News Briefs

GOP Chair Calls Gay Marriage Supporters Bigots

“We cannot allow tolerance to be redefined as having to agree with one another on every issue,” he said. “Those who say I must turn my back on the tenets of my faith in order to be accepted by them are the ones who are being intolerant and it is nothing less than religious bigotry.” He noted that the Republican Party platform calls for limiting marriage “to the legal union of one man and one woman” and said that his party must “pursue whatever policy is necessary to protect this institution, including a federal constitutional amendment.”

Hearst Newspapers reported that Congress “will give a low priority” to the amendment, partly because of President George W. Bush’s “caution” on the issue and conservative divisions over how far it should go in banning any marital benefits for gay couples. Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) told Hearst that Bush has shelved action on the amendment for now and that it will take “many, many years” to pass it.

The Tallahassee Democrat reported that a McInturff/Greenberg poll, however, found that while Bush holds a 46 to 42 percent lead over a “generic Democrat,” that margin jumped to 51-35 “when voters were told the Bush and the Democratic position on civil unions.”

An ABC News poll this week found 55 percent of Americans opposed to same-sex marriage and 51 percent opposed to civil unions, but 60 percent opposed to a constitutional amendment over letting the states make their own marriage laws.

Bad News from An Old Catholic

Pope John Paul II intensified the Vatican’s campaign against gay people this week. With the approach of the Catholic Church’s World Communication Day in May, the pope called upon the media to promote the traditional family, the Associated Press reported. “Infidelity, sexual activity outside of marriage, and the absence of a moral and spiritual vision of the marriage covenant are depicted uncritically,” he said, “while positive support is at times given to divorce, contraception, abortion, and homosexuality. Such portrayals, by promoting causes inimical to marriage and the family, are detrimental to the common good of society.”

Belgian Cardinal Gustaaf Joos was even more blunt than the pontiff. He told an interviewer from P-Magazine that “of all those who say they are lesbian or gay, at most 5 or 10 percent are effectively lesbian or gay. All the rest are sexual perverts.” Archbishop Godfried Danneels tried to distance himself from the remarks of the 80-year-old cardinal, saying that they do not reflect the views of most Belgian bishops.

A group of Catholic priests in Rochester, N.Y. has followed the lead of their Chicago colleagues and signed a letter criticizing the “vicious” anti-gay language coming out of the Vatican.

Good News About Young Catholics

A Newsweek poll of 18 to 29-year-old Americans gave President Bush a 54 percent approval rating, but among young Roman Catholics, 58 percent supported same-sex marriage versus 38 percent of Protestants and 22 percent of white fundamentalists. Fifty-one percent of young Protestants and 73 percent of white fundamentalists, but just 34 percent of Catholics in the age group favored the Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution. And 59 percent of young Catholics supported Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision allowing a woman the right to choose an abortion––also more than the other religious groups––despite the unwavering opposition of the Catholic hierarchy.

Canadian Marriages on Valentine’s Weekend

The New York-based group Civil Marriage Trail has arranged to bring same-sex couples to Toronto Feb. 12-15 to be wed by Judge Harvey Brownstone, who is gay and will conduct the ceremonies individually and free of charge. Visit civilmarriagetrail.org or call Brendan Fay at 718 721 2780 for more information.

New Hires for National LGBT Groups

Kerry Lobel, the former executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), has been named the interim director of Metropolitan Community Churches as the search for a permanent director is conducted. Lobel is a consultant to the Lesbian Equity Foundation of Silicon Valley and a vice president of Coastside Jewish Community, a congregation serving an area south of San Francisco.

Rea Carey has been named new deputy executive director at NGLTF and will be based in Washington, D.C. Carey was the founding executive director of the National Youth Advocacy Coalition for LGBT young people.

