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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
July 14, 2000

 

Man beaten, run over in West Virginia murder

At first, sheriff said there was
no sign of a hate crime

by Eric Resnick

Grant Town, W.Va.--Two 17-year-old boys have been charged with first-degree murder in the beating death of 26-year-old Arthur Carl "J.R." Warren Jr., an openly gay, black man.

The motive for the crime is unclear. Offices of the Marion County sheriff and prosecutor are not ruling out the possibility of a hate crime on the basis of sexual orientation or race or both.

Warren’s body was discovered at 5:30 am July 4 by the side of W.Va. Route 17 in Grant Town, a village of 700 residents ten miles southwest of Morgantown, by a newspaper carrier. Detectives initially believed he was the victim of a hit-and-run until they got a call from a third teenager, a 16-year-old, saying he witnessed the murder but did not participate.

All three teens are white males. Their identities have not been disclosed. The sixteen-year-old has not yet been charged.

According to their confessions and other reports, Warren left his home around 11:30 pm the night before and stopped by an empty house where the boys were painting. The four knew each other.

The two older boys beat Warren to a state of unconsciousness or death, put him in the trunk of a red Chevy Camaro and hauled him in the fog to the spot near a power plant, where they dumped him on a gravel turnout beside the road. They then ran over him repeatedly with the car, officials said, to make it look like a hit and run.

Then, the suspects returned to the house and cleaned the blood, burned the bloody shirts and rags, and buried other evidence near the house.

Following the 16-year-old’s confession, the two 17-year-olds were arrested while with their families at the town’s Independence Day celebration.

The suspects remain in custody pending a preliminary hearing scheduled for July 13.

As with the cases of Matthew Shepard, Billy Jack Gaither and other gay hate crime victims, law enforcement initially said they found no evidence that Warren’s death was a hate crime, but they have not ruled it out.

"We have no indication that it was a hate crime," said Marion County Sheriff Ron Watkins to initial questions about what was in the suspects’ confessions.

Watkins later met with Angela Dunlap, president of the nearby Fairmont State College Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Students group. Although he was not a student, Warren was a member of that organization.

Elizabeth Seaton of the Human Rights Campaign, a Washington, D.C. gay lobby group, went to Grant Town. She has joined Dunlap and others speaking the community and advising law enforcement officials on the possibility of a hate crime.

Because the suspects are minors, law enforcement officials are prohibited by law from discussing evidence learned through their statements.

Like Ohio, West Virginia’s hate crime laws cover racially motivated acts, but not those motivated by sexual orientation. There is no federal law covering anti-gay or lesbian hate crimes.

During a recent Senate vote on a bill to add gays and lesbians to the federal hate crime law, West Virginia’s senior senator Robert Byrd was the only Democrat vote against it. Except to restate his belief that the measure was "flawed," Byrd declined comment about this murder.

Dunlap and Seaton said a July 10 meeting with Watkins was "positive."

"It appeared initially that they were overlooking sexual orientation as a motive," said Dunlap, "but after speaking to them, we were assured it isn’t."

Dunlap explained that Warren, who was described as "effeminate" and slight of build, had complained in the past of being harassed because of his widely known sexual orientation.

"He said he was attacked by some high school boys in Grant Town before," she said. "People would throw things at him as he walked down the street and call him ‘queer’ and other names."

Warren’s mother Brenda said her son was "the type of person who would never strike out against people who said those things. He let those things just bounce off him."

"Everybody knew this child wouldn’t fight," said his father Arthur Warren. "If you hit him, he wouldn’t hit back."

Like Matthew Shepard, Warren is described by people in town as "gentle." He was said to be polite, considerate and non-confrontational. He served as a volunteer usher at Mount Beulah Baptist Church, where he and his family worshipped.

Reportedly, Warren was very friendly and did not have the normal suspicions of people. But he was kind. Born prematurely and developmentally slow, he was cheerful and brought cheer to others in the community.

Since his death, strangers have come to the Warrens’ home to share stories of J.R. visiting them when they were sick or offering them help at a time when they needed it.

"It’s difficult to be Matthew or J.R.," said Dunbar.

