Rochester Unanimous for Marriage Equality
In a remarkable show of leadership, the nine-member City Council of upstate Rochester, composed of both at-large and district members, has voted to endorse marriage rights for same-sex couples. In letters dated September 14, the nine councilmembers wrote to the city’s mayor, Robert Duffy, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Senate President Joe Bruno, and Rochester-area legislators urging them to act on marriage equality in the wake of the July Court of Appeals ruling rejecting state constitutional claims to same-sex marriage. Citing “the 1,500 protections and responsibilities” denied to gay and lesbian couples under current law, the councilmembers wrote, “The State of New York has a proud tradition of extending equal protection and civil rights for all of its citizens. The City of Rochester has also, historically, been at the forefront of struggles for equality”’—specifically pointing to abolition, women’s suffrage, and African-American civil rights efforts.
Bill Pritchard, an out gay member of the Council, took the lead on the effort.
A similar resolution has languished in the New York City Council since the spring of 2004. Asked about its prospects at the time she was elected Council speaker in January, Christine Quinn, an out lesbian from Chelsea, said, “Honestly, I don’t know tomorrow if we tried to vote on that resolution we would pass it. I don’t want to pretend we’re further along than we are. I think we have a lot of education we need to do with my colleagues in the Council about marriage.”
Faso’s Freudian Slip
It is well known that John Faso, the Republican-Conservative candidate for governor of New York, opposes opening marriage to same-sex couples. Asked about it in a debate with Democrat Eliot Spitzer on September 26, Faso accused the attorney general, who successfully preserved marriage exclusivity for man-woman couples in court this year while promising to support a marriage equality bill if elected, of trying to “force gay marriage down the throats of many New Yorkers.” The colorful remark “brought gasps and laughter from the largely college-age audience” in Ithaca, the New York Post reported. Spitzer then said, “Let me respond to John without commenting on his use of metaphors,” evoking more laughter. Questioner Brian Taffe from Capital News 9 in Albany said, “We are cable but not HBO, so we have to keep it clean.”
Smoking Increases Risk for HIV
Smokers have a higher risk for contracting HIV, though researchers writing in the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases do not know why. They posit that smokers are more vulnerable to a wide range of infections because the addiction may change the structure of the lung or weaken the immune system, The New York Times reported. They also note that people such as prostitutes who engage in high- risk sexual activities are more likely to be smokers. The study also says that AIDS and smoking “are the only two major causes of death that are on the rise.” It did not find that smoking exacerbates AIDS once someone has HIV.
Quinn Nightlife Bill Goes to the Council
New York Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a Democrat and a lesbian from Chelsea, introduced controversial legislation to deal with nightlife safety on September 27. The bill requires ID scanners and security cameras at club entrances, training of security personnel by the NYPD, and the hiring of independent safety monitors at clubs with repeat violations. Some gay leaders have objected to the proposal, contending that it deprives patrons—especially gay ones—of their rights to privacy when socializing.
At press time, Quinn was set to hold a nightlife summit at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice on Thursday, September 28 at 1 p.m. where “key law enforcement officials, club owners, elected officials, and community leaders from across the city will join with councilmembers to share their ideas and work to solve chronic problems such as underage drinking, security in and around clubs, and incidents of violence inside and outside of the clubs,” according to a release from the speaker’s office.
Sexual Orientation and Genes
The Evanston Northwestern University Healthcare Research Institute in Illinois is looking for a thousand pairs of gay brothers to give blood so they can look at their DNA and figure out of sexual orientation is linked to genes. In a Chicago Sun Times article with the unfortunate title of “Is There a Gay Gene?” Dr. Alan Sanders, a psychiatrist leading the five-year study, said, “We hope our study will dispel mythologies and ignorance about homosexuality.” The researchers hope if they can establish sexual orientation as innate, “the public would be more accepting of gays,” though racial prejudice persists despite the fact that there is no fundamental genetic difference between the so-called races.
The bandwagon to make Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit the next chancellor of Germany continues. In a Saturday profile on September 23, The New York Times called him “charming, sociable, and openly gay” and “the newest star in the German political firmament” that is “short on stars.” The article said that the election of a woman leader, conservative Angela Merkel, “scrambled the assumptions about what is possible in German politics,” such as the viability of an out gay person as chancellor.
