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Entries in Gay (16)

Saturday
Jul132013

Blood Drive Protests FDA Ban on Gay Donors

Gillian Mohney/ABC News(NEW YORK) -- After Marshall Duer-Balkind, 30, exited a blood donation center on Friday morning, he held up a long green form as evidence that he had been rejected as a blood donor.

On the form Duer-Balkind pointed out that section that disqualified him from being a blood donor because of a U.S. Food and Drug Administration policy that bans men who have sex with men from giving blood.

After Duer-Balkind showed the form to two volunteers from the National Gay Blood Drive demonstration, the volunteers pulled out a red ink pad and stamped "Rejected" on his forearm.

The stamp was proof that Duer-Balkind had taken part in a nationwide demonstration to protest the FDA policy, which pervents men who engage in homosexual sex from donating blood, since they are considered at a higher risk for having HIV.

"I think it's an absolutely ridiculous and antiquated policy," said Duer-Balkind, who had come to participate in the demonstration during a vacation in New York.

There were more than 50 demonstrations planned as part of the National Gay Blood Drive in various U.S. cities on Friday. The drive was planned to help draw attention to the number of potential blood donors who are automatically disqualified due to their sexual orientation. In addition to men who have sex with men, women are disqualified from giving blood if within the last 12 months they have had sex with a man who at any point since 1977 has had sex with another man.

At designated blood donation centers across the country, participants in the National Gay Blood Drive were tested for HIV and if they tested negative, attempted to donate blood at a blood donation center. When they were rejected due to FDA regulations, they received a stamp and turned in their HIV testing results to be sent to the FDA.

The FDA's decades-long ban stared during the AIDS crisis and restricts any man, who has had sex with another man since 1977, from donating blood.

In recent years as HIV testing has improved, the policy has come under fire for being discriminatory and outdated. In June the American Medical Association voted to oppose the ban.

The National Gay Blood Drive was organized by independent filmmaker Ryan James Yezak, 26, who was inspired to act after he was forced to explain to co-workers he could not donate blood because he was gay.

"There's a really alienating feeling," said Yezak, who is working on a documentary about discrimination based on sexual orientation. "That's the first time I felt direct anti-gay discrimination and once you feel that you can't ignore it."

Yezak said that 1,400 people have said they would attend different demonstrations. At one New York City location, there had been over 20 participants by noon.

The demonstration comes just days after the American Red Cross issued an emergency request for blood and platelet donations since June donations were down 10 percent.

Yezak said the he hopes the FDA will craft a new blood donor policy that is based on behavior associated with high HIV risk rather than just sexual orientation. He also said one step could be adopting a policy similar to other countries, such as Canada or the United Kingdom, where men who have sex with men can donate blood if they abstain from sex for a certain period of time.

In 2010 an FDA Advisory Committee on Blood Safety found that the current ban on gay men as blood donors was "suboptimal" but voted to keep the policy pending further research. The U.S. Health and Human Services is performing additional studies to see what policy revisions should be undertaken.

According to the FDA, men who have sex with men made up 61 percent of all new HIV infections in the U.S. in 2010. Although HIV testing is performed on all donated blood, there are rare cases where HIV is not detected because the infection is too new. According to the FDA there is an HIV risk in 1 out of every 2 million units of donated blood.

In response to a request for comment from the FDA regarding the National Gay Blood Drive, an FDA spokesperson wrote that the "FDA's primary responsibility with regard to blood and blood products is to assure the safety of patients who receive these life-saving products … We applaud the critical contributions made by blood donors and we are sensitive to the concerns of potential donors and other individuals affected by current blood safety policies."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Oct052012

Gay Boy Scout, Bullied by Troop, Denied Eagle Rank

Courtesy Karen Andresen(NEW YORK) -- Ryan Andresen has spent a decade completing the requirements for the coveted Eagle Scout award, and now that he is just about to turn 18 -- the cut-off date for attaining the highest honor -- his Boy Scout troop won't approve it because he is gay.

His project, a "tolerance wall," was inspired by the years of hazing he endured in middle school in Moraga, Calif., and later at Boy Scout summer camp, where his nicknames were "Tinkerbell" and "faggot."

"I had I had no idea what gay was at that point," said Andresen, who described hazing that included, among other rituals, having the word "fag" written in charcoal across his chest.

"It was really embarrassing and humiliating," he said.  "And I was terrified."

His mom, Karen Andresen, was so upset by the troops' decision that she posted a petition on Change.org that has topped more than 22,000 signatures.

"It was not his idea, it was mine," she said.

