Sunday, May 9, 2010

Gay father denied permission to bring sons home

From Haaretz

A homosexual father of twins who were born to a surrogate mother in India is being denied permission to enter the country with his infant sons. The move stems from a family court's refusal to issue a standard legal order that would pave the way for the children to obtain Israeli citizenship.

For the past two months Dan Goldberg and his twin sons, Itai and Liron, have been staying at a Mumbai hotel, awaiting permission from the Jerusalem Family Court to proceed with a paternity test that would determine whether he is indeed their biological father.

Itay and Liron waiting in India

Itai and Liron Goldberg have been denied permission to enter Israel.

Photo by: Courtesy of the family

Until the test is performed, the babies will not be granted entry into the country, nor will they be eligible to receive health insurance or medical treatments.

In dozens of prior instances, family courts have issued decrees requiring Israeli parents of children born abroad to undergo DNA testing to confirm they are in fact the biological parents - a prerequisite for the childrens' naturalization as Israeli citizens.

In Goldberg's case, the twin boys were delivered by a gestational carrier who had been implanted with an embryo from another woman. Goldberg cannot legally bring the babies into the country without permission from the court to perform a paternity test.

Judge Philip Marcus, unlike his colleagues on other family court benches, rendered a decision this past March in which he stated that he lacked the jurisdiction to issue a court order for Goldberg to take a paternity test. In addition to the Goldberg case, Marcus has also delayed issuing decrees in two other instances involving homosexual couples from Jerusalem expecting the birth of their children via surrogacy.

In explaining his decision, and as appears in the state protocol, Marcus stated: "If it turns out that one of the [purported fathers] sitting here is a pedophile or serial killer, these are things that the state must examine."

An appeal was filed on Goldberg's behalf with the Jerusalem District Court, yet a panel of primarily religiously observant judges agreed with the petitioner's claim that Marcus does have authority to issue an order for a paternity test, but ordered that a legal guardian be appointed to represent the minors, and that the case be referred back to Marcus.

"This is a state of contradictions," Goldberg, a 42-year-old Jerusalem restaurateur, said via telephone in Mumbai. "I'm an Israeli citizen, I served in a combat unit during two intifadas and I still serve in the reserves. I've also volunteered with the police for years. But when I want to realize my right to be a parent, the state kicks me to the curb."

No time to reflect

Each of the three prospective fathers who have been denied the court order for a paternity test requested the assistance of a clinic in India to begin the surrogacy process, over the course of the last year. Each also signed a legally binding agreement with a woman, an Indian citizen, who agreed to carry the child to term after being implanted with an embryo. The egg donor and the child's carrier renounced any claims to the children.

Late last year, each of the three men filed separate appeals with the Jerusalem Family Court to begin the process of confirming their paternity by DNA testing so that the children who were either born or had yet to be delivered would receive Israeli citizenship. After appearing before Marcus this past March, the three men were surprised when the judge ruled that he lacked the authority to issue the order - despite the fact that other family court judges had repeatedly done so in prior surrogacy cases.

Homosexual couples in Israel who wish to conceive a child via surrogacy primarily pursue this option in the United States and India. As the practice has become more widespread, the Interior Ministry issued a set of guidelines that codify the process of naturalization for the newborns so that they would be legally permitted entry into the country. In the case of male homosexual couples, because only one parent can be the biological father, the other is usually required to go through the process of adopting the baby in order to receive recognition as the child's legal guardian.

In his conversation with Haaretz yesterday, Goldberg sounded frustrated. He has so far spent $45,000 to complete the surrogacy process, after looking for ways to have children for four years. After two failed attempts at in vitro fertilization in India, he finally realized his dream.

Goldberg, who is struggling to get by while in India, has not been able to find time to reflect on the experience. "The cost of living here over time is exorbitant," he said. "Since I need to provide my children with a good environment, the hotel is reasonable. But they have no insurance, I can't get them the vaccinations that babies usually receive in Israel, and I can't afford the costs of medical check-ups.

"I've burned through my savings and I have asked foreigners to help me financially," he continued. "Other couples that came to Mumbai after me have already left India with their children - who received citizenship because they received the court order for the paternity test from judges who are not in Jerusalem.

"Let me wage this legal battle with my children in Israel, not India," he said.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

National Pride

Michael Lucas to Debate at Oxford University

Lucas Entertainment President and CEO Michael Lucas will participate in Oxford Union’s upcoming debate on Thursday, June 3rd, held at Oxford University in England. Lucas will be debating in proposition of the motion “This House Believes That The Gay Rights Movement Has Undermined Family Values.”

