News Briefs

Socarides, Leading Anti-Gay Shrink, Dies

Charles Socarides, the most prominent proponent of the discredited idea that homosexuality was a mental illness that could be “cured,” has died in New York at 83. One of his survivors is his son, Richard, an out gay man who once served as Democratic President Bill Clinton’s liaison to the lesbian and gay community.

The American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders in 1973, a decision that Socarides unsuccessfully tried to overturn. He never gave up on his theory that homosexuality, at least in men, was “caused” by having has a distant father and a close-binding mother. Socarides never considered that this pattern of parental behavior could be caused by the parents’ reactions to sensing that their son is gay in societies where that is taboo.

Despite his quackery, Socarides held the post of clinical professor of psychiatry at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx until 1996, The New York Times reported. He made extravagant claims for “curing” his gay patients, claiming that 35 percent became heterosexual and almost as many stopped practicing their homosexuality—assertions that are disputed by every reputable study of such patients. In 1992, he was a co-founder of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, a group favored by Christian fundamentalists.

Dr. Jeanne Hoff, a retired psychiatrist now in San Francisco, recalled confronting Socarides on several occasions when he was invited to make presentations at hospitals in the New York area years ago.

“Socarides was a captive of the psychoanalytic school, now thoroughly discredited, and tried to use elements of that theory to explain what was largely hidden from view at the time, causing a great deal of suffering to parents and gays alike for the implication of abnormality,” Hoff told Gay City News. “Modern psychiatry, more objective and less blaming, sees homosexuality as one band on a broad spectrum of normal variants in the ways human sexuality develops, and not a rare and destructive disorder. He never seems to have made the adjustment to data, objective study, or the demise of his psychoanalytic faith-based system.”

Gil Herdt, director of the National Sexuality Resource Center in San Francisco, told The Times that Socarides was an “anachronism” who “continued to inflict suffering on the lives of some gay and lesbian individuals and the LGBT community in general.”

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Quinn Seen in Lead for Council Speaker

City Councilwoman Christine Quinn, a Chelsea Democrat and an out lesbian, was touted in the New York Post as “leading the race to become the next City Council speaker.” Her nearest rival, Bill de Blasio, a Brooklyn Democrat, is seen as unlikely to get to the 26 votes of his 51 colleagues needed to prevail in the January 4 contest.

If neither of these candidates can get a majority, there is the potential for councilmembers to turn to one of the other five contenders vying for the post. The speaker is considered the second most powerful post in the city next to being mayor.

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Mother of Martyred Gay Soldier Challenges Pentagon

Patricia Ketteles, whose son Barry Winchell was murdered for being gay by fellow soldiers at Fort Campbell, Kentucky in 1999, is speaking out about the U.S. Defense Department’s failure to deal with anti-gay bigotry in the Armed Services in the wake of the recent severe beating of Private Kyle Lawson, also for being gay, at Fort Huachuca in Arizona. Lawson’s mother told the Arizona Daily that she has been crying herself to sleep for fear of her son’s safety.” Lawson has yet to receive a requested discharge after the beating.

“Unless Pentagon leaders finally get a clue and lead the way in combating harassment and discrimination, I fear that attacks like these will continue to make headlines,” Ketteles said in a statement released by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

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California Constitution Safe for Now

Right-wing groups have failed to collect sufficient signatures to get a state constitutional amendment on the ballot for June 2006 to ban same-sex marriage and overturn California’s extensive domestic partner law. The groups are not abandoning their efforts, but cite “voter fatigue” over a range of political and social battles in the state for slowing their bids to collect the nearly 600,000 signatures needed to qualify three similar measures for the ballot.

The California Legislature was the first in the nation to pass a bill opening marriage to same-sex couples, only to have it vetoed by Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger this year—a decision supported by his new lesbian chief of staff, Susan Kennedy, a sometime Democrat who believed the bill illegally overturned an earlier referendum banning same-sex marriage.

A San Francisco court decision overturning the state law against gay couples marrying is on appeal and will not be decided by the California Supreme Court until 2007. If the court upholds that ruling, the right wing believes that will motivate their troops to collect the necessary signatures and bar recognition of gay relationships entirely.

