Laurel Hester, Lesbian American Hero, Dies
Lieutenant Laurel Hester, who fought successfully for partner benefits in Ocean County, New Jersey almost with her dying breath, succumbed to her long fight with cancer this past Saturday at age 49. She had worked for the Ocean County prosecutor’s for 24 years, but county freeholders initially voted against opening death benefits to gay partners—benefits the police veteran said were critical if her partner, Stacie Andree, was to be able to abide in their home after her passing.
On January 25, the freeholders held a special meeting to reconsider the gay benefits and reversed themselves. Against her doctor’s orders, Hester attended the meeting to thank them, calling it “democracy at its best” in a barely audible voice, 365Gay.com reported.
Hester’s political battle, aided by the Gay Officers Action League and Garden State Equality, inspired six other townships to open up their benefit plans to gay partners. Essex County is scheduled to vote Wednesday evening at press time to join that list. Such county employee benefits are a local option under the domestic partnership law New Jersey enacted in early 2004, which already provides them to state government workers.
Hester did not live to see full marriage rights granted to same-sex couples in New Jersey, a decision that could be rendered within the month in a case brought by Lambda Legal and argued by that group’s staff attorney David Buckel last week.
Massachusetts Catholic Bishops Seek Gay Adoption Exemption
The Roman Catholic bishops of the Bay State want to be freed from having to let gay people adopt children through Catholic Charities, even though the board of the group voted in December to let such adoptions continue. Republican Governor Mitt Romney said he had no power to grant such an exemption, saying that was up to state legislators who stated this is not going to happen. Romney, an ardent foe of gay marriage and likely 2008 presidential candidate, would not tell the Boston Globe his personal view on the issue.
The bishops are threatening to go to court over the issue, using money from Catholic Charities.
“I’m shocked,” Catholic Charities board member Donna DePresco told the newspaper. “I find it hard to believe.” Peter Meade, the outgoing chair of the board, called the bishops’ move an “unmitigated disaster for children, Catholic Charities, and the Archdiocese of Boston,” the diocese that most epitomized the cover-up of the priest child abuse scandal.
Boy George Speaks Out
George O’Dowd, in the midst of sorting out drug charges in New York, has finally given an interview. In the Evening Standard, he denied he is using drugs again and insisted, “The case against me is collapsing.” Cops who came to his downtown apartment this past October after his 911 call about a burglary found no perp but did come upon a stash of cocaine. O’Dowd said the drugs weren’t his.
The former Culture Club singer is back in London launching a line of men’s and women’s fashions called BRude.
In the interview, he aired his animosities, saying he wishes that pop singer Will Young “would go back in the closet. He is a common or garden homosexual, not a queer.” On himself: “"I don’t need anyone’s permission to be who I am, and I don’t want to be accepted. That would equal the end, really. I love being queer.”
O’Dowd opposes the new civil partnerships scheme in Britain: “The idea that gay people have to mimic what obviously doesn’t work for straight people any more… I think is a bit tragic,” he said.
O’Dowd returns to New York in March to stand trial.
William Weld Screws Himself
Former Massachusetts Governor William Weld figured he had to move to the right if he wanted the Republican and Conservative Party nominations for governor of New York this year. The longtime supporter of gay rights, who voiced support for gay marriage in his last state and even did one of the readings at a gay wedding told the Conservatives that he would veto a bill opening marriage to same-sex couples if it came to his desk.
Well, this week, Conservative Party chair Mike Long wrote to his members endorsing former Republican Assemblyman John Faso over Weld. No Republican has won the governorship without Conservative backing since 1974.
Weld is under investigation by federal prosecutors for his role in a student loan fraud at Decker College in Kentucky where he served as CEO, the New York Times reported.
Iowa Governor Convenes Conference on Bullying of LGBT Kids
Tom Vilsack, the governor of Iowa who is contemplating a run for the Democratic nomination for president, opened a conference for 500 at Drake University on how to address the problem of anti-LGBT bullying in schools. Acknowledging that he himself had been bullied growing up, he said, “I want our state to sort of blaze a new trail of tolerance and compassion.”
In Iowa, 77 school districts forbid harassment based on sexual orientation, while 290 do not, Radio Iowa reported. Vilsack wants his state Legislature to pass an anti-bullying bill that is inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity. Similar legislation has stalled in New York State due to Republican opposition. New York City’s Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg refuses to enforce an anti-bullying law passed by the City Council over his veto in 2004, calling it “silly” and “illegal.”
WEIRdness at the Olympics
Rudy Galindo, the out gay past U.S. champion skater, told the Chicago Tribune that he thinks it is odd that the press doesn’t ask Johnny Weir, who skated badly in the Turin games, about his gay life. “He’s drinking tea with his pinkie finger in the air, and he’s so over the top and feminine, why is everybody asking him about his style and not just ask him if he’s gay?” Meow.
“Let’s poll about Michelle Kwan being a lesbian,” Weir retorted. “Who I sleep with doesn’t affect what I’m doing on the ice.” Weir has called himself “princess-y,” the Daily News reported. On his Web site he wrote, “I can sleep with whomever I choose.” Many of the press reports about his flawed Turin performance made coded references to Weir being gay, repeatedly noting his flamboyant style.
