Lambda Legal Files Suit Against SSA Over Denial Of Same-Sex Survivor Benefits….

Social-Security

Lambda Legal has filed suit against the Social Security Administration (SSA) on behalf of a Texas widow denied spousal benefits after the death of her wife, arguing that denying Social Security benefits to same-sex spouses because they live in states that discriminate against their marriages violates the U.S. Constitution.

For more than 30 years, Texas residents Kathy Murphy, 62, and Sara Barker shared their lives together. Three decades after they first met, Kathy and Sara legally married in Massachusetts in 2010.

Like other married couples, they hoped to grow old together and to live out their retirement years in safety, security, and dignity. Tragically, Sara lost her battle with cancer in March 2012 at age 62, leaving Kathy a widow. Because the couple lived in Texas, which refuses to recognize their marriage, the SSA also won’t recognize the marriage, denying Kathy spousal survivor’s benefits earned by Sara over a life-time of work.

In the complaint, Lambda Legal argues that since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down federal discrimination against same-sex spouses last year in United States v. Windsor, the SSA cannot discriminate by leaving gay spouses without the financial protections of social security as they age.

“SSA should not be telling widowed lesbians and gay men already grieving the loss of a spouse – ‘you live in the wrong state so you don’t get Social Security spousal benefits,’” said Susan Sommer, Director of Constitutional Litigation at Lambda Legal.

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, a Washington, DC-based advocacy organization dedicated to protecting Social Security for all generations and communities, including same-sex couples and their families, is the organizational plaintiff in the case.

Murphy is a member of the National Committee.

“The basic tenets of the Social Security program are that if you contribute to the system throughout your working life, you and your family will receive those earned benefits in retirement, death or disability,” said Max Richtman, President and CEO of the National Committee.

“There is no rational reason why a couple living in Texas, or any other state, should continue to face this type of discrimination including the denial of the Social Security spousal benefits they have earned throughout their working lifetimes. It’s long past time to right this wrong,” said Richtman.

The suit was filed Oct. 22 in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

LGBTQ Nation

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N.C. GOP Lawmakers Tell Officials It’s OK To Refuse To Marry Same-Sex Couples….

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Twenty-eight Republicans in the North Carolina Senate are urging state courts administrators not to punish employees who refuse to marry gay couples based on religious objections.

The group led by state Senate Leader Phil Berger Sr. on Friday issued a letter to the director of the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts asking him to reverse course on an earlier directive ordering magistrates to perform civil weddings for gay couples or face dismissal from their state jobs.

A federal judge struck down the state’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage earlier this month, part of a wave of rulings nationwide declaring such state prohibitions unconstitutional.

All but five GOP senators signed the letter, claiming the requirement to marry gay couples violates religious freedoms.

At least two magistrates have chosen to resign.

Last week, Berger said he would introduce legislation to protect state officials who refuse to issue marriage licenses or perform weddings for same-sex couples.

Berger, along with House Speaker Thom Tillis, say they plan to appeal the ruling that struck down the state’s gay marriage ban, and have hired National Organization for Marriage chairman John Eastman to lead their legal team.

Associated Press

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L Word Mississippi: Hate The Sin Trailer….

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After 25 Years, Robert Mapplethorpe’s Photos Still Crack The Bullwhip….

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With a zest of irony and a pulse on the cultural zeitgeist, Robert Mapplethorpe’s retrospective 1989 exhibition — aptly titled The Perfect Moment — was a rejection of the perception of gay male sexuality as abject and diseased during the height of the HIV and AIDS crisis.

It was images of Mapplethorpe penetrating his anus with a bullwhip, and leather-clad men chained to one another, that saw the cultural wars of art and pornography bubble over 25 years ago this year. In an age of the uninterested President Ronald Reagan — who was busy building Star Wars machines and writing checks for Nancy’s White House china collection — Mapplethorpe’s retrospective exhibition The Perfect Moment entered the public realm at precisely the perfect time, signalling the end of the political conservatism and rife homophobia of the 1980s, compounded by the HIV and AIDS epidemic.

Robert Mapplethorpe is best remembered as an American photographer whose black-and-and-white work was enriched in the cultural sphere for its unapologetic representation of unadorned gay male sex. Mapplethorpe flourished in the late 1960s and ’70s in New York’s bohemian, avant-garde art and queer scene, and even had a brief romance with Patti Smith before becoming her most intimate confidante.

His photographs were often large-scale, and attempted to break down the normative politics dictating notions of masculinity, gay manhood, blackness, whiteness, and the need to make visible the “closeted” terms of gay male erotics. Mapplethorpe’s other photography concerned itself with celebrities he photographed during the 1970s, such as Deborah Harry and Grace Jones. Like Andy Warhol, Mapplethorpe was an outlaw on the New York art scene, invested in both representing the otherwise unrepresented (gay male sex) and indulging in the camp pleasures of Hollywood celebrity culture.

