News Round-Up: November 21, 2019

(photo: Tibo Norman)

Some news items you might have missed:

InstaHunks: Joel Green (above), photographed by Tibo Norman, is definitely giving off some super-hero vibes a la The CW.

The Hill: A new poll shows that 66% of Republicans believe adoption groups should not be able to turn away LGBTQ parents, compared to 75% of Democrats and 73% of independents. Overall, 72% say adoption agencies should not be allowed to deny service to members of the LGBTQ community, while 29 percent disagreed.

NBC News: A Florida jury has awarded a gay man more than $157 million in a wrongful death lawsuit after his husband died from lung cancer caused by smoking cigarettes, in what an attorney said is the first such case involving a same-sex married couple.

Raw Story: The Republican National Committee admits to buying nearly $100,000 worth of Donald Trump Jr.’s new book just days before it was released. When the tome landed on the NY Times Bestseller list, it received a connotation that ‘bulk purchases’ were involved in the sales numbers. NY Times reporter Nick Confessore confirmed the bulk purchase today with the RNC today.

CNN: Democrats are anticipating a busy December that will be filed with proceedings before the House Judiciary Committee, including public hearings and a markup, and a likely vote to impeach Trump on the House floor by Christmas Day, according to multiple Democratic sources.

HuffPost: Donald Trump traveled to Austin, Texas, on Wednesday to tour a manufacturing plant with Apple chief executive Tim Cook, touting the opening of a “new” facility that would bring high-paying jobs back to America. Except – the plant has been making Apple computers since 2013, long before Trump was elected.

Billboard: Randy Report favorite Randy Rainbow debuted at #1 this week on the Billboard Comedy chart with his new release, Hey Gurl, It’s Christmas!

Recognizing National Adoption Month, Pence Extolled Anti-LGBTQ Adoption Rule

Vice President Mike Pence

Vice President Mike Pence made an appearance at a National Adoption Month event held by the Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday where he praised Donald Trump for proposing a rule that would allow taxpayer-funded faith-based adoption agencies to deny LGBTQ people child placement in their homes.

The Washington Blade reports Pence told the crowd that he “couldn’t be more proud” of the rule he said demonstrates the Trump administration’s understanding of “the role that communities of faith play in adoption.”

“We’ve reversed the rule implemented in the closing days of the last administration that jeopardized the ability of faith-based providers to serve those in need by penalizing them for their deeply held religious beliefs,” said the Vice President. “We will stand for the freedom of religion and we will stand with faith-based organizations to support adoption.”

He also commended HHS Secretary Alex Azar and his staff for “promulgating the new rule that respects the freedom of religion of every American, but also recognizes the vital role that faith-based organizations play in adoption in this country.”

Pence ended his remarks saying, “And I’ll make you one more promise: Child welfare providers will never be forced to choose between their faith and serving those in need — not on our watch.”

The HHS proposal would reverse a regulation implemented in the last months of the Obama administration prohibiting recipients of federal grants from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Pence noted statistics that claim “four out of five families have pointed to faith and church support as a factor in successful fostering.”

But what Pence failed to mention is that same-sex couples are “four times more likely to be raising an adopted child and six times more likely to be raising foster children than heterosexual couples,” according to AmericanAdoptions.com.

“The Trump-Pence White House has proposed a horrific federal regulation that would permit discrimination across the entire spectrum of HHS programs receiving federal funding,” Human Right’s Campaign President Alphonso David said in a statement when the rule was announced.

Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD, told Out, “Research has shown LGBTQ families provide the same kind of love, protection, and support as other families, and no child should be denied that kind of environment.”

Ellis added, “The Trump Administration has once again demonstrated how they prefer to prioritize the gross work of anti-LGBTQ activists over the safety and well-being of our children.”

(source: Washington Blade)

News Round-Up: October 14, 2019

Michael and I getting our Pride on at Las Vegas Pride this year

Some news items you might have missed:

Pride: We do LGBTQ Pride later in the year here in Las Vegas because June, the traditional month for Pride, is swelteringly hot. That’s Michael and I (above) briefly striking a pose. Check out more from Las Vegas Pride 2019 at the bottom of this post via Instagram.

Boy Culture: Scotty Bowers, the purported pimp and hustler to a slew of Golden Age of Hollywood stars, praised by some for his frankness and bashed by others as a fabulist, died Sunday at 96.

Politico: Sen. Elizabeth Warren is increasing pressure on Facebook to police false political ads on the social media platform. Her campaign made an ad with false claims and it was quickly approved.

