News Briefs

Bush: No Litmus Test on Marriage

During a visit to Europe this week, Pres. George W. Bush told reporters in Denmark that he had no “litmus test” that excludes nominees for the Supreme Court based on their opinions on abortion or gay marriage.

“I’ll pick people who, one, can do the job, and people who are honest, people who are bright and people who will strictly interpret the Constitution and not use the bench to legislate from,” he said.

Schumer’s Confusing Marriage Comments

New York’s senior senator, Democrat Charles Schumer, appeared on ABC’s “This Week” last Sunday and spoke about hearings on Pres. George Bush’s to-be-named Supreme Court nominee.

“All questions are legitimate. What is your view on Roe v. Wade? What is your view on gay marriage?” said Schumer, speculating on questions he might pose as a member of the judiciary committee, which gets first crack at the nominee. “They are going to try to get away with the idea that we’re not going to know their views. But that’s not going to work.”

Schumer opposes gay marriage, so it is not clear what the intention would be of his posing such a question to a conservative nominee. His press office did not offer a clarification.

As a member of the House representing Brooklyn, Schumer voted for the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act that bans federal recognition of same-sex marriages. Since his election to the Senate, he has said he supports some form of civil unions for same-sex couples.

Schumer has argued that Bush won re-election on the basis of eight words: war in Iraq, cut taxes, no gay marriage.

“We Democrats have to come with our own eight words, 10 words, 12 words,” said Schumer.

Christian Church Supports Gay Marriage

The 1.3 million-member United Church of Christ became the first major mainline Christian denomination to endorse civil marriage for gay and lesbian couples. The resolution, passed in Atlanta on July 4 by 1,000 delegates at the church synod, also calls on UCC churches to consider wedding policies “that do not discriminate against couples based on gender,” but does not require individual congregations to perform same-sex weddings as many already do.

Churches in the relatively liberal denomination expect few defections. The UCC was the first mainline church to ordain gay people when it made William Johnson a minister in 1972.

The motto of the church is “God is still speaking,” meaning that all divine revelation did not end with the writing of the last book of the Bible. The UCC produced TV ads earlier this year showing that they welcomed people from all backgrounds, including gay couples, only to have them rejected as too controversial by several networks.

Among those who endorsed the church’s move was Rev. Andy Young, a UCC minister and civil rights leader who is a former Democratic mayor of Atlanta and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

“It would be consistent with our historic spirit of fairness and justice,” Young said.

Quakers Rally for Same-Sex Marriage

The Society of Friends, known as the Quakers, thought of canceling their general conference this week in Blacksburg, Virginia, because of the state’s draconian anti-gay marriage law that “may invalidate wills and powers of attorney between same-sex couples,” the Roanoke Times reported. Instead, 300 conference attendees rallied to “witness to the truth” of marriage equality.

Methodists for Same-Sex Blessings

The Methodist Church is the largest Christian denomination in Britain to move toward providing ceremonies of blessings for same-sex couples. In December, the United Kingdom will begin to register same-sex civil partnerships. Meanwhile, the Anglican Church faces a worldwide schism over its decision to bless gay unions and ordinate gay seminarians.

While the Methodists are stressing that they are not proposing to do marriage ceremonies, “officials acknowledged they could be considered as such by the couples themselves and by society,” the United Press International reported.

Tax Fairness Bill in Congress

Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York and Republican Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon have re-introduced the Domestic Partner Health Benefits Act, a bill that would eliminate federal taxes on domestic partner benefits. Currently, an employee who receives health benefits for his or her domestic partner—unlike such benefits for spouses and children—must declare the value of those benefits as income.

Gays Stabbed at Jerusalem Pride March

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man, Yishai Schlissel, stabbed three gay participants in Jerusalem’s pride march last Thursday. Other parade opponents hurled epithets, feces and urine at the LGBT marchers.

“Love without Borders” was the city’s fourth annual pride parade. Mayor Uri Lupoliansky tried to block the parade but was overruled by Israeli courts.

