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Author Topic: Homosexuality 101  (Read 125801 times)
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« Reply #450 on: March 20, 2014, 04:54:28 PM »

Westboro Baptist founder dies
by John Hanna, The Associated Press

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Rev. Fred Phelps Sr., the fiery founder of a small Kansas church who drew international condemnation for outrageous and hate-filled protests that blamed almost everything, including the deaths of AIDS victims and U.S. soldiers, on America's tolerance for gay people, has died. He was 84.

Daughter Margie Phelps told The Associated Press that Fred Phelps died shortly after midnight Thursday. She didn't provide the cause of death or the condition that recently put him in hospice care.

Throughout his life, Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church, a small congregation made up almost entirely of his extended family, tested the boundaries of free speech, violating accepted societal standards for decency in their unapologetic assault on gays and lesbians. In the process, some believe he even helped the cause of gay rights by serving as such a provocative symbol of intolerance.

Phelps believed any misfortune, most infamously the deaths of American soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, was God's punishment for society's tolerance of homosexuality. He and his followers carried forward their message bluntly, holding held signs at funerals and public events that used ugly slurs and read "Thank God for dead soldiers." God, he preached, had nothing but anger and bile for the moral miscreants of his creation.

"Can you preach the Bible without preaching the hatred of God?" Phelps asked in a 2006 interview with The Associated Press. "The answer is absolutely not. And these preachers that muddle that and use that deliberately, ambiguously to prey on the follies and the fallacious notions of their people, that's a great sin."

For those who didn't like the message or the tactics, Phelps and his family had only disdain. "They need to drink a frosty mug of shut-the-hell-up and avert their eyes," his daughter, Shirley Phelps-Roper, once told a group of Kansas lawmakers.

The activities of Phelps' church, unaffiliated with any larger denomination, inspired a federal law and laws in more than 40 states limiting protests and picketing at funerals. He and a daughter were even barred from entering Britain for inciting hatred.

But in a major free-speech ruling in 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the church and its members were protected by the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment and could not be sued for monetary damages for inflicting pain on grieving families.

Yet despite that legal victory, some gay rights advocates believe all the attention Phelps generated served to advance their cause.

Sue Hyde, a staff member at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said plenty of churches and ministers preach a message that attacks gay people. But Phelps and his family had "taken this out on the streets," forcing people to confront their own views and rousing a protective instinct in parents and friends of gays and lesbians.

"It's actually a wonderful recruiting tool for a pro-equality, pro-social acceptance movement," she said. "To the Phelps family, that is not particularly important or relevant. They are not there to save us. They are there to advise us that we are doomed."

Once seen as the church's unchallengeable patriarch, Phelps' public visibility waned as he grew older and he became less active in the church's pickets, with daughters Shirley Phelps-Roper and Margie Phelps — an attorney who argued the church's case before the U.S. Supreme Court — most often speaking for Westboro. In the fall of 2013, even they were replaced by a church member not related to Phelps by blood as Westboro's chief spokesman.

In Phelps' later years, the protests themselves were largely ignored or led to counter demonstrations that easily shouted down Westboro's message. A motorcycle group known as the Patriot Guard arose to shield mourners at military funerals from Westboro's notorious signs. At the University of Missouri in 2014, hundreds of students gathered to surround the handful of church members who traveled to the campus after football player Michael Sam came out as gay.

Phelps' final weeks were shrouded in mystery. A long-estranged son, Nate Phelps, said his father had been voted out of the congregation in the summer of 2013 "after some sort of falling out," but the church refused to discuss the matter. Westboro's spokesman would only obliquely acknowledge this month that Phelps had been moved into a care facility because of health problems.

Fred Waldron Phelps was born in Meridian, Miss., on Nov. 13, 1929. He was raised a Methodist and once said he was "happy as a duck" growing up. He was an Eagle Scout, ran track and graduated from high school at age 16.

