News Briefs

Council Speaker to Mayor: Drop Suit v. Equal Benefits

New York City Council Speaker Gifford Miller called on Mayor Bloomberg last Friday to drop the city’s lawsuit against the Equal Benefits Law. “We have been in an eight- month battle with the mayor over a law that would ensure that New York City uses taxpayer dollars to acquire goods and services from employers who treat all of their employees equally,” Miller said. “It is hypocritical of the mayor to support gay marriage while he opposes a measure that provides some semblance of the marriage benefits that same-sex couples are denied.”

The law, passed by the Council over Bloomberg’s veto last year, requires those with city contracts over $100,000 to provide domestic partner benefits to their unmarried employees if they provide spousal benefits. The city’s Law Department will be in an appellate court on Friday arguing that the law is a usurpation of mayoral power and an illegal use of the procurement process, even though Bloomberg has signed several bills that do use the city’s purchasing power to advance workplace conditions.

The Law Department did not say how the mayor’s recent support for same-sex marriage might affect his suit against the domestic partners law. Miller, who was joined at the press conference by Manhattan Council Members Christine Quinn and Margarita Lopez, had not received a response from the mayor as of Tuesday.

Newsom v. Bloomberg

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom chided Mayor Bloomberg for his recent stance on same-sex marriage. “I think if you believe something, you’ve got to act on it,” Newsom said. “If you don’t believe it, don’t act on it. But don’t say you believe something and then do everything to stifle that belief.”

Bloomberg finally said that gay people should be allowed to marry, but only in the context of appealing the decision of Manhattan State Supreme Court Justice Doris Ling-Cohan ordering the city clerk to let gay couples obtain marriage licenses. Bloomberg insisted that “chaos” would have resulted had he not appealed, citing the San Francisco situation where Newsom let 4,000 gay couples marry, only to have them overturned by the California Supreme Court.

“Where was the chaos in this city?” Newsom asked. “It’s wrong to say that.”

Right-Wing Reporter is Hooker

“Jeff Gannon” has resigned as the White House correspondent for the right-wing Talon News agency after it was revealed that his real name is Jim Guckert, he ran several gay porn sites, and he advertised his own services as a male escort with nude pictures of himself.

Gannon/Guckert was famous in the press corps for asking softball questions of presidential press secretary Scott McClellan and of Pres. Bush. He operated on day passes to the White House press room for two years, never submitting to the FBI background check for a permanent pass. Among his stories for Talon was one on John Kerry’s “pro-homosexual platform” titled “Kerry Could Become the First Gay President.” He has also been implicated in the illegal exposure of Valerie Plume, wife of Joseph Wilson, as a CIA agent, a matter under investigation by a federal prosecutor. And he was the source of a false story on an alleged heterosexual affair Kerry was engaged in during the campaign. The scandal has revived reports from Houston sources that McClellan, now married to a woman, frequented gay bars in Texas several years ago.

Guckert’s work as a $200 an hour escort was exposed by gay activist and blogger John Aravosis. Democratic leaders are calling for an investigation into why Guckert was given such high clearance by the White House. 

Bush Back with Anti-Gay Bench Nominees

President George Bush has re-nominated for federal judgeships the 20 nominees who were filibustered by Senate Democrats last year, including former Alabama Attorney General William Pryor who filed a legal brief supporting sodomy laws in the 2003 Texas case that led to the Supreme Court ruling striking down all such laws.

David Smith of the Human Rights Campaign told that Pryor’s record “is so clearly a threat to individual rights and protections,” accusing him of “a strong bias against LGBT Americans.”

New York Sen. Charles Schumer, a Democrat, is continuing to lead the charge against Bush nominees whom he calls “out of the mainstream.” Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, is threatening to introduce a new Senate rule that would allow nominees to be approved by a simple majority of Senators, denying the opportunity for a cloture vote that requires 60 votes. Democrats call Frist’s proposal the “nuclear option.”

Rev. Pat Robertson has warned Frist that getting these nominees through is “the ultimate test” of his leadership.

 Push to Overturn Gay Marriages

The Supreme Judicial Court of the Bay State will hear oral arguments in a case brought by the right-wing Thomas More Law Center to block the court’s ruling last year that gay couples can marry. The center says that their ruling should have been stayed until the voters of the state had a chance to weigh in on a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage, a vote that could not come until November 2006 at the earliest if the state’s legislature approves it again this year.

More States Consider Gay Marriage

A bill to ban same-sex marriage in New Mexico was killed this week, partly because it places “severe restrictions” on same-sex couples, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported. Another bill to define marriage as between a man and a woman is still alive.

