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In the crosshairs of conscience: John Kitzhaber's death penalty reckoning

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To cope with his dread, John Kitzhaber opened his leather-bound journal and began to write.
It was a little past 9 on the morning of Nov. 22, 2011. Gary Haugen had dropped his appeals. A Marion County judge had signed the murderer's death warrant, leaving Kitzhaber, a former emergency room doctor, to decide Haugen's fate. The 49-year-old would soon die by lethal injection if the governor didn't intervene.
Kitzhaber was exhausted, having been unable to sleep the night before, but he needed to call the families of Haugen's victims.
"I know my decision will delay the closure they need and deserve," he wrote.
The son of University of Oregon English professors, Kitzhaber began writing each day in his journal in the early 1970s. The practice helped him organize his thoughts and, on that particular morning, gather his courage.
Kitzhaber first dialed the widow of David Polin, an inmate Haugen beat and stabbed to death in 2003 while already serving a life sentence fo…

Meet Iran's gay mullah forced to flee the country

Taha, one of the over 1,000 Iranian LGBT refugees in Turkey
Taha, one of the over 1,000 Iranian LGBT refugees in Turkey
In a country where gay sex is punishable by death, Taha dared to do the unthinkable.

BBC journalist Ali Hamedani visited Istanbul, Turkey where Taha—an Iranian mullah, or cleric—has fled after performing same-sex wedding ceremonies in one of the most dangerous nations on the earth for LGBT people.

Homosexuality is illegal in 73 countries, nine of which prescribe the death penalty, including Iran.

Mullahs are highly powerful and respected in the Islamic nation, advising people on religious matters, which also means enforcing homophobia. So for Taha, life became very difficult when his fellow mullahs became suspicious of him and the gay men with whom he was associating.

Taha is one of the over 1,000 Iranian LGBT refugees the UN estimates is in Turkey waiting to be resettled abroad—his final stop will be Canada. 

Istanbul is one of the few places in the Muslim world that's tolerant of homosexuality, and Taha takes Hamedani out on the gay town.

Though life in Istanbul isn't easy by any means, Taha's presence is comforting to fellow queer refugees, who seek out his services to wed them.

For two such refugees, Ramtin Zigorat and his partner, a gay mullah is a big deal.

Source: OUT, June 8, 2016





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