VOLUME 3, ISSUE 328 | July 8 – 14, 2004
A California judge, at the request of a murdered teen’s family, has posthumously recognized the gender of Gwen Araujo, 17, a transgendered female, who was born Eddie, a biological male. During the recently completed trial of three young men accused of killing her in late 2002, the defense attorneys went back and forth between referring to Gwen as he and she. The case ended in a mistrial last month when jurors could not settle on the first-degree murder charges they were considering.
Gay Actions at GOP Convention
The Summer of Love Concert for Equality to celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender families has not yet gotten a permit for Central Park. Activists initially believed that a permit was to be given for the East Meadow on Saturday, August 28, a site that is estimated to hold maybe 40,000. For more information, go to summeroflove04.com
Veteran gay activist Ray Dries has called a meeting to organize an LGBT contingent for the massive August 29 “World Says No to the Bush Agenda” demonstration being organized by United for Peace and Justice, an anti-war group. Dries is working with protest organizers to focus on opposition to the Federal Marriage Amendment among the other issues the demonstration will take up. The organizational will be held Tuesday, July 20 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the LGBT Community Center, 208 W. 13 Street, room 312.
Log Cabin Likes RNC Speakers
The Log Cabin Republican Club, a gay political group, has issued a release praising some of the speakers at the GOP’s New York City convention later this summer. Using such words as “inclusive, big tent” types, the group referred to Gov. George Pataki, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Arizona Sen. John McCain, and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. None of these men publicly support the right of gays and lesbians to marry, though they do oppose the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) that would write anti-gay discrimination into the Constitution. When press on same-sex marriage rights, Schwarzenegger recently said, “I don’t care one way or the other.”
Presbyterians Decline to Ordain Active Gays
The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church voted 259 to 255 not to lift its 1978 ban on clergy who engage in “unrepentant homosexual practice.” Rev. Jane Spahr, who is a lesbian, said, “All we wanted to do is walk beside you and serve beside you.” The effort to lift the ban got to the floor by a 35-30 vote in the Committee on Church Orders and Ministry.
ACLU Aims at Maryland Marriage
The American Civil Liberties Union sued county clerks in the state of Maryland charging that the law denying same-sex couples the right to marry violates the state constitution’s guarantee of equality. The lawsuit was filed by the ACLU, in cooperation with Equality Maryland, on behalf of nine same-sex couples and one gay man whose partner recently died. The plaintiffs come from all across the state and include a former civil rights worker, a bus driver, a paramedic, a teacher, a dentist, and a former police officer. Several of the couples have long been raising children and one has a baby on the way.
“This case is about building and strengthening families, said Dan Furmansky, Equality Maryland’s executive director. “Maryland has said that it will not tolerate discrimination against lesbian and gay people. It’s time for the state to live up to that promise and stop denying same-sex couples and their children the same protections and safeguards that straight couples and their children receive through marriage.”
In addition to the ACLU of Maryland, the ACLU of the National Capital, and ACLU’s Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, plaintiffs are represented by cooperating attorneys Andrew H. Baida, the formerly solicitor general in the Maryland attorney general’s office, and Caroline D. Ciraolo of the Baltimore law firm Rosenberg Martin Funk Greenberg, LLP.
Lambda Sues Foot Locker
Foot Locker has a policy of not discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, but Kevin Dunbar, 26, who works for the retail chain in Columbia, South Carolina, says it hasn’t protected him from anti-gay harassment. Company officials told him his harassment complaint would be kept confidential, but when Dunbar transferred to another store, the manager would not even shake his hand and told him, “I heard about your shit. I don’t want your faggot ass in my store.”
Lambda Legal Defense has filed suit against the company, which said through a spokesperson that discrimination “is not a practice our company would support or encourage.”
Lambda called for a “Blow the Whistle on Foot Locker” campaign to get customers to report any anti-gay discrimination that they witness.
Harvey Milk School Expansion Stalled
The New York Post reports that the New York City Department of Education has not authorized sufficient funds to expand the Harvey Milk High School from 100 to 170 students in September as planned. Bill Salzman, the principal who left in January, told the newspaper that the goal was to bring enrollment up to 200 by the fall of 2005.
Chancellor Joel Klein’s spokesperson told the Post, “These are projections based on expected enrollment, not on any policy decision… not to expand the program.”
Larry Horne, spokesperson for the Hetrick-Martin Institute, which hosts the school, told Gay City News, “We’re perfectly happy with the relationship with the Department of Education for the Harvey Milk School,” and that the organization’s desire is to “serve as many LGBTQ youth as we can.”
“We will accommodate our budget to meet whatever enrollment there will be at Harvey Milk in September,” said Margie Feinberg, spokesperson for the Department of Education. “We’re interested in accommodating all the students who want to attend Harvey Milk.”
The school’s new principal is Dan Rossi.
Continental Says No Partner Benefits for Retirees
If you currently work for Continental Airlines, your same-sex partner can fly free as your travel companion. But the airline denies this right to gay retirees, as does Southwest Airlines. American and United, the Houston Chronicle reported, do give the benefit to retired employees.
David Lee, a former flight attendant for Continental, is challenging the discriminatory policy in court. He married his partner, Daniel Vaillancourt, in April in Ontario. “The provisions of the Early Out that you signed specifically do not include same-sex travel companions,” the company wrote him, a contention Lee denies. Continental also contends that there are IRS issues because the federal government does not recognize same-sex marriages and that “travel by someone other than a spouse or parent or dependent child” is a taxable benefit.
