Two Female Couples Become First to Wed In Australia Under Marriage Equality

Same-sex couples began marrying in Australia on Saturday, a full three weeks sooner than the first marriages were expected to happen on Jan. 9 since the Australian people and Parliament voted in favor of marriage equality earlier this month. 

For months, pro and anti-marriage equality ads flooded Australia as the people there had until November to mail-in a non-binding ballot saying whether they were for or against marriage equality, which Parliament would use as a guide for the official vote. The votes were counted and by Nov. 14, it was clear that the Australian people chose love. By Dec. 7, Parliament voted in favor of equality and couples began registering to marry. The hitch was that there was a 30-day waiting period, which would have meant couples could marry only as soon as early January. 

But a pair of female couples, one from Sydney and one from Melbourne, sought exemptions that allowed them to wed early, according to The Telegraph

The lesbian couple from Sydney, Lauren Price and Amy Laker, wore white as they said “I do” at their wedding in Macarthur Park in Camden. The couple was allowed to wed before the 30-day waiting period was up because they had planned a civil ceremony and Price’s family had already booked the trip from their home in Wales, UK, according to Yahoo

Another couple, Amy and Elise McDonald, who had originally planned just a commitment ceremony, were allowed an exemption to skip the one-month waiting period and they married in Melbourne on Saturday, according to 7 News First. 

“You don’t choose who you fall in love with,” said Amy McDonald. “At the end of the day, Elise was the perfect person for me.”

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Sweetheart Measure for Churches Stripped From GOP Tax Bill

Republicans pushed for a repeal of the 1954 Johnson Amendment — which prohibits churches and nonprofits from engaging in partisan politics, such as lobbying and campaigning for specific candidates — in the proposed tax bill, but failed to get their way.

A Senate parliamentarian stripped the tax bill, which gives numerous breaks to corporations and wealthy individuals, of the Johnson Amendment repeal, Rep. Ron Wyden of Oregon told The Hill. The Johnson Amendment repeal didn’t have enough to do with the actual budget to be included in the legislation, according to the parliamentarian.

“I will continue to fight all attempts to eliminate this critical provision that keeps the sanctity of our religious institutions intact, prevents the flow of dark money in politics, and keeps taxpayer dollars from advancing special interest biddings,” Wyden said in a statement first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

The repeal of the Johnson Amendment, named for then-Sen, Lyndon Johnson, was pushed by right-wing Republicans like President Trump and Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma. LGBT organizations bristled at the thought of churches being granted even more political clout and pastors being allowed to endorse candidates from the pulpit.

These Schools Get Millions Of Tax Dollars To Discriminate Against LGBTQ Students

LYNCHBURG, Va. ― Sunnie Kahle used to think that if she promised to be good, she could go back to her old school.

She’d plead with her great-grandmother to let her enroll again at Timberlake Christian Schools, where she had gone since she was 3 years old. Even if teachers were mean to her, even if other kids said bad things about her, she wouldn’t be mad. She just wanted her old life back.

Her great-grandmother and guardian, Doris Thompson, 74, didn’t know how to tell Sunnie she wasn’t allowed back at the school. Administrators didn’t want her there. In a 2014 letter to Thompson that essentially expelled Sunnie, the school referenced several passages from the Bible as to why they wouldn’t take her back. They suggested Sunnie wasn’t acting “Christlike” by wearing her hair short and preferring pants to skirts.

Sunnie was 8 years old. She wasn’t traditionally feminine enough for them.  

Timberlake Christian Schools in Virginia is one of over at least 700 religious schools in America currently receiving public money while openly advertising and practicing anti-LGBTQ policies, HuffPost has found in a new investigation.

HuffPost has been examining private schools that receive taxpayer dollars through voucher or tax credit programs. We created a database of more than 7,000 schools in 25 states and the District of Columbia with private school choice programs that give public money to private religious schools. 

In the first story of this investigation, which we published earlier in December, we looked at what was being taught. We discovered thousands of schools that used evangelical Christian curricula, largely considered inaccurate and unscientific. In our second article, we singled out a handful of schools that purported to be secular but maintained strong ties to the Church of Scientology. For this story, we researched the number of schools in our database that practice discrimination toward LGBTQ students and staff members.

We visited every website of each school in search of evidence of their attitudes and policies on gender-nonconforming and LGBTQ students. If a school did not advertise a specific policy, we followed up via email or a call. For Catholic schools, we looked for diocese-wide policies on these issues. Often, these schools had policies against heterosexual sex before marriage, as well.

We found at least 14 percent of religious schools take an active stance against LGBTQ staff and students. Some of these schools have policies on their websites generally broadcasting their opposition to same-sex marriage or even stating their belief that homosexuality is a sin on par with bestiality. Others have harsher policies ― specifically stating that students can face punishments, like expulsion, for displaying signs of a “homosexual lifestyle” or “alternate gender identity.” At least 5 percent of these schools also have explicit policies against hiring or retaining LGBTQ staff.

On the other hand, we also found many schools that have policies specifically protecting students from discrimination based on sexual orientation.  

