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Mars Chocolate Sued for Gay Discrimination

A New Jersey woman is suing M&M producer Mars Chocolate, claiming she was terminated after supervisors found out she was a lesbian.

Theresa Kwiecinski, 46, is suing the chocolate maker for wrongful termination, according to the suit filed in the town of Belvidere and quoted by The Express-Times.

The woman, who served as commercial manager for external manufacturing, said colleagues began treating her differently after she introduced them to her partner and daughter at a 2011 work conference in Florida.

After the conference, Kwiecinski said she was handed an “unreasonable” workload; when she complained about it she was told “‘well that's the business now, we all have to work bigger jobs,’” according to the lawsuit.

Her sexuality, coupled with performance issues due to a pregnancy, culminated in her dismissal, the lawsuit states.

“My client is very disturbed for how she was treated at Mars, and we look forward to her day in court,” attorney William Koy Jr. said. Mars has not issued a response on the matter.

Obama Joins Gays in Supreme Court Fight

The Obama administration filed amicus briefs in the Supreme Court cases against the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s same-sex marriage ban.

On Feb. 28, the Justice Department urged the high court to side with two gay couples who started a legal fight to get married four years ago, when Proposition 8 was passed in California, according to NBC News. Proposition 8 took away the right to marry from gays and lesbians in California.

Earlier that week, the Obama administration filed a friends-of-the-court brief in support of a challenge to DOMA, a 1996 federal law that defines marriage as the union between a man and a woman thus depriving gay couples of of rights and privileges granted to heterosexual couples, like filing tax returns together and maintaining estate rights after widowing.

The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments on the Proposition 8 case (named Hollingsworth v. Perry) on March 26. The following day the high court will hear arguments in the case challenging DOMA.

Parents Demand Marriage Equality in China

More than 100 parents with the group PFLAG China (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays of China) recently wrote an open letter to delegates of China’s National People’s Congress, demanding marriage equality for their children, the South China Morning Post reports.

“The fact that they can’t legally marry puts them in a difficult situation when they try to adopt children, sign for their partners' operations, inherit assets from a deceased partner, or even buy a flat,” part of the letter, signed Feb. 25, read. “Is our law trying encourage homosexuals to marry heterosexuals? Won’t this produce bigger social problems?”

The letter also argues that the current Chinese laws likely “encourage homosexuals to marry heterosexuals” and they ask: “Won’t this produce bigger social problems?”

According to a 2012 report published in China Daily, as many as 16 million Chinese women are married to closeted gay man.

Homosexuality is legal in China. But the country currently bans gay marriage and any type of civil union between people of the same sex.

Miami Beach Selected to Host 2017 World OutGames

Miami Beach has been selected to host the 2017 World OutGames, an international sporting event that could bring thousands of athletes and tourists to South Florida.

Daniel Vaudrin, president of the Gay and Lesbian International Sports Association, made the announcement on Feb. 28. This will mark the first time that the World Outgames has been held in the U.S.

“We are extremely honored that GLISA chose Miami Beach-Miami for the 2017 World Outgames.  This is a major leap forward for our community,” Bruce Townsend, co-chair of the Miami Beach-Miami Sports and Cultural League, the volunteer coalition that entered the bid on behalf of Miami, said in a statement.

“This experience has been unbelievable for our team and we are grateful to represent Miami Beach and Miami for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  We are ecstatic about being able to showcase Miami Beach and Miami on this world stage.”

While Miami Beach will be the headlining city, events will be held throughout Miami-Dade. Lummus Park, Flamingo Park, Tamiami Park, the University of Miami, the Ransom Everglades School Aquatic Center and Miami Beach Convention Center were all presented as venues in the bid.

There is no need to be athlete to participate in the games. Competitors are “arranged according to the skill level of the athletes.”

Miami Beach and Miami will be hosting the games around Memorial Day Weekend 2017. The event takes place every four years in different cities throughout the world. The first World Outgames was held in 2006 in Montreal and attracted more than 12,000 participants.

The 2013 games will take place in Belgium from July 31 through Aug. 11.

The city of Reykjavík, in Iceland, was a finalist along with Miami Beach in the bid to host the games for 2017.

Over 75 Republicans Sign Legal Brief Supporting Gay Marriage in DOMA Court Case

A battalion of influential Republicans are throwing their support behind gay marriage in an amicus brief to the Supreme Court with sights on next month’s gay rights court discussions.

At least 75 conservative politicians signed the document, which argues that gay marriage is a constitutional right. While friend-of-the-court briefs are not deciding factors in court cases, legal analysts said the brief has the potential to sway conservative justices based on the prominent names of the Republicans who have signed it, the New York Times writes.

Republicans who signed the brief include former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, former Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio), former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, Reps. Richard Hanna (N.Y.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.).

“Like a lot of the country, my views have evolved on this from the first day I set foot in Congress. I think it’s just the right thing, and I think it’s on solid legal footing, too,” Pryce told the Times.

This March, the Supreme Court will take on one challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, a law that defines marriage as the union between a man and a woman, and Proposition 8, a California law that banned gay marriage in the state in 2008.

