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City Equal Benefits Law Goes to High Court

New York City Democratic Councilwoman Christine Quinn, a lesbian who represents Chelsea, speaking at the LGBT Community Center’s Garden Party on Monday, announced that the New York State Court of Appeals will hear the Council’s challenge to an Appellate Division ruling invalidating the Equal Benefits Law she sponsored. The measure would require contractors doing business with the city to provide domestic partner benefits to their employees on the same terms they offer spousal benefits.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s veto of Quinn’s legislation was overridden by the Council last year. The mayor then threatened to take the law to court, arguing that Council had no right to impose such a condition on contractors. In a preemptive move, the Council instead sought a judicial order that the mayor implement the law, which was won in a lower court. Bloomberg, however, prevailed on appeal.

The Court of Appeals, the state’s highest, will now resolve the matter.

Bloomberg has refused to say whether he believes that previous restrictions legislatively put on city contractors, such as not doing business with South Africa’s former apartheid regime, were legal.

As Gay City News goes to press, it is unclear whether the Canadian government will be able to pass its federal bill opening marriage to same-sex couples either by expediting it or by extending the legislative session that was due to end this week.

President George W. Bush got a standing ovation from 11,000 Southern Baptists meeting in Nashville when he reiterated his support for a federal constitutional amendment that would limit marriage to unions of one man and one woman and prohibit courts from granting any marital benefits to gay or lesbian couples.

“Southern Baptists are practicing compassion by defending the family and the sacred institution of marriage,” Bush this week said via satellite.

Pope Benedict XVI handed a letter to Geoff Ward, New Zealand’s ambassador to the Holy See, chastising the ruling Labour government for implementing civil unions for lesbian and gay couples. The move, named Working for Families, came just months before the general election in New Zealand.

“There is a great need to recover a vision of the mutual relationships between civil law and moral law,” Benedict wrote. “Secular distortions of marriage can never overshadow the splendor of a life-long covenant based on generous self-giving and unconditional love.”

Cabinet minister David Benson-Pope, the chief sponsor of the Civil Union Act, told the New Zealand Press Association, “If the pope was genuinely interested in the welfare of New Zealand families, he should be praising the government’s efforts to improve their well-being through measures such as Working for Families, rather than criticizing civil unions.”

Prime Minister Helen Clark’s spokesperson said she respected the pope but was not in agreement with him on this issue.

Romney Flip-Flops on Civil Unions

Republican Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, his eye on his party’s nomination for president in 2008, has come out in favor of a state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, but opposed to the pending amendment, that could go on the ballot in November 2006, that would end same-sex marriage, but simultaneously institute civil unions, granting all the state benefits provided by marriage, to gay and lesbian couples.

Romney now calls the civil union-inclusive amendment that passed its first vote in a joint session of the Legislature last year “muddled.” Though he had supported it when it looked as if that were all the legislators would pass, Romney is now claiming that “from day one, I’ve opposed the move for same-sex marriage and its equivalent, civil unions.”

The Log Cabin Republicans say Romney backed “some benefits for gay couples in his 2002 campaign,” the Boston Globe reported. “He also urged lawmakers in 2004 to back the compromise amendment.”

Right-wing legislators, some of whom were already against the compromise that would create civil unions, are now declaring it dead. They are instead trying to collect 66,000 voter signatures to get the “clean” anti-gay amendment on the ballot in November 2008. In addition to the signatures, getting that amendment on the ballot would require the approval of 50 senators and representatives in both this session of the Legislature and the one that convenes after the 2006 elections. The original amendment will only make it onto the 2006 if it achieves a majority in the 200-member joint session of this year’s Legislature, a hurdle it just barely met last year.

The most recent Globe poll on the subject found that 56 percent of voters in the Bay State now support same-sex marriage, instituted by a ruling of the state’s Supreme Judicial Court in November 2003. That figure is up by more than ten points from a year ago.

