News Briefs

Civil Partnerships in Full Swing in Britain

Elton John, 58, and Mark Furnish, 43, became one of the first couples to be joined in a Civil Partnership in England on Wednesday with a ceremony at Windsor’s Guildhall as more than 700 same-couples tied the knot as far as the new law allows across the United Kingdom this week.

John wrote an op-ed in the Guardian the day before the ceremony titled, “We’ll celebrate our love, but others live in constant fear,” citing persecution of most LGBT people across the globe.

John and Furnish turned down a $10 million offer from an American company to film their ceremony and reception at his Berkshire home. At his “hen night” party on Monday, John played a video message of congratulations from former President Bill Clinton, who banned federal recognition of same-sex marriages while in office in 1996.

Singer George Michael, 42, who has not set a date for his ceremony with his partner, Kenny Goss, has buried the hatchet with John and attended the reception for 700 guests.

Actor Antony Sher, 56, had a “sweet and simple” ceremony with Greg Doran, 47, associate director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, in North London. “It’s wonderful, it’s a little bit of history being made,” Sher told the Guardian, “not just for the gay movement but for the human rights movement as well.”

Matthew Roche, who got a waiver to register his partnership with Christopher Cramp immediately on the law’s effective date of December 5, died the next day of lung cancer. Most couples had to wait until this week for their ceremonies.

Prime Minister Tony Blair wrote an op-ed in The Independent hailing the partnerships as “correcting an obvious injustice” in a “fairer more tolerant country.” He said, “I can’t imagine that any government will reverse” the progressive measures his Labour government has passed for gay people.

The first couple joined in Northern Ireland were Shannon Sickles and Grainne Close.

Not everyone was thrilled about the advent of Civil Partnerships. In Scotland, registrars had to be flown in to the Western Isles where none of the officials would agree to perform them. A gay couple in Kent saw their state benefits reduced by £6,000 per year because the government will now subject cohabitating same-sex couples the same as opposite-sex couples in counting income against benefits.


Gay Soldier Assaulted in Arizona Wants Out of Military

Private Kyle Lawson, 19, was brutally beaten by members of his battalion at Fort Huachuca in Arizona after they learned that he is gay. He is now requesting a discharge. Lawson has been bunking in his drill sergeant’s office in a kind of protective custody while his situation is resolved. The Army did not prosecute the soldiers who assaulted him, for reasons it will not disclose, the Arizona Star reported. Lawson told a recruiter of his homosexuality when was enlisting and said he was told, “everything would be fine” as long as he remained closeted.


Indianapolis Passes LGBT Rights Law

The City Council of Indianapolis voted 15-14 to pass a bill banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity this week. “God is probably looking down on Indianapolis tonight and smiling,” said Rev. Jeff Miner, pastor of Jesus Metropolitan Community Church there.


Quinn Endorsed by Times for Speaker

City Councilwoman Christine Quinn, an out lesbian Democrat from Chelsea, has picked up the endorsement of The New York Times in her bid to become the next speaker of the New York City Council. An editorial on Sunday called her “the better choice” over Brooklyn’s Bill de Blasio and five other rivals. “She has earned a reputation as a lawmaker steeped in the community and, as speaker, she could be expected to give more attention to everyday problems from parking to trash to noise,” the editorial said. The 51 members of the Council will choose their new speaker in early January.


Priest Resigns Over Vatican Anti-Gay Policy

Father Bob Pierson of St. John’s University in Minnesota has resigned his post as chaplain and director of campus ministries over the Roman Catholic Church’s stand that “homosexual tendencies” in a man is a bar to ordination. He told Planet Out he was leaving because, “I can no longer honestly represent, explain, and defend the church’s teaching on homosexuality,” which is that gay people are “intrinsically disordered” and that gay lovemaking is “evil.”

The liberal National Catholic Reporter sent its “condolences” to LGBT Catholics this week over the Vatican policy, calling it “the product of ignorance and fear.”


New Orleans Partnerships Upheld; New Rochelle Challenged

A state appellate court in Louisiana said that the right-wing Alliance Defense Fund had no standing to challenge a New Orleans law granting domestic partner benefits to same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

A similar lawsuit has been brought against the city of New Rochelle, New York.

Meanwhile, a judge in Santa Clara, California ruled that the city cannot offer benefits to same-sex partners based on a legal marriage certificate from another jurisdiction.


Same-Sex Marriage at Heart of Canada Election

Canadians don’t go to the polls until late January, but one of the issues dominating the campaign is the dispute over the Liberal Party’s successful push for a nationwide same-sex marriage bill earlier this year. The Conservative leader, Stephen Harper, said he will allow a free vote in Parliament on repealing the measure if elected, but not invoke the notwithstanding clause to overturn the pro-gay marriage judicial decisions of the courts. Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin said this week that Harper should not be running for the top spot if he is not willing to protect same-sex marriage as a Charter right.