Some big Georgia firms score well on corporate equality index

imageSeveral of the Fortune 500 companies headquartered in metro Atlanta scored high on the newest Corporate Equality Index, which ranks hundreds of businesses across the U.S. on its treatment of gay and lesbian employees, consumers and investors. Five of those Fortune 500 companies -- Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola Enterprises, SunTrust Banks, Newell Rubbermaid and United Parcel Service -- scored a perfect 100 on the report, released Tuesday from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. Six other companies headquartered in Georgia also notched a perfect score in the rankings, among a total of 22 companies in the state included in the report.

Gay youth program gets attention

A program focusing on gay youth has helped PricewaterhouseCoopers become one of eight finalists for the Metro Atlanta Corporate Volunteer Council's 2008 IMPACT awards. The IMPACT winner receives a $15,000 grant to the non-profit partner of its choice and the other winners will each receive $5,000 grants for their non-profit partners.
PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP helped started a program two years ago that focuses on healing gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender/transsexual youth who have been abused, neglected and rejected and preventing youth homelessness through education, job and life skills training. Its nonprofit partner is CHRIS Kids Rainbow Program.

Will Fay boost fortunes of Atlanta Pride Festival?

image Will the remnants of Fay help boost the fortunes of the Atlanta Pride Committee? The festival, mired in debt and without its top two paid staff members, suffered in part from its move out of Piedmont Park during the three-day event in July. City and park officials booted all large-scale festivals out of Piedmont in January over concerns about the state's lingering drought. But as the remnants of Tropical Storm Fay drench Atlanta and the Southeast, the steady rainfall is dealing a blow to the drought, according to weather experts. It's also meant more water for Lake Lanier, which feeds the region's water supply.

Gays, gold and the Olympics

image There's a new in the 'hood. And it's on the juice. Hotlanta Softball gets ready for the World Series. Labor Day means it's time for tennis with a few hundred gay players. Women's Outdoor Network prepares for charity golf tournament. Matthew Mitcham (photo) fails in medal bid in the 3-meter competition, but becomes first openly gay male Olympian to grab gold. David Beckham tells Olympic officials, "I want in." Local tennis hottie Robby Ginepri tunes up before U.S. Open. Rafael Nadal has a muscular butt. And he likes it to be ogled. Georgia Tech struts their stuff in new uniforms. You decide if sexy athletes are evil.

Festivals push for return to Piedmont Park

The Dogwood Festival called off plans for a public protest in hopes of striking a deal with members of the Atlanta City Council to allow large festivals, including Atlanta Pride, back into Piedmont Park. The Dogwood Festival Board of Directors initially urged supporters to attend the Aug. 18 Atlanta City Council meeting, but called it off at the last moment. Executive Director Brian Hill said Dogwood supporters would have been competing with more than 30 speakers who addressed the city on other pressing issues, including the closing of Fire House No. 7 in West Atlanta and the firing of a city arborist. “It might not have gone our way,” Hill said. Instead, Dogwood organizers met with a city councilmember they said is sympathetic to the festival’s plight. He did not respond to interview requests to verify his position. Hill said his board is working with the councilmember to draft legislation allowing all Class A events, including Pride, Dogwood, the Peachtree Road Race and the city’s Jazz Festival, back into Piedmont Park next year. Councilmember Anne Fauver, whose district encompasses Piedmont Park, said the decision will be made in October, following a report that considers drought conditions and the state of Piedmont Park’s hybrid Bermuda grass turf. For the full article from Southern Voice, go here.

HIV tracking effort cut in Ga.

Tracking new HIV cases in Georgia, already a difficult task to accomplish, just got a little tougher. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention announced late last week that Georgia was one of several states being dropped from a cutting-edge federal program that it had participated in for three years.
Georgia still will track and report HIV and AIDS cases, state officials stressed, but it will not have the advantage of the new technology and methods. The funding cut does not impact any other state HIV/AIDS testing or services.

Feds cut HIV tracking effort in Ga.

Georgia has been dropped from a federal program to spot trends in HIV infections. The state had been participating in the program for the past three years, but the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stopped Georgia’s funding this year, CDC officials confirmed Thursday. The first set of results from the new HIV incidence surveillance program were announced to much fanfare earlier this month. Officials asserted that the annual HIV infection rate in the country was 40 percent higher than previously estimated. Georgia had received more than $1 million in CDC funding to participate in the advanced testing and analysis, which helps spot emerging trends in the epidemic. But the CDC, for reasons officials did not fully explain, cut Georgia from its latest round of funding, which began in January and runs for five years. Georgia still will track and report HIV and AIDS cases, state officials stressed, but it will not have the advantage of the new technology and methods. The funding cut does not impact any other state HIV/AIDS testing or services. “It’s a setback,” said Dr. Carlos del Rio, co-director for the Emory Center for AIDS Research. For the full story from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, go here.

