Gay USA News & Reports 2009 Apr-May

New book 2007: Gay Travels in the Muslim World, Edited by Michael Luongo (ch. 10 by GlobalGayz owner Richard Ammon)
See books reviews: Gay City News and Philadelphia Gay News

1 Iowa marriage no longer limited to one man, one woman 4/09

2 Gay Rights Groups Celebrate Victories in Marriage Push 4/09

3 Faith Groups Increasingly Lose Gay Rights Fights 4/09

4 ‘Deviates’ and ‘Inverts’ 4/09

5 Vote caps decade-long gay marriage fight in Conn. 4/09

6 New Hampshire committee rejects trans protection bill 4/09

7 Gay suicide: Addressing harassment in schools 4/09

8 In Iowa, Same-Sex Couples Rush to Tie the Knot 4/09

9 House votes to extend protection to victims of homophobic hate crimes 4/09

10 California Supreme Court rules school can expel students for being gay 4/09

11 Vermont Legislature OKs Gay Marriage 5/09

12 D.C., Council Approves Recognition of Out-of-State Gay Marriage 5/09

13 Maine Governor Signs Same-Sex Marriage Bill 5/09

14 Souter proves a gay rights surprise 5/09

15 Kirby Dick’s ‘Outrage’ comes at pivotal moment in gay rights fight 5/09

16 Former Catholic Bishop of Milwaukee Says He’s Gay 5/09

17 Gay adoption must be recognized in FLA, thanks to two WA moms 5/09

18 Gregoire expands same-sex partnerships 5/09

19 Clinton to give equal benefits to gay US diplomats 5/09

20 The Triple Minority: Asian, Gay and HIV Positive 5/09

21 California Supreme Court upholds same-sex marriage ban 5/09

22 Prop 8 ruling moves to federal court 5/09

April 3, 2009 – The Des Moines Register

Unanimous ruling: Iowa marriage no longer limited to one man, one woman

by Jeff Eckhoff and Grant Schulte

Basic fairness and constitutional equal protection were the linchpins of Friday’s historic Iowa Supreme Court ruling that overturned a 10-year-old ban on same-sex marriage and puts Iowa squarely in the center of the nation’s debate over gay rights. The unanimous, 69-page decision maintains a church’s right to decide who can be married under its roof, but it runs counter to the expressed opinion of a majority of Iowans who believe marriage is defined as the union of one man and one woman.

The landmark ruling is guaranteed to send shock waves through politics in Iowa and beyond. With no appeal as an option, opponents say their only hope to overturn Friday’s decision is an almost-certain bid to amend the state constitution. But that path, which would eventually require a public vote, would not yield results until 2012 at the earliest. Enactment of an amendment requires approval by consecutive General Assemblies of the Legislature — a General Assembly lasts two years — and a vote of the people.

In the meantime, Iowa remains one of three states in the nation, and the only state in the Midwest, where gays and lesbians can legally marry. The ruling takes effect April 24. Iowa has no residency requirement for marriage licenses, which virtually assures a rush of applications from out-of-state visitors. The ruling opens the marital door to an estimated 5,800 gay couples in Iowa. The Rev. Mark Stringer said he cried when he learned of Friday’s decision. Stringer performed the only legal same-sex marriage in Iowa when he officiated a 2007 ceremony in the brief window between a Polk County judge’s ruling and the subsequent court-ordered delay so the Supreme Court could weigh in.

“It’s really an astounding moment under our history,” Stringer said. “What really excites me is that Iowa is the first in our area of the country. We are being a leader in civil rights, which will be part of our state’s history.” Friday’s decision stemmed from a 2005 lawsuit filed by six gay and lesbian couples who were denied marriage licenses by the Polk County recorder’s office. The seven justices affirmed Polk County Judge Robert Hanson’s ruling that Iowa’s ban on same-sex marriages treated gay and lesbian couples unequally under the law.

“We are firmly convinced that the exclusion of gay and lesbian people from the institution of civil marriage does not substantially further any important governmental objective,” the court said in an opinion written by Justice Mark Cady. “The legislature has excluded a historically disfavored class of persons from a supremely important civil institution without a constitutionally sufficient justification.” The ruling appeared to dismiss the option of civil unions as a marriage alternative, finding that “a new distinction based on sexual orientation would be equally suspect and difficult to square with the fundamental principles of equal protection embodied in our constitution.”

Friday’s decision also addressed what it called the “religious undercurrent propelling the same-sex marriage debate” and said judges must remain outside the fray. “Our constitution does not permit any branch of government to resolve these types of religious debates and entrusts to courts the task of ensuring that government avoids them,” Cady wrote. “This approach does not disrespect or denigrate the religious views of many Iowans who may strongly believe in marriage as a dual-gender union, but considers, as we must, only the constitutional rights of all people, as expressed by the promise of equal protection for all.”

The Polk County lawsuit, Varnum vs. Brien, was financed by Lambda Legal, a gay-rights group that has fought similar battles across the country. “We won! It is unanimous!” Lambda attorney Camilla Taylor exclaimed when the decision was announced. “Today the dream becomes reality … and the Iowa Constitution’s promise of equality is fulfilled. Iowans have never waited for others to do the right thing. ” Lambda chose Iowa because of the fair-mindedness of residents and the courts, leaders of the group have said.

But Iowa also offered several strategic advantages, according to Drake University law professor Mark Kende, who described the ruling as “very well reasoned” and predicted it will have national, possibly international, influence. “There’s a perception of Iowa as a fair, reasonable and decent place,” Kende said. “We’re not perceived as being overly Republican or overly Democrat.” The decision could create new, interstate legal battles, he said, when couples who flock to Iowa to marry might not have their vows recognized in other states that prohibit same-sex marriage.

Opponents, some of whom showed up outside the judicial building early Friday to await the ruling, hung their hopes on a constitutional challenge that legislative leaders said earlier this week was a long shot. Lawyers said Lambda’s decision to sue based solely on state constitutional claims means the case was guaranteed to end in Iowa, away from a more conservative U.S. Supreme Court. Polk County authorities acknowledged Friday that they have no plans to ask for a review by the state high court. An appeal to federal court is not an option, since the Iowa Supreme Court is the final word on matters of Iowa law.

Public opinion is a different matter. A February 2008 Iowa Poll conducted by The Des Moines Register showed that most Iowans believed marriage involves one man and one woman. However, the poll also showed that a majority of Iowa adults supported civil unions that would grant benefits to gay couples similar to those offered to married heterosexuals. For several Iowa couples, Friday’s victory sparked movement on long-held plans. Kate and Trish Varnum, two of the lawsuit plaintiffs, announced their engagement at a news conference.

“Good morning,” Kate Varnum said. “I’d like to introduce you to my fiancee. Today, I am proud to be a lifelong Iowan.” Several blocks away, Diane Thacker’s eyes filled with tears when the ruling was read to a crowd that had gathered outside the Iowa Judicial Building. “Sadness,” she whispered. “But I’m prayerful and hope that God’s word will stand.” Thacker said she joined a group of gay-marriage opponents “because I believe in the marriage vow. I can’t see it any other way.”

Friday’s decision is expected to take formal effect when the Supreme Court issues a legal order to carry out the ruling in three weeks. National interest in the decision is believed to be at least partly responsible for the 1.5 million people who deluged the Iowa Supreme Court’s Web site before 11 a.m. Richard Socarides, a former senior adviser to President Bill Clinton on gay civil rights, said that the ruling could mean as much to gay couples outside Iowa as in.

“I think it’s significant, because Iowa is considered a Midwest state in the mainstream of American thought,” Socarides said . “Unlike states on the coasts, there’s nothing more American than Iowa. As they say during the presidential caucuses, ‘As Iowa goes, so goes the nation.’”

Others saw it differently.
• Doug Napier, a lawyer for the Alliance Defense Fund in Arizona, said the Iowa Supreme Court “stepped out of its proper role in interpreting the law.” The 1998 Defense of Marriage Act “was simple, it was settled, and overwhelmingly supported by Iowans,” Napier said. “There was simply no legitimate reason for the court to redefine marriage.”

• Maggie Gallagher, president of the National Organization for Marriage, a New Jersey group, said, “Once again, the most undemocratic branch of government is being used to advance an agenda the majority of Americans reject.”

• Bishop Richard Pates of the Des Moines Diocese urged “the voice of the Iowa people to rise in support of a constitutional amendment which clearly upholds the definition of marriage. We will then join the deafening chorus of citizens in every state, 30 to date, who have voted to preserve civil marriage as it has been recognized and defined since the beginning of recorded history for the benefit of marriage, families, children and the common good.”

This article includes reporting from Register staff writers Tony Leys, Tom Alex, Reid Forgrave, Michael Morain, Melissa Walker, Jennifer Jacobs, Jason Clayworth and Jason Pulliam.

