News Briefs

Texas and Maine Vote on LGBT Rights

The big referenda to watch this Election Day are in Texas and Maine. In the Lone Star State, voters are expected to approve a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and also any “legal incidents of marriage” for gay and lesbian couples. Some opponents say that it is so badly worded it could ban all marriages, straight or gay, but that hasn’t cooled enthusiasm for it any more than the KKK rally on it’s behalf.

Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, who worked hand in glove with the Bush campaign last fall to undercut new voter registration there, campaigned for the amendment, saying that “the moral foundation of our culture is under attack.”

In Maine, gay rights supporters are hoping that the third time is the charm. They have lost two previous referenda on a state law banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The right-wing attempt to take down the newest gay rights law passed by the Legislature is opposed by 53 percent of voters, the latest poll says.

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Massachusetts Voters Down on Amendment

In Massachusetts, the only U.S. state that performs same-sex marriages legally, the earliest anti-gay activists can put the issue up to a referendum is 2008. A new poll finds that 53 percent of Bay State voters oppose overturning the state’s 2003 high court ruling enabling gay marriage with only 37 percent in favor. Proponents of the referendum are collecting the necessary signatures to be put the question on the ballot, amidst charges of impropriety in the gathering process.

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Standing Up for Justice, Getting Fired

Petitions against same-sex marriage were touted from the pulpit at St. Gabriel Church in the Brighton neighborhood of Boston last weekend, the Globe reported. That led Patrick Kilduff, the organist for 28 years, to walk out in protest. Colleen Bryant, who led the parish in singing during Mass, then announced that parishioners did not have to sign the petition if they did not want to. The parish priest fired Bryant, leading Kilduff to resign in protest.

The Globe said that Kilduff, 41, told the priests at St. Gabriel, “I’m done. I can’t believe what you guys have done.”

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New MCC Leader Installed

Reverend Nancy Wilson was installed at a ceremony at National Cathedral in Washington as the new leader of the Metropolitan Community Church last weekend, succeeding Rev. Troy Perry who founded the denomination for LGBT Christians in 1968. “I strongly feel that we at MCC have only just begun,” she said of the 250-church denomination.

Wilson was confronted with controversy immediately. A planned ministry to people with HIV and AIDS called Focus on the Human Family will have to change its name after protests from the ultra-right James Dobson, leader of Focus on the Family.

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NYC Second Highest in Latino/a Same-Sex Couples

A new study of the 2000 US Census figures by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute found that the New York metropolitan area has 9,786 Latino and Latina households headed by same-sex couples, second only to the Los Angeles area and followed by the Miami-Fort Lauderdale region.

The report was released in Houston on Tuesday, where voters will decide a statewide referendum November 8 barring same-sex couples from marriage and its legal incidents. The study found more than 100,000 Latino and Latina same-sex couples in the nationwide figures, with two-thirds of them raising kids.

According to a Task Force release, “the study finds that Hispanic same-sex couples have much to gain from the legal protections of marriage and nondiscrimination protections—and much to lose when states prohibit same-sex marriage and other forms of partner recognition.” The study found that Latino male same-sex couples are three times more likely to be raising children than white, non-Latino male couples. Latina same-sex couples are twice as likely as white non-Latina same-sex couples to have kids.

The Latino/a couples have lower average incomes and rates of home ownership than white non-Latino same-sex couple households. The study also concluded that Latina lesbians are six times more likely to serve in the U.S. military—which denies them the right to live openly—than the American population generally.

The full report is available at www.thetaskforce.org.

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Homeland Security Separates Denis O’Hare from Partner

Denis O’Hare, the out gay actor starring in “Sweet Charity” on Broadway who won a Tony for his role in “Take Me Out,” was returning from Newport News, Virginia where his sister was married last week, when his partner, Hugo Redwood, was detained at the airport after joking, “I guess we must be terrorist suspects.”

The men were being searched because they purchased one-way tickets, a common red flag for airport security, PlanetOut reported.

An officer with the Transportation Safety Administration, a unit of Homeland Security, heard Redwood’s comment and sternly warned him, but another officer arrived and handcuffed him, leading him into detention in his socks, without questioning O’Hare who was traveling with him. The second officer alleged that Redwood shouted, “I’m a damned terrorist!”

O’Hare and Redwood, who is African American, told PlanetOut that they did not think the incident was motivated by racial or anti-gay bias. But O’Hare was told that he had no right to see his partner or get information about what was happening to him because they have no legal relationship. “For the first time I feel like leaving the country,” O’Hare told PlanetOut. “America is becoming a nightmare with the permanent war culture brought on by this president. I don’t recognize my country.”

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Fight Cuts in Medicaid Now

Medicaid, the health care system for the poor that so many people with AIDS depend upon, is slated to be slashed dramatically next week by Congress. The HIV Medicaid/Medicare Working group is urging calls to Congress demanding a “no” vote on the budget reconciliation package before them that includes the cuts. All House and Senate members can be reached through the Capitol Switchboard toll free at 877-762-8762.

