News Briefs

Lambda Asks NY to Let Married Gays File That Way

While New York State’s Department of Taxation and Finance has ruled that resident same-sex couples legally married in Canada or elsewhere must file as single on their state tax forms, Lambda Legal has petitioned the department on behalf of two such couples asking that their married status be recognized. The department is expected to issue an advisory opinion clarifying the law within three weeks, though that time period is not specified in law, according to Alphonso David, the Lambda attorney on the case. “The couples are married and should be allowed to file as married,” he said.

This week, Mark Green, who is considering a bid for state attorney general in 2006, weighed in on the controversy as Charlie King and Sean Maloney did last week. “Since New York State rightly recognizes same-sex marriages from other states,” Green said, “we should allow such couples all the benefits and rights of married couples here, whether in the areas of inheritance or taxes.”

Attorney Gen. Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat, issued an opinion in 2004 that New York should “honor” legal same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, but has refused to get involved with the tax department’s resistance to such recognition.

Half the U.S. Can See Lesbian Moms on PBS Cartoon Show

“Postcards from Buster,” the public TV children’s show attacked by U.S. Education Sec. Margaret Spellings for including lesbian mothers in an episode about harvesting maple syrup in Vermont, will be seen on 45 PBS affiliates covering about half of the American population. The Public Broadcasting System withdrew its distribution of the episode, claiming they did so just prior to the Bush administration raising its objections. Spellings said, “Congress’ and the department’s purpose in funding this programming certainly was not to introduce this kind of subject matter to children.”

Utah Gets Second Out Gay Legislator

A vacancy in the Utah state Senate this week was filled by Scott McCoy, 34, a Democrat. “The fact that I am gay is certainly one of the characteristics with which I have been endowed by my creator and it is an important part of who I am as a human being,” he told the Associated Press. “The only agenda I come to the Senate with is that of the constituents of the Second District.”

McCoy was active in the Don’t Amend Alliance’s unsuccessful fight against a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage last fall. He replaces Paul Julander who stepped down due to poor health.

Rep. Jackie Biskupski, the first out legislator in the Utah House, welcomed McCoy, saying, “I’m glad. The Senate side really needs an education.”

McCoy grew up in Missouri and Oklahoma and is a graduate of Yeshiva University’s Cardozo School of Law. He moved to Utah three years ago to clerk for a state Supreme Court justice there.

Massachusetts Poll: Ditch Amendment

The Bay State Poll found that 51.4 percent of Massachusetts residents oppose the Legislature putting a constitutional ban of same-sex marriage on the ballot for 2006, with 45.1 percent saying it should go before the voters.

Last year, the Legislature voted to advance an amendment that banned same-sex marriage—in the only state where it is legal—and mandate equal benefits for gay couples through civil unions. Some anti-gay legislators were knocked off in the November election, but not enough to defeat the second vote on the amendment this year. However, with leadership changes in the Legislature and the passage of time, it is possible that the amendment will not be resurrected.

U.S. Right Takes On Canadian Gay Marriage

Money is pouring over the border from the American religious right to stop Canada from passing its same-sex marriage law this June. Patrick Korten of the Knights of Columbus, a Roman Catholic group based in New Haven, told the Montreal Gazette “they are prepared to spend whatever it takes to ensure that same-sex marriage does not become legal” in Canada. “The family is too important,” he said, noting that the group donated $80,782 to print two million postcards to be distributed to Catholic churches across Canada.

Focus on the Family “is also sending support and services worth hundreds of thousands of dollars” to its Canadian affiliate.

Alex Munter, coordinator of Canadians for Equal Marriage, told the newspaper, “We simply have no way to protect ourselves against an American invasion by the religious right. In terms of resources, we’re just not equal on that basis.”

Canadian Muslim Group Endorses Same-Sex Bill

The Muslim Canadian Congress has come out in favor of Prime Minister Paul Martin’s bill to legalize same-sex marriage across Canada. Rizwana Jafri, president of the group, said his group’s members have experienced life as a marginalized minority and have depended upon Canada’s Charter of Rights in their struggle for equal treatment. “It is incumbent upon us, as a minority, to stand in solidarity with Canada’s gays and lesbians despite the fact that many in our community believe our religion does not condone homosexuality.”

Dutch Culture Exam

Rita Verdonk, Holland’s immigration and integration minister, is planning a culture quiz for new immigrants that will include such questions as, “Can two men marry?” The prospective immigrants will first see a film about Dutch culture, including scenes of a same-sex wedding. “As integration into Dutch society is a long-term process, it is important that newcomers before arrival to the Netherlands have a command of the Dutch language at a basic level and a developed understanding of the society into which they are coming,” she said.

Filipino Communist Comrades Marry

Two male members of the revolutionary New People’s Army have married in the mountains of Compostela Valley in the Philippines. Ka Andres, 54, and Ka José, 21, exchanged vows at a heavily guarded ceremony in front of local villagers and their comrades. “Ka” is the local word for brother.

