News Briefs

Pope Intensifies Crusade Against Same-Sex Couples

Pope John Paul II continued to attack the rights of gay couples and the trend toward partner recognition around the world. “In our times,” he said Sunday, “a misunderstood sense of rights has sometimes disturbed the nature of the family institution and conjugal bond itself. It is necessary that at every level, the efforts of those who believe in the importance of the family based on matrimony unite.” Earlier this year, the Vatican issued a document saying that Catholic politicians had a “moral duty” to vote against recognition of gay relationships and that non-Catholics should also do so to be faithful to “natural law.” John Paul also asked people to pray “for all families, in particular those in material and spiritual difficulties.”

During the Pope’s midnight mass televised from St. Peter’s in Rome, viewers on the Dish Network twice saw the screen become scrambled and then the words “Legalize Gay Marriage Now” appear on the screen for a second, a gay viewer reported. While the company realigned the dish to remove the signal (they had to do this twice during the mass), they put up a “Technical Difficulties” slide. Santa’s elves?

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Italian Homeless Transgendered Person Hailed as Hero

Natale Morea, 57, “an oddball: a homosexual and a transvestite,” according to his nephew, is being celebrated in Italy because the homeless person saved a group of women who were set upon by a band of marauders with intent to rob and rape near the Pyramid of Caius Cestius. “He put himself between the women and their attackers, allowing them to escape,” wrote John Hopper in The Guardian (UK), “and paid for his courage with a beating so dreadful it put him into a coma.” The mayor of Rome visited him on Christmas Eve and the city’s electric company has provided him with an apartment.

Just a few months ago, the Italian parliament was less generous with its gay citizens, barring them from adopting children or using reproductive technology.

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Vancouver Anglicans in Turmoil Over Gay Issues

Ten conservative parishes in the Diocese of New Westminster have withheld more than half a million dollars (Canadian) to protest the Bishop Michael Ingham’s authorization of same-sex blessings. The annual budget of the diocese is $2 million, according to The Globe and Mail. Ingham last week closed Holy Cross Church in Abbotsford, British Columbia because this mission church, funded directly by the diocese, refused to support same-sex unions, the National Post reported. The parish church is among those seeking to be under the jurisdiction of the more conservative Bishop Terry Buckle of the Diocese of the Yukon.

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Church Weddings for Gay Anglicans

As part of the gay partnership bill working its way through the British Parliament, Anglican priests who wish to do so can register to sign certificates for gay couples they bless, the Observer reported. The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement had pushed for allowing all ministers to be allowed to register same-sex civil partnerships, but the government balked at this opt-in procedure.

Under the proposed law, a couple obtains a license and has two weeks to have it “executed” by a registered officer, among whom may now be an Anglican clergy member. And for an extra special reception, the National Trust in Britain has signed an agreement with Pink Weddings to make some of the nation’s stately homes available for same-sex weddings, the Daily Telegraph reported. Among the properties are Osterley Park, an 18th century villa in West London, the 17th century  Blickling Hall in Norfolk, and Bodiam Castle with 14th century walls.

Fiona Reynolds, who heads the National Trust, has led an effort to make the organization less “middle class” and “old fashioned” and more into “community outreach,” the paper said. For more information, go to PinkWeddings.biz

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More Poll Numbers on Same-Sex Marriage

National Public Radio sponsored a poll by Democratic and Republican pollsters and found that 56 percent of Americans oppose same-sex marriage with 30 percent in favor. The public surveyed was evenly split at 45 percent on support for legalizing civil unions, which the pollsters described as “the legal rights of married couples in areas such as health insurance, inheritance, pension coverage, and hospital privileges.”

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Israel Gets Partners Bill

Shinui, the Israeli Liberal party that has six seats in the Knesset, has introduced a bill that would give common-law partners the same rights as married couples in claiming compensation after an accident. It would also clarify the term “partners” to include same-sex couples, Ha’aretz reported. Israel Eichler of the United Torah Judaism party said, “the legislature is passing laws worthy of Sodom and Gomorrah.”

