National & World News Briefs

Griner released from Russian jail

WNBA star Brittney Griner, imprisoned in Russia on a drug charge, has been released from custody and is back in the arms of her wife, Cherell. In what may be the most publicized trade in WNBA history, she was released in an exchange for Russian arms smuggler Viktor Bout. Known as the “merchant of death,” he was in a U.S. prison. Griner traveled to Russia to play hoops for a local Russian team. She pleaded guilty to having a small amount of high THC-content cannabis oil in her luggage at a Russian airport. She said she had a prescription for the hash, but Russian law still prevailed. Griner’s wife lobbied the U.S. government to argue Griner’s detention was wrongful detainment. This release still leaves U. S. Marine veteran, Paul Whelan, detained on espionage charges in the Gulag.

World Cup gay stuff

Qatar, the host of the World Cup football games (aka soccer in the USA) was not chosen as host for its lesbian- and gay-friendly culture. Already reported was the interference by Qatari security with protests by gay activists outside the stadia. The governing body of the World Cup, Fédération Internationale de Football Association, worked to keep lesbian and gay activism off the field. It took the threat of “yellow card sanctions” to stop Europeans from wearing a “OneLove” armband during the games. The armband features a heart striped in rainbow colors. Still, the rainbow reared its unwelcome message when an activist interrupted a match by running on the field with a Rainbow Flag and wearing a tee shirt emblazoned with the “Superman” shield and the words “Save Ukraine.” Fans wore rainbow-themed tee shirts. Some were asked to remove or cover the shirts. One fan claimed to have been detained for wearing the shirt. The final insult — no beer in the venue. Oh, the humanity. Good news?  Ahmed Al Reyahi, a Jordanian “baller,” emerged as a nice bit of eye candy.

Respect for Marriage

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 258 to 169 to pass the Respect for Marriage Act. The president will sign the bill, setting a national standard for same-sex and interracial marriages.. Every House Democrat voted for it. The number of Republican votes, 39, was lower than the first passage in the Summer, even though the House accepted the religious and conscience exceptions the Senate added to the bill. The Democratic House Progressive Caucus had heartburn over the Senate amendments. Proponents believe the amendments will help the law survive the, sure-to-come, legal challenges. RMA repeals the Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act passed in 1996. It also requires states to recognize same-sex and interracial marriages from other states. Both types of marriage were already “legal” and recognized after separate Supreme Court rulings. The abortion ruling, “Dodds,” this Summer gave rise to fears that SCOTUS may reverse those rulings, thus denying at least one and maybe two marriages by sitting court members legal recognition in states, like Utah, with laws against them.

Hate speech on Twitter

The New York Times says it’s up; Elon says it’s down. The Times reported on a study from Center for Countering Digital Hate showing an increase in what it defined as “hate terminology” on Twitter since Musk took over. According to the report, slurs against Black people went up 202 percent from 1,282 before Elon took over to 3,876 after he bought the company. Anti-gay slurs against gay men rose 58 percent. Antisemitic slurs rose 61 percent. Anti-transgender rose 68 percent. The data was gathered using “Brandwatch,” a media analytics tool, which looks at words and not context. Musk says that the service took steps to lower the visibility of the speech. The CDDH said fine, but there’s still more since Elon laid-off moderation staff and opened the gates of Hell. For context, according to analyst David Sayce, ”Every second, on average, around 6,000 tweets are placed on Twitter, corresponding to over 350,000 tweets sent per minute, 500 million tweets per day and around 200 billion tweets per year.” 

Kolbe, RIP

Jim Kolbe, a longtime Republican congressman from Arizona who stopped hiding his sexuality in 1996, died Saturday at age 80. His public announcement was spurred by outrage over his vote in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act. DOMA was passed and signed into law, but it has since been invalidated by the Supreme Court. After discussing his gay life publicly, he changed his tack and was a cosponsor of legislation to end the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in the military, opting for “non-discrimination.” The legislation never passed the Democrat- and then Republican-dominated House of Representatives in the 1990s. The governor of Arizona ordered flags to fly at half staff. David Cicilline, chair of the LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus in the U. S. Congress memorialized, “As an out gay man, Jim affirmed to the American people and gay men across the country that there was a place for them in the halls of Congress.”

Strange World,’ strange claims

In the fever swamps of the internet, Disney is being accused of intentionally tanking its holiday animation offering, “Strange World.” Critics claim it is, perhaps, an effort to get into the good graces of Florida’s re-elected governor. The $180 million production, which included LGBT characters and themes, only took in $18.6M during the traditionally good-for-ticket sales Thanksgiving weekend. The conspiracy theorists say that weekend was bad timing for this movie, that Disney did not promote it enough with social media, advertising, and merchandise tie-ins at fast food restaurants. The trade media reports 2022 Thanksgiving movie revenues were off from previous years. This year’s ticket sales were $95 million against previous years revenues of over $200 million. The movie will go to Disney’s streaming service and may recoup some of the costs. Critics complained that Disney downplayed the movie in the face of other, “LGBTQIA” themed, low performing movies like “Bros” and the latest iteration of “Toy Story.”

Same-sex households in U.S.

The number of same-sex couple households in the U.S. has surpassed 1 million for the first time, according to recently released government data. There were more than 1.2 million same-sex couple households across the country in 2021, up from 540,000 in 2008, an increase of 120 percent. The data, taken from the census bureau’s annual American community survey and does not report whether they are having sex with one another.

Japan and Singapore

A Tokyo court upheld a ban on same-sex marriage, but warned, “A lack of legal protection for same-sex families violated their human rights.” Japan’s constitution joins Utah in defining marriage requiring both biological sexes as the only legal marriage. Japan remains outside the mainstream of marriage equality in the economic and policy organization of democracies with well developed economies, the Group of Seven.

Singapore’s parliament has decriminalized sex between men, It also amended the constitution to prevent court challenges that may lead to marriage equality. It reserves the power to allow marriage equality to the executive or the legislature. Oddly, media reports from Singapore do not mention anything about female-to-female sex. So, keep on keeping on, girls.

Covid masked HIV rise in Europe

The World Health Organization has released a report that shows Europe has seen a rise in undiagnosed HIV infections. Since 2018 there have been more HIV infections than diagnoses, leading the WHO computer models to predict a dire situation until 2030. WHO blames the COVID pandemic for suppressing testing for HIV. The full report shows that testing rates fell during COVID. A model used to predict the estimated number of infections compared testing data from 46 of the 53 countries in the WHO’s European region. The model estimated that one in eight people living with HIV in those regions remains undiagnosed.

Kirk Cameron book tour dissed by libraries

A grown-up child actor from “Growing Pains,” on TV from 1985 to 1992, now identifies as a Christian actor and is an evangelical minister. Kirk Cameron recently gave an interview promoting a movie saying homosexuality is “unnatural” and “detrimental and ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization.” The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation immediately branded the interview as hate speech. He has now written a children’s book titled, “As You Grow,” which uses some biblical themes but is mostly about a tree growing in the forest. He wanted to do a book tour, but libraries are not giving him a venue to read his books to children’s audiences. One library in Rhode Island responded to his request to flog his book, “We are a very queer-friendly library. Our messaging does not align.” Cameron’s TV dad on “Growing Pains”, Alan Thicke, tweeted, “I’m getting him some new books. The Old Testament simply cannot be expected to explain everything. I love Kirk, but I may have to spank him!” Cameron’s sister, actress Candace Cameron Bure, recently left the Hallmark Channel for the Great American Family channel because GAF focuses on “traditional marriage” and does not include same-sex couples.

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