Compiled by Dawn Wolfe Gutterman
Report finds anti-gay bias in Maine
PORTLAND, Maine – A study released Oct. 20 in advance of next month’s gay rights referendum concluded that discrimination against LGBT individuals is a serious problem in Maine.
The nonscientific study by the Center for the Prevention of Hate Violence was based largely on interviews with people who felt they had experienced discrimination during the past five years.
Nearly half the incidents detailed involved harassment, firings, refusals to hire and changes in terms of employment. Most of the other incidents were in the areas of either public accommodations or education.
West says he’ll sue newspaper
SPOKANE, Wash. – Mayor Jim West, facing a recall election over a City Hall sex scandal, said he’ll sue The Spokesman-Review newspaper for invasion of privacy.
The newspaper in May broke stories contending West trolled a gay online chat room, offering young men city jobs in exchange for sex. Several young gay men told the newspaper they were offered perks, trips or City Hall jobs and appointments by West, who has said he did nothing illegal.
The FBI is investigating whether those offers and appointments constituted an abuse of public office.
West, 55, said he plans to sue no matter the outcome of a special recall election Dec. 6. The mayor faces a single count alleging he misused his office by offering to help an 18-year-old man he met at Gay.com get a City Hall internship.
Vermont legislators to Congress: Allow DP benefits
MONTPELIER, Vt. – Ninety-seven of Vermont’s 180 lawmakers have signed a letter calling on Congress to make partners in civil unions eligible for federal programs like Social Security and military survivor benefits.
“We urge you to extend the same federal statutory legal benefits and protections offered to married couples to those couples who have entered into a state-sanctioned civil union,” said the letter from the Vermont legislators to House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. The letter was made public Oct. 20.
The lawmakers’ letter quotes comments by George W. Bush last year in which he said he did not oppose states offering civil unions to same-sex couples.
Panel rejects equal marriage rights
CONCORD, N.H. – A state commission on recognizing unions for same-sex couples voted to urge state lawmakers not to allow gays to marry, not to recognize out-of-state same-sex unions, and not to set up a domestic partner registry for couples who cannot legally marry on Oct. 17.
The commission has been meeting since April, gathering testimony from the public as well as doctors and other experts. It is expected to issue its report to the Legislature on Dec. 1. Earlier this month, the panel voted to recommend a constitutional amendment restricting marriage rights to dual-sex couples.
St. Louis urges repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’
ST. LOUIS – On Oct. 21 St. Louis joined a list of other cities urging Congress to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military. The resolution urges Congress to pass and George W. Bush to sign the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, introduced in March, which would allow LGBTs to serve openly.
Other cities that have passed similar resolutions include New York, San Francisco, Chicago, West Hollywood, Calif., and Cathedral City, Calif. The California General Assembly approved a similar resolution in September, becoming the first state to officially oppose the ban.
Bisexual teacher sues former school district
MENLO PARK, Calif. – A bisexual fifth-grade teacher has sued his former school district claiming that administrators harassed him and forced him to quit.
Emmit Hancock, a former teacher at Willow Oaks Elementary School in Menlo Park, sued the Ravenswood City School District last week, seeking unspecified monetary damages.
In his Oct. 13 filing in Santa Clara County Superior Court, the 27-year-old teacher said the harassment started after he told his students about his sexuality.
Hancock said he wanted to stop them from shouting gay slurs at each other on the playground. When parents complained, Hancock said he was told to resign.
Board to consider ‘pharmacist conscience’ rules
RENO, Nev. – A controversial proposal that would allow Nevada pharmacists to deny a prescription because it violated their moral or religious beliefs will be considered this week by state regulators Oct. 20.
Under the proposed regulation, pharmacists could refuse a prescription if they notify their employer in writing in advance, arrange “without delay” for another pharmacist to fill the prescription and remain silent on the reason for refusing the prescription. Opponents said the challenge would be protecting patients in isolated rural towns that have only one pharmacy.
Eleven states are considering bills that would protect pharmacists who refuse to fill birth-control prescriptions. Four states already have laws in place. Nevada law is silent.
Kansas high court rejects harsher treatment for gay teens
TOPEKA, Kan. – The Kansas Supreme Court on Oct. 21 unanimously struck down a state law that punished underage sex more severely if it involved homosexual acts, saying “moral disapproval” of such conduct is not enough to justify the different treatment.
Human rights groups praised the ruling, while a representative of the anti-gay industry called the ruling, “a sign of an activist court system.”
The case involved an 18-year-old man, Matthew R. Limon, who was found guilty in 2000 of performing a sex act on a 14-year-old boy and was sentenced to 17 years in prison. Had one of them been a girl, state law would have dictated a maximum sentence of 15 months.
The high court ordered that Limon be re-sentenced as if the law treated illegal gay sex and illegal straight sex the same. He has already served more than five years. The Kansas Attorney General said that he does not plan to appeal.
Kansas law prohibits any sexual activity involving a person under 16. However, the state’s 1999 “Romeo and Juliet” law specifies short prison sentences or probation for sexual activity when an offender is under 19 and the age difference between participants is less than four years – but only for opposite-sex encounters.
