Indian actor takes on anti-gay bias
MUMBAI, India – Well-known Indian actor-turned-director Amol Palekar says his new film “Quest” focuses on homosexuality.
Palekar’s film opens with a wife learning her husband is in a homosexual relationship, he told the Mumbai Mirror newspaper.
Palekar said he wanted to raise the issue to force India to confront it. Indian society remains largely conservative.
Health authorities recently called for a repeal of the 145-year-old law that makes gay sex a crime. While prosecutions are rare under the law, it specifies that consensual sex between same-sex adults is a crime punishable by up to 10 years in jail.
“People term homosexuality as unnatural. Homosexuality is not unnatural,” said Palekar, a veteran actor of the 1960s-’70s.
Schwarzenegger vetoes textbooks bill
SACRAMENTO, California – California’s governor has vetoed a bill that would have barred school textbooks from using language that is discriminatory to gays.
Schwarzenegger said Sept. 6 that the state’s education laws already prevent discrimination.
The bill would have expanded current anti-discrimination laws by prohibiting any negative portrayal of homosexuals in textbooks and other instructional material. An original version would have required social science textbooks to include the historical contributions of homosexuals, but the state Assembly amended it in an effort to avoid a veto.
Educate Governor Schwarzenegger via e-mail by visiting his Web site at http://www.govmail.ca.gov or by phone at (916) 445-2841.
McGreevey to embark on national book tour
TRENTON, N.J. – James E. McGreevey, the first openly gay governor in U.S. history, is set to launch a month-long national book tour with a visit to the Oprah show.
The show will be broadcast Sept. 19, the day McGreevey’s political memoir, “The Confession,” hits bookstores.
The interview with Oprah marks McGreevey’s first in-depth remarks since his political career imploded Aug. 12, 2004, when he told a national television audience that he was gay and would resign as governor. His political troubles arose after he put an alleged lover on the state payroll as a homeland security adviser, but the man could not get the necessary security clearance because he is an Israeli citizen.
Book describes Rove’s relationship with gay stepfather
DALLAS – White House political strategist Karl Rove used homosexuality as a political issue to elect Republicans while maintaining a close relationship with his gay stepfather, according to a new book.
“The Architect: Karl Rove and the Master Plan for Absolute Power” looks at efforts by Rove, a former Texas political operative who guided George W. Bush’s rise, to build a GOP majority. Rove, Bush’s chief political consultant, made opposing equal marriage rights part of the effort to mobilize religious conservatives in Bush’s re-election bid.
The book also says that when Rove moved into the West Wing office once occupied by first lady Hillary Clinton, he called for a priest and two other Catholic leaders to bless the office. He joked that it needed to be purged of evil spirits.
Romney politicizes Department of Public Health
BOSTON – Gov. Mitt Romney has increasingly exerted control over the Department of Public Health and its decisions, including on such issues as the sale of needles to prevent AIDS and the giveaway of baby formula, officials said.
The scrutiny and action by Romney, who is considering a run for president in 2008, concerns some health care officials, who worry politics may be upstaging science in some decisions.
“We’ve seen a variety of issues where he seems to have either changed positions or crafted positions that will appeal to a conservative national audience,” said Geoffrey Wilkinson, executive director of the Massachusetts Public Health Association.
In May 2005, the Department of Public Health provided testimony to the Legislature in support of over-the-counter sales of hypodermic needles to drug addicts to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. But Romney adamantly opposed the sales, and the DPH reversed course a year later.
Va. pro-marriage group closes amendment gap
RICHMOND, Va. – Opponents of a proposed constitutional amendment to ban equal marriage rights picked up support over the past six weeks, according to a new statewide poll published Sept. 12.
Support for the proposed change in the state constitution dropped from 56 percent in late July to 54 percent in the recent telephone survey.
Opposition to the measure, meanwhile, increased from 38 percent to 40 percent. Six percent remained undecided, a figure unchanged from the previous survey.
