Compiled by Dawn Wolfe
HRC appoints straight board co-chair
WASHINGTON – The Human Rights Campaign officially appointed its new board of directors co-chair, Michael Berman, a longtime ally of the LGBT community. Berman, a seasoned political leader, is President and one of the founders of a government affairs consulting group. Berman is the first straight board leader in HRC’s history.
Since October, Berman had been serving as board of directors co-chair elect. Berman and his spouse Carol have been married for 39 years and live in the Washington, D.C., area. He has been involved in HRC since 1992 and joined the board in 1998. For the last several years, he has served as a co-chair of the Public Policy Committee, helping to spearhead HRC’s legislative work.
Lambda announces state-by-state investigation of abstinence-only curricula
WASHINGTON – Lambda Legal announced Dec. 2 that it is launching an investigation into so-called “abstinence-only” education programs that may be violating state medical accuracy laws nationwide.
A new Congressional report found multiple instances of serious inaccuracies in 11 abstinence-only curricula that are widely used in at least two dozen states. This month, the Bush Administration secured nearly $170 million in additional federal funding for these programs, bringing the five-year total in federal taxpayer support for such programs to nearly $900 million. While abstinence-only programs purport to encourage young people to refrain from sexual activity, many of these programs are vehicles for advancing right-wing opinions on abortion, HIV and homosexuality, and casting those opinions as facts, according to the Congressional report.
Earlier this year, Lambda launched “Out, Safe and Respected,” a broad national campaign to educate LGBT and questioning youth about their rights to be supported and safe at school. For more on that campaign – including an in-depth Tool Kit for young people and a television PSA – go to www.lambdalegal.org.
Naval alumni association rejects gay group
ANNAPOLIS, Md. – On Dec. 1, the governing board of the Naval Academy Alumni Association rejected a bid from graduates who sought to establish a predominantly gay and lesbian alumni chapter.
It was the second time in two years the Naval Academy’s alumni association rejected the gay group.
The group has been operating and inducting members for more than a year, even though it does not have the official sanction of the alumni association. Now 68 members strong, it is the only group the association has ever denied affiliation.
All 27 trustees who attended the meeting voted to dismiss the request because the group is narrowly tailored to serve a special interest. Other reasons the association gave include its scattered membership and the location of its headquarters in San Francisco – a region already served by an alumni chapter.
California: most supportive legislature and governor for LGBT rights
SAN FRANCISCO – Based on voting records for 2004, Equality California reports that more than half of California legislators have shown 100 percent support for the rights of LGBT people. This support for the fundamental principal of equality has made California’s legislature the most supportive in the country and set a strong example for other states.
64 out of 120 legislators and Gov. Schwarzenegger scored 100 percent on Equality California’s 2004 Legislative Scorecard, which evaluated these elected officials on EQCA-sponsored legislation. This legislation included hate crimes law enhancements, protection from insurance discrimination for domestic partners registered with the State, and key legislation to update non-discrimination laws for employment and housing.
Man who wed transsexual faces exile
CALIFORNIA – Planet Out reported that the Filipino husband of an American transgender woman has been pulled off the citizenship track because of his wife’s identity, and he may be deported. Jiffy Javenella, 27, has been a legal U.S. resident since his marriage to Donita Ganzon, 58, in 2001. Ganzon is also from the Philippines, but has lived in the United States for 25 years. She became a citizen in 1987, six years after her gender reassignment surgery. Ganzon and Javenella met in 2000 and Javenella moved to southern California a few months before their marriage. Subsequently, Javenella applied for permanent residency status, a routine procedure for the foreign spouse of a U.S. citizen. During the interviews with immigration officials, however, Ganzon mentioned her 1981 transition from male to female. Within three weeks Javenella was denied residency. He immediately lost his work permit and job.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. policy “disallows recognition of change of sex in order for a marriage between two persons born of the same sex to be considered bona fide.” The bureaucrats cite the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act to justify their denial of residency to Javenella, based on his illegal “same-sex marriage.”
Principal may revise policy on gay couples
WEST JORDAN, Utah – The Copper Hills High School principal who wants gay couples to get permission slips from their parents before they can attend school dances promised to re-evaluate the policy Dec. 3 after four days of protests.
Jason Atwood, 17, his boyfriend, Tom Tolman, 15, who attends another school, and a small circle of friends held protests across the street from the school before they met with the principal. The protesters said they were subjected to insults, obscene gestures, egg throwing and snowballs from passing cars during the four days.
The principal said the policy stemmed from students’ concerns about potential harassment. “That was not an attempt to get out of liability and not a response to deprive them from coming to the dance,” he said.
Gays to challenge military policy
WASHINGTON – Twelve homosexuals who were expelled from the military because of their sexual orientation are mounting a legal challenge to the Pentagon’s 11-year-old “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. The federal lawsuit, filed in Boston Dec. 6, cites last year’s landmark Supreme Court ruling that overturned state laws making gay sex a crime.
Other courts have upheld the policy, put in place by the Clinton administration, but C. Dixon Osburn, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said those decisions came prior to the 2003 ruling.
“Don’t ask, don’t tell” allows gays and lesbians to serve in the military as long as they don’t reveal their sexual orientation and abstain from homosexual activity. Before that the Pentagon barred homosexuals from military service.
Two other lawsuits challenging the policy have been filed since the high court’s reversal.
AIDS infection rates unchanged
ATLANTA – Despite the government’s promise to “break the back” of the AIDS epidemic by 2005, about 40,000 Americans test positive for the HIV infection every year – the same number as a decade ago.
The figure is double the annual goal of 20,000 new HIV cases laid out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nearly four years ago. Nearly a million people in the United States now have AIDS.
National Lesbian and Feminist Health Coalition meeting scheduled
WASHINGTON – The National Lesbian and Feminist Health Coalition Spring 2005 meeting, “Lesbian Breast Health and Us,” will be held March 13-15 in Washington, D.C. The Mautner Project is looking to bring together as many voices from lesbian cancer projects across the country as possible. Conference participants will develop a compendium of resources and information to be distributed to breast health organizations to increase their effectiveness in serving the lesbian community.
For registration forms or more information contact April E. Nelson, MSW, LGSW at 202-332-5536 or [email protected]
Methodists defrock gay minister
PUGHTOWN, Pa. – Rev. Irene Elizabeth Stroud, a lesbian minister who lives with her partner, was defrocked for violating the United Methodist Church’s ban on actively gay clergy – the denomination’s first such decision in 17 years.
A 13-member jury made up of Methodist clergy convicted the Rev. Stroud Dec. 2, the second day of her church trial. The panel voted 12-1 to find Stroud guilty; nine votes were needed for a conviction.
Jurors then voted 7-6 to defrock Stroud. However, her congregation has already agreed that she can continue doing her work as a lay employee without clergy status, but she will be unable to celebrate baptism or Communion.
Revocation stings Lutheran church
SAN BERNARDINO – The Central City Lutheran Mission, an urban ministry that aids the poor and homeless, had its official recognition removed in a dispute involving an associate pastor who is in a committed lesbian relationship. The decision is the most severe punishment of a Lutheran congregation over the issue in more than a decade.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America allows gay clergy if they are celibate. Thirteen other congregations have installed openly gay and lesbian pastors, including worshippers in Hollywood. Other churches that have been disciplined have received far milder punishments. But the Pacifica Synod in Yorba Linda, which oversees congregations in parts of Southern California, revoked Central City’s congregational status on Oct. 29. The synod’s bishop said the church’s decision has nothing to do with the pastor’s sexual orientation, though he conceded that she is not on the approved roster of pastors because she is an uncelibate lesbian.
Oregon affiliates see no problem with church ad
PORTLAND, Ore. – CBS and NBC affiliates in Oregon – where nearly 3,000 gay couples were married earlier this year – are differing with their national offices over a controversial TV ad that alludes to condemnation of gay relationships by some churches. The 30-second spot, launched Dec. 1 by the United Church of Christ, highlights the church’s welcoming stance toward gays and others who might feel alienated.
National officials for NBC and CBS have rejected the ad, citing long-standing policies of not airing commercials that advocate for only one side of a political issue, but local affiliates in Oregon said they saw no problem with the ad.
In Other News
Greek lawyers say they will not take legal action against film
ATHENS, Greece – A group of Greek lawyers angry at the portrayal of Alexander the Great as a bisexual in the Hollywood movie “Alexander” indicated Dec. 2 they had no plans to take legal action against the movie.
The Oliver Stone epic was released in Greece on Dec. 3. In the 173-minute film, Alexander has an intimate relationship with a male.