by Eric Resnick
Columbus--The Ohio Supreme Court ruled 6-1 on July 31 that a Butler County lesbian couple can share a common last name of their choosing.
The high court’s ruling overturned a February 2001 decision by the 12th District Court of Appeals that granting the name change would contravene Ohio statutes favoring marriage.
The women, formerly Belinda Lou Priddy, 31, and Jennifer Lane Bicknell, 33, of Hamilton, became Belinda and Jennifer Rylen with the ruling. The couple created the name using letters from their former last names.
The couple gave their triplets, born in November, their chosen name in the hope that the court would recognize a single last name for their household. Sarah and the deceased Kyle and Lindsay were conceived by artificial insemination.
In 1999, Butler County Magistrate Charles L. Pater cited “natural law” and “divine edict” as reasons to deny the women’s name change request, which was otherwise unopposed and procedurally correct.
Following protest, Butler County Probate Judge Randy Rogers reviewed Pater’s decision.
Rogers removed the religious “divine edict” from the decision, but went farther than Pater in the name change denial by citing a 1991 measure ending common law marriages in Ohio as evidence that the state’s public policy withholds official sanction from non-marital cohabitation.
Openly gay Cincinnati attorney Scott Knox handled both appeals for the Rylens free of charge and argued the matter before the Supreme Court April 12.
The anti-gay American Family Association of Ohio was granted the right, as friend of the court, to argue that the court should affirm Rogers’ decision to deny the name changes.
AFA-Ohio was represented by anti-gay activist attorney David Langdon of Cincinnati.
In its decision written by Justice Alice Robie Resnick, the court said Bicknell and Priddy showed reasonable and proper cause for changing their names under current Ohio law and flatly rejected Langdon’s argument that granting the name changes would undermine traditional marriage and be a state endorsement of nonmarital cohabitation.
“Appellants’ only stated purpose for changing their names is to carry the same surname to demonstrate their level of commitment to each other and to the children that they planned to have,” Resnick wrote. “Both acknowledge that same-sex marriages are illegal in Ohio, and it is not their intention to have this court validate a same-sex union by virtue of granting the name-change applications. Any discussion, then, on the sanctity of marriage, the well-being of society, or the state’s endorsement of nonmarital cohabitation is wholly inappropriate and without any basis in law or fact.”
Chief Justice Thomas Moyer and Justices Andrew Douglas, Paul Pfeifer, Deborah Cook, and Francis Sweeney concurred.
The only dissent was Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton who wrote, “This is a social policy decision that should clearly be made by the General Assembly after full public debate and discourse, not by judicial legislation.”
Lundberg Stratton is the most socially conservative justice on the court and is championed by Christian conservatives. She is seeking re-election in November.
“I looked at the back of the decision first to see who opposed it,” said Knox, “and what pleased me most is that [Lundberg Stratton’s] dissent makes no sense.”
Knox said this decision advances the law because it endorses the procedure most probate courts have been following which routinely and with little question grants name changes unless there is evidence of fraud.
“[The Butler County probate court and the 12th District Court of Appeals] were clearly out of line in this case, and this decision set the standard for future name changes,” said Knox.
Langdon said he was “disappointed, but not surprised” at the decision “given the make-up of the Ohio Supreme Court.”
“Although I was surprised that it was 6-1,” said Langdon. “We expected Justice Cook and perhaps Chief Justice Moyer to dissent, too.”
Moyer and Cook tend to align with Lundberg Stratton on social issues.
“Under this decision name changes will be essentially rubber stamped as long as it is not criminal or to defraud a creditor,” said Langdon.
Langdon added that the Christian conservative groups he represents will attempt to reach their goals through other avenues.
“We may want to go to the legislature to clarify the name change statute,” he said.
Both attorneys indicated previously that if the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act passed by the Ohio House of Representatives was in effect, it would have changed the outcome of this case. The measure, now before the Senate, outlaws recognition of other states’ same-sex marriages, and possibly of any domestic partnerships.
“I would have argued it,” said Langdon.
“It would have gutted my case,” said Knox.
“I’m glad we fought the fight,” said Jennifer Rylen. “It helped us and others in the future.”