Unilad: This gay couple from Argentina adopted a baby living with HIV that was rejected by ten other families.

Instagram: Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Holland (currently starring together in Spiderman: Far From Home) almost broke the internet when jokingly posting, “Forget the Biebers… We’re getting married.”

Deadline: Billy Porter on trying to break into Hollywood, “We must speak life into ourselves, even when everyone around us is doing the opposite. I never saw anything that looked like me, and visibility – when we see ourselves reflected back – is so important.”

And now, more shiny, happy people (including Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Chasten Buttigieg) at this year’s Pride celebration here in Las Vegas:

Russian Authorities Remove Adopted Children From Gay Dads

(stock photo of two dads and son via Depositphotos)

After two dads in Russia took one of their adopted children to a Moscow hospital for treatment, doctors notified Russian authorities and the children have now been taken from the couple.

Gay Star News reports that the men took the child to the emergency room on June 19 for a suspected case of appendicitis.

But when hospital staff realized the boy had two dads, they were reported to the Investigative Committee of Russia.

Adoption by gay couples isn’t allowed in Russia. One of the men legally adopted the two boys, now aged 12 and 14, back in 2010 as a single parent.

The committee ruled the adoption violated the country’s 2013 ‘gay propaganda’ law which prohibits any positive portrayal of LGBTQ people in the media. The government says the law is necessary to protect children from ‘unconventional’ identities.

“A man has been raising two young adopted boys since 2010 in living conditions with another man,” read the committee’s report. “At the same time, he promotes unconventional relations, forming distorted ideas about family values in children, harming their health, moral, and spiritual development.”

In making its determination, the committee ordered authorities to remove the children from their home of nine years.

After multiple attempts to search the family’s home, investigators broke down the doors of the men’s apartment. One of the fathers was interrogated for more than three hours.

The committee also sued the social workers who approved the adoption charging them with negligence.

The social workers were accused of not taking “appropriate measures to protect minors from information harmful to their health and development.”

But, according to the men’s lawyers, the adoption agency had made regular visits over the years to check on the boys’ welfare. The reports filed following visits indicated the children were well and under excellent care.

Gay Star News quotes an LGBTQ activist named Polina who shared that a psychologist who assessed the family found no evidence of abuse, reporting “a healthy and close emotional connection between parents and children.”

Polina notes that this is the first time the ‘gay propaganda’ law has been used to remove children from a family home.

GOP Congressman: Orphanages Might Be A Better “Possibility” For Kids Than Gay Adoption

A Republican congressman from New Jersey appears to have told a group of high school students in his district that kids without families might be better off living in an orphanage instead of same-sex adoptive parents.
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ)

A Republican congressman from New Jersey appears to have told a group of high school students in his district that kids without families might be better off living in an orphanage instead of same-sex adoptive parents.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), who has represented New Jersey’s 4th congressional district since 1981, attended an assembly of high school students at Colts Neck High School on May 29 this year.

During the Q&A session, high school senior Hannah Valdes asked the congressman about his opposition to same-sex couples adopting children.

In 1999, Smith had voted for a legislative amendment that would have prevented gay parents to adopt in the District of Columbia.

Valdes shared that she has a lesbian sister who would like to adopt at some point in the future, and so wanted to know why Smith felt her sister would be “less of a legitimate parent” than folks in heterosexual relationships.

Smith, according to a recording provided to The Los Angeles Blade, seemed to dodge the question saying “the issue, legally, is moot at this point especially with the Supreme Court decision” in an apparent reference to the 2015 case, Obergefell v. Hodges.

Smith added, that Valdes’ sister is “free to adopt.”

To be clear, however, in the aftermath of the 2015 SCOTUS ruling, states have begun to enact legislation allowing faith-based adoption agencies to decline placement of children with LGBT parents via a claim of ‘religious freedom.’ So, Valdes’ sister may not find herself so “free to adopt” at some point in the future.

When pressed further on the subject, Smith also alluded to the idea that “there are many others who would like to adopt who can acquire a child,” and for those folks “the waiting periods are extremely long.”

At some point, another student asked about these “others” and why they would be more suitable for adopting than, say, Valdes’ sister.

Smith began his reply saying, “In my opinion, every child needs every possibility of,” but stopped short of finishing his thought. Many in the audience felt he was heading down the path of saying children should have every chance of being raised by a mother and a father.

It’s at that point that Smith switched things up saying, “Somebody mentioned orphanages before. I mean, orphanages are still a possibility for some kids.”

Wait – what?

