News Briefs

Outrage in New Jersey

A 24-year police veteran of the Ocean County, New Jersey, prosecutor’s office, who is dying of inoperable lung cancer, has effectively been denied her request that the county freeholders extend benefits to her longtime partner under the state’s Domestic Partner Law.

As Gay City News was going to press, Steven Goldstein of Garden State Equality, charging that the county’s inaction is “one of the most grotesque instances of homophobia in New Jersey history,” had called for a demonstration at the Ocean County Administration Building at 101 Hooper Avenue in Toms River for Wednesday, November 23, Thanksgiving Eve, at 11 a.m.

Lieutenant Laurel Hester, 49, and Stacie Andree, 30, have joint assets, including their home in Point Pleasant and bank accounts, and registered as domestic partners under the state law on October 28, 2004. In June, a Policemen’s Benefit Association local wrote to the freeholders, at Hester’s request, to ask that the county exercise its local option to extend partner benefits to gay and lesbian couples who are registered with the state. Hester hopes that her pension benefit, which would automatically go to her legal spouse, could go to Andree, and appeared before the freeholders in October to plead her case. She emphasized that the number of employees involved, compared to all those employed by Ocean County, was miniscule.

In a closed door meeting on November 9, the freeholders voted not to act on Hester’s request, but did not notify her.

Alan W. Avery, the county administrator, declined comment on the board’s inaction, calling it a “personnel matter.”

In comments to the Asbury Park Press, however, Joseph H. Vicari said that it was a matter of cost, and that if the state wanted county and municipal employees to have such benefits, it should fund them. Freeholder John P. Kelly echoed the fiscal argument but added that should benefits would threaten “the sanctity of marriage.”

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Vermont Gay Leader in Serious Accident

Ed Flanagan, 54, an out gay Vermont state senator who was a leader in the fight for civil unions in 2000, was in a serious auto accident last Friday and was not discovered for 12 hours after driving down an embankment off Interstate 89 in Burlington. He was discovered by a hunter who found his snow-covered car.

Flanagan is in serious condition at Fletcher Allen Hospital in Burlington. In 2000, he was the first out gay person to run as a major party candidate for the United States Senate, losing to incumbent Republican Jim Jeffords, now an Independent. He was Vermont’s state auditor from 1992 to 2000 and was elected to the state senate in 2004.

His partner is Isaac Lustgarten of the New York law firm of McDermott Will & Emery. He told Doug Ireland, a writer for Gay City News, that Flanagan “seems to be receiving excellent care,” adding, “We are all hopeful.”

Ireland noted that while Howard Dean, then governor of Vermont and now chair of the Democratic National Committee, received much of the credit for the civil union bill, it was signed behind closed doors and “Dean began taking credit” for it when he wanted to raise money from gay people for his 2004 run for the Democratic nomination for president. “But Ed was the real hero of that fight,” Ireland wrote on his blog, Direland.typepad.com, where you can read more about Flanagan’s work on gay civil rights.

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Catholic Crackdown on Homosexuality

The long awaited Vatican document limiting the presence of gay men in the seminaries is due November 29. The latest leak says that homosexually oriented men will have to show that they have been dry for three years, not the four previously reported. For an institution that claims to be based on immutable truths, they’ve been all over the map on this issue.

The New York Post reports that Pope Benedict XVI is wearing red shoes from Prada. Not sure what that’s a sign of.

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AIDS and Bird Flu

As if people with HIV/AIDS don’t have enough to worry about, scientists are now warning that HIV-positive people who get infected with avian flu could give that virus the chance to become “better adapted—and more dangerous—to humans,” the BBC reported.

Dr. Robert Webster of St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis told the Council on Foreign Relations in New York that it is harder for people with HIV/AIDS to clear flu viruses from their systems, giving the viruses more time to shed copies and mutate. He is especially concerned about avian flu reaching East Africa where HIV is so prevalent and migratory birds gravitate.

Laurie Garrett, a Pulitzer Prize-winning AIDS writer, told the BBC, “Vast populations of HIV-positive people could be obliterated by the pandemic flu.”

About 5 million people were estimated to be infected with HIV in 2005 alone, bringing the total number up to 40.3 million, the United Nations reported this week. More than three million AIDS deaths were recorded worldwide this year. And nine out of ten people in the developing world do not know their HIV status.

On a positive note, the academic journal “Microbes and Infection” reported on current vaccines in clinical trials for HIV and sounded hopeful notes about a potent DNA vaccine.

A note of warning to those taking the entry inhibitor Marabviroc: Pfizer, which makes it, reported that in its phase 3 trials of the drug, one patient showed “hepatic toxicities, the causality unclear” out of the thousand people taking it. Severe liver toxicity has also been reported by GlaxoSmithKline in its trials, leading them to end enrollment.