“This attack is a direct result of Mayor Lupoliansky’s ongoing campaign of incitement,” said Hagai El-Ad, director of Jerusalem Open House, the parade organizers.

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of New York’s LGBT synagogue, Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, said, “Violence will not keep us from traveling to Jerusalem next summer”—for WorldPride, an international gay event—“and proclaiming that the holiest of cities belongs to all of us, not just those who would stoop to the depths that the perpetrators of this act have.”

WorldPride was cancelled for this August so as not to conflict with the scheduled handover of the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority.

Vets Picket Texas Governor

On July 1, about 500 people, including many gay and lesbian veterans, demonstrated in Austin against Republican Gov. Rick Perry. Last month, at a bill signing ceremony authorizing a vote on a state constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage, Perry was asked what he would say to gay and lesbian troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Texans made a decision about marriage and if there’s a state that has more lenient views than Texas, then maybe that’s a better place for them to live,” the governor responded.

“We don’t need an explanation, just an apology,” retired Army Col. Paul Dodd said to KVUE-TV. “We have proud, courageous, bold veterans—some who are gay—but they should all be welcome with open arms and treated like heroes.”

Dodd said that an Urban Institute study estimated that 65,000 gay and lesbian veterans live in Texas.

Last year, Perry repeatedly dodged rumors posted on the Internet that he is gay.

Massive Anti-War March Planned

United for Peace and Justice, the lead organizers of the major U.S. anti-war marches before and after the start of the American invasion of Iraq, is mobilizing for a massive march on Washington on Saturday, September 24. Organizers plan grassroots training for Sunday and lobbying and acts of civil disobedience on Capitol Hill for Monday.

“A majority of Americans believe that this war never should have happened, but our elected representatives in Washington continue to rubber-stamp the Bush Administration’s disastrous Iraq policies,” said a statement by the group, led by Leslie Cagan, a lesbian. For more information, visit unitedforpeace.org.

Study Questions Bisexuality

A new study out of Chicago and Toronto, given big play in Tuesday’s New York Times Science section, questions whether “true bisexuality” exists. It found that men who identify as bisexual “show physical attraction patterns that differ substantially from their professed desires.”

The 101 men recruited by the study—33 self-identified bisexuals, 30 straights and 38 gays—were shown female and male pornographic images while their arousal was monitored. The study found that 75 of those who identified as bisexual had arousal patterns similar to gay men and that 25 had patterns indistinguishable from heterosexuals.

The sample size raises serious questions, especially since a third of the men did not show any arousal at all.

Shortly after the Times story ran, a fiery posting on Americablog.com asserted that Dr. J. Michael Bailey, the Northwestern University professor who was the study’s lead author, was forced to step down last year as chairman of the psychology department in the wake of ethics charges related to his research; that the Southern Law Poverty Center claims he has links to a racist, neo-eugenics group; that his recent book on transgendered people was seriously flawed in its science; and that the LGBT community at Northwestern urges people not to cooperate in his research.

More on Gay Genes

“Born Gay,” a new book by Britons Dr. Glenn Wilson of the Institute of Psychiatry and Dr. Qazi Rahman of the University of East London summarize studies on the origins of sexual orientation and conclude it is “decided by a mixture of genetic factors and hormonal activity in the womb—and that homosexuality cannot be ‘cured,’” the UK Independent reported. They attribute 30 to 50 percent of sexual orientation to genetics, saying that the genes involved “produce receptors in the brain which absorb male hormones released by the developing baby’s testicles,” the story said. “It is thought that in gay men these receptors are less sensitive or are blocked. The absence of testosterone results in the brain developing certain feminine characteristics, including attraction to men.”

Unabsorbed testosterone is also believed to affect our extremities, including the length of fingers and penises.

School Fights

The Los Angeles School District settled a suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union over the harassment of LGBT students at Washington Preparatory School. The district will pay attorneys’ fees, donate $2,000 to the gay-straight alliance at the school, and provide training on queer issues to students and staff.

Some teachers were accused of telling students that being gay was “wrong” and “unholy.” Other students were suspended for being gay or complaining about the harassment, the Los Angeles Times reported. Some teachers threatened to tell parents about their children’s homosexuality.

