Pence urges voters to back Trump over anti-LGBT ‘religious freedom’ acts

Pence urges voters to back Trump over anti-LGBT ‘religious freedom’ acts

Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the 2018 Values Voter Summit. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key) Vice President Mike Pence counted on Saturday President Trump’s actions in favor of “religious freedom” — considered by LGBT rights supporters as means to enable anti-LGBT discrimination — as reasons for why conservative voters should turn out in the congressional mid-term elections to back Republican candidates and the Trump administration.

Pence made the remarks before attendees at the Values Voter Summit, an annual D.C. confab for social conservatives hosted by the anti-LGBT Family Research Council.

The vice president counted Trump’s actions in favor of “religious freedom” as reasons why voters should support Republicans in the mid-terms as well as with other factors, including a booming economy, lower taxes, support for immigration enforcement and a tougher stance on America’s adversaries across the globe.

“Our administration has also taken action to protect and promote our first freedom, the freedom of religion and religious liberty for every American,” Pence said. “Last year President Trump chose the National Day of Prayer to announce new policies to protect the religious liberty of every American regardless of their creed. We’ve taken action to protect the conscience rights of doctors and nurses.”

Although the Trump policies Pence referenced on the National Day of Prayer didn’t explicitly contain any language seen to hamper LGBT rights, it directed U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to draft further to ensure “religious freedom” is protected.

Sessions ended up issuing guidance that allows individuals and businesses to act in the name of religious freedom — often used as an exercise for anti-LGBT discrimination — without fear of government reprisal. Nowhere in the guidance is there a limiting principle assuring the right to free exercise of religion should be an excuse to engage in anti-LGBT discrimination.

The second policy Pence referenced is the establishment of the Conscience & Religious Freedom Division at the Department of Health & Human Services, which critics say allows medical practitioners to deny abortion-related services and treatment to LGBT people on religious grounds.

HHS followed up with a proposed rule change that allow medical practitioners to invoke a religious exemption to get out of offering abortion-related services and transition-related care for transgender people, including gender reassignment surgery. Other provisions condoning religious counseling were construed as allowing federal payments for widely discredited “ex-gay” conversion therapy.

Pence himself is known for taking action in the name of “religious freedom” to enable anti-LGBT discrimination. As Indiana governor, Pence signed into law a “religious freedom” measure widely criticized for allowing individuals and businesses to refuse service to LGBT people. After an outcry from LGBT rights supporters and the business community, Pence was forced to sign a “fix” limiting the ability to discriminate under the law.

The vice president alluded to further actions in favor of “religious freedom,” predicting Brett Kavanaugh will soon “will soon be Justice Brett Kavanaugh” upon confirmation by the U.S. Senate and issue rulings in line with social conservative thought.

“Judge Brett Kavanaugh is a man of integrity with impeccable credentials and a proven judicial philosophy,” Pence said. “On the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, he wrote more than 300 opinions that reflect a strong record of support for limited government, religious liberty and our Second Amendment. He’s a conservative who will interpret the Constitution as written, and his record and career deserves the respect of every member of the United States Senate.”

The confirmation of Kavanaugh, which is opposed by progressive and LGBT rights groups, is being held up in the U.S. Senate after the emergence of allegations from Christine Blasey Ford he attempted to sexually assault her in 1982.

Alluding to the allegations without enumerating them, Pence said he and Trump are “confident that Senate Republicans will manage this confirmation properly with the utmost respect for all concerned.”

For these “religious freedom” actions and other efforts, Pence urged attendees at the Values Voter Summit to come out in support of Trump during the upcoming congressional mid-terms and to tell others “we’ve been fighting for the values that make this nation great.”

“With 45 days to go, my fellow conservatives, as you’d heard at this summit, now is the time for the sake of America to pray, to vote, to stand,” Pence said. “And I know you will. The other side is mobilized, and some say they’re motivated as never before. But I say we must match – in fact, I say we must surpass – the energy of the American left and their enthusiasm and passion. And if we do, we will win.”

Pence faced criticism from LGBT rights supporters by agreeing to attend the Values Voter Summit based on the anti-LGBT policy objectives the Family Research Council and the speakers that appeared on stage before and after him.

David Stacy, government affairs director of the Human Rights Campaign, said speakers at the Values Voter Summit are known for expressing support for conversion therapy and condemned Pence for appearing with them.

