Pope Francis made a very important progressive pick, one that may impact how the Vatican treats LGBT followers in the future.

Brietbart.com reports that Pope Francis plans to remove conservative, antigay Cardinal Raymond Burke from head of the Apostolic Signatura (said to be the Vatican’s Supreme Court equivalent) and the Roman Curia (the group of Vatican Cardinals who are said to make all church rules and advise the Pope).

Burke once said, “Sexual acts between persons of the same sex are intrinsically evil, are against nature itself…its simply announcing the truth, helping people to discriminate right from wrong in terms of their own activities.”

Wait, there’s more good news for LGBT Catholics. Earlier today, Pope Francis named progressive leader Bishop Blase Cupich of Spokane, Wash. as the next archbishop of Chicago.

David Gibson of Religion News Service said, “It is the pontiff’s most important U.S. appointment to date and one that could upend decades of conservative dominance of the American hierarchy.”

The 65-year-old Cupich (which is pronounced “Soup-itch”) would succeed Cardinal Francis George, an arch conservative who previously likened LGBT activists to the Klan, made a strong effort to stop marriage equality in Ilinois, and who said that government supporting marriage equality made Catholics with morality live under something akin to “Sharia law.”

Cupich would now be in succession to become a cardinal in the future, a big win for the Church’s progressive wing who have been buoyed by the Pope’s move toward more social justice work than debates over issues like sexual orientation.

Gibson reports that as head of the Spokane diocese, which covers the more conservative eastern half of Washington, “Cupich was known for reaching out to a largely unchurched population and for promoting the church’s social justice teachings in a region suffering from the effects of the recession. Cupich also gained notice in 2012 by adopting a moderate line when Washington voters went to the polls to vote in a referendum to legalize same-sex marriage.”

While he has had to defend the Church’s position against same-sex marriage, he condemed the attempts of anyone within the Church “to incite hostility towards homosexual persons or promote an agenda that is hateful and disrespectful of their human dignity. It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs.

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Anti-Gay Tennessee Billboard Stirs Religion Debate

Posted September 19th, 2014 by pikapp44

An anti-gay billboard is stirring a debate over bullying and religion in a rural community about 30 miles north of Nashville, Tennessee.

The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/1uI0KbV ) reports that the message reads: “You shall not lie with a man as with a woman. It is an abomination. — God.” The sign says it is “paid for by concerned Christians.”

Portland resident Ronny Monday helped initiate the placement of the billboard. He says the Old Testament message was “necessary” to balance against the message from celebrities and President Barack Obama supporting gay marriage.

But Shannon Lynch, who has taught religion, ethics and philosophy for 14 years, says she sees the sign as a “form of bullying” that could have negative effects on young people struggling to find their own identity.

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San Francisco drag queens are sparring with Facebook over its policy requiring people to use their real names, rather than drag names such as Pollo Del Mar and Heklina. But the world’s biggest social network is not budging from its rules.

In recent weeks, Facebook has been deleting the profiles of self-described drag queens and other performers who use stage names because they did not comply with the social networking site’s requirement that users go by their “real names” on the site.

On Wednesday, Facebook declined to change its policy after meeting with drag queens and a member of the San Francisco board of supervisors. The company said is usually deletes accounts with fake names after investigating user complaints.

“This policy is wrong and misguided,” said Supervisor David Campos, who was flanked by seven drag queens during a press conference at San Francisco City Hall.

The drag queens and others in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community say many Facebook account holders fear using their real names for a variety of reasons, including threats to their safety and employment.

“I have crazy family members who I don’t want contacting me through Facebook,” said a self-described drag queen who calls herself Heklina.

Facebook said it temporarily restored hundreds of deleted accounts for two weeks. After that they’ll have to either change their name to their real name, or convert their profile to a fan page.

Campos and the drag queens, led by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence — a San Francisco group of drag performers and activists that’s been around since 1979 — say they plan another meeting with Facebook and are hopeful that the company will ultimately alter its policy.

If Facebook doesn’t change its policy, the drag queens at San Francisco City Hall Wednesday said they would organize protests and boycotts.

“Abused women, bullied teens, transgender people… (there are) a million different people with a million different reasons to use fake names,” said Sister Roma, a member of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

Facebook says it policy “helps prevent bad behavior, while creating a safer and more accountable environment.”

The company says performers and others have other ways of keeping their stage identities on the site, including creating pages that are meant for businesses and public figures.

Many in the drag queen community are professional performers who rely on Facebook to publicize gigs. They said a fan page isn’t the same as a regular Facebook page.

