study in 2008 and 2009, nearly one in eight reported same-sex attractions, fantasies, and crushes. The majority had these feelings since high school; a few others developed them more recently. And in a national sample of young men whose average age was 22, the “mostly straight” proportion increased when they completed the same survey six years later.
These men aren’t bisexuals in disguise. They’re not closeted gay men seeking the privileges afforded to heterosexuals in society. They’re not simply tired of sex with women. With the words “mostly straight,” they’re describing a unique sexual identity, their complete romantic self.
Among the “mostly straights” we surveyed, a few subtypes stood out.
First is the guy whose progressive political leanings lead him to feel constrained by traditional heterosexuality and masculinity, an outdated and unnecessary burden. “I might have been gay if I’d been raised differently,” one said. “Aren’t we all born bisexual and culture pushes us one way or another?” He challenges homophobic customs and assumptions. One such young man sings in a gay chorus; another marches in pride parades as an ally; a third intends to “come out” as mostly straight in the military to test the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. He wants to know, how gay does one have to be to count?
Second is the guy who finds guys physically attractive. One interviewee pleaded, “I mean, come on, tell me some guys aren’t hot!” If he finds himself staring at men in the gym, on the sports field, around the neighborhood, and in Details, Instinct, and Vman, then how can he say to himself that he is totally straight? He notices guys in the buff and who are buff, visually appealing, and pleasurable to be around. He wonders if he only desires the toned body, stylistic appearance, and athletic facility—and not the sexuality.
A third guy may admit that he’s a little sexually attracted to guys. It may not be his top priority, but he’ll acknowledge that men occasionally pop up in his masturbatory fantasies. He doesn’t expect to have sex with a man, but he isn’t ruling it out; he has a willingness to experiment. He’s into sexual pleasure without strings, without meaning. Anything is possible, given the right circumstances with the right person. (Well, almost anything: most interviewees drew the line at actual male-male intercourse.)
A fourth guy is a guy like Dillon: he grants that he’s not totally straight, and that his feelings for guys are more than just sexual—they’re romantic. He can imagine experiencing emotional, intimate relationships with other young men. It just seems natural. He’s into cuddling without the pressure of sex, and he could spend countless hours with “special buddies.” He’s been infatuated with best friends, teammates, and videogame partners.
All four guys have one thing in common: unlike their totally straight brothers, they’re not averse to sexual or romantic feelings, encounters, or relationships with other males.
It’s unlikely that mostly straight youth are limited to just four types. As additional young men recognize and reveal their sexual breadth, they assist all of us to understand previously unrecognized sexual and romantic possibilities. How many of us have these feelings and are clamoring to “come out” as mostly straight?
Indeed, throughout his life, Dillon has had boy chums, boy crushes, and boy infatuations with teammates and best friends. He makes lingering, intense, frequent references to his core group of high-school buddies and to the male companionship he habitually seeks. He readily hugs and even cuddles with male friends while watching a movie and eating popcorn, especially if they are “on the same wavelength.”
Dillon could see himself meeting a guy and together developing a “partnership.” They wouldn’t act on it sexually, but they’d be physically affectionate. Dillon imagines that their relationship would be difficult for others to understand. They’d think it was a gay relationship because of the time he and his partner spent together, the secrets they shared, and the knowing glances, nods, and code words they exchanged. This is the “homosexual thing” that most interests him.
Far more than we realize, young males wait to be released from their heterosexual straightjackets.
Dillon might just show us the way.
This article was originally published on The Good Men Project
– photo courtesy Greg Clements
WASHINGTON (March 17, 2014) – With the US Supreme Court and states such as Kentucky and Texas acknowledging gay rights in terms of marriage and other human rights, the path to equality for the LGBT community in parts of the US in growing. Gay couples are filing lawsuits in numerous states challenging laws that block their right to marry. And with 17 states and the District of Columbia giving the LGBT community the right to marry, Press the President is highlighting the national significance of this issue and is looking for input from Americans on both sides of the political aisle to comment.
It is not just the adult U.S. population who is talking about LGBT equality. The YouTube sensation “Kids React” tackled the issue of gay marriage a few months ago.
By looking at the “likes” and “dislikes” on the video and the comments, one can tell that this is still an extremely hot button issue for adults and kids. Press the President doesn’t just want you to comment on videos; they want you to create your own. And if you create it we will promote it. Send blogs and videos to The Next Family.
“President Obama, the Supreme Court, and state courts around the U.S. have been making efforts to include rather than exclude the LGBT community in the right to marry and other freedoms that heterosexual couples have been able to do for years,” commented the Founder of Press the President. “These landmark changes are happening quickly and we wonder how Americans are responding to these events and would like to hear from them about it on our blog.”
