New Briefs

McCain: Keep People with AIDS Out of U.S.

Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican and likely a 2008 presidential candidate, may have a reputation as a maverick, but at a New York appearance on Monday, he went beyond toeing the party line on AIDS and immigrant issues. Speaking at the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, in support of the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act that he is co-sponsoring with Ted Kennedy, he was asked by AIDS activist Johnny Guaylupo if he would lift the U.S. ban on admitting people with HIV into this country.

“No. Never,” McCain said flatly. When another question was asked in Spanish about why anyone working on behalf of immigrant rights could support his run for president, McCain, after hearing the translation, reportedly told the man, “Learn some English.”


Memorial Service March 4 for Lieutenant Hester

A memorial mass for Lieutenant Laurel Hester—who after a months-long struggle won domestic partner benefits for her spouse from the Ocean County, New Jersey freeholders just before her death on February 18—will be held at St. Mary’s by the Sea Episcopal Church in Point Pleasant, New Jersey on Saturday, March 4 at noon. Hester went to the January meeting where the freeholders reversed course on the issue, thanking them with some of her dying breaths. A Laurel Hester Scholarship Fund has been established in her memory. It will administered by the Personal Liberty Fund of the New Jersey Lesbian and Gay Coalition.


Gay Porn in the Military, For Fun and Torture

Lots of gay porn sites have military themes. Now we know that at least seven of the performers at are real soldiers, because the Army is recommending that these paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division be discharged and that three be tried for engaging in sodomy, still a crime under military law despite the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that such laws were unconstitutional for civilians.

At the U.S. detention facility for alleged terrorists at Guantanamo, military interrogators have been subjecting detainees to “homosexual porn movies” according to e-mails obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union. FBI agents complain in the e-mails that these and other abuse tactics are making the effort to obtain information more difficult, The Nation reported.


Ban on Gay Adoptions Fading; Ban on GOP Adoptions Introduced

In response to a bill in the Ohio Legislature banning gay people from adopting children, Democratic State Senator Robert Hagan of Youngstown introduced one barring Republicans from adoption and foster care, saying that kids in such households are at high risk for “emotional problems, social stigmas, inflated egos, and alarming lack of tolerance for others they deem different than themselves and an air of overconfidence to mask their insecurities.”

In Florida, where gays have been banned from adopting for 30 years, a hearing was held on a Republican bill to lift the ban.

Banning gay adoption was supposed to be this year’s wedge issue for conservatives, especially in states that have already banned same-sex marriage in their constitutions, but the tactic appears to be losing steam.


Romney Considers Exempting Catholic Agency from Anti-Bias Law

Massachusetts Republican Governor Mitt Romney, a candidate for the Republican nomination for president, reversed course and said he would meet with representatives of the state’s Catholic bishops to see if he could accommodate their demand that Catholic Charities be exempt from having to place children in adoptive homes without regard to sexual orientation. Romney had said that he had no power to make such an exception. The board of Catholic Charities voted unanimously to continue letting gay people adopt. It is the bishops who are demanding the exemption.


IRS Grants Deduction for Gender Reassignment Surgery

The Internal Revenue Service recently ruled that people diagnosed with gender dysphoria can deduct as medical expenses costs for gender reassignment surgery. Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, a Boston public legal advocacy group, asked the IRS for the ruling on behalf of Rhiannon O. Donnabhain who had deducted the surgery expenses in 2001 but had been told by the IRS that it was disallowed because it was “cosmetic,” not “medically necessary.” The right-wing Traditional Values Coalition led by the Reverend Lou Sheldon is trying to get the IRS to revert back to its original posture, calling it “an unneeded surgical procedure for what is a troubled mind.”


Denial of Marriage Hurts Gay Mental Health

A new study, “I Do, But I Can’t” from San Francisco State University, found that the inability of gay couples to marry causes “a heightened level of stress-related disorders” due to constantly having to prove the legitimacy of their relationships. Gilbert Herdt of the National Sexuality Research Center looked at 150 studies over 30 years on the impact of marriage denial on same-sex couples.


Lesbian Congress Member Fights HHS Censoring of Gay Health Info

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, a Wisconsin Democrat, this week asked for a Congressional investigation into why the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services removed gay health information from its website. PlanetOut reported that the right-wing Family Research Council had objected to such words as “homophobia,” heterosexism,” and “sexual prejudice.” The group demanded that the site warn the public that “homosexual conduct is itself a significant health risk.”


