Compiled by Dawn Wolfe Gutterman
Gay groups excluded from U.N. panel
WASHINGTON – Massachusetts congressman Barney Frank and human rights activists have asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to explain why the United States sided with Iran, Zimbabwe and other repressive governments to exclude two gay rights groups from membership on a United Nations panel.
The U.N. panel is a think tank of nongovernmental agencies from around the world. The Brussels-based International Lesbian and Gay Association sought inclusion in May, along with a Danish national gay and lesbian organization. Panel member organizations can participate from within in discussions among U.N. member states.
According to Human Rights Watch, states that joined the United States in voting against the applications were Cameroon, China, Cuba, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Senegal, Sudan and Zimbabwe. Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Zimbabwe are among nations regularly criticized by the State Department for repression and human rights abuses.
The letter asked whether it is now U.S. policy to oppose panel membership for any gay human rights group.
Bill would ban tax dollars for benefits
SALT LAKE CITY – Last fall, Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson signed an executive order extending health care benefits to the same-sex and unmarried heterosexual partners of city employees. But a bill endorsed Feb. 1 by a House committee would make Anderson’s order illegal. The bill would also prohibit any city, county or state government entity from using tax dollars to subsidize health care benefits for anyone but a narrowly defined list of dependents, including a current spouse and children who are either natural, adopted or for whom the employee is a legal guardian.
Lesbian gets anti-gay literature from doctor
ORLANDO, Fla. – A 36-year-old lesbian has filed a state complaint against a doctor and physician’s assistant alleging she was given literature condemning homosexuality as “sinful and sexually impure” after a routine appointment.
Jamie Beiler the saw physician’s assistant March 11, 2005 for a bronchitis checkup because her normal doctor was on vacation.
Beiler’s sexuality was noted in her medical file, but unmentioned during the appointment, her lawyers said.
When she opened up an envelope the physician’s assistant left at the checkout counter, she was shocked to find photocopied pages including Bible verses that denounced homosexuality and asserted God can help her change.
Also named in the complaint is the doctor, who allegedly deflected Beiler’s concerns when she complained to the office.
Law can’t stop hormone treatments
MILWAUKEE – A new Wisconsin law barring the use of state tax money for prisoner sex changes won’t stop four male inmates from getting state-paid hormone treatments until at least August.
The law took effect last week, but the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal filed suit in U.S. District Court in Milwaukee on behalf of the four, challenging the statute as unconstitutional.
The law bars the state Department of Correction from using tax dollars for hormone therapy or gender reassignment surgery to treat prisoners for gender identity disorder.
The four inmates claim stopping the treatments would be cruel and unusual punishment and would violate their right to equal protection under law.
Rare Chlamydia strain infecting gay men
WASHINGTON – A particularly bad strain of Chlamydia not usually seen in this country appears to be slowly spreading among gay and bisexual men. The infection can increase their chances of getting or spreading AIDS.
LGV Chlamydia has caused a worrisome outbreak in Europe, where some countries have confirmed dozens of cases. Diagnoses confirmed by U.S. health officials still are low, just 27 since they warned a year ago that the strain was headed here.
But specialists say that’s a fraction of the infections, because the illness is incredibly hard to diagnose.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention already was counting an 8 percent increase in HIV among gay and bisexual men between 2003 and 2004, before LGV’s arrival was recognized.
Three weeks of the antibiotic doxycycline effectively treats LGV. But patients have to know they’re at risk, and then find a test.
Legislators asked to protect sex ed
TOPEKA, Kan. – A coalition including abortion rights advocates and progressive political groups is turning to legislators to keep local school boards from canceling sex education classes or going to abstinence-only courses.
A State Board of Education regulation requiring all districts to offer sex education expired last year, and the board split 5-5 over requiring districts to get parents’ permission before having students take such courses.
The Senate Education Committee agreed Feb. 2 to sponsor the coalition’s proposal, which would require districts to offer comprehensive sex education courses emphasizing “the benefits of abstinence,” while still teaching students about AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases and how to avoid them.
Senate passes bill to keep protesters from funerals
FRANKFORT, Ky. – Protesters would have to stay at least 300 feet from a funeral or a memorial service under a bill overwhelmingly approved Feb. 3 by Kentucky’s Senate.
The measure is aimed at members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., who have toured the country protesting military funerals, carrying signs that read, “Thank God for IEDs,” the improvised explosive devices used by insurgents in Iraq. Members of the church see the deaths as a sign of the Christian god punishing America for tolerating gays. They also went to West Virginia to protest at the funerals of dead coal miners last month.
The Westboro group, largely the extended family of the Rev. Fred Phelps, have prompted similar legislation in West Virginia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska.
Betty Friedan dies
NEW YORK – Betty Friedan, whose manifesto “The Feminine Mystique” helped shatter the cozy suburban ideal of the post-World War II era and laid the groundwork for the modern feminist movement, died on Feb. 4, her birthday. She was 85.
Friedan died of congestive heart failure at her Washington, D.C., home, according to a cousin.
`Brokeback’ sparks interest in Wyoming
CHEYENNE, Wyoming – Fans of “Brokeback Mountain” don’t seem to care the movie was actually filmed in Canada.
The Wyoming Business Council’s travel and tourism department has received hundreds of calls asking about scenery in the movie.
A Wyoming Business Council spokesman said he hasn’t seen a movie generate this much interest in the state during his 15 years with the travel and tourism department.