News Briefs

Gay Rights Invoked at Coretta Scott King Funeral

The funeral of civil rights giant Coretta Scott King, 78, was presided over by anti-gay activists Reverend Bernice King, her daughter and caretaker, and Bishop Eddie Long, pastor of the New Birth Missionary Baptist megachurch where the service took place. Reverend King and Bishop Long did not use the occasion to contradict Mrs. King’s longtime support for LGBT rights—including same-sex marriage—and other speakers did note her strong solidarity with gay folks.

Reverend Joseph Lowery, leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference once headed by Martin Luther King, Jr., gave a eulogy filled with topical political illusions aimed at President George W. Bush sitting behind him. Lowery said of Mrs. King, “She frowned on homophobia.” Poet Maya Angelou, in a litany of Mrs. King’s concerns, said, “She cared for gay and straight people.”

The service was attended by several gay leaders including Joe Solmonese, director of the Human Rights Campaign, a group that had Mrs. King as its keynote speaker at its 1986 awards dinner at the Waldorf Astoria. At the King Center in Atlanta, Mrs. King listed that appearance in an exhibit chronicling the timeline of her life.

Also attending were Alexander Robinson, director of the National Black Justice Coalition that had just convened a conference in Atlanta on gay issues in the black church, and Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Mrs. King personally saw to it in 2003 that Foreman was invited to speak at the rally marking the 40th anniversary of the March on Washington where her husband delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

Receiving an award from the Metropolitan Community Church of San Francisco in 2002, Mrs. King said, “”I’m proud to stand with all of you as your sister in a great American coalition for freedom and human rights.”

Attacker at Massachusetts Gay Bar Patrons Kills Others, Self in Arkansas

Jacob Robida, 18, a neo-Nazi, walked into Puzzles Lounge in New Bedford, Massachusetts last Thursday, asked if it were a gay bar, and when told it was, proceeded to attack and wound one patron with a hatchet and two others with gunfire. He fled to West Virginia where he picked up a girlfriend, Jennifer Bailey, 33, and got as far as Gassville in northern Arkansas before police stopped him for a traffic violation.

Robida shot and killed Officer Jim Sell and was pursued by police for 20 miles before he shot and killed his companion and himself in Norfolk.

Back in New Bedford, one of Robida’s victims, Robert Perry, returned to the bar with “a black eye, a five inch scar on his face, and a bullet wound in his back,” the Associated Press reported.

Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said that the “hatred and loathing fueling” Robida’s anti-gay attack “is not innate, it is learned.” He accused leaders such as James Dobson of Focus on the Family and the Reverend Pat Robertson of being “obsessed with homosexuality” and blaming LGBT people for “all the ills of society.” He concluded that they have blood on their hands in the case of Robida’s spree. Glenn Miller of the White Freedom Party in Missouri near the Arkansas shootings praised Robida’s anti-gay raid. “Hell, I’d like to see that on TV every hour.”

Lambda Appeals Bloomberg Victory against Same-Sex Marriage

Lambda Legal Defense has filed its briefs to New York’s highest court, asking the judges to overturn a ruling of the Appellate Division that invalidated Justice Doris Ling-Cohan’s decision last February ordering New York City to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. While Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg led the fight to overturn Ling-Cohan’s order, he has subsequently muddied the waters by telling Gay City News that he “hopes” he loses the constitutional arguments his attorneys are making in the Court of Appeals.

Susan Sommer, Lambda’s lead attorney on the case, said, “The Court of Appeals is the ultimate guardian of constitutional rights in New York. We hope it will soon end discrimination against same-sex couples who want to marry.”

There are four other same-sex marriage cases pending around the state.

Rally for Same-Sex Marriage in New York Feb. 14

Marriage Equality and the Metropolitan Community Church of NY are leading a demonstration in favor of same-sex marriage on Tuesday, February 14, which is both Valentine’s Day and national Freedom to Marry Day. MCCs around the country are sponsoring similar rallies.

Demonstrators will meet at 7:55 a.m. at 52 Chambers Street, just north of City Hall, and proceed to the Marriage Bureau in the Municipal Building at One Centre Street down the block.

Researchers Tout Compound that Kills HIV

Scientists working for Ceragenix Pharmacueticals announced the synthesis of a new compound, CSA-54, a Ceragenin, that they say hunts down and kills HIV by mimicking “the disease-fighting characteristics of anti-microbial and anti-viral agents produced naturally by a healthy human immune system,” the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

Derya Unutmaz, one of the researchers at Vanderbilt University’s School of Medicine that developed the compound, said the results of their test-tube studies have been reproduced “many times” and were “preliminary but very exciting.” The group also believes the compound could play a role fighting influenza—including bird flu—as well as smallpox and herpes.

Animal and human trials for the compound will take three to seven years to complete.

Suit Alleges NYC’s Cardinal Egan is Homosexually Active

The Village Voice reported this week on a lawsuit brought by a priest against the Catholic Church, in which he alleges that Cardinal Edward Egan of New York and two other bishops are actively homosexual. Father Bob Hoatson, who says he has been scapegoated by the Church for his role as a whistleblower in the sex abuse scandals of recent years, charges in his suit that the closeted status of these bishops “has compromised defendants’ ability to supervise and control predators, and has served as a reason for the retaliation” against him. Hoatson also alleges that Newark’s Archbishop John Myers, an archconservative, and Albany’s Bishop Howard Hubbard, one of the relative liberals left in the church, are also sexually active with men.

The Archdiocese of New York denies the allegations made by Hoatson, but he claims to have “personal knowledge” of the bishops’ homosexuality. The Archdiocese of Newark’s spokesperson characterizes Hoatson as a “malingerer” and a “troubled individual.” Kenneth Goldfarb, a spokesman for Hubbard, who was cleared of sexual abuse charges himself in 2004, accused Hoatson’s lawyer, John Aretakis of Manhattan, of having “a long history of coming up with claims that have no basis in fact.”

Aretkis told the Voice that the $2.2 million report clearing Hubbard was “the most expensive piece of fiction ever produced” and claims to have “firsthand evidence of the sexual proclivities” of the bishops. The charges come at a time when the Vatican is mandating that homosexual men be purged from seminaries.

Al Lewis Mourned

Actor and political activist Al Lewis, 82, died this past week after a long illness. Known for his role as “Grandpa” on “The Munsters” TV series, he was a fierce leftist and ran for governor of New York on the Green Party line in 1998. This reporter also knew him as an avid viewer of my “Gay USA” cable TV show. He called regularly with tips on stories. Lewis was the longtime host of a radio talk show on WBAI-FM and participated in many civil rights demonstrations in New York, including for LGBT rights.