April 8, 2009 – The New York Tiimes

Gay Rights Groups Celebrate Victories in Marriage Push

by Abby Goodnough
Montpelier, Vt. — Gay-rights groups say that momentum from back-to-back victories on same-sex marriage in Vermont and Iowa could spill into other states, particularly since at least nine other legislatures are considering measures this year to allow marriage between gay couples.
The Vermont Legislature on Tuesday overrode Gov. Jim Douglas’s veto of a bill allowing gay couples to marry, mustering one more vote than needed to preserve the measure.

The step makes Vermont the first state to allow same-sex marriage through legislative action instead of a court ruling, and comes less than a week after the Iowa Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages in that state. New York, New Jersey, Maine and New Hampshire are among the states where such proposals have gained legislative support in recent months.

“This is a reminder to those legislatures that they should finish the job,” said Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry, a national advocacy group based in New York. “Contrary to the claims made by the opponents of equality, it’s not just judges, it’s not just the coasts, and it’s not just going away.” Even opponents of same-sex marriage recognized the week’s developments as a potential watershed moment that could subdue the effect of their Election Day victory in California. Voters there narrowly approved Proposition 8, which amended the state’s Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, effectively reversing a decision by the state’s Supreme Court that had legalized it.

“It’s a bad day for the country,” said Brian Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, a group established to fight same-sex marriage. “There is a palpable sense that something has changed and people need to get active.” Vermont, which in 2000 became the first state to adopt civil unions for gay couples, is now the fourth state to allow same-sex marriage. In addition to Iowa, the others are Connecticut and Massachusetts.

The vote in Vermont came on the same day the Council of the District of Columbia gave preliminary approval to a plan recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. Since Congress has the option of overriding that vote, the battle over same sex-marriage could end up on the federal stage this year. The mood among equal rights advocates is distinctly different now than in recent years, when state after state moved to legally define marriage as between a man and a woman. Voters approved constitutional bans on same-sex marriage in 26 states since the Massachusetts law, a landmark, took effect in 2004; the constitutions of four other states also limit marriage to heterosexuals.

Advocates have acknowledged that they strategically chose the states in which they have won battles for same-sex marriage so far. While states like New York and New Jersey offer strong possibilities for additional victories, many others — especially those with constitutional bans on same-sex marriage — present formidable challenges. Jennifer C. Pizer, the marriage project director for Lambda Legal, said after the Iowa ruling on Friday that the approach in the states with constitutional bans would have to be different. “I think we will have a period that we really haven’t ever seen before in American history,” Ms. Pizer said, “of people needing to undo state constitutional amendments — which is not an easy thing to do.”

Several groups that oppose same-sex marriage suggested Tuesday that the successive victories for gay rights advocates would give the opposition movement new energy. Mr. Brown, of the National Organization for Marriage, said the developments in Iowa and Vermont had prompted his group to start running advertisements against same-sex marriage in several states now, instead of in late spring, as originally planned. In particular, he said, the ruling in Iowa caught opponents off guard and invigorated them because they had not expected it so soon.

His group will hold news conferences Wednesday in New Jersey and Rhode Island to denounce same-sex marriage bills under consideration there. “People are beginning to understand there is a systematic, targeted effort to get same-sex marriage through the legislatures in the Northeast,” he said, “to continue to work through the courts in other states, and ultimately to use these redefinitions of marriage to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act on the federal level.”

The Defense of Marriage Act, passed by Congress in 1996, prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage. It denies federal benefits, like Social Security survivors’ payments, to spouses in such marriages. Last month, a legal advocacy group in Boston filed a lawsuit seeking to have the law overturned on equal protection grounds. Polls suggest that Americans remain divided on the issue. A CBS News poll last week found that while 6 out of 10 Americans think some form of legal recognition is appropriate for same-sex couples, only a third think those couples should be allowed to marry. Americans are somewhat more supportive of same-sex marriage than in 2004, when just 22 percent supported it.

Last month, the House of Representatives in New Hampshire voted narrowly to approve a bill to legalize same-sex marriages. The Senate is expected to take up the bill in the next few weeks. The California Supreme Court is expected to rule in the coming months on a petition to overturn Proposition 8, but many legal scholars have predicted that it will be upheld. In Vermont, approval of the marriage bill had been expected in the Senate, where the vote was 23 to 5. But the outcome in the House of Representatives was not clear until the final moments of a long roll call, when Representative Jeff Young, a Democrat who voted against the bill last week reversed his position.

Two other Democrats who had opposed the bill also supported the override, and one Democrat who had opposed it was absent. The vote was 100 to 49, slightly more than the required two-thirds majority of members present. After the final tally, cheers erupted in both chambers of the State House and in the hallways. Several lawmakers on both sides of the debate looked stunned. Representative Robert South, a freshman Democrat from a conservative district, said he reversed his position after 228 of his constituents reached out and urged him to support the override, compared with 198 who urged him to oppose it.

“It was very difficult for me,” Mr. South said, “because the marriage equality bill, as far as I’m concerned, has split the state. I see how close my numbers are for and against same-sex marriage, and it’s divided my constituents, and that’s what upsets me.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: April 10, 2009
An article on Wednesday about the Vermont Legislature’s overriding of the governor’s veto of a same-sex marriage bill misstated the affiliation of Evan Wolfson, who leads a national advocacy group. He is executive director of Freedom to Marry, not Marriage Equality. The article also misstated, in some editions, the party affiliation of a lawmaker who had opposed the bill who was absent from the override vote. He is a Democrat, not a Republican.

April 10, 2009 – The Washington Post

Faith Groups Increasingly Lose Gay Rights Fights

by Jacqueline L. Salmon, Washington Post Staff Writer
Faith organizations and individuals who view homosexuality as sinful and refuse to provide services to gay people are losing a growing number of legal battles that they say are costing them their religious freedom.

The lawsuits have resulted from states and communities that have banned discrimination based on sexual orientation. Those laws have created a clash between the right to be free from discrimination and the right to freedom of religion, religious groups said, with faith losing. They point to what they say are ominous recent examples:

— A Christian photographer was forced by the New Mexico Civil Rights Commission to pay $6,637 in attorney’s costs after she refused to photograph a gay couple’s commitment ceremony.

— A psychologist in Georgia was fired after she declined for religious reasons to counsel a lesbian about her relationship.

— Christian fertility doctors in California who refused to artificially inseminate a lesbian patient were barred by the state Supreme Court from invoking their religious beliefs in refusing treatment.

— A Christian student group was not recognized at a University of California law school because it denies membership to anyone practicing sex outside of traditional marriage.

"It really is all about religious liberty for us," said Scott Hoffman, chief administrative officer of a New Jersey Methodist group, the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, which lost a property tax exemption after it declined to allow its beachside pavilion to be used for a same-sex union ceremony. "The protection to not be forced to do something that is against deeply held religious principles."

But gay groups and liberal legal scholars say they are prevailing because an individual’s religious views about homosexuality cannot be used to violate gays’ right to equal treatment under the law. "We are not required to pay the price for other people’s religious views about us," said Jennifer Pizer, director of the Marriage Project for Lambda Legal, a gay rights legal advocacy group.

Twelve states now offer some form of same-sex marriage or same-sex partner recognition. Twenty states — including Maryland — and more than 180 cities and counties, including the District, ban discrimination against gays, according to the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group. Virginia bans it against state employees. These laws generally offer some type of exemption to religious entities when hiring employees. But some groups are working to expand that exemption to include commercial businesses to protect owners and their employees when exercising their religious views.

Gay rights groups said they do not object to making faith groups’ religious jobs exempt from the discrimination laws but that offering services to the public is different. "In their role as a participant in the marketplace, they are being required to do that in a non-discriminatory way," said Brian Moulton, Human Rights Campaign senior counsel. Battles are increasingly including private businesses. Last August, the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of Guadalupe Benitez, who is a lesbian, when she sued the North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group after doctors said their religious beliefs prevented them from artificially inseminating her.

"We were devastated," said Benitez, 37, who has been with partner Joanne Clark for almost two decades. Sexual orientation "should never have been an issue," she said. "The issue was that I had a medical condition." The court ruled that North Coast Women’s Care did not have a free-speech right or a religious exemption from the state antidiscrimination law. Sometimes, organizations that don’t wish to serve gays give in rather than go to court.

The online dating site eHarmony agreed to provide gay and lesbian matchmaking services to settle a complaint by a gay New Jersey man accusing it of discrimination. The new site,, started Tuesday. The site eHarmony, founded by evangelical psychologist Neil Clark Warren, does not provide a same-sex option. Warren said his research into successful relationships did not include same-sex couples. Company attorneys said that it settled because of the unpredictable nature of litigation and that New Jersey’s attorney general did not find that eHarmony had violated the state’s anti-discrimination law.