“I was raised in Butler County,” said Rylen, “and Belinda and I are in the process of building a home here, so we have to stay, so I’m glad we will be able to put our new home in our family’s new name, and that this is all behind us.”
David Langdon has appeared before the Ohio Supreme Court in several other anti-gay matters. Less than a month before the Rylen case was heard, he argued in the high court against a gay couple’s attempt to have a probate court approve their parenting agreement. That ruling is expected this summer.
Langdon also represents a group attempting to repeal health benefits granted to the same-sex partners of Cleveland Heights city workers in an election law case before the Ohio Supreme Court. He authored the Defense of Marriage Act, and is now working on a bill that would make gay and lesbian sex illegal.
In another name change matter, the high court has agreed to hear another Butler County case involving denial of a transgender woman’s unopposed name change request. That case was heard by the same magistrate and probate judge as the Rylen one.
Knox represents the woman, Susan Maloney, and is again opposed by David Langdon representing AFA-Ohio.
Knox said that when the high court applies the standards used in the Rylen case to Maloney’s case, it will have to grant that name change as well.
“It’s sobering to think that it took the Ohio Supreme Court to get the [Butler County probate] court to do what it should have done in the first place,” said Knox.
by Eric Resnick
Cleveland--The year’s largest event to benefit the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland raised roughly $70,000, making it the biggest financial success the event has seen in five years.
The Taskforce, founded in 1983, is the oldest AIDS service organization in Ohio.
Dancin’ in the Streets, an outdoor party which began as a street fair on West 9th St., became an annual fundraiser shortly after the task force was established.
Erie Party was founded five years ago as an indoor dance to raise money for AIDS care institutions.
Two years ago, the two merged to become a large, multi-event circuit party that covers the entire weekend.
This year, the weekend featured six events. It opened July 26 with Dive at Grid-n-Orbit, then continued July 27 with Erie Party at the Agora Ballroom, and the July 28 Tea Dance and brunch at Bounce in Union Station.
For the second year, Dancin’ in the Streets was held at the year-old Tower City Ampitheater on the bank of the Cuyahoga River.
The covered theater protected partyers from an early evening storm that dropped heavy rain on the event until it was time to return to Bounce for the final Surface event.
According to AIDS Taskforce spokesperson Judy Price, nearly 4,000 attended the entire weekend; 2,502 of them were at the Dancin’ event.
Taskforce director Earl Pike said that much of the money raised will end up in the food pantry program, which he said has been running short.
“People kept saying how the Dancin’ event has come of age and become a more grown-up and organized event than in years past,” said Pike. “People had fun.
by Andy Scahill
Columbus—A woman is being held on eight charges, a minor is on probation and a third assailant is still at large in a July 11 anti-gay beating in the Weinland Park area, east of the Ohio State University campus.
The three victims of the attack, a lesbian, Katherine Neudecker, her transgender partner Dawn Kereluik, and their gay male neighbor sustained extensive injuries ranging from a broken cheekbone to a bruised liver.
The incident happened around 7 pm on Thursday, July 11. Kereluik and Neudecker told police that Keba Franklin, 27, who lives two houses down from the women, and two males approached as they were gardening in front of their house and yelled at them, “You don’t belong here.”
Their neighbor intervened, prompting one of the assailants to yell, “I’m going to pull out a knife and slit you from top to bottom and watch your guts spill out, faggot.”
The couple’s three children, ages nine, ten and twelve, were in the house at the time, but did not witness the incident.
Kereluik then went into her house and called 911. She was told that police would not be able to arrive for 30 minutes. In the meantime, she said, the attack escalated and the assailants began throwing rocks. Neudecker was dragged into the street, where Franklin allegedly punched her in the face several times while a male assailant held her. Neudecker sustained a broken nose and severe bruising from the attack.
When Kereluik tried to stop this, the women said, one of the men punched and kicked her until she was unconscious. telling Neudecker, “We’re going to kill your bitch, you fucking dyke.” Kereluik suffered severe bruising, a cracked right orbital bone, a ruptured vessel in her eye, a broken foot and a laceration on her left ear.
The neighbor was then attacked, causing trauma to his liver and the loss of four teeth. The assault was finally brought to an end with the help of the neighbor’s brother-in-law.
