News Briefs

Don’t Tell Harsher in 2005

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, making use of Freedom of Information requests, found that the Department of Defense discharged 10 percent more soldiers and sailors for being gay or lesbian in 2005—a total of 726—than the previous year when 653 were booted. The numbers had fallen from 2002 to 2004 as the Iraq War got underway. Back in 2001, there were 1,227 such discharges, the New York Times reported.

The Bush administration is opposed to changing the Clinton-era Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy that forbids openly gay people from serving, but is also supposed to prevent those who do not disclose their sexuality from being disciplined for it.

Steve Ralls, a spokesman for the Network, told the newspaper that they “just don’t know” why there has been an uptick in discharges, the sharpest of which occurred at Fort Campbell, Kentucky where a soldier, Barry Winchell, was killed for being gay in 1999 by his brothers in arms.

Ralls said that low morale in the ranks over multiple deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan has caused some gays and lesbians to come out to get out. And anti-gay service members have been using the Internet to expose them, searching for sites where their peers have incautiously posted personal information.

One glimmer of hope is that the best senior thesis in the art, philosophy, and literature major at West Point last year was awarded to cadet Alexander Raggio who wrote against the Don’t Ask policy. He told the Washington Post that taking a stand against the policy did not adversely affect his career in the Army where he is now a second lieutenant.


South Africa Gay Marriage Bill in October

Working against a December deadline set by a pro-gay ruling from its highest court, the South African Parliament is wrangling over how to open marriage to same-sex couples. A key member of Parliament has ruled out amending the Constitution to allow same-sex marriage. Patrick Chauke, chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, told SABC that he is preparing a bill to amend the 1961 Marriage Act that currently defines marriage as “the union of one man with one woman, to the exclusion of others.”

If the cabinet approves the amendment, the full Parliament should get the bill by October. The opposition African Christian Democratic Party wants to amend the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, but that effort is not supported by the government.

When the new Constitution was crafted after the end of apartheid rule in the 1990s, South Africa became the first nation to enshrine equality for gay and lesbian people in its fundamental legal document.


Diamondstone Stays on Ballot

Ken Diamondstone, a gay political activist in Brooklyn and a housing developer, has won a state court challenge to his right to a place on the September 12 Democratic Primary ballot in the 25th state Senate District that includes most of Manhattan below 14th Street and a stretch of Brooklyn from Williamsburg through the Heights to Carroll Gardens. He is challenging Martin Connor, a 28-year incumbent who filed the suit seeking his opponent’s disqualification alleging that Diamondstone had missed the deadline for establishing one-year residency in the district by one day in November 2005.

Diamondstone who lived and worked out of his Dean Street home in Boerum Hill for decades changed his residency last year to an apartment on Clinton Street several blocks away, but in the 25th District last November. The court found he had complied with the rules.

Diamondstone, who previously contested the City Council seat won by David Yassky in 2001 and opposed Congressman Ed Towns in 1998, has won the support of the Lambda Independent Democrats, an LGBT political club in Brooklyn, while Connor is supported by the Gay and Lesbian Democrats and the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City. The two candidates have the same positions on gay rights and many other issues, arguing primarily over the Atlantic Yards development in Downtown Brooklyn that Diamondstone has sharply criticized.


Thousands of Would-Be Wedders Down Under

LGBT Australians and their supporters are not giving up on the fight for marriage equality, despite a 2004 bipartisan parliamentary ban on same-sex marriage, much like the American 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. Thousands across the country rallied to protest the ban, including 1,000 in Sydney and 300 in the rain in Perth, PlanetOut reported.

The Australian Capital Territory tried to provide legal recognition for gay couples but was overruled by Prime Minister John Howard—who heads the Liberal Party but is no liberal. Howard’s intervention was upheld by a 32-30 vote in the federal Senate.


Majoring in Gay Affirmation

Antioch University in Los Angeles is pioneering a masters program in clinical psychology with a specialization in LGBT issues, the first of its kind in the country, PlanetOut reported.

