Compiled by Dawn Wolfe Gutterman
Bush renews call for marriage amendment
NASHVILLE – George W. Bush praised Southern Baptists for their strong “family values” and again proclaimed his support for a constitutional amendment to ban equal marriage rights in a speech to the faith’s annual convention June 21.
“Southern Baptists are practicing compassion by defending the family and the sacred institution of marriage,” said Bush.
Later that day, the denomination’s president urged members to make a commitment to reaching a goal of baptizing one million new members in the coming year. The number of new member baptisms has declined in each of the past five years.
Pryor sworn in to federal appeals bench
ATLANTA – Virulently anti-gay former Alabama Attorney General William Pryor officially joined the 11th Circuit appeals court for life on June 20.
Pryor was one of three court nominees cleared for a Senate vote last month when 14 moderate Democrats and Republicans crafted a compromise to avoid a shutdown of the chamber.
Pryor has been criticized, among other things, for a Supreme Court brief in which he compared homosexual acts to “prostitution, adultery, necrophilia, bestiality, possession of child pornography and even incest and pedophilia.”
Anti-gay petition push may fail
AUGUSTA, Maine – After a weekend push to collect signatures for a people’s veto effort, opponents of Maine’s newly enacted gay rights law that prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, education, credit and public accommodations based on sexual orientation, say they’re not sure whether they’ve collected enough to force a statewide vote. Campaign leaders had until June 28 to submit the signatures of at least 50,519 voters to the Secretary of State’s Office.
District lifts T-shirt ban
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The American Civil Liberties Union dropped its lawsuit Thursday against a southwest Missouri school district after it lifted its ban on pro-gay rights T-shirts.
The suit was filed in April after LaStaysha Myers, a 15-year-old heterosexual girl at Webb City High School, was twice punished for wearing shirts with messages of support for gays.
Attorney General defends state’s 1913 marriage law
BOSTON – State Attorney General Thomas Reilly, defending a 1913 state law prohibiting out-of-state couples from marrying in Massachusetts if their weddings are prohibited in their home states, argued in court documents filed June 24 that the nearly century-old law is not being used to discriminate against same-sex couples.
Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders filed the lawsuit on behalf of couples from Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and New York, has argued that the state Supreme Judicial Court’s landmark ruling that paved the way for gay marriage in Massachusetts also applies to out-of-state residents who want to marry there. GLAD argued that the only couples who would not qualify for marriage in Massachusetts are those who live in states that expressly prohibit same-sex weddings.
Senate panel OKs civil union, anti-discrimination bill
SALEM, Ore. – Gay couples would get benefits similar to those of marriage and gain protection against discrimination in jobs, housing and public accommodations under a bill approved by the Senate Rules Committee.
The Senate is expected to vote on the measure during the week of June 27.
The bill also adds sexual orientation to a law that forbids discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations.
Nike, which is based in Oregon, gave public support of the bill in a June 21 letter to the president of Oregon’s Senate.
Penn State formally offering same-sex benefits to employees
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Penn State University is now formally offering health benefits to workers with same-sex partners, adding one of Pennsylvania’s largest employers to the dozens of colleges and universities around the country offering such benefits.
The change went into effect in January. Faculty and staff were told of the new benefits then, though the school didn’t issue a press release.
The Human Rights Campaign said 290 colleges and universities around the country offer some sort of domestic partner benefits, up from about 267 in 2003. Besides Penn State, 22 other Pennsylvania schools offer such benefits, including Temple University, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Pittsburgh.
Corporations bolster gay pride
SAN FRANCISCO – Despite boycott threats from anti-gay groups and the perception of an equal marriage rights backlash from the public, corporate sponsorship of gay pride festivities held around the country in June remains strong this year, according to event organizers and advertising agencies that specialize in reaching gay and lesbian consumers.
From Bank of America and Avis-Rent-a-Car to Aetna Insurance, mainstream businesses are actively courting a market they consider beneficial, if not essential, to their bottom lines.
Like Delta, Wells Fargo and Anheuser-Busch, which is one of the biggest supporters of gay pride events through its Bud Light brand, Absolut Vodka, Ford Motor Co., Washington Mutual Bank, PepsiCo Inc. and the Showtime and Bravo cable networks show up in multiple cities during pride season. Other companies limit their support to local events.
In a survey commissioned last year by FH Out Front, Fleishman-Hillard’s gay public relations unit, two-thirds of the American adults surveyed said that knowing a company markets to gays and lesbians had no effect on their feelings about the company. The overwhelming majority, 81 percent, said it didn’t matter to them if the products they used regularly were promoted to the gay community.
Southern Baptists end Disney boycott
NASHVILLE, Tennessee – Southern Baptists ended an eight-year boycott of the Walt Disney Co. for violating “moral righteousness and traditional family values” in a vote on the final day of the denomination’s annual convention June 22.
The Disney resolution, passed at the SBC’s 1997 convention in Dallas, called for Southern Baptists to refrain from patronizing Disney theme parks and Disney products, mainly because of the entertainment company’s decision to give benefits to companions of gay and lesbian employees.
The Southern Baptists have joined the American Family Association, which ended its boycott of Disney earlier this year.
Debra Weill named DignityUSA executive director
WASHINGTON – The leaders of DignityUSA announced the hiring of Debra Weill, an experienced executive in non-profit and social justice work, as the organization’s executive director on June 21.
Weill previously served as executive director of LGBT community centers in Concord, California and Madison, Wisconsin, and as senior field and policy coordinator for Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.
A lifelong Catholic, Weill is also a transsexual woman. With her selection, DignityUSA becomes one of the first national LGBT organizations with a transgender executive director.
DignityUSA is the nation’s foremost organization of LGBT Catholics, their families, friends and supporters. For more information visit www.dignityusa.org.
Bid to censure North American churches over gay issue fails
LONDON – The Anglican Communion on June 22 rejected an attempt by traditionalists to punish the U.S. and Canadian wings of the church for their stance on homosexuality, watering down a resolution that called for the North Americans to be suspended from all church bodies.
But the council accepted a key change, requiring that the U.S. and Canadian churches be suspended from providing members to two committees.
Suspension from the two committees, which would not necessarily contain Canadian or U.S. members in any case, does not significantly isolate them further.
The U.S. Episcopal Church on June 21 affirmed its support for gay clergy. The U.S. church presented its position in a 130-page document which argued that “members of the Episcopal Church have discerned holiness in same-sex relationships and have come to support the blessing of such unions and the ordination or consecration of persons in those unions.”