"People seem to say that if you enter the world of commerce, you lose all your First Amendment rights" to free exercise of religion, said Jordan Lorence, senior counsel at the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal organization that has represented several businesses. "They . . . have become nothing more than vending machines, and the government can dictate the conditions under which they dispense their goods and services."

Even when groups opposing homosexuality have prevailed in court, they have gone on to face other setbacks. The Boy Scouts of America won a lawsuit in 2000 because it did not allow openly gay Scouts or Scout leaders. Since then, some private charities have refused to support the Scouts, and some local governments have yanked free use of facilities and other benefits. In Philadelphia, the city is demanding that the Scouts pay $200,000 in annual rent for a building that they had been using rent-free. The dispute is in court.

Some scholars also point to Bob Jones University, which lost its tax exemption over a ban on interracial dating and marriage among students, even though it claimed that those beliefs were religiously grounded. Some legal analysts suggest that religious groups that do not support gay rights might lose their tax exemptions because of their politically unpopular views. Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University who supports same-sex marriage, said the Bob Jones ruling "puts us on a slippery slope that inevitably takes us to the point where we punish religious groups because of their religious views."

Both sides predict more litigation as gay rights bump up against strong religious beliefs. Marc Stern, general counsel for American Jewish Congress, said: "When you have a change that is as dramatic as has happened in the last 10 to 15 years with regards to attitudes toward homosexuality, it’s inevitable it’s going to reverberate in dozens of places in the law that you’re never going to be able to foresee."

April 12, 2009 – The New York Times

‘Deviates’ and ‘Inverts’

A “Rainbow Pilgrimage” is what New York City tourism officials call the marketing campaign they introduced last week. The campaign promotes the city “as a rite of passage for the gay and lesbian traveler” and is timed to coincide with the 40th anniversary of a defining moment in the history of gay rights, the Stonewall rebellion.

Before Stonewall — a clash of protesters and the police after a violent raid on a Greenwich Village bar in June 1969 — the city was a gay destination, but certainly not one promoted by its officials, nor particularly welcomed by the wider public. Consider these excerpts from a front-page article in The New York Times in 1963 under the headline “Growth of Overt Homosexuality in City Provokes Wide Concern.” The article’s language, from sources and reporter alike, is outdated at best, derogatory at worst, and many of its assumptions and assertions are long discredited.

The article draws heavily on a study of gay men by Dr. Irving Bieber, a psychoanalyst who believed that homosexuality was an illness that could be treated or prevented: “Public acceptance, if based on the concept of homosexuality as an illness, could be useful,” he says. “If, by a magic wand, one could eliminate overnight all manifestations of hostility I think there would be a gradual, important reduction in the incidence of homosexuality.”

The study also had some ideas about family ties: “We have come to the conclusion [that] a constructive, supportive, warmly related father precludes the possibility of a homosexual son; he acts as a neutralizing, protective agent should the mother make seductive or close-binding attempts.”

Gay marriage was not even a blip on the horizon: Many homosexuals dream of forming a permanent attachment that would give them the sense of social and emotional stability others derive from heterosexual marriage, but few achieve it. The absence of any legal ties, plus the basic emotional instability that is inherent in many homosexuals, cause most such homosexual partnerships to founder on the jealousies and personality clashes that a heterosexual union would survive.

Under the heading “The Borderline Cases”: There is general belief, however, that strict enforcement of the law against seduction of minors is important to protect borderline cases from adult influences that could swing them toward homosexual orientation when heterosexual adjustment was still possible.

Where and who the “inverts” and “deviates” are: “Inverts are to be found in every conceivable line of work, from truck driving to coupon clipping. But they are most concentrated — or most noticeable — in the fields of the creative and performing arts and industries serving women’s beauty and fashion needs. Some homosexuals claim infallibility in identifying others of their kind “by the eyes — there’s a look that lingers a fraction of a second too long.” Most normal persons believe they have a similar facility in spotting deviates.

April 23, 2009 –

Vote caps decade-long gay marriage fight in Conn.

by Susam Haigh
Hartford, Conn. (AP) — A decade-long battle for marriage equality in Connecticut ended late Wednesday when the General Assembly voted to update the state’s marriage laws to conform with a landmark court ruling allowing gay and lesbian couples to tie the knot. "It feels so good. It really does feel like the book is closing," said Anne Stanback, president of Love Makes a Family, a gay-rights group that has led the fight for same-sex marriage in the state.

A spokesman for Gov. M. Jodi Rell said she will sign the bill, which passed 28-7 in the Senate and 100-44 in the House of Representatives, into law. While Rell, a Republican, signed the state’s 2005 civil unions law, she has said she believes that marriage should be between a man and a woman. The bill comes six months after the State Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that same-sex couples have the right to wed in Connecticut, rather than accept the civil union law designed to give them the same rights as married couples.

It redefines marriage in Connecticut as the legal union of two people. State law previously defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Even if the bill hadn’t passed, same-sex marriage would still be the law in Connecticut because of the court ruling. Proponents say the legislation is needed to phase out civil unions and make sure same-sex couples conform to the state’s marriage laws. Three other states — Massachusetts, Vermont and Iowa — also allow gay marriage.

The Connecticut bill transforms civil unions into marriages as of Oct. 1, 2010, unless they’ve been annulled or dissolved. Many couples with civil unions already have sought marriage licenses since the court decision. In an effort to appease some gay marriage foes, lawmakers amended the bill to show they want to protect religious liberties. For example, it says religious organizations and associations are not required to provide services, goods or facilities for same-sex wedding ceremonies.

"We wanted to make it completely clear that the state of Connecticut fully embraces not only the rights of same-sex couples to marry, but we fully embrace the rights and protections afforded by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and the Connecticut Constitution to the free exercise of religion," said Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford, a gay marriage proponent.

Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut, which opposes gay marriage, considered the amendment "a significant improvement" because the original bill did not include any protections for religious groups such as the Knights of Columbus, which often rents out halls for weddings. "It made a bad bill better," he said.

Carol Gignac, a 62-year-old Roman Catholic from Bristol, clutched her rosary beads as she watched Wednesday’s debate from the Senate gallery. She said she was praying during much of the day for God’s mercy on Connecticut. While resigned to the fact that gay marriage is now the law, Gignac said it bothers her that the court made that decision. "The sad day was the state Supreme Court changing the thousands-of-years definition of marriage as between one man and one woman, across cultures, across times," said Gignac, who wore a sticker on her lapel that read: "Religious Liberty: Our Freedom First."

Rep. Beth Bye, a West Hartford Democrat who is openly gay and recently married her partner, thanked her colleagues for supporting the bill. "I’m grateful that this bill provides the respect and dignity that all marriages in Connecticut deserve," said Bye, who received hugs of congratulations after the final tally. Wednesday’s bill also strips language from a 1991 state anti-discrimination law that says Connecticut does not condone "homosexuality or bisexuality or any equivalent lifestyle," require the teaching of homosexuality or bisexuality "as an acceptable lifestyle," set quotas for hiring gay workers or authorize recognition of same-sex marriage.

McDonald, who is openly gay, said the language is outdated and offensive to gays, lesbians and bisexuals.

April 24, 2009 – PinkNews

New Hampshire committee rejects trans protection bill

by Staff Writer,
The Senate Judiciary Committee of the New Hampshire state Senate has voted 5-0 to reject new protections for trans people.
The bill would have added "gender identity" or "gender expression" to current laws protecting from discrimination on the basis of sex, age, race, creed, colour, sexual orientation or religion.

State representative Ed Butler, who sponsored the bill, said it was "a simple little non-discrimination bill" which would prevent trans individuals from losing their homes and jobs on the basis of their trans status. It passed the state House by just one vote. It will be voted on by the full Senate next week. The Judiciary committee said the Human Rights Commission was equipped to deal with discrimination complaints from trans citizens. It also rejected calls for full same-sex marriage, previously approved by the House.

Since 2008 same-sex couples may enter into a New Hampshire civil union, as long as both parties are at least 18, not a party to another civil union or a marriage and not closely related by blood to their civil partner. Civil unions only provide 400 of the 1100 rights and protections that heterosexual marriage offers.

Gay marriage is legal in Connecticut and Massachusetts. It was legal in California from June 2008 until November, when voters approved Proposition 8, denying gay and lesbian couples the right to marry. Prop 8 is being challenged in the courts.

April 24, 2009 – The Salt Lake City Tribune

Gay suicide: Addressing harassment in schools

by Charles Robbins And Eliza Byard
The affect of language and behavior can be deadly, especially in a school environment where young people are already highly impressionable and vulnerable. Unfortunately, this difficult lesson has been conveyed many times when young people resort to drastic and permanent measures to escape the despair of enduring constant bullying and harassment at school.

