News Briefs

Italian Gays Demonstrate Versus Pope

Carrying banners saying, “We will no longer be silenced,” between fifty and a hundred thousand Italian women, gays, and their supporters marched in Milan to protest recent pronouncements by Pope Benedict XVI against same-sex marriage and the morning-after abortion pill. Last week, the former Joseph Ratzinger said it would be a “grave mistake” to recognize “other forms of unions” than man-woman marriage.

Dario Fo, a Nobel laureate in literature, said, “We thought the Church had withdrawn from interfering in Italian politics, but instead there is a terrible resurgence. These are ugly signs for freedom of expression.”

Italian elections are set for April 9, with center-left Romano Prodi opposing the right-wing incumbent Silvio Berlusconi. Prodi did not participate in the demonstrations, but has promised some form of legal recognition for gay couples.

Meanwhile, the UK Telegraph reported that the pope, 78, “has been sneaking back to his old room outside the Vatican walls” late at night and in disguise. “Wearing a black hat and with his head down, he opens the wooden door himself, as he did for all those years, and tiptoes inside followed by Don Georg” Gaenswein, his private secretary.


Dominating Globes, “Brokeback” De-Gays

“Brokeback Mountain” may be “the gay cowboy movie” in common parlance and its success is being touted as a breakthrough for gay themes, but the award-winning creators of the film made no reference to its subject matter or significance at the Golden Globes where it garnered four trophies—best dramatic film, Ang Lee for best director, Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana for best screenplay, and Gustavo Santaolalla for best song. The film did not win any acting awards.

In reviewing the Globes show, the Hollywood Reporter wrote, “There’s no requirement that an award winner mutter so much as a word about the message or theme of the movie. Still, it seemed strange that the winners for ‘Brokeback Mountain’ said nothing about the struggles of gay people or that Philip Seymour Hoffman omitted even the mere mention of Truman Capote, the character he played.” Hoffman won best actor in a drama for “Capote.”

The clip of “Brokeback” at the show was introduced by Dennis Quaid, who played a tortured gay married man in “Far From Heaven.” In a tasteless and unfunny display, he said the “controversial” movie’s category rhymes with “chick flick.”

Nevertheless, “Brokeback” is on track for Oscar gold. Stephen Spielberg is said to be upset that Universal is promoting Ang Lee’s film over his “Munich.” A source told the Drudge Report, “Gay romance is easier to sell to the Academy than a complex study of an Israeli assassin.” Tony Kushner, the Pulitzer Prize-winning out gay playwright, co-wrote the Globe-nominated screenplay for “Munich.”

Felicity Huffman, who won best dramatic actress for “Transamerica,” praised, “the men and women who brave ostracism, alienation, and a life lived on the margins to become who they really are,” but did not use the word “transgender” in reference to her character.


NY Marriage Action Feb. 14, Planning Meeting Feb. 1

Marriage Equality NY and the Metropolitan Community Church are planning an action for same-sex marriage at the city’s Marriage Bureau on Valentine’s Day, Tuesday February 14, beginning at 7:45 a.m. An informational session to prepare for the action is set for Wednesday, February 1 at 6:30 p.m. at the LGBT Community Center, 208 West 13th Street. Last February, Justice Doris Ling-Cohan of State Supreme Court ordered the city to start issuing licenses to same-sex couples who want to marry, but it was overturned by the Appellate Division at the behest of Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg.


Virginia is for Haters

The Virginia legislature is fast-tracking a constitutional amendment that would ban virtually any contractual arrangement between people of the same sex. One day after the amendment passed the House of Delegates overwhelmingly by a 73-22 vote, it got the approval of a Senate committee 11-3. It will be voted on in a referendum this November.

The new governor, Democrat Timothy Kaine, renewed the executive order issued at the eleventh hour by his predecessor, Democratic presidential hopeful Mark Warner, banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in state government. But Kaine also said that he supported the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions.

Sixty-three percent of Virginians supported the amendment in a recent poll.


Massachusetts Gay Marrieds Suing for Rights

Michael LeBeau and David Martin of Westfield, Mass. were married in 2004. Before the wedding, LeBeau asked his employer, Ocean State Jobbers, about putting his husband on the company benefit plan and said he was rebuffed. When he applied for the benefits after their June 5 wedding, he was fired five days later. The couple first filed a suit with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, but just moved it to federal court for reasons that are unclear, especially since federal courts are far less likely to be sympathetic to their claims than the high court in the only state that has gay marriage. The company denies any wrongdoing.


