News Briefs

News Briefs|News Briefs

Hate Crimes Bill Now Trans-Inclusive

The first major legislation in Congress covering people of transgender experience was set to be introduced on May 26. Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Barney Frank, who is gay, is the chief sponsor of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act that extends hate crimes laws covering bias on the basis of race, color, national origin and religion to includes actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, disability and gender identity, including gender-related characteristics.

Protest at Romanian Consulate

Romania, despite its 2007 application for admission to the European Union, has been hindered by its recalcitrance in recognizing lesbian and gay rights. It looked as if the first LGBT pride parade would take place this Saturday in Bucharest, but now the mayor has withdrawn support and police protection for the parade.

One of the principle organizers of the parade is the Bucharest minister of the Metropolitan Community Church. In solidarity with LGBT Romanians, the Rev. Pat Bumgardner, an MCC pastor, has organized a protest demonstration for this Friday, May 27 at 6:30 p.m. in front of the Romanian Consulate at 200 E. 38th Street.

Shrinks Endorse Same-Sex Marriage

The American Psychiatric Association voted on May 22 to endorse a resolution stating, “gay men and lesbians are full human beings who should be afforded the same human and civil rights.” This support for same-sex marriage goes beyond a 2000 resolution endorsing civil unions for gay couples. The measure, approved on a voice vote, said that the group took the position “in the interest of maintaining and promoting mental health.”

Support for Gay Marriage Up

A Gallup Poll found support for same-sex marriage at 39 percent this month, up from 28 percent last March among Americans. Support for Pres. Bush’s constitutional amendment to limit marriage to heterosexual couples dropped from 57 to 53 percent in the same period. And most Americans said that they support employment rights for gay people.

The Advocate reported “survey responses were nine to 10 percentage points higher when the term ‘gay and lesbian’ was used instead of ‘homosexual.’”

Cal. Rightists: Ban Gay Marriage

Gay Rights in North Carolina

Commissioners in Mecklenberg County, site of Charlotte, voted 6-3 last week to add sexual orientation to their law banning discrimination in municipal employment. One commissioner, Republican Bill James, said that the new law went against God. The county joins Durham and Orange Counties in protecting gay and lesbian public employees.

Maryland Gov. Vetoes Partner Rights

Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich vetoed a bill on May 20 that would have extended health-care decision-making powers and hospital visitation rights to registered “life partners.” He said that the legislation “could lead to the erosion of the sanctity of traditional marriage.”

Dan Furmansky of Equality Maryland told the New York Times, “He’s vetoing the bill because there is no longer a moderate wing of the Republican Party in Maryland.” Republican governors Jodi Rell of Connecticut and Arnold Schwarzenegger signed partnership bills this year.

This week, Ehrlich said in a radio interview that his primary objection to the bill was the inclusion of a partner registry, adding he might submit a bill next year to cover some of the rights he stopped with his veto. Ehrlich said he would sign bills adding sexual orientation to the state hate-crime and anti-bullying laws.

Spokane Mayor Won’t Resign

James West, the Spokane, Washington, mayor embroiled in a scandal over seducing minors on the Internet and hiring a young man he then sexually harassed, apologized this week for his “poor judgment in my private life,” but is rejecting calls from business leaders and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force that he step down. The FBI is investigating West, a vociferous opponent of gay rights advances when he was a state lawmaker, for the illegal misuse of his office.

The Spokesman-Review, which broke the story, reported this week that State Sen. Pam Roach is saying that West, then a fellow legislator, made an inappropriate sexual remark to her teenage son. The paper also printed claims that in the 1970s West raped a boy as a sheriff’s deputy and then had the man, a convicted felon, beaten in prison before his mayoral run. West’s attorney said the mayor denies the charges.

Oregon Civil Union Bill

Gay and lesbian couples would get the same rights and responsibilities as married couples under a new civil union bill in the Oregon Legislature. It is a priority of Gov. Ted Kulongoski along with a sexual orientation non-discrimination bill that was not linked to the civil union legislation despite earlier plans to do so.

