News Briefs

News Briefs

Teamsters Approve Partner Benefits

The Empire State Pride Agenda announced that two Teamsters Locals for workers at JFK Airport “will treat marriages of same-sex couples the same as all other marriages” for purposes of providing retirement benefits and coverage. The ruling was sought by Dolores Damone, a retired Teamster from Suffolk, who was married in Toronto to Marie Sardone.

“I married Marie because I love her and these lifetime benefits help me take care of her,” Damone said. Her attorney, Tom Kirdahy, said, “The law of New York State clearly states that legal marriages from other jurisdictions must be respected.”

Alan Van Capelle, executive director of the Pride Agenda, said, “Every union, every employer, every government entity, and every organization in New York that provide benefits and protections based upon being married should follow the law by doing the same” as these Teamsters locals.


Domestic Partners Protected in New York

The City Council, by a veto-proof majority, passed the Local Civil Rights Restoration Act, mainly to strengthen the local law that goes far beyond state and federal law in protecting human rights. Republican Mayor Bloomberg, facing challenge from Democrat Fernando Ferrer, the former Bronx borough president in the November 8 election, opposed the bill in committee and won’t say whether he will sign it.

Among the provisions in the bill is a ban on discrimination based on “partnership status,” defined to include being in a registered domestic partnership. The bill’s chief sponsor, Upper West Side Councilwoman Gale Brewer, had wanted to go further by defining marital status to include all unmarried partners, but agreed to this compromise in negotiations with the mayor’s office. So, people who shack up without benefit of paper are still subject discrimination, though that is being contested in a pending lawsuit.


Married Gays Denied Connecticut Recognition

Democratic State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has issued an opinion that Connecticut law does not recognize same-sex marriage and that gays and lesbians who marry legally elsewhere would have to register for a Connecticut civil union if they want rights as couples in that state. He said that same-sex couples in civil unions performed in Vermont and California would be recognized in the Nutmeg State. In a last-minutee amendment to the Connecticut law as it neared final passage this summer, the Legislature specifically banned recognition of same-sex marriage.

All this comes on the eve of the civil union law going into effect in Connecticut on October 1, giving gay couples all the rights and responsibilities of married couples without the name and without the transferability to other juridictions. A lawsuit seeking full marriage rights is still pending.

In New York, Democratic State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer issued an opinion in March 2004 that while New York does not perform same-sex marriages, it must recognize those performed legally elsewhere. Adherence to Spitzer’s advisory has been spotty, with the City of New York recognizing the couples—while appealing a court order to marry gay couples here—and the State Department of Taxation denying them the right to file jointly on their state returns.


Everybody’s Doing It

The National Center for Health Statistics, one of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has released a new study of American sexual practices and orientation that is surprising some. They did in-person interviews with 12,571 people between the ages of 15 and 44.

Among adults 25 to 44, they found that 97 percent of men and 98 percent of women had engaged in vaginal intercourse; 90 percent of men and 88 percent of women had had oral sex with an opposite sex partner; and 40 percent of men and 35 percent of women had had anal sex with an opposite sex partner.

On the homosexual and bisexual front, 6.5 percent of men 25-44 have had anal or oral sex with another man and 11 percent of women in that age group have had a “sexual experience” with another woman. The gender differential may have something to do with men having to indicate specific sex acts—that did not include mutual masturbation, frottage, or plain old making out—and women being asked more generally about a sexual experience.

In terms of identification, 90 percent of men 18-44 said they were heterosexual, 2.3 percent homosexual, 1.8 percent bisexual, and 3.9 percent “something else.” The findings for women were similar.

The data show that more than half of young people are having oral sex, especially those who are more affluent and educated.

Monica Rodriguez, vice president for education and training at the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, said, “The study shatters the stereotypes about who we think is having oral sex and reinforces that young people in this country are engaging in a range of sexual behaviors that is putting them at risk for STDs and HIV.”


New York Law School Attacked by Pentagon; Harvard Spared

The U.S. Defense Department is going after three law schools, including New York Law School, for barring military recruiters, denying them federal contracts. Yale Law School got an injunction against Pentagon harassment in November and Harvard “seems to have been left alone so far,” Inside Higher Education reported. Congress passed the Solomon Amendment in 1994 and enhanced it in 2001, barring federal money to schools that refused access to recruiters for the armed forces.

Arthur S. Leonard, a gay professor at New York Law School and the legal reporter for Gay City News, said, “We lost nothing, really. We are an independent law school. We don’t have a medical school or science departments that do federal research. Our student aid money is sheltered by the Frank/Campbell amendment. So for us, and the other two schools on the list, this is entirely about principle.”

Vermont Law School and William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota were also cited by the Pentagon as being non-compliant.

“I think the military knows better that to pick that fight [with Harvard] in the months leading up” to Supreme Court arguments on the matter, Boston College law professor Kent Greenfield, president of the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, told Inside Higher Education.


Feds Aide Pope in Sex Abuse Suit

The United States government is asking a court in Texas to dismiss a lawsuit implicating Pope Benedict XVI in a sex abuse case cover-up. Lawyers for three boys molested in the 1990s by a priest in Houston say that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now pontiff, shielded the men from prosecution “by treating their cases secretly,” Catholic World News reported.

The U.S. is arguing that Benedict is immune from prosecution based on his status as a head of state, Vatican City. Similar charges were dismissed against the previous pope, John Paul II, also in a Texas case. But Daniel Shea, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said he will appeal if Benedict is ruled immune, by “challenging the constitutionality of U.S. diplomatic relations with the Holy See,” the news service said.