Advocates Demand Generic Brands of AIDS Drugs

Essential Inventions, a D.C.-based non-profit health promotion group, is calling on Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson to “use his authority under the Bayh-Dole Act to license generic production of two blockbuster drugs,” citing “abusive pricing” by Abbot Laboratories of Norvir, an antiretroviral HIV medication, and by Pfizer of Xalatan, a glaucoma medication.

Over the last five years, Abbot has sold a billion dollars worth of Norvir. When it was recently disdcovered that the standard prescribed dosage was too high for most HIV-positive people, Abbot increased the drug’s price five-fold to $45,000 a year for a typical full treatment dosage and $8,000 year for the smaller “booster” dosage, according to the group.

GOP Moves to Amend Mass. Constitution

Republican Gov. Mitt Romney is pushing for a Feb. 11 legislative vote on a state constitutional amendment to prohibit marriage for same-sex couples. According to state law, in order to be enacted, two consecutive legislative sessions must pass the amendment before it goes before the voters, in this case in a 2006 referendum.

The legislature has until May to make state law comply with a 4-3 ruling of the Supreme Judicial Court that same-sex couples have the right to marry.

The Roman Catholic Church is intensively lobbying against the right of same-sex couples to marry, conducting rallies around the state and mailing messages to a million Catholic households.

Labor unions in Massachusetts are lining up in favor of same-sex marriage, including the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Massachusetts Teachers’ Association, the National Association of Government Employees, the United Auto Workers, and the Electrical Workers. The Boston Globe reported that while the AFL-CIO of Massachusetts has not taken a position on same-sex marriages, it opposes amending the state constitution in a way that “could hamper collective bargaining efforts over wages and benefits.”

SoulForce (www.soulforce.org) is urging LGBT allies to contact Massachusetts legislators and urge them to vote no on the constitutional amendment.

Ohio Nears Total Ban on Same-Sex Partner Recognition

Last week the Ohio Senate approved by 18-15 a law that not only bans same-sex marriage, but also prohibits domestic partner benefits for state workers. Republican Gov. Bob Taft, Jr. supports the bill, but Attorney General Jim Petro, another Republican, does not. The House will not vote on the bill until next week so as not to overshadow Taft’s State of the State address on January 28, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported.

Some corporate leaders are dismayed by the support the bill has garnered. Mary Mason, CEO of Missing Lynx Systems of San Ramon, California, said that the new law “created a hostile business environment” and her firm would no longer consider Ohio cities as a possible site for 500 new manufacturing jobs. Republican state Rep. Bill Seitz introduced the “Defense of Marriage Act” three years ago. The bill languished until the Massachusetts high court ruled in November that same-sex couples have the right to marry.

Seitz told the Cincinnati Post that a federal constitutional amendment is not necessary unless “some court determines that there is a federal constitutional right for gay people to be married.” He also said he knows “plenty” of gay couples, and that his bill is “nothing discriminatory,” but “draws distinctions between marital status and non-marital status.”

The bill does not stop municipalities or private companies from offering domestic partner benefits. Meanwhile, 26 couples signed up in Cleveland Heights for the domestic partnership registry, the first in the nation created by a voter referendum.

“It feels equalizing,” Nancy Thrams, 59, told the Associated Press about her registration with Fran Twomey, 47. Some of the day’s registrants included straight couples.

The Virginia House of Delegates voted 77-18 in favor of a non-binding message urging Congress to pass the Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution. Democratic Gov. Mark Warner has called the resolution “unnecessary.” The state already bans recognition of same-sex marriages, including those recognized by other state, which Warner supports.

Adam Ebbin, a gay Arlington delegate, told the Washington Times that the House’s vote was “premature and mean-spirited.”

Indiana Scotches State Amendment Versus Gay Marriage

The Democratic-led House denied a hearing for a bill seeking to amend the state’s constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage, even though the state already passed a law that prohibits that. A committee in the Republican-led Senate nevertheless conducted a hearing on the measure and it passed 10-1. Democratic Gov. Joe Kernan supports the state law as written and does not endorse a constitutional amendment, the Indianapolis Star reported.

