newsbriefs

VOLUME 3, ISSUE 347 | November 18 – 24, 2004

News Briefs

Kansas Transsexual Cleared of “Gender Fraud”

Sandy Gast, a transgendered woman brutally arrested in her home for listing herself as a woman when applying for a marriage license, was found not guilty of lying by a Leavenworth, Kansas judge who wrote that he could not determine if she intended to lie last February in making the application or believed herself to be female. Under Kansas law, gender is fixed once an individual’s birth certificate is filed.

Gast, 48, testified that some of her initial identification as a female dated from her childhood. A psychologist witness said that Gast’s father repeatedly raped her from age seven after discovering her cross-dressing. That abuse continued until Gast was 14, and was her father’s attempt to “rape this idea out of her head.”

Pedro Irigonegaray of the American Civil Liberties Union represented Gast in the case, and said he had been prepared to take the case to a higher level if Gast did not prevail at the trial level. Irigonegaray called the ruling “a tremendous victory for transgendered people everywhere.”

Chris Daley, an attorney with the Transgender Law Center, said, “Oftentimes, transgendered people are subjected to punishment or scrutiny far in excess of that generally imposed in cases involving non-transgendered parties.”

Gast had a holy union ceremony with her spouse George “Georgi” Somers in March in Topeka.

Lesbian Cop in NJ Wins Big

Karen Caggiano, a sheriff in Essex County, has been awarded almost $4 million in damages and fees for harassment she endured on the job. Fellow officers taped “woman seeking woman” ads to her locker and called her names, with one male officer exposing himself to her and making other unwelcome sexual advances. Complaints to superiors mostly went unheeded. Both she and the most offensive police officer were transferred out of their postings.

Caggiano’s case is especially notable because her case was permitted to go forward under a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that incidents of harassment that occurred prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations could be considered if the most recent incidents were within the limitation. That ruling helped Caggiano revive her case after it was initially dismissed, since the most egregious offenses were at first were deemed outside the statute of limitation.

Breakthrough for Gay Partners in Israel

A Nazareth District Court has ruled 2 to 1 that same-sex partners can be viewed as common law spouses under the inheritance law, Ha’aretz reported. The case involved a couple that had been together for 40 years, one of whom died in 2000. The deceased had not formally left his apartment to his partner and the property would have passed to the state in the absence of family who are considered heirs.

Israeli law says that inheritance would be allowed in the case of “a man and woman who live a family life in a joint household, yet who are not married to each other.” The government argued that the same-sex couple could not be considered to be “man and woman” under the law. But two of the judges found that since that law was written in 1965, “there have been wide-reaching changes in interpretation and legal rulings have widened the meaning of the term ‘partners’ to include common-law partners, as well as same-sex common law partners.” They found that the operative phrase in the statute was “common law,” not “man and woman.”

Breakthrough in Italy

Tuscany has become the first region in Italy to ban discrimination against gay and transgendered people. The Regional Council enacted the new law on November 10 “to allow each individual to freely express and show his/her sexual orientation or gender identity” and to promote “the overcoming of situations of discrimination.” It specifically includes the right to make health decisions for a same-sex partner in the case of “severe disease.” This law also encourages the promotion of cultural events that are “open to all lifestyles.”

The new law was pushed by Arcigay Toscana, the leading gay rights group there, and the Ireos group of Florence, an advocacy organization for people of transgender experience.

Sex in Military OK in Peru

The Constitutional Court of Peru has ruled that the armed forces may no longer prohibit sexual relations between military personnel and adults of the same sex on or off bases. The United States Department of Defense continues to ban sodomy by soldiers and sailors, and bars service by openly gay and lesbian personnel.

High Level Support for Irish Gay Partners

This week, Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahearn came out in favor of some form of partner recognition for same-sex couples, while calling gay marriage “a long way off.” Commenting on the case of two women married in Canada and seeking recognition under the tax code as married in Ireland, Ahearn said, “We should try to deal with some of the issues they have to surmount in their daily lives. And I think that’s the fairest, caring, and Christian way to deal with this.” A court in Dublin ruled that the couple could proceed to trial with their claim seeking recognition of their Vancouver marriage.

Diarmuid Martin, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Dublin, also weighed in with support for the couple, the first religious leader in Ireland to do so.

Poll: Gay Man Greatest Dutch

A survey by a Dutch TV station found that Pim Fortuyn, the out gay far-right politician slain just before the 2002 election, was regarded as the greatest Dutchman of all time. Anne Frank came in eighth, Rembrandt was ninth, and Vincent van Gogh tenth. The runner-up was William of Orange, founder of the modern Dutch state. This poll may reflect short memories in Holland—or maybe just a reaction to the recent murder of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh by an Islamist fanatic. Fortuyn ran on a platform critical of how Muslim conservatism negatively affected Dutch society and suggested punitive measures to curb the entry and rights of Islamic people.