When police arrived 20 minutes after the 911 call, Franklin and the minor were taken into custody. The third attacker fled.
Kereluik said that she did not know why the three chose that time to attack them. She had never met any of them before, and was unaware until later that Franklin lived two doors away.
The couple have lived there for several months.
In a July 23 hearing, bail for Franklin was set at $150,000 for a total of eight charges, including three counts of assault, two counts of aggravated menacing and three counts of ethnic intimidation. Ethnic intimidation is charged when it is believed that an attack was motivated by prejudice, such as racist or anti-gay hatred. Her trial is set for August 19.
The minor was given probation for the attack. Kereluik and Neudecker believe that the light sentence may be a result of their inability to attend the hearing and deliver a victim statement, since both the minor’s and Franklin’s hearings were at the same time.
The second male attacker is still at large and has yet to be identified.
Although Neudecker’s injuries have mostly healed, she may require surgery on her nose for a deviated septum. Kereluik, however, will be under a doctor’s care for the next four weeks, and will be unable to work until then.
“We feel trapped,” Kereluik said. “We would lose our deposit if we moved, and I’m not physically able to move right now.”
Gloria McCauley, executive director of the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization, is particularly concerned by the frequency of anti-LGBT attacks in this neighborhood.
“This is the third reported attack on a transgender woman in recent weeks,” she said. “The brutality of this attack and the severity of the injuries is extremely alarming. This is a neighborhood in transition as more openly LGBT folks are moving in. BRAVO has been seeing an increase in reports of anti-LGBT activity in this neighborhood for the last year.”
“Gloria has been very supportive,” Kereluik noted. “She’s shown up at all the hearings, she’s been there when Kathy needed someone to talk to.”
Kereluik also pointed out that, while Neudecker’s physical injuries were less severe and have mostly healed, her emotional ones are more insidious, having watched as Kereluik was beaten.
“I was unconscious for a lot of it,” Kereluik said. “She had to watch them beating me, wondering if they were going to kill me.”
While their daughters had to see the horrible after-effects of the assault, according to Kereluik, “We’ve pretty much tried to shield them from this as much as possible. They’re very cautious about going out; we’ve had a long talk with them about it. They’ve seen the people around us be very supportive and appalled at what happened.”
Perhaps the only bright spot of the last three weeks for the couple is their marriage. As of press time, they were going to be married at 2 pm on July 31.
Since Kereluik was born a man, under Ohio law she is still a man and can legally marry Neudecker. Kereluik had already verified her documentation and the couple has checked to make sure they can get a marriage license.
Sgt. Earl Smith, public information officer for the Columbus Police Department, responded to questions about the response time to the incident.
“We are now receiving 2 million calls per year, and it’s going up 10,000 calls per month,” he noted. “The cars go from run to run to run across the city. It’s a finite service.”
The attack occurred in the evening, a busier time for the police than others during the day, he said.
“It’s a triage for requests for service,” Smith said of the dispatch office which takes the 911 calls. “When someone calls, our first concern is, is there at that moment an immediate risk?”
He also noted that being very specific about the criminal activity occurring can help with dispatch speed, although the Columbus police answer a wider variety of calls than many other large municipalities.
“We’re one of the few cities our size that respond to the range of calls we do,” Smith expounded. “Some cities won’t send cars to burglaries that have already occurred, but we think that’s inappropriate.”
by Eric Resnick
Cleveland--Police made one arrest and threatened dozens more as gay and gay-affirming demonstrators protested the anti-gay Christian men’s group Promise Keepers outside Gund Arena July 27.
Robert Stichter of Milford, Indiana was arrested and charged with aggravated disorderly conduct for passing out flyers saying that Christians misuse the Bible with his son Kirk on Huron and East 4th street, just inside the area authorities said is part of the arena and not public.
Two hours later, 48 gay and gay-affirming demonstrators organized by the Northeast Ohio Radical Action Network clashed with city police and arena security over the same boundaries.
Protesters view the Promise Keepers as an anti-gay, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, and highly militaristic organization that masquerades as a ministry to teach men how to be better husbands and fathers.
