VOLUME 3, ISSUE 349 | Dec. 02 – 08, 2004
Roy Aarons, Pioneering Journalist, Dead at 70
Roy Aarons, an accomplished reporter and editor who founded the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association fifteen years ago, has succumbed to cancer in California. He would have been 71 on December 8.
Leroy F. Aarons, a Bronx native, got his master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University and worked as a national correspondent for the Washington Post for 14 years, once serving as New York bureau chief. He jumped to the Oakland Tribune in 1983 where he rose to executive editor.
In what the New York Times called his “defining moment,” Aarons came out at the convention of the American Society of Newspaper Editors in 1990 where he spoke about the results of a survey of gay men and lesbians working in newsrooms around the country that he had coordinated. “I, as an editor and gay man, am proud of ASNE for having done this study,” he declared.
At the time of the first survey, “fewer than 60 percent of gays said that they had told their colleagues about their sexual orientation.” In 2000, 93 percent said they were out at work.
The NLGJA’s president Eric Hegedus and director, Pam Strother, said in a statement, “Because of Roy’s passion and insight, the NLGJA has made coverage of LGBT issues better at news companies both large and small by creating a valuable resource for non-gay journalists across the country.”
Aarons was president of the NLGJA from 1990-97. Two years after stepping down, he accepted a faculty position at the Annenberg School of Journalism at University of Southern California, directing a program on gay and lesbian issues funded by Michael Huffington. He was also the author, in 1995, of “Prayers for Bobby: A Mother’s Courage Coming to Terms with the Suicide of Her Gay Son,” about Mary Griffith, a fundamentalist mom who became a crusader for LGBT rights after the suicide of her gay son.
Roy Aarons leaves behind his partner of 24 years, Joshua Boneh.
Arnold Tops with California Gay Rights Group
California Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger got a 100 percent rating from Equality California, the state’s gay lobby, for signing every piece of LGBT rights legislation that came to his desk, including an expanded domestic partnership bill. More than half the legislators in Sacramento also rated a perfect score.
“This was a historic, but difficult year for LGBT Californians with the anti-gay politics of the presidential election,” said Geoffrey Kors, the group’s executive director. “When times were difficult, our friends stayed with us.”
Next week, out Assemblyman Mark Leno, a San Francisco Democrat, will reintroduce a bill to open marriage to same-sex couples.
Newspaper Decries Custody Unfairness
Despite a legislature that is determined to deprive gay couples of any possible support, there are voices for justice in Virginia. The Virginia-Pilot editorialized this week in the case of Isabella Miller-Jenkins, born in Vermont to lesbian moms who had a civil union. When the parents split, a Vermont court granted them joint custody. But Lisa Miller-Jenkins, who bore Isabella, fled with the child to Virginia where the courts ruled she was entitled to sole custody based on state law forbidding contracts between same-sex couples.
“Despite the claims of politicians looking to position themselves as tough on homosexuals,” the paper wrote, “what this misguided law effectively did was to allow one parent to take a child away from another by doing no more than crossing the Virginia border, an act that would be illegal—would be a federal crime, in fact—if the couple were heterosexual. And those lawmakers have forced the commonwealth to defend that indefensible position all the way to the Supreme Court.”
Penn. Lesbian Minister on Trial
The Rev. Beth Stroud, a United Methodist Church minister in Germantown, Pennsylvania, is facing a church jury this week for coming out about her relationship with Chris Paige, her same-sex partner. Last May, the church’s high court ruled that such a public declaration by a minister was a “chargeable offense.”
While the Washington Post wrote that it is not clear what defense Stroud could bring against the charge, her co-counsel Alan Symonette, one of her parishioners, told the paper he will “introduce the jury to Beth, who she is and how faithful she is to her calling,” as well as the fact that she is “enthusiastically accepted” by her parish.
Of the 66 clergy who are potential jurors, fourteen were dismissed when they said that they could not in good conscience enforce this church rule.
Stroud, a former editor of LGNY, the predecessor to Gay City News, was out to her congregation about her relationship with Paige for many years. It was her public declaration in her Easter sermon in 2003 that triggered these charges.
Networks Nix Church Pro-Gay Ad
NBC and CBS have refused a 30-second ad from the United Church of Christ because its message welcoming gay people is “too controversial,” a UCC release said. The ad says that, like Jesus, the church “seeks to welcome all people, regardless of ability, age, race, economic circumstances or sexual orientation.”
CBS’s statement to the UCC says, “Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups by other individuals and organizations and the fact that the Executive Branch has recently proposed a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast on the [CBS and UPN] networks.”
According to the release from the UCC, “The debut 30-second commercial features two muscle-bound ‘bouncers’ standing guard outside a symbolic, picturesque church and selecting which persons are permitted to attend Sunday services. Written text interrupts the scene, announcing, ‘Jesus didn’t turn people away. Neither do we.’ A narrator then proclaims the United Church of Christ’s commitment to Jesus’ inclusiveness: ‘No matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.’” The ad can be viewed online at stillspeaking.com
Canterbury: Cut the Bashing
The Rt. Rev. Rowan Williams is warning Anglican leaders around the world that intemperate statements by many of them regarding gay people leaves many of us feeling “that there is no good news for them in the church.” In a November 28 letter, the archbishop wrote, “Remember that in many countries such people face real persecution and cruelty. Even where there are no legal penalties, they suffer from a sense of rejection.” He added that many young gay people “feel that they are condemned not for their behavior but for their nature. Any words that could make it easier for someone to attack or abuse a homosexual person are words of which we must repent.”