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Belgium Debates Adoption Rights for Gay Couples

Belgium became the second country (after Holland) to open marriage to same-sex couples a year ago. Since then, 138 gay couples have married there, but they don’t have the right to adopt children. That would change under a bill presented by the Flemish Liberal Democratic Party. With the support of members of other parties, it is expected to enjoy a small majority in the Belgian parliament.

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Michigan Governor Protects Gay Employees

Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm has issued an executive order banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in state employment, making Michigan the tenth state to do so. Thirteen states have laws banning anti-gay discrimination in public and private employment. Granholm’s directive covers 95 percent of the state’s 55,000 employees.

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Tasmania Opens Registry for Gay Couples Jan. 1

Once seen as the most conservative of Australia’s states, Tasmania will extend most marital benefits to same-sex couples on New Year’s Day. Michael Carnes, who registered with his partner Bob Lavis, told The Australian, “Tasmania now has it all—the natural beauty, the fantastic people, and now reforms that show we are no longer a backwater, but a wonderful, open society.” The men have been partners for 17 years.

The reform was passed earlier this year by the state’s Labour government.

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N.H. Unitarians to Sign Marriage Licenses for Gay Couples

Pastors at the South Church in Portsmouth say they will sign marriages licenses after performing wedding for same-sex couples, the Portsmouth Herald reported. “We want to encourage a change in the laws as expeditiously as possible,” said Rev. Will Saunders. The church has been performing marriages for gay couples for more than 15 years.

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Mississippi Priest Resigns over Gay Bishop

Rev. Sandra DePriest is the first Episcopalian cleric in Mississippi to resign over the approval of Gene Robinson, an out gay man, as Bishop of New Hampshire, the Sun Herald reported. “I believe my vows have been placed in conflict,” she said. “I took vows to uphold Scripture… and… vows to uphold the doctrine and discipline of the Episcopal Church of the United States. And I cannot teach these doctrines and disciplines. DePriest was ordained in 1999 and has been ministering in the Columbus-Aberdeen area. She believes homosexuality is a sin. Her bishop, Duncan Gray, said, “We were founded in theological conflict,” and that Anglicanism was based on diversity of belief and tolerance.

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AIDS Up Among Native Americans

The rate of HIV infection among Native Americans is now 1.5 times that of whites and climbing, Arizona Central reported. U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher first noticed the surge in 2001, calling AIDS “a ticking time bomb” among Native peoples. While new infection rates are highest among African Americans and Latinos, 11.7 Native Americans per 100,000 are infected. The rate had been underestimated in the past “because of a lack of testing, poor reporting, and racial misidentification,” the paper said.

The Navajo Nation in Arizona is now running public service announcements about sexually transmitted infections, prompting more tribe members to come in for testing. Rep. Jack Jackson, Jr., a Navajo who served on President Clinton’s AIDS Advisory Council, said, “The Indian Health Service still receives a historic shortfall in funding,” with more money going to problems like diabetes. “Under the Bush administration, much of the funding used to look at HIV in communities of color and the gay community is no longer being distributed.” Satcher said that cutbacks in Medicaid are also “working against us.”

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Alan Bates, Transcendent Actor, Dead at 69

Sir Alan Bates, who wrestled nude with Oliver Reed in Larry Kramer’s 1969 film “Women in Love,” has lost a battle with cancer. In addition to that memorable homoerotic scene, Bates played gay men in films such as “We Think the World of You” (1988) as Gary Oldman’s ex-beau and the title role in “Butley” (1976), which he also performed in London’s West End and on Broadway. Bates came to prominence in the mid-1950s in John Osborne’s “Look Back in Anger” and was a major interpreter of the work of Harold Pinter, David Storey, and Simon Gray. He returned to the New York stage in recent year’s in Yasmina Reza’s  “The Unexpected Man” with Eileen Atkins and last season in Turgenev’s “Fortune’s Fool” in a bravura performance.

Among his other memorable films were “The Entertainer” (1960) with Laurence Olivier, John Schlesinger’s “Far From the Madding Crowd” (1967), and a subtle turn as the butler in Robert Altman’s “Gosford Park” (2001).

He is survived by his son, Benedick Bates, an actor, whose twin, Tristan, died at 19 in 1990 from an asthma attack. His wife, Victoria Ward, an actress, died in 1992.

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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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