The Los Angeles district has provided system-wide training on LGBT issues through its decades-old Project 10 program. But the staff training under this settlement will be more intensive with four daylong sessions provided by the Anti-Defamation League. More training for students was also agreed to.

In Ashland, Kentucky, this week, the ACLU is asking a federal court to re-open their case against the Boyd County Board of Education, alleging that Boyd County High School has violated the terms of a settlement with LGBT students.

“This school district’s attempts at providing a training have been laughably inadequate gestures that show no real commitment to honoring the agreement or protecting its students,” said Sharon McGowan, a staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. A one-hour training for students that was supposed to be on LGBT issues included just 10 minutes of gay content, she said.

Amy Herman, New York AIDS Leader, Dies

Amy Herman, the former executive director of the New York AIDS Coalition, died on July 2. For more than a decade, Herman was a tireless fighter for adequate AIDS funding and rational AIDS policy, coordinating annual AIDS lobby days in Albany and at City Hall, and also a congenial activist. A funeral service was held on July 5 in Bro

Luther Vandross Dead at 54

R&B singer Luther Vandross, winner of eight Grammy Awards, died in New Jersey at 54, two years after suffering a disabling stroke in his Manhattan home. The exact cause of death was not given. He sold more than 30 million albums in his lifetime.

A native of New York City, Vandross “developed an affinity for the legendary Motown label’s all-female acts, and for the gospel-soul sounds of artists like Aretha Franklin and Cissy Houston,” The New York Times reported. He went from being a back-up singer for Bette Midler and Barbra Streisand to his own distinguished recording career.

Vandross, a lifelong “bachelor,” denied being gay on BET’s “Journey in Black” program. “Luther: The Life and Longing of Luther Vandross” by Craig Seymour dealt extensively with the gay rumors about him and did not dismiss them.

Gay Cooks Prevail on TV

Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh, a gay couple competing on the Food Channel’s “Next Food Network Star” show, beat out eight other contestants to get their own six-episode show on the network. The men run a catering business in Chicago called The Hearty Boys and a new restaurant, HB.

Larry Kramer at 70

Lift a glass to gay novelist and playwright Larry Kramer who turned 70 on June 25. The ever-tenacious activist, who was diagnosed with AIDS in 1988, said, “It’s weird, but I’m glad I’m still here.” Before a celebration of his birthday on Saturday in the Connecticut home he shares with his partner, David Webster, Kramer told the New York Times, “My doctor tells me you are only as old as your liver. I’m really 48.”

Kramer underwent a liver transplant four years ago. Dr. John Fung, who performed that operation, told the paper that Kramer could expect to live a normal lifespan into his 80s.

Author of “Faggots,” the Academy Award-nominated screenplay for “Women in Love,” the playwright of “The Normal Heart,” and co-founder of Gay Men’s Health Crisis and ACT UP, Kramer just published “The Tragedy of Today’s Gays” (Penguin), the transcript of a speech he gave at Cooper Union just after the 2004 presidential election.

Kramer is continuing his work on “The American People,” a novel begun in 1978 that has already reached three thousand pages.

Happy birthday, too, to Dorothy Thompson (July 8, 1894), Gustav Mahler (July 17, 1860), Marcel Proust (July 10, 1871), Jack Wrangler (July 11, 1946), Henry David Thoreau (July 12, 1817) and Caius Julius Caesar (July 13, 100 B.C.), all members of the tribe.

New Album for Lesley Gore

Singer Lesley Gore is releasing “Ever Since” (Engine Company Records), her first album since the 1970s. As a child singer in the early 1960s, Gore became famous with such hits as “It’s My Party” and “You Don’t Own Me.” Gore has been singing and performing every since and currently has a gig at Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater.

Gore, an out lesbian who frequently host’s PBS’s “In the Life,” is my guest on MNN’s “Gay USA” cable TV show on Thursday, July 7 at 11 p.m. on Time Warner 34 and RCN 107 as well as on the Dish Network throughout the week.

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