In the petition, Karen Andresen cited the merit badge -- "Citizenship in the Community."

"[It] means standing up for what is right, and I am proud of Ryan for doing just that," she wrote.  "Will you stand with him, too?"

His father, Eric Andresen, who had joined the troop as the chief administrator to help his son with the bullying, was confronted by the scoutmaster and told that because Ryan was gay, he could not sign off on the project.  His father resigned "on the spot."

"He wants nothing to do with the troop," said his wife.

Deron Smith, spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America, told ABC News in a statement: "This scout proactively notified his unit leadership and Eagle Scout counselor that he does not agree to scouting's principle of 'Duty to God' and does not meet scouting's membership standard on sexual orientation.  Agreeing to do one's 'Duty to God' is a part of the scout Oath and Law and a requirement of achieving the Eagle Scout rank."

Smith also said that even though the Boy Scouts does not actively ask the sexual orientation of boys, discussions with the Andresens have made Ryan "no longer eligible for membership in scouting."

He said the "ideals and principles" in the Scout Oath and Law are "central to the mission of teaching young people to make better choices over their lifetimes."

A senior and honors student who hopes to go the University of San Francisco, Ryan joined the Boy Scouts at age 6.

He came out to his parents when he was "around 16," said his mother.  In July, he wrote a letter to the troop in response to a bullying incident and "thought he could help," disclosing he was gay.

But just this week the scoutmaster of Troop 212, Rainer Del Valle, refused to give the final signature on Ryan's project, one that he had initially approved, according to the Andresens.

Del Valle did not immediately respond to an email and a telephone call from ABC News.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Oct042012

Student Who Got 'Gay Cure' Sues California Over New Law

Comstock/Thinkstock(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- A college student who claims he once had same-sex attractions but became heterosexual after conversion therapy has filed a lawsuit against California, which has enacted a law that bans so-called "gay cures" for minors.

The lawsuit, also joined as plaintiffs by two therapists who have used the treatments with patients, alleges that the law banning the therapy intrudes on First Amendment protections of free speech, privacy and freedom of religion.

The student, Aaron Blitzer, who is studying to be a therapist in that field, said the law would prevent him from pursuing his career, according to court papers filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.

The lawsuit names as defendants California Gov. Jerry Brown, as well as 21 other state officials, including members of the California Board of Behavioral Sciences and the California Medical Board.

The other plaintiffs are Donald Welsch, a licensed family therapist and ordained minister who operates a Christian counseling center in San Diego; and Dr. Anthony Duk, a psychiatrist and practicing Roman Catholic.

Both say the law would restrict their counseling practices, according to the lawsuit.

"It's an egregious violation of the rights of young people feeling same-sex attraction, and of parents and counselors who feel it would be beneficial for the individual needs of a young person," said Brad Dacus, president and attorney for the conservative Pacific Justice Institute, which asked a federal judge to prevent the law from taking effect.

"The legislature had an errant assumption that every individual struggling with same-sex attraction is caused by their DNA," he said. "It ignores thousands, including the plaintiff, who have gone through therapy and are now in a happy and healthy heterosexual relationship."

Dacus declined ABC News' request for direct access to the plaintiffs.

Just this week, California lawmakers voted to outlaw therapy aimed at changing the sexual orientation of minors who say they are gay, making California the first state to adopt such legislation. The law is set to go into effect Jan. 1, 2013.

The bill's sponsor, California state Sen. Ted Lieu, said the therapy -- called "conversion therapy," "sexual orientation therapy," "reparative therapy" or "sexual orientation change efforts" -- amounts to "psychological child abuse."

"I read the lawsuit and, as a matter of fiction, it is a good read," Lieu said in a prepared statement after the suit was filed. "But from any reasonable legal standard, the lawsuit is frivolous. Under the plaintiffs' argument, the First Amendment would shield therapists and psychiatrists from medical malpractice and psychological abuse claims simply because they use speech in practicing their medicine. That is a novel and frivolous view of the First Amendment."

Lieu is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

Several members of the California Board of Behavioral Sciences and the California Mental Board were named in the lawsuit.

"Our board voted to support that piece of legislation after working with the author's office to further define sexual orientation change efforts," said Kim Madsen, executive officer for the sciences board, which licenses and oversees therapists.

She had no comment on the lawsuit, but said the board would investigate any complaints of conversion therapy after Jan. 1.

The law's critics say that it infringes on the rights of families and therapists, particularly young people who have same-sex attractions as a result of being victims of sexual abuse.

Dacus said the law makes them "victims twice, as a result denying them counseling and healing."

