Tuesday, January 01, 2008

GLBT DIGEST January 1, 2008

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Queer Muslim Revolution


'Not My Father's Hajj'
Shahed Amanullah explores the spiritual significance of the Hajj in the ageof cell phones and Cinnabon.

By Shahed Amanullah

This week, millions of Muslims will converge on Mecca, Saudi Arabia, for oneof the largest religious gatherings on the face of the earth - the annualhajj, or pilgrimage, that Muslims are to perform once in their lifetime ifpossible. It is a unique opportunity for Muslims to see each other as one inthe same, despite differences in culture, national origin, or income. Untilrecently, the hajj was a lo-tech affair that changed little over thecenturies. But as globalization, mobility, and technology dramaticallychange the face of the earth, the hajj may be changing along with it.

While most Muslims perform the hajj in their adult or even elderly years, Iwas an exception in my community. I performed the hajj 20 years ago while Iwas still a teenager, so I was thrown headlong into the spiritual andphysical heart of Islam at a time when I was still grappling with moretypical teenage concerns such as putting a new driver's license to use. Butexperiencing the hajj at such an early age had a profound impact on my life,and shaped a Muslim identity within me that was, until then, more based onmy parent's Indian culture rather than an appreciation for Islam's richspiritual legacy and religious guidance. The experience so shaped my collegeyears that I went on to spend much of my spare time working to build a placefor Muslims in the American fabric, having been connected so closely to thelegacy of my coreligionists.

My father insisted on "roughing it" when he took my brother and me on thehajj. That meant sleeping on dirt floors and eating street food. He insistedthat it was part of the heritage of hajj, where people would trek forthousands of miles on the journey of a lifetime. We braved the Arabian sunto perform the time-honored rituals of the hajj. In a ritual called tawaf, Icircumnavigated the Kaaba, which Muslims believe was the first house ofworship built to serve the One God. I ran between the hills of Safa andMarwa seven times (in bare feet on rough stone, no less) to commemorateHagar's desperate search for water for her thirsty son, fighting off my ownthirst in the process. We gathered, along with two million others, on theplains of Arafat, testifying to God that we had journeyed there as Hecommanded, seeking his mercy. The sights and sounds around me - apart fromthe throngs of buses and the sheer number of people - were much as Iimagined it had been for hundreds of years prior, when pilgrims dressed inthe same two simple cloths also walked the same paths we walked.

more . . . . .


Queer Muslim Revolution


Muslims seek ways to balance proximity of Eid and Christmas

From the Chicago Tribune
By Tina Shah
Tribune staff reporter
December 20, 2007

The day after Thanksgiving, Ali Khan drove his two sons to the neighborhoodHome Depot to pick out a Christmas tree.

At home on Chicago's Northwest Side, Khan eagerly placed a silver-coatedmenorah, purchased at a decor store, under the tree. On top went a sequinedemerald crescent bought on a trip to Morocco.

While few will go so far as to put up a decorated tree, many Muslim-Americanfamilies cannot help but confront Christmas at this time of year. Theirchildren are inundated with Christmas customs at school, in stores, atrestaurants and on television, inspiring questions about Santa and presents.

This year brings a special challenge because the Christmas excitement ispeaking just as Muslims prepare to celebrate the holiday of Eid al-Adha.Tied to the Islamic lunar calendar and the phases of the moon, Eid isexpected by many to begin Thursday and last three days.

The holiday commemorates the willingness of Ibrahim, called Abraham in theBible, to sacrifice his son at the request of Allah. It also marks the endof hajj, a period in which Muslims make pilgrimages to the holy city ofMecca.

more . . . . .


Queer Muslim Revolution


Man pardoned over Saudi rape case

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

(CNN) -- Saudi King Abdullah's letter pardoning a rape victim from 200lashes and six months in prison for appearing in public with an unrelatedmale also included a pardon for the man she was with, according to the SaudiJustice Minister.

Minister of Justice Abdallah bin Mohammed al-Sheikh, in a phone call to aSaudi Television newscast Monday, also said contrary to earlier reports thewoman's lawyer did not lose his license for defending her.

Until now, it was not confirmed that the male companion, who was abductedalong with the 19-year-old woman last March, had also faced charges. Whiledetails of what happened to the man while the woman was raped have not beenmade public, the King's letter concluded that he also suffered "torture"along with her.

The seven men convicted of kidnapping them and then raping her wereultimately sentences to lashings and prison terms of two to nine years.

