News Briefs

Closeted Cal. Conservative Torpedoed as DeLay Replacement

When the indictment of the anti-gay Texas Republican Congressman Tom Delay on Wednesday forced him to step down at as U.S. House majority leader, Republicans were about to turn to California’s David Dreier, another anti-gay conservative, the Rules Committee chairman, to replace him. But jitters about Dreier’s sexuality and his pro-choice stance caused members to turn to House Majority Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri instead.

News of Dreier’s homosexuality was broken on BlogActive.com by Mike Rogers and reported by Doug Ireland in the LA Weekly last year. John Byrne of RawStory.com reported that Dreier lived with his male chief of staff, Brad Smith, who was “paid an unusually high salary relative to the chiefs of staffs of other powerful congressmen, including Speaker Denny Hastert” of Illinois. Byrne said that Smith’s salary was $156,600 a year, “just $400 shy of the highest White House staff member, Assistant to the President Karl Rove.”

Dreier, 53, has a long record of opposition to LGBT rights, including a vote for a gay and transgender-inclusive hate crimes amendment passed by the House earlier this month.

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Debate over Gay Seminarians Continues

The war of words over the Catholic Church’s planned purge of men with homosexual attractions continues. The New York Times interviewed gay priests and seminarians last week, but virtually every one of them was anonymous. The newspaper also did a front-page Metro section story noting that Father Mychal Judge, the beloved Franciscan who died in the World Trade Center attack and was called a “saint” by former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, would have been barred for being gay had the policy been enforced when he was in the seminary.

Thomas Von Essen, the city fire commissioner on 9/11 who knew of Judge’s homosexuality, told the newspaper, “To sacrifice your life to God and to try to do so much good every day and to be prevented from doing that—it’s no wonder they can’t get anyone in the church to become a priest or a nun.”

Peter Steinfels, religion editor at The Times, wrote that the real problem that only “10 percent of seminarians, it was estimated [by a church study], were highly qualified for their educational work,” citing “significant intellectual deficiencies” among candidates for the priesthood.

John Allen, Vatican correspondent for the relatively liberal National Catholic Reporter, wrote on the op-ed page of The Times that if we all understood “Italian concepts of law,” we would realize that “when the Vatican makes statements like ‘no gays in the priesthood,’ it doesn’t actually mean ‘no gays in the priesthood.’ It means, ‘As a general rule, this is not a good idea, but we all know there will be exceptions.’”

Allen did not address the fact that the policy further stigmatizes gay priests, while deflecting responsibility for the sex abuse crisis from the bishops who covered it up. Just this week, the Philadelphia newspapers reported that Cardinal Anthony Joseph Bevilacqua, that city’s archbishop from 1991 through 2003, and his predecessor, Cardinal John Krol, were “key to the cover-up” of more than 60 cases of the abuse of minors by priests in their archdiocese, according to a grand jury report.

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Civil Unions Debut October 1 in Connecticut

Connecticut’s civil union law takes effect this Saturday, and some city clerk’s offices, including Stamford’s, are opening for special weekend hours to accommodate the couples seeking to be among the first. Earlier this year, Connecticut joined Vermont in offering all the benefits and obligations of marriage under state law, without the name itself, to gay and lesbian couples. While Vermont’s Legislature and then-Governor Howard Dean did so under order of the state Supreme Court, Connecticut’s political leadership took this step early this summer of their own volition.

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Gay Parents Earn Less, Need Marriage

A new study out of the UCLA found that same-sex couples with children have an average household income 15 percent lower than their heterosexual peers. Looking at U.S. census data, the researchers found that 39 percent of gay and lesbian couples ages 25-55 are rearing kids and that 250,000 of these children are under 18.

Gary Gates, who co-authored the study, told PlanetOut, “Same-sex couples raising children are more racially and ethnically diverse and do not fare as well economically as their different-sexed married counterparts. As such, they and their children are in particular need of the legal, social, and economic benefits of marriage.”

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Utah Governor Won’t Stop Salt Lake Domestic Partner Benefits

Democratic Mayor Rocky Anderson made Utah history when he signed an executive order making Salt Lake City the first in the state to offer domestic partner benefits to gay employees last week. Republican Governor Jon Huntsman said he would not move to block the benefits, despite an amendment to the state Constitution that bans marriage and its incidents to same-sex couples.

When the amendment passed in 2004, its right-wing backers scoffed at the idea that it would eliminate all rights for gay couples. The gay side argued it would. Now the anti-gay forces are quoting gay advocates to insist that the amendment does indeed bar all such benefits.

“It’s a local government decision based on what the duly elected mayor wants to do,” Huntsman said, adding that any legal action to block Anderson would be up to the state attorney general. Asked if he would provide the benefits to state employees, Hunstman said, “No, for now,” KUTV reported.

Right-wing legislators are looking to block Anderson’s order from going into effect either through the courts or through legislation.

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California Marriage Case Goes to Court

Democratic Attorney General Bill Lockyer, though a supporter of the right of same-sex couples to marry, told a state appeals court this week in a brief that California has “struck an ‘appropriate constitutional balance’ between traditional marriage and equal rights for gays and lesbians,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported, in arguing against a right to marry based in the state Constitution. In March, San Francisco Judge Richard Kramer ruled that California law limiting marriage to different-sex couples was unconstitutional.

San Francisco’s City Attorney, Dennis Herrera, told the paper, “Their argument would legitimize the doctrine of separate but equal in the state of California.”

The city’s mayor, Gavin Newsom, authorized the licensing of thousands of same-sex marriages in 2004, only to have them overturned by the California Supreme Court.

