LGBT Rights and Health Event Story

Professors Michael Ulrich and Julia Raifman sought to answer whether baking a cake constitutes as free speech in their discussion and analysis of the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission this past Tuesday afternoon.

The event, entitled “LGBT Rights and Health” and organized by Jessica Walsh, the Center Coordinator for the Center for Health Law, Ethics & Human Rights, attracted more than 150 people to the Keefer Auditorium at Boston University’s (BU) Medical Campus. The discussion additionally examined how United States laws have affected LGBT health.

The case involves the Colorado Masterpiece Cakeshop baker, Jack Phillips, and the same-sex couple, David Mullins and Charlie Craig. In July 2012, the couple attempted to order a wedding cake from Masterpiece Bakery, but were refused by the owner, Phillips, after he asserted that selling them the cake served as a violation of his firmly held religious beliefs. Phillips offered to sell the couple a pre-made cake or to make them any other kind of baked good, but maintained that he couldn’t support same-sex marriage by baking the couple a cake, according to Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).

Michael Ulrich, an assistant professor of health law, policy and management, began the discussion by offering the audience a broad understanding of the case, and continued by laying out the arguments on both sides.

“The big question here is, does baking a cake equal speech?” Ulrich said.

He then analyzed the arguments in favor of the baker and included that Phillips and his attorneys are establishing their case off the fact that cake is speech. Ulrich expressed that the argument also stems from the claim that Phillip’s refusal to sell the cake due to his religious beliefs was ultimately a form of speech itself.

Ulrich added that the best way for Phillips and his attorneys to bypass the opposing arguments is to firmly contend that cake is speech.

“Speech was the best way to do that,” Ulrich said. “There is a strong disfavor in allowing the government to compel speech from people, particularly speech that they do not agree with and they don’t believe in.”

Ulrich continued, explaining that one of the primary arguments in favor of the couple ultimately revealed that if cakes are considered free speech, then many other things can also be associated with free speech.

“That opens the door for people to say, ‘well I’m not going to provide my product or service to you because this violates my religious belief,’” Ulrich said.

Julia Raifman, an assistant professor of health law, policy and management, extended the discussion with a presentation on the relationship between LGBT rights and health.

Raifman spoke about the changes in LGBT rights over the past few years and how most of her research is based on the Fundamental Cause Theory. She went on to relate fundamental causes to structural stigma and later explained how they relate to LGBT mental health.

“Structural stigma [are] the social conditions, cultural norms, and especially the institutional policies and practices that can strain opportunities, resources and well being,” Raifman said.

Raifman included that these structural stigma, such as higher structural stigma at the state or national level, affect structural stigma at lower level institutions like schools, hospitals, and families and peers. This is what leads to health disparities in LGBT communities, according to Raifman.

She also presented studies that indicated the correlations between recent laws and their effects on LGBT mental health. Raifman added that same-sex marriage laws typically improved LGBT mental health, while same-sex bans were associated with mental harm.

Raifman concluded the forum by addressing the following question: “Is it a cake or is it just structural stigma?”

“I think what the evidence shows is that whether discrimination takes the shape of a cake or a marriage license, or an adoption, that LGBT rights are linked to health and that is relevant to this story,” said Raifman.


The New York Times Cliches (12/7)

China Scolds Australia Over Fears About Foreign Meddling 

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The new legislation, modeled on American laws that ban foreign campaign donations and require registration of foreign agents, had been widely expected after a drumbeat of stories in the Australian news media about the perceived threat of Chinese interference.

China Scolds Australia Over Fears About Foreign Meddling 

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Both have zeroed in on China as a threat, accusing the country of trying to exert influence through political donations and pressure applied to Chinese students at Australian universities.

China Scolds Australia Over Fears About Foreign Meddling 

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China has long treated Australia asa laboratory for soft power experiments, flexing its economic muscle, sending students to study at its universities and creating organizations with close ties to the Communist Party,

Denzel Washington Obituary

Denzel Washington, a critically renowned actor who took on an immense range of roles in various popularly known feature films, died Tuesday night at his vacation home in Mailbu, California. He was 95.

Washington’s eldest son, John, notified reporters that Washington died surrounded by those whom he truly loved. No further information about the cause of death has been released.

Washington starred in many feature films, including  “A Carbon Copy,” “Glory,” “American Gangster” and “Flight ”— all of which helped to firmly established his lasting legacy in the film world.

He was born in Mount Vernon, New York. His father, Denzel, was a Pentecostal minister while his mother, Lennis, worked as a beautician. He was the middle of three children.