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More Charges Against Matthew Limon

The district attorney in Miami County, Kansas is still going after Matthew Limon, the young man who was released by the Kansas Supreme Court from a 17-year sentence for having oral sex with a boy who was just shy of 15 and Limon had just turned 18 in a center for the developmentally disabled, where they both lived. David Miller charged Limon, still under house arrest, with “unlawful voluntary sexual relations” and is seeking to put him on five years of probation for it. Under provisions of the state’s “Romeo and Juliet” law, had Limon been charged for having sex with an underage girl, he would have only faced a penalty of 15 months. He spent five years in prison, two of them since the U.S. Supreme Court, in the wake of its June 2003 sodomy ruling in Lawrence v. Texas, sent the case back to the Kansas courts for reconsideration as to whether the sentencing disparity violated the high court ruling. Kansas lower courts reaffirmed the original sentence, which was finally undone last month by the state’s highest court.

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He’s Baaaaack

Noah Dear, the leading anti-gay City New York Councilman in the 1980s and ‘90s, wants his old seat back. Then known as Noach, he is considering running if Simcha Felder leaves the Council for a post in the Bloomberg administration. He may be opposed by Assemblyman Dov Hikind, also anti-gay, who is one of his nemeses in the largely Orthodox Jewish district.

Dear once said in a TV debate on the 1986 city gay rights bill that if it passed the next step would be rights for those into bestiality and pedophilia.

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Focus on the Family Plans Anti-Gay Balls for Macy’s Parade

You can’t make this stuff up. In an attempt to save the great unwashed who will be worshipping giant balloons at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the right-wing Focus on the Family will be tossing out 5,000 “stress balls” to the crowd promoting its TroubledWith.com Web site that dispenses remedies for everything from depression to homosexuality. One of the group’s services is an “ex-gay” program called Love Won Out.

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Queer Eye for the Gay Guy—and Gal

Gay men and lesbians in need of makeovers are now eligible for an invasion from the Fab Five of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” Planet Out reported that the Bravo program is seeking “a gay man who’s about to come out to friends and family, Fab Five wannabees who happen to be in their teens, and a lesbian who welcomes a total physical makeover, finally” (emphasis theirs). Prospects have to live within 30 miles of New York City. Nominations should go to crodriguez@thequeereye.com with “Queer Eye Casting Call—PlanetOut” in the subject line.

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Hillary Does Ellen

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton appeared on the “Ellen DeGeneres Show” on Monday, taking the out lesbian comedian on the State Island Ferry fishing for votes. The two women mostly focused on domestic issues in their talk—not health care or Social Security, but Thanksgiving plans and their “incompetence in the kitchen,” the New York Post reported.

DeGeneres has been taping in New York all this week.

“It means a lot to us that she took the time to show us around,” DeGeneres said.

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GSA in Colorado Back with Help of ACLU

In a settlement achieved by the American Civil Liberties Union, Palmer High School in Colorado Springs has agreed to treat the Gay Straight Alliance the same as other student groups. There are 3,000 such groups in high schools across the United States and the federal Equal Access Act bans discrimination against student clubs, mainly to ensure that religiously oriented groups can meet in school buildings.

The school district tried to set up a two-tiered structure for student clubs, giving “non-curricular” clubs such as the GSA a lower status and privileges, leaving the group unable to put announcements on bulletin boards. The ACLU argued that groups including the chess club that are also non-curricular were getting first class status and filed suit in 2003 against the policy.

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One in Five Americans with HIV in New York

That’s just one of the sobering HIV/AIDS stats that came out this week from the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC), but it is misleading because it is drawn only from states like this one that require names reporting to government authorities for those who test positive. California, for example, does not. Of the 32,147 new HIV infections diagnosed in the state between 2001 and 2004, 85 percent were from New York City. The City has 15 percent of the nation’s AIDS cases.

City Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden told the New York Post that he hoped rapid testing and more condom distribution would help lower the infection rate here, but he has been largely silent as condom availability has dropped precipitously in New York City high schools and HIV/AIDS education has virtually disappeared from schools, despite state and city mandates to teach six lessons in every grade each year. During the recent mayoral campaign, Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg promised to announce a new plan in December.

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Log Cabin Leader to Planned Parenthood

Christopher Barron, who has been the political director of the gay Log Cabin Republican club, has joined Planned Parenthood as the director of their outreach to Republicans, PageOneQ.com reported. He begins the new job in December.

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Albee on Gay USA and at Center

Playwright Edward Albee will be a guest on “Gay USA” on Thanksgiving at 11 p.m. on MNN, seen on Time Warner 34, RCN 107, and simulcast at www.MNN.org channel 34. His “Seascape” is in previews on Broadway. “Gay USA” is also seen nationally through Free Speech TV on the Dish Network and other outlets throughout the week.

Albee talks about growing up in a Republican household, his life as a writer, coming out at 12, the current state of the theater and our democracy, his foundation for creative people, and his new book of essays, “Stretching My Mind.”

Albee is also speaking at the LGBT Community Center on Monday, December 5 at 6:30 p.m. as part of the Times Talk series.

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Editor’s note: Andy Humm and his “Gay USA” co-host, journalist Ann Northrop, were recently honored as part of the Out “100,” and will featured this Sunday, November 27 at 9 p.m. on a LOGO TV program looking at the national magazine’s list of the most influential members of the LGBT community.

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