The effort against gay marriage is primarily being carried out by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who has green-lighted $3 million to spend on lawyers defending in DOMA.

Passed in 2008, Proposition 8 took away the right to marry from gays and lesbians in California. The law was challenged by two gay couples, who got a historic decision on On Feb. 7, 2012, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found Proposition 8 unconstitutional. The proponents of the anti-gay law then took that decision to the Supreme Court.

DOMA is a 1996 law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, thus depriving gay couples of the rights and privileges granted to heterosexual couples, like filing tax returns together and maintaining estate rights after widowing.

The Supreme Court is set to start oral argument on these cases on March 26 and March 27.

Apple, Facebook, and Dozens of Companies to File Brief Against Prop 8

At least 60 companies, including Apple, Facebook, and Morgan Stanley are set to file an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 28 arguing against California’s gay marriage ban.

According to a draft copy obtained by Fortune, the corporations say in the friend-of-the-court brief that laws like Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California,  “send an unmistakable signal that same-sex couples are in some way inferior to opposite-sex couples, a proposition that is anathema to amici's commitment to equality and fair treatment to all,” as quoted by Bloomberg.

Passed in 2008, Proposition 8 took away the right to marry from gays and lesbians in California. The law was challenged by two gay couples, who got a historic decision on Feb. 7, 2012, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found Proposition 8 unconstitutional. The proponents of the anti-gay law then took that decision to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments on the case (named Hollingsworth v. Perry) on March 26. The following day the high court will hear arguments in a case challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

In their brief, the companies also argue that besides believing gay marriage is a constitutional right, they think it makes sense from a business standpoint.

“By singling out a group for less favorable treatment, Proposition 8 impedes businesses from achieving the market's ideal of efficient operations -- particularly in recruiting, hiring, and retaining talented people who are in the best position to operate at their highest capacity. Amici are competing domestically and internationally with companies inside and outside the United States in places where all couples, regardless of whether they are of the same sex, are afforded equal access to marriage,” part of the brief reads.

Florida Student Sues School After Being Suspended for Wearing Anti-Bullying T-Shirt

A Florida student is suing her high school in Arcadia after she was suspended for wearing a t-shirt with an anti-gay bullying message.

Amber Hatcher, an openly lesbian 16-year-old, filed a lawsuit on Feb. 26 against the DeSoto County High School arguing the school interfered with her First Amendment rights when they suspended her last year.

In the lawsuit, Hatcher said she was wearing a t-shirt with the message “DOS April 20, 2012: Shhhhh” and communicated with peers and teachers by dry erase board.

DOS is the abbreviation for “Day of Silence,” a national day of observance that takes place every year since 1996 to to protest the bullying and harassment of LGBT teens. The event was started by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network and takes place every April.

After repeated warnings from school administrators and a rotund disapproval from DeSoto County School Superintendent Adrian Cline, Hatcher decided to wear the t-shirt and proceed with her plan to protest last year. She was suspended from school later that day.

“DeSoto County Schools is practicing the very kind of harassment and discrimination the Day of Silence is designed to address in schools,” Eliza Byard, GLSEN's executive director, said in a statement.

“By participating in the Day of Silence, students across the country are directing attention to the reality that LGBT youth experience a disproportionate amount of bullying and harassment in schools. We stand by Amber's right to express her belief that she and the rest of her peers deserve a safer learning experience regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.”

For its part, the school has not issued a response on the case.

Poll: Most Oppose Renaming San Francisco Airport After Gay Icon Harvey Milk

Despite San Francisco being one of the most gay-friendly cities in the country, a majority of residents oppose a proposal to rename the city’s airport in honor of gay rights advocate Harvey Milk, according to a recent poll.

The study, done by David Binder Research and commissioned by the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce this February, found that about two-thirds of the 500 registered voters polled do not support the idea.

What’s interesting is that even within the LGBT community the support for the name change was rather lukewarm. Only 45 percent of respondents who identified as LGBT were in favor of the idea. In San Francisco’s District 8, where Milk became the first openly gay public official in the U.S., the support was at 50 percent.

“[We find the poll] to be reflective of voter turnout, not necessarily the entire demographic of the city,” Jim Lazarus,  Chamber of Commerce senior vice president, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Huffington Post writes that the poll is skewed because it focuses on “likely voters,” a sample of the population who are older and more conservative than the city as a whole.

The proposal was introduced in Supervisor David Campos.  Supervisor Scott Weiner said that renaming the airport after the gay icon would cement the San Francisco’s reputation as the mecca for the gay community.

“[Milk] is the most important figure in the history of the LGBT community, and he played such a critical role in modern San Francisco politics,” Weiner told Chronicle in January.

“San Francisco has always been at the forefront of the fight for LGBT equality, and so people come here from around the country and around the world because of that, and for 40 million people a year to land at Harvey Milk International Airport sends an incredible message to the world.”

Milk's nephew, Stuart Milk, had started an online petition to change the name of the airport in memory of his uncle; the petition has garnered over 20,000 signatures as of publication. He also spearheaded a rally on the steps of City Hall that drew about 100 supporters.

