Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Police In Zimbabwe Intensify Campaign Against Gay Activists, Parents And Physicians Sue Clovis Unified School District Alleging Abbreviated Sex-Ed Curriculum Violates California Law, Attorneys File Motion To Have U.S. Supreme Court Throw Out “Unworthy” Attempt By Arizona Governor Brewer To Cut Domestic Partner Benefits, Republican Party Platform Committee Rejects Request To Endorse Same Sex Civil Unions, Mitt Romney Campaign Crazy For Chick-Fil-A, Campaign To Remove Chick-Fil-A From University Of Maryland, Three Texas Colleges Place In Top Twenty Gay-Unfriendly Schools In United States, Prince Harry Parties Naked (Allegedly), Tom Daley Heat, Alex Pettyfer

Police in Harare have intensified a campaign against members of the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ), initiating a manhunt for the 44 members that were detained last week and attempting to raid their offices again on Monday. According to the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), the activists are being visited at their homes and those that were not found have been ordered to report to their local police stations. Attorney Kumbirai Mafunda said two truckloads with about 20 police officers raided the GALZ offices Monday afternoon, claiming they were searching for illegal data and offensive materials. No search warrant has been produced. “We have not been advised of any charges being brought by the police. We have deployed lawyers to monitor the situation and they have not been shown any search warrant by the police,” Mafunda told SW Radio Africa. Last week riot police, some of them “visibly drunk,” disrupted a party at the GALZ offices that was held following a meeting to discuss the new draft constitution. The group had also launched their Violations Report, detailing abuses against the gay community in Zimbabwe. It is believed this may be the reason for the raid. A group of 31 male and 13 female members were arrested last Thursday and taken to Harare Central, where they were ordered to give their names, addresses and other personal details. Some members said they were assaulted with baton sticks, open hands and clenched fists. No charges were specified by the police. Mafunda confirmed that police were searching for the same activists that were detained last week and at least three members have been interrogated so far. They say police asked them about materials at the GALZ offices that “insult the authority of the President.” The global rights group Amnesty International released a statement condemning the police action. Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International’s Africa director said: “The police action is a blatant violation of the basic human rights of these individuals. They have not committed any crime under Zimbabwean law.” Amnesty said they fear “these acts of harassment and intimidation by police contribute to a climate of discrimination, harassment and fear for individuals who may be targeted for violence on the basis of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.”

In California, parents and physicians Tuesday sued a Central Valley school district over its high school sex education curriculum, alleging it violated state law by only teaching about abstinence and failing to include instruction about condoms and contraception. According to the Los Angeles Times, the lawsuit against the Clovis Unified School District, which serves 39,000 students in Fresno County, alleges that the abstinence-only curriculum is risking young people's health by denying them accurate information about how to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies. "As a nurse and parent, it is heartbreaking to see young people's health compromised," said Aubree Smith, parent of a 17-year-old girl at Clovis High School who joined the lawsuit after what she said were two years of fruitless efforts to change the district's curriculum. Jim Van Volkinburg, school board president, said he could not comment on the lawsuit because he hadn't seen it. He said he recalled parents raising the issue with a district committee but could not recall details of the complaints and said he thought the issues had been resolved. Kelly Avants, district spokeswoman, said Clovis Unified follows state education law that promotes abstinence as "the only 100% sure-fire way to prevent pregnancy." Asked about allegations that the district omits information about condoms and contraception, she declined to comment. The lawsuit was filed in Fresno by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Northern California, Inc. on behalf of two parents in the district, the American Academy of Pediatrics California District IX and the Gay-Straight Alliance Network. The law firm of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett provided pro bono assistance.

