News Briefs

Kerry Considers Nunn as Veep

The New York Sun reported this week that Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic presidential front-runner, was seriously considering former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn as his running mate.

In 1993, Nunn, then chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, led the fight against allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the armed forces and was instrumental in forcing Pres. Bill Clinton to support the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law.

Gay and pro-choice groups have already voiced their extreme displeasure at the prospect of Nunn being vice president.

Edwards Supports States on Same-Sex Marriage

While John Kerry opposed the decision of the Massachusetts high court opening marriage gays and lesbians, his leading rival John Edwards went on the “Tonight Show” and said, “If California chooses to recognize same-sex marriage, that’s fine and the federal government ought to honor it.” Edwards, like Kerry, opposes a federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage that Pres. George W. Bush is reportedly poised to endorse. Kerry, who supports civil unions for gay and lesbian couples, has also said that he might support an amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution limiting marriage to straight couples.

Bush Appointee Strikes Down Job Protections

Scott Bloch, the new head of the federal Office of the Special Counsel, has removed all references from agency websites and publications to job protections on the basis of sexual orientation, including a brochure called “Your Rights as a Federal Employee,” the Washington Post reported. Bloch says it is uncertain whether gay federal workers are protected, since Congress has not legislated such protections. The Office of Personnel Management, however, has ruled for two decades that the civil service law’s prohibition against discrimination based on off-duty activity covers gay people and that federal workers who are so discriminated against are supposed to bring their complaints to the Office of the Special Counsel.

Bloch comes to the new job from the Task Force for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives at the Justice Department.

Federal GLOBE, the gay employees group, issued a statement saying it “decries this action by OSC as mere pandering to the conservative right.” Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, was especially concerned that Bloch removed a press release from the site “describing an investigation at the Internal Revenue Service that found an IRS supervisor denied a job to an applicant because he was gay” last year, the paper said. Kelley said this “seems to signal a deliberate decision to obscure the history of OSC’s enforcement actions.”

In 1998, Pres. Bill Clinton issued an executive order affording protections to federal employees, which Pres. George W. Bush did not rescind when he took office.

R. I. Leader Fast for Same-Sex Marriage

Former Rhode Island state Rep. Michael Pisaturo of Cranston, an out gay man, has announced that he will drink only water for thirty days to support the right of same-sex couples to marry, hoping his peaceful witness will help dramatize the seriousness of the issue. The fast will be monitored by a doctor, according to the Associated Press.

Rev. Jackson Opposes Same-Sex Marriage

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, speaking at Harvard Law School, bristled when asked questions about the controversy over same-sex marriage, saying that he supports “equal rights under the law” for gay couples, but not marriage, the Boston Globe reported. According to the paper, he “disputed the position that some black leaders and other liberals have taken equating the gay marriage cause with the civil rights movement.”

State Sen. Diane Wilkerson of Boston, an African American, said last week during the constitutional convention debate, “I know the pain of being less than equal and I will not impose that status on others. I was but one generation removed from an existence in slavery. I could not in good conscience vote to send anyone to that place from which my family fled.”

At Harvard, Jackson said, “The comparison with slavery is a stretch in that some slave masters were gay.” He also said that he does not feel the marriage issue will be “dominant” in the 2004 elections the way “the right wing wants it to be,” saying they want to distract the electorate from their failures in “foreign policy and education.” Prominent African American civil rights leaders such as Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia), Coretta Scott King, and Julian Bond, chair of the NAACP, support marriage rights for gay people.        Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa told Anglican leaders in London this week, “To discriminate against our sisters and brothers who are lesbian or gay…for me is totally unacceptable and as unjust as apartheid ever was.”

Indiana Legislature Resists Right Wing Pressure

Indiana passed a defense of marriage act years ago, but the legislature’s reluctance to go further by enshrining anti-gay bigotry into the state Constitution caused the Family Research Council to take out full-page ads in the South Bend Tribune telling readers that House Speaker Patrick Bauer, a state representative, had “conspired” to block the amendment, the newspaper reported. Bauer was deluged with calls after the ad appeared, as was Rep. Scott Pelath, chair of the House Rules Committee, who maintained he would still not hold a hearing on the amendment, insisting that same-sex marriage is “already against the law in Indiana.”

An aide to Bauer said one of the many callers “accused us of spreading AIDS.”

Washington State House Affirms Gay Rights

The House in Washington State voted 59-39 in a favor of a bill first introduced in 1975 banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in housing, jobs, and financial transactions. KATU News says the bill faces “long odds in the Republican-controlled Senate.” All 52 House Democrats voted for it, along with seven Republicans.

K.C. Church: No Straight Weddings

The congregation of Trinity United Methodist Church in Kansas City, Missouri voted overwhelmingly to no longer perform weddings for straight couples as long as a church rule forbids such ceremonies for gay couples, the Associated Press reported. Rev. Sally Haynes, the pastor, said that this will allow the church to treat all parishioners equally, 30-40 percent of whom are gay or lesbian. The local bishop, Ann Sherer, said she supported the church’s right to make “worship decisions” and praised Trinity’s outreach to underserved populations.

Town Hall Meeting in Wisconsin on Marriage Breaks Records

Almost 700 people gathered in Madison, Wisconsin for a meeting at the Orpheum Theatre for a Freedom to Marry Week town hall forum on the campaign for same-sex marriage. Tim O’Brien of Action Wisconsin said that since they started marking Freedom to Marry Week in 1998, “This is the largest single crowd there’s ever been,” the Capital Times reported. The increased attendance was attributed to efforts to amend the state constitution to limit marriage to heterosexual couples.

Exit interviews conducted by NBC News during the Wisconsin primary on Tuesday found the electorate divided by thirds in terms of favoring same-sex marriage, civil unions, or no legal recognition at all for gay couples.

This week, a bill to legalize same-sex marriage was introduced in the both houses of the Wisconsin legislature for the first time. Chris Ott, director of Action Wisconsin, said, “We need an unprecedented amount of support because we’re in an unprecedented fight.”

Professors in Pennsylvania Negotiate Partner Rights

College faculty in Pennsylvania have won the right to domestic partner benefits in their new contract, but it is contingent on whether Pennsylvania Benefits Trust Fund, covering 60,000 state employees, votes to extend the same benefits to all other state employees, Penn Online reported. The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties negotiated the tentative deal with Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell.

Virginia House Delivers Victory

The Virginia House of Delegates, which last week asked the Congress to amend the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, voted 50-49 for a bill to give health insurance benefits to live-in gay partners. The body also rejected legislation to exclude same-sex or unmarried heterosexual couples from loans from the Virginia Housing Development Authority, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. The authority used to require borrowers to be married or related by blood.

Andy Humm is the co-host, with Ann Northrop, of “Gay USA” on MNN-TV, seen in Manhattan 11 PM Thursdays on Time-Warner 34 and RCN 107. It is seen nationally on Directv’s “Free Speech TV.” He can be reached at

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