Tag Archives: lgbt

Man Who Once Defended Georgia Sodomy Ban To Oppose Religious Liberty Bills

Former Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers will team up with LGBT advocates in opposing legislation pending in the state now. Bowers is best known nationally as the man who defended sodomy laws in Bowers v. Hardwick.

Michael Bowers unsuccessfully ran for governor in Georgia in 1997. Erik S. Lesser / Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Former Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers, a man with a long history of opposing the rights of LGBT people, will be siding with the LGBT community this week in announcing his opposition to religious liberty legislation pending in the state legislature that he calls “deeply troubling.”

Modeled in part on the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) but described as providing a “license to discriminate” by opponents because of their broad applicability outside of government, legislation of this type has been introduced in several states over the past year, including in the last session of Georgia’s legislature.

“The obvious unstated purpose of the proposed RFRA is to authorize discrimination against disfavored groups,” Bowers, who was attorney general in the state for 16 years, has determined of the Georgia legislation. A portion of his analysis — concluding that the legislation’s “potential intended and unintended consequences are alarming” — was shared with BuzzFeed News on Sunday.

Those working with Bowers on the issue told BuzzFeed News that he is expected to hold a news conference discussing his analysis of the legislation at the Capitol on Tuesday. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Saturday on Bowers’ plan to oppose the legislation, noting that he had been hired by Georgia Equality to do the analysis of the legislation.

Bowers is perhaps best known nationally for opposing LGBT advocates’ aims, however, having defended the state’s sodomy law in the Supreme Court case that bears his name, Bowers v. Hardwick.

The 1986 decision upholding the state’s sodomy law was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2003, but by then, Bowers was out of office — having unsuccessfully run for governor in 1997. Before then, however, he had a second major run-in with the LGBT community, rescinding a job offer in the Attorney General’s Office to Robin Shahar after he found out that she planned to have a same-sex commitment ceremony with her then-partner. Bowers won a court challenge that Shahar brought against him for the action.

The scope of Bowers’ newly announced views — and to what extent he would discuss or announce a reversal of his past positions — was not immediately clear.

Bowers has, though, determined that the RFRA legislation would provide an “excuse to practice invidious discrimination,” noting the suspect timing of the legislation: “The timing of Georgia’s legislation — and similar legislation in other states — coincides with the rapid legalization of gay marriage across the country, the United States Supreme Court’s 2013 decision striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and the 2014 Supreme Court ruling that religious freedom of expression excused compliance with mandatory coverage for contraception in employee health insurance programs.”

Bowers also has concluded that “if enacted, the proposed [measures] will permit everyone to become a law unto themselves in terms of deciding what laws they will or will not obey, based on whatever religious tenets they may profess or create at any given time.”

Additionally, he has concluded that, if passed into law, “the proposed RFRA is so full of uncertainties that those enforcing and administering it will take decades to sort out the dilemmas it creates.” Specifically, Bowers has found that “[i]t has been decades since the Georgia Supreme Court issued a major ruling interpreting the free exercise law” — which means that Georgia courts, Bowers concludes, “could interpret HB 218 in a way that deviates from the federal courts.”

Among the more striking comments from Bowers is his conclusion that the measures could be used to “justify putting hoods back on the Ku Klux Klan.” The reason, he details, is because people could use the religious exemption that the proposed measures would provide as exemptions to the Anti-Mask Act — an attempt to reduce the KKK’s presence in the state, which specifically excluded a religious exemption when it was passed.

Why I’m Still Coming Out To My Twin Sister After Five Years

My sister and I finally have “the talk” we’ve been avoiding, because although my sister’s acceptance means everything to me — I’ve never been sure that I’ve had it.

Chris Ritter for BuzzFeed

Almost five years ago to the day, I came out to my twin sister while she was studying abroad in Italy. In a rambling group Facebook message, after a series of incomplete sentences and written stutters, I finally wrote, “I am attracted to girls, but I am not gay.” Two best friends replied immediately with supportive messages. From my sister, I received…radio silence. Life doesn’t stop while you’re waiting for your sister to message you back, so before long I was taking a boy to my sorority formal and that rambling message was just a memory.

Growing up in a family with eight siblings and being one of triplets (always one tallish brunette brother to my right and one shortish blonde sister to my left), it’s easy to assume that my triplet sister and I would be closer than close.

And we were. I mean…we are close. Over the years, we’ve shared bedrooms, clothes, car keys, and a group of friends. What don’t we share? Pretty much everything else. I inherited my dad’s tight brown ringlets while Hayley gets her straight blonde locks from our mom. Friends might call me “down-to-earth, mellow, and overly sensitive,” and Hayley would be described as “bubbly, loud, and a tad high maintenance.” While I spent time volunteering as an EMT, she once passed out into a bowl of spaghetti over the mention of blood. When we left home for college, I studied science in the Midwest; Hayley went down south to pursue a degree in English. Despite never quite being able to see eye-to-eye, we’ve managed to stand loyally at each other’s sides.

Fast-forward to the present day — a few relationships, sisterly shouting matches, and two college degrees later — and not much has changed. Somehow we are back to sharing a bedroom, if you can call two twin beds separated by a cheap Ikea drawer set a bedroom. We are still sharing clothes (unwillingly) and a group of overlapping friends (more willingly). And we still have not discussed the time I came out of the closet to her and she had nothing to say.

As I’ll be sleeping across from my sister for another year in this shoebox apartment, I decided to sit down over some sushi and finally have “the talk” we’ve been avoiding, because although my twin sister’s acceptance means everything to me, I’ve never been sure that I’ve had it.

Sarah Karlan

Sarah Karlan

 

Sarah: So, remember that time I told you I liked girls?

[laughter]

Hayley: Well, I was trying to think back on it, on exactly how I felt. I know it was when I was abroad in Italy. You sent that Facebook message to me, Jess, and Carly.

S: Wait, let me dig that back up. [scrolls through iPhone]

H: But, I had a hunch you had been thinking about telling me the summer before because there is this one moment I remember very distinctly, when we were driving somewhere and we were listening to some song — and I don’t know what it was! — but you said, “This song is a girl who is talking about her girlfriend.”

S: I don’t remember this! God, was it that Macklemore song?