It is deeply disturbing that on April 6, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, an 11-year-old sixth-grader from Springfield, Mass., hanged himself with an extension cord in his family’s home after being subjected to continuous anti-gay bullying and harassment at his middle school. It is equally as disheartening that on April 16, less than two weeks later, Jaheem Herrera, an 11-year-old fifth-grader from DeKalb County, Ga., also hanged himself at home after being the subject of anti-gay taunts from his classmates. These were two completely separate and isolated instances, but the tragic and preventable nature of each unfortunate loss of life remains the same.

Neither Carl nor Jaheem identified as gay, yet their peers’ defamatory language and hurtful behaviors broke the barriers of sexual orientation and gender identity. Being taunted as "faggot," "queer" or "homo" by classmates is offensive and demeaning to any student — straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning alike.

Carl is the fourth middle school student this year to complete suicide due to bullying, and Jaheem was still in elementary school. Older students are also at a high risk, as suicide is one of the top three causes of death among 15 to 24 year olds and the second leading cause of death on college campuses. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers, and those who come from a rejecting family are up to nine times more likely to do so.

Two of the top three reasons secondary school students said their peers were most often bullied at school were actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender expression, according to a 2005 report by GLSEN and Harris Interactive. In addition, The Trevor Project fields tens of thousands of calls from young people each year, both straight and LGBT-identified, with rejection and harassment by peers being one of the top five issues reported by callers.

In the same GLSEN and Harris report, more than a third of middle and high school students said that bullying, name-calling and harassment is a somewhat or very serious problem at their school. Furthermore, two-thirds of middle school students reported being assaulted or harassed in the previous year and only 41 percent said they felt safe at school.

Enough is enough. It is time for school administrators, educators, parents, students and the government to work together to stop bullying and harassment in schools. Furthermore, we must teach young people to understand the profound impact of words and actions, and to recognize depression and suicidal ideations amongst their peers. By helping young people take responsibility for their actions and respect their peers, and simultaneously empowering them with the knowledge and skills they need to understand when their classmates are in crisis, we can work toward ending the dual epidemics of school bullying and youth suicide once and for all.

We as parents, teachers and concerned citizens can do our part to protect students by speaking out and demanding that anti-bullying and harassment programs and suicide prevention education are mandated in all schools. We can seek commitment from the government to end bullying by training educators on how to effectively intervene, teaching students to respect and help one another, and ensuring that all students know how to reach out to a peer who may be in crisis. We must lead by example and remember that the language we choose is easily repeated by young people. We must listen to children when they reach out for help, and demonstrate to them that we willbe understanding and non-judgmental if they need to talk.

Days like the GLSEN-sponsored National Day of Silence bring attention to anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools. On this day, thousands of students call for practical, appropriate interventions that work, hoping tomove us closer to a future where every child can go to school free from fear. Weeks including the National Suicide Prevention Week encourage programs to increase suicide prevention efforts, including initiatives supported by The Trevor Project to protect LGBT youth.

It is our hope that in memory of Carl and Jaheem, and in honor of all young people who have completed suicide after enduring constant torment at school, we will be able to work together to promote school environments that celebrate diversity and encourage acceptance of all people. Only then will we be confident that our children are receiving the respect and education they deserve today in order to become the successful and equality-minded leaders of tomorrow.

Charles Robbins is the Executive Director & CEO of The Trevor Project and Eliza Byard, Ph.D., is the Executive Director, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN).

April 28, 2009 – The Washington Post

In Iowa, Same-Sex Couples Rush to Tie the Knot – Marriage Ruling Goes Into Effect

by Amy Lorentzen, Associated Press
Des Moines – Same-sex couples in Iowa began holding hastily planned weddings Monday as the state became the third to allow gay marriage. Within hours of a state Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage taking effect, several same-sex couples had exchanged vows on the steps of the Polk County Administrative Building. "It’s not very romantic, is it?" Melisa Keeton joked, referring to the location of the ceremony and the media attention, before marrying Shelley Wolfe.

The couple were allowed to wed after getting a judge to waive the state’s three-day waiting period. The waiver was granted after the couple said the wait was stressful to Keeton, who is pregnant and due in August. The couple, who will go by the last name Keeton, were married by the Rev. Peg Esperanza of the Church of the Holy Spirit. Esperanza, a lesbian who plans to marry her partner in October, later solemnized the weddings of at least two other couples.

On April 3, the Iowa justices upheld a lower court ruling that rejected a state law restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples. With the decision, Iowa joins Massachusetts and Connecticut in allowing same-sex marriages. A Vermont law legalizing gay marriage will take effect in September. A handful of Iowa’s largest counties saw a rush of marriage applications from same-sex couples Monday. Officials said the Polk County Recorder’s Office had received 82 such applications by 4 p.m.

One was filed by Alicia Zacher, 24, and Jessica Roach, 22. They later got a waiver and planned to get married as soon as possible, noting that California voters reinstated a ban on same-sex marriage last year. "You just never know when they’ll try to take it away," Roach said.

Some judges refused to issue waivers to same-sex couples. In Cerro Gordo County, District Court Judge Colleen Weiland said she was presented with two applications from same-sex couples and denied both. "Some judges, frankly, interpret it a lot more leniently than I do," she said of Iowa’s law concerning waivers. "The ones that were presented this morning I didn’t believe to be an emergency or extraordinary circumstance."

A poll by the University of Iowa taken just before the high court’s ruling showed 26 percent of Iowans support gay marriage. That number rises to more than 50 percent when people were asked whether they supported either gay marriage or civil unions. Bryan English of the Iowa Family Policy Center, which opposes same-sex marriage, said the legislature and Gov. Chet Culver (D) had put some "poor county recorders in an awfully tough position today" by not working to block the court’s ruling from taking effect.

The group wants the state to begin the multiyear process of amending Iowa’s constitution to overturn the court decision. Culver and majority Democrats have refused, which Republicans said will hurt Democrats in the 2010 elections. The only recourse available to gay-marriage opponents in Iowa appears to be a constitutional amendment, which cannot get on the ballot until 2012 at the earliest. A constitutional convention could be called earlier but is unlikely.

April 30, 200 – PinkNews

US House votes to extend protection to victims of homophobic hate crimes

by Jessica Geen
The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, also known as the Matthew Shepard Act, has been passed by the US House of Representatives. The bill expands federal hate crime laws to include crimes where the victims were targeted on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender, and disability. It means the federal government could step in to prosecute in states that request it or in those who choose not to prosecute.
The Senate version of the bill is to be introduced soon by Senator Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat.

President Obama has indicated that if the bill comes to his desk he will sign it, releasing a statement prior to yesterday’s vote. He said: "I urge members on both sides of the aisle to act on this important civil rights issue by passing this legislation to protect all of our citizens from violent acts of intolerance." He added it would "enhance civil rights protections, while also protecting our freedom of speech and association."

The bill, which passed 249-175, has been dubbed the Matthew Shepard bill after the gay teenager who was brutally murdered in 1998. A North Carolina congresswoman was forced to apologise this week after she called the murder a "hoax" to justify passing the bill, saying Mr Shepard had died in a robbery. Republican representative Virginia Foxx later said she had used "a poor choice of words," adding that his killers deserved their punishment of life imprisonment terms.

Opponents have argued that the bill is divisive and could cause religious leaders to be prosecuted. Representative Lamar Smith, a Texas republican, said the bill "divides America" by protecting special groups. "We should focus on the opposite, uniting America," he said. "The bill is probably unconstitutional and will be struck down."

April 30, 2009 – PinkNews

California Supreme Court rules school can expel students for being gay

by Henrietta Ronson
A lower-court ruling that said a private religious high school could expel gay students was confirmed by the California’s Supreme Court yesterday. Two girls were expelled from California Lutheran High School after the prinicpal questioned their sexual orientation. The school is not covered by California civil rights law, the ruling said. The parents of the two girls appealed their expulsion but the review was denied. Their lawyer, Kirk Hanson, said that ruling would consequently allow private schools to indiscriminately expel students on any basis they choose, including sexual orientation and religion.

In September, 2005, after another student reported postings on the girls’ MySpace pages, the principal, Gregory Bork, called them into his office in and questioned them over their sexuality. The girls were suspended based on the answers that they gave and a month later, were expelled. The two girls have since graduated from another high school The parents sued under the 1959 Unruh Act, a civil rights act which forbids discrimination by businesses. Since 2005, the act has been amended to include bias based on sexual orientation and someone else’s perception of sexual orientation. While state law prohibits anti-gay bias, it does not extend to private schools and is only relevant to the public sector.