When asked why Lucas was chosen as a debater, Alexander Lau, organizer of the debate said, “First, we thought that his resolute identification with the Jewish community, in the context of open homosexuality, would lend him strong opinions on the ‘family values’ around which our debate centres. Second, his vociferous advocation of safe sex in the gay community epitomises attempts by the gay rights movement to appear more closely aligned to traditional mores, and to move away from old stereotypes. Michael’s position at the forefront of the gay entertainment industry can but make this message all the more compelling.”

“Oxford University is a world-renowned institution, and a global leader in education and scholarship,” said Lucas. “I am honored that Oxford chose me as a debater on such an interesting and important topic. I will do my best to convey how the LGBT community has expanded and improved upon concepts about what it means to be a family.”

Michael Lucas

In the past, Lucas has lectured on topics ranging from the adult industry, safe sex, and relationships, to politics, the LGBT community, and Israel. Lucas has previously spoken at Yale University (first at a master’s tea, then as a member of a panel discussion on pornography), New York University, Rutgers University, and Stanford University. His appearance at Stanford sparked five highly discussed articles in the school’s press:

Lucas’ article “On Gay Porn” was included in a 2006 volume of the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism.

Oxford Union

The Oxford Union is the world’s most prestigious debating society, with an unparalleled reputation for bringing international guests and speakers to Oxford. Established in 1823, it aims to promote debate and discussion not just in Oxford University, but across the globe. Previous speakers include former U.S. Attorney General and Senator Robert Kennedy, Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour, scientist Albert Einstein, numerous British Prime Ministers, several United States Presidents, and many other important individuals from a range of disciplines.

Elton John Banned from Egypt

From Jpost

Popular British musician Elton John has been banned from performing a private concert in Egypt, DPA reported on Monday.

According to the report, the 63-year-old openly homosexual performer was prohibited from playing in the Arab country because of anti-religious sentiments that he had purportedly expressed.

The news agency quoted Mounir al-Wasimi, the head of Egypt’s Musician Union, as saying that his country could not allow “a homosexual who wants to ban religions, claimed that the prophet Issa (Jesus) was gay and calls for Middle Eastern countries to allow gays to have sexual freedom” to perform there.

John drew controversy earlier this year when he intimated in an interview with the AmericanParade magazine that there was no tolerance for homosexuals in Arab countries. "I don't know what makes people so cruel. Try being a gay woman in the Middle East - you're as good as dead," he told the magazine.

Also in the February interview, the performer stated that Jesus had been a “super-intelligent gay man,” a conclusion he reached after reading about the Christian savior’s compassionate and understanding nature.

Friday, April 30, 2010

MK Katz: Cancel 'gay pride meeting' at Knesset

In letter to Knesset Speaker Rivlin, National Union chairman says 'shocked' to receive invitation to event organized by Meretz MK Horowitz

National Union Chairman Yaakov Katz has asked Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin to cancel a gay pride conference organized by Knesset Member Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), which is scheduled to take place at the Knesset on June 1.

The meeting is expected to be attended by leaders of the homosexual and lesbian community in Israel, Knesset members, ministers and the family members of the victims of a shooting attack at a Tel Aviv GLBT club last August.

In a letter addressed to Rivlin, titled 'Protecting the Knesset's dignity", Katz wrote: "I was shocked and amazed to receive an email invitation from MK Horowitz to attend an event at the Knesset on the subject of 'pride day'.

"Alongside the strange name, which symbolizes the opposite of any normal ethical value a human being should aspire to, all the more so a Jew, the possibility that such a provocative event will be held in the house of Israel's lawmakers should concern every member of the Jewish culture.

"Our holy Torah, the Torah of life, sees the world's existence in its normal and healthy form as a supreme value. Our Torah referred to what this conference is meant to represent as an 'abomination'. Within a nation which is a source of inspiration, our role is to be the pillar of fire lighting the way for the rest of the world's nations, which are watching us and learning from us," Katz noted in his letter.

"We do not seek to impose a way of life on the individual, but it's unthinkable that the individual would impose his desires and way of life on everyone else and especially not on the general public's symbols."

Horowitz: Katz obsessed with gay community

It should be noted that Horowitz held a similar conference about a year ago, and that the Knesset speaker welcomed the initiative and even addressed the participants. Katz said he had not known about the event last year.

"Concepts which used to be holy and pure are wearing out, and there is a sense of confusion among young people influenced by a foreign culture… We must do the right thing and examines ways to encourage family values based on Israel's heritage.

Horowitz said in response, "The letter is disgusting. It should concern not only members of the gay community and their family members, but anyone who cares about Israel's existence as a democratic state. MK Katz and his friends from the extreme Right are leading an inciting campaign and seek to turn Israel into Iran.

