News Briefs

Bush Promotes a Marriage Campaign;

Cheney Betrays Lesbian Daughter

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is denouncing President Bush’s planned marriage promotion program as “a cynical election-year ploy to exploit the issue of ‘gay marriage’ in the African American community.” Matt Foreman, the director of the Task Force, said, “Struggling families do not need $1.5 billion worth of marriage counseling. More importantly, they need jobs, health coverage, and decent schools for their children.” He said it was “wedge politics at a base and reprehensible level.”

The Bush plan, according to The New York Times, is to “promote marriage, especially among low-income couples” and is an effort to “solidify his conservative base,” according to a presidential adviser. Bush is expected to unveil the proposal during his State of the Union message on January 20. It is not known if Bush will use the speech to fully endorse the Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution, which seeks to limit marriage to straight couples. Bush said last month that he will support the amendment “if necessary” and this week Vice President Dick Cheney, whose out lesbian daughter Mary is an advisor, said he would back the president’s stand.

The New York Times did not quote a single LGBT spokesperson (or a married one for that matter) in its front-page story on the Bush initiative, despite giving voice to several anti-gay bigots.

Evan Wolfson, director of Freedom to Marry, said in a release, “It is ironic that this government wants to spend tax dollars to ‘promote marriage’ while spending other tax dollars to block same-sex couples who want to marry.”

The Denver Post reported Cheney’s new support for the amendment and quoted Phil Wade on his way out of services at the Metropolitan Community Church of the Rockies: “What an incredibly hurtful thing to do to his daughter.” For a time, Mary Cheney was a member of the Republican Unity Coalition, which works for moderation on gay issues within the Republican Party.

Massachusetts Delays Vote on Anti-Gay Constitutional Amendment

Ever since the Supreme Judicial Court in the Bay State ruled that same-sex couples were entitled to equal marriage rights, legislative leaders have threatened to amend the state’s constitution to limit marriage to straight couples. As determined by state law, that procedure would not be finalized until after a 2006 referendum. This week, the president of the state’s senate, Robert Travaglini, said he would delay a vote on the proposed amendment until the high court rules on whether civil unions for gay couples would be an acceptable alternative to granting them marriage licenses.

Amicus briefs for both sides in the civil unions substitution were filed Tuesday. Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, who won the high court marriage decision, wrote, “To the extent that ‘tradition’ is really a cover for accommodating the discomfort of others, the Court has rightly refused to accommodate private bias in the law.” U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat and veteran civil rights activist, endorsed that brief. The LGBT Rights Group brief said civil unions are “partial equality.”

The new Archbishop of Boston, Sean O’Malley, a Franciscan friar, spoke to Catholic lawyers last Sunday urging them to “defend marriage with a passion.” O’Malley exhorted, “In diluting the meaning of marriage, we risk diminishing our own humanity.” Right wing former federal Judge Robert Bork, whom Congress denied a seat on the Supreme Court, also asked the lawyers to work against same-sex marriage, calling the pro-gay decision by the state’s high court something that “did not rise above the quality of a late-night philosophy session in a dormitory.”

Demonstrate at the Marriage Bureau

DontAmend.com, the online LGBT group, is calling on opponents of the the Federal Marriage Amendment to “flood” states’ marriage bureaus with same-sex marriage license applications during Freedom to Marry Week, February 9-15, the week of Valentine’s Day. “We’re not taking this threat lying down,” said Robin Tyler, co-founder of the group. “Accepting any status less than marriage, for example civil unions or domestic partnership, does not afford us the same benefits as marriage.”

More Polls on Same-Sex Marriage

A new USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll found 53 percent of Americans opposing laws granting same-sex marriage, but just 41 percent against civil union laws that grant “some of the rights of married couples” to same-sex couples. Cathy Renna of GLAAD was quoted in the newspaper as saying that marriage sounds religious to people, but civil unions do not. “Gay and lesbian couples need to tell why it’s important for us to have all the legal rights and protections of civil marriage,” she said.

Meanwhile, the good people of Arizona are on our side. An Arizona Republic poll found 51 percent of state residents opposed to a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage with 39 percent supporting it, a “surprise” to the anti-gay House Speaker Jake Flake who wants the legislature to urge Congress to pass the amendment.

Piling on in Oklahoma and Virginia

State Rep. Bill Graves of Oklahoma has introduced a bill to make same-sex marriage “repugnant to the public policy” of the Sooner State. It is already banned there, but this bill would also outlaw civil unions. “According to the Holy Bible, homosexuality is an abomination in God’s eyes,” Graves told Channel Oklahoma.

Graves is not pushing for the Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution, but wants Congress to “curb the jurisdiction of the federal courts to handle such matters.” Another state representative, Mike O’Neal, wants a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as only between a man and a woman.

Meanwhile, Virginia is not giving up on its unconstitutional sodomy law without a fight. A state legislator, David Albo, wants to keep the law on the books until pending sodomy cases are resolved or the state law is officially declared null and void. He leads a commission that is proposing a new law prohibiting sodomy in public places with a five-year prison penalty.

“My constituents didn’t elect me to engage on social issues for 60 days [the length of the legislative session],” Ebbin said. “If we spend 60 days in the General Assembly and we talk about abortion and sodomy, not many minds will be changed.”

Andrew Cunanan: The Musical

The La Jolla Playhouse is developing a musical about the 1997 serial killer of Gianni Versace and others. “Disposable,” Playbill reported, is meant to be “a metaphor for the repercussions of a culture obsessed with money, power, and failure,” according to Des McAnuff, the artistic director of the San Diego company. The show is being developed by director Michael Grief (“Rent”), Jessica Hagedorn (“Dogeaters”) and composer Mark Bennett (“Golda’s Balcony”).

Playbill said that McAnuff wants the work “to address the Cunanan subject matter as significantly as did ‘The Laramie Project’ the tragic murder of Matthew Shepard.” The National Endowment for the Arts has given the company a grant for the work.

Catholic Priest Stands Up for Kids with HIV

The Roman Catholic Church gets deserved condemnation for hindering HIV prevention efforts and demonizing gay people. But three cheers for Rev. Angelo D’Agostino who successfully sued the Ugandan government for keeping kids with HIV out of the public schools. The New York Times reported that the priest, from Providence, R.I., runs the largest East African orphanage for children with HIV and AIDS.

Abadu Namwamba, an orphanage lawyer, told the paper that the decision of the high court is a “resounding victory for life, liberty, and justice over prejudice stigma, fear.”

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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