Promise Keepers receives substantial funding from the anti-gay Focus on the Family and is allied with other religious groups that claim homosexuals, sex addicts, masturbators, pornographers, and child sex abusers are all trapped in sexual sin.
Officially, Promise Keepers believe “that the Bible teaches that homosexuality violates God’s creative design for a husband and wife and that it is a sin.”
Promise Keepers was founded by former University of Colorado football coach Bill McCartney in 1995. A year earlier, McCartney played a role in aninitiative amend the Colorado constitution to prohibit equal rights protections for gays and lesbians. Amendment 2 passed, but was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.
According to Promise Keepers, 13,000 convened in the 20,500 seat Gund Arena July 26-27 for one of its 16 events held around the country, which this year carry the theme, “Storm the Gates.”
Demonstrators held signs and used bullhorns to challenge the Promise Keepers during their lunch break outside the arena, while police and Gund security attempted to keep the groups separated.
Cleveland Police Director of Security John Mott said police were not trying to arrest anyone, but were enforcing the “same boundaries around the [Gund] compound” as they enforce when demonstrators protest the Indians baseball team’s Wahoo mascot, which Mott said were set by a federal court. The ball park is next to the arena.
But the boundaries are not clear, and police did not confront non-protesting pedestrians who walked to the building, which irritated demonstrators.
Promise Keepers volunteers dressed in camouflage shirts, carrying two-way radios and bullhorns posted themselves around the perimeter of Gund Arena ready to stop anyone considered unfriendly from getting too close to the building.
Demonstration organizer Lee Thompson of Cleveland warned Promise Keepers that Nazi Germany began as a morality message.
“Don’t kid yourselves,” she shouted, “You’re not kiddding us.”
Somer Promise Keepers initially gawked at the demonstrators. Others mocked them. Others shouted back, “We love you.”
Then, the Promise Keppers formed prayer circles and dropped to their knees to pray for the demonstrators.
Barb Brunell of Westlake, who was with the Promise Keepers shouted, “God has delivered me of 23 years of homosexuality and he can deliver them, too. I’m not even a plumber any more.”
The confrontation ended when the Promise Keepers were called back inside for another program more than an hour later.
The conference was telecast live to inmates at Ohio’s Marion, Mansfield, and Lorain correctional institutions.
One day following his arrest, police dropped the charges against Stichter.
Thompson praised the demonstrators, saying, “There are people who are down with [Promise Keepers], and we gave them something to think about. And there are those who are not down on them. We gave them something to think about, too.”
by Eric Resnick
Columbus--The Ohio Supreme Court turned down a motion to dismiss a suit seeking to revive a referendum to repeal health benefits for the same-sex partners of Cleveland Heights city workers.
City council approved the benefits April 15, and a group calling itself Families First began a petition campaign for their repeal. On the May 15 deadline, council clerk Thomas Malone determined that they did not have enough signatures to force an election, and the measure went into effect.
Families First leader Tracie Moore sued the city and the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections on June 14, claiming that the board inflated the number of signatures needed, and asking the court to force Malone to accept the petitions.
The city and elections officials say Families First failed to get certified information from the board and should have known how many signatures were needed before the drive began.
Cleveland Heights Law Director John Gibbon and Cuyahoga County Assistant Prosecutor Reno Oradini filed motions to dismiss Moore’s suit July 10.
The high court denied the motions to dismiss without comment July 29, and set a schedule for the parties to file arguments in the case, which the court will now decide on its merits.
According to that schedule, Moore, represented by David Langdon, has until August 5 to file her brief and evidence. Oradini and Gibbon must file their material within seven days after Langdon’s. He will then have three days to file a reply.
The court also granted a motion filed by Langdon to strike the affidavits that were attached to the motions to dismiss, again without comment as to why.
Langdon had also moved to have Brian Fahling and Michael J. DePrimo, who are staff attorneys for the American Family Association national office in Tupelo, Mississippi, admitted to the case pro hac vice, or by special circumstances.
That motion was granted despite opposition by Justice Paul Pfeiffer.
In an earlier interview, Cleveland Heights First Assistant Law Director Laurie Wagner said even if the court denies the motions to dismiss, it doesn’t mean that the city and the elections board have lost the case, only that the court wants more information.
