VOLUME 3, ISSUE 312 | March 18 – 24, 2004
Tennessee County wants to ban homosexuals
Commissioners in one of Tennessee’s most conservative counties are asking legislators to amend Tennessee state law so that the county can charge homosexuals with “crimes against nature,” the AP reported Wednesday.
Rhea County is famous for the 1925 “Scopes Monkey Trial” when schoolteacher John T. Scopes was convicted of teaching evolution.
County commissioners voted unanimously to make the request and Commissioner J.C. Fugate, who introduced the measure, also asked the County Attorney Gary Fritts to find the best way to enact an ordinance to ban homosexuals from living in the county, the report said. “We need to keep them out of here,” Fugate said.
Matt Nevels, president of the Chattanooga chapter of PFLAG denounced the vote and called it “the most farfetched idea put forth by any kind of public official.”
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Texas’ sodomy laws as a violation of adults’ privacy.
Ministers charged in New Paltz weddings
The Ulster County District Attorney Donald A. Williams charged two Unitarian Universalist ministers with solemnizing unlicensed marriages after the ministers performed civil marriage ceremonies for more than twenty same-sex couples in New Paltz, Monday, the Unitarian Universalist Association reported.
The Rev. Kay Greenleaf and the Rev. Dawn Sangrey began performing the marriage ceremonies after New Paltz Mayor Jason stopped officiating at same-sex marriages on March 6. The Ulster County DA has also charged West with solemnizing unlicensed marriages.
Sangrey and Greenleaf signed affidavits for the couples they married, saying they considered the ceremonies civil and legally binding. According to the UUA, Williams said he was compelled to prosecute Greenleaf and Sangrey because they “publicly proclaimed their intent to perform civil marriages under the authority invested in them by New York State law, rather than performing purely religious ceremonies.”
Maureen Grady-Palmer, chairwoman of the LGBT Committee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York told the New York Times that charges against clergy members may raise tougher legal issues than cases against government officials who officiate at same-sex marriages raising questions about the separation of church and state.
“I have never heard of clergy being prosecuted for performing a church-sanctioned rite,” she told the Times.
The ministers will be arraigned on March 22. If convicted the ministers could spend a year in prison and be fined up to $500 each.
New Spanish Government Will Legalize Same-Sex Marriage
With Generalissimo Francisco Franco still dead, as Chevy Chase used to remind us on Saturday Night, he’ll have to roll over in his grave to respond to the latest development in Spain. The new leftist government of José Luis Rodriquez Zapatero is committed to enacting a law recognizing same-sex marriages. The bill never got out of committee under the previous conservative government that was just voted out, same-sex marriage expert E.J. Graff reported via e-mail. She noted that it might take a few years to make the bill law, but that “nothing can prevent it.” She wrote that “11 out of 17 of Spain’s provinces have gone as far toward marriage as they can without the federal government’s approval.”
Graff also said that while Sweden has announced its intentions to move for full marriage rights for same-sex couples from “registered partnerships,” Denmark may “jump ahead and go first, as it did with the RP law in 1989.”
New Polls on Same-Sex Marriage
The Times-CBS News poll conducted March 10-14 showed support for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage growing. It went from support at 55-40% in December to 59-35% now. But 65% do not want the issue to be part of the presidential campaign this year.
While 22% of those surveyed think gay couples should be allowed to legally marry, another 33% approve of civil unions. Forty percent want no legal recognition of gay relationships.
If the Federal Marriage Amendment that President Bush is backing is to prevail, it must pass both houses of Congress by two-thirds and then be ratified by simple majorities of both houses of three-quarters of the state legislatures. An Illinois poll found that while 60% oppose same-sex marriage, 53 percent oppose the amendment.
A New York Daily News poll this week of city residents said that we oppose gay marriage by a 47-40% margin, with blacks the most opposed at 63% and Latinos split 41-41% on the issue. Only Manhattanites favored gay nuptials, with 54% approving.
Uzbekistan: Five and a Half Years for “Sodomy”
Uzbek journalist and human rights activist Ruslan Sharipov has been imprisoned under the Soviet-era laws banning “consensual satisfaction of the sexual needs of one man with another man.” That carries a sentence of up to three years and he was subsequently charged with having sex with minors leading to more time. Sharipov maintained that all of the charges were fabricated in an attempt to silence him, but plead guilty in August in statements that Human Rights Watch says were coerced. The group is urging us to write to Uzbek authorities demanding an independent review of the case.
For more information on the case, go to http://hrw.org/campaigns/uzbekistan/sharipov.htm <mailto:email@example.com>
Judicial Win in Brazil
A Brazilian judge has ruled that the civil union registry in the state of Rio Grande do Sul must be recognized by the state government, marking the first such judicial action in the nation, Rainbow Network UK reported. The registry gives gay couples joint property rights, joint custody of their kids, and the right to inherit pensions. There is a ban on same-sex marriage in Brazil that can only be overturned by congress.
Fernando Coits of the gay rights group Nuance called the decision a step forward. The dominant Catholic Church in the country condemned the ruling.
Savage Marries Woman
Gay syndicated sex columnist Dan Savage dramatized the absurdity of Washington State marriage laws by getting a license to marry his co-worker, Amy Jenniges last week. He showed up at the King County Administration Building with Jenniges and her partner, Sonia. The same-sex couples were denied licenses. Savage then told the clerk that he didn’t live with Amy and doesn’t love her, but wanted a license to marry her and was accommodated. Savage lives and loves with his longtime partner Terry and their kids.
“Amy and I can get a marriage license and into a sham marriage, if we care to, a joke marriage, one that I promise you won’t produce children. And we can do this with the state’s blessing,” Savage wrote in The Stranger. “Why?” he asked. “Because one of us is a man and one of us is a woman.”
Newsom Not So Radical
While efforts have been made to portray San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom as a lawless crazy because he opened marriage to same-sex couples, he was the moderate in the race for mayor last fall and was endorsed by the city’s Republican as well as Democratic parties in a run-off with the Green Party’s Matt Gonzalez. Now we learn, from Ellen Goodman of the Boston Globe, that Newsom also contributed $500 to the Bush for President campaign in 2000. Newsom says it was the President’s anti-gay marriage statement in his State of the Union address, for which he was present, which prompted him to look into a way he could marry gay 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