Archive for June, 2008

Heroic Bulgarians deliver message of tolerance
despite right-wing hatred and violence.

Aksinia GenchevaViolence erupted in Sofia at the first Bulgarian pride march on Saturday, leading to the arrest of 88 people, including Boyan Rasate, leader of the Bulgarian National Union.

Bulgarian gay rights organization Gemini organized the event, which drew between 150 and 200 participants and about 1000 observers, including protesters, journalists, and police. Gemini’s Executive Director, Aksinia Gencheva, noted that the first gay pride march in Ireland drew only five participants. Gencheva said Gemini had received letters of support from the British Embassy, the Council of Europe, the Party of European Socialists, and many other organizations and gay rights supporters.

Patriarch MaksimThe parade was opposed by the leader of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Maksim, 93. Maksim, who has been a bishop since 1956, was named Patriarch in 1971 and successfully fought back from a challenge to his authority in the 1990s resulting from accusations that he had been uncanonically appointed Patriarch by the Communist Politburo. The Patriach wrote an open letter to the Mayor of Sofia urging him not to “participate in the fruits of darkness, but counter them,” and demanding that he stop “this shameful and undignified march.” Metropolitan Neofit of Rousse also issued a statement opposing the parade and calling homosexuality a sin.

The Chief Mufti of Bulgaria, Mustafa Alish Hadji, weighed in, too, calling homosexuality “a disease” that “desecrates Bulgarian society and threatens its future” and denouncing gay attempts “impertinently to change the public opinion, and the moral, religious, and traditional values of the Bulgarian society through public happenings like gay parades.”

Boyan RasateBoyan Rasate’s group, the Bulgarian National Union, had proclaimed a “Week of Intolerance” preceding the parade, and had hosted a forum on “How to fight and minimize the damage from homosexuality and pedophilia in Bulgaria.” The group also conducted a campaign against the parade, spreading posters all over Bulgaria saying “Be Intolerant, Be Normal.”

The Bulgarian National Union was formerly affiliated with the right-wing Bulgarian National Attack movement, but split from that group after a power struggle between Rasate and Attack’s leader, Volen Siderov, in late 2005 and early 2006. Both the National Union and Attack are nationalist groups, saying Bulgarian identity is threatened by minorities, including Roma (Gypsies), Turks, Jews, and homosexuals. After the arrests, Attack declined to support Rasate directly, but issued a statement that the police exceeded their authority and claimed that over a hundred protesters were detained and beaten by police.

The city refused to prevent the pride march, but the route of the parade was changed twice, and police put strict security measures in place. Police arrested two minors for throwing a Molotov cocktail with the slogan “Death to Gays” at the beginning of the parade. Violence broke out when protesters armed with brass knuckles, clubs and fireworks tried to rush the marchers; the Ministry of the Interior said 88 people were arrested in all.

Bulgarian Pride, 2008

Gemini had declared a policy of non-violence at the parade, urging participants not to respond to any provocation or attack. Marchers carried a banner with the parade’s motto, Me and my family. Some carried a banner saying, “Be careful who you hate ― it may be someone you love!” In spite of the violence, marchers continued on the Red House for a rally after the parade. Some marchers remained at the Red House for up to 18 hours after the rally, fearful for their safety if they left.

Boyan Rasate has been one of the country’s most vocal critics of homosexuality. Interviewed at the parade before his arrest, Rasate said, “I don’t approve of this parade and we will do anything to prevent it.”

“What do you mean by ‘anything’?” asked the reporter.

“I mean anything,” Rasate replied.

After one of his supporters threw a smoke bomb at a policeman, Rasate was wrestled to the ground by a group of policemen and dragged into the back of a police van, shouting, “Don’t hit me, you scumbag! Don’t hit me! Don’t hit me! Don’t hit me!” According to some reports, his little daughter, whom he had brought with him to the parade, was left alone and helpless after his arrest. Police held Rasate for 24 hours before he was released on 500 leva bail. (500 leva = US$403.50 = €255.67.)

