newsbriefs

VOLUME 3, ISSUE 353 | Dec. 30, 2004 -Jan 05, 2005

News Briefs

Gay Tsunami Survivor Among First to Report

Mass. Firms Resisting Gay Spouse Coverage

Now that same-sex marriage is legal in Massachusetts, married gay couples are running into stiff opposition to recognition from many employers in the state. A survey found that just 35 percent of employers there are offering “the same retirement benefits to spouses of gay and lesbian employees now available to other employees,” the Boston Globe reported. Some employers say that the federal insurance laws allow them not to cover same-sex partners.

Health insurance for same-sex partners has become “standard” at a majority of Bay State firms, the paper said, “and over half said that they intend to continue them.”

Lesbian-Baiting in Brooklyn Race

New York Medical College Bans Gay Student Group

As long as they called themselves the “Student Support Group,” lesbian and gay students at New York Medical College in Valhalla, Westchester were tolerated. But a name change to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People in Medicine has prompted the school, affiliated with the Catholic Archdiocese of New York since 1978, to disband the group, the Journal News reported.

“The goal, unfortunately, has been to marginalize and hide us,” Joshua Sahara, the president of the gay group, told the newspaper, adding that their mission was to educate on health issues, not promote “the homosexual lifestyle,” as had been charged by some at the school. The college issued a statement saying it does not “discriminate in any way on the basis of sexual orientation,” but “will neither sponsor nor support an organization whose objectives are incompatible with our institutional values.”

The student club, which has 13 members, got the school to add “sexual orientation” to its non-discrimination policy last year and then decided on the name change.

Booze May Increase Oral HIV Risk

Just in time for New Year’s Eve, a study out of the University of California at Los Angeles has found that alcohol makes cells in the mouth more susceptible to the transmission of HIV during oral sex, PlanetOut reported. The researchers used cells from the mouths of people who did not have HIV and exposed them to a solution with four percent alcohol for ten minutes. They then added a strain of HIV and found that the cells were three to six times more likely to become infected.

The story notes that use of alcohol has already been documented to reduce resistance to risk behaviors for HIV. This new study about a possible biological link between booze and oral transmission of HIV is preliminary.

Breakthrough in Alberta for Lesbian Couples

Alberta is the Canadian province mounting the most resistance to recognizing same-sex relationships. But a lesbian couple there who were married in British Columbia have won the right to fill out a birth registration form so that the non-biological parent can adopt their child, due to be born next month. CBC Calgary reported that Neela Bell and Kim Thorsen “have been allowed to temporarily modify the form to reflect their marital status, but are under strict rules not to pass the revised document to anyone else.”

Bell told the news service, “I thought getting married would solve everything, and really it’s opened up a whole bunch of problems.”

Reggie White, Anti-Gay Crusader, Dead at 43

National Football League star Reggie White has died from a respiratory ailment. He was hailed as one of the greatest football players in history in his New York Times obituary, but also made a name for himself as an ordained minister who campaigned against the rights of gay people.

White famously spoke before the Wisconsin State Assembly in 1998 and called homosexuality “one of the biggest sins in the Bible.” Richard Santomir wrote in the sports section of Wednesday’s Times that the speech “traded in ethnic stereotypes.” He also noted that TV tributes to White on sports programs this week did not mention the civil rights controversies with which he was involved.

When White lost out on a job as a CBS commentator on the NFL, his wife, Sara, said that the network had “wimped out” because of pressure from gay groups—a charge CBS denied. On ABC’s “20/20,” Sara White said CBS was “too scared of the sodomite community.”

White later appeared in his Green Bay Packers’ football uniform in full-page ads against gay rights. The Human Rights Campaign got the Packers to apologize publicly for the misuse of their uniform.

No Permission Slip Needed

Copper Hills High School in Utah has backed down from a demand that students who want to bring same-sex dates to school dances must get written permission from a parent. Jason Atwood, 17, a senior, had contested the rule which did not apply to students bringing dates of the opposite sex. His parents “refused to sign the slip for fear it would absolve the school of responsibility to protect their son,” the Salt Lake Tribune reported. Jason and his date stayed home from the dance.

While the school will no longer require a permission slip, a spokesperson for the school district said if students—“gay or not”—approach the principal with concerns about their safety at a school event, he would call the parents. “It just helps parents to be included,” the spokesperson said.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah called the decision “even-handed.” Lambda Legal Defense is going to be running public service announcements in Utah promoting the protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth in part in response to this controversy. Some of the money for the ads was contributed by a Reno, Nevada student who won a $400,000 settlement in a federal suit against his school for anti-gay harassment.

Watch Wolfson

The online edition of the Wall Street Journal named 15 people to watch in 2005—“men and women who are set to shape the course of business, politics and world affairs in the next year.” Among the notables was Evan Wolfson, director of Freedom to Marry based in New York.

“Mr. Wolfson,” they wrote, “who Time magazine named one of the most influential people in the world last year, says supporters shouldn’t retreat on gay marriage.”

Evan was co-counsel on the first successful same-sex marriage case at the trial level in Hawaii in 1996, though the state later amended its constitution to let the legislature define marriage which they promptly did as between a man and a woman. Congress then passed and Pres. Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act that banned federal recognition of same-sex marriage and gave the states the right not to recognize legal same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, an option more than 40 of them have taken advantage of. Sixteen states now ban same-sex marriage in their constitutions, with such amendment referenda planned. But the Hawaii case also inspired action on marriage around the world, with Holland, Belgium, and most of Canada now issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.

Massachusetts is the only state to allow same-sex couples to marry. That right could be undone by a state constitutional amendment that passed last year and must pass again in 2005 before it can go before the voters in 2006.

Same-Sex Kissing Legal in Texas

A Texas trooper was placed on probation for stopping two gay men from kissing on a park bench outside the state capital building in Austin in September.

“Texas law does not prohibit gay men from kissing,” the Dallas Voice reported. John Corvino, a former graduate student at the University of Texas who was one of the men kissing, told the newspaper he was “pleased” that the trooper, Michael Carlson, was placed on six month’s probation

“We won’t have this on Capitol grounds,” Carlson had told the couple.

Atlanta Mayor Fines Golf Club for Discrimination

Shirley Franklin, the mayor of Atlanta, has imposed a fine of up to $90,000 on the Druid Hills Golf Club for refusing to include the domestic partner of Lee Kyser, a lesbian member, into spousal membership. The club intends to fight the fine and a Republican state legislator has proposed a bill to exempt “expressive associations” from the human rights law of the city. A statement from the Druid Hills board of directors said, “We continue to believe there is a legitimate distinction between ‘spouse’ and ‘domestic partner’ and our policies are non-discriminatory.”

Kyser told the Associated Press regarding the club, “They’re stuck with us. They might as well come to grips with us. We’re not going to go away and we’re not going to rest until this is done.”

Lost in Transition

Things got hot at a Chicago YMCA when a transgender fashion show held there all night ran into the morning swim for toddlers. A fight broke out between the two groups during an overlapping hour, with some of the parents using sexual slurs, the AP reported.

The director, Greg Weider, was fired, the programming manager, Michael Horton, resigned later, and overnight rentals of the facility have been banned.

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