Roundup: Gay Marriage in DC Brings Cupcakes and Clowns

Rachel Larris

Gay marriage is happening in a lot of new places this week, which always attracts a party. Meanwhile in Afghanistan some mullahs are promoting birth control and distributing condoms.

Gay marriage is happening in a lot of new places this week. For example, our nation’s capitol. After the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday refused to step in and block the implementation of DC’s law allowing for gay marriage, couples were free to line up in front of the D.C. Superior Court to get their marriage certificates.

According to the Washington Post some couples started lining up as early as 6 a.m.:

About 45 couples with their coffee, newspapers and blackberries – many dressed in blazers and slacks as they planned to go to work after filing an application – were waiting in line when the court’s marriage bureau opened its doors at 8:30 a.m. Employees allowed 10 couples to enter at a time, and had extra personnel on hand to accept the applications.

Every time a new state or municipality opens the doors to gay marriage it’s a celebration. And what’s a celebration without cake? In DC’s version the first 200 couples get cupcakes passed out by the DC city councilmember who authored the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009, David Catania.

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Of course sometimes celebrations also have clowns, and for that we have perennial hate activist, the God-hates-fags man himself, Fred Phelps, also coming to DC. Washington City Paper blogger Amanda Hess has some pretty good suggestions for those who want to counter-protest Fred Phelps.

Tomorrow, Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church will be protesting the first day of same-sex marriage in the District. Why? Well, because “God hates fags! God hates fag-enablers! Ergo, God hates District of Columbia, all of DOOMED america, and the World! You’ve turned the country over to the fags; now your soldiers/fire fighters/cops/kids/parents/etc. are coming home in body bags! Judges 19-21. Praise God! Amen.”

One District resident has dared to defy this logic. Bridget Todd is organizing a Phelps counter-protest from 11-12 p.m. tomorrow outside of D.C. Superior Court. Todd also intends to challenge the creative signage of the most flamboyant hate group around (”Bitch Burger”?).

Hess has some wonderful examples of signs one can hold next to a Phelps. Because “God hates ___” has so many absurd possibilities which only makes counter-protesting the more fun!

But least you think DC is where all the gay marriage action is, another capitol city, Mexico City, is also getting into the spirit. The Washington Post reports:

The Mexican wedding may never be the same.

On Thursday, this sprawling megalopolis will catapult to the front lines of gay rights in Latin America when a city law legalizing same-sex marriage and adoption goes into effect.

This liberalization of gay marriage laws is occurring all over Central and South America.

With the news, same-sex couples across the region began to demand equal access to the altar.

“Homosexual Marriage is Approved in Mexico. And in Chile, When?” read a headline in Chilean news Web site El Paradiario 14.

On Feb. 23, Buenos Aires judge Elena Liberatori told a gay couple to set a wedding date, despite policies that are “not in line with the times.” In late December, two men whose wedding plans were derailed by a Buenos Aires court married in Tierra del Fuego — home to a tolerant governor — becoming the first gay couple in Latin America to legally wed.

Mexico City legalized same-sex civil unions in 2007; they also are recognized in Colombia, Uruguay, Brazil, Ecuador and Argentina, but advocates for gay rights say only marriage can protect the rights of families in such matters as property and custody.

Meanwhile even England, which legalized civil unions in 2004, is opening up a little more by voting to lift the ban on holding civil union ceremonies in churches. The BBC reports:

The House of Lords agreed an amendment to the Equality Bill which would allow, but not compel, religious organizations to host the occasions.

Gay rights campaigners celebrated the change, but opponents said it could be impractical and undermine marriage.

Peers voted by a majority of 74 in favor of the amendment, which was not backed by the government.

It is yet to be approved by the Commons, but it is thought to be unlikely that MPs would make any significant changes.

In Other News: The Associated Press is reporting that in Afghanistan some mullahs are promoting birth control and distributing condoms.

Some mullahs in Afghanistan are distributing condoms. Others are quoting the Quran to encourage longer breaks between births. Health experts say contraception is starting to catch on in a country with the world’s second highest maternal death rate.