Many more of these schools belong to larger churches that preach anti-LGBTQ sentiment. The Seventh-day Adventist Church is “opposed to homosexual practices and relationships,” per the denomination’s website. The Roman Catholic Church says marriage can occur only between a man and woman. We did not assume that schools identifying with these groups were hostile places for LGBTQ students. In our count, we included only schools (or dioceses) that had a specific anti-LGBTQ policy. In that way, our numbers represent a bare minimum of schools where LGBTQ students may encounter hostility.

Religious schools are generally exempt from the types of regulations that would protect students and teachers from discrimination based on sexual orientation. It’s only in recent years, though, that these schools have received an injection of taxpayer funds with the rise and expansion of state-level private school choice programs.

Since President Donald Trump and his secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, have expressed the desire to use federal dollars to increase private school choice, it’s worth closely examining which students are served and which are not. 

After Sunnie was kicked out of Timberlake, her great-grandma transferred her to public school. Thompson, who is emphatic when she talks about Sunnie, in the way only proud grandmas do, has a tattoo on her wrist that says, “Family is forever.”

Sitting in her living room, the walls lined with photos of Sunnie, here in this city just a couple of hours from Richmond, the Virginia capital, Thompson explained how she came to be Sunnie’s guardian. It’s a complicated tale of mental illness and addiction, but since Sunnie was 2 months old, Thompson has been her protector.  

In February of 2014, when Sunnie was in the second grade, the school principal sent a letter home to Thompson saying that, although Sunnie was a “very bright girl,” she recommended that Sunnie not re-enroll the next year if she wasn’t able to “dress” and behave accordingly with her “God-ordained identity” as a female.

Thompson pulled her out of the school immediately.

“They pretty much ruined a little girl’s life,” said Thompson, who helps with her husband Carroll’s truck repair business.

Sunnie didn’t attend Timberlake using a publicly funded scholarship through Virginia’s tax credit program for low-income students. But the year she was kicked out, other students did. During the fiscal year of 2014, Timberlake received $104,121.57 in scholarships. That number has increased. For the fiscal year of 2017, the school received $237,500, per the Virginia Department of Education.

In Virginia, tax credits are given to individuals and corporations that donate to scholarship programs. These scholarship groups then help low-income students attend private schools. Voucher programs are more direct: Taxpayer funds help provide voucher scholarships for students who meet certain requirements to attend private schools.

A 2016 analysis of voucher program rules conducted by Indiana University professor Suzanne Eckes found that not a single one had protections preventing discrimination for LGBTQ students. Eckes did not include tax credit programs in her research.

So HuffPost conducted a similar analysis including programs that were left out by Eckes. We found the same trend. Only one state’s program, Maryland’s, protected students from discrimination based on sexual orientation. While in our research we found a handful of Maryland schools that expressed opposition to same-sex marriage and homosexuality, each stopped short of saying they would deny these students admission.

DeVos has been pressed before on if private schools receiving federal money under a possible voucher program would be required to prohibit anti-LGBTQ discrimination. In June, testifying before a Senate subcommittee, DeVos said that such a program would have to follow federal law.

Indeed, in an email to HuffPost, a spokesperson for DeVos emphasized the fact that there is no federal voucher program and that, if there were, it “would have to comply with federal law.”

The problem is federal law is murky.

The Obama administration interpreted Title IX ― the federal law banning sex discrimination in schools ― to include protections for LGBTQ students. The Trump administration seems to think these decisions should be made at the local level.

“There’s no federal protections for LGBTQ students outside of Title IX,” said Nathan Smith, director for public policy for the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. “We still think it covers LGBTQ students, despite the fact that this administration doesn’t think so.”

Advocates of school choice emphasize that anti-LGBTQ bullying is a problem in all schools, not just private religious ones that participate in voucher programs. They preach the bigger cause of giving parents the ability to choose the most appropriate school for their child. Indeed, voucher programs are typically targeted to low-income families who normally wouldn’t be able to afford the private school of their choice.

“I abhor discrimination and I would hope that schools would not discriminate against LGBTQ students even if the issue is part of their statements of faith,” wrote Robert Enlow, CEO and president of EdChoice, an education reform group, in an email. “I also recognize, though, that we live in a pluralistic society that values choice, individual freedom and an abiding respect for all faiths. I trust parents to make the best choices for their kids based on their shared values and goals.”

But Thompson hopes leaders at Timberlake know that their interpretation of faith is one without merit. 

I feel sorry for them,” Thompson said, referring to administrators at Timberlake, “if they have to answer and stand before our God one day.”

The 74-year-old describes Sunnie as the great love of her life. Even after raising two kids and helping with three grandkids, Sunnie is her ultimate baby. The child has always been fiercely loyal and unfailingly independent, and she has a heart as sweet as apple pie, Thompson said, beaming with pride when asked about Sunnie’s personality.

But now, at 12, Sunnie is also angry and sad.

Life was never going to be easy for Sunnie. Sunnie’s mom had her as a teen. Sunny’s father has not been a consistent presence, Thompson said.

Sunnie’s story of being kicked out of Timberlake was largely covered in the media when it first happened in 2014. Headlines screamed outrage. Sunnie was another victim of homophobia, another viral story here today and gone tomorrow.

What wasn’t covered is what happened next. Sunnie didn’t want to leave Timberlake. From her point of view, it was a place where she was loved and accepted by her friends.

