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    Compiled and with commentary by Dennis McMillan

    Provo, UT – Blogger Fired from English Language School over ‘Homophonia’ – 7.29

    Homophones, as any English grammarian can tell you, are words that sound the same but have different meanings and often different spellings—such as “through” and “threw,” “which and witch,” “their and there.” This concept is taught early on to foreign students learning English because it can be confusing to someone whose native language does not have that feature.

    But when the social-media specialist for a private Provo-based English language learning center wrote a blog explaining homophones, he was let go for creating the perception that the school promoted a gay agenda.

    Tim Torkildson says after he wrote the blog on the website of his employer, Nomen Global Language Center, his boss and Nomen owner Clarke Woodger, called him into his office and told him he was fired. Woodger said he could not trust Torkildson and that the blog about homophones was the last straw. “Now our school is going to be associated with homosexuality,” Woodger complained.

    Torkildson says he was careful to write a straightforward explanation of homophones. He knew the “homo” part of the word could be politically charged, but he thought the explanation of that quirky part of the English language would be educational.

    Nomen has removed that blog from its website, but a similar explanation of homophones was posted there in 2011 with no controversy.

    Nomen is Utah’s largest private English as a Second Language school, catering mostly to foreign students seeking admission to U.S. colleges and universities. Woodger says his school has taught 6,500 students from 58 countries during the past 15 years. Most of them, he says, are at basic levels of English and are not ready for the more complicated concepts such as homophones.

    “People at this level of English,” Woodger says, “…may see the ‘homo’ side and think it has something to do with gay sex.”

    He says Torkildson had worked at the center for less than three months before he was terminated in mid-July. Interestingly, he was hired on April Fools’ Day.

    Apparently Woodger would have no men at Nomen allowed to say aloud or phone in homophones.


    Inverness, IL – Church Music Director Fired after Engagement to Gay Partner – 7.31

    Colin Collette, the longtime music director at Holy Family Catholic Community in Inverness, Illinois, said posting pictures on Facebook of the happiest day of his life led to one of the worst one in which he lost his job of 17 years. While on vacation in Rome last week, Collette’s male partner proposed to him in front of St. Peter’s Basilica. Collette said “yes,” and the happy couple posted pictures of the occasion online.

    After leading the music for all five Masses at Holy Family, Collette said church pastor Terry Keehan asked him to come to his office. “He said, ‘In light of this, I’d be happy to accept your resignation,’” Collette said, recounting what Keehan told him.

    Collette said at first he considered resigning, but something inside him told him he shouldn’t because he had done nothing wrong. He left Keehan’s office without resigning, but was fired instead.

    In a written statement, Archdiocese officials said they were aware of the action taken by the leadership at Holy Family. “The decision by the pastor of Holy Family was made with the knowledge of the Archdiocese and in consultation with the Archdiocese; however, we do not comment on or discuss an individual’s personnel issues,” the Archdiocese statement reads. “Those that serve as Ministers of the Church, including worship ministers, are expected to conform their lives publicly with the teachings of the Church,” the statement concludes.

    Collette says he is hurt deeply by the decision. “Holy Family was supposed to be a place where all are welcome,” he said, noting the church’s motto is “Inviting all to new life in Christ.”

    “The face of Holy Family has been changed forever, and that’s so sad,” Collette said.

    The response from his choir was overwhelmingly positive, Collette said. Their kindness and acceptance often moved him to tears.

    “This has been so horrific that I just pray that we even have a wedding,” Collette said. “There’s no way to describe how horrible this has been.”

    “Inviting all to new life in Christ”—as long as it’s not a gay life!


    Sacramento, CA – California Has First Ever Gay Governor – 8.1

    For a few brief hours last Wednesday, California had its first openly gay governor.

    California State Assembly Speaker Toni G. Atkins (D), who is gay, served as the state’s governor for about eight hours while those Democratic officials above her in the line of succession were traveling outside of the state. Atkins’ turn in the governor’s seat came as Governor Jerry Brown departed for Mexico on Sunday to lead a trade mission. In his absence, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom served as acting governor, but Newsom left California Tuesday to attend an event for the Special Olympics. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg then served as acting governor until he left for Chicago Wednesday. In the hours between Steinberg’s departure and Brown’s return later on Wednesday, Atkins served as acting governor.