Peter de Vries and Timothy Carter are suing their neighbors in the Secaucus Fire Department for anti-gay harassment. The couples told NJ.com that trouble started when they asked “a boisterous group of off-duty firefighters” to quiet down on April 25, leading the revelers to throw rocks at their house and threatening them with death. The bias crimes unit at the state attorney general’s office is conducting an investigation.
The couple alleges that the harassment continued even after official began the investigation. Carter told NJ.com that he has been harassed by firefighters at his place of employment and verbally attacked walking the streets of Secaucus. “The town has done less than nothing to protect them,” Carter’s lawyer said.
An attorney for the firefighters called the men “very antagonistic towards the department,” including walking on department property and “staring at them,” an allegation the gay men’s lawyers called false. Carter said the police refused to write down many of the particulars of his complaint.
Same-Sex Marriage Report
In Michigan, Citizens for the Protection of Marriage submitted 500,000 signatures to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to ban same-sex marriage and benefits. The petitioners need 317,757 valid signatures. The Coalition for a Fair Michigan said the amendment would terminate domestic partner benefits at public institutions such as the University of Michigan.
Oregon’s Defense of Marriage Coalition filed 244,000 signatures to meet a requirement of 100,840 needed to put a state constitutional amendment on the ballot banning same-sex marriage. Basic Rights Oregon says that some signatures were coerced at food banks where clients were told that they had to sign to receive food. Three thousand gay couples got married in Multnomah County in Oregon in March and April before a judge halted the marriages.
North Carolina will not be voting on a constitutional amendment against gay marriage because the state Senate fell two signatures short of the number needed to send the bill to the floor, WRAL-TV reported.
In Albany, the ACLU and the NYCLU asked a state trial court to strike down the state’s ban on same-sex marriages. James Esseks of the ACLU’s Lesbian and Gay Rights Project said, “Tradition can never be enough reason to deny people the protection of the law.”
In Lousiville, Kentucky, Sharon Hays is suing Paula Spina to have their 22-year-marriage annulled because Paula was Paul until he got a sex-change operation in Thailand last year. Hays contends that because Spina was psychologically a woman, their union was always a same-sex marriage and was prohibited under Kentucky law. The annulment request is headed for the state court of appeals, the Washington Post reported. Hays is aiming, however, to keep part of her family fortune from Spina in what she says was a bogus marriage.
Chuck Colson, the born-again Christian and former Nixon aide, wrote this week, “If we legitimized same-sex unions, we will make ourselves even more of a target for terrorists” and that “America’s increasing decadence is giving aid and comfort to the enemy.”
Spain’s same-sex marriage bill is tentatively scheduled for action early next year, according to Justice Minister Fernando Lopez Aguilar, who wants to “remove a border of inequality.”
Bryony Lavery, 56, whose “Frozen” garnered four Tony nominations on Broadway, told the London Telegraph that she is a “retired gay.” “I’ve been both straight and gay,” she said. “But I have retired from affairs, really, because I’m too old.” Lavery also said, “Gayness was more central to my work when I was discovering my own sexuality. But you see things differently as you get older: since my parents died and friends have died, I’ve become more preoccupied with loss.”
“Brideshead Revisited,” the Evelyn Waugh novel turned into a memorable British TV mini-series in 1981, is being made into a film with Jude Law as Sebastian Flyte, Paul Bettany as Charles Ryder, and Jennifer Connelly as Sebastian’s sister Julia, for whom Charles falls after he’s done with Sebastian. Connelly is Bettany’s wife in real life.
Gay.comUK also reports that Brendan Fraser is set to do a gay James Bond spoof. Out gay actor Rupert Everett had once been touted to play Bond.
Marriages at Brooklyn Church
The First Unitarian Church on Pierrepont Street in Brooklyn Heights, organized in 1833, has a sign outside billing it as “Performing Illegal Weddings Since 1984.”
Lesbian Grandmother Cyclists in N.Y.
Carrie and Elisia Ross-Stone, who are riding their bicycles from San Francisco to New York to raise awareness for the right to same-sex marriage, are expected to arrive in the city on July 10. The Front Runners, the gay running group, and Fast and Fabulous, an LGBT biking group, will host a “fun run and celebratory bike ride” at 10 a.m. from Pier 45 at the foot of Christopher Street to meet the couple at Robert F. Wagner Park near Battery Park for an 11 a.m. rally. On July 12, the women will hold a press conference at City Hall with Marriage Equality to call upon Mayor Bloomberg to support the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry.
The Ross-Stones run an LGBT legal education service called Rainbow Law, providing affordable legal assistance to lesbians and gay men.
Correction: Wisconsin Was First
In last week’s Briefs in a story about anti-gay censorship at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the newspaper mistakenly reported that Minnesota was the first state to pass a gay and lesbian rights law. Wisconsin was first in 1982, doing it even before New York City in 1986. Minnesota passed theirs in 1993. Minneapolis, however, added sexual orientation to its human rights law in 1974.
Timothy Rose, a Minnesota gay activist, wrote me to point out that the Star-Tribune, which rejected a pride ad featuring two men kissing last month, is credited as the first newspaper in the country to run same-sex wedding announcements in 1991, more than a decade before the New York Times decided to do so.
Andy Humm is a co-host of “Gay USA” seen Thursdays at 11 p.m. on Time-Warner 34 and RCN 107, simulcast at mnn.org channel 34, and on Directv nationwide._
Andy Humm can be contacted at AndyHumm@aol.com