H: No, it was before that. I don’t know if I had a boyfriend at the time, but I asked you about your love life and there was this enormous pause. It was like you were about to say something — but then you never did.

S: I chickened out. I had forgotten all about that. OK, I found the Facebook message! Wow, this is way more embarrassing and poorly written than I remember. I guess being scared shitlesss will do that to you. Do you remember how you reacted when you read it?

H: I don’t think I was that surprised — because it had been on my radar for a little bit.

S: So you weren’t surprised!?

H: I mean, I was and I wasn’t.

S: Well, OK. [laughs]

H: There was something shocking in it being all of a sudden a real thing, not just something I suspected.

S: It’s funny because in high school I didn’t think about it at all. It wasn’t a thought until I went to college, and I don’t really know why.

H: You never had anyone you were really interested in.

S: I had crushes, though. I had crushes in high school.

H: I don’t think you even kissed a boy, though.

S: No, I didn’t. Thank you for pointing that out.

H: From an outside perspective I saw you transform in an enormous way, from college to now. From not knowing at all, to realizing you liked women, to being in a closeted relationship, to where you are now — totally comfortable with who you are. It doesn’t happen overnight for the person who is coming out, but I think what I want you to understand is that it doesn’t happen overnight for the people you come out to either. There are people who are willing to accept things immediately, and that’s great — I wish that could have been me also.

S: Do you think I expected too much of you too fast?

H: I think a little bit. Obviously some of this is on me. I could have held back a little more and taken time to think it over internally. Being twins and being sisters, the great thing is that we can have the biggest fight of our lives one night and two hours later everything can be completely rosy. As if it never happened. We don’t always necessarily treat each other with the same amount of respect as friends would. Knowing that we will always be there for one another — we abuse that love a bit.

S:The only person I’ve said “fuck you” to — and really meant it — was you. Probably because when we hurt each other, it hurts more? The feelings are amplified.

Chris Ritter for BuzzFeed

H: I think that happened in the coming out process. As sisters, you can say really mean and nasty things to each other in the heat of the moment and it’s OK — it will be OK. When it’s something like this, when it’s about who you are, everyone has to take a step back and realize that even a relationship between sisters isn’t unbreakable. It can be hurt, so you can’t take it for granted or assume you’ll always be forgiven.

S: You’re right. By the time I came out, I had already been struggling with these feelings for a while and done my own “research” — I binge-watched — The L Word and googled a bunch of things. So when you reacted and said some offensive things — not meaning to — I overreacted as if [to say], “How could you say that?!” I wasn’t patient with you. You hadn’t had the chance to go do your own research yet.

H: Initially, it was a lot to wrap my arms around, and it sounds like it was initially a lot for you to wrap your arms around as well. Also, we were 19 — we were young and stupid.

S: [looks back to iPhone] But you just never responded! Carly and Jess both sent back these long messages right away.

H: I didn’t? Damn. Nothing against Carly or anyone else — maybe Carly is just more accepting than me — but if it was HER sister, would it be a little bit different?

S: For me I had to seriously think, Is my sister homophobic?

H: I think I was. Yes. Or maybe a better way to say it I was just a little confused and scared about what this meant exactly. That would be a softer way of putting it.

S: Because it was me? You weren’t outwardly homophobic to people on the street.

H: It’s not like I wanted to feel that way. I know what’s right. I know what’s wrong. I know what you’re supposed to do and how you’re supposed to feel and act. It’s really easy to say, “It’s OK to be gay” just like I can say, “You should recycle.” It’s easy to superficially support what’s good and what’s right and what you’re supposed to do, but then all of a sudden when it’s not something that’s vague and far away and a general moral principle, but when it’s someone who is directly related to you, someone you’ve always thought as one way and now you have to think of as another, that can be hard.

S: Why, though? Why wasn’t it OK for me?

H: I think it has something to do with never really having any experience with anyone coming out, not friends, not any acquaintances, let alone my twin sister. And I think it’s also partly the town we grew up in — conservative and very traditional — and I remember thinking, I don’t want to tell people that my twin is gay.

S: You thought that?

H: Yes.

S: Have you ever had to say it before?

H: It’s fine now — this many years later, yes, I can say it. But actually, it’s usually just implied when I tell people your job title. For a little bit, things weren’t too great between us. I remember feeling angry about the need to celebrate it. I remember feeling mad at one point. Why is this something we have to jump up and down about and be thrilled about? That was pretty immature of me. It should be a celebration of you being open and honest.

Another tough part was that you told me, but you didn’t tell the rest of the family for quite some time. It was a slow process, it wasn’t all at once, so I felt a bit burdened by the new truth. I felt weird knowing, and I wanted people to know. That was tricky.

S: Right. I told you, but probably a good year went by — we were both at school and life was going on, we were busy — before I was even doing anything or having real experiences with anyone. Life wasn’t going to stop for us to have this conversation, and because of that we were never on the same page.

H: There was never a calm moment or setting we could talk about it. We never spoke about it unless we were fighting about it.

Sarah Karlan

Sarah Karlan

 

S: There was one incident I’ll never forget, when we went out to a bar and a woman hit on our friend — it became this big joke of the night. Ha Ha, that lesbian was hitting on so-and-so. On the drive home you let slip a comment, like, “Why didn’t you try anything with her?” That drive ended with us both screaming at each other in the parked car — alcohol-induced, I’m sure — because you didn’t seem to understand that I wasn’t attracted to every single girl who walks by.

H: That was bad, I remember that. I remember feeling really angry and frustrated, and that wasn’t a space to have a healthy conversation about anything.

S: What were you thinking that night?

H: I think that’s when I was dying to tell someone. It was a secret for me to keep at that point as well. I know it’s a process of when you’re ready to tell people — now it just seems to be such a part of who you are. It isn’t a big deal anymore. It was frustrating to me that I knew and nobody else knew — I didn’t want to know if nobody else did.

S: And there was another incident, much later when I was out to the entire family, we were at some bar and I was dancing with a girl — who was openly bi — and I guess we started to dance a little “too close for comfort.” You came over and yelled at me to stop. I had never been so angry with you, because by that point I thought we had made some progress, and that was a huge step back. You seemed so embarrassed by me while, of course, there were heterosexual couples all over the dance floor probably sticking their tongues down each other’s throats.