Dr. Doug Sadownick, the director of the program, whose is also an author (“Sacred Lips of the Bronx,” among others), said it is “devoted to bringing LGBT-affirmative theory and practice to students of psychology who want to strengthen their LGBT identities” and “wish to further gay and lesbian empowerment, dignity, self-esteem, and healing.”

Charley Lang, one of the instructors, said that “marginalization and fear are not the result of personal failings. Such feelings are the gender system itself at work.”


The Sanctity of Heterosexual Marriage

Ex-offender Anderson Scrubb, 50, of Brooklyn was paid $3,000 by Gloria Boney, 69, for marrying her sister, Jocelyn Ford to help her get her green card. When Scrubb tried to shake Boney down for more money, she threatened to call the police, the New York Post reported. At that point, Scrubb wrestled her to the floor, strangled her, and drove a screwdriver into her head. The late Ms. Boney was a mother of seven, grandmother of 14, and great-grandmother of one, the newspaper said. Scrubb, “in and out of jail most of his adult life,” was arrested when a tipster called police.


New Jersey Braces for Gay Marriage Decision

The New Jersey Supreme Court heard its same-sex marriage case back in March, but has yet to render a decision. The Bergen Record reported that it will almost surely come before October 25 when Chief Justice Deborah Poritz retires at 70—confirming a view expressed earlier this summer to Gay City News by Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality—but could come anytime. Most legal observers are predicting a victory for the gay and lesbian plaintiffs represented by Lambda Legal Defense’s David Buckel, despite recent high court setbacks in New York and Washington State.

Only Massachusetts allows same-sex couples the right to marry through a 4-3 court decision in 2003. Unlike Massachusetts, out-of-state gay couples would be able to go New Jersey to marry should the court decide for the plaintiffs.

Right-wing groups are gearing up to pass a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage if they lose in court, a move opposed by Governor Jon Corzine—who himself does not support same-sex marriage—and Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts Jr., who said such a measure would advance through the Legislature “over my dead body.” Currently, gay couples in New Jersey can become domestic partners under a law granting a limited number of rights.

Polls show that New Jersey voters are split roughly 50-50 on the gay marriage question.


Update on Jersey’s Gay American

Jim McGreevey, the New Jersey governor who resigned in 2004 after announcing that he is gay, but not dwelling on his having placed his boyfriend in a sensitive state job, is being talked about as one of a panel of gay men on a new “View”-type talk show produced by Joan Rivers. He begins promoting his book, “The Confession,” written with David France, on “Oprah” on September 19 and in a TimesTalk interview in New York on September 26. He turned 49 this past week and was given a surprise party for 50 by his new partner, Mark O’Donnell, as the former pol returned to their Plainfield home from a lobbying trip to China, the Associated Press reported.


Illinois Anti-Gay Ballot Measure Dead

A right-wing advisory referendum urging the Legislature to ban same-sex marriage does not have enough signatures to qualify for this year’s ballot, the state Board of Elections ruled. Supporters of the measure are going to an appellate federal court to challenge the ruling which relied on a sampling of the signatures filed and found that there weren’t enough valid ones to certify it. Illinois already bans same-sex marriage in law.


Sodomites in California Assembly

Theologians believe the true sin of Sodom was inhospitality to strangers, not homosexuality. Ten Republican sodomites walked off the floor of the California Assembly on August 14 as the Legislature awarded its first LGBT Pride Recognition Awards. Republican leader George Plescia lamented the “ridiculousness of the exercise” before leaving. Among the strangers honored were former professional football player Esera Tuaolo and Reichen Lehmkuhl, winner of TV’s “Amazing Race 4” with his then partner. Lehmkuhl is now dating former ‘N Synch star Lance Bass who recently came out on the cover of “People.” Out gay Assemblyman Mark Leno, a San Francisco Democrat, told the Advocate that the Republican boycotters were “acting like such children.”


Reconsideration of Washington State Marriage Defeat?

The Northwest Women’s Law Center, which lost the 5-4 decision of the Washington State Supreme Court seeking to open marriage to gay couples, has been given until August 29 to decide whether to seek a reconsideration of the decision from the court, which rarely agrees to such revisitations.