Students Sue to Keep Gay Content

Five students and their parents are suing California’s East Bakersfield High School for censoring five school newspaper articles about gay and transgender issues. “We chose to focus on sexual orientation in the paper so that the issues could be talked about in the open, not stuffed back into the closet,” said Joel Paramo, a senior and editor of The Kernal. The plaintiffs want the Superior Court in Kern County to order school administrators to include the articles in the final edition of the paper due out next week. The ACLU of Southern California is representing the students.

Oliver Stone Cuts “Alexander”

Film director Oliver Stone, who has cultivated a reputation as a maverick, is releasing a director’s cut of his swords-and-sandals epic flop, “Alexander,” that removes some references to the lead character’s homosexuality in an effort to make the film “more accessible.”

“This is not a special director’s cut,” said Damon Romine, media director for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. “It’s an abridgement to pander to the lowest common denominator.”

Stone’s new version will be released on August 2.

Maltese Gays Defy Archbishop

The Malta Gay Rights Movement has released a statement chastising the nation’s Roman Catholic archbishop, Joseph Mercierca, for his campaign against same-sex marriage which he said was against the “law of nature,” the Maltamedia Daily News reported. “The Church of Rome has every right to impose its doctrines on its faithful,” the gay group said, “but not to bulldoze them on the rest of society. We are the citizens of democratic Malta, not of the Vatican City.” They hope that their nation will follow the example of Spain, where the government is opening marriage to same-sex couples and where a recent poll found 62 percent of Spaniards supported the move.

Disney Safe for Christians

The ultra-right American Family Association has ended its ineffectual nine-year boycott of the Disney Company over its policies treating gay employees equally and permitting Gay Day at Orlando’s Disney World. “The boycott of Disney is now a matter of personal conviction, rather than a matter of our ministry emphasis,” said Tim Wildmon, president of AFA. He said that company had become more family-friendly and was pleased that CEO Michael Eisner was leaving and the Weinstein brothers were ending Miramax’s relationship with Disney, PlanetOut reported.

The 15th annual Gay and Lesbian Days at Disney World are June 1-6.

Swiss Vote on Gay Rights

On June 5, for the first time in Europe, Switzerland will conduct a referendum on whether to grant gay and lesbian couples partnership rights. Legislation creating registered partnerships for gay Swiss passed last June, but opponents collected enough signatures to subject the new law to a referendum, Swissinfo reported. Christian Waber, a conservative member of parliament, told the news outlet, “The only difference between marriage and same-sex partnerships is adoption and fertility treatment. But in a few years even this could be changed.”

The referendum to overturn the law is supported by the Swiss Roman Catholic Bishops Conference and opposed by the Federation of Protestant Churches. Polling in April found support for registered partnerships at 66 percent among the Swiss.

Wisconsin Nixes Campus Benefits

A measure to let the University of Wisconsin extend domestic partnership benefits to its employees was killed in the Legislature’s Joint Finance committee by a 13-3 vote, despite being requested by Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat.

Rob Carpick, a gay assistant professor at U.W. Madison, wrote to the Republican chair of the committee saying that the $500,000 appropriation for the benefits for gay and heterosexual domestic partners “is less than the amount of money I annually bring to the State of Wisconsin through my research grants already. I am one person. Please do the math.”

The University of Wisconsin is the only Big Ten school not to provide domestic partnership benefits to its employees. In making the legislative request, Doyle noted that because of that Wisconsin’s colleges were losing top professors.

The Capital Times reported that Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan, a sponsor of the domestic partners’ coverage, told his Republican colleagues, “You’re going to have plenty of opportunities to make the evangelicals wildly happy. You don’t have to do it every week.” Pocan even offered a bill to allow the coverage without funding it, but it was rejected.