New Briefs

500 Head to Albany to Lobby for Equal Marriage Rights

LGBT Equality and Justice Day, sponsored by the Empire State Pride Agenda, is bringing at least 500 people from around the state to Albany on Monday, May 8 to lobby for equal rights for same-sex couples, an anti-bullying bill, and transgender rights. The assembled are scheduled to hear from state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who says he supports the right of gay couples to marry even while he argues before the Court of Appeals on May 31 that the state Constitution currently provides no right to such marriages.

Also set to address the crowd are Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Lower East Side Democrat, Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, an upstate Troy Republican, Senate Democratic Leader David Paterson of Harlem, and the Democrats who make up the gay and lesbian caucus: Assemblymembers Deborah Glick, of the Village, and Daniel O’Donnell, of the Upper West Side, and Senator Tom Duane of Chelsea. Labor and religious leaders will also participate.

This lobby day has taken on “special significance” according to a Pride Agenda release, because of the impending court hearing on same-sex marriage. The Pride Agenda is running full-page ads in the Legislative Gazette in Albany proclaiming, “53% of New Yorkers say it’s time to stop marriage discrimination against same-sex couples. Only 38% do not.” The data comes from its most recent state poll earlier this year.

Gay City News will have a full report on the Albany events next week.


Mary Cheney Ready for Primetime

Mary Cheney, the lesbian daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney, has kept out of the public eye and refused interviews while preparing her memoir, “Now It’s My Turn.” She is giving her first TV interview on her coming out experiences to ABC’s “Primetime” on Thursday, May 4 at 10 p.m. In addition, Todd Purdum interviewed her and her dad for “Vanity Fair.”

Mary said that when she came out to her folks while still a teenager, her father told her, “You’re my daughter, and I love you and I just want you to be happy.” Mother Lynn Cheney was more freaked by Mary’s disclosure, but has come to accept it, though during the 2000 election she denied that her daughter had declared herself to be lesbian in a testy exchange with Cokie Roberts, then an ABC journalist.

The younger Cheney tells Diane Sawyer in the TV interview that she refused to attend the State of the Union address when President George W. Bush announced support for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. “I didn’t want to be there,” she said. “No one banned me from being there. But I didn’t want to stand up and cheer.”

ABC reported, “She says the president offered to let her give a public statement in disagreement, and her father indicated publicly he disagreed with his boss on the issue.”

Cheney also addressed criticism from gay activists about her public silence in the face of the administration’s attack on LGBT rights. “I respect their opinion,” she said. “But it is not the path that I would have chosen for myself.”


Suozzi Wants Nassau Partner Re-Vote

Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi, who is opposing Eliot Spitzer for the Democratic nomination for governor, told WCBS-TV’s Andrew Kirtzman that he didn’t lobby for the domestic partner registry that was nixed by his Democrat-controlled County Legislature because he thought the bill was going to pass. It failed when two Democrats defected and Suozzi now says he will press for another vote on the issue. The Empire State Pride Agenda took out full-page ads in community newspapers in Baldwin and Rockville Centre attacking Joe Scannell, a Democrat-Conservative legislator who voted against the registry under pressure from the Conservative party. “Over 70 percent of Nassau County voters support domestic partnerships,” the ad said. “So why is Joe Scannell discriminating against our families?”


Day of Silence Observed Across the Nation

Almost 4,500 schools participated in the National “Day of Silence” sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Educators Network, or GLSEN, on April 26 for the 10th year. LGBT students and their supporters observe the day by keeping silent to protest bullying, violence, and harassment.

“LGBT youth are five times more likely than the general student body to skip school because they don’t feel safe,” said Kevin Jennings, GLSEN’s executive director. “The Day of Silence poignantly brings that truth to light.”

The religious right has tried to counter the growth of the Day of Silence with what they call a Day of Truth to protest homosexuality. The right estimates that 700 schools participated in their efforts.