“The practice of ‘conversion therapy’ is abuse and can be life-threatening, which is why a growing number of states are banning it,” Stacy said. “And the denigrating language they direct at LGBTQ people send a dangerous message — particularly to LGBTQ kids — about their equal dignity and worth. Once again, Mike Pence is making clear that he stands with many organizations and leaders who promote hate and fear. We know those are not true American values.”

LGBT community finally finds safe, friendly home

LGBT community finally finds safe, friendly home

Jayesh and Abhra share a flat in Worli The living room of their one-bedroom apartment in Worli is redolent with the scent of blooming jasmines and glowy under a string of fairy lights. Jayesh, a tech consultant, pulls his knees up to his chest, plugs in his earphones, and sits on the wide window ledge gazing at sea. Next to him, Abhra, his roommate is hunched over a Gabriel Garcia Marquez book.

Jayesh and Abhra are gay but are not a couple. They are just like anyone in Mumbai looking for rental but whose quest for a physical shelter and a genial flatmate had routinely come up against biased landlords, roommates and prying neighbours until they found each other as well as the sanctity of a secure home.

Jayesh lost touch with his family after the 25-year-old came out as gay eight months ago. Though he has been living with his roommate Abhra for six months, he takes solace in their companionship and routines. “Our bond is not at all romantic but I look forward to coming home discussing each other’s day. He’s like a brother who is loving and supportive,” says Jayesh recalling the time he lived with straight flatmates. “I could never invite my friends over because they’re effeminate and dress flamboyantly. That made my flatmates very hostile.”

Jayesh and Abhra’s happy household where respectful strangers live like family owes itself to GHAR – short for Gay Housing Assistance Resource – a pan-India location-based, short and longterm accommodation resource bulletin board that has been helping people from the LGBT community find access to safe and friendly housing with each other since 1998. What started as an e-group initiated by Mumbai’s Sachin Jain during the early days of the Internet now operates as a closed group on Facebook with over 5800 members from 15 cities on its database.

Ghar also found mention in the Supreme Court judgment after petitioners argued that Section 377 impeded LGBTs right to shelter and drew attention of the court to LGBTs seeking Ghar’s assistance “to access safe and suitable shelter… an indication that the members of this community are in immediate need of care and protection of the State”.

Sachin, 42 first sensed the need for urgent and temporary housing crisis for members of the LGBT community especially after coming-out or due to violence or intimidation when he was 20. “My roomie went through my stuff, turned aggressive, made mocking remarks and complained to our landlord.” he recalled. On speaking with other gay friends Sachin figured that discrimination on this front was rife. “The late Nineties were an interesting time for gay people. Internet and satellite had just come in and we were interacting with the global gay community,” explains Sachin.

Following the momentous Supreme Court ruling this month that struck down Section 377 of the IPC that criminalised gay sex, the queer community has had a lot to celebrate. However, the struggle for equal rights still continues. Vicky had to leave his home in Kolkata after his adoptive mother – who he came out to, a week after the verdict – told her son that he would have to find another place to live in because “there was no place for such behaviour in our household”.

It doesn’t matter whether they pay their rent on time and take good care of the property. Failure to meet pointed questions likes ‘Why aren’t you married?’ or instructions to tone down the voice or appearance may invite insults and an eviction notice.

Divyaroop, 25 couldn’t believe it when his landlady ordered him to stop painting his nails, keep his red head hidden under a cap and crashed his party before calling him names and driving him out. “It’s especially difficult when you look visibly different. My style is androgynous and I prefer male company. That doesn’t mean we’re having orgies at home,” says Divyaroop, who moved to Delhi last month. His posting on Ghar underlines the need for a landlord to let him make his own lifestyle choices.

Sadly, Divyaroop’s case is far from unique. The motif of dislocation and discrimination is something Ghar frequently encounters and combats with what Sachin calls an “inclusive ecosystem” that offers real time care and information. “Interestingly, in the past three years we’ve seen a lot of single and divorced women willing to share their apartment with queer folks,” he adds. From around the web

More from The Times of India

Didsbury church’s radical change after gay girl’s suicide

Didsbury church's radical change after gay girl's suicide

Four years ago, 14-year-old Lizzie Lowe took her own life because she did not believe she would be accepted as a Christian who was also gay.