He said that counseling in "direct violation" of religious or personal beliefs "only precipitates greater confusion and depression and the likelihood of suicide."

"This legislation is a classic example of psychiatric ignorance combined with political neglect," he said, complaining of "compromises" that members of the California Psychiatric Association made with state legislators to enact the law.

"They clearly say that one size fits all and ignore the complexity of same-sex attraction and varying degrees of such attraction, depending on age and background," said Dacus. "It's out of place for the legislature to put such restrictions on it."

Members of the California Psychiatric Association have "mixed feelings" about the law, according to Randal Hagar, director of government relations for the organization.

"There is no psychiatrist who would engage and practice it and, if they did, they would be subject to ethical sanctions," he said.

The American Psychiatric Association has outlawed conversion therapies for more than a decade, insisting they are harmful.

On the other hand, said Hagar, the CPA is concerned about any bill that "basically prescribes any kind of treatment" or one that might lead "downstream" to someone legislating against another practice "they don't like."

"The difference here is that there is a very strong public policy argument that says why this practice ought to be limited," he said. "There is no evidence it does what it purports to be. It is, in essence, fraud ... and there is other evidence that it does harm. It concerns us greatly."

The CPA negotiated for months with legislators to hone language on the bill so that therapists could address "legitimate" talks on sexual orientation and gender identity issues, according to Hagar.

"We were wary of a form of the bill where they can't possibly engage in a discussion," said Hagar, who noted that the association supported the final version of the bill.

They also leaned on another precedent: Electroconvulsive shock therapy is highly regulated with judicial oversight.

"You can't give it to minors -- period," he said.

"I think the bill is clear and clean and did have a definition of supportive exploratory therapy that leads [minors with same-sex attractions] to be accepting and see themselves as a person of strength rather than a flawed person," he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jul172012

Same-Sex Families at Risk with Patchwork of State Parenting Laws

BananaStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Current state laws put many children living in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) families at risk and undermine family stability, according to a new report out Tuesday.

In more than 30 states, children in LGBT families are legal strangers to at least one of their parents.

In Louisiana, for example, one would have to be the biological parent or legally married to his or her partner to secure parenting rights.  Same-sex marriage is illegal in that state and two men's or women's names cannot appear on the birth certificate.

Between 2 million and 2.8 million children are being raised by LGBT parents, and because of a patchwork of state laws and no federal protections, many of these children are at risk, according to the report by the Movement Advancement Project, Family Equality Council, Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute and the Equality Foundation.

The findings are based on a 2011 report, "Children Matter: How Legal and Social Inequities Hurt LGBT Families."  This third companion report recommends policies and laws that the groups say address the changing American family and protect children.

In the United States, 69 percent of children live with married, heterosexual parents, down from 83 percent in 1970, according to the report.  Today, an estimated 24 percent of female same-sex couples, 11 percent of male couples and 38 percent of transgender Americans are raising children.

The states with the highest number of children being raised by LGBT families -- many of them in the conservative South -- are those with the most restrictive laws.

While states like California and New York have high numbers of same-sex couples, those most likely to be raising children live in Mississippi, Wyoming, Alaska, Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kansas, Alabama, Montana, South Dakota and South Carolina, in that order.

A second legal parent may be unable to pick up a child from day care without authorization or advocate for a child in school.  In these states, nonbiological same-sex parents cannot include a child on their health insurance and can be denied access to a hospital in an emergency or be left out of health care decisions.

Inconsistent laws make it difficult even for families from states where same-sex marriage and second-parent adoption is legal when they cross state lines, according to the report.

"If a couple in Washington, a state with full parental recognition, goes on vacation jet skiing in Idaho and the kid gets hurt, one parent might not be recognized," said Calla Rongerude, spokesman for the Movement Advancement Project, an LGBT think tank, and one of the co-authors of the report.

"If you are a New York family visiting Philadelphia, you better take everything you have and hope there is a sympathetic nurse when you have to go to the hospital," she said.

Children are also unable to access death or disability benefits or government safety net programs from a non-legal parent.  They can lose inheritance and other protections designed to keep them safe during times of crisis, according to the report.

"When we talk about ballot measures on marriage, we don't talk about the kids," said Rongerude.  "And frankly, they are the most vulnerable."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jun112012

Study: Kids of Parents in Same-Sex Relationships Fare Worse as Adults

BananaStock/Thinkstock(AUSTIN, Texas) -- A new study finds that adult children of parents in same-sex relationships fare worse socially, psychologically and physically than people raised in other family arrangements.