Study: It Gets Better, Gay Bullying Decreases Over Time

Gay blogger and activist Dan Savage was right when he decided to share on YouTube his story of growing up gay: it does get better.

A new study published in the medical journal Pediatrics has found that gay bullying decreases as teens get older.

British researchers Joseph Robinson and Dorothy Espelage and Ian Rivers followed the progress of over 4,000 English teens every year, from 2004 to 2010.

Results showed that at least 87 percent of gay, lesbian and bisexual teens between the ages of 13 to 14 were bullied. But when the teens where interviewed again at ages 19 and 20 only 6 percent of lesbian and bisexual girls and 9 percent of gay and bisexual boys reported being bullied.

“Our research provides strong evidence that it gets better, and yet, there is still room for improvement,” Robinson told Windy City Times.

Robinson also clarified that while the study took place in England, similar results would be expected in the U.S.

“It's highly probable that we would see similar patterns in the U.S. Our hypothesis about the different trends among males and females was based on prior research [mainly conducted in the US],” he said.

He said the study also found a direct link between gay bullying and higher risks of suicide.

“We find that bullying during high school is related to emotional distress during young adulthood, which suggests we should focus on reducing bullying early on because these experiences during high school can have lasting consequences,” he said.

Even though Savage started the It Gets Better Project in 2010, the researchers believe it already has had a positive impact on the lives of bullied kids, helping to change perceptions and gain acceptance for gay teens.

“Since 2010 the 'It Gets Better' project has started, same-sex marriage has become legal in several additional states, and the gay rights movement has picked up additional momentum. So I would expect to see more of an effect of the gay-rights movement on anti-gay bullying after 2010,” Robinson said.

Transgender Candidate to Run for Office in Pakistan

Two years after transgender people were given the right to vote in Pakistan, the first trans candidate will make a run for office in the Muslim country.

Sanam Fakir, a 32-year-old activist, will run the gain a seat in the Sindh provincial assembly, Agence France-Presse reports.

“It is not our destiny to merely dance for others and hold begging bowls. We have a life to live,” Fakir, who runs a charity, told AFP by telephone from the town of Sukkur.

Transgender individuals in Pakistan fall under the broader term “eunuch” which is used to refer to hermaphrodites, transsexuals, transvestites and homosexuals in addition to castrated men.

In 2011, eunuchs became eligible to seek office after a Supreme Court decision, which also allowed them to register to vote.

The AFP writes that eunuchs are usually hired to dance at parties, and “are treated as sex objects and often become the victims of assault, ending up as beggars and prostitutes.”

While Fakir’s chances to win may be slim due to Pakistan’s patronage-based political system, she believes some people will want to support someone who does not belong to the rich class.

“We are not corrupt. We have no need to be corrupt. We have no families and our own needs are limited. We are contented people,” Fakir said.

The elections are due by mid-May.

Go-Go Dancer at Phoenix Gay Bar Subdues Man Wielding Ax

An unnamed go-go dancer prevented what could have been a tragedy at a gay bar in Phoenix, Arizona, when an irate man wielding an ax entered the venue.

“I really thought my life was in danger, I'm pretty sure everybody else did too,” Adrian Carlos Maldonado, manager at Oz bar, told Fox Phoenix.

According to police, 40-year-old Lawrence Aguirre was at the bar on Feb. 17 when he got into an argument with his girlfriend. Sensing Aguirre might be drunk, Maldonado escorted him out.

Minutes later, the man went to his car, grabbed an ax, hit the bar’s door with it and stormed in, threatening to kill Maldonado and putting in danger the lives of about 30 patrons.

It was at this moment that a go-go dancer at the establishment  grabbed Aguirre from behind and then Maldonado hit him in the head with a pool cue.

“Once that happened, I threw the pool stick to the side, I had somebody else grab the ax and we just held him on the ground,” Maldonado said.

Police charged Aguirre with two counts of aggravated assault and one count of criminal damage.

Jersey Shore’s JWoww Poses Topless for NOH8 Campaign

Jersey Shore’s Jenni “JWoww” Farley is taking a stand for equality—breasts first.

The reality star is the latest celebrity to pose for the NOH8 campaign, a photographic protest against Proposition 8.

Passed in 2008, Proposition 8 took away the right to marry from gays and lesbians in California. The law was challenged by two gay couples, who got a historic decision on Feb. 7, 2012, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found Proposition 8 unconstitutional. The proponents of the anti-gay law then took that decision to the Supreme Court.

JWoww took the photo shoot up a notch, not only wearing the silver NOH8 duct tape across her mouth, but also sporting it across her bare breasts.

“It was a great experience,” she told MTV. “The story blew up because of human kindness. Don’t hate on your fellow man. It’s very inspirational.”

She added that she decided to contact the campaign and get involved to support her best friend, who is gay.

“My best friend, Joey, is gay and he was with his boyfriend, Eric, for seven years,” the 27-year-old said.

“He wanted to get married so bad for like the last four years. Three months before the law was passed, he went to a courthouse for the common law, and I don’t want to say they disrespected him, but they just treated him like another number ... I think everyone, gay, straight, should be able to have that and cherish that and have all the pictures, the family, everything. It’s really important to me.”