Each held a bullet in his hand, representing their commitment to armed struggle. They were draped in a red flag with a hammer and sickle and gold sequins.

It is believed to be the first such marriage in the New People’s Army which has been waging a violent insurgency in poor, rural areas since the 1960s. They passed a policy allowing it in 1998.

“What we have to do now—with the help of the party—is to work on our marriage and to be strong while serving the people,” José said. Andres said, “We conducted painstaking discussions to make comrades understand gay relations and gay rights.”

Jason West Back in Hot Water

New Paltz Mayor Jason West, 27, had charges against him reinstated by a judge for solemnizing same-sex weddings with a license. A town judge dismissed the charges last year, citing constitutional problems in banning gay nuptials. Ulster County Court Judge Michael Bruhn said last week that public officials cannot choose which laws to obey. West faces up to a year in jail if convicted.

End Gay Benefits in Ann Arbor, Religious Right Says

The Thomas More Law Center, funded by Domino Pizza magnate Thomas Monaghan, is using Michigan’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and benefits to try to stop the Ann Arbor public schools from providing domestic partner benefits to employees. The Center originally filed the suit in 2003, but now has the added argument that Michigan’s constitution forbids such benefits. It is the first such challenge under the new constitutional provision, passed by 59 percent of Michigan voters in November.

Jay Kaplan of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan told the Detroit Free Press that the benefits offered by the district were not equivalent to marriage, “partly since same-sex couples do not get the 1,100 rights and protection that married people receive.” The Michigan Education Association also opposes the center’s suit.

Michigan State University and Kalamazoo are among the public entities that continue to provide domestic partner benefits in the wake of the amendment. Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm suspended such benefits for state employees pending a court clarification of the law.

Governor Proposes DP Benefits for U of Wisconsin

Gov. Jim Doyle of Wisconsin, a Democrat, has budgeted a half million dollars so that the University of Wisconsin can provide domestic partner benefits to employees. It is the only Big Ten school that does not already do so. Doyle told the Capital Times it is “the right thing to do” and will make the university competitive.

Doyle offered domestic partner benefits to several state employee unions last year, but they rejected them because they would have had to make concessions on pay.

Alabama Provides “Safeguard” from Gay Marriage

The Alabama Senate voted 35-0 on Tuesday to put a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage before voters there. The proposal passed the House by a margin of 85-7. “It will be a safeguard for future generations,” said Democratic Sen. Roger Bedford. Republican Sen. Hank Erwin read from the Bible during the debate.

Howard Bayless of Equality Alabama, a gay lobby group, said, “The politicians are no using the ‘Q’ word like the politicians of the past used the ‘N’ word.”

The amendment is expected to be voted on by the public in a September 2005 special election that will also consider removing segregation era language from the state Constitution.

Alabama banned same-sex marriage by law in 1998.

Virginia and Indiana Advance Anti-Gay Amendments

The Virginia House of Delegates voted 78-18 for a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage. Democrat Adam Ebbin, the first out gay member of the House, said that the action would one day prove to be as shameful a chapter in Virginia’s history as slavery and segregation.

The House version has to be reconciled with a Senate version, passed 30-10, before voters in November 2006.

Virginia’s House also voted 71-24 to require adoption investigators to determine whether applicants are “practicing homosexuals,” the Associated Press reported. Delegate Robert Brink raised the issue of whether agents would “examine petitioners’ music collections for show tunes.”

In Indiana, a State Senate committee approved a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage or marriage-like benefits for gay couples 7-4. If the resolution passes both houses of the Legislature, it will have to be approved by both again in 2007 or 2008 before going to the voters in November 2008.

South Carolina Gays March for Marriage

Same-sex couples organized by the South Carolina Gay and Lesbian Pride Movement applied for marriage licenses in Columbia and were rejected, WIS-TV reported. They then went to lobby at the Statehouse on the issue as part of Marriage Equality Week.

South Carolina banned same-sex marriage in 1996 and is considering six bills to ban it in the constitution along with civil unions and partner benefits for public employees.

Gay Gun Group Shoots Down SF Ban

The Pink Pistols, a national group of gay gun lovers, is opposing a proposed San Francisco law banning the ownership of handguns. The proposal is set to go on the ballot in November, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

“I want to be liberated as a gay man,” Aaron Thomas, 30, a member of the local Pink Pistols chapter told the newspaper, “but I’m not willing to give up the rights I have. If they can take that away from you, what more can they do?”

Out gay Supervisor Tom Ammiano said, “Gay bashing, name-calling, violence—many of us in the gay community have experienced that but don’t feel the same way about how to prevent it. I don’t think unlimited handguns are the answer.”

Elton: Fly Me

Elton John’s face is being plastered on the side of 20 AirTran jets in a move to promote the availability of XM Satellite Radio in every passenger seat. A spokesman for the airline said that the air traffic controller was referring to the plane as “Elton One.”

John appeared on Larry King this week and said that he would not marry his partner David Furnish anywhere but in his home of England, noting that civil partnerships will soon be available there.