Upon graduating high school, Washington enrolled at Fordham University with the intentions of pursuing a journalism career. After involving himself in various student drama productions, his interests shifted. Following his graduation, he decided that he no longer wanted to work as a journalist. He then enrolled in the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. He would star in his first feature film several years later.

In 1981, Washington made his film debut with “A Carbon Copy.” He later starred in and won a best supporting actor Oscar for “Glory” (1989).

Washington additionally received much critical acclaim for his portrayal of human rights activist Malcom X in “Malcom” (1992). He received an Oscar nomination for best actor following the film’s release.

In 2001, he earned his second Oscar for his leading role in the film “Training Day.” A year later, he directed and co-starred in his own film, “Antwone Fisher.” Washington took part in many other successful films throughout his career, including “American Gangster” in 2007, where he played Harlem drug kingpin Frank Lucas, and “Flight” in 2012. He received an Academy Award nomination for his role in “Flight.”

Washington continued to star in and direct many films throughout the remainder of his film career, even mentoring aspiring actors and actresses at the age of 90. His various roles, his distinguished stage presence and his undying appetite for film itself will never be forgotten.

Washington was not just an incredible actor, but an incredible son, father, husband and friend. He is survived by his wife, Pauletta Washington, and his two sons, John and Malcom, and two daughters, Katia and Olivia.

Light and Dance Event Story

Students from the Boston University (BU) College of Fine Arts School of Theatre and the Department of Physical Recreation, Education & Dance delivered an intriguing show Monday night that explored the relationship between light, dance and movement.

The 16th annual event, entitled “AURORA BOREALIS 16: A Festival of Light and Dance,” attracted around 150 people and was co-artistic directed by Yo-EL Cassell and Micki Taylor-Pinney.

Before the performances began, the hosts instructed the audience to completely turn off their devices so that they’d be fully engaged with the many different acts that were to come.

The first performance, a solo act, featured choreographer Derek Martinez as he aimed to understand the true power of light. He wore a mask and walked with a limp as a spotlight reigned from the center of the stage. Though initially afraid of its effects, he became accustomed to its power after implementing several approaches to turning the light on and off.


Other performances included dancers maneuvering on aerial playgrounds, aerial silks dancers and collaborative dance groups—all of which seemed to emphasize that there could be no movement without dance, and no dance without light.

Following the event’s close, a couple of attendees weighed in, expressing how pleased they were with the performances presented.

Elena Thompson, a College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) junior and aerial dancer, said that although she normally attends the annual event, she particularly enjoyed the performances the School of Theatre had to offer.

“I’m a dancer and I’m also a part of the aerial classes at BU, so I wanted to check out the performance like I always do each year,” said Thompson. “I really [liked] the School of Theatre’s performances.”

Ivy Hedberg, a College of Communication senior, said that she especially enjoyed the aerial segments of the event.

“The aerial silks were super amazing to watch,” Hedberg said. “I have a friend who’s end to them also and they’re so amazing to look at.”

The New York Times Cliches (11/30)

Longtime Face of NBC’s ‘Today’ Is Fired as Complaints Multiply

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The downfall of Mr. Lauer, a presence in American living rooms for more than 20 years, adds to a head-spinning string of prominent firings over sexual harassment and abuse allegations.

Cliche: Head-spinning

Britain Doubles Its Cash Offer to E.U. in Brexit Talks 

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The proposition that Britain could have its cake and eat it during Brexit, as the foreign secretary Boris Johnson once said, was always dismissed as a fiction by opponents.

Cliche: Have its cake and eat it

Vatican on Defensive as Pope Wraps Up Myanmar Visit

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In his last full day in Myanmar, Pope Francis sought to pivot away from politics and the disappointment  over his decision to avoid mentioning the persecuted Rohingya Muslims and to find safer ground in Catholic liturgy and inter-religious dialogue.

Cliche: Find safer ground

The New York Times Cliches (11/23)

Two ‘Acting Directors,’ and One Skeptical Judge

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At a hurriedly called and packed-to-the-gills hearing, Judge Kelly voiced his concerns, noting that the lawyers for the president could not definitively say whether Ms. English was protected from losing her job.

Tax Wrangling Aims to Sweeten Gains of Wealthy

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The Republican tax bill hurtling through congress is increasingly tilting the United States tax code to benefit wealthy Americans, as party leaders race to shore up wavering lawmakers who are requesting more help for high-earning business owners.

General Is Given Control Of Venezuelan Oil Giant

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As the government wrestles with declining production and crushing debt amid an unrelenting economic crisis, the president cast the appointment as an attack on rampant corruption that has bled Pdvsa of profits and undermined its operations.