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August 9, 2013

News Briefs

Betty Crocker bakes cakes for Minnesota’s first weddings

St. Paul, Minn.--General Mills’ Betty Crocker brand donated custom wedding cakes to celebrate the beginning of legal same-sex marriage in Minnesota on August 1, nine months after the company helped lead corporate opposition to a proposed marriage ban amendment put before voters.

The first three couples to wed were invited to select their cakes at the General Mills headquarters a few days beforehand. As paintings of Betty watched from the walls, they sampled flavors in the company’s kitchen.

The first marriages were performed just after midnight. After the ban amendment was shot down by voters last November, lawmakers passed a marriage bill in May, which took effect August 1.

Halfway across the country, in Rhode Island, couples began getting their marriage licenses the same day, as soon as town clerks’ offices opened.

Rhode Island officials had predicted a fairly calm day, since it was the last New England state to pass marriage, and couples could easily go to neighboring states to get married.

State Dept. begins visas for spouses

Washington, D.C.--Secretary of State John Kerry announced the new post-DOMA policy on August 2, saying that visa applications for same-sex couples would start being processed.

“I’m very pleased to be able to announce that effective immediately, when same-sex spouses apply for a visa, the Department of State will consider that application in the same manner that it will consider the application of opposite-sex spouses,” Kerry said in a press conference in London. “And here is exactly what this rule means: If you are the spouse of a U.S. citizen, you visa application will be treated equally. If you are the spouse of a non-citizen, your visa application will be treated equally. And if you are in a country that doesn’t recognize your same-sex marriage, then your visa application will still be treated equally at every single one of our 222 visa processing centers around the world.”

“Now, as long as a marriage has been performed in a jurisdiction that recognizes it so that it is legal, then that marriage is valid under U.S. immigration laws, and every married couple will be treated exactly the same, and that is what we believe is appropriate,” he continued. “Starting next year, that will include same-sex couples from England and Wales, which just this year passed laws permitting same-sex marriage will take effect in 2014.”

The policy will also legally regard the children of the foreign spouse as step-children of the U.S. citizen.

Men arrested under voided sodomy law

Baton Rouge, La.--Sheriffs’ deputies here have been arresting men on sodomy laws that were struck down by the Supreme Court a decade ago.

On July 29, two days after the Advocate LGBT magazine publicized the habitual arrests, Sheriff Sid J. Gautreaux III issued an apology to those “unintentionally harmed or offended by the actions of our investigations,” according to the New York Times.

In many of the cases, men were arrested and charged with attempting “crimes against nature” for meeting undercover sheriff’s deputies in a public park and inviting them to go to a private residence for sex. The sex was not to be in the park, nor was money to be exchanged.

Louisiana has never repealed its “crimes against nature” law, although it and 13 similar state laws against gay sex were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003’s Lawrence v. Texas.

The arrests were from 2011 until July 2013, and in each case, the district attorney’s office refused to prosecute, since there was no enforceable law that had been violated.

“We need to find out when the sheriff was first informed that the D.A.’s office would not prosecute people under this anti-sodomy law because it’s unconstitutional,” said Baton Rouge city councilor John Delgado.

Tutu would refuse homophobic heaven

Cape Town, South Africa--Retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu said on July 26 that he would “refuse to go to a homophobic heaven . . . I mean I would much rather go to the other place.”

“I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this,” the theologian said at the launch of the United Nations’ Free and Equal campaign, a global outreach to promote equality for LGBT people.

While same-sex marriage is legal in South Africa and the country has civil rights protections written into its constitution, there is also widespread anti-gay violence.

Howard Solomon, the president of the World Congress of GLBT Jews and a member of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Religious Leadership Roundtable, said, “Retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu has for some time been a supportive voice within the Anglican communion. His continued vocal support of LGBT equality is a beacon of light for religious people everywhere. I echo his thoughts that a homophobic heaven would be a terrible place for all concerned.”

Dave Ferguson, the director of church relations for Seventh-Day Adventist Kinship International, agreed. “The arc of justice seemed to bend to touch a rainbow in statements from Archbishop Desmond Tutu this week, as he reflected not only on this life, but a future life in which he anticipated greeting LGBT members of the church,” he said. “His acknowledgment that he would not worship a god who was homophobic speaks to many in the LGBT community and their families who have left congregations because of clergy statements that would indicate such an attitude by God.”

Jamaican teen ‘chopped’ to death

St. James, Jamaica--A 17-year-old was brutally murdered on July 22 in what is believed to be a homophobic or transphobic attack.

The teen was, according to Jamaican news reports, wearing women’s clothing and dancing with another man when a woman recognized him and told other people at the party that he was a man.

His body was discovered in bushes alongside a main road at 5 am by police. He was reportedly stabbed and “chopped.”

Despite being part of the British Commonwealth, England’s increasingly pro-gay laws have not had much effect on Jamaica, which still penalizes sex between men with sentences up to ten years in prison. The Caribbean island has one of the world’s worst records for homophobic violence.

Torture found at ‘ex-gay’ clinics

Quito, Ecuador--Unlicensed drug and alcohol rehab clinics litter the country, and many perform “ex-gay” conversion therapy illegally, while torturing their patients.

Openly gay health minister Carina Vance said that the government will begin cracking down on them in earnest. A Health Ministry employee was charged after it emerged that she owned one of the clinics.

“We are talking here about a mafia, a network that operates nationally in each of the provinces, which are violating human rights,” Vance said, according to Agence France-Presse.

Eighteen of the clinics have been closed since March 2012, 15 of them for human rights violations.

“We have lesbians who have reported what the clinics called ‘sex therapy,’ but which consists of being raped by men,” Vance said.

Last year, two people died at unlicensed rehabilitation centers after being admitted for addictions. Ecuadoran law allows judges to assign forced treatment for addicts, but Vance noted that the forced treatment is not allowed to be used to try to “cure” homosexuality.


Compiled by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.



















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