Animals, eye candy and the Olympics

image Hotlanta Softball closes out season (photo) while looking ahead to Fall Ball. Hotlanta Volleyball's athletic eye candy. Atlanta Bucks bring back Rugby 101, but it's not underwater. Piedmont Park loosens its ban a little. Elton John bringing gay to Kennesaw. Andy Roddick, too. U.S. men's gymnastics team strikes a pose. Michael Phelps dissected. Olympic Village needs a little love. Women's soccer coming (back) to Atlanta. The G-Braves' whistlepig the woodchuck. Porn-posing college jocks exposed, then dumped. Who let the Dogs in? ESPN delivers morning cup of sports. Mike Piazza comes out -- of South Beach.

HIV expert compares blood ban to racism

The director of Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria has likened the Australian Red Cross ban on gay blood donations to racist discrimination. Associate Professor Anne Mitchell gave evidence today at the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Tribunal taken by gay would-be donor Michael Cain. Mr. Cain seeks to have the Australian Red Cross' ban on gay men donating blood lifted. Electronics technician Michael Cain, 21, of West Launceston, was rejected as a donor in October 2004, after replying "yes" in the Red Cross questionnaire to whether he had had gay sex in the past 12 months. Speaking at the tribunal today, Professor Mitchell stated that high-risk sexual activity was not as widespread as some studies claim. She said: 'The most compelling evidence of all for the effectiveness of safe sex is the simple fact that…when safe sex was taken on by men who have sex with men the escalation in infection rate was pegged back. "This made it immediately clear that the risk of HIV infection was not associated with male to male sex per se, rather it was associated with unsafe male to male sex." For the full story from Pink News, go here.

Lesbians get their own neighborhood

One day in July, Gail Davis, 58, and her partner, Janyce Bender, 64, sat down at their computer to find an email from Olivia companies. They were already anticipating their upcoming Olivia cruise – but when they clicked to open the message, their excitement was overwhelming. “Oh my gosh,” Davis said as she read the message in disbelief. Olivia, the lesbian-owned women’s travel company and record label, had finally come through with a decade-long promise: to open what may be the first large-scale lesbian housing development in the country. Bender turned to her partner and said, “I absolutely want to do this.” Less than a week later they sent a $10,000 deposit and their registration was secured. “Nobody really knew this was coming,” said Davis, “but then they send us this email that said ‘Hi, we’re ready to start taking reservations.’” Olivia Communities will be a 334-unit resort-style living community in Tuscon, Ariz. Although anyone can purchase a home, the company is targeting lesbians. “My whole vision of this has always been about creating community and creating a place where we can not only be free… but also the kind of community where you’re really connected with the people there and feel comfortable and happy in your environment,” said Judy Dlugacz, president and founder of Olivia Companies. For the full story from, go here.

Gift cards new weapon against HIV

Could the AIDS virus be stopped with gift cards? Desperate for a way to stop the escalating spread of HIV among young gay men, public health officials are looking to novel strategies, such as enlisting local gay opinion leaders to urge their peers to practice safe sex. Promising signs from such a project in North Carolina led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to begin rolling it out on a broader scale, to more than 200 community groups. The budget is $1.5 million over a two-year period. The idea is to give gift coupons to popular, influential men in the gay community and encourage them to talk up condom use, regular HIV testing and other responsible actions. It may sound frivolous, but little else has proven effective for the men most affected by the epidemic. For the full story from the Associated Press, go here.

Red Cross calls Atlanta blood shortage ‘urgent’

The American Red Cross and Emory Healthcare are set to discuss the Atlanta region's blood shortage, which the agencies call "urgent," during a press conference this morning.
The American Red Cross Southern Blood Services Region has been on public appeal for blood for nearly six weeks. Despite considerable efforts over the past several weeks, the Red Cross has not seen an increase in collections or inventory levels. It is critical that eligible donors be made aware of the situation and encouraged to give blood as soon as possible.
The plea comes as the American Red Cross and U.S. Food & Drug Administration continue a ban on gay men donating their blood. So if the region's sizable gay male population wanted to help, they couldn't. The debate over gay men donating blood has recently reached a fever pitch in Australia.

Atlanta Pride issues plea for financial support

image The Atlanta Pride Committee emailed supporters today asking for their financial help to prepare for the 2009 festival. The committee is reeling in the wake of the three-day Atlanta Pride Festival, which moved to the civic center and shifted to early July. Attendance dropped, income was reduced and the cost to rent the facility for the long weekend also helped break the event's budget.

