New Briefs

Nassau County Defeats Domestic Partner Registry

In a surprise vote, the Nassau County Legislature refused to follow the lead of neighboring Suffolk and voted down a domestic partner registry by a vote of 10-8, with one abstention. All nine Republicans voted against it and they were joined at the last minute by Democrat-Conservative Joseph Scannell of Baldwin who was reportedly pressured by the anti-gay Conservative Party to break from the Democratic majority. Presiding Officer Roger Corbin, a Westbury Democrat, abstained on the measure.

Scannell had voted for the bill in committee but switched when it got to the floor. It would have applied to heterosexual and same-sex couples. Steve Talan, chair of the county’s Lesbian and Gay Democrats, told Newsday, “It’s as if certain legislators felt it was OK to send the gay people to the back of the bus.”

Meanwhile, another township in New Jersey has approved domestic partner benefits for municipal employees, which was a local option allowed under the 2004 state domestic partnership law. Led by out gay Commissioner Kathleen Hogan, Haddon Township unanimously voted for the plan.

NY Gay Marriage Lobby Day May 8, Court Case May 31

Now is your last chance to sign up for the Empire State Pride Agenda’s big lobby day in Albany on May 8 that this year will focus on the right to marry. Call the group at 212-627-0305 to register.

Advocates are also pressing for a large presence in Albany on May 31 when the Court of Appeals will hear a collection of same-sex marriage cases. The arguments can be viewed online at the court’s Web site at 2 p.m. that day by going to courts.state.ny.us/ctapps/.

Assemblyman Dick Gottfried, the chief sponsor of the Right to Marry Bill in his house, said that while he is hoping for a favorable ruling from the high court, if plaintiffs lose the cases that will finally force the Legislature to act on the issue. The court could also order the Legislature to equalize rights for gay couples without mandating that it open marriage to them, as happened in Vermont in 2000 when that state adopted civil unions, in which case Gottfried believes that his colleagues will go for full marriage rights because “the state’s rejection of separate but equal is pretty well rooted.”

Briefs have been filed in the case. Fourteen friend-of-the-court briefs were filed in favor of same-sex marriage including from one from the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the New York State Psychiatric Association, and others from the National Organization for Women, child welfare groups, LGBT advocacy organizations, history professors, law professors, and bar associations.

Attorney General Elliot Spitzer, who has taken the political position that marriage should be open to gay couples, is arguing on behalf of the state in these court cases that it should not, in part, his brief stated, because so many other states do not, that “the civil marriage of same-sex couples does not implicate a fundamental right,” that limiting marriage to heterosexual couples is “rationally based,” and that “the state has a legitimate interest in channeling opposite-sex relationships into marriage.”

Spitzer will be the featured speaker at the Pride Agenda’s Lobby Day on May 8.

Duane Dissents on City’s HIV Law Proposals

City Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden is campaigning for changes in state laws regarding HIV testing to allow for, among other things, an end to the requirement for written consent before being tested and the wider sharing of some information about those living with the virus to improve treatment.

Tom Duane, the West Side Democratic state senator who is himself HIV-positive, wrote to his fellow members on the State AIDS Advisory Council on Wednesday, saying he shares the commissioner’s “goals of increasing testing, knowledge, and treatment,” but also noting his “qualms” about Frieden’s proposed methods. “Fear of disclosure… may drive people away from our healthcare system,” especially in communities of color, Duane wrote. He also wrote that Frieden’s argument that written consent poses a “serious barrier” to getting more people tested is based on “anecdotal evidence.” Duane maintained that the commissioner “has not presented data to back up that claim.”

Duane also wrote, “This bill does not address doctor’s lack of comfort talking with patients about HIV/AIDS” and the fact that many providers don’t offer any HIV testing at all. He offered his own proposals to increase testing and treatment, including improving pre- and post-test counseling, training doctors better, and investing more in “the HIV/AIDS clinical care system.”

Duane did commend Frieden for the town hall meetings he has held on his proposals and other efforts to solicit “community feedback.”

U.S. U.N. Aide Out

Blogactive.com has reported that the spokesman for the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, is an out gay man, Richard Grennell. The aide acknowledges being gay and “he explained that Ambassador Bolton welcomed him into his home with a male date,” Mike Rogers reported on his Web site. Bolton has refused to support gay rights at the U.N., opposing the grant of “non-governmental organization status” for international LGBT groups at the world body and also human rights resolutions that include protections based on sexual orientation.

Penn State Coach Disciplined for Anti-Lesbianism

Rene Portland, the longtime successful women’s basketball coach at Penn State, was hit with a reprimand and a $10,000 fine for mistreatment of players who are or are perceived to be lesbians. She also has to complete a program of diversity training. Portland continues to deny the charges, which have been made over several years. She is being sued in federal court by one ex-player, Jennifer Harris, who alleges that Portland told her to start appearing “more feminine” and that she would not tolerate lesbians on her team. Harris told the Associated Press that she is disappointed that Portland’s penalty was not more severe, especially since she refuses to admit any wrongdoing.

Giuliani Out for Bigots

Rudy Giuliani, trying to increase his credibility among the religious right in contemplation of a run for president, has been campaigning for Pennsylvania Republican Senator Rick Santorum, up for reelection this year, and former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed, who is running for lieutenant governor in Georgia. Both are virulently anti-gay and Reed has stayed in his race despite being linked to convicted felon Jack Abramoff. “You never have a political leader in which you have total agreement,” Giuliani told The New York Times, “not if you’re honest.”

Broadway Cares to the Tune of $3 Million

The 20th annual Easter Bonnet Competition raised an “astonishing” $3,187,496 for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. The money was raised over six weeks by companies of 60 shows on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and from touring companies. The top fundraisers were—in order—“Wicked,” “The Color Purple,” “Phantom of the Opera,” “Rent,” and “Lion King.” “Color Purple” also won the top prize for bonnet presentation.

Those Darned Heterosexuals: Povich, Costner, Sheen

So much for the “sanctity of marriage” that gay marriage opponents from Bill Frist to Hillary Rodham Clinton proclaim. This week, talk show host Maury Povich, 67, long married to newscaster Connie Chung, was hit with a lawsuit claiming that an alleged affair with one of his producers, Donna Ingber, 47, has created a hostile work environment where “sexual harassment, as well as alcohol use, was explicit, rampant, pervasive, and was condoned.” The suit was brought by 28-year old producer Bianca Nardi who said that she was subjected to “humiliating and exploitative treatment behind the scenes.”

Nardi charges that she was told that to keep her job she had to do things like put tape on the breasts of female guests to make them look bigger, the Daily News reported.

At a hotel at St. Andrew’s Golf Courses in Scotland, actor Kevin Costner is accused of “performing a sex act while having a massage,” the UK Times reported, whilst on his honeymoon, for crying out loud. The spa worker who witnessed Costner’s alleged display claims in a lawsuit that the Old Course Hotel unfairly dismissed her when she complained to management about the actor’s behavior.

Actor Charlie Sheen is charged in divorce papers by actress Denise Richards of being violent and addicted to gambling, hookers, and porn featuring girls “who looked under age.” Sheen has denied the allegations publicly.

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