More Gay Flak for Howard Dean
Just one week after Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean tried to tamp down the suspicion that he had fired Donald Hitchcock, his top advisor on LGBT issues, in retaliation for a letter from Paul Yandura, Hitchcock’s partner, criticizing the party for not doing anything to beat back anti-gay state marriage amendments, the former Vermont governor is taking heat over comments he made on Pat Robertson’s “700 Club.” On that show, Dean said, “The Democratic Party platform from 2004 says marriage is between a man and a woman.” Jo Wyrick, interim executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats, responded, “We strongly point out that Governor Dean incorrectly spoke.” Wyrick did credit the Democratic chairman for standing up for the need to provide equal legal protections to all families while on the show, saying, “Governor Dean correctly understands that our party needs to convey the values that are championed by Democrats and shared with the majority of Americans.”
Lopez Gets Housing Authority Post; Ellner In at Education Department
Former Councilwoman Margarita Lopez, the out lesbian Democrat who promised not to endorse Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg last year and then did, has been rewarded with an appointment to the New York City Housing Authority Board for a five-year term. The new job carries a salary of nearly $170,000, up significantly from her pay last year at the Council of $97,500. Lopez was a longtime tenant’s rights activist prior to joining the Council in 1998. A Democrat from the Lower East Side, she endorsed Bloomberg after losing last September’s Democratic primary for Manhattan borough president.
As Gay City News was going to press, the city Department of Education released a statement announcing the appointment of Brian Ellner as senior counselor for community affairs, reporting directly to Chancellor Joel I. Klein. “Brian Ellner is a phenomenal addition to our senior leadership team,” Klein said in the statement. Ellner, a gay attorney who also ran unsuccessfully for Manhattan borough president in last fall’s Democratic primary and went on to endorse Bloomberg, served as president of Community School Board 2 in the late 1990s.
California Episcopalians Avoid Gay Pick
Delegates from the Episcopal Diocese of California based in San Francisco picked the Right Reverend Mark Handley of Alabama as their new bishop from seven candidates including three out gay or lesbian priests. Despite Handley’s commitment to gay inclusion in the church, conservatives were hailing the selection as a movement away from a potential schism that was first threatened by the confirmation of out gay Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire. Integrity, the LGBT Episcopalian group, welcomed Handley’s appointment. “It’s one of the most exhaustive searches we’ve seen,” said Reverend Michael Hopkins, past president of the group.” Brand LaMonte, Integrity’s southeastern regional vice president called Handley “a great champion for human rights.”
Good News and Bad from Illinois, Maryland
It looks as if the right wing in Illinois has collected enough signatures to get a non-binding advisory referendum on the ballot in November calling on the state Legislature to pass a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage. On the plus side, Democratic Governor Rod Balgojevich opened health benefits to gay partners of state employees through executive order, making Illinois the 13th state to take that step.
In Maryland, where Republican Governor Bob Elrich earlier vetoed a domestic partner registry, he this week signed a bill making it easier for gay and unmarried partners to make medical decisions for each other, 365gay.com reported.
Palm Beach Schools: Gay Not OK
The Palm Beach County, Florida school board uses software that blocks access to the Web sites of gay groups from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, or GLAAD, to GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, but lets sites promoting the ex-gay and anti-gay movements such as the American Family Association and the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality get through, 365gay.com reported. The district claims to be following federal guidelines under the Child Online Protection Act and Children Internet Protection Act, but will review its policy at the behest of the American Civil Liberties Union and the city’s Human Rights Council.
Four University of Vermont frat boys face $1,000 fines under an anti-hazing law for forcing pledges to dress like cowboys and endure anti-gay slurs. The Phi Gamma Delta initiation rite was a take-off on the movie “Brokeback Mountain.” The school’s police chief called their ritual “homophobic in nature” and “inappropriate,” the Associated Press reported.
Brit “Equality” Minister Has Anti-Gay Record
As British Prime Minister Tony Blair rearranges the deck chairs on the Titanic of his cabinet, he has selected Ruth Kelly, a member of the right-wing Opus Dei movement of the Catholic Church, to be his Minister for Equality. On recent historic votes for gay civil partnerships and adoptions, Kelly took a walk. “Everybody is entitled to express their views on free votes of conscience,” she told BBC Radio. Pressed on whether she believed homosexuality is a sin, Kelly said, “I don’t think it’s right for politicians to start making moral judgments about people,” accusing her questioner of asking her whether it is “possible to be a practicing Catholic and hold a position in government. The answer is yes.” Opus Dei, a lay Catholic movement that takes a beating in the fictional “Da Vinci Code” book and movie, does encourage their members to bring their faith to bear on civic life.
Peter Tatchell of the gay group Outrage! told the U.K. Times, “She is not an appropriate person to be in charge of a government office with the remit of combating homophobic discrimination.”
Arrests in St. Maarten Gaybashing
Police in the Caribbean island of St. Maarten arrested a man and a woman in the anti-gay beating of two gay CBS producers from New York last month, bringing to four the total number charged in the vicious attack, 365gay.com reported. Dick Jefferson was beaten with a tire iron outside of a nightclub after a dispute in which traveling companions of his—Ryan Smith and Justin Swensen—were hit with anti-gay insults when other patrons noticed them being physically affectionate with each other. Ryan Smith, also at CBS, was also beaten, more severely, and remains in a Miami hospital recovering from neurological damage. Though forced to have a metal plate inserted into his skull, Jefferson was quickly released from the hospital. In the wake of the attacks, Jefferson and Swensen both complained to Gay City News about the lackluster efforts by police in the Dutch protectorate.
George Michael Wedding and Touring
Singer George Michael has had his troubles lately with drugs, but is looking to turn his life around by entering into a formal civil partnership, now available under British law, with partner of 10 years, Kenny Goss, and by doing his first concert tour in 15 years, People magazine reported. The 25 Live European tour begins in Spain in September and will have an American stop in 2007. Tickets for it sold out in three hours after being made available on April 23. Michael doesn’t plan an extravaganza like rival Elton John had with David Furnish. “No one’s going to be getting into a dress!” he said. “Neither of us has the body for it, you know.”
A Human Rights Watch report found that increasing numbers of bi-national couples in the U.S. are resettling in Britain where immigration rules are the same as for straight couples and comprehensive legal protections for gay and lesbian couples are offered.