"Because of their physical and personality characteristics, and the perceptions of them, they bear so much of the harassment and the pain." Dunbar added, "That’s part of what made them special."

Funeral services were held July 8. Warren’s family insisted that the coffin be open for viewing.

"We want people to see what they did to my son," said Brenda Warren.

"It was pretty hideous," said mourner Rick Ravenscroft. "It took its toll on a lot of people. There was a lot of screaming and a lot of crying."

Arthur and Brenda Warren told CNN in an interview that they hoped the suspects would be tried as adults and they were convinced the murder was a hate crime.

"If it’s not hate, what is it?" said Brenda Warren. "I just want someone to tell me what it is."

Hundreds attended the funeral. Dozens of cars joined the processional to the cemetery.

Friend Ken Marbury, eulogizing, said, "You know, we can’t let this young man’s death be in vain. We have to come together."

"We have to be strong enough to realize that change starts with us, that we must all work together for a better tomorrow," he added.

Marbury, a former professional football star who now teaches a "Race, Class, and Gender" course at nearby Fairmont State College, told the mourners that appreciating individuals’ unique likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses is the foundation for a better future.

"But if people keep their blinders on, they will never be able to see this simple truth," he said.

Two vigils were held on the evening of July 11, one week after Warren’s death. The West Virginia Lesbian and Gay Coalition held one at the West Virginia Capitol in Charleston, and the gay and lesbian students of Fairmont State College organized one in front of the Marion County Courthouse.

"Our vigil is all-inclusive," said Dunlap of the Marion County event. "The purpose of the vigil was to bring all members of the county together."

More than 600 attended, which Dunlap described as "phenomenal."

"In this town, you get one football game a year that draws as many people, but that’s it," she said.

A handful of anti-gay protesters, from Kansas preacher Fred Phelps’ family, held signs condemning Warren.

Dunlap said that people were shocked by Phelps’ "God Hates Fags" signs, and some people shouted and argued with them.

"This was the first time people in the gay community here had seen anything like this," she said. "But once the vigil started, people paid no attention to Phelps."

Gay and lesbian students from West Virginia University carried large white banners to block the view of Phelps.

"Some students wore huge angel wings and stood in front of them. It was beautiful," said Dunlap. One woman carried a large banner saying, "God Loves All His Children" and stood beside Phelps until he and his family left, shortly before the end of the vigil.

Ironically, Phelps may have helped make officials aware of the possibility of a hate crime.

When Fred Phelps’s daughter called to inquire about a permit to demonstrate, Sheriff Watkins looked at the web site of Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas.

"I couldn’t believe what I was reading on that web site. It was just unbelievable." Watkins told the Fairmont Times-West Virginian. "I was appalled at the information I was pulling up, especially from a group claiming to be Baptists."

Local clergy and community leaders spoke at the Fairmont vigil, joined by Warren’s aunts and cousins.

"I’m proud to live here now," said Dunbar of the close-knit community of Marion County. "We showed that this community is interested in seeing this crime investigated to its fullest and that crimes like it don’t happen again."

Details of the investigation and the killers’ motives can only be released if the suspects are tried as adults. This is done with almost all older juveniles accused of murder.

Trial in adult court will be considered at the 17-year-olds’ first hearing, July 13 in Marion County juvenile court.

"Most of us are waiting to see what comes of the hearing," said Dunbar. "Once it’s over, then we’ll see what else we need to do."

 

Louisiana high court upholds law banning oral sex
But a second case may spell its end

by Alan Sayre
Associated Press

The privacy clause in the Louisiana Constitution does not apply to those who violate the "crime against nature" law, a felony that carries up to five years in prison, the high court said in a 5-2 decision issued July 6.

The appeal was brought by state prosecutors in the case of a man who was accused of raping a woman who was too intoxicated to give legal consent. He was acquitted of rape, but found guilty of engaging in voluntary oral sex.

In a companion 6-1 decision, the court also upheld a portion of the law calling for stiffer penalties for prostitutes that engage in oral sex than those that engage in intercourse.

But the Louisiana Supreme Court will later hear another appeal of the sodomy law. A civil district judge in Orleans Parish, agreeing with gay civil rights groups, declared the law unconstituonal in March 1999 on privacy grounds.

