New Briefs

House to Debate Marriage Amendment Mid-July

Though it has already failed in the U.S. Senate, the House of Representatives will hold a debate and vote on the Marriage Protection Amendment the week of July 17. Thwarted in Congress, some right-wingers—including the Family Research Council—are considering bringing up the amendment through a Constitutional Convention that can be called—but never has been—by two-thirds of the states. The whole Constitution would be up for grabs—opening up the potential for a parliamentary free-for-all—but amendments approved in such a convention would still need ratification by three-fourths of the states.


Milk School Suit Settled

Reverend Ruben Diaz, Sr., a Bronx state Senator, has settled his 2003 lawsuit against the Harvey Milk High School. Diaz, who has publicly sparred with the gay community for more than a decade, launched his suit, in which Jerry Falwell’s Liberty Counsel represented him, when the New York Post trumpeted news of an increase in city funding for the school, which is operated by the Hetrick-Martin Institute that serves LGBT youth. The school, created in 1985 as a haven for New York City public school students harassed over sexual orientation, acknowledges in the settlement that it is not closed to non-gay students. Liberty Counsel pledged to track admissions to make sure the school is not discriminating against straight youth.


Gay Club Raided in New Mexico

New Mexico has a LGBT rights law and even offers some domestic partner benefits, but on July 1 a raid on an Albuquerque club was reminiscent of pre-Stonewall days. Police burst into the Pride Gym with rifles and handcuffed both staff and patrons, including some clad only in towels. The reason given for the raid was that alcohol was being sold illegally, but witnesses said the police used “offensive language” according to the Albuquerque Tribune.

Police claim they did not target the gym because it is gay and they defended their restraint of patrons as standard procedure. The owner said it is a private club and no money is charged for the booze, which is served with food on Saturday nights. He was arrested as were five patrons for “drinking at an unlicensed establishment,” the newspaper said.


California Marriage Case to Be Heard July 10

Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the first state bill in the country to open marriage to gay couples last fall, so lawsuits to secure that right are going forward with a hearing before the Court of Appeal in San Francisco on July 10. Twelve couples, represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, won a lower court ruling last year, which is being appealed by the state. Three additional pro-gay suits have been consolidated, bringing the total roster of plaintiffs to 20 couples, plus the City of San Francisco. Two lawsuits from conservative groups—initially filed to halt the marriages sanctioned by San Francisco in early 2004, which were overturned by the state Supreme Court, but only on the grounds that the city had exceeded its municipal authority—are also being considered in the July 10 oral arguments. The anti-gay suits seek to validate the constitutionality of existing California statute.

The Court of Appeal has 90 days to rule, but its decision will undoubtedly be appealed to the state Supreme Court by whichever side loses.

Schwarzenegger was feted at a Log Cabin Republican dinner this past week for his “courage to lead,” despite the veto. He said he was “proud to be on the same team as all of you.”


Illinois Anti-Gay Referendum Fails

The Protect Marriage group in Illinois tried to get an advisory referendum on the ballot calling on the Legislature to ban same-sex marriage in the state Constitution. An official spot check of the signatures submitted showed that the group fell short, but the anti-gay forces are appealing the ruling.


Pennsylvania Anti-Gay Amendment Stalled

The House and Senate in Pennsylvania still can’t agree on how far a constitutional amendment against gay relationships should go, with the House wanting to ban marriage and civil unions and the Senate only agreeing to a bar on marriage. The legislators have left for the summer and will have to agree 90 days before the November election in order to qualify it for another vote next year in order to get it on the 2007 ballot. If they fail to agree—as now seems likely—the next shot at that particular brand of gay-bashing in Senator Rick Santorum’s home state will be 2009.


Gay Man Released Pending Retrial After 21 Years

Bernard Baran, a gay man convicted, at the age of 19, in 1985 of molesting five children at a daycare center in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and sentenced to life in prison was released on $50,000 bail after a judge ordered a new trial for him based on the inadequacy of his defense. Superior Court Judge Francis R. Fecteau overturned the conviction based, in part, on findings that three- and four-year-old witnesses had been heavily coached prior to their testimony and that the full videotapes of those trainings had not been made available to Baran’s defense team until new lawyers came on board several years ago. “Anyone who knows anything about this case knows this is a case of bigotry against homosexuals,” he told the Berkshire Eagle. “This all started with a phone call when someone said, ‘I don’t want any homosexuals around my kids.’”


Banton Banned

Jamaican reggae singer Buju Banton, who sings about killing gay people, had his concert in Brighton, England cancelled following protests from the local government, police, and gay leaders, the BBC reported. The Brighton Council did not threaten the license of the club where Banton was to perform, but asked its owners to abide by a “community safety plan” that included “not inciting the murder of gay people.” Banton did perform in Los Angeles earlier this year, despite frequent protests by American activists who oppose his appearing in this country.


Bullough, Sex Historian, Dead at 77

Academic and activist Vern Bullough, a non-gay man who collaborated on a massive bibliography on homosexuality in 1976 and a comprehensive study of “nonconforming” sexuality in medieval times, has died at 77 in Westlake Village, California. He had “an encyclopedic knowledge of sexual history,” the Los Angeles Times wrote. He was also a noted “nursing educator and sociologist.”

Bullough was a past board member of the American Civil Liberties Union and participated in their fight against racial segregation in Los Angeles. In the mid 1960s, he joined with early gay rights activists in protesting the exclusion of gays from military service, even though he ardently opposed the Vietnam War. Two of his three adopted children are gay.


Cameroon Gay Man Dies Shortly After Release

Cameroon held 11 men in custody for more than a year for having sex with other men, only to have a judge declare in April that no proof had been presented and they must be released. Nonetheless, two were convicted and another seven were held until June when they too were convicted. Those convicted received sentences of ten months in prison, and were released for time served. Now we have learned that one of them, Alim Mongoche, 30, a clothing designer, died from complications from AIDS just days after his release, according to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. Another detainee, beaten by fellow prisoners, had to be carried into court in June.

“This is a further sign of the brutality of the punishment that was inflicted on these men,” Scott Long of Human Rights Watch told PlanetOut. He called for an end to Cameroon’s sodomy law.


Gay Philanthropist Weiland a Suicide

The June 24 death of Ric Weiland, 53, one of people who got Microsoft off the ground with Bill Gates and went on to become a major donor to LGBT causes, was ruled a suicide by the King County medical examiner’s office last Friday. Weiland ended his life at his Seattle home after battling depression, according to friends. LGBT leaders from most of the major national groups paid tribute to him, including Kevin Jennings of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Educators Network who said, “He never sought anything—attention, credit, fame—in return for his giving, which is the mark of a true philanthropist.”

Weiland is survived by his partner, Mike Schaefer.