Press the President is a worldwide forum for unfiltered debate about U.S. issues that affect the globe. The site’s founders have created a space where writers can express their opinions freely. Americans are often criticized as not having enough of a political voice. Press the President provides a platform for people who want to make their voices heard from the White House to Main Street. Online visitors can share their views at www.pressthepresident.com or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ptp.us to join in our weekly debates. Please send them to The Next Family as well so that we can share them. Post to our Facebook page or Email them to us.
Photo Credit: David Goehring
March went in like a lion, but will be going out like a lamb now that marriage equality will be the law of the land in England and Wales beginning March 29, 2014. Additionally, Scotland’s Equal Marriage Act was passed in February 2014 and, one month later on March 13, 2014, Queen Elizabeth II has signed it into law.
The British government will also begin to recognize same-sex marriages as of Thursday, March 13, 2014.
Colin Macfarlane, Director, Stonewall Scotland said at the time: “This a truly historic moment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Scotland. We’re delighted that MSPs have overwhelmingly demonstrated that they’re committed to building a Scotland fit for the 21st century.
“We’re also hugely grateful to the thousands of Stonewall supporters who have played a big part by contacting their MSPs to show their support. We’ll now be lobbying the Scottish Government to ensure that the first marriages take place in Scotland within months of the Act receiving Royal Assent.
“During the Bill’s progress through Parliament, Stonewall Scotland and volunteers produced personalised briefings and speaking notes for MSPs. The charity gave evidence to the Equal Opportunities Committee and has attended and lobbied at every stage of the Bill’s progress.”
Gay Star News reported:
Under the bill religious organizations will need to “opt in” to perform same-sex marriages, and any individual celebrants will be able to refuse to carry out weddings for gay couples.
It will allow transgender people to stay married, rather than having to get divorced, when obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate.
On Top Magazine reported:
“It’s like being turned into a pumpkin on the stroke of midnight,” Celia Kitzinger, who married her wife Sue Wilkinson in Canada in 2003, told BuzzFeed. “We’ll be sitting there in bed with a bottle of champagne and at the stroke of midnight we’ll turn into a married couple. We’re going away to a hotel, having a nice meal and then at midnight we’ll be wife and wife again!”
A recent Scottish Centre for Social Research poll reported a large majority (61 percent) of Scots approved of same-sex marriage. The summary stated: “The biggest and most rapid change in discriminatory attitudes in the last decade has been in views of gay men and lesbians. In 2000, 48 percent felt sexual relationships between two adults of the same sex were always or mostly wrong. By 2010 this figure had fallen to just over a quarter (27 percent). At the same time, support for same sex marriage has increased from 41 percent in 2002 to 61 percent in 2010. While more people said a gay man or lesbian would be a suitable primary school teacher in 2010 compared with 2006 (56 percent compared with 48 percent).
“I am delighted that the Same Sex Marriage Bill has now received Royal Assent,” said Alex Neil, cabinet secretary for health and wellbeing. ”We continue to work in close co-operation with Westminster on implementation of the Act so that the first same sex marriage can take place in Scotland as soon as is possible.”
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, 35, is gay and supported the bill on its initial passage. In her speech she said: “I speak on behalf only of myself, this will possibly be the most personal speech I ever make this chamber. I believe in marriage. While my own family had all the stresses and strains common to all there was never any doubt in my mind of the security. More than 40 years later my parents still love each other and I look at that now and I want it.”
Then added: “I want that right to extend not just to me but to the thousands of people across Scotland who can’t marry the love of their life. It matters the whole section of society they can have the facsimile of civil partnership but can’t have the real thing. I don’t want the next generation of young gay people growing up as I did believing marriage is not for them.”
She poignantly expressed: “That apartheid message, that same but different, is reflected in every hurtful comment. We will wipe away the last legal barrier which says they are not equal to their peers. I want everybody in Scotland to know marriage is open to them.”
Davidson was named one of Scotland’s 50 Most Influential LGBT People by The Scotsman newspaper on February 16, 2014. The article, titled: “The Pink Scotland List,” also included Leader of Glasgow City Council Gordon Matheson, fashion designer Christopher Kane, actor Alan Cumming, Co-convener of the Scottish Green Party Patrick Harvie, and General Secretary of the Scottish Labour Party Ian Price. The full list of influential Scots is available here.