Although the pardon letter has not been released to the news media,Al-Sheikh read from it in his call Monday to Saudi TV:

"After going over all the document and a thorough review of the evidence, wefound that the crime committed against this woman is one of the most savagekind," it read.

more . . . . .


Queer Muslim Revolution


Gays Living in Shadows of New Iraq


BAGHDAD - In a city and country where outsiders are viewed with deepsuspicion and attracting attention can imperil one's life, Mohammed couldnever blend in, even if he wanted to.

Mohammed, 37, has been openly gay for much of his adult life. For him, thishas meant growing his hair long and taking estrogen. In the past, he said,that held little danger. As is true throughout the Middle East, men havealways been publicly affectionate here.

But, at least until recently, Mohammed and many of his gay friends went onestep further, slipping into lovers' houses late at night. And, until theAmerican invasion, they said, Iraqi society had quietly accepted them.

But being openly gay is not an option in the new Iraq, where the rise ofreligious extremism has left Mohammed and his gay friends feeling especiallyvilified.

In January, a United Nations report described the increased persecution,torture and extrajudicial killing of Iraqi lesbians and gay men. In 2005,Iraq's most revered Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, issued afatwa, or religious decree, calling for gay men and lesbians to be killed inthe "worst, most severe way."

more . . . . .


Queer Muslim Revolution


AFRICA: Odds stacked against HIV-positive Muslim women

Thursday, December 20, 2007

JOHANNESBURG, 18 December 2007 (PlusNews) - Over a five-year period,Indonesian Heldina Irayanti, 28, was in and out of drug rehabilitationclinics more times than she can remember. But there is one particular stayshe recalls vividly: it was 2002 and her HIV test had just come backpositive.

"That was when I finally stopped using drugs," she told IRIN/PlusNews.

After her initial shock she decided to tell her family, friends and her thenboyfriend - now her husband - Yulius Adam, also a former intravenous druguser, who was diagnosed HIV positive before Heldina.

Little did she know the prejudice she would encounter as a woman, a Muslimand being HIV positive. The discrimination began in her own family. "Adam'sfamily blamed me for having transmitted the virus to him, even though at thetime he was diagnosed my test came back negative." She believes thatHIV-positive Muslim women experience more prejudice than men in similarcircumstances.

Different weights, different measures

Discrimination was the common denominator of all the stories told byHIV-positive Muslim women who participated in the International Conferenceon Islam and HIV/AIDS, held in late November in Johannesburg, South Africa.

more . . . . .


Miami Herald


New year, new unions for gay couples

Posted on Tue, Jan. 01, 2008

Dozens of gay and lesbian couples entered into civil unions in New Hampshirein the early moments of New Year's Day as a new state law legalized thepartnerships after midnight.

Organizers said they checked in 37 couples for an outdoor ceremony on theplaza of the New Hampshire Statehouse - the building where the law wasadopted and signed in 2007. Participants bundled up against below-freezingtemperatures.

"We've been together 20 years; we've been waiting for this moment for 20years; finally the state will recognize us as we are," said Julie Bernier,who posed for photos on the Statehouse steps with partner Joan Andresenbefore the ceremony. Bernier and Andresen, who both work at Plymouth StateUniversity, never sought a commitment ceremony or other symbolic recognitionof their relationship before Tuesday.

"I didn't believe in doing it until it meant something," Bernier said.

As ceremonies go, the outdoors event that began at 11 p.m. Monday was equalparts political rally, party and personal triumph.

more . . . . .


From Gays Without Borders

SF gay chorus sings solidarity for Russians, Eastern Europeans

My boyfriend and I attended one of the Christmas concerts at theCastro Theatre put on by the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus last week.

It was my first time at this annual holiday musical treat and Ithoroughly enjoyed the choice of songs and beautiful men's voices,along with being with my wonderful partner and our large extended gayfamily in the historic theatre for part of the holiday season.

After the show, we read the program from the chorus and were pleasedto see this in the welcome note from Kathleen McGuire, the artisticdirector and conductor:

"Sergei Rachmaninoff's beloved 'Vespers' has become a symbolic piecefor Russians, especially since, soon after its composition in 1915,the Soviet Union banned all religious music. It has been said that nocomposition represents the end of an era so clearly as this liturgicalwork. In 2005, an Orthodox priest in Russia held a private 'marriage'service for two men. When the religious authorities learned about it,they defrocked the priest and bulldozed the chapel.

