Compiled by Dawn Wolfe Gutterman
GOP unveils anti-marriage CD-ROM
ST. PAUL – A CD-ROM that the Minnesota Republican Party is sending out to build support for a constitutional amendment banning equal marriage rights has another purpose: building up a voter database.
Privacy experts say they’re concerned that the GOP won’t adequately warn users that it’s collecting the data, and they worry where the information will end up.
The discs contain video clips from prominent state Republicans talking about what they consider the “dangers” of recognizing the marriage rights of same-sex couples.
To watch the video, a person has to go to an Internet site and punch in an ID code that tells the party who is viewing it. Privacy advocates said it’s not clear from the Republican CD that the data is being transmitted back to the GOP, or even what other data about the user is being collected.
Romney looking to help Catholic Church discriminate
BOSTON – Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is looking for ways to exempt Catholic social services agencies from a law requiring them to consider gays as adoptive parents.
The state’s four Catholic bishops have said the state law threatens the church’s religious freedom.
Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, a Republican candidate for governor, said March 2 she wouldn’t support any legislation to exempt Catholic social services agencies from the anti-discrimination laws.
Seven members of Catholic Charities board stepped down March 1 in protest of the bishops’ stance, and an eighth board member resigned March 2. The 42-member board had voted unanimously in December to continue considering gay households for adoptions.
Trans woman can use women’s restroom in NYC
NEW YORK – Transit police are dropping charges against an MTF transgender phone repair worker who says she was arrested three times in six months for using a women’s restroom at Grand Central Terminal.
At a rally, Helena Stone, 70, said one officer called her “a freak, a weirdo and the ugliest woman in the world.”
Stone’s lawyer said he had filed complaints with the MTA police and the city Commission on Human Rights, whose guidelines say restrooms must be available to transgender people “consistent with their gender identity or gender expression.”
A Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman said after the rally that disorderly conduct charges against Stone would be dropped.
Teen files tort claim against school district
GROVE, Okla. – An Okalahoma teenager who alleges a fellow student attacked him because he is gay has filed a tort claim against his school district.
Another student injured Bullis in an attack Nov. 8 in his former high school’s cafeteria, the claim alleges. The student said he attacked Bullis because he is gay, according to the claim, which seeks $10,000 in damages.
Bullis alleges the attack was part of “systematic harassment and bullying” which resulted in his transfer to a different school.
Committee kills anti-GSA bill
RICHMOND, Va. – A state Senate committee killed a bill that critics argued would have given school boards the right to ban gay-straight alliances from high schools. The bill would have clarified that school boards can ban any student club from using school facilities if the group encourages or promotes “sexual activity by unmarried minor students.”
Changes ordered for Hawaii youth prison
HONOLULU – A federal judge is ordering new policies be established at Hawaii’s troubled youth prison to protect LGBT inmates from discrimination, harassment and abuse.
The ruling stemmed from a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union in September on behalf of gay, lesbian and transgender youth, who alleged abuse by guards.
It also came a month after the state, in a separate case, settled with the U.S. Department of Justice to make “sweeping and comprehensive changes” at the prison in order to avoid a lawsuit.
The order calls for policies against physical and verbal abuse of inmates perceived to be lesbian, bisexual, gay or transgender. It also requires guards to refrain from locking youth alone or addressing them with slurs “used to convey hatred, contempt or prejudice.” All grievances are to be investigated, the order said.
Bill would protect gender expression
MONTPELIER, Vt. – Vermont would become the eighth state in the nation to protect people from discrimination based on their gender expression under a bill due for debate soon in the state House.
Part of the impetus for the bill was a case in 2003 in which a police officer was fired after police colleagues discovered he had been born with a female body and underwent a sex-change operation in the 1990s.
The officer sued and agreed to a $90,000 settlement after the attorney general concluded that the town had discriminated against him based on sex.
GOP domestic partnership alternative in limbo
DENVER – A Republican proposal to allow same-sex couples and others to get some limited benefits is in limbo after a Senate committee deadlocked over whether to support it.
The measure (Senate Bill 166) allows any two people who can’t marry to sign up and get rights normally granted to married couples such as automatically inheriting the other’s property and workers’ compensation and survivor’s benefits. It could apply to everyone from gay couples to two elderly sisters.
A Democratic domestic partnership proposal would give same-sex couples the same rights as married couples under state law.
Hate Crimes Watch
Separate trials planned for three in gay murder case
BAY MINETTE, Ala. – Separate trials are planned for two men and a woman charged with capital murder in the slaying of Scotty Joe Weaver, who was allegedly killed in part because he was gay.
Weaver, 18, had let the suspects stay in his trailer home, where the three allegedly planned his killing and robbed him when he returned home from work. His burned body was found in a remote wooded area days after the killing. Weaver was beaten, cut and strangled. All three have pleaded not guilty to capital murder charges. They each face the death penalty if convicted.
The murder drew interest from gay human rights groups across the country, and hundreds of mourners attended a vigil for Weaver in Mobile after the killing.
Lesbian wedding minister innocent of misconduct
SANTA ROSA, Calif. – A veteran Presbyterian minister who was the first of her faith to be tried for officiating the weddings of gay couples was found not guilty of misconduct March 3 for violating the denomination’s position on equal marriage.
A regional judicial commission of the Presbyterian Church (USA) ruled 6-1 that the Rev. Jane Spahr of San Rafael acted within her rights as an ordained minister when she married two lesbian couples in 2004 and 2005.
Because the section of the faith’s constitution that reserves marriage for a man and a woman “is a definition, not a directive,” Spahr “was acting within her right of conscience in performing marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples,” the tribunal said.
Spahr had faced sanctions ranging from a rebuke to removal from the ministry. She said she would continue performing weddings for same-sex couples.