Atlanta vaccine developer takes hit

Atlanta-based HIV/AIDS vaccine developer GeoVax Labs posted a loss of $1.28 million and break-even earnings for the second quarter of 2008. The company says the loss was partially offset by grant revenue from the National Institutes of Health in support of its HIV/AIDS vaccine work. The company still expects to launch a Phase 2 preventative AIDS vaccine clinical trial this fall.

Cobb courts a steamy place

A former Superior Court administrator in Cobb County so enjoyed his job that he didn't want to leave -- at least for sex. That's the result of a report issued Tuesday concerning allegations leveled at Howard Chesshire, who left his job in February after the allegations began surfacing.
Sex in a judge's chambers, trysts at local hotels during business hours, obscene phone calls to female workers and a desire to see lesbian sex are among the many accounts of what was going on with the top Superior Court official in Cobb County for the past two decades.
The report says Chessire denied all of the allegations.

Democratic platform doesn’t say ‘gay’

The party platform that will be presented to delegates at the Democratic National Convention carefully never mentions the words gay, lesbian or transgendered, yet it’s the most positive LGBT platform in memory. It calls for passage of expanded hate crime legislation and a comprehensive employment discrimination bill, while not specifically saying both pieces of legislation would directly affect LGBT people. It does, however, use the term gender identity. The platform also calls for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the ban on LGBT people serving openly in the military, and for the first time it calls for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act used to bar gay and lesbian couples from receiving federal benefits. The platform additionally calls for the full inclusion of same-sex couples and their families and for a national strategy to combat HIV/AIDS. Meanwhile, a record number of LGBT delegates are expected to the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Over 350 LGBT participants are being sent to the convention. For the full story from, go here.

Trans employee calls it quits in N.Y.

imageThe person who made history six years ago by becoming the first city employee to openly transition from male to female in the workplace has never found a burning cross outside her home. The acts of bigotry and intolerance have been more subtle — but every bit as disheartening, said Camille Stephanie Hopkins. Crude notes have been slipped under her office door. She hears giggles — sometimes sarcastic whistles — as she walks the halls. When elevator doors open, friendly chatter often turns into an icy hush. “It hurts, because in some people’s eyes, I’m a freak,” she said. Compounding her pain is Hopkins’ belief that the city has contributed to what she calls a climate of intolerance. City leaders have failed to provide enough sensitivity training and taken a dismissive attitude when she has raised concerns, Hopkins claimed. She was even brought up on departmental charges for wearing a T-shirt that sported the phrase “fagbug,” a word the gay community considers a statement against hate crimes and homophobia. “The city has allowed people to embrace their fears,” she said. That’s why Hopkins has decided to call it quits. At the end of the month, she will end a City Hall career that began 21 years ago when Gregory Hopkins became a human resource planner. For the full story from the Buffalo News, go here.

ESPN’s morning fix for sports junkies

imageIf you can't get enough of sports, jocks and punditry about them, ESPN has just the thing. The all-sports network this morning launched a six-hour daytime version of "SportsCenter," anchored by former Atlantan Hannah Storm and Josh Elliott (photo). I've always wondered why, in this age of 24/7 media outlets that ESPN always ran "SportsCenter" repeats the next morning. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution offers a Q&A with Storm, while Deadspin is live-blogging the premiere.

Olympics, Olympics, Olympics

image In case you missed it, the Olympics opened on Friday and there are at least 10 gay jocks competing. Matthew Mitcham is one of the openly gay jocks in Beijing and he debuts next week. Michael Phelps likes plaid (and gold). Former Atlantan and Olympian Bruce Hayes speaks out. Who has the best Olympic abs? Piedmont Park still digging for answers. The Atlanta Team Tennis Association loves peaches. More specifically, the Peach. What to do in August? Local gay sports groups offer some ideas. AirTran loves Michael Vick and Matt Ryan. Sarah Thomas taps on the NFL's glass ceiling. Under Armour may not like the gays.

Piedmont digs a wishing well

The possible return of sports leagues and Atlanta Pride to Piedmont Park took another hit as park caretakers announced their efforts to dig a well failed. Now the Piedmont Park Conservancy will try again, drilling a second time beginning Wednesday. If they can hit water, the park hopes it would be enough to irrigate the park and skirt the drought-related regulations that prompted the booting of sports and large-scale festivals from the area earlier this year. Without a well, the conservancy says, the park won't be inviting its former inhabitants bak anytime soon.