News Briefs

News Briefs|News Briefs

Double Win in Topeka

Progressive folks have lately been asking, “What’s the matter with Kansas?” but at least the voters of Topeka came through on several gay rights matters this week. By a 52-to-48 percent margin Tuesday, they rejected a referendum that would have repealed the city’s law banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and barred Topeka from giving gay folks any legal protection whatsoever.

Matt Foreman of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force called the proponents of the initiative “despicable liars.” Errin Norris, chair of the Vote No on March 1st Campaign, credited the Task Force with securing the victory by partnering with local lesbian and gay activists.

Out lesbian Tiffany Muller, 26, in a re-election battle for her Topeka City Council seat turned back a challenge from Phelps’ granddaughter Jael, 20, who received 202 votes. Muller’s 1,329 votes put her in an April runoff in the non-partisan election with attorney Richard Harmon who got 1,935 votes in the first round.

Gay Man Viciously Assaulted in New Mexico

James Maestas, a 21-year-old gay man, was beaten unconscious by a gang shouting anti-gay epithets Sunday in Santa Fe. The police have arrested Gabriel Maturin, 20, Isaia Medina, 19, and David Trinidad, 17, in the attack.

Maestas was with Joshua Stockman, 24, and three women friends at a Denny’s restaurant at 3 a.m. and were waited on by Trinidad, according to The New Mexican newspaper. When Maestas and Stockman, who is also gay, went outside to smoke, they encountered five men, including Maturin and Medina.

Maturin told police that he was interested in the girls that Maestas and Stockman were with, but that one of the gay men touched his chest in a way that made him feel he was being hit on. When Stockman, Maestas, and the women drove off, Maturin, Medina, and later Trinidad threw rocks at the car, then followed them to the La Quinta Inn where they were staying.

The suspects told police that during the ride, “they ‘pumped’ themselves up talking about ‘fucking those faggots up’” and referring to the gay men as “fucking white boys,” the paper reported. Maturin said he saw the gay men kissing outside the La Quinta and that he and his friends then began assaulting them. They fled when Meastas appeared to become unconscious.

Maturin told police that Medina “straddled the victim while he was down and repeatedly struck the victim in the face and head,” the Albuquerque Journal reported.

The suspects, all from Santa Fe, were quickly apprehended after being identified by several witnesses. Maturin and Medina face charges of aggravated battery, conspiracy, and battery. Trinidad is up on all those charges plus a count of criminal damage to property.

Maestas is in intensive care in critical condition at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Santa Fe, hooked up to a respirator, the Journal said. Busy McCarroll, the mother of a close friend of the victim, told the paper he was “a kind person who wouldn’t hurt anybody. He’s just a really warm, friendly, inviting, engaging person.”

New Mexico passed a hate-crime law in 2003 to which these defendants are subject if convicted. Trinidad has a long criminal record, including sexual penetration of a four-year-old boy, for which he received two years probation in 2003, and carrying a deadly weapon on school grounds.

Extending “Decency” Rules to Pay TV, Radio

The government’s power to regulate broadcast media has traditionally been based in its ownership of the finite broadcast airwaves, a factor that does not apply with cable and satellite technology.

Virginia Republican George Allen, also a member of the committee, told Reuters he was “reluctant” to extend the decency standards into pay media.

March for St. Patrick on March 6; Protest on March 17

St. Pat’s for All is once again sponsoring an inclusive St. Patrick’s parade on Sunday, March 6 at 12:30 p.m. in Queens, beginning at 43rd Street and Skillman Avenue in Sunnyside and proceeding to Woodside. Lavender and Green, the sponsoring organization, began the Queens tradition to give gay Irish groups and others excluded from the big Fifth Avenue parade a chance to march.

For the 14th year in a row, gays will protest the exclusion of LGBT groups from the St. Pat’s parade run by the Ancient Order of Hibernians on March 17 in Manhattan. Protesters from Irish Queers will gather at Fifth Avenue and 58th Street at 10:30 a.m. and plan to protest the participation of Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a parade that many politicians boycott.

Emmaia Gelman of Irish Queers said of their protest, “The relevance has never been greater. The parade represents the exclusion of Irish queers, but it also represents the encroaching power of the religious right, with the church banded together with power brokers from Wall Street and the New York Police Department’s religious groups.”

L-Word Ads Spark Controversy in New York

The ad for Showtime’s “The L-Word” lesbian drama series features 12 naked women in the cast with limbs draped strategically over nipples and vaginas. The Daily News found some residents of Bay Ridge, a traditionally conservative neighborhood in south Brooklyn, upset that the ads are running on a local bus shelter there.

