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May 18. 2012

News Briefs

District proposes pro-gay t-shirt settlement

Waynesville, OhioWayne Local Schools admitted defeat in their conflict with 16-year-old Maverick Couch over a T-shirt saying, “Jesus Is Not A Homophobe.”

The school district issued press release saying that, in the proposed settlement of the case, Couch would be paid $20,000 and would be allowed to wear the T-shirt in school whenever he wanted. They had already allowed him to wear it for the National Day of Silence in April.

Couch tried to wear the shirt during the 2011 Day of Silence, and was told by his principal that he either had to hide its message or face disciplinary action. Couch, represented by Lambda Legal, sued the district for violating his first amendment rights. The school administration said that the shirt was sexual in nature, and was therefore inappropriate to wear in school.

Superintendent Patrick Dubbs said that the settlement was offered, in part, because taking the case to trial could cost the district over $100,000.

SPLC complaint against anti-gay therapist

Portland, Ore.—The Oregon Psychiatric Association and the American Psychiatric Association received complaints on May 8 that a Portland psychiatrist subjected a University of Oregon student to “conversion therapy.”

Max Hirsh, 22, went to the doctor in early 2011 seeking treatment for depression, but stopped going to the psychiatrist after realizing that the doctor was subjecting him to therapy intended to change his sexual orientation.

The complaint letter, sent by the Southern Poverty Law Center, accuse the doctor of violating professional ethics by failing to respect Hirsh’s sexual orientation; the doctor focused on the reason for his sexual orientation rather than looking more deeply for the roots of his depression.

“Indeed, Dr. [redacted] chose to direct his focus on what he believed to be the causes of Mr. Hirsh’s orientation, presumably in order to encourage Mr. Hirsh to question whether he was in fact gay,” the letter reads. “Dr. [redacted] then suggested to Mr. Hirsh that he would likely lead an unhappy life and have unfulfilling romantic relationships if he continued to identify as gay - incredibly damaging statements to any patient in a vulnerable state like Mr. Hirsh.”

The letter noted that a wide array of professional organizations condemn conversion therapy, and asserted that the doctor harmed Hirsh with his actions and statements, exacerbating the depression that caused him to seek treatment in the first place.

Maurice Sendak has died at 83

Danbury, Conn.One of the greatest children’s book artists and writers passed away on May 8, ending a career spanning six and a half decades.

Maurice Sendak died of complications from a stroke, five years after the death of his partner of 50 years, psychoanalyst Eugene Glynn.

While he kept his sexual orientation a secret early in his career, thinking it would adversely affect his ability to get work writing and illustrating children’s books. By the time he was entrenched and willing to talk about it, nobody asked him.

In 2008, he was asked by a New York Times reporter what question he was surprised nobody asked him in interviews, and he said that he was surprised nobody brought up the fact that he was gay.

While his homosexuality, like his Judaism and growing up in New York City, influenced his work, it was almost beside the point; what made Sendak’s work eternal was the fact that he never pandered to children. His tales were often tinged with darkness, hailing back to the original versions of fairy tales that were later bowdlerized for mass consumption. He was honest, and people loved his work for that honesty.

Bullied student expelled over stun gun

IndianapolisAfter administrators refused to do anything to stop anti-gay bullying directed at Darnell Young, 17, his mother gave him a stun gun.

After pulling it to fend off his tormentors, however, Young was expelled from Arsenal Technical High School until January 2013.

Young’s mother, Chelsea Grimes, said that when she complained to school officials about the bullying, they acted as if it were her son’s fault because he was too “flamboyant.”

On April 16, Young was surrounded by six other students who threatened to beat him up. He pulled the stun gun, which must be held to a person to work, from his backpack and set off the electric spark harmlessly, sending his would-be assailants running.

He was handcuffed later by school police officers and arrested.

Despite insisting that the school district has strong anti-bullying policies, Arsenal Tech principal Larry Yarrell said that school staff had been trying to get Young to dress in a more masculine fashion. He likes to borrow his mother’s jewelry and purses.

“If you wear female apparel, then kids are kids and they’re going to say whatever it is that they want to say,” he told the Indianapolis Star. “Because you want to be different and because you choose to wear female apparel, it may happen. In the idealistic society, it shouldn’t matter.”

Pastor says punch gay-acting children

Fayetteville, N.C.—A week and a half before the vote on the state’s anti-marriage amendment, the pastor of Berean Baptist Church advocated child abuse in the instance of gay-acting children.

