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Colorado lawmakers vote to change child custody law
DENVER – Two days after a failed attempt to impeach a judge over a custody ruling, lawmakers voted April 29 in favor of changing the law to emphasize the rights of parents over others in custody disputes.
The House Judiciary Committee endorsed the bill after several changes during a lengthy hearing.
Rep. Terrance Carroll, D-Denver, said the bill does not automatically prevent gay and lesbian parents from getting custody. The original version would have made it virtually impossible for anyone other than a biological or adoptive parent to seek custody of a child.
The final version of the bill tells judges to give preference to a legal parent, as long as that is in the best interest of the child. It gives non-parents a chance of getting custody if the legal parent isn’t entitled to it.
On Tuesday, the Judiciary Committee voted 8-3 against impeaching Denver Judge John Coughlin, who granted joint custody of a young girl to her adoptive mother and the mother’s former lesbian partner. Coughlin gave the adoptive mother sole responsibility for the child’s religious upbringing but told her not to expose the child to anything homophobic out of deference to her former partner.
Critics of the ruling said the former partner had no legal standing as a parent and should not have been granted partial custody.
Rep. Anne McGihon, D-Denver, said legal parents could lose custody rights only they are proved to be unfit, a high standard. The bill prevents a non-parent from gaining partial custody, she said.
Top Methodist court to review case of lesbian pastor allowed to continue working
PITTSBURGH – United Methodists ordered their top court to review the case of a lesbian pastor after the court ruled May 1 that homosexuality violates Christian teaching.
The denomination’s General Conference voted 551-345 to direct the Judicial Council to review the case of the Rev. Karen Dammann, whose avowed homosexuality led to church charges of committing practices “incompatible with Christian teaching.” In March, a jury of 13 pastors in Bothell, Wash., acquitted Dammann.
But the Judicial Council, in a 6-3 vote, said being a practicing homosexual clearly violates Methodist law, and that such a violation could be cause for removal from church office.
It was unclear what action the high court could take in Dammann’s case. Methodist law does not allow for an appeal in church trials. However, the council had retained jurisdiction over Dammann’s case when it ordered Dammann to be tried, and traditionalists hope that will allow the council to revisit the case.
Bishop tells 9 priests to recant support for gay rights
PHOENIX – Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted has sent letters to nine priests in the Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, ordering them to withdraw their support from an interfaith statement supporting gay rights.
The Rev. Vernon Meyer, one of the priests who signed the declaration, said the group signed after making sure it did not conflict with Catholic positions.
Meyer said Olmsted apparently is concerned that the declaration does not make clear the Catholic teaching on the matter, which encourages support for gays but describes homosexual behavior as “intrinsically disordered” and “contrary to natural law.”
CDC: Gay, bisexual men should get different gonorrhea treatment
ATLANTA – The government recommended April 28 that doctors switch to a different drug to treat gonorrhea among gay and bisexual men.
The drug Cipro and the rest of the class of fluoroquinolone antibiotics, long the standard treatment for the disease, no longer should be used as a first-line drug for men who have sex with men, federal health officials said. That’s because of the rise of drug-resistant strains of gonorrhea among homosexuals.
Cipro and its cousins remain the best treatment for heterosexuals with gonorrhea, health officials said, because drug-resistant strains are rare in that group. Nearly 80 percent of gonorrhea cases occur in heterosexuals.
Nearly one out of 20 gonorrhea cases among gay and bisexual men are resistant to Cipro. The CDC is now recommending antibiotics such as ceftriaxone or cefixime.
Ceftriaxone is less convenient than Cipro tablets because it must be given as a shot. Cefixime is available in liquid form in the United States, but not the pill form, the CDC said.
The CDC warned that drug-resistant strains in heterosexuals are “likely to increase over time and already might be high enough in some areas to warrant new local treatment recommendations.”