Afghanistan’s maternal death rate of 1,800 per 100,000 live births is topped only by Sierra Leone worldwide, according to UNICEF. The U.S. rate is 11 per 100,000 births.

Quotes were used from the Quran to promote breast-feeding for two years, while local religious leaders, or mullahs, joined community and health leaders to explain the importance of spacing out births to give moms and babies the best chance at good health.

In total, 37 mullahs endorsed using contraceptives as a way to increase the time between births, some delivering the message during Friday prayers. The mullahs’ major concerns centered on safety and infertility, the report said.

“All the mullahs at the community level knew of these things that the Prophet Muhammad himself advised his followers,” Huber said. “This was not a hard sell.”

Islam, unlike Catholicism, does not fundamentally oppose birth control. Everything from vasectomies to abortions are supported in various parts of the Muslim world.

March 3, 2010

Death threats for woman who talks online about abortion Chicago Sun-Times

Same-sex couples arrive at DC courthouse to apply for marriage licenses Washington Post

D.C. Catholic Charity Drops Spouse Coverage Over Gay Law Politics Daily

Hoyer: ‘We’ll See’ If Abortion Compromise Possible on Health Care Bill CNSNews.com

Abortion measure calls for viewing of ultrasound Charleston Daily Mail

Church gay ceremonies ban lifted BBC

House holds key to unlocking health care reform bill Las Vegas Sun

With same-sex marriage law, Mexico City becomes battleground in culture wars Washington Post

Clinic fell through cracks Philadelphia Inquirer 

UN warns HIV/Aids leading cause of death in women BBC

Fremont volunteer group criticized for donation to anti-abortion clinic Oakland Tribune

Over 1000 come to hear Pam Tebow speak on abortion issue Macon Telegraph 

Two Kalamazoo County commissioners want abortion insurance coverage removed Kalamazoo Gazette

Plea deal possible in abortion doc’s threat case  Seattle Times

March 2, 2010

Antiabortion activists see a racial conspiracy Los Angeles Times

US to study effect of ending gay ban on military ‘readiness’ AFP

Ugandan anti-homosexuality bill won’t be dropped: Parliament speaker New York Daily News

California Pro-Life Group Takes on Meg Whitman Over Taxpayer-Funded Abortions LifeNews.com

Abortion battle intensifies at Louisville clinic as lines between sides blur WHAS 11.com

Mullahs help promote birth control in Afghanistan Associated Press

Infected babies dying as syphilis rate soars Vancouver Sun

News Politics

Clinton Campaign Announces Tim Kaine as Pick for Vice President

Ally Boguhn

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

The Clinton campaign announced Friday that Sen. Tim Kaine (R-VA) has been selected to join Hillary Clinton’s ticket as her vice presidential candidate.

“I’m thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine, a man who’s devoted his life to fighting for others,” said Clinton in a tweet.

“.@TimKaine is a relentless optimist who believes no problem is unsolvable if you put in the work to solve it,” she added.

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

Kaine signed two letters this week calling for the regulations on banks to be eased, according to a Wednesday report published by the Huffington Post, thereby ”setting himself up as a figure willing to do battle with the progressive wing of the party.”

Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the progressive political action committee Democracy for America, told the New York Times that Kaine’s selection “could be disastrous for our efforts to defeat Donald Trump in the fall” given the senator’s apparent support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Just before Clinton’s campaign made the official announcement that Kaine had been selected, the senator praised the TPP during an interview with the Intercept, though he signaled he had ultimately not decided how he would vote on the matter.

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Kaine’s record on reproductive rights has also generated controversy as news began to circulate that he was being considered to join Clinton’s ticket. Though Kaine recently argued in favor of providing Planned Parenthood with access to funding to fight the Zika virus and signed on as a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act—which would prohibit states and the federal government from enacting restrictions on abortion that aren’t applied to comparable medical services—he has also been vocal about his personal opposition to abortion.

In a June interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kaine told host Chuck Todd he was “personally” opposed to abortion. He went on, however, to affirm that he still believed “not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They’re moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions.”

As Rewire has previously reported, though Kaine may have a 100 percent rating for his time in the Senate from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the campaign website for his 2005 run for governor of Virginia promised he would “work in good faith to reduce abortions” by enforcing Virginia’s “restrictions on abortion and passing an enforceable ban on partial birth abortion that protects the life and health of the mother.”

As governor, Kaine did support some existing restrictions on abortion, including Virginia’s parental consent law and a so-called informed consent law. He also signed a 2009 measure that created “Choose Life” license plates in the state, and gave a percentage of the proceeds to a crisis pregnancy network.

Regardless of Clinton’s vice president pick, the “center of gravity in the Democratic Party has shifted in a bold, populist, progressive direction,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in an emailed statement. “It’s now more important than ever that Hillary Clinton run an aggressive campaign on core economic ideas like expanding Social Security, debt-free college, Wall Street reform, and yes, stopping the TPP. It’s the best way to unite the Democratic Party, and stop Republicans from winning over swing voters on bread-and-butter issues.”

Roundups Sexual Health

This Week in Sex: The Sexually Transmitted Infections Edition

Martha Kempner

A new Zika case suggests the virus can be transmitted from an infected woman to a male partner. And, in other news, HPV-related cancers are on the rise, and an experimental chlamydia vaccine shows signs of promise.

This Week in Sex is a weekly summary of news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STIs, and more.

Zika May Have Been Sexually Transmitted From a Woman to Her Male Partner

A new case suggests that males may be infected with the Zika virus through unprotected sex with female partners. Researchers have known for a while that men can infect their partners through penetrative sexual intercourse, but this is the first suspected case of sexual transmission from a woman.

The case involves a New York City woman who is in her early 20s and traveled to a country with high rates of the mosquito-borne virus (her name and the specific country where she traveled have not been released). The woman, who experienced stomach cramps and a headache while waiting for her flight back to New York, reported one act of sexual intercourse without a condom the day she returned from her trip. The following day, her symptoms became worse and included fever, fatigue, a rash, and tingling in her hands and feet. Two days later, she visited her primary-care provider and tests confirmed she had the Zika virus.

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A few days after that (seven days after intercourse), her male partner, also in his 20s, began feeling similar symptoms. He had a rash, a fever, and also conjunctivitis (pink eye). He, too, was diagnosed with Zika. After meeting with him, public health officials in the New York City confirmed that he had not traveled out of the country nor had he been recently bit by a mosquito. This leaves sexual transmission from his partner as the most likely cause of his infection, though further tests are being done.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s recommendations for preventing Zika have been based on the assumption that virus was spread from a male to a receptive partner. Therefore the recommendations had been that pregnant women whose male partners had traveled or lived in a place where Zika virus is spreading use condoms or abstain from sex during the pregnancy. For those couples for whom pregnancy is not an issue, the CDC recommended that men who had traveled to countries with Zika outbreaks and had symptoms of the virus, use condoms or abstain from sex for six months after their trip. It also suggested that men who traveled but don’t have symptoms use condoms for at least eight weeks.

Based on this case—the first to suggest female-to-male transmission—the CDC may extend these recommendations to couples in which a female traveled to a country with an outbreak.

More Signs of Gonorrhea’s Growing Antibiotic Resistance

Last week, the CDC released new data on gonorrhea and warned once again that the bacteria that causes this common sexually transmitted infection (STI) is becoming resistant to the antibiotics used to treat it.

There are about 350,000 cases of gonorrhea reported each year, but it is estimated that 800,000 cases really occur with many going undiagnosed and untreated. Once easily treatable with antibiotics, the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae has steadily gained resistance to whole classes of antibiotics over the decades. By the 1980s, penicillin no longer worked to treat it, and in 2007 the CDC stopped recommending the use of fluoroquinolones. Now, cephalosporins are the only class of drugs that work. The recommended treatment involves a combination of ceftriaxone (an injectable cephalosporin) and azithromycin (an oral antibiotic).