Mapplethorpe began shooting as early as 1969, the same year gay men, drag queens, and transgender individuals fought back against endemic police at underground gay bars and launched a riot that sparked a movement at New York City’s Stonewall Inn. As those riots symbolically marked the birth of the gay liberation movement, so too did they mark the increasing efforts for homosexual visibility in American society. While Mapplethorpe was not overtly politicized by the gay liberation movement, his photography from 1969 onwards was ostensibly driven by a desire to make visible the hidden history of gay male sexuality and erotics. Indeed, Mapplethorpe once said, “My life began in the summer of 1969. Before that I didn’t exist.”

This year marks a quarter-century since Mapplethorpe’s most notorious exhibition, The Perfect Moment, showcased the work for which he is best-remembered — visual moments of a frank and even confrontational homoerotic play between gay lovers. Although Mapplethorpe did not curate the exhibit, as he died four months earlier from AIDS-related illness, the exhibition enraged much of the American public, who protested the use of government funds and facilities for the presentation of his artwork. It became a hot-button political issue, and gay male sex was splashed across American newsstands throughout the nation.

Although it came to symbolize — and reject — the homophobic panic elicited by the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, The Perfect Moment actually displayed artwork produced by Mapplethorpe in the 1970s, taken mostly in his studio. When the images were collected for the 1989 exhibition at the Corcoran Institute of Art in Washington D.C., they were completely reorganized around a new series of meanings. In light of the changed cultural context in a society fearful of a “gay plague,” these images spoke directly to issues of gay male sexuality, anal penetration, and principally the HIV and AIDS epidemic, which was still ravaging the gay community and was spread, in part, through unprotected anal sex.

The original meaning of Mapplethorpe’s images (many from his “X Collection” photo folio) was to make visible the pleasures, pains, and politics of underground gay male sex and BDSM play. The iconography of Mapplethorpe’s world was characterized by an active rejection of the dominant social, cultural, and indeed political representation of gay men in 1970s American life.

The dawn of the AIDS crisis in the early 1980s meant that the gains of gay liberation in late 1970s America were scaled back as the deadly virus began its vicious rampage against the gay community. By 1989, when Mapplethorpe’s The Perfect Moment opened at a Washington gallery near the Capitol, the partial government funding of the exhibition garnered the attention of several U.S. Senators.

Conservative voices like Sen. Jesse Helms argued against funding for ”obscenity” and “pornographic” images of “homosexuals,” which featured naked children, men enacting moments of sadomasochistic pleasure, and camp recreations of royal wedding photographs.

“It is an issue of soaking the taxpayer to fund the homosexual pornography of … Mapplethorpe, who died of AIDS while spending the last years of his life promoting homosexuality,” Helms said at the time.

obert Mapplethorpe, Bryan Ridley and Lyle Heeter. 1979
Bryan Ridley and Lyle Heeter. 1979

But now, 25 years later, the artistic force and political message of these images can be gleaned more pleasurably without the repressive din of the Reagan administration. One notorious image from the exhibition entitled “Self-Portrait” (1978), features Mapplethorpe inserting a bullwhip into his anus while aggressively maintaining eye contact with the camera’s unflinching eye. The photograph is perhaps the most controversial of the exhibition because of its unapologetic representation of autonomous gay male sexuality.

For many, the pleasure and aesthetic beauty of “Self-Portrait” is derived from Mapplethorpe’s ability to be both the object (or “bottom”) and agent (or “top”) of anal penetration. As gay male anal penetration is often demarcated between the “top” and the “bottom” partner, Mapplethorpe’s ability to represent both deflates the dichotomy and shows him performing the paradoxical politics of gay male anal penetration. Moreover, in the process of creating a self-portrait, Mapplethorpe not only reveals the politics of self-portraiture photography — that of simultaneous objectification and autonomy — but also emphasizes the visibility of his anus, a traditionally unseen bodily part in our culture.

To be blunt, when Mapplethorpe shows his penetrated anus in “Self-Portrait,” he rejects the cultural reticence against anal pleasure and demonstrates the importance of the anus in gay male sexual discourses.

However, this is only one image from an extensive retrospective that importantly reintroduced a new generation of gay men, queers, and art lovers to the powerful message Mapplethorpe sought to disseminate: that of privileging pleasure and pain in whatever its form through the photographic gaze.

More than two decades later, Mapplethorpe’s work still endures as a perfect moment in gay history of battling backlashes against our bottoms and bullwhips.

Nathan Smith – Gay.Net

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Navy Veteran In Idaho Gains Approval To Be Buried With Same-Sex Spouse….

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A U.S. Navy veteran can be buried with the ashes of her late spouse in a southwest Idaho military cemetery after the state legalized gay marriage.

“It’s done,” 74-year-old Madelynn Lee Taylor said Wednesday after successfully completing paperwork to be buried at Idaho State Veterans Cemetery in Boise.

Taylor was previously denied permission to have her ashes interred with Jean Mixner because of Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage. The cemetery is owned and operated by the state.

