News Briefs

Iraqi Death Squads Continue to Target Gays

Iraqi militias, empowered by the U.S. invasion of Iraq, are imposing Sharia law with a vengeance, executing gay people, unaccompanied women, and even those who wear shorts, British gay activist Peter Tatchell reported in the Tribune. He wrote that “the violent persecution of gay people is commonplace. It is encouraged by Iraq’s leading cleric, the British and U.S.-backed Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani” who has issued a fatwa against all gay Iraqis.

Doug Ireland reported earlier this year in Gay City News about the tragic impact of the Sistani fatwa.

Among those executed were Wissam Auda of Iraq’s Olympic tennis team who had been “receiving death threats from religious fanatics on account of his homosexuality,” Tatchell wrote, and was executed for wearing shorts. Families of gay people are being executed if they refuse to give up their gay members in hiding. Lesbians are being forced to marry men. And young boys are being forced into sex work by predators who photograph them engaged in homosexual activity and threaten them with exposure—and sure death—if they try to leave prostitution.

Tatchell, of Outrage!, wrote that there is an underground Iraqi gay network trying to help “gay people on the run.” For more information, go to IraqiLGBTuk.blogspot.com

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Diaz, Monserrate On the Down Low

A columnist in El Diario/La Prensa reported Wednesday that Bronx state Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr., and Queens City Councilman Hiram Monserrate are engaged in a wink-wink relationship over Diaz’s support of Monserrate’s challenge to state Senator John Sabini in Tuesday’s Democratic Primary. Diaz has had notoriously contentious relations with the gay community ever since he called for a ban on the 1994 Gay Games in New York, charging the event would lead to massive numbers of HIV infections. In 2003, Diaz sued to stop city funding of the Harvey Milk School that serves LGBT youth. El Diario reported that Monserrate told the newspaper, “We talked about his issue and we both agreed that it would be better for me if he didn’t endorse me.” Commenting on Monserrate’s wishes in the matter, Diaz told El Diario that “politicians are more afraid of the homosexuals’ vote than the evangelicals’ vote.” Monserrate is challenging Sabini in the 13th Senate District that encompasses Corona and Jackson Heights. Monserrate’s City Council office did not return a phone call seeking comment.

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Pro-Gay Legislation Piles Up in California

In California, where pro-gay Democrats control both houses of the Legislature, an unprecedented array of 14 bills protecting LGBT rights passed this session, much of it still awaiting the signature of Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger who has already approved a bill banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in the provision of state services.

Also passed were bills to prohibit anti-gay or anti-trans bias in school curricula, one to let registered domestic partners file joint state tax returns, another to combat gay or trans panic defenses such as were attempted in the trials of those who murdered Gwen Araujo, a California trans teenager, in 2002, an added fee on domestic partnerships to pay for domestic violence programs just as married couples pay, and one to make services for older people more inclusive of gay and transgendered people and concerns.

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Court Lets Arizona Anti-Gay Amendment Go Forward

The Arizona Supreme Court last week allowed a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage or marriage-like rights to go on the ballot on November 7. Opponents of the measure argued that it violated a law against dealing with more than one subject in a single ballot question. The Arizona amendment is one of the few around the country trailing in the polls, with 51 percent against and 38 percent in favor. Neil Giuliano, the former Tempe mayor who now heads the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, told Gay City News earlier this year that he thinks the amendment can be defeated.

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Colorado Down to Two Amendments

Coloradans, who could have faced four ballot measures on gay relationships, now are down to two. The right wing has put up a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. The Legislature has placed one on the ballot mandating some basic rights for same-sex couples, including the right to inherit property. Coloradans for Fairness and Equality is spending $3 million on an ad campaign to oppose the amendment and pass the domestic partner measure. It features Norman the puppy who moos, an effort to get voters to think about inherent differences. They have set up a website, http://www.borndifferent.org

“What I love about this is that we aren’t counting on judges,” Sean Duffy, leader of the Fairness group told lesbian columnist Deb Price. “We’re taking it right to the people.”

The right-wing Focus on the Family has donated half a million dollars to Colorado Family Action. Another anti-gay group, Coloradans for Marriage, claims 2,000 volunteers.

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U. of Wisconsin Loses Staff, Grants Due to Benefits Ban

Rob Carpick, a prominent nanotechnology researcher, has abandoned the University of Wisconsin because it is the only Big 10 school not to provide domestic partner benefits. He is taking $3.4 million in grants with him to the University of Pennsylvania. The state Legislature in Wisconsin refuses to let public institutions provide benefits to same-sex partners. “It’s frankly hurtful,” Carpick told WTN News, “and it takes away your motivation and energy, and you feel unappreciated.”