Broadway Cares About Women’s Health
The Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS “Nothing Like a Dame” benefit is set for Monday, March 6 at 8 p.m. at the Imperial Theatre at 249 W. 45th Street. The show features “first ladies of Broadway” including Tyne Daly, Jennifer Ehle, Rosemary Harris, Sarah Jones, Bebe Neuwirth, Phyllis Newsman, and our own Cynthia Nixon and Rosie O’Donnell among others. Tickets start at $50 and proceeds go to the Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative of the Actor’s Fund. Call 212-840-0770 for tickets.
Brokeback Breaks Out at British Film Awards
At the British Academy awards (BAFTAs), “Brokeback Mountain” won for best film, Ang Lee best director, Jake Gyllenhaal best supporting actor, and best adapted screenplay, putting it in a good position to win those same awards at the Oscars on March 5. Philip Seymour Hoffman won for best actor in “Capote,” once again beating out Heath Ledger in “Brokeback.” In South Carolina, members of the Equality Coalition have been leafleting people going in to see the gay cowboy movie to try to win their votes against an upcoming referendum on a state constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage and domestic partnership. The measure passed the General Assembly by a vote of 131-to-4. Opponents say it will prevent private companies from extending domestic partner benefits to their employees.
Czech Mates Checked by Prez
Vaclav Klaus, president of the Czech Republic, vetoed a civil partnership bill passed by Parliament. It had passed with 86 votes and will now need 101 votes to override his action. The swing votes are the 41 Communists in the 200-member body.
Eva Novakova from the ruling Social Democrats said she will defy Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek and vote against the bill. “To be honest, many of my friends are homosexuals and I like them and I think they should be happy together. But I think a family is something special,” she told Radio Prague. “We don’t really want to give some rights to couples because they like each other or love each other, but because they are going to have children.” Under the legislation, gay people would be allowed to raise children but not adopt them, the Advocate reported.
Russian Gay Pride Nixed
The mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, said he would not even consider a permit for a gay pride march, calling the idea an “outrage.” Local LGBT activists wanted to stage one on May 27. The leader of Russia’s Muslims, Chief Mufti Talgat Tadzhuddin, promised gay pride marchers would be “flogged” if they dared to go forward with their plans. He said the Koran called for killing gay people.
The Russian Orthodox Church branded the planned march “the propaganda of sin.” Homosexual relations were decriminalized in Russia in 1993, ten years before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that state sodomy laws are unconstitutional. Nikolai Alekzeev of GayRussia.ru said his group will press for their right to march in the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.
No Civil Partnerships in Hong Kong Yet
British subjects are supposed to be allowed to register gay civil partnerships at their embassies and consulates when they are living abroad. But no such registrations have taken place in Hong Kong, despite the fact that it is home to four million people with British passports. A spokesperson for the consulate there told The Standard of Hong Kong that they are not offering the service yet because of “the lack of a formal ‘no objection’ from the Special Administrative Region government” set up under Chinese rule, which is supposed to have a high degree of autonomy in domestic affairs for the next 50 years.
South African Lesbians Face Violence
South Africa was the first country in the world to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in its Constitution and is under judicial order to institute same-sex marriage within the year, but that has not prevented a wave of violence against lesbians there. Dawn Betteridge of the LGBT Triangle Project of South Africa told Reuters, “Lesbians who mimic men are seen to be challenging male superiority. Rape and violence against lesbians is common. The men who perpetuate such crimes see rape as curative and as an attempt to show women their place in society.” Zanele Muholi, the out lesbian head of the Forum for the Empowerment of Women, said, “In the past 10 years, I have recorded 50 rape cases involving black lesbians in townships.”
Life Sentence for Romanian Rapist of Spanish Lesbian in London
Dominic Mailat, 42, who pretended to want to participate in gay pride activities to lure a lesbian tourist from Spain into his car in London in 2000, raped her and beat her, knocking out her teeth. He was apprehended in Germany last year and extradited to Britain. Turns out he had two previous rape convictions in Romania. The UK court sentenced him to life in prison after he pleaded guilty.
McCourt Brothers to Lead Inclusive St. Pat’s Parade in Queens
All four surviving McCourt brothers—Alfie, Frank, Malachy, and Michael—will serve as grand marshals of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Queens, the only one in New York that welcomes gay and lesbian Irish groups. It kicks off on Sunday, March 5 at noon in Sunnyside. For more information, go to stpatsforall.com.
Cardinal Blesses Gay Love
At the Catholic Cathedral parish in Vienna, a blessing ceremony for “people in love” was conducted on Valentine’s Day. The rector of St. Stephansdom, Father Anton Faber, 43, was asked if the service was open to same-sex lovers. Kreuz.net reported, “The priest said he had no intention to turn anybody away who would ask for the blessing,” while acknowledging “there is no possibility in the Church to bless a union of people with homosexual feelings” and “expressing grief that the Catholic Church can offer ‘relatively little’ to homosexuals.”
Still, Faber told the news service his actions had been approved by Cardinal Christopher Schönborn and stated that he welcomed “people with homosexual inclinations to receive a blessing for their longing for love.” Faber estimated that 10 percent of those who showed up were gay, but that they “did not dress in a special way” and received the blessing one by one.