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Taylor Brorby: Minnesota Schools And The Marriage Amendment

It is a risky move for an educational institution to take a political stand. When taking into account students, faculty, staff, and administrators, not to mention donors capable of giving or withholding several thousand dollars, if not millions of dollars, it makes sense that many colleges do not explicitly label themselves as “liberal” or “conservative.” This past week, though, Augsburg College became the second Minnesota institution to openly oppose a freedom-limiting constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between one man and one woman.

Augsburg College, a private Minneapolis liberal arts college associated with the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America), took a bold stand. It joins the ranks of six Minnesota synods of the ELCA in opposing the marriage amendment.

But Augsburg College and Capella University, an online institution, are the only two schools in Minnesota to voice their views on the marriage amendment. Undoubtedly the dozens of other Minnesota schools have students in attendance who are allies in or a part of the LGBT community, and those schools’ silence on the issue is deafening.

Another Post-DADT First: Pentagon Hosts Gay Pride For U.S. Troops

WASHINGTON — In the course of a year, Marine Capt. M. Matthew Phelps says he went from being a gay man “in the closet,” afraid of being discharged, to invitee at the White House gay pride reception, drinking champagne with his commander in chief.

Phelps told his story Tuesday at the Pentagon’s first-ever event to recognize the service of gay and lesbian troops. The historic event came nine months after repeal of the 18-year-old “don’t ask don’t tell” policy that had prohibited gay troops from serving openly and forced more than 13,500 service members out of the armed forces.

“Last June … I was at a point in my career that if anyone had found out that I was gay … I could have lost my job,” Phelps told some 400 uniformed and civilian Defense Department employees packed into a Pentagon auditorium.

“A year later … I, Capt. Matthew Phelps, was invited to attend this pride reception at the White House,” Phelps said of the June 15 reception hosted by President Barack Obama. “And I thought how amazing is it over the course of a year, I could go from being fired for being who I am, to having champagne with the commander in chief – on cocktail napkins with the presidential seal on it.”

Phelps appeared on a panel of current and former service members, some of whom told of their experiences before the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” and how life is different now. The audience filled the seats and dozens more stood along the walls, roughly 1 in 5 were in uniform and the rest civilians who had not been subject to the old policy.

“For those service members who are gay and lesbian, we lifted a real and personal burden from their shoulders,” top Pentagon lawyer Jeh Johnson said in a speech opening the event that lasted about an hour and a half. “They no longer have to live a lie in the military” or “teach a child to lie to protect her father’s career.”

Before the repeal, gay troops could serve but could be discharged if they revealed their sexual orientation. At the same time, a commanding officer was prohibited from asking a service member whether he or she was gay.

“For all of us, we should honor the professional and near-flawless manner in which our entire U.S. military implemented and adapted to this change,” Johnson said of the months since repeal.

Although some had feared repeal would cause problems in the ranks, officials and gay advocacy groups say there have been a few isolated incidents but no big issues – aside from what advocacy groups criticize as slow implementation of some changes, such as benefit entitlements to troops in same-sex marriages.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said last month that military leaders had concluded that repeal had not affected morale or readiness. A report to Panetta with assessments from the individual military service branches said that as of May 1 they had seen no ill effects.

An argument against open service for years had been that acknowledging the presence of gays would hurt unit cohesion, which is military talk for the sense of being part of a team that works well together.

Phelps argued Tuesday that repeal did just the opposite – improved unit cohesion. He said that hit home for him during a 2007 deployment to Iraq.

“Every Saturday night, the officers used to get together and smoke cigars and watch movies,” he said. “Of course, their thoughts would all drift to home and everyone would talk about their families and their wives and the letters that they got from their kids – and I sat the in the back of the room not talking to anybody.

“Not only was it so hard to have left somebody at home … but when everybody was getting together and growing closer as a unit, by virtue of the fact that I wasn’t allowed to say anything, I was actually growing more distant from my unit,” said Phelps, who now serves at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego.

After repeal, he said, unit cohesion improved.

Phelps drew long laughter when he told of the day “don’t ask don’t tell” ended last fall.