At her new public school, she was teased. The other students would call her “it” and “gay.” Sunnie made one friend ― he used to come over on weekends, and they would play games, Thompson recalled. Then, suddenly, the boy’s father stopped letting him come over. The father said Sunnie needed to “find out her gender” before they could hang out again.

Things didn’t get better. First, Sunnie faked being sick so often that truancy became a problem.

Sunnie didn’t talk to HuffPost for this article for reasons that HuffPost is not reporting to protect the privacy of a minor.

But Thompson wants Sunnie’s story to be heard.

“Being so young, she really doesn’t know how she feels. She doesn’t know what she wants to be. Or who she wants to be,” Thompson said as her eyes welled with tears, reliving the trauma Sunnie experienced. 

Sunnie still doesn’t talk about feelings she may or may not be having. She’s on the verge of puberty. But Thompson worries about what will happen next.

At the time that Sunnie was kicked out of school, lawyers for Timberlake Christian Schools told the media: “Parents and guardians send their children to the School because of our Christian beliefs and standards. We have a duty to create an environment that is supportive of these Christian values.”

HuffPost reached out to the school and asked if they had anything further to add about Sunnie’s situation, years later. They said they did not.

The school’s anti-LGBTQ policy remains in place.

Punishable behaviors include, “but is not necessarily limited to, living in, condoning or supporting sexual immorality; practicing homosexual lifestyle or alternative gender identity; promoting such practices; or otherwise having the inability to support the moral principles of the school,” according to the school’s website.

Sunnie’s story is unusual because of how young she is. She had adult thoughts and projections pushed on her before she was even close to having them herself.

But a similar version of this story plays out around the country regularly.

In 2012, the same year 15,000 Indiana students used vouchers, Warren came out to his family and friends as transgender, he told HuffPost. At the end of his junior year, he informed the principal at his Catholic school that he would be returning as a boy for his senior year.

The bishop from the diocese overseeing Cathedral High School thought this was unacceptable. But instead of kicking Warren out, or telling him not to come back, administrators ignored the way he chose to identify, Warren said.

Teachers were told that if they called Warren by his chosen name, they would face reprisal. Those with whom Warren was close, who wanted to respect his new identity, were afraid to buck the diocese, he said. Some found workarounds by calling him by his last name or initials.

Warren was deeply involved in the school marching band as well as the school’s plays. During the marching band performances, they would announce the performers. Warren asked announcers to leave his name out, since he knew only his “dead name” would be announced. He asked not to be listed in the programs for the school plays.  

“I was pretty depressed a lot of the  time. I had horrible social anxiety,” said Warren, who’s withholding his last name because his college peers are not aware of his transition.

Even after Warren got his name changed legally that school year, the school refused to accept it. They sent off his high school transcripts to colleges with the wrong name, compelling Warren to explain the confusion to admissions offices, thereby being forced to out himself.

A representative of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis said that it opens its doors to “all who are committed to a quality Catholic education, regardless of race, ethnicity, sex, gender, socio-economics, religion, learning differences, etc. Our admissions policies and practices at each local site conform to this approach.” The high school did not respond to requests for comment on the situation.

The diocese does, however, have a policy against employing staff members in same-sex unions, a representative told HuffPost during data collection.

For Warren and Sunnie, other kids at their private schools were not the problem. They were supportive.

It was the adults.

Thompson only hopes the adults at Timberlake learn to treat children with kindness and empathy.

“God wants you to love everybody,” she said. “Especially his children. He loves his children.”

Thompson is attending regular counseling sessions to educate herself on how to be the best parent she can be to her great-granddaughter. 

Course, now I’m 74 years old, so I don’t know that I’m going to be around here 10 years, when she’ll be 22 years old. I hope to God that he will let me stay here until she is grown. But I hope that she will make something of herself. Be somebody, and be proud of who she is.” 

Data and graphics by Alissa Scheller.

If you have experienced discrimination in schools, email rebecca.klein@huffpost.com.

This is the third story in a HuffPost investigation on the policies and curriculum of schools that participate in private school choice programs. The first story, looking at the curriculum used in evangelical Christian schools, is here. The second story, dealing with schools with strong ties to Scientology, is here

'Super Size Me' Director Morgan Spurlock Tweets Confession of Sexual Abuse

Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock is the newest domino to fall amid the #MeToo movement, but unexpectedly, at his own hands. In a tweet on Wednesday, the Super Size Me star admitted to having been accused of rape, among other sexual offenses. 

“As I sit around watching hero after hero, man after man, fall at the realization of their past indiscretions, I don’t sit by and wonder, Who will be next? I wonder, When will they come for me?” Spurlock wrote in his article, I am Part of The Problem. “If I’m going truly represent myself as someone who has built a career on finding the truth, then it’s time for me to be truthful as well.

In the memo, Spurlock details his experience with rape accusations in college from another classmate, who did not file charges.

“When I was in college, a girl who I hooked up with on a one night stand accused me of rape. Not outright. There were no charges or investigations, but she wrote about the instance in a short story writing class and called me by name. A female friend who was in the class told be about it afterwards. I was floored. ‘That’s not what happened!’ I told her. This wasn’t how I remembered it at all. In my mind, we’d been drinking all night and went back to my room. We began fooling around, she pushed me off, then we laid in the bed and talked and laughed some more, and then began fooling around again. We took off our clothes. She said she didn’t want to have sex, so we laid together, and talked, and kissed, and laughed, and then we started having sex.”