In Arizona, attorneys representing some gay state and university workers said the U.S. Supreme Court should spurn as "unworthy" a bid by Governor Jan Brewer to let her immediately slash domestic partner benefits. In legal papers filed Monday, attorney Lisa Borelli told the justices there is no reason for them to get involved in the contentious case, at least at this point. Borelli pointed out that the only issue before the court is whether the state must continue to provide the benefits while the legality of the decision to halt benefits makes its way through the courts. She also pointed out that neither side has even done the preliminary work on the lawsuit. And Borelli, staff counsel for the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, said attorneys for the state have not even shown the Supreme Court the actual cost of maintaining the coverage while the case proceeds for a "small number" of workers involved. The most recent figures from the state Department of Administration show there are 230 active state and university employees and three retirees who have same-sex domestic partner medical coverage. Agency spokesman Alan Ecker pegged the cost of claims for the partners and their dependents at $1.88 million a year. Arizona has long provided provides various benefits to the dependents of its state and university employees. Until 2008, however, that did not include the domestic partners of its unmarried workers. The fight erupted that year when the Department of Administration, at the direction of then-Gov. Janet Napolitano, rewrote its rules to define who is a "dependent" to include someone living with the employee for at least a year and expected to continue living with that person. Napolitano quit in 2009. That allowed the Republican-controlled Legislature, with the cooperation of successor Jan Brewer, to put a provision into the budget limiting who is entitled to dependent coverage, specifically excluding the partners of unmarried employees, whether gay or not. U.S. District Court Judge John Sedwick, ruling in a case brought on behalf of gay workers, said the move is discriminatory, especially as a state constitutional provision precludes these employees from getting benefits by marrying. When the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to disturb the injunction, Brewer asked the high court to intercede. Borelli is not questioning that the case ultimately could end up before the Supreme Court. But she said that should be after a full-blown trial on the merits of the case. And Borelli told the justices there is nothing that pressing that suggests they should get involved now. "This case does not seek to allow same-sex couples to marry,'' Borelli wrote. She said the only issue is whether the trial judge was correct in determining whether the state had an "adequate determination'' to eliminate coverage for gay employees that remains available to their heterosexual coworkers. Anyway, Borelli pointed out, one issue courts use in determining whether to issue an injunction is the "balance of hardships,'' essentially who will be harmed more depending on what the judge decides. In this case, she said, the trial judge said the affected state workers "will likely suffer irreparable harms, including potential irreversible health consequences for their domestic partners.'' On the other side of the equation, Borelli said, the trial judge said continuing the coverage while the case is being decided would have "minimal impact on the state.'' Borelli also said nothing in the trial court's ruling conflicts with any decision by any federal appellate court, meaning there is no reason for the Supreme Court to get involved at this time. Attorney General Tom Horne, representing the Brewer administration, asked the high court last month to dissolve the injunction. He argued that lawmakers should be allowed to deny such benefits because it "furthers the state's interest in promoting marriage.'' Horne also said the state has a financial interest in reducing its health care costs. Sedwick, in his 2010 ruling, said the evidence shows the cost of providing benefits to the partners of gay and lesbian workers is no more than 0.27 percent of total health-care spending by the state. And the judge said even if state would have to make spending cuts elsewhere to fund the benefits, that still doesn't make the 2009 law right. The justices have no specific deadline for ruling on the state's petition.

In Tampa, Florida, the Republican Party's platform committee on Tuesday rejected a measure that would have expressed formal support for same sex civil unions. The platform committee, tasked with drafting the party's official list of principles and positions on a range of issues, is meeting in Tampa ahead of next week's GOP Convention. CNN reports Rhode Island delegate Barbara Fenton proposed the amendment. She said that as a 31-year-old, the party's longtime opposition to legal rights for same sex couples is increasingly out-of-step with the beliefs of her friends and peers. "For my own generation, a lot of times homosexuality isn't the biggest deal in the world anymore, and that's okay," Fenton told the 110-member committee and its chairman, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. Her proposal was seconded by a handful of people in the room - but two leading conservatives on the platform committee, Indiana's Jim Bopp and Louisiana's Tony Perkins, sternly argued against it. Bopp, an adviser to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, called civil unions "counterfeit marriage." Perkins, the head of the conservative Family Research Council, made a forceful argument for "traditional marriage," calling it a cornerstone of a healthy society. "This would move the party away immensely for the position this party has held," Perkins said. The proposal died in a voice vote, meaning the Republican Party will continue to formally oppose anything other than marriage between one man and one woman.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, campaign appreciates Chick-fil-A. Politico reports that they spent $500 at a Chick-fil-A in Atlanta last month, days before former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s national “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” on August 1. Romney’s campaign reported the cost as “meeting expense” in its monthly federal campaign finance filing on Monday. The Atlanta-based fast food chain has come under fire after the company’s president Dan Cathy told the Baptist Press that Chick-fil-A was “guilty as charged” for backing “the biblical definition of a family.” Gay rights advocates have since called for people to boycott the company. Romney has previously declined to weigh in on the Chick-fil-A debate.

