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January 13, 2012

News Briefs

Study finds zero child abuse among lesbian parents

Los Angeles--An ongoing, 24-year study of lesbian families in the United States, reports that 17-year-old children of lesbian couples reported a zero percent rate of physical or sexual abuse.

That is significantly lower than 26 percent of teens who report physical abuse and eight percent who report sexual abuse in the general population.

The Williams Institute report on findings from the United States National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study, which has been running for 24 years, was published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.

“The absence of child abuse in lesbian mother families is particularly noteworthy, because victimization of children is pervasive and its consequences can be devastating,” wrote the authors. “To the extent that our findings are replicated by other researchers, these reports from adolescents with lesbian mothers have implications for healthcare professionals, policymakers, social service agencies, and child protection experts who seek family models in which violence does not occur.”

Diocese gets back 5 church buildings

Bay Village, Ohio--After reclaiming five church buildings from breakaway congregations, the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio plans to re-grow St. Barnabas Episcopal Church and sell four others.

The diocese took back the churches in November, after a Cuyahoga County Common Pleas judge ruled in favor of the diocese in September. The breakaway congregations, which left the denomination because of its pro-gay stances, moved out in November.

They had claimed that they owned the church buildings because they paid the bills and the mortgages; however, Episcopal doctrine states that congregations hold church property in trust for the diocese. The court sided with the diocese.

While the schism in the Episcopal Church, the United States branch of the Anglican Communion, came to the fore following the selection of V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay, partnered man, as the bishop of New Hampshire, it goes back even further. Some conservatives in the church still have problems with the ordination of women, and believe the Episcopal Church is too liberal.

Many of the breakaway congregations have joined the Anglican Church of North America, which formed after Robinson was elevated. Episcopal dioceses in other states have also won lawsuits to retain the church buildings.

The four other Ohio Diocese churches that might be sold are Akron’s St. Luke and Church of the Holy Spirit, St. Anne’s-in-the-Fields in Madison and Transfiguration in Cleveland.

Kristy McNichol comes out

Los Angeles--Kristy McNichol fulfilled the teen fantasies of a generation of lesbians on January 6 when she came out of the closet publicly in an interview with People.

The 49-year old former actress, who won an Emmy Award for her role in the television show Family and later appeared in the sitcom Empty Nest, retired from acting after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

She is now living with her partner, Martie Allen, and raises miniature dachshunds. However, after the spate of teen suicides over the last couple of years and high-profile bullying cases, she felt the need to live openly, to present a positive role model to young people who might be struggling to come to grips with their sexual orientation.

Drum major dies in hazing incident

Orlando, Fla.--Witnesses reported that a drum major who was literally hazed to death may have been targeted for more extreme treatment because he was openly gay, because of his opposition to hazing, and because he was a candidate for chief drum major.

Robert Champion died after a hazing ritual on the bus that drove the Florida A&M University team to Orlando in November. Champion and other members of the marching band went back aboard the bus after playing in halftime, where he was beaten severely. He died of shock caused by blunt force trauma and severe bleeding.

Band members have traditionally taken new members onto the bus to be hazed during the annual game against archrivals Bethune-Cookman University.

Three band members are facing charges in a separate incident for beating a female bandmate. Her thigh was broken in the incident.

While a hazing death is a third-degree felony, no charges have yet been filed in the Champion case. His parents are suing the bus company, alleging negligence. They say that the bus driver, who says he was helping band members unload equipment, should have known what was going on in his bus when he allowed them to reenter it.

While the Champions have to follow a months-long process before they can file a suit against the university because of Florida laws on suing public entities, the suit against the bus company allows them to begin collecting depositions and interviewing witnesses.

Skaters Weir and Voronov marry

New York City--Champion figure skater Johnny Weir married fellow skater Victor Voronov on New Year’s Eve, and plans a big wedding celebration later in the year.

The two have known each other for years, but reconnected over the summer and had a whirlwind romance.

After competing in the 2006 and 2010 Olympics, Weir kept fairly quiet about his sexual orientation until last year, when he released an autobiography.

Cardinal is sorry for linking gays, KKK

Chicago--Cardinal Francis George on January 7 apologized for comparing gay activists to the Ku Klux Klan in a Christmas Day interview.

In the TV appearance, he had expressed concern about the Chicago Pride Parade’s new route and schedule making it difficult for parishioners to get to a church for morning Mass. The route of the decades-old parade was changed after last year’s event, when overcrowding endangered spectators. It now takes the procession in front of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. Organizers agreed to delay the start of the parade to avoid disrupting the service.

George, however, still criticized gay advocates who view the Catholic Church as the enemy, comparing them to the KKK.

“I am truly sorry for the hurt my remarks have caused,” George said. “Particularly because we all have friends or family members who are gay and lesbian. This has evidently wounded a good number of people.”

“I have family members myself who are gay and lesbian, so it’s part of our lives. So I’m sorry for the hurt,” he continued. “When I was talking, I was speaking out of fear that I have for the church’s liberty and I was reaching for an analogy which was very inappropriate for which I’m sorry.”

“I didn’t realize the impact of what I was saying . . . Sometimes fear is a bad motivation,” he concluded in an interview with the Chicago Tribune.

(Two days after the cardinal’s apology, however, Pope Benedict XVI told the diplomatic corps in the Vatican that same-sex marriage threatened the future of humanity.)

U.S. rape definition now includes men

Washington, D.C.--After 85 years, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is changing its definition of rape to include men as victims and survivors.

The current federal definition specifies “carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.” That definition, which excludes oral or anal penetration, is used for the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports. State definitions of rape, including Ohio’s, are more inclusive.

The new federal definition is, "The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim,” regardless of gender.

The change came about after years of lobbying by survivor advocacy groups, and Attorney General Eric Holder called it “long overdue.” He said that the new definition will allow the FBI to get a more accurate perception of the extent of rape across the board. It also would allow federal victim compensation funds to go to men and boys who have been raped.

The government has a number of different reports on sexual crimes, which use separate metrics to measure the extent of the crimes. The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports reported 84,767 rapes in 2010, for instance, while the Justice Department’s National Crime Victimization Survey, put out by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, showed 188,380 sexual assaults in 2010.

Marriage bill is New Jersey priority

Trenton, N.J.--A bill to legalize full same-sex marriage was introduced into the state legislature on January 10, referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Two years ago, a similar measure died in the New Jersey Senate. Now, however, legislative leaders in both chambers are calling it a major priority.

The same day the bill was introduced, Assembly GOP leader Alex DeCroce died in the statehouse, but it is not expected to delay work on the Marriage Equality and Religious Exemption Act. Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney, who did not vote on the bill two years ago, is leading support for the bill.

While Democrats have majorities in both chambers of the legislature, Republican Gov. Chris Christie has signaled opposition to the bill, and may veto it if it reaches his desk. The state provides civil unions for same-sex couples, but the civil rights commission has opined that it falls short of the full equality mandated by the New Jersey Supreme Court.

Both United States senators from New Jersey and the state’s seven Democratic House members have urged the legislature to pass the bill.

Washington marriage may pass

Olympia, Wash.--While New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is likely to veto a marriage equality bill, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire will lead the charge passing a similar bill in her state.

Gregoire announced her support on January 4, laying out the reasons for introducing such a bill and talking about her personal growth on the issue. She noted that, while her religious views sometimes conflict with her political duties, she came to realize that religions can do what they want, while the government should never discriminate.

In 2004, she supported legal rights for same-sex couples, but opposed full same-sex marriage.

Five days after the bill was introduced, attorney Stephen Pidgeon filed an initiative to countermand the bill. If it gets enough signatures to go on the ballot and passes, it would change the law to specify that marriage is “between one man and one woman.”

However, Pidgeon was unsuccessful in his 2009 initiative to overturn Washington’s domestic partner law, and the new definition would be statutory, so courts could rule it unconstitutional.

Arizonan may be first bi House member

Phoenix, Ariz.--Kyrsten Sinema, the state’s first out bisexual lawmaker, will run in the state’s newly-drawn 9th Congressional District.

If she is victorious, she will be the first open bisexual member of Congress, joining gay Reps. David Cicilline of Rhode Island and Jared Polis of Colorado.

Rep. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin is leaving the House to run for the Senate in November, replacing Sen. Herb Kohl, who is retiring and has endorsed Baldwin for the seat. Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts is retiring as well.

Sinema was first elected to the Arizona House of Representatives in 2004, and is running for Congress to oppose Gov. Jan Brewer’s policies. Brewer championed a law to require police to check the IDs of anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally, among other things. The Obama administration sued in federal court to block the measure.

Sinema, who is currently a state senator, will have to resign from the senate to run for Congress.

Alan Turing honored with a stamp

London--The gay man who broke the Nazis’ Enigma code, which led the Allies to victory in World War II, will have his own postage stamp in a series on “Britons of Distinction” to be released in February.

Alan Turing laid the groundwork for the modern computer before being arrested in 1952 for having sex with a man who later robbed his house. After reporting the robbery to the police, he admitted to the sexual relationship, which was then still illegal under British law.

Turing was convicted of gross indecency and underwent chemical castration before killing himself in 1954.

While his trial and conviction led to a few years of vilification in the public eye, Turing’s contributions to the war efforts and computing in general quickly led to his canonization as a father of modern computing, starting in 1966 with the first presentation of the Turing Award by the Association for Computing Machinery.

This year has been named Alan Turing Year, and countries across the world are holding events to celebrate his life and influence on computing in the 100th anniversary of his birth.

Pittsburgh county gets DP benefits

Pittsburgh--While Cuyahoga County Council members wait for a definition of “domestic partner” before considering passage of domestic partner benefits, Allegheny County, Pa. Executive Rich Fitzgerald announced on January 5 that he was issuing an executive order granting domestic partner benefits to county employees.

Fitzgerald ran, in part, on the promise of extending the benefits. Former executive Dan Onorato, who lost his bid for Pennsylvania governor, was prodded by the Human Rights Campaign to pass the benefits, as recommended by the county’s human relation commission two years ago.

Fitzgerald said the order would be issued before the February 2 county council meeting. He also said that he would budget $25,000 for the Human Relation Commission, which investigates allegations of discrimination. It is the first time the county is actually funding the commission. Fitzgerald also promised to either attend the commission’s meetings or send a staff member.

Compiled by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.












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