by Anthony Glassman
San Francisco -- Faced with accusations that their HIV prevention workshops are too sexy, public health officials say they will comply with federal guidelines following a review that found some gay workshops were "obscene" and encouraged sexual activity.
The review of workshops run by San Francisco�s Stop AIDS Project prompted a national review of all federally funded HIV and AIDS programs.
Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., chairman of the Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources, began the inquiry after being informed the San Francisco program was promoting two workshops targeting gay and bisexual men.
"This group�s activities were brought to our attention by an activist in San Francisco," said subcommittee aide Roland Foster. "We looked into it, and the subcommittee was convinced his complaint was legitimate and there was evidence to support his claims."
The activist Foster referred to is Michael Petrelis of ACT UP San Francisco, a renegade group that believes HIV does not cause AIDS.
Restraining orders against Petrelis and David Pasquarelli, another member of the group, have been filed by a number of organizations, including the San Francisco Chronicle, after the men allegedly waged a campaign of threatening phone calls against the paper, the Stop AIDS Project and other community organizations.
In an Oct. 12 report, Health and Human Services Inspector Janet Rehnquist said the program�s "Booty Call" and "Great Sex" workshops could be viewed as "obscene" and as "encouraging, directly . . . sexual activity."
The national review later was ordered by Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson. Foster said its purpose will be to ensure programs are not misusing federal funds and are in compliance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention�s guidelines.
But the Stop AIDS Project says its programs are in compliance and denied that it was promoting sex. In a statement released November 16, the Stop AIDS Project said all educational and promotional materials had been approved by a locally appointed CDC materials review panel.
"This panel has never indicated that any of our materials were obscene nor designed to promote sexual activity," the statement reads.
Foster said he questions the effectiveness of San Francisco�s programs because of a recent increase in new infections in the city.
"If it�s working so well, why are they telling us there�s an increase in HIV, an increase in syphilis and hepatitis," Foster said. "There is no data from any reviews or studies to show it�s working. We want performance reviews if what they say is true."
Public health officials defended the programs, saying San Francisco must use a variety of messages that may not work elsewhere to reach its large gay community.
"We�re doing it not out of ill intent, but we�re doing it to prevent more people from getting sick," said Steven Tierney, director of HIV prevention at the city Department of Public Health. "We believe it�s a necessity to get appropriate messages out."
Tierney also said San Francisco officials will make sure the programs run by the Stop AIDS Project and other local organizations are in compliance with CDC regulations.
Tierney acknowledged that HIV rates are on the rise in San Francisco, but said infection rates have decreased dramatically from 8,000 a year in 1984 to about 700 now. He said that�s proof the messages work, and charged the subcommittee is attacking San Francisco�s programs because it has a conservative agenda promoting abstinence.
"The folks who are connected with religious organizations and their philosophies around sexual behavior are different than ours," Tierney said.
"We�re not encouraging sex, but we�re acknowledging that 40,000 new infections (nationwide) are occurring, and that�s proof that people are having sex."
Stop AIDS Project, a 15-year-old nonprofit group, received nearly $698,000 last year in federal funding. The CDC has guidelines stating HIV prevention programs cannot encourage sexual activity or be obscene, as defined by the Supreme Court in 1973.
"Our goal is to ensure that sexually active gay and bisexual men have the tools and the skills necessary to prevent new infections. Period," Steve Gibson, co-executive director of the Stop AIDS Project said in the statement.
Tierney said obscenity standards typically are determined by individual communities, not at the federal level.
"It�s the same thing as being prevented from doing good sex education in schools because of a pervasive religious influence in our government," said Linda Malicki, executive director of the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center.
"It�s necessary to talk about sex in a positive manner and encourage people to have enjoyable �safe sex� if we want to do HIV prevention work," she noted. "It�s obvious the government doesn�t care, and that it has a moral position it�s standing by."
"People in the gay community need to pressure the government to care," she concluded.
by Anthony Glassman
with wire reports
Vancouver, B.C. -- The body of a 41-year-old gay man was discovered, naked and beaten, next to his car on November 17 in what is being called the first hate killing of a gay man in British Columbia.
Aaron Webster was found next to his car, naked except for his socks and hiking boots. He was discovered by Tim Chisholm, a longtime friend, who didn�t realize the identity of the victim until the 911 operator, who he had called on his cell phone, told him to check Webster�s pulse.