H: I think I felt uncomfortable. Maybe it was the space we were in. It wasn’t a gay bar and we were with a lot of friends but they all knew, I think, so it shouldn’t have been weird. I was probably drunk and not realizing how harsh I was being. It was also maybe the first time I’d been in a situation like that with you, but that’s not an excuse. I am sorry about that.

S: I think we’ve tried to talk about this before: The feeling I get when I go to a gay bar is refreshing because it’s a queer space — I’m not second-guessing any of my actions — and I think maybe you’ve never experienced that because any bar you go to will be a normal and safe space for you. You made me feel like what I was doing was “dirty” or “wrong” when I was being pretty innocent on the dance floor.

H: Guys and girls make out on the dance floor all the time and It. Is. Disgusting.

S: Exactly! [looks back to Facebook message] What’s funny is that I’m so insecure about the entire thing when I was coming out. [reads aloud] “As far as my feelings go, I’m still attracted to guys. I still have crushes on them and feel attracted to them all the time. It’s just that for every guy I’m attracted to there is probably also a girl I’m attracted to.”

I was so adamant about not being gay, which of course isn’t the case anymore. I was terrified of the label and all the stereotypes that came along with it.

H: It’s interesting you seemed so terrified of that.

Chris Ritter for BuzzFeed

S: When I look back and read this, it seems like I’m just begging to be normal and keep that sense of normalcy. I even say it a few times: “It’s still me. It’s still the same Sarah.” I didn’t want anything to change. In my mind it felt like once I sent that message, everything was going to change. My friends would never think of me the same and there would be no going back. What a silly thought, right? Because everything has changed, it seems, personally for me, but I’m so much more myself now. When I came out to the rest of the family, Dad said he already knew.

H: Mom suspected too.

S: Did you ever have conversations about it? It’s a big family — I know we all talk about everything.

H: We had one conversation about it. I came home one day, and I feel like someone just said it: “Do you think Sarah’s gay?”

S: Before I told them?

H: It was the summer before, when you began to dress a little differently, I think. Before that moment it had not once crossed my mind. Not once. After someone said it out loud, I had to sit down. It was like a slap in the face. Two minutes later, it all just made sense. Thank god you’re not straight, because then we would be competing for boys and I would lose.

S: [laughs] You would not. Thanks.

H: But in reality it’s just accepting a truth. It’s quite literally who you are. And, for the record, there is no doubt in my mind that you will end up with a woman.

S: I remember when Mom came to visit me at school, after I had come out to her in an email, she asked me if I really could see myself spending the rest of my life with a woman and I said yes. I feel weird ruling anyone out; I tend to think of love as love and not worry about gender.

H: I would put money on it. Another tricky thing about you ending up with a woman or dating a woman is that…I’m your twin sister and there is a little bit of “this person is going to replace me.”

S: I wondered about that.

H: I’ve definitely had jealousy. I was jealous of your ex and maybe that’s why I didn’t like her. You’re such a sensitive and caring person — you’re a giver. You give too much sometimes. I feel threatened I’ll be replaced.

S: For me, I never saw that! I just want you to like this person and get along with them. Out of everyone in my life, I craved your approval and support the most. You are not going to be replaced. Not happening. So if I dated a guy, you wouldn’t feel that way?

H: For some reason with a guy it feels different. It’s very confusing — the girl thing.

S: It’s easy to say gender doesn’t matter, but there is a reason we didn’t invite the boy twin to this discussion, right? There is something about the bond between sisters, women, whatever — it can be very strong, and I understand you not wanting me to have that with anyone else.

H: You were super insistent that you were bi, in the beginning at least.

S: Right, and of course that’s the common stereotype, which I’m guilty of fitting — that people use bi as a stepping stool. I think it happens because it’s just a way to soften the blow and make it a little less scary? A ton of people identify as bisexual. I’m not sure where I land anymore, and it’s clear I’m still learning more about myself every day. I tend to follow a spectrum instead of labels. So on that spectrum between gay and straight, I’m about 85 to 90% gay. And you, on the other hand, are 100% straight.

H: Straight!

S: That was difficult for me to comprehend. What do you mean you’ve never considered kissing a girl? You’re not curious? You’re not even a little bit fluid? That seems crazy to me. So, you would never kiss a girl?

H: I don’t even think I would do it drunkenly at a bar. Nope.

S: We are on opposite ends of the spectrum.

H: It’s all just chemistry. You can’t control who you are attracted to. That was also something hard for me to understand. I maybe assumed you liked every girl. Also, you can’t compare the two environments you were in before and after college. You went from a bubble in Connecticut to a bubble in Ohio, then you finally started living in New York City. That helped you a lot.

S: Right. In college and high school, I didn’t know any gay women. Zero. None to my knowledge, anyway. There were tons of gay men and they were completely accepted, for the most part. I was in a sorority, which also made things tough. There was just that constant fear of people seeing me differently, which is laughable because all my sorority sisters that I’m close with know, accept, and couldn’t care less about it all. It was my own fear that kept me from telling them earlier, and I’ll always regret that.

H: Every girl has gay guy friends. But…

S: Nobody was in the market for a lesbian BFF.

Chris Ritter for BuzzFeed

H: I never thought about it before, but I’m sure New York helped me too. I too had gay guy friends in college. I never thought twice about it. I was never around gay women; I had nothing to compare or relate to.

S: Finally in New York City, I had so many queer women visible to me and I had positive role models. I had just been so desperate for anyone that reflected what I was feeling. I was still trying to “prove something” to you — “Look at this successful woman! She is gay! She exists!” — I don’t know why I felt the need to prove that this wasn’t just me.

H: You were in a closeted relationship for a little bit, which was a double-edged sword.

S: It validated me. Look, this person who I respect and admire likes girls too! This isn’t such a crazy thing. I was still in that mode of pushing away the thought of dating someone who fit the gay stereotype. I still had a long way to go in terms of being comfortable with myself.

H: You lost a lot of weight.

