News Briefs

Spain Moves Gay Marriage Bill; Vatican Responds Harshly

The Spanish House of Deputies voted 183 to 136 with six abstentions to make the marriage laws gender-neutral, opening the way to same-sex marriages. The Senate will take up the measure in June where it is expected to pass under the ruling Socialist Party.

The Vatican, under newly elected Pope Benedict XVI, issued an official statement calling the new law “iniquitous” and instructing faithful Catholic officials to refuse to cooperate in the implementation of it. “One cannot say that a law is right simply because it is law.” The Vatican did not order Catholic soldiers to refuse to serve in the Iraq war, which was vigorously opposed by Pope John Paul II.

Two Spanish mayors have already said that they will refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, though the government has indicated that “public servants must apply the laws that the government proposes and that the Parliament approves.”

Spain will become the third country to accord gay and lesbian couples full marriage rights along with the Netherlands and Belgium.

Connecticut Civil Unions Protested By Both Sides

On Sunday, thousands of anti-gay activists turned out at the state Capitol in Hartford to protest the enactment of a civil union law according same-sex couples most of the rights of marriage.

A much smaller group organized by the Connecticut Marriage Equality Coalition also turned out to protest the law, but because it did not go far enough. To appease Republican Gov. Jodi Rell, the Legislature added a “Defense of Marriage” clause to the measure, defining marriage as only between a man and a woman. In a statement, the gay rights group said, “Civil unions perpetuate second-class citizenship for gay and lesbian people and disrespect human dignity.”

The wedding industry in the state is said to be happy with the civil union law’s potential to expand their business, but felt full marriage rights would have been more profitable.

“Some couples may say they’ll save their big party, their big celebration until the day they can marry,” Anne Stanback, president of Love Makes a Family Connecticut told the New Haven Register.

A lawsuit filed by Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders seeking full marriage rights for lesbian and gay couples in the Nutmeg State continues.

Colorado Gay Rights Bill Passed by Senate

The state Senate in Colorado voted 18 to 17 for a bill banning workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Only one Democrat in the majority voted against the bill, which now goes to the House. There was an unsuccessful attempt to amend the bill to ban cross-dressing teachers, the Denver Post reported.

Bolton Accused of Lesbian-Baiting

John Bolton, Pres. George W. Bush’s controversial nominee to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, once attacked Texas businesswoman Melody Townsel in Moscow for “blowing the whistle on the failures and substandard performance of a U.S. AID subcontractor whom Bolton, then in private practice, represented,” reported. “I’ve learned firsthand the lengths Mr. Bolton will go,” Townsel wrote to U.S. senators. “Truth flew out the window. Decency flew out the window.” Townsel called Bolton’s behavior in 1994 not just “unforgivable, but pathological.” The Washington Post reported, “Bolton spread rumors that she had stolen money and also referred disparagingly to her weight and hinted she was a lesbian.”

California Gay Marriage Bill Advances

The California bill opening marriage to same-sex couples passed the Assembly’s judiciary committee by a 6-to-3 vote this week. State voters passed a law by referendum in 2000 barring recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions, but this proposal gets around that addressing only the question of what kinds of marriage California will license. Right-wing activists believe they can get a proposition on the 2006 ballot to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriages entirely.

Gay Marriages in D.C. Threatened by Congress

Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback is threatening to hold back funding for the District of Columbia, which his committee oversees, if they do anything to recognize same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions. The district’s attorney general, Robert Spagnoletti, ruled last week that same-sex couples married in Massachusetts were entitled to file joint tax returns. He has also given Mayor Anthony Williams, a gay marriage supporter, an opinion on how city government should treat these couples, but that opinion has not been made public.

Gannon/Guckert Had White House Welcome

Democratic members of Congress discovered through a Freedom of Information Act request that James Guckert a/k/a Jeff Gannon, the male hustler who “worked” as a White House correspondent for several right-wing Web sites, “had remarkable access” to the executive mansion, reported. He entered the White House more than 200 times, but on 14 occasions his entrance or exit times are missing from Secret Service records. He also was there on more than 36 occasions when there were no press briefings.

Bush at Splash

Pres. George W. Bush, in Galveston, Texas, asked the crowd, “Do you still have Splash Day?” provoking some tittering. “You have to be a baby boomer to know what I’m talking about. [more laughter from crowd] I’m not saying whether I came or not on Splash Day. I’m just saying, Do you have Splash Day?”

The annual “adult-oriented beach day,” begun decades ago when the president was a callow young fellow, continues to this day, but for some years it has been an exclusively gay event.

Young Gay Men with HIV Don’t Know It

A new CDC study of 5,600 gay and bisexual men ages 15 to 29 in six U.S. cities found that three-quarters of them who tested positive had no clue that they were infected. Most thought they were at low risk, but half had had unprotected sex with another man within the previous six months. Ten percent of the men in the study tested positive and 77 percent were unaware that they could have been infected.

Urbana Passes Domestic Partners Registry

The Urbana, Illinois City Council voted 6-1 to create a registry for domestic partners. Members of the couples have to live together, be 18 or older, not be a dependent of anyone else and pay a $15 fee. It covers same-sex and opposite-sex couples. Urbana, along with neighboring Champaign, is home to the University of Illinois.

New Brunswick Gay Couples Sue to Marry

Lesbian and gay couples in New Brunswick are seeking to make it the eighth Canadian province to legalize same-sex marriage through court order. If they succeed, only Prince Edward Island and Alberta will stand as provinces that do not allow it along with the territories of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.

The federal same-sex marriage bill is in trouble because the Liberal-led government is caught up in a financial scandal that may bring it down before a June vote on the legislation. The Conservative Party is pledging if returned to power to invoke the notwithstanding clause in the Charter of Rights to overturn the provincial court decisions, banning same-sex marriage while allowing civil unions.

Indy Nixes Gay Bill

The Indianapolis City Council voted 18-11 against a bill that would have banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. All but one of the Republicans voted against it. Five Democrats joined the opposition as well.

“What the City Council did tonight was say that businesses should still have the right to hire… who they want to hire and they should not be forced to hire homosexuals,” Eric Miller, founder of the right-wing Advance America told the Indianapolis Star.

Chris Douglas of the Indy Rainbow Chamber of Commerce told the paper, “Everyone in the gay community knows gays who are leaving Indiana.

Texas Moves on Anti-Gay Amendment

The House of Representatives in Texas voted 101 to 29 to approve a state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and civil unions. It needed 100 votes to pass. It now needs 21 of 31 votes in the state Senate before it can go to the voters in November.

The Texas Department of Child Protective Services backed off on a proposal to ban gay foster parents this week. Republican Gov. Rick Perry called it “flawed,” but he is happy with the state’s progress at banning gay marriage.

Meanwhile, South Carolina’s amendment against same-sex marriage went to Gov. Mark Sanford this week. If signed as expected, the state will vote in November 2006.

Gay Rights Pending in Maryland

Three bills passed by the Maryland Legislature to protect gay rights await the signature of Republican Gov. Robert Erlich, Jr. who has not indicated what he will do. The legislation added sexual orientation to the hate crimes law, instituted monitoring of bulling in schools and let unmarried couples execute transfers of property without having to pay state or local transfer taxes, The New York Times reported. Anti-gay groups in Maryland are say they will petition to subject the laws to voter referenda if the governor signs them into law.