VOLUME 4, ISSUE 2 |Jan 13 – 19, 2005

News Briefs

Illinois Bans Anti-Gay and Trans Discrimination

After a thirty-year battle, Illinois’ legislature has passed a bill adding “sexual orientation” to the “human rights ordinance, becoming the fifteenth U.S. “to do so. Equality Illinois was the LGBT lobby group that led the fight.

The “Senate passed the bill Monday by the slimmest of margins, 30-27. The House of Representatives, which has passed the bill in the past, followed suit with a 65-51 vote in favor on Tuesday, the last day the lame duck legislature was in session. Republican Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich has pledged to sign it into law.

Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said, “We salute Equality Illinois and its tireless leader, Rick Garcia, for today’s extraordinary achievement. This win again shows that dogged work by state and local leaders and activists can surmount enormous odds—and is real salve to a community still hurting from the results of November 2.”

Under the terms of the bill, sexual orientation “means actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, or gender-related identity, whether or not traditionally associated with the person’s designated sex at birth.” Illinois is the fifth to cover gender identity in its law, joining California, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Rhode Island. New York passed its gay rights law in 2000, defeating an amendment by Democratic Senator Tom Duane, who is gay, to include gender identity and expression.

Bush’s Anti-Gay Domestic Adviser

President Bush’s new domestic policy adviser is Claude Allen, who is moving over from Health and Human Services where he acted as Secretary Tommy Thompson’s liaison for the religious right and implemented abstinence-only sex education programs. As an aide to former Republican Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, he attacked Democratic Governor Jim Hunt as a tool of “queers” and “radical feminists” when Hunt challenged Helms for the Senate seat.

Democratic National Committee chair Terry McCauliffe called Allen’s appointment “appalling,” noting that he is “someone with a history of intolerance” and said that “the American people are in for a difficult four years” with him at the helm of domestic policy.

Cabinet Nominee Ruled Against Gay Jamaican

Michael Chertoff, President Bush’s new choice to head the Department of Homeland Security, wrote the majority opinion for a three-judge panel of the Third Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals this November that denied asylum to a Jamaican man who had been assaulted in his home country for being gay. As Arthur Leonard wrote in Gay City News, “Oneil Orlando Parker, of Kingston, Jamaica, was found by the immigration judge to have credibly testified that an inflammatory newspaper article outed him in 1999, that he was later threatened and assaulted by members of a neighborhood gang and that his attempts to relocate to other neighborhoods in Jamaica were unsuccessful due to his being recognized.”

Chertoff wrote: “Although Jamaican society evidently takes a harsh view of homosexuality, there is some evidence… that officials recognize that violence against gays is unacceptable.”

Leonard concluded, “The court’s opinion reflects a trend in recent gay asylum cases of denying asylum even where there is significant evidence that gay people in the petitioner’s home country face serious risks to their life and health.”

New York’s senior Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer has already endorsed Chertoff for the cabinet post.

Holy Father Versus Spanish Bishops

You might think world peace might be at the top of the agenda for the Vatican this year, but Pope John Paul II has identified fighting same-sex marriage as the top priority for the Roman Catholic Church. Speaking to diplomats in Rome this week, the pope said, “Today the family is often threatened by social and cultural pressures which tend to undermine its stability; but in some countries, the family is also threatened by legislation which—at times directly—challenge its natural structure, which is and must be that of a union between a man and a woman founded on marriage.”

In Spain, where the government is moving to open marriage to gay folks by this spring, Fernando Sebastian, archbishop of Pamplona, said that there is “a veritable epidemic of homosexuality, a fount of psychological problems and painful frustrations.” He criticized the “stubbornness” of the government of Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero for wanting to treat gay couples equally. The prelate also called the proposal “an arbitrary use of power.”

Kentucky Piles On the Bigotry

Now that Kentucky has banned same-sex marriages, Republican legislators are looking to prohibit protection of gay rights entirely. Representatives Joe Fisher and Stan Lee have introduced a bill to amend the “state’s civil right law to forbid local laws related to “alleged discriminatory practice against a group based on a common trait, characteristic, belief or practice,” the Kentucky Post reported.

Such a law would invalidate municipal gay rights ordinances in such places as Covington, which added sexual orientation to its anti-discrimination statute in 2003. Alex Edmondson, a Covington city commissioner, said that such protections are “crucial for inner city development.”

More State Gay Marriage Bans on Board

South Dakota, Kansas, Arizona, and Virginia all started their legislative sessions with proposals to bar same-sex marriage and other recognition for gay relationships in their state constitutions.

Kansas would bar any sanctions for same-sex couples. The language of the proposed amendment would ban any recognition of relationships other than those between a man and a woman, including same-sex civil unions or domestic partnerships.

Two-thirds of South Dakota legislators surveyed by the Associated Press support such an amendment.

In Arizona, Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano supports an anti-gay marriage amendment and wants it put before voters this year in a special election, rather than in 2006 during her re-election campaign. Like the Ohio amendment that passed in November, this one would bar localities from providing domestic partner benefits in addition to barring same-sex marriage.

The sponsor of the Virginia amendment, Republican Delegate Robert G. Marshall, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that his amendment would bar same-sex marriage and “imitations” of marriage. He called gay weddings “a moral, physiological, and social oxymoron. After 40 years of teaching sex education in the public schools, is this where we are, that two men can marry each other? Even to debate this gives this legitimacy.” Virginia passed a law in 2004 that essentially bars people of the same sex from making any kind of contracts with each other.

Gay Rights on Agenda in Oregon

Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski used his state-of-the-state address to call for passage of a gay and lesbian rights bill there. Oregon’s legislature is also expected to take up a civil unions bill. In November, voters approved an amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage.

The governor called the gay bill “a moral challenge, because if we do not defend social justice, tolerance, and diversity, then the progress we make on the economic front will be bought with compromised principles and a weakened human spirit. That is not a trade-off I can accept.”

Village Gay Landmark Closes

“Good Morning, Gay America”

The Q Television Network is launching a new morning show, “Good Morning, Gay America” in February. The live program will be cablecast from 9-11 a.m. weekdays and include news, interviews, travel and entertainment segments geared to a subscription gay audience. Frank Olsen, the president of the network, said, “We guarantee we will be at every national gay event across the country.”

The show will have “two well-known gay personalities” as co-hosts and 25 correspondents. The network is available on RCN channel 255 in Manhattan, Queens, San Francisco, and Massachusetts, as well as via satellite on C-Band Intelsat 13 (120 degrees west) on Transponder 18.

On Monday night, David Letterman, not known for his sensitivity to gay people, devoted his Top Ten list to upcoming shows on the gay network, including comments such as: “Everybody Loves Raymond…. especially Steve” and “Law and Order: Special Antiquing Unit.”

Oliver Stone’s Folly

Director Oliver Stone complained to the London Telegraph that no one went to see his epic “Alexander” because “the media was using the words ‘Alex the gay.’” He said, “The gays lambasted me for not making Alexander openly homosexual, and, in the Bible Belt, pastors were up in the pulpit saying that to watch this film was to be tempted by Satan.”

While most directors want to make the DVD versions of their films more explicit, the New York Post reports that Stone will now change “the offending scenes” for home viewing. “The bond [between men] can be suggested in different ways.”

Trippi Joins Campaign of Gay Manhattan Beep Candidate

Brian Ellner, an out gay attorney and former school board member seeking the Democratic nomination for Manhattan Borough President, has signed as his campaign’s general consultant, Joe Trippi, the man who made Howard Dean a presidential contender. Joe Trippi said Ellner is “exactly the kind of smart, young, inspirational candidate we need to lead the Democratic Party into the future.”

In a crowded field of Democratic contenders for the Manhattan post being vacated by the term-limited C. Virginia Fields, at least two other gay or lesbian candidates are looking at a run—State Senator Tom Duane, Councilwoman Margarita Lopez. Also expected to run are Carlos Manzano, president of the McManus Democratic Club in Hell’s Kitchen, Council Members Eva Moskowitz and Bill Perkins, and Assemblymen Adriano Espaillat, Keith Wright, and Scott Stringer.

Dean fired Trippi when the campaign started slipping last winter. Trippi just endorsed Simon Rosenberg, founder of the New Democratic Network, chair of the Democratic National Committee, a job Dean is also seeking.