Wisc. Amendment Advances; Minn. Holds Line

The Republican-dominated Legislature in Wisconsin gave final approval to an amendment to the state Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, civil unions, and domestic partnerships for same-sex couples. The vote in the Assembly for it was 62-31. It now goes to the voters in November where a majority is required for passage. In neighboring Minnesota, opponents of same-sex marriage are running radio ads against a group of legislators they call “the gang of 12” who have stopped passage of an amendment. Among the 12 is Republican Paul Koering who came out as gay last year.


Colorado Domestic Partners Bill Advances

A Democrat-sponsored bill to grant same-sex couples inheritance, hospital visitation, control of remains, and such other rights as access to a partner’s health benefits and pension advanced in the Colorado Legislature. A Republican bill that granted “reciprocal benefits” to adults living together—including gay couples, siblings, and roommates—was blocked in a Senate committee. It was supported by the far right Focus on the Family group. Anti-gay groups are trying to collect enough signatures to get an amendment on the ballot this year to ban same-sex marriage.


Sir Ian Honored

The 2005 Olivier Awards—the West End equivalent of the Tonys—were awarded this past weekend. The Society of London Theatre’s Special Award went to Ian McKellan “for his contribution to British theatre in general and his role as Widow Twankey in the Old Vic’s pantomime, ‘Aladdin,’ in particular,” the Guardian reported.

McKellan began performing in Mark Ravenhill’s new play, “The Cut,” at the Donmar Warehouse. Among gay-themed work, the three boys rotating in the title role of “Billy Elliot” won for best actor in a musical. That show, with an ostensibly straight Billy who has a gay best friend, also won for best new musical, written by Elton John and Lee Hall, as well as for choreography by Peter Darling and sound design by Paul Arditti.


Anti-Gay Activist to Bush AIDS Panel

George W. Bush has appointed Reverend Herbert Lusk to his Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. Lusk, a Philadelphia pastor and former NFL standout, has been campaigning for a federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and led Justice Sunday III, a right-wing religious rally for the confirmation of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.

The president also named Tony Benavidez, an out gay Log Cabin Republican activist, who works for a pharmaceutical company and has served several New Mexico AIDS groups.


Brokeback Oscars

Oddsmakers are predicting gay-themed work will take most of the top Academy Awards this Sunday, including “Brokeback Mountain” winning best film, best director for Ang Lee, and best adapted screenplay. Philip Seymour Hoffman is considered a lock for best actor in the title role in “Capote.” While most betting is on Reese Witherspoon for best actress for “Walk the Line,” Felicity Huffman’s portrayal of a man-to-woman transsexual in “TransAmerica” is the pick of Oscar expert Tom O’Neil of the Los Angeles Times.

The famous shirts in “Brokeback” of the two men entwine in Ennis’s closet at the end of the film were bought for more than $100,000 by gay activist Tom Gregory to benefit Variety: The Children’s Charity of Southern California.

The favored and best short animated film up for the Oscar is “The Moon and the Son” by out gay John Canemaker, a cartoon fantasia on his relationship with his late father. It’s also got star power in the voices of Eli Wallach and John Turturo.


CORRECTION: Notre Dame Gay Film Fest Not Banned

Last week we reported incorrectly that Father John Jenkins, president of Notre Dame University, had ordered the schools Gay and Lesbian Film Festival to move off campus after three years. We regret the error. The festival was held on school grounds, though the name was changed from the Queer Film Festival. A spokesman for the school said Jenkins did not order the change. But Liam Dacey, the founder of the festival, “said the university insisted because the old title was deemed celebratory of homosexuality,” the New York Times reported.

Jenkins, The Times reported, is hoping to “articulate his plan for balancing religious and academic missions” by the end of the school year, including the appropriateness of university sponsorship of the film festival and a production of “The Vagina Monologues,” moved from a theater to a classroom.

David Pais, a founder of the Gay and Lesbian Alumni/ae Association of the University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College, was quoted out of context in our original story. Here is an unedited version of a portion of his original statement: “As a person of faith, practicing Catholic, LGBT activist, and openly gay Notre Dame alumnus, I am hoping that Father Jenkins will continue to place his faith in the unfettered exploration for truth. The refusal to fully engage the issues and limit the exchange of information, thus impinging on that most fundamental Catholic value of personal decision-making based on one’s informed conscience, is totally contrary to the exhortation of Jesus that the truth shall set you free.