According to the Blade, one student followed that statement up with the question, “You’d rather have kids in an orphanage than with…?”

When asked whether Smith still felt that same-sex couples shouldn’t be allowed to adopt, he said he did.

Valdes told the Blade, “Smith responded by saying he does not approve of gay adoption because gay households are not healthy environments for children to grow up in.”

He also referenced “numerous household studies” that indicate children do better with heterosexual parents than LGBT parents.

That statement is not accurate, however. Dozens of studies have shown children of gay parents fare equally as well as children of straight parents.

The exchange was eventually cut off by an administrator who interrupted to change the subject.

It will come as no surprise that Smith has an abysmal record on LGBT issue in Congress.

He voted for the hideous Defense of Marriage Act as well as a constitutional amendment that would have banned marriage equality across the nation.

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?” Yep, he voted for that, too. When it came time to repeal the military ban, he voted against that.

He’s also a co-sponsor on the First Amendment Defense Act which aims to legalize LGBT discrimination via deeply-held “religious beliefs.”

Basically, Rep. Smith doesn’t seem to have met an anti-LGBT bill he didn’t like.

Smith’s opponent in the upcoming mid-term elections, Democrat Josh Welle, was asked by the Blade for his response to the assembly chat.

“Chris Smith’s out-of-touch views might have flown in 1980 when he was elected, but his time has passed,” Welle said. “In 2018, in Central Jersey, it is unacceptable to imply a child would be better off in an orphanage than with a loving LGBTQ family. As a veteran, I fought on the front lines alongside men and women who gave their lives to protect and defend the civil liberties that our Constitution ensures for everyone, not just a few. Chris Smith takes us backwards on inclusion and basic human rights for all.”

(h/t Los Angeles Blade)

To Avoid The Gays, Catholic Charities Of Buffalo Ends Adoptions

 The Catholic Charities of Buffalo has announced the organization will end its adoption and foster care services because Jesus.

New York state law bans discrimination against same-sex couples when it comes to adoption or foster care, but the Catholic Church’s position is that marriage is only between a man and a woman.

“We’re a Catholic organization, so we have to practice what we do consistent with the teaching of the church,” Dennis C. Walczyk, the chief executive officer of Catholic Charities, told The Buffalo News.

The issue came to a head when a same-sex couple recently filed an application to become adoptive foster parents. Rather than place a homeless child with a loving couple, Catholic Charities chose to shut down.

It’s worth noting that this is the same Catholic Church which is currently facing enormous scandal in neighboring Pennsylvania where a two year grand jury investigation revealed over 300 priests sexually abused over 1,000 children across 7 decades.

The state issued a statement underscoring its commitment to allowing ALL families to take part in foster care and adoption programs.

“In New York State, we welcome all families who are ready to provide loving and nurturing homes to foster or adoptive children,” said Children and Family Services spokeswoman Monica Mahaffey. “There is no place for providers that choose not to follow the law.”

There are currently 34 children in 24 of the the Catholic Charities certified foster homes. Those children will eventually be transferred to the auspices of another agency.

Sadly, those couples in the middle of the adoption process will be forced to begin again with a new agency.

In this day and age, its utterly ridiculous that an organization that alleges to care for children can’t somehow find a middle ground on this issue.

The editorial board of The Buffalo News agrees, writing:

It is a shame that the church cannot find a way to bridge this chasm, which will eventually open in every state. Does placing a child with a same-sex couple necessarily mean that the church endorses same-sex marriage? Surely there are differences between approving of such unions and simply acknowledging the fact of them. And isn’t any child better off with a loving family that wants to provide its support?

It’s clear the Catholic Church’s answer to those questions is ‘no.’

It seems it’s better to leave children homeless than allow a same-sex couple to offer their love and shelter.

Because… that’s what Jesus would have wanted?

ABC’s ‘What Would You Do?’ Explores Opinions On Adoption By Same-Sex Couples

ABC News series ‘What Would You Do?’ looks at opinions on gay adoption

ABC News’ popular What Would You Do? series took a dive into the issue of gay adoption and foster care with a scenario involving a gay couple and their seemingly adopted daughter.

Pointing out that almost 60,000 foster and adopted children across America are being raised by same-sex couples, WWYD notes that the laws regarding same-sex couples adopting vary from state to state.

For instance, in New York state, gay couples are allowed to adopt children no matter their marital status. But in Kentucky, the state requires same-sex couples to be married in order to adopt.

In the experiment, the show set up the same scenario in those two very different states to see if folks’ opinions varied as well.

