Maryland teenager becomes first openly gay Eagle Scout

Maryland teenager Pascal Tessier has made Boy Scout history by being the first openly gay teenager to achieve Eagle Scout. He accepted the badge Monday night and is the first documented gay Eagle Scout since the Boy Scouts of America lifted their ban on gay members last May.

The acceptance is bittersweet for Tessier. “It’s kind of a backhanded acceptance: ‘We accept you for now.’ It says to you, you’re a monster of some sort.” He is referring to the fact that though the Boy Scouts allow gay members, they do not allow gay adult leaders.

The Boy Scouts’ policy on adult members reads “…we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA,” Tessier nearly didn’t get his chance to earn Eagle Scout at all as he was involved in a public protest that could have resulted in the Boy Scouts expelling him. In the meantime, there is hopeful speculation that this event will help to show the Boy Scouts that a person’s sexual preference has no bearing on their ability to be community leaders.

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No Facebook, Hobby Lobby is not closing

The Hobby Lobby v Sebelius Supreme Court case has seen some unintended side effects for the arts and crafts giant. For those unaware, Hobby Lobby is currently objecting to the Affordable Care Act, citing that due to the religious beliefs of the business owners the requirement to provide certain type of abortive contraception is a violation of their religious freedoms.

As with any notable event involving religion, the case has raised significant controversy but at some point during the online discussion a rumor developed on conservative blogs that Hobby Lobby intended to close most or all of its stores. The rumor caught fire, and social media channels were ablaze for weeks on Hobby Lobby’s demise though much of it was overshadowed by the amicus brief arms race in which the Hobby Lobby supporters came out ahead in raw numbers.

Image courtesy of flickrcc

Fans of homemade crafts can rest easy, as Hobby Lobby recently released a press release staunchly denying the rumors of closure. To the contrary, they are opening 70 new locations in the US by the end of 2014 (unrelated but according to the press release, Hobby Lobby employees get paid $14/hr. Time to quit my job). Many believe that Hobby Lobby v Sebelius could become a landmark case drawing the boundary of religious expression for business entities, and if you want to tune in keep an eye out for the oral arguments which have been scheduled on March 25th.

Rainbows over Sochi

One Blessed Fool's Way to Happiness

So I watched the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics today – and applauded Thomas Bach, IOC President, for the courage and strength of his statement. The basics of his message were these: The Olympic games are about diversity and about building bridges, about friendship and mutual respect; they exist to support a growth of understanding and tolerance between all participants and their nations. No form of discrimination has a place in this event.

And rainbows were visible in the ceremony today.

The German team outfits… Yes, maybe not the greatest design achievement – but a loud and clear statement nonetheless. 

germany_olympics

And I was stunned to see the Russian-designed outfits of the volunteers that also feature all the colours of the rainbow. Rather strange, that.

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I spent the whole time I was watching the ceremony wondering what went on behind the scenes during the building and planning phase, what political…

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Scotland 17th country to legalize gay marriage

Scottish Parliament passed the Marriage and Civil Partnership Bill last Tuesday by an overwhelming majority (105 in favor, 18 against), making it the 17th country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. All that remains is the implementation of the bill, and same-sex marriages are expected to begin later this year.

Ceremonies were originally anticipated to not take place until 2015, but Secretary for Health and Well Being Alex Neil promised same-sex marriage supporters that it would happen “as quickly as possible”. The Anglican, Catholic and Presbyterian churches of Scotland remain in opposition, stating that they will not allow their clergy to perform same-sex marriages.

Picture of Scotland's national flag

Tom French, a Scottish LGTB activist leader, said “Today will be remembered in history as the day that lesbian, gay and bisexual people were finally granted full legal equality in Scotland, and given an equal right to marry the person they love,” Last minute amendments attempting to limit the bill by Christian Parliament Members were rejected.

Same sex marriage is still waiting on Michigan

I’m happy to say that marriage equality is gaining actual legal traction, and thankfully general public opinion has followed suit. But great as they are, the recent wins signal more of a halfway point than a conclusion. There are plenty of regions that still have legal obstacles in place for same sex marriages, even if they were legally married in another state.

I just read this article on same sex marriage recognition by the state in Michigan, or the lack thereof.  The Secretary of State’s office officially confirmed that state employees must deny service if anything “led [the employee] to believe” that an individual was in a same sex marriage.

The way the policy is setup opens a rabbit hole since an interpretation that someone is in a same sex marriage is fully vulnerable to inbuilt biases on the part of the state employee. Recognition of marriage is far from a life or death issue, but imagine needing to see your partner in a hospital and needing to explain your situation to an employee that is legally required to deny you.

According to the article, the law is a relic of 2004 during the Bush election, when then RNC head Ken Mehlman pushed for laws banning gay marriage in several states, including Michigan, to improve Republican turnout for Bush. But this particular story does have a happier ending.