“Your reach is limited, said Rosa Sifuentes, a San Francisco-based burlesque performer who goes by the name Bunny Pistol.

The company’s policy has been around just about as long as Facebook itself.

This isn’t the first time users have criticized Facebook’s policy.

Political activists have complained, especially those living in countries where they could face danger if their real identities are revealed. In 2011, Chinese blogger and activist Michael Anti, whose legal name is Zhao Jing, had his profile deleted because he was not using his given name — even though his professional identity has been established for more than a decade and is better known. Lady Gaga, whose real name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, has “merged” her stage name with her birth name on Facebook in an apparent compromise.

It’s not always easy to determine which names are inauthentic. Some people whose real names sound fake have had their accounts deleted, too.

For Facebook, the real names policy is not just meant to keep people accountable. The company and other website operators argue that requiring people to use true identities can reduce online vitriol and bullying. Real names also help Facebook target advertisements to its 1.32 billion users.

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The Ray Rice scandal has lifted the lid off the NFL like never before. And it raises a very important question: Is it a coincidence that the NFL is more popular than ever, with the Super Bowl as the ultimate national event, at the same time that many American men are in the midst of a masculinity crisis — and that now we’re seeing that crisis playing out literally within the NFL itself?

Two weeks ago I pointed to the virulent homophobia of the NFL, where Coach Mike Priefer of the Vikings was given a mere two-game suspension — now back in the game — for saying gays should be rounded up and put “on an island, and nuke it until it glows,” while the first (and only) openly gay player was drafted much later than predicted in the rounds and then passed over for a roster, only picked up for a practice squad. And while Ray Rice was suspended indefinitely — only after a video surfaced showing more graphically what we knew before about his pummeling of his then-fiancée in an elevator — there are many other cases of domestic abuse of women and now child abuse, in which players see few if any ramifications from the NFL.

Let’s be honest: Professional football, perhaps more than any other male team sport, is based on misogyny and homophobia, built on it from the ground up. Entire generations of American men have been raised on the idea that if they don’t participate in male team sports, they’re maybe a little faggy, and football, as surely the most aggressive of male team sports, is the holy grail if you want to prove you’re not. Entire generations have grown up — and, in many cases, still grow up — with it being routine for high-school and college football coaches to demean the players during training by calling them “girls” or “ladies” if they don’t perform well, or even going further with “pussies” and “pansies.” And what are these terms really all about? The idea that women are less than men, and that being less than a real man, and being a like a woman, is being like a homo, which is the worst thing you can possibly be.

Women and LGBT people are challenging this demeaning behavior and have even successfully stopped it in many places. Masculine identity as defined for generations, however, is so culturally powerful that it cuts across class and race boundaries — bonding men of all kinds together — and seems to be only becoming stronger as the American crisis in masculinity escalates. I’ll never forget when I went on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in the ’90s for the first time — back when there was a trading “floor,” before most trading became electronic. Everything crystalized for me when I looked down at this largely straight male world: blue-blood WASPS running the show mixed with the traders on the floor, the working-class guys from Staten Island and Brooklyn scrambling back and forth, all bonding on winning and making money.

And isn’t that what professional football is all about for many who run the game: winning and making money, no matter what racial or class background you come from? Is it any wonder, then, that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who earned $105 million in five years, connects with and tacitly if not not publicly defends the players who, even if they went a little too far (in his mind), are simply protecting those boundaries of masculinity for all men, punching back against the onslaught of women and homosexuals demanding equality?

Before you say, “Hey, wait, I love football, and I’m not a monster!” let me be clear that I’m not making a generalization regarding all the fans. It’s a broad and interesting game that attracts a diverse audience, many for healthy and productive reasons. Indeed, many gay men and a great many lesbians are fans — although Rachel Maddow acknowledged the other night that, though she’s long been an NFL fan, she can no longer watch the game after the recent response to Rice’s domestic assault. Like any national phenomenon, I think there are different ways that people participate and connect. It’s sort of like the way I might watch the brilliant phenomenon of The Sopranos or Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas and the way a would-be gangster from my old neighborhood might watch them.

But now something’s become too real and raw, hence Maddow’s response. The only way to change professional football is at its foundation, transforming the culture in our schools and what defines masculinity — and what defines being a girl or a woman or gay or transgender — and, most importantly, that needs to happen within sports programs, not separate from them. That’s likely to take a long time and may be utopian, since it could actually forever change, or even end, the game of football as we know it.

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Study Claims Hollywood Is Not So Gay Friendly

Posted September 11th, 2014 by pikapp44

Think Hollywood is some sort of queer utopia when members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community are free to be their authentic selves? Think again.