In Maryland, some staff and students are calling on the University of Maryland to remove Chick-fil-A from the College Park campus, making it the newest front in the war between gay-rights activists and the fast-food chain. An online petition calls Chick-fil-A a "bigoted and hateful" company and asks the university to end its partnership with the chain after its president, Dan Cathy, told a Christian newspaper and radio station that he opposes same sex marriage. Rodrigo Lozada, co-president of the University of Maryland Pride Alliance, said in an email Monday that the petition will send "a message to University officials that students want a campus that is more inclusive and accepting and one that isn't hypocritical." The Baltimore Sun reports that Chick-fil-A is no longer giving interviews and did not respond to a request for comment Monday. But as the storm over its president's comments broke last month, the company tried to clarify its position. "The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect — regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender," the company said in a July 31 statement. The University of Maryland drive was started last month and it has spread among staff and students through social networks. By Monday evening, the petition on Change.org had over 740 signatures, nearing its target of 1,000, and university officials are expecting protests when the semester starts. In July, Cathy told the Baptist Press that he sticks to the "biblical definition" of marriage and told a radio show that calls for legalizing gay marriage are "inviting God's judgment on our nation." His comments sparked protests around the country — including gay kiss-ins at the chain's restaurants — as well as demonstrations of support led by Republican Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas. The petition suggests the controversy surrounding Chick-fil-A will not die down as Maryland gears up for a referendum on gay marriage in November. "I'm concerned to see Chick-fil-A on campus," said Nick Sakurai, associate director of the university's LGBT Equity Center. "I would question why we would make a choice to partner with a company that doesn't represent the values of the university. And we're profiting from it, too." Sakurai's office is charged with making sure gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people are fairly treated on campus. He is worried that having Chick-fil-A in the Stamp Student Union food court leaves some students feeling excluded and uncomfortable. Marsha Guenzler-Stevens, director of the Stamp Student Union, said she is taking the petition seriously and is planning to hold open discussions once the semester starts so people on all sides of the issue can have a say. "The university community is one where there's just a plethora of opinions," she said. "This is going to be a very interesting conversation,” but she added that the university renewed its contract with Chick-fil-A for the coming academic year and is unlikely to break it. Classes do not start until next week, but the Chick-fil-A in the student union's food court was having no trouble drumming up customers Monday at lunchtime. Many international students and some recent graduates who have stayed on through the summer were eating the chain's signature chicken sandwiches and waffle fries. Vedina Singh, who graduated this spring with a degree in psychology, said there have been lines at the chain each lunch this summer. As he polished off the last of his chicken sandwich, Jeff Simpson, who graduated in May with a communications degree, said Cathy has a right to express his opinions. "It's the irony of tolerance in our age," he said, "people want to be tolerant and that sometimes ends up as intolerance." Chick-fil-A has long based some business decisions on religious principles — all of its restaurants close on Sundays — and, through its charitable arm, has donated money to organizations that oppose gay marriage. That stance has earned it the ire of gay rights activists and students. "I personally haven't eaten at Chick-fil-A for years because of the rumors that have been going around about its president's anti-gay politics," said Chris Quach, a sophomore at College Park who is involved in a group that helps welcome gay and lesbian freshmen. In February, the student government of Northeastern University in Boston blocked an attempt by Chick-fil-A to open a franchise there. Calls to push Chick-fil-A off college campuses have intensified across the country since Cathy's interviews. The Chick-fil-A at the University of Maryland is run on a license basis and is staffed by university employees. Guenzler-Stevens said they are required to serve customers without discrimination.

Three Texas-based schools earned spots on the Princeton Review’s LGBT-unfriendly list of colleges, meaning, simply, that they are not the most welcoming climates for gay students to attend. Texas A&M, Baylor, and the University of Dallas all made the top twenty. Two colleges from both California (Thomas Aquinas and Pepperdine) and from Minnesota (Calvin and Hillsdale College) also made the list.

So, Prince Harry was spotted in Las Vegas this past weekend, inexplicably attending the same pool party as Ryan Lochte. Late Tuesday, TMZ.com posted two photographs allegedly of the red-headed royal, naked. The body, the hair, the wristband, and the necklace match from earlier pictures.

Great Britain Olympic gold medal-winning diver Tom Daley poses in various states of undress, naturally, for the newest issue of Heat magazine.

Alex Pettyfer spotted shirtless on the set of The Butler, an odd-sounding film with an impressive ensemble cast now shooting in New Orleans.

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