Raped Prisoner Sues in Texas

Roderick K. Johnson, 37, with the aid of the American Civil Liberties Union, is suing the Texas Department of Corrections for repeatedly ignoring and ridiculing his complaints that he was being raped in prison. Officials “told him to fight or get a boyfriend who could defend him,” his attorney, Tim Hoffman, told the Washington Post. They said there was no evidence of rape; Johnson said he was assaulted daily.

Johnson, an inmate at the James A. Allred Unit in Iowa Park, was sold as a “sexual slave,” raped and otherwise abused, according to the ACLU. When he complained, he was told to “fight or fuck.” He is no longer in prison.

The US Department of Justice found this year that there are six times as many complaints of prisoner-on-prisoner violence in Texas than in other states.


Gay Penguins Divorce

Silo and Roy, Central Park’s male penguins who enjoyed a six-year relationship, have split up. Silo ran off with Scrappy, a female temptress from San Diego. Roy is said to be sitting by himself, staring at the wall.

The religious right is crowing that Silo “has become the first documented ex-gay penguin,” according to Focus on the Family, but the report from the Park indicates nothing more than that Silo is bisexual.

In addition to bonding, Silo and Roy hatched a penguin egg that became Tango and raised the bird. Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell published a book this year, “And Tango Makes Three” about the lovers.

The zoo still has five other same-sex penguin couples. Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg has yet to issue a public statement about what, if any, legal protections those couples deserve.


Proposed Florida DOMA Amendment Challenged

Six same-sex couples represented by the American Civil Liberties Union appealed to the Florida Supreme Court to stop the 2006 ballot initiative that would amend the state Constitution to ban gays from marrying or being recognized in any other way. Also challenging the proposal on Wednesday were Equality Florida and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. The basis of the challenge is that it is unconstitutional to put two issues—in this case a marriage ban and elimination of all partner rights—in the same question.

Similar challenges, however, have failed in other states, some of which passed such amendments last year.


Bush’s War on Porn

The FBI is recruiting eight agents to devote themselves exclusively to gather evidence against “manufacturers and purveyors” of pornography—not kiddie porn, but regular old adult porn that might run afoul of “community standards,” providing further evidence of a trend reported in an August Gay City New cover story by Cody Lyon.

“I guess this means we’ve won the war on terror,” one unidentified agent told the Washington Post. Another said, “Honestly, most of the guys would have to recuse themselves.”

Congress funded the hunt for porn this year and mandated that ten agents be assigned to it. The recruitment memo says that convictions are easier to obtain when the porn “includes bestiality, urination, defecation, as well as sadistic and masochistic behavior.”

The Post story noted that General Motors, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, Time-Warner, and most big hotel chains make huge profits off of adult porn.

Among Justice Department priorities, this campaign is now ranked fourth.


Salt Lake City Mayor Offers Domestic Partner Benefits

Mayor Rocky Anderson said he would go ahead and sign an executive order granting domestic partner benefits to gay and unmarried employees of Salt Lake City, despite a plea from the Public Employees Health Program to go to court and make sure it is legal under Utah law first.

Salt Lake City is the first government entity in Utah to give some recognition to gay couples, though the state has a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and other legal rights for same-sex couples. Conservative state legislators are already saying that they will move to overrule Anderson’s order if the courts don’t do so first.


Trouble in Maple Grove, Victory in Fresno

Students in a gay-straight alliance at Maple Grove Senior High School in Minnesota are suing in federal court, saying that they have been denied privileges extended to other school groups, KARE-11 News in Minneapolis reported. Among the restrictions are not being allowed to make announcements on the public address system and promoting their group with posters and leaflets in the hallways. The suit is said to be a first for Minnesota, but many have been successful elsewhere in the country.

The school is insisting that it is in compliance with the federal Equal Access Act that was passed by Congress mainly to make way for student prayer groups in public schools but spawned many gay groups as well.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota is assisting the kids.

Meanwhile, the ACLU of Southern California and the Gay-Straight Alliance Network reached an agreement with the Fresno schools to “eliminate anti-gay discrimination” after receiving “multiple complaints from students who were harassed, in some cases by school officials, because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation,” the ACLU said in a release. The district has agreed to provide “comprehensive training” on LGBT issues for staff and students.

No such mandatory training is conducted in the New York City public schools.


Walk Through the Lincoln Tunnel to Fight AIDS

The Campaign to End AIDS is sponsoring a national march on Washington that will begin with a Walk the Tunnel event in New York. Participants will meet at 7:30 a.m. in Times Square and reach the Lincoln Tunnel at 8:30 AM. For those not proceeding to Washington, buses will be provided to transport them back.

There will be five days of actions to combat AIDS starting on November 5 in DC.

For more information, go to and


Italian Turmoil Over Gay Marriage

Last week, reports surfaced that Italian opposition leader Romano Prodi came out for equal rights for gay couples. This week, he clarified his support by saying, “I never talked about marriage or adoption,” the International Herald Tribune reported, but he still wants some civil protections for gay couples.

Sergio Lo Giudice, leader of ArciGay, the Italian gay lobby, said that Prodi’s proposals constituted a “victory” for the movement, but that his group would still push for full marriage rights. “This is the first time that gays and lesbians will be represented by someone who could win the election,” he told the newspaper.

The Vatican accused Prodi of a “search for votes” and trying to “relativize and ideologize the reality of the family.”

But a leading Italian cardinal, Camillo Ruini, took what some are seeing as the extraordinary step of acknowledging that some legal status could be accorded to unmarried heterosexual couples. Italy’s leading newspaper, Corriere della Serra, called the statement “a small opening on unions, not on gays.”


Gay Marriage Contested in Spain

The right-wing Popular Party has challenged the constitutionality of Spain’s new law ending sex discrimination in marriage and allowing gay couples to adopt. The law, passed by the Socialist-led Parliament, enjoys majority support in polls.