Unlike the July poll, the polling firm read respondents the full text of the proposed amendment as it will appear on the ballot. The first sentence states that unions of one man and one woman will be recognized in Virginia as marriage. The final two sentences bar the state or any localities from recognizing any legal arrangements intended to approximate marriage.
Jewish leader expects repeal of gay rabbi ban
NEW YORK – A key Conservative Jewish leader is traveling the country to prepare synagogues for a potentially divisive change: The movement will roll back its ban on ordaining openly gay rabbis by year’s end, he predicts.
Rabbi Jerome Epstein, executive vice president of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, says a committee of scholars who interpret Jewish law for the movement will likely loosen the prohibition when they vote in December.
However, Epstein expects the scholars will also endorse a policy aiming to keep more traditional congregations within the fold. The panel will effectively allow synagogues that believe that Jewish law bars same-sex relationships to hire only heterosexual rabbis.
The vote by the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards will test what Conservative leaders call their “big umbrella” – allowing diverse practices within one movement.
Pope assails Canada on equal marriage and abortion
VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI hit out Sept. 8 at Canada’s laws allowing equal marriage and abortion, saying they result from Catholic politicians ignoring the values of their religion.
Such laws, he said, are the result of “the exclusion of God from the public sphere.”
Benedict has made the defense of “traditional” family values a major goal of his papacy.
New Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper has pledged to hold a vote in the House of Commons later this year to determine whether the issue of equal marriage rights should be revisited.
Plaintiff in historic sodomy law victory dies
Tyrone Garner, one of the two plaintiffs in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court victory striking down sodomy laws, has died.
“We extend our heartfelt condolences to Tyrone’s family and friends and we join them in mourning his passing,” said Lambda Legal’s executive director, Kevin Cathcart.
“Because Tyrone Garner and John Lawrence had the courage to challenge homophobic sodomy laws, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that love, sexuality and family play the same role in gay people’s lives as they do for everyone else. That’s a colossal legacy and one for which his community will forever be thankful.”
On June 26, 2003 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5 to 3 with Justice O’Connor concurring with the majority that Texas’s “Homosexual Conduct” law was unconstitutional. Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion. The ruling effectively struck down the sodomy laws in every state that still had them – 13 in all. Sodomy laws criminalized oral and anal sex by consenting gay couples and in some states heterosexual couples. They were used almost exclusively to justify widespread discrimination against lesbians and gay men.
Oregon high court OKs Scout recruiting in school
PORTLAND, Ore. – A Portland elementary school didn’t discriminate against an atheist first-grader by requiring his presence at a Boy Scout recruiting session held at lunch time, the Oregon Supreme Court has ruled.
The Scout oath requires members “to do my duty to God and my country,” but simply providing information to pupils in public schools isn’t discrimination under Oregon Law, the court said.
Reversing the state appeals court, the justices denied the claim of atheist Nancy Powell, whose son, Remington, was in Harvey Scott Elementary School when the dispute began in 1996.
The state Supreme Court said the Boy Scout recruiting process treated all students equally.
The Portland public schools no longer allow groups to conduct the kind of recruiting the Powells objected to.
Ark. panel OKs gay foster parent ban
PARIS, Ark. – A state panel that had approved a policy banning homosexuals from serving as foster parents has voted against appealing an Arkansas Supreme Court decision that struck it down.
A Pulaski County judge and the state Supreme Court ruled the board did not have the authority to impose the ban, which was adopted in 1999.
Gov. Mike Huckabee has said he hoped legislators would consider a ban but that he was not inclined to call a special legislative session to address the issue. He leaves office in January.
AIDS epidemic spikes South African death rate
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – South Africa’s death rate rose sharply over a seven-year period and the increase is partly due to the country’s staggering AIDS epidemic, the government said.
The government statistical office said the death rate for women aged 20 to 39 had more than tripled between 1997 and 2004, and had more than doubled for men aged 30 to 44.
The report gave no estimate for the increase in HIV deaths, saying many AIDS-related deaths are attributed on death certificates to other causes.
On average, more than 900 people die of the disease in South Africa each day.