The suit also says the law unfairly targets gays and lesbians for punishment, legitimizes hatred of gays, and is often used to paint them as lawbreakers in child custody and employment cases.

The state has appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that gay men and lesbians choose their sexual orientation and that the law is needed to promote marriage and encourage procreation. The state also contends it has the authority to outlaw immoral conduct and impose penalties for engaging in it.

No date for arguments has been set.

John Rawls, the lead attorney in the gay civil rights case, said he was angered by the July 6 ruling, but did not believe it would set a precedent. That decision dealt with appeals of criminal cases, while Rawls' suit is civil and tackles more issues as they apply directly to discrimination against gays and lesbians.

In addition, the state has conceded in his case that the law is unconstitutional as applied to married couples, Rawls said.

"The real purpose of the crime against nature law is not to regulate sexual activity, but to reduce lesbian, homosexual and transgendered citizens to second-class status. I expect the judges to see that," Rawls said.

Orleans Parish Assistant District Attorney Val Salino, who helped argue the case for the state, said the decision did not surprise him since previous similar charges had been unsuccessful.

"The bottom line is that the legislature passes laws defining crimes and the courts uphold them, unless they are unconstitutional, which is something the plaintiffs were unable to articulate," Salino said.

Rawls said the decision marked the first time a sodomy law had been upheld in a state with a specific privacy right in its constitution.

In their dissent, Chief Justice Pascal Calogero Jr. and Justice Harry Lemmon said the law is an unwarranted intrusion of government into private homes

"The only apparent purpose of the prohibition is to dictate the type of sex that is acceptable to legislators," Lemmon wrote.

Since the early 1980s, courts in New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee, Montana, Maryland and Georgia have thrown out sodomy laws. Currently, 12 states ban all oral and anal sex, with some exceptions for married couples. Five more states have similar laws that apply only to same-sex partners.

Ohio repealed its sodomy law in 1973.


World Pride ends with march past Colosseum

Pope denounces events as an insult to church’s jubilee

by Anthony Glassman
with wire reports

Rome—A mixed bag of blessings and curses met the end of World Pride 2000, with the city granting permission for a march to the Colosseum and the pope calling the celebration an insult to the Vatican’s self-proclaimed Jubilee.

The week-long gay and lesbian World Pride gala featured concerts and fashion shows, starting July 1. It culminated in a July 8 parade, which had been plagued by threats from fascist groups and red tape from city bureaucrats.

People poured into the city for the parade on charter buses from Florence, Milan and Bologna or by train or private cars, joining the tens of thousands already in Rome for the week-long festival.

The Vatican had pressured Italian officials to cancel or reschedule the events. The city of Rome also withdrew monetary support under church pressure.

The city consented July 7 to give the parade a permit to march past the Colosseum, in exchange for which the organizers promised to take a less-traveled route than the one originally planned, along the Via dei Fori Imperiali.

Before the compromise was reached, the city had refused organizers a permit to march all the way to the ancient stadium in the heart of Rome, with the organizers threatening to do so anyway.

The parade went off without a hitch Saturday, July 8. A planned counterprotest by the fascist group Forza Nuova was cancelled.

On Sunday, hours after holding a special service in Regina Coeli, a Roman prison, Pope John Paul II denounced World Pride.

"In the name of the Church of Rome I cannot but express my bitterness at the insult to the Great Jubilee of 2000," the pontiff said in an address from his balcony, "and the offense to the Christian values of a city which is so dear to the hearts of all Catholics in the world."

At the prison, the pope had blessed convicted murderers and rapists, and made an appeal to world governments to shorten sentences in light of Jubilee.

The Catholic church’s catechism holds that homosexuality is not a sin, but that gays must be celibate, for gay sex is a sin.

Franco Grillini, honorary president of Arci-Gay, an Italian gay civil rights group, issued a statement to the press responding to the pontiff’s remarks.

"The pope is wrong to condemn World Pride, a great demonstration of the people," Grillini said in remarks published in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica. "What is genuinely offensive is homophobia and the anti-gay prejudice nourished by the Vatican hierarchy."