What would you do if you heard a restaurant patron openly criticize a gay couple for raising a little girl?

First up, in Bardstown, Kentucky, the actress portraying the “intolerant” role calls across the restaurant to compliment the young girl. But when she finds out the couple are two gay dads, things go sour quickly.

“Don’t you think she should have a mother?,” the woman asks loudly. “I don’t think a child should be raised that way,” she adds.

A customer at a table between the couple and the hater quickly shifts her seat so that she blocks the hater’s view.

When the hater addresses the customer, her husband doesn’t hesitate to quickly stand and ask, “Lady, are you nuts or something?”

“You want me to leave?,” the hater asks. “That would be great,” says the gentleman as he sits down to his lunch as the woman exits the restaurant.

“Lady, are you nuts or something?”

In another scene, when the Kentucky hater yells, “That’s an innocent child with two gay men raising her,” another patron calmly explains to the woman, “I’m a teacher. I see it all the time and the children do not have problems.”

Bam!

Up in Orangetown, New York, the hater is calmly confronted by a diner patron with this epic takedown:

“You need to lighten up lady. You need to back off. Get into the real world. You’ve got two people celebrating and demonstrating love for a child. You’ve got a lot of nerve. It doesn’t matter. Love is love. Would you rather see that child homeless, starving to death? It’s not about your opinion. It’s about the welfare of a child, a human being. The problem in the world is not two men raising a child. The problem in the world is you making comments like that.”

BamBam!

Flipping to Bardstown, when the Kentucky hater tells a restaurant customer, “I can’t believe you’re ok with this,” the patron doesn’t miss a beat: “I can’t believe you’re as intolerant as you are.”

Eventually, the entire restaurant turns on the hater and demands she leave.

Back at the New York diner, a male customer claps back in direct style telling the harasser, “My wife was raised by two women. It’s still love for the child and that’s all that f**king matters. You got a problem with that, f**king leave.”

Watch the scenarios unfold below.

Philadelphia: Judge Rules Against Adoption Agency Requesting Religious Exemption To Discriminate

A federal judge has ruled against a Catholic adoption agency for discriminating against perspective LGBTQ parents

Two Christian adoption agencies in Philadelphia saw their city contracts suspended earlier this year when it was discovered they openly discriminated against LGBTQ people.

One of the agencies, Bethany Christian Services, agreed to change its policies and comply, but Catholic Social Services (CSS) refused to do so claiming their constitutional rights were being violated in having to adhere to anti-discrimination laws.

Now, a federal judge has ruled against CSS’s request for a religious exemption to the law.

CSS freely admits that they do not certify same-sex couples as foster parents even if the couple is considered qualified by every metric of the law. Additionally, CSS continues to refuse home studies for those same-sex couples who may be looking to adopt.

The vice president of CSS, James Amato, told the judge that everyone who applies to be a foster parent must submit a letter from the applicant’s clergy declaring them to be ‘religious.’

CSS holds the position that foster care and adoption are not ‘public accommodations’ and so the anti-discrimination law doesn’t apply to them.

But U.S. District Judge Petrese Tucker disagreed with CSS and rejected the agency’s arguments saying CSS’s contract with the city to provide services for a fee constitutes a public accommodation.

Moreover, the judge held that CSS’s loss of its contract with the city would not negatively impact foster children as the city “offered evidence showing that the closure of CSS’s intake of new referrals has had little or no effect on the operation of Philadelphia’s foster care system,” Judge Tucker wrote.

Also, the judge pointed to the “clergy letter” requirement and suggested that raised “serious constitutional questions” regarding freedom of religion.

As Think Progress points out, this kind of “religious freedom” defense for justifying LGBTQ discrimination is happening all over the country.

A judge in Michigan is currently hearing arguments over a state law that allows adoption agencies to receive state funding while actively discriminating.

Oklahoma and Kansas have recently enacted similar laws, and House Republicans in Congress recently approved an amendment to a spending bill that would protect adoption agencies that choose to discriminate based on ‘religious beliefs.’

This same week, a federal judge was hearing arguments in the ACLU’s challenge of a Michigan law that guarantees adoption agencies can continue to receive state funding even if they discriminate.

Kansas and Oklahoma recently passed similar laws, and Republicans in Congress also passed an amendment to a funding bill this week that would create a similar license to discriminate for child placement agencies across the country.

In related news, a recent study in Italy shows children fare well with same-sex parents.