S: I was extremely stressed out. It was my first long-term relationship, and that feeling of finally being loved and having someone giving me that “I’m worthy of love” feeling helped me get over my own insecurities and a little bit of self-hate going on. I was more confident. I’m grateful for that first relationship, even though it was so hard, simply because I learned so much about myself by going through it.

H: To me, the most interesting thing about this entire thing is that it didn’t really change anything. Do you think our relationship would be any different if you were straight? This is just who you were all along and now it feels natural. You were just coming to realize who you were fully. You are still you.

S: So, all this fighting was for nothing.

H: Looking back on how you came out, is there anything you wish you had done differently?

S: Coming out is a different process for everyone. As much as I wish I could have done it differently, I was so scared and insecure. I was clueless on so many levels — just like you — and had a lot to learn about myself. The amount of insecurity I had, I don’t think I could have done it any other way. I guess I didn’t really leap out of the closet; I kinda shuffled out one foot at a time.

H: Space for calm conversation would have been good. [asks waiter for the check]

S: It’s funny — because you’re my twin I think, She should understand. But why would you understand? Because we were born on the same day? [laughs] You don’t have to get it.

H: To me, that’s the problem with the concept of “coming out” — the idea that it’s a onetime action. TA-DA, I came out and now everyone knows and it’s going to be accepted and let’s all just move on. In reality, coming out is a layered process, filled with steps forward and backwards. I think we are both going through it a little bit, still.

S: [glances at restaurant bill] Oh, holy shit.

Gwen Stefani Gave This Couple The Best Engagement Story Ever

“After our first date I sent her Gwen’s song, ‘Real Thing,’ because I knew that I was all in.”

1. Janette Cortez met Monica Miller on a dating website nearly four years ago.

Janette Cortez for BuzzFeed

“On our first date the song ‘The Sweet Escape’ was playing at the restaurant we were having dinner,” Cortez told BuzzFeed. “After our first date I sent her Gwen’s song, ‘Real Thing,’ because I knew that I was all in.”

2. When Gwen Stefani announced a surprise concert at the Oprheum on February 7 to promote her upcoming solo album, Cortez knew she had to take Miller.

Araya Diaz / Getty Images

After Gwen announced a solo show at The Orpheum, she gave fans a chance to win the opportunity the attend the concert. You had to read clues on Twitter to find locations in Los Angeles where someone would be waiting with tickets.

“I saw the contest on Twitter I kept refreshing the twitter page. It must have been around 2pm when the first clue of the second location was tweeted,” Cortez said. “I literally got out of my chair, locked my computer, and bolted out of my office. I didn’t tell anyone, I just left, plus, this is one of the perks of having a boss who works in New York.”

3. Cortez got to the Orpheum first and managed to snag two tickets.

Mike Windle / Getty Images

“I had been waiting to find the most memorable way to do [propose]. I always thought a flash mob would be the way to go, but it ended up being done in an epic way, at the Orpheum knowing that Gwen was there watching us.”

4. Cortez proposed to Miller just before the concert began.

Janette Cortez for BuzzFeed

5. During her set, Stefani gave a shout out to the contest winners.

Christopher Polk / Getty Images

When she discovered Miller wasn’t sitting in the front row, she brought her down — that’s when Stefani realized that the winners had just gotten engaged at her concert.

6. Stefani brought Cortez and Miller on stage to congratulate them.

Mike Windle / Getty Images

7. Even Jack Nicholson, in attendance at the concert, was on hand to join the audience in a standing ovation.

Christopher Polk / Getty Images

8. As she wrapped up the concert, Gwen treated Cortez, Miller, and the rest of her fans to a new song, “Let’s Start a War” (penned by Sia).

“Gwen has provided us an awesome soundtrack to our story,” Cortez said.

13 Reasons Singer Lesley Gore Will Always Be An Inspiration

The legendary singer-songwriter, famous for “Cry If I Want To” and “You Don’t Own Me,” passed away Monday.

Singer Lesley Gore, famous for the hit songs “It’s My Party” and “You Don’t Own Me,” passed away from lung cancer at the age of 68 on Monday.

Getty Images Keystone

“She was a wonderful human being – caring, giving, a great feminist, great woman, great human being, great humanitarian,” Lois Sasson, her partner of 33 years, told the AP.

Getty Images for The Women’s Media Center Jemal Countess

Years ahead of her time, let this woman be your source of inspiration today (and all days, really):

1. When she was only 16-years-old she reminded us that if it’s your party, you can damn well cry if you want to:

2. And that message continues to inspire today:

3. She rallied women to tell the men in their lives: You don’t own me.

“It was probably the first song that talked to guys like that and the first time girls had this opportunity to go, `If she’s saying it, maybe it’s OK for me to think this way,’” Gore said of the song in 1994.

4. Which would create this glorious moment in history:

5. Oh, and this one too:

The 2012 PSA video features Miranda July, Sia, Lena Dunham, and countless other female celebs lip-syncing to “You Don’t Own Me” in a campaign to bring awareness to women’s rights in the upcoming presidential election.

6. Way before Beyonce put out “If I Were A Boy,” Gore sang the truth in “Sometimes I Wish I Were A Boy”:

View this embed ›

“Oh, he’s dancing with another
And he’s holding her so tight
Wish I had nerve to cut right in and stop it
But a girl has to be polite

Ohh, I’m a girl and it’s wonderful
It fills my heart with joy
But sometimes, yes sometimes
I wish I were a boy”

7. Taking classes at Sarah Lawrence College, she valued her education and put it before her career:

“Well, I basically did not go on tour unless it was a holiday or summer. I pretty much tried to maintain as normal an educational schedule as possible. So there were times I would work on the weekends but maybe I would have to skip a Friday class to get there. But I stayed in school most of the week.” – 2005 Interview

8. She was all about girl power:

“They treat women like human beings, and they were doing that back then. It felt really good to…to feel good being a woman, and Sarah Lawrence had a lot to do with helping me feel that way,” Gore said of her time at Sarah Lawrence University.

