VOLUME 3, ISSUE 351 | Dec. 16 – 22, 2004

News Briefs

Bush Health Appointee Anti-Gay

Pres. George W. Bush has appointed Mike Leavitt, currently the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, as secretary of Health and Human Services. As governor of Utah, Leavitt signed a bill banning gay student clubs in public schools. A member of the Mormon Church, which has heavily funded efforts to ban legal status for gay relationships, he signed the first state Defense of Marriage Act in 1995, limiting marriage to one man and one woman and barring recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states.

While polygamy is illegal in Utah, Leavitt himself is the child of a polygamous marriage.


Transgender Woman Challenges Immigration on Her Marriage

Donita Secusana Ganzon, 58, transitioned from man to woman almost a quarter of a century ago. According to the Los Angeles Times, Ganzon married her husband, Jiffy Hojilla Javellana, 27, a native of the Philippines, “three years ago after he entered the country that year on a fiancé’s visa.” But the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services denied his application for permanent residency in July, citing the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that the agency says “does not recognize the marriage of two people born of the same sex.” The couple is suing in federal court to have the ruling overturned.

DOMA itself forbids federal recognition of same-sex marriages, but it does not address those who change their gender. Immigration’s interpretation is a regulation, not a law. “This is marriage between a man and a woman,” the couple’s lawyer told the newspaper. “The question becomes, what really is the definition of a woman?”

Ganzon became a U.S. citizen in 1974 and is identified as a female on her Immigration certificate. Immigration officials only became aware of her gender reassignment after she mentioned it during an interview regarding Javellana’s application, a comment she regrets. “You are penalized for being honest,” Ganzon’s lawyer said.


Social Insecurity for New Paltz Spouses

Straight couples in New Paltz are getting a taste of anti-gay bigotry. Because Mayor Jason West and some clergy members there performed weddings for scores of lesbian and gay couples, Social Security has decided not to recognize any marriages at all conducted in the town since February 27 for purposes of making name changes.

“Until the legal issues are resolved, local Social Security offices nationwide will not accept as evidence of identity any marriage documents issued in New Paltz,” John Shallman of the agency told the Poughkeepsie Journal. The same policy had been in effect for San Francisco, Sandoval County, New Mexico, Multnomah County, Oregon, and Asbury Park, New Jersey, where same-sex marriages were conducted, but has since been rescinded everywhere but in New Paltz.

Congressman Maurice Hinchey, a Democrat representing the area, called the policy “unconstitutional” and demanded it be rescinded for New Paltz, too. He said it makes it hard for married people to comply with federal tax laws.

West told the newspaper that Social Security is “now penalizing straight couples… for living in a community that wants everyone [to have the right] to be married.”


Gay Youth Pushed Out of School

Brad Matthewson, the Missouri high school student who was being disciplined for wearing gay-themed T-shirts, has decided to drop out of school and pursue a GED, citing problems with grades and attendance due to harassment. “I think he’s a little discouraged,” his mother told reporters. The American Civil Liberties Union was suing on his behalf, but that suit may be jeopardized by his departure. The legal group will try to pursue it on behalf of all students facing such censorship.


Lambda Pushes Organ Transplant Access for HIV-Positive

Lambda Legal Defense has written to the country’s top 12 health insurance providers asking for their policies on covering transplants for people with HIV, but has not received answers from any of them—Assurant, Aetna, Aflac, Anthem, BlueCare, Cigna, Healthnet, Humana, PacifiCare, United Health, Wellpoint or Wellchoice.

Kevin Cathcart, executive director of Lambda, said, “HIV itself isn’t necessarily a death sentence anymore, but it becomes one when health insurance companies refuse to let people have the transplants they desperately need,” noting that they have heard from many people with HIV denied transplants despite meeting medical standards.

A Pennsylvanian with HIV and hepatitis C was prevented by Medicaid from getting a liver transplant until Lambda stepped in and had the decision reversed. The group won a similar reversal from Kaiser Permanente. Cathcart wants the other big carriers to make their policies public.