Since then her church, St James in Didsbury, Manchester, and its sister church Emmanuel, has formally become an inclusive church – embracing everyone, regardless of gender, race, disability or sexuality.

Lizzie’s parents believe embracing inclusion could help save the lives of other teenagers.

You can see this story in full on BBC Inside Out North West at 19:30 BST on BBC One on Monday 24 September

Spain’s La Liga sets global goals

Spain's La Liga sets global goals

Spain’s La Liga is taking games to North America, but that high-profile move is only the tip of the iceberg as it looks to challenge England’s Premier League as the world’s pre-eminent football league.

In staging competitive matches in the US and Canada over 15 years, La Liga is the first of Europe’s big five leagues to pledge to stage a game overseas.

La Liga has asked the Spanish FA to play the Girona v Barcelona match next January at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, in what league president Javier Tebas has called a "groundbreaking agreement".

Initially the players’ union and fan groups were both vehemently opposed, although the fans have now been appeased after it was agreed that Girona season ticket holders would be compensated .

Fans United says the venture will "bring Spanish football and La Liga closer to fans in the US – one of the countries with the most fans of La Liga teams – [and] represents a unique opportunity to connect and serve these fans, who face a huge challenge every day to follow their teams".

However, after talks between La Liga and the Spanish footballers’ union (AFE), players still say they have a level of "discomfort" about the proposals and say they will have the final say on whether the match goes ahead . ‘Entertainment provider’

The North American venture is all part of a wider push that has quietly been taking place over the past couple of years.

"We are building our global brand… moving forwards and changing from being a football regulator into an entertainment provider," says Joris Evers, global communications officer for La Liga.

La Liga has opened various offices recently – including in Dubai, India, China, Singapore, South Africa, Nigeria, the US and Mexico. Girona are set to contest an all-Catalan match with Barcelona in the US There has also been the formation of the La Liga Global Network initiative, hiring 44 people around the world to be "business scouts" on La Liga’s behalf.

"They are looking to discover new markets, to make sure we know about different markets, to look for opportunities and also to be aware of potential threats," says Mr Evers, the Dutchman who rose to prominence as the man who helped promote the then-fledgling Netflix to the world.

"We are working to further penetrate those markets that look promising." Support service

Mr Evers says: "The role the delegates have is unique, as every potential market – Hungary, Chile, Costa Rica, Russia, Vietnam, Malaysia – is different. Their roles cover business development – things like opening academies, securing sponsorship, TV deals – and also being a resource on the ground for our clubs."

He says if a club such as Girona wants to investigate a new market such as India, they can come to La Liga, which will work with them to help with things such as marketing and sponsorship opportunities in the country. Javier Tebas has sought to put La Liga clubs on an even financial keel That level of support is only possible because the organisation has gone from being a 45-person outfit to one employing 400 people around the world, with experts being bought in from outside sport, for example from the banking, health and digital media sectors.

It is all part of a turnaround initiated by Javier Tebas when he took over the reins at La Liga five years ago.

Since then he has brought some order to the chaotic financial situation that many clubs had found themselves in, with club spending, for example on players, tied to the economic performance of the club. Transfer restrictions

In 2015 La Liga TV rights were sold collectively for the first time. Prior to that clubs sold their own individual rights, something which benefited Real Madrid and Barcelona, but not the majority of teams.

"There was a huge increase for the clubs in terms of TV rights money, particularly for the smaller clubs – but the bigger clubs got more money too," says Mr Evers. The collective sale of TV rights has benefited both small and large clubs "That was the final key to helping smaller teams get back to financial health, as the television revenues allow for more investment."

He says there is now more interest from financial investors to get involved in the Spanish game.

"Before, clubs could only get short-term financial credit," he says. "Now investors are willing to lend for longer, and at better rates."

Tim Bridge, Spanish football expert at Deloitte, agrees that a few years ago Spanish football was in a financial mess. For years La Liga was the only major European league where TV rights were sold on a club-by-club basis "Clubs across the top two leagues were in administration, and many were in debt to public authorities such as the taxman," he says.

"When Javier Tebas came in he had those two pressing tasks; to clear up the financial situation at clubs and reforming the existing TV deals towards a collective model.

"Spanish clubs have to submit budgets in advance, if they can’t meet their liabilities then they are placed under a transfer embargo, and other restrictions." Digital developments

Mr Bridge says another important development has been investing in the actual look and presentation of La Liga’s television product.