The filmmaker described how he stopped having intercourse after his partner started crying. He also admitted to settling a sexual harassment case eight years ago with a former assistant he referred to as “hot pants” and “sex pants,” after she threatened to go public with her experience.

Later in the piece, Spurlock offers excuses for his misconduct, asking:

“What caused me to act this way? Is it all ego? Or was it the sexual abuse I suffered as a boy and as a young man in my teens? Abuse that I only ever told to my first wife, for fear of being seen as weak or less than a man?  Is it because my father left my mother when I was child? Or that she believed he never respected her, so that disrespect carried over into their son? Or is it because I’ve consistently been drinking since the age of 13?”

Unfortunately, none of these qualify as a legal defense for raping a woman. The Internet also thinks Spurlock’s admission is a non-apology, and is wondering if this is a stunt for his next documentary film.

Rotten Apples Database Tracks Sexual Predators in Your Favorite Films and Shows

Gone are the days of blissfully consuming content that may or may not be attached to serial predators since the launch of Rotten Apples, a database that allows users to search films and TV shows to discover if anyone in front of or behind the camera is a sexual harasser or abuser. 

So if there’s that one movie you still love despite the presence of say Kevin Spacey or Dustin Hoffman, or the Weinstein Company’s name in the producing credits, search for it on Rotten Apples and the site will tell you if the content you want to consume is either “fresh apples,” meaning no serial sexual predators are attached to it, or if it’s “rotten apples.” Those movies and TV shows that earn a “rotten apples” rating also provide the name(s) of the attached predators with a link to a story about their transgressions and crimes. If you’re a lover of classic cinema who still has a soft spot for Annie Hall, Chinatown, or any number of Alfred Hitchcock’s films, Rotten Apples is there to remind you just which type of monster helped create the content. 

Since The New York Times published its expose that revealed Weinstein’s serial predation, there’s more of a push than ever to completely eschew projects with predators attached. And Rotten Apples is an invaluable tool to boycott the bad guys (and a few women) of TV and film, but it’s also sobering to come face to face with the fact that some of your faves are problematic. 

“The Rotten Apples is a searchable database that lets you know whether or not a film or television show is tied to a person who has been accused of sexual misconduct. In the case of this website, the ‘person’ is defined as a cast-member, screenwriter, executive producer or director,” Rotten Apples mission/about statement reads. “The goal of this site is to further drive awareness of just how pervasive sexual misconduct in film and television is and to help make ethical media consumption easier.” 

The statement goes on to clarify, “By no means is this site meant to serve as a condemnation of an entire project.”  And that’s where it gets interesting. For instance, search Carol, out director Todd Haynes’s Cate Blanchett-Rooney Mara lesbian-themed masterpiece with a screenplay from lesbian screenwriter Phyllis Nagy, which also stars beloved out actress Sarah Paulson, and the “rotten apples” rating comes up over a famous still from the film. The film is cherished for its artistry and its queer representation on and off screen, yet it’s not easy to look away from the names Harvey and Bob Weinstein (the serial sexual abusers who executive-produced the film) and all that they represent.

 

Despite Rotten Apples‘ eye-opening mission that holds a mirror up to what consumers of content are willing to support, the site is a bit of marvel for its thoroughness, assuming it was created post-Weinstein. Search something recent like Manchester by the Sea and it comes up “rotten” for Casey Affleck’s participation in it. Or toss it back 60 years and search Rear Window and that classic turns up a “rotten apples” rating for Hitchcock having terrorized several of his lead actresses, particularly Tippi Hedren on The Birds and Marnie.

But it’s not just film. The TV section is already rather comprehensive. Searches for Transparent and House of Cards turn up “rotten apples” scores for their predatory lead actors, while a show like the CW’s Arrow gets a rotten rating for producer Andrew Kreisberg’s history of harassment. 

While it seems like an exercise in becoming increasingly disgusted to continue to search content with harassers attached to it, there is a bright side. Searches for new and old popular content like Will & Grace, Queer as Folk, The L Word, Orange Is the New Black, Big Little Lies, Stranger Things, and so on yield a bright green “fresh apples” rating with a line that reads, “This TV show has no known affiliation to anyone with allegations of sexual misconduct against them. If you believe this is an error, please let us know by clicking here and we’ll fix it as soon as possible.” 

For all of the correct results the site yields, there are swaths of content that have yet to be fleshed out for good or bad, particularly in foreign cinema. The site fails to recognize famous foreign films by the greats like Jean-Luc Godard, Federico Fellini, Francois Truffaut and even the early work of Pedro Almodovar, to name a few. 

The site does allow that there’s room for error and correction with some of its results. For instance, search any Mel Gibson project and it comes up with a “fresh apples” rating, which is debatable since he’s well known to be a racist, anti-Semitic misogynist who threatened to kill and rape his wife. For the record, his name has now been submitted for review on several of his films. 

Consumers of content often develop blind spots when it comes to their favorite movies, actors, and shows, but like it or not, Rotten Apples makes it all painfully clear. 