New Legal Director for Lambda

Jon Davidson has been named the new legal director of Lambda Legal Defense. He has served as the senior counsel for the group’s Los Angeles office, where he worked for nine years, and will now be based at national headquarters in New York. He had a prior stint as director of the Lesbian and Gay Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. Among Davidson’s legal victories were cases protecting gay employees from harassment, winning the right for gay students to be out and gaining asylum for immigrants persecuted for their sexual orientations in their home countries.


King Marches against Gay Marriage

Rev. Bernice King, the evangelical daughter of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., joined several thousand religious demonstrators in a march from her father’s Atlanta grave against same-sex marriage, already illegal in Georgia. The King Center did not endorse the march and the slain civil rights leader’s widow, Coretta Scott King is a supporter of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in general and the right of gays to marry in particular.

“I know deep down in my sanctified soul that he did not take a bullet for same-sex unions,” Bernice King said of her father, who worked closely with and supported Bayard Rustin, an out gay African-American civil rights activist. About three dozen counter-protesters, supporting gay marriage, showed up to picket the march.


Official Recognition for Gay Group in European Union

Gay and Lesbian Intergroup, which has lobbied the European Parliament on lesbian and gay issues with great success since 2000, has now been given official status by the Parliament. PlanetOut reported that this means “member states will have to recognize its cause as a valid one irrespective of their own opinions.”


French Gay Union Law to Be Enhanced

Civil Solidarity Pacts, a form of “marriage-lite” for both gay and straight couples ion France, is being expanded on its fifth anniversary to include the ability to benefit from joint taxation and to list participation in the pact on a birth certificate without disclosing whether or not it is a homosexual union. Gay leaders in France see the improvements as a way for the government to avoid tackling head on the issue of their right to marry.

According to the Washington Times, Pres. Jacques Chirac said, “Experience shows that the [pacts] could be improved, and I would like to do so. But it should not lead to a travesty of marriage.

Prime Minister Lionel Jospin told a French newspaper, “It is possible to condemn and to fight homophobia without backing homosexual marriage.”

Single French women are denied alternative insemination, so thousands of lesbians aiming to have children have gone outside the country to obtain it or used home methods, the Washington Times reported.


In and Out with Ellen

TV’s Ellen Degeneres has split with photographer Alexandra Hedison, her partner of the last four years, and hooked up with Australian actress Portia De Rossi, who she met on a photo shoot in March, the New York Post’s Page Six reported. De Rossi is the former partner of Francesca Gregorini, the step-daughter of Ringo Starr.

“Alexandra and Francesca are devastated,” an “insider” told the newspaper. Neither of them had any idea what was coming.” The source said Degeneres was going through “a midlife crisis” and “will come to her senses and dump Portia to go back to Alexandra.” Stay tuned.


Spanish Bishops Protest Same-Sex Marriage

The Roman Catholic bishops of Spain have called for a day of protest against their government’s movement toward opening marriage to gay and lesbian couples. It will take place on December 26.

Catholic spokesman Juan Antonio Martinez Camino said, “Unions between human beings are not all equivalent, comparable, or able to be assimilated within marriage.”

The cabinet of Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has already approved a bill to legalize same-sex marriage with the full Parliament set to pass it in 2005.


Hurt Helped by Gay Role

Actor John Hurt, 64, who was just made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth, told reporters that his favorite role was portraying gay icon Quentin Crisp in TV’s “The Naked Civil Servant” in 1975. “That did it for me,” he said. “It was a fantastic script,” based on Crisp’s memoir of growing up gay and flamboyant in London in the early 20th century. Crisp died in 1999 at the age of 90.


