News Briefs

Crystal Meth Forum at FIT Feb. 8

Peter Staley, an AIDS activist recovering from crystal meth addiction, will join actor and playwright Harvey Feirstein at a town hall meeting on the drug’s connection with HIV infections at the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Haft Auditorium, 27th St. between 7th and 8th, on Sunday, February 8 at 7 p.m. The event is part of the “Challenging HIV” series being organized by Dr. Bruce Kellerhouse and Dan Carlson.

“We heard from the November 16th event that crystal meth use is an underlying cause for recent increases in HIV transmission rates,” Carlson told AIDSMeds.com. He hopes that community discussion at this forum will cause AIDS groups and individual activists “to take swift and meaningful action.”

Staley has paid $6,000 out of his own pocket to put up ads on Chelsea streets reading, “Buy Crystal, Get HIV Free,” warning of the dangers of the drug.

Among the other panelists is Dr. Steven Tierney, director of HIV prevention for the San Francisco Department of Health. Gay City News is a sponsor of the forum.

Canadian Leader Swings Right on Gay Issues

Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin is from the same party as Liberal Jean Chrétien whom he recently replaced, but this week his government weakened support for gay couples that Chrétien had championed. Martin appealed a ruling of the Ontario Court of Appeal that made more than 1,500 gay people, many of whom lost their partners to AIDS, eligible for survivor benefits, CanWest News Service reported. “This was the first test of Paul Martin’s commitment to equality for gay and lesbian people and he’s failed it miserably,” said out gay Member of Parliament Svend Robinson of the New Democratic Party.

Martin is also trying to delay a bill in Parliament to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide at least until after the spring elections and has asked the Supreme Court to rule on whether civil unions would be an acceptable alternative for gay couples under the Charter of Rights. The provinces of Ontario and British Columbia started allowing gay couples from all over the world to marry last summer.

Meanwhile, the Vancouver Sun reports that British Columbia has put its marriage commissioners on notice that if they refuse to marry gay couples they must resign their posts by March 31.

Assembly Hearing on HIV Education February 5

New York State requires six AIDS lessons in public schools every year, but most schools have fallen down on the job in recent years––if indeed they ever did it properly. On Thursday, February 5, the Assembly’s education and health committees, chaired by Manhattan Democrats Steven Sanders and Richard Gottfried, respectively, will hold a public hearing here in New York City on the matter “to review the adequacy of health education and HIV/AIDS curricula requirements, including teacher training requirements, and oversight of these educational programs in the New York City School District.”

The joint hearing begins at 9 a.m. downtown at 250 Broadway, Room 1923. For more information on the hearing, go to www.assembly.state.ny.us/comm/Ed/20040116/ or call Courtney Hayden at 518 455 4881.

Bush Hits on Martin’s Man

One week before declaring war on gay couples in his State of the Union address, President George Bush made a play for an attractive Canadian male politician. Bush encountered Scott Reid, 35, the senior strategist to Paul Martin, the new Canadian Prime Minister, at the Mexico summit. As Reid spoke with Martin, the Toronto Globe and Mail reported, Bush “wandered over” and asked Reid, “Well, what do you do for this guy?” Given Reid’s broad portfolio, he replied, “Well, you know sir, I can’t really say. It’s not that I don’t want to. It’s just that, you know, I don’t really know from day to day.”

But Bush was not interested in talking policy. “Well,” Bush said to Reid, “you got a pretty face.” When Reid looked surprised, Bush doubled down. “You got a pretty face,” he repeated. “You’re a good-looking guy. Better looking than my Scott, anyway,” a reference to the president’s press secretary, Scott McLellan.

The newspaper noted that Reid has “a full head of hair and is quite fit,” whereas McLellan is overweight and bald.

Reid later told the newspaper that he “didn’t know what to say” to Bush’s advance, but wished the president had called him “a rugged looking young man or something,” adding, “When a Texas Republican says you’ve got a pretty face, then I guess there is just no way around it.”

This is a president who doesn’t venture too many unscripted remarks in public and often falls back on the word “fabulous” when discussing people or projects. You be the judge of what all this means.

Anti-Gay Episcopalians Punt on Schism

Right wing Episcopalians upset by the consecration of the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, an out gay man who is in a relationship, as Bishop of New Hampshire met in Plano, Texas this week and stopped short of splitting completely from the Episcopal Church USA, fearful of having to forfeit their property were they to do so. Calling themselves the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes, the group is pledging itself to fight the official church government which it says has “departed from the historic faith and order and have brought immense harm” in elevating Robinson,

Twelve dioceses in nine states sent delegates. Where the bishop is anti-gay, problems will arise for gay-friendly parishes. Where the local bishop voted to confirm Robinson’s election, rogue conservative parishes will seek to answer to anti-gay bishops elsewhere, a violation of church law.

The Church of England will take up the issue of gay partnerships at its General Synod in London next month, though the Scotsman reported that it is unlikely that there will be “enough time” to debate the issue then. The synod is expected to debate the issue of out gay clergy, six months after forcing Jeffrey John, an out gay man, from giving up his appointment as Bishop of Reading.

Meanwhile, in Stockholm, Bishop K.G. Hammar of the Lutheran Swedish Church said gay people should be able to marry within the church. “We have seen that marriage puts more and more emphasis on the love aspect rather than reproduction and that opens an understanding for a love that is not between a man and a woman,” he told Reuters. Sweden has had registered partnerships for same-sex couples since 1995.