Wisconsin Guv Opposes Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment

Democratic Governor Jim Doyle of Wisconsin, speaking on Martin Luther King Day from the state capitol rotunda in Madison, said, “We should not enshrine discrimination in the Constitution of the state.” A proposed amendment banning same-sex marriage passed the Legislature in 2005 and must be approved once again this year for it to go to the voters in November.


Conservatives Gain in Canada

Polls are now indicating that the Conservative Party may win the January 23 election outright, without having to govern in a minority coalition. Tory leader Stephen Harper has vowed a free vote to eliminate gay marriage by limiting marriage to man-woman couples—a debatable proposition constitutionally, but one that has same-sex couples rushing to get marriage licenses, according to the Canadian Press. Harper said that his intent is to stop future same-sex weddings, not invalidate ones that have already been licensed.


Liberating the White House Easter Egg Roll

SoulForce, the pro-gay religious coalition, is encouraging LGBT families to make a major presence at the annual White House Easter Egg Roll on Monday, April 17. The group is encouraging families to get on line the night before the event or have volunteers stand in for them and to wear T-shirts identifying them as LGBT.

A SoulForce e-mail asked families who want to participate to keep the action “under the radar of the media and the administration,” but it has been picked up by the Weekly Standard and other conservative outlets.


Ned Rorem Up for Grammy

Out gay composer Ned Rorem, 82, has been nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Classical Contemporary Composition for his “Nine Episodes for Four Players.” Rorem’s opera of “Our Town,” with libretto by J.D. McLatchy, is set for its world premiere at Indiana University next month.


Lopez’s Designation of Mayor as “Honorary Lesbian” Challenged

Former New York City Councilwoman Margarita Lopez, an out lesbian who endorsed Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg for re-election after losing her own bid for the Democratic Manhattan borough president, dubbed Bloomberg an “honorary lesbian” last week at a joint press conference about a Lower East Side real estate deal. Lopez, who broke a pledge not to endorse the mayor, said, “We love each other,” adding, “People fall in love because they like each other… The only thing I can tell you, I will always be gay, and he will always be heterosexual.”

Bloomberg dodged a question as to whether or not he was gay on LGBT Pride Day last June.

Gerard Cabrera, co-president of the Out People of Color Political Action Club, responded to Lopez’s declaration by saying, “It makes as much sense as Bloomberg’s statement that he hopes he loses the arguments against same-sex marriage that he’s making in court,” a statement the mayor made in an interview with Gay City News last month.

While virtually every credible LGBT political organization supported Bloomberg’s opponent, Freddy Ferrer, in the 2005 mayoral election, the New York Post reported that Alan Van Capelle, director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, which also went with Ferrer, wrote Bloomberg immediately after the vote, “Endorsements are never easy. The stakes are too high for people of good conscience to not come together after an election.”

Lopez does not have a position with the Bloomberg administration, but told reporters she would do anything he asked. She said she was going to write a play about him.


New Rules for L.A. Bathhouses

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted 3-0 to regulate commercial sex venues, The Advocate reported. Bathhouses and sex clubs must pay a $1,088 licensing fee, submit to quarterly inspections, post signs prohibiting

unprotected sex, make condoms available, and distribute information about HIV prevention. The establishments must also make free HIV testing and counseling available at least 20 hours each week.

Studies presented to the supervisors showed that patrons of these clubs had higher rates of HIV infection than the general population. But Scott Campbell, who runs several bathhouses, told the L.A. Times that the new regulations unfairly target his places while ignoring those who meet through the Internet or gay bars.


Ronald Marx Dead at 68

Ronald Marx of Elmhurst, Queens, who lived with an AIDS diagnosis for more than 25 years, died January 11. He was 68. Marx was a gay and AIDS activist who worked with many of the leading groups of the past three decades, including ACT UP and the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights that passed the City’s gay rights bill in 1986.


Palm Beach Recognizes Gay Partners

The Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously last week to accord domestic partners, straight and gay, some of the rights that spouses enjoy. The law goes into effect on January 21 and includes hospital and correctional visitation and the right to make health care and funeral decisions. This past October, the commissioners extended equal benefits to the domestic partners of county employees and retirees.By