Selected to attend the U.S. Military Academy, Phelps never made it to West Point. He once said he went to a Methodist revival meeting and felt the calling to preach. Ordained a Baptist minister in 1947, he met his wife after he delivered a sermon in Arizona, and they were married in 1952.

Phelps was a missionary and pastor in the western United States and Canada before settling in Topeka in 1955 and founding his church. He earned his law degree from Washburn University in Topeka in 1964, focused on civil rights issues.

But in 1979, the Kansas Supreme Court stripped him of his license to practice in state courts, concluding he'd made false statements in court documents and "showed little regard" for professional ethics. He called the court corrupt and insisted he saw its action as a badge of honor. He later agreed to stop practicing in federal court, too.

Westboro remained a small church throughout his life, with less than 100 members, most related to the patriarch or one of his 13 children by blood or marriage. Its website says people are free to visit weekly services to get more information, though the congregation can vote at any time to remove a member who they decide is no longer a recipient of God's grace.

The church's building in central Topeka is surrounded by a wooden fence, and family members are neighbors, their yards enclosed by the same style of fence in a manner that suggests a sealed-off compound.

Most of his children were unflinchingly loyal, with some following their father into the law. While some estranged family members reported experiencing severe beatings and verbal abuse as children, the children who defended their father said his discipline was in line with biblical standards and never rose to the level of abuse.

Phelps could at times, in a courtly and scholarly manner, explain his religious beliefs and expound on how he formed them based on his reading of the Bible. He could also belittle those who questioned him and professed not to care whether people liked the message, or even whether they listened. He saw himself as "absolutely 100 percent right."

"Anybody who's going to be preaching the Bible has got to be preaching the same way I'm preaching," he said in 2006.

Despite his avowedly conservative views on social issues, and the early stirrings of the clout Christian evangelicals would enjoy within the Kansas Republican Party, Phelps ran as a Democrat during his brief dabble as a politician. He finished a distant third in the 1990 gubernatorial primary, and later ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate and Topeka mayor.

It was about that time that Westboro's public crusade against homosexuality began. The protests soon widened and came to include funerals of AIDS victims and any other event that would draw a large crowd, from concerts of country singer Vince Gill to the Academy Awards.

He reserved special scorn for conservative ministers who preached that homosexuality was a sin but that God nevertheless loved gays and lesbians. When the Rev. Jerry Falwell died in 2007, Westboro members protested at his funeral with the same sorts of signs they held up outside services a decade earlier for Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student who was beaten to death in 1998.

"They're all going to hell," Phelps said in a 2005 interview of Christians who refuse to condemn gay people as he did.

It wasn't just the message, but also the mocking tone that many found to be deliberately cruel. Led by Phelps, church members thanked God for roadside explosive devices and prayed for thousands more casualties, calling the deaths of military personnel killed in the Middle East a divine punishment for a nation it believed was doomed by its tolerance for gay people.

State and federal legislators responded by enacting restrictions on such protests. A Pennsylvania man whose 20-year-old Marine son died in 2006 sued the church after it picketed the son's funeral and initially won $11 million. In an 8-1 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court declared in 2011 that the First Amendment protects even such "hurtful" speech, though it undoubtedly added to the father's "already incalculable grief."

"The Westboro Baptist Church is probably the vilest hate group in the United the State of America," Heidi Beirich, research director for the Montgomery, Ala.-based Southern Poverty Law Center, told The Associated Press in July 2011. "No one is spared, and they find people at their worst, most terrible moments of grief, and they throw this hate in their faces. It's so low."
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« Reply #451 on: April 04, 2014, 02:25:05 PM »

Brendan Eich's forced resignation from Mozilla shows a huge turning point in the acceptance of gay equality and rights. Not only is it no longer cool to be anti-gay, but it could cost you your job.


Mozilla CEO Brenden Eich steps down after Prop 8 donation outcry
By Douglas Ernst

Brendan Eich, the co-founder of Mozilla, has stepped down as CEO over the controversy that erupted after his $1,000 pledge in support of California’s anti-gay marriage law Proposition 8 became widely known.

“Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn’t live up to it. We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right: it’s because we haven’t stayed true to ourselves,” read a statement from Mozilla. “We didn’t act like you’d expect Mozilla to act. We didn’t move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. We’re sorry. We must do better.”

Mr. Eich, the inventor of the Javascript programming language, tried to quell the calls for his resignation in late March shortly after taking up the position, stating: “I know there are concerns about my commitment to fostering equality and welcome for LGBT individuals at Mozilla. […] I hope to lay those concerns to rest, first by making a set of commitments to you. More important, I want to lay them to rest by actions and results.”

It wasn’t enough, and on Thursday he officially stepped down.

“It’s clear that Brendan cannot lead Mozilla in this setting,” Mozilla executive chairwoman Mitchell Baker said in an interview Thursday morning, the technology website Recode reported. “The ability to lead — particularly for the CEO — is fundamental to the role and that is not possible here.”

Mr. Eich had insisted that his personal views did not affect his ability to lead the company, noting that Mozilla had been extremely friendly to the gay and lesbian community for years. Ms. Baker’s past experience with him seemed to validate his claims.

“That was shocking to me, because I never saw any kind of behavior or attitude from him that was not in line with Mozilla’s values of inclusiveness,” she said, Recode reported. “But I overestimated that experience.”


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« Reply #452 on: April 04, 2014, 03:30:35 PM »

http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/gay-penguins-make-perfect-match-263998.html

Ireland’s first gay penguin couple have set up a nest together in the country’s only gentoo penguin colony.

The same-sex pair, Penelope and Missy, are exhibiting all the signs of a courting couple in their €1m polar ice home in Dingle Oceanworld.
They are following in the footsteps of a number of famous same-sex penguin couples including long-time pair, Roy and Silo, from the Central Park Zoo in New York City, along with a King penguin couple in a Danish zoo which became adoptive fathers to a chick from an abandoned egg.
The Irish duo are one of five couples which have paired off for the breeding season at the polar exhibition which mimics the icy conditions at the South Pole in the Kerry Aquarium.

The head penguin keeper, Kate Hall, said same-sex couples are not unheard of in the penguin world, although it is usually two males who pair off.
“The ones in Central Park are icons for the gay community over there,” said Ms Hall. “They have a lot of fondness and affection for them.
“It’s definitely not an unusual occurrence although this time it’s two females.”

She said Missy and Penelope have been displaying all the signs of a courting couple in their enclosure, which is home to a dozen of the black and white creatures.
“The thing penguins do to show they like each other is they bow to each other and they are doing that.
“When they come into breeding season, they do it to the penguin of their choice and it reinforces the bond between them.
“It is very sweet to watch.”

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« Reply #453 on: April 04, 2014, 04:55:35 PM »

If You're Against Gay Marriage, You're a Bad CEO
By Will Oremus

There was a time when supporting gay marriage made you a radical. Then there was a time when it made you a progressive. Now we’ve reached a point where not supporting gay marriage makes you unfit to lead a major Silicon Valley organization.

Some will say we’ve come too far, too fast—that it’s unfair to pillory someone for a political view that was held by the majority of Californians just six years ago. They’re wrong.

Just 10 days after he was named CEO of Mozilla Corporation, the tech company behind the popular Firefox Web browser, Brendan Eich resigned Thursday under pressure. Eich, the inventor of the Javascript programming language, was technically well-qualified to lead an organization dedicated to upholding the vitality and openness of the Web. But his personal views made him untenable as Mozilla’s leader.

I say “personal views” rather than “political views,” because that distinction is the key to understanding why Eich had to go.

In 2008, California voters narrowly passed Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment limiting legal marriage rights to heterosexual couples. Four years later, it came to light that Eich had been among Prop 8’s supporters, donating $1,000 to the anti-gay marriage campaign. The revelation sparked a righteous Twitter storm among technophiles, who tend to lean socially liberal regardless of their economic views. As far as I can tell, however, it did not lead to broad-based calls for Eich to resign from his post at Mozilla, where he had been Chief Technical Officer since 2005.