The respected daily Corriere della Sera, in a July 9 front-page editorial, asked why the Vatican hadn't dedicated a Jubilee day to gays, as it has to so many other groups.

"It would have been proof of a real ecumenism and rich generosity in this year of pardon," the paper said.

Parade organizers said that 200,000 people marched, but local police put the number at 70,000.


Bashing season is in full swing, center warns

by Anthony Glassman

Cleveland--In the past few months, three incidents of anti-gay violence have come to light: Brian Keith Fitzpatrick was shot to death May 26 while leaving the Interbelt bar in Akron, Arthur Warren Jr. was beaten to death last week in his small town in West Virginia, and Michael D’Onofrio was carjacked, robbed, and beaten on June 24 after leaving Rockies bar in Cleveland.

Gay bashings are on the rise now that summer is at its peak, warns Jen Kruger of the Cleveland Lesbian and Gay Center.

"I haven’t gotten any reports this summer," said Kruger, who has the task of compiling reports of anti-gay attacks. She continued, however, by saying that many incidents go unreported, even to community centers.

A number of people don’t report attacks because they are closeted, and don’t want to tell the police they are gay, which is also a problem with establishing accurate figures on gay bashings. Some don’t report crimes because they are afraid of further harassment from police.

Regardless of the reasoning, Kruger said it is absolutely imperative to report all incidents of anti-gay violence. The efforts of politicians to pass hate-crimes legislation are hindered by under-reporting of violent acts based on sexual orientation.

Last summer, there was a rash of bashings in the area of West 95th St. and Detroit Ave. in Cleveland, near two popular bars. A number of patrons were attacked while going to their cars. No one reported being seriously injured, but they were lucky.

Various community centers and organizations have released lists of ways to minimize the risk of victimization.

One of the most important things to remember, though, is that if something does happen, even if you escape unscathed, the crime must be reported, if not to the police, then to the Cleveland Gay and Lesbian Center, the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization, Stonewall Cincinnati, or another community center. If they don’t compile statistics themselves, they can probably tell you who does in the area.

Tips on keeping safe

The Cleveland Gay and Lesbian Center offers these safety tips:

1. When walking at night, stay closer to the curb than to a building.

2. Stay off dark, deserted streets and alleys.

3. If you walk home alone frequently, vary the route and walk in a purposeful manner.

4. Know the area you are walking in.

5. Carry money for an emergency.

6. While waiting for a bus, stand under a light, with your back to a wall.

7. If your car is parked in a parking garage, memorize the location.

8. Carry a whistle.

9. Avoid known danger zones where recent attacks have been reported or discussed.

10. Leave bars or parties when other people are leaving.

11. Trust your instincts. If it doesn’t feel right, move to a safer place.

12. Make brief eye contact with people walking toward you. If you hear someone behind you, turn around to see who it is.

13. If you think you are being followed, widen the distance between the two of you, walk closer to or cross the street, enter a business or run.

14. Avoid close-up verbal exchanges with people you’re uncomfortable with. If cars pull up and call you over, yell from a safe distance, if you respond.

15. Prolonged or aggravated verbal exchanges often result in violence. Do not respond to taunts.

16. Learn some basic self-defense techniques. Many gay people grow up believing they are unable to defend themselves; they underestimate their real power. Simple self-defense techniques are designed to help you injure your assailant, allowing you to escape.

Leaving a bar with someone

One night stands can be dangerous. We don’t really know who they are and our guard is down. We become physically vulnerable and easy targets for robbery.

· Introduce your new friend by name to your friends, bartenders or bar regulars. Let them know where you are going. Ask for their telephone number before you leave. One idea is to call your own answering machine and leave the trick’s name, address, and phone number on it.

· Help out each other --ask your friends to introduce you to those they take home.

· If your trick is a paid date the above rules apply--and proceed with much caution. Hustlers are not necessarily gay, are hustling for the money, and may be feeding a drug habit.

· The using and selling of drugs can also be the reason non-gay people congregate in areas that are mainly gay.

· Don’t be overconfident because you are larger than your date. While you may be able to overpower him, he may have a weapon or be leading you to a group waiting to attack.

Parks and public places

Some people frequent public parks and public bathrooms rush of having sex in a dangerous setting.

Undercover police and park rangers patrol these areas in order to make arrests. Criminals also target these areas because it allows them to take advantage of their victims when they are most vulnerable. There are bathhouses across the state that are far safer.

What to do if you are attacked

· Get medical attention from emergency personnel or the nearest emergency room.

· Make a full report of the incident. Don’t let anyone discourage you from making a report and getting the report or case number. Any homophobic law enforcement reaction should not be tolerated--make note of the offending officer. Try to get the officers’ names or badge numbers who are taking your report.

· Seek support. Assault often results in disorientation, depression, and withdrawal. All of those are normal responses. Contact private professionals for counseling and coping assistance. As well, contact the Cleveland Gay and Lesbian Center, the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization or Stonewall Cincinnati to file a report and receive peer support. By reporting these incidents, it helps us to identify particular patterns that may be developing. It also helps identify trouble areas for the community.

· Contact the Witness-Victim Center of Cleveland to find out how to access Ohio’s victim assistance programs; 216-443-7345.

· If the assailant is known or caught by police, file charges and prosecute them. You may want to enlist a friend or community support advocates to provide guidance and support through this process.


With governor’s prodding, Baptist Homes accepts contract

by Anthony Glassman
with wire reports

Louisville—Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children, who have approved and then rejected their new contract with the Kentucky Cabinet for Families and Children, announced July 7 that they will, indeed, accept their new contract.

The dispute began in 1998 when Alicia Pedreira, a social worker at the agency for neglected and abused youth, was fired for being a lesbian. She was told, in writing, that her "admitted homosexual lifestyle is contrary to the Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children core values."

Pedreira filed suit against Baptist Homes and the Cabinet, a state government agency, on the basis of religious discrimination, which is against state and federal anti-discrimination laws. Sexual orientation discrimination is legal under Kentucky and U.S. law.

The state offered Baptist Homes a new contract stipulating that they would be held responsible for legal costs incurred by the state due to the group’s employment policies. The contract also stated that Kentucky could stop referring children to them at any time.

In June, Baptist Homes’ executive committee voted unanimously to accept the contract, then changed their minds when the head of the Cabinet for Families and Children told a newspaper she didn’t think the state would send them any more children.

Gov. Paul Patton stepped in and conducted negotiations with Baptist Homes, assuring them that it was individual social workers, not high-level bureaucrats, who refer children to different agencies.

All but 11 of the 351 children at the agency’s eight facilities have their care funded by the state, and without the contract, Baptist Homes would have been forced to lay off half its employees.

With the new contract in place, however, Pedreira’s lawsuit is set to go ahead, naming both Baptist Homes and the Cabinet for Families and Children as defendants. When Baptist Homes turned the contract down, Pedreira’s lawyers, had said that they would drop the Cabinet from the suit.

"We are more committed than ever to getting this case into a courtroom, where we can expose the state-sponsored discrimination that violates Kentucky law and the . . . Constitution," said Michael Adams of the American Civil Liberties Union.

"It is clear that at-risk youth are best served by facilities that can focus solely on care, rather than on pursuing an anti-gay ideology," Adams continued. "This is particularly troubling considering the fact that at-risk youth in social service facilities like this are disproportionately lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered or questioning."

Gov. Patton, in a letter to a Baptist newspaper, acknowledged that his own religious beliefs influenced his decision to renew Baptist Homes’ contract.

"As a person raised in the traditions of the Souther Baptist Church and who accepted Christ . . . I fully understand the sincere and deeply-felt beliefs of the church," he wrote. "My actions will always be consistent with [his father’s] understanding of basic Southern Baptist beliefs."


News Briefs

Rent-a-Center pays workers
it asked about sex, religion

San Francisco--An appliance rental company will pay $2 million in damages to job applicants who were asked questions about their sex lives and religious viewpoints.

Rent-A-Center Inc. will distribute the money to more than 1,200 of its employees and applicants as part of a lawsuit settlement approved July 7 by a San Francisco federal judge. The Dallas, Texas company, with stores in Ohio, will stop administering the questionnaire as part of the agreement.

Some employees said they were required to answer 502 true-or-false questions as part of the psychological test that was used to qualify new-hires and promotions.

The test included questions pertaining to the job applicant’s bodily functions and religious views. Other questions focused on the applicant’s sexual habits, including: "I have never indulged in any unusual sex practices" and "I am very strongly attracted by members of my own sex."

"Generally, anyone who scored more than 12 deviations failed the test and was ineligible for hire and promotions," attorney Jeffrey Ross said. It was unclear what constituted a deviation.

Ross represented several Rent-A-Center employees in the suit filed in U.S. District Court last year. The test violated employee privacy rights, Ross said.

An attorney for Rent-A-Center said the tests were merely used to identify potential management candidates and results were not used against employees.

 

Marriage ban is on Nevada ballot

Carson City, Nevada—A same-sex marriage ban initiative has gotten enough signatures to appear on the November ballot, the secretary of state’s office said July 7.

The measure would amend the state’s constitution to outlaw same-sex marriages, and deny recognition of those made in other states. A similar measure was passed by voters in neighboring California last year. That initiative was a state law, not a constitutional amendment.

Backers of the Nevada measure gathered 120,558 signatures, roughly three times the number required. It qualified in 16 of the state’s 17 counties, three more than needed.

So far, say the measure’s backers, they have not seen any organized strong opposition.

The Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, a nonprofit organization, has announced its opposition.

 

Nebraska marriage foes reach goal

Lincoln, Nebraska—Backers of an initiative to ban same-sex marriages and civil unions announced July 6 that they had topped their signature goal.

The Defense of Marriage petition drive has topped its goal of 130,000 signatures, said Guyla Mills, petition drive coordinator.

Between 104,000 and 107,000 signatures are needed, depending on how many voters were registered on July 7, the day the signatures were turned in to the secretary of state.

Nebraska Advocates for Justice and Equality, a non-profit Omaha group, held a news conference and rally outside the Capitol to protest the inititaive.

Calling the measure "radical, discriminatory and unnecessary," the group is marshaling forces to fight the effort.

The proposed amendment goes further than similar moves in other states, said Deanna Zaffke, a NAJE organizer. Other states have banned or have proposed banning marriages between people of the same sex. This amendment, she said, would preclude any type of same-sex union.

"It is absolutely trying to pre-empt any laws that would grant us our civil rights," Zaffke said.

The language of the proposed amendment would state that any same-sex civil union, domestic partnership or other same-sex relationships shall not be valid or recognized in Nebraska.

 

Oregon sees another initiative

Portland, Oregon—The Oregon Citizens Alliance, which made news by backing several anti-gay initiatives in the early 1990s, is back this year with a measure to ban "promotion" of homosexuality in schools.

Alliance head Lon Mabon turned in 83,000 signatures for the initiative on July 13. While this is barely enough, Mabon said that his group had already weeded out duplicates.

Two years ago, Mabon was unable to gather enough signatures to put an anti-abortion measure on the ballot.

"This time, I think we’re pretty safe," he told the Portland Oregonian.

Gay and lesbian groups said they planned to raise $1 million to fight Mabon’s initiative if it makes the ballot.

 

Episcopal same-sex rite fails

Denver—Delegates at the Episcopal General Convention narrowly voted down a plan July 11 to develop rites for same-sex couples.

The plan, which would have created commitment rites for devoted couples, both gay and straight, was defeated by four votes, one from a clergy delegate, the other three from lay delegates.

However, the delegates approved a resolution to support and minister to gays and lesbians in monogamous relationships.

"This is a step forward, a smaller step than we had hoped," said Scott Larsen, a spokesman for Integrity, the Episcopal gay and lesbian organization. "But the closeness of the votes shows the gains we’ve made."

It was suspected that the delegates would try to avoid the bitter conflicts that marked the Methodist and Presbyterian conventions this year by sticking to the status quo, allowing each diocese to decide whether or not it would bless gay and lesbian unions.

Neither the Methodists nor the Presbyterians approved measures allowing same-sex unions in the conventions. The United Church of Christ, with 1.4 million members nationally, does bless gay and lesbian couples, as does the Unitarian Universalist Association and Reform Judaism.

In the past, the Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of the Anglican Church, has sent mixed, if overall liberal, messages regarding its views on homosexuality. A 1976 resolution said gays are full members of the church, with everything that entails, but in 1979 another resolution was passed saying that it wasn’t appropriate to ordain non-celibate gays.

1994 church law, however, says it is wrong to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

 

Geico drops Dr. Laura

Washington, D.C.—Geico, the direct-market insurance giant, announced July 7 that it has pulled its advertising from Laura Schlessinger’s radio show, two months before her syndicated television talk show is set to debut.

"We do monitor the results of these advertising efforts closely, and we take seriously the feedback we receive from our policy-holders and the listening and viewing public," said a Geico spokesperson. Geico "does not condone discrimination of any type directed towards any minority."

Schlessinger has come under fire for her comments characterizing homosexuality as a "biological error" and "deviant."

The furor over the radio host’s comments gained force when Paramount announced her upcoming television show.

A number of other major companies have pulled their ads from her show, including Procter and Gamble and Toys R Us.

Geico would not say whether they would advertise on her television show.

 

Germany weighs same-sex marriage

Berlin—The German government introduced a bill that would grant same-sex couples the same legal rights as heterosexual couples July 5, amid a storm of protest from conservative legislators and Christian groups.

Germany, part of the European Union, is torn between demands to bolster families and fighting against a history of intolerance towards minorities.

Until 1969, West Germany had some of the harshest sodomy laws in Europe. Between the defeat of the Nazi regime in 1945 and the abolition of its sodomy laws, 50,000 gay men were convicted and punished by the penal system. East German anti-gay law remained until reunification in 1990.

The same-sex union bill is opposed by Christian groups and conservative political parties. The Christian Democrats, have threatened to launch a lawsuit in the constitutional court to block the bill. The Christian Democrats also have a small majority in the upper house of the German parliament, the Bundesrat, and are expected to try to block passage of the proposal.

Liberals and gay civil rights activists, on the other hand, applaud the bill, which will bring Germany more in line with the European Union’s human rights laws, which forbid sodomy laws and call for equal treatment of LGBT people.

The bill is now before a parliamentary committee.

If the measure passes, Germany would join Sweden, Norway, Finland, Belgium, the Netherlands and France in giving marriage-like legal recognition to same-sex couples.

 

London bomber gets life times six

London—The British man whose bombing spree took the lives of two gay men and a pregnant woman was sent to prison forever June 30.

Judge Michael Hyam sentenced David Copeland, the 24-year old engineer who made and set the bombs, to six life sentences, one for each person he killed, and one for each of the three bombs.

Copeland, a self-professed homophobe and white supremacist, planted a bomb in Brixton, a predominantly black area, Brick Lane, which is mostly Bangladeshi, and a bar in Soho, London’s gay mecca.

Copeland’s defense attorneys tried to get him convicted of the lesser charge of manslaughter due to diminished capacity, but the court decided against it.

"We are appalled and horrified at the atrocity of your crimes," Hyam told Copeland during sentencing. "Nothing can explain or justify the evil you have done."

In addition to the three deaths from the bombing of a gay bar in Soho, Copeland was responsible for hundreds of injuries. The explosives were packed with six-inch-long nails.

Copeland will serve his sentence at Broadmoor, a high security facility.

He has said that he was trying to incite a racial war in Britain, and that if nobody remembered your name, you had never lived. He also admitted to having a great deal of hero worship for both Adolph Hitler and Saddam Hussein.

 

First trans language introduced

Washington, D.C.--Language specifically identifying transgender people with the phrase "gender identity, characteristics or expression" was included in an amendment to a bill on the House floor June 23, marking the first time sa federal measure has seen such language

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., added the words to an amendment by Rep John Conyers, D-Mich, to add "sexual orientation" to the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act.

Frank’s language was approved without opposition, but Conyers’ entire amendment was defeated by the Republican majority on a party-line vote, so neither measure was approved.

Historically, Congress has specifically excluded transsexuals and "transvestites" from legislation such as the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Federal Rehabilitation Act.

Compiled from wire reports by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman, Eric Resnick and Patti Harris.

 

 

 

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