News Briefs

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Thus Spaketh Benedict


Glick Calls Bloomberg Obstructionist

Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, a Manhattan Democrat, the longest serving gay or lesbian state lawmaker, is locking horns with Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg over her attempt to provide death benefits to emergency service personnel killed in the line of duty.

The state has passed such legislation—an emergency measure to cover the domestic partners, including gays and lesbians, of first responders killed in the September 11 attacks, including those who did not officially enroll in the city’s existing registry.

Glick recently introduced a bill that would also cover first responders outside New York City. “I could have done a bill for the city without city support, but I didn’t want to give the mayor cover,” she said. “I’m at a loss to explain how the mayor is unwilling to embrace a definition already supported by Sen. Joe Bruno [the Republican Senate majority leader] and signed into law by Gov. Pataki. This is hardly the Gay Pride Month gesture I expected from Mayor Bloomberg.”

According to Glick, Bloomberg recently said that his Office of Management and Budget has determined that covering domestic partners who are not officially registered would be “hard to administer.” Glick said that the definition of domestic partners in her bill is the same as the one in the hospital visitation bill that passed the Legislature last year and was signed into law by Pataki. She also noted that outside of the September 11 catastrophe, incidents of coverage involving the domestic partners of first responders are extremely rare.

“The most frustrating aspect of this is the mayor’s insistence on portraying himself as supportive of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, but regularly disappointing us when presented with opportunities to replace rhetoric with real accomplishments,” said Glick.

The mayor’s office did not respond to Glick’s charges.


Cal. Marriage Bill Falls Short

A same-sex marriage bill sponsored by gay San Francisco state Assemblyman Mark Leno fell four votes short of the required 41 last week in Sacramento. Leno and officials at Equality California, the state’s gay rights lobby, had been optimistic about passage, especially given the co-sponsorship of the measure by the Assembly’s speaker, Fabian Núñez (D-Los Angeles). However, early last week, right-wing opponents were crowing about their success in turning back support for the measure by Democrats outside the big cities. Gay rights advocates are exploring an avenue for bringing a similar measure to a vote in the state Senate, considered more gay-friend, in a maneuver that would allow another Assembly vote this year.


Swiss Civil Unions

Last year, by an overwhelming majority, Switzerland’s Parliament passed a civil partnership bill for gay couples. On June 5, Swiss voters—at a turnout rate of 56 percent— affirmed that law in a referendum by a 58-42 percent margin, the first time in Europe a gay partnership law was put to a popular vote.

Most Western European nations have some form of legal recognition for same-sex couples, including full marriage rights in Holland and Belgium.


Maine Anti-Gay Amendment Stalled

The Maine House of Representatives voted 88-56 on June 7 against a state constitutional amendment limiting marriage to heterosexual couples. State constitutional amendments need a two-thirds affirmative vote in the Legislature. Maine law already defines marriage as a union of one man and one woman.

Despite its sound House defeat, proponents of the measure still plan to bring it for a Senate vote.


Oregon Civil Union Bill

Last November, Oregon’s voters passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, but legislation to make the state the third nationwide to pass a civil union bill for gay couples passed the State Senate’s Rules Committee on June 7. The vote was along party lines with three Democrats in favor and two Republicans against.

Democrats control the Senate and a floor vote there is expected within the next two weeks, The Oregonian reported. But the Republican-controlled House is hostile to the legislation, with the leadership there proposing a more limited partnership bill for “any two people in a committed relationship.”


Canada’s Teetering Gay Marriage Bill

Despite its tenuous hold on power, the Liberal-led government of Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin seems determined to get his bill legalizing national same-sex marriage passed before Parliament’s summer recess.

Pat O’Brien, a lawmaker opposed to the marriage bill, quit the Liberals this week and declared himself an independent. Within the past month, the government would have fallen but for the defection of a Conservative member—upset about the anti-gay politics in her party—to the Liberal side.