Sean Harris’ sermon went viral on the internet, screaming about punching young children who act gay, and “cracking” limp wrists.

He said that it is all right for girls to play sports, as long as they try to look pretty doing so.

The website ran the audio in a blog post on May 1.

“Ex-gay” confab canned due to no interest

Albuquerque,N.M.—Exodus International’s Love Won Out Conference, traditionally one of the largest “ex-gay” gatherings in the nation, if not the world, was canceled due to lack of interest.

The conference, slated for May 19, drew 1,000 attendees in Exodus’ salad days, but the last conference had around 400 people.

Last year, Exodus International held a secret meeting to try to come up with ways to rebrand the organization, which has seen repeated defections and repudiations over the last few years, including former leaders and founder recanting their earlier beliefs that sexual orientation can be changed.

The email sent to registered would-be attendees gives them the option of getting a partial or full refund of their registration fees, converting some or all of those fees to a donation to the organization or transferring the fees to another of the organization’s events this year.

Ousted Judges Receive Courage Award

BostonThe three former Iowa Supreme Court judges who were ousted for their part in the unanimous decision in favor of same-sex marriage in the state were given John F. Kennedy Profile In Courage Awards on May 7.

Former Justices David Baker and Michael Streit and former Chief Justice Marsha Ternus were ousted in a special retention election. All three were presented with the award by Caroline Kennedy.

The award is given to public servants who worked for the benefit of their communities and was established in 1989 by the Kennedy family to honor the slain president. In 2012, United States ambassador to Syria Robert S. Ford was also honored with the award.

UMC: homosexuality “incompatible”

Tampa, Fla.The United Methodist Church will keep its doctrine that homosexuality is not in line with “Christian teaching” after a vote during its general conference.

The May 3 vote saw supporters of changing the Book of Discipline to fully include LGBT people moving to the margins of the room to illustrate how the church was marginalizing gays and lesbians. After a recess, those supporters stayed outside and sang.

The debate over the proposed change saw one African delegate say that God does not create gay men and lesbians, and comparing homosexuality to bestiality. The UMC is making inroads in the “global south,” places like South America, Asia and Africa where issues of sexuality are dealt with very conservatively. In terms of homosexuality, however, Africa is the most restrictive, and that is where the greatest expansion in Protestant denominations is happening.

Virus detected in those taking HIV meds

BostonNew studies show that HIV-positive men with undetectable viral loads in their blood can still transmit the disease to others, with HIV showing up in semen.

All 101 men in the new study were on highly active antiretroviral therapy, 80 percent of them for over a year. Scientists measured the viral loads in their blood and semen, and checked for coinfections.

Around 20 percent of the men in the study had detectable HIV levels in their blood despite medication, but 30 percent had detectable levels in their semen. Researchers said the levels were high enough to carry the risk of infecting others through unprotected sex.

Two of the factors that seemed to correlate with detectable HIV levels in semen were having another sexually transmitted infection, and being a top in unprotected anal sex.

Other studies have shown that, even with an undetectable viral load, HIV can still be transmitted.

Rev. Jane Adams Spahr wins support

Napa, Calif.—Rev. Jane Adams Spahr, a retired minister who faced rebuke from the Presbyterian Church (USA), has been given the full support of the Presbytery of the Redwoods, the Northern California division of the church.

The presbytery refused to rebuke Spahr for performing same-sex weddings, voting 74-18 to support her. The weddings were performed during the window between when the California Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage and the voters passed Proposition 8, which barred the marriages constitutionally.

Spahr has been fighting the charges against her in ecclesiastical court since 2010.

Fox reporter praises Obama

Washington, D.C.—Perhaps the oddest reaction to President Barack Obama’s support of same-sex marriage came from Fox News’ Shepard Smith, who, after playing the clip of Obama expressing his support for same-sex marriage, noted, “The president of the United States, now in the 21st Century.” He then asked Bret Baier, a fellow Fox News host, if he thought the Republicans would “go out on a limb and try to make this a campaign issue while sitting very firmly, without much question, on the wrong side of history on it.”

Smith’s statements brought vitriol from right-wing pundit Rush Limbaugh, who asked on his radio show if Smith could show him anywhere that same-sex marriage had won at the ballot box. Shep, where has the issue won? Where has the issue been victorious, Shep, outside your house?”

Shepard Smith, who was married to a woman from 1987 to 1993, was on Out Magazine’s Power 50 list in April 2011, despite not being out. Shepard Smith also took Rick Santorum to task earlier in the year on the former Republican candidate’s campaigning on an anti-gay platform.                                                    |






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