9. Gore constantly strived to live an open and honest life:

“I just kind of lived my life naturally and did what I wanted to do. I didn’t avoid anything, I didn’t put it in anybody’s face. Times were very different then, so, you know, I just tried to live as normally as humanly possible. But as truthfully as humanly possible.” – 2005 Interview

10. She later wouldn’t hesitate to call out the music industry on its homophobic attitude:

Getty Images Hulton Archive

11. Her hairstyle, like her voice, was legendary:

12. She appeared as Catwoman’s sidekick, the Pink Pussycat, on the popular Batman television series in 1967:

 

13. She saw the importance of women having strong female mentors in their lives:

APImages / Via AP Photo/Dan Grossi)

“I had many people that I idolized who were singers like Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington, but these weren’t exactly women I could call up every day and say, Hey, how’s it going, you know?

So I didn’t have a woman mentor until many years later—many, many years later when I became friendly with Bella Abzug. She kind of mentored me as to what’s important for women and where to put my energies in terms of gay women, and what I could best do to help women in our community and children. And that’s pretty much what I live by now, pretty much where I like to concentrate my efforts. You can only bite off so much, so you gotta know what you want to do” – 2005 interview

Now, grab a hairbrush and get in front of your mirror:

And remember: Nobody owns you.

One Same-Sex Couple Is Now Legally Married In Texas

Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant were granted the right to marry by a judge this morning. The Travis County county clerk’s office said that it will not issue additional marriage licenses to same-sex couples. [Update: The Texas Supreme Court issued a stay of two marriage-related orders.]

On Thursday morning, Texas state District Judge David Wahlberg ordered that a marriage license be issued to Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant in Austin.

The couple had been together for 31 years, and had been denied a marriage license eight years ago in the same building, Statesman.com reported.

Goodfriend and Bryant had hired a lawyer to petition the license. Goodfriend had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and they argued that not being married was causing them both significant harm.

 

They asked that Judge Wahlberg not only grant them the right to marry, but to also waive the 72-hour waiting period in order to expedite the process.

“Given the urgency and other circumstances in this case,” Wahlberg’s order said, “and the ongoing violation of plaintiffs’ rights, the court has concluded that good cause exists” to move forward with the marriage.

Goodfriend and Bryant’s teenage daughters, along with a few of the family’s friends, attended the brief ceremony, which included a short public statement and photos.

update

The Texas Supreme Court issued stays, halting both current state court marriage-related orders in the state, but Thursday’s stay did not void the Travis County same-sex couples’ marriage. BF_STATIC.timequeue.push(function () { document.getElementById(“update_article_update_time_5035388”).innerHTML = UI.dateFormat.get_formatted_date(‘2015-02-19 22:39:52 -0500’, ‘update’); });

Chris Geidner contributed to this report.

Egyptian Doctors Think This Torturous Exam Can Detect “Chronic Homosexuals”

Anal exams are performed by police in many countries that criminalize homosexuality — and they base their work on 150-year-old European science. BuzzFeed News’ J. Lester Feder and Maged Atef report from Cairo.

Dr. Maged Louis in his office in Cairo. Maged Atef/BuzzFeed

CAIRO — When asked to explain what Cairo’s medical inspectors look for when they examine someone who’s been arrested for homosexuality, Dr. Maged Louis picked up a pen and started sketching an oval with sharp points on both ends.

“The shape of the hole will change,” he said. The anus “won’t be normal any more and will look like the female vagina.”

More than 150 people have been arrested on charges of homosexuality since President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi took power just under two years ago, the largest roundup of alleged LGBT people in more than a decade in Egypt. Anal exams are a routine part of the investigation in such cases, and Louis has a role in overseeing all of them. He is the deputy director of the Justice Ministry’s Forensic Medical Authority, as well as the chief of forensic medicine for the Cairo police district.

“First we make them take the prostrate position — the position that Muslims take when they pray,” he said in an interview with BuzzFeed News. The tests are intended not just to determine whether someone has ever had anal sex, but also to detect “chronic homosexuals,” because the letter of Egyptian law only criminalizes men who engage in “habitual debauchery.” Louis said that he believed that in addition to their elongation, the anuses of “chronic homosexuals” also don’t clench when touched or don’t contract as tightly. They are smooth and lack the “corrugations” — wrinkles — found on “normal” anuses, he said. And though he denied that examiners penetrate subjects under examination, he also said they can detect a “chronic homosexual” if his anus can accept larger objects.

“A normal man’s anus can’t take more than one joint of the small finger,” he said.

International human rights and medical experts dismissed Louis’s checklist as having “no medical basis” and being “categorically not true.” Most of those interviewed by BuzzFeed News couldn’t contain their shock before all of the criteria were listed.

“I think you heard my laugh — I think that says it all,” said Dr. Joel Palefsky, a professor at the University of California San Francisco specializing in anal cancer who is president of the International Anal Neoplasia Society. “We run a clinic where we do anal examinations of thousands of patients … Never in my 20 years of doing this have I seen an anus that looks like a vagina.”

Human Rights Watch and other advocacy organizations have long denounced such anal exams — which are routine in several of the world’s roughly 80 countries that criminalize sodomy — as a form of torture that violates international law. Medical leaders in some of the countries where these exams are used have called for their abolition, such as in Lebanon.

But Louis was incredulous that anyone could doubt his inspectors’ work.

“All of what I said is science and written in books,” he said. “Doctors all over the world know that.”

The idea that inspectors are intentionally fabricating evidence because of their own homophobia isn’t what makes these exams so disturbing — though that does sometimes happen, according to defendants’ accounts. It’s that beliefs about homosexuality are leading doctors — some of whom have done extensive (and horrific) research into perfecting diagnostic techniques — to believe that what they are doing is science.

Men who were arrested by police looking for gays at a Cairo public bathhouse hide their faces after being acquitted. Amir Nabil / Via AP

One of the modern pioneers in anal examinations in Egypt was Dr. Aymen Fouda, Louis’ predecessor as deputy director of the Forensic Medical Authority, who went on to become chief medical inspector from 2005 through 2007.

During a 2003 interview with Scott Long, then-director of Human Rights Watch’s LGBT program, Fouda said the exams were based on techniques developed in Europe.

