VOLUME 3, ISSUE 325 | June 17 – 23, 2004
Bush Seek Vatican Help Limiting Gay Rights
“Bush said, ‘Not all the American bishops are with me’ in the cultural issues,” John Allen wrote. “The implication was that he hoped the Vatican would nudge them toward more explicit activism.”
Barry Lynn, director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, called Bush’s lobbying effort “mind-boggling,” The New York Times reported. “It is just unprecedented for a president to ask for help from the Vatican to get re-elected and that is exactly what this is.” Lynn also said Bush’s action “crosses the line in this country.”
Bush isn’t having any trouble with the Massachusetts bishops. Their Catholic Conference lobbying group sent letters to every parish in the state telling Catholics to express their “profound disappointment” with state legislators who voted against a state constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage, naming the relevant legislator in each parish. Lynn’s group called this “a command of who to vote for and who to vote against, and the IRS code is very clear that churches and other religious bodies may not engage in this type of activity.”
The Rev. James Dobson of Focus on the Family now believes it will take “a miracle” to pass the Federal Marriage Amendment. Senate Republicans have announced a mid-July vote on the measure. Dobson calls efforts to ban gay marriage as “the final battle” with the “homosexual activist movement.
Jamaican Gay Leader Murdered
Brian Williamson, 59, was found slain in his Kingston home, in what gay activists believe was a hate crime. He was the founder in 1998 of the Jamaican Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals, and Gays (J-FLAG) in an effort to get his country to repeal its anti-sodomy law. He was outspoken against anti-gay discrimination and the persecution of people with AIDS. His group says at least 30 gay men have been murdered since 1997, the UK Independent reported.
Jamaican police were investigating the murder as a robbery, not a hate crime. “At this time the police are theorizing robbery to be the motive as a money safe he had is missing and the apartment was ransacked,” Corporal Devon Hugh Williams told the Jamaica Observer. Two men were known to have visited Williamson two hours before the killing and asked him for money. But the multiple stabbings to his neck have led J-FLAG to urge an investigation of the death as a potential hate crime.
Just last week, Amnesty International called upon Prime Minister P.J. Patterson to denounce anti-gay violence and repeal the anti-sodomy law, which he rejected.
Reagan and Gays
During a week of remembrance for Reagan, many gay leaders and AIDS services advocates noted how the former president failed to actively intervene in the early years of the epidemic when thousands of people died from the disease.
New Leader for LGBT Church
Beginning in 2005, the moderator of the Metropolitan Community Churches will be Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson, only the second person to hold the post. Rev. Elder Troy Perry, founder of the church, has been the moderator for 37 years.
Wilson is the former pastor of MCC/Los Angeles and now serves as pastor of the Church of the Holy Trinity MCC in Sarasota, Florida. Wilson’s formal election as worldwide moderator will be held in Canada next year, MCC/NY’s “Query” newsletter reported.
California Court Combines Marriage Suits
At the behest of California’s Democratic Attorney General William Lockyer, various lawsuits across the state by lesbian and gay couples seeking to marry have been consolidated into one case to be heard in San Francisco. Ultimately, the state Supreme Court will decide on the matter, but experts said the court would most likely not get the case for another year or so. In a separate case, a ruling is expected this summer on whether San Francisco’s mayor, Gavin Newsom, also a Democrat, had a legal right to grant marriage licenses to more than 4,000 gay couples earlier this year.
Shepard’s Murderer Appeals Sentence
Russell Henderson, one of the convicted murderers of gay college student Matthew Shepard, wants his sentence of two life terms reduced. Henderson’s current lawyer claims that the legal aid lawyer at Henderson’s trial who handled his guilty plea did not advise him of the rights he was forfeiting, particularly his right to appeal his sentence within 30 days. Henderson pleaded guilty to avoid the death penalty. A district judge is taking the case under advisement.
Michigan Police Entrap Gays
The gay Triangle Foundation reports that the Michigan State Police spent LGBT pride weekend June 11-12 conducting “bag a fag” stings at a rest area on a highway outside Lansing and arresting at least 12 men. Todd Heywood, an activist with Triangle, was approached by cops, one of whom said to the other, “No, that’s the wrong fag. He’s cool.” Heywood came back with Triangle’s policy director, Sean Kofosky, and they observed the sting operation together. Kofosky used the rest room and was followed by an undercover cop who cruised him.
