Bert and Ernie: No weddng plans
NEW YORK, N.Y. — “Sesame Street” puppets Bert and Ernie are longtime roommates who have famously provoked the question “are they or aren’t they” for decades. However, in recent weeks the push for the plush pair to come out of the closet has gained even more steam with the creation of a popular change.org petition calling for the adorable couple to get hitched to celebrate the legalization of gay marriage in New York. The campaign gained enough traction that the producers of the award-winning PBS series were recently moved to issue the following statement.
“Bert and Ernie are best friends. They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves. Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics (as most Sesame Street Muppets do), they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation.”
So there you have it, folks. Bert and Ernie are “just friends.” Wink.
Court protects trans inmates
CHICAGO, Ill. — On Aug. 5, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld the right of transgender people to receive medical care while they are incarcerated. The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Wisconsin and Lambda Legal had challenged a 2005 Wisconsin law that prohibited prison doctors from prescribing hormone treatment or sex reassignment surgery to transgender inmates.
The appeals court said the law served no purpose and “amounts to torture.” The law “cruelly singled out transgender people by denying them — and only them — the medical care they need,” said John Knight, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project.
Repeal Day celebrations coming
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) has called for coast-to-coast “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Repeal Day celebrations to take place when the law officially expires on Sept. 20. A flagship event is scheduled in the nation’s capital, accompanied by supporter-created events throughout the country. An online tool kit that supporters can use to manage their events is available online at sldn.org/HostResources. There, supporters can create and manage their events completely via the web, as well as download and print materials for use before and during their events.
“We hope this online kit will give supporters what they need to be a part of this historic and momentous day,” said Army veteran and SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis. So, even if they can’t be with us in Washington, D.C., they will be able to host and join celebrations in their own communities — whether it’s in their home, at a community center, or in a local bar.”
Calif. GOPers push moderation
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The New York Times says California Republicans are considering changing the state party’s approach to gay and lesbian issues. Reportedly, GOP moderates are pushing for a more centrist platform that removes objections to domestic partner benefits and adoption by gays while softening the rhetoric against same-sex marriage. Other proposed changes would tone down language on gun control, immigration and abortion.
Moderates hope to sell their platform document by invoking the agree-to-disagree principle and calling upon the name of arguably the party’s greatest hero of the last century. “It’s possible to have a broadly conservative party that doesnít agree on every specific. The guy who was able to thread the needle on this was Reagan — he was able to include the moderates,” said Jack Pitney, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College.
White House names LGBT liaison
WASHINGTON, D.C. —The White House has named Raul Alvillar as its interim liaison to the LGBT community. He replaces Brian Bond, deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, who is leaving to become the Democratic National Committee’s director of constituency outreach. Alvillar served as western political director for the Obama campaign, where he assisted with LGBT outreach. For the past two and a half years, he has served as the congressional relations officer at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Rwanda advancing gay rights
KIGALI, Rwanda — The International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) says Rwanda is leading the push for LGBT rights in East Africa, a principled stance that separates them from the majority of virulently anti-gay countries in the region. ILGA noted that last year Rwanda moved to decriminalize homosexuality amd recently signed two United Nations resolutions on sexual orientation and gender identity, making them one of just six African nations to do so.
Dr. Aflodis Kagaba is the executive director of Health Development Initiative Rwanda, a health-focused non-governmental organization that oversees a coalition of more than 40 groups working for sexual minorities within the country. He said the gains in Rwanda began in 2009.
“Around that time in the region, there was a drive to criminalize homosexuality — not only in Rwanda, but also in Uganda and Burundi,” he told The EastAfrican. “All the parliaments in the region took up the cause to create articles to criminalize [it], and so when the article was introduced, there was a lot of pressure.
“In the beginning, of course, it was very challenging. We were experiencing hate speech, people phoning in to radio programs saying ‘Kill them, take them back to the West — they’re not part of us.’ But the media themselves were fanatical at that time — so it required more of an individual engagement, talking to them and discussing the issues involved.”