Trent Lott in Reserve

Senator Trent Lott (R- Miss.) watched President Bush’s State of Union address from “a secret location,” The New York Times reported, at the behest of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist in order to preserve at least one member of Congress should the capitol be destroyed by a terrorist attack during the speech. As it turns out, the Democratic members of Congress running for president were all in New Hampshire Tuesday night campaigning, so we wouldn’t have been stuck with Lott alone if the rest of the Hill had been leveled.

Bishops in High Anti-Gay Gear

The Catholic bishops of Massachusetts have sent a mailing to one million households there urging their followers to mobilize and speak out against the Supreme Judicial Court’s November ruling that gay people deserved the right to marry and to support a state constitutional amendment against it.

“We will have to answer to God for anything we fail to do,” wrote Bishop George Coleman of Fall River.

Rabbi Devon Lerner, co-chair of the Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry, told the Boston Globe, “The Catholic Church does not have the right to impose its religious beliefs on others,” and emphasized that opening civil marriage will not force any religion to alter its doctrine or practice on marriage. Larry Kessler, a leader of the new Catholic Alliance for Social Justice, said his co-religionists are divided on this issue and that his group rejects the right of the hierarchy to speak for Catholics on “matters of state,” the newspaper reported.

A new University of Massachusetts poll showed support for the anti-gay amendment growing from 46 percent in December to 54 percent now. Out gay U.S. Rep. Barney Frank has said that he welcomes an eventual vote on such an amendment because it could not occur until 2006 by which time state residents will have had time to digest the reality of gay couples marrying.

California Looks at Same-Sex Marriage

Out gay Assemblymember Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) is introducing a bill on February 12, National Freedom to Marry Day, to open marriage to same-sex couples in the Golden State.

In 2000, California voters banned the state from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states. Leno says that does not stop the state itself from providing marriage licenses to gay couples, though proponents of the Proposition 22, which passed by a 60-40 margin, disagree.

During the closing days of Democratic Governor Gray Davis, sweeping domestic partners legislation was enacted in California and new Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who opposes same-sex marriage, recently said he would not support efforts to overturn that law through referendum.

Anti-Marriage Efforts in the States

State Sen. Alan Nunnelee (R-Tupelo) has reintroduced a bill to change Mississippi’s constitution to bar recognition of same-sex marriages. State law already bans such recognition, but Nunnelee is worried.

“We don’t know what the mood of the legislature will be a quarter century from now,” he told the Clarion Ledger. His bill requires a two-thirds vote before going on the ballot.

In Illinois, Republican State Rep. Bill Mitchell of Forsyth and Democrat Bill Grunich of Effingham have also introduced different versions of a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

“I wish there were a stronger word than ‘bigot’ for these two fellows,” Rick Garcia, director of the LGBT lobby Equality Illinois, told the Pantagraph.

Same-sex marriage is not recognized in the state. Mitchell’s proposal goes further than Grunich’s, which would ban civil unions and domestic partnerships as well as marriage for gay couples. Garcia thinks he has the votes to stop the amendments.

The Virginia House, which is contemplating upping the penalties for public sodomy, killed a bill this week that proposed impeaching judges who rule that the Commonwealth’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional, the Associated Press reported. The vote was 18-3 in the Courts of Justice Committee.

Finally, Ohio is about to become the 39th state to ban recognition of same-sex marriages. The legislature is working on passing it this week and Gov. Bob Taft has said he will sign it.

For the Federal Marriage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to pass, two-thirds of both houses of Congress and three-quarters of state legislatures––38––would have to ratify it.

Competing Gay Games

Montreal, which was dumped as the official site of the 2006 Gay Games in a dispute with the international organizing body, is going ahead with its own sports festival for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) athletes. Last weekend, representatives of 20 sports groups from all over the world met in Montreal to discuss forming a new international LGBT sports authority to compete with the Federation of Gay Games (FGG), 365Gay.com reported.

On March 1, the FGG is going to choose between Chicago and Los Angeles to host the official games, based on earlier bids that had been rejected in favor of Montreal. The Chicago Tribune reports that there is a split among gay leaders in their town over agreeing to host the event at this late date. Rick Garcia, director of Equality Illinois, said “We’re on the road to hosting a third-rate event that’s going to seem more like a Scout jamboree than the Olympics.” Tracy Baim, publisher of the Windy City Times, told the Tribune that the pieces are falling into place. The Federation thinks it can avoid the financial debacles of past Games by limiting the week to sports and leaving accompanying cultural events to local groups.

We are Family on New Year’s Day

Mark your calendars for January 1, 2005. The Tournament of Roses Parade taken up the theme “Celebrate Family” and the new president of the parade, David Davis, told the Pasadena Star-News that he is open to all definitions of family, including gay and lesbian couples with kids. “I’m not going to judge anybody’s lifestyles,” he said. “We don’t have a prejudice or bias.”

Don’t Wear Too Much Make-Up on Pride Day

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District, by a 3-0 vote, sustained a New York City law banning masked gatherings in public places. The Ku Klux Klan had challenged the constitutionality of the law in a 1999 suit. (I appeared as a reporter to testify in that case at the behest of the New York Civil Liberties Union, attorneys for the plaintiffs, and the City stipulated to my assertions that many demonstrations in New York have included masked protesters, including the LGBT Pride Parade.)

Ronald Sternber of the city’s Law Department said, “Particularly given the current times, we are grateful that the court recognized the serious law enforcement implications of public gatherings of masked individuals.”

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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