Alaska Moves to Ban Benefits for Gay Couples

In 1998, an Alaska court ordered marriage rights for gay couples so the state passed a constitutional amendment against it. Last year, the state’s Supreme Court ordered the government to equalize benefits for gay couples where one member works for the state and the Legislature couldn’t agree on another amendment to thwart that step. This past week, the Senate Finance Committee voted 4-3 for one that would deny spousal benefits to employees in same-sex relationships, but permit private businesses to keep providing such benefits if they so choose. All 30 people who testified on the amendment opposed it. So much for public input.


Colorado Facing Four Ballot Initiatives

Opponents and supporters of gay rights are gathering signatures on proposals for the November ballot in Colorado. Opponents are working on a measure to ban same-sex marriage in the state Constitution and another that would prohibit the state from giving any legal recognition to gay relationships, the Rocky Mountain News reported.

A bill to recognize domestic partners is working its way through the Legislature and would require voter approval if passed. Coloradans for Fairness is also backing a proposal to counter one of the right-wing initiatives by getting voters to affirm that domestic partnerships are not similar to marriage. There is a legal debate about whether two proposals that contradict each other can both be passed.


Republican: Marriage Amendment “Silly”

John Danforth, Republican former senator from Missouri and a big booster of Justice Clarence Thomas, told the Log Cabin Republican dinner in Washington that he cannot think of a constitutional amendment “sillier” than the one to ban same-sex marriage. It is scheduled for another vote in June in Congress. Danforth, an Episcopal priest, told the gay GOP group, “Once before, the Constitution was amended to try to deal with matters of human behavior; that was Prohibition,” which he called a “flop.”

Log Cabin did not support the Bush-Cheney ticket in 2004, but Vice President Dick Cheney and House Speaker Denny Hastert sent video messages to the dinner. They did not address LGBT issues, but praised outgoing gay Republican Congressman Jim Kolbe of Arizona.


Gay Marriage in Canada Threatened by Delay in Re-Vote

At first, the right wing was upset that Stephen Harper, the new Conservative prime minister of Canada, was putting off a vote until this fall on reopening the issue of the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage. Now it is Canadians for Equal Marriage that is concerned that the delay gives the right wing more time to put pressure on members of Parliament to overturn last year’s vote under the former Liberal-led government. Laurie Arron of the group told the Globe and Mail that gay marriage rights would be upheld if the vote were held now. It is not clear that Parliament can end gay marriage in Canada without circumventing the Charter of Rights and Freedoms under which most of the provincial courts had ordered it prior to the 2005 federal action.


Clay Aiken Disinvited by Christian Group

“American Idol” star Clay Aiken was set to appear this weekend at the Pure Fashion Show in Atlanta, dedicated to “promoting virtues of modesty and purity in our culture,” the New York Post reported. But accusations that he is gay and had an affair with porn actor John Paulus led to the cancellation of his appearance as well as the postponement of his Christian music album.


McKellen: “Other Gay Actors Afraid of Me”

Sir Ian McKellen, starring in “The Da Vinci Code” and “X-Men III,” has been sounding off on the movie industry and gay people in a round of interviews. He told the Observer of Britain, “Nobody has ever looked to Hollywood for social advance. Hollywood is a dream factory. I love the way that conservatives think that Hollywood is a bed of radicalism—it couldn’t be more staid and old-ladyship if it tried.” He also said, “I think some other gay actors are afraid of me, because they think, ‘Oh, if I do come out, I’ll have to do what Ian McKellen does, and be a spokesperson.’”

McKellan, who also narrates “Saint of 9/11,” the new documentary about Father Mychal Judge, the gay priest who perished in the World Trade Center catastrophe, plans on taking the rest of the year off from new gigs whilst he prepares to play King Lear early next year at Stratford. “It’s very exposing,” he told the newspaper. “I’m not looking forward to it at all.”


A GOP Primary Like No Other in Rhode Island

Incumbent Lincoln Chafee is being challenged from the right for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, but listen to what that means in Rhode Island. Chafee supports the right of gay people to marry while his opponent, Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey, supports civil unions. Chafee supports abortion rights and while Laffey opposes abortion, he considers Roe v. Wade “settled law,” the Associated Press reported. The winner of the primary will likely face former Democratic State Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse, also a same-sex marriage supporter.