News Briefs

Gay Republican Congressman Out

Congressman Jim Kolbe, 63, an Arizona Republican, is calling it quits after 11 terms in the House. He made headlines in 1996 as the first member of his party’s delegation in Congress to acknowledge being gay. He said that he is confident that he could have won re-election, but that it was time that he and his district “walk down different paths.”

Kolbe was given a speaking slot at the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia. Even though he was addressing trade issues, not LGBT concerns, the spotlight on him infuriated the religious right in the party. Fundamentalist members of the Texas delegation stood and turned their back on Kolbe as he spoke.

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, praised Kolbe’s public service, saying that with Democratic Representatives Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Barney Frank of Massachusetts, “he sends a message of hope to GLBT young people that any American can achieve their dreams regardless of sexual orientation.” He said Kolbe was “instrumental in overturning the ban on domestic partner benefits for District of Columbia government employees.”

Patrick Guerriero, president of the Log Cabin Republicans, said Kolbe “never wavered in making a conservative case that all Americans should be treated equally regardless of sexual orientation,” and cited his opposition to the federal anti-gay marriage amendment and his contributions to fighting the global AIDS pandemic. Kolbe was chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations, controlling US foreign aid. He has not announced future plans.


State Department Denounces Treatment of Dubai Gays

“The United States condemns the arrest of dozens of same-sex couples in the United Arab Emirates and a statement by the Interior spokesperson that they will be subjected to government-ordered hormone treatment and psychological treatment.” So said a press statement from the U.S. Department of State on November 28, a rare criticism by the Bush administration of anti-gay persecution. In Ghantout near Dubai in early November, two dozen Arab men were arrested at a hotel where police said they were engaging in a mass gay wedding. Under Muslim law, they can be subjected to lashings and five years in prison, as well as to the hormone treatments.

The arrests are seen as part of a crackdown on homosexuality as the country “grapples with a sweeping influx of Western residents and culture,” MSNBC reported. The United States is calling the punishments a violation of “international law.”


Gay French Survivor of Nazi Camps Dies in Paris

Pierre Seel, whose persecution in Nazi concentration camps for being gay was documented in the film “Paragraph 175” and his own book “Moi, Pierre Seel, Déporté Homosexuel,” died in Paris on November 25 at age 82. He was the last known living French survivor of the camps who had been imprisoned for homosexuality.

Gay City News contributor Doug Ireland writes on his website,, that Seel was arrested at 17 by the Vichy police for being gay and sent to Struthof, the only Nazi camp in France. There, he was forced to witness the unfathomably brutal execution of his 18-year-old lover, Jo, who was hauled naked in front of the inmates with a bucket jammed on his head. “They unleashed on Jo the camp’s ferocious guard dogs, German Shepherds, who began to rip at his flesh—first his genitals, and his thighs, and they devoured Jo before our eyes,” Seel wrote as translated by Ireland. “His screams of pain were amplified and distorted by the bucket over his head. Frozen in place and trembling, wide-eyed at seeing so much horror, I had tears running down my cheeks. I prayed that he would rapidly lose consciousness.”

Seel fought for recognition of the gay survivors, who were shunned after the war, and won inclusion “in the annual French ceremonies commemorating the Nazi deportations,” Ireland wrote. After he appeared on TV to talk about his book, “Seel was assaulted in the streets by a group of young people shouting ‘dirty faggot.’” They were not skinheads, Seel said, but well-dressed young men.


Massachusetts Gay Leader to HRC

Marty Rouse, who has led MassEquality since late 2003 in its thus-far successful fight to uphold same-sex marriage in the Bay State and fend off a state constitutional amendment overturning it, is leaving to become the national field director of the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign.

“I look forward to taking our model to other state groups fighting for equality,” he said an e-mail, noting that the fight in Massachusetts is far from over. This week, “our opponents finished a signature drive to advance another constitutional amendment,” supported by Republican Governor Mitt Romney, that would strip gay couples of the right to marry. If approved by 50 members of the 200-member Legislature in 2006 and again in 2008, it will go on the ballot in 2008.

MassEquality demonstrated considerable grassroots moxie in the 2004 legislative elections, holding pro-marriage seats and defeating some of the community’s opponents. An effort to overturn the marriage ruling in a 2006 referendum, initiated by a majority of the state Legislature last year, was widely defeated in its required second vote this year. As a result, gay marriage will have been in place more than four years before Massachusetts voters could possibly be asked to turn back that state’s progress.


