News briefs

Marriage Protection Amendment Advances in Senate

Senator Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, led the Judiciary Committee in a 10-8 party line vote to send to the floor for the second time an amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning same-sex marriage and prohibiting judges or legislatures from granting domestic partner benefits. Wisconsin Democrat Russell Feingold, one of the few supporters of same-sex marriage in Congress, objected to the committee meeting being held in a small room off the Senate floor that could accommodate almost none of the public.

“I don’t need to be lectured by you!” Specter said testily to Feingold. “You are no more a protector of the Constitution than I am.”

Feingold said he would leave the meeting and Specter said, “If you want to leave, good riddance!”

“I’ve enjoyed your lecture, too, Mr. Chairman,” Feingold replied.

Specter said he does not support the amendment, but believed it should have a floor vote. In 2004, 48 senators approved a cloture vote—12 shy of the required 60—to allow the measure to get to the floor for an up or down tally. A two-thirds majority is needed in both houses of Congress to send the amendment on the states, where three quarters must ratify. This year, supporters of the amendment claim 52 votes, still far short of what they need, but right-wing religious groups insist that the Republican leadership bring it up anyway to energize their base.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, a likely 2008 presidential candidate, has scheduled a vote for June 5.


AIDS Demonstration on May 31 at U.N.

AIDS activists from around the world will mark the 25th anniversary of the HIV epidemic with a march and rally in Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza, East 47th Street between First and Second Avenues, on Wednesday, May 31 at 12:30 p.m. In a release, the groups say they want “to signify how world leaders are keeping much of the world waiting for affordable treatment, effective prevention, comprehensive care, and sufficient funding.”

After a rally, the demonstrators will march past the missions of several member countries in the United Nations.

The rally is being held in connection with the May 31 to June 2 convening of the U.N. General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS, or UNGASS.

For more information on the protest, go to Organizers of the protest say that the global leaders will “claim they are committed to stopping AIDS,” but will “hide from their failures.”


McGreevey’s Public Sex Life

If you want to read about former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey’s political secrets, you may have to wait until his book, “The Confession,” comes out in September. But to whet the appetite of the publishing industry, McGreevey was leaking some of his more salacious revelations at the BookExpo America convention in Washington last weekend, providing details of his trysts with men at highway rest stops and adult bookstores. He calls those encounters, “a compromise, but one that was wholly unfulfilling and morally unsatisfactory.”

No word from McGreevey on how morally satisfied he felt about having the Palisades Interstate Park Police arrest scores of men for having sex in that park while he was governor. These men were given stiff sentences and barred from driving on the Palisades Parkway to boot—a penalty that if imposed on him might have made getting around the state as governor difficult.

McGreevey, who got a $500,000 advance for the book, resigned in 2004, proclaiming himself a “gay American” amidst a scandal involving hiring his boyfriend, Golan Cipel, to a homeland security job for which he was unqualified. McGreevey is now house hunting with Mark O’Donnell, a financial adviser.

McGreevey has yet to repent his opposition to same-sex marriage that forced gays in New Jersey to settle for a limited domestic partners law several years ago. A decision from the New Jersey Supreme Court is due soon on whether same-sex couples have the right to marry.


HRC Aids Lieberman

On the eve of the Connecticut Democratic Party Convention, the Human Rights Campaign endorsed U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman, President George W. Bush’s favorite Democrat, in his primary battle with Ned Lamont, a cable TV executive who is fed up with Lieberman’s support for the war in Iraq and his vote to interfere in the Terry Schiavo case against the wishes of the comatose woman’s husband.

HRC almost invariably backs incumbents with halfway decent voting records on LGBT issues. Lieberman, like all but a handful of senators, opposes same-sex marriage. Lamont’s position is more vague: “If two people are in love and want to get married, God bless ‘em,” he told “I’m not advocating anything, but I am saying that the government has overstepped its bounds,” referring to the federal Marriage Protection Amendment. Lieberman also opposes the amendment.

The National Organization for Women endorsed Lamont in the August primary, criticizing Lieberman for “his failure to do more to help rape victims get immediate access to emergency contraception,” the Associated Press reported.

Despite Lieberman hustling out endorsements before the state party convention, Lamont secured sufficient support to get on the August ballot.


Vermont Guv Vetoes Transgender Bill

Republican Governor James Douglas of Vermont on May 17 vetoed a bill that would have added “gender identity and expression” to the state’s human rights law. Had he not, Vermont would have joined eight other states—New York not among them—that ban discrimination against people of transgender experience.

"H.865 makes significant revisions to all of Vermont’s anti-discrimination laws in order to include, as a protected class, individuals who do not conform to sexual stereotypes,” Douglas said in his veto message. “I am concerned that H.865 did not receive the kind of careful scrutiny and study that would be expected prior to making major modifications to Vermont’s antidiscrimination laws—laws that not only afford protection to protected classes but laws that subject employers, public accommodations, and others to legal liability."

