News Briefs

Nigerian Gay Man Sentenced to Death by Stoning

A 50-year old man acquitted by a Sharia judge of having sex with a younger man was nonetheless sentenced to death by stoning when he admitted under questioning from the judge that he had in fact had sex with another man.

Sharia law is traditional Islamic law derived from the Koran and the teachings of the prophet Mohammed, and exists in certain countries in addition to or in place of civil law.

The man facing the death sentence remains unidentified.

Philip Alston, an official with the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, has called for “an immediate review of the entire process that led to the man’s death sentence under Islamic Sharia law.”

Alston said he had stumbled upon this case while investigating death row cases in Kano prison in Nigeria. No other sodomy convictions were brought to his attention.

Ten women in Nigeria recently received death sentences for having sex outside of marriage, but all were overturned on appeal after an international outcry. Twelve northern states in Nigeria imposed Sharia law in 2000.

“Sodomy cannot be considered one of the most serious crimes for which, under international law, the death penalty can be prescribed,” Alston said in his report. “The punishment is wholly disproportionate.”

Paula Ettelbrick, executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, said, “We’re also monitoring another case of two Nigerian men who were just charged with having sex in a men’s room. Since 1999, there is one person in Nigeria who has been stoned to death for a sexual offense. We’re prepared to mobilize around these cases to object to the use of the death penalty in general as a violation of human rights and in sodomy cases in particular. It is absurdly disproportionate.”

Uganda Criminalizes Same-Sex Marriage

The Ugandan Parliament voted 111 to 17 to make it “unlawful for same-sex couples to marry.” The bill must pass a third reading later this month to become law.

Uganda already punishes sodomy with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and attempted sodomy with up to seven years in prison. The penalties for getting married will be enacted when the Ugandan penal code is revised, Human Rights Watch said in a release.

Last October, the country’s information minister, James Nsaba Bulturo, ordered an investigation into a gay association at Makerere University. In February, Eve Ensler’s “Vagina Monologues” was banned by the Media Council for promoting “illegal acts of unnatural sexual acts, homosexuality and prostitution.” The state-sponsored New Vision newspaper has called for a crackdown on homosexuality, demanding that police raid a list of hotels that the newspaper printed.

Scott Long of the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch said, “Members of Parliament should reject both the amendment and the campaign to stigmatize and silence people because of sexual orientation.”

Out Gay Police Officer Leads Investigation into London Terror Attack

London’s Deputy Assistant Police Commissioner Brian Paddick, 49, an out gay man, has been in charge of the investigation into last week’s deadly attacks on public transit that killed more than 50 and wounded 700. He is said by to be “the highest ranking gay police officer in the U.K. and possibly the world.”

The day after Thursday’s atrocity, London gay clubs and pubs vowed to open for “business as usual.”

“We’ve just got to get on with it,” Gavin Nichols, the promotions manager for Heaven, a gay club at Charing Cross, told UK.

Foreigners Cannot Marry Same-Sex Partners in Spain

Emilio Menendez and Carlos Baturim, together for 30 years, became the first same-sex couple to marry in Spain on Monday.

After an inquiry from journalists, however, the Supreme Court of Justice issued a statement saying that foreign residents cannot marry Spaniards of the same sex unless their home countries will recognize the marriage. Only Holland, Belgium, and soon Canada fit that definition. Same-sex couples can marry in Massachusetts, but the U.S. federal government does not recognize the marriages, and that state’s conservative Republican governor, Mitt Romney is enforcing a miscegenation-era law that bans marriages by out of state residents from jurisdictions that bar gay marriage.

The Spanish court did say that the exclusion of foreigners could be appealed to the Justice Ministry that is in charge of civil registries.

The Vatican newspaper this week condemned the opening of marriage to same-sex couples as “violent and direct attacks against the family.”

A new poll found 62 percent of Spaniards in favor of non-discriminatory marriage with 25 percent against. Fifty percent, however, were against adoption by gay couples with 44 percent in favor.

Irish Parliament Eyes Legal Status for Gay Couples

An all-party Committee on the Constitution of the Irish Dáil that is studying family rights is said to be leaning toward recognizing same-sex unions through, but not opening marriage to gay couples. The reform would involve changing the definition of the family in the Constitution—a move that would require a voter referendum. The committee’s report is due in September, the Sunday Business Post of Ireland reported.

