News Briefs

News Briefs

Illinois Priests Challenge Church’s Anti-Gay Bigotry

Twenty-three Roman Catholic priests have signed an open letter to the hierarchy of their church denouncing the “vile and toxic” language used by the Vatican when speaking about gay men and lesbians, especially such terms as “intrinsically disordered” and “a serious depravity.” The priests called the language out of Rome “increasingly violent and abusive” and noted that out of self-respect, many gays and lesbians are being forced out of the Catholic Church.

“As priests and pastors we are speaking out to make clear that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters are all members of God’s family, brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus and deserving of the same dignity and respect owed any human being,” they wrote.

Cardinal Francis George responded, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, writing, “Our language is exact, but it does not help us in welcoming men and women of homosexual orientation. It can seem lacking in respect. This is a pastoral problem and a source of anxiety for me as it is for you. It would be good to discuss this together.”

George concluded, however, that his priests need to call upon gay people to “leave their sinfulness and become saints.”

The Vatican has been on a tear against the increasing affirmation of same-sex couples by governments around the world.

A couple of weeks ago, Tom Fox, the non-gay publisher of the relatively liberal National Catholic Reporter, joined the gay Catholic group Dignity to protest his church’s increasing virulence against gay people. It was an extraordinary gesture on Fox’s part, given his position in journalism, but he felt that he could no longer be neutral in the face of the Vatican’s anti-gay attacks.


Pride Agenda Joins Battle Against H&M

In the midst of its efforts to help pass a city law that will require companies doing business with New York City to provide their gay and lesbian employees domestic partner benefits on par with those offered spouses, the Empire State Pride Agenda (ESPA) announced that is joining the fight against H&M, the international fashion retailer with stores in Manhattan, accused by labor advocates of working against their workers’ interests.

UNITE!, an AFL-CIO union representing 250,000 laundry, apparel, and distribution workers in North America, has charged that the company’s New Jersey distribution center has a record of workplace injury, harassment, and such poor pay and health benefits that some employees rely on public assistance and Medicaid. The union also says that H&M contracts with Asian manufacturing sweatshops that pays as little as $1 a day, below the minimum wage in their home countries.

Noting that H&M aggressively markets to the gay community, ESPA, in a press release, said, “Why does the Pride Agenda care about this? Because as LGBT people whose families have been denied over 1,700 rights and responsibilities that all other families receive when government issues them a civil marriage license, we know that speaking up matters. As we move ahead in our fight for civil rights, we will call on working people and the unions that represent them to stand with us.”

Alan Van Capelle, who became ESPA’s executive director this year after nearly a decade of work in the labor movement, pledged that the group would work in closer coalition with unions and other progressive institutions.


Brazil Recognizes Gay Bi-National Couples

While the president of the United States says we might need a constitutional amendment to stop same-sex marriage, Brazil’s National Council on Immigration has decided to recognize same-sex bi-national couples for purposes of immigration. Under the new policy, Brazil will recognize foreign partners from countries or localities that offer recognition to same-sex couples. Brazil is the 16th country to adopt such a policy, according to Love Sees No Borders, an educational group on the issue. The others are Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, and the U.K.


Eminem’s “Boyfriend” Speaks Out

Rap Digest is reporting that Marshall Mathers (aka Eminen) had an affair with a Detroit man eleven years ago. “Marshall, or ‘Pumpkin’ as I used to call him, was a very tender, very giving partner,” the 34-year old man, who has insisted on anonymity, said. “He admitted that he felt comfortable with me and that he’d finally stopped living in self-denial regarding his sexuality.” He said Eminem ended the relationship after a friend found out about it, but that they continued to meet—including for sex—until 1999. He insisted the relationship was not just sexual. “Pumpkin was very much in love with me, as I was with him.” He feels by speaking out about the relationships now, “I’m rescuing his life, because he is in denial of his true self.”

Eminem has spewed some viciously anti-gay songs over the years, but has tried to redeem himself with pro-gay sentiments in his “Eight Mile” movie and by singing a duet with out gay performer Elton John.


Iowa Same-Sex Divorce Judge Not Aiming at Precedent

The right wing is up in arms because Judge Jeffrey Neary of Sioux City, Iowa signed a divorce decree for two women who had gotten a civil union in Vermont. “I’m not out here crusading for anything or anybody,” he said to the Le Mars Daily Sentinel, “I’m dealing with the legal problem.” The Iowa Liberty and Justice Center has filed an appeal to the state’s Supreme Court urging that Neary’s divorce of Kimberly Brown and Jennifer Perez be invalidated. (Does this mean the right wants them to stay unioned?) The Associated Press reported that Neary has had strangers come up to him and call him the anti-Christ since making the decision.