Several Liberals opposed to the marriage bill met with Martin this week and demanded more restrictions on it, including an exemption from penalties for civic officials who oppose gay marriage on religious grounds. They also wanted assurances that religious schools and organizations will not be sanctioned for denouncing gay marriage, the Canadian Press reported.

Martin rebuffed their proposals. He is giving Liberal Party members outside his cabinet a free vote on the issue. The legislation already states that churches do not have to marry anyone if it contradicts their religious principles.


Gays Wed in Notre Dame

Twenty members of ACT UP entered Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral with one dressed as a priest who proceeded to conduct a wedding ceremony for a lesbian couple on Sunday, June 5. The group chanted, “Pope Benedict XVI, homophobe, AIDS accomplice,” during the nuptials before security guards chased them outside.

A scuffle broke out in the plaza between demonstrators and Monsignor Patrick Jacquin, who suffered a slight neck injury. Jerome Martin, president of ACT UP/Paris, was also injured slightly.

Monsignor Jacquin called the group “savages” who are guilty of “barbaric, odious, and scandalous acts.” Martin said, “We did not want to be aggressive with respect to the worshippers. The aggressive security detail wanted to rip up our banner.”


Fruit Flies’ Genetic Determinism

Researchers in Vienna have found that altering a single gene in the fruit fly “is sufficient to determine all aspects of the flies’ sexual orientation and behavior,” according to Barry Dickson of the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology at the Austrian Academy.

Michael Weiss of Case Western Reserve’s biochemistry department told The New York Times, “The whole field of the genetic roots of behavior is moved forward tremendously by this work.” Like the Austrian scientists, he found the results “surprising.” He also hoped it would “take the discussion about sexual preferences out of the realm of morality and put it in the realm of science.”

The Austrians gave female flies the male variant of a master sexual gene and the females “madly” pursued virgin female flies.


Navajos Override Veto

The Navajo Nation’s Tribal Council voted 62-14 on June 4 to override Navajo President Joe Shirley’s veto of their unanimous vote to ban same-sex marriage. Shirley had called the issue “a waste of time” and a distraction from critical issues such as drunk driving, domestic violence and child abuse. He did not issue a statement in response to the override.

Meanwhile, the Cherokee Nation’s high court has said it will take the case of Dawn McKinley and Kathy Reynolds, tribal members who held a wedding ceremony in Tulsa but have not been permitted to file their license with their tribe. The Cherokee Tribal Council unanimously limited marriage to heterosexual couples in 2004.


Bank Dumps HRC

Salt Lake City’s Zions Bank withdrew its sponsorship of the Human Rights Campaign dinner on June 4, after discovering that the organization campaigns on behalf of legalizing same-sex marriage. Bank officials said they signed on “thinking it was a Democratic Party human rights event to promote equality in the work force, particularly single mothers.”

Michael Mitchell of Equality Utah called it “a slap in the face” to the bank’s gay and lesbian customers.


Towing the Party Line

 Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee, who refuses to identify his own sexual orientation, was asked by Tim Russert on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on June 5 about the effort on Capitol Hill to amend the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Mehlman said that Pres. George W. Bush “strongly believes” in limiting marriage to heterosexual couples and that the issue “ought to be decided by the people.” When asked if homosexuality is a choice, the party chairman replied, “I don’t know.”


Jobs More Gay-Friendly

A new Human Rights Campaign report on “The State of the Workplace” for LGBT employees found a 13 percent increase from 2003 to 2004 in the number of companies that offer domestic partner benefits. There are now 8,250 employers that do so, including 216 of Fortune 500 companies.


Spokane Mayor Digs In

Spokane Mayor Jim West, exposed for soliciting young males online by offering them positions in City Hall and then asking for sexual favors, said in his first press conference since the scandal broke, “I never violated my oath of office, and I never used my office in violation of the law or for any personal gain.” He called the revelations about his sex life “embarrassing, humiliating and painful.”

West has a long record of fierce opposition to LGBT rights.