Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette is a CNN contributor and a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. Follow him on Twitter: @rubennavarrette.
By Ruben Navarette, CNN Contributor
(CNN) - You wouldn't think that gay rights would be on a collision course with immigration reform. After all, what does one of these things have to do with another?
Not all that much. Yet, the fact is, these two worthwhile causes are about to collide, running right into one another at high speed. All for the sake of politics.
Here's why: The Gang of Eight's bipartisan immigration reform compromise bill - "The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Modernization Act of 2013"– combines border security and temporary guest workers with a pathway to green cards and U.S. citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States.
You've probably heard about how there are many on the right who want to kill the bill to please anti-Latino nativists. The weapon of choice seems to be the amendment process; more than 300 changes were proposed.FULL STORY
Editor’s Note: Cyd Zeigler is co-founder of SB Nation's Outsports.com. He has reported on LGBT sports issues for over a decade and told the coming-out stories of many athletes including Wade Davis, John Amaechi and Alan Gendreau.
By Cyd Zeigler, Special to CNN
(CNN) - When Jason Collins announced that he is gay, it made headlines. But when the WNBA’s No. 1 draft pick, Brittney Griner, made the same announcement recently, it was met with less fanfare.
Part of that is the result of a stereotype that has persisted that women who play basketball are lesbians, while most men who play basketball are straight.
When a professional male athlete for one of the major sports comes out, it is breaking news, and start planning ticker-tape parades, despite men like David Kopay and John Amaechi already proving beyond a doubt that gay men are pro-athletes.
When a female athlete comes out of the closet, it is often met with a big, collective yawn. Griner coming out drew facetious comments like, “Shocker, there’s a lesbian playing basketball.” In fact, the lack of reaction in the news ended up being bigger news than her actual announcement.
It would be easy to blame the double standard in coverage only on stereotypes, but here are legitimate reasons Collins is getting the attention Griner’s announcement never saw.
Collins is the first active player in his league to come out, and he is the first active player in any of the major men’s sports –from hockey to tennis, basketball to golf – to come out publicly.
This is new ground. FULL POST
Editor’s Note: David M. Hall, Ph.D., is the author of the book “Allies at Work: Creating a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Inclusive Work Environment.” Hall teaches high school students and runs a graduate program in bullying prevention and diversity at bullyingpreventionstudies.com. He is on twitter @drdavidmhall.
By David M. Hall, Special to CNN
(CNN) - Times are changing for being openly gay or lesbian. The president has endorsed same-sex marriage, as are a growing number of politicians. The Boy Scouts are considering allowing Scouts to be out.
Even in the world of sports, Jason Collins, an NBA veteran, has come out of the closet.
But things don’t seem to have changed that much in some high school gymnasiums as it has on the NBA basketball court.
Carla Hale worked as a physical education teacher at a Catholic school in Ohio, but lost her job after being “outed” in her mother’s obituary, when she listed her female partner as her spouse. According to reports, an anonymous letter was sent to the Catholic Diocese of Columbus by a parent.
The next week, Hale was fired.
Sporting events and schools are the very places where people from every corner of our society come together. But in some ways, schools bring a different set of complications than the macho world of professional male athletes.
What is the difference between being out on the court or on the field, and being out in a classroom? FULL POST
By Joe Sterling, CNN
(CNN) - It's the biggest move of his career and it's off the court.
Jason Collins, who played with the NBA's Washington Wizards this season, has disclosed that he is gay, making him the first active openly homosexual athlete in the four major American pro team sports. The center, who is now a free agent, made the disclosure in a column appearing in the upcoming issue of Sports Illustrated.
"Jason Collins has forever changed the face of sports," said the Human Rights Campaign, a civil rights group fighting for gay rights.
It likened the announcement to Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to play in major league baseball in the modern era.FULL STORY
By Katia Hetter, CNN
(CNN) - The Boy Scouts of America would no longer deny membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation, but would maintain its ban on openly gay adult leaders under a proposal it is considering, the group said Friday.
