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March 23. 2012

News Briefs

Death squads in Iraq kill 90 teens for Emo attire

Baghdad, Iraq--As many as 90 teenagers in Iraq have been stoned to death for displaying the “Emo” style popular among youth in the United States and other Western nations.

At least 14 of those deaths came in the last month. Shia militants have circulated lists of other teenagers who are to be killed if they do not change their style of dress.

The nation’s Interior Ministry called the Emo culture “Satanism” last month, and ordered “community police” to take action. The ministry then, on March 8, said that it would take action against those who “highlight this issue and build it out of proportion.”

Of the teens killed, some have been suspected of being gay, in addition to those who look “Emo” or are effeminate.

In February, fliers showed up in three neighborhoods naming specific youths and telling them to dress properly, cut their hair short, hide tattoos and “maintain complete manhood” or they would face “the wrath of God.”

Guilty verdict in webcam spying case

New Brunswick, N.J.--Dharun Ravi, accused of using a webcam to spy on his gay Rutgers University roommate Tyler Clementi and post the video of him making out with another man online, was convicted of 15 counts of invasion of privacy and anti-gay intimidation on March 16.

His sentencing is scheduled for March 21, after press time. He is expected to be sentenced to about ten years in prison, and could face deportation back to India, despite having lived legally in the United States since he was a boy.

After finding out his date had been webcast and seen by possibly a half-dozen students, Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge.

He had come out to his parents months earlier and they were supportive, as was his gay older brother.

Ravi’s attorney said that there was no animus towards LGBT people behind his actions, and that he set up the webcam because he was worried that Clementi’s visitor might steal some of his belongings.

Prosecutors were barred from saying that Clementi killed himself because of the spying, and the defense was banned from arguing that Clementi had other reasons to commit suicide.

Ravi and Clementi were randomly assigned as roommates, and a string of their fellow students said they had never heard Ravi express homophobic opinions or speak against Clementi.

Sadly, just after Clementi posted on Facebook, “Jumping off the gw bridge sorry,” Ravi texted him two apologies, and later said that he had not seen Clementi’s Facebook post.

Hate crime law is challenged

Cleveland--Lawyers defending Amish men accused of hate crimes under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crime Act argue that the law is unconstitutional because of its reliance on interstate commerce.

The law allows the federal government to step in to prosecute a hate crime, in part if it involves interstate commerce. That is interpreted broadly enough to include a pair of scissors made in New York but used in Ohio.

The case involves a renegade group of Amish people who used those scissors to cut the beards off some of their foes after Amish bishops refused to allow sect leader Samuel Mullet to excommunicate eight families.

The Amish faith calls for men to grow their beards uncut after they marry.

The attorneys for Mullet also question whether it could be considered a hate crime since the victims and the accused perpetrators were all Amish. Most legal experts agree that, even though they were all ostensibly of the same religion, because the attacks were based on religion, they fall under the heading of hate crime.

Obama opposes N.C. ban amendment

Washington, D.C.--President Barack Obama on March 16 expressed his opposition to a proposed constitutional amendment in North Carolina that would ban same-sex marriages and civil unions.

The proposed amendment goes to a public vote on May 8.

The president’s North Carolina campaign spokesman Cameron French said, “While the president does not weigh in on every single ballot measure in every state, the record is clear that the president has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same-sex couples. That’s what the North Carolina ballot initiative would do--it would single out and discriminate against committed gay and lesbian couples--and that’s why the president does not support it.”

Evan Wolfson, the president of Freedom to Marry, hailed Obama’s statement.

“The White House’s strong restatement of President Obama’s opposition to anti-gay measures such as the proposed discriminatory constitutional amendment in North Carolina is one more reason voters should reject such ugly attempts to divide Americans and put obstacles in the path of people seeking to take care of their loved ones in sickness and in health and in tough economic times,” he said. “Freedom to Marry applauds the President and urges voters in North Carolina and throughout the country to stay true to the Golden Rule of treating others as we ourselves would want to be treated.”

N.H. marriage repeal expected to pass

Concord, N.H.--The Republican-controlled legislature was expected to vote on March 21 on a bill that would repeal the state’s same-sex marriage law and put a question before voters to see if they believe civil unions should be offered to same-sex couples.

The bill, if it passes, would repeal the state’s marriage law effective March 2013, and put on the November ballot a non-binding question asking if the state should allow civil union but define marriage as between one man and one woman.

Critics point out, however, that the state already had civil union before the 2009 passage of a full same-sex marriage law, which took effect on January 1, 2010. Civil unions that were not annulled, dissolved or solemnized into a full marriage by January 1, 2011 were automatically turned into full same-sex marriage.

