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September 9, 2011

News Briefs

Drunk, off-duty officer shoots at TG women

Washington, D.C.--An off-duty police officer was cited on August 26 for drunkenly shooting at five transgender people.

Kenneth Furr stood on their hood threatening to kill all of them before opening fire. Three were hurt.

Furr tested double the legal limit on a Breathalyzer test, which makes this at least his third alcohol-related incident.

He is being held on charges of driving while intoxicated and assault with a deadly weapon.

According to police documents, Furr and the victims got into an altercation at a drug store, and the off-duty officer pulled a gun. After the woman told another off-duty police officer who was working as a security guard at the drug store, Furr was released.

Later, the victims saw Furr driving and followed him. He got out of his car and pointed his gun at the driver of their car. The victims say that Furr fired and then their cars crashed, while nearby officers reported hearing a car crash followed by gunfire.

When police arrived, Furr was standing on the hood of the victims’ car, pointing his gun at them. Police found five shell casings from Furr’s gun.

Mistrial in shooting of 15-year-old

Los Angeles--The trial of Brandon McInerney, accused of shooting gay classmate Larry King in the head in their school’s computer lab, was declared a mistrial on September 1 after the jury was unable to reach a verdict.

The votes were split between voluntary manslaughter, first-degree and second-degree murder in the case after six days of deliberation.

Three years ago, McInerney brought a gun with him to school and shot 15-year old King in the head twice. McInerney’s attorneys allege that his abused upbringing left him unable to deal with King’s flirtations. King was openly gay.

Prosecutors say that McInerney espoused white supremacist teachings and had neo-Nazi propaganda in his home. Maeve Fox, the Ventura County prosecutor, also stressed that the killing was premeditated, with half a dozen people hearing him threaten King.

McInerney is now 17, and will be tried as an adult when prosecutors re-file charges.

Small town has out Catholic priest

Crestline, Ohio--The sale of a former Lutheran church to the United Reform Catholic Church International of the Old Catholic order places an openly gay priest in a small Ohio town.

The Old Stone Sanctuary was purchased on August 17, and Father Anthony Capretta, a Columbus priest, will be the head of the parish. An anonymous $25,000 donation allowed the denomination to purchase the property, formerly the First English Lutheran Church.

The church will undergo extensive renovations between now and its projected spring 2013 opening date, and Fr. Capretta wants to include public services like a food pantry and an arts conservatory.

Capretta, a native of the Cleveland area, has been the priest for the Community of Charity Old Catholic Church in Columbus. The new congregation in Crestline, about ten miles west of Mansfield, will be the denomination’s eighth in Ohio.

The Old Catholic Church is not affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, and has no proscriptions against openly gay clergy.

Methodist group to press for inclusion

Huron, Ohio--A four-day long forum was held in Huron on August 25-28 by a duo of Methodist organizations to help push for full LGBT inclusion in the United Methodist Church.

The Sing a New Song gathering of the Methodist Federation for Social Action and the Reconciling Ministries Network brought 700 people to Sawmill Creek Resort, and was preceded by a one-day forum by the United Methodist of Color for a Fully Inclusive Church.

The multiracial organization, dedicated to an end to heterosexism and homophobia, saw their forum facilitated by Boston University School of Theology Associate Dean Pamela Lightsey and Rev. Dr. Yvette A. Flunder of the United Church of Christ.

At the final Bible study on August 28, Dr. Althea Spencer-Miller told those assembled, “No good tree gives bad fruit. The tree is known by its fruit.” She said that this begged the question, can “good, straight” people produce “bad” people?

“What a rare gift to say so many things that are deep in both wisdom and humor,” wrote attendee Leland G. Spencer IV on the SANS website.

The group plans to propose allowing gay clergy in relationships and sanctioning gay and lesbian unions at the denomination’s conference in Tampa next April, a move that failed in 2008.

Harassed TG woman gats $55,000

San Francisco--A transgender woman will get $55,000 after being harassed by a Department of Motor Vehicles employee who wrote her a letter calling her a sinner and sending her a religious DVD and pamphlet.

Amber Yust went to the DMV in October 2010 to have her gender changed on her driver’s license. There, employee Thomas Demartini turned her away because of a “mismatch” in her records.

She went to the Social Security Administration office to get proof that her name change was official, and then returned to the DMV, where Demartini grudgingly processed the changes to her license.

The next day, Demartini sent her a letter that arrive three days later, filled with biblical references and begging her not to complete her transition.

The San Francisco Appeal quotes Demartini’s letter as saying, “Jesus clearly prohibits gender change operations. If an operation like this is the reason for changing one’s name, then one has made a very evil decision.”

The same day that letter arrived in the mail, so did a DVD called Death and the Journey into Hell and a pamphlet, both published by the My Holy Family Monastery in New York. However, the DVD is not the one they currently sent out to supporters, and the monastery had no record of Yust’s name in their mailing list.

Last December, Yust filed suit through her attorney and the Transgender Law Center saying that her rights under the California Information Practices Act and the Unruh Civil Rights Act were violated. She filed suit against both the DMV and Demartini.

Demartini resigned from the DMV following the incident. He had been accused of refusing a gender change for a transgender person before, and the suit claimed he illegally used confidential information to harass Yust.

Yust settled her case against the DMV for $40,000 and against Demartini for $15,000. The DMV will work with the Transgender Law Center to put transgender sensitivity training in their employee trainings.

Teacher reinstated after ‘cesspool’ post

Mount Dora, Fla.--A top teacher at Mount Dora High School was briefly suspended after posting on Facebook that he “almost threw up” after seeing a news story about same-sex marriage in New York.

The July 25 post by Jerry Buell called same-sex marriages a sin and a “cesspool.”

School districts across the state have instituted rules regarding teachers’ use of social networking sites, and encourage them not to post about something that upsets them until after they have cooled off.

While Buell claims the comments were made on his personal profile, in his own time, on his own computer, others point out that they may make LGBT and allied students uncomfortable in his classroom, and that the comments were not simply visible to him and those closest to him.

Buell was reinstated on August 25, a week after his suspension from teaching duties. He insists that he bears no malice to his LGBT students, and would never do anything to hurt them, but his suspension can now be used as a warning about how social media’s use can reflect on a speaker.

Uganda cabinet blocks ‘kill gays’ bill

Kampala, Uganda--It appears that the country’s cabinet has blocked attempts by lawmakers to reintroduce draconian anti-gay legislation that died in the last session of parliament.

“We discussed that bill in cabinet last week and after views from everyone were heard and debated, a decision was unanimously taken to drop that proposed law,” Attorney General Peter Nyombi told the Reuters news service on August 23.

The bill was being pushed by a vocal anti-gay minority of lawmakers who are receiving material aid from homophobic clergy in the United States. However, most Western governments expressed their displeasure at the proposed law, which would have instituted the death penalty for “repeat offenders.” That pressure from world governments caused it to be shelved in the last legislative session.

Top court hears Prop. 8 ‘standing’ issue

San Francisco--The California Supreme Court on September 6 heard arguments over whether the group that placed the state’s marriage ban on the ballot had the standing to defend it in court when the state government itself would not.

The argument over standing has halted the challenge to the state constitutional amendment, which was passed in 2008, months after the state supreme court ruled that same-sex marriage must be allowed under then-current constitutional protections.

The challenge is before the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which asked the California Supreme Court back in January to take up the standing issue.

While the overriding sentiment seemed to be in favor of allowing supporters of the amendment and other ballot measures to defend them in court when the state itself refuses, attorney Ted Olson, a Bush administration solicitor-general and a prominent conservative who has been working on the pro-gay side, said that only the state has the power to defend state laws.

The court is expected to rule within 90 days. If they decide against the sponsors Proposition 8 being able to defend it in court, the state’s marriage ban may be dead, although the battle may also ultimately end up before the United States Supreme Court.

Tax money funded anti-gay campaign

Washington, D.C.--An Iowa group used federal “faith-based initiative” money in its attempt to overturn marriage equality in the state.

The Department of Health and Human Services said that, while the use of the funds was inappropriate, the group now known as Family Leader would not be investigated, since they have refused faith-based funds since President Barack Obama was elected.

The money was earmarked for the group, then known as the Iowa Family Policy Center, to provide marriage counseling and education. However, it was also used for rent, internet, phone service and salaries while the group was engaged in political battles over same-sex marriage.

The organization received a $2.2 million grant.

Senator’s nude photos found on Grindr

San Juan, Puerto Rico--Sen. Roberto Arango resigned on August 28, after nude photos of the lawmaker turning up on Grindr, a smartphone application for gay men to find each other.

Arango has refused to confirm or deny that the photos, one of an upper body, one of a naked man on all fours and one of a face that appears to be his, are indeed of him.

In a television interview in the last few weeks, he said that he has been taking photographs of himself with his cell phone to document his weight loss, but could not remember if he had taken those photos.

Arango is a member of the Puerto Rican Republican Party, an affiliate of the U.S. Republican Party, and voted for a measure that would outlaw same-sex marriage on the island territory.

4 GOP candidates sign anti-gay pledge

Washington, D.C.--Four of the Republicans vying for their party’s presidential nomination have signed an anti-marriage pledge put forward by the National Organization for Marriage, although the group has violated election laws in a number of states.

Rick Perry is the latest in that list, following Michelle Bachmann, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.

NOM has found itself the target of seven lawsuits since 2009 for its violation of campaign finance disclosure laws, claiming repeatedly that it fears its donors would be the target of violence by pro-gay advocates.

NOM’s pledge includes amending the Constitution to bar same-sex marriage, only nominating judges who believe the Constitution does not ensure marriage equality, and pushing for a public vote on marriage equality in Washington, D.C., as well as defending the Defense of Marriage Act in court, among other stipulations.

Compiled by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.










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