Jaunary 04, 2007
Golden State rings in rainbow of laws in 2007
by Heather Cassell (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The new year rings in eight new laws to protect LGBT people’s rights in California. The new laws cover a cornucopia of basic protections from tax laws to extending partner benefits for businesses contracting with the state to domestic violence funding to gender identity violence to LGBT senior protections. "We are very pleased," said Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, about the new protections for LGBT Californians. "There’s never been a state – or on the federal level – that has passed so many laws in one year."
Most of the laws were signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger last year and went into effect January 1.
While Kors expressed excitement with a firm focus on the future for LGBT equality in California, some lobbyists aren’t quite as satisfied with the results of this year’s slew of new laws – mostly due to the continuing battle for marriage equality. "It was a year of good progress," said Boyce Hinman, chief lobbyist for Lambda Letters Project. "But the landmark year for the LGBTI community that I’m looking for is the passage and signature of the right to marry for same-sex couples and I would love to see a bill passed and signed that requires health insurance companies to pay for sex reassignment surgery for transgender people."
Rick Gerharter Out of the eight laws that went into effect Monday, the two most significant laws are the State Income Tax Equity Act (SB1827) authored by state Senator Carole Migden (D-San Francisco) and the Equal Benefits in State Contracting law (AB17) authored by lesbian state Senator Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego). California’s 38,000 same-sex registered domestic partners will be able to adjust their W-4 forms in order to file joint taxes in 2008, covering the 2007 tax year. The State Income Tax Equity Act is a groundbreaking law that not only allows joint filing, but also ensures protection from tax liability when a partner dies by treating a domestic partner’s income as community property just like married couples.
"At last we acknowledge the equal contributions of LGBT households and remove the tax inequity that has been suffered by these families," said Migden in a statement released by EQCA. Migden added in a separate statement, "The financial burdens that go with parenthood and/or being a spouse are softened by tax cuts afforded to married couples. Fairness dictates that LGBT families are afforded the same help from the state." More benefits are on the horizon for domestic partners. The Equal Benefits in State Contracting bill was signed by former Governor Gray Davis in 2003, but was deferred to go into effect until this year. The law affects all businesses and nonprofit organizations that accept contracts with the state over $100,000. Those entities must extend the same benefits to employees with domestic partners as employees with spouses receive.
"AB17 is about fairness and equity in the workplace," said Kehoe in a statement after the signing of the bill in 2003. "Employees should receive equal pay for equal work regardless of marital or domestic partnership status. Thirty to 40 percent of employee compensation comes in the form of health, dental, vision, bereavement leave, pension and retirement benefits."
The law was modeled after San Francisco’s Equal Benefits Ordinance that went into effect in 1997. Prior to the signing of AB17 into law only Berkeley, Los Angeles, Oakland, and San Mateo County had similar ordinances like San Francisco’s in place. "It [AB17] will impact all of the businesses that want to do business with the state of California in the future," said Kors. "We saw that when San Francisco did this it had a huge impact on the number of businesses and entities giving benefits so on the state level this is very significant."
Other new laws that protect LGBT people around housing, domestic abuse and violence, and anti-discrimination in political campaigns are as follows:
AB2800, the Civil Rights Housing Act of 2006 authored by gay Assemblyman John Laird (D-Santa Cruz), establishes a single legal standard for non-discrimination for protected classes including sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation for housing. It will automatically update the Fair Employment and Housing Act and other non-discrimination laws when new protected classes are recognized. This law also marked the first ever collaboration between EQCA and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
"I’m pleased California is continuing to take a stand against discrimination," said Laird in a statement issued by his office after Governor Schwarzenegger signed the bill. "The Civil Rights Housing Act of 2006 significantly improves housing protections in California by creating a single, comprehensive nondiscrimination standard."
AB2920, the Older Californians Equality and Protection Act authored by gay Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) mandates that the Department of Aging and local agencies include LGBT specific programming and services. This means that the Department of Aging and other agencies focused on serving the elderly will implement LGBT sensitivity training to meet the needs of the queer community.
"Because our LGBT seniors face a host of unique legal and social challenges, they deserve to have their needs taken into account so they can live their golden years with dignity and in comfort," said Leno in a statement.
SB1441, the Non-discrimination in State Programs and Activities Act authored by lesbian Senator Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica) protects LGBT people and people who are perceived as being LGBT from discrimination in all state operated or funded programs including programs that are contracted with the state.
"I am very grateful," said Kuehl in a statement issued by EQCA. "SB1441 will extend equal non-discrimination protections to LGBT Californians who depend on our state’s vital programs and services."
AB2051, the Equality in Prevention and Services for Domestic Abuse Fund authored by former Assemblywoman Rebecca Cohn (D-Saratoga) establishes a fund for education and prevention of domestic violence among LGBT couples and heterosexual couples over the age of 62 who choose to register as domestic partners. The fund will raise money by attaching a $23 fee – the same fee couples registering to marry have to pay – to domestic partnership registrations. The funds raised will support education about same-sex domestic violence, provide grants to government and nonprofit agencies that assist victims of abuse by their partners, as well as training for police and other service providers to help recognize domestic violence among same-sex couples.
"The LGBT community has unique needs when it comes to domestic abuse," said Cohn in a statement released by EQCA, which sponsored the bill. "[This bill] will ensure that victims of domestic violence are provided safe havens, no matter their sexual orientation."
AB1160, the Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act, authored by Assemblywoman Sally Lieber (D-Mountain View), is in response to the brutal murder of transgender teenager Gwen Araujo and the "panic defense," a claim that upon discovery of someone’s gender identity or sexual orientation panic invoked violent behavior. In the Araujo case, the perpetrators of Araujo’s murder attempted to use such a defense to reduce their responsibility for their crime. This law combats the rise in panic defenses by directing the Office of Emergency Services to produce and distribute training materials to district attorneys to educate them on how to recognize "bias-motivated" defense strategies during criminal trials. The law also requires the state Judicial Council to implement similar education for jurors to educate and instruct them not to consider bias based on sexual orientation and gender identity when considering a verdict.
"The enactment of this bill will help keep bias and hatred out of our courtrooms," said Lieber in a statement released by EQCA, which co-sponsored the bill with the Transgender Law Center. Lieber added in a statement issued by her office, "This is a victory for fairness in our criminal justice system and a tribute to the courage of Gwen Araujo. Too many Californians live with the very real fear that they will be victimized simply because of who they are. Government should have as its first priority the protection of all its citizens."
AB1207, the Code of Fair Campaign Practices Act authored by then-Assemblyman and now state Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), amends the voluntary pledge signed by political candidates and campaign committees to include anti-discrimination for protected classes, including LGBT people, outlined in the Fair Employment and Housing Act.
"I am pleased to see that he affirmatively declared that it is wrong to defile the honor of the democratic process with anti-gay rhetoric," said Yee in a statement after Governor Schwarzenegger signed the legislation into law. It was the second time the governor reviewed the bill; he vetoed it in 2005.
While Governor Schwarzenegger signed many bills protecting LGBT rights in California there are numerous areas where queer people remain unprotected.
When the Bay Area Reporter asked Kors about additional legislation needed to protect the LGBT community from discrimination, Kors responded, "The governor has signed a majority of laws but he’s vetoed a number of key civil rights and equality rights for our community: the marriage equality bill, the school curriculum bill, and the state schools bill, so we are hoping that with his re-election and his apparent willingness to reach out to other communities and reconsider his position that he will be willing to work with us to ensure full equality for LGBT Californians, something that he said that he supports."
Kors added, "So, we are cautiously optimistic that the governor will not only continue to be generally supportive, but actually be a leader and support full equality for our community."
As the new year begins on a positive note with these new protections for LGBT people throughout California, legislators and lobbyists aren’t wasting time by beaming about their successes. They are swiftly moving forward. Leno reintroduced the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act (AB43, formerly AB 849 which was vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger on September 29, 2005) on December 4, 2006. The bill remains relatively the same with only a small alteration in Section 300 of the Family Code swapping the language from "between a man and a woman" to "between two persons."
"It is more important than ever that our legislative branch here in California reaffirms the belief that marriage is an institution only strengthened by inclusiveness. Our society is strengthened by stable and committed relationships, and our governmental bodies should be doing all they can to help these relationships flourish," said Leno in a statement.
Continuing to improve the consistency of non-discrimination and equality throughout legal codes to protect LGBT people, Laird introduced the Civil Rights Act of 2007 (AB14) on December 4. The bill amends the 51 provisions that prohibit discrimination to create consistency and to ensure that they operate in compliance with the Unruh Act, which includes sexual orientation and gender identity.
"Throughout California law there remain significant gaps in civil rights protections for Californians, leaving people vulnerable to discrimination in a wide variety of situations," said Laird in a statement. "AB14 strengthens dozens of codes so they are indexed to the strongest level of protection in state law."
EQCA is working with lawmakers preparing a legislative packet that also includes potentially reintroducing bills that the governor vetoed in 2006, such as Kuehl’s Bias Free Curriculum Act, which prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in public school text books. Another possibility is the Safe Place to Learn Act, authored by Assemblyman Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys) requiring schools to enforce anti-harassment and anti-discrimination laws.
"As we go into 2007, we have a very good opportunity to make California the leader in providing full equality for the LGBT community through legislative work, through the legal action that is taking place in the marriage equality lawsuits, and through the public education that is happening through the state," Kors said. "We’ll only be more successful as more of our community gets involved. We have an opportunity to have full equality here in California by the end of the decade."
Hinman agreed. "I hope people will help us continue to go the rest of the way. Progress can be made so much faster if we have more people involved in the process calling their legislators, writing their legislators, letting their legislators know what they should be doing."
For more information, visit EQCA at www.eqca.org or call (415) 581-0005; or visit Lambda Letters Project at www.lambdaletters.org or call Hinman at (916) 728-1261.
12 January 2007
Original Stonewall Inn saved by gay developers…The venue where it all began has seen many changes. Not least in its surroundings.
by Tony Grew
A community effort spearheaded by three gay businessmen in Manhattan’s West Village has saved the birthplace of the modern gay rights movement. In June 1969, the denizens of Manhattan’s run-down Stonewall Inn finally stood up for their rights and rioted, tired of years of police harassment. The events of those sultry summer nights ignited a power-keg, and the explosion was heard around the world. Within 12 months there were gay rights movements organising and protesting across the globe. The venue where it all began has seen many changes. Not least in its surroundings. For what was once a refuge for drag queens, drug dealers and other outcasts has become a gentrified New York neighbourhood.
In recent times the Stonewall Inn has fallen on hard times, but PinkNews.co.uk can exclusively reveal that three gay entrepreneurs are at the centre of a successful campaign to save the bar. Bill Morgan and Tony DeCicco, who own the Duplex bar in the West Village, along with village fixture Kurt Kelly, were moved to act when they heard about the imminent closure of the Inn.
Bill Morgan told PinkNews.co.uk what happened next.
"We spoke with the landlord and let them know that we were interested in keeping the Stonewall as it has such an important place in both the West Village and in gay rights history. While negotiating with the landlord we were simultaneously seeking out investors. We weren’t sure at the beginning if anyone would be interested. While the Stonewall is an historic site, the place had been allowed to fall into disrepair in the last several years and the clientele had fallen off. The club had been mismanaged and had become a ‘bad neighbour’ in the community due to excessive noise, underage people being served and after-hours business being conducted."