“Bulgaria is in the EU now,” said one participant. “People have to accept us like normal human beings. We are not criminals.” Some participants suggested they should have a parade every month or even every week to get the message of tolerance across.

Boyan Rasate at the parade (with English subtitles):

Read more:

BGO Gemini (Bulgarian gay organization)

BGO Gemini history – 1992-2006 (Video)

BGO Gemini’s MySpace

Rightist Extremists Call for Anti-Gay Measures in Bulgaria (Novinite, 22 June 2008.)

Bulgarian ‘Week of Intolerance’ Targets Gays (BalkanInsight, 23 June 2008.)

First Sofia Pride needs adequate protection (Amnesty International, 27 June 2008.)

Bulgaria Head Mufti’s Office Protests Against Gay Parade (Novinite, 27 June 2008.)

88 held during gay parade in Sofia today (FOCUS Information Agency)

About 60 arrested at Bulgaria’s first gay parade (Reuters, 28 June 2008.)

60 people arrested for disrupting Bulgaria’s gay pride march (AFP)

Leader of Attacks against Sofia’s Gay Parade Freed on Bail (Novinite, 29 June 2008.)

Гей парадът започна с арести (Gay parade began with arrests) (News.bg) (Photos)

„Атака”: Полицията превиши правата си на гей парада (“Attack”: police exceeded their rights at gay parade) (News.bg)

Website of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church

Патриарх Максим писа на кмета Борисов да спре гей парада (Patriarch Maksim wrote the mayor to stop gay parade) (Dnevnik)

Митрополит Неофит: Гей парадът е грях (Metropolitan Neofit: Gay parade is a sin) (Pravoslavie.bg)

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Going into the championship, I said I didn’t mind who won; I was just going to enjoy the match. Both good teams, both great countries. So I was surprised how disappointed I was. I didn’t realize I wanted Germany to win until they didn’t. 😦

But I have to give the Spanish players credit. They played really well, especially Fernando Torres. I hope he won’t be playing that well in the coming season for the club that shall not be named.

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(Sort of)

On Friday, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), meeting in San Jose, voted to drop an ordination requirement that clergy observe “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between and a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness.” This is the third time the General Assembly has tried to lift the ban on gay clergy; previous attempts in 1997 and 2001 were turned down by the presbyteries.

The General Assembly declined to change the PCUSA’s definition of marriage as a covenant between “a man and a woman.”

There is one concrete change coming out of this General Assembly, though. The assembly voted to allow candidates for ordination to register a conscientious objection to the clause excluding sexually active homosexuals. Each presbytery and church council can now decide for itself whether such a conscientious objection disqualifies that candidate from ordination. As a result, PCUSA presbyteries can now ordain sexually active homosexuals if they want.

This last change puts the PCUSA ahead of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the largest Lutheran denomination in the United States. The ELCA doesn’t officially allow the ordination of gay clergy, but leaves it to the bishops’ discretion whether to allow gay clergy to serve. Last year’s ELCA Churchwide Assembly urged the bishops not to defrock gay clergy.

The PCUSA is by far the largest U.S. denomination of the Presbyterian/Reformed tradition, more than ten times the size of the next largest Presbyterian denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America. The United Church of Christ, which includes many former Reformed congregations, first allowed gay clergy in 1971, and now allows gay clergy in all but one regional association, though each congregation is free to make its own decision.

The United Church of Canada, which includes many former Presbyterian congregations, first allowed gay clergy in 1988, and some clergy now celebrate marriages for same-sex couples. However, like the United Church of Christ, the United Church of Canada maintains a congregational polity that allows a more conservative position on the local level.

Read more:

Presbyterian leaders OK gay clergy (Los Angeles Times)

Presbyterian assembly votes to drop gay clergy ban (Associated Press)

PCUSA Assembly Approves Deleting Gay Clergy Ban (The Christian Post)

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George Carlin: Stuff.

John Pinette: Chinese buffet.

Wanda Sykes: Gay marriage.

Jeff Dunham & Walter: Suicide bombers.

Prank secret revealed.

