Beginning next year, Walt Disney will be the latest corporate sponsor to cut ties with Boys Scouts Of America over the Scouts ban on gay leadership. Despite making strides towards equality last May when it voted to allow openly gay youth to join, the Boy Scouts still bar gay adults from serving in leadership roles. Through it’s volunteer program called EARS to You, Disney makes financial contributions to charities that, until now, included the Scouts. The announcement came from Central Florida Council Board President Robert Utsey in an email to local members. “We recognize that many Scout Units have received financial support over the last several years from this grant opportunity and are sad to see it go. The National BSA Council has reached out to [Walt Disney World] to try to resolve the situation, however, according to WDW, their views do not currently align with the BSA and they are choosing to discontinue this level of support.” Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and co-founder of Scout for Equality, an alumni association committed to ending discrimination, said, “We’re never happy to see Scouting suffer as a result of the BSA’s anti-gay policy, but Disney made the right decision to withhold support until Scouting is fully inclusive.”
It’s official. Arizona governor has vetoed SB 1062, the divisive bill giving business owners the right to deny LGBT patrons service by espousing religious freedom. In her statement to the press, governor Jan Brewer stated, “Senate Bill 1062 does not address a specific and present concern related to religious liberty in Arizona. I have not heard of one example in Arizona where a business owner’s religious liberty has been violated. The bill is broadly worded and could result in unintended and negative consequences. After weighing all of the arguments, I vetoed Senate Bill 1062 moments ago. To the supporters of the legislation, I want you to know that I understand that long-held norms about marriage and family are being challenged as never before. Our society is undergoing many dramatic changes. However, I sincerely believe that Senate Bill 1062 has the potential to create more problems than it purports to solve. It could divide Arizona in ways we cannot even imagine and no one would ever want. Religious liberty is a core American and Arizona value, so is non-discrimination.” See AP video of Brewer’s announcement below.
More football news today as Michael Sam, Missouri All-American defensive lineman and NFL draft hopeful, came out today as gay in an interview with ESPN’s Chris Connelly. When asked what he had come to announce, Sam replied, “I came to tell the word that I am an openly, proud gay man.” Creating history by potentially being the first gay NFL player in the league, Sam also acknowledged the scope of his disclosure. “I understand how big this is,” he said. “It’s a big deal. No one has done this before. And it’s kind of a nervous process, but I know what I want to be … I want to be a football player in the NFL.” Professional sports has a celebrated history of gay athletes but pro football has been slow to embrace it and has sometimes proven hostile towards the idea of gay players. “It shouldn’t matter. If I work hard, if I make plays, that’s all that should matter. Can he help us win games? Is he a team player? That’s all that should matter, which I like to see myself as that. I am a team player, I can make plays, I can help teams win games and that’s all that should matter,” Sam went on to say. Missouri coach Gary Pinkel gave him his full support and stated, “Michael is a great example of just how important it is to be respectful of others, he’s taught a lot of people here first-hand that it doesn’t matter what your background is, or your personal orientation, we’re all on the same team and we all support each other.” See ESPN for video of Sam’s inspiring interview and full report.
College football made headlines today when kicker for Division III Willamette University, Conner Mertens, came out as bisexual, according to Outsports today. He told head coach Glen Fowles last Monday of his intentions. “I’m bisexual,” he said. “I like dudes. I have a boyfriend. And next week, I’m going to tell the world.” Fowles gave him his full support and spoke to the team. “It was unwavering support,” Fowles said. “They were supportive because he’s one of their teammates. It was impressive. After that meeting I congratulated the coaches for recruiting good men. We’ve got something special here. I was so proud of those guys. If that’s the future of young men in America, we’ve got a shot. It was awesome.” Mertens posted his announcement on Twitter last night. He began by saying, “Throughout my life, I have been told who I can and cannot be. A few months ago I realized that I am only limited as a person by the limitations I have placed on myself. That being said, it is important to me to tell you all that I, Conner Mertens, am bisexual.” He finished with, “Thank you for taking the time to read this, it means more to me than you will ever know.” Read the full story here.
ZDnet reported today on the outing of transgender female Erika Sorensen, the unintended result of upgrading her mobile phone to the new Google operating system KitKat. Unbeknownst to her, and probably most of the Android using world, Google Hangouts has now become the default messaging and SMS app, using information pulled from a users entire Google profile. In a series of tweets, Sorensen expressed outrage over the digital snafu. “Really pissed right now. Fucking Google. I was NOT ready to tell any of my coworkers yet.” She also wrote, “I’m just glad I live in a state where it’d be illegal to fire me.” The story comes in the wake of the tragic suicide of Dr. Essay Anne Vanderbilt, a transgender women that was force out when Grantland, an ESPN owned sports website, ran a story covering a golf club Vanderbilt invented, but unraveled into an exploitative piece about her credentials and the fact that Vanderbilt used to be man. Sorenson went on to twitter, “Many trans ppl lose everything or nearly so when they come out. This could’ve been utterly disastrous.” Read the full story here.
Starkville, Miss. may not come up on anyone’s radar as a progressive hot bed for human rights, but as the Clarion-Ledger reported today, it now has the distinction of being the first Miss. city to pass a resolution specifically supporting LGBT rights. The decision, passed Tuesday night by the Board of Aldermen, states that it “does not condone discrimination of any kind, including any against its citizens for their sexual orientation or gender identity.” Speaking Wednesday, Mayor Parker Wiseman shared, “We felt that it’s important to make it clear in a written document adopted by the Board of Aldermen that absolutely no discrimination is tolerated by the city of Starkville.” President of the Human Rights Campaign, Chad Griffin, praised the city by saying, “The city of Starkville, Mississippi is sending a message to its residents that all people – regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity – are worthy of respect and equality.” Wiseman went on to say, “And we don’t mind being the first city to do something when it’s the right thing to do.” Read the full story.
With less than a month to go before the start of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, online publication Vice shared it’s full report on the state of gay youth in Russia following last summers passage of anti-gay propaganda laws. Effectively making the LGBT community enemies of the State, Vice details the horrifying new landscape that is Putin’s Russia. In one segment, the report uncovered a gay taxi service in Moscow that came about as a result of outbreaks of violence against gays. “Recently there was a shooting in St. Petersburg outside the nightclub Central Station,” said a taxi driver identified only by the name Artem. “They were shooting and shouting-”Faggots get out of here!” …I can only draw one conclusion from this, that in this country, if you don’t tell people you’re gay, everything is calm and peaceful. But as soon as you mention it, life becomes more difficult.” The report also touches on the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church and the international attention that will be focused on Russia during the Olympics. See the complete 30 minute report here.