Mr Morgan appealed to New Yorkers for help to save this historic site, and was overwhelmed by the response. When we went looking for investors to save The Stonewall people came out of the woodwork. Gay and straight. Everyone recognised the potential loss to the community both here and the gay community worldwide. A few of the investors have been volunteering their time and labour to defray the cost of renovating."
The bar had changed hands several times since the riots of 1969. The Village itself has undergone a slow but permanent transformation from dive to desirable. Now the gay community has succeeded in scrubbing up the Stonewall Inn. Bill Morgan seems to have taken a very gay delight at renovating the historic venue. "The walls on the main floor were covered in a shiny chrome sheeting known as diamond plate. That was covering up the old raised wood panelling. The beautiful wooden bar was painted a garish green and gold. There was every kind of electrical and speaker wire you can imagine snaking everywhere along the old original tin ceiling. Holes in the roof where water had poured in and subsequently caved in the bathroom ceiling. You get the idea," he told PinkNews.co.uk
Other prominent gay New Yorkers have also lent a hand, "We have enlisted the services of designer Michael Longo who has a long history with the Village and Stonewall and has designed several other bars in the past. "He is bringing fresh innovative ideas to the space that will help improve the look and feel of it while making the guests aware that they are in an historic spot. It is really very exciting." The best efforts of Mr Morgan and others have revitalised the Stonewall Inn. And as for the accusations that the Village is now too gentrified to truly be a home for the whole gay community, Mr Morgan dismisses such concerns. "The Monster, a club across the street from Stonewall does a thriving business catering to an equally diverse crowd and has nothing but great reviews from the neighbourhood because they run their business in a way that respects others in the neighbourhood.
"The Village is born of diversity. It is why I work here. It is why gay people sought the Village out to begin with. To imply that the Village residents or members of the gay community are discriminating against others based on ethnicity is nonsense. It wasn’t true back in the day and it’s not true now. It is a very live and let live attitude here. All the residents ask is that their quality of life to be respected."
Pending the approval of a liquor licence, the Stonewall Inn should be opening its doors for business on February 1st.
January 29, 2007
Bills would give state recognition to gay unions
Honolulu – A group of bills introduced in the Legislature could provide same-sex couples with the legal benefits of marriage through civil unions. The legislation was requested by the state Democratic party. And both House and Senate Democrats in the overwhelmingly Democratic Legislature are supporting the bills. One Senate bill, introduced by Sen. Gary Hooser, D-Kaua‘i-Ni‘ihau, would permit two unrelated people who are at least 16 years old to apply for a civil union license without regard to each person’s gender. The measure would give couples in civil unions the same rights and responsibilities as those who are married.
“I personally support the concept of allowing civil unions,” Hooser said. “I think it is past time to have the conversation and move the issue forward. We should treat people equally.” Just as the state Supreme Court was on the brink of permitting same-sex marriages in Hawai‘i, in 1998 island voters approved a state constitutional amendment giving the Legislature the power to define marriage. The
Legislature then approved a law defining marriage as between two people of opposite sexes. Vermont and Connecticut have civil union laws. And New Jersey’s recently passed civil union law is expected to take effect next month. Massachusetts is the only state to allow same-sex marriages.
Legislators say the Hawai‘i proposals could get past the state constitutional prohibition by calling the relationships civil unions. “This is not marriage,” Hooser said. Rep. Blake Oshiro, D-‘Aiea-Halawa, who is supporting the bill in the House said the bills are being written “to avoid the connotation that this is marriage.” Other states have passed similar bills, he said. “We shouldn’t be treating people as second-class citizens, especially if we believe in the ideas of tolerance and diversity,” Oshiro said.
Debi Hartmann, the former director of a group that formed to stop same-sex marriage in Hawai‘i, Hawaii Future Today, said civil unions is the answer. Hartmann said she believes there needs to be a legal relationship for gays and esbians. “Where my position has not changed is in the defense of marriage as the union between a man and woman,” Hartmann said. “One of the things this civil-union bill does not impact is the current marriage language.” But Kelly Rosati, executive director of Hawaii Family Forum, said the bills simply create “marriage by another name.” She also said she hoped “leaders don’t want to get sidetracked with divisive issue.”
The potential for the question of civil unions to become a hot-button, divisive topic is a concern, Hooser said. “At the same time, for those of us who believe it is the right thing to do, I don’t think we should hesitate or not put this issue forward because we are afraid of controversy,” he said.
February 17, 2007
Chung: A new year: Vietnamese and openly gay
by L.A. Chung, Mercury News Columnist
From the window of Vuong Nguyen’s East San Jose home, you can see the kumquats growing in bold orange profusion in her sunny yard. Their abundance is a happy sight on the cusp of the lunar New Year. Nguyen, 64, is looking forward to the new beginnings that come with Tet, marked Sunday with big celebrations among family at home and in San Jose’s annual downtown celebration. She is focused on what she hopes is truly a new beginning — she and several others marching openly as a group of gay Vietnamese-Americans so that their community can see them as their own.
“The Vietnamese community always thinks there are no homosexuals, no lesbians, no transgender people in their community,” she said. In fact, she believes, lesbians and gays like herself have reached critical mass in the South Bay. “We hope by marching they can see us, that there are `good’ kids, `nice’ persons,” she said. “I hope they can see that.”
Being true, being brave
From the seed of an idea in September, several groups pulled together into an umbrella organization for greater support. Sunday, Vietnamese from San Jose to San Francisco to Orange County and even as far as Texas and Louisiana will join in a parade and 10th annual spring festival. Song That Radio, BangaiVN.net, O-Moi and the Gay Vietnamese Alliance are members. “We are your children, your brothers and sisters . . . and in some cases, your parents,” said Thanh Do, a member of the new group. The theme they chose, not coincidentally, for the most family-oriented holiday of the year was “Straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender, we are all family.”
It’s a bold move, not without risk among Vietnamese-Americans, Do said. Often young people hide their sexual orientation from their families, or families hide it from their friends. So many parents push their kids away in fear of clucking judgment from the community. It leads to tragic rifts within families. That’s why some supporters are flying up from Southern California, and from Texas and Louisiana, said Gina Masequesmay, a member of O-Moi, a Vietnamese-American lesbian group based in Orange County. They will take the places of those who just cannot march in their hometown.
“For people who live in San Jose to come out — that is a very big deal,” Masequesmay said. “A lot of people may be out, but they don’t want their family facing the repercussion of other people knowing and talking about their family.”
The bond that binds
Even Nguyen, the “elder sister” of the Vietnamese-American lesbian community, is not immune. She helped found Song That Radio, an hourlong educational program in Vietnamese, on KSJX-AM (1500) seven years ago because they needed an educational bridge between the parents of the Vietnamese-speaking older generation and their closeted children. Last year, she received “Activist of the Year” from the Silicon Valley Asian Pacific American Democratic Club. Song That Radio won two awards for its service from different groups.
Yet it was her mother’s death several years ago that made her freer to operate more openly, she said. Her mother, who had chosen between evacuating her children from Saigon in 1975, and staying with her politician husband in Vietnam, fretted about her daughter’s orientation, Nguyen said, and she was mindful. “My mom had to suffer too much already.” Ultimately, Nguyen concluded, reconciliation just might begin with a walk and a friendly wave in a Sunday morning parade. Thinking of that bountiful kumquat tree in her yard, I take it as an auspicious sign.
February 18, 2007
Civil unions available in NJ to gay couples starting Monday
by Geoff Mulvihill, Associated Press Writer
Teaneck, N.J. – Hundreds of gay couples were set to have the same legal protections as married couples Monday, as a law making New Jersey the third state in the nation to offer civil unions was to take effect. For gay couples and gay rights activists, it figures to be a day of celebration and lament. With the law in place, New Jersey is becoming one of just five states to offer all the legal benefits of marriage to gay partners. The state, though, stopped short of calling the institutions marriage.
Civil unions emerged in New Jersey out of four years of litigation and a whirlwind few weeks of political dealmaking late last year. In October, the state Supreme Court ruled that gay couples in the state were constitutionally entitled to all the benefits of marriage, but left it up to lawmakers to decide the details. Instead of following Massachusetts, the only state that now allows gay couples to marry, the state Legislature chose to offer civil unions, as Vermont and Connecticut permit.
At least few hundred of the state’s estimated 20,000 gay couples _ those who have civil unions or marriages from other states or nations that allow them _ were automatically considered to be in civil unions in New Jersey at 12:01 a.m. Monday. Joan Hervey and Linda Geczi of Plainfield went to Canada to get married. For them, the recognition in New Jersey is mixed _ Hervey was glad to be getting the benefits of marriage, but is disappointed that New Jersey doesn’t consider them married. "It’s just weird," Hervey said. "It’s a weird place to be."
The first civil union ceremonies were scheduled for the first minutes of Monday morning, when couples who have civil unions or marriages from elsewhere could reaffirm them in New Jersey. At least one couple was planning such a ceremony. Steven Goldstein, the chairman of the gay political group Garden State Equality, and his partner Daniel Gross became the first gay couple featured on the wedding pages of The New York Times. In 2002, the Teaneck couple had a wedding ceremony in Canada and a civil union ceremony in Vermont.
Goldstein said that even though he and Gross would have the benefits of a civil union in New Jersey because of their Vermont union, it might simplify matters in an emergency to have a certificate from New Jersey as well. For couples who are not already in civil unions, there is a 72-hour waiting period after applying for a license _ just like with weddings. Town halls in Asbury Park and Lambertville _ both communities known for welcoming gay residents _ were planning to open at midnight Sunday so couples could apply for licenses in time for ceremonies scheduled for early Thursday.
"It doesn’t necessarily matter to be first," said Thomas Mannix of Asbury Park, who was planning one of the early morning ceremonies for Thursday with Kevin Pilla, his partner since 1983. "What is important is we want to take advantage of what’s being offered." The arrival of civil unions does not figure to end the debate over whether New Jersey should allow gay couples to marry, or even all the implications of civil unions themselves. Some mayors, including Steve Lonegan of Bogota, have said they won’t perform civil union ceremonies. The state Attorney General’s Office says mayors can get out of performing the ceremonies if they don’t do any weddings, but if they take all wedding requests, they must take them from gay couples as well. Those who are picky about which weddings they perform are in a legal gray area, the state says.
Gay rights advocates say that making civil unions marriages would alleviate much of that confusion. Conservative activists, though, are circulating petitions aimed at persuading lawmakers to amend the state constitution to define marriage as being between a man and a woman. Voters would be required to have a say before the constitution can be amended. Gay rights advocates, meanwhile, are promising to push the Legislature to allow gay couples to marry. Some are also considering filing lawsuits asking state courts to find that civil unions do not go far enough toward ensuring equal treatment for gay couples.
Asbury Park’s Mannix and Pilla are planning on being united along with two other couples during a party in Asbury Park early Thursday. However, they want to be clear that their ceremony will not have the pomp and circumstance of a wedding. Mannix said: "I’ve told our families and our closest friends that they will get an invitation when we are actually married."
February 18, 2007
A Kiss Too Far? Could a gay couple get away with public kissing in Manhattan?
by Guy Trebay
THE spot was only 30 seconds, almost a blur amid the action at the Super Bowl. Yet the hubbub after a recent commercial showing two auto mechanics accidentally falling into lip-lock while eating the same Snickers bar went a long way toward showing how powerfully charged a public kiss between two men remains.
Snickers withdrew a commercial featuring an accidental kiss that many people did not find amusing. Football is probably as good a place as any to look for the limits of social tolerance. And the Snickers commercial — amusing to some, appalling to others and ultimately withdrawn by the company that makes the candy — had the inadvertent effect of revealing how a simple display of affection grows in complexity as soon as one considers who gets to demonstrate it in public, and who, very often, does not.