"TV centralisation has ensured more eyeballs around the world," says Mr Bridge.

"La Liga clubs are also utilising something called ‘digital billboard replacement’. These are perimeter advertising boards in the stadium – but which have a digital overlay facility, allowing for different advertisements to be seen in different TV territories simultaneously. The digital pitchside ads (bottom) are different from those seen in the stadium (top) "So, in each different TV market around the world the live action will show local advertising on the billboards, rather than those being seen in the stadium at the actual match in Spain.

"It enables local sponsor partners to maximise their investment in La Liga in their own territories." ‘Taking risk’

Mr Bridge says La Liga wants to be at the forefront of the next wave of sporting development over the coming decade.

"The overseas concept is one that has a lot to merit it, if you look at the Spanish clubs’ pre-season tours and the large numbers of attendees, then the place to take overseas games had to be North America. Barcelona and Real Madrid both have tens of thousands of fans in the US "And if you are looking to build new fan bases, the way to build awareness is through a competitive match.

"They are willing to take the risk, as they obviously believe the game is going to become even more significant globally in future."

But he says one major challenge remains, namely getting more clubs competing for the league title. Real Madrid and Barcelona have won all but one of the last 14 titles.

"The reason the Premier League is so successful is that on any given day any team can beat any other one, that does not happen enough at present in La Liga."

The tea tycoon who was ‘the world’s best loser’

The tea tycoon who was 'the world's best loser'

Say the name Lipton, and most people think of tea. But behind that brand lies the extraordinary story of a rags-to-riches tycoon, self-publicist, philanthropist and sportsman who was honoured as "the world’s best loser".

In early December 1881, a steamer docked in Glasgow, carrying an extraordinary cargo from America. The world’s largest cheese.

Two feet thick and with a circumference of 14ft (4m), hundreds of onlookers gathered to watch it being transported by traction engine to the Lipton’s store in the High Street – where it was found to be too large to fit through the door. Pig parades and giant cheeses were among the stunts used to promote Lipton’s stores Undeterred, the parade continued to the Lipton’s Jamaica Street store (which fortunately boasted a wider doorway) where the cheese was manhandled into the shop window.

Nicknamed Jumbo, for a fortnight crowds marvelled at the spectacle, said to be the product of milk from 800 cows and the labour of 200 dairymaids.

As a publicity stunt it was already a success – but the Tommy Lipton had another surprise up his sleeve.

In a ruse worthy of Willy Wonka, he turned the giant cheese into a golden wonder by hiding a large quantity of gold sovereigns inside it.

A few days before Christmas, dressed in white suit, Lipton personally sawed into the monster.

Policemen struggled to maintain order while his assistants wrapped the slices and handed them out to legions of customers who had gathered in the hope of a lucky purchase. The Gorbals district where Lipton grew up was poverty stricken and overcrowded It was a piece of theatre from a man who was riding a wave of remarkable success, whose grocery stores were spreading far and wide – and a world apart from his childhood in the poverty stricken Gorbals area of Glasgow.

Born in 1848, the son of immigrants from County Fermanagh, across the Irish Sea, Lipton’s first lessons in retail came when his father set up a small shop, selling basic provisions in the overcrowded district on the south bank of the Clyde.

From the age of 10 he was picking up simple foodstuffs in a wheelbarrow from the ships that docked on the river.

The docks and the sailors’ stories fascinated the young Tommy Lipton.

At the age of 15 he took a job as a cabin boy on a steamer. Two years later he had saved enough money for the passage to America.

Various jobs took him to the tobacco and rice plantations of Virginia and South Carolina – but New York was the biggest influence.

On Broadway he found himself working in the giant store owned by another immigrant of Irish/Scots descent, Alexander Turney Stewart.

A marble-fronted palace of consumption, one of the biggest shops the world had ever seen. Stewart was showcasing an entirely new way of shopping. Stewart’s department stores heralded a new way of shopping "He uses a bunch of strategies that we see Lipton using in his own career later," explains Museum of the City of New York curator Steve Jaffe.

"Low mark up, high volume. You get a lot of goods, you can sell them and still make money if you sell them at a reasonable rate.

