House Blend LGBT News Roundup, 1/10/2005
These are items of interest from the last week or so…
Let’s start off with the good news.
- Civil unions take root in Vermont. Take note, folks in the homo-pocalyptic camp of Dobson, Falwell and Phelps. Vermont expected all sorts of political and social upheaval, and what happened when civil unions came to be? =crickets chirping=…”Less than five years ago, the idea of same-sex couples joining in a legal union akin to marriage was enough to rip apart the very social fabric of this small New England state that prides itself on its sense of community. Now, though, after 7,364 same-sex couples from around the world have been legally joined as spouses, civil unions have become a part of that social fabric. In a remarkable turnaround, Democrats who were largely blamed for forcing Vermont to confront the issue have returned to political dominance in the Statehouse. The new General Assembly includes five openly homosexual men, up from just one when civil unions were enacted.
“I think there’s still a small slice of the population who, for their own personal, religious reasons, can’t abide anything to do with gay and lesbian people,” said Steve Kimbell, a lawyer and lobbyist who represented civil union advocates in 2000.
But “for a growing majority, the fact that life has gone on as usual means it’s OK. More and more people are understanding who gay and lesbian people are around them,” Kimbell said. “You can’t be mean to people you know. These are people in the fabric of everyday life.”
- Human Rights Campaign gives $100,000 to tsunami relief. A humanitarian service agency that seeks charitable contributions from the gay community announced on Wednesday that it had received a gift of $100,000 from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation to support tsunami relief efforts in Southeast Asia. “Our work puts our community’s highest beliefs and values into action,” said Jeffrey Cotter, president of the Rainbow World Fund. “HRC’s contribution reaffirms the GLBT community’s commitment to service and charity and will inspire thousands of others to give what they can to support relief efforts.”
- Gay parents cheer a benefit revolution. As the number of same-sex couples with children reaches records, more are confronting challenges about how to balance work and family. Gay dads are quitting work to stay home with kids, lesbian mothers are going part time — and employers are responding by offering work-life programs and benefits to gay employees. Nearly half of Fortune 500 companies offer domestic partner benefits, according to the HRC. Of companies that provide such benefits, 90% cover a domestic partner’s dependant children. Sixty percent extend adoption assistance to the domestic partner. And 72% also allow employees to take extended family leave to care for a domestic partner or their dependents. Many of these benefits have been added in the past 10 years.
- Georgia Equality to seek rights for gay couples in ’05. Just over two months into his tenure as executive director of Georgia Equality, Chuck Bowen is preparing to lead the statewide gay rights group into the 2005 legislative session. Despite Republican control of both chambers of the increasingly conservative General Assembly, Bowen said Georgia Equality is planning to pursue pro-gay legislation, including a bill that would give hospital visitation and inheritance rights to couples registered with the state.
- Louisiana group endorses openly gay candidate. Chris Daigle is running to become the first openly gay, HIV positive member of the Louisiana Legislature. He’s running for the House of Representatives seat vacated by Ed Murray of New Orleans, who was elected to state Senate. Equality Louisiana announced it was endorsing Daigle’s candidacy. Group members say they’re tired of the narrow-mindedness and bigotry shown against gays and lesbians by current lawmakers.” The web site for the campaign is: www.chrisdaigleforhouse.com.
- Organization expands scholarships for LGBT students. The Point Foundation, the first national foundation to support academic achievement in higher education by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youths, has opened its 2005 application season by announcing 10 new scholarships…Point scholars are chosen for their demonstrated leadership, scholastic achievement, extracurricular activities, involvement in the gay and lesbian community, and financial or emotional need. Point scholars are currently attending many of the nation’s most prestigious universities, including Princeton, Harvard, Stanford, UCLA, the University of North Carolina, and many others. For additional information visit www.thepointfoundation.org.
- Atlanta City Council approves ‘equal benefits’ policy. The Atlanta City Council approved a “living wage” ordinance this week that includes giving businesses vying for city contracts bonus points if they offer domestic partner benefits to gay employees. “If the business provides health benefits for an employee’s spouse, such benefits must also be provided to the domestic partners,” states the equal benefits clause of the Living Wage Ordinance. “In addition, if health benefits are provided to the family, such benefits must also be provided to the domestic partner of the employee.”
- Kentucky takes a savage gay bias bashing attack seriously. Matthew Ashcraft, 19, was attacked after he came to the defense of a gay man who was being beaten outside a Newport bar last June. In an unusual move both Commonwealth Attorney Jack Porter and Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Anthony Bracke will prosecute the case. “Part of it is the severity of the case,” Bracke told the Cincinnati Post. “All individuals who commit violent assaults need to be prosecuted appropriately, whatever reason they may have. However, individuals who target victims because of race, gender, or sexual orientation need to be looked at even more closely.” Kentucky has no specific hate-crime legislation, but Bracke said that if Ard is convicted he may bring up the reason for the assault if they argue for a stiffer sentence.
- Mass. Gay Marriage Implications Spread Beyond State Lines. The following story is why civil marriage for gays is more than a states’ rights issue. The Dems and the GOP aren’t going to be able to hide behind this fig leaf much longer, as the impact of legal marriage for gays spills over into practical matters when state lines are crossed. A Rhode Island court will have to rule on whether domestic partner benefits, specifically health care, must be extended to a same sex partner. Although same-sex marriage is not legal in Rhode Island it is not banned either. The law is silent on a definition of what constitutes a married couple.
- What straight people are thinking about gay marriage in NC. There’s a great article in Sunday’s Raleigh News & Observer, A struggle to define marriage, that takes a look at the issue in this state. The Triangle area of NC is a gay-friendly bubble of tolerance in an otherwise Red State, but it’s interesting to read. The state has not yet placed an amendment to its constitution on the ballot, though two attempts failed prior to the election. Those that proposed the measures plan to bring them up again in this legislative session.
- Betting odds on which Simpson character is coming out. “An Internet gambling company has begun taking bets on about which character on ‘The Simpsons’ will come out as gay. According to Zap2it , BetUS.com is laying 4 to 5 odds on Patty, with Smithers next at 4 to 1. Bart’s friend Milhouse is the No 3 favorite, followed by Selma and Homer’s fellow nuclear technician, Lenny. The odds-on leader is Marge’s sister Patty, who has never found love – even fleetingly, as her fellow spinster Selma did with actor Troy McClure in the show’s 16 seasons.”
- Canadian officials quit over gay marriage, but people flock to replace them. It looks like 20 marriage commissionaires in British Columbia and Saskatchewan have quit over religious objections to marrying gay folks. The great news is that many more are waiting to take their place. [Kate and I were married in Vancouver by the wonderful Marriage Commissionaire Pat Mitten on July 1, 2004.
In an April 2001 photo, Vermonters who had entered civil unions gather on the steps of the Statehouse in Montpelier.
Michael Fierstos, left, and his partner Mike McCarns cut food for their foster daughters. (By Alden D. Pellett for USA TODAY)
Chuck Bowen, executive director of Georgia Equality. (Photo by R.O. Youngblood)
Rabid wingnut homo-bigot preachers on the loose.
- The Rotting Cryptkeeper™ Fred Phelps made the news a few times this week… Hate-monger has collected the signatures to put Topeka’s anti-discrimination laws up for a vote. Opponents of a Topeka city ordinance banning discrimination against gays in city hiring have collected enough votes to either force the city council to repeal the law or put the issue to voters. Phelps runs Topeka’s Westboro Baptist Church, which is mainly made up of family members. During the debate in council Phelps’ followers attacked the ordinance claiming it “endorses sin”.