“In this kind of investigation there are six criteria which were established by the celebrated Frenchman [Auguste Ambroise] Tardieu,” Fouda said, referring to the 19th-century forensic doctor who published a book in 1857 called The Forensic Study of Assaults against Decency. In the book, Tardieu spelled out six “characteristic signs” of “habitual pederasty,” which included those described by Dr. Louis as well as sores and fissures. But, he wrote, “[t]he unique sign and the only unequivocal mark of pederasty” is an “infundibuliform” — or funnel-shaped — anus.

Fouda told Long that forensic experts were working on developing “new, advanced methods” to detect homosexuality “involving the use of electricity.” Fouda had co-authored a 1998 study published in a journal published by the Egyptian Society of Forensic Medical Sciences that experimented with inserting hypodermic needles into the muscle of the anus in “unanesthetized humans” which claimed to demonstrate that gay men’s anuses conduct electricity at a different rate. Other researchers continued experimenting with related methods, including a doctoral student who defended a dissertation at Ain Shams University — one of Egypt’s most prestigious — in 2003 entitled “Medico-legal Assessment of the Anal Sphincter Functions in Sodomists.”

Tardieu’s theories were suspect in Europe even when they were first published, said Khaled Fahmy, a historian of Egyptian forensic medicine at the American University of Cairo who has studied its translation into Arabic.

“Even back then this is a highly ideological book,” he told BuzzFeed News, part of a “morals campaign” that was a response to events in Paris at the time. And he thought it “would be shocking” to the Egyptian public if it were widely known that courts were continuing to treat examinations as serious evidence that were based on science that was 150 years old.

But, he speculated, they endure in part because they reinforce certain basic notions about homosexuality that circulate in Egypt: that it is like a disease, usually passed on to children through sexual abuse.

“There is a belief that this abuse during childhood will leave a physical mark, and it leaves a mark on the anus,” he said. “We now have a homosexual body — not only a homosexual character which is a defective character, but it has physical traces that a forensic doctor can discern.”

And though these anal exams now seem laughable in Europe and the United States, the belief that a detectable physical basis for sexual orientation persists into the 21st century. In 2010, the Czech Republic announced that it would stop subjecting gay refugees to a practice called “phallometry” or “penile plethysmography” — which involves attaching a pressure-sensing device to the refugee’s penis while he is shown heterosexual pornography — after it was denounced as “degrading treatment” by the United Nations Refugee Agency.

The same belief for a measurable sign of homosexuality also lingers in the hunt for a “gay gene,” suggests Graeme Reid, the current head of Human Rights Watch’s LGBT program. Though the argument that homosexuality is determined by biology has been very effective for the LGBT rights movement in the U.S. and Europe, Reid said, efforts to isolate a “gay gene” are also based on a simplistic, “flawed cultural assumption” about the biological basis of sexuality.

“The idea that there is kind of one causation for sexuality seems absurd given what we know about the complexity of human sexuality,” Reid said.

Special police officers rush some of 52 alleged homosexuals on trial into court in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2001. AP Photo/Philip Mark

Some defendants who have undergone anal exams in Egypt describe open cruelty on the part of the doctors. One of the defendants in Egypt’s largest homosexuality trials in recent history — the 2001 trial of 52 men that became known as the “Queen Boat” case — told Long of Human Rights Watch that the anal exam was one of the “two worst times in my life”; the other was when the judge sentenced him to two years in jail. “The doctors treated us like pigs,” said another quoted in Long’s report on the trial, and several noted that their degradation was compounded by the fact that they were forced to assume a sexually subservient position in front of women. Anal exams are far from the only intrusive practice that appears to be becoming more common in Sisi’s Egypt — “virginity tests” for women who are arrested are also making a comeback since the military reasserted control, and Sisi has personally defended the practice.

Fahmy said that some of the doctors “may” see themselves as administering a form of punishment through these exams. But he thinks in most cases, the doctors “would be thinking this is not torture; they’re not really humiliating them.” A man who has allowed another to penetrate him — which carries much greater stigma than doing the penetrating — has already lost his honor in the eyes of many Egyptians, and so these exams seem like nothing by comparison.

Doctors likely believe that “these are people who have forfeited their honor to begin with,” Fahmy said. “By being who they are, by being homosexual, they effectively have forfeited the constitutional protection that they are entitled to.”

Because these “examinations have no forensic or evidentiary value for consensual homosexual acts,” Human Rights Watch maintains that doctors who perform them violate the United Nations Principles of Medical Ethics, which says physicians should not “apply their knowledge and skills in order to assist in the interrogation of prisoners and detainees in a manner that may adversely affect [their] physical or mental health or condition.”

And there is no doubt that these exams are absurd, say doctors practicing in the United States. Dr. Ross Cranston, director of the Anal Dysplasia Clinic and Research Program in the University of Pittsburgh Division of Infectious Diseases, said not all gay men have anal sex regularly or at all, and that no credible study has ever shown any clear difference in things like muscle strength.

“I could not tell a gay anal canal from a straight anal canal,” Cranston said. “There’s no typical sign of the gay anal canal.”

Human Rights Watch’s Reid said the organization will begin a project this spring to document how common anal exams are and the role of medical practitioners in them. The organization has documented them in at least six countries in the course of investigating specific cases of abuse, but no comprehensive review has ever been done to establish how widespread they are. And it’s not clear, Reid said, whether “there’s a collaboration between medical examiners and police to deliberately subject people to humiliation and torture, or medical examiners genuinely believe that this has some kind of a medical basis.”

Anecdotal reports suggest there is a good deal of skepticism about anal exams even in countries with notoriously homophobic regimes. In Uganda, for example, anal exams are “the first line of investigation” when someone is arrested for homosexuality, said Adrian Jjuuko, director of the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum, which often provides legal support in cases involving LGBT rights. A Ugandan man who was arrested for homosexuality along with two others in November told BuzzFeed News that police stuck their hands down their pants when they were first detained to “see if we had Pampers,” believing “gays put diapers on themselves” because anal sex causes incontinence.

But despite the police’s fixation on the anus, Jjuuko said, “the state does not use [anal exams] as evidence.”

The amount of research Egypt’s forensic experts appear to have invested in anal exams would seem to set them apart. It’s not clear whether the doctors who perform the exams have the same rigor — Long collected reports from defendants in the 2001 case who said investigators reached their conclusions based on the fact that they appeared feminine or had no hair on their chests.

