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November 30, 2012

News Briefs

U.S. diplomats urge Uganda to reject ‘kill gays’ bill

Kampala, Uganda--American diplomats met with Ugandan leaders over the Thanksgiving weekend to urge them to reject a “kill gays” bill before parliament.

State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told a November 26 press briefing, “Assistant Secretary [of State for African Affairs Johnnie] Carson was also in Uganda over the weekend. He had a chance to raise again our concerns about this issue, which we’ve been very vocal about.”

The bill, originally introduced in 2009, outlaws all same-sex sexual activity, expressions of support for LGBT people and more. It would, in its original form, bring the death penalty for “repeat offenders.” Some reports had come out that the death penalty had been removed, but that was unclear.

“They’ve been a little bit close-hold about this, partly because there’s been so much controversy in the international community,” Nuland said. “So our concern is about any criminalization of homosexuality, obviously.”

“As we have regularly said, we call on the parliament in Uganda to look very carefully at this, because Uganda’s own human rights council has made clear that if this were to pass, it would put the country out of compliance with its own international human rights obligations,” she continued. “And so Assistant Secretary Carson had a chance to make that point again and our strong opposition to this, to the president, to the parliament, and to key decision makers in Uganda.”

The bill has passed a parliamentary committee, although it is not known in what form, and may pass the full parliament by the end of the year.

A similar bill, albeit slightly less draconian, is also before the legislature in Nigeria. That bill would, according to gay civil rights advocates, make it possible for people to be imprisoned for ten years for organizing a gay gathering, living with a person of the same sex or, of course, having gay sex.

Nude activists occupy Boehner’s office

Washington, D.C.--House Speaker John Boehner of Cincinnati got a glimpse of the naked truth as seven AIDS activists occupied the lobby of his office on November 27 to put forward the dangers of cutting AIDS funding to avert the looming “fiscal cliff.”

The three women and four men had the words “AIDS cuts kill” emblazoned on their flesh. The three women were arrested after the demonstration by Capitol police, although the men appeared to have left.

As Congressional leaders and President Barack Obama negotiate ways to avoid automatic budget cuts that take effect in January, the concern is that social and health services may get thrown under the bus.

The protest against that possibility was organized by ACT UP New York, ACT UP Philadelphia, Housing Works and the Student Global AIDS Campaign as a way “to give Congress a pre-World AIDS Day message that AIDS budget cuts kill.”

Five out bisexuals win offices

Pierre, S.D.--In addition to Kyrsten Sinema, the newly-minted representative from Arizona and the first out bisexual elected to Congress, four other openly bisexual candidates won their races across the country.

State Senator Angie Buhl of South Dakota, the youngest woman to serve in the state senate, won reelection.

In Oregon, Kate Brown won her race for secretary of state, while Micah Kellner won reelection to the New York House of Representatives, as did JoCasta Zamarripa in Wisconsin.

Super PAC to aid gay mayor candidate

Los Angeles--Gay Republican mayoral candidate Kevin James is getting some big-ticket help, with the formation of a super PAC looking to raise and spend $4 million on his campaign.

The Better Way LA super PAC has already raised $500,000, and hopes to get to the full total as an attempt to revivify the Republican Party in California, where Republican voter registration is under 30 percent.

James struggled to raise enough money for billboards, television ads and mailing.

James is not the only LGBT person running for mayor of a major U.S. city. In New York, out council speaker Christine Quinn is leading other Democratic hopefuls in an attempt to take the city’s top post, currently occupied by Michael Bloomberg.

Bloomberg was a Democrat until 2001, a Republican until 2007, and is now an independent. It is unlikely that the Republican candidate to replace Bloomberg would fare well, as the vast majority of New Yorkers are registered Democrats.

Antonio gets high committee post

Columbus--The state’s first out lawmaker will now be the ranking Democrat on the House Education Committee.

Following her victory in the general election, State Rep. Nickie Antonio was appointed the ranking member of the committee. She has also worked on the Health and Aging Committee, the Commerce, Labor and Technology Committee and the Finance and Appropriations Committee.

One of Antonio’s major legislative priorities has been an anti-bullying law that would enumerate categories including sexual orientation and gender identity. Previous efforts to pass such a bill have seen the enumeration removed.

U.N. keeps ‘LGBT’ in anti-killing paper

New York City--The United Nations on November 20 passed a resolution condemning extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions that retained references to sexual orientation and gender identity.

Two years ago, a similar resolution passed after sexual orientation was stripped out. This year, the biennial resolution’s sponsors fought the effort to pull LGBT people out of the measure.

The United Arab Emirates, on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, put forward an amendment that would have removed sexual orientation and gender identity. The amendment was rejected 86 to 44, with 31 abstentions and 32 delegates absent. The Vatican attempted to remove all references to groups at risk for execution, but the amendment was never formally introduced.

The resolution passed on a 109-1 vote, with 65 abstentions and 18 absent.

Brazil, the United States and South Africa spoke out against the attempt to remove sexual orientation and gender identity, and Japan expressed its opposition to the executions of LGBT people, a rare expression of support for LGBT rights from an Asian nation in the U.N.

Hurricane destroys youth center

New York City--The Ali Forney Center, an organization serving LGBT youth and preventing homelessness among the vulnerable population, was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy.

Its drop-in center on West 22nd Street in Chelsea had water damage four feet up the walls. It had been the main point of entry into the other services provided by the center, including short-term and long-term housing programs.

The New York LGBT Community Center has offered space in its facility in the West Village to serve as a de facto drop-in center until the damage can be repaired to the old location. A fundraiser at a Hell’s Kitchen bar that boasted celebrities like Ally Sheedy and MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts raised $33,000 for the rebuilding effort.

AP stylebook bans ‘homophobia’

New York City--Don’t expect to see the words homophobia or Islamophobia in Associated Press stories again anytime soon.

The new AP stylebook, the official list of dos and don’ts for reporters, discourages the use of the words, noting that “phobia” is a specific psychological condition, and should not be used in political or social contexts.

The head of the standards department compared the use of the -phobia terms to the phrase “ethnic cleansing,” a euphemism for genocide.

“When you break down ‘ethnic cleansing,’ it’s a cover for terrible violent activities. It’s a term we certainly don’t want to propagate,” Dave Minthorn told the blog Politico. “Homophobia especially--it’s just off the mark. It’s ascribing a mental disability to someone, and suggests knowledge that we don’t have. It seems inaccurate.”

Dr. George Weinberg, the psychologist credited with coining homophobia in his 1972 book Society and the Healthy Homosexual, disagreed.

“It made all the difference to city councils and other people I spoke to. It encapsulates a whole point of view and of feeling. It was a hard-won word, as you can imagine. It brought me some death threats,” he said. “Is homophobia always based on fear? I thought so and still think so. Maybe envy in some cases. But that’s a psychological question.”

“We have no other word for what we’re talking about, and this one is well established. We use freelance for writers who don’t throw lances any more and who want to get paid for their work,” he said.

Compiled by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.












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