One Equal World

*I recently started writing about some of my favorite LGBT superheroes and may have gotten a little carried away. Okay, a lot carried away. So, I’ve decided to split this blog into two parts. I hope you enjoy it!

We currently live in an age of revival for superheroes. From the widely popular Christopher Nolan Batman movies, to installment after installment in the captivating Marvel Cinematic Universe, superheroes and comic books are becoming more popular in the mainstream.

Unlike the Silver Age of comics that many think of when they think of comic books, comic books are becoming much better in terms of inclusivity, adding women, people of color, and LGBT characters to their stories with higher frequency—and writing them as fully fleshed-out characters as well, instead of crude stereotypes.

Inspired by Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron’s impending release in theaters across the US, let’s dive in and learn about 3 LGBT comic book superheroes, in order of appearance.

Union Jack

First appearance: The Invaders #21, July 1976

Union Jack is quite possibly the first, chronologically speaking, homosexual Marvel Comics superhero. The first Union Jack was James Montgomery Falsworth, who first appeared in The Invaders #7. However, he was eventually replaced by Brian Falsworth, appearing in The Invaders #18 as the Destroyer, and becoming Union Jack in The Invaders #21.

Brian’s Union Jack has enhanced peak human conditioning, is a superb athlete, an expert in hand-to-hand combat, and has the ability to project bolts of magical lightning.

Interestingly enough, the origin of Brian Falsworth’s powers might sound familiar. In the late 1930s, Brian and his lover Roger visit Germany, supporting peace between it and the UK amidst the beginnings of World War II. After discovering the evil nature of the Nazi regime, Brian is thrown in Jail and Roger is given to German scientists. With the assistance of a German scientist, Brian gains his superpowers through the same Super Soldier Formula that turned Steve Rogers into Captain America!

Tasmanian Devil

First appearance: Super Friends #7, October 1977

The Tasmanian Devil is a supernaturally large and intelligent representation of the animal bearing the same name—Hugh Dawkins is the name of the metahuman who can turn into The Tasmanian Devil (if you’re confused, think Bruce Banner’s relationship to the Hulk.)

In Justice League Quarterly #8, Hugh Dawkins is revealed to be an openly gay character. He has previously had a crush on Hal Jordan (Green Lantern), was romantically interested in Justice League liaison Joshua Barbizon, and dates Starman, Mikaal Thomas—a superhero himself.

Batwoman

First appearance: 52 #7, June 2006

Batwoman, and her alter ego Kathy Kane, have appeared in comics as early as 1956. However, Kate Kane as a lesbian character first appeared in the 52 series in 2006. Unlike previous versions of Batwoman, who were all attracted to Batman, the new Batwoman revealed that she was romantically involved with Renee Montoya, a former Gotham City Police detective who eventually took up the mantle of The Question.

According to DC Comics Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Dan DiDio said about the decision to make Batwoman a lesbian:

“It was from conversations we’ve had for expanding the DC Universe, for looking at levels of diversity. We wanted to have a cast that is much more reflective of today’s society and even today’s fan base. One of the reasons we made her gay is that, again when you have the Batman Family—a series of characters that aren’t’ super-powered and inhabit the same circle and the same city—you really want to have a point of difference. It was really important to me to make sure every character felt unique.”

Who is your favorite superhero, real or fictional? Let us know in the comments section below!

Ever since the United States Supreme Court announced that it would review the freedom to marry back in January, gay and lesbian people and their allies have been waiting anxiously for April 28 to arrive. Very soon, the Supreme Court will hear arguments about whether anti-marriage laws nationwide should be struck down as unconstitutional, and its verdict could change the course of history for gay and lesbian people in America forever.

If the Supreme Court rules that anti-marriage laws are in fact unconstitutional, it will mean that all same-sex couples will finally have the freedom to marry in the United States. Naturally, this has been a very encouraging prospect for marriage equality activists, and as the opening arguments date draws closer, the fight for marriage equality has never felt so momentous.

Everyone from authors to athletes to politicians and public figures have weighed in on marriage equality over the last few years, and many have predicted its inevitability. From a legal standpoint, even lawyers in conservative states like Miami, Florida-based attorney Kendall Coffey have been anticipating the certainty of marriage equality for Gay Marriagesome time now. “Same-sex marriage is unstoppable,” Coffey surmised back in a 2013 segment on Newsmax.

Now, these early conjectures have never felt more significant as support for marriage equality in America continues to grow. Freedom To Marry recently reported that on Friday, April 17, plaintiffs in the marriage cases that will soon be heard before the Supreme Court filed their reply briefs, explaining why marriage matters. This filing of reply briefs brings us just one step closer to the oral arguments scheduled for later this month.