"Recent pro-gay riots in Moscow led to the intimidation andincarceration of organizers and marchers. We sing from 'Vespers'tonight as a show of solidarity with our LGBT brothers and sisters inEastern Europe."

Yes, this city is one place where we always remember gay people aroundthe globe who struggle daily for acceptance and equality and we findcreative ways to make sure foreign gays are not forgotten. I am proudof the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus for raising their voices insolidarity with our brothers and sisters in Russia and throughoutEastern Europe.

Many thanks to the chorus members, the group's executive director,Teddy Witherington, and the artistic director for their act of choraland political solidarity.

May 2008 bring increase respect for the human rights of gayseverywhere and more global solidarity and activism across all borders!


APP.com - New Jersey


Neptune expected to get a gay mayor

December 30, 2007

Township Committeeman Randy Bishop knows he's going to become part of NewJersey history Tuesday afternoon, but he's quick to downplay itssignificance.

Bishop, who will be sworn in at noon Tuesday for his second three-year termon the committee, is also expected later in the afternoon to be picked asmayor for 2008. When that happens, Bishop will be one of two openly gaymayors serving this year in New Jersey, and one of only three in the state'shistory.

But Bishop, who owns the Melrose Inn in Ocean Grove, doesn't want hissexuality to be the focus of his tenure as mayor.

"It really is a small piece of what makes me who I am," he said. "It's asmuch a piece of me as owning my own business, or having spent years incorporate America.

"Is it true that probably my experience influences how I approach problemsolving? Yes, but they all play into that, and they all make me into who Iam."

more . . . . .


Pittsburg Post-Gazett


Sunday Forum: In search of peace?
Unfortunately, the pope's annual peace-day message focuses more onhomosexuality than inhumanity, laments

Sunday, December 30, 2007

On World Peace Day, Jan. 1, most of the world's citizens will be too poor,too hungry, too surrounded by violence or too worried by this century'sother basic challenges to pay attention. Those who do pay attention likelywill think first of war in places like Iraq and Eastern Congo, genocide inSudan, a looming crisis in nuclear Pakistan and widespread poverty all over.

The spiritual leader of more than a billion of the world's people will bethinking about homosexuality.

Earlier this month, Pope Benedict XVI issued his message for World PeaceDay. Entitled "The Human Family, A Community of Peace," the message arguesthat peace begins with the family. That's a reasonable point. But then thepope writes, "Everything that serves to weaken the family based on themarriage of a man and woman ... constitutes an objective obstacle on theroad to peace."

Having implicitly named homosexuality as an obstacle to world peace in hisfifth paragraph, the pope then waits until the seventh paragraph to mentionthe environment, the ninth to mention poverty and the second-to-last tomention war and violence.

As a Roman Catholic, I tremble at the implications of Pope Benedict XVI'sprioritization of "family issues" like homosexuality ahead of pressing worldissues. A peek into Catholic Church history suggests scary parallels.

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Another Church Leaves Gay Denomination MCC

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff
Posted: December 31, 2007 - 2:00 pm ET

(Daytona Beach, Florida) Members of Hope Metropolitan Community Church votedSunday to sever ties with the Universal Fellowship of the MetropolitanCommunity Churches.

The Daytona Beach congregation and its pastor, Rev. Beau McDaniels have beenat odds with the national denomination for months over what the churchdescribes as a dispute over money.

The UFMCC claims there had been "financial irregularities" under McDanielsstewardship of Hope Church and earlier this year stripped McDaniels of herlicense to preach.

This month the denomination sent the church a letter threatening to severties by Jan. 7 if McDaniels were still involved with Hope.

The church has seen its numbers decline in recent years.

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Miami Herald


Global gay ski weeks

BY DARREN COOPER, GaydarTravel.com
December 31, 2007

Gay ski weeks have become a hugely successful part of the queer calendar andthere are now a whole host of events to choose from that are taking placeall over the globe! It doesn't matter if you're a beginner or if you cancarve your way gracefully down the most challenging of black runs, there'ssomething for all levels of skier.

So strap on thse salopettes, grab your sunglasses and sashay down the slopessafe in the knowledge that you won't be the only one checking out more thanyour sexy ski instructor's technique!

If you do fancy working up a sweat on the slopes, then why not extend yourbreak for a few more days and discover the charms of the local scene. Skiingand a city break - perfect!

Here's out pick of some of the best gay ski holidays around.