Kissing and Telling on Stage

Be careful if you sleep with Tim Fountain. For his show “Tim Fountain: Sex Addict,” the performer goes online to find a sex partner and makes a show out of describing the encounter. A hit at the Edinburgh Festival, it is opening at the Royal Court Theatre in London on January 7 and closes on the 29th. A release for the show says, “Tim Fountain has now slept with 5,048 men and two women, but has no intention of stopping there.”


Air Kissing Advised in Vancouver

An outbreak of meningitis in Vancouver’s gay community has health authorities advising gay men to stop kissing on the lips (among other things), CBC News reported. Meningococcal C has killed three gay men there since October and left four others gravely ill.

“The gay community is like a family group,” said Dr. Joss De Wet, an AIDS specialist, “so gay people hang out together, and because meningitis spreads through saliva—kissing, sharing cigarettes—people who hang out together will be at risk to transmit this bacteria to one another.” Health officials are offering thousands of doses of vaccine, the news agency said, and going into gay establishments “to make sure no one is missed.”

The seven men known to be infected did not know each other and four were only visitors to Vancouver, making it difficult to identify the source of the outbreak.


‘Naked Boys’ Shut Down then Rises Again

The off-Broadway hit “Naked Boys Singing!” is still running in New York after 2,100 performances and has played in 40 cities worldwide to more than half a million people. But last Saturday, the police raided the Atlanta production at the Armory bar, calling it an “adult entertainment” in violation of zoning laws and shut it down, 17 weeks into its run there.

“When the issue has come up previously in other cities, “Naked Boys Singing!” has received acclaim as legitimate theatre that celebrates male nudity, not sex, and not pornography,” the production company said in a release. The police sent three female officers to watch, assess and close down the show that has been very popular with gay men and bachelorette parties.

“We feel that this attack on our production may have been an attempt to shut down yet another gay bar in Atlanta,” said Robert Dorroch, the producer. He asked pro-gay Mayor Shirley Franklin to intervene on behalf of the show and promised court action if she will not. Franklin and the police chief apologized, dropped the charges, expunged the police record and let the show re-open.

Who dropped the dime on “Naked Boys”? Dorroch thinks it was the same gentrifiers in the neighborhood who successfully shut down Back Street, a longtime gay bar there, after drugs were seized on the premises. “We think of ourselves as the real gentrifiers,” the producer of the hit nude play said.


Gay Globes

Not too much gay content to report in the Golden Globe nominations. “Kinsey,” which has a gay sub-theme and was directed and written by Bill Condon, who is gay, got a nod for best drama and acting nominations for Liam Neeson as Dr. Kinsey and Laura Linney as his wife. Kevin Kline was nominated for his portrayal of a more out than usual Cole Porter in “De-Lovely.”

On the TV side, “Will & Grace” picked up nominations for best musical or comedy as well as acting nods for Sean Hayes and Debra Messing. If it is shut out again, it will be the losingest series of all time, with more than 26 nominations and no wins, according to Tom O’Neil of


Sklarz Elected Leader of Gay Dems

Melissa Sklarz has just been elected the president of New York’s Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats, the first person of transgender experience to hold such an office in the state. She succeeds Brad Hoylman who led the club, the oldest in the city’s lesbian, bisexual, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, for the past three years.

“Not only is this historic,” Hoylman said, “but it’s a testament to Melissa’s hard work and the confidence and enthusiasm she inspires in everyone she works with in Democratic political circles.”

Sklarz is on the board of the National Stonewall Democrats, was a delegate to the 2004 Democratic National Convention, chairs the LGBT committee of Community Board 2 in Manhattan and is on the board of the Equality Project that uses shareholder activism to work for LGBT rights in the workplace. She was the first open trans person elected to office in New York—a delegate to the Democratic Judicial Convention in 1999.

In addition to pursuing a busy gay and transgender agenda, Sklarz said, “We want to have a women’s conference in the national Democratic Party because of the attacks from the right on women’s rights and talk about race in the party in New York because race prevented the Democrats from winning in 2001 and I’m concerned about the mayoral contest in 2005.”

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