New Briefs

Pope Goes on a Tear against Gay Families

Benedict XVI used his first Good Friday sermon to tell Catholic faithful, “Surely God is deeply pained by the attack on the family. Today we seem to be witnessing a kind of anti-Genesis, a counter-plan, a diabolical pride aimed at eliminating the family.” He took aim at “attempts to make [marriage] juridically equivalent to radically different forms of unions which in reality harm it and contribute to its destabilization.”

The pontiff lumped the movement for recognition of gay relationships in with “a slick campaign of propaganda [that] is spreading an inane apologia of evil, a senseless cult of Satan.” Benedict, who turned 79 on Easter Sunday, also said that his church was “a boat about to sink, taking on water on every side” and complained about “how much filth there is in the Church.”


William Sloane Coffin, Champion of Gay Rights, Dead at 81

Reverend Bill Coffin was known and celebrated for his frontline participation in many social movements, from the fight against the Vietnam War to the civil rights and anti-nuke movements. But the former chaplain of Yale and pastor of New York’s Riverside Church was also one of the most outspoken clergy on behalf of lesbian and gay rights, joining with his late contemporaries Bishop Paul Moore of the Episcopal Church and Rabbi Balfour Brickner of the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue as well as the still living Father Bernard Lynch of Dignity in a press conference for the city’s gay rights bill in 1986 to counter the opposition of conservative Catholic and Jewish leadership.

Coffin, a minister in the pro-gay United Church of Christ, preached decades ago that homosexuality was going to be the single most divisive issue that the religious establishment would confront, arguing that that gay people should be welcomed and affirmed. “For Christians,” he said, “the problem is not how to reconcile homosexuality with scriptural passages that condemn it, but how to reconcile the rejection and punishment of homosexuals with the love of Christ.” Coffin died at 81 in Stafford, Vermont.


Duke Lacrosse Player Accused of Rape Guilty of Gaybashing

Collin Finnerty, 19, one of two Duke University students arrested for the gang rape of a black woman in Durham, was sentenced to community service for his November attack on a man in Georgetown, Washington. Finnerty and two others picked on a man walking along the street minding his own business, called him “gay and other derogatory names,” according to the DC police, and attacked him, “busting his lip and bruising his chin.” Finnerty, of Garden City, Long Island, is a recent graduate of Chaminade High School, this reporter’s alma mater, where students are now taught that homosexuality is “intrinsically disordered” and “evil,” in line with Catholic doctrine.


Rumsfeld Played Role in Prescribing Anti-Gay Torture

Embattled Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was personally involved in developing the interrogation plan that included prisoner abuse at the U.S. Guantanamo detainee center, according to a report by the Army’s inspector general. Under the plan, a detainee was required to “stand naked in front of a female interrogator, was accused of being a homosexual, and was forced to wear women’s underwear and to perform ‘dog tricks’ on a leash.”

In press statements last year, Rumsfeld insisted, “There’s no torture going on down there and there hasn’t been.” He also described the treatment as “humane” and “consistent with international conventions.”


ACLU Sues Air Force over Discharge of Lesbian

Major Margaret Witt was thrown out of the Air Force for being in a lesbian relationship and now the American Civil Liberties Union is suing in federal court in Seattle saying that her dismissal was for behavior that has been legal since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that anti-sodomy laws are unconstitutional. This is the first time that decision has been invoked in a military case.


Romney’s Adoption Bureau Permits Anti-Gay Bias

Catholic Charities in Boston withdrew from adoption services rather than comply with state law barring them from discriminating against gay people who want to be parents. But the state Department of Early Education, which oversees adoptions, said that it will not stop anti-gay church agencies from continuing to place children as long as Republican Governor Mitt Romney’s bill to exempt anti-gay religions from complying with the law is pending. Romney, a harsh foe of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, is not seeking reelection this year in order to prepare for a 2008 presidential bid.


Arizona Scotches Anti-Gay Adoption Bill

A state Senate committee in Arizona fell one vote short of approving legislation that would give heterosexual married couples preference over single people in adoption. The bill would have severely restricted the opportunities for gays and lesbians to adopt in the state. The bill had passed in the House by a 33-to-25 vote, but is now dead for this session.


Lambda Sues Chicago to Allow Gay Group in Charter School

Lambda Legal Defense went to federal court to compel the Noble Street Charter School to let students there organize a gay-straight alliance club. James Madigan, a staff attorney with the group, said the Chicago school “has dragged its feet in the hopes that the end of the school year would end the desire for a club, but the students have demonstrated the need and have a right to form a GSA.” The club meets informally, but is denied the resources of the school, including the ability to publicize its existence. Lambda is asking for immediate injunctive relief so that an official meeting can be held before the end of school in June.


Federal Marriage Amendment Gaining Some Steam

While no one expects the anti-gay marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution to pass when Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist brings it up in June, it is expected to gain more votes than last time due to changes in the Senate make-up. Thred anti-gay Republicans now have seats held by pro-gay Democrats prior to the 2004 election. Democratic Leader Sen. Harry Reid called the measure “misguided” and “a constitutional amendment in search of a problem.” It lost 50-48 in 2004 on a procedural vote and needs 67 Senate ayes to pass.

Ohio Senator Mike DeWine, who opposed his state’s amendment on the issue, is now a co-sponsor of the federal version. DeWine has a Republican primary in May.

Senator John McCain of Arizona is still committed to voting against it for now. “I believe the states should decide,” he said, but has indicated to Reverend Jerry Falwell that he would vote for the amendment if a federal court decision struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. McCain, running for the 2008 nomination of his party for president, expects Republicans to face a “tough race” in the 2006 midterm elections.

In Maryland, four of those seeking the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate to replace Paul Sarbanes have come out in favor of same-sex marriage, not just against the anti-gay amendment.

Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown, a Democrat and former governor of California, has finally come out in favor of same-sex marriage now that he is running for state attorney general, the Bay Area Reporter said.


Transgendered Leader Barred from High School

Kate Bornstein, author of “Hello, Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws,” was stopped from being one of many speakers on Wellness Day at Fox Lane High School in Bedford, New York this week because a local businessman objected to her message, the Journal News reported.

“Why would a person, who is neither man nor woman, who is obviously confused, come to speak about gender, much less teen suicide,” Phil Christie complained to the superintendent of schools.

Bornstein told the newspaper, “I wanted to encourage the teens to be whatever helps them stay alive in this mad, mad world. I wanted to encourage them not to be mean, and not let the bullies get away with being bullies.”

Debra Jackson, the superintendent, said she was troubled by a link on Bornstein’s website,, to her partner’s Web site for Miss Vera’s Finishing School “for boys who want to be girls,” where men are given tips for dressing as women through a phone service.

“Teens need to understand what’s going on out in the world,” Bornstein said.