Denis O’Donovan of Cork, the chair of the committee, said that emotions are running high on the issues. “I got one letter telling me I was the devil’s agent,” he told the newspaper, and another stained in blood.

Brazil Judge Approves Joint Gay Adoption

In the first such ruling in Brazil, Judge Julio Cesar Spoladore Domingos of Sao Paolo ruled that a gay couple, Vasco Pereira de Gama and Dorival Pereira de Carvalho, together for 13 years, may jointly adopt a child. The judge cited a policy of the nation’s Psychological Council that said “homosexuality was not a disease, a disturbance or a perversion,” reported.

Gay people have been able to adopt as single parents in the past.

Gay Exclusion in Military Challenged

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network argued in Cook v. Rumsfeld on Friday in federal court in Boston on behalf of 12 gay and lesbian military personnel expelled for their sexuality. The government tried to have the case dismissed. This is the first full challenge to the Clinton-era “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in more than 10 years. SLDN is asking the court to have the law and the regulations related to it declared unconstitutional and to reinstate the plaintiffs.

California Marriage Bill Revived

A bill to open marriage to gay couples cleared a California Senate committee by a 5-to-2 vote in Sacramento. Assemblyman Mark Leno, a San Francisco Democrat, hopes that if the bill wins approval by the full Senate, it will give it momentum in the Assembly, where it was defeated narrowly earlier this summer but is supported, at least nominally, by the Democratic speaker, Fabian Núñez of Los Angeles.

Boy Sopranos Banned in Texas

The Texas Music Educators Association is enforcing a two-year ban on boys singing soprano or alto and girls from singing tenor or bass. The regulation is preventing Mikhael Rawls, a soprano, who will be a senior in high school in the fall, from performing before music college recruiters or auditioning for an elite ensemble of Texas high school singers.

Riki Wilchins, director of Gender Public Advocacy Coalition, said that the Texas educators’ group “is denying this young man his rights to equal opportunity to try out for the choir and develop his musical talents. And it’s not because he doesn’t sing well—it’s because he’s a boy.”

Oregon Senate OKs Civil Unions

By a vote of 19-10, the Oregon Senate, controlled by the Democrats, voted to extend most of the legal rights of married couples to same-sex partners. KOMO-TV reported that the bill, which would also ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, “appears doomed in the Republican-run House.” Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski supports the bill.

Senate Majority Leader Kate Brown, an out bisexual, said that civil unions are “fundamentally and legally different from the institution of marriage.” Same-sex marriage is banned under the Oregon Constitution as of last year.

Barney Frank Offers Bill on Domestic Partners

Out gay Congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) was joined by 50 co-sponsors on Wednesday in introducing the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act that would let non-married federal employees apply for the same benefits for their partners as married employees get for their spouses.

“The time has come for the federal government to recognize the changing workforce and value its employees,” Frank said, noting that corporate America is way ahead of the government in doing so.

New Paltz Mayor Cleared

New York’s Ulster County district attorney has dropped all criminal charges against New Paltz Mayor Jason West who faced 24 counts of marrying, in February 2004, same-sex couples without licenses. The charges involved potential jail time. Donald Williams, the prosecutor, told the judge that West was barred from performing any more such weddings. “While a trial in this case would be filled with rhetoric and hyperbole, it would be lacking in a viable public purpose,” he said. West, who has become a hero to many in the gay community and criticized by others such as Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Barney Frank, who is gay, called the decision “a complete vindication.” He accused the district attorney of “wasting taxpayer money for 18 months.”

South African Marriage Ruling Imminent

South Africa’s Constitutional Court is poised to hand down a ruling as to whether gays and lesbians have the right to marry. The case was brought by Marie Fourie and Cecilia Bonthuys, lesbian partners since 1994, and was joined by seven other couples. They got a favorable decision from the Supreme Court of Appeal and the government appealed that ruling to the nation’s high court, which heard arguments in May.