"Set prices – before Stewart you haggled. Merchants, shopkeepers haggled with customers over prices. He does away with that, it’s a set price." It’s spotlessly clean – and behind the counter you have Mr Charm himself. Laurence Brady, Sir Thomas Lipton Foundation When Tommy Lipton returned to Glasgow, five years after he’d left, he had still to make his fortune – but now he had a vision of how it could be done.

Still in his early 20s, he opened his own store – Lipton’s Market in Stobcross. For Glaswegians it was a very different shopping experience.

"Lipton’s Markets he has on the outside, and he has it brightly painted. Then as you go into the shop, it’s a total contrast from what he knew growing up as a small boy, "says Laurence Brady, director of the Sir Thomas Lipton Foundation.

"He has his sales assistants there in bright white aprons. He has rows of hams, rows of cheeses.

"His shop is very brightly lit. It’s spotlessly clean – and behind the counter you have Mr Charm himself. Anyone walking in, it’s ‘let me show you these offers we have, how affordable they are’." No more middle man

It was a recipe for success. Similar stores soon spread across central Scotland- all with the same name over the door. Lipton.

But it was only the start. Lipton knew his business depended on a reliable supply of high quality products, many of them imported. To move onto the next level, he travelled back to County Fermanagh to do a deal.

"He’s looking for Irish produce, because that’s what his customers are wanting," says genealogist Frank McHugh.

"It’s here he changed his method of operating in his business. He employed someone locally to got out and meet the farmers before they arrived at the market – and guaranteed a price.

"This was revolutionary, it was a totally a new way of doing business. It’s really how the modern day supermarkets work, they go out to the farmers and they cut out the middle man."

The new approach was so successful, Lipton almost ran out of cash, pawning his gold watch for 30 shillings as he struck deals with the eager farmers. The first Lipton’s store in Glasgow was to prove a model for future success His stores were now springing up across the length and breadth of Scotland – and always with much fanfare.

Enigmatic billboards and flyers would announce that "Lipton is coming".

A butter sculpture in the window, a parade of live pigs causing chaos in the city centre – just some of the tricks that made a Lipton store opening a grand event.

But behind the elegant shop facades, lay a business mechanism which powered forward his profits and expansion. Latter day entrepreneur regards Lipton as one of his heroes "This was genius," says latter day entrepreneur Duncan Bannatyne.

"Tommy Lipton didn’t have to rely on any third-party suppliers. He had full control of his supply chain,"

"From the printers, to the packaging, to the distribution, to his network of stores. Tommy had it."

As Lipton’s stores spread across Britain his next step was to conquer America, once again cutting out the middle man as he purchased an entire meat packing plant and named it after his mother.

Back in Britain, Lipton’s giant cheeses were now regular pre-Christmas attractions. A store manager in Nottingham is said to have hired an elephant to transport one of them through the city.

In 1887 Lipton offered to gift an even bigger cheese, weighing not less than five tons, to Queen Victoria but was politely declined. Whether or not she was amused is unclear.

As always Lipton was on the lookout for the next business opportunity – and it came the shape of a foodstuff which remains linked with his name to this day. Tea. Lipton was able to guarantee consistent quality by importing directly from his own plantations It had once been a precious commodity, worth more than its weight in gold, kept in ornate lockable caddies – but by the mid-19th Century the price had fallen, and it was fast becoming the beverage of choice of the Victorian middle classes.

In May 1890, Lipton travelled to Sri Lanka to buy his first tea plantation.

Just like the Ulster farmers who supplied his first shops, they traded exclusively with Lipton stores – and straight away he put his competitors at a disadvantage.

"Everyone bought through the same location – Mincing Lane in London – where teas were blended but the quality was not reliable," says biographer Michael D’Antonio.

"Sometimes it would be very good, other times it would be mouldy and sometimes you’d buy a packet of tea, and it would all be bad.

"He got the idea to standardise the blend and package it in a way that was consistently fresh and tasted the same when you bought it." Lipton’s had many plantations in Sri Lanka, then known as Ceylon By now his grocery empire had taken the Lipton name into the most fashionable streets of Victorian London.

Lipton himself – the boy from the Gorbals – was mixing with the highest echelons of Victorian society.

When the Princess of Wales, Alexandria decided at alarmingly short notice to organise a charity feast for the Queen’s diamond jubilee celebrations, it was Lipton who came to the rescue with a donation of £25,000 – well in excess of £2m in today’s money.

The following year he was knighted.