Salt Lake City Mayor Fights for Same-Sex Marriage

Mayor Rocky Anderson of Salt Lake City has joined Voices of Equality, the honorary board of Freedom to Marry, a New York-based group advocating for same-sex marriages. U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga. ) is also on the board.

The Salt Lake City Tribune reported that Anderson plans to extend domestic partner benefits to city employees and establish a registry for gay couples, but is expected to face stiff opposition in the City Council.

State Rep. Chris Buttars said of Anderson’s support for gay relationships, “He calls that diversity. I call that a perversion.”

Buttars is introducing a bill to get Utah to prohibit recognition of same-sex marriages and civil unions performed elsewhere.

Missouri Considers Referendum on Gay Marriage

The Missouri House will vote next week on a state constitutional amendment restricting marriage to “the union of a man and a woman.” If passed by the legislature, the measure will go before the state’s voters this November at this same time that they are going to the polls to elect a president. The state is one of 38 that have already passed laws prohibiting the recognition of same-sex marriages.

Georgia Golf Club Fights Domestic Partners

The Atlanta Human Relations Commission has ordered the Druid Hills Country Club to give the partners of lesbian and gay member the same discounted membership privileges offered to spouses. The order has prompted the Georgia legislature to overturn the ruling by stopping the government from punishing “private social organizations.” Emmet J. Bondurant, an attorney and club member, said has offered to litigate the matter, stating that “the ordinance will be found invalid” for going beyond home rule authority in the Georgia constitution, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Casting Underway for Gay Cowboy Flick

Ang Lee’s film version of “Brokebrack Mountain,” a gay cowboy story based on the novella by E. Annie Proulx, may star Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal if final negotiations work out. The movie will cover the lifelong love affair of Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar, which began in 1963 and lasted until the 1980s. Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana adapted the script for the screen.

Campbell Scott and Peter Sarsgaard are also slated to mix it up in Craig Lucas’ “Dying Gaul,” also starring Patricia Clarkson.

Rocker Has Gender Reassignment

David Palmer, keyboarder for Jethro Tull in the 1970s, is now Dee Palmer. “It’s not just wimps who do this,” he told the Daily Mirror. “To be a girl, it goes a lot deeper than that.” She said her desire to become a woman was an “open secret” in the rock world, but that she did not pursue it until her wife died. Palmer is now 66 and planning to go back on tour.

Cheer, Cheer for Old Notre Dame

The first Notre Dame Queer Film Festival runs February 11-14 in South Bend, sponsored by the school’s departments of film, English and anthropology, and the gay alumni groups of Notre Dame and Saint Mary of the Woods College. John Cameron Mitchell will be among the celebs on hand for a showing of his film, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.”

Pro Ballplayer Dogged by Gay Porn Performance

Kazuhito Tadano, a Japanese pitcher with the Cleveland Indians minor league baseball team, is apologizing for appearing in a gay porn video three years ago during his sophomore year at Rikkyo University. “My teammates and I needed the money,” he said, adding, “I’m not gay. I’d like to clear that up right now.”

The scandal got Tadano effectively banned from Japanese baseball so he came here. Grady Sizemore, one of his teammates, said Tadano’s admission has not “changed anybody’s opinion of him” and that “he’s a great guy and great pitcher.”

The Pueblo Chieftain reported, “Tadano knows he may face fan abuse in major league parks such as Yankee Stadium, where heckling visitors is part of the pageantry.” But Tadano told the paper, through an interpreter, “I don’t understand English, so it doesn’t really matter.”

Andy Humm is the co-host, with Ann Northrop, of “Gay USA” on MNN-TV, seen in Manhattan 11 PM Thursdays on Time-Warner 34 and RCN 107. It is seen nationally on Directv’s “Free Speech TV.” He can be reached at Andyhumm@aol.com

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