In January, the Fourth District Court of Appeal in San Bernardino said the school was not a business but was a social organisation entitled to found and follow its own principles. This decision relies on the basis of a 1998 state Supreme Court ruling that allowed the Boy Scouts to exclude gays and atheists. Like the Boy Scouts, the board of appeals maintains that a private religious school exists mainly to instill its values in young people. Mr Hanson strongly disagrees with this comparison and expounds that unlike the Boy Scouts, a private school provides education that is required by state law and has a business connection, because it "promotes the economic interests of the students."

May 3, 2009 –

Vermont Legislature OKs Gay Marriage

by John Dillon
Vermont’s Legislature overruled Republican Gov. Jim Douglas’ veto and became the fourth state to legalize gay marriage.

The Senate voted 23-5 and the House 100-49 to get the two-thirds needed in each chamber for a veto override. Vermont is not the first state to legalize gay marriage without being prompted by a court order. Nine years ago, it was the first state in the nation to approve civil unions.

May 5, 2009 – The New York Times

Washington, D.C., Council Approves Recognition of Out-of-State Gay Marriage

by Liz Robbins
The Washington City Council on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a bill that recognizes gay marriages performed in other states, a vote could have far wider implications beyond the District of Columbia. Amid growing momentum from states approving gay marriage, the federal government will have the chance to debate the issue because of a rule that charges Congress with approving the laws of the city. The bill, which was approved by a 12-1 vote after an emotional debate, must first be signed by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, a step that is considered a formality since he has already said he supports the measure. Then the committees in the House and Senate that oversee the District of Columbia would have 30 session days to review the law.

To overturn it, the House and Senate would have to send a joint resolution to President Obama for his signature. If Congress chooses not to take action within those 30 days, however, the law would automatically go into effect. “We’re very excited about today — we’ll worry about tomorrow’s battle tomorrow,” David Catania, the council’s first openly gay member when he was elected in 1997, said in a telephone interview. “This is the culmination of a long journey as we attempt to be true to our motto — ‘Justice for All.’”

Mr. Catania added that the council had sent a powerful message, “that marriage equality will be the law of this land, it’s only a matter of time.” The vote in Washington came on the same day that the Maine House of Representatives voted to legalize same-sex marriage. If formally approved by the state Senate and approved by Gov. John Baldacci, Maine would be the fifth state to legalize gay marriage, joining Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts and Vermont. New York recognizes gay marriages performed in other states.

Usually, Congressional approval of District laws is considered more of a “passive review,” Mr. Catania said. But in this instance, the review would most likely take on a sharper tone. Currently, the the federal Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 defines marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman and allows states not to recognize same-sdex marriages performed by other states. However, if Congress approves the District’s measure, same-sex couples who married in other states would be granted such legal rights as joint filing of city tax returns and all private health care and pension benefits that are afforded heterosexual couples.

As much as the anticipated vote was a milestone, Mr. Catania said it was intended as a precursor to legalize gay marriage in the District. Indeed, he said he planned to introduce that bill at a later date. The council first voted unanimously and without debate to approve the bill, but Marion Barry, a council member and former mayor, said he misunderstood the measure and requested another vote. He then voted against it.He called it an "agonizing and difficult decision," according to The Associated Press, and one that he arrived at after consulting ministers. A call to Mr. Barry’s office for comment was not immediately returned.

According to The Washington Post, he later told reporters: “All hell is going to break lose. We may have a civil war. The black community is just adament against this.” But Mr. Catania, who is one of two gay members of the council, said, “I just know in my mind and heart, he will regret this vote.”

May 6, 2009 – The New York Times

Maine Governor Signs Same-Sex Marriage Bill

by Abby Goodnough
Boston – Gov. John Baldacci of Maine signed a same-sex marriage bill on Wednesday minutes after the Legislature sent it to his desk, saying he had reversed his position because gay couples were entitled to the state Constitution’s equal rights protections.
“It’s not the way I was raised and it’s not the way that I am,” Mr. Baldacci, a Democrat, said in a telephone interview. “But at the same time I have a responsibility to uphold the Constitution. That’s my job, and you can’t allow discrimination to stand when it’s raised to your level.”

Yet gay couples may not be able to wed in Maine anytime soon. Laws typically go into effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns, which is usually in late June. But opponents have vowed to pursue a “people’s veto,” or a public referendum, in which Maine voters could overturn the law. The opponents would be required to collect about 55,000 signatures within 90 days of the Legislature’s adjourning to get a referendum question on the ballot. If they succeeded, the law would be suspended until a vote could be held. Depending on how soon signatures were collected, that would be in November or the following June.

The Rev. Bob Emrich, a leader of the Maine Marriage Alliance, one of the chief opposition groups, said he believed the law would be overturned but not without an intensive campaign. “It’s not automatic by any means,” Mr. Emrich said. “The proponents of changing the law and redefining marriage, they are very well funded, they have a great organization, and they’ve been at this a long time.”

Maine is the fifth state to legalize same-sex marriage, and the bill’s enactment comes almost five years after Massachusetts became the first in the nation to do so. The other states are Connecticut, Iowa and Vermont. The New Hampshire legislature gave final passage on Wednesday to a same-sex marriage bill, but Gov. John Lynch has not said if he will sign it. Mr. Lynch, a centrist Democrat, has said in the past that marriage should be limited to a man and a woman. Once the bill reaches his desk, he will have five days to act on it.

Mr. Baldacci announced his decision in Augusta, Me., about an hour after the State Senate gave final passage to the bill, which codifies marriage as a legally recognized union between two people regardless of sex. Under state law, the governor had 10 days to sign the bill, veto it or let it become law without his signature. But Mr. Baldacci, who cannot seek re-election because of term limits, said he had spent considerable time researching the legal ramifications of denying gay men and lesbians the right to marry. Mr. Baldacci earlier supported civil unions for gay couples, which are legally recognized and provide many of the state rights and privileges that marriage does. Civil unions are legal in New Jersey, Connecticut and Vermont, but the latter two states are phasing them out after adopting same-sex marriage laws.

Since Vermont became the first state to allow civil unions in 2000, gay-rights supporters have increasingly said they relegate same-sex couples to a separate and unequal category. Mr. Baldacci said his past opposition to same-sex marriage stemmed from his Roman Catholic upbringing. Exploring his feelings on the matter — and listening to those of other Maine residents — was, he said, “very emotional, very much a sort of baring of the soul that you’re listening to and going through yourself.”

He described voters as “the ultimate political power in this state,” and said it was important for them to weigh in, too. “I think they will see the reasoning that I had in regards to the issue,” he said, “but it’s their right to put their stamp on it.”

Katie Zezima contributed reporting from Augusta, Me.

May 6, 2009 – Detroit News

Souter proves a gay rights surprise

by Deb Price
When David Souter was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1990, gay-rights groups quickly lined up to oppose him: Three years earlier, as a state judge he had signed onto an advisory opinion saying nothing prevented New Hampshire from banning gay adoption. But once on the court, Souter stepped into the shoes of civil rights giant William Brennan and quietly grew into them. What a joyful surprise Souter’s nearly two-decade run turned out to be. Using his intellectual gifts and good heart, Souter helped produce a warming trend, enabling the court to begin moving away from four decades of icy treatment of gay men and lesbians.

Thanks to Souter, the court turned a major corner in 1995, when a unanimous opinion that he wrote for the court finally used the respectful term "gay." Souter’s ruling also spoke respectfully of Massachusetts’ gay-rights law, igniting the hope that major breakthroughs would come soon. The first–Romer v. Evans–came the very next year. Souter voted with the majority in ruling gay Americans have a right to equal protection of the laws. He also voted with the majority in the landmark Lawrence v. Texas decision, which in 2003 declared gay Americans have a right to sexual privacy.

In between, Souter wrote a gay-friendly dissent to the 2000 ruling allowing the Boy Scouts to ban gay scoutmasters. And, in a 1998 signal that the court was not undercutting Romer, Souter signed onto an unusual statement by Justice John Paul Stevens stressing that the court’s refusal to hear a challenge to a sweeping anti-gay amendment in Cincinnati "is not a ruling on the merits." Within his own chambers, as my co-author Joyce Murdoch and I documented in "Courting Justice: Gay Men and Lesbians v. the Supreme Court," Souter reacted respectfully when one of his law clerks came out. Souter hired another clerk who was a gay-rights scholar.

Souter, appointed by a Republican president, added a parting gift: By choosing to retire when a gay-supportive Democrat will pick his successor, he likely ensured the court will continue its trend toward reading gay rights into the Constitution’s promises of equality. Obama offered a hint at what Souter’s replacement may look like when he said two years ago that he’d appoint justices with the "empathy to recognize what it’s like to be a young, teenaged mom … to be poor or African-American or gay or disabled or old."

