Dem. Leader Raps Social Security Over Gay Job Protections
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has proposed taking protections on the basis of sexual orientation out of the agency’s labor contract, raising concerns that this might be a first step in a Bush administration rollback of gay employment protections in the federal civil work force. Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Terry McAuliffe called on Pres. George Bush to intercede. “Unfortunately,” he added, “if Bush’s record of divisive politics is any indicator, he will ignore this problem and fail us once again. If Bush’s appointees within the SSA are successful in removing this protection, then other agencies are sure to follow.”
The contract language protecting gay and lesbian employees was added in 2000 in response to Pres. Bill Clinton’s executive order “establishing a uniform policy protecting federal employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation,” the DNC said in a release. That order, of course, did not cover the military.
Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Move on Marriage
Manitoba, in a court ruling announced on September 16, became the fourth Canadian province to open marriage to same-sex couples joining Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia. The territorial government of the Yukon also ruled in favor of gay marriage recently. The Manitoba ruling marked the first time that the Canadian government, which is committed to same-sex marriage rights but is awaiting a ruling on conforming federal policy from the federal Supreme Court, did not ask for a stay of enforcement of a provision same-sex victory. The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia is currently weighing a same-sex lawsuit and may rule as early as this Friday.
Marriage Likely Headed to Jersey High Court
Lambda Legal has asked the New Jersey Supreme Court to hear its appeal of a lower court dismissal of its lawsuit on behalf of seven same-sex couples seeking to marry. The court is expected to announce within weeks whether it will hear the case, which is based solely on issues governed by the state Constitution.
Lambda initiated the case in June 2002 and lost at the lower court level last fall, an outcome that was expected since a district court judge would be unlikely to break new ground on a matter of this significance. The gay legal rights advocacy group appealed to an intermediate level court, but would now like to advance the case directly to the New Jersey Supreme Court, a move that the state also supports.
New Jersey enacted a domestic partners law with limited rights in January of this year. Gov. James McGreevey, who in August announced his resignation effective November 15 after admitting to an affair with a former male aide, actively pushed for the domestic partner law, but is opposed to same-sex marriage.
The New Jersey Supreme Court has a strong record on gay rights, having found unanimously in favor of James Dale’s challenge to the Boy Scouts of America’s ban on gay members and leaders, before it was reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Spain Takes Up Same-Sex Marriage; Britain Delays
The leftist government of Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero will discuss a same-sex marriage bill at his October 1 cabinet meeting, with a plan for passage within the next few weeks. Polls show support for the measure at 70 percent. Spain would join Holland and Belgium in offering full marriage rights to gay couples if the measure goes through.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair postponed a Commons vote on a limited civil partnership bill to give the ultra-right members of the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland led by Ian Paisley, a fundamentalist minister, the opportunity to return to Parliament to vote against it. Blair was said to be concerned about appeasing the party due to its critical role in the Irish peace process.
Paisley led a “Save Ulster from Sodomy” campaign in 1981 when Parliament lowered the age of consent for gay men from 21 to 18. It has since been equalized at 16 for gay and straight relationships.
John Hammond, Gay Journalist, Activist, Dies at 67
John Hammond, whose gay activism went back to the Gay Activists Alliance of the early 1970s in New York and who co-founded the International Gay History Archive in 1980, has died of cancer at 67 in Toronto. The history archive, housed in the New York Public Library’s Rare Books and Manuscripts Division, was the heart of the library’s groundbreaking and successful “Becoming Visible” exhibit in 1994 marking the 25th anniversary of Stonewall.
In addition to his writings on gay issues for the New York Native and Christopher Street magazine, Hammond wrote extensively about theater for TheatreWeek and InTheatre magazines and contributed to Opera Monthly. He was the first editor of Curator’s Choice in 1997, a Web site of museum news at nymuseums.com
In 2001, Hammond immigrated to Canada, continuing his involvement with museum affairs. This past March, he married his longtime partner Bruce Eves in Toronto.
“John was one of the most idealistic journalists I worked with as a press agent,” said Jonathan Slaff, founder and producer of Creator’s Choice. “He was always right there on the cutting edge of all kinds of journalism related to the arts,” including a searchable online directory of New York museums by neighborhood and type. He was also a prolific photojournalist.
For information about a memorial service, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations in Hammond’s memory can be made to Spadina House and Garden Museum, 285 Spadina Rd., Toronto, Ontario M5R 2V5 Canada or to the Lesbian and Gay Immigration Task Force, Box 111, Station F, Toronto, Ontario M4Y 2L4 Canada.
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Don’t Work
The Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military has just come out with a study of how gay and lesbian soldiers are faring in Iraq and Afghanistan. It notes that the partners of gay soldiers are excluded from Family Readiness Groups back home, providing briefings to spouses and parents.
Some soldiers have come out and find it helpful in terms of bonding and building trust with their units, contributing to better morale and commitment to the mission, the report stated. Those who abide by the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy and remain closeted find themselves burdened with more stress, less focus on mission, and subject to more medical and psychological ailments.
Angels in Hollywood
Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America,” a searing two-part play about AIDS and gay life in the age of Reagan, won a record-tying 11 Emmy Awards this Sunday, including best mini-series and one for the playwright. Kushner kissed his lover, Mark Harris, before thanking his co-workers, ending his short acceptance speech by saying, “Someday soon we can get a legal marriage and you can make an honest homosexual out of me.”
Al Pacino, who won for playing the wicked closet case Roy Cohn who died of AIDS, thanked Kushner for writing so beautifully for actors. Jeffrey Wright, who won for the role of nurse Belize, among several in the HBO mini-series adaptation, joined director Mike Nichols, who won for best director, in urging more attention to the AIDS pandemic in Africa.
