News Briefs

African American AIDS journalist LeRoy Whitfield, an editor at POZ magazine and contributor to Vibe, died on October 9 after 15 years of living with AIDS. He refused to take anti-retroviral drugs because of their side effects and relied on good nutrition and exercise as well as stress reduction to keep HIV at bay. Whitfield, 36, was born in Chicago, attended the University of Chicago and DePaul University there, and worked at Positively Aware in his hometown before moving to New York in 2000.

Whitfield told The New York Times in 2001 that “there is no black gay Mecca, no black Chelsea. And because the community is so decentralized, prevention and outreach efforts are even more difficult.”

“AIDS is the gripping issue of the gay community,” he wrote in 1997. “For African Americans, it’s the atrocity du jour.”

“He was unusually committed to exposing the truth about AIDS in the black community,” wrote Keith Boykin, an African American gay leader, on his blog, “and he was unafraid to challenge conventional wisdom.”

A service is planned for Thursday, October 20 at 7 p.m. at the National Black Theater in Harlem at Fifth Avenue between 126th and 127th Street. Flowers and condolences may be sent to LaRonya Whitfield, 8947 South Jeffery, Chicago 60617. The Whitfield family has asked that any memorial gifts be directed to Gay Men of African Descent.

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Complaint Filed against NYPD over Ferrer Rally

Gerard Cabrera, co-president of the Out People of Color Political Action Club, has filed a complaint at the City’s Civilian Complaint Review Board against Lieutenant John Brennan of the police department’s City Hall security detail after he refused to separate protestor Christopher Brodeur from an lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender unity rally for Democratic mayoral candidate Fernando Ferrer on October 6 on the steps of City Hall.

“I feel my First Amendment rights were violated because he didn’t stop Brodeur from allowing us to get our message across,” said Cabrera, an attorney, citing the Supreme Court’s decision in the Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade case that allowed organizers to exclude gay contingents. “The court decided you can control your message, but we can’t if a disrupter invades our message.”

Brodeur was permitted by police to stand right next to Ferrer during the rally with a sign attacking him while police did nothing to separate him. “It was intimidating and particularly offensive,” Cabrera said.

Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s press office, his Law Department, and his campaign each failed to return calls and e-mails requesting comment on the incident.

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Three Teens Apprehended in London Gay Murder

In the pre-dawn of Saturday October 15, Jody Dobrowski, 24, a bar manager, was beaten unconscious on London’s Clapham Common by youths shouting anti-gay slurs and died at 10:30 a.m. of his injuries.

Outrage!, the militant LGBT rights group there, chastised police for not doing more within the first 24 hours after the killing. But due to the publicity around the case, police were able to arrest three teens for the murder, two of whom are 17 and the third, 13. The boys were questioned and released on bail.

Police have confirmed that an unidentified man tried to stop the beating, but fled when warned by the attackers, the BBC reported. The man, also gay, gave the police detailed descriptions of the assailants.

At the scene of the crime, Dobrowski’s brother Jake, said, “A beautiful and fine young man has been taken from us and the people who did this will never understand the horror they have inflicted on his family and hundreds of friends. We need to ensure that as a civilized society we make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

“Mr. Dobrowski’s distraught mother Sheri, 47, left a tribute with flowers,” the Scotsman reported.”

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Lashings for Young Lesbians in Nigeria

Six Nigerian girls ages 12 to 17 have been sentenced to 90 strokes of the cane for the “shameful and abominable act” of unspecified same-sex behavior, SAPA reported. One of the girls is said to have confessed to the “vigilance group” in Nigeria’s Bayelsa state, naming a seventh girl, “Felicia” who is said to have introduced them to lesbianism and is still “at large.”

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Gay Man Finalist for APA Presidency

The American Psychiatric Association held that gay people were mentally ill until 1973. This year, members will have the chance to elect the first out gay president of the association, Dr. Jack Drescher, a New York psychiatrist who chairs the group’s Committee on Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual issues and is a member of the Council on Minority Mental Health and Health Disparities. He once led the Manhattan branch of the organization. He is a clinical assistant professor at SUNY-Downstate Medical Center and training analyst at the William Alanson White Institute. Also nominated in Dr. Carolyn Rabinowtiz of Bethesda, Maryland, who works in private practice in child, adolescent and adult psychiatry. She is former dean of Georgetown University’s School of Medicine.

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Gay GOP Leader Tells Gay Conservatives to Come Out

Patrick Guerriero, president of the Log Cabin Republicans, wrote in the Advocate, “This critical moment in the history of the LGBT movement’s fight for equality demands that a new generation of Americans come out of the closet: gay conservatives.” He said that they are “everywhere” in Washington, including the White House.

While he does not advocate “forced outing,” Guerrero tried to appeal to their better angels. “The history books will note not only those who had the courage to stand up but sadly those who remain silent.”

For a list of some who have remained silent, go to blogactive.com.