- Homosexuality, fornication cause of tsunami?: Saudi professor gets in with the homo-pocalyptic Phelps crowd and says sinful acts at Christmastime caused the disaster. Well, isn’t that special? Read the wisdom of Sheik Fawzan Al-Fawzan, a professor at the Al-Imam University: “These great tragedies and collective punishments that are wiping out villages, towns, cities and even entire countries, are Allah’s punishments of the people of these countries, even if they are Muslims,” stated Al-Fawzan. “Some of our forefathers said that if there is usury and fornication in a certain village, Allah permits its destruction.”
- Archbishop in Spain: “homosexuality is an epidemic”. This man is saying things right out of the discredited “ex-gay” movement manual. Spain’s government is going to legalize same sex marriage anyway. The British pastoral counseling movement has abandoned the attempt to change orientation; perhaps Archbishop Fernando Sebastian should be sent the link to their conclusion. “(There is) a veritable epidemic of homosexuality, a fount of psychological problems and painful frustrations,” said Fernando Sebastian, archbishop of Pamplona in northern Spain and secretary of the Spanish Episcopal Conference.”
In the name of his proclaimed Christianity, not even a missing child, was free from Fred Phelps’s hate machine (click on images to enlarge)…
Also, Phelps is clearly not donating to tsunami relief. He got his rocks off on the Swedes dying, so it was only a matter of time before the thought of Americans being washed away got him hard.
General legislative, legal and community activism by your jolly neighborhood homophobes…
- University Worker Fired For Being Gay. In Florida, Robert Oskey, a security guard at Palm Beach Atlantic University, says he was fired from his job at the Christian college. His suit alleges that his supervisor threatened to fire Oskey if he were gay. When confronted by with a nine-month-old police report showing that Oskey had been mugged near a gay bar, the university suspended him immediately. Several weeks later it fired him and when he appealed he was turned down without explanation. He had worked for the university for two years and up until the time of his dismissal, the court papers say, Oskey was a model worker. He earned a promotion from part time to full time and had a clean record. Becky Peeling, a spokesperson for the university, refused to comment.
- IRS: Legally married gay couples cannot file joint returns. If your same-sex marriage is legal in Massachusetts and Canada, it’s still a no-no to file a joint federal tax return because of DOMA and court rulings last Monday in Minnesota. This ruling, of course, is no surprise, but the challenges will continue.
- NY town drops domestic partnership coverage. They are claiming the expense (only two employees are signed up), but it’s intolerance rumbling. Four years ago, Eastchester became one of the first communities in Westchester County to offer health benefits to the domestic partners of its employees. Critics charged that the town supervisor had rammed the plan through and voted him out of office. Now Eastchester has become the first town in New York to end the benefits. At a meeting Tuesday night, the Town Board voted 3 to 2 to approve new union contracts and to end a town policy of providing coverage for domestic partners. The town’s Civil Service Employees Association and police union agreed to dropping the coverage, saying their members had more pressing concerns. The two employees who have made use of the benefits will be allowed to continue to do so, but new employees will not be eligible.
- Gay, TG youth needs unmet at school. Schools across the country are unprepared to deal with the needs of LGBT students, according to a study published Thursday by Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). According to PFLAG, 95 percent of school counseling services surveyed had little or no resources for gay, lesbian and bisexual students. For transgender students, that percent was higher — 99 percent. Also, parents having questions about LGBT needs would find little or no resources in 84 percent of all school systems surveyed. When it came to stopping anti-gay bullying, 70 percent of the nation’s school systems surveyed had no training for educators and staff; 92 percent had no training for students.
- Trans inclusion dooms Md. hate bill: delegate. On the eve of the 2005 Maryland General Assembly session, gay Del. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) said that a bill to add sexual orientation to the state’s hate crime statute would pass “easily and quickly,” but a version that includes gender identity and expression “is a step too far for many” in the state Senate…Dan Furmansky, executive director of Equality Maryland, a statewide gay rights group, said his group would only support a bill that “unequivocally includes the transgender community.”
