Compiled by Dawn Wolfe Gutterman
Illinois anti-discrimination law takes effect Jan. 4
SPRINGFIELD – IllinoisÕ new anti-discrimination law, which will take effect on Jan. 4, makes it illegal under the Illinois Human Rights Act to discriminate against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity, along with race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, sex, marital or familial status or handicap. The Illinois Department of Human Rights is charged with investigating complaints under the new law, which exempts religious organizations and owner-occupied buildings of five apartments or less.
Maine’s delayed gay rights law takes effect
AUGUSTA, Maine – Maine became the last New England state to protect homosexuals from discrimination Dec. 28 as a law that voters refused to repeal last month went on the books without fanfare.
The state Human Rights Commission expected no flood of complaints because the law is not retroactive.
On Nov. 8 Maine voters rejected a proposal to repeal the legislatively enacted law to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, credit, public accommodations and education. Maine’s law was enacted after a 30-year effort and defeats of two past laws at the polls.
Couple leaves Arizona to protect child
TUCSON, Ariz. – Jeanine, Nichole and Isaac Soterwood left a home they loved, solid careers and a wide circle of friends in mid-December because the state of Arizona does not allow them to be a legal family. The Soterwoods have moved from Tucson to California, where Nichole and Jeanine will file papers to become the legal parents of Isaac, who is 22 months old.
Arizona law does not allow second-parent adoption by unmarried couples.
At least one of three lesbian couples and one of five gay male couples are raising children nationwide, according to a 2004 research paper from the Washington, D.C.-based Urban Institute, based on an analysis of 2000 Census data.
Special elections could impede marriage ban
ST. PAUL – Opponents of equal marriage rights concede that the outcome of two special elections in Minnesota will make it harder for them to put a constitutional ban on equal marriage on the ballot next November.
Only the voters can amend the Minnesota Constitution, but both houses of the Legislature must vote first to put the measure on the ballot. The GOP-controlled Minnesota House has overwhelmingly voted twice in the past two years to do just that, but the proposal has been blocked in the Senate.
Now voters in two special elections have chosen new senators who oppose a ban on equal marriage, and both of them are replacing Republicans who favored the amendment.
Iowa legislature to debate marriage ban
DES MOINES, Iowa – The issue of whether a ban on equal marriage rights should be included in the Iowa Constitution will likely be debated in the upcoming legislative session.
Senate Republican leaders want to debate a proposal passed by the House last year that, with voter approval, would put the equal marriage ban in the Iowa Constitution.
Democrats are expected to block debate in the Senate, where the party split is 25-25.
To become part of the Iowa Constitution, House Joint Resolution 1 would have to be endorsed by the Senate this year and by the next General Assembly in either 2007 or 2008, then win voter approval in a statewide referendum.
KKK to protest marriage equality in Iowa
CHARLES CITY, Iowa – The head of a northern Iowa branch of the Ku Klux Klan is organizing a rally to protest attempts to legalize equal marriage rights in Iowa.
The imperial klailiff of the region’s Klan said his group is unhappy with lawsuits filed on behalf of six gay couples this month to alter the state’s marriage laws.
ÒWe don’t believe God’s law should be perverted any more than it already has been,Ó he said. ÒThe further we go away from God’s law, the further we get away from God.Ó
Lambda Legal is representing the gay couples in the lawsuit.
The klailiff said his contingent from three counties will head to Des Moines sometime next month and spread their message.
ÒWe don’t believe they have the right to marry,Ó he said. ÒIn fact, we don’t think they have the right to exist.Ó
Anti-gay marriage ban fails to get on Calif. ballot
SAN FRANCISCO – One of the two groups competing to put a ban on equal marriage rights before California voters in 2006 has bowed out of the fight for now, saying that it does not think the timing or political climate is right to get such a measure passed.
Dec. 27 was the deadline for ProtectMarriage.com, the sponsor of one of two overlapping initiatives, to submit the signatures needed to qualify for the June primary ballot a constitutional amendment that would have outlawed same-sex marriage and restricted domestic partnership rights in the state.
The group’s legal adviser said that after a five-month, volunteer-driven effort, the signature drive had fallen about 200,000 voters short of the requirement for 591,105 signatures.
VoteYesMarriage.com, the other group seeking to have California ban equal marriage rights, has not abandoned the hope of qualifying an initiative for next November, but it has postponed launching its petition drive while raising money to hire professional signature-gatherers.
Federal court backs GM diversity program
INDIANAPOLIS – A General Motors Corp. program that lets Hispanics, blacks or lesbians – but not Christians – organize in employee groups does not commit religious discrimination, a federal court has ruled.
The company’s Affinity Group diversity program treats all religions equally because no groups are allowed to promote religious positions, the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled.
The claim arose after a self-identified born-again Christian who works at GM’s Allison Transmission plant in Indianapolis applied in December 2002 to start an interdenominational Christian employees group as part of the diversity program, according to court documents.
GM rejected the application because program guidelines do not allow the groups to promote religious positions, the documents say.
School sued over anti-lesbian discrimination
RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Two 16-year-old girls who were expelled from a private Lutheran high school because they were suspected of being lesbians have sued the school for invasion of privacy and discrimination.
