by Anthony Glassman
ColumbusóFor the sixth year in a row, the city was ranked fifth nationally in reported hate crimes against gays and lesbians.
A report by the Buckeye Regional Anti-Violence Organization found the overall number of incidents increased only slightly in 1999. But there was a 27 percent increase in weapons-related incidents, and violent assaults involving firearms tripled since 1998.
The group released its 1999 report on violence against the LGBT community at an April 6 press conference held by BRAVO and the Columbus Police Department.
The press conference coincided with similar ones in Boston, New York and San Francisco. BRAVO and groups in those cities are members of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs.
Twnty-six local anti-violence groups, including the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Community Center, are members of the coalition. The Cleveland report has not yet been released.
BRAVO executive director Gloria McCauley said that reluctance to report anti-gay assaults hindered efforts against them.
"Law enforcement agencies cannot work on a problem unless itís reported to them," McCauley said. "Historically, our communities have not had a good relationship with law enforcement agencies."
BRAVO does not require people reporting hate crimes to file police reports on the incidents. They do, however, have an unusually high number of cases reported to them also reported to the police.
McCauley said that over 20 percent of people calling the organization also call the police.
Ottawa, CanadaóA bill to give same-sex couples the same rights and benefits of opposite-sex ones seemed certain of passage April 11 as members of Parliamentís lower house voted overwhelmingly for the proposed legislation.
Despite a chorus of opposition and a few Liberal defections, Bill C-23 easily passed third reading by a vote of 174-72.
The bill, which would amend 68 federal statutes to erase most legal differences between same-sex and opposite-sex couples, now goes to the Senate, where the Liberal majority should guarantee its success.
The measure extends benefits and obligations such as income tax credits, surviviorsí benefits, bankruptcy protection and federal pensions to gay and lesbian couples on the same basis as common-law spouses.
It also eliminates most of the differences in federal law between common-law and married heterosexual couples.
Canadian Alliance MP Eric Lowther, one of the billís leading critics, failed in a last-ditch bid to stop it from clearing the Commons.
Members voted down Lowtherís attempt to have the bill referred back to committee to add the traditional definition of marriage to each of the 68 statutes affected by it.
But the measure does include a statement that "marriage" is "the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others."
Gay and lesbian advocates denounced the marriage definition as a discriminatory way of appeasing backbench Liberals who had criticized the bill.
New Democrat Svend Robinson, an openly gay MP, accused Justice Minister Anne McLellan of caving to a campaign of fear that the institution of marriage will be undermined.
Passage of the bill was a "bittersweet victory," said John Fisher of the group Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere.
The measure stemmed from several court rulings, especially a Supreme Court of Canada decision last year striking down Ontarioís definition of spouse that excluded gay couples.
Other nations with broad, marriage-like domestic partner laws include Sweden, Norway, Denmark, France and the Netherlands. Hungary includes gay and lesbian couples in its common-law marriage statutes, and New Zealand is moving to extend its property-rights law to same-sex couples. |
by Anthony Glassman
Augusta, MaineóLawmakers have approved a bill that would ask voters to restore gay and lesbian civil rights protections repealed two years ago.
State Sen. Joel Abromson introduced the bill after the original law, enacted by lawmakers in 1997, was repealed in a special, single-issue February election in 1998.
Without debate, the Maine Senate voted 28-7 to approve the measure on April 3, and the House passed it 82-62 after two hours of debate the next day. Gov. Angus King is expected to sign the measure.
Abromsonís bill calls for the new measure to be put on the November ballot.
The previous law was narrowly repealed with only 15 percent of voters going to the polls, and he believes his measure will pass with the higher turnout of a presidential election.
Backers of the new measure point to a 1995 general election where Maine voters rejected a proposed ban on local gay civil rights ordinances. They say this shows the Maine electorate would support Abromsonís measure.
Further support for the bill was garnered from the Catholic churchís Portland diocese, with 250,000 members in Maine. The bill specifically exempts religious schools and organizations from its nondiscrimination rules, except when the organizations are state-funded.