Fortunately, Mr. Mehlman has gone on to change his tune and play for the good guys. He publicly apologized for his actions under the Bush Administration and has since used his unique position as a highly ranked Republican equal rights supporter to promote issues such as California’s Prop 8 and advocate same-sex marriage to Republicans.

He currently works for Kohlberg, Kravis and Roberts (KKR) as a public affairs chief after finishing his career in politics, but still advocates for marriage equality in an effort to undo his work with the RNC. It’s an admirable turnaround, and it makes me optimistic that laws like this one that showed up as a result of his actions during the RNC can be repealed with as much zeal.

Stop with the Chris Christie Nonsense

The Daily Paige

Can someone, anyone please explain to me what is the point in all the obsessing over Chris Christie going on?  Cable news is even more unbearable than usual.   Yes, I know, bridgegate, scandal, bla bla bla.  Yes, it was definitely a stupid, petty move on his (or his office’s, whatever) behalf.  But would anyone honestly care if he wasn’t supposedly a serious contender for 2016?  No.  Just no.  No one would care if, oh I don’t know, Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington had closed down lanes on a bridge as political retribution. (And yes, I had to look up who the governor of Washington was.  You know why?  Because no one’s talking about him running for president in 2016.  No one would care about lane closures in Washington.)

All this would not be so absurd, though, if not for one thing: It is very, very unlikely that Christie is…

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60,000 U.S. military veterans are homeless

This is a depressing issue that has gone on way to long. It affects one of the demographics that least deserves it.

Fellowship of the Minds

homeless veterans

There is an epidemic of homelessness and joblessness among our military veterans. Shameful!

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports (via military.com), Jan. 6, 2014, that as of January 2012, more than 60,000 veterans were homeless, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Reducing that number supposedly is a priority for the Obama administration. Although the number of homeless veterans dropped 24% nationwide from 2009 to 2013, Pennsylvania is an exception where the number actually increased 46%, to more than 1,400.

Our veterans’ homelessness is partly because of joblessness. A monthly lunch in Washington, D.C. attracts about 200 veterans. After they eat, the men and women who are unemployed stand up one by one to recite their service records, hoping someone else in the room will hire them. Many are highly accomplished.

Retired Air Force Col. Robert Freniere

One of the homeless and jobless veterans is 59-year-old Robert Freniere, a former colonel in the U.S. Air Force who…

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Two strikes for Gov. Christie, spent Hurricane Sandy fund on a personal ad campaign

2014 has been a very bad year for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie so far. The last few months have been rife with headlines on how Gov. Christie allegedly caused a deliberate traffic deadlock as a political revenge move, which indirectly led to the death of an elderly woman as emergency services couldn’t reach her.

And it’s all downhill from there. Gov. Christie is now the subject of a federal investigation from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) into whether he diverted $25 million in Hurrican Sandy relief funds to pay for a personal television ad campaign. Below for your viewing pleasure is the ad in question.

Of particular concern is a bidding process to choose the firm creating the ad spots, with the winning firm charging $4.7 million and featuring Christie’s family while the losing proposal cost only $2.5 million without Christie. The New Jersey Star Ledger had some harsh words for Christie, calling the move a “new low” in his habit of using his office to promote his future run at becoming the POTUS.

Kenneth Mehlman, Republican ally of equal rights

Ken Mehlman, Kenneth Mehlman, KKR

Kenneth Mehlman of KKR interview ©Talk News Radio Service

Though they may appear to be nonexistent, there are a slew of Republican supporters for equality. And while we continue to fight for equal rights in the LGBTQ community, it’s important to remember that full equality will only come when people in both parties come to accept us. That might not be for years and years, but it’s still comforting to know a few Republicans are on our side. And ultimately it will be THOSE players who convince their party to reverse their policies.

Most people remember Kenneth Mehlman as the high-profile Republican under George W. Bush who famously came out as gay in August 2010. While not many people were reported as being surprised, it was still a turning point in the struggle for equal rights. For the first time, there was a powerful conservative leader in the GOP who was gay–and making the case for his party to embrace LGBTQ rights.

gay rights, equality, pride

I was born this way. ©Guillaume Paumier

More information on Kenneth Mehlman can be found here:

Kenneth Mehlman vs. Reince Priebus on gay marriage

Kenneth Mehlman’s gay marriage mission

Regardless of whether or not you believe Ken was wrong for coming out after supporting anti-gay legislation, having high-profile allies is still a huge deal! AND a Republican one at that, too! Coming out is a very personal life event, and as a loving, all-accepting community, we should be proud of someone who has acknowledged and accepted this side of himself/herself. Congrats, Kenneth Mehlman!

Gay Pride, Kenneth Mehlman

Congrats, Kenneth Mehlman! ©Guillaume Paumier