VOLUME 3, ISSUE 338 | September 16 -22, 2004
A Subdued Primary
In a primary election day marked by low turnout, three incumbent legislators, two in the city and one on Long Island, were defeated in a day of few political surprises. Eddie Baca, a gay community activist, failed in his effort to unseat state Assemblymember Adam Clayton Powell IV in the 68th District in East Harlem. Powell, who faces rape accusations from two women, easily held off challenges from Baca and John Ruiz, a Democratic district leader in the district. In Upper Manhattan’s 28th Senate District, City Councilmember Jose Serrano, Jr., who was endorsed by the Empire State Pride Agenda and the Out People of Color Political Action Committee, won the Democratic nod to oppose Sen. Olga Mendez, who defected to the Republicans two years ago.
In Queens’13th Senate District, Sen. John Sabini, who had significant gay support, withstood a challenge from Luis Rosero in a heavily Latino district that encompasses Jackson Heights and Corona. In the Bronx Senate District 32, Ruben Diaz, who has a frosty relationship with the gay community, most recently speaking out against public funding for the Harvey Milk School, beat his long-time nemesis Pedro Espada, Jr. in the Democratic primary.
In an open contest also in the Bronx to replace Republican Sen. Guy Velella, an arch-foe of gay rights who resigned after a recent criminal conviction, Assemblymember Stephen Kaufman lost his bid to win both the Democratic and Republican nominations. Assemblymember Jeffrey Klein, endorsed by the Stonewall Democrats, won the Democratic nod, but will face Kaufman on a third party line in November.
In Brooklyn, U.S. Rep. Major Owens, a 22-year veteran who represents Flatbush and Park Slope and has announced he will retire in 2006, held off challenges from two members of the City Council. Harley Diamond, a gay attorney active with the Lambda Independent Democrats in Brooklyn, lost his bid for a countywide State Civil Court judge nomination.
Pride Agenda Heads to Ohio
The Empire State Pride Agenda (ESPA), the state’s gay rights lobbying group, has announced plans to send volunteers to Cincinnati the weekend of October 1-3 to help register lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender voters for the November election. The weekend will include a Pride Night at the Kings Island amusement park in Cincinnati. Ohio, carried narrowly by Pres. George W. Bush in 2000, is rated a key battleground state this year.
“George Bush and his Republican allies have made this election a national referendum on our lives and our families,” said Alan Van Capelle, ESPA’s executive director. “We know New York’s LGBT community wants to do more than just read about what is happening in the battleground states. We know they are anxious to make a difference in this election and this in one way they can do that in the state that could very well determine whether George Bush or John Kerry is our next President.”
ESPA is coordinating its trip with America Coming Together, or ACT, a political organization formed to help Kerry but remain legally independent of the Democrat’s campaign and work in 17 swing states.
Volunteers will travel on a bus to Cincinnati that will leave New York on Friday morning. ESPA and ACT are working to ensure lodging in Ohio for all the participants. Those interested in joining the trip should contact ESPA’s Chris Cormier at 212 627 0305 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about ACT, visit actforvictory.org.
Bush and Kerry Get Health Care Report Cards
Gay Men’s Health Crisis has issued a 35-page report on the “stark differences” between the major candidates for president on health care issues. It is available online at gmhc.org
Among the differences the group cited are Kerry’s support for and Bush’s opposition to the importation of low-cost drugs from Canada. Kerry also supports Medicaid coverage for non-disabled people with HIV, while Bush’s position is “unclear.”
La. Bishops Urge Anti-Gay Vote
Directly involving themselves in an election issue, the Catholic bishops of Louisiana have urged their flock to go to the polls on Saturday, September 18, to pass a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. In a statement, the bishops said, “The traditional family has shown throughout history to be the best context for promoting stability and nurturing children. The gift, meaning and truth about marriage come from creation and are not ours to change.”
The Times-Picayune reported that since the bishops believed that the “moral analysis” of the amendment was so “clear-cut” they “took the relatively rare step of explicitly urging Catholic voters to support it.”
A Pew Forum poll found 52 percent of the state’s Catholics in favor of either marriage or civil unions for gay couples, while predicting the final vote in favor of the amendment to be overwhelming.
Canada’s First Same-Sex Divorce
Two Canadian lesbians were the first same-sex couple to be granted a divorce in a ruling that found the federal Divorce Act’s definition of a “spouse” as “either of a man or a woman who are married to each other” unconstitutional.
The women separated after five days of marriage last year, though they had been a couple for several years. In an affidavit, one acknowledged that she knew “as early as the day of the ceremony that the marriage was not going to survive,” the Toronto Star reported. “Prior to our marriage,” she said, “we both knew we had problems. I had naively hoped that the marriage would help to resolve some of the issues in our relationship.”
Only one of the partners attended this week’s hearing. The ruling in the case should now be applied nationally, the women’s lawyer said.
Gay Man Barred from Library
Carlos Hernandez was exiled from the Hawaii State Library for a year for using a computer there to check out the GayHawaii.com resource site. A library official told a guard to warn the man about visiting the site because it included pictures of shirtless men, 365gay.com reported. The American Civil Liberties Union has brought a federal suit on his behalf.
Vermont-Virginia Battle Continues
A Vermont family court judge found in contempt a woman who fled to Virginia to short-circuit her ex-partner’s visitation rights with the child they had been raising together. A Virginia judge had granted the woman sole custody of her child because that state grants no legal standing to the couple’s civil union. The Vermont custody case was already underway when the Virginia judge weighed in.
Couples Sue U. of Pitt.
Earlier this month, the University of Pittsburgh announced that it would finally provide health care and other benefits to the domestic partners of their employees. But an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawsuit on behalf of seven couples who sought the benefits will still go forward, appealing a ruling by Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Robert Gallo that Pittsburgh law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation did not require the school to offer the benefits.
“There are still issues in the lawsuit, primarily the money people paid to buy their partner[s] insurance or pay for health costs,” Vic Walczak of Pittsburgh’s ACLU told Pitt News. A University spokesperson said that the school has twice won in court on this issue and expects to prevail again.
While conservative state legislators have threatened to try to overturn Pitt’s extension of domestic partner benefits, Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell would be expected to veto any such action.
Germany to Dutch Same-Sex Marriage: Nein!
A German court has ruled that a Taiwanese man who married his Dutch male partner in Holland is not entitled to a residence permit in Germany under European Union regulations, Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported. Heterosexual spouses are entitled to such permits, but EU regulations do let member nations define for themselves who a legal spouse is. Though Germany enacted access to civil unions for gay and lesbian couples in 2002, they were not defined as “spouses.”
New Legal Challenge to Federal DOMA
A California gay couple seeking to marry has challenged the federal Defense of Marriage, angering a national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group who has sued various states for the right of same-sex couples to marry.
Christopher Hammer, 44, and Arthur Smelt, 45, of Mission Viejo, California have filed a federal suit seeking a marriage license. Their attorney is Floridian Richard C. Gilbert who has filed three similar suits elsewhere.
Jon W. Davidson of Lambda Legal’s Los Angeles office told the L.A. Times, “The U.S. Supreme Court has signaled that they’re not ready yet to rule on marriage, so one of the ways we can get them ready is by winning in state courts under state constitutions.” Four challenges to California’s state law limiting marriage to heterosexual couples are underway and expected to reach the state’s highest court within two years.
Ellis Rubin, a former anti-gay crusader, is now the lead attorney on three Florida suits against the federal Defense of Marriage law. “The established gay rights organizations did not want to do it because they’re too conservative,” Rubin told the paper.” But these things have got to get going.” The gay legal groups are very worried about the bad case law that these federal cases could establish.
Catholic Hospital Denies Benefits
St. Anne’s Hospital in Fall River, Massachusetts has adopted a plan to deny health care benefits to the same-sex spouses of their employees. By changing to a “self funded” benefits program, “the move allows the hospital’s managing group, Caritas Christi Health Care, to step extending insurance benefits to same-sex spouses of employees,” the Fall River Herald News reported.
“Federal law states that employers with self-funded plans are not required to extend insurance benefits to same-sex spouses or employees,” Wendy Bauer, a spokesperson for the hospital told the paper.
Michele Granda, staff attorney with Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, which won the right of same-sex couples to marry in Massachusetts, said it was the first case she was aware of in which an employer changed health plans to avoid providing spousal benefits to gay married couples.
U.K. Gay Basher Sentenced
Nicholas Stewart, 34, who was convicted of committing 18 crimes against gay men on London’s Hampstead Heath, was sentenced to six years in prison. His crimes included “blackmail, robberies, thefts, and an assault,” the Hampstead and Highgate Express reported. Stewart, a father of two and resident of West Hampstead, sometimes befriended his victims, “visiting their homes for sex acts before demanding money and threatening them,” the paper said.
The police worked closely with the local gay community in apprehending Stewart, who was nicknamed “Gold Tooth” by police after the description of one of his dental caps.
Liberal Ark. Justices Prevail
The Arkansas Marriage Amendment Committee had moved that two state Supreme Court justices recuse themselves from ruling on whether their proposed amendment to the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage should go on the November 2 ballot. But Justices Robert L. Brown and Annabelle Clinton Imber will not step down from the case.
Brown was cited for writing an article praising the 2002 high court decision getting rid of Arkansas’s sodomy law. Imber once worked at the same law firm as attorneys who brought the suit against the amendment on behalf of the ACLU, the Arkansas News Bureau reported.
Marriage Rift in Black Leadership
Several dozen African American clergy in favor of the Federal Marriage Amendment held a press conference this week after an angry meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus on this issue. The ministers complained that most of the caucus members would not meet with them and those that did were not supporting the amendment, due for a fall vote in the House of Representatives.
The caucus itself has not taken a position on the measure. Rev. Glenn Plummer, chair of the National Religious Broadcasters, said that the vote would identify those in the caucus on “God’s side,” the AP reported.