"He becomes overnight an A-class celebrity," says Laurence Brady.

"And all those other characters and skills that he has. He is so charming and he’s so easy to deal with. Everybody loves to be with him." Known for his humour and charm, Lipton was feted among Victorian high society In 1898, when he floated his company, he retained a controlling interest but pocketed £120m, worth a billion pounds today.Barely 50 years old, he now had the means to realise a childhood dream. The Americas Cup It is the world’s oldest international sporting trophy. The America it refers to is not a country but a boat of the same name, built by members of the New York Yacht Club.In 1851 they sailed the schooner to the Isle of Wight at the invitation of the Royal Yacht Squadron for a race – and took home an ornate silver trophy.A few years later they dedicated it to international competitive sailing.As a boy Lipton was entranced by the ships arriving in Glasgow, making models and floating them in the city’s ponds.Lipton now joined the world of elite yachting, in his quest for the sport’s ultimate accolade. Lipton’s yacht Shamrock I (right) was defeated – but the race won him many friends There were strict rules for those hoping to win the America’s Cup. Yachts had to be built in the challenger’s country and sailed to the start of the race. They also had to be members of a yacht club.But when Lipton applied to join the prestigious Royal Yacht Squadron he discovered even vast wealth and prestige were not always enough to overcome snobbery. They turned him down.Instead, he joined the Royal Ulster Yacht Club, based in Bangor, County Down.Lipton’s first challenge in 1899 won the hearts of many Irish Americans.His yacht was named Shamrock – and while he lost the race, in other ways he was a winner.Everyone was talking about Sir Thomas Lipton – and Lipton the brand was bigger than ever. Lipton the man and the brand were strongly linked A century before the likes of Richard Branson, Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, Lipton had pioneered the idea of the brand built around an individual.His face, sporting a yachtsman’s cap, featured on much of his company’s packaging, says food historian Judith Krall-Russo"Women would like to have photos with him. That […]

American swimmer Abrahm DeVine comes out: ‘I’m a gay athlete’

American swimmer Abrahm DeVine comes out: 'I'm a gay athlete'

Dundee welcomes first ever Pride Swimmer Abrahm DeVine. | Photo: Abrahm DeVine / Instagram American swimmer Abrahm DeVine came out as gay.

The medley specialist from Seattle, Washington has previously swum in the 2017 World Championships and the 2018 US Nationals.

‘I’m a gay athlete,’ he told Swimming World Magazine . ‘There aren’t too many of us, so when I came out to my college team, that was a really tough time for me.’ Abrahm DeVine: ‘Growing up gay in any sport is definitely tough’

When he came out to his Stanford college team, he was understandably nervous. But he had no need to be – the squad was super supportive.

DeVine said: ‘I remember that being a pretty emotional time. [I] just feeling my whole team wrap around me and feeling that love in a place where I hadn’t really felt it, that was definitely pretty special for me.

‘Just seeing them kind of prove me wrong was definitely special, something I’ll never forget,’ he said.

He furthermore added: ‘Growing up gay in any sport is definitely tough.’

DeVine is in his last year at Stanford University.

He has his sights set on the Olympics, as well as potentially working for a start-up company or something with the environment in the future. Out-gay swimmer Mark Foster

In an exclusive interview with Gay Star News, ex-Olympic swimmer Mark Foster revealed what life was like after coming out as gay last year.

He said the response to his announcement was amazing.

Foster said: ‘[For me, dealing with my sexuality at a young age] was one of these situations whereby I didn’t try and commit suicide, I didn’t self harm – I was very lucky.

‘I fell in love when I was 21; I had someone who looked after me. It was a love thing. I felt so comfortable at home, that protected me. So my own self, I didn’t have a dark story going on in the background.

‘I’ve had two partners. One for 19 years, current one for seven years. So, to friends and family – let’s say I did the big bit first. Telling my sisters, telling my dad. But I always found I had my own life, and my work life, which was sport.

‘I suppose being in the public eye and standing on a block and being very vulnerable, from a very early age I got used to hiding stuff, and it became a secret. The secret got bigger.’

Speaking about the importance of fighting for equality, Mark furthermore added: ‘Until it’s not a problem for Premiership footballers to come out, until there aren’t countries where people are killed for being gay and it’s not a crime for being gay, it’s not “so what?”

