Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
Suspect indicted in stabbing death of Sakia Gunn
NEWARK, N.J. – The suspect in the stabbing death of a 15-year-old lesbian at a city bus stop earlier this year has been indicted on murder and bias charges.
An Essex County grand jury returned an indictment Nov. 21 charging Richard McCullough, 29, of Newark, with murder, bias intimidation, four counts of aggravated assault, and weapons charges.
If convicted on all charges, McCullough faces up to 118 years in prison.
Sakia Gunn was stabbed to death May 11 at a bus stop at Broad and Market streets after a night in Manhattan, when she told a man who approached her that she and her friends were lesbians.
Gunn’s stabbing has been labeled a bias incident by the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, after witnesses said that a man made sexual overtures toward friends of Gunn’s before Gunn told him that she and the other girls were gay.
“We view the Gunn tragedy as a modest down payment on the mortgage we all have to pay in order to have true equality,”said David Tseng, executive director of the Washington-based Parents and Families of Lesbians and Gays.
City to offer benefits to partners, children, parents
COLORADO SPRINGS – Parents, adult children and heterosexual and homosexual partners of Colorado Springs city workers could get taxpayer-funded health benefits as soon as next year.
City Council members voted unofficially to extend benefits to one person per household other than a spouse or child. Coverage is contingent on the employee paying 100 percent of costs.
The vote could make Colorado Springs one of the first cities in the country to offer coverage to such a variety of live-in relations, although some corporations already do.
A divided council extended benefits to live-in partners of gay and lesbian employees last year, but the issue stoked the ire of conservatives and helped lead to the election of a more conservative council.
That council voted at its first meeting to repeal the benefits as of Jan. 1.
A small group of community activists presented the new proposal to the council this summer. The idea was to meet the objections of opponents to the same-sex plan by taking away city contributions and broadening the scope of recipients.
Fargo police say beating was hate crime
FARGO, N.D. – Derek Puttbrese, 20, of Detroit Lakes, Minn., has been charged with felony aggravated assault and felonious restraint in the beating of a 44-year-old gay man Nov. 18.
It is the first hate crime related to sexual orientation that Fargo police have reported to the FBI since reporting began a couple of years ago, said Lt. Tod Dahle.
Dahle said the victim told Puttbrese he was gay, and both the victim and the suspect said that led to the assault. The man is still recovering from head injuries. The victim told authorities that Puttbrese had stayed at his apartment as a guest and attacked him after the two drank some wine.
Arizona is on front line of same-sex marriage conflict
PHOENIX – Conservative and gay rights groups are raising money, using legal rulings and campaigning to stake their turf in Arizona, one of 37 states that defines marriage as a male-female partnership.
Conservatives kicked off a nationwide effort this weekend to raise $10 million dollars to support a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages. A dozen people peacefully protested and held up signs reading “It’s OK to be gay,” and “Equality for All,” during the event.
An Arizona lawmaker has introduced a bill that urges Congress to define marriage as a union between a man and a women. The Center for Arizona Policy, a Scottsdale-based conservative group, has collected 17,000 signatures for a petition calling on Congress to ban gay marriages.
Meanwhile, proponents of same-sex marriages are using recent court rulings to bolster battles that will play out in the courts and state capitals.
A gay Phoenix couple is taking their fight for marriage rights to the state Supreme Court next month, after the Arizona Court of Appeals rejected their argument.
Harold Donald Standhardt and Tod Alan Keltner had argued that a a U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down a law against sodomy in Texas also established same-sex marriages as a fundamental right.
Another ruling that could support their cause came last week when the Massachusetts Supreme Court gave the state Legislature 180 days to find a way to grant gay couples marriage rights.
Massachusetts law could prevent out-of-state couples from marrying
BOSTON – Massachusetts law does not allow nonresidents to get married if the union would not be legal in the state where they live. No state has legalized gay marriage, but many legal experts believe Massachusetts will host the first same-sex weddings in the country.
Whether the Massachusetts marriages would be recognized in other jurisdictions is in question because of the Defense of Marriage Acts adopted by 37 other states and the federal government.
According to legal experts, Massachusetts’ restriction on out-of-state residents was placed out of respect for nearby states, which might have different age restrictions or other limitations on marriage. It is rarely invoked because most states have uniform marriage laws.
Determining whether someone lives in Massachusetts probably would be left to the city or town clerk. Nothing in state law defines residency as it pertains to marriage, according to legal observers. A couple therefore must only indicate that they are residents and intend to remain residents. It is unclear what would happen if the day after the marriage, their intentions change and they return to the state they came from.
Cambridge City Council recognizes same-sex marriages
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The Cambridge City Council passed a resolution officially recognizing same-sex marriages, but that doesn’t mean gay couples can start applying for marriage licenses at city hall.
On Nov. 18 the state’s highest court ruled it unconstitutional to ban gay couples from marriage and gave the Legislature 180 days to pass laws that conform with the decision.
The decision in Cambridge means that the city will be ready to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples as soon as the Legislature gives the OK.
Gov. Mitt Romney and Attorney General Thomas Reilly have said they oppose same-sex marriages but would be supportive of a measure that would give gay couples the same legal rights as a marriage between a man and a woman.
Reilly has said marriage licenses issued before the Legislature acts would be “null and void.”
Some blacks say no comparison between their struggle and gays
BOSTON – Conservative blacks in the United States are objecting to recent comparisons between the gay marriage and the 1960s civil rights movement, which fought segregation against blacks, arguing that sexual orientation is a choice.
Links between the two struggles have been made since the state’s highest court ruled last week that the Massachusetts constitution guarantees gay couples the right to marry. The court cited landmark laws that struck bans on interracial marriage.
In a recent Democratic debate, both Carol Moseley Braun and the Rev. Al Sharpton declared support for gay marriage and compared it to past discrimination against blacks.
But the Rev. Talbert Swan II said that blacks were lynched, denied property rights and declared inhuman. “Homosexuality is a chosen lifestyle,” he said, “I could not choose the color of my skin.”
A poll released by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press on Nov. 18 indicated 60 percent of blacks opposed gay marriage, with just 28 percent in favor.
Michael Adams, an attorney with Lambda Legal, said polls show blacks support gays in other areas, such as workplace equality. Strong conservative religious values that predominate in the black community may explain the division, he said.
Emory College professor David Garrow said the legal histories of the two movements have abundant parallels, including the arguments that marriage between the races and sexes is unnatural and against God’s law.
Catholic bishops call gay marriage ruling ‘a national tragedy’
BOSTON – The state’s four Catholic bishops have issued a strongly-worded letter calling the recent court decision on gay marriage a “national tragedy” that could “erode even further the institution of marriage.”
In its 4-to-3 decision, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled it unconstitutional to bar gay couples from marriage and gave the Legislature 180 days to rewrite the state’s marriage laws to provide benefits for gay couples.
Julie Goodridge, 46, and Hillary Goodridge, 47, of Boston were the lead plaintiffs in the case. Julie Goodridge said she is looking forward to getting married as soon as possible. The ruling has nothing to do with religion, she said. “We’ve been together for 16 1/2 years, 180 days for us feels like a long time,” she said. “It’s incredibly sad that people feel the need to restrict other people’s rights and freedoms.”
In Other News
Boy punished for talking about his lesbian moms at school
LAFAYETTE, LA – A 7-year-old boy was scolded in front of his classmates and sent to a school behavioral clinic for answering another child’s questions about his lesbian mothers.
Marcus McLaurin was asked by a classmate about his mother and father. He responded that he didn’t have a mother and father; instead he has two mothers and that his mother is gay. His teacher scolded him in front of his classmates, telling him that “gay” is a bad word and sent him to the principal’s office. The following week the school required Marcus to attend a special behavioral clinic at 6:45 a.m. where he had to repeatedly write “I will never use the word ‘gay’ in school again.”
On a student behavior contract form that Marcus had to fill out and give to his mother about the incident, Marcus wrote that the thing he did wrong was that he “sed bad wurds.”
“Marcus McLaurin’s school seems to think that he was talking about sex when all he was talking about was his two mothers,” said Joe Cook, Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana.
In its letter to the principal, the ACLU demanded that the school remove all mentions of the incident from Marcus’s disciplinary record and refrain from restricting his speech in the future, and offer apologies to Marcus and his mother.
Harvard president refuses to join suit against Defense Department
BOSTON – Harvard University will not challenge the Solomon Amendment, a federal rule requiring schools to allow military recruiters on campuses that oppose the military’s policy toward gays and lesbians. The 1996 law allows the Pentagon to pull federal funding from law schools that limit recruiters’ access to students.
Harvard had forbidden recruiters on campus because of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, saying the military’s ban on gays was discriminatory.
Last year, the Pentagon informed Harvard and other schools that the government would begin enforcing the Solomon Amendment, and that their federal funding was in jeopardy.
Faced with the loss of millions in federal aid, Harvard and other schools backed off their bans and allowed military recruiters on campus.
The president of Harvard called the Solomon Amendment “unsound and corrosive public policy” that sanctions universities with draconian punishment, but he wrote that litigation against the government would not serve the interests of the university.