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Marriage activist Diane Olson dies at 65

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Robin Tyler and Diane Olson in Oct. 2011 at a Gloria Allred-sponsored party in West Hollywood to watch Chaz Bono on “Dancing with the Stars” (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

She was the quiet one, the blond political spouse who stood by the side of her activist/comic wife during LGBT civil rights demonstrations and media events promoting the right for same sex couples to marry. They were the first lesbian plaintiffs to file what became the successful lawsuit that helped bring marriage equality to California. To borrow from the song, Diane Olson was the wind beneath Robin Tyler’s wings.

Olson passed away from brain cancer on Wednesday night, Jan. 16, at the couple’s home in North Hills surrounded by family and friends. Olson was 65.

Diane Olson (Photo courtesy Robin Tyler)

Their lives were not all politics, however. Olson joined Tyler’s early 5-Star International Tour Company for lesbians and for 20 years they travelled around the world, stepping among seals in the Galapagos, posing with King Penguins in Antarctica, swimming with a baby elephant in Thailand, and getting close to wildlife everywhere. Olson’s favorite destination was Botswana, Africa.

Diane Olson and Robin Tyler in a Tyler-produced grassroots No on Prop 8 video (Screen-grabbed photo)

Olson came to the fore during the battle for marriage equality, reminding the media that she was the granddaughter of Gov. Culbert Levy Olson, the first elected Democratic Governor of California, who ran on a platform promoting ‘separation of Church and State.’ He would have been proud to officiate at their wedding.

Olson and Tyler worked within the Freedom to Marry movement but they became frustrated after Tyler retired and her union, AFTRA, would not extend medical benefits to Olson since they were not legally married. Their friend attorney Gloria Allred agreed to take the case, pro bono.

Diane Olson and Robin Tyler get married at the Beverly Hills Courthouse (Photo by Karen Ocamb) 

For four years, the couple went to the Beverly Hills Courthouse on Valentine’s Day with other activists to demand a marriage license, which they were denied. Finally, on Feb. 12, 2004, Allred filled a lawsuit on behalf of Tyler and Olson and Rev. Troy Perry and Phillip Ray de Blieck (already legally married in Canada) for the right to marry in California. That lawsuit was later combined with lawsuits from San Francisco, leading to a decision in May 2008 declaring the constitutional right to marry for same sex couples.

Robin Tyler, Del Martin, Phyllis Lyon, and Diane Olson (Photo courtesy of Robin Tyler)

The court granted special dispensation to Olson and Tyler in Los Angeles and Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin in San Francisco to be the first couples to legally marry in California. On June 16, 2008, media from around the world carried what Tyler would later call their “Big Fat Jewish Lesbian Wedding” in front of the Beverly Hills Courthouse. Some opposed the Jewish ceremony, officiated by Rabbi Denise Eger, because it might offend the religious right. But Olson thought it was a sharp reminder of the separation between church and state.

Diane Olson and Robin Tyler in front of the US Supreme Court (Photo by Michael Key) 

In 2012, Olson developed lung cancer that metastasized into brain cancer in 2016. After treatment, they continued to participate in LGBT politics—especially the grassroots battle against Proposition 8 in 2008. They also traveled until the couple’s last yearly visit to Cancun in Oct. 2018.

At the time of her death, Olson and Tyler had been married over 25 years, legally married for 10 ½. Funeral plans are pending.

 

 

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Threats of violence and death shuts down Nebraska drag queen story hour

After discussions and consultations with Lincoln Police, the museum and the LGBTQ+ group citing safety concerns cancelled the event.

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Screenshot of the Lincoln Children’s Museum, Lincoln, Nebraska. ABC News affiliate coverage

LINCOLN – A private LGBTQ+ event scheduled for after hours this past Saturday at the Lincoln Children’s Museum in Nebraska’s capital city was cancelled after the museum and the event’s organizers received a torrent of abusive violent threats, including ones that were simply death threats.

Longtime local drag performer Waylon Werner-Bassen, who is the president of the board of directors of LGBTQ advocacy group OUTNebraska had organized the event alongside Drag Queen Story Hour Nebraska.

Bassen told the Lincoln Star-Journal in an interview last week on Tuesday that the scheduled RSVP only two-hour event, which was accessible through Eventbrite, had garnered a conformed attendee list of approximately 50 people.

Mandy Haase-Thomas, director of operations and engagement for the Lincoln Children’s Museum in an email the Star-Journal confirmed the event was invitation-only private, not sponsored by the museum and to be held after museum’s open-to-the-public hours.

According to Bassen, immediately after the event was announced the threats commenced, some of which included death threats. After discussions and consultations with officials from the Lincoln Police Department, the Lincoln Children’s Museum and Bassen’s group citing safety concerns cancelled the event.

Officer Luke Bonkiewicz, a spokesperson for the LPD said that the matter was under investigation and as such would not comment other than to acknowledge that the threats were found to be credible.

In an Instagram post the museum expressed its dismay over the event’s cancellation.

Community reaction was swift and uniformly in support of OutNebraska and the drag queen story hour event with the city’s Mayor weighing in along with a supervisor with the Lincoln Police Department.

The ACLU of Nebraska along with other supporters which included state lawmakers Senator Adam Morfeld and Senator Tony Vargas also weighed in.