The organization's executive committee made the proposal, which is expected to be presented to the Boy Scouts' voting members in May. If the policy is approved, it would take effect starting January 1.
"If approved, the resolution would mean that 'no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.' The BSA will maintain the current membership policy for all adults," Boy Scouts public relations director Deron Smith said.
The Boys Scouts have been considering a change in the longstanding policy against allowing openly gay members. In February, the Boy Scouts' national executive board postponed a vote on lifting its outright ban on openly gay Scouts and troop leaders and ordered a survey of its members on the issue.FULL STORY
By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) – At 7, Analouisa Valencia was crowned Palmetto Princess in Spartanburg, South Carolina. She relished it - and like a lot of little girls, she dreamed of becoming Miss America one day.
In a few months, Valencia, now 19, will take the stage for the Miss South Carolina contest, hoping for victory and a chance to compete for the coveted national title.
But she's no ordinary contestant. She will mark a first in her conservative home state.
Valencia's father is from Mexico; her mother, an African-American. Valencia came out as a lesbian when she was in the ninth grade and took her girlfriend Tamyra Bell to her high school prom.
She was already shredding stereotypes of beauty pageants because she's biracial. But a lesbian beauty pageant contestant from South Carolina?
"I just really wanted to be an advocate for equality for everyone this year," she says on the phone before heading off to classes at Spartanburg Community College. She eventually wants to earn a business degree at the University of South Carolina.
Her participation in the Miss South Carolina contest is in part a human rights campaign: she is promoting rights for people with special needs (she coaches Special Olympics gymnasts), for racial minorities, for gay people.
She has already thought about her answers if the judges question her on this score. She will be perfectly open and honest about who she is, about their opinions.
"I want to show the judges who I really am," she says. "I want to show them how passionate I am about my platform, how passionate I am for being an advocate for equality."
South Carolina ranks low nationally on LGBT rights. It bans same-sex marriage, does not afford employment, housing or hate-crime protections for LGBT people and has unconstitutional sodomy laws still on the books.
For Valencia to make a run for Miss South Carolina is "courageous," says Ryan Wilson, the executive director of the South Carolina Equality Coalition, a statewide LGBT civil rights group.
"I think it takes a lot of courage for any young person to live openly and authentically. We are extremely proud of Analouisa," Wilson says.
He says beauty pageant contestants can be stereotyped, but they can often afford young women a chance to show leadership.
"She can be a role model for LGBT youth," Wilson says.
There hasn't been negative feedback, Valencia says. So far.
But she's prepared to cope with ugliness if it surfaces. For the time being, she's enjoying her title of Miss Lyman, her hometown just a few miles from Spartanburg.
She's been taking voice lessons every Friday. At the Miss South Carolina pageant in July, she will sing Leona Lewis' "Footprints in the Sand." She's confident she will make an impression.
By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) – Two days of arguments on gay marriage at the Supreme Court ended Wednesday. The justices heard both sides in two separate cases: California's voter-approved Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage, and the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage on a federal level as being only between a man and a woman.
It could be months before the court makes a ruling. CNN spoke with a few people who were inside the nation's highest court Wednesday or were monitoring the hearings closely from the outside. Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Jeffrey Toobin, CNN legal analyst: "I think DOMA is in trouble, and I think it's in trouble because Anthony Kennedy was repeatedly concerned that the Defense of Marriage Act violates states rights. Anthony Kennedy, who as we all know is the swing vote on this court, is someone who is concerned about gay rights, although he said very little, I think nothing, about the issue of whether the Defense of Marriage Act violated gay people's constitutional rights. He was clearly very concerned that the Defense of Marriage Act was invading the province of the states to define marriage. That's a state function, usually. And that would certainly be suggesting that he was going to strike down the law. Certainly the other liberals, the four Democratic appointees, looked like they were going to vote it down."
Edith "Edie" Windsor, plaintiff who challenged DOMA: "I am today an out lesbian, OK, who just sued the United States of America, which is kind of overwhelming for me. I think it's gonna be good."