Phelps to “Celebrate” Anti-Gay Murders
Rev. Fred Phelps and his God Hates Fags Ministry followers are set to travel to Montgomery, Alabama on October 16 to “celebrate” the murders of two gay men, Scottie Weaver and Rodderick George, along with the sixth anniversary of the brutal murder of Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard.
Meanwhile, the Alabama legislature inexplicably failed to put forward a state constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage. A strong majority of state representatives in both houses have since signed a pledge to vote for the amendment at their next opportunity, either in a special session or when they reconvene in February.
Two Lesbians Try to Survive
For the ninth edition of CBS-TV’s “Survivor” reality show, producers have picked two lesbians to be among the 18 contestants. Ami Cusack and Scout Cloud Lee will compete on the islands of Vanuatu in the South Pacific. SFGate.com reported that this is the first time that an out lesbian has been cast in any of the top reality shows: “Survivor,” The Amazing Race,” and “Big Brother”—though gay men have been a staple on the programs, including Richard Hatch who won the first “Survivor” in 2000.
Gay Bishop: Take Bible Back
Rev. Gene Robinson, the first out gay person to be ordained a bishop of the Episcopal Church, spoke at the 92nd St. YMHA last week and said, “We have allowed the conservative religious right to take our Bible hostage, and I think it’s time we took it back.”
Robinson also addressed the international rift in the Anglican Communion that has arisen since his installation. “How self-absorbed can we be,” he asked, “to be fighting over this when people are dying everywhere?” He cited the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, genocide in Sudan, and the AIDS pandemic, according to the New York Times.
In Virginia, several parishes that object to their Bishop Peter James Lee’s vote to approve Robinson’s ordination have moved to separate themselves from his authority, inviting the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord George Carey, to perform confirmations in their churches. He has agreed.
A commission of the Anglican Church is preparing an October report on how to deal with the rift in the church. In a release, the commission said it would recommend “radical changes in the ways Anglicanism relates to its different constituents.”
Gay Brit Candidate Survives Recall
Many Conservative Party members in Falmouth and Cambourne were unhappy when they learned that Ashley Crossley, 31, a candidate for Parliament, is gay. They organized a formal “deselection” vote to remove him as a candidate, but the national Tory party pushed back hard, lest it be seen as intolerant. This week, an “overwhelming majority” of the local party voted to keep him as their candidate.
Lambda Legal Protests WNBA
Foot Locker is a major sponsor of the Women’s National Basketball Association, so to protest Foot Locker’s firing of a gay employee, Kevin Dunbar, 26, of South Carolina, Lambda Legal Defense is set to protest outside the WNBA game at Radio City Music Hall on Thursday, September 16 at 6:45 p.m.
As part of their “Blow the Whistle on Discrimination” campaign, Lambda will also be protesting outside games in Houston, Los Angeles and Seattle this week.
Rockland Expands Partner Rights
The Rockland County Legislature has voted 12-3 to offer benefits to the domestic partners of retired county workers. County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef is expected to sign the bill. Last February, the county instituted domestic partner benefits for current county employees.
Provincetown Needs Help
Provincetown, Massachusetts has set up a “Same-Sex Marriage Defense Fund” to help the town pay its mounting legal bills in two cases related to the right of same-sex couples to marry. Donations to the fund are tax deductible.
In one case, clerks from Provincetown have joined with those from 12 other towns to sue for the right to marry gay and lesbian couples from out of state. Massachusetts has invoked a 1913 law barring the issuing of marriage licenses to couples whose marriages would be void in their home states. Provincetown also has to defend itself in a lawsuit brought against them by former Boston Mayor Ray Flynn, now a conservative Roman Catholic activist, on the same issue.
The fund has collected $220 out of the $20,000 needed.
Paul Crouch, founder of Trinity Broadcasting, the world’s largest Christian network, is fighting to stop a male ex-employee from going public in a book about a sexual relationship they had eight years ago. Enoch Lonnie Ford, the employee, reached a $425,000 settlement with the 70-year old televangelist in 1998, agreeing not to publicize the sex. Ford subsequently wrote a book about it and demanded $10 million not to publish it. A legal arbiter ruled that Ford could not publish the book without violating the 1998 settlement.
While Crouch could recover damages from Ford for breaking the agreement, news about the allegations have made national news, including a long story in the Los Angeles Times.
Gay Couple Can Keep Kids
Law prohibits adoption by gay people in Florida. But when the state tried to take away some foster children from a gay couple, Judge Irene Sullivan said that the state owes “a debt of gratitude” to the Seminole, Florida men.
“I’m going to personally thank Dad and Daddy here, for in their way, stopping the cycle of abuse,” the judge said. The girls in their care, now 6 and 7, call Curtis Watson and his partner “Dad and Daddy.”
A Hillsborough woman had stepped forward to say that she wanted to take the girls into foster care. The state still may be able to take the children away from the gay couple if they can find a married couple to adopt them.
The gay men have cared for a total of 29 foster children for varying periods of time. Witnesses in the case say that the girls’ behavior improved dramatically due to their foster care by the men, the St. Petersburg Times reported.
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