"It is now clear that MK Katz, who is obsessed with the gay community, has learned nothing from the attempted murder at the Jerusalem Pride Parade in 2005 and from the murder in 2009. The Knesset must face these words of defamation... and this is what will happen in the conference, which will take place in spite of the narrow-minded people."

Anti-Israel group could cost Toronto Gay Pride parade its funding

From Haaretz

The City of Toronto this month threatened to cut funding for its main gay pride event, following complaints by Canadian and Israeli gay rights activists who documented what they call acrimonious anti-Israel propaganda at the event.

Jewish gay rights activists from Toronto and Tel Aviv lauded the move, but the Toronto Jewish community's main body noted the city is yet to take any concrete action. Others, including prominent Canadian gays and pro-Palestinian campaigners, condemned the move as interference with free speech.

The municipality's general manager of culture, Mike Williams, told the Toronto Star this week that the city has received complaints following the use of the phrase "Israeli apartheid" at Pride Toronto. T-shirt slogans equating Israel to Nazi Germany were also reported, with some complaints coming from Israel.

He added the complaints pertained to the group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid - or QuAIA - which may have violated the city's anti-discrimination policy in previous parades, and may do so again if allowed to participate this summer. This, he said, would have "very serious" repercussions for organizers.

"We have the right to disqualify [parade organizers] from future grants, so we certainly would look at that," he warned. In 2009, the city funded Pride Toronto to the tune of $175,000. Funding for 2010 has already been pledged, but the city may halt it in 2011.

Elle Flanders, the spokesperson for Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, commented that the T-shirts in question were not anti-Israel but rather anti-racist. ?There were no Nazi symbols?there were T-shirts that were worn by anti-racist activists with a NO to fascism sign (crossed out swastika) who marched with us, who have been marching in Pride for years,? said Flanders in an e-mail to Haaretz..

The decision by the city - which is among the world's gay-friendliest - came after repeated complaints by Martin Gladstone, a Toronto lawyer and gay rights activist, who made a film about QuAIA entitled "Reclaiming our Pride." In the film, activists at a Pride Tononto 2009 parade call Israel an "apartheid state" and one of them wears a T-shirt with a crossed-out swastika.

"How does demonizing Israel celebrate gay rights?" Gladstone said, adding: "It creates a hateful and exclusionary environment." Jonathan Danilowitz, a prominent, South Africa-born gay rights activist from Tel Aviv, praised the city's stand, which he defined as "going against hypocrisy."

Flanders, a Jewish filmmaker and artist who is also a PhD candidate in Toronto, rejected these accusations, adding that they were meant to "shut down the debate" and that she will "start a defamation suit against the next person who attempts to call us anti-Semitic."

Born in Montreal, Flanders, 44, said that she grew up in Israel with her parents before returning to Canada after her first year at Hebrew University. "Many of us in the group are Jews, many with long histories of Jewish activism and human rights work," she said.

Gladstone, the pro-Israel film maker, responded by saying that groups like Flanders' "always put the Jews in front to deflect the accusation."

Pro-Israel groups such as StandWithUs have in the past few years been mounting a concentrated effort to advertise Israel as a gay-friendly society in stark contradiction to its neighbors, where homosexuality is illegal and gays are often persecuted.

Flanders said that "when Israel flaunts its record on gay rights achievements, it does not excuse the occupation and/or other human rights abuses and war crimes.

Gay, Jewish, HIV-positive: Scott Fried speaks out

From Haaretz

Brooklyn-born Scott Fried was infected with HIV as a young man more than two decades ago and has devoted the last 18 years of his life to lecturing youngsters, primarily in the United States, about sex and relationship education.

A traditional Jew who attends a gay and lesbian synagogue in Manhattan, Fried had to live with the scourge of coming out as a homosexual and admitting he was HIV-positive at the same time.

The confession was difficult on both fronts, as "parents go into the closet when you come out" and he was forced to hide his HIV status to his extended family for many years.

But Fried has made it his mission to help youngsters, both those who have had to confront contracting HIV as well as those facing various other emotional struggles, who call on Fried's advice on a wide gamut of issues.

Fried, 46, says he prefers to tell the narrative of his life from his Jewish roots, because "when I'm talking to a Jewish audience I don't have to be apologetic when I speak about God."

He is the author of three acclaimed books geared toward teenagers, the latest entitled "A Private Midnight: A Teenager's Scrapbook of Secrets."