The demarcation seemed particularly stark during the week of Valentine’s Day, when the aura of love cast its rosy Hallmark glow over card-store cash registers and anyone with a pulse. Where, one wondered, were all the same-sex lovers making out on street corners, or in comedy clubs, performance spaces, flower shops or restaurants? "There’s really a kind of Potemkin village quality to the tolerance and acceptance" of gay people in America, said Clarence Patton, a spokesman for the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project. "The idea of it is O.K., but the reality falls short."
Provided gay people agree to "play a very tightly scripted and choreographed role in society, putting your wedding together or what have you, we’re not threatening, " Mr. Patton said. "But people are still verbally harassed and physically attacked daily for engaging in simple displays of affection in public. Everything changes the minute we kiss."
The lugs in the Snickers commercial recoiled in shock at their smooch, resorting to "manly" behavior like tearing out their chest hair in clumps. Alternate endings to the commercial on a Snickers Web site showed the two clobbering each other, and related video clips featured players from the Super Bowl teams reacting, not unexpectedly, with squeamish distaste. The outrage voiced by gay rights groups similarly held little surprise.
"This type of jeering from professional sports figures at the sight of two men kissing fuels the kind of anti-gay bullying that haunts countless gay and lesbian schoolchildren on playgrounds across the country," Joe Solmonese, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement. A spokesman for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation condemned the advertisement as "inexcusable. " Masterfoods USA, a division of Mars and the maker of Snickers, withdrew the offending ads.
But for some the commercial left the lingering question of who owns the kiss? How is it that a simple affectionate gesture can be so loaded? Why is it that behavioral latitudes permit couples of one sort to indulge freely in public displays lusty enough to suggest short-term motel stays, while entire populations, albeit minority ones, live real-time versions of the early motion picture Hays Code: a peck on the cheek in public, one foot squarely planted on the floor?
The freedom to kiss in public is hardly the most compelling issue for most gay rights advocates, or perhaps even in the minds of many gay Americans. Yet the symbolic weight of simple gestures remains potent, a point easy to observe wherever on the sexual spectrum one falls. "Whose issue is it? Why is it only a gay issue?" said Robert Morea, a fitness consultant in New York. Although Mr. Morea is heterosexual, his client list has long included a number of high-profile professionals, the majority of them gay women and men. "The issue is there because for so many years, people got beaten up, followed or yelled at," he said. "Even for me as a straight man, it’s obvious how social conditioning makes it hard for people to take back the public space."
After considering herself exclusively lesbian for decades, Sarah Van Arsdale, a novelist, not long ago found, to her surprise, that she had fallen in love with a man. At first, as she wrote last week in an e-mail message from a writer’s colony in Oaxaca, Mexico, " Whenever we would hold hands in public, I felt a frisson of fear, waiting for the customary dirty looks or at least for the customary looking-away. " In place of revulsion, Ms. Van Arsdale was startled to discover that, having adjusted her sexual identity, she was now greeted by strangers with approving smiles. "I felt suddenly acceptable and accepted and cute, as opposed to queer," she said.
Roger Padilha of Manhattan says he is unafraid to hug and kiss his boyfriend in public. While few are likely to have shared Ms. Van Arsdale’s singular perspective, her experience is far from exceptional. "I’m a very openly gay man," said Dane Clark, who manages rental properties and flies a rainbow flag from his house in Kansas City, Kan. "My partner and I don’t go kissing in public. I live in probably the most liberal part of the State of Kansas, but it’s not exactly liberal. If I was to go to a nice restaurant nearby and kiss my partner, I don’t think that would go over very well."
As many gay men have before him, Mr. Clark chose to live in a city rather than the sort of small town where he was raised in the hope that Kansas City would provide a greater margin of tolerance and also of safety. Even in nearby Independence, Mo., he said, "if you kiss your partner in a restaurant, you could find somebody waiting for you outside when you went to the car." But haven’t things changed radically from the days when lesbians and gay men were considered pariahs, before gay marriage initiatives became ballot issues, before Ellen DeGeneres was picked to host the Oscars, and cable TV staples like "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" made a competitive sport of group hugs?
In some senses and in certain places, apparently, they have. The landscape of acceptance, as the Snickers commercial inadvertently illustrated, is constantly shifting — broadening in one place and contracting somewhere else. The country in which anti-gay advocates like the Rev. Fred Phelps once drew headlines for picketing Matthew Shepard’s funeral and preaching what was called "a Day-Glo vision of hatred" can seem very far away at times from the laissez-faire place in which an estimated 70 percent of Americans say they know someone who is gay.
"We don’t administrate public displays of affection," said Andrew Shields, World Church Secretary of the Community of Christ, a Christian evangelical church with headquarters in Independence. "Homosexuality is still in discussion in our church. But our denominational point of view is that we uphold the worth of all persons, and there is no controversy on whether people have a right to express themselves."
The tectonics of attitude are shifting in subtle ways that are geographic, psychic and also generational, suggested Katherine M. Franke, a lesbian who teaches law and is a director of the Center for the Study of Law and Culture at Columbia University. "I’ve been attacked on the street and called all sorts of names" for kissing a female partner in public, Professor Franke said. "The reception our affection used to generate was violence and hatred," she added. "What I’ve found in the last five years is that my girlfriend and I get smiles from straight couples, especially younger people. Now there’s almost this aggressive sense of `Let me tell you how terrific we think that is.’ "
Yet gay-bashing still occurs routinely, Mr. Patton of the Anti- Violence Project said, even in neighborhoods like Chelsea in Manhattan, where the sight of two men kissing on the street can hardly be considered a frighten-the- horses proposition. "In January some men were leaving a bar in Chelsea," saying goodbye with a kiss, Mr. Patton said. "One friend got into a taxi and then a car behind the taxi stopped and some guys jumped out and beat up the other two." One victim of the attack, which is under investigation by the police department’s Hate Crimes Task Force, was bruised and shaken. The second had a broken jaw.
"The last time I was called a faggot was on Eighth Avenue," said Joe Windish, a longtime New Yorker who now lives in Milledgeville, Ga., with his partner of many years. "I don’t have that here, and I’m an out gay man," said Mr. Windish, whose neighbors in what he termed "the reddest of the red states" may be fundamentalist Christians who oppose gay marriages and even civil unions, but "who all like me personally."
Tolerance has its limits, though, as Mr. Windish found when he and his partner took a vacation on a sleepy island off the coast of Georgia. "I became aware that if I held my partner’s hand, or kissed him in public, the friendliness would stop," he said. What Mr. Windish calls a level of peril is possibly always in play, and this no doubt has something to do with the easily observed reality that a public kiss between two people of the same sex remains an unusual occurrence, and probably not because most are holding out for the chance to lock lips over a hunk of milk chocolate, roasted peanuts and caramel.
"We forget here, because New York has been relatively safe for a while, that hate is a problem," said Roger Padilha, an owner of MAO public relations in New York. The reminders surface in everyday settings, he said, and in ordinary ways. "My boyfriend and I always hold hands and, when we feel like it, we kiss," Mr. Padilha said. Yet some weeks back, at a late movie in a Times Square theater, as Mr. Padilha went to rest his hand on his partner’s leg — a gesture it would seem that movie theaters were invented to facilitate — he recoiled as sharply as had one of the Snickers ad guys.
"He was like: `Don’t do that. It’s too dangerous,’ " Mr. Padilha said. "And afterward I thought, you know, my dad isn’t super into P.D.A.’s, but nobody’s ever going to beat him up because he’s kissing my mom at a movie. I kept thinking: What if my boyfriend got hit by a car tomorrow? When I had the chance to kiss him, why didn’t I?"
February 22 – 28, 2007
Terra terror for gays–Queers left in shadows at Toronto gay conference on Iran
by Glenn Wheeler
As participants gather at University of Toronto on a late-January Saturday for a symposium on gay rights in Iran, the clock is striking 7 pm in Tehran, where it’s been a mild winter day, not too cold to go to Daneshjoo Park – site of many public events and just as much gay cruising. But, as the world knows well, Iran is terra terror for gays and lesbians, as this conference in the splendour of the Hart House debates room hears in detail. Still, the proceedings tell as much about the Iranian diaspora here as about the queers over there.
This event is no small achievement for the main organizer, Arsham Parsi of the Iranian Queer Organization, who’s been in Toronto only eight months after arriving via Turkey as a refugee from Iran. Significantly, it’s attended by leading lights from the local Iranian community, many of whose members have brought their discomfort with homosexuality along with them to Canada. Parsi tells me that he contacted the six Farsi-language publications in Toronto. "Five of them would not even talk to me,” he says. However, the sixth – the weekly Shahrvand, the largest of the papers – was entirely supportive and ran ads for free.
Indeed, there are more non-gay members of the Iranian community than queers in attendance. Parsi says he knows about 30 Iranian gay refugees in T.O., but only one other is here today. "They’re still afraid to be out, even here," he explains. The conference hears a report from Jessica Stern, a New York-based researcher with Human Rights Watch who’s interviewed dozens of gays and lesbians both in Iran via e-mail and instant messenger and in countries where they have become refugees.
One interviewee, "Ali," had relocated to Tehran because of death threats in his hometown but was arrested one night in the cruising park. His friend confessed under torture that Ali and a third man were lovers. After being forced to endure rectal exams that came back "positive" for homosexuality, Ali’s friends helped get him released from jail, and he escaped to the UK, where he now lives.
Sadly, this story is not unusual in Iran, where men have been executed for committing sodomy. It’s those systematic violations that have occasioned this get-together, but oddly the situation of women gets the most airtime here, and organizers promise somewhat apologetically there’ll be more gay content next year. But it’s fitting that the complete menu of human rights be on offer at this gathering, because rights violations in Iran affect just about everyone, and it’s politically risky to make queers the star of the drama.
One reason is the information shortfall. Because of the shame attached to homosexuality, friends and relatives of those harassed or executed for being gay aren’t motivated to speak publicly, and little can be gleaned from sentencing courtrooms, which are kept secret. Gay groups have used the resulting twilight zone to put their own spin on facts. For example, one U.S.-based gay exile group has claimed 4,000 people have been executed since the ayatollahs gained power in 1979. "I don’t really know where they get these numbers,” Stern tells me.
The perils of relying on uncertainty was brought home in 2005 when two teenage boys were publicly executed in the city of Mashhad – for sodomy, it was said at the time. The story appeared to be shocking confirmation of the gay pogrom underway in the Islamic republic. Trouble was, the boys weren’t executed for consensual sex but for gang-raping a 13-year-old at knifepoint, according to a deconstruction of the episode in progressive U.S. magazine The Nation. Stern, whose organization was part of the general outrage, now tells me that the case was "problematic." Still, she says, even if the facts were not what they first appeared, the death penalty alone was cause for concern.
But the other dilemma for gay activists is how to protect their own in a situation where there is no campaign against gays and lesbians per se, but rather a general repression whose reach extends to all those perceived by the regime as a threat. As Kaveh Ehsani, an Iran expert at the University of Illinois-Chicago, tells me over the phone, it is the control of sexuality that is the key concern of the regime, in which real power rests with the ayatollahs rather than with the Holocaust-denying prez we see on TV.
"Sexuality is politicized in Iran," he says. "If you get to what is an Islamic revolution, in the end it comes to controlling people’s bodies in public. In terms of economics and politics, there’s not much there." Those most frequently caught up in the regulatory net are women. And while gay house parties have been broken up by the religious police, so have heterosexual gatherings where police fear that drinking, sex or prostitution may be taking place, he says. When it comes to the denial of humancana rights, gay people in Iran may not be so special after all.
