News Briefs

Maine’s Incremental Approach

Equality Maine, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) lobby that just got a state law enacted banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, is going to concentrate on beating back a right-wing attempt to overturn the law by referendum, rather than trying to repeal the state ban on same-sex marriage this year. Democratic Gov. John Baldacci signed the new law last week.

Maine voters have overturned and stopped gay rights protections in 1998 and 2000. The Christian Civic League of Maine is trying to portray the new gay and transgender rights law as something that will lead to gay marriage, the Portland Press reported.

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Kansans Keep Partner Benefits

Though voters, by a 70 to 30 percent margin, approved an amendment to the Kansas Constitution banning marriage or its “incidents” for same-sex couples, however, Attorney Gen. Phil Kline, a conservative, said he would not use the amendment to undo domestic partnership benefits offered by municipalities to the partners of gay and lesbian employees.

“This office will not seek to alter any benefits policy of any political subdivision in the state as a result of the amendment’s passage,” Kline said. “This office stands ready to defend the State of Kansas as always and, in doing so, will defend various state employee benefit packages as well as defend the constitutionality of the amendment.”

Kline, a Republican, told the Los Angeles Times, “We were at the forefront of the abolitionist movement, the women’s suffrage movement, prohibition,” adding, “Then we got conservatism and recognized the importance of faith. In many ways, Kansas leads the nation on social issues. And always will.” He is now turning his attention to limiting abortion and fighting the teaching of evolution in public schools.

Meanwhile, Kansas’ Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sibelius was less than enthusiastic about legislation that would ban gay people from adopting children. “I would hesitate to say, as a law, that any potential loving parent shouldn’t be able to parent a child and that we’d rather leave them parentless than with a loving parent,” said Sibelius.

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Let Us Play

In a recent survey, the vast majority of respondents—86 percent—believe it is all right if openly gay men play on professional sports teams. But 24 percent of those asked in an NBC/USA Today poll said that they thought an openly gay athlete would hurt their home team.

Ken Griffey, Jr. of the Cincinnati Reds told Sports Illustrated that if someone came out on his team, “Wouldn’t bother me at all. If you can play, you can play.”

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Moscow to Gays: Fore!

Mayor Yury Luzhkov wants to turn some city parks into golf courses to deter the presence of “homosexuals and unwanted picnickers,” MoscowTimes.com reported.

“In general,” Luzhkov said, “golf courses are organized protection of the environment. In this case, there would be no barbecues, no picnics, no gays—nothing like that, because there would be a structure that would take responsibility for this facility.”

Gay people have been known to play golf, notably some of the leading female pros on the LPGA tour.

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Gay Soldier Wounded in Iraq Fights Anti-Gay Policy

Sgt. Robert Stout, 23, of Utica, Ohio, a decorated veteran of the Iraq war, is challenging the military’s policy of excluding out gays and lesbians from service. “I know a ton of gay men that would be more than willing to stay in the Army if they could just be open,” he told the Associated Press. “But if we have to stay here and hide our lives all the time, it’s just not worth it.”

Stout is the first soldier wounded in this war to come out, according to the Center for Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military. He said that he personally did not experience problems from his fellow soldiers after he became open about his sexuality.

Stout was set to be released from the service May 31. He could be court martialed for being open, but will more likely get an honorable discharge. He also disobeyed an order not to speak to the media.

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“Day of Silence” vs. “Day of Truth”

The success of the National Day of Silence on college and high school campuses to show silent support for LGBT students has increased vastly since it was started at the University of Virginia in 1996. This year on April 13, more than 700 institutions of higher education took part along with 2,000 high schools and junior highs across the country.

This year, the opposition got in gear, with right-wing students calling for a “Day of Truth” and wearing T-shirts that said “The Truth Cannot be Silenced.” These students believe that the practice of homosexuality is a sin and distributed literature calling it “detrimental personal and social behavior.” Their efforts were underwritten by religious right groups such as Focus on the Family and the Alliance Defense Fund.

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A Win in Canada, But Trouble Ahead

A motion by the Conservatives in the Canadian Parliament to ditch the ruling Liberals’ same-sex marriage bill and keep the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman was defeated 164-132 on April 12. The vote revealed divisions in the Liberal Party, with almost three dozen of their members defecting to the Conservatives on the issue. The Liberal leadership is requiring cabinet members to toe the line on marriage votes, but rank-and-file members are being given a free vote.

