News Briefs

News Briefs

New HRC Leader Betrays Democratic Colleagues in Bay State

Cheryl Jacques is set to replace Elizabeth Birch as executive director of the Human Rights Campaign, the Washington-based gay lobby group, at the end of this year. Jacques, a Massachusetts legislator, announced this week that she will wait until January 2 to resign from the state senate in order to enhance her state pension. Her move will make it more difficult for Democrats to retain her Republican-leaning suburban Boston seat by depriving Democrats of capitalizing on an expected high voter turnout on March 2, the state’s presidential primary day, in which the state’s junior U.S. senator, John Kerry, seeks the Democratic nomination.

“My only concern is my district,” Jacques told the Boston Globe, which characterized the timing as “a major setback” for Democrats. The newspaper suggested that Jacques has no love for the Democratic senate president, Robert Travaglini, who “dumped her from a committee chairmanship” last year that stripped Jacques of $15,000 in addition to her base salary of around $51,000.

Political pundits are already suggesting that Jacques’ decision may also be an attempt to ingratiate herself with leaders of the Republican-led Congress. The Globe said Jacques’s new job “is expected to pay between $175,000 and $200,000 a year,” a figure she refused to disclose in a press conference last week.


Out Mayor for Palm Springs

Ron Oden, African American and gay, beat incumbent Will Kleindienst by 51.3 to 48.7 percent to become Palm Springs, California’s, next mayor. Oden, a veteran of the city council who claimed Kleindienst fostered a "homophobic" environment in the city, has pledged to serve only one term as mayor. Black Entertainment Television reported that Oden, 53, had the backing of the business community who "embraced his call for inclusiveness." Oden is the executive director of the Desert Career College and lost a race in 2000 to U.S. Rep. Mary Bono, a Republican who holds the seat in Congress of former Rep. Sonny Bono who accidentally died in 1998.


Gregory Smith, N.J. AIDS Activist and Prisoner, Dead at 40

African American gay AIDS activist Gregory Dean Smith died Monday of complications from AIDS in the custody of the New Jersey Department of Corrections. He had been convicted of attempted murder, aggravated assault, and terrorist threats and sentenced to 25 years in prison for biting and spitting on guards at the Camden County jail. At his trial, Smith contended that biting could not transmit HIV and that he did not spit on the guards. “I never bit an officer,” he said. His lawyer said that he was convicted for having HIV.

In 1992, William Kuntsler, a longtime civil rights attorney, handled Smith’s unsuccessful appeal of his conviction. Smith kept up his AIDS activism in prison, working to provide access to HIV prevention and treatment for inmates. He was denied parole in 2002.

Asia Russell of ACT UP Philadelphia said, “AIDS bigotry and hysteria took his freedom and now medical neglect has killed him.” A funeral is planned in Camden on Saturday with a memorial service in the near future.


The British Came

It wasn’t a sneak attack, but about 60 British marchers invaded New York City last week. They were doing an Equality Walk to raise funds for the UK Stonewall group, the British equivalent of HRC. Among the participants were actress Michelle Collins, Mr. Gay UK and Ms. Lesbian UK. After walking more than 13 miles on Saturday from the Empire State Building to the Battery and back to the Village, noting gay historical sites along the way, the group had a reception at the Stonewall Bar where they were given certificates of appreciation from no less than Sir Ian McKellen. Ben Summerskill, the new director of the group, was also on hand.

Rev. Bernard Lynch, the gay activist and priest who lives in London, was among those who raised about $67,000 for the cause. A former New Yorker, Lynch said, “It was the best tour of New York I ever had.”

The group has much to celebrate. The anti-gay Section 28, prohibiting government “promotion” of homosexuality, just came off the books in England and Wales, a victory similar to the Supreme Court sodomy decision this summer. Parliament is prepared to take up a gay partnership bill this week.


Gay Games Pulled from Montreal

The 2006 Gay Games will not be held in Montreal. The cancellation is the result of a dispute between Rendez-Vous, a local organizing group, and the Federation of Gay Games (FGG) over the games’ budget and number of participants. FGG wanted both to be less than the local organizers lobbied for.

The Montreal 2006 Committee accused the FGG of stymieing their proposal after “two years of discussions and a 400-page contract, after 15 hours of negotiations through the night Saturday into Sunday, [and] after being given 12 minutes to be heard during [Tuesday’s] all-day assembly” in Chicago. The Montreal group vows to go forward with a gay sports festival of its own in 2006, charging that FGG “represents little more than itself.”

“This is very disappointing to us,” Kathleen Webster, co-president of the federation told the Montreal Gazette. “We’ve been working for two years to bring the Gay Games to Montreal, and if they don’t want us, I wish they’d let us know sooner.”

The federation may now call on Atlanta, which was the first runner-up city in the competition for the 2006 games, to host the games.


Pro-Gay Church Invaded

In Seattle, protesters upset with the church wedding of two men disrupted services at the All Pilgrims Christian Church, hurling verbal abuse, tearing down wedding decorations, and wiping oil on the walls and furniture to “cleanse” the sanctuary, the Seattle Gay News reported. Rev. Mark Travis, a gay man, asked two disrupters Kelvin Dyer and Christopher Dudley, to vacate the premises and called the police when they would not. Both men were arrested and changed with malicious harassment. Travis told the paper he feared for his safety.


City Council Hearing on Equal Benefits Bill

Gay City News will have a full report next week on the November 13 hearing on the City Council bill to mandate that contractors doing business with the city provide the same benefits to domestic partners offered to spouses of contractors’ employees. On the eve of the hearing, Councilmember Robert Jackson (D-Manhattan), chair of the Contracts Committee, said “the bill will move forward” and that “everyone should be treated equally.” If the bill runs into resistance, he said, “We should educate people, but if they refuse to comply, they can’t have a contract with New York City.”

