Task Force Hails Historic Presbyterian Church (USA) Marriage Decisions


Mark Daley
Director of Communications
(Office) 202.639.6325
(Cell) 202.379.8318

Task Force Hails Historic Presbyterian Church (USA) Marriage Decisions

WASHINGTON, DC, Jun 19, 2014: The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is welcoming today’s overwhelming marriage equality votes by the country’s largest Presbyterian denomination. The first vote allows clergy to begin performing same-sex marriages immediately in marriage equality states. The second vote changes the marriage language in the church’s constitution from “one man and one woman” to “two persons.”

“The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force celebrates these historic decisions,” said Javen Swanson, Task Force Interim Faith Work Director. “The Presbyterian Church (USA) is the latest Mainline Protestant denomination to recognize that God’s love is mirrored in the love of same-sex couples. We rejoice with all those who have finally found their love affirmed by their church, and we work for the day when all people experience God’s extravagant love and welcome within their communities of faith.”

The constitutional amendment must now be ratified by a majority of the denomination’s 172 regional presbyteries within the next 12 months.

“We congratulate our partners at More Light Presbyterians who have spent decades working for the full participation of LGBTQ people in the life, ministry, and witness of the PC(USA) and in society. Today’s decisions would not have been possible without their tireless advocacy,” Swanson said.

“These votes are about more than just the PC(USA),” said Alex McNeill, Executive Director of More Light Presbyterians. “Other denominations are formulating their policies on same-sex marriage, and America is at the tipping point of making same-sex marriage legal coast to coast. This could be a moment of spiritual transformation for the denomination and the whole country.”

The Task Force’s Institute for Welcoming Resources, with welcoming church leaders, sponsored the Believe Out Loud Power Summit in 2010. At the summit, organizers and trainers worked together with 500 participants to lift up and further develop best organizing practices for policy change in both political-based and faith-based organizations. The Task Force also provided financial support to the successful campaign that allowed for the ordination of LGBTQ clergy in the PC (USA).


The White House Slams Uganda for Anti-Homosexuality Act

Sending a strong statement to Uganda for its human rights abuses and diverting money earmarked for Uganda to South Africa

The White House Statement: June 20, 2014.

ObamaAirForce1Our hopes for a more peaceful and just world depend on respect for the rights and dignity of all people. It is for this reason that our foreign policy champions human rights and opposes violence and discrimination that targets people because of who they are and whom they love. President Obama’s groundbreaking Presidential Memorandum of December 6, 2011 reflected this commitment by directing the federal government to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT people abroad.

We have seen extraordinary advances for LGBT rights in the United States and in many countries around the world. But some governments have challenged this progress, with results that not only endanger local LGBT communities, but also pose a setback for all those around the world who share a commitment to freedom, justice, and equal rights.

The Government of Uganda’s enactment of the “Anti-Homosexuality Act” is precisely such a step in the wrong direction. As President Obama made clear in February, the enactment of the AHA is more than an affront to the LGBT community in Uganda — it calls into question the Government of Uganda’s commitment to protecting the human rights of all its people, and complicates our bilateral relationship.

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New web portal to help rising numbers of LGBTI refugees fighting for safety

News from ORAM - Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration
New web portal to help rising numbers of 
LGBTI refugees fighting for safety

* On World Refugee Day, ORAM launches new web portal to help official bodies and NGOs share approaches to handling LGBTI refugees and to adopt and share best practices

* This groundbreaking resource comes as ORAM reports refugee professionals are not equipped to handle the growing numbers of LGBTI people fleeing countries where they are persecuted

* ORAM further calls on governments and UNHCR to release statistics to quantify the magnitude of the crisis and urges all agencies handling refugee claims to learn how to better deal with LGBTI refugees

On World Refugee Day (20 June 2014), ORAM – the Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration – is today launching a new online portal to help official bodies and NGOs share approaches to protecting LGBTI refugees and to adopt best practices in the face of rising persecution of LGBTI people globally.
The LGBTI Refugee Project Portal showcases projects and approaches that enhance the protection of LGBTI forced migrants in the areas of refugee status determination, policy development and research, practical protection measures and staff development. ORAM is encouraging posting of projects that will lead to better treatment of LGBTI refugees across the globe.