House Committee Approves Anti-LGBTQ Adoption Language

Rep. Robert Aderholt of Alabama

The GOP-led House Appropriations Committee has passed an amendment which would allow taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to deny LGBTQ families the ability to adopt a child based on religious objection.

By a vote of 29-23, the committee approved the amendment to a government funding bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. The amendment would allow child welfare agencies to discriminate against prospective parents, including same-sex couples, based on the agency’s religious beliefs.

U.S. Rep. Scott Taylor (R-Va.) was the lone Republican to oppose the amendment. All Democrats on the committee voted against the language.

From Chris Johnson at The Washington Blade:

The amendment, introduced by Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), would bar the federal government and state or localities from denying funds to adoption agencies that have “declined or will decline to provide, facilitate or refer for a child welfare service that conflicts with, or under circumstances that conflict with, the provider’s sincerely held religious beliefs of convictions.”

The measure would empower the secretary of health and human services to withhold 15 percent of federal government funds from state and localities if they penalize adoption agencies for acting on their religious beliefs in terms of child placement.

The amendment mirrors new laws in several states allowing taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to deny placement into homes, including LGBT households, over religious objections. Currently, nine states – Alabama, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, Oklahoma and Kansas – have adopted similar policies.

In a statement to The Washington Blade, legislative director for the American Civil Liberties Union, Ian Thompson, denounced the amendment on the basis it would anti-LGBT discrimination.

“The ACLU strongly opposes the amendment because it essentially privileges the religious and moral beliefs of providers over the best interest of children who are in their care,” said Thompson.

Thankfully, there’s a strong possibility the amendment won’t survive the legislative process. The corresponding Senate committee has already approved its version of the bill without the anti-LGBTQ amendment. This means the two bills will have to be hashed out in conference between the two chambers and experts feel the amendment would most likely be stripped out.

The Democratic National Committee’s LGBTQ Media Director Lucas Acosta issued this statement:

“House Republicans are pandering to their far-right base at the expense of LGBTQ people and children in need of a home. Rather than focusing on empowering families or uniting children with their parents, Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee voted to give child welfare agencies a license to discriminate against qualified potential parents.

“Across the country, LGBTQ candidates are running for office and taking a stand against the Trump-GOP agenda, which seeks to roll back the progress we have made. In November, voters will stand together in the face of this bigotry and hate and elect Democrats up and down the ticket.”

Oklahoma Becomes First State in 2018 To Pass Anti-LGBT Legislation

Oklahoma has passed the first anti-LGBTQ law of 2018 which effectively allows faith-based adoption agencies to deny placement of children with gay couples or individuals

America, America, America – 2018 was doing pretty well so far when it comes to new legislation and the LGBTQ community. No new state bills attacking the community had been signed into law this year.

Until now.

In Oklahoma, Gov. Mary Fallin has put her signature on Senate Bill 1140 which effectively legalizes LGBTQ discrimination by faith-based adoption and foster care agencies which receive public funds.

This is the first new anti-LGBTQ law in the United States in 2018. What a dubious achievement.

The new law makes it legal to deny placing children in LGBTQ homes based on “religious objections.” Simply declaring a religious or moral opposition to same-sex marriage would allow a faith-based agency the legal right to refuse to place a child in same-sex homes.

The legislation could also withhold child placement with single or divorced people if their social status were to offend an adoption agency’s religious beliefs.

LGBTQ advocates quickly criticized the new law.

“It is shameful that Gov. Mary Fallin has signed into law a patently discriminatory law that targets children,” said JoDee Winterhof, Senior Vice President of Policy and Political Affairs at the Human Rights Campaign. “Gov. Fallin has cemented her legacy, siding with discrimination and the legislature in throwing kids under the bus to create a ‘license to discriminate’ against LGBTQ Oklahomans.”

And Troy Stevenson, Executive Director of Freedom Oklahoma, issued a statement which read, in part: “While we are deeply disappointed that Governor Fallin choose to sign discrimination into law, we are more concerned about the children – desperately looking for homes – that will be harmed by this disgraceful legislation.”

“Our message to Governor Fallin, and the lawmakers who championed this travesty is simple: we’ll see you in court!” added Stevenson.

Supporters of the new law say these faith-based agencies will have to shut their doors if forced to place children into LGBT homes.

Currently, five states – Mississippi, Michigan, Virginia, Texas, Alabama, South Dakota and North Dakota — have similar laws on the books, although Michigan’s law is being challenged in the federal courts thanks to the ACLU.

Kansas’s governor has a similar anti-LGBTQ adoption bill waiting on his desk.