News Briefs

On May 27, claiming it would create a flood of litigation, Republican Gov. Bill Owens vetoed a bill that banned job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. He ignored evidence that a similar measure applying to state employees has not generated any lawsuits among the 1,000 discrimination claims filed with the State Personnel Board.

Owens did criticize the “coarseness and insensitivity” of Republican rhetoric against the bill. His fellow party members called gayness “an abomination” and insisted that pedophilia was a sexual orientation.

Microsoft Makes More Amends

Chastened by its recent decision to withdraw support for the Washington State gay rights bill that lost by one vote in the Legislature, Microsoft shifted out of neutral last month to once again support the bill. Now they have taken the additional steps of donating $10,000 to the Seattle GLBT Pride Parade and have terminated its $20,000-a-month retainer for anti-gay lobbyist Ralph Reed, ostensibly because he is now a candidate for lieutenant governor of Georgia.

Competing Partnership Recognition Bills in Oregon

Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski is pushing a civil union bill in Oregon that would provide all the rights and responsibilities of marriage to same-sex couples without the name. It is supported by Basic Rights Oregon, which is opposing a Republican bill that would grant limited benefits to non-related adults living together, including gay couples.

Canadian Anglicans Nix Same-Sex Weddings

While civil marriage to gay and lesbian couples is available throughout most of Canada, a theological commission of the Anglican Church there said that whether or not to allow the blessing of same-sex unions was “a matter of doctrine” and must be decided by the next General Synod in 2007, the Anglican Journal reported. As a new “canon” or church law, it would require a two-thirds vote to be adopted. If they wish to continue the current policy that gives dioceses a local option on gay union ceremonies, a simple majority vote is required. The Diocese of Westminster has been allowing the blessing of gay couples since 2002, but voted last month to impose a moratorium on the practice for new parishes. Eight of the 78 parishes in the diocese have made the ceremonies available.

Canadian Marriage Bill Delayed

The bill in the Canadian Parliament to legalize same-sex marriage nationally survived to fight another day last week when a Conservative member of Parliament defected to the Liberals, preventing the Liberal-led coalition government from falling. But the Liberals have been unable to stop the delaying tactics of the Conservatives on the bill in committee, meaning it is less and less likely that it can be enacted before the House breaks for the summer on June 23, the Globe and Mail of Toronto reported.

If the current government led by Prime Minister Paul Martin survives, it could take up the bill again in October.

Condi Queried on Gay Rights

U.S. Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice spoke at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on May 27 and was asked by the moderator what she was doing “to ensure that countries like China and Egypt uphold the civil rights… of their gay citizens?” Rice did not give a very specific answer, but said that “a democratic and tolerant society is exactly that. It is a society in which all people are included. It does not matter what race, what gender, it does not matter what sexual orientation—all that matters is that you are a citizen of that country.” Rice went on to say that when a government had more “checks and balances” then “the rights of the most vulnerable in society tend to be more protected.” While she did not mention any instances where she has confronted a foreign government about its treatment of gay people, she mentioned the Human Rights Report that the state department produces annually. San Francisco gay and AIDS activist Michael Petrelis pointed out that the report criticizes many nations, from Albania to Sweden, but does document how the United States responded to these human rights violations, if at all.

Pope Meets Gay Governor

Pope Benedict XVI visited Bari, Italy on May 30 and was greeted by Nicchi Vendola, the out gay Communist who is governor of the region. Vendola called the pope’s visit “a cause of joy for me and for all the people of Puglia. We will welcome Benedict XVI with all the solemnity and joy that this important event merits.” Vendola told a local newspaper that he is, of course, at odds with pope over his condemnation of homosexuality as “evil” and his campaign against same-sex marriage. “Recognition of civil unions does not represent any threat to the institution of marriage and the family,” the governor said. “There is a reality of loving cooperation which asks to be granted the dimension of a citizen’s right.” Benedict’s message to 200,000 at an outdoor Mass was, “How can we communicate with the Lord if we don’t communicate among ourselves?”

Gay-Marrying Mayor West Ordered to Stand Trial

New Paltz Mayor Jason West faces 24 counts of performing weddings without the couples, all of whom were gay or lesbian, being licensed a year ago February. He will now have to face a trial on those charges because New York’s highest court rejected his motion to hear the case on an expedited basis, bypassing the lower courts. His attorney said he acted to protect the constitutional rights of the same-sex couples and is prepared to pay the penalty if found guilty.

Spokane Mayor Takes More Fire

The two biggest gay rights groups in the country have joined forces to combat the threat of a state constitutional amendment in California to ban same-sex marriage, civil unions, and domestic partnerships that could go before the voters next June. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the Human Rights Campaign each pledged $100,000 challenge grants towards a goal of raising a million dollars for the campaign by Labor Day. They will match every four dollars contributed with a dollar up to $200,000.

“We know that it’s going to take a huge amount of money and intense organizing to defeat this hurtful and immoral amendment,” said Matt Foreman, director of the Task Force. Joe Solmonese, new president of HRC, called the “unity and resolve: of the coalition that is coming together to fight the amendment “unprecedented.”