A new study from UCLA’s LGBT think tank Williams Institute interviewed 5,700 SAG-AFTRA members about their experiences with anti-gay sentiment and language within the industry. The study reportedly found that half of performers that identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual “have heard directors and producers make anti-gay comments about actors… and 53 percent of LGBT respondents believed that directors and producers are biased against LGBT performers.”

“Although our industry is heading in the right direction, there is clearly work left to do as certain attitudes and behaviors persist and continue to put pressure on actors to stay in the closet,” Traci Godfrey and Jason Stuart, national co-chairs of the SAG-AFTRA LGBT Committee, stated. “We are confident that this unprecedented study will have profound ramifications for the entertainment industry as a whole. By utilizing the data it contains as it reflects the realities performers face, we can identify the obstacles to equal employment opportunities and full inclusion.”

These findings support similar findings released nearly a year ago by The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists that claimed Hollywood is much less gay-friendly off-screen and over half of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) actors surveyed felt directors and producers were biased against them.

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Video Game Company to Fix Anti-Gay ‘Glitch’ in ‘Sims 4′

Posted September 10th, 2014 by pikapp44

Officials from video game company Electronic Arts announced this week that it would fix an anti-gay “glitch” in its newly released computer game “The Sims 4″.

“The Sims 4″ was launched just last week but some players have already discovered that users cannot share Sims via its online “Gallery” system if they use words like “gay,” “homosexual,” or “queer” in the character’s name or description.

An EA official told the website Monday the company was aware of the issue and plans to fix it.

“The Sims has a long history of supporting stories that players want to tell, irrespective of gender preference,” the EA representative said. “The Gallery uses an automated filtering program that filters out certain words, including some of the ones you mentioned below. We are aware and have been working on a fix, which will be out soon.”

Kotaku reports it was first tipped off about the game’s LGBT-word exclusion by a YouTube clip by German gamer Anna Eichenauer. In her video, called “What’s up with the ‘Gay Filter,’” she tries to use LGBT terms like in her Sims’ name and description.

Kotaku writer Yannick LeJacq also attempted to name a Sim character “Bob Gay” or “Gay Bob.” Though the name was allowed, a messaged popped up that explained the user “would not be able to share either of them online in the public gallery. As promised, once I took Gay Bob to the Gallery and tried to upload him in all his Gay Bob glory, I wasn’t allowed to. If I changed his name to ‘Straight Bob’ but insisted on using the word ‘gay’ in his description, I’d get the same error message telling me that I was trying to upload a character whose description ‘contained a forbidden word.’”

The same thing happened with words like “Lesbian,” “Homosexual” and “Queer.” But words like “Straight” and “Heterosexual” didn’t trigger the filter.

In a similar story, Nintendo came under fire earlier this year and ended up apologizing for not recognizing same-sex relationships in the English editions of the life-simulation game “Tomodachi Life.”

LGBT organizations called out the video game company after it refused to add same-sex relationships to the game. Nintendo officials apologized, however saying it would be more inclusive in the future.

“We apologize for disappointing many people by failing to include same-sex relationships in ‘Tomodachi Life,’” Nintendo said in a statement. “Unfortunately, it is not possible for us to change this game’s design, and such a significant development change can’t be accomplished with a post-ship patch.”

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U.S. court rejects gay-marriage bans as ‘implausible’

Posted September 4th, 2014 by pikapp44

A U.S. appeals court judge known for his outspoken views described arguments by Wisconsin and Indiana defending bans on gay marriage as “totally implausible” on Thursday, in a ruling in favor of same-sex couples.

Judge Richard Posner, appointed by Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1981, wrote the unanimous decision on behalf of a three-judge panel of the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The court ruled against the bans.

The ruling said the bans on gay marriage in the two states violated the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law. Two other federal appeals courts have ruled the same way, striking down bans in Virginia, Utah and Oklahoma.

The Supreme Court is expected to weigh in on the gay marriage issue during its coming term, which starts in October and ends in June 2015.

More than 30 courts overall have ruled in favor of gay marriage since a Supreme Court ruling in June 2013 struck down a key part of the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act under which states could refuse to recognize same-sex marriages from other states. A federal judge in Louisiana bucked the trend on Wednesday when he upheld that state’s ban.

Gay marriage is legal in 19 of the 50 states and in Washington, D.C.

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Florida Court Won’t Delay Gay Marriage Appeals

Posted August 29th, 2014 by pikapp44

A Miami-based appeals court has rejected Attorney General Pam Bondi’s request that two gay marriage cases be delayed until the U.S. Supreme Court decides the issue nationally.