More recently, Obama vowed to "seek someone who understands that justice" affects whether people feel "welcome in their own nation." That kind of Souter replacement would maintain what’s now believed to be a 5-4 split in favor of basic gay rights. She — or he — will join the court’s progressive wing amid a sea change in public attitudes and legal rights for those of us who are gay.

Knowledge of that "real world" could prove helpful: Unless Congress finally addresses two pressing injustices, the court might hear challenges in the next few years to the bans on openly gay soldiers and on federal benefits for same-sex married couples, notes gay law scholar Arthur Leonard. Souter’s replacement hopefully will feel a special kinship to him, as he did to Brennan. Even when ruling against a specific gay group in 1995 — declaring that forcing organizers of Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade to let an Irish-American gay group participate would violate the First Amendment — Souter was careful not to suggest the court agreed with anti-gay prejudices.

Thank you, Justice Souter, for making gay Americans feel more welcome in our own nation. (202) 662-8736

May 8, 2009 – The Los Angeles Times

Kirby Dick’s ‘Outrage’ comes at pivotal moment in gay rights fight

by Tina Daunt
"Outrage," the biting new political documentary by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Kirby Dick that opens today in Los Angeles, candidly explores the murky intersection between private lives and public conduct.
Dick’s thesis is that Washington’s closeted homosexual lawmakers, most of them members of the GOP, staunchly — often stridently — oppose equal rights measures for gays because they’re anxious to conceal their own sexual orientation. He also shares a sentiment voiced by openly gay Democratic Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts who told the filmmakers that his Republican colleagues have "a right to privacy, but there’s no right to hypocrisy."

So in that spirit, the film does what no mainstream cinematic treatment of this issue has done before: It names names. All the law and policymakers identified have previously been "outed" in print or online, but most either deny being gay or simply decline to comment on privacy grounds. Among those named in "Outrage" are veteran California Rep. David Dreier, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, ex-Louisiana Congressman Jim McCrery, former New York City Mayor Ed Koch and ex-Idaho Sen. Larry Craig, whose notorious 2007 arrest on suspicion of lewd conduct in a Minneapolis airport men’s room effectively ended his political career.

McCrery, who now works as a lobbyist in Washington, said in an interview this week that he had heard about the film but has not seen it. "This is not the first time I’ve had to deal with this sort of thing," McCrery said. "It’s best for me — and I would tell anyone else mentioned in the film — not to comment on it." Does he think it’s a violation of his privacy? "I don’t think it’s right," he said about efforts to out public officials. "I don’t think it’s something people should do. Other than that, I don’t want to comment."

The film’s searching look within the political closet comes at a pivotal moment. With same-sex marriage court decisions and legislative bills sweeping the country from Maine to New York and from Iowa to California, the question of equal rights for gays and lesbians has surfaced once again on the national political agenda. Legal analysts predict that the California Supreme Court will uphold Prop. 8’s ban on same-sex marriage within the next few weeks, triggering a rush to qualify a marriage equality initiative for the next statewide ballot. Meanwhile, the organizers of Prop. 8’s narrow electoral victory are not only gearing up for another bitter and expensive fight in California, but also offering their expertise to backers of traditional marriage who hope to overturn their own court decisions or newly enacted laws on marriage equality.

Though "Outrage" will initially be seen in limited release in selected cities, it’s expected to attract influential audiences in important political organizing and fundraising centers such as Los Angeles, Washington and New York. Dick actually became interested in the issue several years ago while in Washington, D.C., to promote his last documentary, "This Film Is Not Yet Rated," an exposé of the motion picture rating system. He suddenly became aware, he said, of Capitol Hill’s large gay population.

"At the time, I was just curious and I started talking to people about it," recalled Dick, who is heterosexual. "That’s when the next step came, the revelation that there are actually closeted politicians who are voting anti-gay. I said, ‘OK, this is a very fascinating subject.’ " It’s also one that coincides with his own politics. "Gay rights is the most important human rights issue in the country at this point," explained the bookishly handsome 56-year-old during a recent interview in his Silver Lake home. "I think we are all harmed by the fact that gays and lesbians don’t have full human rights."

Dick, whose 2004 exploration of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church — "Twist of Faith" — earned him an Oscar nomination, chose not to directly confront any of the allegedly closeted politicians identified in his new film, relying instead on archival footage for the responses provided. "For the most part they have been asked those questions [by others]," he says, "and they answered them in the film much more than they would ever speak to us."

He does, however, present such well-known gay commentators as blogger Michael Rogers, playwright Larry Kramer and satellite radio host Michelangelo Signorile, as well as openly gay current and former office-holders, including Rep. Tammy Baldwin, former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey and ex-Arizona Congressman Jim Kolbe. "They were all so articulate," Dick said. "These are people, regardless of whether they’re Republican or Democrat, who have all really thought about these issues, who have all been very affected by them personally."

To help fund the film, Dick turned in part to Democratic political consultant Chad Griffin, whose clients include Rob Reiner and Steve Bing. Griffin, a gay activist, saw it as an important opportunity. "I think it’s going to have a tremendous impact in the movement for equality," Griffin said. Under Dick’s direction, McGreevey and Kolbe discuss candidly their struggle to disclose their homosexuality. Kolbe recalled a powerful conversation he had with Sen. John McCain in which Kolbe, a Republican, announced that he was gay. McCain told him that he already knew. "He said, ‘it doesn’t make any difference. You are a good legislator and you’re always going to be my friend.’ "I couldn’t wait to pick up the phone and make the next call," Kolbe says in the movie.

Coming out was the most "lifting experience I’ve ever had," he said. "I’ve had this incredible sense of peace and calm come over me. I literally felt 40 years lifting off my shoulders." By coincidence, Dick says, "I started the film two months before [former Republican Congressman Mark] Foley came out and a year before Larry Craig was arrested. Even though there’s no real breakthrough in terms of ‘news’ in the film, there’s still something very, very revelatory about it all." It is luck of timing that those revelations — whatever audiences make of them — are arriving in theaters at the moment when the nation is clarifying its stand on gays rights. No documentary filmmaker could ask for more. Freelance writer Gary Goldstein contributed to this article.

May 12, 2009 – ABC News

Former Catholic Bishop of Milwaukee Says He’s Gay
: Roman Catholic archbishop who stepped down in disgrace reveals in memoir that he’s gay

by Rachel Zoll – The Associated Press
New York(AP) – A Roman Catholic archbishop who resigned in 2002 over a sex and financial scandal involving a man describes his struggles with being gay in an upcoming memoir about his decades serving the church.
Archbishop Rembert Weakland, former head of the Milwaukee archdiocese, said in an interview Monday that he wrote about his sexual orientation because he wanted to be candid about "how this came to life in my own self, how I suppressed it, how it resurrected again." Called "A Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church: Memoirs of a Catholic Archbishop," the book is set to be released in June.

"I was very careful and concerned that the book not become a Jerry Springer, to satisfy people’s prurient curiosity or anything of this sort," Weakland told The Associated Press. "At the same time, I tried to be as honest as I can." Weakland stepped down soon after Paul Marcoux, a former Marquette University theology student, revealed in May 2002 that he was paid $450,000 to settle a sexual assault claim he made against the archbishop more than two decades earlier. The money came from the archdiocese.

Marcoux went public at the height of anger over the clergy sex abuse crisis, when Catholics and others were demanding that dioceses reveal the extent of molestation by clergy and how much had been confidentially spent to settle claims. Weakland denied ever assaulting anyone. He apologized for concealing the payment. The Vatican says that men with "deep-seated" attraction to other men should not be ordained. In an August 1980 letter that was obtained by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Weakland said he was in emotional turmoil over Marcoux and that he had "come back to the importance of celibacy in my life." He signed the letter, "I love you."

The revelations rocked the Milwaukee archdiocese, which Weakland had led since 1977. He was a hero for liberal Catholics nationwide because of his work on social justice and other issues, The archbishop, now 82, said he seriously considered the potential pain for the archdiocese of renewing attention to the scandal and thought about waiting "until I was dead" to have it published. But he decided to move ahead with the project.

"What I felt was that people who loved me as bishop here, when they read the book will continue to love me. The people who found it difficult, I hope will be helped a little bit by the book," he said. In a sign of the deep emotions still surrounding Weakland and his departure, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee has released a public statement alerting local Catholics to the upcoming book.

"Some people will be angry about the book, others will support it," the archdiocese said. Weakland also writes about his failures to stop sexually abusive priests. In a videotaped deposition released last November, Weakland admitted returning guilty priests to active ministry without alerting parishioners or police. "Any deposition is just a part of a whole picture and that picture has not been painted yet. And anybody can take out of that any sentence they want," Weakland said in the interview. "I try to deal with this, I hope in an honest way, admitting my weaknesses in not being able to see this earlier, but at the same time doing what I could confront it."