“I went to work on the 20th of September, thinking my life was going to change. I sat down at my desk and I kind of braced myself on the desk, waiting for everyone to come and ask me if I was gay,” he said. “And believe it or not, nobody did.”

Voters Reflect On Obama's Big Announcement

Obama Gay Marriage Announcement YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — On the upper eastern edge of Ohio lies a valley built on the sweat of the working class, where steel mills sit mostly shuttered but a once-struggling Chevy plant endures. It is a place filled with union halls and blue-collar families for whom the auto bailout meant survival, delivered by a president many here see as their savior.

The Mahoning Valley is, without question, Barack Obama country. And native Andre Allie is very much a Barack Obama man: An African-American who “went with history” by voting for him in 2008. A retired auto worker who made air-bag parts. A lifelong Democrat and union member whose wife, brothers, aunt, cousins are all Democrats and union folks, too.

But Allie is also a deeply religious man, an elder deacon at his Baptist church who quotes from the Bible with ease. And he fervently opposes what the president last week decided to publicly support. “It’s wrong. Period. It’s just wrong,” Allie, 54, says of the latest issue to push to the front of the presidential campaign.

Obama’s declaration in support of gay marriage was undoubtedly a milestone in American politics and culture. But six months from an election that will decide whether the president keeps his job, a question hovers over the moment: Was it, somehow, a game-changer?

In three very different regions of a state where the election could be won or lost, voters themselves have been considering that. And their reflections reveal something far more pragmatic than an electorate that shifts its views because of the headline of the day, no matter how historic.

Allie is but one example, a voter as adamant in his opposition to same-sex marriage as he is in his support – still – of Obama. In his words: “The world is bigger than gay marriage.”

And yet something has sprung from the dialogue the president’s words compelled. It may be far more subtle than a changed mind or a changed vote, but it is there all the same.

'It Gets Better' For Parents Of Transgender Youth

The first “It Gets Better” video to focus exclusively on parents of transgender and gender non-conforming youth has made its web debut.

Produced by In The Life Media, the new clip shows parents of varying ages — all members of a PFLAG support group — speaking about their experiences with transgender children.

“Those early days were very difficult,” confesses one parent. “I was scared. I felt alone. I felt somehow responsible for having done this to my child.”

Elton John Celebrates 20 Years Of HIV/AIDS Fundraising At Oscars

Elton John celebrated 20 years of hosting his premiere Oscar fundraising party, which 900 people attended, saw some of Hollywood’s biggest names. The focus wasn’t on the awards actresses won or the gowns they wore. John’s party served to raise funds for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment and efforts to fighting the stigma associated with the disease, the Advocate reports.

John’s advocacy efforts have raised more than $225 million for HIV/AIDS projects in 55 countries.

“We’re getting bigger and bigger, which means we’re raising more money,” John told Pop Sugar. “And the money gets to people who actually need it.”

Elton John AIDS Foundation

WATCH: Iowa Church's 'Gay Is Not Okay' Sign Draws Protesters

Megan Dodge, 17, of Des Moines waves a flag for motorists to see. Demonstrators stand in support of gay rights in response to a church marquee at Fort Des Moines Church of Christ which read - Gay is not okay.

A group of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights advocates descended upon an Iowa church last Sunday to protest a “homophobic” sign advertising that week’s sermon on homosexuality.

As the Des Moines Register is reporting, the Sunday morning sermon at the Fort Des Moines Church of Christ drew an estimated 100 protesters, many of whom say they were angered by an illuminated sign displayed outside the church which read “Gay is not okay.”

Proposition 8 Case Faces Unclear Path Ahead

SAN FRANCISCO — Conservative critics like to point out that the federal appeals court that just declared California’s same-sex marriage ban to be unconstitutional has its decisions overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court more often than other judicial circuits, a record that could prove predictive if the high court agrees to review the gay marriage case on appeal.

Yet legal experts seemed to think the panel of the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals struck down the voter-approved ban on Tuesday purposefully served up its 2-1 opinion in a narrow way and seasoned it with established holdings so the Supreme Court would be less tempted to bite.