The lawsuit seeks the girls’ re-enrollment, unspecified damages and an injunction barring the school from excluding gays and lesbians.
The lawsuit alleges that the school’s principal called the girls into his office and grilled them on their sexual orientation and ÒcoercedÓ one girl to say she loved the other one. The next day, the suit says, the principle told the girls’ parents they could not stay at the school with Òthose feelings.Ó
Anchorage to comply with DP benefits ruling
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – The city of Anchorage is planning to offer benefits to same-sex partners of public employees to comply with a recent Alaska Supreme Court ruling.
Human rights advocates claimed a major victory when the court unanimously ruled that denying benefits to the gay partners of public employees was unconstitutional. Alaska was one of the first states to pass a constitutional ban on equal marriage rights.
Supporters said the ruling could have a sweeping effect on other states because of its equal protection rationale. AlaskaÕs governor and other right-wing Republicans have countered with vows to try to overturn it, starting with legislative approval for a constitutional amendment, which would have to be approved by voters.
Jail for gay or trans prisoners to close
NEW YORK – One of the nation’s few jail dormitories specifically for gay or transgender prisoners is closing on Rikers Island, prompting complaints from some activists who say it is a needed safe haven.
The unit stopped accepting new inmates last month at the direction of Department of Correction Commissioner Martin Horn. With only 56 inmates left in the unit, it could be shut entirely within the next few weeks, the department said.
Plans call for the specialized unit to be replaced with a new protective custody system that would be available to prisoners who feel threatened, regardless of their sexual orientation.
The change has alarmed members of some civil liberties and gay rights groups that note the new housing would likely be more restrictive than the old unit.
The unit, reserved for prisoners in pretrial detention, opened on the city’s island prison complex in the late 1970s to assuage complaints about abusive treatment of homosexuals. It has space for 146 prisoners but was holding 126 when it began emptying on Nov. 28.
Pope slams gays in end-of-year message
VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI once again stressed the importance of a family based on duel-gender marriage Òin the life of the church and of society,Ó in his year-end message on Dec. 31.
Benedict’s remarks as he presided over an evening Vespers service on New Year’s Eve came as the Roman Catholic Church opposed proposals to give legal recognition to unmarried couples in Italy.
In his homily, the pontiff referred to an address he gave in June on the role of the family, when he referred to marriage as a union between man and woman and condemned same-sex unions as anarchic Òpseudo-matrimony.Ó
Benedict, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, spearheaded a Vatican campaign against same-sex unions in 2003, issuing guidelines for Catholic politicians to oppose laws granting legal rights to gay couples when he was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Psychiatrist who advocated ‘cure’ for gays dies
NEW YORK – Charles Socarides, the psychiatrist famous for insisting that homosexuality was a treatable illness and who claimed to have Òcured hundreds,” died Dec. 25 of heart failure at a hospital near his Manhattan home.
Socarides waged an unsuccessful battle to reverse the American Psychiatric Association’s 1973 decision to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders, and brushed off frequent condemnations by colleagues who considered his views hurtful.
ÒGays ascribe their condition to God, but he should not have to take that rap, any more than he should be blamed for the existence of other manmade maladies, like war,Ó he wrote in the Catholic weekly magazine America in 1995. Socarides persisted in his views despite having a gay son, Richard, who became an adviser to President Clinton on gay and lesbian affairs.
In the 1990s, he was among the founders of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, a right-wing group, Òdedicated to affirming a complementary, male-female model of gender and sexuality.Ó
LAPD to recruit at, sponsor Gay Games
LOS ANGELES — When the competition commences at the Seventh Gay Games in Chicago in July, officers of the Los Angeles Police Department in uniform will be marching with the assembled athletes. The sponsorship of the games by the LAPD marks a first for any major metropolitan police force and will help the LAPD continue and increase its commitment to diversity within its ranks.
While in Chicago for the games, members of the LAPD Recruitment Unit will be in attendance to provide participants and visitors an opportunity to meet and discuss the more than 250 career opportunities open to members of the LAPD.
ÒThis Department is hiring and will be for the foreseeable future,Ó said Commander Kenneth Garner, LAPD Personnel Group. ÒWe want everyone in Chicago and from the surrounding areas to visit with our recruiters while they are at the Gay Games and see what an outstanding and exciting career LAPD has to offer. Those interested will be afforded the opportunity to take the first step in the hiring process, the written test, at the Hilton Chicago.Ó
ÒThe LAPD is an equal employment opportunity employer committed to diversity. Our landmark participation in the Gay Games as one of the proud sponsors, demonstrates the DepartmentÕs commitment to creating an open and inclusive workplace among its officers. LAPD will continue to reach out to men and women from all races, economic backgrounds, religions and sexual orientations,Ó said Officer Michael Jolicoeur, LAPD Recruitment Section, Gay and Lesbian Coordinator.
The Gay Games are open to everyone and require no qualifying events, minimum or maximum requirements or mandatory affiliations.
For more information on the special Chicago written tests or other opportunities with the LAPD, call 866-444-LAPD or visit http://www.JOINLAPD.com.