News Briefs

N.Y. High Court Defers Gay Marriage Case

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that he was hoping that New York State’s high court would expedite its consideration of the city’s appeal of a lower court decision granting gay couples the right to marry. But the Law Journal notes that the Court of Appeals ended their February session without acting on the city’s request and that the seven justices are unlikely to address it until March 21. In the past 15 years, the high court has granted only four direct appeals of trial court decisions, mostly insisting on hearings by mid-level appellate courts. Late on February 23, a trial judge in Ithaca ruled against same-sex marriage plaintiffs there.

Pope Calls Same-Sex Marriage “Evil”

Pope John Paul II may be in failing health, but he’s not going down without an all-out war against the lesbian and gay movement. In his new book, “Memory and Identity,” out this week, the pontiff says that the trend toward legal recognition of gay relationships is part of “a new ideology of evil” that undermines society.

In reference to the “pressures” on the European Parliament to enact gay unions, John Paul wrote, “It is legitimate and necessary to ask oneself if this is not perhaps part of a new ideology of evil, perhaps even more insidious and hidden, which attempts to pit human rights against the family and against man.”

U.S. Supremes Dodge Sex Toy Case

Without comment, the Supreme Court has refused to hear the appeal by Pleasures adult store in Huntsville, Alabama, which is contesting the 1998 state law prohibiting the sale of sex toys. The lawyer for the shop said that his clients will now go back to federal court to get a determination on “whether states have the right to legislate morality issues.”

Court observers see the action of the high court as an avoidance of extending their ruling in the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas case that struck down the nation’s sodomy laws.

Canadian Government in Confidence Crisis

The minority Liberal Party in Canada, which leads a coalition government, may face a no confidence vote from its ruling partners over the contested budget bill. The political crisis is happening just as Prime Minister Paul Martin has opened up debate on federal legislation to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide. Due to provincial court decisions, gay couples may already marry in most of Canada.

In November, the Liberal Party’s public support has dropped two points to 37 percent, with the Conservative Party favorability ratings remaining stuck at 28 percent. The Ipsos-Reid poll did find that 47 percent of Canadians felt that the Liberal-led government deserved to be returned to power, up 18 points from the last election.

“Sleazy” Mitt Romney

Rep. Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat, who is gay, has accused Republican Gov. Mitt Romney of being “sleazy” and “completely dishonest” for a speech he gave to a group of South Carolina right wingers in what was seen as testing the waters for a 2008 presidential run.

Romney claimed to have opposed same-sex marriage and civil unions “from day one,” even though he backed a state constitutional amendment last year that, while limiting marriage to heterosexual couples, mandated equal benefits for gay couples through civil unions. Back in the Bay State, Romney said that he supports the compromise amendment because it was “the less unattractive of the options” and that failing to get behind it (as some gay marriage opponents did not) would leave marriage open to gay people, the Boston Herald reported.

Attorney General Tom Reilly, a Democrat who wants to replace Romney, a recent convert to supporting same-sex marriage, said that the governor acted as if he were “embarrassed” to be from Massachusetts during his speech.

Mass. Will Rule on Out-of-Staters

A few non-resident couples married in Massachusetts last year before the government put a stop to it, invoking a 1913 law that bars couples from marrying there if their marriages are not recognized in their home states. The law had been adopted to prevent non-resident interracial couples from marrying in Massachusetts.

This week, the state’s Supreme Judicial Court agreed to hear the challenge to the law this May. Town clerks who want to be able to marry out-of-state gay couples brought the suit.

The high court is also going to hear the appeal of right-wing groups challenging their 2004 ruling granting gay people the right to marry. The Thomas More Law Center and the Catholic Action League say that this issue should be determined by “democratic processes outlined in the commonwealth’s constitution rather than by the [court].”

Arizona GOP Wants “Marriage Protection Amendment”

The Republican-dominated House in Arizona voted 40-19 this week to send an “official postcard” to Congress calling on them to pass a federal amendment to ban same-sex marriage and barring judges from extending any benefits to gay couples. The measure, renamed the “Marriage Protection Amendment” is not expected to get a vote this year as its rightwing sponsors push action closer to congressional elections next year.

While the two-thirds majorities in both houses of Congress are not there for the federal amendment, more than the necessary three-fourths of the states required to ratify it have already passed laws against same-sex marriage.

The Arizona resolution now goes to the state Senate which blocked it last year, but has become more conservative, the Arizona Republic reported.

Meanwhile, 22 members of the state House of Representatives, mostly Democrats, have introduced a bill to grant some limited partner benefits to gay couples, including the right for couples to adopt and make medical decisions for each other.

Indiana Amendment Advances

The Indiana Senate voted 42-8 this week in favor of an amendment to the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage, already prohibited in law. The bill now moves to the House where Democrats blocked it last year, but where Republicans now hold a majority.

If the House passes the measure as expected, the amendment must be approved by another legislative session in 2007 or 2008 before it can go to the voters in November 2008.

Patty Simpson Comes Out

In the gayest episode ever of the Fox cartoon “The Simpsons,” Marge’s sister Patty came out this week and the town of Springfield decided to perform same-sex marriages to lure gay money with Homer volunteering to officiate. The show came with a parental advisory about content.

