VOLUME 3, ISSUE 315 | April 8 – 14, 2004
Vote on City Contractors Bill April 16
City Council legislation, the Equal Benefits Bill, requiring contractors who do business with New York City to provide the same benefits to employees’ domestic partners as are made available to employees’ spouses, is in the home stretch. Intro 137, whose chief sponsor is Council Member Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), has its third and final hearing on Friday, April 16 at 10 a.m. before the Contracts Committee chaired by Council Member Robert Jackson (D-Manhattan), a sponsor of the bill. The hearing is scheduled to take place at 250 Broadway on the 14th floor.
Just this week, the New York State Catholic Conference, representing Catholic bishops around the state, came out with an action alert against the bill, which has a veto-proof majority of council members sponsoring it. “This legislation is hostile to the fundamental beliefs of our faith, since it would force the Church to recognize the validity of non-marital relationships such as cohabitation and same-sex ‘marriages,’” the alert said. The group “at a minimum” is demanding a “full religious exemption,” something the sponsors have said that they will not agree to.
There has been talk of a limited compromise as was done in San Francisco in 1997 where the Catholic archdiocese was deemed to be in compliance with a similar law by allowing church employees to name one other household member on their benefit policies, without specifying domestic partners’ genders. Even that was too much for the Salvation Army and they forfeited their contracts with the city.
Mayor Bloomberg is opposed to the EBB and claims it is an illegal usurpation of his powers and a violation of state procurement laws, but his Law Department has refused to explain or justify their arguments either before the committee or to Gay City News.
Legislators Come Out
Gordon Fox, the House Majority Leader in the Rhode Island legislature, came out last week at a rally for same-sex marriage. “I’m here to make the case, to make our case,” he told the crowd, in a spontaneous coming out that he had not discussed with anyone beforehand, including his partner of six years. “I feel I’m a normal person,” he told his colleagues, according to the Providence Journal. “I’m the same Gordon Fox that you elected majority leader five minutes before I announced that at the rally, and I hope and pray I’ll be the same Gordon Fox in your eyes five minutes thereafter.” The paper said that he compared the fight for same-sex marriage to that of the interracial marriage of his own parents.
David Ciccilline, the gay mayor of Providence, said he is “incredibly proud” of his friend, Fox, and believes that his coming out will be a boost to the struggle for LGBT equality.
In Rapid City, S.D., Alderman Tom Murphy, 48, has announced he will become Alderwoman Murphy before his term is up in 2005. “I’m transgender. I’ve just accepted that,” he told the Rapid City Journal. “All my life I’ve done a good job of hiding it.” Murphy spent 22 years in the Air Force and was outspoken in the successful fight against a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage this year.
The Georgia House of Representatives reversed an earlier vote and came up with the two-thirds necessary to put a state constitutional amendment proposal banning same-sex marriage on the ballot this November. Several African American legislators who had either held the line or abstained from previous votes on the issue bowed to pressure from church groups and put it over the top. Most of the anti-gay votes, of course, came from white legislators.
“We shouldn’t have to explain to 6-, 7-, and 8-year olds why men are kissing each other,” Rep. Randal Mangham, who had taken a walk during the earlier vote but voted aye last week, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I don’t like having to explain that to my kids.”
The proposed amendment bans not just same-sex marriage, which is already illegal in Georgia, but any recognition for same-sex unions.
The Michigan legislature rejected a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, already statutorily outlawed. But the religious right will try by mid-July to collect the 317,757 signatures necessary to place it on the ballot, forbidding recognition of gay couples who marry or have obtained any “similar union.”
In Washington State, the ACLU has filed suit on behalf of 11 same-sex couples seeking to marry. Lambda Legal also has a suit in state court, but all the legal groups are working together.
Investigating Police Abuse of Gays
Amnesty International is conducting a national study of LGBT folks who have experienced police misconduct, from non-response to complaints filed to physical abuse. For more information call 212-633-4277 or go to www.aiusa.org
Schools Settle with Lesbian Student
Natalie Young, 15, wore a “Barbie is a Lesbian” t-shirt to her former Queens middle school and was suspended and forbidden from wearing the shirt. Her mom sued the City of New York and veteran civil rights lawyer Ronald Kuby represented her. This past week, the Department of Education settled the case by paying Young $30,000 and agreeing to require sensitivity training for teachers and administrators, a first for city schools, which have never mandated such training as many other school districts have.
The school system has also articulated a new policy on dress that says “students have the right to ‘wear political or other types of buttons, badges or armbands, except where such material is libelous, obscene’ or disrupts the school or leads to disorder or invades the rights of others,” smh.com reported. It also bans slogans deemed “dangerous” or that “interfere with the learning process.” Kuby said that an anti-war t-shirt would be OK, but not one praising Osama bin Laden.
Young, an out lesbian, had also been disciplined for wearing rainbow beads as a symbol of LGBT pride.
Ashcroft: Porn, No!
President Bush’s Attorney General John Ashcroft has ordered the U.S. Justice Department to conduct a massive campaign against pornography. Ashcroft said in a 2002 speech that porn “invades our homes persistently though the mail, phone, VCR, cable TV and the Internet,” and has “strewn its victims from coast to coast,” the Baltimore Sun reported. The paper also said, “32 prosecutors, investigators and a handful of FBI agents are spending millions of dollars to bring anti-obscenity cases to courthouses across the country for the first time in 10 years. Nothing is off limits,” they warn, “even soft-core cable programs such as HBO’s long-running ‘Real Sex’ or the adult movies widely offered in the guest rooms of major hotel chains.”
The CDC may want to rein in Ashcroft’s crusade. An Australian study this week found that men who ejaculate frequently have a lower risk of developing prostate cancer. “The more you flush the ducts out, the less there is to hang around and damage the cells that line them,” Graham Giles, lead author of an earlier study on the same phenomenon told Reuters.
Bush Disagrees with Appointee
Scott Bloch, President Bush’s new director of the Office of Special Counsel, took office a few months ago and proceeded to remove sexual orientation job protections from federal employees that had been in place for years. This week, White House spokesperson Ken Lisaius told the San Francisco Chronicle, “Long-standing federal policy prohibits discrimination against federal employees based on sexual orientation. President Bush expects federal agencies to enforce this policy and to ensure that all federal employees are protected from unfair discrimination at work.”
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-Bronx) said he was pleased with Bush’s “rebuke,” but believes the president should fire Bloch because he is someone who “openly flouts the laws they were hired to uphold.”
“I’ve Got My Own Pulitzer”
The Pulitzer Prize in Drama this year has been awarded to Doug Wright, 41, for “I Am My Own Wife,” for his ongoing Broadway about Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, an East German person of transgender experience who survived the Nazis and the Communists (partly by collaborating with the Stasi, or secret police).
Wright encountered von Mahlsdorf in 1990 and was inspired to write about her. His encounters with her are dramatized in the play, with Jefferson Mays embodying all 36 characters in the story. His collaboration with director Moises Kaufman, author of “Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde” and “The Laramie Project,” helped bring Wright’s work to full theatrical form.
Lesbian Pioneer Battling Cancer
Jean O’Leary, a founder of Lesbian Feminist Liberation in the early 1970s in New York, was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in September, the Advocate reported. The 56-year old activist and former political consultant was given six to 18 months to live.
O’Leary was also the first co-director of the then-National Gay Task Force, co-founded National Coming Out Day in 1988, and organized the first meeting of gay and lesbian activists in the White House, during the Carter administration with presidential aide Midge Costanza.
Now living in Los Angeles, O’Leary was born in Kingston, N.Y. and lived for four years with the Sisters of the Holy Humility in the late 1960s.
Still involved in politics, O’Leary told the magazine, “I think George Bush is one of the most duplicitous presidents we’ve ever had. You can’t believe a word he says.”
Demonstrate for Marriage Equality on April 15
Try to get your taxes done by 6 p.m. on deadline day, April 15, and then join the demonstration for the right of same-sex couples to marry outside the main post office on Eighth Avenue and 33 St. The event is sponsored by Marriage Equality/NY and DontAmend.com and is one of 24 actions going on around the country with the theme “No Taxation with Discrimination!”
DontAmend.com says these demos are a warm up for larger actions around the country on May 17, when Massachusetts plans to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Andy Humm is co-host, with Ann Northrop, of Gay USA on MNN. It can be seen Thursdays at 11 PM on Time-Warner 34 and RCN 107 and is simulcast at mnn.org
Andy Humm can be contacted at AndyHumm@aol.com