“It would have been cool to have a group sooner,” said the Peru High School senior, who is co-chair of the Gay/Straight Alliance, which she helped form last fall. Across the country, the number of gay/straight alliances have grown from about a dozen in U.S. high schools in the mid 1990s to more than 3,200 today that are registered with the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, a national group that promotes a positive school climate for gay children. Local students say such groups promote tolerance, organize events and help them feel secure.
“They create an environment in which students are more comfortable with expressing who they are,” said Plattsburgh High School senior Adam Loveland, co-chair of the Gay/Straight Alliance there, which has been operating for more than two years. The student-run organizations emerged in high schools in the late 1980s and early 1990s as an attempt to provide a safe and supportive environment for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered youths and their straight allies. “There’s a lot of hate toward any group that is different,” said Emily Waid-Jones, co-chair of Peru High School’s Gay/Straight Alliance.
They found an ally in global history teacher Kathleen Roach, who became their adviser, and approached administrators with the ideas, explaining the group intended to work toward decreasing harassment through awareness. The club was approved by the School Board within a couple weeks. “It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be,” said Olmstead. “But there was some backlash and rumors that the group was about gay conditioning or a dating service.”
Loveland, who is straight and dates Waid-Jones, knows about gay backlash. He said he’s been the victim of homophobia in the past when other students called him “fag,” assuming he is gay, because the senior fits the stereotype — thin, well dressed and articulate. “People toss around the word faggot a lot,” added Waid-Jones. The pair said teachers often ignore the comments. Olmstead was painting a mural at school when male students called her “dyke” and snapped their fingers in front of her face. A teacher passing by did nothing, later telling Olmstead she had seen the boys ribbing her.
“Things bounce off me, but that’s not the case for some people,” Olmstead said. “I know people who do get bothered, and with a club like this they can walk into a room and no one gives them a hard time.” And besides promoting tolerance, gay/straight alliances organize activities such as open-mike night and the community prom, which started last year and drew more than 150 students from high schools in Clinton County. Members of Plattsburgh’s and Peru’s clubs started the prom when gay students at some schools were denied couples tickets to their school proms. This year’s community prom is a masquerade ball scheduled from 8 p.m. to midnight Saturday at the Comfort Inn ballroom. Loveland feels the event will again be a success and hopes students at other schools are able to form gay/straight alliances, despite rumors he has heard of strong local opposition.
Gallup polls show that in 2006, 54 percent of Americans found homosexuality acceptable, compared with 38 percent in 1992. “These clubs are formed by aspiring young people who want to make everybody at their school welcome,” said Roach. “It is about respect,” Olmstead said. “A lot of people don’t want to go to our club because they think all the loser kids and weird kids go there, and maybe they do, but maybe that’s the only place they can feel accepted.”
E-mail Stephen Bartlett at:
March 16, 2007
Gay parents get dedicated fertility program
A Los Angeles fertility clinic has launched what it says is the first dedicated program for gay men wanting to become parents. The Fertility Institutes, already a pioneer in the controversial area of gender selection, said it was responding to huge demand from gay male couples around the world who want their own biological children but are often thwarted by prejudice and bureaucracy. "There are a lot of centers that dibble and dabble in this. But we are the only program for gay men that has psychological, legal, medical, surrogates, donors and patients all taken care of in one place," said Dr Jeffrey Steinberg, director of The Fertility Institutes, in an interview. "The demand is incredible. The United States has always been busy but we are seeing more and more demand from abroad."
The last few years have seen a large increase in the number of gay men who want to father children using surrogate mothers rather than opting for adoption, which is difficult or impossible for homosexuals or lesbians in several US states. Gay male couples seeking parenthood usually have to go to several different agencies to find surrogate mothers, egg donors, lawyers and medical treatment. Potential surrogate mothers often opt out when they discover the couple seeking a child is gay, partly because of perceptions that homosexuals have a higher risk of diseases such as hepatitis, syphilis and the HIV virus. Steinberg gets consent from surrogates up front, tests the fathers-to-be for HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, and freezes their sperm for six months as an extra safeguard. Steinberg has already treated about 70 gay male couples while perfecting the program. Some 40 percent were Americans, with the rest from Britain, Germany, China, Canada, Italy, Brazil and South Africa.
The average cost is about $60,000 and three-quarters of gay couples pay extra to choose the sex of their baby. Gender selection of babies is illegal in most countries except the United States. "We thought they were all going to come in and want boys, but about 65 percent want male and the others want girls," Steinberg said. Focus on the Family, an influential conservative advocacy group with evangelical ties, said it saw several problems with such schemes. "These clinics are in business for profit and the losers will be the children because these are children who will not have access to a mother… It is an intentionally motherless home," said Focus spokesperson Carrie Gordon Earll.
Steinberg said he was braced for controversy after going public with the program but hoped to ride the storm. "This is new. It is challenging. We understand people are a little intimidated, a little frightened by it," he said. "It just takes time to get used to things." Data from the 2000 US census showed there were some 301,000 unmarried male couples in the United States. Figures for those adopting or having biological children were unavailable.
March 20, 2007
With civil unions legal in N.J., 219 gay couples apply
by Geoff Mulvilhill, Associated Press
Mount Laurel, N.J. — At least 219 gay couples applied to join in civil unions during the first month the legal institution was available in New Jersey, a state agency said in a report issued today. Civil unions offer gay couples the legal benefits of marriage — but not the title. New Jersey lawmakers created the institution last December in response to a state Supreme Court ruling two months earlier that said it was unconstitutional to deny gay couples access to the protections of marriage. New Jersey’s civil unions law took effect Feb. 19. The data reported today by the state Health and Senior Services Department covers the period from then until March 19. The data may not be complete, since some counties might not have yet submitted their records and some couples may have applied for licenses but have not yet joined.
The number was far smaller than activists had expected. By comparison, about 500 gay and lesbian couples registered on the day New Jersey’s domestic partnership law went into effect in 2004. That law was simpler to take advantage of, but offered only a handful of the benefits extended in the civil union law. The difference may be a result of couples hoping that they will be allowed to marry in the next few years, said Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality, a gay political advocacy group. In the United States, only Massachusetts allows gay couples to marry. Vermont and Connecticut also have civil unions and California has domestic partnerships that offer benefits similar to the civil unions.
Gay rights advocates in New Jersey are promising to keep pushing for the right to marry, while some social conservatives are campaigning to amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage. Civil unions can be officiated by judges, mayors or clergy — the same people authorized to perform weddings. The legal benefits include the right to file taxes jointly, inheritance and adoption rights, and the ability to make medical decisions on a partner’s behalf. However, the federal government and most states do not recognize the unions.
27 March 2007
Study claims a third of US lesbians have had a baby
by Tony Grew
A major research project in the United States has revealed that more than 35% of lesbians aged between 18 and 44 have given birth, and 16% of gay men have a child. The Williams Institute and the Urban Institute today released a major study on adoption and foster care by lesbian and gay parents. The study uses census data and other government surveys to explore the characteristics of out lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals who are adoptive or foster parents.
The Williams/Urban study estimates that 65,500 adopted children and currently living with a lesbian or gay parent, amounting to 4% of all adopted children in the United States. They found that 52% of gay men and 41% of lesbians want to have a child. 23% of lesbian or bisexual women are living with and caring for someone else’s birth child. Additionally, the study found that and that 10,300 foster children are living with lesbian or gay parents. Nearly 52,000 lesbian and gay households include an adopted child under the age of 18.
"While this data is limited by only having information about openly gay, lesbian and bisexual parents, it still demonstrates that a significant number of LGB individuals and couple are raising children," said Gary J. Gates, Senior Research Fellow at the Williams Institute. "As LGB families become more visible in our society, this number will only grow, and it is crucial that we have more data related to this demographic," Gates continued. "Research measuring child well-being among children raised by LGB parents shows no negative consequences," said Gates.
"In fact, studies show that these parents tend to have a higher percentage of qualities that are highly desirable. On average, LGB adoptive parents and same-sex couples raising foster children are older and more educated than other foster parents. In addition, many LGB adoptive parents have access to more economic resources than other adoptive parents."
The study follows the passage of the Sexual Orientation Regulations in the UK, which become law on April 30th. The regulations make it illegal for adoption agencies to discriminate against lesbian, gay and bisexual people and LGB couples. The Roman Catholic church has been given until the end of 2008 to comply with the law, and have threatened to close their adoption agencies. In the US, various state policies regarding LGB adoption and fostering vary.
Some have outright bans: Florida forbids "homosexuals" from adopting; Mississippi bans "same-gender" couples, and Utah bans all unmarried couples. Other states, including California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Washington DC, have policies which prohibit sexual orientation from being used as a basis to prevent a prospective applicant from being a adoptive or foster parent. LGB people in the remaining states may face discrimination when applying to be adoptive or foster parents. Currently, several states are considering laws and policies that would prevent LGB people from adopting and fostering.
March 30, 2007
Gay Students 3 Times More Likely To Be Bullied
Boston, Massachusetts – In what is described as the broadest study of bullying and sexual orientation to date, lesbian and gay adolescents were three to four times more likely to report having been bullied than heterosexual teens. The study, conducted by researchers at the Children’s Hospital Boston Division of Adolescent Medicine, also found that bisexual adolescents and those identifying as "mostly heterosexual" were twice as likely to be bullied.
"It’s clear that sexual minority youth are a population vulnerable to bullying," researcher Elise Berlan, MD said on Friday. "This needs to be addressed, particularly in schools." Berlan and doctor of social work Bryn Austin, also of Children’s, analyzed data from more than 7,500 adolescents aged 14 to 22. Overall, about 90 percent of participants described themselves as heterosexual, 8 percent as mostly heterosexual, 1 percent as bisexual and 1 percent as lesbian or gay. Nearly half of the lesbian and gay youth in the study had been bullied in the past year. Berlan and Austin said they hope to conduct a more detailed follow-up study to better understand how bullying affects health outcomes.
"We know that, in general, sexual minorities are more likely to smoke, drink, use drugs and have eating disorders and depression," said Austin. We suspect that social isolation, harassment, bullying and sometimes frank violence against these adolescents may be an explanation." Bullying and harassment of children who behave or appear outside expected gender norms begins in elementary school, the researchers said.
According to the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, a national advocacy group, students who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered are five times more likely to skip school than the general population, and do worse academically. Ten states and the District of Columbia now have a safe schools initiative to prevent harassment based on sexual orientation, and a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives proposes amending the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act to include bullying and harassment prevention programs.
Wash. gov. signs domestic partner bill
by Rachel La Corte, Associated Press Writer
Olympia, Wash. – Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire signed into law Saturday a measure to create domestic partnerships, giving gay and lesbian couples some of the same rights that come with marriage. "It offers the hope that one day, all lesbian and gay families will be treated truly equal under the law," said state Sen. Ed Murray, who is one of five openly gay lawmakers in the Legislature. Unmarried, heterosexual senior couples will also be eligible to register if one partner is at least 62. Lawmakers said that provision, similar to one in California law, was included to help seniors who are at risk of losing pension rights and Social Security benefits if they remarry.
"This is a very proud moment for me as governor, to make sure the rights of all of our citizens are equal," Gregoire said. "It is time we put an end to these stories," she said. "This simply allows our seniors and our same sex partners to rely on each other and to care for each other when they are faced with life and death situations. These are the rights of all Washingtonians."
Couples can register in person with the secretary of state‘s office in Olympia, or by mail. "I think it‘s an unfortunate step backward, not knowing where it will lead us culturally," said Joseph Fuiten, a Bothell pastor who is the leader of Positive Christian Agenda, a state group of Christian organizations opposed to gay marriage. "Giving marriage-lite benefits without the benefit of marriage strikes me as not a good idea."
April 22, 2007
Washington gives domestic partnership rights to gay couples
by Sean Cockerham, McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)
Tacoma, Wash. – Amid happy tears and rounds of applause, Gov. Chris Gregoire on Saturday signed into law a bill that grants same-sex couples some of the same rights as married people. “This is a very good moment for me,” the Democratic governor told a crowd packed into the ornate marbled state reception room in Olympia. The state law will take effect in 90 days. It gives gays, lesbians and unmarried seniors rights to visit a partner in the hospital, inherit property when there’s no will, and make decisions on matters like emergency health care, funeral arrangements and disposition of remains. Domestic partners are to register with the secretary of state’s office to qualify for the rights.
“I’m delighted,” said 70-year-old John McCluskey of Tacoma. “I don’t want my family making decisions when my time comes, if Rudy is still around. He is my partner. We have committed our lives together.” McCluskey said he and his partner, Rudy Henry are about to celebrate 48 years of living together. Once, in 1985, McCluskey said he was rushed to Tacoma General Hospital with chest pains. He said his partner didn’t have rights to find out what was going on. “He was quite distraught, because he couldn’t see me and couldn’t find out anything,” McCluskey said.
Opponents of the bill said it will lead to legalizing gay marriage in this state. Cle Elum Republican Rep. Bill Hinkle said the Legislature is “chipping away at the very foundations of this institution and of society.” Lawmakers opposed to the bill also said most of the rights granted in it can already be acquired through power of attorney or other contract. The group Positive Christian Agenda, led by pastor Joseph Fuiten, tried hard to kill the bill. Fuiten on Saturday called it a blow to marriage and an unwise social experiment being forced on an unwilling public.
His group sent an email to its supporters two weeks ago saying the measure would likely pass the House in the dark of night so Democrats could mask their “dirty deeds” from the public. The group sent another email Tuesday conceding House leaders didn’t wait until nighttime. “Rather, they lead their Democratic caucus in voting, unashamedly, in broad daylight, to undermine marriage,” said the group’s email message.
Legal same-sex marriage doesn’t appear imminent in this state. The Legislature passed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1998, defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman. The Washington Supreme Court upheld the law last summer and a bill to overturn it did not even get a hearing in the Legislature this year. But the sponsors of the domestic partnership bill weren’t shy about saying they do see it as the first step toward legal same-sex marriage. State Sen. Ed Murray, a Democrat from Seattle, said as the governor signed the bill Saturday that it is a “beginning and not an end.”
Michael Jensen of Tacoma said he hopes the new law will raise awareness about the lack of same-sex couple’s rights. Even with its passage, he said, married people will still have vastly more rights than gay and lesbian couples. Such rights include tax benefits, assumption of a spouses’ Social Security benefits and the right not to testify against a spouse in court. Jensen, who just celebrated his 15th anniversary with his partner, said he thinks public sentiment will turn to the point where people think it’s ridiculous same-sex couples aren’t entitled to the rights of people allowed to marry.
In the meantime, he said, the domestic partnership bill the governor signed Saturday is valuable. Jensen said he and his partner don’t carry their power of attorney papers wherever they go, and something like a car accident can happen to one of them at any time. “I think this is a great first step,” Jensen said. “It is long overdue. It’s something certainly my partner and I plan on taking advantage of.”
The secretary of state’s office has to work out the details of how couples can get on the domestic partnership registry. But the bill says they must file a notarized declaration of their partnership with the office and pay a filing fee of not more than $50. Same-sex couples would have to be at least 18 years old, share a home and not be married or in another domestic partnership to be on the registry. Heterosexual partners would also be eligible if one partner were at least 62. Bill supporters say seniors were included because some choose not to remarry after a spouse dies because of the possibility of losing pension and Social Security benefits.
California, Maine, New Jersey, Hawaii and the District of Columbia already have domestic partner registries, according to Lambda Legal, the national gay rights group.
25th April 2007
Early gay activism discovered in National Archives
by Tony Grew
A dusty scroll of parchment which contains the writings of an 18th century proponent of gay rights has been unearthed. Thomas Cannon’s 1749 book, Ancient And Modern Pederasty Investigated And Exemplified was suppressed, all copies were destroyed and the printer fled the country. The work contained a defence of gay desire and translations of homosexual Greek and Roman writings. The attempt to prosecute the printer of the book is the reason that we know so much about it. The scroll, discovered by Dr Hal Gladfelder while doing research at the National Archives in Kew, south west London.
"I came across the scroll in a box of uncatalogued legal documents from 1750 at the National Archive in Kew," explained Dr Gladfelder. "No copies of the document survive but on an indictment scroll there were long extracts from the book. So the eighteenth century courts, who were trying to suppress this, unwittingly helped publicise it 258 years later."
Dr Gladfelder, an academic at the University of Manchester’s School of Arts, Histories and Cultures, said the discovery was significant: "This must be the first substantial treatment of homosexuality ever in English. The only other discussions of homosexuality were contained in violently moralistic and homophobic attacks or in trial reports for the crime of sodomy up to and beyond 1750. We know very little about Cannon. But we do know he had to leave the country for Europe to avoid indictment. Interestingly, his father was Dean of Lincoln Cathedral and his grandfather was Bishop of Norwich and Ely.
"He was also a sometime friend – and rival – of John Cleland, author of the erotic classic Fanny Hill or the Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure in 1748. Cleland was author of the only other text of the period containing an explicit scene of male homosexuality. It’s a fair assumption that Cannon was writing for a gay subculture at the time – which has largely remained hidden. Though he lived in anonymity – possibly because of the notoriety of his pamphlet – I certainly regard him as a martyr."
April 25, 2007
Episcopal leader holds firm on gay rights, Says N.H. bishop’s election a blessing
by Michael Paulson, Globe Staff
Saying "I don’t believe that there is any will in this church to move backward," the top official of the Episcopal Church USA said yesterday that the election of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire has been "a great blessing" despite triggering intense controversy and talk of possible schism. In an interview during a visit to Boston, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori compared the gay rights struggle to battles over slavery and women’s rights, and said she believes that it has become a vocation for the Episcopal Church "to keep questions of human sexuality in conversation, and before not just the rest of our own church, but the rest of the world."
Jefferts Schori said that it could take 50 years for the debate over homosexuality to be resolved, but that she believes it will happen. She said she hopes that the Anglican Communion, an umbrella organization including the Episcopal Church and the Church of England, will stay together.
"Where the protesters are, in some parts of Africa or in other parts of the Anglican Communion today, is where this church and this society we live in was 50 years ago, and for us to assume that people can move that distance in a year or in a relatively instantaneous manner is perhaps faithless," she said. "That kind of movement and development has taken us a good deal of pain and energy over 40 or 50 years, and I think we have to make some space so that others can make that journey as well."
Jefferts Schori, a 53-year-old oceanographer who was ordained an Episcopal priest just 13 years ago, has been attempting to guide the 2.4 million member Episcopal Church through controversy since she was elected the 26th presiding bishop last summer, three years after the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire triggered the controversy by choosing the Rev. V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay man in a long-term partnered relationship, as its next bishop.
The Anglican Communion has been embroiled in a debate about whether and how to punish the American church for its consent to Robinson’s election, which some Anglican primates view as a violation of biblical teachings about sexuality. "This is an issue for some clergy and a handful of bishops in our own church, and for a handful of primates across the communion, who believe that this issue is of sufficient importance to chuck us out, but the vast majority of people and clergy in this church, and I would believe across the communion, think that our common mission is of far higher importance," Jefferts Schori said. "If we focus on the mission we share, we’re going to figure out how to get along together, even if we disagree about some things that generate a good deal more heat than light."
Jefferts Schori was in Massachusetts to visit with local Episcopal clergy, who are meeting in Brewster. She spoke to the Globe yesterday morning in the office of Bishop M. Thomas Shaw, leader of the Diocese of Massachusetts, at the diocesan headquarters in downtown Boston. "This is a ministry filled with joy and challenge, and for somebody who thinks that the cardinal sin is boredom, it’s feeling like a good fit," she said of her new role. "Anglicans have always said that our role is to live in tension and to live in the midst of tension, and, frankly, the only thing that doesn’t exhibit tension is dead."
Asked about her message to those who are critical of the direction of the Episcopal Church, she said: "If we are not willing to reexamine our assumptions about who is in and who is out, I don’t think we are adequately faithful in our spiritual journey. We may come to different conclusions about who is fit for inclusion in the community, but I don’t think it excuses us from a willingness to wrestle with that question."
April 26, 2007
New Hampshire approves gay unions
Lawmakers in New Hampshire have approved same-sex civil unions, giving legal recognition to gay partnerships in the north-eastern US state. The bill was passed by a 14-10 vote in the Democratic-held state senate. State Governor John Lynch would sign the bill into law within days, his spokesman said. Gay marriage is legal in only one of the 50 US states – Massachusetts. New Jersey, Connecticut and Vermont also offer some sort of civil unions. The bill in New Hampshire was passed without difficulty, unlike in other US states where the change in the law had faced legal challenges. Gov Lynch’s spokesman said the bill would be signed into law very soon. "This legislation is a matter of conscience, fairness and of preventing discrimination," Colin Manning said. It is in keeping with New Hampshire’s proud tradition of preventing discrimination," the spokesman added.
‘Huge leap forward’
Soon after the senate vote, one of the New Hampshire’s best-known gay residents said he would use the new legislation. "My partner and I look forward to taking full advantage of the new law," Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson told the Associated Press news agency. I think this is a huge lead forward but it is not full equality until we have equality. We have come further in a short time than any civil rights movement in history," he said. Bishop Robinson’s ordination in 2003 triggered a major crisis in the Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion of which it is part.
The Out Traveler: New Honolulu
by Matthew Link
From the Summer 2007 issue of The Out Traveler
Honolulu’s once-decrepit low-rise downtown is now bursting with hip lounges, clubs, and live music venues. Its monstrous ’60s and ’70s cement hotels are morphing into glass luxury condos and its cookie-cutter lodging scene is being made over, thanks to upscale boutique properties. In summer 2007, the überchic Hotel Renew by acclaimed designer Jiun Ho will open in Waikiki; meanwhile, the Trump International Hotel and Tower, a 464-room luxury hotel-condo property, has already broken ground for a 2009 opening.
Locals lament her stagnant and somewhat closeted gay scene, but compared to other U.S. metro areas of its size (Oahu’s population is 900,000), Honolulu’s queer infrastructure is hefty — with several busy bars and nightclubs, a spiffy all-gay-and-lesbian hotel ( The Cabana at Waikiki), queer beaches, a gay surf club, gay sporting events, and even a big transgender beauty contest, the Universal Show Queen. The city puts on a fine Rainbow Film Festival, slated this year for May 24-27. Queer icons Jim Nabors and Richard Chamberlain both call Honolulu home — and in early 2007, not one but three separate bills on civil unions were introduced in the state legislature. So now’s the time to start planning that fabulous Hawaii same-sex wedding!
Grab a Speedo and sunscreen, then head to Queen’s Surf Beach, the gay-popular layout area in front of the gorgeously lush Kapi’olani Park. With a perfect set of slow rollers Waikiki is, justifiably, one of the best places in the world to learn to surf, so check into the gay-friendly Hans Hedemann Surf School (2586 Kalakaua Ave.; 808-924-7778), which is a little further west at the Park Shores Hotel; on the tip of Diamond Head, far from the maddening crowds of Waikiki, hunky surf pros give you private lessons. Then chow down on unreal garlic ahi at the nearby, very local Irifune (563 Kapahulu Ave.; 808-737-1141), a funky Japanese eatery full of fishing nets, glow-in-the-dark stars, Kabuki masks, and snapshots of friends adorning the walls. Then tour Shangri La (4055 Papu Circle; 808-734-1941), also on Diamond Head.
The former cliffside estate of tobacco heiress Doris Duke, this stunning mansion is filled with Islamic art — one of the world’s finest collections — amassed during Duke’s travels. End the day with a sunset mai tai while listening to live Hawaiian music at the Mai Tai Bar at the Royal Hawaiian (2259 Kalakaua Ave.; 866-716-8109), the historic stucco "Pink Palace of the Pacific" that hosted many a celebrity in its time. The sand in front is known as "Dig Me Beach," reputedly featuring the most beautiful sunbathers in Waikiki. Don’t forget to pick up a classic handwoven panama hat and tropical sportswear at the gay-owned Newt at the Royal (2259 Kalakaua Ave.; 800-630-4287). Then take the glass elevator up to the 30th floor of the Sheraton Waikiki to dine on fresh seafood and enjoy the most panoramic views in Honolulu at the Hanohano Room (2255 Kalakaua Ave.; 866-716-8109). Broadway alumna Rocky Brown (Miss Saigon) sings her heart out here on Friday and Saturday nights.
Forfeit one day at the beach to explore Honolulu’s fascinating and historic downtown, which includes Chinatown. First head to Maunakea Street, where "aunties" string fresh lei garlands at the numerous flower shops. Then dive into the burgeoning art scene in the no-longer-downtrodden downtown district. If you’re here the first Friday of any month, you’ll find that businesses fling open their doors to present exhibitions, musicians, poets, arts demonstrations and celebrations. Have lunch at one of the best restaurants in Hawaii, gay-popular Indigo (1121 Nu’uanu Ave.; 808-521-2900), where chef Glenn Chu serves up incredible dishes like "wokked Buddhist vegetables" and grilled Mongolian rib-eye beef in an historic brick building with a back patio that looks out on to the Hawaii Theatre (1130 Bethel St.; 808-528-0506), a 1922 landmark that hosts gay films and LGBT cultural events. Then explore the nearby castle-like ‘Iolani Palace (364 S. King St.; 808-522-0822), the only official state residence of royalty in the United States, where Hawaii’s last two monarchs lived in the 1800s.
If you are still hungry for great art, delve into more than 50,000 Asian, Western, and Pacific works at downtown’s Honolulu Academy of Art (900 S. Beretania St.; 808-532-8700). Galleries include the James Michener Collection of stunning Japanese prints, and royal feather capes and tapa hangings from Polynesia. Hang out downtown after dark to check out its new artsy lounge scene at hot spots like thirtyninehotel (39 N. Hotel St.; 808-599-2552) or The Red Elephant (1144 Bethel St.; 808-545-2468).
Or, if you’re itching to get back outdoors, take a quick hike to the Manoa Falls at the Lyon Arboretum (3860 Manoa Rd.; 808-988-0456), tucked back in the moist, verdant Manoa Valley, just 10 minutes’ drive from Waikiki. Wind down with a sunset drink overlooking Kapi’olani Park at the best gay bar in Honolulu, Hula’s Bar & Lei Stand (134 Kapahulu Ave.; 808-923-0669)?locals love meeting tourists (a.k.a. fresh meat) here. Next, dig into the best Thai food in town at the upscale, gay-owned Keo’s (2028 Kuhio Ave.; 808-951-9355).
Renowned local gay artist Douglas Simonson (808-737-6275) gives private showings in his studio for those interested in his dazzling and diverse homoerotic paintings of island men. Then cool down by hitting the waves again with Hula’s all-gay catamaran cruise (808-923-0669), offered every Saturday at 2 p.m. Chill the sunburn with a traditional Hawaiian lomi lomi massage at one of the best spas in town, the SpaHalekulani (2199 Kalia Rd.; 800-367-2343). Complete your Zen day with an authentic Japanese tea ceremony — with geishas, rice-paper walls, and pomp and circumstance — at the Urasenke Teahouse (245 Saratoga Rd.; 808-923-3059). Then kitsch out in true Hawaiian style with a drink at La Mariana Sailing Club (50 Sand Island Access Rd.; 808-848-2800). This hidden, retro oceanside bar-restaurant is decked out in vintage ’50s and ’60s Hawaiiana salvaged from old Waikiki hotels, like puffer fish lamps, glass sea balls, movie posters, and anything gloriously gaudy and tiki. Cap off the night at Angles (2256 Kuhio Ave., second floor; 808-926-9766), an upstairs gay bar with a live DJ and a New Orleans-style veranda brimming with tanned men, both locals and tourists.
One of the best addresses to check into is the beachfront Hyatt Waikiki (2424 Kalakaua Ave.; 808-923-1234), with special Regency Club rooms that are a spacious 385 to 483 square feet and VIP services like courtesy car service, access to lounge and rooftop deck, breakfast, evening cocktails, and hors d’oeuvres.
The ResortQuest Waikiki Beach Hotel (2570 Kalakaua Ave.; 877-997-6667) is like the W meets Don Ho, with a fun Technicolor yet upscale feel and recently renovated island-style rooms. The W Honolulu (2885 Kalakaua Ave.; 808-922-1700), despite almost being sold last year, is still going strong. Hidden away in a posh area of Diamond Head, this 50-room boutique gem is close to the gay crowd on Queen’s Surf Beach.
April 30, 2007
Breakthrough Gay Advances in Past Three Weeks
by Deb Price, Creators Syndicate
When Connecticut state Rep. Beth Bye’s turn came to speak about the need for her legislature to approve gay marriage, she tearfully recalled her devout Catholic father’s loving participation in her civil union ceremony, then described the pain of being excluded from actual marriage. The freshman lawmaker recounted filling out a health-care form: Her choices were "married," "divorced," "widowed," "single" or "other."
"Forgive me if I’m not patient," Bye told Connecticut’s joint House-Senate Judiciary Committee. "I don’t want to be ‘other’ anymore. I want to be married." Bye’s touching plea helped create a wonderfully lopsided victory — the 27-to-15 committee vote that endorsed opening marriage to gay couples. Gay marriage now goes to the full state House and Senate. (To watch Bye’s moving testimonial, go to lmfct.org.) Connecticut’s breakthrough is just one of a series of astonishing gay advances in the past three weeks. The headline-grabbing victories stretched from coast to coast and shared one thing in common: A gay lawmaker played a key role. "We have seen in the last month at almost every major win, almost always there is an openly gay legislator behind that story," says Denis Dison of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which helps elect openly gay or transgender officials, who now number 370.
Here’s a quick tick-tock:
April 12: Connecticut’s powerful Judiciary Committee overwhelmingly approves same-sex marriage.
April 19: Oregon Senate votes, 19 to seven, to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in housing, employment, public accommodations and public education. Two days earlier, the House did as well, 35 to 25. Oregon’s House also passed a domestic partner bill, 34 to 26, on April 17, which would grant gay couples all the state-level rights of marriage. The Senate is expected to follow suit. Gov. Ted Kulongoski, a Democrat, promises to sign both bills.
April 21: Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Democrat, signs a domestic partnership bill, giving gay couples important marriage-like rights.
April 24: Out gay U.S. Reps. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., help reintroduce legislation to ban job discrimination based on sexual orientation and for the first time include gender identity. The bill’s prospects of passing Congress are encouraging.
April 25: Iowa’s House votes 59 to 37 to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity at work and many other places. Hours later, the Senate agrees, 34 to 16. Democratic Gov. Chet Culver says he’ll sign the protections into law. (Iowa and Oregon will bring to 19 the states prohibiting anti-gay job discrimination and to 10 the number banning anti-trans discrimination.)
April 26: New Hampshire’s Senate follows its House by embracing civil unions, 14 to 10. Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, says he’ll sign it. So, New Hampshire, which hosts the first 2008 presidential primary, will be the fourth civil union state — joining Vermont, Connecticut and New Jersey. New Hampshire is the first state to act without being prodded by a lawsuit.
April 27: Five years after a gay state senator began pushing for marriage equality, New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat, becomes the first U.S. governor to introduce gay marriage legislation.
If you ever wonder whether it’s important for gay people to risk being out at work, just review this wonderful list. Gay lawmakers, out at work, are rocketing our country forward.
Deb Price of The Detroit News writes the first nationally syndicated column on gay issues.
May 3, 2007
Governor set to OK state civil unions
by James Sinks / The Bulletin
Salem – Oregon will join the growing list of states that extend marriagelike rights to same-sex couples, under a landmark bill that earned final legislative approval Wednesday. With jubilant advocates for gays and lesbians watching from the gallery above, the Oregon Senate debated and then endorsed the creation of domestic partnerships, which would extend to same-sex couples most of the rights and responsibilities afforded married people under Oregon law. The bill passed 21-9, with all of the chamber’s Democrats and two Republicans voting in favor.
"This is a giant step forward for gays and lesbians in Oregon," said Senate Majority Leader Kate Brown, D-Portland, who is now married but previously considered herself a bisexual. To obtain rights, same-sex couples would need to file with county clerk offices and obtain certificates of domestic partnership. Both partners would need to be at least 18, and one would need to be an Oregon resident.
Couples would then qualify for spousal benefits, such as the automatic inheritance of a partner’s estate and the ability to file joint state tax returns. The state law would not extend any of the benefits under federal law and would not be recognized in other states. Couples that want to end a domestic partnership would need to get divorced, and then could owe alimony and child support. The legislation – part of a two-bill gay rights package – has already passed the House, and both bills will be signed into law by Gov. Ted Kulongoski in a public ceremony next week, according to the governor’s office. The other bill makes it illegal to discriminate against somebody based on their sexual orientation.
Although critics say the new partnership status is "same-sex marriage by a different name," the legislature’s lawyers say the bill was constructed so that it does not violate a Constitutional ban on same-sex marriage passed by voters in 2004. Measure 36 said "only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or legally recognized as a marriage."
That legal distinction isn’t enough to mollify opponents, however, who say voters might get the final word on both bills. "There are tens of thousands of Oregonians who are offended that legislators and the governor could undo the will of one million people," said Marylin Shannon, a former legislator from Marion County. A meeting is set for today to start putting together a coalition to refer the law to the ballot and try to overturn it, she said. It would take just over 55,000 signatures per law to refer them to voters. A referendum would put the laws in limbo until November 2008.
The Oregon Family Council, which led the successful campaign to ban same-sex marriage, won’t participate in a referendum, lobbyist Nick Graham said Tuesday. Lawmakers addressed that group’s critiques, such as ensuring civil unions could not be solemnized by a minister, he said. "We would encourage folks to support a referendum, but we would not be actively involved," he said. While gay rights organizations in Oregon and nationally trumpeted the passage of House Bill2007 on Tuesday, the potential of domestic partnerships leaves some couples with mixed feelings. At the Capitol, an Nathaline Frener of Eugene rushed out of the Senate with her cell phone on her ear, calling her 8-year-old son first, then her partner. "It’s exciting, but it’s bittersweet," she said. "Ultimately we want to be treated like everybody else."
Becky Plassmann, of Bend, said in a telephone interview Tuesday that, while she is thrilled that lawmakers passed endorsed legal status for gays and lesbians, she is not sure whether she’ll seek the status. "It’s a step in the right direction and I’d like to congratulate everybody who did such a good job," she said. "But I am really looking forward to the day when we have access to full marriage rights, because almost equal is not the same as equal." Plassmann and her partner, Dorothy Leman, were married in Canada, and in 2003, were the first same-sex couple to run their marriage photo in the nuptials announcements in The Bulletin. But that Canadian marriage is not recognized in Oregon – so there will be some temptation to get a domestic partnership in order to get marriagelike rights, she said.
"It is hard to swallow because it would really be acknowledging second-class citizenship, even though it is a step in the right direction." But for lawmakers who have tried to pass some kind of legal recognition, the vote was momentous. "A part of me wants to jump with joy and scream," said Sen. Ben Westlund, D-Tumalo, who supported Measure 36 in 2004 but then helped lead a doomed effort in 2005 to provide an alternative of civil unions. "This chamber and the chamber to the west finally have the political will and courage to afford basic civil rights to all of our citizens," he said.
Just one opponent spoke during the floor debate. Sen. Roger Beyer, R-Molalla, said the legislation will change much of the state’s lawbooks – but the exact modifications weren’t spelled out to lawmakers in a 10-page bill. "I don’t even know what I’m voting no on," he said. You could tell that a noteworthy vote was about to happen because, as the Senate debate wound down, the upstairs gallery began to fill up. Lobbyists, staffers, former Gov. Barbara Roberts and even state Treasurer Randall Edwards witnessed the floor vote. "This is historic, Edwards whispered. If the bills are not referred to the ballot, both would go into effect in January.
Mike Hollern, the chief executive of Bend-based Brooks Resources, said Tuesday the passage of the gay-rights bills isn’t just about ensuring fairness, which is a good thing, but it will help keep Oregon competitive in the job market. "Young, bright and creative people will be attracted to communities, states and neighborhoods, that have antidiscrimination laws and allowances for same sex marriages or civil unions," he said in a telephone interview. "The passage of these laws removes an impediment to Oregon’s future economic growth." Julia Brim-Edwards, the lobbyist for Nike, who attended the Senate vote and a celebration afterward, said the state’s only Fortune 500 company has supported the bills and will help oppose any effort to overturn them. "We view diversity as a strength," she said.
According to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Oregon becomes the seventh state to approve robust rights for same-sex couples, joining Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, New Jersey, California and New Hampshire, where a bill is awaiting the governor’s signature. There are limited domestic partnership laws in Maine and Washington state, the group said in a press release celebrating Tuesday’s passage. Hawaii also offers a domestic registry that grants some rights to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples.
Becky Groves, the president of the Central Oregon chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, said the pursuit of some kind of legal rights for same-sex couples has been an emotional roller-coaster for the past three years. She is heterosexual and married and has a son who is gay. "It may be a while before same-sex couples are granted full marriage rights, but we won’t give up hope," Groves said. "Domestic partnerships are a lot better than what we had before, which is nothing, and as the parent of a gay son I’m glad he can have the same rights as his sisters."
Governor set to OK state civil unions
by James Sinks / The Bulletin
"The rights of marriage"
Domestic partnerships, which are civil contracts entered into by two qualified adults of the same sex, would extend marriagelike rights including:
o Automatic inheritance of a partner’s property;
o Eligibility for spousal insurance, health and retirement benefits;
o The ability to visit a partner or partner’s child in the hospital;
o The ability to take sick or family leave time to care for a partner;
o The ability to file a wrongful death suit if the other partner is killed;
o The ability to file joint Oregon tax returns; and
o The ability to have a court require child support and alimony. Not all of the same rights would be proffered, however. For instance:
o Partners would get no federal benefits, such as the ability to file federal taxes jointly.
o Domestic partnerships cannot be solemnized by a preacher.
o A foreign resident could not gain citizenship through a domestic partnership.
o They would not be recognized in other states.
Source: Oregon Senate Judiciary Committee For Westlund, civil unions is a defining issue
Salem – For better or for worse, the legal recognition of same-sex partnerships will be one of the defining issues in the political career of state Sen. Ben Westlund, D-Tumalo. In 2004, Westlund – then a Republican – penned an argument in support of Measure 36, which ultimately passed, banning gay marriage in Oregon. The move alienated him with much of the state’s gay community.
So, less than six months later, it turned heads when he co-sponsored a bill that would legalize a separate mechanism called civil unions for same-sex couples. That legislation fizzled, but the reaction – including a backlash from many fellow Republicans – set in motion a chain of events that helped elevate Westlund to a statewide figure and led to his defection from his party. Westlund, who became a Democrat in December, sat with his son, BJ, in the Senate chamber Tuesday as his colleagues passed a bill granting marriage rights to same-sex couples through a domestic partnership registry.
"Providing civil rights and protections to same-gender couples was actually one of the easiest decisions of bills I’ve ever sponsored," Westlund said afterward. "But the reaction to my advocacy is what was very unexpected." Deschutes County Republicans mulled a recall in 2005, but Westlund won applause for taking a potentially perilous stand – although some gays and lesbians haven’t forgiven him for his support of Measure 36.
With the urging of some new-found allies, who were frustrated by what they perceived as a lack of leadership by Gov. Ted Kulongoski in 2005, Westlund made a short-lived bid for governor as an independent. He pulled the plug on that campaign in August 2006, effectively ceding the race to Kulongoski. In so doing, he alienated himself further from Republicans, who’d hoped that his third-party campaign would siphon away votes from the governor and help Republican challenger Ron Saxton. Among the planks of Westlund’s campaign: Approving an alternative way for same-sex couples to gain legal recognition and rights. He calls it the "civil rights struggle of this generation."
On Tuesday, talk of that struggle yielded to talk of victory. "This conversation that was begun in Oregon with the plowing of those first rocky furrows two years ago has allowed us to come to where we are today, and I am so proud of what we’ve accomplished," he said. He shook hands with his fellow co-sponsors of the 2005 bill, and then strode with his son out of the Senate chamber and into a first-floor conference room where gay-rights activists, other Democrats and television cameras waited.When he walked in, you could hear the applause int the hallway outside.
May 3, 2007
No ‘gay exception’ U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear custody case
by Lisa Keen
Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Supreme Court refused Monday to hear the appeal of an ex-lesbian who had hoped to pit Vermont and Virginia’s disparate laws on gay relationships against each other. The court refused to hear the appeal of Virginia resident Lisa Miller-Jenkins who sought to refuse compliance with a Vermont Supreme Court ruling granting her former civil union partner visitation with a child they had together. Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins met and lived in Virginia before moving to Vermont where they obtained a civil union license in 2000. In 2002, they had a baby together but did not establish any legal rights, such as adoption or a parenting agreement, between Jenkins and the child. A year later, the couple split up and Miller, the biological mother, moved back to Virginia with the child. There, she filed legal actions, first in Vermont and then in Virginia to dissolve the civil union and secure custody of the child. She also sought child support from Jenkins.
But in July 2004, after Virginia enacted its new law prohibiting any recognition of same-sex relationships, Miller asked the court to grant her sole custody, which a Virginia judge did. She then filed a motion back in Vermont, asking the Vermont court to give "full faith and credit" recognition to the Virginia judge’s ruling. The Vermont court refused to honor the Virginia court ruling and, when Miller refused to obey the Vermont court’s order that Miller allow visitation by Jenkins, the Vermont court declared Miller in contempt.
That set the stage for a battle between the state courts. The Vermont Supreme Court upheld its lower court ruling and that is the decision Miller sought to have the U.S. Supreme Court strike down. Instead, it refused to even review the case. Jennifer Levi, an attorney with Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, which filed a brief supporting Jenkins, applauded the high court’s refusal. "All children deserve the protection of the law and a loving relationship with both of their parents," said Levi. "There should be no gay exception."
16th May 2007
Jimmy Carter questions ban on gays in the military
by PinkNews.co.uk writer
Former US President Jimmy Carter, recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, has called on Congress to revisit the military’s "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual personnel. In an exclusive statement to Servicemembers Legal Defence Network (SLDN), Carter said: "It is my long-held belief that every human being deserves dignity and respect. "I often heard that phrase during my years at the United States Naval Academy, I carried it out as Commander-in-Chief, and it continues to animate my human rights work around the globe today. "The nation’s commitment to human rights requires that lawmakers revisit ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ the current policy that prevents lesbians, gays and bisexuals from serving openly in our armed forces." Carter served as president from 1977 to 1981.
During his term of office, Carter oversaw the Panama Canal treaties, the Camp David Accords, the treaty of peace between Egypt and Israel, the SALT II treaty with the Soviet Union and the establishment of U.S. diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China. He received a bachelor of science degree from the United States Naval Academy in 1946. While in the Navy he became a submariner, serving in both the Atlantic and Pacific fleets and rising to the rank of lieutenant. Chosen by Admiral Hyman Rickover for the nuclear submarine programme, he was assigned to Schenectady, N.Y., where he took graduate work at Union College in reactor technology and nuclear physics, and served as senior officer of the pre-commissioning crew of the Seawolf, America’s second nuclear submarine.
In 1982, he founded The Carter Centre, which addresses national and international issues of public policy. "As someone who has served our country as a Naval Officer, Commander-in-Chief and one of the world’s pre-eminent human rights champions, there are few people more qualified to speak about this issue than President Carter," said Sharra E. Greer, director of law and policy for SLDN. "There is a growing understanding that ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ isn’t just bad public policy, but is also a blight on our country’s commitment to human rights and equal opportunity.
"SLDN welcomes President Carter, the first Nobel laureate to call for an end to this unconscionable discrimination within our own government, to the coalition of those working to lift the ban." In his statement to SLDN, Carter says that "’Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is the only law in America today that regulates a group of citizens then prohibits them from identifying themselves and speaking up on their own behalf. "Gay soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines are unable to tell their member of Congress or their commander that the policy is an abject failure and they are living proof because they will face discharge. Those who defend our liberties and freedoms deserve better."
He goes on to say, "… there are great differences in public opinion on social issues today compared to twenty years ago. When I served as President, the majority in our country did not support equality for gay Americans, but that has now changed. "The estimated 65,000 gay men and women who currently are serving our country honorably deserve respect," Carter said. "America has always been a beacon of hope for those who believe in human rights and individual dignity. The brave and dedicated men and women of our armed forces also must benefit from this fundamental ideal."
22nd May 2007
Gay bishop excluded from Anglican conference
by Tony Grew
The controversial Bishop of New Hampshire has not been invited to the Lambeth Conference next year. Conservative and liberal branches of the worldwide Anglican communion have been at loggerheads over the issues of homosexuality and same-sex unions ever since Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, was ordained as a bishop in the US in 2003. The 14th Lambeth Conference, the assembly of Anglican bishops held once every ten years, will take place between 16th July and 4th August 2008 in Canterbury. Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, is spiritual head of the Anglican church worldwide. He indicated last year that he did not want to discuss human sexuality issues at the conference, emphasising training matters instead.
In April the Archbishop said he even considered cancelling the Lambeth conference to avoid a schism. "Yes, we’ve already been considering that and the answer is no," he told the Anglican Church of Canada’s Anglican Journal. We’ve been looking at whether the timing is right, but if we wait for the ideal time, we will wait more than just 18 months," he added. The decision not to invite Bishop Robinson comes amid more splits in the American Anglican church, known as Episcopalians, over his ordination and the decision by some congregations to bless same-sex unions.
Last week the diocese of Fort Worth, Texas, decided to reject the spiritual authority of the Episcopalian church and seek alternative oversight. Bishop Jack Iker, bishop of the diocese, is a leading traditionalist who opposes women priests as well as gay ones. That decision marked a further disintegration in the unity of the Anglican communion and the authority of US Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.
Earlier this month an outspoken African primate defied Archbishop Williams and established a breakaway branch of the church opposed to gay priests. Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria accused the Anglican leadership of being "insulting and condescending" to the rest of the church. He performed a ceremony to establish American bishop Martyn Minns as head of a new church branch under his control in Nigeria. At least 45 US parishes have broken away and placed themselves under the jurisdiction of African bishops.
May 23, 2007
How Gay Marriage Has Worked in Massachusetts
by Mary Kilpatrick
Three years ago this month, some Massachusetts citizens exercised a civil right – the right to marry the person they love regardless of that person’s gender. On June 14, the Massachusetts state legislature is once again considering whether to place a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage on the ballot. Therefore, on this third anniversary of marriage equality in Massachusetts, it may be useful to take stock of what has happened over the past three years since the first gay and lesbian couples were married in Massachusetts.
First, more than 8,500 gay and lesbian couples across the state have exchanged vows. Apart from the emotional significance of those vows, these couples have obtained legal recognition and increased security for themselves and their children. These legal protections include access to healthcare benefits and pensions, rights of survivorship and inheritance, and rights of hospital visitation. While wills and contracts can provide some of these benefits, they cannot come close to the comprehensive and automatic protections provided by marriage.
Second, while Vermont paved the way, Massachusetts is on the leading edge of a positive trend of eliminating discrimination against gay and lesbian families. Since Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage in 2004, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey, California, and Oregon have moved to legally recognize gay and lesbian relationships, and New York Governor Eliot Spitzer has introduced a bill legalizing gay marriage in New York. Hawaii, Maine, Washington, and the District of Columbia also provide some statewide spousal rights to same-sex couples.
Finally, it is instructive to think about what has not happened since gay marriages began in Massachusetts. Straight people are still getting married and having children. No religious group has been forced to conduct a religious marriage ceremony that it believes would contradict its religious teachings. And, as far as this writer knows, no gay marriage has broken up, or even actually threatened, a single straight marriage.
Despite the fear mongering of gay marriage opponents, nothing in the past three years has happened to justify exposing the rights of some families to a public vote. Far from being a threat to marriage, the desire of gays and lesbians for marriage equality strengthens and emphasizes the importance of this institution. Extending the legal benefits of marriage to more families increases the numbers of people who benefit from the social safety net marriage provides. Massachusetts legislators have an obligation to protect all Massachusetts families, and they should vote to keep the Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage off the ballot.
Mary Kilpatrick is an assistant professor of law and a reference librarian at the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover. She can be contacted at Kilpatrick@mslaw.edu
May 23, 2007
Bishop of California stands in solidarity with snubbed gay bishop, prepares to welcome Nigerian gay rights activist
San Francisco, CA – Following the announcement that openly gay bishop Gene Robinson would not be invited to attend an important conference of Anglican bishops next year, the Episcopal bishop of California, Marc Andrus, has declared his support for Bishop Robinson.
“I will be seeking to learn how I can best be in solidarity with Bishop Robinson, through prayerful action,” says the Rt. Rev. Marc Andrus, Episcopal bishop of California. “The tactic of isolation and exile being employed against Bishop Robinson is retrogressive behavior that moves us towards a past from which Christ is always seeking to redeem us. I ask the people of the Diocese of California to pray with me about our common life with all of God’s people and the earth.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury convenes the Lambeth Conference, a meeting of all of the bishops of the Anglican Communion, once every ten years. While acknowledging that Bishop Robinson is a duly-elected and consecrated bishop in the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Williams decided not to invite him because of opposition expressed by conservatives such as Peter Akinola, Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Nigeria. Akinola supports repressive legislation in Nigeria that would criminalize homosexuality and suppress advocacy for the human rights of gay and lesbian people.
On Sunday, June 24, Bishop Andrus will welcome openly gay Nigerian human rights activist Davis Mac-Illya to San Francisco, and they will march together with the church’s contingent in the Lesbian and Gay Pride Parade. “At the end of the Easter season,” remarks Andrus, “the Sunday reading gives us a passage from what is called the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus: ‘That they may be one, as I and the Father are one.’ We must always be seeking this oneness that honors both our interconnectedness, our individuality, and that includes all.”
“This is a defining moment for The Episcopal Church,” says the Rev. John Kirkley, president of the California dioceses’ gay and lesbian ministry. “Our bishops must refuse to capitulate to those for whom the exclusion of gay and lesbian people is the criteria for membership in the Anglican Communion. My hope is that they will find a creative way to respond to Archbishop Williams that actually honors our Church’s commitment to listen to the voices of lesbian and gay people around the world, including those of Bishop Robinson and Davis Mac-Illya.
Archbishop Rowan Williams is scheduled to meet with the bishops of The Episcopal Church in New Orleans in September. “It will be important for our bishops to press Williams to reconsider at that meeting,” Kirkley commented, “and for lay leaders, including gay and lesbian members of the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council, to speak with the Archbishop there.”
Oasis is the gay lesbian, bisexual and transgender ministry of the Bay Area Episcopal church, the Diocese of California. A list of bay area Episcopal churches that welcome Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender people is @ http://www.oasiscalifornia.org.
24th May 2007
Mary Cheney gives birth to a baby boy
by Tony Grew
The daughter of US Vice President Dick Cheney has given birth to a baby boy. Samuel David Cheney weighted a healthy 8lbs 6oz. While the birth of a grandchild for Mr Cheney would not at first seem a matter of public controversy, Mary Cheney is gay. Conservative and Christian groups have questioned whether Ms Cheney and her partner of 15 years, Heather Poe, will make suitable parents. The couple have not disclosed how the baby was conceived, but it is known that Vice President Cheney has always been publicly supportive of his lesbian child. She played a key role on his campaigns for the second-highest office in the land in 2000 and 2004 and has been with Heather for 15 years. 37-year-old Ms. Cheney is also a vice president, of consumer advocacy at internet giant AOL. Earlier this year her father told CNN that he was delighted about the imminent birth of his sixth grandchild, and told presenter Wolf Blitzer he was out of order for bringing it up.
Terry Boggis, Director of the Center Kids program at the NYC Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community centre, welcomed the news: "We welcome Mary Cheney and Heather Poe’s baby into the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender family community – one of the 6-14 million children being raised by LGBT people in the United States. Though I’m sure they’re not seeking to be a poster family, I hope the high visibility afforded by the Cheney name helps move the American public to a more compassionate and broad appreciation for what families can look like."
Ms Cheney announced in December 2006 that she was pregnant. Interviewed on CNN’s Situation Room in January, Mr Cheney was congratulated on the upcoming birth by presenter Wolf Blitzer, who then went on to read out a statement from pressure group Focus on the Family. "Mary Cheney’s pregnancy raises the question of what’s best for children. Just because it’s possible to conceive a child outside of the relationship of a married mother and father, doesn’t mean it’s best for the child."
Mr Cheney, 66, was visibly displeased at the attempt to paint his child as a bad role model. He replied, "I’m delighted. I’m delighted I’m about to have a sixth grandchild, Wolf, and obviously think the world of both of my daughters and all of my grandchildren." Then he added "And I think, frankly, you’re out of line with that question." The presenter hastily attempted to mollify Mr Cheney, saying he felt the question was responsible and fair. "I just fundamentally disagree with your perspective," the Vice President replied.
When Presidential candidate John Kerry raised Mary Cheney’s sexual orientation during the 2004 campaign for the White House, her father was reportedly furious. Mr Cheney has publicly stated that he did not think there was a need for federal intervention to ban same-sex marriages, and has often spoken publicly of his love, admiration and respect for his daughter. Ms Cheney’s partner Heather often appears with the Vice Presidential family at official and political functions and events.
May 25, 2007
Culver signs civil rights expansion into law
Gays and lesbians in Iowa will get new protections from discrimination in housing, education and a host of other areas under legislation Gov. Chet Culver signed into law today. “The civil rights struggle has defined our country for generations, ” said Culver. “This has been a nearly 20-year fight up at the Legislature. We are here to celebrate one more victory.”
The measure Culver signed adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of traits included in Iowa’s civil rights law, which already banned discrimination based on such factors as race and ethnicity. Culver signed the measure at the downtown offices of Principal Financial Group, a powerhouse business that supported the new rules. Principal has banned discrimination of gays and lesbians since 1991.
“It’s a good day for Iowa,” said Ralph Rosenberg, head of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, which also had supported the legislation. “I feel good being an Iowan today.” The civil rights expansion was one of two major victories for gay rights activists during this year’s Legislature. Culver already has signed a measure that adds sexual orientation to a list of traits protected from bullying and requires schools to report incidents of bullying.
Praise for the measure wasn’t unanimous.
Speaking today on the Iowa Public Television show “Iowa Press,” former legislator Chuck Hurley denounced the new law. “This is legislative and cultural malpractice, ” said Hurley, who heads the conservative Iowa Family Policy Center. He said the measure gives gays and lesbians special rights.
Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames, floor manager of the measure, sharply disagreed. She said the measure simply bans what has become routine discrimination against gays and lesbians. “It’s about ending discrimination, ”
Wessel-Kroeschell said on the program. “It certainly isn’t about special rights.”
Des Moines businessman Rich Eychaner, a prominent gay activist, said the signing ceremony capped a generation-long fight for equal rights. “I’ve been working on this for 30 years,” said Eychaner.
Culver framed the new law as part of a long tradition in Iowa of fighting discrimination. He said that history extends to a state Supreme Court ban on segregation in 1873. “Today we will continue that tradition,” said Culver. “We send a message that intolerance and discrimination has no place in our state.”
With the signing, Iowa becomes the nation’s 19th state to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. The law goes on the books with the beginning of the state’s new fiscal year on July 1.
29 May 2007
Tutu tells Church to stop obsessing about gays
by Amy Bourke
Desmond Tutu has called for the Anglican Church in Africa to stop "obsessing" with gay priests and same-sex marriages. The Nobel Peace Prize winner and former Archbishop of Cape Town said that church leaders in Africa were not paying enough attention to problems in Zimbabwe, HIV/AIDs, or the crisis in Darfur. He told ABC News: "There are so many issues crying out for concern and application by the church of its resources, and here we are, I mean, with this kind of extraordinary obsession. Certainly there’s not been anything like the same standing up to the evil and exercising the prophetic ministry that one would have expected from the church – and that has been very … distressing."
Anglican communities across the world have been divided by the issue over sexuality. The Anglican church in South Africa is the only one on the continent that has a liberal attitude towards women priests. Most African churches are implacably opposed to gay or lesbian clergy and regard homosexuality as biblically forbidden. Earlier this year, PinkNews.co.uk reported how the legendary anti-apartheid campaigner told a conference in Nairobi that gay hate was the same as racism.
Dr Tutu, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, told journalists: "For one to penalise someone for their sexual orientation is the same as penalising someone for something they can do nothing about, like ethnicity or race. "I cannot imagine persecuting a minority group which is already being persecuted." Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has ruled out a discussion on sexuality at the next Lambeth Conference in 2008, but stressed that Anglican bishops should focus on "the listening process.