Compiled by Dawn Wolfe
Spellings pulls funding from gay-friendly episode of children’s show
WASHINGTON – PBS has decided to pull a gay-friendly episode of “Postcards from Buster” from distribution. The episode features the animated bunny Buster in Vermont visiting children with lesbian parents. The program receives funding through federal Ready-to-Learn programs.
In a letter to PBS, new Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings wrote, “Congress’ and the Department’s purpose in funding this programming certainly was not to introduce this kind of subject matter to children, particularly through the powerful and intimate medium of television.” The secretary asked for a refund “in the interest of avoiding embroiling the Ready-to-Learn program in a controversy that will only hurt” it. A Department spokesperson said that PBS has been awarded almost $100 million over the past five years in a contract that expires in September.
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Social conservatives threaten Bush on Social Security
According to the New York Times, a group of conservatives known as the Arlington Group, which includes representatives from Focus on the Family and Family Research Council, are threatening conservative support for Bush’s Social Security Privitazation plan unless he increases his public support for the Federal Marriage Amendment. Bush’s recent comments indicating his support for the FMA is weakening, they wrote, has made it “impossible for us to unite our movement on an issue such as Social Security privatization where there are already deep misgivings.”
Anti-gay journalist on Bush administration payroll
WASHINGTON – The Washington Post reported Jan. 26 that marriage “expert” and anti-gay columnist Maggie Gallagher was paid between 2002-2003 over $40,000 to promote Bush’s $300 million marriage initiative and to write a report that advocated for marriage discrimination against gay couples. She claims to have forgotten to disclose the payments to her employer, Universal Press Syndicate.
According to the National Stonewall Democrats, “Gallagher is a leading advocate against marriage equality for gay couples. She has testified before Congress as a Republican witness in support of a constitutional amendment seeking to bar such equality. Gallagher frequently calls for marriage discrimination in her frequent columns and public appearances, and is used as an expert by anti-gay organizations.”
The Human Rights Campaign is asking for an investigation by the Department of Health and Human Services to determine whether or not Gallagher violated federal law by not disclosing the government grants to the public or Congress when she testified before the Senate in support of the Federal Marriage Amendment.
Nearly half of U.S. protected from sexual orientation discrimination
WASHINGTON – 47 percent of the U.S. population – 138 million people – now live in a jurisdiction that bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, according to an analysis by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute. Ten years ago, the figure was 34 percent.
The analysis also found that more than one in four Americans – 27 percent – now lives in a jurisdiction that bans discrimination against transgender persons, up from 5 percent five years ago.
The Policy Institute analysis concluded that the actions of state legislatures and town councils reflected strong public support for laws protecting gay and transgender people from discrimination. However, 156 million Americans, or 53 percent of the U.S. population, still live in a state or jurisdiction where one can be fired, refused service, or denied housing or a loan because of sexual orientation. 215 million Americans, or 73 percent, live in a jurisdiction where a person can be fired, refused service, or denied housing or a loan because of actual or perceived gender identity or expression.
Full text of the report is available at: www.thetaskforce.org/downloads/glasshalffull.pdf
Wal-Mart policy recognizes same-sex partners
LITTLE ROCK, Ark.. – The nation’s largest employer is expanding the definition of “immediate family” in its ethics policy to include employees’ same-sex partners.
The Wal-Mart Stores Inc. policy change – disclosed in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission Jan. 26 – accounts for the laws in some states that recognize domestic partnerships and civil unions, officials said.
A company spokesman declined to say if the change would affect employee benefits, or whether it meant Wal-Mart was taking a position on the issue of marriage rights or civil unions.
Potential HIV/AIDS vaccine gets more tests
NEWARK, N.J. – A potential HIV/AIDS vaccine developed by Merck & Co. that uses synthetic genes to prepare cells to fight the deadly virus is moving into the second stage of testing.
An approved vaccine would be about a decade away if the trial and a third study are successful, said officials with the international coalition that is collaborating on the work.
Volunteers began enrolling last month for the Phase II study, which will eventually give the potential vaccine’s three doses to 1,500 people.
About a dozen companies and organizations worldwide are attempting to develop an AIDS vaccine.
Foreign drugs approved for anti-AIDS program
WASHINGTON – The Washington Post reported Jan. 26 that the U.S. program to combat AIDS in poor countries has won approval to buy inexpensive combination drugs made by foreign companies, rather than more expensive brand-name products.
According to the report, the approval brings the U.S. AIDS treatment initiative more in line with international treatment programs that have long advocated the use of cheaper generics. The drugs will not be sold in the U.S. because the combination pills violate U.S. patents.
Bush to pledge $3.2B to combat AIDS Abroad
WASHINGTON – George W. Bush will ask Congress to provide $3.2 billion to combat AIDS in Africa and other poor regions, continuing the program’s gradual growth, senior administration officials said Jan. 27.
The proposals come as record budget deficits are heaping pressure on federal spending. Bush’s AIDS request will represent the latest step in his 2003 pledge to provide $15 billion over five years to combat the disease overseas. The program aims most of its money at 15 poor countries – 12 in Africa, plus Haiti, Guyana and Vietnam.
National Minority AIDS Council announces HIV/AIDS Stigma Initiative training
WASHINGTON – The National Minority AIDS Council has announced its HIV/AIDS Stigma Initiative training schedule for 2005. The program includes two individualized training programs: “HIV/AIDS Stigma and Access to Care and Women of Color” offered in Feb. and May and “HIV/AIDS Stigma and Health Disparities” offered in April and June. Both programs are free. Additionally, a two-day Train-the-Trainer workshop will be held in August. Trainings will be offered in Washington, D.C., New Orleans, San Diego, and St. Louis.
For information contact Joy Blackwood at 202-483-6622, ext. 335 or [email protected] or Federico Gutierrez 202-483-6622, ext. 360 or [email protected]
U.S. syphilis rate increase may be due to natural cycle
A recent rise in syphilis rates in the United States, particularly among gay and bisexual men, is probably due to natural cycles rather than an increase in unsafe sex or other behaviors, according to a new study. Syphilis has been on the rise in the United States since 2000, when the incidence of the disease was at its lowest in six decades. Nicholas C. Grassly, one of the study’s authors, and his colleagues argue in this week’s issue of the journal Nature that syphilis infection follows a natural cycle that peaks at eight- to 11-year intervals.