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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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.

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.

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.”

Warwick Rowers: Russia Banned Naked Calendar for 'Gay Propaganda'

A calendar featuring naked athletes that benefits an LGBT sports charity has been banned in Russia for “gay propaganda,” claimed its makers.

Angus Malcolm, photographer and producer of the annual Warwick Rowers calendar, told The Independent, a British newspaper, that so far, six of 23 calendars shipped to the Eastern Eurpean nation have been rejected and returned without explanation.

Malcolm believes the country’s anti-LGBT laws are to blame. In 2013, Russia passed legislation that bans “promotion of non-traditional sexual relations among minors.” In other words, it bars positive mention of LGBT issues in materials and venues accessible to young people, and has been used against Pride parades and even Facebook posts.

“My heart goes out to the rowers’ Russian fans, who are increasingly subjected to acts of hatred and discrimination that shouldn’t be tolerated in any society anywhere across the globe,” Malcolm told The Independent.

“The fact Russian customs rejected our calendar is nothing compared to the suffering some LGBT+ people face every day, but it acts as a signifier of the wider problem.”

In addition to the returned mail, which can cost up to 25 pounds per rejected item, WarwickRowers.org was also recently targeted by a denial-of-service attack, which temporarily disabled the website with a flood of traffic. The I.P. address was reportedly traced to Russia.

“If they can’t cope with a few naked bums, then frankly that’s quite sad,” Malcolm added.

The calendar in question features naked portraits of rowers from the University of Warwick, and it supports a good cause. A portion of sales benefits Sport Allies, which fights homophobia in sports.

Malcolm said that this spirit of acceptance was “heretical” in Russia. He said its president, Vladimir Putin, fueled “precisely the kind of toxic masculinity that Sport Allies and the Warwick Rowers want to challenge.”

Indeed, since the adoption of its “gay propaganda” laws, hate crimes against LGBT people have doubled in Russia.

See a preview of the 2018 calendar on Advocate.com.

Bryan Singer Fired From Queen Biopic Amid Reports of Erratic Behavior

Twentieth Century Fox confirmed that Bryan Singer has been fired from the Queen biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody.

“Bryan Singer is no longer the director of Bohemian Rhapsody,” Fox told The Hollywood Reporter in a statement.

The termination follows a period of chaos on set. Previously, Fox suspended the London-based production of Bohemian Rhapsody due to the “unexpected availability” of the director. Singer did not show up to work after the Thanksgiving break, spurring rumors he would be replaced.

The director has reportedly been routinely tardy during filming, and went missing several times. The film’s cinematographer, Thomas Newton Sigel, stepped in as a substitute director during several of Singer’s absences.

Previously, a representative for Singer cited “a personal health matter” as a reason for his non-showing.

Bohemian Rhapsody stars Rami Malek (Mr. Robot) as Freddie Mercury, the bisexual frontman of Queen who died from AIDS-related complications. The production was set to be released December 2018.

One source told THR that Singer claims to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, due to on-set tensions. Previously, Malek complained to the studio of Singer’s unprofessionalism. The pair clashed during production, and had at least one verbal confrontation, with Singer allegedly throwing an object during the encounter. Afterward, it was believed they resolved their differences.

However, Fox terminated Singer after his extended absence. A new director will soon be announced.

In the past, Singer, who identifies as bisexual, has faced several accusations of sexual assault against minors, although previous lawsuits were dismissed. The news of his termination on Bohemian Rhapsody has reignited speculation on social media.

Met Opera Investigates Conductor After Man Accuses Him of Sexual Abuse

A famous composer is under investigation after an accusation of sexual abuse.

The Metropolitan Opera announced Saturday it was looking into charges of sexual misconduct against James Levine.

The move was spurred by recent media inquiries regarding a 2016 police report, in which a man accused Levine of sexual abuse around 30 years ago. The accuser was a teenager when the alleged abuse began.

“We are deeply disturbed by the news articles that are being published online today about James Levine. We are working on an investigation w outside resources to determine whether charges of sexual misconduct in the 1980s are true, so that we can take appropriate action,” the New York City company stated on Twitter.

The Met, one of the world’s most prestigious opera houses, claimed it knew of the report last year, but that Levine denied the allegations, reports the New York Times

In the report, filed in the Lake Forest, Ill., police department, the man claimed Levine, 74, held his hand in an “incredibly sensual way” when he was 15 and the conductor was in his early 40s. They had met at the Ravinia Festival, a summer music event, where Levine was music director from 1973 to 1993.

The man, who loved music and aspired to one day be a conductor, claimed Levine told him he wanted “to see if you can be raised special like me.”

The next summer, the accuser said he would meet Levine at the Deer Path Inn near the festival. Levine allegedly touched his penis while the pair were naked in bed, beginning years of sexual abuse.

“I would get there and the lights are off, and he would say to me after I came in and after a hug ‘take your clothes off,'” the man wrote in the police statement.

“On various occasions he would ask me how I touched myself and then he would touch me the way I touched myself,” he added. “I was never able to be aroused by this. But then he would masturbate himself at his bed or in the bathroom.”

“This pattern repeated itself hundreds of times,” stated the man, who claimed he recently realized these interactions impacted him in “a negative manner.”

The man chose to remain anonymous to protect his identity; but the New York Times confirmed he had told a relative in 1993 of the alleged abuse.

Levine has a long history with the Met. Four decades ago, he became the opera house’s music director, and has served as a composer there for more than 2,500 performances. 

Rumors of sexual abuse have also dogged Levine for years — and they were even mentioned in a 2001 book by Johanna Fiedler, a former press representative for the Met.