"Itís very convenient for the church to support this bill when it doesnít apply to it," said State Sen. John Benoit, a Republican. "How wonderfully self-serving."
The exemptions, however, are found in the gay civil rights laws of other states.
"They have made my job much more difficult," said Christian Civic League of Maine director Michael Heath of the dioceseís support. "Iím going to have to try to raise more money" to combat the bill.
Heathís group circulated petitions to force the 1998 repeal vote, and to put the 1995 local ordinance ban on the ballot.
To neutralize arguments from anti-gay groups, the bill specifically states that it does not extend affirmative action status to gays and lesbians, require employee partner benefits, or require schools to teach about sexual orientation. It specifically condemns adult-child sexual contact.
Eleven states presently include "sexual orientation" in their civil rights laws, including all of New England except Maine. They are Hawaii, California, Nevada, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire.
No measure to add "sexual orientation" to civil rights laws has ever been placed on a statewide ballot. While voters in local elections have turned down repeal efforts around the country, they have never passed a measure to add gay and lesbian civil rights protections.
by Bob Roehr
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush was set to sit down for a first-ever official meeting with gay Republicans on April 13. But the exercise seems to have exacerbated rather than calmed his relations with the gay community because of who was invited and who was not.
Among those excluded were the national leadership of Log Cabin Republicans, specifically executive director Rich Tafel, board chair Bob Stears, and their close associates.
Some observers are suggesting that the Bush campaign is uneasy with the "gay issue" and just wishes it would go away. Thus they chose to meet only with people with whom they are comfortable, people who have already endorsed the governor.
Others believe that the gay organizers, Charles Francis and Carl Schmid, are not serving Bush well but are using the opportunity to advance their personal agendas. One source, who requested anonymity, called it "a feud over who is going to be the alpha male among gay Republicans."
Francis is a Washington lobbyist with long-standing personal ties to Laura Bush, wife of the governor. Over the last few years he has helped Log Cabin organize and raise money in Texas. He came out publicly only last summer and, as one person said, "He doesnít have much experience in the rough and tumble of gay or activist politics."
Schmid is another Washington lobbyist, a former president of the local Log Cabin chapter, and is well connected to the local Republican Party. His disagreements with Tafel date from when he was employed part-time as an AIDS lobbyist for Log Cabin and was dismissed. He subsequently ran a protest campaign for the national board, was elected and attended one meeting before resigning.
Schmid cites "attack ads" that Log Cabin ran on the radio in several markets immediately before the "Super Tuesday" primary March 7, and makes the case that loyal gay supporters of Bush should be rewarded with an invitation before those who supported McCain.
By that measure, a case can be made that Schmid and former Republican Rep. Steve Gunderson should not be among the dozen invitees to Austin. Both are members of the board of the Human Rights Campaign, which in February unanimously endorsed Al Gore for president.
Schmid agrees that Bushís record and statements on gay issues are not very supportive. He is going to Austin to help "further define" those "through our personal stories." He declined to discuss specifics they will be seeking. He sees this encounter as "open[ing] the door to future meetings that can include the Log Cabin leadership."
David Hanson, president of the eight chapters and thousand members of Log Cabin California, was asked about his interest in attending the meeting by Bushís California campaign coordinator. Hanson wanted to know more and asked that either Francis or Schmid contact him directly. They never did.
"I donít want to get involved with internal turmoil with national people," said Hanson. He believes, "George Bush has let some people set this up who have personality conflicts with Rich Tafel."
Tafel sees the Bush campaignís unease with gay issues as the core of the problem. "Republicans tend to play off of old playbooks," he says, "And no issue has changed more in the last twenty years than the gay issue. It is very hard for some GOP candidates to get that."
Twenty years ago the gay vote was perceived as being minuscule and far to the left. Today we know that much of it is in the political center and likely to swing between parties according to its interests. The press understands this and uses gay issues as a broader litmus test of tolerance.
