Net Neutrality: FCC Chairman Vows to Keep the Internet Free and Open

February 26th, 2015 Joseph Pedro
Image via Facebook

Image via Facebook

Despite some hurdles from Republicans, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, announced today that that the FCC voted in support of net neutrality—supporting President Obama’s demand that Internet providers not charge for faster speeds. According to the NYTimes:

The proposed rule change would reclassify broadband Internet services under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, giving the FCC the authority to enforce rules preventing Internet providers from providing favorable treatment—such as faster speeds—to companies in exchange for money. In other words, Netflix or Hulu can’t pay to have their video delivered more quickly than a competing but smaller company. Perhaps more importantly, these rules also apply to mobile broadband, meaning that cell phone companies can’t decide to throttle or block data coming from certain services. The hope is to give all Internet companies, regardless of the size of their wallets, a fair shake at competing, and make sure that consumers have access to the content they want, without interference from providers.

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Facebook Adds a Gender-Identity Field

February 26th, 2015 Joseph Pedro
Image via American Apparel

Image via American Apparel

Facebook will now allow users to add their own description beyond the pre-set options to accurately describe their gender identity. Users can also control with whom they share their gender identity, an important safety and privacy feature.  

The change builds on the “Custom Gender” option introduced last year by Facebook, which provides users a list of more than 50 gender identities they can choose from to describe themselves while building their online profile at the site. The feature will now include a free-form field in which individuals who use Facebook in US English can self-identify with their own words.

“Facebook’s new free-form field for gender identity is a huge step forward for transgender, gender nonconforming and gender queer youth,” said GLSEN Executive Director, Dr. Eliza Byard. “The Internet is an essential source of resources, support and community for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth, and one of its most important ‘living rooms’ now better reflects their reality and self-understanding.”

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Broadway by the Year: The Broadway Musicals of 1916-1940

February 26th, 2015 Joseph Pedro
Aleka Emerson and Danny Gardner (Photo: Maryann Lopinto via The Broadway Blog.)

Aleka Emerson and Danny Gardner (Photo: Maryann Lopinto via The Broadway Blog.)

The wind-chill factor may have been zero degrees outside on Monday night, but numerous dyed-in-the-wool Broadway musical theater fans, who may that morning have complained, “Oh, How I Hate to Get up in the Morning,” nonetheless thought it worth their while to “Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag” and “Charleston” over to the Town Hall to hear two dozen singers “Say It with Music” in the latest edition of the popular Broadway by the Year series.

Keep reading over at The Broadway Blog…

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Apple Fights Arkansas Anti-Gay Law

February 26th, 2015 Joseph Pedro
Image via YouTube

Apple’s at Pride. Image via YouTube

Apple Inc., the world’s second-largest information technology company, issued the following statement condemning the anti-LGBT bill in Arkansas, HB 1228 – a bill that could allow any person to undermine state laws by citing their personal religious belief as an excuse to discriminate against others:

“At Apple inclusion inspires innovation. Our employees in Little Rock have a right to equal treatment under the law, as do their coworkers in Cupertino and around the world. We join the many voices across Arkansas in opposing HB1228 and we urge the State’s legislators to vote against the bill.”

As written, HB 1228 would allow individuals to sue government actors—including teachers, firefighters and police officers—if that individual believed that their personal religious beliefs were being violated. Yesterday, the bill suffered a setback in the Senate Judiciary Committee.  HRC Arkansas remains committed to fully defeating the bill.

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Breaking with Tradition: Japan Week Celebrates with a Lesbian Couple

February 25th, 2015 Joseph Pedro
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“I hope I don’t trip,” Brittany Boccio tells me with her elaborately wrapped hiyoku. “I have to be the clumsiest person ever,” she says shyly while taking a peak at her future bride, Theresa Hittel, who’s standing, arms out on a platform getting wrapped, prodded, poked, and tightened by expert kimono makers from Japan. In just under 30 minutes, the two girls will stand in the middle of Grand Central Terminal in New York City and get dressed in Watabe kimonos (we learn there are many, many layers to the traditional wedding dress) that are worth more than $10,000. The girls, won this experience as part of Japan Week along with two other couples. While their wedding date won’t actually take place until 2017, the girls get to have this other worldly experience thanks to the Japan National Tourism Organization. Additionally, one couple will win a honeymoon-style trip to Japan, be sure to vote for the girls here.

“I’m just so glad I found soul mate,” Boccio says in her Long Island accent and begins to tell us how the two girls found one another. Not surprisingly, Japan played a big role in bringing the two together. During Japan Day in Central Park, the two learned that they were both massive fans of the Japanese “metal” band Dir En Grey. “I basically stalked her and we hung out forever in our group of friends, and I eventually asked her out,” she says. “So, if we win the trip to Japan, we have to see bands play when we’re there, oh and see this island that’s filled with deer!” Boccio says. Hittel looks up from the goings on of her dressers and her eyes light up. “I have to go there,” Hittel confirms nodding her head rapidly, sending her finely placed decorative hair flowers into a tizzy.

I leave the girls who are getting anxious for the big debut. When they appear on the small stage, there is no mention of their gender. Little kids sit around the stage, older men and women munch on Japanese tofu hummus and pita chips, and the woman who dresses them makes no comment either. She discusses the importance of tradition and traditional dress. “Western dress is becoming more and more fashionable, but this traditional style is way more beautiful,” she says finishing up dressing Boccio by sticking a “sword” into her breast pocket and she steps back in awe of herself for dressing these two beautiful soul mates.

Click here to vote for the girls.  

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Lady Gaga to Enter ‘American Horror Story’ Universe

February 25th, 2015 Joseph Pedro
Screen Cap via YouTube

Screen Cap via YouTube

In a teaser posted online today, Lady Gaga announced that she will be included in the fifth season of the wildly popular show, American Horror Story. The latest installment of the show, created by openly gay Ryan Murphy, is called American Horror Story: Hotel. Though, we can only speculate exactly what the new season’s premise will be and what role Gaga will play.

Check out the teaser after the jump…

Read more…

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Switzerland’s Lower House Progresses Gay-Marriage Bill

February 25th, 2015 Joseph Pedro
Image via Passport.

Image via Passport.

While a new poll shows that a majority of Swiss people support the legalization of gay and lesbian marriage, the European country still doesn’t have marriage equality. But now, a committee in Switzerland’s lower house has advanced legislation. In a 12 to 2 vote, Switzerland’s Legal Affairs Committee of the National Council advanced a “marriage for all” initiative that was submitted by the Green Liberal Party that calls for all couples, regardless of gender, to be legally allowed to marry.

 

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Georgia Unites Against Threatening Anti-Gay Legislation

February 25th, 2015 Joseph Pedro
Image via Passport

Image via Passport

Georgia Equality, an organization working to advance fairness, safety and opportunity for LGBT communities and allies throughout the state, has joined forces with HRC for a project called “Georgia Unites Against Discrimination.” Launched by Georgia Equality in January of this year, Georgia Unites Against Discrimination is a grassroots campaign dedicated to protecting LGBT Georgians from discrimination and ensuring that individuals and businesses aren’t able to use their religious beliefs to harm others.

Georgia Unites Against Discrimination is specifically focused on defeating discriminatory legislation in Georgia that would use religious language to undermine LGBT equality, as well as working to pass a bill protecting state employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.​

Threatening fairness and equality in the state, the so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act has officially been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee, and Georgia lawmakers will soon consider and vote on this dangerous bill that would grant a “license to discriminate” against LGBT Georgians. The bill essentially allows individuals to use their religious beliefs to harm others, paving the way for challenges to virtually any law designed to protect Georgians from various forms of discrimination.

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President Obama Supports the Inclusion of Transgender Military Personnel

February 24th, 2015 Joseph Pedro
Image via Passport

Image via Passport

A press briefing today at the White House has confirmed that President Obama believes that transgender soldiers should be allowed to serve openly in the military. Secretary Carter said at an event in Kandahar: “And I’m very open-minded about…what their personal lives and proclivities are, provided they can do what we need them to do for us. That’s the important criteria. Are they going to be excellent service members? And I don’t think anything but their suitability for service should preclude them.”

See a transcription of today’s press briefing in which a reporter asks about Carter’s comments.

Q    Thanks, Josh.  During a military town hall event yesterday in Kandahar, Secretary Carter expressed an openness to the idea of openly transgender service, saying only suitability for service should bar an American from enlistment.  Does the President share Secretary Carter’s views on this?

MR. EARNEST:  Chris, I’ve seen the reports of Secretary Carter’s comments.  I can tell you that the President agrees with the sentiment that all Americans who are qualified to serve should be able to serve.  And for that reason we here at the White House welcome the comments from the Secretary of Defense.

But in terms of additional steps the Department of Defense will take to address this matter, I’d refer you to the Secretary’s office.

Q    Is there any coordination going on between the White House and the Pentagon right now to coordinate those steps?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, again, to talk about what those next steps might be, I’d refer you to the Department of Defense.

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Gay Travel: Our Favorite Neighborhoods in Buenos Aires

February 24th, 2015 Joseph Pedro
Image via Passport

Image via Passport

by Rich Rubin

I’m going to take you on a tour of several places, places with names like Recoleta, San Telmo, Palermo, and La Boca. They’re all very different in atmosphere and appearance, and to visit these various places feels like you’ve taken a whole series of trips. The thing is, they’re all part of Buenos Aires, for this major metropolis feels more than anywhere I’ve been like a series of small towns in one, loosely connected to form a big city that’s exciting, dynamic, a little daunting, and incredibly satisfying. I could never list all the neighborhoods, so we’ll concentrate on my favorites.

Buenos Aires takes some energy to explore, as it’s spread out, with a semi-workable subway system (I’d suggest a taxi or your own two feet for most explorations) and a frenetic pace that will keep you on your toes. You’ll find plenty of places, though, to relax and take it easy. With an enviable coffeehouse culture, a collection of lovely restaurants, and some surprisingly calm areas amid the bustle, there’s always time to refresh and renew among the chaos.

Keep reading over at Passport magazine online…

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