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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
October 25, 2002

 

Transgender teen is murdered after party guests find out she was born male

Newark, Calif.�Three men were charged October 19 in the death of transgender teenager Eddie Araujo, who was beaten to death at a party on October 3.

Araujo, who generally dressed in women�s clothing and wore make-up, also went by the female names Lida and Gwen.

Araujo, 17, was last seen alive at a party at the home of Paul Merel, Jr. on October 3. According to Merel, Araujo came over to his house to drink. When other people started arriving, Merel tried to convince Araujo to go home, but she refused. When Merel�s brother Jos�, 24, and their friends Jaron Chase Nabors, 19, and Michael Magidson, 22, arrived, Paul Merel walked Araujo outside and went to sleep. He was awakened later to the sounds of a commotion.

Paul Merel�s girlfriend, Nicole Brown, said that Araujo�s gender was called into question by the suspects. When Araujo didn�t answer whether she was a man or a woman, Brown said she encouraged the others to find out.

She said Magidson then went with Araujo into the bathroom. Others at the party then told Brown they had had sex with Araujo, she said.

After about 30 minutes, Brown said she went inside to see what was going on. She said Araujo was sitting on the sink and Brown opened Araujo�s legs and left the bathroom screaming, �It�s a man! Oh my God!�

According to Nabors, who led police to the body, after Araujo�s biological sex was discovered, Jos� Merel punched her, knocking her to the ground. The trio then dragged Araujo to the garage, where her hands and feet were bound and she was strangled with a rope until the suspects believed she was dead. They then wrapped Araujo and took her 150 miles from the San Jose suburb to the Sierra foothills, where they buried her.

According to police, Araujo had been involved in an argument with the suspects a week earlier, and may have had sex with one or more of them the night of the murder.

Gossip and speculation about the murder had circulated through the Merel�s circle of friends for the two weeks between the disappearance and the discovery of the body. Police said they began hearing fourth-generation stories about the murder before a break in the case came. A friend of Nabors agreed to allow police to secretly tape a conversation with Nabors, in which he indicated that he had to be very careful, that he thought the police were on to him and knew everything.

�We�re dealing with a number of people who could have helped, stepped in, prevented or reported this,� Lt. Lance Morrison said. �None of them did.�

The case is being compared to the murders of both Brandon Teena, who was murdered when his girlfriend�s associates learned he was biologically female, and Matthew Shepard, a University of Wyoming student who was beaten, tied to a fence and left to die. Ironically, Newark Memorial High School had already begun preparations to perform The Laramie Project, a play based on the aftermath of Shepard�s murder, next month.

While some of Araujo�s extended family and peers had trouble accepting her for who she was, her close family and a large number of friends were supportive of her.

�They�re going to pay for what they did,� Imelda Guerrero, Araujo�s aunt, said. �I hope everybody out there who sees this learns something from this because he was a beautiful person inside and out.�

Sylvia Guerrero, Araujo�s mother, gave permission for her to be buried in makeup and female clothing. �Gwen� will be written on the tombstone, a name Araujo chose for herself because of her love for singer Gwen Stefani of the band No Doubt.

At a vigil for the slain teen on October 18, Guererro expressed her shock and sadness to the hundreds gathered, and she also let them know how much she loved her child.

�He was born this way. He always felt like a girl,� she said. �Eddie was different, and people were mean to him. But he was my baby. He was my son. I loved him unconditionally.�

�When you see someone like Eddie, smile at him,� she urged vigil-goers.


 

Bashing death on his base may halt generals promotion

Washington, D.C.--An Army general may be denied a third star and a promotion because of the 1999 beating death of a gay soldier under his command.

The Senate Armed Services Committee delayed a vote to approve President Bush�s nomination of Major General Robert T. Clark to lieutenant general during an October 16 closed-door meeting where 331 other military promotions were approved.

If promoted, Clark would be given a third star and be put in command of the U.S. Fifth Army, which is stationed at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. He is presently deputy commander of the Fifth Army.

Clark commanded the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky. from February 1998 to July 2000. Private First Class Barry Winchell, 21, of Kansas City, Missouri was bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat during an anti-gay attack while sleeping in his bunk in July, 1999.

The soldier who wielded the bat is serving a life prison sentence. Winchell�s roommate, who egged the killer on, got 12� years in a plea bargain approved by Clark.

The murder quickly was held up as a testament to the failure of the military�s �don�t ask, don�t tell, don�t pursue� policy on gay servicemembers and became an issue in the 2000 presidential election.

Following the murder, Clark was faulted by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a Washington watchdog group, and Winchell�s mother Pat Kutteles for allowing an anti-gay climate at the base and failing to train personnel on anti-harassment policies. Officers did nothing to stop the anti-gay harassment of Winchell, even though the chain of command was aware that it was happening.

The Army�s Inspector General investigated the command climate at Fort Campbell and cleared Clark of any wrongdoing.

It was later revealed that the IG was instructed by Army top officials to avoid probing any possibility of anti-gay harassment on the base.

In addition to Winchell�s murder, four homicides related to domestic violence took place at Fort Campbell under Clark�s command, prompting a congressional investigation.

According to the Miles Foundation, which tracks domestic violence in the military, the climate Clark established on the base contributed to the violence.

Even though the IG report did not implicate Clark, Clinton administration Secretary of Defense William Cohen transferred him to San Antonio, Texas to be a deputy commander of the Fifth Army, which trains reserve and National Guard units.

At the request of 30 members of Congress, Cohen also withheld any promotion of Clark.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Kutteles, and the Miles Foundation have been joined by People for the American Way, the National Organization for Women, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the Human Rights Campaign, and the Triangle Foundation of Detroit in opposition to Clark�s promotion.

Kutteles called the nomination �one of the most dangerous set forth by the current administration.� She is also protesting that she has not been allowed to testify against the nominee.

SLDN spokesperson Steve Ralls said that similar military promotions are generally �rubber-stamped� by the Senate Armed Services Committee.

That Committee is currently chaired by Michigan Democrat Carl Levin. The ranking Republican is John Warner of Virginia.

Levin�s spokesperson, Tara Andringa, said Levin has not made up his mind or said anything publicly about Clark�s nomination.

Andringa downplayed the committee�s meeting behind closed doors and their inaction on Clark�s nomination, though she could not remember the last time a miliatry promotion was not voted out of committee for full Senate approval.

Andringa said the committee has no plans to reconsider Clark�s nomination before the close of the session in November.

Warner�s spokesperson Meredith Moseley agreed, saying, �They might not get to this matter at all.�

If Clark is not confirmed by the end of the session, his nomination dies. If the administration wants him to be promoted, he will need to be renominated when the new Senate convenes. If he is not promoted, his career will likely end.

Though it is not clear whether or not Senate support for Clark falls along party lines, Ralls says the nomination is another indication as to how the Bush administration regards gays and lesbians.

�This is a strong statement about how the Bush administration feels about the �don�t ask, don�t tell, don�t pursue� issue,� said Ralls, �that they just don�t care about it.�

Immediately after the attacks of September 11, 2001, the administration issued �stop-loss orders� to prevent people with needed skills from being discharged from military service. The only exception has been the discharge of gays and lesbians and those thought to be gay or lesbian.

Kutteles filed a wrongful death claim against the Army in 2000 for Winchell�s death under the Military Claims Act.

Army Secretary Thomas White said the case had no merit and dismissed it shortly after his appointment by President Bush in 2001.

 

 


 

 

New Jersey partner bill would have governors backing

Trenton, N.J.�A bill expected to be introduced this month that would grant legal benefits to same-sex couples is likely to have the backing of Gov. James E. McGreevey.

�Governor McGreevey supports legislation that would provide domestic partner benefits and protections,� his spokeswoman, Jo Glading, said.

Sponsored by Assemblywoman Loretta Weinberg, the bill would not recognize same-sex marriages, but would ensure that people living together, including same-sex couples, receive the same legal benefits as married couples.

The measure would require unmarried couples to sign a certificate that states they are committed, intimate partners.

�I think this is another case where the law has to catch up with reality,� Weinberg said. �Folks are living together in committed relationships with the opposite or same sex. They should not be left bereft when something happens to one of the couple.�

The bill would guarantee benefits including those involving making medical decisions, inheritance and pensions, and life and health insurance.

If the new measure becomes law, New Jersey would be the third state in the country to allow some of the benefits of marriage to partners living together. California offers a limited version and Vermont has civil unions.

Introducing the same-sex benefit legislation could make New Jersey a battleground for gay civil rights. A lawsuit was filed in June seeking recognition of gay marriages.

The lawsuit was filed in state Superior Court in Hudson County on behalf of seven same-sex couples. The plaintiffs said they expect the case to end up before the state Supreme Court.

--Associated Press

 

 


Dailies in three Ohio cities now print same-sex notices

Columbus�The Columbus Dispatch announced on October 20 that they will begin printing same-sex commitment ceremony notices alongside heterosexual wedding, engagement, anniversary and birth notices in the Sunday �Accent� section.

The newspaper joins dailies in two other cities, the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Cleveland Plain Dealer, in carrying the announcements.

The Dispatch�s commitment ceremony notices will be part of a new advertising feature entitled �Celebrations.� All of the announcements will carry a fee, except for 50th-anniversary notices.

The policy change was announced in a column by editor Benjamin J. Marrison, in which he recounted the tale of his lesbian aunt who was ostracized by their family, only to become a much-loved member over the last twenty years as his family, and society surrounding it, have changed.

�As is our policy with weddings, only those unions that have been registered or had their commitments affirmed in an officiated ceremony will be recognized,� Marrison wrote.

�After much deliberation and debate, we decided that not allowing [same-sex commitment] ceremonies to be recognized in some way would be unfair,� he continued. �The new policy is consistent with our coverage of events involving the gay community, and with our obituaries, in which partners often are listed as survivors.�

�We expect to hear from those who support our decision, and those who don�t,� he concluded. �To us, it�s a matter of fairness.�

The announcement was the second in recent months that a large-market newspaper in Ohio will print same-sex commitment ceremony notices. The Cincinnati Enquirer announced in mid-September that they would print notices, preceding a visit from Michael Young, the central regional media manager of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

Young visited both Columbus and Cincinnati at the end of September, and while in the state spoke to executives from the Dispatch. GLAAD is currently working to increase the number of newspapers printing same-sex union ceremony announcements. Presently, 140 papers nationwide do so.

The Plain Dealer, northeast Ohio�s largest daily, also has a policy allowing same-sex commitment ceremony notices. According to features and entertainment editor Elizabeth McIntyre, none have yet appeared because none have been sent in.

The Plain Dealer runs a few free wedding announcements, but most are paid and considered classified ads. She confirmed that both forms of notices are open to same-sex couples.

 


Anti-bully program stopped after rightists call it
pro-gay

Grafton, W. Va.�Schools must stop using an anti-bullying program that was crafted by the state attorney general�s office, then branded an endorsement of homosexuality by angry conservative parents, the West Virginia Board of Education ruled October 17.

In an hourlong debate, newly elected board president Howard Persinger Jr. and board member Barbara Fish sought to eliminate the Civil Rights Team Project entirely. They argued it contains offensive teachings, singles out some students for special treatment and relies on materials that are �disjointed and not professional.�

Four other board members, however, refused to go that far without more information.

In a compromise, the board instructed Superintendent David Stewart to tell county officials and Senior Assistant Attorney General Paul Sheridan to halt the program while a committee is appointed to investigate.

Fish, who demanded to be on that committee and who will help select other members, warned it might be months before any conclusion is reached.

�This is an insidious program that I really think we have to extricate right now,� she said. �I cannot put my name on anything that has so little value.�

Sheridan, who disputes the board�s contention that he was notified of their meeting, was upset he had no chance to respond to criticism.

�Frankly, I�m concerned that the state board would take up an issue of a program about which they know very little,� he said. �I find this all extremely disturbing.

�I�ve heard all kinds of criticisms, and most are incredibly ill-informed,� Sheridan said. �That some body of government would make a decision to step in and prevent people from working on a problem without even looking at it . . . My guess is they haven�t got the least bit of information.�

Earlier in the day, hundreds of angry parents had packed the auditorium of the Taylor County Middle School to protest the Civil Rights Team Project, claiming it has a hidden, anti-Christian agenda.

Persinger, who was elected October 16 by fellow board members to replace former board president J.D. Morris, pleaded for calm as the fervor of the audience built.

State police removed one woman who shouted repeatedly that she and others had little notice of the meeting and were therefore unable to sign up to speak.

Fish and Persinger said they support the intent--to stop bullying, harassment and intimidation--but argue the program is unnecessary because the code of student conduct already addresses those issues.

The program has been endorsed by Gov. Bob Wise's Cabinet on Children and Families.

But several Christian advocacy groups, parents and at least one state legislator asked the state school board in August to ban the program, saying its aim is to create a politically correct thought police.

Ray Lambert, president of Citizens for Decency, a conservative group in Raleigh County, said the real goal was to promote the acceptance of homosexuality.

 


News Briefs

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

15% of Catholic priests say they are gay

Los Angeles�A survey published in the Los Angeles Times indicated that around 15% of Catholic priests in the United States are gay.

The poll, released on October 20, indicated that 9% of priests identified as gay, with another 6% identifying as primarily gay. Among priests who were ordained less that 20 years ago, 23% identified as gay.

The survey was released as Pope John Paul II examines a policy document to establish psychological screening to weed out gay seminarians. The measure would require that students who display signs of homosexuality not be ordained.

The move is being seen as another attempt by the Vatican to shift blame in the ongoing clerical sexual abuse scandals onto the heads of gay priests, a tactic steadily maintained by church officials throughout the current crisis.

�This would be a major mistake for the Vatican�it is a formal policy of apartheid,� Tim Hopkins of the U.K. organization Equality Network told the Glasgow Sunday Herald. �It seems the Vatican is determined to kick out a lot of very good gay priests without dealing with the problem of child abuse by its members.�

The Times poll indicates that a purge of gay priests and seminarians would be a crippling blow to the church, which is already seeing a sharp decline in the number of priests available.

Canada counts same-sex couples

Ottawa�Canada will join the United States and New Zealand in releasing census information on the number of same-sex couples in the country.

The October 22 release of the 2001 Canadian census was the first that included data on same-sex couples.

Gay and lesbian couples in Canada have many of the legal benefits of marriage, and court cases in Ontario and Quebec, in which provincial courts ruled that the federal government must allow same-sex marriage, are currently being appealed to the Supreme Court for legal clarification.

In the census, 34,200 pairs identified themselves as same-sex common-law couples, making up 0.5% of all couples nationwide. Gay male couples slightly outnumbered lesbian couples, 55% to 45%. Almost one in seven female same-sex households reported having children, while only 3% of male households did.

The Canadian census is taken every five years, as is New Zealand�s. The United State census is taken once per decade.

In 2001, the percentage of same-sex couples reported in the New Zealand census rose from 0.4% to 0.6%. The 2000 U.S. census indicated that roughly 1% of couples were same-sex, up from the 0.3% reported in the 1990 census.

Paris mayor leaves hospital

Paris�Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe left the hospital Oct. 17, nearly two weeks after being stabbed in the abdomen during an all-night public party at City Hall.

The mayor was headed to the countryside to convalesce and was not expected back at work for at least another week, his office said.

Delanoe underwent emergency surgery at Pitie Salpetriere hospital shortly after being attacked during the French capital�s �Sleepless Night� festival Oct. 6.

The 52-year-old mayor suffered injuries to the stomach, the intestines and the major blood vessel that brings blood from the lower body to the heart.

The suspect in the stabbing, Azedine Berkane, 39, has told investigators he committed the crime out of dislike of homosexuals and politicians, authorities said. Delanoe is gay.

Marriage ban backers have $1 million

Carson City, Nevada�Opponents of a proposed amendment to the state constitution limiting marriage to one man and one woman have raised $60,000, while those organizing the drive for the constitutional amendment have around $1 million for advertising their drive.

The measure passed in the last general election and must pass again in this one to become part of the constitution.

Opponents argue that the measure is unnecessary, since Nevada law already limits marriage to opposite-sex couples.

Supporters of the measure contend thatthe amendment is necessary to �protect� marriage, as courts could rule that the current marriage laws are unconstitutional.

The opponents of Question 2, as the measure is known, got a boost on October 14 as the heads of two major advertising firms in Las Vegas and Teresa Benitez, the reigning Miss Nevada, held a high-profile fundraiser.

Benitez, who recited testimony by Matthew Shepard�s father at the trial of his son�s murderers for her Miss America competition talent, was there with the permission of the Miss America pageant. The event brought in $20,000.

Blackface drag act canceled

Boston�An October 19 performance by a controversial drag queen at the club Machine was canceled when the bar�s owner learned that protests were planned against the show.

At issue is the act of Charles Knipp, a white gay men who dresses in blackface as Shirley Q. Liquor in what he describes as a satire, but what activists describe as intrinsically racist.

Blackface originally came into vogue in the mid- to late-1800s in minstrel shows, where white actors would use burnt cork to make themselves look black, or African American actors would use the same technique to darken their features, making themselves caricatures of stereotypical black people.

Knipp�s recent performances in New York City incited protests among gay and black activists, causing police to shut down the club in which the Southern drag queen was performing.

Not everyone believes Knipp�s act should be stopped. RuPaul Andre Charles, perhaps the most famous female impersonator in the nation, calls Knipp her favorite performer.

�If Mr. Knipp was filled with hatred, my natural gut instinct wouldn�t allow me to enjoy his act. There are a truckload of other performers in the media that I feel are hateful, but even Eminem says, �If you don�t like my music, don�t listen to it,� � RuPaul wrote one her web site. �Okay, I won�t . . . that�s simple enough. When Chuck Knipp performs as Shirley Q, it�s very clear to me that he is paying a loving homage to the southern black women that he obviously grew up around.�

Queens scale Sydney bridge

Sydney, Australia�Serving as an unofficial opening to the Gay Games, 24 drag queens scaled the sides of Sydney Harbour Bridge on October 18.

Onlookers cheered as the queens reached the summit of one of Sydney�s most famous landmarks and put up a banner with the logo of the Gay Games, which open on November 2.

The festivities are expected to bring 43,000 people to Sydney, 13,000 of which will compete in a week of sporting events.

Organizers noted that no events will be canceled despite earlier concerns about finances emerging from the fiscal troubles faces by Sydney�s huge Pride festival, Mardi Gras, which has now been taken over by a new organization.

Award voided in Amedure murder

Lansing, Mich.�The Michigan Court of Appeals threw out a jury�s $29.3 million award against the Jenny Jones Show, saying the talk show had no legal duty to protect a guest who was murdered after revealing a gay crush.

The appeals court, in a 2-1 ruling released October 23, reversed the 1999 decision of an Oakland County jury that found the show�s owner, Warner Bros., and its distributor, Telepictures, liable for the death of Scott Amedure.

Amedure was shot and killed by Jonathan Schmitz in 1995, three days after he revealed an attraction to Schmitz during a taping of the show. The segment never aired, and Schmitz is serving a 25- to 50-year prison sentence.

Amedure�s family sued the talk show, contending that Schmitz was ambushed and tricked into believing his secret admirer was a woman.

The court said the show �may be regarded as the epitome of bad taste and sensationalism,� but wasn�t liable for Amedure�s death. The show�s producers had no way of predicting Schmitz�s actions, the court added.

In a dissenting opinion, Judge William Murphy said the show failed to check Schmitz�s personal history, which included mental illness, alcohol and drug abuse, suicide attempts and anger management problems.

British adoption bill is stalled

London�Proposed laws that would allow gay couples to jointly adopt children may stall indefinitely because of opposition by some lawmakers.

Under British law, single heterosexuals and homosexuals may adopt children but unmarried and gay couples may not. The current laws date from 1976, when cohabiting pairs were not recognized legally as couples.

But the government has vowed to push ahead with the legislation, saying it wants to widen the pool of potential adopters.

The House of Commons already approved the plan--with Prime Minister Tony Blair�s favorable vote--but it was rejected Oct. 16 by peers in the unelected House of Lords. The peers� powers are limited, but they can amend and delay legislation put to them by the elected members of Commons.

In June, Sweden became only the fourth European state to allow gay couples to adopt, joining Denmark, Iceland and the Netherlands. South Africa became the first African country to let same sex couples legally adopt children with a Sept. 10 court ruling.

 

 

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