The chair of the UW physics department called Carpick “the perfect sort of person you would want as an individual research investigator,” saying his departure was “an enormous loss.” Wisconsinites will vote on a constitutional amendment this November to ban same-sex marriage and domestic partnerships. The measure is leading in the polls.

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Theocrat Harris Wins Florida GOP Primary

Representative Katherine Harris, who last month said God picks America’s leaders, was anointed the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in Florida, going up against Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson in November. Nelson, who voted against a federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, has a wide lead in the polls.

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San Antonio Cop Guilty in Rape of Transsexual

Officer Dean Gutierrez was found guilty this week of violating the civil rights of Gabriel Bernal in June 2005 for committing an aggravated sexual assault on her during a traffic stop. Bernal, 23, a transsexual known as Starlight, allowed her name to be used in press reports. Gutierrez faces life in prison and a $250,000 fine. There will be a sentencing hearing on December 1.

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NBA Star Barkley for Same-Sex Marriage in Alabama

Charles Barkley, a former most valuable player in the National Basketball Association, was interviewed about a potential run for governor as a Democrat in Alabama and came out for the right of gay people to marry, saying, “If they want to marry, God bless them. Gay marriage is probably one percent of the population, so it not like it’s going to be an epidemic.” He told interviewer Chris Meyers, a man, “Hey, trust me, I’m never going to kiss you and say, ‘Chris, you’re sexy.’”

Barkley said he left the Republican Party because they have “lost their minds.” He also accused religious people of being “discriminatory” as opposed to practicing “common decency and respect for other people.” Last year, 81 percent of Alabamans approved a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

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Conservative Judaism Tackles Gay Issues

Leaders of the Jewish Conservative movement are expected to approve a resolution allowing the ordination of out gays and lesbians and the sanctioning of same-sex unions, Jewish Week reported. They are also expected to pass a motion continuing the ban on such practices, since passage requires just six of 25 votes from the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards. Passage of the contradictory measures would allow choice among Conservative seminaries and congregations. Three seminaries, including the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, have indicated that they want to admit gay and lesbian candidates for the rabbinate. Rabbi Jerome Epstein, executive vice president of the United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism, who is convening meetings on the issue, told the newspaper their challenge is “to prevent this from being a divisive issue. Just because there is a divergence of opinion doesn’t mean it has to be divisive.”

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South African PWAs Seek Asylum in Canada

After the International AIDS Conference in Toronto in August, 157 of South Africa’s delegates stayed behind to win refugee status because the lack of treatment options in their homeland put their lives at risk, according to Agence France-Press. They are being housed in a hostel in Toronto until their claims can be sorted out, a process that can take a year. Steven Lewis, Canada’s U.N. Special envoy, told the Globe and Mail that South Africa “is the only country in Africa whose government continues to propound theories more worthy of a lunatic fringe” on the origins and treatment of HIV. An estimated 5.5 million South Africans have the virus, second only to the US.

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Australian Officials Will Count Same-Sex Marriages

Same-sex marriage is prohibited in Australia, but gay citizens who have partnered elsewhere in the world will be counted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, SX News reported. “Just because the prime minister doesn’t approve of them doesn’t mean they don’t exist,” Sharon Dane, a leader of Australian Marriage Equality told the news service.

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Stigma Versus HIV Still High in India

A 23-year old woman in Kolkata was forced to perform her own abortion in a state-run hospital after health workers discovered she is HIV-positive. The medical people “threw medicines from a distance,” she told Reuters, “as I had to pull out the fetus with my hands and clean myself as health workers guided me from a distance.” In the state of Orissa, “a 35-year old man with full-blown AIDS died after he was pelted with stones inside a hospital compound,” the news service said.

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Travolta Pictured in Lip Lock with Man

In our digital age, pictures may lie—but then, so too may John Travolta about his sexuality. The film star was snapped by the National Enquirer giving an on-the-lips good-bye smooch to an unidentified young man on the steps of his private plane in Ontario. Travolta, a Scientologist who got married at 37 to a woman, Kelly Preston, when porn star Paul Barresi alleged they had a two-year affair, is set to cross-dress for the film version of the musical “Hairspray” as Edna Turnblad, the role that won Harvey Fierstein a Tony on Broadway.

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