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Walesa’s Son Better on Gay Issues

Lech Walesa was a figure of worker’s liberation as he led Poland’s Solidarity movement and became the country’s leader, but he was hostile to the nascent gay movement there. His son, Jaroslaw, has just been elected to Parliament and told the Associated Press that he wants to bring his country closer to the West and is more open to such issues as same-sex marriage and adoption by lesbians and gays. Jaroslaw, 29, who speaks English fluently after living in the U.S. for eight years, said that the “hard-headed” approach of his father to these issues “is no longer practical or beneficial to anyone.”

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It Gets Ugly in Massachusetts

Despite polls that show a majority of Massachusetts residents now support same-sex marriage, right-wing forces are busy collecting signatures for a state constitutional amendment that would prohibit any legal status for lesbian and gay couples. Proponents of the amendment have hired paid signature gatherers, some of whom are accused of using bait-and-switch tactics to earn a buck per signer. Others have allegedly simply copied one list of signers onto another petition.

Michael Arno, president of Arno Political Consultants, hired to run the signature gathering, told the Associated Press his gatherers were the “true victims.” He said, “We’ve been pushed. We’ve been shoved. We’ve been spit upon.” Well, not by Wal-Mart. The marketing giant welcomed the anti-gay petitioners to work their customers on the premises for signatures.

As a first step in the process of getting the amendment on the 2008 ballot, after the failure of an earlier drive to put a measure up in 2006 that would replace gay marriage with civil unions, the amendment proponents need 66,825 valid signatures and are aiming for more than 200,000. The anti-gay forces are aided by an intense campaign by the state’s Catholic bishops.

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Gay Priest Purge Won’t Help Church Crisis, Expert Says

Dr. William Marshall, a professor emeritus at Queen’s University in Ontario, was one of several experts in psychiatry invited to the Vatican in 2003 to help the Catholic Church deal with the crisis of priests abusing children and bishops covering it up.

“It’s primarily a monitoring problem,” he said he told those gathered to study the issue, according to the Boston Globe, “and it’s not going to be solved by kicking homosexuals out of the church.”

Pope Benedict XVI, who as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger hardened his church’s stance against homosexuality over the last 25 years, is reportedly readying an edict that gay men who have not been sexually active for the last three years should be removed from seminaries. David Finkelhor, director of Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, told the Globe that “taking out gays is an extraordinarily meat-cleaver approach.” He said that “they’re going to be culling hundreds or thousands of people for every bad apple they eliminate.”

This past week, William Donohue, the head of the rightwing Catholic League, said in an interview by Katie Couric on NBC’s Today show, said, the church had “a homosexual scandal, not a pedophilia scandal” and that “homosexuals” were responsible for the crisis. Neil G. Giuliano, a former Republican mayor of Tempe, Arizona and the new president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, said in a release, “William Donohue’s attacks are baseless, defamatory, calculated to fuel anti-gay sentiment—and, unfortunately, exactly what people have come to expect from him. The real question here is why, knowing all this, NBC would still allow itself to be used to promote Donohue’s malicious smear tactics.”

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Progress in Jersey City

The City Council in Jersey City voted 8-0 to allow employees in a same-sex couple to pass their pension benefits on to a “significant other,” the Jersey Journal reported. Walt Boraczek of the Jersey City Lesbian and Gay Outreach told the newspaper, “We’re thrilled.” But he added, “Equality will never be achieved one right at a time,” emphasizing that gay relationships need “the equivalent status of marriage.”

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Tipping Point Theory and Gay Marriage

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Creating Change conference in Oakland, California November 9-13 is being headlined by best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell, who will address what constitutes the “tipping point” for marriage equality in the U.S. Gladwell wrote a book on the subject of how ideas spread, gain a critical mass of popular acceptance, and reach a tipping point. For more information on the conference, go to taskforce.org.

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Tab Hunter Praises “Divine Law” against Gays

Faded film star Tab Hunter talks some about his closeted gay life in Hollywood in his new book. But talking with PlanetOut he makes clear that he is no gay activist. Asked why he doesn’t think people like him should be able to marry same-sex partners, he said, “I don’t think it’s up to us. There’s a divine law, a law of the state, a law of the country, and whatever those laws are I think we should abide by.” Hunter did not address how he handled the sodomy laws in force during his heyday.

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Rapid Home Test for HIV

For years, the AIDS establishment resisted a home-test for HIV because users would not necessarily have the benefit of counseling and education. Home tests that were sent to labs for results have been available for years. Now the FDA has agreed to consider letting a Pennsylvania company produce the OraQuick Advance Rapid HIV Antibody Test for home use, which now is sold to doctors for $12 to $17 a pop, The New York Times reported. The company said it will include referrals to HIV information and counseling with the test.

“It’s better than nothing,” Gregg Gonsalvez of GMHC told the newspaper, “but it’s not a magic bullet.”

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Why Boy George Called the Cops

George O’Dowd aka Boy George faces 15 years for possession of cocaine in his Manhattan apartment. The cops discovered the stash after O’Dowd called them in to protect him from a hustler who was trying to rob him, the New York Post reported. The story alleges that Kyoko Nagami, a “friend” of O’Dowd’s, flipped on him and told police there was “a lot more” cocaine in his bedroom. O’Dowd’s lawyer has said the drugs did not belong to the singer.

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