“Starting in the spring of 1979, these stories came to the surface at more or less regular intervals,” Fielder wrote in Molto Agitato: The Mayhem Behind the Music at the Metropolitan Opera. “Each time, the Met press office would tirelessly point out the cyclical nature of the gossip and the complete lack of substance.”

Anthony Rapp Breaks Silence on Kevin Spacey to Call Out Harassers

Anthony Rapp is calling out his trolls.

The Star Trek: Discovery actor has tweeted out some of the messages of hate he has received, since coming forward with an accusation of sexual misconduct against Kevin Spacey.

“I’ve decided I want to share some of them because these people need to be outed for their harassment,” Rapp tweeted.

In an October interview with BuzzFeed News, Rapp said that when he was 14 and Spacey was 26 in 1986, the older actor attempted to “seduce” him at the conclusion of a party in his New York home. Since then, dozens of accusers have come forward against Spacey.

Rapp’s act was hailed as heroic by many. But he has also become a target for trolls on social media, who have called him an “opportunist” and other expletives for coming forward with his story. The tweets, which Rapp said just “boggle my mind,” blame the Star Trek star for ruining Spacey’s career and cast doubt on his account.

While sharing this hate, Rapp also clarified its effect on him.

“1, I do not believe these trolls and harassers are right. 2, their words do not sting deeply, but they do wound slightly. 3, I have gotten so many more positive messages than negative,” he stated on Twitter.

“Thank you to all of you who have been expressing support and solidarity,” he said to his supporters. “Your kindness is felt and much appreciated. And I have experienced such support far more than I have experienced negativity.”

See some of the hate directed at Rapp below.

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Kentucky Southern Baptists Consider Expelling LGBT-Affirming Churches

A Baptist group is considering whether to lift a ban on LGBT employees, putting it at odds with more conservative Baptists and putting some Kentucky churches in the middle.

The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, which formed in the 1990s as an alternative to the ultraconservative Southern Baptist Convention, has formed a committee, the Illumination Project, to study the anti-LGBT policy and recommend changes, due in February, reports The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Ky.

But some Kentucky churches affiliated with the fellowship are also affiliated with the state’s Southern Baptist branch, the Kentucky Baptist Convention, which is monitoring the fellowship’s actions and is open to expelling churches that don’t conform to the Southern Baptists’ anti-LGBT dogma. To hire “practicing homosexuals” would be “redefining sin,” Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, told The Courier-Journal. R. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, added that “a church that endorses homosexuality is no longer cooperating with the Kentucky Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention.”

The fellowship, a national group with about 1,900 congregations, began reconsidering the anti-LGBT policy after leaders offered a prayer for victims of the mass shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando last year. Some activists thought it was hypocritical in light of the fellowship’s homophobic policy and called for change.

Maurice “Bojangles” Blanchard, a volunteer who leads an LGBT ministry at the fellowship-affiliated Highland Baptist Church in Louisville, was one of those activists. But a problem with the Illumination Project is that it has no LGBT members, he told The Courier-Journal. “They’re discussing our inclusion without including us,” said Blanchard, who was also one of the plaintiffs in the Kentucky marriage equality case.

Chitwood said he doubts that many of the fellowship churches will OK hiring LGBT clergy or other employees. “I don’t think [the Illumination Project] will have a big impact,” he told the newspaper. 

More GOPers Denounce Roy Moore, While Trump Lambastes His Opponent

Donald Trump is doubling down on his support for far-right U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, or at least his excoriation of Moore’s opponent, while more Republican officials are saying Moore is bad for their party.

 “The last thing we need in Alabama and the U.S. Senate is a Schumer/Pelosi puppet who is WEAK on Crime, WEAK on the Border, Bad for our Military and our great Vets, Bad for our 2nd Amendment, AND WANTS TO RAISES TAXES TO THE SKY. Jones would be a disaster!” Trump tweeted early Sunday, after having made similar statements to reporters a few days ago.

“I endorsed Luther Strange in the Alabama Primary. He shot way up in the polls but it wasn’t enough. Can’t let Schumer/Pelosi win this race. Liberal Jones would be BAD!” Trump added.

Moore, the extremely anti-LGBT former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, is running in a special election to fill the state’s U.S. Senate seat that was vacated by Jeff Sessions when he became Trump’s attorney general. In the Republican primary, he bested Strange, who is serving as interim senator, and he faces Democrat Doug Jones, a former prosecutor and Senate aide, in the general election December 12.

There have been calls for Moore to leave the race ever since allegations surfaced of him having relationships with teenage girls when he was in his early 30s (he is now 70). Some of the relationships reportedly didn’t go beyond kissing, but some of the women involved said he touched them in a sexual manner without their consent; one of them was just 14 at the time. Moore denies all the allegations of sexual assault and dating underage girls (he said he may have dated girls in their later teens), and Trump has cited this denial in making pro-Moore, anti-Jones statements. The president has stopped just short of endorsing Moore outright.

On the Sunday political talk shows, several Republicans criticized both Moore and Trump, according to a summary compiled by The Hill. Numerous GOPers had previously said Moore should leave the race, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“If Moore wins, there will immediately be an ethics investigation and he will be working under a cloud. He is a distraction,” Republican U.S. Sen. John Thune of South Dakota said on Fox News Sunday, adding, “I would like to see the president come out and do what we’ve done, saying Moore should step aside.”

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina reiterated his criticism of Moore in an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union. “If you think winning with Roy Moore is going to be easy for the Republican Party, you’re mistaken,” he said.

Rob Portman of Ohio, one of the more pro-LGBT Republicans in the Senate (he has a gay son) suggested that Alabamians write in another Republican as an alternative to Moore. But it would be best if Moore would step aside, he said on NBC’s Meet the Press.

Watch a video from The Hill below.