BREAKING: Doug Jones Defeats Homophobe Roy Moore in Alabama

Democrat Doug Jones has pulled off a stunning upset of notorious homophobe Roy Moore in the race for U.S. senator from Alabama.

Jones was leading Moore, a Republican, by 49.7 percent to 48.7 percent when The New York Times and CNN called the race for him. Jones will serve the remainder of the Senate term of Republican Jeff Sessions, expiring in January 2021. Sessions left to become U.S. attorney general.

Jones will be Alabama’s first Democratic U.S. senator since the 1990s. The last Democrat the state elected to that office was Howell Heflin, to whom Jones was once an aide.

In the end, what derailed Moore was probably not his extreme-right views on LGBT rights, abortion, gun control, and more. During the Senate campaign Moore became the subject of allegations that he sexually abused teenage girls when he was in his early 30s, about 40 years ago. He was accused, among other things, of molesting a 14-year-old and sexually assaulting a 16-year-old. He denied all the allegations, but they likely cost him votes. With 96 percent of precincts reporting, there were about 21,000 write-in votes for other candidates — more than the difference between the totals for Jones and Moore. 

“On this day Alabama stood for victims. It stood for women. It stood for compassion,” John Archibald wrote on AL.com, a website for several Alabama newspapers. He noted, “Roy Moore and his supporters called [his accusers] liars and whiners. And some Alabamians joined in the disdain, calling them sluts and worse, insisting that it was once the Alabama way to find mates too young to drive, and that once upon a time, groping was an acceptable act. But Alabama, against the odds and conventional wisdom, stood and rejected that behavior.”

The former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Moore has long been known for his extremely anti-LGBT views, saying marriage equality will destroy the nation, that homosexual “activity” should be illegal, and that transgender people have no rights. He is also an abortion opponent and a gun rights absolutist. He once said that Keith Ellison shouldn’t be seated in Congress because he is a Muslim, and suggested that President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States. 

He was twice removed from the court for defying federal court orders — in 2003 for refusing to take down a Ten Commandments monument at the state courthouse, an unconstitutional establishment of religion, and in 2016 for ethics violations related to his efforts to block marriage equality in the state. (He appealed the latter decision to a special court, and it was upheld in 2017.) After the latest removal, he decided to run for Senate.

Jones, who has taken pro-LGBT stances, is a former U.S. attorney. After finishing law school in the late 1970s, he was staff counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee under Howell Heflin, the last Democrat Alabamians sent to the U.S. Senate.

Later, Jones worked as both a prosecutor and a defense attorney. In 1997, President Clinton appointed him U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama. In that capacity, he led the prosecution of two of the men who bombed a black church in Birmingham in 1963, killing four young girls and injuring 16 other people. Thomas Blanton and Bobby Frank Cherry were both convicted of murder, in 2001 and 2002 respectively. They were two other suspects in the case — Robert Chambliss, who was convicted of murder in 1977, and Herman Frank Cash, who died in 1994, before he could be tried.

7 Women the Golden Globes Snubbed for Best Director

The Golden Globes Best Director nominations, announced Monday, are nothing if not boring and predictable choices that fail to recognize women. While Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water has garnered solid reviews and is a fantasy piece that celebrates otherness, the others are more predictable. A few of Hollywood’s favorite men are nominated: Steven Spielberg picked up a nomination for The Post, Christopher Nolan for Dunkirk, and Ridley Scott for All the Money in the World (which was reshot with Christopher Plummer so recently it’s hard to believe many critics have seen it) while Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri‘s Martin McDonagh appears to be the dark horse of the nominees for directing a film about a woman seeking justice/revenge for her daughter’s rape and murder. 

But if the Globes wanted to reward a woman’s story or even a story interpreted through the eyes of a woman, there were plenty of female directors the Hollywood Foreign Press could have recognized. But in the year of the #MeToo movement, when Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird nabbed the highest Rotten Tomatoes score of all time and Wonder Woman captivated critics and audiences for an entire summer moviegoing season, the Globes directing nominations are sadly and stupidly shortsighted.

In a year that was loaded with excellent films from women, including documentaries like Agnes Varda’s Faces Places, Catherine Gund and Dareshi Kyi’s Chavela, and Sabaah Folayan’s Whose Streets? as well asforeign films like Petra Volpe’s The Divine Order and small films like Maggie Betts’s Novitiate, we compiled a list of women directors who could/should have been on the collective radar of Globes voters but who were ignored in a category that is disappointingly trite and male. 

Angela Robinson for Professor Marston and the Wonder Women 

Out director Angela Robinson (D.E.B.S.) and a powerhouse producing team that includes Jill Soloway and Andrea Sperling retell the story of the professor who created the Wonder Woman comics and the women who loved him and each other. The period piece stars Luke Evans as Professor James Marston, Rebecca Hall as his wife, Elizabeth Marston (an attorney and psychologist), and Bella Heathcote as Olive Byrne, the student they love. The film intertwines the rise of their polyamorous relationship with the creation of Wonder Woman, which was loaded with bondage and kink it its nascent stage. Connie Britton and Oliver Platt costar in this thoughtful film. 

