News Briefs

Gay Clubs Torched

The Heart Rock nightclub, a gay club that opened on May 20 in Brownsville, Texas, was almost completely destroyed by an early morning fire set by arsonists on Sunday. There were no injuries. The club’s owner has called the incident a hate crime. A rainbow flag had flown outside the entrance.

On July 16, Studio 716 in Fayetteville, Arkansas, was destroyed by fire. The club was empty at the time. On its Web site, owners called it an “unprovoked attack.”

The club had been the target of arson on June 26 and no one was arrested in that incident.

Maine Law to Go to Voters

Maine voters have twice overturned a state law banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In 2000, the referendum succeeded by 4,000 votes out of 500,000 cast, so hopes are high that yet another referendum to overturn the law passed again by the Legislature in March will fail. Opponents of gay rights are calling the non-discrimination law “the precursor to same-sex marriage.”

Lesbian Leader for San Diego

After a series of scandals that got rid of the mayor and the interim mayor, the San Diego City Council has turned to Councilwoman Toni Atkins, a lesbian, to serve as deputy mayor and perform all mayoral duties until a new mayor is elected.

There is a special election for a new mayor on Tuesday and Atkins is not a candidate. But if none of the 11 candidates gets a majority, a runoff is not scheduled until November, which means Atkins could serve until December 5.

Atkins said she feels the “weight” of her responsibilities “more heavily” because she comes from the LGBT community.

California Amendment Language Tussle

The right-wing VoteYesMarriage group in California wants to put “The Voters’ Right to Protect Marriage Initiative” on the November 2006 ballot. Democratic State Attorney General Bill Lockyer approved the text of the amendment as valid, but changed the title to “Marriage: Elimination of Domestic Partnership Rights,” because that more accurately expresses the true effect of the amendment in a state that grants extensive domestic partner benefits.

Randy Thomasson of the Campaign for Children and Families cried foul, saying Lockyer is “true to his liberal bias, but untrue to his constitutional duty.” The official title may also make it more difficult to secure the signatures needed to put it on the ballot.

The proposed initiative would not only limit marriage to “one man and one woman,” but forbids the state from granting the “rights or incidents of marriage” to unmarried persons.”

Falwell: Gay Kids are Roadkill

Pastor Jerry Falwell, who blamed the 9/11 attacks on gays and lesbians among other things he felt were wrong with America, now has an equally offensive metaphor for letting young people be gay. Southern Voice reported that he told a conference of Exodus International, a Christian group that aims to “change” sexual orientation, that “allowing a child to identify as gay” was equivalent to “allowing children to play on the interstate.”

Spain Marries First Lesbians

A couple named Tani and Verónica were the first lesbians to be married in Spain on July 22. A gay male couple had married the week before.

The lesbian marriage was also notable because while Verónica is Spanish, Tani is from Argentina and the marriage will gain her legal resident status. Last week, an Indian man seeking to marry a Spanish man was denied that right because their marriage would not be recognized in India.

A Spanish judge in the city of Denia is refusing to issue marriage licenses on the basis that they are unconstitutional. He cites an article in the Spanish constitution that says “a man and a woman have the right to contract marriage with full legal equality.” The law passed by the Socialist government changed the Civil Code to say “a marriage will have the same requirements and effects whether both parties are of the same or different gender.” The dispute over constitutionality will go to the Spanish high court for resolution.

The virulent opposition of the Roman Catholic Church to same-sex marriage has caused 1,800 LGBT people and their supporters to file official requests for “apostasy” with the church to get their names removed from the rolls. Emma Rodriguez of Europa Laica told Inter-Press Service that by cutting themselves off from the church, “these activists were refusing to remain complicit in its ‘homophobia, machismo, classism, misogyny and antiquated conservatism.’”

Lutheran Showdown Set

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will vote at its August 8-14 meeting in Orlando on whether gay people in committed relationships can be ordained and have their unions blessed by the church.

The proposals before the body would retain a ban on the ordination of sexually active gay people, but allow local bishops or synods to make exceptions; keep the ban on blessing gay relationships, but give local officials “discretion” in how to minister to gay couples; and make a call for church unity despite disagreements over what scripture teaches about homosexual activity.

New York Pressed to Recognize Gay Spouses

Lambda Legal Defense has sued on behalf of a New York gay couple married in Canada who want to receive retirement benefits from the Uniondale School District where one of the men worked. The recognition has been extended to the NY Department of Civil Service that administers the New York State Health Insurance Program for public employees. The New York State Retirement System already recognizes out-of-state same-sex marriages under the pension system due to a ruling by State Comptroller Alan Hevesi.

Oregon Civil Unions Dead

Oregon’s Republican-led House of Representatives refused to follow the lead of the Democratic-led Senate in offering civil unions to same-sex couples. House Speaker Karen Minnis said the issue was decided when voters banned same-sex marriage in the constitution last year. Polls, however, show support for civil unions.

Gay Men Marry

Anthony Brown and Gary Spino, two of the leaders of the Wedding Party group that promotes the right of gay people to marry, were wed in Montreal on July 23. The men met in 1989 at a nightclub. “I saw Gary across the room like Tony and Maria in ‘West Side Story,’” Brown told The New York Times. “I first noticed his smile,” Spino said.

New Zealand Delays Marriage Vote

New Zealand enacted a civil union law earlier this year, but now is looking at passing a law defining marriage as between a man and a woman. The bill to do so arose after a gay couple joined in a civil union sought to transfer that union to a marriage, Newstalk ZB reported. It will not be voted on until after the next election.

University of Arizona Gives Benefits

Arizonans will go to the polls in November 2006 to decide whether to ban marriage and its benefits to gay couples. That didn’t stop the University of Arizona this week from extending some domestic partner benefits to employees, including the right to reduced tuition rates. The partners must register with the City of Tucson. Health benefits are not included in the package.

English Clergy Told to Abstain

The Church of England will recognize the government’s Civil Partnership Act for gay couples that goes into effect in December, but will only allow its own clergy to enter into them if they affirm that their relationships are non-sexual. The church is also refusing to authorize a public liturgy for the partnerships.

Rev. Richard Kirker of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement said that the bishops’ statement was “perfectly consistent with the Church of England’s policy of double-dealing, duplicity and disregard for decency.” He also called it an expression of “contempt” for gay relationships and was “unloving, unpastoral and unworkable.”

The Anglican Church teaches that “ ‘homosexual genital acts’ fall short of the Christian ideal and are to be met ‘with a call to repentance,’” the Anglican Communion News Service reported.