U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs will evaluate patients with HIV for organ transplants, won’t perform them
WASHINGTON D.C. – Changing its previous course, the Dept. of Veterans Affairs said VA hospitals should evaluate people with HIV to see if they’re suitable for transplants, but said the VA will not perform the life-saving transplants. The agency also has not indicated whether patients with HIV can begin having access to pre-transplant treatment or be placed on waiting lists for organs while a national policy is developed. The Dept. of Veterans Affairs also hasn’t given a timetable for developing a final policy, even though Lambda Legal said the
life-saving nature of organ transplants requires immediate action.
Last week, Lambda Legal filed a complaint with the Iowa City Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center on behalf of Gideon Green, a 57-year-old HIV positive veteran the VA hospital wouldn’t consider for a liver transplant. Green suffers from end-stage liver disease and his physicians have suggested that he may be a candidate for a liver transplant but was never able to even be considered. Earlier this week, the Iowa City hospital reversed course and agreed to consider Green for a transplant, just days after the hospital’s director, Gary L. Wilkinson, had sent a letter to U.S. Congressmen Lane Evans rejecting Green because he has HIV.
In a letter sent earlier this week to the U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Under Secretary for Health, and VA’s Office of Public Health and Environmental Hazards in Washington, D.C., Lambda Legal asked for a national policy concerning organ transplantation for people with HIV.
In other news:
Sakia Gunn and other slain students to be remembered
NEWARK – Newark schools will observe a moment of silence in memory of student victims of violence on the anniversary of the death of lesbian student Sakia Gunn.
“No Name Calling Day” will be observed May 11, one year after Sakia, 15, was stabbed to death while waiting for a bus after a night out in New York.
Marion Bolden, the superintendent of Newark’s state-controlled school district, wrote to principals of its 77 schools with instructions for the moment of silence at 1 p.m. Teachers, administrators, janitors, and all 42,000 students will pause in remembrance of Sakia and five others. The others are Marvin Murphy, Amir Wilkins, Yason Smith, Ajje Anderson and Alonzo Brown.
Grundy said Bolden acted in response to a letter from Laquetta Nelson, founder of the Newark Pride Alliance. The group has lobbied the district and city for programs to serve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth. Grundy emphasized that the school observance is not intended for Gunn alone, nor limited to victims of violence motivated by bias.
After Gunn’s death, several friends said school officials rebuffed their efforts to formally remember her and complained that there is no gay student group at West Side High School. Nelson was among those who criticized the district for failing to address the needs of a large, yet largely unacknowledged, LGBT student population.
Nelson praised Bolden for agreeing to hold No Name Calling Day, calling it “a wonderful move forward.”
Grundy said the district is taking steps to heighten sensitivity to LGBT concerns. She said 10 administrators, guidance counselors and others staffers received sensitivity training in November, and those staffers will train others.
2003 edition of Report on Anti-LGBT Hate Violence released
8% annual increase overshadowed by 26% increase for period following sodomy decision and marriage debate
New York – The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) released its annual report on violence against LGBT people. It examines data compiled from over 2,000 hate-related incidents in eleven cities, states and regions across the country.
Each year, the FBI publishes its own report on hate crimes, which includes anti-LGBT incidents, but it consistently contains information on far fewer cases than the NCAVP publication because it relies on law enforcement reports of such crimes rather than victim service organization data.
Overall, NCAVP’s report noted an 8% increase in reported incidents of anti-LGBT violence. Included in that 8% increase for the year, was an 80% increase in anti-LGBT murders, which rose in the reporting locations from 10 in 2002 to 18 in 2003. At the same time, the total number of victims rose 9%, from 2,183 in 2002 to 2,384 in 2003. Of the eleven locations included in the report, seven reported increases. And in what the report’s authors noted as a significant departure from previous editions of the report, the number of offenders rose 18%, from 2,793 to 3,282.
The report also makes an in-depth exploration of the connections between the rise in anti-LGBT violence, particularly in the last half of 2003 when compared to the same period in the previous year, and the greatly increased visibility of and controversy surrounding the LGBT community during the year. “In the first half of the year, the increase in anti-LGBT violence was 3% centered in five locations. However, from July to December, that increase had jumped to 26% and spread to include two additional regions,” said Clarence Patton, NCAVP Executive Director.
PDF versions of the Report and its Executive Summary are available at www.avp.org.