Gay Couple Time’s Newsmakers of Year (in Canada)

While Time USA picked American soldiers, in an organization that excludes out gay people, as its “Persons of the Year,” Time’s Canadian bureau chief chose Michael Leshner and Michael Stark as the 2003 Canadian Newsmakers of the Year. The men were the first same-sex couple to get a marriage license once the Ontario high court cleared the way for them in June. Two thousand gay couples have married in Ontario or British Columbia since then, with 600 of those couples coming from the United States, Canadian Press reported. The editorial team of Time Canada said the men “symbolized the unprecedented acceleration of social liberalism in Canada in 2003.”


Rochester Schools Add Transgender Student Protections

The school board in upstate Rochester has voted to amend the Code of Conduct for the schools to forbid discrimination against students on the basis of “gender identity and expression.” The Empire State Pride Agenda (ESPA) met with a task force on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues in the schools in July and pushed for the change.

Duffy Palmer, the co-chair of ESPA’s board who lives in Rochester and teaches in the Batavia City school district, said that the policy change “was only the beginning” and that the next step is getting an anti-bias program “integrated into the environment of the schools through procedures like student and teacher training. It can’t just be words on paper.”


Don’t Bring Partner to Church, Gay Vicar Told

An out gay Anglican minister in Milton Keynes, England has been told by conservative parishioners to stop bringing his partner of twelve years to services and to cease performing blessings for same-sex couples, Gay.comUK reported. “I have always been an honest person,” said Rev. Richard Cattley, “and I believe the church should recognize that both gay and straight people have a life which should be celebrated.” He noted that if we took the bible literally, we would be stoning gay people. (Hopefully, this won’t give anyone ideas.)


Tory Leader Soft on Transsexuals, Critics Say

Michael Howard, the new leader of the minority Conservative Party in Britain, was attacked this week by his small-c conservative peers for supporting the Labour Party’s Gender Recognition bill to give new legal rights to transsexuals, the Daily Telegraph reported. Howard actually is allowing a free vote on the bill, though some of his senior frontbenchers support it. The outrage came from the House of Lords where Lady Blatch said, “We are talking about people who are particularly tragic and who need a huge amount of support, but this is not the way to do it.” The bill originated in the House of Lords who may be able to stop it before it reaches the Commons.


Something to Consider Before Heading Down the Aisle

As more and more places recognize the right of people to marry same-sex partners, a new study gives us all something to think about in terms of the advisability of saying “I do.” The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health (U.K.) reported on a University of London study of 4,500 men and women in Britain. Researchers found that women who remain single are happiest and much happier than women who separate from spouses or long-term partners. Men who cohabit with long-term partners are happier than men who got married, but men who never partner are most vulnerable to depression.


California Domestic Partner Law Safe For Now

The sweeping domestic partners law signed by Gov. Gray Davis in September is good at least through 2004. Rightwing opponents of the measure failed to collect the 373,000 signatures necessary to put the issue before the voters in a November referendum. State Sen. Pete Knight, who led a successful campaign to get California to ban same-sex marriage in a 2000 initiative, came up short this time, and it is not clear that he really tried. As Gay City News’ Joe Dignan reported two weeks ago, Knight may be gearing up for a state constitutional amendment overturning permanently the domestic partnership progress in California. His failure, for now, however, will no doubt please his out gay son.


Wisconsinites Want to Keep Gays in Place

The Badger Poll, reported by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, found that 62 percent of people in Wisconsin disapprove of same-sex marriage and 64 percent want a state constitutional amendment to ban it. Fifty-eight percent would like to see a federal anti-gay marriage amendment enacted. A majority of those polled believe that consensual adult homosexual relations should be legal (which they are, thank you very much) and 80 percent think that gay folks should be able to live “wherever they want to, just like everyone else.” Like many recent polls, the only group we do well with is under-30s, a majority of whom supports same-sex marriage. On the issue of civil unions, 48 percent of the entire sample disapproved and 44 percent approved.


Andy Humm is co-host, with Ann Northrop, of “Gay USA” on MNN-TV seen in Manhattan Thursdays at 11 p.m. on Time-Warner 34 and RCN 107. It is seen nationally on Free Speech TV on Directv.

Alan Van Capelle

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