Compiled by Dawn Wolfe
UCC ad update – several local affiliates accept ad
CLEVELAND – Several independently owned affiliates of CBS and NBC will air a controversial television ad rejected by the networks that alludes to condemnation of gay relationships by some churches.
The two networks said they had longtime policies of not airing commercials that advocate for only one side of a political issue. Both say they have accepted another ad in the Cleveland-based United Church of Christ’s campaign.
Mission Broadcasting Inc., based in the suburb of Brecksville, decided to air the spot for free through January on its 14 stations in six states and in Oregon several affiliates said they would air the 30-second spot, including NBC affiliate KGW-TV and CBS affiliate KOIN-TV in Portland.
Marriage for same-sex couples would save $1 billion annually
AMHERST, MA – According to the Congressional Budget Office, allowing same-sex couples to marry would have a positive impact on the federal budget. The report confirms recent findings from state-level studies conducted by the Institute for Gay and Lesbian Strategic Studies and the Williams Project at UCLA Law School.
The CBO found that allowing same-sex couples to marry would boost federal income tax revenues by $400 million per year until the end of this decade, mainly because of the so-called “marriage penalty.” Social security payments would rise over time, as would spending on spousal health insurance benefits for federal workers. Other expenditure items would be much lower, however, since spending on Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income would fall. The net impact would be a federal budget savings of nearly $1 billion per year.
The study is available at www.cbo.gov.
Bush replaces outspoken Civil Rights Commission chair
WASHINGTON – President Bush on Dec. 6 moved to replace Mary Frances Berry, the outspoken chairwoman of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission who has argued with every president since Jimmy Carter appointed her to the panel a quarter century ago.
But Berry balked at leaving now, arguing that she and vice chairman Cruz Reynoso, who also is being replaced, have terms that run until midnight Jan. 21, 2005. The White House maintained that their six-year terms expired Dec. 5 and that Berry and Reynoso had been replaced.
The eight-member panel investigates civil rights complaints and publicizes its findings. It has no enforcement power. Four years ago, Berry and the commission were heavily critical of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for his administration’s handling of the disputed presidential election.
The newly named commissioners are Gerald A. Reynolds, former assistant secretary for the office of civil rights in the Education Department, and attorney Ashley L. Taylor of Richmond, Va.
Army court upholds sexual privacy
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Washington Post reports that the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals overturned the conviction of a soldier for consensual sodomy in a decision that gay rights activists are hailing as an important legal victory removing some of the barriers to homosexual activity in the armed forces.
The previously unreported decision, handed down during the week of Nov. 29, is believed to be the first time a military court upheld the right of consenting adults to engage in oral sex in private.
The decision involved a male Army specialist convicted of engaging in oral sex with a female civilian in a military barracks. Kenneth Bullock was charged under Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Although the case involved a man and a woman, legal experts said the principles invoked by the three military judges were equally applicable to homosexual activity. The constitutionality of Article 125 has come under assault as a result of last year’s Supreme Court decision in Lawrence vs. Texas, which upheld the notion of a “zone of privacy” for sexual relationships involving consenting adults.
Child Welfare League of America backs challenge to Florida gay adoption ban
NEW YORK – The Child Welfare League of America has weighed in on the American Civil Liberties Union’s request for the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an appeal in a case challenging a Florida law that bars gay people from adopting. In a friend of the court brief filed Dec. 8, CWLA argues that banning lesbian and gay families from adoption has no scientific basis and only serves to hurt children who need loving homes by needlessly reducing the pool of potential adoptive parents.
The CWLA brief also explains that many mainstream organizations, including the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatricians, agree that scientific research has shown children are not disadvantaged by being raised by gay parents.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide whether to hear an appeal in the case by early January.
For additional information, including a copy of the CWLA brief, visit www.lethimstay.com.
Court OKs benefits for same-sex life partners of city employees
PHILADELPHIA – In a victory for gay couples, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court ruled Dec. 6 that Philadelphia has a right to give city employees in same-sex “life partnerships” the same type of worker benefits now enjoyed only by married couples.
The justices overturned a lower court, which ruled two years ago that city lawmakers had overstepped their authority and created “a new marital status” by recognizing same-sex relationships.