South Africa’s constitution bans discrimination based on sexual orientation. The courts decriminalized same-sex relations in 1998, granted immigrant partners of gay South Africans permanent residence in 1999, legalized adoption by gay couples in 2003 and ordered domestic partner benefits for gay couples in 2004.

Only A Queen Can Block Canadian Marriage Now

Last week, Canada’s Senate moved the same-sex marriage bill to its second reading by a 43-to-12, a parliamentary procedure following the June 28 House of Commons vote that overwhelmingly passed the measure. Final passage is expected within days. Nevertheless, some gay marriage opponents have raised a last-ditch effort to derail the historic gay rights advance.

David Mainse, a former TV host, is leading a quixotic campaign to get Queen Elizabeth II to prevent the governor general of Canada from giving royal assent to the legislation. Mainse wrote to the queen that he knows such refusal “would precipitate a crisis,” but that “millions have nowhere else to turn. Please help humanity everywhere to begin a reversal of this morally and socially destructive trend.”

The right-wing government of Alberta, the only province—along with the territories of Prince Edward Island, Nunavut, and the Northwest Territories—where gay and lesbian couples still cannot marry, is said by Canadian Press to have “grudgingly decided to allow same-sex marriage but is adding new legislative protection for anyone who opposes it on moral and religious grounds.” The attorney general of Prince Edward Island said this week that officials there will begin marrying gay and lesbian couples. Ontario and Quebec already have made opt-out provisions for civil officials with such objections to performing same-sex ceremonies, a compromise encouraged by federal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler.

The federal bill already exempts religious groups from having to perform same-sex weddings. Alberta wants to exempt civil officials who object to the practice from having to perform them. Premier Ralph Klein said his legislation would mean that no one will “be required to advocate, promote or teach about marriage in a way that conflicts with their beliefs.”

Slapstick Duo for “Odd Couple”

Ticket sales for this fall’s Broadway revival of Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple” starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick have already topped $18 million While heterosexual Broderick is cast as the fastidious Felix and gay Lane as the messy Oscar, the New York Post’s Michael Riedel reported that the two plan to swap roles from time- to-time without any pre-announcement.

Joe Mantello, who is also gay, is the director.

Riedel also reported that Alan Bennett’s “The History Boys,” about two gay teachers at a boys’ school and their very different pedagogical approaches, will get a Broadway transfer next spring. Last year, London’s National Theatre staged the play with the formidable Richard Griffiths and a September revival is planned with Desmond Barrit in the lead. Nick Hytner, the National’s gay director, helms the show.

Author Denies Homophobia

Terry McMillan, 53, author of the best-selling novel “How Stella Got Her Groove Back,” is going through a messy divorce with Jonathan Plummer, 30, the inspiration for the 1996 novel that became a feature film, who told McMillan before Christmas that he is gay.

In court papers and on national TV appearances, Plummer, who is challenging their pre-nuptial agreement and demanding spousal support, has said that McMillan is a homophobe.

“I’m not a homophobe,” the author told TV host Tavis Smiley. “I’m a ‘Jona-phobe.’ He has basically orchestrated this entire thing, all of which is to set me up to pay him money.”

McMillan called Plummer a “covetous sociopath” who “risked my life.” She told Smiley, “What if I’m sitting here HIV-positive?”

Memorial for Brenda Howard on July 31

Bisexual activist Brenda Howard, who died last week, will be remembered at a memorial service at the LGBT Community Center on Sunday, July 31 from noon to 2 PM. All are welcome.

Howard, a veteran of Stonewall, was active in the Gay Liberation Front, Gay Activists Alliance, Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights and a host of bisexual rights groups over the years.

Vito Titone, High Court Judge in NY, Dead at 76

Vito Titone, a former judge of the New York Court of Appeals who wrote a major decision expanding gay partner rights, died on Staten Island last Wednesday. He was 76 and retired from the bench in 1998.

In 1989, Titone wrote the groundbreaking decision in the Braschi case, giving gay partners succession rights in rent-controlled apartments. Not only was it a much needed ray of light for gay people in the midst of the most devastating years of the AIDS crisis, but it was the first time New York State gave legal status to same-sex partners.

Titone was appointed to the high court by Gov. Mario Cuomo, who had been friends with the judge since law school.