That changed on March 24, when a divided Mozilla board named Eich CEO. The Wall Street Journal reported that three board members resigned over the choice. Employees revolted too. And public condemnation was widespread. The online-dating site OkCupid went so far as to barricade its website for Firefox users, urging them to switch to a different browser.

Eich tried to control the damage. On March 26, he published a blog post promising to uphold Mozilla’s anti-discrimination policies, treat its employees equally, and foster an open and inclusive atmosphere. He also expressed “sorrow” at “having caused pain,” without explicitly mentioning Proposition 8. But he resisted calls to step down, and he never renounced his support for the measure. “I don't want to talk about my personal beliefs because I kept them out of Mozilla all these 15 years we've been going,” he told the Guardian. “I don't believe they're relevant.”

The notion that your political views shouldn’t affect your employment is a persuasive one. Where would we be as a democracy if Republicans were barred from jobs at Democrat-led companies, or vice versa?

But this is different. Opposing gay marriage in America today is not akin to opposing tax hikes or even the war in Afghanistan. It’s more akin to opposing interracial marriage: It bespeaks a conviction that some people do not deserve the same basic rights as others. An organization like Mozilla might tolerate that in an underling, and it might even tolerate it in a CTO. But in a CEO—the ultimate decision-maker and public face of an organization—it sends an awful message. That’s doubly so for an organization devoted to openness and freedom on the Web—not to mention one with numerous gay employees.

It’s an even bigger problem for a tech company in Silicon Valley, where competition for top engineers is fierce. Mozilla’s edge over goliaths like Google and Facebook is that it offers employees a chance to work for an organization whose values they can truly believe in. A bigoted boss, no matter how well-meaning, undermines that appeal.

Think for a second: If you knew your boss rated you undeserving of the same rights as everyone else based solely on your sexual orientation, would you feel good about going to work for him every day? Would you be reassured when he insisted he wouldn’t treat you any differently in the workplace just because he felt the Constitution ought to be amended to discriminate against people like you? And how would you feel if he then defended himself, as he did in the Guardian interview, by stressing the need to appease your organization’s least-tolerant constituents? From the interview:

Eich also stressed that Firefox worked globally, including in countries like Indonesia with “different opinions,” and LGBT marriage was “not considered universal human rights yet, and maybe they will be, but that's in the future, right now we're in a world where we have to be global to have effect.”

Actually, Mr. Eich, right now we’re in a world where you have to not be a bigot if you want to be an effective leader of an organization like Mozilla. And it’s about time.
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« Reply #454 on: April 17, 2014, 07:29:40 PM »

Lawyer who defended Calif. gay marriage ban plans daughter’s gay wedding
By Robert Barnes

The conservative lawyer who defended California’s ban on gay marriage at the Supreme Court is at work on another project: planning his daughter’s upcoming same-sex wedding ceremony.

Charles J. Cooper, a former top official in the Reagan Justice Department and onetime “Republican lawyer of the year,” learned of his daughter’s sexual orientation during the legal battle over California’s Proposition 8, according to journalist Jo Becker’s soon-to-be-released book chronicling the movement to legalize same-sex marriage.

Ashley Lininger became engaged to a woman identified in the book only as Casey just after the Supreme Court accepted the Proposition 8 case in December 2012. Cooper, a noted Supreme Court practitioner, argued the case in March 2013.

The court ruled against Cooper’s clients, saying they did not have legal standing to challenge a federal district judge’s ruling that the ban was unconstitutional. Same-sex marriages then resumed in the nation’s most populous state.

In its limited ruling, the court sidestepped Cooper’s argument that there is no constitutional right to same-sex marriage and that decisions about whether to allow such unions should be left to the states and voters.

Cooper told Becker that he did not think it appropriate to comment on how he would vote on the issue should he have the opportunity.

“What I will say only is that my views evolve on issues of this kind the same way as other people’s do, and how I view this down the road may not be the way I view it now, or how I viewed it 10 years ago,” Cooper is quoted as saying.

