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April 6. 2012

News Briefs

Transgender student sues Miami U. over dorm RA placement

Oxford, Ohio--A transgender student filed a discrimination complaint with Miami University after he was given a resident advisor assignment to a dorm with female students.

Kaeden Kass filed the complaint in March, saying that the university should have assigned him to a facility with other male students. University officials told him they assigned the room because of the gender listed on his legal records.

A university spokesperson said that the school handles all claims of discrimination seriously, but she could not comment on the issue because of student privacy.

The university offers some gender-neutral housing, but it is currently limited to two suites of four students each and one apartment. Kass said that those suites were not presented as an option when he put in for the RA position.

Marriage repeal fails by wide margin

Concord, N.H.--Republican lawmakers defected in droves to torpedo a bill that would have repealed a two-year-old marriage equality law and put a non-binding referendum before voters on the November ballot.

The March 21 vote in the Republican-dominated House of Representatives looked dicey going in. LGBT advocates were hoping for a less than two-thirds majority so the bill could be stopped by a promised gubernatorial veto.

But repeal supporters could not even muster a simple majority. The bill went down 211-116.

Under the bill, same-sex marriages that had been performed since the law took effect in 2010 would have remained valid, but future marriages would have been banned, and the state would return to its earlier civil union construct.

House speaker Rep. William O’Brien supported the bill strongly, but Rep. David Bates, its sponsor, had trouble mustering support.

Republicans in the state have a tendency towards libertarian ideals, which did not help the repeal effort. Nor did a threatened veto by Gov. John Lynch, who is not seeking re-election this year. The two Republican candidates for his post both support repeal.

Prisons must allow TG treatment

Washington, D.C.--The Supreme Court on March 26 let stand a ruling that prison doctors must provide medically necessary treatment for transgender prisoners.

The case involved a Wisconsin law that banned prison doctors from providing care to transitioning inmates like sexual reassignment surgery or hormone treatment. The law passed in 2005.

The following year, Lambda Legal filed suit against the law on behalf of transgender women in prison who “were receiving severe physical and psychological harm after the medical treatment they had been receiving under prison doctors’ care was abruptly cut off due to this new draconian law.”

The law was struck down by a federal court, and a three-judge appellate court panel upheld that ruling. Wisconsin appealed to the Supreme Court, which refused to take the case, leaving the earlier rulings that the law was a violation of constitutional proscriptions against cruel and unusual punishment and violated the Equal Protection Clause to stand.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons, after losing a similar case last year, changed its policy to allow prisoners access to evaluation and treatment along the World Professional Association for Transgender Health’s Standards of Care.

‘Bully’ film to be released unrated

Los Angeles--Bully, a documentary by Lee Hirsch on the struggles of students facing harassment in schools, will be released without a rating, after the Motion Picture Association of America refused to overturn its assessment that the film should be rated R.

The Weinstein Company, which is releasing the film, made the decision in late March after a very public campaign to change the film’s rating so that youth could see it unaccompanied and so that it could be shown in schools, which generally will not allow R-rated films.

The film, which was slated for release on March 30, will play without a rating, so theaters will have to decide independently whether or not to allow young people in.

Celebrities like Zooey Deschanel, Katy Perry, Joel McHale, Kathy Griffin and Anderson Cooper all supported changing the rating to PG-13, before Harvey Weinstein decided to release it unrated. The rating system is voluntary on the part of the film studios.

“The small amount of language in the film that's responsible for the R rating is there because it's real,” said Hirsch. “It’s what the children who are victims of bullying face on most days. All of our supporters see that, and we’re grateful for the support we’ve received across the board.”

Adrienne Rich has died at 82

Santa Cruz, Calif.--Lesbian feminist poet Adrienne Rich passed away in her home on March 27 at the age of 82. Her family said the cause of death of complications from rheumatoid arthritis, from which she had suffered for most of her life.

Long concerned with identity politics because of her perch at the crossroads of being Jewish, a woman and gay, she argued for the rights of women throughout her career.

She first came to prominence in the 1950s, when she was a student at Radcliffe, and since then she won a National Book Award and a MacArthur Foundation grant, among other honors.

Born in Baltimore in 1929, she was encourage by her father to write poetry. At college, W.H. Auden chose her work to be published in the Yale Younger Poets series.

She married in 1953 and had three children; in 1970, she and her husband became estranged, in part because of her acknowledgment of her attraction to women. He died of a gunshot wound in August 1970, and it was ruled suicide.

She is survived by her sons David, Pablo and Jacob, her sister Cynthia, two grandchildren, and writer Michelle Cliff, her partner of over 30 years.

Russia may prohibit pro-gay speech

Moscow--The Russian parliament is considering a bill barring the spread of “homosexual propaganda” to minors.

Similar to a law passed in St. Petersburg, the national bill would levy a fine of 500,000 rubles, the equivalent of $16,500. It was submitted on March 29 by lawmakers from Novosibirsk who accused the media of “normalizing homosexuality.”

Homosexuality was decriminalized in 1993, but still faces strong opposition in the country.

Madonna will play a concert in St. Petersburg on August 9, and announced on Facebook that she planned to speak out against the local law, which took effect on March 11. The bill’s sponsor said that if she does, he wants her to be charged under the law.

Euro court says marriage is not a right

Strasbourg, France--The European Court of Human Rights ruled against European Union member states having an obligation to allow same-sex couples to marry.

The case revolved around a lesbian couple in France who wanted to jointly adopt a child. They are in a civil partnership, but French law restricts adoption to married couples.

The judges also said that, if same-sex marriages are legal, churches that refuse to perform them are guilty of discrimination, which undercuts legislative exemptions for churches that oppose same-sex marriage.

“The European Convention on Human Rights does not require member states’ governments to grant same-sex couples access to marriage,” the ruling says, according to the Telegraph newspaper in London. “With regard to married couples, the court considers that in view of the social, personal, and legal consequences of marriage, the applicants’ legal situation could not be said to be comparable to that of married couples.”

In Britain, the Conservative government of Prime Minister David Cameron put forward a proposal for full same-sex marriage; the country already has civil partnerships. It is not yet clear how the ruling, especially the considerations about religious institutions, would affect Cameron’s plans.

Bullied teen attempts suicide

Wellsville, Ohio--A teenager in this Ohio River town near Pennsylvania tried to kill himself by overdosing on pills after being bullied by his classmates for being gay.

Austin Rodriguez overdosed on medication for bipolar disorder on March 16, and the following week he was still in a medically-induced coma at Akron Children’s Hospital with damage to his lungs.

Rodriguez is openly gay, and friends told his mother Bonnie that they knew he was being bullied but thought that he was handling it well.

Wellsville Schools Superintendent Richard Bereschik said a complete administrative review is being conducted in relation to the case. Austin’s principal, Linda Rolley, told WTRF Channel 7 in Wheeling, W.V. that students came to her the week following his suicide attempt to tell her about the bullying and she is investigating the allegations.

It is not yet known if Austin will recover fully from the attempted overdose.

Turkish army wants photos of gay sex

Ankara, Turkey--The Turkish military has mandatory service for all men, but not if they are gay. That, however, is not the problem.

The problem lies in that, to obtain a “pink certificate” exempting someone from service on the grounds of homosexuality, the requirements are up to the discretion of army doctors, who seem to randomly choose what evidence they need.

One Turkish man, Ahmet, told BBC News he was asked to provide photos of himself dressed as a woman. He refused, but offered a picture showing him kissing another man.

Gokhan, another gay Turk, was conscripted in the 1990s and got up the courage to tell his commander he was gay. The higher-ups asked if he had any photographs of himself having sex with another man, and he provided them, although he now worries that someone in the military could still show them to his family or people in his village.

Sometimes photographs are required, other times it is a personality test.

“Retired general Armagan Kuloglu said that if a gay man were to remain in the closet, he could serve, but if he came out, the army would need to ensure that he was really gay and not trying to get out of mandatory service, despite the fact that homosexuality is not generally accepted outside of major urban areas in the secular Islamic country.

Compiled by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.










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