- Wildmon’s AFA: Barney is the new Tinkywinky. Not since Tinkywinky have we seen such a menace to society… I know Barney is evil for being obnoxious, but Donald Wildmon’s American Family Association says he’s now promoting the homosexual agenda as well. The We are Family Foundation has produced a DVD with several popular characters from popular children’s programming that promotes tolerance. The AFA wants no part of this “bait and switch.” Participating in this debauchery, they say, are: SpongeBob SquarePants, Barney the Dinosaur, Arthur, Dora the Explorer, JoJo, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Big Bird, and Bob the Builder.
- CA wingnut: sex education=homo recruiting, necrophilia. I don’t have to make crap like this up. With kids having kids and the spread of all kinds of sexually transmitted diseases, especially in young people, this is part of the problem, not the solution. “A Bay Area Christian conservative has begun to gather names for a ballot initiative to limit sex education in California public schools. The man behind it, Tony Andrade [a Republican businessman and one of the key figures behind the recall of former Gov. Gray Davis], says fears “homosexuals are using high schools as a recruiting ground“…In his promotion for the new initiative he links classroom discussions of homosexuality and domestic partnership with bestiality, pedophilia and necrophilia.
- Arizona voters will be asked to ban gay marriage and bar courts and lawmakers from approving civil unions and preclude cities and counties from providing benefits to the domestic partners of their workers. Cathi Herrod (above), director the f*cktard Center for Arizona Policy, needs to bash gays to feel comfortable about her marriage by “ensuring that government does not grant ‘substitutes’ to marriage.”
- Tennessee Republicans likely to ram state amendment through. The GOP is in the majority for the first time in more than a century and they plan to use that power to push through constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage and further restrictions on abortion rights. The gay marriage ban is expected to clear both chambers with the required two-thirds support and go to voters.
- Anti-Gay Amendment Gains Support In South Dakota. Republicans in the South Dakota legislature are considering whether to file a bill that would amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Buoyed by the Republican defeat of US Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) in November the GOP in the statehouse are pushing for a conservative agenda. During the election campaign Daschle was dogged by Republican ads that painted him as too left for South Dakota values. Also, a conservative group ran an ad saying Daschle “refuses to protect marriage; he would let liberal activist judges redefine it.”
- Maine Mulls Gay Marriage Ban, Civil Rights bill. The Maine legislature will vote on a bill in the new session that would allow same-sex couples to marry. Last year Rep. Brian Duprey (R-Hampden) sponsored a bill that would have amended the Maine constitution to bar gay marriage. Most members of the State House say both the marriage bill and any attempt to rewrite the constitution have little chance of passage. Maine already has a domestic partner registry for same-sex couples. The registry opened last year.
- Woman confesses to beating gay man to death with bat. A Tucson man is on trial for beating a gay man to death, but a crack-head woman involved with the killing, has confessed to murdering the victim with a baseball bat, for spurning her sexual advances.
Anti-gay MD Del. Don Dwyer (R-Prince Willliam)
State of the week — Virginia.
- The Virginia legislature is moving forward to amend its constitution to prevent civil marriage for gays. The bill was authored by Delegate Scott Limgamfelter (R-Prince William). As a bonus, they want to make it possible for folks to drive around with license plates that have interlocking gold wedding bands superimposed over a red heart over the legend “Traditional Marriage”. The only saving grace is that there is a lonely member of the legislature, Democratic Del. Mitchell Van Yahres, willing to fight for gay rights by repealing the state’s incredibly homophobic laws.
Lingamfelter, Van Yahres.
Extra bonus points for Virginia this week for all-around wingnuttery, because of legislative delegate John A. Cosgrove. He is not only part of the effort to strengthen Virginia’s already oppressively homophobic laws, but he has an unhealthy desire to put women in jail that have a miscarriage if they don’t report it to police (see Maura in VA’s diary). Virginia’s Affirmation of Marriage Act prohibits a civil union, partnership contract or “other arrangement between persons of the same sex purporting to bestow the privileges or obligations of marriage.”