Arosa Gay Ski Week: 5-11 January 2008
Arosa, Switzerland, www.arosa-gayskiweek.com

Sitting at the top of the scenic Schanfigg Valley, at an altitude of 1,800metres, Arosa's Alpine charm makes it a favourite resort with a wealthy butunpretentious European crowd. Snow sure with mounds of Alpine charm, thereare over 70kms of pistes which largely favour beginners and intermediatesalthough there is limited more challenging skiing for more advanced skierstoo!

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To Form a More Perfect Union: Marriage Equality News

Information, news, and discussion about the legal recognition of same-sexcouples and their families, including marriages, domestic partnerships,civil unions, adoptions, foster children and similar issues.


Go to the website, above, for the following articles:
Finding that a family court judge had improperly allowed his disapproval ofa father's homosexual "lifestyle" to influence a decision imposing a travelrestriction when the father has visitation with his children, the SouthCarolina Court of Appeals struck down the restriction in the case of West v.West, in an unpublished opinion filed on December 14. The opinion can befound on the court's website, and was the subject of a detailed report inthe Dec. 24 issue of the South Carolina Lawyers Weekly. Lexington CountyFamily Court Judge H. E. Bonnoitt, Jr., granted a divorce to Ernest and MaryWest after they had lived separately for a year. Mary received custody oftheir two children, with Ernest being granted visitation rights. JudgeBonnoitt prohibited Ernest from travelling out of state with the childrenwhile exercising visitation rights, expressing fear that Ernest might exposethem to his "homosexual paramour" who was living in Florida. The Wests weremarried in 1992. In 2002, Ernest's employer went bankrupt and he lost hisjob at the Columbia, South Carolina, location, but the employer offeredErnest a job in Dallas, Texas. Ernest moved to Dallas, while Mary and thechildren remained in South Carolina.
A federal judge whose role in the Supreme Court's 1986 Bowers v. Hardwickdecision, upholding the Georgia sodomy law, made him a controversial choicewhen he was appointed to the district court in Oregon by George W. Bush afew years ago, has issued an order to stop the Oregon Domestic PartnershipLaw from going into effect, pending a February hearing on a claim by theAlliance Defense Fund that Oregon officials wrongly disqualified enoughsignatures on referendum petitions to violate federal constitutional votingrights. District Judge Michael W. Mosman apparently decided that the law,scheduled to go into effect this week, must be delayed to avoid irreparableinjury to the voting rights of Oregonians who want to put the measure up fora referendum vote. Judge Mosman was a law clerk for Justice Lewis F. Powell,the swing voter in the Bowers v. Hardwick case, during the fateful SupremeCourt term of 1985-1986. According to stories that circulated widely at thetime of Mosman's court appointment a few years ago, Mosman wrote memos toPowell urging the justice to vote to uphold the Georgia sodomy law, inresponse to Powell's indication after the oral argument that he was leaningtowards striking down the law. Indeed, Powell had voted in the Court'sconference after oral argument to strike the law, and Justice Harry Blackmunset to work on drafting a majority opinion for the Court.
Huckabee - Here's his attempt to explain why he's not a bigot: What one'ssin is, means it's missing the mark. It's missing the bull's eye, theperfect point. I miss it every day; we all do. The perfection of God is seenin a marriage in which one man, one woman live together as a couplecommitted to each other as life partners. Now, even married couples don't dothat perfectly, so sin is not some act of equating people with beingmurderers or rapists... Now if you accept that gay people are involuntarilysuch - and Huckabee does not deny that in the interview - then what are weto do with our lives? The Catholic church has a theory of natural law thatinsists that all sexual acts be open to procreation. If you buy that, thenmost heteros are similarly damned most of the time - for the same reasonthat homos are damned all the time - unless we castrate ourselves. ButHuckabee's church has no such theory, and allows contraception. So what isthe argument against gay relationships here?
By the time the 2008 legislative session ends in March, one of those twofates awaits a proposed amendment to Indiana's Constitution that would bansame-sex marriages. To amend the constitution, two consecutively electedlegislatures must pass the measure. Voters must then approve it in a generalelection. The General Assembly passed the amendment in 2005 but has failedto do so since. If lawmakers in both the House and Senate pass the amendmentthis session, voters would get their say in November. But if the amendmentfails, the lengthy process would have to start over again. Supporters of theproposed ban don't want to see that happen. "This is an issue where thelegislators need to remember that the people of Indiana need the opportunityto vote to protect marriage," said Eric Miller, founder of the conservativeactivist group Advance America. "We have to let the people decide."


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