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Same-Sex Marriage Advocates Sue Oregon

Basic Rights Oregon filed a suit against the state arguing that Measure 36, approved by the voters last November to ban same-sex marriage, should be struck down because it unconstitutionally dealt with more than one subject and changes “the allocation of power among the branches of government because it restricts the role of the courts in interpreting the Constitution and by imposing a policy on local governments,” the group’s Web site said.

Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for November 2. It is expected to take at least two years before it is resolved by the Oregon Supreme Court that in April nullified the marriage of 3,000 same-sex couples in Portland’s Multnomah County.

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Gay U.S. Docs Invited to Emigrate to Canada

George Smitheren, health minister for Ontario, made an open appeal to American members of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association meeting in Montreal to move to his country, where gay unions have “society’s blessing.”

“Many of you work in the States where progress of this type is measured in baby steps at best, and sometimes not at all,” he said, according to a report on 365Gay.com.

The province is reportedly 2,000 doctors short of the number it believes are required.

Smitheren was approached by several doctors and nurses afterwards asking him about the specifics of emigrating and professional requirements in Canada.

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Turkish Repression

Last week, Doug Ireland reported in Gay City News on the plight of Amir, a 22 year old Iranian gay man who was tortured and flogged mercilessly for being gay before managing to flee to Turkey. This week, the Turkish government moved to shut down Kaos GL, one of the only gay rights groups in the nation, for violating morality laws, Gay.com UK reported.

A spokesman for Kaos GL told the news service, “Although being gay, bisexual, or transgender is legal in Turkey, discrimination and persecution are prevalent.”

Turkey is on the road to membership in the European Union, a quest that has helped improve the atmosphere for LGBT people there considerably. The gay group is hoping the courts will protect them as they have in the past.

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Reggae Star Arrested for Gay Bashing

Buju Banton, the dancehall star who sings about skinning gay men alive and setting them afire, has been charged by Jamaican police in the June 2004 homophobic beating of six gay men. He pleaded not guilty to the assaults and was released on bail. He will be tried on September 30.

Brett Lock of the British gay advocacy group Outrage!, which has drawn international attention to gaybashings and murders in Jamaica, said, “This trial is a test case on whether gay people can get justice in Jamaica.” He noted, “Some Jamaicans fear that Mr Banton’s celebrity and the strongly homophobic attitudes that exist in Jamaica will deny justice to the victims of what was a horrific homophobic assault.” He praised the police and Jamaican LGBT and human rights groups for bringing Banton to the bar of justice.

Outrage! coordinates a Stop Murder Music campaign with Britain’s Black Gay Men’s Advisory Group and J-FLAG, the Jamaican LGBT rights group. They have gotten “dozens” of promoters to cancel concerts featuring artists whose lyrics call for violence against gay people.

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Broadway Cares Auction Nets More than Half a Million

The 19th Annual Flea Market & Grand Auction in Schubert Alley and environs netted $544,037 for Broadway Care/Equity Fights AIDS on Sunday, September 25.

Among the highlights, Andy Karl, featured in off-Broadway’s “Slut,” raised $1,000 in an hour signing autographs dressed only in chili pepper lights. Among the Broadway stars who turned out to sign autographs to raise cash for the group were Joan Allen, Laura Linney, David Hyde Pierce, Tim Curry, Marj Dusay, Rosie O’Donnell, James Mitchell, Bebe Neuwirth, Valerie Harper, Kathy Brier, Patti Lupone, Joanna Gleason, and Richard Thomas.

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Another Gay Bushie

Mike Rogers’ BlogActive.com Web site, which exposes gays who work for the anti-gay Bush administration, reported that Jeff Berkowitz, the president’s liaison to the Jewish community is gay. Among the man’s credits are membership in the National Honor Society of Boy Scouts, which excludes gay scouts and leaders.

Rogers’ cites sources within the White House, a conservative lobbying firm, someone who had sex with Berkowitz, and two of the liaison’s personal acquaintances, including someone who worked with him at Generation GOP, “the organization created to recruit young people to the GOP platform,” which opposes civil marriage equality and nondiscrimination protection.

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California First Lady’s Gay Chief of Staff

Maria Shriver has hired Daniel Zingale, a former political director at the Human Rights Campaign, as her new chief of staff. Zingale is “thrilled” about the job working for the spouse of Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is poised to veto a bill opening marriage to same-sex couples.

Zingale said, “I greatly appreciate Governor Schwarzenegger’s interest in hearing all points of view. I am excited to go to work where independents, Republicans, and Democrats will put our heads together for the common good.”

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Documentary on Gay Catholic Priest Premiers on “Gay USA” Thursday

In the midst of the furor over Vatican moves to remove gay men from Catholic seminaries, “Gay USA,” the weekly cable TV show this reporter co-hosts with Ann Northrop, is carrying the world television premier of Brendan Fay’s documentary, “Uncommon Jesuit: A Conversation with Rev. John McNeill,” on Thursday, September 29. McNeill, 80, the gay author of the seminal “Church and the Homosexual” in 1976, was removed from the Jesuits for speaking out against Catholic condemnation of gay love. The documentary covers his life from growing up in Buffalo to his experience as a prisoner of war in World War II to his priesthood. He was one of the first major theologians to say that homosexuality could be practiced in consonance with Christianity. His appearances on the “Today Show” and “Donahue” drove the Vatican crazy, eventually leading to his official silencing by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, in the late 1970s.

“Gay USA” is seen in Manhattan on MNN on Thursdays at 11 p.m. on Time-Warner 34 and RCN 107 and simulcast at MNN.org channel 34. It is distributed nationally on the Dish Network through Free Speech TV. For more information on the film, contact Fay via e-mail at Brendan@LavenderAndGreen.com.

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