Britons Sue Wilkinson and Celia Kitzinger were recently married in Canada. With the enactment of Britain’s Civil Partnership Act in December, the women’s marriage is likely to end up being recognized, but the couple called the process to achieve that acknowledgement an indication of “second-class” status, since the marriages of heterosexual British spouses married in Canada are automatically recognized in the United Kingdom.

The women have decided to appeal to the High Court, an apparent first in Europe. Liberty, the British equivalent of the American Civil Liberties Union, and the militant gay group Outrage! are representing them.

No Sex for Gay Married Clergy in Britain

With civil partnerships coming into effect in the United Kingdom in December, the Church of England has decided that its gay clergy can get legally partnered, but must assure their bishops that they will not have sex and will uphold church teaching against homosexual acts, the Times of London reported. “The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement estimates that within five years, 1,500 homosexual Anglican clergy will have registered under the new law,” the newspaper wrote.

Fundies Fighting Ford

Having given up on their boycott of all things Disney, the right-wing American Family Association is now targeting Ford Motor Company as too pro-gay. Donald Wildmon, chair of AFA, said, “The goal of every homosexual organization supported by Ford is to get homosexual marriage legalized.” The group has set up a Web site called boycottford.com and is urging folks to call their local dealers and tell them why they are not buying a Ford this year.

Goodridge Upheld

As expected, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, the folks that brought us legal same-sex marriage in the United States last year, unanimously rejected arguments from the Catholic Action League that the court’s decision in the Goodridge case should be set aside until the voters have the chance to weigh in on a pending state constitutional amendment to limit marriage to man-woman couples. That amendment, passed by a joint session of the Legislature last year, also mandates civil unions. It must pass another joint session of the legislature this year before it can go to the voters in November 2006.

A new poll in Massachusetts found that support for same-sex marriage is up to 45 percent, seven points higher than in January. Twenty-four percent favor the pending amendment and another 14 percent want an amendment that bans same-sex marriage and civil unions. The remainder were undecided.

Nicolas Sarkozy is widely expected to succeed Jacques Chirac as conservative leader and president of France in 2007 and was just given a promotion following the shake-up after the government’s loss on the European constitution referendum. But Sarkozy has hit a bump on the road to power, Doug Ireland reports on his Direland.com Web site. Sarkozy, who has campaigned for “family values” and against same-sex marriage, appears headed his second divorce—this time from his “rather terrifying wife” and chief of staff, Cecilia.

“One divorce might be forgiven, but two looks like carelessness (as Lady Bracknell would have said),” Ireland wrote.

Exxon Shareholders Nix Protections

A shareholder resolution before Exxon/Mobil to ban discrimination by the company on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity garnered 29 percent of the vote. It was the seventh time shareholders have considered and rejected such protections, though garnering nearly a third of the votes in such a resolution is considered a strong showing. Similar tallies have led other companies to agree to a nondiscrimination policy.

In its proxy statements opposing the resolution, executives claims that the company forbids harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation, but refuses to make it a written policy as have an overwhelming 83 percent of Fortune 500 companies.

Mobil Corporation had a non-discrimination policy benefits, but it was dropped, along with domestic partner benefits for new employees, after the 1999 merger with Exxon.

Vaid to Arcus Foundation

Urvashi Vaid, the former leader of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, has been named the new executive director of the Arcus Foundation whose mission is to “create a society that celebrates diversity and dignity; invests in youth and justice and promotes tolerance and compassion.” One of the organization’s grant-making programs is to improve the quality of life for Michigan’s gay community. Its National Fund supports programs that “further social equity and understanding for GLBT people.”

Vaid, who is based in New York and was most recently deputy director of the Ford Foundation’s Governance and Civil Society Unit, is the author of “Virtual Equality: The Mainstreaming of Gay and Lesbian Liberation.” Her partner is comedian Kate Clinton.

“Amazing Race” Contestants Marry

Lynn Warren, 30, and his partner of five years, Alex Ali, 23, losing contestants on the TV reality show “Amazing Race 7,” are set to marry on June 1 in Ottawa. Ali, who was out to most of his Egyptian family, waited until the last possible moment to tell his father, the Ottawa Sun reported. “He responded just the way I knew he would, with shock and blaming himself and blaming me and everybody,” he told the newspapaper. “It has caused all the problems in my family that I knew it would.” The men, who live in Los Angeles, are trying to get Evolution Studios to give them a gay travel show.

Gay Pride in Eastern Europe

The federal government in Romania leaned on the mayor of Bucharest and got him to reverse course and allow the first LGBT pride parade in the capital to go forward on May 28. The Metropolitan Community Church, which had helped organize the parade, had threatened worldwide protests including in New York if the event were cancelled. In Poland, the mayor of Warsaw is trying to stop an LGBT pride march for the second straight year, but organizers have vowed to go forward with it on June 11. The International Lesbian and Gay Association is urging us to sign a petition in support of the Polish marchers. For more information, go to ilga.org

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