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Gay New Orleans

CaptureNew Orleans has always embraced the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, and Queer) community openly, especially in the French Quarter and its surrounding neighborhoods.

Click here to visit the New Orleans Gay & Lesbian travel guide.

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Chartres Street

Chartres Street (photo from Arthur Severio)

Southern Decadence started forty-two years ago as a simple going-away party. As a top gay Labor Day Weekend destination, it has evolved into one of our world’s major annual events.  One of the largest annual celebrations and festivals in New Orleans, it has become known as the “Gay Mardi Gras.”

People begin to arrive on the Wednesday before Labor Day, and generally don’t even think about stopping or going home until the following Tuesday.

With over 120,000 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender participants, and an economic impact estimated to be in excess of $125 million, the city has recognized the festival’s importance with an Official Proclamation to welcome the event.

News
06/26/13

Landmark Decisions’ Impact on Gay Rights In Louisiana

Crowds gather on Jackson Square to celebrate the Supreme Court’s landmark decisions. They are two victories for same sex couples, yet here in Louisiana it’s bittersweet.

rallyShannon Powers has been married 37 years. She says, “We still don’t have equality here in Louisiana and it would be wonderful if we did. That would make it a fantastic day, but right now it’s bittersweet.”

Deb Guidry, Powers’ partner explains, “If I die tomorrow my social security benefits do not go to her. We put everything we had in our savings, in our 401k into our home to rebuild after Katrina so this city and this state could still move forward, and if I die tomorrow she will lose that house.”

Charlotte Klasson, President of the New Orleans Secular Humanist Association, says gay couples will receive benefits as any married couple would, but not in Louisiana. As of now, the benefits would only be recognized in states that sanction same sex marriages.

“I think there’s a lot of grey areas they are going to have to work out,” says Klasson.

Despite the uncertainty same sex couples and supporters still cheer anticipating a trickledown effect eventually changing the lives those here.

“It’s a step in the right direction. A step forward!”

“We think this is one of the final steps in the house of cards to fall.”

“We can’t stop here, especially in the state of Louisiana. There’s more work to be done, a lot more work to be done.”

“I just never would have imagined ten years ago that we’d be at this point.”

News
06/26/13

Louisiana Effects: Defense of Marriage Act & Prop 8 decisions

Louisiana’s constitutional amendment that bans gay marriage will not be affected by the Supreme Court’s decisions about DOMA and Prop 8, at least, not for now, but many gay couples in Louisiana will now be able to get federal benefits that were previously given only to heterosexual married couples.

Vatican Lokey, who lives in Metairie with his same-sex partner of 21 years, gave a triumphant fist-pump when the decision was announced Wednesday morning.

The landmark Supreme Court ruling ends DOMA (the federal law that says gay couples that marry in states where it’s legal still cannot get official recognition).

Now, even those in the New Orleans gay community who go to another state to get married will still be able to file joint tax returns and have privileges like hospital visitation rights with their partners when they come back to Louisiana.

“I’m ecstatic that DOMA has finally been repealed,” Lokey said. “And the language that the justices used that DOMA was originally put in place to demean gay people and to reduce their equality in the eyes of so many people. It’s a strong ruling.”

But a second decision by the high court is more of a mixed bag.  In effect, the Supreme Court said it had no legal standing to decide the fate of California’s Prop 8, which bans gay marriage in that state.  That decision will have no real, immediate effect in Louisiana.

“It’s going to make it much more difficult for lawmakers who want to continue to enforce this type of discrimination,” Lokey believes. “It’s going to make it more difficult for them to push that type of legislation through.”

Some gay rights leaders expect a rush of Louisiana gay couples travelling to states that permit gay marriage, now that the high court has struck down the Defense Of Marriage Act.

People in the French Quarter are remembering a deadly fire, intentionally set.

Thirty two people perished in the arson fire that ripped through the Upstairs Lounge on June 24th, 1973.

“Respecting their lives,” says Toby Lefort.  “And putting them to rest, such as should have been done forty years ago.”

“There are so many stories to be proud of from this fire,” says the Wayne Self, who wrote a musical about the fire called Upstairs.

Lefort says whoever set the fire forty years ago on the only door leading to the gay bar was never brought to justice, It was totally brushed under the cover. Nobody said let’s investigate it. Lets get to the bottom of it. You know why? Because it was a gay issue.”

A backdraft spread flames quickly trapping patrons on the second floor. Bars on the windows stopped victims from escape,  Politicians and the churches sort of just shied away from this whole thing. There was sort of a   conspiracy of silence,” says Self.

Below where the Upstairs Lounge once was, near a plaque acknowledging the tragedy, is a celebration of pride, Self says, past and present, “ If it happened today certainly it would be a different type of response.”

Lefort says the remembrance is also a celebration how far gay rights have advanced since the Upstairs fire forty years ago, “I am proud that I can actually be who I am in the streets of anywhere I go because these people who died actually paved the way for me.”

NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) – It’s taken filmmaker and educator Royd Anderson 6 years to complete his documentary on The UpStairs Lounge tragedy, an event that claimed the lives of 32 people in the French Quarter.

“The second floor, that’s where there was a lot of structural damage from the fire,” says Anderson. The fire was started on June 24th, 1973 in the stairwell of the UpStairs Lounge.

The completion of the film coincides with the fortieth anniversary of the fire. Four decades later, the pain and emotions still smolder.”The number one suspect got away with it, nothing was done about it, one person, one guy said he said he was going to burn the place to the ground and he wasn’t even arrested,” says Anderson.

“Supposedly, this was the well he filled with lighter fluid, knocked on the door, when the guy opened the thing, that’s when it went inside, ” says Jimmy Massacci, owner of Jimani, the restaurant directly beneath the lounge.He was just thirteen years old at the time of the fire, but he still remembers his family discussing the circumstances.In a tour of the inside of the building, he points out the remnants of the blaze, “You can still see some darkness in here, there’s some burnt right here, if you shoot that window sill you’ll see some burnt right there . The smell was unbelievable, I’ll never forget that smell. “

“The dance floor actually was right over here, and that’s the famous photograph of Rev. Larson outside the window, deceased. It’s hard to imagine the worst mass murder of gays in US history happened right here,” says Anderson as we step inside the second floor from the stairwell. Now, the floor is used as storage for the restaurant.

“It’s awful. There was only one church that offered a memorial service for the victims, the politicians didn’t say anything.” You can still see black outlines along the windows, charring from the fire. “A reminder, something horrible happened here,” says Anderson.

“A lot of the survivors of this fire do not want to speak, they don’t speak to reporters, they don’t speak to filmmakers. It was really my dad informing me about it as a kid that made me want to pursue it as a documentary. There are no documentaries about many tragedies in New Orleans or Louisiana .”

Outside the stairwell, there is a plaque on Iberville St. that was put in on the 25th anniversary of the fire. If you don’t go inside the building, if you don’t see the charring on the walls, the plaque is really the only significant visual to tell people this tragedy even occurred. “Everyday people are walking right over it, they don’t look down. The fact that it’s not even in text books, Louisiana history books is appalling, it’s forgotten history and it needs to be told.”

June 24th at PJ’s Coffee (5432 Magazine St., New Orleans) at 8:00pm, you can see a free screening of Royd Anderson’s documentary. Anderson will conduct a Q&A session before the screening.

You can also watch it on Cox4 June 24th 8:00pm and 10:00pm, June 25th at 1:00pm and June 27th at 6:00pm.

Visit www.facebook.com/upstairsloungefire for more information.

Boy Scouts headquarters is in Texas

Irving, Texas is the headquarters of the Boy Scouts of America.

(CNN) — Openly gay youths will be allowed to join scouting, delegates to the annual meeting of the Boy Scouts of America voted Thursday.

More than 60% of the group’s 1,400-member national council voted in Grapevine, Texas, for the historic policy change, which will take effect January 1.

“No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone,” says the approved resolution.

The BSA will maintain its ban on gay adult leaders.

“The resolution also reinforces that Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting,” the 103-year-old organization said in a statement.

The BSA said there are no plans for further review of the issue.

“The Boy Scouts of America will not sacrifice its mission, or the youth served by the movement, by allowing the organization to be consumed by a single, divisive, and unresolved societal issue,” it said.

Reaction to Thursday’s vote was swift.

The Human Rights Campaign said the BSA took a “historic step forward.”

“Unfortunately, the new policy does not go far enough, leaving adult Eagle Scouts, scout leaders, and parents behind,” the group said.

Jennifer Tyrrell, an Ohio mother who was ousted as a den leader in April 2012 because she’s lesbian, called Thursday’s vote “incredible.”

“They’ve never been raised to discriminate against anyone regardless of sex or color or anything, so they can’t understand why people care so much,” she said of her children. “… Definitely, one day, I hope they look back and think that we’re part of something amazing.”

Tyrrell, in an interview with CNN affiliate KTVT, that the vote energized her for her next push — to change Boy Scout policy so that gays and lesbian adults, like herself, can serve as leaders.

“When we used to exclude women from things, when we used to exclude black people from things, and that never has ever worked, but we continue to do it,” she said. “I’m going to be around to make sure that that’s not the case. We’re definitely not going to go away.”

Conservative groups and some religious organizations argued against making any change in the membership policy, saying it would dilute the Boy Scout message of morality and potentially destroy the organization.

John Stemberger, founder of OnMyHonor.net, which opposed the resolution, called the vote a “sad day for Scouting.”

“It is with great sadness and deep disappointment that we recognize on this day that the most influential youth program in America has turned a tragic corner,” Stemberger said. “The vote today to allow open and avowed homosexuality into Scouting will completely transform it into an unprincipled and risky proposition for parents.”

The conservative Family Research Council tweeted: “Sadly, the @boyscouts’ legacy of producing great leaders has become yet another casualty of moral compromise.”

The vote followed months of intense debate among interest groups and within the ranks of Scouting itself.

In February, the Boy Scouts’ national executive board postponed a vote on the issue and ordered a survey of its members.

That survey showed an organization divided by age and, in some cases, by region.

“While a majority of adults in the Scouting community support the BSA’s current policy of excluding open and avowed homosexuals, young parents and teens tend to oppose the policy,” the survey said.

A BSA spokesman at the time called the issue “among the most complex and challenging issues facing the BSA and society today.”

A recent Washington Post-ABC News Poll showed that 63% of Americans said they would support allowing gay youths to join the Boy Scouts.

The vote comes more than a decade after the Supreme Court ruled that the organization has the right to keep out gays but also at a time of declining participation in the American institution.

Membership in Boy Scouts has declined by about a third since 1999. About 2.7 million people now participate nationwide.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, after the vote, said it will continue to work with the BSA.

“Sexual orientation has not previously been — and is not now — a disqualifying factor for boys who want to join Latter-day Saint Scout troops,” it said in a statement.

The vote could have an impact in at least two Western states.

The heavily Mormon-populated states of Utah and Idaho reported that if a unilateral change in the policy were to be made, 97% of chartered organizations would probably leave the organization.

CNN’s Greg Botelho, Katia Hetter and Ed Payne contributed to this report.

News with a Twist
03/28/13

Will Anyone Ask “Are You A Virgin” At Gay Weddings?

If pro football players walked out onto the field yelling to the crowd “watch me play football!” the fans in attendance may question the mental health of that player. Why don’t the same fans question the mental health of media personalities who do the same thing? Columnists for newspapers like the Times Picayune tacitly say “watch me write my opinions” when they intone “if you ask me…” on a particular issue. Well, I bought your paper, turned to your page, so I AM asking you and I will most likely disagree(1), but hey, that’s what life is all about right? Even when it comes to foundational things like life, or death or say marriage, wait, scratch that, say “gay marriage”.

Why should there be disagreement over something that is as old history itself? Well, that is because the rule of Man is at hand, Gods have been told to hit the road and “don’t let the door hit ya, where Good ________ split ya”(2).

St Thomas Aquinas clarified(3) the Roman Catholic Church’s teachings on marriage in the 1270’s and in reading Aquinas I’m reminded that one of the questions that used to be asked of those soon to be married “is virginity better than marriage?” Aquinas answered that it was not writing that ‘though virginity is better than conjugal continence, a married person may be better than a virgin”.

That homosexuals and most heterosexuals aspire to marriage but leave the virginity part out is a sign of our times. Perhaps media types should ask of their gay marriage teammates “which of you is the wife and do you present yourself as a virgin?” Of course who wants to bothered with the spiritual technicalities of what marriage is being made into during this whole debacle: a quest for a government approved status that can earn you an income tax break.

So, those of us who are married may as well emulate the mentally ill media types and instruct our spouses to “watch me play marred”.

 

(1). http://www.nola.com/opinions/index.ssf/2013/03/voters_not_judges_should_settl.html#incart_most-comments

(2).  ______ = Good Lord

(3) http://thomisttacos.com/2008/01/13/aquinas-view-of-marriage/

David Mendez writes of Aquinas “For example, he considers one of the first ingredients for marriage in question forty-five of the Summa when he deals with “The Marriage Consent Considered in Itself.”[19] Here he considers the past historical elements in marriage whereby women were given away as property and usually negotiated by the father[20] To this he answers that matrimony as a sacrament is a kind of “spiritual joining together” and it is also a “material joining together” insofar as it relates to the natural goods and desires they both have.[21] It follows from this that since this is a sacrament in its fullest sense then it also follows that consent is its efficient cause because, according to Aquinas, this (as a sacrament) is empowered from above.

Yet, one of his first references to marriage can be found as early as the second part of the second part of the Summa where he deals with whether virginity is more excellent than marriage. In answering his objectors he declares that virginity is more excellent because Christ himself chose a virgin as his mother. However, he does clarify that “though virginity is better than conjugal continence, a married person may be better than a virgin for two reasons. First, on the part of chastity itself; if to wit, the married person is more prepared in mind to observe virginity, if it should be expedient, than the one who is actually a virgin.”[22] Here he quotes Augustine in mentioning that reason and the “Holy Writ” say that marriage is not sinful because it is not that of being a virgin or widowed.”

Tomorrow the United States Supreme Court will decide if California’s ban on gay marriage is legal.  This landmark decision will change the way America legally looks at gay marriage.  And that’s a good thing.

Limiting homosexuals’ rights simply because of their sexual preference obviously isn’t very American.  It isn’t what our country has always stood for: equality for all, including homosexuals.

As early as just last century, blacks and women could not vote.  How would you have liked to have been on the wrong side of that, arguing women or black folks don’t have the mental capacity to vote?!?   That was the argument back then.

What would be the argument today to not allow homosexuals to marry?   A marriage is between a man and a woman?   When the heterosexual divorce rate is above 50%, who are we to judge?  We aren’t.  That’s why the Supreme Court is ruling on this vitally important topic as early as tomorrow.

Allowing homosexuals to marry is long overdue and you don’t want to be on the wrong side of that argument.  Welcome to America.   Home of the free and the brave.  And soon homosexual marriage.

What do you think about the possibility of the Boy Scouts lifting the ban on gay scouts?

(News with a Twist – 2/6/13)

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