NY State Senate Stops Anti-Bullying Bill
Out state Senator Tom Duane’s motion to discharge the Dignity for All Students Act from the committee where it has been bottled up by the Republican-controlled body since 2000 was rejected last week. All 24 Democrats present voted for the motion, but no Republicans did. The bill has passed the Democrat-dominated Assembly overwhelmingly for the last five years, but Republicans complain about the inclusions of transgender protections.
Fifth New York Gay Marriage Case to Appellate Court
While four cases seeking the right of gay couples to marry have been heard by New York’s Appellate Division and rejected, a fifth, Shields v. Madigan, has just been scheduled by the Second Department of that mid-level court for a hearing on March 28 in downtown Brooklyn. It is eighth on a docket of 11 cases that begin at 10 a.m.
One of the plaintiffs, Mayor John Shields of Nyack, said, “I don’t feel very encouraged at this point, but it is important that cases keep coming before the courts and at some point we will have judges who understand liberty and justice for all with no exceptions.” One of the lead attorneys is renowned civil libertarian Norman Siegel.
Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the NYCLU have appealed their losses in the other cases already to the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest. They are awaiting answers from the City of New York and the State of New York as to why their appeal should be denied.
Bush Anti-Gay Aide Arrested
Claude Allen, a virulent anti-gay activist and up until recently President George W. Bush’s chief domestic adviser, was arrested in Maryland for theft in several Montgomery County stores. His alleged modus operandi was to purchase something, put it in his car, return to the store with the sales receipt, pick up the same item and bring it to the return desk for cash.
Bush said he was saddened by the arrest, but added, “If the allegations are true, Claude Allen did not tell my chief of staff and legal counsel the truth and that’s deeply disappointing.”
Allen, once an aide to ultra-right Senator Jesse Helms, the North Carolina Republican, accused his 1984 opponent, Governor Jim Hunt, of having “links to queers” and “radical feminists.” Doug Ireland reported that when he worked at the Department of Health and Human Services, Allen also led “witch hunts” against Gay Men’s Health Crisis and other AIDS groups that protested administration policies. He also opposed the promotion of condom use and safe sex.
Walter Armstrong, editor of POZ magazine, wrote on Ireland’s blog that “Allen has long been widely spoken of as a closeted homosexual—and not only by AIDS advocate adversaries—which, if true, certainly enriches the story. He has been seen ‘out’ on the scene for years, which should surprise no one, since the radical right has had, ever since the Reagan years, no small number of closeted gays eager to do the heaviest lifting.”
Allen is married—to a woman—and has children. He faces 15 years in prison on the charges, which he denies.
Gay activist Keith Boykin, like Allen an African American, wrote on his blog several years ago that he went to high school with both Claude and his brother “and upon reading the words he uttered concerning ‘queers,’ I find this very odd when in high school he was the ‘Queen of the Queers’ and it is very easy to verify.”
Thanks to blogger Michael Petrelis for pulling these quotes together.
Right Wing Calls for Boycott of Ford
Nineteen conservative groups, led by the American Family Association, are calling for a boycott of the Ford Motor Company for being soft on gays. Last year, at the behest of the right wing, Ford said it would pull its ads in gay publications and drop support for gay events, but reversed itself after an outpouring of gay protest. Now Randy Sharp of the AFA says that Ford is aiding the cause of same-sex marriage, the Washington Post reported.
“If Ford is going to use its profits to be active in the culture war regarding homosexuality, we are simply going to ask people not to support them through buying Ford products,” Sharp told the newspaper.
Stonewall Leader Steps Down
Eric Stern, executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats, is stepping down on April 1 to “take a break from politics.” He is a cancer survivor and said that while he has not had “any health-related complications, the last five years of constant campaign-related work have taken their toll on me.”
Stephen Driscoll, co-chair of Stonewall’s board, credited Stern with leading the group to remarkable “electoral, financial, and political progress” during his tenure. Jo Wyrick, the current deputy director, will helm the group while a search is conducted for his replacement.
Four Arrested in Murder of Jamaican AIDS Activist
Three men and a 16-year old girl have been charged in the November murder of Steve Harvey, a gay man who worked for the Jamaica AIDS Support Unit. Harvey was abducted by the gun-toting gang from his home and later found shot to death on Pinewood Terrace, the Jamaica Observer reported.
Cincinnati Passes LGBT Rights Bill
The City Council of Cincinnati voted 8-1 on March 15 to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The city’s voters once banned such laws in their charter, but that amendment was overturned by the electorate in 2004. Equality Cincinnati led the drive for the bill, aided by the Human Rights Campaign which noted that there are now 76 U.S. jurisdictions that have proscribed bias based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Czech Mates Checkmate Right Wing
Needing an absolute majority of 101 votes to override President Vaclav Klaus’s veto of a bill recognizing same-sex partnerships, the Czech Parliament, led by Social Democrat Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, got exactly that number on March 15, aided by votes from the Communist and other parties.
