Billie Jean King pulls out of Sochi delegation

Tennis legend and lesbian icon Billie Jean King will not attend the Sochi Olympics opening ceremony in Russia due to her mother's failing health."It is important for me to be with my mother and my brother a...
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Putin says LGBT people welcome at Sochi Winter Olympic games

Russian President Vladimir Putin told the head of the International Olympic Committee Monday that gay people will be welcome at the 2014 Winter games in Sochi despite the country's anti-gay law passed earlier this year that has been the subject of calls for boycotts and severe criticism.

"We are doing everything, both the organizers and our athletes and fans, so that participants and guests feel comfortable in Sochi, regardless of nationality, race or sexual orientation" Putin told Thomas Bach, the head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), according to a report by Reuters.

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Anti-gay laws spark international debate over Olympics

Vladimir Putin

Despite international media scrutiny and criticism from foreign heads of state and hundreds of thousands of activists around the world, Russian officials won’t back down from the country’s controversial law banning gay “propaganda” — prompting calls for boycotts of everything from the 2014 Winter Olympics to vodkas associated with Russia.

Passed unanimously by Parliament and signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 30, the law is aimed at protecting minors from “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” and is so vague critics fear it could criminalize simply being openly gay or expressing any support for LGBT equality.

The propaganda law, part of a rising tide of homophobia in Russia (see sidebar, “Russia’s attack on LGBT rights”), includes a clause specifically related to foreigners, who could face fines, 15 days of detainment and deportation. The clause raises questions about the impact on thousands of foreign athletes, staffers, media and fans expected to attend the upcoming Olympics, set for Feb. 7-23 in Sochi, Russia.

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U.S. Rep. John Lewis joins concern over Russia’s anti-gay laws, Olympics

john lewis

Outspoken LGBT rights ally John Lewis is the only member of Congress from Georgia to sign a letter calling on Secretary of State John Kerry to ensure the safety of LGBT Americans attending the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

"We are writing to you regarding the troubling implications of a recently-enacted Russian law criminalizing actions or statements deemed to be in support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community," states the letter, led by U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and signed by 83 members of Congress including Lewis (D-Ga.).

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French lawmakers approve same-sex marriage

France became the ninth European nation to approve a same-sex marriage law after its National Assembly voted today to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry, according to multiple media outlets.

The measure, which passed 331 to 225, came after several days of intense protests throughout the French capitol. Thousands rallied over the weekend and into Monday for and against the proposed legislation.

French President Francois Hollande, the head of the country's left-leaning socialist party, campaigned on marriage equality during France's 2012 elections. Hollande is expected to sign the measure into law.

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StandUp Foundation awards nearly $60,000 in grants to anti-bullying efforts

Ben Cohen, the former English rugby star and always gay icon who has taken his fame and rugged good looks to raise money for anti-bullying efforts through his StandUp Foundation, announced today his organization donated nearly $60,000 in since it was founded in Atlanta 2011.

“Our mission is simple but will take time to fulfill. We are off to a strong start,” said Cohen in a prepared statement. “We exist to raise awareness of the long-term damaging effects of bullying, and to fund those doing real-world work to stop it.”

Cohen has also said he wants to specifically work to stop LGBT bullying as well as end homophobia in sports. He has become a popular attendee of many Atlanta LGBT events, enjoys working out with the Atlanta Bucks gay rugby squad, and was an honorary grand marshal for last year's Atlanta Pride.

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Gay American living in Uganda opens up about its gay community and the ‘Kill the Gays Bill’

Erik Friedly, 47,  is an American citizen living in Kampala, Uganda, working in health communications. He has lived there for nearly a year and will live there for at least one more year if not longer. In an email interview with the GA Voice, Friedly discusses the LGBT community in Uganda and the impact the notorious "Kill the Gays Bill" has on the gay people living there. The bill is expected to be passed by the Parliament perhaps as soon as this week.

Are you openly gay to your colleagues? Do you have to be careful about who knows you are gay?

I am open to most of my American colleagues in the same way that I am at home in the U.S.; it just becomes apparent in getting to know each other and becoming friends. So, yes, most of them know, I think. I am not, however, open with my Ugandan colleagues in the same way. Some may suspect, of course, but I am not as open with them because of attitudes here which most — not all — people hold. But, for example, I am certain that my household staff must at least suspect what my orientation is but we obviously never discuss it.

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Uganda’s ‘Kill the Gays Bill’ expected to pass

Uganda Kill the Gays Bill

Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill, known by opponents as the “Kill the Gays Bill,” was expected to be voted on this week in the African country’s Parliament, where leaders said they want to pass the bill before the Dec. 15 recess as a “Christmas gift” to citizens.

At press time on Monday, Nov. 19, Ugandan newspaper The Daily Monitor reported the bill was likely to be debated Tuesday, Nov. 20.

The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, wrote in a Nov. 13 letter that there is high public pressure to pass the bill. She has stated she wants the bill passed before the end of the year to give as a “Christmas gift” to the people of Uganda.

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Obama issues new initiatives to advance LGBT rights abroad

President Obama's administration announced it would no longer defend DOMA in court

President Barack Obama today issued a memorandum to the heads of each executive branch directing government agencies to “promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons.”

“I am deeply concerned by the violence and discrimination targeting LGBT persons around the world — whether it is passing laws that criminalize LGBT status, beating citizens simply for joining peaceful LGBT Pride celebrations, or killing men, women, and children for their perceived sexual orientation,” the memo reads.

The president ordered agencies under the executive branch to combat the criminalization of LGBT status or conduct, protect LGBT refugees and assylum seekers, issue “swift and meaningful” responses to human rights abuses of LGBT persons abroad, and engage international gay rights organizations in the fight against LGBT discrimination.

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CDC: ‘New hope’ in curbing HIV but fight far from over

The CDC's Kevin Fenton discusses HIV and AIDS progress on teleconference

As World AIDS Day approaches on Thursday, Dec. 1, officials at the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced today there is "new hope" in fighting the disease after scientific studies show that treatment of those who are HIV positive leads to prevention of its spread. However, the fight is also "far from over," experts said.

Between 2006-2009, new HIV infections in the U.S. stayed stable at about 50,000 new infections a year, according to the CDC. Last month, U.N. AIDS reported the numbers of new infections reached a "plateau" with 2.7 million people newly infected each year for the last five years.

"The bottom line — we are in a time of new hope," said CDC Director Thomas Frieden in a teleconference call with reporters to discuss its Vital Signs report released today.