Sofia Coppola for The Beguiled 

All of Sofia Coppola’s auteur markers were on display in the eerie female-centric reboot of a 1971 Clint Eastwood vehicle that was helmed by Don Siegel. Colin Farrell plays a wounded Irish-American soldier adrift in the South during the Civil War until Nicole Kidman’s Martha, the head of a school for girls, offers him shelter. Psychosexual games and torture ensue in the deliciously twisted flick that costars Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning, Angourie Rice, and Oona Laurence. While the film, in and of itself, is a shrewdly helmed, delicious slice of revenge fantasy, Coppola was rightly, roundly censured for her decision to write out a slave character who appeared in the book and original film. 

Kathryn Bigelow for Detroit 

The only woman to ever win a best directing Oscar (for The Hurt Locker) out of just a few who’ve been nominated throughout history, Kathryn Bigelow, who also directed Zero Dark Thirty, excavated the true events around police brutality that resulted in the deaths of three black men in 1967 in Detroit. The film, the message of which was that history repeats itself and that society should learn from it, was not exactly a critical darling, but Bigelow is as capable a director as any, and she could certainly give someone like Martin McDonagh, nominated for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, a run for his money. 

Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton for Battle of the Sexes

Beyond trouncing proud male chauvinist Bobby Riggs in the legendary 1973 Battle of the Sexes tennis match, Billie Jean King was a proponent for equal pay early in the game. The crowd-pleasing film from Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, the directing team behind Little Miss Sunshine, recounts the story of how that famous battle came to pass at the same time it tracks King’s love affair with hairstylist Marilyn Barnett. And it does it with a whole lot of heart and the hope that is indicative of King’s brand of do-something-about-it feminism. Emma Stone (who is nominated for a Globe) stars as King, while Steve Carell (also nominated) plays Riggs and Andrea Riseborough portrays Barnett. Sarah Silverman, Alan Cumming, Elisabeth Shue, and Natalie Morales costar. 

Dee Rees for Mudbound 

Pariah and Bessie director Dee Rees should be Oscar bound with this epic, important look at the lives of black sharecroppers and white landowners in the Mississippi Delta following World War II, but the Golden Globes failed to recognize her. However, Mary J. Blige earned two nods, one for her breakout role as Florence Jackson in the film, and one for “Mighty River,” the song she wrote for the movie.  Rob Morgan, Jason Mitchell, Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, and Jason Clarke round out the cast of this modern masterpiece. 

Patty Jenkins for Wonder Woman 

A critical favorite and a blockbuster smash, Wonder Woman is so deeply of the moment, shattering the myth that women can’t direct big action or superhero flicks. Wonder Woman is not only the first film starring a female superhero in more than a decade; it’s the first-ever superhero film directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins, who directed Charlize Theron to Oscar (really, all of the acting awards that year) glory in Monster. Gal Gadot donned Wonder Woman’s bracelets and lasso of submission to lead a cast that includes Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, and Lisa Loven Kongsli (Force Majeure) as the women who advise young Diana on existing in the world of men in this origin story that inspired little girls and boys around the world to aspire to be like Wonder Woman. Action films are rarely nominated for Best Picture awards, but if cultural significance in a really well-directed package won prizes, then Wonder Woman should be the recipient.  

Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird

Actress Greta Gerwig’s first feature as a writer-director stars Saoirse Ronan as a sardonic, recalcitrant Northern California teen navigating family, love, sex, and college applications and is universally critically acclaimed, earning it the highest Rotten Tomatoes score of all time. A pristinely executed bildungsroman, Lady Bird bears the markers of films that have come before it but with surprises, twists, and subtlety. The film costars Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Timothée Chalamet, and Lucas Hedges. Gerwig was nominated for a Golden Globe for her screenplay, but snubbing her for best director is a particularly out-of-touch move on the part of the Hollywood Foreign Press. 

New 'Yass' Community Center Linked to Peter Thiel Money

A new LGBT community workspace called Yass debuts next year in San Francisco — if it can survive the backlash of having Peter Thiel as a backer.

Thiel is Silicon Valley’s best known Donald Trump supporter, and Yass would become a members-only community gathering place that costs up to $300 per month in dues. Its website calls it “A headquarters & hangout for today’s generation of queer people to bring out the best in each other.” How much you pay to join (what seems a lot like an LGBT center, which are usually free) depends on your industry.

The Guardian reported Thursday that Thiel’s venture capital firm is its only backer. There’s no word on how much Thiel’s firm has put behind the center; he reportedly gave $1.25 million to the Trump campaign. 

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Thiel’s association isn’t clear cut: “The investment in Yass, though it came from a Thiel-backed firm, was actually made by Cyan Banister, a venture capitalist and entrepreneur who told Wired in 2016 that she identifies as both a man and a woman and calls herself genderqueer. Banister is a partner at Founders Fund, the Presidio-based venture capital firm Peter Thiel co-founded in 2005.”

Still, even that much of a link comes with consequences. The Huffington Post reports that some on Twitter are pledging never to join. 

Thiel’s connection to the LGBT community is tentative. He famously sued Gawker into oblivion in retribution for outing him. He did it by secretly backing a number of unrelated lawsuits, with the Hulk Hogan case breaking the company.

After historian Jim Downs wrote a guest op-ed for The Advocate calling out Thiel for backing Trump, Thiel lashed out at all LGBT people, saying their “intolerance has taken on some bizarre forms. The Advocate, a magazine which once praised me as a ‘gay innovator,’ even published an article saying that as of now I am, and I quote, ‘not a gay man,’ because I don’t agree with their politics. The lie behind the buzzword of ‘diversity’ could not be made more clear: If you don’t conform, then you don’t count as ‘diverse,’ no matter what your personal background.”

Downs had written that, “By the logic of gay liberation, Thiel is an example of a man who has sex with other men, but not a gay man. Because he does not embrace the struggle of people to embrace their distinctive identity.”

Thiel spoke at the Republican National Convention and proudly declared he’s gay, helping to drive home the notion that Trump would be a good choice for LGBT people. Trump went on as president to try banning transgender people from the military while rolling back inclusive guidelines for trans students. His Justice Department, led by Jeff Sessions, issued a “religious freedom” order that lets federal agencies and contractors turn away LGBT people without repercussions. Activists call it a “license to discriminate.” Most recently, Trump’s spokesperson said he believes religious freedom means businesses can post “No Gays Allowed” signs.

Having Thiel’s support these days isn’t what it once was. In November, Silicon Valley learned that famed incubator Y Combinator was no longer affiliated with Thiel. That’s according to a news release from 2015 when the company had announced it was welcoming Thiel. It’s now been revised.

Whether Yass can recover from the Thiel affiliation, it will still have to contend with criticism that its name further appropriates ball culture, and that its location is another example of the worst kinds of gentrification. Read more at about those issue from SFGate.com.

Aisha C. Moodie-Mills Leaves Victory Fund, Succeeded by Annise Parker

Victory Fund is getting a change in leadership.

Aisha C. Moodie-Mills announced today that she’s resigning as president and CEO of Victory Fund and its sister organization, Victory Institute, and former Houston Mayor Annise Parker will take over the post Monday. The groups train and support openly LGBT candidates and elected officials at the local, state, and federal levels.

Moodie-Mills, who has been in the position for two and a half years, made her announcement at the International LGBTQ Leaders Conference in Washington, D.C. “Politics are so personal for me, for all of us,” she said, according to the Washington Blade. “Our lives are on the chopping block. And so, it is with a heavy heart but clear purpose that is time for me to leave Victory. This past election has upended the normalcy [of] our politics and our discourse, and I see it as my redefined mission to help progressives set a new course.”

Moodie-Mills did not specify what her next move will be. Victory Fund director of communications Elliot Imse, speaking to The Advocate afterward, did not offer specifics either, but said Moodie-Mills wants to work in the broader progressive movement, incorporating LGBT issues and more. She plans to move from Washington to join her wife in New York City. “With the 2018 election cycle heating up, the timing worked out for everyone,” he said.

Parker said that’s certainly the case for her. Since leaving office as mayor two years ago, she’s been working for nonprofit organizations in Houston, including BakerRipley, which aids immigrants, refugees, and other marginalized communities. She resigned from BakerRipley at the beginning of November, and she soon got the call from Victory Fund. “The stars aligned, and the timing was perfect,” she told The Advocate. “The right call came in on the right day, and I said yes.”

“I am really, really passionate about LGBT issues and bringing more people into the political process,” she added, further noting, “I’m a lesbian activist at heart.”

Parker wants to build on Victory Fund’s successes, she said. “We’re going to do more of the same,” she said. Moodie-Mills helped inspire more LGBT people of color to run for office, for instance, and Parker wants to continue increasing those numbers.

It’s also important to continue increasing the number of transgender candidates, she said, after a year that saw some major victories for trans candidates endorsed by Victory Fund, with Danica Roem defeating anti-LGBT incumbent Bob Marshall for the Virginia House of Delegates, and Andrea Jenkins and Phillipe Cunningham elected to the Minneapolis City Council.

“One of the reasons it’s really important to support transgender candidates is that there’s been a ramp-up in attacks on the transgender community,” she said. While many straight and cisgender people know someone who is gay, lesbian, or bisexual, far fewer know someone who is transgender, and that makes it easy for anti-trans forces to create an image of trans people as a “feared other,” she said.

She saw that happen up close during the effort to repeal the trans-inclusive Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, which voters did in 2015. Opponents of the ordinance, which the City Council passed in 2014, ran a fearmongering campaign alleging that it would allow predatory men disguised as women to terrorize women and girls in public restrooms.

“The fight over HERO was the start of a wave of very focused attacks on the transgender community,” she said. It was also a learning experience for Parker and others who support equal rights for trans people. “It was a great reminder that we have to get out early and we have to own the narrative in these political campaigns,” she said. That’s a lesson she plans to bring to her work with Victory Fund, she said, adding that greater acceptance of trans people will be transformative for the whole LGBT community.

Parker served three terms as mayor of the nation’s fourth-largest city, the largest ever to have a mayor drawn from the LGBT population, and left office due to term limits. Before that, she spent three terms as city controller and three on the City Council. She received Victory Fund support at each level.

Previously, she worked for 20 years in the oil and gas industry, a major part of Houston’s economy. She had a conservative Republican boss – Robert Mosbacher, who was also a member of President George H.W. Bush’s Cabinet and has a lesbian daughter, Dee. Parker was “oil company employee by day, activist by night” in those years, she said. “I was about the most visible lesbian activist in Houston in the 1980s,” she said. Her activism actually goes back even farther; she attended her first LGBT political event in 1975, which was before Moodie-Mills was born.