Belief in the scientific rigor of anal exams is widely shared in Egypt. Medical examiners aren’t just a tool the police use to simply rubber-stamp charges — in fact, they’ve contradicted the charges in Egypt’s two most high-profile homosexuality trials under Sisi’s regime.

During the trial last month of 26 men accused of participating in a “gay sex party” at a working-class bathhouse, it wasn’t prosecutors who introduced the results of the anal exams, but the defense. Prosecutors didn’t introduce them because only three of the men were found to have been sexually “used,” contradicting the testimony of the arresting officer, who claimed to have personally witnessed multiple couples engaged in anal sex.

All 26 men were acquitted in January, the first time defendants had been acquitted on charges of homosexuality in a high-profile case since Sisi began controlling Egypt. But an exam pronouncing a defendant’s anus “un-used” is not a guarantee of acquittal. Examiners routinely add a disclaimer to reports when they find no evidence of penetration that says anal sex can be undetectable if it happens with “full consent, taking the right position, and the use of lubricants.” And in another recent case — in which eight men were prosecuted based on a YouTube video prosecutors alleged was of a same-sex wedding — all were sentenced to a year in jail despite the fact that medical examiners said there was no evidence of penetration.

Even some Egyptian lawyers who support LGBT rights don’t question the legitimacy of the exams.

In some cases, attorneys even demand police send their clients for forensic exams in the hopes that it will refute the charges. Mohamed Abo Zakry, a defense attorney with an organization representing seven of the defendants in the bathhouse case, reacted as if it were a stupid question when asked about challenging the legitimacy of the tests during an interview with BuzzFeed News just before the acquittal in January.

“We cannot say the exams are not accurate,” Zakry said. “They are accurate. Any [doctor] who has experience can see clearly if this guy is gay or not.”

Someone Wrote Gay Erotica About The Colour-Changing Dress

“4,400 words of sizzling human on gay dress action.”

This is author Chuck Tingle, an erotic fiction writer who sells books on Amazon. Most of Tingle’s, er, unique, stories feature gay humans, dinosaurs and unicorns.

This is Tingle’s Amazon display picture, but it is probably not a real picture of him as it is a stock photo. Via amazon.com

His latest book is called Pounded by the Gay Color Changing Dress.

Yes, that title is referring to precisely The Dress you’re thinking of. The one that has divided the globe into team #blueandblack and team #whiteandgold.

While the rest of the world was arguing over which colours the dress actually was, Tingle — who calls his erotic stories “tinglers” — was cooking up his next book.

According to the book’s description on Amazon, Pounded by the Gay Color Changing Dress stars Kent, just a regular gay man searching for somebody to love. But then he meets Channing: “a living gay dress who is famous online”.

Soon enough, their story turns into “a hardcore gay love affair that will reveal once and for all just what color the dress really is,” reads the description.

“This erotic tale is 4,400 words of sizzling human on gay dress action, including anal, blowjobs, rough sex, cream pies, and color changing dress love.”

Tempting!

Passages from the book itself are truly tantalising, as Kent and Channing head home with only one thing on their minds.

I let out a low moan as the two of us embrace each other passionately, our lips meeting as we kiss before the massive bay windows. The dress feels incredible, everything that I could have wanted from such a strange, but powerful figure. Suddenly, I’m overwhelmed with a gay, lustful urge.

brand new# hard hitting news tingler about the #dress thats black and blue #or maybe white and gold? thanks http://t.co/0UzvevB2DS

— ChuckTingle (@Chuck The Tingler)

Tingle told BuzzFeed News that he stayed up all night when he first had the idea for Pounded by the Gay Color Changing Dress, in order to release the book as quickly as possible.

“[I] heard that a bunch of people were talking about some goofball dress and I checked it out,” he said.

“It got me thinking about the perfect day with a good friend, maybe kissing maybe not but mostly about how the perfect friend is a little nice and a little mean. Made me think that the dress was a good idea for a tingler because it was two things at once like the perfect friend.”

Tingle said he came up with the storyline by meditating, his usual method of thinking up “tinglers”. After his son told him he should churn out the story quickly, he pulled an all-nighter.

“Drank a lot of choclate [sic] milk to keep me awake, then in the morning my son helped me edit and I published it that day after I got back from Tae Kwon Do,” he said.

Via giphy.com

And the question on everybody’s lips: What colours did Tingle see on The Dress?

“Looked pretty much like a blue and black dress to me,” he said. Another win for team #blueandblack.

10 Ways To Train For “The Amazing Race” (In Case You’re Ever On It)

As told by Jonathan Knight from New Kids On The Block and his boyfriend Harley Rodriguez. The pair will compete in the upcoming season.

BuzzFeed/ Jon Premosch

You may recognize Jonathan Knight from his time plastered on your bedroom wall… more specifically you know him as a member of the boy band sensation New Kids On The Block. Knight will appear on the upcoming season of The Amazing Race on CBS, competing alongside his boyfriend Harley Rodriguez. If there is one way to test your relationship, it’s probably traveling around the world together.

The pair stopped by BuzzFeed Headquarters to share some insider globetrotting training tips they learned while racing around the world, you know, just in case you ever get to compete.

Get on board with airplane food… you don’t have much of a choice.

BuzzFeed/ Jon Premosch

Planes, trains, and automobiles: There’s no room for picky eaters on the race!

Learn to read things twice, every time. (Go back and read this sentence again.)

BuzzFeed/ Jon Premosch

Reading a clue incorrectly can be the difference between first… and last.

Pack your bags extra heavy and go for a brisk jog!

BuzzFeed/ Jon Premosch

The packs are no joke, you’ll need to build up your endurance.

Embrace the fanny pack. Be the fanny pack. Love the fanny pack.

BuzzFeed/ Jon Premosch

Fashion isn’t your first priority here.

Take a few dance lessons!

BuzzFeed/ Jon Premosch

You never know what challenges the Roadblocks will hold, so it’s best to be in sync at all times.

Eat some expired food from the back of your fridge… and don’t puke.

BuzzFeed/ Jon Premosch

May your stomach be iron clad and your taste buds indifferent.

Learn to drive stick, it’s sort of mandatory.