Critics call the study deeply flawed, saying the results don't accurately describe -- or even measure -- any children raised in stable households with two same-sex parents.

The study surveyed nearly 3,000 U.S. adults, ages 18 to 39, about their upbringing and their lives today, asking questions about factors such as income, relationship stability, mental health and history of sexual abuse.  Of the 3,000 respondents, 73 reported that their father had engaged in a same-sex relationship and 163 reported that their mother had done so.

People who reported that their mother or father had a same-sex relationship at some point were different than children raised by their biological, still-married parents in 25 of the study's 40 measures.  And most of the time, they fared worse.  The children of parents who at some point had a same-sex partner were more likely to be on welfare, have a history of depression, have less education and report a history of sexual abuse, the study found.

The study was published Sunday in the journal Social Science Research.  It was funded by the Witherspoon Institute and the Bradley Foundation, groups that are "commonly known for their support of conservative causes," though the organizations played no role in the design and analysis of the report, the study said.

Mark Regnerus, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of the report, said the study was not intended as a political statement, but simply tried to answer the question of whether children of parents with same-sex relationships are different.  He said the study also isn't designed to prove that family structure causes poor health.

"I'm not claiming that gay and lesbian adults are bad parents.  This is not a parenting study," Regnerus said.  "What this shows is that there's lots of diversity."

Regardless, the study touches a raw nerve at a time of heated political battles over gay marriage and same-sex parenting.  Both supporters and critics of the study claim to have science on their side.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb012012

'Knock Off’ the Hate Speech, Says LGBT Super Bowl Ads

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- For the first time ever, gay-rights advocates will launch a sassy advertising campaign aimed at football fans in the most macho of American venues -- the Super Bowl.

Four award-winning public service announcements feature various celebrities telling teens to “knock it off” when they overhear them using the ubiquitous line, “That’s so gay.”

The videos will be strategically placed on a screen at the entrance of Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind., to be viewed by Super Bowl ticketholders on Feb. 5.

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In its newest ad, GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, has garnered cooperation from the NBA and Phoenix Suns stars Grant Hill and Jared Dudley. The NBA is the first professional sports league to address antigay language among teens.

The campaign -- Think Before You Speak -- was created by ArnoldNYC and Toronto-based Grazie Media donated the airtime. The PSAs were funded by GLSEN, whose mission it is to ensure safe schools for all students.

Launched in 2009, the PSAs coincide with national concern about homophobia and school bullying and have received accolades from the Ad Council.

“The casual use of ‘That’s so gay’ is very common and rampant and often leads to more overt forms of harassment,” said GLSEN spokesperson Andy Marra. “This audience may not even see it as a problem.”

The first three videos have been distributed to local markets and have generated more than 387 million impressions and $25 million in donated ad time, according to GLSEN.

“It’s a new audience for us to reach,” said Marra. “The tone and feel is a good fit. The ads are not confrontational -- but very disarming and spark a conversation. That is the intention.”

Think Before You Speak features humorous TV PSAs with celebrities interrupting teenagers who use the term “that’s so gay.”

In one video, celebrity Hilary Duff switches the tables on two girls picking out dresses in a store, scolding them for equating gay with “bad.” In another, Wanda Sykes chastises adolescent teens eating at a pizza restaurant.

Last year, GLSEN unveiled its sports project, “Changing the Game,” which specifically addressed name-calling and bullying in physical education and sports settings.

“LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender) athletes are in school and we want them to feel safe and come out and be open and honest about who they are. It's a challenge because of the climate in many PE settings,” said Marra.

According to GLSEN’s 2009 National School Climate survey, three-quarters of LGBT students hear slurs such as “faggot” or “dyke” frequently or often at school and nine in 10 report hearing anti-LGBT language frequently or often. Homophobic remarks such as “that’s so gay” are the most commonly heard type of biased remarks at school.

Research shows that these slurs are often unintentional and simply a part of the teens’ vernacular. Most do not recognize the consequences, according to GLSEN.

Ad Council research found that the campaign has shown a shift in attitudes and behaviors among teens and their language.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec132011

1.6 Million Kids Homeless -- 40 Percent of Them LGBT

George Doyle/Stockbyte(WASHINGTON) -- A report released by the National Center on Family Homelessness, "America's Youngest Outcasts," finds one in 45 American children 18 and under -- 1.6 million -- live on the street, in homeless shelters, motels or with other families last year.

That number is up 33 percent from 2007.