Jonathan Turley, law professor, George Washington University: "You're seeing sort of a sticker shock with the justices, that they were worried about handing down a major ruling either recognizing same-sex marriage or the right of equality, or rejecting it."
Chad Hollowe, supporter of same-sex marriage: "It's pretty clear that some justices like (Antonin) Scalia are going to vote against it no matter what. Scalia was engaged in a long back and forth about how exactly did this become unconstitutional all of a sudden. Was this unconstitutional when the constitution was created - when the 14th amendment was passed? Was it unconstitutional 10 days ago - when did this happen? His line of questioning made it pretty clear he was dead set against it, which shouldn't be surprising, given Scalia's history."
Eric Delk, who attended court arguments Wednesday: "Well, I think that the conservative justices feel that Prop 8 is valid, but I think some of the more liberal justices know it needs to be altered. Because the people decided something different from what the courts decided and opinions have changed since the Prop 8 vote. And I think in California, if they had a vote now, they would probably allow same-sex marriage."
Mary Ann Piet, social worker: "I'm here today because I'm a social worker, and I've seen a lot of people suffer over the years. And I'm concerned about not getting people their human rights, their dignity as people. And this will give dignity and human rights to people. I have members of my family that are gay, and I see them suffer internally."
Also on this blog: A time line of gay rights in America
The first rounds of arguments are over. The nine justices on the Supreme Court today heard about an hour and 20 minutes of debate around Proposition 8 – the measure that banned same-sex marriage in California.
And on Wednesday, the issue of the Defense of Marriage Act that defines marriage as between one man and one woman will be up before the highest court.
So what do you think? Who has the right to say I do? And what do our laws say about who we are? Add your thoughts at CNN's iReport.
By John D. Sutter, CNN
Editor's note: John D. Sutter is a human rights and social change columnist for CNN Opinion. E-mail him at CTL@CNN.com or follow him on Twitter (@jdsutter), Facebook or Google+. This column contains language that may offend some readers.
Franklin County, Mississippi (CNN) - Statistically speaking, Franklin County should be straighter than John Wayne eating Chick-fil-A. The middle-of-nowhere rectangle in southwest Mississippi - known for its pine forests, hog hunting and an infamous hate crime - is home to exactly zero same-sex couples, according to an analysis of census data.
In other words: It's a place where gays don't exist.
At least not on paper.
Before I visited Franklin County, I figured there must be gay people living in Straight County USA. But I didn't expect anyone to be open about it - and with good reason. As part of this op-ed project, I recently ranked the Hospitality State as one of the least hospitable for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, based on its lack of legal protections. In addition to allowing gays and lesbians to be fired because of who they are, Mississippi is also gracious enough to let landlords evict gay residents.
Those are great incentives for a gay person to become invisible. And being invisible, of course, could mean avoiding census workers.
I drove to this place of rolling hills and misty valleys with a few questions on my mind: Can there really be such a thing as an all-straight county? If so, what is it like to be someone who never has met a gay person? Do you just watch "Glee" and figure it out?
If there are gay people in Franklin County, what keeps them hidden?
I spent a few days searching for answers before I realized I was making the wrong assumptions: It's not that gay people here (or anywhere really) want to be in the closet, necessarily. It's the rest of the world that pushes them in and shuts the door.FULL STORY
By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) – Everyone knows it's location, location, location when it comes to real estate. Perhaps no one knows this better than activist Aaron Jackson.
He didn't even care what the house looked like. He looked up properties on Google Earth and saw a for sale sign across the street from the Westboro Baptist Church, the controversial group in Topeka, Kansas, that's most notorious for its angry anti-gay protests at military funerals.
The house Jackson initially wanted was sold by the time he got around to buying, but luckily for him, there was another one, on the corner of 12th and SW Orleans streets that was perfect. He paid about $83,000 – a bargain, he'd say, for what he was trying to accomplish. This week, he and others from his nonprofit Planting Peace painted the house in rainbow colors that represent gay pride. FULL POST