Now, she said, she sees a great increase in young people interested in politics, and the size of Victory Institute’s candidate training classes has grown enormously. “They’re young, they’re driven, and they’re really passionate,” she said of these aspiring pols. “The trick will be translating that into the nuts and bolts of campaigning.”

She doesn’t plan to relocate to Washington, although she will be at Victory Fund’s headquarters frequently. The group is involved in campaigns nationwide, and it’s often easier to travel from Houston. Parker shares her home there with wife Kathy Hubbard; they’ve been together for 27 years and married for four. They have four children, the youngest of whom is 22, and one grandchild.

Victory Fund/Victory Institute leaders expressed faith in Parker and were proud of Moodie-Mills’s record. “As the first openly LGBTQ mayor of Houston, Annise understands the challenges inherent in running and winning elected office, and she’s ideally positioned to help us fulfill our mission now and in the future,” One Victory board chair Kim Hoover said in a press release. “During Aisha’s tenure we grew the organization’s leadership initiatives to ensure LGBTQ people from across the country were prepared to run for office and be a voice for our community. We invested in game-changing campaigns and took on anti-equality incumbents with historic LGBTQ candidates, and won. And we strengthened and grew our network of LGBTQ elected officials, who work tirelessly to be the change we want to see in the world. We are grateful for her leadership, and now we are excited to build on her great work and use Annise’s experience and expertise to ensure Victory Fund and Victory Institute have an even greater impact moving forward. And she is eager to get started.”

“Over the last two years I’ve been fortunate to lead an incredible team at Victory, and together we have achieved great progress in in our efforts to elect LGBTQ candidates across the country,” Moodie-Mill, said in the same release. “We witnessed a surge in the number of LGBTQ people from across the country who want to run for office and be our voice in the halls of power – and it has been so personally rewarding for me to have helped historic candidates win elections thought impossible just a few years ago. Most importantly, I am proud that we’ve positioned the organizations for growth at a critically important time – a turning point in our movement to build LGBTQ political power and wield it on behalf of equality. I am so happy that such a capable leader like Annise will be continuing the vital work of Victory Fund and Victory Institute, and look forward to supporting the organizations as they continue to secure representation for our community.”

Jeffrey Tambor Must Step Down From 'Transparent'

Jeffrey Tambor may not be leaving Transparent after all.

The actor previously said “I don’t see how I can return” to the acclaimed Amazon series, after facing three accusations of sexual misconduct. Two accusers are transgender women from the Transparent universe: his former personal assistant Van Barnes and actress Trace Lysette.

His statement, which condemned the accusations against him as part of “the politicized atmosphere that seems to have afflicted our set,” was interpreted as a declaration of resignation.

However, a representative told The New York Times in a Wednesday article that Tambor actually had no plans to quit at present, leaving the show’s fifth season in limbo.

The accusations rattled the team of Transparent, which helped bring trans issues to the mainstream and employed trans talent both on and off screen. “It was devastating,” former producer Micah Fitzerman-Blue told the Times.

And the news that Tambor might stay on the production has angered and unsettled trans activists.

Dawn Ennis, The Advocate‘s former news editor and a blogger at LifeAfterDawn.com, has used her platform in the past to defend the cisgender actor and his casting as the transgender matriarch Maura — a divisive decision criticized by many as “transface” from the onset.

“I feel duped and betrayed,” said Ennis, who declared, “I can’t fathom how I can watch another episode of Transparent ever again.” The show is now “tainted by Tambor” if he stays, she said.

“I believe his refusal to step aside reveals his utter hubris, cis male privilege, and his complete ignorance of the perils we women actually face,” Ennis said. “There is no award for acting like you really care, when all you’ve done is prove you’re no better than any other cis het dude who lets his dick do all his thinking. I had expected better.”

Ashlee Marie Preston said she was “sickened but not surprised” by the allegations against Tambor. “Sexual abuse and violence at the hands of those we trust, even in the workplace, is part of our narrative,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that it happened off script, out of role, and in a designated safe space meant to empower trans people.”

The trans writer and media personality, who hosts the Shook podcast, called on Transparent to make Tambor leave, if he refuses to do so volunterarily. Otherwise, the production would be complicit in any wrongdoing.

“Jeffrey Tambor had a lucky run, but it’s time for him to go,” Preston said. “The fact that he became the expert on our vulnerabilities through his role and consciously exploited them for his own pleasure makes Jeffrey a predator.”

“Refusing to leave the show is an act of intimidation and subjects those victimized to further violence,” she stated. “Anyone with the authority to remove him that doesn’t is an accessory, and they are actively promoting rape culture.”

In addition to a compromised work environment, Preston warns about the message Tambor’s staying would broadcast to viewers, which would run counter to the show’s spirit.

“It sends the message that trans women aren’t worth protecting,” said Preston. “It breaks the promise to all 24+ trans people who’ve lost their lives [this year]  that as a society we will do better.” She also believes that if Lysette and Barnes were cisgender, “the consequences would be heavier.”

In contrast, Tambor’s removal would proclaim that trans “lives matter, that we are believed, and that we are worthy of the dignity and respect the show claims to strive for through its storyline.”