Unfortunately, the data released last week—which comes from analysis of more than 5,000 samples of gonorrhea (called isolates) collected from STI clinics across the country—shows that the bacteria is developing resistance to these drugs as well. In fact, the percentage of gonorrhea isolates with decreased susceptibility to azithromycin increased more than 300 percent between 2013 and 2014 (from 0.6 percent to 2.5 percent).

Though no cases of treatment failure has been reported in the United States, this is a troubling sign of what may be coming. Dr. Gail Bolan, director of CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, said in a press release: “It is unclear how long the combination therapy of azithromycin and ceftriaxone will be effective if the increases in resistance persists. We need to push forward on multiple fronts to ensure we can continue offering successful treatment to those who need it.”

HPV-Related Cancers Up Despite Vaccine 

The CDC also released new data this month showing an increase in HPV-associated cancers between 2008 and 2012 compared with the previous five-year period. HPV or human papillomavirus is an extremely common sexually transmitted infection. In fact, HPV is so common that the CDC believes most sexually active adults will get it at some point in their lives. Many cases of HPV clear spontaneously with no medical intervention, but certain types of the virus cause cancer of the cervix, vulva, penis, anus, mouth, and neck.

The CDC’s new data suggests that an average of 38,793 HPV-associated cancers were diagnosed each year between 2008 and 2012. This is a 17 percent increase from about 33,000 each year between 2004 and 2008. This is a particularly unfortunate trend given that the newest available vaccine—Gardasil 9—can prevent the types of HPV most often linked to cancer. In fact, researchers estimated that the majority of cancers found in the recent data (about 28,000 each year) were caused by types of the virus that could be prevented by the vaccine.

Unfortunately, as Rewire has reported, the vaccine is often mired in controversy and far fewer young people have received it than get most other recommended vaccines. In 2014, only 40 percent of girls and 22 percent of boys ages 13 to 17 had received all three recommended doses of the vaccine. In comparison, nearly 80 percent of young people in this age group had received the vaccine that protects against meningitis.

In response to the newest data, Dr. Electra Paskett, co-director of the Cancer Control Research Program at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, told HealthDay:

In order to increase HPV vaccination rates, we must change the perception of the HPV vaccine from something that prevents a sexually transmitted disease to a vaccine that prevents cancer. Every parent should ask the question: If there was a vaccine I could give my child that would prevent them from developing six different cancers, would I give it to them? The answer would be a resounding yes—and we would have a dramatic decrease in HPV-related cancers across the globe.

Making Inroads Toward a Chlamydia Vaccine

An article published in the journal Vaccine shows that researchers have made progress with a new vaccine to prevent chlamydia. According to lead researcher David Bulir of the M. G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research at Canada’s McMaster University, efforts to create a vaccine have been underway for decades, but this is the first formulation to show success.

In 2014, there were 1.4 million reported cases of chlamydia in the United States. While this bacterial infection can be easily treated with antibiotics, it often goes undiagnosed because many people show no symptoms. Untreated chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, which can leave scar tissue in the fallopian tubes or uterus and ultimately result in infertility.

The experimental vaccine was created by Canadian researchers who used pieces of the bacteria that causes chlamydia to form an antigen they called BD584. The hope was that the antigen could prompt the body’s immune system to fight the chlamydia bacteria if exposed to it.

Researchers gave BD584 to mice using a nasal spray, and then exposed them to chlamydia. The results were very promising. The mice who received the spray cleared the infection faster than the mice who did not. Moreover, the mice given the nasal spray were less likely to show symptoms of infection, such as bacterial shedding from the vagina or fluid blockages of the fallopian tubes.

There are many steps to go before this vaccine could become available. The researchers need to test it on other strains of the bacteria and in other animals before testing it in humans. And, of course, experience with the HPV vaccine shows that there’s work to be done to make sure people get vaccines that prevent STIs even after they’re invented. Nonetheless, a vaccine to prevent chlamydia would be a great victory in our ongoing fight against STIs and their health consequences, and we here at This Week in Sex are happy to end on a bit of a positive note.