Ceremony to air on MTV in October
by Anthony Glassman
Columbus—When Dorian Amaya and Ryan Thompson were wed on July 27, they sent a message out to people across the nation: This is not legal, but it should be.
The couple’s ceremony will be broadcast on the MTV cable network, with a tentative air date currently set for October 3.
“Our roommate asked us, ‘Hey, do you want to be on MTV?’ ” Thompson said.
Amaya continued, “At the time, Patrick Gallaway at Stonewall Columbus was looking for two guys looking for a commitment ceremony.”
Gallaway, Stonewall’s development director, put Amaya and Thompson in touch with MTV, which offered to include them in a show about a few diverse couples getting married.
The couple acted on the offer and sent pictures and a profile of themselves to the network. The duo, who have seen each other virtually every day since they met about ten years ago, were then interviewed by two different people at MTV before being accepted for the show.
A camera crew came to Columbus in early June to film the men together, then returned a few days before the wedding for the bachelors’ parties and the ceremony.
The wedding was performed by the couple’s friend Cindy Higginson, a candidate for ordination.
“She delivered probably the most beautiful speech anyone could have imagined,” Amaya said, noting that the tone was both romantic and political. “She was able to tell them, ‘This is not legal. This should be legal.’ ”
Filling the Canzani Center at the Columbus College of Art and Design, the men hope to send a message of hope to young gay men and lesbians across the nation. They hope that seeing their wedding on a cable giant aimed at people 18 to 24 years old will validate young gay people’s lives and relationships, which the couple view as being key to living a good life.
As an example, they talk about Amaya’s state when they met as opposed to now. He did not love himself and did not think anyone else could love him, and at over 300 pounds, was dangerously overweight.
“A lot of people gave me shit for being with Dorian,” Thompson said at the ceremony.
With the increase in self-esteem and self-love, however, Amaya made other major changes in his life and now weighs around 190 pounds.
“I fell in love with Ryan the first time I saw him,” he confessed.
The couple, whose ninth anniversary will be December 15, also used their wedding to further their advocacy in another way. The invitations asked that guests, instead of bringing gifts, gave the couple checks made out to the Human Rights Campaign gay and lesbian advocacy group in Washington, D.C. Amaya and Thompson will send the checks in to HRC en masse.
On July 25, the couple went to court to legally change their last names to Amaya-Thompson, but were told by a magistrate that the court was not prepared to make a decision on the matter and they would be notified in a few weeks. On July 31, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in a Cincinnati-area case that gay and lesbian couples can change their names to reflect their relationship.
by Anthony Glassman
Columbus—Richard L. Henson, better known to central Ohio’s LGBT community in his drag persona of Tara Richmond, died July 28 from an apparent heart attack.
It was the second heart attack for Henson, who was 41.
His body was found in an alley between North 3rd and North 4th Streets, south of East Chestnut St., downtown. There are a number of bars serving the LGBT community in the immediate area.
He was discovered at 4:20 am.
Police originally believed Henson’s death to be a homicide, prompting an immediate investigation. A blunt trauma to the head was visible on the body, contributing to the preliminary assumption of murder.
The coroner’s office, however, ruled that the death was caused by a heart attack. According to the coroner’s office, the blunt trauma occurred when Henson fell in the alley, striking his head as he landed.
Police are currently satisfied with the autopsy results, but will not receive the results from toxicology tests for another two weeks. The tests could tell if any drugs were present in Henson’s system that contributed to the coronary. However given a previous history of heart problems, it is quite likely that the final cause of death will be natural.
Members of Columbus’ LGBT community were shocked at news of Henson’s death, following just two months after the murder of drag performer Brazon.
Brazon, whose real name was Gary McMurtry, was killed in his Clintonville home on May 17 when a man “dressed like a ninja,” according to a police spokesperson, broke into his home and attacked McMurtry and one of his roommates. Brian Bass, the roommate, was treated for cuts on his hands. McMurtry, however, was stabbed with the sword, which did a large amount of damage.
Police charged Michael Jennings with aggravated murder later that day. Jennings was a stripper whom McMurtry had booked to perform with him at the Eagle bar.
“Our community is reeling from recent losses,” said Gloria McCauley, executive director of the Buckeye Regional Anti-Violence Organization. “Several community icons have died in recent months. To lose another well-loved entertainer has really shaken many in the LGBT community.”
Compiled from wire reports by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.
Canada to appeal same-sex marriage ruling
Ottawa—The Canadian government said July 29 it will appeal an Ontario court ruling that calls for legal recognition of same-sex marriages.
Justice Minister Martin Cauchon said his department must challenge the July 12 ruling that Canada’s marriage law is unconstitutional because it allows only opposite-sex unions.
“There is no consensus, either from the courts or among Canadians, on whether or how the laws require change,” Cauchon said. “The government believes it is the responsible course to seek further clarity on these issues.”
The ruling by a three-judge panel of the Ontario Superior Court was a major step toward the formal recognition of same-sex marriages in Canada.
Under existing laws, marriage certificates are issued only to heterosexual couples, though gay and lesbian couples can get some of the rights and privileges as licensed marriages.
Ontario Justice Heather Smith suspended the ruling for two years to give the federal Parliament time to redefine the term “marriage” in Canadian law.
The case involved two couples, one gay and one lesbian, married in 2001 using a Christian tradition of reading banns, or asking in church on three Sundays if anyone objects to a couple’s marriage. A 19th-century law provides for government recognition of such marriages.
After the ceremony at the Metropolitan Community Church in downtown Toronto, the couples tried to have the marriages registered, but provincial officials refused.
In the court decision, the judges ruled that denying legal recognition to gay and lesbian marriages violated Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Douglas Elliott, the lawyer for the gay couple, said he expected the case eventually to reach Canada’s Supreme Court. Two other similar cases, in Quebec and British Columbia, may also end up there.
Couple can’t undo civil union
Hartford, Conn.—A gay couple’s attempt to have their civil union dissolved was rejected by a Connecticut appeals court July 25 in what is believed to be the first such test of the law outside Vermont.
Glen Rosengarten and Peter Downes were joined in a civil union in Vermont in 2000, six months after that state enacted the first law in the nation allowing gay couples to enter into something akin to marriage.
The Connecticut appeals court ruled that it cannot dissolve their union because Connecticut law does not recognize it.
Vermont remains the only state that allows civil unions, and no other state has recognized them, or approved any dissolutions.
Though anyone can get a civil union license in Vermont, state law requires at least one party be a Vermont resident before the family courts will dissolve one. Rosengarten lives in Connecticut and Downes lives in New York.
Judge says assault was provoked
Warren, Ohio—A gay man who attacked his co-worker at a nursing home after she subjected him to three months of homophobic taunting was found guilty of assault on July 24, but sentenced to only one day in jail.
Norris Kelly apologized to the judge for his actions at the sentencing hearing on July 25, explaining that the months of harassment by Eileen Barnett and other co-workers caused him to lose control when he attacked her on April 14, 2001.
Kelly had been charged with felonious assault. A grand jury in Trumbull County, however, dropped the charge to misdemeanor assault and sent it to municipal court.
Judge Thomas Gysegem told Kelly that he believed the evidence showed that Kelly had been subjected to an unwarranted amount of provocation before reaching the breaking point.
Coupling that with Kelly’s lack of a criminal record, he sentenced him to 180 days in jail, but suspended 179 of them and credited Kelly for the day he spent in jail awaiting sentencing. Kelly will also be on probation for two years.
Gysegem also pointed a finger at Gillette Nursing Home’s management for allowing the abuse to continue.
Barnett denies that Kelly was subjected to any anti-gay remarks or behavior while working at the nursing home
Bishop says no to partner benefits
Columbus—Bishop James Griffin of the Roman Catholic diocese of Columbus spoke out against extending health benefits to domestic partners of city employees in a July 3 letter to a committee studying the issue.
“The task is to design a plan which does not denigrate the institution of marriage,” Griffin said in the letter.
An eight-member panel was appointed in May to study the possibility of granting health benefits to household members of city workers, including same-sex partners, grandchildren and parents.
According to the diocese’s director of social concerns, Mark Huddy, the bishop is opposed to any couples cohabiting outside of marriage, regardless of the genders of the people involved.
Huddy is a member of the household benefits committee.
“Bishop Griffin apparently believes that health care is a basic human right, as long as it’s not extended to those who he and the Catholic church believe are morally unfit,” said Perry Slone, director of the Ohio Center for Social Justice. “The Catholic church has long opposed civil rights for gays and lesbians . . . this is nothing more than prejudice.”
Columbus passed domestic partner benefits for city employees in 1998, but repealed them two months later to avoid a referendum threatened by religious conservatives.
State can keep Scouts off payroll plan
Hartford, Conn.—Connecticut did not violate the rights of the Boy Scouts when it removed the group from a list of charities that state employees contribute to through a payroll deduction plan, a U.S. District Court judge has ruled.
The Connecticut State Employee Campaign Committee removed the Boy Scouts from its list in 2000. The move came after the state’s Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities found that including the Boy Scouts on the list violated the state’s anti-discrimination laws, because of the scouts’ policy that bars gays from their organization.
The Boy Scouts of America and one Connecticut scouting council filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against the state, arguing that exclusion from the list was a First Amendment violation.
The lawsuit followed a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found the Boy Scouts had a right to ban gays.
In a July 22 decision, U.S. District Court Judge Warren Eginton ruled in favor of the state.
Quads born to Kentucky couple
Lexington, Ky.—A surrogate mother gave birth on July 26 to quadruplets, who will be raised by their natural father and his male partner.
Officials from several groups interested in surrogacy or gay parenting say they know of no other similar cases that have resulted in quadruplets.
The babies were born about nine weeks early and were in stable condition the next day. The mother is in good condition.
Thomas Dysarz, 31, and the biological father, Michael Meehan, 36, have decided to name the boys Michael, Jacob and Tristan and the girl Taylor.
“We were both there when the babies were born,” Dysarz said. “They all look like Michael [their biological father], but especially when they held up [Tristan], the fourth baby, I said, ‘There’s little Michael.”‘
The surrogate mother, a 23-year-old central Kentucky woman who became pregnant in January through in vitro fertilization, delivered the infants through a Caesarian section. She already has three young children, including twins. She met Meehan, a lawyer and former California politician, and Dysarz, a hairdresser, when she visited one of the two Planet Salons that the men own in Lexington.
Under Kentucky law, the surrogate mother can terminate her parental rights after three days. Because Meehan is the biological father, no adoption is necessary.
MCC will provide V.A. chaplains
Washington, D.C.—Metropolitan Community Churches, a predominantly gay Christian denomination active in 22 countries, announced July 30 that it had been approved to provide chaplains for the Veterans Administration.
The V.A., while serving active and former service members, is independent from the military and is not bound by the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in effect for the armed services.
MCC will be filing a second application, this one to provide chaplains to the military itself.
“This marks an historic step for MCC churches,” Rev Troy Perry, founder of the denomination, said. “U.S. programs have long been hostile to GLBT military service members and veterans, so this marks yet another positive step toward full equality for America’s gay and lesbian citizens.”
The V.A. operates health care, financial assistance, vocational and educational programs for military members and veterans. It is the second-largest executive branch cabinet department.
British lawmaker comes out
London—A British lawmaker became the Conservative Party’s first member of Parliament to announce that he is gay, as the traditionally right-wing opposition tries to project a more moderate image.
Alan Duncan, the foreign affairs spokesman for Britain’s main opposition party, told the Times newspaper on July 29 that “living in disguise as a politician in the modern world simply isn’t an option.”
“The Tory view has always been, ‘We don’t mind, but don’t say.’ Well, that doesn’t work any more,” Alan Duncan was quoted as saying.
While several lawmakers from the ruling Labour Party are openly gay, no Tory legislator has come out publicly.
Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, who is battling to ditch his party’s prudish image and make it more appealing to mainstream voters, told Duncan in a letter that his openness would not hurt his political career.
The Conservatives, who governed Britain from 1979 to 1997, have struggled to regain their popularity since losing office. Opinion polls consistently show them trailing Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Labour Party.
Duncan Smith has vowed to make the party more welcoming to women, ethnic minorities and younger voters. Although the party gave Britain its first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, it remains dominated by middle-aged white men.
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