Patty almost married her partner, an LPGA golfer, until Marge discovered that the golfer was really a man. Alessandra Stanley of the New York Times called it “a tonic at a moment when television seems increasingly humorless and tame—fearful of advertiser boycotts by the religious right and fines from the FCC.”

Tenn. Considers Gay Adoption Ban

Legislation has been introduced in the Tennessee Legislature to prohibit gays and lesbians from being adoptive or foster parents. Abby Rubenfeld, a former Lambda Legal director who practices family law in the state, told The Tennessean that the proposals are “unnecessary and mean-spirited.”

State House and Senate committees this week advanced a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage. It passed by simple majorities last year but requires two-thirds of each house in this session to go to the voters.

House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, a Democrat, said that he thought the amendment was bad public policy, but that given its overwhelming support, “I’m not going to stand in the way and get run over by that train.”

Bigoted Kansas

The new state advertising slogan for the Sunflower State is “Kansas: As big as you think.” The Lawrence World Journal reported that Jennifer Newlin, an attorney there who is appalled by the movement toward a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, is distributing thousands of bumper stickers that say, “Kansas: As bigoted as you think.”

“I don’t want to see discrimination written into the constitution of my home state,” Newlin told the paper.

Rev. Leo Barbee of the Victory Bible Church said that he didn’t think that the amendment constituted bigotry, saying of gay people, “I think they have good jobs. I think they have good education, a lot of money.”

Log Cabin Works with Bush

The gay Log Cabin Republican club did not back President Bush for re-election, but are now trying to help him achieve his right-wing goals. Chris Barron, the group’s political director, told the UPI, “The fact is, the gay and lesbian community has to realize the president won.”

Log Cabin co-sponsored the Conservative Political Action Conference last week where speakers such as Republican Party Chairman Ken Mehlman, a closeted gay man, and Bush’s number one aide Karl Rove called for a federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

Among the issues that Log Cabin wants to help Bush with are privatizing Social Security and making the elimination of the estate tax permanent.

No More “Filthy” Gay Money

NY Daily News columnist Neil Steinberg wonders why the religious right, which campaigns vigorously against gay marriage, sees marriage as “the only institution that gays spoil. What about taxes? Don’t gays ruin those, too, with their filthy money? Perhaps they should be barred from paying taxes as well as barred from marriage. It seems only fair.”

British Navy Recruits Gays

The UK’s military only lifted its ban on open gays and lesbians in the armed services in 2000 in response to a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. Now, the British navy has enlisted the services of Stonewall, the LGBT lobby group, to help them integrate gay men and lesbians into the service, the New York Times reported in a front-page story. Among the methods officials are considering, is to run more advertisements in the gay press to recruit more gays.

Reprieve for German Gay Penguins

The Bremerhaven Zoo in northern Germany is giving up on changing its gay penguin couples into heterosexuals. They had flown in four hot female penguins to entice the males in three same-sex couples into unnatural acts, justifying their campaign as an effort to protect an endangered species by getting them to reproduce, the Advocate reported. Gay groups objected and the zoo relented. “Everyone can live here as they please,” said Heike Kueck, the zoo’s director.

Oscar-Nominated Shorts

I spent the weekend seeing all the short films nominated for Academy Awards, and while the gay content was minimal, Oscar watching is a gay sport and you might want some tips marking your ballots.

Among the short documentaries, “Mighty Times: The Children’s March” about the Birmingham, Alabama, children’s crusade for civil rights in 1963, got the most enthusiastic audience response at MOMa. “Sister Rose’s Passion,” about a nun’s 40-year campaign against anti-Semitism in Catholic schoolbooks is said to be getting buzz in Hollywood. And “The Children of Leningradsky” is a heartbreaking look at the hundreds of homeless kids as young as eight living in a Moscow train terminal.

In the animated short category, Bill Plympton’s “Guard Dog” is an audacious answer to the question, “Why do dogs bark?” “Ryan,” about the demise of animator Ryan Larkin might also have a chance with Academy members for its insight into a fallen creative genius.

The live action shorts all had merit, but I’m going with “7:35 in the Morning,” a hilarious Spanish film combining unrequited love and terrorism.

Matthew Bourne on “Gay USA” TV

British choreographer Matthew Bourne will be my guest on the “Gay USA” cable TV show, seen in Manhattan on February 24 on MNN on Time Warner 34 and RCN 107 on Thursday at 11 p.m., simulcast at channel 34. The show is syndicated nationally by Free Speech TV on the Dish Network and other cable systems throughout the week.

Bourne won the Tony in 1999 for his innovative version of “Swan Lake” featuring all-male swans. He just won the Olivier Award in London for his choreography and direction of “Mary Poppins.” And his “Play without Words,” a dance interpretation of the 1963 Joseph Losey movie “The Servant” is at the Brooklyn Academy of Music March 14-April 2.

For an amendment to enter the state’s constitution, it must be passed again by a joint session of the Legislature and then go before voters in 2006. A citizen effort to get an amendment on the ballot that would ban same-sex marriage and grant no benefits to gay couples is underway, but could not go to the electorate until 2008.