The 3rd District Court of Appeal ruled Thursday that the cases from Miami-Dade and Monroe counties will move forward. Bondi’s office appealed rulings from judges in the two counties that declared Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

The decision comes one day after another court, the 2nd District Court of Appeal, asked the Florida Supreme Court to decide the issue statewide. Judges in Broward and Palm Beach counties have also found the gay marriage ban approved by voters in 2008 to be unconstitutional.

A Tallahassee-based federal judge issued a similar ruling but also stayed its effect pending the outcome of appeals.

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A gay radio DJ from Springfield, Mo., says she was let go from the station last week because she is an LGBT rights activist, NBC-affiliate station KYTV reports.

Jennifer Scott Stevens of 101.5 BOB FM in Springfield, Mo., says she was booted from her job as a morning radio host Friday. According to Stevens, she was out to her coworkers and that her sexuality became an issue when she came out in a Springfield News-Leader article in June.

After the piece was published, she became more active in supporting the LGBT community, publicly supporting a local firefighter who was trying to add her wife to her insurance benefits.

Stevens says she was fired because she started being more vocal about LGBT rights outside the radio station.

“As long as you don’t shove it in people’s faces you’ll be fine, but if you do what every other heterosexual couple does, you’re shoving it in their faces and you need to stop because others are uncomfortable,” she said.

The radio station officials disagree, however. Its general manager Jason McCuthin said he and another employee attended Stevens and her partner’s commitment ceremony. He added there are other gay employees at the station, which offers benefits to same-sex couples.

McCuthin says Stevens was laid off due to budget issues. However, Stevens was the only employee to received a pink slip, but McCuthin says he has left a sales position open and made monetary cuts in other areas.

“There’s a lot of people out there that have never experienced any kind of discrimination,” Stevens said. “They’ve never experienced it so they assume it doesn’t exist, because they personally haven’t witnessed it.”

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Health-Care Fears Loom Large in Gay Marriage Cases

Posted August 26th, 2014 by pikapp44

When Niki Quasney felt a piercing pain in her ribcage in March, the oncologist treating her advanced ovarian cancer told her to get to an emergency room immediately.

But instead of making the short drive to a hospital near her home in Munster, Indiana, she drove alone for more than 40 minutes to one in neighboring Illinois. Quasney said she was “terrified” her local hospital might not allow her and her partner of more than 13 years, whom she wed last year in another state, to be together if she suffered a health emergency.

Quasney and her partner, Amy Sandler, are among dozens of couples challenging Indiana’s and Wisconsin’s gay marriage bans in a case being heard Tuesday in the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. Looming large in the case is the issue of medical emergencies faced by same-sex couples.

Crowds of supporters attended rallies in both states Monday and boarded Chicago-bound buses to support the plaintiffs, who are suing for the right to marry or to have their out-of-state marriages recognized. They argue that powers of attorney and domestic partner registries don’t guarantee they’ll be allowed to make critical end-of-life or life-saving decisions.

No legal document, they say, can provide the same protections as a marriage certificate.

Judi Trampf said that became clear when her partner of 25 years, Katy Heyning, suffered a seizure in New Orleans several years ago. The Madison, Wisconsin, couple had health care powers-of-attorney allowing each other to make medical decisions for the other, but that paperwork was at home.

Trampf told hospital workers Heyning was her domestic partner, but she said they refused to allow her to make any decisions without the documents. When Trampf tried to answer questions for Heyning, who was having trouble responding after regaining consciousness, the hospital staff ignored her.

“That’s when I realized I really didn’t have any rights in the situation,” Trampf said in a recent telephone interview. “Heterosexual couples don’t have to pull out anything.”

Judges have overturned numerous states’ gay marriage bans since last summer, when the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the federal government to recognize state-sanctioned gay marriages. Same-sex marriage is now legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia, and the remaining state bans all face legal challenges.

Henry Greene, who along with his partner of 23 years, Glenn Funkhouser, and their son were among nearly 100 people at an Indianapolis rally, said he believes same-sex marriage will eventually be legal nationwide.

“We’re pretty confident in the final outcome,” he said. “It’s playing out pretty much like all the experts said it would.”

In Milwaukee, rally goers blew bubbles and held supportive signs as same-sex couples and their supporters boarded a bus for Chicago, where they plan to listen to Tuesday’s arguments.

Federal judges struck down the bans in Wisconsin and Indiana in June, and hundreds of couples married in the two states before those rulings were put on hold following requests by the states’ attorneys general. The cases were combined on appeal because both states’ federal courts fall under the 7th Circuit.

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