Also winning were Meryl Streep, best actress in a three different roles in the production, and Mary Louise Parker, who played the wife of a closeted Republican Mormon attorney.
Consequences of Anglican Division
The Guardian (UK) reported that an unnamed American bishop has warned the Rt. Rev. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, that if the Anglican Communion he heads disciplines the U.S. Episcopal Church for ordaining out gay Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire, the American church will end its subsidy of the African and Asian Anglican churches, which have been particularly vocal in condemning Robinson.
An Anglican commission is working on how to deal with the potential schism and recommendations are expected next month. Among the options being considered is one that would discipline the majority of American bishops who approved of Robinson’s elevation.
This week, Dr. Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales, said he will work to ensure that the Anglican Church does not contribute to the “suffering and marginalization” of gays and lesbians during this fight. He said that if the church splits over this issue, the anti-Robinson faction would be “more like the anti-homosexual society.”
Jimmy Swaggart Will ‘Kill Man Who Looks at Him Funny’
Disgraced evangelist Jimmy Swaggart, eclipsed since being exposed as having paid prostitutes for sex in 1987, has weighed in on same-sex marriage. In his TV show from New Orleans, Swaggart said, “I’ve never seen a man in my life I wanted to marry. And I’m gonna be blunt and plain: if one ever looks at me like that, I’m gonna kill him and tell God he died.” In a follow-up comment quoted in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Swaggart claimed, “It was a tongue-in-cheek statement best left unsaid. I won’t make it anymore.” He said it was a “long stretch” to suggest his statement could contribute to anti-gay violence.
Matt Foreman of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, however, has called on the religious right to condemn anti-gay violence and repudiate Swaggart. “All lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and all people of good will will be listening,” he said.
Christian conservative groups have called for a “Mayday for Marriage” rally on the National Mall in defense of “traditional marriage” for October 15.
And James Dobson’s Focus on the Family has also called for an international boycott of products made by Proctor & Gamble because the Cincinnati-based company is opposing a city ordinance that prohibits civil rights protections on the basis of sexual orientation.
Drag Queens Face Ban in Johannesburg Pride
The conservative Gay and Lesbian Alliance in South Africa has called on the police to invoke an apartheid-era law banning masks and disguises at public gatherings in order to limit the role of drag queens in the Johannesburg Lesbian and Gay Pride Parade. David Baxter of the Alliance told The Star, “We are totally against such parades because they are unlawful and harm the image of lesbians and gays. They incorrectly imply that being gay and lesbian means jumping into the clothing of the opposite sex.”
After an initial threat to enforce the disguise law, police met with parade organizers from the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project and have backed off. “We don’t want to interfere with what they will be wearing as long as the procession is decent,” a police spokesperson said.
New York City has a 19th century law against masks at demonstrations and it was used by the Giuliani administration to bar KKK members from wearing hoods at a protest.
Gay House Candidates: One Loses, One Drops Out
Jim Stork, the charismatic gay former mayor of the largely gay city of Wilton Manors, Florida has given up the Democratic nomination for the U.S. House held by Republican E. Clay Shaw, Jr., who represents portions of Palm Beach and Broward County including Fort Lauderdale. Stork cited “fatigue” and the need to undergo medical testing related to a heart condition. “To say that I am disappointed is an understatement,” he wrote on his Web site. Stork had raised substantial funds from the gay community nationwide and had the strong support of both the Democratic National Committee and the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund.
In Wisconsin, gay state Sen. Tim Carpenter lost a Democratic primary to Gwen Moore, a prominent African-American state senator, in a three-way race with attorney Mike Flynn. The primary race was to fill a Milwaukee vacancy created by the retirement of Democratic Rep. Jerry Kleczka. Carpenter got only 12 percent of the vote, despite the backing of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund.
Anti-Gay Policies Challenged in Oklahoma and Michigan
Gov. Brad Henry of Oklahoma signed a law this spring barring the recognition of adoptions by same-sex couples from out-of-state. Three gay couples have filed suit against the measure, saying it “appears to sever legal ties between parents and their children whenever families led by same-gender couples enter the state.”
One of the plaintiff couples is Ed Swaya and Greg Hampel from Washington State who adopted their daughter in Oklahoma. They fear losing their parental rights if they visit the child’s birth mother there.
Michigan’s Republican Atty. Gen. Mike Cox just issued an opinion that same-sex couples who marry in Massachusetts cannot jointly adopt a child in Michigan because the marriage is invalid. The Detroit Free Press reported that advocates for lesbian and gay rights are worried “that it further cripples gays’ rights and their ability to adopt.” There has been no definitive legal ruling on the issue.
Gays Out on TV
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation says that despite gains on cable TV and reality shows, gay characters on “scripted programming” on broadcast television are at their lowest since 1996. Joan Garry, GLAAD’s executive director, said, “When you turn to network comedies and dramas, you’re seeing portraits of America where gay people and families are nearly invisible. That’s not the America we live in.”
The survey found only one gay character of color on network-scripted TV—Adam, an Asian Pacific Islander on UPN’s “Half and Half’—and no gay and lesbian couples and families since the cancellation of ABC’s “It’s All Relative.”
The report, “Where We Are on TV,” is available online at glaad.org
Andy Humm is a co-host of “Gay USA” seen Thursdays at 11 p.m. on Time-Warner 34 and RCN 107, simulcast at mnn.org channel 34, and on Directv nationwide._
Andy Humm can be contacted at AndyHumm@aol.com