Same-sex marriage became legal in the state on Oct. 15 when the ban was lifted by courts that determined it was unconstitutional.

Taylor had filed a lawsuit in federal court in July seeking to be buried with Mixner, who died in 2012. The case is now expected to be dismissed.

“Lee deserves credit for shining a powerful light on the injustice and indignity caused by Idaho’s former exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage,” her attorney Deborah Ferguson told the Spokesman-Review. “Her persistence, visibility and refusal to accept inequality are a model for us all.”

Cemetery Director James Earp on Wednesday welcomed Taylor, who has serious heart and lung problems and uses a cane, walker or scooter to get around. Earp helped Taylor through the paperwork and congratulated her with a handshake when it was done.

Taylor and Mixner met on a blind date in 1995 and married in California in 2008 when gay marriage was briefly legal there.

When Mixner got emphysema, she and Taylor made a promise: Whoever died first would be cremated and later buried with the other.

They chose the veterans cemetery because they knew it would be well maintained and decided on cremation and interment in a wall so their names and spot wouldn’t get covered over with weeds or grass. They wanted to be in Idaho, where their family could come to pay respects.

“It’s a good day – we get to get Jean out of the closet!” Taylor joked Wednesday after finishing the paperwork. “She’s dancing.”

Associated Press

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Teenage Lesbian Left Unconscious After Being Pelted With Stones Outside School….

The incident took place in Caravaca de la Cruz in Murcia.

A gay teenage girl was left unconscious on Monday after she was pelted with stones upon leaving school in Spain’s Murcia region.

Gay rights groups have called for stricter anti-homophobia laws after the girl, accompanied by another boy, were attacked by three schoolmates who followed them out of the school grounds in Caravaca de la Cruz.

According to the Local, the assailants shouted “Poofter!” and “Dyke!” and “Perverts” as they followed the teens.

The victims put up with the insults for a while “thinking they were going to stop,” said Rubén López, a spokesperson with Spain’s FELGTB gay rights group.

However, eventually the young boy turned to the aggressors and told them to leave him and his friend “in peace”.

This prompted the schoolmates to begin pelting them with stones.

“One of the stones hit the girl in the head. She lost consciousness and fell to the floor. They had to rush her to hospital,” López added.

The girl suffered bruising in the incident while the boy was left “afraid, intimidated, humiliated and overwhelmed.”

FELGTB has condemned Spain’s education minister for scrapping the socially liberal citizenship studies course in favour of the more conservative ethics course.

The gay rights group No Te Prives has also said Murcia should look into tougher laws against homophobia, similar to Catalonia.

Earlier this month, the autonomous community of Catalonia passed a law which will punish attacks against the LGBT community with fines of up to €14,000 (£11,000).

n July, it was reported the the majority of the hate crime in Spain in 2014 had been motivated by sexual orientation or gender identity.

Anti-LGBT crime had the highest figure for hate crime last year, with 452 identified cases.

Spain is known as one of the more LGBT-friendly countries in Europe, with the legalisation of same-sex marriage being almost a decade old.

Spain was among the five countries more tolerant than Britain according to a recent poll, including Canada, Czech Republic, France and Germany.

Pink News

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Idaho Governor Asks 11-Judge Panel To Review Same-Sex Marriage Ruling….

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Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter (R-Idaho)

Gov. C. L. “Butch” Otter is asking the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for an 11-judge panel to review the three-judge ruling that overturned Idaho’s gay marriage ban last week.

Otter announced he was planning on filing a petition Tuesday evening arguing that the federal judges failed to use the correct legal standard to Idaho’s Constitutional definition of marriage.

Otter’s announcement comes nearly one week after same-sex marriage became legal for the first time in Idaho. While Otter chose not to appeal the 9th Circuit Court’s ruling that ordered the state to allow gay couples to wed, he did promise that he would fight to maintain Idaho’s 2006 constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

Otter, who is running for re-election for his third term as governor, said Tuesday that already one Idaho business has been harmed by the judges’ ruling.

A Christian religious rights group filed a lawsuit Friday against the city of Coeur d’Alene on behalf of the for-profit Hitching Post.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian religious rights group has filed a lawsuit against the city of Coeur d’Alene on behalf of the Hitching Post, a for-profit wedding chapel.

The lawsuit alleges that Coeur d’Alene’s LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance is forcing the chapel to violate their religious beliefs by performing same-sex marriages.

But city spokesman Keith Erickson says there have been no threats, and that the city has not even received any complaints against the chapel.

Otter says he is continuing monitoring same-sex marriage cases in other jurisdictions and the potential for them to be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Idaho’s Attorney General Lawerence Wasden is not joining Otter in the petition, said spokesman Todd Dvorak. However, Wasden’s office is planning on asking the Supreme Court at the “appropriate time” to review the lower court’s documents and decision – known as a writ of certiorari – regarding Idaho’s same-sex marriage case, Dvorak said.

LGBTQ Nation

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