Kofosky called the police action “shameful,” adding, “How much more clear can their intention be when they call people ‘fag’ and set their operation in play during gay pride week?” Triangle is urging the Ingham County prosecutor not to bring charges in the cases. The group won a 2002 lawsuit for six individuals swept up in a similar sting operation by the Detroit Police Department.
Virginia is for Haters
The Commonwealth of Virginia’s law against same-sex marriage is so draconian—it also bans civil unions and any contracts “purporting to bestow the privileges or obligations of marriage”—that a group is forming a tourist boycott of Virginia. Diane Horvath of Make Love Legal said, “Don’t spend your money where people hurt you.” The group is discouraging tourists from going to Jamestown in 2007 for the 400th anniversary of the settlement’s founding.
Another group, VirginiaIsForHaters.org, is using the Internet to urge consumers to avoid doing business in the state. “Durable powers of attorney, health care directives, even wills and property contracts are at jeopardy now that this law has been passed,” the site says. “We have received numerous e-mails from couples, together for decades, who are now facing health crises made all the more terrifying by this legislation.”
IRS Makes it Official
If there was any doubt, the Internal Revenue Service has issued a ruling that gay and lesbian spouses cannot file a joint tax return as a result of the Defense of Marriage Act. “Even though a state may recognize a union of two people of the same sex as a legal marriage for the purposes of the state’s authority, that recognition has no effect for the purposes of federal law,” an IRS official said.
Huntington Opens Partner Registry
The Town of Huntington, Long Island, started recognizing gay couples in domestic partnerships on Monday, with Suffolk County legislator Jon Cooper and his partner of 24 years, Rob Cooper, first in line Newsday reported. “This isn’t gay marriage and this isn’t civil unions,” Cooper told the paper, noting his partner would “still not be able to access my Social Security benefits.” The registry was passed by a 4-1 vote by the Huntington town board earlier this month. There are also such registries in East Hampton, Southampton, Southold, and North Hills Village on Long Island.
Lutherans Get on Board
Americans United for the Separation of Church and State has circulated among religious organizations a letter opposing the Federal Marriage Amendment that seeks to ban same-sex marriage. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is the latest signatory to the letter, bringing to 25 the churches and religious organizations opposing the amendment, even though many, like the Lutherans, do not provide for the marriage of gay couples themselves.
Bob Barr Loses Defamation Suit
The federal Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C. has dismissed a $30 million defamation lawsuit filed by former Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia, a Republican, against former Pres. Bill Clinton, political consultant James Carville, and pornographer Larry Flynt. Barr, now a consultant with the ACLU, has spoken out against the Patriot Act and is an opponent of the Federal Marriage Amendment. Barr claimed Clinton and Flynt had conspired to publish embarrassing information about his extra-marital affairs in retaliation for his role in the Clinton impeachment. The court said that Barr failed to file his suit within the required three years after the alleged defamation and that Flynt did not knowingly publish false information. When in Congress, Barr strongly advocated for passage of the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that prohibits states from recognizing same-sex marriages, which Barr now asserts is sufficient legal grounds to guard against such marriages. Barr, despite his zeal for defending traditional marriage, has wed three different women.
New Zealand to Get Civil Union Bill
Prime Minister Helen Clark told the New Zealand Press Association that her government will introduce a bill in July recognizing registered civil unions for gay and straight couples. The National and Labour Parties are allowing their members “conscience votes” on the bill rather than making them tow the party line one way or the other. The legislation’s prospects for passage are not high.
Aussie Gay Marriage Poll Surprise
Both major parties in the Parliament are anxious to pass a law outlawing same-sex marriages. However, a poll from SBS, an Australian broadcaster, found that voters oppose such marriages by only a slender margin, 44 percent to 38, with 18 percent undecided. There was a huge gender gap in the poll with 47 percent of women supporting gay nuptials against 29 percent of men. Young Aussies think gay marriage is no big whoop, with a majority supporting it.
Indians Attack Lesbian Film
“Girlfriends” was a not-very-successful lesbian-themed film out of Bollywood, but has come under severe attack by hard-line Hindus who “hurled stones and damaged cinema halls” where it was being screened, Reuters reported. “This film is out to degrade Indian culture. We will not allow anyone to do this,” said Arun Pathak, a leader of the Shiv Sena group. The film’s director, Karan Razdan, told Zee television, “I’m just trying to show what’s happening in society.”
Andy Humm is a co-host of “Gay USA” seen Thursdays at 11 p.m. on Time-Warner 34 and RCN 107, simulcast at mnn.org channel 34, and on Directv nationwide._