South African Ruling on Marriage Due December 1

The Constitutional Court of South Africa will rule on Thursday on whether gay marriages are legal. Last year, the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that Marie Fourie and Cecilia Bonthuys should be allowed marry, but the couple was unable to register their church wedding with the Department of Home Affairs. The government went to the Constitutional Court seeking to overturn the appellate ruling on grounds that only Parliament can amend legislation. Separately, the couple, backed by gay rights groups, asked that the 1961 Marriage Act be changed to substitute the word “spouse” for “husband” and “wife.” In court hearings in May, gay marriage advocates argued that the law’s emphasis on procreation was now longer valid, either socially or technologically. Doctors for Life, in contrast, testified that gay marriage would do “violence to the mind and spirit” of deeply religious people.


Illinois and New Hampshire Amendments Tough Sells

Right wingers in Illinois are having difficulty collecting the 280,000 signatures they need to get a resolution on the ballot calling for a state constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage. Midway to the April 20, 2006 deadline, they have only 50,000 signatures. The Legislature rejected such an amendment in November and even if a referendum were held, it would be non-binding on Springfield. But Randall Stuffelbeam, who is leading the drive, told that he would continue to work “county fairs and gun shows” for the needed signatures.

In New Hampshire, a state senate panel has recommended a constitutional amendment against gay marriage and the idea enjoys the support of 58 percent of the electorate in a recent poll, with 31 percent opposed. To go into effect, 60 percent of each house of the state Legislature must approve an amendment, followed by two-thirds of the voters. Alternatively, 60 percent of all legislators can call a constitutional convention and if three-fifths of delegates approve a measure, it goes to the voters and needs the same two-thirds approval.


Canadian Government Falls; Conservatives Vow to End Gay Marriage

Prime Minister Paul Martin’s Liberal Party-led minority government in Canada lost a no confidence vote in Parliament this week. An election has been called for January 23. Martin lost support due to his party’s involvement in a corruption scandal. But Tory opposition leader Stephen Harper is making the government’s opening of marriage to same-sex couples a centerpiece of his campaign. Harper said that if elected, he will allow a free vote in Parliament on whether to invoke the notwithstanding clause to the federal Constitution and overrule the nation’s courts, which ordered provincial governments to allow same-sex couples to marry. The clause has never been used.

In June, Martin made the same-sex marriage bill a free vote for back-benchers in his party, but not for the 47 members of his cabinet. It passed 158-133, making it legal for same-sex couples to marry across Canada, not just in the 80 percent of the country that allowed it under previous provincial court rulings. Harper said that the 3,000 gay couples who have wed would still be recognized as married if he succeeds in banning such marriages in the future. Polls show that the new Parliament will closely resemble the current one despite the financial scandals, but the campaign has just begun.


Does Domestic Partner Privilege Stand Up in Court?

That’s the question facing a Nassau County court. Stephen Signorelli is charged with grand larceny in the Roslyn school district scandal. His legal domestic partner, Dr. Frank Tassone, the former school superintendent, has pleaded guilty in exchange a lighter sentence and for testifying against his live-in mate. They registered from their New York City home in 2002 and had a commitment ceremony on a cruise ship in 2001. Signorelli’s lawyers are asking the court to forbid Tassone from testifying under a state law that says spouses “shall not be required, or without the consent of the other, if living, allowed to disclose a confidential communication made by one to the other during marriage.” Tassone’s lawyer said that Signorelli has no case because “New York doesn’t recognize homosexual marriage,” he told The New York Times.

Had they been married in Canada or gotten a civil union in Vermont, Signorelli might have had a stronger case. New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer opined that while this state doesn’t perform same-sex marriages, it must recognize those from other jurisdictions. Lambda Legal’s David Buckel told The Times, “the case could have significance for a very large community” and had not heard of a similar one in a criminal case. Rosie O’Donnell complained in a civil case in 2003 that her partner, Kelli, was forced to testify against her. They wed subsequently in San Francisco, but the high court in California invalidated those marriages.

The Times reported that the men had a less than committed relationship, with Tassone charging the school district for trips to Las Vegas where he owned a home in partnership with “an exotic dancer.” He also charged trips to England on the Concorde “accompanied by Joel Nash, a personal trainer who advertises his services as an erotic masseur.”

Spouses in a heterosexual marriage, however, cannot be forced to testify against each other no matter how much infidelity they engage in.

Tassone’s attorney, Edward P. Jenks, said that the relationship between the two men was not sexual, arguing that the domestic partnership arrangement was an expediency aimed at protecting their rent-stabilized apartment lease and health benefits his client had through Signorelli in the wake of leaving his job as superintendent. Tassone’s plea deal, of course, is contingent on his testimony against others.