Zellweger vs. Bush

Academy Award-winning actress Renee Zellweger told Metro newspaper that she very much opposes Pres. George W. Bush’s plan to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. “It’s hard to find love in this world,” she said, “and people should love each other. Trying to make it illegal for people to love each other is outrageous.” She added, “I have a lot of gay friends who have been raising children. They have beautiful families and are far more stable than many heterosexual couples I know.”

Zellwegger was in London for the opening of the sequel to her “Bridget Jones Diary” film, about a young single woman looking for love in all the wrong places.

Men Kissing in The West

Looks as if we will get to see Jake Gyllenhall kiss Heath Ledger in “Brokeback Mountain,” but it sounds like their foreplay got rough. “Heath almost broke my nose in a scene,” Gyllenhall told Planet Out. “He grabs me and he slams me up against the wall and kisses me. And then I grab him and I slam him up against the wall and I kiss him. And we were doing take after take after take. I got the shit beat out of me. We had other scenes where we fought each other and I wasn’t hurt as badly.”

Men Kissing in Macedonia

It’s still not clear how explicit the male-male love scenes will be in Oliver Stone’s “Alexander” opening November 24, but the film does feature two of the title character’s male lovers. Colin Farrell, the star, told 365gay.com, “I didn’t enjoy kissing the men any more than I am sure a gay guy would enjoy licking a woman’s pussy. I find it repulsive when a guy’s stubble is pressing against my lip. But if it’s part of the job, then who am I to complain?”

Chief Sponsor of State Gay Rights Bill Loses

State Senator Nancy Lorraine Hoffman, the Syracuse Republican who was the lead sponsor of the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act that passed in 2002, has lost her seat to Democrat David Valesky, reducing the Republican Senate majority to four seats

Still to be decided is the Westchester Senate race between incumbent Republican Nick Spano, who also supported SONDA, against Democrat Andrea Stewart Cousins, a county legislator. The Democratic State Campaign Committee is projecting a victory for Cousins “if all the paper ballots are counted.” But Spano is vigorously contesting them and a judge has to rule on the validity of each, a process that will take several more weeks.

The Empire State Pride Agenda, the state’s non-partisan LGBT lobby, endorsed both of these moderate, pro-gay Republicans. “Both Valesky and Cousins have indicated that they will be very supportive of us and our issues,” said Joe Tarver, communications director.

London Vigil for Activist Killed in Sierra Leone

Sixty Londoners held a candlelight vigil outside the High Commission for Sierra Leone this week, mourning the murder of Fanny Ann Eddy, 30, the African nation’s leading activist, who was raped and killed in September, Gay.comUK reported.

“Fanny Ann Eddy was a beautiful woman and human being, a wonderful partner and mother, a courageous lesbian campaigner, and a hero of the unfinished African liberation struggle,” said Peter Tatchell of Outrage! He called upon the LGBT movement throughout the world to lend more support to the movement in Africa.

Pentagon Modifies Relationship with Boy Scouts

The Department of Defense has warned military bases not to directly sponsor Boy Scout troops, lest they be accused of engaging in government sponsorship of a religious group. The announcement was a response to a suit from the ACLU. According to Capital Hill Blue, “The rule does not prevent service members from leading Boy Scout troops unofficially on their own time, and Scouts will still be able to hold meetings on areas of military bases where civilian organizations are allowed to hold events.” The ACLU is still contesting $2 million in Pentagon funds that were used to get a base in Virginia ready for an annual Boy Scout jamboree.

More Exposure of Republican Hypocrites

Michael Rogers’ BlogActive.com, which got Dan Gurley, a political operative with the Republican National Committee to admit that he is gay, is now exposing the fact that Gurley was seeking unprotected sex with multiple partners in a gay chat room. “Apparently, the new rules of abstinence before marriage don’t apply to senior staff of the Republican Party,” Rogers said.

Gurley quickly took down his profile from Gay.com after Rogers called him about it, but BlogActive.com has captured it.

Rogers also notes that Ken Mehlman, Bush’s campaign manager who was just appointed chair of the Republican National Committee, refuses to say that he is heterosexual and does not deny being gay.

John Aravosis of DontAmend.com wrote this week, “Questions about the 37-year-old-and-reportedly-very-single Mehlman’s sexual orientation have been swirling around Washington for years.” He said that the new party chairman is a defender of Bush’s campaign to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

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