"This is my best friend," Chisholm told the operator.
Webster�s memorial service brought almost 2,000 members of Vancouver�s lesbian and gay community together, along with representatives of the police department. Police officers marched with the mourners, as well as doing crowd control and redirecting traffic.
"This has all the earmarks of an attack that was prompted by the man�s sexual orientation," said Vancouver police spokesman Det. Scott Dreimel.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have hate crime units; Cpl. Mile Labossiere made the assertion that this was the province�s first gay hate killing, although it is unclear if he means in the context of British Columbia�s stringent hate crime laws.
The Vancouver police homicide squad have four witnesses to the attack, although their descriptions of the attackers are not clear.
"It was dark," Sgt. Bob Cooper said. "We are hoping that someone driving through the park might have seen something in their headlights."
What little information witnesses could provide indicate that there were three or four people attacking Webster, although not all of them were active in the attack. The leader of the group is described as being in his early 20s, white, wearing dark clothes and a backwards baseball cap. It is believe that he used a baseball bat or a pool cue to beat Webster.
Dreimel said the attack probably took less than two minutes, and the police do not know whether the attack was planned or the result of a chance encounter.
Stanley Park, where Webster was killed, has a trail that is a well-known cruising area. Police warned the gay community to be careful there, although they believe that the publicity surrounding the case makes it unlikely that the killers will return there.
Vancouver�s gay population is estimated at up to 35,000 people, and its annual gay pride parade and festival bring in around 100,000 people.
by Anthony Glassman
December 1 marks the 14th observance of World AIDS Day, an international day of remembrance and activism to mourn those lost to the disease and fight the spread of the virus.
This year�s theme is "I Care, Do You?" and focuses on the impact of HIV on youth in the new millennium.
Across the state, events are scheduled to bring attention to the epidemic and to HIV prevention programs.
The Names Project of Central Ohio will display portions of the AIDS Quilt made by local survivors of those who succumbed to the disease. Among the locations at which they will display quilt panels through the World AIDS Day events are Aetna Insurance Company in the Easton Center in New Albany, Tiffin University, Kenyon College in Gambier, and Oberlin College.
In Columbus, Quilt panels will be at the North Congregational UCC, St. Phillip�s Lutheran Church, Gates-Fourth United Methodist, Church of Our Lady, the Fawcett Center at OSU, Rhodes Tower, Broad Street United Methodist Church and Church of the Master in Westerville.
Auctions in Cleveland and Cincinnati will benefit AIDS service organizations: the AMEN Project in Cleveland will hold an auction at Club 75 on Public Square November 30, while the AIDS Volunteers of Cincinnati hold their annual Celebrity T-Shirt and Memorabilia Auction the next night at the Aronoff Center for the Arts.
In Oberlin, the jazz band Eighth Blackbird will play a benefit concert at the Finney Chapel on Oberlin�s campus on World AIDS Day.
In addition, various activities including remembrance and healing ceremonies, candlelight vigils and information fairs will be presented across the state. The AIDS Taskforce of Cleveland, for instance, will have their festival at the Lakewood Civic Auditorium on December 1, while Metropolitan Community Church of Granville has a remembrance and healing service on Sunday, December 2. Christ Church in Cincinnati will have a commemoration with the Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown-Douglas as keynote speaker and a performance by the Cincinnati Men�s Chorus on November 30.
All of these events and more are listed in Charlie�s Calendar on page 8.
The Gay People�s Chronicle will have a special issue next week, presenting news on the state of treatment, HIV and AIDS programs across Ohio, a look at how the epidemic is reflected in the arts, and personal stories of those infected and affected by the virus.
by Eric Resnick
Cleveland--Only employees of the main Cleveland campus of University Hospitals will be eligible for the same-sex domestic partner benefits, not all hospital employees as previously reported.
The discrepency surfaced when a Cleveland area nurse took a position at the Bedford Medical Center affiliate hospital. She had read a September 7 Gay People�s Chronicle report that the benefits were to be offered at the main campus and the seven affiliate hospitals located in Cuyahoga, Ashtabula, and Geauga counties.