Cooper joins a list of prominent Republicans — former vice president Richard B. Cheney and Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio among them — with children whose interests are at odds with party orthodoxy on gay marriage.

Becker wrote that Cooper and his daughter spent hours discussing the case while it was ongoing and disagreed about Cooper’s view that states had reason to enshrine the traditional definition of marriage in their constitutions and withhold the right from same-sex couples.

“I think the most upset I got was being called an ‘experiment’ that people deserved to see the outcome of before accepting,” Becker quoted Lininger as saying. “It just made me feel — alien, I guess.”

Lininger lives in Massachusetts, the first state to legalize same-sex marriage and now one of 17, in addition to the District of Columbia, where the unions are legal. She did not want to be interviewed for this story. Cooper said the same, although he offered a statement:

“My family is typical of families all across America. We love each other; we stand up for each other; and we pray for, and rejoice in, each other’s happiness. My daughter Ashley’s path in life has led her to happiness with a lovely young woman named Casey, and our family and Casey’s family are looking forward to celebrating their marriage in just a few weeks.”

He added: “As Becker reports in her book, I told Ashley that what matters most is that I love her and she loves me.”

In the book, Cooper said he left it up to his daughter — he married her mother, Debbie, when the girl was 7 and always refers to her as his daughter — whether she wanted to go public with her engagement during the litigation.

Although it might have made the point that personal concerns are different from questions of policy, Cooper said he was relieved she decided on privacy.

“I didn’t want, and I didn’t think she wanted, for her and Casey to suddenly become the most famous lesbians in America,” Cooper told Becker. “But can you imagine how riveting it would have been if at the oral argument I disclosed this? I kind of personified what I was arguing.”

Becker is an investigative reporter for the New York Times who won a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting when she worked for The Washington Post. For her book “Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality,” she was given unfettered access to the legal team seeking to overturn Proposition 8 — the odd-couple team of Republican Theodore Olson and Democrat David Boies — as well as the organization American Foundation for Equal Rights, which was formed to bring a case to the Supreme Court to recognize a constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry.

She did not have the same access to the legal teams defending Proposition 8 and the companion case that challenged the federal Defense of Marriage Act. But she wrote that Cooper granted her hours of interviews and allowed her to tell the story of his family.

Cooper granted few media interviews during the years-long litigation and was criticized by some conservatives for not being vigorous enough in his defense of traditional marriage.

He was haunted throughout the proceedings by a comment he made when the Proposition 8 case was at trial before U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker. Walker asked Cooper how it would harm the state’s interest in encouraging heterosexual couples to marry and raise families if it also allowed same-sex couples to wed. “Your honor, my answer is, I don’t know. I don’t know,” Cooper eventually replied.

Cooper immediately regretted his words and spent the rest of the litigation trying to take them back. What he meant by the comment, he said, was that same-sex marriage was so new and untried — “an experiment” — that the answer was impossible to know.

Becker writes about how, through the years of litigation, the opposing lawyers and plaintiffs were tied together as the case moved through the process.

Cooper and Olson are old friends, usually part of the same elite conservative legal establishment. Cooper succeeded Olson as head of the Office of Legal Counsel in the Reagan Justice Department.

Cooper said in the book that he came to especially admire the lesbian couple who challenged Proposition 8, Kris Perry and Sandy Stier.

They returned the compliment in a statement about Cooper’s defense of Proposition 8 at the same time his daughter was planning to marry a woman.

“Some may find this contrast between public and private jarring, but in our opinion, loving an LGBT child unequivocally is the single most important thing any parent can do.”

The question of whether there is a constitutional right to marriage that states may not withhold from gay couples could return to the Supreme Court in time for its term beginning in October.

But it is not the Proposition 8 case that has been the impetus for an unbroken line of federal district court decisions that such bans are unconstitutional: The judges instead are relying on the court’s decision in the DOMA case, U.S. v. Windsor , that ordered the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages performed where they are legal.


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