BuzzFeed/ Jon Premosch

They just don’t build cars like they used to….

Become the master of bag packing.

BuzzFeed/ Jon Premosch

Knight: You know who you are.

Learn to identify taxi drivers that are actually going to get you to your destination.

BuzzFeed/ Jon Premosch

If they get lost — all is lost.

Don’t forget the little things (like your passport), they are most often the most important.

BuzzFeed/ Jon Premosch

Jonathan and Harley: You’ve already won the race in our hearts.

BuzzFeed/ Jon Premosch

Cheer them on tonight during the season premiere of The Amazing Race (9:30 p.m. ET), on CBS.

Samira Wiley Won An LGBT Visibility Award And Her Speech Is Truly Beautiful

Watch and swoon.

Out gay Orange is the New Black actress Samira Wiley received the Visibility Award at the 2015 Human Rights Campaign North Carolina Gala last weekend.

Human Rights Campaign / Via youtube.com

And she gave a BEAUTIFUL speech.

Orange is the New Black / Netflix / Via giphy.com

Wiley spoke about kids growing up in intolerant families, her own positive family experience, and what it means to her to be proudly and visibly gay.

“As I sit and I listen to these stories pour out of people, my first thought is often how little we must think of ourselves, to only accept tolerance,” she said.

What about acceptance? What about celebration, and love, and embracing difference, rather than merely tolerating it? What might happen if we raise the bar higher?

“The HRC’s work teaches us every day that sexuality and gender identity…”

Human Rights Commission / Via youtube.com

“…should be a mere footnote in our lives, rather than the definition of our existence.”

Human Rights Commission / Via youtube.com

“Over the past few years since my own public image has increased tenfold, I have been overwhelmed to witness the profound ways that I am able to make a difference simply by living my life openly, and with love.”

I believe that being visible truly is a huge part of the battle. Some days it isn’t about moving mountains, but rather about waking up every day and choosing to live my truth as authentically as I am able. It is about holding my girlfriend’s hand when I walk down the street. It’s about doing something as small as posting a picture on Instagram that might teach a queer teenage girl in a small town that she’s going to have a beautiful life too. That it’s possible, that anything is possible. It’s about emanating pride and love rather than shame, and hate.

A Valentine’s Day snap of Wiley’s partner Lauren Morelli. The pair met on the set of Orange is the New Black, on which Morelli is a writer. instagram.com

We love you, Samira.

Human Rights Commission / Via youtube.com

Watch the full speech here.

youtube.com

Correction: The Visibility Award was presented to Wiley by the Human Rights Campaign. An earlier version of this post called the organisation the Human Rights Commission.

Alabama Supreme Court Orders Temporary Stop To New Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

“Alabama law allows for ‘marriage’ between only one man and one woman,” the Alabama Supreme Court states, reaching its own conclusion about the constitutionality of the state’s marriage ban.

Angela Channell, right, and Dawn Hicks, left, display their marriage license on Feb. 13, 2015. Robert Sutton / AP

WASHINGTON — The Alabama Supreme Court ordered probate judges throughout the state to stop issuing marriage licenses temporarily to same-sex couples.

A growing number of probate judges had begun issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples ever since the U.S Supreme Court let a federal district court’s rulings that the state’s bans on such marriages are unconstitutional go into effect.

The Tuesday night order — to which only one justice of the state’s high court dissented — is the result of an emergency request brought to the court by two conservative nonprofit organizations, the Alabama Policy Institute and the Alabama Citizens Action Program.

In addition to ordering all probate judges to halt the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples temporarily, the Alabama Supreme Court directs any probate judges who wish to do so to file a response in the next five business days as to why they should not be bound by the Alabama Supreme Court’s order.

Because there is no ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court on whether bans on same-sex couples’ marriages are constitutional, the Alabama Supreme Court stated that it is free to reach its own conclusion about the constitutionality of Alabama’s bans.

The Alabama Supreme Court then decided that the marriage ban in Alabama is constitutional.

Then, because the federal district court injunctions only apply to a couple officials, the Alabama Supreme Court ordered all probate judges who are not specifically covered by those injunctions to stop issuing licenses.

So, how did the Alabama Supreme Court get there?

In the opinion, the court states that the request from the conservative groups claims that “Alabama probate judges are flouting a duty imposed upon them by the [laws and amendment banning same-sex couples’ marriages] and that we should direct the respondent probate judges to perform that duty.”

The court then goes through the process by which same-sex couples began marrying in many counties in Alabama, concluding that “uncertainty has become the order of the day” and that “©onfusion reigns.”

As such, the court held, “There is a need for immediate, uniform relief among all the probate judges of this State” — particularly given the “‘magnitude and importance’ of the issue.”

The court then goes on to decide whether the groups can, in effect, stand in for the state in the action — called “public standing” — and concludes that they can.

“The final procedural issue we consider is whether the federal court’s order prevents this Court from acting with respect to probate judges of this State who … are not bound by the order of the federal district court in [the marriage case],” the court states. “The answer is no.”

The Alabama Supreme Court goes on: “[S]tate courts may interpret the United States Constitution independently from, and even contrary to, federal courts.”

Then, it did exactly that. “After careful consideration of the reasoning employed by the federal district court in [the marriage recognition case],” the court ruled, “we find that the provisions of Alabama law contemplating the issuance of marriage licenses only to opposite-sex couples do not violate the United States Constitution and that the Constitution does not alter or override the ministerial duties of the respondents under Alabama law.”

As such, the court concluded: “Alabama law allows for ‘marriage’ between only one man and one woman. Alabama probate judges have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license contrary to this law. Nothing in the United States Constitution alters or overrides this duty.”

Elmore County Probate Judge John Enslen, originally named as a respondent to the matter, was “realigned” to join the proceeding with the conservative groups because he, essentially, agreed with the groups.

Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis, because he was subject to the federal court’s order, asked to be dismissed from this action. The Alabama Supreme Court asked Davis whether he is bound by the federal court order to grant licenses to all same-sex couples or just the named plaintiffs in the federal case. It was not immediately clear whether he is bound by the Alabama Supreme Court’s temporary halt on same-sex couples’ marriages.

Here is the Alabama Supreme Court’s order: