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Blake McIver – 'Little Rascals' Star Releases Beautiful Marriage Equality Ballad

“Little Rascals” and “Full House” star Blake McIver finds lasting love and expresses his support for marriage equality in the video for his latest tune, “This Is Who We Are.”

“When I was a small boy, I never thought there’d be/That perfect, happy ending for anyone like me,” McIver sings in the mid-tempo, country-tinged ballad as he cozies up to a handsome co-star. “Now I want them all to see, the strength of you and me.”

The song is reminiscent of his talent show duet with Darla. (OK, maybe not, but we can dream.)

 

 

In keeping with the song’s message, the clip concludes with the two men tying the knot amidst a sunny Californian landscape and surrounded by friends and family.

McIver, who is openly gay, wrote in a Facebook post that he was inspired by his relationship with his grandfather when he wrote the song.

“He passed away before I had the opportunity to come out to him,” he wrote. “I’m not saying it would’ve been a particularly easy conversation, but his unconditional love of me was never a question in my mind. …As we celebrate the massive victory of the Supreme Court ruling, let us not forget our brothers and sisters who are still facing daily discrimination for being exactly who they are.”

A regular fixture on Bravo’s “The People’s Couch,” McIver made headlines in 2013 when he revealed his new toned, sexy look on Instagram. He’s focused heavily on music since then, releasing a steamy music video for “Wish I Didn’t Need You” before suiting up for a version of the Christmas classic, “O Holy Night.”

Legislation enacting Irish gay marriage vote delayed

DUBLIN (Reuters) – Legislation allowing same-sex couples to marry in Ireland will be delayed until later this year following a legal challenge against last month’s gay marriage referendum, a government minister was quoted as saying on Tuesday.

The government had planned to enact the required laws before parliament goes into recess at the end of July.

However two men who unsuccessfully sought to challenge the result in the High Court will have their case heard by Ireland’s Court of Appeal on July 30, local media reported. According to one of the them, the outcome had been unfairly influenced by government parties that had not been impartial in campaigning for a ‘Yes’ vote.

“If the courts are going to hear a case, we can’t proceed with legislation until that case is decided,” Health Minister Leo Varadkar was quotes as saying in the Irish Times newspaper.

“It is disappointing but we have to respect the division of powers and separation of powers that exists between the courts and the government.”

Results of referendums in Ireland are often challenged in the courts, causing delays in the formality of passing the relevant legislation but not threatening the result.

Same-sex marriage was backed by 62 percent of voters in one of the largest turnouts ever in a referendum in Ireland, marking a dramatic shift in a traditionally Catholic country that only decriminalised homosexuality two decades ago.

“We are most concerned that these appeals are frustrating the overwhelming will of the people as expressed in the referendum,” Kieran Rose, chairman of Ireland’s Gay and Lesbian Equality Network, said in a statement.

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

‘Does Your Boyfriend Know You Are Here?': The Fight Against Casual Homophobia In English Soccer

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Eight years in the Upton Park stands, and Jim Dolan had never heard anything like this.

A fan behind them spent most of the match showering players, the referee, the linesmen — anyone and everyone on the pitch, really — with homophobic abuse. Not merely slurs. “Vicious, horrible abuse.”

Dolan had listened before to his gay friends who said they stayed away from soccer matches because of that sort of behavior. But he never heard anything that made him reconsider his place at the match himself.

“For the first time, I felt helpless,” he recounted. If he challenged the screamer, “would everyone around me support me? Or would they join in with this guy?”

He fired off a few tweets. Across England, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender fans of other clubs had organized supporters groups. Would any West Ham fans want to do the same?

I met Dolan at Upton Park on a chilly, windy Saturday afternoon at the end of February, a season after he sat through one fan’s abuse wishing he could do something.

By now, he has. The positive response to his initial tweets, with the help of an outside network that supports gay soccer fans, turned into a fledgling supporters’ group of gay and lesbian West Ham fans. On this day, before West Ham took the pitch to face Crystal Palace, the fans who call themselves Pride of Irons would become the latest LGBT group to earn the official support of the club they love. Pride of Irons swelled to more than 40 members by the time they met with club officials in December, and now West Ham welcomed the members onto the pitch, where club chairman David Gold joined them briefly to chat and take pictures.

The concept of organized fan groups is instrumental to English soccer — clubs like West Ham list dozens of supporters associations on their web sites. Gay and lesbian fans have surely been a part of them in the past. But after decades of watching the progress that has taken England to the world’s forefront of LGBT equality fail to expand its reach into the country’s most popular sport, LGBT fans have spent the last two years coming out.

Groups like Pride of Irons have sprouted at clubs across the country, taking a central role in the fight against anti-gay discrimination in soccer and blasting a simple message: We are fans too.

Members of Pride Of Irons meet with West Ham chairman David Gold (center) at the group's February launch event.

Members of Pride Of Irons meet with West Ham chairman David Gold (center) at the group’s February launch event.

CREDIT: TRAVIS WALDRON

“Does he take it up the arse?”

“Does your boyfriend know you’re here?”

“We can see you holding hands!”

Most of the chants that ring through the terraces of English stadiums and provide the cadence of a soccer match are innocent enough. They hail local heroesbecome club anthems, or aim banter at rivals. It isn’t uncommon to hear obscenities in them, but they usually don’t rise to level of targeted discriminatory abuse.

Every now and then, though, they turn homophobic.

Fans of all types are eager to point out that the caricature of the English soccer hooligan that showed up in movies of the past does not accurately portray a typical fan today, thanks to concerted efforts from the British government, law enforcement, and the Football Association, the sport’s governing body in England, that long ago rooted out most violence. And fans both gay and straight say too that instances of outright homophobia are also rare, or at least far less common than they once were. It is relatively easy now to attend a match without hearing blatant discriminatory abuse leveled at other fans, officials, players, or coaches.

But even when homophobia isn’t orchestrated and obvious, even at the places where clubs have taken strong stances and discrimination rarely occurs, there are fears that gay fans cannot be open about who they are.

“If you’re going to The Emirates with your boyfriend or girlfriend of the same sex, would you hold hands?” 

asked Dave Raval, a media coordinator for the Gay Gooners, a group of LGBT supporters of Arsenal F.C. “Many people wouldn’t. Homophobia exists on many different levels. That’s why we’re taking a stand.”

If you’re going to The Emirates with your boyfriend or girlfriend of the same sex, would you hold hands?

The most glaring example of reticence to come out is Robbie Rogers, the American who was playing in England when he announced he is gay and promptly retired in 2013. Rogers thought it “impossible” to come out while playing, citing the potential for abuse from both other players and fans in his decision to quit (months later, hereturned to Major League Soccer, the American league). Rogers’ concerns were not restricted to English soccer, but fans there say the sort of abuse he feared has kept more gay fans from coming to soccer matches.

The Football Association now has taken a special interest in combating discrimination of all forms — namely, racism, homophobia, sexism, and the abuse of disabled people — throughout the sport, from the professional level to the grassroots, where the use of homophobic language is an even bigger problem, according to officials. The FA has a five-year action plan aimed at increasing diversity within the sport and at encouraging more reporting of discrimination. And in recent years it has expanded its efforts beyond the fines and suspensions it has issued players, managers, and other club and FA employees who exhibit discriminatory behavior.

The FA now uses education programs to show its members what discrimination looks like and how they can prevent it. It is currently developing online anti-discrimination training for its 327,000 coaches and referees and conducts field training and education sessions too. At every level of the sport, any player, coach, referee, or club official found to violate its policies must go through one-on-one education sessions.

“Fining people and suspending people is one thing,” said Chris Gibbons, an FA Inclusion Education Adviser, who came to the organization after working for Stonewall, the UK’s largest LGBT charity. “But what we want to do is change attitudes and behavior, and get people thinking differently about what they do, what they say, and how they treat people.”

Though racism and sexism may remain the most visible forms of discrimination in English soccer, homophobia is one of the FA’s key targets, and Gibbons has “been really impressed at the response we get from participants, whether at the grassroots or the pro level.” The organization has worked alongside clubs in the Premier League and the leagues below it to help them improve their own efforts (one example: it held a two-day training session in December for pro and grassroots clubs to educate them on how to promote LGBT inclusion in the sport). The FA has also updated its transgender policy to handle players who transition on a case-by-case basis rather than relying on a one-size-fits-all model.

But the Football Association, as governing bodies go, isn’t all that powerful — at the professional level, the clubs are strongest — and there is one major area of the game it lacks the jurisdiction to reach: the fans.

Policing fan behavior is largely left to clubs and other fans, who can report abuse through an app developed by Kick It Out, an FA-partnered anti-discrimination organization. Many of the clubs have taken action, but groups like Pride of Irons are filling the gaps, adopting the organized nature of soccer supporters’ groups to confront abuse simply by making themselves more visible. The hope is that this will push soccer to a more inclusive place.

Members of the Gay Gooners march at the London pride festival.

Members of the Gay Gooners march at the London pride festival.

CREDIT: COURTESY OF THE GAY GOONERS

Before there was Pride of Irons or any of the other LGBT fan groups that have formed since, there were the Gay Gooners.

With more than 250 members, the Gay Gooners, whose name borrows a popular moniker for Arsenal fans, is the largest LGBT fan group in England. They earned Arsenal’s official sanction in the spring of 2013, when the club brought them onto the pitch before a match and unfurled a rainbow banner to hang from the stadium terrace. They have a direct working relationship with the club.

I was supposed to meet members of the Gay Gooners at The Rocket, a pub near Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, before a match in early March. By the time I walked in — after showing the bouncer a just-bought Arsenal hat and a match ticket to prove I wasn’t an opposing fan searching for trouble — the place was packed. We never found each other.

I went back after the match in the off-chance I’d find them then, but instead, a fan who noticed my American accent asked why I was there and invited me to watch the League Cup final — Chelsea and Tottenham were tied nil-nil early on — with his friends.

“He’s a journo,” my new-found friend announced as we approached the table, “doing a story about gay footballers.”

Most at the table smiled and demurred. Jack Gilhooly did not.

“If he’s a good football player, I wouldn’t care,” Gilhooly, a 25-year-old Liverpool supporter from Kent, said. “If he’s shit, I’d say he’s shit. What do I care.”

And fans?

“It doesn’t bother me if anyone’s gay,” he said. “If they’re good at football, or a fan, or they support a team — support your team. It doesn’t matter what they do. That’s their private business. You’re just a football fan.”

Another, an Arsenal fan who only called himself Sunny, chimed in.

“I don’t care if they’re gay. The only thing they could be ashamed of is if they played for Tottenham,” he yelled, referencing Arsenal’s hated North London rival.

The Gay Gooners banner hangs inside Arsenal's Emirates Stadium.

The Gay Gooners banner hangs inside Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium. CREDIT: TRAVIS WALDRON

 

An impromptu discussion broke out between four fans — Sunny the Arsenal supporter, Gilhooly the Liverpool fan, a Chelsea supporter and a now-off-duty security guard, a Tottenham fan. They agreed that only “small-minded people” would care if a footballer or fan was gay. “There’s loads of gay players” already, Gilhooly reasoned.

The issue of gay fan groups, though, caused more contention and mystery, and hung on a simple question: if no one but the small-minded care, why do gay fans need to segregate themselves from the rest?

“We don’t self-segregate,” Raval, the Gay Gooners’ media coordinator, responded when we met later that week. “We self-identify.”

“Everybody asks, ‘When is a player going to come out?’” he continued. “But there are far more fans. When are the fans going to come out?”

Ask members of these groups why they exist and a common thread emerges.

For years, organized supporters’ groups have given fans of the same club a social outlet around the sport: people to go to the match with, people to drink with before the match, people to gather with inside and outside the grounds. At The Rocket, an Arsenal supporters’ group from Germany sat in one corner; at the Emirates, the terraces are lined with banners from supporters’ groups (like Arsenal America) from around the world.

Our message is, you’re welcome here. Football is ours as much as it is anyone else’s.

Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender fans have surely long been a part of this culture too. But only recently have they organized together, to let other LGBT fans know that they are there, that football can be their game too.

“Our message is, any LGBT fan, you’re welcome here,” said Chris Paouros, a co-founder of Proud Lilywhites, the group for LGBT supporters of Tottenham Hotspur. “Football is ours as much as it is anyone else’s.”

“For me, it’s about awareness,” Dolan, of Pride of Irons, said. “It’s about, I’m a fan, you’re a fan, let’s be a family. It’s not your club, it’s not my club. It’s everybody’s. We want anyone who wants to come support football to know they’re not the only one.”

Providing that social outlet is the area, perhaps, where the fan groups have accomplished the most already.

Meet with six members of the Proud Lilywhites and they will, on first glance, appear to have little in common. The two dozen Pride of Irons members at their launch match were old and young, black and white, man and woman. But these groups provide their members a link that they’ve never had with other football fans.

“I came to the stadium one night for a match, and I just happened to look up and see the banner,” Jaime Wildman, a Gay Gooners member, told me. “I thought, ‘Way cool. I have to get in touch with them.’ Now I’m hooked.”

Chris Painter takes the train to London for Tottenham matches. Before he met members of Proud Lilywhites, he made the trip a couple times a season. This early-March match against Swansea City, he said after a quick calculation, brought him closer to a dozen this year.

“I’ve come much more often over the last two or three years because of this group,” he said. He doesn’t sit with other members in the stands — he has his own tickets — but they routinely meet for dinner or drinks before a match, as our group has at a diner down the street from White Hart Lane on this night. “I come more because I’ve got people I can socialize with. People like me.”

Members of the Gay Gooners and Proud Lilywhites together after a promotional match between the two groups.

Members of the Gay Gooners and Proud Lilywhites together after a promotional match between the two groups. CREDIT: COURTESY OF THE PROUD LILYWHITES

 

That sense of welcoming has shown early signs of progress for inclusion in the game. Between the launch of the Gay Gooners and Pride of Irons, similar groups sprouted across English soccer — at Everton, the Rainbow Toffees; at Manchester City, the Canal St. Blues; at Norwich City, the Proud Canaries, to name but a few — and today, LGBT fans are more visible in soccer than they have ever been before. Recent weeks brought the launch of new groups at Charlton Athletic and Leicester City, the club that completed a mad-dash escape from relegation to remain in the Premier League this season.

The groups themselves are a sign of growth from the earliest efforts to organize gay fans, as they have launched in large part with the help of the Gay Football Supporters Network, a social and advocacy organization that links more than 900 LGBT fans across the United Kingdom. GFSN, which formed in 1989 and long predates the rise of individual club fan groups, launched its Fangroup Coordination effort in 2014 to help form groups at different clubs. GFSN FC is often instrumental in helping connect burgeoning groups like Pride of Irons with the clubs those fans support.

Visibility alone isn’t the end goal of many of the fan groups. The biggest have also taken on an active and public role promoting equality inside and outside the sport. The two groups that support opposite clubs in London’s biggest soccer rivalry have worked together to do just that: in February, before Arsenal and Tottenham met on the field, the Gay Gooners and Proud Lilywhites played a five-a-side match and competed in a pub trivia contest as an effort to raise awareness of LGBT fans. The Gay Gooners have marched together in pride parades; Proud Lilywhites members are active in community education initiatives focused on LGBT inclusion.

Classic fan associations are not just social networks. They also provide the type of organization that gives supporters a voice within their club and the sport. At Cardiff City, for instance, fans have protested owner Vincent Tan’s efforts to change the club’s colors from blue to red. Liverpool supporters, in an increasingly common display across England, have challenged rising ticket prices outside their stadium. Newcastle United supporters, distraught with a second-half performance that nearly left the Magpies facing relegation, called on the team’s owner to sell the club and carried banners into the stands in its final matches, declaring, “We don’t demand a club that wins, we demand a club that tries!”

The LGBT groups have given gay and lesbian fans a similar voice, though many of them haven’t needed to be so adversarial. Many English clubs, working in concert with fan groups and outside organizations like Football v. Homophobia and the FA-supported Kick It Out, have undertaken efforts to promote LGBT equality and inclusion on the pitch and off.

Arsenal and Tottenham are again illustrative.

Arsenal has for years had an LGBT member on a fan committee that meets with the club multiple times a season, and in the past two years, its efforts to promote LGBT equality as part of its Arsenal For Everyone initiative have expanded and become even more prominent. Arsenal welcomed the Gay Gooners onto the pitch to unfurl a new banner this season during LGBT history month. Manager Arsene Wenger has spoken out in support of openly gay players, and last year, some of Arsenal’s most prominent players were featured in a pro-equality video that gained international attention.

At Tottenham, the club’s board meets with the Proud Lilywhites, which unlike the other groups is an official supporters’ association and thus an official part of the club, at least twice a year, and the club also held an event on the pitch to promote their launch (a Proud Lilywhites banner is also visible inside Tottenham’s White Hart Lane stadium). Both clubs have featured the groups’ messages in their match day programs. The Lilywhites just completed their first full season, and the expectation is that it will continue to grow and the partnership will only evolve.

“When we look back on our first full season and what we wanted to do, I think we’ll say we did a hell of a lot,” said Simon Gray, the organization’s communications director. Now, he added, the Lilywhites want to “increase membership, increase engagement, increase our presence. It’s where do we go next. You’re always pushing.”

Leviathen Hendricks, GFSN FC’s coordinator, pointed to Norwich City, Newcastle, and numerous teams at the non-league level, as examples of clubs that have also embraced inclusion proactively.

Clubs like Tottenham and Arsenal, where anti-discrimination activists say there is a “culture of inclusion,” might have taken up many of these efforts on their own. But there and elsewhere, the existence and visibility of the fan groups has no doubt amplified the message and made it easier to do more. And at times, the Gay Gooners and Proud Lilywhites have pushed the clubs and their fans farther and seen tangible results.

In 2013, when Arsenal traveled south to Brighton & Hove Albion for a cup match, its supporters collectively showered their opponents with homophobic abuse — a common occurrence at Brighton, the city known as Britain’s “gay capital.” Before Arsenal returned for another FA Cup match this year, the Gay Gooners coordinated with the club to put a stop to homophobic banter before it began. The week before the Brighton match, Arsenal published a message in its match program warning fans that it did not tolerate such abuse. Then it emailed every fan with an away ticket to reiterate the message. The Gay Gooners and the club worked with local police and Brighton stewards to urge them to take homophobia seriously.

“On the actual day, there were three or four incidents of one or two people chanting, but the stewards, with police behind them, immediately stomped it out,” Raval said. “So in two years, we went from 3,000 fans chanting to three or four. That’s massive.”

The Lilywhites have experienced a similar effect.

“If we stand back and don’t say anything” when abuse occurs at Spurs matches, said Gray, “more people now will come to our defense. That’s a powerful thing.”

Members of Pride Of Irons at a celebration event after they launched in March.

Members of Pride Of Irons at a celebration event after they launched in March. CREDIT: TRAVIS WALDRON

 

There is progress yet to make.

Younger fans like those I met at The Rocket may have no problem with gay fans or players, but Dolan, of Pride of Irons, observed that the chants that are common in Brighton have spread to other grounds too, perhaps in part because LGBT fans have made themselves more visible.

“This ultimately rides on the straight fan, to prove they’re larger than the vocal minority,” Dolan told me.

And there is, of course, still the question of when a player in top-flight English men’s soccer will come out publicly. Pinning all of the blame on fans is unfair, just as it was in the United States, where largely supportive crowds have greeted openly gay players in different sports (Arsenal Ladies and England international Casey Stoney came out as the first openly gay player in the English women’s league last year. In an email, she called it “one of the best decisions I’ve ever made” and said that the “overwhelming majority” of fans “have been very supportive”).

The Football Association seems committed to smoothing the path for an openly gay player. It is “working hard to create an environment where if they do decide to be open about their sexual orientation, they know they will have our full support, the support of their clubs, fans, and teammates,” Gibbons, the FA Inclusion Adviser, said of players who might consider coming out.

But given the instances of homophobic abuse that have come from fans in the past, the supporters’ groups remain a crucial part of the effort, which includes the FA’s work and the expansion of a network of gay soccer teams and players across the UK. If one of the goals is to make it easier for a gay player to come out, the overarching idea is to normalize the concept that LGBT people exist in all parts and at every level of soccer.

“We want to be there all the time, so there’s that continuous drip, drip, drip about gay football and gay football fans,” Raval said. “So people just get used to it, and it’s normal.”

Hundreds turn out in support of gay marriage in Northern Ireland just days after the Republic's historic referendum

Belfast Live –  LISA SMYTH

 

The rally outside Belfast City Hall is just the latest event calling for equal rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Northern Ireland

Up to 400 people have taken part in a rally calling for same sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

It comes after last week’s overwhelming yes vote to allow gay people to get married in the Republic of Ireland and just days before Belfast City Council debates the subject.

Speakers at the event outside Belfast City Hall included People Before Profit Alliance councillor Gerry Carroll, Green Party councillor Ross Brown, Malachi O’Hara from the Rainbow Project and the outspoken Rev Chris Hudson from All Souls Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church on Elmwood Avenue in south Belfast.

He hit out angrily at the position of churches across Ireland in relation to same sex marriage.

“They advised the Irish people to vote no as it went against their teachings and the Irish people said, ‘If you don’t mind reverend gentlemen and reverend ladies, we won’t take your advice on this one”, and they went out and showed absolute solidarity with the LGBT community by voting yes.

“This is not an issue between people of faith and the LBGT community and don’t let any fundamentalist Christians tell you that’s true.”

The event was organised by 17-year-old Padraigin Mervyn.

She explained: “I decided to organise this event because I had seen that our Irish brothers and sisters had won their referendum.

PAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty ImagesA couple watch the count at a count centre in Dublin

“I knew that there was hype up North so I discussed with my political party, People Before Profit, and decided while momentum was high I would get an event page set up on Facebook.

“The aim of this event is to begin a wave of protests in attempt to challenge our government, and raise awareness that the LGBT community will no longer sit back and be oppressed.

“No longer do we want to be regarded as second class citizens, it’s time for the people of Northern Ireland to fight back.”

Meanwhile, Amnesty International, the Rainbow Project and Irish Congress of Trade Unions are organising a march calling for same sex marriage to be implemented in Northern Ireland at Writer’s Square in Belfast at 2.30 pm on June 13.

MLA Daithí McKay in gay rights appeal

 

Ballymena Times – 07:20Wednesday 27 May 2015

Daithi McKay. (Editorial Image).

Daithi McKay. (Editorial Image).

MLA Daithí McKay has welcomed the Republic’s marriage referendum result and called for the same rights for gay people to be extended North.

More than 62% voted for same-sex marriage – almost 38% were against it in last week’s referendum.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK which does not allow gay marriage after England, Wales and Scotland legalised same sex marriage last year.

Sinn Fein Assemblyman, Mr McKay, who was one of the sponsors of a recent debate in the Assembly on the issue, said: “This result was truly seismic and represents the lifting of discrimination against the gay community in the rest of the island of Ireland.

“The North now sticks out like a sore thumb as the only part of these islands, indeed, the only part of far Western Europe that does not permit marriage equality. That does not present a welcoming image to gay people at home or abroad.

“I do not see the sense in not giving gay couples the freedom to marry in Ballymena or Ballycastle in their own communities and with their own families when they have the right to do so in Dundalk and Donegal.

“Sinn Féin will continue to work towards equality for members of the LGBT community. I am delighted with the result of the referendum.

“I will be even more delighted when I see the same rights being extended to gay men and women here in North Antrim and the North as a whole,” said the Sinn Fein Assemblyman.

Election 2015: Fight Hate. Take Action.

Fight Hate. Take ActionVote for LGBT equality. With your vote, you have the power to strengthen LGBT equality and continue to move it forward. All it takes is two minutes to complete the online registration form, to find out more information visit aboutmyvote.co.uk

Make sure you are registered before 20th April to be able to vote in the general election on 7th May.

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Produced, Directed, Edited: Jeremy Carne & Nikolas Kasinos
Director of Photography: Emily-Jane Robinson
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