In 1958, a group of twelve students at Cambridge University parked an Austin Seven on the roof of the university’s 70-foot-high Senate House. To read about their fifty-year reunion and find out how they did it, click on the pic.

You know you want to try this.

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“The operation of Wayne Simoes’ mind.”

In March 2007, Irma Marquez’ niece was hit with a bottle at La Fonda restaurant in Yonkers, New York. EMTs were called, and Marquez, a middle-aged home health aide, was also trying to tend to her niece, bending over her while the EMTs were working. An officer took Marquez gently by the arm and backed her up, and she accidentally stepped on the foot of another officer. At that point Yonkers police officer Wayne Simoes approached and shoved Marquez’ shoulder. Marquez apparently objected to being shoved, and Simoes grabbed her by the waist, lifted her in the air and slammed her face-first into a tile floor before handcuffing her. The whole incident was captured on security video.

Irma MarquezMarquez was knocked unconscious. She suffered a broken jaw and extensive bruising and had to be hospitalized for four days. The city sided with Simoes, and charged Marquez with obstruction of justice. After a jury acquitted her this May, she filed an $11.3 million dollar lawsuit against the police department. The FBI arrested Simoes yesterday and accused him of violating Marquez’ rights.

Now the police department and the District Attorney’s office are thinking maybe they didn’t handle this case so well, after all.

Read more:

NY policeman charged with body-slamming woman (Newsday, 27 June 2008.)

NY policeman charged after woman body-slammed (Associated Press, 27 June 2008.)

Feds Accuse Yonkers Cop of Police Brutality (Gothamist, 28 June 2008.)

“I was trying to hit him.”

On 24 June 2007, in Greenwood County, South Carolina Highway Patrolman, Lance Corporal Steve Garren, struck a then-unknown suspect with his car as the man tried to flee. Dashboard video recorded Garren saying, “I nailed the (expletive) out of him; I was trying to hit him.” The suspect, later identified as Marvin Grant, got away, but later turned himself in. Garren was suspended for two days for the incident. This month, he was indicted on a federal charge of violating the suspect’s civil rights.

“He’s had 15 years on the Patrol; he’s got a wife and kids,” says Garren’s lawyer. “They’ve lumped all these videos together — it’s unfair.”

Read more:

Trooper accused of hitting suspect with patrol car is free on bond (The State, 26 June 2008.)

S.C. Civil Rights Case: Trooper to fight chase charges (The State, 27 June 2008.)

Officer didn’t intentionally hit fleeing suspect with car, attorney says
 (The Greenville News, 27 June 2008.)

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My alma mater, Irmo High School, has been in an uproar for the last month over the formation of a Gay-Straight Alliance at the school. Principal Eddie Walker announced his resignation, effective at the end of the 2008-09 school year when his contract runs out. The public has been divided over the issue, and the board of Richland-Lexington School District 5 just hasn’t known what to do. There was even talk of banning all non-academic, non-sports clubs.

Relatively cooler heads have prevailed. The district decided on Monday the 23rd to accept the existence of the Gay-Straight Alliance, but to require parental permission to join any non-academic club. While this is a compromise that pleases nobody, it will at least allow the GSA (not to mention the Black Student Union, the Young Republicans, and the Chess Club) to exist at the school.

South Carolina Equality is working with students and teachers to help them recognize, and deal with, any potential violations of law in the school’s handling of the situation.

CNN Report from last month:

Rally in support of the GSA (27 May 2008):

Read more:

Under board’s decision, parents can still keep kids out of gay club (WIS-TV)

Principal’s resignation stirs debate over gay clubs (Edge)

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In a video posted Thursday — sorry, I’m a little slow — Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks remarks on John McCain’s secret meeting with gay Republicans.

They don’t even want to meet with you in public. How can you still vote for them? It’s really … I don’t understand how gay Republicans live with themselves. I really don’t get it, man. You’ve gotta really have some cognitive dissonance going on there, for that to make sense in your head.

No kidding. I don’t get it either. Watch the video:

See also: Gay Patriot’s report on John McCain’s secret meeting the Patrick Sammon of the Log Cabin Republicans.

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