Williams is seen as a relative liberal in the Anglican Church. But he scotched the elevation of a celibate gay man to be bishop of Reading last year. And when the Anglican Communion blew up over the consecration of Gene Robinson, an out gay man in a relationship, as bishop of New Hampshire, Williams appointed a commission that urged the Episcopal Church in America to express regret over the move.
Gay Baiting in Kentucky Race
The big issue in Sen. Jim Bunning’s campaign for re-election to the U.S. Senate from Kentucky this year was whether or not anti-gay attacks led to his November victory over his Democratic opponent, Dr. Daniel Mongiardo. The president of the State Senate, David Williams, called Mongiardo a “limp wrist.” State Senator Elizabeth Tori said Mongiardo “is not a gentleman,” adding, “I’m not even sure the word ‘man’ applies to him.”
An AP reporter asked Bunning why he did not stop the anti-gay remarks. “That I wouldn’t take the responsibility for what somebody else said makes me a gay-basher? It’s an absolute lie,” he said.
Mongiardo’s defeat was attributed by a Louisville Courier-Journal columnist to his saying early in the campaign that he opposed a federal constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage, even though the Democrat later said he would not oppose it and was a sponsor of the state amendment banning gay nuptials.
Murderer of Gay Teacher Arrested
Ollie Rockman, 49, a career criminal and paroled murderer, has been arrested for the October 31 slaying of Charles Gibson, 54, a teacher in Chicago. Gibson was brutally killed in his apartment, stabbed multiple times, 365Gay.com reported. The suspect was linked to the crime through DNA testing.
Rockman served 13 years of a 28-year sentence for a 1978 murder. He also had two convictions for child molestation.
The police say that Rockman was not connected to two other murders of gay men this year.
Gay Mayor in Wyoming
Guy Padgett, a gay 27-year-old city councilman in Casper, has unanimously been elected mayor by his fellow council members. He is the youngest person to hold the post and Casper’s first gay mayor.
The Rocky Mountain News reported, “No other council member expressed a desire to be the city’s next mayor before the informal vote was held.” Padgett said that no gay rights organization has approached him about becoming a spokesperson for the cause. He takes office on January 4.
Transgendered Woman Cleared of Falsifying Gender
A Leavenworth, Kansas, judge has ruled that Sandy Clarissa Gast did not intentionally lie when she listed herself as female on an application for a wedding license. She faced a $500 fine if convicted.
Gast, 48, had gender reassignment surgery in October and planned to marry George Somers, but one of his daughters alerted prosecutors that Gast is transgendered. The couple married in a private religious ceremony.
A psychologist testified that she should have been considered a woman even before that. Her defense counsel told the court, “The determination of sex and gender at birth can be flawed.”
Guyana Liberalizes Sex Laws
The government of Guyana announced plans to decriminalize homosexual relations and prostitution and to make condoms available in prisons. Health Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy is asking the Guyana Council of Churches, an influential body in the country, to give him “a pass on this,” the Jamaica-Gleaner reported. The reforms were part of a larger package aimed at stemming the spread of HIV.
Bigotry in Jamaica
A new report by Human Rights Watch found that gay people face “pervasive hostility in almost all levels of Jamaican society, from the police to the pulpit and even popular reggae music,” the AP reported. The government dismissed the findings, demanding details of the allegations.
Reggae singer Sizzla told the BBC this week that he refused to recant his anti-gay murder lyrics. “They can’t ask me to apologize. They’ve got to apologize to God because they break God’s law,” Mr. Sizzla said.
Romania Behind on Gay Issues
Romania’s Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, a Social Democrat, in a run-off election on December 12, is promising economic and social reform, but not when it comes to gay people, a stance that could compromise Romanian entry into the European Union in 2007. Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana said, “If somebody wants to have a personal life in a gay relationship, it’s their problem and the law protects their intimacy. But they should keep it private. I want Romania to have Christian values, family values.”
At the November 15 memorial service at the Ambassador Theater for Fred Ebb, the songwriting partner of John Kander, the eulogizers pulled no punches. Terrence McNally, who collaborated with Ebb on three shows, said, “What do you say about a homophobic, anti-Semitic gay Jew?” According to Playbill, McNally also praised Ebb for his, well, candor: “Fred never lied. You may not like what he has to say, but he’s going to give it to you. It wasn’t something that was always easy to take, but I came to really appreciate it.”
From an Internet posting: “The Republican Party announced today that it is changing its emblem from an elephant to a condom. The committee chairman explained that the condom more clearly reflects the party’s stance today, because a condom accepts inflation, halts production, destroys the next generation, protects a bunch of pricks, and gives you a sense of security while you are actually getting screwed.”
New Ned Rorem Doc
“Ned Rorem: Words and Music,” a new documentary film by James Dowell and John Kolomvakis, will have its New York premier on Monday, December 13 at the Florence Gould Hall, 55 E. 59th St. at 7 p.m. followed by a discussion with the composer and the filmmakers.
The film includes interviews with Edward Albee, Paul Bowles, John Corigliano, Allen Ginsberg, Tim Paige, Edmund White, and Rorem. For tickets, call 212-355-6160.