A Tennessee House committee voted 13-4 to advance a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, following approval by the state’s Senate. It needs a two-thirds majority in both houses before it can go to the voters.

Supporters of same-sex marriage rallied at the Rhode Island State House in Providence on Monday as legislation to legalize it was re-introduced. Gay House Majority Leader Gordon Fox said he would be making a “promise in the dark” if he said the bill would pass this year, noting that the bill is opposed by the House speaker, Senate president, and governor.

Marriage Debate Commences in Canadian Parliament

On February 16, Prime Minister Paul Martin took the unusual step of personally leading parliamentary debate on a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, enduring some heckling from the bill’s opponents. He accused the opposition of underhanded tactics.

“They have attempted to cajole the public into believing that we can return to the past with a simple snap of the fingers, that we can revert to the traditional definition of marriage without consequence,” he said. “They’re insincere. They’re disingenuous. And they’re wrong.”

Same-sex marriage is already legal in most Canadian provinces and territories due to court decisions dating back to 2003. Parliament would have to invoke the notwithstanding clause to the Charter of Rights to now stop same-sex marriage, something it has never done.

The first vote on Martin’s bill will come in six weeks on whether to refer it to committee for general discussion. A final vote is expected in June. Canadian Press reported that “insiders” believe it will pass by a narrow margin.

 Alan Keyes’ Lesbian Daughter Speaks Out and is Tossed Out

Maya Marcel-Keyes, 19, the daughter of anti-gay, right-wing firebrand Alan Keyes, spoke at a rally for same-sex marriage at the Maryland capitol in Annapolis on Valentine’s Day. She said her father has disowned her and cut off her college tuition. “It’s all kind of ridiculous,” she said to the Washington Post, “because I love him.” Maya in fact volunteered for her father’s ill-fated Senate run last year against Barak Obama in Illinois.

At last year’s Republican convention in New York, Alan Keyes told Sirius Radio that Mary Cheney, the lesbian daughter of the vice president, was a “selfish hedonist.” His office released a statement about Maya saying, “My daughter is an adult and she is responsible for her own actions. What she chooses to do has nothing to do with my work or political activities.”

The Point Foundation, which awards scholarships to LGBT students, said it will pay her tuition so she can continue at Brown University, PlanetOut reported.

Piling on in Dixie

Alabama’s legislature, having approved a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, is now working on bills to ban adoption by gay people and to ban books from schools or libraries that portray homosexuality as acceptable.

Wayne Flynt, a history professor at Auburn, told the Birmingham News, “After getting as much as we can out of demagoguery on race, gays are now the subject of choice.”

 Virginia Pulls Traditional Marriage Plates

Despite advancing a raft of anti-gay laws and amendments, a bill to allow “Traditional Marriage” license plates in Virginia has been pulled by its sponsor. Republican Delegate Scott Lingamfelter said that the constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage accomplished his objective.

Limited Domestic Partnerships for West Palm

The commissioners of West Palm Beach, Florida, voted unanimously to create a domestic partner registry, entitling couples to hospital visitation rights and the power to make medical and burial decisions for partners. Gay and heterosexual couples can register. Similar registries exist in Key West, Broward County, and Miami Beach and are planned for Palm Beach County and Lake Worth.

Right-wing groups are working on an amendment to the State Constitution banning same-sex marriages and domestic partnership recognition.

Indecency Bill Clears U.S. House

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 389-38 for a new Broadcast Indecency Act, increasing fines for “profane language” or actions in broadcast media up to $500,000 or loss of license after three infractions. It subjects individual performers to the same fine, if he or she “willingly” or “intentionally” says something “indecent or profane,” taking into account the “financial impact” on the performer, Radio Monitor reported.

Rep. Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat, spoke against the bill on the floor, citing the secretary of education’s attack on PBS-TV’s “Postcards from Buster” for featuring lesbian parents and the debate over the decency of movies such as “Schindler’s List” by some House members in the past. He said, “You can find sexually graphic material” on the House Judiciary Committee Web site where the Starr Report including “sexually graphic material” accessible to “children doing their homework everywhere.”

Chris Rock: Oscars are for Gays

 Comedian Chris Rock, who will emcee the Academy Awards on February 27 for the first time, said, “Come on. It’s a fashion show. What straight black man sits there and watches the Oscars? Show me one.”

Joan Garry of GLAAD told, “Chris Rock isn’t making fun of gays, he’s poking fun at the Oscars. It’s shtick.”

MCC’s Rev. Pat Bumgardner marries four couples in protest of Bloomberg legal appeal