OutNebraska and the museum have both stated that they will reschedule the event. In a Facebook post Out Nebraska noted: “We look forward to working with Lincoln Children’s Museum to reschedule this as an entirely private event. It’s so sad when hate threatens families with children. All parents want their children to be safe. Because we could not be certain that it would be safe we will cancel this weekend and reschedule for another time — this time without a public portion of the invitation. We will be in touch with the families who have already registered with more information about when we are rescheduling.”

In related news the LPD not only recently celebrated LGBTQ Pride Month, but the designated person nominated at the end of June by the Mayor to be the department’s new Chief, is SFPD Commander Teresa Ewins, the San Francisco California Police Department’s highest-ranking LGBTQ member.

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World

Harsh anti-LGBTQ bill introduced in Ghana

Measure would criminalize LGBTQ identity, allyship

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Ghana flag (Public domain photo by Jorono from Pixabay)

ACCRA, Ghana — A bill that would criminalize LGBTQ identity and allyship in Ghana was officially introduced in the country’s Parliament on Monday.

The “Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill” went to the Constitution and Legal Affairs Committee after its first reading.

Eight conservative lawmakers who are from the opposition and ruling parties sponsored the bill. Thomson Reuters Foundation News reports Samuel Nartey George, a member of the National Democratic Congress party, is the lead sponsor. 

The bill, if passed, would outlaw LGBTQ identity and subject anyone who identifies as part of the LGBTQ community or as an ally with up to 10 years in prison. 

A draft of the bill that was leaked online last week listed some of the punishable offenses that include “gross indecency,” which is defined as “the public show of amorous relations between or among persons of the same sex.” This act, labeled a misdemeanor, can result in “a term of imprisonment no less than six months and not more than one year.”

Activists in Ghana and across the world have sought to raise awareness of the bill on social media with the hashtags #KillTheBill and #GhanaIsEnoughForUsAll. A Change.org petition that urges Ghanaian lawmakers to oppose the measure has been created.

Critics say the measure would violate human rights and would make LGBTQ people more vulnerable to persecution and violence. The Coalition of Muslim Groups in Ghana and other religious organizations have welcomed the bill, with Thomson Reuters reporting they say it is needed to “prevent the dilution of cultural values and beliefs in Ghanaian society.”

Naa Seidu Fuseini Pelpuo, the overlord of the Waala Traditional Area, and other traditional leaders have condemned the LGBTQ+ community as “unnatural and [perverted].” Pelpuo has also banned activities between LGBTQ individuals in the Waala Traditional Area and warned of “firm and swift” punishment if found engaging in “such acts,” according to the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation.

The bill’s introduction comes after the May arrest of 21 activists and paralegals who attended a conference on how to advocate for LGBTQ rights.

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Hundreds participate in first-ever Cayman Islands Pride parade

Territory’s governor, premier among marchers

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Upwards of 600 people attended the first-ever Pride parade in the Cayman Islands on July 31, 2021. (Photo courtesy of the Cayman LGBTQ Foundation)

GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands — Upwards of 600 people participated in the first-ever Pride parade in the Cayman Islands that took place on Saturday.

Caymanian Gov. Martyn Roper, Premier Wayne Panton and opposition MP Barbara Conolly are among those who participated in the parade that the Cayman LGBTQ Foundation, a local advocacy group, organized.

Caymanian authorities required that all participants were vaccinated against COVID-19. Noel Cayasso-Smith, founder and president of the Cayman LGBTQ Foundation, on Monday told the Los Angeles Blade on Monday during a WhatsApp interview that his group did not allow alcohol in the parade and “discouraged” public displays of affections “in order to maintain a respectful event.”

“This is the first time in history the Cayman Islands has ever been able to put on a Pride,” said Cayasso-Smith. “I’m excited because we had no protesters. We had no negativity throughout the entire parade.”

Cayasso-Smith said he and members of the Cayman LGBTQ Foundation decided to organize the parade, in part, because the pandemic has drastically reduced travel to and from the Cayman Islands. Cayasso-Smith noted hotels, condominium associations, restaurants, bars and local businesses all supported the event.

“Pride month came in and you know for every year I got really tired of seeing our Cayman people leaving to go to Atlanta, New York, San Francisco, Canada to enjoy themselves for Pride,” he said, while noting the travel restrictions that remain in place because of the pandemic. “We thought it would be great to have our Pride here since we’re in our own little bubble.”

The Cayman Islands is a British territory that is located in the western Caribbean Sea between Jamaica and Cuba.

The Caymanian government in 1998 refused to allow a gay cruise ship with 900 passengers to dock. Religious officials in the British territories pressured authorities to prohibit an Atlantic Events vessel from visiting the territory.

Cayasso-Smith, who was born in the Cayman Islands, told the Blade that “growing up here has been very difficult for me as a gay person.” Cayasso-Smith lived in the U.K. for 13 years until he returned to the Cayman Islands to help his family rebuild their home after Hurricane Ivan devastated the British territory in 2004.

“I decided to stay because I thought, you know, I should be able to live in my country as a free gay man where there’s no laws restricting me from being who I am,” said Cayasso-Smith. “I feel that as a gay man contributing to the island I should have the right to live free.”

Caymanian Grand Court Chief Justice Anthony Smellie in 2019 struck down the territory’s same-sex marriage ban. The Caymanian Court of Appeal a few months later overturned the ruling.

The territory’s Civil Partnership Law took effect last September.

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