While things were looking good in Mississippi when news spread that their bill SB2681 would no longer discriminate against gays, gay-rights organizations are pushing Mississippi legislature to further amend the proposed “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” in order to make real their stated desire that the bill not undercut the rights of LGBT people. HRC State Legislative Director Sarah Warbelow released the following statement: “We respect and appreciate the lawmakers who listened to our concerns about the broad nature of the initial bill. There can and should be a balance between ensuring that religious liberty is protected without granting a blanket license for anti-LGBT discrimination. While we believe that existing statutes and case law are sufficient to address the protection of religious freedom, if the legislature moves forward on this bill, they have a simple solution for their actions to match their rhetoric. To ensure LGBT people are not targeted for discrimination, we call on legislators to adopt language that explicitly preserves civil rights protections in any effort to protect religious freedom. We encourage lawmakers in other states considering this type of legislation to heed the concerns of businesses, fair-minded religious leaders and civil rights advocates in order to ensure that no group of people is marked for second-class treatment.”
“Nothing came easy to me,” says Stephanie J. Block, who along with Andrew Rannells with be performing with The New York Pops (with musical direction by Steven Reineke) on March 21. The California native now has a handful of Broadway credits under her belt due to her consistently grounded performances and a powerhouse voice that shakes the rafters. “I was a waitress for four months, and I was hideous at it! I’ve supported myself through the arts, sometimes many jobs at a time,” says Block. “I needed to respect and take nothing for granted. It served me well – people can get jaded and over it quickly. But I’m still in awe to be in the position to do the things I love.”
Most theater aficionados perhaps think that Block “burst” onto the scene as Elphaba in the first national tour of Wicked, followed by her playing the role on Broadway. But that green witch isn’t the only one with an untold story. Block was living in Los Angeles and doing regional theater when Stephen Schwartz happened to be on the west coast having dinner with colleagues. He was chatting about a new musical in development and was looking for a certain kind of singer with dark features and a big voice. Stephanie’s name was mentioned and within a matter of days Schwartz invited her over to sing a few songs.
Think you can sneak your oversized carry-on onto the plane? Think again if you are flying on United. No longer is the airline going to check your big-ole wheelie bag for free if there isn’t enough overhead compartment room, the airline may send you straight back to the check-in counter to pay. According to an internal newsletter the airline is making sure its employees are aware of a new program that has a “renewed focus on carry-on compliance.” According to Star Tribune: “United says its new approach will ensure that bags are reliably reviewed at the security checkpoint, in addition to the bag checks already done at gates prior to boarding.” What do you think of all this?
Santa Fe, New Mexico has elected the city’s first openly gay mayor on Tuesday when Javier Gonzales won the election beating out two others. The 47-year-old vice president of a real estate firm also chaired the state’s Democratic Party. His win is being widely contributed to the support he received from businesses as well as his grass-roots campaigning, which consisted of over 70 house parties and eight community “conversations.” “This campaign was never about me. It was about us,” he told his supporters alongside his two daughters. “I stand before you humbled. I stand you before standing on the shoulders of people like Mayor Coss and my father and so many who have been before in this position to say that I am ready to accept the responsibility and the honor of being your mayor,” he said.
When it comes to accommodations in Midtown Manhattan, location is everything (as is a good room rate). That’s why the new Hotel Boutique at Grand Central caught our attention. Its convenient location—facing the entrance to the famed Grand Central Terminal—is perfect for those visiting the city for business or pleasure.
The combination of location and state-of-the-art design and aesthetic make the new Hotel Boutique at Grand Central a welcome addition to the city that has everything. The hotel offers an array of conveniences for guests at no additional charge. These include: free high-speed Wi-Fi throughout the hotel, unlimited chilled bottled water, complimentary coffee, tea, newspapers, magazines, and games in the lobby, iPads for loan to registered guests, printer/computer usage, a fitness room, exercise equipment delivered to room, and self-serve laundry facilities. Also available are luxurious dinners at Davio’s — a restaurant serving Northern Italian cuisine. Rates start at $199 per night, which is a real bargain in Manhattan these days.
For gay right’s activists, there may be more victories than expected in the wake of Jan Brewers veto. Arizona State Senator Steve Gallardo has come out as gay, and he attributes the decision — at least in part—to the recent fight in his state over SB 1062 (the bill that would allow business owners to deny LGBT people service).
Said the senator in an announcement held in the Arizona Senate Caucus room, “After I stood up on the floor and argued against 1062, as I’ve done on many bills before, I sat down and said, ‘Wow. This bill affects me. It affects me directly.’”
He notes that the decision has received mixed reaction from his family and friends. That is, his family wonders “why [Gallardo] has to do this,” while his friends’ attitude is more along the lines of “it’s about time.”
This year, Gallardo will run for US House of Representatives in Arizona’s 7th congressional district.
Could the Catholic Church Open Doors for Civil Unions? Pope Francis Indicates Evolution on Civil Unions
In a newspaper interview Pope Francis reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s longstanding opposition to gay and lesbian marriage, but said that the church could evolve on supporting some form of civil union, according to CNN. “…Marriage is between a man and a woman,” he said, “[Bu] we have to look at different cases and evaluate them in their variety.” The Pope said that civil unions provided benefits: “as for instance in medical care.” This is the first time that the Catholic Church has ever indicated any kind of acceptance of civil unions.
More than half of all Americans believe that gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry, according to a new poll from ABC News and Washington Post. The poll also indicates that Americans feel strongly that business should not discriminate against gays and lesbians based on their religious beliefs. According to WaPo: “Fifty percent say the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection gives gays the right to marry, while 41 percent say it does not…Beyond the constitutional questions, a record-high 59 percent say they support same-sex marriage, while 34 percent are opposed, the widest margin tracked in Post-ABC polling.”
The iconic Island House resort in Key West, Florida’s fate is up in the air after the resort’s owner, Jon Allen, announced that he has plans to sell the long-standing establishment. In an e-mail, Allen wrote: “I have decided to sell the Island House and my home in Casa Caselles. Both will be listed in the next few days.” The announcement was confirmed by the Director of Marketing Jeffrey Smead. If the Island House is sold and transformed into a hetero-friendly resort it will put an end to it’s 38-year history as one of the longest, continuously operating gay resorts in the world. “I think I can say without boast that we created at Island House a unique place, a safe and happy space for thousands of gay men to meet, to eat and drink, to make merry. I’m proud of that, but more important in this context, Island House is successful and profitable operation. I’m confident that its new owner will operate it as a gay men’s resort. It has higher ADR’s and occupancy than any comparable property in Old Town. There’s no good reason to change its model. It’s a success,” wrote Allen. [MetroWeekly]
Need to take another dip in their pool? Don’t worry, as of now, The Island House is still taking reservations.
The best way to celebrate Fat Tuesday in classic New Orleans style is to indulge in decadent foods. Pop @ Pod in New York’s Midtown East understands this, and, for Mardi Gras, they offer a selection of specialty cocktails, inspired by the spirit of Mardi Gras. Check out one of these specialty cocktails, the Creole Lady, made with Captain Morgan and Myers’s rum.
2 oz House Rum
1 oz Captain Morgan
1 oz Myers’s Rum
Dash Pineapple Juice
1 oz OJ
Put all ingredients into a shaker, shake, and strain over ice