He describes the book as a "scrapbook and workbook of secrets for teens," essentially "10 questions I would have asked as a teenager: one is what miracles are we waiting for in order to establish ourselves? I answer it myself - my great uncle and aunt didn't make it to America before the Holocaust, and went through - and survived - Auschwitz."

"I would call it a communal anonymous voice for teens to share their deepest thoughts and feelings," says Fried. "I hope it can help parents and teachers crack the code of what it means to be a teen today."

Fried's own great uncle was on Schindler's list (Fischel Fried - number 624), a historical memory which seems to have served his own optimistic outlook. "When a teenager says 'I hate life', I say 'Look at their miracles'," he says.

When he began speaking to teens at schools, camps, synagogues and churches, Fried found he "related to them and that they opened up around me."

Thousands of teens have subsequently written and emailed him with their innermost thoughts as he "became their trusted adviser and friend."
Fried describes himself not as an AIDS activist, but as a sex and relationship activist - "empowering youngsters to make healthy choices."

"I'm healthy and still traveling all over the place in order to take up the challenge of educating youngsters about sexual health," he points out.

On Judaism

Fried says America's Orthodox community allows him "a place" in religion, as "they have a position that they don't want practicing homosexuals, but they know we exist."

"My culture is Friday night and a cup of Kiddush wine; I'm comfortable speaking under Jewish auspices because it gives me permission to talk about God, which I can't do in a university setting. But I can do so in a Jewish setting, in a non-apologetic way," he says.

Fried knows "a number of Orthodox Jews who have been infected [with HIV]" and says he has also been invited to a few Orthodox institutions - including once by NCSY [National Conference of Synagogue Youth] in Baltimore.

"However, most of the time it's Orthodox teenagers who approach me as part of a wider group such as a Jewish community centre or youth group."

Confronting HIV

Fried experienced a bombshell moment when he learned of his HIV status. "I got sick a few weeks after having unprotected sex in 1987 - an acute onset of symptoms. It was a flu-like thing," he says.

His initial test came back negative. "It takes three months for AIDS antibodies to come through. After six months I went for a test and it was positive: June 1, 1988:12.35, Wednesday afternoon. Sunny.

He pauses:

"I remember those details: 'Positive' ringing through my ears. The word trapped in my brain. I didn't hear a word that was said to me afterwards. I saw the back of my mother's head. My psyche wouldn't reveal a face as I imagined my father's words in my head saying - 'What have you done'."

Fried came out as a homosexual and revealed he was HIV-positive at the same time. "My family were supportive, but clandestine," he says. "Friends were supportive and worried."

At the time an off-Broadway dancer -"I never made it into Rent" - Fried remembers the show's director observing group support sessions and believes accounts used in the aforementioned musical come from what he said in those meetings.

He began his mission with the Alison Gertz Foundation for AIDS Education, before expanding his remit beyond New York.

Fried treated his condition solely through vitamins until three years ago, when he suddenly lost 14 pounds. He now takes three pharmaceutical drugs a day, as well as his course of 30 vitamins.

"I don't find belligerence, much more compassion and tolerance," says Fried on how people react to his condition. "The issue [of HIV] raises concern in the States. It's shocking the way HIV has been relegated as an issue since the mid-1990s; it's not talked about by people in the mainstream institutions, so people want as much info as they can get. As parents don't give advice on SRE to their kids they want it from me."


Fried spends most of his time lecturing in the U.S., a country he describes as having "a pretty miserable track record for teaching teens about comprehensive sexual heath".

He accepts that much of the debate about how to teach "sex education" concerns semantics.

"In America, we like to use the term 'comprehensive health education,' which would include both matters of sexuality and abstinence. I am not fond of the word compulsory as it has an unforgiving ring to it.

"Sex education should be offered, but not shoved down a teenager's throat," he add. "I do, however, believe that it's not solely the job of a school and teacher to deliver the information. It can be disseminated by a rabbi or priest, in a synagogue or church, extra-curricular after-school program, summer camp or volunteer mission."

"In this way, if and when compulsory sex education is removed from the schools due to political reasons, it won't have the same effect upon the teens as if the entire community was involved."

He is by no means a lone crusader, says Fried. "Others do what I do in America and people know about the epidemic. We had San Francisco in 1985 and Rent in 1988 - that was New York and my friends. "

And it's still the reality in 2010. "In the past seven months I?ve met four people who are newly infected, in their late 30s, all people who attended high school in the 80s, at the height of the epidemic."

Scott Fried is the author of three books: "A Private Midnight: A Teenager's Scrapbook of Secrets," "My Invisible Kingdom: Letters from the Secret Lives of Teens" and "If I Grow Up: Talking with Teens about AIDS, Love and Staying Alive."