Category Archives: LGBT Events

Florida Clerks Cancel All Courthouse Weddings to Avoid Gay Ceremonies

On January 1, a federal judge ruled that Florida county clerks should start issuing marriage licenses to gay couples beginning on January 6.

Clerks in at least five counties in Florida say they will end courthouse weddings so they won’t have to marry gay couples next week. Thanks to a ruling from U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle, clerks must still issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The ruling clarifies that all 67 court clerks in Florida should start to issue licenses on Tuesday, when a stay expires on the judge’s original decision which invalidates the state’s ban on gay marriage.

“I believe marriage is between a man and a woman,” Ronnie Fussell, Duval County clerk of courts, told The (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union.  “Personally it would go against my beliefs to perform a ceremony that is other than that.”

Fussell, along with clerks in Baker, Clay, Santa Rosa, and Okaloosa counties, say they won’t marry opposite or same-sex couples. On Friday, staffers in Duval County married their final couple. This is until the courts or lawmakers decide to compel clerks offices to do otherwise. Additional counties will stop at the end of the day on January 5, before the new rules are in effect.

“In the courthouse, there was a room specifically for these ceremonies that taxpayers paid for, and now no one is going to get the benefit of that,” said Jacksonville lawyer Belkis Plata of Plata Schott Attorneys & Counselors at Law.

The Duval County Clerk of Courts Office has offered a $30 ceremony to be performed immediately after qualification of a $93.50 marriage license…until now.

Florida Clerks Cancel All Courthouse Weddings to Avoid Gay Ceremonies

“They’ve had a difficult time for years as it is, getting their relationships acknowledged,” Plata said. “Now that they’ve had this huge victory, now they’re being shut down somewhere else.  We want to help them as much as we can.”

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has appealed Hinkle’s ruling, but there has been a refusal to issue a stay, by the Supreme Court, as the lawsuit plays out.

On Jan. 9, Plata’s law firm, in very close proximity to the Duval County Courthouse, plans to start officiating weddings for both same-sex and straight couples for the same fee as the clerk’s office. “It doesn’t matter what our personal beliefs are,” Plata said. “We’ve all had friends who have been in relationships we don’t agree with, but who are we to say who they be with or not be with?  If it’s the law, you have to follow it.”

According to Florida state law, couples in these counties will need to find a notary public, judicial officer, or an ordained minister to marry them because they will be without a county clerk to serve as an officiant.

 

 

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2014 World AIDS Day Spotlights Global Drop in New Infections

World AIDS Day began in 1988 in order to spread awareness about the epidemic and help medical researchers work toward a cure.

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention the number of cases in the U.S. has dropped significantly, from 130,000 per year at its peak in the 1980’s, to about 30,000 per year today. Though a cure remains elusive, antiretroviral drugs can lower a person’s virus count so low, it’s practically undetectable. From 2005 to 2013 HIV/AIDS infections dropped globally across all age groups, except children.

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus causes AIDS and is spread through the sharing of bodily fluids, usually through unprotected sex or intravenous drug use where users share needles. Kissing and normal contact does not spread HIV. The disease attacks the body’s immune system, making it difficult to fight off infection.

2014 World AIDS Day Spotlights Global Drop in New Infections

 

Approximately 34 million people across the globe are living with HIV/AIDS, with about 1.2 million coming out of the U.S. One out of seven of the newly infected don’t even know they carry the disease, which makes testing very important, particularly among those populations who are most susceptible: men who have sex with men, sex workers, and intravenous drug users.

70% of all newly infected cases come from sub-Saharan Africa, according to the World Health Organization. That’s approximately 24.7 million cases originating from that part of the world. In the U.S., HIV infection occurs most often in urban areas with populations of more than 500,000.

Though at one time a diagnosis of HIV was considered definitely fatal, today with the right medication and care, those with HIV can lead a normal life.