Activists said Douglas refused to meet with them to discuss his concerns.


Rudy Stumps for Christian Coalition Leader

Rudy Giuliani’s compromise with principle hit a new low last week when he went to Georgia to help Ralph Reed, former director of the Christian Coalition, get elected lieutenant governor. He called Reed “a tremendous inspiration to our country.”

The former New York City mayor is routinely referred to in the mainstream media as “pro-gay and pro-choice,” and while he has supported even late term abortion, his record on LGBT rights is more mixed, despite having lived with a gay couple during his divorce from his second wife, Donna Hanover. Now on his third wife, Giuliani told reporters in Atlanta, “I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, that it should remain that way, it should remain that way inviolate, and everything should be done to make sure that’s the case.”

Orthodox Pol Steps Down

Assemblyman Ryan Karben, 31, a Rockland County Democrat and Orthodox Jew representing a heavily Orthodox district, resigned last week amidst charges that he was sexually harassing male staff in Albany, the Daily News reported. “Among the allegations probed by the lower chamber was that Karben had recently viewed a pornographic video with three male interns at his Albany apartment,” the paper said.

The New York Post reported that “he also stunned onlookers—including some of his colleagues—when he put his hands down the pants of a man at an Albany-area bar.”

Karben, who is married to a woman and has three kids, admitted no wrongdoing, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family, even though he had been building up a campaign war chest of more than half a million dollars.

After the revelations and resignation, Karben’s Rockland law firm, Kurtzman Matera Gurock & Karben dumped him and his name from its own.


Being Gay is Murder in the Mob

The mobsters on HBO’s “The Sopranos” rarely show any moral qualms about brutally killing people and using threats of violence in extortion schemes. But they were filled with moral outrage when they discovered that one of their number, Vito Spatafore, played by Joe Ganicoli, was going to gay bars dressed in leather regalia.

Vito fled to New Hampshire when he was found out, setting up housekeeping with a local fireman and short-order cook he called “Johnny Cakes” (actor and former NYFD firefighter John Costelloe) in scenes that were as different in tone from gritty North Jersey as Munchkinland was from Kansas in “The Wizard of Oz.” Vito returned to Jersey last week to try to get back his old job with Tony Soprano only to be killed this week by his wife’s cousin, Phil Leotardo. Phil and his goons didn’t seem concerned about HIV as they whacked Vito mercilessly with nightsticks and shoved a pool cue up his ass.

Ganiscoli told Linda Stasi of the New York Post, “It’s been the greatest year of my life” and said he was “comfortable” with the sex scenes because “I’ve known John for years and years.” Costelloe’s father told the newspaper that John “was very sensitive to the role he was playing. He didn’t want to act in such a way that it would be denigrating to gay people.”


Pope John Paul’s Halo Just Got Dimmed

The Catholic Church has Karol Wojtyla on the fast track for sainthood. But Joseph Ratzinger, former #2 to John Paul II and his successor as Benedict XVI, reminded us this week that the Holy Father was far from perfect. The Vatican finally disciplined Mexico’s Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, 86, leader of the right-wing Legionaries of Christ, for sexually molesting at least nine young seminarians over the years. John Paul refused to take any action against Maciel. Benedict has removed him from active ministry, though not from the priesthood.

Maciel denies the charges, but his order issued a statement that he will step down, “following the example of Christ.”

Among the prominent members of the Legionaries, now based in Connecticut, are William Bennett, who writes all those morality books and was discovered to have a huge gambling problem, and William Donohue, the attack dog of the anti-gay Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.


Gay Priest Caught with Hand in Collection Plate

Father Michael Faye, 55, pastor of St. John Church in Darien, Connecticut, has been removed from his post after he was found to have used more than $200,000 from parish collections to fund a lavish lifestyle with his boyfriend, Clifford Fantini, 54, a fashion show producer, including a condo in Florida, an apartment in Manhattan, and lavish dinners at New York and Philadelphia restaurants, The New York Times reported.

Bridgeport Diocese Bishop William Lori told parishioners last Sunday, “The contributions were used for a lifestyle which no follower of Christ, let along a priest can justify.” (Lavish dinners? Multiple residences?) The New York Post reported that Lori said Faye’s “financial wrongdoing” was connected to his “inappropriate relationships and lifestyles.”


Gay Drama Desk Awards

The Drama Desk Awards, hosted by Harvey Fierstein, were loaded with gay winners and winners in gay-themed material. Out gay Alan Bennett’s “History Boys” won for outstanding play as did actors Richard Griffiths and Samuel Barnett playing gay roles in it and out gay Nicholas Hytner for directing it.

Out gay Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd” won for outstanding revival of a musical. Out gay Sir Antony Sher won for outstanding solo performance for his “Primo,” about Holocaust survivor Primo Levi. And the “unique theatrical experience of the year” was “Christine Jorgensen Reveals,” conceived and performed by Bradford Louryk as the famous transsexual who made headlines in the 1950s.