The Liberal bill legalizing same-sex marriage is on track to come up for a full vote in parliament in June. However, the government has been rocked by a financial scandal this week that may bring it down and trigger an election before the gay marriage vote. That puts same-sex marriage right in the center of the election debate where the Conservatives want it. But Liberal leaders are saying that Canadians who hate gays are already voting Conservative, so it won’t make any difference.

Support for the Liberal Party has plummeted in recent weeks, giving Conservatives a shot at regaining power, but only leading a minority government.

Bloc Quebecois and NDP, the more pro-gay minority parties, are expected to pick up votes in a spring election, leading Toronto Star columnist Chantal Hebert to predict that a “minority Conservative government would find it impossible to legislate against same-sex marriage.”

While same-sex marriage is legal in most of Canada through court rulings at the provincial and territorial levels, a new poll from Angus Reid found that 44 percent support the Liberal plan to change the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples and 52 percent oppose it.

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Gains in Massachusetts Special Elections

A state constitutional amendment passed last year in Massachusetts to ban same-sex marriage and mandate civil unions won’t get its second vote until this fall at the earliest, state Senate leaders said. The same amendment must pass another joint session of the Legislature before it can go to the voters in November 2006.

In a special election on April 11, three retiring opponents of same-sex marriage in state House of Representatives races were replaced by three supporters of marriage equality. Winning were Chris Speranzo from Berkshire County and Linda Dorcena Forry and Mike Moran, both in Boston. Marc Solomon of MassEquality, which worked hard for these candidates, said of Speranzo who faced an anti-gay opponent, “Voters rejected a divisive message and selected a candidate who stood unabashedly for full marriage equality.”

The November and April elections trended toward the pro-same-sex marriage side. Combined with a new speaker of the House who is supportive, there is an increasing chance that the amendment against gay marriage will fail, even though proponents of equality have not picked up all the seats they need to change last year’s outcome.

Also this week, the Massachusetts Department of Corrections denied the request of two male inmates to marry, saying it raised “very serious security concerns” and would have an impact on the “orderly running of the facility,” a treatment center for sex offenders. Republican Gov. Mitt Romney, a strident foe of gay marriage, hailed the decision. Arline Isaacson of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus told the Boston Globe that Romney was “trying to diminish the validity of our relationships by connecting us to sexual predators.”

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Anti-Gay Bomber Beats Death Penalty

White supremacist Eric Rudolph pleaded guilty on April 13 to bombing the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta as well as setting off explosive devices at the Otherside Lounge, a gay bar, and the Northside Family Planning Clinic in nearby Sandy Springs in 1997. His bombings killed two people and injured 120. With his plea, he will not face Georgia’s death penalty, but may be sentenced to four consecutive life terms three months hence.

No one was killed at the gay bar bombing and police found and detonated a second bomb near the parking lot before it could injure anyone. Rudolph was a fugitive before being captured in North Carolina in June 2003.

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Clintons v. Finkelstein

Much ink is being spilled over the following. Arthur Finkelstein, the Republican strategist who made the career of the anti-gay Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina, married his unnamed male partner in Massachusetts several months ago, a story that was reported this week in The New York Times. He is also in the news for launching a campaign called Stop Her Now to damage Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in the run-up to an expected 2008 campaign for president by defeating her for Senate reelection in 2006.

Former Pres. Bill Clinton, the New York senator’s husband, defended her this week against Finkelstein’s attack, noting that the Republican’s marriage to a man and record of work for anti-gay bigots was evidence of “self loathing.”

Some commentators have pounced on Bill given his own record of opposing same-sex marriage, signing the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, and urging Democratic Presidential nominee John Kerry to come out in favor of a all the state constitutional amendments last year banning gay marriage. (Kerry demurred.)

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Tasmanian Devils

The Green Party in Tasmania tried to exploit a loophole in the Australian ban on same-sex marriage by putting forth a bill legalizing it, insisting the national law did not forbid the states from doing so. While Tasmania has made progress in codifying LGBT rights lately, on this one the government backed a motion from the Liberal Party—not liberal in Australia—to oppose legal marriage for gay couples, ABC Regional Online reported. The more left Labour Party is said to be split on the issue.

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April 15 Demos

You can come out for LGBT rights twice on Tax Day. There will be a protest by Amnesty International at the Jamaican Consulate in Manhattan at East 47th Street and Third Avenue at 3 p.m. to protest that country’s anti-gay policies and human rights abuses. A counter-protest by the Sons and Daughters of Jamaica is also planned. At 5:30 p.m., Marriage Equality is sponsoring a “No Taxation without Representation” demonstration outside the Main Post Office on Eighth Avenue and 31st Street in Manhattan to protest the fact that gay couples are treated unequally by the federal and state governments.

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