Neil Patrick Harris’s Wedding Helps Mainstream Gay Marriage

Neil Patrick Harris's Wedding Helps Mainstream Gay MarriageOn Saturday, September 6th Neil Patrick Harris (of How I Met Your Mother among other works) was happily wed to his partner of 10 years, David Burtka. The two expressed they proposed to each other over half a decade ago, and have been waiting for New York to legalize before committing to their nuptials. They are also the fathers of fraternal twins, who also took part in the festivities in Italy.

Patrick recently tweeted the news on Twitter writing, “Guess what? David Burtka and I got married over the weekend. In Italy. Yup, we put the ‘n’ and ‘d’ in ‘husband.”

Big names like Sir Elton John even showed up to perform and support. Talk show host Kelly Ripa of Live! With Kelly And Michael on Monday also attended, and spoke of the event, “It was a beautiful family affair in Perugia, Italy. They rented a castle — or I think they rented it. I hope we didn’t break into a castle and just stayed there. There were fireworks. The food was amazing. There were magic tricks, because, you know Neil is way into magic. Their wedding vows were so beautiful.”

Neil Patrick Harris's Wedding Helps Mainstream Gay MarriageIgnoring the ceremony, attendee’s and location in Italy, this is still huge news. Right now there are only 19 states that have legalized Gay Marriage and advocates are pushing for this number to grow. With recent reports from the CDC showing the gay population to be much less then previously believed, many fighting for LGBT equality felt this would hurt  their chances towards equal rights; that they would hold less validity because their community isn’t as big, thus needing less attention. Neil Patrick Harris has a big name in the media, however, starring in movies like The Smurfs and making cameo everywhere from Sesame Street to Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. He is a positive figure for same-sex marriage advocates to stand behind.

To be fair, their monogamy is also a contradiction to the character Harris plays on How I Met Your Mother, Barney, who is a womanizing player. The denial of their equal wedding rights would seem like a cruel joke when you consider A-listers Brittany Spears and Kim Kardashian have married and divorced people they were involved with for less than a few months.

This wedding is not only a success for modern America, but also love overall. These two have been together for years and are the total opposite of the sexually risky stereotype gay men have been painted to be.

Gay Men’s Sexual health Forum Accentuates the Positive

Gay Men’s Sexual health Forum Accentuates the Positive

Newfoundland, Canada’s own performance artist, video artist, and gay men’s health activist, Mikiki, will be holding a men’s sexual health forum accentuating the positive at Eastern Edge Gallery, sponsored by Memorial University in St. John’s in Canada (Today.mun.ca).  Mikiki has his own forum called Strategic Positioning, which has users interact on subjects such as HIV prevention, HIV stigma, and groundbreaking studies that have just come out connecting community wide prevention with community wide treatment.

Another forum of note taking will take place in St. John’s of which Mikiki will be a representative, along with 599 other delegates, is the Canadian Association for HIV Research Conference (CAHR 2014). New research about HIV prevention has just been released and the conference is surrounding that. Mikiki said in an interview, “This public forum right after the conference will be a great way to carry some of the conference discussions back into the community.” He went on to outline what he was going to cover in the forum, saying, “I want to get people talking frankly about condomless sex, also a sexual technique called strategic positioning, and I think we also need to look at changing messages around HIV prevention, especially a recent number of studies linking HIV treatment to HIV prevention.”

The activist and artist has had varying and interesting experiences which lead him to believe he is in a great position to talk about and be an advocate for gay men’s health. Mikiki is a bathhouse attendant, a karaoke hostess and drag queen in St. John’s and a teacher in Calgary’s Public schools where he works as a sexuality educator. He’s also been an HIV educator in Montreal, an outreach worker in Ottawa and the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation’s co-coordinator.

Today Mikiki conducts rapid testing for HIV, running a street outreach team for a community health center. But of his recent role as delegate he said, “But coming to St. John’s still feels like coming home. I’m looking forward to the conference, and to spending some time with friends here.” The Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Applied Health Research sponsored the event known as The ResearchTalks. The Centre does research on gender, health and sexuality. Another organization that is involved is AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador, aided by funding provided by the Memorial University’s Office of Public Engagement. Mikiki talks about changing how we talk about gay men’s health issues and reveals that this new research should help in that pivot.