Appeals Court hears arguments in marriage equality case
On Dec. 7, 2004 a state appeals court heard arguments in Lambda Legal’s case seeking marriage for same-sex couples in New Jersey. It’s not clear when the appeals court will issue its ruling in the case, which can then be appealed to the New Jersey Supreme Court.
Lambda Legal filed the lawsuit in June 2002 on behalf of seven same-sex couples from throughout the state. The lawsuit is based solely on the New Jersey Constitution – arguing that denying marriage to same-sex couples violates the state constitution’s guarantees of equality and liberty for all New Jerseyans. Consequently, New Jersey state courts will have the last word in the case.
Don’t break up family, court urged
CHARLESTON, WV – In a friend-of-the-court brief filed Dec. 6, the American Civil Liberties Union urged the West Virginia Supreme Court not to separate a four-year-old boy from his surviving mother following the unexpected death of his biological mother.
Tina Burch and Christina Smarr raised Zachary together since his birth in 1999 to Smarr who was killed in a car accident in June of 2002.
Following Smarr’s death, her parents sought to take custody of Zachary. The trial court sided with Burch and awarded her primary custody, with visitation rights to the grandparents. The court found Burch to be Zachary’s “psychological parent.” West Virginia appeals courts have recognized psychological parents in the past, but never involving gay couples.
The Circuit Court reversed the trial judge’s ruling, deciding to remove Zachary from his other mother and give custody instead to his grandparents refusing to apply the psychological parenthood doctrine in the context of a gay couple. The case is now before the state Supreme Court on appeal. Burch has been allowed to maintain custody of Zachary pending a decision by the high court. Oral arguments before the West Virginia Supreme Court are expected to take place in early spring.
Appeal filed in Virginia/Vermont lesbian custody battle
RICHMOND, Va. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, Lambda Legal and Equality Virginia filed an appeal Dec. 8 on behalf of a woman who is seeking visitation rights to a daughter born during a now-dissolved civil union.
The groups filed the brief with the Virginia Court of Appeals in support of Janet Miller-Jenkins, whose former partner, Lisa Miller-Jenkins, is seeking full custody of the 2-year-old girl.
Isabella was born in Virginia in April 2002. The two women later moved to Vermont before they ended their civil union. Lisa Miller-Jenkins took the child and moved back to Virginia, where civil unions are not recognized, and sued for full custody.
Lawsuit to strike down Oklahoma’s anti-gay adoption law can proceed
OKLAHOMA CITY – In an order made public Dec. 7, a U.S. District Judge found that a lawsuit filed by Lambda Legal against Oklahoma’s Governor Brad Henry and Attorney General Drew Edmondson seeking to strike down the state’s anti-gay adoption law can go forward. The state had asked the court to dismiss the case.
In his ruling, the judge said, “If Governor Henry faithfully executes this Oklahoma law pursuant to his duty to do so, no state agency will recognize these Plaintiffs as a family and these Plaintiffs could be deprived of all the legal rights and obligations associated with that relationship.”
The law, passed hastily in the last legislative session, could be interpreted to nullify legal adoptions of children by same-sex couples from other states when they are in Oklahoma, Lambda Legal said.
Judge awards visitation to former partner
SALT LAKE CITY – A Utah Third District Judge has ruled that two mothers are better than one, but the state appeals court is considering how much protection Utah law provides to gay or unrelated partners raising children related to only one partner.
The dispute between two women arose out of the civil union they entered in Vermont four years ago.
The judge awarded visitation rights to one of the women, despite the objections of the birth mother who wants the appellate court to overturn the visitation order. In court filings, she says she is no longer a lesbian and now has religious objections to exposing her daughter to her former partner’s gay lifestyle.
The birth mother had asked the appeals court to halt visitation until the case is decided, arguing Jones has had no significant contact with the child in more than a year. The court denied the request Dec. 10.
Student suing over gay T-shirt ban drops out of school
WEBB CITY, Mo. – The student who filed a lawsuit after he was prohibited from wearing gay pride-themed T-shirts to class has dropped out of school, a spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union said.
Marion Mathewson said her son decided to drop out because his grades had suffered from missing too many days of classes and because he wanted to work full time to help her.
Mathewson, who was a junior, will remain in Webb City and will continue to press the lawsuit against the school district.
Lambda Legal sees rise in hostility toward gay youth since election
NEW YORK – Concerned that gay youth are increasingly being denied their legal rights at school in the aftermath of last month’s election, Lambda Legal said Dec. 9 that it is expanding its ongoing campaign on youth rights to communities where students have faced anti-gay hostility in recent weeks.