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Beloved Game of Thrones actor Kristian Nairn has an extensive gay following – and he’s okay with that. In fact, he plays for the same team, according to a new interview with Winter Is Coming, an online news source for the Game of Thrones fan community.
When propositioned to respond to the rumor mill that he was seen as a “bear of a treat” by gay fans of the franchise, Nairn opened up the glass closet and walked right through.
“Well, in all honesty, when you talk about ‘the gay community,’ you are talking about MY community,” the actor stated. “I AM aware of it yeah, and I think it’s really lovely. There’s not a day that I don’t get a few messages, but 99 percent or more are super sweet and nothing smutty at all! Again, it’s a privilege, and I really mean that.”
In fact, Nairn told the reporter: “I’ve never hidden my sexuality from anyone, my whole life in fact, and I’ve been waiting for someone to ask about it in an interview, [because] it’s not something you just blurt out. I’ve tried to lead the questions a few times, to no avail!”
Reactions from the cast and crew of Game of Thrones meant little to Nairn – not because he didn’t care, but because he felt it was none of their business anyway.
“I had an upbringing to respect other people’s privacy, and their right to be and choose what they want, and I expect, no, demand no less for myself. It’s a very small part of who I am on the whole, but nonetheless, in this day and age, it’s important to stand up and be counted. I have and always will stand my ground. So, yeah, people have been great, on the show, but I don’t see why it would be an issue,” he said.
Welcome to the club, Nairn! Here’s your toaster! [Insert proverbial toaster here…]
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The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released a new YouTube video designed to provide useful tax tips to married same-sex couples. While it may look like it’s something the 80s left behind and doesn’t want back, could this new tool actually be useful?
According to the news release we received from the White House Office of Communications, the video is the latest addition to an online library featuring short IRS instructional videos covering more than 100 topics ranging from tips for victims of identity theft to taking advantage of the new simplified home office deduction. These videos have been viewed more than seven million times.
Following last summer’s Supreme Court decision invalidating a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the IRS ruled that same-sex couples, legally married in jurisdictions that recognize their marriages, are now treated as married for federal tax purposes. The ruling applies to all federal tax provisions where marriage is a factor, including filing status, claiming personal and dependency exemptions, taking the standard deduction, employee benefits, contributing to an IRA and claiming the earned income tax credit or child tax credit.
Take a look at the video and let us know: is it helpful to your family and situation?
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Photo Credit: Money Blog Newz
Wednesday a federal judge in San Antonio joined judges in Utah, Ohio, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Virginia in ruling that bans on same-sex couples marrying or recognizing out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples are unconstitutional.
“Today the 6th federal judge in a row has ruled – in Texas – that there is simply no legitimate justification for denying marriage to loving gay and lesbian couples,” said Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry.
“The court’s holding is solid and serious, and follows the language and logic of the Supreme Court’s marriage ruling last year and the Constitution’s clear command. With 47 marriage cases in 25 states now moving forward, and the possibility that a freedom to marry case will again reach the Supreme Court as soon as 2015, we must continue the conversations and progress – Texan to Texan, American to American – that show that all of America is ready for the freedom to marry,” Wolfson added.
Kenneth D. Upton, Senior Counsel in Lambda Legal’s South Central Regional Office in Dallas, said: “The yellow rose of Texas has a distinctly rainbow hue today. That the judge in this case saw fit to issue a preliminary injunction preventing Texas state officials from enforcing the discriminatory marriage bans illustrates his belief that the state was unlikely to prevail at trial. As important, this ruling extends the impressive run of recent victories that have stretched from Utah to Virginia. The walls of exclusion continue to crumble as court after court after court recognizes that denying marriage to same-sex couples is discrimination, pure and simple.”
Upton added, “Congratulations to the attorneys in this case – Barry A. Chasnoff, Daniel McNeel Lane, Jr., Jessica M. Weisel, Matthew E. Pepping, and Michael P. Cooley of the firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, as well as San Antonio Attorney Frank Stenger-Castro – and to the plaintiffs. We look forward to the continued progress of this case and to the continued march towards justice for LGBT individuals and their families across Texas.”
The Public Research Religion Institute released data Wednesday that showed increased support for the freedom to marry in the South and in Texas. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of Southern millennials support the freedom to marry, and support across the South is split, with 48 percent in support and 48 percent opposed. Support has grown the fastest in the South of any region in the country, more than doubling in the last 10 years. In Texas, support is split, with 48 percent of Texans in support and 49 percent opposed.
On Monday, Freedom to Marry launched a public education campaign called Southerners for the Freedom to Marry, with the goal of building majority support for marriage in Southern states, including Texas.
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