The bill’s chief sponsor is out lesbian Council Member Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) who has formed a large coalition around the legislation and secured a veto-proof majority among her colleagues. Mayor Bloomberg is opposed to the measure.


Gay Bishop Not Shying Away from Controversy

The Right Rev. Gene Robinson started his ministry as an out gay Bishop of New Hampshire by preaching about injustice. “How dare we in this country spend $87 billion on war when 44 million people have no health insurance,” he said. He urged congregants to pay more attention to people “on the margins.”

Robinson is hoping that his consecration will not lead to a split in the American Episcopal Church or within the wider Anglican communion, but this week The New York Times reported that the church’s Fort Worth diocese called Robinson’s installation “a schismatic act” and the Pittsburgh diocese voted to “ignore some policies of the national church.”


Jed Mattes Memorial Fund at Harvey Milk High

The late literary agent Jed Mattes has bequeathed the Jed Mattes Writing Prize, an annual $1,000 award to be given to a graduate of the Harvey Milk High School. Mattes served as president of the Hetrick-Martin Institute, the group that founded the school in 1986.

A memorial service for Mattes is set for Monday, November 17 at 6:30 p.m. at the Great Hall in Cooper Union. A reception will follow.


Lesbian and Gay Band Marks 25 Years

The Lesbian and Gay Big Apple Corps inaugurates its silver anniversary with “Tourist Season,” a concert on November 15 at 8 p.m. at the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Haft Auditorium. “Tourist Season” is described as a “symphonic trip around the world” featuring pieces “often written from an outsider’s perspective.” Eric Peterson leads the band with the assistance of Brian Worsdale. More information is available at 212-591-2886 or

In addition to its concerts, the Big Apple Corps has provided the music for many of the community’s marches and demonstrations over the years, including memorial marches.


HRC Launches Ad Campaign for Same-Sex Marriage

The Human Rights Campaign has launched a newspaper advertising campaign to blunt the right wing attack on marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples. “Why Are ‘Pro-Family’ Groups Attacking This Family?” asks one of the ads featuring a Maryland lesbian couple and their three kids. The Washington Post reported that other ads include two older women, two African American women, two “church-going” men, and Keith Bradkowski, whose partner died in the September 11 terrorist attack.

A new ABC News poll found that only 20 percent of Americans support a constitutional amendment to ban marriage for gay couples.


Bush Praises MCC

Pres. George W. Bush sent a letter to the Metropolitan Community Church on the occasion of its 35th anniversary during a week in which the president deemed marriage to be sacred institution between a man and a woman. Bush’s October 13 epistle said, “By encouraging the celebration of faith and sharing of God’s love and boundless mercy, churches like yours put hope in people’s hearts and a sense of purpose in their lives.” MCC’s founder, Rev. Troy Perry, called Bush’s letter “a mixed message,” sent as it was during a week the president had proclaimed “Marriage Protection Week.”


Not Using Gay Composers Could Limit Chorus Repertoire

The Rapid City Christian High School decided not to go ahead with a performance of “These Things Shall Be,” adapted from a poem by John Addington Symonds who was described by the Rapid City Journal as “a 19th century socialist and gay activist in Britain.” Bill Bryant, the chorus director, said the school would withdraw from the state’s 50th All-State Chorus and Orchestra rather than sing the piece because “there’s a strong contrast between the text’s view of the perfectibility of mankind and the Christian position.” He also wrote to the South Dakota High School Activities Association saying that Symonds “was a pioneering advocate of ‘gay liberation’ whose viewpoint we have no wish to endorse, even by implication.”


Gay Naval Academy Alumni Group Seeks Recognition

The Navy doesn’t accept out gay midshipmen at their Annapolis academy, but the school is being asked to sanction USNA Out, a gay alumni association. Planet Out reports that Jeff Petrie, who graduated in 1989 and served in Desert Shield, has pulled together 30 LGBT alumni and applied for official recognition, noting that the group meets the current regulations for acceptance. Petrie told the website that gay Naval alumni will persist if the initial application is rejected.


Lexington Dumps Partner Benefits

The Urban County Council of Lexington, Kentucky voted 8-4 to eliminate domestic partner benefits for city employees, undoing a provision that Mayor Teresa Ann Isaac had enacted. Isaac has ten days to veto the council’s measure. In June, when the Council voted a three month moratorium on such benefits, Isaac’s veto was overridden.

Gary Johnson, a gay city employee, called the people against the benefits “bigots with money,” the Louisville Courier Journal reported. Johnson encouraged “all gay employees of the city to quit.”


Wisconsin Governor Vetoes DOMA Bill

Gay couples can’t marry in Wisconsin, a prohibition the state legislature underscored when it passed a bill defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, vetoed the legislation, calling it “divisive” and “mean-spirited.”

Wisconsin is one of 13 states, including New York, that has not enacted what have come to be known as a defense of marriage act.

Meanwhile, a federal judge in Nebraska is allowing an ACLU lawsuit against that state’s DOMA to go forward. Judge Joseph Bataillon wrote that the law, which prohibits domestic partner benefits, regardless of the partner’s sex, “acts as a barrier to plaintiffs’ participation in the political process,” denying them a chance to lobby for equal benefits.

Andy Humm is co-host, with Ann Northrop, of “Gay USA” on MNN-TV. It is seen Thursdays at 11 PM on Time-Warner 34 and RCN 109 in Manhattan, as well as on Free Speech TV for those who have DirecTV. It is simulcast at

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