Polling shows voter support for same-sex marriage in the state at 46 percent, up from 38 percent in 2000, but all 18 states that considered anti-gay marriage amendments thus far have passed them. Ten more states are expected to have the issue on the ballot this year.

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Do You Know Someone in Massachusetts?

If you would like to see whether they signed a petition for a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and partner rights, go to KnowThyNeighbor.org. The Web site lists the names and zip codes of all 170,000 people alleged to have signed these petitions. There is evidence that many of the signatures were fraudulently obtained with bait-and-switch tactics by paid signature collectors. Organizers of the Web site are asking anyone who does not support the amendment and finds their name on the list to contact them.

For the amendment to get on the November 2008 ballot, 50 of 200 legislators must approve the measure in two consecutive sessions. A previous amendment, banning same-sex marriage but mandating civil unions, was initiated in the Legislature and required two consecutive majorities. It passed in 2004, but failed this year.

Polls show that support for same-sex marriage in Massachusetts has broken through 50 percent.

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50 Catholic Colleges Have Gay Groups

The crackdown on gay men in Catholic seminaries doesn’t seem to be dissuading gay people from attending Catholic universities, 50 of which have gay-straight alliances or LGBT groups, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported.

According to the newspaper, Matthew Pratter, who is organizing a group for gay students at Duquesne in Pittsburgh, thinks “homophobic attitudes on campus are tempered by the Catholic values of tolerance and acceptance, so outright harassment rarely occurs.”

“With the Catholic community, there is a polite dissent that is missing in the rest of society,” Pratter told the Tribune-Review.

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Non-Gay Student Wins Anti-Gay Harassment Suit

Dylan Theno, 18, who was mercilessly subjected to anti-gay bullying from seventh grade until he dropped out in his junior year of high school, has won a $440,000 settlement in a lawsuit against the Tonganoxie, Kansas schools. Theno, who said he is not gay, alleged that the schools enforced their sexual harassment policy when girls were affected but not when he was, the Washington Post reported.

Theno’s attorney, Arthur Benson, told the newspaper that the case would have “profound effects nationwide in dealing with schoolyard bullying and harassment. Insurance companies will have a very powerful economic incentive to see that districts’ anti-harassment policies are aggressive and effective.”

In U.S. District Court, witnesses testified that the school knew about the anti-gay harassment and did nothing to stop it. Sexual-based rumors were spread about Theno by other students who regularly called him such names as fag, queer, flamer, and masturbator, the Lawrence Journal-World reported.

The youth recently earned a high school equivalency diploma and now attends a local vocational school. “I feel great,” he said. “The school district has finally been held accountable for its actions.”

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Los Angeles Police Recruiting at Gay Games

The LAPD is co-sponsoring and setting up shop at the Gay Games in Chicago this July in a recruitment drive targeting LGBT folks. The department will also administer its written test during the four-day athletic and cultural festival, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. Starting salaries are from $52,000 to $54,000. Kevin Boyer, a co-vice chair of the games, told the newspaper he’s happy that the LAPD is committed to “diversity” and believes that their campaign “sends a strong message to other departments and the world.”

More than 12,000 athletes are expected to participate in the Games.

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Russian Church Calls Homosexuality a “Confusion”

Can’t we all get along? Apparently not when it comes to homosexuality and religion. The Russian Orthodox Church has officially ended relations with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sweden over its establishment of a union ceremony for same-sex couples. The Russian church said blessing these civil partnerships violates biblical teaching that “homosexuality is considered a sin and ‘confusion.’”

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AFA v. NBC, Ford—and Santorum!

The right-wing American Family Association is mounting a protest against NBC Television for its new show “The Book of Daniel” starring Aidan Quinn as an Episcopal priest who talks to Jesus and has a grown son, played by Christian Campbell, who is a Log Cabin Republican. The group believes the show is unfair in its depiction of Christians.

Jack Kenny, the out gay creator of the series, told the Associated Press that the program “is no more about religion than ‘Six Feet Under’ was about mortuaries.”

The AFA is pretty tough. They accuse Fox News host Bill O’Reilly of being soft on homosexuality. The Tupelo, Mississippi-based group is also considering a boycott against the Ford Motor Company for reversing itself and agreeing to continue to advertise in gay publications and support LGBT events. Among the pressures brought to bear on Ford were from New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi who threatened to use the state’s shareholder power if Ford began discriminating.

Finally, the AFA has had it with one of their few champions in the U.S. Senate, Pennsylvania Republican Rick Santorum who is in a tough fight for re-election next November. The group is after him for agreeing with the recent court decision banning the teaching of so-called “intelligent design” in science classrooms in Dover, Pennsylvania. An AFA statement said, “Conservatives can no longer trust the senator,” despite his ardent opposition to abortion and gay sex, which he once said could lead to legitimization of “man-on-dog sex.”

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Suit Filed vs. Anti-Lesbian Coach

Rene Portland, the women’s basketball coach at Penn State notorious for her mistreatment of lesbian players, and her school have been slapped with a federal lawsuit by the National Center for Lesbian Rights for harassing and dismissing Jennifer Harris, a sophomore, because she was perceived to be gay, Planet Out reported. Harris is now at James Madison University in Virginia, but has to sit out a year before she becomes eligible to play ball for them under NCAA rules.

Back in 1986, Portland said that she didn’t tolerate drink, drugs, or lesbians and assured parents of players she was recruiting that there were no lesbians on her teams. When Penn State adopted a sexual orientation non-discrimination policy, Portland said she would abide by it, but has made no further comment on the status of lesbian players.

The suit makes state and federal claims of discrimination on the basis of race, gender, and sexual orientation.

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Congressmembers Protest Anti-Gay Emirates

U.S. House members from both parties have written to the United Arab Emirates ambassador to the U.S., protesting that nation’s treatment of gay men, including threatened flogging and forced hormone treatments.

Steve Adamske, an aide to Representative Barney Frank, the gay Massachusetts Democrat and a signatory to the letter, told Planet Out, “The UAE is trying very, very hard to be the financial capital in the Middle East. Europeans and some Americans are not going to invest there if they persecute homosexuals.”

The letter said that anti-gay policies were “repugnant” to many tourists, governments, and corporations. There has been no response from the ambassador.

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Right-Wing Retreat in Spain

Antonio Alonso, a magistrate in Pinto, Spain, has resigned his post because he said that having to perform same-sex marriages is “morally impossible” for him. Cope Radio, owned by the nation’s Catholic bishops, has had to apologize for allowing one of its on-air personalities to pretend to be Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero in a call to Evo Morales, the incoming president of Bolivia, on a live program. The host of that show also said Zapatero was a Communist forming an axis with Cuba and Venezuela, 365gay.com reported. After Spain and Bolivia protested to the Vatican, the radio station apologized to both governments, but the bishops have remained silent on the matter.

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Progress in Ireland

Michael McDowell, the justice minister of Ireland, met with gay leaders and announced the formation of a new government committee to figure out how the country will sanction same-sex relationships in the wake of Britain’s commencement of Civil Partnerships this month. “The center of gravity in Ireland has shifted,” he said. Ireland is the only country in Western Europe not to have some form of gay partner recognition.

Kieran Rose, chair of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network in the Republic of Ireland, told 365gay.com, “We are arguing for civil marriages.”

McDowell said he is in favor of changing laws that make it difficult to bring foreign same-sex partners to Ireland and in allowing same-sex couples to adopt children.

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Regress in Lithuania

Inspired by Latvia and many American states, the Lithuanian Parliament has begun the process of amending its Constitution to ban same-sex marriages, even though the country’s civil code already defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Apparently new nations can’t be too careful.

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Police Crackdown in China

The Beijing police last week put the kibosh on what was supposed to be a three-day event dealing with LGBT cultural issues as well as HIV/AIDS in China. Police used the pretext that it would attract too many people, Kyodo News reported. Joanne Csete of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network joined Human Rights Watch in protesting the cancellation of the event. She said, “The Chinese government tells the world that it is dealing with HIV/AIDS in internationally acceptable ways but continues to persecute civil society organizations that can lead the way to effective programs.” HIV/AIDS News reported that organizers of the conference plan to “stage an art exhibit and symposium once the event’s location [a nightclub] reopens.”

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