News Briefs

NYS Grants Partners Unemployment Insurance

The Lesbian and Gay Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union has won a settlement with the New York State Department of Labor allowing domestic partners of New Yorkers who have to relocate eligibility for unemployment benefits.

The case was brought by Jeanne Newland who left a job in Rochester to be with her partner in Virginia. After nine months of not being able to find work, she filed for unemployment benefits with New York, which grants them to spouses and even to some engaged couples who leave their job because of their partner’s relocation.

Partners who wish to use the benefit will have to prove, according to the ruling, that they are in a committed relationship where there are “objective indicia that demonstrate that financial, legal, and emotional commitments exist to justify a claimant voluntarily separating from employment from employment to follow an unmarried partner.”

James Esseks, the litigation director for the Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, said they were “very pleased with the decision.” Alan Van Capelle of the Empire State Pride Agenda praised Gov. George Pataki for “asking the appeal board last year to reconsider its decision,” noting, “government seems to be getting the message that all families need to be treated equally.”

Pataki, however, opposes the right of same-sex couples to marry and has not proposed a domestic partnership bill such as the one that passed recently in New Jersey.

AIDS in New York: Still at Third World Levels

Seventy-five thousand New Yorkers are living with AIDS, which includes 2.8 percent of all men in the city. That’s the report of the Center for Urban Epidemiological Studies at the New York Academy of Medicine presented at the 11th Annual Retrovirus Conference in San Francisco this week. Denis Nash of the Center said there were 6,662 new infections in New York in 2001, 65 percent of them in men.

Dr. Ronald Valdiserri, deputy director of the National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention, at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called the figures “disconcerting,” and a wake-up call for “those who think we no longer have to worry about HIV/AIDS in the industrialized world,” UPI Science News reported.

Kerry’s Divorce

In opposing the right of gay couples to marry, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry told National Public Radio this week that marriage is a “sacramental” institution that is “to many people is obviously what is sanctified by a church.” Kerry’s own history of romantic relations has been less than sacramental. He separated from his first wife, Julia Thorne, in 1982, divorcing her in 1988. The Boston Globe reported that during the 80s, “Sometimes, he stayed with a girlfriend who had been his former law partner, Roanne Sragow, now a district court judge in Massachusetts.” Later, Kerry “was linked romantically with several Hollywood starlets, including Morgan Fairchild, and his dating life became fodder for gossip columnists in Boston and Washington.”

Kerry says he does support some sort of second-class status for gay couples in the form of civil unions, which is more than President Bush supports.

Kitty Genovese Was a Lesbian

The 40th anniversary of the murder of Kitty Genovese in Kew Gardens, Queens has sparked some retrospectives about the case in which 38 witnesses are alleged to have done nothing as she was stabbed to death beneath their windows. Jim Rasenberger’s piece in the New York Times also dealt with Genovese’s sexuality, perhaps for the first time in the mainstream press.

Towards the very end of a lengthy piece, Rasenberger wrote, “Ms. Genovese’s death hit hardest, of course, among those who loved her. This includes Mary Ann Zielonko, the young woman who moved with her to Kew Gardens––and who had the grim task of identifying her remains. One of the many little-known facts about Ms. Genovese was her close relationship with Ms. Zielonko, an omission that perhaps was understandable in 1964. ‘She was actually my partner,’ said Ms. Zielonko, who now lives in Vermont. ‘We were lovers together. Everybody tried to hush that up.’ Ms. Zielonko still becomes emotional remembering the horror of Ms. Genovese’s death, but brightens as she recalls what she cherished. ‘It sounds trite,’ she said, ‘but it was her smile. She had a great smile.’”

Governor Questions Kansas Anti-Gay Amendment

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, a Democrat, said her state did not need a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and “urged lawmakers to work on other issues,” the Lawrence Journal World reported.

“I’m a little baffled exactly what’s going on,” she said. The state already limits marriage to man-woman couples and forbids recognition of out-of-state gay nuptials. If the amendment is passed by two-thirds of the both houses of the state legislature, it goes to the voters in November.

Gay Rights Back on the Ballot in Cincinnati

Voters in Cincinnati will have the chance to redeem themselves on November 2 when they vote on whether to repeal a 1993 charter amendment forbidding civil rights protections on the basis of sexual orientation. Citizens to Restore Fairness collected more than 13,000 signatures (twice the required number) to put the issue before the public. Mayor Charlie Luken, who once supported the ban on gay rights, has come around and now favors repealing the amendment. The city has lost an estimated $64 million in convention revenue due to its stance against gay rights. 

New Zealand Gets Partners Bill

The Civil Union Bill is headed for parliament next month, and six gay couples celebrated by engaging in a joint commitment ceremony during the Auckland gay and lesbian festival, NZPA reported. The legislation would give “de facto” couples rights similar to married couples. Prime Minister Helen Clark attended the festival and said that the bill would help end discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and “gender identity,” but said it would be decided on a “conscience vote” freeing members to vote as they see fit rather than how party leaders dictate.

Taiwan Leader Supports Marriage for Gays

While George W. Bush is looking to ban same-sex marriage in the United States, Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian has promised to introduce in Parliament a bill that would allow gay couples to “found a family and adopt children,” the Toronto Star reported. It is an election year there, too, and prospects for the bill are uncertain, but the newspaper reports that “few doubt Taiwan is fast becoming the most gay-friendly place in Asia,” with a desire to show up the People’s Republic of China on human rights issues.

It is still considered difficult to be openly gay in Taiwan, but several celebrities have come out, including novelist Shu Yu-Shen.

Queens Democratic Club Backs Kerry

The Guillermo Vasqeuz Independent Democratic Club of Queens voted February 10 to endorse the presidential candidacy of Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry.

The vote came after a candidate forum sponsored by the club, along with the Out People of Color Political Action Club, Latino Gay Men of New York, PRIDE, Gay and Lesbian Dominican Empowerment Club (GALDE, and other community organizations. The event, which drew a crowd of about 50, was held at the Jewish Center of Jackson Heights in Queens.

Kerry was represented by City Councilmember Margarita Lopez, while Michael Schweinsburg spoke for former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, and Jim Kroener spoke for Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich.

Though Vasquez club members voiced support for Kerry, Dean and the Rev. Al Sharpton, the Massachusetts senator won by a margin of about two to one. Concern was voiced, however, about the report that Kerry had told National Public Radio that he might support a constitutional amendment in Massachusetts to override that state’s high court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage.

Vasquez club president Phil Velez remarked,” We were thrilled with the turnout and interest in the forum. The process was really inclusive and everyone had a chance to express their views. The debate was good and in the end Kerry was the winner.”

Albany Bishop Denies Sex Abuse Charges

Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany publicly said that he never violated his vow of celibacy, but he stands accused of sexually abusing two young men decades ago. Andrew Zalay last week said that Hubbard was cited in a suicide note left by his brother, Thomas, in 1978 for having attacked him sexually. This week, Anthony Bonneau, 40, said Hubbard paid him for sex when he was a homeless teen living in an Albany park.

Andy Humm is the co-host, with Ann Northrop, of “Gay USA” on MNN-TV, seen in Manhattan 11 PM Thursdays on Time-Warner 34 and RCN 107. It is seen nationally on Directv’s “Free Speech TV.” He can be reached at Andyhumm@aol.com

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