The appeals court not only limited the scope of its decision to California, even though the 9th Circuit also has jurisdiction in eight other western states, but relied on the Supreme Court’s own 1996 decision overturning a Colorado measure that outlawed discrimination protections for gay people to argue that the voter-approved Proposition 8 violated the civil rights of gay and lesbian Californians.

That approach makes it much less likely the high court would find it necessary to step in, as it might have if the 9th Circuit panel had concluded that any state laws or amendments limiting marriage to a man and a woman run afoul of the U.S. Constitution’s promise of equal treatment, several analysts said.

“There is no reason to believe four justices on the Supreme Court, which is what it takes to grant (an appeal) petition, are champing at the bit to take this issue on,” University of Michigan law school professor Steve Sanders said. “The liberals on the court are going to recognize this was a sensible, sound decision that doesn’t get ahead of the national debate … and I don’t think the decision would be so objectionable to the court’s conservatives that they would see a reason to reach out and smack the 9th Circuit.”

Lawyers for the coalition of religious conservative groups that qualified Proposition 8 for the November 2008 ballot and campaigned for its passage said they have not decided whether to ask a bigger 9th Circuit to rehear the case or to take an appeal directly to the Supreme Court. However, they said they were optimistic that if the high court accepts an appeal, Tuesday’s ruling would be reversed.

Q News | Monday, February 6th, 2012

GOLDMAN SACHS CEO SUPPORTS SAME-SEX MARRIAGE | Goldman Sachs SEO Lloyd Blankfein asks viewers to join a “majority of Americans who support marriage equality” in a new video for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) advocacy group. “America’s corporations learned long ago that equality is just good business and it’s the right thing to do,” Blankfein says in the new video. Huffington Post

WASHINGTON TEEN TAKES OWN LIFE AFTER ANTIGAY BULLYING | Friends and family gathered to mourn a 14-year-old student from Cashmere, Wash. who committed suicide last week after he was bullied for being gay. His death is at least the fourth suicide reported this year among LGBT youth. Advocate

PROP 8 TRIAL TAPES CAN’T STAY SECRET FOREVER: 2/6/12 MARRIAGE NEWS WATCH| Another crazy week, with news in the Prop 8 case and major advances in Washington, New Jersey, and Maryland. And yet another court has slapped down NOM’s attempts to evade financial disclosure laws. YouTube: AmericanEqualRights

NEW POLL FINDS MAJORITY OF NEW JERSEY VOTERS SUPPORT PUTTING MARRIAGE EQUALITY ON THE BALLOT| A new poll from Kean University and NJ Speaks shows that a majority of voters in New Jersey support Gov. Chris Christie’s call for the civil rights of a minority to be voted on by the majority. Instinct

CNN's Roland Martin Is Under Fire From Gay Rights Groups

CNN’s Roland Martin is under fire from gay rights groups after tweeting …”people should ‘smack the ish out’ of male fans” … of a steamy H&M David Beckham Super Bowl commercial.

After an HM commercial featuring Beckham clad only in his underwear aired, Martin tweeted messages making fun of men who may have liked the ad. He wrote that “real bruhs” would not purchase underwear advertised by Beckham, and that people should “smack the ish out” of a male supporter of the ad.

Unfortunately for Martin, gay rights group GLAAD picked up the baton. The group tweeted a response to Martin, saying that “advocates of gay bashing have no place at @CNN.” The activist group went even further and has now called for CNN to fire Martin. Anti-gay violence in America is a serious problem facing millions of Americans. It’s no joke. CNN should fire Roland Martin.”

Martin formally responded to the backlash.

Fam, let me address the issue that some in the LGBT community have raised regarding some of my Super Bowl tweets yesterday. I made several cracks about soccer as I do all the time. I was not referring to sexuality directly or indirectly regarding the David Beckham ad, and I’m sorry folks took it otherwise. It was meant to be a deliberately over the top and sarcastic crack about soccer; I do not advocate violence of any kind against anyone gay, or not. As anyone who follows me on Twitter knows, anytime soccer comes up during football season it’s another chance for me to take a playful shot at soccer, nothing more.