Wowereit, a Social Democrat, was recently re-elected, hugging his partner, Jörn Kubicki, a neurosurgeon, on the stage during his victory celebration.
Benjamin Weinthal, Gay City News’ Berlin correspondent, was on the Wowereit-as-chancellor story more than a month ago. His reporting and exclusive interview with the mayor can be found at http://gaycitynews.com/gcn_535/nottoberepresessed.html and http://gaycitynews.com/gcn_535/hesgayandthatsokay.html.
Gay Month in Philly Schools
The Philadelphia public schools marked October as “Lesbian and Gay History Month” on 200,000 calendars, but told NBC 10 “that there were no scheduled events or activities to mark the occasion.” Nevertheless, some parents are up in arms. “Gay and Lesbian Month? That’s sexuality! That’s a preference,” one mom told the Philadelphia Daily News. There are about 20 gay-straight alliance clubs in the city’s high schools.
Patrick Quinn, Labor Leader, Dead at 56
Patrick Quinn, who just became the executive director of the Actor’s Equity Association, died of a heart attack on September 24 at his country house in Bushmill, Pennsylvania, The New York Times reported. He was 56 and is survived by his longtime partner, Martin Casella, with whom he lived in Manhattan. Quinn was one of the founders of Equity Fights AIDS in 1987, which later merged with Broadway Cares. He is a past president of Actor’s Equity, his union since 1970. In addition to his labor work, he was an accomplished actor on stage and TV, appearing in “Fiddler on the Roof” in 1976 as well as in six other Broadway productions, the newspaper said.
Gay Candidate Chances Dip on Staten Island
Matthew J. Titone, the out gay Democratic candidate to succeed John Marchi, who served 25 two-year terms, as a state senator from Staten Island was given a good shot at winning the seat because his opposition was split between Republican and Conservative Party candidates. But this week, Robert Helbock, the Conservative, was prevailed upon to drop out by Senator Majority Leader Joe Bruno, clearing a path for the election of City Councilman Andrew Lanza, the Republican nominee. Titone is the son of the late Vito Titone, a justice on the New York State Court of Appeals, The Times reported, and someone who twice lost to Marchi. Space constraints prevent Gay City News from listing Marchi’s 23 other opponents.
Anti-Gay Crusader Sentenced
Monsignor John Woolsey, who led a number of anti-gay campaigns as head of the Catholic Archdiocese of New York’s Office of Family Life, was sentenced to one-to-five years in jail for stealing almost a million dollars in donations to his parish, the Church of St. John the Martyr in Manhattan. Cardinal Edward Egan and 140 priests and parishioners asked the judge for leniency, the Daily News, which called him “Father Flim-Flam,” reported, but Judge Bruce Allen said in court on September 22, “You should know that across the street in Criminal Court, people who have stolen cans of tuna fish wind up going to jail for 30 days or 60 days.”
Those Darned Heterosexuals: Green-Eyed Pirro
Jeanine Pirro, the former Westchester DA and Republican candidate for state attorney general versus Andrew Cuomo, is the target of a federal investigation probing whether she asked disgraced former New York City Police Commissioner Bernie Kerick “to bug her family boat to determine if her husband was having an affair.” Pirro told reporters on Wednesday that she had done nothing illegal and that the investigation was a “witch hunt” by her political opponents. She vowed not to drop out of the race, saying, “I’m standing up for myself and I’m standing up for women.”
Albert Pirro, her husband, has repeatedly been a source of political embarrassment for the candidate. He was convicted of tax evasion in 2000 and did prison time. This past year, he has been cited for speeding twice. The feds were taping Kerick as part of an investigation into his own misdeeds—which sunk his nomination to be George W. Bush’s homeland security chief!—last year. Transcripts of his conversations with Pirro include her “profanity-laden rants” about her husband, The New York Times said, as well as comments “dismissing the attorney general’s job as a ‘been-there-done-that kind of thing.’”
Stick a fork in her. She’s done.