    “I feel so grateful to fill the role as acting governor today,” Atkins wrote on Facebook. “I wish my parents could see this. Now I know that may sound hokey to many. But honestly…if Governor Brown wants a few more days away, I’m here for him!”

    Atkins was elected speaker of the California State Assembly in March and assumed office in May, making her the first out lesbian to hold that position. Her predecessor as speaker, John Perez, was the first out gay man to lead the chamber. Atkins became the first out lesbian mayor of San Diego in 2005.

    Although she was only in the role for a few hours, Atkins became the second out governor in the nation. New Jersey Governor James McGreevey became the nation’s first openly gay governor in 2004 when he revealed he is gay the same day he admitted to cheating on his wife and resigned from office. No openly gay person has ever been elected governor to a state, although Democrat Mike Michaud, who currently serves in the U.S. House of Representatives and came out last November, is hoping to change that in Maine in his attempt to defeat Republican Governor Paul LePage.

    This gives hope that one day we Cal queers can have a permanent gay governor!


    Greenville, SC – Same-Sex Couples Denied South Carolina Marriage
    Licenses During Demonstration – 7.30

    Lindsey Crumbly and Halley Page want to get married in the mountains north of Greenville. And even though they were denied a marriage license, they are hopeful that by the time their wedding date comes around, 10/15/15, they’ll be able to be legally married in South Carolina.

    That sort of optimism was the overall feeling at Greenville County Probate Court during the “We Do” event sponsored by the Campaign for Southern Equality, a national organization formed to fight for marriage equality—with five gay couples applying. “In South Carolina, we’re getting closer and closer and closer to the day when we’ll go to the counter and they’ll say yes,” said the Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality.

    The group was heartened by the decision by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals that Virginia’s gay marriage ban is unconstitutional. South Carolina is also in the 4th Circuit.

    South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson has said he intends to defend South Carolina’s constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Governor Nikki Haley said she supports Wilson’s decision. S.C. Equality announced a petition drive to encourage Wilson to change his mind. North Carolina Attorney General Roy Hooper announced he would not defend North Carolina’s ban.

    “Instead of spending money on our state’s crumbling infrastructure or improving education and access to healthcare in our state, Attorney General Wilson plans to waste our tax dollars defending a ban that will ultimately be struck down,” said Ryan Wilson, S.C. Equality executive director.

    Amendment One to the S.C. Constitution was passed by voters in 2006. It banned same-sex marriage and civil unions. U.S. Census records estimate there are 656 same-sex couples in Greenville County and 7,214 in South Carolina. A 2013 poll found 39% of South Carolina residents support gay marriage, compared to 21% in 2011.

    Federal courts in Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Tennessee, Ohio, Texas and Kentucky have also ruled that bans on same-sex marriage are against the constitution. A big gay thumbs-up to Attorney General Roy Hooper, and a huge thumbs-down to Attorney General Alan Wilson and Governor Nikki Haley!


    Gaston, NC – Pizza Parlor Discriminates Against Local PFLAG Organization – 7.31

    A North Carolina restaurant owner is fielding criticism and accusations of discrimination for his refusal to support a gay advocacy group with a fundraiser at his business. Doug Rogers, founder of Johnny B’s Pizza Pad, often partners with nonprofits to host Spirit Night events. When restaurant patrons announce their support of a specified group then, Rogers donates 15% of their bill to the organization.

    When PFLAG (Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays) Gaston asked to be included in that promotion, Rogers declined, as he said he would with any group he deems partisan or potentially divisive. Rogers said, “It’s not my decision to determine how to live your life. I’m just making a business decision not to host that organization here because I feel like it’s not a good business decision.”

    PFLAG Gaston supporters feel they have been slighted. Many have railed against Rogers by calling Johnny B’s to complain or making critical posts on the restaurant’s Facebook page. Jim Kellogg, a PFLAG Gaston board member, said he feels Rogers’ decision disenfranchised the LGBTQ community. “I think it’s extremely disheartening in today’s world and today’s reality,” he said.

    PFLAG’s president, Ginger Feimster, is a regular customer of Johnny B’s. Hoping to arrange the group’s dinner there in conjunction with Spirit Night, she was turned down.

    “He said he just couldn’t do it because of his personal feelings,” she said. “He said, ‘I just don’t approve of that lifestyle, and I’m not doing anything to support it.’”

    Feimster came to be president of PFLAG because her daughter, Fortune Feimster, is gay. Fortune is a successful comedian and writer regularly appearing on TV’s Chelsea Lately and Last Comic Standing.

    Her mother said she’s not the type of person who marches, protests or shouts from rooftops for gay rights, but was still offended by Rogers’ refusal to be supportive. She sees PFLAG as standing for nothing more than fairness and equality. “PFLAG works very hard in a very conservative county,” she said. “There’s too much unfairness. This is yet another example.”

    Fortune is fortunate to have such a supportive mom.


    Local News

    Ex Ex-Gay Leaders Condemn So-Called Conversion Therapy

    Nine former leaders of so-called “ex-gay” ministries have published a joint letter denouncing the dangerous practices of conversion therapy and lending their support to the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights’ Born Perfect campaign to end conversion therapy in five years.

    In the deeply personal letter, these nine leaders—including founders of Exodus International and Coming Back—recall their own struggles with being LGBTQ and what led them to proliferate these ministries. After long and painful journeys, each ultimately came to the conclusion that conversion therapy and ex-gay ministries are ineffective and harmful, especially to queer youth, and can have disastrous consequences.

    In the letter, they state: “As former ex-gay leaders, having witnessed the incredible harm done to those who attempted to change their sexual orientation or gender identity, we join together in calling for a ban on conversion therapy. It is our firm belief that it is much more productive to support, counsel, and mentor LGBT individuals to embrace who they are in order to live happy, well-adjusted lives. We fully support the aim of Born Perfect to bring an end to conversion therapy.”

    NCLR recently launched Born Perfect to protect LGBTQ kids from the harms caused by attempts to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. NCLR has been at the forefront of the effort to protect queer kids from these practices for more than 20 years, successfully working to help draft and pass California’s Senate Bill 1172 in 2012, the nation’s first to protect LGBTQ children from the dangers of conversion therapy. The following year, NCLR helped New Jersey pass a similar law and is now working with legislators and LGBTQ leaders in more than a dozen other states to bring protections to queer kids across the country.

    First Affordable Housing Co-op for People Living with HIV to Open in San Francisco

    Story by Dennis McMillan

    The San Francisco Community Land Trust in conjunction with LGBTQ community leaders and others have announced plans for “Marty’s Place”—a three-story Victorian House in the Mission that for over 15 years served as a residence for people with AIDS. The Land Trust will be re-opening the house as a housing cooperative after raising $250,000 for renovations.

    Marty’s Place was originally started in 1989 when Richard Purcell, a Franciscan friar, arrived here to take care of his brother who was dying of AIDS. Though Purcell’s brother died within two months of his arrival, Richard kept on caring for people with AIDS and, in 1993, acquired the property that became known as Marty’s Place in honor of Purcell’s brother.

    Before Purcell died in 2011, he and the Aurora Dawn Foundation, which had been set up to help manage and raise funds for the program, bequeathed the property to Dolores Street Community Services with the understanding that it would remain an affordable place for people with AIDS. When it was determined that it was not viable for Dolores Street to re-open the residence, the organization, which runs a shelter and housing for homeless and low-income persons in the Mission, approached the Land Trust.

    “The Land Trust is honored to be part of this collaborative partnership to preserve this special property and the legacy of Father Richard Purcell,” said Tracy Parent, organizational director. “In order to preserve this critical community asset, we must raise $250,000 before November to complete the necessary renovations to the house, before the founding members of the co-op can move in.”

    “This is an incredible opportunity for the LGBT community: to preserve as affordable a space where people with HIV were always treated with dignity and love,” said Tommi Avicolli Mecca, longtime queer housing activist working at the Housing Rights Committee. “This is also the best long-term solution to our housing crisis. By taking land off the market, we preserve it as affordable and keep it from speculators and investors who drive up rents, displace communities and gentrify neighborhoods.”

    The campaign kicked off with a fundraiser last Sunday.

    “We are committed to protecting LGBT children and their families from the severe harms caused by these dangerous practices,” said NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell. “These practices have been thoroughly discredited by every major mental health organization, and yet, every day, young lives are wrecked. We intend to stop the practices once and for all.”