Freedom To Marry also points out the overall significance of the Supreme Court intervention, explaining, “The national strategy to win marriage for same-sex couples has always focused on a final victory at the U.S. Supreme Court. In the past year alone, there have been 65 rulings in favor of marriage for same-sex couples – clearly demonstrating that the country is read and that the age-old arguments against the freedom to marry simply don’t survive judicial review.”

April 28 marks a historic day in the lives of gay and lesbian people in America. For more information about what to expect from the upcoming Supreme Court hearing, be sure to check out this excellent resource from Freedom To Marry.

According to Paying an Unfair Price: The Financial Penalty for LGBT People of Color, a report released this past Thursday, non-white LGBT individuals are more likely to be economically insecure than their white counterparts (or non-LGBT white individuals). The report suggests the most likely reasons for this are discrimination and the lack of legal protection faced by this community.

LGBT Triumphs of 2013

The report, authored by the Center for American Progress and the Movement Advancement Project, estimates that 3 million American adults identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender people of color. And while many non-white LGBT individuals face issues of poverty, the situation is most dire for transgendered people.

“Disproportionate numbers of LGBT people of color live in places that lack any explicit state-level protections for LGBT people,” said Ineke Mushovic, executive director of the Movement Advancement Project. “This means that LGBT people of color face a high risk of economic harm from anti-LGBT laws.”

The statistics are rather bleak. Black Americans who are part of same-sex couples are more than twice as likely to live in poverty as those in opposite-sex marriages. The average unemployment rate among the general LGBT population in the US is around 8%, but it’s at 15% for those who are black, 14% for those who are Latino, and 11% for those who are Asian or Pacific Islander.

Even so, these demographics have it better than transgendered individuals when it comes to poverty: 28% of trans Latinos, 18% of trans Asian or Pacific Islanders, and 34% of trans black people live in extreme poverty with annual household incomes of $10,000 or less.

Though the federal Civil Rights Act protects against workplace discrimination when it comes to “sex,” that’s not enough to help LGBT individuals, who often earn less and face other kinds of discrimination in the workplace, leading to increased poverty. Only 19 states protect against employment discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity; in the rest of the country, LGBT individuals can be fired on that basis.

The report argues for more studies and better laws, both at the state and federal level, to protect these communities and provide them with the same rights and opportunities as anyone else in the United States.

This week, more than 300 veteran Republican lawmakers, consultants, and operatives came together to sign an amicus brief at the Supreme Court in support of same-sex marriage. The amicus brief, also known as a “friend of the court brief,” was organized by prominent Republican political consultant Ken Mehlman.

Gay MarriageEarlier this year, the United States Supreme Court announced that it would hear oral arguments in a case challenging the ban on same-sex marriage in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. According to TIME, the amicus brief was filed for “the four same-sex marriage cases the Court will hear on April 28 that could legalize unions nationwide,” as an initiative to persuade the court to rule in favor of the freedom to marry. TIME also points out that Mehlman headed a similar effort to overturn California’s Proposition 8 – a state constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage – in 2013.

Many prominent Republicans came forward to sign the amicus brief as a showing of political solidarity on the issue of marriage equality. Republican signatories include former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, GOP billionaire David Koch, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, and Senators Susan Collins and Mark Kirk. As of March 5, the list of signatories had reached 303.

The fact that so many influential Republicans have come forward to support marriage equality is truly encouraging; hopefully the amicus brief will aid the fight for marriage equality in what many are considering a historic Supreme Court hearing.

If the Supreme Court rules in favor of marriage equality after the April 28 hearing, this would make it possible for same-sex couples across the rest of the country to wed. “The decision by the justices is potentially historic and could add to the rulings and other actions that now make it legal for gay couples to marry in 37 states and the District of Columbia,” writes Catalina Camia for USA Today.

It is projected that the Supreme Court justices will deliver a nationwide ruling on the issue of marriage equality by June 2015.

Earlier this week the Mormon church held an unexpected press conference at the church headquarters in Salt Lake City, in which the leaders publicly pledged to support anti-discrimination laws for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) people. The one hitch is they want the laws to also protect the rights of religious groups. There’s always a catch, isn’t there? LGBT Bible

“When religious people are publicly intimidated, retaliated against, forced from employment or made to suffer personal loss because they have raised their voice in the public square, donated to a cause or participated in an election, our democracy is the loser,” said Elder Dallin Oaks, a member of the church’s Quorum of Twelve Apostles. “Such tactics are every bit as wrong as denying access to employment, housing or public services because of race or gender,” he said.