In Missouri, Utah, Alabama, Iowa and Texas, Lambda Legal is asking local television and radio stations to air public service announcements about the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth in school. Lambda Legal is also reaching out to state and local organizations in the communities to provide comprehensive materials that educate youth and schools about their rights and obligations.
Lambda Legal cited five specific incidents in just the last month, all in communities where the organization is now reaching out with its education campaign.
Lambda Legal’s PSA and toolkit on youth rights are online at www.lambdalegal.org.
Over half of HIV-negative gay men have anal HPV infection
LONDON – AIDSMAP reports that urban HIV-negative gay men in the United States have a high prevalence of anal infection with human papilloma virus, citing a Dec. 15 study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.
Between Jan. 2001 and Oct. 2002, a total of 1,218 gay men who had anal intercourse with another man at least once were recruited to the study. Individuals provided demographic information and details of their sexual activity using a computer-assisted self-completed questionnaire. The men also provided a swab from the anal canal which was tested for HPV and HPV genotype.
Overall, 57 percent were infected with HPV, and 45 percent with HPV had been infected with more than one HPV genotype.
“The striking finding of the present study is that urban HIV-negative [gay men] have high rates of anal HPV infection across all age groups,” write the investigators, adding, “therefore, a high proportion of HIV-negative [gay men] may be at risk of developing anal cancer.” On the web: visit AIDSmap at www.aidsmap.com.
Over half of gay and bisexual men not vaccinated for Hepatitis
SAN FRANCISCO – The sixth annual multi-city survey of men who have sex with men conducted by the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association at Gay Pride Festivals over the summer of 2004 shows that more than half of the nation’s gay and bisexual men are not protected against hepatitis A and hepatitis B, although vaccination rates are on the rise. Routine vaccination against both hepatitis A and hepatitis B is recommended for all gay and bisexual men by the CDC and the GLMA.
Comparison with last year’s hepatitis survey shows that for respondents living in 8 out of 9 cities, the vaccination rates for both hepatitis A and hepatitis B rose by at least five percentage points from 2003 to 2004. Since 1999 – the first year of the survey – vaccination rates against hepatitis A have more than doubled and rates of vaccination against hepatitis B have increased 45 percent.
Information about hepatitis A and B, along with a list of gay-friendly provider/members, is available at www.glma.org. A national list of free and low-cost hepatitis vaccination programs is available at HepClinics.com.
CDC reports new STD among gay men
WASHINGTON – Lymphogranuloma venereum is a systemic, sexually transmitted disease caused by a variety of the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis that rarely occurs in the United States and other industrialized countries. However, in the Netherlands, which typically has fewer than five cases a year, as of Sept. 2004, a total of 92 cases of LGV had been confirmed during the preceding 17 months among men who have sex with men. Of the 92 cases confirmed in the Netherlands, 30 occurred during 2003 and 62 during 2004. The CDC urges providers to be vigilant for LGV, especially among MSM exposed to persons from Europe, and to be prepared to diagnose the disease and provide appropriate treatment to patients and their exposed sex partners. The ulcerative character of LGV can facilitate transmission and acquisition of HIV and other STDs or bloodborne diseases.
Sole ‘zero’ on HRC Corporate Equality Index improves score
WASHINGTON – The Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index currently has no companies with a score of zero following the announcement that ALLTEL Corp. has amended its non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation. ALLTEL is a major cell phone, local phone, long-distance and internet service provider based in Little Rock, Ark.
The Corporate Equality Index is an annual rating of companies’ treatment of LGBT employees, consumers, and investors. ALLTEL was the only company to receive a rating of zero on HRC’s 2004 CEI. Every company that has received a score of zero on the index since its inception in 2002 has taken steps to improve their workplace policies for GLBT employees. ALLTEL’s score is now a 29 on the 100 point scale. ALLTEL competitors AT&T, BellSouth, Cingular, T-Mobile, SBC, and Verizon all have non-discrimination policies and health benefits that include gay and lesbian employees. ALLTEL’s decision brings to 410 – or 82 percent – the number of Fortune 500 companies that include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies.
The complete 2004 Corporate Equality Index can be viewed at www.hrc.org/cei.