ORAM says the recent upsurge in the marginalization and persecution of millions of LGBTI people across the world has led to the number of refugee claims rising sharply, and yet only a small percentage are disclosing their sexual orientation or gender identity as the cause, for fear of further persecution or rejection. Even when the refugees do come out, many refugee agencies are not handling their claims properly or sensitively. This is resulting in many LGBTI refugees not requesting protection or being sent home to face intolerable human rights abuses, or is resulting in them finding further difficulties in their place of refuge if they are lucky enough to be granted asylum.

Neil Grungras, founder and Executive Director of ORAM, said: “LGBTI people are among the most persecuted individuals in the world. In tens of countries, LGBTI people regularly face harassment, arrest, interrogation, torture and beatings. Consensual same-sex relations between adults are criminalized in over 80 countries, in eight of these by death. We have identified that whilst there may be over 175 million LGBTI people living under conditions of peril or violence worldwide, fewer than 2,500 a year may be accorded asylum or refugee protection based on their sexual or gender identity. This clearly points to an urgent need to improve the ways official bodies manage LGBTI refugees. We hope the new LGBTI Refugee Project Portal will lead to sharing and implementing best practices globally.”

In addition to launching the portal, ORAM is calling on the UNHCR to maintain and release statistics about the LGBTI refugees within its protection mandate. It says that only with accurate data can the crisis be appropriately addressed. The scant statistics available today indicate that approximately 5 percent of the world’s refugees and asylum seekers may in fact be fleeing their countries because of persecution due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. ORAM says that the actual figures are much higher but that the vast majority are going unreported.

ORAM is also calling on all government and intergovernmental bodies to ensure the appropriate training of their staff, to recognize genuine LGBTI asylum claims and to better understand what it means to be an LGBTI refugee, to help ensure they are sensitively and appropriately treated. 
Some jurisdictions deny refugee claims, telling applicants to go home and conceal their sexual orientation or gender identity in their home countries. In November 2013, the European Union Court of Justice ruled that this was no longer an acceptable practice. ORAM points out there is an urgent need for all bodies processing asylum claims to undergo training that is in-depth and nuanced to convey the complex nature of LGBTI identities and claims. During the past year, ORAM has trained hundreds of refugee professionals including UNHCR, at tens of locations. The organization is working with Columbia University with US State Department funding to assess the impact of LGBT training on refugee professionals.
Neil Grungras continued: “LGBTI people are doubly marginalized in that the few who manage to escape often find that conditions in their countries of transit are not much better than those they fled. They are often targeted for violence by authorities or civilians. The scant survival resources normally available to other refugees are often closed off to them. We need to ensure that any official body handling LGBTI migrants is able to understand the myriad issues and manage these cases sensitively and appropriately. We encourage all agencies and NGOs working with refugees to share examples of good practice through our portal in the hope it will help others to improve approaches and lead to safety for the many LGBTI refugees currently fighting for their survival.”
For more information on the LGBTI Refugee Project Portal, visit: http://portal.oraminternational.org/

Notes to editors:

About ORAM

ORAM – Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration – is the world’s leading advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex refugees. 
ORAM’s mission is to advocate on behalf of asylum seekers and refugees fleeing persecution based on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
ORAM works to effect fair and more humane policies and faster response times for LGBTI refugees in the international refugee processing system by advocating and building the awareness, capacity and willingness of mainstream, refugee-focused and community institutions to assist LGBTI forced migrants. This is accomplished through research identifying protection gaps, advocacy for best practices, legal representation, social change communication, and the best, most sophisticated trainings programs available anywhere for refugee stakeholders and adjudicators.
About the LGBTI Refugee Project Portal

The LGBTI Refugee Project Portal contains projects and approaches that enhance the protection of LGBTI forced migrants in the areas of refugee status determination, policy development and research, practical protection measures, durable solutions, and staff sensitization and development. The projects in this portal are drawn from many countries, and bring forward ideas and practices relevant to stakeholders across sectors and borders.
The Court of Justice of the European Union judgment on LGBTI asylum seekers:

Chicago 2014 Homeless Youth Summit report released

June 19, 2014

Contact: Tracy Baim



Chicago 2014 Homeless Youth Summit report released


Chicago 2014 Homeless Youth Summit report released: See download links at the end for small and large-view PDFs



A detailed report of recommendations from the first LGBTQ youth summit on homelessness has been released by Windy City Times, host of the event, held May 2-5 at three downtown locations.

The 70-page report is available as a free download on the Windy City Times website at the link:www.windycitymediagroup.com/pdf/YOUTHSUMMITREPORTSMALL.pdf . and also on the Chicago 2014 Homeless Youth Summit website, 
chicagosummit.lgbthomelessness.com/ .