‘For me it was about joining the community in a very public way. And hopefully helping people come to terms with their sexuality or struggling with being themselves.’ See also:

How joining a gay swim club in my 60s helped me after the death of my partner

Mike Pence will become the first vice president to speak at anti-LGBTI conference

Mike Pence will become the first vice president to speak at anti-LGBTI conference

Dundee welcomes first ever Pride Vice President Mike Pence Vice President Mike Pence is set to become the first sitting vice president to speak at an anti-LGBTI conference this weekend.

Pence will be addressing the Values Voter Summit, an annual conservative conference in D.C. The Values Voter Summit is hosted by anti-LGBTI hate group Family Research Council (FRC). The Values Voter Summit

Pence will be joined by other members of the Trump administration including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson.

While Pence, the former governor of Indiana, attended this conference back in 2016, this is the first time he will be doing so as a White House staffer. Last year, President Trump became the first sitting president to address the Values Voter Summit.

Pence is set to speak on a Saturday (22 Sept) morning panel titled ‘How Gender Ideology Harms Children’. Featured on this panel are anti-LGBTI figures such as Dr. Paul McHugh and Peter Sprigg. The panel is hosted by Dr. Michelle Cretella, president of the American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds).

ACPeds is an illegitimate medical organization which argues that allowing trans kids to transition is ‘child abuse.’

Both the FRC and the ACPeds are designated hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

In the past, the Family Research Council has claimed that LGBTI activists seek to ‘normalize pedophelia.’ They also have stated that same-sex households are more violent, and that the It Gets Better campaign is ‘disgusting.’ Speakers at the conference

Other speakers at the Summit include former Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, Senator Ted Cruz, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Additionally, there will be talks by Masterpiece Cakeshop plaintiff Jack Phillips, TV-hosts-turned-activists David and Jason Benham, ‘Activist Mommy’ blogger Elizabeth Johnston, and International Religious Freedom Ambassador Sam Brownback.

All the people listed above have come out against LGBTI rights. For instance, the Benham brothers claimed that gay people cause hurricanes. Elizabeth Johnston has supported conversion therapy. Ted Cruz has argued that trans people shouldn’t use the bathroom in public. And Sam Brownback has supported a rollback of workplace protections for LGBTI people. Anything else?

Roughly 2,000 people are expected to attend the conference and hear these speakers. The conference, which lasts through Sunday, will include book signings, movie screenings, and workshops for anti-LGBTI activists.

Target restores the terms ‘queer’ and ‘transgender’ after website censors LGBTI words

Target restores the terms 'queer' and 'transgender' after website censors LGBTI words

Dundee welcomes first ever Pride American retail chain Target restored the censored LGBTI terms on their website following backlash. What happened?

People looking to buy a copy of the new book Trans Teen Survival Guide on the Target website this week were met with a censoring of LGBTI terms.

Customers who visited the pre-order page for the non-fiction book (released on 20 September) saw a series of asterisks in place of LGBTI terms like ‘transgender’ and ‘queer.’

‘Frank, friendly and funny, Trans Teen Survival Guide will leave ****** and nonbinary teens informed, empowered, and armed with all the tips, confidence and practical advice they need to navigate life as a trans teen,’ the book’s description at the time read.

Other books affected include Eric Rosswood and Kathleen Archambeau’s We Make It Better: The LGBTQ Community and their Positive Contributions to Society and Jack Halberstam’s Trans: A Quick and Quirky Account of Gender Variability. Backlash

Author Cáel Keegan brought this matter to Target’s attention after noticing his book was censored. Various publishers, especially university presses, also brought this issue to Target’s attention . Still, Target did not adequately address their concerns immediately.

‘Transgender’ and ‘queer’ were not the only words blacklisted. In an attempt to monitor offensive language, Target also censored the word ‘Nazi.’ Target’s response

The website has since been updated to include the previously retracted words. A spokesperson for Target blamed the issue on the website’s algorithm. This algorithm is intended to censor ‘profanity and other select words… to ensure a positive shopping experience.’

‘This was an oversight on our part, and they should be included,’ Target spokesperson Jenna Reck said in a statement. ‘We’re working to update our site with the descriptions that were provided to Target by the book publishers.’ Anything else?

Target has previously been lauded for their pro-LGBTI stances. For instance, last year they introduced a gender-neutral line of children’s clothing. Back in 2016, they also announced their intent to install since-stall restrooms in their stores.