Over the past several years the Mormon church along with some Catholic bishops and Southern Baptists have complained about religious freedom, linking it with myriad social justice issues to further their own cause. Even though the church alleges to support rights and protections for LGBT people, the Mormon Apostle D.Todd Christofferson made it clear from the beginning, “We are announcing no change in doctrine or church teachings today.”

The Mormon press conference was much less detailed about its support of LGBT protections and more focused on the steady erosion of treasured freedoms for the Morning church and other forms of religion. They did not acknowledge specific examples of their support, much less say “bisexual” or “transgender,” two of the most marginalized factions of the “LGBT alphabet soup.” Many believed that the press conferenced seemed more like a strategic business move than an actual commitment to acceptance from the Mormon church.

The Mormon church has proven time and again that it’s not above co-opting a civil rights framework in order to get what it wants. Only time will tell if the inclusion of LGBT people in the press conference had a genuine intent behind it.

2014 was an important year for marriage equality progress in the United States. Finally, after increased activism and visibility for the cause, same-sex marriage proponents tipped the scale in favor of the freedom to marry, which is now legal in more than half of the country.  Gay Marriage

According to Freedom to Marry, as of December 4, 2014, “In 35 states […] plus Washington, D.C. and some counties in MO – same-sex couples have the freedom to marry. In MO, the marriages of same-sex couples legally performed in other states are respected. In 4 states (KY, MI, OH, TN), marriage supporters are seeking review from the U.S. Supreme Court of an out-of-step pro-marriage ruling from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.” All of these victories mark a much greater shift towards an acceptance of marriage equality in the United States.

Momentum in the fight for marriage equality increased exponentially earlier this week when a federal judge in Florida ruled that same-sex couples will be able to wed starting January 6. Marriage equality advocates in Florida have had an extremely difficult time combatting state officials like Attorney General Pam Bondi (R). Bondi and others fervently pushed back against U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle’s August pro-marriage equality ruling, which has delayed the process for same-sex couples.

Back in 2013, Miami-based lawyer Kendall Coffey predicted that same-sex marriage is unstoppable. A little more than a year later, with Florida finally moving forward with the freedom to marry, remarkable progress has been made in the fight for marriage equality in all 50 states. USA Today’s Richard Wolf notes that “Despite this year’s breathtaking string of lower court victories, the battle for marriage equality hasn’t been swift or easy. To the lawyers who devised the legal strategy decades ago, the journey has been arduous, the setbacks plentiful and the battle scars deep,” of the long and tiresome fight for marriage equality. Still, with so many victories for the gay and lesbian community in 2014, Wolf echoes Coffey’s earlier sentiment that the time has come for the freedom to marry to be accepted universally across America.

As we enter 2015, it appears that the momentum needed to bring marriage equality to states like Florida will prove invaluable to marriage equality advocates and same-sex couples across the country. Learn more about each state’s current stance on marriage equality by visiting Freedom to Marry’s full breakdown of state laws.

The second annual Out on the Street Summit saw hundreds of senior LGBT and ally business leaders from across Asia convene in Hong Kong. Hosted by Stuart Gulliver, the Group Chief Executive of HSBC, the global LGBT business advisory firm Out Leadership brought together executives from leading financial institutions to share ideas and discuss issues vital to LGBT equality. lgbt-out-on-the-street

Gulliver began the December 9 summit with a keynote speech addressing the opportunities that LGBT equality creates for business. Said Gulliver, “There are sounds business reasons for promoting diversity and inclusiveness in the workplace but this is more than just financial return—we need to do this because it’s right.”

Todd Sears, the founder and principal of Out Leadership, introduced new data drawn from the organization’s research detailing how ally executives can drive change for LGBT employees within their companies, teams, and industries.

“We already know that senior LGBT leaders are most likely to be out at work when their peer executives identify and act as allies, and we know that diverse teams come to market more creatively,” said Sears. “We’re in Hong Kong today to share actionable insights with today’s leaders of the financial services industry so they can help build the infrastructure that will allow tomorrow’s executives – on every continent – to pursue their highest and best uses, instead of expending valuable time and energy hiding their true selves.”

Founded in 2011, Out on the Street is comprised of 28 member organizations such as Bank of America, Bloomberg, Goldman Sachs, KKR and HSBC. The organization looks to connect leaders across the world’s most influential industries to create business opportunities and cultivate new talent and drive LGBT equality forward.

Ken Mehlman, member of KKR, was recently appointed to Out Leadership’s Global Advisory Board. Said Mehlman:

“My time in business and government convinces me that teams with a broader array of voices are better equipped to address our complex world. I’m proud to stand with the other members of the Global Advisory Board in support of Out Leadership’s important work, driving business and equality forward hand-in-hand.”

For more information about the work that the organization does to leverage professional opportunities for LGBT people, visit Out Leadership’s official website.

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