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Actor George Takei Out at 68

Better late than never. George Takei, 68, best known for his role as Sulu on “Star Trek” on TV and in movies, gave an interview to the Los Angeles-based Frontiers gay newspaper last week confirming that he is gay. He has been with his partner, Brad Altman, for 18 years and said that playing the lead in a revival of “Equus” prodded him to be more public about his sexuality.

“You know, it’s not really coming out, which suggests opening a door and stepping through,” he told the newspaper. “It’s more like a long, long walk through what began as a narrow corridor that starts to widen.”

Takei, who spent part of his youth in a U.S. detention camp for Japanese Americans during World War II, is harshly critical of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for vetoing the same-sex marriage law passed by the Legislature there. “He’s a dangerous politician, in the same way that Strom Thurmond or other politicians who say one thing in order to try to curry a broad base of support, and then when push comes to shove, they act in a segregationist way.”

Takei is active in the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program.

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NFL Commissioner Honored by Parents-FLAG

The Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays honored National Football League commissioner Paul Tagliabue earlier this month for standing by his gay son, Drew, and supporting that organization with a substantial donation, OutSports reported. Drew is a co-founder of Parents-FLAG’s “Stay Close” ad campaign that features LGBT folks with their supportive non-gay relatives.

In Britain, the Football Association has made eradication of anti-gay taunting at soccer games a priority. Lucy Faulkner, the group’s ethics and sports equity manager, told the U.K. Guardian that the problem of “homophobic abuse” included players and referees, not just fans, and runs counter to the sport’s “family image.”

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Gay Murder Victim “Beaten for Fun”

The trial of six defendants, all under the age of 21, in the brutal killing a year ago of gay barman David Morley, 37, opened in London this week. Prosecutor Richard Horwell told the court that the assailants, including a 14-year-old girl, kicked Morley’s head “like a football” and were into “violence for its own sake.”

“The terrible violence inflicted on him did not cause a single member of the gang to desist or at least have second thoughts,” Horwell said. Some of the attack was caught on security cameras, the U.K. Times reported. Morley had more than 40 bruises on his body and died of internal bleeding and a ruptured spleen.

Prosecutors say that there is no dispute that the defendants participated in the assault, just over who did what.

Morley was a survivor of the 1999 nail bombing of the Admiral Duncan bar in London’s Soho.

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Sweden Heads Toward Gay Altar

The ruling Social Democrats in Sweden came out for “gender orientation-neutral marriage” this week, the first step towards full recognition of marriage for gay people. The country has offered registered partnerships to same-sex couples for more than a decade. In addition, the government moved to compel civil registrars to perform registered partnerships for gay couples regardless of their personal views. Also this past week, the Swedish Church’s Assembly voted 160-81 to allow those seeking registered partnerships to have ceremonies in their churches.

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Church of Scotland Supports Adoptions by Gay Couples

Legislation in Scotland aimed at overhauling the adoption law and permitting unmarried couples, gay or straight, to adopt has the backing of the Church of Scotland. Adoptions there have declined 50 percent in the last 20 years. Cardinal Keith O’Brien of the Catholic Church in Scotland said that the new laws made children guinea pigs in a “distorted social experiment,” the BBC reported.

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US University Presidents Say No to Banning Military Recruiters

The Chronicle of Higher Education surveyed the nation’s university presidents and found that 65 percent disagreed with the idea of banning military recruitment on campus to protest the exclusion of gays and lesbians from the armed services. Just 23 percent agreed with the proposal. The presidents are Democrats by a 2-1 margin and 68 percent of them want the federal government to lift restrictions on stem cell research.

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Elton’s TV Show

ABC-TV has ordered up a pilot of a sitcom pitched by Elton John and his business manager, Bob Halley. “Him and Us” will feature an aging rock star named Max Slash and his partner Freddy Lazarus, plus various hangers-on. John and his longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin will write music for it.

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Alan Hollinghurst and Edward Albee on “Gay USA” in November

Out gay novelist Alan Hollinghurst, 2004 winner of the prestigious Man Booker Prize for his novel “The Line of Beauty,” is interviewed on this reporter’s “Gay USA” cable show on Thursday, November 10 at 11 p.m. on Time Warner 34 and RCN 107, simulcast online at www.MNN.org channel 34. Hollinghurst discusses everything from his Oxford thesis on closeted gay writers to his future projects. On Thanksgiving night, November 24, the show welcomes Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Edward Albee, a revival of whose “Seascape” is in previews on Broadway. Albee will be honored at New York’s Ritz-Carlton downtown by SAGE on Sunday, November 13 at 6 p.m.. He is also scheduled to speak at the LGBT Community Center on December 5 at 7 p.m. as part of the Times Talks series.

“Gay USA” is distributed nationally by Free Speech TV, including on the Dish Network.

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