Arlene Ruteolo, 40, a resident of the neighborhood, told the newspaper, “This is not appropriate for children, elderly adults, even myself.” Republican State Sen. Martin Golden, who represents the area, said, “There are sexual overtones that don’t belong in our community.”

A spokesman for the city’s Department of Transportation said that objections were weighed but that the ad “was not considered offensive.” Nevertheless, Viacom said it would remove the ad based on a handful of complaints about it being near a school.

Gary Parker, president of Lambda Independent Democrats, an LGBT club in Brooklyn, called Golden’s objections “another blatant attack on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.” He added, “If the ad were for UPN’s America’s Next Top Model, I am sure he would have no objection.” Parker said he hopes Golden’s campaign against the ad boosts ratings for the show.

Connecticut Governor Boosts Civil Unions

M. Jodi Rell, the governor of the Nutmeg State, has always said that she opposed same-sex marriage, but dodged questions about whether she would support Vermont-style civil unions that give gay couples all the rights and responsibilities of marriage without the name. This week, she said, “I don’t believe in discrimination of any sort and I want people to have equal rights and equal opportunities,” endorsing the civil unions bill that passed the Legislature’s judiciary committee last week.

Also this week, Love Makes a Family, the lead gay marriage lobbying group in Connecticut, said it would not stand in the way of the civil union bill. It had earlier maintained that only legislation opening marriage to gay couples would be acceptable on the premise that Connecticut was one of a handful of states that could accomplish that. The group will continue to lobby for marriage rights.

If the Legislature passes the civil union bill, it will be the first time such rights have been extended by a state in the absence of a court order.

States Advance Measures Against Same-Sex Marriage

South Carolina is one of ten states considering constitutional amendments against same-sex marriage and, in most cases, civil unions as well. Sixteen states already do so in their constitutions and 41 states ban gay marriage in law. The South Carolina House voted 96-3 for the amendment on Tuesday. It will be on the ballot for voters to in 2006.

South Dakota’s anti-same-sex marriage amendment was approved 20-14 by the state Senate. It, too, would be on the ballot in 2006.

Tennessee’s Senate voted 29-3 for a similar amendment, but stalled a bill to ban gay adoptions.

The Virginia House of Delegates voted 79-17 for a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage and sanctioning of other gay relationship, which had passed 30-10 in the Senate. The measure must be approved again next year before it can go to voters in November 2006.

In Ohio, which passed its constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and unions in November, a lesbian mom, Denise Fairchild, is citing the ban to deny her former partner, Therese Marie Leach, visitation rights of their son. “I realize I am using a piece of legislation that will deny me rights later in life,” she told the Associated Press. “But before I am a lesbian, I am his mother.” She said she voted against the ballot initiative.

“Soft Benefits” at Idaho State

Idaho may not be a bastion of liberalism, but Idaho State University’s faculty senate voted 24-2 Monday to recommend that the school offer some of the domestic partner benefits available to faculty with spouses. This would not include “hard” benefits like health insurance, the Idaho State Journal reported, just such “soft” benefits as free access to the student union movie theatre, gym, computer labs, and library.

John Masserini, a faculty senate member, said that he hoped these benefits would open the door to equal benefits in the future. _________________________

Gay Valentines Win Case in Romania

A gay group sued TAROM, the national airline of Romania, for excluding same-sex couples from a Valentine’s Day two-for-one special for lovers. The group, ACCEPT, was disappointed in the $180 fine imposed on the airline, calling it “ridiculously small.”

Romania has dragged its feet on gay rights issues, but is hoping to enter the European Union in 2007. However small, this decision from the government anti-discrimination agency is considered groundbreaking.

Sweden OKs In Vitro for Lesbian Couples

Swedish law had limited alternative insemination to women in heterosexual marriages or unions. Now the government, which has sanctioned gay relationships for more than a decade, will allow lesbians in civil unions to undergo in vitro fertilization, Sapa-AFP reported. The proposed law also provides for the partners of the women thus impregnated to be parents automatically unless the child is conceived through treatment outside of Sweden. In that case, the partner will have to adopt the child to be a legal parent.

Canadian PM Threatened with Excommunication

Last week, Pope John Paul II called same-sex marriage part of the “new ideology of evil” in the world. This week, Catholic Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary said he would “have to consider” excommunication of Prime Minister Paul Martin for his promotion of a federal bill opening marriage to gay couples nationwide. Same-sex marriage is already legal in 80 percent of Canada through provincial and territorial court decisions.

“You’re either with the church or you’re not,” Henry told the National Post of Canada. “And if you’re not with the church, it’s not the church that’s giving you a hard time.” Last year, Henry said that Martin’s predecessor, Jean Chrétien, risked losing his “eternal salvation” for supporting the right of gay couples to marry.