Popular YouTuber Andrea Russett comes out as bi, discusses having homophobic friend

Popular YouTuber Andrea Russett comes out as bi, discusses having homophobic friend

YouTuber Andrea Russett Popular YouTuber Andrea Russett came out as bisexual on an Instagram post.

The lengthy post describes not just her own experiences coming out as bi, but having a good friend turn out to be homophobic. Coming out as bi

‘Sandra and I had a very close, very public friendship,’ the 21 September post reads.

‘Because of that, I feel it’s best I just address this so we can all move on,’ she continues, talking about her former best friend.

‘I came out to Sandra as bisexual 4 years ago. Surprise! Yeah, not exactly how I planned to come out publicly, but shit happens I guess.’

‘Anyway, she was the very first person I came out to. Following this, as I came out to more and more friends, she was always there to give me advice on girls I liked. She sat with me while I cried about the thought of coming out to my parents. She knew me better than anyone in my life. She was family to me.’ Homophobic best friend

‘Over the last year, my friend who is openly gay, attended a nondenominational church with Sandra. On the drive home he was asking questions about her views on religion, one of them being “so do you think I’m going to hell because I’m gay?”’

‘Sandra responded yes. She went on to tell him that he can be “saved” with conversion therapy.’

‘When he shared this information with me I was at a loss for words. But still, I knew I needed to ask her directly. I needed to hear it from her mouth.’

‘So I did just that. I straight up asked Sandra, “Do you think that because I’m bisexual, I’m going to hell?’’

‘She looked at me dead in the eyes and said yes. She went on to tell me that she believes being gay [is] a choice. I asked her is these have always been her views and she said yes.’

‘I will never find the words to properly describe [the] hurt I felt in that moment.’

‘She was one of the only people I trusted in my life. And now all I can do is rethink every conversation we had, every situation in which I was with a girl around her, and wonder what she really thought of me. Wonder if she was judging me.’ Moving on

‘It is a very deep and personal hurt that I do not plan on acknowledging or discussing after this post. I am heartbroken and confused. I don’t know why she chose to move in with me while having these beliefs. I don’t know that I even want to know at this point.’

‘I’m choosing to move forward and focus on the people in my life who love and accept me for who I am.’

‘And to anyone who is struggling with anything similar in their life, you are not alone. You are not any less of a person because of who you may choose to love. How you make others feel about themselves says a lot about you. Love is love.’

Russett seems to have disabled comments on the post. Still, she took to Twitter to thank her fans for their love and support during this time. before i log off for a bit i just wanna say an enormous thank u. for listening. for empathizing. for understanding. i mean it when i say i never thought i would have the strength or courage to come out. it feels like a weight has been lifted, and like i can BREATHE. thank u ♥️ — Andrea Russett (@AndreaRussett) September 22, 2018

Anwar says he shares Mahathir’s LGBT views

Anwar says he shares Mahathir's LGBT views

IPOH • Malaysian politician Anwar Ibrahim yesterday said he shares Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s view that the country does not accept lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) culture or same-sex marriages, but reiterated that colonial-era sodomy laws can be abused and need review.

He said certain media organisations were out to create friction between Tun Dr Mahathir and him over the issue, but clarified that they were on the same page about this.

Datuk Seri Anwar said several articles reported him as saying that sodomy laws must be reviewed, but others reported Dr Mahathir as saying he does not agree with LGBT culture. He said Islam, and many other religions, do not sanction same-sex marriages. "The sanctity of marriage is between a man and a woman. This is our understanding and that of many other religions.

"What I was saying is that the laws on sodomy are not fair, outdated, and need to be reviewed. These laws were brought by the British to India during the times of colonisation, and Malaya… adopted these laws," he said when presenting his mandate to Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) members.

The PKR president-elect had told Al Jazeera English’s UpFront programme that the law on sodomy needs to be amended since it can be open to abuse, as someone can be accused without any proper evidence, such as in his own case.

Mr Anwar was released from prison in May after a royal pardon for a sodomy conviction that he maintains was politically motivated. Section 377A of Malaysia’s Penal Code criminalises "carnal intercourse against the order of nature".

This means that oral and anal sex, even between straight people, and even if the partners mutually consented to the act, can be punished with jail of up to 20 years, and even whipping.

THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK