Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cancun Plans to Pass Gay Marriage Bill to Attract Tourists

Via: Fox News Latino

Cancun and other resort areas on the Mexican Caribbean will have a new attraction for gay and lesbian couples from the United States, Canada and Europe, allowing them to legalize their unions thanks to a quirk in the local civil code, activist Patricia Novelo told Efe. "This market niche ... is very attractive for European, Canadian and American (homosexual) couples," said the spokesperson for Colectivo Diversidad.

Novelo said that in January the first same-sex group wedding will be held in the resort area as part of local support for the human rights of the gay community.

She said that already several couples have expressed their wish to formalize their unions at the ceremony.

Eight couples have been confirmed to marry in January, most of them Mexican, but she said that more are expected and preparations are being handled by the groups Colectivo Diversidad, Fusion G, Gaytoursmexico and the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association.

The activist said that before the unions of same-sex couples in Quintana Roo state were legally recognized, a great demand from travel agencies for such marriages in Cancun and other resorts already existed from abroad.

Therefore, she said, agreements have begun to be struck with different airlines and hotel chains to hold these marriages all along Mexico's Caribbean coast.

Novelo said that this "is something very positive. Besides the social part there are many economic benefits because the gay community generates between 45 and 60 percent more income on top of conventional tourism."

She said gay and lesbian marriages are possible in Quintana Roo, "thanks to a legal gap in the Civil Code," which only makes mention of "people interested in getting married," without specifying their gender.

Mexico City passed a same sex marriage bill in 209. Through Dec. 15 of this year, 1,246 gay couples have been married in the city, many involving citizens of other countries.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Gay Couple Sue Hawaii B&B, Claim Discrimination

by The Associated Press via: NPR.com

HONOLULU (AP) — Two Southern California women filed a lawsuit Monday against a Hawaii bed and breakfast, saying the business denied them a room because they are gay.

Aloha Bed & Breakfast discriminated against Diane Cervelli and Taeko Bufford, a couple living in Long Beach, Calif., claims the lawsuit filed on behalf of the women by Lambda Legal in First Circuit Court in Honolulu.

Cervelli, 42, called the business in 2007 to book a room because it's in Hawaii Kai, the same east Honolulu neighborhood where the friend they were visiting lived. When she specified they would need one bed, the owner asked if they are lesbians. Cervelli responded truthfully and the owner said she was uncomfortable having lesbians in her house because of her religious views, the lawsuit said.

Refusing to let the couple book a room was solely based on their sexual orientation because the owner indicated that if they were married, she would not have allowed them to stay there, said their attorney, Peter Renn of Lambda Legal's Los Angeles office. She also would have a problem if they were an unmarried heterosexual couple, he said.

The lawsuit claims the business violated Hawaii's public accommodation law prohibiting any inn or other establishment that provides lodging from discriminating based on sexual orientation, race, sex, gender identity or expression, religion, ancestry or disability. Lambda Legal said there are 21 states that have public accommodation laws that protect against sexual orientation discrimination.

The couple ended up booking a room in Waikiki and the experience with the bed and breakfast "soured" their trip, Cervelli said Monday while in Honolulu with Bufford, 28. "In my past experiences in Hawaii, people have been so friendly," she said. "It was just hurtful. It made me feel we weren't good enough."

Reached by phone, owner Phyllis Young declined to comment and referred questions to her attorney. Honolulu attorney Jim Hochberg said he is representing her on behalf of the Alliance Defense Fund, an organization of attorneys representing people whose religious freedom is infringed. He said he hadn't yet seen the complaint.

According to the lawsuit, the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission investigated. During the investigation Young told the commission homosexuality is "detestable" and "defiles our land." The commission issued a notice of "reasonable cause to believe that unlawful discriminatory practices have been committed" and notified the couple of their right to sue.

The lawsuit wants the business to be ordered to comply with the law, for the court to issue a declaration making clear what happened was illegal and for the couple to be awarded unspecified monetary compensation, Renn said: "No amount of money is going to erase the humiliation and pain."

Renn said Lambda Legal is also looking into whether the bed and breakfast is licensed to operate. Aloha Bed & Breakfast is not on a list of properties approved for transient vacation unit or bed and breakfast use that have been issued nonconforming use certificates by Honolulu's Department of Planning and Permitting.

Latin American Airline Launches Gay Site

Via Press Release:

LAN Airlines is proud to announce the launch of its new LGBT travel website dedicated specifically to gay and lesbian travelers. The airline's new dedicated LGBT site, found at www.LANdiversity.com, showcases the diversity found throughout South America, and is a one-stop-shop resource for LGBT travel to South America.

LAN's new LGBT microsite features a host of information and resources for the prospective traveler to South America. It includes detailed descriptions of key South American destinations with information of interest to gay and lesbian travelers. The site also features recent LGBT-related news pertaining to countries throughout South America, as well as events of interest to gay and lesbian travelers to South America, including trips from leading LGBT tour operators.

"If you're traveling to Buenos Aires, not only can you purchase your ticket from the online booking engine, but you can read current news relating to LGBT topics in that region, view dates for the Buenos Aires International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival or Buenos Aires Pride, and find restaurants and hotels in the city that are popular among gay and lesbian travelers," said Katitiza Mandakovic, Leisure Director, LAN Airlines North America. "Our goal was to make LANdiversity.com a trusted source for news and information on LGBT travel to South America and we are so proud to be able to offer such a unique resource to travelers all over the world."

The new LGBT microsite also features interactive Facebook and Twitter feeds to enable visitors to share their comments and connect with other like-minded travelers. Through the microsite, LAN will also offer periodic deals, specials and sweepstakes for travel to South America on LAN Airlines and its affiliate carriers.

LAN has been a major supporter of the LGBT community for a number of years. In 2009, LAN became the first Latin American airline to develop an advertising campaign specifically targeting the LGBT community. The campaign highlighted the importance of diversity and showcased South America's diversity.

LAN has also been a proud sponsor of organizations such as the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, the Miami-Dade Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, and San Francisco Pride, as well as a Gold-level Global Partner with the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, IGLTA.

LAN was nominated "Best Airline" in LOGO's 2010 TripOut Gay Travel Awards and "Favorite International Airline" in 2011 by Edge Publications, the largest network of local LGBT news portals in the world.

"LAN is proud to be a supporter of the gay and lesbian community and is honored to be recognized as a valued partner," added Mandakovic. "We pride ourselves on being South America's premier airline and the best choice for LGBT travelers to the region. Our new LGBT travel site is a way to create an even better travel experience for gay and lesbian travelers and our hope is that more people will be able to discover the many wonders found only in South America."

For someone who has dreamt about climbing Machu Picchu at sunrise, swimming with the giant turtles of the Galapagos, frolicking on Ipanema Beach in Rio, or experiencing any of the other wonders that can be found Only in South America - today LAN Airlines brings those dreams one step closer for LGBT travelers with the launch of the dedicated, new LGBT travel website.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Adam Lambert blames arrest on travel and alcohol

Via: The Times of India

Adam Lambert has blamed getting arrested in Finland on a combination of travel, alcohol and confusion.

The former 'American Idol' star was taken to a police station and questioned after a fight with his boyfriend, Finnish reality TV star Sauli Koskinen, in Helsinki gay bar Don't Tell Momma became physical in the early hours of this morning (22.12.11). Sauli was also arrested following the incident but both men have been released following what Detective Superintendent Petri Juvonen called a "not very serious incident".

Really? Fighting because of travel? We understand the alcohol part, but when did traveling become a gateway for brawling?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thai Airline Hires Transgender Flight Attendants

By Neal Broverman via The Advocate

Recognizing how difficult it is for gender-variant people to find stable employment, Thailand's P.C. Airlines has made it policy to hire transgender flight attendants.

Four transgender female flight attendants worked on a recent flight out of Bangkok publicized by the airline. P.C. Air — a charter carrier that runs from Bangkok to China, South Korea, and Japan — featured one of their new employees in a moving commercial. In the ad, a young boy transitions into a beautiful woman.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

HRC's Corporate Equality Index

By Jeremy Bryant

The HRC's CEI report, released each fall, provides an in-depth analysis and rating of large U.S. employers and their policies and practices pertinent to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees.

To achieve a perfect score and the coveted distinction of “Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality,” companies must have fully-inclusive equal employment opportunity policies, provide equal employment benefits, demonstrate organizational LGBT competency, evidence their commitment to equality publicly and exercise responsible citizenship.

In the first year of the CEI, only 13 businesses achieved a top score. This year, 190 corporations, across industries, geographies and size, earned a 100 percent score on significantly more stringent criteria.

Even with the new scoring criteria, most of the nation's leading hotel and airline companies received high scores.

So where do the airline and hotel companies rank? The list is below.

Airlines:

Alaska Air Group Inc. (Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air): 90
AMR Corp. (American Airlines): 100
Delta Air Lines: 90
JetBlue Airways Group: 90
Southwest Airlines Co.: 90
United Continental Holdings Inc.: 100
US Airways Group: 85
Virgin America: 90

Hotels:

Caesars Entertainment Corp. (Caesars/Harrah's): 100
Carlson Companies Inc. (Radisson): 85
Choice Hotels International Inc.: 100
Hyatt Hotels Corp: 100
Kimpton Hotels and Restaurant Group Inc.: 100
Marriott International Inc.: 90
MGM Resorts International: 90
Starwood Hotel and Resorts Worldwide (W Hotels/Westin): 100
Wyndam Worldwide Corp: 90
Wynn Resorts Ltd.: 90

As a result of HRC's new scoring criteria Hilton Hotels Corp. and InterContinental Hotels Group Americas scores dropped significantly. With a score of 60, Hilton dropped 30 points from the previous year; and InterContinental received a 65, down from 85.

HRC's complete report including the scoring criteria is available online here: http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/corporate-equality-index-2011

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

U.S. to Use Foreign Aid to Promote Gay Rights Abroad

By HELENE COOPER via NewYorkTimes.com

WASHINGTON — The United States will begin using American foreign aid to promote gay rights abroad, Obama administration officials said on Tuesday.

President Barack Obama issued a memorandum directing American agencies to look for ways to combat efforts by foreign governments to criminalize homosexuality.

The new initiative holds the potential to irritate relations with some close American allies that ban homosexuality, including Saudi Arabia.

But Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton underscored Mr. Obama’s remarks, in a speech delivered in Geneva on International Human Rights Day.

“I am not saying that gay people can’t or don’t commit crimes,” she said. “They can and they do. Just like straight people. And when they do, they should be held accountable. But it should never be a crime to be gay.”

The directive comes after the Parliament in Uganda decided to reopen a debate on a controversial bill that seeks to outlaw homosexuality, a move that could be expanded to include the death penalty for gay men and lesbians. That bill had been shelved earlier this year amid widespread international condemnation.

“I am deeply concerned by the violence and discrimination targeting LGBT persons around the world,” Mr. Obama said in the memorandum, referring to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, “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.”

Specifically, Mr. Obama said in the memorandum that the State Department would lead other federal agencies to help ensure that the government provides a “swift and meaningful response to serious incidents that threaten the human rights” of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people abroad.

It was not immediately clear whether that would mean a cut-off of American aid to countries that target the gay community, but it suggests that American agencies will have expanded tools to press foreign countries that are found to abuse the rights of gays, lesbians and others.

Based on findings in the State Department’s latest annual human rights report, several countries, including several vital American allies, could face increased pressure over their treatment of gays and others.

The report said that in Saudi Arabia, under Sharia law as interpreted in the country, “sexual activity between two persons of the same gender is punishable by death or flogging. It is illegal for men ‘to behave like women’ or to wear women’s clothes and vice versa.”

The law in Afghanistan “criminalizes homosexual activity, but authorities only sporadically enforced the prohibition,” the report said. And in Pakistan, homosexual intercourse is a criminal offense, though rarely prosecuted.

Homosexuality is accepted in most of Europe. In India, law permits consensual sexual activities between adults. In China, according to the report: “No laws criminalize private homosexual activity between consenting adults. Homosexuality was decriminalized in 1997 and removed from the official list of mental disorders in 2001.”

With campaigning already under way ahead of the 2012 presidential election, Mr. Obama’s action is bound to be viewed through a political lens, as well. While the gay community tends to vote Democratic and would seem to be a natural ally of his, and has generally been supportive, he has faced criticism for failing to clearly support a right to same-sex marriages.

He has, however, received praise from many in that community for moving to repeal the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military.

The presidential memorandum issued by the White House said that federal agencies engaged abroad had been directed to “combat the criminalization of LGBT status or conduct abroad; protect vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers; leverage foreign assistance to protect human rights and advance nondiscrimination; ensure swift and meaningful U.S. response to human rights abuses of LGBT persons abroad; engage international organizations in the fight against LGBT discrimination; and issue reports on progress.

Mr. Obama has frequently made use of presidential directives to protect the rights of gays and lesbians, particularly when political sensitivities might have made legislative action impractical.

Monday, November 28, 2011

SAS follows up LGBT success

Via: etravelblackboardasia.com

Scandinavian Airlines is following up its LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) campaign “Love is in the air”, one of 2010’s most successful social media campaigns, with an improved LGBT micro site (www.flysas.com/gay) and a gay version of the popular SAS Crew Guide concept. SAS has also won numerous awards for its LGBT focus this year.

“We launched ‘Love is in the air’, a campaign ending with the world’s first gay and lesbian weddings in the air, as we had fallen behind our competitors in attracting LGBT customers. As the campaign reached over 150 million people worldwide and we had over 550,000 unique visitors to the Love-site, we managed to position us as one of the world’s leading airline amongst one of the most loyal and high-yield customer groups,” says Anders Lindström, PR Director, SAS.

The SAS Crew Guide concept has for the past seven years been a global success, and earlier this year it was turned into an app. For the LGBT audience, SAS has now created a gay video version of the popular concept, with three videos where SAS crew shows Anton Hysén the best of Stockholm has to offer in terms of restaurants, museums and activities. Hysén made headlines all over the world earlier this year when he became the first active and youngest sportsman to come out. The three videos – Eat, Play and See – are now available on SAS’ LGBT microsite www.flysas.com/gay. A preview of the films made its Hollywood premiere last week at a major PR event organized by VisitSweden.

The microsite is aimed as a one-stop shop for LGBT travelers going to Scandinavia, with introductions, maps, tips and links for the Nordic capitals. The content is provided by the various tourist boards, as well as Swedish gay network QX and the Stockholm Gay and Lesbian Network. SAS was the first European airline to launch a microsite specifically for the LGBT market, whereas most US carriers have had one for almost a decade.
“Compared to our competitors, who spend a lot of money creating pretty ads claiming they’re LGBT-friendly, SAS is focused to create activities that clearly show that we are LGBT-friendly. We have noticed that this creates a greater value for SAS within the LGBT community,” says Anders Lindström.

Approximately 6-8% of the population in the Western world is LGBT, whilst LGBT travelers account for approximately 15% of total revenue within the travel industry. At SAS, it is estimated that every 13thcustomer is LGBT.

SAS has also been praised for its LGBT focus within the last year. IGLTA (International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association) named SAS Innovator of the year and Flightglobal awarded SAS Online Campaign of the year, whilst the Love campaign was also nominated as PR of the year at Sweden’s Stora PR Priset, Social Media Campaign of the Year at the prestigious European-wide Digital Communication Awards and most recently for the Brand Experience Award.

Gay Couple Called Antigay Slur By United Airlines Agent

By Julie Bolcer via the Advocate

Billy Canu and his partner said their holiday travel was disrupted when a United Airlines agent called them “faggots” during an exchange about access to the lounge at Denver International Airport on Saturday.

ABC 7 News reports that Canu and his partner were waiting for their flight home when they became confused about access to United’s Gold Lounge on Concourse B. They approached nearby United agents and were met with “a very condescending, sort of rude” answer that prompted them to complain. A manager approached and escalated the situation, even threatening to throw them off their flight to San Diego if they continued to complain, according to the couple.
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“As we were walking away he goes ‘idiots,’” Canu told ABC 7. “So, my partner turned around and started walking up to him and said, 'I'm sorry. What did you say?'"

"He [the manager] says, ‘What f*****s,’” said Canu.

ABC 7 declined to identify the accused United employee, but in a more detailed account on Facebook, Canu identified him as Rodney Hill. In a statement to the news station, United said it was reviewing the complaint and “does not tolerate discrimination of any kind.”

Canu and his partner are seeking an apology from the airline.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Logo’s New Now Next Travel Award winners announced!




The people have spoken, the votes have been counted, and the winners have been chosen.

According to Logo voters New York is the #1 gay travel destination in the U.S. while Montreal is the #1 worldwide travel destination. But this year’s true surprise is that voters named Columbus, Ohio it's NewNowNext destination!

And here are the Winners…

Best US Destination: New York City
Best Global Destination: Montreal
Best Luxury Hotel: Peninsula Chicago
Best Resort: Encore Las Vegas
Best Hotel Chain: W Hotels & Resorts
Best Airline: Jet Blue
Best Annual Event: Mardi Gras, Sydney
Favorite Travel Show: The Amazing Race
Sexiest Spot: Rio de Janiero
NewNowNext Destination 2011: Columbus, Ohio

Did you vote? Do you agree with the list?

ABOUT NEW NOW NEXT:

NewNowNext is Logo Digital’s hub for the latest in music, TV & movies, fashion, design, travel, beauty and health.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tour operators forbidden from marketing Vancouver as gay-friendly in China

By: Justine Hunter via TheGlobeandMail.com

In its new China tourism strategy, the B.C. government has agreed to ignore the fact that Vancouver is a destination for gay tourism.

A marketing document released on the eve of Premier Christy Clark’s trade mission to China states that tourism operators marketing trips to the province for Chinese people must agree not to promote casinos, gambling or gay tourism.

The directive has angered gay activists in B.C.

B.C. Tourism Minister Pat Bell, in conference call from China on Monday, said the federal government accepted the terms when it negotiated approved-destination status with China last year, and B.C. had no say in the matter.

Mr. Bell’s office last Thursday released How to Market Your Business to China, one of its a tourism business essentials guides. Buried midway through the 60-page document is a single line noting that B.C. operators are prohibited from promoting casinos, gambling and gay tourism in China.

Approved-destination status allows tourism operators in Canada to market their services in China, and Chinese tour operators to organize and promote travel packages to Canada.

“Those are identified by the Chinese central government as areas where they don’t think there is opportunity to market into British Columbia,” he told reporters. In a later call, he said B.C. simply wanted to ensure that its tourism operators understood the rules: “We’re not necessarily endorsing the specifics.”

Ms. Clark, in a conference call from Shanghai, was caught off guard when asked about the restriction. She refused to comment, telling reporters she wasn’t aware of the details. “One of the things we want to do in our relationship with China is engage more. ... That will help further some of the ideals we hold dear in Canada.”

Tourism Vancouver devotes an entire section of its website to gay tourists, enthusing: “The largest gay population in Western Canada lives in this ocean-wrapped and snow-capped city [with] a wide variety of restaurants, coffee shops, pubs and boutiques catering to gays and lesbians.”

Candice Gibson, Tourism Vancouver’s consumer marketing director, said gay tourism is worth more than $60-billion annually around the globe. “Vancouver is a gay-friendly destination,” she said. “Obviously, we want people all around the globe to be aware of that – but our focus is on the U.S. market.”

Jennifer Breakspear, executive director of Qmunity, which bills itself as B.C.’s queer resource centre, said she was disappointed that B.C. would accept the restriction as the price of doing business in China.

Her organization hosted thousands of international tourists at Pride House in Vancouver and Whistler during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. “We had a lot of media exposure about how Vancouver, British Columbia, is a very progressive and accepting destination where tourists could be comfortable being who they are,” she said. “I guess the government is going to toe the line in China, but it’s troubling back at home.”

Spencer Chandra Herbert, the New Democratic Party critic for tourism, said the province should have at least expressed some regret in accepting China’s terms.

“For the provincial government to be putting out a brochure without a disclaimer is troubling to me,” he said. “It sends the wrong message when we are supposed to be – and should be – a society fighting discrimination and standing up for love, whether it be between two men or two women or a man and a woman.”

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Passenger sentenced to 21 months for dealing drugs on gay cruise

By Fran Golden via USAtoday.com

A judge in the U.S. Virgin Islands yesterday sentenced a California man to 21 months in prison for dealing drugs to fellow passengers on the 5,400-passenger Allure of the Seas.

Steven Barry Krumholz pleaded guilty to the charges in July.

The West Hollywood man had been arrested in February when the ship docked in St. Thomas. The Allure of the Seas was at the time chartered by Atlantis Events, the sailing on the world's largest ship billed as the world's largest gay cruise.

U.S. District Court Judge Curtis Gomez said Krumholz used his cabin on the cruise ship "as if it was an apothecary for controlled substances," the Associated Press reports.

Police at the time of his arrest said they found more than 142 ecstasy pills, methamphetamine, a small amount of ketamine, and about $51,000 in cash in Krumholz's cabin.

He had faced up to 20 years in prison.

Royal Caribbean said it fully cooperated with authorities during the investigation.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween: America's Gay Holiday

By: Irene Monroe via Huffingtonpost.com

Halloween is America's gay holiday.

In the words of the lesbian poet and scholar Judy Grahn, Halloween is "the great gay holiday."

And this weekend of lavish costumed theatricality will attract everyone, but especially lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) revelers.

Back in the day Halloween, the night before All Hallows Day (All Saints Day), was linked to the ancient Celtic festival Samhain in the British Isles, meaning "summer's end." And because the celebration is associated with mystery, magic, superstition, witches and ghosts, the festivity, not surprisingly, was limited in colonial New England because of its Puritanical belief system.

But today it's an LGBTQ extravaganza that rivals -- if not out-showcases -- Pride festivals.

Long before June officially became Gay Pride Month and October became Coming Out Month for the LGBTQ community, Halloween was unofficially our yearly celebrated "holiday," dating as far back as the 1970s, when it was a massive annual street party in San Francisco's Castro district.

By the 1980s, gay enclaves like Key West, West Hollywood, and Greenwich Village were holding their annual Halloween street parties. And the parades the night of Halloween did and still do draw straights and gay spectators out to watch.

Gay cultural influence on Halloween has become such an unstoppable phenomenon here and abroad that anthropologist Jerry Kugelmass of University of Florida published a book in 1994 on the new trend, titled Masked Culture, describing Halloween as an emerging gay "high holiday."

"The 'masked culture' first developed by the gays of San Francisco has reached across the lines of orientation -- and now jumped across the boundaries between nations and languages. It's not just a party. It's an ideal of personal emancipation, self-expression and self-fulfillment -- an ideal that loses none of its power when it takes the form of a sexy nurse's outfit," CNN contributor David Frum wrote last year in "Halloween craze started in gay culture."

Nicholas Rogers, author of Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night, points out that while Halloween is enjoyed by everyone, "it has been the Gay community that has most flamboyantly exploited Halloween's potential as a transgressive festival, as one that operates outside or on the margins of orthodox time, space, and hierarchy. Indeed, it is the Gay community that has been arguably most responsible for Halloween's adult rejuvenation."

Halloween allows many LGBTQ Americans at least one night annually, Oct. 31, of safely being out and "unmasked" while remaining closeted. The community revels the entire night like there is no tomorrow, and for many there isn't. Like its pagan roots, Halloween provided an outlet for us cross-dressing and gender-bending LGBTQ outsiders who are ostracized by mainstream society.

As Halloween flourishes as a gay cultural phenomenon, so, too, flourished a backlash by the fundamentalist Christians with their "Hell Houses."

And these Christians targeted our children.

(Believing Hell Houses are no longer up and running in 2011, I'll speak of them in the past tense.)

Hell Houses were a contemporary form of both anti-gay bullying and witch-hunting. Created in the late 1970s by the Reverend Jerry Farwell, the deceased fundamentalist pastor, Hell Houses were religious alternatives to traditional haunted houses. They were tours given by evangelical churches across the country designed to scare and bully people away from myriad sins. And one of those sins is homosexuality.

In 2006 the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) put out a report titled "Homophobia at 'Hell House': Literally Demonizing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth," explaining how hell houses specifically targeted youth.

"Instead of spooking youth with ghosts and monsters, Hell House tour guides direct them through rooms where violent scenes of damnation for a variety of 'sins' are performed, including scenes where a teenage lesbian is brought to hell after committing suicide and a gay man dying of AIDS is taunted by a demon who screams that the man will be separated from God forever in hell," the NGLTF stated.

A study published in the Journal of Psychology stated that a strong belief in Satan is directly related to intolerance of LGBTQ people.

Religious leaders who supported Hell Houses believed that by scaring LGBTQ youth into "heterosexual" behavior, they were saving their souls.

However, the message that "homosexuals" are going to hell can have a deleterious impact on our youth. But with Halloween flourishing as a gay cultural phenomenon, our children, too, can joyfully go door-to-door trick-or-treating.

Our influence on culture is being acknowledged and celebrated more as we come out.

As Kwanzaa is a black holiday, and St. Patrick's Day is an Irish holiday, maybe someday soon Halloween will be officially acknowledged as a gay holiday.

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Denmark expected to legalize same-sex marriage in 2012, says minister.

By Brody Levesque via LGBTQNation.com

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The Danish government is set to introduce a bill in early 2012 that will allow gays and lesbians to marry, positioning Denmark to become the eighth country in Europe to recognize same-sex civil marriages.



The government’s appointed Church minister, Manu Sareen, a social liberal, said that the government plans to introduce the bill just after the New Year which will allow same-sex couples to hold weddings in the Church of Denmark and be “married” legally as recognized by Danish law, reported Jyllands-Posten, a leading Danish newspaper.

Currently under the law, same-sex couples are allowed to have “registered partnerships,” a civil status, but are barred from marriage and church weddings.

“The first same-sex weddings will hopefully become reality in Spring 2012. I look forward to the moment the first homosexual couple steps out of the church. I’ll be standing out there throwing rice,” Sareen said.

Sareen’s appointment to the post of minister was one of the more more controversial of the new coalition government.

He is a professed religious “doubter,” who, before becoming church minister, came close to writing himself off the national church registry, in direct protest against its long-standing ban on same-sex marriage.

Denmark was the first country in the world to allow gay civil partnerships with legislation in 1989. But the country stopped short of calling it “marriage” and same-sex couples still are not allowed to have marriage ceremonies in the Church of Denmark.

Public polls taken over the years, and as recent as last week, suggest around 69 percent of the population supports same-sex marriage.

In Europe, only The Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Portugal, and Iceland currently recognize same-sex civil marriages.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Jupiter Hotel GM Al Munguia puts PDX hospitality on the map

By Ryan J. Prado via JustOut.com

It’s hard to imagine Portland’s hospitality industry without the Jupiter Hotel. For more than six years the former motor inn has attracted exceedingly diverse clientele to Southeast, trading in the baiting of corporate executives, so synonymous with big box hotel chains, to instead welcome—sometimes with a Bear hug—an inclusive guest list.

It’s likewise difficult to think that any of it might have happened without Jupiter general manager Al Munguia.



Munguia, 49, relocated to the Rose City following a distinguished run working for corporate hotels along the West Coast. Originally a student of political science and international relations, Munguia had global ambitions—namely to work for the United Nations. But during college, he accepted a position as a telephone operator at a hotel—a decision that would change the trajectory of his career.

“It was a way of paying the rent, and it just sort of got in my blood,” Munguia explains.

After climbing the corporate ladder at hotel chains like Marriott, Holiday Inn and Starwood, Munguia sought to further his resume—and creativity, and diversify the hotel experience for guests. For the former high school disco dancing champion—yes, really—the general manager position at the Jupiter couldn’t have come at a better time.

“Most of my experience has been nothing like this,” Munguia says of his time with the Jupiter. “That’s one of the reasons why I enjoy this so much. With traditional corporate properties, it’s all recipes that you follow with very little regard to thinking outside the box. Jupiter was just opening up, and speaking to the owners I realized that there was this mass flexibility that was going to allow me to really challenge myself from a creative standpoint.”

For Munguia, the variety has been there since the beginning. Just a few days after accepting the job, Munguia got a taste of this freedom with his first booking: Darklady’s annual Masturbate-a-Thon charity event.
“That moment to me was really [one of], ‘I entered a whole new dimension,’” Munguia says. “We would never touch this—excuse the pun—at Marriott.”

As a gay man, Munguia set to ensuring that the Jupiter’s marketing efforts would welcome the LGBTQ traveler. One of the first phases of that approach was to connect with Community Marketing, Inc. to begin the company’s Travel Alternatives Group (TAG) training. For a hotel to become TAG certified, staff and management undergo diversity training, specifically as it applies to the LGBTQ community. The Jupiter Hotel became Portland’s first TAG-approved property, and is also a member of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA).

“It really is about awareness,” Munguia says. “It’s about those micro-aggressions that we use on a daily basis that we may not really be conscious of in our speech, or in our body language as we interact with people.”

Upon TAG certification, staff and management take an exam designed to assure they can deal effectively and positively with issues sensitive to the LGBTQ community—and, most importantly, says Munguia, have been trained not to make assumptions.

“We all grow up with prejudices, and pre-formulated ideas as to how people want to be treated,” he says. “The certification just lets the LGBTQ traveler know that this property is aware of who they are.”

Linking the entire community to the experience of the Jupiter was a cornerstone strategy for Munguia, and has established the property as a makeshift headquarters for many regional organizations and annual fundraising events. The Oregon Bears’ BearTown has turned to the Jupiter as host hotel and event epicenter.

Similarly, Portland Latino Gay Pride—co-founded by Munguia’s late partner José Ornelas—is a perennial partner, and an organization that until this year held its primary base of operations at the Jupiter. The hotel has also served as host site for the Rose City Softball Association’s Cascade Cup and Pride Northwest functions.

“We have a saying: ‘As in God’s house, all are welcome at the Jupiter,’” Munguia says. “We just don’t care whether you’re gay or straight, black or white, hipster or business suit-by-day. We want people to be able to come and feel accepted and free to be whoever it is that they may be and however it is they define themselves.”

This June Munguia’s efforts were recognized on a grander scale, when Governor John Kitzhaber appointed him to the Oregon Tourism Board. As a member of this administrative body, it’s Munguia’s duty to review spending strategies and allocate funds for grants to increase the state’s viability as a tourist destination. The board’s suggestions and decisions are then implemented by Travel Oregon.

Since Munguia’s appointment came after the 2011-12 strategies were established, his input is likely to be felt more in the coming years of his four-year term.

“As a Latino, I bring that perspective of, ‘What do we need to do from the Oregon perspective to really make Oregon attractive to this segment of the population?”

Munguia explains. “And then as a gay man, I bring that perspective of, ‘What are we as a state doing to promote LGBT tourism to the state?’ Those are going to be my big focuses.”

Under Munguia’s wing, Oregon’s widely touted hospitality isn’t just hype. It’s fact.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Lesbian couple kicked out of local hotel for kissing

By Courtney Gousman via KSDK.com

Two women say they were the victims of discrimination after they were asked to leave St. Louis' Four Seasons Hotel for kissing.

The lesbian couple tells News Channel 5, they were trying to enjoy a day by the rooftop pool at the Four Seasons, when they say they were harassed for openly displaying affection. The hotel tells News Channel 5, it wasn't that simple.



"When we got into the Jacuzzi, and we were sitting close to one another and we were kissing that a member of security came over to us," said Teresa Folds.

Folds says the hotel security officer told her and her girlfriend, Juleigh Snell, they weren't allowed to kiss on the hotel property. They asked to speak with a manager.

"He said that they didn't even allow heterosexual couples to kiss on their property," said Folds.

"When we were explaining how gay people have rights, he basically insinuated that we were not a normal couple and should not be kissing," said Snell.

Folds and Snell say the manager stated the couple was acting inappropriately and that the hotel had received complaints.

"They have yet to tell us what that inappropriate activity is. Other than the kissing, that's all they can say because that's all we were doing," said Folds.

The couple says they were left alone, and they continued to kiss. They were approached again.

"Told us that they wanted us to leave, and I mentioned that the pool didn't close until 8:00," said Folds.

Folds and Snell say when 8 p.m. rolled around, they were approached by a security guard who showed them the door.

"I was disheartened by the whole experience," said Snell.

"It was very much understood that they were kicking us out," said Folds.

News Channel 5 reached out to the Four Seasons about the incident.

General Manager Alper Oztok sent this statement to News Channel 5:

"Four Seasons respects the behaviors of our guests, except where doing so may be a breach of law or create tensions among people. This was the case on the night in question, as our staff received several complaints about the guest's behavior. I can assure you that the gender of the couple was never at issue."

The couple says they've reached out to Gay Pride St. Louis and the Human Rights Campaign to make them aware of this incident.

They say all they want is an apology, and for the hotel to be clear about its kissing policy.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Chicago reins in Gay Pride Parade in effort to cut down on drinking.

BY FRAN SPIELMAN via Chicago Sun Times

Chicago is altering the route, size and starting time of its annual Gay Pride Parade to curb public drinking and accommodate crowds that topped 800,000 last year.




The most important change is the starting time. The parade held on the last Sunday in June will step off at 10 a.m. instead of noon.

“Unless you’re a hard-core drinker, most people don’t drink at 10 o’clock in the morning,” said parade coordinator Richard Pfeiffer.

Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), Chicago’s first openly-gay aldermen, added, “There’s people concerned about alcohol being consumed on that day. Complaints are that people actually bring their coolers and consume a lot. An earlier start time will promote less drinking.”

Burgeoning crowds have also forced several other changes.

The number of entries will be reduced from 250 to 200 to shorten the duration of the parade and return the streets to neighborhood residents sooner.

And the route of the parade will be lengthened five blocks — from 17 to 22 — and dramatically altered to stagger crowds, add two CTA L stations to accommodate arriving spectators and reduce neighborhood choke points.

The city’s second-largest parade used to begin at Belmont and Halsted, travel north on Halsted to Grace before making a V-turn back down Broadway from Grace to Diversey.

That prompted complaints from area residents that the parade created, what Tunney called a “dangerous situation” that cut off access to emergency vehicles and made it difficult for area residents to get home.

The new route will begin at the corner of Montrose and Broadway and travel south on Broadway to Halsted before turning east on Belmont, south on Broadway and east on Diversey to Canon Drive.

Once a niche parade known for its outlandish costumes, the Gay Pride Parade has fast become, what Tunney called a victim of its own success.

Attendance has doubled over the last three years — to roughly 800,000 a year ago. The parade has become a mandatory appearance for elected officials currying favor with the fast-growing, clout-heavy gay community. Friends and relatives of gay Chicagoans show up in force to support their loved ones.

“It’s a celebration of our history, of our politics and our civil rights. It’s also become a parade for everybody in the entire city. Outside of the Bud Billken parade, it’s now probably the city’s second-busiest parade. But, it’s outgrown its size. The route has become a real concern for public safety,” Tunney said.

“The question is, has the parade gotten too big for the neighborhood? Our feeling is, with these changes, it can still be a neighborhood parade.”

Pfeiffer said parade attendance has ballooned as “more and more gay people have come out” and the parade has drawn more straight spectators.

“Everybody has a best friend or a relative or someone they work with in the next cubicle who’s gay. That’s part of the increase in the crowd. To accommodate that increase, we needed to make changes to help make it a safer event,” he said.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

L Word's Leisha Hailey Kicked Off Flight for Kissing Girlfriend

By Jeremy Kinser via Advocate

Actress-musician Leisha Hailey, who played Alice on The L Word, is demanding an apology from Southwest Airlines after being escorted from a flight for kissing her girlfriend, fashion designer Nina Garduno.



Perez Hilton reports that Camila Grey, a member of the pop duo Uh Huh Her, tweeted the first account of the incident, writing, "So we've joined the ranks alongside @BJAofficial and @ThatKevinSmith for being kicked off an @SouthwestAir flight, this time for being gay. @SouthwestAir We didn't know intolerance and discrimination for slouchy pants, being overweight or being gay was part of your family values." Grey refers to Kevin Smith, who was escorted off a Southwest jet in February 2010, supposedly for being too large for his seat, and Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong, who was asked to leave a flight earlier this month for wearing pants deemed to be too saggy.

Hailey then added her take on what happened, writing, "I have been discriminated against by @SouthwestAir. Flt. attendant said that it was a 'family' airline and kissing was not ok. This is an outrage. I demand a public apology by @SouthwestAir and a refund. Hate is not a family value. I will never fly this airline. We were escorted off the plane for getting upset about the issue. @SouthwestAir endorses homophobic employees. No one made her accountable."

Hailey continued tweeting, adding, "Since when is showing affection towards someone you love illegal? I want to know what Southwest Airlines considers as "family." I know plenty of wonderful same sex families I would like to introduce them to. Boycott @SouthwestAir if you are gay. They don't like us."

Hailey also claims she filmed the incident, writing, "Did I mention to @SouthwestAir that I have a lot of their actions recorded on audio and video? RT #boycottSouthwest #discrimination."

Website TMZ is reporting that Southwest Airlines has issued a statement that reads, "Initial reports indicate that we received several passenger complaints characterizing the behavior as excessive."

The statement continues, "Our crew, responsible for the comfort of all Customers on board, approached the passengers based solely on behavior and not gender. The conversation escalated to a level that was better resolved on the ground, as opposed to in flight."

The airline adds, "We are ready to work directly with the passengers involved to offer our heartfelt apologies for falling short of their expectation."

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Virgin America Now Servicing Palm Springs

The expansion of Virgin America’s network continues. Palm Springs is the latest destination to be added, and to get things started Virgin is selling discounted flights out of San Francisco and New York. There’s also another standard Virgin deal running in conjunction with this one – all details are at the Virgin website.

Until this Friday (September 23), return flights to Palm Springs start at $198 from San Francisco and $398 from New York (with a stopover in SF, but you don’t have to leave the plane). These discounted flights are available on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday, and are good for travel from December 15 through February 15. There’s a blackout period between Christmas and New Years, however.

Virgin’s advertised prices are $10 or $20 cheaper than the competition on these two Palm Springs routes, depending on availability of course. Beyond Virgin, there’s a pretty flat price range, and you’ll pay roughly the same to fly to Palm Springs with any of the major airlines. If you’re nowhere near San Francisco or New York, our comparison database allows you to find the cheapest Palm Springs flights from your local airport.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

NYC’s First Gay Hotel Was Long Time in Planning

By: Paris Wolfe via lhonline

Manhattan’s newest gay neighborhood, Hell’s Kitchen, is getting The Out NYC. It’s New York City’s first gay hotel and, perhaps, the only gay urban resort in the country, according to developer Ian Reisner, managing partner of Parkview Developers. Reisner and his business partners own other properties in New York State.

The idea came from a gay-focused boutique hotel in Barcelona where Reisner stayed a few years ago. He decided New York City needed a similar hotel and, in fact, an entire entertainment complex.



It makes sense considering that, despite higher-profile gay-centric locations, New York is the top travel destination for both gay and lesbian travelers, reports Community Marketing, a San Francisco-based company that specializes in LGTB travel research.

"This is an idea whose time has come,” says Reisner. “What makes The Out NYC a gay hotel is the comfort level and tailored amenities for the community. The Out NYC will become a 'can't-miss' for gay tourists as well as the epicenter of gay life for LGBT New Yorkers."

The hotel complex — an adapted 1950s-vintage, drive-in motor inn — is situated on 42nd St. between 10th and 11th Avenues. A major rehabilitation and redirected use of the existing motel will turn the property into a 105-room boutique hotel with a spa, wellness center, business center and conference rooms. The entertainment complex includes the 11,000-square-foot XL nightclub, lounge and cabaret as well as a 24/7 café and a restaurant called Kitchen.

“It feels like a hotel in Miami,” describes Reisner. “All rooms are on the second floor and higher, facing an internal courtyard.”

Will the specialty market embrace the project?

“A good number of gay people like to stay in an all-gay or gay-friendly atmosphere,” says David Paisley, senior research director for Community Marketing Inc. “There’s no reason why the LGTB community wouldn’t be able to support a hotel of that size in the city of New York.”



He cautions, however, that it has to be well done at a reasonable cost. “The LGTB community is probably willing to pay a little more for that environment, but not a lot more for a hotel that may be a block away from other options.”

When it comes to great amenities, it’s not about toiletries. The best amenity to draw more gay guests is a gay entertainment infrastructure within the hotel, says Paisley. “Having a gay bar, gay restaurant in the hotel is a really nice amenity.”

The largest investors in the property are Reisner, his partner and a group of limited partners. “We’re 100 percent behind this project. We think this is an amazing concept and the timing is good,” he says. He’s referring to New York State’s July 24 enactment of the Marriage Equality Act, which allows same sex marriage.

The hotel was underway, however, long before the gay marital rights became reality. “The concept of a gay-centered hotel has been in my mind for over five years,”
says Reisner. And, the actual planning started in 2008.

In 2009 he secured a rare 49-year ground lease for the property, a 26,000-square-foot block of real estate, in a gentrifying neighborhood. “It was perfect timing to get my hands on such a big property,” he says. “The great recession had put a damper on real estate and you could lock in things you couldn’t lock in, in a normal functioning market.”

The nightlife venue, expected to draw locals as well as travelers, is scheduled to open in November. The hotel’s official opening is planned for late winter/early spring 2012.

And, it could be just the first. “Based on the positive reception we’ve had I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more of these in the future,” says Reisner.

Friday, September 16, 2011

San Diego in a Day

By: Jeremy Bryant

I was recently invited to San Diego to experience the city and visit with the Executive Director of San Diego Pride, Dwayne Crenshaw. I must say, San Diego is a city of different flavors and topography. I arrived in San Diego’s Hillcrest neighborhood, just off the 163 freeway, around 11am to have lunch at Urban Mo’s (formerly Hamburger Mary’s). Urban Mo's offers a cheery atmosphere with different music each night of the week. The crowd here is all about fun and is a mix of men and women in their 20s and 30s. After eating and having a few drinks, we took off for a stroll around the Hillcrest neighborhood. Filled with funky and fabulous shops, restaurants, bars, and just about everything else a queer could need, the community of Hillcrest comes alive with people walking the streets, riding bikes, and just having a gay old time. I strongly encourage any visitor to get out and walk the town, meet the people and stop in the shops to look around. You won’t be disappointed.



After walking and shopping all over Hillcrest, I was off on a tour of the city. We started by heading downtown to view the many historic buildings that comprise the Gaslamp Quarter. The Quarter is home to many events and festivals, including Mardi Gras in the Gaslamp, Street Scene Music Festival, Taste of Gaslamp and ShamROCK, a St. Patrick's Day event. PETCO Park, home of the San Diego Padres is located one block away in downtown San Diego's East Village. From downtown we then headed over to the Marina. The Marina houses mid-rise and high-rise hotels, apartments, condominiums, medical offices and retail shops. Seaport Village and the San Diego Convention Center are located in this neighborhood. Seaport Village is also a perfect spot to grab a relaxing meal from a number of fine restaurants and food stands, including the Harbor House Restaurant. From the Marina you can enjoy views of Coronado across the bay. A must see is the Star of India, a historic, tall-mast iron ship which dates back to 1863. This national historic landmark is the world's oldest ship still seaworthy, and makes a sea journey at least once a year.



From the Marina, we were off to see Old Town San Diego. Old Town is the oldest settled area in San Diego and is the site of the first European settlement in present-day California. Old Town is truly a great tourist spot to experience the culture of old San Diego. I recommend stopping at Presidio Park, a beautify spot to soak in the views. Old town San Diego has hotels, art galleries, specialty shops, restaurants, amazing architecture and so much more to experience.



After driving through Old Town, I headed to Balboa Park. Balboa Park is filled with open space areas, natural vegetation, gardens and walking paths. The park contains a variety of cultural attractions including many museums, several theaters, and the world famous San Diego Zoo. A great place to spend the day, relax and enjoy the outdoors, Balboa Park is a big attraction for the city of San Diego. Balboa Park is also where the San Diego Pride Festival takes place every July. This 2 day event attracts over 200,000 people from all over the world and is considered to be the largest civic event in the city of San Diego. Definitely a must attend event for any LGBT traveler.



I concluded my evening in San Diego with enjoying dinner in La Jolla at an amazing restaurant, Georges at the Cove. Georges over looks the Ocean and boasts the region’s best rooftop dining, try the Ocean Terrace upstairs. Upon finishing dinner, I headed down to the cove. Casa Beach, otherwise known as Children’s Pool Beach is a small sandy beach located at 850 Coast Boulevard, at the end of Jenner Street, in La Jolla. A sea wall built was built and protects the beach from waves, making it a favorite spot for divers and swimmers. The sea wall was built in order to create a Children's Pool, a place where children could play and swim protected from the waves. Interestingly over the years, the beach has become home to seals that enjoy the calm beach protected by the sea wall. I encourage everyone to go and check it out. It’s a site you have to see.



Sadly my day in San Diego was coming to an end. I had seen so many sites this impressively laid back city has to offer. I would recommend anyone looking to experience a sunny, beautiful, friendly destination to visit San Diego. There’s way too much to see in one day, so definitely plan for a weekend or if you can spare a week, you won’t be disappointed. As I drove home to Los Angeles up the 5 Freeway, images of my day in San Diego filled my mind. I’ll definitely be returning to San Diego, but with more time to spend for new adventures. A big thank you to Dwayne Crenshaw and the city of San Diego for showing me a fabulous time and a day I’ll never forget.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

IGLTA Welcomes Two New Board Members

Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (September 13, 2011)—The International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association recently added two board members: Rika Jean-Francois of ITB Berlin, one of the world’s leading travel trade shows; and Marta Dalla Chiesa, founding director of Brazil Ecojourneys.

“The IGLTA bylaws allow us to appoint up to two eligible members for one-year board positions to better reflect the diverse tourism businesses in our membership,” said IGLTA Chair Tanya Churchmuch. “Having an esteemed global trade fair and a small lesbian business from South America represented in the mix truly broadens our scope.”

Both women are longtime professionals in the tourism industry. Rika Jean-Francois oversees gay and lesbian travel for the prestigious ITB Berlin trade show.

“ITB Berlin is the first tourism trade show to have a representative on the board of this remarkable association and is ready to give LGBT tourism the platform it deserves,” she said. “This is a great chance to develop new markets and to fight for human rights in tourism.”

Marta Dalla Chiesa, whose tour operation is based in Florianopolis, Brazil, is returning for her second term as a board appointee.“This is not only a recognition of my efforts for the organization but also a good sign that the current board values the diversity of the IGLTA membership,” she said. “I hope to continue to push forward in the association the issues dear to our Latin American, lesbian and small business members.”

The 2011-2012 board members of IGLTA are:

* Chair: Tanya Churchmuch, Tourism Montreal
* Vice Chair: Jeff Guaracino, Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation
* Treasurer: Theresa Belpulsi, Destination DC
* Secretary: Darren Cooper, Out Now Global
* Marta Dalla Chiesa, Brazil Ecojourneys (Appointee)
* *Dan Melesurgo, American Society of Association Executives
* Rika Jean-Francois, ITB Berlin (Appointee)
* Mya Lake Reyes, Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority
* *Ed Salvato, Travel Journalist
* Steve Smith, Key West Business Guild


*first-time board members

Austrailia makes getting a Passport easier for sex and gender diverse people

Via: Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs

Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and Attorney-General Robert McClelland today announced new guidelines to make it easier for sex and gender diverse people to get a passport in their preferred gender.

Under the guidelines, sex reassignment surgery will no longer be a prerequisite to issue a passport in a person’s preferred gender.

“Sex and gender diverse people now have the option of presenting a statement from a medical practitioner supporting their preferred gender,” said Mr Rudd.

“This amendment makes life easier and significantly reduces the administrative burden for sex and gender diverse people who want a passport that reflects their gender and physical appearance.”

The initiative is in line with the Australian Government’s commitment to remove discrimination on the grounds of gender identity and sexual orientation.

“Most people take for granted the ability to travel freely and without fear of discrimination,” Mr McClelland said.

“This measure will extend the same freedoms to sex and gender diverse Australians.

“While it’s expected this change will only affect a handful of Australians, it’s an important step in removing discrimination for sex and gender diverse people.

“Importantly, this policy addresses a number of the recommendations contained in the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Sex Files report.”

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Greece: tourism losses prompt change

The Greek Government has signaled that it will recognize same-sex civil unions in a bid to attract more gay and lesbian tourists to the country in the face of mounting financial woes.

Tourism is Greece’s largest industry and the global pink tourist pie is estimated to be worth more than $140 billion a year.

Gay and lesbian tourists have been moving away from the traditional gay travel meccas of Mykonos and Lesbos in recent years, according to OutNow Consulting, a global firm specializing in marketing to the LGBT community.

Tourism makes up 16 percent of the Greek economy.

“Rights do not cost much in terms of finances, but they do a lot to promote the countries that adopt them,” co-chairman of the European branch of the International Lesbian and Gay Association, Martin Christensen said.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Gay Tripping

By Cherry Trifle via Edenfantasys.com

Gay resort chains are nothing new abroad, but what about closer to home? As the tendrils of marriage equality take root and the gay community continues its slow, measured march toward ubiquity, are LGBT hotels becoming just another no-big-deal niche in the travel industry?

My first awkward kiss occurred at 13, halfway through ninth grade — me and Eddie, alone in my best friend’s bedroom. Aside from the fact that I was kissing a boy I liked and he was kissing me back it was not spectacular, not in the way kisses can drop the floor from your stomach like that fearsome, fabulous first dip on a roller coaster, but it was my first. And in that there is inherent sweetness.

As our romance bloomed, we grew more comfortable with PDA. We’d walk holding hands, share pecks between classes and more lingering (and steadily improving) episodes at day’s end. We did it all in plain view of our classmates, our teachers, the guy at the pizza place — and didn’t think much about any of it.

This is the first in a two-part series about an emerging travel trend: American hospitality companies very publicly courting the gay community and a flurry of glamorous, purpose-built “gay” properties. Even famous hotel chains are upping their ad dollars in gay publications. So, why the trip down Cherry Lane, circa 1983? Because on a quest to discover what makes a resort gay, I found the concept isn’t as much about what we see — fabulous decor or $17 lychee martinis or Shirtless Show-Tune Karaoke Night — as it is about the stuff us breeders take for granted.

Like being able to just be yourself.

For an out-and-proud radio personality, Anthony, 46, and one-third of the BlogTalkRadio trio ”Two Fags & A Hag,” admits that historically he’s been something of a homebody. “The gay travel thing is very new to me.” A recent trip to Hawaii was his first with a deliberate LGBT slant. “The retreat itself was not exclusively gay, but the program I participated in was for gay men.”

Anthony went alone, so being around people with whom he’d feel free to be open was important. “Vacation is about being able to relax, not something that’s easily achieved when you’re anxious. As much as things have progressed in general, there’s still the very real possibility of finding yourself among travelers who at best are uncomfortable around gay people, and at worst, hostile toward them. I prefer to hedge my bets and knowingly go where I won’t be the only one of my kind… I like knowing that there’s some ‘family’ to turn to, especially when I’m far from home.”

It Makes The World Go 'Round

Before we get mired in the touchy-feely, however, let’s get pragmatic: No entity, neither chic boutique hotelier nor vast hospitality empire, is building a fancy hotel with high-end vodka for a bunch of broke-ass bitches.

“Every study I’ve seen shows that LGBT people travel more often and spend more money when they travel,” says freelance travel writer Mark Chesnut, who serves as a Contributing Editor at Passport, the nation’s largest gay travel magazine. “Businesses both large and small are catching on … They realize that targeting a well-traveled niche makes sense.”

Chesnut adds that while economics are certainly at play, reasoning behind recent trends is multifold: “Shifts in society’s attitudes,” he says, “and the increasing acceptance of gay people in the mainstream have [also] been deciding factors in the recent growth in the segment.”

Hotelier Brian Gorman summarizes: “Gays are like blondes — ‘they just have more fun!’ — and, they’re willing to pay for it.”

As founder of the new Lords South Beach, he would know. Lords’ Miami venture is the maiden property in what’s being billed as “America’s first gay hotel chain.” With hopes for expansion to cities including New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and San Francisco, Gorman envisions his brand’s rainbow arcing from coast to coast.
Says Gorman, “Lords is “a celebration of the gay community that embraces everyone.” Its main goal: “To promote fun and community.” In that spirit, Lords runs programming that fosters connections between travelers. “Sunday night, all our guests get complimentary drinks during cocktail hour and we have a weekly pool party that brings out locals, as well as hotel guests,” says Gorman, stressing the importance of that local angle.

Lords is smack in the middle of a multitude of homo-centric attractions and venues, including the city’s premier nude beach and several popular nightspots. Though the property boasts kitschy, playful design (“that’s a little tongue-in-cheek, just like our guests!”) and even its own app — Out and About; something of an insider’s guide to Miami — Gorman notes the most important element is “giving people an environment where they feel comfortable just being themselves.”

The Queer Apple

New York is one such place, and THE OUT NYC is aiming to become “the epicenter of LGBT life” in a city that’s already one of the world’s most gay-friendly. “It’s a tall order,” says Chesnut, “but they seem to be approaching it in the right way, working with some of New York City’s real gay nightlife gurus — which should help bring in the locals, while attracting visitors who want to tap into the excitement.”

The project appears to be taking its cue from the successful “hetero-friendly” Axel Hotels brand. (Chic and upscale, Axel operates some visually stunning properties in Barcelona, Berlin and Buenos Aires. THE OUT looks to draw on the 7 million gay tourists that visit New York annually, a new wave of “DINKS” (double-income, no kids) they say haven’t let the down economy get in the way of their spending, and become the United States’ first property on an Axel scale. (Check out their investor video at: www.theoutnyc.com.)

Riding in on the heels of legal same-sex marriage in the Empire State, timing for the project — a $30 million complex including a nightclub, wellness center, retail shops and a 105-room hotel that’s slated to open in early 2012 — couldn’t be better. “This is an idea whose time has come,” says Ian Reisner, managing partner, Parkview Developers. “THE OUT NYC will become a ‘can’t-miss’ for gay tourists…. We look forward not only to hosting countless gay couples, but marrying them as well.”

Birds of a Feather

The gay community is largely comprised of thoughtful, well-informed consumers. Their spending patterns can be motivated, in part, by things like charity and workplace sensitivity; companies that pay attention are often rewarded. Kimpton Hotels, for example, was the first hotel group to score 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index (they’re oft-touted as the gay-friendliest chain around). Gorman recognized this from the get-go, building a charitable component into the Lords concept. “Ten percent of proceeds from certain rooms go to support local and national LGBT organizations.”

Rick, 38, says he and husband Cleve, 52 — the pair married in British Columbia in 2006 — travel and spend with community in mind. He likens the sentiment to cheering for your country at the Olympics. “I’m of Portuguese descent and if I see a Portuguese establishment, I’ll eat or shop there. Gay people like to support other gay people — hence, ‘gay pride!’”

Matt, a 39-year-old attorney, says he’d only book an all-gay resort for a leisure trip. “But on business, I’d still probably stay at a gay-friendly hotel if all other employer-imposed requirements were met.” Why? “I want my money going to companies who support my community, I want to be appreciated, not viewed as an anomaly, and gay-friendly resorts are more likely to have information on local places of interest.”

Climate Control

Gay travelers are often adventurous. They want to discover diamond-in-the-rough destinations, too. “I prefer small towns and road tripping,” says Todd, a 27-year-old publishing professional who is presently single. “I don’t want a ‘scene.’ I’d rather hike or find a waterfall to swim under.” But, he admits, “I can be leery of just blazing into some beautiful mountain town for fear of an anti-gay climate.”



He does due diligence, researching beforehand. “Most of the time I just go, anyway. But I tend to tone myself down, travel with less obviously gay friends, try to blend. It’s sad, but it’s reality. I love the idea of stumbling on a new town or trail or diner, but there have been times when I’ve pulled in somewhere, looked around and thought, I might not be welcome here — so I just kept going.”

Todd has enjoyed stays at gay resorts in his home state of California, “but it would really be nice if orientation was a non-issue,” he says. “I know ‘it gets better.’ But it’s not better enough yet…. In a lot of the ‘small-town America’ places I’d most like to visit, gay people don’t seem to be welcomed let alone gay marriage!”

But in the places where it does exist, same-sex marriage opens an entirely new market. “Google gay weddings or honeymoons for any state in which marriage is legal — you can even check Gay City News for a special section — and the options are vast,” says Chesnut. “This only gives hotels more reasons to create special packages to bring in more revenue — it’s a boon to tourism and the hotel industry.”

Gorman, down in South Beach, agrees, though he doesn’t see gay marriage passing in Florida anytime soon. “Now, if Miami were its own state…?” he jokes. “But yes — all venues would see increased revenue. Gay people enjoy celebrating!”

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Airline passengers get new protections

By A. Pawlowski, CNN - Flying may get just a little less frustrating and a bit more transparent starting Tuesday, when new federal airline passenger protection rules go into effect.

"It's huge," said Kate Hanni, founder of FlyersRights.org, who has fought for the changes for years.

"If you're flying on (Tuesday), you're 400% better off than you were before."

The Association of Passenger Rights also applauded the rules, calling them long overdue.

"If you talk to most air travelers ... traveling on the airlines is about as popular as the U.S. Congress right now," said Brandon Macsata, a spokesman for the group.

Here is what you need to know about the Department of Transportation's new protections:

Bumping compensation gets a boost

Passengers involuntarily bumped from oversold flights are now eligible for more money.

Under the new rule, bumped passengers can get up to $650 if the airline can get them to their destination within a short period of time (within one to two hours of their originally scheduled arrival time for domestic flights), or up to $1,300 if they are delayed for a long time.

Before Tuesday, the amounts were capped at $400 and $800 respectively.

Inflation adjustments will be made to the compensation limits every two years.

Always take cash rather than flight vouchers, Hanni advised.

"Vouchers come with a lot of caveats. Anytime the airline offers you a voucher, it's to their benefit, not yours," Hanni said.

"If they give you a $1,300 voucher, it's worth about a quarter of that to the airline as opposed to having to give you cash."

International flights get tarmac delay limit

International flights stuck on U.S. airport tarmacs more than four hours must now allow passengers to get off the plane or face huge fines, with exceptions allowed for safety, security or air traffic control-related reasons.

Macsata called it a step forward, but said he would have preferred for this protection to be consistent with the three-hour rule that already exists for domestic flights.

The domestic provision has significantly reduced the number of lengthy tarmac delays since it was implemented last year. Fourteen flights were stuck on the tarmac for three hours or more in June, compared to 268 flights in June 2009, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

But Hanni said the extra hour allowed for international flights is still an improvement.

"Four hours is a heck of a lot better than 12 and we've had a lot of complaints from people who sat for 12 hours on international flights prior to takeoff or after landing," Hanni said. "So we're making headway, that's a huge deal."

International airlines operating to and from the United States must now post contingency plans for lengthy delays, customer service plans and contracts of carriage on their websites.

Bag fee refunds

If you pay extra to check a piece of luggage and the airline loses your bag, it must now refund the bag fee. (Airlines already must compensate passengers for lost or damaged baggage.)

"That's just common sense," Macsata said.

Hanni also wanted the airlines to be required to refund the fee if your bag is delayed, but wasn't successful in having that provision included.

Where refunds are due, airlines must now provide prompt refunds of fares and optional fees.

More to come

This isn't the end of new rules for fliers.

The federal government postponed a handful of other consumer protections that were scheduled to go info effect Tuesday after airlines and travel agents said they needed more time to implement the changes.

Those rules, now set to begin on January 24, 2012, will require airlines to prominently disclose all potential fees on their websites and will ban carriers from raising prices after a ticket purchase.

Friday, August 5, 2011

TSA Workers to Undergo Sensitivity Training

By Andrew Harmon via the Advocate

Transportation Security Administration managers at Los Angeles International Airport will undergo required sensitivity training as part of settlement terms in a lawsuit filed by a transgender former employee.

Ashley Yang was fired in July 2010 from her job as a security checkpoint screener at LAX after she was observed using the women’s restroom, according to her termination letter obtained by the Associated Press. Managers had forced Yang, 29, to present as male at work; as a result, she was routinely harassed by male passengers.

Yang sued for sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The settlement, finalized last month, includes a five-figure award for pain and suffering as well as five months of back pay.

“Ashley lives her life as a woman. Her co-workers recognized her as a woman. Passengers recognized her as a woman. But her employer didn’t,” Transgender Law Center legal director Kristina Wertz told the AP. “She was asked to hide who she was just in order to earn a living.”

Read the AP story here.

The full news release, via Transgender Law Center:

Case Brought By Transgender Law Center Illustrates Need for Strengthened Non-Discrimination Policies And Transgender Sensitivity Trainings Throughout Country

In July 2010, Ashley Yang was fired from her job as an officer for the Transportation Security Administration for being a woman. Her termination followed two years of harassment, discrimination, and managers forcing her to pretend to be a man to keep her job. On the anniversary of her termination, Ms. Yang and the Transgender Law Center completed a settlement against the TSA, representing a major step forward for the treatment of transgender people in the workplace.

The Transgender Law Center is now calling for the TSA to update their policies and practices to ensure that TSA workers throughout the United States are treated with dignity.

“No one should have to choose between their gender and their job,” said Masen Davis, Executive Director of the Transgender Law Center. “Every employee has a right to expect the opportunity to work hard, to provide for themselves and their families, and to do this in a workplace free of harassment and discrimination. Ashley was fired simply for being who she is. In this economy where jobs are scarce, this isn’t only unfair and unkind, it is cruel.”

A month after hiring Ashley Yang, TSA managers informed her that she would be required to start working as a male and that failure to do so could result in disciplinary actions. They required this of Ms. Yang, despite the fact that she informed TSA that she is a transgender woman and after they hired her as a woman.
To keep her job Ms. Yang bought a short “male wig” to hide her long hair, complied with TSA’s male dress code, and pretended to be a man at work. Despite her efforts, passengers continued to recognize her as a woman and subjected to her to sexual harassment. Ms. Yang was fired almost two years after being hired and just five days before the end of the standard TSA probationary period.

The Transgender Law Center (TLC) took on Ms. Yang’s case. The TLC argued that the TSA had engaged in discrimination based on sex under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The TSA found the legal arguments persuasive enough to agree to a settlement with TLC and Ms. Yang. The settlement agreement included a financial payment to Ms. Yang and transgender sensitivity training for TSA managers at the Los Angeles International Airport.

“TSA will be a better agency by taking steps to make sure this never happens again,” said Kristina Wertz, Legal Director of the Transgender Law Center. “Unfortunately, what happened to Ashley is not an uncommon experience for transgender employees. We are advocating for the TSA to expand their employee trainings across the country and to change their policies in regard to transgender employees.”

“Working for the TSA was my way of contributing to society,” says Yang. “I valued talking with passengers and was inspired by helping to protect people and making sure they are safe.”

As Ms. Yang worked at the checkpoint pretending to be male, she was subject to lewd comments from male passengers who recognized her as a woman. For example, one passenger said “a little lower there, darling” while she patted him down. Other comments include “I reaaaally enjoyed that pat-down,” “pat down much lower on my back,” and “I haven’t gotten this much attention from a girl in a while.”

Ms. Yang was fired from her job on July 1, 2010, just five days before the end of her trial period. She was not fired for job performance. She was fired by TSA for being who she is and not being able to pass as a man. She was fired despite only missing two days of work in two years, enduring harassment, and attempting to comply with degrading requests by the TSA to adopt a more “male look.”

The Transgender Law Center is at the heart of a movement of transgender people, our families and our allies who recognize that our struggles for equality and authentic self-expression are all connected and related. TLC fights tenaciously for the physical, emotional and financial wellbeing of transgender and gender non-conforming people through trailblazing projects that transcend traditional lines of service and advocacy. By working for and with transgender people and our allies to change laws, policies and attitudes, the Transgender Law Center makes it possible for all of us to be who we are and live safe and fulfilling lives. www.transgenderlawcenter.org.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Gay Travel in Austrailia

by Andrew Copestake, Demand Media

With the annual Sydney Mardi Gras as its crowning glory, Australia is a prized destination for gay travelers, but its attractions extend beyond one festival. Adelaide, Brisbane and Melbourne are home to diverse gay populations and barely a month goes by without a gay event somewhere in the country, whether it's watching movies at Melbourne's Queer Film Festival or unwinding at Mardi Gras Recovery Week in Noosa. For those seeking a less hectic pace, rural areas, especially in Tasmania and along the Queensland coast, offer dozens of gay-owned hotels.

Gay Hubs

Sydney is one of the world's most gay-friendly destinations with a host of bars and restaurants in Darlinghurst and Paddington, while North Bondi beach entices sun-worshipers by day. Melbourne's reputation for culture attracts gay travelers who congregate around the restaurants and galleries of Commercial Road. Coastal Queensland is the preferred choice for a beach vacation; although nightlife is scant, a handful of gay beaches provide respite, while Cairns boasts the largest concentration of gay-exclusive resorts in Australia.

Accommodation

Before making a reservation, check whether hotels are members of Gay and Lesbian Tourism Australia, a nonprofit organization that provides assistance to hotels looking to welcome gay guests. Some travelers prefer to stay in gay-owned accommodations. Turtle Cove, 45 miles north of Cairns, provides easy access to the Great Barrier Reef and has 30 rooms, all with private balconies that overlook the beach or tropical gardens. In Tasmania, Corinda's Cottages features three cottages equipped with kitchen and laundry facilities. Set in a fairytale garden, where a flock of Fantail doves serenade guests from an ornate dovecote, the rooms are crammed with antiques, providing a temporary distraction from the island's dense rainforests, wild coastline and mountain peaks.

Festivals

Australia's gay festivals can help determine the best time to visit. For film fans Melbourne hosts Australia's oldest queer film festival every March, screening films from across the globe. Adelaide's Feast Festival is Australia's second largest gay festival, featuring two weeks of sports and cultural events, as well as a picnic in Pinky Flat park. Sydney Mardi Gras, one of the most flamboyant street parades in the world, also holds two weeks of cultural events from the end of February. When Mardi Gras ends, hundreds of revelers retreat to Noosa for Recovery Week, a seven-day program of cocktail evenings, boat cruises and pool parties.

Gay Press

Many of Australia's cities have gay magazines that provide up-to-date club listings and are available for free in gay venues. "SX" is Sydney's weekly publication, distributed in the cafes of Oxford Street and at The Bookshop, a gay bookstore in Darlinghurst. "Q Magazine" is Melbourne's monthly free magazine, "Queensland Pride" covers Brisbane, Cairns and the coastal resorts each month, while bi-monthly "Fuse" lists details of Canberra's scene.

Is Nepal a Gay-Wedding Destination?

By Deepak Adhikari / Kathmandu via Time.com

Organizing a wedding at a Hindu temple is nothing unusual in Nepal. Most Nepalis, the majority of whom are Hindu, opt for a traditional ceremony in one of the country's thousands of places of worship, believing that it sanctifies a couple's bond.

But on a sunny day on June 20, a temple nestled in the hills not far from the capital Kathmandu hosted a new kind of wedding. When Courtney Mitchell, 41, put the vermilion powder — the symbol of marriage for Hindu women — on the forehead of her girlfriend, Sarah Welton, 48, the American couple became the first lesbians to tie the knot in a public Hindu marriage ceremony in Nepal.

They exchanged garlands as a young Hindu priest chanted mantras and local artisans played the five traditional musical instruments of the rite. Mitchell, who teaches psychology at the University of Denver, was dressed in the colorful traditional Nepalese attire of the groom, a long double-breasted shirt worn with loose trousers and a wedge-shaped, embroidered cap. Welton, a lawyer, was resplendent in red sari and blouse, adorned with Nepali jewelry.

The ceremony marked the beginning of a potentially lucrative niche market in Nepal, aimed at tapping into the $670 million global gay-tourism industry. Last year, Nepal's openly gay lawmaker Sunil Babu Pant launched Pink Mountain, the nation's first travel agency to cater exclusively to gay tourists. Selling Nepal as a wedding destination for gay couples, many of whom live in countries where same-sex marriage is illegal, has been widely embraced by the entrepreneurs of the tourism sector, a once thriving industry that was dealt a severe blow during the decade-long Maoist insurgency that claimed the lives of 16,000 people.

The end of the insurgency heralded a new era for the gay and lesbian community in this conservative Himalayan nation. With the country opening up to new ideas and myriad minorities gaining acceptance under the banner of inclusiveness, Nepal made large strides forward on gay-rights issues. In December 2007, the Supreme Court ordered the government to ensure the rights of gays and lesbians, decriminalizing homosexuality. At the forefront of this battle has been Pant, who, through his rights group Blue Diamond Society, has been instrumental in the fight for the rights of sexual minorities since 2001.

Today, Pant's newer venture offers gay-themed tours of Nepal's major tourist sites, and a Hindu-inspired wedding with a weeklong travel package that costs $11,000. He says he's been overwhelmed with inquiries since the American couple's wedding received wide coverage in the international press. Both couples and singles from Canada, China, and Germany, among other places, have booked tours and inquired about weddings in the past month alone, and he expects more clients to come calling once the monsoon ends and the holiday season begins. "The local people are gradually opening up," Pant says. "Many businesses have issued special rates for our clients."

Tourism in Nepal, the famed home of Mount Everest and birthplace of the Buddha, has been gradually picking up since the civil war ended in 2006. Tourism currently accounts for around 7% of Nepal's GDP. The government has declared 2011 "Nepal Tourism Year," aiming to double the number of visitors to the Himalayan nation. In 2010, more than 500,000 tourists crossed the border — the highest number since the fighting ended.

Even the country's traditionally conservative bureaucracy is upbeat about the prospect of attracting gay tourists and their dollars, yuan and rupees. Sharad Pradhan, a spokesman with the state-run Nepal Tourism Board, says Pant's campaign has the government's tacit approval. "Nepal is much more liberal than other countries," Pradhan says. "All the tourist sites are open for everyone, including gays and lesbians."

Indeed, a recently concluded nationwide census included the "third gender," individuals who identify themselves as neither man or woman regardless of their gender at birth, as an alternative category. The country has issued citizenship for individuals who identify as third gender since 2008, and the new constitution is expected to define marriage as a union between two adult individuals, regardless of how they identify themselves.

But the constitution drafting, one of the key tasks promised in the peace deal signed four years ago, has been delayed — a major roadblock, says Pant, for cashing in on this emerging market. "[Gay tourists] want to be fully assured that homosexuality has been decriminalized in the host country," he says. Nepal's laws, still murky in this long transition period, may cause some to hesitate. "The progress has been slow. All they want is a marriage certificate from the government."

And not everyone in Nepal is on board to make this country — a deeply conservative society which prided itself as the world's only Hindu kingdom before becoming secular in 2006 — a gay-vacation destination. Groups that consider homosexuality "unnatural" and against Nepali tradition have openly opposed Pant's campaign. "This is an attack against our culture," says Basudev Krishna Shastri, an astrologer who heads the National Religion Awareness Campaign, which urges its supporters to follow ancient Hindu Vedic lifestyles that define marriage as between a man and a woman. "We need not promote gay tourism in order to attract tourists. We can do so by promoting our unique culture and the mountains." Shastri says his group has mulled a lawsuit against the American couple for marrying in a temple, claiming that they "polluted" the local culture. The group withdrew the case after no lawyers came forward to defend their case.

Despite these challenges, Pant remains optimistic — and is open for business. Pink Mountain's next temple wedding, booked by a couple from Germany, is planned for October. "We have cautiously built a brand for the gay tourists," he says. "If they want to visit a location which is exotic and rich in both tradition and natural beauty with friendly people, then Nepal is the place."