Father avoids trial in dispute over teaching about gays
CONCORD, Mass. – Prosecutors have agreed to drop trespassing charges against a father who refused to leave school property until notified about any discussion of homosexuality in his son’s kindergarten class.
David Parker was scheduled to go to trial on Oct. 20. Under the agreement Parker will be on probation for a year, after which the charges will be dropped if he stays out of trouble.
Parker, 43, first complained to officials at Joseph Estabrook School in January after his son brought home a book that included pictures of same-sex couples.
He was arrested on April 27 after a meeting in which school officials refused to tell him when homosexuality was to be discussed so he could remove his son from class. Parker refused to leave school grounds despite repeated requests to do so.
Lawsuit filed against county over gay pride ban
TAMPA, Fla. – A strip club owner has filed a lawsuit against Hillsborough County that says a policy banning county agencies from acknowledging, promoting or participating in gay pride events is unconstitutional.
The suit was filed Oct. 18. The Hillsborough County Commission passed the proposal June 15.
The lawsuit says that the policy violates the plaintiff’s First Amendment right under the U.S. Constitution.
Jurors reject convict’s prison rape lawsuit
WICHITA FALLS, Texas – On Oct. 18 six prison officials were found not liable in a federal lawsuit claiming they violated a gay burglary convict’s constitutional right against cruel and unusual punishment by ignoring his pleas for protection from inmate rapes.
Roderick Keith Johnson’s lawsuit had sought unspecified damages against six Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials at the Allred Unit near Wichita Falls, where he said prison gangs raped him almost daily during his 18 months there.
Last year a Wichita Falls grand jury did not indict 49 prisoners Johnson had accused of rape.
Judge denies injunction sought by Love In Action
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – A federal judge has refused to allow Love In Action ministry, which claims to “help” gay clients turn straight, to continue treating people who are mentally ill and require prescription medication.
An injunction was sought against an order from the state Department of Mental Health & Developmental Disabilities, which found that the organization’s two Memphis facilities were controlling patients’ access to their prescription medication and thus needed to be licensed as a mental health facility.
Love In Action International Inc. has sued the state to oppose being required to get a license. The Alliance Defense Fund, an Arizona-based anti-gay legal organization, is representing the ministry.
LGBT charity delivers humanitarian aid to Guatemala
SAN FRANCISCO – Rainbow World Fund has returned from a humanitarian aid trip to Guatemala, where a team of 13 volunteers collected and delivered more than 1,000 pounds of medical and school supplies – including antibiotics, IV bags, and medical equipment – along with much-needed financial assistance for organizations working to improve the lives of Guatemalans. During its trip, RWF met with groups and individuals fighting to improve the lives of Guatemalans through better health care, education, safe water, labor rights, indigenous (Mayan) rights, and LGBT civil rights.
Protesters object to Naval Academy policy on gays
ANNAPOLIS, Md. – About 40 protesters, part of Virginia-based gay human rights group Soulforce, stood silent vigil outside the Academy’s gates for about half an hour Oct. 21 before coming on campus to have lunch in a visitors’ cafeteria and fanning across campus to say hello to midshipmen.
The Naval Academy protest was a test-run for the group, which plans to visit dozens of campuses next spring where students are threatened with expulsion for being gay. In addition to Christian colleges including Brigham Young University, the group plans events at the other military academies: West Point, the Air Force Academy and the Coast Guard Academy.
Students hold counter-demonstration for gay rights
Pikesville, MD – Students at Pikesville High School in Maryland have fired back at an anti-gay rights demonstration that was held outside the school Oct. 17 with their own demonstration Oct. 20. A senior at the school said more than 100 students took part in the effort to show that the school is open and tolerant.
A local pastor who objected led the original protest to observances of National Coming Out Week at the school.
Diocese recommends priests be allowed to perform civil unions
HARTFORD, Conn. – Members of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut passed a non-binding resolution Oct. 22 urging Bishop Andrew Smith to allow priests in Connecticut to preside at civil union ceremonies.
The resolution passed overwhelmingly at the diocese annual meeting, church officials said.
A law allowing same-sex civil unions in Connecticut took effect Oct. 1. But Smith reminded clergy in a recent memo that they are not authorized to officiate at blessings of same-sex unions. He said that won’t change at least until the House of Bishops meets in 2006.
Catholic archdiocesan agency helps gays adopt children
BOSTON – The social services agency of the Archdiocese of Boston has allowed 13 foster children to be adopted by same-sex couples in the past two decades.
The 13 adoptions – a small fraction of the 720 placed by Catholic Charities in that period – took place as part of a contract with the state Department of Social Services. The children placed with gay couples are among the most difficult to place, either because they are older or have physical or emotional problems. A spokesperson for the agency said that it was required to work with same-sex couples because of its contract with the state.
Baptists reject proposal to split over homosexuality
CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – West Virginia Baptist delegates voted 391-325 Oct. 19 to reject a proposal to split from the American Baptist Churches-USA over its stance on homosexuality.
The West Virginia group’s resolution said the ordination of practicing homosexuals and the affirmation of the “homosexual lifestyle” by some Baptist churches is contrary to biblical teaching. The group was following a move by Baptist churches in the Pacific Southwest, which announced plans earlier this year to break from the American Baptist Churches over gay issues.