Gov. John Lynch is expected to veto the bill if it passes, and while there are not enough Democratic votes to prevent an override of the veto, Libertarians in the legislature may vote against overriding the veto.

Rep. David Bates, who introduced the bill, said he would abide by the will of the people following the referendum. However, since it is non-binding, there would be no mandate for legislators to repeal their bill ending same-sex marriage in New Hampshire.

Ugandans sue U.S. anti-gay activist

Boston--LGBT advocates from Uganda filed suit on March 14 against an American evangelical leader who is tied to their nation’s draconian anti-gay bill, which was reintroduced this year into the Ugandan parliament.

Sexual Minorities Uganda filed a suit against Scott Lively, president of Abiding Truth Ministries, under the Alien Tort Statute.

“Lively has been the man with the plan in this enterprise,” said Pam Spees, a senior staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights. “He long ago set out a very specific and detailed methodology for stripping away the most basic human rights protections, to silence and ultimately disappear LGBT people. Unfortunately, he found willing accomplices and fertile ground in Uganda.”

Lively has been working with evangelicals in Uganda since 2002. The “kill gays” bill first appeared two months after Lively and two other right-wing U.S. religious leaders appeared at a three-day conference in Uganda “exposing” the “gay movement” as a danger to children.

The Alien Tort Statute allows foreign victims of human rights abuses to seek civil remedies in American courts. This is the first time a case under the ATS was filed based on sexual orientation.

Feds may relax blood donor ban

Washington, D.C.--The Department of Health and Human Services is reexamining the issue of whether men who have sex with men should be allowed to donate blood.

The department is seeking public comments on creating “alternative donor deferral criteria.”

Presently, any man who has had sex with another man since 1977 cannot donate blood, a rule that has been in place since AIDS first appeared in the early 1980s. However, because tests for HIV, hepatitis B and other infections have become faster and more reliable, this blanket refusal of donations may be coming to an end.

Advisory committees and blood banking organizations have responded favorably to the idea of relaxing the ban. The comment period will be open for 90 days.

If the HHS relaxes the policy, simply having had sex with another man since 1977 will no longer automatically disqualify someone from giving blood, although there will still be some restrictions in place.

Denmark to be next with vows

Copenhagen--Denmark will likely be the next nation to legalize same-sex marriage, with draft legislation announced on March 14 expected to pass the parliament in June.

The parliament has shot down earlier bills to allow full same-sex marriage, despite civil union being legal in the nation in 1989. The main sticking point was over whether Church of Denmark clergy would have to perform same-sex marriages.

Under the new legislation, each priest would be able to decide independently whether or not to solemnize same-sex unions. Overall, Danish society favors full civil rights for gay and lesbian people.

Presently, ten nations include gay and lesbian couples in the same marriage laws as heterosexual couples, and parts of three others do.

Pair in sodomy ruling never had sex

Washington, D.C.--The two men who figured in the landmark Supreme Court case that struck down laws against gay sex were not a couple and did not even have sex, according to Dale Carpenter’s new book, Flagrant Conduct.

The 2003 Lawrence v. Texas ruling held that John Geddes Lawrence and Tyron Garner could not be prosecuted for sodomy  because the Texas law against it--and ones in other states--“furthers no legitimate state interest which can justify its intrusion into the personal and private life of the individual."

Garner was in a relationship with Robert Eubanks. On the night of the arrest that led to the case, the three of them and a possible fourth man were drinking and watching TV in Lawrence’s apartment. Eubanks thought that Garner was flirting with Lawrence and left, saying he was going to get a soda, according to Carpenter’s book. Instead, he called the police, claiming that Garner was brandishing a gun.

When police came in, Lawrence, inebriated, screamed at them, demanding a warrant. Police noticed sexually explicit gay-themed art on the walls and charged the men with “deviate sexual intercourse.”

A gay file clerk saw the arrest report and mentioned it to the bartender at his local pub, who then persuaded Lawrence to call a civil rights attorney. Lambda Legal agreed to defend them, and the case made it to the Supreme Court, where the men were exonerated.

Lawrence died at age 68 last December. Garner died in 2006 at the age of 39.

Top court lets school bias rule stand

Washington, D.C.--The Supreme Court on March 19th refused to hear an appeal in the case barring a Christian campus organization from discriminating against LGBT people who wish to join.

A federal appellate court affirmed San Diego State University’s policies barring recognized campus organizations from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. By refusing to hear the case, the Supreme Court upheld that ruling.

Alpha Delta Chi, a self-identified Christian fraternity and sorority, sued SDSU, saying the policy violated their freedom of religion. As an officially recognized organization at a public university, however, Alpha Delta Chi was funded in part by taxpayer money.

Compiled by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.










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