News Briefs

News Briefs|News Briefs

Communion and the Sash

Members of Rainbow Sash, a gay Catholic group, wore rainbow colored sashes to Mass at various Minneapolis churches on May 15, as members have done each Pentecost Sunday since 2001. Unlike previous years, however, some members were denied the sacrament of communion after Archbishop Harry Flynn told the group earlier this month that wearing the sash was construed as disobedience to the church’s teaching on homosexuality.

At the Cathedral of St. Paul, the Rev. Michael Sklucazek told the congregation that anyone wearing the sash could come forward to receive a blessing, but not the bread and wine Catholics believe to be the body and blood and Jesus Christ.

Sash-wearers sat and cupped their hands as a symbol they still wanted communion after others went forward to receive the sacrament.

One nun, Sister Gabriel Herbers, said that she wore a sash to represent her support for the gay and lesbian community, since their “sexual orientation is a gift from God just as much as my gift of being a female is.”

Meanwhile, at St. Stephen’s Church in southern Minneapolis, a group of sash-wearers were given the sacrament. An archdiocesan spokesman, Dennis McGrath, said that Flynn would not punish pastors at parishes where sash-wearers received communion.

R.I. Marriage Bills

On the first anniversary of neighboring Massachusetts’ legalization of same-sex marriage, the Rhode Island House of Representatives began consideration of legislation to accord its gay and lesbian residents the same equality. The Judiciary Committee hearing follows a similar proceeding Tuesday in the State Senate that undertook a bill seeking to ban same-sex marriage in the New England state, historically known for its social tolerance.

Lawmakers have introduced gay marriage bills for years, with the legislation dying in committee. However, following the legalization of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts and the recent passage of a comprehensive civil union law in Connecticut, experts expect that in the near future Rhode Island will pass some form of legal recognition for gay and lesbian couples.

DeGeneres Divulges Sex Abuse

In the latest issue of Allure magazine, the lesbian talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres reveals that her stepfather sexually abused her as an adolescent. DeGeneres said that her father insisted on feeling her breast while her mother underwent breast cancer treatment and that the man once tried to break into her bedroom before she escaped out a window. DeGeneres, 47, said she’s speaking out in order to help girls who may be facing the same predicament. “And if it ever happens to them, they should tell someone right away,” said DeGeneres.

Meth Testing in Workplace

On May 16, Quest Diagnostics, a New Jersey company that tests employees for workplace drug use, released a study reporting that employers are catching more workers using crystal meth, but that the spread of the drug’s workplace use appears to have slowed. CBS News reported the findings this week. Last year, employers who screened job applicants for amphetamine use, the class of drug including crystal, saw a 6 percent increase in the number testing positive. Crystal use rose by 3 percent. The increase was limited, as compared to 2003 when amphetamine use rose by 44 percent.

The percentage of workers testing positive for all drug use remained at 4.5 percent.

Bigots Attack Kraft Foods

The American Family Association, a Mississippi-based anti-gay group, has demanded that Kraft Foods drop its corporate sponsorship of Chicago’s 2006 Gay Games. This week, the anti-gay group called on its 500, 000 members to call Kraft and “tell them to pull their financial support from the 2006 Gay Games.” According to Kathryn Hooks, the group’s communications director, the AFA is not calling for a boycott of Kraft or other corporate sponsors of the Gay Games.

Kevin Boyer, a spokesman for the Games, told Planet Out, “It’s disappointing that a group would target something like an event that celebrates sports and healthy lifestyles.”

Studds Marries

The Patriot Ledger reported this week that former Rep. Gerry Studds, a Massachusetts Democrat, the first openly gay member of Congress, wed his long-term partner, Dean Hara, on May 24, 2004. Studds, 68, wears a wedding ring, but the marriage to Hara, 47, officiated at by Rev. Thomas Green, a minister in the United Church of Christ, went unreported until recently.

Before his retirement in 1996, Studds’ decision to award a spousal pin to Hara, which granted him access to Capitol facilities, angered some conservative lawmakers. In 1983, Studds acknowledged he was gay after being censured by the House for having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old male congressional page. During his tenure, Studds was an outspoken proponent of gay rights, sponsoring legislation to prevent employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, urging the Clinton administration to lift the ban on gays in the military and pushing for increased AIDS funding.

Conservative M.P. Supports Marriage

Belinda Stronach, a Conservative member of Canada’s Parliament, did an about-face this week and announced her support for a same-sex marriage bill stuck in committee that is sponsored by the Liberal government of Paul Martin. As reported by, Gilles Marchildon, the executive director of Egale, Canada’s largest LGBT rights group, said of Stronach’s change of mind, “It bodes well both for the government and equal marriage legislation.” Martin, whose beleaguered Liberal-led coalition faces a crucial confidence motion on May 19, named Stronach as the new human resources minister.

Youths’ Prom Rights

Lambda Legal has created a Web site to inform gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth, and their families, of the rights of high school students to attend proms with partners of the same sex. “This prom season, millions of young people around the country are renting tuxedoes or buying dresses, worrying about whom to ask as their date (or who will ask them) and making plans for their school’s biggest party of the year. Every year, among those millions, a growing number of courageous lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) students, who refuse to be excluded from the festivities, are exercising their right to bring a same-sex date to the prom,” reads a media alert sent out by the legal organization. For more information about “Prom Season: What LGBTQ Youth Need to Know,” visit