Two projects have already been started out of the summit: Volunteer Alison Stanton created a team to produce a moble-friendly resource website for youth, resources.lgbthomelessness.com/ . Also, a team of people are meeting to host a job fair and additional training for transgender youth.

The document will be shared with key nonprofit, government agencies and individuals interested in working collaboratively on solutions for the homeless youth population of Chicago. An estimated 40% of homeless youth and young adults are LGBTQ.

Summit host was Tracy Baim of Windy City Times. Kim Hunt of Affinity Community Service was summit director, Bonn Wade of TransLife Center was adult ally, and youth organizers were Trian Alexander, Breezi Connor and Keyshia LaMorris.

The summit involved about 300 people, including around 30% of those under age 25 who have experienced homelessness. Sessions were held at Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital, the University of Illinois at Chicago Gender and Sexuality Center, and the Museum of Broadcast Communications.

Dozens of youth and adult allies volunteered their time to work on the summit-in advance, during and after. The facilitators for the summit included nonprofit professionals with years of experience working on these issues.

Youth were recruited directly at shelters and through service providers. Adults were reached via social media and traditional media, as well as phone calls and emails. The general public and volunteers were recruited through press releases, media coverage and social media.

Some top-of-the-line themes from the summit:

– Youth need more than a bed

– They need long-term relationship building

– There is a need for more transparency and accountability

– Programs and services need to be assessed and evaluated

– The community should build visibility for this issue

– Existing community assets should be repurposed

– Youth must have a real voice

– The community should hold itself accountable for taking care of youth

– Everything intersects

The foundations and groups assisting Windy City Times with the summit were: The Crossroads Fund, True Colors Fund, Polk Bros Foundation, Alphawood Foundation Chicago, Liz and Eric Lefkofsky, Pierce Family Foundation, Lehman-Stamm Family Fund, Woods Fund of Chicago, Heartland Human Care Services, Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, Affinity Community Services, Lambda Legal, AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Chicago House, Howard Brown Health Center, The Association of Latinos/as Motivating Action, LM Catering French Caterer, Orbitz, and ChicagoPride.com .

The full report at the link: www.windycitymediagroup.com/pdf/YOUTHSUMMITREPORTSMALL.pdf .

The full report at the link: www.windycitymediagroup.com/pdf/YOUTHSUMMITREPORTLARGE.pdf .

Also see: www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/LGBTQ-youth-summit-looks-at-homelessness/47280.html 

IL: Windy City Gay Idol Finals at Mayne Stage June 25

June 17, 2014

Contact: Scott Duff, Promotions Director 


Windy City Gay Idol Finals at Mayne Stage June 25  

CHICAGO-Windy City Gay Idol, now in its 12th year, marches to the finals in search of the best amateur LGBTQ singer in the Chicago area. The finals will be at Mayne Stage, 1328 W. Morse, Wednesday, June 25 at 7 p.m. 

VIP tickets for $25 are on sale now and include reserved seating, tableside food/beverage service, access to VIP bar lounge, a ballot to vote and raffle prize entry (no additional fees). General Admission tickets for $10 on sale Thursday, June 20, 9 a.m. and include a ballot to vote and raffle prize entry.  All tickets may be purchased at http://www.maynestage.com or in person at the Mayne Stage box office.

The Windy City Gay Idol Finals concert also will feature guest performances by Broadway Star and Mac Award Winner Karen Mason, who will perform her marriage equality song, It’s About Time, international burlesque performer Michelle L’amour, as well as the 2013 Windy City Gay Idol, Maria Pahl.

Karen Mason

Michelle L’amour
Maria Pahl

These top thirteen (13) singers have been culled from over four months of competitions throughout Chicago’s bars and clubs. Throughout the competitions preliminary, semi-final and even at the final event, the audience votes.

Every audience member at the Finals will get a ballot to vote and be entered to win all prizes including Smirnoff merchandise, Ravinia tickets for Carrie Underwood, tickets to Margaret Cho, and other top Chicago performances. PLUS someone in the audience will win a “Trip for Two to Curacao” for Five Nights courtesy of the Island of Curacao and American Airlines.

After more than a decade, Windy City Gay Idol has grown into the largest and most highly anticipated competition in Chicago’s LGBTQ community with the Grand Finale held during Gay Pride Week.

Past Windy City Gay Idol winners have gone on to sing at Wrigley Field, Soldier Field, Allstate Arena, Market Days and at festivals around Illinois, Milwaukee, Toronto and Vancouver. In addition, the 2012 Windy City Gay Idol Finalist Josh “JDA” Davilla landed in the Top 40 on Fox’s American Idol 2013. Plus the 2008 Windy City Gay Idol Finals featured a then-unknown Lady Gaga as a guest performer. Audiences never know what they will see and hear at the Windy City Gay Idol Finals.

Windy City Gay Idol, produced by Windy City Media Group, crowns the new 2014 Windy City Gay Idol at the Finals event at the gorgeous Mayne Stage (1328 W Morse) in Rogers Park. This will be an amazing night of entertainment, with Chicago’s best singers vying for the title of Windy City Gay Idol in front of a packed house and a panel of guest judges.

The 2014 Windy City Gay Idol Premium sponsor is Smirnoff. Other Sponsors include Ketel One, Tanqueray, Don Julio, Creaoke, Broadway in Chicago, American Airlines, SpeedPro Printing, Ravinia, Mini of Chicago, and Thompson Hotels.  Plus Travel Partners: American Airlines and the Island of Curacao.

Guest judges will be 2014 Jeff Award-winning Chicago director Lili-Anne Brown, Second City improvisor/actor/director Mitchell Fain, and Jeff Award winning actor/singer Rob Lindley. The Finals competition will be hosted by local personality, Sofia Saffire.

The 2014 Windy City Gay Idol winner crowned at Mayne Stage is awarded a prize package worth more than $7,500 including $1,000 in cash, a 6 day/5-night trip to Curacao (including airfare), Smirnoff gift basket, an IPad mini, theater and concert tickets, performance opportunities, plus the coveted title of Windy City Gay Idol 2014.

See http://www.maynestage.com for tickets and information.

Windy City Gay Idol 2014 Finals :

Wednesday, June 26: FINALS, Mayne Stage, 1328 W Morse, 6pm doors, 7pm start.

VIP tickets (includes fees): $25 on sale now / General Admission tickets: $10 on sale Friday, June 20th at 9am. See http://www.maynestage.com for tickets and information.

Complete rules and regulations at www.WindyCityMediaGroup.com


Presbyterians Vote to Allow Same-Sex Marriages

 | New York Times | June 19, 2014

Commissioners at the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly on Thursday. The gathering approved a change in the definition of marriage. Credit Joshua Lott for The New York Times

DETROIT — The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted at its General Assembly on Thursday to change its constitution’s definition of marriage from “a man and a woman” to “two people,” and to allow its ministers to perform same-sex marriages where it is legal.

Both measures, passed by large majorities, are a reversal for a church that in 1991 and in 2008 barred its pastors from performing same-sex marriages, and that has held ecclesiastical trials for ministers who violated the ban and blessed gay couples.

The Presbyterian Church, a historic mainline Protestant denomination that spans a broad spectrum from liberal to conservative evangelicals, has been mired in the debate over homosexuality for about three decades. The General Assembly’s decision in 2010 to ordain openly gay ministers caused many congregations, including some of the largest, to depart.

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Texas judge ignores DNA tests, refuses parental rights because gay dads are married

David Edwards | Raw Story | June 19, 2014

A judge in Texas has refused to list two fathers on the birth certificates of their children because the men are gay.

Same-sex couple Jason Hanna and Joe Riggs, who were legally married in Washington, D.C., both have biological children, who share the same surrogate mother. Neither of the men are listed on their biological child’s birth certificate.

Hanna and Riggs had asked a judge to legally recognize them as a family by listing both men on both of the children’s birth certificates. Last week, a judge denied their petition.

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How Secret Partners Expand NSA’s Surveillance Dragnet

Ryan Gallagher | The Intercept | Reader Supported News | June 19, 2014

uge volumes of private emails, phone calls, and internet chats are being intercepted by the National Security Agency with the secret cooperation of more foreign governments than previously known, according to newly disclosed documents from whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The classified files, revealed today by the Danish newspaper Dagbladet Information in a reporting collaboration with The Intercept, shed light on how the NSA’s surveillance of global communications has expanded under a clandestine program, known as RAMPART-A, that depends on the participation of a growing network of intelligence agencies.

It has already been widely reported that the NSA works closely with eavesdropping agencies in the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia as part of the so-called Five Eyes surveillance alliance. But the latest Snowden documents show that a number of other countries, described by the NSA as “third-party partners,” are playing an increasingly important role – by secretly allowing the NSA to install surveillance equipment on their fiber-optic cables.

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