"Gay Republicans who blindly support Republican candidates are disempowering themselves," said Tafel. "It is only when the person says ĎI will go elsewhere if I have to,í that you become competitive."
by Ralph Siegel
Trenton, N.J.óIn a ruling on the parental rights of same-sex couples hailed as the strongest to date, the New Jersey Supreme Court declared that lesbian partners who raise children have the same legal rights of any parent when deciding custody issues.
The court on April 6 upheld an appellate courtís decision to allow a lesbian visitation rights to her ex-loverís twins, but gave stronger wording to the ruling than the lower court.
The woman, identified only as V.C., was denied joint custody or visitation rights in 1996 by a trial court after she and her partner, known in the case as M.J.B., split up. An appeals court later partially reversed the decision and granted V.C. weekend visits with the twins, but the court was divided in its legal reasonings.
The state supreme court ruling, which affects only New Jersey, states that V.C. is a "psychological parent" of the children, who were conceived using artificial insemination and born in 1994. The court did not, however, grant her joint custody, which would have given her a say in the childrenís upbringing.
"To interject her into the decisional realm at this point would be unnecessarily disruptive for all involved," wrote Associate Justice Virginia Long. V.C. has not been involved in the twinsí upbringing for four years, because of the court case.
Ruth Harlow, an attorney with the gay and lesbian Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, said the decision provided a stronger precedent than a similar case in Wisconsin in 1995 due to the strength of its language about the rights of lesbian partners.
"If someone has functioned as a parent, that person can go into court and ask if it is in the childís best interests to continue that relationship," Harlow said. "These disputes in the future will not be hung up on legal technicalities for this long."
The ruling did not, however, please the anti-gay Family Research Council. Jan LaRue, an attorney with the group, said, "We have got a supreme court in New Jersey that has made law rather than interpreted it."
She believes the ruling has trampled the rights of birth mothers.
"They have acknowledged that there is no statute that would grant psychological parenthood, yet they went on to create it."
Rights aside, the ruling is a good one, says Michael Adams of the American Civil Liberties Unionís National Lesbian and Gay Rights Project.
"The only moral issue here is what is best for the child," he said.
The New Jersey ruling is also similar to a Massachusetts high court ruling last June that granted visitation rights to a lesbian who helped raise her ex-partner's son.
By contrast, in California, New York and Florida, state courts have ruled within the past 18 months that lesbian ex-partners are not entitled to visitation rights with children they helped nurture, regardless of how deep the emotional bond.|
Wellington, New ZealandóThis southern Pacific nation may soon join the ranks of countries that give same-sex couples some of the rights of marriage.
The ruling Labor Party on April 3 introduced a bill to grant to gay and lesbian couples the same property rights as heterosexual married couples. The measure, however, will not legalize gay and lesbian marriages, which Prime Minister Helen Clark called "quite separate" from the property rights issue.
Associate Justice Minister Margaret Wilson said that this bill is not planned to redefine marriage, but that the Labor Party may tackle the issue later in their three-year term.
The new law would, however, put gay and unmarried heterosexual couples on the same legal footing as married couples should one of the members die, or if the couple split up.
Lawmaker Chris Carter, who is openly gay, agreed with the new law, but said he also wanted a "partnership recognition law" which would provide for a ritual recognizing a coupleís commitment.
The property rights bill still has to pass parliament, and is expected to do so by the end of the year. Both the Labor Party and the opposition National Party are allowing members to vote their consciences, without instructions from the parties on how to vote.
Lawmakers may limit Ďcivil unionsí to Vermonters
Montpelier, Vt.--The Senate Judiciary Committee is debating a version of a domestic partner bill with a few differences from one passed by the House.
Chairman Richard Sears presented the committee two proposed drafts for debate on April 10. They're virtually identical to each other, except for what they would call the unions for gay and lesbian couples.
One would use "civil unions," as used in the House bill; the other uses "domestic partnership," a term believed to have deeper significance.
Two other changes are significant: The Senate has added a clause limiting the unions to Vermont residents, or residents of states that have domestic partnership laws. The start date for granting partnerships was moved to January 1, 2001, from September 1, 2000 in the House bill.
The committee has also sent a proposed constitutional amendment to the Senate, forbidding the Supreme Court from granting marital status. The amendment reserves that right for the legislature.
The majority of the senators in the Judiciary Committee were opposed to the proposed amendment, but only one voted against sending it on to the full Senate after Republicans threatened to force a vote.
Governor vetoes move to undo order
Des Moines, Iowa--The House voted April 4 to reverse an executive order protecting gay and lesbian state employees, only to have the bill vetoed as it left the floor.
The House gave final legislative approval to a bill reversing the order on a 55-43 vote, sending it to Governor Tom Vilsack.
Within seconds of the measure getting final approval, Vilsack aides distributed a veto message saying he was "profoundly disappointed" that lawmakers had wasted time on the issue.
The vote was virtually along party lines, with only one Democrat favoring the measure and two Republicans opposed.
The battle was sparked last summer when Vilsack signed an executive order prohibiting employment discrimination in state government on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Republicans charged that Vilsack was setting state policy, a job for the legislature. The governor and Democrats argue that he was merely renewing a state policy that's long been on the books.
The Iowa order was similar to a 1983 executive order that Ohio Gov. Bob Taft allowed to expire last year. Taft replaced it with one that did not include gays and lesbians.
Skater Rudy Galindo reveals HIV status
Rudy Galindo, the 1996 national figure skating champion, revealed in the April 5 USA Today that he is HIV-positive.
Galindo, one of the few openly gay championship figure skaters, was diagnosed with the virus March 1, while being treated for pneumonia contracted on tour with the FTD Champions on Ice. He took time off from the tour, and then had to withdraw halfway through the Goodwill Games.
"I didnít want to hide this illness," Galindo said. "I didnít want to live a lie. Iíve always wanted to be truthful."
Galindo started training again last week near his home in Reno, Nevada, and has rejoined the Champions on Ice tour.
Steven Parker, Galindoís doctor, said, "Iíve told him: Forget what youíve heard in the past . . . take your medicine and you can live for who knows how long. Itís not a death sentence anymore."
Galindo lost his brother and two coaches to AIDS.
Kentucky lets two opposing bills die
Frankfort, KyóA statewide gay and lesbian civil rights bill and one banning similar local ordinances have both failed in the legislature.
Of the 1,441 bills introduced at the 2000 General Assembly, only 442 passed.
"With a Senate and a House that have different majority parties, I think you saw more scrutiny of each chamberís bills," said Rep. Joe Fischer, R-Fort Thomas. At present, Democrats hold majority in the House and Republicans control the Senate.
Fischer sponsored a bill that would have prohibited cities and counties from extending civil-rights protections to gays and lesbians. The bill died in the House Judiciary Committee.
Another bill that perished was one sponsored by Rep. Kathy Stein, D-Lexington, that would have adopted a statewide law protecting the LGBT community from discrimination.
Fischer said that Judiciary Committee chair Gross Lindsay, D-Henderson, said the two bills were "too controversial even for discussion."
Miami rights repeal misses deadline
Miami--A petition drive to repeal a Miami-Dade County law banning discrimination by sexual orientation failed to gain enough signatures to qualify for a September ballot.
But Take Back Miami-Dade, a political action committee made up of the Christian Coalition and several other religious and conservative groups, says it will continue the effort, and try to put the repeal on Novemberís ballot.
"There is no limit to the number of times they can try this," said Jorge Mursuli, chairman of Save Dade, which supports the civil rights ordinance. "So it is a victory, but we see it as a temporary victory."
The ordinance was approved in December, 1998 by a 7-6 vote of the Miami-Dade Commission. The anti-gay group had 60 days, ending April 7, to collect 32,582 signatures.
The effort against the ordinance recalls the nationís first-ever anti-gay initiative: singer Anita Bryantís "Save Our Children" campaign that led to the repeal of an earlier Miami-Dade gay civil rights ordinance, in 1977.
Compiled by Brian DeWitt, Michelle Tomko and Anthony Glassman from wire reports.
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