GLAAD Down on ABC Reality Show

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has issued a warning about “Welcome to the Neighborhood,” a new “reality” show due on ABC-TV July 10. Racial and religious minority families as well as a gay male couple with a child compete for the prize of a home in a white Christian neighborhood. The existing residents decide on which family should be allowed in.

Damon Romine, GLAAD’s media director, told the New York Post, “Watching three privileged couples vote to get rid of disenfranchised families they don’t like is really disturbing.”

“I will not tolerate a homosexual couple coming into this neighborhood,” says one of the neighbors. ABC lawyers say the show does not violate fair housing laws.

Hundreds of Thousands Protest Gay Marriage Bill in Spain

The Socialist-led Spanish government of Prime Minster Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero continues to move to open marriage to gay and lesbian couples with debate beginning in the Senate this week before a non-binding vote. It passed the Congress of Deputies in April and will go into effect within a few week of final approval.

On Saturday, several hundred thousand Spaniards who want the bill rejected marched in Madrid, led by the Forum for the Family, a right-wing Catholic group, and the Conference of Catholic Bishops. Organizers claimed they brought almost two million protesters to the capital, but police put the crowd at 166,000.

A psychiatric “expert” testifying before the Senate for the opposition on Tuesday went very far, even by the standards of right-wing leaders. Professor Aquilino Polaino of Madrid’s Catholic University called homosexuality a “pathology” resulting from “a violent, hostile, distant or alcoholic father” or “cold, over-protective mother.”

The ruling Socialists called his views “grotesque and Paleolithic,” though such attitudes were in fact common in the psychiatric profession prior to 1973 when the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its index of mental disorders.

The pro-gay Triangle Foundation in Spain called Polaino “an intolerant man who wants to give us electric shocks,” SAPA reported. Spanish gay leaders called for his expulsion from the college of Madrid doctors’ panel of experts. Amnesty International called for “an end to the escalation of discriminatory comments regarding homosexuals in Spain.”

Nike Out for Oregon Gay Bills

The Nike Corporation went on record in favor of bills in the Oregon Legislature banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and creating civil unions for same-sex couples.

“One of Nike’s maxims is to ‘Do the Right Thing,’’ wrote West Coleman, vice president of Global Human Resources for the company, “which asks our employees not to look for things that make us different, but to look for things that make us better. Many of our employees’ lives will be better because of the passage of these bills.”

Meanwhile, the Oregon Catholic Conference, representing the state’s bishops, has come out for a competing bill that “creates 18 legal benefits for any close pair, including homosexuals, siblings or an elderly parent and child,” the Catholic Sentinel reported. The bishops oppose civil union legislation that would give all the state rights of marriage to gay couples.

Though a bill to open marriage to gay couples failed by four votes in the California Assembly weeks ago, chief sponsor Mark Leno, a gay San Francisco Democrat, this week confirmed to Associated Press that, as reported by Joe Dignan in last week’s Gay City News, he is seeking to revive it by using a tactic called “gut and amend” whereby the language of his bill is substituted for a bill that has already passed the Assembly and moved to the Senate.

The bill is expected to have an easier time in the Senate where Democrats have a 25-15 majority. If passed, it would be the first time a legislative chamber in the United States has approved of allowing gay couples to marry.

Meanwhile, lawsuits to win the right of gay people to marry continue in California. Right-wing Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown, who was elevated to the federal bench by President George W. Bush, is leaving the California high court on June 30, giving Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger the opportunity to replace her, possibly before the court rules on four major gay and lesbian rights cases already heard.

Record for Broadway Bares

The 15th edition of “Broadway Bares” on June 19 at the Roseland Ballroom raised a record $654,000 for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Among those appearing in “Take Two and Call Me in the Morning” were David Hyde Pierce, Tim Curry, Christina Applegate and Bruce Vilanch.

Broadway Cares is the nation’s leading industry-based, nonprofit AIDS fund raising and grant making organization.