Advocates for abuse victims said that Weakland’s cover-up of his own sexual activity was part of a pattern of secrecy that included concealing the criminal behavior of child molesters. Weakland, a Benedictine monk, served in Rome as leader of the International Benedictine Confederation and also worked on a liturgy commission for the Second Vatican Council, which made reforms in the 1960s meant to modernize the church. Weakland said he wrote in the memoir that he was unprepared for "how lonely it is" to be a bishop and how difficult it can be to get the "feedback and support you need."

U.S. Catholics have long debated whether the priesthood had become a predominantly gay vocation. Estimates vary from 25 percent to 50 percent, according to a review of research on the issue by the Rev. Donald Cozzens, author of "The Changing Face of the Priesthood." Weakland said Christians needed to speak more openly about gays in the priesthood without the "hysteria" that often characterizes the debate. The archbishop has been living in a retirement community near the Milwaukee archdiocese and plans to move to St. Mary’s Abbey in Morristown, N.J., this summer. He said he was not bitter about how the scandal had eclipsed his decades of work in the church. "I refused to let myself become a victim and refused to let myself become angry," he said. "I want to take responsibility but I want to move on."

May 16, 2009 –

Gay adoption must be recognized in Florida, thanks to two Washington moms

The state appeals court in Florida has ruled that adoptions by same-sex couples in other states must be recognized. This is a blow to the state’s ban on gay adoption. The ruling comes in the case of two mothers from Washington State, Kimberly Ryan and Lara Embry. As a same-sex couple in Seattle, each of the women gave birth to a child. Both children were officially adopted by the second woman.

The couple then moved to Florida and eventually split, agreeing to share custody, according to the Seattle PI. When Ryan got engaged to a man, she refused to allow Embry access to her child, citing her new Christian beliefs. Embry sued for custody rights and demanded to be allowed to see the child she had adopted. The lower court ruled that Embry had no rights to see the child, since Florida had a ban on gay adoption and gave no rights to same-sex adoptive parents. The court ruled that the adoption in Washington State should not be recognized in Florida.

The ruling was reversed by an appeals court last week. Ryan plans to appeal the decision, with the help of the Liberty Counsel, a conservative Christian legal group. The state of Florida is also appealing a circuit court ruling that the ban on gay adoption violates the equal protection rights for the children of gay parents.

Source: Seattle PI

May 18, 2009 – The Seattle Times

Gregoire expands same-sex partnerships

by Lornet Turnbull, Seattle Times staff reporter
Surrounded by about 300 people — most of them gay and lesbian couples and their children — Gov. Chris Gregoire on Monday signed legislation giving registered same-sex domestic partners all the rights and benefits that Washington now offers married couples.
The law will take effect July 26 unless opponents seeking to repeal it can collect enough signatures to get a referendum on the November ballot.

A network of conservative and religious organizations, through a public action committee called Protect Marriage Washington, plans to begin collecting signatures to repeal the measure under Referendum 71. However, they have to wait a full week to see if someone challenges the referendum’s ballot title in court. They will then have about 60 days — until July 25 — to collect 120,577 signatures. If they are successful, the law would be suspended until voters decide the referendum.

Several gay-rights advocacy groups, through a campaign called Decline 2 Sign, are seeking to raise money to turn back the challenge. The bill signing by Gregoire at Seattle’s Montlake Community Center was a festive event, marking a significant milestone for the state’s same-sex couples. The legislation expands on previous domestic-partnership laws by adding such partnerships to all remaining areas of state law that now address only married couples. The measure also extends coverage to unmarried heterosexual couples when one person is at least 62.

As of Monday, there were 5,395 registered domestic partners, representing every county in the state. The signing comes three years after the state Supreme Court ruled against 11 gay and lesbian couples seeking the right to marry in Washington and upheld the state’s Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that limits marriage to one man and one woman. Charlene Strong, a Seattle woman who was instrumental in the initial push for changes in the law after her partner drowned in the flooded basement of their Madison Valley home, said while she is thrilled with the advancements, she’s eager for the next step: reversal of DOMA. "It is important for us to sit and talk to those who oppose us," Strong said. "We need them to hear us, to meet our families . They speak from a place of fear. We need them to speak from a place of understanding."

Gary Randall, president of the Faith and Freedom Network, which is leading the campaign to repeal the measure, wondered aloud whether there was a concerted effort on Gregoire’s part to delay the signing to give opponents a shorter time to collect signatures. He plans to move forward with the referendum, he said, because he believes it’s the right thing to do to prevent gay-rights supporters from taking the next step and pushing for gay marriage in this state. The institution of marriage might not be perfect, he said, "but that’s no reason to redefine it."

Lornet Turnbull: 206-464-2420 or

May 22, 2009 – PinkNews

Clinton to give equal benefits to gay US diplomats

by Staff Writer,
Gay partners of US diplomats stationed overseas are to receive equal benefits in plans unveiled by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Howard Berman, head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, had asked the State Committee to ensure benefits such as medical care, transport between postings and security training were offered to same-sex partners. In a hearing on funding for the Foreign Service, he said: "It is my expectation, based on very recent conversations, that the Secretary of State will move forward with implementing all of the benefits provided in that provision in the very near future."

Michael Guest, a former US ambassador to Romania, spoke at the hearing. He left the Foreign Service in 2007, citing unfair treatment of his partner.

Berman said: "For 26 years he served our country with distinction and was sadly forced to leave the Foreign Service when he could no longer accept the second-class status accorded his lifetime partner. "But I am heartened that soon no more of our best and brightest will be forced to choose between family and country."

May 20, 2009 – New America Media

The Triple Minority: Asian, Gay and HIV Positive

by Viji Sundaram, New America Media, News Report
San Francisco – When Jane and Alexander Nakatani lost their three sons – two to AIDS, and one to a bullet – they knew they had to shed their “Asian” inhibitions. They realized that they needed to educate people about how “delicate” the psyche of immigrant children is, and that parenting them should not be taken lightly.
“Three months before Guy (their youngest son) died, he told me he was a triple minority,” an emotional Alexander Nakatani told a gathering at the Asian & Pacific Islander Wellness Center (APIWC). “He was Asian, gay and HIV positive.”

Nakatani admitted that the struggles his sons faced were in large part because none of them turned out to be the son he and his wife wanted. Guy died in 1997 from complications stemming from AIDS, just four years after his older brother had died from the same disease. Guy was 27. The Nakatanis were honored by the Asian & Pacific Islander Wellness Center for their efforts to transform their tragedy into hope, and to create public awareness about HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, in Asian American communities. The couple has embarked on a “mission” to share their story of tolerance, acceptance and healing.

Their story is told in the book and film, “Honor Thy Children,” which was screened at the center on Monday. “It’s not a story simply about our family, but a story about children who grew up stigmatized and marginalized,” said Nakatani, after the screening of the powerful 90-minute documentary, during which his wife sat crying quietly. “It’s about how delicate and fragile children are.”

The disappointment and anger Guy and his brother Glen faced after coming out to their parents is typical of many Asian families, noted Lance Toma, executive director of the APIWC in San Francisco. The stigma that they face in their families and their communities may be one of the reasons many gay Asian Americans don’t get tested for HIV, Toma said, noting that AIDS diagnosis among Asian and Pacific Islanders is one of the highest among all minority communities. And among those diagnosed, young men having sex with men are the most impacted.

“We knew this could happen,” he said. “We are not getting tested.” Honor Thy Children was made over the course of 12 years. It shows how the stern and emotionless older Nakatanis drove their two gay sons, Glen and Guy, into a cocoon of isolation by not accepting their sexual orientation. “Maybe you’re not gay, Guy. A lot of young people experiment,” Alexander awkwardly told the young teenager, when he announced he was gay. Unable to cope with his overbearing and unsympathetic parents, Glen left their California home when he was 15. Livid, Nakatani took down all the pictures of his first-born and declared, “I have no son.”

Later that night, Guy and his other brother, Greg, made a pact never to do anything to cause their parents pain. It was probably this pact that kept the once playful, charming and affable Guy from telling his parents that he was raped when he was 15 by a male acquaintance twice his age. When Guy reached adulthood, he dated women, confiding to one of them that he was gay. Meanwhile, after a short stint in the military, a very sick Glen returned to his parents’ home. He was diagnosed with full-blown AIDS. He died shortly afterward, with his parents lovingly at his side.

Four years later, Guy, weakened by AIDS, which had robbed him of vision in one eye and kept him in a wheelchair, died surrounded by his friends and family. He had spent the last three years of his life going from school to school in the San Francisco Bay Area advocating against casual sex. Nakatani told the gathering Wednesday, "Know that there are those of us who cherish and love ‘diversity’ in its total and complete sense … and that there always will be voices that will speak for dignity, honor, acceptance and unconditional love for all children." May 19 marked the fifth annual National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

May 26, 2009 – Gay & Lesbian Times

California Supreme Court upholds same-sex marriage ban : Protests planned locally, statewide

by Randy Hope, Editor
The California Supreme Court upheld a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage Tuesday, but it also decided that the estimated 18,000 same-sex couples who tied the knot before the law took effect will stay wed.
The 6-1 decision written by Chief Justice Ron George rejected an argument by gay rights activists that the ban revised the California constitution’s equal protection clause to such a dramatic degree that it first needed the Legislature’s approval. The court said the people have a right, through the ballot box, to change their constitution.

“In a sense, petitioners’ and the attorney general’s complaint is that it is just too easy to amend the California constitution through the initiative process. But it is not a proper function of this court to curtail that process; we are constitutionally bound to uphold it,” the ruling said. The announcement of the decision set off an outcry among a sea of demonstrators who had gathered in front of the San Francisco courthouse awaiting the ruling. Holding signs and many waving rainbow flags, they chanted “shame on you.” Many people also held hands in a chain around an intersection in an act of protest.

Gay rights activists immediately promised to resume their fight, saying they would go back to voters as early as next year in a bid to repeal Proposition 8. The split decision provided some relief for the 18,000 same-sex couples who married in the brief time same-sex marriage was legal last year but that wasn’t enough to dull the anger over the ruling that banned same-sex marriage.

“It’s not about whether we get to stay married. Our fight is far from over,” said Jeannie Rizzo, 62, who was one of the lead plaintiffs along with her wife, Polly Cooper. “I have about 20 years left on this earth, and I’m going to continue to fight for equality every day.” The state Supreme Court had ruled last May that it was unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples the right to wed. Many same-sex couples had rushed to get married before the November vote on Proposition 8, fearing it could be passed. When it was, gay rights activists went back to the court arguing that the ban was improperly put to voters.

That was the issue justices decided today.
“After comparing this initiative measure to the many other constitutional changes that have been reviewed and evaluated in numerous prior decisions of this court, we conclude Proposition 8 constitutes a constitutional amendment rather than a constitutional revision,” the ruling said. Today’s ruling of “no” and “yes” on same-sex marriage effectively left many people in the fight for equality with mixed emotions. Locally, the San Diego LGBT Community Center expressed deep disappointment in the ruling from the California State Supreme Court, which failed to overturn Proposition 8. While the court did not invalidate the marriages performed for same-sex couples between June and November of last year, today’s ruling is a “major disappointment from a court that ruled for full equality just a year ago,” said Dr. Delores A. Jacobs, chief executive officer of The San Diego LGBT Community Center.

“It’s difficult to find joy in the fact that our state’s highest court didn’t forcibly ‘divorce’ the couples who were married last year,” Jacobs said. “There can be no doubt that our outrage would be considerably greater had those marriages been invalidated, but there is no cause for celebration. The bottom line is that justice and equality did not prevail today for anyone, and the Court has declared that Californians can simply vote to strip away even the most fundamental rights to equality enjoyed by their friends, family and neighbors.”

Those closest to the fight were angered.
“No civil rights movement has ever lost. Never. It is not a matter of if our community will win full equal rights, including marriage,” said Robin Tyler, a petitioner in the case to overturn Proposition 8. “It is only a matter of when. But as in all civil rights movements, we will have to fight like hell for it.” While it didn’t leave the community feeling victorious, some solace was found because a component of today’s ruling protects the 18,000 same-sex marriages, which were performed during the six months when same-sex marriage was legal in California.

“While we are relieved that the High Court’s decision will not annul the marriages of the 18,000 committed couples who were legally wed between June and November of 2008, we are deeply saddened that others will not enjoy the same social and economic justice,” said Sara Beth Brooks, spokesperson for the San Diego Equality Campaign, one of seven civil rights organizations hosting this evening’s march and protest. Today, the State Supreme Court failed to perform one of its primary responsibilities, which is to protect minority groups from the whim of the majority. In November, a narrow majority of California voters stripped away marriage rights from same-sex couples, denying them 1,058 civil rights and legal protections that are not granted by civil unions or domestic partnerships,” Brooks said. “Denying one group the right to marry goes against the very grain of the American principles of fairness and equality.”

“Some will argue simply that ‘majority rules,’ but these people lack a basic understanding of the function of the High Court and American democracy,” said Brooks. “At several points in history, the Court or Legislature stepped in to correct social injustices, such as slavery and racial segregation, even though the abhorrent practices had vast majority support.”

Local Day of Decision protests and rallies in San Diego
Locally marriage-equality supporters will meet at Sixth Avenue and Laurel Street in Balboa Park at 5 p.m. With Proposition 8 upheld, attendees will march south down Sixth Avenue and then west on Broadway to the Hall of Justice, where a rally will be held.
The San Diego Chapter of Marriage Equality USA, San Diego Alliance for Marriage Equality, and the San Diego Equality Campaign are organizing the event. For more information, visit

This Saturday, May 30, statewide activists and organizations will meet at Fresno City Hall at 1 p.m. Why Fresno? Marriage equality has to be fought, not only in gay friendly cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles but in towns like Fresno, where the population is far more reflective of national attitudes toward GLBT equality. Buses and caravans will be offered but those with transportation are encouraged to carpool. Fresno City Hall is located at 2600 Fresno Street in Fresno, California. For more information, visit

For the latest news coverage and analysis, visit

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

May 27, 2009 –

Prop 8 ruling moves to federal court

by 365gay Newscenter Staff
San Francisco, California – Hours after California’s top court upheld Proposition 8, the voter approved ban on same-sex marriage, a federal lawsuit was filed arguing that Prop 8 violates the U.S. constitutional guarantee of equal protection and due process.
The lawsuit seeks a preliminary injunction against California’s Proposition 8 until the case is resolved. The suit was filed by Theodore B. Olson and David Boies on behalf of two gay men and two gay women.

Olson and Boies are two of the top litigators in the country, but in 2000 they were on opposite sites in the Bush v. Gore election challenge. Olson told the Associated Press late Tuesday that he hopes the case will wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court. Gay anger over the ruling led to marches from San Francisco to San Diego to New York and to Chicago Tuesday evening. More than 150 protesters who blocked a street across from the California Supreme Court in San Francisco were arrested, with citations for failure to obey a police officer and jaywalking.

In the heavily gay Castro district, the large rainbow gay pride flag that flies in Harvey Milk Plaza was lowered to half-staff and a black stripe put on the top. In Los Angeles, protesters rallied outside the Los Angeles County clerk’s office, where marriage licenses are issued. They waved rainbow flags and carried signs that read “Repeal Prop 8 in 2010.” About 100 people sat down in an intersection near the University of California, Los Angeles, during rush hour and several hundred protesters gathered at a rally in West Hollywood where actress Drew Barrymore addressed the crowd. “Children need families, people need to love and we need to move forward, not backward,” Barrymore said. “What defines a family? We do!”

President Barack Obama was scheduled to be in Los Angeles for a fundraiser later today. Gay rights activists planned to use the visit to press the president to fulfill his campaign promise to work for the repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, said Lorri Jean, director of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. At rallies throughout the state, speakers told protesters that the fight is not over. A consortium of LGBT groups has formed Yes on Equality to press for a Prop 8 repeal effort to be placed on the 2010 ballot.

The California Secretary of State has given the group Yes on Equality until Aug. 17 to collect the nearly 700,000 signatures needed to qualify. Another proposed voter effort, by two college students, would strike the word “marriage” from all state laws. In New York Tuesday, night protesters marched from Sheridan Square to Union Square for a rally in support of same-sex marriage rights in both California and the Empire State.

The New York State Assembly has passed marriage equality legislation supported by the governor. The bill has stalled in the Senate. In St. Louis, activists gathered in front of City Hall, its rotunda pillars draped in an expansive rainbow flag. While California gay rights advocates accused the court of failing to protect a minority group from the will of the majority, the justices said that the state’s governing framework gives voters almost unfettered ability to change the California Constitution.

Justice Carlos Moreno, who had been under consideration as President Barack Obama’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, was the lone dissenter. He said denying same-sex couples the right to wed “strikes at the core of the promise of equality that underlies our California Constitution.” He said it represents a “drastic and far-reaching change.” “Promising equal treatment to some is fundamentally different from promising equal treatment for all,” Moreno said. “Promising treatment that is almost equal is fundamentally different from ensuring truly equal treatment.”

All of the justices agreed, though, that the 18,000 same-sex marriages performed before Prop 8 was passed should be allowed to stand. Gay rights activists called it a “hollow victory.”