Of those children, about 20 to 40 percent identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), according to National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

In one study, 26 percent of teens who came out to their parents were told they must leave home. Others said they were physically, sexually or emotionally abused. The task force added that LGBT youth also reported that they are threatened, belittled and abused at shelters, not only by other residents, but by staff, as well.

Resources for homeless LGBT youth are scarce and shelters are at capacity, especially in New York City where the Ali Forney Center (AFC), estimates 3,800 youth are homeless, about 1,600 of them LGBT.

The most common cause of homelessness is family rejection.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Dec122011

Daddy's Out of the Closet: Do You Tell the Kids?

Courtesy of Amity Buxton(MAHWAH, N.J.) -- In 1983, after 25 years of marriage and two children, Amity Buxton's life was turned upside down when she learned her husband's long-held secret -- he had "jilted" his gay lover to marry her.

"My moral compass was broken living someone else's lie," said Buxton, now 82 and founder of the Straight Spouse Network.  "I didn't know what was true or false.  I couldn't trust my own judgment... My identity was shattered."

Buxton, who lives in California, said it was worse than finding out her husband was having an affair.

"I could always compete with another woman," she said. "But this way, I didn't have the right equipment and was doomed from the beginning."

He left and she told their children, a daughter in high school and a son in college.  It took years before her husband could tell his son he was gay.

"The children thought it was their fault," she said.  "But couples who stay together for the sake of the children make them feel even more guilty -- I couldn't stand the idea of secrets."

Today, an estimated 25,000 heterosexual husbands and wives and 3.5 million children are too often the neglected parties when a gay spouse comes out of the closet, according to the Devote Campaign, which works for marriage equality for lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.

Buxton turned her experience into advocacy when there were no resources available to those left behind, in pain and often victims of homophobia.  The Straight Spouse Network just celebrated its 25th year.

"We are in the invisible minority," said Buxton, who was an educator in multiethnic schools.  "No one pays attention to us."

Only about 15 percent of those spouses choose to stay in the marriage, according to Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).

Just last month, New York City author Jane Isay wrote an essay, Keeping Marital Secrets Closeted, about learning her psychoanalyst husband was gay 15 years into their marriage in 1965.  The couple decided to keep his coming out from their two sons -- aged 10 and 14 -- and stayed in the marriage "for the sake of the children."

Now 72, Isay looks back on that decision with mixed feelings.

"When they finally learned the truth, our sons were more disturbed by our deception than by the facts," she wrote in The New York Times.  "Our reasons didn't seem to matter anymore.  Truth trumps lies, every time."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Dec012011

‘Don’t Say Gay!’ Eighth Grader's PSA Goes Viral

Mario Tama/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A half-minute PSA called Don’t Say Gay has gone viral after YouTube user playahata646 and his little brother demonstrated a funny and pithy way to discourage people from using the phrase.

“In 8th grade we had a PSA project. (Public Service Announcement) "Don’t Say Gay." I chose a funny way to present it. Subscribe! And thanks to my little brother for being the star!” He wrote on his YouTube page.

The eighth grader’s little brother shines in the clip after he slaps his brother across the face and admonishes his brother for using the phrase, “gay.”

“Don’t say ‘gay,’” he yells. “It’s mean, and it’s offensive!”



Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov022011

Study: Kids Raised by Gay Couples Are at Risk for Legal Discrimination

BananaStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Two million children in the United States are being raised by lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender parents (LGBT), according to the 2010 Census.

And now a new study, "All Children Matter," concludes that these children have become the "collateral damage" of laws and policies that discriminate against LGBT Americans.

The report comes just as the Senate Judiciary Committee is set to begin debate Nov. 3 on the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman and prohibits the federal government from providing benefits to same-sex couples.

The study was conducted by a coalition of advocacy groups, including the Family Equality Council, the Movement Advancement Project, the Center for American Progress, the National Association of Social Workers, the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, and COLAGE, with a foreword by the Child Welfare League of America.

Laws like those in North Carolina deny legal ties to the non-biological parent, having an effect on custody arrangements, inheritance and Social Security survivor benefits in the event of a death of the parent who is a "legal stranger."

They also make adoption impossible for children awaiting homes in those states.

"Even if you are an opponent of gays and lesbians, the fact is, they are already raising kids and these are policies that leave them economically destitute or undermine their family stability," said Ineke Mushovic, one of the study authors from the Movement Advancement Project.

"It's just wrong, and I don't think the majority of Americans and policy makers really understand the lack of recognition for these families has this kind of impact and harms kids," she said.

North Carolina is among the top 12 states where LGBT couples are raising children, but also among those with the least gay-friendly laws.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio