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December 2, 2011

News Briefs

Barney Frank won’t seek re-election next year

Boston--Rep. Barney Frank, the senior LGBT member of the House of Representatives, announced on November 28 that he will retire after his current term in office.

With redistricting, Frank, 71, would have to run for re-election next year in a district with some new Republican areas and without some Democratic strongholds. He said that, while he thought he could still win, he was too old to campaign in a new district and represent new constituents.

Frank was the first gay or lesbian member of Congress to come out voluntarily, in a 1987 Boston Globe interview. (Three others had been outed in scandals during the early 1980s. Of these, only Rep. Gerry Studds, also from Massachusetts, confirmed that he was gay, becoming the House’s first out member.)

Presently, there are three other out members of the House: Rep. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado and Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island.

Mass. is 16th state with TG protections

Boston--As of July 1, 2012, transgender residents of Massachusetts will have the same protections against discrimination in housing, employment, education, credit and in hate crime legislation as everyone else in the state.

Gov. Deval Patrick signed the Transgender Equal Rights Bill into law on November 23, a week after it passed both houses of the Massachusetts legislature. Patrick was praised by LGBT organizations for signing the bill, which he had championed throughout the process.

“Gov. Patrick was a staunch advocate of the Transgender Equal Rights Bill from the earliest days of his administration,” said Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition executive director Gunner Scott. “We are so grateful for his leadership in getting this bill passed and for his unwavering commitment to ensuring that all residents of the commonwealth, including transgender people, are treated with dignity and respect under the laws of our state.”

‘Moral’ exception is out of bully bill

Lansing, Michigan--A Republican lawmaker on November 14 agreed to remove a provision from an anti-bullying bill that would carve out a wide exemption for “religious belief or moral conviction.”

State Sen. Rick Jones added the clause to the Senate version of the bill; it was not in the House version.

Opponents of the amendment, including LGBT and Muslim organizations, expressed relief at the removal of the provision, but still thought the bill would better serve the youth of the state if it enumerated categories that were the basis of bullying, like race, class, sexual orientation, religion and disability.

Michigan is one of three states that does not have an anti-bullying law on the books. Ohio’s, like the one proposed in Michigan, does not enumerate groups, a problem that would be fixed under a bill introduced by State Reps. Nickie Antonio and Michael Stinziano.

Prop. 8 backers can defend it in appeal

San Francisco--The California Supreme Court ruled on November 17 that the people who put forward Proposition 8, the 2008 state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, can defend the measure in court.

Gov. Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala D. Harris both refused to defend the measure from a lawsuit claiming that it unconstitutionally discriminates against same-sex couples. Federal Judge Vaughn R. Walker ruled in August 2010 that the measure is unconstitutional, and Harris and Brown refused to appeal.

The proponents of Prop. 8 filed a challenge, requesting that they be given standing to defend the amendment. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals sent the matter to the California Supreme Court, which ruled that not allowing the defense of the amendment would disenfranchise the voters who supported it.

The case, as well as allegations that Walker, who is gay, was biased in his decision, will now be heard by the Ninth Circuit. The California Supreme Court ruled only on the procedural side of it, and did not weigh in on the merits of the suit.

Regardless of the Ninth Circuit’s ruling, the case is expected to go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

21 years for killing gay classmate

Ventura, Calif.--A teenager who shot a gay classmate in the head, killing him, will serve a 21-year sentence in prison after reaching a plea agreement with prosecutors.

Larry King, who was 15 years old when he was killed in February, 2008, had been dressing with women’s jewelry and makeup, and flirting with boys at E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard. Brandon McInerney was one of the boys with whom he flirted.

McInerney brought a gun to school and shot King in a computer lab.

In September, McInerney’s trial ended in a hung jury because some jurors thought prosecutors were too harsh in trying McInerney, now 17, as an adult. Jurors had the choice of manslaughter or murder.

In order to avoid a retrial, McInerney pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and manslaughter, and prosecutors dropped a trial which could have resulted in a life sentence.

Baseball adds non-bias to union pact

New York City--Major League Baseball, the organization behind top-tier baseball in the United States and Canada, announced on November 22 that it had added sexual orientation to the collective bargaining agreement with its players league.

The new five-year contract adds “sexual orientation” to its nondiscrimination policy, which already included race, color, religion and national origin.

The union’s executive director, Michael Weiner, said that the change did not come from specific player requests, but from attorneys on both sides of the bargaining table believing it should be in the contract.

There have been no openly gay active MLB players, although Billy Bean and Glenn Burke came out after retiring, as did National Football Association players Esera Tuaolo, Dave Kopay and Roy Simmons.

Federal worker DP bill introduced

Washington, D.C.--Lawmakers introduced a bill on November 18 that would grant domestic partner benefits to federal employees.

The measure has 53 co-sponsors in the house, including all four out gay and lesbian members. It was introduced in the House by Rep. Tammy Baldwin. In the Senate, Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, introduced it, and Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine co-sponsored the legislation.

In the last legislative session, the bill passed to the floor of both the Senate and the House of Representatives, but did not get voted on in either chamber. It is estimated that adding the benefits would add .02 percent to the federal benefits budget.

Baldwin noted that the bill “would put the federal government on par with a majority of Fortune 500 companies.”

67% of syphilis cases are MSM

Atlanta--The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s annual report on chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis revealed that, while the syphilis rate dropped for the first time in a decade, gay and bisexual men were disproportionately represented among reported cases.

Men who have sex with men accounted for 67 percent of reported syphilis cases, and the infection rate among young black men has risen 134 percent since 2006.

African Americans and Latinos were also disproportionately affected by sexually transmitted diseases, even compared to white people at similar risk levels.

Russian cities ban gay ‘propaganda’

Moscow--Legislators are discussing measures to ban “propaganda of homosexuality,” after a trio of Russian cities passed local ordinances and the capital threatened to follow suit.

The first bans appeared a few months ago in Ryazan and Arkhangelsk, before St. Petersburg passed one on November 16. The bill in St. Petersburg, the second-largest city in the nation, specifies the offense as “public actions aimed at propagandizing sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality, transgenderism among minors,” according to the New York Times.

Artists have begun expressing their dismay with the legislation, arguing that it could affect their ability to create music and other art and market it.

At the November 22 daily press briefing, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of State said, “We are deeply concerned by proposed local legislation in Russia that would severely restrict freedoms of expression and assembly for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals, and indeed all Russians. As Secretary Clinton has said, gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights.”

The answer to the question from a reporter continued, “We have called on Russian officials to safeguard these freedoms, and to foster an environment which promotes respect for the rights of all citizens.”

St. Barnabas is back in Episcopal fold

Bay Village, Ohio--Five years after St. Barnabas Episcopal Church voted to split from the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio and align itself with conservatives from the Global South, the church’s buildings are back in the hands of the diocese and an Episcopal congregation once again meets in its halls.

St. Barnabas was one of five congregations that left the diocese following the 2004 elevation of V. Gene Robinson to bishop of New Hampshire. Robinson is openly gay.

The move gave an excuse to bishops from South America, Africa and Asia, working with American conservatives, to try to establish a parallel network in North America, called the Anglican Church in America. Individual congregations, and a couple of bishops, threatened or went through with leaving the Episcopal denomination, sparking off contentious debates about church property.

Under church doctrine, congregations hold their property in trust for the diocese.

St. Barnabas’ property was returned to the Episcopal diocese on November 17. The Anglican congregation is now meeting as Christ Church Westshore in the Bay High School auditorium. St. Barnabas was started as an Episcopal congregation in 1950.

At about the same time that St. Barnabas was returning to the Episcopal fold, a church that precedes it by over 200 years was being returned to the denomination by the Georgia Supreme Court.

Christ Church in Savannah, which also split because of ideological differences, lost their legal battles to keep their building. The Georgia Diocese and the national Episcopal Church USA won suits in the lower courts that the property belonged to the denomination, before the state supreme court finally settled the matter in November.

The congregation had allied itself with an Anglican diocese in Uganda, despite Anglican Communion rules against bishops violating borders.

Compiled by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.









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