News Briefs

Ford Dumps Ads from Gay Publications

Though the company denies it, Ford Motor pulled its ads for its Jaguar and Range Rover divisions from gay-themed publications under intense pressure from the right-wing American Family Association.

Ford called it a “business decision,” but sources confirm that it was directly related to lobbying from AFA. According a Ford executive, the company decided that it would stop advertising in all “advocacy publications,” a category into which all gay magazines fall in his view, but perhaps no others.

John Aravosis of noted that, an industry website, broke the story and confirmed that Ford acted on November 29 to “avert a threatened boycott” by AFA. Under the agreement with the Christian group, Ford may continue to run Volvo ads in gay publications, but they will not be “tailored to the gay community.” Ford is said to also have agreed not to sponsor gay events, though it will “maintain its employee policies,” including non-discrimination and domestic partner benefits.

Ford caved “because an extremist gay-hating group threatened them,” Aravosis wrote.

Donald Windom, chairman of AFA said, “They’ve heard our concerns; they’re acting on our concerns,” though acknowledging unspecified “small matters of difference.”

Equality Project Investor Advocates and 20 other groups including the Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force have called upon Ford to reverse itself, urging it to “publicly reaffirm its commitment to continue abiding by the Corporate Equality Principles it has long been admired for supporting,” said Grant Lukenbill, director of the project.

Elsewhere, Focus on the Family, another right-wing anti-gay outfit, pulled its money out of Wells Fargo because of the bank’s “ongoing efforts to advance the radical homosexual agenda,” citing support for GLAAD and a San Francisco gay pride event that featured “Leather Alley.”


Lopez Unsure of Plans, Insists No Quid Pro Quo

Asked her plans for January as she entered City Hall Tuesday afternoon, Margarita Lopez, whose term as District 2 councilwoman expires on New Year’s Eve, immediately responded, “There was no quid pro quo.” She was referring to the possibility that she would go to work for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whom she endorsed for reelection after losing her Democratic primary bid for borough president in September. Lopez made that point clear even before being asked about that possibility.

“I have never engaged in quid pro quos,” Lopez insisted, “not even with my mother when I was born.”

Asked directly whether she would accept a job from the mayor if one were offered, the councilwoman responded, “I don’t know,” which was the same answer she provided when asked if she planned to stay in public life.

“I was not surprised,” was Lopez’s response when asked if she were pleased that Rosie Mendez, her one-time chief of staff, who like her is lesbian, will be her successor on the City Council. Lopez explained that none of Mendez’s opponents for the seat had the winner’s ties to the community and that they were motivated “by prejudice”—the assumption that the district’s white majority would not elect another Latina.


Massachusetts Amendment Signatures Filed

Petitions for a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and partnerships were filed December 7 with more than 170,000 signatures, the Massachusetts Family Institute claimed. A little fewer than 66,000 valid signatures are needed.

For the amendment to move forward to the ballot, 50 members out of 200 in a joint session of the Massachusetts Legislature must approve it in two consecutive years, a strong likelihood. Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, the law firm that won the historic 2003 marriage decision from the Supreme Judicial Court there, in is vowing to challenge the legality of the amendment.

Meanwhile in Connecticut where only civil unions are available, 539 same-sex couples have signed up, far below the 3,000 gay and lesbian couples who married in Massachusetts during the first six weeks of marriage there. Even considering that Massachusetts is twice the size of Connecticut, civil unions are clearly demonstrating less appeal. Janet Peck, whose lesbian partner is Carol Conklin, told Planet Out, “To pledge to say we’re something inferior is just not OK.”


Vatican Excludes More Gays

The Vatican banned men with “homosexual tendencies” from Catholic seminaries on November 29, but a cover letter with that document also bars gay men from directing or teaching at seminaries.

Voice of the Faithful, the lay Catholic group that sprang up in response to the Church hierarchy’s cover-up of the sex abuse scandal, is calling on its members to wear green ribbons this weekend to demonstrate “your conviction that a vocation to the priesthood should not be restricted by one’s sexuality” and that “excluding homosexuals from the priesthood is not a solution to the clergy sex abuse crisis.”

Meanwhile, Boston College banned the campus LGBT group from calling its AIDS benefit dance “A Night in Gay Paris.” A spokesman for the school said, “Gay students are accepted and welcomed at Boston College, but as a Catholic university we cannot sanction an event that promotes a lifestyle that is in conflict with Church teaching.”

Reverend Pat Bumgardner, pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of New York, said that to enter a Catholic seminary today “you have to be called to martyrdom” and urged seminarians to “stand up on gay issues.”


Santoro, Lesbian Pioneer, in Grave Condition

Betty Santoro, a co-founder of Lesbian Feminist Liberation in 1971 and one of the mothers of the LGBT rights movement, suffered a cerebral hemorrhage last week that has left her unconscious and unlikely to recover. The Queens native, 67, had battled a plethora of health problems over the last decade, but was still active in the movement, calling for a meeting of veterans recently to revitalize grassroots activism.