"I was told that the benefits would be system wide," said hospital spokesperson Eric Sandstrom, "but the person who told me that was wrong."
Sandstrom did not say who had made the error. "I apologize for any problems this caused anyone," he added.
The nurse, who has chosen to remain anonymous, was looking for employment when the story appeared. She said she chose the position with the University affiliate specifically to cover her partner.
According to the new employee, when she attended her orientation October 8 and asked about the benefit, no one in the Bedford human resources office knew anything about it.
Sandstrom said each of the affiliate hospitals handles its own benefits package, and those differ in levels of dental and optical coverage as well.
University Hospitals is the second-largest health system in the greater Cleveland area, and is the first major hospital in Ohio to offer domestic partner benefits to employees and their same-sex partners.
The decision was announced by an internal memorandum August 24 after two years of negotiations with hospital administrators by a small group of employees.
But, as Sandstrom corrected, the policy covers only physicians and employees working at the main Cleveland campus, including Rainbow Babies and Children�s Hospital, MacDonald Women�s Hospital, Douglas J. Moore Health Center, and Ireland Cancer Center.
According to Sandstrom, the packets for benefit open enrollment on the campus have been distributed, and are due back the last week of November.
As yet, Sandstrom cannot say how many have opted for the domestic partner benefits.
by Eric Resnick
Cleveland--One of the earliest leaders of the 50-year-old struggle for gay and lesbian equality gave a history lesson to Clevelanders last weekend.
Barbara Gittings is most known for putting a "normal" human face on gays and lesbians at a time when visibility meant breaking laws.
She was among the first to picket for homosexual rights, which she did every July 4 in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia beginning in 1965, and at the White House and Pentagon--always in a starched dress and a smile.
During their weekend in Cleveland, Gittings and her partner Kay Tobin Lahusen were the guests of honor at a November 16 fundraiser for the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats, held at a private home.
The 50 in attendance included State Rep. Dale Miller of Cleveland and newly elected Ward 17 council member Matt Zone.
Gittings also delivered the keynote speech at the Cleveland Lesbian and Gay Center�s annual meeting on November 18.
"We have with us the guest of a lifetime," executive director Linda Malicki told the crowd of 75, who decided to spend the beautiful late autumn day indoors hearing Gittings� presentation, "Gay and Smiling: Tales from our Fifty Years of Activism."
During that presentation, Gittings told what it was like fighting for lesbian and gay equality before the 1969 Stonewall riots, and shared slides from her collection and archives.
Gittings told the audience of the importance of preserving the historical record. "See to it that your photos and papers are archived," Gittings told everyone.
"There were few photos in the early days of our movement," said Gittings, "because in those days, people were afraid of having their pictures taken."
Gittings admonished, "Equality means more than passing laws. The struggle is really won in the hearts and minds of the community, where it really counts."
Following Gittings� presentation and reception, Malicki presented the annual Rainbow Community Awards to Rev. Bill Johnson, Cleveland PFLAG, the North Coast Men�s Chorus, Black and White Men Together, the Network, the AIDS Taskforce of Cleveland, Cleveland Pride, and ten-year volunteer Mark Lehman.
by Bob Roehr
Washington, D.C.--The Human Rights Campaign announced it was purchasing a building to use as its headquarters, in a November 9 release.
The building is at 1640 Rhode Island Ave. N.W., just a few blocks from the gay epicenter of Dupont Circle, and the White House. It is adjacent to a vacant lot that they earlier had contracted to purchase for construction of a building.
"The business case for owning our own headquarters has driven this project from the beginning," said Jeff Sachse, president of HRC�s capital campaign. The organization estimates that it will save about a million dollars a year by owning rather than renting office space.
Purchase of the eight-story building will cost $9.8 million and an estimated $10-12 million will be spent renovating the structure that is about forty years old. The original heating and wiring systems will be replaced, energy efficient windows installed, and space reconfigured to meet the needs of HRC�s staff of 90. Excess space that HRC can grow into will be sublet on short term leases.
Pledges totaling about $15 million already have been gathered from just a small number of HRC�s key supporters, said spokesperson David Smith. He anticipates that the remainder of the money will be raised during their five-year capital campaign, which is a separate activity from their regular fundraising.
Earlier plans to purchase a larger vacant lot in the same block and construct their own building began to unravel when estimates of construction costs began to escalate, said Smith. They explored building a smaller structure, and when the neighboring building came on the market, it just made sense to purchase it. Smith says that the new project is more financially feasible and gets HRC into their own offices sooner.
The timeline is to close on the property in April 2002 when the current owners move out, and have renovation completed by October when HRC�s current lease expires. Smith admitted that is a very tight construction schedule, and occupancy might slip into 2003.
HRC is trying to negotiate return of part of the deposit that it put on the lot that it no longer intends to purchase. Typically such fees are 5 percent of the purchase price, or in this case $400,000.
In an editorial, " �House poor� HRC can�t lead movement," that ran in the November 9 issue of the Washington Blade and other gay newspapers owned by Window Media, executive editor Chris Crain chastised HRC as "irresponsible" for going forward with its capital campaign in this fundraising climate. He called it "insensitive to the plight of other gay and AIDS organizations."
Smith acknowledged that the editorial prompted HRC to issue its release on purchase of the building earlier. "There were facts that we felt needed to be communicated and put on the table," he said.
Raising money for a structure "is completely different," he argued. It is a fact confirmed by experienced fundraisers everywhere. A building offers a sense of permanency and recognition such as "naming opportunities" with a plaque on a room, which is very different from raising money for operating expenses.
The building being purchased has a history to it. In April 1997, its owner, the Jewish group B�nai B�rith, received a package oozing a red liquid. Employees set it outside and called 911. When police opened it, they found a petri dish labeled "anthrax."
That prompted a quarantine of the surrounding blocks. People who had been in contact with the package were hosed down in the middle of the street by hazmat teams in biohazard suits. Tests of the substance later showed the incident to be a hoax.
Menlo Park, Calif.--Gays, lesbians and bisexuals feel more accepted by society today than a few years ago, but about the same percentage say they have experienced discrimination because of their sexual orientation.
Nearly three-quarters of the respondents to a national survey released November 13 said they have been victims of verbal abuse, while about one-third said they have encountered physical abuse.
Telephone interviews with 405 randomly selected, self-identified lesbians, gays and bisexuals were conducted in 15 major U.S. cities last November by the Kaiser Family Foundation. A second telephone survey with 2,283 adults was conducted to gather the general public�s feelings about gay and lesbian issues.
Seventy-six percent of lesbians, gays and bisexuals reported they feel more accepted, as compared to a few years ago. But 74 percent say they�ve experienced prejudice and discrimination.
Lesbians were more likely to experience discrimination--85 percent--than gay men (76 percent) or bisexuals (60 percent).
Seventy-four percent of lesbians, gays and bisexuals reported encountering verbal abuse, while 32 percent said they experienced physical abuse against themselves or their property because of their sexual orientation.
Ninety percent of the lesbians, gays and bisexuals interviewed believe the government is not doing enough to protect them from discrimination, while 64 percent said more prejudice was directed toward them than blacks.
In the general population survey, 62 percent reported they have a friend or acquaintance who is gay. That compares to 55 percent three years ago, and 24 percent in 1983.
Sixty-four percent of the general population surveyed said they think there is more acceptance of homosexuals today than a few years ago, and 29 percent said that acceptance is good for the country. Forty-four percent said it didn�t matter either way and 23 percent said it was bad for the country.
The margin of error for the general public survey was plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, and it was plus or minus 5.9 percent for the gay, lesbian and bisexual survey.
The Kaiser survey showed increasing support for gay-friendly laws. Results were often compared to similar studies in 1998 and 1992, or even earlier.
For instance, in a 1983 Gallup poll, 24% said they had a friend or acquaintance who was gay, compared to 55% in a 1998 Princeton Survey Research poll and 73% in the current study.
The Kaiser Family Foundation is an independent health-oriented philanthropic organization, not connected to the Kaiser Permanente HMO.
The report is available online at http://www.kff.org.
Circuit court ruled that right to privacy includes the closet
by Tina Moore
Minersville, Pa. -- Police are not responsible for the death of an 18-year-old football player who killed himself after officers allegedly threatened to tell his family he was gay, a federal jury decided November 7.
Jurors cleared three police officers in a civil lawsuit that claimed they caused 18-year-old Marcus Wayman�s death in 1997 by threatening to tell his grandfather he was gay.
Officers approached Wayman, a football player in Minersville, 70 miles northwest of Philadelphia, who was with a 17-year-old male friend in a car near a beer distributor.
Police frisked the teens, and found the younger one with two condoms.
Officer Scott Willinsky, the son of Police Chief Joseph Willinsky, and Officer Thomas Hoban took them to the station on underage drinking charges.
Scott Willinsky later testified that both boys conceded that they had stopped to have sex, although the 17-year-old disputes making the statement.
Willinsky allegedly asked if they were "queer" and threatened to tell their families they were gay.
Wayman told his friend he was going to kill himself. A few hours later, he found the keys to the gun cabinet at his home and shot himself in the head, according to court testimony.
Wayman�s mother, Madonna Sterling, filed a civil suit over her son�s death, charging that the town and three of its police officers--Joseph Willinsky, Scott Willinsky and Hoban--violated Wayman�s right to privacy.
A spokesman for the Lesbian and Gay Rights project of the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented Sterling, said it would be "very difficult to appeal" the jury�s decision.
"People feel this sense of progress. We turn on our TVs and watch Will & Grace and think that things are better for gay people in America. Then, we turn around and see this kind of thing," Eric Ferrero said. "This kind of stuff still goes on. What happened in Minersville wasn�t an anomaly."
The case led to an important pretrial decision in which the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ruled that a person�s constitutional right to privacy includes protection of their homosexuality.
The court also said that threatening to disclose the information was tantamount to doing so, "because the security of one�s privacy has been compromised by the threat."
"It�s heartbreaking, because after getting that landmark we wanted to fight for justice for this family, and they didn�t get justice," Ferrero said after the verdict was read.
Wayman�s family and friends repeatedly testified during the trial that he wasn�t gay. The distinction should have had no bearing on the jury�s decision, however, Ferrero said.
Ferrero said he hopes the Third Circuit decision can be used to help teens who are gay and being threatened by authorities.
Sterling�s attorney has filed a motion to have U.S. Magistrate Judge Arnold Rapoport vacate the ruling, contending that the jury failed to serve the cause of justice in the case. The defense has a chance to respond to the motion before a decision is rendered.
Minersville, population 4,877, is about 55 miles northeast of Harrisburg.
Compiled from wire reports by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.
Fort Wayne passes rights law
Fort Wayne, Ind. -- The City Council has made this the largest city in Indiana to include sexual orientation in its anti-discrimination law.
After four months of debate on the issue, the council on November 19 voted in favor of an ordinance drafted by council member Tom Henry.
Henry agreed to put off implementing the change until March 1, 2002, and to put it up for another council vote in mid-2003.
Only three other Indiana cities--Lafayette, West Lafayette and Bloomington--have protections for gays, lesbians and bisexuals.
A week prior, the council split 4-4 over the measure. The Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce and the leaders of the city�s equal rights agency had opposed Henry�s plan because of the lack of similar state legislation.
City can charge Scouts dock fees
Berkeley, Calif. -- An Alameda County judge sided with Berkeley that the city has the right to charge the Sea Scouts for docking two boats at the marina, after the group�s admission that it does not allow openly gay members.
The city stopped offering free berths in 1998 after the Sea Scouts, and their parent organization Boy Scouts of America, refused to budge on their anti-gay policies. The Sea Scouts sued the city in 1999 alleging a violation of the group�s rights of free speech and association.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge James Richman ruled October 9 that "public entities may condition public subsidies . . . upon the recipient�s compliance with state and local laws that prohibit discriminatory membership policies."
Berkeley had provided free berthing to the Sea Scouts since 1945.
Include gays in relief, Ashcroft told
Washington, D.C.--House members, led by gay Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, asked U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft to adopt a broad definition of who gets compensated as a survivor of those killed on Sept. 11.
The 45 members, in a letter released Nov. 16, said the U.S. government should provide compensation to "all of those who had a close relationship with the murdered victim and whose own financial position will be seriously adversely affected by the death."
Criteria for such a relationship could include a shared residence, shared bank accounts, joint membership in a health plan or a significant sharing of living expenses, said Frank and signatories of both parties.
The Justice Department is setting regulations to govern the distribution of funds approved by Congress and President Bush for victims of the terrorist attacks.
Among the signers are Rep. Sherrod Brown of northeast Ohio, Jim Kolbe, the openly gay Republican from Arizona, and Rep. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, who is lesbian.
Turned away from house he built
Miami -- A man who had raised thousands for AIDS care spent several days in jail with HIV dementia after a residence he helped fund turned him away.
Broward County Judge Ginger Lerner-Wren sternly ordered Broward House, a residential AIDS health care facility, to provide service to Gary Steinsmith on November 9.
Steinsmith had been the county�s most influential gay civil rights and AIDS activist until failing health forced him to cut back on his activities five years ago.
He spent much of the week prior to the judge�s order in jail on trespassing charges stemming from his expulsion from Broward General Hospital, who said he was not mentally ill enough to remain in their psychiatric ward.
Broward House, on the other hand, said he was too mentally ill to be treated there. They also said that he could not pay for their services.
Steinsmith called County Commissioner Lori Parrish at 1:23 am on November 7, begging her to get him out of jail. She called Lerner-Wren, who is in charge of the mental health court.
Steinsmith�s efforts on behalf of his community are responsible for the existence of Broward House, said Lerner-Wren as she ordered them and the hospital to work together to treat him.
"Just help him," the Miami Herald reported Lerner-Wren telling a representative of Broward House. "Treat him. I am ordering you to treat this man."
City adds TGs to civil rights law
Denver -- City Council added gender identity to its antidiscrimination ordinance on November 5.
The ordinance will protect transgendered people from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodation. Before the addition of gender identity, the ordinance covered race, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation and marital status.
The vote was 11-1 for the statute. The lone dissenter, Ted Hackworth, appeared angry and said that he hated the entire "stupid act" that protects minorities, according to the Rocky Mountain News.
"I don�t believe any group is entitled to special recognition," he said.
The ordinance defines gender identity as attributes that may not match a person�s anatomy, chromosomal sex, genitalia, or sex at birth.
Canada reviews blood donor ban
Ottawa -- Canadian Blood Services, the group that regulates the country�s blood supply, held a three-day conference from November 7-9 to examine its donor screening process.
Several LGBT and AIDS organizations were invited to participate in the conference, including Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere (�GALE), the Canadian AIDS Society and McGill University�s LGBT group.
At issue was a rule that prohibits men who have sex with men from donating blood.
As they are in the U.S., male donors are asked if they have had sex with another male since 1977. A yes answer means they are rejected as donors.
�GALE and other groups charge that the question on gay sex, started in the 1980s to keep the blood supply safe from HIV, are inflammatory and no longer serve that purpose. HIV testing is far more advanced, they say, and the 1977 cut-off date is arbitrary.
A ten-member independent panel at the conference told Canadian Blood Services that they must justify banning people who answer yes from donating.
The panel will make recommendations to Health Canada, the country�s health ministry, within six months.
Judge halts lesbian officer�s award
San Jose, Calif. -- A Santa Clara County judge has reversed a $945,000 jury award for a lesbian police officer who said she was the victim of discrimination.
Dawn Goodman sued the San Jose Police Department, saying her supervisor didn�t address some of her concerns appropriately.
Goodman said she told her supervisor she was uncomfortable conducting strip searches of female arrestees. Her suit contends she sought guidance from the department, but instead received a letter of reprimand that ended her chances of promotion.
She also accused her supervisor of making repeated calls to her home, which she said amounted to harassment. In 1996, she filed a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. A year later, she was dismissed.
Jurors sided with Goodman, voting 102. But Superior Court Judge William F. Martin cited jury misconduct and insufficient evidence late last week as he overturned the verdict and ordered a new trial.
Martin said two jurors considered matters for which there was no evidence, and that Goodman failed to prove the department was a hostile working environment.
Man admits Falwell bomb threat
Lynchburg, Va. -- A gay man pleaded guilty to threatening to blow up Rev. Jerry Falwell�s church in response to Falwell�s anti-gay remarks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Bill Connelly initially faced the felony of making a threat to burn or bomb a building. Under the November 13 plea agreement in Lynchburg General District Court, Connelly was sentenced to six months in jail on two misdemeanor counts of using obscenities or making threats by telephone.
The sentence was suspended on the condition that Connelly be on good behavior for a year and have no contact with Liberty University, where Falwell�s office is located.
Connelly made three phone calls to Falwell�s office on Sept. 17, cursing and threatening to blow up the church.
Falwell has been widely criticized for comments he made Sept. 13 that gays, the ACLU and others had made the U.S. vulnerable to the attacks.
Pompeii murals have lesbian scenes
Rome--Archaeologists have unveiled another steamy corner of ancient Pompeii, and this time it is an eyeful: a bathhouse with a unisex dressing room whose lockers sport erotic sex scenes, including depictions of lesbian sex.
Italian officials inaugurated the new addition to the sprawling ancient city on November 14. Pompeii was buried by ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D., and the archaeological site near Naples is one of Italy�s biggest tourist attractions.
Much of the city is still being excavated. Nearly a half-century ago archaeologists uncovered the remains of the thermal bathhouse, which featured a marvel of plumbing for those times: a swimming pool heated to a constant temperature.
Starting next month, the new discovery will be open to the public despite protests from the Vatican. Besides a sauna room and pools for washing in hot and cold water, tourists will be able to see an ancient version of lockers--chests to store their clothes while dipping in the pools. Eight paintings vividly depicting sex acts were found by archaeologists. Archaeologists said there was only one changing room, likely used by both sexes.
Egypt arrests four more men
Cairo, Egypt -- Police arrested four more men on charges of the habitual practice of debauchery, a code word for homosexuality, on November 15.
The arrests came one day after 23 men were sentenced to between one and five years in prison following a May raid on a restaurant boat in the Nile.
Police said that the four men were arrested together, but at least one witness claimed that was untrue. The anonymous witness said that the police arrested two men on the street, and that the arrest appeared random.
Human rights activists who have been monitoring the situation in Egypt said that one of the men arrested said that he had been beaten, stripped, doused with cold water and was left hanging, tied to the bars of his prison cell.
The Egyptian penal code does not specifically address homosexuality, but charges of debauchery and contempt of Islam were used in the earlier trial to convict just under half of the 53 men and one boy charged.
Soulforce sings to bishops
Washington, D.C. -- Members of Soulforce, a group protesting church anti-gay stands, sang and prayed at Catholic bishops during the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops� semiannual meeting Nov. 12-15.
It was a startling change from other Soulforce demonstrations, where civil disobedience has lead to hundreds of arrests. Last year, 110 members of the group were arrested when they blocked the entrance to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where the bishops usually hold an opening ceremony for their conferences.
Bishops from New York, North Carolina and Kentucky came out and prayed with the Soulforce members along the course of the conference.
Three charged for bashing student
Las Cruces, N.M. -- Three men face battery, assault and criminal trespass charges in the beating of a New Mexico State University student earlier this year.
Kirk Westfall, 20, Rustin Short, 18, and Philip Austin Lanier, 18, were indicted by a grand jury November 8. They are accused of threatening one student and beating another at a campus residence hall after asking if the students were gay.
The first student reported that he had been followed into a residence hall by the men, who asked why he was "so gay." He went to a female friend�s room. The men reportedly left when they saw his friend.
The second victim told NMSU police that three men knocked at his door asking if he was gay. When the victim said he was not, one of men punched him in the face and called him "a gay lover." The victim said all three then punched and kicked him.
Short and Westfall are each charged with battery, assault, and two counts of criminal trespass. Lanier faces two counts of battery and two counts of criminal trespass.
Teen activist commits suicide
Omaha, Neb. -- The loved ones of 19-year-old gay activist Brad Matthew Fuglei are still looking for answers as to why he killed himself on November 16.
Fuglei came out at age 14, organized a candlelight vigil for Matthew Shepard when he was 16, and led an unsuccessful attempt to add sexual orientation to the nondiscrimination policy of a local school district.
He was the president of his senior class, homecoming king and participated in numerous theatrical productions.
This fall he withdrew from classes at Columbia College in Chicago voluntarily. His brother Scott thought that perhaps he just wasn�t ready for college right now.
His former principal, Bernice Nared, also said he seemed quite happy when he came to visit her during the summer.
Fuglei was found in the family�s garage, with his car running and the door closed. He had left a suicide note inside the house.
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