There are 200 members of the Parliament and even though there were only 177 present on Wednesday, 101 votes were required for an override, so every vote was effectively the deciding vote.
“The law is a compromise,” gay leader Jiri Hromada told the Associated Press. “It will harm no one and will make many happy.” It includes rights of inheritance and hospital visitation, but does not allow for adoption by gay people. Paroubek intends to make his party’s passage of the bill a major issue in the June election, the BBC reported.
Lion Lies Down with Lamb on Gay Issues in Schools
And you can take your pick which is which. The First Amendment Center and a group called BridgeBuilders got the Christian Educators Association International to sit down with the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network to draft guidelines “to help educators, students, and parents develop local policies and practices to address issues involving sexual orientation in public schools,” the Center announced.
“Americans are deeply divided over homosexuality in our society,” Charles Haynes of the Center said in a release. “But if school officials and community members use the ground rules of the First Amendment, they can reach agreement on how public schools can guard the rights of all students in a safe learning environment.”
The common goal, said Kevin Jennings of GLSEN, was “to ensure America’s schools are safe and effective environments for each and every student.”
Finn Laursen of the Christian Educators group said that “all sides should be heard and this does include the ex-gay perspective.”
The guidelines include calls for taking bullying seriously “regardless of reason,” talking openly about the issues, and not discriminating “against student clubs or expression simply because the political or religious message is unpopular or potentially offensive to some.”
The complete text is available online at firstamendment.org.
Israeli Party Comes Out for Same-Sex Marriage
The leftist Meretz Party in Israel has endorsed the right of gay people to marry, its leader Yossi Beilin told a meeting of gay leaders in Tel Aviv, 365gay.com reported. Meretz debuted stickers with the slogans calling itself “the voice of the groom and groom” and “the voice of the bride and bride.”
No other political party in Israel supports full marriage rights for gay people. Some same-sex couples are fighting for marriage rights in the courts.
Catholic University Bans Same-Sex Chaperones on Trips
The University of St. Thomas in St. Paul has adopted a policy barring unmarried and same-sex partners of faculty from rooming together when traveling on student trips, Minnesota Public Radio reported. Partners Ellen Kennedy and Leigh Lawson, both professors at the Catholic school, who were going to team-teach a course overseas on human rights this year, balked over the policy.
“We’ve been a couple for 12 years,” Kennedy said. “Being apart for four weeks or for a semester-long program isn’t something that at this point in our lives we would ever choose to do.” The women have roomed together on past school trips.
More than 130 faculty and staff signed a letter of protest over the policy, citing Catholic teachings on compassion and social justice. But Tom Rochon, vice president of academic affairs—we can’t make this stuff up, folks—told the station, “We’re often put in the position of having to choose between gay rights and homophobia. The position of the Catholic Church is nuanced a bit. We have to remember what the sources of our convictions are and the fact that we should not be simply put in one camp or another.” He added, “This is a Catholic university. It stands for something.”
New Rules in Britain
The U.K. Department of Trade and Industry has published guidelines as to how public accommodations must treat gay people if they don’t want to run afoul of the law. Shops are being advised that it is illegal to bar gay couples from signing up for wedding lists, for restaurants to forbid same-sex couples from holding hands over dinner, and for hotels to refuse the patronage of gay guests “on the ground that they would offend other guests,” the UK Times reported.
Alan Johnson, the trade secretary, said that this is an effort to counter the discrimination gay people face “in their everyday lives.”
Golf clubs cannot refuse membership on the grounds that an applicant is gay. Schools that “fail to deal with homophobic bullying in the same way as other bullying could face a claim of discrimination,” the newspaper reported. The department has yet to rule on whether the regulations will apply to what they call “faith schools.”
Attention Friends of Mychal Judge
Brendan Fay, who is co-producing a documentary about Father Mychal Judge, the gay priest and Fire Department chaplain killed in the World Trade Center catastrophe, is also preparing a book on him. For the book and film, now in its final stages of editing, he is asking those with photos, videos, and audiotapes of Judge or letters from him to consider sharing them. “Others may have a story of a shared meal, a funeral, a baptism, a parade or protest, a visit,” he wrote. “Please feel free to get in touch.”
Fay can be contacted at [email protected] or at 718-721-2780. The film on Judge, narrated by Ian McKellen, will premier at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 27. It is co-produced by the Equality Forum of Philadelphia and directed by Glenn Holsten.