Daniel Dromm, co-founder of the Queens Lesbian and Gay Pride Parade, made her grand marshal of the parade several years ago. “She is one of the great leaders of this generation of gay and lesbian liberation,” he said, “and a wonderful human being who has done so much for the movement and not gotten the recognition due her.”

Beginning in 1977, Santoro was a spokesperson for the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights, the group that campaigned for the city bill banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. That bill passed in 1986 after a 15 year struggle.


Bad Mayor West Out

Sixty-five percent of the voters of Spokane, Washington recalled their mayor, James West, this past Tuesday after scandals that included his soliciting underage males on his office computer and hiring and sexually harassing young gay men for whom he had the hots. West, a 54-year old Republican, had a history of opposing LGBT rights. He has not been charged with criminal wrongdoing, though at least two men came forward and said they had been raped by West as youngsters decades ago when the former mayor was a sheriff’s department employee and a Boy Scout leader.


Schwarzenegger Right Hand a Lesbian

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has named Susan P. Kennedy, an out lesbian and former chair of the state Democratic Party, as his new chief of staff. Conservative Republicans are furious, even though Kennedy supports his decision earlier this year to veto the first same-sex marriage bill to be passed by a state legislature. Kennedy, who has a partner with whom she had a commitment ceremony in Hawaii, accused marriage equality advocates of “blind self righteousness.” First Lady Maria Shriver, whose maternal family is no relation to Susan Kennedy, also has a gay chief of staff, Daniel Zingale, formerly with the Human Rights Campaign.


Gill Gets Political

Tim Gill, the Quark millionaire whose Gill Foundation has distributed more than $200 million to LGBT groups, has established the Gill Action Fund to work for pro-gay candidates and fight anti-gay ballot initiatives around the country. Rodger McFarlane, executive director of the foundation, told the Denver Post, “This doesn’t reflect anything more than his increasing influence and his own sense of responsibility as a citizen—and a very privileged citizen.” Donations to the Action Fund, a 501(c)4, are not tax deductible, but the fund is allowed to do the direct political work forbidden at the foundation.


Condi Sued by Lambda in HIV Case

Lambda Legal Defense has appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington on behalf of Lorenzo Taylor who was denied employment as a Foreign Service Officer by the U.S. Department of State because he is HIV-positive. Secretary Condoleezza Rice is named in the suit that challenges the exclusion policy, which the department says is based on the inability to deploy officers who are HIV-positive in countries with limited expert medical care for them. Given Taylor’s “long history of excellent health, this makes no sense,” said Jonathan Givner, director of Lambda’s HIV Project.


Condi Hosts kd

Washington is full of strange bedfellows when the Kennedy Center Honors are handed out. Among this year’s honorees were staunch Democrats Tony Bennett and Robert Redford, receiving gold medals from President George W. Bush. At a State Department reception hosted by Secretary Condoleezza Rice were kd lang and her partner, Jamie Pierce.


Broadway Cares to the Tune of Nearly $3 Million

The best show on Broadway bar none has to be the annual Gypsy of the Year Competition to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, which this year raised a record $2,972,721 for HIV programs and other health-related causes. For six weeks, the casts of Broadway and off-Broadway shows have been soliciting funds for the group, with the most raised by “Spamalot,” the hit reputed to have brought straight men back to the theater.

At the Gypsy Competition, most companies perform skits that satirize their own and other shows and never has more sardonic truth been spoken on the stage. Rosie O’Donnell from “Fiddler on the Roof” talked about how welcoming Broadway is “to my people—former TV stars who are vocally challenged but get the role anyway.” Jokes were made about “Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick selling crap to rich people” in “The Odd Couple.” The opening number was about male and female chorus members fulfilling their dreams to play each others’ roles. It’s the gayest and funniest show of the year.

Brad Garrett and Lee Wilkoff of “The Odd Couple” co-hosted, with Garrett proclaiming, “It’s raining men and I’m coming out—I don’t give a shit anymore!” The winners of the competition were Ray Mercer and Gabriel Croom from “The Lion King” who performed a stirring dance number, “I Remember He Said,” with a voiceover of bad memories from those who tried to thwart their careers as male dancers. They got a standing ovation.


Albee Speaks to Sold-Out Crowd at Center

Edward Albee, profiled in Gay City News last week, was in conversation with Jesse Green at the LGBT Community Center on December 5 before an SRO audience as part of the Times Talks series. In addition to reviewing his literary history and life in Greenwich Village, Albee sounded off on the kinds of issues covered in his new book of essays, “Stretching My Mind.”

He said that only five percent of the country is getting a good education and especially complained about the lack of “aesthetic education.” He advocated exposing very young children to everything from abstract paintings to Bach. Albee recounted his work on the musical of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” at the behest of David Merrick. He tried to maneuver the narrative back to Capote’s original story. “I took a mediocre show and turned it into such a disaster, it never opened,” he said.

Albee said the reason he hasn’t written about politicians is because “I write about believable people,” not “limited creations” like President George W. Bush. He conceded he had been cooking up a play about Attila the Hun and his childhood friend who went on to become Pope Gregory IV, “but I think I’m going to let Tom Stoppard do it.”